Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mmmalabrigo March

Mmmalabrigo March (you have to add the "m"s because it is just so mmm mmm good) is an event on Ravelry wherein the participants celebrate all things Malabrigo.

It is crazy popular and there are a lot of events. General categories like "sweater" or "accessory" but then also "most cast on," "most yards knit," and "very variegated" (a special case of "best use of color"). And there are lots and lots of knit-a-longs of specific patterns.

The only real rule (besides having to use Malibrigo yarns) is that you have to cast on and finish within the month of March. People are really avid Malabrigo fans, but I have mostly watched from afar and enjoyed the virtual parade of projects.

But about a week into March I bought a half priced skein of Mal sock and realized that I had little enough on the needles that I could join in. (By "little enough" I mean I still had the pink Tshirt and Zig Zag skirt going, but they were both nearing the end.)

This was my first experience knitting with Mal sock. (I think I've only used Mal worsted.) What a dream it is! When I'm away from Mal, I wonder what the big deal is, and then when I work with it again I can't imagine how I ever forgot! This is not to say that I think it is the be all and end all, but it makes a pretty persuasive argument.

Soon after the toe, I made my first major change to the
pattern. Looking at the first two repeats of the sock on the
left, the leaves are leaning one way or the other. I couldn't
take it and changed the pattern to have symmetric leaves.
I felt no need to take out what I had done to make it all
match.
I shopped around for a pattern as I mentioned here, and I really like the combination. I know a leaf pattern would traditionally be done in a green, but I like the look of this. It reminds me of white asparagus, or other blanched "green" things. But maybe that's just me.

I realized while making these socks that I seldom actually follow sock patterns. I would not be the person to ask if a pattern was any good. I read through the pattern and I mine from that what the author intended. And then I go off and do my own toe. Lately it's a short-row toe and for this pair I did my first Sherman toe--no wrapping and still no holes. I really like it. New default toe.

Once the toe is done, I start to follow the pattern, but soon have it memorized so I don't need to refer to the chart or instructions. By the time I get to the heel, I do my own heel (this time a Sherman heel--a lot like a Sherman toe), and then scoot up the leg making as many changes as necessary to make the pattern match better above the heel section and grow in circumference in proportion to my calf. And then I finish with lots of ribbing and my "invisible" kitchenered cast off. By that time the pattern has been long jettisoned and I am just having fun with a sock. "How was the pattern?" "Oh it was great," I'll say. "Just how I like to make a sock!" The only trouble might be if you didn't take enough notes to make the second sock match!

Can you see the Sherman heel? It has the classic look of a short row
heel with its diagonal turn line. But with no wraps at the turns, it's
more efficient to do and produces a less bulky result.

Going up the leg, I added an extra yarn over row after two repeats of the pattern. This added two stitches to each of the four needles and made the leaves a little larger. Two repeats later I did it again.

This was a very subtle and effective way to increase the circumference of the leg without breaking up the flow of the pattern. Normally I just change needle size, moving to larger needles as I go up the leg, but I like that I didn't have to give up any firmness of the fabric. I'm thinking that will decrease the likely hood of the socks sagging.

Once again, I finished with the "invisible" Kitchener bind off. (Yes, I'm still planning to put up a video, but it's not done yet.) I shouldn't even put quotes around "invisible." It really is. Those stitches look like they either come from nothing, or they go up and just stop, depending on which way you think the knitting is done. And it's good and stretchy too if you don't pull it too tight while you're doing it.

Another change I made was the way the leaves change. The original pattern just had one of the leaves fade into ribbing right in the middle of the leaf. It didn't work for me. So I added stitches in the purl field rather than with yarn overs and started ribbing as enough stitches were created. I think it came out great.

These were the socks that wouldn't stop--they went on forever. But the pattern is completely addicting. With a 10 row repeat, you were always either just starting or just finishing a leaf. Nothing like that to keep me going!

And I want to make sure my socks are good and long. I really hate cold feet, cold ankles, and cold legs! I find it drafty where I work (ok, I find it drafty everywhere), so I don't see the point in knitting my own socks too short!

Project Stats
Started
: 9 Mar '12
Finished: 27 Mar '12
Pattern: Spring Sprout by Jeannie Cartmel ($6)
Materials: Malabrigo sock, Ochre 803, all of a skein ($10)
I ended up with very little of the ball left, but I had measured the first sock (49 grams) and the remaining ball (51 grams) and figured I was ok. And I was...never a doubt in my mind.

Plus I had a back up plan just in case.

But I knew I wouldn't need it...
And now Mmmalibrigo March is over and all there is to do is wait to see if I won a prize. Oh yes! There are prizes. Yarny goodness!! I'll let you know...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Walk Wrap up

I'm one of those many people who needs to exercise more. And with this early spring (really, summer) weather, it's lovely to be outside. I thought to myself, if I can't get out and walk in this, then I may as well admit that I will never walk. I couldn't do that.

So I tricked myself into walking. I told myself that I would do simple knitting and would only be allowed to work on it while walking. I'm going to just time myself and turn around when I've been out 15 minutes. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that that will get me out for a 30 minute walk. Not the most extreme exercise, but better than sitting on the couch, right?

First day:
Second day:
Third day...dishcloth is done!
I don't meet too many people while walking (apparently not many people have thought of bribing themselves with knitting!) but it's interesting noting their reactions. I mean, I'm not a very outgoing overly-friendly person, but I know enough to greet people you meet on the street. (At least in a small town.) But the people younger than me avert their eyes and concentrate on walking by quickly...you can tell they were raised on a strong dose of "stranger danger." The ones my age or older at least smile, wave, or make some comment about the knitting.

For accountability's sake, first week = 4 walks.

I did allow myself to work in the ends while I wasn't walking and my first dish cloth is done:
This is also an interesting way to know how long something takes. This dish cloth was three days = 1.5 hours.

I'll be making a few more of these, but I've thought in the future I could make squares for blankets as well. If you have other ideas for what I can make with simple squares, leave a comment. I appreciate it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

UFO Night

We had another UFO last night with the ladies at church. I brought my Old Kentucky quilt again and finished another flower:
It was rough going as the fabric is thicker than most and the seam allowances were a little wider. This meant sewing through a lot of layers (and resulted in some pretty large stitches at times). I'm still happy to finish another little flower and very happy with the puckery texture that is developing as I get more done.

Another thing going on was a tutorial in melted crayon art. Julie showed us how to glue down crayons and then how to melt them with a hot air blower. (Hers was a craft tool, but you can use a blow drier.)
This sample from etsy seller TaltiriTavern.
Julie's version had a random colour layout.
The effects are pretty amazing. If you want more ideas, do a search on etsy or pinterest.

It was a fun night!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Quilting

I have a quilt I want to give away for a graduation present, so it really is time to get on it. Because when I say I have a quilt, I really mean that I have a backing, a batting, and a top. Those are the ingredients to a quilt, but not yet a quilt.

Time to put down the knitting (when I'm at home anyway), and work on some quilting...

First up is basting. I had a hard time gearing myself up for this last night, but I was able to get all army sergeant on my own ass and get going.

Since my living room has been rearranged, I had room to lay out this roughly queen sized quilt. First the backing.
I taped it down at the edges so that it wouldn't shift as I added new layers.

Then I added the batting.
I think this must be a new kind or variety, or at least something I haven't used before. It's from Warm and Natural and it's needle punched cotton. It feels soo soft. While I was smoothing it into position, I thought that maybe I could just wrap up the batting and give it as a blanket. So cozy soft! But no, that wouldn't do...

Finally, I added the pieced top:
This was a little trickier as I wanted to make sure that the center lines matched up. Since the backing was pieced, it would make a difference if it wasn't centered properly. This actually went more easily than I anticipated because I could just make out the seam line through the batting. (And I didn't worry about being exactly exact.)

And the final step of it all is to pin the whole thing. That was more than two hours of finger breaking work!!
But once I figured out where to place pins relative to the pattern, it became rather mindless and not so bad. I ran out of pins for the edges of last two sides, but I will get them later.
If you don't know this trick, try using a spoon next time you have a lot of pinning. You use it instead of your fingers to "catch" and push up the pointy end when it's coming through the quilt:
It saves your hand a lot of pain. That makes it easier to focus on your other hand which gets sore from pushing on the pins! ;) It's even better if you find one with a comfortable handle. I use an old "camping" spoon and after two hours, the handle is not my best friend. I'll have to keep an eye out for a better one. (You don't want to use your good cutlery as the pins will leave scratch marks.)

As a final step before I cleaned it off the floor and gained back the use of my living room, I marked a circle in the center to get me started:
Next up...actual quilting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Skirt of Many Colours

Be prepared for many pictures of my glorious skirt! And like Joseph's brothers when he got his coat of many colours, be prepared to be jealous! :) But unlike Joseph's brothers whose dad wouldn't get them a fancy coat too, you can make your very own skirt if you want one...

Once I finished working in all those ends, I got out the advertising board I use for blocking and my blocking wires and stretched it out to size.

I wanted to make sure that it would hang straight from my hips and not pull back in around my knees and cause the mermaid shape. It took a good tugging, but the wool can take it! I also had to pin each of the points on the hem to make sure they were as pointy as possible.
Don't worry--after seeing this picture, I fixed
the right side that is pulling in.
Once it was dry (which didn't take long), I put the skirt over the ironing board and steamed out the creases caused by the wires along both sides. This stuff really does block wonderfully.
Now my biggest problem is what to wear with it. Someone at Red Purl was astounded that I would think I had that problem. She figured with all those colours, "What couldn't I wear with it?!" But I am still having trouble.
Maybe this just means I don't have enough solid coloured shirts. It also has to be something that can be untucked and then hangs at the right height.

What will be an easy decision is what shoes to wear with it. I found these Missoni flats at Goodwill:
They still had the tags on them! I had to debate about the price because it was a little higher than what I like to pay. But I decided to go for it because they would suit the skirt so well. When I got to the register, the worker announced that they were half off! Score!
"What did you do this morning?" they ask me.
"Took pictures of my butt," I answer.
Knitting this project was completely addicting. The pattern was straight forward and with every other row nothing but knit, I always had some "down time" while knitting. I had to force myself to stop when I got to the right length because I would have been happy picking new stripe colours for quite a long time! I am very glad I changed it to a top down in-the-round knit. I see most knitters of the pattern on Ravelry are following suit.

When I reviewed the stats on my Ravelry page, I was very surprised to see that the skirt took two months to finish. I thought it was more like a few weeks! But then I remembered that it sat neglected for some time when I had to sew down the waist band, and then again when I had to work in the ends. (Poor thing!)
Superman pose!
Project Stats
Started
: 4 Jan '12
Finished: 10 Mar '12
Pattern: Zigzag Skirt by Sasha Kagan
Materials: Evilla Longad in A-17a Grey, A-30 Orange/Green Purple, A-80 Purple/Yellow/Green; A-8 Blue/Browns, Green from raveled American Eagle vest, Black from raveled RL Polo sweater ($41.44 for materials not leftover from other projects)

This is me picking the burrs out of my skirt. I noticed them as the shutter snapped. One of the hazards of taking pictures in the wild. Burrs are especially bad, but really everything likes to stick to wool. This is sturdy stuff though; it can take it.
In conclusion, all I can say is love love LOVE it!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Field Trip!

On Saturday my mom, Isaac, and I went to the Buchanan Art Center to see an exhibit of hooked rugs by two local rug hooking groups.
"Lunch" by Jane E Shimp
I am very interested in rug hooking and don't know why I haven't done more of it. (To date, I've done one rug with yarn (as opposed to strips of fabric) from a kit.) Oh yeah, probably because I spend all my time knitting...

The detail on some of the rugs was amazing:
"Complimentary Flowers" by Marge Collins
And on others, the simplicity and "primitive" nature was just as pleasing.
"Ma and Pa" by Ethel Hess
The majority of the projects were rugs (and actually used on a floor) or wall hangings.
"Antique Shoppe" by Miriam Jackson
But there were a few 3-D objects as well:
"Pumpkins" by Jane E Shimp
and a least one great example of a "carpet bag" in the literal sense.

There was a display of some of the materials and tools needed. The "automatic" rotary strip cutter is just great. I can imagine it would work just as well to cut fabric and tshirts into yarn for knitting. Hmm...I'll have to keep that in mind!

The art center had two other galleries which currently hold a show of wood carvings and another of mixed media. They were also worth a look.

If you're in the area, take a drive to Buchanan and check it out. Admission is free, and you can't beat that!

Walking up and down the main street was also worth it. Lots of used items for the home (furniture and decorator items) curated with a good eye. I especially liked Alan Robandt. This is not your small town junk shop! The store, Front, had a fun collection of new items in clothing, jewellery and pop art items. I may have been seduced into buying a new handbag...

The July-like weather didn't hurt for making it a very pleasant way to spend a day!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Picto-travelogue

Where we started the day--a mass of potential.
1:29 pm EST On the bus...we have a toe! My first Sherman short
row toe. It's pretty slick; more details may come later.

2:34 pm CST I finish the first repeat of the pattern
before getting to the airport.
While waiting at the airport, I put down my knitting (there's only so much sock knitting I can do in a row...for my left wrist and hand, not for boredom!) and read the spring Vogue issue.
3:41 pm CST  I wonder if this Chanel dress is knit.
If it is, could I recreate it (with smaller sleeves).
If it isn't, what is it??

3:42 pm CST A quilted jacket in Vogue; and
it's neither frumpy nor dumpy!

4:18 pm CST Advertising for Italian cashmere. (You
all know cheap Chinese cashmere is evil, right? Staving
goats, degraded landscape, massive dust storms, you get
the idea.) Is it just me or is that right sweater kind of frumpy?
There were more on the following pages. Also frumpy.
Is frumpy in?

7:25 pm EST Back on the bus, I try the sock on for
the first time! (I know, I know, flash is evil. But the
bus was dark.)

9:29 pm EST End of the bus ride. I am just about
half done the heel (a Sherman again), which means
I am almost symbolically half way!!
Since no picture could convey it, let me add that Malabrigo Sock is a dream of smooshy softness and I still have very, very high expectations for these socks. It is like creamy butter; like golden honey (if honey came in a non-sticky version); like a little piece of woolly heaven. :sigh:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ends and Beginnings

I finished the knitting on my ZigZag skirt on leap day. Here is a glimpse of the garter band I used to finish the bottom.
It came out a little longer than I was planning but I just couldn't stop! (Just one more colour, I kept thinking.)

And then I got attacked by the Pink Tshirt and didn't pick up the skirt again until tonight. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the many inches of ends facing me:
Two ends to work in for each stripe. It would have been more if I hadn't used the grey all the way down.

Tonight I started at the bottom and worked in the half that need to be sewn to the left. I don't know if this looks any better:
but that is only half as many to sew in. Once I make it to the top, I will flip the skirt over and work in the other half in the opposite direction. It's a good way to feel like you're making more progress and you don't have to flip the skirt over all the time.

Tomorrow I am meeting Isaac at the airport and I realized that I did not have a suitable project to bring along. Oh sure, I could have worked on the second (thicker) hat for Troy that I bought yarn for last week, or I could have worked on the cowl I was designing but then dropped like a hot potato. I could have even started some cotton dish cloths that I need to make. But no, no, no.

Instead, I search Ravelry tonight and bought a new sock pattern and gathered up some tools so I could start them tomorrow. I'm using my first Malabrigo sock and have high hopes for them.
It's a little risky to only take one project along (if you hit an insurmountable road block, you're stuck with nothing to do!) but I'm going to take that chance. Troy thinks I'm a gambling knitter; I may as well live up to his expectations!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I Blinked

I have had quite a day of productive knitting. I took care of a couple household chores this morning, but by 11:30 I was knitting and by 1:30 I had decided that was what was on the docket for the rest of the day and I was going to stop feeling bad about all the other things that wouldn't get done. And except for some short breaks and a time out to make and eat supper, that is what I did until about 9:00. Yup, more than eight hours of knitting and catching up on "Bones" on Netflix. A good day.

So what was I working on? The body of my pink tshirt with the big bias collar. In my last post, I mentioned that I would probably show pictures of a fitting the next time you saw this shirt, but it's not quite long enough for that. Instead, I had my pillow model it:

You can see that I finished the raglan shaping, split off the sleeve stitches and in fact have started the gradual waist shaping. Trying it on was an adventure of figuring out how the collar should sit, but it also indicated that it is fitting good. It's the right size and seems to be proportioned properly. I am going to have to lengthen it as much as I can (as my patience and yarn will allow) and most of this will happen in the waist area.

Some raglan style sweaters do not have you add any stitches under the arms when you split off the sleeve stitches. I have never found this to fit very well and was relieved to find that this pattern called for some additional stitches to be cast on.

Since these stitches will be picked up and knit for the sleeves, I went ahead and used a provisional cast on so that the underarm will be completely seamless. Some parts of a garment (like a shoulder) can benefit from a good seam for structure and other reasons, but underarms are a good place to have a lot of stretch. (I'm sure you can recall a time of hearing that seam ripping "popping" noise as you have taken your arm out of a sleeve the wrong way. It's not good.)

I did some knitting on this shirt last night as well and that was when I finally "did the numbers" and weighed the pink ball I was working with. It wasn't good--I had already used two thirds and wasn't nearly far enough.

I looked around on Ravelry to see if someone had the same dyelot for sale, you know, just in case. And someone did! She had one of my dyelot and two of unknown dyelots. I went ahead and sent her a message to ask about price, you know, just in case. She responded this morning and said she had just listed them the day before I wrote her and wasn't I quick like a bunny. She gave a very good price and was able to tell me that the two mystery balls do not match the known dyelot.

As I was knitting today, I reached the end of my first (of three) balls before I even got to the underarm. I realized I was staring at the very real possibility of not having enough yarn. And it was staring back at me. I kept knitting even as I joined the second ball (with a very neat Russian join when my braid join didn't work), thinking that I could wait and see if I could stare the monster down. But then I blinked. I couldn't let that one ball that showed up on Ravelry get away. I sent a message to its current owner and said I'll take it! I'll take it!

I may gamble at times, but sometimes you have to know when to fold them.

Now, I hope four balls is enough...

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