Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time for Class!

Remember my Hat Heel socks? I knit them in a weekend when I went to the AQS show in Des Moines last fall.

Last week I knit the pattern again in Lorna's Laces worsted, in a two colour pattern that really shows the different sections it's constructed of.

And why did I do this? (Besides getting a lovely sock to wear.) Because I am offering a class on this interesting and comfortable sock design.

Classes are on the Friday nights of April 16 & 23, starting at 6 pm. We'll go to 7:30 "officially," but Friday night knit nights go til 9, so we can stay later if we want. If we need another week, we can do that too. (I'd say, "I'm easy," but I wouldn't want you to think I was a pushover as a teacher--I like to think I run a tight ship!!)
I've converted the pattern for worsted weight, so they go fast. I made the sample sock Saturday to Sunday even while going to work on Saturday, church on Sunday and performing all my other regular weekend duties. In other words, they're really fast!

I did add a slip-stitch/moss stitch pattern to the foot of my sample sock
(it doesn't help anyone to get bored), but you can do yours in stocking stitch if you'd like to keep it simple.

If you'd like to sign up for class, contact Red Purl. I've got tips on the pattern and can show you how to get a good start knitting circles that start from the center. (It's tricky, but we'll do it together!)

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Watcha Working On?

As I intimated in the previous post, I have not been monogamously working on my Whistler. So what have I been working on?

One thing is the Lead and Follow scarf that I've been working on sporadically since last July. It's been my "last resort" project as it doesn't have a deadline, or even a sure recipient. Work on it was rather pain-staking in the beginning because of the 20-row repeat on the lace pattern, and the fact that the "return" rows are not plain purl (which is often the case with lace).

I've done enough repeats now that the pattern is "in my head"--not memorized, but the logic of the pattern has revealed itself. The 20 row pattern is broken down into four-row groups of similar shaping. It's been fun to see it grow. I don't think it's quite half way to its final length, but it's definitely getting there.

An extra spur to work on the project was seeing it in a yarn catalogue I got last week:
You can see it on the bottom right of the page. It was a fun surprise to recognize something I was working on being highlighted in a catalogue.

The second project is even better for travel knitting. I saw this sock yarn at Red Purl and could not resist it:
Pagewood Farm St. Elias Hand Dyed Sock Yarn in colour, Butterfly

The colours were perfect for someone I know. It's been the nicest sock yarn I've worked with yet--not only how it handles and feels, but the way the colours blend. It's beautiful.

The pattern is very pretty as well. (Firestarter by Yarnissima.) It's well written and the cable is charted. (Thank goodness! I love me a chart!)
Besides a pretty cable pattern running up the side, it has a unique and interesting gusset done in reverse stocking stitch.
Progress has been fairly steady on this project as well.

And, no, I haven't stopped working on the Whistler all together. It does seem I haven't had a lot of time to sit and knit at home, but I try. I have gotten the second sleeve past the first section of three-colour stranding.

The technique of intarsia in the round that I outlined here is still impressing me with its ingeniousness. It's getting easier and more natural all the time.

But now that I'm down to two colours again, things should fly until I get to the next three-colour section.

PS: There has been one other project, but that will have to wait for the proper time to be revealed...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Arm Flapping

With great joy and relief, I finished my first sleeve on Saturday. You'd think I would have told you by now, and I'm kind of surprised I haven't. But there you go...life's like that sometimes.

In any case, here it is:

and here it is pretending to be attached to the body:
Sort of looks like my sweater's an amputee, doesn't it?

Overall, I think it's looking good. I have all the usual in-process doubts (especially about my tension in this project), but then my other voice tells me it's fine and to stop worrying about it. We'll see at the end, I guess.

Meanwhile, since Saturday I've been playing hookey from this project, needing a break from the serious thinking and setup it takes.

First I made a class sample (another class at Red Purl is being planned for April or May) and then started working on a little something for Easter. I'll give you all the details when it's time...

Friday, March 19, 2010

A New York Beauty

Thursday I took another stab at my county fair block. I revised my original drawing and then traced it onto another piece of paper. (Because, of course, if I used the original pattern, I wouldn't have anything left to trace for the next square.)
This pattern was regular paper (or rather, parchment paper, but it turned out to be the same weight as regular printer paper). I don't recommend it. I'll have to go out and buy some tissue or other specialized paper.

The regular paper dulls your needle quicker, is hard to rip off, and wrecks your seams even as you rip it off.

I incorporated several changes:

1. The spikes are different heights which is closer to how the original statue is.

2. There's no longer a final section of background fabric sewn to the outside of the block. It was hard to piece (and have it flat) and it created a seam right where you would want to sew the sashing on. Not good.

The new pattern continues the seams of the spikes all the way to the outside edge. I should have thought of this sooner as it is exactly how it was done on my Hawaiian Star quilt.

3. It started even larger. It's supposed to be 12.5" edge to edge. I made the original block 1/4" larger all the way around so I could cut it down, and it was barely 12" (in spots--it wasn't exactly square!) The second one I made 1/2" bigger on each side and it was still close when I tried to trim it down to 12.5 inches!

4. I changed the design of the windows. I'm not overly happy with either, but the first one is closer to what it should be.

I think that is all, and here is how it turned out:

I set the two blocks side by side for fun and you can see how a fun assortment of these blocks could come together to quite a lovely quilt:
One name for these blocks is New York Beauty which is very fitting for the Lady of Liberty. Another name is Cinqo de Mayo which would be more appropriate if she came from Spain rather than France.

But with the influx of Spanish speaking residents in recent decades, perhaps it's more fitting than it first appears.

I think after these two prototypes, I am ready to draw up a final pattern and use the "real" fabrics from the county fair set. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gathering of Quilters

It looks like a fun event they're cooking up this weekend in Goshen (IN). Thanks to work and other obligations, I can't make it, but I'll definitely be marking it on the calendar for next year.

The 20th annual Gathering of Quilters is meeting at the Elkhart Country Fairgrounds on Saturday (the 20th). Besides a collection of vendors, a large quilt exhibit, door prizes and the like, they are also having:

1. An Ugly Fabric Swap. You bring in a piece of veritably ugly fabric in a brown sack. You trade with some other sap. You go home, make something lover-ly with it, and then bring it back next year to compete with everyone else's Finished Objects. Winner chosen by viewer choice. I think this would be a hoot.

2. A general Show and Tell of any article you want to bring in for others to oooh and aaah over.

3. A Heart Themed Block Lotto. For every heart themed block you bring in, you get a chance to win a set of blocks.

4. Guest speaker, Brenda Papadakis, an expert in applique and Civil War era quilts and designs and the author of the 1996 Dear Jane book. If you haven't looked into it, the Dear Jane quilt is a fun project to explore. (Online, I mean. If you were to actually try to make it, I think it would take over your life!)

I get the impression it's generally a big group that gets together. If you'd like to attend, you can still get tickets at the door for $15.

Have a little fun for me!

Monday, March 15, 2010

March's Quilt Day

Have you thought I forgot about my resolution to have a monthly quilt day? I did miss in February because it conflicted with the Olympics. But I made sure to get right back at it this month.

I debated what to do, and decided to work on the square for the raffle quilt at the County Fair. I [naively] thought it would be a nice project that would yield a finished project in one day.

I threw around some ideas for the block on the theme of "Spirit of America" in this post, and liked the suggestions I got. While fooling around with some ideas, I kept coming back to the same one.

The first thing I did today was draw it out. It's a foundation paper-pieced block so I had to draw the foundation. I thought that part would be a lot harder than it was. I didn't have a compass for the curves, but a pencil on a string worked quite well.
I was pretty pleased with the results, but considering it was a new design it occurred to me that I should probably play it safe and try it out with "scrap" fabric before I used my limited required county fair fabrics.

So I found some tissue paper, ironed it straight, and traced the design.
I won't get into details on paper piecing again (look here for previous instructions), but at the end of a couple hours I had the following block:
Not bad, eh? And I must ask, does it remind you of anything? I'm kind of hoping it will. Leave a comment and let's see if you can recognize it.

It seems amazing to me that I actually got a finished block that I like from a rough sketch like this I made while working the ideas out:
You know, "I can't draw." But maybe I would have been good at drafting...

Anyway, now that I've done a practice square and have learned a few things (and like a good girl took some notes to tuck away with the materials), I am ready to do the "real" thing with the required fabrics.
When I looked at them again today, I realized just how small those pieces are. (14" square for the background fabric and 10" square for the rest.) With the way I want to use the colours, I think I'll have enough of all of them except maybe the background fabric.

I'm going to have to make paper templates of all the pieces I need and lay them out on the fabric to make sure there's enough. If there's not, it's back to the drawing board!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dum Dum di Dum...

That's the opening strains of the Canadian national anthem, in case you didn't recognize it. (I know it looks a lot like the wedding march written like that.) But anyway, look at what my wonderful little sister sent me--my own Ravelympics gold medal to wear on my imaginary podium!

I didn't finish my sweater by the end of the Olympics so I didn't get the gold medal [web] badge that Ravelry offered or the Knitting Olympics [web] medal from the Yarn Harlot's site.

Thankfully, she grades on effort not results! And given the choice, I'd take a chocolate medal any day! (Not that I dare eat it.)

I haven't strung it up on a ribbon and worn it yet, but don't I look proud enough to do it?

Thanks, Patricia! You're a sweetie.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Intarsia in the Round

A special concern for the Whistler sweater is the sections which require three colour stranding. If the colours were used evenly across the row, you would just have to carry all three with you across the whole round.

But Whistler has sections where the third colour is only used for small areas that line up vertically. So the question is, can you treat this like intarsia? Meaning you would not need to carry the colour all the way around, but could use it only where you needed it.

On the body of the sweater, I figured out one way to do it. It was a little awkward, a little slow (but any method would be), and a little fiddly. Just before starting the colourwork section of the sleeve I happened on a life-changing post on Ravelry which outlined another way. The final result is exactly equivalent to what I had been doing, but the method is more elegant, simpler, and easier to explain to boot!

Ready for some details? Here we go...

I'm knitting around with grey and white, and come to the section where I need to add some red:
I work with the three strands following the chart, working red, white, or gray stitches as indicated. When I get to the end of the red stitches, I simply drop the red and continue working in only grey and white again:
Now I continue the round until I get to the beginning of the section where I need red again:
Now I've got a problem. I need to knit with the red, but it is back on the other side of the section, where I left it.
What to do?

Well, when working the body of my sweater, I looped the red over to where I needed it and worked with the loop (not the end that goes to the ball).
This worked ok (especially if you worked continental with the red loop), but when I got to the end of the red stitches in that round, I would have to go back and adjust the tension of all the red stitches. (Unless I guessed the exact amount I needed and made the loop just the right length, but that never happened.)

As I said earlier, this method worked, but then I found out about method # 2 and found it far superior.

Instead of working with the red loop, you continue working the round without the red, but slipping every stitch that should be red:Continue working with the grey and white and slipping the stitches that should be red until you get to the red working yarn (or the last red stitch on that row--whatever's later).
Now you've "caught up" to the red yarn:
Now you flip your work over so you looking at the back (or purl) side:
You now have the red yarn where you can use it. And what you do is work back across the same section, slipping all the grey and white stitches you just knit...
and purling the previously slipped stitches with the red yarn:Do this until you reach the end of the slipped stitches:
Now flip the work around again so the right side is facing...
and then slip all the stitches from the left needle to right. (They've all been knit now for that row.)

When you get back to the grey and white working yarns, you are ready to continue that round:
Continue knitting with just the grey and white, and now when you come to the section with red stitches, the red yarn is waiting and ready for you:

So, every other round is done as normal three-colour stranding, and the alternate rounds are done with the slipped stitches/purled red stitches.

It really is ingenious. The post I read it in gave credit to a pattern in Interweave Knit's recent issue Knitting Traditions, but I really doubt they're the creators of the method. They "just" explained it and recorded it. People have probably been doing this for eons. (Can I say again how much I love the internet and Ravelry in particular? There's no one I know that could show me this method. Or no one who offered anyway!)

Learning something like this makes me realize that people are smart, and some of them are even damned clever.

Monday, March 8, 2010

More Whistler

And so it has come to this: knitting straight jackets.Nooo...it's just the body of my Whistler before the armholes have been cut into it.

It had been a whole week without working on Whistler. I had been making the Bella Mittens I owed to someone, and finished them just in time to get them blocked and delivered on Sunday morning. The second pair turn out just like the first. (Really lovely...still a good pattern and I love that wool.)

Although I missed my Whistler, it was probably a good mental break. But Sunday evening I had a chance to sit down with it again and knit up the last seven rows of the body. It's a good thing I didn't push myself and do them at midnight the closing day of the Olympics because they included all the back shoulder and neckline shaping. It would have been too much to handle that late.
It's kind of hard to tell if a sweater fits if your arms are still stuck in it, but from what Troy and I could tell, it looks about about right.

The only shot we got of the back was blurry (apologies), but you can get an idea of what it'll be like.
Today at lunch I got the sleeves done up to the colourwork. I stopped to take stock and see if I had done enough increases yet and then measured the length while I was at it. Surprise, surprise, they were already long enough!

Now I will stop working on them two-at-a-time and start the colourwork on the first one tomorrow at lunch (with any luck). This will also give me a chance to try to put together some pictures and explanation of how I've been doing intarsia in the round. (Which you can't really do, but I found a way.) I had someone on Ravelry who's working on his own Whistler ask me to explain how I did it, and words completely failed. Maybe some pictures will help.


PS: Also on the weekend, I wound my purple mohair for this project I wrote about back in August. I am so excited about starting a swatch for it. Spring is coming, and I need to greet it wearing a purple mohair Tshirt with ruffles!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ravelympics Wrap Up

I owe you a post about my Whistler sweater which I did not finish. (Accepting all sad faces and sympathetic noises now.)

By Sunday I would have been very happy to have finished the body of the sweater. I knit steadily, even through the gold medal hockey game. When I hit the section of solid red, I just flew.

But I had no less than four phone calls with family on Sunday--we had to celebrate the gold, you see! And that was just fine with me. My left hand was threatening to just walk out on the whole deal.

At some point in the afternoon I decided I was going to go til midnight and just do what I could do.

I ended just seven rows short of finishing the body. But the good new is: I'm just seven rows short of finishing the body!! And my sleeves are almost half done. So this is good.

I later read on the Ravelry "rules" that they were cutting people off at midnight Pacific time. That would have given me three more hours. I definitely would have finished the seven rows then, but it wouldn't have been a good start to the week.

So I will content myself with a very good start on my Whistler sweater even if I don't get the Ravelympics medal. I will have to put it aside for a little bit to catch up on the rest of my life (and a pair of Bella mittens that I owe to someone). I am now thinking that I will finish it on time to wear it this spring as a replacement for a jacket. (It's really designed for that anyway--it's a little warm to wear as a regular sweater.)


PS: I really wanted to get a picture of what I have done so far: me in the sweater with my arms pinned to my side because there are no armholes yet. Hands and forearms in the sleeves, locked together by the cable needles because I'm knitting them two-at-a-time. But that "rest of my life" bit left me no time for it--sorry!

PPS: The Yarn Harlot did finish her Whistler, and you can see a pic here with her thoughts on the Knitting Olympics. (You can also see the medal I missed out on.) Remind me why I shouldn't hate her just a little bit for finishing...

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