Monday, June 29, 2009

Dust off the Argyle

I have been working on my Deep V Argyle vest. With the two-colour stranding, it's not exactly something I can pick up and put down easily. Hence it doesn't make the trip to work with me and get worked on in the drive thru, for example.

My latest plan is to just leave this project on the couch and then when I'm there, I can work on it. To a certain extent, it is working:
I'm just not on the couch nearly as much in the summer as in winter. But you can see that I have a full repeat of the pattern done. (Look for the grey diamond.) The grey has gone from a beautiful shade to a gorgeous shade. (What can I say? I'm in love with this wool.)

The red has not changed much. Or I thought it hadn't. Tonight I was working on it while I was waiting for dinner to cook. (I make it sound like it just cooks itself, don't I? Anyway...) The stitches on the needle and cable kept looking dusty. I wondered just how long it had been sitting on the couch...

But it was true for several rows: the stitches all looked dusty. Then I looked at the ball and noticed that it was the start of the next colour! Ha ha. Look at the center of the red ball up in the pic. The light pink is, in a sense, dusty; and since the light pink is just a little mixed in with the darker red right now, it really makes the whole thing look dusty.

Glad to have gotten to the bottom of that little mystery. (I'd hate to think the solution was to dust more. Housework--bah!)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pioneer Progress (and Regress, I'm Sorry to Say)

I've had to do some backtracking.

I tried on the Pioneer this evening and decided it was too tight under the arms. It also seems short even though my row gauge is right on. By short, I mean that there wasn't enough length in the raglan shaping to give the ease I needed under the arm, and the low V neck is not very low. The way it looks now I could wear this shirt without a cami or tank. That's ok with me, but it's certainly not how it's designed. I'd wonder if I'm making a size too small except that the width around seems to fit so well. I guess this is why I try things on and get to make adjustments.

Before doing any adjustments, however, I had to take out about 14 rows to get back to where the sleeves are put onto waste string and the front and back start getting knit together at the side seams. I could just tink one stitch at a time (tiresome) or frog it boldly (risky with all those yarn overs and knowing where to stop). With the shortcomings of those two methods in mind, I decided to try something else.

I took my needle and picked up the stitches of what I believed was the last row before the front and back were joined:
Can you see the cable needle in there? It's right below the red curved line. [Click on the pic for a larger view.] I still have just a few stitches to pick up on the left side.

And how did I pick them up? I just consistently picked up one of the top loops of a row from the wrong side:
So in the above pic, I was putting the needle through the loops marked with the black curves. I did pretty well...considering. With the twisted cable stitches, yarn overs, and going from the different pieces of the front, back, and sleeves, I did not exactly stay on the same row all across.

To put it bluntly, I made a big mess. Of course, just raveling* 14 rows from two different balls will make a huge tangled mess (which it did), but I also had sections where I was 2 or 3 rows off and had to "knit up" quite a number of stitches in a row. And fix some of the cables.

But, as I say, knitting is not for the faint of heart, and this was nothing that a concentrated 30 minutes couldn't fix. I'm still glad I didn't tink it, and I think if it were a straight patch of stocking or garter stitch this method would work great.

After I got everything back on the needles and knit a row to straighten out all the stitches, and cast on a few extra stitches in the underarm (my current solution, assuming it works), I took a picture so you could see:
I know it looks small and wrinkled, but can you make out the sleeves on either side? And the front shaping coming to a point in the front? And of course you're looking at the wrong side of the back and you can see the vertical stripes made by the purl stitches on either side of the twist columns.

So, ok, there's a progress report. Sorry I mostly had bad news but you can be happy you're just reading about it and not living it.

Now I must get back to knitting and see if can regain some ground on the 14 rows I just lost. (Wait, I knit one already, so only 13 more to go...)

-Clickety clack!



__________________________________
*According to dictionary.com, ravel and unravel mean the same thing. And given a choice, I'll take the least adorned version of a word any time. As a bonus of looking this up, I found out that the root of ravel is Dutch from an obsolete word [ravel] meaning loose thread. [Go, go, pride in Dutch heritage.]

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sip n Knit KAL

This afternoon I joined a nice group of knitters at the Stein and Vine next door to Red Purl. We sipped and knit the afternoon away, most of us working on Pioneer, a Tshirt published in knitty. Besides being a nice pattern, it was also chosen because it is available in a wide range of sizes.

The wool I wanted to use, in Amy's custom colour, Michigan Cherry Blossom, did not arrive until Friday and I didn't have time to pick any up before today. I went in early to the shop this afternoon and found out Amy had held some aside for me since she knew I was planning on this colour. So nice of her! You see why I keep going back.
I bought the four skeins I needed and wound them into pretty little balls. And then set to casting on and getting the pattern set up. It took some concentration and counting to get it done correctly, but it was accomplished. Soon after, the party moved over to the Stein and Vine where we were graciously served drinks and could help ourselves to delicious snacks they provided.

Most of the group were working on the Pioneer. Almost everyone had a unique colour, and they all looked so good! There was much discussion about gauge and needle size. It will be great fun to see how all these Pioneers look as they are finished!

I am working the pattern without major modifications. I may put in some waist shaping, but that can wait until I get there.

I am changing the method of the C2B (Cable 2 Back). [I've also seen this called a Twist Right; it's just a right-leaning cable done over two stitches.] The pattern describes a method using a cable needle--it's ok, but rather ungainly compared to the following method which yields the identical result much more easily (and quickly):

Insert right needle as if to knit 2 together:Knit the two stitches, but DO NOT pull off left needle:
Now insert right needle into first stitch only:
and knit it:
Now pull both stitches off left needle:
Voila!

When you look closely you can see how the two stitches are now twisted and lean to the right. In this pattern, this is done five times on every other row. That's a lot of reaching for the cable needle.

Using this method saves a lot of trouble and helps you to maintain the rhythm of your knitting. I've certainly never looked back since I learned about it. (I can't remember exactly where I read about it, but there's a good chance it was on the TechKnitter's very worthwhile blog.)

Clickety-clack!

PS: If you're wondering, my wrist is feeling much better and I'm back to knitting at almost my regular rate. I'm so happy...and much more pleasant to be around again.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Unveil

And here it is: my Pencil Sketch Camisole!

I've had it on several times now and it wears very well. My biggest concern about it being scratchy has not been a problem at all. I'm not overjoyed that the orange stripe landed right on my widest parts (shall we say), but other than that I really can't complain about the striping. I think the width of the stripes worked out great, and I'm really pleased with the balance of the overall piece.

The V neckline includes a "mock" wrap. The neckline and armholes were finished with a few rows of ribbing and a picot cast off.

Project Stats
Started: 20 Apr 09
Finished: 6 Jun 09
Pattern: Pencil Sketch Camisole by Iris G Knits, free
Materials: Evilla Artyarn 8/2 (A-30 Orange, Purple, Green), 1 skein, $34.34
Modifications: Folded picot hem, longer length, steeked arms and neck.

The picot folded hem was a nice finish to the bottom edge. I should have reduced the stitches as EZ suggests, but blocking corrects all.

What a delightful project this was for me. Simple, but with the lace to keep things interesting. And I adored the yarn: how it felt like a good sturdy old fashioned wool, and its pattern of changing colours to always keep me engaged.

I hope you are working on something right now that floats your boat as much!


[ETA: This project won a blue ribbon at the 2009 County Fair (knitted vest or shell).]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Block of the Month: Finished

My June block was completed on Wednesday.I think I mentioned that I really like the pattern, and the finished block has not disappointed. Unlike last month's thick plush texture, this block is light and thin, but not insubstantial. It should block like a dream.

My knitting has slowed dramatically this week as my wrist has flared up with some mysterious condition. I am trying to force myself to take it easy and give it some rest. It's not been easy. (I'm apparently not a good patient, even of my own advice.)

I also will give you a head's up that next month's block design has changed again! The hint I gave you no longer applies. There will be no more hints; certainly not until this is finalized. (And I have a feeling Wendy is the only one who really wants to know, and she will have to wait!)

Although pattern #2 was simple enough to visualize, it was not simple to write down and resulted in a 16 row repeat on the pattern. Way to much to take in on what is supposed to be a relaxing afternoon. The new one (#3 now) is a 4 row repeat, with only one row that has anything remotely complicated going on. I think it will go over much better. KISS...that is:

Keep It Simple, Sweetie!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Red Purl KAL Afghan: June

I made it to the Red Purl KAL this afternoon. Got there early this time because I had to leave early. It gave me a chance to show Amy my freshly cast on sock so she could see how her custom colour from Lorna's looks knit up.

The sock was a big hit and excitement is building for when the big shipment comes in. I'm hoping to buy some of the colour for her summer Sip and Knit KAL project, but I think I will have to move fast to get any before it is sold out!

Somehow getting there early also got me roped into finishing Mary Ann's sample vest. I'm not sure how that happened, but in exchange for doing the Kitchener stitch on her hood, she wound the other hank of yarn for my second sock for me. What a deal.

Eventually I got around to starting this month's square. It looked great in Amy's sample and the directions were very clear and logical. (Gotta love it.) Patricia designed the square and I heard a rumour that it was based on the pattern from Cookie A.'s immensely popular Monkey sock pattern.
I chose a new colour of my Malabrigo: Lettuce. It looks so fresh and yummy. Mary Ann keeps saying my afghan is making up a salad, and maybe she's right. You can see in the picture I got four repeats of the pattern done. I think I'll need 2 (or 3?) more to make it the right length.

I also put in a some tutoring time at the shop as Amy is always quite busy. (And if I can help, I'm always glad to...) The tutoring gave me some breaks, but I did finally have to stop knitting as I think my left hand was about to go numb. (Not good.)

Maybe it was a little bit because of the obsessive sock knitting mentioned in a previous post. And maybe it was because when I finally got out of bed at 6 this morning (having been awake since 4) I started working on a new design.

What? A new design? Yes: Amy let me know that my first design was probably not going to work for July where she had scheduled it. And the rest of the months are full, so I had the choice of letting her replace it or doing another design. Laying awake in bed for 2 hours will put some ideas in your head, so when I got up, I knit up a quarter of a square in a new design and got it approved from Amy today.

So that and the June block combined for a lot of concentrated knitting in one day.

Wendy at Red Purl thinks I will not be able to keep the design a secret, but I think I will try for a little while. (She doesn't know yet how contrary I can be when someone tells me I will do one thing. Watch me, because I will do the other instead!)

If Wendy's right, you will see a post in the next month about the new design. But if I hold out, you will have to wait until the second Sunday in July.

Hope you're good at waiting!
-christina

Ok, ok, one hint: they say diamonds are a girl's best friend.

Crazy for Casting On

I have to say I have been casting on new projects like a fiend the last week or two. Most of them I already had the supplies ready to go, or they just kind of fell in my lap. And how can I resist when the perfect yarn comes for a pattern I have, or a perfect pattern for a stash yarn?

Plus I have finished a couple bigger projects (like the Pencil Sketch Camisole--final pictures still to come as I am currently covered with inflammation from Poison Oak and will not record it for all posterity) and finished my last UFO [UnFinished Object], the white baby sweater. This has freed up my project bags and liberated my casting on spirit.

So first up I can show you a little hint of something started on May 28.
Believe it or not, it is the beginning of a Christmas surprise. (Already!) I will not be giving many details but I can tell you that the first go-around did not work out and I had to completely frog it and start over. The second time is going better. This project is perfect for taking with me anywhere as it is compact and I have the pattern memorized, and it will go on and on but you probably won't hear much more about it. (Remember? It's a surprise.)

Then on June 7 I cast on for a girl's Pinwheel Cardi because I had the yarn (rescued from an unfortunate crop sweater) and nothing else to do at the moment.
I tried out the most amazing cast on for starting knitting in the round. I'll share the details another day.

Next onto the needles was a new pair of socks:
I'm following this tutorial but adding some details of my own. This yarn really did just fall into my lap as Amy surprised me with it as "payment" for delivering some yarn from Lorna's when we took the tour at the end of May. It's a custom colour Amy is having done for the shop.

And finally, yesterday, I cast on for the Deep V Argyle Vest. You may recall that I had some trouble with the first colour combination (leading, very happily, to the Pencil Sketch Cami) and have had a gauge swatch on the needles for a while. I finally took it out again and measured my gauge. 25 st/4". The pattern calls for 22 st/4". That works out to more than 4 extra inches over the whole width of the vest!


I sighed for a while. And looked at it again. And sighed. And remeasured. I really didn't want to go up a needle size because the fabric was thin enough. Then I had a thought.

Thinking of how much my Pencil Sketch Cami (that really is an awkward name) changed with blocking, I should...dat ta da...block my swatch. (You're really supposed to do this with any swatch but I rarely go that far.) So that's what I did.

And I was rewarded with a perfect 22 st/4" gauge. Can you see my smile from where you are? It's pretty big.

Today I allowed myself the time to sit for a bit and cast on, and count, and recount the 198 stitches it took to get this started. And of course, once they're on the needles, you have to knit a few rows to get things going...
The row counter says I've got 4 rows done; only 14 more of ribbing to do. Then I'll have the fun job of setting up the argyle pattern. That will be a lot more counting and rechecking.

Since most of these projects are still rather small, I can easily take them with me. In fact, this week I've had the first three all in my project bag and it's been handy. When I get stuck on one (when I need to see that pattern again, for instance) I just haul out a different one.

I've gotten quite obsessive about the socks. The variegation is working into some spirally stripes that I'm just compelled to see through. (But they never really end, so I just keep going.) And then when I got to the heel, I would push myself to finish each step, but once I got it done I just felt I had to start the next step. The socks are growing quickly but so is the pain in my left hand: I have to take a break.

Or switch to another project...

:-)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Always a Little More

Am I a glutton for punishment or what. After all my recent writing about not liking fiddly time-consuming finishing and embellishments, look what I've been working on:
Why why why do I do this to myself? Well, look at the picture again...at the end, it's all worth it. Look how cute that is!

And what is it? It's the hemline of a little baby cardigan I finished up "just in time" (read, two weeks late) for a friend's new baby girl. It's sized around 9-months, so being two weeks late is fine in my book. (As long as your friends aren't too impatient.) Project Stats
Started: Sum 2007
Finished: 2 Jun 09
Pattern: Baby Jacket by Michele Rose Orne in Vogue Spr/Sum 07 (rav link)
Materials: Red Heart Super Saver; DMC embroidery floss; flower button
And considering how long it took to finish, I'm glad it's even close to the birth!

I knit the sweater up pretty quickly as I recall. That was in the summer of 2007, so forgive me if I don't remember exactly. I did the embroidery on the back and was still rather enjoying myself. To finish the ends, I was trying a modification of the square knot that was supposed to be more secure.

Sometimes it was, and other times it just came undone. I had made the sweater out of acrylic so it would be easy care; having the knots come undone did not fit with my plan! Maybe it was operator error, but that doesn't help me get it retied when I've already cut the ends. Oh, it was demoralizing. So I threw the whole thing into a duffel bag and hid it under a bed somewhere.

The sweater only resurfaced 2 years later when these friends announce that they're having a girl, and the mother (on a separate occasion) happens to mention that she loves handknits on kids. Well, there's nothing like an expressed appreciation for knits to get me motivated!

So I haul the poor neglected sweater out again and ask around for some advice. The most likely suggestion is to glue the knots. Now, normally I am not a glue person.

I eschew glue.

It's all I hear on craft shows, and especially slap and dash Martha Stewart: glue it! glue it! I don't trust the stuff. Normally. But I'm at my wit's end and decide to give it a go.

I used a fabric glue that claimed to remain flexible (so it wouldn't be a hard little uncomfortable knob) and washable (falling into that "easy care" category). I used it very generously on every single knot. When the back looked ok, I proceeded to finish the embroidery on the fronts and sleeves and, again, glued every single knot...a lot.

I had no more problems with knots coming undone.

But then there was the glue. It was mostly flexible, but kind of scratchy. The ladies at Red Purl insisted in their polite way that I had to do something. Will this project never end?

The only thing to do was face the back of the embroidery to cover up the glue, and in the process, neaten up the back of the work. I know it's in the inside, but it never hurts to make the inside pretty too. And it would protect the knots and hopefully keep them from being damaged by wear.

So with all this in mind, I motivated myself for yet another step.

When the embroidery was done, the inside of the back, fronts, and sleeves looked like this:
The knots and messy stuff were exposed.

I started by picking up and purling stitches off of the first rib of knitting below the embroidery:
I then knit just a few rows of stocking stitch. In the pic below, you have the main piece (with the embroidery, and all that glue: just look at it!) and the extra flap I have knit (being held above the main piece):
Now, I've folded the flap down and you can see how it covers the ugly backside:
But it still needs to be fastened down on the free edge. Although I considered a type of 3-needle bind off, that would have been far too bulky and messy. (And ugly. We're working to minimize the ug here.) So that left me with a Kitchener stitch done between the live stitches on the needle and the last row of bumps on the panel I did the embroidery on:
I think that left me with a very neat facing, and no more ugliness. With the added bonus of increased durability.
Voila!
Having finally declared the work finished, I quick as a bunny sewed up the seams before I could change my mind. (Or anyone at Red Purl could have another nose wrinkle at it.) Then knit the collar with one buttonhole and blocked it:
I wasn't sure how blocking was going to work on the acrylic, but it did wonders. The front bands had been curling all over the place (I hate curling) (not the sport) and the blocking took care of that like nobody's business. The facings for the embroidery make the sweater very thick there and it took several days for it to dry completely! The piece should be safe in the dryer, however, so I don't anticipate that being a problem for the new owners.

And now I give you some glamour shots of the [finally] completed baby cardigan:



May it be worn in love and good health.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Little Something

Phew! I am cranking out the finished projects these days. I did have a lot on the go, so I guess eventually they all have to start getting finished.

These are some toe-up socks I did to try another heel style. It worked ok, but didn't bowl me over with wonderfulness either. Perhaps it was ending up with a sock 1.5 inches too long the first time.
The socks were gifted to my mother this past weekend. [Red Purl] Amy's mother chided me the other day for not making anything for my own dear mother. She was quite appalled when I couldn't think of anything I had made for her [lately]. My mother didn't seem to actually agree, but I thought "What the heck" and made her some socks.

Mom doesn't actually wear socks a lot in the summer, preferring bare feet. But she really liked the socks and thought they would be great for when she visits people, if nothing else. Apparently her hosts are always asking if she's sure she doesn't want any Project Stats
Started: 2 May 09
Finished: 21 May 09
Pattern: free tutorial
Materials: free, Estelle Young Touch Cotton DK, 2 balls
socks/slippers/shoes. I guess not everyone is as comfortable with bare feet as my family is.

The little lace panels I added to the pattern worked out really well. They're just a simple 4 st YO and decrease (K2tog on one side, ssk on the other so they are mirror images). If you get everything lined up, you get diagonal lines of alternating bars and holes. Presto majesto: simple lace.

I did a picot cast off. The cuff was 2x2 ribbing, and while casting off I [K1, K1bl, K1] all in the second knit stitch. (Where K1bl is K1 through the back loop.) Then I slid these three stitches back onto the left needle, where I knit the three stitches together and then cast off like normal. The cast off turned out to be a little tight and I think if I had knit the three stitches separately and cast them off one by one that may have loosened things up. (The instructions I was looking at were a little vague on which they actually intended.)

Live and learn.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Little Something

I have a great aunt (not a Great-Aunt) who gives me little gifts that she sends along every time my mother comes to visit. She collects lots of shopping bags for my plarn. She collects elephants to pass on to me because she knows I love them.

She has had a few collections of her own over the years, but one of the latest is sheep. She has porcelain sheep, sheep mugs (think "I Love Ewe"), sheep plaques, landscape paintings with sheep, etc etc. But I don't think she has a knitted sheep.

When I saw this pattern, I thought it was the cutest sort of primitive craft sheep. So I gave it a whirl.

I used the homespun I got at Red Purl, done by Kallie, for the body and some Patons wool I had laying around for the head. And the legs are fancy striped pipe cleaners.

The knitting is very quick, but there's all that fiddly sewing and stuffing that I apparently don't like. I don't actually feel like I dislike it, but I've noticed work like this is always the last thing I will pick up. Too much thinking, I think.

But in any case, I got it done in time for my mother to bring it back to her. And I think it turned out pretty dang cute too.
Technical notes: The pattern is done on straight needles with the double knit method. This makes the knitting much looser than if you just work it on dpns or circs. Considering it has to be stuffed, the knitting should be snug and close. I would recommend following the directions but using dpns or circs to work in the round. Mine unfortunately showed quite a bit of the white stuffing and would be at risk of losing stuffing if it was actually going to used as a toy. You may also notice that I skipped the horns.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Me in 2 D

I am so pleased to be able to say that I am done all the cutting, knitting and finishing on the so-called Pencil Sketch Camisole. I am reasonably certain it will fit because I tried it on before blocking. It was, I could say, a little "snug." It had to be stretched to fit so I took some measurements while I was actually wearing it and blocked it to those numbers.
I will admit it feels almost indecent to post that pic since it is essentially my body in 2 D. (I did say it fit a little snug, right?) But considering it's called a camisole, a snug fit shouldn't be that surprising. It took two tries to get it all blocked out, and it still looks a little asymmetrical to me, but good enough to try. Maybe next time I'll make a paper (or plastic) pattern that I can follow and reuse. I'll have to pin and block every time I wash it so it might be worth it.

And speaking of washing, did this yarn ever make the wash water dirty! Ew! It's possible it was some of the dye rinsing out and blending into a nasty brown colour, but I don't really thing so. I got the water to rinse clear before I was done, so I'm calling it clean.

I got inspired to finish up the armholes this afternoon. I had done the crocheting around the steeks a few days ago so it was ready to go. After cutting, I needed to pick up the stitches to knit the armhole bands.

Here's a pic after I've done about half of the front of one side:
The main body of the shirt is below the needle, and the little bit you see above the needle is the facing which will end up being turned under. You want to pick up the stitches following a single row (or, column, in this case).

With this particular facing, I am picking up stitches between the second and third column from the edge of the facing. But you could also use this method to pick up stitches one row in from a selvage edge, as long as you are travelling perpendicular to the direction of the knitting (like, let's say, for a button band).

Here's how I pick up stitches:

Insert the left needle between the second and third column of stitches 2 or 3 inches ahead of the right needle.
Then bring the left needle up right in front of the last stitch on the right needle. (You'll still be between the second and third column.)
You should have caught no stitches (or anything else) on the back side.

Now when you press the knitting against the needle, and sort of fold it, you can see all the little bars of yarn that connect the second and third columns.
These are what I'm going to knit to pick up the stitches.

So I did just that:
In this method, you can see I work very close to the point of the needles to keep from stretching out the base fabric. (I also use a much smaller size for the left needle.) When you run out of things to knit on the left needle, you just pick up some more in the same manner.

Another thing to keep in mind is to knit only three of every four bars. So I pick up all the bars on the left needle, and then knit, knit, knit, drop a bar. Knit, knit, knit, drop a bar. This gives you three stitches for every four rows which is a good general rule-of-thumb ratio. In most cases, this will yield an even fabric that will not pucker or stretch out.

In the next pic, if you look closely you can see the pattern of three close stitches separated by spaces.
It's very subtle and will even out with your first row. You do not have to worry about gaps.

Here's a shot from the backside with the facing folded down like it will be in the final product.
A close look will reveal the purl bumps right along the needle that come from the stitches being knit up. The green contrasting yarn is the crocheted edge of the steek. (Nice and neat, isn't it?) [Toot! Toot!] (Oh, was that my own horn?)

I am on pins and needles waiting for this to dry so I can wear it!! I'm sure you are too!

More pics to come then, as you can well imagine,
christina

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Birthday Gift

I normally tell my hubby not to get me a gift for my birthday, but the week before my birthday, I couldn't help but notice that we got an email from "Woolybaabaa" confirming an order. Woolybaabaa, huh? I could only assume that was something for me!

I was polite and didn't open the message. The package arrived two days before my birthday. I couldn't help but notice this either, since I'm the one that gets the mail.

I was polite and didn't open the package. When Troy got home, I politely (and demurely) pointed out that he had gotten some mail. He has a history of not being able to wait to give me gifts, so I was not unreasonable in expecting to maybe get it a little early. But no.

And then the sun rose on my birthday...and still no gift being presented. I grew up opening birthday gifts in the morning before school, but was willing to go along with whatever Troy had planned. I guess I didn't have to rip the package open before going to work.

Then the birthday evening arrived; we had a little party; we sent the guests home: still no present.

We're lying in bed at 11:45, and I (perhaps less politely) reminded Troy that he had 15 minutes to give me my gift on my birthday. He acted surprised, like he hadn't thought of it in days. But with my pointed reminder, he ran downstairs for the package and let me (finally) open it.

It was...(drum roll appropriate here)

The Dale of Norway Commemorative Collection of designs done for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. The book includes five designs which were done for meets at Lake Louise (2001), Notre Dame (2002), Mt Robson (2003), Le Massif (2004) and Whistler (2005), which is the site of events for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The athletes wore the sweaters at press conferences, interviews and special events.

Each design features a matching toque (hat) and most include a headband design as well. Doing the hat first is a great way to check your gauge before you start the sweater.

Dale of Norway is the designer of Scandinavian-style sweaters and supplier of wools for said designs. I had seen the book some months ago and Troy noticed the saved link and took appropriate action. (wink)

The design that first caught my eye was Whistler. It features a large prominent maple leaf in the front. Since getting the book, however, Lake Louise featuring smaller subtler maple leaves looks good too. And Mt Robson is also tempting with its mountain motif cleverly worked into the pattern. It might be good for Troy, since he isn't Canadian and doesn't need to be wearing maple leaves.

I don't have immediate plans to make any of the designs, but oh, it's wonderful to look at the pictures and study the charts and dream of when I can.

-christina

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shop Reviews (2 of 2)

The second part of our shopping trip took us to:

47 West Polk Street (@ Dearborn Station), Chicago IL 60605

This shop was full of yarn yet roomy enough to walk around. I think they had every shade of Cascade 220 (a very popular yarn I haven't worked with personally) and lots of other varieties. The prices looked good and I got a little of the clearance yarn they had in the basement.

The staff were very helpful even though the shop was quite busy. And one of them was a hip young man. Listening to them direct people to the right yarn and help one woman who was knitting in the shop, plus their competence at the till, was a pleasure to see in sales help.

I was very interested to see that the woman knitting in the shop was quite visually impaired. Whenever she got stuck counting stitches or rows, she'd wait for an employee to have a couple minutes to help her out. I've always wondered what would happen to my knitting if I lost my sight (having good sight in only one eye makes you think along these lines). I think what I knit would really change, but I think that would be one hobby I would continue as much as I could. It was encouraging to see this lady getting along so well (from what I could tell).

One particular wool at the shop caught my eye. Cascade's Eco Alpaca is 100% undyed alpaca in a nice thick worsted weight. At $11 for a 100 gr/220 yd skein, I think it's a great price. I'm considering it for the next sweater for my hubby. It's well worth clicking on the link to see all the luscious browns and greys. And I just LOVE that they are just the color of the animal. (No dye lots--instead you'd have the animal name! hee hee)

One other find was the comic book, Handknit Heroes. I was so amused I had to pick it up. (As a bonus, one of the main characters also plays hockey!)

Store Hours
Monday-Thursday: 11-7
Friday: 11-9
Saturday: 10-6
Sunday: 12-5

1934 South Wabash (@ Cullerton), Chicago IL 60616

One final stop in the day was to Knitwerks. The shop was a lot smaller than our previous stop but had a variety of very nice yarns. I'm going to assume it was the owner who was in the store when we were there.

She was very friendly and knowledgeable; helpful without that annoying pushiness. It didn't hurt that she had a sample of the very project that someone shopping with me was thinking of doing. Being able to see the sample really helped her to make a choice about her yarn and how much of it she would need.

There were a lot of samples hanging in the store relative to the amount of yarn being sold. (And I'm saying that as a good thing.) As we were there, she was working on a lovely lace pattern...and what do you know, two of us bought a lace scarf pattern from the same designer she was working from. Isn't it funny how that seems to happen. (Samples help, that's all I'm saying.)

I really liked the display of yarns at the shop, but will say that the shelves were quite dusty. (Dusty like my house when I'd rather be knitting.) But my house is my house, and a shop...well, a shop should be dusted just a little more. Dust just isn't too inviting to touch. Otherwise, the cases were interesting and well organized.

Shop Hours
Tuesday: 12-6
Wednesday-Friday: 12-8
Saturday: 10-6
Sunday: 12-5
Monday: Closed

What a day it was. I felt like we crammed a lot in, but not too much. We did have a nice break for lunch at a excellent little Mexican place near Lorna's Laces. (On W Montrose at Honore.) It was a lot of fun to go out on the town with a bunch of people who share a strong interest in wool and knitting. I traveled with two other woman, but after the Lorna's tour we kept bumping into the other groups at the yarn shops. It made for a nice community feel to the day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Shop Reviews (1 of 2)

These posts will include reviews and impressions of:
1. Soutache (embellishments)
2. Knitting Workshop
3. Loopy Yarns
4. Knitwerks
all located in Chicago and easily done in one day. I visited them all on Saturday, May 30.

Soutache

2125 N Damen Ave (south of Webster), Chicago IL 60647

I went to Soutache because the group was going; up for something new but not expecting anything I was really interested in.

Was I wrong! The store was filled with beautiful things: rolls of ribbons and trims; feathers; silk flowers; hardware for key fobs, purses and dog leashes; hairbands; shoe clips; and buttons buttons buttons. My favourite were the 3" coconut buttons, round and square. (Perfect for a super bulky full length coat I have in the back of my mind.)

The woman tending the store (seemed like the owner?) was very friendly, helpful, and incredibly pleasant. She welcomed our group warmly, answered any and all questions (and answered them well), and generally made us feel at home.

The store was open and spacious. Displays were well-done and I really appreciated the bulletin boards with pages from fashion magazines showing lots and lots of embellished pieces. The store samples were well-made and inspiring.

I considered the prices very reasonable. I picked up some wooden and plastic purse handles for $12 a pair. Buttons were generally in the 1 to 2 dollar range, with larger ones costing a little more. The only trim I looked at was $9 a yard, but it was very wide and decorated.

This is definitely a destination store. If you need a little something to punch up an old outfit or to dress up a pillow or two around the home, head there and be inspired!

Store Hours
Tuesday - Saturday: 10-6
Sunday: 12-5
Monday: Closed (By Appointment Only)

Knitting Workshop
2115 N Damen Ave, Chicago IL 60647

Just down the street from Soutache is the Knitting Workshop. As we entered, the store clerk gave us a friendly greeting, but that's all the attention we got in the 20 minutes we were there. It didn't help that there was a woman sitting at the table knitting and talking non stop about all those things you don't want to hear about. (Bad TV she's watching, her family problems, etc etc. It just droned on and on.) At first I thought she was an employee which did not leave a good impression at all. When I gathered that she was more likely a customer, I just felt sorry for the employee who was trapped...

They carried a lot of yarn but it was not well-organized. Bins were overfull with yarn threatening to topple to the floor at any provocation. It was not very inviting. (You gotta feel free to touch the yarn, people.) And speaking of easy access, almost none of the yarn had prices marked. I am not about to ask about every yarn I might be interested in. I would like to be able to see the price right away to be able to assess whether I can buy it.

The prices seemed just a touch high of reasonable. But they had a lot of variety so I can live with that. Kathi did ask about some cashmere that turned out to be $240 a skein. Ouch! But it was a large skein, and I can accept pricey cashmere. (Maybe not buy it, but I can believe it.) I bring it up as an example that they are going to have stuff not every store carries.

The three of us left the store purchasing nothing. (The only store all day.)

Store Hours
Wednesday: 12-5
Thursday: 12-9
Friday: 12-5
Saturday: 10-5
Sunday: 12-5

Phew! I think that's enough reviewing for one day. I will write about the remaining two stores in my next post.

-christina

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