I know a more appropriate lyric would be "Singing in the Rain," but instead I'm thinking snow.
Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I went to the ceramics store to paint mugs for holiday gifts? And I thought two would come out okay, and two wouldn't? Well, I was right. Two of the mugs came out of the kiln even better than I had expected, with rich, bright green holly leaves and pine trees and blazing red berries and candy canes.
I am usually not the cutesy-hearts-inside-the-bottom-of-the-mug sort, but these are for my little 5 and 3 year old friends and their parents. It is a policy in their household that when the kids come in from playing outside, they may have "winter coffee" (what the kids call hot chocolate) in their choice of mug.
But two of the mugs were not successful. Instead of having snowflakes and snowmen on a dark sky blue background, they are a solid pale sky-blue, with odd flecks of white, like there were zinc fragments in the blue paint.
So I'm off to the ceramics store again tomorrow to paint two more mugs, hopefully more successfully this time.
In order to get snowflakes and snowmen to show up on my mugs, I need to find a way to paint around them, sort of a reverse stencil that will leave the snowflake unpainted and deposit paint around it. First, I tried to cut out snowflakes from folded paper--but (this is sad) I couldn't remember how. That's just a skill I thought you never lost, you know?
So off to the magic Internet. After a lightning-fast Google search, I found snowflakes. Not only are they snowflake templates, they are based on real snowflake shapes, the kinds found in nature! So if you're at all interested in snowflakes (or crystallography), it's kind of cool. Or if you just need to cut out a few snowflakes.
Me, I copied and pasted them onto labels, which I am painstakingly cutting out with cuticle scissors (so fun). I intend to stick the snowflakes onto the mugs and paint around them. The paint had better not slide under the label adhesive, that's all I have to say. I have better things to do with my time than cut out dozens of eeensy, meensy snowflakes.
There will be no knitting until the snowflakes are done.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I know a more appropriate lyric would be "Singing in the Rain," but instead I'm thinking snow.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments about my Dale! I do think the ribbing needs to be looser, especially considering how oversized the body is, but I am hopeful that I can block it out a bit.
In the meantime, as I was finishing sleeve #2, I was pondering the dilemma of those knitters a little scared of using multiple colors. It's really nothing to be shy about. If you can knit, you can change colors while you knit. There are, however, several good reasons not to knit with colors:
1) it's expensive--you may only need 30 yards each of blue, red, pink and green, but for each you'll be buying the entire skein, plus several skeins of your background color. In 1998, the yarn for this Dale cost $104. I imagine it's quite a bit more now.
2) you have to pay attention. You'll be knitting from a chart, and while each row will have its own rhythm (*3 blue, 1 black, 3 blue, 1 black, 1 blue, 1 black*), you will have to incorporate increases while maintaining the pattern. That can be a headscratcher.
3) it can be slow-going. If you are picking up one color, knitting two stitches, putting that color down, picking up another, knitting two stitches, etc., time is going to move a little more slowly (more on this later).
But here are some ways to make your experience a more pleasant one!
Martita's Tips to Knitting with 2+ Colors:
--If you can learn to carry one color in your left hand and one in your right (described here and here), more power to you. I apparently lack the fine motor skills necessary to accomplish this. Instead I carry both yarns over my right index finger and alternate them as needed. It goes much more quickly than picking up and putting down. But if you aren't up to either of these methods, picking up and putting down works just fine too. You shouldn't not knit colors because you can't carry a yarn in your left hand, know what I mean?
--If you are switching colors frequently, you can carry your inactive color across the back of your knitting. If you are carrying a color for more than 3 or 4 stitches, loop it in your working yarn around the 4th stitch or so. This way your tension will be a little stronger when you pick that yarn back up, and you won't tangle your hands in loose yarn when you put your sweater on. It's not a big deal, but it helps.
--Try not to loop the yarn in the same place two rows in a row. Does that make sense? If you loop the yarn on the 4th stitch on Row #1, loop it at the 3rd stitch on Row #2 instead. Loops in the exact same spot over multiple rows will show on the right side. I hope that makes sense. It's hard to explain. Again, not a big deal but it helps.
--In a perfect world, you would maintain perfect tension when carrying your yarn. But this ain't no perfect world, and most of us have some gauge and tension issues. You will likely have to choose which direction to err in: possibly carrying too loosely or carrying too tightly. In my opinion, carrying too tightly is the lesser of those two evils. You can block out a bit of a pucker (at least in wool), but I don't know any way to get rid of a loose, floppy stitch other than tugging on it every time you look at it.
--If you are working on a block of color, say, for instance, a square of pink in a field of white, make sure you twist your colors every time you switch. If you merely carry your background color (in this example, white) across the back of your square, your pink square will not be sufficiently anchored to your knitting and will float there like an island, completely unattached at the sides. Perhaps some of you know the very sad Jimmy Buffett song, "Island" ("Island, I see you in all of my dreams, but I'm a man with no means to reach your distant shore..."). Yup. Learned that the hard way.
--Knit in your ends as you go. About 5 stitches before you incorporate a new color, begin wrapping that new color around the yarn you are actively knitting with. On your first stitch with Color #2, it will already be tightly anchored and you can give it a worry-free tug. Similarly, when you finish using a color, cut it about 2" down, and wrap those 2" around your working yarn on the next five or so stitches.
--Personally, I am a lot more likely to finish a patterned project if there is occasional relief from the pattern, i.e. some mindless swatches of background color to look forward to. Endless anything (patterning, stockinette, seed stitch) is overwhelming to me. For instance, the difference between this Dale sweater and the Turkish sock I started, when? a month ago, you say? The Dale has some big blocks of background color; the Turkish sock, no rest for the weary. (Yes, I know, I put the Dale down for 7 years, shut it). For your first multicolor project, you might want to start with something with occasional bands of pattern, to dip your toe, so to speak.
I find I yearn to work with strong colors in the wintertime, maybe because everything outdoors is so monochrome. It's a good time for multicolor knitting! Besides, you need all that wool in your lap to keep warm.
Of course, all this is just how I do things. There are as many different ways to knit as there are knitters. You may find it easier to do things a whole other way, and as long as you get the desired result, that's all that matters (or, as Carson Kressley would say, "you're different and that's super!"*)
*I love Carson, but am I the only one who finds this title a tad troubling? I guess I'm just concerned that the playground-taunting "you're different" will drown out the "that's super" message. No kid wants to have it drummed into their head that they're different, no matter how many "supers" are appended. Maybe you have to read the book (which I haven't).
Friday, November 25, 2005
How cold was it?
It was so cold I started knitting my Dale again.
The body is done, up to the point of sleeve attachment:
(admire the teeny, tiny ribbing under the massive sweater--why, why?? The whole sweater reeks of "what was I thinking?" It looks like an elephant's trunk warmer. A nicely-patterned, toasty trunk warmer, you know, for those chilly circus days.)
Upon investigating my long-abandoned Dale bag, I discovered that Sleeve #1 has only ten more rows of cuff pattern before arriving at the boring navy blue, knit-while-you-read part again. Which is perfect because I just started an Agatha Christie yesterday (Peril at End House) and I've gotten somewhat absorbed. I never realized before what an egotistical ass Hercule Poirot was; it adds interest and dimension to his character and frankly, I hadn't given Dame Christie credit for the writing chops before. I always thought she was kind of a mystery hack with decent plotting but not much in the way of characterization. Seems I was a bit wrong.
The self-striping socks are done and prepared for their trip to Philly--I just have to wait until their auxiliary gift is released and then the package will be in the mail. And I knit several pattern repeats of the Aran pocket shawl (an excellent knit-while-reading project)... but I haven't touched the Turkish sock. Honestly, it's kind of a pain in the butt.
Thanksgiving was fun and relaxing for once--instead of cooking I got the day off (well, I had to clean house and bake a gingerbread, but still). We went out to dinner with the SIL and then took the dogs (plural, we are dogsitting my cousin's hyperactive, OCD-afflicted black lab) for a run and swim at the beach, and then came home to share the gingerbread and cocktails with friends and their small children.
And now I sit in my chilly office (yes, had to work today), wearing my gauntlets for warmth. It's cold here, people.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
As I was hard at work mailing out invoices, I suddenly said to myself, "Must order Rogue zipper if I ever want to wear the damn thing." So I dropped what I was doing and surfed over to Zipper Stop.
I had cleverly brought a yarn sample to work, knowing that I was going to need to hold one up to the monitor before I ordered anything. However, the yarn sample only made it all the more evident that there are no zippers in anywhere close to the shade of baby-puke pea green that I am dealing with. I had read somewhere the helpful advice that if you can't find a matching color, get one darker--although dark in a completely different shade is still, well, a completely different shade.
So what to do? Well, first I realized, plastic is out. Brass matches with everything, and leaves only the backing fabric to clash.
My question to those experienced zipper knitters out there: how much should I worry about matching the fabric? 'Cause it's not going to happen. It won't show much, will it? Please say no.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
and the cussing. I do not set sleeves in well. My knitting career has been carefully arranged to avoid setting sleeves in, ever since I made one of those Scandinavian ski sweaters (the one with the hearts) in college and wound up with poufy sleeves. And the zipper? I can't wait to sew in the zipper. Sounds like a hoot.
Speaking of hoots, wouldn't you think a dog bandanna would be something you could whip up in, say, 15 minutes? Oh no. 5 dog bandannas, three and a half hours. And I have 5 more to make, for sale at a Garden Club fundraiser. Triangles seem so simple, all those straight lines. They're really not, they're kind of a bitch. And my cheap loser of a sewing machine isn't helping me any.
But enough complaining. I have about 200 yards of new fluffy cream-colored yarn all skeined up and ready to knit, Rogue is almost done, and self-striping sock #2 is past its heel. And it's a beautiful day.
P.S. Thank you to those who have referenced Montse Stanley's book on their blogs. I'd never heard of it and checked it out from the library out of curiousity. Now it's on my Christmas list!
Friday, November 18, 2005
I had hoped to be able to show you a finished object photo by now, but alas, I've actually been called upon to work while at work (shocking, I know) so sock progress has been slow. I'm about 1" into the heel flap:
You can see in the picture how, once I stopped charting every single row (because it was muy tedious) and winged it, the sides got a little muddled. Perhaps it would have been best had I left the sides alone in the first place, and just had a front pattern and a back pattern (there aren't enough stitches for two side repeats).
You can also see the side shaping, which does fit over my foot, so far.
This fall is the first time I can remember in my entire life that I have juggled more than one knitting project. All my life, I've been a one-at-a-time person. Even at dinner, I eat my potatoes, then my vegetable, then my meat. I don't take a bite of this, a bite of that. I am capable of juggling--I know that from work--I just prefer not to. But so many of my knitting brethren out there have multiple projects going I thought, why not me too? Why not a shawl and socks and a sweater? Why tie myself down?
Why? Because if I tie myself down, the damn thing gets finished. That's why.
I've discovered during this fickle fall that if I let myself go astray, there's a good possibility I might not go back. Rogue is getting finished, just v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, and that shawl I started a couple of weeks ago has had no progress since I began this sock. And what I haven't mentioned in the blog is that there's another pair of socks, a simple self-striping pair, destined for a friend in Pennsylvania, if I ever finish them (one's done, one's on needles). Plus all the wool waiting for the spindle, and the singles on the spindle waiting to be plied. I guess my point is, there's only so much time in the day, know what I mean? And there's so much I want to do that maybe I have to parcel it out, one project at a time.
Oh, and can I tell you? This Turkish sock is taking a hella long time to knit. I think all the color changing slows you down. No, I'm serious, it really does. Stop laughing. And even worse, I want to put it down to knit nice, warm mittens--which realistically, I need a lot more than socks right now. But you know I'll never pick it back up if I do!
Saturday, November 12, 2005
New color combination:
It's basically the same combination as in Anna Zilboorg's book, but I am so color-challenged that I usually have to follow the suggested color combinations. The shades are off, though, so the sock colors are not as successful as hers were, but I do think they are an improvement over the previous colors.
Now, keep in mind that you are seeing flash-quality digital reproductions of those colors, which we all know are about as reliable as a broken-down Model T. In this case, however, I think they are close enough to give you an idea what is going on. FYI, that dark color is purple, in case you can't tell.
I tried a new braid, too. I did one row of ribbing, then one row of color A/color B knitting, then the braid stitch. I think this braid works better (i.e. you can see it).
Now, the big question will be: with all the stranding and braiding, will they fit over my fat feet? We'll have to wait and see...
Friday, November 11, 2005
Well, I'm ripping already. I do still think the concept will work, but...
1) Instead of knitting 1 or 2 rows and then doing a braid row, I decided to cast on using the Kihnu Troi cast on from Folk Knitting in Estonia. As you can see, that cast on is curling. I think I would be better off with maybe a couple of garter stitch rows and then a braid detail. Plus, the braid would show up better lying flat on the side rather than located at the very top. And if I'm doing a braid, by God I want it to show up.
2) Have I mentioned that I am color-challenged? These three colors looked so nice lying together in the wool bowl. They played very well together. But they don't work so well together. They spit and fight and take up each others' desk space. I know in my heart they don't look that bad, that in fact they don't really fight, but the mustard (which looked so gold in the wool bowl) and the green (leftover from Rogue) are bumming me out. The red can stay. Maybe the mustard can stay too, in a lesser role. You know, the red's the boss, another color (white? purple?) is the office assistant, the mustard does the filing. Maybe the green's the only problem. I'll have to experiment some more.
Back to the drawing board...
First, measure the fleece sock I wish to mimic. Its dimensions:
9” at cuff
decreasing to 7 ½” at ankle
increasing back to 9” by end of heel
Cuff to back of heel: 7 ½”
Cuff to ankle: 4 ¾”
Ankle to back of heel: 2 ¾”
Gauge: 6 ½ stitches = 1”
Cast on (6.5*9=59 stitches)
Cuff pattern requires 6 stitch repeat = 60 stitches
Must decrease 1 ½ inches in width over 4 ¾ inches in length
1.5 inches at 6.5 stitches/inch = 10 stitches over 4.75 inches in length
= 2 stitches an inch should do it. It’ll be a quarter-inch longer but that’s okay.
Sock leg pattern requires multiple of 25. Chart out one and a bit repeats with decreases, work from chart.
Turn heel the “normal” way, but work increases over front of sock to regain 9” width.
Must increase 10 stitches over 2.75” = 3.64 stitches/inch. Closest solution: increase 3 stitches an inch over 3 inches. New stitch count: 59.
Did I mention the different sole pattern? Sole pattern requires 2 stitch repeat, instep pattern same 25 stitch repeat. Separate sock for instep and sole patterns. Chart out one and a bit patterns for instep, work from chart.
Work toe decreases as usual, end sock.
Anyone see any glaring math errors yet? Hope not! (slow day at work)
Last night, I finished spinning up the cream roving, but it will have to wait to be plied due to travel plans. Thank you all for your help with my spun-yarn problems; I think where I was going wrong is that I was using soap. No soap with this yarn! Just water and maybe a can of beans if it needs it.
In the meantime, I have decided on a new sock project, one that is a bit experimental. I'm going to knit a sock using a Turkish pattern (#21 from Anna Zilboorg's Simply Socks). But instead of knitting the sock the Turkish way (toe-up, with a perfectly triangular toe, and a sewn-in-later heel), I'm opting to knit it top down, starting with a braid edging. While I am dying to try the Turkish cast-on, the traditional Turkish sock structure looks like it would be cumbersome under shoes. I think the Western way will result in a more streamlined, comfortable sock. I'm sort of borrowing from Nancy Bush's Folk Knitting in Estonia for the sock structure.
But, due to constant color changes, these socks won't have much give. I expect them to be stiff and hopefully stand up on their own (if I knit them tight enough). I happen to have several pairs of much-beloved fleece socks that never, ever slouch, which I suspect is due not only to the thickness of the fabric, but also to the subtle ankle shaping. They start at 9" in circumference, drop to 7.5 inches at the ankle, and expand back out to 9" by the end of the heel. Has anyone tried this? I realize this will skew the pattern, but I'm hoping I can hide those edges on the inside leg. Nancy Bush has a couple of patterns that utilize leg decreases, so I'm hoping to find some guidance there. Anna Zilboorg has another book, Socks for Sandals and Clogs, that might utilize decreases (I can't remember off the top of my head, but I wouldn't be surprised).
I don't know whether this whole shaped sock thing will work, and it may not be worth the trouble. But I'm going to give it a try (and rip it all out if necessary). It's an excuse to use stash yarn that's been sitting around for about 6 years.
What's that you're saying, for my first pair of patterned socks EVER, maybe I should start a little simpler? Yup, could be. But I've done all the techniques (braided edge, color knitting, decreases/increases, basic unshaped-top-down sock structure) before, so I'm hoping I can put them all together into something that works.
And to cast on, I had to steal #3 dp needles from the barely-begun sleeve of a Dale pullover that's been sitting in the basement for about 7 years, leading me to a new resolution: I will finish that #$^&* Dale. Maybe not this winter (1 3/4 sleeves and yoke to go), but I'll at least work on it this winter. It is glorious, if enormous, and whenever it's done, it'll be a great cross-country skiing sweater. And in a pinch, I could lend it to the hubby, it's that huge. No wonder it took so freaking long to knit I gave up on it. I could fit two people in there. What was I thinking?
In the meantime, Rogue's hood is done, and its front awaits an icord and a zipper. I figure I should knit the icord, then block it, then order the zipper, so I make sure I order the right size. Then finish the hems, sew the zipper in and sew the sleeves on. While it sounds like a lot of work when you list it that way, it's kind of comforting knowing that it's almost done. I can't wait to wear it. And it's just getting cold enough to!
There will be pictures next time, promise. Work has been crazy this week and there's been no time. And at home I've been too busy spindling!
Happy Veteran's Day, everyone. Many thanks to our vets.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
You know, I was out every night this week except Friday, so you might think I have a life, but you would be mistaken. No one with an active social life could do this much knitting. In fact, looking at what I've done this week, I'm starting to feel a little pathetic... note to self: must get friends. That is, friends who are not enablers. I think in mid-90's psycho-talk it would be called "co-dependent." Although I'm not sure, I never understood that term.
Anyway, last Saturday, I cast on for the Aran Pocket Shawl from Folk Shawls, a rectangular shawl with patch pockets set near both ends. Here's a closeup of the pattern. It's a simple basketweave with a seed stitch in between.
Yes, that is the Jamieson's DK I bought for a lacy cardigan, but it's really not cut out for lace. You were all too kind to point it out to me at the time, but I knew it in my heart anyway. I just thought it was too purty to pass up. It's much more suited for project like this. Of course, since I was changing the shawl's gauge from aran to light worsted I needed a few more skeins, so I did a little loophole shopping (I can buy new yarn if it's needed to complete a destashing project, remember?)
On Saturday night, while enjoying the Hitchcock film festival on the telly, I whipped up a quick little hat from Sally Melville's The Knit Stitch. One less skein of cream-colored Lopi in the stash! I envision lots of these hats in the future. 2 hours, a partial skein of wool, gifts for everyone!
On Sunday I worked on Rogue's hood. I know I am, like, the only knitter east of the Mississippi who has not yet made a Rogue, and this has been said a billion times before, but just in case anyone missed the point, these are some fun cables. You know how some patterns get boring and you're just waiting for a cable twist to liven things up? There is never a boring moment on this hood. In fact, there's not much downtime in the entire sweater pattern. No stockinette snore here!
Oh, my Rogue has no pockets because I didn't take enough needles to Canada with me (and we were 2.5 hours from the nearest mall).
On Wednesday, I went to Knit and Chat, where I got to spend some quality time with Melanie and Michelle.
On Thursday, I had to head north for my annual flu shot, so I figured I'd keep going all the way to Cambridge to Minds Eye Yarns. I've never been there before and I was not disappointed. Yes, it was way out of the way (no, my flu shot was not in downtown Boston, just shut up) but I've been jonesing for some new wool to spin and any reason to visit The People's Republic is a good reason to me.
It's been so long since I picked up my spindle that I was afraid I'd forgotten how, so I bought some plain cream wool top to practice on. Except there's nothing plain about this cream wool, it is just fluffy glossy goodness and entirely delightful. So soft! So creamy! So easy to spin!
Caution: do not stare directly at the sheen. Staring directly at the sheen causes immediate and complete loss of wallet control.
I mean, so easy to spin. I've already filled one toilet paper storage roll and have a half-spindle more. I dreamt about spinning this wool last night. Wait, it gets worse. In my dream, I was spinning at the grocery store. Please don't analyze that.
Then, this gorgeous variegated red wool top caught my eye. My only disappointment is that there were only 8 oz available.
Here's a spinning question for my spinning friends: it has been my experience that you start out with lustrous roving, and you spin it up and the yarn you create still has that luster, then you wash it and it's flat and dull and the luster is gone. What's up with that? Am I washing it wrong?