Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Simply Useful Knitting

There's all of summer stretching before me.  Based on recent history, you can bet my plans don't included blogging.  My report for the year thus far can be summed in one word: simplicity.


I've found that I will get more wear out of the simpler knits.  Too bad, because complex and colorful certainly make for more entertaining knitting to me.  In spite of planning to be more practical in my choices of pattern and color, I've still snuck in some excitement.  To the rather plain cardigan above, I added a scarf that can be buttoned on.  The concept came from the pattern, Definitely Susan.  The actual pattern I used was Post Grad.  I'm currently knitting Definitely Susan. It's another plain raglan.  The excitement comes as I replace the lace patterned scarf in the pattern with a two-color chevron scarf, from the now-classic book, Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. 


Last month, I finished the pullover in the photo above, Lilian.  In monochromatic Zara, with a few cables, it meets my requirement for simplicity.  At the same time, the modern styling, with dolman sleeves and loose-fitting body, along with the unusual construction, provided knitting excitement.


I've balanced the blandness of my sweater projects by attempting to knit up my variegated sock yarn. It seems that variegated yarn has finally declined in popularity. Self-striping and semi-solid yarns are currently the rage. The socks shown above are those I've knit so far this year. If I can keep up the pace, I'll have significantly reduced my stash of out-of-fashion sock yarn while increasing my sock wardrobe.



Finally, I produced a largish swatch for a future sweater project. The shawl above, in the Camilla pattern, uses a stitch pattern in its edging that I plan to use in a cardigan. The inspiration for the sweater will be the Viften pattern, but I will update it somehow.  All the sock projects can be found in my Ravelry projects.  For the sweater details, follow the highlighted links in the text.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Knitting, 2014 and 2015

After reading tons of blog entries that appeared today, I'm feeling a bit left out.  Everyone is posting their retrospective of all the garments they knit in 2014 and their resolutions for 2015.  I find it all fascinating, but must join in, at least a little.  To make it quick, I'm combining both retro and pro "spectives" in one:



Although I produced over 20 finished knitted items in 2014, these are the four that I'm really using. Admittedly, at least half of the 20 items (pairs of items) were socks. I'm not counting socks in the "really using" category. I can always use another pair of socks, simply because they wear out quickly.

These are the useful things I've knit in 2014: a sweater, two cowls and an afghan. They also represent my resolve for 2015--knit useful things!

With that thought, I'm grateful for all your support in the past year and looking forward to another year of knitting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Maximix Knee Socks

My latest pattern is available through the link below as well as on Ravelry.com. Maximix Knee Socks offer a means of combating two problems that beset knitters in the Winter, cold feet and pattern boredom. I've tested the benefits of knee socks in the cold and feel confident in the statement that where wool socks are good at preventing cold feet, knee-length wool socks are even better. I'd have knitted more knee socks but for one problem--they take a long time to knit. I developed this pattern to overcome that problem.  Using heavier-weight sock yarn, sport-weight yarns, and even dk-weight yarn makes these socks warmer and quicker to knit.  The changing patterns keep the knitting interesting.



Maximix knee socks use heavier yarns knit at a larger gauge than regular socks. Since thick socks don't fit well in most shoes, the heaviest yarn is reserved for the leg of the sock. To keep the foot warm and snug, there's a bit of stranded knitting between the toe and the short-row heel. Contrasting colors add interest and make it possible to use bits of leftover yarn. I'm so pleased with the comfort and warmth of these socks that I just knit a second pair.



While I knit the second pair, I checked the pattern and tried out a few modifications. The final result is my best version of this pattern, which I hope experienced knitters will find both practical and fun in its approach to knee socks. I'm making it available for just $1 USD. Click the link below to purchase the pattern.



This is the launch of a process I'm calling proven pricing. I'll let the pattern prove itself by being purchased, knit, corrected and improved before I increase the price. Please contact me through Ravelry or by posting a comment here if you have questions or problems with the pattern. Be sure to include a way I can contact you if you do comment.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Knitting Long Socks

Here on the cusp of Winter (at least in the US), I'm working on socks that will help keep my feet and legs warm.  I've discovered that when it comes to maximizing warmth, longer is better. I think that if my leg is warm, my foot stays warmer.  I'm able to explore this theory now that I have a small stash of knee socks.  I've written about these, publishing a pattern addendum for knee socks and designing ones that knit up quicker than standard sock weight.
In the past week, I've tested the theory, comparing knee socks to regular-length socks for warmth.  I'm convinced the knee socks keep my feet warmer.  In fact, the 100% alpaca knee socks made my feet so warm I had to take them off. Hot feet on a cold day, that was a novel sensation.  Since this theory has proven true, I'm glad now that my latest sock project turned out to be as long as it did.



I've been working on this sock for months, primarily because I was only knitting it when I was waiting, here and there, this summer. It was complicated for a travel knit, but the complexity meant the time I spent waiting passed quickly. I was really relieved when I got to the cuff, only to find that knitting the cuff took me almost as long as knitting the foot and leg. It's welted, meaning you knit a few rows then double the knitting over to make the welt.  I explain the historical references that inspired these socks in my project notes. (Find these references, the patterns used and yarn details on my project page here.)



There's proof of the authenticity of this sock. It's authentic, old-style argyle (I could type "Argyll" and be truly authentic.), knit flat and seamed. I did knit the toe in the round after seaming. The complexity and the slowness of this project explains why I've not started the second sock of this pair.  Instead, I'm working on socks that knit up much quicker.  Knee socks, of course, in sport-weight yarn.  They're the second pair that I linked above. I hope to publish a short pattern for these long socks soon.  I'm checking the pattern now, and have knit the feet.  The legs will take longer and are just ribbing.  No need to check the writing of "Knit six inches of ribbing."



I am still having problems posting photos in Blogger. To satisfy my need to share, I've joined Instagram.  Find me as Susan Luni or "at" knotingale.  If you are on Instagram, let me know.  It's filled, as is what's left of knitting blogs, with designers and yarn shops looking to sell patterns and yarn. While I enjoy the information on the new products, I'd like to find a few more knitters to follow.  I love to see photos of  knitting projects.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Knitting the NM Throw; yarn etymology

One of the side benefits of my knitting is the way projects evoke memories. Of course, my current project usually evokes an immediate memory if I pick it up to work on it after a break of a day or two--a precise memory of the time and place that I last touched my knitting comes back to me. There's another time and place memory attached to some of the things I knit, the time and place where I bought the yarn. Regarding yarn shops and fiber festivals, my New Mexico throw evokes multiple memories.



Most of the yarn can be considered New Mexican, at least to the extent that I purchased the yarn from mills located in New Mexico. The two main yarn sources are The Natural Twist and Tapetes de Lana.

I first bought the Natural Twist yarn a couple of years ago at the Estes Park Wool Market. While it was a Colorado venue, the yarn was purely New Mexican. I was thrilled with the dyes Ruth Baldwin used in her Enchantment Series and purchased hanks of Mi Casa, Dixon, Chamisa and Ancient Red, planning to make stranded pillow covers. Luckily (for my current project), I lost interest in pillow covers. However, it wasn't until I began knitting afghans last winter that I thought of using Ruth's yarn in a throw.

Last year, while organizing my yarn storage, I realized that I had quite a bit of leftover worsted weight yarn. Naturally, I decided to knit it up--I never throw out yarn! I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my oldest wool, plant-dyed churro from the now-closed La Lana Wools in Taos, produced a great garter-stitch fabric. I had purchased an exorbitant amount of churro yarn years ago, planning to crochet an afghan. I cranked out over 60 little squares before I lost interest.(Again with the project abandonment--that's not usually my deal.) I used about 50 of the squares in a pillow cover and a rug. Even after knitting the center of the rug with the churro I hadn't crocheted into squares, I had yarn left. That's when I put the leftover yarn, the leftover squares and other leftover worsted weight wool together and made a lap blanket, thereby stumbling upon the discovery that the churro knits up nicely in garter stitch. If the churro yarn was, as I had long suspected, produced by the Mora Valley Spinning Mill, I concluded that their other yarn might make a nice afghan as well.

I was seriously considering knitting this blanket when I found The Natural Twist booth at the Salida Fiber Festival last year. I bought a few more hanks of the yarn whose colors are named for the Land of Enchantment and reflect the tones of adobe and the desert.



While at the festival, I was happy to find the Mora Valley Spinning Mill booth. I had paid a visit to their shop, Tapetes de Lana, earlier in the year, buying much of the yarn I used in this project there--the shop offers yarn at a 40 percent discount.

Last year's fiber fest allowed me to finish off the demands of this project preparation, at least as much as I thought was needed. I took my purchases back home and put them in a bag with the pattern book. Then I dug through my yarn stash to see if I had any other bulky weight yarn that might fit the color scheme. That's when I chose the gray yarn. I had purchased it several years ago in Gunnison, Co.



Back then, there was a small yarn shop in Gunnison. The owner, who named the shop Passion for Yarn and Beads, had a small but varied stock of yarn. Amongst it was a locally hand-spun natural yarn that some of the local knitters had used for Aran sweaters. It was far too itchy for me to wear, but I couldn't resist buying a couple of hanks for my stash. This rustic yarn worked quite well with the yarn from the Mora Valley mill. (I don't think this shop is open now. The last time I visited, it was only open a couple of days a week or by appointment. The owner had taken a full-time job.)

The last bit of yarn I used is neither rustic nor hand-spun, but it is memorable. I purchased it one day when I was taking a class upstairs at Serendipity Yarn and Gifts in Buena Vista, Co. The shop manager, who was nearby attempting to bring order to the crowded shelves, commented that there was too much yarn in the inventory. "Everything on the floor is half-price.", she stated, sparking pandemonium among the shoppers. We took an immediate class break to shop. Things really got even crazier when the manager started knocking yarn off the shelves and onto the floor. Downstairs, she poked a bin of Arucania, setting off a yarn avalanche. I sat down by it and ended up selecting more than enough Arucania for a knee-length sweater. The leftovers are in my NM throw. Not New Mexican, but certainly associated with a very nice memory.


Just think, as you knit your current project, whatever it may be, wherever you got the yarn, you are not just knitting a scarf, shawl, sweater or sock. You are knitting a memory.
See my previous post for more on my New Mexico throw.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Painting my Knitting

I've occasionally used the Paint program to plan an afghan.  I just draw rectangles and paint in the colors--on the computer, that is.  My artistic talents are limited--can't draw a straight line without a ruler.  Besides, I prefer the ease of changing colors within the Paint software.

For my current afghan, Cynthia's Afghan from Sally Melville's The Knitting Experience Book 3: Color, I made a replica of each square as I finished it.  Here's an example, square number 29, with brick and chamisa as the final outer dark colors.


Then I used the collage function in Picasa to arrange the squares.  Actually, Picasa chose a random arrangement.  I just fine-tuned it to align the darks and lights with Sally's diagram.  Then I put all the squares out on the guest bed and played switcheroo with them until I had a layout where no two colors were adjacent.  If all this seems a little over-engineered, let me explain:  Sitting in front of the computer doesn't strain my back as much as bending over the guest bed.  I can move the little photo squares around much easier than I can move the actual squares. After I arranged the squares to my satisfaction in Picasa, I used the corresponding numbers to arrange the actual squares on the bed. 

Yes, I tagged all the squares with a number.  Believe me, those numbers were real sanity-savers.  When I misplaced squares, I just referred to the layout and the numbers to find their proper position.

Now that all is arranged, I'm knitting all the squares together and adding the edging.  Here's the layout collage.


And the actual afghan.


Off to the left in the photo above is my next project, one I couldn't resist starting before I finished this one. Taking a square that I didn't use because the colors layout was too different, I'm continuing the log cabin pattern with the leftover yarn. In the end, I will have a large square--I don't know how large it will be. I'm already thinking I might buy more yarn for it! Anyway, once it is big, but not as big as my Cynthia's Afghan, I will use it as a blocking/felting test. The pattern suggests that you full (slightly felt) the afghan by washing it and then putting it in the dryer on low heat for a bit. I think this rather rough wool will benefit from fulling. However, I am afraid that some of the darker hand-dyes may bleed. If I full the large square, I'll be able to decide if I want to full the afghan. Finally, here's a close-up.


And a link to the Ravelry project page.

My, those blocks are a bit askew. I definitely need to find a way to block it without having the colors bleed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Knitting

New knitting, as in knitting in New Mexico, I mean to say.  Summer has begun here in our new home.  Once begun, it is nearly over, with occasional chilly days to remind us of the coming winter--time to start knitting! 
Often, however, the weather here is perfect--sunny with occasional light showers, never hot, seldom even warm.  I am quite busy, much busier here than I was in Colorado.  Not that Colorado was dull, but there are more "amenities" here.  The ski area is much closer, as is the golf course and the fitness center.  The lake, as I mentioned in my first post about our move, is just down the block.  A bit of it can be seen from our house. 
It is the house, as well as the amenities, that fills my time.  I've been painting, refinishing, shopping and decorating.  Combining that with exercise, golf, canoeing, and shopping really packs a full schedule.  I'm worn out, but much better exercised that I was.  I know Colorado is a "healthy" state, but this proves "health" is largely a matter of convenience.   In  Colorado, we drove all over the state, combining work with sightseeing.  Here, we are fully retired.  We drive only to nearby destinations, usually the same places repeatedly, but getting out and doing more as soon as we arrive.

And is there knitting here?  You bet.  There's a yarn shop right here in town, as well as a quilt shop (I've been to both).  Then there's the yarn shops in Taos, and the weaving center in Mora, where they sell knitting yarn as well as weaving yarn.

And, and, well.  I am still knitting argyle.  Oh my, am I knitting argyle!  I've finished another pair of argyle socks.  These are a bit different, loosely based on a pair in the vintage argyle pattern pamphlet I bought on eBay. 

From 3 Sleeves to the Wind

I couldn't resist, once I looked at the photo above, calling attention to my poor big toe, the one up in the air. It's been held up a bit more than usual lately, ever since I fought a New Mexico rock into place in one of my flower beds. I fought, but the rock won. Score: one for the rock, and a broken toe for me. That was almost a month ago. I'm pretty much back to normal now. That's why I can put a sock on that foot. My conclusion is that summer is a good time to break toes--I can wear sandals.


Warm enough for sandals, but cool enough to knit, it's been great weather that has allowed me to knit a sweater--an argyle sweater, of course.

From 3 Sleeves to the Wind

Well, that ought to cut down on my followers!  So few are interested in knitting argyle.  If I didn't like the looks of it so much, I would never have tackled it either.  It is a pain to deal with the hanging bits.  Otherwise, it is much more fun than other knitting.  The pain is mitigated by the interesting complexity and the beautiful result.  And the real bonus is that argyle is popular golf attire.  I may start an argyle vest!

I've had to post the photos through Picasa links--looks like my software is as broken as my toe. Don't follow those links for more info on my projects. You can find that in Ravelry: Argyle socks
Argyle sweater.