Monday, March 29, 2010

A Review of Folk Shawls

I did get a lot of knitting done over the weekend, but didn't manage to finish the Litla Dimun shawl. Since it was cast on at its longest point and is getting shorter and shorter as I go on, it feels like I was moving really fast! It was especially nice when I hit the two rows that decreased 16 stitches each, rather than just 4. I get the impression I'll actually finish that project in my lifetime!

Since I didn't finish the shawl over the weekend and since the bookstore didn't have Wendy Johnson's new book, like I'd hoped, I thought I could at least talk about the book I got the pattern from. I have had the Folk Shawls book, by Cheryl Oberle, quite a long time (it was published in 2000), but hadn't made anything from it until this project. That doesn't mean the book hasn't been used. I have read through it many times, dreaming about making one or more of the patterns, or thinking of ways to use ideas from them. The patterns are so clearly written that you can easily envision yourself working on them.

One reason I read it so many times is that there are examples of shawls from such a variety of traditions. Not only are there the expected British Isles, Ireland, Scandinavia, etc., represented, but there are Japanese, Spanish and even the Americas. I like some better than others, but the explanations of the traditions and techniques involved are all fascinating. The book makes a great introduction to techniques from around the world, and give you an idea of what you might like a lot, so you can head out and find more patterns in your favorite tradition.

That is one reason I chose a pattern from the Faroe Islands (which happens to be the first tradition focused on in Folk Shawls). I had read the patterns here and went out and made some Faroe style shawls in the past. I kept coming back to the Litla Dimun and Stora Dimun patterns, because they seemed more authentic (others I made are the modern versions that start on the small end and build, while these patterns are bottom up and have shoulder shaping).

If you don't have this book already, it's one I'd recommend adding to your library while it's still in print. Some of the shawls are huge masterpieces, but there are also some (which I give Ravelry links to so you can check them out), such as the Simple Garter Stitch Prairie Shawl and the Wool Peddler's Shawl (which many people I know have made), that are good introductions to knitting shawls or knitting lace. 

By the way, the mittens blocked nicely and came out very soft. I look forward to wearing them.

I didn't get to go knit with friends this evening, due to my son having a band event (sometimes you have to do the ole family stuff), but I got my knitting need met by looking through this treasured book once again!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wet Suna Mitts

Well, hooray. I did finally finish the ethnic mittens. I don't know why it seems like it took so long--I only took three weeks, in the end. I think the fact that the two-handed knitting goes more slowly than regular knitting in the round just got to me. I always had to drop the yarn to wrap whenever there was a 5-stitch gap, and then make sure I didn't get the yarn twisted, so it seemed to go slowly. But, here they are. They are wet, because the instructions said to block them, which should explain the intense color.
 Actually. Charlene Schurch says to block them inside out. I think that is to be sure the floats are well stretched out. So, here is what they actually look like right now:

They really don't look too bad on the inside. I find the ribbing is especially nice to look at inside out. I will give you a picture of the actual dried mittens on a hand once they are ready, but I had wanted to share their completed glory.

To summarize, these are sock pattern 21 from this book:

The yarn is Ella Rae laceweight, which I got at Yarnorama. They have (or had last time I was there) a really nice assortment of this yarn. I made the large size, since the yarn is so fine. I am glad, because you get more pattern in the large size!

I do think that I would have had a more successful finished product if I had chosen more contrast. I really need to pay attention to that--perhaps I need to go buy one of those red lenses to look at yarn through, to make sure I have enough contrast. I had the same problem when I used to make quilts, too. I guess we all have our areas for growth, don't we?

I think when I finish the current socks, I may make a pair of socks using one of these patterns--since they are 64 and 72 stitches around, the mittens should easily translate into socks, don't you think? That's another reason to buy the book, even if you don't like mittens--the patterns are really striking and fun. Of course, I can always try more mittens. I guess, even in Texas, I could use a couple of pairs of mittens!

I am looking forward to working on my shawl and other socks for a bit, but still have the Anna Zilboorg book, with all the top-down mittens (and socks). But, hey, isn't it true that there are so, so many more patterns out there that we'd like to make than there is time to knit. Even during 5 weeks of no work, I didn't get very much knitting done--life does get in the way.

Happy knitting, every one.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fond Farewell, and Welcome!

Yesterday I had the bittersweet experience of attending a very nice farewell gathering for our friend Jen, who is moving to Michigan, as I have mentioned earlier. It was nice to see so many of her knitting friends at the very accommodating La Madeleine restaurant (the one near the outlet mall, locals--go there, they are nice!).

Everyone had fun catching up on projects and purchases, plus the restaurant was nice enough to let us serve a cake from outside the premises, so we got to have a farewell treat.
Dawn supervises the cake cutting. Jennifer did a good job.
Poor Jennifer hurt her knee in an accident too embarrassing to chronicle here, which will make moving a bit of a challenge. We can only hope that the fun collection of farewell presents and cards will make things a little easier for her.
Gifties, plus roses, a shawl in progress, and a foot.
So, perhaps not my best photographic effort. I'd put up more pictures, but Blogger's image uploader is not working right for me (they are working on it), so this will have to give you an idea.

It is so good that we have blogs, Facebook, email, etc., to keep in touch when people move away. It makes it feel less final. We can still share stories, finished object photos and questions about yarns. For all the ups and downs, it is great to have knitting friends, both near and far!

A lady in the restaurant came up and asked if people were knitting at the restaurant every week, and the attendees said yes, and invited her back. Isn't that the best, that there are always new people to see and get to know? I've learned something from everyone I have encountered in the knitting adventure world, that's for sure. So, welcome to the new lady--I hope she is there some week when I can come (sadly, it's too far for me to make it every week, due to having to rush off to choir practice many miles away). [I resisted an urge to make a joke for Pilar, so Pilar, imagine a joke here.]

I'd also like to welcome the 50th person to "follow" the blog on Blogger. I think it's a nice gesture of support to "follow" a blog you read, even if you don't read it on the Blogger interface. It lets the author know you're there (sometimes you fell all alone in the "blogosphere"). So hi there to JM, the newest follower! I admit that I read a lot of blogs, but I know there are so many others out there. Thanks to all of you who read and all of you who write--it's a good thing about the world that we can share our thoughts with others and get insight from what's going on with people we may never meet in person.

Well, my work starts back up tomorrow, so I had better finish that mitten. I just have to finish the top and do the thumb. Maybe tonight is its final night on the needles.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yes! Suna Mitts!

No, I didn't finish them, but I just thought the post title was funny. I did get a lot of mitten done yesterday. If I wasn't so fond of throwing balls to cute dogs I'd have gotten more done yesterday over at Dawn's, but I enjoy her cute doggies. It's always good to relax with friends and knit, and it's always fun to watch the spinners spinning. I am grateful for the space and time to knit.

But, anyway, to prove I am working along, here's the second mitten's progress:
Progress on Second Ethnic Mitten
I'm to the point where I really am ready to do something else, so I'm going to hunker down and try to get this project done in the next couple of days. I am sure you'd like to read about another project!

Tomorrow is the farewell gathering for our long-time knitting friend Jen. I will miss having her around, but am glad she has her blog, so I can keep up with her! I have what I hope is a good farewell gift for her. I wish I was as great at making cards as she is, but I can at least write something nice, right?

I'm looking forward to doing some knitting fun over the weekend--I'll finally hand over the Linus Blankie and maybe help some of the other ladies get started on knitting their own projects. I'd like to show them the pattern for the Nana's afghan that I fixed up for someone in 2008. It's easy and can be either solids or stripes. They seem sort of excited about it. I'd actually hoped to go on a retreat this weekend, but it got canceled. At least I have good backup plans!It's always good to have a Plan B. I am learning that a lot, lately.

Monday, March 22, 2010

An Old Project Revealed

Finally, the Spring/Summer 2010 Knitty is out, so I can talk more about the socks I made last September. I talk about my friend Jodie, who designs lots of patterns and knitted a giant shawl last week, often, and I showed you some close-ups of this pattern when I was working on it, but because we had to wait until it was published, I could not show you my versions of the Twisted socks Jodie designed. Here are some pictures of the pair I test knitted:
My GOOD Twisted Sock.

As you may recall, I used the Knitivity sock yarn in the Koi colorway that I asked Ray to design for me.
The sock I messed up on, but from its good side

I love these socks, even though I messed up reading the instructions on the first pair. I kept that sock, because, hey, it shows that I helped with my suggestions to Jodie and the instructions are way better now (actually, she did a LOT of changing after I knitted my trial pair. Any good author revises a lot!

The colors are great, and the slipped stitches really work well on a brightly colored yarn like this. The pattern construction is a LOT of fun, so I highly recommend you sock knitters give this one a try. It's worth the effort to get the feed perfect!

Congratulations to Jodie for being persistent and continuing to submit patterns until she got one in! And many hopes for more publications. Don't you agree that supporting our friends is important? If you have a friend who has done something newsworthy, tell someone. It feels good.

I have to go concentrate on the other kinds of work I do for a bit, but I'll be back later! I got up past putting the thumb stitches on a holder on the second mitten yesterday, so who knows, I might actually get to finish my shawl soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Grannies and a Fresh Look

I know a lot of people read my blog posts on Facebook, so they don't see the actual blog. But I look at it fairly often. I'd realized that my personal blog's template had not changed since 2005, so I looked around the new Blogger template customization tool and found something very cheery for it. That made me feel like this blog had grown stale. I like the logo my husband made for me (those are my knitting hands!), but I wanted to make it less wide and have a bit of my personality in it.

So, I found a picture with pansies in it, which made me happy, because they are my favorite flower and I collect things with pansies on them--that was just ME (admittedly, I wish I could use one of my own pansy photos for the background, but I'll live). I messed around with templates until I found something with my colors that was actually legible (a couple possibilities got the Lee vote of disapproval for readability). I also added a feature, which is a list of my favorite blogs. It shows the ten most recently updated faves, though I may cut it down to 5 if I decide that makes the sidebar too long.

Enough with Blogger Talk...

I did want to share with you a photo of the granny squares I am working on now, since I realize I only showed you the 43-year-old afghan yesterday. Anyway, here are some of the ones I am doing in my spare time, in the colors of the mitered square afghan. I will edge each in some as-yet-undetermined solid color before putting them together.

Yesterday I enjoyed a break from knitting by reading the spring 2010 Internet Crochet. There were a couple of cardigans I'd actually consider knitting, but this one project, Forest Petals Shawl, really impressed me. I don't know if I would wear it, but I sure think it looks cool!
The photos in the magazine really show you how the Lorna's Laces yarn enhances the holey pattern, or click the link to see more. I like this magazine a lot--there were also a couple of nice afghan patterns that look fun. I don't feel like I'm being unfaithful to my knitting because I also like crochet (see Jen's post on that topic--look at all those grannies!). I know where my big loyalty lies. Speaking of which, it's back to the mittens!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hidden Project

Just a quick note: I was working on mitten #2 (the cuff is done!), I realized that I hadn't put one of my projects on Ravelry, and barely talked about it here.

Why should I be ashamed that I am working on a granny square afghan? It's a charity project, after all, and it's using up the leftovers from the mitered square afghan. Some needy child will love its cheerful colors! I work on it when I don't have anything mindless and portable to take with me, so mainly it's been worked on in choir. I am just making squares until I run out of each color. Who knows how many little afghans I will actually end up with!

Sure, lots of people make fun of the humble granny square. After all, it's the first thing many people learn to crochet. Wait, first thing, did you say? Take a gander at this! Yes, it's true. I still own the first thing I ever crocheted (it's wool, which may explain why it hasn't disintegrated much). I was just a little kid, and my grandmother taught me how to make it. (This is one of two, count 'em, two really nice things I remember her doing for me--she was an interesting woman, but when she didn't like you, you could tell.)

My first completed project, circa 1965.

I talk about this project often when I get the chance to teach someone to knit or crochet. You can literally see my progress in the squares. The first few are rather large and floppy, but they get smaller and more even as I get the hang of what I am doing. Only a 9-year-old would have the confidence to go ahead and sew them all together, even though the squares aren't the same size! But Child Suna was right--there's no need to be ashamed of your "learning projects." It's good to save evidence of where you were, so you can be gauge where you ARE later. I am really glad I saved this.
Notice that the center square is much larger than the ones to its left and right!
I wish I'd saved my first piece of knitting. My mom had taught me the year before I learned to crochet. I made a sky blue blanket for a fashion doll. I distinctly remember that it had a hole in it, and that it got either bigger or smaller. But, the doll didn't care. For a few years, all I knew how to do was knit garter stitch, but I got one of those green "learn to knit" books and figured out purling, decreasing, etc., and was off and running in my teens.

But back to my crochet project. Really, what's wrong with some "comfort crochet" every so often? My friend Jen has been going crazy with granny squares lately, and it's been fun to see her joy in the combinations of colors she gets, and how quickly the projects work up. I remember that feeling so well from when I was young, making dozens of tote bags, pillows and blankets for everyone I knew.

I have to say that I, too, am looking forward to completing all the squares and seeing how I can arrange them in interesting ways. If I end up with enough for multiple child-sized blankets, I can even edge them in different colors and get a really different feel! So, whee! It will take a while, but eventually, I'll have something fun to play with, with no shame at all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One Very Nice Mitten

First, thank you for all the nice comments on Jodie's immense shawl! MMario is indeed, as John-Francis pointed out, a dude who knits, and we should support them whenever possible. And I do, believe me--I read plenty o' men's blogs from the "famous" ones like Brooklyn Tweed and Franklin Habit (who I even met once) to people I consider personal friends like Colin Andersson and Ray Whiting. I guess I should write a post about my favorite knitting dudes and their products and projects some time!

But wait, I was gonna blog about this:

The first of my Orange Ethnic Mittens is done. It took longer than I expected, because I keep doing other things, like tarot bags and cooking for the family (I am sure you will be jealous of the delicious organic liver and onions, baked sweet potatoes and steamed cauliflower we had last night--weird combo but good). But I digress, again...

The pattern is lots of fun to make, and I have a feeling these mittens will be like Cookie A socks for me--once you make one, you want to make the rest of the patterns in the book! I keep thinking of different color combinations and trying to decide which of the patterns I like the best. Then I thought of making matching socks. I should have enough yarn left over to make socks. But, before that, perhaps I should finish the other mitten, huh? Stop with the incessant blogging and go knit!

But wait, I did want to give a hint for anyone who wants to knit patterns from Mostly Mittens, by Charlene Schurch. On her charts, decreases are shown by the pattern rows getting smaller. I had a bit of trouble remembering where to decrease, so I drew symbols for SSK and K2tog on the edge stitches, where the decreases go, to remind me what to do. The other hint I have is to not forget to go back to the general guidelines for each section of the mitten when you start doing something different--there are useful guidelines in there! But don't worry, other than mis-counting every so often, I didn't find this pattern difficult at all. I encourage you to give these a try--they make great gifts if you live in Texas (I plan to wear mine at high school football games--I have needed some for the last 5 years--my gloves get chilly).

If you are so inclined, please think of me today, as I have a first interview for a REAL job, and those are very, very rare for technical writers/instructional designers in Austin. Having work to do will cut me back to my more normal blogging schedule again, but I promise to not do a big drought like I went through early in the year.

PS: I added the tarot bag to Ravelry, so if you make one, please link to this!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Could You Knit 2.7 Miles of Laceweight?

Since I am waiting until my mitten is finished to share a photo of it (it's almost done!), I've decided to highlight someone else's masterpiece today.

My good friend Jodie in Ohio, for whom I have done some test knitting (you will spot her socks in the Knitty issue that comes out any day now), just finished some test knitting of her own, and whoa, that's some test knitting--2.7 miles of yarn (she counted: 4725 yards, 2.7 miles, and 4.3 km). Here's Arctic Tundra (blocking)!

Here are some words straight from her:

"Feel free to share on your blog. The designer is MMario on Ravelry. Amazingly talented designer and it was an absolute pleasure doing this test knit for him. The design is called Arctic Tundra and can be found at his yahoo groups "patterns in progress" page. I first heard about Mmario through your friend John-Francis."

Pretty amazing when your friends from different parts of your life interact after having encountered each other on the blog. Thanks to John-Francis for making this connection! It's for reasons like this that I continue to write about my experiences and the people I encounter. You never know when a creative or personal connection will be made.

Back to Arctic Tundra (shown above before blocking), I am boggled (or I boggle, not sure how to use that word other than as the name of a game) at how much knitting this project involved. Jodie is incredibly prolific, true, but this amazed me. She said it took her four months to do, but I happen to know she worked on a couple of other projects at the same time, because her designer brain never stops churning away. Of course, the project had some challenges, especially when it came to blocking. More from Jodie:

It annoys me that I couldn't get the angle of the star equal in the center when I was blocking--but it was just too big. I didn't have an extra inch of floor--and that was after I overran the blocking mats and started slipping blocking pins between the boards of my oak floor. An incredibly memorable project.

 After seeing the pre-blocking and the blocking photos, I was interested in finding out what she was going to use this project for. Certainly you'd need to be a "person of height" to wear it as a shawl! But, she has a perfect use, the grand piano cozy! How elegant and Victorian!

I find it interesting how MMario named the patterns. Each has to do with something you would find in the tundra. The photo below shows the patterns Polestar and Snow,Nelson Island, Musk Ox, Lemmings on the Tundra, and Bear Claw Edge, for example.

I hope this inspires some of you to tackle this project when it's officially published, and if not, to dream big with your knitting! You never know what you can do until you try!

As for me, I think I'll finish up that first mitten today, if the mundane world of job searching, grocery shopping and rain watching doesn't take up too much time! I got a lot done last night at a knitting and spinning pajama party, so I'll have one potentially warm hand soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Silken Tarot Bag

Today I finished Lee's tarot bag. I'd have been finished yesterday, but I decided to add a ruffly edge, so that was done today. Want to make one? Here's how!

Yarn: fine silk yarn, your choice. This is Tillie Thomas Voile de la Mer.
Needles: The smallest you have--you want a sturdy fabric. I used 000s. Yep, I did. You can use double pointeds or circulars, whichever you prefer.

First, measure your bag and do a gauge swatch so you can figure out how many stitches it will take to make the bag fit snugly (optional if you do not care for a snug fit.

Knit a rectangle in stockinette (K 1 row, P 1 row) the size of the bottom of the box your cards came in, or the deck itself. For mine, I knit a rectangle 28 stitches wide by 12 rows of stockinette.

Next, pick up and knit around the edges. I picked up 12 stitches along each narrow end, and 27 stitches along the cast-on edge, for 79 stitches. You will see why I wanted an odd number in a bit.

Knit two rounds. Then start a linen stitch section: *K1, sl 1 with yarn in front*

Because you have an odd number of stitches, the linen stitch pattern will naturally form (on alternate rows, the slipped stitch moves one stitch over, so it makes a pattern that appears woven:
I hope you can see it from the picture. For this bag, I did 12 rows of linen stitch, then 14 rows of plain knitting in the round. and repeated that three times, ending with another linen stitch section. That ended up being just a little longer than my cards, which is what I wanted. Yours might take more or less, or you might do more or less of each stitch pattern. It's up to you! I chose linen stitch because it is so sturdy and counter-acted the delicacy of the silk yarn.

When you think it's long enough, start the ribbing, which is K2, P2. I did about 1.5 inches of this.
Next do an eyelet round: *YO, K2tog, P2*
You will thread a crocheted chain, i-cord or ribbon length through these later.

Do another 1.5 inches or so of ribbing, to match the first part. You can bind off here OR add a ruffle by increasing one in every stitch around, and doing another inch or so of K4,P4 ribbing, then bind off. I liked the way it made the top of the bag blossom. I have also heard that it looks a big like a hot water bottle cover. You can decide for yourself!

Crochet a chain (I used a US size 8 crochet hook too old to have metric measurements on it) long enough to make a nice tie, or do 3-stitch i-cord for a similar length. I think I am actually going to go buy some velvet ribbon to use on this bag instead of the chain.

This was a fun project, and is a perfect little bag for your tarot cards. Or if you are geeky in another way, it would also hold a collection of multi-faceted dice. Or crystals, or beads, or whatever.

For a discussion on the best material to make tarot card bags out of, see the comments on the previous blog entry. Thanks to all who have made that discussion interesting! As you will see, there are lots of viewpoints on the topic! (I tend to put the ones I read with in cotton or silk bags, though some I don't use are wrapped in more sparkly stuff. I think I will also make some bags using 100% wool sock yarn, though.)

For now, back to the mittens.

PS: I added this to Ravelry, so you can list it among your projects if you wish!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Silky Smooth

I thought I'd take a little break from moderating comments to show you a little project I started yesterday. I'd hoped to get it done quickly as a birthday gift for my husband, but it didn't work out that way. Still, I think he will like it!

I am making a little bag to store tarot cards in. The yarn is Tillie Thomas Voile de la Mer, which I had started a scarf with, but got bored with the pattern. Lee had asked for a silk bag, and this is as close as I could get with yarn I already had, silk and seaweed.

I started by knitting a stockinette rectangle the size of the bottom of the box his cards came in, then I picked up around the edges and started knitting in the round.I want the bag to be sturdy, so I am knitting on teeny 000 needles to get the stitches as small as Suna's loose knitting can get. I did a section in linen stitch, which looks very, very tight (reminds me of the time I knitted the instep of one of my tiger stripe socks under deep stress and I ended up making a tourniquet), then I did some stockinette and am back to linen stitch again, which is not quite so teeny. By making the number of stitches odd, I never have to switch the linen stitch around, so I just keep repeating K1, slip 1 with yarn in front, over and over.

My friend Tina came over yesterday afternoon before a tarot gathering at our house, and we sat on the porch and knitted and chatted. That probably loosened up the stitching. Thanks, Tina!

Lee likes the bag and the color. I think I will do a bit of ribbing with a section of yarn-overs to run an i-cord strand through at the top, followed by more ribbing. I'd put on a ruffle or beads, but am not sure if that would be manly enough. I'll ask him! He's such a calm, sweet and understanding spouse that he deserves maybe more than one storage bag!

It will be back to the mittens this weekend. I really appreciated all the feedback on them--lots of pros and cons to consider, but I'll finish them anyway.

PS: Please see the comments if you are interested in a discussion of tarot traditions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Do You Think about This?

I wanted to show you the progress on the mitten I am knitting. It's the beautifully named (ha ha) Pattern 21 from Mostly Mittens, as I mentioned earlier in the week. Here is what it looks like now:
Mitten in Progress

My concern is that the colors are too close together, so they obscure the pattern. When I look at the photo, I think it looks fine. It is more subtle than it would have been in red and blue or something, but you can certainly see the design. Do you think it's good enough to keep going, or should I unravel the yarn and make socks?

I do think the next pair will be out of more contrasting yarns.

I am glad I switched to the "large" size of the mittens, since this Ella Rae Laceweight is really fine yarn. Right now, it fits great. I am enjoying working on the mittens, though wrapping every three stitches in the 5-stitch stretches sure slows me down, even when knitting with both hands. I guess there's no way to do fast stranded knitting! Or did I miss a hint somewhere?

I hope you are enjoying my daily posts while my work is still on hiatus. Lots of time to type now! Off I go to take my daily walk, have a tiny lunch, and knit!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Braved the Storm

Last night was another fun Monday with knitting friends. It's becoming a very nice almost-weekly event to head over to Dawn's and knit and snack for a while!

This week we had three birthdays to celebrate, and we had quite a party. Kim got tiaras and wands for me, Suzanne and Aggie (March 5, 6, and 8). And I brought ice cream and Suzanne and Aggie each brought cakes. Even though I am on a diet, I had to eat some Italian Creme Cake from the wonderful Upper Crust Bakery in Austin. I will not pass up that kind of opportunity!

Yes, we stuck our wands in our shirts. We thought it looked "classy." I'm just glad that one day a year when I am older than Suzanne is over! She can't call me an old lady any more!

We all had a great time knitting and chatting, which is good, because a big rainstorm blew in, complete with very loud thunder and bright lightning. So, we stayed until it had passed. Like it used to be in the LYS, we certainly touched on some "interesting" topics. Laughter is the best medicine, and I am pretty sure we all went home feeling a lot better, no matter how we felt when we arrived!

The new mittens are going well. I am an inch or so into the patterning part, and am a little concerned that once again I picked yarns without enough contrast. I am going to keep going, though, and even if the yarns don't contrast enough, I'll wear them. I so have other yarn that definitely DOES contrast to try another pair with.

Oh, my sweet older son got me a knitting-related birthday gift, the Joy of Sox book. I did have a copy (at first I couldn't remember if I'd just looked at someone else's copy or had one), but I was impressed that he took the time to think of an appropriate gift, but also couldn't resist the pun.

So, hey, two posts in two days. Obviously I need to get back to that job hunting--still waiting for my other job to pick up again!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Making Mittens and Keeping Friends

I think I told you that I got a couple of books on mittens recently. I really wanted to try a pair of festive ethnic mittens. I do have some yarn that I want to make mittens with, but of course, more yarn keeps creeping in.

Like this stuff here! I got it last week on another pilgrimage to Yarnorama in scenic (small) Paige, Texas.
Ella Rae Lace Merino

I went with Suzanne and Susan, so we definitely were on "Sue" name overload. Much of the fun on these trips is the conversation and camaraderie. It makes me almost (but not quite) want to learn to spin so I could go to the spinning Saturdays. We had a fun trip, and especially enjoying the farm animals. Susan is an expert, so it's fun to have her around. We saw this fine fellow at a really cool Brahma breeding facility, where there are these beautiful bull apartments, each with one spectacular bovine specimin.
Brahma Bull in eastern Williamson County, Texas
So, anyway, we met some nice folks in the knitting group there, and I saw that orange yarn above, which is the color of butternut squash and is a semi-solid, and chose the other one as a good contrast. I also got their yarn of the month colorway, which is definitely bright and happy:
Yarnorama sock yarn in "The A-Ha Moment" colorway.

My birthday gift to myself on Friday was a knitting day. I started a pair of mittens from this book, using the two new yarns:

Mostly Mittens: Ethnic Knitting Designs from Russia
by Charlene Schurch
The ones I am making are second from right on the bottom row. I cast on the medium size and knit through the cuff and about 6 rows into the pattern, but decided that using this laceweight yarn and 0 needles made it a bit snug. So last night I frogged it while I had a helpful older son visiting to help unwind one of the balls of yarn. But, before I frogged it, I took a photo so you can see how the colors work out (done with the phone camera, so not the best and NOT accurate):
Corrugated ribbing in Ella Rae Laceweight. Colors in earlier photo are more accurate.
I was having trouble going back and forth from the mitten guidelines to the chart, so I missed an instruction to knit the first row rather than rib it, so the new version is already better. Also, the rows are not numbered on the charts, and that bugs me a bit. It would keep me on track with the thumb and hand rows if they were numbered. The new version still isn't too big, just less snug. I look forward to knitting this along with my shawl. And luckily we got a new printer (ooh, ahh, color laser), so I was able to photocopy the chart for easier reading. 

I was also going to talk about keeping friends. After the nice trip to Yarnorama, we went to a meeting of people from our old LYS, which closed shortly after I stopped dropping in there (no surprise, when a yarn shop stops ordering yarn and needles for over a year other than a couple of dribs and drabs, stops paying teachers, and no longer has any employees other than the owner, it's a hint). It was at a nice La Madeleine restaurant that let us use their meeting room. I guess when I said I was going I didn't realize all who would be there. But, I think I made it through the meet-up pretty well. Interestingly, the folks who de-friended me on Facebook and sent me the helpful email telling me how poorly my breakdown reflected on me were not there, so that helped. The other members of the LYS in crowd who hadn't asked how I was or checked in with me in over a month were quite friendly, so that helped my comfort level a lot. I was repeatedly told to "be a big girl," which somewhat got old, but, heck, it will be fine. It was nice to see how everyone was doing and catch up on news. I have nice knitting friends, including the ones who invited me to the meeting, which I really appreciated, and I'll just enjoy all of them! I will try to make another of those meetings at some point, though this week I am making my dear husband a nice meal before choir on Wednesday, so I won't be going out. Sometimes family comes first!

A little aside about being a big girl, for any of you who may have to deal with disliking how you or others are treated: it IS a sign of being a "big girl" or maturity, even, to take yourself out of situations that aren't good for you or where you feel uncomfortable. Yeah, in a job you have to be around whoever you are assigned to be around, but in optional activities, if people treat you or others unkindly or repeatedly show a lack of compassion, you can choose to be elsewhere! Life's too short to torture yourself! Surround yourself with love and friendship, because kind and generous people by far outnumber the sourpusses!

And on that note let me say that I look forward to our new Monday meetings at Dawn's house, and really enjoy the atmosphere of respect and support for all that is maintained there. I wish you all could join us! I am glad that Dawn, John Francis and others are stepping up to host meetings so the community that developed at the LYS is not lost.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

4-Patch Mitered Square Blanket

I finished the borders on this project, and since a couple of people asked me how I did it, I'll write it down here. It's not a "pattern," but just some guidelines: not my finest example of technical writing but if you are experienced with mitered squares, I think you can follow these guidelines.

I am very happy with how this came out. Actually, I am surprised it looks as nice as it does.

I used 4 solid colors and 12 variegated colors to create the 4-patch units. Each took less than one skein of Red Heart or equivalent worsted weight acrylic (this is a charity blanket, so it needs to be machine washable and dryable by non-knitters).

To make one yourself, pick your 4 solids and 12 variegateds and pair them up compatibly (I put a yarn with some green next to green, one with some gold next to gold, etc. To be honest, I put some that were sort of similar too close together, so avoid this.) You can draw a little diagram to remind you of your plan, or just wing it, which is what I did.

Each square is fairly big. I cast on 51 for the first square, knit a row, then next row K24, K3tog, K24.
From there on, knit every other row, and knit the three center stitches together on the next row. You will end up with a square. End with K3tog. You can use any double decrease; just be consistent. I actually used slip 2 as if to knit, K1, pass slipped stitches over. That gave the distinct ridge.

From then on, attach squares to each other. On the first row, you'll cast on 26 then pick up 25 on the side of the previous square. Knit the first row (wrong side) and do a double decrease on the center 3 sts of the next row (your decreases occur on the right sides). Eventually, you'll only have to cast on for the first square in a row, the rest you pick up. I picked the middle stitch up on the middle between the two squares. Does this make no sense? Pick up a book on mitered squares and follow those instructions! Your squares can be bigger or smaller, too.

Hint: using the knitted cast on produces a very nice loop that makes it easy to do the picking up of border stitches.

When your blankie is as big as you wanted (for me, it was 48 squares or 12 4-patch units), use one of the solids pick up stitches on one long edge and knit a 4 garter-stitch ridge border. Do the same with the other long side. Then pick up along the edge of the borders and short edge and do the same. You can't avoid having a solid/border intersection that's the same color on the long side, but you can easily do so on the short side if you plan your colors carefully. Look at how I did it. Of course, you can make the border wider, but I wouldn't make it narrower. You should have enough of the solid color if you made yours the size of mine.

I think you could make a very sophisticated version of this afghan using more sedate solids and nicer yarn. I might even make one for our family room in shades of denim, gold and dark red.

I will be proud to donate this afghan to Project Linus. Leftover variegated yarn is being turned into granny squares for another charity project. I'll put a solid border around them all and it should be cute.

Next, though, I look forward to using the nice Marble yarn to make a crocheted project. Before that, though, I am going to go back to my nice Shetland yarn and Litla Dimun!


Want to learn more about mitered squares? Look into publications on modular or domino knitting. Here are some titles:

Domino Knitting
by Vivian Høxbro
This is the first book on the topic I read. It has great practice potholders and such in it.
(whoa I pasted the info in from Ravelry and didn't know it would do the cover, too!) 

Modular Knits
by Iris Schreier

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ah, Knitting Bringing Happiness Again!

After feeling pretty bad about knitting for most of this year (exceptions have been the nice meetings our friend Dawn has hosted in her home!), I have finally started having more good knitting experiences. I know a lot of my lack of knitting enjoyment is my fault for being so hard on myself and for letting unkind comments get to me more than they should, but hey, being a sensitive person has its good and bad points, as any person like me will tell you!

So, let me share some good things! First, this lovely new yarn came in the mail last week. I wish the good camera could have taken the picture, but we can't find the battery charger--it is not where it is supposed to live! This colorway is supposed to match the patina on a photo of a statue someone sent my friend Ray at Knitivity. He did a great job in making a very subtle colorway. I can't wait to work with this yarn.

Knitivity Down Home Sock Yarn in Patina

And now for my happy fiber-related events. Saturday was the second meeting of the Linus Project group at my UU church. I had such a nice time watching the ladies work on paper piecing, and felt good that even I could help out, because I had done it before, back in my quilting days. I was diligently working on the last row of my Linus Blankie (halfway through the last row--just some borders after that!). But I was watching how Alice, the organizer, gently led everyone along with another experienced quilter, and I got such a warm feeling. Someone said that now she understood why they had quilting bees in the past times--some of these things you need help with! It reminded me of the joy I used to have at the LYS when I could help someone make progress with a project. On the way home, I realized I was genuinely happy, and it made me all teary. I felt a real upwelling of gratitude to Alice for starting the group and making so many contributions to my life in the past. She did so well at the meeting, knowing that between the first meeting and this one, her mom had died (the lady I am making my blankie as a tribute to). Such a strong, kind person.

As if that spontaneous outburst of happiness was not enough, yesterday I had another one. The wife of one of my former coworkers is a teacher, and she recommended I become Facebook friends with one of her colleagues, a high school science teacher in Austin. She said we'd have a lot in common, including knitting. Well, Leyla asked me a knitting question or two, then last week said she was having a lot of trouble with socks. She wondered if we could get together and talk about her sock issues. You know how much I miss helping people with knitting, so I was happy to do this, even though I never met her and didn't know her other than her online persona. Well, once we managed to find each other, we had the most entertaining visit! I hope I gave her some help with sock information, because I learned a whole lot from talking to her on other topics, like teaching, relationships, and marriage. She's really an admirable person, and I look forward to many more conversations with Leyla! I drove home in a very cheerful way, thinking about all sorts of topics she had brought up. Once I am finished blogging, I am writing a thank-you note to the friend who introduced us!

One reason the visit with my new friend was difficult was that I'd suggested we meet at the Gauge shop, since someone had recommended I go to their Sunday knitting group a week or two ago, but it was closed. That was a bummer. The website does say they are open 1-5 on Sundays, so I hope it was just a temporary thing. Local knitters have already lost one LYS, I don't want to see the next closest one go, too! Anyone local have the scoop?

Looking forward to getting together with friends later today and hoping to get more of those last few squares on the Mitered Square Linus Blankie done!