Monday, December 31, 2007

The Obligatory Year End Review

Being part of a weekly knit-in has certainly increased my FO production during 2007, so here, boastfully, they are.

This cropped chenille sweater was knitted during 2 election days in the spring. Unfortunately our voters stayed away in droves, even for a school board election in a year which saw state takeover of our public schools. The 14 hour day of an election judge is incredibly long when only 150 voters turn out, so the sweater was finished in good time. The roving deputies checked on my progress as they checked the tallies!! I added the cables to make it less boring. The red chosen is not political, it's just a fabulous deep red, and the chenille is incredibly soft, making for a warm and cheerful addition to the winter wardrobe.

Banana Bay was a quick weekend crochet project with very soft cotton yarn from my stash. I believe this has been in my collection for almost 20 years, picked up on sale for $1.00 per skein.

LaToya marked the first sweater from Berroco's free patterns (I seem to be drawn to their designs like Carrie Bradshaw to a shoe shop). This was really fun, quick, and I love the interesting cable detail. If ever a pattern was made to be done more than once, this is it. Next time, however, I'll change the neckline and straps for a more adult figure. This cotton thread is also from my stash, even older than the Banana Bay cotton and was part of a crocheted sweater never finished, and frogged to make LaToya. There's a complementary peach thread which I made into a ribbed shrug to wear along with it, but I haven't managed to seam it yet.

This shrug pattern is from Mango Moon, worked in NoroSilk boucle. I love interesting colors and textures, but they don't lend themselves well to interesting patterns, so this was boring to make, but fun to wear.

Pike and Ladylike Cropped Jacket and my sister's Scarf are detailed in earlier posts, and there's not really anything more to say about them.

I finished my first ever knitted hat in about 1 day; my hubby proudly wears it to work, as the color was specifically chosen so he could wear it with his NPS uniform. Boring to do, but quick, so there may be more hats on my needles in 2007.

Eight finished projects, five others well begun. All in all a productive 2007.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Diana Ross Honors Socks, or, Round and Round and Inside Out

Pride goeth before a fall, hubris is the fatal flaw, don't count your chickens before they're hatched, etc.

Thinking I had found the magic in my loop, finally, I congratulated myself continually through 3" of ribbing, never contemplating the treachery awaiting me when the pattern shifted into the always dreaded stockinette stitch. Disaster dawned during Diana Ross receiving the 2007 Kennedy Center Honor, when I discovered that as I knit round and round, the socks were inside out!

How the hell did that happen? Can I ignore it? Pretend that I meant the socks to be reverse stockinette? Finish them this way, then turn them right side out?

What happens when I finally try the Belle Epoque sleeves, now destined for 2008 instead of 2007?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Not Enough Magic in My Loop, or How My Husband Gets a Bonus Gift

It's time for the sleeves of Belle Epoque, and the pattern calls for them to be knit in the round. This wouldn't be such a problem, but for the can't-get-inspired-to-do-the-second-sleeve syndrome from which I suffer unless I work them simultaneously. I'm told that employing the Magic Loop method presents a palliative procedure for treatment of the syndrome, allowing both sleeves to be positioned on one large circular needle, worked in the round, assuring the same length of both.

With a Raveler proficient in the procedure at my side, we fearlessly cast on, and I was promptly puzzled. Through five or six rows the puzzlement continued; without my coach at my side, I would have been sidelined even sooner. I returned home to my needlework nest and frogged the sleeves and despaired of completing the project unless I worked the sleeves flat, and since I don't enjoy the lace pattern flat, I didn't hold out much hope.

Ration returned, and I determined to master the magic. I searched the net for Magic Loop tutorials, searched my stash for suitable stuff for socks, and here I go!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Fibers that Bind, or Raveling Reminiscences

We had a house guest last weekend, which in itself is not so unusual. This time, however, we were precluded from using the guest bedroom, and I offered to make my needlework nest available. In the process of making up the daybed, I not only discovered that we no longer own sheets for a single bed, but I had the joy of re-discovering bed covers from the generations of women in my family who crafted before me.

The first cover uncovered was a quilt from the creativity of my maternal great-grandmother. My Bubbe died when I was about eight or nine and my memories of her are largely sensory (the house always smelled of must and freshly baked cookies, which, incidentally, were kept on the lower shelf of a rolling cart so I could reach without help). I do recall sitting on her lap while she stroked my hair, and I remember the fingers being short and thick - well, all the hands on both sides of my family are clearly the genetic result of generations of peasant potato pickers - and not nimble at all, but she was, after all, over 80 years old. In other words, I don't remember her creating anything other than cookies.

The quilt is the classic Sunbonnet Sue pattern, and unfortunately there's not anyone to tell me about the fabrics used, nor when it was sewn. I don't even know if it's the only quilt she made; no others are in the family as far as I know, and neither my grandmother nor great-aunt quilted. Though I wish I were inspired to emulate her, I don't think I have the perseverance ever to finish a quilt, so I've never started. I do, however, own a very large quilt frame should the whimsy ever take me....

The other is a hairpin lace afghan which I recall in great detail, since I helped make it. My Nana and I used to spend days together in the den of the house that my Papa built just after WW2. We started by exercising to Jack LaLane, then watched (perhaps in another order) Julia Child, The Edge of Night, Secret Storm, Guiding Light, and As the World Turns. During many of those hours we worked on this hairpin lace afghan, of the finest acrylic yarn to be purchased in the Quad Cities in the early 1970s. Even in memory its construction seemed endless (I think my mother may have done a few stitches here and there to expedite the process [or share in the tedium]), and when finally the loom work was complete, we had another even endless time joining the strips together (from whence may spring my hatred of seaming UFOs).

I learned to knit and crochet at age 10 from my great-aunt by marriage (Bubbe's daughter-in-law) and from my aunt (who had more patience though slightly less skill). From those small fingers sprouted hippie head bands, granny square purses and vests, and other groovy accessories. I graduated to sweaters in the 1980s, about the same time I discovered natural fibers when I moved to the big city. I also discovered shoulder pads, but that's another decade and best forgotten. Always as I reach for my needles I realize I'm also reaching to the past.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Descending Pike's Peak or Why I Still Hate this Yarn

I wore my Pike for the first time this week. Loved the feel, the drape, and the look. Got home, took it off, and found little burgundy flecks all over my clothes, car seat, household furniture - in short, every surface I touched.

So I said to myself, "Self, you should probably wash and block this vest, as all responsible knitters should do." Put the vest into water and began agitating. Immediately I had a bowlful of rose colored water, and blobs of Nature Cotton. The damn thing was molting in my hands!

I have a little repair work to do now to fill in some threadbare areas, and then we'll see if it survives it's second day on my shoulders.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings, or How the Yarn Feels in My Fingers

After a month of working with the Malabrigo Silky Merino on my Belle Epoque Sweater, it's hard to go back to the Classic Elite Flash of Melody Bolero. So why did I stop? Because I'm bored with Belle Epoque, and needed a little break. And what I really want to do is start working with the Cascade Venezia, but I need the needles from Melody. Yes, I could put it on a stitch holder, but that seems too much like giving up, so my goal is to finish the back this week and liberate the needles.

This all ties together with a question from my husband: Why aren't I working on spring/summer sweaters now, so they'll be ready in time for the season? A very interesting observation from him, not to mention unusually observant. I just finished a Fuzzy Scarf for my sister's birthday, and can't imagine working with that yarn or having that warmth in my lap during July. It's cold outside, and sometimes a little chilly inside (energy conservation), and the soft woolens feel snuggly and comforting, even if they're not really wearable.

I suppose it also should be incentive to knit faster!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Epiphany, or What the Belle Epoque Pattern Doesn't Say

I got to the point in the Belle Epoque Sweater where I divide for armhole shaping, and I was flummoxed. I read and reread and reread and reread the instructions, but it made no sense. Finally the mantle of wisdom fell upon my shoulders and enlightenment grew.

The instructions read "...cont in patt as set to end of Rnd. Break yarn." The following sentence is missing: Place all front stitches on left hand needle. It then follows that you are able to "Place sts for upper back...on a holder."


Monday, December 3, 2007

Felled by the Flu

Well, November was pretty much spent unconscious, with fever, aches, cough, sore throat, and all the bodily fluids issues associated with influenza. Ironically, I came down with it 10 days before my flu shot was scheduled - well, I'm chock full of antibodies now.

I finally finished the Pike vest, and I'm very pleased with the result. It's really soft and not too hot. I wish I could get a better picture; imagine the color of a beaujolais nouveau and you'll be pretty close.

In the meantime I started two new projects, the Melody Bolero by Berroco, and Belle Epoque from

I'm working the Melody in my "mardi gras" yarn, Cascade Elite Flash. It's a 3-ply cotton, with each strand a different color: purple, green and yellow. I recently purchased a pair of eyeglasses with those colors, and I can't wait to wear them together. The pattern is completely stockinette stitch which is boring me to tears (I knew it would) but the yarn is too busy to add any pattern. Hopefully I'll finish by the end of the year. So far, no pattern problems.

The Belle Epoque is my first sweater done in the round, and the 222 stitches in a row are daunting. The fiber is Malabrigo Silky Merino, and it's fabulous. Soft and cuddly, with gradient colors from silver-blue to new-denim-blue, it's a tactile treasure. Since it doesn't have the halo of the mohair called for, the lace is hole-ier, and may require lining, or a camisole. It takes me 9 minutes to finish a row (down from 12), but since there's virtually no purling, I can watch subtitled movies while I work this!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Color My World

The trees are finally turning, though slowly, and with fall yarns arriving too, color has been on my mind lately.

Brooke at Kirkwood Knittery said that the process of knitting was really the point of it all, but for me, it's all about choosing the perfect pattern in the perfect color. I don't actually have to do the project at all.

My color palette hearkens back to the Crayola box of 64, the one with the sharpener in the box. I never really used the crayons or the sharpener (I couldn't see the point in coloring books since the picture was already done, and I never felt the need to create pictures myself), but I loved looking at them. I also loved the romantic names. Midnight Blue. Burnt Sienna. Fuchsia. Exotic names, exotic spelling, exotic colors.

I look for those same colors whenever I enter a yarn store. There's a real dichotomy generally, between the muted colors of hand-dyed natural fibers, and the vivid colors of "fun" yarns. Now, I'm not a yarn snob at all - I'll knit with any fiber, man-made or natural. But I don't like working with boring yarn of insipid colors. Nor do I want to wear anything in those colors unless they are a background for something bright.

Color me vivid.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Love the Smell of Tiger Balm in the Morning (and Noon and Night)

It's the smell of healing. Well, I hope so, 'cause it sure smells.

Still sidelined with a knitting injury, I'll take the opportunity to discuss the two Berroco patterns I've made so far. I began this summer with the Latoya tank. I fell in love with the design immediately, and it worked up really quickly - I was finished except for the seaming is less than 2 weeks. There is one mistake in the pattern, however, which involves the shaping of the front. You need to follow the same instructions as for the back, which is sensible, intuitive, and printed incorrectly! Just follow the front, and check with the schematic diagram and you'll be fine.

One more note - If you are a grown up, and want to wear a bra without the straps showing, you'll either need to adjust where you place the shoulder straps, or make them wider, or wear this over another shirt. I got to use up a very old stashed cotton thread on this, and I'm really pleased with the result. I'd do this one for presents in the future.

Since I had so much fun with Latoya, I was really eager to start Pike, a wrap vest which looked asymmetrical in the picture, but is worked symmetrically. The mistake in this one is having 1 extra stitch, which I solved by adding an additional purl stitch before the cable pattern. I can't see any reason for eliminating the stitch altogether, which would be cast on 107 sts. I completed the back very quickly, and love the gore detail.

I followed the directions for the left front, and it matches the schematics, but for the life of me I can't imagine how this vest comes together!!! I guess that's why I'm in such a hurry to finish it that I injured myself. I'm about 3/4 finished with the right front, so assuming the Tiger Balm works, I'll have it finished by Halloween.

The Pike is worked in Araucania Nature Cotton Burgundy. The finished pieces look great, and drapes really nicely. Working with it is another story altogether. It doesn't flow smoothly through my fingers, and really stuck to my bamboo needles (though it's better on the Bernat Aeros, which I prefer anyway). I'm constantly stopping to re-wrap the tail which is annoying. And it's not soft in the hand, so there's some weird science at work since it is soft in the finishing! I don't think I'd use this yarn again.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Can't Keep Those Hands Still

I tried to sit quietly last night, but failed utterly, so I compromised by FINALLY sewing the collar on my unfinished shrug. Since I didn't have quite enough yarn to finish the pattern as written, it turns out to be a little more cardigan-y than shrug-ish, and it's very nice. The sleeves are 3/4 length (another modification resulting from the scarcity of resources) which I prefer anyway.

That finished, I started to wind the yarn in my stash - my third least favorite needlecraft activity, following sewing UFOs together, and casting on stitches. That one didn't last too long; I only would 4 skeins of the Silky Tweed before giving up for the night. The comforting (disturbing) thought is that the rest of the stash will be waiting for me whenever I need it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Knitter's Shoulder or Why I'm Taking a Break

Who knew knitting could be hazardous to your health? It's supposed to be a peaceful, creative, and meditative activity, able to be performed along or in a group, an activity in which process is at least as important as the culminating product. It's not supposed to leave you reaching for analgesics round the clock. Yet here I am, for the second week, trying to find something to occupy my hands while I watch TV.

Of course, I'd heard rumours of a woman who tore her rotater cuff while knitting the brioche stitch using continental technique, but shrugged off the rumours as mere braggadocio. Now I wonder if an MRI lies in my future...

I'll have to content myself in recounting my recent adventures in needlecraft as I prepare to, once again, take up needles and hooks.