31 May 2007

Giving Credit Where Credit's Due

I need to give some people a lot of credit regarding my Forest Canopy Shawl, my Feather and Fan Stole, and my Argosy Baby Blanket. Sure I'm the knitter, but I have great yarns and clever patterns to work with.

The Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl is by I'm Knitting As Fast As I Can. It's a great pattern and I really enjoyed knitting it. It's not her only great pattern, by the way. You'll be seeing at least one more of them here. The yarn is two-ply fingering (sock) weight Peruvian wool in Mermaid, from Farm-Witch at Enchanted Knoll Farm (whom I recommend highly).

I made up the pattern for my Feather and Fan Stole, inspired by a stole in Folk Shawls, a book I think everyone who knits shawls and stoles should have. This yarn, which is hand-dyed fingering weight wool yarn, came from Pippi Knee Socks. If you're looking for beautiful hand-dyed yarn, particularly for socks, go here.

As for the Argosy Baby Blanket, it's designed by Vyvyan Neel. Vyvyan is a very talented designer and an exceedingly nice person. I've already knitted a bunch of Argosy scarves and will probably knit an Argosy shawl or wrap. I'm a real Argonaut. She has other great patterns, too.

The yarn for the blanket is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in Rainbow. I bought it from Yarnbow, who is one of my very favorite sellers on eBay. The store is an absolute snare for me, as I can hardly visit it without buying at least one skein of yarn, if not half a dozen.

I probably don't need to add that I have no connection with these people except as a satisfied buyer or user, but I will, anyway. Just in case there are suspicious minds reading this.

30 May 2007

Empty Nest

The Forest Canopy Shawl and the Feather And Fan Stole Leave Home

We all know how it goes. One day we're winding off a ball of yarn from a beautiful skein, picking out a pattern, and casting on. The next we know, we're blocking a finished project. The blocking is a rite of passage for a lace project. After it's blocked, it wants the car keys, stays out after curfew, and leaves home as soon as it can.

Here's my Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl being blocked. It's not really visible, but there's a plastic-covered wire cable threaded through the top edge and tied to the front legs of the day bed. The points are pinned out with clear push pins, except for the two Clover blocking pins in the top corners. There's carpet under the sheet.

Here's a close-up of the blocked leaves. See how flat and regular they are? They didn't look at all this good before the blocking.

Here's a photo taken outdoors, in the sun. The shawl is lying on a Natal Orange bush with the leaves and the scalloped edge plain to see.

Here's its big sister, the feather and fan stole. It's strung on two lengths of cable, which are tied to the frame of the day bed (that white blob in the upper left corner is a paper towel wrapped around the arm of the bed, to keep the wire from rubbing the finish off). This gives nice straight edges, except that I can't tie the cable tight enough, so it bows in just a bit and is pinned out straighter. The scallops at the ends are also pinned, but gently, not drawn into points like on the other shawl.
Here it is, lying on a bougainvillea and showing off its fans, its feathers, and its garter-stitch edge.
It's a little washed-out in the sunlight. The colors in the previous photo are more accurate.

And here's the shawl with its new owner, ready to leave for its new home.

The stole is departing with it, for another new home. The two new owners are sisters and they assured me the shawl and the stole would see each other frequently.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....

The Argosy Baby Blanket keeps growing. I've had to switch to the longest Options cable to lay it out this flat. I'm exactly half done with the last increase-side pattern repeat, the sixteenth. It's got 373 stitches in 31 repeats. I'm on the fourth ball of yarn.

Here's a different view, looking down the rows. See how the columns are quite rounded, so that the yarn overs and decreases aren't readily visible except as dips.

Here's the view across the rows, with the columns patted flat and a little apart to show off the yarn overs and decreases.

And here's another photo of it in its entirety. I think I can see some color patterns in it. Does anyone else see them? "Trends" might be a more accurate description than is "patterns", now that I look again.

28 May 2007

Blanket Progress and Lace Blocking

I just started the fourth ball of yarn on the baby blanket. I've knitting the fifteenth pattern repeat, and have over ¾ of it done. My tape measure and I think that the edges are well over 40 in. I'm pretty sure I'm going to quit increasing at the end of the sixteenth pattern repeat. I'd show you a photo, but it doesn't look that much different, even to its devoted creator's eye. Maybe later today.

As soon as the casita cools down, I'm going to go unpin the Forest Canopy Shawl that I blocked earlier. It's definitely dry. It looks pretty good; I'll take a bunch of photos. I threaded a strand of plastic-covered steel wire (bead stringing wire) through the long straight edge and pinned out the points on the other two edges. I strung the wire tightly between the two front legs of the day bed to be sure the edge was really straight. That worked very well.

The feather and fan stole doesn't look nearly as good. I didn't have enough long pins or wire to get the two edges straight, so they wobble all over the place. The scallops came out way too pointy because of the pin shortage. I'm going to re-block it by threading the wire through the edges and tying it to the day bed frame. I'll make the scallops more scallop-y and less pointy, too. I'll take some photos of it now, but I may not show those to the world. However, once I get it wired up, I'll snap a few more for show and tell.

The casita was 88° F when I turned the A/C on, so it should be pretty comfortable after lunch. Blocking is surprisingly hard work with all the back-and-forth iterations. I have to work fast because the relative humidity is 14% outside and things dry very quickly indeed. Spray bottles help a lot.

Today was probably our last day of having our groceries delivered for a while. We intend to go back up to Lancaster for the rest of the summer, only coming down here for short visits. I think we're leaving on Thursday or Friday, but that could change. I've been packing up yarn from my sub-stash down here. Some of it's returning to the main stash, but too much is joining the main stash for the first time. I'm going to leave the heavier winter stuff here and concentrate on summer knitting. My goddaughter needs crop tops and shells and tank tops and cool little skirts.

25 May 2007

Argosy Progress & Eye Candy

Argosy Progress

Here's my version of the Argosy Baby Blanket. I've completed 13 pattern repeats, giving me 169 squares (the number of squares is the number of repeats squared). The 14th repeat has 349 stitches per row. Why, yes, I am an engineer and I do math readily, particularly when I'm knitting and trying to figure out how much of the row I've finished.

I think I'm going to do three more pattern repeats and then start the decreases. I'm getting some curling on the edges and I may want to run a single crochet edge around the blanket to see if that'll control some of the curl, so I don't want to use up all my yarn.

This photo is just looking from the corner toward what's going to be the center, to show off the colors and texture.

Bright, isn't it?

Eye Candy

It's my understanding that the purpose of showing eye candy is to display recent acquisitions. This was a really big week in the acquisition department because I suddenly realized that the Weldon reprints from Interweave Press were getting close to being out of print and I only had the first six volumes. I'd put off buying the rest with the "I've got plenty of time" argument and all of a sudden I didn't. In a moment of blind panic, I bought them all, three from Amazon (slightly cheaper) and three from Interweave. That damned Interweave Press did it to me again; I ended up buying two more books I hadn't entirely intended to buy.

Two commenters here are nearly as much to blame as am I for my buying
Vivian Høxbro's Domino Knitting but I have to take the sole responsibility for buying Slip-Stitch Knitting, by Roxana Bartlett. I also bought a book about mittens and some shawl and scarf patterns.

And I bought some yarn on eBay. The yarn on the left is New Zealand wool, which isn't very soft, but the rose colors are so pretty I decided that doesn't matter. The yarn on the right is rayon and has a beautiful drape. The beige yarn in front was a freebie from the seller.

Here's a photo of the rayon, showing that it's blue, aqua, and lavender. The dyer named it "Sea Lavender", which is a really good name, I think.

And here's a close-up to show the texture. The photo can either show all the colors or the texture, but not both at once.

Here's a photo of the New Zealand wool, showing the beautiful pinks, roses, and purples of the "Rose" colors. I wonder why New Zealand doesn't have mostly merino, the way Australia does. I mean, Oz is New Zealand's closest neighbor, just across the Tasman Sea. Maybe the two climates are different enough for it to matter. New Zealand has a climate more dominated by the ocean, since it's so narrow, being three major islands in a row[1], whereas Australia is a big blobby continent with one major island.

Or maybe it does have a lot of merino and the name "New Zealand wool" is used for the wool that isn't merino. They raise a lot of sheep for meat (a lot of lamb sold in the US is New Zealand lamb, for example) and the breeding stock has fleece, too. It's just that they're not merinos or BFLs or other fine-wool breeds, mostly.

This is an interesting skein of yarn, from Louet. It's 50% linen and 50% polyester and the wrapper suggests a 19-mm (US 35) needle. This one skein is enough to make 12-stitch-wide, 60-inch garter stitch scarf.

Here's a close-up to show that it's three strands of linen plied with a polyester chain that has little flowers every half inch or so. The shiny polyester is variegated, so the flowers are different colors. It's hard to see them, but there are pinkish-coral flowers, the same color as the linen but shiny, as well as the lavender blue, yellow, and green ones.

[1] Yes, I know about all the littleNew Zealand islands. I've even been to the Bay Of Islands. And I've seen a fair number of Australia's little islands, too. I'm overlooking them, since everyone else seems to.

22 May 2007


In my previous posting, Photo Finish!, I asked for comments and then somehow managed to disable commenting. If I'd known what I was doing, I would never have done it. It's taken me two days to figure out how to fix it, in fact.

It is fixed now. Please re-read the posting and make comments. Please. I really want to hear what you think.

I don't know any knitters in person, so I don't get any feedback on my knitting. My dear husband is both honest and tactful, but he's mostly evaluating general appearance.

Speaking of dear husbands, mine brought an entire family of Iowans to our marriage and they're wonderful targets of opportunity for a knitter. He can knit, but hasn't done so since the '50s, when he learned. Still, it makes him very empathetic when I'm frogging away.

And, totally unrelated to knitting, you may remember reading about our going to the Honda dealer to look at mini-vans. Well, tomorrow the van modifiers are putting a modified Honda mini-van on a flat-bed and bringing it here (from the San Fernando Valley, 140 miles away) so we can look it over and drive it a bit. This van isn't the one we'd get, because it doesn't have the sunroof or the navigation system, but it is the right color (I told my husband he could have any color he wanted as long as it was red). The right one for us is going to be coming off the assembly line in three or four weeks and the modifiers want to claim it. I guess the next one won't be available for a couple of months.

We never did go look at the Toyota mini-vans. There's so much unanimity regarding the great ride of the Honda that we just didn't bother. Our current mini-van doesn't have the best handling qualities in the world and I've decided that's not going to happen with the new one.

This van is going to be hideously expensive. I keep telling myself that it's not that much per year if we keep it for ten years. After all, we bought the current van in '99, so it's not as if we do this very often. We bought my car in '96 and the convertible in '92 (we dropped a new engine and transaxle in it in '01, though).

And last, but not least, Vivian Høxbro's Domino Knitting showed up on my doorstep this morning. I was convinced by the comments I got here earlier that I really needed this book. I also bought Roxana Bartlett's Slip-Stitch Knitting and volumes 7, 8, and 9 of the Weldon reprints from Interweave Press. I'd bought the first six volumes of the Weldon series when they first came out and then, for some reason I don't remember, stopped getting them. I decided I'd better get the rest of the series now, before any more go out of print. I got volumes 10, 11, and 12 from Amazon for a slight discount and free shipping.

I'm not entirely sure I'll ever do much in mosaic/slip-stitch colorwork. I found the Mason-Dixon ball-band washcloth fairly attractive worked in a variegated yarn with a coordinating solid, so I thought I'd look further at the technique. I don't care for Fair Isle or intarsia. Most of you are probably too young to remember the Mary Maxim intarsia sweaters of the '50s, but if you do, you probably understand my aversion instinctively. As for Fair Isle, maybe it's just that I never liked the Duke of Windsor.

20 May 2007

Photo Finish!

The feather and fan stole was finished this morning. When I went to bed last night, I had about five rows to go and I was sorely tempted to stay up and finish it, but I worried that I might screw it up through fatigue so I resisted. When I woke up this morning I came trotting out in my nightgown, stopping only for a diet Coke, and finished it off. Then I admired it like crazy, made my husband do the same, and haven't knitted another stitch all day.

Here it is. I couldn't photograph it stretched out and get a good photo, as the aspect ratio is just too high.

Here it is hanging up with the light coming through it so the lace pattern is more visible:

Here's a close-up of the pattern, so you can see how badly it needs blocking. Scruffy looking, isn't it?

And here's a photo of the garter stitch edge, with chain selvege:

And here's the 55-gram left-over yarn. This ball reminds me of an immature sugar cone pine cone.

The scarf took 133 gm fingering weight wool yarn, hand-dyed, from Pippi Knee Socks. I think the yarn really made it beautiful. The design is my own, five repeats of an eighteen-stitch feather and fan, with a five-stitch garter stitch edging and a chain selvedge on each side. There's an eight-row garter stitch border at each end and 72 repeats of the four-row pattern. It's knitted on a US 8 Denise circular needle (for convenience only; it's knitted flat).

Now I can go back to my Argosy Baby Blanket, designed by Vyvyan Neel. I've knitted a number of Argosy scarves and this is my first non-scarf Argosy. I guess this makes me an Argonaut, doesn't it.

I put my blanket aside, after knitting ten repeats of the pattern rows, to finish the stole. Here it is, in my new orange knitting bag (which Amazon is, for some odd reason, selling as a diaper bag--go figure).

Here are some closer photos to show the texture and colors better:

Not exactly the typical baby colors, is it? The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in Rainbow and I bought eight skeins. One skein makes about seventy pattern squares for me. It's knitted on KnitPicks Options US 4 needles. Right now I've got a hundred squares in a triangle shape and the sides are about 33 in. long. The blanket is actually more diamond-shaped than rectangular. I'll keep increasing until I've used half the yarn or the triangle is 45 in. on the sides, I think.

This really shows the colors and texture well:

The colors aren't quite as good here, but the texture is very visible.

All packed up and ready to go. This is really a very nice knitting bag. I particularly like the long straps that allow me to sling it on my shoulder.:

I really like everything about this project. I like the new bag, the yarn, the colors, the pattern, the needles, and the fabric. Of course, I'm still on the increasing side of the pattern and I may not like the long rows that are coming, but the decreasing side should make up for that.

So, tell me what you think of both projects, please.

18 May 2007

Progress Report

No photos this posting. I've vowed to not even touch any other project until the stole is done and so far I haven't broken the vow. However, the instant I finish binding it off I'll be taking photos of it, the baby blanket, and the bit of fuchsia mystery lace and posting them all.

My feather and fan stole has had a growth spurt and is now about 36 in. long without stretching. I'm going to knit twelve more inches and block it to 72 in. At least, I think I am. It can be stretched to almost 50 in. without any special effort right now, so I should have no problem blocking it that large.

I stuck in a marker so I won't have to keep measuring the stole. I used a coilless safety pin because they're light and don't fall out, but they sure do make me wonder who it is who thinks a knitter wants a marker with a sharp point. That point is a positive nuisance when putting the pin in, as it's so willing to go though the yarn itself, not the stitch. Oh, well, I can do with these pins what I do with the needles I use for bead weaving and stringing, which is to remove the sharp point with a little grit stone. Doing so greatly reduces the number of blood stains that must be removed from the finished object, too.

16 May 2007

Tink, Tink, Tink, Count, Count, Count, Frog, Frog, Frog

On Thursday or Friday I put the feather and fan stole aside because it was badly goofed up. We had company on Friday and Saturday and the eight skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in Rainbow arrived. All those skeins were just burning a hole in my pocket, so I wound two off into center-pull balls. Doing that gave me a better idea of how it would look knitted, which is to say quite different, indeed.

Well, of course, once I had the balls of yarn it was pretty much inevitable that I'd start knitting. We've all been here before, haven't we? So I cast on thirteen stitches and knitted the first Argosy baby blanket square. It went quickly and easily, so I knitted the next row of three squares. One thing led to another and now I've just finished the tenth row of squares, for a total of a hundred squares. I discovered that one skein will make about seventy squares.

The reason that there are no snapshots of the blanket is that I put it down, rather regretfully, and swore that I won't pick it up again until the stole is done. I have to finish the stole in the next two weeks. That shouldn't be difficult, once I get it straightened out.

The problem is that I have acquired six extra stitches, 108 instead of 102. This probably means that I either didn't k2tog six times or I did yo, k1 six extra times. I'm inclined to think it's the former because I don't see any extra yarn overs anywhere. Of course, I don't see any missing k2tog, either.

So I started by tinking one row. No change. Then I tinked two rows. I'm using a circular needle, for convenience, so taking out two rows is easy and doesn't take much longer than tinking one row. That's different, 107. Recounting, it's still 108. So I tinked two more rows. Still 108. I pulled the needle out and frogged about an inch and a half, which is about a dozen rows. I then took out one more row as I picked up the stitches.

Success! There are now just 102 stitches. Of course, since I ripped out the offending portion I have no idea what I did wrong.

I took out about eighteen rows, which is four and a half pattern repeats, and the stole doesn't look any shorter than it did. I'm in that dreaded, relativistic region of no apparent progress no matter how many rows are knitted or unknitted. This makes some people give up; they knit and they knit and they knit and there's no progress at all. However, I'm not fooled. I know that the stole will suddenly, mysteriously put on a growth spurt, probably while my back is turned.

14 May 2007

My First Meme

This list seems to me to have a lot of really standard stuff on it. I'd think most knitters have done at least a third of the items, maybe half. Odd list of yarns, though. Wool, camel, cashmere, silk, cotton, linen, synthetic, banana, bamboo, soy, dog, and cat. Where's the alpaca, llama, angora, yak, qiviut, rayon, viscose, Seacell, tencel (lyocel), ramie, and maize? Not that I've knitted with all of them myself, or anything, but it just seems like an odd list.

for stuff you’ve done, italics for stuff you plan to do one day, and normal for stuff you’re not planning on doing.

Afghan/Blanket (baby)
Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip-down
Knitting with silk
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with banana fiber yarn
Domino knitting (modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing
Knitting with circular needles
Knitting with your own handspun yarn
Graffiti knitting (knitting items on, or to be left on the street)
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran)
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book
Teaching a child to knit
American/English knitting (as opposed to continental)
Knitting to make money
Button holes
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting
Norwegian knitting
Dying with plant colors
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cozies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars
Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with DPNs
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dy[e]ing yarn
Knitting art
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO
Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mitts/arm warmers
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Knitting with dog/cat hair[2]
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

[1] On purpose, that is. I've done it by accident already.
[2] Again, I've done a lot of it without intending to. Collies, you see.

I doubt if I'll ever knit socks. I rarely wear them and, for some reason, I just can't see myself knitting them for other people. I don't know why. I don't have any issues with mittens, though.

10 May 2007

A New Needleholder And Some Progress

Two days ago I got the most beautiful knitting needle case in the mail.

Here it is opened out so you can see the entire outer side. The black panels are ultrasuede, and the narrow red strips and the Hawaiian print are cotton. The Chinese knot frog is shiny red cord.

Here's the inside, with the Hawaiian print also used for the flap that keeps the needles from leaping out of the case.

And here's a photo of the cream brocade pockets. Lots and lots of pockets, aren't there? I haven't had the nerve to put my scruffy old needles into this beautiful case. I don't want to sully its perfection with reality quite yet, so now I just open it up and admire the cleverly designed pockets and stroke the ultrasuede and wonder how she knew how much I like Hawaiian prints.

It's a gift from Karen, known as sharing on Etsy. I've bought quite a bit of yarn from Karen, as has a friend of mine, and I think very highly of her. She's very talented and has an exceptional color sense. Her hand-dyed yarns are just beautiful, with wonderful color combinations. She has started offering needle cases like mine now. Go have a look at her shop; I think you'll like it very much.

I've made quite a bit of progress on my feather and fan stole. It's about half done now. It goes pretty fast since there are only 102 stitches and three of the four pattern rows are plain knitting or purling all the way across the row except for the garter-stitch edges. The actual pattern row is fairly easy, too, being six-stitch blocks of k2tog or yo, k1. We're going to have company tomorrow and Saturday, so I probably won't get a whole lot done on it this weekend.

My neat little center-pull cylinder of yarn had managed to develop a dome on top some time ago. Now it's turning into a cone.

The bottom is still quite flat:

I've pulled enough yarn out of the center of the ball that the yarn is no longer fluffing up enough to fill the hole in and the bottom is just starting to get a bit concave.

Fortunately the yarn is mostly, if not entirely, wool so the ball isn't going to fall apart into a dreadful tangle the way slippery yarn does. However, I'm handling it very gingerly, just in case it's more fragile than I think it is.

My Fiber Trends Faina's Scarf pattern arrived last week and I've been poking around in my stash for yarn for it. I've found several possibilities and now I'm wondering whether the required 450 yd of sport weight yarn includes the yarn used to make the fringe or not. And, if it does, how much that took.

Image copyright Fiber Trends.
Borrowed (not linked) without permission.

I'm thinking of putting a nice fat tassel on each end, instead of the fringe. The two points are just begging for tassels, don't you think? It has crossed my mind to use black rayon chainette and black merino fingering weight for the body of the scarf and just the chainette for the tassels. That wouldn't be the warmest scarf in the world, but it would be pretty. Or maybe silk and merino sport or DK weight for both, with the chainette added to the tassel.

08 May 2007

Another Baby, Another Blanket

I mentioned earlier that we had lunch on Sunday with my husband's college roommate and his wife. They have twin daughters, one of whom is just finishing her residency in surgery and is expecting her first child in November, much to their great delight. The other twin has three children, so our friends have gotten pretty good at being grandparents, but you know how it is, grandparents are always thrilled to have another grandbaby to spoil. Both of their daughters live in the Los Angeles area, so they see each other a lot, too.

As a knitter, I immediately jumped on this wonderful opportunity to knit something useful for the new baby. I haven't mentioned this to our friends yet, but I just bought the yarn from one of my favorite eBay sellers, Yarnbow, and it should arrive by the weekend. I picked Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport, which is Superwash wool, in color 601, Rainbow.

Isn't that just great yarn for a baby blanket? The pale pastel "baby" colors really show the dirt quickly but this yarn won't. Babies are adorable but they can be kind of messy, so this is important. The yarn is machine washable, too. Blankets that can only be washed by hand are right up there with little outfits that have to be ironed for impracticality. New mothers have it hard enough without adding silliness like that.

The pattern I'm using is the Argosy Baby Blanket by Vyvyan Neel, a very talented designer and an exceedingly nice person. If you look at some of the other patterns in the Argosy series, you'll get an idea of how this blanket is going to look in this yarn. The pattern calls for six skeins of Blue Sky Cotton 100%, which has 150 yd per skein and a gauge of 4 stitches per inch on US 9 (5.5 mm) needles. I'm using eight skeins of sport weight yarn with 200 yd per skein and a gauge of 6 stitches per inch on US 4 (3.5 mm) needles. I think it'll work out just fine, if only because the pattern calls for increasing until half the yarn is used and then decreasing. My blanket may not be exactly the same size as the pattern calls for, 54" x 47", but it won't be a lot smaller.

This baby blanket may take precedence over the Argosy baby blanket I'm knitting from the Great Adirondack Superwash merino in Bahama Mama, even though this baby is due in November and the other baby is arriving in August. That's mostly because we'll probably be seeing our friends again in three or four weeks, so if I have it done by then I won't have to pack the blanket up and ship it. Another factor is that August isn't exactly the best time of year for using a wool blanket, particularly in the desert, meaning August is not exactly a hard deadline.

Aircraft I Have Loved, Part One Continued

More about my favorite airplane, the F-4 Phantom II. The first F-4 I was ever up close and personal with was at NASA Dryden, back in the late '60s when I was a summer hire. We had an F-4 then. I don't know why or what it was used for and my copy of Hallion's book about the history of Dryden, like my copy the revised and updated version by Gorn and Hallion, is, for some inexplicable reason, at my house in Lancaster, not here in Palm Desert.

Anyway, one day this F-4 was out flying and the fuel pressure relief valve in one wing stopped working. Shortly thereafter the pressure of the fuel blew a hole right through the (wet) wing. Naturally, the pilot, Hugh Jackson, RTBd (Returned To Base) and landed right away. Some time later they brought the plane into the hangar and we all went down to see it. 'd never seen anything like it and probably wouldn't have believed that the fuel could generate enough pressure just from a little aerodynamic heating to blow a hole clear through the wing had I ever thought about it before it happened. It was quite amazing. Of course, we just repaired the wing and finished the program and somewhere along the line the airplane went away.

The next F-4 I was associated with was the analog fly-by-wire F-4 that McAir and the USAF were examining with an eye to reducing battle damage. I've written a bit about that one elsewhere and won't repeat it here.

At the same time, there was the F-4 that McAir was using for safety chase for the new F-15. This was an old F-4, bailed to McAir by the USAF years before and used for all sorts of experiments and programs, from testing new hardware to being safety chase. In its youth, it had been used to set some sort of speed record, in fact. With all those years as a testbed, it had picked up a lot of extra weight. When they'd install some bit of hardware it would have wiring and power supplies and other components, so when that particular test program was over they wouldn't go back and rip out everything they'd installed. Instead, they'd take out the pieces that were easy to reach, but they'd mostly just dyke the wiring off and leave it in place.

Carrying all this extra wire and other bits and pieces made the F-4 heavy and slow, so McAir decided to clear all that junk out. They sort of tore the airplane apart and pulled wire out like crazy. The crew accumulated all the wire and stuff they removed and, when they were done, built an awesome heap of it in the middle of the hangar. It was almost as high as the cockpit sill (11 ft) and proportionately large at the base. Of course, they crumpled the wire into balls, so the pile was pretty fluffy, but still that's a lot of wire and stuff. I was really impressed. The airplane was a lot faster, too.

Before I go on, I should mention that using an older airplane this way isn't at all uncommon. NASA Dryden, for example, only ever bought three new airplanes, the Lockheed F-104N Starfighters (which were actually F-104Gs without the weapons suites) to be support aircraft. All the rest were second-hand military aircraft. Even many of the research aircraft were hand-me-downs from the military, although the X-planes, for example, weren't.

Having said that, it won't be so surprising to read that the next F-4 I had something to do with belonged to AFFTC (the USAF Air Force Flight Test Center), having come there when the USAF exhibition team, the Thunderbirds, switched from F-4s to F-16s. That was back in the first energy crisis, in about 1973. This airplane, an F-4E, still had the oil smoker system from its days as a Thunderbird airplane installed, as well as an inverted oil system. It also had a controller box from its days as a cruise missile safety chase, when the engineer in the back seat was there in part to use that box to take control of the cruise missile and put it into a loiter mode until it ran out of fuel and fell out of the sky. The intent, of course, was that the falling out of the sky part should happen somewhere over the vast, extremely lightly populated desert, not over Lancaster or Santa Barbara.

How do I know so much about an AFFTC F-4? I got a ride in it is how. A good friend, whom I had helped when he was a student at the USAF Test Pilot School, had gotten tired of giving F-4 rides to TV actors (this was just after filming had ended for a made-for-TV movie about Pancho Barnes). He pitched giving me a ride to his CO by pointing out that I could actually recognize and identify an F-4 without help, just as I could identify all the other planes of the flightline, and that I had loved F-4s for decades, being well-known in some circles for my fondness for them. That flight was one of the highlights of my life. I wrote up a description at the time and I'll figure out how to get that posted, for anyone who is interested.

The last F-4 came to Dryden as the testbed for an experiment using spanwise blowing to control the flow over the wing. I believe it was part of the extensive laminar flow experimentation that our aerodynamics people were doing. The idea was to use engine bleed air blown down the wing (from root to tip) to attach the flow and reduce the boundary layer. At least, that's what I think it was, but I'm not an aerodynamicist and I could be wrong. Dryden got this F-4 from the USAF and started modifying it. However, further calculations ended up showing that there wasn't enough bleed air to work, even if they used all of it, which they couldn't. As a result, the experiment was abandoned, the airplane was put back the way it had been, and returned to the USAF. Not long after that, the USAF retired its F-4s completely. The AFFTC F-4Es were the last ones to go.

07 May 2007

A Four-Day Old Project On The Needles

This is my latest project, a feather and fan stole. It's knitted from a lovely hand-painted sock yarn according to my own pattern. I mean, it's pretty straightforward. There's a six-stitch-wide border (chain selvedge and five garter stitches) on each side and five repeats of an 18-stitch feather and fan, making it 102 stitches wide.

I started it with eight rows of garter stitch, which you can see, along with the feather and fan, in this photo. The colors are a little darker than this shows, with black, dark purple, and wine red.

I maybe should have knitted fewer garter-stitch rows, as these have a slight tendency to cup. By the time I figured that out I had about eight inches of stole knitted, so I decided I'd live with it. The digital knitter is a pragmatic knitter.

Here's something I find amusing, but then, I'm easily amused. I wound a great big skein of yarn into a big center-pull ball that was flat on top and bottom. As I've knitted away the ball has changed shape markedly. The bottom is still as flat as a pancake, but the top has gotten more and more domed. The ball is now a lot thicker than it came off the winder. I'm sure this growth from the friction when I pull yarn out as I knit.

I haven't gotten a lot knitted in the last few days. My husband's college roommate and his wife came over from Whittier to visit yesterday (Sunday). We hadn't seen them for a while, so it was a really nice long visit. I'd spent Thursday and Friday getting the last cartons either completely unpacked (sf books to live in Palm Desert, for example) or packed (knitting books to go back to Lancaster for the summer). Then Saturday we went to the supermarket and had a wonderful time shopping in the service deli and bakery. Four kinds of meat, five kinds of cheese, four kinds of rolls, salad, and a beautiful lemon and cream filling cake. Of course, I got the usual produce for sandwiches, too.

The deli salad was very interesting. I'd never had it before, but it looked so good I tried it. It's called fried corn salad and it has sweet corn, pozole, black beans, onions, sweet potato (I think), and green olives in a vinaigrette. Everyone really liked it. I had so much food on the table that I forgot the potato chips entirely, not remembering them until about six p.m.

We all had a wonderful time and they're probably going to come back in a couple of weeks. Considering that they live about a hundred miles away, it's not the shortest trip for them, but they said it was an easy drive, easier than fighting their way north to Lancaster.

As soon as I finish the stole, I've got to get started on a baby blanket. Here's the yarn, Great Adirondack superwash merino worsted weight in Bahama Mama. I'm going to use the Argosy pattern for it. It has to be done by August.

I was going to have the yarn for this custom-dyed, but I fell in love with the Bahama Mama colorway and decided to skip that step. I also got two skeins of Bahama Mama Chinchilla, for what I don't know. I just love the Great Adirondack colors and yarns.

My husband has been recording Knitty Gritty for me, using the DVR in our bedroom. I spent this afternoon watching a week's worth. I took my stole knitting, my new book on modular knitting, and my diet Coke and went back and camped on the bed to watch. I loved the skirt in butterfly stitch but didn't think much of the sushi toilet paper roll cover. I just adored Annie Modesitt's corset and intend to make one after the baby blanket.

The fourth show was on modular knitting, which I didn't know when I picked that book out, and the guest was Iris Schreier, author of Modular Knitting. That was the very book I'd been clutching to my bosom. I've decided I need Vivian Høxbro's Domino Knitting, too. One of the blogs I read has featured a sweater knitted in mitered squares and the techniques look very interesting to me.

03 May 2007

Catching Up On Photos

This is a collection of photos that I should have posted before. More will follow eventually, including one of the feather and fan stole I have on the needles.

I'll start with Forest Canopy Shawls. This is a close-up of the pattern knitted in Cherry Tree Hill 50/50 merino and silk DK in Dusk. I think it's knitted on US 8 needles. I think each leaf was about two inches long, but I didn't actually measure them.

And here's as much of the shawl as I knitted before I decided I was going to run out of yarn before it got as big as I wanted it to be. Isn't the yarn pretty? It's an absolute delight to work with. It has a lovely hand feel, it's not at all splitty, and it forms a very nice stitch.

You can see, if you look very closely at the corner, that it's .on a Knitpicks Options cable. Shortly after this photo was taken I frogged the shawl.

Here's a close-up photo of the Forest Canopy Shawl that I finished, just for comparison. It was knit with the same size needles, even though this yarn is fingering weight and the 50/50 is DK weight. I don't knit socks, but I love the hand-painted sock yarns that are so popular right now. They make beautiful lace.

I really like this pattern. It's pretty, it's not overly busy, and it's easy to memorize.

On to scarves. I love knitting scarves. They're useful, they're pretty, they don't take much yarn so splurging won't lead to bankruptcy, they can be complex enough to offer a real challenge, and they don't take forever to knit.

With all that said, here's the Argosy scarf I knitted for my brother-in-law in Iowa. The yarn is Lion Brand Cashmere Blend in Navy. The scarf took four skeins. This first photo shows it just off the needles. It has a lovely texture, as you can see.

Here it is after blocking. It's pretty flat and the pattern has really opened up. I didn't really stretch it, just pulled gently on the edges to make the corners nice and sharp. (Yes, I know the silver needs to be polished and I'm going to do that this weekend.)

And here's another photo to give you an idea of its size. It's about 9 in. wide and 8 ft long. Maybe you can get an impression of its hand, too. This yarn knits up into a lovely fabric. It's soft and cushy and very light.

Incidentally, this is in my dining room. It was late afternoon when I took these photos and this was the best natural light I could find. The wood is black and the chairs are covered with wisteria (pale purple mauve) Ultrasuede. The chairs are lighter than the grey couch and chair in the living room, but not a lot. The carpet is berry colored.

And here's the Morehouse Farms bulky merino scarf that I knitted for my sister-in-law. This first photo is a bit of a close-up so you can see the stitch (garter with drops) and the color.

And here's the whole thing. It's about 7 in. wide and 7 ft long.

This is another yarn that's a joy to work with. I just love it. Beautiful colors of wonderfully soft yarn that just about knits itself. The patterns they recommend are very simple, designed to show off the yarn.