*left to go

L, M & I took a class at our LYS (gosh, it’s so strange to write that… after all this time, we finally do have a LYS!) in December, a sort of knit-along to the Arne & Carlos book 55 Christmas Balls To Knit.  For me, the class was more of an accountability feature.  Without it, I would have bought the book, stashed it on a shelf, and never made a single ball.  Having a scheduled time (and paying money to go) made certain I finished at least one.  As it was, I ended up making two.

The ornaments are fairly simple, consisting of four identical “panels” repeated over each of your four DPNs.  They are knitted in the round, stuffed, then sewn shut- and then decorated if you are so inclined.

My first project was Ornament #31, which had a four-hearts-in-a-diamond motif on each panel.  We were given Ella Rae Classic yarn to work with, which is a worsted weight wool.  The book calls for a fingering weight wool.  I do intend to knit one (some?) with fingering weight to see how they look with a finer yarn.  The Ella Rae was adequate for a little project like this.

julekuler no. 31

I shoved as much Polyfill into this sucker as I thought it could take, sewed it up with a darning needle, then made a bastardized I-cord with two strands each of the red & white. I sewed that onto the bound-off edge/hole and made a hanging loop. It’s cute but too thick with the worsted yarn. If I get ambitious I’ll try it with fingering weight, but a single strand of worsted yarn was a nice enough hanger without too much trouble..

2011-11-27 15.35.31

With the second ball, I decided I ought to start from the beginning of the book (instead of the dead middle, where I normally begin things). So Ornament #1 is actually my second project.

This time I shoved twice as much Polyfill in and boy, did it make a difference. My second ornament is huge compared to the first, and also much stouter. It feels like a ball instead of a knitted floppy roundish thing. There’s such a difference I may unwork the first one a bit and get some more filling into it.

2012-01-12 14.46.48

I also did a little duplicate stitching over the edges of the snowflake motif on ball #1 to give it a glinty look. Next time I will probably do snowflakes in a more appropriate color, rather than yellow. Hey, I was just using up some yarn left over from the Harry Potter scarf.

2011-12-14 09.56.10

I recently met someone who had knitted a couple dozen of these. She knitted them flat on two needles, then seamed each one up the back. I didn’t care for the look- I think the DPNs make a huge difference. The seaming could have been better but, even if it was flawless, it still would have left a funny ridge. Plus, who wants to seam? However, the one advantage to the flat technique is that she could use a styrofoam craft ball for the “filling”. I suppose you could knit in the round on DPNs over one but it would probably be pretty tricky.

My older daughter, S6, has been pre-invited to a birthday party.  The birthday honoree (who has been planning her upcoming party since the day after her last one) is a huge fan of  all things Harry Potter, and has let it be known that her party will have a Harry Potter theme.  I say we have been pre-invited because the party itself isn’t for two months yet.  Invitations haven’t even been written, let alone sent out.  But damn if I don’t appreciate a gift recipient who gives plenty of notice.  That’s how you get nice knitted gifts, friends.  You let your attendees know long in advance exactly what’s going on so they can mull over patterns, pick over yarns, and get knitting.

Little M6 idolizes Hermione and has a complete (and alarmingly accurate) costume, complete with a school tie in Gryffindor house colors and a little plastic wand that looks suspiciously real.  She has everything for her costume except a scarf, as her mother sensibly made her choose between that and the tie (somehow the tie won out, though I hear it was a difficult battle).  So really, it seems completely and totally obvious that I just had to knit her a Gryffindor scarf.  I don’t see any other options- do you?

I enjoyed the HP novels and saw most of the movies, but I wasn’t enough of a fangirl to just jump in and start knitting without a little research.  I soon discovered that the Gryffindor colors have changed somewhat over time.  In the earlier movies, the burgundy is a reddish brown and the scarf has wide stripes of burgundy and gold in equal thicknesses.  The later movies have changed the burgundy to a more plum shade, with two thin gold stripes repeated over the length rather than the symmetrical blocks of the earlier style.  Fortunately, M6 hasn’t seen the later movies (she’s 6, and they’re kind of violent).  So it’s wide stripes of reddish brown and gold.

I’m using Lauren Kent’s Hogwarts Scarf pattern and a cheap Lion yarn (Vanna’s Choice- hey, it was on sale for $2.50 a skein) on two pairs of size US 5 (3.75mm) circular needles.  The scarf is knitted in the round, which is kind of neat since you (a) don’t have to purl and (b) (more importantly) can leave all those color-change ends inside the tube, and just sew the ends of the scarf shut once you’re done knitting.  Voila!  No weaving in!  Even better, you could do that nifty three-needle-bindoff, which I hope to attempt IF AND WHEN THIS MINDLESS STOCKINETTE EVER ENDS.

We’re making progress, though.    There are 12 burgundy and 11 gold stripes (23 total), plus fringe, and I’ve got 10 stripes done already.  It’s a nice mindless pattern for teevee knitting, but boy, am I tired of stockinette.  (In case you hadn’t noticed.)  If I finish this quickly and have yarn left over, there are a few other Gryffindor-related patterns I might consider for a second part to the gift.

HP scarf

I’ve never been much of a hat maker (or even much of a hat wearer, for that matter).  It seems like most people get into knitting-in-the-round by doing a hat.  Not me.  I went straight to socks.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like hats, though.  Hats are fine, and I’ve made a few.  The first one I ever knitted was a plain old ribbed stocking hat for my husband.  Then I made a cool colorwork hat for my brother and another one, in a colorwork class last year, that went to my daughter.

This year I made two chemo hats.  The first was for my mom’s best friend, Mary.  Mary lives in a cold part of the country and I thought she could really use something warm and cheerful to keep both her head and her spirits warm.  Coincidentally, L turned me on to some new yarns by Quince & Co, so we decided to make hats for Mary with their bulky weight Puffin.  Great yarn.  The colors are very muted, and as such I didn’t really care for the color of the pink I ordered.  But the yarn is lovely and soft and well-crafted and in every other way delicious and wonderful.

With one skein of Puffin I made an adult-sized Yarrow.  This was a super-quick knit in bulky yarn on size 10 needles.

Yarrow

Yarrow

The other hat was Vivonne Bay, another free Ravelry pattern. I made this for friend T’s MIL. The yarn is Red Heart’s Eco-Ways Bamboo Wool and it’s done on size 5s (3.75mm).

Vivonne bay hat

For some reason I could not wrap my brain around this pattern.  I think it’s because, five rows through the pattern repeat, you slide the stitch marker one st to the right, and then back again two rows later.  In any case, it took me three attempts to get through the first repeat.  After that, I finished the hat in about a day.  If I were to do this pattern over again, though, I would add another pattern repeat.  It fit fine circumference-wise, but seemed kind of short.

I finally finished the Be Mine socks. It only took a year, but they are done. Done! And comfortable! And I’ve worn them twice already! Best of all, they make people at the kids’ ballet school jealous. Can’t ask for more than that out of a pair of socks.

IMG_9683

Now, these aren’t the best pair of socks I’ve knitted.  There are a few gaping holes on the legs where I obviously had not quite mastered the concept of knitting two socks on one circular needle.  I am very disappointed with myself for not noticing that until I had taken them off the circular and on to DPNs for the heels (because, by that point, I was really done with fussing about on one circular- we all have our comfort zones and I was way out of mine).  Oh well.  They aren’t unraveling or anything.

IMG_9691

I followed the pattern’s instructions and knit these on one 2.75mm (US 2) circular needle. I also used the recommended 40″ circular cable. But honestly, I think that is just too short for two socks. If I did socks again on one circular, I’d use a longer cable.

After turning the heels, I switched to a size 2.25mm (US1) set of DPNs. My foot is very narrow and socks never quite seem to fit right. (Conversely, my legs are fat, so you can see where I would have some trouble with fit.) This was a great idea. I now have snug feet and comfortable legs. Win.

This pattern comes from 2-At-A-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. And while I may sound kind of down on the whole one-circular-needle method, I have to say a few things about this book. 1: I didn’t knit my socks all the way on one circular, which is kind of like changing a recipe and then giving the original recipe a bad review. 2. The patterns are GREAT. There are some gorgeous ones in this book. I am about to cast on another, in fact (on DPNs). 3. It’s a well written book and, if you are just learning to knit socks and aren’t already steeped in the DPN tradition, you may very well find the singular circular needle much less intimidating than juggling 10 pointy ends.

My Gail is coming along beautifully. The Creatively Dyed yarn is absolutely gorgeous. While there are multiple colors going on all at once, I think it looks neat knitted in Gail’s lacy fabric. A solid pattern probably wouldn’t show off the variegations as nicely.

However.

I’m really worried about running out of yarn.

The skein wrapper claims there are “500+ yds and 184 gms”. The original pattern calls for 416 – 437 yards / 100 gms of Handmaiden Sea Silk, a fingering weight yarn, on size 7 needles. I ought to be fine, but I’m using size 8 needles. And my ball of yarn is getting nerve-wrackingly small, considering we’re now working 266 stitches each time across.

A lot of knitters only did six of the seven repeats. I originally thought to do the same just to be safe. But then I weighed my ball, and it seems like there might very well be enough. I have about 55gms of yarn left.
But it will be close.

After a lot of worrying and letting it rest for a day, I decided to string a lifeline after repeat #6, proceed with repeat 7, and hope for the best. If there isn’t enough yarn to work the edging and bind off, I’ll rip back to the lifeline and just end up with 6 repeats. If there is, well, then, hooray. Or I’ll get some solid yarn to bind off with. A few others have done that and it looks pretty neat.

I’m also toying with adding some beads to give the edging a little more weight. I have some coppery acrylic size 8/0s that might look really glitzy (in a nice way) with this yarn. Decisions, decisions…

So last week when I was all excited about knitting socks? Yeah, forget that. Well, not entirely; I mean, I’m still working on the 3 pairs from last post, and am still excited about them. A few books I’d requested from the library on colorwork came in since then and I do still find the whole idea of knitting motifs into socks and doing eastern-inspired footwear enthralling. But something shiny fluttered past my monitor and caught my eye, damnit. And so now- for the time being, at least- I’m doing lace.

I’ve had a skein (500+ yds) of Creatively Dyed fingering-weight since the 2009 Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet show, and it’s been gently hanging above my monitor since then, just waiting for the right project to come along.

Creatively Dyed Tradewinds in Kiwifruit

One night, lurking in the Ravelry pattern database (don’t so many of these projects start that way?) I thought it would be interesting to see if anyone else had that colorway and what they might have done with it. I hadn’t checked since buying it, and with so much time passed maybe something else had popped up.  Well, no one else had Kiwi Fruit, but I did find a few knitters who’d used Creative’s Tradewinds yarn, and one of them made a Gail shawl with hers.

It appears that about 1300+ people have made Gails, in fact.  And normally, I prefer to live off-the-beaten-path, but looking at page after page of these gorgeous leaves and these pointy little edges all done in every colorway imagineable… well, she sucked me in, did Gail.  I wound the skein, the first skein of hand-dyed yarn ever bought for my little stash, and decided to throw caution (and socks) to the wind and cast on.

It’s been less than a week, and I already have four of the seven repeats done. 

4 repeats of Gail done

They get longer as you go along, so that’s hardly impressive, but for some reason lace shawl knitting always seemed to me like one of those tedious afghan-type projects that take practically years (around here, anyway).  I can already see the end of this project, especially if I keep knitting on it like I have the last few days. 

Gail

This may very well be the year – or at least, the season, depending on how long it lasts- of socks. I’ve got three pairs on needles at the moment: Aragorn, Be Mine, and a toe-up DK weight sock. Aragorn and Be Mine are lovely cabled patterns. The toe-up sock is part of a class at a LYS (okay, it’s an hour away but seriously, that’s the local-est yarn shop going at the moment.)

After doing several really large projects, I’m liking the smallness of socks. I appreciate the smaller needles, the finer yarn, and the manageability of the work. I can knit them anywhere, unlike big afghans that require lots of space. And best of all, I can try out new techniques without a huge time or cash commitment.

Aragorn

Aragorn in progress

I found this pattern while lurking around Ravelry’s pattern database. It’s a gorgeous sock, but the thing that really drew me to it were all the new techniques I’d never tried before: tubular cast on, knitting a sock on one long circular needle, twisted stitch ribbing, and a gusset on top of the foot. And that’s all before you even get to the heel. L and I both cast on for it during the winter Olympics opening ceremonies with the vague notion of doing this as a Ravelympics event, but it worked out better as a vague KAL instead. We both have other projects we want to work on in addition to this one. Plus it’s nice not to feel obligated to knit something in an impossibly short amount of time. I think I like it more than she does, which is fine considering it was my ridiculous idea to begin with. She’s a good sport for playing – er, knitting- along.

Aragorn

Aragorn was not originally written in English. The translation is very good but there are a few subtleties that may have been lost along the way. Still, the pattern is not as difficult as I thought, and the directions are thorough enough that I’ve been able to figure it out without a lot of difficulty.

Be Mine

Be Mine

Be Mine is from 2-At-A-Time Socks and has been both a blast to knit as well as a pain in the butt. This is the first pair of socks I’ve done simultaneously on one cable needle. I like the technique, but it’s fussy. There are two balls of yarn connected to the project, which already feels precarious enough perched on a 40″ needle. Every time I pull it out of my bag or slide stitches around, I’m terrified the cable will get pulled out and stitches will go flying. Pros: My socks are basically identical, including tension. I’m likely to finish both of them at the same time instead of having one lone one languishing next to a ball of unknitted yarn for all eternity. Cons: feels slower going, I can only do one or two rounds (on both socks) at a sitting before getting bored/tired. And if I were to do socks again on one needle, I’d get a longer cable.

Be Mine- 2.5 repeats

Toe Up Socks on Two Circulars

Toe up DK weight socks

I like this technique a lot. Similar to magic loop in that you let the stitches for the side you’re not currently working rest on the cable, two circulars has got to be about the easiest circular knitting method I’ve tried. I had a 16″ needle in my circulars drawer and bought a 24″ at the shop. The cast-on is brilliantly simple and produces a seamless toe without any fuss at all. I tried a few different increases and decided that the lifted increase from Aragorn was my favorite: for a right-leaning increase, pick up the right leg of the stitch below your next stitch to be knitted. Knit it thru the back loop, then knit your next stitch and proceed from there. For a left-leaning increase, knit the stitch before the increase, then pick up the left leg of the stitch now two below the last knitted stitch. Place it on the left needle, knit thru the back loop, then proceed. It made a very snug and attractive increase. The bar increase also seemed to work. The instructor also suggested an “e” increase which I’ve never seen or tried, but I think it is akin to a twisted YO and in my mind would leave a little gap. Any increase near a toe, in my opinion, ought to be firm and snug or else you’re asking for disaster.

Toe up sock

After finishing the increases and starting the foot, my right hand started to ache. I’ve come to the conclusion that the 16″ was workable but uncomfortably short. Later, I rooted through the circulars drawer again until I found another size 4 needle, which thankfully had a 24″ cable. Things were much better after that, and I sailed through the 50-odd rows of stockinette for the foot.

Our homework was to finish the foot so we can begin the heel in the next class. I finished the foot in about two days and decided to slip it onto another cable needle and cast on the second sock. There are about three pairs of increases done already and it’s coming along nicely. While I adore the other two cabled patterns, this is plain stockinette and gives me a chance to simply knit without having to really concentrate. It’s good teevee and social knitting, unlike following a chart, where I scowl and my tongue hangs out from all the mental gymnastics.

Second toe

Of course, I mean that in a good way.

This is the pattern that inspired me to learn how to knit.  It was sometime in mid-2007.  I had learned to crochet in fall of 2006, but quickly discovered that the patterns I was most attracted to were for knitting.  Crochet seemed so coarse and chunky compared to the soft drape of knitted fabric.  So when I came across the Bunny Hop blanket pattern, I knew I just had to learn how to knit.

I went out and bought myself a Learn-To-Knit book and some needles, grabbed some yarn (probably a boucle or eyelash, knowing me at the time) from my then-meager stash, and set down to figure it out.  How hard could this be? I thought.

While the book had plenty of pictures, it was incredibly limited in scope, showing only one cast-on and the English (throwing) style of holding the yarn.  There was no mention of long-tail caston or cable caston or even that there were multiple methods of casting on, depending on your project.  There was no mention of different styles of holding the yarn.   Having come from a crochet background, I was used to holding yarn in my left hand.  Now I was supposed to hold it in my right, juggle a pair of needles instead of one hook, and work these crazy stitches while sometimes holding the yarn in the front, sometimes in the back.  It was a disaster.  I’m pretty sure there were tears and many curses involved.

Then I got the brilliant idea to find a video of someone knitting.  This led me to Knitting Help, without which I probably never would have knitted a single stitch.  There I discovered something called “Continental” method, in which you hold the yarn in your [proper] left hand and pick it into your knit stitches, instead of throwing it around the needle.  I learned that there were no fewer than five caston methods, and actually several more.  Before I knew it, fabric was coming off of my needles.  I was knitting!

Of course, I tried to make this pattern right away.  And it was a disaster.  The pattern tells you to “knit your knit stitches and purl the purl stitches” on the wrong side rows.  Well, that was confusing.  Did that mean I knitted into stitches that I had knit on the opposite side (effectively knitting the purl stitches and vice versa)?  Or did that mean I knitted into stitches that looked like knit stitches?  And what did a knit stitch look like, anyway?  Then I accidentally pulled about 20 of the 125 stitches off the needle.  Of course this was an unrecoverable error for a newbie knitter, but since I was only 5 rows in I dutifully ripped it out and cast on again.  And then I dropped a stitch.  And then I got a knot.  It seemed like this pattern was just not in the cards.  So I quit and went on to something else, a proper scarf – which is where you’re supposed to start with knitting, apparently.

Several scarves, dishcloths, cabled afghans, socks, felted projects (some intentionally, some not), a top, a few hats, two pairs of mittens, and some household knitting projects later, and I’ve come back to the Bunny Hop.  A good friend and his wife are expecting, and this seemed like the perfect time to try knitting my inspiration again.  And as they say, third time’s a charm.

Here’s the right side, where I’ve just started a third skein:

Bunny Hop RS Progress

The yarn is actually a very dark shade of purple, but the lighting was a little wonky for these pictures and here it looks much lighter and redder than it really is. I’ve completed one and one-half repeats so far (a repeat is about 36 rows). At first the pattern didn’t look like anything at all, but now I see the reverse stockinette diamonds with moss stitch and stockinette diamonds inside/inbetween them.

The pattern is reverse on the back side:

Bunny Hop WS Progress

This yarn was originally purchased for an afghan for my niece (post coming soon). I had six skeins left over, which is exactly enough yarn for this project. Isn’t it wonderful when a plan comes together?

I made these cotton place mats as a Christmas gift for my mom. She lives in Florida now, and done in a bright yellow yarn, they remind me of the Sunshine State.

Table Setting

The pattern comes from “Traditional Victorian Whitework To Knit & Crochet for the Home” and is simply called Circular Place Mats. It is surprisingly easy, worked over no more than 25 stitches at a time.   Short rows and yarn overs make the spiral pattern.  I knitted these with Sugar’n Cream cotton in yellow.

Place mat in use

The pattern picture shows a closed center hole, but when I tried doing that it looked very sloppy. So I just left the small hole in the center. It looks better that way.

Finished Placemats

Mom has a hexagonal table, so I made her a set of six placemats.

Mom's set

As soon as she got back to Florida after the holidays, she sent me a photo of her new placemats on their table.

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A few days later, she said they had visitors for dinner and one of their friends asked where she had bought them.

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I am pretty sure that’s supposed to be a compliment.  :)

I finished my sister’s afghan late last year, practically a year behind schedule.  It seemed more important to take my time and do a good job than to rush through just to meet an arbitrary deadline.  But after a year and some months, it was really a relief to have it done.  This project wasn’t difficult, but it was ambitious, especially for a scatterbrained/ attention-deficit-suffering knitter such as myself.  Truth be told, it languished for weeks at a time, sometimes even longer.  Once I got two or three pattern repeats on the needles (a repeat was 50 rows!) it got too big to take anywhere.  I finally had to go out of town for a weekend with some knitting friends to get it finished.  But it’s done, and the recipient is very pleased.  Sorry, sis- I didn’t mean for your wedding gift to be an anniversary present, but I do hope you like it.

Taa Daa!

I used KnitPick’s Wool of the Andes Worsted in “Mink Heather” for this project.

Content: 100% Peruvian Highland Wool
Weight: Worsted Weight
Gauge: 4.5 – 5 sts = 1″ on #6 – 9 needles (4.0mm-5.5mm)
Amount: 110 yards/50 gram ball
Care: Hand Wash/Dry Flat

WotA is incredibly reasonably priced (1.99 a ball x 20 skeins is a bargain) but I have to say that you get what you pay for.  My initial feeling was that this very good yarn for the money, but as the afghan grew and took on weight, it wasn’t as great as I first thought.  The knitted fabric felt thin for worsted, even though I got gauge on size 9s.  The finished afghan seemed almost see-through, blocked slightly stretched per the pattern instructions.

Detail

Blocked, slightly stretched (per pattern)

But while the yarn is on the thin side, it is of excellent quality.  I worked 19 and one half skeins and encountered exactly one knot.   So while I am not really disappointed in the yarn, I don’t think I would use it again for an afghan, unless held double.  It would probaby be good for clothing since it does have a nice drape and good stitch definition.

Full View

As for the pattern, I don’t have a single bad thing to say, other than it’s written kind of awkwardly.  I was lucky enough to find someone on Ravelry who had made an Excel spreadsheet of the pattern, which was incredibly useful.

Happy wedding, sis!

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