Yes, Virginia, you can read and knit

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I can read and knit at the same time. In the comments, Carrie K gave me an idea for a blog entry on how I accomplish this (thanks again, Carrie!).

Knitting while reading is a skill that, like any other, can be developed – if it’s a skill that interests you. It appealed to me because I don’t watch TV and I got kind of behind on my reading when I started to devote a lot of time to knitting.

Five years ago, when I first started knitting, I would only listen to music without words while I knitted. Then I graduated to music with words and eventually to books on tape (unless the project required a lot of focus). But most of the books that I wanted to read weren’t available on tape or cd from the library.

When I complained about this problem to my knitting friend Lisa from Duluth, she asked why I just didn’t read while I knit. Um, whoa – because I never considered such a thing possible? I was awed by her ability and sure that I could never do that.

But just in case, I picked up a ReadUpon book holder. (No link provided to, since they appear to no longer exist, alas.)

The ReadUpon seemed like it would pretty well for holding a book in my lap while I knitted in my comfy chair.

So I grabbed some large print books from the library and decided that I should start with a very simple knitting project – the miles of i-cord I needed to make for felted bag handles.

It wasn’t immediate. I started out looking at my knitting more than I was looking at the book, but slowly was able to look at the book more than my knitting. I quickly graduated from large print books. The second it took to lift a hand from my knitting and flip a page became no big deal. Soon I was able to read virtually anything while I knitted. And I became able to count things in my knitting while I was reading (which must be good for my brain!), so that I could knit more complicated projects while reading.

I still can’t read while I cast on or bind off or do cables or complicated stitches like the woven basket stitch. But ribbing, seed stitch, and some simple lace patterns go ok. And I get a lot more reading done now. But there’s still one large problem…

“Why the heck are you reading and knitting when you should be playing with me?!”

Added later: Now, really – this was meant to be a rough how-to. There’s nothing special about me except that I wanted to be able to do this and I practiced, starting slowly and simply, then working up to more complicated. If you like to read and you like to knit – it’s definitely worth a shot. YOU can do it. Yes, YOU. If not you, than who? 😉

Some of you may be wondering…

where the heck is the knitting content?!

It’s on its way. Really. Trust me. 😉

Actually, I should have a new digital camera later today, so I’ve been waiting to take more pictures.

Until then, I leave you with this lovely image:

That’s one of a pair of beer cozies I knitted for our department’s white elephant gift exchange several years ago, modeled on an empty beer bottle so the recipient would have some idea of its intended function. It was knitted from some vintage “Orange Ombre” wool I had on hand (can’t remember the brand – probably something fancy like Lee Wards or the like), using this pattern from Knitting Pretty.

Reverse image of a cat

Thinking maybe weekends will be for gratuitous cat pictures…

Meet Diablo, as he hung out by his water dish at my brother’s birthday celebration yesterday. Diablo is Chaos’s brother. If you look closely at his forehead, you can see two pale grey lines. When Diablo was born, those lines were black and looked like horns – hence the name.

Diablo is pretty much the anti-Chaos in every way. Where Chaos is dark, Diablo is light. Where Chaos is bright, Diablo is dim. Where Chaos has a puny tail, Diablo has an even punier tail…

They were very cute kittens, although you can see that Chaos had more space for a brain than did Diablo:

And here’s my all-time favorite picture of Chaos as a kitten – I like to call it “Panther perching in jade, waiting for unsuspecting prey (aka “dust bunny”) to pass”:

Kitten mittens

Well, sorry, “me,” not actually mittens for kittens – the mittens for my sister-in-law became the Tabbycat Mittens when they were felted:

Chaos was very persistent about being in the picture with the felted mittens.

Yes, Chaos finally found poor lost red sparkly mouse, after spending 15 minutes fighting with my boot.

Conversation snippet: “Chaos, why are you wrestling around with your head in that boot?”

[muffled]: “Mraow!”

I did rip out and reknit the end of the longer mitten. For all my fussing and whining, it involved reknitting, um, well…

seven rows.

Moving right along, here’s a pre-felting picture, with one mitten turned inside out to show what Lopi color 9977 looks like in reverse stockinette stitch. Nifty.

Now I have to go scrounge around for odd and freakish items to take to my department’s white elephant gift exchange this evening. I think I still have a felting mishap or two tucked away…

Well, poop

As I mentioned a few days ago, I started working on a pair of felted mittens for my sister-in-law. Many of you are knitters, so you know the excitement I was feeling as I finished those last few rounds on the final thumb. Elation that I was done (particularly with the thumbs – Jeanne and Ana can tell you how much I hate mitten thumbs. I know it’s completely irrational to hate mitten thumbs more than, say, sock heels, but there it is). Satisfaction. Relief that I had so much time before Christmas to felt the mittens and see if my sister-in-law would be getting mittens or the alternate present.

Imagine my dismay when I put the mittens on the table to photograph my triumph, only to notice…

Yup. Those mittens sure aren’t a matching pair. Now, I’m fine with the spiral being different. And I’m completely ok with the thumbs being striped opposite of each other. But what I can’t quite ignore (even when I squinted at them) is that one of the mittens is definitely longer than the other. Or, depending on your perspective – one is shorter. The result is the same. I must rip the longer mitten back and start the final decreases two rounds sooner. I even used a row counter so the mittens would be identical, but…

When I looked at them a bit more, I decided that the shorter (first) mitten also was knit more tightly than the second mitten. What the…? How did that happen? It couldn’t have anything to do with having two soy mochas while I knit the first mitten, but two glasses of wine while I knit the second… could it? Although I suppose that does explain my, um, difficulty with the row counter on the longer mitten and probably also why the spiral changed.

Well, poop. So much for my great triumph.

Chaos listened intently to my troubles… But I think he was just humoring me so he could go back to his bath.

“You did what?”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

“So, I guess you’ll be coming back to the chair to make a lap and fix that problem, eh?”

Move along, move along – no knitting to see here

Since I’ve decided to knit a few things for Christmas presents, I’m getting a spectacular amount of knitting not done. In the interest of not presenting the mittens from a slightlyl different angle to suggest progress, we’ll just move right along.

It’s snowy here today. Probably three or four inches so far and falling steadily. Chaos is busy watching snowflakes.

You’ll just have to forgive the periodic weather commentary. I’m Minnesotan. It’s what we do. Listen to A Prairie Home Companion and you’ll quickly figure that out.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of my handknit dishcloths didn’t look quite right and I couldn’t blame it on moths because…

Hmm. How could this have happened? It couldn’t possibly be the work of the Cat Chaotic, since we have a NO CATS ON THE COUNTER rule around here. And anyway, why would the Cat Who Ate a Potholder chew on a dishcloth? The culprit remains at large…

“Hey, I resemble that remark!”

What the…

I couldn’t believe it when I read about a new superwash sock yarn from Austermann called Step. It contains aloe vera and jojoba oil. Why??

I suppose it could moisturize your hands while you knit, but I’m not sure that benefit would outweigh the potential messiness. And really, only part of your hands comes into contact with the yarn as you knit – the backs of my hands tend to be driest part of my hands and to have the least amount of yarn contact.

The big questions are will it leave stains on your clothes and knitting bags? Make of mess of your laundry and leave stains on other things washed with it? Does Austermann think the aloe and oil will last through a single trip through the washing machine? It is superwash, after all.

Those darn Christmas presents

Before I got sidetracked by that Christmas tag last night, I had some actual knitting progress to report. The sweater for Maranda’s baby still needs the ends woven in – I’m saving that for when I knit with Jeanne on Wednesday night. Sorry, Jeanne! I just can’t read and weave in ends – but I can usually talk and weave in ends. Not always, but usually. Sometimes the talking is restricted to cursing, but hey – it’s still talking. Right?

I also decided on the spur of the moment to knit my sister-in-law some felted mittens for Christmas. The present previously intended for Christmas will now be for her birthday in March. Unless, of course, the felted mittens don’t turn out.

Since knitting the mittens with some of the black or grey feltable yarn from my stash wouldn’t have been half as much fun as knitting the mittens with brand new yarn, I picked up some black and grey Lopi at the new knitting store in Coon Rapids, All About Yarn. If you want to be boggled, just check out this list of yarn stores in our Twin Cities metro area. Yup, you counted right – 27. How can a metropolitan area of 2 million people support 27 yarn stores, plus innumerable Michaels and Jo-Anns as well?? But I digress… no surprise.

Sunday morning I cast on the first mitten and made pretty good progress. Since I know you’re all wondering how to point out its ugliness in a tasteful fashion, yes, yes, the mitten should be much less ugly after it has been felted. The funky spiraling should smooth out a bit and be kind of interesting.

(The pattern is from a knitting class I took in 2001 – I learned how to knit on dpns in that class.) Anyway, by late afternoon I was tired of the mittens, so I started to make wine charms. These will be Christmas presents for my stepmom and for my brother and sister-in-law.

I’ve never done any beading before. Dang, those beaders are some patient people! I was cussing up a storm, and a tiny amount of blood was shed. (I’d like to claim that I’ve never shed blood while knitting, but alas… I have.) Blurry results of 2.5 hours hard labor below.

My crappy digital camera is driving me insane! Usually the only part of the photo that’s in focus is the upper left corner. Strangely, the upper left corner tends not to be where the auto focus was pointed. Any of you knit bloggers who have nice point-and-shoot digital cameras (with optical zoom) – I would love recommendations at this point.

Probably anyone reading this would love for me to get recommendations, too.

And here’s today’s gratuitous cat picture:

“This shoebox is great! Put that camera away. Can’t you see I’m waiting for you to walk by so I can sneak attack you?”

Christmas cheer

Pink Rocket got me back for the tag last week. So… I tag Jeanne, Ana, “me” from Bermuda, mama_tulip, and Carrie K (this just seems a bit long for comments, Kellie!).

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Silk Nog! Yum. I only get to buy one carton, tho.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? When I was a kid, Santa just left them under the tree. It’s been a long time since there were kids in our family – it will be interesting to see what my brother and sister-in-law do eventually.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? So, um, I don’t decorate… but I like both. There’s a classiness to all-white that appeals, and there’s a cheeriness to colored that also appeals.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I used to when I was a wild twenty-something looking to steal kisses!

5. When do you put your decorations up? I don’t have any decorations. Well, that’s not quite true. I have a purple sequined ball that has a sun on it that’s just so darn nifty I leave it up all year. And Chaos got a Christmas stocking from my sister-in-law last year that I also leave up all year.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Cornbread stuffing.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? I’m always the one who can’t wait anymore, so I pass out the packages and then we go around and each open one gift per round. I love watching everyone open their gifts. We’ve been doing this since I was a kid.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I can’t remember, so apparently I wasn’t crushed!

9. Do you open presents of Christmas morning or Christmas eve? Christmas Eve

10. What kind of cookies does Santa get set out for him? He would get a sampling of everything we had on hand – candy cane cookies, spritz cookies, sugar kuchen, candy, and so forth. My dad loves sweets! 🙂

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? It’s lovely to look at out the window and fun for the occasional snow angel or snowshoeing, but misery to drive in with my rear-wheel drive car.

12. Can you ice skate? Hello? I’m from Minnesota. Like, duh. That said, I really need to have a hockey stick in my hand for good balance.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Last year my brother and sister-in-law made Casa de Chaos for us, which has provided much entertainment for both Chaos and I.

14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Pumpkin pie with freshly whipped cream, followed closely by candy cane cookies and these amzing chocolate-covered coconut balls that my grandma used to make

15. What is your favorite holiday tradition? See #7 above

16. What tops your tree? No tree = no top

17. Which do you prefer Giving or Receiving? Both are pretty fun, but I’d have to say giving outweighs receiving.

18. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I Believe in Father Christmas by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, followed closely by the speed-metal version of The Little Drummer Boy by the Hoodoo Gurus, and that great David Bowie and Bing Crosby duet
Edited 12/14/05: D’oh! I can’t believe I forgot The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams! One of the best holiday songs ever..

19. Do you have a wreath on your front door? No, but my neighbor down the hall does, so I carried Chaos out to look at it.

20. What do you want most for Christmas this year? A decent digital camera! But that wasn’t on my Christmas list. It’d be great if my brother built a shelf add-on for my computer desk.

“What the hell are you doing, Mom?”

Art journaling, reading, knitting, and cat parenting. It's a wild life.