Sunday, June 28, 2009

Aeolian Knitting Done, Trying New Things

Yes, I did finish the Aeolian shawl. A couple of irritating things happened on the bind off, such as a knot in the yarn, but it's all done. I got some pictures taken by John Francis of the finished blobby mess, and now that they are here, enjoy an unblocked photo:

Now, I will wait until blocking for the Big Reveal of it looking good! The blocking mats still aren't here, so it may be a few days.

In the meantime I have taken a little break and just for fun started a couple of projects. This is just a little scarf in a pattern called Modern Mermaid that I got from Hill Country Weavers. Suzanne the owner of the shop designed it. I knew what yarn I'd use on it the second I saw the pattern (designed for Berroco Seduce). I am making it from my precious skein of Tili Thomas Voile de Mer (silk and seacell). I am adding beads exactly the color of the yarn, and they are sort of tucked in next to yarnovers. I wanted them very subtle, like they just peak out. And that's what they do, so I marked them using my fabulous graphic design skills. You might be able to see them if you enlarge the photo. I was thinking of making this as a special gift. And I'm not sure how soon I will get to finishing it, since I will be back to the Lady Jane vest after my fun experimenting today.

The other new thing I couldn't resist trying is the lace entrelac shawl, Dianna, which I've been raving about for quite a while! I was all confused at first, but now that I have three rows done, I can see where the squares are supposed to go and I think it will zoom along now. I was also confused for a bit and thought maybe the shawl was just modular knitting, but now I am sure it's really entrelac. I can even knit backward on it, though I have to say purling backwards is not my best skill. It's rather heavy on the dark green at first, but the beads look nice. I showed you the yarn in my last post, some Noro Kureyon sock yarn. I think the beads add something to it, since it isn't as dainty in the sock-weight yarn. The thicker yarn is hard on my size 12 crochet hook--it keeps bending. I hope it makes it through the project!

Now that I got my urge to start new things out of the way (I spent three whole weeks totally dedicated to Aeolian!), I will go back to my lovely vest, in anticipation of the other yarn I ordered to make the second Lady Jane.

By the way, I am just putting in Ravelry links here willy nilly, assuming you all can see them. If not, I will always be putting in photos of my finished projects eventually, so you will see!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wonderful Yarn Experience

I'm on a knitting high right now--like my knitting friend John Francis said, it's crack to us. Anyway, the photos below show why.

But first, a nice quote. I was talking to Rose, the mother of our old roommate Jeff, who is in town looking for senior living facilities. She commented on how I am still always busy knitting, and I said it had helped with the stress of recent years. She turned to me and said:

When times are bad, knitting is good!

I like that one! And it's true. Knitting has helped me through so many personal crises, times of worry about friends, and financial down times! It's a fine thing.

Now, on to new yarn!

What you see is no street crack, it's the pure stuff. MMM.

So, it was a slow work day (got busy later, but you knitting readers don't need to read about that). I'd already had a very pleasant time in the coffee shop where I was working, because two lovely young mothers were there knitting together, and they made me feel good--they were exactly the kind of parents my friends and I were--we had the nicest conversations about the habits of three-year-olds and how to work knitting into your life at that busy time (it was agreed that dish cloths are great).

To continue the fun, Deana needed to return some yarn, so she and I headed out to Hill Country Weavers yesterday in the late morning. I was looking for something to make Dianna out of that would go with the bluish green beads I recently bought. I did find something, but also found some really great new stuff. Suzanne, the owner, said I'd managed to find every single new favorite thing she'd brought in from the TNNA conference!

The yarn above is what got me most excited. This is shetland wool, naturally colored, and is from a flock in California. It's called Natural Shetland Rustic Lace, from Elemental Affects. It feels perfect, just like the yarn from Scotland. When the HCW owner saw that I'd picked it up, she asked if I'd seen the shawl...and there it was, the exact Shetland shawl I'd want to make from the yarn! Very rustic, light and beautiful. She said Judith Mackenzie, who produced the yarn, knitted it and had promised to send the pattern. She encouraged me to write her and see if I can get a copy. I think it might be an Heirloom Knitting pattern, anyway--it's very traditional looking. I just can't wait to figure out some wonderful use for this really great yarn. Pant, pant. It makes me weak to look at it!

Right across from this yarn (which also comes in some very nice colors) was three different weights of some yarn from Sweden. We spent quite some time fondling it, while the owner told me more about the yarn and designer who has made patterns from it. Can I remember its name? Or her name? No. I really should have gotten some of it. I will probably continue to think that until I can drag myself back down to south Austin and get some. We spent quite some time admiring its amazing qualities. The colorways are unique and have fun names, but especially the laceweight is just different. That's all. Nothing else like it. The laceweight is subtly semi-solid thanks to the base having more than one color of wool in it. This would make an amazing shawl. Guess I need to go back.

I did buy this stuff. I walked back to the sock section, and enjoyed the sight of dozens and dozens of skeins in so many different fibers (they have lots of "Panda" types, but I got plenty of that last time I was there). Suddenly I realized there was something gleaming. It was LOTS of Dream in Color Starry yarn. I was surprised--that stuff sells out practically instantly in the online sock yarn stores. I snatched up this wonderful very dark blue skein, in case a mob of buyers was coming or something. Sure enough, that supply had JUST come in. I'm hardly ever lucky enough to find anything with all the colors available--even at my LYS, the folks who go every day always beat me (ahem, right now I am there almost every day, thanks to the new job).

The Starry yarn has real silver in it. I have another skein from a different manufacturer with this same base, but I love the slight variations in color that Dream in Color dyes into their yarns. This is one special skein. I don't think I could bear to make socks from this. Maybe when I go back I'll get another skein so I'll have enough for a shawl. I'd love to use the dark blue beads I got for Dawn's Aeolian along with this. Drool.
OK, now we can settle down a bit. This is simply a nice colorway of Noro Kureyon Sock yarn. While I have some Silk Garden sock I'd thought I'd use to make Dianna (that's the entrelac lace shawl I found recently), I really wanted to use these green beads I got last time I went to Sea of Beads to add to that shawl, so this colorway is more appropriate. There is a week bit of pale pink hiding in there, so I think this will end up very pretty. So much to knit! I hope I get to half the stuff that's bubbling in my mind!

I'm sure one or two of you are wondering if I finished the Aeolian shawl. Well, I did get one row done yesterday, the last pattern row. There was a lot going on, so not much knitting time (I did get quite a few rows done on my poor neglected Hopscotch socks, though). I think I'll be done today, though I discovered I'd had a little pattern reading glitch on a few repeats, which I think I can easily fix but irritated me. I hate it when I SEE the instructions clearly, yet just throw in the yarn-overs from earlier rows ayway! Also, thanks to those episodes of un-knitting a few repeats and making knots with the former nupps, I will have to go into a fourth skein of yarn before I'm done! Thank goodness John Francis donated his former Aeolian yarn to me! Now let's just hope those blocking squares arrive soon!

OK, I am now off to get my morning chores and errands done so I can knit away the afternoon!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inching Toward the End...and My Scary Hair

Today I am sharing a photo of me and my son, Tuba Boy. He is 18 now and getting ready to go to college. The reason I am sharing this is mostly to show you what color my hair is right now. It's been various shades of red for many years, and I decided to go back to my natural color, in preparation for eventually (shocking) letting it grow out with the gray in it (I don't have too much for someone my age). My natural color is pretty close to Tuba Boy's. Maybe a wee bit lighter. That is what I was aiming for. Can you see that it matches my black shirt? Eek. I think the hair dresser overshot the mark a bit. Everyone is telling me that it will fade a bit after a few washes, so I am being patient (not trying California Susan's "strip it fast with Prell" method because I don't want to put my hair in worse shape--it's nice snd soft right now--hi California Susan) and wearing a lot of black and heavy eye shadow, saying I am in my "goth" period. I sure don't look like my profile picture any more! And it's less than a year old!

It is taking me some time to get used to my pale skin and dark hair, and I know I will look better in different colors again. That is nothing but an invitation to knit more things in different colors, though!

There's no real good reason to post a photo of Aeolian, since it looks sort of like dyed coral in a sleazy seashell store for tourists right now.

Let's just say that I am pleased with my progress and have only 8 more rows to go! Of course, each of these rows is slowly growing toward 700 stitches, so they are taking a while. The current row is the hardest one for me, so far, since it has both big and small beads and they aren't in an easy to memorize pattern, like most of the other rows were. But, I will persevere. I was sorry to learn that another knitting buddy gave up on her Aeolian. Members of this KAL are dropping like flies--but I can see why.

Trine had a good thought in a recent comment as to why some lace is hard for some people. I thought about it some more and realized that I knit in a very 3-D way. I picture what I am making, and need to know what I just knit and what I am about to knit, to keep track of where I am. I see the patterns and sub-patterns in even complex charts, which means I get lost less often. People who knit by just repeating written instructions as to which stitch to knit in what order (which works just fine on many patterns) will have trouble with complex knitting because they aren't keeping track of whether their current stitch is lining up in the right spot compared to the previous row.

Another hindrance I have noticed is the inability to read charts or see what the charts are trying to tell you. More than one knitting friend has missed the "repeat" marker in Aeolian charts and did the extra stitches that are only for the end of the chart within their repeats. One poor lady on Ravelry repeated the center chart twice (but it came out rather attractive, so no big loss). Charts can be really hard. I always do the foundation row of any chart very slowly to ensure that it's accurate. I make sure that each repeat starts and ends at the same spot with respect to the previous row (and thus, it helps me find any errors in the previous section!). A lot of people I know use colors and write numbers in their charts. It helps them see what to do. If you have trouble, try color coding your SSKs, k2togs and YOs. The colors distract me, but we are all different!

Didn't mean to get so didactic here...

I ordered some blocking squares from KnitPicks, in hopes they will be large enough to at least mostly cover the finished shawl. I had to order from them, anyway, because the colorway my friend wants her Lady Jane vest to be in arrived, so I could order that. I also ordered new size 0 wooden needles to replace the one that broke (got two lentths in case I wanted to make something large and to see if maybe I'd like two socks at a time better with longer cables) and another couple circulars in sizes I use a lot. I got another pair of wooden size 4 tips, because I seem to use that size so often. I am looking forward to that order arriving!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our Youngest Student Yet...and Aeolian Progress

There's been a lot of knitting going on this week, since it was a slow work week and both my husband and older son have been out of town. Not many distractions! And when you are working on a honking big project like an extra-large Aeolian, some long stretches of knitting time are very welcome--rows are getting to take an hour or so. The good news is that I am ready to start the edging! So, I only have about 20 rows to go--they are just LONG rows. Knock on wood, there haven't been any other major errors in the last few days, so I am trucking on and on.

We've been having some good times at Ye Olde Yarn Shoppe. They had a knitting camp last week with the most charming group of 7-8 year olds you could imagine. They all knit remarkably well for their ages, and listening to their conversations was a real treat. All Montessori students, you can see the benefits of their education in their comparatively mature interactions and self-direction.

But, these girls seem old in comparison to the little knitter pictured above! It's our yarn shop mascot, baby Abigail (or Babby Abby as I call her). She was getting a little bored, so Katie and I decided perhaps she needed yarn in her hands, like the rest of us.

The cute thing is that she really seemed to be enjoying herself! She is working on an authentic sleeping cap for her Daddy, who is a historical re-enactment buff. It's in a natural color and is Franklin Habit's 1840 Nightcap from the fall 2008 Knitty.

I couldn't resist putting in all the pictures (which would be better if they weren't phone pictures, but hey, spontaneity sometimes results in phone photos). Here she really looks like she is knitting, or she looks like she does NOT want to let go of her new friend the yarn. It's more likely the latter, but it cracked us all up (look at her Mommy's smile at the top of the photo).

We have so much fun watching Abby. She is 3 months old now, so we get to hear her coo, and we can make her smile in her bouncy seat. And she doesn't get into anything or pepper us with questions that are too advanced for us to answer (though that is sort of one of little Miss T's cuter aspects). We have the luck to have a number of precious little ones to enjoy right now. I wonder what it will be like when all of them are 18 months to 2? Whew. I'd better start resting up for that right now.

I'd better get moving on that last section of the shawl (which is very big now, just not photogenic). My purple Lady Jane vest is begging me to return to her! I will be able to order the yarn for the version for my friend in the next couple of days--yay.

And happy Summer Solstice to all!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Keeping My Fingers Crossed

I am still plugging along on the Aeolian shawl. No more huge mistakes (or even small ones) in the past couple of days. In the meantime, more than one of the KAL members has thrown in the towel on this project. It does require some counting, but I think that if I had done it in a quiet place I'd never have made my first mistake, and if I'd tried the nupps out on a swatch, I'd have realized they didn't look like what I wanted, and I wouldn't have had the horrible issue from the weekend.

I think perhaps the KAL should have been targeted toward more "advanced" lace knitters and that would have saved some tears. Of course, at least one person gave up just because laceweight yarn didn't work well for his hands. And I can understand that! I prefer fingering weight, myself, but this alpaca is not too bad for me.

Of course, the border is coming up. And that is one fancy looking border! I just have four more rows until the border starts. I am not sure if I'll be able to work on that at the yarn shop this afternoon, so I will take my other knitting, just in case. I look forward to seeing how the larger beads replacing the nupps in the border look. I am liking the ones in the agave section of the shawl, so I have high hopes.

I've been working on Lady Jane the vest whenever I have to go out and knit, like to Beccano's guitar lessons, so it is growing slowly but surely. I look forward to finishing that--nice big yarn, LOL!

I am going to ponder what makes some lace patterns harder than others for a while. Anyone have ideas?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No Knitter Avoids BIG Mistakes

Well, well well. Even when you know you are a pretty good knitter, you can over-estimate your abilities. That happened to me yesterday!

I spent a long time at the yarn shop, because my husband was at a meeting and one kid was out of town (the other was happy at home playing guitar). I got a LOT done on Aeolian. I finished the yucca pattern, having completed 14 repeats rather than 12, thanks to my inability to correctly figure out where I was when I'd had to frog a bit earlier in the week. I merrily forged ahead into the transition section and loved how it looked.

I felt so smug.

Then I got to the first nupp row (and by the way, no matter how you pronounce that word, someone will correct how you say it, which is getting really tedious: yes, I know Standard English would require a short "u" sound, and I also know that Estonian pronunciation requires a long "u" but you have to say it SOME way). That row was the last row I did at the shop, and I knew I was a bit tired, but I wrapped as loosely and consistently as I could and hoped for the best.

Then I came home and looked at the shawl. There were a lot of nice looking nupps. There were also some really messy looking nupps. And there were two where I had "missed" a wrap and little loops were waving merrily at me. I thought, well, I'll have to fix those and live with the others. Then I looked from a distance and a thought came to me. You know, I don't LIKE the way nupps combined with beads looks! In my opinion (and this is just me, OK?) I think the beads detract from the subtle texturizing of the nupps.

I thought, well, it's my shawl. I should make it look good to me, not someone else. I rummaged through my bead collection, and guess what I found? That would be a vial of size 6 beads that were the same color as my size 8s, only shiny and not matte. I know it is very common to replace nupps with beads, as an alternative way of emphasizing spots in a shawl. How fun would it be to use these similar, just slightly more noticeable, beads for the nupps! OK! Yes! Let's do that, I thought.

Uh, well, that would mean something had to be done with the nupps that were glaring at me from my knitted fabric. I reminded myself how well it had gone when I frogged an entire repeat plus earlier in the week. Shoot, I am a very good lace un-knitter! I can do this (I thought)!

Oooh, was I wrong. Those nupps did not want to come out. They were knotty and rough. When I pulled them out, they disturbed a couple of rows down. In to places they were hopelessly knotted. At least this all happened at the end of a skein, so when I did re-start, I had the same number of yarn joins. I got pretty upset. So, my dear husband took me out for sushi, which was delicious.

When we came back I just took a deep breath and erased some more. I got to one of the simpler rows, and eventually got those 600+ stitches back on the needles, sort of. One thing I actually am good at is recovering stitches on the needles, so I got it looking pretty good. Or so I thought. This morning I found two missed stitches, which I had to surgerize with a crochet hook. Honestly, if you could have seen the mess I had when I started, you'd think two missed stitches wasn't a bad outcome at all.

I guess in hindsight I should have made the "no nupp" decision before putting some in. I certainly hope that there are NO more frogging episodes in this project.

Anyway, in the photo you can see one of the shiny beads near the top, to the right of the t-pin I used to try to keep the shawl straight enough to photograph. The other shiny ones were hiding. When I stretch the lace out, the beads replacing the nupps look pretty nice! I think it will be OK. If not, well, it was a learning experience.

PS: My husband had to leave suddenly this morning to take his dad to the hospital. The stubborn old goat would not leave the farm until forced, and was all dehydrated and weakened from a flu episode. Lee had talked to him Thursday and he didn't even admit he was sick. Grr. Please think of Lee's dad!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bummer, Re-do

I messed up at the end of the row and didn't notice it for a whole repeat of the yucca pattern in the Aeolian, so I have to rip out and re-do. That's what I get for knitting lace with kids running wild at the yarn shop. I just hope I can do this without ruining anything. And I don't lose beads. Sigh.

On the other hand, I am glad I made it to the shop for a few minutes, since I got to have nice conversations and see friends I hadn't seen in a long time. But, wah, one of them left her knitting and cell phone at the shop. That did give Pilar, John Francis and me a chance to hang out at Starbucks in hopes they came back, but in the end, they had to come to my house to retrieve the two valuable items.

[a few hours later]

I am very, very proud of myself. I un-did all 8 rows of "bad" knitting and got the yarn back on the needles successfully. Whew. The key for me is to go down to the purl row before where you want to be, because those are easier to un-knit.

Work ended early, so I took myself back to the shop and re-did the messed up parts. Though I did get distracted again by tantrums, I fixed that mistake without having to re-knit, and am now back on track. Whew.

The Aeolian is a lovely shawl and I am growing more and more fond of my slightly subdued bead choice. Whew. I am glad to have Lady Jane as relief knitting, though!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Aeolian and Such

Why, yes, I am here, and yes, I am knitting. I had a lot going on in my non-knitting life (which the five posts to my non-knitting blog will attest to--happy to send you the link if you give me an email address). My oldest boy graduated from high school, I had a lot of work to do (yay), and I was deeply involved in cleaning things (boring but good).

I did plod along on my Lady Jane vest, enough to where I can share a photo of its progress (the top in the photo is the bottom of the vest). The lace border along the bottom is very pretty, but lumpy, so it will need to be blocked well to look its best. I am loving the yarn. It has very subtle, but interesting variations in the color that give a lot of depth and texture. There are so many fibers in Mermaid that it's easy to take advantage of the fact that they take dye differently! I am assuming the darkest is the silk! Now I am up to the part where I have an easy pattern to knit away on until it is 14.5" long, so it is good car and activity knitting. When I get to the cable, I'll have to do that at home!

Of course, I have the second Hopscotch sock in reserve, ready to be my main portable project at a moment's notice. I got a little done on it, but am in no hurry. Still love the pattern.

Here's what's been keeping me going since Saturday. As I mentioned before, I think, the LYS started its knit-along of the Aeolian pattern from Knitty. I thought I'd do it with them to support the shop, and so I could answer questions when the person who's actually leading it is not there (I already have discovered that if she is there, even if someone directly asks me a question, she will answer--guess her name's Suna, too--I'm sure she is just anxious to get everyone going well). So, a couple of folks and I just spent the day trying to get it going, while the folks that needed hands-on help got that.

The most fun part of the day, though, was that the daughter of the owner of Sea of Beads came to the shop and brought a huge selection of beads to use in the shawl. It was really fun to see which beads people chose for their projects. I had a bit of a hard time choosing mine. As you can see in the photo (easier if you click), I got matte ones with a bit of iridescence in a color just barely darker than the yarn. I decided to not get the really shiny ones because I was afraid they'd be distracting from the pattern. There was also a completely matte possibility almost the exact shade of pale purple as the yarn, but that might have been too unobtrusive. I've been placing beads like mad ever since. I am glad I had a size 12 crochet hook, which works fine with size 8 beads.

I now have 7 finished of 12 required repeats of the "yucca" lace pattern that forms the base of the shawl. (There are four repeats finished in the photo.) I am using a size 4US needle and it's a bit loose looking but fine for lace. One or two people who knit tightly also used size 4, and theirs is a bit solid looking. Swatching is my friend.

Well, I have to get started with work, so I'll leave you until later in the week. Sorry for the lack of posting, but there was not much to show you!