Saturday, February 24, 2007

counting beans, or playing with my food

I'm knitting mittens, and it's driving me nuts.

The first pair of mittens went well enough. I found a pattern I loved and fumbled my way through, producing a perfectly serviceable pair that I adore, errors and all, and wear every day.

I got more adventurous on the second pair, changing yarns (and therefore gauge) and size, as I was knitting these for my daughter. I chose a different pattern and, true to my nature, instantly made changes. (Can't do anything simple around here, nosiree bob.) This mitten, like the first, has an opening for fingers. It also had a new thumb gusset -- knitterly excitement!

The first mitten went pretty well. I only had to rip it back, oh, six or seven times, and that was for size issues. What really tripped me up was that thumb gusset: specifically, how to make it for the left hand. The pattern states,
Knit second mitten, being sure to reverse instructions to place flap on palm side of mitten.
(I didn't make the flap. I was following the pattern for the rest of the mitten. Well, actually, I changed the top, too, but that doesn't matter here.)

I just couldn't get that thumb gusset to end up on the left side of the mitten. What does it mean to reverse instructions? I counted stitches backwards and forwards, knit and ripped and knit and ripped.

What I needed was a visual aid. Legos? Playmobil flowers? I couldn't find enough similar pieces. No, I wanted something else:

Lima beans. Each line of beans represents stitches on a circular needle. (I'm using two circular needles instead of double-points.) They're joined into a circle, although I left the beans in straight lines. The arrows in the picture above point to stitch markers surrounding one knit stitch: the beginning of the (hopefully left-handed) gusset.

Now I've increased by making one stitch on the inside of each stitch marker.

Here is the final gusset round, having increased four times to make nine gusset stitches.

Now I've put the gusset stitches on a holder. I cast on three stitches to cover the gap, marked by arrows in the picture above.

Take the stitch markers off and hey presto, a side-seam thumb! It can be left- or right-handed!

Looking back at the original pattern, I see that the designer already knew that:
Knit second mitten, being sure to reverse instructions to place flap on palm side of mitten.

One reverses the instructions for the flap, not the thumb. D'oh.

I had tried the first mitten on so many times that it naturally formed around my right thumb. Because the first pair I knit had left- and right-oriented thumbs, I figured these did, too.

The pattern's author recommends Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, so I surfed on over to Amazon and checked it out. I love that "search inside the book!" feature. Side-seam thumbs explained, just like in the pattern. I am such an idiot. And I'm buying that book.

It takes beans labeled with Sharpie pens to make me understand simple instructions. Please, when you meet me, speak very slowly and use short words. Visual aids will help. You'd better bring some beans.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bad Joke and Fun Book

photo found on flickr, taken by Ron Richardson

What's the difference between a bad skydiver and a bad golfer?

A bad golfer goes, WHACK, "Damn!"

A bad skydiver goes, "Damn!" WHACK.

Is your Monday a little brighter now? (heh heh)

This is one of many bad (but very fun) jokes in Designed to Dieby Chloe Green. I just found this mystery series and am liking it very much. The protagonist is a fashion stylist, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of fashion with its delicious clothes, high price tags, and intriguing people. I wish Green would pack even more fashion detail into these books -- it's one of the best parts.

Also fun is the flirtation among characters, which provides sexual heat without explicit detail. After some of Laurell K. Hamilton's latest, this is a refreshing change. Not that I'm against sexual detail in books. (Mom, don't read this!) If it's hot, bring it on. But sometimes it's good just to have a hint.

The mystery aspect is fairly unbelievable, and I wished for more development of some of the characters, but I'd still recommend this book as a fun read, or even better, a fun listen. C. J. Critt does the audiobook, and she's absolutely perfect for it. Mom, see if you can get this for your trip. (I knew you were still reading!)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

mittens for me

I so rarely knit for myself that I take real pleasure in the process. No deadline, no "will he or she like it?", and the fitting model is always right there.

These are Peekaboo Mittens from the February 2007 magknits. Several people on flickr have knit them already, so I wonder if they're going to be the next super-popular pattern like fetching fingerless mitts.

These are big mittens with a slit in the palm so you can slide your fingers out to handle keys, doorknobs, or the steering wheel of your car. They're big so they can fit over slim gloves if it's cold enough to layer (and it is, yes indeedy it is!).

I made mine with a strand of Jamieson Shetland, a nice old-fashioned bristly wool, and a strand of Baby Alpaca, for softness and warmth, held together. Because it knit to a much chunkier gauge than the pattern yarn, I adjusted the number of stitches down to 28 and did single ribbing around the slit (double ribbing, even on smaller needles, didn't contract with this yarn combination). I wanted a thick mitten, so I stuck with the size 7 needles, but wouldn't recommend that unless you don't mind tight knitting.

Every time I wear these mittens I am absurdly pleased. The color, the texture, and the fact that they are mine make me very happy.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

MSU Youth Swine Show

Desperate to get out of the house, I forced the family to attend a Youth Swine Show. Yes, we went to look at pigs. (There's not a lot to do in rural Michigan in the winter. It's damn cold. The local roads are too icy to go walking. And I'm allergic to malls.)

Most of the pigs were sleeping. And they were so cute! (I must admit I had an ulterior motive -- to find a local source of organic pork -- but these pigs were way too adorable to eat.)

The youth were just as sweet. There appears to be a dress code for youth swine handlers. Just as Irish dancing contestants all wear those curly wigs, these kids wore jeans (usually brand new, dark, and so stiff they may have been starched), button-down shirts (often plaid), and braids on the girls.

The Rabbit and Cavy show was going on simultaneously. We oohed and aahed over the most adorable fluffy bunnies, though we were most impressed by the giant ones. (I had to ask: are the really big ones grown for meat? No, an exhibitor answered, they're actually mostly bone.)

This little piggy was asleep with his tongue sticking out. I ask you, how cute is that?

I urge you to attend the Youth Swine Show nearest you. You won't regret it.