Monday, February 27, 2006

16 days, a knitter, the birth of a sweater!

She bathes in the glow of the light bulb.

I finished, it's true. My sweet sweater is drying as we speak. Preliminary modelling sessions have deemed her a success, with reservations. The final ruling has been held for the post-block runway show.

Initial Parting shots:

1 - Fabulous yarn (details to follow) well suited for this project. Knit on size 8 needles with a pre-blocking gauge of 21 sts / 4 in and 25.2 rows / 4 in. I used ~1100 yards (this is a VERY rough estimate.)

The yarn is a single ply yarn from Habu Textiles in NYC. I believe it is called "a-80 wool", is listed here on Habu's website. It was ~$26 for 17 oz or approximately 1752 yards. Otherwise known as dirt cheap. I have Elisa to thank for this yarn. She and Kellee tackled the wall o' yarn at Habu during our trip to NYC. I just glazed over and marvelled at the silk cocoons. Fortunately they found this fabulous deal.

A second note on this yarn: it is listed as a fingering weight. At first glance I might agree however, the swatch in the store was not knit on anything smaller than US6 needles. I swatched on US7's and US8's (a normal person's US8 and US9)- both produced a lovely fabric with beautiful drape. Blocking created a denser fabric. Honestly, I cannot imagine knitting this on the recommended US1-3 needles.

2 - I need to continue to knit for myself AND knit items that fit. This is the first sweater that I have knit for myself. I love it. Not to mention the realization/confirmation that negative ease is the way to go. I will continue to experiment with this as I choose more sweaters to tackle.

3 - When modifying a pattern to fit my gauge and my body Excel is way more fun than the 80 million scraps of paper I normally use. The infamous spreadsheet was easy to do and created a nice diversion. Knowing how many stitches I had to go was motivating rather than crippling. I loved tweaking it and plan to polish it up a bit for future use.

4 - I need challenge and motivation - the Knitting Olympics fit the bill.

5 - I cannot blog and knit and work successfully. Unfortunately or Fortunately the blog is the first to go.

6 - Team Boston is filled with warm, friendly, and encouraging people. During our closing ceremony fashion show yesterday a knitter (Lucia) was tackling her first sweater. A baby sweater that she choose to conquer her fear of the sweater and the dreaded seaming that is inevitably a part of many sweater patterns. Upon voicing her phobia the room echoed with people encouraging her and offering lessons right then and there to help her along. Truly a fabulous team.

The sweater will be photographed after it has dried.

We're busy here gearing up for a fun weekend in Vermont as I approach the official anniversary of my birth and the close of my 3rd decade on this Earth. T-minus 3 whole days to my 30th birthday.

Someone pass the tequila.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006


I'm knitting like a maniac. No time to blog.

The spreadsheet had to be fixed - it told me 3 days ago that I was 109% done. I was CLEARLY not 109% done.

Here are some fun links for you:

Are you there God, it's me Margaret Updated! Can you believe this?! I feel lied to. (via Bookslut)

A Pet Store in my neighborhood has been accussed of flashing pornographic chickens. So. Funny. (via Universal Hub)

Sunday - Team Boston closing ceremony Par-tay! Sunday 11:30 am - you bettah be there.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Have I told you lately that I love you?

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Me and My Shadow

The stats at the beginning of my post yesterday include yesterday's progress. I was hoping to knit some more before bed but didn't quite make it. A Bookish Girl's gotta read, you know?!

Here is a progress pic from yesterday:

Not too bad. However, it is key to remember that before this morning I hadn't worked since I cast on for this progress. My job, on a good day, occupies much of my day. I commute via public transportation, approximately 1.5 hours per day. I work for at least 9.0 hours per day, usually without a lunch. I sleep for between 8.0 - 9.0 hours per night (this is a bare minimum for me, I require a crap load of sleep. I wish I could fix this.) Add misc tasks in there - showering, eating, taking care of Rob and the animals - approximately 2.0 hours. What do I have left:

1.5 + 9.0 + 9.0 + 2.0 = 21.5 occupied hours OR 24.0 hours - 21.5 hours = 2.5 free hours.

See, math is easy ;)

Basically if I have good, normal days at work I can get at least 2 hours of knitting in during a week day. I can knit during my commute but I never make a significant dent. Too much going on. This gives me 10 total hours of weeknight knitting during the competition.

Not a lot and I'm worried. Can you call in knitting to work?

Here is a close up of the increases on the arm (and my and my shaaaadooow...blah, blah, blah, blah.)

This pattern uses the knit, knit through the back loop increase. kfb? Is that the abbreviation? (forgive me, I am stuck on my couch and am comfy and not getting up for trivial knitting terms.)

I have never liked this increase and had I had my wits about me I wouldn't have used it here. I'm mad at those holes. Holes, you stink. I'm hoping that the yarn will fill in a bit with blocking (which it will, as demonstrated by my swatch.)

With this pattern you are increasing at the end and beginning of the round. I would do paired increases M1R and M1L instead of the KFB(?). I'm just a bigger fan of the V the M1's create.

Rya is the pooch in my last picture. She's my sweet baby and my knitting partner. She is also spoiled rotten.

Are we bored with these posts yet? I am.

Me, after a few drinks with the shell of a knitted Tetrahymena on my head.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Love the spreadsheet

The Olympics have started. I have cast on and am approximately 10,348 stitches into my project. I have 29,010 left to go. I'm knitting, on average, approximately 536 stitches per hour. This leaves approximately 54.12 hours of knitting time left on my plate. That's a lot of knitting time.

What am I knitting?

The Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. As I mentioned before, I could either go for speed or for skill. With this sweater I decided to go with both. Speed for the knitting, skill in the adjustments that I will make. I plan on knitting this sweater to fit ME - my big rack (which, btw Ben is figuring out how to say in Italian for me), small chest, short waist and long arms. Added to this is the yarn - I'm using yarn with a different row and stitch gauge.

The final challenge is to blog about it all. I knit everyday and have finished quite a few projects over the last few months. Unfortunately they have not made it to this blog (they will!). Not to mention my inability to alter a pattern and WRITE DOWN my changes.

This is the yarn. It's wool from Habu Textiles. I picked this up during our trip to NYC early in December. No idea what kind of fiber it is. I'm going to be with a butt load of spinners/knitters next weekend. Hopefully someone there can give me a hint.

I started this project by first measuring sweaters that I own that I consider to be well fitting.

Sweater A:

Sweater B:

Sweater C:

I turned the sweaters inside-out so that I could see the seams. I found it a lot easier to measure them this way.

I then got Robby to help me measure my own dimensions:I spent some time with Grumperia a few weeks ago at Claudia's get-together. I asked her to explain reverse-ease. Which, in Bookish Terms, means knitting a sweater to fit the circumference measurement taken under your armpits and not your bust. When you look at the sweaters above you see that the area under the armpits (and straight down to the waist shaping) is 19", 18", and 17". My bust is 18.5". Before I sat down to measure my favorite fitting sweaters I would have chosen a 39" size for a sweater. Which would give me a width under the armpits of 19.5, 1" greater around than my "bulkier" sweater of 19" or 5" greater than my "tight" sweater.

This is interesting to me - I'm not sure how this works or what will happen. But I have decided to go for it. My Hourglass Sweater will have a diameter of 18".

This means that I'll be casting on for the second size, chest of 37" (diameter 18.5") - a size I NEVER would have chosen if I hadn't measured my sweaters first. Here's to hoping it was a smart decision.

Gauge is the next hurdle for me. I swatched on Thursday hoping that I would get a jump on the action and be able to hit the 2pm start time running. Not so much. I swatched flat. The sweater is knit in the round. And, well, we all know that swatches lie. My swatch got gauge.

I cast on for a second "swatch", one of the sleeves.

5.2 sts/inches (we'll deal with row gauge later.)

Pattern Gauge 19sts and 24 rows = 4"

Not the same. This gauge has stayed consitent throughout the sleeve. I've been a measuring fiend. Mostly because it gives me more data to plug into my fancy pants spreadsheet that I created (you'll see it later.)

No matter, once I knit up more of the sleeves I realized that I was okay with the width.

If not worried a little bit that they were too wide. I decided that I would knit up the rest of the sleeve and alter the body pattern to meet my gauge.

This sweater is knit in three tubes, the sleeves, and the body. The yoke could easily be modified (with the help of a sophisticated spread sheet such as the one below.)

This spread sheet allows me to change one or two numbers and the entire patter will adjust. Pretty cool huh?

Yes, I fully understand the psychosis present here.

I'm just about to finish Day 3. I will post today's progress tomorrow. Until then, here is my progress as of yesterday:

Until then - this will be me:

PS - I'm SO happy that you all liked my Pasta maker post. It was a great day with my Grandmother. She is an amazing woman, not without her faults, but amazing all the same. I hope that you will all get to hear more about her soon. And yes, I would totally make pasta again. In spite of the hard work it is SO GOOD. I had eaten homemade pasta on many occasions before. It tastes a lot better when you make it yourself with Grandma looking on!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why I could never give up carbs...

Last spring we moved my Grandmother out of her home. She had raised my father and his brothers there. She had lived a good life in this house. And, for me, it was a difficult time. It was difficult for the whole family. She wanted to leave, the house was too much for her. Too big, too much to clean, and too empty. My grandfather passed away about 15 years ago (how strange that is was so long ago) he left a lot of his pack rat life behind. Over the years we had moved a lot of stuff out...into the home of people who would care for the items he lovingly collected. His tools, his records, his drafting supplies. However, there was still a lot left.

Robby and I were lucky to grab some of these memories. I still mean to create a post that outlines some of these objects of my memories which have now become objects in my home. For today, I will concentrate on one.

The pasta maker.

Anyone with a nice Kitchen Aid mixed can purchase an attachment that will allow them to make pasta. Grandma has the skills and the tools to make it the old way. We spent some time over Christmas with her going through the process that she followed when she made pasta for her family, something she learned from her mother and grandmother. She told stories of times where the tools were not necessary - her mother and grandmother discussing the thickness of the noodles, agreeing on width and using their knives to make perfectly uniform noodles. They would create gnocchi with their thumbs and ravioli with the tines of a fork. Neither would fall apart in a pot of boiling water. My mother (the daughter-in-law) has had a hard time learning these skills. Grandma always tells her - well you use this and that and don't worry about the amount - you'll just know.

This is the part of our history that we are at risk of loosing - the "you'll just know". Especially when it comes to cooking. Grandma "just knows" because she has absorbed the old ways from her mother and grandmother. My mother and I have not had the daily exposure to this atmosphere. We know what we know from her. With this, and my grandmother's declining health, in mind my mother encouraged her to sit down with us during our Christmas Holiday and share the family way for making Pasta. It was a fabulous idea and, as with many exchanges with elderly family members, turned out to be so much more than a lesson in pasta making.

I have discussed my Grandmother and all that she is to me before. I adore her and know that there is some connection between her and I that is far beyond a normal granddaughter/grandmother relationship. I am fully aware of how strange this sounds but it's just the way is.

On to the pasta...

You need flower, about 3/4 cup per person.

We had about six people eating so we used about 4.5 cups of flour. Make a little hole in your mound of white and place 3 eggs into this. Grandma says you should always crack your eggs into another bowl because if they are bad you would want to know that before you ruin the flour (Grandma was a child of the depression. It makes no difference what-so-ever that the ruined flour would cost all of $0.50. Trust me, I pointed this out and got an ear full)

Using a folk (and not a wire whisk, again with the earful) slowly mix the eggs into the flour. You will need a bit of water set aside. After the eggs are mixed in add a little ittle ttle tle le e bit of water. Just enough to barely get everything damp.

This is the part of the recipe that you just have to "know" and honestly, I never would have "known" had I not had grandma (above with her coffee) guiding me. "No too much." "Oh, Okay, a bit more." You need just enough water to get it mixed...but not too much to make it sticky.

You can see here how crumbly the dough is...not to worry, you're going to kneed the shit out of it and it'll be Perfecto (insert Italian gesture here.) My mom (in the blue shirt) was super excited to be able to use her silpat. It made everything so much easier.

See the texture above? The dough should become really smooth, no bumps and very elastic-like. Kneading is not for the knitter. It hurts your wrists. If you can, get your sister to do it. Mine, unfortunately, was the group scribe. Robby, incidentally, was the group photographer.

At this point the dough must rest. We let it rest in a cover bowl at room temperature all day. You can skip this step if you'd like. We needed to run some errands, get a super cool massage, and take a shower (notice the change of cloths below?)

If you look real closely at the picture above you can probably see my ass-crack. Kidding! You cannot!! But, you can see my chubs...hi you...

This is what's going on in that picture: I'm rolling small pieces of dough out and my sister is putting them through the pasta maker. We have the flattening rolls attached here. My sister rigged up a board to help mount the maker to the table. Yes, the apples do not far from the tree (more on that later.) There is a lot of flour involved in all of these next few steps. Just keep adding until you can get through it all without stickiness.

You may have to send it through the press multiple times. This was another one of those "Grandma tells you when to stop" things. She said that you could make it as thick as you wanted. She was super good at judging the thickness without looking. I swear it must be in your blood. You just know.

After the dough is pressed I used a knife to cut down the center of the strip. This prepared the stripes for the cutting attachment. The cutting attachment rocks.

Look at all of the little spaghetti monsters. They were pretty good uncooked.

Here is Grandma helping me with the little monsters. The head lamp came in handy here.

The tree on the left and the apple on the right. My dad. I always wondered where the family trait of fixing things came from. The trait of having them "just right". The certain way to do things. Well, if I hadn't realized it before, I realized it during this family event. Grandma and my dad - two peas in a pod. They are exactly the same.

It was awesome.

And the pasta - boil it. That's the next step. Use lots of water. Grandma says you should not have to rinse the pasta when it is done. I think that this may be true if you pay attention to the lots of water instruction. We did not. And there was a lot of starch. I think this could be avoided with a larger pot (or rinsing, which I hate.)

Olympic Update - Still no decision on the project. I'm taking tomorrow afternoon off, so hopefully I'll have something by Doyle's. Team Boston - Doyles 7pm be there or be square.
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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Porco Mondo

The double X Winter Olympic games begin in t minus 68 hours and you have yet to hear a peep from me and what my project is. That is because I have largely been consumed with any of the following things:

1 - Working, working, working. Large deadline was met Feb1st.
2 - Maintaining Team Boston. Now 100 members strong. Holy shit - I had no idea there were that many of us in Boston that knit to the point of distraction. No idea.
3 - Clearing my knitting plate. Yes, I do have this twisted mentality of needing closure on past projects in order to start a new one. Honestly, it's just a way to get this detritus out of my WIP pile and into the hands of the recipients, whom are mostly small children that and unable to hold me to my deadline.
4 - Being scared by phallic looking balloons with cock rings. (Can you feel the google hits that will come off of that one.)
5 - Practice being Italian.

Now, can you guess which of these is my favorite? Why yes, the practicing being Italian. I am of an Italian heritage. While I am not Italian like Ben, I do carry a lot of the stereotypical traits. I have a rack, I like to yell and hug, and I love to eat. Hey! You too can be Italian.

This year's games are held in Torino, Italy where the temperature is measured in Celsius (it was -1 today!), the wine flows freely (seriously, did you know that you can order wine and chocolate off of the official Torino Olympic website?), and where (apparently) Passion Lives. In fact, Wiki claims that Tornio is the birthplace of hard chocolate and the home of Lavazza. We so need to hop on a Fiat (manufacturing home in Torino) and go there! If it wasn't for the scary mascots - I just might.

And for the fact that Torino is across the ocean. For the mapless among us, it is located at the base of the Italian Alps east of the French Border. Have you all been to the Alps? Priceless. Breathtaking. Amazing. They make the Rockies look like baby giant poop. There are no words to describe this place. It is where Passion Lives. I would guess, based on it's location, that there is a good chance it is where sheep live too.

My final discovery was that, in 2006, Torino was named the World Book Capital by UNESCO.

Clearly there are other forces at work here. I cannot deny the responsibility. I must push aside all other responsibilities and move toward victory in these here Knitting Olympics. I will represent my Team and cheer others on. I will learn how to appropriately swear in Italian and will make pasta to honor my ancestors. I will help you with these endeavors as well.

First - the swearing. Now, you may be some kind of Beaver Cleaver who can successfully meet a knitting challenge without the utterance of fowl language. You, my friend, are a better person than I. For the ingrates among us and the children, such as myself, who heard these phrases as a child: La Perolacce

Here are some of my PGish favs:

bagascia - harlot (just in case you want to get mad at someone, I mean she is the one who started the madness)

bidone m. swindle, trick; fare un bidone a qualcuno to swindle someone.

cacasodo m./f. inv. an arrogant person, someone who thinks his/her [feces] doesn't stink; (lit.): one who defecates hard (from the verb cacare, meaning "to [defecate]" and the adjective sodo, meaning "tough" or "hard."

cavolo (vulgar) non me ne importa un cavolo! I don't give a damn about it!; (vulgar) testa di cavolo blockhead.

fesso v. (vulgar) silly, stupid, foolish, idiotic; fare il fesso to play the fool.

faccia di culo f. a butt-ugly person; used as an insult, referring to a big jerk; (lit.): face of a [buttocks].

finire in merda exp. to end miserably; (lit.): to end in [excrement].

merda f. (vulgar) excrement. (ed note: this means shit. I'm not sure why this site, which says penis licker, can't say the word shit.)

mostrare il dito medio exp. to give the finger; (lit.): to show the middle finger.

porco s.m. (vulgar) pig; porco mondo damn it all.

And only if you're ready to pull out the big guns:

vaffanculo (vulgar—contraction of the expression "Va' a fare in culo" up your [buttocks].) insult. (ed note: this could translate to mean fuck you. Which, again the irony, this website doesn't seem to be able to say. It can say the c word, but not fuck. Go figure.)

Please remember - for the sake of your family and friends. These words or phrases should only be applied to one's yarn (filo) or to your knitting (fare a maglia (I think)). We already know it is okay to speak to it as if it is a person - now you can speak to it as if it's Italian!

And finally - a hand gesture for you all (get your minds out of the gutter!)


or, my favorite

Scusi, devo andare al bagno.
(Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.)

Doesn't that look like a peace sign? No wonder Mussolini was so pissed off.

Those eye-talins are so much more sophisticated than I - I wish I had such a simple gesture for when I had to go to the bathroom. All I have is a stupid ass dance.

Next post - how to make homemade Pasta with your Grandma, or, what I did on my Christmas Vacation.
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