Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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D.C. to Mass

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Weather hindered our plans in D.C., but we did get out and do stuff a few days. We went to the Navy Memorial (in the rain) and museum. On a sunnier day, we did the mall and monument walk:

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We visited the WWII memorial, which was pretty cool, but John felt it lacked sufficient recognition of the rest of the Allies:

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We went to my favorite place:

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As it turns out, my uncle lives across the street from the National Zoo. On another rainy day, we visited the animals:

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And then, a few days later, I went to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, which was awesome and had lots of spinners. And I got to meet in person the founders of Ravelry

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Casey and Jess, founders of Ravelry…. and me!

And at night, after I was exhausted and overstimulated from a day of petting wool and gawping at handknits, I went to their awesome party, and ran into friends I’ve made as far away as Kansas City. A couple days later, we were back on the road:

We did a 2-day sprint from Washington to Boston:
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Spent the night in New York, just north of the border. Then it was back on the road through Albany and across to:

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(Notice how there are progressively more bugs on the windshield as we go from Penn to NY to Mass…. we had the RV washed the day before we left.)

Since arriving on Wednesday, we’ve seen my grandmother, uncle, aunt, and our friends Ken and Jill. We haven’t done much sight-seeing yet, but that’s largely because we’ve been working and visiting and now getting ready for John’s trip back to California. He flies out tomorrow, leaving me with no TV (too much tree cover), a lot of yarn, and the Internet.

I swear, I will try not to get into too much trouble. Really!

Master Knitting Program progress

I’ve been told this process is easier if I blog about it on the way. One of my friends once said that I was the kind of person who, when doing something for the first time, I invite an audience along for the ride, even though what I do might be utter crap. This is completely true– I believe in the process of learning and try/fail so much, that I’m willing to fall flat on my nose in front of a crowd (and I have!)

Anyway, here’s the progress so far:

I knitted Swatch #1 and 2. Swatches 1,2,3, and 14 are supposed to be knit with the same yarn and needles. The only difference is in the stitches, so you can compare them and see “why is stockinette different from garter?” Swatches 1 and 2 are garter and stockinette, respectively.

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Swatch #1: Garter Stitch

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Swatch #2: Stockinette Stitch

[Please ignore how crappy Swatch #2 looks– neither one has been blocked yet.]

Now, allow me to ramble about what has been going on with these two swatches.

First, I started Swatch 1 and knit the ribbing. I noticed something that I had noticed on the sweater I made, the sweater I failed to make, the socks I was knitting at the moment– in fact, everything I make that isn’t in lace gauge. I have “bumps” or ridges in the back of my stockinette. In other words, when I try to knit a flat piece of knitting, there are ridges in the back:

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Rrrruffles have rrrridges!

I learned, from reading about tension problems in the many useful resources on the TKGA web site, that knitting is not supposed to have those ridges. I was shocked. I thought they were decorative. I thought they were why people complain about purls. I thought…

Well, anyway. Never mind what I thought. Knitterly denial is a powerful thing.

The problem was, the TKGA web site discussed lots of ways to fix your stockinette, assuming your purls were looser than your knits. Looser? I looked at my stitches. Only if being looser meant they were smaller, tighter and more cramped looking. In some places, my purl stitches disappear they’re so much tighter than the knits.

I knew I was in trouble.

I turned to Ravelry. And here, let me state, again, that there’s no resource in the world that’s been as helpful to me as Ravelry. I’m going to have to figure out how to cite Rox on Ravelry in my references when I do them, because she’s the one who led me to this information:

Until a week ago, I was a Combination knitter. This means, in essence, that although I knit normally for an English-style knitter, I wrap my purls around the needle backwards, and this means that not only don’t they have enough yarn to form an even tension with the knits, but they’re also a bit twisted from the knits.

Who knew?

Well, probably people in my knitting group, but when you crank out projects anyway, nobody cares about how you did it. The truth is, in knitting, this little difference doesn’t mean all that much (if you swatch correctly, you will adjust for tension problems as you knit your garment to fit– this is why my sweater fits even though it has uneven tension). Except in two places: the depth of my heart, and the TKGA Master Knitting program.

So for the last week or so, I’ve been wrapping the purls the other way. Two things happened when I did this. First, I found it very hard to switch. I mean, you try doing something so much it becomes muscle memory, and then change it!

Second, magically, my purls had the same tension as my knits.

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Glory hallelujah!

Anyway, I’m going to re-do my Swatch 1, because I also went back and re-read the directions. As it turns out, I didn’t weave the ends in correctly, so I want to re-do the swatch with the correct weaving-in.

We can’t tell if they’re identical or fraternal twins….

I’ve been working on knitting this pair of socks. It’s a pattern called Jaywalker, really popular free pattern that a lot of people have made. Usually when I make socks, I embrace their fraternalness at the outset. Even when I make socks out of monochromatic yarns, the two socks don’t match perfectly or completely. The gauge changes or I screw up (*ahem* “add a design feature”) or whatever. Even if I knit them both at the same time on 2 needles, they are never the same.

So, naturally, I used self-striping sock yarn for these Jaywalkers, because the Jaywalker pattern is a zig-zag, and that looks just too darn spiffy in striping yarn. Usually, striping yarn is a guarantee that my socks will look similar, but will not match. The stripes are never in the exact same places. The makers of these yarns deliberately change the repeats so your feet don’t look like candy canes, so even if you start a sock with “pink,” it’s likely that one sock will have “orange” as the next color, and the other will have “blue” instead.

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No problem– I don’t mind at all. My feet aren’t identical, after all.

I usually start the second sock within minutes of finishing the first, when doing 2 socks separately. That reduces the amount of difference between them, and it helps combat Second Sock Syndrome. I was really impressed with myself for starting the second sock, even though it had been overnight between grafting the toe of the first sock and casting on the second.

What did these socks do? Oh, yes. You guessed it. I’ve knitted one complete sock. I started the second. Things looked… eerily familiar. I have knit all the way to the heel on sock #2.

The stripes matched up. Perfectly.

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I won’t say “these socks are identical,” because I have already made enough mistakes in them that that is an impossibility. What I will say is that, when they are on my feet, they will *look* identical, due to the stripes matching up.

I’m flabbergasted. I don’t actually know what to do with matching sock. I’m guessing that somewhere right in the middle of sock #2’s instep, I’m going to discover some enormous glaring problem that will fudge up the whole stripe pattern. But if not… just wow.

Later…..

I visited with an old friend in Wellesley today– someone I’ve known since college. He had us over for dinner to meet the new baby and catch up. I brought the Amazing Striping Socks with me.

Sure enough. After I’d picked up the stitches on the heel and was working the first rows of gusset decreases. There it was. The thing I KNEW would be there.

A KNOT.

Oh, yes, indeed. A knot, tying two different colors of the striping pattern together. And, naturally, changing the stripes so the socks will. No. Longer. Match.

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Sock #1 heel gusset: Notice purple-pink-orange-blue sequence.

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Sock #2 gusset: Purple-orange-black-and-white stripe sequence.

Muahahahhah…. I feel some kind of perverse joy in this. Like, I could not have fully enjoyed these socks if they hadn’t found a way to screw up that perfectly amazing surprise delight.

I feel vindicated. Also: pleased to be already on the decreases, having turned the heel before dinner. The gusset decreases are the part where your sock forms a kind of triangle below the ankle. It’s after the bend for the heel, and before it turns back into a tube (for the long narrow part of your foot). I am about 12 rows away from the home stretch– the foot tube, from which there is nothing left but stockinette until long enough, then decrease to the toe and bind off. Of course, this sock will have 2 extra ends to weave in, where I had to overlap the yarn. But otherwise… really, it’s almost like being perfect!

PS: I don’t really want perfect socks. Why should anything I knit be perfect? It’s all made by me! I want it to look like it was made by me. Wonderful, creative, silly, IMPERFECT me!

Maryland Sheep & Wool

I am going to have to draw out the Maryland Sheep & Wool amazement a bit, but I wanted to share this, because it is just about one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

This is a nice, heavy, supported (i.e.: non-dropping) spindle for spinning yarn. You turn the big wheel at the base with your hand, just kind of set it in motion, and the twist comes off the end. There’s no hook or anything on the end to help capture the yarn, but if you sit perpendicular to it, it works.

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Brilliant! Don’t you just love cleverness in tools?

I saw this and gushed. I already have a wheel and I’ve long since claimed storage space for it, but if I hadn’t, I would be looking for something like this. Drop spindles, after a while, get tiring. They are, despite the beautiful spindles and spindlers I saw yesterday, a very physical activity for me, and they are not very fast. Also, when you’re learning, they can be difficult to learn, and are prone to, well, dropping. The advantage of wheels is that you can keep them in perpetual motion with your feet, but they cost quite a lot and take up a large space in the RV.

This spindle is heavy and spins for a nice, long time once set in motion. It’s not as versatile or portable as a drop spindle (but, again, no drop-and-roll!), nor is it quite so fast as a wheel. But man, what a terrific way to spin on the road. It costs $110, which is considerably less than a wheel or a charkha, and considerably more than a drop spindle.

They’re made and sold by Whispering Pines, in Colrain, MA. Carole says the website is wonky, but her phone number and email address are right there on the website, if you want to drop her a line and ask about these lovelies.

April 2008: Book Reviews

#18


Read this as an audiobook from audible.com. This was a great third book in the Curse of Chalion series. It’s set outside of Chalion, and in a different area of magic (spirit animals and ancient, ancient old-king-sacrifice ritual, rather than demons and saints). I like this series for many reasons, not the least of which is the Bujold embraces older heroes. i love that she gives us middle-aged men and women to identify with and connect to.

#19


The first, I think, of her books. It’s nothing you couldn’t glean from her blog, but it’s packaged together very nicely into a great little volume that, not coincidentally, fits inside a knitting project bag. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee doesn’t write “how to knit” books, but rather books about “how to live, with knitting.” Um… a bit like Erma Bombeck… for knitters. But also for creative people in general.

#20

More “how to live… with knitting.” This one is more general, and less of personal essay. However, it’s really clear that she’s drawing from the same experiences she drew on for Yarn Harlot. I listened to this one on audiobook. Her audiobooks are read by her, and it’s great to hear her almost-laughing when she reads a particularly humorous or self-deprecating story.

#21


A medical officer flying in a solo space ship has adventures as he travels between planets to solve health crises and issues.

I read this on my eBookwise device, having downloaded/converted it from the Baen Books free library. It was…. okay. It was repetitive, though I don’t think it was supposed to be. It was simply that this book is a compilation of short stories published by Leinster over the course of many years, and unfortunately, he repeats little details that he seems to think are necessary to understand his setting.

#22

I’ve been meaning to read this because, despite appearing in every possible regard an Autumn, one of my friends a few years ago took one look at me and told me I should be wearing more blue/fuscia shades, because I was, in fact, a Spring. If you’re wondering, the difference there is between wearing colors that have yellow in them (greens, reds, oranges, browns, teals), vs. colors that have blue in them (blues, greens, purples, fuscia, etc.) After reading Color Me Beautiful, and doing the exercises suggested… I still have no f’ing clue. I look good in brown. I look good in blue and fuscia. And understand, I do not personally obsess over fashion and clothes. But if I’m going to invest $90 of yarn and 80 hours of my knitting time into making a sweater, I’d like for it to look absolutely terrific on me. To muddle matters further, the website for Color Me Beautiful (which is now expanded into products, of course) has a 2-question “what season are you?” quiz that basically asks you what your hair color is, and then tells you what your season is based on that. Which is… hilarious. Because about half the book is dedicated to the fact that your hair color isn’t the only indicator of your season (if it were, 90% of black girls would be Winters, and that’s just not the case).

#23

My grandmother read this and recommended it to me in 2006. I listened to the audiobook. It’s the story of a long, gruelling walk from Siberia to India, to escape a Soviet work camp in 1941. It’s autobiographical. It’s…. fascinating. I found it hard to believe, mainly because the physical challenge would have been well beyond them, and yet it wasn’t. They made it, albeit with some losses on the way.

#24


The unconventional daughter of an unconventional marquess goes to London to snare a husband (one in particular, in fact). Hijinx ensue.

I received this as part of a raffle prize at an RWA chapter meeting earlier this year. It was charming and fun. James blends her Shakespearian background with her novels, which results in a well-researched historical. Also, I love love love the crazy-family in a romance novel, and this one had crazy-family in absolute abundance.

#25

A talking cat and pack of rats infiltrate a town and uncover the big, evil secret there. I listened to the audiobook for this one as well. It is absolutely wonderful. I suppose it’s set in Discworld, but it’s not in Ankhe-Morpork, and you really only get the slightest nod to the Discworld-ness of it, through side references and the presence of the Watch. It’s not a children’s story, despite the presence of talking animals. It is, however, appropriate for older kids (I would say ages 10 and up, just because of the violence). And it has Pratchett’s wonderful, biting humor. The audiobook is additionally marvelous because the reader gives accents to the townsfolk and to some of the rats.

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