Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I've been thinking more and more about altering the direction of content on my blog. That's not exactly the right word. Enhancing perhaps. I'm interested in much more than knitting. Twitter is helpful, but sometimes I have more to say than will fit in 140 characters. I'm also hoping that will allow me to post more frequently since I'm not that fast at knitting.

Whether changes means a name change or not, I don't know. Can I talk about hockey or music or whatever random crap pops up in my brain on a blog titled Knits With Balls? What I don't want to do is alienate my current readers, such as they may be. I have no idea how many 'regular' readers I have. I suspect not many. Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

FO: Olympic Redwoods

Finished Olympic Redwoods

Pattern: Shur'tugal by Alice Yu
Yarn: Knit Picks Memories in Redwood Forest
Needle: Knit Picks DPNs, size 1
Started: February 12, 2010
Finished: March 14, 2010
Mods: none, just some mistakes
Ravel It!

These socks definitely have some miles on them. And that was before they were worn. I chose this sock pattern as my Ravelympics project, which coincided with the start to my cruise vacation in February. As a result, they traveled with me from Puerto Rico all the way down to St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

I cast on at 9:00 p.m. in a dark car on the way to Chicago to catch a plane to Puerto Rico. Of course, that's when the Olympic opening ceremonies started in Vancouver. It was a painstaking, tedious process, and one I messed up several times. The pattern has a unique cast on that uses a double strand of yarn for one half of a double tail cast on. Except, I thought I was smart since I had started the pattern once before, and didn't read the pattern before casting on. I ended up trying to double up both halves of the cast on and ended up with a really thick cuff. I didn't realize it until I got back home, and by that point I was too far along to turn back. I only managed the cast on and one row of 2x2 ribbing in the car before we arrived in Chicago.

Throughout the cruise itself, I didn't get much knitting done. We were busy all day walking around the different ports of call, and the lounges on the ship where we spent our evenings were too dark. I did manage to sneak in a few rows before bed. I made the most progress sitting in the airport on the way back home. See, our flight out of Puerto Rico wasn't until 3 a.m. We had kicked around San Juan and were tired by the time we got to the airport around 8 p.m. Six hours in an airport makes for prime knitting time.

When we finally got back home, I only had 7 days to finish the pair of socks; I only had a leg done on sock #1. I kept at it until the last few days - I finished the first sock and cast on for the second - before throwing in the towel. The knitting was beginning to feel like work and I didn't want that. I was starting to resent the socks! Once I gave up on the deadline and took a few days off, the socks didn't seem so daunting.

We swapped socksThe other exciting thing about these socks is that I took them with me to see The Yarn Harlot speak. Knitting in the auditorium before, during and after her talk, I was able to make smashing progress on sock #2, enough so that I was able to finish later that night. I like to think that Stephanie holding my sock gave it the extra mojo it needed to zip along.

I've already detailed the first mistake I made with the double cast on mix up. The second was not so much a mistake as it was an oddity. I cast on the second sock correctly. This should have given me more yarn to knit with. As it was, I barely made it on the first sock, having to graft some leftover yarn from the cast on to my working yarn to finish the toe. With sock #2, I ended up several rows short, even after adding some leftovers from the first sock (a yard maybe) and a bit from its own cast on.

If you look closely at the toe of the right sock in the large picture at the top of the post, you can see it doesn't match. I didn't have any yarn that matched exactly, and I sure a shit wasn't about to frog the messed up double cast on from the first sock. I knew I had some of the same yarn in a different colorway (S'mores) that I thought wouldn't stand out too badly. The S'mores colorway had white and light grey in it that would have stood out, so I ended up cutting out the really light parts to only leave the two different browns. If you know to look, you can easily see the difference, but it's at the toe and that's normally buried in my shoe. Plus it gives the socks character, so I don't mind.

The pattern is simple and straightforward, I had it memorized halfway through the first leg. There are only four cable rounds in the pattern repeat and they're simple two stitch cables at that, so the knitting really flies. The pattern is pretty stretchy, I knit the large size (72 sts) and they fit nice and snug. I think this is one sock pattern that I actually may knit again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FO: January KAL cloth

January KAL cloth

Pattern: January KAL cloth
Source: Kris Knits
Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream Solid - Cornflower (I think)
Needle: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 3
Started: January 7, 2010
Finished: March 3, 2010
Mods: Knit the border in garter stitch instead of seed stitch
Ravel It!

When I saw the idea for a monthly Knit-a-long on Kris' blog, I signed up instantly. I've been following her blogging for quite a while now, and had been itching to knit one of her designs. Since these were going to be free - and I'm a cheapskate - it was a perfect solution.

The catch for this KAL is that it's a mystery. Kris posts 10 lines of the pattern every few days, so we all get to have fun knitting and figuring out what the design will look like. I figured this one out pretty quickly; it helps that they have a theme that relates to the month.

I actually knit the pattern halfway in a different color yarn, some scraps leftover from a grocery bag. When I ran out, I went to the store for more yarn... only I couldn't find a matching dye lot. No matter, just buy more yarn! The first color was a more electric blue, so I think the cornflower works a lot better.

January KAL clothIt took me two months to knit this for several reasons. One, Kris was in the middle of moving and was therefore unable to post pattern updates regularly. Two, I went on vacation mid-February and took a different project to knit. Three, when I knew I needed more yarn, I wanted to wait until the February pattern was posted so I could buy yarn for that at the same time. Finally, after the Ravelympics, I vowed to not knit on a deadline for awhile; so I took my time.

I only made one mod with this pattern, and that was to knit the border in garter stitch instead of seed stitch. My seed stitch in cotton yarn looks like crap, plus all the switching between knit and purl wreaks even more havoc on my wrists. And I just like the way garter stitch looks. Consequently, the side border blends right in with the design itself. I'm not sure if those are supposed to be trees or piles of snow on the sides, but oh well, I like how it looks.

At the end of the year I'll have 12 dishcloths knitted up. I think I'll give some as Christmas gifts. Or maybe gift the whole set to my mom. She'd like that.

P.S. I installed a new comments system, Disqus, that will hopefully allow me to respond better to comments. Won't you test it out for me?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patty's Day cloth

Pattern: The St. Patrick's Day Cloth
Source: Kris Knits
Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream Solid - Sage Green
Needle: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 3
Started: March 3, 2010
Finished: March 5, 2010
Ravel It!

I knit this dishcloth for Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. I gave it to her when she spoke in Detroit this past Saturday.

This is actually the second Kris Knits cloth pattern I have knit, I'll post the first one in a day or so. Kris' patterns are very well written and totally easy to follow. This cloth only took me three days to knit, but I could probably knock one out in a couple hours if I needed to. The only thing holding me back was that knitting with cotton puts a lot more stress on my wrists and forearms than wool does; it's simply not stretchy.

St. Patty's Day clothI recycled the yarn from an Everlasting Bag Stopper I had left unfinished since last summer. We've received enough reusable grocery bags lately that I really have no need for a knitted one. Yay for stashbusting! I don't know if it was because the yarn had been previously knitted or because of the color of dye, but the green yarn was relatively soft and easier on my hands with this cloth. I'm knitting another cloth pattern in hot pink (yuck) and the yarn is a lot stiffer. I know red dyes can affect how yarn acts, so maybe that's it.

I really love the four different shamrock designs (five if you knit the smaller cloth) Kris came up with. I tried years ago to design a shamrock pattern for a pair of socks and came up empty. After knitting this pattern, I realize that garter stitch patterns work much better than all reverse stockinette patterns. I'll definitely look to incorporate these shamrocks into a pair of socks for St. Patty's Day next year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Detroit Day with The Yarn Harlot

Yesterday was Detroit Day, 3/13 a.k.a. 313, the area code of Detroit, MI. What better way to celebrate than with a visit from The Yarn Harlot!

I got downtown around 11:30 and parking was already at a premium. I had to park several blocks away, which normally is no big deal, but it was raining pretty hard. It didn't bother me though. When I got inside the library, you could instantly tell where all the knitters were: milling through the neat little yarn market they had set up. I passed through once but didn't find anything I wanted to buy. Lots of good stuff though!

I settled down in the auditorium downstairs and, with an hour before Stephanie went on, started knitting. I got several nice comments, being one of (I think) only two knitting guys there. To those that asked, the pattern I was knitting is Shur'tugal and the yarn is Knit Picks Memories in Redwood (sadly discontinued).

The Yarn Harlot photographing the crowd

A big cheer went up when Stephanie came on. She took pictures of us with her current sock and we all took pictures of her. She begin by telling us how nervous she was and of course everyone laughed. She talked about writing - what a difficult and nerve wracking process it can be. She told funny stories about harassing editors over her books and the evil corrections they make and how their job is to point out how stupid you are. She told us how society automatically discounts/discredits knitters and knitting, about dropping a 'K-bomb', and how she and Tina struggled to make the convention center they chose for sock camp believe that yes, there actually are that many sock knitters in the world. She read a passage from her book (I didn't catch which one) which, based on her explanation, seemed like the first time she had done so. The passage was on Knitting Self-Esteem and talked about how being good, really good at pulling loops through loops with sticks can quiet that self-doubting voice we all have inside of us. It was a great talk, we all laughed and got mad along with her. And we all ooh-ed and aah-ed when she showed of her Dale of Norway Knitting Olympics sweater. It was BEAUTIFUL.

When she finished, she sat down to sign books and take photos. I waited while everyone else lined up and made excellent progress on my Olympic Redwood Socks. It's easy to do when you sit in an auditorium for three hours surrounded by knitters. I got far enough that I was able to finish them late last night. Hopefully I can get some decent photos and blog them soon.

I knit her a washcloth...

When I got through the line and up to meet Stephanie, I introduced myself and she actually knew who I was! She said, "You're campingjason. Your tweets are funny." I was quite taken aback. She signed my book for me and I gave her the shamrock washcloth I knit for her. She took my picture, so I'm guessing I'll end up on her blog recap of the talk (there I am...). She was also gracious enough to pose for a photo with me, and we held each others socks.

We swapped socks

The biggest takeaway I got from meeting her, besides the fact that she's really, really nice, was that she's get an extremely sharp wit. She asked what pattern I was knitting and I didn't know how to say it (how do you pronounce Shur'tugal?) so I kinda stumbled and I told her I would email it to her. Then she asked what yarn I was knitting with, and before I could answer, she was like "well you're a wealth of knowledge!." Ha ha ha Steph.

Finally, to cap everything off, I stopped by Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes for a Nutella and banana crepe. Delicious. It was a great day and I'm so glad I went. I don't think I'll miss out on any of her talks in the future.

P.S. RoxanneZYG on Ravelry posted this video of the Yarn Harlot talking about the 'Shaky Diet'.

P.P.S. More blog recaps here, here and here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Done With Deadlines

I'm done with deadline knitting. After a successful January Hat Trick and a failure at the Ravelympics, I'm done. I've had knitting on the brain constantly for two whole months and I'm burned out. I gave up my Ravelympic socks after knitting a cuff and 15 rows on the second sock. I couldn't bear to pick up the needles this past weekend. I'm not off knitting completely or anything, but some small inconsequential projects are in order. I need to catch up on the Kris Knits Dishcloth KAL. I bought yarn today for February (more eye searing pink, why can I not get away from this color?) and some to finish January's cloth. But have no fear, I will not be racing to finish each cloth by the end of each month.