Saturday, February 25, 2012

Magicking

I was innocently flipping through a magazine at Red Purl the other day, minding my own business when WHAM! I saw this picture and had to make this sweater. Just like that. I can't even say that I absolutely love the sweater but I had to make it. Right now.

It may have had something to do with the fact that Amy had Peace Fleece on sale for $5 a skein and there were three pink ones left and one white to go with it. I did some calculations for the substitution and figured it would get me close enough. (I apparently love to run out or almost run out of yarn at every chance I get.) I'll lengthen the body, but shorten the sleeves if need be. And no turned-over hem; that will save some yardage too.

I got the collar done the other day--that's where you start.

It's knit to make a strip of knitting on the bias:
You can see that even as the edges are straight, the knitting rows are slanted at 45 degrees. This is done with increases and decreases. No magic in that. I moved my increases/decreases in one stitch from the edge so I could have a neat selvage stitch--that is why you can see the stripes "straighten out" at the edges (especially visible in the top of the picture above).

I like the stripe effect, but briefly considered using the back side:
It's also striped but like colours are separated by a little space. This is because instead of the top and bottom of each row being done with the same colour, the top of one row and the bottom of the next are done in the same colour. Sort of like two halves coming together to make a whole. In the end, I decided to stick to the "right" side.

Because I was changing colours every time I started a right-side row, I went ahead and knit the first stitch. (Usually I slip it.) I made sure to purl the last stitch on the wrong side rows and that gave me the nice selvage stitch on one side:
On the other side, I slipped the first stitch on the wrong side rows as I normally do. Slipping it as a purl stitch yields the nice "V" selvage stitch:
You can see that this edge has only one stitch per stripe whereas the previous picture had two stitches per stripe. That's what you get with slipping. I was concerned with getting a nice selvage on both edges because the body of the sweater is picked up and knit off one edge, and the other edge is sewn down--both good times to have a convenient selvage stitch.

The bias strip collar is started with a provisional cast on. I used the crochet cast on. I started it while waiting for choir to start. You should have heard them all howl when they saw me working with a crochet hook instead of a pair of knitting needles. The basses seemed especially incensed. They are used to seeing me and my knitting but apparently a crochet hook is just going too far!

Anyway, once the right length is achieved, it is time to take out the provisional cast on and put the released stitches onto a needle:
Here I am pulling out the purple yarn of the crochet cast on
and picking up the white stitches that are freed.
Once that was done, I had two ends on needles and it was time to put them together to make a continuous loop:
The pattern called for a three-needle bind off. This would have held the ends together but it would have left a seam, causing a bump on the inside and an interruption to the garter stitch pattern. Now, we know better than that, don't we!? Have you guessed yet which word I will utter next? Yup, it's time for Kitchener. Now there's some magic!

It was going so well that when I was half done the seam, I thought I should take a picture or no one would believe me that it was sewn together:
The Kitchener seam is half done. The right side is finished;
the stitches on the needles on the left are waiting.
You can't tell which rows were knit and which one was sewn; there's no interruption to the stitch pattern, and the colour pattern is kept consistent. I love Kitchener and its mighty power.

When it was done, I had this:
Try and find the seam!

How does all this make a collar? Well, you fold it in half and just sort of imagine it laying across my shoulders:
I've since picked up the stitches around the collar and have just begin to knit the body.

The yarn contains mohair and it's definitely "hairy." I don't mind working with it, though, and I don't think I'll have any problem wearing it. If nothing else, I'll wear a tank under it and that will only help if the neckline ends up being too wide open for bra straps. (I'm old fashioned--I'd rather not show mine.)

But there's enough time to worry about that later. Meanwhile, I'll keep knitting. Obviously the shirt's being done top-down, so next time you see it, I'll probably be trying it on.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Troy's Lined Hat

Since I first mentioned the hat I was making for Troy, I have quietly worked on it in between other projects. Troy was a little anxious to have it, but since the winter's been quite mild and snow-free, I did not feel any special pressure to get it done.

The knitting was fairly straight forward. I kept the shaping very basic and had Troy try it on as I went. Once it was long enough to cover his forehead, I cast off the front stitches and knit the back a little longer. (About four rows as I recall, so a short inch, I'd say.)


The hat is knitted but no lining yet.
Doesn't it look like he has cute black curls?
I kept 13 stitches on the needles for each ear flap and knit them long enough to reach under his chin. When it was all done, I crocheted around the edges with one row of single crochet. This should have finished the edges and kept them from curling and I couldn't figure out why they still curled. Too late I realized that if I had used a smaller crochet hook, this probably would have done it. Lesson learned. (The real lesson is to get up and find the right tool and not to just use whatever crochet hook is available in your bag right beside you. It's very easy to convince yourself that it is the right size when the alternative is to get off your butt and look for other possibilities. At least, that is my experience.)

Once it was knit, it sat around until I could find a suitable sweater to felt (and felt like felting it). Once that was accomplished, I cut it to shape and approximate size:
As with my Subway hat, I used the ribbing as the lower edge. The above shape was cut for the main part of the hat and then I cut separate flaps for the ears:
I pinned the edges down and sewed it into place by hand:
Once the edges were affixed, I could worry about the fit of the lining. The crown portion was still unsewn. I put it together and basted it so Troy could try it on:
The lining was too big (too "long" or "tall," not too wide around) so I cut about 3/8" off the length and basted it again. Repeat another time and then I was able to sew it for real:
I think it still may be just a little long but Troy says it fits fine and I really don't want to make it too short. So I am leaving it!
Since the edges were curling out and the lining was showing, I sewed the two layers together about two inches up from the edge. (I think you can just make out the line in the picture above.) I was hoping this would keep the lining in place but it was only moderately successful.

But once again, Troy is happy enough with it and we are calling it done!

If he's feeling especially jaunty, Troy can button the flaps above his head and show off his racy red lining:
He's not likely to do so, however, as he wears hats to keep warm and that has to include his ears.

Project Stats
Started
: 3 Jan '12
Finished: 10 Feb '12
Pattern: improvised
Materials: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solid ($0--a friend's castoff), cashmere sweater to felt (<$5 at Goodwill)
Even though he likes the hat, Troy says that it is not as warm as my Subway hat. He thinks the lining isn't as thick. Although they were both felted cashmere sweaters, now that he mentions it, I think my green one did felt thicker and fuzzier. Apparently now I am charged with making a second one for him. Once again, I'm not really feeling any special pressure. (Sorry, Troy.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Skirting the Line

I was going to write about Troy's lined hat which now is not only finished but also photographed, but my zig zag skirt just up and butted in line. Ok, ok, so I might have shoved the hat out of the way to make room. I'm allowed; I'm the bouncer of my own blog and the hat just didn't cut it today!

So on to the skirt which has just sashayed its way into the VIP lounge.

I had stopped knitting on it at least a week ago because I knew it was getting close to the right length but couldn't tell for sure until I did the waistband. Late this past week, I finally got to it and over a few days got the waistband sewn down with a Kitchener like stitch. (It's exactly like Kitchener except I sew it to a previous row instead of live stitches.)

Once that was done except for a 2 inch gap, I inserted a piece of 3/8" elastic. (I found a random piece just the right length in a box full of miscellaneous notions!) It has tamed the waistband nicely and I don't think I will need a drawstring, which I was considering.

The skirt before I tackled the waistband.
You can see how loose the waistband (on top)
was without the elastic and how narrow
the bottom was with the needle still inserted.
I finished inserting the elastic last night just minutes before I had to leave for the evening. I tried to put the skirt on "just to see" and quickly learned that both my legs would not fit through the end where I had the knitting needle still inserted. Gah!

Not caring at that point if it would making me late (and thinking it probably wouldn't anyway), I threaded a cotton crochet thread through the hole in the end of the circular needle and pulled the needle out. This got my live stitches on the cotton thread and, most important, I was able to try it on. I didn't have a mirror, but it looked and felt like success. I then jumped out of the skirt, back into my jeans and out the door. (And I was still two minutes early even though I had to turn around after getting a mile down the road to come back for my bowling ball, which I had forgotten.)

Anyway, before putting the stitches back on the needle and getting back to knitting, I had to try it on again today and look in a mirror. And I had to take some pictures:
The length is getting pretty close but I think it can stand a couple more inches before I do the final garter stitch band. I also hope to block it so that it hangs straight down from my hips and doesn't give such a mermaid look. (That's a euphemism for not making my hips look so huge!)

This will stretch the skirt width-wise, which will steal some of the length. So I need to knit it a little longer than it looks like it needs.

I feel obliged to explain that I did not dress up for this photoshoot, but happened to still be hosed and booted up from my church outfit. My only proof is that I would never pair brown argyle tights with a grey striped skirt. QED.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Finish?

I'm not sure that I've mentioned it here, but I've been working on a second pillow in the same yarns as the other one I made last fall.

It took me a while (in between all my other projects) but I finally finished it this past weekend...I think.

I'm not completely satisfied with it but I'm not sure I'm going to do anything about it. (Or be able to do anything about it.) So for today, it is finished. Tomorrow, who knows...

I knit the front square in solid linen stitch. I really like how the variegated colour works in this pattern. Although there was general pooling in wide stripes that seem to wash back and forth like a tide,
the stitch also produced vertical movement, which is pretty rare in knitting:
I love the little "towers" of colour that build up and intrude into the other colour. (Purple towers into green; green towers into purple.) This is the "purl" side of the linen stitch, usually used as the reverse. But I like it. The "front" side was less interesting:
It took me a while to get this done. First because slip stitch patterns take more knitting to get length. Second because the pattern (or at least the way I was doing it) was making the stitches tight on my needles. Knitting it for any length of time made my fingers, hands, and wrists sore. (Ok, and sometimes my elbow too. Just the left one. Don't ask me why.) And I had other projects to distract me...

When it was finally done, I had to decide how to use the little bit of curlicue yarn I have left. It certainly wasn't enough for a border. I decided to knit a little square and sew it to the middle of the pillow. Once that was done (figuring it would be easier to sew it on before it was assembled into a pillow), I found the sweater that I used for the first pillow. (This only took a month; I couldn't remember where I stashed it.) Then I cut out a back to match the size of the front:
I had saved the front of the sweater for this pillow and it has a cable running up the middle of it. Then I made short work of sewing the two parts together. The pillow form I was going to use didn't fit so then I had to wait until I could buy another one. (This project had to be really patient!)

But finally, Friday, I sewed it all together:

And I wasn't too happy. It looked too stuffed. Too fat:
My first thought was to tack it down in the middle with a button or something, but I don't really like the idea. I probably should have tacked down the pillow form before I stuffed and sewed it in. But I did not have the fortitude to rip out my sewing and redo it. Yes, I have those days/projects too.

All I had left of the worsted weight (left) and bulky (right)
after the pillow was done!
I also wasn't happy with the plain edges so I spent some time on Saturday trying to work out a border. But I couldn't imagine anything that would look right and I was very limited on wool. I certainly did not have enough  of the curlicue. (I didn't even have enough to just outline the pillow which was my first thought.)

What I did have was a little of the worsted weight and some leftover bulky from my Subway hat in a purple that matched perfectly.

What I ended up doing was adding big fluffy tassels:
It was a tough decision because once done, it could not be undone. There's no going back from all those cuts! I'm not sure it's made it into the best pillow it could be, but I think it helps. I like it enough that I'm going to keep it like that for a while.

Here are the two pillows together:

Project Stats
Started
: 27 Nov '11
Finished: 11 Feb '12
Pattern: my own
Materials: Farmhouse Yarns Andy's Merino in Grapes on the Vine ($19.50); Our Warrick's Border Leicester Lashes, 4 yards (leftover); Rowen Big Wool (042 Mulberry) (leftover); sweater for felting; pillow form ($8)



I'm calling this my Fuzzy Navel pillow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Skirting the Issue

I have been really enjoying working on my Vogue skirt (introduced in this post). It just goes round and round, and I delight in picking out each stripe. I seldom "get stuck" and seldom doubt my choice. (Except the wide grey stripe at the top. Trying to make myself live with it. Or convince myself it will be covered by whatever I'm wearing on top.) In any case, it's been fun.

It also feels like the stripes should provide me with a calendar/map of all the things I did and places I was when I was working on the skirt:
I know the skirt may look upside down, but it's not. I'm knitting it from the top down,
so the top of the picture is the top of the skirt.
I wish I could say all the labels were accurate, but I'm just not that good. (I did knit at the Harpeth Rising concert, though. I must have been a sight with a big mass of stripes on my lap and an overflowing bag of yarn because a man sat down to my left and said in his best ironic tone, "Gee, it's really too bad you don't know what you're doing..." I thought it was a great opening line.)

Since I first wrote about it, I did buy two more skeins of the Evilla colour-changing yarn, both because they had colours which pop. I went in looking for a cream, but rejected it for the blue of this ball:
and the yellow in this ball:
The purple from this one has also been a good.

The only overall constant of the skirt has been the grey which started light, moved to dark grey and then back through medium to light again. I wanted the skirt to end on dark, and I removed what was left of the the light grey so that I would get to the dark "on time." (Some time before it turned into a floor length skirt!)

I tried it on the other day Red Purl and the women there said I was on the right track. At that point I figured I only had a few more inches to go. I don't think I'll be able to make a final judgment of length, however, until I finish the waist so it can sit where it's going to sit. When I tried it on, there was a 3 to 4 inch range of where the waist might sit. That will make a big difference!

So although I've been knitting on it this week, I have been holding myself back since I know I have to do the waist first. And I haven't had a chance to sit down and tackle that. But I'm starting to get excited because this could very quickly become a "finish."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fix It Fridays (2)

So I had these socks:

They were fine socks. I made them back in the summer of 2009. (Obviously, I finished them on a road trip.)

But as I wore these socks, I realized that they really were too big. Too long in the foot. They were knit from the toe up, and I hadn't made careful enough calculations about how many rows the heel would take.

So I have worn these socks over the last couple years, but not often. They would slide around on my foot too much and would bunch up in shoes and boots. Not good.

Time for a Fix It Friday intervention.

First: figure out how much too big they are:

and make a plan. Since they were knit from the toe up, I couldn't just ravel them from the toe. (You can't undo your knitting from the "bottom.") I would have to snip them some distance up from the toe and then knit the stitches to make a new toe. I did some careful calculations about how far back I should snip them, redid them when I didn't like the results and took the plunge.

I snipped a thread just over an inch back from where my toe ended, and tinked out the row, picking up stitches as I went:
Once I had a whole row out, I had a sock on the  needles and a dismembered toe:
(I was surprised at how disconcerting it was. It was unmistakably a toe and should be attached to a foot.)

Then I rejoined the yarn and pulled out more as I needed it directly from the "old" toe. I joined in about the crudest way I will let myself--I knit six to seven stitches with both yarns held together before continuing with the new yarn. (The crudest method would be a knot--I will never allow myself that!)

And then started shaping the toe immediately:
This was a very wide sock (72 sts) so I did decreases every other row to 48 stitches and then did the decreases every row to hurry things along. Otherwise the toe was way, way too long.

At 24 stitches (12 each side), I tried them on one last time to make sure,
Troy calls this the "catfish."
and then kitchenered them together:

Then I had one sock done:
If you can't see the difference between the right and left, I sure could feel it! Success!

Then I had to repeat it for the second sock. Also success!
I was left with two extra toes:
They look sad to me. I will not be saving them. Even with the infrequent wearings, the yarn was rather hard-worn and is not worth trying to use again. Plus, I still have some left over from the original ball if I ever need any of it for darning.

At the end of the process, I was playing with this leftover strand:
Troy saw it and asked what it was. I said it was a row of knitting, and it is. Every row looks like this, and it is just because they interlock with each other that it all stays together. Most yarns have a pretty strong memory and when you ravel it, it is kinky like this. In general wool has more memory than cotton, but they all do this. It's a very interesting texture to play with.
Fix It Fridays Summary:
Project 1
: shorten sweater sleeves
Cost: $0
Time: ~1 hour

Project 2: shorten socks
Cost: $0
Time: ~4 hours



You wouldn't necessarily think my two Fix It Fridays projects have anything to do with each other, but after posting the summary, it occurs to me that they are the identical repair. And I fixed them both in the same way--snip a thread, undo a row to get live stitches on your needles, and knit back down the other way. On the sleeve I only needed to bind off the stitches, and on the sock I had to knit a new toe to finish it off. Otherwise, they are the same!

I am very happy with this fix and plan to wear my socks today to celebrate.
These are some self-satisfied socks!

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