Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Blue Screen of Death

No, not my computer, my Tivo.
Specifically, my DirecTivo.
And I'm in mourning.
Because DirecTV no longer supports Tivo, and instead has their own DVRs.
Studley Knit-Right went to Best Buy to get another (because there is no way we can live without two: one for us and one for the kids).
And frankly, it sucks.
I'd almost consider switching to cable, but I know that the Comcast DVR isn't any better.

I bought a Tivo the very first day they hit the stores, in 1998. I was pregnant at the time, and knew that if I ever wanted to watch TV again, I had to buy one. And so I did, not caring that it cost $600 for a 14-hour TiVo. Ten minutes after hooking it up, we knew that we could not live without it.

The one that died, well, that's was our third TiVo, and second DirecTivo. It had lived through a major power surge that fried our home stereo and a bunch of other things, and it has been limping along ever since. Unfortunately, it was the kids', so they've lost the recordings of their favorite shows, and we need to start from scratch.

It's a sad day in the clumberknits household.

Smooth peanut shaped remote that bongs, I shall miss you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Confession is Good for the Soul.

My name is Clumberknits and I'm a sockyarnaholic.

That's all.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's all in the details ...

So Friday night's post saw me humbled, unable to cast on properly. But I've been called "stubborn" on occasion, and thus, I present to you, this:

Pattern: Ela's Favorite Hat from One Skein Wonders by Judith Durant
Yarn: Noro Silver Thaw
Gauge: 4.25 sts/in
Needles: Size 7 and 8 as called for in the pattern
Started: 3/16/07 Finished: 3/17/07

Cute, right? Trouble is, it was supposed to be a hat for me.

The problem: I didn't pay close enough attention to the details in the pattern.

There was nothing in the descriptive text that stated if this was an adult hat, child hat, or baby hat. The book encompasses all types of projects, and the photographs of the projects show only the item, not the item actually being worn by a human being. So the only tip-off that this was a child's hat was in a single line:

Measurements: Approximately 18.5" (47cm) circumference
Now, if this were a sweater pattern, that would have been the first line I read. But it was a hat, and looked kind of adult-like in the photo, and so I ignored that line completely.

And the Belle has a new hat.

Not a terrible thing, since I still have not put the pompoms on her scarf, and so she has yet to receive a knitted object from me. And she likes the hat.

But I am still hatless.

On the other hand, I loved this yarn, and since it's on closeout at Webs, I'm going to buy more. I'll try to modify the hat pattern for myself, and maybe make a scarf, too.

In a better turn of events, my Secret Pal timed her package perfectly to arrive on St. Patrick's Day. In the package was a bag of Dove Dark Chocolates, a cute notebook with a green cover (that has already made its way to my knitting bag), the book Knit One Felt Too, and this lovely handpainted sock yarn:

Thanks so much to The Unknowable.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Coventry, CT: The Knitting Nook

The Knitting Nook is a store that seems focused on community. This message comes through strongly on their website, which features the following statement on their home page:

Knitting is known to induce a calming effect – you are encouraged to bring your stash and/or project and join us! We make a pretty decent cup of coffee and have a comfy sitting area for you to fully enjoy the social aspect of knitting together. If we are open – you are invited!
The store is located in a small strip mall just off of Route 44 in Conventry, CT. It is very conveniently located between Hartford and the University of Connecticut, about 7 miles from UConn. The have very interesting business hours: they are closed Sunday through Tuesday, but are open from 9am to 9pm on Wednesday through Friday, and 9 to 6 on Saturdays. While I think the expanded evening hours are terrific, I am not sure that I would be too happy if I ran short on yarn on a Saturday evening -- I'd have to wait until Wednesday to get it. (OK, who am I fooling? I of course have enough stash that I could find something to knit for a few years before I'd really need to buy more yarn.)

Upon entering the store, I was immediately charmed by the lovely seating area to the left. It is arranged living-room style, with a couple of sofas and easy chairs arranged in a conversational setting. I could easily see myself sitting and knitting with a few friends , or striking up a conversation with a new knitting pal by just taking a seat. On this afternoon, there was nobody sitting and knitting there, and indeed, I didn't really see anyone in the store from my vantage point at the front door.

After my appreciation of the seating area, my next impression was one of extreme order and cleanliness. This store is spotless. Everything is in its place and there is no clutter to be found anywhere. However, that does not mean that it is sterile. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable -- and really, really tidy. Yarn is arranged in free-standing fixtures that break up the store into comfortable browing areas, so that you don't really feel you are in a boxy strip mall store. Most yarn is shelved by brand, with baby yarns, luxury yarns, sock yarn and "staples" together by fixture.

As I browsed, a staff person walked out to greet me. She told me that there was a class going on at the back of the store but that if I needed any help, to feel free to come get her. I had not seen nor heard anyone in the back of the store, so I was surprised that a class was going on. I liked the fact that it was at the back of the store; often, the classes or groups are in the front or middle of the store, and I feel like I am intruding when I am shopping. The setup of the store is very conducive to shopping even while such a class is in progress.

The focus on community is carried through the store's yarn selection. The first fixture when you enter the store is stocked with local yarns. These are farmhouse yarns that, as a sign points out, "haven't left Connecticut." The producers are small local farms, and each was labeled with a bit of information about the farm, type of wool, etc. If I were vacationing in CT, I would certainly be justified in buying some of that yarn as a local souvenir. Yarns from Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont are also featured.

Yarn brands carried by The Knitting Nook are Schaefer, Brown Sheep, Debbie Bliss, Filatura, Frog Tree, Cascade, Noro, Malabrigo, and Dealegarn. The sock yarn selection was fair, with many colorways of Trekking, Sockotta, Tofutsies, and Cherry Tree Hill.

The store features a very nice selection of books, and a few binders of patterns. These again are very organized, and it is easy to find what you are looking for. Most of the "hot" knitting books were represented in quantities of 3s and 4s, and most of the standard classic texts appeared to be in stock as well.

A small fixture houses needles from Clover and Addi Turbo, and another small spinner features notions such as tape measures, stitch holders, etc. The back wall behind the cash register highlights beaded row markers that are made at the store. These are the type of markers that can be worn as a bracelet or hooked onto a knitting bag; as you knit a row, you slide a bead from one end to the other to keep track of where you are in your knitting. At a price of $12, I thought these were a nice addition to the store, and I happily purchased one for myself.

The Knitting Nook has an extensive class schedule (this link opens an excel spreadsheet), for both kids and adults. They feature multi-week Learn to Knit and Intermediate knitting classes, multi-week project classes, and single-session project workshops. Current offerings include 3 different sock classes! There are also drop-ins, private lessons, and free charity-knitting sessions. Classes are conveniently scheduled for both daytime and evening hours.

I can easily see this becoming a favorite neighborhood knitting store for those that live in this area of Connecticut, and a destination for travelers in search of local Connecticut yarns. If I ever have some time in between meetings as I travel through Connecticut, I plan on stopping and spending some time knitting on one of their sofas. I suspect that I will be very welcome.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Home, and humbled

A change in travel plans due to the weather made it possible for me to be home today, when I should have been in Connecticut. We've got about 2 inches of snow on the ground so far, and I'm not sure when it is supposed to end.

It seems strange to think that it was 73 degrees F. just a few days ago.

The snow and cold weather made me want to knit a hat. I desperately need a new hat, and I had the yarn (Noro Silver Thaw) and the pattern (Ela's Favorite Hat, from One Skein Wonders), but hadn't gotten around to knitting in before the weather had turned warmer. So today, I picked it up and cast on.

And cast on. And cast on again. Then cast on one more time. Then frogged it all and put it away til next year.

First, I did a long-tail cast on using a tip I read on Loxosceles' blog here : use both ends of the ball to cast on, so that you don't have to worry about your tail being too short. Brilliant, right? It was, except that when I joined the round, my stitches were twisted. Rip rip. Once I ripped, however, I ended up with a long piece of yarn that was not joined to the ball. So I cast on again, using my "old" way. Tail was too short. Rip. Cast on again. More twisted stitches. A Moebius hat, how lovely! Frog.

Here I am knitting socks, starting lace, looking at cool patterns, and I can't even join a hat in the round. Argh.

Back to my socks. They make me happy. I'm about 3" into the cuff, using my lovely Yarntini in the 4-8-15-16-23-42 colorway. The bright green makes me happy, especially since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Round and Round, the Mermaid goes ...

Behold, the never-ending Mermaid Socks! Pattern from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet. Yarn is Fearless Fibers superwash merino, in the Glorious Green colorway. The socks were knit on size 1 and 0 dpns. Cast on was January 27, 2007 -- socks were finished on March 9, 2007.

The knitting of the socks was a bit of a saga, so if you just want to ogle their loveliness and keep away from the drama, you may click off now. You have been warned.

These were knit for Meg Weaver, my partner in the Knittyboard Sock Swap. Meg said that she liked "plain" socks, in solid, heathery, or lightly variegated colors, and that her feet were always cold so she liked wool. She preferred short row heels. She thought that maybe she'd like a twisted rib or eyelet rib sock. Easy, right?

When the rules of the Sock Swap were posted, we were told to sign up in one of three groups based on socks that we have knit before this exchange:

  • Sock Newbies (0 pairs)
  • Sock Beginners (1-5)
  • Sock Pros (5+)
I signed up for Sock Beginners (1 complete pair of socks, plus two Christmas stockings that I only half-counted because they were knit flat and seamed). My partner informed me that she had been knitting for 13 years (!) but was kind of new to socks so she signed up for beginner as well. But immediately I felt the pressure.

I had 3 wonderful skeins of Fearless Fiber yarn, including 2 almost solids, in brown and green. So I decided to swatch and do a "practice" sock with the brown, then make Meg's socks. I could not find one solid definition of "twisted rib," so decided to try a couple of different ones. I swatched and didn't like them. I then received Cool Socks, Warm Feet in a book swap, and instantly fell in love with the Mermaid Socks shown in the book. They were ribbed, and it was twisted (well, spiral, really). It had a short-row heel (which I had never done) that looked a bit easier than the ones I'd seen with picking up wraps, etc. And better yet, I had also just purchased the 2 Lucy Neatby Sock DVDs, and much of the sock is demonstrated by Lucy herself on these DVDs.

By that point, two weeks had gone by, and I was feeling the time pressure. I disposed of the "test" sock and went right to the main event. I cast on, and knit. And knit, and knit, and knit. I saw reference on some blogs that this sock took a l-o-n-g time. So I knit, and knit, and knit. Turned the heel with only minimal problems, though it took 6 hours of my life. Began the foot. And then, about 8 or 10 rows into the foot, the knitting emerged from behind the needles, and ... CRISIS! The pattern did not match up. The ribbing was off by two stitches. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't that bad, that it was a design feature. I kept knitting. After a few inches, I could no longer live in denial. It was right on the top of the foot where it met the ankle -- the most visible part of the sock. I was afraid to frog in case I couldn't recapture the stitches, and I did not want to relive those 6 hours turning the heel again. I waited a few days until I could go to my knitting class and enlist the help of my instructor, who is now dubbed Saint Mary of the Golden Needles.

Mary saved my sock. She helped me rip back and pick up the stitches in the proper manner, and then she did much of the un-knitting for me, since she is about 1,000 times faster at it than I am. She guided me through determining the proper place to resume the pattern. She answered my stupid questions like, 'is that a yarn over, or a mistake?' She has my eternal gratitude.

The rest of the sock, and the next, went mainly without incident. It just took a long, long time. And my work schedule was not only packed, but involved much travel, which took away from my knitting. In all, I was 10 days late for the February deadline. Considering that I lost close to that amount of time with my error on sock #1, it's not too bad.

Oh, and remember my frustration that the leg of the sock was too short, despite having measured and re-measured? Well, when I received the socks that Meg knit for me, I was delighted to see this:

They are identical in height. Insert large sigh of relief here.

Overall, these were a fun knit, even with the stress I put on myself. I learned a lot, and really pushed myself. I'm not sure that I would have continued on, if these were for myself ... or at least, I would have lived with the error. But in the process of fixing the problems, I learned better how to read my knitting, how to think before blindly following the written pattern. I also learned how to weave in ends as I go, which is a skill that I will use going forward.

And I will make them again, using a self-striping yarn -- what this pattern was really designed to highlight. Next time I think I may reverse the pattern on one sock so that they spiral toward each other, or away from each other (depending on which sock goes on which foot). But I will definitely knit them again.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sockety Goodness!!

I remembered last night about 10:00 that we had neglected to bring in the mail, so I sent Studley Knit-right out to get it. He returned with a package from the talented Meg Weaver, my partner in the Knittyboard Sock Swap. I opened the package with great anticipation, and was delighted to find, these:

Meg has provided full details on her blog entry. I'm not sure what her favorite short row heel is, but it fits me wonderfully. The socks are warm and comfy and lovely. The colors are perfect! Thanks, Meg.

Shortly before I sent Studley out to get the mail, I cast off the socks for Meg. That's right, they are finished!! It's been a long month of knitting on those socks, to the exclusion of all other knitting, and I'm thrilled and relieved at the same time. It will be a little difficult to part with them, but I am going to mail them out on Monday. Once she receives them, I will post pics and details here.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Martha's Vineyard, MA: Heath Hen Yarn and Quilt Shop

I chose one of the coldest days of the year to explore Heath Hen Yarn and Quilt Shop. The store is located in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard, and is a short walk from Main Street and the Vineyard Haven ferry. The store is a bit off the beaten path, so I got directions from the hotel. Even on this frigid day, the walk was reasonable: about 10 minutes from my room at the Mansion House Inn.

It wasn't the most beautiful walk that one could take on the island, but I had a mission: I needed yarn. I was in danger of finishing the sock I had with me, and I couldn't imagine being caught on the ferry home with no knitting.

The shop is located in a small plaza with a seafood/takeout store, a toy shop, consignment shop, and some offices. When I walked in, there was one staff person who was helping a customer, so I slipped in unnoticed. The store consists of two rooms: the first room is dedicated to quilting and cross-stitch, and the second room to knitting. There is a pass-through window on the wall between the two rooms, and through that window I could see many sample garments hanging, and I knew immediately that my yarn was in there.

The store is cozy, with wide plank wooden floors and a calming color scheme on the walls -- exactly what you'd expect for the Vineyard. It was warm and smelled of wool: just the thing I needed on this very cold winter day.

The yarn room was organized by type of yarn. The "staples" such as Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride, Jamieson, and Cascade 220 are to your left as you enter. There were about 5 colorways each of the Jamieson and Cascade 220, and maybe 10 colorways of Lamb's Pride. I also saw some Rowan Tapestry on that wall as well. Below eye level were lower-end staples, mainly Plymouth Encore.

The bulk of the display space, however, was given over to Berroco. The entire back wall and center "island" display area were almost completely devoted to Berroco yarns. There was some novelty yarn, but most of it was the more "conservative" of the Berroco line, such as Foliage, Pure Merino, Cotton Twist, Memoirs.

The sock yarn selection was slim: 3 colorways of Jawoll Jacquard, and approximately 5 colorways of Opal. I didn't pay too much attention to their selection of baby yarns, but it was not overwhelming.

I appreciated seeing many of the samples that the store had on display. A log-cabin style afghan that I had seen on the web and didn't care for was actually quite nice in person. I was disappointed that the samples were not labeled with the pattern name or source.

Yarns seemed to be about standard retail price. The store carried a very small selection of knitting-specific notions, such as stitch markers, darning needles, etc. -- nothing I hadn't seen elsewhere. The knitting needles are kept behind the cash register, which I found a bit odd. I spotted Clover bamboo, Pony Pearl DPNs, and Addi Turbo circulars. I think you just ask the staff for the needles you need.

I don't know much (OK, anything) about cross-stitch or quilting, so I can't really evaluate the store on those grounds. They had an assortment of fabric and sewing notions, but I can't speak to the selection. There were some cute cross-stitch kits displayed behind the counter that were Martha's Vineyard specific. If you are vacationing on the island and like cross-stitch, it might be a nice souvenir. The local theme was carried into their selection of buttons and shawl pins, many of which had a seashell or nautical theme.

When I made my purchase (2 skeins of Jawoll jacquard sock yarn in a colorway I'd actually been looking for), the shopkeeper was polite and businesslike. There were two other customers in the store awaiting her assistance, so perhaps that was the reason, but I was surprised that she didn't ask if I needed needles, or try to chat me up in general. In fact, I don't think she said much beyond telling me the amount due. Perhaps in the summer tourist season there is more friendliness.

Overall, I don't think the store is a place that I need to visit again, unless I am desperately in need of a project while on Island. It's nice enough, but I didn't find there to be enough of a selection. However, (and I think this is important to note), business and the economy on the Vineyard are very slow in the off-season; the quantity and selection of yarns may improve considerably in the summer months, during the height of tourist season. For that reason, I am not going to issue a star-rating for this store, because I'm not sure that it would reflect the reality in July.

The store offers both knitting and quilting classes. Please check their website for address, hours, class schedule, etc. Keep in mind that winter hours may be very different from summer hours.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Please pardon the interruption while I scream

I am *this* close to finishing the socks for my swap partner. Just need to finish decreasing for the toe on sock #2.
I tried sock #1 on my foot, and I love it.
The only problem: I made them too short in the leg part.
They are ankle socks.
I measured, I really did.
She said she didn't like her socks more than 7" from the bottom of the heel to the top of the cuff.
So I went a little shorter.
But I guess I went *too* short.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Caecilia42 is the Winner!!

Caecilia42 is the winner of the Tofutsies sock yarn for commenting about what she'd like to see in yarn store reviews.

Caecilia42 doesn't seem to have a blog and didn't leave her email address.

So, Caecilia42, if you're out there, let me know how to get in touch with you, so that I can get you your yarn! I've turned on comment moderation, so if you want to post your email address here in the comments, I won't make it public for the world to see.

Thanks to all who left comments. I hope to have my first review up next week!