Knitting with restraint

This spring I wrote about how my wrist was hurting, partly due to incorrect keyboard usage, but mostly due to binge knitting.

I completely abstained for over a week (knitting not keyboard) and then came back to it for smaller lengths of time. It’s hard to binge knit the way I did pre-parenthood anyway, but every once in a while I get an opportunity and then I really have to exercise restraint, else I spend the whole next day rubbing my wrists (note: to the commenter who suggested wrist wraps, thank you! Wearing one at night really does help after a day of overdoing it).

I’ve started using Instagram more, and a lot of my feed is made up of semi-professional and serious-hobbyist knitters. I have moments of intense jealousy in seeing how prolific they’re able to be, even though I know knitting through the wrist pain is a bad idea. I try to think of my Dad, who for the past four decades has gone on the same mile jog every morning. Through his 20s and 30s I’m pretty sure he had friends who thought it was silly to run just one mile every morning. They were training for marathons and half marathons, logging ten times the weekly miles. But one by one, most of them had to stop running completely due to bad knees, bad ankles, bad shin splints. And there’s my Dad, still lacing up his shoes at 5:30am every morning for his daily jog.

So, in the interest of similarly being able to keep my hobby going for the next four decades, here’s what six months of slightly scaled back knitting looks like…

Waiting for Rain ShawlI worked hard to learn continental knitting for my Waiting for Rain Shawl, and it really did help me get through big swaths of garter stitch without much soreness. The pattern is so pretty…I knit additional rows so there wouldn’t be any leftovers of the Mirasol Nuna Fina, and then tried picot bind off for the first time.

Then I used some Two If By Hand Targhee Superwash, lovingly spun and gifted to me by Christine, to knit another Purl Soho Garter Ear Flap Hat for L. This one is sized to fit her next winter. This is now officially my go-to baby and kid hat.

Garter stitch hat, purl sohoMy coworker is due with her first baby late this summer, and for the baby shower I made her an Elizabeth Zimmerman February Baby sweater in Madelinetosh DK. The sweater calls for a lace body, but I’d been inspired by this knitter’s version to sub in ribbing. As she noted, it does pull the arms and body inward, which bells out the sleeves and hem. But some of that came out with blocking, and what was leftover just gives it a bit of a swingy shape.

EZ baby sweater on two needles

And finally, there was enough Targhee left over that I thought I could get a cardigan out of it for L. I’m going to tinker a little more with the pattern and then try to write it up.

I bribed L into modeling it for a handful of Craisins.

Toddler Sweater

Toddler Sweater



The hidden costs of a good deal

Who doesn’t love a good deal?

There’s a family story that involves a 3-year-old-me and the new Easter hat I wore to church. An older lady across the aisle commented on what a nice hat it was and politely asked, “Where did you get it?”

“ON SALE!” I shouted.

Last week Read suggested that one of my steals was turning out to be more work than it was worth. I’ve been guilty of this before…the $4 thriftstore dress that just needs some tailoring, the free piece of furniture that needs fixing, the hand-be-down chair with a funny smell…

Often I’m swayed by not only a cheap price, but also the thought of remaking and reusing something that otherwise would be discarded. What about for you? At what point is the investment to fix something (in time or repairs or sweat) not worth the savings?

"Lily" yellow shirtdress

I bought this Lily shirtdress for half off because it's missing half the covered to make covered buttons?? hmm

This most recent situation started with that LLBean wool sweater that I got for $3 at the neighborhood yard sale. I deconstructed it and was left with oodles of triple-stranded dark gray wool. I washed the hanks and stretched them to dry, then knit a test swatch with 10.5 needles. YIPES. Way too thick. I’d start overheating in any garment that heavy.

reclaimed wool

Unwashed crinkly wool (left) and washed, stretched, and dried wool (right)

The only option was to separate the strands. I had Read sit on the opposite  side of the couch – he took a double strand and I took a single – and we wound, wound, wound. The excruciating part is that the yarn gets so twisty it knots on itself, so every few yards you have to stop and untwist. One hank took a couple hours to separate. Read said he felt like Mose in that episode of The Office where Dwight makes him un-ply the building’s toilet paper to save money. He shook his head a lot, but bless his heart he kept winding.

Plain & Simple Pullover

the start of a Plain & Simple Pullover

The single-ply yarn is becoming a Plain and Simple Pullover…so far so good. Separating the strands basically tripled my yardage so I’ll get to choose a couple more projects after the pullover.

What lengths have you gone to fix, retrofit, or mend something you got for cheap (or free)? Was it worth it? Any epic fails?

Summer snowbird cardigan

I left Boston for a conference last week and while I was gone spring arrived in full force (I also caught a horrible cold blehhh). But the trees have leaves, the flowers are blooming, and our peas and radishes came up. The carrots have been slower to sprout thanks to Edith…she snuck out the window when I was watering and dug through the dirt. But everything else is looking happy.

pea shoots

While home in Ohio for Easter I finished up a cardigan that’s been several years in the making, only because the pattern-search process was so slow. Somewhere in Oregon I picked up 3 skeins of deep pink Mirasol Hap’i  and every spring I pulled it out and fuss over possible shrug or cropped cardi patterns (Allegoro Loose Knit CardiMietteAmiga, and Sassymetrical were all possibilities).

In your own knitting, do you choose patterns first or yarn first? I rarely choose them together and instead find myself on epic quests for whatever half is missing. Anyway, this year I realized that with a few changes, the Snowbird cardigan by Heidi Kirrmaier that I love so much could be a summer sweater AND the missing compliment to my Hap’i yarn…

Snowbird cardigan for summerThe cardigan’s length was determined by the yarn yardage – I just knit until I ran out (with not an inch to spare…every last scrap is holding a seam together). The neckband/edgeband rolls inward a little too much, but fixing it would require frogging the entire thing. I’ll see how much it bothers me.

Snowbird is such a nice pattern because it’s not hard to tinker with the numbers if you want to use a different yarn or gauge. After using a ratio to calculate the number of cast-on stitches, you can more or less follow the pattern until it’s big enough to split for the sleeves.

Easter 2011

And now before bed, I’ll knit a few more rows of handspun Stripes to Keep me Warm. I’m making the cowl part extra long so it can pull up into a hood.

"stripes to keep me warm" cowl pattern

the lucky green sweater (neulottu naisen jakku)

It’s done! And it’s cozy and happy and GREEN. This particular sweater was knit with the help of a beach in Mexico, and then a bunch of episodes of Mad Men and (fittingly) Weeds.

the lucky green sweater

the lucky green sweater (neulottu naisen jakku) + Teddy

Pattern: Neulottu-Naisen-Jakku.  Ravelry user Lilia translated the written pattern notes from the original Finnish. I added some English translations to the pattern charts and put everything together in this pdf. If you want additional photos and notes, here is Neulottu Naisen Jakku’s ravelry pattern page.

Modifications: I had to make the sleeves a couple inches longer than the pattern called for and I used the same size needles throughout.

Yarn: 5.5 skeins of Peace Fleece Worsted in Shaba

the lucky green sweater

sweater back

the lucky green sweater

Bonus - When you're wearing a coat, the sweater collar folds up into a nice scarf shape

the lucky green sweater

bring on the Boston St. Patricks Day!!!!!

Community Container Gardening

Progress on shrug

Shrug progress

Melting snow. Singing birds. Leftover sunlight when I get home from work. If I’m not careful, warm weather will get here before Neulottu is done. YESSS I can’t lose. Plus a coworker warned me that they like to crank the AC during the summer, so it could be that the sweaters stay out year round.

Once you get the hang of this pattern it’s relatively mindless. And I love how it showcases all you can do with only knit, purl, and shortrows.

The promise of spring’s got me thinking about gardening. Without a proper ground plot, I’m going to see what’s possible this summer using a 2nd story porch, pots, and planters (that sentence was like an ad for the letter P). Anyhow…a little google searching brought up a balcony gardening version of the knit-along!

I really miss my community garden plot from Oregon, and so far all of the community gardens around our apartment are full. So this “community container grow-along” idea made me happy. Our balcony has zero shade so it might actually work out as long as I can keep up with watering…

If you’ve done much urban vegetable gardening in containers and have tips/links/tales of woe, please lemme know.

Five Days in Tulum, Mexico: Take me back!

It was hard to come back to snowy Boston after sitting on white sandy beaches in a swimsuit. And it was hard to leave Tami, somebody I used to see every day in Oregon. But I did. Without too many tears (I was given strict “no goodbye tears” orders). Now that a little time’s passed I feel emotionally recovered enough to write out some notes from our travels:

Sunbathing in Tulum

Hmm this begins to capture just how bow-legged I am...

I wish I could’ve stayed longer.  No surprise there. I mean, look at that beach!  With only 5 days I had to work hard to get a proper suntan that my coworkers would envy. Tami carefully monitored my color. Every time a bartender or hotel owner heard how long I was in town, they gave me a pity-filled frown and said, “But why so short?” Seeing as how they work in the tourism industry, I suppose they had personal reasons for wanting me to take a longer vacation. But when your office is an open air bar on the beach, I think you can drum up real pity for a sunburnt Bostonian on her last day in Tulum.

I’d choose Tulum over Cancun. Lemme clarify. In college I was talked into the classic Cancun Spring Break week. It was some of the best people-watching I’ve ever experienced and I absolutely fell in love with the ocean, but the physical built environment (granted nobody would leave the hotel mile with me) was too…Vegas-like. Big roads, big resorts, glitz, lights. In comparison, downtown Tulum is scaled for the pedestrian. Little restaurants, little shops, and small streets. It’s grittier – on either side of our hotel were tar-paper roofed houses guarded by scruffy dogs – but everyone was friendly and we never felt unsafe. Actually, nobody was nearly as troublesome as the drunk American boys swarming the beaches and pools of Cancun. Also it’s worth noting that Tami speaks excellent Spanish, which made it easy to navigate all sorts of daily interactions.

Margaritas on the beach

Margaritas on the beach

Akumal (where the sea turtles are)

Akumal, where you can snorkel in the bay with giant sea turtles. When they eat seagrass they chew like cows.

Tacoqueto in Tulum

Tacoqueto, where there's no written menu. You just point to the pot of what you want.

Foodcart tamale with hot sauce

Chicken tamales (with a little bag of hot sauce) from a foodcart

Glass bottle wall

Back-lit wall of glass bottles along the main drag in Tulum

In Tulum you have an important choice: stay at the beach or stay in town. They’re only about 2 miles apart (40 peso taxi ride). I think each have their perks, but Tami chose in town and it worked well. The hotels are slightly cheaper and you’re within walking distance to internet cafes and lots of eateries. Here are photos of our two hotels: The Secret Garden & Hotel Posada. Hotel Posada was plagued by some 8am construction next door (our walls shook with the hammering) and their customer service response was umm…frustrating. But the place is beautiful. Secret Garden took the prize though. They had all the necessities: clean comfortable rooms, a shaded inner courtyard, two on-site friendly dogs, and a cute owner whose sister bartends down the street.

Secret Garden in Tulum

the courtyard at Secret Garden after a morning rain

Hotel Posada in Tulum

the winding pool inside Hotel Posada

My very favorite thing on this trip was the Gran Cenote. Just a couple miles from downtown Tulum, it’s more than worth the 100 pesos entrance fee. The best way I can describe swimming in the cenote is that it felt like a Katie-sized freshwater aquarium. The water is crystal clear and underwater you can see fish from 30 or 40 feet away. The one upside to the  construction at Hotel Posada is that we were up and at ’em early, and we had the cenote to ourselves for a while. Around 11am a big group of Japanese tourists showed up wearing flippers, and they were followed by several European families with a dozen kids under the age of 5. Suddenly it wasn’t a private aquarium anymore. So if you go, go early.

Gran Cenote outside Tulum

Snorkeling the Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote outside Tulum

so many fish...

Gran Cenote outside Tulum

Tami snorkels through the tunnel

I made some progress on the Neulottu naisen jakku cardigan too. It’s such a joyful color, especially next to that ocean and those chairs.

Knitting on the beach

Progress on Neulottu naisen jakku

Progress on Neulottu naisen jakku

Neulottu naisen jakku: back panel and sleeves

Thank you Tami for a vacation so good that I hope we can make the February Getaway an annual thing. Readers – any suggestions for a destination in 2012?

Trading Snow for Sand

That’s right. In about 10 days I’ll be sitting on the beach in Tulum, Mexico with Tami. Plans are in motion. I ordered a new swimsuit. Tami and I picked out a place we want to eat ceviche. And I changed my desktop at work to this image:


And, as any knitter must do for an upcoming trip, I lined up a new project. This fall I wrote about Lilia and her lightning quick response to translate a knitting pattern from Finnish to English (seriously, how cool is that?!).

copyright: Pitsikuduja

Neulottu naisen jakku has been on my queue for a while and I finally found the right yarn – Peace Fleece Worsted. It’s a happy, happy green that’ll help get me through the end of winter. I cast on last night, and by Tulum, I should be working on the radial pattern.

shrug 003

Peace Fleece Worsted in shaba

If you’ve been to Tulum, feel free to share tips on where to eat or what to do!