Friday, January 29, 2010

The Votes Are In!

I have tallied up the results of my completely unscientific polls, both here on the blog and at the Team Minnesota-RavelryOlympics forum, and there is a clear winner:

Option #3 received a total of 5 votes, with two people suggesting that I convert the Cable and Lace Cardigan pattern into a top-down version. This suggestion intrigued me quite a bit, since I've been making up sweater patterns lately anyway. This would be the most complicated stitch pattern to incorporate into a top-down version that I've ever attempted. Very Interesting!

Option #2 received 2.5 votes (the half vote coming from someone who chose to vote for both Option #1 & #2). Whilst this would be a fabulous sweater to work on while actually watching the Olympics, I'm just fooling myself if I think I'm going to spend a majority of my knitting time in front of the television. Life is just too busy and I'm out and about a lot. And straight stockinette is deadly boring to work on while waiting in the dentist office or at swim practice.

Option #1 received only 1/2 of a vote, with the comment that if I love color work, I should just cast on and enjoy the process and not worry about crossing the finish line for the Ravelry Olympics. A valid argument, if I ever heard one. However, when I attempt that little challenge, I think it would be better to have no deadlines or stress attached to the process. I want to focus and master two-handed stranded color work.

Now, simply because I reserved the right to veto any of the Options (in my head, if not in writing) for any reason I deemed valid (certain elected officials shouldn't have all the veto power in the world), I have still been weighing my options and doing some sincere soul searching.

My conclusion is: The people have spoken! If a majority (albeit a very small one) wants me to proceed with the Cable and Lace Cardigan, then who am I to disagree with the democratic process. And for those two lone voices who lobbied on behalf of pattern adaptation, well, they deserve to be heard and heeded as well.

Ergo, I will be proceeding with the Cable and Lace Cardigan pattern re-write immediately and shall make every effort to complete the entire knitting and finishing process within the time frame of the Winter Olympics. And if I finish it on time, my reward will be casting on the Colorwork Cardigan that has been wooing me with it's siren song of beauty for the past 6 months.

However, if I don't finish in time . . . hmmm, would it really be considered a punishment to knit the Daily Sweater first?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Decisions, decisions!

A New Year without some kind of resolutions or challenge just didn't seem right. My world has been all out of kilter since I hadn't managed to find that one perfect goal for 2010.

In my younger days, I'd done the "Finish all the UFO's in the house or you can't start anything new for the entire year", "Lose 50 pounds in 4 weeks and figure out how to look 10 years younger as well", "Exercise every day until you Puke before giving up on January 5th", and "Clean house then keep it spotless all the time, even if it means alienating your children and ending up in divorce court" resolutions in the past. You can guess how successful I was with completing those crazy goals.

With age, however, I've become a bit wiser and much more realistic about resolutions. And I've learned to have fun with it. It's my humble opinion that resolutions should be about improving the quality of your life, not altering your life beyond recognition. So, given my love of all things crafty, New Year's Resolutions have become fiber arts adventures for me.

Those who have been with me for awhile will probably remember the great Ravelry Puck This Hat Trick 2009 adventure, when I completed 9 hats in the month of January (6 adult/3 baby). The whole challenge seemed to fire my imagination and I had a total blast trying new techniques and churning out WIP's in rapid succession. However, since we still have a large box overflowing with hats in the closet, Hat Trick 2010 just didn't seem all that appealing this year.

I had done some mulling and meditating on the whole dilemma. January 1st came and went and I still didn't have a clue what to choose. Eventually, though, Ravelry came to the rescue - again.

The Ravelympics 2010 is gearing up to start and I have joined the Team Minnesota-Ravelryolympics Group. In keeping with the whole sweater obsession I've been enthralled with since the end of Hat Trick 2009, I have decided to try and complete an entire sweater during the course of the Olympics this year. One sweater in 16 days. That's the challenge I've set for myself.

However, having also suffered from compulsive shopping for the past year, each trip resulting in one or more sweaters' worth of yarn each time, I find myself with a plethora of choices for this epic Olympic event.

(I have also considered the whole "yarn diet for a year" resolution this year but decided that was even more far fetched than the "lose 50 pounds in 4 weeks" resolutions in the past. Let's get real, after all! No yarn for a whole year. Yeah, right!)

I have a couple weeks to choose, swatch and prepare to cast on during the opening ceremonies on February 12th. I've narrowed the choices down to three options.

Option #1: The Fair Isle Cardigan (on the cover) from The New Stranded Colorwork Book. I picked up the book and the yarn at the same time this past fall. This would be the most challenging project to attempt in the 16 days alotted. I would be trying to perfect my two-handed knitting technique while working on a fine gauge yarn and having numerous high quality finishing techniques involved, including steeking, picot turned hems and hand-sewn ribbon trim embellishments. Whist I may not be able to meet my goal of finishing it during the Olympics, it is the project I've been dreaming about most in the past few weeks.

Option #2: The Daily Sweater (Ravelry link) from Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. This project would not be nearly as technically challenging since I've already made one sweater from this pattern. There is a chart to follow for the raglan increases, which takes some careful counting but after that, there is a lot of plain stockinette. It would be highly conducive to watching the Olympics but likely to become a bit boring otherwise.

Option #3: Cable & Lace Cardigan from the cover of the September 2007 Creative Knitting Magazine. I bought the yarn for this sweater shortly after purchasing the magazine in 2007. I love the combination of cable and lace and the yarn has such a soft appearance and silky hand that I've had this in my queue for a long time. It is a bulkier yarn and should work up very quickly. However, since I've fallen in love with top-down, seamless sweater knitting, I'm less than enthralled with the thought of having to sew this one up by the deadline. I'm notorious for finishing pieces and then procrastinating on the blocking and seaming. The challenge would be to follow through and actually FINISH it by February 28th.

Well, it's your time to help. Got an opinion? Let me hear it. I'm completely kerflummoxed, so I welcome input.

Oh, in the meantime, I'll be ripping out carpet. Been working on that "little" project (2000 sq. feet of carpet to remove - oy!) since Saturday. I have 2 rooms and the upstairs hallway/stairs left to finish before Thursday morning when the new carpet arrives and is installed. We saved over $800 by removing and disposing of the carpet ourselves but it's made for a physically grueling week. Especially since Hubby has a very bad back and has been unable to help as much as he'd like.

Let's hope my hands and forearms have recuperated from this massive project by February 12. Or else I'll be learning to paint with my toes during the Olymics instead.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Things I Hate . . . errr, Dislike Intensely

When you live with a child who sees the world as black and white, with no shades of grey, the word "hate" is a bad word. I am routinely lectured on my use of the word "hate," even if it is the word that best describes my true feelings.

For example, I HATE washing dishes. The fact that I spend 50% of my waking hours either dirtying dishes (meal prep and cooking) or washing dishes, it's a pretty strong feeling being evoked by the sight of yet another mountain of dishes teetering in the sink. Especially I've gone to bed, leaving a clean kitchen, and wake up to the mess caused by a group of miscellaneous children who have decided that they needed some bedtime snacks, and a teenager gets up at midnight for a little refueling and decides turkey bacon and eggs make a good snack and leaves the egg smeared pan and plate drying on the stove, and hubby gets up in the morning and fixes breakfast and leaves the cereal box, rice milk carton and cereal bowl on the counter. Can you blame me if I growl a bit about how much I hate dishes?

I also hate bitter cold weather. Winter is fine, as long as you can step outside with a reasonable amount of warm clothing protecting your body. However, when the temperature and wind chill combined dips into the double digits below zero and your teenage daughter asks you to drive her to school and you forget your mittens and the drive is too short to truly warm the engine enough to heat the car and your hands are so cold when you get home that you can hardly turn the key in the ignition to the off position, "hate" seems like a very reasonable word to use.

Alas, now I even have a knitting "hate." Nupps! Believe it or not, I am knitting nupps for the first time in over 30 years of knitting and now I know what all the fuss is about. I used to hate bobbles because I had to turn the work so many times. But I learned to knit in both directions and I no longer hate bobbles. They are a piece of cake. But nupps . . . grrrrr!

It seemed like a fun little pattern. I picked up some Land O' Lace yarn from Creative Fibers in New Prague. They had a lovely little sample scarf knit up from a Land O' Lace pattern. So scrumptious I just had to purchase the required two hanks and pattern. I cast on for the scarf and was rolling along merrily when I discovered that this was a two-ended scarf that needed to be grafted in the middle.

No problem, I cast on the other side, knit it to the same length as the first side, then transferred both sides to the same needle and started knitting both ends at the same time. Then I arrived at my first nupp. Argggh! I wrestled and fiddled, perspired and pouted, growled and grumbled. It was official, I joined the Nupp Haters of the Knitting World.

The scarf is now in time out, whilst I seek out a pair of Addi Turbo Lace needles in the appropriate size to see if the pointer tips will make nupps less objectionable or not. If they don't, I'll be heading directly to the frog pond and seeking a nupp-less lace pattern for a new scarf. Life is too short to spend precious knitting time HATING.

In the meantime, I've gone back to knitting Arwen for Peeps. I am working on the hood right now, then I will have the sleeves and the cabled band left to finish before sweater #12 is off the needles. I am also continuing to work on Hockeyman's Japanese-inspired Blankie whenever I'm sitting in my armchair, watching television. I am also carrying around Hubby's Annual Birthday Socks as my travel knitting project. Plenty of projects to keep me busy without returning to the dreaded nupps.

Feel free to send any tips for knitting nupps my way. After all, what we need is LOVE . . . especially in the knitting realm.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Busy Holiday - Relatively Speaking

I've been a busy little bee over the past 2 weeks. Having made the decision to stay home for the holidays made for a relaxed, quiet time with family (and a few friends). An uneventful holiday season had the added benefit of allowing a bonus of ample knitting time.

As you can see from the photo, I have been working on a number of projects. First of all, as soon as Amused Revamped was finished, I cast on a blanket for Hockeyman. Having made a blanket last year for Dancing Diva, I was not about to make the same mistake twice of making a twin-sized afghan out of worsted weight yarn.

This time, I opted for Lion Brand Wool-Ease, Thick & Quick, which is working up so fast, my head is spinning. The pattern is my own adaptation of Mason-Dixon's Modern Log Cabin blanket. (Ravelry Link) I am enlarging it enough to cover a twin bed and hope to have it finished in a few weeks.

Because of it's large size and weight, it has become my "recliner project". So, obviously, because we had a hockey tournament up in Hibbing this past week, I needed to find a more portable project for the car trip up and back. I decided to pull out a couple pairs of UFO socks.

Actually, it was decided for me because Hubby's birthday has snuck up on me and it is time to cast on the Hubby's Annual Birthday Socks (HABS). I needed to finish one of the pairs of UFO socks in order to free up a pair of needles to use. The first socks I pulled were the Peppermint Twist socks I started ages ago with yarn I won in a drawing. They are Tofutsie Sock Yarn and I have to admit it is not my favorite yarn to handle. It was a loosely plied yarn, which made it very splitty. It also has a fairly harsh hand. However, I will reserve judgement on whether I'll knit with it again after I've worn and washed them a few times. Some of the most delightful yarns to knit with do NOT wear well and I'd rather have long lasting socks that weren't quite as fun to knit than spend all that time knitting something wonderful to end up throwing them away after a couple wearings.

Knowing that the Peppermint Twist socks wouldn't take that long to finish, I also brought along another pair of UFO socks. I think the yarn is Trekking XXL Sock yarn but I wouldn't bet my first-born child on it. It was an emergency knitting project I picked up at Coldwater Collaborative when I had forgotten my knitting bag at home. Being the obsessive-compulsive knitter that I am, I was unable to go on without something to knit. Hence, another pair of socks was born. However, this little project doesn't have a fancy name yet. If you have any suggestions, I'm open to ideas.

Finally and of course, as soon as the Peppermint Twist socks were off the needles, I had to cast on the HABS. So far, I haven't done much more than start the toes. I need to dig out a knit stitch dictionary and do some hunting for a nice textured pattern.

The yarn is some received through Wool Girl's 2008 Sock Club. It is Hazel Knits Artisan Sock and is 90% superwash merino and 10% nylon. It has the beautiful hand of a nearly all wool yarn and I'm hoping that the nylon will make it a longer wearing sock yarn.

Whew! As if all that knitting time wasn't enough, I also managed to find time to finish a 500 piece puzzle with my hubby and parents AND a 750 piece puzzle all by myself. I still have a 1000 piece puzzle waiting in the wings but will wait to start that one after I finish the Yet To Be Named Socks.

Then again, I do have two more days of holiday vacation before homeschooling starts up again in earnest. And I absolutely love puzzles.

Hmmmmm . . .