Sunday, December 30, 2012

Knitting the end of '12

Sometime mid-December I decided to finish off some lingering projects, like these socks I started in November:

Although I know by now that often the yarn in the ball doesn't deliver on its promises, I had hoped this one would be a little different. Apparently, it is radically different. Once it was obvious that the spots were pooling into wavy lines, I was glad I had bought the dark brown tweed to break it up a bit.  I reasoned that the Regia Tweed, being a 6-ply, would make a thicker, more durable heel.  I ignored the pooling in the first sock, wasn't surprised that it changed after the gusset, but can't explain why it suddenly stopped in the leg of the second sock (the one in front).  I didn't change the stitch count or needle size.  Maybe all my wishing it away worked? 

Regardless of the off-on pooling, the yarn is quite soft and made very comfortable socks.  Thank goodness, since there is enough of the Ty-Dy Socks Dots left to make another pair. 

Another lingering project was a pair of Hot Waves socks from the Joy of Sox.  This is a nice pattern, apart from the afterthought heel (which leaves holes at the corners) and the misshapen toe.

I wouldn't hesitate to knit the pattern again, even though toe-up is not my favorite sock method. It would be worth it just for the fun stripes and the bit of fair-isle, not so much it slows one down, just enough to keep it interesting. It would be simple enough to begin the toe with something other than that rectangle. The after-thought heel would have to be repeated--it makes such a nice striped pattern. I managed this pair out of stash yarn, a hand-dyed main color supplemented with some solid Kroy and a nameless white I picked up for contrast.

Finally, I finished an Icarus using Elsa woolen-spun natural fingering weight Cormo.  Gosh, this is lovely yarn and a beautifully simple design.  I have been wearing so obsessively that I hated to take it off to photograph it.

I should have modeled it, but I was too lazy to bother to set up the tripod and the remote. Besides, the afternoon light was fading rapidly. It is best to spread it out, anyway, to show how huge it is.

At 36" deep and over 80" wide, this must be the largest shawl I've ever knit. In spite of its size, it is easy to wear, due to the lightness of the woolen-spun laceweight.

I'm glad to end this year on a positive knitting note. There's been much to distract me from knitting that I'm looking forward to next year.  In case I don't get to post my knitting resolutions, I hope everyone enjoys a Happy New Year!

More project info on my Ravelry page.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Knitting rugs

Although I have owned a book containing patterns for hand-knitted rugs for several years, I've never knitted one until now.  This admission isn't surprising.  What is surprising is that I'd consider knitting a rug, much less knit one in about a week.  I wouldn't have considered it, but it wasn't my idea.  Even K commented that a hand-knitted rug didn't seem very practical, too stretchy, to likely to slip around, not very durable.

However, when I was asked to crochet a rug for the baby's room, my initial thought was of the book of rug patterns.  I prefer knitting to crochet now and find it easier on my hands.  After leafing through the book, I realized that I had rug materials already--churro wool, the staple of Navajo rugs--lots of it in several natural-dyed colors.  I'd bought this yarn in Taos years ago, when all I knew was crochet.  I wanted this unusal wool that came from the sheep I'd seen on the Indian reservation.  Making my best guess in selecting a pattern, I crocheted a bunch of squares, planning an afghan.  As I learned more about different types of wool,  I realized that churro wool was too rough for an afghan.  I'd abandoned the project and kept the squares for a pillow cover.  A quick count assured me that I had enough squares for both the pillow cover and the border of a rug.  All that remained was to knit the center with the extra yarn.

A little fussy joining of squares, a quick knit of the center--garter stitch on large needles--and poof! there was a hand-knitted rug.  I picked up stitches on the sides of the squares and joined the edges with a 3-needle bind off.  The center was knitted following the pattern for the Bright Stripes Throw in the book, Closely Knit.  The squares are from a pillow pattern in an old granny square magazine I've had for decades.  Sorry I can't give a better reference, but I'm sure it is no longer readily available.  After it was all joined, I added a small border to even the edges, steamed it flat and it was done.

By coincidence, the colors are similar to the ones I used for the baby blanket.  It's nice that they are plant-based, giving a quasi-organic blessing to the rug.  I hope it will be well-received when I bring it to them next week.  I've walked on it and find it the perfect combination, both soft and sturdy feeling.

All that leads me to view hand-knit rugs more favorably now.  They knit up quite quickly and are comfortable underfoot.  Not that I'll be knitting another anytime soon.

There's that pillow cover I need to finish.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Knitting Lull

Yesterday, as I inspected a small knitting project I had just washed and folded, I had a quick impression that it was the first project I had finished since my recent sweater.  As usual with me, my first take was not the true one.  There hasn't been as much of a lull in my knitting as there has been in my photographing and posting.  What follows is the start of a little catch-up, in reverse order, until I get tired or the dryer load finishes.

This towel and dishcloth set is wrapped and ready to be mailed. I found knitting with Hobby Lobby's I Love This Cotton more rewarding than plain dishcloth cotton ever since I first used it for the baby blanket. The leftovers from that big project have produced several cloths and towels. This set is to be posted as a gift to our hostess for our recent trip to the northeast US. It was a pleasant time to visit the Mid-Atlantic and New England states. The leaves were turning,

the sailboats were crossing Chesapeake Bay, and

the walk to the lighthouse was fine.

The long drives gave me a chance to finish the second of my pair of Tsunami socks.

Sadly, I have to stop this positive report to confess that I didn't the blue-faced leicester wool. I'd heard so much about it that I was willing to pay a premium price for this hand-dyed silk and bfl blend sock yarn. I knew it might be a bit harsh to knit, but understood that the resulting socks would be worth the difficulty. So far, I'm not impressed. This pair feels quite rough compared to my usual merino socks, with none of the silkiness I'd expected. Perhaps they will wear better? If so, I'll correct this criticism later. I liked the Tsunami pattern, though.

The trip also gave me the chance to secure a second ball of yarn for the baby kimono I'd started before we left. Here is is, modeled by the recipient of those baby blankets--

Her gratitude for being swaddled in hand knit items is not reflected in her modeling cooperation. Maybe the little hat made her nervous? It could have reminded her of the ones they put on her in the hospital.  It will need to be ripped out and reknit larger when I see her next.  I'm afraid the real truth is that she doesn't like turquoise as much as her mother does. Never mind, I made her a green sweater for when she is a bit bigger.

This one is from the first One Skein book and uses the recommended yarn, Blue Sky Organic Cotton. It was so cute, I made her a red one as well. Maybe I can get a modeled shot of it soon, since I didn't get a very good photo of it before I gave it to her. After reviewing this, I can only conclude that this series of little knits made me think I hadn't been knitting. They must be like party eating, a little here, a little there, you never knew you ate, but the scale says you did!

I've got one bigger project to show, but since the dryer is buzzing (actually, K is calling me), I'll save it for later.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Phyllis-tine Knitting

Having repaired, or ordered repaired, much of the storm damage, I am now able to relax and concentrate on something more fun, primarily the sweater I was trying to copy.  I consider it a relatively successful project, in that it does reflect some elements of the design that inspired it.  Most of the variation in design is due to my decision to use a totally different yarn.  Since the entire concept, that of a slouchy, clingy, long and dramatic sweater, results in a garment I won't wear very often, I wasn't motivated to purchase the yarn needed to make a closer copy.  Heck, for the price of the yarn I needed, I probably could have bought the sweater. 

Instead, I had the fun of making it and the satisfaction of making it with what I had on hand, a discounted silk yarn and a magazine pattern.  Together with my labor, these handy items became:

My Phyllis Sweater

The facts of the case, to follow the approach of my favorite soap, are that I used a thin silk cord to torture Julie Gaddy's cute and defenseless pattern, forcing it to steal aspects of that sweater Phyllis wore when she refused to confess her crimes.  It is by no means a perfect copy, just a pale shadow of the original beauty.  But then, so am I!  I was going to dye my hair red for the shoot, but Michelle Stafford has now changed hers to dark auburn.  Beauty is a moving target.  Nonetheless, I can tempt comparisons by stealing her pose.

So much for today's fun.  For more, there's always tomorrow's episode of Y&R.  Until then, check out my project page for all the details.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Knitting on the anniversary

This is an article I wrote for a magazine some time ago.  By coincidence, I assume, they returned it last week.  I take it as a sign that I should publish it today, on the anniversary of the day that Hurricane Katrina hit my home state.  It is even more fitting (and concerning) that another one is moving over the same area today.

The Best Thing I've Ever Knit

While we drove to and from the suburbs of New Orleans to repair the damage done by Hurricane Katrina to our two small apartment buildings, I knit.  Once there, I put my needles away.  My hands were needed to carry moldy sheetrock and broken limbs, sweep away the dust and bent nails left by the demolition and begin to rebuild.

Day after day, I packed my knitting for the hour-long drive. I wasn't particularly skilled in rebuilding apartments, but there was no other choice.  We had waited weeks to be allowed into the area.  Once we got in, we found a labor shortage.  Crews of unskilled laborers who had come for that purpose had gutted the apartments, tearing out and replacing the bottom four feet of drywall that had been soaked by the flood.  They piled the debris in the front yarn on top of the piles of tree limbs and stumps, the remainders of the huge trees that had once shaded the buildings.  It was saddening to see our once lovely trees reduced to head-high piles of trash, piles that had to be moved to the curb so that they would be carried away by the sanitation trucks.
Once we had cleaned up the debris, we found that the needed painters, plumbers and electricians were in short supply.  It was frustrating to learn that our apartments were on a list of hundreds that needed repair. Without labor, our properties wouldn't be repaired for months.

We hated to see the apartments in such conditions.  It wasn't a matter of money.  We didn't need the rent--that loss was covered by our insurance.  What moved us was the situation of our tenants, who were left homeless.  With no nearby apartments available for rent, in order to get to work and send their children to school, they were forced to live with relatives and friends, several families sharing a home meant for one.

They, and we, were unwilling to wait.  We decided to begin the repairs.  That a professional carpenter or painter would have been appalled at our work methods didn't matter.  Making the apartments livable again was what mattered.

Although it wasn't how I imagined I would be spending my retirement, I became a builder. I visited home improvement stores and bought cabinets and appliances.  I bought paint and brushes at local paint stores.  I spent hours painting and caulking.  I hammered finishing nails into trim.  I helped wedge cabinets into kitchens. 

Sometimes my will faded.  I wanted to go home and work on repairing the damage the storm had done there.  I was tired.  At the end of each day, I got back in the passenger seat of the car and gratefully picked up my needles, glad to turn to my knitting.  Although I worried that the smell of the mold, the paint, and the other materials that I had touched during the day would permanently impregnate the yarn, I was relieved to concentrate on an unfamiliar lace stitch pattern, forgetting about the destruction, the hard work, and the faces of the people who had lived through it.

I had just begun knitting again after a long break.  In the yarn department of a big store, I'd found a beautiful book of knitting patterns, patterns that stretched my imagination and encouraged me to try new stitches.  Although I'd never knit a lace pattern before, I dared to attempt a lace scarf.  The pattern wasn't particularly complicated, but it was a challenge for me.  I still remember how I struggled to correct my mistakes as I rode along, the car bouncing over the joints in the 24-mile-long causeway over the lake.  For an hour each way, every day, for four months, I stared at the water and forgot about the drudgery of the rebuild as I knit.

Now my memory of the hard work has faded.  I'm glad I could help; glad the tenants are still there and happy in their homes.  Time and wear have affected both my memory and our work.  The apartments once again need more coats of paint, new cabinets and flooring.  Thank goodness there are carpenters and painters to do it.

Unlike the apartment rebuild, the scarf I knit during those months hasn't faded.  I keep it in a basket where I see it often and wear it every winter.  In the seven years since, I've knit more than a hundred other projects, improving my skills with each one.  But this scarf holds a special place of importance among them.  I can wear it and remember the satisfaction of helping in times of need.  It is warm, pretty and made of memories.  In so many ways, it is the best thing I've ever knit.

Although I hope I don't have to do it again, I am ready, with plenty to knit along the way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Knitting Fashion

Fashion trends usually don't affect my knitting, for many reasons.  Handknit garments are expensive, both in materials and the time it takes to produce one.  A neglected project certainly faces the danger of outlasting any fashion trend.  Long after fashion trended to the next fad, the project would be sitting unfinished.  Fashion trends that look wonderful on the models frequently look odd on an ordinary person frequenting the usual places--shops, parks, cafes and small town streets.  For knitting, classic is a sure bet.  Fresh fashion trends are a risk.

All these sensible reasons ignore the facts that I love fashion and study fashion trends with passion.  Fashion magazines and fashion-based tv shows have been a staple of my entertainment since I was old enough to turn a page or tune a remote.  Now I follow fashion blogs and newsfeeds as well.  For years, this fascination with fashion has fueled my passion for creating, first in sewing, then crocheting, and now that I finally have adequate time to devote to such an intricate pastime, knitting.  Every now and then a trendy item will work its way into my knitting queue.  Most times, though, the shops where I can try on trendy items are the recipients of my fashion splurges--as long as the item couldn't be hand knit.

I do try to stop myself from buying sweaters, at least worsted-weight knit sweaters, reminding myself that I have drawers full of sweaters.  Instead, I use the lovely sweaters I see in the shops to motivate my knitting.  Really, I find motivation everywhere, not just in the sweaters in the shops, or on the streets, or in magazines.  I watch a lot of tv, even (shame) a daily soap. 

To add fuel to my motivation, the soap I've watched for the past few years now has a fashion blog devoted to locating the source of the clothes worn by the cast members.  That's where I found my latest sweater crush.  This sweater was available at Piperlime for months, but it was really more than I'd pay for something I couldn't try on first.  It gave me an idea, though, one that made me study the photos. 

I had stashed silk ribbon I'd bought to knit the Printed Silk Cardigan from Interweave Spring, 2008.  Though the yarn was easily acquired on sale, I postponed knitting the cardigan all this time because I didn't like the sleeves, or at least I didn't relish the prospect of knitting the sleeves in fine-gauge 1x1 ribbing.  At first glance, I thought this stashed silk was the right yarn for a knock-off of a "tape-yarn" pullover.  Once I studied the zoomed photos (sorry, they are no longer available and couldn't be saved), I saw that the original sweater is knit from a thick-and-thin cotton yarn.  It has dropped stitches that give it drape and transparency. Once I realized it was so different from my silk yarn, both in weight and texture, I abandoned the project.

Then came deep summer, or as deep as it gets here in Colorado, and the afternoons were hot.  Summer also brought me "Early Fall" Vogue Knitting, shocking me with a sweater that mimicked the vertical lines of the one I craved.  #08 Lace Pullover by Julie Gaddy used a sport-weight alpaca/cotton yarn.  It was just close enough in weight and drape to encourage me to try a swatch or two.

This first one was knit as plain stockinette with garter stitch rows to separate the different needle sizes, 3, 4, 5 and 6.  After washing and drying it flat, I could see that size 5 needles produced the best looking stockinette.  Then I dropped every 5th stitch to see if I liked a drop-stitch pattern.  I didn't.  In this lightweight yarn, the resulting fabric was too flimsy for a sweater.  It would be fine for a scarf, but even then the stockinette stitches would probably slide around and disrupt the stitch pattern.  I could see some distortion of the pattern in the Michael Stars pullover and expect it would be much worse in this yarn.

In this next swatch, I tried several stitch patterns, testing both gauge and appearance.  The top one is the one used in the Vogue pattern.  I found the holes really large in this yarn and kept trying to reduce them by using smaller needles.  Lastly, I tried replacing the double yarn over with a single one.  That was better, but still the holes are too big.  I searched through my stitch dictionaries and found a faggoted cable.  While I liked the appearance, I decided the fabric was too dense and the gauge too tight. It would work fine as a waistline or sleeve cuff accent, adding shaping, but it would give the simple sweater a busier look. In the end, I tried different methods of increasing into a single yarn over, coming out with a pleasing pattern with small holes and nearly the correct gauge.  At last.

As a final test, I replicated my "in the round" gauge by knitting across each row, sliding the swatch across a circular needle and attaching new lengths of yarn.  Although it still looked good, my gauge changed, predictably.  It is a lot larger, almost a worsted weight gauge.  However, on this small swatch, without the weight of the fabric to pull it in, I wasn't sure the gauge was accurate.  Since I had settled on a stitch pattern, I decided to risk it, modifying the sizing instructions of the pattern on the fly if necessary.

Once I thought I had the stitch pattern refined, I began to study the construction.  I liked it pretty well, liked the top-down construction, the wide neckline and the raglan sleeves, but the sleeves need to start a bit sooner and be a bit longer.  Obviously, it needs to have a tighter fit and more drape to even be close in look to the Michael Stars pullover.  However, the silk will add the drape, I can modify the pattern for a smaller size, and a little looseness will help disguise figure flaws.  Since I am not built like Phyllis, or er, Michelle Stafford, a little disguise would be welcomed.

Will this work?  Will I end up with a sweater I'll wear?  I've gotten past the divide for the sleeves and body, tried it on a few times, and I like it.  If you are a member of  Ravelry, you can track  my progress on my project page.

At least I haven't spent the entire summer scaling this wall of difficulties.  The baby blanket is nearly done and has sparked a little offspring of its own.  I'll be posting a dishtowel/cloth/blanket pattern soon, just to reward my loyal readers for sticking through to the end of this post! (There's a photo of the dishcloth in the blanket project.)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer socks, a hot knit

ETA:  Here's another pair of socks with double knit heels.  I need someone to test-knit the pattern I've written.  Comment and leave contact info if you are interested--I won't publish the comment, so your info will remain private.
Sock knitting doesn't happen around here as much as it did earlier this year. It's a good thing, really. My sock drawers are full. Not surprisingly, considering the weather, I haven't had any requests for warm, woolly socks. The best reason for the decrease in sock production is the decrease in time spent in waiting rooms. I'm hoping that trend continues. Earlier this month, though, waiting room time was supplanted with travel time. Thanks to that, I finished two long-lingering pairs of socks. Here's another pair with leaves on the heels.

This time, I used the Cable Rib sock pattern from IK Favorite Socks.  It was also published in Interweave Knits, back in Spring 2005.  The cotton yarn suggested in the pattern would probably work well for the ribs and cables.  As usual, I substituted a hand-dyed merino, Calypso by Creatively Dyed Yarns.  I can't say enough about the colors in this hank.  They blend in a lovely fashion with no pooling, subtly enough that they don't detract from the rather simple pattern.

My only modification was to double knit the heel flap and turn, using the chart I created to put aspen leaves on the heels.  I managed to both move the leaves up higher on these and use fewer stitches for the heels, producing a better fitting and more comfortable sock.  You can read up on my first double-knit heel experiment in my two earlier posts, one on the first sock,

one on the finished pair.

My pattern for adding double-knit heels to socks is now available for purchase. See my pattern announcement or Ravelry for more information or
just click on the button to purchase.

My other compelling sock knitting was aimed at recreating the second pair of socks I ever knit.  You can see what happened to the original in the photo below.

Felted!  That's what I get for not using sock yarn and for giving them to a non-knitter.  Ah well, my first attempt didn't fit me, anyway.  My fingers are more used to sock knitting now and produce a much tighter, more even knit.  While the first pair was too big, I often wondered as I knit that these might be too small!

There was no need to worry, though.  Another pair of Socks for Veronik, from the 2007 Holiday issue of IK, in Baruffa Aerobic merino, done!  I blogged the first pair back in 2008.

Now that summer is here (with heat!), I've got three half-pairs of socks languishing, waiting for mates.  Two of them are tests of the pattern I've been working up.  Although I need to work up some enthusiasm for pattern writing, I do work on the cuff-down sample occasionally, when I encounter a waiting room.  The other one is a rendition of Tsunami from Knitted Socks East and West.  The sock looks much like the one in the book.  However, since the yarn is not as soft as merino, I find it harsh to knit.  It will sit until I begin traveling again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Easy to knit, hard to picture

That obsession with a red shawl is now over for me. There's nothing like satisfying a craving, like having a brownie when you are really hungry for chocolate. With knitting, satisfying the craving takes a lot longer, even if one had to bake the brownies. At least the satisfaction isn't tempered with guilt about excess calories. It's all good.

Size: 64" wingspan and 30" deep
Yarn: Ella Rae Lace Merino Worsted
Needles: Size 6 Addi Naturas
Pattern: Falling Water
Mods:  2 repeats of Chart A, all 32 rows.
Knitter:  Soooo happy that it fits and falls just where it should.  The weight is perfect, the yarn is luscious. In a worsted weight yarn, the extra repeat would have made the shawl too big for me.  Since this yarn is light for worsted, it knit up a bit smaller than worsted.

The only thing I can't get right is the color in these photos.  The strange shot below is nearly it.  I guess clothespining a piece of notepaper under the knitting is the only way to make my camera record a deep red.  (I mean, I really tried. I changed exposures, light balance, all sorts of settings and worked from the RAW file.  Red is harder to shoot than green!)

Never mind, it is red.  Craving satisfied!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The butterflies (and patterns) were free.

This mountain climate, which is normally is quite harsh, has worsened the past few years with the drought. Each year, I am happy to find a few hardy survivors in my little flower bed. The daisies, prosaic though they may be, are my favorites.

They have made it through quite a few winters. I'll try separating this batch in the fall.

The daylilies will never die, I'm sure. They were here when we moved in.

Looks like there will be a huge crop this year. I must have taken a clue from it with my recent pattern giveaway.  I awarded the promised prizes, then decided to give everyone a prize.  It was fun, easy, and not too extravagant, thanks to my stash and the Ravelry gift program.  I enjoyed it so much, I will have to repeat it when I have another pattern to give away.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

I honestly don't remember the name of this flower, but it is my most prolific.

The butterflies like it too.

This yarrow, which was a gift from my neighbor, is huge.  I understand why she pulled a bunch of hers out.

But I'm a happy recipient.  It smells lovely.

I spent awhile trying to get a good photo of the cute spots on these delphiniums.   I just bought them this year and was pleasantly surprised when I noticed the spots while I was planting them.  I didn't see them in the shady nursery.

Another thing I didn't see was the worm in the flower. When I reviewed the pictures on the camera while I sat in the garden, there it was. I rushed back to the flower, but I couldn't find the worm. He's a lucky one.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Quilt Show is Back

After a year gone missing, the local quilt show is back. I am not a quilter, but I am a fan of this show. Although my fanship is limited to an annual viewing (and buying frenzy in the boutique), I usually expand it to share a few images here. This year's show is outstanding, as a glance at the photos below will tell. Since I have tried to remove names and other personal details from the images to protect the quilter's privacy, I have included a few details below each image.

The small quilt above, which was in the Art Quilt category, uses a "stained glass" technique. The black lines around the colors are appliqued bias strips, while the checkerboard background is patchwork.

Another use of the same technique is evident in this large quilt, "Sunlit Stained Glass."

This quilt, "Arizona," repeats pottery and other Native American images prevalent in that state.  The edges of each embroidered block are frayed.

In response to a guild challenge to create a quilt using the theme, Mountains, this quilter found inspiration in the Denver skyline, seeing the buildings as steel mountains. She chose to recreate the Blue Bear sculpture from the Denver Convention Center. It's really an appropriate subject for a quilt, since the original is composed of triangles.
Continuing the animal theme, this more conventional quilt depicts mountains and chickadees.

This one offers an unconventional look at a hummingbird.

Finally, my favorite animal, a moose. Besides the subject, I love the colors in this one. Too bad it wasn't for sale.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Knitting Pattern Giveaway

This post is outdated, the giveaway is over, no need to comment now!  But keep reading, I might have another one sometime.

I read a lot of knitting blogs and often see apologies, excuses, or at least explanations of the chosen topic or time frame. Although I generally prefer to just launch into the subject, letting the reader speculate, if she wishes, as to motive, logic or connection, I will list the events that led to this post. But first, I'll start with a photo and explain it simply: Google Reader, Ravelry and other feeds show an image of the latest post in their link to blogs. I like to have a nice photo front and center.

This is the view from the first rest stop on my morning bike ride these days.  For me, bike path + bench = stop.  Although I have lost weight and become more fit, I'm not a maniac.  I'm doing it in moderation. 

Moderation is not the word for my pursuit of knitting, however.  To list the progression:
1. Seven years ago, a chain of events worked to revive my lifelong interest in yarn and needlework.
2. Five years ago, I began this blog.  I was reminded of this quinquennial this past weekend when I was attending the local raft festival, often a topic for my blog posts. 
Below is a shot of one of this year's downriver contestants.  The downriver race is not overly exciting, but it is scenic.

3. Two years ago, I published Burning Stripes, my first commercial pattern.
4. This month, I bought back two print versions of that pattern from one of the shops that stock it.  It had run its course there and I wanted my sample back.  The sample pair looks pretty good, considering it has hung in a yarn shop for two years. 

5. Today, to celebrate this succession of events, which all seemed to happen in the late spring, I am giving away those two print patterns.  To enter to win a copy, leave a comment by midnight, Monday, June 25, 2012.  One lucky winner will also receive the yarn to knit the pattern, assuming we can work out the logistics of agreeing upon and delivering said yarn.  If you win, you will have to let me know your address, but don't include that in the comment, just your e-mail, or a link to it so that I can contact you if you win.  Also, please include some feedback on blog topics.  Besides knitting, what do you enjoy reading in a knitting blog:  points of view, personal details, travel photos, or...?

Ending with a another photo, again from my bicycling route, but this one is more knitting-related.  You can spin yarn from the undercoat of these cattle!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Knitting with Nook

Since the loss of my iPod, I've used my phone for audio books.  It worked, but it wasn't ideal.  I've taken a long time to decide what I wanted as a replacement, considering either another iPod or an e-reader.  My hesitant and sporadic research finally led me to get a Color Nook.  I was really torn between it and the Fire, but I finally reasoned that the recent price break broke the balance.  I plan to use my Nook not only for the audio books (obviously) that we play in the car on long trips, but also for books, games and magazines.  Knitting magazines are high on my list, but for now, I'm trying it out for patterns. 

I've loaded a few pattern pdfs on the Nook and am pleased with the display.  I thought I could use it instead of printing the patterns, but there's a drawback.  I don't often memorize the complex lace patterns I prefer for shawls.  I like to look at a chart the entire time I am knitting a pattern row.  While it is possible to display the chart on the Nook, I have to stop knitting now and then to touch the screen to keep the display active.  Otherwise, the screen goes to sleep.  For long rows at the edge of a shawl, this works out to a lot of stopping.  If I don't stop, I'll have to wake the Nook up (a two-step process) when I need to check the chart.  Not that having to stop a a big inconvenience, but coupled with the battery drain of keeping the chart displayed, it is enough to make me resort to printing the charts.  I can still use the Nook to make a quick, occasional check of pattern instructions, but it doesn't work well for charts.

I have yet to buy a digital magazine.  Interweave Knits is available for Nook. However, I made a point to acquire all the back issues of IK a couple of years ago and am still dedicated to buying paper issues.  It will be handy to have a digital subscription at some point if I keep traveling as much as I do.  I am often away from my magazines, just when I want one.  Vogue Knitting, on the other hand, is a magazine that I usually buy, but don't mind missing.  I'd buy a digital issue of VK for my Nook if I could.  At this point, VK is only available digitally for the iPad.  I think.  Let me know if I'm wrong.

About now, someone is likely wondering what I think I'm writing here.  If this is a recommendation, it isn't a resounding one, thus far.  Welll, that's because I haven't discussed the games yet.  Games on the Nook Color are great, way better than the ones on my phone.  Playing games on my phone passes the time, but that little-bitty screen is the drawback.  I love the games on my Nook so much that I'm probably spending more time on it playing games than I am reading books.  My favorites are the crossword puzzle (they are the NY Times crosswords, free with the Nook), MineSweeper (also free), Neptune (not free but cheap) and...surprise(?) Sheep 'em.   Yep, a cute little sheep game meant for children but full of giggles for me.  This one is free but there's another one or two games including sheep for cheap that are more challenging.  Who am I kidding, Sheep 'em is hard enough!

I haven't even gotten to putting my photos, videos, movies or tv on the Nook yet.  I'm sure I'll like those pretty well, just a little worried that the screen is too small.  Meanwhile, I'm happy with the internet connection, offering apps like Taptu, an easy-to-read multiple fashion feed that keeps up with all the celebrity fashions and designers.  I've also got a calorie tracker and a couple of other apps I'm trying out.
All of which is to say that the Nook Color is a good buy.  My biggest complaint is that they sent me a $20 off coupon after I'd bought mine.  I forgive them, though, because I can pass it on:  coupon
Since the coupon expires in a few days, I'm posting this now, before I've properly proofread it.  If something is unclear, ask me about it in a comment. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Moderne Blanket, modern shawl

I've completed a slightly modified version of the Moderne Baby Blanket from Mason Dixon Knitting.  This relatively easy knit breaks a few of the log cabin rules--one too many for me.  I knit plain blocks on the outside rows, eschewing the suggested intarsia blocks.

Avoiding the intarsia was the easy way out of this project.  After several weeks of dutiful garter stitch, the way out was a welcome sight.  It isn't easy to knit Blue Sky Alpacas' worsted-weight cotton on smaller-than-recommended needles (size 6), but the resulting fabric is worth the effort.  It is not only dense, soft and cuddly, it handles a machine wash and dry quite well. 

Once the blanket was on its way to the mother-to-be, I was free to start a project that is a little kinder to my hands than knitting cotton yarn on small needles.  Still fascinated with red shawls, I turned to the extensive Ravelry search options, discovering that it is possible to search for projects that used red yarn to knit a shawl.  My first try produced an astounding lot of red shawls, confirming my hopes about the success of this project.  First up was Tricosa's Tiong Bahru.  See her Flickr stream for a surfeit of photos of this stunning shawl, which elicited 40 comments so far.  Too bad it is laceweight, while my yarn is closer to worsted weight. (It claims to be worsted, but at 5 spi, I'd call it dk.)

Next was maanel's Less is More Shawl, always a good concept.  Again, though, the yarn weight isn't a match.  This one uses sock weight yarn.  Then I came across multiple red versions of Rose Beck's Falling Water Shawl, one by the designer, one by suseknits, and one by Prairie Piper.  This last one was aran weight.  Decision made!

I began the plain stockinette portion with a variegated hank of the Ella Rae worsted, reasoning that its reddish tones would combine with the bold red to produce a shawl that might mix with more of my (invariably brown) shirts.  

Now that I've started the lace, I can consider modifications.  Up first is the possibility of adding a repeat, if the yarn holds out.  Also, I like the garter edging on the last shawl I linked and might use it.  I'll have to decide soon, since this project is flying by.  Too bad, because it is so much fun to work with this yarn.

Monday, May 21, 2012

From knit to next

Once I cast off my last shawl, I was free to begin another. Any delay was only due to indecision. I'd say lack of yarn, but that would be so wrong. Maybe lack of the perfect yarn would be more correct. After fuddling around through the stash for a couple of days, I settled on an almost-cobweb, lace-weight yarn, knitting a bit, then putting the bit aside. Next, I tried holding a cobweb-weight gray merino with a lace-weight pale blue alpaca and, boom, there it was. The yarns blended like a variegated yarn of my dreams, producing subtle color shifts with no pattern, no pooling, just an illusion, a hint of change.

I found an appealing pattern that began with plain stockinette, the Dew Drop shawl by Bex Hopkins, and marched right through until I managed to create a big hole in the middle of the first lace repeat. I was knitting the lace with the merino alone, convinced I didn't have enough of the alpaca to double-strand the entire shawl. Besides the big mistake, I was bothered by the sudden shift from blue-gray to gray. After a hard look, I ripped it all back and started again, settling on a simpler bird-eye lace like those I've seen in several bi-color Aestlight projects. Once I found an agreeable contrasting yarn in my sock yarn scraps, I was eager to get through the lace and a bit of ruffle, ignoring the unevenness of the marled fabric. Although the stitches contorted, I held out hope that blocking would smooth them. I was not disappointed.

That bit of ruffle came straight from a photo on Wendy Bernard's blog. The funny thing is, I didn't pay much attention to her words, just to the photo. (Who would be so inattentive?) Now that I've settled down from my shawl-knitting frenzy, I have read her words and learned that she is teaching a class on that very shawl. Eep. I considered attending, but thankfully clicked around enough to discover that traveling across the country to snag a knitting pattern wasn't necessary. The pattern is a variation of a shawl in her latest book, Custom Knits Accessories, the Sangria shawl. Now I can buy the book and knit the shawl with the fabu edging--and a few other fabu deets, as well.

As regards deets in photos, I've revealed above that I actually do save yarn bands and labels in a big glass cracker jar.  Although they are not very decorative, they do come in handy when I have neglected to record project information in my mad march from one knit to the next.

Another factor in my fascination with Wendy's shawl pattern is coincidence. Her design is red. I had only just become convinced I need to knit a red shawl, convinced by a photo in the latest issue of Knitting Traditions.

The red yarn in that photo is so beautiful.  I've read and re-read the vintage pattern in an attempt to decipher the brief instructions. Although I'm still fascinated with the design, now that I've seen Wendy's pattern, I'm considering that I might just be satisfied with any red shawl. Perhaps the Elle Rae merino I bought to try the vintage pattern would work well for Wendy's.

 Or, I could try to knit the vintage shawl. After all, my vintage take on a baby bonnet came out ok.

There's not a ghost baby in there, just a yarn ball that is too small to represent a baby's head.  It does round out this little bonnet from Knitted Gifts well enough to show off the lace edging.  The edging is part of the lining, actually a second bonnet I knit with Berroco Vintage yarn when I decided the Kid Classic was too scratchy for a new baby.  The second bonnet is sewn into the first one, but could be removed and worn separately.  We'll see what baby wants...

There's even more deets on my project pages in Ravelry, for both the shawl and the bonnet.  Nothing on the red yarn yet, as that decision is likely to change many times from one knit to the next.