Saturday, July 28, 2012

WIPs vs. UFOs

There is a definite line that can be drawn between Works in Progress (WIPs) and Unfinished Objects (UFOs) that seems to center around how long the project has been languishing.

Did you set it down so you could get some sleep, a cup of tea, or tend to your non-knitting responsibilities? Definitely a WIP. Did you set it down to succumb to the lure of casting on a newly-inspired project, or are you working on several projects simultaneously? Still a WIP. Have you tidied it away because it was cluttering up your work space, and you needed more room? Now you've crossed into UFO territory. If it's still hanging around in immediate reach, it's a WIP. If you've tidied it away "just for now," it has become a UFO.

This would seem to mean that you can reclaim a UFO back into WIP-ness just by physically moving back into reach. Although if it just sits there gathering dust (and perhaps moths), I suspect the universe is not fooled for a moment.

Here, at the urging of a reader who wishes I would not wait to showcase only Finished Objects, is one of my current WIPs. Back in June I took a delightful class at my LYS on Bohus Stickning, which left me with two soft, incredibly warm, Blue Shimmer "wristlets."  I had decided at the outset that mine would be purposed into sock cuffs, and sized them accordingly.

I knit the entire first sock before starting the second, which is, of course, the way I normally make socks. But it kept bothering me that I hadn't knit both cuffs right away - I think I was afraid I would forget what I learned in class. I didn't, and the second cuff came out just the same. It looks longer and thinner in the picture only because it has not yet been worn. It's slightly less fuzzy at the moment, but I remember that the first cuff wasn't fuzzy when it was new either. It fuzzes up with time, like memories.  It also hasn't had all its ends dealt with yet. Giving the stickiness of the wool/angora yarn, I totally believe that I could leave them untucked. But I can't do it. My tidy nature rebels. (Why doesn't my tidy knitting nature ever rebel against the state of my housekeeping? One of life's mysteries.)

I had thought that I would finish the sock feet in some cream-colored fingering weight wool I had around, but when it came down to it, I couldn't find it (it turned up last night in a stash dive for dishcloth cotton). But I had this pink, and I remembered how there was pink in many of the Bohus colorways that you didn't see until you examined the work closely, so I thought it would be friends, as the children used to say to refer to colors that went well together. And it's very friendly indeed.

My preference is to knit toe-up socks, because I'm miserly with my yarn and like being able to fit as I go along. But I've knit cuff-down socks when I liked the pattern, so I knew what to do, and what I wanted: eye-of-partridge heel flap, plain foot, standard toe, in the number of stitches that I know fits my foot (which is, to my never-ending astonishment, fewer than most patterns call for. I don't think I have small or narrow feet, until I mindlessly cast on the number of stitches in a new sock pattern and look with dismay at the result.)

When first shown a pair of wristlets-as-sock-cuffs during class, I was struck by the odd shaping caused by the ribbing directly below the cuff, above the heel. But as soon as I got started, picking up the live stitches of the cuff and knitting a decrease row (which also made sure the colors didn't blend at the color join), I saw the necessity - the cuff is too wide, after going over your heel, to stay put. A little ribbing does the trick, and the sock is a normal shape when worn.

Turning the heel of the first sock was enough to make me realize why heel-turning is such a bugbear to so many. I've never had trouble before. It just takes a bit of concentration: I cannot stop in mid-heel, so I need an uninterrupted stretch of time. I had an entire weekend for the first heel, and I needed all of it and more. I cannot tell you how many times I re-did it. I would mess up the eye-of-partridge pattern, or inexplicably forget to slip the edge stitches, making picking up the right number later a trial. At least once I got to the end of the heel flap and began picking up stitches, forgetting entirely to turn the heel! You can see that I have safely turned the heel of the second sock before setting it down. It took more than one try, but not as many as the first sock!

I've since finished the gusset decreases and worked my way down the foot. The pair will be finished and tucked away for winter by the end of the weekend, despite the fact that I set it aside to knit an entirely other project from start to finish last night. It's okay: they were only set aside, not tidied away.

P.S.  I knit a little bag for my camera out of dishcloth cotton while watching the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics last night. You get neither a picture of the work in progress or the finished object, because my camera has gone to New Jersey for a week. I hope it has a good time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Birthday Tea

When a knitting store opened up in my neighborhood last year, I was thrilled to finally be able to toss "my LYS" into a conversation. That they had a Club Card program was just the icing on the cake. Birthday cake, that is, because every year club members receive a gift card on their birthday! Since I was in my LYS (hee!) a few weeks before my birthday (and that's another story - soon!), I knew what to do.

I bought a skein of yarn for my birthday. It was squishy and soft-like-a-bunny, and its pretty colors sang to me. I brought it home, and before I could even take a picture of it for my stash on Ravelry, it was wound up, cast on, and halfway to being a shawlette, jumping several projects diligently in progress. Things slowed down a bit at the finish, because, despite having a 400-yard skein, I didn't have enough to finish the pattern as written. I tinked back until I had both a good stopping place AND enough yarn, and did an EZ sewn bind-off. This was maddeningly tedious on that many stitches, but gave me the nice stretchy edge I needed. Blocking was a cinch in this weather (although surprisingly, lots of color went down the drain in my wet-blocking). And here it is:

Pattern: Afternoon Tea
Yarn: Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Prairie Rose, from The Knitting Boutique

Now it's packed away until autumnal breezes arrive!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shattered Silk

[If you're here for the Barbara Michaels novel of the same name, while I'm a big fan, this is not what I'm posting about.]

If you happen to have inherited, as I have, some lovely old lamps, and if their shades have not stood the test of time as well as the rest of them (shattering, in fact, as only silk can), you have four choices:
  • you can buy what passes for a lampshade today, which is stiff and seems to be made of paper;
  • you can acquire both the knowledge and the materials to make your own from Mr. Internet (but sadly, we can't download skill - yet);
  • you can pay someone a slightly exorbitant amount to custom make a shade for your lamp (but even then, the shade that is the "right" size isn't always in the repertoire of modern lampshade makers); or
  • you can mail your shade off, in all its tatters, to some lovely people in upstate New York, who after some consultation with you, will remake it using the original frame and new fabric, and ship it back to you, for a very reasonable amount given the awesomeness of their skills.
My new/old lampshade was waiting for me when I got home from work today, and was immediately re-attached to my grandparents' lamp (okay, I guess it's my lamp, but I don't think I'll ever think of it that way). I am SO happy with it!

Back to knitting:

Way back when I posted about my first pair of Olivers, but never went back and finished the story - I bought another skein, re-knit the foot-length, and they have been my husband's favorite socks ever since:

 Recently I made him a second pair - same pattern, same yarn, different color:

Pattern: Olivers
Yarn: Patons Kroy Sock FX, 3 skeins per pair,in Camo and Cadet
No mods. These socks look a little weird when empty, but fit like a dream!

And of course, there was just enough left over for a tiny nephew's cold toes:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Soft as a Bunny

KD gave me two balls of Patons Angora Bamboo some time ago. It is unbelievably soft, with that sheen and halo that bamboo gives fiber. I had great fun searching out the perfect pattern to use every inch of it, and wound up with the Edelweiss Neckwarmer. This was a simple, fun pattern; it knit up fast and problem-free. And then the poor thing languished for months, needing only buttons to be complete. One day I looked at it, sitting there so forlornly, and dove into the button stash, coming up with two Norwegian pewter buttons leftover from a card of buttons for a sweater (I've long since forgotten whose). Then it languished for another period of time while I consulted the pattern and studied the instructions for adding the crochet loops for the button holes. Then I tossed said instructions aside and just sewed on the buttons - I button them through parts of the lace.

It's comfortable around my neck (unlike alpaca, which bothers me), soft and pretty. But even in this mild winter that's just finishing up, I noticed that it wasn't all that warm. Should I feel bad for the poor bunnies, who are obviously not as well-protected from the cold as sheep? Or is it just because it's lace, and by definition full of holes?

Pattern: Edelweiss Neckwarmer (free Ravelry download)
Yarn: Patons Angora Bamboo, 2 skeins
Needles: size 10 (6.00 mm) straight needles
Modifications: skipped the buttonholes

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Knit Toys

Decades ago I came across Nathalie Craig's Knit Toys in my local library (and thanks to the power of the Internet, have recently acquired my own copy). I knit on a shoestring budget back then (as opposed to knitting on an actual shoestring, which I think would bring me to the end of my rope...). Scraps of fabric and notions from the store, leftover acrylic worsted from various projects, and a seemingly endless bag of polyester fiberfill, all combined with the magical patterns in this book to provide my three kids with hours of fun.


There were the sister dolls,  Rose Red and Rose White, with their tiny eyelet aprons and ribbon edging.

There were the three little kittens, complete with mittens and mama. I'm not a big fan of attaching joints, so this was probably my least favorite project.

There were babies in bunting. A doll with no arms or legs to attach! I was so delighted that in a burst of creativity, I figured out I could embroider both sides of the head with an "awake" and "asleep" face,  and turn the bonnet to "wake up" the baby (warning: do not try with actual baby). Of course, then there was all the sewing involved in lining the basket - I think they sat around for awhile before I tackled that.

There were mice. Lots of mice. The pattern is completely addicting: knit three pieces, join and stuff. Add ears, nose, eyes, and tail.

And of course, there were Gingerbread Men. Another jointless, addicting pattern, and my favorite.  I even did the math and figured out how to make a half-size version. I made entire Ginger families for some young gentlemen of my acquaintance. I also made several for the local kindergarten teachers, who always started the year with the story of the Gingerbread Man, complete with following his "footsteps" around the school (and incidentally learning the layout - it was an inspired project!), and ending with gingerbread cookies for snack.

Somewhere in this house there are more - little bears and roly-polys. All from this wonderful book, from which I filled my kids' childhoods and toy box.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I received a Kindle as a birthday present some years back from my family, who know me well enough to know that although I love books, and the smell of old books, and the feel of paper, I love reading even more, and will read the back of the cereal box if nothing else is around. Happily, now my Kindle is around, loaded, so far, with breathtakingly cheap editions of childhood favorites (all twelve of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books! The complete works of L.M. Montgomery!).

I immediately noticed that the Kindle does not come with a carrying loop. It's so thin I was afraid I would drop it just carrying it around. And there are scratchy things (like keys and knitting needles) in my bag. I researched Kindle covers on line, and nothing was what I wanted.

And so there I was in the Great North Woods,

with my Kindle exposed to the elements.

Now one thing I've always loved about going to Camp is the make-do element, particularly where knitting is concerned. Oh, the things we've made stitch holders and cable needles out of over the years! So, what did I have on hand?

  • - a 1/2 ball of Peaches n Cream left over from the dishcloth binge I was on through the end of that July
  • - a circular 8, also leftover from the dishcloth binge (if you know where my favorite straight 8's are and you're currently in Easton, speak up...)

Here's what I did:

Cast on 20 stitches using the knitted-on cast-on.
Knit in the front and back of each stitch across the next row (40 sts).
Commence double knitting (k1, bring yarn to front as if about to purl, slip next st, put yarn back, rpt across row, turn work and repeat across back of work for 1 double-row.) I kept sliding my Kindle in to try it on, and stopped at 42 double-rows, because I knew dishcloth cotton would stretch.

Using another needle on hand (a straight 7, as it happened, I went across the row, slipping all stitches, but re-arranging them so that I had two front stitches and then two back stitches across the row. I slid the row to the other end of the needle and worked a double-row of k2tog, yarn over.

I worked another 2 double-rows, then bound off. I made an I-cord long enough to go through the holes, and knotted it closed. And now my Kindle is comfy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fortuitous mistakes

I ordered the Wrong Yarn a few months back. I thought the sock pattern I had fallen in love with called for sport yarn, so I bought a bunch of gorgeous colors (2 skeins each) of Comfy Sport (cotton) from Knitpicks. I was totally drawn in by the little "goodbye" flags telling me a color - a beautiful, mouth-watering color - was being discontinued.

Turns out, the sock pattern called for fingering weight after all.  Figuring out what to do with a mere 100 grams per color was a challenge that has been at least partially dealt with by whipping up a little red vest for my nephew, Mr. Dimples

I take really awful pictures lately, but here's more or less what it looks like:


Now I need to get it in the mail quick, before he outgrows it!