Monday, October 10, 2011

Cobblestone Pullover

Working on a sweater for Bucky - the first sweater I've ever knit him!  Working from Jared Flood's Cobblestone Pullover, which is an easy knit but texturally interesting, and I think it'll look great on my guy.  The yarn is Valley Yarns Amherst in soft brown, and I'm working on size 8's.  I'm up to the yoke, so nearly done - check it out:

The yoke will continue in garter stitch until the end.  There's no ribbed neckline, so it'll be a bit of a roll-neck.  The underarms will be kitchenered.  I'm following the directions for the small size with a few stitches extra at cast on to account for a slightly small gauge.  It's about 37" around the chest, so it'll have about 2-3" of positive ease.  Of course I had to mod the math for the decrease rows in the yoke, but it worked out very nicely!  Can't wait to see it on him!

Monday, July 18, 2011

First Purse

The cardigan is done! Shipped it last week, and mom loves it!  Have yet to get a nice photo of her wearing it though.  Hey mom, get on that!

Got yet another custom request from mom, this time for a mesh tank top.  She wants two, in fact, and her coworker wants one as well!  So, while waiting for *that* yarn to arrive, I had to do something to keep my hands busy, so I flipped through my small project patterns.  I decided to give Laura Irwin's Pleated Denim Purse a go.

I cast on with white Cascade Luna, and actually got about halfway through the first side of the purse before I realized this just wasn't the right yarn for the project. Something about the texture wasn't pleasing me, and anyway, the true white was just too bright and would get dingy too easily. Also, it seemed like I was running out of yardage a bit too quickly.

I thought and thought about what else I could use.  I certainly didn't want to start a busy work project that I had to actually *buy* yarn for, but I don't keep a lot of cotton in my stash.  Then it struck me that I still had about two thirds of that giant ball of ecru dishcloth yarn I'd bought.  I wasn't sure if dishcloth cotton would make a good purse, but what the hell, I cast on.  And it worked up like a dream.  Lily Sugar'n Cream is a bit softer than the Luna, and the ecru tone still gives me the pale purse that I wanted, but in a more natural shade. 

I wrestled with how exactly to do the buttons.  The pattern calls for six 1/2" buttons all around the flap.  But really, who wants to have to undo and redo six freaking buttons every time they need to get into their purse?  So, I dug around in my grandmother's button tin, and selected several buttons of various sizes and in various brown, black, and shell shades, that I thought might work well.  I settled on a 1.5" espresso brown button.  It's shaped like some sort of flower, I think, although I have no clue what kind.

Anyway, since I had chosen the button, all that was left to do was figure out placement, and then do the row/stitch math to get the buttonhole in the right place.  A run through the wash and dry with hot water and high heat shrank the stitches a bit so the purse fabric is nice and sturdy (I was already using size 5 needles on a worsted weight cotton, so the fabric was leaning toward dense), and it was ready for some light blocking and its button to be sewn on.  I attached an old chain bracelet I found in my jewelry box as a handle.  It's got cute, heart-shaped silver and green charms on it.

And voila! It fits my phone, keys, sunglasses, and Burt's Bees like a pro! I may line it with fabric at some point, but for now, it's looking great.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I Knit

I had hoped some day to write elegantly on this subject, and perhaps I still will in the future, but for now, I wanted to share with you all a letter from Eunny Jang, knitter extraordinaire and Interweave editor.  This note accompanied the announcement of the release of the Interweave Knits Weekend 2011 issue, and while it does, of course, plug the new issue, it also sums up beautifully how I feel about knitting and why I do it:

Living a Handmade Life

Ever since we started producing Weekend in 2008, I've delighted in collecting cozy, casual knits that represent the kinds of things we really wear. There's a comfortable, satisfied feeling that comes of making something that is at once beautiful and eminently functional—these aren't dressy or finicky pieces, but garments and accessories that feel homey and relaxed, familiar.

Every piece in this issue is informed by the everyday life of its designer, her own wishes and needs for useful, purposeful knits that look and feel good. It's fun to catch a glimpse of their lives through their sweaters.

And I do think a lot about this handmade life we lead as knitters, people who make usable things out of sticks and string. It's an extraordinary thing in a larger culture that praises speed and disposability—our craft is methodical, meditative, thoughtful. Its gratification is delayed. But we do it for the joy of making wonderful things with our own hands, adding usefulness and beauty to the world with every stitch.

Of course, there are as many shades to the knitting urge as there are knitters, but I think that most of them boil down to this: We love being creators. Our knitting studs our lives with creativity; because of it, we're good problem solvers and thoughtful analysts, we know how to judge and take risks, we are at peace with the fact that you sometimes just need to start over again. We knitters are forces that add. 

So keep on knitting—and not just on swanky projects. Knit slouchy Saturday market sweaters, snowballing mittens, toys even for children who haven't quite outgrown bibs yet. Knit things you'll use every day. Wrap your loved ones in wooly armor and fill your home with beautiful things.

And enjoy them all, let them wear out, remake them into something else. Make your knitting part of your real, everyday life. Get your issue of Weekend 2011 now and fill the world with more good knitting than it knows what to do with—!

The Knitter's Life—creating, laboring, letting go. It is all fine and right.

Eunny Jang

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Cardigan Challenge Continued

I'm now on my fourth day working on mom's cardigan, and it's been a breeze so far!

I wound up going with size 8 needles for the main body (7's for the waffle-stitch borders). The 8's give me a gauge of 4.8 stitches and 6.5 rows per inch, which is a bit on the small side - the stated gauge is 4.5 stitches and 5.5 rows per inch - but I've had no trouble adjusting my stitch counts as necessary.  The swatch I did on 9's was slightly over gauge, and I didn't like how loose the fabric was, so 8's it was.  The drape and texture are perfect!

My only complaint so far is that the skein of Comfort is not a continuous strand - there's been a knot in each of the first two balls.  I attempted Russian weaver's joins, but it's an 8-ply yarn and the joins were just too messy and knotted, and it's not like I can spit splice a synthetic, so I had to go with the traditional double knit-in, which means slightly lumpy areas and more ends for me to weave in later.  Hoorah.

But, I've just finished decreasing for the waist, working even for a little bit, then going to increase back out for the hips.  Then - on to sleeves and button bands!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gauge Woes

So, the yarn I ordered for mom's cardigan came in the mail a lot sooner than I expected!  I whipped out my size 5's and started gauge swatching.  I was highly skeptical that *anyone* could get a gauge of 4.5 stitches per inch with dk weight yarn on size 5 needles, but hey, I figured the pattern designer knew what she was doing.

Of course, my swatch came out WAY too small.

Moved up to sixes.  Still way too small.

Sevens? Too small.

Eights.  Close enough that it would have been acceptable, if it weren't for the fact that using size 8 needles on a smooth dk weight yarn made the fabric so loose it was practically see through.  Clearly, this wouldn't do.

So I did a little research and found that the specific yarn used by the designer may be labelled like a dk, but knitters say that it is really more of a worsted weight yarn.  This makes my gauge issues a little easier to understand.  So, I went back to WEBS, and ordered the same yarn, Berroco Comfort, in the same color - Beet Root - but in worsted rather than dk.  I'm still wondering what needle size I'll need to get 4.5 stitches per inch though.  I still just don't see that happening on size 5's!

Meanwhile, I'm using the dk Comfort to make myself Cassie Castillo's Camellia Shrug from the winter/spring 2011 Knitscene.  It's coming along gorgeously so far!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Busy Work

Every teacher knows about busy work.  A competent teacher conscientiously strives to avoid it - busy work generally carries the negative connotation of being pointless, tedious, and nonproductive, a clear sign of an apathetic teacher who has given up.  The truly clever teacher, however, can find ways to create busy work that is challenging and useful, results in a worthwhile finished product, and serves the same original purpose of keeping students quiet and out of mischief.

When I got the request from my mom for the cardigan, I had no idea that it would take her nearly an entire week to settle on a color.  I finally ordered it - a dark red called "beet root" - two days ago, and I assume it'll take several days to arrive.  I haven't even gotten a notification of shipment yet.

Knitting is something I do every single day.  Not out of willpower or dedication, but for sheer love of the craft, and because my hands simply get very antsy if I don't.  I prefer to have a project to work on, but I can be satisfied with gauge swatching or trying out techniques if I've got nothing better to do.  While waiting for mom to make up her mind, I found myself itching for something to knit (or otherwise craft), and somehow, I wound up going retro housewife.  Apparently I am single-handedly (well, double-handedly) unraveling the bra-burning, wage-earning efforts of 20th century feminists.

This week I have worked on a latch hook rug for the bathroom, knit four cotton dishcloths, and started gauge swatching for lace kitchen curtains, the pattern for which I'm getting from a book published in 1972.  I kind of feel like a granny, sure.  I kind of feel like I'm betraying my slightly younger self who learned to crochet and knit for the sake of fashion, proclaiming furiously that she would NEVER make housewares.  And yet, some secret part of me sees a really intricate, fine lace doily and is more impressed with the skill and beauty of it than deterred by its nursing home associations.

I'm still looking forward eagerly to the arrival of my yarn order, so I can get started on this cute cardigan, but I'm no longer ashamed of the fact that my home is suddenly sporting a few yarn-based accessories.

And you know what? Those cotton dishcloths work GREAT.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Cardigan Challenge

This week, my mom asked me to make her a cardigan for the workplace, something to ward off the chill when the heater isn't working properly, or the AC is working a little too well.  Now, I absolutely love requests.  Especially with an accompanying offer of pay!  But to knit something for mom presents a few unique challenges, first and most important of which is:

1. I can't use wool.  From any kind of animal.  This means not just regular sheep's wool, which comprises a huge chunk of the yarn market, but also alpaca, merino, cashmere, bison, vicuna, etc.  Therefore, I'll have to use plant fibers, silk, synthetics, or some combination thereof.  Synthetic fibers don't block AT ALL, and the majority of them feel like cheap crap against the skin.  Plant fibers are generally stiff and heavy.  Silk is prohibitively pricey, and not particularly warm.  So the first mission is to find a vegan yarn (silk excepted) that is lightweight, springy, soft, and affordable.

Then there are the less difficult challenges:

2. Sizing.  Even if she takes the time to send me all her measurements, I can't try it on her as I go, and she's a couple sizes smaller than me.  I'll have to be very, very careful.

3. Color.  This cardigan has to go with everything, almost literally.  It will live at the office and must coordinate with anything she might choose to wear in a professional environment.  This may not be a real challenge at all, actually, if she picks the color herself.

So here's what I've chosen so far:

The Brompton Cardigan: It's lovely, simple, and the waffle stitch borders will help prevent curling.

Berroco Comfort Yarn: I have one or two other yarns in mind as well, but according to Berocco, this yarn is one of their most popular, and is soft, springy, and warm.  Of course, being a nylon/acrylic blend, it won't block, but hopefully those waffle stitch borders will eliminate or at least greatly reduce the need.

As soon as we figure out a color, I'll order the yarn and cast on.  So excited!

Monday, May 16, 2011

FO Real!

Woo, another WIP has officially joined the ranks of proud Finished Objects.  And in the end, I decided to try and sell it anyway! The weather is exactly right for it, and Victorianesque things seem to be all over Etsy lately.  Now to find the motivation to keep working on that crocheted bedspread for mom...

Now available in my Etsy shop!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Second Entrelac Scarf is Up!

Finished the second of my three entrelac scarves for sale on Etsy.  This one was a colorway called "Strawberry Fields," but since it's much more pink than red, I've called it "Berry Patch."

Now available in my Etsy shop!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Backwards is the New Forwards!

While glancing through yesterday's Knitting Daily blog post on bobbles (truly just glancing; I despise bobbles), I was startled to read that somewhere in the midst of Eunny Jang's bobble tutorial video, there were instructions for knitting backwards.  Not tinking (i.e. unknitting), but actually knitting (or in my case, purling) from left to right.  This effectively means that you don't have to turn the work to do the wrong side rows.

Well, I couldn't be convinced to watch a tutorial on bobbles just to see this miracle, but I figured it couldn't be that hard to figure out.  It's just the logical reversal of what I already do.  And here's what happened:

It was exactly like learning to french braid my own hair.  By the time I was eight or nine, I was a whiz at three-strand plaits - my fingers flew through them.  By eleven or so I had mastered the slightly more complicated technique of french braiding - but only on my friends' heads.  One summer, while staying at my grammom's place at the shore, I decided that I was going to french braid my own hair, with no help from anyone. 

It was unbelievably awkward.  My elbows and wrists twisted around behind me, not being able to see what I was doing... I was taking a set of motions that had become muscle memory, and forcing myself to do them inside-out.  Ever try to tie your shoes a different way than you're used to?  The results were a mess - it was severely lopsided and there were bits sticking up and out all over.  In its own beachy, summery way, I suppose it could have been passed it off as cutely mussed.  In fact, I probably did just that.  But it took years of practice before my hands felt really comfortable with the motions, and my braids started to look as neat and straight as when my mom did them.  Now I do it all the time, sometimes to work, sometimes to just casually and quickly pull my hair back.

Thankfully, thinking through what exactly I'd need to do to purl a stitch on the wrong side - from the right side - and then getting my fingers to do it without dropping the needles, only took about ten minutes and a dozen stitches.  But despite the difference in scale, the process felt exactly the same.  For a few minutes, knitting managed to feel alien to me all over again.

It was pretty fun.

And let me tell you how not having to turn my work every eight stitches on this entrelac scarf is a HUGE time saver!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stash and Stock

Motivated by the upcoming street fair at my local high school, I've decided to make a serious effort to knit and crochet for shop stock.  Up to now, I have crafted exclusively for myself, for gifts, or on commission from family and friends.  I'd like to be able to have a stock of small, quickly sellable items on hand both to populate my Etsy shop and to fill up a table should I want to buy a spot in a street or craft fair.  I won't be able to participate in the one I mentioned - it's only two and a half weeks away and I'd never make enough in time.  But it's never too early to prepare for the next one, whenever that may be! And in the meantime, perhaps I can actually get some Etsy traffic.

I've always been timid to undertake the crafting of items with no certain destination.  What if I spend a ton of money on the supplies and the finished objects just gather dust?  Lately, however, I've been giving so much thought to my future yarn shop (and I'm leaning towards Yarn Kiss as the shop name), that I feel more prepared to make judgment calls about what sorts of FO's I can profit from.  For example, I'm not going to be able to sell warm winter scarves and hats at a street fair in July.  But it would be simple enough to whip up a whole bushel of baby booties and hats in lighter weight, brightly colored yarns, and I have a feeling those would be popular!

While the weather is certainly getting warmer, I've gotten so many effusive compliments on my first entrelac scarf that I've decided to whip up three more of them and put them on Etsy as quick as I can.  They may not sell until fall, but hey, I can keep them tidily packed away until then if need be.  I bought six skeins of Lion Brand Amazing in three different colorways, a dark (Arcadia), a light (Strawberry Fields), and a bright (Regatta).  I'm about 20% in to the Arcadia Scarf:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Note on Obsession

This is a little off topic, but hey, no one really reads this anyway, right?

There have always been people in my life who love something special and to them, sacred, whether it's a certain band, a hobby, a game, a movie, a sport, a religion.  They love this thing with a single-minded, aggressive passion.  It consumes their spare time and motivates them to preach endlessly of its virtues to the nonbelievers.  They wear the merch.  They write the fanfic.  They sometimes even get tattoos.  And when it is suggested to them that they might, perhaps, broaden their interests, they become defensive, angry, or even mocking of the suggester's apparent lack of taste.

Don't get me wrong, I have my favorites.  I love EVERY Joss Whedon show, and I tend to get a bit miffed when people don't think he's brilliant.  But I've never been to a Buffy con, and frankly, I'm a little bit frightened of the people who write the fanfic.

The only other thing in my life that can match my Whedon love is knitting.  I knit every single day.  I encourage other people to learn how.  I spend almost as much time on Ravelry as I do on Facebook.  I plan to open my own knit shop in the very near future.  I go to the expos when they're in the area.  I've read the Friday Night Knitting Club, and am halfway through its sequel, Knit Two.  I squee'd along with all the other Harry Potter loving fiber fiends when Dumbledore bashfully admitted to a fondness for knitting pattern magazines.

But do I never talk about anything else? Of course not.  Is it the only thing in my life, the reason I get up in the morning? Sorry, but no.

I love my husband. I love my movies and TV shows - yes, they are mostly fantasy/sci-fi, but not entirely.  I love cooking and shopping and reading and drawing and teaching and decorating.  And yes, I'll admit it, I'm a bit addicted Facebook games.

So, to my dear friends, if you stumble across this post, and you are one of the obsessed (you know who you are) - consider this a one-woman intervention.  Let someone get you in to something new!  Something that doesn't relate to your current obsession.  Give your poor brain room to breathe.  It'll be good for you, I promise. 

And, just because I realize this all sounds a bit smug and preachy, I will confess that I actually am considering getting a knitting-themed tattoo.  Mock away.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Baby Fever

Lately, whenever I browse knitting patterns on Ravelry or pattern books in shops, I'm drawn to the baby patterns. I've never had a reason to knit anything for a baby or even a child, but these days it seems like everyone around me is pregnant or carrying around a little one. And the patterns themselves, of course, are absolutely precious. So, when I saw that I had a respectable amount saved up, I splurged on two books:

Now, it's no secret to those of you that know me that I'm, well, a snobby knitter. Unless I'm learning a completely new technique, I refuse to knit anything that has the word "easy" or "quick" in its name, or comes from a book with a similar title. When the people around me see what I've wrought, they won't merely say "Oh hey, you learned how to knit. Neat." Oh no. They will be amazed that human hands could have created such a masterpiece! I seek out the marvelous, the impressive, the maddeningly complex.

It may not come as a shock to anyone that a book full of patterns like that would not sell easily. So I often settle for a book full of "pretty and interesting" with a handful of "sufficiently difficult looking."

A few days ago, I decided to purchase something I'd been lusting after. Until now, I'd been carrying all my circulars, dpns, and notions around the house in the clear vinyl pouch that came with Knit Picks interchangeable set. But really, it was never intended for that kind of duty, and it was just a mess. So I went for the momma of portable knitting tackleboxes:

This is the "Multi-Craft Rack System" by Creative Options, the crafty division of Plano, which makes nearly identical organizers in less girly colors for tools and such. After adding this beauty to my cart, I decided to take a look at the baby pattern books. My friend's daughter is coming up on her first birthday, which was a very convenient excuse to expand my knitting library. I chose the above books because the patterns within didn't look like they could be knitted by just anyone (well, most of them) and because the appeal of that gorgeous vintage look was very strong. Vintage Baby Knits is a collection of actual vintage patterns, adapted for modern terminology, and Vintage Knits for Modern Babies is all new, vintage-inspired patterns. Both are full of irresistibly stylish baby knits, and I'm going to have a really hard time deciding what to make for the little princess!

But I feel comfortable that whatever it is, her mommy will be blown away. :D

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Man They Call Jayne

I finally have a reason to make a proper Jayne Cobb hat now that I know how to knit! For those of you who don't know, I've crocheted one before, for my brother. It was pretty sweet, but I've always wanted to make a proper knitted one, and red/orange/yellow is NOT a color combo I'm willing to wear in public. On my head, no less.

But the other night, I encountered a coworker and her teenage son at a Patrick Rothfuss book signing. Pat is a fantasy novelist that hubby and I both love, and suffice it to say that the crowd of 400+ fans had a LOT of overlap with fans of PAX, Neil Gaiman, and Firefly, among other favorites. The author himself was wearing a Blue Sun shirt. It was inevitable that someone was wearing a Jayne hat, that my coworker's son would mention how much he wanted one, and that I would say, well heck, I could make that!

I picked up some nice, soft bulky weight wool roving in bright mustard yellow and cranberry red. Couldn't find the right orange to match, but I needed some needles anyway, so I put in a Knit Picks order and added an orange skein of their bulky wool. Will absolutely post photos when it's done!

Update: March 13th - done!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Color Me Coordinated!

While it wasn't planned when I ordered the yarn, the Knit Picks Gloss in Sea Spray coordinates beautifully with the Knit Picks Chroma in Mesa! Behold:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Always, Always Learning

A little less than two years ago, I produced my first extremely irregular square of stockinette stitch in baby blue Super Saver, probably on size 10 needles, although now I couldn't tell you for sure. It's still sitting in a drawer somewhere in my craft room; it's boring, it's uneven, and it's made of the crappiest acrylic known to knitter-kind, but I can't bring myself to do away with it. After months of only being comfortable with a crochet hook and one or two failed attempts at having a friend teach me to knit, I finally, one day, just picked up those shiny, chunky Boye straights and made myself swear that I wasn't going to put them down until I had figured this knitting thing out.

Cause, you know, I can do anything!

And eventually, I did. Of course, I used the cheapest yarn I could find, intending to waste plenty of it in the pursuit of this elusive skill. It didn't take me an entire skein to get the hang of it, but given what I've accomplished as a knitter since that determined day, I think it's safe to say I got my money's worth.

The primary reason I learned to knit, in the beginning, was because I loved crochet, and was producing some pretty snazzy pieces with the hooks, but I was irritated that there was this whole other method that I couldn't do. And not being able to do things kind of pisses me off. Naturally, I have to admire the finished project to want to learn the craft - quilting and embroidery just don't appeal to me, and sewing only vaguely. I am firmly convinced that scrapbooking was invented by some evil genius to destroy all the trees on the planet while convincing crafters they're making something attractive and not at all hideously tacky. But knitting! I was seeing so many fabulous patterns and projects on Ravelry only to be let down when I saw that it was knit and I couldn't get one for myself.

Since conquering the basic knit and purl stitches, I have been utterly fascinated by the wealth of techniques available to knitters. Colorwork, cables, lace, ribbing, twisted stitches, slipped stitches, brioche stitches, entrelac! It was this last one that I had seen often in yarn shops, advertising a particular yarn, or an entrelac class. It looked so complicated and difficult, I was sure that it was something I would only be confident in tackling once I was a very experienced knitter. And then I forgot about it.

But entrelac popped back into my awareness with the introduction of Knit Picks new self-striping yarn "Chroma." Its vibrant colors and long repeats were perfect for an entrelac project, and you know what? I'm a very experienced knitter! Bring it on!

I found a free scarf pattern, chose needles for a slightly looser gauge, and went to town! I made some mods along the way - I abandoned the author's garter stitch selvedge and used a different increase method, but overall, I was thrilled with the pattern. And even more thrilled with the result:

I have been getting compliments everywhere I wear this scarf, and it just makes me want to learn more and more intricate techniques. And I will. Cause, you know, I can do anything!

PS: Entrelac? Not that hard. :P