November 30, 2005

Gauging Your Boredom

It's time to admit that I'm an incredibly inefficient knitter. It's a wonder, actually, that I've really even claimed progress on my Norwegian Stockings, given the number of times I've ripped back, switched needles, experimented and the like. You are too nice to say it, but you are sick and tired of reading about these stockings. You are.

But, it's time now for me to torture you some more. Since this is my "learning fair isle" project, it's just moving really slowly. You see, after several try-ons, I decided that (a) the stocking you saw in the last post on this was really too loose to prevent slumping later on and (b) part of the problem was that the floats were actually too loose, which also contributed to increasing funkiness in the evenness of the stitches. Plus looking back at Eunny's stockings, I couldn't help but notice how much more uniform her stitches were in comparison to mine. Unlike Eunny, it will take me about 5 years to attain such uniformity, but one can aspire, right? So I wanted to try my hand at doing the fair isle right-side-out, rather than the inside out I was using, with what I consider a relatively normal, even a little bit tight tension... just to see how it turned out. I ripped back the first stocking I'd started (on the DPNs) to the bottom of the first motif, and proceeded with normal / tighter tension on size 1s using magic loop.

Here we have a comparison between the first stocking (R), done with relatively loose tension, inside out, on size 1s, and the second (L), done right side out, with tighter / normal tension, also on size 1s:

norwegian stockings gauge experiment

There's a substantial difference in circumference - 2 inches! The stocking on the right measures 11" and the one on the left measures 9". The widest part of my calf is just over 12.5", so I think the ideal circumference for me is going to be about 10". The 9" stocking fits, but it's somewhat snug and the pattern is stretched a bit more than I'd like.

The result suggests that right-side-out and normal / tighter tension is okay for me. I was overcompensating for float-paranoia on the first stocking, but the stitch pattern actually looks better and more regular with tighter tension. The next comparison goes out to all you gauge junkies out there:

Stocking A
norwegian stockings gauge 1
7.5 st = 1"

Stocking B
norwegian stockings gauge 2
10 st = 1"

Big difference, huh? According to my calculations, going back up to a US 2 needle, with magic loop, right side out, and similar tension to stocking B above should yield a stocking that's just the right size. Just call me the Goldilocks of Norwegian Stockings.

I've come to accept that these stockings are an experimental project, and are destined to be ripped back, redone, fiddled with, and possibly burned at the stake in time. But the romance never seems to go out with this pattern - progress is relatively fast and still fun. They're the perfect project for this kind of back and forth. (And goodness knows, after the Colchique and USMP debacles, it feels good to just focus on getting it right). Still, in keeping with our Goldilocks analogy, I won't bore you with Norwegian Stocking updates again until I've tasted the porridge, slept in the beds, and been discovered by a family of angry bears. Promise.

Posted by jess at 9:45 PM | Comments (10)

November 29, 2005

Mushroom Tart, Lookin' Sharp

As you know, pumpkin, bacon, and sage are an ingredient trio held in high esteem here at Fig and Plum. Now they're joined by another frequent player in our kitchen: mushroom, spinach, and goat's milk / sheep's milk cheese. A while back I recommended Warm Quinoa, Spinach, and Shitake Salad, and Sunday night's Mushroom Tart elevated these three to blog-feature status. Mostly because it was such a pretty thing, but also because it was damned tasty:

Mushroom Tart

And in that vein, I must introduce you to the newest member of our family. Wusthof knives!!!


I got them "free" (ha!) with several years of accummulated American Express Membership Rewards points. And here they are "lookin' sharp!" (get it? lookin' sharp? waka waka waka!). They replace several years accummulated $5 knives from Target. Words can't express the joy, friends. No words.

Posted by jess at 1:57 PM | Comments (14)

Goo-glers, Havin' Some Fun

I've been advised by my more mischevious half that I had better explain his comment on Sunday's post, namely, "Two words: Young Buns."

Among the many advantages of my new host LivingDot is an updated version of CPanel, the ubiquitous backend administrative tool. This version, unlike my last, reports the most frequent search strings on engines like Google that generate your site as hits.

And guess who's #1 on Google for the search string "young buns." Look no further, for here she is, the only PG-13 rated hit of the lot. (And rest assured, this post will not help matters any.") The culprit: this post. Titled with a reference probably only a few people even caught (can you name it?). I wonder: did Jenny and Denny Narcoleptikov ever dream they'd be this close to pornographic stardom?

I, young buns and all, certainly didn't. But, as it turns out, dreams really do come true.

hot dog.gif


Sleep tight, Wee Bunny Readers!

Posted by jess at 12:11 AM | Comments (4)

November 28, 2005

Baby Ull in the Dryer?

. . . and how do we feel about putting Dalegarn Baby Ull in the dryer for slight shrinking purposes?

Coming soon: Cashmere Irish Hiking Scarf all fluffed up and ready to take on the world!

Posted by jess at 2:51 PM | Comments (6)

November 27, 2005

This Post Brought To You In Part By Greyhound

I can't get enough of these Norwegian Stockings. Like cupcake photos, something makes photos of them seem a lot like porn. Witness:

Norwegian Stocking to Heel Flap

Norwegian Stocking to Heel Flap 2

... although I feel a little bad about including Catty in a photo that, by some, may be considered mildly pornographic.

The Thanksgiving holiday brought lots of knitting time, especially on the Greyhound. These stockings are brought to you in part by Greyhound and its predictable lack of preparedness for Thanksgiving travel. Thanks, 'Hound! In any case, here's the scoop. After worrying about the fit of my stockings, I began a second stocking on size 1 needles using Magic Loop. The size of the stocking is only slightly smaller overall. Still, there's a bit less give in the fabric, which is more reassuring fit-wise. They do fit a bit more closely.

I decreased for the calves after just two decreases + 4 rows (as opposed to the 4 decreases suggested in the pattern), and so far, so good with calf sizing. The ankles will, I suspect, be a little loose - I'm thinking of switching to size 0 for the gusset and first few ankle rows. Then I may decrease on sole around the arch, since the pattern isn't so complex there.

Norwegian Stockings Calf Decrease

Another benefit of starting again is that my fair isle is, I think, greatly improved. I knitted the first stockings with the main color under the contrast color. That's wrong. It exacerbates any tension problems and pulls the accent color into a sea of main color. When you switch the over/under setup, picking the MC over the CC and the CC under the MC, it makes the CC stitches "pop" a bit, since the floats aren't putting tension on them from the back.

Norwegian Stockings Fair Isle Closeup

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been knitting inside out. The floats aren't necessarily "regular," but they are okay tension-wise overall. When I finish, I'll go through the floats on the inside and even out the loose ones by pulling any slack through to the tighter ones. It seems fairly easy with fair isle to correct such mistakes by redistributing the tension in this way.

Norwegian Stockings Floats

So that's that. With exams coming up, knitting progress will likely be erratic. These might not be finished 'til Christmas. I have to admit I've been feeling a little knitting and blogging inadequacy of late... a couple of my favorite knitbloggers have been cranking out the beautiful FOs in approximately 1/10 of the time it seems to take me, and with technical aplomb of which I could never even dream! C'est la vie - for more hours in the day, eh? Maybe I can find a way to sleep less. I sleep too much.

You may also have noticed a dearth of holiday knitting on this blog. I have decided not to knit for the holidays this year, with the exception of one special request from my Mom. This is part selfishness (I'm still knitting, just for me), part time crunch (newsflash to self: you're in law school!), part sanity-preservation (knit knit knit knit knit til your fingers are raw! must! finish! by! Christmas!). It's easy to feel bad about it, but to be honest, this year I'm not in the holiday spirit so much. Could be that it's been like 60 degrees outside for the most part, could be that holiday decorations have been up since mid-October and carols on the radio for the last two weeks, could be the incessant media coverage for the last two days of people mauling each other over holiday sales, when holiday sales numbers seem to be exactly the same as last year. (Hey media, just because Best Buy sends you a press release about the crowd outside their door on Friday morning doesn't mean it's a top story) Either way, I'm okay with no holiday knitting. If there are to be knitted gifts for others, they will come at unpredictable times through the year, not all on the same day. And there will be just as much thought contained therein.

Posted by jess at 10:22 AM | Comments (16)

November 22, 2005

Norwegian Progress

Some of you asked for details on the one-handed fair isle technique at which I arrived. Here's a feeble stab at a description: I hold both yarns over my left index finger, just as I would with one yarn. One color is, generally, toward the outside and one generally toward the inside of my finger. I consistently pick the grey yarn from over the green, and the green yarn from under the grey. Picking from under is no problem, the needle just sort of gets in there and grabs the yarn. Picking from over is a bit more tricky. For this my left thumb can be of some assistance - occasionally I use my thumbnail to kind of pull the top yarn forward nearer the needle. This doesn't make sense to describe without pictures, but if you try it you'll see what I'm saying. Every 6-10 stitches you need to readjust the yarn tension, but if you're used to knitting Continental this is really no extra trouble. I'm still refining this technique - keeping tension is by far the hardest thing about knitting this way, since both yarns are traveling to the left but you're only actually using one at a time, one will always be a bit looser than the other. I tend to think this will mostly even out once the piece is blocked, but who knows.

Added**: I recently tried the whole knitting inside out technique, and it appears to be very helpful in maintaining proper tension.

Now, on to the work in progress. Here's the best I could do progress shot wise on a greyer-than-grey rainy morning:

norwegian stockings calves

First off, I kinda messed up. See the white stripe between the two motifs? Yeah, uh, that's supposed to be green. It's no biggie in my book, just yet another testament to my inability to properly read charts of any kind.

Generally I'm having a lot of fun with this pattern. It's entertaining to watch the motifs emerge. I'm still experimenting with my fair isle, especially tension-wise, so the gauge is probably less-than regular.

And though all of that is tolerable, I may frog this and begin again. There are the two things above - the white stripe, and the half-a-calf it took me to arrive at the proper gauge for appropriate floats that don't gather the fabric. A couple of the floats in this sock are even a bit overzealously loose, like, i could wrap it around my finger. But all that I could live with. A bigger consideration is sizing.

This is a "unisex" pattern, and I've gone down a needle size and in yarn size from that suggested in the book. But take a look at that sock: all the decreasing is done in one round to preserve the pattern. And I've done that decreasing. No more decreasing. Now it's clear to me that my ankles are pathetically skinny and my feet pathetically narrow (this all does not apply to my knees and thighs, thanks very much genetics), and that being so, the current circumference of this sock just is not going to work around those parts of my leg. Apparently, it's true, I do not have a single body part on me that meets some kind of remotely standard specification. This can make knitting problematic.

The upper sock fits but there's some room in it. So today I'm going to sit down with the pattern, do some math, and see what I can come up with. If I can make it work, I'll probably start again (and be totally okay with that). The other option is, of course, going down to a size 1 needle, either on a new stocking or for the rest of the current stocking. I wonder how much shrinkage that would really result in, though?

For those who've completed this pattern: was it baggy around your ankles?

Oh, and one more thing: check out the cute little duck hat our friend Mike Topper made, which is graciously modeled by his greyhound! We hope it was made for a child, and not for the dog. Because even in Park Slope, that would be crossing a line.

Posted by jess at 9:04 AM | Comments (15)

November 21, 2005

Internets Hell

Good grief! What an ordeal. For the better part of today, my site was replaced by some dumb URL-hijacking-pseudo search engine, because my domain name expired and I never received any notice of it. It's good to be back. Between this and the trackback spam issue, and having had to delete my whole blacklist only to discover that the guy who hosts the master blacklist has thrown in the towel, I've been in Internets Hell.

The first thing I really need to do is get MT 3.2 to get a better hold on my spam issues. And I need someone to install it for me, because Six Apart now charges $100 for it (I paid $25 two years ago!), and you have to have a paid account with them anyway, which costs another like $70!

Also, I'm starting to consider getting a new host. My current host has been okay and the price is reasonable, but I find their management tools and support system not at all user friendly. Also the same thing with my domain name happened last year. If you've got any super recommendations, please share.

UPDATE: Okay, folks, I think all systems are go again around here. I took Grumperina's advice (and that of several others) and switched to LivingDot for hosting, one of Moveable Type's Hosting Partners, who graciously and expeditiously installed the new version of MT for me, transferred all my stuff over, and even re-installed some of my old, beloved plugins. Thanks, everybody... now I can stop being saucer-eyed and glued to my laptop, and start living again!

Posted by jess at 2:55 PM | Comments (16)

November 20, 2005

Future Projects

An assessment of the current project queue:

On the Needles:
lady eleanor Jaywalkers Jan 7 2006

On Deck:
(For Jolt's Wedding Wrap)

The Great Undifferentiated Mass of Queue Possibilities Behind:
Forsa scoopy Sugarplum Pullover lace Knee Highs norgi arantee shawlcollared flufflycami kittyhat counterpane pouch felted, embroidered coin purses - file under inspiration

Gifted Mittens - Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky
Another Clapotis - Mystical Creation Yarn Worsted Silk Merino, Mimosa

Posted by jess at 10:26 AM | Comments (7)

November 19, 2005

A Fair Fight

Ding ding ding ding! Round 1 of the match between Fig and Plum and Fair Isle Knitting is complete. The combatants appear... wait, this is unprecedented... the fighters appear to have removed their gloves, shaken hand, and exited the ring arm in arm!

Norwegian Stockings Motif A

Above we have, completed, the first motif of the Norwegian Stockings. All things considered, I'm pleased with it.

So I've learned magic loop and fooled around with two-handed fair isle, and ended up using neither. Magic loop actually worked quite well after some practice. But I had started these on DPNs that are a slightly different size from my Addis, and am probably equally comfortable on DPNs, so the Norwegians will forge ahead on their DPNs. Plus, I couldn't work on these in the subway without screwing up the pattern, so they won't often be transported. Two-handed fair isle, on the other hand, I've discarded as not in my near future. My head hangs in shame at my inability or unwillingness to become comfortable with English knitting. One-handed just proved so much easier and faster. We're golden as long as I remember to pull the grey strand under the white and the white strand over the grey. Here's another view:

Norwegian Stockings Motif A2

Oh, and I forgot to tell you that a couple of weeks ago I joined the Norwegian Knits Along!

In other, more remarkable news, The Birmingham News in Alabama has come out against the death penalty. While I don't agree with 100% of its reasoning, I think the paper's shift is laudable and almost miraculous. And I was floored to see they took a stand that's very unpopular these days: that the death penalty is wrong because it is morally wrong to kill people (of course, I wonder how this gels with the paper's stance on war, but I'll forgive them that for now). It's clear from reading the editorial that Professor Bryan Stevenson's work at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery played no small role in this.

The trip to Georgia was good. The only thing I can really say about it is that we accomplished a lot on the trip, and that it really affected me and reinvigorated my commitment to this year's clinical work.

Posted by jess at 11:57 AM | Comments (8)

Trackbacks and Harry Potter

An administrative note: please let me know if you have trouble leaving a comment with your website URL. I deleted approximately 10,000 pieces of trackback spam (gasp! horror! shame for letting it get this bad!) today, and some of your URLs may have inadvertently crept onto my Blacklist, along with the boobs and the cialis and all the rest.

I'm going to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tonight... yippee! Did you know that my favorite Britpop icon, Jarvis Cocker, plays the front man of the Weird Sisters, backed by a couple of guys from Radiohead? Probably I'm the last person on Earth to hear this, but it remains tres exciting.

Posted by jess at 7:25 AM | Comments (4)

November 16, 2005

Ribby Soles

I finished the foot and heel of one sock, and I think it's fabulous. Nice...and..snug...but...

Whoops! I ribbed both the top and the sole of the foot. Which, I take it, one is not supposed to do.

At this point, it feels comfortable. But will it eventually irritate my tootsies? Will the soles wear out faster if they aren't stockinette? What will become of this hapless sole-ribber?

Posted by jess at 10:05 AM | Comments (7)

November 15, 2005

Koigu Toe Up Socks

The magic loop fiddling continues. Here we have Exhibit B, toe-up socks, based on the pattern at Wendy Knits:

koigu toe up socks 2

These are made on size 1 needles with the lovely Koigu KPPPM my formerly-secret pal Melissa the Minnesotan sent me earlier this year.

Though everyone loves magic loop, I'm a little more indifferent. I give it a 7. Reasons: (a) There's still a lot of fiddling when you switch needles (though maybe I'm doing it wrong?), and (b) I honestly have a pretty high comfort level with DPNs at this point - I've been using them for so long - I'm not convinced ML is going to be faster for me. But again, since I'm learning this for fair isle knitting, the fiddliness factor is the most important one, and if that can get worked out it the magical loopiness will proceed for the Norwegian Stockings.

Another new skill - I used figure 8 cast on to start these toe-uppers, and I unequivocally love it! It's awesome to be able to try the foot on as I go. The foot on these actually may be too loose, and after an inch or two more I may frog and either do fewer toe increases or do the foot in plain stockinette. Part of the looseness in the ribbing is due to the fact that I let my gauge become looser in that part. If I were smart, I'd use size 0 needles here, but I don't really feel like going out and buying another pair of Addis at the moment. So I'm just going to try to knit more tightly for a few inches and see how it works out.

Note that the figure 8 cast on is not as lopsided as it appears in the photo. Unfortunately, that is my foot doing that lopsided thing. My toes are notoriously pointy.

Here's another view of the socks-in-progress that, despite the weird exposure, I just kind of liked:

koigu toe up socks 1

As you can see, it's mighty cloudy here today. A perfect day for 16 hours of reading... onward ho!

Posted by jess at 10:09 AM | Comments (19)

November 13, 2005

Magic Loop Experiment

Now comes the end of the weekend. Believe it or not, I've spent most of it at my desk working, staring, saucer eyed, at Lexis Nexis*. It's funny - in times like these I find myself blogging more often, simply because it can be my only distraction from long periods of time glued to my laptop.

This unfortunate circumstance also means I have no large chunks of time to start any new or substantial projects. Instead, I have a few minutes here and there for a little bit of knitting. In that spirit, the apparent quest to learn every advanced knitting technique at once blazes ahead! The latest in this blitz of tiny experiments is this - a first successful attempt at magic loop knitting:

magic loop experiment 2

This is just 16 stitches of some scrap yarn, done on 24" circulars. I tried Angela's suggestion (upon which Heather also offered a variation) of switching the first and last stiches of each join on the first round, and it seems to have worked out well. Look Ma, no laddering:

magic loop experiment

(by the way, Ma, I promise to call you this evening)

I hope to squish all this new learning together and actually proceed with the Norwegian Stockings soon. (Or, actually, restart them, magic loop style). The prospects for this happening this week look grim, since I'm swamped with school work and am going to Georgia on Thursday and Friday for a clinic case (Obviously can't say anything about the details, but I'm very excited to finally be doing some "real lawyer" stuff). But perhaps on the airplane?

* With minor detours yesterday for a quick run, an excellent dinner at Bar Tabac, and an excursion to see Capote. It was excellent, and depressing, especially if you have had any real life experiences that touch on capital punishment. Philip Seymour Hoffman was INCREDIBLE. Ten bucks, or a skein of Koigu, or something, says that he takes Best Actor at the Oscars for his performance.

ps - Look, the Interweave Knits Winter 2005 Preview is up! (thanks Lolly!) There are actually some mighty promising looking patterns in this one... I like the Ballet Wrap Cardigan, the Brilliant Retro Cardigan (Teva Durham, of course!), the Hip Hop Coat, and some of the earflap caps.

Posted by jess at 5:17 PM | Comments (12)

November 12, 2005

You all have been very chatty lately: I love it! Finally, years after high school, popularity achieved! Mwah hah hah hah!

Seriously, thanks, everyone, for both your lovely comments about Spherey and your helpful suggestions on adapting to English knitting and two-handed fair isle. Here are a few of them:

  • Try it one-handed, keeping one color over your index finger and one over your middle finger
  • When knitting fair isle on DPNS, do it inside out to keep the floats loose (would you have to purl all the way around to do this?
  • Buy a "whatsit," "gadget," or "doohickey," also known as a yarn guide, that slips over your index fingers and keeps the colors in line.
  • Learn to crochet in order to get comfortable with something akin to the English style of knitting
  • Practice, practice, practice

    In the end, I decided to try the last tip first, and just practice, practice, practice. I got out another project and tried doing a few whole rounds English style, and that helped a lot. Then I tried alternating colors every other stitch for a few rounds. Then I returned to my swatch, to attempt following the main stitch pattern for the Norwegian Stockings:

    fair Isle Swatch2

    There are two things to say about this swatch that result from it being done on straight needles. First, there was purling involved. No purling will be involved in the final project, thank goodness. But for the purling I held both colors in one hand, and it didn't go too badly. Second, I continue to be nervous about doing two-handed on DPNs. In the end I may adopt the one-handed approach for fear that DPNs will make the English too "fiddly," but I am determined to teach myself this way first.

    Maybe it's worth buying a 12" Addi circular? That might work for the leg, at least. It could be too big, though... EDITED TO ADD: I've also been giving some thought to trying to learn Magic Loop, but the first times I tried it, the join was huuuge! I'm wondering whether it wasn't at least in part because the cable on the circ I was using (Inox, maybe?) was too stiff? Does a more flexible cable (i.e. Addis) help?

    Also, I wasn't concentrating too much on the pattern, and kind of messed it up in places. I'm not too concerned with that at this point.

    It did get easier to regulate tension as I got more comfortable with English style. The main adjustment that made it much easier was fooling around with the way I normally hold my right needle. My grip seemed to prevent my index finger from getting round to the needle, so I loosened my hold and moved my left hand further down, and things got much easier. Also, I don't totally lift my right index finger from the needle to "throw" the yarn. Instead I'm "picking" like I would with Continental.

    Here's a closeup of the swatch:

    fair isle swatch1

    The tension is all over the place, but there's a definite improvement, I think, in the top diamond and half diamond above it.

    It will be a shame to frog or store this swatch... maybe I'll turn it into a wrist cuff or something, announcing to the world that I am a badass fair isle conquering knitter (when I actually do conquer fair isle, that is!).

    Posted by jess at 3:45 PM | Comments (22)

November 11, 2005



Pattern: Spherey from Unusual Toys for You to Knit and Enjoy, by Jess Hutchison
Yarn: Peruvian Collection Highland Wool, Pumpkin and a red of some kind
Needles: US 4 DPNs
Notions: 6mm eyes w. safety washers
Recipient: Chris, the gentleman companion

Notes: Another fine pattern from this snazzy little booklet! I tell you, I had no faith as I was knitting his head / body that it would actually turn out round, but for the most part, it did.

The main knitting milestone here is that I managed to embroider his face, using stem stitch, so as not to make him seem frightful or drunk or deformed, a first for me. Typically my embroidered faces look more like that big guy from The Goonies than this cute little punim:

spherey face closeup

IMHO, this is the cutest pattern in the book. Although he does remind me a bit of that little guy in the Zoloft commercials. Which in turn reminds me of the round character in The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein. Mmm, psychotropic drugs and beloved childhood tales: Spherey, we love you!

I think his cuteness may have pierced even the thick cuteness threshold of my gentleman companion. Anyway, Chris has custody of him unless we find some tiny tot upon whom to bestow him. Maybe I'll award him as a prize for Best Behaved Tot in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

The cats, though, can't quite figure out his bizarre behavior:

spherey and catty

spherey and moses

Hi-o, silver!

Posted by jess at 10:10 AM | Comments (28)

November 10, 2005

First Trip to Fair Isle (or Trying, Unsuccessfully, To Swim the English Channel)

Yesterday was a loooong day. I was, effectively, "on call" in three classes and in class for about nine consecutive hours. Each turn on call got progressively better: at 11 AM I was talking some mad gibberish in First Amendment, but by 8 PM in Criminal Procedure I was on fire (or as my friend Emily would say, in a faux Rhode Island accent, on fy-ah). By the time I got home at 10:30, I treated myself to some Tilapia Tacos from Miracle Grill, a glass of wine, and a first crack at the Norwegian Stockings from Folk Socks.

Norwegian Stockings 1

The cuff - no problemo! It's neato the way the pattern calls for a knit row as the first row in a color switch - it really creates a coherent stripe in the fabric instead of submerging the purl stitches of the stripe inside the ribs.

But, Dear Readers, you have no knitting Einstein or Wittgenstein or Gertrude Stein or Stein of any kind before you. Post cuff, it struck me that maybe I ought to actually learn fair isle before trying it on a finished product, and on DPNs to boot. So I watched the fair isle vid over at and skimmed the Fair Isle 101 tutorial at She Ewe Knits. Conceptually, it's clear. The execution needs work.

You see, I am a die-hard Continental knitter, and a fast one. Not only that, but I am, in life, a committed rightie. Ambidexterity has never been a possibility in these parts. Remember when you and all your little kid pals would try to write your names in your disfavored hand, just for shits and giggles, and there would be some poor child who couldn't really even hold the pencil? Yup, right here. I'm so right-handed it hurts. (That probably says something about my brain, too, but I'd rather not think of it lest I come to understand how rigid and un-artistic my personality) The great thing about Continental knitting is that your left hand just sits there, supporting the yarn, while your right hand and needle do all the work.

English knitting, on the other hand, appears to require something of one's left hand - the holding of the needles, namely. Problem #1.

Problem #2: In addition, I cannot seem to get my right hand to maintain tension effectively in English knitting. I suspect it's something in how I'm holding my needles that makes my pinky unable to regulate the yarn.

This is all complicated by the fact that I've taught myself everything I know about knitting, and have developed two years of bad habits upon which my knitting depends. This can complicate the process of trying to learn something new and different.

But I really want to learn fair isle right, and if at all possible, learn two-handed fair isle. Though English knitting is, ahem, clearly a primitive way of proceeding with yarn and needles (English knitting - boo!), I want to learn how to do it. This will require practice. If anyone has any advice for regulating tension in the English style, I'd love to hear it.

In any case, here's the swatch:

Fair Isle Swatch

The checked part doesn't look too bad, but it was the product of a very slooooow process. The part with the long skips (if you can even see it) shows I knitted way too tightly with the green, which will be corrected henceforth.

As for fair isle itself, it seems like a good reason to take my first knitting class. Trouble is, after some preliminary searching, none of my regular yarn shops seem to offer any fair isle classes. Do you know of any classes in the area?

Posted by jess at 10:42 AM | Comments (25)

Another Friend in the News, and This Time, It Hits Close to Home

Yet another friend in New York's papers, and this one doesn't even live in New York! Bridget Dehl and her wee toddler - well, he's really not that wee - Gavin* were, in my opinion, the heroes in "At Center of a Clash, Rowdy Children in Coffee Shops," yesterday's story about the clash between parents (described by one restaurant owner as people who "have a very strong sense of entitlement;" couldn't have said it better myself) and the rest of us in restaurants and other public places that are, clearly, not intended to be romper rooms for unruly tots. For instance, the owner of one restaurant has posted a sign that reads "children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven." Some restaurants in Chicago (Toast, by the way, is very very good) have imposed a few rules on child behavior, and some parents have chosen to boycott. Not Bridget.

The tension described above is the A #1 thing about Park Slope, our neighborhood, that I could see eventually driving us out. "Entitlement" is, I think, a good description of the trouble. People here seem to think the entire neighborhood revolves around them, even in places that are clearly not built for children. Rose Water, for instance. A screaming child at tiny Rose Water is, simply put, a problem (just ask my friend Sarah). I had a friend who worked in a gift shop (now closed) with some dirty-ish cards, and parents regularly came in just to tell him "this sort of merchandise doesn't belong in this neighborhood, where my children can see it." They bring them to restaurants. They bring them to bars. They bring them everywhere they would have gone before they had children. And they don't give a damn whether they disturb you, how long the tantrum lasts, how piercing the screams and droning the whining, how much food is thrown on the floor near your feet, or how many times you have to climb around their massive SUV stroller to get to the bathroom. They pump their breasts (mind you, not breast feeding but pumping) at the table, next to you, while you are enjoying your grilled cheese sandwich. Chris saw a woman actually change her child's diaper on the floor of Cocoa Bar a few weeks back.

It's true that most businesses and restaurants in Park Slope can't afford not to cater to people with children: they are numerous, and generally wealthier than the rest of us. But it is beyond me why a few reasonable rules for children's behavior are enough to keep parents away. I certainly remember, growing up, my own parents having some de minimus standard of behavior for us in public. What has changed?

I'm not asking for everyplace here. I know not to go to Two Boots for dinner or brunch if I'm not in the mood for kids. I have learned not to try to study at Tea Lounge during the weekly singalong (which is a fire hazard - 40 SUV strollers blocking the exit? But no matter.). But let's have some boundaries. I'm proud of the restaurants in Chicago that are taking a stand. And I'm proud of the parents, like Bridget and her husband Gary, who are considerate enough - and attentive enough to their children - to respect the childless people around them in public places.

* Gavin holds the reigning title for "World's Cutest Baby" in my opinion. He's two, and I still haven't seen anyone cuter, sorry parents!

Posted by jess at 9:03 AM | Comments (25)

November 8, 2005

Book 'Em (Or "On On Beauty")

The book to which I've been attached at the hip for the last week has really been my Criminal Procedure text (whence comes the title of this post). But somehow in the meantime I managed to complete On Beauty, the latest addition to the oeuvre of Zadie Smith, literary darling of the NPR set.

Forgive the following "review...," it's only an off-the-cuff response of a pseudo-intellectual who misses college reader, and probably doesn't make much sense to anyone else. But in case you're interested, here are some trying-not-to-spoil-but-not-guaranteeing-anything thoughts:

As I told Ms. Joy Olivia when she asked, On Beauty was somewhere between okay and pretty good. What most people loved about White Teeth was Smith's extraordinary fluency with and insight into the families and communities it portrayed. I found that fluency not altogether missing in this book, but diminished.

Partly this flaw can be attributed to the fact that the Belseys, the family at the center of the story, are Americans (despite their British, er, patriarch). For one thing, if Smith were going for her characters sounding "American," she should have had an American editor pick out the British-isms from their dialogue. But there may be a more significant gap there than that. I hesitate to write much about Smith's characterization of race and "blackness" in America, since it's complicated, especially in the context of all the other "authenticity"-centered themes running through the Belsey family, and anyway I would not be the best authority - but there still seemed to me something off about it. I should say more to be fair, but this one needs more thinking through.

Still, Smith's other political themes were developed enough to make it a worthwhile read. The novel capably evokes the particular strain of political liberalism and postmodern relativism that Howard Belsey represents. This portrayal is intelligent and effective when seen through the very interesting character of Howard rather than his predictable arguments, both academic and political. The end of the novel (without giving anything away, I think) kind of bludgeons you with the question at the center of Howard: how can you achieve anything if you're against everything?

That question is posed, ultimately, by the character of Howard's wife Kiki. Kiki is interesting and likeable; she is the novel's (personal and political) protagonist. You like her because her character contains so many open questions, and her struggles with them seem really genuine in comparison to the artifice of the academic world around her. Again, not subtle.

The lack of nuance in the pairing of Kiki and Howard suggests On Beauty as a kind of parable about liberalism's path out of the 60s, of its unsuccessful "marriage" of moral relativism / "anti-"ness and its genuine desire to make the world a better place. But the way Kiki and Howard's marriage captures this intersection is complex and provocative. Kiki may "represent" X and Howard Y, but their relationship is much more deep and tangled than that. Their marriage is what elevates the book above parable, I thought, and makes it worth picking up.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Anyway, enough mental masturbation. In other book news, I just ordered Persepolis 2 and Folk Socks by Nancy Bush. Norwegian Stockings here I come!

Posted by jess at 12:18 PM | Comments (12)

November 6, 2005

Lessons From the Frog Pond

Meet USMP:

USMP Frogged

That's right - the victim is not who you thought. What was once the body of the Union Square Market Pullover is no more - she's just a pile of Frog Tree Sport Alpaca now. I started on the sleeve last night, did a few rows, then thought, you know, this looks big. Let me measure the body again. Sure enough, the bod had stretched somewhat since its first measurement and measured 36" across the bottom, where she was supposed to measure 33". I slipped her on. The sweater is supposed to be tailored - on me the body was not at all form-fitting. I took action (frogging alpaca is a bitch!). Then I promptly hid the yarn from myself until the angst blows over and I figure out what to do with it. As you can see above, it's stashed in a cabinet right next to my college diploma. Still haven't figured out what to do with that, either.

Colchique is spared for the next few days at least, but a few valuable lessons emerged from that disappointment. Those lessons, in part, prompted the USMP frog. They are:

Make Large Gauge Swatches, and Measure Across the Whole Swatch - When I took gauge for Colchique, I did a swatch and measured how many stitches per 1", even though I could tell the whole swatch was a teensy bit off. Teensy became more than teensy distributed sweater wide. I'm going to make larger swatches from now on and measure across the entire piece.

Don't Force a Yarn Into a Pattern (aka Use Caution When Substituting) - The cashmere I used for Colchique is really worsted weight. Phildar used a DK weight wool for its version, knitted on even tinier needles than the yarn called for, yielding a tight fabric. I learned that from seeing the French knitalong. It is a sin to knit cashmere that tightly, so I compromised by using needles one size larger than those called for. Combined with my loosey-goosey approach to gauge, this was a major mistake. The same thing may be a factor in USMP. I had my heart set on a particular color combo, and the only yarn I could find that was even close and also affordable was Frog Tree. Frog Tree could have worked on US1 needles, I suspect, but the fabric would still be stiff. I may yet try again on US1s. Still, it wasn't an ideal match.

Act Fast When You Know Something's Amiss - The thing about Colchique was, I knew she was too big as soon as I finished the back panel - the very first piece. I should have frogged her and restrategized then. It would have been work lost, but it only would have been 1/4 of the work required for the finished sweater. That's why I decided to put USMP out of her misery today rather than waiting.

Respect Your Ease Comfort Level - I am just too short to wear big, roomy sweaters. Anything more than like an inch of ease will make me feel stocky and stumpy. A taller person has more room for error in sizing: not so for me.

Do the Math and Modify the Pattern - I'm not trying to be like "ooh, I'm just too thin for normal pattern sizes!" or anything - I am only 5' 1", and so the proportions of most patterns simply don't accommodate my body type. In general, the size that would be below the smallest one normally given is probably where I fit. Instead of trying to do the XS anyway, I'm going to give more serious weight to my measurements and desired ease. If XS is too big and I'm set on a particular size, I'm going to do the math and resize it. It worked well for Simply Marilyn, and it can work well for other patterns.

Value the Process - Because of USMP, I now know how to do short rows and provisional cast on. Because of Colchique, I can now translate a French pattern, seam a collar, and manage button bands. The experience was not a waste. And you know, Buddha in the dishwater and all of that... I enjoyed having something to do with my hands during all those subway rides and movie nights. The process is why we do this thing.

When it comes down to it, I'm not that experienced a knitter of fitted garments (gloves and mittens aside... I am a master of mittens). I've only been knitting a couple of years, and before these two sweaters, the only real sweaters I'd done were Hourglass, Ballet Pullover, and Marilyn. (For anyone who cares, frogging Hourglass may yet be on the table as well, since she's stretched so much. I would reknit her for sure though.). Many of you already know this stuff, and I've learned it from you, but there's no teacher like experience. Also I'm not naturally that detail oriented (good thing I'm in law school, huh?), which can be an impediment. One day, I will conquer fitting a sweater. Until then, figuring out what not to do has been worthwhile.

[oh, um, p.s. - click here to see what else lives in the Cabinet of Oblivion to which the Frog Tree Alpaca was banished.)

Posted by jess at 3:03 PM | Comments (22)

November 5, 2005

Stash Update

Voici la stash! Time to check in and see where all that yarn is headed. Feel free to suggest projects where the note says "Project: ???" if you gots any ideas:

stash-box-1 stash-box-3 stash-box-2

UPDATE: A few people have asked about my storage cubes. I (rather ambitiously) built them myself according to these directions for "Bathroom Cubbyholes" from Martha Stewart Living. I never got around to painting them, and they were far too big and heavy for our crumbly bathroom walls. But they do provide handy yarn storage. Here's a photo of the whole stack in action.

Posted by jess at 4:24 PM | Comments (7)

November 4, 2005

Odd Fellows 100

Odd Fellow 002

Pattern: "Odd Fellow" from Unusual Toys for You to Knit and Enjoy by Jess Hutchison
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted, Scraps, in Sun Yellow, Limeade, and Blue Blood Red
Needles: US 6 DPNS

Notes: At least something went right today! When I got up this morning, I found Odd Fellow relaxing in the armchair after a late night of getting finished.

Okay, that account is somewhat innaccurate. Actually I'd left Odd Fellow in the armchair late last night, and found him this morning face down in the hallway, victimized by cat-burglars. But he was easily restored to this state of repose.

Odd Fellow makes me happy.

On the pattern - I can't say enough good things about this little booklet! Odd Fellow was quick, interesting, and the cutest whatever he is I ever saw. I imagine I'll make everything in it at some point, and at some point I'll need to rescue them all from the cats. Next up is the octopus-looking-ball-type-guy.

Posted by jess at 6:30 PM | Comments (6)



I seamed up Colchique today, and it's just as I suspected. She is too big. Her proportions seem to me all wrong. The yarn was wrong, the gauge was wrong, wrong wrong wrong. Wrong! Fuck!

And now there are a million ends to weave in, and I just feel like burning her much less finishing.

Maybe some blocking will help, but I doubt I can block her smaller. Maybe if I lengthen her in blocking, things will even up a bit. I can't even felt her because it would be pretty damned stupid to felt cashmere. Maybe getting the buttons on at the shoulder will help her hang better.

Or I could just frog her and sell the yarn.

UPDATE: Jenny Narcoleptikov's voice in my head is going "embrace the flaws embrace the flaws embrace the flaws embrace the flaws." Maybe it's not as bad as all that. She is probably wearable, even if she's not exactly form-fitting. Or maybe I just already have yarn for Diana's Demi (Vintage Style) Knitalong.

Posted by jess at 12:17 PM | Comments (13)

November 3, 2005

Set on Random

Hmph! I spent two days doing rush research on Alito for my clinic and the next morning the NY Times comes out with an article on the same thing: dissents! Well, I was only looking at criminal dissents, so it differed slightly, but at least The Times reached some of the same conclusions we did.

The Irish Hiking Scarf is finished (pictures soon, not that you don't know what it looks like already), and I'm debating whether to do one of Jess Hutch's little guys or gals before moving on to the other projects that await in the knitting basket. They're so cutey cute! And I do have a few Lamb's Pride scraps lying around. (anyone want to send me their scraps? I can always use more, as we already know!)

And while this post is set on "random," do you know of any good patterns for men's shawl-collared sweaters? I saw a dude at the park this weekend wearing the most beautiful aran pullover with a shawl collar. The basic shape was probably something like "Shawl Collared" from the Debbie Bliss Tweed Collection (which I do not own):


I imagine it wouldn't be hard to design a sweater with an aran motif and use the DB pattern as guidance for shaping and the like... but I'd prefer on my first manly sweater to work from a pattern. I'm envisioning something like this girly version, except less girly. Any suggestions?

Posted by jess at 9:57 AM | Comments (11)

November 1, 2005

Goth, But Cool Anyway ;)

Peep this new online knitting mag, The Anticraft. It's goth-tinged, but the patterns are really for everyone. I especially dig the armwarmers with the snowflake morphing into a skull. Gothtastic!

Posted by jess at 9:45 AM | Comments (12)