June 24, 2011

Serendipity Pays Another Visit

Ah, Serendipity. You know how sometimes things just seem to fall right into place, even when they seem to be coming out all wrong? That's what has happened with my new project/pattern, which will be heretofore known as the "Serendipity Scarf".

About two weeks ago, while trying not to cough up a lung (respiratory infection as a little end-of-the school-year parting gift) and cruising my Etsy activity page, I noticed that someone else had "favorited" one of Bluedog Fibers' rovings--merino lambswool in the "Miranda" colorway. It was a little circus-y, and rather curious; so I clicked. And then I "favorited". And then, even though I dye my own fiber and who needs to pay someone else to do for you what you can do for yourself, I bought it.

And it arrived super-fast. Then I was sicker than sick, and then out of town, and then sick some more, and it took me until this past Tuesday to pull it out of the bag (but it had been calling my name for a week from the drawer in my new knitting studio). And then I couldn't stop spinning it. It was like I HAD to spin the whole thing, RIGHT NOW! At first, socks were on the brain--I could spin enough for socks. But then that fingering weight filled up one spindle, and I was on to spindle #2. When I had spun for about 4 hours and I was done--at about midnight--I had 450+ yards of fingering weight merino lambswool in, not circus-y colors as expected--a beautiful pastel pallet of watercolors.

Wednesday came and I wound it onto the niddy-noddy. It was just gorgeous. See?

Then I fulled it and dried it in the hot Southern sunshine (I know, there are better ways to care for your fiber when drying; but something kept saying, "Hurry up!" in my brain). Then, with the ball winder broken, I wound it into a soft and snuggly ball. I can't believe there was a moment of panic when I couldn't wind it into a center-pull ball because the handle had broken. (spoiled much?)

And then no stitch pattern, no cable pattern, no pattern from any of my millions of patterns seemed right. I couldn't make socks because I would end up with 100 yards left over and that would just be a waste. Not enough for a sweater; probably not enough for a shawl. So, then I thought, how about a scarf? Can't be too complicated, because I want to show off the colors; but can't be too simple because this isn't a heavy-weight wool and there would be drape to consider. I finally settled on a diagonal lace pattern (really, just YOs in a diagonal line with some stockinett). I cast on. I knit through the pattern twice. Then I looked at it and said, "what the frick?!" What was coming off the needles was so TOTALLY not the pattern in the picture that I was in a dilemma. How could I have this intricate little lace pattern instead of the simply diagonal YOs? There wasn't a stockinett panel to be found anywhere. What to do, what to do. Apparently, I had misread the directions in every line, compounded by my crazy Russo-German knitting style, and had totally screwed up the pattern!

Or had I? Serendipity anyone? That same "hurry up!" voice told me to knit a few more repeats and see what happens. And darn it if I didn't end up with the most gorgeous lace-pattern-without-a-name that you ever saw! So, the first thing that I have ever knit from my own singles handspun is, well, GORGEOUS!

I'm seriously considering sending photos to Spin Off and Knit & Spin, suggesting that they make this the cover of their next issues. Seriously. This could be big! And this is why you don't get a good look at the pattern. :)

Thanks, Serendipity!

June 22, 2011

WIP Wednesday: The list is long!

Haven't posted to WIP Wednesday in quite some time.  Don't know why ... there are so many WIPs these days that I could make it a WIP month if I had the time. So, here are a few projects STILL not finished:

There's the yellow Swing cardi.  Down to about 8 inches of sleeve until that's an FO.  You'd think that I'd be motivated to just finish that up; but, alas, no.  I have that "new project please" syndrome right now.

Next, there's the two-at-a-time toe-up sock project, which has turned out to be the definition of tedium.  This twisted basket weave pattern that I chose is just so BORING that this project mostly stays in the car in case I get stuck in a waiting room in the doctor's office or I have to wait around for the Boy Scout meeting to be over.  I can't even remember in which month this year I started these babies; but this is the longest that I have ever gone without finishing a pair of socks.  Frick, I can't even get enough knit to be able to pre-read the instructions for the heel.

And there's the newest project on the needles, the Pashima shawl that I am knitting as a special order.  The yarn a hand-dyed superwash merino that is dyed in a Christmas red jewel tone (slight color variations periodically to give the pattern a little depth).  I don't sell this colorway in my shop--it's a custom order for this project.  So far, I've knit and frogged a WHOLE LOT!  I thought that a 6.5 hour one-way trip to visit family in Florida would yield a massive amount of completed shawl for this project; but heck-to-the-no on that one!  I've gotten all of 7 inches knit (53 more to go!).  Totally frustrating.  This is another one of those count-every-stitch kind of patterns.  It's a darn good thing that this order's projected completion date is September.

There are, of course, a few other projects waiting their turn in line that haven't been included in this post.  You can see the total list in the right sidebar.  Let it suffice to say that all the projects that haven't been mentioned are hibernating in the closet.

And finally, a new project adventure is about to begin.  Let's just say that I've been wanting to try out my own fingering weight handspun.  Details on Friday.

Knit on!

June 17, 2011

Friday FO: Autumn Vines Beret

Ever start a project that was the wrong project for the time in your life?  And then you just dreaded working on it until it became an "I have to finish this or else!" kind of torment?  Meet my Autumn Vines Beret.  Although I did hit on a new colorway in the preparation for the knitting of it, it wasn't what I wanted to knit and I shouldn't have started it when I did (April, was it?)  It turned out to be one of those cabling projects that you just can't take with you, that you have to work on sitting at the kitchen table, that you need absolute silence to focus on the pattern repeats ... one of those kinds of projects.  There isn't a single difficult stitch in this whole pattern.  I didn't have any trouble knitting it, actually.  I think that the rule should be that if you are exasperated with the project before you hit 3 inches of fabric completion, it's time to frog.  But it's done. 

I've stretched and stretched this one-size-fits-all number, but it's still a bit small for my head--looks more like a bathing cap (remember THOSE when you were a kid with long hair!) than a beret on my head.  I don't even have a big head.  It fits Rocket's 7 year-old head perfectly, which makes me think, although politically incorrectly, that the woman in the photo for the pattern is a dwarf.  So, here's the results of its one and only photo shoot:

P.S.  I made a light box for myself and boy do those pictures look snazzy, huh?

P.P.S.  As you can see in the last photo, this beret doubles as a bowl ... a bowl I could put yarn in ... hmmm.

June 16, 2011

Knitted Flower Tutorial & Pattern

As I mentioned earlier this week (Monday's post), I came up with my own flower pattern on the fly because I just couldn't find one on the Internet that spoke to me for the yarn bombing.  In knitting this pattern again and again, I did discover that the size of the needle changes the shape of the petals for this pattern--the smaller the needle size, the more pointy the petal.  The following tutorial is done on worsted weight Plymouth wool with a bamboo size US 10 circular needle (24" cable used, but yours can be shorter).  This is a great way to use up remnants in your stash, and a much more attractive flower, I think, than those that you can make with a flower tool, which involves no knitting or skill whatsoever.

Okay, so let's get started because the world could use more knitted flowers. ;)

Step 1:  Using a long-tail cast-on, CO 2 stitches.  Knit back across these stitches (row 2). 

Step 2:  In both of the 2 stitches on the needle, knit back-to-front (kbtf)--now you have 4 stitches.  Knit back across these 4 stitches (row 4).

Step 3:  For rows 5-7, k1, kbtf, knit middle stitches (rows 6 & 7 have middle stitches), kbtf, k1.

Step 4:  For rows 8 & 9, knit across all 10 stitches.

Step 5:  (Decrease rows 10-14) K1, k2tog, knit middle stitches, k2tog, k1. End with 3 stitches on the needle.  Cut the working yarn, leaving about a 4-inch tail.  Slide the petal onto the cable and leave it there. 

Step 6:  Repeat the pattern until you have five completed petals; but DON'T CUT THE WORKING YARN ON THE 5TH PETAL!!!!  You will need that yarn to join the petals.

Step 7:  Slide all of the petals together onto the needle so that their tails hang down and the working yarn is on the right.  With the working yarn, knit across all of the petal stitches.  Pearl back across the stitches.  They are now joined by two rows of knitting.  Cut the working yarn, leaving a tail of about 6 inches.

Step 8:  Finishing up requires a darning needle.  Thread the tail of the working yarn you just cut through the needle, then thread the needle through the stitches that are still sitting on your knitting needle.  Pull tight and thread the yarn back through a few of those center stitches for extra security and tie off.  I use the remaining strand to stitch together two petals--on set of petals won't have a loose tail to use to stitch them together. 

Step 9:  Weave in the tails that are at the tips of the petals and cut excess yarn.  Using whatever stitch you like (I use a mutated matress stitch), stitch the sides of the petals together from the back side.  The back side doesn't have this lovely center (see picture below); that's how you can tell the front from the back.  Weave in and cut ends. 

June 13, 2011

WWKIP Day & Yarn Bombing in Atlanta

June 11th was our local WWKIP Day to celebrate.  As we have done for the last few years, the Covington Knitters met on Covington Square in Georgia under the giant magnolias and knitted and crocheted.  We had fantastic door prizes, some of which were my hand painted yarns and one of my new handmade sock bags from the shop.  The purpose of donating to the door prize collection to destash was, of course, undermined by the giving out of the door prizes.  We donated so much to out party that some people went home with several skeins of new yarn.  I taught some Russian knitting to a few of our members, including one lady who does remarkable lace work--can't wait to find out how this new technique affects her lace knitting.  The local newspaper was there to take our picture and do a little write up, too.  Always nice to make the papers.  Here are a couple quick pics from our event.

Members of the SEFAA (South East Fiber Arts Alliance) and anyone else who wanted to participate bombed a section of Freedom Park, across from the Carter Presidential Library, last Saturday afternoon with knitting, weaving, and crochet.  Although other cities around the world had diligent crafters doing the same, this event was part of an art exhibit to debut in Atlanta later this summer.  Honey, Rocket, and I all went down there, despite the ever-threatening thunderstorms, so that I could get my hand in the mix.  Because our "art" would be on display, rain or shine, and through all the high humidity of the summer, I figured I should work with an old stand-by acrylic--not my first choice in yarn EVER, but as I read on a coffee cup somewhere, Red Heart will be the only thing to survive the apocalypse.  I think that if I had the opportunity to participate in an indoor knit bombing, I would have gone with something a little more attractive than acrylic.  HOWEVER, the point was to create an ostentatious display; so day-glow rainbow and turquoise were my pallet choices. I did, however, in the whole process of preparing something to contribute, come up with my own flower design (tutorial later this week).  Not to digress, but there aren't very many knitted flower patterns that actually come out resembling a flower available on the internet, it seems.

So here are a few pics from the bombing.  I think the group got a late start, so my pictures are early in the bombing process.  It didn't seem like there was much of a plan, unlike other yarn bombings that I've seen pictures of; so I was a little disappointed in that regard.  It was also not concentrated on a small area--spread out over about the length of a football field and kind of random. So don't be looking for a theme in the pictures because I don't think there was one.

June 06, 2011

Recycled T-Shirt Cowl Tutorial

Last summer, I watched a Knitting Daily TV episode with I don't even remember who on it about recycling old t-shirts into yarn.  I made big plans!  I gathered old sheets to make rugs, I had the kids cut up their blue jeans that were too small, but too bedraggled to go to Good Will (there's a bag with a bunch of crookedly cut denim around here somewhere!), and then my life got in the way and I didn't make a darned thing. 

Well, finally, I did it.  I recycled a t-shirt (actually, I recycled one and 1/2).  My husband was in need of a cowl, and making him a cowl to wear on the motorcycle on frosty mornings in the fall was on my summer projects list (we can scratch that baby off now, finally!).  So, here's how to make a cowl--for anyone who wants you to make one--from recycled t-shirts.

Step 1:  Snag an old t-shirt and lay it flat on the table.  The fancy experts use a cutting board and one of those nifty roller-knife thingys, but a pair of sharpened fabric scissors works just as well.  This is jersey, and your strips will roll into a tube once you start to connect them; so perfectly straight edges aren't necessary.  In fact, imperfect edges and skinny-fat strips will give you that "artsy" thick-thin effect that you might pay big bucks for on Etsy. ;)  Cut up everything but the bottom band (cut that off first), the collar, and the sleeves.  You can remove the collar and the sleeves pretty much all at the same time.  The result will be a piece of fabric that you then need to cut into about 1/2 inch strips.  You can make the strips wider, which will give you a bulkier "yarn", but you will end up with less yardage, of course.

Step 2:  Connect your strips by folding the end of the strip over itself about 1/2 inch and cutting a small notch in the fold.

You will thread one notched strip through the notch of the other strip, then through its own notch and pull tightly.

The end result should be a curled, knotted section with two little flaps of fabric that you can just fold down. 

My experiment with the grey t-shirt (originally an XL) yielded 78 yards of "yarn".  I also added about 8 yards from a black t-shirt to each end of the strand.  Word to the wise, if you wait to attach the ending color until you have knit to the point that you are ready for it, it will save you much frustration.

Step 3:  Take two strips and twist them together, then lay them on the table.  Find a needle that matches the width of these two twisted strips.  Mine called for about a US 11.  I first tried a US 9, but that was too difficult to work with--my stitches came out way too tight.

Step 4:  Cast on.  I first measured my husband's neck with the cable of my circular needle so that I would know how wide the thing had to be if it lay flat.  My CO was X stitches, and then I joined them to knit in the round.  If you are a fan of stitching ends together, by all means, knit your cowl flat and mattress stitch it together later.  I am NOT a fan of seaming.  For my cowl, I knit three rows, since I could tell after the first row that it would curl.  I wanted that little roll to keep the cowl in place beneath the collar of Honey's leather jacket.  Then, I purled for another X rows in-the-round.  I guess this little number is totally reversible, but the pearled rows gave it a more masculine look, I thought, and seemed to create a denser fabric to face the wind--which is so important on a motorcycle in chilly weather!

Step 5:  Attach the ending color for the last three rows.  You have to do this one strip at a time, just like you did to beging making your yarn; but it will significantly improve the likelihood that you will have a color change at the beginning of your round on the row that you want it to be if you manipulate its location.  Knit 3 rounds.  I ended up with about 1/2 of my 78 yards of grey "yarn" left over; so don't expect to follow my directions and have just barely enough left over.  There will be enough left over for a second cowl.

Step 6:  Bind Off.  My bind off was the standard knit two, pass one over, knit one, pass one over chain.  I connected the knotted end of the last stitch to the beginning of the BO row, secured it, wove in my ends, and voila!

Now, it seemed a little small when I was finished with it; but this is jersey, remember, and jersey is stretchy.  I just had to stretch it out a little and it fit over Honey's head just fine.  I tossed it in the wash and dried it in the dryer, and it shrunk a little; but then it stretched right back out.  Not enough to be saggy and misshapen, though.  So, keep in mind that there will be a little stretch-ability, but it's not elastic enough to make up for knitting it a size too small. 


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