Monday, December 22, 2008

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

These days we are so caught up in the rounds of parties and gift-giving, that the meaning of Christmas gets lost.

Thank you Lord for the following (and more!):

1) gatherings full of good food, music and laughter
2) the enjoyable company of good friends and loved ones
3) peace to the troubled
4) rest for the weary
5) forgiveness and understanding from the people whose items I have not finished knitting
6) the ability to surprise people in a good way
7) patience when planning for successful events
8) good cheer in trying times
9) strength, good health and safe conduct for all
10) abundant love all around

There's more, but they'll come to mind later.

Special prayers go out to my college friend Margie E, who is recuperating from her operation in New Delhi. As Amy says, we're storming the gates of Heaven for this one :)

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Customizable Needle Sets


Got this interesting link from my friend Jinky (lyfasastitcher over at Plurk) who discovered Kinki Amibari bamboo circular interchangeable needles!

I know for a fact that Clover brand Japanese-made bamboo crochet hooks and knitting needles are very expensive here in Manila. It's a preferred brand on eBay as well, and priced accordingly. However, the interchangeable mechanism on these Kinki Amibari needles look pretty well-engineered. They even have 9" circulars for small circumference projects!

Must warn you though: I tried accessing the downloadable Knitting Accessories pdf catalogs, and this caused my Firefox 3 to crash. Three times. I can't imagine why, but then I'm only using a modest-processor netbook and not a core 2 duo machine. Anyway, FF3 filed a report and they'll probably look into it.

God is telling me that I have enough (cheaper, made in China) bamboo fixed circulars and (lifetime warranty, made in Germany) Addi Turbos from pre-recession era and that I shouldn't forget to give thanks! I do, I do! I make useful stuff using them! Laborare est orare! (To work is to pray.)

Time was when the Knitpicks nickel-plated interchangeables and their Harmony wood interchangeables were the relatively affordable must-haves. (They still are, based on price points. But I am a fixed circulars girl.)

Trust Jinky to find more new knitting items to drool over. She also referred to me Signature Needle Arts, who offer interchangeable knitting needle points (talk about customization!), and I can bet the "stiletto point" will be one of her must-haves, since she is very brave and does bigger lace projects. However my knitting budget for this year is way done, and I must knit more stuff to show for everything I have bought.

Yes, Jenny. THIS is the reason why I haven't been spending on my fountain pens.

Knitting is joy. Joy to the world!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mimicat's Cappuccino Socks

I think these are supposed to be called Caramel Macchiatto socks but that's way too long. The color way is Cannon mercerized cotton MB073, a nice tan-khaki shade with a nice sheen that is in Mimi A's list of personal favorites. Again, the pattern is based on Ann Budd's basic socks, but can be made using the Yarn Harlot's basic pattern as well. These were made with Magic Loop, with a 32+32 stitch cast on, 2 x 2 ribbing, using US 1 or 2.25mm carbonized bamboo circular needles 40" long (you can use 32" as well).

They're for Mimi's birthday, which was sometime last November. I was supposed to have met up with her around then to give her these, but work got in the way and you all know how the season makes schedules crazy. In exchange, I asked for some pink Cannon thread, which I am using in turn for something for Gene's baby. Mimi and Gene are my Ravelry friends here in Manila that I've been communicating with on a semi-regular basis, via our blogs and other social networks. I'm sorry the socks are a little late, Mimi, but they're here, finally. Belated happy birthday!

Note: The carbonized bamboo needles are sooo nice and easy to work with! Honestly, there's not much difference in feel between the carbonized and the blonde bamboo needles, but I can see that the carbonized ones are not as likely to break easily. Worth the slight difference in price.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Knitting Is Recession Proof" - Lion Brand CEO

I was checking my knitting-related email subscriptions, and while looking at a Lion Brand knit-along invite, I saw the link to a great article at the bottom of the page. Knitting Through A Downturn, published in the New York Times blog City Room, describes why Lion Brand is confident about opening a sophisticated yarn mega-outlet in Manhattan, the very first in the company's 140-year history.

I find it heartening that Lion Brand head David Blumenthal validates my feelings about knitting and knitting supplies. My favorite quotes:

“Knitting has always been recession-proof,” he explained. “In a recession, people are cocooning. So for $5 or $10 in yarn, you can have a great weekend and come away with a scarf that would cost $60 in a store."

"In this high-stress environment, people want to zone out with a skein of yarn,” he said. “Knitting reduces stress; it’s today’s yoga.”

So, so TRUE. For me, at least. Then I read the comments, which ranged from the snarky to the fuzzy ends of the spectrum. Yarn snobbery, like wine snobbery, is a funny thing. It adds stress to what was supposed to be a yoga thing.

Of course there are ideal yarns suggested for specific projects, but the price of yarns should not hamper creativity or the desire to learn. There are good reasons why these yarns are recommended for their qualities, which you want the finished product to express. If you spent USD 5-10 on an appropriate small project, or learning a new stitch in acrylic or other artificial fiber yarn, the pleasure of knitting alone makes that worth it. When you've gotten more experience and can afford higher-quality natural fiber yarns for specific projects, by all means invest. But there should always be something for the person who finds comfort in the activity of knitting, and the current financial situation weighs heavily on all knitters. I think companies like Lion Brand and similar value brands are doing the rest of us a favor by making knitting more accessible to and more affordable for everyone. Lion Brand itself would not have survived this long if it weren't doing something right.

You all know I buy online (auction ; websites) as well as from brick-and-mortar stores. I'm just so happy to have a CHOICE. And, ah, I choose not to be snarky, as my skills are not developed enough to survive a midnight raid from the Knitting Police. And also, taking oneself too seriously adds to one's anti-aging cream budget.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and as you contemplate the cost of your beautiful yarn, please send a blessing to show appreciation for all those people who breed the sheep, shear them, prep the fleece, plant and harvest and process the cotton/ flax/ soy/ bamboo, spin and dye the yarns, package them, market them, sell them, write patterns and books, create jobs and teach knitters/crocheters how to make all those wonderful, wearable and above all USEFUL gifts.

Relax. Enjoy. Spread the love. Elizabeth Zimmerman herself recommends that we "Knit on with confidence and hope, amid all crises."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Needles Clicking Again!

I know, it's strange when Knittipina is quiet. I was sick of the flu most of last week and spent last weekend trying to get the knitting groove back.

Spent some time spring cleaning too, and to my horror found three undocumented projects that never took off the ground. I promptly frogged them and rewound the yarn. Sometimes when you start something offhand and don't make notes of what you were planning to make, it's hard to get up the motivation to continue with it, especially since you can't remember what it's supposed to be or who it's for. They were left untouched for far too long.

I am looking evilly at my bookcase. Some of the old books there will be donated to a provincial library, to make space for my knitting books, stash and general paraphernalia. The spring cleaning will be thorough! Well, it will take a while, but I need to reorganize my little universe (reclaim rest space, reduce clutter, repurpose items, make space for items on my general wish list).

In the meantime, I continue with Mimi's cappuccino socks...

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Template!

I was getting tired of the monolithic blueness that was the "Denim" template. I did like its clean lines from the beginning and the fact that the fonts were easy to read.

It took me a while to find a similarly clean layout in a light and pretty template that looked great in all major browsers and still reflected our blog title well. Also, any sort of color photo should look good in it.

This is called "Dream", in XML code for the New Blogger, by Finalsense.com. I tweaked it a little bit to fit my taste.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shipping with Johnny Air

Lilo's Halloween party outfit generated so much excitement, I totally forgot to blog about my receiving my recent eBay+KnitPicks orders! Yes, it's Christmas again, this time in October. I think I started celebrating Christmas way back in July, but that makes for a happier Gravelcat.

Johnny Air Cargo played Santa this time, not Philpost. My previous eBay order of bamboo circular needles did arrive on time, via USPS-Philpost (30 days shipping). I paid PhP 35 processing fee, which is correct. I figured nobody there would be interested in what looked like barbecue sticks stuck together with a nylon cord. While I was relieved at receiving my items, I still can't shake my mistrust of Philpost, and continue to dread missing items, having to deal with "creative taxation" or seeing "received partly torn" notices on my envelopes. I know current Postmaster General Hector R. R. Villanueva is trying to do something about public perception of Philpost's service, but I am not about to tempt fate yet, seeing how close we are getting to Christmas, financial crisis and all. Desperation and corruption go hand in hand.

Several years ago Johnny Air came to my attention via Pinoydvd.com. They offered safe US-Philippines shipping for dvds. While I wasn't that much of a big dvd buyer, I filed it away in my head. I came across them again this year, when I heard from my friend ECT that she had bought a Nikon D40 and had it shipped quickly and safely via Johnny Air. She picked it up in their Megamall branch.

Of course the cheapest way to send to the Philippines will always be the relatives' balikbayan box -- IF you have the patience to wait till December or January. For people who have a choice, Johnny Air's "Shop Online Service" is great. It's safe. It's fast. It's reliable.

I blog about this because I'm a satisfied customer, and you might need the information one day. (I also don't want to impose upon my relatives too much, because I love them, and their plates are full in these trying times.)

Let's say you want to buy something from eBay (vendor A) and something from Amazon.com (vendor B). Amazon.com offers free shipping for your item within the US. I mean, you wouldn't want to waste the savings if you could combine shipping, right?

1) You write an email to Analyn Diego at analynd@aol.com to advise her that you plan to buy items from vendors A and B. You let her know to combine these packages into one shipment, which must fulfill the minimum 2-lb requirement.

2) You shop online. Under shipping info you write:

ATTN: Analyn Diego/Client's Name (this means YOU)
Johnny Air SOL
6904 Roosevelt Avenue
Woodside, NY 11377
Tel. (718) 672-7080, (917) 332-7806

3) You email Analyn Diego again, with your shipping details.

Vendor
Order #
Tracking #
Item/s
Descriptions

Specify whether you want to claim it at JAC Makati or JAC Megamall. Provide your contact details so they can notify you when you can pick them up.

4) Shipping is by volume weight. As of my order it was USD 7.50 per lb + USD 5.00 handling fee. For further inquiries you can call JAC Customer Service at 631-7101, 638-8512 or 0917-8100306.

I see in the USPS international postage calculator that it would have cost me at least USD 29.93 for 6-10 days' Priority Mail shipping. What third party would bother to combine packages for me? And even then, I wouldn't even be sure whether I'd get it via Philpost or if I'd be charged extra fees.

In my case, I ordered my items on October 14, and received them October 24 from JAC Megamall. I paid USD 27.50 for 3 lbs. I showed the very nice folks my ID, and within a minute I got my box! And yes, they smile, too. Nowadays perhaps we don't count on people to smile a lot, but when they do, it really makes my day.

Now remember, it only works if that price and service are acceptable to you. If you are able to find a similar service that is also as reliable, let's hear about it!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yellow Halter Modeled!

Little Girl: (Excited) Yaya, what's that?

Yaya: It's for your hair, Isabel has one too. (One of her neighbor playmates.)

Little Girl: Okay. (Fidget. Fidget.)

Incredible Joie: Anak, sit still please. Auntie, I can't believe you made that.

Auntie Gravelcat: Neither can I. It looks better than I thought. Thank God!

Yaya Lea: Andyan na ang marching band! Let's go! Baka antukin itong bata tapos mamaya masungit. (She's beginning to look sleepy, we better go before she gets cranky.)

Incredible Joie: Auntie, bilis, I need my sd card. I need to take pix of the parade.

Auntie Gravelcat: Sure Mommy, I've blogged it na.

Oh my darling girl, you make my finger cramps so worth it. I love you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lilo's Yellow Cotton Ribbed Halter

There's nothing like an event deadline to make your fingers fly! I just finished the yellow halter for Lilo's Halloween-Hawaiian costume. I knitted roughly 3,000 stitches spread out over 5 nights and a bit of this lunch break. I checked my knitting log and realized that I had been steadily engaged in this top for an average of 4 hours a night since Saturday. The fingers need a break.

Lilo tried it on today... fortunately for me she refused to remove it for 10 minutes straight. That counts as "she likes it". However the ribbing makes the top too narrow. "Kita dede," as the kid would say. I added a bit of invisible elastic to keep it snug until she grows into the actual circumference of the top.

Because it's a ribbed top it looks funny all scrunched up. It stretches to about 12 inches across. I know the neckline looks a little stiff, next time I'll just knit it an inch lower, straight across and sew two separate i-cords on either end to tie around the neck. I was kind of thinking that this way it would still fit in the next 6 months. It looks better on the kid, but no pix available till Sunday morning. You have to see it with the grass skirt.

I am sharing this free pattern with my friends and readers for their personal, non-commercial use. Please acknowledge me if you're publishing your success with it online. I'd love a photo or two, if you manage to take some. Please read carefully before starting the project, there are portions where I provided alternative instructions to accommodate different preferences. If you can improve on it further, let me know so I can make my niece an even better version (whereupon I credit YOU!).

GIRL'S RIBBED HALTER TOP PATTERN

Copyright 2008 Mona Caccam

Materials:

2 balls Monaco crochet cotton shade BUT25 (butter yellow) -- about 1.5 balls used up
2.75mm/US 2 needles -- used my bamboos, love love love them
2.25mm/US 1 double pointed needles for I-cord
tapestry needle

Finished Size: As close as possible to a Philippine children's size 8 (roughly 3-4 yo child) cotton t-shirt, about 12.5" wide x 10" from shoulder down to hem.

Gauge: 10 stitches by 12 rows per inch

1. Front: Cast on 128 stitches.

2. Row 1 (RS): *Knit 4, purl 4*, repeat * until end.

3. Row 2 (WS): *Purl 4, knit 4*, repeat * until end.

4. Continue knitting K4 x P4 ribbing for 7", ending in WS.

5. Begin armhole shaping: Bind off 10 stitches next row (RS), knit in ribbing until end of row.

* Alternate instructions #5 to #8 (armhole shaping): Instead of the bind off above, at this point it might be easier to decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of every row until you haveknit 2-2.5" or reach the neckline width you prefer (. This will produce a diagonal "armhole" instead of a round one.

6. Bind off 10 stitches next row (WS), knit in ribbing until end of row.

7. Bind off 1 stitch next row (RS), knit in ribbing until end of row. Bind off 1 stitch next row (WS), knit in ribbing until end of row. Bind off 1 stitch (RS), knit until end of row. Bind off 1 stitch (WS) until end of row. (Ribbing should still be in multiples of 4.)

8. Knit in K4 x P4 ribbing, without further shaping, for 2.5" ending in WS.

9. Neckline: Knit in stockinette across for 8 rows, ending in WS.

*Note, instructions #9 to #12: If you find the neckline portion of this halter top a bit stiff, as I did, just knit across. Bind off. Reinforce with single crochet border if preferred. Make 2 separate I-cords 12" long. Sew ends of I-cords to the corners of the neckline.

10. Bind off entire row. Set aside.

11. I-cord: Cast on 3 sts on 1 dpn. Knit across with dpn 2. Slide work to other end of dpn 2, knit with free needle. Continue knitting I-cord for 26". Bind off. Weave in ends.

12. Fold stockinette portion of halter front with I-cord inside, forming a tube. Sew stockinette seam across, as it contains I-cord.

13. Back: Cast on 128 stitches.

14. Knit in P4 x K4 ribbing (reverse of front) unti 7", ending in WS. (Take note, this is to alternate ribbing when front and back are joined.)

15. Bind off entire row.

16. To assemble, align wrong sides together, making sure that a K4 rib connects to a P4 rib at either side of the halter top. Sew or crochet seams together (use your preferred method, I sewed this one because it uses up less thread). Weave in ends as neatly as you can.

Washing instructions: Handwash gently in cold water, with mild bath soap or liquid soap. Rinse well. Do not wring. Roll in towel to remove excess liquid. Let dry flat. You can use a steam iron on the wrong side of the garment, pressing lightly. You want to keep the color and the sheen of the mercerized cotton.

More pictures Sunday morning!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sneaking In A Few Stitches

Lilo, Incredible Joie's precious little 3yo tyke, is going to the neighborhood Halloween party this Saturday in a Hawaiian dancer getup. The last time she did so, she was way bothered by having her tube top shifting unceremoniously up and down while she did her floor-sweeping "freestyle Hawaiian breakdancing" routine. Which everyone enjoyed amid much hilarity, because she brought the house down and created a fan club among the neighbors. She was also particularly bothered by people commenting that they could see her bellybutton. How refreshing to see a little modesty in today's children (which disappears more quickly than we can register our surprise at how quickly they grow up)! Indeed, tube tops are not meant to be either belts or even miniskirts. Even in toddlers. Martial Arts Daddy isn't mentally prepared to filter her visitors list this early. I decide to help out by knitting a yellow cotton halter top long enough to cover the navel.

I want the item to fit right now, with a little ease built into the K4 x P4 rib for the next 4-6 months (I'll give it 4, unless she shoots up and doesn't grow much sideways). The size is based on a "Kentucky" brand cotton cami size 8. It's my own pattern, with some armhole shaping help from Sharon Turner, she of the Teach Yourself Visually Sweater Master Pattern. By my own I mean I drew myself a schematic with measurements in inches and just knitted to shape.

While waiting for TDM to fetch me for our lunch date I am trying to knit 192 sts x half an inch. To the jazz-rock sounds of the Dave Matthews Band (I know they have a new album out, but I spent my money on yarn... forgive me, Dave).

Oops. I only managed 2 rows, TDM is downstairs waiting in the car.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Doll of the Cthulhu

Now I am a great H.P. Lovecraft fan. (Like I am a great Dr. Who fan. Science fiction and fantasy, I am your girl!)

Dark Roasted Blend
, one of my favorite "odd photo conglomeration" sites, gives us this entertaining view of how love of knitting and cult monstrosity mix. [You'll love the different photo sets in their other blog posts too, I promise.]

Just the other night I was watching downloaded beloved reruns of the 80's seasons of The [New] Twilight Zone (Harlan Ellison era, 1985-89) and there was one episode about a little boy whose nigh-on-dying grandma turns out to be a creepy Cthulhu thrall! Now this!

Amber's crocheted Cthulhu is absolutely, uh, adorable. I wish I could post the photo here, but do visit the link to see Amber's celebration of creativity. The amigurumi (knitted toy Japanese style) pattern is free. Unfortunately I'm not that much of a crocheter. Incredible Joie is, and amigurumi gives her a bit of carpal tunnel.

One of the knitters on the monsters page, Kimberly Chapman, did her Dalek from EntropyHouse's "ExtermiKNIT" Kit! Previously I wrote in Knittipina about the Knitted Dalek photographed in a UK convention by Yarn Harlot Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I did not know there were more in that army *amusement*

Yes, the Dalek pattern is also FREE. I might make it one day. I'll probably have better luck finishing it than meeting David Tennant in person. But hey, I met Neil Gaiman in person, so you never know. And then shall come... a Knitted Sandman?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pinch me, PLEASE

At one point over lunch today I asked Incredible Joie to pinch me very, VERY hard.  Why, she asked. Good question.  I was feeling a little blue due to the time of month and had indulged in some online retail therapy.  Remember my eBay bleached bamboo needles?  I mentioned lusting after the carbonized ones.  Incredible Joie had bought her carbonized bamboo crochet hooks from a certain reliable seller earlier this year and I couldn't stop being amazed at their smoothness and lightness.  The seller claimed they were harder than bleached bamboo needles and weren't subject to mildew because of the carbonization treatment.  And doesn't bleaching weaken fibers or something?  At any rate, I was intending to go to great lengths to get them eventually.  Earlier today I just did.  Boy, did that drive the blues away!

I'm smiling now, but for a few seconds after I hit that checkout button earlier, several thoughts passed through my head.

1)  There's a global financial crisis!  The currency exchange rate is at PhP47.25 = USD1.00! (Alarm bells!  Sirens!)

2)  You don't have the carbonized bamboo dpns yet.  (Warning!  Danger!  The rabbit hole!)

3)  How about Knitpicks Harmony circulars?  (These are beautiful beech wood needles with the same flexible nylon cords I've come to love.  Dream on.)

4)  Now you'll have cheaper circular needles from 16" to 40"!  (Ecstasy!  Delirium!)

5)  Oh dear, they're only 12 oz in weight.  I have to get 20 oz more to qualify for Johnny Air Cargo's 2-lb minimum!  (More on this next month.  This was the point of no return.)

6)  NOW is the time to get yarn before Christmas!  (Knittipina in Wonderland steps off the cliff dazed at the sunset... and lands on a woolly beach seeing stars.)

To make a long story short, there was a sale in Knitpicks.com.  I ended up getting 500g of discount sock yarn and Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears.  Figured that would make the Johnny Air delivery service worth it.  *sheepish grin*

And this was all because last weekend I made one sock using the new size 1 and 2 bleached bamboo needles.  The size 1 bends a bit, but because of that I don't hold it too hard.  Because I don't hold it too hard, my hands don't cramp.  Yay!  Such smooth, light and relaxing knitting! Now when the sock was done I realized the color wasn't suitable for an adult.  Too busy a colorway for my personal taste.  Maybe for a child's sock.  I won't frog it though, there is always someone in the world who likes something like that.

I decided to make another test sock, in a plain color but with texture and pattern.  I frogged the first attempt, Christine Walter's Zigzag Socks from Vogue Knitting's Ultimate Sock Book, because I realized after completing 16 rows that my ssk's were going in the wrong direction (how funny is that!).  Maybe later when I'm not so frustrated.  Or should I say, later when I'm not so excited over my retail therapy that I can't think straight.  I'll probably try one of the short-multiples stitch patterns recommended in the same book too. 

Right now I started another cable rib sock for fun, in mercerized cotton this time.  I just want to see how cables work in cotton.  I'd love a good fit.  To non-knitters this all sounds like a lot of work after a long day, but that's relaxation for me.  I like the rhythm of the needles in my hands.  Knitting stitches in a repeating pattern are sort of like using prayer beads.  There's the clicking sound for some needles that lulls me, there's that smooth glide when the two tips rub against each other.  There's that counting going on that sounds like a mantra.  This is what drives me to add needles to my collection and yarns to my stash!  The endless possibilities of lovely things I could make! *starry-eyed

Somebody pinch me, PLEASE.

Famous last words:  It'll be at least six months before I do anything this crazy again.  In the next breath:  Yeah, right.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

WIP: Lilo's Cotton Hooded Cardigan


(Account follows Knitting Everywhere: At The Hospital.)

Here's the pic with the finished first sleeve! I am halfway through the second sleeve as I write. I'm surprised that it actually looks like a REAL kiddie cardie already (and I haven't even blocked the pieces yet). Remember, this is my first knitted garment from a book pattern.

Here's another shot (on my mom's shawl):

Am quite pleased. More progress pix as I go along!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bamboo Circulars from eBay

It's Christmas in October this time! The bamboo circulars I got from eBay finally reached me after 30 days (international transaction). These are 2 lots from the same seller, US size 0 to 15 in 29" and in 32". They are smooth, not too pointy, and the joins look good. However, they are bleached bamboo and not carbonized. I still want to get carbonized ones. If later on I get carbonized ones, I'll sell these via the Pinoyknitters yahoogroup or the Pinoy Ravelers group. How fantastic though, to have needles in sizes bigger than US 10.5 (I have no bigger sizes in Addis), for quick baby afghans and the like.

For the future: Carbonized bamboo needles in 16", 24", 29", 32", 40". And dpn versions from US size 0 to 15 if I can get them.

I know, it seems like overkill (didn't I say this already in a previous post?) in these times of financial crisis. But life is short. I want them while I'm still 30 years away from arthritis. I want to knit as much as I can, no matter where I am.

A Knitting Portrait

While confined at the hospital, my mom got busy sketching. Me! Knitting! I love this! I will scan it when she's well enough to be brought home. I just realized I don't have any pictures of me knitting. I take pictures OF my knitting, but that's all. It's my mom's birthday on Oct. 25, I think I'll make her a knitted summer tee.

Knitting Everywhere: At the Hospital


It's Nanay's 5th day at the hospital. In 3 hours she will have her gall bladder removed because of a pesky gall stone. As the unmarried daughter, I've been her appointed company and attendant. I brought my ASUS eeePC with me to the hospital so I could finish working on an ad for a November conference, but apart from that I haven't been online much, because... I've been knitting.

Nothing beats what I'd call "captive" knitting -- the knitting you do when you are compelled to stay in one place for a certain period of time. I mean, there's cable tv at the hospital, but one can't just sit and watch all day. One must be productive. (I couldn't surf on the internet all day either; wifi is free at this hospital wing but the signal I'm getting is pretty weak. I've been using my cellphone as a modem for about an hour at a time.)

Good thing I brought my knitting. I had a cone of Monaco 6-ply natural color cotton yarn that's like a thinner version of Lion Brand's Cotton Ease. I'm making a basic vanilla hooded cardigan sized for 3yo Lilo (sized for a 4-6yo, so she'd get more wear out of it). The pattern is from Sharon Turner's Teach Yourself Visually Knitting Design. What a wonderful, very precise book! The moment I arrived at the hospital, I started with the back piece. As of today I've completed the back, the left front, the right front, and one sleeve. I've got the other sleeve, the hood, the button plackets and a couple of pockets to go. And assembly of course. Incredible Joie will add the brightly colored crochet appliques and other decorative trim. After this I'm considering making a mommy version for her.

(Second photo taken at night.)

While at the hospital, my dad brought the bamboo knitting needles that I'd ordered a month before from eBay. I'll save that for another blog entry. *happiness*

Nanay and I have been bonding. Incredible Joie brought her a small sketchbook and she's been drawing the (smoggy) view from her hospital window.

Am I apprehensive about my mom's upcoming procedure? Not really. She underwent a gastroscopy like a trouper (fiber optic camera down the esophagus check to rule out ulcer as main cause of abdominal pain). Our family talked about the gall bladder removal and we convinced her that it's better to have it done now than when she's older and heals slower. We opted for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy instead of a standard big incision. The "lap-chole" involves making 3 or 4 small holes through which the surgeon inserts a tiny camera and various robotic surgical tools. At least that's how I imagine it would be; I remember seeing something like this on the Discovery Channel. The small holes ought to heal faster than the big incision, with less post-operative pain. We expect she'll be right as rain after 3 or 4 days. We're not too worried, because this procedure has been done successfully in the Philippines for the past 7 years. The surgeon she's been assigned to has done a prominent local figure or two.

I figure by the time Nanay is fully healed this hooded cardie will be DONE! Will post pix as soon as it's assembled and decorated. This project actually has a few fans among the nurses already. They've been coming in every 3 or 4 hours to check my mom's -- and the project's -- vital signs!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Catching the Crochet Bug from Kindergarten

You can catch all sorts of bugs from preschool.

Early this year, hubby & I brought our daughter to Waldorf School for parent-toddler classes. It was a great experience for all of us. My daughter learned to bake bread, wash her cup & saucer, play with all-natural toys (read: no plastic, no cartoons). Her daddy... well, he learned how to make a pom-pom out of yarn & was mighty relieved he didn't have to do more. And me--I'll tell you now: working at corporate speed & efficiency isn't necessarily the best way to crochet a caterpillar.

At the end of the term, all the other parents had crocheted practically an entire nature diorama. Meanwhile, my sorry excuse for an invertebrate was still undergoing countless resurrections (2 weeks!). Then I had to grudgingly hand the caterpillar & the rest of the materials back to my daughter's teacher ('there, there...,' she murmured soothingly, prising the hook from my angsty grip...) Humbled, I was determined, henceforth, to create an entire forest of yarn creatures for my little girl. That's how I caught crochet bug.

That was 6 months ago. The forest of creatures hasn't materialized. Along the way, though, I've somehow finished 3 amigurumi, 6 easter eggs & cozies, 2 hook cases, 3 bags, 2 hats and a baby blanket. I taught myself Tunisian stitch, and how to read patterns from foreign books. Crochet calms me. That's the upside. The downside: some days, I get so engrossed I forget to be hungry, thirsty or sleepy. If it weren't for darlings hubby and baby, I'd probably crochet myself into a stupor.

Even worse: because of YAS, PAS & HAS/NAS (fellow addicts would understand) I somehow now own more hooks, books and yarn than I would openly admit to my hubby. Sometime ago he suggested we use my yarn stash as a baby bed instead of buying a new one. At which point my sister, Gravelcat, suggested I legalize my addiction at Ravelry. I think it's a good idea. I could use a new outfit, not more yarn, or more books, or more hooks.

But tell that to the marines, because the truth is out there: YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH, AND EVEN THEN YOU NEED EXTRA.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

WIP: Pavel's Olive Merino Socks

Yesterday was a national holiday, Eid al'Fitr (the start of Ramadan). I managed to finish the first sock. I really enjoy knitting with merino! So relaxing, much more so than with cotton. After knitting with cotton I need to stretch my fingers every once in a while.

Here are some pictures I took with my ASUS V80 phone, while waiting for my dad at the dentist's (he likes to have me around for "molar" support, hehehe). The first two pix don't use flash, I manipulated the brightness and midtones to make the cable details pop out. The last one used flash. It doesn't look so bad, except for the lopsided flashing (2mpx cellphone camera, but one day I'll do better). All photos use macro mode for better close-up detail.

I'm using 2.75mm / US size 2 needles, as recommended by Ann Budd. Knitpicks! (The Addis are on the tv knitting.) The size here is for a child's medium with a 6.5-7" foot measured from toe to heel. Pavel is 4 years old but has big feet. I'll see what I can use to block it with. Maybe the nifty corrugated plastic I saw at the bookstore (in office supplies), cut to shape.

One day I'll get me some sock blockers, the nice wooden ones like they have in Ravelry. They don't have to be fancy. They just have to be the right size. Or... I'll ask our friendly furniture repairman (the one who made Incredible Joie's nostepinne from a chair leg).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tell 'Em, Grumperina

In the past 30 minutes I've been tortured by the yummy images of multicolored self-striping sock yarn.  The brands parading in front of me seemed incredibly beautiful and unattainable:  Noro Kureyon and Lorna's Laces, among others.  Unattainable because at their price the socks should last a lifetime.  Of course no single pair of socks lasts a lifetime.

I began my sock knitting career with crochet cotton.  It feels great for this climate, save for the fact that I have to sew elastic into the rib.  I'm willing to live with that, since we get pretty colors in the local brands anyway.  Last Monday I began with baby merino, and the feel against my skin is incredible.  While I have to keep a firm grip on cotton to make sure the gauge is consistent, I hardly have that resistance with merino.  The natural elasticity of the wool made cabling fun.  And what looks strangely narrow before blocking is actually a good snug but stretchy fit.  In cooler locations, of course.  I can't imagine wearing it here on a regular basis despite its seductive softness.  Well, I haven't tried, but you know what I mean.

I'm not allergic to wool, and I feel really sorry for people who are, because it makes a really warm fabric when you need it, and it's all natural.  There are natural alternatives of course, such as cotton and bamboo and soy. But for socks? Just when I'm so in love with sock knitting and can't sleep for fiber lust! Guess who expresses most of what afflicted me:  Grumperina.  She surveys the LYS landscape for yarns fitting the requirement of her inflammable feet -- NO WOOL PLEASE -- and does a fantastic job reviewing and testing them.  Read on.  I love reading blogs that give both information and an idea of the spirit behind them. 

This doesn't mean we'll never get good sock yarn in the Philippines.  I just have to ask Ma'am Lilli to get me some.  Good thing, as Grumperina pointed out, there are other alternatives to wool.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Knittipina Report 001

This last week was my little niece's birthday week, so things have been a little topsy-turvy around the house.

Incredible Joie was a little freaked about the tainted Chinese milk business, so instead of crafting or blogging this week she has been madly researching distributors of infant milk brands here in the Philippines. As a result, Lilo's birthday party is milk-candy free (no White Rabbit, folks *sadness*).

Our Tita Nora D. passed by the house recently, visiting from LA. She's leaving Manila in November, so that gives me time to make some cable rib merino socks for her grandchild. The 3yo Pavel is German-Filipino, son of our close friends Annie and Ingo, who are based in Germany but are spending Christmas in LA. According to Annie Pavel's feet measure 6.5" from toe to heel, which would make his socks a child's medium (according to Ann Budd's book). Since baby merino is the only sort of appropriate sock wool available locally, I'm using olive green. (My other baby merino yarns in the stash are in pale pink and cream, and Joy's using her cream one for Annie's crocheted scarf.) As of this writing I'm 75% done on the first sock.

It's a weekend, and I'm enjoying my dose of TV series, so I would need some mindless knitting to keep my fingers occupied, right? When I started this blog I wanted to make a free-style tank dress for Lilo, using a buttery yellow Cannon crochet cotton. After an inch or so I realized it would be a drag to knit two sides, sew them together and finish them off with a crocheted border. So I frogged it. Then I cast on again and tried a circular knit this time. Only I used circulars that were too long and it became a drag to Magic Loop something that's supposed to be 30" in circumference. Yes, there's a reason why Magic Loop is recommended for SMALL circumference knitting. I frogged it again. All this frogging was frustrating but also part of the learning process: a knitter should find the most efficient technique for whatever he/she is knitting. Good thing I remembered my 16" Milward circulars, and they were the very thing for the project (although the bent ends ala Boye and the join really annoy me).

By now you must be wondering, what pattern am I using? The pattern should be what's most efficient. Ordinarily it is, but I wanted TV knitting. Which means, right now, no pattern: just knit a basic tank-dress, using stockinette and some shaping, and then embellish later with crochet or crocheted appliques. Why the crochet and crochet appliques? This is for Lilo, this is sister-bonding crafting. Incredible Joie does the crochet. She can embellish the plain vanilla knit dress with whatever she likes. Give it some personality. A mom knows her kid best. That's how we divide the work. We were able to do it the first time around with Lilo's coral babydoll blouse.

The ballet slipper project is temporarily shelved because of the Pavel socks.

Amy is requesting local knitters to make hats and scarves for Mongolia, to be sent through her sister who's coming home from San Francisco in February. I have never knitted a hat before, but maybe it's about time to learn. Besides, we're going to Baguio end of January, someone in the family might like to wear a hat there too. Amy would like everyone to check out WarmWoolies.org, a charity knitting site whose latest campaign is to send items for orphans in Mongolia. I don't have a lot of wool, actually, but it says in the guidelines that you can use acrylic for a baby blanket.

This is definitely an eye-opener for a lot of knitters like us outside the US. Knitting for those close to you is an expression of love, but knitting for people you don't know really extends the boundaries of love. Of course you only knit what you can, how you can, but think that a worldwide effort gives your participation a bigger picture. Isn't it great that you can help people and enjoy your hobby at the same time! Of course critics will say, why don't you do that here at home first? So many people have been victimized by floods and storms! Baby steps, dear readers. One day Amy and the rest of us will learn how to do it properly for here. Let's say right now donations get too politicized for our taste, and knitters might get frustrated and fatigued. Baby steps.

I have also started moderating at a local tech forum where I have been an active member for some time now. I'm not an IT professional, by the way. But I think there is a role for intermediate-level tech users who have ventured into areas where newbies fear to tread: software tweaking and hardware configuration. People who save money by doing the easier things themselves. We're relatively easier for newbies to approach, don't you think? I'm one of three such mods trying to attract more participants into the discussions: first-time gadget owners, parents choosing gadgets for their children, more GIRLS. The tendency is for these kinds of forums to be populated mostly by guys, but we're going for more balance. These days, GEEKY IS HOT! My current role model: blogger Gina Hughes, the TechieDiva.

Over the past few nights my guilty pleasure has been reading the books that I recently got. My fellow Pinoy Raveler Jinky and I were discussing fun topics like size conversions, yarn substitutions and dyeing, and out of curiosity I tried to find out how we could do things here in Manila. We don't have a lot of wool available to local knitters, but then I aim to find out other unpublished sources. I won't be deterred by the idea that I can't make something because I can't find yarn or needles to produce the right gauge. The size conversions, however, was a great discussion, because it led me to re-examining The Knitting Fiend online knitting calculators. Going over my books I realized that getting Debbie Stoller's Stitch n' Bitch Nation (apart from Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks) was one of the best investments ever. Why? She simplifies knitting as a process and makes sure crafters have a RELAXED, practical, and fun approach to knitting. A lot of knitters are discombobulated by the math involved in adapting sizes different from what is in the patterns (if other sizes are not provided specifically). They get wistful or tense. I was one of them. If I were you, I'd read and re-read the chapters before the actual patterns. Debbie Stoller, you just removed the woolly gauze from my eyes!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sisterhood in Stitches

Ines J. told me once, "You're so lucky, you have a sister to knit with!" Joy doesn't knit though, she crochets. "Oh, that doesn't matter," she said, "at least you have someone WHO UNDERSTANDS. Someone who knows why you do what you do. Why you buy yarn. I have been knitting for so long, my son is already in his 30s. But sometimes I wonder if my husband knows the difference between knitting and crochet. He just calls everything 'gantsilyo'." Ines, mind you, makes beautiful things.

You know that situation where you both love to knit and blog? Where you want to do one and it prevents you from doing the other? I actually put off joining Ravelry for 3 months just so I could knit something and blog about it. Joy's been (st)itching to blog about crochet but could never get around to doing it because she was busy actually crafting. I invited Joy to contribute to this blog. Which means that while I'm knitting you can read her blogging! While she's crocheting you can read my blogging! Best of both worlds!

Eventually, I'll get her to join Ravelry (and the madness that comes with tool/fiber/pattern lust)!

How's that for bonding?

Monday, September 22, 2008

WIP: Prototype Ballet Slipper

Like I usually do on weekends, I surf Ravelry and other sites for free patterns within my skill level that appeal to me. Now that I basically have top-down basic socks well in hand, I wanted to try other shapes, like Pocketbook Slippers by Lisa Vienneau and Allison Barrett. The pattern is also available here. My feet are small and narrow, and while I haven't actually started that particular pattern, I also wanted to learn knitting toe-up basic socks.

The toe-up pattern here is a mishmash of things I've learned, which I wrote to fit my own foot. While I haven't done things scientifically (as in specifically write steps down row by row as I knit them, counting and all -- I only have a shorthand index card) I can at this point give you a basic outline if you want to modify something for your own foot.

Pattern Outline:

1) Magic cast-on from Knitty, using an 80cm circular needle.

2) Toe increases.

3) About an inch of stockinette rounds from toe increases. Or your preferred shoe entry depth.

4) Divide instep stitches into 3. Knit first third with first dpn, bind off middle third, knit last third with next dpn, place heel stitches on last dpn. Dpn 4 is the working needle.

5) For instep stitches, your selvedge will always begin with a slip 1, whether knitting or purling. Knit or purl heel as usual.

6) As you work try on the slipper. Slipper body should reach up to an inch before your heel ends. Leave stitches on instep dpns unworked.

7) Round heel shaping as usual.

8) Heel flap either plain or reinforced depending on your preference (not a very deep one for my foot).

9) When it's time to join the instep stitches to the heel flap, you will notice a gap that forms between the heel flap and the instep stitches. To address that, knit together (or skp) the last stitch on the heel flap and the first stitch on the instep needles nearest. Knit 1. Turn. Knit across and do the same thing on the other side (instead of skp, p2tog). Purl 1. Turn. And so on. Just keep doing this until you knit the last of the instep stitches and are working with only 2 needles instead of 4.

10) Bind off back of slipper. Instead of cutting the yarn, do a single crochet beginning from the last bind off loop. The single crochet will go around the selvedge of the slipper.

11) Use bright contrasting yarn, add details. Present crochet chain is 18". If you want it to go around the ankles, I suggest you crochet 30".

This slipper is made up of exactly one small ball of choco brown Red Heart worsted weight acrylic yarn, plus some contrast color for decor. It took me just under 4 hours. I had to knit AND unravel AND write shorthand, and do finishing carefully. Maybe less if I memorized it already.

Notes: For my foot cast on should be about 10+10 stitches on a circular. This one is 12+12, which makes for a wide square toe. Body stitches follow a 20 instep +20 heel total.

Rewriting as I blog before the lunch break. Will do the other slipper tonight after dinner. With the 30" chain to go around the ankle. Joy wants to wear it at the Little Gym when she plays with Lilo. Just to feel like Gymnast Mommy. As for Lilo, I still have to trace her foot. Hers will be a princessy pink.

I want to try the same thing with mercerized cotton, possibly 3 strands together. So excited!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

To End The Confusion

To those who emailed me expressing an interest in the Tita Ting Basic Socks Pattern: I'm sorry I can't give it to you because it isn't mine, and I don't have permission to. I don't even know where Tita Ting got her pattern to begin with. I only have it as the student of Ines J. at Dreams. As for the Ann Budd pattern, I paid for it, and will have to keep to a lower living budget after the bookbuying mania of the recent Manila International Book Fair.

However, I can do the next best thing: give you some links to very similar FREE patterns made available to us on the net through of the generosity of their owners.

Lion Brand Wool-Ease Grey Socks

Knitting Socks by Yarn Harlot *I prefer this one*

To convert this pattern from 4 dpns to Magic Loop:

1. Divide total number of cast on stitches by two. For example: 30+30 = 60.

2. When you join the round, the yarn tail should be on your right. This first half of the stitches (30) would correspond to the first 2 dpns (14+16). The second half of the stitches on the other half of the circular form the heel. These would correspond to the 3rd dpn (all 30 on 1 dpn), with the 4th dpn as working needle.

3. If it makes it easier for you, place markers on the circular needle where each dpn needle is indicated so you remain in place on the pattern.

4. Try for an even tension/gauge, particularly on the joins, so you don't have ladders.

5. When working with crochet cotton, use a 2.0mm needle for the 1x1 rib cuff and switch to a 2.75mm needle for the sock body. The bigger needle creates a soft fabric and a wider stretch. The smaller needle addresses the ankle elasticity.

6. I don't care if people say it's cheating, but sometimes I sew a row or two of transparent elastic in the 1x1 rib. Cotton doesn't stretch much, folks. Good thing mercerized cotton doesn't shrink further. But it is nice and snug!

For those who don't know Kitchener stitch yet, click here for the video tutorial. There are also very good videos for other techniques on Knitwitch.com. I like the clear demonstration, simple language and summary of the techniques. I knit Continental and the Knitwitch knits American ("throwing") but the important thing is to watch not the hand movements, but the needle tips, where they go, and where the working yarn goes.

Other tips and tricks can be found in one of my favorite sites, Knitting Pattern Central. The free patterns directory can be found here.

You can also generate a custom sock pattern using Violet Green's Custom Sock Pattern Calculator. Just find a fiber with the right gauge. I found this in the blog QC Tester Hobbies: Sustainable Excellence (which also has links for other knitting patterns, cooking and other hobbies we all likely share). I think the surfing around is addicting enough. Don't forget to actually knit something!

You can also check out the other sites listed in my sidebar :) Why don't you join the international knitting community Ravelry and get access to other knitters and their projects? Knitter General's Warning: more fun and craziness as you get around.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ningning's Candycane Ankle Socks

Note: Photo taken in fluorescent light without flash to give you an idea of the actual color.

Ningning went to Honolulu last month, and asked me if she could get me anything. "I hope it's not too heavy," I said, "but could you manage a book?" I wanted Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks. Yes, I could have ordered it on Amazon for less, but it would have taken forever to arrive.

I promised the pinkaholic Ningning a pair of pink socks, and had just the right Cannon crochet cotton, in white-pink-red gradient (#S0016). Ankle socks too, because nobody seems to wear longer socks in this climate except school kids.

Leisurely knitted, I finished one sock on the Saturday afternoon of Sept. 6. Ten days later (ie., last night) I managed to finish the second sock. No second sock syndrome, I just had a million things going on in between. I practically knitted this pair without looking at Ines' handwritten version of the pattern anymore. A portion of the second sock was knitted while waiting in line at the dentist the other day.

It was actually while reading Ann Budd's book that I realized that what I'd been calling the Tita Ting pattern (the original of which I thought was from Lion Brand) was practically word for word Ann Budd's. So when I registered this project in Ravelry I filed it under Ann Budd's Basic Socks. I know it's probably a Chicken and Egg situation, but let me clarify: Tita Ting's version was written for Magic Loop while Ann Budd's was for 4 dpns. I resist knitting with dpns only because I lack practice, but a thorough reading of the patterns from the book led to numbers clicking into place in my head. Now I (think I) know how to convert from dpns to Magic Loop...

Ningning -- many, many thanks for getting me the book, and I hope you enjoy these socks :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nanay's Apple Green Ankle Socks

These are my first completed pair of ADULT SIZE knitted socks using crochet thread. I posed them with Elmo and Moo to give you an idea of scale; they fit a woman's size 6-7.5 foot. This follows a basic sock pattern from Tita Ting, but which can be found free on the internet in different guises.

They were actually meant for Mimi, but in my knit-and-frog delirium over the last few weeks I was unable to finish them before she left for Hawaii. However, my mom took a shine to them, as the color evoked youth and gardens, the latter being her recurring source of creative happiness (much as mine is knitting).

One reason why I wasn't able to finish them in time was that:

1) Crochet cotton doesn't stretch very much, even with a tight 1x1 rib in the cuff. Sock yarn, which is a wool-nylon blend, has that elastic give. While I have some merino in stock, I really wouldn't use that for a first try. Besides, cotton is really cool on the feet here in Manila.

2) It was only last Saturday when I discussed my issues re reinforced heel flap mistakes and tight/loose cotton ribbing with my teacher Ines. The reinforced heel mistakes were easily corrected. Then Ines taught me the ff. solution to the ankle cuff:

Needles: US size 1 (2.0mm) and 2 (2.75mm) circular knitting needles (here I used Knitpicks)

Gauge: 32 sts across and 40 rows for 4x4" square for larger needles

Cast On: If sock body is for example a total of 30+30 = 60 st st around on size 2 circular needles/dpns, cast on 90 st on size 1 needles and distribute as for Magic Loop/Cat Bordhi 2-circ method or dpns.

Row 1: *K1, P2*, repeat * until end of 45 sts per circular needle. (For dpns, you divide the heel sts evenly as long as your Row 1 repeats per needle ends with the P2.)

Row 2: *K1, P2tog* repeat * until you have 30 sts left on each needle.

Row 3: *K1, P1* repeat * and knit other rows as for 1x1 rib until you have the desired cuff length.

Sock body: Switch to larger needles for the rest of the sock pattern.

I think what this does is to prevent the cast-on edge from being too tight, but allows the cuff to snugly fit the adult ankle. The technique provides even more give for finer gauge cotton, such as DMC Petra crochet cotton #8. Ines uses Petra for baby socks, which is finer than local brands and requires finer needles.

Et voila:

Obviously, I am the model, as my mother is off to a local Red Cross meeting, where she is a director. I wish there were more light in the photo, but it's the monsoon season... The humid-but-cool weather is a perfect reason to wear cotton! So happy with these. My feet are narrow and flat, but my mom's feet have a higher instep and are just a bit wider across the widest part of the toes, and they fit her quite well! She was a bit alarmed at the lack of elasticity in the cuff, but soon discovered that folding half the sock inside-out and putting the socks on by gently pulling them up the heel worked beautifully.

Material: Cannon crochet cotton size 8, in apple green (shade # MB767) at PhP 25/ball (mall) or just over PhP 21/ball (or PhP 260/box of 12 wholesale). I recommend that you buy 2 balls, and knit a complete sock from each ball so you don't have to make joins if you're not confident about weaving in joins invisibly. Actually you could make 2 socks from one ball, but for an adult women's size 6 your second sock will require a join from the second ball just about where you start decreasing for the toes. I did this, but I had to weave in ends on a side decrease so that I don't feel or see any "double thickness" running across the upper side or underneath. I think I did pretty well.

Care: Ines recommended a mild bath soap or laundry bar such as Perla. Turn socks inside out. Apply soap. Gently squeeze out suds as you handwash. Rinse well. DO NOT WRING. Roll socks in a towel to absorb excess water. Shape and let dry flat. DO NOT IRON.

The Knitted Dalek

Now I've been a big Dr. Who fan (Tom Baker from the early 70s, Christopher Eccleston & David Tennant from 2005 to present, haven't seen the others) since childhood. Today, while reading about Stephanie McPhee's recent lecture tour of London in her Yarn Harlot blog I saw... A KNITTED DALEK!!! By knitter Alex. How talented is that. BBC fandom for you.

For those who aren't familiar with the long-running BBC science fiction series and its characters, Daleks are a war-crazy race of beings that look like little brains encased in thimble-shaped body armor. Sort of like R2D2 crossed with Pinhead from Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" movie. Daleks can usually be heard dementedly exclaiming "Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!" in a really annoying robotic quaver while its sides are bristling with projectile weapons or ray guns. Classic! Vintage camp! (And much, much better than the Holy Guacamole Batman 60's show starring Adam West! Superior to the robot in "Space Family Robinson"! OK, you can tell how old I am now.)

In the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords, the two races virtually exterminated each other and their home planet, leaving Dr. Who as the last of his kind. So he travels through through Time and Space in a blue police call box with whoever is his lovely, spunky, and compassionate human companion of the moment, trying to save Earth and other worlds from the destructive onslaught of Daleks and other villainous aliens.

Trust a London knitter to make an amigurumi out of that villain. What's next, a knitted TARDIS?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Joy's Multicolored Ankle Socks

Now these are my first adult worsted weight acrylic basic ankle socks, requested by Joy. I'd long been thinking acrylic would be too thick or hot for the local climate, but later realized they make perfect cushioned sport socks! Joy was intending to wear them to the Little Gym, whenever she accompanies Lilo to her weekly class.

Needles: Addi Turbo US size 4 (3.5mm) 80cm long circulars

Material: Red Heart worsted weight acrylic yarn, shade # 08327 (the 255m big ball) by Coats Manila Bay, PhP 70/ball (Carolina's Megamall). One big ball can probably make a pair and a half with a bit left over. Or almost two pairs, if you add one small 18g ball of the same shade.

Pattern: Tita Ting's basic socks pattern similar to this one. The pattern I followed was based on Ines' foot size, which is around a women's 6.

It knit up pretty quickly, being an ankle sock, about 4 hours in front of the tv after dinner? And I wasn't even in a hurry. That time even included unravelling mistakes. Great thing is, same size fits Nanay and me too. Joy got other unlikely colorways for me to make unique looking socks for her. Pictures of future socks as they finish!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Knitting Everywhere: Starbucks Baywalk

While having coffee with TDM, who met some colleagues nearby, I brought my first practice adult sock. That morning I'd already started on the cuff and heel turn in the car. While waiting for his meeting to finish I managed to finish and fit the sock! One Chinese lady and her daughter were fascinated, and asked me lots of questions. I wish there were more knitting friendly cafe's here in Manila!

Next time I'll make sure my ASUS V80 is fully charged. This sorry photo was taken with a Nokia 6120 and it doesn't handle macros or depth of field very well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Knitting with Bamboo

I found some 14" bamboo straight needles at Dreams one Saturday, and since they were reasonably priced (under PhP 100/pair at Dreams, vs. PhP 36/pair in Divisoria -- the difference of which compensates for transport and parking costs) I got them in 4mm, 5mm and 6mm.

I tried knitting with them using DMC's lovely Senso crochet yarn (cotton-rayon spun) in green (cotton) with variegated lavender-to-turquoise-to-white (thinner rayon). The result looked like a summer lawn sprinkled with tiny flowers. And I discovered few things:

1) Stitches don't slip off because of the traction on the bamboo surface;
2) Therefore I can knit American/English style (with thread coming from right hand) without too much thinking!
3) Knitting is slower but I am enjoying not hearing the metal "clinking" I get with straight metal needles.
4) The points are a bit too round for me, but that's not too bad.

And so... I embarked on another crazy mission, which was to buy sets of bamboo circulars on eBay in 29" and 32" lengths. For USD 19.98 per set, and international shipping of USD 2.98 per set, it's not too bad. Comes out to roughly PhP 69/circular. I bought from an American knitter seller rather than one of those Shanghai or Hong Kong-based suppliers because I wanted to avoid communications issues (like Joy had with Joyce Supershop in HK). I also had it posted directly to my home address because people at the post office here are unlikely to steal bamboo needles.

Although I must say, the cooking chopsticks I bought in Unimart look like a US size 10 (6.5mm). And the ultra thin barbecue sticks that we like come out to a US size 1 or 2 (2.25-2.5mm).

I really wanted the bamboo for travelling. But when push comes to shove, I'll bring the barbecue sticks, hahaha!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Beginnings of a Knitting Library






Yesterday at the National Bookstore Mid-Year Booksale at their main branch in Gateway I came across the ff. knitting gems, all for the shockingly low price of PhP 300 (approx. USD 6) and below!:


By Debbie Bliss (really popular kids' knitwear designer):

Easy Knits
Baby Style
The Baby Knits Book

Also in the same price range were:

Erika Knight's Simple Knits for Cherished Babies and

Lily M. Chin's The Urban Knitter

and at 40% off I got: (now reasonable at PhP 600 and below)

Debbie Stoller's Stitch N' Bitch Nation;
Annie Modesitt's Romantic Hand Knits and
Sharon Turner's Teach Yourself Visually Knitting Design

Prior to this year all I had to my name was a Reader's Digest Needlecrafts Book. I think it's important to expand my learning this way. If these books weren't on sale they would be out of the reach of most knitters (especially the hardback trade books). Our family will go to the Manila International Book Fair next week, and I'll see what I can get for a reasonable price there.

On my wish list, the classics:

Barbara G. Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns series (particularly the first two); and
Elizabeth Zimmerman's books

And the wishing goes on.

Knitting Everywhere: At The Dentist's

I took my dad to see my dentist last Thursday. While he was having a tooth extracted I whipped out my Susan Bates 2.75mm dpns and tried to knit 40 sts around evenly. My first attempt was the night before; it was full of holes and ladders. I ripped it out and started the whole thing from scratch.

It's kind of difficult to knit Continental while holding 4 spiky objects. But I was determined to give it a try. With knitting, the more often I practice the better I get. Better as in less holes. Since I got into sock knitting I wanted to try the different methods. So far Magic Loop is the most efficient method for me, although I want to try Cat Bordhi's sock knitting on 2 short circulars.

I was at the clinic for 2 whole hours and didn't gain much headway. Dr. Elaine was enchanted at the idea that I knitted baby socks. My 1x1 rib on the dpns looked like they could put an eye out or two. I put it away and took out the Knitpicks circulars and actually finished a quarter inch worth of work by the time my dad was settling his bill.

We have a follow-up appointment next Monday. Hopefully I'll have something easier to do and more glamorous looking in my bag by then.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Let 'Er Rip

All week I've been knitting and frogging (that's "unravelling" to non-knitters). As in ripping out work. It's probaby a testament to my excitement, ambitiousness, and the unhappy realization that for some projects (the patternless ones that I make up as I go along) I might not have enough yarn. Sometimes despite knitting a swatch I end up overestimating how a fiber will stretch sideways. If I'm a couple of inches deep into a project I don't mind doing it again. I guess I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Sometimes. Thank God for the nostepinne and the yarn winder!

Funny. I used to be the little tween hothead who plugged the new Betamax directly into the 220v socket without reading the manual and promptly fried it. I could list down everything I've done in that nature when I was younger and more foolish. Have I grown up? When confronted with a morass of crochet cotton that looks like the instant mami you could eat after three minutes in boiling water, I set to work unravelling, unknotting and winding with a single-minded focus for at least 30 minutes. Now that's a long time for most people. I could leave it, go to work, and return to it after dinner and not go to sleep until everything's just right. It's so nice to wake up to neat, usable balls of yarn. OK, that sounds OC, but if I don't impose some kind of order in my yarn wilderness I can't move on to my next project. It's a different kind of satisfaction.

Now I can face myself in the mirror and say: You've bitten off more than you can chew, so at this point take a look at your work and see if you can finish it. You might end up hating the project and go off knitting altogether. You don't want that. You don't want that. Just rip it up and do it all over again. (Somehow the prospect of doing things over sparks my interest in the project afresh!)

Of course this sort of thing only works if you really enjoy something and want to keep at it for the long term. And I really, really want to keep on knitting. Especially as I just bought some inexpensive made in China bamboo straight needles! Photos later. More knitting coming up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Christmas in July: Yarns & Accessories

We're right smack in the middle of August. I waited three months for these goodies to come to me, and they've waited another three months to be blogged about. I wrote about receiving the needles first, otherwise the baby socks and other exciting projects wouldn't come into being.


First up, my Knitpicks Sunset Picnic Lace Sampler. Six beautiful colors! Actually I also liked the selections Sea View, Winetasting and Riverside Cafe, but was on a budget (needles before yarn) so I chose the brightest, warmest, happy colors. Of course I keep in mind that whatever is made of these yarns must be suitable for the tropics. I can't stop touching these, they're made to attract the hand, otherwise you wouldn't work with them or wear them. Knitpicks really tries to live up to their motto: "Passionately committed to affordable luxury knitting." It sounds like an oxymoron, the combination of the words "affordable" and "luxury". But if it means Knitpicks offers access to better quality materials to motivate the home knitter, I'm all for that!

Next, my Lacis Yarn Ball Winder. I remember mentioning in a previous post that I wanted a Royal Yarn Ball Winder as it was mentioned in Knitters Review, but when I discovered the price difference (Lacis at USD 27.99 vs. Royal at USD 34.99) I figured that the basic mechanism didn't differ too much between brands and ordered the more affordable Lacis. Locally available crochet cotton sometimes comes wound around a cardboard tube (Cannon, Anchor) and therefore I can't find the center pull to knit from. It's a major pain to have the ball rolling around madly and then getting all tangled up. After I've wound the balls (as needed) I just keep the working ball in a ziploc bag with the project needles to keep it clean and portable (stash in handbag and go). It can be addicting winding balls, but there's one area where they can't compete: winding frogged (read: unravelled) yarn while the project is still attached. That's where I use our nostepinne (made for us from a photo by our local furniture repairman). And I love this, because this is Joy's advance birthday gift to me.


I really wasn't planning to order these notions (Susan Bates Universal Knit Counter & Boye Balene II Stitch Marker Rings, both under USD 2), but Joy needed to make up a minimum purchase to avail of free delivery for sale items from Knitting Warehouse.com. At the moment they cost more locally than online, so I decided to get them. The row counter helps, especially when knitting to pattern, to shape. I've already used the stitch marker rings on the beginnings of a shawl project, just to remind me where I am in a 200+ stitch cast on (a fine yarn, better not make more mistakes than necessary).

And last but not least:

Lion Brand Pound of Love claims that you can make a baby hooded blanket using just one giant skein. Caron One Pound claims that you can make 4 full scarves! Don't you just love value! Best of all, they are machine washable acrylic. At first glance they seem a bit thick (worsted weight) for the tropics, but I don't think I'd complain if I snuggled into a finished afghan at the height of typhoon weather. I chose nice antique-ish colors so that either gender may benefit from a finished product. I still have no idea what that would be, but it's nice to have these on hand.