Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yarn Swaps and Gift Angels

Angel Gift
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Almost a year ago now I joined a Swap Group on Ravelry for giggles. We did a "Secret Santa" swap then and it was a ton of fun. Then Megknitficent came up with a fun idea of a "Random Acts" swap. I'll have to admit that while I thought it to be an awesome idea, at the same time felt she was just a WEE bit crazy--because the proposed swap was going to be an insane amount of work. People joined in and Megknitficent matched people up over SIX MONTHS of time. You never knew when your package was going to come in the mail. My send-date was the final month (July).

Unfortunately, at the end of July, no package had arrived at my doorstep. How sad! Still, I'd had a great time making up my own gift and sending it off. Hopefully its recipient liked it! One other person in the swap and I had been exchanging some notes, and we contacted Megknitficent to let her know that two packages had gone astray at some point. Knowing how the economy was, I also told Megknitficent to call my side of the whole thing closed. I was happy enough having sent out my gift and ready to stop stalking the mailbox.

Still, the call went out for "Yarn Angels", people willing to gift twice with nothing in return. At the end of August I shelved the whole thing in my back brain, deciding just to forget about it and watch for the next swap that caught my eye. Probably Christmas--I love Secret Santa swaps!

I must digress here for a small explanation... our mail is delivered at the curb in two big boxes on posts. One has seven smaller divisions (plus the eighth, an outgoing mail drop) where most mail arrives. You have the key to your own little box. It doesn't fit much so if you get something bigger, then another key appears in your small box which you use to open the box-next-door, a much bigger package-delivery box. Imagine my surprise when, on Saturday, I went out to get the mail, and there was a box-key in with all the junk mail!

When I opened the larger mailbox, I found this package waiting inside. Whee! My DH laughed at me and I immediately ran for the camera, and got a small helper to assist me in the unpacking.

We documented every step of the process, with DD helping me remove the items and exclaiming over each one. She is very excited about making Halloween cookies AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I'm not sure I can properly stress her excitement over the whole idea. Cookies. For Halloween. That you DECORATE... it's whole worlds of "wow"! (It helps that she came across my heart-cookie-cutter just a couple of days ago and was all about making those cookies, too. The prospect of making cookies right now just has her bouncing off the walls.)

For me there was enjoyment in ever step of opening this package. The entirety was contained in the box.. and in that box a lovely basket of bent strips of wood, some colored and some stained brown. You can NEVER have too many baskets.
Inside the basket were two cookie cutters (as you have probably already gleaned from the comments above) one in the shape of a ghost, and the other a pumpkin, as well as a jar of Halloween sprinkles... but wait. There is still more!

A project bag! A real one.. not some basket I've re-purposed to the task. It's wonderfully constructed with a green top and bottom and clear sides. Sturdy brown elastic pulls the top closed smoothly. And to use with that bag? Beautiful KnitPicks Harmony DPNs (size 2s)
and two skeins of Imagination (merino/alpaca/nylon) sock yarn in the Wicked Witch colorway.. which I ADORE having seen it in person.I spent much time petting my pretty yarn.

All of this came from Drdesigns... the other person that was left out in the swap! You have a heart of gold and deserve something surprising and good to come your way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Versatility with Beads

Versatility with Beads
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Success, I think! The bobbles are gone and I'm pretty much back to where I was before giving up on them.

I'm really pleased with the beads. They are a nice visual element to take the place of the textural element the bobbles provided. Since I did not completely frog the project, I couldn't string the beads on the yarn. But then again, I never planned to do so.

One of the wonderful people in my knitting group did a gorgeous shawl and shared a small trick with us for placing the beads. Rather than pre-string them on the yarn and fiddle with them for the whole project, she found a very (VERY) small crochet hook. She explained that whenever you got to a stitch that needed a bead, simply drop it off the needles and pull the whole thing through the bead with the crochet hook. Then place it back on the needles and continue knitting. This has an added advantage of centering up the bead on both strands of the stitch, rather than on one side. If you can't find a crochet hook small enough, a thin strand of wire folded in half can also work to pull the yarn through the bead.

It's a very handy trick and saves the time and energy of struggling with all those pre-strung beads on your yarn.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I made good progress on Versatility. It helps that I'm using 10.5 needles and bulky yarn (some say aran, some say bulky--but my gauge is on track and that's good enough). The Manos del Uruguay yarn is gorgeous, and has the bonus of having been purchased on sale. I was on a felted hat kick for a while and thought I'd keep going, but fell off that wagon for a while and this yarn languished in the stash.

Now it has new life, but I have to tell you the bobbles are just not working for me. I don't like knitting them (even though I've taught myself how to purl backwards so I don't need to turn my work as I go). I don't really like how they look on the project in person, although I do like them in the finished project pictures. I've decided on a mod and today I frogged back to the row just before the bobbles.

Instead of bobbles, my project will have beads where the bobbles should have been. I hit up three stores hoping to find some glass pony-beads. I have plastic ones that are lovely, but they're.. well.. they're plastic. They have that little ridge from being molded and despite being pretty in color, they aren't nice to touch and I want good "feel" to go along with this yarn. I have one (just one) glass pony bead and I have no idea where it came from but today I set out to find more in the hopes they would complete this project.

First up on the docket this afternoon was Azillion Beads. I love the name and they do have very pretty beads, but they are all bored to accept jewelry wire and not much else. Next up was Ben Franklin Crafts. BF has been good to me. They have nice sales and a shockingly nice yarn department. They also have an extensive bead area, but again nothing much but jewelry beads (but wow, what a selection of those!). I did find some clear beads very similar to pony beads, but they just didn't speak to me.

Last on the list was Michael's. Michael's has recently moved across town (and actually into the neighboring town) into a much bigger and newer store. It's nice to walk in to lots of space and light. Some have complained that with that increase space and light there should be more YARN. And actually more of anything other than scrap-booking supplies. Still, there's quite a nice craft selection and yes.. pony beads. The same plastic ones I already had. So sad. I wandered the aisles in desolation, cheering on my two children who had behaved like the troopers they are, toddling along with crazy mommy looking for beads.

Versatility Beads
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
But there, on the end-cap, something sparkled. What was this?? Pretty and... was the hole big enough? My goodness! I'd found the perfect bead. It was much like a pony bead, and yet nothing like it. They are metal and have good heft, a pretty design, and nice touchable smooth edges. Seventeen in a pack.. five packs available for (calculating in my head 20-rounded-up-from-17 times 5 packages is 100 minus 3-the-difference-between-20-and-17 times 5 packages is 15) a total of 85 beads. But didn't the designer say there were 106 bobbles in the pattern? Surely that can't be right.

I bought them all anyway and came home to count up on the chart. She surely did say 106 bobbles in a conversation, but I count (drum-roll please!) 84 total!!

So tonight, I will be putting in a row of these beads and hoping they will be as pretty in the project as I think they might be. Cross your fingers with me!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Multiple Projects

It is unusual for me to allow myself more than one project on the needles at a time. I have a fear of the resting project going into permanent hibernation. I also have a fear that someone else in the house will find the "resting" project, make off with the needles, and tangle (or chew) the yarn... whee!

The Ravelympics was a departure from my usual conservatism, putting my Christmas knitting in the background (probably a safe enough move, since there was plenty of motivation to pick it back up again) in favor of frantic knitting for two weeks. Even then, I finished one project before winding up the yarn and casting on for the next.

With another week of solo knitting time looming in the near future, I have decided to start up three different projects. I pulled out the yarn for each, chewed my lip a little, and then wound them all off into balls. Patterns have been printed and copied, and I'm working on project baskets for each. I should digress a moment and mention how much I love my sock basket (an old Bath and Body Works gift basket) perfect for toting around yarn, needles, socks, pattern and assorted other items necessary for finishing off a pair of socks. I'm now searching through the house for appropriate containers for my other two projects.

The RSC July sock is now settled in its basket, waiting to be cast on. A pale violet Versatility is on size 10.5 KnitPicks Options (on the 32" circular cable). And a dark red/plum cashmere yarn is wound up into a ball, waiting to turn into fingerless mitts just in time for a change in the weather.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cleopatra's Stockings

Cleopatra's Stockings
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Oh, how I love new finished objects! I want to run around and make everybody see how very pretty they are. Joy!!

Last night and this morning saw the final touches on my Cleos. I must say that once I got the pattern in my mind, I hardly ever needed to refer to the charts. I made only one small modification--one I must remember on EVERY SINGLE slip-stitch-heel sock I ever do again. Instead of purling a row and then turning around to slip-one-knit-one, I swapped it around so that I knit a full row, and then slip-one-purl-one for a row. So much faster!

Traveling stitches have very little give. This sock is tricky to pull on your feet--certainly not a quick on-and-off sock. But once you wiggle it over the heel it is deliciously snug and doesn't sag. The twisted rib cuff is elegant and makes me want to wear cropped pants to show them off.

I'm extremely happy with the "lace bind off" or "decreasing bind off", whichever name it actually goes by. I've found both referenced on the internet. Elizabeth Zimmerman's "sewn bind off' is amazingly stretchy, but also quite a pain to pull back if you decide you want a slightly longer sock, or if the cuff is just plain old too tight. The decreasing bind off is almost as stretchy, especially if worked gently and loose, looks lovely, and is very easy to pull back out again. There are plenty of variations on this bind off, but here's what I use:

Decreasing, or Lace, Bind-Off
On final round:
Work the first two stitches in pattern, then k2tog-tbl
* work next stitch in pattern
k2tog-tbl new stitch with previous stitch
Rep from * until all stitches have been decreased off the needles.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Casey, the amazing code monkey behind Ravelry, has jumped in once again with an impromptu "holiday" and given people parrots for Talk Like a Pirate Day! You simply need an appropriately file-named icon (I assume something with 'pirate' or 'buccaneer' or somesuch in the name, I haven't researched it fully) and BAM! you have a parrot added.

I love where my parrot fell out.. perfectly perched on my crossed needles. Many others have it settled quite nicely on one shoulder in proper piratical fashion.

Birthdays, today, also get pirate loot!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Earning my screen-name

Constant distractions are the name of the game lately. My DD (3.5 years) and DS (almost 1.5 years) have been wonderful. They have also been wonderful distractions. For the second time in two days I have found a major error in my Cleopatra's Stockings.

This is a beautiful pattern married with some truly lovely yarn in shades of blue and purple. Traveling stitches cross and recross up the instep and the back of the leg reminiscent of ribbons laced around the foot in ancient sandals. At my Monday night knitting group I got to the top of one of the crossings and found I had one spare stitch on one side and three spare stitches on the other. Ack!

After some diagnosis, I determined the error.. over twelve rows back. (Actually I'm still not sure exactly what I did wrong, but I know exactly where it was.) Since this pattern uses traveling stitches and this error offset those twisted stitches, my problem crossed over almost 14 stitches in those twelve rows.. one entire DPN. I winced at the mere thought of dropping an entire DPN back twelve rows and pulling back up stitches on these teeny-tiny-size-0 needles. Furthermore, not only was the problem going to involve a massive amount of re-knitting on that one panel of the sock, but because I am doing this on two sets of DPNs at the same time, I made the same mistake ON BOTH SOCKS. Horror! Maybe it would make sense to drop back that much for a sweater, but these are socks. How much are people really going to notice?

If it had been a smaller mistake, I might have tried to cover it up. I fussed at it for fifteen minutes, trying to figure out if I could twist one stitch over two to make up the difference or some other 'fix', and just couldn't get it to work. That angle was just wrong. It was going to show and it was going to bother me every time I wore the socks. So I pulled out my super-small needles (one set of 00's and one set of 000's) and wove them into the row just before the problem.... and then ripped out a couple hours of work. Whee.

Then yesterday, as I closed in on getting back to where I had been before Monday night, I found I had knit in yet another mistake. This time it was only one side of one sock over eight stitches. I grabbed a spare needle and laced it down the lower edge of the traveling stitches (to save me pulling up those stitches) and then dropped out the rest and knit them back up. I wish I had taken a picture of all the loops of hanging yarn and extra needles stuck in every which way. It was impressive if I have to say so myself. The gauge is just a wee bit wonky through that section, but I think it's going to pull itself nice and even after one wearing of the sock.

After this practice "tinking" I'm feeling rather proud of myself. My knitting friends think I'm a bit crazy. I'm earning a title of "process knitter", "perfectionist", "OCD", or perhaps just flat-out insane. I just know that I like for it to be correct, and I'm willing to practice any skill that will let me get it that way.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sweet Stockinette Slippers

To keep things a bit more organized I've decided to move this to its own post. I fell in love with Sockpixie's Magic Slippers, but purling in the round drove me nuts. I decided to convert her pattern to (nearly) all knitting. There is one round of purling to accent the change from the sole to the uppers.

Here is my version:

Magic Slippers
Sweet Stockinette Slippers

Suggested Yarn: Approximately 1/2 oz fingering weight
Gauge: 7-8 sts/inch in stockinette stitch
Needles: Size 1 (2.25mm)

Note that the sole is knit in garter stitch, knitting back and forth, but the upper is knit stockinette in the round. If you need a bigger bootie, knit a longer sole and pick up as many more stitches at the transition as are needed.

Long-tail cast on 7 stitches and knit 2 rows.
Repeat the next 2 rows until you have 15 stitches.
R1: K1, K1f&B, knit till 3 stitches are left, K1f&B, K2
R2: Knit

Knit even in garter stitch until work measures 2 1/2 inches from cast-on (30 rows)

Repeat the next 2 rows until you have 5 stitches left.
R1: K1, K2TOG, knit till 3 stitches are left, K2TOG, K1
R2: Knit

Keep the remaining 5 stitches on your needle. Pick up and knit to a total of 60 stitches.

I use 4 dpns. I usually distribute the stitches for the upper in this manner:
3 (of the 5 sole sts) + 12 (from side) = 15
12 (from side) + 3 (pick up from toe) = 15
3 (pick up from toe) + 12 (from side) = 15
12 (from side) + 2 (of the 5 sole sts) + 1 (pick up between last 2 and next 3 of the remaining sts, this puts yarn in center of the heel) = 15

You'll notice this gives you 30 stitches per side, evenly divided from the center of the toe and heel.

Once you have all the stitches set up as you like, purl one round to transition from the garter-stitch sole to the stockinette upper.

R1 (and all odd rounds): Knit
R2: K24, K2TOG, K8, SSK, K24
R4: K23, K2TOG, K8, SSK, K23
R6: K22, K2TOG, K8, SSK, K22
R8: K21, (K2TOG 3 times), (SSK 3 times), K21
R10: K18, (K2TOG 3 times), (SSK 3 times), K18
R12: K15, (K2TOG 3 times), (SSK 3 times), K15
R14: Bind off knitwise with lace bind-off.
(Knit first stitch, knit second stitch, slide left needle into the front of both stitches on the right needle and knit together. Continue until one stitch is left on the right needle. Pick up and knit from underneath the first bound-off stitch. Pass the second stitch over the new one. Pull the loop out long and cut a tail. Sew in end.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spoiler Warning

Yes, Mom, this means you...

I've added pictures of the finished project to Flickr. I have buried them deep in my photostream and added them in a new group (called "Spoilers") and unless you want to spoil your Christmas gift... DON'T PEEK!!

For everyone else... This is a great project. The pattern is lovely. The yarn is scrumptious. I blocked it twice to get it PERFECT. Yum.