Thursday, March 31, 2011

2KCBWDAY4: Where are they now?

Whoops--I'm a little late to the party today. Something head-and-stomache-achy kicked me to the couch today. I slugged it to the computer to do a fast post.

After reading today's blog post assignment, I decided to go back to the second post on my blog in the summer of 2005 called "Summer Sock School." I was vigorously learning basic socks and making them for myself, my husband and various family members. I'm happy to say that all the socks in that post are still intact. Here they are as I photographed them today, trying to mimic one of the pictures in that earlier post.

From left to right, the socks I made in the overly-large yarn and have since felted and turned into slipper socks for me, the one sock of my very first pair of socks ever (the other one is here somewhere--I know it and I won't give up looking), another of my early pair at top, two self-stripey pairs made for my husband, and finally another that are mine. Not a hole in sight and we both wear these socks regularly. So glad to report that almost six years later, these guys have survived! Yes, even the poor misplaced one that I swear I will find!

Now, family members, step up. How many of you still have the socks I made you that first year? How have they held up? Anyone else with amazing hand-knit socks still surviving so many years later? I'd love to hear.

Alrighty, I'm going back to the couch now and I'll be back weller and stronger for tomorrow's post. It's gonna be a doozy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2KCBWDAY3: Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches

Oh, Lordy.

Today's KCBW assignment is to reveal my organizational process, and/or lack thereof. In some ways, I think I am pretty organized, but in some ways I exhibit total chaos! I'll show you some peeks at how I store my yarn stash and other tools for being in the business of yarn play. Yes, this is my business, so I should be more organized, but it's definitely a WIP.

Let's start with the most untidy and then we'll clean it up from there.

Here are my two book cases almost completely devoted to knitting and crochet books and other references (shade card notebooks, pattern notebooks, etc.) You will also see a self-made needle case hung as a keeping place for lots of circular needles. Please do not look at the mountainous pile of papers waiting to be filed into the file cabinet on the left. And the errant receipt I now see on the floor in front of the left bookcase. I am usually more careful with my paperwork...really I am.
This is really scary--letting you into my planning room. You see my beloved swift and yarn baller table underneath which are various baskets holding yarn and WIP's. Indeed, every table has some of these stored underneath. I set up three tables in this room to try to divide up tasks. One is for nothing but glove and mitt projects, one is for freelance projects and the swatching yarns involved, and one is for having a place to sit and actually think and draw and plan. I'm trying to use this room, I really am. Most of the time it just sits here waiting for me to get back to it.
Boy, it looks even messier in these pictures. (Groan.) This is one organizational tool that is working for me...hook and needle cases. I made all of these out of various fabrics and I love how they keep my straight needles in one, dpn's in another, and crochet hooks in another, all neat and tidy. I can always find what I need in these.

And it was a very good day when I finally realized how great these sweater keepers are for keeping my yarn organized. I also have some in my clothes closet for actually keeping sweaters, but they are wonderful for yarn cubbies. Most of what you see in this one is Cascade. Yes, I use a lot of Cascade. They are our neighbors. Shop in your village. Not only that, but it's great quality yarn for the money and I like to design with it because you can find it almost everywhere...except big box stores, and I like that part, too. The boxes underneath the cubbies hold trunk show samples.

What you see above is what used to be a bathroom. I won't go into that long story, but we eradicated our pesky upstairs bathroom and had it turned into the most beautiful storage closet ever. I am still not using it to its full potential, which would involve putting in some shelves, but I'm doing pretty good with these cubbies. These all used to be sitting in the three-tabled room of mangledness seen in the pics above. Moving them into this closet allowed me to put that third table in the other room. One can never have enough surface space. Just ask my husband. It's a lucky day for him when he can actually find a place to sit, much less a place on any table or countertop to put his own stuff.

I have tried to organize the cubbies by yarn brand. What you see in front is some Schaefer, and next to it various farm yarns, then some Claudia, then some Pagewood Farm. On the top for the best viewing is part of my sock yarn stash. I like being able to see these the most easily. So pretty! There are other yarns in bins elsewhere, but I find that I can keep better track of what's there when I have it out where I can see it. If it's in a bin or box somewhere, it's practically invisible.

Well, now ya know. I'm a messy one! Maybe this will inspire me to clean up this stuff. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2KCBWDAY2: Skill + 1UP

Today's KCBW task is to discuss a skill learned in the past year. Any of you who have been reading my posts the past couple of weeks know that I can't help but mention the magnificent invisible BO for 1/1 rib, as I so liberally disussed in this recent post.

Well, I am happy to show you the finished product of trying this technique on a sample for my upcoming Fundamental Top-Down Junior Crew Cardigan.

This little gem on the right was done in Schaefer Lola in the Dorothy Reade colorway. This yarn is discontinued, but you can still find some here. You can also see that I have started a second sample and it is worked with Brown Sheep Lanaloft Bulky in the Turquoise Magic colorway. Magic, it is! This one is working up with lightening speed at 3 stitches to the inch on size 10.5 needles. I am using the invisible BO on this cardi, too, which is a little different with this fat, squishy, single-ply yarn. I highly recommend learning this technique--it lifts your finishing to a whole new level!

Since I so recently waxed on about the new (to me) BO technique, I wanted to also tell you about another technique I learned recently and am still trying to build. Brioche! I don't know what it is, but the look of Brioche just makes me weak in the knees. It's so gorgeous! I mean to get a hold on this, but it will take some practice. I started learning this technique from the Two-Color Brioche Hat pattern in Weekend Knitting by Melanie Fallick. I kept meaning to post about it about it back in December when I was making the peppermint hat (in Cascade Pastaza) in the picture above, but a quick survey of posts reveals that I did not! I think I may have mentioned it on my Figheadh Facebook page, but never posted. Well, I must remedy that!

After kinda botching the seam and the crown decreases on the red and white hat (look closely and you'll see what I mean), I immediately cast on for another one in two colors of Cascade 220 Superwash. Unfortunately the beautiful green and gold one I am talking about (in the background) has been languishing for a couple of months now and I fear I may have forgotten how to do it! Must do a few rounds today to refresh.

After completely falling in love and being tempted to learn more--I DO love a challenge--I bought Nancy Marchant's fab book, Knitting Brioche. She is the unmitigated Queen of Brioche. If you want to learn this technique, then buy Nancy's book. For just a taste, see her Rodekool scarf in the Deep Fall 2010 issue of Knitty. You might have also noticed that Cast On recently published an issue with an entire tutorial, complete with a couple of projects, of brioche. Also, the Thandie sweater by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clarke on the cover of Interweave Knits Winter 2010 issue is brioche. I love it.

Thanks for all the great posts yesterday! That may have been a new record for figknits. This certainly is a fun blog party. Now I must go and read what everyone else has been learning lately. More fun tomorrow!

Monday, March 28, 2011

2KCBWDAY1: A Tale of Two Yarns

Welcome to day one of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week here on figknits. I hope you'll join me for all the posts this week and please leave a comment to let me know you were here!

This first post prompt leaves me almost weak to resist the literary reference contained. It was the best of yarns, it was the worst of yarns, etc. It is a far, far better knitting/crochet project than I have ever done; it is a far, far better yarn I've knit/crocheted than I have ever known. But enough with that foolishness. Let's look at some yarn!

I decided to turn the prompt into meaning two yarns at once, so I spent the morning swatching. I was inspired by a sample I saw last week at A Good Yarn Shop in Port Orchard. Someone had worked a lovely lace scarf using Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool held together with Rowan Kid Silk Haze. It reminded me of something I've had in mind for a while now, and you can create your own blend this way. Technically speaking, this post involves about 11 different yarns, but I will take a look at just two at a time. Today, I could only take the time to try knitting with one certain yarn held together with three different others, all Cascade yarns.

I have had some of this old version (recently reformulated by Cascade) of Madil Kid Seta #682 in the stash for a couple of years now, wanting to try it out by holding it together with another yarn. Kid Seta, like other mohair blends of its type, can be very fussy to work with all alone. So airy! The work can be made easier by working it with another yarn to anchor it. I chose some Cotton Rich in color#1039, some Cascade 220 Wool in a plain brown #9498, and some wonderfully soft Cascade Pure Alpaca in color #3008. This last yarn was the one that I've had snuggled up in the cubby all this time just waiting to be paired with the Kid Seta, but I thought I'd throw in some others for fun. And boy was it fun!

First, I tried it with the Cotton Rich. I already love this yarn for its sturdy softness--so comfy to wear. The background of the picture is a Fundamental Women's Vest I made with it. On top you see the swatch I made with the Kid Seta alone and the one with both yarns held together. I wish you could feel what a difference the Kid Seta makes in the Cotton Rich. It adds a glow of mohair and you can see the subtle striation caused by the marriage of the two. Now it's a mohair/cotton/silk/nylon blend! These two yarns played will together with not much twirling and knotting going on.

The combo above is the one I originally intended, so I was very curious to see what would happen with this pairing. As you might imagine, soft plus soft equalled really, really soft! And the two played together very well, I am glad to report. In the background you can see a top-down cardi I am working with just the Pure Alpaca. This pairing, though, produced an alpaca/mohair/silk blend.

I also love what the fluffy Kid Seta did to this rather flat brown color of 220 Wool. It really jazzed it up. However, these two yarns did not get along very well in the process. The 220 kept kinking up, twirling back in on itself and knotting up with the Kid Seta in the process. High maintenance in this wool/mohair/silk blend!

This leads me to just a couple of tips I have to share with you about knitting with two such different (or any two different) yarns. Mind you, there are many more!

One, make sure you are catching both strands up with each stitch. It would cause some problems to inadvertently drop one or the other of the yarns along the way. In this case, the Kid Seta strand was very easy to neglect if not careful.

Two, be sure to maintain equal tension of both strands as you work. I am a thrower, so this meant I had to constantly keep both strands hugging one another harmoniously in my right hand, stopping every few stitches to adjust this.

I used a size 8 (5 mm) needle for each of the swatches above, even the one of Kid Seta alone. Size 8 is the max suggested by the yarn manufacturer for this yarn and ,indeed, it produced a very diaphanous fabric.

Here are just few other yarns from my stash that I wish I had time to try with Kid Seta. Clockwise from 9 A.M.: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the Golden Hickory colorway, Rowan Lima in Machu Picchu, Malabrigo Sock in Natural, Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Sierra, Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Burgundy, Crystal Palace Panda Silk in color #3021, and Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Equinox.

Leave me your vote on which one you'd like to see swatched together next. Also, please let me know which of the combos above you liked best. I will try to swatch up one more of these and I might even plan a project with one of the combos. That would be terrific fun, no?

See you tomorrow for what will be, I'm sure, another fun post prescribed by Eskimimi, organizer of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cuz I Eats Me Spinach

...and my kale! Here's our little take from the kickoff day for our local farmer's market. The kale is for later, but we shared the cinnamon roll and pumpkin muffin and added yogurt and fruit for breakfast. Too yummy.
So why the Popeye reference? Two reasons: Because I've been strong to the finish lately and because I realize that my formative years were much influenced by that loveable large-forearmed Sailor Man. Here are a few things I learned from Popeye. Eat your spinach. Be true to your sweetie. Don't let the bullies get the best of you. Never give up. And learn to talk with a pipe in your teeth. Well, I live by most of those, anyway.
My main point is that I'm feeling pretty good about finishing four sweaters and a large cowl in the past month. One of the sweaters was an 18-month size cardi, but proud I still am.
I also have to mention how excited I am that I am going to participate in the Second Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week next week. Eskimimi (with her gorgeous designs!) has been so nice as to coordinate this big old blog party and I can't wait to plunge into the requisite post topics. I have barely peaked at them because I want to do it fresh every day. Let's hope I have good brain all week! Otherwise, you will see drivel. We don't want drivel, now, do we?
At the end of this posting extravaganza I will need to tell you about a blog interview I responded to that goes live next Friday! Yes, April Fool's Day. How appropriate.
Must run. Because you know what immediately follows on the heels of FO's, don't you? Startitis! Projects to cast on!
Have a good weekend!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Try, Try Again

I'm going to tell you a funny story in hopes that it helps you avoid the humbling effects I suffered as a result of some of my recent stubbornness. As I have mentioned, I love The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt. Would that I had the greenbacks to purchase my own copy*, I could have it for more than the three weeks allowed on loan from the local library--it cannot be renewed, because someone is always placing it on hold. That's what I had to do to nab it this time. She's mine, all mine for 20 more days!
So, of course, this is the book I turned to when I wanted to learn invisible BO for 1/1 rib (aka Italian BO, etc.) I had checked other sources and none of them clicked like the one in Hiatt's book...or so I overconfidently thought. Believing I had grasped the technique when I so carefully followed the illustrated directions, I worked the edge of one sleeve of a top-down sweater (something this technique is perfect for) and oh-so-smugly set the project aside for a more deadline-intensive one. In the meantime, the return date came for the book and I had to give it back. A week or so later, I returned to the little sweater to try to work the other sleeve and resulting edge and realized I was without my precious and had not even written down notes! I looked on my shelves, I looked about online, but nothing would serve the purpose! It was all meaningless to me. One book even had the audacity to suggest that I place the knit stitches on one needle and the purl stitches on a separate needle to work this BO. I sez to myself: Preposterous! There's no need for such gymnastics. I can do it without this nonsense.
Silly, silly me. Nancie was right. It's good to separate the stitches. Here's how this next part went. After perusing a stack of books and magazine articles from my own shelf, I set them all aside, convinced I was never going to get this technique down. The next morning I arose with renewed vigor (and stubbornness--sometimes it helps!), looked at Nancie Wiseman's instructions in The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques again, placed the knits on one needle and the purls on a separate needle and painstakingly...slowly...carefully...did it!

The two sets of stitches ready to fix the body hem that I had done using Hiatt's book, thinking I had it down.
(Yarn shown is Schaefer Lola in Dorothy Reade)

The sleeve edge on the upper left that shows my finally getting it right, thanks to Wiseman, and the one on the lower right that shows how the wrong side of the edge is not supposed to look.

Here is the button band to show you how incredible this looks when you get it right (except for that sixth knit stitch from the left--don't look at that one). You've probably seen an edge like this on some of your store-bought sweaters. Go get some of them and see. The edge just rolls over, with the knit stitches contining over the edge smoothly and beautifully. The conventional hand-knit BO I had been doing all these years produces a chain at the edge. Sometimes I like this. More often, though, I think I'll choose this BO when working 1/1 ribbed edges. It looks so professional! Try it yourself, but take it from me. Grab that second needle like Nancie says. She knows what she's talking about.
Partial to-do list for today:
  • Yoga workout
  • Block a sweater coat I finished yesterday
  • Do the rest of the ribbing BO on the sweater above
  • Swatch some lace for a freelance submission
  • Put the first round of corrections from the tester into the top-down sweater draft
  • Figure out how to make a yummy stew out of the leftover veggies from the St. Patty's dinner (cuz we ate the corned beef on Reubens Saturday--delicious!)

What's on your list?

*AHHHHH (screaming inside) I just found out that the Hiatt book is finally being reprinted and should be out by November! YES! Mildly suspicious, however, as it states a price of $45 for the hard copy. Has it been *gasp* shortened?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Please give...

I was working on a post last Friday when, well, you know what happened. Only the fifth most devastating earthquake of the past 110 years, the resulting tsunamis, and a more damaging nuclear disater than Chernobyl.
I have just given to the American Red Cross, through which you can designate where your money is most intensely applied. From my work with this organization, I know it is one that can be trusted.
I'll be back next week with more posts. In the meantime, I'm just grateful ever more for calm weather and a house that stands securely. My thoughts are with those with no home left standing at all because of this disaster. This could happen to any of us.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Raglan Increases

For the past month or so I've been studying raglan construction, starting with experimenting with different raglan increases. I have taught a light class on top-down sweater construction in the past, but feel that I need to learn so much more about this. I really love working sweaters top-down because of the freedom to alter lengths. Designers like Wendy Bernard and Stefanie Japel have done wonders with top-down sweater construction. I am taking my basic instruction from Barbara G. Walker and her book, Knitting from the Top. Without further ado, I'll show you some of the types of raglan increases I'm working.

One of the most simple: kf&b, k1 before marker; kf&b after marker. Since the kf&b increase (knit into the front and the back of the same stitch) essentially forms a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch, this raglan increase places one knit stitch on each side of the marker and one purl stitch beside each of those. It forms a line of two knit stitches along the raglan diagonal line.
(Top sample is being worked in Schaefer Lola in Dorothy Reade and bottom sample is Cascade Pure Alpaca, color 3008.)

An even easier raglan increase is worked on a garter stitch fabric. The raglan line in the above photo is achieved by working kf&b before the marker and kf&b after the marker. You can see that it makes a slight "ditch" at the raglan diagonal line.
(Top sample is worked in Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Worsted in Pink Peony; bottom sample is Marr Haven 2-ply in Medium Grey.)
To add a little more interest, I though I'd do a sample with a small cable at the raglan line. This is achieved by working M1, p1, 1/1 LC, p1, k1 before the marker and k1, p1, 1/1 RC, p1, M1 after the marker. This will look so much better when blocked, of course. I'll show you when it's done.
(Sample is worked in Cleckheaton Country 8-ply, color 2276.)
Here is a crochet yoke worked in alternating rows of sc and dc with the raglan increase being formed by working 2 sc stitches in each dc in the row below on each side of a marked center stitch. It's a bit more gradual increase than the knit ones above and below.
(Sample is being worked in Cascade Eco Duo in color 1706.)

For a more lacy increase, I am working a yo, k1 before the marker and a k1, yo after the marker. Notice I do not close the yo on the following WS row. This makes a simple lace raglan diagonal line.
(Sample worked in Pagewood Farm Yukon in Sea Breeze.)

Here is that same lacy raglan line after blocking. Much nicer! This sample is done (and I mean done--FO!) in Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering alternating colors between Shells on the Beach and Maple Leaf.

I can't show you more right now, but hope to be able to share more detailed FO shots in the future.

Let me know if any of you have worked a top-down sweater and whether you liked it or not. If you haven't tried it, please give it a shot. I will have a couple of Figheadh patterns ready for you in the coming months to help you try out this wonderful technique!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Happy March!

(wishing I could host or even participate in something as cool as this--check the link)
  • Irish American Month
  • Music in our Schools Month
  • National Craft Month
  • National Frozen Foods Month
  • National Irish American Heritage Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • National Peanut Month
  • National Women's History Month
  • Poetry Month
  • Social Workers Month

and Red Cross Month--one of my favorite charities.

So I guess we should make music in school while eating nutritional peanuts and frozen food while learning about the Irish and reading women's poetry, at the very least, hoping not to need the services of a social worker or The Red Cross but being very glad we have them. Okay?

But every month is Knitting Month for me, so next time I'll show you at least a bit of all the many top-down cardigans I'm working on at present. Back to the knitting!