Good morning

Sunrise over the Grand River in Lansing's Old Town neighborhood
Sunrise over the Grand River in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood

My view from the sofa is of the sun rising over the Grand River in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood. K. D. Lang is crooning Save Me on XM Radio, and I’ve got a nice, hot café mocha with a shot of orange syrup sitting beside me. Rob and the dogs are still sleeping peacefully upstairs, but I just got in from running Franklin Habit to the train station after another wonderful visit. He was at ThreadBear over the weekend teaching Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket and signing copies of his book of cartoons and essays, It Itches, but it’s always just nice to have him here. Watching him go is a bit like saying goodbye to family.

Obviously, with Franklin here, the shop was a delightful madhouse all weekend, so I only got as much knitting time as was left over at the end of our long days, but I’m almost up to the cap on sleeve two of the barn coat. If there’s time this morning, I may finish that off and have a new coat by the end of the day.

I’ve also got some photos for you. Those will have to come later in the day, but I have shots from the weekend with Franklin as well as the shots of the living room that I promised my Mom at the end of last week. I haven’t forgotten her projects, either. It’s off to work on this end, folks. Have a great week!

My cozy little morning nook
My cozy little morning nook

Sleeve two of my barn coat
Sleeve two of my barn coat

A visit from the Bourgeois… -es

Ann & Eugene Bourgeois are coming in this evening for a workshop, and Rob and I are looking forward to having a nice dinner with them at Taste of Thai, a wonderful local restaurant. The Bourgeois… -es are always a delight to have around, and I, for one, and really grateful to have the time to actually relax with them a bit. Frequently, they’ve been in Lansing when Rob and I have been so utterly swamped that even during the times when we were supposed to be relaxing, we really weren’t.

Of course, tonight is also my typical Wednesday night in that the ThreadBear newsletter will also need to go out, but someone (them, I suspect) was smart enough to suggest dinner before their workshop. We’ll be off to dinner, come back, they’ll teach while we get our work done, and at the end of the evening, we’re not scrambling—hungry—to figure out who is still open. And which, of those is actually going to be good food for everyone? Much smarter. Sounds like Ann to me. I like her.

I like Eugene, too. He’s a genuinely nice guy who also happens to be very bright, funny, and conversationally astute. He alone can keep the table entertained for hours. Hmmph. Maybe having dinner beforehand wasn’t the best choice. It does, however, make the most sense for them. I feel fortunate to have guests here; it’s just that I’m greedy enough to want to get my work done and spend more time talking with all of the fun and interesting who come through Lansing.

Coat progress
I’m six rows or less from the top of sleeve one, and I can actually see the finish line. I want to install one sleeve immediately to make sure that it fits, so you may get to see that as early as tomorrow.

Sock progress
Nowhere. I’ve not picked it up since the last pic here.

Morgan progress
Ditto.

Other knitting
I did swatch with Classic Elite Cotton Bam Boo a couple of weeks ago, and I’d been carrying the swatch around on my addi Click needles in my bag since. Today, I showed three staff members to Magic Loop. I had no idea they didn’t know prior, or I’d have show them then. Anyway, the swatch and different needles are now on the Cotton Bam Boo shelf for anyone interested in trying out the yarn or Magic Loop technique.

Other projects
I got a call from my mom this afternoon, and I’m to show her photos of my new living room furniture arrangement and pick out three new projects for her. The photos are taken (oh, I’ll show you, too, if you promise not to make fun of my lived-in—by dog and bear—living room), and the projects include:

  • her second time around on Fetching from Knitty. Her first go-round was using Needful Extra Stampato, but she had help on her thumbs. She was here for me to do the first, but she shipped the second one to me to do. This time, I intend to walk her through the process here,
  • the Shape-It Scarf from Sally Melville’s The Knit Stitch, and
  • a cabled scarf.

These shouldn’t be too challenging for her, but usually, she’s here in Lansing visiting when she starts new projects. Since ThreadBear’s a fifteen hour drive from her home in LaGrange, Georgia, we thought this way might be more cost effective.

Streamlining

I offer this suggestion to the world at large as someone who suffers from often having too much to say. If it doesn’t work for you, ignore it, but I can attest to how much it has helped me in the last few months.

If you’re like me, most of the people that you contact are stressed for time and manage their lives via their Inbox. Keep messages short. Say what needs to be said, and get out. Lose adverbs. Ignore explanation unless it’s critical. If someone has a question or needs clarification, allow them to be responsible for getting that information. Break multiple messages or issues into separate short e-mails.

It’s made my own correspondence much more efficient and given me more to talk about and more time to interact with the people I’m e-mailing when I do get to see them.

All for me, head to toe

I have three projects currently on the needles just for me: a hat, a coat, and a pair of socks. Our friend and ThreadBear instructor, LynnH, declared January Selfish Knitting Month, and I was all for it.

Trekking 315 socks

Trekking 315 socks in progress
Trekking 315 socks in progress

I’m knitting a pair of socks for myself out of a colorway of Zitron Trekking that I fell in love with some time ago. It was one of those skeins that caught my attention a couple of times several months apart, but every time I saw it, I was excited anew. Finally, I took a skein out of stock, and I recently cast on.

I almost always knit socks on US0 needles using magic loop, and this time, I used a figure eight cast on. Assuming that I would wind up with eighty stitches, I should have cast on about twenty-six, but apparently, I wasn’t thinking and cast on twenty-two. I have a slightly more pointed toe than I generally find comfortable, but I didn’t care to rip it and reknit. It’s wool, it stretches well enough, and so far, I’m happy with my results.

I want to use a short-row heel for this pair, and I really liked the way I was working the wraps into the fabric. As is too frequently the case, I hadn’t measured, and finished the heel only to realize that the foot was about an inch too long. I worked another US0 into the fabric about an inch before the heel and ripped back Tuesday evening watching NatGeo.

Zitron Trekking in shade 315
Zitron Trekking in shade 315

Barn coat

Full view of my barn coat
Full view of my barn coat

I’m also playing design-as-you-knit with a barn coat for myself. It’s a basic cardigan with set-in sleeves and a shawl collar. Yes, the fronts are wider than the back. A good reason for that would be that I happen to have more front than back, so I made the panels accordingly. The true reason is that my gauge was off on the back, and I widened the fronts under the arms to make up the difference. The lower edge is cuffed; I used a flexible but sturdy cast on (I used the same cable cast on that I almost always use unless I have specific reason not to), knit about one-and-a-half inches of stockinette, worked a row of reverse-stockinette to create a folding line, and started the body of the fabric at that point.

For the armholes, I bound off about sixty percent of the difference between the width of my body and the width of my shoulders. To get rid of the rest of that difference, I worked a full-fashioned decrease every other row until I was down to shoulder width.

Collar detail of my barn coat
Collar detail of my barn coat

At the same time on the front center, I worked a low-visibility lifted increase just inside the reverse stockinette fold-over collar area every fourth row to give me just a little extra fabric in the shawl. I’d love to claim some sort of amazing planning, but as it happened, I got the last of the collar stitches increased at about the same time I hit my desired shoulder width. Ta-dah! I cast on the sleeves last night.

Fabric detail of my barn coat
Fabric detail of my barn coat

The fabric itself is very dense and all hair fiber. I wanted something warm enough to wear during very cold weather for long walks. As I mentioned earlier, I made a composite yarn of a strand each of Cascade 220, Reynolds Whiskey, and Needful Super Alpaca. I had originally added a strand of Needful Feeling, but the silk content was too shiny and just didn’t come together in the fabric. Thanks to Marcia Bailey for helping me take measurements and choose fibers and colors. Much appreciated.

The three yarns in the composite
The three yarns in the composite: Cascade 220 in a dark eggplant heather, Reynolds Whiskey in a muted algae green, and Needful Super Alpaca in a rich cocoa powder brown

Morgan hat

Morgan from Fall 2008 Knitty in progress
Morgan from Fall 2008 Knitty in progress in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed

Finally, my third current project (and frankly, the least immediate of the three at the moment… I need that coat), is Morgan from the Fall 2008 issue of Knitty. I’m working this pattern in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed. The original was designed in lighter weight yarn knit at a nineteen-over-four , but I was after a firm fabric, so I went with a yarn that would normally be recommended for that gauge. More than anything, though, I just love the Silkroad line, and I really love that green.

Dog whispering myself

Do you ever have those moments when you realize that you’ve been so busy that you’ve forgotten your larger goals? I had one of those moments Tuesday. I was taking a day off and working around the house, and an episode of The Dog Whisperer caught my attention. Canine crusader, Cesar Millan, was helping a beautiful chocolate lab, blind since birth, let go of mealtime angst and an adorable shepherd-corgi mix detoxify interaction with other dogs.

It wasn’t that this was a particularly intense or unusual set of challenges for our intrepid people trainer, but it struck me that both dogs were—as is so often the case—caught up so much in the instant that they couldn’t relax without the help of the people that shared their lives. As soon as the immediate anxiety cycle was broken, these otherwise loving animals were able to step back into their otherwise healthy roles.

I realized that I’ve got some fairly nasty triggers that need a healthy dose of PSSSHT! While I’d love to have Cesar Millan around to help me work through those, I suspect that the fantasy is far more entertaining than having a straight, married dog psychologist following me around and hissing at me in stressful moments would actually be. But the basic idea is a good one. When I start locking down on the Sturm und Drang of life as a small business owner, I need to PSSSHT! myself. I suspect it may scare the PSSSHT! out of a couple of people around me before I get the hang of handling it internally, but it ought to be entertaining if nothing else.

What’s on my needles
So, for the time being, let’s catch up on knitting. I’m currently working on three active projects. I use the term active projects, because I’ve got tons of things on the needles that are on hold for one reason or another, and we’ll just have to get to those over the course of time.

The one genuinely big project that has my attention is a winter coat for myself. It’s fah-reezing in Michigan at the moment, and while I have an adequate jacket, I’ve been wanting a nice handknit barn coat for years. I’m following the frankly ill-advised tack of designing as I go, but the idea is simple. It’s a basic cardigan with set-in sleeves and a shawl collar. I got a hand taking my measurements, knit a gauge swatch, and cast on. From there, it’s been miles of stockinette and many, many more before we rest.

The fabric, as I said, is just stockinette, so I’m jazzing up the visual texture by blending three strands of basic wool in much lighter weights to create a rather bulky yarn. It’s one strand each of Cascade 200 in a dark eggplant heather, Reynolds Whiskey in an algae green heather, and Needful Super Alpaca in a rich chocolate brown. I’ll have to post photos later since Rob’s got the camera with him at the shop today, and I’m working from the house. In any case, I’ve finished the back and left front, and I’m currently up to the collar/shoulder area on the right front.