Saturday, January 26, 2008

a boat?

ok, so i have started my experiment in crochet. the plan for the children at church is to each crochet some squares and we'd put it all together to make blankets. this is my first real attempt at making a rectangle, as you can see the two edges didn't turn out quite rectangular. should probably hold off on making that shawl next eh.

Isabella in the Ladybug Sweater

I didn't need to worry that the ladybug sweater would be too small! Here is my grandneice Isabella wearing the sweater. It should fit next winter, and maybe winter after that! (She is about 10 months old in the picture, and the sweater is size two.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

orange makes me smile, too!

According to my mom, this morning, my nephew refused to get dressed unless he could wear the orange sweater I knit him. Granted, she didn't witness this first-hand, but even if he simply expressed a mild preference, I still think it shows that he's developing good taste.

I made this sweater the summer that my nephew was born and he just grew into it this fall. There's nothing like leaving lots of room for growth. It's the Child's Placket-Neck Pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I used Blue Sky Alpaca's Blue Sky Cotton, which is incredibly soft and lovely to knit with. It's also machine-washable, which was a big plus for a project for an active baby. The buttons, which are a little hard to see, are small ladybugs.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Christmas Projects

I made several Christmas scarves inspired by the yarn I bought at "Faulous Fibers" in St. Michaels, MD, and the "Feather and Fan" pattern Hannah found for me.

First I made two scarves, one skein each, with Filatura Di Crosa "Fancy" - multicolor yarn of 60% mohair and 40% acrylic. Each only took about one week - knitting on the metro during my commute and a few hours of television. I used two repetitions of the motif, with two edge stitches on each side, as the pattern suggested. The scarves are pretty short, but they fit around the neck with just enough to hang down on each side and fold across, but not enough to tie a knot. The color changes in the yarn were fun to observe, but I had no control over them. The two skeins weren't exactly alike. The lace pattern automatically makes the ends curvy.

I had bought two hanks of Blue Heron yarn - hand dyed in Easton, Maryland - 89% cotton/11% Nylon,/367Yards each, but hadn't decided what to make with it. After the success of the Fan and Feather pattern, I decided it might work for this expensive cottony yarn and decided to make a shawl for Emily, thinking the colors were kind of African, and it might work for cool nights there, or she could use it as a throw on her couch. When I was partway into it I decided it would be too short, so I added a band made with leftover cotton yarn I had (Marks & Kattens, Camomille/ 100% mercericzed cotton). I tried knitting it double to match the weight of the Blue Heron yarn, but it didn't look right. Then I bought some hairy (feathery?) yarn called Fizz/ 100% polyester, from Crystal Palace Yarns, in a marigold orange and knit it together with one strand of the Camomille. It was perfect. I knit one band on each side and a wider band at the center with the contrasting yarns. For the width, I knit four repetitions of the Feather and Fan pattern and doubled the number of edge stitches. I was really pleased with the result.

Imade one quicky scarf for a friend that only took about 3 hours. I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped it. But it was made of one skien of "Mystery" by Artful Yarns - 40% wool/25% cotton/20% acrylic/15% nylon. 98 yards. (Much thicker than the mohair I used for the other scarves) The pattern was on the label - size 9 needles - cast on 16 stitches and knit one row. Then the pattern is a three row repeat:
Row 1: K wrapping yarn twice. Row 2: K, dropping extra loop. Row 3: K. Repeat, ending with row 3 with about 18" remaining to bind off.
The dropped loops result in very long open stitches. The scarf was plenty long enough, but pretty narrow.

Finally I was inspired by all that lace work to make a hat for Emily's African roommate Glory, who is a seamstress, and is always asking Emily about her mother. Emily says she likes hats. This is the first thing I ever designed entirely by myself! I based it on a pattern for a simple round hat in stockinette stitch with a rolled edge. It called for casting on 99 stitiches. Since I was using finer yarn and smaller needles, I figured I could start with more stitches. I found a motif in a knitting design book called "fern" with a 29 stitch repeat, so I decided to use 4 repeats and cast on 116 stitches. I used more of the leftover Camomille cotton yarn. When I did the decreases for the top of the hat, I followed the natural divisions in the patterns to make it symmetrical. I should have realized that the lace motif would make the rolled edge curvy instead of straight, but it didn't occur to me. I do like the effect, though. The hat is a little small for me, but I have a big head and Emily says Glory doesn't, so I hope it will fit and she will like it. I want to make one for myself later. It only took me one week from start to finish - and it was after I went back to work after the holidays so I was only knitting on the Metro and in the evening.

I have finished my first sock with self striping yarn I received for Christmas and am working on the second, hoping to make it the same size! I discovered the second ball of yarn was wound in the opposite direction, so the colors are in reverse order.
At the same time I'm working on a sweater made of a luxurious yarn "Starlights" by Ironstone Yarns (hand dyed in New Mexico) (Mohair/wool/rayon/nylon) I'm hoping to finish while it's still cold enough to wear it this year. I've finished the back and started on the front.

I don't think I've ever knit so many items in so short a time. This blog is inspiring.
I even got up my nerve to take my knitting (Emily's shawl, and the mystery scarf) to an off-site work retreat. When my boss saw me knitting she got out hers! One of the younger male managers pondered whether he'd have to take up knitting to get ahead in our agency! He said it used to be enough to play golf with the guys, but now he might have to learn to knit.
Knitters Unite!

finally finished!

Here is the final result from my wrangles with stainless steel yarn: the kusha kusha scarf.
I actually finished it over Thanksgiving but have only recently come to terms with my disappointment enough to post about it. I used this kit, ordered directly from the Habu store in New York, with stainless steel and mohair yarns. (I think I've already mentioned how pleased I was with the service from the Habu store, but I don't think it hurts to reiterated that it was amazing. )

Here's the disappointment: this was supposed to be another gift for another recommender and I investigated it carefully before starting. Through this investigation, I discovered that people generally thought that the scarf was too short once completed. So I knit it over twenty inches longer than the pattern called for. And yet, after felting, this is how long it is:
I think that I may have felted more aggressively than most people, but the end texture looks pretty similar to what's on the Habu site. Thinking really hard about my recommender, I just didn't picture her wearing a scarf this short. I played around with the idea of lengthening it, but I'm out of the stainless steel yarn and thought that the mohair would be too delicate by itself. (Yes, I could have gotten more yarn, but I'm not going to.)

The crazy thing about this project was that it was a huge, huge pain to knit (the yarn was really frustrating to work with), but I'm reasonably sure I'd try it again. I really like the texture of the section with both yarns. As I was finishing knitting it, I even thought to myself, "Wouldn't these two yarns make a really pretty boatneck top? Felted just a little, with a tank top underneath. That wouldn't be too bad to knit." Perhaps that shows how much I like the end texture, if I could totally forget how aggravating it was to knit. (And here I thought I was a process knitter!)

PS: I almost titled this post "kusha kusha kompleted" but decided that I'd go for an alliteration that would not make EW roll her eyes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More gifts

This is an admittedly crazy-looking creature.
It is based on the owl, Errol, in Charmed Knits, but it ended up looking a bit more like a duck, or a penguin, perhaps. I blame the beak. It was pretty fun to make, though I had to use cotton balls as the stuffing, so it's a rather lumpy bird as well. I really liked the yarn I used: blueberry Nature Spun and blue Queensland Soft Comfort Mohair. The fuzziness seemed like it made a good stuffed animal, and it also covered up mistakes! I do love fuzzy yarn for that, I readily admit.

The final gift knit from Elizabeth is this hat from One Skein Wonders) that I've been wanting to make for ages. When I realized I had some Noro yarn that was pretty close to what the pattern actually called for, I knew it was fate. The yarn I used (Noro Blossom) was actually a bit fuzzier than the yarn used in the book, so the fake cabling that came out of it is perhaps a bit more understated. But I like the columns and it was fun and not too difficult. However, there is some crazy crochet border that, as a complete novice to the other needle art, I found rather intimidating. The little that I did was pretty fun though, and I will not be so scared of the single needle work in the future! (I will note that I used perhaps a skein and a half (despite the name of the book) and even then the hat could have been longer. Also, sadly, I have no pictures of the hat! Alas.)


Full of lace-filled glee, I decided that my Peruvian alpaca yarn had to become lace gloves. I actually think that the decision to combine "lace" with "knitting fingers" was a good one, because holes that were created tended to be fairly purposeful.

The lace is a pretty simple pattern, Row 1: K, yo, k2tog (Knit, Yarn Over, Knit Two Together), Row 2: Knit all, repeat. I used a couple of different patterns as the base for the glove, and my sister's small hands helped to create the size. Besides the obvious confusion of separating out one tube into five to create fingers, I think the other difficulty I had with this project was figuring out when to start and how long to make each finger. As you can see from the picture, things got a little complicated.

It was fun, and I'll probably make another attempt at gloves, but probably not any time soon.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

what I knit for Christmas

Not much this year, as it turns out. I'll post about a Christmas-y hostess gift that I knit, but, otherwise, I only knit two Christmas presents this year. I don't have any good pictures of the one, but here's the other: a pillow for my mother. The yarn is some lovely Rowan tweed that I think has been discontinued. (I'd been hoarding it for a long time without being able to decide what to do with it....) The flower intarsia pattern is from Kaffe Fassett's Pattern Library, which I got free with Lexis points. It was even a signed copy. (I definitely think more highly of Lexis points now.) I had a lot of fun planning and knitting this pillow. Fassett's Pattern Library is a really inspiring book: 180 beautiful color charts that you can incorporate in whatever patterns you please. I'm sure it would take some thinking to figure out how to work them into sweaters and the like, but a pillow was a great easy project since it required minimal modification of the intarsia chart. It also let me practice my intarsia technique, which is definitely still a work in progress.

Here's a shot of the back of the pillow. I did the bands surrounding the buttonholes and buttons in k3, p1 rib so that it would avoid the stockinette curling while still sort of looking like the rest of the pillow. You can definitely tell that it's rib if you look closely enough, but I think it's not bad at a distance.
(My mother didn't like the buttons that I originally used so we went out after Christmas and found these to replace them.)

I'm looking forward to seeing what you all knit for the holidays!

And now it's back to the studying. Anyone want to quiz me on the federal rules of evidence?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lacy scarf

I made this little beauty with Boise Karabella yarn. At 50% cashmere, 50% superfine merino wool, it was a tactile pleasure to steal time away from studying to hold this yarn and make lace.

The pattern was surprisingly easy to follow once I got started on it, and because it was easily condensed into a 5 line chart, it was pretty portable as well.

One of my favorite things with new patterns is successfully learning new knitting skills. Perhaps my favorite new thing from this pattern was the ssk. A one-stitch decrease, the ssk stands for slip slip knit and simply means: slip one stitch (as if to knit), slip another (in the same manner), and then, insert the left needle into the two slipped stitches (so when the needles are crossed it looks like a normal knit insert), and then knit as usual. I really liked saying S S K as I completed this stitch, and while the k2tog remains a more direct decrease, I will look forward to using the ssk when I want a left leaning decrease.

The other fun thing with this pattern was using a stitch chart for the first time. I'd seen (and tried to create) intarsia charts before, but the knit chart was an intimidating creature. Though I wouldn't claim to have memorized all of the symbols and their meaning, I did enjoy feeling like I was interpreting a kind of hieroglyphics.

The other thing that I really learned how to do with this project was rip out rows without ripping out the entire project. Normally when I make a mistake, I just knit over it or try to fix it in the next row. However, when every increase and decrease and yarn over changes the shape of the lace, that method doesn't really work. Thankfully, the Karabella yarn wasn't too fuzzy for the ripping out to be confusing or sticky, and I managed to figure out which way the stitches should face on the needle. A demonstration follows. (Please feel free to say: "But that is not how I knit!" Clearly there are differing methods.)

Oh no! I slipped a stitch instead of knitting it! Alas! (This picture is actually a perfect example of why I think it can be ok to knit over mistakes. When you can't tell they are there...)

Let's say I have to take out a row and a couple more stitches on the next row to fix this mistake. For this scarf, I would take each stitch off and pull the yarn out of the loop and fit the old stitch onto the left needle one at a time.

Here are two possible ways that the old stitch could be placed on the left needle. All of the knitting in this mini-example was done in straight knit, so the first picture would be correct.

From another angle. Here the second picture is correct.

These pictures aren't the best, and in fact, an easier way to think about it might just be: "don't twist the stitch" but I find that when I've been staring at knitting (which, really, is just loops and twists) that words cease to describe anything useful and having a picture in my mind of what the stitch should look like is the most helpful thing.

The pattern for this scarf is found at