Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Best wishes to each one of you for a happy and blessed 2012!

I’m ending 2011 with a quiet happy dance.  My mother’s old recipe box collapsed when I took it down during Christmas cooking, and I simply dumped everything into an empty coffee can and went on.  I decided to follow my daughter’s example and combine my mother’s cards and mine into transparent sleeves and put them in a 3-ring notebook.  The pages came yesterday, so I set to work this morning.  I have been looking for a few years for a recipe that my mother used to make every Christmas that she referred to as “date loaf.”  I hunted through all the relevant categories in her box—candy, desserts, cakes, cookies.  I hunted on the internet sites using the ingredients I remembered.  I had no luck either place.  Today the first loose recipe that I pulled out of the can, actually in a handful of three, was that recipe.  The title on it read, “Date Pudding.”  I’m not sure why, since even the directions describe rolls that you slice, but it was filed with two other puddings.  Even though Christmas is over, I think I’ll get the ingredients the next time I go to the grocery store and make some just because I can.

I also finished knitting the Botanical Cowl last night.  At the moment, it is wet blocking, but I suppose that is my last knitting project of 2011.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hat for Hubby

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This is made from Paton’s D├ęcor left over from one of the Christmas blankets I knitted.  The pattern is Waffle Hat by Gayle Bable, available on Ravelry.  It makes a very cushy-feeling hat, and it is easy to follow.  In our 34 years of marriage, I don’t ever remember him having a knitted hat with a stripe, so I went all out with this one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wallaby Notes

The latest Wonderful Wallaby is finished.  Since this is my 8th, I wanted to pass along hints that I have gained from experience.

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  • Sizing—This pattern has been around for awhile.  As written, it is definitely intended for a garment that is shorter than most of us wear them today, and it is also obviously intended to be worn as a sweater that replaces another inner top.  If you live where a hoodie is most useful as an outer garment pulled on over other clothes on a chilly day, you will need to consider that in your sizing.  My personal recommendation is to measure a garment that fits correctly, check your gauge, and make the size needed.  Length is not a problem--just keep knitting.  On the sleeves you will want to judge from the underarm down on another garment.  For children, I make the sleeves extra long with tight ribbing.  I’m going for 2 years of wear.
  • Yarn—My personal favorite for child wear is Plymouth Encore.  I get it from Webs.
  • Edges—My personal preference, which sort of messes up the Wallaby signature—for the neck placket and the edges of the pouch pocket is to use seed stitch instead of garter.  I like the firmer edge that it gives.
  • Needles—This garment is a perfect place to use a circular needle set.  I use cables as stitch holders all over the place with those little caps on the ends.  I screw and unscrew tips as needed for needle sizes.  I change cable lengths when needed.
  • Do follow the pattern suggestion about marking your pickup row for the pocket stitches.  It makes life much easier. 
  • I have made ties with a crocheted chain, with single crochet, with narrow seed stitch, and with I-cord.  They all work, but the chain is a little skinny for convenience.
  • Hood—The ribbing at the base of the hood makes the neck of the sweater fit very nicely.  I always make the garter hood.  I like the stretchiness and I like the contrast in texture with the body of the sweater.  The pattern suggests that for a nice finish the seam in the top of the hood should be kitchenered.  I did that on the first few that I made.  However, since you are kitchenering a folded seam, you are putting together two furrows or two ridges.  I just don’t like the way that looks.  I began experimenting with #7 with stopping with a wrong side row, turning to the right side, folding the hood, and using a three-needle bindoff.  It makes a slightly more pronounced ridge than the other garter ridges, but I think it looks much nicer than the other way, and it is still nice and stretchy.

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What I will do differently the next time:  I will put the underarm stitches on the sleeves and body on a firmer stitch holder than waste yarn.  It is very hard to pick them up nicely when I get ready to weave them together. 

Next up, a quick hat for my hubby and then a lovely pair of socks for ME, from some beautiful yarn my daughter’s family gave me for Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day After—Random Notes

Today was a knitting catch up day.  The replacement sweater that I intended to have finished for my youngest granddaughter by Christmas was put on hold during the days I was ill last week.  I knitted in every spare minute today, and I think that I am going to be able to finish tomorrow.  Smile

On the home front, I’m working on trying to get rid of one trash bag of throwaway clutter every day.  That does not include items to be given to charity.  I have to accumulate those and then take them when I am going out of town to a drop off place.

Before I retire tonight, I am also going to put on some steel-cut oats in my little crockpot.  I’ve been reading about doing this, and the recipe I found sounds good for breakfast.

While knitting, I’ve watched some tv or listened to audiobooks.  I’ve been able to download some of the Home Repair Homicide series by Sarah Graves.  I’ve actually read some of these before, but I can say that the audiobook narration is so entertaining that I’m enjoying them all over again.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A White Christmas

White Christmases are fairly rare in our part of the world.  We do have snow fairly frequently, but we tend to have most of our snows in the early months of the year.  However, there are “those” winters, and this one promises to become one of them.  We woke to the promised light snowfall this morning, hopped in the car, and set off to see our children in Amarillo.  Along the way, the snowfall became much heavier, with the roads covered.  Part of the reason they were covered was because there was such slight traffic.  Just as we reached Amarillo, the roads became relatively clear again.  We went to IHOP for breakfast with our son and his daughter, and then we drove to my daughter’s home for our Christmas.  With an 8-year-old and 2 4s, the gift opening didn’t take long.  We finished preparing our Christmas Dinner fairly quickly and ate it the same way because we could see the heavier snowfall out the window.  After the meal, we headed home, driving our 65 miles though snowfalls although the roads got better the farther we drove—sort of the reverse of the morning.  My daughter’s family needed to go 130 miles north, and they’ve arrived safely as well.  Son and his daughter are tucked in at his home.  I’m sure she’s playing with dolls and talking non-stop. 

Now I can post pictures of the Christmas knitting I didn’t show before.

The Emily Dickinson shawl:

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The second Moderne-style Blanket for my daughter’s new living room:

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And, in a no-affiliation recommendation, may I say that sewsecret4dolls on etsy makes cute, really well-made clothes for the American Girl and similar sized dolls that are easy for younger children to put on and take off.  I can assure you the products were road-tested today!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas today, even if it had to be a little bit brief, like ours.

And, for the final word on the holiday—I GOT YARN!  Pictures will follow when I can get a true color shot set up.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Nativity-Cross

And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans--and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused--and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.
― Sigrid Undset

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmases Performances Past

I went looking the other day for a remembered performance from a Tom Jones Christmas show.  In 1969, this young Welshman was one of the HOT contemporary entertainers.  This celebration of his heritage had me looking up Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” and to this very day I try to read it again sometime during the Christmas season.

Many years later at the Vatican Concert:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finally!

Weather, scheduling, a series of illnesses, and other general obstacles have kept me from getting together will all three granddaughters at the same time to make Christmas ornaments this year.  Today was the day!  I have one picture, my oldest granddaughter winding the yarn to make the wool on her sheep, which she named Sunshine in honor of the yellow yarn.  I tried to get pictures of the two 4 year olds, but they were moving at warp speed, so the pics turned into a blurry mess.

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The sheep bodies are bamboo, and I ordered them on etsy from Girl on the Rocks after seeing them on Franklin Habit’s blog last Christmas.  (Check out the fridge in the background.)

Just to be fair, the two little cousins, all ready for the Christmas Kinderkonzert  performed by the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra:

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Christmas Day will have to be extraordinary to be better than today.  I missed the older one and her little cousin and found that the big one had tucked M in for her nap and was reading her bedtime stories. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shopping Feedback

I did almost all my Christmas shopping on computer this year. Keeping in mind that these are only my personal experiences, I thought it might be worthwhile to post an evaluation of the service I received from different merchants. Of course, I realize that any one transaction could just be a one-time glitch, so please take that into account. Yes, I would have shopped locally, but I live in a very small town in which items that I wanted to purchase were not available. Adding in 35-70 miles, one-way, in gasoline costs made shopping on line seem like a good alternative.

  • Amazon—I found their customer service to be superior. The most difficult thing is hunting down the appropriate place on the web site. I used their chat service twice, once for a shipment that did not arrive and once for a digital download that I was charged the customary price for instead of the sale price. They immediately shipped a replacement for the first item by next day air, and they refunded the entire price of the download and did not charge me anything. In both cases, the resolution was more than I would have expected.
  • Target—I had difficulty placing an order on the Cyber weekend. Telephone customer service was also unreachable at the time. I ordered two of the same item. The items shipped at two different times by two different routes. They did keep me informed by email.
  • Land’s End—Shipping and customer service were adequate.
  • Hobby Lobby—I took advantage of their 40% off and some shipping offers in order to knit for Christmas. Their shipping was very fast and efficient. Orders were correct.
  • JoAnns—Service was good. Coupons were good. Hobby Lobby shipping was much, much faster.
  • Penneys—an old favorite of mine. I was very disappointed in customer service. I had difficulty placing the order from my shopping bag. It was being sent directly to the recipient, so I wanted to be notified and to be able to tell that person when to expect a package. The tracking system did not work. I called customer service, and they acted as if I were being unreasonable by wanting tracking info.
  • Others—I ordered two or three individual items from various sources that were mostly just one-time purchases. All arrived satisfactorily.
  • Etsy—every etsy vendor that I bought from shipped promptly and with care.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Best-Laid Plans. . . .

When Robert Burns wrote about plowing up a mouse’s nest, he was writing about this time of year:

An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

We are definitely into bleak December winds, accompanied by snow, which are already wreaking havoc with holiday plans.  This is a mixed blessing.  After more than a year of drought and predictions for a dry winter, any amount of snow is welcome, and this is our second for the season.   However, blizzard conditions on the plains are not to be taken lightly.  In addition, it is always possible for blizzard snows to produce very little in the way of measurable precipitation, so we are waiting to see.  This weather will interfere with my planned trip on Wednesday to make Christmas ornaments with the granddaughters, but Christmas Day itself should be clear.  Our snow accumulations here are small enough to cause amusement to those of you up north, but because we don’t have frequent large snowfalls, we don’t have the snow removal equipment that is common in other parts of the country either.  It just isn’t economically practical. 

Furthermore, I was visited by a gastrointestinal something-or-other over the weekend.  Fortunately, my actual Christmas shopping and knitting was done.  I need to wrap.  The replacement sweater will probably not be quite finished by Christmas Day, however.  I know better than to try to knit when my mind is that foggy.

Right now, Hubby and I are in a warm house with a slab of ribs having just been cooked in the roaster, so everything smells great.  We can enjoy an evening of television and knowing that we don’t have to fight our way to work in the morning.

I just found this video interpretation of Burns’ poem:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Knitting Report for Friday

Wallaby progress—Finished body up to point where the sleeves attach.  Attached sleeves.  Ready to start the yoke tomorrow.

Lace project—Knitting was finished two or three weeks ago, but I didn’t have the courage to block it.  For one thing, my sore knee hurt enough if I stood still that I didn’t want to have to stand there while shoving in pins; for another, I was afraid that I would see a glaring error when I got it all stretched out.  This afternoon, I got brave!

Obligatory squished up lace photo--

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Pinned out--

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I am already a little disappointed in that while my shawl is blocking out nicely to the appropriate size, it is not as airy and light looking as the original.  Of course, I have no good reason to feel that way, since the original was knitted from cobweb weight and mine is knitted from Zephyr laceweight, which fine as it is, is comparatively a much heavier yarn than cobweb. 

Tomorrow I must sort and wrap some gifts and put the brisket—packer cut—into the refrigerator to thaw so that I can begin marinating it for Christmas dinner. The Wallaby also needs a yoke.

Knitting and a Present

I bought myself a present for Christmas, thanks to a suggestion from the Yarn Harlot’s series on gifts for knitters:

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This is a small, fully-lined project bag from the etsy shop of Stitchy McYarnpants.  I can always use another project bag, but I was also thrilled to see the fabric.  My first readers in first grade were from the Dick and Jane series, so I really loved this idea.  Now all it needs is socks in progress. 

The Wallaby is also growing. 

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The Wallaby pocket is knitted and fused, and 4 more inches of plain stockinette in the round will reach the sleeve attachment point. 

Please excuse the posing quality of these pics.  I am moving too fast right now to take on finding places for artistic poses for knitting products.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wallaby Diary, continued

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, so we drove up to Amarillo, bought groceries at United, and had lunch with the children and grandchildren.  All in all, it was a very nice day, but I got only a little bit of knitting done.

Today, I slept late after a restless night, and we spent some time putting together (him) and setting up (me) our Christmas/anniversary/his birthday present to each other, a new flat screen for the kitchen.  It’s a 22” Samsung, and will replace a very old 13” tv that we have had for probably 20 years.  The picture had gotten so fuzzy that we couldn’t actually read much of anything that scrolled across the screen.  This is going to be a real luxury.

I did, however, make some progress on the Wallaby.  The body is knitted up far enough for me to stop and drop back and pick up the stitches for the Wallaby pocket. I am going to try to get the pickup done tonight.  The pocket is one of my favorite parts of the sweater.

I finished listening to a really suspenseful mystery, Love You More by Lisa Gardner.  It is definitely a mindbender that keeps the reader interested and involved.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Movin’ On

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Bottom ribbing, body increases, and inserted “lifeline” so that stitches will be easier to pick up when I start the Wallaby pocket.  My Knit Picks Options make it particularly easy to insert this marker line.  I just thread some finer yarn through the hole for the tightening key, knit across the front of the sweater, and leave the line in.  That is much easier than going back with a yarn needle and picking out the stitches by hand, particularly when you have a yarn that is uneven in color saturation like this one.

Number Two

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Feel-good Christmas film recommendation—The Christmas Bunny, available on Netflix Watch Instantly.  I’d never seen this one.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Morning News Bulletin

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First sleeve.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome to the Wallaby Diary

Knitting has begun on the replacement Wonderful Wallaby.

First of all, a yarn picture:

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The yarn—Plymouth Encore in its Colorspun version—in the Hot Pink Specs colorway.  Encore is my go to yarn for Wallabies.  I think the acrylic content offers the parents the benefit of easy sweater care which is so important for young children.  The 25% wool content makes a lighter weight sweater than pure acrylic and makes it easier to weave in ends more invisibly and make more invisibe joins. Encore is also a “feel good” yarn to knit with.  I am not sure exactly why this yarn feels better going through my fingers than other yarns with the 75/25% fiber content mix, but it does.  I find the difference worth having to buy online and wait for an order and also having to spend a little more money per skein than from the other “identical” yarns.  FYI, this yarn was purchased online from WEBS. 

Some knitters suffer from second sock syndrome—for me, the disease is sleeve syndrome, first and second.  For some reason I hate knitting sleeves.  No matter how much I try to convince myself that a sleeve is just a sock without a heel and no matter that I know that actual clock time says sleeves go very fast, I just hate having a sweater almost done except for the sleeves.  (Remember that blue sweater I’ve been knitting for myself?  It’s just sitting right there by my chair waiting for sleeve completion!)  This time, I’m knitting sleeves first.  They will be all ready to attach when I reach that part of the body, and then I can just pop right on to the yoke and hood.  The first sleeve is just about 1/2 done:

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Looks like a hat, doesn’t it?  Two notes:

  • The hat shape is due to the fact that I am using the recommended increase method for small children and putting all the increases at the beginning of the sleeve.  As the pattern writer points out, very young children tend to have arms that are fairly uniform in size all the way up, so this gives a more comfortable fit.  I think it also fits better over long-sleeved garments if this particular sweater is being worn as a jacket.  A fussy child does not enjoy trying to get arms into tightly fitting sleeves, particularly with two fabrics exhibiting the “velcro effect.”  The pattern also gives directions for tapered sleeves.
  • It’s rather hard to see in the photograph, but I think this is some of the prettiest ribbing that I’ve ever knitted.  I almost always prefer 1 x 1 ribbing, and this is knitted using the combination knitting method that I learned in an online class from Annie Modesitt.  I hope the other sleeve and the bottom of the body turn out equally well.

If you are not familiar with this pattern, you should check it out on Ravelry.  It makes a very comfortable, easily-sized play sweater.  It can be very attractive, but it is also extremely practical and cozy.  The kangaroo pocket is a favorite with children and the technique is interesting.

Entertainment while knitting:  On Netflix, The McLeods; on MP3, The Serpent in the Crown, by Elizabeth Peters. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A Short Knitting Post

The Gingerbread Hat:

Gingerbread

This design is by Angelrae Knits.  The yarn is Knit Picks Swish Worsted, in Bordeaux.  The actual color is much more of a wine/maroon color than the picture.  The cables were fun.  I modified the pattern a little bit:  I knitted the size M on size 8 needles and used 84 stitches.  In addition, I changed the decreases at the top:  the pattern gave instructions for a regular gathered top and a more rounded top.  I used the more rounded instructions, but I also modified the placement of my decreases in order to make a more “straight up” run of the cables.  I intended for this hat to be unisex, since it is for Hats for Sailors.  This yarn is a dream to knit with.  I’ve used the DK before, but not the worsted,  I’m definitely a satisfied customer!

I didn’t knit today.  I wanted a break before starting the Wallaby.  I did spend a little time this afternoon tidying up some leftovers from projects and unraveling some of the previously knitted squares and rolling them into balls to be ready for my next Mitered Cross square. 

We had a roast from the crockpot, spinach, and beets for lunch/dinner.  In retirement we sometimes just eat one meal in the early afteroon with a light snack in the evening.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Long, Rambling Knitter Story

I need to do a quick knit of a Wonderful Wallaby to replace one that I knit last year for one of my granddaughters.  It seems to have disappeared in some family moving.  I found out a few weeks ago, but I needed to finish some Christmas projects, and since my preferred yarn for Wallabies is Plymouth Encore, I waited on a Webs order.  Then, when the yarn came, I couldn’t find my Wallaby pattern, so I ordered another, which didn’t come in until today.  I will be all ready to cast on tomorrow.  Meanwhile, on the theory that one should never be without knitting, particularly when one is trying to rest a knee, I knitted a hat and then I started on a project that I’ve been wanting to do since I saw it on the Mason-Dixon blog earlier in the year—the Mitered Cross Blanket.

A few months ago, I ordered some Plymouth Boku to do an afghan that I saw in a knitting magazine that used mitered squares.  I was about half through, and it was indeed very pretty, but then I realized that I should have noticed the size given in the instructions.  It was going to be much too small for my needs.  I considered ordering more yarn, but given the price of the Boku and the fact that I would need to order about 100% more, I hesitated.  Not to mention potential dyelot problems.  I kept eyeing the Mitered Cross pattern.  The original is of Noro Silk Garden, and the blended colors in the vivid crosses and in the “solid” background are what makes much of the attractiveness of the afghan.  There are not all that many yarns out there with long, beautifully blended color runs.  I looked and looked at other people’s work on Ravelry.  I finally decided that I’m going to unravel my mitered square blanket and use another yarn for the background.  Instead of a neutral with color runs, I am using a neutral tweed.  I think this will work well since the Boku is also rather tweedy.  I am using Paton’s Classic Wool Tweed in Aran for the background.  Even though it’s 100% wool and the Boku has some silk content, I think it is going to work out fine.  I have knitted one square.  Here it is, unblocked:

square 1

I will not be working on this steadily; I’ll be knitting squares while taking breaks or between other projects, so I’ll try to post progress and pictures as I make the squares.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Precipitation and a Warm Hat

Snow!

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This won’t be much in the way of moisture, but it beats high, dry winds, and it is certainly better than nothing at all. 

I haven’t accomplished quite as much the last couple of days as I had planned.  I stumbled over a box yesterday and banged up a knee a little bit.  All appears to be well, and I’m getting around today, trying to keep anything from getting stiff while letting it heal.  Fortunately, this is good knitting weather.  And it is GREAT retirement weather.  In this little town, driving to work in the snow was never much of a problem, but walking from the parking lot to the building could be a real challenge.  My husband would also have to clear sidewalks at our business. Today we didn’t have to do any of that.Open-mouthed smile

OTN:  The Gingerbread Hat in Knit Picks Swish Worsted, color Bordeaux.  My intention is for this to be one done for the next Hats for Sailors deadline on Memorial Day.  If it goes to someone else before then, I’ll just knit another.  The pattern is easy, and I’m enjoying the cables, since it’s been awhile since I did any.

I’m going to spend the rest of the evening with my knee up, knitting, and watching a new episode of The Closer

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Brief Post

I am short on time, so here are some random thoughts:

  • Check out this link to an interesting story from Edinburgh.
  • The tinked project is back on track, if not entirely caught up to the tinking point.
  • Observation about Facebook:  I have noticed that the former schoolmates who are most likely to post rants about what is wrong with the youth of today—the usual things—are the ones who had the reputations of being the biggest hellraisers and troublemakers when we were young.  Time evidently changes perspective. 
  • In spite of the complaints I read everywhere, I find Amazon’s customer service to be very good to excellent, even at very busy times of the year.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Tink, Tink, Tink

On the plus side:

  • Christmas shopping is mostly done.  I’m down to the bought-everything-I-really-need-unless-I-come-across-an-absolutely-perfect-tiny-something point.
  • Tomorrow will be our wedding anniversary—34 years.
  • I got 2 yarny packages today.  One is Paton’s Classic Tweed from JoAnns that will let me use some Plymouth Boku that I have on hand to make a Mitered Crosses Blanket.  I am not liking the pattern that I purchased the Boku for, so I’m changing.  The other is from KnitPicks—a new set of metal needle tips, size 8 (mine are showing some wear, and I sometimes have two projects that need this size at the same time); my first—no kidding—set of DPN sock needles—Harmony, 1 1/2s—I’ve always Magic Looped, but I’m going to try the dark side; and enough Swish in some different colors for the Hats for Sailors project for the next go-round, due Memorial Day.

Note:  Much of my knitting is self-or Internet- taught.  Years ago, I read about knitting with DPNs.  It was a hat.  I bought some.  There were 4 very heavy, very slick, very sharp size 7s about 8 inches long.  The instructions were scanty.  They just said something like “cast on x stitches, dividing evenly among needles.  Join ends and knit in the round.”  Of course, I spread the stitches over all 4 needles and then struggled to scoot them to the appropriate ends without getting stabbed by a needle that was sticking out or by one of the very heavy and slick missiles sliding out of the stitches and impaling my foot.  Therefore, I never seriously considered DPNs for sock knitting until now.  We’ll see if I’ve lost my nerve when I finish my current project.

On the minus side:

  • Knitting project is trying to beat me.  I quit putting in lifelines after the lace part.  Now I’ve found an unfixable mistake 10 rows down the double decrease in the center back, and I’m afraid to try to frog laceweight, so I’m painstakingly tinking back to the place for repair, unbeading as I go.  I’m reminding myself that it will be worth it and that one of the beauties of knitting is that unlike most things in life it can always be fixed or at least you can have a do-over.  I’m watching a miniseries on the British monarchy, and I just tinked from mid-reign of Elizabeth I to the beginning of the Civil War, and I am still not through.
  • None of the Christmas shopping is wrapped, not a single gift. 
  • I have all sorts of cleaning and decluttering to do.  Still need to get out the Christmas Cat.