Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Starting Again (and Again) (and Sometimes Again)

Spring...have you read enough blog posts about spring yet? Well, the crocuses coming out to play in my yard have put me in the mood to celebrate it. The long winter is over even as it tries to make me cower under its last dying gasp. Well, I will not cower. We've had too many sunny days lately for that.

What I will do is consider the lesson I can learn from the new life coming from the seeming dead ground. The bulbs that gave up after last year's blooming are back to try again and are making a grand show of it. If the flowers of the field can do it, perhaps I can too.

Specifically, I resurrected a project that I had abandoned (several times) but not completely rejected. There was a hoodie pattern from knitty, the Mariah, that I really liked and which presented itself just as the wool for it appeared as a gift.

First the wool. My co-worker, knowing I had some skill with things knitted, asked me to look at a sweater her puppy had chewed. I told her to bring it in; I could say nothing for sure until I had seen it. She brought in a beautiful Gap cabled sweater in a coal black wool that had a gaping 6 inch diameter hole in the back. No, I'm afraid, I could do nothing for that!

As she balled it up to bitterly throw it into the trash, I asked if I could have it. Perhaps I could use the wool. I didn't want to seem too happy to benefit from her misfortune, but she had no objections and I took it home. My grandmother used to unravel sweaters from thrift stores when they were the colour she was looking for, and I figured I could too. And I did. I even kept a lot of the short fragments that resulted from the now discontinuous back. And I got a lot of wool.

Now for the pattern. I knit up the back and front pieces with no trouble. I knew I had less wool than the pattern called for so I really simplified the cables on the sleeves, changing the complicated design from the pattern to two simple four-stitch cables running side by side up the center of the sleeve [right]. All of these pieces are joined at the yoke and then knit as one.

I ran out of wool when the yoke was pretty much done and still had the whole hood to go. About that time, a few ladies and I took a yarn road trip to the very nice shop, Sheep's Clothing. I brought along a sample of the black wool just in case I could match it.

I couldn't. The very helpful employee, however, did identify it as 3 strands of a type of wool that they had. And they had a rainbow of colours, but not coal black. So I considered my options and bought a colour that I liked and figured I'd just add some wide stripes or have a contrasting hood. Or something.

So I split the ball into thirds, started knitting, and ran out of wool again. Of course it was ridiculous to expect the one little ball to get me very far, especially when divided into thirds, but I didn't think that far ahead. I called the shop to get some more and between their custom ordering system, new computers or something, and I suspect, some general "do it later"ness, it took more than a year to get more wool! Wow. This time I had ordered three balls and had them wind them together for me. That was a lot easier.

I finished the hood. It looked terrible. Really: awful. There was a very strange bump on the back of the hood at the base of the neck. I'm not sure what alien it was for (and I know a number thanks to Star Trek/Wars) but it didn't work for me. So I frogged it back (rip it, rip it) to the neckline and started again, revising the way I interpreted one part of the instructions which was not too clear.

Guess what? Looked terrible again. No better. The whole sweater went into a duffel bag and has emerged only once to have pictures taken when I added it to Ravelry.

Best I can figure I started the sweater in the fall of 2004. I bought the contrasting wool in the spring of '05. I bought the more contrasting wool in June 2007. I've moved, and the sweater has moved with me.

And now, this spring, I have started again. It's been on my mind since I added it to Ravelry. While linking it to the other projects made from the same pattern, I couldn't help but notice that a lot of other people had trouble with the hood directions. Most had given up on the hood and changed it to a simple fold over collar. And then one woman's assessment that the neckline was just way too large made everything click for me. I didn't have to try follow the [apparently flawed] pattern. It wasn't working for me, so try something else.

And I am. First of all I added a lot more decreases to the yoke while lengthening it, so the neckline now fits much better. There was a pause in the work while I considered how to construct a hood, but with some searching in Ravelry posts, I think I have something worked out. I'm about half way up the length of the hood and going strong. I hope that the third time really is the charm because I am getting tired of knitting this same hood!

Serendipitously, soon after restarting this project I read a blog post about the correct way to insert a zipper...that was the next looming (possible) snag in this project. How nice to have nipped the problem in the bud.

Here's to fresh starts in spring! (And wish me some luck, please.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Good Goodwill Find

Problem: The scissors I carry in my project bag like to come open and this scares me into thinking that they might inadvertently cut something. It's an irrational fear since they really are not that sharp, but still a constant nagging worry in my mind.

First solution: take a scrap of yarn and tie the scissor handles together so it is impossible to cut anything without absolution intention of doing so. This put the fear to rest, but it made it less convenient to use the scissors what with the tying and untying all the time.

Final solution: find a fabulous wallet at Goodwill that you think is half off (and later find it isn't but buy it anyway) that perfectly fits your scissors and even has room for other sundry like darning needles (kept in the zippered pocket), measuring tape, stitch markers, needle gauge, etc.
It lies very flat and fits into my bag wonderfully. It's been nice to find all the most-looked-for accoutrements all in the same handy place. It doesn't hurt that it is beautiful (despite a little wear) and was made from sheepskin leather in India.

I love repurposing. I love Goodwill.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Big Top

I have my Hawaiian Star quilt top all pieced! I don't have any pictures of the whole to show you, but I'm hoping I'll have a place and opportunity to photograph soon. You can be sure I'll share it with you as soon as I do! To the right is a small detail of one of my better matched points, not that any of them are too bad. The old adage is that if you can't see the mistake from the back of a galloping horse, it's not a mistake to worry about. I'd rather a little higher standard...maybe a walking horse. But I don't have to worry about that here because all the points came out pretty good (albeit after some ripping and resewing in some cases).

After the sewing there is lots and lots of ironing to do. Pardon me, that is, pressing. We don't iron in quilting (press down and push), we just press with no pushing. Fabric can be easily distorted if you push it with an iron, especially if the steam is on. For a project like this, I don't mind pressing at all.

Ever wonder what the inside of a quilt looks like?
It looks quite a bit like the top, but with all the seams showing. There are lots of seams and for each one of them you need to decide which way they should go. Unlike in other sewing where you press seams open, in quilting, you generally press the seam to one side. It took me a while to accept that. As far as I can gather, it helps you to match seams more easily and relieves strain on the stitching (after quilting). You generally press the seam so that the bulkiest part doesn't have to fold back but it seems like there are lots of times you need to make exceptions. Or maybe I just don't know all the rules yet.

Since I don't have a picture of the whole thing to show you, and since you have patiently listened to all the drama and soul searching that went into it, I will give you a sneak peak of the vastly improved compass star fitted into the finished top:
Hoping to show you the big picture soon,
christina

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good Things...Little Packages

Have you been wondering what happened to the little projects I wrote about starting in this post? (Be polite: say, "Yes," even if you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

I have finished the delicate pink cotton bib (pattern here):
It was a fun project, especially good for "travel knitting." I think I'll add a couple more for the gift. Not the kind of bib I think I would enjoy using (on a child--not myself), but I assume perfect for the person who likes the very similar cotton knit washclothes everyone's doing these days. I certainly hope the person I give it to is such a person. What's great about them is that the bib can protect the baby's clothing during dinner and then afterward be dampened and used to wipe off hands and face as needed. Then it's time for the laundry...

The other small project was the toy ball in Toronto Maple Leaf colours:
Now this was really fun. Lots of short rows and knitting "backwards."

The pattern is brilliant in how it works to achieve the swirls. It could be written better, but it gives you a really good start to getting this done.
The knitters out there can see how the rows line up horizontally in the following picture:
So even though initially it seems you might knit along the length of the stripes, you actually knit across them with short rows. "Short rows" are where you stop knitting before finishing the row and then turn around and go the other way. It's a very effective way to shape knitting into 3D shapes. In this case it also means you do a lot of short rows of only 9 or 10 stitches. Turning a project around that often can be a real pain so I prefer to knit "backwards" (moving left to right). It's a little more awkward, but still more convenient and efficient than turning so often. I've included a short video of knitting backwards in case you want to try it yourself.

video

Go forth and experiment!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fortitude Regained

Just an inkling as to what I was up to tonight.

I did not get any response to my post about the huge lapse in memory in my Hawaiian Star quilt, but I came to the final decision that I had to change the compass star pieces. Several things weighed in.

1. In the middle of the day, out of the blue, this thought came to me: "I can do this." I'm perfectly capable. No need for high-emotion antics. It's not like I'm telling myself to climb Mount Everest. It's just sewing.

2. I realized that 2 of the 4 pieces I want to fix still have the papers on them and are not sewn into the quilt yet. That made half the work "easy" so I told myself to quit bemoaning and get on with it.

3. Looking at the assembled quilt, I didn't match the points of the compass star pieces very well. So I should probably take out those seams anyway...and then I'm already half way done the work of replacing the pieces.

4. Before starting any actual ripping and re-sewing, I did a mock up of the compass star with the green fabrics and looked at it in the context of the quilt that I had already sewn together. They both were better than the blue, but the one pictured above was the better of the two. I was glad to think of a way I could step back and look at the big picture of the quilt and not just look at the little details of the small sections. I think that's what got me in trouble in the first place. (Well, that, and a faulty memory.)

So feeling brave, correct, yet humbled, I began.

First to rip out the old seam.
Wait. First check that I have the right piece. I did not want to rip apart a piece that actually had the correct fabric on it. (They're all blue right now, after all.) Then look again that I have the right piece and that all the pieces I want to keep are safely stored away from the seam ripper. Then rip out the seam.

Then cut a new piece of fabric from the green. The right green. Look again that I'm cutting the one that I actually want in the quilt. Ok. Check. The right fabric.

Now check that when I line it up to sew that I have it right side up. And fold back the paper in the real world (not just in my head) so that I can make sure the fabric is placed properly and will cut out.
The circled part is that part you have to worry about. But it falls onto the green fabric (the right green) and so all is good.

Sew the seam. I no longer have to worry about sewing with a small stitch length because the paper has been sewn over so many times that it's barely holding together any more.

Fold fabric over and iron with the little wooden iron.

And repeat.

I got the two easy pieces done, and could "dry fit" half of the compass star:
And for direct comparison, here are the previous colour combinations:
Left: original pattern design with black and blue long points.
Right: second try with two different blues.

Although I know these pictures don't show it in the context of the rest of the quilt, I hope you are as pleased as I am about the new (and hopefully final) results.

Tomorrow morning I am off to the LQS for the club meeting. We don't have much to go over as to new techniques, but we're going to meet and see where each other are at. You know, mutual admiration and encouragement. I'm planning to pack up my machine and all sundry and do some sewing there. Hopefully I will be able to get a bunch of work done. When I realized that I wasn't going to make my Mar 21 deadline, I lost some steam...until I realized I'm going home next week and really should have it done to show to my sisters. So now I have one extra week to do it, and just as much motivation to get it done.

Quilt on!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Joy of Socks

Let me waste no time in showing off my socks now that they are done:
They feel warm and wonderful on my wiggling-with-joy toes.

After finishing the first sock last week, the second one practically flew off the needles. I think I can declare myself free of Second Sock Syndrome. It helped that I had a particularly long appointment at the CPA where I could knit while she put in all the numbers. Project Stats
Started: 2/22/09
Finished: 3/19/09
Pattern cost: free tutorial
Materials cost: half of $1 Goodwill vest (1/2 price!)
I was a little distracted, however, and the twist on the ribbing of the second sock got a little wonked. I started doing it every three rows instead of four so it twists a little more often and spirals a little farther around the sock. I can live with that. I did remember to twist the other direction so they are mirror images (as all socks should be!), even if a little warped mirror images. (Dare I say Good Twin/Evil Twin?) Whether evil or not, I don't know yet, but they are obviously fraternal twins. No special reason I did that but that I wanted to. I like it.

Last night I was very close to finishing the sock and hubby was egging me on. But I resisted the compulsion (for once) and went to bed more or less on time instead. Then at lunch today I got all the knitting done and almost finished casting off (I was this close) but had to stop because my break was over. That would be the second instance of resisting the compulsion. But after work when I slipped into my sun-warmed car, I could resist no longer. (A girl can only be so good for so long.) I sat there in the parking lot to finish my cast off and work in the loose ends.

And then you know I wore those socks home.

They feel good. They stay up--no saggy cuffs. I can feel that they are dangerously thin in places because the recycled yarn was so thin, but I will cheerfully enjoy them now and think not about the future darning that will be necessary to save them.

I used all of the wool I salvaged from the vest front and only used a little of the wool from the back. I was originally worried I wouldn't have enough wool for one pair of socks...now it looks like I could get two! On the next pair, I'll go down to the smallest needle size I have, add a few more stitches and see how that helps with the density of the fabric. It should make it better. I will also do a little experimenting with heel types on toe-up socks. I'm still not crazy about the short row heel. But that is for later; for now I just enjoy the socks I have.

I have to say there is something very intimate about socks. Maybe part of it is just how everyday ordinary they are. Or that they fit a part of your body that you don't show around that much. Or it maybe the small size of the project and how when you're working on it, it's all right there very much in front of you, very close to you. The working on every tiny detail of the toe, heel, cuff, et al. Or that when you make them yourself they are completely personalized for you.

I doubt I will only wear socks that I've made from now on, but I will definitely be making more socks. I like elevating the ordinary to the sublime and hand knit woolen socks do that for me.


Transformation from vest to socks

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Circling the Geese

I put my nose to the grind stone of my sewing machine, and got some quilting done the other day. The March 21 deadline is looming very large at this point. If I couldn't get the whole top done, I figured I could maybe get half of it assembled. So first I assembled four of the eight flying geese units, the last I had to do!

I went with the three black fabrics in the quilt in the same pattern for all eight sections. The first one took me about an hour, but by the fourth, I was down to about half that. It's funny how you get faster, even when the first one seems to go simply and smoothly. Practice just always seems to help, doesn't it.

After I had those four pieces done, I had to tackle the center compass star. You may recall all eight pieces were assembled:
but I was not in favour of the black in the long points. I think it 1. contrasted too sharply with the blue, 2. was off-balance considering the same black at the other compass points (between the pink points), and 3. didn't play off the other areas of the quilt well. So I always had in mind to change them. Despite feeling in a rush to be done, now was time to do it.

So I took the four pieces I had to change and carefully picked out the seams to remove the black piece. (I only had to remove one seam since the black piece was the last section to be sewn on--I doubt I would have had the fortitude to change it otherwise...this will be proven just a little further on in this story.) I cut out four new pieces of fabric from another colour which were plenty big and started chain sewing. After sewing the second one on, I could cut off the first and take a look.

Remember what I said in the paper piecing tutorial about mentally moving these pieces around being quite difficult? Ya, well, I proved that point too. Both of the first two pieces were sewn on wrong. But I was proud of myself for persisting, sewing the next two seams correctly (oh so carefully correctly), picking out the wrong seams and then sewing them correctly too. Pat on my back. Good job.
Two of the new compass star pieces set into half of the star

I then went on to assemble some parts of the quilt together. This is the very exciting part. The compass star to the lone star pieces. The circling geese to the melon spikes to the corner spikes. And then those two different parts to each other. After getting all those parts together, I was kaput for the day (and out of time).

I oh so proudly showed my hubby all my work at the end of the day, and especially boasted of my diligence in changing the parts I wasn't happy with. As I'm talking to him, and looking at the quilt, and then looking at it some more...I then realized that I substituted the wrong colour for the black!!!! Oh hubris how I hate your revenge!! I had been planning to use a green instead of another blue. How could I have forgotten that? Looking at the compass star now, I think the two blues blend too much together. Oh the details! So this is where my fortitude fails as alluded to in a previous paragraph. I just can't see taking apart that much of the quilt, and then trying to replace the pieces when I've already removed the paper foundations. But I think I have to. I am calling this my Masterpiece Quilt, aren't I?

Feel free to give advice on how you would handle it (replace these difficult to remove pieces, or leave them be). I know the common adage is that no one else will notice, but I'm the one who has to see it on the bed all the time. And it would be a better looking quilt with green there. I'm convinced. Needless to say, I've had to take a break from quilting as I internally process this lapse in memory and all its consequences.

I need to take more notes, and read them. :big sigh:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fun Stuff to do with Sheep

I had nothing to do with the making of this video, so it doesn't really belong here in Christina Creating land, but still I had to share this completely entertaining video I saw on Romi's blog of what you can do with some dogs, even more sheep, and unimaginable blocks of time:


I will never think of Pong in the same way again.

I give my thanks to the dogs and sheep who made this video possible.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Preparations for a Vest (and a Class)

I made a trip to Red Purl today. Had to get out for a bit. Had to take a drive in the glorious sunshine. Also couldn't wait a minute longer to wind the wool I bought about a week ago.

So I bought these two skeins of wool from Estonia
last week but didn't take the time to wind them at the time. Then I had to look at them at home realizing that I couldn't actually work with them because they weren't wound yet. Very frustrating!

They might look like a variegated colourway, but that's not quite true. Instead of changing colours every so many inches, one colour goes on for yards and yards before changing to the next colour. So as you knit you get wide stripes of consecutive colours.

I'm planning to use it for a patterned vest and it's going to make it look like I changed colours all the time, when really I worked from one ball and it did the work for me. (It's similar to self-striping sock yarns, although in the sock yarns the colours change much more often.) It's a great trick for making yourself look very talented while doing a simple fair isle!

I've been gloating to myself about this wool every time I've looked at it for the past week, and really couldn't wait another minute to roll it into balls, and then perhaps start my swatch. (Oh, I can't wait...)

Can you see the stripes in the ball?
How it changes from light in the center, to dark, to light, to dark, etc? This will be the "main" colour in the vest and will be used for the waist, armhole and neck ribbing. I'll have to see how I get the two arms to match...hmmm, something to consider as I go.

And then the one I really love:
Green to purple to orange a couple times. Amy has a sample knit up in this colourway and I just love it. It's going to be so fun to work with!

I think the two colours will play well together:
We'll have to see how the light and dark variations of the grey play against the more drastic colour changes of the other. Always an adventure!

And while I was at Red Purl and we had some time to talk, Amy and I picked some dates for the class I am going to teach. Oh yes! Hadn't I mentioned it? I am going to be teaching my first class at Red Purl to show you how to make a Better Plastic Bag for yourself! Look for details soon at Red Purl's website.

Maybe I'll see you there,
christina

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cast Off One

Had to share that I finished and cast off the first sock of my pair! It was a mile of 2x2 rib, but I powered through. Putting in the little twist pattern did help get through it. You can see the spiral when it's not all stretched out, but once I put them on, it more or less disappears. I'd show you a picture, but I am going to wait until I have the pair done.

(Ok, ok, I'll give you a peak)

Now as to the cast off [aka bind off, for some of you]: I have always done it in the regular way (knit 2, * pass first stitch over second, knit 1, repeat from *). In ribbing, I will sometimes get fancy and cast off in the ribbing pattern. This will give it slightly more stretch than knitting every stitch. Other than that, I'm a straight forward caster offer.

But recently I have been reading about sock techniques, just to learn, you know, and expand my horizons. I read about EZ's method in The Opinionated Knitter which is more sewing than knitting. And then read some threads on Ravelry that said they had an even better and easier method than EZ's. Wow, I could barely believe it, but I could try.

I tried the so-called superior method which involved * knitting two stitches together, only dropping the first stitch, repeat from *. I took a lot of pictures so I could share this method. I knit through the back loop first. It looked nice, but wasn't very stretchy. Then I tried knitting through the front loop in case I misunderstood the directions. It also looked nice and also didn't stretch much. The whole point was to get a stretchy cast off so that it gives enough to get over my heel, but still will hold my socks up. The so-called superior method was not working for me.I then said to myself: trust EZ.

I then said to myself: trust EZ. So I used EZ's sewing cast off. And guess what? It was stretchy, yet bounced back enough to hold up my sock. I love EZ.

So I took a couple pictures to share this method with you, just in case you are the type of person that understands even the simplest of instructions better with a visual demonstration. (And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I married someone like that.)

First. Cut your yarn about four times longer than the row or round you have to bind off. Thread onto a tapestry needle.

Step 1. Push needle through first two stitches from right to left
and pull yarn through.

Step 2. Push needle through just the first stitch from left to right
and pull yarn through. Drop this stitch off the left needle. And repeat steps 1 and 2 until you've worked through all the stitches. Keep everything relaxed and certainly don't pull the yarn too tight. (You'll lose all that stretch.)

When you're working in the round if you really want to add the finishing touch, then on the very first stitch that you would drop off, slip it onto the end of the needle to the right instead. This will make it the last stitch you sew through (as well as the first) so that you perfectly complete your round. That's it. Easy peasy, eh?

That's all I have on socks. Well, I did cast on the second one yesterday and have all the toe increases done. Now I just have to decided where I want the white stripes on this one. (You didn't think I'd make them identically matched, did you?)

As for other things, last night I finally got around to blocking my Birthday Cowl:
I've been using it again the last couple days (BIG temperature drop) and the curling edges were driving me crazy. And whenever I was the least bit warmed up, it was itchy (a little). So I soaked it in some water with hair conditioner, and pinned it down. I'm hoping it will be dry by tomorrow because I'll have to leave the house again, and they're telling me it will be cold.

Don't the colours just look great when it's laid out flat like that, and how you can really see the path of the bias rib? The colour's called Snow Bird. I just love that for some reason I can't figure out. Snow Bird.

Kind of wishing I was a snow bird right now...come, spring, come!
-christina

Two Strand Colourwork: A Tutorial

video
Ok, I will be the first to admit that the quality of the video leaves a lot to be desired. I shot a better one, but it didn't save on the memory stick. And given a choice between a bad video that was actually recorded and a better video that was not recorded, I'll take the recorded one every time. But you get the idea, I hope. If not, I will show some stills that will hopefully clear things up. And after following this tutorial and with a little practice, you may be doing some two stranded work just as proficiently.

I took the video while working on my alpaca hat and promised some more details about how I work it. Let me say up front that this is not the only way to work with two colours, and very likely not even the best way. But it's how I do it. You may notice in the video that I'm a thrower. I've tried to learn picking because I really think it's faster, more efficient and all that. But I started too late (on the picking), or too early (on the throwing), or however you want to look at it.

So in two strand work, I throw both. Some knitters can pick one and throw the other which sounds great and cool, but like I said, I throw both.

First for the set up. You want your contrast colour (CC=blue in this case) to run over your forefinger, and your main colour (MC=reddish in this case) to run between your thumb and finger. Like so:
In this example, we're going to be doing 3 sts MC followed by 1 st CC. This pattern was repeated across the row, but I'm just going to detail one repeat.

The first stitch is done with MC, so I want to ignore the CC, and loop my forefinger under the MC to pick it up. (From the position in the last picture you "sweep" your forefinger down and scoop up the MC strand):

Then wrap around the needle and knit the next stitch like usual:

Now to knit the next stitch which is also MC, grasp the MC strand between your thumb and finger and wrap it behind and under the CC strand

Then wrap the needle and knit the next stitch like usual:

And now to knit the third MC stitch, scoop up the MC strand with your forefinger again and bring it under, behind and then over the CC:

Then knit the stitch like usual:
Incidentally, we are now back to the original position (CC over the forefinger, MC between thumb and finger). But next is a CC stitch. To knit it, simply lift the CC strand with the forefinger to wrap around the needle. (Do not move it between the thumb and finger; just "lift and push" it with the finger.)

and knit:

And repeat. And repeat.

You must remember to not knit too tightly. Try to relax and don't let your stitches bunch up too much. If they're spread out, it will help to lengthen the non-working strands which will give you better tension.

This method differs from regular Fair Isle, and the two can be used in different applications. In Fair Isle, the non-working yarn is left loose and leaves a loop on the back. This greatly reduces the chance of the non-working colour showing through to the front. But there's a limit to how many stitches you can strand behind. (EZ says not to go more than 5. Her daughter, Meg, prefers to use 1" as her standard.)

In the method demonstrated, the non-working strand is trapped by the working yarn.
Back of work (wrong side)

I think it is easier to have an even tension with this method, and it lessens the likelihood of pulling a loop which may cause a pull in the sweater or, worse yet, break the yarn. (Think especially in sleeves where this is a real hazard, what with rings and long fingernails.) If  you maintain the pattern given of working the yarn first under, then over, the non-working strand, your different strands will not twist and tangle. If your pattern contains an odd number of stitches in each colour, it will always even out. If there are an even number of stitches, you can simply "untwist" them by changing your wrap direction once in the next colour block.

I hope you find this helpful. As with many techniques it's gets easier and more natural with practice and experience.

-Colouring Christina

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Paper Pieced Maple Leaf

Further to my foundation paper piecing tutorial, I now offer you a pattern for a Maple Leaf that I designed in 2003, soon after discovering foundation paper piecing.
I framed mine with log cabin strips and put it into a pillow to be displayed around the July 1/July 4 holidays. (We have to celebrate both around here. July 1 is Canada Day for those of you who don't know. And for the vastly smaller number that don't know: July 4 is the US Independence Day celebration.)

This pattern is not for the beginner because it is imperfectly designed. A good design should require you to only add one piece at a time. But, in several places, the only way I could make this work was to sew two sections together first before sewing them onto the main piece.

Here is the design which I give you permission to download and print for your own personal use:
Section one has green numbers; section two has black numbers; and section three, purple. The pieces you see labeled as "3a" "3b," "4a" "4b," and "8a" "8b" are the ones you have to piece together first and then sew onto the larger section so that the seam matches the line. It's a little tricky but with some experience and some futzing, I'm sure you can get it. In the grand assembly, you would sew section 1 to section 2, and then sew on section 3. And don't forget to add a seam allowance to the outside border.

Hope you enjoy. July isn't that far away...

Leave a comment and/or link if you make your own Maple Leaf--I'd love to see it!
-Canadian Christina

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fight the Compulsion

"Fight the compulsion." Isn't that what I told myself in the last post? Well, I am weak.
Finished the March square today over lunch and a little extra knitting after work.

I have no will power. But, let's face it, for a vice, knitting is pretty harmless.

Clickity clack!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Red Purl Afghan KAL: March

This afternoon was the third meet for the afghan KAL. The crowd was a little thinner this time, perhaps because of the intermittent pouring rain. I did, however, notice there are still some new people signing up, buying their yarns and getting started so they can catch up with the rest of us. It's still a lot of fun to see all the different yarns that people are using, and every month most people are working with a different colour so we have new ones to admire.

Today's design was submitted by Dawn, and it was a very nice Mock Cable. Called, "mock," because although it gives the appearance of a cable, it's not. (Ok, that's obvious.) In a cable, you slip half the stitches onto a spare needle, knit the second half, then knit the first half off of the spare needle. A mock cable is achieved with a series of "twists" arranged to they track up and to the side. A twist is actually a 2 stitch cable, but because there are only 2 stitches you don't need to use a spare needle.

This pattern used a left leaning mock cable, in which you have to do the less handy left twist. Let me show you how that is done:

First you knit into the back of the second stitch on the left needle. [I've labeled it "1" because it's the first stitch you knit.] Insert the right needle into the back from right to left:

Wrap the yarn over the right needle and pull it through, but do not pull the stitch off the left needle:

Now insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle [labeled "2"] and knit like normal,

pulling the yarn through,

and then slipping both stitches off of the left needle:
You can see that stitch 1 is now behind stitch 2, leaving a twist to the left (following the arrow). If you continue to do left twists moving one stitch to the left each pattern row, you will get a line flowing up and to the left to make your mock cable.

Working into the back of a stitch is very awkward though. (Ask any of the newbies at Red Purl today: they were not taking to it well!) I can knit into the back of a stitch very well, thank you; please do not question my skills, but I decided to take the easier way out. (Hey, if I had to learn or practise the skill, I would have done it, but decided to enjoy myself a little more instead.)

Here is my solution which leads to a right leaning mock cable formed with some right twists instead.

First, insert the right needle as if to knit 2 together:

Wrap yarn around right needle and pull through (like you normally would), but again do not remove the stitches from the left needle.

Now insert the right needle into just the first stitch:

Wrap yarn around right needle and pull through:

Now slide both stitches off the left needle.
This will lead to a right leaning twist. Now you continue to do right twists moving one stitch to the right each pattern row and then you will get a line flowing up and to the right to make your mock cable.

So I reveal my [mirror imaged] block:
that I find more natural to do than the "assigned" one. If this whole process sounds vaguely familiar, perhaps you read my post on the Birthday Cowl in which I made a similar modification to change some left decreases to right decreases, once again, just to make life easier.

I did not get the block done this afternoon but certainly got a good start. I do have a whole month, I guess, and don't have to get them all done the same day....I guess. [Fight the compulsion, fight the compulsion]

But speaking of number of rows completed, at the end of the afternoon, I found out that a few people there have taken to calling me, "Clickity-clack," because of my speed. (Amy told on them.) It's not like I'm trying to be fast; it's just how I knit.

You may also notice that this is a new colour in my afghan. "Simply Taupe" has joined the Glazed Carrot and Blue Surf. The taupe is a wonderful neutral shade, darker than a cream, but warmer than a beige. I love working with it and think it's perfect for a cable pattern (mock or otherwise), sort of like an Aran sweater.

All for now...have a good night from,
Clickity-clack!

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