Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
If you've read anything at all about feng shui, you know that clutter and piles slow down your chi and suck the energy out of you. The dynamic between UFOs and knitting energy is no different. (I also know that toilet seats must be down in order to avoid having all the chi just plain sucked out of your home. It's about the chi not about being a picky female. Put the seat down. Could billions of toilet seats left up have contributed to our sinking economy? It's worth a dissertation ...)
So for tip number 5, finish off one, preferrably two, UFOs. We all have them. Some of us only have a few. Others contribute a UFO to the chi stopping pile every week or so. Pick the easiest one to finish up and do it! Need to add buttons? A little seaming? Need to sew in your ends? Do it now!!
Here's what I did ...
These ornaments just needed the H stitched on them. Easy schmeasy. (See Charmed Knits for pattern. This picture was actually from last year, but the three that I knit this year look exactly the same!) The chi took a baby step forward.
This baby sweater (see The Knitter's Book of Yarn) just needed buttons. That's it! One trip to TYL and bam! The UFO becomes an FO and the knitting chi is fluttering around the room.
This scarf has been lingering ever since I knit this syncopated cap. I would knit a row now and then when I felt like it but I never attended to it properly. This was my next target and I finished in two days.
The knitting chi is zooming I tell you, zooming.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
- Find a quick knit that is useful and, preferably, beautiful.
- Find the perfect yarn. It should be a joy to knit. The pleasure you experience when it slides through your fingers will trigger the knit-love areas of the brain. (Note: Guilt could cancel out the pleasure, so use stash if your budget is tight.)
- Cast on immediately.
- Ignore all those around you until you finish.
Here's what I ended up with ...
Tretta Hat by Grumperina
Blue Sky Alpaca Silk in a spring green (141)
It's just a gorgeous (and fast!) hat. I love it but it looks so much better on N so we're sharing. I needed to jump start the mojo, so I didn't get the beads. I think it looks good with or without them.
I have more mojo enhancing steps to come, but for now we at XRK would like to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And don't forget to visit Carol's great Thanksgiving Quiz. Ah, family.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I've made multiple sweaters that call for funnel necks, and I always end up modifying it. I always knit the funnel, and when I try it on, I hate it. I have a short neck, and funnel necks look like I'm wearing the sweater backwards or something. When I knit the Refined Raglan, I settled on a crew neck. When Mr S tried on his Dylan Goes Electric, he hated the funnel too, so I changed it to a roll neck.
Imagine the time I'll save when next I encounter a pattern with a funnel neck. I can dispense with the step of knitting the funnel neck, ripping it, and then experimenting with other necklines. It took the Counterpane Pullover for me to finally get it. Once again I knit the funnel, tried it on, hated it, and promptly ripped it out. Because of the unique construction of this sweater, I was unable to do anything much more than the small cowl-ish, mock turtleneck-ish neckline without a lot of ripping. If I planned a modified neckline at the beginning, I'd have a lot more options to choose from: a scoop, a more pronounced cowl, a split neck.
It's an extremely warm and cozy winter sweater, and while I'll admit it isn't the sexiest garment I've ever made, I did learn something valuable. And really, this was a process-knit from the start. It was great fun to make; it knit up over the course of a week -- it only took longer to finish because of my neckline issues and becasue I had to search out another skein of yarn from a fellow Raveler.
Pattern: Counterpane Pullover, Interweave Knits, Fall 2007
Yarn: 6 skeins, Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky, cream
Needles: US 10 1/2
If you want more details about my mods, check Ravelry.
Friday, November 07, 2008
I dropped many of my volunteer activities at the girls' school and instead took up more mentoring responsibilities in our struggling public schools. (And yes, mentoring a needy child is far more relaxing and rewarding than chairing a school-wide fundraiser or being secretary of the Parents' Association.) I was also lucky enough to spend some time volunteering for President-Elect Obama and participating in true community empowerment.
At the end of the summer, while in the midst of a professional identity crisis (should I go back to work after almost nine years? what should I do? am I good at anything other than nagging anymore?), I decided to spend Friday mornings kayaking on the river -- Goof Off Fridays. The time on the river, arrested only recently due to the cold, was deeply restorative and took the edge off all the questions that continue to swirl around me.
And what about the knitting? You would think that knitting would fit right into a year of relaxation. But lately my knitting has been unfocused. Picking up a project, growing bored with it, and then setting it down -- maybe forever. This is unusual for me. I almost never have UFOs hanging around the house. But except for some baby hats, not much has been finished in the past month.
Nothing to blog about. Nothing interesting on the needles. No sweaters. No scarves. No challenging colorwork. No stunning shawls. No cute mittens. Just a few baby hats.
I've had inspirational political experiences. Inspirational mornings on the river. Inspirational community involvement. But no inspirational knitting.
It's time for me to be pro-active about this. I refuse to let my knitting mojo be a casualty of The Year of Relaxing. I have a plan to try to get it back. Stay tuned.
*By "relaxing" I mean "lowering my standards." It translates into not vacuuming the house everyday, not obsessing about the garden, buying prepared foods now and then ... basically cutting myself some slack.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
So, crazy or not, I'm making a Granny Rectangle with my sock yarn leftovers, except that I think I'm running out of yarn, and it's only about 30" x 36" at this point. I'm sticking to the cool colors - the blues, greens, and purples and I don't want to vary the color scheme. So I suppose I'll have to generate some more leftovers: knit up some of the blue/green/purple sock yarn from the stash, and have more leftovers to add to the blanket.
OK. Now that does seem a little crazy. Knitting a project just to generate leftovers?
Monday, October 13, 2008
I was, predictably, very touched by this. I swept him up in my arms, and expressed my delight in his writing. "Oh, I like you, too!" I said enthusiastically. "And look at how carefully and neatly you wrote this!"
He smiled broadly, "Well, I didn't know how to spell 'ice cream,' so I just said I liked you. I could spell that!"
Rather than being properly deflated, I accepted my fate as being second-best to ice cream and easy to spell, and got even with him, the lazy-knitter's way. I cast on zero-effort stripey socks for my boy. It's Socktober, after all, and my Through the Loops Mystery Socks are too tight and the cable pattern requires too much attention during post-season baseball. I needed an easy sock, an instant gratification sock, and I can use the ugliest, cheapo stuff out of the sale bin (and only one skein needed for a pair for a small boy!), and crank out a pair of socks in a matter of days. No fancy yarn, no fancy pattern. Nothing. I don't even bother to match the stripes. So there, kid. Take that, Mr. Easy-to-Spell.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Pattern: Improvised on the needles
Yarn: Cashsoft Baby DK and Cashcotton DK
Needles: US5s and US6s
Notes: This is an adult medium cap -- not quite covering the ears. I cast on 120 sts using a 2 color long-tail CO method. I think the effect of the 2 color CO might be lost due to some curling at the bottom, but I do so love this CO. Here is a video tutorial for all those who don't already know this CO. It includes instructions for a rather clever braid as well.
I used a semi-corrugated rib (inspired by the Anemoi Mittens) for the brim:
Round 1: k 1 round CC
Round 2 - 6: [k2 MC, p1 CC]
I then proceeded to work 5 repeats of rows 5 through 29 this spiral chart followed by knitting 1 round MC. (If you use the spiral chart, the brown squares are CC, the white are MC.)
I didn't want to end the colorwork there, so I continued with ... are you ready for this? ... a "lice" pattern for the top of the head. Appropriate for XRK, no? The pattern is simple and I wanted to start my crown decreasing in the 3rd row of the pattern. So the crown looks something like this (white squares are CC, grey squares are MC):
For the double decrease, I used sl2tog, k1, psso. Therefore, round 36 would read as follows:
Knit 10; slip 2 stitches together knitwise, knit 1, pass slipped stitches over; knit 11.
Round 56 is k2tog all around.
I don't always like colorwork in DK weight, preferring sportweight or sockweight yarns, but the softness of the yarns and the quickness of the project won me over!
The Backbou as a reluctant model.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I was ready for some comfort, and thanks to my husband and his Jewish traditions, this week brought us Rosh Hashanah. I needed to celebrate a New Beginning. I needed to ask for blessings for a sweet new year, and I needed matzo ball soup, challah and a big hunk of Aunt Cookie's kugel. Mr S's Aunt Cookie makes the most astoundingly good kugel. It is sweet and delicious and incredibly fatty and decadently comforting. And it makes total sense, since Aunt Cookie herself is among the most gentle, comforting people I have ever had the privilege to know. I've never shared a recipe here before, but I do believe I owe the world the chance to eat Aunt Cookie's Kugel. It's a basic noodle pudding recipe. I've slightly modified the recipe that appeared in her synagogue cookbook (I xeroxed it in full years ago) to make it slightly less fatty and to reduce the overall size of the dish.
Aunt Cookie's Kugel
This recipe is easily doubled and it is not necessary to be exact about the quantities. It's comfort food.)
4 oz wide egg noodles (I use Manischewitz brand, and I basically use about 3/4 of the bag)
1/4 lb cottage cheese (I use low-fat, but Aunt Cookie never would)
1/4 lb cream cheese (see above)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 stick of butter (or less, but don't skimp here)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
optional: 1/3 cup of either/all: golden raisins, dried figs, dried apricots
Preheat oven to 350. Cook noodles and drain. Add any dried fruits to the warm noodles. In a separate bowl, cream cheeses together. Add sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla to the cheeses. Add noodles and fruit to the cheese mixture. Generously coat bottom and sides of a baking dish (probably 8x8 or thereabouts) with butter. Add the noodle/milk mixture, and dot the top with more butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for about 1 hour, until the milk sets and the top begins to brown slightly.
After a meal like that, with candles and prayers and the most comforting of foods, things began to look up. The calendar page turned from September to October. The Phillies are still playing baseball, and the first brisk days of fall are upon us. I finally got to pull out the wool sweaters. The latest, most comfortingly warm and perfect is Pam's February Lady Sweater, knit with Louet Riverstone yarn. Seriously, I love this sweater. I finished it ages ago, and it has been slung over the chair on the bedroom, waiting to be worn. The length is perfect, the fit is great, and the yarn was a great match. I raveled it here if you want details on my mods, which were minimal.
October will be better, I'm sure of it.
Monday, September 29, 2008
After almost a month without internet or email, I'm back. Our computer, pushed to the edges of it's capacity, gave us the big blue screen and was resistant to our meager efforts to repair it. Enter Jorge, the talented and clever, and husband to Kindnessgirl. As Jorge awaited the arrival of child number four and began a new demanding job, he parked our computer on their dining room table and worked to get us up and running in his "spare time." Isn't that just incredible?
Now our computer is not just running again but better, faster, stronger. And most importantly, baby Lyra has now joined us.
Here is the sweater for Lyra ...
Pattern: Busy Lizzy by Louisa Harding from Tadpoles and Tiddlers (Rowan)
Yarn: Louet Gems, Fine/Sport Weight, Goldilocks and leftovers from a BSJ
Needles: US 2s and 3s
I modified a number of things on this sweater, I'm not even sure I remember all the changes I made. I knit the body together, dividing for the sleeves, and then grafted at the shoulders to avoid any bulk from seaming. This made the colorwork easier and more continuous without any nasty seams to break it up.
I knit the sleeves in the round on dpns then seamed them into the round openings. I am moving away from seaming whenever I can (I'm with Anne Marie -- avoid seams whenever possible). I found the stitch count for the sleeves to be way off and increased to only 57 sts instead of 67. Also, I am in love with the smocking stitch. It has stretch and texture and is just a joy to knit.
And the button. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know where it's from via The Yarn Lounge. I love that it matches the flowers (I didn't pick the button until after I had knit the sweater!).
Louet Gems may just become my go-to-yarn for baby things. It's a bit splitty, but finishes so smoothly, shows colorwork and texture well, comes in great colors (this yellow, Goldilocks, is fabulous), and is machine washable and dryable.
So welcome Lyra! We're all so glad you've joined us on this big blue ball we call home!
Monday, September 22, 2008
I love it. I loved it when it came out in the magazine, and I love it now. I think it is Twinkle-esque, Anthropologie-ish, and has the potential to be a really interesting but wearable garment. The construction is simple and unique, and the central motif is striking. Bulky-weight sweaters are very chic right now, and in cream colored yarn, I think it has a classic yet stylish feel.
My husband, on the other hand, is seriously dubious. He thinks its going to look lumpy and, well, bulky. He thinks it's putting a giant X across my bust, or worse, giant flower petals directly on the girls, in a bad way. For a man who rarely expresses anything but encouragement about my knitwear, this was a vociferous objection.
After looking at a couple of FOs on Ravelry, I think it is a really flattering garment when knit with negative ease, so I am knitting the smallest size, placing the central motif so that it sits more below my bustline, and am modifying the sleeves to make them a bit smaller. I don't often take fashion advice from my husband, but I am just not so sure anymore. I am a small person, and have always shied away from knitting bulky sweaters. This sweater will never qualify for nomination for the Sexy Knitters Club, but for a warm winter sweater, I think it will be funky.
I just don't know!!! Any input?
Thursday, September 18, 2008
It's a little cropped cardi for my Rosebud. My daughter will tell you she's a little bit of a tomboy and a little bit of a girly girl, and that's about right. She's the kid in the frilly dress crossing the monkey bars again and again. The girl with the gaudy cocktail ring on her calloused, dirty hands. It's the girly part of her that understands the need for a little white cardigan in your wardrobe, but it's the tomboy in her that led me to this combination of pattern and yarn.
Pattern: Eyelet Yoke Cardigan, a free pattern from Lion Brand. It's also called the Fresh Picked Cardigan, but it's the same pattern nonetheless.
Yarn: Cascade Sierra, white, 2 skeins
Notes: When she grew out her commercially-made little white cardigan, I knew I wanted to knit her a replacement, but I was really disappointed at the lack of patterns available for kids her size. I know I could have written a pattern, or sized down or up an existing pattern, but I was not looking for a challenge here. I just wanted to knit a cute little cardi for my girl.
Proving that I am not a complete pattern snob, I came upon this Lion Brand pattern on Ravelry. I wasn't totally thrilled with the proportions of it; the pattern calls for 3/4 sleeves, but I think they are a little too short, the sweater a bit too cropped. I realized, however, that sleeves of this length do not need to be pulled up for worm-digging expeditions, and will likely keep the sweater cleaner overall.
Knitters with children, get yourself some Cascade Sierra and make some garments for your children. It is an ideal yarn for kid knits, especially if you prefer natural fibers. It's very easy care. I wash it in the machine on the gentle cycle with cold water, and they lay it flat until it's almost dry, and then throw it in the dryer on low for about 10 minutes, and it looks great! It's an 80/20 cotton/wool blend, so it is lightweight and doesn't stretch like cotton. Having made a sweater with it before, I can attest to its durability. Mr S wears his DGE sweater quite a bit, and there is no sign on wear at all, and because of the wool, it has not stretched out of shape either. Plus, it is an amazing value -- I think I paid $12 total for this sweater. It's a great worsted yarn, really.
Still, though, I'm disappointed that there aren't many patterns for kids her age and size. There's a lot for babies and toddlers, and of course, plenty for adult women, but not a huge amount of patterns for bigger kids. Leave me a comment if you have some good pattern sources for kids -- I need them!
Monday, September 15, 2008
The blog is experiencing some growing pains, frankly. Mo gave some serious consideration to dropping out completely, but now is thinking of coming back. Ann and I continue to be busy with the kids, even though they are all in school again. With flickr accounts and Ravelry, I'm feeling less like blogging about my knitting, as it feels redundant and time consuming. I think many knit bloggers have been experiencing similar malaise about their blogs, and that's just where the XRK knitters seem to be at this point. There may be some changes: we've considered a platform move. I've considered writing more about life when knitting just isn't doing it for me. For now, dear readers, all of you that remain, we ask that you stick with us through this period, and when we have something to report, we'll let you know.
In the meantime, here's a long-finished, FO, about which I have little to say. Now, if you happen to be expecting a baby and happen to be married to my brother-in-law and live in San Diego and want to be surprised about your baby gift, read no further. Everyone else, carry on:
Rav details here.
It's a February Baby Sweater, knit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. I knit it with fingering weight because I wanted it to roughly fit a newborn. My new niece will be born in November, and for the first few months of her life, it will be chilly in her hometown of San Diego. The gauge was not all that off, as I used US4 needles, but it should not overwhelm her little newborn body. I had to add the booties and the hat because they are so stinkin' cute, and I had the yarn.
I have two more sweaters to share, plus a cowl and hopefully a finished pair of socks to share in the near future. If I ever get around to blogging again.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
But socks made it clear for me. At some point, I decided I wanted a drawer full of handknitted socks. I wanted to go through a winter wearing nothing but my knitted socks. I wanted enough socks that I could do handwash the socks once a week or so, and still have enough in the drawer while I got around to doing the laundry. I wanted durable socks, socks that matched my clogs, really pretty socks, orange socks, neutral socks, and socks to wear with sneakers. I was obsessed with patterns and yarns and the combination of the two. I made tons of socks. I gave many pairs away, but ended up with about a dozen pairs of socks for me. I had all the socks I wanted and needed.
And at that point, as a Product Knitter, my interest in sock knitting dried up, as did my desire for sock yarns. Sock patterns no longer excite me and swell my Ravelry queue. Remember my torrid affair with Nancy last summer? I'm so over it. I've got the Sock Blahs.
I'm not hanging up my size 0 dpns by any means. I'm still knitting socks, and I doubt that I'll ever give them up for any length of time. We all know that they are great travel knitting, car pool knitting, purse knitting, and since socks wear out, I'll have to keep rotating in new pairs. My stash still overflows with lovely sock yarns which will have their time to be knit.
This skein of Sunshine Yarns in Neapolitan, for example, came to me as part of a destash from Laura, and it sat, wound, in a drawer, for at least a year or two until it's time had come. The yarn is highly variegated, very likely to pool, so Jaywalkers were the obvious solution. No offense to a classic pattern, but knitting Jaywalkers is symptom of serious Sock Blah.
Right now, I'm obsessed with sweaters. All I want to knit are sweaters. Baby sweaters and Lady Sweaters. Cabled sweaters and tweedy sweaters. Cardigans for Rosebud, and maybe a stripey pullover. A vest for Pepe too. Mostly sweaters for me, though. I've actually finished two that I'll be sure to blog about soon, and that cardigan for Rosebud is already knit to the yoke.
But it seems that Mr S also wants a drawer full of handknit socks. For those readers new to the blog, Mr S has size 13 feet. I guess now every pair is even more an act of love, since his feet are big, he wants boring socks, and I've got a bad case of the Sock Blahs.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
We're finally getting some much needed rain. Not a lot. But a calm, steady sprinkle. The air is cool, the windows are open, and the kids are at art camp for the morning. Ah. I'm happy with the quiet, the garden is happy with the rain. Now, on to the baby sweater ...
Pattern: February Sweater by Elizabeth Zimmerman (Knitter's Almanac)
Yarn: Socks That Rock, medium weight superwash merino, Jade (the color is closer to the above photo)
Needles: US 3s
I began this project during the Olympic swimming week. I finished in about 5 days and discovered that although I had altered the numbers due to gauge and cast on more than it called for, I had failed to alter the numbers for where to place the sleeves. This was a big mistake (damn that Michael Phelps). I never noticed until I had cast off (damn him and his intoxicating racing).
I rushed to TYL to see Brilliant Melanie, could anything be done to save it? I already knew the answer, and she could see that I just couldn't stand tearing it out. She sent me next door with the kids as she ripped and rewound for me. Aren't knitting friends the best?
I reknit it in EZ's numbers since my gauge really wasn't off that much and now, she is a thing of beauty.
Modifications: I am so over seams. I know that I'll have to deal with them again, but anytime that I can avoid them, I will. Even though this sweater doesn't have many seams, I knit the sleeves in the round to avoid sewing them up. No seams, none, nada, zippo, zilch.
Also, I slipped the first stitch of each row to create a nicer edging. I toyed with the idea of crocheting a little picot edge, but decided that the plain edging was simple and beautiful. The exquisite buttons are, my favorites, from Danforth Pewter via TYL.
The next few projects will also be baby things, since my friends and family evidently just can't keep their pants on. Will you people please stop procreating and let me knit myself a sweater?
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Pattern: 65-6 Lace Top in Safran with short sleeves by DROPS design
Yarn: Reynolds Sunday Best, 5 skeins, and all but a teeny bit of the 6th
Comments: This is my second DROPS pattern, and like the first, it is a pattern that assumes some competence from the knitter, and as the knitter, you must fill in some technical details in the instructions. For example, when forming the scooped neckline, the instructions are for short-rows; you stop knitting in the round, and begin knitting back-and-forth, while knitting one fewer stitch on each neck edge every other row, but nowhere does it say to wrap-and-turn. Trust me when I say that your neckline will look terrible unless you wrap-and-turn. My advice for DROPS knitters is to listen to the inner knitter, and assume that they've left out some details. And wrap your short rows.
I usually make sweaters with no ease or negative ease, but this sweater is meant to be blousey, and the eyelet pattern requires a camisole or tank underneath. The secret to not being overwhelmed in a top like this is for the armscyes to fit perfectly, but many of the raglan sweaters I had made in the past had way too much fabric under the arms. I am petite, with narrow shoulders, but I do have a rack, so to fit my bust measurement in many patterns, I end up with raglan seams that are way too long. My fix was to speed up the raglan decreases by decreasing every row instead of every other row as soon as I began shaping the neckline. I'm really pleased with how it worked out; it's the first time I remember being satisfied with the length of a raglan seam on any top I've knit.
I ended up with a number of stitches on my needle that corresponded to nothing in the pattern; I had fewer stitches than even the smallest size. Luckily, a gathered neckline is extremely forgiving, so I just followed the instructions for the eyelets on the neckline and bound off. Even with these modifications, though, it slips off my shoulders a bit and requires frequent cinching of the ribbon.
I don't have much to say about the yarn: it's fine. It's drapey enough for the pattern, but seems to be holding the ribbing so far. I was hoping for more of a kelly green, and ended up with exactly a match to my grass. Such are the perils of buying yarn online.
In all, a satisfying knit and a cute, wearable summer top.
Friday, August 08, 2008
A few months ago, my very good friend Melissa, a doula, asked me to donate a shawl for a charity auction. I said yes, first because it was Melissa, also because I had the time, but most importantly because the auction supports a wonderful organization: Birth Matters Virginia.
I believe every birth to be a celebration and every mother a goddess no matter how a baby enters the world -- by cesarean or vaginally, with or without drugs, in a hospital or at home. Birth Matters Virginia is working to create a more supportive culture for pre-natal care, birth, and post-partum care.
And now, here is the shawl -- modeled by the beautiful and stunning Kindness Girl. Doesn't she rock pregnancy?
Pattern: Ene's Scarf by Nancy Bush from Scarf Style
Yarn: Knitting Notions Classic Merino Lace in Aubergine
Needles: US 5s
Notes: Although I was quite intimidated at the beginning of this (CO 375 sts - eek!), once I passed the border it was quite enjoyable. Since I've been a lazy knitter this summer (Fran and Katherine can attest to the fact that I didn't knit much even at Knit Night!), I did have to push it into high gear for the past 4 days to get it done on time.
This yarn is fabulous. I bought it at The Fiber Festival in Montpelier and I will buy more this year. It is soft, light and the kettle dyed color is incredible. Here is a link to their website - I was able to load the page last week but seem to be having a bit of trouble today.
Many thanks to Kindness Girl for the modeling!
PS And thank you Fran for the canning information -- I'm going to try to pickle some cukes this weekend!