Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pumpkin Time

A quick knit for a boy named Ben. Seems funny to say that, knowing that "my" Ben is 26 and this Ben is just 15 months. A Fiber Trends pattern that was surprisingly easy and knit in just an afternoon, and that's from a slow knitter!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blueberry Anyone?

At the request of one of the next generation, I made a blueberry hat for our youngest family member. Well actually I made two hats. I don't have a picture of the first one because it no longer exists, having been gobbled up by the ball winder. Even having checked my gauge and making it the next size up from what he would normally wear, it still turned out too small. On to the second version. . . I decided to leave the pattern in the yarn basket when it came to adding 'leaves' and go 3-dimensional. The result wasn't exactly what I had hoped for but I can live with it. Hopefully so can the little guy that's going to be wearing it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall's Coming

From April to October, my job becomes my life. Many weekends I work part of one if not both days on top of the usual office time Monday through Friday. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I only say this as explanation of the absence of posts during the summer months. As the sailing season winds down, I begin to reclaim my personal time.

I've managed to finish just two projects this summer: both socks. The first pair was your generic 2x2 rib-cuff, no nonsense pattern made of Plymouth's Sockotta Italian Collection (45% cotton, 40% wool, 15% nylon). This pair was started on the way to my niece's college graduation in May and were finished mid August. The second pair was made with Trekking Pro Natura yarn received for Christmas in 2007. The first sock, made for a fellow knitter before she became a fanatic sock knitter herself, was done down to the toe in February 2008 when I realized I might not have enough yarn. After spending months searching unsuccessfully for another skein of the same color (forget the dye lot -- they'd be close enough), the single sock was exiled to my UFO basket to languish for the next eighteen months. This month over Labor Day weekend I decided it was time to do something about "the" sock. Since it's original recipient has a larger foot, I had to do some frogging as well as figure out where I was in the 12 row lace pattern in order to resize it for myself, definitely a task to be tackled early in the day while my concentration was at its best. Once the first sock was finished the second one was a breeze. In less than three weeks of bits of time every day, the second sock is done (even with some serious frogging to correct knitter errors )!
On to the next project. I have a shawl in cranberry red in the works and a request for a berry hat for my great nephew. --A happy knitter, again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Am I dyslexic?

I just finished my first practice sock using Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters.  Am I the only one that had trouble following the schematics of needle positions?
When I got to the base of the heel, I had the most frustrating time trying to figure out which stitches belonged on which needles.  Mine seemed to be a mirror-image of what I was looking at in the book.  If you've worked thru this Little Sky Sock exercise before, you might remember it's at this point that you've just finished short rows and are moving stitches between needles.  I felt like I was trying to solve a Rubic's cube!  Look at the diagram, read the directions, move the stitches.  Look at the diagram again, read the directions again, look at the stitches on my needles.  Move the stitches back to their original needles, start over.  Try again.....and again....and finally, before I pulled the needles out and reduced the sock to a snarl of yarn, I set the needles down and went to bed.  Problem solving is always easier after a good night's rest.  
A new day.  After reading the next set of knitting directions and figuring out what was to be accomplished, I finally got over that hurdle and moved along just fine.  The sock turned out fine and looked like the one in the book.  Sorry no picture to share....I hadn't intended to write this post until I had gone back to review the first few pages of the book before tackling the second practice sock, "Little Coriolis".
Page 7  of the book:  "Compare the foot and the 2 circ schematic above. . . Since [the left needle] tip is red, it's also the the starting needle (the needle in your left hand)."  Yet the schematic shows the red needle on the right side of the drawing.  Why do that?  WHY NOT SHOW IT ON THE LEFT SINCE THAT'S WHAT I'M GOING TO SEE AS I'M KNITTING!!!!    Yes, she says in the last paragraph, "...the needles as they would look if you laid them flat on a table, with the sock growing towards you.  The starting needle is always the one in your left hand."  A schematic of how it would look when laid on a table makes no sense when I'm following the directions as I knit.  

Okay, okay....deep breath......before everyone jumps on me for saying something negative about Cat or her book, let me just say, the woman is a genius when it comes to sock architecture. I love the designs and know I'll be fine once I get my head around the perspective from which I should compare my project to the schematic; it just seems so opposite of what it should be.  
I now have an idea of how frustrating life is for individuals with dyslexia.  Is this my left hand or is this my left hand?  I just don't know right now.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Finishing Touches on the Henley

This has to be some kind of record, at least for me. Looking back at the calendar, it took me just three weeks to finish this project and it probably could have been done in two, if I hadn't procrastinated when I got to a part I was unsure of, like picking up stitches for the neckband. Because the perfectionist in me is never satisfied, picking up stitches has never been a favorite. It's the reason I started the placket three times this morning, once after having already finished the bind off.
The next project, a toe-up sock in J.Knits Miami colorway. I've always knit mine from the top down and it's time to figure out if knitting in the other direction is for me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

Tonight as I was perusing the new yarn catalog that had arrived today, Gram came in and said, "When you're tired of working on your sweater, perhaps you'd work on this for me."
"This" was a 100% acrylic commercially made sweater, one that used three threads to make up a fine fingering weight yarn. Unlike the yarns we usually use for handknitting, this yarn wasn't plied, but instead three separate threads that didn't act at all like a single strand of yarn. A deadly combo: fine denier acrylic yarn and dry air. They were waving around like hair rubbed with a birthday party balloon, dancing around a gaping hole in the seam attaching the collar to the sweater. But wait, it get's better! The collar had been knit double the width needed, then folded over the sweater neck edge and secured with a chain stitch, so there wasn't one but two raw edges. About three inches of tiny live stitches just itchin' to ravel leered up at me, laughing like the gingerbread man, "catch me if you can." I'm always up for a good challenge and this was definitely about as good as they get.
My weapons of choice: two size one dp's to catch the live stitches on either edge of the collar and a latch hook from my machine knitting days to pick up a collar stitch, the sweater neck edge, the opposing collar stitch and then to pull the raveled chain threads thru all three layers. It was going along pretty well until I ran out of chain thread. What to do now?
I remembered seeing a skein--that's right folks, a skein, not a wimpy little spool--of 100% nylon yarn in amongst my stash. Well not really in my stash, more living on the edge. Yes, a yarn outcast. How it got there, I'm not sure, but being the pack rat that I am, I couldn't bring myself to ever throw it out. It was still in the original plastic package with a Woolworths price sticker of 69 cents. I think it had been passed along to me by my mother, my mother-in-law or possibly my husband's nana. I hadn't any idea what I would ever use it for .... until tonight! That nylon yarn was perfect. It even matched the sweater color.
I finished closing the seam, lasooing every one of those wiggly little stitches and all invisibly. A half hour later Gram was happy to see her favorite sweater back and I was happy it had turned out so well.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Warmer days ahead

Now that the days are getting longer and the thermometer is trying its best to get up into the fifties more and more, I'm thinking summer garments. I usually wear jeans and T-shirts at work but I'd like to have something more stylish. Thumbing thru the pattern books at Halcyon Yarn in Bath a couple of weekends ago I came across Knitting Pure & Simple's Henley T Shirt for Women. I'm using two strands 100% cotton with slubs. At the moment there are around 260 stitches on the needles so it takes awhile to make much progress but the picture shows the progress made in one evening plus about six hours over this weekend. I'm determined not to let this languish on the needles and become an unfinished project like every other sweater I've ever started for myself.

When I bought the yarn, there were also five Addi circular needles in my basket. The helpful employee asked if I'd considered getting a set of Addi clicks. I was skeptical having had a set of interchangeable needles in the past but the liberal return policy convinced me to give them a try. Well I'm a believer now and they'll have paid for themselves if I do just three projects that call for different circulars.

Back to my knitting. The clock's ticking and Spring's fast approaching.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Four of a Kind

Remember that extra hank of J. Knits I told you about? Well here it is in its knitted form, along with the product of the first one. A friend from the sunny south is headed north to visit us Mainers this weekend and I think she may find one pair of these fingerless gloves will keep her hands from becoming frost-bitten when she's out walking the dogs.

Has anyone been wondering where I've been since my last post a month ago? I've been taking a break from the needles the past few weekends to try some baking. As my friends and family know, the kitchen and I are relative strangers. Having a husband who's retired equates to most evening meals being ready when I get home from work. Cereal for breakfast, bag lunch (I love left-overs) and dinner...well, there you have it. No need to cook. Baking however is not his forte so I've been trying my hand at making bread, rolls, sticky buns, and cookies, lots and lots of cookies. The ladies of the house: my mother-in-law, my mother and I, are cookie monsters and bakery cookies are both expensive and quickly devoured. Solution: bake our own and I've been doing a bang-up job, if I may say so, myself.

There's a lesson to be learned from this story though. There are only so many hours in each day and if one is going to bake, one must sacrifice knitting time. Hmmmmm. Fewer cookies, more knitting!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

On Needles

I imagine most every knitter dreams of having straights, doublepoints and circulars in all the sizes and lengths.... I do. When I was in college, my parents gave me the next best thing: one of those sets of needle tips and various lengths of cables. Knitting with them was not fun. The tips would come loose and the stitches would drop into the cravasse between the two.

For this project I had planned to buy circulars once I knew what size I needed but I finished the gauge swatches too late to get to the shop before they closed. Wanting to cast on right then, I rummaged through my needle canister and came out with these 13" aluminum straights that I'm pretty sure were made in the Neolithic Era. Whether I bought them when I first started building my own collection, or I inherited them from my mother, they definitely now qualify as antiques. Surprisingly, they worked out fine; just took a bit of getting use to after knitting socks with 6" bamboo doublepoints for what seems like forever.

The guernsey's done now and the little guy who wears it will be toasty warm on chilly days. A classic pattern, knit with classic needles. What a nice match it turned out to be.

Monday, February 16, 2009

And the winner is....

The fisherlad guernsey. Here's the back done to the final row. The pattern calls for binding off the shoulder stitches and putting the neckband ones on a holder but I remember making a Penny Straker kid's sweater pattern where the front and back shoulder stitches were knit off together and it made an invisible shoulder seam without the kitchener stitch. I'm putting the stitches on holders for now and will look for that pattern to review.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Warm Hands

Winters can be cold in Midcoast Maine and every day I find myself walking thru unheated workshops or climbing around a boat outdoors to deliver messages. By the time I'm back in the office my hands have gone from warm to downright chilly. Not anymore. My new fingerless gloves will offer a layer of warmth while my fingers are free to hold pen and paper. Made of the J KNITS Superwash Me pictured in my last post, they're knit in an overall 2 by 2 twisted rib/mock cable. The pattern came from Andra Asars' website and was as simple as they get. Keeping the pattern stitch going on the gusset while doing increases was about the only part I had to really think about. It got much easier once I decided to do increases on the same round as the twist. Although my hands don't have lovely long manicured nails like the model's on Andra's website, I decided to model for this photoshoot anyway holding the ball of left-over yarn to give some idea of how much of the 2 ounce hank was left. (If you want the exact amount, let me know. I'll get back to you!) In a panic last week I'd called the shop (Heavenly Socks in Belfast -- Highly recommend it!) and asked the owner to save another hank for me. (Thank you Helen.) Hmmmm....now what shall I do with the extra hank? While I ponder, it goes into my evergrowing stash. (BTW, if your stash is shrinking, you're not visiting your LYS often enough!)

What shall I do for my next project? It's time for a break from socks and sock yarn. The nominees are two patterns from Marcia Lewandowski's book, Folk Mittens, and a Yankee Knitter Design, Fisherlad Guernsey, for a toddler. While making a sweater would definitely be a break from socks, trying some two color knitting is tempting. Whatever the project, it has to be a manageable one that's likely to get finished. Perhaps the Mittens from Halland (No, that's not a typo; Halland's evidently an area in Sweden.) or the Minnesota Mittens that use two strands of the same color. I'd still get the same experience as if I was knitting with two colors and I'm thinking two strands, same color, mistakes won't be as obvious! Trust me, this is important. I've been accused (and I admit probably rightly so) of having perfectionist tendencies. I once 'unknit' right down to the first cast-on the entire back of a fisherman knit destined for my husband. What can I say, I would have zoomed in on that mistake every time he wore it. (Do I hear all you other perfectionists out there saying Amen?) Of course, I could have saved myself a whole lot of time had I known that he would, after wearing it a few times, put it through the washer AND dryer. That was nearly thirty years ago and I've never knit another sweater for him. Yes, we're still married and yes, he still does the laundry, most of the time.

Off to test drive some yarn. I'll let you know my decision soon...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Can't Sleep

Have you ever been so excited about starting a project that you can't fall asleep? While it can be a problem on a night when you have to get up and go to work the next day, on a weekend the only solution is to get back up and knit until your craving is satisfied. Such was last night.

First, how the yarn found its way into my heart and yarn basket... My mother lives with us (as does my husband's mother. No empty nest syndrome here). Mom had been homebound for more than a week and it was time to get her out of the house. A ride would be nice but my destination? The LYS, of course. Mom would be content to watch people skate on icy sidewalks and scale evergrowing snowbanks while I popped in to see what was new and enticing...I had in mind those beautiful multi-colored mittens lots of knitters are making as a possible next project. Let's not talk about the yarn I bought two weeks ago or the mound right next to the sofa, enough for at least a dozen pairs of socks. (Does anyone else suffer from yarn compulsions like this?)

Two books, six skeins and two sets of dp's later, I trooped back to the car, anxious to get home. Not yet however. Mom hadn't had enough of a drive. Hmmmm.... up the coast about a half hour was a seafood restaurant where we could get a lobster roll, her favorite lunch out. It was still a little early to have lunch when we crossed the city limits, even by her standards, but never fear there's another LYS, uncharted territory, yet to be explored. I found a fingerless glove sample that felt so good when I slipped my hand into it, I HAD to have a pair for myself. What the heck, two pairs...well, maybe I'll give one pair away....maybe.
The sample was made with J Knits Superwash Me--Light. I picked out the two colorways shown in the photo, remembered to ask for the free pattern and instantly decided this had to be the next project.

Fast Forward: Home at last and time to let my new yarn wrap around my fingers. No...no...no...show some self-restraint for heaven's sake. At least finish the second sock of a pair that has been on the needles far too long. A struggle ensued, at least in the mind. Usually socks don't languish on my needles as long as these have but while the colorway was wonderful, the yarn wasn't enjoyable to handle. Whether it was dry or the sheep was having a bad hair day on sheering day or it was the dyes used, the best way to describe it would be to say it was like knitting with young cactus. I have high hopes that it will soften up with a few washings, although it can't be any rougher than my winter feet. I picked up the needles and finished the sock.

Before I knew it the clock said 9:30 and time to go to bed. What happened to my day? The new yarn had made it from hank to ball to cast on stitches. Alas, the real knitting would have to wait til morning, or so I thought as I headed upstairs. After two hours of twisting in the blankets much like a fly caught in a spider's web I surrendered to the call of the yarn. Two repeats of the four rows of the pattern and my brain was ready to shift out of gear for the day.

Today, I've promised to start gathering receipts and figures for the taxes but maybe just a few more rows before I start...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here and Now

Where do I begin......

This is here and this is now -- from Here and Now by Great Big Sea -- and that seems to be as good a place to start as any.

Saturday was a wonderful day -- one when I got to wander around a book store for as long as I wanted AND check out a new yarn shop. I knew as soon as I walked through the shop door that it would go into my book as a favorite. Purl Diva is a small cozy shop tucked in an older home on a side street off the main drag in Brunswick, just about the halfway point on a trek to Portland. I wanted to sit down in front of the sock yarn cubbies and just bask in the beautiful colors and variety of brands that I had never laid eyes on before. Being like every other knitter or quilter I've ever met or whose blog I've read, I wanted to take home as much as my car would carry. Considering I have a van, that could be a king's ransom's worth. The store owner, Ellen, was a pleasure to talk with and answered my questions as if I was the first to ever ask them. Oh, did I mention Loki, the shop assistant? Loki is Ellen's dog, half Australian Shepherd, half Border Collie. Appropriate to have a herding dog around wool yarn, don't you think. Unfortunately Loki's forays into the shop at large were limited so she wouldn't disturb browsing customers. No worries Loki, I'll remember to restock the pocket with biscuits before my next visit.

With much restraint I made my choices: a hank of Smooshy Night Vision , one of Madelinetosh Clematis (Purl Diva is the only Maine yarn shop listed on Madeline Tosh's website. Aren't I lucky! New Hampshire has just one, too--Spinning Yarns in Dover. I'd highly recommend checking out this line. I found it on a Ravelry page.), one of Fleece Artist Sea Wool from Nova Scotia, and finally one of CascadeYarns Heritage sock yarn. There was a pattern and book on the receipt as well but we'll discuss those another day once I've knit up one of the patterns.

All of the colors I chose were subdued, more in keeping with the tastes of the recipients I have in mind. Of the 13 or 14 pairs of socks I've knit, all have been given to women in the family. Now one of them is a mad sock knitter herself so I can't pawn off any more on her. My husband is my next victim, I mean recipient, and maybe another pair for my mom-in-law, affectionately known as Gram, who lives with us.

That brings me to the end of this, my first blog. It's off to bed with me. Tomorrow is a monumental day in this country's history and I don't want to miss a minute of the ceremonies and festivities.