My Virtual Sanity

Have you ever felt the need to share your thoughts with virtual strangers just so you can pretend that you have adult conversations during the day? Well, that's what I'm about to do. Be prepaired for my life as a stay at home, obsessive knitter, and my attempts to stay connected with the rest of the world.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Wanna Be a Cowboy Baby!

I ventured out into the world today. Alex is officially done with preschool for the year and I am at a loss for what to do with him all day every day. Normally I have the car while DH is at work twice a week (yes, we only have 1 car...well minivan), and today was the day this week. We usually go to my grandparents house. You know the ones that I posted the pictures a while ago? Well we went over to visit them for the holiday yesterday, and I don't think it's probably in any of our best interest to hang out at their house all day every day for the summer, so I took all 3 kids out to my other Grandma's house. This is the Grandma who very generously GAVE DH and I 2 1/2 acres of her front yard to build a house right next door. That's still in the works, but that's a topic for a WHOLE different post.

This Grandma, Grandma Helen, has always been the horse Grandma. She was the one who valiantly payed for all those years of 4-H when I was a kid. I have ridden about 8 different horses that she has owned over the years, many of whom were bought specifically for me. I have to admit, however, that in the time since I graduated from high school I have definitely neglected the horses. I am very glad to see, though, that Grandma has gathered a group of other ladies about her age and they all go for trail rides together. I guess I don't feel quite so bad about only riding the horses about once a year since high school now. True, I have had some very good excuses for the last little bit. I've been pregnant, or had very small children for the last 5 1/2 years. Well, Alex has finally reached an age where he is ready to ride horses and I don't have to freak out and worry quite so much that he'll get stepped on or something. He's 4...

What? You don't think 4 is a good age to start riding horses? It just so happens that I rode my very first horse, well a VERY gentle pony named Speckles, when I was 4. When I think back, I don't remember being so small, and now I look at Alex and I just think "I couldn't possibly have been this young!" But I was. I know that I was proficient with horses at an early age by the reactions of people around me. I remember buying Billy. He was the sweetest paint pony. Everywhere we went we got offers for people to buy him "If you ever think about selling him, just give us a call". We never did sell him. He died when I was a freshman in high school from colic and I cried and cried. Anyway, I don't remember how old I was at the time (maybe 6 or 7), but Grandma took me with her to buy Billy. The family selling him had a little boy about my age, maybe a little older, and apparently sweet old Billy wasn't being ridden by said boy. Grandma and I pulled up in her brown Ford Truck, opened up the camper back (where all the tack was kept) and we saddled up Billy. I climbed up and trotted down the road. The people selling Billy were so shocked that Grandma would let me ride by myself "Is she going to be alright?!" they asked her. Grandma just laughed. By this time, I could saddle a horse and ride alone on just about any trail ride. It never occurred to me that I shouldn't be able to do this.

Until you are 8 yrs old, you can't officially be in 4-H. Well, 8yrs old by January first. My birthday's in April, so when I turned 8, Grandma signed my sister and I up for horses in 4-H. Since I hadn't been 8 as of January 1, I was put in "mini's" which I thought was stupid. In minis, you don't get to participate in the actual horse show, you get 1 little event where you negotiate a small obstacle course on your horse and get a little treat out of a mail box. Of course I could do this on my own no problem, but at the County Fair that year, they INSISTED that Grandma accompany me through the course. They wanted to make her lead me along, but we wouldn't have any of that. Apparently 8 yr olds aren't old enough to ride alone either, even in a perfectly safe arena.

Anyway, back to today. Alex is 4. The same age I was when my whole horse life started as a kid. Now that I'm a mom, I can't imagine letting him run around out in the open trail like we did as kids, or even at this point going on a long trail ride with him in the saddle in front of me. It still kind of freaks me out. Isn't it funny how we look back at what we did as kids and think "I can't believe we survived that!" Apparently, I have more fear for my son than he has for himself though, because here he is riding and guiding the horse ALL BY HIMSELF! AT 4!
I took video of this on my digital camera, but when I uploaded the pictures, they somehow disappeared. I'm very upset. I had plans to save that for posterity and to show the whole world how proud I am of my little boy. Alas, I suppose that means that we need to go back up to the farm soon and take another video.

This is Scooter, who is the newest horse to join our group. She is 11 yrs old and was just absolutely wonderful today to have little kids on her. She was calm and went wherever Alex told her to. What a trooper! And that's the cute little pony saddle that I bought a couple of years ago for Christmas on E-bay for $100!

Shaya, on the other hand is quite a bit more timid than Alex. She was terrified of Scooter at first, and clung to my leg. I think her seeing Alex riding around convinced her that it might be OK, because after a bit she was saying that she wanted to ride the horse too.She wasn't confident enough to be up there by herself, though, so once the horse was moving I needed to be up there with her.Through all of this, Brendan was just a wonderful little angel and slept wrapped in a blanket in his car seat. I put it in the back of the van where I could see him and where he was in the shade. He was actually my biggest worry. I brought the front carrier with me, but it is REALLY difficult to lift an older child up onto a horses back with a baby strapped to your

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ramblings... Again

Well, it's Friday, 9am and I have finished my required house work for the day! This is pretty amazing seeing as the last few days I have washed laundry, but haven't folded and put it away. This meant that I needed to put away 3 loads this morning, but for some reason I was motivated. Maybe it was seeing Alex walk out of his room wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt...again. I need to hide all the winter clothes from him. It is almost 90 degrees outside and he will pick out sweats to wear because he likes them. I looked in his drawer to see if I could coax him out of said long sleeved shirt only to find that he didn't have any short sleeved T-shirts in his drawer. Yep, they're all in the basket and apparently he thinks it is dirty clothes because he keeps putting his dirty clothes in it at night and I have to keep removing them and looking at things and saying "Hmm, is this dirty? Did he wear this today?" *Sniffs a small 4 yr old sized sock* "I think I need to put all this laundry away"

The sad thing is that it was only about 3 months ago when I had mountains of clean laundry living in baskets that had never actually seen the inside of a drawer. If I ever did manage to put the clothes away Alex and DH would tell me they didn't have any clean clothes if they couldn't find them in the basket. Now that clothes normally live in the drawers, apparently the men folk in my house are no longer capable of looking in said baskets for clean clothes. Although, in Alex's case, it may just be that he prefers sweats to T-shirts and shorts and I need to hide them....I did in fact remove all sweats from his drawer this morning while putting clothes away.

I am not picky about clothing when we are all hanging out around the house. In fact, I let my 2 yr old pick out her own clothes. This morning Shaya is wearing an American flag T-shirt, peach pants, Brendan's striped hat, and purple socks. As long as it isn't sweats and she's not going to die of heat exhaustion once she steps out of the door, I'm ok with it. I saw an episode of Super Nanny once where the mom was obsessive about her girls clothes. She had to pick out the outfits every day so that they matched appropriately. She had huge battles with her girls because they never got to have a say. The really sad thing about this is that it caused battles, and the mom had to do EVERYTHING. She couldn't just tell the girls to get dressed in the morning because she couldn't handle what they may have come down wearing. If you are this anal, then you are raising your own blood pressure needlessly. Relax! If your daughter doesn't match it's not going to kill her.

While I was in Utah I went on a stash enhancing excursion (aka SEX) at Kohls. I bought 5 gigantic sweaters (Men's size XL and XXL). Do you have any idea of how much yarn is in a men's size XXL sweater?! All of them are 100% cotton, which I'm ok with. It's summer and I could make some nice summer tops, and kids clothes with 100% cotton. They were also 90% off, and then we got an additional 15% off, which made them about $2 a sweater. I ripped this XL sweater apart yesterday and was absolutely astounded at how much yarn I got. I discovered the easiest way to rip apart a sweater is to attach the end to my ball winder and just wind away. It unravels it and puts it into nice cakes for me. Well, I started winding on the back of this sweater and wound until my ball winder couldn't handle any more, cut the yarn and started a new ball. I ended up with 3 large balls of yarn from just the back of this sweater that totaled about 1800 yrds of fingering weight yarn. Why do I think it's about 1800 yrds? Well, I'll tell you:

First I decided that I didn't need 10 gigantic balls of fingering weight yarn. I wanted it to be a little thicker, and thought I'd take care of some of the splitting issues at the same time. When commercial sweaters are knitted, they use 3 or 4 strands of very fine yarn held together. This seems to work fine for a knitting machine, but is a pain in the butt for a hand knitter. You have to really pay attention to make sure that you are getting all of the strands. This frustrated me, and now that I know how to spin, I thought I'd solve this little problem by plying the strands. I took 2 of my big balls of yarn and tied them together with the leader on my wheel and plied it all together. What I got was a 6 ply sport weight strand that hopefully won't split. I filled up my bobbin 3 times from those 2 balls, and each time I sound it into a skein on my arm. I took a spare piece of yarn and wrapped it around my arm the same way I was going to skein it in order to get the measurement. It measured 60". I then wound up my new plied yarn and counted the number of times I went around my arm (I would really like to buy a niddy noddy. I think that would make this easier). Once the 2 balls had all been plied and wound, the new yarn measured about 600 yrds for all 3 skeins. I got about 3 balls of yarn from the back of the sweater, and each ball measured about 600 yrds.... So by my math the back of the sweater was about 1800 yrds of fingering weight yarn. Of corse, I plied it and it will now be about half 900 yrds sport weight.

How do I know that it was fingering weight, and is now sport? I measured the wraps per inch and compared it to this nice chart.

I'm thinking that just 1 sweater should be plenty of yarn to make at least 2 summer sweaters for myself. After all Picovolli only requires about 550 yrds of sport weight to make in my size, and the Silk Corset requires 400 yrds of worsted weight. I have so much yarn now though, that I'm thinking of selling some on Ebay... What do you guys think, would you buy my recycled cotton yarn? Would you prefer it plied? unplied? Fingering? Sport? Worsted?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I'm Back

Hello there blogland. I'm back. DH and I took the kids on a long car trip to Utah to visit my SIL. DH's mom was also coming down from Idaho, so we made a great little family gathering of it. It was really a very good trip and I'm so glad we went. I'm also very glad to be home It's funny how you never sleep quite as well in someone else's bed and getting back to your own is so wonderful.

My SIL has 5 kids. 4 boys that are all older than mine and a little girl that falls right between mine in age. They are really very good kids and I was thrilled when they all wanted to play with my little guys. Even the 15 yr old wanted to play with Alex. The kids spent most of every day outside in Heather's yard and Alex came in every evening with his hair plastered down with sweat and crashed as soon as his head hit the pillow at bed time. It was wonderful to be able to have some adult time and to see the kids having such a wonderful time playing. Laynee and Shaya were fast friends and I think both of them were glad to have another girl to play with. Heather has a trampoline in her back yard and that seemed to be the kids favorite place to play. I hadn't been on a tramp since I was about 10 and I have to tell you. It's quite the work out. I'm very sorry to say though that after 3 kids I have to be far more careful about jumping. I think I need to do more Kegal exercises if you know what I mean...

Here is Laynee and Shaya on the tramp. Aren't they so cute?!

Heather's family is very active in sports and the like and are always on the run. I have to admit I don't know how they do it. Their calendar usually has at least 3 things on it every day! Their second son Skyler had 2 soccer games while we were there. Here he is in the first of those 2. He's the blond in the red shirt in the middle. They lost this game, but won the second game. Isn't the scenery beautiful?! This was in Logan. I love Colorado, but I really think that northern Utah just might be prettier. If it was just a little less windy I think I could happily live there :D

Their youngest son is in gymnastics and can do things that I can't even begin to try. On Monday he had an exhibition and we got to watch him in action. Tate is only 8 I think, and is one of the youngest kids in his class, but is rather large for his age. He's definitely talented. I just wish he didn't have asthma to worry about as well as how high he's flying through the air!
One of the coaches did his competition routine for us while we were waiting for them to rotate stations, and I decided I definitely couldn't do gymnastics (aside from the fact that I'm too old). You see, I'm afraid of heights, and they go VERY high on this trampoline. I think if he had wanted too he could have touched the rafters of the gym here. He sure came close (the coach, not Tate. He's only 8!)

On our trip I did get to do some knitting. I'm blessed in that I don't get car sick very easily so I can read and knit and the like. I finally finished my Somewhat Cowl, but am seriously thinking of frogging it back to the cowl or something. It just seems a bit large on me I think. I made the 36" size. My bust measured at 37, but the sweater is definitely too large around the waist. It's nice, but it's not exactly as sexy as I had hoped :( I even had to decrease stitches on the sleeves so that

Last but not least, I started some socks as my main project while we were away. I started them on Friday and was truly afraid that they wouldn't last the weekend. Isn't that every knitter's fear? That they'll run out of things to knit?! Well, no fear, because this is all I got accomplished. These are in Knitpicks yarn and each ball is 215 yrds or something like that. It says that you will need 2 to make an adult sized pair of socks, so I dutifully bought 2. I knit them toe up so that I could get the most for my yarn and just kept knitting. I realized just how far 200 some odd yards will get you when the sock started creeping up my calf. These darn things are knee socks! I think the $6 or whatever for 2 balls of yarn is definitely worth it when I get knee length wool socks out of the bargain. These will be wonderful for horse back riding. You wear your boots on the inside of your jeans (unless you ride English, then you've got those knee high boots) and if your socks don't go up high enough the boot tops will rub some nice raw spots on your legs by the end of the day. These will be wonderful at preventing that :D

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

Well, so far it's been a wonderful Mother's Day around here because I chose to make it a wonderful Mother's Day. A very wise mother of 6 at my church made a comment last week that has really stuck with me. She said that it is OUR responsibility as mothers to make our Mother's Day great, not our kids, or our husbands. It is our responsibility to make sure we are not disappointed, overwhelmed, or pitch fits. I must admit that in previous years I expected a big spectacle for Mother's Day. I never got it. DH, although a VERY wonderful man, is not the kind to go all out. He lets me sleep in, and gives me a card with the kids names on it, but not the star treatment that I somehow expected. Why is it that as moms we expect the world to be perfect on Mother's Day? It's not like anything is any different than any other day really. Diapers still need to be changed. The kids still scream at each other and whine to you. Dishes need to be done, dinner needs to be cooked, etc. Life goes on even though the calendar says that it's Mother's Day.

So, I took this wonderful woman's advice and adjusted my attitude. I decided that I was going to make my Mother's Day wonderful. I took the kids to the park yesterday after a long morning of them screaming at each other. I came home and DH had printed out a card on the computer for me to go next to the pretty carnations that my visiting teachers brought me. He gave me a cool new attachment to my stand mixer (the slicer/shredder) which I promptly used to shred up potatoes and onions for dinner. Once the baby was fed and Shaya was in bed for her nap, I took the car and had some special ME time. It's amazing how little alone time I really get as a stay at home mom. Most of the time I have someone around, or can hear them screaming in the other room, or knocking on the door that I'm hiding (yes, I sometimes hide in my bedroom or in the bathroom when DH is home to watch them). I took a trip to the LYS in Boulder. This was really the first time I've had time to really explore the store without kids in tow. I took time to pet every yarn in the place.

I REALLY wanted to buy some "Oh My" yarn. I can't seem to find a link for it on the internet, but I have to say it was the most perfectly named yarn ever. As I was wandering around feeling fiber, I touched a ball of this stuff and said "Oh My!" Then picked it up to snuggle it and saw the label. I had to laugh. What a perfect name! It looked similar to this but came in smaller balls and was the most heavenly soft yarn I have ever held. It was $5 a ball and would have cost $20 to make a small car seat sized blanket with it so I resisted, though it was WONDERFUL! I also decided I adore alpaca. Every skein I held that contained Alpaca was luscious. I felt some recycled sari silk and it is very soft and... well... Silky. Not at all what I expected. Another yarn that was not at all what I expected was Euroflax linen yarn. I have no idea how anyone knits with this. It felt like someone had spun up some cardboard. It was stiff and rough. I know what linen feels like, and this didn't feel anything like it. I bet it softens when you wash it, but how do you stand the knitting first?!

I did not go to the LYS to buy yarn, however, I went because I had run out of roving and needed some more to practice with. I asked the nice ladies for some help picking out some roving and the spinning instructor walked back with me. She suggested a rougher wool that had been carded but not combed. IT is fluffier, and easier to draft she said. It came in an assortment of bright colors, which I assume is for people who felt (not knitted fulling, but REAL felting with straight up fiber). I picked a lavender one and that wonderful spinning lady asked me if I would mind showing her how spun. WOULD I?! YES! Give me tips! I need help! She pulled out one of the display wheels and we sat down right there next to the cash register with the "fancy" and expensive thick and thin yarn staring at us. I was very encouraged :D She told me it is important to predraft your fiber. This means that you kind of pull it a little apart stretching it out and loosening up the fibers so they don't wad up. She pulled off a a hunk of roving, got it going, and showed me the motions, then handed it over to me. It's a little intimidating to sit there and spin in front of other people when you're first starting! I got some wonderful tips, like "Let the wheel have it" I was fighting the wheel and clung to the yarn too long. This is why I had so much over twisting. I have to admit that the roving she picked out was MUCH easier to draft than the roving my mom had. Apparently my mom's roving had felted slightly in the dying process, so it wasn't all my fault that I had so much trouble drafting!

Anyway, the fiber I got, although isn't as soft as merino, it drafts wonderfully. I now understand when people say "It practically spins it's self" If I get it all set up correctly, the twist just climbs up the fiber, claims the pieces that it wants and twists them. I just have to keep feeding it to the wheel and the yarn just forms! It's beautiful! Here's the bobbin that I spun today. I'm so proud! (DH is proud that I improved so much too. He thinks there is some hope that I might actually be able to make usable yarn).

On unrelated Mother's Day news, not all my Mothers/Grandmothers received lacy scarves. My Dad's mom isn't exactly a "girly girl". I once watched her tear down a shed with a sledge hammer. She wears a skirt to church on Sunday, but that's the only real sign of femininity in her wardrobe. So, since I didn't think she'd ever wear a lace scarf, I made her something more practical. Some round dish scrubbies, a classic garter stitch dish cloth and a double knit pot holder (Her name is Helen, thus the H). She doesn't have a dish washer, so I hope these will be appreciated. She wasn't home when I dropped off the present, so I'll have to ask her what she thought the next time I see her.

Friday, May 12, 2006

My New Pet

If you'll look, I now have a virtual pet for my virtual life here. His name is Hermes and he's a hamster. He's very friendly and will follow your cursor around his cage. Click on him to put him in his hamster wheel to run around, or click on the "more" tab in the corner and feed him some strawberries. I had a very difficult time choosing a new pet from Bunny Hero Labs. There were just so many cute critters. If you too would like a pet, head on over there and adopt a furry critter of your own (or a feathery, or scaly, or creepy too).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Grandma Quilt

I'd like you to meet the Grandma Quilt. It is the preferred blanket in our family for snuggling on the couch, etc. It is gigantic (You can see it here on my Queen Sized bed). I have to admit that I think it is rather ugly, but it is a family heirloom, is very warm, and just the right weight.

DH's family comes from southern Ohio just outside of Cincinnati. His father grew up in a very poor share cropper family. I mean SERIOUSLY poor. They had 1 pair of tennis shoes that all the boys shared for GYM class. Their mom was obviously very frugal and very creative with their finances. She was also a VERY good cook I am told. She died long before I ever met my husband, but I hear stories of what a wonderful woman she was. She made this blanket. You've seen crazy quilts before right? Probably the ones that you've seen were on a smaller scale and involved expensive silk or satin fabrics with lace and such embellishments. This quilt is made entirely of corduroy. It is backed in green flannel. Crazy quilts are made in squares of crazyness that are then sewn together. If you look very closely, you can see the squares. Of couse in all this crazyness, it's a little difficult.

The Grandma Quilt is not the most stunning example of quilting. The sewing on the pieces is obvious, as she just turned under most of the edges and sewed over the top. It is also not "Quilted". I mean that the backing is sewn on along the edges, but there is not quilting to hold the 2 layers together other than that. There is no batting in the middle. Despite all the things that an accomplished quilter might say makes this a slap dash quilt, it is very loved. No, it doesn't live on my bed all the time, it lives folded up nicely by the couch ready for whoever may need a little bit of snuggle warmth.

The Grandma Quilt has a baby brother, the baby Grandma quilt. This is one of DH's baby blankets! His grandma apparently made one for all of the grandkids. As you can see it is still in very "lively" corduroy, but it is a log cabin style rather than the crazy quilt design. She obviously spent lots of time and love making this one. You can't see any of the stitching, and all of the squares are beautiful. It, also, does not have any batting, and is also backed in flannel. Note the cute little blue sheep. I suppose that is the part that makes it a baby blanket. It is much larger than what we would typically call a baby blanket. This blanket is usually used as a lap blanket, or gets put on one of the kids beds on a particularly cold night.

If you have managed to read this post without going cross eyed, or blind from the riot of colors I am very proud of you.

Experiments in Spinning

I have become a bit obsessed with yarn and knitting and all that jazz lately, so I thought I'd try my hand at spinning. My mom has a spinning wheel which she hasn't been using and graciously let me borrow it. It's an Ashford. I love how it folds up so small that it can be stored out of the way. This is very important as my kiddos are VERY interested in making it go round and round and round. It's funny, I pull out the ball winder and it's the same thing. They can't walk past it without giving it a few spins.

I'm afraid that I'm not a very good spinner yet. I do have a pretty good stock of roving to play with, but after yesterday afternoon's spinning session I think I may need to get some more here pretty soon. Anyone have good suggestions on what a beginner spinner should buy for roving? I'm seriously thinking of taking a trip down to boulder to shuttles in Boulder to ask the nice staff to suggest some for me. I can make the wheel go round and round very well. My problems came when I had to draft the wool. I think I was letting the twist creep too close to my drafting zone and then I couldn't pull the fibers apart at all. I think I was also holding my hands too close together. I was doing much better yesterday after checking out some online spinning instructions. I also had a serious problem with getting too much twist built up and then the darn yarn wouldn't wind onto the bobbin (is it called a bobbin? Spindle?).

So, here is my very first skein. I pulled it all off, and wound it into a skein, washed it, and packaged it yesterday so that I could start over fresh. The roving has a very subtle variegation between blue, grey, pink, and green. As you can see, I have some serious thick and thin issues, as well as A LOT of over twisting. I can't wait to pull out the wheel again today during nap time, but as I've determined. I tend to focus too much on the wheel and the kids get neglected if I try to do this when they're awake. Then they start saying "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy!" and I get cranky and yell at them. Not good. So I will be strong and leave the wheel in my room until Alex is in school and Shaya is asleep for her nap.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mother's Day Scarves Complete!

Here they are! Four Beautiful different lacy scarves for the mother's in my life. My Mom, Grandma, Mother in Law, and Step Mother in Law. I had intended to make them all the pink Branching Out scarf, but as you can see, that didn't end up happening. Here's the run down on them in the order that I completed them:

Mother's Day Scarf #1
Pattern: Branching Out
Yarn: Recycled Silk/Angora from a ladies Cardigan
Needles: 6.0 Bamboo Straights

Mother's Day Scarf #2
Pattern: Drooping Elm lace (Thank you to all you knitlisters who helped me fix the pattern in my stitchery book!)
Yarn: Recycled 100% Merino Wool from men's sweater
Needles: 6.0mm Bamboo Straights

Mother's Day Scarf #3
Pattern: Adapted by Christine from this
Yarn: Knitpicks "Memories" Sock yarn in "Youkan"
Needles: 6.0mm Bamboo Straights

Mother's Day Scarf #4
Pattern: Miniturized Clapotis from Knitty
Yarn: 1 skein Knitpicks "Memories" Sock yarn in "Rocky Mountain Dusk"
Needles: 4.5mm Bamboo Straights

Blocking truely is your friend with Clapotis. It likes to curl around it's self, which gives an interesting effect, but not the one I wanted. I steam blocked it with my iron and DH was amazed that it was the same scarf.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Feeding the Ducks

I know, still not knitting related, but I promise I'll take some knitting photos today.

Little Angels

Are you a combined knitter?

I am a combined knitter, or a heretic as one knitting author calls it. I knit through the back loop. Call me a rebel, or a self taught screw up, it still works. I never realized that I knit in any way different from everyone else until someone posted a question to the knitlist one day describing a problem that I have always had. When I knit in the round my stitches twist. I knit a sweater for my sister once that had a very discernible demarcation line where I switched from knitting flat to knitting in the round. Knitting in the round also hurt my hands after a while because it is harder to knit through twisted stitches. It is almost like the stitches hide their little loops from you and say "No, don't knit me!" All stitches lie on the needle with 1 half of the loop on one side and one on the other. One of these "arms" or "legs" as our famous SnB author calls them is a little closer toward the needle tip than the other. I always thought of this as the stitch "presenting it's self" or a little arm waving at you "Hey you knitter! I'm over here! Knit through this loop!" This makes reading your flat knitting very easy for a combined knitter. On knit stitches the back loop is waving at you, while on purl stitches the front loop is waving at you. I can easily determine which row I'm on (knit or pearl) or which stitch I should do in ribbing because the stitches themselves tell my fingers as I go along. I don't have to look. It does make seed stitch a little awkward, however. It is always uncomfortable for me to work stitches through the wrong loop.

Ok, so how exactly does one knit combined, and why doesn't everyone do it this way?
  1. Combined knitters always knit through the back loop
  2. Combined knitters purl the easy or "cheater" way by simply laying their right needle outside the working yarn and scooping it through the loop. This creates a twisted stitch. MANY knitting books and instructors will tell you this is wrong. It is not wrong as long as you also knit through the back loop. (The "Correct" way is to lay your needle on the inside of the working yarn and loop the yarn over the needle then pull it through. That's like a whole extra movement! Don't call us lazy knitters though, please see below for all the extra thought we have to put into everything).
Combined knitting is easy to read, easy on your wrists, is very quick (note the cheating on the purling) and tends to lead to very even stitches. It has distinct disadvantages, though.
  1. Knitting through the back loop without purl rows in between (like circular knitting or garter stitch) leads to tight twisted stitches.
  2. K2tog is the "standard" decrease method for most normal knitters. For us it is awkward. Our more comfortable decrease is a SSK which leans the opposite direction.
  3. Any pattern that reads "Knit through back loop" must be reinterpreted in our odd combined brain as "Knit through the front loop" What they really mean is "Knit through the wrong loop (the one that's not waving at you) in order to twist the stitch"
Combined knitting is not for the faint of heart. Yes it is easier for me, but I am reluctant to teach new knitters my preferred method simply because I know how hard it was for me to figure out how to adjust for the above problems. How to make a proper k2tog, etc. I remember when I finally looked up SSK because the descriptions in books sounded like a very complicated method of achieving EXACTLY the same thing I was doing when I did K2tog. Then I looked at K2tog and it had me knitting through the front loops, with the second stitch first. "What the heck! That's just stupid" I yelled at my computer. "Whoever thought that knitting through the front loops constitutes a 'knit 2 together' was NUTS!" Shortly there after I learned that this is in fact how most people knit and made perfect sense TO THEM. SSK on the other hand is a much easier decrease for us Combined knitters. It is the intuitive knit 2 together. Slip your right needle through 2 stitches on the left needle and knit them together.

When most knitters attempt a right slanted decrease (SSK) their stitches are waving with the wrong hand. Their front loop is closer to the tip than the back and in order to achieve this decrease properly it needs to be the other way around. To achieve this, they slip the stitches to the right needle, slip them back twisted (so now the back loop is facing) and knit. Or they try to avoid it by doing a psso (slip one stitch, knit one stitch, then pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch as if to bind off). As combined knitters, all our knit stitches are lefties (ok, you've gotta visualize a happy little guy hanging out on the needle facing the needle tip with his left hand in the back and his right hand in the front. He's a lefty because his back hand, the left one, is the one waving at us). They're already perfectly setup for a right leaning decrease, it's the left leaning one (K2tog) that gives us trouble. For that we have to get the waving hand in the front. Slip 2 stitches to the right needle. Slip them back one at a time by inserting the left needle tip through the stitch from right to left. This will turn your little guy around so the waving hand is now in the front.

As far as twisted stitches when knitting in the round or garter stitch are concerned, we combined knitters need to learn to knit through the front loop. Just knit all circular knitting and garter stitch through the front loop and your problem is solved. You don't even need to learn how to pearl "correctly".

Friday, May 05, 2006


Well, it's been a long time since I've posted. I've been sick the last few days with strep. Ick! and haven't had the energy or motivation to do much of anything. I have a confession, though. I have a scrapbook. It's last entry was over 5 years ago, before I had children, or was even pregnant. I had great plans to make a scrapbook for Alex's baby book. It never got past the hospital stage and he's now 4 1/2 years old. My dear friend Kat made threw me a baby shower for Brendan. She gave me a memory box and a photo album. This wasn't a scrapbook, it was just one of the old fashioned magnetic type photo albums. You know, the kind that all of the pictures of OUR families are in from when WE were kids? I think my failure as a scrapbooker is due in part to my lack of finances (let's admit it Scrapbooking is probably more expensive than knitting...) and lack of kid free space. Yes the goal is to plaster those cute little smiles all over pages of scrap books, but you don't actually want any of them present when you pull out all those scrapbooking supplies. Lots of little pieces of paper, stamps, punches, scissors, pens, markers, and if your fancy hot embossing tool thingies and razor sharp cutters. These are not kid friendly tools! So, once Alex was old enough to move around my scrapbook went on a sabbatical. Since that day all pictures have lived on the computer or have been dutifully filed in my "scrapbooking box" This box has not been opened except to add more stuff to it.

Not long ago during my LONG FFXI career, my linkshell had a website. We had a forum and talked to each other, shared cool websites, planned our in game events, etc. At the bottom of our forum posts there was a space for a signature picture. A member of our linkshell, Arkangel, made beautiful signature pictures in photoshop. He charged 100k in game dollars to make them. He justified this because it took a lot of time and effort to make them and this was time he was not in game to make money. In FFXI money was everything. I'm sorry to say that I spent more time making virtual money than I have making REAL money in probably close to 3 years. You can even buy this virtual money (called Gil) for real money on the internet. It is severely frowned upon, and people get more worked up about "gil sellers" in game than they probably do about any real life issues. This all sounds really silly unless you play these games and get sucked into the addiction. Anyway, I couldn't justify playing for 16 hours, or whatever it would have taken to make 100k gil for a pretty picture of my character to put on our website, so I made one. I got a copy of photoshop from my brother and started playing around with it. It was FUN! I had a program that let my pick a character model type from the game, watch it do all of the moves (run, jump, weapon skill, cast magic, etc) and dress it up in any of the game clothes or armor. Did you ever play with paper dolls as a kid? Ha! Well this is virtual paper dolls, but now they move! Here is the very first signature I ever made:

I made 3 signatures that first day. One for me, and one for each of my 2 oldest in game friends. Guy and Wite (Yes, my name was much cooler than theirs). After I made a few of these signatures for my friends, more people in the linkshell started asking me for signatures. I enjoyed doing them. There came a time where I spent more time making signatures in photoshop than I did actually playing the game. I have over 50 of these burned to a disk.

Here is the signature that I used for myself. Yes, I made it all. Yes, I made the exploding planet. Yes, my character Birgette was a red headed I, personally think I got much better at these things as I went along. I even learned how to do animations, which apparently I can't upload to blogger. Click here to see carbuncle.

So, I have developed these photoshop skills, and if you look at the signatures, they do, in fact look a lot like mini scrapbooks... so I decided if I can't pull out all the scissors and the glue, I can still fill my photo albums. I searched the internet for scrapbook page ideas, and made this this morning. I printed it out an put it in the first page of that magnetic type photo album that my friend gave me. Voila! Instant scrap book. Isn't technology wonderful?