Friday, October 23, 2009

Knitting and wool and sheep, oh my!

Hello again!
As you have seen and read below, I knitted my first hat for The Bolter and Lilyriver received my third scarf. See, I saved the Earth a little bit while making them presents because I used Caron's Simply Soft Eco yarn (made from recycled bottles) that I bought at Wal*Mart. My local Wal*Mart has since stopped carrying this yarn (what gives?), so it's a good thing I still have some white, pink, black, blue and green skeins left over from my various summer projects because I love that stuff.

Since then, I made Natalie Larson's Star Crossed Slouchy Beret and have started KnitPicks' Moguls Scarf, which is for my boss.
My slouchy beret is not nearly as awesome as the others I've seen online, but it was my first attempt at cabling and that came out pretty well. (The sizing was off because, I think, I did not use the correct sized needles. It's not really slouchy, whoops.) I used Red Heart Worsted Weight yarn from Wal*Mart.

I went to the Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, N.Y. last Saturday with some good friends. The Dutchess County Fairgrounds was packed, just packed with people. I saw tons of neat hats, scarves and sweaters--all, I assume, were handmade. One of my friends kept shouting out to people who were wearing patterns she recognized. They all beamed with pride and responded with how long the project took or what type of yarn they had used. Such positive energy all around!
And beautiful yarns. By Saturday afternoon, many yarn booths had empty cubbies and hooks. I hope vendors had reserves for Sunday's knitters.

The festival, being about SHEEP and wool, featured animals! Cute white, brown and black animals. Sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas. I cannot begin to describe how a sheep auction works or what an auctioneer says during one, but the auction I saw was like no other I've known. It all sounded like gibberish at 90 mph, but sheep were sold and everyone participating knew what was going on.

Anyway, despite the cold weather and strep throat I was battling, I had a great time and learned a lot about yarns and techniques.

I have decided that after I make my hat with ear flaps (pattern TBD) and the Mogul Scarf, I'm going to learn to make socks. I need socks.

Until next time, buy a newspaper, feed a journalist. (I am Lois Skein, after all!)

Friday, October 9, 2009


A new hat for my birthday, courtesy of Susan! Thanks so much, dude. This was, I believe, Susan's first hat, and it's great--I love the colors! She's been experimenting--as her previous posts suggest--with multi-color stranded knitting. I believe she is currently working on a cabled beret. Lilyriver was also gifted with a nifty scarf; and now we're just waiting for the weather to get cold. I did hear a report that it might be snowing in Catskill....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Two-colored zig-zag scarf experiement

Greetings and felicitations!

I finished yesterday my first two-toned scarf, made for my sister. Who just moved to Virginia. Timing, folks, timing.

Anyway, I found in Wal*Mart some Caron Nature Spun simply soft eco yarn made from recycled bottles. I now have five skeins of this stuff, which really is super soft. The colors are nice, bright, and the yarn has a little shine to it. I have no idea how the stuff will fare in the winter.

My sister's scarf was a real learning experience. I sort of followed Barbara Breiter's Odd Ball Scarf pattern, but as you can see, I pretty much did my own thing.

The scarf has some gaps and bumps where I switched colors (I will have to learn to twist my colors a more evenly next time) and pulls from where I stretched one color across another color (in the back). I held the color with a stitch from another color, so basically had the yarn pulled across the back. I thought I had provided enough give to keep the scarf flat, but I didn't, and it got all puckered. So, yesterday I snipped the pulls and tied the ends off so the scarf doesn't unravel. Breiter suggested cutting the yarn into pieces and weaving in all the ends. I should have followed her advice and will next time I do a multicolored project.

Luckily I have a nice sister who said the flaws made the scarf look more home-made and unique.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Confessions of a new knitter

Greetings all! I am proud to announce that I am probably two hours away from finishing my first scarf.

This scarf has taken me at for what feels like an eternity to come as far as I have with this project.

I should say here that I have only made a pot holder before this scarf. No picture folks, it has holes and something like an appendage.

Back to business. The scarf is made with Red Heart yarn I purchased at my friendly, neighborhood Wal*Mart. It is 30 stitches wide, and is currently about 3.5 feet long but will probably top off at just under 4 feet. We'll see how close I come to that guestimate.
I thought of the pattern myself and is pretty simple. Hey, I am new at this and really only know how to knit and purl. Nothing fancy. (Actually, there is a good chance that my stitches are not executed well. I learned to do this online and with some e-mailed instructions from lilyriver and The Bolter (thanks, guys).) Back to the pattern. It goes like this: the first row is all knit stitches; the second row has six purl stitches, six knit stitches, six purl stitches, six knit stitches and six purl stitches. After 25 rows, I switched the order of knit and purl stitches just to give it a little something extra.

So why has this project taken me so long? The first two attempts yielded scarves that were something like 80 stitches wide. Yikes!! I unraveled my first attempt after about 20 rows. However, I used about half a skein (about 50 rows maybe) before I unraveled the scarf, which more closely resembled a very small blanket. I was at home for Easter at the time and my sister was shocked when I took the thing apart to start over.

I have a problem casting on that perhaps you will read about. Perhaps not.

Some other problems I have encountered include knots (thanks to The Bolter I no longer fear cutting a knot out and weaving in the loose yarn ends into a project) and adding stitches. My stitches are not all uniform in size or tightness. But I am getting better at that.

One saving grace of using multi-colored yarn is that the colors help me see which stitch may need to come out or what part of the knot can be loosened by pulling what end. I just bought some monochome yarn for my next project. We shall see how well I fare. We shall see.

Until then, happy reading and happier knitting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pocket full of poseys.

Let me tell you, Reader, sometimes a knitting project just goes right. As Lilyriver can attest, I normally start a project at least three or four times, often in vastly different and generally inappropriate yarns and needle sizes, before it starts doing what I want it to do. But this Hemlock Ring blanket and I were MFEO, in internet parlance. I convey emotion through chatspeak because I spend too much time on the internet and have forgotten how to read books.

But no matter. My semester ended a week ago, and since then, thanks to the help of three quarters of a season of Fringe and half a season of DS9, I cranked out most of the aforementioned Hemlock Ring blanket. I can think of no better way to decompress. It was damn near cathartic. You'll have to forgive me, Reader; freedom, even temporary freedom (time marches on; one must prepare to teach one's summer course), makes me ecstatic.

Generally, by the end of a large project, I want to die. The thing about knitting is that most of the work is rote: the repetition of a particular pattern over and over again to achieve a desired result. But I was born in the eighties, and I demand instant results! This is because of music videos, as I understand it. Nevertheless, this project remained enjoyable up until the last 536-stitch repeat of five rows, at which point I started to wish the baby I knit this for was less of a human and more of a Polly Pocket. (The eighties, you know.)

Project notes: I used the Rainey Sisters' helpful compilation PDF, and I followed their feather-and-fan chart all the way, three repeats past Brooklyn Tweed's. The link above takes you to Brooklyn Tweed's project page; he adapted the pattern for a blanket from a doily. His blanket is a HW/Bulky-adult-lap-blanket. To make it light, small, and machine-washable for a baby, I used Knit Picks Comfy worsted weight in Honeydew with a size 8 needle. The yarn is cotton/acrylic and everything you could hope for in a blanket yarn. It's very light and easy to work with (read: not splitty); for this color, at least, shedding was minimal. The blocked blanket (sigh: the pictures are from while it was being blocked; if you want artistry in project photography, surf on over to Brooklyn Tweed) measured 52" in diameter.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A sucker born every minute.

Reader! God help me. I'm typing this mostly because it's either that or sit on my hands: that's how badly I want some of this new City Tweed yarn from KnitPicks. I love all the colors--all of them, even the yellow--but it's the Jacquard that's sending me over the edge. Someone better start posting negative reviews on Ravelry soon to kill my ardor here. It's not like I don't have plenty of yarn, and hell, it's not even like I don't have plenty of tweed yarn. But this yarn appeals to my baser, bargain-loving, sweater-project-fantasizing instincts.

For god's sake, Reader, send help.*

*By help I mean a few skeins of City Tweed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Morning tasks are often mixed: I have spun yarn for twelve ells of cloth, and you have killed Kjartan.

It has come to my attention that I have been woefully neglectful about keeping up with this blog, Reader. And this is true. My knitting has been rather sad lately: I'm just about done with the first Palette striped sock I blogged about four months (yikes) ago and am just about done with the pair of striped socks I blogged about for months ago (double yikes) and am working on the second sock of a pair of Gentleman's Fancy Sock I started, but did not blog about, four months ago (kill me now).

(At right is said Gentleman's Fancy Sock, which for reasons I do not understand scanned in black-and-white. The sock, I assure you, is dark blue.)

I knitted a little bit on my March Basic Cardigan: I've just got the sleeves & the finishing left on it, but the truth is that I've almost entirely lost interest in the project. I'll have to wait until my interest in it revives. These things go in cycles, you know.

Despite being surrounded by the wreckage of all of these half-finished projects, I'm contemplating starting yet another project: a baby blanket for my new baby cousin, Celine. My hesitation in this--aside from the fact that I've been incapable of finishing much of anything since Christmas, apparently--was that I have not knit anything for her three sisters, but I figure that none of the girls would be jealous of a blanket knit by a person they've either never met or don't remember. I'll keep an eye out for Hannah Montana sweater patterns or whatever.

Perhaps, Reader, you could weigh in on the blanket patterns I'm considering:
  1. Pinwheel Blanket in solid or stripe
  2. Star Blanket
  3. Ribbon Blanket in solid or stripe
I'm thinking either the Star Blanket in a solid or the Ribbon blanket in light green and light pink. I'll ask you what I ask my students: thoughts/feelings?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Things that smell after three days.

All right, all right, another picture of mittens in a bush. Seen one picture of mittens in a bush and I suppose you've seen 'em all, but bear with me.

These mittens were really fun to knit--every last fish, even, and we're talking triple digits here. The pattern is spillyjane's Swedish Fish, a bit modified--I took out a column of fish and made some minor adjustments from there. I started out by knitting the pattern as-is but, as usual, my gauge was way off. I wanted mittens, not oven mitts.

I have one minor critique of the pattern: the decreases at the top are worked on the edge of the needles--I did the project on two circs, as I do all colorwork--rather than one stitch in, and that left me with giant gaps. I added a whip stitch border to the mittens (not as horrible as it sounds, I promise) that fixed the problem. This may very well be a me-problem and not a pattern problem, but if you knit these, you should keep an eye on the decreases.

The yarn was, per the pattern, Knit Picks's Palette. The common complaint about Palette is that it has a limited range of colors: there are currently about fifty color choices, but no good choice for orange, for example. (I bought a ball of Tumeric, but it was both too dull and too close to the yellow). Colors are discontinued relatively quickly, and, at least when I ordered, there were maybe ten colors on backorder. Luckily, I had a great deal of flexibility with color for this pattern: the recipient only requested that the main color not be white. My first thought was that I'd go eighties and do black as the MC and sort of neon colors for the fish, and I still like that idea pretty well. Obviously, however, I went with blue--the fish are swimming, see--and I like the contrast colors. I'm a little iffy on the red--it's more saturated than the other colors except for the MC. I think a good orange would've helped balance it out.

As a yarn, though, I think Palette is great. The dyeing, admittedly, isn't amazing; the colors aren't very rich (although this, of course, depends on the color--and I think Palette has some pretty damn amazing heathers, which didn't fit my vision for this project). However, it's a soft yarn and only gets softer with washing, and I love the way the finished product feels. This is a particularly good thing, considering that I have almost five full balls of it. I started a striped sock, at left, from the leftovers, but I think a smarter way of doing this (the mitten) project would be to get a ball of self-striping with long color repeats.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Leaves on grass.

Friends, Romans, loyal Readers-- the Squirrel and Oak mittens all done, and just in time for a pretentious New Year's Day photoshoot. I offer you the obligatory dead leaves shot! See, there's an oak leaf on the mitten, and those are some dead oak leaves!!1!one! I think!

Well: the mittens turned out pretty well and all that, although I have to admit that there were one or twelve tense moments when I realized that the squirrel mitten (not pictured here, but available on the Rav) was actually larger than the leaf mitten, even though I knit them two days apart. I suppose once I had the first one down I was less anxious about the second. I put the larger mitten through a delicate, low-spin wash cycle and it came out about the right size.

I think Lion Wool is great stuff--it's sturdy, but not scratchy, and it doesn't feel like it'll pill overmuch. I also think the color palette, while limited, is very good: they're modern, bright, and well saturated. I like this yarn enough to consider it for a sweater project--if, you know, I ever finish any sweaters. I think it's not quite as cost effective as it ought to be; it's 85g and 158 yards to a ball, and I think it's priced the same as Patons Classic Wool (no longer merino), which is around 220 yards to a ball. But if I could only shop at big box craft stores and had no Cascade 220 at my disposal, I'd still pick Lion Wool; and I'd consider Lion Wool seriously for any project that needy a hearty wool.