Monthly Archives: March 2012

Friday Funnies

More gems from Dave Lowe at paraabnormalthecomic.com, in celebration of March being Crafts Month. Release your inner Knittar!

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Sneak peak at the Haruni Shawl

Blocking Haruni

I had exactly 3g of yarn left and 18 beads when all was said and done, so yay for the scale and spreadsheet method—I was able to use up as much of the yarn as I possibly could.

It uses a crochet bind off that I hadn’t used before. Can I tell you how glad I am that I spent some time this winter learning how to crochet?! So much easier to wrap the yarn the proper way than the way I was doing it before. Pinning out all those tiny loops was slow going, but the end result was worth it. The finished shawl is gorgeous. It’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made.

Haruni up close

Haruni, up close and personal

It’s also almost impossible to photograph properly. The color is mostly a dark blue, but it’s not even close to solid, with varying shades of blue, gray, green, purple… The beads I used range in color from blue, green, purple, gold to black pearl gray. They pull out the colors in the yarn exactly as I hoped they would.

I got loads of compliments on it at the HYP. Many people were familiar with Sundara’s yarn, and apparently this colorway was in very high demand. (And everyone agreed that it was hard to photograph. Several people tried, and the results were about the same as what I’ve gotten. Here’s hoping a sunny day will help!) I lost count of the number of times people asked what the pattern was.

So I would definitely count this project as a success!

Techniques: Beads and knitting

I still haven’t gotten good pictures of the finished Haruni Shawl, but in the meantime, let’s talk beads and knitting.

Haruni was my first shawl with beads. The original pattern didn’t call for beads, so I drew up my own version of the chart (which I had to do anyway because of my other modifications to the design) and marked where I wanted to place my beads. I knew there two basic ways (with loads of variations, of course) to place beads on your knitting: Stringing all the beads first, and placing the beads as you go.

The first method sounded like a lot of work, and (depending on how the pattern is designed) sometimes the beads can migrate to the back of the work, negating all that effort. It also causes extra wear-and-tear on the yarn, but since I was using a tightly-spun sock yarn, I wasn’t as worried about that aspect as I would have been if I’d been using a laceweight cashmere yarn.

The second approach, which is the one I opted for, was to place the beads as you go along. This can be done with a piece of orthodonic dental floss or with a tiny crochet hook. I tried both and found the crochet hook to be slightly easier to work. Plus, since I was using multi-colored beads, it gave me the flexibility of being able to select each bead individually so I could avoid placing two identical beads right next to each other. I also liked the fact that I could place a bead, then knit the stitch, so even if I dropped a stitch, I was less likely to lose the bead.

I took some photos and put together a small tutorial to show you how I did it. In the interest of thoroughness, I am using Sundara sock yarn, a US size 7 (4.5mm) Signature Needle Arts circular needle with stiletto tips, a US9 (1.25mm) Susan Bates crochet hook, and size 6/0 seed beads. (I strongly recommend using a very tapered needle for this method—the stilletto tips from SNA are perfect for this—so that you can replace the bead and knit it without distorting the surrounding stitches.)

  1. Scoop up a bead with the tip of the crochet hook. Turning the hook so that it faces up, insert the hook purlwise into the next loop on the left knitting needle and pull the loop off the needle. Placing beads, 1
  2. Using your finger, slide the bead down the hook and onto the loop of yarn, making sure that all strands of the yarn pass through the bead.Placing beads, 2
  3. Replace the loop onto the left needle, making sure that the stitch is oriented correctly. Keeping the stitch at the tip of the needle, use the tip of the right needle to knit the stitch. (If you try this with blunt-tipped needles or if you try to force the width of the entire needle, you’ll end up pulling yarn from the surrounding stitches and distorting your pattern.) Placing beads, 3
  4. Once you’ve knit the stitch and dropped it from your left needle, you can push the new stitch fully onto the right needle.  
    Placing beads, 4
  5. Admire your knitting and your pretty beads! Placing beads, 5
  6. Resist the urge to place beads on all of your knitting projects. (I have found that husbands and boy children are somewhat less enamored of beads than I am…)

What projects have you knit with beads? What technique did you use? Any suggestions for me?

Ease not so easy!

So what about that Lanesplitter skirt I was going on and on about?

I’d been steadily knitting away on it, and on Saturday afternoon, I finally reached the number of rows that I’d calculated my finished skirt should have. It’s basically a tube, so it’s the same width at the bottom, the top, and around your hips. The pattern calls for 0-6 inches of negative ease. I planned about 4″ of ease. When I got to that point, I pinned it together and tried it on. Um. Well, it looked like what it was: A tube top for my rear end. Which is to say: Not a good look for me.

Now, what I really should have done at that moment (since hindsight is always 20/20!) was to put the skirt on waste yarn, give it a nice long soak in some Eucalan and block it out a bit. Had I done that, I probably would have felt the yarn soften and relax a bit, and when I pinned it in place again, it might not have looked quite so… unflattering. But as I said, that’s what I should have done. What I actually did was to add about 8 more rows and try it on again. It seemed a little better, but not quite, so then I added another 7 rows (you can tell where this is going, can’t you?!). Then I grafted the seam shut.

Now Kitchener and I are old pals. I can zip up the toe of a sock in a few minutes. But a sock seam is usually 8-10 stitches; the skirt had 130. And I knit socks out of nice, tightly-twisted sock yarn. Noro Silk Garden is another beast entirely. First, I accidentally cut the yarn I was supposed to use to graft it shut. Non-ladylike language ensued. Then I decided that it would just make it easier to seam if I started with a free end, so I could adjust the stitch tension. And I started to graft. But of course, I was doing this in the afternoon. On a rainy day. And my kids were trapped inside by the rain and doing their best imitation of electrons, bouncing off the walls, the furniture, and each other. So somewhere, my stitches got out of alignment. No worries, I thought. I’m also an old pro at fixing my errors. I’ll just undo this and

Noro SG does not like to be frogged. It sheds so much, it’s practically self-grafting. I pulled my yarn free, but the stitches were still so stuck together, I couldn’t figure out where the previous rows were. More non-ladylike language followed (under my breath, so the kids couldn’t hear). I ripped, both in the knitting sense and in the literal sense. Tried to redo. More ripping, more cursing. Contemplated turning the whole thing inside out and using my sewing machine to seam it up. Decided that might be cheating. Ripped and cursed and growled. The kids thought about bothering me and decided that might not be such a wise decision. I finally got the whole thing ripped out and the stitches back on the needles. Then I got the locking stitch markers and placed one every 10 stitches. Ran out of those and substituted safety pins. And finally, finally, finally, I was able to graft the seam shut.

So then I tried it on again. It fit across my bottom, felt a little clingy around my thighs, and gaped about six inches away from my waist. Now how the heck was I supposed to fix that?! The pattern calls for you to pick up stitches around the waistband, knit two inches of 2×2 ribbing, and then fold it over and run elastic through the waistband. I decided to soldier on ahead. I picked out some black sport-weight sock yarn (anything but Noro at this point!), picked up my stitches, and started in on the ribbing. After about an inch of ribbing, I tried it on again. Still huge. I tried to make the ribbing fold over and realized that the fabric was pretty thick to begin with, so adding elastic and the ribbed waistband was going to feel like a spare tire around my midsection. Again, not so flattering on my post-kids belly. Okay, so forget the sewn-down waistband.

By this point, it was closing in on bedtime, and I still held out a hope that I could somehow salvage this skirt to wear it the next day. I sized up the ribbing and threw in a round of oddly-spaced decreases. Better, but not quite there yet. More rounds, with more decreases. Ribbing was looking seriously malformed now. Finally got to the point where I thought it wouldn’t fall down, bound it off, gave it a quick soak in Eucalan and set it out to dry.

In the morning, it was still damp, so I threw it into the dryer for a few minutes, which got it mostly dry but also seriously fuzzy. I hit it with the lint brush and put it on. It actually didn’t look awful. (Husband tried to take some pictures of me in it, but it was so dark and rainy, you can’t even tell what I’m wearing!)

So off I went. But here’s the thing… maybe it’s because the skirt was ever-so-slightly damp. Or maybe it’s just because it’s wool and silk and was hanging on my body. But as the day went on, the skirt stretched. Not so much lengthwise as sideways. In other words, it was the first time in my life that I was happy for a slightly too-tight bind off edge, because it was the only thing standing between me and an indecency charge!!

Obviously, I need to re-think this a bit. In the car on the way home, I decided that I could rip back the waistband ribbing, start with a k2p4 ribbing and eventually decrease it down to k2p2 ribbing, knit a couple rows plain to fold it over, then work k2p2 ribbing on the inside of the waistband (possibly increasing to k2p3, just to make the seam a bit easier), and put a big loop of elastic inside the waistband.

That’s the easier fix. The harder fix would be to take the waistband off completely, undo the kitchener seam (wine and weeping are assumed here), frog the extra rows, redo the seam, then pick up stitches for the waistband as above, without needed to decrease the ribbing so dramatically.

If I were to make it from scratch again (and I wouldn’t discount the idea completely; the colors are gorgeous and I did get a bunch of compliments on it, since the waistband was hidden by my shirt!), I think I’d do short rows every so often, so the stockinette stripe would stop 3-4″ shy of the top of the skirt, thus making the top of the skirt smaller than the bottom. And I’d probably use a lighter yarn; maybe NSG sock. Or some non-Noro yarn, for my seaming sanity!

But the good news is… I’ve probably got about six months before I’ll want to wear this skirt again. So I’m going to put it in time-out while I ponder what to do with it…

Projects and parties and spinning, oh my!

Yesterday was the Homespun Yarn Party, and it was a blast. It’s a small indie fiber fest, and it really does feel more like a party than a festival. My partner in crime had to cancel on me at the last minute, and I considered (for about twelve seconds!) just staying home and knitting on the sofa (which is generally a pretty good way to spend a rainy day in my opinion). But then I came to, thought about what I’d be missing, and hopped in the car.

Plus, I admit it… I wanted to show off my new finery! I finished both the Haruni shawl and the Lanesplitter skirt over the weekend. (More details on both to follow.)

I’d noted on the HYP website that they were offering free drop spindle classes. I’d purchased an Ashford Turkish drop spindle and some lovely fiber last summer at The Mannings, but hadn’t worked up the nerve to actually test it out. Since I was on my own yesterday, I grabbed it on my way out the door and threw it in my bag. The first class was just starting when I arrived, so I decided to shop first and catch the second class later.

The thing I love the most about fiber festivals, and the HYP in particular, is getting to talk to each of the vendors about their products. It’s one thing to buy some lovely yarn in your LYS or online, it’s quite another to get to talk to the person who spun it or dyed it or raised the alpaca it was came from! These are people who love the fiber arts so much, they’ve made a career out of it. They’re all so happy to talk about what they do and why they do it. Even if I hadn’t made a single purchase, just talking with them was inspiring.

But yes, I did made a few purchases. I told myself that since I had time to shop quite leisurely, I could circle the room once without buying anything, just looking. If something called to me so strongly that I kept looking back across the room at it, then I’d go back and get it. Yes, this approach meant that I might miss out on a few things. (I heard that there was a long line at the door before the HYP officially opened, and lots of things disappeared within moments. But there was still plenty to choose from when I got there, so I wasn’t sorry to miss the worst of the crowds!)

Sock yarn is usually my downfall, but it takes me so long to finish a pair (when I keep interrupting them to knit sweaters) that I have quite a stockpile already, so I told myself it had to be a really unusual, special skein to come home with me. There was a gorgeous skein from Ashton Studio Arts that I would have scooped up, but alas, it was already in someone else’s hands when I spied it. (They assured me that they’d be at MDSW with more skeins in that colorway.) That Clever Clementine had some lovely fabric bowls, but they were mostly sold out by the time I got there, so I’ll be keeping an eye on her Etsy store.

Neighborhood Fibre Company, Studio Worsted in "Easterwood"

My camera hates dark colors! Much prettier in person. (Neighborhood Fibre Company, Studio Worsted in "Easterwood")

My big splurge was at the Neighborhood Fiber Company booth. She had several skeins of her Studio Worsted (superwash merino) in a colorway named “Easterwood” which is an absolutely gorgeous dark green colorway with hints of dark blue. While I was admiring the color, Karida told me that she actually dyes the yarn periwinkle first, then over-dyes it with the dark green to get the gorgeous shading I was admiring so. When I looked closely at it, I could see hints of the periwinkle in the blue sections. I hemmed and hawed (how many sweaters’ worth of yarn do I already have waiting in my queue?), but then I decided that I couldn’t leave it behind, so I purchased two skeins (800 yards) for a top-down lace sweater with 3/4 sleeves. 

Drop spindle & fiber

Look, Ma! I made yarn!

Then I made my way over to the drop spindle class. Because it was later in the day and the crowd was thinning out by then, I was the only person who showed up for the second class. Can’t argue with getting a hands-on private class! I’ve been admiring this gorgeous bundle of merino and silk fiber since I purchased it, but I was too convinced that I’d ruin it to try actually spinning with it. But in no short order, Lauren had me drafting and spinning with my drop spindle. Yay! It’s not the most gorgeous yarn ever spun, but I’m having a blast experimenting with thicker and thinner yarns. Of course, my fiber obsessions didn’t really need any help. Now at festivals I’m going to have to go in all the booths that have spindles and roving, too. Oh, dear…

One of the other neat aspects of the HYP is its location. Historic Savage Mill is a former textile mill that has been restored and converted into an artisans’ village. The shops are truly unique, and I enjoyed poking around in them almost as much as the HYP itself! One shop that I made sure to visit was Bead Soup. I purchased some very pretty beads there last year (which were similar to but smaller than the ones I used on my Haruni shawl). This year I picked up some pretty glass, stone, and silver beads. Not quite sure what I’m going to make with them yet… stay tuned!

The day turned out to be pretty terrific. Learning to spin was a huge plus for me, and probably something I wouldn’t have done if I’d been with friends. All-in-all, it was a great experience. I’ll definitely be back next year!

If you’re a knitter, have you tried spinning? Is it as addictive as it seems to be??

Friday Funnies

Worsted For Wear

Finding the humor in gauge disasters...

Check it out! A whole comic strip all about knitting!

Indecision

I’m knitting on the Lanesplitter (it might be 60°F and drizzly on Sunday!) and on Haruni (it might be 75°F and sunny! And I’ll be inside, where I won’t need a scarf! But I want to wear one anyway!), which probably means I won’t be getting either one done in time.

I’ve still got 8 rows to go on Haruni, but I’m stopping to place a bead every 7 stitches or so, so it’s slooooooooow going (an hour for one RS row and one WS row, without distractions). (Did I mention that life is nothing but distractions right now? Really, the universe just looooooves to mess with my all-too-limited knitting time.) Plus, it’s dark yarn, with dark beads, so I can really only work on it during daylight hours, while sitting at my (white) kitchen counter.

I’ve also got 8 rows to go on the Lanesplitter. Those rows got a LOT faster (three knit rows, one purl row; zoom, zoom, zoom), but then I’ll need to graft the edges together, pick up stitches around the top for the waistband, knit said waistband, buy some elastic, and sew the waistband down. And it will still probably be too hot to wear in warm weather…

Ty-Dy Cotton

How could I resist such pretty colors?!

But in the meantime, I’ve got another knitting project in the germinating stage. I found out that my son’s teacher will be moving away at the end of the school year. She had a baby at the start of the school year, so I’m thinking that I should make a sweater for her daughter. Something cotton (they’re moving to Georgia) and with a bit of girly lace on the bottom. I have two pretty skeins of Ty-Dy Cotton that I picked up a while back that I’ve been wanting to use, and this seems like a good purpose to put it to. I did allow myself to poke around in my library of stitch dictionaries the other day, and I found a scalloped lace pattern that I think would work nicely with the self-striping nature of the yarn. But I’m not going to let myself swatch until these two projects are done, either before Sunday or after.

Really.

Good news, bad news

The good news is… I got a chunk of knitting time in this weekend, and I am almost done my Lanesplitter skirt! I could easily finish it in time to wear it on Sunday.

So what’s the bad news? It’s supposed to be 70°+ on Saturday. Not exactly the best weather to wear a wool-and-silk knit skirt. 😦

See, this is why I prefer to knit cardigans. I frequently wear a cardigan in place of a jacket, since I can pull it on in the morning when it’s cooler, and then take it off and on through the day, as I’m inside or outside or dealing with overactive air conditioning, etc. They are really year-round wear for me.

I am thinking of trying a hurry up offense and finishing the Haruni Scarf instead. (And kicking myself for not finishing up the Tweed Vest, since it is a lace, button-down pattern that would go nicely over a short sleeve shirt this time of year…)

Argh. What’s a knitter to do?

Friday Funnies

Friday Funnies

If you’re trying to cut down on your carbs, pasta is out. But you can still knit yourself some edible underwear!

Why knit?

My husband and I were talking the other day about why hobbies where you make something are so satisfying. It seems to me like knitting and other crafts such as beading or jewelry making, scrapbooking, etc. are really on the rise right now. Or at least, those sections in my local craft store are growing larger and larger!

Why is this? What is driving us to take up these hobbies in droves?

As a knitter, I know my hobby isn’t cheap. I could buy a pack of socks for a lot less money (let alone the time it takes to knit a pair!) than I’d spend on a single skein of hand-dyed sock yarn. I could buy a sweater off the rack and wear it today, instead of buying yarn that I’ll have to knit (and let’s be realistic; knit, rip out, and re-knit significant portions of it) and that won’t be ready to wear until the middle of summer, when it’s 90° in the shade. And we won’t discuss knitting needles (cough,  like my Signature Needle Arts habit, cough) or my never-ending quest for the ideal knitting bag…

I talked about why I choose the projects that I do. But if I all want is a somewhat mathematical challenge, why not just stick to Sudoko?

I knit so I do not kill people.

Yes, there's that, too...

Well, for one thing… knitting is good stress relief. It’s hard to get upset about being stuck on hold or in a waiting room if you have something to keep you occupied, and knitting is ideal for that. But then again, so are paperback books!

I have this theory that, as employment in our society has become more service-based rather than manufacturing-based, we’re getting less of the “I made that” satisfaction out of our jobs. Spending the day on the phone or entering data in the computer doesn’t have quite the sense of accomplishment as, say, being a furniture-maker who can point to a beautiful dining room table at the end of the day as evidence of his hard work. And in these less-than-ideal economic times, layoffs are forcing many of us to work longer hours and do the work of more people for less pay, with the threat of unemployment hanging over our heads at all times. Not exactly a recipe for job satisfaction!

Even if your career is secure, satisfaction may still elude you. As a computer geek by trade, I could spend an entire day searching for a bug in a program. Even if I solved it, there was always another one waiting to be tracked down. If you’re a mom who stays home all day, you cook and clean and take care of children… and at bedtime, the kids have pulled out all the toys again, presented you with more dirty laundry, and told you that there were hungry (after they refused to eat the dinner you worked so hard to prepare).

The satisfaction I get from knitting is hard to put into words. I only know that gives me a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, as well as enjoyment for the time I spend with my needles and yarn.

What do you think? Am I over-thinking this? Is knitting just plain fun? (Mind you, I can’t argue that point at all!)

Why do you knit?