Posted in Worsted - Wait!

Scarf of Wizarding

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

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Posted in Worsted - Wait!

Gail (or, “Completely Ignore that Last Post about Socks”)

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

Posted in Worsted - Wait!

Socks and Sensibility

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.

Posted in Worsted - Wait!

Bunny Hop Blanket

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?

Posted in Worsted - Wait!

3/20

My sister’s wedding afghan is moving along. It’s slow work, but enjoyable. I have been averaging about 2 rows a day. At this rate, I will finish in approximately 136 days. That’s a real outside number, of course. At some point, I will panic and begin knitting furiously, finishing up on Christmas Eve just as she’s pulling in the driveway. We’re good like that, though.

So far, I’ve worked 2 1/2 of the 20 balls of Wool of the Andes. I really like this yarn. For $1.99 a skein, it’s great stuff. Can’t attest yet to the durability, but the workability is top-notch. It’s slightly stretchy, just as you would expect, but holds together very well. I haven’t had any problem with splitting or snagging. In fact, it’s one of the nicer wools I’ve worked with.

Since I am a novice at cabling, the metal fishhook-shaped cable needle was a disaster. Instead, I am using a wooden DPN one size larger than my project needles. This keeps the stitches to be twisted snug and firm. On my fishhook cable needle, they kept wanting to slide off while they were being twisted, or else they were a complete pain to get off when I was working them. Yuck. I like the chunkier feel of the larger needle, and the straight DPN handles much better than that weird hook did, for my taste.

Work in Progress

I alo like the DPN for the knot of the large cable pattern. This calls for you to slip 6 stitches, once worked, from the right needle to a cable needle. You then wrap the yarn 4 times counterclockwise around the stitches, then slip them back to the right needle and continue on your merry way. It makes a very interesting “knot” and is a great detail in the cable pattern. You can see it in the upper center of this picture:

Knot Detail

All in all, I’m pleased with this pattern and with the yarn. More progress reports soon.

Two Repeats

Posted in Worsted - Wait!

What Do You Mean, “Normal People Don’t Knit Wool Afghans in the Summertime”?

My sister has decided to get married on the spur of the moment. Well, actually, that’s not true. She decided earlier this year that she was getting married. What she did NOT decide, dear reader, was to set a date. Until last month. And the date is in just two weeks.

When she announced that she and her betrothed were, indeed, betrothed, sis and I discussed the idea of me making a lovely afghan for their wedding gift. She was all for the idea. I set about finding a nice pattern, picked out some yarn, and set to work.

It was a disaster.

The pattern I chose was called “Wedding Ring Quilt“, a crochet design from Coats & Clark based loosely on the traditional hand-sewn quilts of Early Americana vintage. I saw a few finished versions on Ravelry and was liking the mock-quilt look of the thing. But my version had a heavy hand to it. It felt more like a rug than an afghan, much less a quilt. Perhaps I had been away from crochet too long and was not used to the thicker fabric? In any case, I couldn’t bear to work on it. It was a miserable failure. To top things off, there was no date set yet for the wedding, so I didn’t have a looming calendar date to kick my ass into gear. Thus, it languished (languishes, still) in the big Afghan In Progress box.

Then, I got a phone call from my mother out of the blue, announcing that August 16 is now the magic date. Yes, August 16. One month away.

My brain works best under pressure. Without a deadline, I can’t get my act together. In fact, if it weren’t for the Last Minute, I would get nothing done. Well, here was a deadline. I scoured Ravelry for a new pattern, finally deciding to forget the whole crochet business (even though it works up much faster, I know) and go with a knitted object. And did I mention my sister is honeymooning in Ireland? Cables. Must have cables. Have I mentioned I have never really done cables before?

I finally settled on a free pattern from Lion Brand, called the Lover’s Knot Afghan. It’s pretty, and even though it has cables all the heck over it, there’s really only two different cable motifs, and they alternate across the width of the project. This means that it’s pretty easy to follow, even for a cable novice like meself.

My sister and I settled on wool, even though she is a little bit concerned about washability. I convinced her, though. And for ease of shopping plus economy, I had her choose a color from the Knit Picks Wool Of The Andes line. There are plenty of colors, it’s a decent quality wool, and for $1.99 a skein, who could go wrong? She chose the Mink Heather, which would have been my pick exactly.  (Did I mention she’s my sister?)

Days later, a lovely box of wool (20 skeins’ worth), a new set of 40″ interchangeable circular needles, and two sets of tips (9s and 8s, just in case my gauge was off) arrived in the mail.

Laura's Wool

What a happy day! I love getting packages, particularly when they’re full of yarn.

Knit Picks

It doesn’t hurt that Knit Picks is very easy to deal with. I’ve placed two orders so far and been extremely happy with the quality, expediency, and accuracy of each.

Of course, I ripped into the box right away. Who could resist?

Wool for Wedding Afghan

It was damn difficult not to just cast on right then, right there.

WOtA Yarn

But I resisted. And good thing, too. Because when I did finally cast on, I learned a terrible, horrible lesson firsthand:

When using interchangeable needles, don’t trust your sweat-laced palms to tighten up the tips. Use the damn tightening key. That’s what they sent it for.

Yeah, that would be after knitting two rows over 230 stitches. Yup. The tip worked itself off and … SPROING! Many, many stitches went flying. They were not recoverable. I ripped and started over. And that was the SECOND cast-on attempt. The first try actually went swimmingly, but then I started knitting Row One with the second cable motif instead of the first, and by the time I got to the end and realized what I had done it seemed like a much better idea to just frog and cast on again, seeing as this was just the first row and all.

The THIRD cast on attempt was more successful. I am, of course, highly paranoid now about tips coming loose and all, and so I check them multiple times each row. But so far, they’re staying put. And I’m liking them. I like those nickle-plated tips.  And look at me, with about 12 rows completed:

First 12 rows

Wish me luck. I have 19 days to finish this sucker (yeah, RIGHT.)

Posted in Worsted - Wait!

What To Knit? What To Knit??

Now that the holidays are over, I’m finding myself sort of project-less.  There are a few dishcloths on the needles, just so I have something to do, but those aren’t looking very exciting right now.  I’m still on my sock high.  I want to make more wearables, like shirts or sweaters.  I want to do some more felting.  But what to do?

Fortunately, a friend gave me one of those perpetual calendars with a different knitting pattern for almost every day.  Specifically, this one:

Knitting Calendar

Now, if you were not a knitter, that woman on the cover would probably not get you very excited about it.  She probably wouldn’t entice you into trying the projects inside this calendar unless you were already obsessed with the craft.   She looks so surly that I keep the box turned backwards on the kitchen counter,  lest I get a glimpse at her sourpuss face before having coffee in the morning.  But the patterns are a delight.  In fact, January 1’s project, the very first pattern (duh!),  looks really appealing.  It’s a felted bucket bag, which I think could be done in not too much time and which looks really really lovely.  And useful.

Guess it’s time to hit the yarn shoppe again and find me some wool.  Darn.  I hate when I just have to go buy more yarn.