Saturday, August 28, 2010


Despite how busy I was last weekend, I did manage to sneak in a good bit of knitting time.  By Wednesday I had a new finished sweater to show for it.


Pattern:  Goodale (Ravelry pattern) by Cecily Glowik MacDonald
Yarn:  Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga! in Southern Green Stink Bug
Needles: size 6 US
Cast on:  July 25, 2010
Finished:  August 25, 2010

I knit Goodale pretty much exactly to pattern with one major exception--the bottom edge ribbing.  Pattern directions have you knit the 1x1 ribbing and then fold over and sew down the fronts.  I had seen a couple of finished sweaters where this ribbing looked really heavy, and I had an idea I wanted to try out.  Before I switched to the ribbing, I slipped the first 25 stitches onto a third needle.

I then folded over the front edge:

From there I started the 1x1 ribbing, knitting each stitch on the front needle together with one from the back.  This gave me the bottom seam I was going to have to sew to make the little pockets and avoided needing to fold over ribbing.  I'm not sure whether this really made any difference or whether I would've liked the other way better, but the finished edge looks nice so I'm going to try not to overthink it.

The Good:
  • The fabric is heavenly (have I mentioned I love, love, love this yarn?)--light enough to wear in summer heat and after blocking, it's so soft and smooth no description I give will do it justice.
  • I'm really happy with the color. 
  • In general, it's a cute style and something I don't have much of. 
  • And I love the buttons. (Thank you G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD)

The Bad:
  • I really wish it were a tad less cropped.  I added a couple of inches to the overall length, and I still feel like it's short (I guess this is fixable if I do some ripping....)
  • Since I feel like it's a little short for pants, it really makes me want to wear it over a cute sundress that I do not own  (okay so that's not really the sweater's fault).
  • I sort of feel like it falls too open when I'm wearing it, and I found myself tugging it a little more closed a lot (hmmm, that might be more me being self-conscious and maybe I shouldn't blame the sweater).
Final verdict on Goodale?  Well....I'm a little undecided.  I named this project "Patience is a Virture" both because it took a lot of patience to wait to start it (I forced myself to finish Tempest first) and because I feel like I rushed through it at the end  and maybe I'd be a little happier with it if I had been more patient and taken my time.  Maybe this winter I'll rip out the hem and add even more length. We'll see. For now I will wear it and enjoy it and over-analyze later.

I'm off in a couple of hours for another busy weekend--at 1pm today I will hop on my bike and participate in a 24 hour ride to raise awareness and funds to fight cancer.  You ride as little or much as you want during the 24 hours.  I'm shooting for between 100 and 150 miles.  By Sunday I expect to be rather sore and tired, but I'm sure I'll steal a little knitting time between rides so maybe I'll also have a little progress on a sock too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Overscheduled and totally worth it

This past weekend was one of the busiest of my life.  I knew when I scheduled two big events back to back it was going to be a little rough.  At the end of it, I was sleep deprived and exhausted, but it was totally worth it.

Part I: Saturday
At 6:30am Saturday morning I was on the road on my way to Westminster, MD.  Not for a bike ride this time but for an agility trial.  In my very first post, I mentioned that I do agility training with my dogs.  For those unfamiliar, dog agility is where you train your dog to perform certain obstacles (jumps, tunnels, stuff to climb over, etc) and the purpose is to run your dog through basically an obstacle course as fast as you can go without making mistakes.  Each course has different challenges, and on Saturday I ran a total of eight courses with Rugby and Juno.

At over eight years old, Rugby still has some serious spring:
Agility trials used to make me really nervous.  For someone as self-conscious as I am, the whole performing in front of an audience thing is nerve-wracking.  Then think about fear of making mistakes combined with having to rely on partnership with a dog. Recipe for disaster!  But sometimes life forces you to be exactly what you are trying to avoid, and me and my goofy spaniel were often the center of attention not for stellar performance but because of all of Rugby's amusing antics.  It was pretty common for Rugby to take off and zoom around the ring or run over to say hi to the judge.  Once he left the ring to bury his head in a pile of prize toys and another time, he followed his nose right into a kitchen to see what was for lunch.  When I stop and think about it, I'm rather proud that I kept going with agility rather than giving into my fear of embarrassment.  At some point I decided to love Rugby for being exactly what he is--an unpredictable goofball.

As he's matured with age, Rugby is less of a clown at agility trials, and while he certainly still spaces out and wanders away, sometimes he puts it all together really well and we had 3 successful runs of 5 this weekend.
Juno has much more focus than Rugby but is still new to agility competitions so she can be a goofball in her own right.  As she finished a run and before I could get her leash on, she jumped over the ring gating to go say hi to a friendly-looking Corgi.  It's good she's carrying on the family tradition.  Here she is navigating her way down an obstacle.
The little girl did quite well for herself.  I only ran her in 3 courses, but she did well enough in one to earn her very first "qualifying score" and first place ribbon, which I promptly displayed on her crate.
What a good little girl.

It was an exhausting day.  I didn't get home until after 8pm and barely had enough time to pack some things and try to get to sleep before the alarm went off at 4:30am.

Part II: Sunday
On Sunday morning, I left the house even earlier than on Saturday, this time for the Iron Girl triathlon.  By 6am I was setting up my transition area in some light rain, and by 7:30am, I was in the water about to start the race.  I'm somewhere out in this big pack of swimmers.
Swimming in a group like this is always an adventure, and I definitely got knocked around a bit in the beginning, but then I settled in and just swam.  I felt like I had a strong swim, but my time was a little slower than I was shooting for.  That meant I really needed some speedy transitions.  Mike barely caught me running by on my way to grab my bike.  That would be me there in the bright blue top.
Despite the rain, the rest of the race went pretty well.  I had an average bike, but with a crowded course and wet roads, I was okay with that.  I was able to quickly transition to the run, and had my best run on this course (which is no walk in the park--okay, well, actually it is in a park, but it's still a tough run), even sprinting full out at the finish. I think I'm verging on actually considering myself a real triathlete. No pictures from the end of the race since Mike was busy volunteering. I came home and not surprisingly, passed out for the rest of the afternoon.  It was a packed weekend from start to finish but I loved just about every minute of it.

Where's the knitting? But what about knitting?! No worries, there was knitting--a decent amount actually (there's a lot of waiting around at dog trial), but I'm saving that for next post.  Psst....Goodale is finished.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Very Best Part

I've knit sweaters every which way possible--in pieces, top-down and bottom-up, even sideways.  More often than not, however, I find myself knitting seamless top-down yoke or raglan sweaters.  My two current sweater projects, Leyfi and Goodale, are no exception.  I've been switching off between these two and have lately been slugging through the raglan/yoke increases on both sweaters.  For me, this is the most hated part of the top-down sweater: where the rounds or rows keep getting longer and longer until it feels like it takes 30 minutes to knit two long boring rows. The great part about this tedious stretch is that it is followed by my absolute favorite part:  separating off the sleeves and knitting the body. Without those sleeve stitches everything suddenly seems far more manageable.  I feel like I'm making actual progress. And I get to try on the sweater. So exciting!

Since Leyfi is knit with bulky yarn, there were far fewer stitches to begin with, and so it's not surprising that I kept picking up this sweater first.  I divided off the sleeves this weekend. Woohoo!

I then forced myself to go back to Goodale.  It was slow, boring, and at some point I realized I had accidentally changed the way I was doing the increase stitches halfway through the raglan increases (oops!).  It's not hugely noticeable, and there was no thought of ripping back those 300 stitch rows.  Yesterday, I finally reached the end  of the increases, divided off the sleeves and tried it on.

It fits!  Oh, happy happy day!  I'm knitting this sweater in Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga! in Southern Green Stink Bug.  It took me forever to settle on a color, and although it does look very pretty in the skein and knitted up, when I tried it on, it looked so amazingly beautiful that I literally gasped out loud.  (I think my next post might just have to be about my love affair with Sanguine Gryphon yarn). This gorgeousness is obviously not apparent at all in pictures.  Maybe one day, I'll get the lighting and focus just right and everyone else can see what I see.  Given how taken I am with this sweater now, combined with how amazingly hot I was for the five minutes I had on Leyfi, I'm now going full steam ahead on Goodale and looking forward to the next very best part of sweater knitting--binding off and finishing! Yup, I'm one of those rare knitters who actually loves finishing tasks. 

Completely unrelated:  I'm a full-time editor, and I work from home a couple of days a week.  Rugby and Juno are almost always in the office with me during the day, and pretty much the second Rugby sees me sit at the computer, he hops up onto the futon (I let him start doing this right about the time we inflicted a puppy on him).  During the middle of the day when I'm weary from staring at the computer screen, I often look over jealously at my snoozing pups.  Yesterday as I was working I glanced over to see this:

Sometimes I really wish I was a dog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


When I decided last summer that I wanted to give triathlons a try, I borrowed my Dad's racing bike to give me something to get started on.  We're the same height and figured size would be about right.  When I was terribly uncomfortable on the bike and had a professional bike fit, I found out the bike was too big for me and no amount of adjustment was going to fix the problem.  I continued riding the bike into last fall but had already starting saving up money for a new one.  This spring, I plunked down a whole lot of cash and bought my new bike.

Now I'm not really a cyclist.  I've gotten better but am still not a confident rider, and when I ride it is with specific training goals in mind.  But since I invested so much in my new seriously awesome bike, I'm determined to change that.  I'm trying to look at cycling as its own sport--not just the event in between the swim and run, and so on Saturday, Mike and I headed to Westminster, MD to participate in the Eat a Peach Challenge bike ride.  There are 5 different routes ranging from 12-100 miles.  On the way up we settled on riding the 40 mile route.  The ride was absolutely beautiful and at times so peaceful, I didn't feel like I was only an hour away from the craziness of DC but far away on vacation somewhere.  The ride was filled with peaceful tree-lined roads:

Or wide open farmland:

We rode by horses, ponies, cows, an adorable Bassett Hound, an 18th century church the size of my living room, and some beautiful views.  For the first 30 miles of the ride, I had an absolute great time and enjoyed the hell out of my new bike.  It's not that easy to get good shots while moving, but here I am:

Those 30 miles were certainly not easy.  The area around Westminster is know for its rolling countryside.  There was plenty of up and down, some decent size climbs, and very little flat road.  But I was okay.  I managed up the hills pretty well, and even though there were one or two I thought I was going to have to walk up, I was always able to push and make it to the top due to pure determination that I will become a cyclist.

The last 10 miles are where I broke down.  There was a long gradual climb that I fought up, followed by short but steep hill.  My legs, calves, shins were all screaming at me, but I kept going.  I started to dread the descents because they were inevitably followed by a climb, and while during the first part of the ride, I would get all determined when I saw a hill approach, now I felt like I wanted to cry.  But on each new hill I dug even deeper and found a way to keep going.  Mike was doing a great job of cheering me on and I was determined to finish strong.  We hit a nice downhill, which worried me and sure enough suddenly a huge hill loomed in front.  To make the situation even worse, there was a stoplight at the base of hill--red of course--so we had to start that climb with no momentum.  This was a bad turn of events for me.  I started up the hill, inching little by little, but my legs were killing me, my shins and calves were burning, and I finally gave in, hopped off the bike, and walked it up to the top.

I was terribly disappointed in myself.  We finished the last couple of miles, which were mercifully easy.  Mike was very positive and continued to congratulate me on a great ride, but I kept looking at him like he was nuts.  I had failed; I had to walk up a hill.  See this is my problem--I only see what I didn't do, not everything I did accomplish.  He was right.  I rode 40 very challenging miles; so what if I walked my bike up half of one hill? 

I'm trying to use the experience as a lesson to myself:  determination can be great--it helps us do the best we can and then push ourselves to do even better, but in the end, if we fall a little short, there is still progress to be proud of. 

And to put that into practice: while I didn't get as far as I wanted on my Goodale sweater this weekend (yup, I had to sneak some knitting in), I'm going to feel good about my progress on Leyfi:

I decided not to give into my perfectionist tendencies and kept going with this one.  So what if I can't wear this for months when I could wear Goodale now?  I never said anything about the progress making sense.  That can be next week's lesson to myself.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mini-Skein Raffle!

On August 28, I will be participating in 24 Hours of Booty -- a 24-hour bike ride that brings cyclists of all abilities together to raise vital funds for cancer research and survivorship. The fundraiser supports the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, and Johns Hopkins University cancer research programs.  As part of my participation I am raising funds through a raffle that will award two lucky winners a collection of 30 mini-skeins of yarn!

If you are working on the infamous mitered sock blanket, stripey socks, or another project that requires small amounts of different fingering-weight yarn, this raffle could be a great opportunity to get started or to add to your current collection.  For every $5 donated on my participant page (link also on the right sidebar), you will have one entry in the raffle.  There will be two drawings, so as little as $5 gives you two chances to win!! 

Both collections include the following 20 skeins:

Top row, from left to right:  2 skeins Socks that Rock Mediumweight mill ends, 4 skeins Pagewood Farms mill ends, 2 skeins Koigu KPPM, and 1 skein Spunky Eclectic Skinny Sock in Signature colorway.
Bottom row, left to right: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in Amethyst; Fleece Artist Sea Wool in Raspberry; Crash into Ewe Jewel Collection in Tanzanite, Dream in Color Smooshy in Plum Paisley; Miss Babs Yummy Sock in Bronze, Miss Babs Yummy Sock in Cadet; Three Irish Girls McClellan Fingering in Erin; Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga in Blue Metalmark; Madelinetosh Sock in Butter; Neighborhood Fiber Co. Watershed in Thomas Circle

Collection A will have these 10 skeins in addition:
Left row, top to bottom:  Koigu KPPM; Louet Gems Fingering in Navy; Miss Babs Yummy Sock in Purples; next two were custom dyes by Twilight Knits
Right row, top to bottom: Malabrigo Sock in Solis; Black Bunny Fibers Superwash in Audacity; Creatively Dyed Yarns Steele in Ginger; Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in Longhorned Beetle; Wollmeise 80/20 in Veilchen

Collection B will add these 10 skeins:
Left row, top to bottom:  March Hare Fingering Superwash in Pumpkin Patch; BB Knits Merino in On the Wings of Hope; Dream in Color Smooshy in Tea Party; Koigu KPPM; Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Steelhead.
Right row, top to bottom: Socks that Rock Mediumweight in Bejeweled; Madelinetosh Sock in Emerald City; Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock in Aiden; Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in Oak Timberworm; Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in Blue Lobster.

The Details

The raffle will run from today Friday August 13 until Friday August 20 at 3pm, East coast time.  For every $5 donated, you receive one entry into the raffle.  So if you donate $25, you get 5 separate entries.  I will send an email confirmation when I am alerted of a donation so that you know you are being counted.  When I have a complete list, entries will be numbered and I will select two winners by random number generator.  Winners will be notified immediately and yarn will ship Monday August 23, priority mail with delivery confirmation and insurance.  International participants welcome!

All skeins are a minimum of 5 grams.  Several are 7-9 grams since it didn't make sense to split these.  All mini-skeins will have labels when they are shipped.  So if you are willing to help the fight against cancer, please head over to my donation page, select "Support Heather", and contribute even just a small amount to a great cause and try your luck for some yarn!  24 Hours of Booty is a registered non-profit and all donations are tax deductible. Your gift will be hugely appreciated.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment or come on over to the BlankieMania group on Ravelry and ask in the "Mini-Skein Raffle for Charity" thread.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

One step forward, two steps back

A pair of finished socks!!  Woohooo!

Pattern:  Progressive Sock Party (Ravelry pattern) by Chrissy Gardiner
Project page:  Seasonal Sock Party
Yarn:  Knit Picks Palette
Needles:  2.25mm and 2.5mm
CO: July 1; BO: Aug. 4

These were impulsively cast on last month for the Sock Knitters Anonymous July KAL.  This is the group's colorwork mystery sock, so I received one clue per week.  I truly enjoyed knitting them from start to finish.  They are completely not my style--much busier than I like and I would never look twice at a pattern with such distinct color blocks (nor would I have chosen this color combo had I known how the colors were going to work), but I love them just the same. 

 Throughout July these socks turned out to be great stress relief and frequently my entertainment when I couldn't sleep.  They will be super warm in winter, and I'm really impressed that they feel soft since I didn't expect that with the Palette yarn. I enjoyed knitting these so much, I might have just turned into a colorwork junkie, and I'm already plotting my next fair isle sock.  Only one problem:  I, uh, already started a new sock. Oops.

About those August WIP sock goals...I may have taken one step forward with the finished socks, but I think with the new cast on, I actually went backward.  August is going to be a ridiculously busy month for me so I decided to take knitting goal pressure off the table.  I'm just enjoying knitting whatever I feel like.  I'll refocus in September.  Really, I will.  Seriously.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The perfectionist in me

One of these days, I'm going to write a blog post at a time other than at 4am.  I know it's going to happen.  Really.  Obviously I haven't exactly been sleeping well recently.  Just about every night this week I've woken up at 3am and been wide awake until about 6am (because of course it works perfectly to be tired right around the time everyone else is waking up).  Part of me has actually been enjoying the quiet few hours to myself with my yarn, and at 3am I work on whatever I feel like with no guilt about other languishing projects.

For the last couple of nights (okay, I guess early mornings), I've been working on the Leyfi Pullover from the most recent Interweave Knits.  I won't get into the ridiculousness of knitting a bulky wool sweater in August; I have no explanation.  Knitting the first lace chart did not go exactly smoothly.  There was a lot of this: knit a round, get to the end and have the wrong number of stitches, rip back to a mistake, knit the round again, still have the wrong number of stitches, decide I don't care and K2tog or something in an inconspicuous place and continue onto the next round.   Rinse. Repeat.

Now I'm quite comfortable knitting lace and once the pattern is established, I'm pretty good at reading my knitting so I notice if I'm off a stitch immediately, but I didn't get a handle on this pattern right away--probably had something to do with the fact that it was 4am.  So the other night, I finally got to a point where the lace pattern was taking shape, and I could suddenly "read" a really big screw up.  If you look at the picture of the finished sweater there are vertical lines in between the leaves going straight down from the neck.  Um, my lines were not straight.  I had gotten off pattern early on and by the time I recovered, I had knit a chunk of the lace pattern in sort of the wrong place, and finally I noticed the clear break in what should be a vertical line of stitches.

Well, see there's the risk of knitting from a small chart at 4am.  Not always the best result.  But in the wee hours of the morning, this didn't seem that bad. I told myself it was barely noticeable. And maybe the broken lines actually softened the look of the sweater.  Yes!  That's it!  A design element.  I had just customized the sweater a little, right?  No problem. I felt so relieved--the somewhat annoying perfectionist in me seemed to not mind this mistake.  Nope, not one bit.   I kept knitting for awhile and then put it aside and fell asleep for a couple of hours.

What a difference 2 hours of sleep will do.  My whole drive to work all I could think about was this screw up.  The perfectionist in me had kicked in with a little sleep and now I couldn't imagine not ripping it all out.  Sigh.
Sometimes I hate being a perfectionist.  I had really felt like I was going to be able to let this go.  I mean, who would notice?  And the mistake is at the top of the neck where the lace pattern won't even be  stretched out.  When I got home from work, I went straight to the sweater to survey it.  The screw up still didn't seem that bad.  And all of the lower lace with the larger "leaves" looked great.  So now I'm just stuck.  The yarn is a single ply and a little fuzzy so it's not going to rip well (that could be a little rationalization, but I'm sticking to the claim), and I still stand by the idea that the breaks soften the look of the sweater (yeah, yeah, I know, I'm reaching).  Not to mention when the sweater is finished, who is going to notice this other than me and maybe a really really observant knitter who would hopefully be too polite to say anything.  I continued to ponder.

Even though I didn't really make a decision, I kept knitting the sweater last night.  Part of me wants to free myself from always having to be a perfectionist--like knitting a sweater with a mistake is a personal challenge to relax a little. The other part of me wonders if all I will think about every time I wear this sweater is the tiny mistake in the neck.  The saga continues....but for now, I'm going to knit socks and then I'm going back to sleep.