Sunday, September 30, 2007

One Ending Leads to a New Beginning

Once I decided to use the second skein of Schaefer Yarn for socks, I had to hide it while I finished these legwarmers, as I did not want to have two sock projects going at the same time (one of my attempts to limit the number of UFOs cluttering my coffee table).

They have a shape because, in an attempt to gently stretch the fit a bit, I blocked them on sock blockers. They are still snug on me, but I have big feet and big calves and they are not for me, anyway. Hopefully, my daughter will find them acceptable.

So, now I was free to start the socks. I wished these photos better showed the subtle shades of "Clara Barton". I'm color-challenged, but to me they look like three different shades of cherry.

I'm experimenting with a new sock-knitting strategy: knitting two at the same time. I'm using a Schaefer Yarn pattern that arrived with my order, which sports this lovely textured ribbing.

Oh, and the final photo of the baby kimono:

I went with buttons instead of ribbon for the closure. The fabric seems kind of stiff for a baby garment, but maybe after a washing or two, it will soften up.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Comfort Yarn

I don't think I have mentioned it before, but my job is being outsourced, and to add insult to injury, we have to train our replacements. Yes, I could just up and quit, but I get paid more than the going wage in these parts, plus the benefits are great, plus I am this close to having enough pension years to retire early. Also, I was optimistic about finding another position within the company.

Well, so far, each of the positions to which I thought I could segue has not panned out. The latest disappointment was delivered last Monday. I was NOT a happy camper. I usually knit over my lunch hour, and Monday was no different, but this day I turned my back on my coworkers and huddled in the back corner of my open-faced cubicle and knit furiously with long, sharp, metal sticks. My body language screamed, "LEAVE ME ALONE OR YOU WILL DIE BY THE NEEDLE!"

And then I did what any knitter in need of comfort would do: enhance the stash. Except it doesn't count as stash yarn if it is sock yarn, does it?

These were purchased (on sale!) from Simply Socks. I have never tried Cherry Tree Hill yarn before. The yarn itself looks unusual, almost like cord, but it is 100% merino fingering weight supersock. The colors are "Bark" - "Hot Pink" - "Purple" - "Burgandy". (P.S. Read a review of this yarn here.)

Now that I am fully stocked with sock yarn, I feel ready for winter. Maybe there is a relationship between sock yarn purchases and winter weather, like with woolly bear caterpillars. If so, we are in for a wild one!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Variegated Yarn Dilemma

Much as I like variegated yarn, it doesn't always translate well to textured knitting. Case in point: I used the Elmore-Pisgah Peaches 'n Creme "Peppermint" cotton yarn to make a dishcloth from a pattern free from Lion Brand, and while the results are okay, the texture of the dishcloth is obscured by the variegation in the yarn.

While contemplating this issue, I reread the pattern description, which said the dishcloth is made with a "simple seed stitch." Huh? I took a closer look at my dishcloth, but I saw no seed stitch, simple or otherwise. I reread the directions several times and came to the conclusion that there is an error in them: if you k1, p1 across an even number of stitches on the RS, then repeat the k1, p1 on the WS, you get ribbing, not seed stitch. And just to prove my point, when I finished the Peppermint, I cast on another dishcloth using an odd number of stitches. Yep, now I have seed stitch.

Of course, you can't really see what I am talking about from these photos. I really need to work on my picture-taking skills. One good hint my daughter gave me is to use a white background, to make the subject pop. BTW, this lovely yellow is Lion Cotton "Sunflower".

Meanwhile, I continue to buy yarn. The vintage handbag came out so nice that I decided to make the other handbag described in the pattern from Glamour Knits, using Colinette Yarns Giotto in "Velvet Leaf" (purchased through Flying Fingers).

The hank was a bit big for my swift, though, and toward the end of winding, I foolishly took it off the swift, thinking it would be easier that way.

Wrong! It took me hours to undo this mess, but I am nothing if not persistent.

This yarn is an example of why I frequently seek out the exact yarn specified in a pattern. I would not have picked this yarn off the shelf, and with a fiber content of cotton, rayon, and nylon and its hand dyed "colourway" (it's made in Wales), the yarn has special needs. But I think it will make a lovely handbag nonetheless.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Out of Control

After months of self-discipline re yarn-buying, I broke down recently, and the breakdown has continued. This time I wandered into Walmart (even though I am not a Walmart kind of girl) to check out Peaches and Creme yarn, because Mason-Dixon Knitting loves them some Elmore-Pisgah. I walked out of Walmart with 4 (FOUR!) 16-oz (POUNDS!) cones (OF YARN!) You'd think the world was coming to an end and me without enough cotton dishcloths.

What was I thinking? Well, I was imagining all the "grandmother sets" I could knit and sell/raffle to raise money for Heifer International. Hence, the baby-friendly pastels.

But I also picked up a small ball of "Peppermint" Peaches and Creme for a dishcloth for moi.

Or maybe this will be a companion warshrag for the Ballband Dishcloth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Almost Made It

This morning I got out of bed at the usual time, drank coffee, walked the dog, took a shower, but halfway through dressing, I pooped out. Maybe I just need something to eat, I reasoned. Halfway through my yogurt-and-banana parfait, my tummy said, No mas. Then I kind of crashed. Another sick day. It's nice not to be at work, but boring when I don't feel well enough to do anything, even knit.

I did come up with a blog idea, though. The Yarn Harlot uses her blog and celebrity to invite knitters to contribute to Doctors Without Borders. She calls the donors "Knitters Without Borders" and tracks the donations. She has raised a lot of money this way, over $300,000 this year alone.

Even though I am not well known, I thought maybe I could invite my blog readers (all three of you) to contribute to one of my favorite charities, Heifer International. What I like best about this organization is they help people help themselves by giving them livestock, and those helped agree to pass on the gift by donating offspring of their gift to others in their community.

Also, it is kind of fun to pick out the animal (cow, pig, sheep, etc.) you wish your donation to fund. They even have a "knitting basket" of four wool-bearing animals. And if you cannot afford a whole animal or basket of animals, you can "buy" a share.

So let's start small (to save me embarrassment in case no one responds) and raise $120 for one sheep, by Christmas 2007. One share is $10, so if 12 people pledge one share, we can donate one sheep. If you decide to donate, send me an email at bittenbyknittinATyahooDOTcom with the dollar amount.

Any ideas for a cute name for us?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who Moved My Needle?

Yesterday, during a lull at work, I reached for the gray legwarmers, but one DPN was missing. I pawed through my knitting bag and all its pockets, but no luck. The night before I photographed the project, though, so I checked that day's blog entry. Sure enough, the errant needle poked out of the yarn ball. But where was it now? Sitting on the coffee table. Guess it did not want to go to work.

Today I did not go to work. Yesterday was one of those I-need-a-happy-pill days, plus I seemed to have chills. Since the AC at work is usually cranked too high, I did not realize that the chills were a symptom of a fever until I arrived home where the AC is off but I still had chills. This morning I could not muster the energy to get out of bed, so today became an official Sick Day.

Between naps, I did get a little knitting done. Here is the current state of the baby kimono.

I worked on it until I couldn't stand working with cotton yarn anymore.

Then the mail carrier brought this, from Simply Socks:

And this (post swift):

Yes, I broke down and bought some Schaefer Yarn. I don't know what the Heather will become, but the Anne in "Powder Puff" pink is for a shawl, from the June 4 entry from my 2007 Knitting Pattern A Day Calendar.

I think there is something wrong with the pattern, though. The instructions state "Row 22: K3, place marker, *knit, YO, k2tog; repeat from * to last 2 sts, k2. Repeat row 22 until shawl measures...." This just doesn't make sense to me, because if you take the instructions literally, you would be shifting markers back and forth from row to row. I tried knitting row 22 for both the RS and WS without moving the markers, but the fabric felt too loose. So I made the executive decision to add a row 23 of knit stitches and repeat rows 22 and 23 until whenever.

I Googled "Anne Lacy Shawl" and while others have knit this shawl, none of them mention having a problem with the directions for row 22. Maybe they are all experienced enough to know what to do despite the pattern's confusion.

Or am I the one that is confused?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

One FO, Three WIPs

I think it is an unwritten law that if you are knitting from Mason-Dixon Knitting, you are required to do at least one Ballband Dishcloth, so here is mine.

I took me two tries to get going, and then I thought, This is ok but not much fun. But the further along I went, the more fun it became, plus I could see how this little project could use up a lot of LO yarn and how one could have a lot of fun combining colors. And it knits up really quickly. I cast on a bit too loosely, though, hence the ruffly look at one end.

Meanwhile, I am still working on the previously mentioned lace shawl, second guessing myself all along the way. For one thing, the pattern I chose has a direction to it; if I had thought about it, I would not have chosen it for a shawl. But while leafing through Knitting Rules!, I came across the section on grafting and realized I can knit the shawl in two halves and graft them together so the direction will run in the right way from the center. (Thank you, Stephanie!)

Also, I want to frame the entire shawl in a different lace pattern, so I slipped the first stitch of each row. Unfortunately, I also ran the stockinette right up to the edge, so the edges are curly. Hopefully, when I pick up the edges and knit the lace border and block the whole thing, it will lay down nice and flat.

Last year I tried my hand at legwarmers (here and here) with not very good results. The snug pink heather socks, though, taught me that if I dropped a needle size (or two), I could knit up some legwarmers that would actually stay up.

My daughter liked the gray socks, so these are also gray, but in Cascade 220 instead of Lion Brand Wool-Ease. They look kinda skinny, but I'm counting on the wool relaxing when I block.

And, finally, I decided to make the baby kimono from Mason-Dixon Knitting. The pattern gives one the option of knitting in either garter or stockinette, and since I have not had much success seaming the former, I went with the latter despite its tendency to curl. My anti-curling strategy is a couple of rows of garter stitch along the bottom and around the cuffs. Also, I don't like knitting one half of a one-piece piece at a time, so I am working both sides, knitting from both ends of the yarn skein.

The annual Johnny Appleseed Festival occurred this weekend. I don't go every year, but was looking for something to hold the ends of the black shawl together. (No success there, but I think I'll make some i-cord and use that somehow.) I also wondered if there would be any handspun yarn. The AuGres Sheep Factory had just the thing, but I was not completely prepared and did not buy any.

I did buy these sheepskin mittens from them, though. Today is a lovely autumn day, which means winter is not far behind.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Who Shrunk My Pants?!?

A funny (funny-peculiar, not funny-haha) thing happened over the summer: my cool-weather pants shrunk! I know I gained a few (okay - five) pounds since last spring, but since my daughter and I have been power walking, I assumed the added weight was muscle. Apparently not. Something funny (definitely NOT funny-haha) happens when a woman reaches menopause - excess weight shifts from one's arms and legs to one's torso. Actually, a lot of not-very-funny-haha things happen at menopause, but if we don't laugh at them, we'd be crying. I prefer laugh lines over puffy eyes.

Another thing happens as one ages: one's friends become grandmothers. I've come to think of the bib-and-burp-rag combos as "grandmother sets". They are a small but personal gift for those expectant grandmas.

Isn't it interesting how the colorway looks completely different on each piece? I used Lion Brand Cotton in "Sherbert Swirl" and the pattern is from Mason-Dixon Knitting. I tortured the patterns my first time but this time stuck close to the directions except for dropping the needle size one notch. For the record, I do not like their recommended buttonhole method, but otherwise had no problems. One 4-oz. ball is enough for one bib and one burp rag.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pink Heather Socks

As promised earlier, here are "clarified" instructions for the "Mens Grey Socks" pattern, free from Lion Brand. I made the grey socks for my SO, on bamboo needles, and made these pink heather ones for me on metal needles, which oddly enough, knitted up tighter. So tight that I wound up giving them to my daughter, who pronounced them a perfect fit. I think what happened was, since the yarn slips easier on the metal than the bamboo, I knit tighter without realizing it. And, obviously, did not check my gauge.

Note: If knitting in Wool-Ease, be aware that the skein holds only 85g, barely enough for a pair of socks. If you have a scale, keep track of your yarn usage on sock #1 so that you will have enough for sock #2.

(Directions are for knitting with 4 needles; instructions for 5 needles are in parentheses.)

Yarn: Worsted weight, at least 85g but 100g would be better.
Needles: 4 (or 5) needles in size US4 and US5, or size to give gauge (24 stitches + 28 rows = 4" in stockinette on larger needles.)

Sock Top
With smaller needles, cast on 40 stitches. If knitting with 4 needles, divide stitches so that 10 stitches are on needle 1, 20 on needle 2 (this will become the instep), and 10 on needle 3; if knitting on 5 needles, divide evenly on 4 needles. Being careful not to twist stitches, work in k1, p1 rib for 2.5 inches. Change to larger needles and knit every round until piece measures 6 inches from beginning.

Shape Heel Flap
Set up: Needle 1 and needle 3 (or 4) hold the heel stitches. Knit the 10 stitches on needle 1; turn. Sl 1, p 9 from needle 1, p 10 from needle 3 (4) so that 20 stitches are on one needle. Turn.
Row 1 (RS): *Sl 1, k 1; repeat from * across.
Row 2 (WS): Sl 1, p across.
Repeat these two rows for 20 rows, ending with Row 2.

Turn Heel
Row 1 (RS): Sl 1, k 11, skp, k 1, turn.
Row 2 (WS): Sl 1, p 5, p2tog, p 1, turn.
Row 3: Sl 1, k 6, skp, k 1, turn.
Row 4: Sl 1, p 7, p2tog, p 1, turn.
Repeat rows 3 and 4, increasing knit/purl count by one on each row, until 12 stitches remain.

Set up: K 6; this will be needle 3 (4). On a new needle, k 6, pick up 12 stitches along side of heel flap, M1 between heel flap and instep. With next needle(s), k 20 across instep. With next needle, M1 between instep and heel flap, pickup 12 stitches along side of heel flap, k 6 stitches off needle 3 (4). Total stitches number 58. If knitting on 4 needles, needles 1 and 3 will have 19 stitches each, while needle 2 has 20; with 5 needles, needles 1 and 4 will have 19 stitches each, while needles 2 and 3 each hold 10 stitches.
Round 1: Knit to within 3 stitches of end of needle 1, k2tog, k 1; k 20 across needle 2 (and 3); k 1, skp, knit to end of needle 3 (4).
Round 2: Knit all around.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until 40 stitches remain, 10-20-10 or 10-10-10-10.

Knit all rounds until foot measures about 1.5 inches less than desired length to beginning of toes, or until you start running short on yarn.

Shape Toe
Round 1: Knit to within 3 stitches of end of needle 1, skp, k 1; k 1, k2tog, knit across to within 3 stitches of end of instep stitches on needle 2 (and 3), skp, k 1; k 1, k2tog, knit to end of needle 3 (4).
Round 2: Knit all around.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until 16 stitches remain, 4-8-4 or 4-4-4-4.

Graft Toe
Knit stitches from needle 1 onto needle 3 (4). (Combine stitches on needles 2 and 3.) There are now 8 stitches on each of two parallel needles. Graft the two sides together, using the Kitchener stitch. Weave in ends.

P.S. It's funny how the same word sometimes pops up in semi-random fashion. I have knit enough socks to know the Kitchener stitch by heart. While perusing Whole Foods for the Whole Family the other day, I found a recipe for "Kitchener Special" submitted by a woman from Kitchener, Ontario. And this week's Knitter's Review Newsletter mentioned the upcoming Waterloo County Knitters' Fair in Kitchener, Ontario. Serendipitious!

Vintage Handbag

This bag was the easiest (if you find ribbon yarn easy to knit) thing to knit, from Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon, and not that bad to line, BUT a real bitch to attach the handle.

It all started with Glamour Knits, by Erika Knight. My daughter loves many of the patterns in this book, and the Vintage Handbag was the first I tried, starting 'way back in April. The (now defunct) LYS actually carried the sari ribbon. Rather than work it into a ball or skein, I draped it over the back of a vintage rocking chair. (This was in pre-swift days.)

I can't remember what size needles I used, because I usually downsize at least one US number, but I think if I were do it again, I would upsize to at least the size recommended by the pattern. My result seemed a little smallish.

Amazingly, I actually located the antique-looking handle featured in the pattern photo. The website for UMX is rather unconventional and awkward to navigate, and the shipping and handling expense seemed exorbitant, so it took me a while to get up the gumption to order the handles. (I ordered two and a co-worker ordered two, which did not increase the s&h fee, so I don't know how many one could order at the same rate.) "Jorge" sent me a confirmation email right away, though, and the handles arrived in a timely manner.

After the successful lining of Chloe's purse, last weekend I settled down to finish this one. As I hand-stitched the lining, I pictured my daughter at tonight's gala opening of Sandy Skoglund's "Truth Between Opposition" show, carrying this lovely bag. I imagined how all those artsy-fartsy patrons of the arts would ooh and aah over the bag and ask her where she got it. I daydreamed of starting a line of handmade vintage bags to keep the dog in kibble if/when I lose my job to outsourcing.

And then came the handle. See the photo below? See those eight little black dots? Those are the screws that hold the plates to the handle, between which one must cram the enough of the sari ribbon fabric to keep the whole thing together.

HOURS later, I actually got it all together, only to discover that the bag had a significant twist to the fabric. Since I had assembled it once, I figured doing it a second time would not be such a big deal. WRONG! More hours later, I was halfway there when I had to give up because my hands were cramping.

My daughter saw the almost finished bag last night, loved it, so today I settled down to try to finish up. And I did it! But that idea about making a living from handmade vintage bags? That went out the window.

But maybe I could sell kits? As long as no one wants help with the handle.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I Like Lace

I am really enjoying knitting my lace shawl. The stitch pattern is not super-complex but is interesting enough to be fun. Knitting this hat was fun, too, so I may incorporate more lace into my projects. Lace requires a certain amount of focus, though, so I don't anticipate knitting it in public. Just as well, because I place markers at pattern repeats and when a three-stitch decrease crosses a marker, my technique for marker-handling involves gently lifting the marker off the needle with my lips. How come human beings didn't evolve to have a third hand? Sure would come in handy!

Pink heather sock #1 is done. One bad thing about knitting socks in worsted weight yarn is the laddering between needles is more pronounced than with sock weight. I experimented with a variety of recommended solutions and settled on rotating the sock on the needles as I knit. An added bonus of this method is that it is easier to keep count of rows. A disadvantage is it is a bit awkward. But it was the only method that worked consistantly for me.