Monday, March 31, 2008

Whaddya know? Knitting is cool!

From the San Jose Mercury News via the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Knit One, Purl Two, Blog Too.

Nice quote from our very own hip knitter/yarn store owner! Excuse me while I update my Ravelry site so that I can be as cool as everyone else!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Busy ...

... but not with knitting. If I have free time, I'm in the garden marvelling over the little green things that defy all reason and pop out of the soil year after year. This is my 8th year in this house and it's nice to see things coming along.

All the gardening has left me with cracked, dirty hands. Not so good for knitting. And terrible for knitting hemp with my sharp Knit Picks Options. It's inevitable when knitting with this yarn and these needles: I will sustain a knitting injury.

And so I was sidelined for a bit. I wasn't knitting much of consequence since I don't enjoy knitting with a big band aid on my thumb (the needle exploited my dry, cracked thumb on a purl row and punctured the skin).

But I'm back baby! A washcloth is done as is my chevie.

Vandyke Lace Border washcloth

Pattern: Vandyke Lace border from Victorian Lace Today
Yarn: All Hemp 6, DK Weight
Needles: Knit Picks Options US 5s

This was a housewarming present for a friend. I had some All Hemp left in the stash and knew how well it softened with repeated washings. I knit a few garter rows and then knit the body in stockinette. At the end, I knit a few garter rows again, this time double looping on two of them. Then after another knit row, I crochet cast-on stitches for the Clarence border.

Thank you Victorian Lace Today! I am relying on this book more and more for lace information and ideas. There are also other lace books that I would like to get (this and this to be specific) but right now I'm saving my knitting budget for the first week in May.

Chevron Scarf

Pattern: Chevron Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts
Needles: US 6s

I never said that I was a trend-setter in the knitting world (that's Liz!). In fact I am way behind the trend. But I do finally get there. I love this scarf. It seems so springy and colorful and fun.

I picked up the Koigu at The Needle Lady in C'ville. I was so worried about whether or not I had picked the right colors (when confronted with a large selection of koigu, my mind just freezes up). I love the way these two worked together.

Maybe this year I'll wear mine to MDSW ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

XRK: Today, with Crochet!

We've needed some new throws and blankets around here for a while now, and I have been fully convinced that crocheting an afghan is for sure the way to go. I spend lots of time on Ravelry looking at different ones, and imagine the amazing crocheted afghans I could make. Sally tells me that crocheting is much faster than knitting, and considering the speed with which she cranks out B.A.G.S. afghans, I am apt to believe it. But Sally is primarily a crocheter who knits.

I am knitter who has extremely rudimentary crochet skills, ones useful for a knitter. I've never actually made a crocheted project. I've never followed a crochet pattern, and only know the single crochet. So while I am obsessed with ripples and Babettes, I'm just not convinced that it would be faster for me, given that I would have to learn how to crochet before I could actually begin.

My sister, the World's Most Deserving of the Handknits, recently requested something Spring-y, to go with her new Spring tote. A little flair, and little green, a little scarf-ish accessory to brighten up an otherwise mostly neutral wardrobe. Enter the perfect excuse to practice my crochet skills, and to test my afghan hypothesis: is crochet really faster than knitting, even when you don't really know how to crochet?

In a word? Yes.

Knitters know that scarves can be a slog, but I cranked out this scarf in less than a week, and that's with some serious ripping after a too-tight chain row caused the scarf to twist and ruffle. I used the Stripes and Stripes Forever (Rav link) pattern from the Happy Hooker, but if you know how to single crochet and have a few skeins of Tahki Cotton Classic lying around, you could make this scarf without a pattern.

My tension is still not great, I have no idea how to properly finish, I lose and gain stitches easily, but in all, a fine first effort. Only about a zillion more rows, and I would have made a great afghan!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Two Boleros

Do you want to know why I don't ever worry about the size of my stash? Every once in a while, I get this incredible urge to stash-dive and knit something with some random, long-stashed yarn. I fall back in love with it, or just get sick of seeing it. Either way, I decide it is time to knit a certain yarn, every last bit. Remember January, my month of Manos?

So in March, I got a particular urge to knit up the three skeins of Cascade Sierra, leftover from Mr S's Dylan Goes Electric sweater. This yarn has mad yardage, and I learned from experience that this yarn washes and dries beautifully in the machine. This would be the perfect yarn to knit a sweater for my son, and as I am typing this very sentence, I am thinking to myself, "why the hell didn't you just make a sweater for Pepe? It would have been perfect." Damn you, hindsight! Well, I can guarantee you that I will use this yarn again and again, probably for easy sweaters for the children. But in the meantime, it was time to get these three skeins out of the stash.

I started with the Ribbed Lace Bolero by Kelly Maher, after seeing Sally's in progress (dude, finish it already!). This is a simple, customizable pattern that knit up over a weekend of many, many basketball games. However, the pattern calls for Cotton-Ease, and I used a mostly cotton blend (80% cotton/20% wool), but I think a yarn with a little more stretch would be ideal for this bolero. There's a big of sag in the armholes and slight droop in the back (as with most shrugs, really) that might be eliminated if knit in a more elastic yarn. My sag vastly improved after a trip through the washer and dryer, which is another reason to love Sierra, because a garment looks better after laundering. I'm not criticizing the pattern, but would just recommend a knitter try a yarn with a bit more memory and give it you are looking for a perfect fit.

It's a perfect, multi-season layer. I've been wearing it a lot over turtlenecks and long-sleeve Ts, and can picture wearing it over a tank in the summer. Love it!

Details here (Ravelry link). Like my haircut?

My daughter immediately asked me to make one for her too, but I don't do the matchy-matchy mother-daughter thing, and I still had 1.5 skeins left of the Sierra, and the goal was to get it all knit up. I knew a ribbed bolero for her would take far less yarn, and leave me with a useless quantity leftover.

Rosebud got a Cloud Bolero. I loved this sweater ever since I saw Carrie's full length version. It was simple to resize for a child, too. First, the sweater is written for a bulky yarn; Sierra is a worsted. I also knit at a much tighter gauge, even for the Sierra. I used a US6 needle and got about 5spi in stockinette. The difference in gauge was enough to shrink it down to fit her, and I ended up following the instructions for a size S. It is basically a top-down raglan, so it was easy to try it on her as I knit it, and Ysolda's instructions for customizing the sizing are easily applicable.

But I got a little overzealous resizing it, because it is a little too small to allow for any kind of closure. It ended up being more like a vest than a bolero. I should have cast on a few more stitches in order to have it meet in the front, but the truth is, my daughter chews on her clothes. I know, gross, right? I know she would have loved a pretty satin ribbon tie at the neck, but it would have been gnawed to oblivion within days. The problem with a vest is that she plays with it incessantly. Pulling it off her shoulders, putting it back on. It needed some kind of closure, like a button or tie at the center of the chest or something. As is, it's a weird, distracting layer for her, and while it looks really cute, it is not exactly a practical item for a busy 7 year old. I have lived and learned: no more open-cardigan-vest-things for her for a while.

But I have knit every last bit of Cascade Sierra (except for a tiny bit left over for repairs if needed on the DGE) in my stash. And that feels great.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sock Spirit

My last pair of socks were a disappointment, so I was in need of some sock redemption. I wanted to knit a pair of red socks in honor of Project Spectrum 3.0, and with MDSW only a month and a half away, and I've been feeling the pressure to knit more of the yarn I bought there last year.

I chose Spirit Trail Fiberworks Brigit in a beautiful burgundy semi-solid, and once I learned from their website that Brigit is the "Celtic goddess of fire, illumination and guardian of bards, associated with handcrafts of all kinds, creative muse," I knew I had unwittingly stumbled on the perfect MDSW purchase with which to celebrate the Fire element. Combined with the super-simple Nutkin pattern, I have achieved sock redemption.

Red is a bitch to photograph, but this represents the color best

I would encourage anyone to knit the Nutkin socks; they should be the next Monkeys. The simple lace pattern is easy to memorize, but makes for a dramatic effect. It does bias a bit on the leg, but I haven't found it to be uncomfortable. Also, the pattern calls for a YO short row heel, and while I usually choose a heel flap, I tried the heel as described in the pattern, and for the first time ever, I managed a short row heel without holes. Call this a strong recommendation for a easy yet dramatic pattern that teaches you a new technique.

I'm sure many knitters are beginning to consider their MDSW 2008 purchases, and I would recommend this yarn as well. It is a superwash merino, with no nylon, but the tight twist makes it feel more durable than I would expect. The colors are rich and deeply saturated, and the yardage is great as well. Spend some time exploring their website; while the photographs so not do this yarn justice at all, learning about their mission to protect endangered and rare species of sheep convinced me that this is one yarn vendor I want to support. I have another skein of their Elizabeth I in the stash from last year, and will make it a point to stop by their booth again this year to try out a few more of their yarns.

I'm way behind on my blogging; expect a parade of FO posts this week if I actually get around to blogging.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Scarf with the Clarence Border

My auction project is done! And compared to last year's contribution, this one was simple, fast, and just a joy to knit. (Please, learn from my experience last year, do not felt a vest. You end up knitting a very ugly dress and then it takes forever to felt.)

It's doubled over in this picture.

Pattern: Scarf with the Clarence Border from Weldon's, 1886 (Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby)
Yarn: Hand Maiden Lace Silk (1/2 skein)
Needles: US 5s
Notes: I modified the pattern by knitting the border repeat twice instead of 3 times. I wanted a narrower scarf. Therefore, I only had 42 stitches once I had turned my work and picked up to work the center panel. The finished measurements are: 73" long and 7.25" wide.

By the way, what is up with the center panel in the picture in the book? If you have the book, turn to page 83 and compare it with mine:

I swear I knitted the pattern as it reads -- I even had Melanie check it over for a mistake. Maybe they altered the center panel pattern in the book? Maybe the stitches stretched out differently by more aggressive blocking?

Also, I think it's time I think about getting some blocking wires -- see how the edges were pulled by my pins? It does seem to be falling back into place as I let it hang.

This is exquisite yarn. Please knit something lighter than air, slinky, and delicate with this! I think it was the perfect yarn for this scarf and hope that someone special ends up winning it at the auction this Friday!

If you're in the Richmond area, come on down to ArtWorks this Friday (March 14th) at 7pm for the Richmond Waldorf School Auction! We've got loads of handmade items, art, gift certificates, and even some autographed items from my former neighbor!

Still Winter Here

Oh, Ann, you and your daffodils and your new gardening blog tease me. 15 years in the South have totally screwed up my seasonal clock. I expect Spring to come now, but here in Philadelphia, we are still definitely in hat season, and will be for several more weeks to come. Knowing that, I made myself a new hat.

When I was in Richmond in January, I spotted Stewart wearing this hat, the Sideways Ribbed Cap, a pattern from the folks at the Vermont Fiber Company. Hers was in a cute two-color combination, and while beanie-type caps are usually not flattering on me and my very oval face, I thought that the horizontal ribs would add just enough volume to flatter. I immediately thought of the mill-end skeins of Fibre Company Terra in the stash, the absolute steal of the day at MDSW last Spring. Remember how I almost destroyed their booth while pawing through baskets of their incredibly gorgeous, incredibly expensive yarns for sale dirt cheap, looking for just the right color combination? Neither skein was a full 50g, and I knew I'd need to combine the two to make something. Here was the perfect pattern!

Now I have serious yarn lust for this yarn. It is really spendy, but a sweater of this yarn would be amazing. The colors of this yarn are just incredible, and while I was concerned that it might have just enough hairs to make it itchy against my forehead, this thing is soft and warm and wonderfully cozy. It might just be worth the price.

* sorry, trying to ping*

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Muddy Paws

Liz, Mo ... I've got something to admit. I've been cheating on you. I started a gardening blog. It's nothing serious -- I swear! Just a lark. I haven't really been keeping it a secret, I just could never find the right time to tell you. But here it is.

Please know that nothing will ever come between me and our blog. Nothing. In fact I just finished a lace scarf. And a knitted bunny. And a handtowel. I'm going to blog about them soon. Really. I promise. Forgive me?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


My first pair of socks in 2008 have left me decidedly underwhelmed. They're knitted with the new Noro Kureyon Sock, and it didn't much like it. I've previously really enjoyed knitting with Noro yarns, but this is not what I am looking for in a sock yarn.

My main gripe is that the yarn has no elasticity whatsoever, so it makes very baggy socks. If you like that sort of thing (Marnie, I'm looking at you!), then this is the yarn for you. I, however, prefer a snug-fitting, no-droop sock.

So basically, its just your basic 64-stitch stockinette sock with a heel flap. The colors are pretty and the socks are warm, and I don't find them scratchy either. I just prefer some sproing in my sock yarn, and I'm sorry to say that Noro Sock is sproingless. So you won't be seeing me use Noro Sock again, because my stash is too big for me to use a sock yarn that doesn't have sproing.

Cupcake Craziness

The best cupcakes I've ever had were made by Liz. She uses the Magnolia Bakery recipe and they ROCK. They are so incredibly delicious.

Well, since Liz is my favorite cupcake maker and my favorite knitter, how's about whippin up some of these babies next time I come up?

I'm not sure that I even understand what has happened to this food product, but the details are here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Warming Up

It's taken me a bit of time (over a week) to get around to posting after our family trip up to see The BackBou's folks in the Mad River Valley. I love Vermont in the winter with the cold temperatures and deep snow (one morning I was up snowshoeing before 7am and it was -1 Fahrenheit!). This state was made for handknit socks. I can only handle it for so long however. I was ready to get home to my blooms in the garden and lighter jackets.

Just before our trip, I realized that I had no really warm hat for R. I dipped into my leftover bin and found tons of O-Wool Classic. Here's what I came up with (sorry the pictures of the hat really aren't very good) ...

Pattern: My own
Yarn: O-Wool Classic
Needles: US 7s
Notes: I made it way too big, tore it out, and made it just a bit too big. When we got home, I washed it and dried it. It shrunk up just perfectly and now it fits and it really, really warm.

These pictures aren't very good, you can't really see the pink stripe in the middle of the green nor the blue ear flaps. I'll try to get a better picture when the temps drop again this week.

It was fun to just put some yarn on the needles without any earthly idea about how it might turn out. Knitting without a pattern is so freeing sometimes. (And for this, I can thank Elizabeth Zimmerman. Reading The Opinionated Knitter has set me free.)

We are very busy these days making calls and sending off emails in order to finalize reservations and rail passes for our June trip to Norway. I've had to come to terms with the fact that this will in no way be a yarn vacation. There is really no wiggle room in our budget or in our luggage since we'll be carting everything on our backs from ferry to train. But maybe I'll be able to pick up some sock yarn or a cool pattern.

Speaking of socks ...

I finished Socks for Veronik on the ride up to Vermont (somewhere around the Merritt Parkway).

Pattern: Socks for Veronik by Mona Schmidt
Yarn: Spirit Trail Fiberworks 100% superwash Merino
Needles: US 1s
Notes: Loved the pattern. Loved the yarn. I've washed and worn these 4 times in the past 2 weeks. I would wear them everyday if I could. I will most certainly buy more of this yarn at MDSW.

And now, back to travel plans and enjoying the gorgeous 70 degree day ...