Sunday, August 24, 2008

Goodness, gracious.. I got it DONE!

Last week I had a very nice time working on a couple of projects while my DH was away on business. It was a fortunate happenstance, in that I over-committed myself to Ravelympics projects, and having several hours a night to myself to knit made it possible to finish my booties, hat, shawl and washcloths.

That left the sweater.

I originally added the sweater as an afterthought on August 7th (all projects needed to be in by August 8th) as a "just in case" idea. After that I figured I should have added my Christmas knitting as a "WIP Wrestling" entry and finished it up. But as I had not, and this was in the queue, I went for it instead.

Striped Cardigan
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
The yarn for this project was purchased at Stitches With Style in Newark, Delaware. If you're ever in the area, GO THERE. It is a wonderful store with a huge selection and crazy-friendly people. I had a great time knitting there while we were visiting our family. (I was given a "mom's afternoon off" and that's where I chose to go--a lucky pick on my part from a Google search on the area.) At any rate, when browsing through their selection I came across a pile of kits put together in Ziploc bags. Each included a book (Baby Cashmerino 2, by Debbie Bliss) and enough yarn for a particular project out of that book. In this case it was three balls of cream and three balls of coral-pink Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn (Merino, microfiber, cashmere blend). And this stuff is just dreamy to touch.

I had knit up my practice-socks from Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters using a ball of periwinkle-colored Baby Cashmerino I had picked up on sale, so I knew it was lovely and fun to use. I also want to knit a couple of sweaters for myself, but I'm leery of starting one while I'm still loosing weight. A baby sweater seemed like a fun place to start, and the price was right for the kit.

I used a cabled cast-on to start each piece. After knitting the back, I realized that if I "cheated" I could save myself some weaving in of the ends. So on subsequent pieces I cast on and then knit the first row the opposite way instead of exactly following the directions (knits for purls and vice versa). When done this way, your first row is actually the right (front) side of the work, rather than the wrong (back) side.

This let me slide the whole thing across my circular needle and start again with the right-side-facing on the second row. This is important because on the second row, you switch to the main color and knit five rows. If you don't get tricky like I did, your two ends of yarn are on opposite sides and you'll have to cut the CC to start the next row. Instead I was able to bring the CC up the side and just begin knitting the stripes.

The back, left front, right front, and sleeves are knit separately and then joined together with mattress stitch. I was pretty pleased that I wove in ends and blocked as I went along. Basically each day I knit one section, wove in ends as I went along wherever possible, and then soaked it through and stretched it out to block overnight. I ended up with a towel filled with pinned-out pieces all ready to be put together.

Once the front and back are joined at the shoulders, you pick up the appropriate number of stitches and knit the collar and button-band, then set in the sleeves. The "appropriate number" of stitches is a pain in the rear to spread out evenly across the front of the work. I resorted to math and a spread-sheet to plot out when I needed to skip a row in picking up stitches to make it all match up evenly. Then I had to DO it and that involved pulling out picked up stitches a few times until I got everything even.

I moved the button holes up two stitches from the bottom because it felt like the lowest one fell awfully close to the edge of the work. We'll see how that works out over time.

And last, I ended up ripping out my collar's bind-off. I tried a lace-bind-off first. After laying out the completed cardigan I was extremely unhappy that the very-stretchy bind off was bulkier than the ribbing, and made it fan and ripple. I went back and put a simple slipped-stitch bind off instead. It's very clean and looks lovely.

I got done just under the deadline to finish things for the Ravelympics. My post is up, and my Olympic knitting is done! Now back to our scheduled projects for the year!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leafy greens!

Foliage Hat
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Admittedly not my favorite vegetable to eat (give me green beans or broccoli first, any day!) This is one pretty, leafy-green hat! The pattern is Knitty's Foliage, with a number of modifications of my own, of course.

For starters, this hat is not knit with bulky or worsted-weight yarn as the pattern calls for, but with the leftover Mediumweight Socks That Rock from my Leafling socks. That makes it a heavy fingering weight yarn, just short of DK. I did several gauge swatches, and put my math to use figuring out how to make this work.

I didn't have enough leftovers to double the yarn and knit as written, plus I was really hoping to take advantage of the very pretty color-shifts which I hoped would stripe. I could knit the pattern as written, but on US3s, and come up with a child's hat. The original states its finished size as 17" stretching to 24" (that's a dang stretchy hat!). My guestimating put the as-written-but-fingering-weight-version at about 15" (or less) but stretching back to 19".

My other option was to expand the crown chart, which I ended up doing in a spreadsheet. I ended up with 33 stitches per needle, down to 32 stitches per needle after the last row of the crown (you decrease one stitch per needle on the very last row--a detail I almost overlooked when reading the pattern). I repeated the lace-pattern three times for the body of the hat and... ran out of yarn!

Foliage Hat
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
A hurried plea to my sock-club's group on Ravelry yielded a kind gift of another person's left-over yarn (39 grams) to finish off the hat. In the meantime I worked on the Diamond Fantasy Shawl, finishing it up just as my emergency gift arrived. As I picked up the instructions to start up the hat again I noticed something odd--the decreases did not look the same as all those I had done before. I double-checked the instructions, knit a little more and scowled at myself. Slip one, knit two together, pass slipped stitch over.... yes. That matches. But it just doesn't look right .. what did I? Oh. Dear. Another project I had been working on just before the hat used a different double-decrease. Slip two as if to knit them together, knit one, and then pass both slipped stitches over the knit stitch... did that do it? Oh, yes. It did. Drat.

Rather than reknit the whole hat, I worked one round where every five stitches or so, I dropped one down and fixed my s1k2psso to the original decrease I used.

One more repeat of the lace pattern and I started the ribbing. For a while I toyed with doing a k2p2 rib. I really am not a fan of the "look" of a k1p1 rib. In the end I decided to stick with the pattern, mostly. I ended up extening the decreases of the lace-pattern into the ribbing. It's subtle but looks nice.

The body of the hat is just a tad long, but looks nice rolled in the front, framing my face a bit better than just a round-fit hat. I'm really pleased with the outcome and looking forward to sending my yarn-angel a little gift in thanks!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The magic of blocking

You'll hear it time and again... blocking lace is pure magic. A (maybe) pretty tangle of color becomes a defined work, holding it's own shape through the process of some strange alchemy of water and wool and a whole lot of pins.

A triangular shawl is an odd sort of torture. Casting on, there are only a few stitches. The first few rows hum by, the pattern starting to take shape and you can happily see the finish line easily in sight. That finish line somehow retreats further and further into the distance with each row, with each measly little stitch added. Just two stitches. Every other row. Wait... now that's 24 stitches more per pattern repeat? And I have to do this six times (or ten for the whole shawl)?? 'Scuse me while I get out my calculator... ack!

And yet somehow, I made it to then end--and then had to do an I-cord bind-off! Well, that at least went faster than I thought it would and gives a very lovely edge.

The Rare Gems colorway I picked up at Black Sheep Gathering merged with the Diamond Fantasy pattern perfectly. It is a deep, dark black with deep dark purple over most of its length, but here and there a spark of coral-pink or white peeks through. Part of me really wanted to see it as a sock, but I think in the end the shawl was the right choice.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Diamond Fantasy Scarf

Diamond Fantasy Scarf
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I just can't resist toting stuff out into the back yard when the weather is as lovely as it has been lately. The grass is a gorgeous green and quite thick and comfy for lounging (or taking pictures). The kids love playing around and I get a bit of knitting done--or not.

My next Ravelympic project is progressing nicely. It's amazing how much knitting you can get done when you have three hours without interruption every night. I haven't actually been knitting that whole time (things like dishes and housework do interfere). But since my DH is unavailable for distraction through this Friday, I'm sure to get lots more knitting done.

I have finished the initial chart and three more repeats of the pattern. There are three more repeats to go, for a total of six repeats of the pattern in the "scarf" size of this pattern. It would be ten repeats if I were making the entire shawl, but I don't have enough yarn for that. Each repeat increases by 24 stitches, so it's hard to say when you're half done. I've never been able to calculate that sort of thing in my head and it's not worth it to break out the heavy-hitting equations when I could just sit down and knit some more.

I'm looking forward to being finished and blocking this baby this weekend!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

So close to a FO...

Foliage in Progress
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
This pattern is just knitting up wonderfully. I am using the Foliage pattern from I'm using fingering weight yarn on size 3 needles (when the original pattern calls for worsted or bulky on 7s or bigger), and I expanded the chart for the crown another six rows without much effort. Eventually I may post that chart, here.

The yarn I'm using is a heavier fingering weight known as Socks That Rock Mediumweight. The colorway is "Lucky" and it is the remainder of my yarn from the sock-club kit for March. Amazingly enough, I was left with a full 1/3 skein after knitting a pair of socks--that'd be 50g remaining from a 150 gram skein. Not too shabby. It calculates to about a 150 yards. I thought it would be enough for a fairly lacy hat. It almost WAS enough. But not quite.

As I turned the crown and started on the body of the hat I weighed my ball of yarn. After one repeat I weighed it again, and started calculating. After another repeat I weighed it once more, just to be certain. At that point I knew I had exactly enough for a third repeat of the pattern--when I wanted to do four. And ribbing to finish. ACK!

I rifled through my stash. The only other Mediumweight yarn I have is my skein of Faulty Dyer (which I won with my Hat for the Moon). I appealed to my sock club group on Ravelry, asking for opinions as to whether or not it would look good finishing off the hat (probably) or if I could get someone else's left over Lucky.

And it turns out that I am lucky! A kind fellow-sock-club-member said she'd drop her remainder in the mail on Monday. Even if it takes all week to get here that should be plenty of time to finish off this project before the end of the Olympics.

In the meantime, the next project is begun! My Diamond Fantasy Shawl is cast on and has a whopping 17 rows--and considering that's the point of a triangular shawl/scarf, it's hardly anything at all. Still the yarn for it is gorgeous and it's a nice change from the hat. I think I'll probably get a washcloth done some time this week, too.

But that hat is gonna bug me, sitting on the shelf unfinished.

Friday, August 8, 2008

And... they're off!!

Magic slippers
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I whipped out my first FO of the Ravelympics today, and I'm thrilled to be on my way to many completions!

On Thursday I received a very polite request to make up a pair of my baby booties for a baby shower coming up next week. We agreed on a fair exchange for them and I decided that if I was going to work on these in the middle of the Ravelympics, they darned well better be an official project, so I quickly added them to my list.

The pattern is a simple but lovely one and originates from Sockpixie. I've designed a simple variation on her all-garter-stitch booties, converting the uppers to stockinette. They still create a super-cute bootie, and they are much faster (and in my mind easier) to knit.

(9/5/08) I have moved my version of this bootie to its own post here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Check out the Widget!

I've been seeing Ravelry progress bars on other blogs for a while. I signed up for it several months ago, but couldn't figure out how to incorporate the code into Blogger.

Finally, someone posted the trick of it, and I got my widget to work! Now you can watch (with awe, I know!!) as I blast through my Ravelympics projects.

Hahahahaha. Right.

Still, enjoy the widget. I know I do!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Getting Ready for the Ravelympics

As the Olympics swiftly approach, I am laying aside my current (secret!) project knitting, and working on a bunch of swatches for new projects.

This year is the first "Ravelympics". A group on Ravelry has developed to encourage us all to finish challenging projects over the course of the Olympics! I have, of course, gotten in way over my head on this idea. But in a way that was my plan from the start.

From the Ravelry Group Page I stole a bit of the overview:

What is it?:
The First International Ravelympics Summer 2008 are open to any knitter or crocheter on Ravelry ready to challenge themselves to complete a project (or projects) within 17 days during the Summer Olympics.

Not to be confused with the Knitting Olympics which take place every four years, just like any other Olympic sport and will be orchestrated by the Yarn Harlot.

You must cast on a project during the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics (Aug. 8)- and finish before the Olympic flame goes out (Aug. 24). That’s 17 days. Would you rather work on your burgeoning WIPs? Then join up for the WIPs Wrestling. All other events are for newly cast on projects!


  1. The project must be a challenge for you to complete in 17 days.

  2. No casting on before Opening Ceremonies commence in Beijing.

  3. Finish before the flame goes out.

  4. You may swatch before the games. (I consider this “training.”)

In some ways, any project at all is a challenge for me. It's very tricky to find time to knit. Because if this I signed up for several! It does make an odd sort of sense, because they are all small projects. A true challenge would be a large stole, or a full sweater, neither of which I am prepared to commit to at this time. Because of my disappointment with my no-longer-fitting shrug, I've sworn off sweaters until after Christmas (when, hopefully, I will have achieved my weight-loss goal and be working on maintaining, rather than loosing more). And a shawl or stole--lets just say I want a challenge, but I don't want to go insane!

My first project will be to use up the 1/3 skein of Lucky yarn I have left over from my Leafling socks. I've swatched this yarn several times now on different needle sizes, and read around on patterns. I will be making Foliage. I found a couple of people that have done this in a lighter weight yarn than called for in the pattern (bulky or worsted), and in the end I expanded the chart in the pattern to 25 rows. This should accommodate my stitch/row gauge with the much lighter weight yarn.

My second project will be Sivia Harding's Diamond Fantasy Scarf. This project can be done as a shawl as well. But I've had some gorgeous Socks That Rock yarn earmarked to make the smaller scarf instead. I wasn't going to buy any yarn at the Black Sheep Gathering this year, but I couldn't walk by a few of the Rare Gems at the Blue Moon Fibre Arts booth! I think this will make a stunning scarf.

My third project will be a baby sweater kit I picked up while visiting my in-laws in Pennsylvania. I have sincere doubts I will make it this far, but since the spirit is to push your boundaries, I figured it was better to have a project that might fail, than to stay safe-and-sound under my limits.

In addition, when I get too tired of big things and need a "pick me up", I signed up to do several washcloths. If any (or all) of these don't get done, I could care less. But I know me, and I might as well get credit for the mini-projects I like to do in between bigger ones. Some days you just need something you can whip out FAST.

I know I'm in over my head. I'm positive I will finish the hat and a couple of washcloths. I'm hoping to get the scarf done as well. And if I finish the baby sweater, you can count me a true Ravalete!

Wish me luck!