Thursday, June 22, 2006

New home on the web!

I'm resisting the temptation to continue going over the new weblog with a fine tooth comb and instead am throwing caution to the wind. Please come visit the new home of For the Love of Wool -- and don't forget to update your bookmarks and bloglines!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Just a matter of time

When I started blogging a few months ago, I really wasn't sure where I was going to take it or what I wanted to achieve. I never really considered the possibility that I would want to take my blogging to a level other than blogspot. Well, guess what... Last week I decided that I was tired of the blogspot-supplied template I'm using and tried to modify the template with graphics of my own selection. What a mess that was. Blogger is very rigid about the sizing of images uploaded; I couldn't specify the exact pixel dimensions of the images I wanted to use and I was frustrated to no end.

I tried to upload the images to flickr. Nope, didn't work.

I tried getting some free webhosting space. Nope, didn't work.

I started checking out other blogs to see how they are modifying the templates they are using which led me to Wordpress. Which led me to a webhost. Which now has me trying desperately to remember the html that I taught myself a long time ago as well as the image creating and manipulating techniques that have lain fallow in my brain for years. Compulsive overachieving can be so much fun! (hear the sarcasm)

So if it is a little quiet around here for several more days, please be patient with me. I am working on designing my new blog home when I'm not knitting like a maniac on Balmoral.

Speaking of Balmoral, I made great progress over the weekend. I devoted most of Saturday to Gram's birthday present and succeeded in reducing my daily allotment of stitches from 2,170 to 2,080. Good thing because I am bound for Vegas in less than two weeks!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Amazing Lace Challenge #2: Xtreme Lacing

When Theresa and Rachel, the hostesses for the Amazing Lace, posted the latest diabolically clever challenge to the Lacers, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to rise to the, er, challenge. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could do that would be Xtreme lacing. I thought, and I thought, and I thought. Then I thought some more. I spent so much time thinking that I despaired of ever coming up with my idea of Xtreme lacing before the deadline.

At first my musings took the natural route: photos of Merry and me hang gliding, or rappelling down the Eiffel Tower, or free climbing the Empire State Building. But then my thoughts turned to the nature of extreme sports. An extreme sport is one that pushes the envelope of that sport through speed, height, danger, or spectacular stunts which produces an adrenaline rush. Is hang gliding or rappelling or free climbing really demonstrative of Xtreme knitting? Does it make the knitting more dangerous or does it make the sport more dangerous? I posit that knitting during these activities is in fact extreme hang gliding or extreme rappelling or extreme free climbing but not extreme knitting. What, then, could I do to push the envelope of knitting and get an adrenaline rush to boot?

That’s when the light bulb went on. Or should I say that it went off?


Xtreme Lacing: Team Balmoral knitting in the dark


Lest this demonstration of xtreme lacing look attractive to you, let me insert a Public Service Announcement right here. Xtreme lacing can lead to disaster, especially if you are knitting without a lifeline. For example, this


should look like this


Clearly I was having trouble reading the chart in total darkness. But that’s okay, I’ve been here before with the Wedding Ring Shawl. I know that I just need to isolate the stitches, drop them down and knit them back up. Only one problem: I can’t just drop them down like with the WRS because there isn’t a series of yarnovers to stop the drop. Further, I can’t just pick the row that I want to drop down to and insert the dpn into those stitches; it was too hard to see what stitches were on what rows and that could lead to an even bigger disaster. There was but one option left open to me. Yes, I had to tink back each row, one at a time. I gathered my materials (three dpns, a tiny crochet hook, a point protector, and a bottle of wine) and got to work.

Step 1: I've isolated the block of stitches that need to be fixed and have tinked back the first row onto a dpn.


Step 2: Another row has been tinked.


Step 3: I've finally reached the row where everything went wrong.


Let's take a closer look before we knit it back up.


Step 4: Knit up the seven tinked rows.


Step 5: Continue working the current row by knitting the repaired stitches off the dpn.


Step 6: Sit back and relax. Commence post-op protocol which, as with the WRS surgery, calls for alcohol.


Screw the wine. This repair took up all my knitting time Sunday. I went straight for the


Friday, June 09, 2006

Falling behind

I’ve enjoyed the comments on my Amazing Lace Challenge #1; the teatime pictures seem to be particularly popular. After I snapped the those two pictures, I gave that alpaca bully a stern talking to, then put him in the back of the stash for a time out. Boys will be boys.

Now that I have fixed the small errors in my Balmoral progress spreadsheet, I have discovered that I am slowly but surely falling behind each day this week. I now must complete an average of 2,160 stitches each day in order to meet my August 25 deadline. I should have a productive weekend especially with the Worldwide Knit in Public outing planned for northern Virginia.

Merry (my Amazing Lace teammate) is doing quite well, though she is showing a somewhat disturbing tendency to split during a particularly strenuous stitch. However, her stick-to-it-iveness is superior -- we've had one dropped stitch close call that Merry saved by a fiber’s breadth -- and she's acquitting herself quite well.

Has anyone else been following Eunny’s progress with her Norwegian jacket? I’m positively on tenterhooks waiting for her to finish and publish the pattern. It’s gorgeous, and it’s destined to be listed in the sidebar here at For the Love of Wool.

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I had all the above composed last night for posting today but during this morning’s walk, my mind starting turning over a new topic. Crazy Aunt Purl calls it living out loud; I call it musings.

I was supposed to have a fabulous life. When I was a teenager – a compulsive overachiever even then – I had a basic life plan mapped out: a successful career in a finance-related occupation, a respected professional, financially secure investor with a healthy personal portfolio, a world traveler, have a beautiful home, have a happy and close-knit family and a small circle of trusted friends, have an attractive and chic appearance. Let me tell you that all has not gone according to plan.

That’s a whole lot of musings summed up in one brief paragraph so I am going to stick with the one that is bothering me the most right now: a financially secure investor with a healthy portfolio. What’s the opposite of that? Well, in a nutshell, it’s me.

Just over a year ago, a custody battle with X (to shamelessly borrow Snow’s terminology) began. It cost me every penny I had saved up and every penny of credit card funds available to finance the lawyer and to fund double apartment rent and utilities for four months (a strategic move on my part that paid off big time). Luckily I didn’t have to cash out my 401(k) but would have for the sake of my daughter. I ended up winning; everything I wanted went my way.

However, I am now saddled with a debt figure well, and I mean well, into the five digit range. How the hell do you dig out from under that when gas prices won’t stop spiraling to the heavens, with interest rates hot on the heels of gas prices, when the stock market wreaks havoc with the retirement savings, and a housing market bubble the size of northern Virginia’s? What do you do when you’ve cut out all the extraneous crap from your monthly budget and have consumed all the extra supplies in the pantry? What happens when the clothes in your closet start wearing out because you haven’t bought any new garments in more than a year?

That’s the situation I was in when, thankfully, things finally started easing up two months ago. Utilities are being paid on time and I have food to eat every day, but how do I make a dent in the massive amount of debt staring at me every day? Suze says to pay off the lowest balance credit card first and maximize your 401(k) match. Thanks, Suze, but that’s a no-brainer. David says to eliminate your daily latte. Thanks, David, but where can you find ten extra bucks to put on the credit card payment this month when you’ve already cut out designer beverages, magazines, gourmet meal ingredients, and whatever else in your budget that isn’t a necessity.

Not being able to find a book that had a road map for me – and wouldn’t buying that book be a luxury anyway? – I put my professional knowledge to work in my private life and devised several clever methods to get my financial well being jump stared on the road to recovery. Being that compulsive overachiever, though, I get frustrated when things don’t show progress quickly enough and I have bad days when I stagger beneath the weight of the debt. It gets tiring to be constantly vigilant with every penny that leaves the wallet when all you want to do is run away to Europe for a month-long vacation. That’s where my mind was at this morning during my two mile walk.

I’ve been told that I should write a book with my tips and tricks but do we really need yet another self-help book out there? I’m considering writing up my ideas and posting them here on the blog. Anyone interested?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Worth a thousand words


Balmoral just off the dpns.





Progress as of last night; the base of the thistle flower is just beginning to appear.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Can I really do this?

I’ve been clicking along quite nicely with Balmoral in the week since I cast on. I’ve moved off the dpns – woohoo! – and onto the Addi Natura 24” circulars.

Digression. I’ve never used Addi needles before and can I just say how enjoyable it is to work with the Naturas? The join is lovely and handling the bamboo is a sublimely tactile pleasure. I even like the cord; no need to dip it in a cup of boiling water to relax the coil. I can tell already that I will be converting my collection of bamboo needles to Addis when the old ones wear out. Back to the knitting.

So I was delighted to be making what I thought was excellent progress on Balmoral. I did some figuring this morning, however, and I’m asking myself, “Can I really do this?”

In order to give myself time to properly dress Balmoral and get her out to the west coast in time for Gram’s birthday, I am setting myself a knitting deadline of August 25. Doing some calculations with the spreadsheet I created for Balmoral now that I have seven days results on the needles, in the 82 days remaining until my self-imposed deadline, I must complete an average of 1,660 stitches per day. I’ve averaged only 1,000 stitches per day in the past week. (Note to self: fix those little errors in the spreadsheet but don’t worry about the calculations. The errors don’t significantly impact percentages or proportions.)

Can I really do this?

Granted, in the past week I’ve had to do a lot of running around on spring recital business so that’s chewed up quite a bit of knitting time. Let’s not even talk about what’s going on at work. Coming up in the next month/month and a half is a wedding in Las Vegas and a high school reunion. I ought to be able to get plenty of knitting done during the flights there and back, but really. How much knitting am I going to get done during that week in Vegas??

The bottom line is that I am not asking myself the precisely correct question. This is not a project I am undertaking just for kicks and giggles. I’m not doing it simply for me. I should be saying, “Can I do this for Grams?”

Absolutely.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Presenting…Balmoral in the early stages!

Merry (my teammate in the Amazing Lace) and I had a fantastic first day together. We cast on the requisite twelve stitches that will eventually make up Balmoral, the thistle motif dinner table cloth that will be gifted to my grandmother on her birthday. After a tiny bump in the road – I forgot about those pesky plain knit even rows! – we clicked along at a rapid pace and reached round 20 by the end of the day. Merry and I have discovered a shared passion for cinema and decided to host our own “Dinner & a Movie” for two. We pulled out a favorite DVD, and were delighted to discover this in the kitchen:



Try clicking on the picture if you are having a hard time reading the label on the can. Can you guess the movie we selected? Hint: we didn’t have the liver of a census taker handy so we fixed a simple vegetarian meal.

Progress continued this week and last night we found ourselves on the verge of moving to Chart B where all the thistle fun begins. We are quite optimistic that we will be able to complete our knitting, blocking, and gift wrapping so Balmoral will be winging her way westward by the end of August. My only frustration at this point is working a circular project on three dpns as it makes it very hard to see the developing pattern.



Merry, ever the cheerful one, displayed the considerable amount of research she had done on Balmoral Castle prior to the commencement of the Lace.



I didn’t see it at first but then it dawned on me: Merry was doing an imitation of the Cairngorm Mountains, in the heart of which Balmoral Castle is located! Merry is quite a hank of laceweight, isn’t she?