Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Well that was fun

Christmas in Oregon was fun, the best part was seeing my second cousin Lily (that's my cousin's daughter) -- she's the smartest and cutest and funniest 14 month old child in the history of the world. I like the sweater she's wearing here, even though it's not handknit:

I also saw her younger brother Gordon but he was only 4 days old, he didn't have much of a chance to show off his charm or brain power.

I haven't done a whole lot of knitting in the last week so there's not much to report. I did receive some great knitting related gifts for Christmas:

1) Regia self-striping sock yarn, 3 skeins! Enough here for kneesocks:

2) Brown Sheep Naturespun sport weight, 8 skeins! I'm thinking hats and gloves.

Ravel (Dad's cat) prefers the color "Bit of Blue"

3) Santa left a funny bumpersticker in my stocking:

I also received 2 pencils that have "In case of emergency use as knitting needle" printed on them.

4) Zonta blocking wires in their handy PVC pipe storage tube:

So yeah, I feel very spoiled right now.

Mom loved her shawl so much it made her cry. *sniffle*

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Are we there yet?

Stephanie asked how long it took to make mom's shawl. I started around November 1st and worked on it for a few hours, sometimes longer, 5 or 6 days a week. I took about 6 days off from shawl knitting at Thanksgiving. Now, grandma's shawl in DK weight yarn (same pattern, but a lot less chart repeats) took 9 days to complete, it was effortless in comparison. I counted carefully after every RS row to be sure I didn't miss any yarn overs and that slowed my progress, but I did catch all the missing YOs and forgotten PSSOs. Those are the best mistakes to find because they are easily fixed on the way back, no ripping or fuss required.

Sue asked about the laceweight yarn used for mom's shawl. Printed on the label: (treble clef on a music scale) FARE Baruffa, made in Italy by Zegna Baruffa -- 100% extra fine merino wool -- 1350 m, 1460 yds -- 3.5 ounces / 100g -- color #20549. I bought it at Acorn Street in Seattle and I believe it was $14.00 for the hank (they also sell the pattern). Really lovely stuff, it feels so delicate but it didn't break once.

I ripped out the black "mistake rib" scarf, mainly because it was really too short (2 skeins would have been perfect), and knit the yarn back up into a warm hat with a stripe of orange for Dad. No time to snap a photo but it's a basic black stockinette hat with an orange stripe and a turned-up K2P2 cuff, you're not missing out on a masterpiece.

Everything is packed for the trek to Oregon. If you could peek in my knitting bag you'd spy 2 partial skeins of Lamb's Pride worsted (dark blue and dark green) which will likely turn out to be a hat for Bob, my younger brother. It doesn't have to be mailed until January so technically I didn't miss the xmas deadline. There's some sock yarn as well, my fingers are itching to make another pair of socks. That will be enough to keep me busy for the next 5 days.

If you celebrate Christmas then I hope it's a good one for you and your loved ones. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to see my brothers, it doesn't feel like Christmas without them. I live close to my parents so luckily I've never had to miss a Christmas with them but I sure wish my brothers could make it out every year too. :\ Anyway, I'm off to spend time with extended family (and answer awkward questions posed by relatives I see maybe once a year, that's always a blast) and expect to return 12/27.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Laceweight Leaf Lace photos

The surprising news is that mom's shawl weighs only 2 ounces which means I have 1.5 ounces left over, that's enough for a smaller shawl or a couple of lace scarves. In comparison, grandma's shawl in DK weight yarn weighs 8 ounces -- and they're about the same size. Measurements post-blocking are 42" deep x ~85" wingspan. I didn't fuss with making the top edge straight or all the edge points perfect because it will be blocked properly next weekend, after I open the Zonta dressing wires my parents ordered for Christmas. (Blocking kills my back, the less time spent on a temporary blocking the better!)

None of the blocking photos turned out that great thanks to the lighting but here's an ok photo:

Another photo after it was dry and the pins removed:

Pattern: Leaf Lace shawl (Fiber Trends)

I don't want to stop flipping it around and playing with it, it's so light and airy. I wish I knew more people who wore lace, sadly I am not one of those people. Of all the things I've knit this is my most favorite, even though I wouldn't wear it myself. Isn't it ironic, don't ya think? Hmmm. I might make myself a wear-around-the-house shawl in DK or worsted yarn to keep warm but I can't imagine wearing something this delicate.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Lace musings

When I inherited my grandmother's beautiful furniture I also received a box of fine lace tablecloths for the dining room table and lace runners for the buffet. I wish grandma could tell me who made them because I now have a better idea of how much time and skill went into their creation.

Lace musings
Just a few things I've learned...

1) Denise circular needles work really well with laceweight yarn because they are so light. I switched to a Susan Bates circular in the middle of this shawl (thinking it'd be more secure) but I went right back to the Denise circular on the next row. The weight of the metal needle was too much for the yarn and it messed up my rhythm. Denise offers 40" and 52" cables but they have to be purchased separately, they're not included in the kit. The extra cords are worth the cost imo, I don't trust two shorter cables connected together (bad experience, already blogged about it). Bamboo and wood circs might work as well as the Denise needles but I don't own any circs made from those materials to compare.

2) I've read suggestions to put a white pillow case under the lace while its being worked but the idea of delicate yarn repeatedly rubbing against fabric didn't sound too appealing. Instead of a pillow case I place a white plastic garbage bag on my lap, the shawl slips and slides over the bag without any friction.

Use a plastic bag to protect the lace from dirt and wear

3) Scan and print the charts (or photocopy) and work from the copy so the original pattern or book stays clean. It also helps to enlarge the charts, this can be done in a paint program if you're working with a scan or a copy machine can do enlargements easily.

4) Magnet boards are located in the needlepoint aisle at craft stores and they aren't very expensive, around US$5.50 for an 8 x 10 size. (Save some bucks and buy it at Joann's/Michael's with one of their ubiquitous 40% off coupons.) Slip the board into a page protector with the pattern copy. I prefer to keep track of rows completed on scrap paper stuck to the board, a magnet glued to the pen cap keeps the pen handy. The red and white magnetic ruler comes with the board and its used to designate the row that's being worked. A magnetic line magnifier is an optional accessory. (Post-it notes can be used instead of a magnet board if you don't mind replacing the notes when they lose tack and fall off the pattern.)

chart sheet copy & magnet board in page protector

note the magnet on pen cap

5) I use a long piece of cotton string with a loop tied in the middle instead of a ring marker because rings can slip to the wrong side of a YO.

Tomorrow: finished shawl photos, it's blocking right now

Friday, December 17, 2004

Mistake Rib Scarf

I made a scarf for Dad a couple days ago but I think I'll rip it out and knit up a hat instead. 1) it's rather short and I don't have another skein of Lamb's Pride Bulky in black to make it longer. 2) I just made a neckwarmer for his birthday. 3) I have a dozen or so yards of LPB in orange which means I could make a black hat with a touch of orange and my Dad will wear anything black and orange, he's a devoted Oregon State U fan. (He wears an OSU watch with their mascot Benny the beaver on it, that kinda says it all.)

I took a photo before reclaiming the yarn because I like how mistake rib looks. It's so thick, cushy, and squishable. For this scarf I did mistake rib as K2P2 over a multiple of 4 + 1 (21 sts), ending each row with K1.

I should have shawl photos to post within the next day or two, I'm about 20% done with binding off mom's shawl (using the Icelandic bind-off, as described in Myrna Stahman's shawl book.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Easy Neckwarmer pattern

Mystery Knitter wrote: I love the neckwarmer you made - could you post the pattern - it looks easy. Thanks.

Sure, it's really simple. First a word about binding off.

Here are the two neckwarmers I made last week side by side. I hadn't planned to take a photo of Mike's because it looked like Dad's but then I realized that wasn't true, they aren't exactly alike.

I made Dad's first, on the right, and used EZ's sewn bind-off. So why does the neckwarmer on the left flare out at the bottom? The bind-off is different, it's the last one in my list of stretchy bind-offs -- but I do K2tog tbl in Step 3 instead of regular K2tog.

Another difference is that one is K3P3 and one is K2P2 but gee, who cares.

OK, so here's the Easy Neckwarmer pattern (click to open in new window)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Why knit holiday gifts?

Some knitters scoff and voice their disapproval about others knitting holiday presents. The grumble usually goes something like: "Why do people stress out about knitting gifts when they can buy presents? Who cares if everybody and their cat receives a pair of mittens from you?" Some cynics question the motives of handknit gifters, like we're doing it to proclaim "I'm so wonderful, I knit this for you! You owe me big time now!"

Whatever. I like it when people appreciate the things I make them but that's as far as it goes, I don't expect special treatment because I made my brother's girlfriend a hat.

If I had the money I wouldn't be knitting for everyone. Some of us knit gifts for budget reasons. Consider mom's shawl. The 1500 yards of laceweight yarn was $14.00. As far as mom gifts go, that's nothing. I used to spend several times that on a single present and I'd be surprised if between the two of us we could remember half of what I gave her BK (Before Knitting, heh). The only gift that sticks out in my mind is a crystal Fostoria vase, everything else is a blur. I'm fortunate she's That Kind of Mom who appreciates handmade things much more than anything bought in a store.

The yarn for my grandma's shawl cost $2.99 (6 balls of new yarn, labels intact, at a thrift store). Everything else is being knit from yarn that has been sitting in my stash so I'm not spending money right now to make the stuff. Too bad I have to spend money to mail it. OK, you get the point.

Earlier in the week I made a neckwarmer for my Dad's birthday this Sunday. He'll get some use out of it at Seahawks games, brrr.

This is very easy to knit and after xmas knitting is done I will make one for myself, I like it much better than a dangling scarf.

Last night I finished a hat for Jenn, using yarn set aside for mittens -- the stash was short on not-white worsted yarn (and no time for dyeing/drying) so some of the mitten yarn went into this hat:

After washing the hat I finished up a neckwarmer for Mike. It looks almost exactly like Dad's neckwarmer (same yarn, same color) so no photo. I frogged the one made out of Lamb's Pride because it was too itchy for my neck/face and I didn't want him to deal with that. As soon as Jenn's hat is dry I can mail Mike and Jenn their presents.

Andrea and Bob won't be celebrating Christmas until he returns home in January so I am not under a tight deadline with their gifts. Andrea's present is already done though, it's the soft Homepsun scarf finished several months ago, the one I forced myself to knit in garter stitch throwing the yarn with my right hand the entire time. Normally I knit with the yarn in my left hand but I use both hands for 2 color knitting. I'd made a few fair isle type hats but the process was slow and uncomfortable, I hated hated hated holding that yarn in my right hand. Light bulb moment. When I first started knitting I taught myself proper tension by making repetitive garter stitch scarves, why not do the same to master right hand knitting? The plan worked, my 2 color knitting is now a lot faster and it no longer feels awkward to hold the yarn in my right hand. Oh, speaking of cheap presents, Andrea's scarf cost $2.50 to make (1 skein of Homespun yarn, on sale).

Chris asked: May I use your chart to make a hat a la Cameron's Cap by the handknitter? (http://www.handknitter.sarahpeasley.com/)

Certainly, I'd love to see the end result. Right now both charts are in their rough draft stages, I don't finalize anything until I actually knit it up. When I have complete charts I will post much larger images so others can use them if they wish. But if anyone wants to play with the rough drafts I don't mind at all.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I'll give you $30 for that hat. No?

I thought I'd have a pair of mittens by now but all I have is a single cuff. It's a lovely K1P1 cuff with a nifty tubular cast-on but it is just a cuff. (Note: Lucy Neatby's instructions for tubular cast on in the round are good, as printed in her sock book.) I knit up half the hand and it looked great but the fair isle pattern distorted too much when I tried it on. So I ripped back to the top of the cuff and added 4 sts and worked half the hand again and it still didn't look right. I usually add thumbs with a triangular thumb gusset on the side, which adds fabric to the side as the thumb grows in width, but this time the plan was to add the thumb later on the palm. After my Christmas knitting is done I'll tinker with the mittens some more and figure out which thumb method looks the best for what I have in mind. Maybe I should look at an actual mitten pattern with one of those palm thumbs? Yeah, that might have been a smart first move.

I drew a different chart for a mitten that requires more sts per round, here it is still in the rough draft stage (I'll figure out the decreases and pattern near the top as I work the first one):

The palm of the mitten is a simple 1 x 1 check (like the 2 columns on each side).

Mom's shawl update: I'm working on the 17th chart 2 repeat. Looks like I'll have to do 18 repeats before starting the edging. I'm hesitant to put the sts back on the extended Denise cables again to see the shawl's accurate size. I did that right before I left for Thanksgiving at about 2 AM ... and stayed up past 4 AM rescuing stitches (knowing that I had promised to be on the road by noon -- which actually happened thanks to my alarm clock).

See, the 40" cable was attached to another cable and then that was attached to a third cable. Pushing sts around must have twisted the connectors the wrong way because one of them untwisted and disconnected two of the cables, and about 30 sts quietly slipped off before I realized what had happened. (I made the decision to fix everything before getting any sleep, thinking there's no way I'd be able to sleep with that mess on my mind.) I suppose a lifeline would give me peace of mind if I really want to try it again.

That doesn't top last night though. I can blame the dropped sts on an equipment malfunction but last night I had a brain malfunction. I picked up the shawl and started a wrong side purl row and about 325 sts later realized I should have started a right side row in pattern. I had so much fun tinking 325 purl sts in laceweight yarn, uh huh. This is a really stupid mistake because the WS row is so obviously a WS row (the unblocked lace puffs out like giant blisters on the WS) so I should have noticed right away I was NOT on a WS row. What's bizarre is that about 1/4 of the way into this error I thought something looked wrong but I kept on purling. Why didn't I stop and examine what I was actually doing?? I have no excuse.

Last week I made a nice (boring) neck warmer for my older brother using a skein of dark blue Lamb's Pride Bulky in a K3P3 rib. Very simple and easy to make but oh so practical. It can be folded over in half for a thick warm collar under his coat or it can be unfolded to protect the face and ears when he's walking outside. I was thinking it'd be a great alternative to a scarf and he lives in Minnesota where rumor has it that the winters are very cold. So it was all done and looked spiffy and then I tried it on. I forgot that LP itches my neck and wrists so I can't use it for mittens or anything that touches the neck/face. Bah. I hate the idea of giving him something that he might not use because it itches, and that would be a waste of LP too.

So as you can see, the last 2 weeks have been one knitting mistake/disaster/boneheaded move after the other.

I talked to my older brother on Thanksgiving and he mentioned that he wore his fair isle hat to vote and the person who signed him in complimented him on it. He said I should sell the hats and I said "Nobody would pay what I'd charge to make them worth my time." He advised I could get $30 for each hat. Um... no thanks. The yarn alone costs half that much and it's not like I can knock out one of those hats in an hour. Maybe $30 for a hat knit with cheap bulky yarn in a single color -- but I don't think too many people would pay $30 for a boring hat like that, I sure wouldn't.