January 30, 2006

Stocking up

I know, I know, I keep saying that I am not going to buy any more yarn. But with the knitting Olympics coming up, I knew I needed to get the yarn for the Irish Diamond Shawl sooner and not wait to buy it at Stitches West (since this is what I have decided I will be making). On Friday night I went to a knitting group in the home of a woman who just happens to also sell oodles of gorgeous yarn, including cones of fingering weight wool in lovely heathered colors (it helps that I have already seen a completed Irish Diamond Shawl in this same type of yarn so I know it will work). Plus, when I sat down to knit I was right next to a box of yarn she'd just received and really, how am I to resist when a skein of tiger striped Opal sock yarn is staring me in the face? I did manage to resist all the other temptations, even when she asked for our opinion on which of the solid color Opals she should consider stocking, even though she has some pink sock yarn in just the right shade for the breast cancer ribbon socks I intend to make for my sisters and I, so I suspect there will be more sock yarn coming home with me in the next few months.

As if this wasn't enough of a yarn binge, Sunday afternoon was the big yarn craft thing at the local Michael's. My knitting mom and her two daughters and I all took part in the knitting contest (my knitting mom won because she is quite the speed knitter) and since I was there I decided to meander back to the yarn section, even though I had no intention of buying anything. No intention, that is, until I was faced with huge bins of Lion Brand Fun Fur, on sale for a ridiculously low price and in the exact colors that I would need to make this rug. I normally would not touch fun fur with a ten foot pole because I think it is ridiculous, but Richard and I both think that rug would be a lot of fun in the bedroom (or even the library, although we'll have to wait and see). I'd avoiding even thinking about it earlier because at the normal price for the yarn, it would a very expensive rug. But at such a great price, what was I to do but call up Richard to verify that yes, he does think the rug is cool enough that he wouldn't mind having it in the house, and then have him look up the pattern and read off to me the number of skeins of each color I would need. I have since also found the Wool Ease the pattern requires on sale at marvelous prices so that's winging its way to me as well.

And finally, I decided that since I am going to be going to Ireland, I need to make myself an Aran cardigan to wear while I am over there. I want it to be something that I can toss in the wash and not having to worry about giving special care because we will be doing a lot of walking in places that will be rainy and sometimes dirty and when one is traveling, one does not really have the time or space to carefully handwash a 100% wool sweater and lay it out to dry. I signed up for the Follow the Leader Aran Along because what better way to make a sweater that is chock full of complicated cables than to join a group doing the exact same thing? Okay, so the cables the pattern calls for aren't so complicated, but I have never been a fan of the horseshoe cable and I do own the Harmony stitch and cable pattern books, and I really do adore cables - the more complex the better - so after much careful searching and agonizing and pestering my very patient husband for his opinion I have picked the cables I am going to use (the Saxon cable, which is a 16 row repeat, and a cable I found on a sweater online that is an 8 row repeat) and have been happily swatching. Conveniently, I have just enough of the Plymouth Encore worsted left over from those two illusion scarves I made in December to do all the necessary swatching, since I like the yarn and the fact that it is machine washable makes it a marvelous candidate for what I have in mind. I have not yet bought the actual yarn for the cardigan (even though I have already picked the color I like - blue ivy - and have bookmarket it at the cheapest place I could find online). I am trying to be restrained and wait until after I have washed the swatches and determined if I like how it looks in this yarn.

In response to the rather recent yarn buying spree, the guilt over the size of my stash started to get to me. So yesterday afternoon I broke out the knitting machine and rummaged around in my stash and made myself a swatch of a few of the yarns I bought two years ago at Stitches West. Once my cable swatch is done all the swatches will go into the washer so I can get accurate guages, and then my goal is to get at least one sweater made, using my knitting machine since it is going to be just plain old stockinette, in time to wear to this year's Stitches West, which will at least clear out some of the existing stash to make room for all the recent acquisitions. After all, it is a given that I will not make it out of Stitches West without adding yet more yarn to my stash, so the more I can use up before I get there, the better.

Posted by Jenipurr at 11:17 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2006

A little taste of autumn

You know what's nice about making an afghan in fall colors? Every cat in the house looks wonderful on it! And even better, with the exception of Sebastian, who is white, the cat fur that this thing is destined to pick up will just blend right in!

Here, Tangerine is showing off how nicely her orange fur contrasts with the leaf colors.

All the nitpicky details:
I used 7 skeins of TLC Essentials in Color #2958 Falling Leaves, on size 7 Denise interchangeable needles. For yarn reference, each skein is 127 grams of worsted weight (the wrapper doesn't say how many yards per skein).

I'm quite happy with how this afghan turned out. It didn't come out a completely perfect rectangle, but when dealing with a flexible medium like yarn, one has to expect a little imperfection. And since it's an afghan, if it's just a few degrees away from rectangle territory and heading into parallellogram territory, it really doesn't matter.

I have written up the directions for how to create your very own diagonal basketweave blanket, and in the process discovered just how much work writing a pattern actually is. It's been uploaded as a pdf and is accessible from the sidebar on the main page of this site. Please feel free to download it, use it, and let me know if you run across any errors. This is my very first time doing a pattern so just because it makes perfect sense to me, doesn't mean it will not be completely incomprehensible to everyone else (heh).

The pattern does not include how to make the corner squares into triangles because I sort of did those on the fly and I figure most everyone should be smart enough to figure it out on their own anyway (I remain optimistic, at any point).

Posted by Jenipurr at 11:08 AM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2006

Joining up

I ripped out the beret I made for my sister about halfway, and then, using the instructions from Ann Budd's Basic Pattern book (which is turning into one of the best references I own), I redid the crown decreases. It now has a lovely swirly decrease and all without any ugly ridges. We took a picture, but it looks like a big red blob on my head, so I am going to wait and hope that my sister will send me a picture of her wearing it (it'll look prettier on her anyway). But it's done, and the box with the beret and my niece's presents (including the Hot Waffles afghan) is on its way to Seattle, in plenty of time for someone's 6th birthday.

In the meantime I have been knitting away on the diagonal basketweave afghan. I have, in fact, turned the third corner and am finally on the decrease side of things - a huge improvement over having all 228 stitches on the needles at once (itwas getting really heavy and unwieldy!). I fully expect to be done with it by the end of the week, at which point I will not only share pictures, I will also write up how I did it, complete with handy graphics and instructions on how to make your very own.

But along with the beret and the afghan and occasionally poking at some knitted wristwarmers (pictures forthcoming) that have turned out to be the perfect way to use up leftover sock yarn, I have been signing up for some knitting insanity.

First, there is Alison's Sockapaloooza - her annual secret pal sock swap. I did this last year and had a lot of fun (and got a gorgeous pair of socks out of the deal) so I signed up the second it was open, to do it again. She'll only have signups through the end of the day, so if you want to take part, get over there and sign in. It's amazing how inspiring it is to see all those gorgeous socks as they are made and then sent out to all their lucky recipient sock pals.

And next is the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics, where I have promised to not start until the flame is lit, and finish by the time the flame goes out (a total of 16 days) a project that I consider a personal challenge. I'm still mulling over what I want to make, although I keep going back to the Irish Diamond Shawl. But I've got a few more weeks to make up my mind.

Posted by Jenipurr at 08:35 AM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2006

A little math lesson

I would like to show you one of the projects I am working on right now.

I fell in love with this yarn last year, during my great summer of afghans, and ordered enough to make myself an afghan. What with all the other gift knitting I've been doing lately, I didn't get around to it til now. And like nearly every other afghan I've made, I couldn't find an existing pattern that really spoke to me, so I started swatching.

First I swatched one lace leaf pattern I found online, and while I really liked it, the combination of all those purls and decreases meant that I'd likely not have enough yarn to make a full size afghan (the unfortunate thing about lace patterns in acrylic is that you cannot count on blocking to smooth things out later). I moved on to a second lace leaf pattern, but had a similar lack of success.

Then I got the bright idea to do this diagonal basketweave. It is really quite simple. You start with one corner, which is one square (I'm doing 4 stitches per square) and then after you make the square, you cast on an additional square's worth of stitches on each side, and swap knits to purls and purls to knits, and on and on you go. My first swatch with this idea I quickly discovered how important it is that your squares be actually square (corners on rectangular afghans are supposed to be 90 degrees, for some funny reason). Then once I'd narrowed down an actual guage (4 stitches across, 6 rows down = a 1 inch square) I decided that I would like it a lot better if I started the corner on a point. If you have been keeping count here, that is 5 different starts for this afghan, and actually there were a total of 6 because I ripped it out one last time to rework the starting point.

But anyway. The whole point of telling you about this particular afghan-in-progress is that when I started pondering how wide I wanted the afghan to be, it got me thinking. Knitting is, after all, just math with a little yarn thrown in. However, how often do you actually get to do anything more exciting than addition or multiplication these days, hmm?

You see where I am going with this?

Because I am using (mostly) perfect squares, both sides of my triangle should be exactly the same length, and the corner between them should be a perfect right angle, which means that I am knitting myself a very large isoceles triangle. I know my stitch guage, because each of the squares I am using is 4 stitches for one inch, and I know the length of the diagonal edge, because that's the one I am working on, and I always know exacty how many one-inch squares I've got on the needles.

So when calculating out how much futher I need to go before I don't have to increase anymore, I could do it one of two ways. I could do a few pattern repeats, then lay it on the floor and measure it obsessively. Or I could whip out my handy dandy calculator and, based solely on the fact that I know the width I *want* it to be, calculate out how many stitches (or squares) across I have to do before it's going to be wide enough. And I can do this because way back in the dusty recesses of my brain, I remember grade school math, and more importantly, I remember the Pythagorean Theorem, which states that the square of the diagonal is equal to the sum of the square of both sides in an isoceles triangle. Based on this calculation (and knowing that because of the pattern I am using I will always have an odd number of pattern squares), if I want my afghan to be 40 inches across, that means I have to have....

Well, I won't spoil it for you. Surely there are other closet math nerds out there who find this sort of thing just as exciting as I do. Right? Yes? Tell me I am not the only one who finds unreasonable glee in discovering new ways to apply geometric equations to real life?

Posted by Jenipurr at 01:32 PM | Comments (3)

January 14, 2006

Socks sung blue

By some small miracle I finished the socks for my mom just in the nick of time. Literally. I seamed the last toe about five minutes before my mom rang the doorbell (everyone came to my house for her birthday celebration). And by some even larger miracle they fit nearly perfectly.

Here is my mom modeling her hot-off-the-needles birthday socks.

I am really happy with how these socks turned out and once I plow through a few other projects, and at least one or two pairs of slightly less complicated socks on slightly larger needles in deference to my poor hands, that I will be making myself a pair of these as well. Kudos to the designer for the pattern.

Now for the gory details: I used Socketta yarn, so they are machine washable, US size 1's and the Pomatomus pattern.

Posted by Jenipurr at 07:05 AM | Comments (3)

January 10, 2006

Sooo slooow socks

I think it is fair to say that the Pomotamus socks are quite possibly the prettiest socks I have made so far. It is also only fair to note that they are the most time-consuming socks I have made as well. I am still not done with the first sock of the pair, and I have been working on it for several hours each night. I suspect that at this rate my mom will get one completed sock and an IOU for the second one on her actual birthday. Ah well.

It does not help that in order to get gauge I went down to US 1's. The pattern calls for 72 stitches on US 3's, but that makes absolutely no sense, because 72 stitches on US 3's is huge. I make socks for myself on US 3's but I only cast on 56 stitches for my usual sock formula, and even then sometimes the tops are a little loose. Plus, I knit tight, so my 56 stitches on US 3's is the equivalent of using US 2's for the 'normal tension' knitter. Luckily I bought an assortment of extra skinny needles for the lace doily, so I had the 1's available and so far they seem to be the perfect size, which is good. The pattern is simply gorgeous and goes perfectly with the yarn I chose, and the sock is stretchy enough to fit, while still being tight enough to avoid slipping down the leg. I am definitely going to make myself a pair when I'm done with this set for my mom (although I may make the leg a bit shorter, and drop 12 stitches and a pattern repeat in order to move it up at least one needle size, if not two!).

********

Tonight was knitting night at the library and we had a full crowd. One of the other knitters brought along her completed Irish Diamond shawl from the Folk Shawls book, which she did in a gorgeous heathered maroon. Another of the regulars and I admitted that we have been drooling over that pattern for far too long now, but it's so large it's been a bit daunting to tackle (although the woman who brought her finished one in, as well as another woman who is currently working on one, say that once you get going it actually goes surprisingly fast). Plus there's the whole issue of needing to buy yarn for it...but then I remembered that Stitches West is just a little over a month away, and I do much better at these sort of things if I go with specific projects in mind as opposed to just letting myself buy random yarn because it is pretty. So I think that I will use Stitches as the perfect shopping opportunity to find some lovely yarn for the shawl. And then after Stitches, we may have ourselves a tiny little knit-along.

Posted by Jenipurr at 08:55 PM | Comments (1)

January 08, 2006

The year of socks

After diving head first into sock knitting last year (eleven pairs!), I have a bin piled high with enough yarn to make at least that many more - and that doesn't include all the sock yarn I know I will be buying as the year progresses. After all, Stitches West is next month, and just a little bit further is the TKGA show, and I am sure to find sock yarn at both shows that needs to come home with me. I really do love making socks.

So I certainly don't need any incentive to make more socks, but when I saw that the Purling P's have declared this year 200-SOX, how could I resist? I figure if I set myself a goal of making at least one pair of socks per month, I can easily reach that - plus I'll get to see everyone else's gorgeous socks, and maybe find a few more patterns to inspire me to make even *more* socks. You can see how this becomes a self-feeding cycle.

It's a good thing I cast on for my first pair of socks for the year this morning, before I know about 200-SOX. I saw this entry from Polly and immediately rummaged through my bin of sock yarn until I found a skein of Lanna Grossa Mega Boots Stretch yarn. I bought this at the knitting retreat in November, since I figured the colors (dull green twisted with just a hint of color in red and purple) are very muted, it would be perfect for my husband (for some reason he doesn't like wild stripey socks. Go figure). So not only does Polly's Limbo Sock pattern go perfectly with the yarn, it also makes a great pattern for a pair of socks for a guy. Plus the pattern makes it just enough interesting that I will not (hopefully) die of boredom making huge man-sized socks that will take me twice as long as the cute little socks I can make for my little girly feet.

And then, after pondering and tossing aside a number of possible gift ideas for my mom's birthday (which is in a week, I dove back into the sock yarn bin, pulled out another ball of yarn, this one in a varigated watery aqua and blue, and went against normal precedent (for me, at least) and cast on for a pair of Pomatomous socks.This is what happens when you buy more sock needles; suddenly you have multple sock projects going at once.

I have also managed to finish my first two objects for the year. The first is the beret for my little sister, made from some rich red Lion Brand Homespun. I'm not including a picture, however, because I am not happy with how it turned out. The decreases created strange ridges that make the hat look pointy, so I suspect i will be ripping it out and starting over in the near future.

The second completed project, for which I do have pictures, is an illusion scarf, made just for me. I used just under a skein each of Plymouth Encore worsted, in cream and black, on size 6 needles, using this pattern. Please ignore the copious amounts of cat hair on the cat tree I've used to 'pose' the scarf; with five cats, fuzz is a fact of life on upholstered things (and can you tell that the cats who use the tree the most are orange and brown?).

The pattern is easy to follow, and best of all it knits up quickly. I did ten pattern repeats so my scarf is a a bit long, but I wanted something warm because I hear it gets cold in Ireland* and I figure I ought to be prepared.

I am apparently all about starting projects, because along with the two pairs of socks and the half-finger gloves (the first one is almost done but I think I may rip it out because the ribbing is far too loose - either that or cut off the ribbing, pick up the stitches, and use smaller needles to redo it. I haven't decided yet), I have also been doing quite a bit of swatching for the next afghan. I have a small pile of gorgeous varigated yarn in fall colors and I decided it needed some kind of leaf pattern to match the color theme. I've got a swatch in the washing machine right now, waiting to see how the pattern settles, but if all goes well, I'll be able to cast on for the real thing by tonight.

*This year we are finally going to take our honeymoon (we'll have been married five years in July) - if everything goes as planned (all fingers and toes crossed) we're going to Ireland in May. I guess that means I'd better make myself a nice Aran sweater to wear, hmm?

Posted by Jenipurr at 02:36 PM | Comments (2)

January 05, 2006

State of the Knitting

It's time once again for the annual State of the Knitting entry, where I go back and see what I accomplished over the last year. I did this last year and it was a rather nice surprise to figure out everything I managed to finish.

This year I'm going to list things by category because it will just be easier this way:

Afghans and baby blankets:

Sweaters

Toys:

Bags

Socks

Scarves

Lace

I think that about covers it. I'm actually quite proud of how much I managed to finish last year, especially considering last year was the year I learned how to make socks, knit lace, and do illusion knitting. I've already got a list of ideas for what I want to make this year

Posted by Jenipurr at 06:43 PM | Comments (2)

January 02, 2006

Leftover from 2005

It's the end of the year picture round up - just a few more things that were done before the year ended.

First up are the grey Fuzzy Feet that I made for Richard. I had some leftover Peruvian Highland wool from that hooded scarf I made for my mom in 2004, and he liked the color, so I worked on these, and felted them on Saturday the 31st. Richard wore them around the house while they were still damp, but didn't seem to mind letting them dry on his feet instead of stuffed with plastic bags on the table. Sebastian is helping me model them in the picture.

Next up is a pair of socks I finished right before Christmas, but never got around to photographing. I lost the skein wrapper a while ago, but I am pretty sure this was made with my last set of Colori sock yarn from my big sock yarn purchase from Elann.com early last year. The colors aren't quite as bright as in the picture, but it was the only way I could keep the picture from coming out too faded. I think it's pretty cool how the colors pooled in the same way on both socks to form that one odd blue stripe across the leg.

Finally, here's my very last project for 2005. Technically I finished knitting my Booga Bag and felted it on the 31st, so even though it wasn't dry til the next day and I didn't attach the handles in 2005, I'm still calling it a 2005 project.


I love the colors in this bag. I was really expecting it to felt down a lot smaller than it ended up, but after three times through the washer on hot without any additional shrinking, I figured this just must be the size it wants to be. I have already discovered that it is a good size for holding all my extra sock yarn while I pick and choose the colors I want to use to make Richard and I each a pair of half-finger gloves. And once I am done with that, I think the bag will be the perfect size to hold in-progess lace projects.

Posted by Jenipurr at 10:34 AM