Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is This Thing On?

*Dusts off keyboard*
Sorry for the prolonged absence. I've waffled back and forth over whether I should bring up the reason for it, and finally decided that I should, just a little, because I talk about my pets so much. My white rat, Squirrel, became ill last week. She went to the vet almost every day, and seemed to be improving until Saturday, when she took a turn. She died on Sunday, laying in bed with me while I read a book and stroked her. We're planning to bring home a new friend for Eunice (who is so lonely) as soon as we find her, and I'm sure I'll post about it when we do, so I thought it would be best to just get it out there now.

Naturally, I didn't get much knitting done, but I did do a little, and my pace has been picking up the last few nights. I've been working exclusively on the Cinched Waist Top, and let me tell you, this top has earned it's three (out of four) star difficulty rating. Not because it's hard, per se, but it's fiddley, and every time I get to a new part in the pattern, my jaw drops open because it's nothing like I would have expected.
Surprise the first: I may need to use hooks and eyes for closure along the corset edge.
Surprise the second: You have to knit the front, back and sleeves in a specific order (I usually skip around), because they are joined and then seamed.
Surprise the third: The lovely raglan detail is from a new technique (to me)! A cabled decrease. Fun to work, and it sure is purty.


The rounds are long right now, so I only work maybe three or four a night, but I plan to hit it hard this weekend! Doesn't it look cute?


The sweater in the magazine is made with cotton, but I think my cashmere version will be perfect for spring. It pretty much stays chilly up here until August, when we get a heat wave, and then fall arrives. I'm toying with different ideas for the ruffle. Maybe making it less... ruffley... and a little flatter? It kind of depends on how much yarn I have left over, though I've gone through surprisingly little.

Seeing how this project is taking longer than I expected, I am so looking forward to Amy's new knitalong, starting in April, the Quick-Fix Knitalong! The idea is to break up the tedium of long projects with some short and sweet ones! It's a low pressure knitalong, you can do just one small project, if you like. I have an informal goal of completing a quick project once a week. This may include one week to knit my second Jaywalker, and one week to knit my second World's Ugliest Mitt.

Oh, I haven't yet shown you the WUM?


I don't even know how long ago I dyed this yarn, but I dyed it myself using Kool-Aid and Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool. If you haven't used Fisherman's Wool, please be advised that it is very scratchy. I suppose that it's just as well that I experimented with this wool, since I find this colorway so appalling, but it made it difficult to choose a project. I don't think I have enough for adult mittens, and I didn't want to be responsible for playground taunts by making kids' mittens. A hat was out of the question. So I finally (after years and years) settled on some mitts that I can bring into work and leave for when my hands get cold. It feels good to get this out of the stash! The last bit of yarn I have from the Kool-Aid experiment is a not too bad red/orange/yellow mishmash that I will probably make into mittens for my nephews.

Anyway, I'm pretty psyched for the Quick-Fix Knitalong! In addition to the sock and the mitt, I'm planning to make a February baby sweater from EZ's Knitter's Almanac, and Rusted Root. If I remember correctly, I finished Green Gable pretty quickly, so I'm pretty sure it can be done. I'll save it for last anyway, and have it to wear in May, when the air becomes more mild and I want my skin to soak up every drop of sun (through a layer of SPF, of course!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Stuff: Finished and New

I finished my nephew's vest!


I love it! It's so soft, I love the color, and I know it will fit him (for a few months at least). To recap, I used The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd for the pattern, and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran with US7 needles. I used about three and a half balls for the second smallest size. In the book, the vest pattern has a v-neck, and the sweater pattern has a crew. I prefer a crew neck, so I just followed the sweater pattern for the front, since the front and back of both patterns are identical.

I must confess that I started another sweater before I finished the vest, though. I had to! I had that cashhmere yarn sitting in my basket, taunting me. I'm not made of steel! Right now, it looks like a cashmere dishcloth, but it's going to grow up to be (I believe it's called) the Corset Waisted Pullover [EDIT: It's actually called the Cinched Waist Top!] from VogueKnitting Spring 2006. I couldn't find a photo of it, and I didn't think I'd need to take a photo of the magazine. I'll take one soon. The pattern calls for the waist to be knitted first, and then the bottom (which is a ruffle), and finally the top pieces. I'm going to knit the top pieces first, however, since I'm not sure exactly how much yarn I will use, and I would rather sacrifice length on the bottom than the top. So far I've used two full balls of yarn on the waist, and I believe I have less than ten inches to go. Thank goodness! The corset is knitted at a very tight gauge, which is hard on my hands. Once it's finished, the rest of the sweater will be a piece of cake!


See what I mean about the dishcloth? Plus, the fabric is very stiff, adding to the dishcloth vibe.

Lastly, for Pioggia, a picture of the rattie girls! Just because they are so freaking adorable and love yarn. Squirrel, as usual, refused to cooperate, but Rattie behinds are cute, too.


(In all fairness, I did wake them up for playtime when this photo was taken.)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Gentle Sigh of Disappointment

So, remember how I said I was going to start the Lace Leaf Pullover when I finished my nephew's vest? Well, I'm almost finished with the vest, so I decided to swatch for the Pullover. Plus, my knitting basket was down to dregs, so it was time to fill it again.


(Sorry for the craptacular picture, I took it last night.) Despite the yarn label information on both yarns (the one I want to use and the one used in the pattern) being almost identical, I could not even come close to getting gauge for the Pullover without a fabric that looked like fishnet. So, I decided to find a fabric I like and then find a pattern to fit. I got a nice fabric at 16 stitches to four inches. I just spent over an hour going through back issues of Interweave Knits, Rebecca, some vintage books I have and a couple of leaflets, and I have come up dry. I really wanted to get started on my cashmere sweater this weekend, but that doesn't seem likely now. Sigh. I won't give up until I find the perfect pattern, though! I can't use this yarn on just anything, and I'm afraid if I let it sit too long, it'll become that part of the stash that never gets used because it's too good for everything. Leafing through my Interweaves made me wish that magazine sites gave readers the ability to search through the archives by gauge. It would take a lot less time.

As I said before, I am almost finished with my nephew's vest.


This morning, I picked up stitches for the armhole and did a ribbed edge for about an inch. Unfortunately, I picked up way too few stitches and had to rip it. Fortunately, the whole endeavor took only about a half an hour. I kind of felt like I hadn't picked up enough stitches, next time I'll listen to myself! I love this little vest. It's so soft and cuddley, and it's simple enough that he can wear it with most of his clothes. I only have maybe two hours worth of work left on this one. Maybe I can even finish it tonight!

I'm also still plugging away on Jaywalker number one.


This was the best picture of the sock, so please excuse the plain white socks in the background! When I finished the leg of this sock, I let it sit a couple of days before starting the heel. I'm so glad I did, because in the interim, I wore my first pair of Jaywalkers. Now, I adore my Jaywalkers. They hug my feet like none of my other socks, and never fall down or come off in my boots. I do have one beef with them, however, and it is this: the leg is so tight, I have a hard time getting my heel into the foot of the sock. Once my feet are in there, everything's great, but it's a tiny struggle to make it happen. On this pair, I switched to a US2 for the leg of the sock, but kept wondering how this new needle size would affect the fit on my feet. Then, I had a revelation. I am the boss of my knitting. I can do whatever I want. So I began the heel with a US1 needle, and have knit amost the entire foot on the new size. And you know what? The fit is awesome! I have no problem getting my foot into the sock, and once it hits the heel, it slides into place like a new ink catridge in an ink jet printer. I can practically feel the click. I can't wait until these are finished. I can tell already they will be in heavy rotation.

Wish me luck with finding the perfect pattern! If you happen to see anything for the right gauge, using about 820 yards of chunky weight yarn, perhaps calling for eyelets, give me a holler!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mish Mash

No knitting pictures today. My Jaywalker is just a leg right now, and I'm only a couple of inches into the front of my nephew's vest. So, just some chatter today.

First of all, I am so excited about a pattern I found yesterday, I almost posted right off about it. It's Rusted Root by Zephyr Style. I have kind of this thing for puffed sleeves lately, and I almost fell off my chair from the adorable-ness of this top. I bought the pattern immediately, and as soon as I got home I raided the stash for appropriate yarn. I'm just shy of the yardage requirements with most of my cotton yarns, but I do have enough Cotton Ease in black, red, bright pink, bright yellow and pale yellow. I also have enough in two colors of Lamb's Pride Cotton Fleece, but there are two problems with that. One, I bought that yarn specifically to make Sherwood for my nephews. Two, and this might seem contrary to number one, I've found that Cotton Fleece does not wear well. I have a ChicKami (love this pattern) I made with CF, and it's so pilly and fuzzy, I hardly ever wear it (I certainly never wear it out). True, I wash it in the machine and air dry, but I do that with a lot of my knitted garments, and none of them look like that. My reasoning for using CF in the boys' sweaters anyway is that they will not wear these garments as long as I would. They'll get one season wear out of them, and that's it. Since I want to make Rusted Root soon, I'll probably use Cotton Ease (which incidentally, I have never seen pilling).

My other exciting news is rather old. On Valentine's Day, there was a gigantic snowstorm here, and I had the day off from work. My boyfriend and I decided to take advantage of the storm and see a movie. The theater is by this crappy strip mall, which includes a craft store which is going out of business. I had been to this store once before, but was unimpressed with their yarn selection, and never went back. But who can resist a going out of business sale, right? I was dumbstruck when I turned down an aisle away from the acrylic and discovered 100% cashmere yarn AND Debbie Bliss Pure Silk for 40% off! So I have enough cream colored cashmere and pink silk for sweaters. After a meeting with my consultant, I decided on the Lace Leaf Pullover from Interweave for the cashmere (if I can get gauge). I pulled the pattern out the other day, and am just waiting to finish the vest before swatching (you've gotta have goals). Now I just need to find something perfect for the silk.

Well, if you've made it through all of that, you totally deserve a picture. Perhaps something... adorable?

And also a perfect illustration of bad bunnies. She chewed through those laces eventually!

PS: I got my Interweave yesterday! Yippee!!!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Thinking about Getting a Rabbit?

Please, allow me to talk you out of it. I try not to get up on soapboxes here at Swatch This!, it is, after all, my knitting blog, and I have plenty to say about knitting already. Easter is coming, though, and that happens to be a time when bunnies are bought by the hundreds to add a little cuteness to the Easter festivities. Then, about a month later, hundreds of rabbits are discarded when people discover that a rabbit is not the pet they anticipated.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know that I have two rabbits, Mrs. Cooper and Baxter Brown. I do not purport to be an expert on rabbits, but I have done a lot of research about them. I’ve also had rabbits in the past.

The first thing you should probably know, if you’re planning to bring a rabbit into your home, is that they are destructive creatures. Rabbits love to chew, and see no distinction between the cute little chew toy you bought for them, and your wooden furniture. They eat power cords (which is not only annoying, but hazardous), carpeting, clothes, shoes, paper… anything they can get their little bunny teeth around. Add to that the digging most rabbits like to do, and a lax owner can quickly have a ruined home. I feel fortunate that my rabbits aren’t that destructive. Cooper likes cords, which means we keep them out of her way. Both rabbits like to dig at carpeted corners, which means we make them inaccessible. It’s entirely up to us whether or not our rabbits destroy our home, it is not the rabbit’s fault if we fail to bunny-proof.

Rabbits are expensive. Sure, you can get a bunny for twenty bucks at the pet store, but don’t expect to buy a suitable cage at that store, and keep in mind that you can’t buy everything your rabbit needs at that one store. One of my rabbits, Mrs. Cooper, is too large for a cage (the recommended size for a rabbit cage is five times the size of the rabbit). Baxter Brown has a cage which we built for him using NIC blocks (the cage is HUGE and cost only about $40, plus time). They eat a ten pound bag of bunny pellets (timothy based, because they’re both adult rabbits) every two weeks. That’s $15 per bag, not including fuel for the twenty miles I have to drive to buy the pellets. They each eat about a bag of hay each week, which is cheap, $5 a bag, per rabbit, but I had to try a few varieties before I found a timothy hay they would eat. And then the expensive food: greens. Most diets recommend 1-2 cups of greens per five pounds of rabbit per day. My rabbits eat a bag of prepared salad greens per day and a half. Those are about $3.50 per bag. Sometimes I buy a head of romaine, which lasts a couple of days. I spend about $20-25 a week on greens and vegetables for the rabbits, which is an essential part of my rabbits’ diets. So, that’s about $150 a month on food.

Both of my rabbits are litter boxed trained (very easy to do with rabbits, especially older, altered ones), and I quickly learned that unless I wanted to change litter boxes every day, I would need to find a litter. Pine shavings are widely used in pet stores, but are actually bad for rabbits. I use CareFresh, which is made of recycled cardboard. It’s safe for the rabbits to eat, it’s soft, they love digging at it, and it absorbs odor like nobody’s business. It’s also between twenty and thirty dollars for a large package, which lasts about a week and a half, or two weeks. Also keep in mind that no matter how well trained your bunny is, you will find occasional rabbit poops around your house. Rabbits are poop machines, which is awesome if you have a compost heap. If you don’t, I’d get a good vacuum cleaner. Rabbits are not for people who like an immaculate house! Between the poops and the paper shredding and the hay strewing, your house will never be the same again.

Back to money, let’s talk veterinarians. You will need to become close with yours. Rabbits are extremely good at hiding illness, and usually, if your rabbit starts to show serious signs of being ill, it’s too late. They are fragile creatures, capable of literally being frightened to death, and something that might seem inconsequential (like noticing your rabbit hasn’t eaten since yesterday) is actually life threatening. A rabbit’s digestive system is so delicate, if anything throws it off balance even the slightest bit, they can develop serious problems. In a rabbit, a sneeze necessitates a trip to the vet. Our rabbits have gone to the vet so often (for sneezes and fighting wounds, not to mention nail clippings), the staff know them on sight. It’s also very important to make sure that there is a veterinarian in your area who can handle rabbits. Rabbits are not like other animals, and you should make sure your vet has experience with them. I am so lucky to have a clinic nearby with two rabbit experts on staff.

Finally, and perhaps the hardest for people to come to terms with about their rabbit, rabbits are not cuddly little lap animals. Rabbits do not like being picked up or held. They are prey animals, and prefer to have their feet firmly on the ground. They enjoy human interaction, as long as the human plays with them on their level. My rabbits are good with children, but would never tolerate rough play, and I would never let a child pick up my rabbits. Rabbits must be supported and picked up gently. A rabbit’s muscles are more powerful than its bones, and a rabbit can break its back by struggling to get away from being held. Please also keep in mind that rabbits are not short term pets! They can live anywhere from five to fifteen years. I had a rabbit who was ten years old. Please do not get a rabbit if you can not commit to their care.

Which naturally brings us to adoption. Maybe you’ve read this and still want a rabbit! They are undeniably adorable and interesting, and if you’re crazy like me, maybe you even enjoy cleaning out litter boxes and picking out vegetables for them to try. My rabbits make me laugh every day, and one of my greatest pleasures is watching them run and binky every night. If you still have your heart set on having one of your own, please adopt one from your local shelter. Not only will you be helping out a homeless rabbit, but you will get a rabbit who has already been fixed! Neutered and spayed rabbits are easier to train, less aggressive, and spayed rabbits have a decreased chance for female cancers. Older rabbits are also great pets because they are more mellow, less destructive, and again, more trainable. I would also encourage you to research breeds a little before adopting, since some breeds have a reputation for being more hyper or needing more space or exercise time than other breeds (of course, personalities will vary).

Try to think of a rabbit as more like a cat or dog. Many people get a rabbit instead of a cat or dog, because they think a rabbit is less responsibility. Aside from the fact that with all pets come responsibility, a rabbit especially is a lot of effort and care. They have to be brushed (very often for a long haired rabbit) because they can neither digest nor throw up the hair they ingest. Their nails need to be trimmed on a regular basis. They need to be watched while they run around free in non-bunny-proofed areas, lest they find something attractive to chew. They need unlimited hay, a careful diet, and their input and output carefully monitored (I start my day by checking each rabbit's litter box for evidence of illness). I have tried to be as factual as possible here, but of course there are always more points of view, and more information (this is already incredibly long!). I highly recommend reading The House Rabbit Handbook, and Rabbit Health in the 21st Century: A Guide for Bunny Parents before bringing a rabbit home.

And most importantly, please remember, a pet rabbit is not a wild animal! They may look like their wild brethren, but the rabbits at pet stores and shelters are no more wild than your neighbor’s cat. Setting a rabbit “free” is cruel and will certainly result in a terrible death for the rabbit. There is no shame in taking an animal you can no longer care for to a shelter.

Taking down the soap box now! Oh! And there’s one more thing you need to know about rabbits and Easter. It’s when we celebrate Mrs. Cooper’s birthday! She was born in April, so it just seems right. Please consider carefully whether a rabbit is right for your home. If you decide to get a rabbit or a different pet, please visit your local shelter first. Chances are good you'll find your next best friend waiting for you.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Simple Things

I finished the back of my nephew's vest. It went by pretty quickly, considering that I haven't had much time to knit lately. But you know, that's what's so great about kids' stuff.


I think when I refill my basket, I'll put in the yarn I bought to make Sherwood for my older nephew. If I wait until he gets much bigger, I won't have enough yarn!

After I finished the back of the vest, I felt like doing something different. The stockinette had gotten me through a rough week, but I needed a little something with some kick (just a little). So, I cast on for another pair of Jaywalkers.


I really like this yarn! It's Austermann Step, and it has aloe in it. The yarn in the ball feels a little strange. Not bad, just different. Knit up, it's very soft, with excellent stitch definition. When I bought it, I didn't realize it was self-striping. I don't usually like striping yarn, it's just not my thing, but I love it in the Jaywalker pattern! I wonder if I have any other striping yarns in the stash somewhere....

In other news, I'm slightly aggravated with Interweave Knits right now. I renewed my subscription (late, I admit) on January 14. My confirmation email said the Spring issue would be mailed on February 22. I still have not received the flipping magazine. I wrote them an email asking if it had been sent, because I don't know how much longer I can hold out before I just buy it on the newsstand! I'm dying over here!