Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Dream of Knitting

View From Our Front Window On A Very Hot Day

Dear Blog-

I know I joke that I dream about knitting, and I know that whenever I have a knitting conundrum all I need to do is sleep on it, the answer will come to me when I wake up in the morning. Always works. But DH tells me that three nights ago when he rolled over in the middle of the night, I gave him a very enthusiastic and heartfelt, 'Thank you!' Of course, this was all news to me. And he decided to tell the story when we were out to dinner with friends. Anyway, when he asked me what I was thanking him for, thinking I was perhaps grateful he was not sleeping on his back and therefore might snore less (as though anything less than a Sherman tank rolling through the room is going to disturb my rest) I replied, 'The knitting pattern!' Of course, we all had a good laugh about that. But I found myself, just before the alarm went off yesterday morning, explaining to someone how to do an afterthought heel in a pair of socks. So I guess I really DO dream about knitting more than I thought. This is somewhat scary. No naked young men larking about in my dreams waving cans of whipped cream. Oh, no! I dream about yarn and teaching strangers what to do with it.

Of course the big thing in the online knitting world right now is the Mystery Stole 3, which is due to start this coming Friday. I signed up on the first day and was person #11, by the time I was finished signing up and registering, there were 117 people. As of today there were over 3000! And another week to go yet before she closes the group to new members. I'm thinking we will hit pretty close to the record for Knitting Olympics, which was 4000. You think knitting isn't big? You just aren't paying attention. I just read that the single biggest group of bloggers are knitters. We can take over the world! Maybe I need to make a World Domination Through Yarn button. Our slogan can be, Make Socks, Not War. Hmmm...

So just over a week ago I received my yarn for this project - a cake of Zephyr lace yarn in charcoal grey - from Sarah's Yarns. Of the few things we DO know about the project right now, it seems that black or white yarn would be the ideal with this year's theme. Failing those, off-whites, greys, etc would do. White just seems too... well, not me. Black is too limited in my real life. Charcoal grey should be just right.

Right away I sat myself down and worked on my swatch. As Melanie, the MS3 Goddess, explained, this is to get an idea for the kind of fabric we like best, not for gauge. I worked my swatch in three repeats each of the lace pattern, starting with size US 5 needles, then up to 4s, then finishing with 3s. In photography we used to call that bracketing. Heck, maybe they still do. I did put a tiny row of purls in between the needle changes, but you can't see that here. The fabric with the 3s seems the best to me, it gives the greatest contrast between solid fabric and yo's. But... Melanie tells us that her finished shawl using size 4s measures out to a 20" width. I sure would like mine to be about 4 - 5 inches wider, and yet she tells us that adding width is not one of our options, other than by changing needle sizes. We can make it longer, but not wider. And that we don't need to add a border to the shawl. Hmmm... I might just opt for a border anyway. I have over 1200 yds of yarn, and the shawl took Melanie about 780 yds. It's a real Mystery, for heaven's sake!

At any rate, here is my swatch while blocking. God, I love my blocking wires! Anyone who tries to block anything without them is really missing out.

MS3 swatch blocking

And here is the same swatch after blocking. You can see a 6" ruler at the top, at the size 3 end, and a larger ruler at the bottom where I used size 5s. A difference of 3.5 inches in width between the top and bottom. You may see that I have left a stitch holder at the end of the BO row. If I can use this yarn over again for the shawl, why the heck not?

MS3 swatch after blocking

For anyone not familiar with this yarn, it is a blend of wool and silk, and has gorgeous luster and drape. This is going to make one delicious shawl, and will probably be my default lace yarn of choice from now on. Here are the beads I'll be using with the shawl...

MS3 swatch with beads

In the meantime, while waiting anxiously with seemingly half the rest of the known world for the first clue to appear, I am working on my Scheherazade Stole, another design from Melanie at Pink Lemon Twist. This was last year's MS2, but I found out about it too late to join the group - like millions of others, apparently. Melanie worked this pattern in Zephyr as well, but I am working mine in Merino Oro. Lovely stuff, but a cobweb weight rather than a lace weight, so my shawl is much less substantial than hers is. Once I found the Addi lace needles I have been ripping along on this baby. The difference in needles and how well you can work with them is amazing! You may remember me complaining over the winter about not being able to find the right needle for this. Everything I tried had some sort of flaw or other that made knitting with cobweb yarn a nightmare, it hung up on the teeniest bump or ditch. But with these Addi's I am just flying along now. I would like to see how much I can get done before The MS3 starts. I don't imagine for a second that I'll be finished, but I'd like to get as close to that as I can before Friday. This shawl has been telling me that it wants to be a Christmas present for someone who shall remain nameless. If it were going to stay with me, I would make a border for it to make it just that little bit wider, and I may just do so yet. But the intended recipient likes things that are not as wide, so maybe not, the jury is still out

I couldn't resist blocking the first half so that I could see what the fabric would be like, and it is just so lovely. Very floaty and light, ethereal. On the other half I am just about to start the second set of paisleys down the sides, so I am going along nicely.

First half of Scheherazade

Detail of Scheherazade with end border

In other news with me, I have been asked to set up and run a blog for the LYS where I teach and sometimes even work. This is just so exciting to me - to be able to combine knitting and writing, my two great loves, AND be paid for it seems too good to be true. I can see great things coming from this! So check back in about another week and I should be able to direct you to the blog site then. In the meantime I am getting things set up, painting the walls, arranging the furniture, hanging pictures, getting the database written and links added, etc. All with the help of the LYSO's brother, Craig, who is patiently setting up the database pages on the main shop website for me.

So, blog, that is all for now. I might take a Scheherazade break this afternoon and make some felted baby booties for my Dr., who is about to have a baby boy.

Knit On!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What a Difference a Yarn Makes

Dear Blog-

Ha! I bet you didn't think you'd see me back here so soon! But as promised yesterday (and since I have a spare morning today), here are the pics that I didn't have yet yesterday when I posted. First there are the lovely new/vintage rhinestone buttons for my Algonquin cardi, courtesy of Anna. Aren't they lovely? They aren't the stark white of the previous ones, and that makes all the difference. Ok, now I can appreciate why a vintage button has more value. They are mellower.

Algonquin cardi with buttons Version, what? Four? Ok, at least Three.

Ok, enough of that attention freak, let's move on to other things. Like the dadgummed Blues Band Vest from Cast-On magazine. This thing was a PITA to make. Just as I feel that there are some classical radio stations with dj's that take delight in putting the most obscure music on just to prove how cool they are (and let's face it, music that has been around for several hundred years that has so far failed to capture popular attention, failed because the music sucks), I believe that the women of whatever guild that was that designed this beast included some of the most PITA stitch patterns in creation. All of which had different gauges! Yes! What fun! But a group from our guild were all doing it as a project, so I joined in. And I like the finished result. But I would never, ever knit the danged thing again. Anyway, this was my only previous experience with a side-to-side garment.

*$@_$*@+$*$%#&% Blues Band (should be Banned) Vest

So I had this brilliant idea for a felted bag for summer. Riding on the success of my cabled felted bag, I wanted to explore more texture in felting. So I found a stitch pattern for a vine, put it into chart form, altered it a bit for various reasons, and then knitted up the bag. I couldn't find the exact shade of green I was picturing in my mind and I finally settled on this Ella Rae. I got all done with the bag and further changes to the chart, and then, because I have never felted with Ella Rae yarn before, I set my timer for only 5 minutes, and tossed the bag into the washer to felt. Pulled it out five minutes later to find that not only was it completely felted, but that it had EATEN the pattern! Horror! Despair!


I played with it, tried needle felting on it, embroidery to bring out the pattern - anything to try to save it - but it just was never going to have the texture I envisioned. So, DH - who I am convinced really loves me - told me to stop my whining and go order the yarn that I knew would work. I looked online for Cascade 220 and lo and behold found the color that I had in mind originally. And re-knit the bag. And after ten happy minutes of felting, this is what I had...


The lovely braided leather handles are from Homestead Heirlooms.

Finally, as promised, I frogged out the beginning of my jacket design and reworked it with lifted increases rather than yo's. Ok, obviously I know that yo's leave holes, for heaven's sake, yet I thought it would add something pretty to the design. But in the end it was just too holey for me. I didn't think the jacket would have enough substance to it, or hold in any warmth with all those danged holes. My change was the beloved lifted increase which is the most elegant of increases, IMNSVHO, and still creates a design. I've left the umbilical cord attached so that you can see how it works, now I'll go ahead and close that up and you will see in later pics what a nice way that is for beginning something like this. I am well on my way, now. Further progress to be reported here.


Well, dear Blog, that is it for me today. See you later when I have more to report.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Dear Blog-

Well, as usual I have a ton of photos for you today, and I can think of at least three more that I want to show you. Those will have to wait. As usual, I have been knitting like a madwoman and not getting a heck of a lot of anything else done. April may be the cruelest month elsewhere, but it Tucson it is June. Lots of heat, no rain in sight. Until the monsoons come in early (usually) July. We can normally see the monsoons getting ready to arrive - about a month before they actually start the skies towards the south will look as though thunderheads are building up, but no rain comes. So we can typically predict when they might start by when the 'stormy' afternoons begin. No sign of the stormy afternoons yet.

And of course, once the monsoons hit, lots of things that normally live underground are up and out. Like tarantulas. Yuck. We have had one the past couple of years that loves to sit on the wall next to the outside light in the evenings. Which means you have to go past it to get in the door at night. My friend Diane who always drives to book group thinks I am ridiculous, but nonetheless she will kindly get out of the car, unlock my front door and have it all ready for me to dash past the creature and go in. They are harmless, but they seriously creep me out.

But a couple of weeks ago I was outside in one of our carports repotting one of my plants, and I must have been sending enough vibrations through the ground by walking back and forth, because half an hour later I was looking out the front window to see this in our garden. This is a king snake, and the reason that we like them is that they eat pack rats and rattlesnakes. This was one very large snake, about 5 ft. long. Later he crossed the front yard to disappear into the cactus on the other side, with several quail harassing him by nipping at his tail.

the proverbial snake in the garden

But ok, we are really here to talk about knitting, and boy, do I have a lot to say! As mentioned previously, I have finished my Algonquin cardi, and here it is in the flesh. Two of my favorite students saw it in progress, so I am helping them through their own Algonquins. We meet for the last time tomorrow afternoon. I know I have shared with you my button process with this project, and have also shared it with pretty much anyone else I have clapped eyes on in the last few months. Well, lo and behold, last week when I met with them to help them start their collars, Anna, one of my students, presented me with a bag of vintage rhinestone buttons she had cleared out of her stash. You know, blog, that the first thing I did when I got home that afternoon was to put those on my sweater, and OMG, they are perfect. Finally the perfect button. I can't wait to show Anna tomorrow how nice they look, and I will post pics to you asap.

I took this as my button karma, as another favorite student and I had been talking about buttons just the day before. About a year ago I was sitting and waiting at the doctor's office when a woman sat down next to me and told me that a friend of hers had died, leaving behind an enormous stash of old knitting patterns and buttons. Would I like to have them? Heck yes! So DH went and picked them up, I took most of the patterns to the guild for people there to take if they wanted, and the buttons stayed with me. At the time I put them into two plastic bins that are shaped like really tall shoeboxes, and have not done a thing with them since. Well, after telling Monica this story, she went on and on for the rest of our class about all the things I could be doing with those buttons. While I certainly got some inspiration from many of her ideas, I could also see that Monica needed to have some of those buttons. So that afternoon when I got home I sorted through one bin into two piles - buttons that I liked, and buttons that were clearly meant for Monica. The next morning I sorted through the other bin. So now I have one bin of buttons that I really love, and in the back of my car is a big paper shopping bag (Trader Joe's, to those of you who know) full of buttons for Monica. Also in the bag is a failed felted purse that I am giving to her as she is amazingly talented with embellishments. When DH gets home from work today, I will have to take a pic of that bag so that I can tell you next time about felting and different yarns.

But you know that I think that heaven looks a lot like Morehouse Farm's store, Sheep's Clothing. In fact, if you subscribe to the notion that heaven is whatever each person wants it to be, well then heck, I've already been there. But in heaven I'll get to stay on the couch knitting with Morehouse yarn forever, eating cookies and talking to whoever passes by. When the time comes that we move back to the Hudson Valley, I plan on working there. I don't know if they plan on having me, but I know what my half of the plan is! In fact, if I should happen to get any b-day $$, I'm going to get enough of their 2-ply to make another sweater in a pattern I have been eyeing for months now.

beloved Algonquin, now former buttons

And here is Super Grandpa! You may remember (that is, if I remembered to tell you) that I was showing my sister how to needle-felt dolls while she was here, and this is the doll that I made that day. Somehow when it came time to dress him he really wanted a red cape, and so Super Grandpa is what he became. Someone asked me a while back where I got all my roving from - it came from a website called A Child's Dream Come True. I have been very pleased with it and plan on ordering from them again when the time comes.

Super Grandpa

So now that brings us pretty much up to date. Or will do in a second. When my LYSO and I talked in mid-April about classes for the upcoming quarter, one of the ideas we had was for a summer top that was knitted from side-to-side. I confessed that I really didn't have any budget at the moment for yarns, and so we went on an Easter egg hunt through the shop for several yarns of different textures that worked well together, but pretty much all cottons. I'll confess here that the only side-to-side garment I have made was the #*(@$&(# Blues Band Vest that the TKGA had in Cast-On. (Which I can't find in my archives. Did I not take a photo of that thing when it was finally finished? I will have to rectify that.) So designing this puppy was quite a lesson for me, as well. And yet, after all, once you know your gauge and you know what you want to have happen, it all just works, doesn't it? Anyway, I swatched for a bit with the yarns until they finally told me what they wanted to be, and then dove into the knitting of it, writing down my pattern as I went. And this is the result.

May's Summer Jacket

This is meant to be a little something that you would throw on over a tank top, for example, or with a different yarn choice it would be lovely over a dress for summer evenings. As I got closer to the end I realized that it really wanted a crocheted edging. In the past I have shied away from this as so many knitters don't know how to crochet. This time I said to myself that it was about time they learned, so I did incorporate a very simple edging for them to wet their feet with. I have to confess, this is not my personal style, and yet I can appreciate it. But even though I liked the fabric and the original swatch, I was so not feeling the love for this thing. Finally, just after starting the second sleeve and in deep need for inspiration to carry me through to the end, I started working some of the finishing, and that did the trick. As soon as I saw the ribbon yarn pulled through the eyelets and the trim starting to go on, I could feel it and finished the top with enthusiasm. And then found one of my vintage buttons to crown it with. Which seems to have lost its rhinestone in this photo, but never fear, I found the rhinestone in the dryer and have it ready to glue back in when I go to the shop tomorrow afternoon.

It was difficult to photograph as it looks like poo on a hanger - it just hangs like a dead thing. And to lay it out on a table means that it is too wide for my camera to take all in. So here I am, standing on a dining chair and taking its picture. Try not to notice my bust in the way at the bottom of the photo.

Like any knitter worth her salt, I have several knitting baskets. Lately I have gotten into the habit of lining the ones not in current use up on the yarn table and filling them with the next project in queue. So that when I finish one thing, the next is all ready and waiting for me. So one morning last week, when I could see the light at the end of the cotton top tunnel, I was making the bed and realized that I have never knitted anything for our house. Yes, decorations, but no afghans. This needs fixing. I had a great time sorting through my stash of worsted wools and finding colors that would work for a blanket for our bed. Here is the start of my 12" garter stitch squares. I had high hopes of making each one different, until yesterday when I sat down and looked up the standard sizes of blankets and realized that I will need 72 squares. SEVENTY-TWO! Ok, so this is going to take me a while. Then as I was telling my Mom about my new project on the phone I found myself telling her I would knit an afghan for their RV that they take up to Montana every summer (but this one). What the hell was I thinking? Mom loves the store-bought afghan someone gave her because it is lightweight. This means a big project with dk yarn and tiny needles. I love my mother, I really do. But she would be just as happy with something bought. Which is what she will get.

So here is my first square, not blocked. Side A...

Side A

Side B

...or Side B? You decide. I kinda like Side B because it reminds me of ticking fabric. And here is the start of the second square, done in a pseudo-Log Cabin.

Last but not least, blog, I have this idea for a jacket that I hope to turn into classes for either fall or winter. For once I thought I would start my pattern early instead of freaking out in a panic at the last moment, as I usually do. I started playing around with it yesterday afternoon and am not perfectly happy with it. Love the fabric, but with all the yo's it is impractical for a jacket. Today I will play with other ideas for it.

Ok, blog, have to go. Next time I will show you the new Algonquin buttons (I know you will agree that they are perfect), the #*(!@)&$)$& Blues Band Vest, and the difference in felting with two bags, same pattern, different yarns.

Til then, keep knitting-
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