Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hey! It’s a Shawl!

Yep. I have finally knit my first shawl. It’s not lace. It’s not small. But it is a shawl and it is finished!

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Pardon the amputee look. I didn’t realize my standard “hands behind back” stance would make me look completely armless.

Meet Shawl That Jazz!

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This garter-stitch shawl is knit with no-wrap short rows and you don’t have to pick up stitches to create the (very slightly) ruffled border. I really enjoyed this shawl and will absolutely knit it again!

There was one Moment of Stoopid along the way. I could not for the life of me figure out the technique to get from the end of short rowing to having the border ready to roll. If you wind up stuck at this point of the pattern, look at the third page of the pattern. It’ll make a lot more sense after reading the tutorial and looking at the pretty pictures. (Yes, I am willing to admit to Teh Stoopid if it saves someone else an hour of head-scratching)

I used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off to finish the shawl. I was being very careful to weigh my remaining yarn after every row of the border, since I wanted to use as much of the yarn as I possibly could. I was very consistently using 5.7 grams of yarn for each row, so I quit knitting and started my bind-off with 13.5 grams of yarn remaining. I had just under two yards of yarn left over. Yeah, I was sweating it as I got towards the end!

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As you can see, it’s a pretty good-sized shawl. I wore it around the store a lot on Saturday (I guessed wrong on the wardrobe vs. weather question). It took a little getting used to, but I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this shawl. I’m thinking it will be great in the summer when I’m in a heavily air-conditioned environment but dressed for the warm weather, or at the Lake when we eat on the patio at the club. It’s right on the water, so it can get a bit chilly at times. Since it’s knit with merino wool, it’s very comfortable and cosy.

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My Saturday experience convinced me that although I do have a beautiful Aura Dez shawl pin, a swirl will work better with this shawl. Fortunately, we had a beautiful swirl in the store just waiting for me to take it home!

All in all, this project is a complete “win.” I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for a perfect yarn for Shawl That Jazz II while I’m in Maryland in a few weeks. Muwahahaha!!!

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Shawl That Jazz

Pattern: Shawl That Jazz by Samantha Roshak
Size: It’s a shawl
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Twisted
Color: Sockgate
Amount: 2 skeins/1,120 yards
Needles: US 10.5/6.5mm KA Switch needles
Started: 5 March 2010
Finished: 19 March 2010
Mods: None

Thursday, March 25, 2010

WiP ... Thursday?

Hi there! I’ve been busy working a sporting event four of the last five days and haven’t been thinking about feeding the blog. So here’s a little WiP Wednedsay, a day late and a dollar short!

I finished my Shawl That Jazz, and will hopefully get a FO-to shoot with it soon. So what has been on the needles?

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It’s the first sleeve from Pavillion, a V-neck cabled pullover from Rowan Classic Reminiscence. That’s a great book, by the way. There are at least three sweaters in there I’d be interested in knitting!

I started with a sleeve because it’s awfully tough to measure an in-pattern swatch. And if I have a problem, I’d rather rip out a sleeve than the back of a sweater. Fortunately, it’s looking good so far and Hey! When I get the torso of the sweater finished, the sleeves will already be done!

Loving it so far. And you can look forward to seeing this on many WiP Wednesdays to come!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alexis Vest

Before I start talking knitting, I need to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to The Hubster, since his "big day" is today. And since I know I'm going to be swamped tomorrow, I'll add in birthday wishes for my dear friend Bill, who was a St. Patrick's day baby. It's a busy birthday week here!

I finished this vest during the early days of the Olympics, but am just getting around to blogging it now. And yes, I really did take Olympic Knitting time to finish this vest. It was so close to being done that I didn’t want to have it sitting around unfinished when I could be wearing it!

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I took an educated guess on the size for this sweater and apparently chose perfectly. It fits like a glove right now, but will continue to look good as I (hopefully) continue to shrink.

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It does have “sleeves” of a sort, although the only part that was added on to the three-piece vest construction was the ribbing for the arm holes. The armhole ribbing was knit flat, then the armpit seam was done last. I like the slight cap-sleeve look when it’s worn.

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I got a little spendy on the buttons. We had these Annie Adams “large” buttons in the store. Since there were only two buttons needed for this vest, I didn’t mind buying slightly expensive buttons. Besides, I firmly believe that the perfect buttons can make or break a knitted garment!

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I didn’t notice the shadow down the left side until I brought the photos onto my computer, and the “tucks” from the mint green stripe down are from how the sweater has been clipped to hang in the store.

The Rowan Colourscape I used for this project was very enjoyable. It is a chunky single with a fair bit of veggie matter spun in (OK. That was really annoying!). Of course, the color that I liked the best in these skeins was at the end of each skein and therefore shows up with the least frequency. Oh well. I made sure that light green was in the button band, so I’m cool with how it turned out. All in all, a thumbs-up project!

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Alexis Vest

Pattern: Alexis by Sarah Hatton from Rowan Colourscape Folk
Size: Large (40-42)
Yarn: Rowan Colourscape Chunky
Color: Storm
Amount: 5 skeins (875 yards)
Needles: US 10.75/7mm Knit Picks Zephyr and US 10/6mm Knit Picks Options
Started: 26 December 2009
Finished: 15 February 2010
Mods: None

Monday, March 15, 2010

Academical Village

On the last day of our stay in Charlottesville, Va., I made certain I’d have time to do something I’ve wanted to do since the fall of 1997, the first time I set foot on the UVa campus.

I toured The Rotunda and Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village.

The first time I ever visited the University of Virginia, I was there with the Akron men’s soccer team. We were playing in a tournament at Kl√∂ckner Stadium but our head coach made certain that we had a few minutes to see the most important bit of campus.

One of the star players on that team was an Academic All-America midfielder who held a 3.97 GPA with double majors in chemistry and Spanish with a biology minor or something ridiculous like that. It was a beautiful day in Charlottesville that September, and I remember Justin taking a slow 360 and taking it all in before declaring “If I went to school here, I’d stay forever and major in everything.”

If anyone could do it, Justin could have. Despite the dismal weather on this most recent trip, that will always be my enduring memory of UVa.

OK. Now that story time is over …

Since my dad taught at Pitt’s law school for more than 20 years, I felt the need to document that we stopped by the UVa School of Law. Tigger got his picture taken there

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Since this is me we’re talking about, it won’t surprise anyone that I got a bit of a late start that fine Wednesday morning and I was hustling to get over to The Rotunda for what I believed was an available 10:30 a.m. tour. Sadly, I had been misinformed, and the next tour was at 11. So Tigger and I walked a bit around the Village. And Tigger got his picture taken with The Rotunda.

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Sorry about the crappy picture. I was a little bit self-conscious and didn’t want to stand out as a tourist any more than I absolutely had to.

The tour eventually started and we had a very good tour guide who is a current UVa senior. We started on the ground floor of The Rotunda and worked our way up. It’s another intriguing Jefferson creation with oval rooms around the edges of the circular building and an hourglass-shaped interior area. The Rotunda was the centerpiece of the original University and is still in full use today (although the rooms have different functions than they did in the 1820s)

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This statue of Jefferson is on the second floor of The Rotunda. It’s a little hard to tell in this photo, but there are small bits of Jefferson’s cloak that are a bit chipped. The Rotunda burned in 1895 and students were able to save the bulk of Jefferson’s books and this 2.5 ton marble statue. It used to be in the Dome Room atop the building and students were able to slide the statue down the stairs to safety on a mattress!

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The Dome Room itself is quite impressive. The top of the dome is open, and there is a whispering gallery above, although you can no longer use that area. Behind each of the columns is a set of bookcases. If you stand in the center of the room, the books are invisible, but in the above photo you can see bits of the bookcases.

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There are tables in front of most of the windows and it’s completely open for students (or anyone) to study or read or do anything they want up there.

I didn’t take pictures (the tourist-ey thing again), but if you go to the Grounds Tour slide show and click on the Academical Village, you'll see the stacks of cordwood in the fourth photo? That’s for real. Those are the original dorm rooms that Jefferson planned and built. They are currently occupied by the best of the best of UVa students and are heated by radiators and functioning fireplaces. Yes, in 2010, college students are heating their dorm rooms with wood.

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This is Pavilion I, closest to the Rotunda on the west side of the Lawn.

There are 10 Pavilions as part of the Village. All are still occupied by professors and are in use. I have to admit I think that is SO cool!

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We finished our tour at Pavilion VII. It’s the first Pavilion that was built by Jefferson, who built the Village in bits and pieces. A little here, a little there, never finishing any of the buildings until the whole shebang was ready to go. He was a smart guy, and knew that if he started at the top of the Lawn and worked down, some official in charge of funding would decide that his University was “finished” and cut off the dough. So he moved around his plan so it always looked UNfinished and in need of continued money to complete his vision.

He was a smart guy, that Jefferson fellow. I look forward to visiting his home and University again. Hopefully in better weather!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Monticello and Ash Lawn Highland

On Tuesday of our trip (wow, that was two weeks ago. Sorry ‘bout the long delay!), the Hubster had a conference to attend for work – that was actually the driving reason for our trip – so Roaming Tigger and I went off to do ‘hysterical’ stuff as my mother would say.

We spent the bulk of our day at Monticello. Which simply reminded me how much our third POTUS intrigues me.

RT and I zipped into the shiny new visitors center just in time to catch the welcome video, then take a shuttle bus up to the mansion. I hadn’t pre-purchased a ticket as I felt that their fees (both entry and processing) were a bit high and I took a gamble that the first Tuesday in March wasn’t going to be a maximum-traffic day for Monticello. I was right. There was one bus full of school kids, but the welcome center staff was awesome about making sure that the “regular people” didn’t have to share tours with the kids.

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We hopped off of the shuttle and waited a few moments for our tour to begin. Photos are not allowed inside the house, but we walked up to the front of the house on the path pictured above. Although there was a good bit of snow on the ground, a lot of the area was shoveled/cleared enough that I could walk pretty much anywhere I wanted to go on the grounds.

After the formal tour of the interior of the house – I hear they’ll be opening the higher floors of the house soon. I’d go back for that in a heartbeat! – RT and I walked around the dependencies, which included access to all spaces in the "basement" of Monticello. The access and maintenance in that area was amazing, as was the planning and forethought that Jefferson put into Monticello. I didn’t take many pictures in that area …

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But RT likes beer, so he wanted a picture in the Beer Cellar. Heh.

Since the back side of the house is the more famous view … it IS on the back of the nickel, after all! … Tigger wanted a picture there

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I could have spent a week walking around every inch of Monticello, but the weather wasn’t getting any better. Tigger and I walked down to Jefferson’s grave

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And we paid our respects. We walked around the Gardens a bit,

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Then we went back down the hill to check out the bookstore and other available pieces of information. It was a bit of overload by the end of the day, but I’m glad I went!

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Thanks, Mr. Jefferson! Sorry the shuttle bus wouldn’t move out of the background!

On a whim, instead of turning left out of Monticello to head back to our hotel on the UVa campus, we decided to turn right and visit Ash Lawn Highland, one of the many homes of James Monroe.

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We had a very … unique … tour guide who obviously loved his job. About half of the house burned down a very long time ago, but it has been restored as well as possible and was an interesting (if MUCH quicker) stop. The back side of the house shows its size

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There wasn’t much of the grounds to see, but we did do a bit of walking around. Here’s a shot of the entrance to the house

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There were cows down a different spoke of the path. We could smell them before we saw them! As I mentioned, the weather had been getting yuckier as we went along. Tigger wanted his picture with the former homeowner

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But then he decided he didn’t look good in gigantic snowflakes, so we went back to the hotel to crash. There was one more day of the trip, but that was plenty for one Tuesday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Go Go Gadget Garter Stitch!

When I finished my Northman Mittens, I had to figure out what I wanted to work on next! I threw a bunch of stuff in my knitting bag for our trip (Oh yeah, the trip! I have two more days worth of photos to show you. I’ll get on that very soon!) but never knitted a stitch.

But once I got back to town, I got started swatching. And now?

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After lots and lots of swatching, I just picked a gauge that was close and gave me a fabric that I liked. I'm on a US 10.5 needle, so I'm zipping right along!

I’m a little past the halfway point on Shawl That Jazz. Mindless garter stitch. No-wrap short rows. I’m loving it and I think the finished project is going to be awesome. I’m into the second skein of Twisted and my rows keep getting shorter at an impressive rate. I know I’m going to be back to a metric crap-ton of stitches in short order, but meanwhile I’m having fun with it. Go, me with my first-ever shawl!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Olympic Gold: Northman Mittens

I finished my Northman Mittens on February 26, the final Friday of the Olympics. Which was actually my finish line, since I knew for a fact that I had exactly zero knitting time available that final weekend.

The mittens were worn almost constantly on our Virginia Adventure (two more days of Travel/Roaming Tigger to come). I can say with confidence that they are warm and comfortable. And to quote Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way!”

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I took a ton of pictures of these mittens and had an incredibly difficult time narrowing down to a reasonable number for this blog post. Hence the mosaic. Full-sized photos are available on my Flickr stream.

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Yes, I love all shades of blue, which is part of why I chose the colors I did for this project. The other reason? These mittens match my favorite winter coat perfectly, as you can see above.

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These mittens have a thumb gusset, and the colorwork pattern flows perfectly around the increases

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The Blue Sky Alpacas liner is already felting a little bit, but I don’t care. The liner is what takes this pair of mittens “over the top” and makes them just about perfect.

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As with most projects that come in pairs, I figured out a few details on the first mitten and refined techniques on the second mitten. My right mitten was knit first, and the tips of both the palm and thumb on that first mitten have slight “issues” that nobody but me would recognize. And the liner is a little bigger and has a little extra fabric to smoosh around, but I can’t figure out why (same stitch counts and needles, etc. Weird.). But the left mitten? Perfection.

Oh, and because I love you guys? Here’s a photo of the guts, before I put in the liner. Almost forgot to take that photo!

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I feel like I picked a project that was the perfect level of difficulty and needed the perfect amount of time for what I had available during the Olympics. It’s certainly a win for me!

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Northman Mittens

Pattern: Northman Mittens by David Schulz
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Navy and Light Blue
Blue Sky Alpacas Sport Weight in Royal Blue
Yardage: One skein in each color of the Ultra Alpaca, two skeins of the Blue Sky
Needles: US 4/3.5mm for outer mittens. US 6/4.0mm for liners.
Entire project magic looped with KnitPicks Options circs.
Started: 12 February 2010
Finished: 26 February 2010
Mods: Not a one. The pattern is perfect.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

RT Visits Mount Vernon

If you guessed that the reason we spent Sunday night in Alexandria was because we wanted to go to Mount Vernon on Monday, you guessed right! We both knew that while it would have been fun to see more friends north of Washington, D.C., trying to get from there to south of the City during morning rush when you don't actually have to was just plain stupid.

We stayed at a really amazing hotel that was surprisingly reasonably priced (for the area). I would highly recommend and we hope to have a reason to stay there again! I forgot to take pictures because I was so tired when I got there and in such a rush to get moving in the morning!

Getting to Mount Vernon was a breeze. We were driving against traffic pretty much the whole way, so it went quickly. Tigger got to meet George

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Once we got to Mount Vernon, we hustled up to the Mansion. We had 9:30 a.m. tour tickets for the National Treasure: Book of Secrets Tour. First tour on the first day this particular tour was offered!

We got to see the basement of Mount Vernon, which is generally not part of the tours. Several of the bits from the movie were pointed out, so that was pretty cool.

From there, the tour took us to the ice house (boring, no photos) and then down to the “New Tomb” at Mount Vernon where we paid our respects

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While at the bottom of the hill, we visited the slave memorial too.

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Once we hoofed it back up the hill (good thing I’ve been working out!), we took a tour of the mansion

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And then hung out for a bit admiring the truly amazing view of the Potomac River. George was considerate enough to put a full row of chairs under the high porch on the East side of the main house. Tigger took full advantage on the beautifully sunny day.

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The view of the Potomac is incredible! It’s a very peaceful place now. I can completely understand why George Washington wanted to spend as much time there as possible.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Here and There

First, a little housekeeping. I finished my Northman Mittens on Friday night, so I’m meadal-worthy. Yay! I also finished my Alexis vest. Posts on both of those projects will be coming along before long.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Hubster and I are not at the “ranch!” We left on Sunday morning bright and early and drove to Annapolis, Md., where a good friend gave the Hubster and I a tour of the Yard at the United States Naval Academy.

Loretta took us to Bancroft Hall, where RT just about tired himself out walking all over Memorial Hall.

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We checked out the cool cannons just outside of Bancroft

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Tigger got up close and personal with Tecumseh

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We then wandered over to the Academy chapel

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And then down to the crypt of John Paul Jones. No pictures from the interior of the chapel or JPJ’s crypt.

After the tour, we found a friendly bar-with-food in Annapolis and the three of us enjoyed the Gold Medal hockey game. The Hubster and I then headed south of the District to spend the night in Alexandria to make Monday’s plan a little easier to execute. We’ll be back with that story tomorrow!