Why this journey?

I've been retired now for over a year. Husband has been sick but is now doing quite well with new pacemaker. I continue to knit and knit and crochet. Recently I became friends again with my sewing machine so you will see some of those projects, too. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Detour -- quilt under construction

Decided to take time from the knitting to finish the binding on a quilt.  The design, Dan's Climb, is by Heather Spence of Heather Spence Designs.  Heather set up a group on FB and 65+ quilters paid a nominal amount to receive weekly clues via email.  Proceeds were given to cancer patients, to help them with extra expenses due to treatments, etc.

Great idea and great pattern.  Heather is revealing another Mystery Quilt for early Spring 2012.  If you want to participate, go to her website or FB page and follow the links.  Heather Spence Designs

If you are a quilter, you know that binding a quilt is no easy task.  It takes a long time.  Sometimes it feels as if the binding is taking longer than the cutting and piecing.  I didn't want to leave this one sit for too long; it will look nicer on the bed (and I will feel much better about the time already invested if I look at it there instead of in the UFO pile.)

This view shows the collection of fabrics and colors.
Also, you can clearly see the wonderful
pantograph that Heather used when she machine-
quilted it for me.

When a quilt is removed from Heather's magical machine and loving hands, it's almost ready to bind.  There's still some cutting and pressing and sewing.  Thanks to her wonderful PDF download I was able to make my way thru the precise steps to create a wonderful and professional binding.   I've been quilting longer than I've been knitting, but some steps are learned at a much later date.

The pins are holding the binding strip to the wrong
side of the quilt.  The fabric to the left of the binding is
the backing; on the right side is a close up of
one of the fabrics in the quilt top.

Heather stitches together "creativity and love" -- really.  She's a master at her work and you can count on her service and quality.

One more picture shows the combination of front fabrics, backing, and binding.  I'm going to enjoy seeing this one on the bed for Spring.

Heather and I decided on green for the color of the
quilting thread.  Not sure you can see it, but the addition
of the green makes the flowers and pattern bloom.

I'll be taking another detour during the Spring of 2012 to watch Heather's next design unfold.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cirque du Soleil

If you've seen Cirque you know about the contortionists, the Chinese women who can tie their bodies in knots and stand on their head, as in put their feet on top of their head.  Amazing feats, all.

I think that knitting 2-at-a-time using the Magic Loop method simulates the contortions of the Chinese acrobats.  The method is fabulous because you can complete two of the same (or even different) things at the same time.  This means that you work on pairs, like sox or hand-warmers, as pairs instead of as individual items.

But you pay a price, just as surely as the contortionist, no matter how well trained, must feel aches and pains (and BTW, who of us has ever seen an aged contortionist?)  In the case of this knitting method, there's lots of twisting and turning.  You must carry and keep track of (and try not to tangle) two balls of yarn.  At the end of each 'row' you must slide the work and the needles to re-position everything for the next row.

I've cast on and knitted about 10 rounds of a second pair of hand-warmers, this time using the Magic Loop method rather than DPN (double pointed needles.)

The pattern is called "Wave" (from 101 One Skein
Wonders.)  In this foto you can see both hand-warmers.
The one on the right is next in line for knitting.

Getting started is a contortion trick, too.  My way of maintaining order (as well as my own sanity) is to cast on the 30 stitches to one DPN.  Then I can reposition each half of this count (15) correctly onto the long circular needle.  Looks like this.
Hand-warmer on the left and hand-warmer on the right.
Two balls of yarn.  If you look closely, maybe even
consider counting, you'll find the total of 30 stitches per
hand-warmer divided in half -- 15 on the needle lying
toward the bottom and 15 on the needle lying toward the
top of the picture. 

Knitting the first few rows of all projects takes a special form of patience -- one I've often wished I could transfer to other life situations.  Careful, watchful, a bit tedious, slow and steady.  Just a few of the adverbs that describe the action of "knitting the first row in Magic Loop method."

I recommend you try watching a few videos on YouTube.  Books are good, but the videos have the advantage of a pleasant teacher-like voice describing each step while you watch.  You might wanna begin with your needles and yarn and work along with the teacher.  Knit Picks has a wonderful tutorial if you wanna go step by step from pictures and words.  Knit Picks Tutorial.

Here's a few more pictures that try to tell the story of these hand-warmers as they are progressing.
About half way thru one half of one row.  The black
cord holds the stitches that will be knit 'on the way back.'
You can already see the ribbing offset that
makes the wave
The other pair, the cranberry colored ones, didn't take long -- and each of that pair was knit separately, (starting at the bottom and finishing at the top) before the second one was begun.  Used DPN for that pair.

Not sure I'll be able to compare either the process or the time-to-completion.

I am sure that Magic Loop is magic but requires more than a sprinkle of magic dust or a few abracadabras.  Somewhere along each row I'm un-contorting my yarn or needles.  Takes a few rows to get my feet to stand on my head.

Try it -- the world (and knitting) take on a completely different look and feel when you're standing on your head.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

You can't roller-skate in a buffalo herd . . .

. . . and you can't knit while driving.  Lakewood to Portland in a horrible rain storm; trucks splashing up water and visibility poor.  No knitting.

Finally last night had time to finish the Andean Silk scarf that matches the hand-warmers.

Even had time to weave in those pesky tails.  Feels good to be finishing some of the UFO's.

This pattern works out so that the scarf has good
texture on both sides -- no 'right' or 'wrong' side.

But of course I have also ordered yarn for another shawl.  I reckon I'll slip this transgression into 2011 and begin anew with a solemn vow to finish the two sweaters in my project bag before I buy supplies for another new project.

Except those gloves are calling me.  And I need them for driving.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting to the point . . .

Got there!  Finally finished the third repeat of the first pattern set on the white lace shawl.  Definitely a milepost.  Then the pattern said to switch to a needle size one larger than the one with which I began the shawl.  I started with ad US6 so at the eyelet row -- new pattern set -- I introduced the larger needle.  On the first right side row of the eyelet pattern I began with the new and larger needle.

The red pen is pointing to the last of the chevron points
from the first pattern lace chart.  The row of holes
just above the black needle cord is a row of eyelets.

After the chevrons, the next lace chart begins (and ends) with eyelets.  These are a series of right and wrong side rows that create hole in the fabric, on purpose.  An eyelet series is a good way to learn to add stitches (yarn over) and take away stitches (knit 2 together, K2tog).  The adding and subtracting happen one right after the other and repeat all across the row.

See the holes?  They are shown from top to bottom of the
picture near to the stripe on the angel's robe.  This section
of lace is just beginning.  It will have another pattern of
holes that make flowers with petals and then a
final row of eyelets.

The "change to the next size needle' is not unusual in shawls and other lace knitting.  Bigger needles make bigger stitches so naturally the shawl will grow in size.  This shawl pattern will up-size needles 2 more times.  The last lace chart will be knitted with lots of holes that will appear to be random.  You'll have to wait and see, as will I.

Here's a view of the US6 (now empty) and the US7 (with shawl stitches on the cord between the two tips) and a pencil to give you an idea of relative size.  The last needle I'll be using will be bigger than the pencil.
Size US6 is rosewood; tips and cord are from Knit Picks.
The green plastic tip is from a set from WEBS.
Both work wonderfully.
Under the rosewood tips is the dark pink cord that
joins one tip to the other.  You might want to knit around
and around with these needles or you can just treat each end
as a straight needle and knit back and forth in rows, which
is what I am doing with the shawl.

Circular needles are long cords connecting needle tips.  If the needles are interchangeable, then the tips can be removed and replace by a needle tip of another size, or joined with a longer or shorter cord.  A good set of interchangeable needles represents the very essence of flexibility.

The white shawl is coming along quite nicely.  I'm enjoying it and so far am quite pleased with the outcome.  There are lots of stitches at this point, at least 125 per section.  I'm making three sections so, do the math, that's 375 stitches (and counting) on the long cord between needle tips.

Lots of stitches mean lots of knitting.  One of life's important lessons, I think, is the idea of "less is more."  In lace knitting, especially with shawls that 'grow,' this lesson must be put aside.  And especially in this shawl, when even the number of needles that are used is a total of 4, rather than the usual, maybe, 2.

Less is more might work for shampoo dosage, or pairs of sox, or cars in the garage, or cats in the house.  But this time the rule doesn't apply and the shawl is lovelier and lovelier for having broken all the 'rules.'

Monday, December 26, 2011

Turning the corner

The variegated cowl has turned the corner.  If you remember it began with a triangle, starting with only 3 stitches.  The pattern stitch is very similar to a Fisherman's Rib, but not quite.  Get the pattern at Bernat, knitted cowl, using Bernat Mosaic.

After the triangle reached a specified measurement along one side, the pattern changed so that one side continued to add stitches while at the other end of that row the pattern takes away a stitch.  In just a few rows  you can see that this is process has created a rectangle -- which means you've turned the corner and are now working the length of the cowl.
All the color waves show in this view, plus the emerging
rectangle.  I'm still knitting across the diagonal of the
rectangle, adding a stitch at the beginning of the row and taking
one away at the end of the row.
For recall, here is the triangle where the journey began --

Eventually, I'll have to join the second ball of Mosaic yarn, as one skein is not enough to complete the project.  At that point I'll probably have to unwind the new ball to reach the point where its color wave corresponds to the color wave at the ending of the first skein.  I guess you could ignore this step, but the result would be a clear demarkation between the two skeins of yarn and right in the middle of the cowl.  Not something I would choose to interrupt the stitches and design of the cowl.  But it's a choice.

The measurements of the cowl are a bit unusual, mostly because there's no obvious place to measure, given that you begin with a triangle and then work on the diagonal of a rectangle.  The 'long side' must be 28" before I reach the end of the rectangle and begin the process to take away stitches, reducing the fabric to another triangle.

The empty needle is lying along the 'long' side
of the knitting.  The needle measures about 14".  The
instructions call for this 'long' side to be 28" so I reckon I'm
just over half way there.
This one is fun to watch as the shape escapes from the needles.  It's a bit difficult to envision, like statues sculpted from blocks of stone.  Apparently, Michelangelo could 'see' his final product -- David or the Pieta -- 'living' in the block of marble before he began with his chisels. 

Would that we each had a better sense of how decisions and choices would turn out, that we might envision ourselves along a path of life and understand better the outcome?  On the other hand, that might be  both boring and predictable, removing all the excitement of life.

The unknown is a great place in which to have a journey.

This cowl takes you gently into the unknown -- it's not that scary, really.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reality cannot be ignored

Sometime on Thursday I reckoned with reality -- a couple of the Christmas scarfs are not going to be finished for package-opening day.  With that nugget of news, I sat down to make some progress on the white lace shawl.  I wanted to get an idea of just how much knitting is ahead of me.  The best way to get a glimpse of that knitting future is to finish a total repeat of the pattern for a triangle shawl.

During this process the pattern is adding stitches so each row has just a few more stitches than the row below.  Since this shawl is three sections, making half of a hexagon, each right side row adds 6 stitches.  It's very 'comfortable' knitting -- the first pattern is easy to remember and, importantly, easy to correct on a subsequent row when I realize I've missed a yarn-over (add stitch) or knit 2 together (take-away) on a previous row.

Here's where I am now -- finished one repeat of the first pattern, with one more to go.
Santa is standing just to the left of the second point.  There
are 16 rows in the repeat -- 8 right side and 8 wrong side.
At the end of this section of knitting, I'm to the top of
a second point after the original diamond shape.
The knitting bowl is a wonderful companion.  I think wood items are soothing and calming.  They come from trees and I love trees -- trees are strong, sturdy, endure and survive despite storms (in most cases).  And they give us such beautiful and useful things, like houses, cedar trunks to store treasured sweaters, and knitting bowls to keep our unruly ball of yarn both tidy and available. 

This shawl pattern, from Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace, has one extra instruction that puts it in a category all its own -- the shawl is knitted with three different size needles.  I don't mean that you start with a short needle and then need a longer one.  Though that's true (to hold all the stitches), this shawl begins with a US6 and then progresses thru a US7 and finally a US8.  Well, those are the needles that work with the yarn I'm using; may be different if you select a finer or bulkier yarn.  

Santa's red pencil is pointing to the
next section of the pattern, which I will
begin after I complete one more set of the
rows that make the point.
When it's time to begin the next set of pattern instructions, called a chart in this case because it's not in words but in a diagram, I will remove the US6 points on the long cord connecting them and replace with US7 points.

This is the wonderful thing about interchangeable needles.  Mine are from WEBS and Knit Picks.  No, can't mix between the sets.  Why two manufacturers?  Well, WEBS introduced their set with more tips at a very favorable price.  Knit Picks introduced theirs with three tips, one each in wood, aluminum, acrylic.  Gotta try it all to decide what works best . . . and what I can afford.  

Enuf about that.  

I'm thinking about all the knitters who just know they won't finish that last gift item.  One blog even had a draft note to include, something like "sorry I didn't finish, but I'll deliver the finished scarf/hat/mittens/whatever right after the New Year."  The idea is that you planned this for the person and picked out the yarn and pattern.  And when you worked on it you thought about them.  

So whether it's finished tomorrow or the next day, the gift will always carry all of the knitter's careful work and a piece of the knitter's heart.  Both show the recipient they are a treasured person.

Try to find a minute or two to knit during the next few busy days.  All knitters know that knitting is soothing to a frenzied spirit -- and I think we are meant to have a quiet spirit during this special time.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

Now the 'real' fun begins . . .

I finished the last Level I swatch last night.  Swatch 6.  I skipped over it several times, unintentionally, and then got so caught up in projects that I kept setting it aside.  Decided, finally, to finish it so I could complete the knitting phase of the Master Knitter designation, Level I.

Remember those mistakes?  Those swatches I knit without carefully following the directions?  I needed the yarn so I unraveled a couple of them and spent some time restoring the yarn.  I used the rejuvenated yarn for Swatch 6 -- Lifted Increases.

Started with 15 stitches, added one each side on
every OTHER right side row 5 times.  Ended with 25 stitches.
The small holes extending below the green bead are
the added stitches.  They will be less visible after blocking.

After unraveling, I dunked the yarn in cold water, strained it, rolled it in a sham-wow, and then laid it out to dry.  The yarn has to be wet to remove the shaping formed by the stitches you've unraveled; it looks like ringlet curls until you put it in cold water.  

Here's the wool I needed plus some white cotton yarn I unraveled from two false starts on a shawl.

It's wet, really drippy wet.  I put it in a strainer to let as much water as possible drain away.  The weight of the water can stretch the yarn, so I want it damp, not dripping when i finally hang it to dry.

Looks a bit like pasta, huh?

A bit of cream wool (top, center) drying with the
white cotton, both on a hanger.
It hung for at least a week or more like that.  Until last night when I decided I needed to roll it into a ball so I could knit with it.
Rudolf, you've made a real mess of that yarn.  

Finally sorted it out.  Much easier since twas just a few yards of wool.  I would have taken much more care had it been an entire skein (which I've done!)  Once it's wound into a soft ball, I can keep it tidy in my new Knitting Bowl, a Christmas gift from a very dear friend who 'gets it' that I really really really love to knit.

Partially completed Swatch 6 with restored yarn in the
Knitting Bowl.  Rudolf standing guard.

The real fun(?) begins with the next part of the process -- the paperwork.  The swatches and the paperwork will go into a 2" binder when all is done.  Each swatch must have an accompanying page with details about yarn, needles, and references I used to work the required stitch combinations.  Then a research paper on blocking (steaming and setting the shape of the final pieces), and finally a set of questions and answers about each swatch.  Lots of paperwork.  

I haven't figured out how to knit while I type.  So each bit of paperwork means no knitting.  

Well, not exactly no knitting -- isn't that a double negative or something?  Anyway, I think it means I will be knitting, just not on hats or swatches.  Goodness knows I have lots of UFO's and plenty of yarn heading into 2012.  And I'm makin' my list and checkin' it twice -- so I can Knit lots of things Nice.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cowl -- maybe Brioche?

In the stash I found two skeins of Mosaic by Bernat.  Really nice color waves from light gray thru several shades of blue and teal and into brown and rust.  Calling my name, you know.  What's a knitter to do?

Also saw a post on Google+ from a knitter who woke up to the call of the brioche stitch.  What a gal!  She's clearly hooked on knitting, probably has yarn in her veins.  The mittens she showed were so grand that I went in search of brioche knitting for YAP (yet another project.)

After reading and research about brioche knitting I decided 'not now.'  I just couldn't sort it out.  I wanted something that was a quick study so I put the several books aside and opted for a more direct approach.

I picked up the Bernat Mosaic and went to their site for a free pattern.  It's a lovely cowl and -- wait for it -- the stitch pattern is a version of brioche knitting.  It's very close to something called Fisherman's Rib, stretchy, soft, pliable, and feels like a couple of layers though it's only one layer of knitted fabric.

You can see all the colors, though only the gray and blue
shades are knitted.  The brown and rust are hiding beneath
the Rudolf antlers and bells.

The ribbing stitch is basically 2 rows with 'just plain knit' for every other row.  On the 'active' row, the ribbing is formed by knitting into the stitch below the one on the needle.  Here you can see how this technique makes a relatively large stitch; the stitch that falls off when you knit below creates the sense of 'extra layer.'  It's quite wonderful.  Would make a grand scarf.

The silver needle has been slipped under the long stitch.
Using this is a guide you should be able to see
the column of 'long' stitches above and below.  Also,
a column to the left.

I went back to the research because now I'm really curious.  Decided to search for "brioche ribbing."  Bingo!  Got to a site by the Queen of the Brioche Stitch, Nancy Marchant.  And one of the versions of brioche is ribbing, but it's called Fisherman's Rib.  The cowl above is almost a Fisherman's Rib; close enuf that I can now take what I know and search some more.

You had to know this would happen:  I bot a book.  Yes.  I bot the seminal text, by Nancy Marchant.  Went right to AbeBooks and ordered it there.  This pattern stitch is so wonderful I can hardly wait to try some of the other variations.

Bernat pattern is at this link:  Mosaic Cowl (Knit).  And here's what it looks like after I downloaded it to iBooks on my iPad (where I keep oodles of knitting stuff, like patterns and websites, magazines, and notes to myself.)

Pattern is on one page with 2-bar indicator showing, which
means it's not the easiest of patterns but not too difficult
for a newcomer OR someone who wants to learn a
new stitch.  
The designer doesn't call this Fisherman's Rib, cuz it's not quite FR.  Instead it's a row of knit stitches followed by a row of P1, K1B (Knit one below).  The cowl begins with 2 stitches and soon I'll have the base triangle and will branch off into a rectangle.  You'll see.   At the end I'll sew the short sides together and make it into a donut/cowl.

I reckon this is what makes me a knitting geek.  I had great fun discovering the details behind what I was doing in this simple pattern.  And the journey of discovery brought me to an expert, Nancy Marchant, and to the joy of conquering a new-to-me stitch.  Geeky?

Now wait just a minute!  That journey of discovery isn't geeky at all, no not at all.  Discovery is available to all of us wherever life has planted us.  We don't have to love knitting; maybe we're crazy about restoring vintage cars, or remodeling our bathroom, or creating a rock garden or signature recipe.  And we search and research and with hard work (and some serendipity) we find others who can help and mentor us plus materials that we will use for the next car/recipe/garden/bathroom.

I think this isn't geeky.  I think it's what makes us curious humans and I'm really glad for all the curious humans who've preceded me.  I wouldn't be typing a blog on my Mac if not for the journey of discovery of one Mr. Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Neener neener -- two hand warmers

Yup, finished the other one.  No "one hand warmer syndrome" for this knitter.  Something wrong with the pattern, though.  Went to the publisher's site and found the link to corrections.  Sorted it out and now have two hand warmers, a matched set.  If you use patterns from One Skein Wonders make sure you check for corrections online.  It's a big help and good insurance.

This is a good example of the wave stitch, a modified

Will wrap these with the scarf, no matter its condition:  complete or work-in-progress.  At some point you just gotta call it 'good to go' and put it in the gift box.  Scarf is a portable project because the item itself doesn't need more room than my lap provides and the pattern is 4 rows of knit and purl combinations, easy to memorize.  The pattern is also easy to 'read' from the knitted item.  Even if I am not sure where I left off, the knitting itself will tell me.  I can see the stitches made when I completed the last row of knitting and that's the best clue to the stitches required for the next row.

Here's a picture of the scarf.  It looks good on either side, so there's really no front or back side.  It's about 15" long at this point.  I want it to be much longer.  At least long enough to be able to wrap once or twice around the neck.  The yarn is so soft and combines wool and silk, so will be a great insulator against wind or cold.
Those needles are the best.  Aero from England.  I bot
them in New Zealand many years ago.  The yarn slides nicely
without being out of control.  These are 6mm or 10US.

The scarf pattern is at this link:  Universal Scarf.  Designer calls for 18 stitches using needles suggested for the yarn you select.  I wanted something a bit wider so added stitches in sets of 3.  Working the pattern does require some attention.  It's a rib, sort of.  But it's a combination of K2 p1 and then P2, K1.  So it's not symmetrical for your brain.  It's much easier to get your brain around two of each type of stitch OR one of each, but mixing them is a cognitive challenge now and then.  Try it and you'll see what I mean.

Meanwhile I've also begun a wonderful cowl.   It's Mosaic by Bernat. And I picked up another ball from the stash, leftover from a sweater and tried it on the cowl pattern.  Can't decide which side is which, if you can believe that.  It looks very close to Shaker Knitting and maybe Brioche stitch -- but not quite.  Still it's interesting.  Here's the leftover yarn sample.
Just a bit of the beginning -- I'll keep going just to get enough
'fabric' so I can decide if I like the yarn in this stitch.
Back to the hand-warmers -- I'm getting ahead of myself.  I have another ball of Andean silk in the stash, in cream.  May try the Magic Loop method and finish both of them at one time.  Lots of loose ends and two balls of yarn to manage.  And I have only one ball, which means right away I have to re-wind and separate.    I might try pulling one thread from the outside of the ball and the other from the inside, but that can create such a tangle.

All of these wonderful projects and more are wandering around in my brain.  I have toooo much yarn and toooo many ideas.   But I'm having sooooo much fun.  The couch is covered in books and knitting tools.  The coffee table is strewn with scissors and bits of yarn and another book.  I've made this wonderful knitting nest for myself right in the middle of the room.  How great is that!?!?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Embellishing the Hat

Remember when I said the hat was a done deal?  Well . . . it wasn't, not exactly.

Lots of finishing 'chores' to do --
  • Weave in all the loose ends on the back side
  • Finish a top-knot thingy for the crown of the cap
  • Add reverse crochet to the edge of the hat
The top-knot thingy is made of I-cord.  Check YouTube for instructions here.  I decided to make several bits of cord and then loop them in and out of one another as I attached each cord to the top of the hat.  And of course I had to use all three colors that appear in the stripes.
Three different cords, using either one or two colors per cord.

The I-cords look like this.  The solid pink one is already attached to the hat.  The other two have loose threads at each end which I will weave from front right side of the hat to the back to attach the cords to the cap.  (Of course, this process also adds to the number of loose ends that must be woven into the backside to anchor and hide all the threads.)  At the same time I will interlace the cords so the top-knot thingy is interesting and unique.

I-Cord, using DPN and 3 stitches.  Check Nancie Wiseman's
book of Finishing Techniques.  Great book.
I didn't like the bottom edge of the cap.  Just the edge of pink ribbing and it seemed boring.  So I got out Nancie's book and looked up "reverse crochet."  It's a weird stitch because you work it around the edge sort of behind yourself.  Check it out on YouTube where someone will have all the details.  Here's a link to Reverse Single Crochet.

Needs to be steamed a bit but I like the look.

I can now say, truthfully, that the hat really is a done deal.  I have the pile of orts to show for it.  Nancie's book is indispensable, with clear pictures.  Each technique has a list of pros and cons which can help you decide if that technique will work for your item.  Exceptional book, perhaps one of the very best I've ever added to my resource shelf.
My scissors, darning needle, and pile of thread ends
after completing all the weaving in.
The scissors in the pocket are in the cover photo.
My scissors, from Germany, are almost buried in the
pile of thread ends.

Sure am glad this one's finally really over.  It's cure and colorful, but that last bit of work -- weaving in and embellishing -- is just plain tedious.  Nancie even suggests a glass of wine to help the chore seem less a chore.  You gotta do this part or you'll never have a finished item.  But it's my least favorite part of the process.  I think most knitters will agree.

This bit of tedium is right up there with scrubbing grout in the shower -- nothing much fun about it except for the anticipation of a finished, hand-knit item and/or a very clean shower.  Good things come to those who can outlast the tedium.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Matched Set

As it says in the pattern intro for these fingerless gloves, they will keep your hands warm while you are "typing or knitting."  These are Andean Silk from Knit Picks, alpaca, silk and merino.  This yarn is just splendiferous -- there's no other word for it.

Finished one.  This is a test -- now that the discovery is complete (new pattern, new stitch combo, etc.) will I be an adult knitter and cast on for the second one.  Will I knit to the completion of a second hand-warmer?

The thumb hole was simple.  Bind off 4 stitches and then
cast them on again in the next row around.
Challenge is to keep with the wavy pattern, an offset rib.
Background is the mohair scarf in Darliss' yarn, pattern
from Whit's Knits at Purl Bee.

Pattern from One Skein Wonders, by WEBS, in NH.  This is a another favorite site for me.  I like the extensive offerings of yarn from practically all makers and all weights and styles.  The sales are really good if you follow them on Facebook.  WEBS

Yes, the second hand warmer IS on the needles, along with a matching scarf.  Here's all three together with the elves (who, sadly, do not knit . . .)
Completed handwarmer at the top (with the nutcracker in
the thumb spot.)  On the gray needles a scarf.  Santa is
resting in the beginning of hand warmer 2.
Love this scarf pattern and have made it once before.  It works well on variegated or solids.  It looks good from either side and the selvedge (edge) stitches keep it flat so it doesn't curl up into a tube.  It's the Universal Scarf from Interweave.  Free pattern.

Use any needle size suggested by the weight of the yarn.
I'm using US10 (6mm) with a worsted weight that's
just a bit fluffy.
The magic of the pattern is that 18 stitches will get you a scarf that's wonderful.  I wanted something just a bit wider so added stitches in groups of 3 (the repeat part of the pattern.)

The collection will keep the recipient warm, even in a cold office while typing or phoning.  And texting will be easy since fingers are available.  The hand warmers work up very quickly since they are on a larger needle (US8/5mm) and the thumb hole is just a big buttonhole.  Bind off 4 stitches and on the next round put them back on.  Nothing elaborate; the wavy stitch pattern speaks volumes.
Details show the wave.  Clever stitch pattern:  P2, K4 for 4 rounds.
Then offset the same stitch repeat by shifting things just one stitch.
Works very nicely in the round.
In between wool knitting I returned to the pima cotton white shawl and added another repeat of the initial pattern over the shoulders.  It's even more satisfying than I remembered.  It's moving along nicely; another couple of pattern repeats and I can begin knitting from the second chart of delicate lace.

Celebrations!  I found my favorite little ruler.  Yes, it was stuck in a book as a place-holder.  I think it was in the Sowerby Victorian Lace.  See, there's a great reason to keep multiple projects on the needles:  when you return to one that's been idle for a bit, you discover you're close to a next fun pattern and you find an accessory that you suspected of having run off with the missing needles.  Some people's knitting stuff . . .

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crochet Lace Scarf

What is it with me and lace?  Lace knitting and now lace crochet.  I like watching the pattern develop and I like the delicate look at the end.  This one is a long, long center panel (1 row repeated row after row after row), with borders crocheted around the long skinny rectangle.
Variegated yarn worked out just fine, though I was a
bit on edge about it at first.

The pattern is from Interweave, but not free.  It's called Emerald Scarf because it's shown in -- wait for it -- emerald green.  Designer Tracy St. John lives in Montana and I'm betting some reader out there knows her.

Stage by stage you can get an idea of the structure.
First the long skinny rectangle, crocheted back and forth across the short side until the long side is either a) as long as you want it or b) as long as you think you can stand to do another row or two.  Lots of yarn required so I made this one shorter and eliminated a couple of borders.
By this point the rectangle is about 4 1/2" wide.
I didn't count the rows but there are at least 160.   The final
interior base rectangle is about 48" long

Don't break off the yarn, because at the end of the last row of the base you turn and crochet up the long, long (and getting longer?) side of the rectangle.  This process takes you all the way around to the point where you began the journey . . . so you can begin again.
Here I am just finishing the second trip around the rectangle
base.  First round was a series of loops (the darker stitches
to the left of the hook.)  The second round is hdc (crocheters
will 'get it') in the loops.  These stitches appear on the left
edge and to the right of the hook.
And because I do not have enuf yarn for all 6 rounds around, I decide round 3 will have to be the fini of this scarf.  I begin -- and then I have to stop.  About 1/3 the way up the first long side I just know I won't have enough for even this border.  But I don't like the scarf with only the two borders.

I've been crocheting almost as long as I've been knitting (one of those "combined experience of 137 years,"  or something) so I pull this section back to the corner and devise a final border that takes much less yarn.  It's a nice finish, though perhaps not as elaborate as the original design.
This picture shows off the variegated thread, the lacy pattern
used for the base rectangle and 3 border rounds.
The last one made little open shells that resulted in a
'fringe' of scallops all around.

Packing this one into wrappings after I put it on the blocking board for overnight.  A bit of steam to even things out.  Sure wish I had a steam button for life.  Don't know about your life but sometimes a roller coaster with more gentle slopes and slides might be nice.  Well, I don't know -- boring probably.

Bundle up with your own crocheted or knitted scarf if you're a resident of the Northern Hemisphere.  If you live below the equator, add something cool and flowing around your waist while you stroll the beach or sit by the pool.  

Cold or warm, the Coming Guest will find you if you open your heart to Him.  Blessed 4th Sunday of Advent to all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Experiment -- hand warmers

That title makes me sound like a mad scientist, doesn't it?!  No test tubes or bunsen burners or toxic chemicals, but lots and lots of testing and trying and searching for answers.  Mad?  You decide.

Those fingerless gloves (aka hand warmers) were shouting my name and begging me to cast them onto needles so they could come alive.  Picked Andean Silk from Knitpicks, soft and warm, worsted weight, alpaca, silk and merino wool.  Just plain yummy!

I finally got to this point -- but only after several different approaches.  Like wandering around a new city as a tourist: you get to see a lot, but your feet can get tired and you may get lost.  Still . . .

Didn't get 'here' without some detours.  Finally decided to use
the double pointed needles (DPN).
Can you see "the wave" in the ribbing pattern?
This is another from One Skein Wonders.

First I decided to teach myself another new technique.  Great idea -- put two socks or two hand-warmers (anything that requires a pair to be knitted) onto two needles and knit both of them at once.  This is supposed to guarantee against the insidious and cruel "one sock syndrome."  Yes, I have one sock sitting in some UFO box somewhere.  Sounds like a good idea -- knit both of the pair at one time.

Two at a time technique from this book by Antje Gillingham.
The explanations are fabulous; the diagrams are clear and real pictures.
I was able to use each step to get both hand warmers onto
two needles.

But I lost patience quickly.  Each hand warmer has only 30 stitches and using this new technique I felt like I spent more time moving yarn around and untangling.  Just not worth it for this item.  I can, however, definitely see the advantage for socks with finer yarn and more stitches.  I will try it again.

Converted both hand warmers to one long circular needle and tried that.  If you wanna learn more, go to YouTube and search for Magic Loop Method.  Lots of folks can show you.  Here's what they look like on the one long needle.
Even that drove me crazy.  Dividing the 30 stitchesmeans 15 on each side.  And still, I'm managing two balls of yarn and turning the needles back and forth and sliding stitches.  Groan.  Reminded me of the afghan squares I finished several years ago.  32 squares sat dormant for at least 10 years (now THAT is a UFO, readers!).  When I realized I needed only four, yes 4, squares I took four balls of yarn and cast on stitches for each of the remaining squares.  Had to sit quietly on the couch with two balls of yarn on each side of my feet and be very, very careful every time I finished one row to turn around and go back.  The afghan is wonderful but that 4-at-a-time was just painful.

Converted again, this time to DPN -- and will do one hand warmer at a time.  It's much more satisfying.  The project is now portable -- just one ball of yarn and 4 DPN's.  The pattern can be memorized after just a row or two.  Knitting around means I only turn the entire thing about 1/3 the way counterclockwise as I finish the 10 stitches on one needle and begin the next set.
This is 30 stitches in total, with 10 on each DPN.
The needle on the right is beginning to knit off the stitches from
the needle just below.  Needles are about the size of a pencil.
US8, worsted weight yarn

I'm finally enjoying this and expect to finish both hand warmers within a few days.  The wool will make them warm and the silk and alpaca will make them soft.

The wavy pattern is visible.  You can compare the pencil
to the needles and the yarn to get an idea of the size of each.

Mad or not, this knitting geek found a way to make the project work.  This time the yarn is right for the project.  This time I learned a new technique to try again later.  

Sometimes it's valuable to be a bit mad -- pick up your sticks and try something new.  You'll surely find some sanity in the process.  Life lesson again?  Gotta take a few detours to discover your true path.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wrong combination

Sometimes I look at the large stash of yarn and see a sweater or scarf or vest.  So I pull out a skein or too, do a swatch (maybe), and proceed.  If it's a scarf, I do a lot of guessing -- which needles, how many stitches (after I figure the repeats as in yesterday's post.)

And sometimes it just doesn't work.  My local library had a copy of Knitted Lace from Interweave.  Put it on order and after picking it up from the branch near my home, I discovered -- no surprises here! -- at least 5 things I really like.  One of those is a scarf, in two sizes.

Lovely Andean Silk yarn (worsted weight) and a size US7 needle and I'm knitting.  This pattern follows a different approach:  first you knit the border sideways, starting on one edge you knit a few repeats that make points.  Then you pickup stitches along the edge of the border and knit the length of the scarf.

Words don't work.
The empty needle shows the direction of the knitting
for the points that make the border.
The needle with stitches shows the first bit of
stitches picked up from along the edge

But it's awful -- not the pattern -- but the yarn just isn't right for the pattern.  I considered changing to a larger needle but that would just make things sloppy, even after blocking.  Lace knitting should result in an item that's has nice drape but isn't sloppy like a handful of wet noodles.

Here's the book.  I still love the scarf and may check the stash for some lace weight yarn or even a DK weight, just not this worsted.  Really is a fairly easy pattern.  Would be fun, I think.

Bookmarks and yellow sticks mark the other patterns
I wanna try.  I may have to check Abe Books to see
about buying a used copy.

Still cannot find the small ruler with the needle sizer holes in it.  Tore out all the cushions from couch and favorite chair.  Cleaned out the basket of knitting notions thinking i'd tossed it in there.  Next will have to rummage thru the pattern books I've been reading -- probably used it as a bookmark.

Thought I lost my Brittany US7 needles and that would have really hurt.  They are my needle of choice for the TKGA work.  Plus they are just getting broken in nicely.  Found em in the small brown shopping bag with the three balls of yarn for all TKGA swatches.  Whew!

Still looking for that ruler.  And still looking for the right combination of pattern and needles for the Andean Silk from Knitpicks.  Maybe the fingerless gloves I wanna knit for myself?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One is Done -- Mohair Lace Scarf

I am, proudly, a knitter.  I choose yarn and pattern, I cast on stitches, I knit and knit and knit and sometimes I take it apart and start over.  And now and then I get to celebrate:  One is Done.

Finished one of the four scarves from yesterday's post.  It's on the blocking board, sprayed gently with water and then steamed.  Being careful with the mohair.  I love the fuzzy, soft feel and look and don't want to ruin it by letting the water tie it in knots or -- horror -- having the steam melt the bits of nylon.

Here's a bit of the color wave as it appears on the blocking board.
Wonderful wine then teal and moving off to the left
it morphs into olive.
Olive, gold, dark mustard.  Choose your own word for
this collection of colors.  You could say this was
the color of a swamp -- doesn't matter.  Tis gorgeous.

The pattern is from One Skein Wonders.  This is a great book for gift knitting.  The items are for babies, adults (both men and women).  The suggested yarns run the gamut from bulky to fine lace.  There's whimsical and practical, and yet none of the items is taxing.  Yarn shop owners from all over the US submitted their designs for hats, gloves, mittens, shawls, scarves, bags, sox, and more.  If you really feel the need to provide warmth for a cell phone, see page 66.

This pattern is called Gossamer Lace Scarf, from Clickity Sticks in Minneapolis.  From the picture below you can see the instructions plus a drawing of the finished item.  Color pictures are in a folio in the center of the book.
Pencil markings indicate the date of my knitting and
the recipient.  The yellow stickies mark other patterns
on my wish-to-knit list.

After casting on the suggested 40 stitches and knitting till the scarf was 5 inches, at least, I was at DP (decision point.)  Clearly not enough yarn from the one skein I found in the yarn stash.  And it really was too too wide for a scarf.  More like a sort-of shawl, but not.  So, off come the stitches and winding, winding I go, wrapping the long end around the ball of yarn from whence it came.

Now, how many stitches will make it come right?  The answer lies in some doodling and thinking and a bit of adding and subtracting.  It's a great way to begin the process of understanding lace while adjusting it to fit the size you want the item to be.  Here's my notebook and pen, showing the quick chart (vertical hash marks and "O's" for yarn-overs, with slash marks representing Knit 2 Together.)
When I'm done with this doodling, I have discovered
a) how many stitches repeat themselves across (12 in this case)
and b) how many extra stitches are at each end to finish off the design
(16 in this case.)
And finally I discover that if I use any multiple of 12 stitches (like 12, or 24, or 36, etc.) PLUS the 16 edge stitches, I will have exactly what i need to make the pattern work out properly.  I already know that 24+16 = 40 is tooooo many stitches -- that's the number called for in the original directions.  So I 'jump down' to 12 + 16 = 28 and that's what I used.

Worked out perfectly.  Scarf is on the blocking board.  Design is wonderful with the yarn I selected (which sometimes doesn't happen -- an example later.)  I'm moving on to the next scarf.

BTW:  I added another one to the list.  This is like the game with team hands slapping one on top of the other in the center of the huddle.  It can go on forever unless, and until, someone older and wiser calls a halt to the silliness.

Just had a birthday, so I reckon I'm 'older' now, but can't seem to get with the 'wise' part.  I just keep buying yarn, choosing patterns, adding a new book to the shelf, dreaming about another pattern, . . . 

and . . . casting on more stitches to yet another set of needles.  According to her comment, Ludmilla does the same thing.  Projects, projects and more projects.  

I am, proudly, a knitter.  Join me in the obsession