Sunday, December 5, 2010

Evil Penguins

The teensy sweaters in the post below are part of a multi-project pattern issued by Knit Picks called Snow Day.

Here's the pattern image:

Since uploading the below photos, I've also finished the stripey cardigan (the orange, blue, and white one in the pattern pic). It looks great!

After finishing all the sweaters, I decided to give the penguin a go. I mean, it's freaking adorable. From the moment I cast on, the problems began.

First, you start with the basically ball shaped head. Knitting in the round, starting from very few stitches, sure, I've done this before. But, according to the pattern, you are supposed to do a lifted increase after every stitch in the very first round. This is impossible because THERE IS NOTHING TO LIFT. No matter which cast-on I tried, there was nothing for me to work into to do the Make 1. I had to do a backwards loop increase, which I have never liked because it's so effing hard to work into on the next round, but whatever. Correct stitch count achieved, right? And then I could do the lifted increases the pattern asked for ever subsequent time.

But of course, the problems were not over. The head was worked first in white, then the rest in black, so there was no need to float any color strands. However, once I got to the body, EACH round is part black and part white, so I had to start stranding. As anyone knows who has done colorwork, this immediately doubles the thickness of the finished object. Now, this is a TINY penguin. At its widest point, it's only 26 stitches around of fingering weight yarn on size 2 needles. Having it be this thick meant there was barely any space inside. I could already tell stuffing it was going to be difficult.

Thickness was not the only problem with the stranding. The other, and somewhat less significant problem unless you're rather OCD, is that EVERY time I floated the black strand, it showed up clear as day on the front (white) section of the penguin. I just kept telling myself, eh, this penguin's white section is just flecked with black feathers, sure, no problem, just vary where you do the float so it looks randomish. I could have dealt with that, I suppose, even though the lack of a pristine white section was bugging me.

So, I got the head done, I got the body done. It didn't look too horrible. The pattern is written so that you hold most of the white (belly) stitches of the penguin apart and work some short rows with the black (back) stitches to curve around the bottom for the feet, and graft onto the held stitches. But before you do this, you can take the opportunity to stuff the penguin.


Even with a stuffing tool, I had an incredibly hard time getting any polyfill into the body at all - the opening was just too narrow. Then, once I did manage to cram it in there, I could not, no matter what I tried, get the stuffing through the tiny neck section into the head area. The stuffing merely compacted at the neck and turned into a hard lump. And all this is separate from the fact that with all the uneven stranding I was forced to do, the body is not particularly willing to round itself out properly and keeps bunching in weird places that the stuffing can't even reach.

And all of this is going on in a creature that is roughly one by three inches.

When I realized it was never going to work, I yanked out the now solidified polyfill clump with a crochet hook and started unraveling that evil thing with a vengeance.

Quitting at this point meant that there were still further problems that I had anticipated, but never reached - for example, once you've stuffed it and grafted the toe, you're supposed to do the beak and the eyes. How the HELL was I supposed to tie off or weave in the ends INSIDE the penguin that has already been stuffed and sealed? Even if I hadn't stuffed or sealed it yet, the thickness of it and the narrowness of the neck meant that I couldn't even turn it inside out if I wanted to. Same goes for the wings, which are made separately and then sewn on. Where would the loose ends have gone?

Whoever wrote this pattern, whether it was Nina Isaacson (listed as the author on Ravelry) or some other Knit Picks staff member, clearly didn't think it through very well. I'm not sure how they even got the sample made. I may still attempt to knit a penguin ornament with the same basic shape as the one in the pattern, but I would have to dramatically reconceptualize the construction. For starters, even though I don't really like seaming, I'd have to completely do away with the need for stranding and just work the black and white sections separately and flat, like the pattern instructions tell you to do for the wings, which I never even got to. I would also have to do the eyes and beak BEFORE starting on the rest of the body, and finish and sew on the wings before seaming and stuffing the body.

Maybe... just maybe.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last Five Months

Just an update to let you know what I've gotten up to in the five months and change since my last post. I've made a few hats, a couple pairs of socks, most of a vest, and the most adorable teeny tiny sweaters I've ever seen.

I've gotten MUCH better at stranded knitting - come a long way since the pillow I made for my brother's wedding. I mean, that turned out very nicely and all, but the two and four strand work on these teensy sweaters was far more complicated.

Apart from the world of knitting, I've gotten married. Yeah, that was pretty awesome. I've started up the new school year and been through some pretty dramatic ups and downs where that's concerned. I've taken two big scary licensure exams and have another one scheduled for this weekend.

I was a princess for Halloween (fit into my old prom dress, whee!) and got to give out lots of candy. Had Thanksgiving with friends and got to experience some of the tastiest turkey ever, though I miss mom's mashed potatoes. Looking forward to Christmas, though as of yet we don't have very specific plans for the tree or the gifts or where on earth we're going to put the stockings now that we live in a place with no mantle...

So, here's a look-see at what I've knitted since June. Enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Ever Finished Socks!

Here they are! Didn't get very far up the leg before running out of yarn. Also, turned the first heel THREE TIMES before I found a M1 technique that didn't leave huge holes along the short row joins. They are delightfully, hideously chunky and yellow, but hey, they're house socks!

Being totally honest with myself, I'm REALLY glad I did these two-at-once, because I sincerely doubt I could have mustered up the willpower to do the other one, even though I think it turned out nicely. I still haven't gotten to Megan's other green lacy glove thing.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Two-At-Once Socks

Yesterday, I decided to teach myself to do socks, from the toe-up, on two circulars, both socks at the same time. This is three entirely separate skills, none of which I had learned before, but I was undaunted! My previous sock experience includes one crocheted sock (never had the desire to make another) and about 2/3 of a sock knitted from the top down on dpns. There was nothing wrong with the latter sock, and I suppose I could have finished it, but I wasn't crazy about the yarn - it was cotton, and even though it was a gorgeous colorway and the heel came out beautifully, it just didn't have any stretch to it when I pulled it up over my leg.

I had actually decided that knitting socks was completely pointless - why knit something you're going to hide inside a pair of shoes, anyway? Isn't the whole point of knitting to make other people jealous with your fabulous, fashionable crafting skills? But then, Bucky asked me to make him some 100% wool socks for his cycling shoes (wool socks dry VERY quickly), and since personal knitting requests from my beloved are a rare treat, I decided to give it another go. I did some research, found a delightfully sane and easy-to-modify pattern for basic toe-up, short-row heel sock construction, ordered a pair of size 2 circulars, and chose a nice slate gray ball of Knit Picks Palette yarn from my stash.

While waiting for the size 2's to arrive, I decided to do a bit of practice. The only size circulars I already have two of are a size 6. That's a bit on the small side for worsted weight yarn, which is all I really have in sufficient quantities to practice with, but I figured it would do. Due to the thickness of the yarn and the tightness of the gauge, I'm making socks that will be more like slippers than anything I can stuff into shoes, but that's ok! I chose a particular shade of yellow that I'd probably never wear out of the house anyway. :P It's some Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride that a friend sent me as part of a yarn-bomb care package. I'm pretty impressed with the results thus far! The toe looks a bit trapezoidal, but when I stretch it over my foot, that effect is pretty well diminished. I have about another four inches to do before I turn the heel, but I'm excited to see how long they get before I run out of wool. It might not be very long at all, but then, who knows? I'm working from both ends of the skein, so I'll just stop when I run out. :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness

Remember how I promised pictures of the finished crocheted alpaca top? Well, it's a ball of yarn, now. I frogged the entire thing. I had to admit to myself that no matter what I did to it, it would be a waste of yarn because it was highly likely that I would never, ever wear it. Like that ten-ton boxy acrylic dress, or the summery brightly-colored lacy bolero that I made entirely out of wool. Granted, those were newbie mistakes, mostly due to total inexperience with different types of fibers, and this top would have been quite nice if I hadn't simply run out of yarn. Still, I read somewhere that if you know at any point during the process that you're going to hate it, you simply have to suck it up and frog it, right then and there.

So that's what I did. I also applied that philosophy to the summer hat I'm making with Mirasol T'ikka. It was in hibernation because I loathed doing the linen stitch part. When I picked it back up again, I realized that hating those tightly bound little slip stitches was not the first of my problems. Somehow, I had managed to use a 5 mm needle instead of a size 5 needle like I was supposed to, and the hat (which was only a brim at the time) was HUGE. How did I not notice this? I mean, I know I'm lazy when it comes to gauge swatching and I honestly can't recall if I did one for this hat, but a needle choice mistake of three whole sizes? I held up the circulars to my head and without any stretching at all, that thing went around my noggin with about four inches to spare. All sorts of pleas went through my head, foremost among them being: just switch to the right size needle now! This is only the brim! So it'll be a little floppy! It's a summer hat, who cares? I actually got a few rows in with the size 5 before I realized that not only was this not shrinking the hat quickly enough, but it was going to look stupid when all was said and done.

So, with a heavy heart, but at least some measure of the thrill of yanking those ripply little stitches free, I went all the way back to the slip knot, and started over.

By the time I got back up to where the linen stitch band should be, the hat was already a wee bit on the tight side, but I'm not worried, because it'll stretch a bit. I decided to try and tackle the linen stitch again. So brave. But, to my relief, I could tell after only a couple rows that no amount of stretching and blocking would cram that around my skull, so I happily yanked it back out and started in with the much more hand-friendly moss stitch. It'll give me the same textural effect without the shrinkage, although of course, it won't have the same stiffness that it's supposed to for shaping and all. Oh well!

Oh, by the way, I finished that Cabled Boatneck Pullover. The sleeves are a teensy bit too short and they tend to get baggy kind of easily, but overall it's lovely, fits me well, and got lots of compliments!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alpaca Snag

I picked up the charcoal grey crocheted alpaca sweater I'd been working on, which I had lazily titled "Another Alpaca Top," since I made it with the leftovers from the top I made for my mom a couple Christmases ago. I had bought ten skeins for her sweater, but somehow drastically miscalculated, and I wound up only needing five. I had assumed I would have plenty to work with, since I was making a top of basically the same size, with the same tiny sleeves, a much lower neckline (hers was a mock turtleneck, mine is a scoop), and even mostly in the same dc-blo used for hers as well. Perfect, right?

I ran out of yarn (almost) with about ten rows left to go on the back of the sweater - the front was done ages ago. I have a partial skein left, probably enough to do the cap sleeves. So, decision time: the design of the pattern makes it very stretchy. I could seam it up as is, missing those couple inches, and it would probably fit. However, this means that, once it's sitting even, the seams will be rotated just a little towards the back, which means the sleeves will also be attached a bit further in along my shoulder blades. I have no idea how noticeable it will be, but I feel like I have little choice! I can't even rip out a few rows from the bottom hem to shorten it and add it to the back width, because the rows are vertical! Well. It's either seam it and see how it sits, or frog the entire thing and stash the yarn for some future use, which I am really loathe to do.

On the plus side, if it comes out well, it really is such a lovely color and texture. It would probably be nice enough to pair it with a pretty, floaty skirt and wear it to my brother's wedding next month. Heck knows I'm having trouble finding a dress that's either weather-appropriate or affordable.

I promise pix when it's done, no matter what the final verdict!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blocking the Lavender Leaves

All done! Hope to get a picture of Audrey wearing it when I give it to her on Tuesday. :D

New Year's Resolution

I spent some time working on the Lavender Leaves Scarf this morning, a belated Christmas present for a coworker, and I was feeling guilty that I hadn't yet started on the blanket for my mom, or the fingerless gloves for my friend, or the vest and cap for my fiance's grammy. I resolved to get started on all those things right away.

A few minutes later, I realized that was insane, and I revised my resolution. I hereby promise (and I apologize to those who will have to wait longer for their handcrafted goodies) that I will not start one single new project OF ANY KIND until every single one of my WIPs becomes an FO.

I will not include things that are hibernating or that I hate and may wind up frogging anyway, which includes the Phedre's Vow top, the Ducky socks, and the Fruity Pebbles socks.

I will, however, have to finish the Cabled Boatneck Sweater, Another Alpaca Top, the Bella Scarf, the Lavender Leaves Scarf, and the Brick Alley Blanket. OK, well, the blanket might be an exception because if I wait until I finish that, I won't start anything new until next year!

So tie me to the WIPping post, and 50 lashes if I even think about starting anything new until I get out from under the heaps of unfinished work.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Crochet - Yer Doin' It Wrong

You know, I like being a member of the Crochet Guild of America. Even if it's true that I knit now far more than I crochet, still, I like that sense of belonging. Especially since having been featured in Interweave Crochet's reader's gallery.

But, I cannot help but cringe at what the crocheting ladies of the guild consider to be fashion-forward examples of their illustrious craft. Each Crochet! Magazine (the guild's own publication) that finds its way into my mailbox every other month has me gasping in horror. Why they continue to insist on publishing (and naming as Editor's Choice, no less) the spectacularly tacky works of Tammy Hildebrand is beyond me:

And that photo doesn't even SHOW the "edgy, asymmetrical hem." Seriously, people, it doesn't matter how many times you try to convince us that asymmetrical buttoning is trendy or daring; you will always look like Seymour Krelborn.

Of course, Crochet! Magazine wasn't satisfied with merely one eye-searing masterpiece from Ms. Hildebrand. Oh no. Take a gander at this beauty:

I get good laughs out of my Crochet! Magazine subscription (which, after all, is free with guild dues), but if I actually want to crochet anything out of a magazine and not open myself up to public ridicule and personal mortification, I think I'll wait for my Interweave to show up.