Sunday, August 28, 2011

Textiles on the trail

During my recent road trips, I indulged in a little yarn shopping. Since I'm close to finishing two sweaters and halfway done with a couple of pairs of socks, I feel no guilt about it. I buy it and I use it. I started with a tour of Fort Laramie, Wy. which is in the process of being restored. When we arrived, they were re-glazing the windows in one of the buildings. There's a worker on each of those sets of scaffolds in front of the windows in the photo below.
The restored buildings have been refurnished with period-appropriate pieces, including many quilts and other textiles.

I might have wondered where they found them all but for overhearing another visitor remark that his sister had donated several items. It is all the more appealing to think that many of the antiques might have been much-loved treasures that were donated to furnish this historic site. The quilt below was one of my favorites.

My tour of the fort was inspiring enough to prompt me to visit yarn shops at our next stop, Casper, Wy. Initially, I was disappointed to find The Dancing Sheep closed.

As it was late in the day and quite hot, I had planned to visit only this one shop. Instead, we drove to another one, All That Yarn. I'm glad now that the timing worked out for this visit. I enjoyed selecting a few balls of yarn and a magazine and was amazed to see that they have a lot of back issues of Interweave Knits. Give them a call if you are looking to complete your collection. When I left the shop, K commented, "You could have bought the entire store." I was stunned by the generous comment until I saw the sign in the window, "Shop for Sale." I hope someone (other than me) buys it.

Since I'm blogging my yarn shopping, I'll include a stop I made last week in Oklahoma. Once we returned from Yellowstone, we drove off again to visit Hunter, who is recuperating from heart surgery in Arkansas. (Read a more amusing post on Hunter here.) As we wandered across Oklahoma, I spotted an enticing place for lunch, The Noble House bed and breakfast in Watonga. Lunch was delicious, but the dessert was finding a yarn shop right across the street.

I was happy to find a yarn shop by chance in a small town. Since I had a two-color sock design bouncing around my mind, I bought some locally-dyed Slackford Studio lightfoot sock yarn. Slackford Studio is in Norman, Ok. The colors were so enticing, I bought three instead of two. Now I have to decide between blue and green, blue and orange or green and orange. Maybe I should design a three-color sock.

Joining the Slackford yarn is the yarn I purchased at All That Yarn, two balls of Maxime Soft Socks (I loved it in the toes of my Ilga socks, pictured in my last post) and some Zelana wool for my fair-isle pillow projects. There's a brown ball of the Zelana blending in with the table in the back of the pile.

There's the end to my rambling. I'm back now and can't wait to finish my cardigan. All that's left to knit is the collar. The buttons I found on my trip made it possible to finish the last buttonband yesterday. Next up, button pictures, unless I can come up with something more interesting.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Small stranded knits

I've one of those ultra-successful projects to report. It isn't much to look at, but it delivers a lot of satisfaction.

I knit this potholder in the round. The front and back are the same. After I had knit a 9" wide tube 9" long, I closed the top and bottom with a 3-needle bind off. (Of course, I had to pick up stitches along the bottom to do that.) Then I added an applied i-cord edging. I wanted to felt it down to less than 8" square. It is a little large for a potholder. However, I was hand felting and quit after it had shrunk a mere one-half inch in size. (It was 9 1/2" originally). I expect that it will felt a little more each time I wash it. Actually, it is not too large. I knit this one to replace the tiny, 6" square cotton padded potholders I was using. Every time I pulled a hot pan out of the oven, the heat transmitted through the cotton and burned my hand.

With this large, wool, double-thick, stranded potholder, my hand is completely protected. Since I have some of the tapestry wool left over, I can knit another and throw away those useless cotton ones. Although I planned this project to practice stranding, I'm pleased with the unexpected utility of the final result.

At the same time, I was practicing stranding with the Ilga's Socks project I posted earlier. While I was knitting the second sock, I decided upon a modification. It was an unexpected change, actually, one that at first earned some skeptical glances.

Seriously, after trying on the first sock, I realized that following the round toe instructions in the pattern had produced a toe that was overly tight. At first, I thought I'd just rip it out and knit a standard wedge toe in the main color. Then I saw a project on Ravelry and became inspired. This was a perfect chance to try stranding just above the toe. I had recently admired a few socks that used just a little fair-isle patterning there. I ripped out the round toe and knit the new one on a drive we took last week. When we arrived, I found the stuffed moose in my room. The balloon moose was one I had acquired the night before. I have a fondness for moose and was hoping to see some. It was possible, since this was just a little ways down from our lodge.

That's Yellowstone Falls. There are moose in Yellowstone Park, but I didn't see any. I did see a lot of other sights and took hundreds of photos. I'll sprinkle a few more into later posts. For now, it is back to the socks.

Even though I had decided to add the toe patterning before I left on the trip, I forgot to pack the book with the pattern. However, since I could check the inspiring project on Ravelry and count the stitches in the stranded cuff of the sock, I devised a small pattern that matched the cuff. The brown yarn I used here was different than the browns I used in the cuff. Since it was the toe, I wanted one that was more durable and softer than the others. As it turned out, this brown worked well with the purple I used in the small chart. There are actually four colors in the toe: orange, white, purple and brown. The color difference is visible in real life, but probably not noticeable in this photo.

I chose the pattern I liked the best from the cuff, edging it with the first pattern and a very simple one at the end.

Now I just need some cold weather so I can wear them. If they prove to be comfortable, I may add stranding at the toes another (future) pair.

I'll end with some links to the pertinent Ravelry projects:

My potholder

My socks

The socks that inspired me

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Tightening ladders in knitting

Today, as I was sewing up a sweater, I devised a quick and easy way to eliminate the "ladders" between my knits and purls. I've knit a lot of sweaters and have always tried to avoid creating these ladders. I was grateful to read the explanation of and suggestions for avoiding or tightening ladders in a 2010 post in TECHknitting. After reading this and studying the illustrations, I realized that it all centers on moving the extra yarn. I'm sure the methods described in the post would work on most ladders. However, mine was extreme:

I don't have the usual ladders in my knitting. Thankfully, years of knitting ribbing and cables has helped me tighten up my knitting. This ladder was created when I decided to modify the pattern and place the decrease, a purl stitch, next to a twisted knit stitch. I see now that I should have moved the decreases over one stitch, placing a purl stitch between the twisted knit stitch and the decrease. That's hindsight. I saw the ladder as I was knitting, but could not tighten it up. I planned to move the yarn into the next few stitches when I blocked the sweater. However, there was just too much yarn. Worse still, this is a superwash, a more slippery wool.

I was trying to decide if I wanted to add a stitch there by laddering one up when I realized I could sew it up.

I took a length of yarn slightly longer than the laddered column (there are four of them, one by each raglan seam line, each about 8" long. Using my yarn needle, I wove the yarn around each ladder, going under it in the opposite direction. I am sewing from the lower right to the upper left in the photo above, going under a ladder and coming out on the right side of it. Then I move to the next ladder on the left and repeat.

After an inch or so, I pulled the yarn I was sewing tight.

This twisted the ladder, just as adding an extra column of purls would have. However, it was much quicker. (There's a thin line that I drew on the photo under the length of yarn to highlight it.)

Most importantly, it worked!

Now to get back to sewing up that sweater. Here it is blocking, so you can see that it was worth improving.

I'm glad I managed to fix the ladder. More importantly, though, I can avoid the same mistake in the future now that I know not to put a purled decrease next to a knit stitch.
More on the sweater on my Ravelry project page.

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