November 29, 2005

Self improvement through yarn

One of the things I do when I am knitting, just to keep it interesting, is force myself to learn new things. After all, they say that the best way to defend yourself against some of the nastier old age problems is to keep physically and mentally active, and what better way to keep mentally active then to be constantly challenging oneself to learn new things.

For example, I continually have had difficulty knitting without resting the left needle against something, which isn't so big a deal except that it lets me be lazy and not have to hold onto the left needle as well as I'd otherwise need to, plus it makes knitting when standing up nearly impossible. So lately I've been working on learning how to hold the needles away from my body, so I can hold them higher up (it certainly makes knitting in the car on the way down to the in-laws less prone to give me a neck ache from having to look down so far (and before you all have hissy fits, my husband was driving because when I am behind the wheel and the car is not in park, yarn and needles stay safely tucked in my purse)).

Another example - I think it'd be a good idea for me to get better at knitting without having to pay so much attention to what I'm doing, so lately I've been taking advantage of any opportunity to force myself to look up, and focus only on feeling the stitches instead of seeing them. It came in quite handy on Halloween, as a matter of fact, when we turned off all the lights because we'd run out of candy, but I was able to keep on knitting. So far I can only do it in stockinette, but I figure the rest is only a matter of practice and time, and really, it only takes a little more concentration than before.

And that leads us to the latest thing I've realized I need to learn when it comes to knitting. One of the things I've continually had a problem with during the entire two or so years I've been knitting is that I have uneven tension between my knit stitches and my purl stitches. It's not usually a huge problem, but in some cases it's obvious (like when doing a lot of cabling, because that all takes place on a purl background, and the uneven tension is *far* more obvious on the purl side than on the knit side), and as much as I concentrate on it I haven't been able to figure out to fix it. That is, until I stumbled across a reference that suggested that maybe, just maybe, the problem wasn't in how tightly or loosely I was doing the stitches. Maybe the problem was in how I was doing the purls in the first place.

You see, I've always wrapped the yarn under the needle when purling. It's the natural movement for the yarn, and it goes so quickly that it never occurred to me that it might not be the 'right' way (and I use the term 'right' loosely because I've been told I also hold my yarn weird in my left hand, but it works for me so I figure that 'right' really has more to do with what works best for the individual knitter as opposed to trying to match something in a book). But the other day I sat down and decided to give the other method a try, wrapping my purl stitches over the needle instead of under. And what do you know? Perfect stitch tension, row after row. Hmm. Two years of trying over and over to puzzle through why I could never seem to get the tension thing figured out, and all it took was a change in how I move the yarn.

Sigh. The 'under' method is twice as fast as the 'over' method, although as I continue to force myself to wrap the yarn the awkward 'over' way, it's getting more smooth, so I am holding out optimism that I will eventually regain my former speed. But still, I do have to laugh a little about this. And I also have to wonder how many other things I'm going to figure out along the way.

Posted by Jenipurr at 10:34 PM | Comments (2)

November 27, 2005

Chugging along

Knowing I had five more snowmen to make finally convinced me to convert the pattern from knitting all the pieces flat, to knitting the body and hat in the round. I figured at the very least it would save me the time spent on seaming.

Turns out they knit up a lot faster that way too. We headed down to the in-laws' Thursday morning and I started the first body in the car. Finished the second body before we all went to bed, and by the time we were ready to head back home on Friday, I only had three rows left on the third. I've already cast on for the fourth, so I'm actually feeling pretty optimistic that I'm going to have these things done by the end of next week, which will leave me with nearly three weeks to finish up the secret project (I'm just about halfway through that one), the platypus (I need to go buy yarn for that because I don't have enough browns in my stash, unfortunately) and start and finish the doily, for which I purchased the yarn, but so far have yet to get past the first row without ripping it out. Hmm. But three weeks is a long time and I think I might actually get it all done.

Posted by Jenipurr at 07:04 AM | Comments (2)

November 19, 2005

The snowball effect

I am happy to report that the snowmen were a hit. I made the four shown in the previous entry to donate to the church's open house / baked goods and craft show (along with 7 loaves of pumpkin bread and some spice muffins), which was held this morning. Two of them went early on, then at the end of the event, one of the women who'd been taking tickets for the brunch came up to me with the remaining two and asked if I'd make a third one, since she's got three grandchildren and wants to give them each a snowman. So we worked out timing and colors (blue hat, whatever color I feel like for the scarf, due Monday night), and this afternoon I cast on for the fifth snowman. Then, during a phone conversation with my parents and my little sister I mentioned the snowmen. My mom knows what they look like because I made her this one last year as a surprise gift right before Christmas, and my little sister thought they sounded really cute and then my mom started suggesting that each of her grandkids (my niece and nephews) need a snowman for Christmas, and with my mom and my sister noting the idea several times I got the distinct impression that there were three additional snowmen in my future (heh). And then I figured if I'm going to be making three more snowmen I might as well just keep on going and make two more to also give as gifts for two more people who I know would get a kick out of them because they are big into the snowmen. All of this means that those original four snowmen for this year have now morphed into ten. This's a lot of snowmen, especially considering that between now and Christmas I also am hoping to make a platypus (you had to be there), a medium sized lace doily (my hands are already dreading working with cotton again) and a project which must remain secret for the time being, but which is rather time intensive by itself.

So in other words, the weeks leading up to Christmas are going to be a little hectic (and this does not even take into account the food fight scarf(s) I'll be working on each week) in regards to knitting, and I have to admit that it makes me laugh a little because I keep saying that one of these days, once I get through the list of stuff I *have* to knit, I will be able to cast on for something pretty for me - possibly a cute little sweater top - but that list of 'have to' knitting seems to have a life of its own. Ah well.

And I suppose it makes me a little bit insane, considering the ten snowmen I'll have whipped up in two months time this year, but I'm already looking ahead to next Christmas, for which I've already determined I need to make six more snowmen (and likely more, the rate this is going). But I am also thinking that perhaps next year I will just set myself a goal of doing one snowman a month and spread it out over the course of the year and maybe by the time Christmas 2006 rolls around I will not be as heartily sick of making snowmen as I suspect I will by that time this year.

Posted by Jenipurr at 07:56 PM

November 17, 2005

Let it snow, snow, snow, snow

I got the bodies for these done during the knitting retreat, but had to wait til I got back home to stuff them and then whip up four little hats and scarves. I decided that if I had to do four of the same hat and four of the same scarf I would never finish them so instead I had a little fun adding variety. I added the eyes this evening and then dropped them off, where they will hopefully find lovely new homes.

Now that those are done I can take a deep breath and then dive right back into all the other things I've got on the needles - a pair of socks (of course), a mistake rib scarf out of some grey superwash wool from my stash, among other projects. The scarf is because my knitting mom and I were asked to be the team leaders for the church's annual Food Fight. Basically they divide the congregation by randomly assigning people to one of two teams, and then the teams 'compete' to see who can bring in more food to donate to the local food closet. We usually pull in a ton or two of food. Anyway, we were asked to give it a knitting theme this year so we decided that our unit of measurement would be scarves - we've each committed to knitting one inch per 10 pounds of food, with the goal of being able to donate the finished scarves to a local homeless shelter. So far I've had to knit 33 inches and my knitting mom's had to knit 41, so I think we're off to fairly decent start.

Update: I realized I ought to include in here the modifications I made to the snowman pattern, for the scarves and hat. The solid color hats and scarves are done as the pattern recommends.

W = white yarn
C = either green or red yarn, depending on your preference
sl = slip the stitch

The striped scarves are done as follows:
Start with 2 rows garter stitch in C
Row 3 & 4 - knit across (in W)
Row 5 - knit across in C
Row 6 - purl across (in C)
Repeat rows 3 - 6 until it's the length you need.
End with two rows C in garter stitch and bind off.

The polka dot hat is as follows:
Knit the ribbing as the pattern directs.
Knit 2 rows stockinette in the solid color.

Pattern stitch is a 4 stitch, 9 row pattern as follows:
Row 1 - With W k1, sl 3 repeat
Row 2 - with W p1, (sl 1, p3) repeat ( ), p2 for last two stitches
Row 3 - With C sl1, k3, repeat
Row 4 - With C, p across row

Row 5 - With W sl 2, (k1, sl 3) repeat, end with sl 1
Row 6 - with W p3, k1, repeat
Row 7 - With C k2, sl 1 (k3, sl 1) repeat, end with k1
Row 8 - With C, p across row

Posted by Jenipurr at 10:47 PM

November 05, 2005

Sticks and yarn

This past weekend I was at a knitting retreat in Medford, Oregon. More details about the trip are here. It was a lot of fun - and not just because my knitting mom and I got to spend an entire weekend together, chatting and knitting and learning new things and hanging out with new friends.

We went to Websters in Ashland,and to Middleford Alley Yarn Shoppe (no web page, unfortunately) in Medford. Middleford was a lovely store divided into rooms, and everywhere you looked there was more yarn to ooh and aah over. They had an entire wall of Encore, and it took me quite a while to pick out the two colors I needed for my next big project. Websters is one huge space, with finished sweaters and scarves and shawls in the front and a huge selection of yarn in the back. I got a little transfixed by their selection of sock yarn because it was the largest I've ever seen! I'd already decided that aside from the yarn I needed for this particular project, I was going to be good and not buy anything just because it was pretty, but the caveat was that sock yarn was an exception. Besides, how can one pass up on deep jewel red Wildefoot (found at Middleford) or patterns of self-striping yarn that one never even knew existed (at Websters).

One of the things we learned how to do was shadow/illusion knitting. The woman who taught it walked us through how the charts tend to be laid out, and I'll admit that the charting part threw me (because I have difficulties with charts as it is - I'm all about the numbers and not the images), but once I figured that out, it was amazingly simple to do. I sat in class quietly while everyone else chattered and tried to figure it out around me, and whipped up my very first dishcloth (and my very first shadow/illusion knitting piece), and was the first to finish.

Here's when you look at it straight on.

And here is when you look at it from the side (it's supposed to be a star. I probably needed to use one size smaller needles but I wasn't too worried about that because this was just for practice).

Posted by Jenipurr at 06:16 AM | Comments (2)

November 02, 2005

A little duplication

Remember this? I decided to make a few more. So far I've knit and seamed two bodies, and I've got the third one just started. It seemed like a good, brainless project for my latest business trip, since once I did the first one I had the pattern memorized, plus they knit up so incredibly fast that I will hopefully be able to whip through a handful of them before I get too bored.

I also brought a sock with me, since I knew I would have a little downtime here and there during this trip. It's been a source of great fascination for quite a few of the people at these meetings, since we're all staying at the same hotel. Nice to know I can continue to spread the joy of sock knitting wherever I go.

**Update - Here's a new link for the snowman pattern - opens a pdf.

Posted by Jenipurr at 08:05 PM | Comments (2)