Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One Final Vacation Post

I lacked an internet connection the last few days of my vacation, so let me sum up:

1. I finished the body of my Pioneer while sitting in the sun looking at the in-law's horses and cows and enjoying the company of their dog, Reba. She couldn't take the sun as long as I could, but sat as close as she could in the shade. She's was good company.
The edge is a sort of elongated seed stitch with two rows of K1 P1 that line up, and then two rows of P1 K1, repeat. Seed or moss stitch can "spread out" compared to stocking stitch, so I did some decreases before I started the edge stitching. I was going to aim for 10 per cent (a la Elizabeth Zimmermann) but it worked out better to decrease every 9 stitches. As long as I ended up with an even number of stitches so the pattern would work. I think it worked to keep the edge pulled in instead of stretched out.

I did not bring supplies to do the sleeves, so I had to put it aside.

2. I dug into my argyle vest as long as I wasn't in a car:
I got past the division for the neck and have started that steek (at the top--where you see the hole and yellow string). Things are moving along well but I am impatient for a darker red to show up.

3. I did get bored enough with the other projects that I started the lace scarf I had brought supplies for:
Here you can see the bottom border is done, and I'm barely into the main pattern.

There was a mistake on the pattern which pisses me off. After a lot of time was spent one evening figuring it out, I put it aside and went to bed. The next morning I actually backtracked and fixed the problem.

I've learned my needles are not really sharp enough for lace knitting, but I'm not sure I'm going to buy new needles just for lace. We'll see.

And the Christmas surprise? Let's see...I finished the yellow and orange unit referenced in Saturday's post. And one more just like it while driving around with Peggy on Monday.
She's running a sort of taxi business for some of the local Amish and I tagged along to the produce auction. I knit as we drove, and later in the day when we were waiting for the auction to finish I worked in the ends of all the units I had knit. Phew! was that a lot of work.

It needed to be done, however, and is not the sort of thing I can do while driving, especially on the crazy hilly and curvy roads of Missouri. While knitting I can look up and around me, but not while sewing in the ends. That would make me sick right quick.

After dropping off the passengers and produce, Peggy and I headed to a nearby town to enjoy some lunch and shopping in "olde time" shops. I did manage to find a fabric shop and picked up a nice red fabric. (I tend to buy for specific projects and don't generally build up a "stash" but I've been picking up reds here and there because I know I'll always find a use for a good red!) We had a good time.

On the long trip home, I got next to no knitting done. For one, I was tired and could hardly think straight. For two, I did a lot more driving.

We stopped to visit my sister who lives right along the way and I had a great time while she had "show and tell" with all her recent projects. I really wish I had remembered to pull out the camera and capture the 20 hats she's knit over the last year. She heard that the local library collects them for a cause. They lost their "big knitter" two years ago, so I'm sure they'll be glad to see them!

On top of that, she's been making bags and purses out of "found" fabrics (yard sales, second hand stores, etc). They are looking really good. And sorry again that there are no pictures; you'll just have to take my word for it.

Ok, this is long enough. We're home and I have to get back to work. First up: laundry and then some canning. I suspect a lot has come up in the garden while we were gone.

PS: I want to give a shout out to Myrna who dropped by Tom and Clures' and mentioned that she likes the blog. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Keep on Keeping on

We were on the road again today headed to north Missouri. On the way we made a stop at the PaPa Yarn Patch in Sedalia. I caught the store just before closing time and had a nice (if short) time looking around. There was nothing that I had to have, but she had a nice selection, especially of high-quality “novelty” yarns.

I did well on my knitting by finishing two small units today on the road. As a side note, in Missouri, the main highways and gravel side roads are numbered but the secondary highways are named after the alphabet:
When I see a sign like this, I just can’t help but ask, Why not? [You're allowed to groan here.]

Here we are on a Missouri highway; I think it was JJ:
Oh wait, is that a little more blue you ask? Yes it is. I decided I had just enough to try for a smaller size unit with the blue. And I did have just enough with less than 2 inches extra! Woo phew! was today my lucky day!

And riding on that success, I started another unit, medium size in a cheery yellow and orange combination. (Cause if I have to run out of Happy Blue, this is a pretty good substitute.) I was able to get a lot done at a charity auction tonight. We went along with the in-laws, and it turned out there was a good sized pressure canner we were interested in.

Troy scoped it out, liked what he saw, and we were determined to get it. He stayed focused and I kept knitting. The canner came up near the end of the auction and despite some tough competition, we got it! Not a $5 bargain, but a lot less than new.

This means there will be more canning in my future. But hopefully more at a time instead of just more time if I can get both our canners going at once and keep up.

The woman we beat out had a hard time letting go of it. She couldn’t believe we were taking it all the way home, “out of state” as she told Troy’s mom, but in the end she graciously wished us good luck with our canning.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shop Til You Drop

Clures and I have been doing our part to support the local economy over the last two days. We have visited numerous local quilt shops (I can not believe how many there are!) and a yarn shop.

It seems like most of the shops are owned by friends of Clures and I’ve met some very nice people!

I have also made a few good finds. I bought the following fabric for an as-yet unstarted twin quilt for a friend’s son who will graduate from high school one of these years. (That’s when I plan to give it to him.)
Top: Cityscape fabric (2 3/8 yds for sale at $4.99/yd) at Linda’s Cottonpatch which I plan to use for a backing fabric. Landmarks from cities around the world are suitable for a high school graduate, don’t you think?

Middle: Light print for alternating blocks at Judy’s A Little Bit Country Fabric Shoppe. (4 yds at $4.50/yd—unbelievably, that’s the regular price!)

Bottom: Fat quarters mostly from D&T Quilt Shop (on sale for $1 each)

I didn’t have the pattern with me so I took some guesses at amounts and just bought enough fat quarters to get me started.

I also found a perfect backing fabric for my Hawaiian star quilt at D&T Quilt Shop. Looking through the wide backing fabrics, a bright red caught my eye first. But after a little more looking I found this lovely blue paisley and it won out in the end. Three yards gives me a piece that is 110” by 108” and that should work for the quilt which will end up about 96” square.

A lot of the collections of backing fabrics I see in stores are very conservative (or dare I say, boring?) and I wasn’t going to wait to snatch this stuff up. And not to make it all about price, but at $8/yd it’s not really a hard choice to make.

I did not find anything to buy at the knit shop. They had a lot of cottons which I’m not really interested in right now; a lot of silks which I can’t really afford to buy just because it’s pretty (and feels like…well, like silk…mmmm); and a lot of big name brands which I’m not too inclined to buy. But I enjoyed looking around and appreciated Clures’ patience as she indulged me.

During all this shopping, I have been diligently knitting away on my Christmas surprise like a good little girl. I got one unit done on Thursday and another one done today! Woo hoo. (And yes that is authentic bug splat on the window.)
I am almost out of this blue and I will miss it. It makes me happy. There are colours that I am attracted to and love (such as red), some that get me excited (purples, yellows) but blue is the only one that can make me happy. I had a paint colour in my previous bedroom that did the same thing. That is a good colour to have in a bedroom. But anyway, I’m running out of the blue yarn and will have to make do.

Another bonus find at a late-day yard sale stop was two wool sweaters. The first was a black GAP sweater that is too small to wear, but never too small to felt:

And the second was a bright neon yellow sweater which someone has already started to felt [full] for me. (I suspect that’s why it was offered at a yard sale.):
Don’t let this picture fool you--the actual sweater is even brighter. I have two big bags of sweaters to felt already, but I liked these enough to buy and add to the pile. One day I’ll full them all, cut ’em up and go to town making pillows, bags, camera covers, and patchwork blankets. Can’t wait til that inspiration hits!

All for now!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Travelogue

I finished my pioneer socks on the drive up!

And more than finished them, you could say. I had counted (carefully counted, I thought) the rows on the leg of the sock. I was aiming for 80. Around 50, I really felt like I was slogging, but then apparently picked up steam because I ended up with 90 before I knew it.

The dangerous part was that I thought I had counted 80. At least twice. I had just started the top cuff when we stopped for lunch. I decided to re-double count (again) while we were sitting still at the table. That’s when I realized I had done 10 extra rows and my sock was too long.

I guess the moving car, watching Monk on my computer while Troy’s podcast was going, and trying to navigate all while knitting was a little too much for me.

Ten too many rows is pretty easy to fix, though, and I got rid of them. Then worked on the cuff and got them cast off only shortly before Troy wanted me to take over the driving. (Because I really won’t knit and drive.)

They felt great for the few minutes I had them on. More pics and final project stats when I have them blocked.

Toodle-loo!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Packing Checklist

It's very important to make lists when packing so as to not forget anything. For the trip I'm leaving on tomorrow morning, I need:

1. Pioneer socks, because socks are the ultimate travel projects, and even more because I'm getting close to done!
(Yes, that is a glasses case. It's protecting my wooden Harmony dpn needles. I had two of them break on me--one completely shattered inside my project bag--and I needed a solution right then. Besides, it's working pretty well.)

2. Pioneer shirt, ditto above (because I'm almost done). This will have to wait until I get to our destination, however, because I can't be measuring and doing fiddly stuff in the car.
Also, because I had to miss the Pioneer KAL meeting (the Sip n Knit) last Sunday, I feel I owe this project some one-on-one time.

3. Christmas surprise: I will bring all the colours with me because I need to be doing some serious work on this if I'm going to get it done. This project is ideal for the car so hopefully some knitting will just fly off the needles.

4. Argyle vest, because I love to work on it. This will also wait until I can settle down somewhere and think at least a little.
(You can see I'm well into the lighter red now.)

5. And just in case I get bored, a new project I have the yarn and pattern for. Who knows? Maybe I will finish the socks and the Christmas surprise while I'm there and need something portable for the way back.

I debated for a while about bringing some quilting or sewing projects.

Last time, Clures [MIL] and I worked on some fabric bowls from a book I had picked up. And then, at the end of the visit, we gave each other the bowls we had each made! (Weren't planning to, but it just worked out that way.)

I liked her crazy orange, black and green colours, and she liked my butterflies.

If I had more of a plan for my mini quilt I think I would have brought it so I could finish it in time to put in this year's local fair. But I just didn't pull it all together. And since what I have planned involves free motion, I'd have to bring my sewing machine. (Because there's no way I'm figuring that out on someone else's machine--it takes way too much practice.) And suddenly it was just too much work. So knitting it is.

And I think I have all the essentials for the trip: I'm set to sail...

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Edge

Part I: The Overview
I have been consumed and obsessed with knitting the edging on my afghan squares this week. It’s been a very addicting part of the process.

I picked the colour out last week and couldn’t wait to try it out. I also wanted to see if I could figure out just how much I would need. So I hopped right to it:
I got just about six blocks edged with one skein. You know what that means, right? Amy gets to sell me three skeins instead of two. Lucky her. (And I was so close!) I try not to think about the fact that Malabrigo just recently switched from a 116 yd skein to a 110 yd skein (at the same price). Those 6 yds probably would have made all the difference. But, like a pink elephant, I am trying not to think about it.

[Edited to add: The skeins actually changed from 216 to 210, and more importantly, I actually bought the "old" longer skein. So I can no longer regret missing 6 yards because I'm not missing them.]

Back to more positive thinking: doesn’t the edging look great!? I am loving how it works with the other colours and how it will provide a unifying outline to everything. Just what I was looking for.

Part II: The Details
A. Applying the border
The border is a basic garter stitch applied in a sort of log cabin style. In other words, I picked up and knit stitches along the bottom edge of a block with the right side facing me. I knit 5 rows and then bind off in the same direction that I had picked up the stitches. (I.e. with the right side facing me.)

Why so particular about which side is facing? Because then when I’m done binding off, I am at the opposite end of where I started and can then start the next edge without breaking my yarn. (It really is delightful.) And how do I do that?

Well, picture the last stitch on your needle after binding off the rest of the row:
Now turn your work 90 degrees and pick up stitches for the next edge.
Knit the border for that side and continue around the remaining edges. It was really slick the way it worked out. And addicting. I was always either just finishing or just starting another edge, and I get compulsive about finishing each little bit. So [almost] six blocks just flew off the needles this week.

B. Finding and fixing errors
Putting your work to close scrutiny will sometimes lead to unfortunate discoveries. Like the fact that I hadn’t decreased the extra stitches on my blue bramble block before doing the upper garter edge.

I picked up stitches for the border, counted them, and then realized I had 10 extra. I had to rip back the border on two sides, rip out the last four rows of the block itself, reknit them (remembering to decrease the stitches on the first row this time), bind off, and then set to the border again.

The second mistake was on my Simply Taupe mock cable block. I had known about it for a while, but had to go through all the stages.
Stage one: Ignorance. (I mean if I had known it was a mistake, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place.)
Stage two: Doubt. (Suspecting something is wrong but not actually investigating. That way the mistake is not yet fact.)
Stage three: Denial. (Knowing it is wrong, but not being willing to admit it.)
Stage four: Acknowledgement. (Finally recognizing the problem for what it is.)
Stage five: Accountability and Action. (Seizing responsibility for the problem and taking action to correct it.)
All that is to say, I had known for a while that my cable block was too short when it was stretched out to the right width. But once I reach stage five, I am a freight train that will not be stopped. I believe I was in the parking lot after doing groceries when I finally took out the top border rows, added one more repeat of the pattern, reknit the top border and got on with it! The time had come to fix a problem, and nothing was going to stop me from tackling it right then.

Part III: The Very Minute Details
A. Picking up stitches
I tried a new way of picking up the stitches. I’m something of a purist (I know, this is shocking to some of you) and so I have always picked up stitches through both loops of the edge stitch:
(I’ve traced over the stitch being picked up to make it more obvious.)

I mean, if you’re going to pick up a stitch, pick up the whole stitch, right? After reading a recent post of the Yarn Harlot, I was theoretically convinced to pick up just the front half of the stitch, and had to try it out for myself.

It completely worked, lies flatter and smoother, and I am converted.

So with this new method, you pick up just the front loop—ignoring the back loop—and knit it through the front or back depending on how it presents itself.
You can also chose to pick up a series of loops:
instead of doing one at a time. Some knitters will even do a whole row, but I find this awkward. This also works better on yarns with a bit more give or stretch to them. Using a smaller diameter needle will also give you a little more ease if you need it.

Here’s a picture of both methods from a different [super top-secret] project:
On the left, the blue stitches are picked up through both loops of the yellow edge stitches. You can see a rather thick line of stitches making a column of yellow Vs. It’s bulky and doesn't lie very flat. On the right, the blue stitches are picked up through just one loop and the blue “bumps” lie in between the two halves of the yellow Vs. It’s much flatter and smoother.

B. How many stitches do I pick up?
Another tip I got from the Yarn Harlot: don’t worry about how many stitches you need to end up with, just pick up one stitch for every edge stitch* and then adjust the number on your next row. Very sound advice. It keeps the first row very neat and even and saves you a lot of ripping out if you haven’t perfectly figured out exactly what ratio of stitches to pick up.

In this particular case, I knew I needed 52 stitches on all sides of the block (not counting the stitches on the border). This was easy on the top and bottom because they had 52 stitches already. Along the sides, however, the number of rows in a block varied a lot depending on the block pattern.

But it was very simple to pick up the stitches along the edge, count them (they varied from 42 to 65!) and then increase or decrease so that I had 52 stitches. Easy peasy! And by doing this I ensured that every side of the block would be the same size and have the same number of stitches so that I can seam them together easily later on.

Since I've run out of this colour of wool, I am stalled on this project until I get more. The big debate: buy before Amy runs out of the dye lot, or wait and see if I can hit another surprise Red Purl Baglady sale. Hmm...always a conumdrum.

_________________________
* I slip the first stitch of every row, so I have one edge stitch for every two rows. If you knit every stitch, you'll want to pick up a stitch for every two edge stitches.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Red Purl KAL Afghan: July

The day has arrived: the July meeting for the Red Purl Afghan Knit-along! And so I may reveal my block...
I call it Snakes and Ladders ("Chutes and Ladders" for the Americans among my readers).

The stitch I made up for it -- not that I will claim it's definitely unique, but I did invent or discover it on my own -- the Wrap3, creates the rungs of the ladders. A simple column of seed stitch makes up the "snakes" (or "chutes"), albeit in a very minimalist form.

The pattern seemed to be well-received, and most importantly Wendy gave me her stamp of approval. People seemed to agree that it looked nice and that it was a relaxing knit good for a summer afternoon.

We still are getting new members, but some others must be dropping off because the groups are a little smaller these months. This could also be due to summer time, I'm sure. We still had at least a dozen knitters gathered for the afternoon and more dropping to have a look. It was a good afternoon.

Now that we are half way through the Year of the Afghan, I thought it might be a good time to review all the other blocks that have already been made:
I still have no idea how I am going to arrange the blocks. (What will go where, I mean; obviously it will be 3 x 4 grid.) I am going to add some sort of sashing between the blocks--I haven't decided if it will be knit or crochet. (Crochet being faster but sucking up 3 times as much yarn!)

Today I picked out this semi-solid color called Red Mahogany to surround the blocks, and the outside edge. I think the dark colour will let the bright colours pop.

The way the knit-along is set up, you make December's block in one week and then sew them all together the next week. I am not going to be able to do all that edging in one week, especially in December! (Like that's not already the busiest time of the year.) So I will have to make some decisions and start putting an edge on the finished blocks.

All for now!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mini Quilt Retreat

My sister, Kim, came to visit this past week and I had the brilliant--if I may say so myself--idea of exchanging our usual "girls only" trip to the quilt store for some actual quilting. We both have more projects that need sewing than money that needs spending right now anyway, so it worked out great.

I arranged some time and facilities at my church and we had an entire afternoon of sewing.
(Don't we look so pleased with ourselves?)

Kim especially wanted me to show her paper (foundation) piecing. (Apparently she missed my tutorial.) She is making a crib quilt with hearts galore, including four different paper pieced blocks.

Here she is displaying her first paper pieced block:
Isn't it lovely?

That evening we got in a little more quilting at home after her kids were tucked into bed, and Kim managed to finish her second block.

It is my favourite of her heart patterns. (The one on the left.) The blocks are laying on our current top pick for the sashing fabric. If you thought my toddler quilt was pink, this one will make you think you've fallen into a bubblegum bubble.

And what was I working on? My Mini Crossed Canoes quilt. Here it is a year ago when I was deciding how to apply the outer pieced border:
I got very interested in mini quilts a few years ago and this idea appealed to me as a way to try it out. True mini quilts are scaled down versions of large quilt patterns. (Some of them with the tiniest of pieces.)

Not wanted to commit to that much, I instead used 1.5" inch (finished size) blocks to make up one large block pattern. The finished quilt will be about 20" to a side, well under the 24" which I think is the standard limit for a mini quilt.

It also gave me a chance to play around with colour, mixing and matching shades but with the intent to have it all blend. I never realized how much I love blue and yellow until I could hardly turn away from all the fat quarters in their lovely colours and patterns!

And how far did I get? Well, I had marked and quilted on the yellow portions of the outside border last April (2009)
and then got kind of stuck on how to mark the blue portions. My water soluble marker is blue. The white chalk and chalk pencil weren't working. On our quilt retreat I tried one more marking tool that I found in my sewing box: a water soluble chalk pencil. And despite being blue as well, it worked! I marked up one section, got it quilted, and then got bold and quilted the other blue section without marking at all. After all the practice, it worked out well.

Because of a few interruptions (and tutoring Kim), that's all I finished on the actual retreat. But when we were sewing at home, I started the free motion quilting on the main body of the quilt. It took me a while to get there, but I had decided to quilt in a style that I had seen on a lot of art and landscape quilts in the magazines the last few years.

It's very simple but remarkably effective at blending the blue blocks together. And it reminds me of water somehow. (It is a Crossed Canoes pattern after all.) I got the two easy sections done, and then plunged in and got the two harder sections done too!

Then I was stalled because I don't have a firm plan for the rest. I think I'm going to draw out a water lily in the middle section and have some "tendrils" go out onto the yellow sections. Maybe in green thread. We'll see.

Being loath to waste sewing time, however, I took care of some of the more mundane tasks. Like cutting and seaming 90 inches of binding:
(That's left over fabric from the square dancing outfit I made in our clubs colours!)

And then I worked on making some piping with my Piping Hot Binding kit.

I did not need to buy a special piping foot as my buttonhole foot (I think that's what it is; foot C if you have a Viking Sapphire) worked very well. It has a groove in the bottom, it has a ledge on the left side that the piping can run against, and by moving my needle to the right just one click, I could sew my own perfect piping. Life is good.

We had a great time, although I must say we talk at lot less when we're sewing than when we're shopping. There was a lot of concentrating going on which didn't leave a lot of room in the brain for "catching up." But whenever we were both on a little break, we were happy to admire each other's work and tell each other how good we were doing! Nothing like a lot of mutual encouragement!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wrapping up the Tutorial

Here is the video for the Wrap3 stitch:

video

Hope that helps, especially if the pictures in the last post didn't do it for you.

See you Sunday, all you Knit-Alongers!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sneak Peek Stitch Tutorial for the RP KAL Afghan

This is finally it: July's my design month for the Red Purl KAL afghan.

We're meeting this Sunday, and I got Amy's permission to give you a sneak peak tutorial of a stitch used in the design. I'm calling it "Wrap3."

I've seen some similar effects done with multiple wraps (wrap the yarn 2 or 3 times around the needle) and then passing the excess wraps over some other stitches, but they usually slant up or down. I wanted something absolutely horizontal, and this is what I came up with:

Wrap3

Getting ready to start:

1. Move yarn between needles to front of work:
2. Slip 3 sts (purlwise):

The third stitch is being slipped.

3. Move yarn between needles to back of work:
4. Slip 3 sts from right needle onto left needle (backwards):

The third stitch is being slipped.

All stitches have been slipped and you are now ready to proceed:
5. Knit three stitches:

The first stitch is being knit.

And so you have a Wrap3:
It is quite important to neither pull the yarn too loose or too tight. (Think like Goldilocks: make it just right.)

On the back of the work, the yarn passes only two stitches and makes a barely noticeable loop:
I will give you another head's up: When purling back on the next row, there will be a sizable gap where you started the Wrap3.
Just purl past it like normal and after one or two rows, you won't even notice it.

If you prefer "moving pictures," I have a video I will post tomorrow assuming I can get a high speed connection somewhere.

I hope this helps all those who are knitting this month's block. If you want to be super-prepared for Sunday you could even practise a time or two on whatever you're knitting now. (Just tink it back out when you're done!) Or whip up a swatch and try it out on that.

And as to my so-called bet with Red Purl Wendy, you may all judge whether this post signifies my loss: was I able to wait and not reveal my design, or did I in fact just blow it and prove myself unable to keep a secret?

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