Thursday, June 28, 2012

Today’s Whine: Knitting Round and Round and Round

Can I just start of with saying I am completely bored with knitting round and round?  Wow! That’s sounds like I am whining*!  Truly sorry! … Another family motto that started when Gin was quite small and tried to whine her way out of something, I looked down at her and said, “Honey, we don’t “do whine,” we just drink it!”  The whining ended right there and then; and that would be your parent tip of the day …

Anyway, if it weren’t for European Cup Football, these 2 projects, - ok, one of these projects - would be sitting there … in the project bag … just waiting to be completed.  I have watched every match while knitting round and round.  And every time I hear the voices of the audience start their steady roar climb, up snaps my head with no worries about where I am in my knitting.  See? So, it’s a good thing.  The last 2 matches have both ended in “penalty kicks”:  England vs. Italy ending with Italy advancing; and then last night’s match, Portugal vs. Spain with Spain advancing.  The result for me being, that my Silken Straw Summer Sweater is nearly completed because these 2 matches have both gone way passed my bedtime – ending around 11:30 pm. 

On The Shaker’s Mojo Sweater, I have 11 inches completed on the body with only 10 more inches to complete.  At point I stopped working on the body when I finished a skein and moved to the back neck facing as it was something different to do.  This is the sweater that cannot windup in a project bag sitting in a hidden corner from view – I have until next Friday to complete it. 

But the Silken Straw Summer Sweater is the never-ending project!  I checked and I started this back in March and it’s almost July!  Gin has even made comments about this not being done … “Why you are not done yet?”  Well … today Andy Murray plays center court at Wimbledon (Olive is a huge fan of tennis) and tonight Germany vs. Italy in the Euro Cup – which you know I will be watching!

The Martini Knitter

* I got today's title from Team Apathy -- they have a discussion thread titled "Today's Whine."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday's Tin of the Week

I found this while Olive was visiting last month and went back last week to get it.  I just couldn’t stop think about the sarcastic humor printed on the front.  So I had it sitting out on a table last night, when Gin found it.  She said, “This is hilarious! You bought this for me, right?”  I said, “No, I bought it for my knitting.”  Well … you can imagine the look on Gin’s face …

I said, “How am I suppose to pull this out of my handbag and say to my friends, would you like a mint?”  But if I had this in my travel knitting kit …

Also The Shaker and I had a very busy Saturday this past weekend … all surrounded around wine.  Are you surprised???  We met up with friends for a wine tasting event at noon.  Then came back into town to do the weekend shopping, finished that, and grabbed a Starbucks for a caffeine pick-me-up as we were going back out that night for party.  

I am very pleased to say that when I awoke on Sunday morning, I had no hangover!

The Martini Knitter

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ravellenic Games 2012: Team Apathy

So I spent most of Saturday morning and yesterday wasting precious knitting time on Ravelry and the Interweave website - they had a pattern sale!  While looking around Ravelry and thinking about how the weather is very different from Holland I decided to change my mind about some yarn that I bought for another project.  It was a long sleeve summer sweater that I just can’t see myself wearing while living here in Basel.

This is what I bought and which I think I already own because I buy Interweave Magazines (note to self – pay attention to publish date!):

And then I noticed that Yarn Harlot had a new blog posting about the Ravelympics*What is that?  I looked at the qualifying events, gave it some thought and then I tried to figure out what to knit because I want to join in the fun too.  Olive has been participating in Camp Loopy this summer and she wanted me to join too, but I couldn’t because the yarn I had wasn’t the same that The Loopy Ewe carried, so that eliminated me.

And while listening to Olive and reading what the Yarn Harlot had posted, made me even more interested in joining a stash busting event.  The thing is, is that I am still relatively new to knitting.  I have been knitting almost 3 years now and the last time Ravelry did their Ravelympics was 4 years ago and I wasn’t knitting yet – it wasn’t even on the radar for me. 

So I have come up with my Ravellenic event – “Sock Putt” – I think the descriptor says this:  baby booties, leg warmers and slippers.  I have chosen Ann Budd’s Fibonacci Striped Socks.  Somewhere I read the guidelines saying something about how you have to do something that is challenging and/or you have never done before.  That’s perfect for me because I have never done striping work in socks. 

And then I read that you can choose how many “units” you would like to produce.  I will only being one pair of socks for this reason:

This must be all un-boxed!
Then I had to join a team … I chose to join Team Apathy because of the motto:  “We don’t care if we finish or not.”  So there you have it, I am not under any pressure whatsoever to start, let alone finish my choosen project.  Perfect!  Count me on the Mass Cast-On dated July 27, 2012.  I am hoping that The Shaker will at least have the TV up and running so that I can watch some of the Olympics events.  Who I am kidding?  I will probably be asleep on the couch holding my martini and my knitting needles … snoring …

The Martini Knitter

*Update:  Ravelympics name has been changed to Ravellenic Games

Thursday, June 21, 2012

No More Frogging

First of all I am not a perfectionist and I have never claimed to be one (does anyone ever?).  I can leave a mistake in something and hope that it is hidden enough from one’s eye.  I am serious about that.  So I have thinking about The Shaker’s Sweater and how it went from almost 50% completion to completely ripped out and then completely started over again.  Now I know that this would bother some, but for me it just didn’t.  I am one of those visual knitters who just needs to do some things as “trail and error.”  I just want to see

When I was little I remember my grandmother telling me about one of her sewing friends, Mary, who would look at my grandmother’s crocheting project, sit down with a crochet hook and yarn, and could reconstruct the piece by just looking at it.  It drove my grandmother nuts because Mary could just look at something and reconstruct it without the crocheting instructions.

I also apply this method of trial and error to my quilting as well but usually in a scrap quilt.  I will pull out a group of fabrics, find a block I like and start cutting and sewing then I lay it all out and start moving blocks around visually seeing how it will all come together. 

So when I started the “Men’s Polo Sweater,” I literally thought that I had a pretty good plan.  I read through the patterns instructions, made notes and thought about how to make this into a “knit in the round” sweater.  I made a gauge swatch; I measured a sweater of The Shaker’s to make sure that I was on the right track of measurement; and then casted on.  So technically, I didn’t just blindly cast on and hope for the best.  I did go into the project with some idea of how it was going to turn out.  But that is usually my method of construction.  

I took techniques and guidance from knitting designers and applied them that to the sweater.  But then I got stuck at the neck’s back shaping part.  I didn’t understand what was written in the original directions for binding off some of the stitches that were closer to the armhole side of the shoulder and what was happening with the stiches as you worked closer to the neck opening part.  I knew that I needed to bind off some of the stitches at the start of each row near the armhole for shaping purposes. I understood that part but I got frustrated with the stitches that were closer to the neck opening and how those directions were written.  And then it was the reconstruction of the sleeve, where I thought: enough is enough; I am seriously in over my head!  

When I started the project, I thought just keep knitting and see if it could turn out like the way I wanted it to.  I will put in a series of lifelines and go from there.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I will just rip it out and start again.  Where I went wrong was when I saw the pattern, I should have gone and found similar patterns and worked that way.  But I fell in love with design and I just wanted that one!  Another lesson learned:  keep looking for the pattern that I truly want.    

Olive and I originally met in a quilting group and she can tell you that I hardly ever ripped out and restarted a quilting project.  When I spoke to Olive about The Shaker’s birthday sweater and I how I needed to restart it she said this to me (very gently, I must add):  “That is it!  No more ripping out unless it’s a true mistake.”  She swears she doesn’t know anyone who has ripped and restarted a project as much as me! She might have a point ...

Here's how far I am on The Shaker's Mojo Sweater  - past the armholes and onto the body - woo hoo! 

The Martini Knitter

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday's Tin of the Week

This week’s Tuesday’s Tin of the Week is from Olive.  She sent me this small storage tin a few months ago.  I called to say I loved it and politely asked where the gum was.  She said, “I know!  It didn’t come with gum.”  What’s that about???

The Martini Knitter

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Got My Mojo Back

Honestly, do I have any business at all in designing???  I have no clue where I get this from either.  It wasn’t like my mother bought a dress pattern home and re-vamped the whole thing.  So no, I have no clue where this desire is to re-invent the wheel comes from!

Therefore I have to keep reminding myself I am not designer and I really don’t’ want this added pressure in my life!  It’s like a mantra that I need to repeat over and over again in my mind:  “Leave the designing to the designers; let them have the endless headaches and sleepless nights."

But there I am … plowing right down that path of “I know there has got be an easier way than all that seaming!”  And then for the added bonus of, I have no clue if this is even going to turn out right!  I might have to rip the whole darn thing out and start all over again.  I can hear my English friends saying to me, “You must be mad!” 

So … is this what real designers do???  Or do they draw those pretty little Vogue sketches and instantly know, “Yup, with that fabric it will turn out right.”

These are the burning situations that go through my mind and I yet again I have decided to take a pattern that is worked flat and re-work it so that it can be knitted in the round. 

This is the pattern, “05 Men’s Striped Polo Sweater” from Knit Simple Magazine Spring/Summer 2012 that I originally chose, minus the stripes, as The Shaker doesn’t like stripes.  I picked it because of the collar – The Shaker likes those flat, no sticking up kinds of collars.  So this is a good thing because I didn’t have to think about working 2 colors; I could just knit with a solid color and not worry about the placements of these stripes.  And I could dedicate all my concentration on the construction of the sweater - changing it from knitted flat to knitting it in the round. I just didn’t think that all that seaming was required for this type of sweater.

So here’s the method to my madness:  I just finished “Corduroy” by Lisa Lloyd.  She has you knit in the round to the armholes; then you separate the front from the back and you work these pieces separately back and forth.  Once these parts have been completed you join the front and back together again by doing a 3-needle bind off.  Then you pick up stitches around the armhole and start the sleeves.  But in the Knit Simple Magazine pattern, you start the sleeves at the cuff.  So I would need to figure out how many armhole stitches were at the armhole join.  In the pattern you cast on a small amount of stitches at the cuff and work your way up to the top of the sleeve placing increases stitches strategically along the way until you reach the top of the sleeve.  So I would need to work this in the opposite way, I would have to figure out the amount of picked up stitches at armhole join and place the decrease stitches all the way down to the cuff.  See where this is going??? It was just taking on a life of it’s own.

Then I had knitted another pattern, “All (North) American Hoodie” by Veronik Avery, where the placket on front was done very neatly and I thought that those instructions could be useful a guideline as well for this sweater.

But finally I gave up and bought the eBook, The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd.  Why the eBook because I own the hard copy and but it’s in storage!  Hearing the frustration yet? But, I did get it on sale … so … that counts for something, right?

This is how far I got before I "frogged" it.
I put a life-line in at the armholes and started
on the back - working back and forth

I read what Ann Budd had written about dropped shoulder sweaters – they are worked flat for a reason - took that as Gospel and went back to Ravelry and did a search. Here’s where Olive comes in; when she was here, she kept telling me if I want a good basic pattern with no figuring out she said go and get Knitting Pure and Simple patterns.  So that’s what I did! I bought the "255 Henley" pattern and I casted on.  No thinking required; just follow the instructions and knit.  Olive said that she would send me her “mojo” for knitting so that is what I am calling this sweater:  “The Shaker’s Mojo Sweater.”

A fresh new start 
And why I am not worried about The Shaker finding out about his birthday present in this posting?  For this simple reason, he doesn’t read it.  Here’s the reason of why and I think Gin is the one who originally said this:  “Why do I need to read it, when I live it?” Fair enough.

Seriously, though wish me luck because I have about 2 weeks to get this done and I have 4 lessons of German this week!  Don’t even get me started on “das, die and der” along with “ein and eine!” Trust me, reconstructing a sweater is far easier than me understanding that aspect of the German language!

The Martini Knitter

Friday, June 15, 2012

Basel Got Yarn Bombed!

This week I got a lot of knitting done just because I was riding the tram all over town.  I worked on The Shaker’s sweater and when I got to a point where I needed to read the directions, I switched back to the American the Beautiful socks (aka, a new pair of tram socks).  I did look up at one point to see a person staring at me like I was crazy.  I just shrugged my shoulders and continued on with my knitting. Trust me, I must be a knitter now, because if this happened in the beginning, I would keep my knitting indoors!

Another day I did jump on a tram without really paying attention to where the tram was going.  The weather had turned and it was beginning to pour with rain.  I took the number 10 tram thinking it went up by me; it didn’t.  But if I hadn’t jumped on the #10, I would have missed the Basel yarn bombing.  A whole side of a bridge – the Wettsteinbr├╝cke bridge - had been yarn bombed.  I also learned that yarn bombing is called “stricken graffiti” (knitting graffiti).

So me getting lost is starting to finally pay off!

The Martini Knitter

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Euro Cup Football

I love this time of year!  It’s the European Cup Football tournament.  There is something about watching all the nations come together for about 3 weeks to celebrate football (aka soccer).  With all the crazy face colors and outfits. 

But there is nothing like watching the Dutch.  They are just flat out crazy in their bright orange outfits.  You can always see them in the stands while watching match because it’s just a sea of orange.  And the Dutch will travel.  Last weekend as we got closer to Holland, we turned on the radio and listened to a commentary about these huge Dutch campsites being set up in Poland and the Ukraine.  They just drove there with their campers just to be near the excitement.  From what we heard, they didn’t even have tickets to the matches they just wanted to be close to the action. 

We arrived on the morning July 6th, 2004 in Holland.  I remember the exact date because it happens to be The Shaker’s birthday and I had no birthday gift.  And I mean nothing!  But a friend suggested the Dutch football team’s jersey.  So by the time we went out for dinner to celebrate his birthday, I had a gift-wrapped Dutch team’s (home) bright orange football jersey. 

As the time got closer to leaving Holland and relocating to Switzerland, the girls and I decided that The Shaker needed a new Dutch football team jersey – the away team’s one.  We may not be Dutch, but we watch every Euro Cup match and every World Cup football match.  And we always wear our orange clothing.  The Dutch team this time isn’t playing that well.  But nevertheless we have our favorite players:  Gin and The Shaker both like Arjen Robben, Vermouth likes Robin van Persie, and my favorite player is Wesley Sneijder. 

Vermouth and The Shaker 
So even though last night the Dutch lost to Germany (as well as to Denmark on Saturday), it doesn’t matter.  Because I will watch and support the Dutch again on Sunday while they play Portugal.  I will where my bright orange t-shirt and be happy.  Because the Dutch football team will always have a fan in me.

The Martini Knitter

Monday, June 11, 2012

Duct Tape: Don’t Leave Home Without It

First of all, I know that I will get a lot of flap from my Holland/Dutch buddies about this following post … But I want “kudo” “brownie” “you rock” points or whatever kind of "parental bonus points" I can get after reading this:  We drove to Holland for one important night.  We drove Gin and Vermouth to their Prom.  And actually The Shaker deserves all the credit because he did all the driving.  He drove about 7 hours on Friday and then 7 hours back again on Saturday all on the German Autobahn.  The Autobahn just flat out frightens me!  There are posting for speed limits but, seriously, I think they are optional. I just had to make muffins and sandwiches …

We did this for Gin and Vermouth so that they could see their friends from the “old” international school one more time before everyone took off in separate directions.  Some of their friends finished taking their IB exams and would be starting university in the fall and some were moving to back to their homelands or moving another foreign land when school officially ends at the end of this month.

At first, this posting was supposed to be where is “the wrap???”  Holland is can be cool and those girls should have a wrap!  Yes, I completely agree but here’s the story.  Here’s where the project lies ….
Not even on the needles!
Gin and Vermouth understand the time and effort that I put into any handmade item.  They get it!  So why the extra pressure of making sure that nothing happens to this wrap?  I know Gin; she would be stressed about it.  She would be worried that something would get spilled on it or even may be, get a cigarette burn on it; the possibilities are endless.  When I had said this to Gin, she laughed.  She said yes, I would be nervous about it; to the point where I would probably be walking around with it tightly bound in my hand because I wouldn’t want anything to happen to it.  And then I would panic because my hand would be sweating all over it. 

But instead this is really about “the importance and many uses of duct tape” and how every household should have this item in stock and in assorted colors.  For years The Shaker has stressed to me the importance of duct tape! He has used it on everything … and now on a prom dress.  Yup a prom dress … on the outside for everyone to see it – to be precise. 

While Olive was visiting she got the added bonus of going prom dress shopping with Gin.  Gin is petite and bone-straight thin.  The complete opposite from Vermouth who is thin and but curvy.  I think we went to 4 stores before finding this beautiful, long black dress.  And it fit perfectly! I will admit that I was not terribly pleased at the cost of the dress.  It was more than I liked, but my rational was this – no alterations required and with Gin, alterations are always required.  It was perfect and I knew it the moment she came out of the fitting room smiling ear-to-ear.  

And then Prom night came … Gin is ready to go and I am helping her put on her dress in the final preparations before taking pictures in the back garden.  I get her zipped up and we start walking for the door when I hear a panicked  “Mom!”  I turn and said, “What?”  She said, “Look, the zipper is opened!”  The dress was not tight at all; it was like it was made especially for her.  But there it was … the zipper was zipped all the way up but it had come open.  Maybe you have experienced this once in your life as well, once the zipper is up and it comes open there is no pulling it down.

We were staying with our good friend Margriet.  Margriet, like Olive, has only boys.  But she was quick!  She flew out of the room and came back with an upholstery needle and black thread.  We literally sewed Gin into her dress. It took 20 about minutes between Margriet and The Shaker to this.  They did it with no help from me.  Honestly, I think it was because they know way too well - I would be too precise in the stitching up process.  They were nice to me though, they let me thread the needle, and make the starting and finishing knots. 

And while I was completing the finishing knot at the top, Margriet had ran from the room and came back with shiny, almost patent leather like, black duct tape.  She cut a long ½ inch width piece of tape and placed it over the exposed roughly stitched enclosure.  And it worked.  It looked far better than having those exposed stitches for everyone to see.  I just hoped that the lighting would be turned down low so that no one would notice.

So guess what I get to do this week?  You got it! I will be dragging The Shaker with me back to the shop where we got the dress to try and negotiate a new zipper (strength in numbers is my motto).  And since we are new to Switzerland and their rules on returns this should be interesting.  The most being this:  when we originally came home with the dress and Gin was hanging it up, I noticed that the sales tag was removed from the dress!  I know you can see my shock.  But I do have the receipts: the store’s and the bank’s transaction receipts.  Any advice will be greatly welcomed!

Gin, The Shaker, Me, and Vermouth

The Martini Knitter

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tin of the Week

Olive gave me the idea for “Tin of the Week.”  I do like tiny little storage containers to keep my stitch markers, darning needles, stitch ring markers etc. organized and I like them to have bit of  flair on them.

To start this off right, I thought I would share my first "Tin of the Week" photo taken in a tourist shop.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about dropping a watering can and having it land an “older” man’s foot and the end result me being “reduced to a pile of ash” by his stare.  Well, this is along the same lines.  First of all you would think I would have learned my lesson by now after living in Europe for the past 8 years but, alas, no …

The Shaker had the brilliant idea to go to Colmar, France; which is about 40 minutes by car from Basel while Olive was visiting.  It’s a popular tourist spot in the Alsace region because of the beautiful canals.  And like most tourist spots, there are tourist shops, which happened to be open on a Sunday.  Now don’t ask how I missed this, but at one tourist shop and I stress the words “tourist shop” there was a huge sign that displayed the “no photos” sign.  Like I said, I missed it.  Now for an art gallery, I get it, but for a tourist shop …

You can see where this is going, right?  I pop out my Blackberry phone, open up the camera feature and proceed to take a picture.  I have been to France many times - including Paris - and for some reason I have managed to avoid being yelled at in French and in France.  Not this day - the shopkeeper yelled at me.  I apologized profusely, and naturally, in English.  But when I turned around from her I heard her still saying something muffled and under breath at me.; something being said about me being American and such. So I turned around, looked her straight in the eye and said, “Hey! I said I was sorry.” and walked out of the store to where - you got it! - Olive and The Shaker howling with laughter.

Here’s the picture:

Lesson learned read the signs before entering any shop – especially in France.

The Martini Knitter

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Productive Rainy Day

Yesterday, I had plans to walk with a group of women, but the weather was not good.  It was rainy.  I feel pathetic saying that after just living in Holland for almost 8 years …

But instead I stayed at home and got caught up on my knitting.  I finished my Wingspan, which turned out amazing.  It looks similar to the other Ravelry users – which is a good thing.  I love the swirl of colors.  The part I am not sure about is the miss judgment of yarn at the end of my skein.  I swore I was close to the end so I stopped after 6 triangles points.  Now after casting off, I realized that I might have been able to add one more triangle.  I hate getting to the end of something and not having enough yarn to finish the project only to have to rip out and hope that I get all the stitches back on to the needles. But I also didn’t want it too big.  I wanted it to just wrap around and cover the shoulders and then be able to clasp it with a shawl pin.  I know that I have achieved that.

Vermouth's Tram Socks*
After completing the Wingspan, I casted on 2 pair of socks (America the Beautiful and The Luck of the Irish).  Earlier this week I learned exactly how much knitting I really can get done while riding on the tram here.  One day, I had to wait for Vermouth to meet me in the center to buy shoes.  I told her to meet me at the Marktplatz stop and while waiting for her, I found a bench right there in the middle of the stop and just sat, waited and knitted.  By the time she got to me I was almost done knitting a 3-inch cuff.  And this was a big public knitting outing for me as well - not my usual sit-in-the-corner-of-Starbucks and knit.  Nope this is a busy tram stop and I just sat there and knitted round and round.  I could feel people staring at me but I just didn’t look up.  So yesterday I made the heel flap, turned the heel, did the gusset and now today I am ready to knit the foot part.  And when I get back home, I will be at the toe part.  That’s how much knitting I have been able to achieve by either waiting for my girls or by sitting on the tram! (Sock pattern: "6 Stitches per Inch Sock" by Ann Budd)

So I thought, hey why not cast on another pair of socks to work on the tram? I found 2 pairs of US size 0 needles, casted on yarn that I bought with Olive last week and worked on the toe parts.  I chose "Gusset Heel Basic Socks" from Socks from the Toe-Up this time because Gin and Vermouth like a small cuff; and I could get to the knitting round and round part faster. 

And lastly my complete "Corduroy" sweater
Olive made me finish this while she was visiting

So I feel very productive for a rainy day … I finished some projects and added some new ones.  

The Martini Knitter

* Ann Budd's book, Getting Started Knitting Socks - the 6 stitches per inch sock