Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Arrrrrggggghhhhh-ile Sock

Who ever invented the argyle sock must have been a looney tunes! I'm a knitting goddess, right? I have made plenty of socks. Argyle... no problem. I whip out the double points and cast on some luscious navy blue. I don't need the pattern until I get to the intarsia work. Round and round I go in ribbing. I finally reach the stockinette and I add the colors. This will be a breeze. One time around and.... what's this? All of my bobbins are on the wrong side! What the heck? I guess I'm forced to look at the pattern. Cast on on straight needles? Oh, my god. I rip everything out and start again. This really isn't a major set back; I can maintain the zen-like knitting state. I add the colors and do the first row. I turn the work and start the second row. Half of the bobbins fall out because they are just haning there. Rip again. Six times I try to add hte colors, and I'm never satisfied. Finally, I decide I will go ahead and maybe I can fix it up later.

I keep working the colors until the cross hatches cross the diamonds. I don't need a pattern here, I can "read" what I'm working on. Two rows later the numbers are all off. I have to rip back again and redo that part because I "read" it wrong. Of course I only figured this out after I stared at the pattern for 35 minutes.

Now I start cruising. I finish the color diamonds, change colors, and I'm really going to town. I can do this! UNTIL... I start the final diamond on the instep. I must have ripped that one out 13 times. My entire family was telling me to throw the sock in the fire pit already (we were camping at the time). But I kept working, and one night, by lantern light, I finished the color work and was ready for the heel flap.

The heel flap and heel turning were no problem, but picking up and knitting the sides were the last straw. I had had it. I read the pattern and tried 10 different times. I read the article in the Cast On magazine I had brought with me and saw the line that talked about color choices. I had read it before, but something drew me to it again. "Pick light colors" for the sock so that it is easier to assess for Level II. Is navy blue a light color? SHIT! Now I have wasted all of that time and energy and I will have to do it again. Who the hell invented this sock anyway? Why would anyone want to make it?

I clear my head and decide that this sock was a "learning process". It was done to make the final sock a "better sock". Yeah, right; whatever.

I love arrrrrgggggghhhhh-ile socks!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Swatching is Fun! Who knew?

The Olympics are great for knitting! I have watched nearly 18 hours a day and there is hardly anything I don't want to watch. Command Central is set up in the living room with two remotes, all of my knitting materials, and Talia on my lap as I knit. I had to sneak a break right now to post - Australia and USA are tied in soccer and I can listen as I write.

The Masters Level II swatches are just flying off of the needles. I feel like I am really making progess, even though most of them have had to be ripped out and started two or three times. I went yesterday and got the yarn for the argyle sock (while taping the Olympics in case something good was on - there wasn't really) - and I'm swatching right now.

A note on swatching. I am reading Knitting Lessons, by Lela Nargi for one of the four book reviews I need to complete for Level II. She talks about swatching as a main part of her knitting. In the book she introduces others who swatch like crazy and don't always work on projects. Being a "project" knitter, this initially made no sense. Why on earth would anyone want to use valuable time to create something that can't be used?

When I began knitting, like most knitters, I rushed to the pattern and never swatched. I was lucky. My gauge, even from the beginning, was almost exact and the garments I made fit well. My first swatching was done when I made a love sweater for DH. Because of his size, I had to modify an existing pattern. The only way to do that, and be sure the sweater fit, was by swatching. I hated it. It felt like a waste of time.

After that, I realized the importance of swatching, but most of the time I began the pattern and measured my gauge early on. If something needed to be changed, I ripped it and restarted the project, measuring again until I had the right gauge. Again, most of the time I was lucky. If a change needed to be made, I could easily get the gauge I wanted after one needle swap.

Then came the TKGA Masters Knitting Level I. Being a Virgo, I love order and purpose. This Knitting Masters program is perfect for me. I ordered the materials and axiously ripped open the folder when it arrived. Swatches? I would need to submit more than 15 swatches? My first reaction was sorrow. I didn't think I would like the program as much as I had originally thought. I worked away, not always doing my best work, rarely working a swatch more than once and sent off my work. I had to redo several swatches. Some more than once. I didn't like it.

Now I'm on Level II and the materials have sat for over a year after seeing I would need to submit another 20 plus swatches. But something changed. After reading Nargi's book, I began to look at swatching differently. I tried to find ways to challenge myself by new patterns I would previously only attempt for a project. I started to feel a sense of accomplishment by completing these difficult patterns. They were beautiful (even though they often took two or three tries to get right). I have morphed into a "process" knitter. I'm starting to go swatch crazy. I now look at stitch patterns, and instead of saying, "I wouldn't like that in a sweater," I say, "Gee, that might be fun to try!" And if it doesn't work out, I haven't ruined a sweater, I can throw out the defective product as though it never happened and start over.

So, when you want to try something new, think about swatching. I have joined the swatching craze, after 20 years of proclaiming, "I don't need to make a swatch," I am planning all kinds of swatching challenges for myself.

Friday, August 13, 2004


Is it really August? All of the windows are closed, not to keep the cool air in, but to keep the cool air outside. The kids have covered up their tans with sweatshirts and last night the winter coat came out for watching a meteor shower – turned out the clouds made it difficult to see anything. Perfect weather for knitting inside, which is exactly what I did until 2:30 am last night. Who new that Turner Classic Movie channel showed classics? Hmmm, I guess that should have been obvious. I think that I am in love

..... who new Laurence Olivier was such a hottie? I only remember him as this bald old man in The Jazz Singer. But last night he wooed two different women in Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. My knees went weak, thank god I was sitting down!
I am on swatch 14 of TKGA Masters II. I have also finished one book review on Knitting Lessons. I can see this project progressing after a rocky road (err, river) last week. I ended up knitting beautiful lace on the river (sorry Elizabeth, no photo.... since the digital camera died we haven’t been able to buy a new one). I showed it to the family as we sat on the sand bar near our tent watching traffic go by on the bridge. The family, knowing I wouldn’t let up until I felt their genuine praise, mumbled "Uh-huh, nice" while forcing a smile on their face and barely glancing at my lace creation. I finished a gorgeous lace swatch on the river after quite a bit of frogging, then admired it and started another swatch. When the second swatch was almost done, I realized that I messed up the first one. I was supposed to do three repeats and I only did two. Shit! I think the beautiful river scenery confused me.
Well, finally all of the lace swatches are done and I’m working on yummy cable swatches. What a great time...PGA Championships are in my DH and my home-town (which is only a 20 minutes drive), the Olympics start tonight, and TCM will have more great movie marathons. I’ll let you know how flat my butt gets from all of that sitting and knitting. Maybe I could set my own athletic record for consecutive hours sitting in front of TV while knitting. Better go practice!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Wet campers come home early....

tired, cold and hungry, but ready to head out on another adventure. We watched the weather all day yesterday and debated about making the 3 hour trip to the river only to be caught in bad weather. The radio reports in the car kept saying "chance of thunderstorms, some of which may be severe", but there was no immediate threat, UNTIL... we got on the river.

Sure we saw the black clouds, sure we heard the distant thunder, but we are river gods and goddesses; we can set up before it hits. After about 3 minutes on the river, lightning struck about 2 miles away. Where is the most unsafe place to be in lightning? WATER! Here we were with both girls and the dog, floating away. DH and I paddled our hearts out to get to the island to set up, but reality struck. This was dangerous. We turned around and stashed the canoe under a bridge while we sat in the car as the storm passed. Afterwards, the sky to the west was even darker and we heard the radio change it's tune..... "Severe thunderstorms in the area, many have a history of damaging winds, hail the size of nickels, deadly lightning strikes and torrential rainfall. We have already received 1 1/2" of rain with the storm that came through a few minutes ago."

Do we really want to be on an island in the river, trapped during a thunderstorm? Do we really want to take a chance with river levels upstream making our island disappear? Do we really want to stay up all night on the river, afraid of what is coming? I don't think so!

We packed up and decided, rather than heading home, we would tent camp the night at a local state park. We arrive and find a site close to the bathrooms so that we have easy access to shelter if we need it. With thunder beckoning us to set up quickly, we get to our site and begin putting up the tent. As we are raising the poles, our lovely neighbor comes by to warn us that bad weather is approaching. "You should get that tent up quickly," she said. Oh, really? You mean that the black sky and taunting thunder mean that bad weather is coming? We had no clue! Why didn't she try to help us rather than stand there and give us a weather report. But, I won't get angry.

We set up before the rain came. All four of us huddle in the enjoy the storm inside the tent. Two minutes into the storm we realize that this will not work.The tarp I had rigged up was doing its' job, but we were exposed to the wind on the opposite side that I had projected. The tent was blowing over onto me. I held up the side while the family bailed into the van. I joined them and we sat as one of the worst storms I have seen in years went by. The ranger came through about 5 minutes later with his lights on announcing, "There is a severe thunderstorm warning for the area." Gee, we hadn't noticed!

Well, the rain never really let up, but I put on my poncho and went outside to check the damage as lightning skidded around me. DH came out, too, and after seeing the tent completely on the ground with about two inches of water on top, we decided that this was not going to work. There was water inside the tent. One pillow had become a sponge, and my cot also had a few inches of water in it. We were going home.

I won't even describe packing up that wet tent and stuffing it into the van. I won't describe driving back through the storm for two hours of the three hours with the canoe jumping around on top of the van. I also won't describe how every time we exited for a fast food restaurant, there were no signs pointing to where the restaurant was. At midnight, we arrived home to tuck in the girls and unload the wet stuff. The storms across Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Canada were what we dealt with yesterady. They haven't let up much.

This morning, we have dried out everything and I need to shower so that we can head out there again. We had talked about waiting until today to go on the river, but after checking the weather channel, the internet, and local forecasts, we thought the storms would go through that area in the afternoon. Yesterday we left at 1:30pm and spent the entire day in the van. Isn't it amazing that our girls were the first ones up today, begging to go back? They are true campers!

For Elizabeth: Can you believe that we have NO FILM? We are taking our video camera, so I will have someone videotape me knitting in the canoe! Maybe I can get a picture from that somehow!

Bye... and wish us good luck!

Monday, August 02, 2004


You are a - Hippy Sheep!
Peace dude, flower power,
ban the bomb... more grass please.
Which flock do you follow?
this quiz was made by

What I learned at the Basketball Tournament

1. You can knit lace in the wind.

2. If you knit in public, especially at sporting events, everyone wants you to make them something with the team logo on it. Here is the conversation I had about 369 times this weekend:

Any sports fan (ASF): You knit? (while looking at me knitting lace in the wind, obviously envious of my talents).
Knitting Goddess (KG): Yes, I do. ( I say this without sarcasm the first time just in case they don't know the difference between knitting and crocheting)
ASF: Are you knitting right now?
After being tempted to reply with "No, I'm performing brain surgery on a pink flamingo right now," I decide that this might be offensive.
KG: Yes, I am knitting a lace project. (Have they noticed that I'm doing this in the wind!)
ASF: What are you making?
Obviously the sport's fan wasn't paying attention to my last response. I'm pretty sure that the fan is already planning the projects that I could make for him or her.
KG: Oh, I'm practicing a lace pattern. (I highly recommend this response instead of "I'm making lace for my Knitting Master's project. I now avoid mentioning this because a. I have to explain what the Master's project is, and most of the time people never seem to "get" why someone would want to do this and b. I end up looking like a knitting geek instead of a knitting goddess.
ASF: You can knit lace?
Hasn't the fan been watching me knit lace in the wind?
ASF: Can you make (here you insert one of the following: mittens, hats, sweaters, socks, scarves, blankets, or other knitted item)? I would love one for when I watch my (son's, daughter's) (soccer, football, baseball, track, cross country, golf, volleyball, swimming, lacrosse, rugby, watermelon seed spitting, etc) team. Can you knit it with a (first letter of the team's name) on it? The team starts up in (one, two, three, less than one) week(s) and it would be so nice to have something.
(After the first person mentioned this, I have to admit that I hadn't thought of this myself. I make a mental entry in my future project journal - Make team related mittens for family. What a great idea. I could probably make up a bunch and sell them. But not right now, I am creating lace)
KG: That's a great idea!
ASF: You could probably make a bunch and sell them (thinking that of course their knitted item would be free for having come up with the idea. After hearing ASF come up with this idea for the 49th time, I began saying "That's a great idea," more sarcastically.

And the final thing I learned this weekend -

3. If you are out in the sun for eight hours during the heat of the day, you really should put on the sunscreen that has been sitting in your knitting bag all day.

Armed with these three newly learned facts, I will head off for canoe camp tomorrow with the family to see if I can:
1. Knit lace on the Wisconsin River.
2. Avoid knitting in front of ASF.
3. Use sunscreen as recommended by the Surgeon General or any person with more sense than me. That means - Let's see if I can actually put it on and not get sunburned on my sunburn this week!

See you on Friday - or maybe Saturday if the fish are biting and the weather is nice!