The Timbuk2 Bag

So, it got here.  It looks GREAT.  Except that I used to have a "medium size Cargo Tote," and this was allegedly a "medium size Cargo Tote," and it’s a lot smaller than the one I used to have.  Also, the old one had side rings and a cross-body strap, and this one does not.  I’ve ordered D-rings, webbing and clips to make my own since the bag is not returnable.  Oh well.  ALWAYS CHECK THE SPECS!

I’ve left the ’80s, but they haven’t left me!

One of the stylistic things that everybody remembers from the 1980s is the liberal use of vivid, neon-type colors in clothing.  Yes, neon colors have been in fashion here and there before and after the ’80s, but there was a big trend for it and I fell into that big trend like it was a tub of butter.  I still get jazzed from seeing hot pink and neon green together, for example, or hot pink and turquoise.  Here is some yarn I ordered earlier this summer from ebay; it’s Noro’s "Cash Iroha."  I only ordered it because of the colors that were available, not because of any real love for Cash Iroha, which is (a) bulkier than I like to knit with and (b) one of those "fake cashmere" yarns that is mainly wool and silk with a token amount of cashmere in it so they can use some form of "cashmere" in the name.  I’m currently knitting a funky hat with sea-urchin-type arms on top of it.  There will be a lot left, so I may also knit a shrug or jacket of some sort.
Here is some yarn I recently ordered from String Theory Colorworks.  "100% Awesome," indeed.

So I thought this would help me get my neon jag out of the way, especially because I cast on for a bias-knit pullover and it was looking dreamy.  But then I decided not to knit the bias-knit pullover, but something else, and so I frogged this one.

Yesterday I was browsing around the internet and went to Timbuk2, a store I like because you can choose custom colors for a bag.  Yes, they’re utilitarian bags, not fashion bags, but with this choice of neon 1980s colors I’m sure I’ll be both fashionable AND utilitarian!  This will, of course, probably become my knitting tote.

If the colors on that bag (which I’ve not yet seen in person) are strikingly awesome, I may get myself a small messenger to match, to use as my handbag.  Who knows?  And who knew that neon was still so prevalent in the world?!

(Now, where are my legwarmers…)


Today’s adventure:  roller skating!
For some reason, Alex has been clamoring all week for us to buy him Rollerblades.  I don’t know what set him off.  Then Chris said, "We should all get skates and then we’d have a good family exercise activity!"  So far, so good.  We spent about three hours yesterday poking around Bellevue trying to find skates.  First, Sports Authority.  They had a pair that fit Chris, but when he stood up in them, he almost fell over, and was a little hesitant about them.  They only had one pair in a size to fit me/Alex (right now we’re wearing the same shoe size).  Alex was a little nervous when standing up in them, too.  (Sports Authority has a very slick linoleum floor.)  So we went to Sears (no skates at all) and Big 5 Sporting Goods (only cheapo skates) and then came home.
Looking online, we found the Bellevue skate rink "Skate King," and I said, "Hey, why don’t we go to the rink for lessons tomorrow – you can try inline (Rollerblades) or quad skates (wheels on four corners) and decide which you like better.  And then if we all hate it, we’ve only lost the cost of a lesson plus skate rental."  This met with approval from everyone so that is what we did.
We immediately all chose quad skates.  This was all they made, when I was a kid, and I’d spent a lot of my youth at CC Skate Ranch.  So I knew I’d be comfortable in quads.  The clerk gave Alex the wrong size shoe (men’s 7 instead of women’s 7) and yet Alex said they were fine.
So, we went out on the rink and got some basic instruction.  Within a few minutes (to my amazement) I was zipping around the rink with only a few wobbles, and I didn’t fall down once all day!  However, Chris and Alex had troubles.
The instructor suggested that they would both do better in the inline skates instead of quads.  Neither Chris nor I can remember how she justified that, but they both changed into inline skates.  Chris immediately felt more stable in them, and proceeded to slowly work his way around the rink, with a grand total of three falls in the 1.5-hour lesson.
Alex, on the other hand, was having a very difficult time.  He was falling down every couple of steps, even in the inline skates.  The instructor looked more closely and realized his boots were much too big.  We got him to change into kids’/women’s size 5 and he was up and running!  But I’d guess he probably fell down 20 or 30 times during the lesson.  What surprised both me and Chris is that he kept getting up, and was eager to continue.  Usually this is the sort of situation where he’ll start whining about wanting to quit.
So, as a result, we’re all feeling pretty optimistic, at least about indoor skating.  It was 93 degrees outside, so we are NOT in any mood for outdoor skating, at least not yet.  I’ll report more next week after our second lesson.

Red Hot Mama

Today I finished another machine-knit project.  I have had these two yarns in my stash for a long time – Superior, a brushed laceweight cashmere, and Valley Yarns’ 20/2 silk (a 100% silk for weaving).  Singly, they were much too fine to contemplate hand-knitting with, but together, they worked up really nicely on the machine.  I did learn some things during this project.  Whatever length I think is right, I should add about 50 rows to the body.  And I should make the sleeves rectangles rather than shaping them as in hand-knitting.  This project was too short when seamed up, so I had to pick up and knit 400 stitches around for about 30 rounds…ugh…and then the sleeves are too snug near the bottom.  I think that adding the flared silk ruffles at hem and cuffs helps with this a little – certainly the length is right, now, and the ruffles on the cuffs distract the eye a bit from the tightness of the sleeve opening.  So, more machine-knitting adventures continue.
And yes, I too was surprised at how much I look like Mom in this photo!  But I think that’s the combo of glasses plus hair plus lack of lipstick Open-mouthed smile

The Hague Linker

Several posts ago I mentioned an item called a linker, which basically is an electric seaming machine for knitted items.  I was keen to get one and save myself all that seaming.
So I won one in an ebay auction.  These are $1000 when new, at list price, but I paid less than a third of that.  It arrived in the afternoon one day and Alex and I immediately spirited it upstairs to test it.  I had a machine-knitted silk piece that was earmarked to be a lingerie bag (more on that later) that hadn’t been seamed, plus the Cashmere Jubilee vest for him.
This thing seamed both of them easily.  I was surprised at how easy it was and had grand dreams of timesaving futures.
Later, I knit the front and back piece of a garment with Colourmart turquoise cashmere and Valley Yarns’ tencel (this last was actually the leftover stuff from the skirt of my empire dress).  It came out pretty cool – the tencel made a fabulous pooling design that looks like faux argyle!  I used the linker to seam the shoulders on this one.  It was still pretty easy, but the stitching was very obvious.  The linker makes a chain stitch (crochet-type) seam where I would normally have used Kitchener stitch on the shoulders.  Since I used both yarns to seam, the variegation in the tencel made the stitching visible.  Still, this was merely a lesson to "not use variegated yarn in the linker."  This faux argyle thing was another test project, so it didn’t bother me much.  Cool patterning, huh?

As always, however, I did start to run into real, unfixable trouble.  The trouble began when I took a piece of knitting off the machine.  My pieces end, and then I knit about 10 rows of waste yarn on the end, in order to make sure none of my real stitches drop (you can see this in the pic above:  the waste yarn is the bright blue at the top and bottom).  I have a terrible fear of dropping stitches, and when this happens (in machine- or in hand-knitting), I panic, grind my teeth, and get very tetchy.  So anything that will help me stop that is good.
So I had this idea to put the live stitches on the linker (with the waste yarn still attached) and ‘link’ the live stitches shut with a crochet chain so they didn’t unravel.  Great idea, huh?  Well, theoretically.  Because of all the waste yarn (which was at this point beginning to unravel), and because of the design of the linker, it was very hard for me to accurately see where to place the stitches on the linker pegs.  It took me a long time to do it (with my eyes practically right up at the pegs), and then I linked it.  Sometimes the linking needle pierced the waste yarn, which curls forward; this made a lot of work to cut out afterwards.
You guessed it, half those live stitches were not really on the pegs right.  I took the piece off the linker and it immediately started to unravel – except where the chain had linked through the waste yarn.
Next test:  put the live stitches on the linker, remove the waste yarn (thus making it more easy to see if the stitches are right), and link.
Next result:  problems, because occasionally I ended up hanging the waste yarn stitches instead of the live ones, which made it incredibly difficult to remove the waste yarn.  Also, about 1/3 of the stitches were still not right on the needles and ended up unraveling.  Grr.
So I stopped this idea and went back to hand-casting-off my finishing rows.  This is much less stressful for me, and really doesn’t take as much work.  Plus, I don’t have to hold the stitches up to my nose to see them.
Next test:  seaming a side seam of a sweater.  I’m not sure which garment this was – because mentally I can’t think of another machine-knit garment that I would have tested it on – but clearly there was something, because it was a COMPLETE mess.  The stitches get hung sideways on the linker pegs, face to face, and then the linker makes the chain through them.  I was up close and peering at them, desperately trying to make sure the stitches were all on properly – although doing the side stitches would not result in any unraveling – and yet the seam was crooked and looked terribly junky.  I know that I can hand-seam better than that.
Result?  I resold the linker.  It just wasn’t providing me with the ease and timesaving required.
And yes, I made a tiny profit on it.  $5.03.