Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Swatch Doesn't Tell Time

I have been known to make a bad knitting decision or two in my time.  Some might even call some of the things I make ugly.

I am sooooo determined not to let that happen to my first sweater.  So I am doing what I NEVER do, and I am swatching.

For those of you non-knitters out there, a swatch is not a plastic watch from the late 80s (or not JUST a plastic watch from the 80s).  It is the way you make sure the sweater you spend 300 hours on doesn't turn out ten times bigger or smaller than you want it to be.  Here's how it works.

Your pattern has a gauge that it says you should get.  For example, the sweater I want to make has a gauge of 16.5 stitches and 20.5 rows per four inches.  I tried knitting a square on the suggested needle size and got 20 stitches in three inches.  My sweater has about 250 stitches I have to cast on.  If I went ahead and knit a sweater with that gauge my sweater would be 18% or 6.5 inches smaller than I would want it to be.  PROBLEM!

I knit a second swatch with a needle size bigger.  It was still too small.  The first one had grown a bit when I gave it a bath, but even water didn't make this one right. 

I knit a third one on even bigger needles.  It is still too small....even after a bath.  I will have to knit a straight stockinette stitch swatch to see if it is just my cables doing this to me or if I really do need to go up ANOTHER needle size.

All of this is to say that I knit at least two, if not more, needles sizes tighter than this particular designer.  When I was in my (short-lived) weaving class, my instructor said I was a tight warp-er as well.  She implied this made me high strung (as in, I literally strung my warps too tightly).

I told her that I just wanted it to be perfect, and that I didn't know why people thought that made me high-strung, and that I was just taking pictures for my blog, not because I had to visually document everything to make sure that it was perfectly right or anything, and that did she think that being high-strung was why my knitting was so tight, too, did she, did she, huh?!?!?!?! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Squishy is a word one might use to describe the way walking in your shoes feels after you have been pushed into a lake with all your clothes on (oh, that hasn't happened to you?).  Or the way the banana feels when you mash it between your fingers to make banana bread (you don't make yours that way?).  Or it could describe this piece of awesome:
117 yards of bulky weight.  100% Merino in colorway dryer lint (actually, I have no idea what it is called, but even after is was spun, it continued to look like dryer lint....)
I had originally spun one of two singles.
What it looked like on the spindle

What it looked like skeined.
I thought I would have to make another one before I could ply them.  Then, in a fit of wanted to have a finished project NOW, I changed my mind.

 I wound it into a cake and then proceeded to ply it from the inside and the outside of the cake at the same time, essentially working from either end.  For those of you who don't spin, I have no idea how to explain this.  Just know that it ended up like this:

I know I said before that I was aiming for worsted. It fluffed up A LOT after the bath I gave it and I ended up with something bulkier.  No matter...
Squishy, yummy, awesomeness:

 I think I feel yet another hat coming on....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Update: Randomness

My weekend was random, and so random this post will be.  I gardened (just turned the cover crop over so the soil will be ready when we plant in a few weeks), watched West Wing/Glee/Private Practice/Grey's Anatomy/Baby Mama/O (what?!  I have to do SOMETHING while I knit), and baked cookies.

I also BBQed under a Cherry Tree.

The Cherry Blossoms are in full force, but that doesn't mean that it is actually warm out.  It was supposed to snow on Sunday so we barbecued under a friend's tree so as to not miss out on its awesomeness.  It was cold but pretty.
I also made about a hundred million of these.  
Actually I made three....but it felt like a hundred million. 

My friend is getting married and needs to make 80+ of these garland thingies by June.  I do not envy her.
You take 75 little rectangles of fabric and string them on some ribbon that really doesn't want to cooperate with you.
 Rachel, if you are reading this, you owe me new fingers.

And just to continue the randomness, look at this cool cowl Ebeth made me when I visited her in Michigan!
I am usually the giver and not the getter of hand-made things.  Thrilled!  Although sad that it is still cold enough to wear it....

Have a good week, folks!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ask and You Shall Receive

Johanna commented on yesterday's post, "Thoughts for what you'll do with the finished products?"

Answer: YES!  Look what I made!

You may remember this pattern from my slipper knitting frenzy before the holidays.  I seem to get hung up on certain patterns and re-knit them over and over again.  My Ravelry project page is a very boring place.
I like these slippers...I like them because they are REALLY fast to knit (I am a slow knitter, so when I say fast, I mean maybe four hours tops).  I like them because they are cozy and, in this case, made of an extremely soft, smooth merino wool which makes my feet smile.  I only used half of the fat/bulky version of the yarn I showed you yesterday (yea, these use, like, no yarn at all), so be aware that more of these are coming.
I had to do some very tight crochet around the edging to get them to stay on my feet.  Crochet doesn't stretch the same was that knitting does so it helps hold the shape.  Now they stay on.

You can see that some parts the slippers are kind of hole-y.  This would be a result of my spinning, not the knitting (not saying my knitting never has holes in it, just saying that this time, the knitting is not the problem).  In fact, the whole right slipper is kind of hole-y because I apparently spun the first half of my yarn WAY thinner than the second half.

Right foot....holes everywhere.
Only a couple of holes on the strap, but a much thicker fabric in general.
The thin yarn meant that the gauge (how tight my stitches are) is way off in the right one.  All this means is that I will have to wear them myself instead of giving them away. 

They will be my Sunday slippers (because they are hole-y...holy...on Sunday...get it?  get it?  no?  sigh....)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Different Strokes

Let me be clear: I am really not good at this whole spinning wool into yarn thing yet.  And since I only have a drop spindle (i.e. no spinning wheel), I am excessively slow at the whole process.

But this, of course, does not stop me from feeling immensely clever every time I make something.  Take this for example:

Close-up. Single ply, fat/bulky 100% Merino from Abstract Fiber of Portland, OR in colorway "Snapdragon"

This past weekend, I took some roving of the same color way...
This is roving....essentially a long, dense, prepared strand of fiber that you use to spin with.

and spun it slightly differently.
First ply done and waiting on a paper towel tube.  Second ply being spun on my crappy, crappy, needs-to-be-replaced-with-this spindle.

Look what happened!!!
I'm a friggin' genius!  Or at least as smart as a gifted seven-year-old.
See how even though I started with the same raw material, it came out utterly different. 

This is not something new to spinners.  Had I plied it differently (perhaps a chain ply, that I am going to pretend I already know how to do for the sake of argument), it would have looked even different still....actually I am tempted to go back for a third round of this fiber to do exactly that. 

Thrilled, I tell you!  Thrilled!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Knitting in Advertising

Knitting/wool/sheep advertising makes me giggle.  For each of the following, put your hand over the logo and try to tell me what the ad is for:

Fabric softener, I think....  This is apparently a whole series.  See the others here and here.
Yup, strange.
Manhattan storage company via Yarny DaysThis link leads to a really inappropriate ad.  Funny, but inappropriate.

How about this one?
This one isn't actually an ad, but more propoganda encouraging people to knit items for service members during World War II (via LIFE Magazine)  If you can't tell, these are show girls.  Sexy, sexy knitting

Or this one?

Knitting is the Most. Fun. Ever.  For those of you who don't knit: I do, and I still have NO IDEA what this product is.  Via Craftzine

And finally
The Carly Fiorina Demon Sheep Attack Ad from 2010.  Watch the whole terrifying video here.  Demon sheep at minute 2:27.
Yea, no wonder my politically minded friends don't seem very into have to get your wool from the demon sheep...

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Best Hat Ever

This winter, I knit my first hat ever
And it was awesome (pattern here)
 Then I knit my second hat.  The request was from the lovely Lisa who requested one EXACTLY like the one I was wearing (down to the color)*. 

And now we looks like twins (or would if I didn't look completely stoned...isn't Lisa pretty?).
 *Note that will only make sense to knitters:  You can't tell in this pic, but hers isn't actually the same....I missed a row in each of the repeats and had to do an extra repeat to make it long enough before I did the decreases for the top.  Only the designer and I know that I did it wrong...well, now I guess you do, too.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Update: Remind me who you are again?

Folks, I've got nothing.  I mean, really, I haven't posted in two weeks and I really have nothing to say.  Reasons, you ask?  I have a couple of ideas:

Idea #1:  Camnesia....I am terrible at remembering to take pictures.  Sorry...

Idea #2:  Two weeks ago, I got a nice, new MacBook law school computer that was supposed to last me the next four years.  I took it to the coffee shop (in an ok neighborhood) with me less than 16 hours later and had it stolen literally out of my hands by a thug who grabbed it and ran out of the coffee shop.  That sounds so much like something out of a movie (perhaps a romantic comedy in which the hunky love interest chases after the offender and takles him, returning my property to me with a smile and an offer of a dinner date) that I am literally speechless on the matter (so were the guys at the Mac Store.  They had tears in their eyes, as if someone had kidnapped their niece or mom's co-worker was so upset that she wrote to Steve Jobs on my behalf....I have yet to hear from him BTW).  It doesn't help that every time I go to type on my old, decrepit lap top that I get all weepy and nostalgic for my 16-hour-whirl-wind-romance. 

Idea #3:  Look at this BORING knitting I have to show you lately.  Miles and miles of brown stockinette....and you can't even feel how squishy and nice the yarn is....boooo....

Idea #4:  It was friggin' delicious* outside this weekend that I sat around telling myself that I better not start anything in-doorsy because I should be out enjoying the weather (never mind that I took the opportunity to watch season five of Grey's Anatomy and see a movie instead).  Even my geraniums that I was SURE I killed last fall (and then failed to water at all this winter) decided the weather was nice enough to give it a go. 

They are going to be soooo pissed with me when I move them back outside to fend for themselves (or pleased, since they rain is way more likely to water them then I am)
I'm not going to promise there will be more this week, but it is rainy today, so I'm gonna try.

*I'm not going to lie, I totally just spelled that word as "delishish" and couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why spell check didn't like it

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: Mother-Daughter Knits

This review was originally posted at the Juniper Moon Farms blog.  I heart them and thank them for the opportunity to review this book:

I knit.  And I am a daughter. 

My mother, on the other hand, is not a knitter (I once helped you cast on a fun-fur scarf, mom...whatever happened to that?).  But she is one of those fashionable people who has to be careful about where she buys her clothes so she doesn't show up to teach her high school students wearing the same trendy outfit they are. 

I think this qualifies the two of us to review the book "Mother-Daughter Knits: 30 Designs to Flatter and Fit" by Sally Mellville and Caddy Melvile Ledbetter.

In this book, Sally and Caddy take turns designing patterns using similar themes or ideas with their own mother or daughter take on them.  They intersperse the patterns with fun tidbits like this gem from Cally celebrating the rise in knitting-popularity: "But then knitting became the new yoga, the new black, the new pantyhose, the new lip gloss!"  Sally responds, "I'm glad we have knitting as an alternative to pantyhose."  Amen, sister, although people are WAY more likely to stare at me funny when I bring my knitting rather than my lip gloss to the bar.

They claim that the experience of writing the book was a positive one, describing their collaboration as "beautiful."  I am not sure my mom and I have ever done anything involving clothing that didn't involve strong disagreement over what qualifies as "cute" versus "lame."  With this book we:

  • Agreed that there are quite a few great patterns in here.  In fact, my mom immediately requested Mother's Day presents knit from this book. 
  • Agreed, that the Altered Austen Jacket and the Cabled-Edged Vest are the highlights of this book.
  • Patently disagreed on the Camelot Coat, with her on the side of "it's adoooooorable!" and me on the side of "meh, whatever."  But she is usually right about these things and it underscores the fact that this book is written by and for both mothers AND daughters, and we don't necessarily have to like each other's styles.

A couple of notes on the patterns themselves:

  • My biggest fear of starting a big project is that I am going to get to the end and have the ugliest thing that anyone, anywhere, has ever seen.  This book spends a whole chapter on making sure you don't end up in that situation.  It provides a good overview of what makes a sweater flattering (fit, length, etc.), teaches you how to measure your body to make sure you know what your ideal fit is, and then helps you translate those measurements into how to change patterns to fit your body.  I will use this guide for EVERY sweater I make, not just the ones in this book.
  • The basic patterns are cute and SUPER basic, but not exciting enough to buy the book just for them.  That said, the Tabbed Legwarmers might be the sexiest thing I have ever seen.
  • Most patterns in this book are all written to accommodate up to size 2X, but none of the models in the pictures are that size, so it is sometimes difficult to visualize what a pattern would look like on someone other than a skinny-minnie.  My mom added, though, that there are a couple of great patterns in here for petites, like the Altered Austen Jacket and the Scarf-Closing Cardigan.  And really, who doesn't look good in a classic like the "Sophisticated Hoodie"?  It has just enough stitch patterning to break up the usual monotony of endless stockinette.  And it would be very easy to substitute your own stitch pattern, too.
  • The charts are tiny (bring out the bifocals and blow them up on your copy machine), but well done.  Also, there are written-out instructions with the ever-helpful stitch counts given after increase and decrease rows (shout out to the tech editor here.  Thank you!!!)

Not going to lie, there are some things in here that I would feel ridiculous wearing, but honestly, I appreciated the commitment to using different materials (ribbon as handles on a bag, scarfs as sweater closures, lots of cute buttons), design techniques and styles.  It was not a whole book of the same sweater thirty times over.  Verdict: in the age of $5 (or free) patterns on Ravelry, at $22.99, this book is totally worth it.  There are thirty solid, well-written patterns.  And more importantly, directions on how to knit these patterns to flatter the figures of mothers or daughters alike.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Borders Bankruptcy and Me

Dear Borders Booksellers,

I am truly sorry for your recent loss/embarrassment.  No one feels good about a bankruptcy.  Seems like a big punishment for not keeping up with consumer demand for on-line books sales.

However, I have a bone to pick with you.  I came across one of the 200 stores you are closing and noticed that all books are 20% off and all magazines and stationary are 40% off.  You see, this is a problem for me and my budget as I may have wiped out your knitting magazine collection in one fell swoop.

So Borders, please stay in business.  I don't think I could handle another liquidation sale.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's On My Needles

So there hasn't been a lot of knitting discussion on here lately.  Thought I would show you what I've been working on.
Baby Sweater.  Totally knit the button holes in the wrong place.  Ripping it back to fix it.  Knitting this one to show me how sleeves and collars work before making a big sweater, so I really should finish this one.

Another Shroom hat (identical color and style to the one I made myself this winter) that I REALLY need to finish because it is for the lovely Lisa and winter is almost over.

My Fisherman Shrug (have you ever seen a fisherman wear a shrug?!?!) that is never, ever going to be done.  Maybe I will wear it next winter.  I really love the yarn, though.  Tempted to sleep with it as a blankie even if it never makes it into sweater form.

This piece of awesome that is going to one day be a pair of mittens.  I MUST finish these.  I love them already and they are really just a cuff at this point.

This pair of mitts that is also never, ever going to be done.  I hate these.  They are too small for me (not that I was going to wear them) and I don't like the yarn or the color (which is my own fault, since I dyed them that way....).  Not going to happen.  (Note: it isn't the pattern I hate.  I made a pair in fluffy baby alpaca for Devon that, if I ever get the slightest whiff of her not liking them, I would steal back with no qualms).
I am obviously not particularly monogamous with my knitting, am I?  The truth is, these are all projects that set themselves up for a long delay.  They are either bad yarn (sorry lion brand sport weight, but you hurt my hands), boring patterns (yup, fisherman, that would be you), or too complicated to knit on the metro (Fair Isle mittens, sigh...I love you).

Look for a flood of Finished Objects (F.O's) as I have more knitting time this month.  Maybe even this weekend!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Questionable Fashion Choices

Apparently it is in fashion right now to wear knitted things in your hair
Even with this tutorial (and some longer hair, of course) at A Beautiful Mess I think I would look a little crazy
Another questionable knitwear trend: wearing unfinished knits.  Brought to us by Frankie Morello via Crafty Crafty.
I have never seen anyone wearing one of these in person, but I would also count this among questionable knitwear decision-making.  Technically Joy Kampia O'Shell
OK, in no way do I believe this one is a mistake.  I want this dress designed by Jemma Sykes