Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Three Latest

Over the past couple of months, I've knit quite a few things. I knit a whole red set for my sister: mittens, scarf and hat. I knit a pair of socks for Fred while we were in India. I made a scarf for Patty. (Let's hope she can keep track of this one.) and I made a baby hat that will probably become my go-to baby hat.

A post on the rest of that stuff will have to wait because I have photos of these other projects I can write about now.

Several months ago, my sister-in-law, Vera, asked for a scarf that was long and soft. I agreed to do it because I like her, but I knew long scarves are no fun to knit. To mitigate this, I decided to make it as pleasurable experience as I could by using a really good yarn: GGH Baby Alpaka, which I bought at Penelope Craft. It is really soft, comes in several natural (and some not-so-natural) colors and I was curious what it would be like knit up.

I got five balls in different colors and I mixed them by knitting four row stripes with two colors - gray and white. Half way through the white ball, I changed from white to black. So the stripes became gray and black. When the gray ran out, I changed to blue, and so on, ending with the last bit of the white and a quick, relieving bind off.

The whole thing was knit K1, P1. It was 45 stitches across and I carried the color I wasn't using up the one side every time. If I were going to do it again - and I am not - I would do five row stripes, so the 'resting' yarn would get carried up on opposite side - thank you Nancy for that late but educational suggestion. As it is, all of the carried yarns are on the one side, which makes it appear less symmetrical than I wanted. Oh well. I don't have to look at it all the time. It's about seven feet long - and it's alpaca, so it will probably grow a bit. It was also very soft.

I gave it to Vera at a party during the pre-Christmas season. She appeared to like it. She said, "Ik ben verlieft." (I think that's what she said. I'll hear about it if it wasn't.) Fred didn't think the scarf looked like a lot of work. Said I should have added a cable. I just wanted auto-pilot knitting. And cables with stripes? Every knitter I showed it to - and some who just walked up and talked about it - could tell it was a lot of work, said it was very nice. K1 P1 looks great and lays flat, but it's a giant bore to knit. The strips helped to some degree. You can see it better in this picture. I can see doing that again with shorter repeats and a different color choice.

And about this rug. Have you ever seen a chunky rug like this in a store and you think, Who buys a rug like that? It's us. We did. I could do a whole post on that rug.

My friend, Andrea, is an artist in Dallas. I've known her since college and we've recently gotten back in touch after a period of not being in touch. She sent me a drawing a few months ago and I thought it would be fun to knit something for her. But she's allergic to wool, which is a bit of an issue. There are non-wool alternatives: bamboo, cotton, alpaca and silk, to name a few. They all have their charms. But I am also on a bit of a yarn diet. I didn't want to buy yarn until I'd knit up a lot of what I already have. And the only choices I had in stock were blue alpaca and a red bamboo - both lace weight. Then she mentioned that she likes green (as do I.) Then I happened to be at Penelope Craft where they have some lovely Cascade Alpaca Lace in a really beautiful green.

So I went off my diet, but it was for green alpaca lace. I think I'll be okay. I really wanted to knit lace after that scarf, miles of K1 P1 and Fred's socks, which were basically stockinette topped by about six inches of twisted rib, which looks beautiful, but is endless K1 P1 on steroids.

Anyway, I picked a great pattern that will be fun to knit, that was free and that I will name at a later date. At this point, I will say that I am knitting it and it's a lot of fun. I hope to make some progress on it on the way to Berlin on Thursday or on the way back Sunday. I would knit on it now except that I snapped the needle I was using while I was biding off Fred's socks on Christmas Eve. I'll get a new one tomorrow.

The yarn is super soft. And when I told the designer that I was making it, she said, "You're the first person I've ever met who has made or is making it." There are like 900 on Ravelry. I'm amazed that no one local has made it. This is a close up, but you can't tell much because it's not blocked. The color is better in the top photo. See those markers? I like markers and I like a safety line. I am a much calmer knitter with those in place.

I wanted to do lace because my other project is completely stockinette. I'm participating in a Cardigan KAL (knit along) with my local knitters. It's just a cardigan theme. We have all winter to finish and we can use any pattern. I'm knitting the Style No. 9608 V-Neck Cardigan with Saddle Shoulders from Vol. 96 Men’s Classics magazine 1966. Here's the picture in the magazine.

I'm using Madelinetosh Vintage in the Cover colorway. I bought it through Yarns Apart, which is sadly no long in business. Of course I'm making some modifications. For one, it won't be as long as it is the picture. Secondly, I might not do the pockets it calls for. Thirdly, I will probably do a zipper in place of the buttons.

I will say that I love this yarn, but when I was knitting my last cardigan out of Madelinetosh Vintage, I got to the second bag and saw that the colors were a lot different. When I opened these bags, I suspected that there were some variations. It's all hand dyed, so the colorway is a bit of a...range. I ended up doing a fairly large swatch for each ball. By fairly large, I mean like a 6 x 6 one. I don't mind swatching. I tried different cast-ons and bind offs. It was a good experience.

The cast-on I decided on is the Channel Island Cast On. It's a nice look. I'll also take this one along to Berlin. I've got an audio book I'm going to try to get through on this trip. I probably won't be able to, but it will be hours of knitting. It will be nice to have the option of the lace and the stockinette. And maybe I'll even read something. Six hours on a train both ways? That is my kind of vacation!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scarf and Yarn Diet Thoughts

I did an airing of the stash recently. It was because I got a ball winder for my birthday, and I thought it would be fun to spend some time winding yarn into neat little cakes. And after spending several hours looking at, winding, and organizing my yarn, I decided that I needed a plan to winnow it down a bit. It's not crazy out of hand, but it's out of hand. I have a lot more yarn than I thought I did.

Leafing through this quarter's Twist Collective, I read the title of an article entitled The Fifty-Mile Fiber Diet. And I thought, That sounds about right. Let's go for it!

Then I offered to make Kathy a shawl. (She got on Ravelry and has one friend - me.) She started tagging patterns that she liked. I sent her a swatch of one of the shawls she likes and some samples of lace yarns I have in my stash and told her to feel free to pick whatever she wanted. And, of course, if she wants completely different yarn for any special occasions that might be coming up, I would be happy to get it.

One of the patterns she chose that was not a lace shawl was the Gathered Scarf. We were talking on the phone and I said, "You know what that would be good in? That Merino Possum that Alex sells." And then, pause pause pause, I said, "Oh! I have three balls of that!" And my next project was born.
The snob in me thought that it was going to be too easy because it's basically stockinette broken by a few rows of garter stitch every once in a while. And while it's not rocket science (it's basically stockinette broken up by a few rows of garter stitch, after all), it's not boring! I have to count rows, there are increases and decreases, and (something I've never done before) there is a needle change. The garter stitch is done in a slightly smaller needle than the stockinette.

It's sort of flying off the needles; I'm a third done after a day and a half. And since I have a little room here to blather, I'll report a little math-calculation-estimation thing I did that turned out exactly correct.

I was wondering how long it was going to be - how much length the yarn I had would give. I was a little nervous about it being too short if I did it exactly like the pattern, so I took off about a third of the stitches. And when I showed it to Fred, he said, "It seems a little narrow." And he was right. So I ripped it out and did it exactly like the written pattern except that I took off two stitches. Not such a big deal, but it's the thought that counts - and two stitches by five feet or so could add an inch or two. And I increased both needle sizes.

So here's where my brilliant calculations come in. At seven inches, I measured what I had knit and then I weighted the ball. I estimated that I would be able to get another 14 inches out of the ball, since I still had 2/3 of the ball to knit. And when I finished with the ball, how long wast it?

Twenty-one inches. I love math!

The yarn is Supreme Possum Merino from New Zealand. I made Fred a beautiful scarf out of Merino Possum that I bought in North Carolina. It's a reversible cable. This yarn really looks great with the low and high places and it's really soft. It's like fur - probably because it is 40% possum fur. And, while it lasts, I should say that Alex has some of this beautiful yarn in her web shop for as long as is lasts, because she is having a going out of business sale. [insert frowny emoticon here]
So the end of this yarn diet story is that when I was going back to link to this story about the fiber diet in Twist Collective. It turns out that it's an article about shopping locally, within 50 miles of where you live or something. I've done a little calculation. And fifty miles equal about 88,000 yards.

Just to put that in perspective, a sweater made with eight balls of Cascade 220 (my normal consumption for a sweater) would come to 1760 yards. And that would mean that I was going to be knitting about 50 sweaters worth of yarn. I have a lot of yarn, but don't think I have 50 sweaters worth of yarn. I'll have to do some calculations and come up with a realistic plan.

Reading! It always gets me!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Baby Hat with Leaf

About a month ago, Fred told me that I should knit a baby hat for his nephew and the nephew's wife because we were going to see them at his brother-in-law's birthday party, and it would be a good thing for me to knit something for this baby they're expecting. I said, "Baby hat? I could knit that in a day."

When Fred reminded me on Thursday that the party was on Saturday, I panicked and said, "Baby hat?! I only have three days!" (Really only two since we were scheduled to leave the house at 13:00 on Saturday and really only like a day and a half since we were supposed to go to the Hague on Thursday and I did not have the right yarn.

My original plan was to recreate the fabulous cabled extravaganza that I had knit for Miranda's second son, Alex. I still want to write that up and offer it as a free Ravelry download. One of my goals is to have a pattern on Ravelry. I have a few ideas. Just you wait!

Anyway, the point is that I realized that with the limited time I now had, I would need to simplify my plan. I sort of have a lot of irons in the fire, as it were, with my knitting. (See previous post.) I decided to go with the Umbilical Cord Baby Hat that I have seen and that people love.

I announced that after the museum (our goal), we'd be visiting Woool, a yarn store in the Hague that I had never been to and that I wanted to see. I said I would by a ball of yarn there and that Fred could pick it out. The museum was good. We saw an exhibition about James Ensor. It was good, but they need some help with their translations. They were horrible.

Pauline, the lovely woman who runs (and probably owns) Woool helped me pick out a ball of Rico Baby classic. Fred chose a greeny-blue I would have never picked out. They're pretty sure it will be a girl, but Fred didn't go with anything pink.

I cast on and quickly realized that the yarn was thinner than it looked on the ball. I re-cast on and began knitting in a circle for five inches. Half way there, Fred suggested that instead of that little top knot, maybe I could put a leaf, like I had put on the original. Love the idea.

The whole hat was finished in about four hours. I knit on Thursday and then on Friday morning a bit because I had other things to get to and I didn't want to wait until the last minute because that's just asking for problems.

The original pattern suggests casting on 64 stitches. I went with 72. It's a very simple pattern. At five inches you just divide the stitches by eight and decrease every round until there are eight stitches. Then you knit two together and you have four. After that, you just do i-cord for a centimeter or so and then throw on a leaf, which is (as one woman I know says) dead easy. The leaf comes from Hinke, a local knitter and artist who I saw on Thursday. It's available as a free download on Ravelry.
The yarn is...machine washable. I also bought a ball of it in 'real' blue since it was only €3,50 per ball. I love the rolled rim. It hides the Cast On point beautifully. And this yarn is very soft.

While doing the hat, I heard myself promise Fred that I would finish his sweater before continuing with my sweater, the Terrarium beauty that is going to be done next week. Fred's sweater is finished. I bound it off this morning. More on that later.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Four WIPs and a Plan

I currently have four WIPs (knitter-speak for Works in Progress). And I just realized tonight that I've been sucked into (willingly) a KAL (knitter-speak for Knit-A-Long) in which I have to produce a cardigan by the end of May. All I really want to knit right now is the cardigan, but I've got to finish one of the WIPs if I am to do the KAL with a clear conscious.


The first WIP on my list, and the one that I most need to concern myself with, is the sweater I'm knitting for Fred. It is, in fact, completely knit. It's a sort of based on Bruce Weinstein's Hooded Sweatshirt, but with no hood and the sleeves are a bit more fitted than they are in the original pattern. Fred doesn't want a hood. He'd rather have a collar. And he wants a slimmer fit. I just have to decide what kind of collar I'm going to do.

The only thing holding me up on this is the finishing. I love finishing, but I did it and one of the shoulders doesn't look so great. So I have to take it out and sew it back up. That shouldn't be a problem, but I'm not thrilled about doing it. I keep estimating that it would take me a day or two of fairly relaxed knitting. I need to finish it. I'd like for him to wear it this year - before it's too warm. The whole thing is knit in Cascade 220 in a dark brown that I got from Penelope Craft here in Amsterdam.


This one will go on hold for a bit while I finish the cardigan. It's a sweater I started after I got a whole lot of a cotton-linen yarn in a yarn swap. It's nubby and I think it's a good yarn for a summer evening sweater. I supplemented it with a couple of balls of blue Berroco Latitude cotton that I bought on a trip to NYC two years ago. I'd already finished it, but it was way too wide and too short, so ripped out the bottom part and I've been knitting it back when I need mindless knitting. I ripped it back to right below the armpits and then I did some decreases and then it's just straight knitting.

The pattern is your basic Elizabeth Zimmerman top down raglan. I just got my count off. Truth be told, if I could stomach ripping it out and knitting the whole thing again, I would. I've tried it on - one of the great things about the top-down raglan - and it's got a strange fit: big at the top and slim at the bottom. Also, the collar is sort of strange, almost boxy. I'll just finish it and see if I like it. If not, I'll give it away or put it in storage. I'm not itching to get it done. It won't take long now that I'm on the last ball of the last color.

WIP Three

This is a shawl I'm knitting for someone. It's the Kanten Bruidsshawl by Carla Meijsen and I'm knitting it out of Madelinetosh Lace in the Thunderstorm colorway that I bought from Yarns Apart. It's a good knit. It's all lace, and it's a fairly intuitive pattern, although I haven't (and won't) completely memorized it. But it's like any scarf or rectangular shawl. About 2/3 of the way through, it doesn't feel like it will end. The ball doesn't seem to be getting any smaller.

As there's no time limit on this particular gift, I'll give it a pause as I concentrate on the cardigan. It's actually nice to knit. I'm using life lines for the first time and they help because it feels like I'm having my hand held through this process of knitting lace. Knock wood. I have not had to use them.

WIP Four

This is a Work in Progress only because I have been working on it for a week. It's the Rogers-esque Cardigan Jacket by Mary Townsend. I'm knitting it out of Madelinetosh vintage worsted weight in the Terrarium color way. I'm only about six inches up the back. This yarn is absolutely wonderful. It's like butter. It feels good. It looks beautiful. It's stockinette, which is not exciting, but I know that the pay off will be finishing it. I'm going to concentrate on this for the month of May because I officially have 21 days as of today! I can do it. I just need to really focus on it.