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Archive for the ‘On the Needles’ Category

Things have been pretty hectic the last month or so . . . plenty of not-so-good stuff, but there have been bright spots.

Since my last knitting project update, there has been some (albeit limited) progress:

Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan:

I have to knit about 6 rows on the button band and embroider in the black hooves and noses on the sheep.  However, I haven’t touched this sweater in about a month and the baby will be here in just a few weeks.  Finishing is a goal for this weekend.

Druid Mittens:

When last I wrote, I thought I’d figured out a workable gauge (cuff on 2.5 mm, body of mitten on 2.25) but . . . since then I’ve knit almost to the tip of one mitten, only to realize that it is still way too short (like 2 inches too short).  The pattern doesn’t let me repeat it without some funky fiddling, which I don’t really care to do, so the mittens are “resting” at the moment.  Since I have so much yarn, I’m considering ripping and re-knitting with the yarn doubled.  I WILL CONQUOR THESE MITTENS!!!

– Baby Booties:

So the whole idea of making up my own pattern has sort of fallen by the wayside in favor of all the projects I keep accumulating.  I did manage to do an eyelet variation on Saartje’s Booties: instead of the straps, I worked a row of yo, k2tog and yo, ssk, then just threaded a ribbon through the booties.  Fast and dirty (took me under two hours to do both) but they sure did turn out well I think:

Ice Queen:

Somehow I managed to finish, block and gift, all without getting a photo.  I loved the project though — a quick, easy smoke ring with a single ball of yarn.  The beading was really fun too, and came out beautifully.  I would absolutely knit this pattern again.

There is other big news too . . . I know, I know, way to bury the lead . . . but finally, after so much trouble, I’ve managed to climb aboard the Monkey Sock bandwagon.  Using Knit Picks Essential (soon to be Stroll) I was able to knit a decent pair of socks.  Since I started the socks without a foot in mind (long story, I needed an portable, emergency knitting project) I found a foot to fit the socks after they were half-knit:

This particular foot belongs to Miss V, one corner of my four-person knitting circle.  I think the socks ended up fitting pretty well:

Now that I’ve knitted socks for one member of the group, I’m going to knit up a pair for the other two ladies.  Fun 🙂

Of course, as soon as the first pair of Monkeys were done, I immediately cast on another pair, this one in the Essential Kettle Dyed colorway Eggplant.  The socks are a gift for Adorable, whose birthday is today.  Here is my progress as of this moment:

I have just one more repeat and the toes to finish — lucky for me, she has tiny little feet.

A truer picture of the beautiful deep purple of the socks:

As you can see, there is a slight color change at the top of the gusset where I changed skeins.  I don’t love it, especially since the yarns were both from the same dye lot, but hey, they are handmade socks made from kettle dyed yarn.  I am also hoping that the difference will be more subtle when the socks are worn, and that a good washing will help blend the colors a bit.

And what’s next up?

I would like to make some birthing socks to go with the Sheep Baby Sweater — if I start a pair of Monkeys now, can I get them to the mom-to-be before her due date in late July?  I think so . . . I hope so . . . I would also like to make a small stuffed animal for the baby, to go with the sweater and socks.  It’s a lot of knitting and not a lot of time!

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There is nothing like hot pink mohair to kick the knitting doldrums.

About a month ago my mother in law asked me to make her the Ice Queen pattern from Knitty.  Since she loves bright colors I’ve been on the lookout for a jaw-dropping ball of Rowan Kidsilk Haze.  Even though we are on a spending freeze (basically a self-imposed moratorium on any non-essential spending) The Baron got to buy a few essential pinball related toys.  I decided that one ball of yarn would not kill us, especially since I have been in such knitting gloom recently.  And I am knitting for his mother!

I popped into Unwind the weekend before last and there on the shelf, a full 50 cents cheaper than any other ball of Kidsilk Haze, was one single bright-hot pink fluffball.  I just could not hold myself back.  I grabbed some matching beads and picked up a teeny tiny (size 11, 1.1 mm) crochet hook from Joanne’s.  Finally, after looking at the yarn and feeling fussy for a whole week, I cast on over the weekend and just raced through the project.  It didn’t hurt that I met up with Miss V on Saturday for a literati marathon.

I haven’t worked feather and fan lace before and I was a bit surprised by how easy it was to memorize.  The resulting fabric is delicate and airy but also feels warm.  I just cannot get over how filmy and beautiful the lace looks, especially in such a kick-ass color.

I absolutely love love love the end result and I cannot wait for knitting group tonight.  Right now my big decision is whether or not I should include beading along the top and bottom edges or just along the bottom.  Will beads on the top weight down the lace too much and make it fall like a souffle?  I am also wondering how long I have to wait to pick up another ball to make one for myself 🙂

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Usually I find that my knitting moves pretty directly from point A to point B: I plan a project, get my yarn and tools together, cast on and go.  When I am working on a giant project I tend to work smaller projects in around the edges, but never more than one or two at a time.

Now though, I feel like I’ve got far too much going on knitting-wise, and not too much of it moving toward a fruitful conclusion.

– Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan:

I started this little colorwork project by trying out Fair Isle.  I was less than thrilled with the slightly lumpy result, but rather than rip it out I just cast on for a second cardigan and worked the sheep with intarsia.  I’m happier with the intarsia cardigan but there are still so many ends to work in!  I’ve been trying to darn in ends while I have my Literati Knitters to distract me, but so far it has been slow going.  I then decided (don’t ask me why) to work the sleeve in the round rather than flat.  I guess I was thinking fewer ends to weave in, but . . . I always think magic loop is such a great concept and then I remember what a pain it is!

So now I have two partially finished cardigans and a ton of ends . . . not very satisfying at all.

Add to that the fact that the baby I’m knitting for is a boy (a fact that I learned after starting the sweater) and I really want to knit something more manly for him.  Maybe a sweater and hat with stripes.  I don’t know.  I’m just not very pleased with my baby-gift progress.  And did I mention that I’m sick of weaving in ends?

– Druid Mittens:

I love and loathe these mittens.  Gauge totally deserted me since the cable pattern of the mittens shrinks the fabric up so much.  I knit 3/4 of the mitten body of BOTH mittens (again, don’t ask — I was trying to keep each section consistant by knitting the two mittens sort of at the same time) on size 0 needles before deciding that they were just WAY too small for a grown up person.  Again, rather than rip I just ordered new yarn and was back on my way.

A side note: Woodland Woolworks rocks.  They sent me one odd ball from a different dye lot than the other balls I’d ordered and when I called they immediately got the correct yarn in the mail to me along with a return envelope for the odd ball.  Of course, me being me, I put the odd ball somewhere special so that I’d be sure to remember to mail it back . . . and I have not seen it since.  Go me!

So not wanting to repeat the gauge issues I’d had with the first pair of mittens, I made two cuffs and then worked about two inches of each mitten using two different needle sizes.  I finally picked the one I liked best and ripped the other back to the cuff.  At this point I have 4 totally unfinished mittens and I’m wild to get these little suckers done, especially since they are going to end up in San Francisco where the summers are notoriously cold, but I am not too hopeful.  It feels like they will be on my needles until eternity.

– Baby Booties:

A friend has asked me to knit a pair of booties for her, something that she could give to a new baby arriving in her family.  Although it’s not normally something I’d volunteer for, Miss V and I have been plotting to create some bootie patterns so this request seemed like good motivation.  My job is to come up with the bootie form on which to build cute little bootie animals.  So far, I am not doing so hot.  I’ve given a few ideas a good test knit, but so far I am not loving anything and I’m a bit frustrated with myself.  On one hand I am trying to build a better mousetrap, but on the other . . . reinventing the wheel.  And now I’m writing entirely in cliche.

– Ice Queen:

My mother-in-law specifically requested a smoke ring.  This weekend I found a really intensely hot pink ball of Rowan Kidsilk Haze, some pretty matching seed beads, and a size 11 crochet hook small enough to fit through the beads.  I am dying to chuck all of the above and just bite into some meaty, colorful lace.

Poor me . . . frustrated with my knitting.  There are worse problems a person could have, but there you go.  Today I am a very fussy knitter.

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I really try hard to avoid deadline knitting. I don’t knit holiday gifts at all, and when I have given knitted gifts I try to incorporate the planning and design process into the giving.  It’s a bit selfish, perhaps, but planning a project is often my least-favorite part of knitting and I have enjoyed having help and input.  It makes the gift all the more special since the final product will be made-to-order, and there is the added benefit of spending some time with the intended recipient.

Then, of course, there are those times when planning and collaboration just aren’t possible, and when deadlines creep up on a person all sneaky-like.  That’s been the case with Levi’s Blanket, which I’ve been struggling to design and create in the mere five months since he was “matched” with his adoptive parents.  Well now he’s here, official, adopted, and in need of his blanky!

After several false starts designing my own cables, I decided I would not try and reinvent the wheel.  Sticking with my original theme of “three,” I combed through stitch dictionaries and finally came up with three different cables.  Working my trusty Excel skills to their outer limits, I created a color-coded chart that takes up a full 11×17 sheet of paper. The chart is 85 rows high and 158 stitches across.  It’s a monster.  Once I was happy with my instructions, I took a deep breath, cast on with Swish Worsted in bare (the natural colorway), and started cabling my heart out.  Three (and change) chart repeats later, I’m just a handful of rows away from finishing.  Since I’ll probably be meeting Baby Levi next week, I’ve got sore wrists and a grating feeling of anxiety deep in my gut even though I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to finish up quite easily.

While I’m happy that I took on this project and pleased with the results, its a good reminder of what I like and don’t like about knitting.  I love the process.  Sitting for hours, thoughts drifting or focused, listening to radio, tv, a book or just silence, each stitch is a quiet focal point, a badly-needed valve for my daily frustrations.  I love to give gifts, but more than “stuff” that is made overseas and breaks easily, I try to give time, experience, or handmade things . . . and NOT on a deadline!

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After the snipped-skein mess last week, I was quite relieved to finish the main body of my Mandala/GKAMS and still have quite a bit of yarn left in the large ball I was able to salvage.  I’m on to the edging, (using a variation of the shawl edging technique I learned about here) and quite happy with the way the varigated yarn is striping up.  If you’ve been following along, you know I’m working with Knitpicks Gossamer in Caribbean which is a pretty loud color.  For the whole body of the shawl, the color and pooling has been pretty intense.  Now that I’m on to the edging though, a back-and-forth 13 to 17 stitch repeat worked vertically along the horizontal edge of the shawl, there’s a very fun quick striping happening, with each color change lasting about the length of one row.  It’s going well and I hope will finish up quickly.  Although I’m very against holiday gift knitting, because of the timing on this bad boy I’m hoping to get it out the door in time for a Christmas delivery to my Mother-in-Law.  We’ll see!

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Though there hasn’t been much blogging going on recently, there has been an awful lot of knitting . . . mainly on my Goddess Knits Anniversary Mystery Shawl, now also known as Mandala.  Sadly, as with most lace projects, there is little visible progress since my last photo and the thing still looks like a giant blob.  I only know that I’m making progress because I’m checking off row after row of the giant chart 4 (96 rows!) and watching my third skein shrink down to nothing.  I was expecting that three skeins would do it, but luckily, thanks to the generosity of fellow Ravelers, I had a fourth skein on standby.

Last night, with just a tiny length of yarn hanging off of my shawl, I put the fourth skein on my swift and realized immediately that I had a huge problem.  Several rounds of yarn had been cut or perhaps broken, and the whole thing was a gigantic stringy mess.  Not sure what to do, I grabbed the first strand I could find and started winding.  This approach worked well until after about twenty cranks of the ball winder the tail-end of the yarn appeared.  Although I now had one neatly-wound ball, I also had a bunch of unwound strands that were tangling around the bottom of the swift and generally looking knotty.  I admit I was tempted to just toss the whole thing, but I needed the skein to finish my shawl.

It was a painstaking process, but finally I managed to wrestle each snipped strand off of the main skein and was able to salvage a medium-sized center pull ball in addition to a whole bunch of mini-balls.

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Hopefully I’ll be able to finish the project with just one more splice!

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Although it’s been quiet around the blog, I have been knitting.  I drew an actual sketch for what I’m calling Levi’s Baby Blanket and now I’m just trying to figure out how to make my giant scribble into an actual knitted thing.

So far, so good.

I’m thinking of using Knitpicks Swish Superwash in the bare (ie, undyed and natural) colorway, in either bulky or worsted weight.  Of course, it stands to reason that I’d be swatching with DK weight, right?  Yes, yes, I’ll eventually swatch with the actual yarn I plan to use.  But in this case I’m making design swatches, see?  It’s a whole other process!

Anyway, the concept or theme for the blanket is “three” — three being the number of people in a family when the first new baby arrives.  (In the case of our friends, three also has other special significance.)  Of course thrown into the mix is a dash of “new life” and soupson of “love” so I feel like I have plenty to work with.

Design-wise, I’ve started with the most basic three-part unit I know of: the braid.

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I played around with it a bit once I’d worked a pattern repeat, but my favorite part of my swatch is still the traditional-looking braid at the right side of the photo above.    I think the 4-stitch reverse stockinette border looks best. On the left side of the photo, you’ll notice that the reverse stockinette starts to look a little funny.  Well, that was me trying something . . . a teeny tiny braided cable on the wrong side of my swatch.

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A cool idea, right? But in practice a big mess. That’s why we swatch right?

My next step was to create a cable of my own design:

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I am kind of not digging it. The cable looks kind of snake-like and pointy to me. I also don’t really like the way the bobble placement came out, but I struggled with it and I’m not sure how to correct the problem. Even with a smoother cable and better bobbles, I’m not sure if I’ll use this cable. It looks a little bit plain to me, especially next to the plain braid.

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