Friday, September 25, 2009

Nothing to Report Here (wink wink)

So I thought I had a great time tonight at Red Purl's 2nd anniversary party, eating donuts, trying to win prizes, buying great yarn at party discounts, and knitting knitting knitting. But apparently not.

1. I've read the maxim: if there are no pictures of something you blog about, then it didn't happen. And I forgot my camera.

2. I heard tonight very emphatically that what happens at the Purl, stays at the Purl.

So that's all I have to say.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

So Proud of My Students!

We had the second slipper class tonight. My dedicated students had all finished the knitting on at least one slipper (if not two) so we could discuss seaming them up.
This is the slipper that goes from a flat shape (white/brown variegated above) to a slipper shape just with a seam.

It's not the most intuitive and you have to do it on faith the first few times. I got all the students through the first slipper and some thought they could try the second one on their own. If they really get stuck, I told them I'd be there tomorrow night again for Red Purl's 2nd anniversary party. (I'm never one to miss a party!)

It was a fun night with lots of talking and laughing. A bunch of us found a mutual interest in quilting and I got the name of some not-quite-local shops that they assured me are worth checking out. All the students did a great job on their slippers and it looks like the all came out to the right size. (Most of them were gifts and as such could not be tried on tonight.)

I did have one student sign up late and then she couldn't come tonight either. So I will still have to talk her through it. Sounds like an excuse to head to Red Purl more often...ok, I can deal with that!

One surprise at the store:
Mary Ann made a spider for the web! It is perfect.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Completing the Look: Part 2

I've got another necklace to share with you. While making what should have been a quick stop at Hobby Lobby, I saw that beads were half off. Well, at that price I have to look...

I bought a variety of glass beads in reds, greys and black to make a long necklace to match my Deep V Argyle Vest. I wanted something substantial enough to hold its own against the argyle pattern and long enough to balance the deep Vneck.

The simple strand can be worn long or doubled for a shorter style. It's pretty thick and chunky when worn doubled, but I think it'll work for some outfits.

The glass beads look too good to be true. Very luscious. The observant among you will notice that I used more of my dad's hematite beads, putting them on either side of the big grey squares.

I used the same wire cable as the last necklace to string the beads. In this case, I decided the necklace was long enough that I didn't need a clasp.
I just looped the cable ends around each other and caught each end in a crimp bead. (Keeping it simple!)

And a necklace wouldn't really be complete without earrings, would it?
I took a couple of long beads and the same wire cable, ran the cable ends through the bead and caught the ends with a crimp bead again. String it onto some fisherman hooks, and they're all set.

And how does it all work with the vest?
Not too bad, right?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Completing the Look: Part 1

Once you finish a project you're going to wear, you need to think of what you can accessorize it with. I had nothing that I thought looked good with my Pioneer Tshirt so I jumped at the chance to stop by my favourite not-quite-local bead shop.

I wanted something fun and casual. (There's no need to try dress up a Tshirt!) And I was going to keep it simple.

I've been stuck in my beading lately, trying to do too much (without the skills to do it), and finally realized that people have been stringing beads in a simple line for eons; and if it was good enough for all of them, it was good enough for me!

What I found at the store were some pink-and-white and mint-green-and-white beads that I really liked. I alternated the colours, and used some larger oval green beads in the center, moving up through three sizes and shapes to smaller green ones at the ends. The pink beads are the same throughout.

My very favourite beads are the medium sized green ones. They have a twist that is just irresistible.

I used a different material to string the beads. Tired of the crimp beads fraying the string (even Kevlar string), I used a small wire cable. ("Stainless steel nylon coated miniature wire cable; 3 strand, .015 diameter" if you're curious.)

It has enough flexibility that it hangs appropriately, but enough strength that I'm not worried about it coming apart.
It also simplified putting on the clasp. The thicker cable is more secure in the crimp bead so I just threaded it through the clasp and then back through the crimp bead. Crimp, cut it short and done.

And how does it look with the Pioneer?
Pretty good, I think. The bead colours are brighter than the pinks and greens in the shirt, but it works. I like the length, and the necklace hangs nicely.

I wanted to add a bit of history about the bead shop I like. I had been there a couple times before I noticed a little frame hanging on the back of a door.
In it was detailed the history of the builder and long time resident of the house. I don't remember all the specifics, but this was a woman who had gone to college in the 1910's against the wishes of her family. She worked for a time but then moved back to her hometown to take care of aging relatives.

She decided to build her house and did exactly that. She did every bit of work on the house except the electrical work.

Does that put the items on your "to do" list in perspective or what?!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Deep V Argyle Vest: Completed

As I was hoping, I got my wool argyle vest finished in time for fall. In lots of time, in fact, with the warm sunny weather we've been having. I have ventured to wear it a couple times anyway, but it has been warm!
It feels good to wear and, being shades of red and grey, matches a lot of things already in my wardrobe. It'll be fun to find new combinations of layers to wear it with.

So far it's been the red leather skirt and my new black linen A-line skirt, both with my grey and red plaid tights. I'm waiting for a little cooler weather to try it with my red leather pants (I know that combo will work) and when I need to be a little more sedate, I can pull out the grey dress pants which have been waiting for this vest to complete them.
When I first wore it, I noticed that the sizing is a little off. From the waist down, it feels a half-size too small, and from the waist up, it feels a half or full size too big. Project Stats
Started: 13 Jun 09
Finished: 11 Sep 09
Pattern: Deep V Argyle Vest by Eunny Jang $5.25
Materials: Evilla Artyarn 8/2 (A17a grey ~390yds and A85 red ~280yds) $28.89

With the long neck steek, I think it's almost impossible to know exactly what size you're getting, making it very difficult to know if you have to make adjustments. I chose one size larger than my measurements since the pattern called for zero ease and I wanted a little room for the shirt underneath.

The other possibility is that my gauge changed as I went along. I made quite a sizable gauge swatch which should have given me time to even out my tension in the pattern, but I may have continued to change my tension without realizing it. Some of the strands I left on the wrong size are quite long, and this is worse on the top than the bottom. Overall, however, I'm happy with how it looks from the inside:
If it still looks new enough to enter in the fair next year, I may get docked for some of the long loops, but I think it will wear just fine. The key is that the pattern looks even from the front side.

The long colour changes are the main reason why I wanted to use this wool. I was inspired by this version [Rav link]

that I saw on Ravelry. It was knit by ekittie with Kauni Effektgarn 8/2. (At first I thought she painstakingly chose the colours and planned the stripes. When I realized the wool did all the work, I said, "Let me at it!") In my version, I'm not ecstatic with how the red colours lined up against the grey because there's not always a maximal contrast, but it's certainly good enough.

I'm happy the brightest red (my favourite) ended up near the top, around my face. And I love that the neckline echoes the same switch from dark to light that the lower ribbing has. I saw that coming and managed to make that happen by knitting the neck ribbing before the sleeve ribbing.
Being able to pick up the neck stitches and knitting just a row or two before it switched to light grey allowed the neck ribbing to blend with the grey in the garment where I was picking up the stitches.

For the sleeves, I preferred a dark over the light. So instead of continuing with the light that I had just finished the neck with, I knit from the other end of the ball. Simple, right?! I also wanted to make sure the two sleeves matched as well as possible so I knit four rows on one, broke the thread and knit four rows on the other. Then went back to the first to finish with four rows and then return to finish the other. I used a spit wet join so that there were no extra ends to work in. This ensured that if the grey colour was changing, it would be spread out across both armholes.

I was also very pleased with how the neckband lies flat and does not distort the shape of the vest. As I was studying all the versions of this vest on Ravelry (and there are a lot of good ones!), I noticed that number of them had the problem that the bottom edge of the neckline pulled at the waist of the vest. It ended up looking up bunchy. I'm not sure I did anything specific to solve the problem, but I'm glad I don't have it!

One thing that may have had an effect was that I took the live stitches from the front that were supposed to be sewn to the side edges of the neckbands and did more of a grafting stitch. In effect, this would have added an extra row and allowed me to adjust the tension on the "seam" as I went to keep from pulling up too tight. In any case, I like it.

On the reverse side of the neckline, you can see the facing from the steek (the long vertical lines of light red and grey).
The dark red is the reinforcing crochet stitch done along the edge to be cut.< There are steeks along the neck (back and front) and the arm openings. This was the first time I've done a two-strand steek, and the designer had you knit alternate colours through the steek. It was a little wider than some of the others I've done--9 stitches versus as few as 5 that I've done before--presumably because each colour only gets half as many stitches. I'm sure this has come through in the post, but let me state plainly that I am really happy with the vest! I've been itching for some argyle for a long time.
PS: Many thanks to ekittie for letting me share her work and, of course, for being an inspiration in the first place!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finishing up September's Block

I was able to finish my September block on Monday night. And the border was finished yesterday over lunch.

In all, the knitting itself went very smoothly. I did run into a couple weak spots in the wool while knitting in the shop Sunday afternoon.

I only noticed the first spot after I had knit it and came back it on the next row. I decided to run an extra strand along those a duplicate stitch done while the stitches were still on the needle. It should work to reinforce the area, but it did make that cable rather thick.

On the next row there was a spot so weak that the wool actually pulled apart. Very irksome. I just treated it like a join and knit with two ends for five stitches. Later I realized I should have performed a spit wet join, but I think I was too distracted by all the chatter to think of it. (That's what I used to join a new ball that evening.) Oh well. The little ends that are left will felt into the fabric with use.

Another month down; only three more to go!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Red Purl Afghan KAL: September

Another Red Purl meeting today. We had a nice group of us, about a dozen sitting and knitting plus various shoppers and others just stopping by. ("Wow, you're busy today"...)

Before I could even pick up this month's block pattern, one of my students from Thursday night is showing me her finished slipper to see if I thought it was right before she started the next slipper. It looked great.

I got the pattern and as I sat down, another student asked me about picking up stitches. We got her going and she knit for the afternoon making great progress.

Then a third student showed me how she was doing (also great) and knit for part of the afternoon as well. By the end of our time, she had decided she was going to run out of yarn (she's using doubled sock yarn instead of worsted) so we picked out a third colour and decided where to place it in the slipper. They're going to turn out cute.
So, back to the afghan: this month's pattern was designed by Wendy. She claimed to have picked the cables because she thought I didn't like them and wanted to trip me up. Poor Wendy...I love cables! (hee hee hee)

The design is a honeycomb pattern (with an extra knit stitch between pattern repeats). It's thickly textured and lovely. Reminiscent of August's block, but with deeper texture and on a background of stocking stitch instead of reverse stocking stitch. I think the blocks will play off of each other nicely in the afghan as a whole.

One disadvantage of the cables is that they take up a lot of stitches (and yarn). For this square, for example, we had to add 18 stitches to the width just to make it measure the same as the other blocks. That's a lot of extra stitches on each row to knit. I wasn't even half way done the block by the time I left!

And, of course, just executing the cables takes a lot of extra time too. You only have to do them every fourth row, but there are a lot of them across that row. Excuses, excuses, I know. I have a meeting tomorrow night that I should be able to knit through so perhaps I'll have it done then. I'd hate to give Wendy the satisfaction of having her block take me the longest!

-Clickety Clack

PS I wore my Deep V Vest to the meet up today and it got unanimous approval. I loved wearing it too (even if it was 80 degrees out)!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Too Much Excitement

I have finished all the knitting of my Deep V Vest! There is so much excitement welling up inside of me, I'm not sure I can sleep.

I was working on the ribbing for the last couple days living in a cozy state of equal parts confidence and denial. Confidence because I did not even try it on after I cut the steeks--just dove right into knitting the ribbing. Denial because I was not going to even consider the possibility of it not fitting me.

I told Troy at some point that if it did not fit, I was going to be completely crushed. I was falling more and more in love with the vest as it neared completion.

Tonight I cast off the last stitch; worked in the last end; and finally tried it on.


I resisted the urged to sleep in it and instead soaked it and blocked it and can now look forward to wearing it on Sunday to Red Purl.

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Halloween Bag

In a recent post, I mentioned a small project that would fill the gap I was having in my other projects. I can now tell you all about it.

While sitting around Red Purl a couple weeks ago, Amy mentioned that someone wanted to buy one of her shop samples: a very cute pumpkin-orange felted bag with jack-o-lantern faces on it. Amy threw out a price and the lady didn't object.

Except she didn't like the orange. (We could discuss that for a's sort of like the lady who like a lovely jewelled American flag broach but asked if it came in any other colours.) She wanted it done in a sort of greyish brown; like tree bark, she said.

Amy said she was too busy right then to custom knit one for her but would keep her in mind if someone came along to do the work. And along comes Christina....

I didn't jump in immediately but thought about it as I was visiting. But before I left I reached a decision and told Amy to let the lady know I would do it. I wasn't sure if it would be worth my time because the materials would take up more than half of the purchase price, but you don't know unless you try. And making a little money is better than making none, right?

So Amy got on it, and after a week or so we had a deposit and could buy materials. The wool Amy suggested for the "tree bark" colour turned out to be the same stuff I'm using for the Woven Cables Sweater and she only had one black in stock: a super bulky. Project Stats
Started: 3 Sep 09
Finished: 8 Sep 09
Pattern: Jack by Kate Gilbert, $5.40
Materials: Rowan big wool (08 black), 1 ball $13.46
Rowan purelife BSB DK (781 brown BFL), 5.5 skeins@$5.85=$32.18
Doubling the brown made it about a worsted weight but still thinner than the black. It was a little wonky through the colourwork, but the fulling pretty much evened it all out.

I got started straight away and decided to time the knitting. Everyone is always asking how long things take to knit, and I really have no idea. But on this project I can say that one half took about 6 hours. I got sloppier about timing for the second half, but let's assume it was also 6 hours. And about 30 minutes to seam it up, and about 30 minutes to full it, and we've got a bag that took 13 hours.

How much would you charge for 13 hours of your labour? (And to keep it fair, you should think about labour you like to do, not the drudgery stuff.) And on the flip side, how much would you pay for a felt bag?

The knitting was pretty straight forward if you don't mind intarsia (I don't). The only real modification I made was to pick up the second side off the bottom of the first side to save sewing the bottom. I didn't pick up the very cast on edge, but went one row up. This left a nice ridge at the bottom which nicely defines the lower edge.
On the other hand, I did sew the side seams. I used the whip stitch suggested in the pattern, although I did it from the right side because that's how I prefer it, and it doesn't change the result.
Normally whip stitch does not get used because it's visible from the right side. Guess what...we're fulling here, so it really doesn't matter. A plus is that it's a very flat seam and you can see that in the final product the side seam is virtually invisible.

The handle is identical to the slit handle I've used on some of my plarn bags. You just cast off some stitches in the middle and then cast the same number back on on the next row. Knit a few more rows and you're done. It tends to stretch out with use, but people just call that a "design element" and don't worry about it.
I haven't fulled a lot of stuff but this went pretty easily. The pattern suggested putting the bag into a zippered pillow case before putting it in the washing machine and I think that helped minimize the amount of fiber that gets into the machine. I know eventually all that fiber will clog something up. (You know it will. Plumbing just likes to clog up.) I will, however, now have to buy a new case for my pillow!

Some before and after shots. They are not really to scale. The first two demonstrate the change that fulling makes, turning a loose and sloppy fabric into a very firm and thick one.

The third picture has my computer in it to give you some idea of the change in size:
Before fulling, the bag was 22" x 15" and after fulling it was 17" x 15". So you can see stuff shrinks in length by a lot, but not much in width. (Not surprising when you think of a sweater you've shrunk--usually you can get it over your head but it won't cover your belly). This is the kind of stuff you have to keep in mind when doing designs like these faces. When you're knitting it doesn't look right because it has to be stretched out vertically, but then turns out right in the end.

In all, I think the bag came out really nicely and hope the person who commissioned it likes it too. I'll be delivering it to Amy on Thursday (there's still time to sign up for the slipper class I'm teaching) and then collect the rest of the payment due.

And how much was it? I know you're all wondering. Amy's price was $100. Materials cost $57.19. If I want to be generous, I can subtract a half ball of brown that was leftover that I can use in the Woven Cable sweater, giving a new total of $50.99. So net profit is $49.01 spread over 13 hours, yielding a wage of $3.77 per hour. I think that's just about half of minimum wage. But it's tax free and on top of my regular job. I'll take it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Labour Day Labours

Having been offered a great bacon cheeseburger in exchange for creative labour, I made my way to Red Purl this afternoon to help Amy to re-vamp her display window for the new season.

She found a great project online that we imitated quite nicely. Amy worked all week to crochet a long long chain and we tied it in her window to make a web. First was the frame for the web,
anchored to various hooks, poles, and a log Amy dragged home from a walk this week:
We had to make sure to leave a spot for Purl (her dog) to jump into the window well. She likes to keep an eye on the street.
After the frame was adjusted, pulled taut and knotted down, it was time to fill it in.
I ended up doing it twice, the first time the spiral was too spread out. Fortunately I had only looped the intersections and was able to readjust everything without completely undoing it.

The original idea had a big spider and all sorts of little goblins and misshapen creatures but we didn't quite have time to get that done for this weekend. So I suggested cutting out leaves from fulled sweaters for a start.

Amy took the idea one further and couched some sequined yarn on leaves to spell out Red Purl.
It turned out brilliantly.
And once that was in place, we started tying on some more leaves,
and Amy added a couple of the gnomes she's been knitting over the summer. Sorry, gnomes, gotcha watch out for those spiders.
The final victim added to the web was a hapless little kittie:
More will be added throughout the season as the spirit moves.

For today, it was a fun project and a good start.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One Thing [Almost] Started; Another [Almost] Finished

I have thus far restrained myself from waxing poetic about the British Sheep Breeds 100% undyed wool that I picked up the other day. I was afraid I would not be able to stop myself once I started singing its virtues, its ease of use, its silken feel as it slides over my fingers. In short, its status as fiber from heaven.

I bought the stuff for an idea I've been hatching for a sweater to give to my sweet hubby. He has worn previous knitterly gifts with such appropriate appreciation and care as to "deserve" another. I'm not going to follow the specific pattern, but I did fall in love with a woven cable design by Nancy Marchant from the Best of Knitter's Aran & Celtics.
A swatch was started the very evening I got the wool home. That reminds me, in addition to working with really wonderful wool, I get to use my [second] favourite needles: the 4 mm bamboo straights. (My first favourite being the 4.5 mm.) The bamboo and wool get along very very well. Oh yes, I am pretty much bouncy with glee whenever I knit this stuff with those needles.

Needless to say, I got the swatch done in fairly short order since I couldn't keep my hands off of it. It's probably the widest swatch you've ever seen, but I wanted to do two repeats of the pattern to get a more accurate gauge measurement. (And when you love the knitting so much, who's counting stitches? And even, who's in a hurry? The sooner you're done, the sooner you have to stop knitting it.)
And then I was very good and blocked the swatch too. It is close to being dry and looks great. The blocking has straightened out the stitches; the pinning has squared the whole thing up. And guess what...I only love it more. (Troy had better watch himself when he wears this sweater...then again, I doubt he'll mind!)

I have decided on EZ's "Brooks" sweater from her Opinionated Knitter for what shape the sweater will take. I like how the center sleeve continues up the shoulder like an epaulet. The shaping will only help to emphasize the pecs Troy's got from all his lifting weights. And I should be able to center the cable pattern so it will continue from the sleeve right up the epaulet.

Now I just have to calculate my gauge, apply that to the measurements of the sweater I want, and figure out how many stitches that produces for every piece of the sweater using EZ's percentage system.

On the other side of the coin, the project [almost] finished is my Deep V Argyle Vest. I have finished knitting the body of the vest; another project I finished sitting in the parking lot after work. It is a very odd shape right now as I have not cut any of the steeks at the sleeves, front neck or back neck. This also makes trying it on rather impossible. I have to decide it's going to fit and then cut the steeks. Because once the steeks are cut, it's hard to go back.
The back.

The front. (The vertical stripes--well, horizontal on the picture,
but vertical on the vest--are the steeks. Visible here are the two sleeve
steeks and the long front neck steek.)

After the steeks I have some ribbing to do on the armholes and neck and then it will be done.

Both projects are at a point where I will let them be for just a bit while I think about them and gear up for the next stage. Just in time for this break I have another smaller project to fill the gap. More on that soon.

And what happened to my girl's pinwheel cardigan/wrap that I was just writing about? Once again, it has been abandoned for more exciting projects. Sorry, Cardigan, but I know you'll wait for me.

Dividends of the County Fair

I received my check from the county fair today!
Four firsts + three seconds + one third = $10.50
I could dwell on the fact that last year it would have been double that because the fair still had state support. Instead I'm going to remember that $10.50 will still get me two Big Mac meals at McDonald's (my favourite).

And that's better than a kick in the pants!

May I suggest?

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