Employment At Last

Okay, so "at last" might be a bit dramatic. Have I really seemed to be missing the daily grind since January?

But anyway, yesterday I got the call offering me the library job I interviewed for a few weeks ago. I accepted, and after salary negotiations and an official offer this afternoon, I will start sometime the week of the 14th of May. Starting date complicated by a trip to Maine scheduled for May 4-5 and another to Tucson over Mother's Day weekend the 10th through the 14th on my end and a number of meetings on my new supervisor's end.

Still trying to get my head around what it means that I will once again be working outside the house during the week. Of course, for Pupper it means a return to spending more time in his kennel and getting spoiled by his dog walker (who seems quite happy in a way to be getting her job back). For us it means cleaning the house, doing the laundry and going grocery shopping on weekends and evenings at least until M is out of school at the end of June.

And of course, there will be far less time for knitting, weaving and writing. Not to mention gardening, straightening out the stash and organizing our ridiculously messy pattern collection. Alas, the life of a working stiff one again has entrapped me. Cue the violins.

In other news, here is the promised Cork sweater photo:
Pattern: Top-down raglan with rolled collar and garter stitch cuffs. I created a basic pattern with Sweater Wizard based on the gauge, but mostly I just started a sweater and made it to fit (ah, the beauty of top down construction).
Yarn: Rowan Cork #047, Pleasure, 9 balls or so (it was less than a bag, I know that)
Needles: Addi Turbo 40" and 32" #11 (the 40" for magic looping the sleeves); Inox Nickel Plated 32" and 24" #10 (for collar and cuffs).

I love this sweater; I've actually loved this sweater since the first time I slipped the yoke over my head to see if it was time to divide the body and sleeves. It is warm and soft -- soft enough that I could probably wear it with a short-sleeved t-shirt underneath, making it exactly the sweatshirt substitute I was hoping for. Cork is a great yarn, and it is definitely a shame that they discontinued it. Having this sweater finally finished (I started and abandoned it over a year ago) is making me regret in some small way letting the bag of brown that I had stashed go.

Why did I abandon it if I loved it so? I don't know how other people do it, because it was killing me to try to knit the sleeves on #11 DPs without ladders. So I frogged the sleeves and started over using two short circs, but the dangling bits were annoying me. So I abandoned the sweater until I could figure out a solution.

For a while it was looking like the solution was going to be to knit the sleeves flat and seam them (which is what I did with Fantine); then I got tired of always worrying about losing the extra DP from my sock bag, and I got tired of poking myself with the DPs while knitting socks so I finally learned magic loop. Not only have I not knit socks any other way since, but this also presented the solution to the sleeve issue with the Cork sweater.

Monday afternoon, M got home early so we headed down to the big city for some shopping. We hit WEBS, and M is now the proud owner of a Molly of her very own. Hers is blue. I also picked up some hot pink Rowan 4-Ply Soft to make us some socks and a couple of balls of Tofutsies. Everyone I've read or talked to has a very strong opinion one way or the other about this yarn, so I'm curious to try it. We couldn't decide between colors 727 and 726, so we bought both. I'll have to find a really good pattern for it.

I am nearly done with the back of the Crocus Tank, but no pic since it looks pretty much the same as the back of the other one (scroll down the page about halfway), only it's periwinkle this time. [If I had better Photo Shop skills, I'm sure I could just doctor the photo, but I've got other things I'd rather do.]

I'm still loving the tank and the pattern, and this one will probably make the trip to Tucson with us. I wonder if I'll have time to make us a Smooch before then, too. I hear it's already very warm down there in desert (at least during the day).

And here's a final parting pic of the felted penguin, all dressed up for his next great adventure, the school's fundraising auction and arts night Saturday.His hat and scarf are made from more of my nearly endless store of DK weight superwash using the directions that are in the Fiber Trends pattern.

De-Tox, Re-Tox, and De-Tox Again
(and other tales of vacation)

So, I think I mentioned before that M and I were engaged in a spring detox regimen because we came out of winter feeling completely blah. Well, we cleverly planned it so our detox ended a couple days before we headed for vacation.

Did the detox work? Oh yes, indeed, it did. We were both feeling better, looking better (clearer skin and everything), and our clothes were getting downright big. Hooray.

Well, we decided to be bad on vacation, and boy did I pay for it. My system rebelled big time against the excess of bad food being put into it. So now that we're home, it's back to strict detox for another week, then just eating healthy until we can lose the rest of the weight we are looking to get rid of (I'm aiming for a size 10 by the UCC's General Synod at the end of June -- not an unreachable goal, but it'll take work).

We did have a wonderful time despite my system's rebellion and the snow. We pretty much had the Inn to ourselves since most other guests had bugged out at the threat of up to a foot of new snow to start the week. The foot of snow never materialized, and we were able to enjoy all of our favorite White Mountain pursuits (with the exception of hiking 'cause the trails were just way too muddy). This time we even indulged ourselves with in-room massages. After that we realized the we both need to get massages more often.

So, now we're home, the rain has finally stopped, and it's supposed to hit the mid-80s today (before dropping back into the 50s by mid-week; this is, after all, spring in New England). I hauled the grill out of the garage yesterday and grilled both lunch and dinner. We also found one of the few creamees that are open this early and indulged in a little cold refreshment -- much to Pupper's delight; he loves ice cream. [For those who are wondering, "creamee" is Western Mass speak for a shack by the side of the road where one can buy soft serve ice cream. Some also do hard ice cream, burgers and hot dogs, french fries and the like, but the soft serve is what defines a creamee.]

But one of my favorite things about summer's imminent arrival is this:hot pink toe nails and my way cool sandals-of-many-colors.

There was some of the promised knitting on the trip.
Please excuse my very white legs -- would you believe I've already done two applications of self-tanner?

Pattern: Top-down sock; 72 stitches; stockinette leg and foot; 2x2 cuff; short-row heel; round toe
Yarn: Plymouth Sockotta #5616, 1 ball
Needle: Inox nickel-plated 40" #0; magic loop, one at a time

I love these socks, with the possible exception of the round toe. I don't think I'll be doing those again. The colors are perfect for those summer times when I need socks for whatever reason. Sockotta is fairly easy to work with, though I find it a little hard. Perhaps it'll soften with washing. I have another ball of Sockotta in color 367 which I will probably be making another pair of simple socks from, but not right now. While I love knitting socks on size 0 needles, they take a toll on my fingers. If I had a dime for every time I poke a hole in the tip of my index fingers with the needle....

So, the next socks will be my purple fixation socks, the ones I had to buy the yarn for after finishing M's pink ones. They're knit on a more reasonable size 4 -- hard to poke holes in my fingers.

I did finish the Cork sweater as well, but it's upstairs drying on Clara, and since it looks absolutely awful on her, you'll have to wait until it's dry and I can do a mirror shot of it on me. And I've got a few inches done on the back of the crocus tank I'm making for M and I.

And finally, here's what the approach of summer looks like at the parsonage (the kitties love their porch):

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Mud Season

... for a little more snow (like, about 2 inches).

And now on to more of the FO extravaganza.

Pattern: from Handknit Style II
Yarn: Rowan Big Wool #28, 7 balls; some red lurex
Needles: Addi Turbo 32" #15 and 40" #13

I actually made this one before Christmas last year, to wear on Christmas Eve. I had been eying this color of Big Wool ever since it arrived, and when Handknit Style II showed up, I found the perfect thing to do with it. I also happened to have bought a lifetime supply (14,000 yards on a cone) of red lurex at WEBS' $3.00 cone sale a while back. Once I had the shrug finished, M declared she couldn't wear it 'cuz she doesn't have the chest for the style. I think she looks fine in it, but anyway.

Enter Fantine. She was supposed to be M's super warm fancy Big Wool sweater, but she got derailed before Christmas and just finished yesterday.

Pattern: Fantine from French Girl Knits
Yarn: Rowan Big Wool #31, 7 balls
Needles: Addi Turbo 32" #17 (never again!)
Mods: I made the jacket longer to fall at M's natural waist, and gave it full length sleeves rather than the 3/4 sleeves the pattern calls for. All together, that wound up using just over 2 balls more than the 4 the pattern calls for.

She is modeled here by Clara, a dressmaker's dummy I found in the attic when we moved in. The woman who owns the house was seamstress to the town for many years (we have a small closet upstairs with more tulle than I think it healthy). Clara is a great blocking tool for sweaters which are knit in one piece as Fatine is. Believe me, though, Fantine looks sooooo much better on M.

And finally, we had a visitor yesterday.

Yep, that's a real pigeon, and if you look closely you may be able to see that he's banded. No clue where he came from or how he got to thinking that our rural garage was where he should be, but he hung around for over half an hour before leaving. Even the sparrows were a bit confused.

FO Extravaganza, part one

First up, Smooch. Apologies for the over-the-pillow photo, but this thing blocked to 30" at the bust -- just fine for the bodies at the store, but not near big enough for any of the real women in this house.

Pattern: Smooch from Rowan All Seasons Cotton Collection
Yarn: Rowan All Seasons Cotton #221
Needles: Addi Turbo 24" #8, 32" #6
Mods: None, that I know of, but as I mentioned some of the directions in the pattern were less than clear, so I did my best, came out with the right stitch count in the right places, and made a tank that looks remarkably like the one in the picture.

I do like the finished product, and now that I have sussed out the issues with the pattern, I will likely make at least one for us (in a much larger size). Rowan All Seasons Cotton is very similar to Dive Cotton Club, of which I have at least four bags around here. I also have a bag of bright orange Lang Twin Lame which for which I can probably adapt this pattern as well.

While I was at the store dropping Smooch off, I met and fell in love with Molly. She had to come home with me (in orange). I haven't had a nice summer bag for a long time, and Molly is just perfect.

Next, the penguin.First, before felting (Elle added for size perspective).
Here he is right after felting, stuffed with old socks to help him keep his shape while he dries.
And here he is completed.

Pattern: Playful Penguins from Fiber Trends
Yarn: Valley Yarns Berkshire #7 Black; Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky #12 Orange, #1 Cream; Lion Brand Fun Fur Black
Needles: Addi Turbo 16" and 40" #11
Other: 12mm post eyes, poly-fil, white felt
Mods: Well, the pattern calls for DK weight wool held double throughout. Would you believe that not one of the DK weight wools I have access to is feltable? So, I opted for heavier wool single-stranded. I went for a heavy worsted rather than the bulky for the black because it was being knit with the fur.

The finished penguin is cute, but the felting was a little strange. As you can see in the pics above, he didn't really shrink all that much -- more just kinda pulled in on himself. In fact, the fun fur so impeded the shrinking of the black that I was able to mattress stitch the back together when I was done stuffing him. Overall, however, I like the final shape; I think it makes him look like a juvenile, which could be perfect for his next destination which is a fundraising auction at M's school.

And finally (for today), Bette.
Pattern: Bette from Elsebeth Lavold, Book Four, The Sophisticated Lady Collection
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed #02 (we call it cherry cola, they call it purple)
Needles: Addi Turbo 32" #4 and #6

I made one of these as a sample for the store quite a while ago (before they killed the yarn) and really liked the pattern. Bette has actually been sitting, fully assembled, in my knitting bag for a couple of months now, waiting for the finishing touches which I finally sat down and did yesterday. I love her, and I'm expecting that come summer she will become my favorite for cooler weather with just a tank top underneath.

I am about 1/3 done with the second sleeve of Fantine so expect pics soon. Maybe I can even get the Cork pullover I abandoned over a year ago finished this weekend.

We leave Monday for our few days of escape in the mountains. In addition to the jaywalkers which are my current port-a-project, I will be taking the yarn for the crocus tank I am making for M and I and perhaps something else. I am also taking a couple of books. Like I said before, this week is intended as a retreat. We're going to go hang out at a great inn and knit and read before the fire. I cannot wait.

Smooch Back At Ya

Well, I had a eureka moment over the first row of smooch (it's a six stitch repeat, not five stitches), though I still have no clue what the "one st on right needle" means. After that, I motored along on the back -- simple lace pattern, some waist shaping, and a lot of pink stockinette. At 17 sts and 24 rows to 4 inches, this thing isn't going to be a long project.

The front is done up to where it is split for the neck. Well, I had nearly finished the left side of the front neck and then had to frog the whole thing. I've decided this is one of the more poorly written patterns out there. I've figured out how I'm going to do the front neck, and it should at least look like the picture in the book.

I do have to admit I'm liking the fact that the neck and arm edges are left raw. The front neck is kept flatish with a slip stitch edging, and the arm holes are allowed to do that stockinette curl. No stitches to pick up!

When smooch is done, I get to start on this:M's school has a big fundraiser at the end of the month and part of the evening is an auction. This is our donation. We're hoping it is at least as popular as the hedgehog M made for last year's auction (it went for $100 -- yes $100 for a stuffed hedgehog!).

Then, I get to do something (guess what) with my Easter present:Yes, more Peaches & Creme in (left to right) 159, pink lilacs; 186 lemon-lime; 186 shades of green. We don't usually get each other big gifts for birthdays, holidays, etc, and this is just perfect (they're even Easter-ish colors). It will most likely, of course, all become dishcloths.

Meet Elle

So named to force me to stop calling her "It" (I've never really been a fan of dolls). I have owned this book almost since it came out, and the yarn to make myself (or my niece) a couple has been in the stash almost as long. After finishing and dropping off the Crocus Tank (Kathy has posted a much better picture of it on WEBS' blog -- scroll toward the bottom of the post) and sending off my niece's birthday package (which, shockingly, included nothing hand made) I took up needles and yarn to make Elle.

Pattern: Knitted Babe from Claire Garland's Knitted Babes
Yarn: Babe: RYC Cashsoft 4-ply #439; Hair: Berroco Pure Merino #8532; Bathing Suit: Regia Stretch Crazy Color #115
Other Materials: Felt and embroidery floss for the facial features; one old washcloth "bog-jacketed" (PDF file) to make the bathrobe
Needles: Two of a set of old 8" aluminum DPs in size 2 (the kind you find when cleaning out your grandmother's crafting supplies) -- they were blue if that matters
Mods: None this time, though the next Babe (yes, I've got yarn in the stash for at least three more) will be knit in the round 'cuz sewing seams on those teeny pieces was NO FUN. I suppose it was designed in pieces to allow you to place the facial features before construction, but I waited until I'd assembled and stuffed her to do the face so I could more accurately judge the proportion of the features to the head.

I was captivated by this book when it first came out (and remember, as I mentioned, I don't like dolls). The dolls are are cute and clever and the patterns provided create a great wardrobe (yes, there will be more clothing forthcoming for Elle -- there are always more bits of sock yarn around here).

While I had the sewing machine out to make the bathrobe, I also whipped up this:
I am hoping that it will hold my books open for me so I can knit and read at the same time. It's just some fabric left over from a stole I made M for her installation here, sewn into a tube and filled with popcorn (in its pre-popped form).

Next up: Smooch in Rowan All Seasons Cotton #221 -- another sample for the store. IF, that is, I can figure out the first row. By my calculations, if you
K3, *cast off 3 sts (one st on right needle), K2, rep from * to end
(ignoring the fact that I can't for the life of me figger out what "one st on right needle" means) you wind up with a few more than 2/5 of the number of stitches you started with. Right? Well, the pattern has me winding up with just over half the number of stitches I started with. I'm thinking the cast off 3 should actually be cast off 2. I looked for errata and found none, so I'm off to try my best.

Crocus Blooms

[Sorry for the poor picture -- it's still gray and gloomy around here.]

Pattern: Crocus Tank from Nashua Handknits Occasion Spring/Summer 2006
Yarn: Nashua June (100% Acrylic Microfiber, 50g, 120yds) #005 Willow, 7 balls (the pattern called for 6 balls, but I used just short of 7)
Needles: Webs Hard Bamboo Circular 32" #5 and Inox 16" #4
Mods: Aside from using an entire ball more yarn than the pattern called for, none since it was a store sample.

I love, love, love this tank! In fact, when I dropped it off today, I bought June in periwinkle to make one for us. The yarn is super soft and super easy to knit. It isn't anywhere near as splitty as you might expect, and the stitch definition is great. I can't wait to have my own.

Oh, this is what was left of ball seven when I finished:

Crocus Blocks

[Sorry for the crappy picture. It's predicted to be gray and gloomy here all week.] The Crocus Tank is on the blocking board. I had to crack into ball #7 about 1/3 of the way into the armscyes on the front. M asked if I might need an 8th ball (remember, the pattern called for 6). I think I can probably make it with 7, though.

One comment about the pattern, however. On both the front and back directions, when you get to the neck shaping, it calls for working across the first shoulder, joining a new ball of yarn, binding off the center stitches, then working the other shoulder. From here you work the two shoulders at the same time. This works just fine for the back, but by the time you get to the front neck shaping, chances are you've already cracked into the last ball in the bag, right? And with June (which is wound around a cardboard center) you don't even have the option to work from both ends of a single ball. Don't pattern writers get this?

I should have had this blocked this weekend and finished last night, but M and I have embarked on a 14-day spring detox regimen (we were both feeling gross after the winter), and my body is still adjusting. By yesterday afternoon (day 3) I was weak and achy all over -- kinda like I had the flu only I didn't feel sick at all. Today I'm much better, and I predict by tomorrow I will feel fine. The tank should be done in time to be delivered on Thursday or Friday.

I'm off to take it easy for the day and maybe get some other knitting done. The Queen B has taking it easy down to a science:
Perhaps she'll give me lessons.