Thursday, November 30, 2006

In the Homestretch on the Shawl

As I wrapped up the nupping, I ran out of yarn. So back to my LYS to buy another ball of Rowan ($9.95 - this shawl has cost me about $95 so far, $45 for the class and $50 for yarn), the last one in "porcelain". Now I am sweating whether I will finish before the yarn does.

The peaked edging is going more quickly than any other section, so I am hopeful I will be ready to bind off come Saturday. The coworker who originally talked me into this knitting class is planning to skip the last session - something about going to Indy, but I suspect she got bogged down in Nuppland.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mindful Knitting

I attend knitting classes at my LYS, where the rule is you have to buy your yarn for the class from the store (smart business plan). Their yarns are wonderful, but not cheap, so I joke about the $60 baby sweater and $95 shawl I knit in these classes. I could buy something similar for much less money, so what value is added by my work?

I practice a slacker form of Buddhism, meditating when I can, which isn't often enough. I knit more than I sit, by a long shot. Can knitting and sitting be wed?

Tonglen is the Buddhist practice of taking in suffering and releasing blessings. It is (relatively) easy to want to take on the suffering of loved ones and shower them with good wishes, more difficult to do this for strangers or for ourselves or for those we really don't like very much (like exes). Is there a way to learn compassion from knitting?

My knit products go to family and friends. I hold these folks in my mind while I knit, send them good thoughts via the yarn, hope they feel warm and warm feelings when they wear my love. I have yet to try this with anyone outside my immediate circle of concern, even though there are lots of charities, like Dulaan and Kaps for Kendall, that accept homemade knit goods.

I guess I am not that far along the path.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Nupp" Is A Four-Letter Word

Nupps are the work of the devil. They sound simple - knit, yarn over, knit, yarn over, knit, all in one stitch on the right side, creating five loops, then purl the five loops together on the wrong side. Easier said than done!

The nupps on this swallowtail shawl almost did me in. No matter how loosely I worked the nupp on the RS, I simply could not get my needles into the five loops on the WS for the 5-in-one purl. I tried until I cried.

The Internet came to my rescue. The most useful info came from here. In a nutshell, instead of purling 5 stitches at once, just slip 4 stitches purlwise, purl the fifth, then pass the first 4 over the purled stitch. It sounds like a lot to do, but it goes quickly and produces much less swearing.

We are supposed to be done with everything except the bind off by next week's class. I just might make it! That is, if my hands don't cramp up.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Early Scarf

I'm tired of whining about the swallowtail shawl, so here is a pic of a scarf I knit for myself, just a simple 4x4 rib using one skein of Encore worsted. It is so warm it makes my neck sweat.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Little Whine with Cheese

Is There a Hyphen in "Anal Retentive"?

I was way too whiny in knitting class on Saturday. The swallowtail shawl project has just about done me in. Last week I went through this grade school anxiety thing about not having my "homework" done (don't want to earn the teacher's disapproval) plus there rose the question of competency (apparently, I cannot even count) plus I was looking for someone to blame for my difficulties (they can't be my fault). I felt obsessed.

Then later in the day I realized I've been using the wrong size needles. Would you believe I started over? But this time I am trying to knit in relaxed, pleasant, positive thoughts instead of anger, angst, and frustration. The recipient should appreciate that.

You Lost It?!?

I knit a scarf and gave it to my SO. He snagged it on a nail, but fortunately it was not ripped and I was able to straighten out the stitches. He left it at Applebee's, but fortunately it turned up in their lost-and-found. It is now 150 miles away, at his daughter's home, left behind again.

I knit a pair of arm warmers and gave them to my SO. He lost one while hiking at Metea Park, but fortunately found it while retracing his steps the next day. It is mangled but hopefully not torn.

I knit a pair of dishcloths. If I give them to my SO, will they get lost, too? He says not, since the likelihood of their leaving the house is remote.

This is his MO - always leaving a bit of detritis behind, wherever he goes. Coins fall out of his pocket, his glasses disappear, the digital camera is on permanent leave. I think if I knit him anything else, it should include an I-cord so he can attach it to his person.

Friday, November 17, 2006

WIP - Swallowtail Shawl - Progress Report

I don't think I will ever knit another lacy anything, ever, ever, ever. This project is driving me crazy!

Working the RS, I chant the stitches as I go along ("knit together, yarn over, knit, knit, knit, yarn over, slip, slip, knit together, knit"), but a microsecond of inattention results in an error that I don't discover until I get to the end of the row. Working the WS, I count stitches, just in case I missed something. And I then I started counting half rows, so I can find an error by the time I get to the center stitch. And then I count again, when starting a new row. In spite of all this chanting and counting, errors still go undetected until I realize something just doesn't look right.

If the error is a lost YO, I can usually correct the problem on my way back. But if I screwed up the slip-slip-knit or the slip-knit 2 together-passover, I have to undo. And undoing these stitches is not easy.

My coworker stopped by my desk to confess she is going to class without her homework done, partly because she has a life (this was a lot of knitting to get done in one week's time) and partly because she had to undo seven rows. So I'm not the only one struggling.

My suggestion is this class should be a four-session class, instead of three, or the class should meet every two weeks. The rest of my life is on hold until I get caught up.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bauhaus Washcloths

I love knitted washcloths made from cotton yarn, but I'm not sure about these. I like the colors and design, but the ribbing makes them all stretchy. I'm gonig to gift them to a friend and solicit feedback from him on how practical they are.

Also, I could not get the gauge they expected, even with smaller needles. I plan to try the colors/stripes with a basketweave, to see if that suits me.

The pattern is available free from Lion Brand, calls for Lion Cotton yarn and size 6 needles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

WIP - Afghans

I learned to crochet before I learned to knit, and made many an afghan over the years, until everyone I knew had one or more. But I redecorated last year and my daughter moved into a new home this year, so I had excuses to crochet more afghans.

I started this one last winter, but it fell by the wayside. Handling the three colors is a pain.

I started this one a few months ago, with the idea of finishing it by Xmas, but I am not going to make it unless I shift into high gear and abandon all other projects for a while. The executing the pattern makes my wrists ache and the rows run lengthwise, so if I make an error, by the time I track it down, a lot of yarn has run through my fingers. Usually I am anal about correcting errors, but this one requires more wabi sabi.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

WIP - Swallowtail Shawl (Gulp!)

A co-worker talked me into taking a how-to-knit-a-swallowtail-shawl class at our LYS. I think CoW had ulterior motives, as she was thinking this shawl would be beautiful on the bridesmaids at her daughter's wedding but knew she could not make them all herself. Fortunately for me, she abandoned the bridesmaid idea (after picturing the shawls being flung about at the reception). Unfortunately, I signed up for the class anyway. Below is a picture of what I accomplished during the first 2-hour session: a palm-sized hunk of lacy knitting.

Actually, it is a great learning experience and a wonderful challenge (ahem). I wondered how spaces were made in lacy knitting and now I know, and my respect for those who tackle these projects has grown immensely. It's one of those things that is not difficult on a stitch-by-stitch basis, as long as you are very, very careful when following the pattern.

I also discovered that combining Turbo Addi needles with 50% silk yarn makes for one slick time. Knowing I would have to rework what I knit in class (my yarn-overs were not always executed correctly and I was tense so the knitting was too tight), at home I switched to Susan Bates aluminum needles, which helped. Then I spent most of Sunday "watching" football while frogging and knitting and counting and frogging and knitting and counting and unknitting and knitting and counting. Many hours later I had a larger hunk of lacy knitting.

Last night I worked up another dozen rows, this time with no backtracking - yay! - so I am hopeful that I will be ready for the next class session.

BTW, I'm using Rowan Yarns Classic Silk Wool DK in Porcelain, on size 6 29" circular needles.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Arm Warming Story

Nothing like turning what should have been a simple project into an ordeal....

I had some extra cashmere blend yarn leftover from another project, so I decided to surprise my daughter with some arm warmers. The pattern, free from Lion Brand, called for three colors and I had only one, so I bought more yarn to go with the original yarn. The arm warmers knit up quickly, and my daughter tried them on, but 1) they were too big, and 2) they are not her style. (Note to self: Ask before knitting.)

But my SO liked the arm warmers and the way they fit. Since I wanted to reserve the cashmere blend for my daughter's sensitive skin, I decided to make his pair from Encore worsted. I didn't care for the 3-color pattern, so I opted for just charcoal and black. And I did not have enough yarn on hand (again), so I purchased more yarn. (Note to self: Ask twice, knit once.)

The arm warmers knit up just as quickly the second time around. I adjusted the increases in the pattern to snug up the wrist section, and added a decrease to taper the finger section. Usually, when I alter a pattern, the results are horrible, so I was quite pleased with myself. (Note to self: Pride goeth before a fall.)

Friday night I decided to wrap up this project. Practicing that invisible seam method I learned from an "advanced beginner" knitting class, I zipped up the side, forgetting to leave a hole for the thumb. Grrr! I pulled out the stitches to where the thumb hole should be and restitched, not realizing I had the arm warmer upside down. Grrr!! Again, I pulled out stitches and restitched, getting the arm warmer rightside up but still misplacing the thumb hole. Grrr!!! Fourth time's the charm, though, and I admired my hard won seam. (See previous note to self.)

Since I had already made every mistake possible, I expected the second arm warmer to be a breeze, but no-o-o-o. I managed to repeat not one, but two of the mistakes made on the previous arm warmer. Gaaa! Sewing two side seams took as long as knitting one arm warmer.

But this story does have a happy ending: I finished the arm warmers by bedtime and my SO loves them.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tissue Holder in Bamboo Yarn

This is my own (and first!) design. It didn't turn out quite the way I expected, but wabi sabi.

What happened is I bought a skein of South West Trading Company bamboo yarn at a fiber festival just for fun, but could not decide how to play with it. A little bag for pocket tissues came to mind, so I decided to make several, using different stitches. This one is in seed stitch.

The idea was to make a little 3-dimensional box, leaving one edge unsewn so the tissue package could be inserted easily. That all worked fine, but the box is not as well-defined as I expected it to be, so the opening gapes. I could add a snap, some velcro, a zipper, but I think I will simply stitch up the gap a bit on each side. I want easy access to the tissues but not have the whole tissue package fall out of the holder, as that would defeat the purpose.

While designing this little contraption, I mentally disassembled a box and came up with the lowercase t shape. While knitting, however, it occurred to me that an uppercase T would make more sense, as I would not have to do the extra bind off. I will try this approach with the next one.

FIguring out how to cast on and bind off to create the t shape was a bit of a challenge. I will have to look at a similar pattern to see how it really should be done.

Working with this yarn was a challenge as well. It kept slipping through my fingers until I finally added a wrap around my pinkie to increase the tension.

Here is the design I used for this incarnation.

South West Trading Company 100% Bamboo Yarn - "Serendipity"
100 g/250 yards (way more than enough for this pattern)
light weight (3)
5 sts and 8 rows = 1" on US 6 needles

Finished size = 1" x 2.5" x 4.5"

CO 25
Rows 1-28: Seed stitch
Row 29: CO 5 stitches, seed stitch across row (30 stitches)
Row 30: CO 5 stitches, seed stitch across row (35 stitches)
Rows 31-48: Seed stitch
Row 49: BO 5 stitches, seed stitch across row (30 stitches)
Row 50: BO 5 stitches, seed stitch across row (25 stitches)
Rows 51-56: Seed stitch
Shape into a box and sew up 1" sides and 2.5" sides.
Leave 4.5" side open.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Saluki Scarf

My son is enrolled at Southern Illinois University, so when I talked him into a hand-knit scarf, I chose maroon and black for the colors. It's a simple 2x2 rib in Encore worsted. I stopped knitting when it reached 5' and added the fringe. My son loves it, says it looks "store-bought".

Betsy is not a Saluki, but she is one cool dog!

(What is a saluki?)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

WIP - Sweet Cherries Blanket

The "Sweet Cherries" blanket pattern is free, from Lion Brand Yarn, and uses their Babysoft and Microspun yarns. It's all knit (no purl), so is a nice project for mindless knitting. I'm using the designated yarn and colors and needle size (circular 29").

The stripe pattern has an odd number of rows in it, which makes carrying colors along nearly impossible - I know because I tried (see first photo). This seemed like too much work, so I decided to change the pattern from 6, 1, 2, 2 to 6, 2, 2, 2.

Also, the cast-on row is in different colors than the first row's colors. I tried this out (again, see first photo) but did not like it.

I'm not too impressed with the Microspun. It feels soft but slick, and tangles and unravels easily. But both yarns are machine washable and dryable, a plus for anything that may be used by a baby. And judging from the finished size (30"x34"), this blanket is meant for a baby.

There are two other similar blankets: "Blue Lagoon" and "Tropical Treat". The stripe patterns for each of these three blankets varies.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ladylike Lace Gloves - DONE!

I was beginning to think I would never finish these gloves. These are actually gloves #4 and #5. (See gloves #2 and #3 for more information about this project.) If my daughter does not like them, too bad!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Princess Snowball Fern Cat Bed

The Princess Snowball cat bed is from Stitch n Bitch. I used the designated yarn from Lion Brand - my first exposure to Fun Fur. The sides to the cat bed is actually one long rectangle, so while knitting that, I played with other ideas for Fun Fur, like chaps or gaitors. No pix of that - sorry!

It took a while to get Princess Fern interested in the bed. Also, I need to reinforce the sides, with basting, interface, or stuffing. The dog occassionally tries it out as well, but not long enough for a photo.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Baby Sweater and Baby Blanket

This past summer I took an "advanced beginner" knitting class at my LYS. The project was the one-skein baby sweater modeled by Grumpy Bear. The project was small enough to finish in four weeks, but it also taught us the basics of sweater construction. I used Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted (100% superwash wool) in Happy Valley (I think).

I originally intended the sweater for my younger brother's first grandchild, but could not part with it, at least not yet. So the baby received this afghan instead. It's the Rainbow Baby Blanket pattern, free from Lion Brand Yarn, crocheted in Lion Brand Babysoft yarn. Simple to make, but makes a big impact visually. The most difficult part for me was the yarn handling - two strands are crocheted together and for some rows you will need to feed the yarn from both ends of the same skein. If you take on this project, check your gauge - I almost ran out of yarn.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

WIP - Ladylike Lace Gloves

This crochet pattern was created by mk carrol and can be found in The Happy Hooker, a Stitch n Bitch book.

WARNING! If you decide to crochet these gloves, read the errata! The errors are more than typos.

I have been working (and reworking) these gloves for quite a while. Glove #1 became a practice glove. Glove #2 looked okay, but when I reached row 19.5 (see errata!) on glove #3, I realized I had not included this row on glove #2 (and it matters - see photo of gloves #2 and #3). Then when my daughter (the intended recipient) wrapped glove #2 around her hand to check the fit (I had not stitched the sides yet), it looked big. I checked the gauge (I know, you are supposed to do this first) and my stitches were way off. So last night I started over, with fresh yarn and a smaller crochet hook (E).

BTW, my LYS does not carry the sock yarn designated in the pattern, so I am using Fortissima Socka. This is my first time using sock yarn - it seems to shed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


When the kids were wee (and even before then), I crocheted a lot and knitted a bit. Then life became extremely busy. Now that the nest is empty, I'm knitting and crocheting lots, almost compulsively. Still a beginner, but I thought it might be fun to keep track of my progress via this blog.