Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Still Wool Weather

So this is the view out my back deck today:

 .....which may or may not be clear enough for you to see that it is snowing.  HARD.  Sigh.  First day of spring is tomorrow.  Most of us in New England think that's a joke.  On the upside, it is cold enough that I have an excuse to wear my fingerless gloves in the house (because it's far cheaper than turning up the heat) and I am still enthusiastic about any project involving wool. 

Currently I am working on a couple of pairs of socks.  Shocking, I know - you had no idea I knit socks.  (More likely, you had no idea I knit anything but socks.)  Currently on the needles, a pair of socks for my friend Holly's birthday, coming up April 1st:

I am using my classic sock pattern, because time is of the essence (these socks are a suprise) and I'm using Regia Design Line "Random Stripe" yarn.  It tangles.  A lot.  Still, the socks are turning out nicely, but I'm under the gun at this point since there are only 13 days until her birthday, and because we ride the train together, I am losing some of my most valuable knitting time because I can't do it in front of her.  I am a little nervous about this one.  I have just finished the cuff on the second sock.  It will be close.

Also on the needles, those long-delayed socks for Himself:

It is an olive green/gray blend, also Regia but Jet Set Color this time, and it ALSO tangles.  A lot.  I'm thinking maybe it's the yarn.  (Fool me once......)  I am using a new pattern called Macho Socks, which does something of an architectural design in the sock.  Mine is coming out differently from what is photographed on that blog, mostly because I am doing top-down socks and decided not to reverse the pattern from the bottom up.  I knit these on the train, so they will be a surprise for Himself, and while they are not quite as snooze-inducing as the last pair I made him, they are up there.  Hence the thinking to go with a new pattern - it might be just interesting enough to keep me awake.

Finally, I managed to get a good daylight shot of the shawl that's being woven:

I am still struggling with warping as it looks crooked in this photo.  When I unwind the tension at the end, it straightens out. I will have to ask my friend L, who got me into weaving, what I am doing wrong.  Still, it should look fine when finished.  It will likely be something I only wear in the house anyway - in New England, you are pretty much either in a parka or short sleeves when you leave the house.  And it would be a little fancy to wear while out gardening.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Unexpected outcomes

So, I started weaving a blanket for my living room.  For several years now I have been saying that I was going to knit a blanket for the couch - because my couch is so long, (120"), I had extended the pattern I found to be the same length as the couch.  So far I've gotten one segment (out of three) of the basketweave pattern done, and none of the two cable pattern segments, never mind stitching all five panels together.  So I decided to use the yarn to weave a throw for the couch:

I was using the same color for the warp and the weft, but I really should have used a bigger dpi for this project, because the yarn is sticky & tends to attach back upon itself, making the weaving complicated and separating out the two levels of warps difficult.  It started out going slower than previous weaving projects, but far faster than the planned knit version of the blanket. 

And then......disaster struck.  Somehow when I was warping the loom some of the skeins slid down to the sides, reducing the tension.  By the time I got about 20" woven - which took forever - the warp was all off, tensions were different and the blanket was looking like a big mess.  Sometimes when a project is not fun I have to keep going, but since this was for me, well, I cut my losses.  Literally.  I cut it off the loom, saved the warp threads for another project, and tossed the piece I had been working on, which resembled a very small area rug. 

Last Wednesday I warped a modified version of the throw I had planned to make for my mother, similar to the "neck warmer" (her words) I gave her for Christmas:

Windsor Button in Boston is going out of business, so I had done some hunting in the store to find compatable colors of yarn to make the throw.  Because these are not a large-volume discounted Pound of Yarn, I knew this sucker was going to be expensive so any opportunity to purchase the supplies for less was welcomed.  So I asked mom if she still wanted the throw, and she said.......no.  And promptly went off on a two-week vacation, out of cell phone range.  Ok then, looks like I'm making myself a shawl!  Or a table runner.  Or maybe I'll use it as both - if I get cold I'll just yank it off the table in the middle of dinner, like a chilly, demented magician.  That might give my husband pause.  I should have it finished by this weekend, which will be a good morale booster after the last weaving failure.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Knitting for new arrivals

I don't knit as many baby blankets as I used to, as many of my friends and family have completed their families and now need hats and sweaters rather than blankets for newborns.  But I am always in search of an interesting knitting pattern for babies, particularly ones that look much harder than they are.

My cousin J had a baby on February 11.  L is her third son (she has 5-year-old fraternal twins) and bless his little heart, he stayed put until almost his due date, giving his cousin the knitter enough time to get his new blanket done just after he arrived.  Those were some dark days, though, right around his birth, where I was committed to knitting 10 rows a night in order to be able to meet my own self-imposed deadline to send out his blanket via post to Chicago.  I pondered calling in sick, but then we had a huge blizzard (Feb 8-9) so I had plenty of time to work on it while I watched meteorologists and television news reporters scurry about, looking for yard sticks long enough to measure the snow that arrived.  (It was about 27" where I live.)

The pattern is Knit Teddy Bear by Barbara Breiter, which I found for free on the web and really liked.  The pattern comes with a teddy bear chart, but I have found it easier to write out the pattern by row rather than count, lose my place, recount the chart, recount my stitches, lose my place, count again, lose my place again, give up and pour myself a glass of wine and watch Mad Men instead.  A good friend of mine, a much more expert knitter, double-checked my counts and I was good to go:

Now, the yarn for this is Merino 5 by Crystal Palace Yarns and calls for 5 skeins of 2 colors held together, for a total of 10 skeins.  The best price I found on it was $7.90 a skein, so the blanket was looking to run me about.....$79.  Before tax & shipping on the yarn, and shipping to send the blanket to the baby.  I would be better off writing him a check for $100 for college at that point and making myself something nice.  Still, third baby and I didn't want him to be treated any differently than his older brothers, and I did love the pattern, so I went to my favorite local yarn shop with the pattern & asked for some advice. I was steered towards some Plymouth Encore DK yarn, which retails for $5.99.  Already I was liking this better.  Based on the weight, they were recommending a single strand for knitting, rather than doubling up. Things were looking up even more.  And when they said I would need 4 skeins as opposed to 10 because of the yardage difference, I had my credit card out so fast it would have made your head spin.  I am really pleased with the way it came out, and would make it again.  It's nice to have a blanket over my knees while knitting in January & February.  I am less inclined to knit baby blankets in the summer; it is just too hot.

The other thing that I love is that I'm getting much faster at knitting patterned baby blankets.  It used to be that as soon as I found out someone was having a baby I had to start the blanket, in a gender-neutral color, if I had any hope of being done when the baby was born.  Whipped this one off the needles in about 6 weeks, a new record.  It is just knit and purl, though, which helps.  A lot.