May 31, 2007

A Good Cause

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Knitters are some of the most warm-hearted and generous people around.

In that spirit, I would like to bring your attention to some fundraising Valerie is doing.

Please go look at this post on her blog.

Valerie’s daughter is a cancer survivor. I’m not a parent so I can only imagine the terror and heartbreak of watching your darling baby fight cancer. While I’m sure my imagination doesn’t even come close to the reality, I still feel so much sadness for those who have faced such trauma.

Cancer is so insidious and cruel and unfortunately touches way too many lives. It is easy to feel helpless. But you can help.

Valerie is raising money for pediatric cancer research through a Virtual Lemonade Stand to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Please read what Val has to say. Then see if you can help her by donating some money. Even if it’s a small amount. If you can give more, wonderful! But every little bit counts.

Even the biggest, most complex, knitted projects are made up of individual knits and purls. Every tiny stitch goes towards making the whole. So too, with giving to a good cause, every cent contributes to the goal. Maybe our knitterly understanding of this is what makes the knitter community such a powerful force in fundraising. We know that when we join together as a group and each give just a little bit, the results can be truly impressive.

May 29, 2007

Must Keep This Quick

Deadline knitting. I'm making a Diamond Fantasy Shawl for my Mom's birthday. Her birthday is coming up right quick, but that's not the only reason I feel like I need to buckle down and get this thing finished ASAP. Other contributing factors to my growing panic are my desire to make this rather large, along with my not knowing how many pattern repeats it's going to take to reach this undetermined, satisfying size, topped off with my not knowing how much time life will grant me to work on it between now and when it needs to be in the mail. (Whew, that was quite a sentence.)

So here's what I've got so far. Sirdar Just Bamboo in Oriental Blue. As the name suggests, this ribbon yarn is 100% Bamboo. I wasn't sure how I would like the ribbon yarn for the shawl, but it's working out nicely, I think.

I'm just starting the fifth pattern repeat. I think I'm going to do at least eight repeats. But who knows, that could change. Right now, it's just a tad longer than 36" across the wingspan.

I'm not sure I'm going to need to block it. See how flat it already lays? The yarn is so slippery it just slides past itself and evens up all on its own. I do love blocking, though, especially lace. Anyone ever blocked bamboo lace before? Does bamboo hold the block? The yarn store steered me away from cotton and towards bamboo when I explained a good blocking was important to me. But now that I see how even the yarn wants to be all by itself, I'm not at all sure if blocking will have any influence anyway.

Either way, right now, I've got more knitting to do.

May 24, 2007

FO: Cable Cardi

Let me take you back to Spring '06, to my pre-blogging days...The Knitting Olympics had recently wrapped up. Crash had just won the Oscar for best picture of the year. When you turned on the radio, you heard "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt or "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter. Early footage of Snakes on a Plane was hitting the internet. Speculation over the veracity of Suri Cruise's birth was rampant. The Republicans weren't expecting to get whupped in November. Heroes was just a twinkle in the eye of NBC...

One day, while in my LYS, I purchased a bunch of Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran I found on sale. I also picked up Knitting on the Edge that day. I went home and impulsively thought up a way to combine an edging from my new book with my new yarn for a sweater. I took some perfunctory measurements. Frivolously, I cast on without having devised a complete plan.

Before I knew it, I had a fairly long back piece. A few, improvised bind offs and decreases later and there was something resembling armhole shaping. Not long after that, a semblance of shoulder shaping existed. Eventually, I had an entirely bound off back piece.

I was still having fun and blissfully unaware that I was in over my head. Naturally, I cast on the front pieces. Right around the time I finished the edging, I realized that I would have to make a decision about button bands. See how blase I was being about this? I hadn't even considered button bands until right then. I decided to continue a garter stitch border to avoid having to pick up button bands some day. It's a defendable decision and one I don't regret. But it's also another example of the lackadaisical approach I was taking to this so-called sweater.

I made similarly informal decisions about where to start the V-neck and the rate of decreases for the V-neck. Otherwise, I just copied what I'd done on the back.

By the time I had the two front pieces bound off, a suspicion began to creep up on me. A suspicion that this project was about to seriously hit the wall. Because while I now had a back and fronts which seemed reasonably acceptable, I had committed myself to set-in sleeves. It was dawning on me that I didn't really know how to shape a sleeve cap and was therefore headed for trouble. I pushed the suspicious aside and tried to keep going on making this sweater.

I sewed the fronts to the back and promptly realized that the garter stitch bands on the fronts didn't have anything matching on the back. So, I picked up stitches along the back of the neck and worked a few rows of garter stitch and then sewed the edges of that to the garter stitch button bands. Another random decision, but it's not half bad in light of that.

To continue procrastinating the sleeve issue, I went out and bought some buttons. But after that, there really wasn't anything left to do but start the sleeves.

I cast on for the sleeves, which was actually quite bold considering that by now, I was fully aware that I was about to be stumped. I found this Knitty article, which really only served to frighten me. (This other Knitty article, the one that Ali pointed out to me, the one which ultimately saved me, I did not find.)

So there I was in the Spring of Ought Six with the first sweater of my own design hopelessly out of my reach. I did the only sane thing there was to do. I shoved all the bits and pieces into a ziploc bag, buried said bag in the stash and forgot all about it.

Flash forward to Spring '07. By now I have a blog. Out of nowhere, I start thinking about this sweater again. One day, when I've got nothing else to write about, I dig up the sweater and share it with the blog.

What followed was an amazing and wonderful wealth of advise and encouragement. You guys gave me the tools and motivation to dive back in and finish the sweater. Thank you!!

All in all, it came out better than I expected. I don't completely love the way the shoulders and sleeve cap all come together, but I can definitely live with it. And I learned so much! Meanwhile, the length of the body and sleeves are perfect and the overall fit is pretty much exactly what I was going for. I've already been wearing it often. It is ideally serving it's purpose of something to throw over a tee shirt when I need just a touch more warmth.

I feel so much better now this is finished and I'm happy with my new sweater. Thank you all, again, for giving me the help and kick in the pants I needed to get this done.

May 22, 2007

FO: Mad for Fair Isle, Batik Style

Pattern: Mad for Fair Isle, Batik Style
Designer: Tina Lorin
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in Spanish Moss and Natural
Needles: US 1 (2.25mm) DPN's
Mods: None, really. I shortened the toe a bit but that hardly counts as a mod.
(Edited To Add: The pattern calls for a row of purl stitches down each side of the foot. I knit those stitches thereby eliminating the column of purls.)
New Techniques Learned: Fair Isle (whoo hoo)! I held one color in each hand, which meant I also had to learn how to knit Continental style. At the beginning of this year I decided I wanted to knit socks and learn Fair Isle. I'm delighted that my first Fair Isle is on a pair of socks. And I'm enchanted by the beautiful batik. It is way more my style than a traditional Fair Isle pattern.
Recipient: Me. These socks really aren't my colors. Because of that I had no intention of keeping them for myself when I started them. But as I worked on them, learning how to Fair Isle (can I use that as a verb?) and falling in love with the pattern, I knew I wouldn't be able to part with them. They are good enough for a first attempt at Fair Isle that I'm proud of them. Simultaneously, they're too flawed to give away. All the mistakes of first time Fair Isle are painfully evident. I'd be embarrassed to gift them. But they make me happy. They are knitting only the knitter could love. That said, the second sock is much better than the first. I turned the first sock inside out and assessed that I was stranding the white too tight and the variegated too loose. Having had a whole sock worth of practice, I was able to even out both tensions on the second sock and achieved better results.

Now I'd like to tie up (weave in?) a few loose ends.

The Mad Batik socks were the sixth of seven rounds of Sock Madness. Round seven came and went without my so much as casting on. I'm not sure when or if I'll tackle that final pattern. I'm pretty sure the next socks I start will be the Spiral Boot Socks from Summer '07 IK.

The winner of Sock Madness was Kristi R. If you click the link on her name, you'll see that her blog is called Needlefingers. She said she adopted this moniker when a friend called her Kristi Needlefingers because her knitting (fast, furious, lots of clicking) is like Edward Scissorhands cutting hair or hedges. She is mind bogglingly fast and absolutely deserved to win. It was so much fun (and a bit terrifying) to see how fast she could crank out a pair of socks. Yowza! Anyway, congratulations Kristi!

Also, do you remember the Mad Color Weaves?

Some of you expressed interest in this pattern, so I wanted to let you know that it is now available. For free! Go to Tina's blog. There's a link on her sidebar.

That's all for today.

May 18, 2007

Eye Candy Friday

I had the idea for these dewdrop pictures last week, but didn't have the camera handy at the time. So I have to credit Ruth with beating me to it.

I thought about not posting these at all because I don't want to seem like a copy cat. But then I remembered we all enjoy looking at pictures of the same knitting pattern knit by different people. We each bring a piece of our own personality to everything we do. The different approaches to a pattern (decisions about yarns, colors, buttons, etc) make each knitted garment unique. Even the same yarn and needles in different hands produce different results. This is part of the magic of knitting. We are all individuals and with every stitch (or snap of the shutter) we share our own unique touch.

One of the things I love about knitting is the feeling of connectedness. I love thinking of all the millions of hands over thousands of years who have wrapped yarn around needles and pulled a loop through. All those different people, each with their own amazing story, each producing something unique. By sharing the simple act of using sticks and yarn to create fabric, I am connected to all of them.

I'm not the first person to take pictures of dewdrops gently clinging to flower buds. I'm certainly not the most artistic person to do so. But by sharing these pictures, I'm sharing my individuality and connecting myself to those who have gone before. To me, that is beautiful.

Coming soon: Actual knitting content!

May 16, 2007

A Meme

I’ve been tagged by Rosemary.

Each person tagged gives 7 random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write on their blogs 7 facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and need to read your blog.

My 7 Random Facts:
1. I was conceived in Scotland. There’s nothing quite like when your parents tell you where they made you. It’s kind of creepy, unless the place is somewhere cool, like Scotland.
2. Growing up, I had pin straight hair. The summer I was 19, it turned curly.
3. I was once flown onto an aircraft carrier and then spent the night aboard.
4. I love oranges, but I hate orange juice.
5. I have mild scoliosis and used to have bad lower back pain. About 5 years ago, I read Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. The pain started going away before I’d even finished the book. It has not been back since.
6. I hate popcorn. In college, I learned to deal with the smell of microwaved popcorn, but the smell of bagged popcorn makes me want to retch.
7. One time, while driving, my car burst into flames. The flames were inside the car. I was stomping on the fire to try to put it out. By the time I pulled over and got the h*ll out of the car, I saw the pedals had melted onto my sneakers. Aptly enough, the car was a Blazer.

Now here's the part where I tag the following 7 people.
Mini, Lisa, Jen, Marly, Margaret, Linnakat and Jessica

May 14, 2007

Summer Knitting Goals

Ali is having a fun contest. Ali is a knitting dynamo, an incredibly talented knitwear designer, mother of six and all-around sweetheart. Those reasons alone should have you interested in her blog, her contest is the proverbial icing.

She's giving away copies of this pattern, which she designed. The first place winner will also receive 4 hanks of Blue Sky Dyed Cotton, in any color desired.

Here's how it works:
1. Leave Ali a comment on her blog telling her you'd like to participate in the contest and tell her your color choice. Do me a favor and let her know that I sent you, kay? Thanks!

2. On your blog, write out your summer knitting goals. The way I see it, this step is the prize you get just for playing. I know my knitting plans are always more ambitious than my time allows, no matter how much time I have. If I get more free time, my plans just expand. In all the frenzy and excitement of looking at patterns, trying to design my own patterns, buying yarn, casting on, etc., it's easy for me to lose track of what I really want to accomplish. To meet a goal, the first step is to clearly state the goal. And now Ali's giving us a good reason to do so.

3. Finally, e mail Ali with a link to your post.

You've got the rest of this month to enter.

So here we go with my Summer Knitting Goals:

1. Shawl for Mom. I made the Forest Canopy Shawl for her for Christmas. I held Blue Sky Alpaca and Silk together with Rowan Kidsilk Haze on big needles (US 10's). I repeated the pattern extra times to make it big, cuddly and warm. She loves it so much, she's specifically requested a summer weight shawl. Her birthday is early June, so I'm on a definite deadline for this one. BUT, I haven't picked the yarn or pattern yet! I gots to get crackin'! I'm thinking maybe the Diamond Fantasy Shawl in some sort of cotton or bamboo. I feel like once I find the perfect yarn, choosing the pattern will be easy. Well, gee, sounds like I need to go yarn shopping. You know how I hate that. Ahem.

2. Valpuri for me. I had a false start on this pattern after this post. You see,'t swatch. I know, I know, you don't have to look at me in that tone of voice. I actually had some pretty good reasons for not swatching. But then a few variables changed, I got a little cocky and received the knitting smack down I richly deserved. Now that I've already told you the punchline, I'm not sure it matters if I try to justify my behavior. I think I'll save sharing my rationale for another post, because I'm trying to focus on the goals here. And making Valpuri so it actually fits me is a goal.

3. Sweater for Chris. This is started, but not much further along than last time I blogged about it. I'll probably work on this in bits and pieces throughout the whole summer. But I'd like to have it finished by the end of the summer.

4. Baby gift for some neighbors. Their baby is due this summer, I forget exactly when. I think Valerie's contest winning baby sweater might be a really good gift. But to be clear, my goal is simply to knit them something for a baby gift. The exact thing itself might change.

5. I really should finish my Cable Cardi. All that's left is to knit the sleeve caps (yes, that is the most troublesome part for me) then sew it up and affix the buttons. I want to finish it just to freakin' finish it already, ya know?

There are other things that I want to make and other things I'll work on this summer, but these are five things I'm calling summer knitting goals.

May 10, 2007

Mailman Brings Yarny Goodness

I had a little on-line yarn buying incident a few days ago. Punching in my info, I say, "Mailman, bring it!" A few days later, mailman says, "Oh, it is so broughten!"

All of the following goodies are from Fearless Fibers. This is my first time buying from Fearless Fibers and I have to say it was a wonderful experience with very thorough, friendly and quick service. They have beautiful, well priced, hand-dyed and hand painted yarns. I haven't knit them yet, but they look and feel wonderful. But what really slays me, just flat-out floors me, are the colors. It's like they came over to my house, scrutinized my wardrobe, peeked in my make-up bag, chatted with my hair colorist and best friends and then dyed some yarn just for me.

Let's start with the sock yarn in "Chocolate Pink Cherry" colorway.

I've been finding myself very drawn to brown and pink combinations lately and was looking for sock yarn in just the right color. This is it! Haven't picked a pattern yet, but all in good time.

Oh, and get a load of the yardage.

Can you see it there on the label? That 550yds, folks! With that much, I can possibly get two pairs of socks out of this skein. Certainly, if one pair is striped. Maybe more Mad Cows? Ya know, a good pair.

Righty-o, moving on. Not that I want to leave the sock yarn. It's just there's more yumminess to show you. Here we have 50% Alpaca, 50% Merino DK weight in "Bountiful" colorway. Sage, cocoa, terracotta, brick, gold...hand me the smelling salts, I'm swooning again.

There's enough here for a sweater. I'm not sure exactly which sweater, but my preliminary thought is something along the lines of Carolyn.

Okay, one more thing to show. 100% Merino Worsted/Bulky weight in "Butterscotch Twist" colorway. This is for a secret project for which I have very high hopes.

The only weirdness hushing my gig is that when I took the yarn out of the resealable plastic bags in which it arrived, there was an unpleasant smell. I'm pretty sure the smell is from the bags, not the yarn, though. 'Cause after having the yarn out for the photos, the smell on the yarn was abating, but the bags still smelled. Also, it was the same smell for all three yarns and all three bags. They are good, sturdy bags though and it feels wasteful to just throw them out. Well, that and I'm low on my own resealable plastic bags right now. So what I did - and, please, please let me know if this is, for any reason, ill-advised - is put a dryer sheet in the bags when I sealed the yarn back in them. What do you think, will that do the trick? Or should I just toss the bags when I get some more of my own?

May 8, 2007

Look Ma, Two Hands!

Have you seen the latest Sock Madness Pattern? Go on, click this link, you gotta check it out! It's another pattern from sock designer extraodinaire Tina. The same Tina who designed the Mad Color Weave socks.

This anklet sock is knit using the Fair Isle technique of stranding yarn. But the pattern itself is not a traditional Fair Isle. Instead, it was inspired by Batik fabric from Indonesia. It's stunningly beautiful.

One way of knitting stranded color patterns is to hold one color in each hand. So one hand knits Continental (picks the yarn) while the other hand knits English (throws the yarn). (video tutorial here, scroll down) This is what I've been trying to do. It is my first time stranding and (basically) my first time knitting Continental.

Can I just tell you what a challenge it has been for me to be this coordinated? It's enough of a struggle to knit with two hands, but I've got to keep my place in the pattern, too?!? I have to laugh at myself because I'm concentrating and focusing so hard, but still likely to screw up. It feels like craft day at the asylum.

Therefore, I felt very proud (special, if you will) upon completing the patterned ankle cuff. Flushed with success, I proceeded to completely mangle the one-color, completely straightforward, totally reasonable, short row heel. Not only do I not know what I did wrong, but I didn't catch it until the very end of the heel turn.

See how it's veering off to one side?

I thought I was ending the heel turn because I had only one un-worked stitch on one side. Imagine my chagrin to find, like, seven un-worked stitches on the other side!

I'm telling you, craft day at the asylum.

I'm not sure if this egregious disservice to the short row heel was just one mistake early on, which compounded along the way. Or, if it was several mistakes which stacked up. Either way, it was time for Bruce the Frog to help out.

By the way, I was totally tickled by how you guys stepped up to give Frog naming suggestions when I asked. I'm very lucky you're willing to humor me when I'm being a goofball. And you came through with many, fantastic suggestions. They were all so funny, I couldn't possibly chose a favorite. So I went the democratic route, and used the name which received the most votes. (Thanks Kellie and Ali!)

And heeeeerrrreeeee's BRUCE!

Before I let Bruce have at it, I had the sense to insert needles (one size down) into the row before the heel start.

Then Bruce went to town, while Sadie "supervised". I guess she's heard frog legs are a delicacy.

I paid more attention on my second heel attempt and it all worked out.

The heel incident behind me, I'm happy to report that the rest of the sock went as well as can be expected for a first time attempt at Fair Isle.

Top of the sock.

It's a different pattern on the sole. How cool is that?

These socks are all about "assertive beginner-ness", to borrow a phrase from Margaret. They are puckery in some places and baggy in others. Ladders and bulges right on top of each other, which I never would have anticipated but makes sense upon reflection. I can painfully see all their flaws and I'd be lying if I said I don't mind them. But I also see their beauty. I look at them and I see the fun I had making them. I also see room for improvement (a lot of room) and I look forward to making that progress.

Maybe I'll even see progress on the second one.

May 6, 2007

FO: Mad To Dance

Alternate Title: Hurts So Good

I did it. I finished the Mad To Dance socks before the round six pattern was released. Whew!

We went to a morning showing of Spiderman 3 on Friday. (Yes, we are geeky enough to go to a morning show.) I knew the new pattern would land in my inbox while we were out, so I really wanted to finish the socks before leaving for the theater.

I sneaked in just under the wire. I was posting the finished picture to the Flickr group just as it came time to hit the road.

They are on home-made, wire coat hanger sock blockers. This idea and how-to is from page 139 of your ever-handy Stitch N' Bitch Nation.

Pattern: Mad To Dance
Designer: Treesa
Yarn: Regia Bamboo Color (45% Bamboo, 40% Wool, 15% Polymide), color #1059. This was my first time using a yarn with Bamboo content. The Bamboo is not sproingy like wool, but is smooth and strong and provided excellent stitch definition as well as a lovely touch of sheen, perfect for this pattern. I've heard that because Bamboo has natural antibacterial properties, Bamboo socks fight foot odor. That's pretty cool if it's true.
Needles: Size 0 aluminum DPN's
Mods: Nothing major. There was some confusion among the Sock Madness-ers about how many pattern repeats you're supposed to do on the leg. I interpret the pattern as saying 3 repeats for the leg, but the Sock Madness admins said 2 repeats would suffice. I split the difference and did 2.5 repeats on the leg, simply because that gave me a leg length I liked. The only ripple this sent out was I then needed to switch the twist directions of the cables on the heel, but that was easy enough.
New Techniques Learned: The Old Norwegian Cast On (scroll down for video tutorial) and Cabling Without a Cable Needle (or DPN). I sort of doubt I'll ever use the Norwegian cast on again, but I'm always glad to learn a new skill. Meanwhile, cabling without a cable needle is totally awesome, dude! I love it!
Why "Hurts So Good" is the alternate title: I made multiple decisions about these socks that made the knitting extra time-consuming. I believe they were the right decisions, so I would sing "Hurts So Good" to myself every time I felt like grumbling.
I wanted to use Regia Bamboo, but because it's thinner than Cherry Tree Hill, which the pattern calls for, I had to go down to size 0 needles. ("Hurt so good...") I've never used needles that small and it was challenging. I know Melanie regularly uses size 000, but she's crazy, er, I mean brave. ("Come on baby...) Using thinner yarn and smaller needles meant I needed to make the socks in the largest size. Lace and cables are not speedy for me, and here I was making every row longer. (Make it hurt so good...") Also, I practiced knitting in the Continental style, to which I am unaccustomed. I did that in preparation for the two-handed, Fair Isle knitting I'm using on the round six pattern. I didn't knit Continental on every row and I abandoned it completely in my final sprint to the end, but still. ("Sometimes love don't feel like it should...") And to top it all off, I pushed myself to finish before the new pattern was released. ("You make it hurt so good.")

I'm glad they're done. I'm pleased with how they came out. And I'm off to the Fair Isles now...

May 4, 2007

Eye Candy Friday

May 3, 2007

Slow Dancing

The next Sock Madness pattern (round six) comes out tomorrow. I'd like to finish the round five pattern first. They're called "Mad to Dance". Here's my progress as of about five minutes ago:

Actually, I'm further behind than it looks because as I was slipping these on, I notice the need for some major tinking. It won't be the first major tinking episode I've had with these socks.

These are going soooo sloooowly. It's like going bald by plucking. Ironically, this is the pattern (of the ones we've had so far) I'm mostly likely to knit again.

I'm deluding myself to think I can finish these by tomorrow. But I'm going to give it a try. It is Sock Madness after all.

Wish me luck.