Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Warm Toes, Eventually

The temperatures took an early dive last month, and I didn't sit there with cold feet for long before realizing that the solution was literally at my fingertips.

I grabbed a skein of yarn (Knit Picks Stroll in discontinued Twinkle Heather),

and my current favorite footie pattern (from Knit Picks Fancy Feet), and whipped up a pair of foot warmers.

Before you know it, I was showing them off to visiting KD, who immediately noted that they exactly matched her pajama pants.


Fortunately, I knew where there was more yarn... (and modified the pattern for a short-row heal and 2x2 ribbed cuff):

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Instant Gratification

The Saturday after Thanksgiving being Small Business Saturday, NKD and I went out to support two of our favorite local small businesses. As it happened, NKD had not been in my LYS before, and after initially (and understandably) being mistaken for her twin sister KD, she stunned them all by announcing that she was my Non-Knitting-Daughter. She was raised by knitters, though, so while I took care of some business she ranged through the store, petting the yarn. When I was done, she took me around to introduce me her favorites. Not surprisingly (even her car is blue), this skein of Malabrigo Rasta Superbulky was a favorite.

After some heavy hinting on her part about what a beautiful hat it would make, we included it in our SBS purchases. Once we got home, we round it into a ball. My LYS had offered to wind it up, but NKD wanted to have some part in the process, and she makes a great knitting noddy.

A pattern was quickly chosen (how did we live before Ravelry's pattern search?), and in no time a hat was on the needles.

A very few hours later, the hat was on her head.

Pattern:     Big Chunky Comfy Hat, by Erica Kempf

Yarn:         Malabrigo Yarn's Rasta Superbulky in Sollis (804)

Needles:    size 11 dpns

Elapsed time, yarn purchase to head: 4 hours

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Magic Lace

  Many years ago, I attended a Yarn Party where the fiber fumes went straight to my head and I walked away with several skeins of gorgeous, mutli-colored lace-weight silk. Very slowly it dawned on me that the beautiful lace patterns I was beginning to love making were completely lost in anything but a solid - or lightly heathered - color. I still don't know what I'm going to do with the green-purple-white that is so breathtaking in the skein, and so utterly useless to make lace with.

But I did finally find a lace pattern that could hold up to the skeins of heathered sea-green. I let the match-up of yarn and pattern bubble away on the back burner for a while, until one day I knew who I wanted to make it for, and why. Then I set to work, and spent a couple of years working at it off and on. This fall it was finished, and I gave it to an appreciative recipient, and updated my Ravelry projects page.

Yarn:       Neighborhood Fiber Co.'s Penthouse
                Silk Lace (discontinued) in "Sheridan Circle"

Needles:  3 (3.25 mm)

Beads:     Earth Faire's Wavy Leaves,
                70 (35 on each end, strung on the yarn)

Then magic happened. If you're not a knitter, you probably don't realize that knitters come to have favorite designers over time. The designer of this lace shawl is a favorite of mine - everything she designs is breathtaking. Imagine, if you can, my surprise and delight when she commented on - and favorited! - my knit-up of her design on Ravelry.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Done and delivered!

I finished and delivered the baby blanket before my friend's due date, so we've avoided the Yarn Harlot's superstition. This was a fun knit, working up steadily despite its size. I was a little worried about the edging's tendency to curl where attached, but it straightened out nicely when blocked.

Pattern: Sofo, a free pattern from Berroco

  • Berroco Vintage DK in light green (2162)
  • Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in green (801)
  • Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in natural (817)
  • Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in ginger (828)
 Needles: size 8

 Mods: I used Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off, and ran the blocking wires through it, which gave the edge a bit of a crocheted/ruffled look which I like - on this.

I love the way the single row of light green completely disappears between the rows of white and green, subsumed into the gingham check by the magic of slipped stitches. I always love watching yarn become fabric, but this particular trick never got old.

All packed up with the sheepy sweater and hat, and delivered. Over to you, my friend - time to deliver!

Updated to add: There may be something to this superstition... Baby has arrived safely.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Non-Buyer's Remorse Assuaged

Last May, I saw some yarn I liked towards the end of my day at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. I left without buying it, because I thought it was a heavier weight yarn than it actually was, and I couldn't figure out what I would use it for. It promptly started to haunt me, particularly when I looked it up and realized that it was fingering weight, perfect for a shawl. Fortunately, my friend was visiting the Festival the next day. I did a little research to figure out the vendor's name, then emailed my friend a plea to pick me up a skein of it. I was able to tell her exactly where it was in the vendor's booth. I'm not kidding about being haunted.

By the end of the week I had it in hand, and it was everything I remembered. Brown and red and rustic and with a crunchy feel that I found enticing after months of knitting with 100% silk. A few weeks later, I had picked out and purchased the perfect pattern on Ravelry. It was one of those magical combinations of yarn, pattern, and vision. I made it bigger than the pattern called for - I have enough shawlettes, I wanted something to wrap all around me. That meant the knitted on edging was interminable, but I slogged on, sure it would end someday. And then, suddenly, it did!

I could barely wait for it to dry before taking it off the blocking board to wrap around me. It was everything I had planned, and finished in time for a trip to the frozen north.*

Pattern: Henslowe, by Beth Kling
Yarn: Davidson Old Mill Yarn (Domy) Heather in Burgundy, fingering, 342 yards
Needles: Size 4 (3.5 mm) circular
Mods: I made it bigger. Somewhere I have notes on how much bigger, but who knows where

In a delightful postscript, I had just exactly enough yarn left over to make this:

Pattern: Forest Pixie Hat, by Kristen Cooper
Yarn: Domy Heather in Burgundy, fingering, 133 yards, held double throughout
Needles: size 9 (5.5 mm) straights to get gauge
Mods: I skipped the chin strap

I don't even have a recipient in mind. I'll just tuck it away for now.

*The kind of coincidence that only happens to knitters: on my trip I learned that one of my nieces is quite the knitter, and on Ravelry. We met up at a party, and she was wearing her Henslowe!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to Make a Sweater

Step 1.  Inspiration

Always a fascinating part of the process, this time it was as simple as a friend saying (with great sincerity and in perfect truth) "you owe me one," and adding (not anywhere near as seriously) "that cute sweater on the Yarn Harlot's blog will do."

Step 2.  Acquire yarn

This took a little longer than usual. I stopped by my LYS, where they had already supplied a number of people with the ingredients for that particular sweater - my friend and I were behind the curve, since we'd been far, far away when it was first brought to the knitting public's notice. They had some possibilities left, and I bought them, because I am easily influenced in store settings, where I don't want to upset the nice person who's been helping me. Rational thought asserted itself when I got home and looked at the shade of green I had blindly purchased. I returned the yarn to my LYS (and bought something else, because, you know, I didn't want them to think I didn't like them any more...).

Mr. Internet was then involved, and a short time later, I had yarn: Cascade 220 Sport in green, black, and white. I then coerced a visiting NKD to act as a swift until it was all wound up.

 Step 3. Cast on and knit the body.

This was fun, mindless knitting. I did Jeny's stretchy slipknot cast-on because it looks so nice when followed by ribbing.

Step 4.  Knit sleeves

One at a time, because they're knit in the round. I like doing both sleeves at once, and I know it's possible in the round, but I've never tried it. Along about now I realized I'd been knitting on a size smaller needles for the ribbing than called for, because my needles were acquired in the Dark Ages when knitters believed what they were told and paid no attention to metric measurements (translation: my size 2 straights are 2.75 mm, not 3mm).

Step 5.  Attach sleeves to body, putting everything on a circular needle.

I am about to make the absolutely stunning discovery that my gauge is different on circulars than it is on straight needles. My straight-needle knitting has a machine-like precision that delights me. And which I apparently cannot duplicate on circulars.

Step 6.  Make sheep yoke.

Despair of ever making smooth color work.  Re-work first set of sheep a few times in pursuit of perfection, give up and soldier on. Toy briefly with the idea of only having three buttons (just through the yoke), buy the perfect buttons, notice there are 5 of them on the card, make button bands to accommodate all 5.

Step 7.  Block.

Procrastinate first, sure that even wet blocking will fail to overcome the deficiencies of my color work skills. Wonder if this is going to involve pinning each little sheep out separately. Plunge knitting into water and have it float back up, sheep now completely and perfectly relaxed. All I had to do was get it wet? Why did no one tell me?!

Step 8.  Make hat to match.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How can anything that small make a noise that big?

   I was awoken a good hour before my alarm this morning by an Eastern Screech Owl - according to that page, a whinny followed by trills. Whinny? Horse never occurred to me. I described it to a co-worker later as "the scream of a woman being stabbed, and then purring about it."

I knew as soon as the trills started that it was a bird, and given the hour, an owl, but I had to look it up over breakfast to see which one.

I'm fond of owls, but unlikely to see them in the wild, so I settle for identifying their calls. Now I can add this one to my previous catalog of Barred Owl (who cooks for you?) and Horned Owl. I don't think I've ever heard a Saw-whet, the other owl listed on that page.

Needless to say, I did not get back to sleep. If we could train them, what alarm clocks they would make!

Grey and Rufous Eastern Screech Owl photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What is the Plural of TARDIS?

I made two pairs of these socks. Color work is never going to be my favorite thing, but when one is surrounded by such ardent fans, something must be done. The pattern itself was a fun knit; I actually didn't mind churning out four of them.

Pattern: Tardis Socks Tribute by Ellen Botilda
Yarn: Jawoll Superwash Solids in Royal Blue, plus oddments of white and black

I've come a long way since having to have Daleks explained to me. I've even become a fan myself. In fact, there was a maple chocolate Dalek not long ago. But of course, he was destroyed. Rapidly. By forks, if I recall...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Sometimes inspiration for knitting strikes unexpectedly, and from unexpected sources. My daughter and I came across an adorable baby outfit for our friends' expected daughter. Knowing that they had designed their nursery around a jungle theme, how could we resist the giraffe print in pale pink, the adorable elephant, the inexplicable owl balanced on his trunk?

Frankly, we couldn't, and by the time we got it home I knew I was going to knit a little owl toy, suitable for a newborn (washable, easily grasped). The stash came up with acrylic remnants in a pink and grey that matched the outfit (pink soles on the feet!). A Ravelry pattern search did not fail me. A quick store run for white felt and safety eyes, and a frantic search for some beak-colored acrylic, and I was ready. Both needles and stuffing were in arm's reach (they shouldn't have been, they should have been put away, but there they were). Moments later I had an owl.
Pattern: Owl Puffs (I will be making lots more, they are adorable. Besides, I have a whole bag of eyes, and the rest of the felt. Who wants an owl?)
Yarn: Red Heart, probably. The bands were long gone.
Mods: reminded my self to under-stuff to make it easier for little fingers to grab

Then I stared at the leftover pink and grey acrylic yarn for a few minutes. Back to Ravelry, which again did not fail me.

Pattern: Little Shells Carseat Blanket
Yarn: same as above
Mods: I started with one color, switched colors every pattern repeat, carrying the unused yarn up the side, and ended when I had enough of the other color to finish. It didn't work out to start and end with the same color, and I'm determined not to mind (no one else does).
And there you have it. A gift set I had no thought of making when I woke up that morning.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Things you do for the fun of it

I used to have a co-worker whose favorite expression was about doing things for "the sheer, glorious hell of it." Knitting is often like that. I gave up on embroidery decades ago because there was only so much you could do with the finished product besides stare at in admiration. Knitting is so practical. Knitting is so useful.

But, on occasion, knitting is for the sheer, glorious hell of it.

When JLM (my co-worker for whom no one had ever knit anything, the one I taught to knit, who brings me yarn from faraway places) offered me the leftovers from her experiment knitting with Japanese metal yarn, I took her up on it. I was just going to knit the equivalent of a gauge swatch, as I did with some silk hankies she let me try, but there was just enough yardage to tickle my creative fancy.

So I made a chain mail vest for the newest baby in the family.

And you really know all you'll ever need to about my family when I tell you that no one thought this was other than a fantastic idea.

 Yarn:  Habu Textiles A-177 Super Fine Merino
 Habu Textiles A-20 silk-wrapped stainless steel

Pattern: no idea after all this time; some top-down raglan cardigan, just bound off the sleeves right where they split off, continued on with just the metal after the wool ran out, and sewed it up the front making sure there was enough room for the typical baby mega-head. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Gift from Ireland

Don't you love it when a fellow fiber enthusiast brings you yarn from faraway places? A skein of lovely chunky handspun made its way to me from Ireland this summer. When my traveling friend gave it to me, she remarked that the colors had just seemed to suggest it was for me - and then we had a good laugh, because the outfit I happened to be wearing that day encompassed every one of the fall palette of colors spun into this yarn.
Sometimes I take such gifts into my stash and meditate on them so long I forget their provenance. This one I wound into a ball and cast on immediately, and at the end of the week had mitts and a matching headband that I knew I wouldn't be able to wear for months, but which please me no end.


Yarn: handspun wool from Ireland
Pattern: Sherwood Mitts, cuff pattern used to make headband

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Purple Cables

Last year I gave my daughter the promise of a sweater. This year, I delivered. It was a somewhat rocky road, but I am really pleased with the result. I had acquired some unlabeled purple yarn from someone selling off stash. Beautiful stuff, a little rustic, but a light purple heather with a lot of character.

KD chose the pattern, Stormy Weather. The first draft was yet another case of gauge failure. It's not that I don't check gauge, after so many disasters, it's that apparently I can't check gauge accurately. It involves math, you know. Never my strong suite.

Nevertheless, I buckled down to some difficult cogitations to make the pattern she wanted fit the yarn I had, so that the end result would fit her. I didn't keep accurate enough notes to pass on my modifications, but I'm not sure who they would help anyway, since I never did figure out what weight yarn I was using. I just figured out what would work.

It languished a bit toward the end while we made the supremely important choice of buttons. But now it is done, and out of the house. It does make occasional guest appearances, since my daughter wears it a lot when she visits.

Back to the math... Earlier today while knitting, I complained to my daughter and husband that in the space of time we took to have a brief political discussion, I had completely lost track of my place, and didn't know whether I was on the cable row of the pattern or not. While I counted my rows from the beginning, they earnestly reminded me that a few days ago (while knitting something entirely different) I had asked them to remember that I left off on pattern row 4. They went on to calculate that if I was on row 4 three days ago that was 12; which is 2 digits so multiply by 2 to get 24; adding the 2 and 4 to get 6, add that to the 24 to get 30; subtract 2 for the digits, and I was clearly on row 28.

The really frightening thing was, that's exactly the row I turned out to be on.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quick Hat and Mitts (Doodads)

KD knit a cute little brimmed cap for herself this fall and has been wearing it all winter. Her grandmother saw it, fell in love, and most importantly, tried it on. The fit was perfect.

Fast forward until after the holidays, when I am back on my feet after a bout with bronchitis, and looking for something to re-introduce my hands to knitting that doesn't involve lace weight yarn or intricate patterns. That eliminated all of my current WIPs, and KD mentioned the hat-grandmother situation.

Not one to tempt the gods of gauge, I demanded to know the pattern and yarn that KD had used in her hat, only to discover that the yarn had been Discontinued. Taking a deep breath, I plunged into the previously unexplored world of stash trade on Ravelry. Sure enough, several people had the yarn, and in delightful colorways. I picked a color, and since I only needed a single skein, chose someone with just a single skein to sell.

The transaction concluded smoothly, the yarn arrived, and yesterday, I cast on a hat.

This morning, I finished it. Is there any sweeter instant gratification than a bulky weight, single skein hat?

Pattern: Capitan Hat
Needles: Size 10, size 8
Mods: I used the size 8 needles for the inside of the brim, starting with the purl (fold) row, to make the fold lie along the edge the way I wanted. And like KD, I left off the button band trim.

That left just enough leftover yarn for a pair of fingerless mitts. After staring at several patterns, I closed my laptop, cut the leftover yardage in half, and cast on 32 stitches. This gave me a chance to try out Jeny's Stretchy Slip Knot Cast On, which KD had demonstrated for me, but which I still suspected might be a scam. Turns out, I like it a lot. I worked K1, P1 ribbing until it reached from my finger knuckles to the base of my thumb, tried out Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off over the next six stitches, then put them back on the next row, making nothing but a buttonhole thumb. In the interest of making them as long as possible, I finished with EZ's sewn bind off. I love Jeny's, but it uses more yarn. Then I made a matching mitt from the other half of the yardage, took pictures, and mailed them off. A successful doodad.

Doodad, you say? Doodads, as everyone knows (after reading this), are things you make out of leftover yarn (way less than a complete skein) that you just can't bring yourself to throw away. Once it's been made up into something, I can throw away the object if it was a total failure with much less angst than throwing away unused yarn.

For instance, I made these Jaywalkers for myself recently (my beloved brown ones bit the dust, and I couldn't resist the colorway of this yarn). They turned out slightly too small, as I was overcompensating for the stretchy yarn, so they are KD's now. I made the leftovers into little socks for my niece, but toddler sizing is never going to be my strong suit, and she couldn't even get them on, despite all the stretch. I tossed them without a pang.

Pattern: Grumperina's Jaywalkers
Yarn: Paton's Stretch Socks in Spumoni Stripes

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blame it on your grandmother

I feel the need to explain my actions.

When I was a child, my mother often made time to play the piano by squeezing it into the time just after we were sent up to bed. When I became a parent, I followed her example, quickly realizing that it was an excellent choice of time slot - it calmed everyone down, including a frazzled mother. I couldn't play for too long, since for many years we lived in places with noise restrictions in the evening, but many days that was enough. When it wasn't, I found time to play a little bit during the day - usually with someone small perched up beside me on the bench, "helping."

I don't know if my mother, in turn, learned this habit from her mother. I do know that my grandmother played the piano until late in life, and was the first to tell me that if I wanted to keep playing as I got older, and began to deal with the family inheritance of osteoarthritis, I would have to make it a point to play every day. This fall, after a lapse of several months, I sat down to brush up on Christmas music and discovered that the Time Had Come for making piano playing a daily ritual.

My grandmother also played duets with me, and was always willing to listen to whatever I was learning. By 1973 though, I was a teenager, and beginning that amazing distancing process that teens go through on the way to becoming independent adults - my grandmother and I didn't always see eye to eye any more. At the end of that year, the movie "The Sting" was released, with Marvin Hamlisch's wonderful re-workings of some of Scott Joplin's music for the soundtrack. Suddenly, ragtime was popular again. With what I remember as a little hesitancy, my grandmother offered me some ragtime music that she had played when it was first popular. To her surprise, I greeted this as the coolest of the cool. Ragtime was in, and I had songs none of my friends had heard.

I can still play the piano because of my grandmother. I play ragtime to this day, because of my grandmother. It puts my daughter to sleep, because of her grandmother. I love that.