Thursday, November 20, 2014

Keeping out of trouble

In early October, I had knee surgery - nobody's idea of a good time, but I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get a jump on all my Christmas knitting. After all, this was how I spent 10 hours+ per day:

No brainer to get all that knitting done, right?  Not exactly.  I was in far more pain than I expected, and I had a difficult time overcoming the effects of  both the anesthesia and the prescription pain killers, so I was far less productive than I had envisioned.  It also did not help that everyone and their brother came to visit, and very few of them were knitters, so I had to focus on talking to them rather than knitting, because it was too hard to do both.

Despite this, I did get a few things started:

This pattern is the Iced Aqua Scarf by Julie Farmer, in the Fall 2014 Love of Knitting.  Obviously, I did not choose an iced aqua yarn - this is Caron's Simply Soft Paints, in Oceana.  I loved loved loved the colorway, and I loved that it was on sale at Joanne for $2.99 a skein.  I bought 3 - 2 of the same dye lot for the scarf, and another to make myself a hat.  I decided this would be my Winter 2014/2015 hat & scarf project - two years ago I used another Caron yarn to make a pretty purple basketweave scarf, complete with fringe.  I love that the yarn can go in the washer and the dyer.  With all the handknit socks around the house, flat drying space is at a premium some weeks after I do laundry.

Speaking of socks, I also managed to start, and finish, a pair for myself:

I decided these would be my Thanksgiving socks, because they have the right shades of yellow, red, brown & orange and remind me of those childhood construction paper turkeys we all did in school.  The yarn is Decadent Fibers Savory Sock yarn, made by Decadent Fibers out of Kinderhook, NY.  I bought it last year at the New England fiber festival - it was part of that sock yarn-a-palooza that happened:

That's it over there on the bottom right-hand side.  I do love how they turned out.

So, that was my 3 week knitting extravaganza.  Note that not one of the projects was actually a Christmas gift.  I would express remorse, except I've got (or will get) new knit items to keep and wear, so I'm not the slightest bit sorry.  Except that I now have to knit twice as fast for the holiday items.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Projects of questionable value

I finished my very first adult-sized sweater, and I hate how it looks:

Seriously, it looks great laying on the table, and that's all you're going to see of it, because I refuse to be photographed in it. All the knitters I have shown it to tell me to wear it with a shawl pin, or a button, to keep it closed. Sure, I can do that, but I'm not sure I want to spend a penny on anything like that for something I am unlikely to wear out of the house.  This might be the second-most ridiculous thing I have ever knit, because there would be no need for me to have a short-sleeved sweater in the house if I get "chilly" - we don't have central air, so if it's cold enough for me to be looking for something to put on, it's going to be something with sleeves.  I am going to chalk this up to a learning experience, and a victory in the finished project category.

I call the shrug the second-most ridiculous thing I have ever knit, because this is the most ridiculous:

In process - photographed outside Halcyon yarns, Bath, ME
 "What are those?"  you may be asking yourself.  Patriotic chaps, made with wool and fun fur.  "Why on earth would you knit patriotic chaps to begin with, and then out of those materials?!" Well, let me tell you.  A few months ago, my favorite local yarn shop had a "Wine and Pointy Sticks" party.  People were asked to bring the worst fiber-based item they had in their collection.  There were some doozies - a traffic-cone orange sweater in a nubby yarn, a potholder knit by a great-aunt who ran out of yarn so just stuffed another color into the middle of it - and somehow the conversation evolved into a discussion about bad projects with the theme, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."  Somehow, I piped up with the idea for chaps.  I forget who suggested making them out of fun fur (doubly funny because one of my fellow Wicked Weavers believes fun fur should be banished from the earth), and the shop owner volunteered that she had some patriotic stuff on clearance, so off we went to look at it.  I quickly realized that just using the fun fir would require a really small needle and take forever, so I pared it with a navy-blue wool so I could use large needles.  Carrie (the shop owner) gave me a great discount on all of it.

The result is the ugliest, itchiest thing I have ever knit.  I looked for a chaps pattern on Ravelry and guess what, no pattern!  I cannot be the only knitter who has ever wasted her time on a chaps project, but I bet you could count all of us on one hand.  Also, who's going to admit to knitting such a thing by publishing a pattern?  Adding insult to injury, the patriotic fun fur sheds so there's physical evidence of where I have been with these things.  Also, they're kind of heavy.  But they'll be ready for the next Wine & Pointy Sticks party!

I may have even ordered a sparkly cowboy hat with light-up brim.  Go big or go home, partner.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Something besides socks

Ok, admittedly I am currently working on a pair of socks, because I am pretty sure I must have one going at all times:

This pattern is called Winter Wheat Socks and this is the men's version.  I knit a pair of the women's version for my mother for her birthday this year.  I intended to knit this pair for my dad, who has no hand-knit socks from me, for Christmas this year.  Husband expressed delight in the socks.  This pair is for the husband.  Which means that I now have to knit this pattern again.  There's nothing really wrong with it; it's the (boring, BORING) yarn that makes me unenthusiastic about knitting it.

I am also making use of the 1800 yards of Madeline Tosh lace-weight I bought back in April to knit Viajante:

I love it, it's gorgeous, it's taking forever.  Dorothy says lace weight shawls take about three years (argh) which has burst my dream balloon that I would have this shawl done for an upcoming late-September trip to Philadelphia.  Maybe I will have it for a late-September trip in 2016, if I am lucky.

Meanwhile, I took a trip last weekend up to Halcyon Yarn in Bath, ME with my Wicked Weavers group.  I was delighted to discover that Halcyon sells mini-cones of weaving yarn - 600 yards to a normal one-pound cone of 3,200 yards (or more!)  So I bought a bunch of mini-cones of unmercerized cotton, to make dish towels:

Mostly mini-cones, with 2 large in the back

I have several patterns in mind - at least one or two to be done on my rigid heddle loom, which has the advantage of being in the family room and thus more accessible and more frequently used.  My first project is a set of place mats for the kitchen:

Cascade Luna Paints, Cascade Ultra Pima , 3/2 unmercerized cotton

Place mats in progress!

I have a strange affection for purple these days and picked some lighter shades of it to blend with the blue in the Cascade Paints that makes up the foundation of the multi-color in this placemat pattern.  This is a plain-weave pattern, making it less likely I will screw up this weaving.  Unless I did the yardage wrong.....

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A weaving project redeemed

So I have been working here and there on a couple of weaving projects.  Most recently on my rigid heddle I decided to try the Log Cabin pattern described in Jane Patrick's The Weaver's Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom.  The pattern is derived using two contrasting colors from the warp and weft crosses.  I thought it would be simple.  It was not.

My first mistake was the way I threaded it.  I miscounted the number of threads in each color block, and then I sleyed the reed entirely wrong - instead of alternating light-dark (or vice-versa) in the slot and holes, I grouped the colors together by two (one slot and one hole both the same color) which gave me a lovely houndstooth-style cloth.  So, lovely, but not the original aim.  I decided to completely re-sley the reed to try and get the pattern I had hoped.  Success!  Except that the back of the reed looked like this:

 Messier than I would have liked, for sure, but it all straightened out in the weaving:

Because I had to rearrange the threads at the back, pulling some out of the warp and tying them together, a few of the remaining warp threads did not get caught around the back beam.  Which was fine until I got near the end, and they grew so loose I could not get the yarn to lay smooth when I beat it down.  In the end, I opted to cut it off and tag it as a learning experience.

Here's the finished piece, which is less of a table runner and more of an oversized placemat:

My selveges are a little messy but I will stitch them under before displaying it on a table.  Given that I thought this was going to be a total loss when I first started it and it was not, and that I got this yarn on sale and will be able to do another similar project with it, I am not at all unhappy with how this turned out.  True, it would be great if these things turned out right the first time, but Rome wasn't built in a day.  Hell, sometimes I can't even get the loom threaded in a day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Project fails

So, socks.  It has been established I enjoy knitting them, and those around me enjoy receiving them.  My mother usually gets one for her birthday and Mother's Day - I say one, because generally I have one sock finished and the other 3/4 done when the holiday rolls around, so I show her what she'll be getting in just another few days.  No matter how much time I leave to finish the project, it never happens.  Anyway, sticking with tradition, mom got one sock on Sunday:

....and it didn't fit.  The pattern is called Sand Dunes, by Phyll Lagerman, and it is really beautiful.  It calls for Madeline Tosh sock yarn and a size 1 needle.  I had this Regia Jet Set color that I thought would be a great substitution for the recommended yarn, and I am using size 1 1/2 needles.  My mother cannot get the sock over her foot.  It's my own fault - I don't test knit a swatch (although in this case, I don't know that it would have helped) to check size & gauge, but I almost never have a problem.  The silver lining, however, is that the socks are now up for grabs for anyone who they fit.  I will be like Prince Charming, only with socks.

In other project fails, I had nearly finished the winter cardigan I started in November:

The yarn is Alpine Lake by Tucker's Woods, a dyer out of Connecticut who is discontinuing production of these yarns.  Which is a total shame; I totally adore this yarn.  Anyway, this is a shot of the back, the only thing I currently have done.  Why, you ask?  Well, when cast on for the first front piece, the number of stitches for size large (46) seemed too small to me, so I cast on a few more (70.)  I finished the piece, then noticed I had changed the size of the cables, making them larger.  Knitting friends assured me no one would notice, so I made the left side to match.  I got a little nervous, because there was not a lot of yarn left over to make the sleeves, and it's not possible for me to get more since the dyer is no longer creating new product.  And there's no guarantee of color matching anyway.  But I decided to risk it. 

To start the sleeves, I needed to sew the shoulder seams together, which is when I discovered that if you increase the front, but you have not correspondingly increased the back, when you sew the seam, the cardigan front will come more than halfway across, creating a sweater that is unwearable.  So I ripped back both front pieces into nothingness, and cast on for the right front again.  The silver lining in this project is that I have now made the cables to match the back, so I won't be thinking about that mistake when I am wearing the sweater.  If I ever actually finish the sweater.

I think my next project will be a stockinette scarf.  Pretty hard to mess that up.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sweater weather

I have started several sweaters for myself in my career as a knitter. Last spring/summer I made myself a short-sleeved shrug in a beautiful shade of purple:

Still on the needles

Unfortunately, I did not pick up enough stitches when I went to knit the 2-inch ribbed trim, so it flops unattractively when I put it on, so I need to unstitch it, rip out the trim, and pick up the correct number of stitches.

I've also started 2 winter cardigans for myself:

Neither of which are yet finished.  The problem is that my primary knitting time is on the train, commuting to work, and the sweaters are too large for my cosmetic-sized knitting bag.  At least, that's my excuse.  I suppose I could stop packing my lunch, and then I'd have more room for yarn.  Who needs to eat, when you can knit?

But I have finally finished a sweater!  A friend of mine from high school and her wife have a three-year-old daughter who is obsessed with Tyrannosaurus Rex - every night she and her mother play "dinosaur," with E telling her mother, "Mama, you be the TRex!" and my friend chases her around the house, roaring.  They bought her a 3-foot inflatable TRex for Christmas, and put it under the tree wearing a Santa hat.  I love that she is so into dinosaurs, because I went through a phase between about 6-10 where I couldn't get enough of them either.  So while perusing Ravelry and thinking about knitting her a hat, I stumbled upon a pattern called Tony Tyrannosaurus Rex Jumper by Christine Grant, I bought it.  It called for Intarsia, a type of color work knitting I had taken a class in but never tried.  I am so excited by how it turned out:

Even the inside didn't turn out too bad:

I am meeting her mother for lunch in just a few hours to hand over the sweater.  I really hope it fits her.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I don't block

One of the key components in most knitting patterns comes right at the end, where the pattern writer tells you to bind off your knitting and "block."  I have never blocked.  It's simply not my thing.  Everything I've ever read about it told me I needed to soak my knit item (shudder - what if the colors run & it's a gift on deadline?) then pin it flat and allow it to dry.  I have successfully avoided that for the nearly 20 years I have been knitting.

Until now.  I finished a scarf this week for my cousin's husband A, he of the pestering-knitters-on-the-commuter-railroad story from November.  I saw him just after Thanksgiving, and he was wearing his hat.  The family tells me he wears the hat a lot - to work, indoors, on weekends - and he proudly showed me a black scarf he was wearing that, ".....almost matches this fantastic hat!"  Because I cannot keep my mouth shut, ever, I blurted out that the hat had a matching scarf pattern, and was he interested?  Say, after Christmas?  Of course he was!

I forgot how much I hate knitting scarves, but I persevered.  75" at 31 stitches per row doesn't sound like much until, well, you spend 2 weeks, 2 hours a day, knitting it.  This scarf is a physical manifestation of proof that you do not have to be a blood relation for me to love you.  Quite honestly, the fawning over the hat pretty much cemented his ability to get whatever knit item he wants, now or in the future.  Except maybe a sweater.

Anyway, finished the scarf and it curls up on both edges, pretty significantly.  So I knew my day of reckoning had come - I was going to have to block a piece.  I was not looking forward to it, but at least remotely confident because after all, this is a completely black item so if the color ran, it would not ruin the garment. 

First step, into the sink:

I soaked it in Eucalid (per the instructions) for 15 minutes, then squeezed all the water out of it.  No color seepage, so that was good.

Then, the hard part - laying it flat to dry and pinning it.  Which makes my dining room floor look like this:

The good news is, if I was a little short on that recommended 75", I have it now.  But blocking doesn't really show the pattern all that well, as you can see here:

It looks like the hat, though, so that's all that counts. 

You might notice to the left of the scarf a very small knit strip - this is a piece that goes on A's wife's hat, that also curled once knit, so I decided to block that as well.  You can see a little better how I pinned the pieces on that one:

So that's a close-up photo of what I did to that 75" scarf to block it.  Every few inches. It was tedious.  My instincts to avoid blocking were totally correct.  But now that I've done it, I have no excuse not to do it in the future.

Speaking of that little piece for M's hat, this is what the finished product looks like:

On my head, of course, not hers.  The pattern is called Capitan by Rosi Garmendia and my friend Dorothy says this is a hat that makes everyone look cool.  Guess what?  Not me.  I was so excited to knit myself one after this and then I put it on to check the button placement and discovered I look like an idiot in this hat.  Which is a total bummer because I can use all the help I can get to look cooler.  I still think I'll make a couple more - one for M's sister J, and my college best friend.  All women who can rock hats, apparently better than me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a toddler cape!

Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that I should be making new projects for all those babies who got blankets and socks and whatnot when they were born, now that they are toddlers and preschoolers.  And what do small children like?  Capes!  (Honestly, we all like a cape when you get right down to it.)  Who doesn't want to be a superhero?

An internet search led me to Thread Riding Hood, who posts not only the pattern for making capes out of felt (best fabric ever for kids' dress-up stuff) but a quick tutorial.  She recommended Googling for Superman logos, which led me to this website.  I decided to start small by getting enough materials to do four capes, in case this turned out to be a goat rodeo and I ended up Freecycling most of it.  Which is what happened when I tried to a project that involved satin.  We will not speak of satin, fabric of the devil.

Anyway, I bought a couple yards each of light green and light blue fabric (very gender-neutral), coordinating squares for background color, and some white stick-on felt to make the letters.  I cut out the letters, stuck them to the shaped squares, sewed them onto one side of the cape, sewed up the other piece, added Velcro, and got this:

The inside of this cape is the same shade of green as the background for the M.  I cannot tell you how pleased I am with how this came out.  It took about two hours to make, but I think that was because it was the first version.  After sewing the two pieces together, I did have to trim around the edge because they were not exact mirror images of each other, but that was a quick fix.

Deep winter is birthday time for many of these toddlers & preschoolers.  Guess what everyone's getting this year?  I'm a little sad the pattern only goes up to 4T.  I could use a cape myself.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Christmas has come and gone, and I have just about recovered from my crazy knitting spree.  In the middle of the scheduled Christmas knitting, my husband threw me for a loop by asking for a new hat because his was itchy.  I dutifully knit him a new hat in non-scratchy yarn but it bumped my mother's birthday socks out by a few days, and she ended up receiving only one sock for her birthday.  No matter, she was happy with them, when I managed to get her the other one five days after her actual day:

The pattern is called Winter Wheat by Donna Seex.  This is the women's version -I found it in the Love of Knitting Winter 2011 issue.  Check out the pattern either on Ravelry or by Googling it - the photo accompanying the pattern shows a beautiful raspberry color yarn, which shows the pattern off much better.  However, my mother was very taken with this yarn - it's called "Dream in Color Starry" and it has little silver threads running through it, which you can just about see in the photo.  There's also a men's version that is, you guessed it, "too fancy" for Himself but I'm rather intrigued by, so I might knit myself that version as something different.  It has just a little bit of patterning in a 1/4" stripe up one side of the sock.  Scandalous!

Speaking of knitting for myself, I had started a pair of socks before Christmas but had to abandon them due to the accelerated holiday knitting schedule.  I finished them just last Friday, and happily wore them over to my volunteer job on Saturday inside a pair of slip-on shoes so I could show them off:

It promptly snowed an unscheduled 6" of heavy wet snow.  Probably because I was tempting fate with those shoes.  Sorry, fellow New Englanders!

To take a break from all the sock knitting, I made myself some pint-sized pines, which are little knit tress you stick on wine corks (or the top of an unopened bottle of wine as a hostess gift.)  I found them on my friend Dorothy's Ravelry page (she of the, "If you buy the alpacas, I will bring them home in my mini-van if you agree to get it cleaned afterwards.")  I think they are really cute.  I asked a few friends to save wine corks so I can make a lot more for next year, and I have discovered my friends are drinkers.  Which might be why I love them.  Anyway, my little trees on the kitchen windowsill:

So cute.  They take about 30 minutes to make when I am distracted while knitting, and they use just a few yards of yarn - the perfect amount for when you have no other use for that last scrap of yarn.  I am experimenting with making them in a variety of colors.

 I also wove a scarf for my close friend and favorite food blogger, Stella Caroline, using a hand-dyed sock yarn as a base.  (That's the stripe on the bottom as well.)  I also used a coordinating light blue and light lavender to create wide stripes in the weft.  I love how it came out:

Stella Caroline is a petite woman, something I did not consider as I warped the loom and made an extra-long scarf.  When I took it off, Himself looked and me and said, "Are you trying to smother her?"  I prefer to think that I am guaranteeing she will not have any exposed skin in this vile winter weather.  Or she can wrap herself and the children up all at the same time.