Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Haunting...

Wooooooo...is it an apparition?
That's the signoff on the message I've recorded on the answering machine at work. Today's the day! Happy Halloween to all of you.

I'm celebrating the holiday by showing off my Skully cap. I finished it at the end of last month and am very happy to have it done with lots of time to spare. Our work Christmas party isn't until December 30 so I'm a couple months early. (Imagine that!)

What I wasn't counting on was their inviting the "other boss" that I don't see as much. Now I feel obligated to knit a second hat...but I sure don't want to!

No, it's my Skully cap!
I started the hat at the top with a tiny I-cord and then read the pattern top to bottom.
I really like the ring of skulls around the top.

The skull pattern itself is quite convincing.
It's always amazing how much you can imply from a relatively simple dot matrix type pattern.

The hat itself came out a little loose. It's not so loose that it will fall off easily but still a little looser than I would have liked. I've decided it's better than too tight and maybe it will even be perfect for the recipient. Kind of depends on what he likes. (There's a good chance he won't wear it at all so I can't get too warped about it.)
But it is part of why I'm not overly enthused about doing a second one. I'm thinking I would just down one needle size, but then I worry it will be too much and the hat will come out too small. Ah, the angst!! (My Oma [grandmother] hated making things for specific people for just this reason--she worried too much about whether it would fit or be liked. Instead, she just made lots and lots of things to sell at the Project Stats
Started
: 1 Sep '11
Finished: 30 Sep '11
Pattern: Skully Hat by Camille Chang
Materials: 20g laceweight lambswool recycled from a Ralph Lauren sweater; 24g laceweight wool from American
Eagle vest
annual bazaar. I relate to the angst, but I try to keep it in check so it doesn't control me. (Too much.))

The other reason is the difficulty of working the pattern on the short needles. I could use this as an excuse to buy 8" needles, but I'm feeling cheap. Not quite in the mood for taking the excuse, apparently.

But getting back to the pattern, I really like the pattern for the hat. I think I'll be using it on a pair of socks one day. (Did I give you the background on this pattern? I originally saw a sock pattern with the skull and crossbones in the Knitpicks catalogue that I was very tempted to buy. I talked myself out of it, but not a week later, I saw the same design in a hat on their website. I checked and sure enough, it was by the same designer.  So then I figured I could buy the hat pattern and just use the colour chart for a pair of socks if I wanted. I always use my own toe and heels anyway...I can just plug the pattern into the rest of the sock.)

As to the pattern itself, however, I found it to be a little confusing and hard to follow. There are several versions of the hat available and it wasn't always clear what the directions were referring to. I think that is part of why I had a hard time getting started. (But only part. Another part was that I was using recycled yarn that isn't conveniently labeled as "fingering" or "sport" so it was difficult to know which pattern version was best to use.)

In any case, I hope you all have a good night, whether you are celebrating Halloween or not. And again, Happy haunting!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Socktober Progress

Have you been enjoying Socktober? We've certainly had some cold and wet enough weather to warrant warm socks. I, for one, have been enjoying my hand knits. (Especially those Mini Mochi Circle Socks I recently finished. Best. Socks. Ever.)

The current pair I'm working on had a pretty rough start. They were too big with the recommended number of stitches and needles. So I foolishly changed two variables at once and went down a needle size and decreased the number of stitches. This turned out to be too small so I made some increases after the short row toe. The right number on the smaller needles turned out to be what the pattern call for!

There were a few other small mishaps that affected how the sock looked. I told myself that I was going to just live with it because it in no way affected how the socks would work. But before I finished the first repeat of the pattern, I realized I couldn't live with it. So I ripped them out and had a much better second start.

One detail I really liked about this pattern was the purl row between the toe and the patterned part of the foot.
When I actually read the pattern, I realized this wasn't a purl row, but in fact was the cast off. The pattern calls for the socks to be knit from the cuff down. The short-row toe is knit from the bottom, around the end of the foot, and back to the top of the sock. The two parts (toe and foot) are then seamed together with a 3-needle bind off. This is what forms the ridge that I thought was a purl row.

I decided to mimic the design element with a purl row across the top of the sock after the toe, even though it was not necessary since I was knitting the sock toe-up.

Once the sock was off to a good start, it has been good knitting ever since. I made up some increases for a gusset and a larger short row heel. The leg of the sock is 72 stitches. (I started with 64.) I'm learning that I need a larger leg than foot. (Most patterns are written with the same number of stitches around the foot as around the leg. This just doesn't seem to work for my body.)

Once the heel is done, the cables are added at the back of the sock. To incorporate the increase stitches, I added two additional purl stitches between the mock cables. That reminds me, I decided to go with mirrored cables on each sock. (I mentioned I was debating between this option and mirror imaging one sock to the other.)
I have a ways to go on the leg yet. After the first two chart repeats, I changed to one size larger needle. I expect I may do that one more time yet. (If needed, I may add more purl stitches as well.)

So there you have it. Now that all the details are worked out, I just need to finish this one and then make a second just like it. The wool has been nice to work with (a little splitty but I can live with that) and the colours are perfect for fall knitting. There was a knot already so the colour change was interrupted and abrupt, but I'm not going to let that bother me. (I'm not!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

Once upon a time, a girl fell in love with a yarn at her local yarn shop. She first wondered if it was a passing fancy. She resisted pursuing the relationship for a while but each time she visited the shop, she was drawn to the yarn. She would give it sidelong glances at first, but always ended up taking it off the peg and handling it for a while, getting to know it.

It was intriguing. It was super bulky with long curlicues. Curlicues that made you imagine a very curly and bushy sheep!

It was pretty. The deep teal colour was unlike any of the other curlicues that she had seen at the shop before. It wasn't a colour she used a lot but that just made her wonder where it could take her...

This girl could only resist so long before she did indeed give in to the temptation and take this yarn home with her. And not having anything that would remotely go with it, she bought some worsted weight to match. (Or she thought it matched; the shop owner seemed less convinced!)

Here is Sandy's Curly Locks:
It's a crazy yarn with literal ringlets coming off of it. It's wild.

In the shop it was used as an accent yarn on shawls made of very thin ethereal yarns. A single row of this curlicue yarn was added every 12 inches or so. It was very striking, but I've got enough shawls for a person that hardly wears them.

The yarn would also be perfect for a fur-like collar or cuffs on sweater or coat. But I wasn't sure that was a long enough lasting fashion statement to be worth the effort. I'm not making a coat for a single season's wear.

The yarn sat in my bug-proof tin for months as my mind kept coming back to it...what to do with it?? I finally got to the point where I had to do something with it--I couldn't just keep it for ever! I decided to take the matching worsted weight and to knit the front of a pillow.
I constructed it with a log cabin technique. You can see that I started with a small square in the middle, then added strips, one at a time, to build out the square. I wanted to shake up the variegated yarn so that it didn't just pool or stripe in big patches.

I used a slip stitch pattern (the linen stitch), which really helped to mix up the colours:
In the smaller squares, you can see that the slip stitch pattern settled into a subtle striping, which I really liked. As the strips got longer, the colour pattern changed, but only in one strip did it really pool in the way I was trying to avoid. (Very top strip in the picture of the whole pillow front.) Overall, I was really pleased with it.

I had considered trying to stripe the variegated yarn like I did my Belinda Shawl, but decided it wasn't the look I wanted and was more effort than I was willing to expend.

Once the pillow front was made, I did a search among my felted and to-be-felted sweaters (as mentioned in my last post) and found a nice green for the back.
It's not a colour I would have chosen to go with the knitted front, but it brings out the highlights in the curlicue wonderfully.

Next step, which took me a while to get my nerve up for, was to knit the curlicue around the front as a fringe. I knit it in the round because I knew there was no way I was going to be able to pick up stitches like I did for the log cabin construction.

This is a look at what I was knitting after a row or two were done:
Ya, try to make sense of that! It looks like a pile of mess. That's what I was dealing with! Here's a closeup of the needles:
You can barely see where the next stitch is!!

That was the "not easy" part. I have a running conversation with a friend about how knitting isn't hard. He sometimes comments on things I make, and I insist that all knitting is easy (it's just knits and purls), even though some of it takes a lot of time and some of it takes some care. But really, it's easy.

I have to concede his point on this one!! It was hard. Not impossible, but hard. Picking up the stitches around the knitted front with the super bulky yarn was not easy. Knitting the first row wasn't easy dealing with all the curlicues and making sure they didn't get tangled in the stitches. By the third row, I had got the hang of it and it was starting to "roll along." But I cast off on the fourth row, which wasn't that easy either, so that "rolling along" didn't last long!

But I pushed through because I really wanted to see how it would turn out!

Have you started wondering about the "being green" part?
Ya, that deep teal colour is rich and saturated for a reason: all the dye wasn't discharged. (Or rinsed? I'm not sure of dyeing terms.) So while I was knitting the trim, my fingers became a dark disturbing green colour. It didn't completely wash out either!Project Stats
Started
: 1 Oct '11 / Finished: 21 Oct '11
Pattern: My own.
Materials: Farmhouse Yarns Andy's Merino in Grapes on the Vine ($19.50); Our Warrick's Border Leicester Lashes, 25 yards ($25); sweater for felting; pillow form or stuffing
I hope it doesn't rub off too badly when the pillow is being used--I certainly won't be putting it on anything white just in case!

Once the trim was on, it was time to sew the pillow together. Well, first I had to make the pillow itself. I could have bought a pillow form to fit, but instead I used the leftovers of a feather pillow Troy had just ransacked to restuff his own pillow. I sewed the pillow cover down to size (while pushing the feathers out of the way) and got a perfect stuffing. I really like the feel of feather pillows.

I then hand sewed the felted back to the selvage stitches of the pillow front, making sure again that all those curlicues didn't get sewn in.

Here's the back of the finished pillow:

And the front:
sitting comfortably on my couch.

I didn't think this colour would go with anything in my house, but now I'm not so sure. It seems alright.

I have one more ball of the variegated yarn. I think I will knit a simple square in the linen stitch pattern, this time putting the "wrong" side out. (It has a nice bumpy texture.) We'll see how the colours lie when knit in longer rows. I have just a little of the curlicue left and I'm considering how to use it in the next pillow. I had hoped to have enough to knit the front in the curlicue so I'd have one big hairy pillow, but there's not enough. You can be sure I'll let you know when I get to it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A New Hat

This evening, while allowing myself the luxury of rewatching The Blind Side, I exercised a rare moment of self-discipline and made myself sew the lining into this hat. I haven't been good at self-discipline the last little while and find that the only thing I can make myself do even if I really don't want to is to go to work. But that takes up all of my will power most days.

The very fact that the one thing my will power is strong enough to make me do is sewing a lining into a hat should say something about my life, but I'm not going to think about it too long.

In any case, I have a wonderful hat to show you. I don't think I've talked about it here before. And I didn't really have much chance. One evening I was struck with the inspiration to make a hat I've been eyeing in Kristina McGowan's Modern Top-Down Knitting. (I was probably avoiding other knitting I didn't feel like doing at the time.) By the next day I had the hat knit:
It looks a little odd, I know; but wait, it gets better.

The hat is finished with a sturdy
two rounds of single crochet.
The pattern tells you to line it with fleece, but to me that is the devil's fabric. Staticky, squeekie and not even warm--just clammy. Plus, even the superficial softness wears off in short order. It is like fingers on chaulkboard to me. Blech!

Cashmere, on the other hand, I rather enjoy. And I have some second hand sweaters just waiting to be felted and used for such a noble project as this. I pulled out my many sweaters which had already been felted or were waiting to be:
(And I've since realized that's not all of them!)
You can see that I have the green ones pulled up on the couch. They were the ones I was after, for two projects, actually. I'll write about the other one later.

So I tried out a few, and picked this lime-ish green:
I like the contrast. And although the purple (mulberry) colour is nice, I find it a little too soft. No punch.

So after felting, I laid the hat on the sweater, lining up the front edge with the edge of the ribbing, and cut around it leaving enough excess for a seam allowance.
It turns out you really don't need a seam allowance because the lining is to fit inside the knitted hat and needs to be smaller anyway. Even after cutting it down to a smaller size, mine still turned out a little long. It worked out ok though, as you will see. (You, of course, may or may not agree with me.)

The final step, then, is to hand stitch the lining in.
I didn't have the exact right colour of thread, but with all the fluffy fuzziness of the felted cashmere, it didn't really matter. I made sure to keep just inside of the final chain stitches so there is a nice border around the knitting.

And so I give you the "subway hat": (Long story about the name; you'll have to get the book to read it.)
I have to say it frames the face beautifully. (When my sister saw it, she commented that I'll have to always were makeup when wearing the hat!) The too-long lining is what is making it flare out slightly, revealing more of the lining. As I said, I like it.

The other big benefit of this hat design is that it lets you wear glasses without looking like doob, and it covers the ears without muffling them. (Plus you don't look like an undergrad with earflaps and the obligatory tassels.)

The one weakness of the pattern is that it pouches out too much at the back.
Project Stats
Started
: 8 Oct '11
Finished: 18 Oct '11
Pattern: Subway Hat by Kristina McGowan
Materials: Raveled Rowan Big Wool (Mulberry) 96 g; cashmere sweater to felt
Mine isn't too bad, but some of the pictures on Ravelry are just awful. It's like you have an extra 3 inches of hat at the back of your head. Next time I will increase a little faster so that part is flatter. Also, the slit in the bottom should start sooner because the way it is, the hat tends to ride up and then forward over your eyes.

All in all, though, I love the hat. Everyone that's seen it says it reminds them of a traditional Dutch hat. Since I'm Dutch, I don't mind. For those of you who don't know what I mean, here is a picture of some fans at last year's World Cup who put on some "traditional garb" for the Netherlands' match up with Brazil:
These ones are pointier up top, but you can see the resemblance with the pointy parts around the ears. (Go Oranje!)

With this hat in the arsenal, I can look forward to colder weather without worrying about a cold head. With the extra layer of the lining, the hat is extremely warm. Can't wait to put it to the test!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Project Spectrum: September into October

I got so excited about Socktober, I forgot to wrap up last month's colour for Project Spectrum. September was all about yellow (and gold, copper, and bronze). I didn't work with any of those colours in my projects (I didn't even do a single yellow square in my Kaffe quilt-shame on me), but my surroundings have been full of it.

There was the goldenrod that filled half of our field.
As I drive home, I pass the five acres we have along the road and survey it each day.The goldenrod put on quite a show. I watched it fade from bright yellow to soft gold.

The corn fields around us (none of which I own) did the same fade from bright green to soft white-ish gold.

The corn itself, on the other hand, turned a very solid yellow gold.

A little closer to home, the "fake" sunflowers I have finally bloomed this month. They grow like bushes and have small sunflower-like blooms that run up and down very tall stalks. The bees really like them,
 as did this butterfly:
In another bed, the nasturtiums really took off (and took over). The leaves were taller than the flowers so you had to do some searching for the blooms!


And the trees started their turning this month. Although the bright reds and oranges are the real attention getters, I also love the fluorescent lime yellow green that some maples achieve.
When they catch a little sun, I think they positively glow with life.

October celebrates the colour cyan/aqua. That is a very foreign colour to me. I honestly surveyed every single folder of pictures I have and came up with only a few paltry examples that might come close to cyan. I have a lot of blue, but that is not the same!

So, for a preview, I give you:
Clockwise from top left: aquarium at Disney World I have completely blocked from my memory; old thermometer I bought for Troy; beach in the Dominican (the blue sky dominates the space but I think the aqua sea is a scene stealer); one of the shawls I knit for my sister's wedding (being modeled by my niece); Antonio and Gertrude, made by my father-in-law.

I am not too comfortable with this colour and find it difficult to even describe. We'll see what I come up with over the next month...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Socktober Once Again!

If you've looked at your calendar today, you should have noticed that it's Socktober!! (I know most calendars do not have it labeled correctly--let's work on that, shall we? Find your calendar. Grab a sharpie. Write a little vertical squiggle in front of "October" and it should now say, "SOctober." Problem solved. Well, unless you made your squiggle go the wrong way and then it will say, "ZOctober." I guess that would make it a German celebration of socks. In that case, problem zolved.)

Anyway, back to socks. Knitting a pair of socks would be the perfect fit for my current "knit small projects only" condition. I have selected a sock yarn from the stash:
(The name kind of looks German, doesn't it? "Jawoll." It might be, I suppose. The label says it was made in Italy for a company in Switzerland.) It is 75% wool and 25% nylon which means it should wear really well and last a long time. You can also see on the label that it is superwash. How convenient.

I purchased this ball at a yarn store in Bowling Green, KY, when we were there visiting friends last March. I searched out a yarn store and Troy and Isaac indulgently let me shop for a bit. They had a lot of nice stuff but this ball was the best thing that fell in the overlap of the categories of things I could afford, things I liked, and things I actually knew what I would do with. (And things I couldn't easily get at my LYS at home.) Now as I knit on these socks and eventually when I wear them, I will be reminded of the nice visit I had with my friends too. Like a memory book (scrap book) I can take with me.

But no wool is any good without a pattern to shape it. I have chosen Nutkin by Beth LaPensee. It is a very popular pattern on Ravelry and with good reason--I think it looks great!

I hope the colour changing properties of the wool don't overwhelm the stitch pattern. I looked up other projects using this combination of pattern and wool on Ravelry and many of them did not look great. But there weren't really good quality pictures in the batch so I am going to try it for myself and see what I get.

Automatic modification will be to work toe up and to start with a short row toe. I'm pretty sure I am going to mirror image the mock cables as well. Just not sure if I will mirror them within the sock (and thus each sock will be identical to its mate) or knit one sock according to the pattern and knit the second sock mirror imaged. So many choices...

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May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...