Sunday, August 30, 2009

Time for Class

The time is right for another class at Red Purl!

I am teaching a slipper class on Thursday Sep 10 and 24, 6 - 7:30 pm.

The slippers are knit flat in garter stitch (no purling) and then shaped by a final seam.

By changing the number of stitches you use, you can use the same pattern to make any size!

An easy project to take with you anywhere (or to knit at home while watching all the fall premieres of your favourite shows), slippers make a great gift.

If interested, stop in at Red Purl or check out the website.
PS Rumour has it that the class is about half full...make sure to reserve your spot.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Here We Go Loop-de-Loop

I've been working on the girl's pinwheel cardigan/wrap lately. I started it quite some time ago (a couple months, let's say) when I needed something easy to take with me. Then it got put aside while I worked on more exciting things.

I've picked it up again recently, partly to get at least one of my many projects done! The body is done and I am slowly making my way around the circumference with a fancy edging.

The cardigan is knit as a big circle, starting from the center:
Two slits are left open to add sleeves later. If you can't quit picture how that circle turns into a cardigan, maybe this will help:
The part on the left folded back is the collar. The center of the circle lands in the middle of the back. Did that help at all?

The fancy edging is something I've not seen before. It uses I-cord in creative way. How to do it? Well, let's start at the beginning...

What's an I-cord? It's a tubular cord knit on straight double pointed needles, usually only 3 or 4 stitches wide (or around). It was dubbed I-cord because that sounds a little nicer than Idiot cord. (EZ so called it thinking that it was so easy an idiot could do it.)

This I-cord has three stitches, and here they are ready to be knit:
Now they've been knit and are at the left edge of your right needle:
You then just slide the stitches to the right side of the same needle:
The yarn is coming from the left-most stitch. You just pull it to the right (behind your work), knit the first stitch with it, and then knit the rest of the row. (And now you're at picture number 2 again; and repeat.)

The yarn you pulled around the back is what makes it a tube. You'd think it would be a loose stitch along the back but it's not! Here's the view from the back:
It looks pretty much like the front! Magic. But that's because you're knitting a tube. If you ever try this and the loop along the back is loose, then just give the bottom of the cord a good tug (I'd recommend holding firmly to your needle while doing so) and that will straighten it all out.

Ok, so now you know how to make an I-cord. After knitting your last row of whatever you want to edge, you knit the next three stitches onto a dpn (not your working needle) and make an I-cord. This pattern called for 6 rows, but I didn't think that was loopy enough, so I've been doing 10 rows.

After 10 (or 6) rows, you put the stitches from the I-cord directly behind the next three stitches on the working needle:
Insert your needle through the first stitches on both the working needle and the dpn:
Knit the two stitches together. Repeat for the second and third stitch. Now make an I-cord out of those three stitches.

And just repeat and repeat and repeat. Yes, it is going on for quite a long time.
But you can't get this particular fancy edging any other way. And so I press on...

I think it's a pretty robust edging for a child's garment. It has an effect not unlike a lace edging, but is much sturdier.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pioneer T-Shirt

My Pioneer is finished and I have been wearing it all over town. It fits like a dream.

I got to debut it at the summer Sip n Knit meeting last week. As I recall, three of us had them done and on and more were getting close. (Didn't have my camera, but there's talk of a "Pioneer Get Together" later when more are done. I'll snap something then.)

It's knit from a washable wool. The wool has been very comfortable (not itchy at all) and not too hot even on warm days. (Naturally, I didn't try it on hot days.) The washability will make it a very easy care item and allow me to wear it worry-free all the time.

The back is decorated with three columns of narrow cables.
The same cables run down the side seams:
This is where I made my biggest modification. I tried on the shirt when I was just below the sleeve opening (remember I started at the shoulder) and it was way too tight under the arms. So I took it out and then cast on 6 stitches on each side to widen the sleeve opening there.

I'm not sure if that means I cast on too small a size but everything else seems to fit ok so I'm just going with it. If I did cast on too small a size, however, it could explain why my V neck is a lot higher than most others'. (But again, I'm just going with it.)

The neckline is finished with a crochet edging:
The pattern wanted you to alternate a single crochet (sc) with 5 half double crochet (hdc), but that didn't produce enough of a scallop for me. So I shorted the sc to a slip stitch and lengthen the hdc's to double crochets. I liked that a lot more. I also did a row of slip stitch around the edge first which helped to neaten up the selvage edge a lot.

I chose shorter sleeves for my T (10 rows vs the 14 in the pattern) and shortened the edging as well to maintain the balance.

As I said, the shirt wears very well. I have been having some trouble finding colours to wear with it. White is definitely out as it makes the shirt look down right grubby. (This is just an excuse to buy more clothing, isn't it?)Project Stats
Started: 21 Jun 09
Finished: 1 Aug 09
Pattern: Pioneer from (free)
Materials: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport Multi in Michigan Cherry Blossom, 4 skeins @ $11 = $44

Not to be blunt, but I don't think this is the nicest looking garment I've ever made. As I was looking at pictures I took of me in it, I could tell there are times it makes me look downright frumpy. And I'm still not convinced variegated yarn is the best for garments. In this shirt in particular, the lines of horizontal colour seem to conflict with the vertical lines of the cables.

That being said, it was a lot of fun making it with the other "Red Purl ladies." And since the colour was dyed just for Amy at Red Purl, I'm very happy I used it. (And not to be misleading, let me state I do like the pink, green and brown combination.) I would make my Pioneer again, and in the same yarn.

There is more to a project than the final product!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Michigan Fiber Festival (2009): What I Got

Now that I've told you all about the Fiber Fest, are you wondering what I actually got? You might be surprised...

I've been hankering for some mohair to make this very sweet little item
from Glamour Knits by Erica Knight which I snagged at Big Lots for $5. (I thought that was a killer steal til I found out that this particular pattern is available for free. But the book is inspiring to look through and has other patterns I like so I won't cry over it.) Back to the mohair, it was nothing urgent, but I was just keeping my eyes open...

And what I found was this beautiful bundle of gorgeousness:
dyed by Betty Todd out of White Cloud, MI. I love the colour even though it's not one I wear a lot. Of course, I don't wear a lot of fuzzy either so this will be "out of the box" for me. I think it is, however, perfect for the pattern and I'm looking forward to making it.
I especially love the ruffled fake placket. Can't wait!

The other thing I got a the fair wasn't from a vendor. Remember I mentioned that Amy bought a spinning wheel? Well, it came with all sorts of accessories, some of which duplicated what she already had. Like a ball winder. She mentioned it to me, knowing I kind of wanted one, and we struck a deal.
I set it up the next day and put it to work on some yarn I had laying around from a sweater ravelling session.
My ad hoc set up worked pretty well and let me work while sitting on the couch. Can't beat that! It's meant to be used in tandem with a swift, and my tinker toy swift worked great.

In case you're wondering what the big deal is (after all, I can wind balls by hand, can't I?), the ball winder turns skeins of yarn into nice neat center pull yarn cakes. (I call them cakes; that might be a misappropriated quilting term for a certain cut of fabric. I'm not sure)
I say, "Ta da!"

Center pull balls are a lot nicer to work with while you're knitting because the ball sits still and doesn't try to roll around the whole room. (Or all around my knitting bag, tangling itself with everything.) And they just feel more professional.

The only issue I noticed with this ball winder is that it doesn't have room for very big yarn cakes.
I got about 100 g of this bulky yarn wound but then the guide started hitting the ball itself. You need the pin to put the yarn in the right place as the ball turns around on its tilted axis. I was able to cheat by holding my fingers very steady and guiding the yarn by hand. Troy says he can extend the pin out for me so we may pursue that.

And that takes me back to my 1000 yards of mohair. I haven't decided if that would be a bigger cake than 100 g of bulky or smaller. I may just ask Amy if I can do it at the store, just in case. (Winding it off of the hank may be an adventure in itself because mohair loves to stick to itself. Could be a lot of "fun" doing that!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Michigan Fiber Festival (2009): Animals

While some of us prefer to buy our wool off the animal, some prefer to go right to the source. There were a number of local alpaca, sheep, and goat farmers with animals to show, register, and even sell. The person I bummed a ride off of was looking for something but didn't end up finding anything quite to her liking.

Viewing the animals was a lot like going to the fair, but with only animals that were good for fiber.

First thing we happened on was a herding dog demonstration by Tim Curts of Crowded Byre Farm. He was working with a dog that was good at most of the skills but didn't work too hard to be perfect. He kept Tim on his toes.
They had a very sweet border collie he was giving away because it just couldn't learn sheep herding. Amy had a hard time letting it go. (She couldn't take a second dog...and don't look at me! I'm not getting one.)

There were a slew of angora rabbits (mostly white) from a breeder in St Louis. (Not quite local, but it's a bit easier to pack and cart a bunch of rabbits than the larger animals!) They were big, and then looked twice as big because of the fluff factor. This one was having its fur combed out. (I guess you could also think of it as "harvesting" the fur.)
Most were going for about $100; large males were $125.

There were about half a dozen pens with alpaca. Unfortunately they were all shorn so I didn't get to admire their locks.
They all appeared pretty friendly (if a little shy). There were several in this beautiful caramel colour. And their "mop top" hairdos are completely endearing. (These were going for $400 each, if you're curious.)

There were a lot of varieties of goats. I made no effort to keep them straight. This one was quite an individual. Not afraid of the camera and in fact appeared to be preening and posing.
You can tell she's thinking, "That's right...I look goood."

We caught the tail end of a judged event. (Think Westminster Dog Show.) The four little goats being shown also thought they looked pretty good. The light one in this pic acted like a little princess, but the dark one took home the prize.
From there we could see the youngest festival participants: these two kids were born just the night before!
Momma was very proud and protective, but she let us take a few pictures.

Then we got some serious hair:
Poor curly locks could hardly see!

And then some curly horns:
Coming from a commercial farming background (as opposed to hobby farming) where we had one type of chicken (the most common layers), Angus cows for meat, the most common sheep variety, and friends had only Holsteins, etc., it's very interesting to go to a gathering like this and see just how many varieties are available. But of course, what type you get is determined by what you need. (My parents, for instance, had no need for a long-haired goat.)

I still had no yearning to get one for myself. (Thank goodness.) It was a little more exciting to think that my ride might take one home in the back of her truck. But she was in no rush and saw no bargains or must-haves.

And now, before I sign off, let me remind you of the final National Geographic page where they show one great picture that for some reason just didn't quite make it into one of the stories included in the magazine. It didn't fit with the article, but they can't not print it. With that in mind, I give you my bulgy-eyed sheep:
He moved a little and blurred my picture, but I still can't resist showing him off. (And no, he's not scared, he's just bulgy-eyed!)

Hope you've enjoyed the post; not a lot of info, but I hope the pictures let you experience some of the animal fun I had. Well, I guess I have one tip that I learned from a sheep owner: think "cat," not "dog" while petting a sheep. That is to say, pet down the side of the neck, or behind the back of the head; not on the nose.

Now you know for the next time you meet a sheep and want to say hi correctly.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Michigan Fiber Festival (2009): What You'll See

Earlier this week I was invited (or I may have invited myself--but let's not quibble about it) to the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan. I jumped at the chance and had a fabulous time today. It was my first time to any kind of fiber festival and went without too many expectations.

There were a lot of vendors, and animals, and demonstrations. Here's some of what I saw today:
You could buy fleeces in a very raw state, washed but not treated in any other way. Basic sheep wool was around $10/lb while alpaca was closer to $30-$35/lb. You could get any colour you want as long as it was a white, brown, or grey/black.
I saw my first drum carder being demonstrated. I can really see how this would beat using a couple paddles. (Cue "significant" music...Christina's getting tempted...) Or if you didn't want to card your own you could buy roving:
Most vendors had it rolled up into nice balls. These ones happen to have been dyed, but many were still in their natural state. A lot of it ran about $2/oz. (That was alpaca, I think.)

There were spinning wheel vendors who would gladly let you try it out:
In fact, the person I went up with found a used wheel in the very model she was looking for and snatched it up right quick!

Or if smaller tools are more to your liking, you could get any number of beautiful spindles:And of course, if you want to skip all of that (like me), you could also buy yarn, yarn and more yarn:
There was a lot of really nice stuff! I limited myself to one item, but more on that in a future post...

There was also a vendor with traditional rug hooking:
I am really drawn to this and will probably get into it when we actually have floors (or walls) that I'm willing to dress up with rugs. These are done with strips of wool fabric. (There was another vendor showing locker hooking with roving. Also nice, but the pattern is a lot less distinct.)

I found a vendor of leather straps and other accessories for purse making. I just fell in love with this bag:
It was huge, like really huge. But beautiful. And then she showed me the inside and it was lined with red suede of the softest kind. Really really beautiful and I coveted it. I didn't, however, even ask the price. It was really huge. What would you use it for? When I mentioned the [rather overwhelming] size, the lady mentioned they carried their cash machine in it on another trip. Ok, but, um, I don't usually carry a cash machine with me...

But it really was beautiful. A work of art. (Once again, if I had walls worth dressing up...)

And the final thing I have to show you are buttons:
The picture will show you how pretty they are. Colourful and large sized for big bulky knits. What the picture doesn't tell you is that they are all made from unused optical lenses! Being an optician, myself, I was very intrigued. The designer, Maggie Joy (out of Chicago, but she doesn't have a website), also makes lovely earrings and shawl pins, but I resisted. It was all a little out of my budget right now. But gorgeous, without a doubt.

And that about wraps up what I saw for vendors, products and the like. Soon I will post all the animals that were there.

Prepare yourself for much cuteness!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pioneer Socks Ready to Walk

As I announced during my travelogue, my Pioneer Socks are done! I finally have them blocked and have taken some glamour shots...
Project Stats
Started: 9 Jun 09
Finished: 22 Jul 09
Pattern: Denise's Toe-up Socks (free)
Materials: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Michigan Cherry Blossom, 2 skeins ( $0--trade for services)
In general, the variegated colour striped up nicely. There is one spot you can see on the right sock leg where there is a sudden change to wide stripes, but what can you do? In the end, the colours do not match my Pioneer Tshirt very closely, but I like the socks as they are.

I followed a tutorial type pattern for the sock and added the 2-stitch cables (or "twists") to match the twists on the Pioneer Tshirt. The heel is very basic. It turned out rather blocky since it has no subtle shaping or curves. It also turned out rather tall. But that's better than short! There's no pulling over the top of my ankle (opposite the heel) which is very good.
The twist pattern on the top of the foot was added to the back of the sock after the heel. If I had thought the pattern out thoroughly, I would have started the twists on the heel flap, but as it is, I just started them when the heel was done and I started knitting around the leg.

When I got to the top of the leg (near the end of my yarn supply) I switched to a 2x2 rib, arranging it so I could continue the twists on two knit stitches. Little details...
I finished it off with the sewn bind off, this time giving myself enough yarn to actually finish it. (hooray)

When setting up to take these final pictures, I realized I have no shoes to show off my socks to their best advantage. This may give me an excuse to start shopping because surely I'll have other socks that will need pictures too!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Red Purl KAL Afghan: August

I spent another lovely afternoon knitting with everyone at Red Purl. Amy designed this month's block with a series of "cross over" cables. It's a cable I've never done before. (!) The basic idea is to cross the outside two stitches while leaving the centre three stitches alone in the centre.

Only one in six rows has any cabling or anything complicated in it; the rest are just knit and purl in a 3x5 rib. (A very awkward pattern for me. I had to watch my knitting more than I'm used to.) But the main point is that five out of six rows are pretty easy and the square just buzzed right along.

Wendy somehow got her block started early and was over half done by the time I showed up this afternoon. She was giving me a hard time all afternoon for not catching up. She then taunted me about finishing this evening. Well, Wendy, I got mine finished too...and I didn't give myself a head start! (Btw, I hope you had a fun time with Elvis. I would have went along if it weren't soooo hot!)

For those of you who are not done your blocks, I have a slightly different method of doing the cross over that you may find a little easier. The method given in the pattern involves holding one stitch on a cable needle at some point, and I find this very very awkward. The stitch wants to fall off the needle (part of that is because I just use a dpn, not a true cable needle) and/or the needle doesn't behave and flips all over the place, getting in my way.

So, if you want, you could try the following steps. The results of both methods are identical.

1. Ready to start. We're going to do the cross over cable on the five upcoming stitches:

2. Slip the next four stitches onto a cable needle and hold to the back of your work:

3. Knit one stitch from the left needle:

Here you are with the one stitch knit and the cable needle still being held in back. (The stitch you just knit is stretched in front of the four stitches you slipped to the cable needle.)

Here's where we start differing from the pattern as written.

4. Insert the tip of the left needle into the right-most stitch on the cable needle, and slip it off of the cable needle (off the right side) onto the left needle:

You now have the knit stitch on the right needle, the stitch you just slipped on the left needle, and three stitches being held on the cable needle in the back:

5. Now knit the three stitches from the cable needle:

So now you have four stitches knit onto the right needle, and the stitch that had been slipped to the left needle:

6. Knit the stitch off of the left needle:

7. Purl three stitches and you're ready to go again:
I won't lie to you: this method is probably not a huge improvement. Either way you do it, all those needles and crossed stitches are going to feel at least a little awkward. This is when I'm very happy to work on long straight needles where I can prop the end of one needle against my hip to hold it steady. It's almost as good as a third hand.

One final detail: did you notice the string tied on my block in the first picture? I was knitting along when I noticed the yarn in the previous row was compromised. One of the two plies was cut and the yarn was very thin for one stitch. Maybe I should have tinked back right then, but I didn't. I did, however, mark the spot so I could think about whether I needed to fix it later.

It might be fine. It's only one little stitch. Or it might give out and produce a growing hole. Chances are the wool will felt together nicely and keep it from becoming an issue. Or not. For now I have decided to duplicate stitch that part of the row to reinforce it. That should be enough to keep it from becoming a bigger problem.

I noticed another weak spot like that a few rows later but was able to catch it in time and just fold the wool over itself and felt it together (like a wet splice). Too bad I didn't notice the first one in time.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been racing with Wendy...

May I suggest?

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