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Tuesday, August 1, 2006

It is so hot here in Chicago, as I am sitting in my fully air-conditioned house, the place where my back meets the chair is screaming for MERCY!

We are the Land of the BIG Shoulders here and not built to be citizens of the Land of Hella...

Yesterday, while shooting pictures of the twin demons ASPHALT/CONCRETE (oh yeah, talk about yer basic Heat Sponges), my face turned beet red. OVERLOAD! Red Alert! I have drank (grammar?) so much water in the last 24 hours it is insane (but necessary).

And what ya gonna knit when the Devil Himself is standing over you with a Blow Torch?

C-O-T-T-O-N

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Here is my little Ribby Pulli, made from ggh Bali (I love this stuff) in the color Kahki. I am almost up to the armscye bind offs. It is light and lovely - but if ever, oh ever, I've been glared at on the bus for knitting, now is the time. Fascinated glares, however.

I will KNIT - damn ye, Heat Demons!

What's everybody knitting in this delirious weather?

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KIPKIPKIPKIPKIP

alrighty now
for the first time in days the Window Are OPEN!

There's even a small fresh rainy breeze coming in and I am basking in its flow.

Not much knitting got done the last couple days, and operative word here is DONE because maybe re-knittiing a pocket 3 times until you get it right could be plain wrong...

I raise my iced tea (actually mostly lemon juice with a shot of Equal) to all of us out there who are flappin' WIPs in Mother Nature's face - baby, let's hope that hot flash is over...

Last night it started to rain here - huge mountain sized thunderclouds full of such loud exploding noise that it was no suprise when the walls and walls of rain came crashing down. I was still wearing the City Grease that lands on me from working outside and before I took a shower, I sink-washed some clothes (I was too chicken to use the washer - this was a Violent storm). The coolness of the water on my over-heated arms and hands was indescribably simply delicious.

And I blocked my knitting and all was well again.

Vickie writes: "I am so confused about blocking. I get the process but my question is more for the after care. Does a garment have to be "re-blocked" after each washing? Or is it just the initial time that matters?"

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orange - Mondo Cable; lime - Paulina from Berroco - thong sandals - Keene

My answer - It Depends.

After-Blocking implies After-Cleaning. And just like you have some clothes you are perfectly happy to wear straight out of the dryer, there are other garments that you will want to take one step further to maximize their appearance and fit.

Above you see a couple of favorite shells of mine, blocking after I hand-washed them. But Bonne, you might say, aren't they just drying? And I would answer - nay m'lady - if you look closely the garments are symmetrical and pressed flat into the proportions that they originally had. I wish I would've taken a picture of them right out of the towel (rolled up in to remove excess water) - you would've seen a messy pile of wet fabric. Both of these are cotton - and garments knit from cotton tend to distort and bend in unwearable ways during the cleaning process.

If I didn't lay them out in the original dimensions per their respective pattern schematics, they would not look the way they were intended to. A few minutes patting and pulling and they're back with a pretty fit and finish and ready to go.

And because I like how well this makes the garments look, I use this approach on most other fiber types I knit with that can be wet-washed. Blended fibers might get a trip in the dryer for awhile before they are formed into place; wool garments dry flat, then I might touch them up with a steam iron. Even fully washable/dryable garments get a little bit of tender loving flat-time - really makes stuff last longer and look runway ready!

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Chic Knits = WARDROBE

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see all these patterns and more HERE

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Barbara hails from New Jersey, northwest of NYC!

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say HI! to Lisa and read her adventures at Knitting Up a Storm

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Hilary writes: "Hi there. Here's a picture of CeCe from Melbourne, Australia. It's too cold to wear it just now, but I'm looking forward to Spring.

Here's another pic, a "location shot" for you - my daughter outside her childcare this morning, looking at a few grazing kangaroos. Although we're in the city, there are plenty of wildlife corridors that allow the roos to move around. Thanks for the CeCe pattern - I loved knitting the lace and was amazed that it worked out so well since the only time I have for knitting is after work/child bedtime/gin and tonic when I'm a bit tired! Regards, Hilary"

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Monday, August 7, 2006

  Monday Morning Mirth  

how they do that...

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Tuesday, August 8, 2006

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BEHOLD! The power of the knitted dinosaur!

This little buddy made me laugh so hard I cried! He was fashioned by Mary, using the talented Jenn's pattern and is just missing his chubby legs...

This portrait was taken at our KIP last week where even in spite of rampaging temperature, several brave souls met to trip the needles fantastic!

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from l. to r. Trope, Kandy, Mary, b-Marie, Michele

Kandy, who hails from Arkansas, was in Chicago on business, and stopped by for a little rockin' fun - she was wearing a very sophisticated knitted ensemble that was to die for. So much fun to visit and knit - at the end of the evening, what a wonderful treat to have made a new friend!

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More knitterly get togethers!

HABU Textiles, in town for Stitches Midwest, made a guest trunk show appearance at Nina's on Division.

Even the duck soup temperatures didn't deter Theresa & I from exploring the fabulous fibers of Habu - I came away with a couple of very intriguing scarf kits. One is called Kushu Kushu and is a pairing of fine gauge merino and something so intriguing you have to see it to believe it - silk stainless. This will be a scarf with a center wool section bordered by gossamer rippling metal silk - gorgeous!

Meeting Takako Ikejiri was delightful! Her designs and vision are modern, clean and very inspiring. Everytime I see these yarns in person, I fall more in love with the subtle, neutral shades Takao has put together in the collection.


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Thursday, August 10, 2006

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It Grows! The Ribby Pulli has arrived at a fabulous place - the UnderArm!

Usually, this area is un-named, shunned and ignored until it misbehaving self twitches our nose while it's just saying howdy. Today we celebrate the UnderArm! Today, it is a milestone for us and we will sing its praise!

Because today is the day we can let it graduate and become a YOKE - full of promise, joining with sleeves to make a whole.

But oops, better go make the da** sleeves...

This morning something funny happened to my wallet. I got an email from these folks and was going to Be a Big Fat Enabler (Again) and show you the Goods but ZOOM! This stuff went so fast it disappeared before my very eyes while I was reaching for the plastic. So I'll be a BFE anyways and

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tell you to sign up HERE
on their notify list for
some really cool sales.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

  Monday Morning Mirth  

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In Case you have'nt had Breakfast/Lunch yet,
let me recommend a Chez Chic favorite!

This box came to me delivering an notorious eBay purchase...

INSIDE? Not what you might think, mes petits amis, but another kind of cool Macaroni...

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Six lovely balls of Linen Drape in Natural - YUM!
Now all I have to do is get five more and I can make a cardi...

What's your best eBay score?

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

OK. It's Tuesday and I'm still a little woozy. WHO would think a hangover could last this long?

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You would, if you were one of the thousands of people who were out at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center this weekend, getting higher than a kite on EVERY type of fiber imaginable.

I wasn't really planning on going but when Theresa mentioned she and Julie were making the trip AND taking the Blue Line, I was a goner. The train lets you off just about two blocks from the building and it was a done deal.

First stop: Blue Moon Fiber Arts, which you see above. I love their Motto: "Changing the World One Sock at a Time". And if the teeming mass of knitters swarming that booth were any indication, these folks are headed for Total Global Domination!

Second Stop: but of course, no trip to a Fiber Fest would be complete without a hearty hail howdy to the wonderful folks at the Fold! They were, IMHO, best of show, as always and paired with their friends from Canada, Rovings, made me the mess I am today. I got INTOXICATED with fiber, ladies and gentlemen. Laugh if you must, but I predict if you ever make this journey you will fall down the same slippery slope. Just ask some of the incredible people [hey Franklin! hey Sean! hey KathyM! hey KarenB! hey Laila!] I met and talked to - they will tell you I was having a hard time remembering my name...

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In fact, the fiber high coupled with a large Latte on the Train, made me lose my bearings and I lost my traveling companions for a few seconds until Corinne, who had joined-in-progress, spun me around and showed me just who had discovered their favorite treasure trove...

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I would not be doing my knitterly duty if I did not Flash the Stash that rode home on the Blue Line with me...

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Leading the short but cherce cavalcade of swag, but of course, the King(Queen?) of Yarns: Socks That Rock in the Cracked Canyon colourway! Unbelievably yummy - orange, teal, etc. boffo.

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A little addition to the pattern works - a wonderfully modern design from the Two Old Bags called the Pinwheel Shawl!

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Also discovered, a company who actively listens to Knitters(!) - the Wisconsin leather crafters Homestead Heirlooms - here you see my Darling Tiny Handles Waiting for Just the Right Little Purse Pattern (suggestions? help!) to send it down the P.M. Runway on my next night out...

That's IT! There's also a *little bit more* that will soon be revealed in a fall into fashion way but until then... :)

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Chic Knits = WARDROBE - Get dressed

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VaVa VOOM! The beautiful Gina from
Life in LaLaLumay Land
catwalks her new FO - a Ribby Shell!


ChicKnits Ribby Shell (flat front version)
4 balls Rowan Calmer, #484 Lucky
US 8 and 5
8 August - 15 August 2006

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Thinking about using Calmer? Another reader weighs in...

Heather writes:
"I'm very glad to have discovered your site and I love your patterns. I'm interested in using Rowan Calmer for the Ribbi Shell. Do you think it has too much stretch to be appropriate or will it just enhance the stretch of the ribs?"

My reply: "Hi Heather! The Ribby Shell would look great in Calmer - I have one on the needles right now using the color *Drift*. I love that stuff.

Just be sure to use the right needle size - it can be fussy - I am using #8 metal needles for the larger needle size...

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Monday, August 21, 2006

  Monday Morning Mirth  

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photo of Manos del Uruguay courtesy Theresa

Yarn - the stuff [filll in the blank] are made of...

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

--- Note ---

Comments were broken yesterday - sorry about that - they have been fixed! So fire away!


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Just [Do] Dye It...

One yarn flop, one stash dig, and a pile later, I realized I did not have the color I craved for something I really wanted to make. Maybe it was out there somewhere (UK? China? Oz?), but this was a today kind of itch and baby, I needed to scratch.

Relying on the commercial folks to match my mind's eye is ususually a crap shoot of the highest order no matter the calendar. While there are many (too many?) fibers out there I adore and could not live without, there always seems to be a gap.

Some days it seems the colors I see most often in yarns are off-tone, too bright, too dull, too yellow, not blue enough, crayola clones, wrong fiber, straight out-of-the-bottle ordinary, too $$$, discontinued, somebody else's dream.

Not bad. Just. Not mine.

This was the day my brain was totally awash in Bijou Blue.

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And this was as close as I could get...

Right, not Bijou. And really Not Blue.

But see those little bottles in the lower left of the picture?

Turquoise + Magenta = BeeBlu.

And with a whole weekend ahead of me, I was more than game.

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After weighing the Yarn (1.5 lbs. of worsted weight old school Germantown) I skeined it up. And promptly broke my swift. All the little arms were held together with a most fragile piece of soft copper wire. Looking at it all akimbo made me realize how astonishing it was that it lasted as long as it did.

But after a valiant attempt to re-wire the beast back together, I was forced to visit a new and exciting land.

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My Office...

Home of millions of boxes of god-knows-what (clothes? yarn? shoes? files? canceled checks from 1993?).

Also home of the best darned *swift* I've ever used in a pinch - an archive crate.

Twelve skeins in all were wrapped and washed. (And I was especially chuffed that I'd finally mastered the figure 8 tie. Take that! you nasty cheap swift!)

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Now comes the fun part!

This time out, I thought I'd try something different. Usually I decide on color percentages (my method? none. nada. trial-and-error. mostly) and mix them together as a paste with hot water.

This time I mixed dry. And although the colors you see above might be a little skewed by your monitor monkey, they are pretty close to what I was going for.

And even then I had to use my imagination. I was not going for the usual deep effect, I wanted to try a tone - a half-as-deep version of what the full recommended (1 teaspoon per lb.) dose might be.

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No sacrifice of tool was too large for this effort and many a paper plate met its maker this day...

The final effect would be dependent on water volume and dry powder used...

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August 23, 2006

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CLOSE! but no cigar, m'lady...

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Now that the dyein' is over, the cryin' begins? WHO would squeal when they get almost the exact result they were going for?

ME.

[It reminds me of the time I nagged and nagged a boyfriend to shave his beard. He presented his soft new face to me and suddenly I realized he had no chin! Whodat man?]

Now that I see it, all dry and mighty, I realize I would've liked it a quarter tone darker. Yeah, splitting fractions here, but when you are doing this it is a Measure Fest and fractions are indeed your friend...

Beth S. writes: "It seems like it would be hard to mix dry powders together without raising a toxic cloud in your kitchen. But you must have figured something out!"

Beth's right! This stuff (including Kool-Aid) is not user friendly - there's the possibility of lots of fine particles flying around. So you need to practice good habits when measuring the dry stuff. I bought a box of face masks and use 'em. I measure slowly and carefully.

This was a very interesting session. I used Sabraset Dye (from ProChem) and did exactly what their instructions recommend.

After the yarn was fully submerged in the dye solution with the heat brought up to a simmer, I stirred it every few minutes and noticed something that had not happened other times I dyed with these acid dyes.

One color was uptaking faster than the other!

The water was purple. The yarn was turquoise.

I panicked!

What to do? Pull it? Add more Magenta (gaack)? Go online and SOS?

Google to the rescue! I searched [phrase: *dye won't exhaust*] and found out that sometimes it takes more than the recommended (about an hour to an hour-and-a-half) time to exhaust the dye solution. [Exhaust: all dye is absorbed by the fiber and the water is CLEAR! I love that part!]

I left the batch, at the lowest gas flame I could manage on the UberPot, stirring every few minutes, for a little over 2.5 hours.

Then suddenly, It Happened.

The yarn was Bijou Blue at 50%.

All the Magenta flew into the yarn.

Whine & Cheese: What I would do differently next time? AHA! Looking at the yarn I used for the figure 8 ties [a light taupey grey] I would maybe start with a different base color. This would give a duller, more sophisticated cast to the whole shebang...



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The Scale: I got mine on eBay (from my sister's recommendation) - search on *Escali Digital* and shop til you drop...

The Enabler Button: Marji writes - "I just love the BFE icon! Is it available to use?" WOOT! Thanks so much! Please take it and use it to spread the love!

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Monday, August 28, 2006

  Monday Morning Mirth  

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I was shopping for my Mom's B-day present and what should pop into my basket? Fifty-cent Sachets! Love the Rainbow Store - you NEVER know what you will find in the sale bins...

Here's the one's that are going to Northern Lower:

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tiny handbags are more Mom's style (smells spicy)...

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

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self-portrait Tuesday...



and what knocked my socks off?


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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

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The rainy, overcast weather makes for some yummy late summer knittin' ease. Here's my Khaki pulli - I'm thinkin' it's going to be fun to wear in September. (It's almost September... :)

You can sort of see I am using 2 - 32" circular needles to knit this in the round. The light here is really faint this morning - hard to get a good shot (and I don't like flash). Anyway, when a sweater is all huge in the shoulder area with the mammoth amount of stitches you get when you knit in one piece, it is easier, IMHO, to use the two circs - smooth operation. Many people use this technique to knit the small tubes like you get in socks and gloves. I like it for the Big Tubes you get on a sweater.

I use one needle for each *side* - going from mid-sleeve to other mid-sleeve per needle, which is cool on ribbing because if there are any (and believe it or not there ususally isn't when you get the hang of it) wonky join problems, it's in the purl valley. (Sounds like a good place to live - "in the purl valley"). If I was doing a different kind of stitch pattern, I might position the join elsewhere to minimize any probs.

This two circular method is really easy on the wrists and hands too - my Mom took to it like a duck to water and she has pretty dire arthritis. Thank you all who have asked about her - she is doing better - still struggling with extreme degenerative disk disease and the many day-to-day challenges our elders face.

Like much in life, small changes can make a big difference in comfort levels, so I'm also knitting the RP inside out to keep it clean as it travels with me on the #66. No kid glove handling when we go mobile! It's in the bag, stuffed. Out of the bag lapped. I do believe this is the first thing I've ever knit in public that I haven't been asked if it is a Scarf! WOOT! Some kind of knitic sonic barrier has been crossed! Could be time to knit an entire sweater with #3 needles!

Maybe not.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

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This is my favorite picture of my Mom. She's gone fishin', wearing her Buster Brown socks. I think the date is 1938. Mom turns 74 today.

Even now, when I look in my Mother's face, just talking, most times I see this bright little smile. Her eyes crinkle up along the edges in the same joyful shape. They draw me in and hold me tight. Might be the most powerful tractor beam on the planet, this connection between a mother and child.

You've probably felt this power. Maybe your own mother was just looking at you with delight. Maybe those eyes told you another unspoken story and made you squirm and wince and wish you hadn't ditched your little sister when Mom asked you to play with her for a just a little while longer.

Maybe those eyes gave you needed understanding and hope even when you knew what was behind the outside was something only she could bear on the inside and maybe never really show you.

It's been a hard, hard year for my Mom. She's been making peace with difficult physical changes in her spine. It's letting her down in so many ways, I am sometimes astounded she can even move around anymore at all.

But move she does and this year, when it got close to her birthday and she started talking SOCKS I knew just what to do. Last year, I'd given her little sister, my aunt, some yarn and needles and set her down the rosy path to Toeville.

This is what I sent to Mom:

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Under all this swag is the "Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles" book and on top, some Regia, Opal, Cascade 220 and Addis to practice on before she goes small gauge. I showed Mom how to use the two circs to knit big pieces a few years ago to help her manage the weight of a sweater.
I can't wait to see what she makes with this!

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