26 June 2007

The Knitting Diet

I've been noticing recently, that my clothes have been getting looser. I had a routine doctor's appointment today that confirmed that I've lost weight. Not an entire size, but at least half a size, maybe a little more.

What was perplexing about this was that I hadn't been doing anything special to lose weight. You know how "unexplained weight loss" is a symptom of almost every serious illness, according to all those public service announcements and news stories? I didn't exactly panic or anything, but I did think back to see if anything was different that might be the cause. I figured it out fairly quickly.

Let me introduce The Knitting Diet. It works, it's easy, and it produces a Finished Object fairly often. What could be better?

Really. I'm not kidding. Knitting is why I'm losing weight. My problem has never been eating too much at meals. It's always been snacking, mostly in the evening. With my hands full of knitting I don't seem to snack. I don't know whether it's because I'm too busy to want to snack or because I keep putting it off for just one more row or because I prefer knitting to snacking, but whatever it is, I'm just not snacking. And because I'm not, I'm losing weight.

Now I just have to figure out how to knit and ride my exercycle. Fitness is important, too. Muscle mass burns calories, even resting.

24 June 2007

Busy Weekend

My microwave arrived here as predicted at about 1430 Friday afternoon. We'd gone grocery shopping Friday morning and stopped for lunch at Taco Bell. Lunch was big enough that neither of us was all that hungry, so I didn't try the microwave out, although I did get it in place. I did nuke a bag of popcorn for breakfast on Saturday, though. It's fast.

I spent a lot of Saturday doing laundry and other household tasks. I didn't really get much else accomplished. However, dinner was brought to us by Stouffers and the new microwave. I'm pleased with it.

This morning we went to Costco. We didn't have a real list, which is usually an invitation to a disastrously full cart and an expensive check-out. Not this time, for some reason. We did buy the first thing we saw, but that was an oscillating fan, which would have been on the list if we'd had one. I also picked up two plastic bins for yarn. I hadn't known Costco carried plastic bins, so these definitely weren't on my list. Other than those two items, it was all regular stuff like sourdough bread and diet Coke. Even with fans and bins we spent about what we spent at the supermarket.

I did see a guy in the parking lot with a neat folding table. It was four or five feet long, very light, and had a white plastic top. When I admired it he told me it was only $50. There's a reason I'm interested in a folding table. My husband and I recently watched a Knitty Gritty episode on dyeing yarn (the guest was Jamie Dixon, of Scout's Swag). My husband found the show as interesting as I did and I suspect that he'll be involved when I finally try dyeing. Anyway, I was thinking that this would be a good project to try outdoors, which is why I was so interested in the light-weight folding table.

If I do get into dyeing (and I have some lovely undyed yarn, mostly merino) I'll be going to Lowe's. I'm embarrassed to admit that I just love Lowe's. I can find all kinds of things there that I just can't live without. (It's almost as bad as my going to a stationery and office supply store.) What I'll have to get at Lowe's is dust masks and plastic sheeting to protect the work surface. Maybe some of that blue masking tape, too. Oh, and those foam paint brushes. And stainless steel welding rods, to use when blocking lace. What else I'll get is subject to how long I loiter in the store; the longer I stay the more I'll buy. My husband isn't much help, as he finds as much as I do. We both try to stay away, knowing how weak our will power is.

21 June 2007

The Microwave Is On The Move

Edited, with my sincere apologies to Pennsylvanians, to correct the name of Harrisburg.

My microwave has gone from Harrisburg, PA, to Louisville, KY. I hope it's getting on a big brown airplane bound for Southern California. gother package itineraries are representative, it'll get to Ontario Airport[1] at around 0300 and be in Lancaster by 0600, so it can be out for delivery by 0800. It should be at my house at about 1430.

It will be welcomed with open arms. I've had to actually cook dinner, rather than reheat a frozen meal, three nights in a row and I'm running out of ideas (and food) unless I go to the grocery store.

[1] This Ontario Airport isn't in Canada but in SoCal. It's one of five airports in the LA Basin with scheduled airline service (Los Angeles International, Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario, & John Wayne).[2] Ontario gets a lot of air freight business because it's got less air traffic and it's in a good location for trucking stuff around. The other airports in the Basin are really busy (LAX) or have shorter runways (Burbank) or are in noise-sensitive areas (John Wayne).[3]

[2] OK, Palmdale Airport has scheduled service, too, but it uses the USAF Plant 42 runways and stuff and isn't really an independent airport and it's not in the Basin, although it is in Los Angeles County. Van Nuys Airport doesn't have scheduled airline service, being a general aviation airport, but is still one of the busiest airports in the US. UPS could use it, I'm sure, but it's in a noise-sensitive area.

[3] Why people buy a house near an airport and then complain about the noise is something I do not understand. If you don't like airport noise, don't buy a house by an airport! You don't hear me complaining about Plant 42 or Fox Field or Bermuda Dunes Airport. Which reminds me of a funny story (a lot of things remind me of funny stories, probably because I'm easily amused). For background, you have to remember that Edwards Air Force Base is the USAF's flight testing base and does most of its flying between 0700 and 1600 on weekdays, unlike the regular Air Combat Command bases.

So, here's the story, from back in the days when realtors didn't have to warn prospective buyers about everything. Some family, who lived Down Below (that's what we call the Los Angeles Basin up here), came to Lancaster house-hunting on the weekends. They were looking for a little acreage and settled on a place out in the northwest corner of the valley. They moved up on a Saturday, got all settled in on Sunday, and were sleeping the sleep of the just on Monday morning when the first wave of USAF sorties launched at 0700 and a couple of the airplanes made runs down the Alpha Corridor into the bombing range at low altitude and high speed. The version I've heard says that the couple just about levitated out of bed, thinking they were under attack or something, because they hadn't heard or seen any military aircraft on the weekends and didn't realize how close the base really was.

This would have been a better story a decade or two later, when NASA started landing Orbiters at Edwards. Those come in from space dragging a spectacularly loud sonic boom that would have really jolted the folks out of bed.

Oh, No, The Microwave Broke!

My microwave, which I treasured because it's also a convection oven, had a sticky switch that was getting worse and worse. On Tuesday it finally failed completely and I was forced to rely on non-microwave techniques to make dinner. I was worried that we were going to starve to death if we didn't replace it soon.

Although, you know, microwave ovens aren't that new; they were in routine use in 1966 in the food vending areas at UCLA and I got my first one in about 1973. The one that broke is only my second, in fact.[1] About all that they've added in the last twenty or so years is the popcorn button, as nearly as I can tell. Not that the popcorn button isn't important, but it doesn't seem like much of an advance.

I did a lot of e-shopping and ended up at Amazon. I started out looking for another microwave convection oven combo but discovered that they were expensive ($550-650), lower powered than microwave-only ovens, and there wasn't much choice of models. Well, I thought long and hard about it and realized that I hadn't used the convection feature more than once or twice a year. Maybe it isn't really a necessity, after all.

So I looked at non-convection microwaves. What a difference! Zillions to pick from, much less expensive (less than $200), and lots with high power. I settled on a 1.6 cu ft 1250 watt model in stainless steel. With a popcorn button. It was about $180 (the stainless steel pushed it up, I think) and Amazon is sending it next-day for only $4.[2]

It's going to be here tomorrow. I've started clearing the microwave cart and will move the old oven tomorrow morning. The new one should be here in place, ready to heat, by dinnertime and life will be back to normal. Amazing how we settle into routines and find it's a bit of a shock to have them disrupted.

[1] That's for this house. I had a little one at work that I gave away when I retired, the first Palm Desert house had an over-the-stove one that doubled as a vent, and I bought a countertop model for the current PD house because I don't like the over-the-stove kind.

[2] We signed up for the Amazon Prime service and get second-day air free. I think Amazon must have cut a great deal with UPS, because I don't think they pay list price.

20 June 2007

Blue Lagoon Merino/Tencel Fingering Weight Yarn

Blue Lagoon Merino/Tencel Fingering Weight Yarn
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

This is a beautiful yarn from The Woolen Rabbit. The yarn is greener than it looks in this photo, though.

I've just started knitting a Diamond Fantasy Shawl with it. I'm on row 40 or so (tip up, not center down) and it looks very good to me. As I knitted I started wondering about the yarn. Is a Merino/Tencel yarn suitable for lace? Is it going to block well?

Would anyone with experience with knitting lace with Merino/Tencel care to comment? I'd love to hear any opinions.

19 June 2007

Argosy Baby Blanket

Argosy Baby Blanket
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

Here's my Argosy Baby Blanket. It's more nearly done than I thought it was. I haven't knitted much on it recently, because it's too warm to sit around with a woolly blanket on my lap. However, seeing how little I have to go, maybe I'll try to do a little every day. It's cool enough in the mornings here (68° F when I got up).

Looking at this photo, I'm convinced I can see a pattern in the color placement. It looks like a moiré pattern, doesn't it? Or maybe a Bargello flame pattern?

Let me suggest to anyone who wants to knit this blanket that you not use sport weight. Try worsted or heavy worsted (aran). If I had, I'd have been done a while ago with the number of stitches I've knitted.

And, especially, don't use Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport. It has long stretches where it's thinner than fingering weight. The color of this yarn disguised that a bit, but it would look wretched otherwise. Since the yarn is merino it should "bloom" a bit after being washed, but I obviously haven't done that yet. Still, I don't think all the blooming in the world would be enough.

There's not much happening around here. Our lawyer has moved to another firm, so we have a new one to work with. Right now we're mostly waiting on procedural stuff (notifying possible creditors, etc). We just this morning sent the van down to the San Fernando Valley to have the modified system worked on. The electric side door and the underfloor ramp weren't working at all. We'd tried to get them fixed locally, but that had turned into a real goat rope.

18 June 2007

Baby Surprise Jacket

Baby Surprise Jacket
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

Here's a photo of my BSJ, from Friday evening. I've done a little more on it, having reached the first increase row. It sure looks odd, though.

I'm actually composing this in Flickr, where I uploaded the photos, and I can't post more than one photo at a time using it. I'll see if I can figure out how to do multiple photos from here. Otherwise you'll see the Argosy Baby Blanket tomorrow.

14 June 2007

Another Baby!

We went over to see our lawyer about my mom's estate yesterday and he mentioned in passing that his sister, also a lawyer here in Lancaster, is going to make him an uncle next week. Naturally I started rummaging through my stash the instant I got home. It was easy to decide on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket but harder to decide on the wool.

I don't know exactly what Shetland wool is, but I deduce it's roughly sport weight, with six stitches to the inch. Nor do I know how many yards there are in 3 oz of it. I don't believe in giving new mothers baby clothes that have to be hand-washed, which means a lot of my stash wouldn't do. I also don't believe in synthetics for babies or children, because they (the synthetics) burn like sons of bitches. Wool, on the other hand, is self-extinguishing. I hope everyone will remember this when they're knitting for babies.

I broke my own rule, though, because I'm knitting this BSJ in acrylic. Lion Brand Microspun in French Vanilla, to be exact. The parents don't smoke, the yarn isn't fuzzy or furry, the jacket is fairly close fitting, it's washable, and I'm in a hurry. I'll issue the appropriate warnings, of course. Plus, I've got three skeins of the same dye lot at hand.

I'm a half stitch off gauge, with 5.5, not 6, stitches to the inch, meaning that the jacket will be a bit on the large size. However, babies are bigger these days than they were when EZ sized the pattern and it's the beginning of summer and this jacket isn't going to get much wear for a few months, so I figure it's OK. I'd show you a photo, but how exciting is a six-row strip of garter stitch in cream yarn?

In other news, I scored my first victory as the administrator of my mom's estate this morning and bent the Bank of America to my will. We got a notice two weeks ago that BofA had deducted the yearly rental for a safe deposit box from my mom's former account. That was the first thing we'd ever heard about her having one and we were pretty surprised. Yesterday I went over to my mom's house and looked around for the key, which we found almost immediately. So today I took the key, my copy of the Probate Court order appointing me as administrator, my mom's death certificate, and my dad's death certificate.

It took over an hour to actually get through all the steps required to even get the box open and well over half an hour for the bank employees to inventory the contents. Then it took about half an hour to close the box and get a refund for the rental. I didn't rent another box or anything, because nothing current in the box was irreplaceable.

13 June 2007

Decreasing Rows and Short Hair

Yesterday morning I got my hair cut. I can't tell you how good it feels to have short hair again. I'd tried growing my hair out into an ear-lobe length bob, which really wasn't the best style in the world for my thick, wavy hair. Then when we went down to Palm Desert I just never got around to getting it cut, for four months, and it grew long enough to brush the top of my shoulders. The longest hair was getting close to a foot long, I think.

At this point it turned into a real pain. It was hot under all that hair, which was marginally too short to be gathered up with a clip or band, and it seemed to me that had hair in my face constantly. Plus, it took a long time to dry.

So I got it clipped. Five inches long at the crown, tapering to nothing at the neckline. My hairdresser is one of the best I've ever had at layering hair down the back of the head. It's neat, just long enough to have a little foof, while still hugging my head, and there's no discontinuity anywhere.

If I could just remember where I packed my camera, I'd post a photo. Oh, well, it'll turn up soon, as we're going to finish unpacking by Friday. I'm pretty sure I put it in a knitting bag, or in a box of yarn, or in the box of knitting supplies, because I intended to take some photos of new yarn or the baby blanket or something.

Speaking of new yarn, I got an 880-yd skein of merino lace weight in a beautiful light orange color. The dyer calls it tangerine, but it's more like the color of the flesh instead of the rind. It's still a fairly bright color. Photos to follow, etc.

And there's some real progress with the baby blanket. I finished the 21st pattern repeat, meaning I've bound off 12 pattern squares, 144 stitches. The current repeat has 19 squares, or 229 stitches. That goes a lot faster. Photos to follow, etc.

Today I'm going over to my mom's for the first time since February. There are a few items of great sentimental value I want to collect and bring back here, but I don't really expect to get much else done. This is more to make a survey of how much there is to do. I know there are cartons of historical records belonging to the volunteer groups, for example, and all I have to do with them is hand them over to their respective owners. It's when I have to make decisions about her own things that it gets hard.

10 June 2007

Baby Blanket Progress

I've finished three pattern repeats and have twelve more to go. That means I only have to knit 144 pattern squares and I'll be done. If I could remember where my camera is and find the energy to go get it, I'd put up a photo. Maybe about Tueday I'll manage this. Right now I'm yawning so hard it's interfering with my knitting.

We're in Lancaster and I'm feeling quite frazzled. It's a lot easier to pack things in a leisurely manner than it is to unpack that way.

I had some beautiful yarn waiting for me when I got here. Cashmere and silk, rayon and mohair, and merino, all in wonderful colors. And some new books, too. A few about knitting but more about military science fiction or mysteries.

It sure is sad to be here without any collies around.

07 June 2007

Still Here, Not There

OK, it's a long story, but we haven't gone to Lancaster yet. The big delay was that I finally got the receptacles on the circuit for my freezer changed from GFCIs to regular receptacles yesterday afternoon. The GFCI is a great invention, particularly for circuits that are around water, but it's crummy for freezers and refrigerators. If a GFCI trips and there's no one around to reset it, everything inside the freezer or fridge will spoil. In the summer heat we have here, it'll spoil quickly, so the once-a-week check our house sitter does won't be enough. I think I'd have to call in one of those companies that cleans up after undiscovered dead bodies to get the stink and mess out if it happened with the fridge.

Right now everything is in the van except the few things that can't stand the heat (it's cool today, only 87° with the dew point at 27° (relative humidity 12%). It's been about 10° warmer the last few days and will be again. Unfortunately, there's only a knot or two of wind, which doesn't help much in the garage.

The only knitting that isn't out there is my Argosy baby blanket. I've finished three pattern repeats on the decrease side, binding off six pattern squares (72 stitches). It's funny, but now it looks like a blanket, not a shawl. I don't notice any real change in row length, but I figure it'll show up after another few pattern repeats, when the rows get down below 240 stitches or so.

I've figured out three things about myself in the last few weeks. A lot of other knitters probably have the same traits, so I'm sure I'm not alone.

The first is that I hate knitting to a close deadline. I enjoyed knitting the feather and fan stole until I only had a week or two before I had to have it finished and blocked. I still enjoyed knitting it once I picked it up, but it was really hard to pick it up those last few days. I don't anticipate the same problem with the baby blanket because the deadline is in November and it's fun to knit.

The second is that I greatly prefer a project where I can see progress at a glance, particularly for a longer project. Argosy, in any of its forms, is like that. The pattern repeats are short enough and definite enough that there's instant gratification, even with sport-weight yarn. My fan and feather stole isn't. I think that's because the repeats aren't very distinctive.

And the third is that I hate to have my yarn trapped inside my circular needles. It just bugs me no end and I have to pass the ball through the needles to free the yarn.

I really don't have much to say today. I do some work around the house, knit a couple of rows, do some more, etc. Pretty much everything is packed and I'm just doing the stuff I do so that it's nicer returning. I do all the laundry and get everything folded, run a last load in the dishwasher, put out clean towels, change the bed, that sort of thing. It drives my husband crazy, watching me race around the house doing all this stuff just before we leave, so I'm getting it all done today.

05 June 2007

Joining Ravelry

I just got an invitation to join Ravelry, so I zipped over and did so. Oh, my, there's going to be a lot of keying in information about yarn and projects and patterns. I think I could spend a lot of time there.

Now that I've seen it, I can see why they didn't want to just throw it open to the world all at once. The various databases will benefit, I think, by being built gradually. Even that's not perfect, as I've seen a couple of errors that need correcting.

Anyway, if you've signed up to join, they're clearing the list. However, that list has 4,500 people on it, so it may take them a while.

04 June 2007

Omnes Didn't Exuent Today; Maybe Tomorrow

We didn't manage to leave here today. IA migraine sneaked up on me and the weather decided to be unreasonable. No one needs 109° weather when they're going over Banning and El Cajon passes, so we waved off and spent the day relaxing. This is one of the pitfalls of being retired. It's really easy to just let things slip a day or two when you have no real deadlines to meet.

I got off top dead center on my Argosy baby blanket and finished pattern repeat 16, the middle row. I've bound off two pattern squares and it's all downhill from here. Every time I finish a pattern repeat I'll have two fewer squares and 24 fewer stitches. Those 373-stitch rows were getting to me. Photos will follow soon, once I get to Lancaster tomorrow.

That is, if tomorrow really is cooler, albeit windy, as they're forecasting and my migraine finally goes away and nothing else happens to delay us. I'm avoiding sounding certain in hope that it works better that way.

03 June 2007

Exuent Omnes

I'm not quite sure how to describe tomorrow. It's either going to be "With a horse the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty "Hiyo, Silver, Away!" or "Three yards and a cloud of dust."

The van is three-fourths loaded, with only stuff I don't want sitting in a hot garage overnight left to go. The windows are latched, blinds and verticals are drawn, and we'll be on our way mid-morning. OK, I'm going to aim for an 0900 departure and we'll probably pull out of the driveway before 1100. OK, before noon.

I decided to take all the dog stuff (slicker brushes, dishes, treats, etc) with us in hope that we'll get a puppy this spring. I have a breeder looking for one for us and I'm optimistic. Not that that's any different from normal, as I'm always optimistic. I've lived my entire life in a cloud of optimism and it's worked out pretty well on the whole. I've enjoyed it so far, at least.

Oh, yeah, this time I'm taking the system and software CDs. I left them here last time and I sure did miss them.

I may be a little scarce for a few days, as there will be a fair amount of unpacking to do at the other end. I'll be back.

02 June 2007

Even Stockinette Stitch And Packing Up

I'm resting up after packing four boxes and one (!) under-bed storage bin full of yarn to go to Lancaster. You may remember I had two boxes, three bins, and a bunch of yarn still in the closet a couple of days ago. I thinned down what I'd already packed up and then added the last bits I couldn't live without, which was another box. Even though I have four boxes, they're a lot less densely packed than the first two were. And I can get the lid on the bin without it bowing upward.

I've got two or three 1 cu ft boxes of books, mostly sf and actual science. I might have not quite one box of knitting books, but I sent another box back earlier with my friend Pat. I'm leaving over half the books I brought down here, but I did buy a few new ones that I can't bear to leave behind.

I have food and clothing and a few personal things, like prescription medications, to pack, too, but that's a lot easier. We have a lot of duplicates at each house, so that we don't have to take everything both ways, just a few things. The clothes just go out last, on hangers, and get laid on top of the boxes in back. Food, mostly perishables, goes into ice chests or grocery bags.

So right now I'm trying something different with my Faina's Scarf. I've got the tip and half a body repeat knitted on US 4/3.5 mm needles, but I think that's a little tight for the Micro Spun (which, if you want my opinion, should be named Annoying Micro Split, but it is soft). So I'm starting another scarf, using US 5/4.0 mm needles. I think that's going to work better, but I won't know for sure until I finish the tip and start on the straight body section. It's there that I'm unhappy with the tighter-knit version because it cups. If I were using wool, I might be able to convince myself it would block out, but not with a synthetic.

So, you ask, what does this have to do with even stockinette stitch? I'm like a lot of knitters, I have a little trouble getting the purl rows and the knit rows to be the same size when I knit stockinette flat. This is more usual with yarns that aren't very stretchy, of course; stockinette in merino looks pretty good without much effort. I tried using a smaller needle for the purl rows, but then they're too tight (I probably need a needle about half a size smaller), so I mostly avoided large stretches of flat stockinette early in my knitting career.

A long time ago I had an epiphany. I was watching a friend knit on the tips of her needles, with the yarn wrapped tightly enough around her fingers to almost cut off the circulation. She produces the tightest knitting I've ever seen. She usually goes up about three or four needle sizes to get gauge.

The epiphany was that she wasn't knitting on the needles, she was knitting on the tips, and this is why her knitting was so tight. Well, that and that her stitches were so close together there wasn't any slack. My purling is too loose knitted on the needles so why not try knitting them on the tips, with the stitches close together? So I did. And it worked.

I was taught to slide my new stitch down past the tip onto the barrel of the needle and I usually do so. I still do so for the knit rows of stockinette. When I'm doing stockinette with non-stretchy yarn, though, I form the purl stitches at about 2/3rds or 3/4ths of the tapered tip and I don't slide each stitch onto the barrel of the needle, but just leave it there and knit the next one right beside it. Knitting this way makes my stockinette stitch very even because my purl rows aren't looser than my knit rows.

If any of you are plagued, as I was, by uneven stockinette, I hope this technique will help. It may take some practice at first, but give it a try and let me know.

01 June 2007

Reality Is A Stone Bitch

I've got my Argosy Baby Blanket half done and there it sits. I've been led astray by four skeins of cherry red Lion Brand Micro Spun and the pattern for Faina's Scarf. I don't have all that much done yet, so I'm not going to waste bandwidth with a photo.

The real reason I haven't gotten much knitting done is that I've been doing laundry and packing things up to go back up to Lancaster. I'm having a really hard time deciding which yarn stays and which yarn goes. I've got 3 cu ft of yarn packed into boxes, plus three big under-bed storage bins, and I haven't reached the back of the closet, where a lot of new yarn lives. I'm not going to knit it all up this summer, not with everything I have to do at my mom's house, getting it ready to go on the market, but I'm having trouble leaving the really good stuff behind.

I'm going to have to get serious and be realistic about what and how much I'm going to knit. I should be able to leave more here. It's not like I'm going to a house without yarn, after all. The yarn I have here may be a bit flashier than the yarn up there, but it's not nicer.

In case anyone was wondering, I do not have enough yarn here to fill up the entire mini-van. For some reason, that's a great comfort to me. I guess having that much yarn would just be excessive according to some judgmental bit of my mind.