A Red Herring – or why I don’t like cables

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I have to admit it – I’m not a big fan of knitting cables. Don’t get me wrong – I love to look at them and I’d love to have an Aran sweater. But please don’t ask me to knit one!

Why, you might ask? When sweaters with cables and all manner of twisted goodness seem to be all the rage and the one thing most knitters aspire to?

I can sum it up in one word: fiddly. Cables are fiddly. Slip x stitches onto a cable needle, hold in back (or front), then knit x stitches from left needle. Then knit the x stitches from the cable needle – then do it all over again. Fiddly.

Give me lace, lots of lace under starry skies above…..

Well – I do like knitting lace. BUT – not Granny lace. I like it chunky – like this one:

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Pardon the dog hair… that was Max. I worked on this when I was dog-sitting.

I also like this:

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I love this one but all those Vikel Braids like to have killed me!

Or the one at the top – which I don’t really consider lace – just a simple net pattern. But it works, y’know.

I even knit lace on the legs of my socks.

Funny thing is – I didn’t realize it was ‘lace’ when I did the first one. I had made the foot of the toe-up sock and was looking for something a little more interesting to do for the leg than a rib and I just picked out a pattern from one of my books. Then, when I took it to my next sock class my instructor smiled and said something to the effect of ‘oh, you’re a lace knitter…’ and the appellation kind of stuck. To me its just a series of knits, yarn overs and purls – nothing complicated. I guess that’s why I don’t fear it. Especially once I learned to read knitting charts, then it all fell into place for me.

Also when my instructor ‘gave me permission’ to use markers in between the pattern repeats – can I tell you that was an ah-ha moment??  At first I thought it was a sign of weakness to have to mark your pattern repeats. The sure sign of a novice. Now I don’t care! Look askance at me if you will, but I love my markers. More than once they’ve saved me when I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

So, when I saw that pattern at the top – called Herring by Lori Versaci, and saw the bright red Malabrigo worsted in my stash it was, for me a match made in heaven. Chunky fishnet lace set off by a ribbed border – fun! And no need for markers this time because it’s just a two-stitch repeat!

And not a single cable in sight…..

Time to catch up again…

Wow – it seems I can’t get up to date and stay there! It’s been furious these past few months with lots of knitting and activity, and very little time spent just reflecting and writing. Because that’s what this is for me – it’s my time for reflection.

So, on to the updates!

Alexander

My new Grand Nephew

This adorable little guy is my new grand (great?) nephew, Alexander William. Born on March 24th at around 9pm. His poor mommy had a tough time and he had to finally be taken by C Section, but everyone is doing just great now. He was just a couple days after what would have been Mom’s 97th birthday. She would have gone nuts over him! As it is his Gramma Cheryl is the conductor on the baby crush train.

There was a lot of this:

two color ribbing brioche

Learning new techniques – on the left is 2 color corrugated ribbing and on the left is brioche stitch. They are both for fun KAL’s (knit along) on Ravelry. Those can be really fun groups with a lot of people working the same pattern so there’s lots of support and encouragement.

By far my favorite group is Friends of Knitting Sarah. The absolute best, most supportive group of knitters short of my local yarn shop. They are funny, give great advice and share their experiments and success with gusto.

Undulation scarf

A tiny bit of designing. This is a scarf that I call Undulations. I had the pretty yarn and saw the pattern as I was flipping through a stitch dictionary. I figured out the repeats, cast on some stitches and whipped a little scarf to wear with my blue suit.

And of course socks…

becky socks

and socks…

dragonfly socks

and socks…

tracey socks

and still more socks!

VBM socks

And now I’m moving – yet again!! As my friend Ken says – fun times! So I may not have a chance to catch up again until next month – after the move has been accomplished. But I hope you enjoy the photos and – if you can think good thoughts for me as I pack up again.

Sometimes I think I should just put my furniture on wheels…..

Ode to an FO

Watermelon Sock

I like finishing things – I really do. Like that adorable little thing in the photo there. Its a sock. Just a little shorty sock – ribbed cuff, afterthought heel (more on that later), top-down stockinette – nothing fancy. But, ya know what? It gave me great pleasure to finish that sock. Not because I was bored with it or that I had fallen out of love with the yarn – ohhh no. But because I like to finish things.

I’m the opposite of the people who start a thing then move on to the next before the first is quite done. The ‘oh I brought it this far’ syndrome that leaves a project not quite ready for prime time. I work with someone like that. This individual keeps saying ‘give me more projects’ and ‘how are they ever going to trust me if you don’t let me work on things’. So I let them work on something – I outline the parameters of the project then let go. When I get it back its alllllmost done – but the reports are not final or approved. And there is no process flowchart. The files are not named in any logical or repeatable manner. All of the program design is haphazard. In short – left for me to finish and present to the client.

Now, I realize that I’m the supervisor. Its my job to make sure that what goes out is correct to both internal and external clients. But, when I assign a project to someone who’s been crabbing for months about getting the client to trust them, to be able to work on projects for them only to have it not completed I get a little testy. Which is probably why I’m blowing off steam here in my blog rather than talking about knitting.

But why can’t there be an intersection between work and knitting? A knitting pattern flows from one step to the next, in a logical, defined manner to its conclusion. Sure, you can knit the pieces out of order – so what if I want to knit both sleeves of my sweater on one huge circular needle? Nobody cares. It’s pretty much the same for process. Once the process is defined, tested and installed you can run the steps out of order (well, some of them) if you so desire. There’s more than one way to reach a correct outcome. But the process, like a knitting pattern, needs to be written and tested first. All the way – start to finish – taking into account things like repeatability, end user experience (or lack thereof) and desired result with Quality Controls. Don’t sell me a poorly written knitting pattern and DO NOT give me a half-assed attempt at a client project.

Wow – that went fast!

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Seems like just a couple of months ago I jotted down some thoughts, now I look and BAM! It’s been months! No excuses really, except life. It was a full summer, then I moved and now I’ve finally set up my Mac – lots going on.

And I have no real thoughts or wisdom right now either. Except that its cold. Like really cold. Like COLD! And I think the tires on my car are flat because I don’t drive it more than once a week or so. And Moon keeps jumping up on my desk – he wants something, I just can’t figure out what it is.

And I’m going to be a great-aunt! Nick and Liz are having a baby boy.

And I have a LOT of yarn! 10 IKEA bins full plus 5 sweater bags… I so gotta stop buying yarn and start knitting it, ya think? I didn’t realize how much I had until I moved and put my yarn storage in the living room – wow. I thought time went fast – so does stash building! That feeds into my resolution – no more yarn until at least 3 of those 5 sweaters is done and I knock down at least 3 bins. Its going to be a challenge, yes – but I’m up for it. No more buying patterns either. I keep looking for ‘that perfect pattern’ for me, but how will I know one if I’ve only knit one sweater? I need to make a few more, so I know what looks good on me and how to alter a pattern to fit better. I joined a KAL on Ravelry – a sweater in the month of January – that should help. Plus its being run by the designer – I’ll be able to ask questions right away and get answers – that’s kind of exciting.

And I need to shut the computer down and have dinner… toodles!

inspiration comes from everywhere

I was very happy with my sock pattern. I know it…well. In fact I pretty nearly have it memorized. Its a toe up pattern that I work on one circular needle, Magic Loop style. Which is my absolute favorite method for knitting socks. I can do 2 circs, but I hate the dangling ends. I can also do DPN’s (Double Pointed Needles for the uninitiated). I just prefer Magic Loop. With it I can….

But I digress…

As I was saying its a great pattern – written by Jennifer Donze, a Master Knitter and one of the instructors at Cream City Yarns. It’s also a personalized pattern and Jennifer includes all of the instructions for calculating a perfect, custom fit sock. You’ll find it on Ravelry: Custom Toe Up Sock by J Donze Knits. I’ve made several pairs of socks using this pattern. Normally I knit the foot and heel in stockinette then go wild on the leg. I use a lot of different patterns on the leg – usually from another book of mine: Socks A la Carte 2 – Toes Up. Its a very nice book that lets you pick and chose what toe, what heel and what leg you want. I knit one complete sock from this book and now really just use it for the cuffs and leg.

But I was reading my news feeds a while back and came across a review of a pattern from one of the books I own: The Knitter’s Book of Socks. She’s a blogger that I really like, so I figured I could do worse. If you want to read her review it’s here: Knitting Sarah – Turbo Toes.

Now, I’ve read The Knitter’s Book of Socks (how pathetic am I? I read knitting books…) but have never tried any of the patterns. I like my toe-up pattern. I know it and it has served me well but… but… Linen stitch toe and heel? What the heck is linen stitch? I have very rough toes and heels – anything I can do to make them stronger… And… AND – this is a toe up pattern! I’m not the only one who like her socks toes up! It was written for 2 circs, but that’s easy enough to adapt to Magic Loop. And I have that nice skein of Sheepish BFL in that nice orange…

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I almost felt like I was betraying a friend – Sheepish is Jennifer’s hand dyed yarn. But I reasoned that, if I was going to make socks in this pretty color and have them really last I should do everything I can to make a good sock, right?

So I made a copy of the pattern – I do this because I don’t like writing and highlighting in my books – highlighted my size every place there was a difference in count and cast on.

Sarah was right – the pattern is addictive. I couldn’t stop. One Friday I even did an all nighter -falling into bed at 5am with numb hands.

Now there was a client visit and a flight to Cleveland and back in there too. I worried about security taking away my Addi Sock Rockets, so I switched to a cheap pair of Knitter’s Pride Karbonz (I DO NOT recommend these – they have terrible joins). I knit happily away at that first sock until I realized, upon arrival in Cleveland that I needed my smaller needle – which was at home. That was all well and good because something was bothering me about that sock. It just didn’t look right.

I continued with it when I got home for a bit then it hit me – my linen stitch parts just weren’t right. I know the stitch isn’t especially stretchy – I got that from my swatch – but mine was all pulled in and crummy looking. So I frogged. All. The. Way. Back. I cast on again and this time I cheated and used a row counter to make certain that I didn’t get off count. That turned the tide – from there on my needles were singing. Sock one done:
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I’m much happier with this one. It looks like a real, live sock. Like something you would actually wear (and COULD wear) on your foot.

Now, I’d read this pattern when I read the book and it looked a bit over my head. I still consider myself a novice knitter, or maybe very early intermediate (like 4th grade…). I’d only really had 2 knitting classes – the first sock club and the Camp Hoodie. What business did I have knitting exotic patterns like this one?

And, if I hadn’t been following Sarah’s blog and saw her post about it I never would have. She gave me the inspiration to try something new and more than a little out of my comfort zone. Just like with the cowl I knit for the Ravellenic Games a while back – it was the little push I needed to try something different.

So, while I still love my basic toe-up sock pattern I feel ready now to creep out onto another limb. Maybe I’ll try those socks by Cat Bordhi next….

Olympics – but not of knitting

I saw something on my YLS’s group board on Ravelry the other day – about knitting to the Olympics. Whaaaat? Say I? The Ravellenic Games?? Sounds like fun! I’d like me a piece of that action.

So, after reading up a bit on it I decided, what the hey? I’ll give it a lash.

I’ve never taken part in a KAL before. My schedule is normally pretty crazy and it’s hard to keep up with any kind of group of more experienced knitters. I’ll be going along then BAM! I have a string of 12-14 hour days and I’ve fallen behind the group. Now, I’m sure I take things way too literally, but that’s kind of the place I’m at with my knitting right now. I’m still (mostly) following patterns slavishly – not really brave enough to strike out on my own (well except for the legs of my socks… and my fingerless mitts… and that one vest I made without a pattern… but those are all simple, uncomplicated projects). In general, if I have a pattern for something I follow the pattern (also unlike sewing where I open the envelope, pull out the tissue and pretty much toss the instructions sheets in the trash – not there yet with knitting). Much the same with the KAL’s I’ve tried – if I’m not keeping up with the group I get discouraged and usually drop out.

But this one is different. You work at your own pace. You pick your own project and materials. If you want to knit a super-bulky scarf at 6 SPI then go for it. If you want to knit a delicate, lacy shawl with 14 charts (TERROR!!) then go for it.

I decided on middle-of-the-road for myself. I entered the Cross Cowl.

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After a stop at Cream City Yarn in Brookfield (http://creamcityyarn.com) I settled on the Brae Cowl (above). Now you have to remember – I do not consider myself an experienced knitter. The only colorwork I’ve done thus far was in the Camp Hoodie that I made for Becky. Remember?

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That little checkerboard pattern is all the colorwork that I’ve ever done and now I’m going to do an entire piece? Granted, it’s a COWL for gosh sakes. A little cowl – hardly something to be afraid of. Sheesh!

But, what the hey? I bought 3 hanks of Cascade 220 and joined the mass cast on.

In honor of my favorite sport and team (and inspired by the jacket that I had on) my colors are green, gold and cream, so I named my project the Green Brae cowl – yes, I know – cutesy. I don’t care. I wanted something to wear with that jacket and a knitted scarf would just have been too bulky.

Now, as if the colorwork wasn’t enough this little project has an entire seam of Kitchener stitch. EEEEEKKKKK! A technique that I’ve done twice and failed miserably on both times. Well, we can worry about that when it comes.

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So – we start. The cream is the lining. It is knit up from both ends and joined in the middle with the dreaded Kitchener. But, not too bad a start, huh? I got into a rhythm. I’m a continental knitter, otherwise known as a picker so it’s very natural for me to use both hands for colorwork. I hold the base or darker color in my left hand and throw the accent or lighter color with my right. This also helps me keep my strands correct, in this case the green on the bottom and the yellow on top. After I got over myself I started to really have fun with it.

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Even Max got into the action!

Then, suddenly it was done!

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That second shot is the join. I can see the line of the join, but I haven’t blocked it yet, so I’m hoping that will work itself out. I made a couple little bobbles on the Kitchener, but the directions in the pattern helped me immensely. Her instructions overall are quite well written.

Oh, I almost forgot – it was also the first time I knit from any sort of chart!

So tomorrow I block and Sunday I turn in my entry at CCY. So, maybe this was a little (like tiny) personal Olympics of knitting. Tome the Olympics has always been about challenging yourself, doing you best in the company of the best in the world. Well, my little cowl is retry damn good for me – learning new things and reinforcing techniques.

I’m ready for the podium, Mr. Putin!

Is there a 12-step program for yarn addicts?

Just some of my collection

Just some of my collection

That’s 11. 11! ELEVEN! And this is just the sock yarn, and I’m certain not all of it. I have more in other bags scattered about the house – at least 4 more skeins. This isn’t counting the 2 tubs of other yarn – worsted, wool, bamboo, alpaca…

I admit it – it’s an addiction. I know I can knit socks fairly quickly – usually about a pair a month if I remain dedicated. Socks are such a great project – perfect for taking along and really easy to do once you have a few techniques down. I knit mine toe-up on one big circ – magic-loop style. Mostly. I sometimes experiment with top-down as well but I’m really no good a the Kitchener stitch. But, I ask you – 16 skeins of sock yarn? When does it spill over into being dangerous?

There are lots of other yarns in my stash, too. Check me out on Ravelry sometime (juded55) – I’m OCD about keeping that up to date ever since I bought the same pattern 3 times from 3 different stores… I must have really liked that pattern. Plus it’s handy because I’m such an impulse buyer. If it isn’t sock yarn it’s just pure ‘I’m buying this because it’s pretty/soft/sparkly…’ or some such. (About the sparkly thing – I’m half German, half Polish – we love our sparkly/shiny/brightly colored things – I think we are descended from crows.)

These are from the sock pile but, case in point:

MadTosh Sock in ForestryLook at that color!! The photo hardly does it justice. It’s so vibrant in person that it just about glows.

And this:

Hand Maiden Casbah SockThis one has cashmere in it. CASHMERE! I can tell you – this ain’t going to be a sock, either. This one is going around my neck! It’s incredibly soft – almost like holding a cloud in your hand.

One more:

Lorna's Laces SoulmateI already have a skein of Lorna’s Laces Soulmate, but I had to buy this one because of the name. The NAME, you ask? YES!! The name: Zombie Barbeque – how great is that? And I know that naming convention is why I’m eventually going to buy at least a skein from Indigo Dragonfly. Their colorways are wonderful, but they also have such fun names. Names like: Bright Lights, Big City, Busy Highway, Slow Unicorn – yes, that’s the name. Go check it out for yourself: http://www.indigodragonfly.ca/product-category/weight/sportdk/

None of this has impacted my life, other than to add joy and a lot of really pretty socks. But, where is the edge? Where does that point that I’m teetering upon tip and I start sliding down the slippery slope with the next stop being the County Nuthouse?

Did I miss the flyer for the 12-step yarn addiction program? Can somebody send it to me, please?

Or is it too late…….?

Catching up

Terry_jude

My brother holding his baby sister

Gosh it’s been so long since I’ve written anything. I feel like a slug.

I finished that pretty sweater for Becky and guess what? IT WAS TOO BIG!!! She lost weight in between start and finish and now it just hangs on her. So, we make another :). This time I let her pick the yarn and, boring girl, don’t she just pick navy blue! The Camp Hoodie I made for her was navy blue. She used to work at QuadGraphics and wore navy blue every… single… day! Nope – that’s what she wanted, so that’s what Auntie’s making. One thing you definitely gotta say for the girl, she appreciates everything.

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I also made a couple of scarves in there…

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And a beaded shawl for myself….

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(my coordinator says that photo makes me look like a Jawa…)

So, I’ve kept busy, I haven’t just been slogging it the last few months, but lately it’s been a burden to do anything. I can’t seem to function or concentrate on anything but knitting. It seems to be the only thing holding me together. You see, that boy at the top of the page is my big (biggest) brother, Terry. He died in October, 2 weeks after his 66th birthday and 4 days after my 58th. I can’t exactly say that we were close. He lived in Seattle and I didn’t get to see him often. Email, the odd phone call now and then. But not like living in town with him.

But, you see, he was still my brother. We did all those crazy, stupid things that kids do together like go sledding down the suicide hill behind Nathan Hale. And go trick or treat at night – by ourselves (we grew up in a more innocent age). Or slogging through the wilds of Root River parkway, the boys shooting at each other with their six-shooters (cap guns) and me riding on the back of our faithful dog Amber. My brothers were my heroes – still are – there was never a doubt in my mind that nothing could happen to me when my brothers were around. When he went away to college, even though it was Marquette and only downtown, he moved out and that’s when we began growing apart. I was only 9 or 10 when he moved out – he was 8 years older and started college early. We just didn’t have a lot to say to each other until we were adults. He was busy being married, a father and a navy man sailing all over the world. I was busy with puberty, acne and trying to survive Lane Junior High School.

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Plus it’s that feeling – you who are a little older will understand. All my parent’s generation are gone. Even some of my cousins. My brother Greg and I are now the seniors in our family and it’s… weird. We have 2 cousins from Terry’s cohort left, Carol Jean and Charlene – I don’t know about any of the others. But then they get into Greg’s cohort, then mine (which is the smallest). I used to have 17 cousins. I now have somewhere around 10.

So all that combined to drop this pall of inactivity over me. I’m over the crying – well, mostly. Sometimes, like now, talking about him and the old times and looking at the photos, I still mist up.

He was a ham radio operator and member of the Pacific Northwest SARS team. He was an Author whose book is still available on Amazon.com. He was a computer scientist who programmed call centers for huge European banks. He was a nuclear physicist and astrophysicist. He was a loving, gentle husband and father whose own son was taken much too soon (TJ died in 2001). He was a genius, a perfect combination of Sheldon and Leonard from the Big Bang Theory – a nerd and a hacker (before hacker became a bad word) but, unlike both of them he had a wicked sense of humor. He was so much to so many people.

Most of all he was my brother.

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Swatches, how I love ya, how I love ya

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Well – not really. At least not until I learned how important a step to successful knitting they are, anyway

Ah the old days…
Buy Yarn
Buy (or find in the house) needles
Cast on
Knit

So simple. And garments that looked totally crappy.

Oh, I wore them. I remember that, when I was in college my Sister-in-law knitted a sweater – I think it was supposed to be for my father? Mother? Somebody… Anyway that thing hung down to my knees, it was tight and yet completely misshapen. But I wore it. Nearly every winter day (it was Tucson, Arizona – it wasn’t that cold) for almost 5 years.

I remember a sweater I knitted when I first moved to upstate NY. Hung on me like a gunny sack. But I wore it until it wore out.

I don’t like to waste things.

But it turns out that, by not checking my gauge – not learning how to – I wasted so much time and yarn – far more than a few little 4×4″ squares would have – in making garments that were ugly. And it really is so easy!! (http://youtu.be/cMom5EHQbPA)

So this little guy in the photo (like my blocking mat? I don’t know what princess she’s supposed to be but she comes in handy!) is a swatch for my next big project – another sweater for Becky. This time we reversed. She picked out the pattern and I picked the yarn. This is Valley Superwash from WEBS (yarn.com) in a beautiful dark magenta. This yarn is very soft and lovely – I can’t wait to work with it – but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to check my gauge!

Yeah – I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s important! It’s thrifty! It’s therapeutic – nothing more relaxing than breaking out the needles and some pretty yarn and whipping off a nice 4×4 square in stockinette…

Symmetry and local yarn shops

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This is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in a colorway called Christmas at Downton. Now, as I was a huge fan of the show up until the end of season 3 (SPOILER: they killed off my favorite character – I may not be back for season 4) I simply had to have a skein of this yarn. I have one skein of Lorna’s – a Solemate in Flamingo which I bought as part of a fund raiser for breast cancer research, so I’m familiar with the yarn. And this colorway really is evocative of the Christmas season in that grand pile.

The toe, foot and heel came off without a hitch. After a bit of practice at it I’m getting pretty fair at knitting socks – and fair warning you’re going to see a lot of socks here. I tend to knit my usual toe-up pattern then go wild with the cuffs. I look through my books to find a stitch pattern that I like, work out how many stitches I need and go – I knit the cuff until I have just enough yarn to do a super-stretchy bind off and done!

But, sometimes I have trouble making a stitch pattern work. That was he case with this one. I putzed and fussed and cursed and ripped back. Sometimes I had an extra stitch or two at the end of the round, sometimes I was short a stitch – I simply could not make this blessed pattern work! Now, normally I would just rip it back to right above the ankle (I leave about an inch above the heel before I start my pattern stitch) and would just do a plain rib, but this time I was determined to understand where I was going wrong. So, since I had to stop out to the yarn shop anyway to pick up a skein of Spud and Chloe sweater I took my book along to see if they would help me read the stitch. Sometimes, when another person reads the stitch they can see if there is a misprint in the book and I was beginning to wonder if this was the case here since I was doing everything I could think of, including counting the pattern out loud to the cats. I didn’t bring my work because I didn’t want that to bias the interpretation on the stitch pattern.

We poured over the pattern, counted it out, figured out the repeats, everything we could think of and it was written correctly. Using the number of stitches I was I should not have had any problems. I went home, thinking on the entire drive that there had to be something in the way I was working that was causing me to go wrong.

When I got home I gamely took up my needles and counted again and that’s when something that Lisa said struck me. She said “Well, since you’re working the magic loop method you have 36 stitches on each needle, which is half of 72 and also divisible by 9…” as she tapped on her calculator. But I didn’t have 36 stitches on each needle – I had something like 41 on one and 31 on the other or some such weird distribution – definitely not symmetrical. So I quickly shifted 5 stitches onto the other needle and began working and VOILA! SUCCESS! I couldn’t believe that something so simple was the root of my problem with a simple stitch pattern (it is k one row, p one row, k2tog [yo-k1 3 times, k2tog 3 times] k 1 row – that’s it). I felt alternately dumb as a box of rocks and grateful for the help I received. So I knitted away on that cuff finishing it up at about 2am – I couldn’t stop.

But that’s the wonderful thing about a local merchant. They take the time to help their customers. It’s all about customer service for them – and, since that’s my profession appreciate it probably more than a lot of people would. Visit a local yarn shop and see what I mean – you will never want to leave!

Local yarn shops are a good thing….

So is symmetry.