Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas

In Germany, they call this second Christmas Day.  It really was for me.  We've all been just hanging around the house enjoying the privilege of doing whatever we want and enjoying our new presents.  The weather outside has been perfect for Christmas.  This is the view out my window:

And I got the most awesome presents from my wonderful family.

I have no idea where my husband found me a copy of the History of Hand Knitting, but he's amazing, and he did.  I've wanted it for so long.  Thanks Mark!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Knitting

Who has time to blog (or to knit for that matter) during the Christmas season?  I've decided that in the future, I need to finish all necessary knitted gifts by the end of November.

But of course, it's the knitting that's my therapy during this season.  I've finished two fabulous hats.  They're both made of KnitPicks Biggo.

They gave me one skein free, and I liked it so much I bought the second.  It's soft, squishy, bouncy, and washable.  It acts like it will pill easily, so I guess we'll wait and see on that.  My only complaint was that it was easy to split the yarn with my super pointy KnitPicks needles.

The first pattern I did was the Zombie Killer Slouch.  I knit loosely, so after swatching, I cast on with size 8 needles for the beginning ribbing. I switched to 9s for the body of the hat. I decided to knit it inside out so that I could k2, p1, which is faster for me, so when I got to the increase row, I did k1fb, p1, all the way around. It looks really nice from the right side.

After getting 2/3 of it done, I realized there was no possible way I’d have enough yarn, and that even on size 8s, the hat was huge for my niece’s head. I ripped it all out.

Started again, CO 64 with size 7s. Switched to 9s for the body. Went till I was almost out of yarn and then did an inside-out modification of the less yarn cast off. (k3tog, p1, etc)

It’s a cute hat, but not as slouchy as the pattern. I blocked it by hanging it over a large pan lid sitting on a tall glass. As long as it stays on her head, it will be great!

I knew after knitting the Killer Zombie Slouch with this yarn that I would barely have enough for the next hat, Giftie Slouchie Beanie. I cast on with size 7 needles for the ribbing. Switched to 9s for the lace pattern. I charted the pattern to make it easier to read while knitting. They I lost my chart and mostly did if from memory. Once you set up the first row correctly, it goes smoothly from there. I had to knit the crown three times to have enough yarn to finish. In the end, I started modifying things on row 27 (7th row of the lace). I did the k2togs and ssks, but left out the yos. This started the decreases. I did the same on row 29, but knit 28 and 30 even.

 I didn’t like the way the pattern decreased to end the hat. I wanted something that matched the established pattern better. I did this: p1, knit to 2 before next purl column, k2tog, p, ssk, knit to next p column, repeat. I did this till there were only 16 stitches left. Then I did k2 tog all the way around, then pulled the tail through the last 8 stitches. I love the way the crown turned out.

I debated about whether or not to block it, because it was so squishy and fun, but I decided to block it to show off the lace pattern better.  The beautiful model is my eldest daughter.  She is a joy to have around, and very patient!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Judith's Studio and Hurricane Sandy

I assume many people who read this blog are active enough in the fiber arts world to have heard of the loss of Judith MacKenzie's studio to fire.  It seems like such an irony while worrying about crisis on the east coast to have this little tragedy on the west coast.  I say little not to diminish the loss to her and many who stored their wheels and looms in her studio, but because compared to loss of homes and life, we have to maintain perspective, even though  I might not always feel that way.

It's a bit ironic, because as I've been listening to those trying to while away they hours and days without electricity in the east, I try not to be jealous.  Idealistically, I picture myself knitting and spinning to my heart's content in a chilly, boring apartment.  I think of so many hours to play with my fiber.  Assuming I still had fiber, of course.  The truth is, Hurricane (or Super Storm) Sandy was not that nice.  It didn't gift people with extra hours.  Instead, it was devastating in destroying all that many people owned.  It's hard to imagine what that would really feel like.  Surrounded by too much stuff, and unable to part with it, I know that I would be devastated and blessed by such an event.  I hope that most are able to rebuild.  I was moved by this video of the Mormon Helping Hands doing a bit of good on one day in one community in New York.

And meanwhile, the warm hearts of knitters have come together to rebuild Judith's studio as much as is possible.  They are 73% of the way to the needed donation.  I hope that many more good people join in helping all those in need wherever they can help.

And there's one more good turn in the knitting world I'd like to mention today.  Craftsy is sponsoring a Keep Out the Cold drive to provide warmer winter clothing to homeless children in the U.S.  You can donate handmade items or money.  Their goal is 10,000 donations! I'm going to make a kid's sized Monmouth cap out of a fun color.  They're the warmest hats I make, so I hope one can bless someone else.

What are you donating time or money to this season?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Learning Socks

I am currently knitting actively on 3 projects.  And spinning for another.  I have the TV project (Radiating Star Blanket), the complicated project (It's a stole that's been on the needles forever--I keep making it longer), and a portable project, which is currently my daughter's leg warmers.

The leg warmers are the portable project that replaced the sock's I just finished while up at Bear Lake.  I wasn't sure I was going to like them, but I've been wearing them constantly since.  The pattern is just from a simple sock recipe.

I’m calling these learning sock, as in learning a lesson.  I got this sock yarn from my wonderful friend Valerie when I was in distress. She showed up at my house with two types of sock yarn, and offered me my pick. Is that not friendship? Trouble was, I had trouble picking. I loved the one yarn more, but this yarn would match a favorite pair of shoes perfectly. I waffled, and generous Valerie gave me both. I’ve felt guilty about that for a few years now, and I’m finally finishing these socks just as those shoes wear out.

Lesson for self: just love what you love and admit it. Don’t try to optimize every equation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Plugging away in chaos

If I could only ever finish a coherent thought, let alone a task...

I'm supposed to be putting up my pears (I decided to dry them, right?), making plum jam, and doing something with all those impossible almonds from my almond tree.  Instead, I dream of more knitting while driving the kids everywhere, trying to decide how often to cross the cable on those leg warmers...

Speaking of leg warmers, I can't even get knitting out of my mind while exercising.  I've got plans for a series of ballet knitting patterns.  Mostly the classics, not something crazy and new.  But today in ballet I stared at the teacher's sweater trying to decide if I'd rather do a provisional cast-on with a folded hem, or a tiny bit of ribbing on the bottom edge when I designed the sweater.  I completely missed the combination she was teaching...

Last night I made some progress on the Radiating Star Blanket while watching the Presidential debates.  There is no better description of how I feel about it than this Non Sequitur comic by Wiley Miller.  If only...

But all in all it was still a good day.  The fall leaves have been amazing, and it snowed last night!  I got to dance, have lunch with my 3rd grader, have dinner with my sister and her kids, and now listen to my children chattering while they're supposed to be asleep.  And my hubby will be home from his trip tomorrow!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Christmas in Progress

I should know myself well enough by now to know that a quick and easy knit gets harder if you think it's so quick and easy that you forget to pay attentions.  That's what's been going on with my Mother-in-Law's mini blanket.  The pattern, Radiating Star Blanket by Alexis Layton, is beautiful and simple.  It shouldn't have been a problem.

The first thing I did was cast on over two needles using the long tail cast on.  I do this almost as a rule to make sure my cast on edge isn't too tight.  Well, I got the center star finished and decided that the circular hole in the middle was really big and loose.  I ripped out for the first time and started over, casting on over only one needle.  It looked much better.

I finished the first skein of yarn and the second star pattern about a week ago.  I used a spit join because I hate weaving in ends and kept on going.  I was trucking along and things looked great.  About 14 rows later, I realized that there was a mistake about eight rows back...but I couldn't figure out how that was possible because the pattern seemed to line up.  I dropped about 8 stitches and unraveled and knit them back up correctly.  But now there were really more problems.  I stared for a long time.  I unraveled and fixed a couple of other places.  I looked at the loose stitches and the additional problems.  What had I done?  I had made multiple mistakes on 7 of the 8 repeats.  Ugg.  I ripped back 8 rows and started again.  I finally got back to where I'd ripped out...and found another mistake six rows back.  Luckily, it wasn't too bad, and I was able to fix it without all the ripping back this time.

Now I've marked the beginning of the round, and I will pay more attention--even if I'm watching TV with my husband!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wingspan is Finished

Like many others, I was totally caught up by Wingspan.  What a clever little pattern, and how many people have made so many gorgeous versions!  I started one this summer, and finished all but the weaving in.  I finally have the ends woven in just in time for fall.

The yarn is Knit Picks Chroma Fingering in Theatre.  I took pictures at my mom's cabin above Bear Lake, Utah.

I wanted to be able to finish it with just one skein of Chroma, so I only cast on 81 stitches for the initial triangle.  I had enough yarn in the end to finish 9 triangles, but then not enough for a nice finished edge, so I ripped back the last triangle and had a bit of yarn left over.

Now the real question is, do I keep it for myself or give it away for Christmas?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Math for Color Affection

I gathered information from seven knitters of color affection who were kind enough to be very specific about how much yarn they used.  Thanks, ladies!  The trouble is, the yardage varies dramatically.  And it's not even consistent which color you need the most of!  But I've compiled a little table of the results:

Number   MC in yds  CC1 in yds  CC2 in yds
1 217 167 243
2 277 173 217
3 250 211 277
4 256 224 250
5 277 231 300
6 293 254 231
7 277 185 250
Highest 293 254 300
Average 264 206 252

I think number 6 is an outlier in the data.  If I throw those numbers out, my averages are:
MC: 259 yds, CC1: 199 yds,  CC2: 256 yds.  If I spin consistently at 258 yd/50 gm, that would be:
MC: 50.2 gm, CC1: 37.3 gm, CC2: 49.6 gm.

So how much should I spin?  I would love to make all the yardage come out perfect, with no waste, but I know that's setting myself up for trouble.  I think I'll call  my first 50 gm CC2, use the 40 gm bunch for CC1, and add some to the make a 55 gm bunch for the MC.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spinning for Color

I finally wound my first 50 grams of plied yarn for Color Affection into a skein.

I'm very happy with the look and feel of the yarn.  I was aiming to match Knit picks Palette, because others had used that for the Color Affection successfully.  50 g of Palette has 231 yards.  My skein came in at 258 yards.  Whoohoo!

Now here's the problem.  I've looked at a lot of finished projects on Ravelry that used the Palette Yarn, and almost all of them used more yarn than I just spun.  What did I look at before?  I know it was weight, not length.  I'm wondering if I need to add fiber to one of my other chunks to make more yarn.  Trying to make it come out just perfect seems like a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Getting Started on Christmas

Looking forward to a beautiful weekend of knitting while listing to General Conference at my Mom's Cabin, I wound a few balls of yarn.

I bought this yarn a long time ago for my mother-in-law who loves purple.   It's Araucania Nature Wool Chunky.  I love that it's hand-dyed in Chile by a women's coop using vegetable dyes.  I'm going to make her a small circular blanket/shawl for keeping warm while working on her laptop this winter.   I'm going to assume she's not reading this blog, or I've just blown her Christmas present!

My kids and nieces and nephews had a great time winding the balls of yarn.  My swift got a good workout.  We also wound this yarn up to make leg-warmers for my daughter, who requested some for ballet.

This is Knit Picks Palette yarn, hand dyed by me.  I've got plans for a whole line of ballet inspired knitting patterns, and this will be the first I knit up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spinning for Color Affection

If you follow Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, theYarn Harlot, you might have read her posts about the Color Affection shawl.  The desire to knit it became so great at one retreat that they started calling the Color Infection, which seems true because the infection was so strong it reached over the internet.  I've been dying to make this shawl ever since.  

I'm on a yarn diet, however, and despite many looks through the stash, I found nothing right to knit it with.  I even managed to resist a sale at Knit Picks on the right yarn.  I kept telling myself I had many too many other projects to finish first.  

Happily, I finally remembered that I have fiber in my stash too.  

This is some wool-ish roving I've had for a year or two.  I say wool-ish because it is mill ends guaranteed to be at least 80% wool.  There is something else really shiny and fluffy in there every now and then.  I tried a burn test, and I don't think it's synthetic, so I'm hoping it's tussah.  It sure feels silky.

I read a lot of people's finished projects on Ravelry, to try to decide how much to spin.  I finally split off segments of 50 g, 45 g, and 40 g for each of the three colors.  I decided to spin first and dye after, though that decision alone took me a few days.

I just finished plying up the 50 gram bit.  It has just a touch of brown in it, but is mostly creamy white right now.  I still have to decide on colors for the finished shawl!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yarn Diet

I've just re-dedicated myself to my yarn diet.  The idea came to me from Wendy, who said she wasn't going to buy any more yarn until she had used up every bit of everything in her stash.  Wow.  I've been watching all sorts of great things come off her needles and hooks since then.  She makes whatever the yarn will work for.

I couldn't bring myself to be that good.  I decided to knit only out of my stash for a year.  Then I added the exception that I could buy yarn I needed for a gift.  Then sales became an exception too.  My stash is now bigger and better than ever.  I mean worse, don't I?

I've been knitting away, but I really have to make the yarn I have fit in the space I have, so it's back on the diet again.  I am committed not to buy yarn until all that I have fits in the bins I have for yarn.  (Should I admit how many bins there are?)  

The only trouble is...I'm hooked on a pattern, thinking about it all the time, and I don't have any yarn for it.  In all those bins, nothing will work.

But I remembered I have a spinning wheel.  And a fiber stash.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tour de Fleece

I keep hearing about my fellow fiber enthusiasts' goals in the Tour de Fleece.  This is where you spin every day that the the riders in the Tour de France ride.  I had great intentions to participate.  I haven't spun in a long time, and I'm dying to let some wool run through my fingers, even in the heat.

I also heard about the Gran Fondo bike ride in my community to support the hospital.  I've often wanted to participate in a fun bike ride through my beautiful valley, but I'm so intimidated by the experienced people in most races.  This one sounded perfect, because a Gran Fondo (Big Ride in Italian) is truly a ride, not a race, and is supposed to accomodate all levels.  There was a 40 mile ride that seemed about right for me.

I told my husband I wanted to ride, but the cost (which is a fund raiser for a good cause) seemed really high.  Well, my husband sponsored me and I started to ride last week.  That gave me a whole week and a half to train for my ride.  Let me just say that it hurts to sit.

So my deal with myself was that for every day I "spun" on the bike, I could spin on my spinning wheel.  This would have been great!  But I've biked almost every day, and haven't done a lick of spinning.  Maybe after the Gran Fondo on Saturday.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Navajo Wool

This April my family took an amazing two week trip through the southwest.  We saw 7 National Parks and lot more in between.  One of the towns we stopped in was full of Native American kitsch for tourists.

There was a weaving room with amazing (and stunningly expensive) Navajo weavings for sale.  While I was looking, a woman came and started weaving on a big rug on the loom.  She would weave a few inches of the appropriate color, then if she was done, simply break off the yarn by untwisting it a bit and pulling.  It was wool singles in naturally dyed colors.  I asked her who made the yarn, and she said it was made locally, and I could find some in the grocery store.  I had found my souvenier!

I almost walked past it in the grocery store.  There was just a grocery card piled up with skeins of navajo wool in tons of beautiful and tempting colors.  The naturally dyed skeins were hanging from the rafters above my head and were of course more expensive.  I took six skeins to my husband and he helped me pick two colors to bring home.  I'm first going to weave a simple hat band for my outdoor hat. Then we'll see what inspiration comes!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Liberty or Death

I was surprised by how many people were a bit shocked when they saw me knitting this hat.

This was hat made on commission for my best Monmouth Cap customer. It's a bit big on my model!

In the immortal words of Patrick Henry,

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"