Friday, May 30, 2014

Fix it Friday: When I Missed a Stitch

Back when I was working on the yoke of the Mesa, I noticed a mistake rows and rows after it was done. When I got to the next row with increases, there was one section with the wrong number of stitches. After some investigation, I realized I hadn't picked a stitch on the previous increase row or had dropped the yarn over. Same difference: I didn't have the right number stitches.

After briefly considering ripping out the whole wedge, I decided to take a more selective approach. I raveled just the section I need to reknit:
This is one section between consecutive increases. I could have just undone one or two stitches, but since I was adding an additional stitch, I needed extra yarn to make that stitch. If you don't spread that out over a larger area, you can see the column of too-tight stitches.

Once undone, I put the stitches on a dpn of appropriate size (making sure to pick up the yarn over I originally missed!)
and literally started knitting those rows between the existing stitches. Instead of using yarn from the ball to make new stitches, I used one of the long strands between existing stitches. Just make sure to use them in the right order!
Since I was using dpns, at the end of each "row" I could just slide the stitches back to the right end and knit (or purl as appropriate) the next row without turning the work!
This is the middle of a purl row. (Since I was working
garter stitch from one side of the work, I had to
alternate knit and purl rows.) You can just make out
the strand at the front of the work that I am using to
make new stitches.
Keeping going...almost there!
You can see the column of stitches on the left edge
are a little loose and form a noticeable line, but this
will completely disappear with blocking. (Don't we
all love blocking!)
Once I had knit up all the rows, I could transfer the stitches back to the main needles I was using and continue merrily on. I saved myself a lot of knitting!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Wool-Aid: A Charity Organization After My Own Heart

I've finally found a knitting charity group that fits with my knitting. Not that I haven't tried before.

Back in 2008 when I was just getting back into knitting, I worked with a group on Ravelry ("Caps for a Cure") that knit hats for various cancer centers. (They changed the center every two months.) It was fun to make hats in various patterns, but I found it very constricting to work with cottons and acrylics. They claimed they were less irritating to bald (and possibly sensitive) heads. Maybe that is true. But they just aren't as warm and they are materials that bring me no pleasure to work with. So after six hats in four months, I never made another one.

I am at times tempted to knit items for other charities that I hear about (homeless shelters, womens shelters, people too poor to have hats and mittens), but again they seem to all want acrylic or easy wash items and I just can't make myself work with that stuff. (Besides feeling icky, it literally makes my hands hurt.) I also have conflicted feelings about how much the stuff is really needed.

But through the Unravelers Group on Ravelry, I found out about Wool-Aid. Here's a description from their website:
Wool-Aid has helped warm children around the world—from North America to Asia. Warm woolen clothing handcrafted by Wool-Aid volunteers has been sent to children in northern Canada, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Tibet. 
What do these places have in common?
Simply put, all of these places are extremely cold, and the people who live there have extraordinary needs and very limited resources. In most of these countries, the temperatures are often -40° in the winter—or even colder! Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tibet, Kazakhstan, and northern Canada all have very harsh winters, and the populations often suffer from a lack of food, shelter, medical care, and clothing. And it is the children who suffer the most. 
Children are our focus, and providing them with knitted and crocheted wool clothing that can keep them warm, even in the most severe living conditions, is one thing that we can do. We can't do everything, but we can do something—and this is what Wool-Aid has chosen. 
We know that our handcrafted clothing will have a long lifespan in these communities. A wool sweater, for example, will not only keep one child warm for a winter season, but over a period of many years, it will keep several children warm.
They donate items made from wool (insisting on at least 80% wool content) because it keeps you warm (even when wet) and wears well. They also want items designed for warmth--hats that can be pulled low or that cover the ears, sweaters and vest that fully cover the chest and aren't open in front, and everything must be knit denser than normal to make a really firm, warm fabric.

Anyway, a lot of what the group stands for and how they handle things really resonated with me. Plus the group on Ravelry is really friendly and chatty.

Their goals this year are to donate: 2,700 hats, 1,300 pairs of socks, 800 sweaters, 600 vests, 400 pairs of mittens, and 100 blankets. That is a lot of woolens!!

Since I have made myself enough socks that I could give away four pair to my mom and sisters last Christmas but I am still enjoying knitting socks, I thought I could knit socks for Wool-Aid instead. I plan on making these socks my take-along project for any knitting I do away from the house (which is when I did most of my own sock knitting). Socks are portable and I think most of them will be basic ribs socks so I won't need to follow a pattern. (Ribbed socks are handy because they will fit a wider range of sizes.)

Last week I finished my first pair:
I had some who-knows-from-where worsted grey wool, but I didn't think it would be quite enough. So I supplemented it with some leftover Lorna's Laces for the contrasting toes, heels and cuffs.

I started at the toes, like I usually do
continuing though the short row heel (and a short gusset that only added three stitches on each side).
And ended with the contrasting cuffs.
I finished the 2x2 rib with a couple rows of 1x1 before doing a Kitchener bind off. I used every inch of the grey wool. (It looks a bit blue in the pictures, but it's grey.)

They just fit my feet so they will do for an older/bigger kid.
The guidelines state that the leg of the socks needs to match the length of the foot. These ones fulfill the requirement, but they seemed a bit short when I wore them. I think stretching out around the leg takes away from the length. Just to be sure, I'll make the leg a little longer on the next pair.

Speaking of the next pair, I have already started them:
The grey wool is from a Abercrombie and Fitch sweater. (Troy wore it for a number of years. Then it got some sizeable holes from moth damage. I mended the holes, but sometime this winter, we noticed there were more holes and gave up on the sweater. When I looked again at the mending, I can't believe I thought it was good enough for Troy to wear.)

When I tried to take it apart for raveling, I learned it had the dreaded cut seams. The side seams and sleeve seams were ok, but where the sleeves were sewn onto the body was cut--on both the sleeves and the front and back. This meant I couldn't harvest anything but what was below the armholes. The good news is that most of the moth damage was above the armholes. That worked out nicely.

I thought it would do well for socks. I'm holding it double to get the worsted weight they want, and I thought I would add a strand of sock yarn for strength. I picked up some Premier Yarns Serenity Sock which is half wool, but also 25% nylon and 25% rayon. Yes, it's blue. I thought it was grey when I bought it, ok? Never mind how bad the store lights are, apparently I couldn't read the text that said "Navy." Anyway, I think it gives a nice marled look:
You can see that I've decided to do them two at a time. I didn't feel like taking notes or worrying about getting them to match. In this case I'm pulling yarn from the inside and outside of each skein. I spend more time than usual straightening out the yarn, but it's a good break for my hands. (Even in wool, knitting worsted+ weight in a dense gauge is hard on my hands.) They wouldn't tangle quite so much if the sock yarn would keep its shape. As soon as I took off the label, it transformed into a little poufball (reminds me of a Tribble from Star Trek). But oh well, I am managing fine even it it means I can't knit a row or two while standing in a line.

This type of project seems to be just what I need right now. I don't seem to have the room in my brain for a big project, but this will at least keep me knitting. And it may make a nice dent in the worsted weight and raveled yarns that I have in the stash! We'll see what kind of creative combinations I can come up with. (Even if both socks so far have been grey...)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mesa Update: Undoing, Ends, and Blocking

In the last week, I have undone the neckline folded picot hem:
I ran out of blue and finished the hem with white. It was
on the inside so not visible anyway, and meant the
Kitchener stitching matched the original stitching and
was less likely to show through.
 That was a lot of Kitchener to undo. Phew!

I ripped out the knitting to just below where I originally added the holes for the picot edge, picked up the stitches, and did a bind off row in the blue. Not too tight, but not too loose either so the edge had some structure. The yoke and shoulders of this sweater were going to need all the help they could get.

Then it was time to deal with the ends.
There were a lot of those in a tight space up on the one shoulder. The pattern called for the same yarn to be used where I added all the different colours, so I only have myself to blame for this. But a little careful work and all of those were taken care of.

Then time for a bath and block. I soaked the sweater overnight because I didn't have time in the same evening to soak it and block it. I was surprised to learn recently that alpaca (or was it cashmere?) needs to soak overnight to get fully saturated. Important for dyeing and blocking. Anyway, I figured overnight wouldn't hurt this wool any either.
I then laid it out with blocking wires. I had debated with myself about whether to block it "straight" or follow the lines of the knitting. (Compare the shape above to this picture:
Big difference, right?)

Obviously I went with blocking it "straight." I had to pull the right shoulder pretty firmly but not too bad. I later realized I could have pulled the left side seam down to make the bottom hem straighter and will probably try that next time I block it. I think a sloping hem works with this sweater, so I don't really mind.

I tried it on when it was dry and it feels wonderful. No longer feels awkward or twisted on me. And I think it looks fabulous. I am so happy with it. Pictures of the finished piece on me will come when I get a chance...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wackadoodle, but the Colours Line Up Beautifully

I have been working steadily on my Mesa. It's the only project I have going (not counting the socks for taking with me everywhere) and I want to have it done for a trip I'm taking in June. So, yes, progress.

Working with the colour changing yarn has given me some challenges as I try to make it match and "lightly" control where the colours land.

At some point I needed a little green and burgundy for the second sleeve and didn't have any left. I thought about dyeing some of the light grey and trying to match, but didn't have the confidence that I could get it to match (and I didn't have any purple KoolAid when I was on fire to get it done).

Then I remembered I had some wool for embroidery in a variety of colours. I got out the bag and found a burgundy and green that would work. It was too thin and I thought about just stranding it as I went but I decided to spin it because I thought I would be able to better blend from one colour to the next.

I took the yarn and Navaho-plied it making it a three-ply yarn:
 I soaked the yarn and wrapped it around my niddy-noddy to set the twist.
You can see the colour blend I was able to achieve above. I started with just the green, and then at some point I started spinning one strand of burgundy with two of green. Then it was two burgundy with one green, and finally three strands of burgundy.

The yarn is a little different than the rest I was using. I think it's the same thickness, but it's smoother and less hairy so it has a much better stitch definition. Also the colour blend is definitely not like the other yarn. It almost looks pixelated. But it's more blended than a sudden switch, so I'll be happy with it.
(I also worked hard on that yellow section. I ended up ripping out the first arrangement and re-knitting it, using the yarn blending from brown to yellow after the yellow to "fake" the green colour.

Right side, good. Left side, bad. :(
Before finishing the sleeves, I had to do the neckline so I could measure properly. (I made the sleeve lengths match along the outside edge since I didn't think the underarms started at the same point.) I did a folded hem with a picot fold line.

I really like the look, but it's not sitting properly. It's lovely on one side but won't stop standing up on the other! I can't figure out why. (Besides the general observation that the two shoulders are very different and the whole sweater is biased.) I now have to decide whether to take it out now and redo it or to block it first (hoping that it will "block out") and risk having to redo it after blocking. Time for some research on Ravelry for other projects that modified the neckline. (It was designed with a long cowl but I know I've seen some others without it.)

Here's the whole project fresh off the needles:
What a hot mess, isn't it!!? But check out how I got the colours to mostly line up across the sleeves. I'm really enjoying that.

Here are a few quick shots while I tried it on (hoping--in vain--that the neckline would work out better on the body)



I was tempted to make it longer but I only have enough of the lightest brown for a couple more rows and that hardly seems worth it. I like the length when I'm standing normally, but with the low armholes, the sweater rides way up when I lift my arms. I think I'm just going to have to not lift my arms. (That sounds totally possible, right?)

But I think the next thing I'll do on this is work in all those ends. Choosing to do a different colour in between all of the yoke wedges caused a lot of extra ends, plus all the ones from manipulating the colours through the rest of the sweater. One of the less glamourous parts of knitting, but oddly relaxing and satisfying in its own way. And it will give me time to think about how to tackle that neckline and gear myself up for blocking this thing. (More decisions: force it into a regular sweater shape or follow the knit shape??)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Brioche Cowl - AIDS Walk Prize

Not too long after the Walk, I finished up the cowl I was working on to give as a prize. I would have gladly knit on it until the yarn ran out because it is so wonderful to work with, but at some point you have to stop. (So they tell me.)

Before blocking, it measured 11" long and was 15" wide at the cast on edge and 12.5" at the cast off edge. I blocked it to 16" long and 13.5" wide. The cast on edge still was wider than the cast off, but I kind of like that the one edge is tighter than the other. I find it gives you different options for arranging the cowl around your neck.
Doubled with the tight edge rolled over
to the outside.
Doubled with the tight edge rolled over
 to the inside.
Not doubled, with the loose side pulled
over your head first.
Ok, when it's cold enough, it can double
as a snood. I know, even that word
makes it unfashionable. But I like
to be warm, and if this is what it will
take, I will do it.
And, I realized as I was trying it on,
it is big enough to be pulled down as a
sort of capelet. For those who can pull
off this look.
The loose edge on this one was a little too loose for my taste and next time I think I'll do the provisional cast on, start the brioche right away, and then come back later to do the ribbing rows and cast off. That way both edges will be neater.

Project Stats
Started
: 5 Apr '14
Finished: 6 May '14
Pattern: My own
Materials: 100 grams of cobweb weight cashmere from an Old Navy sweater ($3.50)
I had the idea of a big bulky cowl out of this cashmere and was surprised not to see any patterns that fit the bill on Ravelry. So I had to make one up.

I chose brioche stitch because it is very thick and cushy, and done on big enough needles it is still light and airy.

It was a gamble on how many stitches to do. (I think I did actually do a small gauge swatch before I started.) It turned out about what I wanted--bigger than a neck-hugger and smaller than a long double-wrap loop. It won't fit easily inside the neck of a coat (which is how I tend to wear cowls and scarves), but it's a big bulky cowl--it's not supposed to. It's got enough size and bulk to be worn outside a coat and make a statement.

I was able to deliver the cowl to the drawing winner on Sunday. Congratulations, again, Clair! And good luck to the rest of you next year!! :)

Pattern Notes:
I used four strands of cobweb (or lace) weight cashmere (100 grams) and size 3.75 mm (US 5) needles.

Cast on 110 sts. [I can’t remember the name for it, but I did a provisional cast on over a waste yarn, and then K1, P1 the first round. Later I just extracted the waste yarn.]
1x1 rib for a total of 4 rounds.
Start brioche stitch in the round til it is long enough (11" pre-blocking in my case.)
Then 1x1 rib for 4 rounds.
Cast off with Kitchener bind off [or your favourite stretchy bind off].

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fix It Friday: Mending Socks

I learned to darn socks in grade school using the weaving method. It's not exactly something I enjoy and I don't really like the result, but it works. But recently I read a great post about different ways you could mend a sock. One of them involved knitting (as in knitting a patch over the spot). That appealed to me a lot more.

Then I happened to ask my sister how the socks I gave her in December were working out. :significant pause: Then she said that they had a big hole ripped in them and I should never give her socks again because she doesn't deserve them. Since I was coming home soon, I told her to save the socks and I would see what I could do. I tracked down the left over yarn from the socks and took it with me.

After our conversation, I started to think about which particular socks I gave her and I remembered that I had problem with that yarn being moth-eaten in spots. Of course I repaired/extracted all the bad spots I found, but there was a good chance that I just missed one and the hole wasn't my sister's fault at all!

When I got the socks, I discovered that the "huge hole" was not so big. (She was smart enough not to continue wearing them once they were holey.) And it looks to me more likely caused by evil insects and not the wayward nail at her desk at work.
I put a small dessert bowl in the sock so I could see what I was doing and had some room in which to work. I could see a few stitches that had come undone and the two ends of the strand that had been eaten apart. But they were so short, there was nothing I could do with them as they were.

The first thing I did was put the stitches I could see onto some dpns so they didn't ravel further. I then picked one of the strands and undid it as I followed its path exactly with a needle and new strand of yarn:
I'm pulling out the existing strand to the left, but only
after I've inserted the needle so I can follow it with the
mending yarn.
In this way I was able to duplicate the knitting while making the end long enough to work with.
Now I have a long end (held by my fingers) that I can work in.
The other strand is the end of the mending yarn. I've already
threaded the needle on the other end of the mending yarn
so I can begin closing the hole.
Then I "sewed" (or Kitchenered) the two sides of the hole together. There were only two or three stitches on each side. I did the best I could matching what I thought should be knit stitches and purl stitches, but it may not have been perfect.
 Here the hole is closed and secure:
 but now I have another too-short end at the other side (held by my fingers).

So I repeated the process of undoing the short end, while following its path with the needle to replace it with the mending yarn. After a few stitches, I had a long enough end to work with on this side too:
I then worked in three of the ends on the inside of the sock. I noticed that the central spine of the sock design didn't quite line up (you can see it in the picture above), so I took the mending yarn still on the needle and duplicate stitched over a short section of the "spine" to correct the mismatched stitch.

Et voila:
You can hardly see the patch and the sock should be good as new.

For some reason darning is a lot more interesting to me when I can knit it, even if the "knitting" is done with a darning needle. I'll try to keep this in mind as I expect more of my own socks will start to wear out.

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