Monday, October 30, 2006

answering the call of the spinning siren

For a while now I've been lurking at various blogs as knitters discover spinning. I suspect it's a serious addiction just like anything else, catalog shopping, ice cream, crack cocaine. You go to a fiber festival where they hand out roving for free, like cotton candy, and offer to show you how to use a drop spindle to make a little yarn. It's fun! It's easy and everyone is doing it. Before you know it you've shelled out for a beautiful spinning wheel and your own flock of sheep. And the worst of it is - I know I would love it. Or perhaps I need to say I knew I would love it, because I'm the giddy owner of this little drop spindle from Journey Wheel, that I got at the Franklin County Fiber Twist festival. I blame the rain people, it made us stay indoors with all of those vendors...

Have I mentioned that I can make YARN? ME! right here people, I'm making yarn. See it there on the spindle! Yarn! Well at least something that passes for yarn. We're working on that, it's just like when you started knitting all over again, not knowing how to hold anything, getting it for a second and then having things fall off the needle or having the spindle spin the wrong way and unmake your yarn. But I can tell I'm going to like it and with some practice I can probably make some passable yarn that not only her mommy would want to knit. Plus you get to buy roving - carded wool - isn't it dreamy looking!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

sock needs mate

Why is it sometimes when you knit a sock the first one flies off the needles? You just start and suddenly you're ready to turn the heel and then you're on the homestretch. Done. Finito. And then the dreaded second sock syndrome (SSS) kicks in. And I always deny it and bravely cast on, and then the sock never grows at the same rate with such speed and ease. I mean I guess I already figured out the pattern and the heel and I'm bored, flirting with hats and alpacas and spinning, anything but the SOCK, the dreaded boring sock. This sock needs a mate and the mate is only half done, I'm just about to turn the heel, (yawn). She'll have to get going though, I think I'm going to give this pair to my sister for Christmas... Unless I just give her one.. And give her the other for her birthday - which is only a few days later!

Sock specs:
Pattern: Hedra from Knitty (great pattern - easy to understand!)
Yarn: Lang Jawoll Superwash color 198 green
Needles: #1's dpns

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

new hat

I'm thrilled to report that I just heard that Ella Rejoice, the recipient of the mitered blanket just arrived today. Welcome Ella!

In other news, as predicted, I got a tinsy bit bored with my other projects, flirted with a skein of Manos del Uruguay and made a hat. I've been kind of hankering for a beehive shaped hat and here she is.

I love the way this hat fits and can be pulled down over my ears or scrunched up tight. This is the closest yet I've come to imagining what I want and having the results be pretty darn close to what I was hoping to have.

Here's another shot of her in front of my bulletin board in my studio. Just to include a tiny glimpse of things that amuse and inspire me. The newest member on the board is a Rilakkuma (mr. relaxed bear) air freshener. Thanks Tomoko!


Monday, October 23, 2006

what's next?

I tend to have about two mabye three knitting projects going on at once. One big project, like the floral sweater, that needs concentration and is most likely hard to carry around because it had lots of pieces/parts. The small project, like a hat or socks or mittens that is easy to stuff in a bag for grab and go knitting action. Sometimes there is a third item, a gift of some sort that could fall in either catagory or when I get tired of the first two catagories.

While I still have about 1 2/3 sleeves to knit on the floral sweater, this is usually the point when I start daydreaming about the next big one. I have to be careful not to get too excited and abandon the current project, but this is a good time to dig through the yarn stash pile and the pattern piles to see if anything lines up or maybe even go to the yarn store and pet the skeins themselves.

Here's what I'm considering... I've got a big pile of this:

that might have to get turned into a pair of these:

with patterns like this:

or this:

but I just found this on the Interweave Knits website in the Winter 2006 preview - beautiful!

Friday, October 20, 2006

vintage finds

Lately I've been interested in finding vintage knitting patterns. I can't quite narrow down the attraction. I like the look of some of the designs, especially from the 50's and early 60's. I'm interested in checking out the construction details and the more tailored fit of the sweaters. And of course the models expressions always amuse me, plus some of the patterns are just dreadful thus amusing! Or there are just strange things about. Like in this cover of Spinnerin circa 1969. What are the models looking at? Why are there 6 bottle of Coca Cola on the table with four of them deliberately placed with the logo facing us? Why is the man holding a few more dangling just out of the water so we can see the logo? Are they that thirsty? Is Coke paying them money for advertising? Why are they sitting in the lake? If they are so warm they need to drink glasses of coke and sit in the lake why are they wearing wool sweaters? The mind boggles with questions!

Sometimes you find something interesting. I think this embroidered sweater would be fun jumping off point for a new design. Just that whole problem of too many ideas and not enough time...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

looks like a norwegian, knits like a fair isle...

So here at the house of "we like netfix a lot and its cold outside", I've been making much progress on the floral sweater from Poetry in Stitches. Exciting things have happened involving scissors and even a crochet hook and now I can wear it like an ill-fitting vest. So specifically for the technically-minded or the curious - here's the low-down. As I worked my way of the body I decided to definitely make steeks for the front and back of the neck instead of casting off and knitting back and forth as the pattern suggested. Then when I was pretty far along I thought it might be more educational and more interesting (you have to keep the interest level high in a sweater!) to try knitting the sleeves "fair isle" style. The only problem is that I was too far up to add sleeve steeks, and there was no way I was going to rip back. In a traditional Norwegian sweater one would machine secure the body where the pre-knitted sleeves would be inserted and happily and fearlessly cut open the body and sew in the sleeves. Wendy has a great turtorial of this process.

I decided to try crocheting the body stitches as if they were steek stitches and cut open the sleeve holes, then pick up the sleeve stitches and happily knit away. This worked fairly well as I'm using traditional sticky yarn that wants to felt the second it touched its friends. Unfortunately since some of the floats in the back were fairly long I had to tack them down with some basting, a problem I would have avoided had I added steeks. Next time steeks for sure. Otherwise the crochet edging worked like a charm snugly holding all the cut stitches together. Complete magic.

I also picked up and knit the picot edge for the neck, since its much easier to do when you just have the body of the sweater in your lap, not the whole thing, plus its nice to be done when you finish the sleeves.

The last bit of pattern adjusting I'm mulling over is the pattern for the sleeves. As you can see from the photo of the sweater body, the design motif is HUGE, which makes it hard to use on a sweater, but also makes the sweater interesting. For the body I decided to make it a bit longer - about 25" long to get a full 5 rows of the flower design. The sleeves are another matter. What's shown in the book is 4 rows of the flower design, but that would make the sleeves about 20 1/2" long. In the photo you can see that the model has the longer sleeves "artistically" pushed up. The pattern is rather vague on the matter, stating that you should knit the sleeves to be 18 1/2" or desired length. With the drop shoulder design, 4 rows of flowers will be too long for me. What to do? Start the sleeve in the middle of a flower row? End the sleeve in the middle of the flower row? or a mystery third option? Stay tuned!


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

a mason-dixon kind of baby shower

A couple of close friends are having a baby. Their first baby. This is a cause for much joy and celebration as well as cheering from the sidelines. Luckily for them, not only being knitters themselves, they know a lot of other knitters. Knitters that needed a focus and a project.

Way back when I stumbled upon the most excellent Mason-Dixon blog, it was at the start of the Jamie blanket, where knitters were invited to send in mitered squares to celebrate the arrival of adopted Jamie. I didn't have my act together to send in a square for that blanket, but I've had the idea of that blanket, of all your friends separately working together to concoct a knitting quilt for a wee little one that comes together in a randomly-beautiful composition, in my back pocket. Now was my chance! My friend Rachel and I planned waaaaay in advance. We test knit squares, wrangled up the knitters, sent them instructions, knit lots of squares ourselves, hated putting them together, tracked down the knitters, made the blanket smaller, threatened the knitters, begged the knitters, made the blanket smaller still and less than a week before the big baby shower unveiling, it still looked like this:

The night before the shower, fueled by mexican food, we connected our halves and figured out a way to both knit the borders at the same time on opposite sides. And we finished with just a few hours to spare.

The blanket was much loved by the parents-to-be and we are all awaiting Ella Rejoice to arrive at any moment.

Ella also scored a pair of blu jeans from the Knitty pattern


Monday, October 16, 2006

noro fabulousness for scarves

I heart Noro. I heart Noro yarn a lot. Least there be any doubt in the matter. I love the unexpected yet excellent color combinations and the transitions from color to color. Over here in New England - this is no tropical climate folks - and thus people seem to gravitate to black, and grey, maybe brown or blue, maybe. Bright colors seem shocking out here, but sometimes I like to push back with some Noro. Me and Noro painting the town colbalt blue and fushia pink. oh yeah.

Here are some gift scarves going out this fall. I try to spread the gift love around a bit - to allieviate the Christmas gift-giving stress. I have a little gift drawer (I'm not telling you where!) and I try to knit small things all year to have on hand and then pass out when the time seems good.

pattern: "my so called scarf" from Sheep in the City. I can't seem to find the original link - sorry
yarn: Noro Silk Garden colorway #94
needles: 8's

pattern: my own
yarn: Noro Silk Garden colorway #50 (I think this is a discontinued color - I got it on sale at Webs)
needles: 8's and 6's (for the fringe balls)


Friday, October 13, 2006

birthday mittens

Here are some saucy-colored mittens for my bright color loving friend's birthday. I pretty much made them up as I went along, knitting in the round and trying them on for size. Its a fun route but you should take notes as you knit along, if you want the second mitten to match the first! They are knit from Rowan cork color #50 (orange) which is unfortunately discontinued, and some fun green slubby stuff I got at Habu textiles.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

booties for babies

My friend Tomoko, whose blog inspired me to start my own, posted some baby booties that she made from this excellent pattern posted by Heather Bailey. Having a whole pile of babies showing up this fall to friends and family, I thought I would make some booties myself. These are hat and bootie combos for my cousins so their bundles of joy have something fun to wear coming home from the hospital. The booties were so fun to make and so cute -- that I made an addditional pair of the light blue ones for myself, because I couldn't bear to give them away. The hat pattern is pattern #26 from Yankee Knitter Designs, specifically the roll striped watch cap. The red and turquoise cap is knitted with Mission Falls cotton yarn, and the blue and green hat was knitted with Valley Yarns LongMeadow from Webs. I tend to use the pattern as a starting point for sizing and knit the caps in the round instead of flat as the pattern calls out for. I also make a couple of I-cord loops to put on the top - one of each color stripe.


happy fall! It's pretty beautiful out here in the pioneer valley.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

love me some state fair

It's fall! Fall means cider donuts and red maple leaves, and around here in western mass, it means state fair. Of course I speak of the one and the only "Big E", more formally known as the Eastern States Expo, you see all us New England state are so small we need to gather together all our resources to make a state fair (in fact a friend of mine from Phoenix once thought that New England was a state and was always trying to find it on a map), but I digress. Anyway! What really could beat a place that is featuring a giant squash contest, constantly hatching live chicks, any kind of food deep-fried, a tractor parade, the 4-H working steer competition and a butter sculpture? I mean really.




that's big!


go 4-H!


And of course the sheep! The other excitement about the state fair was visiting my entry to Craft Adventure the crafting and knitting competition. I was pretty inspired last summer reading some posts from Mason Dixon knitting about entering knitting in state fair competitions - see here.
I'm never going to win the jam contest and I don't raise fancy chickens so I thought this might be my only chance at a ribbon. And score I did - a red ribbon in the fair isle division and seven dollars! weehaa!
That will go a long ways toward yarn for the next sweater, huh?

wedding sweater close-up.jpg

Yup - it's another sweater from Poetry in Stitches, the last one in the book, an updated version of traditional Norwegian wedding wear. Yarn is various Scottish fingering weight jumper jarn. I changed most of the colors, especially the sleeves. More specs to follow and other photos on flickr - just click on any of the photos.

wedding sweater front view.JPG

wedding sweater inside.JPG

Here's a shot of the inside - I always think that's one of the most interesting views of a fair isle...
Go out and support your local state and county fairs!


Monday, October 02, 2006

weekend crafty fun

What is this you ask? An in-process shot of some chair cushions I've been meaning to make for say, I don't know, a year now? Last year I got some red-stained wooden chairs from Ikea, cheap and cute but a bit hard on the bottom for extended stays. I also had gotten some chair pads to go with, but they needed some sort of pretty/fun cover. I had toyed with the idea of making felted covers, but as summer rolled around and the thought of scratchy wool and bare legs together - plus the time and effort of four chairs - not going to happen. I had a bit of time this weekend and found the box with the vintage 50's curtains - voila!

Here is a picture of the end result. A pretty basic pattern I made up with the fabric overlapping on the bottom, in order to keep the cushions washable. An elegant eater I am not. The biggest pain was making the matching ties, but I was able to mooch off of the curtain hemming to get me halfway there.