Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bootylicious…well, not really

Amazing Lace
I had grand plans of posting a picture of Balmoral in the opening rounds and a cute little story to go along with it. But that darn digital camera workaround has foiled my plans! Remember that I need to download the pictures onto my daughter’s computer then save them to a disc – no internet connection on that computer – so I can get the images to a computer that does have an internet connection. I duly downloaded the pictures and brought the disc to the office, only to discover that the images didn’t save to the disc. So – no Balmoral for now.


Weekend at the movies
Seen Over the Hedge yet? It’s so funny, and I love how the script works in a humorous condemnation of the American way of eating. (A soapbox topic which will probably be whipped out at a later date.) My favorite character is the hyper squirrel, Hammy. Who wouldn’t love a hyperactive cartoon rodent hepped up on a caffeine drink?


Unexpected benefit
I put a lot of miles on the Asics over the holiday weekend: nine miles in total with 4.5 of those on Saturday. 4.5 is the longest I’ve walked in one session since I started fitness walking a month ago and though my muscles weren’t sore, I definitely was aware of the exertion I had put my body through. I am pleased with my progress, however, the results of my Saturday walk have cemented my decision not to try to squeeze in a Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk later in this year. It is a much better goal to take a year to train up to 60 miles over three days.

But (pun intended), I discovered an unexpected benefit to all this walking I’ve been doing! I have always had what I call a cliff butt. Unlike a shapely curvaceous derriere, I have the type of backside that falls off in a sheer drop from my back. Like a cliff. I’m the polar opposite of Jennifer Lopez. I’ve never particularly liked my backside though in its defense, the lack of a booty is what allows me to fit into a smaller size.

Last night I caught sight of my backside in the mirror; lo and behold, there’s a curve back there! An honest to goodness roundness of flesh! I’m so amazed; it’s like seeing the Hope Diamond for the first time. Course, it’s such a novelty for me that I can’t keep my hands off my derriere. Needless to say, that can be quite awkward around the office.

Stay tuned for that Balmoral update.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Movie night

I remember the summer of 1996. Not to be confused with Bryan Adams' Summer of '69. 1996 was a good summer for movies; it seems like there hasn’t been a good summer movie season in years. Back in 1996, I set the goal of seeing a movie every weekend and I pretty much stuck to that goal. Even still, there were some movies I missed and had to wait for the video release. It looks like summer 2006 is shaping up to be a decent season of movies. X-Men 3, anyone??

A couple of weeks ago, I saw MI:3. I didn’t really want to; Mr. Cruise has completely alienated me to the point where I can’t “fall” into the character I am seeing on the screen. His ridiculous behavior of the past twelve months is lives too strongly in the memory to forget when the trailers start running. Nevertheless and surprisingly, MI:3 is the best movie of the Mission Impossible series. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a huge reason for that; I’ll always fondly remember him as the goofy guy in Twister (a summer of 96 movie!).

Last night I treated myself to Poseidon. Now, I am a huge huge huge fan of the original, The Poseidon Adventure, starring a whole bunch of great actors. I tend to be wary of remakes, especially if I love the original, but Poseidon did not disappoint. It wasn’t an exact replica of the 1972 movie – an advantage – though I did miss the small amount of story set up which explained why the boat rolled. I did not miss, however, Gene Hackman’s speechifying. The remake is superbly intense; a thrill-ride from almost the get-go with very few pauses in the action.
Oh yes, this one is destined for the DVD collection.

I’ve been knitting steadily on Frost Flowers & Leaves and am close to completing the first iteration of Chart B (seven iterations in all are called for). I am also close to moving off the 29” circulars to the 40” circulars. Unfortunately, the project isn’t picture-worthy. Right now it looks like a bunch of purple boiled spaghetti.


In closing, I would like to extend a special thank you to everyone who has posted lovely compliments on my lace knitting. I’m so accustomed to seeing the Ring shawl now that it has become an ordinary piece of knitting. It’s when I read your words that I see the shawl with new eyes and remember that it isn’t an ordinary piece of knitting after all.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wild hair weekend

Reader emails
Thanks, Katherine and Kirsten, for the lovely compliments on the lace knitting!

Snow, I think we’re all going to be knitting on the Ring shawl until we’re the stereotypical little old lady knitters. ;-) Honestly, I don’t know how it is that Laritza on the Heirloom Knitting group has made so much progress so quickly. Doing a little more of the geeky number-crunching thing, if it took Sharon Miller (according to the inserts with the Ring shawl pattern) 3 hours of knitting each day for six months to complete the shawl [insert sounds of computer beeping a la 60’s and 70’s tv shows]... Okay. 6 months rounds up to 183 days; 3 hours per day for 183 days is 549 hours; 332,630 stitches in 549 hours is 606 stitches per hour. At my current rate of progress, I average 329 stitches per hour. I’m a turtle!

Susoolu, the silk really is worth the effort! I had to restart after a tragic fiber breakage, but (even though I am a turtle compared to Sharon) I focus on deliberate knitting so I don’t make tink-able mistakes. And we’ve already seen what the silk can do with a dropped stitch. *grimace* Let’s hear it for run-stopping yarnovers!

Knitting
Not a whole lot of knitting progress to report after the weekend. I knit a single row on the Wedding Ring Shawl and a few rounds on Frost Flowers & Leaves. Nothing picture worthy at all.




However, the first wild hair idea of the weekend centers around knitting. I’m getting set to cast on for Balmoral (Amazing Lace challenge) next weekend and my teammate is white merino laceweight. But... I have in my stash green merino laceweight and purple merino laceweight. (Regular readers of FtLoW will recognize the purple laceweight as Frost Flowers & Leaves.) What about using the green merino and intarsia the thistles in the purple merino? I’ve never attempted intarsia, but I wouldn’t let that stop me. I’m still planning on knitting Balmoral for my grandmother in the white merino but my sister’s favorite colors are purple and green. I think I’ve made a love connection. Any thoughts on intarsia lace knitting?

The other wild hair
This wild hair is going to need a little backstory set-up first. A few years ago, I felt fantastic. I was at a good weight. I worked in the city which meant that I utilized public transportation – lots of walking. I also made it my habit to walk up the stairs to my office – on the ninth floor. I never needed an alarm clock to wake up; my body did it all on its own. I loved my job and I loved my life.

Fast forward to 2005. I don’t work in the city anymore so I drive to work. My office is on the second floor. 15 pounds have crept on to my frame. I need an alarm clock to wake up and usually end up snoozing it for 20-30 minutes before rolling out of bed. I love my job but my life isn’t so rosy.

I tried several different methods of eating to lose those extra pounds but to no avail. Finally three weeks ago, I decided that I needed to start walking. I live in a wonderful community which has miles of walking/jogging/biking paths. Even better, a lot of them go through the woods. I bought a pair of shoes and hit the pavement. I started out by walking for half an hour and have calculated the distance to be a mile and a half route. This past weekend on both Saturday and Sunday, I took a three mile route and finished it in under an hour. In the past two full weeks of walking, I have gained a pound but lost almost a full dress size. I wake up half an hour earlier than the time set on my alarm clock, and I am eager to get out of bed and greet the day.

Ready for the wild hair? While walking yesterday, a memory popped out of my mind like the jack in a jack-in-the-box. I recalled years ago someone in my former acquaintance participated in the Breast Cancer
3-Day walk benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I am certain I don’t have enough time to train to get in one of the walks later in the year – it takes at least six months to prepare for a 60 mile walk, so I’ve read – but definitely I can be ready for a 2007 walk. It’s a great goal to set for myself and, though I haven’t been personally touched by breast cancer thank God, let’s face it. I have breasts.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

332,630

WARNING: If statistics and generalized data geekiness scare the living daylights out of you, proceed at your own peril.

332,630.

Look at that number. Enjoy it. Revel in it. Respect it. But above all else, don't let it intimidate you if you are knitting the Wedding Ring Shawl. I finished up my spreadsheet* this morning, spent some time double checking for logic errors, and sussed out any mistakes in my computations (hopefully). Well all the formulas were put into place, I discovered that 332,630 is the total number of stitches required to complete the shawl.

While the stats geek is tickled pink to have quantified the project, the knitter finds herself experiencing the "barely starting scaling Mount Everest" feeling when pinpointing her position in the stats table. Of the 332,630 (I love typing that number!) stitches/2,742 rows or rounds, I have completed
- 12,597 stitches/51 rows
- 14.09% of the center
- 3.79% of the entire project

Hmmm...if my math is correct, at my current rate of progress, it will take me another three years and ten months to finish. Dang! I was planning on two years!

Let's think happier thoughts:


* If you are interested in a copy of my Wedding Ring Shawl spreadsheet, send me an email at zooks218 at yahoo dot com, or leave a comment with your email address.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blah blah blah

Sorry -- I'm not clever with titles this morning.

Work continues on the Wedding Ring Shawl despite the distractions of Frost Flowers & Leaves and The Amazing Lace. I'm finding that it is imperative to knit at least one row every night; every other night if I'm too tired by the time I sit down for the evening. If I let more days pass before picking up WRS again, I have to spend time orienting myself once again in the pattern. On the other hand, knitting more than four rows without a good, long break -- like a couple of hours -- in between causes strange errors to creep into the knitting. Pictures below represent progress through row 44 (14.1% complete, center only):




In anticipation of casting on Balmoral during Memorial Day weekend, I am familiarizing myself as much as possible with the pattern. Thankfully the book includes both written out instructions as well as charts. I'd have to make up my own charts if they were missing which I may end up making anyway because the symbols are completely different than the ones I'm accustomed to seeing. And, I'm trying to decipher what the heck a "C.3R" and a "C.3L" are. It's precisely those little mysteries I am hoping to avoid by understanding the pattern before the actual knitting is taking place.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Amazing Lace Challenge #1: Knit one for the Grams


The Knitter
Zooks is a thirtysomething accountant by day, knitter by night. She dabbled briefly with knitting in her teen years – long enough to knit a sleeveless sweater – before going wool-wild twenty years later when she found the greatly improved fiber products available at the local yarn shop. In the intervening year and three quarters, Zooks is discovering a penchant for lace knitting. In fact, the intrepid lacer had just two lace projects under her belt (both were Birches) when she decided to throw restraint to the wind with the challenging Wedding Ring Shawl. Being a compulsive overachiever and despite being new to lace, Zooks wasn’t dissuaded from the project simply because it was described as being for the "ultra-skilled knitter".

When not knitting or analyzing debits and credits, Zooks can be found poring over the latest guidebook while planning her next journey somewhere in the world.


The Fiber
Skacel Merino "Merry" Lace Colorway 100 is beyond excited to be a contestant in the Amazing Lace challenge. From the time that she was just a young roving still wet behind her ears, Merry's big dream in life was to be transformed into a piece of lace that would be lovingly worked by skilled hands and cherished forever by a caring owner. While languishing in a local yarn shop's display, Merry spent her time meditating on how best to be a knitting partner. She brings to the Amazing Lace a strong commitment to never knotting or splitting, holding tight to the needle to prevent dropped stitches, and keeping her stitches as still as possible in the fiber-chilling event of a tinking.

When not meditating, Merry can be found checking her plies for the proper amount of twist.


The Project
Merry and Zooks will be teaming up to knit Balmoral, a dinner table cloth with a central motif of thistles. When Zooks first saw the pattern for Balmoral two weeks ago, she knew it was a beautiful piece of lace with overwhelming sentimental value for the intended recipient. She also knew that time is of the essence.

Zooks's grandmother loves Scotland a great deal, so much so that in 2001, Zooks's Christmas gift to her grandmother was a two-week vacation to the land of kilts, haggis, lochs, bagpipes – and thistles. The vacation was a wonderful success and very well timed; just five years later, her grandmother’s health troubles would make such a trip now impossible. Zooks and her grandmother share a special relationship and she knows that the handmade gift of Balmoral will touch her grandmother's heart very deeply. Balmoral will be gifted on the occasion of the pending octogenarian's birthday which falls on Labor Day. [Editor’s note: Could the official start and end dates of the Amazing Lace be any more perfect??]


Coming Together
Zooks grew up in a small town in Michigan which has a notable claim to fame: it's the hometown of George "win one for the Gipper" Gipp. Besides sharing a hometown, Zooks and the Gipper also share the same birthday. This tenuous connection has inspired Merry's and Zooks's Amazing Lace battle cry: "Knit one for the Grams!"


Official Photo





Hanging Out
Let's a take a peek at what Zooks and Merry are up to in the days prior to the commencement of the Amazing Lace:


Reading up on her intended namesake, Balmoral Castle







Tea and conversation with friends...







...until Super Bully Alpaca crashed the party







Going over the game plan

Friday, May 12, 2006

Frost Flowers & Leaves

I've been promising pictures of Frost Flowers & Leaves and I'm finally about to deliver. I cast on last Saturday -- travesty that it was with mangled laceweight and unruly dpns -- and have accomplished a pleasing amount of stitches through today's lunch break. First up is a photo at round 29, taken on Sunday:

My Frost Flowers & Leaves (source: A Gathering of Lace) is being created from Skacel Merino Laceweight in colorway #741 on size 6 needles (bamboo, birch, or metal depending on what I've got in my needle inventory). I wouldn't consider starting a circular shawl on anything except bamboo or birch; I need that stickiness when trying to bend fiber to my will.

Next up is a photo of progress as of last night through round 53. I've transferred to Susan Bates Quicksilver circular needles, 24" in length, and am a little buggy from how sharp those points are! I've knit almost exclusively with birch or bamboo needles for almost a year and a half which grind down to rounded tips in seemingly no time at all.


It's virtually impossible to see any of the pattern in this mass of cellulite-looking wool, so I singled out a leaf for your viewing pleasure:


My observations thus far are

- I remember when knitting with Kidsilk Haze was mind-boggling for me. Now, after having knit with gossamer silk for the Wedding Ring Shawl, the merino laceweight is positively simple to work with.

- It's a good idea always to have nearby a dpn to catch dropped stitches. This happened to me a couple of times when I forgot a pesky "move marker one stitch to the left" and had to tink half a round.

- I simply must remember to include an item for scale when snapping pictures of my works in progress. FF&L at round 29 doesn't look too much different from FF&L at round 53 to anyone except the knitter.

- According to the handy dandy spreadsheet prepared by an interpid member of the FF&L yahoo group, I have completed 5.65% of the shawl as of this afternoon. This reflects 312 stitches on the needle and 7,616 stitches completed in total. A daunting 127,144 stitches have yet to be created.

I've been inspired by the FF&L spreadsheet to create a similar one for the Wedding Ring Shawl. I'm very much a data geek (it's natural -- I'm an accountant by day) and it appeals to my sense of order and all that's right in the world to know exactly what I have tasked myself with doing...so that I can celebrate when I finish the task and know precisely what I've accomplished.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cease and desist

Stop it, all of you! You clever bloggers are a bunch of enablers. Do you sit around and think of ways to torment me with your wit? Your genius? Do you ever cease your efforts to tempt me into casting on more and more projects? Yes, I’m talking about you, Snow. And Susoolu. And Theresa. And Rachel. Oooo, you are tricksy knitters.

Lest any other clever bloggers are out there, I am closing my eyes and covering my ears and singing “la la la la la, I can’t hear you!”

For those of you who have not been beguiled by the abovementioned tricksy bloggers, I joined two knitalongs today:





and



I’m completely thrilled with the Fellowship of the Ring Shawl, a blog started by Snow and Susoolu who are simultaneously knitting on the Wedding Ring Shawl as well as hosting a ring for fellow WRS knitters. I’m a huge, enormous, gigantic fan of the Lord of the Rings movies; so much so that I am kicking myself from here to Middle Earth for not having thought of this brilliant idea on my own.

What led me to the Fellowship of the Ring Shawl was the website for the Amazing Lace, which I promptly signed up for because why limit yourself to two large lace projects when you can go for three? Mom always said I was a compulsive overachiever. My teammate for the Lace is the Balmoral coffee table cloth which is destined to be a gift for my grandmother. Or my sister. Or for grammy. Nope, my sister.

Looks like I’ll be making two Balmorals.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Where I'd like to be right now

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Scary

But for a leg injury, my daughter and I would have been smack in the middle of the area affected by the police station shootings yesterday in northern Virginia. Thanks to the leg injury we didn't go to her after-school activity and were home when the news started breaking about the police station. It's scary...and it brought back the horror of the beltway snipers from a few years ago. I could do without that feeling ever again.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims. One family is paying the ultimate price. I pray the other family won't.

On to happier blogging items.

I finally pulled my pictures off the digital camera and have transferred them to my computer at home. We'll start off with the Wedding Ring Shawl repair.



The area needing assistance is the loose loops of silk just below the red stitch marker seen in the top center of the photo. You can see what it should look like just to the right of this area, under the other red stitch marker. Armed with my tools and as much courage as I could muster (thanks to the marvelous Kate who suggested the repair), I knitted over to the red stitch marker and dropped the appropriate number of stitches.



Point protectors covered the two needles so that more stitches wouldn't drop off and create a bigger mess than the one I had started with. I quickly realized that one dpn and the crochet hook were insufficient for the job.



I needed a second dpn to work in concert with the first dpn in knitting up the stitches; it turns out that the crochet hook wasn't really that instrumental in the repair after all. Just as quickly I realized that a third dpn was needed to hold back the strands that were waiting to be knitted up. It was then that the thought struck me: I wasn't so much repairing the shawl as operating on it. Henceforth, this procedure shall be known as The Wedding Ring Surgery. Oh, would that I had a nurse to mop my sweaty brow as I worked further into the strands of silk...



Two and a half hours later, I had a repaired shawl. It isn't perfect by any means but it's enough to pass the galloping mustang test and I may go back after blocking and graft in a strand of leftover silk to tighten up the area. I might not need to, though, because blocking could very well smooth over the repaired area.

One last picture before I get to work on Frost Flowers & Leaves. The cat was using my french market bag as a bed so I decided to take pity on the poor feline and knit up a Kitty Pi for him. I took the project on our spring break vacation at the beach. The Kitty Pi soaked up the sun, as evidenced here:


Monday, May 08, 2006

Back into the swing of things

It’s time to get back into the swing of things. It’s been a rough few months; lots of personal issues have sapped my energy and the frustration of not being able to locate the darn camera software sapped my will to blog. I think I’ve discovered a work-around, however! The software is on my old computer which was relegated to my daughter’s room when the new computer was purchased. The software is still on her computer so I ought to be able to download pictures just fine. The trick is then getting the pictures to my computer. The old computer does not have an internet hook-up (and there’s no way I’m budging on that one – no unsupervised internetting by the under-age crowd at home!) so I’ll need to use a floppy disk and the good old sneakernet.

So hopefully this means that by tomorrow, I will be posting pictures of the Wedding Ring Shawl, the Kitty Pi sunning itself at the beach, and my new project: Frost Flowers & Leaves.

I’ve decided to start a collection of lace books, both knitting and needle. I might add something in the sidebar about my lace library and would welcome suggestion for additions. I’m mostly interested in high quality publications in terms of material like Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting or pictorial books like those published by Dover.