Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Dear Knit Picks,

Please stop* making new sock yarn. I have no willpower when it comes to sock yarn.


Brokey McBrokerson

*By "stop," I mean a little-known usage of the word that implies "for god's sake, keep going." Check the OED if you doubt me.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Consumpta nocte.

It may not appear that there has been progress, Reader. It may even appear that this blog, like Enron, promised big things, but, due to a quasi-legal accounting system and amoral trading practices, has actually delivered nothing but rolling blackouts to the state of California. I assure you that this is not the case. Pay no attention to that bank account in the Cayman Islands. That's my retirement fund, and I like to fill the hot tub with Cristal.

No, I measure progress these days by Buffy episodes watched; and we, dear Reader, are almost done with the third season. That's a lot of episodes. We have slogged through some not very good ones for the sake of the knitting time they bring us. All for you. All for you. Except for when it was for me.

First up: finally, god help me, I finished the mates of the two socks I've been blogging about for ages, and they're blocked and ready for wear just in time for a hot, humid Jersey summer. If you have a yen to visit Jersey in the summer, ever, put your head inside of a plastic bag and breathe in your own warm, damp carbon dioxide for awhile (not for too long; don't hurt yourself. Also, never use plastic bags to line your baby's crib. That's a free tip from you to me). That's what it feels like, and now I've saved you money on gas.

In any case, I've been living with those socks for a long time, and I'm tremendously glad they're over. I am quite excited about them, however, and very much look forward to wearing them. I'm up to I think four pairs of handknit socks for the winter. I have made socks before, but I've never really had ones that were up to being worn, like, out of doors.

Secondly: I made the Odessa hat for our friend Rosey, who sent us each a felt pillow she had sewn herself. I made the hat out of Lavish Fibres alpaca in charcoal grey. The Odessa is a very popular Magknits pattern by Grumperina, and calls for a DK-weight yarn and about a hundred beads, so I used a worsted weight and no beads, and felt like such a badass. Or I made a boring hat; it's hard to tell. The pattern is a really excellent one--a combination of ssk and yo spaced several stitches apart creates the spiral of the hat, which is most visible from the top. I hope Rosey has some very tall friends who are really into hats. I also hope Rosey isn't allergic to cat hair, because the kitten likes alpaca almost as much as I do. I washed it, Rosey! I swear!

Oh, a final note: I used a circular needle for this hat, the first time I've ever used one. This will become important in just a few moments.

Third: this is a sweater knit by Lilyriver to clothe one small, naked mouse, of whom I have blogged about extensively. Like Graham himself, the sweater was sort of an experiment. Lilyriver has been working through a book called The Sweater Workshop. Graham's sweater was a final exam of sorts, and she did a bang-up job of it--it's really amazing; it has all the details of a big sweater, only very, very tiny (it is unfortunate that Graham is not really the ideal sweater model, as he lacks both a neck and shoulders). L. would blog about this herself, but she's been lying on a chaise drinking mint juleps since she finished it.

Finally--finally--we have reached the part of the post where I show you a picture of a work-in-progress that is not the thing I said I was going to work on the last time I posted. I, too, have succumbed to the lure of Koigu. I'm doing the Monkey pattern from Knitty, by Cookie A, mostly because I was reminded of it on the Yarn Harlot's blog about when I decided to work with this yarn next and partly because I love Cookie A's aesthetic and most of her patterns are way harder than this one. Inspired by my foray into the world of circular needles with the Odessa hat, I've decided to do these socks on two circs. I'll keep you posted. Probably.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

So much progress, it's almost too much progress...

So the Summer of Crafting is going along just about how we imagined it back during the Winter of Drudgery. I rushed to finish the camisole I talked about earlier, and since then I've knitted -- and felted! -- several other objects. First, the Fibertrends Felted Clogs in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes. These pictures of one of the pre-felted clogs are pretty much their own reward, so I won't comment much on them, except to say that while the clog has obviously shrunk considerably since the photo was taken, Hazel has progressed through a few dozen growth spurts. She has of course not yet fully emerged from her kitten cocoon, but she's much less pliable now and I'm not sure if she'd stand for such humiliation these days. I guess we will see when I knit another pair of these clogs, since I'm pretty certain that I will. In fact, I'm pretty certain I will knit several pairs -- if you're reading this, you'll probably get a pair. For these, I duplicate stitched my first initial in the contrasting color before felting, which gives the finished clog a nice Laverne-and-Shirley vibe, I think. I've got all kinds of ideas for how to embellish other pairs (but don't worry, I swear to you that none of them involve novelty yarns!) and I'm quite excited to get them underway, especially now that I've gotten a feel for felting in my apartment complex's crappy and expensive washing machine. Aside from the clogs, I also felted a navy blue oven mitt, this time in Wool of the Andes Bulky (see? I try new things -- this time it was bulky!), for Father's Day. I don't have pictures of that one, but it's just a big stiff navy blue glove, so you can probably imagine what it looks like. Instead, to prove what an impartial two-cat owner I am, I offer this photo of Joe inspecting the finished left clog.After my felting binge, I finished the Child's First Sock from the Nancy Bush book, however, aside from turning out far too small, they are so full of mistakes that I can't quite bring myself to photograph them. I also kind of hate the yarn I used; every time I look at it, I relive its scratchiness and tendency towards splitting. I may be exaggerating how badly these turned out -- we'll see how I feel in the fall when I try to wear them. Instead, I'd like to share with you my work on a Very Special Pair of Socks, during the knitting of which I have overcome many difficulties and learned some important lessons. Well, okay, only one of two socks is finished so there may still be more lessons to learn, but nevertheless I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. I used the Koigu I bought at School Products on our tour of NYC yarn stores and I have to admit that it really is just about as excellent as people say it is. I'd originally intended to knit up my Trekking Pro Natura but after considering a ridiculous number of patterns and failing utterly to get the toe of the Sherman Sock properly underway, I switched to the Koigu in an attempt to rouse myself out of the resulting funk. Luckily, an amazing Knitty tutorial, Amy Swenson's Universal Toe-Up Sock Formula, made everything click for me. I don't know enough about short-row heels and toes to judge whether there is anything particularly innovative about this pattern, but Amy's instructions, the Ridged Feather stitch pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, and the magical Koigu have produced what has definitely been my best sock-knitting experience so far. I've just bound off the first sock, and I'm still jazzed enough to want to start the second one right away -- well, as soon as I weave in those ends.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Assorted FOs, if one is liberal with the definition of "FO," as one, one hopes, will choose to be.

First, the promised Corazon mittens from the Knitty pattern. I used, as I noted below, an alpaca/silk blend from Knit Picks, and its shininess made it largely camera-proof. Mittens, it turns out, are rather awkward to photograph. In any case, my experience doing the colorwork vastly improved once I got it into my head how to knit without tangling the yarn: always keep one color under and the other over. It's slower at first, but you don't have to untangle the yarn every row or whatever. I did not come up with a good picture of the palm. I was frankly a bit relieved about that because the back is noticeably uneven. The colors, as you can see if you follow the pattern link, switch every stitch and I found it very difficult for about the first mitten and a quarter of the second to keep it looking as nice as I wanted to. That improved somewhat once I was able to keep my yarn straight.

Here's a close-up of the stitchwork on a mystery hat. As you can see (I hope), I did my first cables. I looooove cables, you guys. They're total genius. It was a hell of a breakthrough for me once I was able to comprehend that you don't have to knit stitches in the same order. That's all a basic cable is: stitches knitted out of order. I think for my next fancy sock, I'll use Nancy Bush's Conwy pattern, which features tiny braided cables. I did the hat in a worsted weight alpaca I purchased from the Inter-America Group on eBay. I think that the next time I do a hat, though, I will use bamboo needles, which are of course much lighter than metal ones. The metal ones were heavy enough to cramp my wrists a little bit.

Finally, I offer you two lonely socks. One is the Eclipse sock I've been blogging about forever; I've just finished the gusset decreases on its mate, so "all" I've got left is the long, slow march to the toe. My progress on this sock has been hampered by its tedium. I desperately want the pair to be done so that I can start another plain stockinette pair in Meilenweit Colortweed, of which I, um, have three different shades. The other sock is my Vintage Sock project, the Child's French sock. It is nigh impossible to photograph it adequately, so I hope you will take it on faith that it is as it ought to be. I am extremely worried about blocking this sock; since it's not a superwash wool, I can't count on the drier to shrink it back to size if it grows. I suspect that it's going to grow quite badly because the pattern called for 72 stitches across 2.5mm needles, which equals a lot of extra yarn for a sock. I am waiting to block it until I finish the pair (I am working on the heel flap of the second right now) because if it blows, I'll never finish and I'll just have this loose thread hanging over my life forever and on my death bed I'll say, I should've finished those goddamn socks, and I'll find out that hell is really just me tediously working on the other sock forever knowing that there were no elephants in hell to wear this huge never-to-be-finished goddamn sock [redacted for length and increasing hysteria].

One kind of gross thing is that this yarn proved to be a frigging beacon for cat hair. My cats are awesome, but I really don't feel the need to knit anything from their fur. As a side note, I'm using Knit Picks DPNs and they are really excellent. (As for the color of the sock, the picture of the full sock represents the color much better than in the close-up.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Seriously?! I want a do-over.

What kind of yarn are you?

You are Dishcloth Cotton.You are a very hard worker, most at home when you're at home. You are thrifty and seemingly born to clean. You are considered to be a Plain Jane, but you are too practical to notice.
Take this quiz!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

In place of a real post, I offer you a yarn quiz.

What kind of yarn are you?

You are Shetland Wool. You are a traditional sort who can sometimes be a little on the harsh side. Though you look delicate you are tough as nails and prone to intricacies. Despite your acerbic ways you are widely respected and even revered.
Take this quiz!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Why didn't we think of this?

Hand-dyed yarn inspired by TV shows -- brilliant, right? There's even a Law & Order colorway. Quick, somebody disable my paypal account!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

FO in the house!!!

Now the only question is whether the finished object will go OUT of the house...

So, yeah, I finished the straps and the seams and wove in the ends on my tank top tonight, and though it it certainly far from flawlessly made and I do have some qualms about it, the more I look at it, the more I think it may be the most wearable knitted garment I've yet produced. Just to recap, this is the razor cami from a free (and quite popular) pattern from Katie Knits. (Having looked around on the site, I've decided I also want to knit everything Katie Knits. She makes just the kind of fitted sweaters I hope I can learn to knit for myself.) I used just over 4 skeins of a cotton/modal blend yarn, Knit Picks Shine Sport in Silver Sage, and I followed the pattern pretty much to the letter, except that I didn't do the constrast edging at the top and I made my straps with I-cord instead of ribbing. This pattern was really a lot of fun to knit because it required just the right amount of concentration and attention to detail -- not so much that I couldn't properly watch TV while knitting, but not so little I wanted to hang myself with yarn out of boredom by the time my knitted tube was 16" long. The true test of this project, though, will come when I attempt to make an outfit with the cami and get through a day feeling comfortable in it. If that hap
pens, I'll really feel like I completed something.

Next up, I need to finish the second of my pair of Vintage Socks, but before I do, I will probably cast on the Fiber Trends felted clogs I've been planning to make (it seems like everyone knits these, but here is one example I like). I already have the yarn, Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in avocado and blueberry (Okay, so we really like Knit Picks... We do not, however, like Knit Picks' pattern for a knitted tie. If there are any fathers reading this: DON'T WORRY, we will never knit you ties!). I even bought new needles and ordered the pattern from a seller on eBay. So there is a lot invested in this, my first adventure in felting. And though I've come to regret the Christmas of the novelty yarn scarf and I can promise there will never be a Christmas of the knitted tie, I can't promise that if this pattern proves as fun as I expect it will that 2007 won't see the Christmas of the felted clog...

Mirabile dictu!

So I've spent the last week or so--countless hours of television!--attempting to reproduce the Knitty Corazon pattern (more or less), and I've finished the mittens, finally. They're blocking now and I'll post pictures when they're done drying. In the meantime, I'll show you the nifty new trick I learned. I've put the picture at left because, um, it makes the post look better, but think of it as a preview of the amazing, incredible, unbelievable (POW! KAZAAM!) afterthought thumb. It's genius, you guys.

First, I made a few modifications to the pattern. Quite obviously, I used different yarns. I decided to go with Knit Picks Elegance, a 70% alpaca and 30% silk blend, in coal and barn red (I'm not normally a red person, but I'm matching two scarves I already own and a hat I made a long time ago. This red is lovely as reds go, however). I love alpaca, even though actual alpacas are kind of weird looking and certainly not as cute as sheep. Alpaca is so soft and lightweight--and still warm, apparently, although it's already pretty damn warm in New Jersey right now. It's sort of like sticking your hands in flour. The Elegance developed a fuzzy halo, especially on the palm, where the colors alternate so frequently. It makes the colorwork less precise. I think the effect is neat, but may be a drawback to alpaca yarn if you don't like that.

The modifications to the pattern itself: those of you who know Spanish would, I imagine, recognize immediately that the word "corazon" means heart (I think?), but I spent my college years (and now, alas, part of this summer) on Latin and I didn't realize until right before I was going to start knitting that the design is actually made up of hearts. That's a little too cutesy for me. I made a minor change to the design and substituted a contrast color stitch to a main color stitch on the joins between each heart and made the effect more sort of abstractly floral. I also made the cuffs about 3" instead of the 2" called for by the pattern, and used size 2 needles for the cuff & top (I wanted to make sure I had a snug fit) instead of size 3s. Finally, and most noticeably, after knitting the top shaping decreases, kitchenering the top, and blocking the first mitten, I realized that I still hated the point at the top, and also that the mitten was way too long, so I ripped it back about an inch.

But! The amazing trick I learned by working this pattern was the afterthought thumb. It's so cool. I am really inching to start a new pair of socks so I can try out the afterthought heel, which works along the same principle. You knit in a piece of waste yarn in the spot where you want your thumb (or heel) and then slip the stitches with the waste yarn back to the left needle and continue working in pattern. Then when everything's all done, you come back and "unzip" the stitches on the waste yarn and pick them up. It's total genius. I did have to reinforce the base of the thumb, as the picked up stitches can make a bit of a mess at the joins, or, at least, they did for me. I imagine that none of that really made sense, and I can't say it really did for me until about the fifth time I read the Corazon pattern and meditated on what it means to "unzip" for awhile. It will suffice to say that it's awesome.