Thursday, December 29, 2005

Auld Lang Syne

As seen on PumpkinKnits:

Top Five for 2005:

1. New Technique: Cabling without a cable needle takes the top spot because I love cables. More cables, please! Knitting backward gets and honorable mention because it is very useful in some cases.

2. Favorite Finished Object: Very hard for me to pick because I loved at lot of the things I made this year. Let's call it a tie between Grace and Berkshire Breeze. (But Tivoli and Lady Eleanor and Peacock Feathers and the Reversible Rib Shawl were wonderful, too!)

3. Favorite Knit Along: Cable KAL. More cables, please!

4. Favorite Shop: Locally, it's Yarns to Ewe. Cyberly, it's whatever-store-has-the-yarn-I-want-on-sale-right-now.

5: Favorite Tool: My blocking board. Love those straight lines with all the inches marked. An anal knitter's dream.

Resolutions for 2006
(I never made any sort of resolutions before. Knitty ones seem like a good place to start.)

1. Install a zipper into a knitted garment. (I think the first victim will be Marnie MacLean's Dragon Hoodie.)

2. Knit a fair-isle sweater with steeks. I must conquer this fear.

3. Knit more for others. I no longer have place to store the things that I have knitted for myself. I just enjoy knitting for myself too much.

4. Practice budget knitting. I'm probably going to quit my job soon and start up a freelancing business. Peter will not be a full-fledged lawyer until the fall. I will need to learn to curb my spending during our leaner months.

5. Build knitting clientele. Assuming my freelance writing doesn't keep me too busy, I'm want to do more "business" knitting. This fits in well with resolutions 3 and 4.

Meanwhile: Not a tree skirt
Pinwheel Afghan continues to grow. Here it is with 11.75 wedges out of 16 wedges completed. It has gotten to the point where lugging it around is difficult and I have declared it "couch knitting" until it is completed. I'm heading to the in-laws this weekend and will hopefully finish it there. (Assuming that I'm not distracted by Rogue very much.)

Do you see that dark blob behind the tree, just above the top left corner of the blanket? That's Elly sleeping in her cat tree.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Machine Washable Purple Sheepies, part 2

I'm feeling better now. In fact, over the weekend, I felt good enough to sit down and read the directions for Rogue and cast on for the sweater. So here's "before" photo of the Cestari fabric, taken after the "after" photo was taken. See? Nice stitch definition in the washed-out photo.

Not so fuzzy

In the comments for the last entry, Karma asked what detergent I used to wash my purple sheepies. I used Ivory Snow--a supposedly gentle detergent. I'm sure that Ivory Snow is more gentle than the Tide HE that I use for normal loads, but I'm not certain how it compares to something like Kookaburra or Eucalan. However, I have used Ivory Snow for washing many knitted garments with no adverse effects. In fact, I have MACHINE washed several knitted garments, even nonsuperwash woolen garments, on gentle cycle in my fabulous front-loader with no adverse effects. So, the fact that I washed my swatch by using the regular cycle was very stupid of me.

Cordelia asked what about Woolite that makes it special. Honestly, I don't know. I looked at my bottle of Woolite, and it doesn't list the ingredients so I don't know if it is a soap or a detergent. (My guess is that it is some sort of detergent or detergent mixture.) I have been told that Woolite really isn't that s'wonderful, but I have yet to read any concrete proof of that.

Also in the comments, Agnes asked if the yarn is itchy. The short answer is yes. The long answer is very long:

The washed swatch is a little more itchy than Cascade 220 and a little less itchy than Lamb's Pride. This is NOT bunny yarn. It is not Aurora 8 or Cashmerino. I wouldn't want to wear it in a skin-tight sweater, I think it will be fine next to the skin in a looser-fitting sweater. To be honest, I'm surprised at the lack of itchiness in this yarn. I expected a high itch-factor when I ordered it.

I actually put a lot of thought into buying this yarn and I was willing to sacrifice softness for other qualities that I wanted. When I look at Rogue, I see a very rugged sweater. The kind of sweater that you would wear hiking in the woods. Cestari looks rugged. So, (I thought) if I was wearing the sweater to go hiking, it had to be very durable. Cestari claims to be durable. Because the sweater was going to get a work out from all that hiking, it had to be machine washable. Cestari is superwash. Finally, I couldn't ever imagine wearing Rogue without something on underneath. It looks like a sweatshirt to me. I intend to wear it like a sweatshirt. As a result, softness was not high on the priority list when I was selecting this yarn.

Things to know before rushing out to buy this stuff I loooove cables!
* Cestari feels oily or waxy when knitting. I believe this texture exists because the wool is not overly processed and it still has a lot of lanolin in it.
* Cestari yarn feels stiff coming from the skein and the fabric produced is very stiff. However the stiffness goes away when washed.
* Cestari contains a lot of vegetable matter (i.e. pieces of grass). The vegetable matter can be picked out easily, if you wish.
* Ordering directly from Chester Farms can be an adventure. I suggest calling them rather than using their online order form. (However, the toll-free number did not work for me.)
* Cestari is a bargain: 210 yards, worsted weight, 100% superwash wool for $5.99

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Machine Washable Purple Sheepies!

I abused my Cestari swatch. I really abused it. But it didn't felt! At least it didn't felt completely. There was a definite loss of stitch definition.


Yes, I know this photo would be much more informative if I had bothered to take a BEFORE photo. But I didn't take a before photo because I wasn't thinking straight because I am suffering from a bad cold. (A bit of TMI: I haven't gotten out of my PJs for three days. But I have showered!)

The cold also caused me to abuse the swatch much more than I would abuse a sweater made from this yarn. Method of Abuse #1: The yarn manufacturer suggests using soap and not detergent* for washing. Well, I only have detergent and there was no way I was going to the store in my PJs to buy laundry soap just to wash a tiny swatch. Method of Abuse #2: A four-inch swatch all alone in a big washing machine? How would that prove anything? Let's throw two towels in with the swatch! Method of Abuse #3: I completely forgot to set the machine on the delicate cycle. Oops. (Did I mention that I was sick?)

Look Ma! No felting!Despite all of this abuse, the swatch was the same size after washing as it was before washing. (After air drying). And I was able to undo the cast-off edge and pull out some stitches. Sure I had to use a little more pulling force than I would have if I hadn't thrown it in the wash, but the stitches still pulled out pretty neatly.

Final verdict: If I hadn't been such a doofus, I'm sure this swatch would have come out beautifully. However, it is good to know that I can abuse this yarn without a complete disaster happening.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

*For you science geeks and curious folks: Soaps and detergents are different creatures. Soaps are water-soluble potassium or sodium salts of fatty acids. Detergents are mixtures of surfactants. Surfactants are made in a similar way to soaps, but other hydrocarbons are used instead of fatty acids. Because of differences in the chemical make up of detergents and soap, detergents are usually better for use in hard water. Also, commercial laundry detergents contain other types of chemicals that help clean clothes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Not My Secret

Gimme!When I last talked about my secret knitting, several of you had the impression that it was my secret. It isn't. That is, I'm not designing anything. I am simply providing the hands and the needles for a designer. I will not be revealing the secret. The secret is hers and it will be revealed in due time. And when it is, I will let you know.

I reached the end of the secret knitting and I am shipping it off along with all the extra yarn *sob* today. The pretty, pretty silk was used for some I-cords and a bit of trim on the main part. (Fear not, designer! I pulled the I-cords away before Scout got to them.) The I-cords will be attached to the final piece, but the designer wants to attach them herself. I don't feel like I can show you any more of it. Believe me, this is a cute little piece.

Anyway, as sad as I am to see the pretty yarn go, I'm also happy to be back to my own knitting. Right before I got the call to knit the secret project, I ordered some yarn for Rogue! Look! It's not pink! Or red! And do you see that thing sticking out of the end of the skein? Believe it or not folks, that is the center end of the center-pull skein. No fishing around in the skeins for the ends. Now, why can't other companies be so kind? Would it really be that hard?

What is this? Stuff on my cat?

Oh yeah, it's Cestari 2-ply wool. It is supposedly naturally superwash. I intend to test that. Swatching will commence soon today. Hopefully, Rogue won't require the size 8s that are currently in the baby blanket.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Fredericksburg: Quaint or Annoying?

This past weekend, Peter and I went to Fredericksburg, TX to attend a wedding. Fredericksburg is a town located in the Texas Hill Country. The Hill Country is a pretty part of Texas covered with rolling hills and dotted with small, touristy, and supposedly quaint towns. Fredericksburg had the appearance of quaint, I don't think they pulled off quaint very well. More like snooty and pretentious to me. Store and stores of useless trinkets and high-priced junk often labeled as "collectables" and "antiques." Not really for me.

Would you like some jam with that?But there were some fun things in Fredericksburg. Rustlin' Rob's was a crazy, but tasty place. Seriously, you could eat enough there to replace an entire meal. They had samples of EVERYTHING in the store. Every room had counters lined with open jars of food and huge baskets of crackers. Most of the products were made locally and there were several unique-to-the-area products such as prickly pear jelly and honey butter in many flavors.

And of course, I found the only yarn store in town: Stonehill Spinning. The store started as a spinning and rug hooking store, but expanded to include knitting, crocheting, and needle felting. They didn't have a huge selection of yarn, but what they had was nice: lots of Wool Pak, Classic Elite, some Brown Sheep, and some Recycled Sari Silk. The store was a bit dark so taking photos was not easy.

Doll-sized hanks of yarnThey also had some Mountain Colors in both worsted weight and sock yarn, but what they had on hand was mostly dark colorways and I didn't like any of them. However, they had a big basket of mill ends from Mountain Colors. It contained mini balls and mini hanks of different kinds of yarn produced by Mountain Colors. Some balls were large--probably 50 yards or more, but some were tiny--no more than 5 yards. The store sells these mill ends by the ounce and their customers use the mill ends for trimming knitted pieces or for making patchwork-like pieces. The shawl in the photo was made from mill ends of one type of yarn.

Stonehill also sold yarn hand spun and hand dyed from the fleece of angora goats raised locally at El Coyote Ranch. This yarn was very lovely. I wanted to buy some grayish-blue mohair, but only one hank remained and I wanted to have more. The same was true with some handpainted mohair/wool. I guess I just happened to arrive at the wrong time. I left with two hanks of violet 100% mohair. I'm not sure what I will do with it. Perhaps a lace shawl. (Peter says, "Do you really need a shawl? What are you going to with a shawl?") The tag on the yarn shows the pride of the person who spun and dyed the yarn.

How undignified! Now I'm just a yarn prop.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The coolest blanket ever

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:Pretty, pinkish, and pointy
1. It's circular blanket that does not start from the center and does not increase to a million stitches.
2. It's essentially reversible and I love blankets, shawls, scarves, etc. that are reversible.
3. It has a knitted on lace edging that isn't knit separately and does not require picking up a million stitches.
4. It knits up quickly. If this were the only thing that I was working on, I could probably finish it in less than a week.
5. The pattern is easy to memorize, yet knitting is not boring because the short rows keep you on your toes.

Seriously, this may be the best baby blanket pattern ever. The only problem that I have with the blanket is that the points on the edging are not laying flat. At first I thought they were curling because I was binding off too tightly. But binding off loosely didn't help me. Blocking might help me to get the points flat initially, but because the yarn is an acrylic/wool blend, I think the points are destined to be curly. Once mommy throws the blanket in the washer, all blocking magic will disappear. But I don't think the baby will care at all!

Didya see?
The little dog toy I made is on Annie's blog! (Dec 14th entry, I can't figure out how to link directly to that entry.) I think she forgot that I knit it for her because she didn't mention me :( But I have proof that I made him! Apparently, he's gotten a hair cut since I last saw him.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Knitting Backward Tutorial

I know that there are several online tutorials on how to knit backward, but mine is different. My tutorial doesn't have photos and it doesn't have photos for a reason. Humor me and read on.

It's no secret that several styles of knitting exist: English, continental, combined, American, etc. On top of that, each knitter actually has his or her own style. No two English knitters hold the yarn the same way, move the yarn the same way, and move the needles the same way. So, instead of me showing you how *I* knit backward, I'm going to teach you how to teach yourself to knit backward. This method is more intuitive than following photos or diagrams and is the way that I taught myself to knit backward. You can also use this method to teach yourself how to purl backward.

What is knitting backward? To me, it means that I am doing a "purl" row in stockinette with the knit side facing me. Instead of the moving the stitches from the right needle to the left needle, I'm moving the stitches from the left needle to the right needle.

Why knit backward? When a pattern requires a small number of stitches to be worked in stockinette, it can be a pain to be continually turning the work. I knit backward when doing entrelac on Lady Eleanor. Those wanting to knit the Lady, Danica from the new Knitty, or the Ruffles scarf from Scarf Style may find knitting backward to be helpful.

Set up: Cast on a bunch of stitches and knit a row.

Step 1: Turn your work so that the purl side is facing you. Stick the RH needle into the first stitch as you would normally do when you purl. STOP! Keeping the needle in place, turn the work around so that the knit side is facing you and you are holding the needles comfortably. (That means you'll have to switch the needles in your hands).

LOOK at the needles. Stare at the needles. Memorize how the needles are positioned. The way the LH needle pokes through the stitch on the RH needle is the way you need to insert the needle when knitting backward. Remove the LH needle and reinsert it in the stitch so that it looks the same as before. Do this a few times. Teach yourself how you have to move the needles.

Step two: Turn your work around so that the purl side is facing you again. Stick the RH needle into the first stitch as you would normally do when you purl. Wrap the yarn around the needle as you would normally do when you purl. STOP! Keeping the yarn and needle in place, turn the work around so that the knit side is facing you and you are holding the needles and the yarn comfortably.

LOOK at the needles and the yarn. Study how the yarn goes around the needle. Look at the needles from above if that helps. Memorize the position of the yarn and the needles. Unwrap the yarn and rewrap it a few times. Learn how to move the yarn. Then, remove the LH needle from the stitch completely, insert it into the stitch as you did in step one, and wrap the yarn around the needles. Practice the entire motion a few times.

(You know where this is going, right?)

Step three: Turn your work around so that the purl side is facing you again. Stick the RH needle into the first stitch as you would normally do when you purl. Wrap the yarn around the needle as you would normally do when you purl. Pull the yarn through the stitch, but do not remove the stitch from the needle. STOP! Turn the work around so that the knit side is facing you.

LOOK again. Practice pulling the yarn through the stitch (I just kept undoing the stitch and redoing it until I got the hang of how to move the needles. For me, this was the hardest motion to figure out.) Once you learn how to pull the yarn through the stitch, start from the beginning with the knit side facing you: insert LH needle into the stitch, wrap the yarn, and pull the yarn through.

Step four: You know what to do now :-) Repeat step three, but pull the stitch off the needle this time. After you do the first stitch, try working the next stitches without turning the work to the purl side. If you forget a motion, turn the work to the purl side to see what has to happen.

Learning to knit backward is simply a matter of teaching your hands to move in a new way. The process is similar to learning how to play an instrument. When learning to play the cello, I had to teach my fingers and arms to move correctly. That required a lot of repetition of the movement. Learning to knit backward easily and with a good tension required the same practice. So, I suggest casting on a lot of stitches and knitting all the stitches backward so that you practice the same movement over and over again with little interruption. Then, you can do it on your project! Happy Backward Knitting!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

K2, P2, K2, P2, . . .

The moment that my holiday knitting wrapped up, I started on two new projects. (Ok, I really started on one first and then started the other the next day.)

The first project is a bit of a secret, but you will see it eventually. I'm not sure when. It involves a heck of a lot of ribbing, thin yarn, and tiny needles. I'd go batty if the yarn wasn't so wonderful to work with:
rib a little, rib a lot
100% Merino and 100% silk. Mmmmmm! I haven't gotten to the silk bit yet, but I'm looking forward to it. The front of the work has some very clever shaping and I know it's going to be a cute piece when it is finished. Once it is out there in KnittingLand, I'm sure a ton of people will love it, but I'm not sure how many will actually knit it. All that ribbing combined with the thin yarn may be a bit off-putting for the knitters to which this design will appeal the most. However, it isn't as slow knitting up as I thought it would be. In four days, I have knit about half of the entire project.

My other project is a baby blanket for coworker Kelly's baby. This is the first blanket that I have knit for a baby whose gender is known in utero. Everyone else wants their baby's gender to be a surprise. So, I finally get to knit a blanket with girly colors. I hope the Kelly's doctor read the ultrasound correctly.
Looks like a big slice of pie! says Scout

The pattern is Oat Couture's Pinwheel Afghan. I found this pattern while looking at the Curlicue Coverlet that Grumperina recently wrestled with. I bought both patterns back in September figuring that I would make Pinwheel for Kelly's baby and make Curlicue for my next niece/nephew, assuming that my brother would get his wife knocked up again. Well, I didn't have to wait long for the knocking up. Big brother and wifey are expecting their second baby in May. Gender unknown--of course!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Finished Object Frenzy

Let me start by saying that some of these projects have been going on for some time now. I did not knit all of these in one week. (Though, I did knit some of these in one day.)

FO timeline

Thursday, December 1st: Berkshire Breeze
Friday, December 2nd: IK Heart Sachets from yarn left over from my socks.
They don't smell like feet
Sunday, December 4th: Lady Eleanor and another Instant Gratification Scarf. The scarf is for a colleague.
A super quick gift
Monday, December 5th: Santa Hat
Ho Ho Ho
Santa Hat specs: Pattern from Handknit Holidays knit with Encore Chunky in red and Rowan Big Wool in white-ish.

I saw this hat at a LYS knit in the recommended yarns. The pattern calls for some Blue Sky yarns, that would have cost me about $50 at the LYS. That wasn't going to happen. It's a SANTA hat! It will only have a couple weeks of use each year. I was even reluctant to use the Rowan, but I didn't have much choice for super bulky white yarns.

As you can see, Christmas trees (or "holiday trees" if you prefer) are great for holding up handknit items. All those spiky needles grab the knitting and keep the knitting in place. Hanging my knitting on the tree reminds of the Christmas trees in the Little House on the Prairie books. In those books, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes that the presents were actually hung on the tree itself and not placed under the tree. Can you image someone trying to hang an X-box or a bicycle on a Christmas tree?

What's that you say? You want to see the hat on me? Ok.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole: Finished!

First of all, THANK YOU everyone for your kind words about Berkshire Breeze. I am considering my options for the pattern. But I am also very busy right now, both with regular work and knitting work. I have landed another knitting job and that is taking precedence over everything starting tomorrow. So, you probably won't see anything on the pattern front until January at the earliest.

And now, on to the good stuff:

I like my new blanket! says Scout

Pattern: Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole from Scarf Style
Finished size: 24 inches x 73 inches blocked (20-ish inches and 63-ish inches, unblocked)
Yarn: SWTC Karaoke in color 281 (Bloom colorway) 11 balls
Needles: US size 9
Cat: Scout
Modifications: Because Karaoke has a smaller gauge than the suggested yarn has, I added a repeat to insure that the stole would be wide enough. I also knit more tiers than what was written in the pattern to get the length I wanted. I omitted the fringe because I want this to be a "casual" stole and the fringe seemed to make it dressy.
What I love:
Once washed, the fabric has an incredible drape.
2) The gradual color change of the yarn yielded single-color rectangles. I have only one rectangle that has an abrupt color change. That was where I changed from the first ball of yarn to the second ball. After that, I made sure to match the colors when adding a new ball.
3) warm and cozy and nifty looking
What I don't love:
1) It has mistakes. *gasp* Here is a mistake that happened when picked up too many loops when I was picking up stitches. Normally, the crazy perfectionist in me will force me to fix all of my mistakes. But laddering down is not an option in entrelac, and correcting mistakes that happened the tier below requires a lot of ripping out and reknitting. On three occasions I was too lazy to make the corrections. On other occasions, I was obsessive enough to rip out as much as two tiers of knitting in order to correct a single mistake.
2) It a bit longer than I wanted it to be.
3) I am incapable of capturing the true colors of the stole with my camera. It is much more richly colored than it appears in these photos.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Lobster Story

Not so smellyMonkee gave me a tatted lobster. Why did she give me at tatted lobster? Two reasons: first, I wanted one. Second, I told her the lobster story. Of course, the only reason I wanted the tatted lobster in the first place was because of the lobster story, so I guess the lobster story is actually the only one reason why I was given this cute thing.

When my brother and I were young, our parents liked to take us on long, educational family trips. When I was eleven and my brother was twelve, we went on a road trip from Iowa to the East Coast. My best friend, Margaret, went with us, too. On this trip we visited New England, the Washington DC area, and Pennsylvania.

In Mystic, Connecticut, we had lunch in a seafood restaurant by the water. My mother ordered a lobster.

[Side note of explanation before we continue this story: This took place YEARS ago. At that time, fresh seafood was not very readily available in Iowa. For most people, “eating seafood” involved either dining at Long John Silvers, baking fish sticks, or catching fish in a lake.]

None of us kids had seen a lobster before and we found it fascinating. Margaret in particular was enthralled. Mom entertained us by doing her best to keep the shell intact while she ate the lobster. When Mom was finished, Margaret asked if she could keep the shell. Although Mom, Dad, and the waitress all found this request very funny, Margaret was given a paper doggie bag in which to store her “treasure.”

The first few days with our lobster friend were quite fun. Margaret, my brother, and I would put the pieces of lobster shell together and make up stories about the lobster in its previous life. But soon, despite Mom’s best efforts at washing the shell, our little lobster friend started to smell. A lot.

The poor lobster became too smelly to travel in the car. But Margaret still wanted it and my brother and I believed that getting the lobster to Iowa was of utmost importance. So we strapped our lobster (still stored in the paper doggie bag) to the luggage rack with the luggage. And when we stopped at a hotel, we three kids would hide the lobster somewhere outside on the hotel property. Obviously, it could not come into the hotel with us. The lobster traveled with us in this undignified way for more than a week.

Sadly, our dear lobster did not make it all the way home to Iowa. We forgot to retrieve it from his hiding place when we left a hotel in Ohio. Maybe it was better that way. I’m certain that Margaret’s mother would have tossed that smelly thing in the trash as soon as she got home. Hopefully, the lobster decomposed and helped fertilize the grass by the hotel. (But more likely, it was crunched up by a lawn mower or dug up by a passing animal.)

To this day, my brother and I snicker whenever lobsters are mentioned. Every now and then I send him a lobster-themed gift. But he’s not getting my tatted lobster!

Knitting update: Lady Eleanor is blocking. She's huge.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Berkshire Breeze

Mine! All Mine!

Pattern: Berkshire Breeze by Laura (hey, that's me!)
Size: Laura-sized
Yarn: KFI Angora Extra (70% angora, 25% wool, 5% nylon) in red, 7 balls (color is off in these photos. The true color is shown better in this photo.)
Needles: US size 7
Reason for name: The scarlet leaves reminds me of the autumns that I spent in the Berkshire Mountains while attending Williams College. The "Breeze" part refers to the lightness of the sweater and the fact that the lace makes wearing the sweater a little breezy.
What I like: Bunny Yarn! And the fact that it turned out the way I envisioned it and it fits me very well.
What I don't like: The sleeves are a bit baggy in the upper arms. But this yarn is unfroggable, so no corrections will be made.
Why you won't see this in Knitty: Because you're seeing it here! By posting the photos of this sweater, I broke Knitty submission rule #1--don't blog about it. (That's a paraphrase of the rule.) I'm not sure if Magknits has such a rule. After all, they published Picovoli/Tivoli after the Tivoli pattern had been available for awhile. But in any case, the dates for winter submissions for both magazines has passed. If I tried to submit this sweater pattern now, it wouldn't be published until next year.
Why the lace doesn't go all the way up: Because I didn't want to show my bra to the world and because I felt the lace would be ruined by the decreases for the armholes and the neckline.
Preemptive strike at answering questions:
* Yes, I will write up the pattern (I even have a test knitter lined up).
* No, I don't know when the pattern will be available for all of you.
* I don't know if more than one size is forthcoming. However, Laura-size may fit larger than Laura-sized people. I didn't want this sweater to be too tight on me--I'm not that kind of girl. (Also, this fabric has a drape that wouldn't really lend itself to a body-hugging sweater. At least I don't think so.)
* Yes, it's very fuzzy and warm.
* No, you can't have it.
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