Monday, December 27, 2010

Yet Another Christmas Spoiler

You know the drill--a Christmas gift is revealed in this post that hasn't been given to its recipient yet. Up to you if you want to look further or wait...

Alright, so I told you I started a gift on Christmas Eve and now I can tell you that I finished it!

The yarn is a 50/50 wool/alpaca blend (Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light). It's nice but if pressed I'd have to admit it feels a little "hairy." (Not quite "itchy," mind.) I don't think it can be worn tight around the neck, but loosely draped it feels fine.

Although the feel may be rated as average, the colour is stunning. It's called Prune Mix which is a fairly accurate description of the purple as far as words can describe colours. The "mix" part of it contains spots of yellow, bright blue, red and orange. They really are spectacular. I think you can see the little yellow fibers and maybe spots of blue in the above pic.

The pattern is the Honey Cowl that I made recently for Red Purl. This version is a little narrower and possibly a little shorter. I cast on the same number, but I did use one size smaller needle because I thought it was more appropriate for this yarn.

Because I didn't want to include a long instruction manual with the gift, I'm going to spell out the wearing options here:

1. Long scarf: one loop around the neck:

2. Cowl: two loops around the neck:

3. Folded in half, wrapped around the neck with one end looped inside the other;

4. Oh, and not pictured, is the option to wrap it over your head and then around the neck, but I only recommend that in "cold weather emergencies" as it looks a lot like a babushka.
(Not so hip these days.) But warm. So use as deemed necessary.

Well, if you're reading this, Recipient of the Scarf, I hope you like it. All the rest of you, I hope you're not too disappointed you didn't get it! That's how it goes, I guess...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Gifts Unveiled

Well, by now the people getting them have opened their gifts which means I am free to show them off...

Glovember really must have inspired this year because once I got started on gloves, I couldn't stop!

The first pair were giving to my MIL. I converted a fingerless mitten (or "wrister") pattern to gloves. (And I'll repeat that I will be posting separately on how I did that.)

I first fell in love with the yarn of deep purples and reds; I had only the vaguest idea of what it would be used for when I bought it, but loved it enough to take it home. Beyond the colour, it knitted up beautifully. A yarn like that deserves a simple pattern so it can show off without any competition.

I decided on Laura's Ribbed Mitts by Carrie Barraco (Sorry it's a Ravelry download only as far as I can tell.) I liked the simple 6x2 rib pattern and the organic way the thumb gusset was formed.

But fingerless wouldn't do!! So I continued the thumb to full length and added fingers in stocking stitch. (I just kept the purl rib on the outside of the first and pinkie fingers. Just for something.)

The other modification I made, for those who are interested, is to stop the thumb increases early. The gusset and thumb were getting way too big, so I only increased to six stitches the second time instead of 12. I know, this only makes sense if you're working on the pattern, but there it is for those of you who are.
Project Stats
Started
: 14 Nov '10
Finished: 8 Dec '10
Pattern: Laura's Ribbed Mitts by Carrie Barraco
Materials: Fleece Artist Nyoni (wool, mohair, nylon, silk)
(<1 skein) $15.90
As with the Green Thumb gloves, I did the Kitchener stitch at the top of the fingers. It worked even better on the stocking stitch here than it did on the ribbed fingers of the Green Thumb pattern. But honestly, if you don't like doing Kitchener, I don't think it would be worth the extra trouble. (And I know there are plenty of you out there that hate to Kitchener.)

The gloves were a pleasure to knit and very good for hauling around.
Next, are the "trouble makers." Oh yes, I told you about them--they were the ones that went flying across the room. Well, I finally got them licked into shape (so to speak). They are modeled here by the recipient, my FIL:
I started with the fingerless pattern, Tony's Cashmere Scarf and Gloves by Christ Abbott (again, only available as a Ravelry download). I then added a half thumb, half fingers for pointer and index fingers, and then a single section for the ring and pinkie fingers.
They kind of look like they were made for an alien or one of Jim Henson's puppets, but it makes sense. Anything you need to do with your hands, you can do with your thumb and first two fingers. Pretty much. So why make the last two cold for no reason? And if they're together, they can keep each other warm. It's very cozy.

Project Stats
Started
: 9 Dec '10; Finished: 19 Dec '10
(not counting the numerous mis-starts)
Pattern: Tony's Cashmere Scarf and Gloves by Christ Abbott
Materials: madelinetosh tosh dk (terrarium), 1 skein $22.00
The main pattern of fisherman's rib is wonderful in gloves. It is stretchy to fit, but doesn't get stretched out. It's also very three dimensional which gives you some extra cushion between you and the cold world.

The wool is very nice. One of the new madelinetosh that Amy had at the Red Purl. It's machine washable--very important for "working" gloves. And the greens and browns are so lovely even Troy spontaneously commented how gorgeous the wool is. While being very manly, of course. The colour I mean, not Troy. Well, Troy's manly too, of course. Anyway, you know what I mean!

I worried some about the fit at first, but decided the stretch of the pattern would be sufficient to make up for any sizing problems.
And, indeed, the fit was fine.

In the end, I did use the Turkish (tubular) cast on for both gloves. The result was excellent and far too good for me to get out of doing it on other projects. I'm sure the more I do it, the easier it will get, right? Although I think the biggest obstacle may just be the ease of doing something familiar and habitual. And that is no reason not to do a different [better] method!!

And there you have my secret Christmas projects for this year. Well, except the one that I cast on yesterday. I might get it done on time since I have a week until I'm seeing the person it's for.

Now, I know that casting on a Christmas present on Christmas eve may seem an awful lot like a bad case of procrastination, but it's really not. I only started it because I had done so well on the rest of my gifts that I wasn't burned out. And I'm putting no pressure on myself to get it done. If I don't, I'll give the original gift I had ready. If I do, this person will get two gifts. So of course, that is nothing like procrastination. And what's a knitter to do when she is looking at the last four days of her five-day weekend with no new projects!?

In any case, it's time to sign off. Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Travel Day

Today snuck up on me. I knew I had to travel to O'Hare to pick someone up. After much internal debate, I decided to take the Coach bus up and back. You know what that means, right? No driving and all knitting.

Well, since my holiday projects were finished (on time--yay!), that didn't leave me with any small projects going. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. (much earlier than normal, in case that's not obvious and 1.5 hours earlier than I needed to) and the question in my mind: What am I going to bring to knit today?

Big dilemma.

I debated many smaller projects I could start, but knitting in public is best done on a project that you have a good handle on. So I decided to drag along a big project, the Summit shawl. I know the pattern well enough and since I'm knitting the short rows in reverse, I don't have to flip the project around after each row. Much less disturbing to anyone sitting beside me.

On the flip side, it's quite big already and bulky. I wanted to limit myself to one bag (versus my usual three). I grabbed a big one, but the shawl still took up most of the room:
Does it look like you can put anything else in that bag
once the shawl's in there?
And then, I didn't actually make much progress. On the way up, I discovered someone I knew on the bus and we talked all the way up. It was a little crowded and I didn't want to pull out the knitting.

I arrived just in time to meet the flight, so no knitting while waiting.

But then I "lucked out" and we had to wait about two hours for the bus home. I made some progress there.

On the ride home, Isaac and I had a little more room so I pulled out the knitting...only to take a little nap.

By the time I set to it again, it was getting dark. (And the driver somehow did not divine that I needed lights because the overheads remained off.) I, however, am married to a flashlight fanatic and had a new one in my never-too-full-for-one-more-thing bag:
It's a very clever little light designed around a 9-volt battery. And very bright despite its tiny size.

I put it in my mouth which lit my work perfectly, but that is not a sustainable position. (Sore jaw and drool becomes a problem.) Then I tucked it under my chin, which also lit my work well, and also is not a sustainable position. (Sore neck.)

Then I tucked it into the cuff of my left sleeve which worked surprisingly well, which is noticeably not "perfectly well." But I can make do. And I did.

I almost got 1.5 pattern repeats done. I really pushed it at the end, trying to finish the last one, but when the bus gets to your stop, you have to stop knitting and get off.

It's been a while since I've written about this project but I have been working on it in between other stuff.

Somehow it seems to be simultaneously very long and not long enough. I guess I will keep going until it seems long enough, whenever that is. Because guess what! I answer to no one as far as my knitting is concerned. I can knit on this thing until I think it's long enough. Whether I want to or not.

Wait. Something about that logic isn't right.

I'll have to think about that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Glovember Wrap Up

Due to an oversight on my part, I had a chance to finish my Glovember gloves this week. You see, I forgot my Christmas knitting at a friend's on Monday. They returned it to me on Wednesday night, but they neglected to bring my pattern and notes (I choose to believe that they think I am so good I don't need patterns and notes--ha ha). I didn't get them back until Saturday so that was almost a week without that particular knitting, which left time to work on other neglected items.

The Glovemeber gloves seemed an easy choice: They didn't need much to be finished; I could use them immediately; I was impatient to show them to the friend that gave me the wool. Plus I pretty much do what I want and answer to no one as far as my knitting is concerned so if that's what I want, that's what I get.

In any case, they were finished very quickly once I applied myself to them again. And I did get to show them to my friend today and she recognized the wool immediately. She greeted them with the delighted question, "Oh, so it worked!!?" Yes, the wool "worked." Ha ha. I shouldn't tease her, especially in public like this, but apparently I can't help myself.

The wool is delightfully "squishy," especially in the rib pattern which makes them even thicker. Maybe "plush" is a better word than "squishy." But they're good, in any case.

I really liked the pattern. The leaf detail at the thumb is perfect.
Very clever designer to use the increases of the leaf to form the thumb gusset.

Project Stats
Started
: 7 Nov '10
Finished: 16 Dec '10
Pattern: Green Thumb by Diana Foss (available here) $2.50
Materials: James C Brett Pure Merino (2 skeins) (gift)
The major change I made was to add fingers to the pattern originally designed as fingerless mittens/gloves (or "wristers"). I have developed a method to convert patterns and will post it sometime in the near future in its own post. It is very handy to be able to convert the many cute fingerless patterns as their usefulness is very limited, and I also like to have a hoard of warmer items.

A new method I tried on the fingers of these gloves was to decrease the stitches down to eight and then Kitchener them together. This is gives a "flatter" finish at the top compared to drawing the end through the final stitches. A basic finger shape isn't really a round cylinder; it's more like a flattened cylinder, so I thought I'd try it. (I'm pretty sure I read about it on the oft-cited TechKnitter's blog.) Her theory was that it would produce less bulk at the finger tips.
Can you see in the picture that the stitches "roll" over the top of the fingers from inside to outside? The fingertips fit fine with this method, but I'm not convinced it's much better than the regular method.

I've been wearing the gloves for a couple days and have really enjoyed them. The thickness makes them warm. I can't wait to finish a hat to match.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Grinch is Alive and Well

Today we had a little Christmas get together at work. The people who only work one day a week came in and naturally we full timers were already there. And we received the gift cards from our boss that we had told him we wanted three weeks ago (and some of us even picked up our own and dutifully turned them in to the office to be handed out at the appropriate time). We didn't give him gifts because he doesn't like Christmas and apparently has never used the gifts they've gotten him in the past. (Even practical stuff like t-shirts--and he does wear t-shirts.)

And we exchanged gifts. Instead of going into a full blown rant about these obligations, maybe I'll just copy the description of my project that I wrote in Ravelry. I think you'll get the idea:
Gifts for co-workers, needed in a rush.
So you start a new job, and the first Christmas rolls around. A Christmas party gets scheduled, and then cancelled, and then you find out that doesn't apply to the "smaller" party in the office. (What office has two Christmas parties?) And then you find out everyone else has already gotten gifts even though all these months all they've been talking about is that they don't get gifts for the boss because he's not into Christmas. And you realize your plan of just skipping out on the whole gift thing isn't going to work. And then you search for patterns grumbling a little about how disproportionately much trouble "little" gifts cause. And then you find out that the "smaller" party has been moved a week closer because of someone's schedule and now you need 4 "little" gifts in 5 days. (And guess what...the rest of your life isn't going to stop because you need 4 "little" gifts in the next 5 days.) Grumble grumble grumble. (I should have just knit a grinch for myself and called it good.)
Now that I got that off my chest, I'll tell you that each gift took 1.5 - 2 hours. Think of what you make per hour at your job, or at a previous job if you're not working right now. And ask yourself: would you spend 1.5 - 2 hours of your wages on gifts for co-workers who are friendly enough at work, but not your friends? Grumble grumble grumble.
Why didn't I just buy cheap ornaments made in China? Good question.
Grumble grumble grumble.

And what did I make? These adorable mini stocking ornaments: (pattern link)

Bad news? I didn't get to keep any of them.

Grumble grumble grumble.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Cast Ons

Just a warning...more Christmas presents shown in this post. I don't, however, reveal all so it's really just a little peek. You may decide if you wish to read on...

I won't tell you exactly what this project is but I wanted to write about it because it is the first time I have done the Turkish (or tubular) cast on.

I took my directions from the TECHknitter. (I love her work.) Her diagrams and pictures are well worth looking at.

I should have actually used her directions for the Turkish cast off for my last pair of socks but they were sort of done under a deadline (it was the last day of Socktober) and I was too lazy at the time to learn something new. But it was the perfect situation as the socks ended in 1x1 ribbing and the top of socks need to be stretchy, which the Turkish cast off is.

But anyway, enough about when I didn't use the technique. I decided to try it on ...well, on this current project. It is a little fiddly, as TECHknitter promises, but it can be done. She also recommends not doing it in the round because she doesn't think it's worth the extra fiddling. Of course, purist that I am, I did it in the round anyway:
Well worth the fiddling!
It's called a tubular cast on because you make a tube out of the stitches. You do a provisional cast on, then knit the stitches as if you were doing double knitting. And then once you've done a couple rows like that, you start knitting all the stitches in a 1x1 ribbing. The knit stitches are the stitches you were knitting on the front side; the purl stitches are the stitches you were knitting on the "back" side, so to speak. End result, you have stitches that continuously roll from front to back and there is no binding thread or chain at the cast on to keep the stitches from stretching.
It is very stretchy, and yet recovers very well so it doesn't stay stretched out.

I will admit that it is more time consuming and takes some concentration, but it is definitely a step in taking one's knitting to the "next level."

Now about the yarn, I bought it because I couldn't resist the colours. A very nice mix of purples and reds. A little more lively than the subtle shading on my Firestarter socks.
It's Fleece Artist Nyoni which is a mix of wool, mohair, nylon and silk. Fleece Artist is a Nova Scotia company so I have to admit I'm biased toward them, but they do make some really nice stuff. It's been a pleasure working with this yarn.

And another yarn I couldn't resist taking home with me is this ball of madelinetosh tosh DK (colourway terrarium):
I was making something else with this. Another project in which to use the Turkish cast on. After a few inches, I realized it wasn't working so I frogged it all. I was too demoralized to do the Turkish cast on again and used my dependable cable cast on. I kept at it even though it became obvious that the cable cast on was not nearly as good.

Then about half way done the project, I realized I was reading the chart wrong; I had to frog 3/4 of what I had done.

I reknit it using the right chart and got back to the same point again. It then became very obvious that it was way way too big. Time to frog again. But by then I was so angry I threw it across the room, much to Troy's surprise. I thought it was a perfectly logical reaction given the circumstances.

Both these projects were in time outs at that point. (I won't get into it, but the first project had its own hurdles.) I have since sorted out the first project and it is humming along again. Once it is taken care of, I think I will be up to the task of attempting the second project for the fourth time. This time I will take the pattern recommendations on needle sizes with a large grain of salt. And I will read the right chart. And I will use the Turkish cast on.

And I will hope it all works out. Troy doesn't like it when double pointed needles are flying across the room.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Card 2010

Ok, here's your warning. The gifts mentioned in this post are going to be given to people who may or may not be reading this post. If you think that might be you and you don't want to know, you should just carry on to the next blog. If on the other hand you don't mind possibly knowing ahead of time (after all, you won't know for sure if it's for you), then read away. It won't bother me...

This post will also be a little preview if you get a Christmas card from me. Some of you have gotten yours already, and the rest are still in the mail. I got mine out on the first of December this year!

I gave you a tiny preview the other day of the post card quilt I made. Here it is completely revealed:
I laid it on a piece of black velvet and this picture became the front of my card.

The original card was mounted on black velvet and then framed.
The last couple years, I just mailed the card as a postcard, but this year I wanted to do a little more. (If you're wondering about the size, the card is just a bit bigger than 5x7 and it is an 8x10 frame.)

The second card which didn't get picked for the Christmas card also found a lovely frame:

Merry Christmas, to all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yup, Slippers Make my Feet Happy

 I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Slippers make my feet happy.
I put out a call on Facebook a while ago for slippers. (A shameless plea; it really was.) I really need them. My floors are rough on socks and the temperature is too too cold for unprotected feet. And I just couldn't find time to knit myself a pair. So I put out the call.

And my wonderful "little" sister came through for me.
Aren't they darling? I didn't think too much about what colour they might be, or what pattern they might be, but when they came, they were perfect. You know, I've knit more than a dozen of these slippers and taught a class on them, but I've never actually had a pair of my own!!!

Thank you, Patricia!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kaffe Fassett Quilt Progress Update

I was determined to make time to quilt over this long weekend. Thursday was a write-off between church and dinner. (And they were both well worth it; don't get me wrong.) And the same is more or less true of Sunday. But I figured Friday and Saturday--they could be designated quilting days. I was fired up.

But before I get to that, I need to introduce the newest member of my "toolbox":
Yes, a couple months ago I bought myself an extension table for my sewing machine. It makes a huge difference for larger projects and especially with free motion. I have been loving it!

I had one of the the three pieces* of my quilt marked for the large circles. I first sewed in the long direction, curving one way and then the next as I went down the quilt:
They're a little hard to see, but you should be able to make out
the hourglass shapes on the yellow squares.

Once that direction was done, I went across the short way:
Now all the curves "connect" and make the circles I was after. This quilting was done in red thread so that it would stand out a little more. I did all the stitching with my walking foot and it kept all the layers flat and where they should be.

Here's a wider view: (you may want to click to embiggen)
Once those curves were done, I turned my attention to the red squares. I switched to free motion and just outlined the main circle design in the square and then traced whatever shapes I wanted to inside the circle.

It was nearly impossible for me to get it on camera, but maybe you can get an idea from this:
Then I started to run into trouble. My upper thread kept splitting and after restarting a bunch of times, changing needles and cleaning the machine,  I decided it was time to bring it in for its overdue service and cleaning. So I brought it to the shop this afternoon and hope that they will fix what is wrong.

Meanwhile I was happy with what I got done. I also got a pretty good idea of how much time it's going to take. (Too long to get it done in "one big weekend" but not so big that a few good sessions won't get it taken care of.)

And now that my machine is in the "shop," I can turn my attention back to gift knitting. (I might give you a sneak peek later...)

__________________
*I have divided the quilt top into thirds and will be quilting it in pieces and then joining them together at the end, following methods of Marti Mitchell.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Scarf of Options

I finished the Honey Cowl in good time. (It involved putting aside some holiday knitting and my grey tunic, but I am hoping to be able to make up time on those.)

The weight and texture of the cowl are very nice. It has enough stretch for something which needs to be pulled over your head. The width (about 7 inches on mine) gives you plenty of coverage around your neck without too much bulk.

I find the cowl very versatile.

The simplest way is to just hang it around your neck:
Project Stats
Started
: 19 Nov '10 Finished: 23 Nov '10
Pattern: Honey Cowl by Ann Maria for Madelinetosh
Materials: Madelinetosh Pashmina (1 skein)
Good for days when the wind's not too bitter. It could be worn outside the coat (as seen here) or easily tucked inside.

You could cover the back of your head and then pull an extra loop around your neck:
Handy if the temperature drops suddenly or you have to spend a longer time outside than expected.

But I have to say my favourite way is just a double loop around the neck:
It's still not so tight as to choke you, but gives a nice bulk and heft around the neck. Probably wouldn't work inside a coat, but worn on top of a collar it works nicely.

Any way you wear it, the right and wrong side of the fabric will show. Fortunately, the "back" looks just fine. (In the picture above, the bottom-most fold shows the right side, but the next one up reveals the wrong side. Looks fine to me.)

And let me say again, this colour is just gorgeous: "Baltic Blue." I'll drown in that any day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Showing Your Pattern Who's Boss

But before I get to the "bossy" part, let me tell you what I'm working on.

Amy, at Red Purl, asked me to knit a shop sample from the new line she's carrying: Madelinetosh. I have heard many a gushing comment on the web/Ravelry about 'Tosh so I said, why not? (I mean, I have all of 5 weeks until all my Christmas knitting has to be done, right? ::groan::)

The pattern, Honey Cowl, is designed for the Tosh DK, but Amy wanted it in the Pashmina. Fine with me, because in the Pashmina the lovely wool is blended with even lovelier cashmere and silk. (How decadent is that!)

Amy let me pick the colour; she had four. And, well, let's face it, there wasn't a bad one in the bunch. A gorgeous dark red ("Tart" I think), a goldish/redish mix "Amber trinket" (hard to describe but beautiful), a deep semi-solid blue "Baltic Blue" and a goldish colour.

Of course, she thought of me immediately when she saw the "Tart" (because of the colour, not the name!), and I did love it. But I decided on the blue. It's deep deep deep and you can get lost in it. I thought the slight variation in colour would work well with the slip stitch pattern. And after knitting a bunch up, I think I was right!
I cast on Friday night and put in some serious knitting time over the weekend. I'm at about 7 inches or so. The pattern says to go until it's 12 inches wide but Amy wants me to just knit as far as I can with one skein. We'll see how far I get.

Meanwhile, the yarn is just wonderful to work with and feels really nice. Not that super soft that makes you weak at the knees, but it feels like it will wear well and last over time.

Now, about that "bossing the pattern." Since that pattern is free and I've linked to it I don't think they'll mind if I describe the stitch pattern. Rows 1 and 3 are just plain knitting. Rows 2 and 4 alternate Purl 1 and slip one (with yarn in front).

Now purling is not so bad, but knitting is easier. And I remembered a technique I had read about once which would let me knit all the time. (I've since traced it back to a post in Fleegle's blog which I found through a link on the great TECHknitter's blog. Fleegle's blog is apparently also great but I haven't explored it much so I can't say that from personal experience.)

What is this great method?

Sorry, before we get there, let us first review a simple fact about knitting: The knit stitch and the purl stitch are the same but are reversed from front to back. In other words, a knit stitch is a purl stitch from the other side; and a purl stitch is a knit stitch from the other side. So when you are supposed to purl, if you could just work from the other side, you could knit and it would be the same thing.

Ok, now for the meat of it:

Row 1 you knit as directed. When you get to the end of the round, you are here:
The right side is facing you.
Normally you would pull the yarn in front and start purling. But what if you tried to just turn the work around and knit?

Then you are here:
The wrong side is facing you.
Now one option would be to start knitting "backwards" (from left to right) and that would get the job done. But it's slower, awkward and hard to get an even tension (for me anyway).

So what you do is work with a second yarn. See here I have the yarn I just finished knitting with on the left. And a new yarn attached on the right:
Now you can drop the first (left) yarn and just start working with the second yarn:
This has you going in the right direction and lets you "Knit 1 and slip one (with yarn in back)" instead of the "Purl 1 and slip one (with yarn in front)". When you get to the end of the round, turn your work, drop the working yarn and pick up the yarn you had dropped previously.

You go through the whole project alternating working yarns and changing directions. It works brilliantly. Since you're changing yarns every row, there's no line of carried yarn up the back and I think the "seam" is no more obvious than what it is in "regular" knitting in the round. (There's always some sort of jog in the pattern at the "end of round" changeover point.)

Why does it work?? Well knitting in the round is actually knitting in stacked "spirals." Usually all the spirals go in the same direction. (For a visual, Grumperina's diagram on this post might help.) But there's no reason you can't interlace two spirals going in different directions. That is what we're doing by turning the work over.

Simple. Ingenious. Not my idea. But I love it.

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I Say! or at least I did once...