Sunday, July 31, 2005

Image Zone

Knitting conditions over the weekend were poor. It was hot again, I had a lot of chores to do, a little work to finish and dinner parties both Friday and Saturday night. I managed a few rows on the Phoenix tank but nothing to really show for now. However, look at the goodies I received from my secret pal, Jennifer, in the Gimme Some Needles exchange! Woo hoo, these are great, girl! The 40" size #1's will be used for trying out the Magic Loop on my next pair of socks. The Brittany DPNs in size #1 are perfect too, because I broke yet another one while finishing up the Broadripple. Last but not least, look at the sock's Carolina Blue! Yay! So thank you, thank you Jennifer.

Well, this is going to be a short one today. I am headed out to Arizona this afternoon for work and there's a sense of I forgot something hanging over me. I have no idea what, though, so I better find it.

BTW, there's a new blog in town...the Image Zone. It's my new photo blog and I plan to post regularly (still a lot of Germany pictures to include!) I chose the name "Image Zone" because those are the different scenes found on the dial mode of most automatic cameras - portrait, landscape, night scene, fast action and macro. I think that perfectly and simply sums up the content of the new blog. Browse around, tell me what you think.

Until the next day in the life....

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sweater Wizard

I was hoping to have a progress photo of OSW's matching tank top but it's not going to happen today. Because I've had such problems resizing commercial patterns, I decided to use the Sweater Wizard software for a more customized design. SW is quite handy but it's not perfect. My biggest beef is that there is no opportunity to enter your own measurements except bust size - the pattern directions are based almost solely on your gauge. On the other hand there's a lot of really good stuff about it: SW provides many options for the type of sweater, neck style and sleeve style. It also wants to know how much ease you prefer, if it's for a woman, child, man, baby, if you want to knit it top-down, bottom-up, circular, and the length (cropped, hip, tunic).

I've gotten around the lack of measurements by basically selecting the smallest everything in every category for a woman's sweater. For example, I always pick the tightest ease in the cropped length. I concluded this after taking the measurements of a favorite, similar sweater and comparing them to the measurements in the schematic that SW produces.

SW works very fast and in a few seconds you have your design complete with pattern directions and schematic. You can then export it to Microsoft Word. OK, here's the next big BUT. BUT, if you want any shaping you have to figure out the decreases and increased on your own. This is why it's taken me so long to cast on. I have had a devil of a time calculating the decreases and increases evenly. Why? Because I'm so short-waisted there's not much room to do the shaping in the first place. Plus I'm mathematically challenged.

So I lied because I did actually cast on and knit about 15 rows yesterday. However, my row gauge was off. Most of the time I don't worry about row gauge but in this case I felt it was very important. So I re-did the pattern and of course it meant re-calculating the shaping. I printed out what I hope is the final version this morning. Whew.

In other knitting news, Caitlyn and I are planning to knit Grumperina's Tivoli T-Shirt together starting mid-August. This is such a popular pattern! Does anyone want to join us in this knitalong?

Well, I'm in a penguin sort of mood today so I will end with these happy little guys.

Until the next day in the life....

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hiking, Knitting and Venus

That's the order I'll cover the weekend. Saturday began with a hike to Loch Leven Lakes. This trail begins just south of the Rainbow Lodge off I80 near Tahoe. There are three lakes and the middle loch, pictured above, was the largest and prettiest. We passed that one by in favor of the Upper Lake which was a perfect swimming hole. Big enough for several campers and families with loud children and barky dogs. Plus us, who were trying to fish even though we were told there wasn't any fish up there. The hike wasn't my best however. Some days are simply slower than others and this was one of them. If it weren't for those dang rocks and scree messing up the trail....

In knitting news, I finished the One Skein Wonder -wheeeee! Thought you might like to see it in progress - this is the front after I had picked up stitches and started the ribbing. As you can see, the ribbing is knit circularly.
The shrug is knit from the top down, increasing by knitting into the front and back of a few stitches. You pick up stitches for the seed stitch border on the sleeve cuff.Then you fold over the ends at the "seams" to make the sleeves. Once the ribbing is done you just have a few ends to weave and you are done.The finished result from the front - so I think I must have kind of wide shoulders for my size. The shoulder-to-shoulder measurement that I used was 16 inches. I was worried that the sleeves would be tight but they aren't at all. Initially I had planned to make a spaghetti strap tank with the same yarn.
However, after trying the shrug on with a couple of camisoles and a couple of wide-strap tank tops, it looks better with a simple sleeveless shell.

Last but not least, Karl and I went to a World Team Tennis match between the Sacramento Capitals and the Delaware Storm. Venus Williams was the marquee player. She is, well, amazing. The woman is like an amazon out there and she seemed truly likeable. No diva moves or temper tantrums, she played graciously and was a good sport. Her team didn't win (the Storm) but the Capitals are in the WTT finals next month. More pictures of the match are in the Flickr Badge on the sidebar (slideshow), check them out!

Until the next day in the life....

Friday, July 22, 2005

Uh Oh Moment

I'm kicking up my heels in the air because I finished my second pair of socks! May I introduce Broadripple. They were done in Cascade Fixation color #9916 on size 1 birch DPNs. I went down 2 needle sizes but cast on 56 stitches to keep the pattern directions consistent. I figured using smaller needles would tighten up the sock, especially since I have tiny feet. The result? Well the socks are a little looser than I prefer but are still a decent fit. They haven't gone through a wash yet so maybe they will shrink a bit more afterwards. They look lumpy in the pictures but I'm sure that washing will even them out too. I made a few changes to the pattern; first, I decided to knit them as ankle socks so the leg part is only 5" long. Second, it was confusing to stay in pattern while doing the toe decreases. This was an uh oh moment while doing the second sock. It's a disconcerting feeling to suddenly realize, "Wait a minute...I did this wrong...on the FIRST SOCK!" Basically I hadn't kept track of balancing the yarn overs while I was decreasing at the same time, so I had less stitches on the instep needles. On both socks I did the toes in stockinette for the last 10 rounds. Other notes about this project: the yarn was tricky to use at first because it was so stretchy and I'm a tight knitter. BTW, that combination did not work well on circulars. I tried it; the stitches ended up being really small and hard to move over the joins. The pattern itself is quite easy and the variegated yarn made it interesting. Oh, I haven't worn the socks much yet but I can tell that a person with more sensitive feet would probably want to knit the soles in reverse, i.e., with the smooth stockinette on the inside. Broadripple will always have a special place in my knitting gallery because with the exception of the toe of the second sock, this pair was knit in Germany. It's been on the autobahn, to Prague and at a wedding.

The One Skein Wonder project has been on hiatus for a little while because I actually needed more than one skein! I just picked up a few more balls of Phoenix from Southwest Trading Co. This yarn is 100% soy silk and knits up with satisfyingly defined stitches. It's also soft and smooth. The OSW from Glampyre is a simple, "neat-o", instant gratification pattern. I love the way knitting into the front and back of the same stitch creates the illusion of a seam. Kelly said the same thing and clarified the sleeve seaming for me. As you knit the OSW, it doesn't look like it has sleeves, you have to fold them over. And there isn't really a sleeve seam to sew up until you knit the seed stitch edge. I liked this shrug and yarn so much I decided to buy enough yarn to make a matching strappy tank. That will be the August project. Can you believe summer is more than half way over? Where did it go? I still haven't gone swimming yet.

I don't have much other life news except I've felt pretty good lately. I mean, back to my happy contented self. My new job has started, I'm running again, I managed to cook 5 nights this past week and I still got other things done. Plus the house is clean. This weekend we're going on another hike and I got fantastic seats to the last Sacramento Capitals match of the season. Should be fun! Hope you have a great weekend too.

Until the next day in the life...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Photo Upload Test

This is my first attempt using Blogger's "new" photo upload feature. About time they did this. Like the lily? It's from the Mendocino Botanical Gardens.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Gimme Some Needles Questionnaire

The needle exchange has begun! This is going to be fun, both giving and receiving. For my secret needle pal, here are the answers to the questionnaire:

  • What do you like to knit or crochet?
    Lately, socks. I'm totally addicted. Other than that I knit sweaters and the occasional scarf. I felted a purse for the first time this year and have another one on the needles. I just started to crochet, too, which tickles me to no end.

  • What fibers do you like?
    Soft wool like merino but because it's so hot where I live I don't often wear it. Cotton blends are what I've been knitting lately and I'm excited about bamboo and soy silk because they have the same cool, crisp properties as plant fibers.

  • What type of needles do you use most often?
    Addi Turbos and any wood needles - bamboo or birch. I am interested in Bryspuns or the Ponys because they seem to be a faster alternative than wood but not as slick as metal.

  • Do you like to knit in the round?
    I like to, but for whatever reason I haven't. However, I use circulars almost exclusively.

  • Do you use a magic loop method or any other we should know about? Are you interested in learning a new method?
    Oooh. What a timely question since I started knitting socks. I'm very interested in trying out Magic Loop. I've also tried using 2 circulars for socks and it's a blast.

  • Do you have a favorite place that you shop online?
    I guess my favorites would be Elann, Knitpicks and Little Knits. There are so many out there, though, that's it's really hard to go wrong. I'm just waiting for an excuse to try new places!

  • Do you want to be surprised?
    Of course! Life should be full of surprises.

I've spent most of my time indoors this weekend with the shades closed working on photos and writing a trip report. I haven't decided how to publish the pictures and the trip...I may create another blog, there's just so much. However, I want to end this with some photos that coincide with the answers to the quiz. This is a view from Lake Lucerne, in Switzerland. The town is surrounded by mountains and on a clear day the scenery must be spectacular.

It rained at least once a day while we were in Europe but they were relatively quick showers. In Lucerne we stayed at a lovely hotel overlooking the river. The swans were everywhere. Karl took this picture of me on the patio having a kaffe while we were waiting for others to return. (BTW, my hair looks terrible! The hard water in their pipes meant dull, lifeless locks.)

Schloss Neuschwanstein was built for King Ludwig and is the model for the castle in Disney's Magic Kingdom. The castle is a testament to all things ornate, medieval and romantic. It is only partially finished and Ludwig only lived in it for 117 days. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures inside. There is another castle across the valley called Hohenschwangau where Ludwig spent most of his time. Kind of nice to be able to own 2 schlosses, eh? Actually Ludwig had several, along with other monstrous buildings. He was a funny little man who was obsessed with the works of Wagner. There are some indications that he might have been gay.

The first afternoon in Prague, we skipped across the Old Town, the Charles Bridge and hiked up a cobblestoned hill to Prague Castle, complete with guards. Because we first saw it in the evening there was hardly anyone there and were able to view the exterior in peace. We observed a solemn changing of the guards twice. Then we went back the next day to see the church and the place was just mobbed. Prague was the busiest city we visited with throngs of tourists.

It's also one of the largest cities in Europe. The Prague Castle is situated on the highest hill and affords beautiful views of the rooftops, church spires and other historical monuments. I wish you could see the river and bridges from here, but they will be posted later. If you could only visit one European city that would be "typical", historic and new at the same time, Prague is it. Amazingly, it was not damaged during WWII because Hitler had planned to make it his home base.

And lastly, I do not have a picture of the town of Schweinfurt but I decided to include a photo of the mighty wild schwein in something close to its element. Schweinfurt has a wildlife park that houses several indigenous animals including their lucky one. Not exactly pet material.

Well, I didn't get any knitting done this weekend. Is it the heat? It was 104 degrees today.

Until the next day in the life....

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Knitting on the Autobahn

I had a lot of quality knitting time in the car as we zoomed around Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic on the autobahn at 100 miles an hour...and that was in the slow lane. Everyone was impressed with my socks and were rooting for me to finish the Broadripple pair by the end of the trip. Sadly, I was almost to the toe of the second one before I had to put it away. I was too exhausted on the plane ride home and was afraid of making mistakes. The second sock will be finished this weekend, though, so you'll see the pair shortly. The capelet was a hit! It ended up being perfect for the weather on the day of the wedding. And last but not least on the knitting front - I worked on my One Skein Wonder on the plane to Germany but realized my gauge was off, therefore needing a little more than than the skein of Phoenix from Southwest Trading Co. So far it looks great, but I probably need to pick up another ball at Babetta's just in case. My July projects should be done by next week!

Congratulations to Cyndi, Jenn, Stephanie and Roberta for answering my European Vacation Trivia Quiz questions correctly! Cyndi and Roberta also guessed where I was "based" in Germany - a little town called Schweinfurt about 2 hours east of Frankfurt. Schwein means pig. Apparently there are wild pigs running around in the forests, although the closest we got to one was at a wildlife park. Did you know that wild pigs are quite hairy? Ewwww. Somehow their muddy enviroment and disturbing grunts didn't bother me as much as their hirsuteness.

I'm still sorting through my pictures (over 500) and deciding which to clean up for the album. This stuff takes forever! But I did want to show you that I couldn't stop knitting, even on vacation. BTW, I had absolutely no problems with the needles I brought onboard - the Brittanys and the Bryspuns. However. We carried on all the yarn I bought as padding for other items and we actually got stopped by security in Dallas-Ft. Worth because the skeins looked like wiring as the bag went through the scanners! The irony!

Until the next day in the life...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Almost Home

OK, some of you have guessed one of the cities I've visited! The country that it's in borders the one where we've actually spent the most time. Karl's brother is in the army and is stationed there. One of the castles we visited is the inspiration for the one in Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Today we just got back from touring a city in another neighboring country. This city is known "City of 100 Towers" and is one of the oldest on the continent. Among other things, it is also famous for its crystal (yes I've been shopping).

Ruth asked about the contest and indeed that's the surprise I've been planning. I've tried to leave some clues. If you can name these three places and the countries they are in, a prize will arrive in your mailbox:

(1) The ski resort town with the dairy product name
(2) The castle that Disney emulated for the Magic Kingdom
(3) The Heart of Europe (with the crystal)

Bonus if you can name the town where we've spent the most time...there's an army base and it includes the name of what is considered the country's "lucky animal" which is what a lot of their local dishes are made from.

All right, must go. We are leaving tomorrow for home so it's time to pack up.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Where In the World Am I?

I've been travelling through one small pastoral town after another, along fields of corn, asparagus and vineyards. We've been staying with Karl's brother and new sister-in-law whose wedding we attended last Friday and his whole family has been driving around together for the past week. We've been eating like, well, pigs which is a primary staple here. Two days ago Karl and I were in a ski resort town known for its quaint medieval beauty, whose name is likened to dairy products (at least in the US) and the country is known for its neutrality. We are 3 hours different from England. Tomorrow we're driving to one of the oldest cities on the continent to visit (more) castles and churches. I have had a ball finding yarn stores. Yarn and needles are available even in the large department and drug stores. There is a yarn store in just about every town! And I've found bargains...I picked up 15 skeins of Gedifra "Golden Tweed" for less than $4 USD per skein...OK, that was on sale but still. Lots of sock yarns too. An interesting difference in the availability of needle sizes. For example, there are no US #1's around, only 1 1/2. I will have pictures when I come back but can you guess where I've been?