Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Library Love

There has to be at least one serious knitter on staff at my local library, they add new knitting books every month and the generous selection of books would make any knitter drool. It's not just the quantity that's impressive, the variety and depth is also appreciated. For example, you'd expect them to have the popular Vogue Knitting reference book but they also have gems like Latvian Dreams. They subscribe to two knitting magazines, Vogue Knitting and Knitter's. Neither has really impressed me lately but it's nice to be able to review the magazines at leisure without wasting money on a dud. (I'll buy a true keeper issue after reading it at the library, which hasn't happened in a long time.) Sometimes when I have nowhere to go for a few hours I will ask for an armful of Knitter's magazines from the '90s.

I've been meaning to research all the Meg Swansen videos available so I have an idea of which ones to request the library purchase for their collection. I don't think my suggestions would be outside the realm of possibility, they already own MS/EZ's Knitting Glossary and EZ's Knitting Workshop. I rarely see them on the shelf so they are popular videos. I put in a written request for The Opinionated Knitter last week even though I suspect it's already on their "order ASAP" list. That request puts me on the hold list, hopefully #1. Speaking of EZ, thank you to Kathy for the "knit on" button over there in the sidebar. I'll proudly display my respect and admiration for EZ.

If I ever move away one of the things I'll miss most is the library, how nutty is that?

I'm not one of those knitters who can knit and read with any hope of comprehension at the same time so lately I've been sacrificing knitting time for reading time. I finally got around to almost finishing the body of the Komi mitten last night and then noticed I was doing the K2tog decreases at the wrong spot (2 sts from the end of the 1/2 round instead of 3 sts from the end). I was wrong both opportunities on every round so I was consistent in my error, which is why it took so long to notice. It looked fine but it's the sort of thing that would bug me, so I ripped back to the start of the decreases and then set the mitten aside.

I mailed the other pair of Komi mittens off to Mom for her birthday on the 27th, she says they fit so that's a relief.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Magical Knitting Book Review

Yesterday I went to the library to return some DVDs (Horatio Hornblower, fun adventure on the high seas) and borrow a few books. One of those books was A Treasury of Magical Knitting by Cat Bordhi. You might know her from Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles. I flipped through the Magical Knitting book at the LYS last year but nothing in it grabbed my attention. Which is fine, my lack of NEED IT NOW interest makes it an ideal book to borrow from the library and explore at leisure. That way I won't feel like I wasted money on it -- and with a pricetag of $27.00 I reserve the right to be picky.

So I was flipping through the library's copy of Magical Knitting and a photo taken at the top of a waterfall jumped out at me.

Hey, that's right down the street, I can walk there! How did they find that location? It made sense after I was reminded Cat Bordhi lives in Friday Harbor, on San Juan island (a short boat ride away). And I know for certain that's MY waterfall (OK, I don't own it) because a photo on the previous page shows the model standing on the stone bridge next to it.

The San Juan islands are my personal vision of heaven. I happened to be in Friday Harbor last October, here are some photos of the marina:

The sign says "Port of Friday Harbor Marina"

OK, so what do I think of A Treasury of Magical Knitting?

Here is where I ignore the inexplicable fictional story about the discovery of the moebius strip and circular needles. Moving right along...

I'm sure I'll eventually make at least one moebius scarf, I like trying new knitting techniques and the cast on is different/bizarre. It involves a provisional-like cast on with a 47"-60" circular curled up in a coil like a snake -- that makes zero sense, you have to see the pictures in the book.

At first I was thinking oh great, I need to buy a 47" circular just to try this out (because the only 47" circs I own are size 0 and size 000) but Bordhi mentions that the Denise interchangeables are a good fit for her moebius technique. I have a 40" Denise cord (which makes a 48" circ) so hey, I won't have to buy new needles or cords.

The written instructions and photos are very clear, it's obvious that Bordhi taught this technique in numerous workshops before writing the book. All the details have been patiently explained and pitfalls averted because she knows exactly when someone would raise a hand in class and ask, "But what happens if...?" There's even an entire FAQ chapter, which is both clever and helpful.

So what can we make with a moebius? Well, there's scarves, shawls, capes, hats, and felted socks. You'll find felted bags, baskets, bowls, and cat beds in the follow-up book, A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting. The first book has three pages of preview photos for the second book but that's all I know about it, I haven't seen the second book yet. Aside: This is kinda misleading, some people quickly flipping through the first book in a store will see the photos of bags, baskets, bowls, and cat beds and assume the patterns are in the book they're buying. Wrong. I don't believe it was Bordhi's intention to trick people of course, but it's going to annoy some knitters. And we all know how easy it is to annoy knitters. Ha ha ha.

The scarves show off the moebius best because they actually look like moebius strips. The shawls tend to look like they might have been twisted on accident when they were put on (though some do look quite nice), the other objects basically have a twisted cuff or handle so they look like the cuff on the hat is flipped up wrong or yay there's a twist in the handle (eh, you might be more excited than me about that). If you click on the cover photo for Bordhi's second moebius book on Amazon.com you'll see some of the felted items. I doubt I'll ever make one of those things but I see a moebius scarf in my future. I especially like the idea of making a moebius scarf with applied i-cord edging in a contrasting color.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Another mitten for your viewing pleasure

I liked the first pair of Komi mittens I finished last month so now I'm working on a new pair from Mostly Mittens. Different pattern, different yarn. This is the fingering weight wool that I dyed a couple weeks ago. It's 10 sts/in on size 0 needles.

I'll make more of an effort to get the colors right for the final photo. In these photos the darker color looks like it has hightlights or the dye job was spotty, it's actually a very solid color, a dark teal.

The dye was turquoise but the first two skeins that went in the dye pot together look dark teal to me -- which is cool because that's one of my favorite colors. Anyway, my digital camera does the best it can with 1.3 (not a typo) megapixels. I hope to have access to a much better camera soon and that should improve how colors appear in my photos. If I'm thinking about it tomorrow I'll try again in natural sunlight.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Remember kids, bleach is not a toy!

I was asked about the bleach test...

I like to buy yarn at thrift shops but sometimes it isn't labelled. Cotton is easy to identify, I know that when I see/touch it. If the mystery yarn isn't cotton then it's usually obvious if it's wool or acrylic but every so often I can't be absolutely sure. I also like to try to break the yarn with my hands but wool doesn't always break and acrylic doesn't always not break (the weight of the yarn can foil the break test).

If I'm still not sure I drop an inch of the mystery yarn into a jar and cover it with a small amount of regular household bleach. I then put a lid on the jar and place it in a cupboard over the stove. I check on it an hour or so later, or the next morning. Wool dissolves in bleach, acrylic doesn't. I imagine if it's a blend then the animal fiber would dissolve and the acrylic content would remain in the jar.

What about fibers that aren't wool or acrylic? I haven't done tests but I'm guessing any yarn that's made from 100% animal fiber would dissolve in bleach. As for plant fibers, I don't know how long it'd take a worsted cotton to dissolve in bleach but that hasn't been an issue because cotton is the easiest yarn for me to identify, it's just so obviously cotton there's no testing required. Ramie? Silk? Bamboo? Hemp? *throws hands in air* I'll do an elementary school science project on bleach and yarn in my next life, promise. Complete with charts and graphs! See, there'd be a column for time elapsed and ... *snaps back to reality*

I have no good reason for why I prefer using bleach instead of fire to determine Acrylic or Not Acrylic. I think the burn test info about smells puts me off, my sense of smell is unreliable.

I'll get back into mitten production soon, I just needed a week off to concentrate on Other Things.

Almost forgot, last week I did manage to knit up a mindless swatch using the dyed yarns to test for bleeding. I didn't put vinegar in the water and I still couldn't detect even a hint of bleeding into the light blue yarn after a good long soak so it should be fine for the mittens. (Just to be sure I waited for the swatch to dry and unravelled it.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A final photo of the Komi mittens & When Dye Attacks!

This isn't bruising... it's the result of not rinsing the dyed yarn properly. :( Or maybe it wasn't heated long enough? I'm concerned the dark turquoise yarn will run and stain the light yarn when the finished mittens are washed. Now that the cuff is done I'll knit up a test swatch with the two yarns and wash that with some vinegar to see what happens. If the dye stains the light blue yarn then I'll have to halt the mittens and wash the dark turq yarn again and wait for it to dry, what fun.

You can see how I hold the yarn in my left hand, the dye has marked its path: over the index finger, under the middle finger, over the ring finger, under the pinky. There's dye on my thumb because I purl using my thumb and I was doing a K2P2 rib for the mitten cuff. (I know there are some other thumb purlers out there but I haven't met any in person.)

The first pair of Komi mittens are done, here's the final photo. I blocked one of the mittens inside out as the "Mostly Mittens" book suggests and it does make a difference. Not better or worse, just a noticeable difference.