Can You Have Too Many UFOs?

One of my favorite podcasts these days has been Knit Picks, with Kelley Petkun. Kelley has a wonderfully soothing voice, so this is a good one to listen to when you're a bit on the stressed side. I also appreciate how much detail she can manage when talking about knitting techniques, new books, and her own fiber-y goings-on... in about a half hour.

In the last week or so, I somehow found the time to catch up on pretty much all of my podcasts (I was waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind), so I downloaded some older episodes of Knit Picks to while away more time. I think it was Episode 12 where Kelley talks about having multiple projects going at the same time. OK, I'm with her on that one - I usually have 2 or 3 projects on the needles at once (except now. I only have my Koigu socks to work on. I really need to get to my LYS. More on that another day.). But Kelley recommends having at least 7 projects going at once, and each falls into a different category: a project for carting with you every day to pull out at the doctor's office or during long meetings (oh, how I wish I could get away with that), a slightly more challenging project for traveling on planes and such, a project that will be a gift for someone else, a project that is quite challenging and teaches you a new technique... you see where this is going.

The thing I keep coming back to is the number 7. 7???? Her methodology may work very well for her, but 7?????? I'd go insane if I knew I had 7 projects vying for my attention at all times. Maybe if I had more time to knit... you know, give up that programming gig that helps sustain La Famiglia A.K.... then I'd probably be able to handle 7 projects. But that's just too many UFOs in my book.

What do you think? Yes, most of us have UFOs laying around the house somewhere, but how many is too many?


Day 3: Learning To Spin.

Today was the big day. My friend Cris and I headed north to Halifax, PA for our drop spindle lesson at Gurdy Run Woolen Mill with Lydia Piper, spinner and fleece specialist extraordinaire.

The first thing Lydia had us do was "pre-draft" the roving. This actually took me a while to get the hang of, and it was something that I didn't even know to do during my pitiful attempts to spin on my own. With that done, the spindles started flying. And again, this took me many attempts to figure out - how long should my drafting zone be, how quickly do I need to work, how much is too much twist and how do you fix it, how thick to spin the yarn (I was everywhere between dental floss and novelty art yarn). But after 2 hours of practicing and lovely fiber-y conversation, I can now say with certainty and great pride: I Am A Beginner Spinner!

So, armed with a spindle full of single ply and a great deal more confidence, I'm off to practice some more. My goal now is to be able to spin relatively evenly as I work through the roving that I have. If I can accomplish that, I will reward myself with a well-deserved trip to The Mannings... Cris, get ready!


Day 2: Learning To Spin

Yesterday was Day 2 of my attempt to spin on my spindle (BTW, it's a high-whorl spindle, in case you're as geeky as me and were wondering.). I came to it around 9 pm, after multiple attempts to get Baby A.K. to go to sleep, and after sitting with Husband as we went through his benefits package for next year. So yeah, you could say that I wasn't really in the right frame of mind from the get-go. I read the instructions (again), I tied on a bit of rolled-up roving onto the spindle (again), and with my new knowledge of which direction is clockwise (thanks, Cris!), I spun with my right hand, and gently, gently pulled roving with my left. Then I noticed the "yarn" winding on itself towards the bottom. Too much twist? Maybe I better undo it a little... plop! Spindle was now lying on the ground, fuzzy ends of roving staring at me:
OK, I'll just join 'em back up and try again... nope. Roving won't join. I'm telling you, it's not cooperating. No amount of cajoling, twisting, re-"spinning" (since what I'm doing is clearly not spinning), bargaining, pleading, or idle threats work on this roving. So back in its box it went.

Muttering under my breath, I decided to check out a book title on Amazon that I'd heard about on the Knit Picks podcast (looks fantastic). And as if Arachne herself answered my cry for help, I came across another book that may just solve all my problems: Spinning In The Old Way. I'm going to order this one on Friday. I will not let this roving beat me. It will turn into yarn. Eventually.

For now, I'll just stick to socks...

...and wait for the weather to turn cold so I can wear this:


Which Way Is Clockwise?

The Weekend Getaway is officially over - it's Monday, and we went back to work (or daycare, depending on your age). I wasn't feeling well today - sore throat, headache, general ickiness. But when you make your living coding Java, and you have a laptop, illness doesn't stop you from doing what you do: I worked from home.

(Before I continue, I want to reiterate that I will have pictures from The Getaway and The Mystery Sweater, but my camera is seriously on the fritz. Will have a backup plan soon... I hope.)

I was busy all morning solving code problems, so by lunchtime I needed a mental break. But knitting was not in the cards, no sir. It was time to try something new. Something I've been putting off for fear of failure. Yes, my friends, it was time to


I broke out my drop spindle and the roving that came with it. I read through the instructions. And then I gave it a try. And... it's not going so well. I could bore you with all my complaints, but I won't, I'll just mention the biggest one. I can't figure out which way to spin the spindle. The directions say to turn it clockwise, but which end of the spindle do I gauge that off of? I've tried spinning it both ways, and neither creates yarn that keeps its twist. I've broken the yarn a few times already, and no matter what I try, I can't get the ends to mesh back together (whoops, I said I'd only complain about one spinning issue. Sue me.). By the time my lunch hour was over, I was seriously thinking of using my spindle as kindling.

And that concludes Day 1: Learning To Spin. Day 2 should be much more... frustrating? Productive? Photographic (if I fix my camera woes)? None of the above? Tune in and find out.


"Yarns??? YARNS?????"

Dear A.K. readers,
Second postcard always more interesting:

So today, Husband and I headed way up north to Williams College for a museum exhibit about the lives and times of Gerald and Sara Murphy. As we wended our way on Rt. 7 through the town of Great Barrington, we passed a store called Wonderful Things. In smaller type on their sign, it read "Yarns ... ... Crafts". Naturally I kept my head, and with great maturity I screamed out


Once I had finished stating the obvious to my incredibly patient (and now, quite deaf) husband, we were already 10 minutes up the road. So after taking in the exhibition and enjoying a hastily-prepared lunch al fresco, we stopped in to see what kinds of wonderful things Wonderful Things had.

Ohhhhhhhhh... they have very wonderful things. The shop is quite large, so they had plenty of room to stock acres of yarn, needles, books, patterns... you name it, they had it. As I wandered about, I couldn't help but notice their huge selection of buttons. The light bulb was a little slow coming on in my head, so it was Husband who helped out here:

"Don't you need buttons to finish The Mystery Sweater?"

I'll cut to the chase here to spare you from feeling embarassed for me. I ended up purchasing two buttons which I think will look beautiful on The Mystery Sweater, and also a ball of Cascade Fixation, in #9080 (orange), for a second pair of socks for Baby A.K., whom I miss.

Be home tomorrow night, when I'll finish, photograph, and update on ravelry, The Mystery Sweater. Then I'll wait for an actual autumn day to wear it and not melt away in.


Wish You Were Here.

Dear A.K. readers,
Long-awaited weekend has finally arrived: Husband and I are in beautiful Norfolk, CT at our favorite B&B. Checked in around 2 pm, then on to explore the town and its environs. Had lovely Italian dinner, and now settled in common area to read, blog, and knit. Whole of Litchfield conducive to massive knitting jags... may attempt to find LYS tomorrow.

Wish you were here... leaves much more colorful here than in Central PA. Pictures to come.

- Marni, the Accidental Knitting Traveler

P.S. If in need of something to listen to while knitting: Cast-On podcast #55. All Cast-On podcasts are good - this one is genius.



Has this happened to anyone else?

Last week, I went to pick up Baby A.K. from daycare. She and her classmates were on the playground, and because it was chilly, she was wearing her sweater and hat set that Grandma (Mother Of A.K.) had made her last year (and it still fits!):

Another mom was also collecting her children and noticed Baby A.K.'s finery. She asked me all about the set, who made it, was it difficult, how long did it take, knit or crochet... and then she hit me with, "Can your mom make a set for me? I'll pay for it!"

I was caught completely off-guard, and fumbled for something to say. On the one hand, it's an incredibly nice offer, and my mom would be thrilled to hear that someone was willing to pay her to knit for them. But on the other hand, and the reality of the situation: the sweater and hat set was knit from a published pattern, so the finished product can't be profited from according to copyright laws. So the dilemma is, how do you explain something like this to a nice, non-knitting acquaintance whose son is in the same class as your child and you don't want to come off haughty and all law-abiding but unless she wants to learn how to knit it herself, you just can't knit it for her?

My answer: stall. I told her I'd have to ask my mom (cringe). But in order to get out from under this gracefully, I'll have to say something like, "Thank you so much for the offer, but my mom has too many gifts to knit for the holidays." Of course the worst part is, it isn't really true. Yes, my mom has a lot of knitting projects in the queue, but none of them are for the holidays. They're all for Baby A.K.

I don't like bending the truth, but, well... can anyone else think of another way out of this?


"I Want To Thank The Academy... ".

The... Mystery... Sweater... is... FINISHED.

(Actually, it's 99.8% finished.)

I want to thank Husband of A.K. for the opportunity to work on The Mystery Sweater in a giant, 4-hour, baby-free block of time. Taking Baby A.K. out on errands with you for the afternoon gave me the peace and quiet I needed to concentrate on my finishing. I wouldn't be where I am right now without that.

I also want to thank bradamant, a fellow ravel-er who, through the genius of that site, was able to help me with the turtleneck. Why her? Because the databases there flagged her as someone who had a project in common with me, and it happened to be Magnolia. Hers came out beautiful, so I sent her a message with all my finishing questions. She very kindly responded, and really cleared up my confusion. I am very grateful for her insight, and I now have another reason to dig ravelry.

Finally, I want to thank those of you who left comments or sent me email with your suggestions on how to get past my finishing lethargy. It's nice to be reminded that a lot of people have the same issues about finishing as I do, and that we all seem to conquer it the same way: a positive attitude, focusing on the "thrill of victory"...
and beer. All three worked for me.

The Mystery Sweater is being blocked now, and I have to find some nice buttons to adorn the turtleneck. Once these couple of things are done, I'll post pictures.

Gonna finish my beer and go to bed, with the immortal words of Baby A.K. in my head:

Yayyyyyyyyy! All right!!!! I Did It!!!!


Mark Your Calendars.

What a gorgeous day we had here in Central PA today. Sunny, about 65 degrees... and a Saturday. La Famiglia A.K. spent the better part of the day outdoors - first at our local playground, then at the Fall Harvest Festival at Ashcombe. What a great place - a nursery, a market, a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, hayrides... Baby A.K. particularly liked sliding into bales of hay...

... and I particularly liked talking to the nice folks at Big Rock Alpaca Farm. They had a small stand set up, with two beautiful alpacas and a bunch of alpaca products on display. I could have stood there all day, but Baby A.K. wasn't about to let that happen. But, good news - they're having an open house the first two weekends in November. Can't make it? Give them a call and schedule a private viewing of the alpacas and the store. I think I'll be looking at any alpaca roving they have, because...

I'm going to learn to spin!!!

My friend Cris and I have a lesson with Lydia at Gurdy Run Woolen Mill to begin our spinning odyssey. As if I wasn't obsessed with yarn enough, I'm about to start making my own. And yes, Husband of A.K. is on board with all this.

I'm the luckiest woman in the world.


Still finishing.

What is it about sewing up and blocking a UFO that instills such lethargy in me?

Yep, I'm still finishing The Mystery Sweater. I've got one sleeve sewn on, and it looks fantastic, thanks to this book... so why haven't I done more? I think part of it is because the only time I have to work on it is at night, when I'm too tired to sew. What I really need is to block out a couple of hours where there are no interruptions. Maybe Husband can take Baby A.K. out for a little while this weekend so I can finish finishing.

But I admit, time isn't my only issue. I love the process of creating things. I'm not a fast knitter, but that's ok, because I actually like to watch each and every stitch form on my needles. I love watching a sock or a sweater grow from cast-on to bind-off. I love to knit a few rows (rounds), then stop... just to look at what I've done. So when I get to the part where I have to put something together, it's like admitting that the project is ending, which is a little sad (maybe I'm a little sad for admitting that). Finishing is also the most crucial part of a project: no matter how even your stitches are, or how complex the Fair Isle is, it means nothing if your finishing sucks. So having that pressure hanging over my head isn't the most fun part about knitting for me. I'm trying to make friends with finishing - instead of loathing, resisting, or hiding from it, I'm trying to change my thought process and just... do... it.

My friend Cris weighed in on finishing a few days ago... what about the rest of you? Can anyone suggest ways to get past a finishing phobia?


Heeding The Siren Song.

I first started hearing whispers about it at the beginning of the summer. I believe it was The Yarn Harlot's excellent blog where I first read of it. Then I started hearing of it on other random knitting blogs, and then the podcasts. This went on and on until as late as last week, when I decided that if I heard one more person mention it, I would have a breakdown.

And then, yesterday, it came for me. And in my weakened state, I heeded the siren song that is...


I don't even know how to begin to describe this incredible site. You can catalog all of your knit/crochet projects down to the smallest detail. You can catalog the yarn in your stash. And every knitting/crochet book you've ever read. And every idea for a project you've ever had. And every set of needles/hooks you own. Meet other members, and add them to your list of "Friends". Join a group or two... or ten. And that's just the beginning...

Since ravelry is still in beta, you'll need to get on the waiting list before creating your account, but trust me, it's worth the wait. When you get your invitation to join, come find me. Screen name "Marni".


Knitting Blogs Rocks!

Ring around the blogs.
So much to say and to knit.
Love my hit count now!

I'm sure you've all noticed the new little Knitting Blogs button on the right side of the page. Powered by RingSurf, Knitting Blogs is just one of a gazillion net rings they manage, and do so wonderfully. By all means, click on it and check out the other yarny blogs that are clogging the Internet - you'll be amazed at how many of us addicts there are in the world.

The other button is equally cool. Knitting Daily is just what it sounds like: a daily newsletter all about knitting. Written by the creative minds at Interweave Press, they'll send you the newsletter and a lot more... for free! So click on the button and sign up. I don't know how I went this long without knowing about it.


Thinking Pink For Kathy.

Back on 9/13, I mentioned a life-altering event that prompted me toward great feats of charity knitting. Here's that story.

Kathy and I met on move-in day at the University of Delaware. We lived on the same floor in the Honor's dormitory, but weren't roommates. She was an actual Honor's student: extremely bright, pretty, classically trained soprano, intensely focused on her studies and her desire to be, if memory serves, a physical therapist. I was an Honor's student wannabe: very good grades due to an excellent short-term memory, poodle-perm on a stick-like body (cut me some slack here, it was still the '80s), decent singer after years of pretending to be Broadway material, absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. Despite my shortcomings, we hit it off that very first night during an impromptu ice-cream social on Main St. So much can be achieved over a bowl of homemade Rocky Road.

Four years of undergrad flew by. We were roommates now. Kathy's talents in all things science-related, as well as her compassion and empathy, led her down the road to a nursing degree, while I dove into ancient Greek and Roman history and art. We studied (a lot), we partied (a lot), we cried on each other's shoulder during boyfriend crises, family crises, and school crises. I was done with my curriculum after the fourth year; Kathy had a fifth year planned. So we went our separate ways, but stayed in touch through the years as we got our first "real" jobs, got engaged, got married, and had children.

A little more than a month ago, I received an email from Kathy. A lump in her breast. Wasn't there the month before. Was having a lumpectomy.

A couple of weeks later, all the tests were conclusive. Chemo was an option, with all the pain and weakness and sickness that goes with it. So was a mastectomy. One surgery, a long recovery period, and very possibly, no more cancer.

Today, as I see it, was the day that Kathy got rid of her cancer for good. I'm sure the mastectomy went very smoothly, and she's resting comfortably (with the help of some powerful drugs) with her family nearby. Once she's on the mend and is feeling up to it, I'm hoping she'll be amenable to a Roommate Reunion - I'll take a day off from work to drive the couple of hours to her home for a long-overdue visit.

Today, The Family A.K. was thinking pink for Kathy (Husband of A.K. is wearing a light pink-and-white striped shirt. Hard to tell with my camera-that-needs-to-be-replaced-badly).
I actually started thinking pink last night. It was a Caring Place night, and since the building is always chilly, I layered up.
Baby A.K. was thinking pink last night, too, when she demanded that Daddy let her wear pajamas with "polka dots".
And the piece de resistance: Breast Cancer Awareness Week in Harrisburg was commemorated with a ceremony led by Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll. With a flick of a switch, the massive fountain in back of the Capitol was awash in pink water.I've always wondered how they get the water so... pink.

Here's to a speedy recovery, and an end to breast cancer for Kathy and for all women everywhere.


Starting To Finish.

I started putting The Mystery Sweater together last night. It began with me deciding that I was too tired to start putting The Mystery Sweater together last night. But my conscious started to peck away at the corners of my brain. So I thought, I'll just clean the dining room table off, but I'll start sewing tomorrow. Two minutes later, after the dining room table was empty... a blank canvas, so to speak... I thought, I'll just lay the pieces out, but I'll start sewing tomorrow. I took a look at the front and back of the sweater, which a day or two ago totally confounded me as to which side was which. I don't know what my hangup was then - front and back were as clear as... knit and purl (you thought I was going to say "night and day", didn't you?). So I thought, I'll just pin the shoulders together, but I'll start sewing tomorrow. One minute later, shoulders pinned, I thought, oh ALRIGHT already. I'll sew the friggin' shoulders together. And twenty minutes later...

I was well on my way to finishing the sweater.

In case you're wondering, it's knit with Rowan Kid Classic and Kid Silk Haze held together. Very soft, kind of floaty and airy. But also warm. I really hope I can figure out the turtleneck...


The Mystery Sweater Revealed.

So what's the big mystery about The Mystery Sweater?

The mystery is this: it's been so long since I started the thing, I barely remember what it's supposed to look like when it's finished.

I think this project began in the late summer of 2005. The sweater is actually called Magnolia, a Kim Hargreaves pattern from a Rowan book. When I started the sweater, I made a photocopy of the pattern to stick in my bag... and then promptly lost the original pattern book. There were a lot of starts and stops, a lot of do-overs, and a long-ish wait when I, in perfect Accidental Knitter form, ran out of yarn and had to pray that Dori found me some more. She did find me more yarn, but by that time it was Spring, and this is a Winter project. So I put it aside, and now it's time to finish it already.

So as of Sunday night, the pieces were all knit, and I just have to sew it together. Sounds promising, right? Well, this is where things get... not so simple. When I pulled out the front and back of the sweater, I realized that I no longer remember which side is which - they look identical. It took me a few minutes to remember which size I chose to knit it in - was it the Small? Maybe the Medium, since this project was post-pregnancy... ? The turtleneck collar, which is knit seperately with size 8 needles and sewn on, was found in my knitting bag with size 10 needles attached to it. I don't remember having gauge issues with this pattern... or did I... ? And speaking of that turtleneck collar, I knit and unknit that thing a dozen times, and it just looks... wrong. If only I had a picture of the sweater to see what this is supposed to look like... but oh yeah, I lost the pattern book. Where the heck is it, anyway... ?

Now what? I really want to finish it - it has the potential to be very beautiful and very well chosen for my particular body type (think 13 year-old boy). It's so close to being completed that I can't not finish it. And I can't possibly move on to the other projects waiting in the queue until this one is deemed a FO. So I've decided to soldier on without finishing instructions: I'll figure out front from back and sew everything up except the turtleneck - that will most definitely be my final test of patience and intuitive knitting.

I'll post pictures of The Mystery Sweater soon. Writing about it psyched me out too much to actually start sewing it up right now... I'm gonna watch Knitty Gritty instead.

Knitting Bloggers
Previous | Next

I am Knitting Daily