Thursday, November 30, 2006

Old WIPs and New KALs

Poor Anastasia. She's been languishing over there on the sidebar for ages like a wallflower at a high school dance. But the good news is, I've picked her up again and should be finishing soon. Expect pictures in the nearish future.

I am desperate to clear things off the "on the needles" list. I've laughed in the face of my recent bad knitalong luck, and joined Stranded: The Colorwork Challenge.

I am so excited about this. I haven't done a colorwork project in quite a while and I've been itching to do some again. The kind hostesses posed a few introductory questions...

What are your projects for this knitalong?

Well, I'm hoping to do more than one! I'm fairly certain the first one will be Eunny's Endpaper Mitts. I am planning to use Knit Picks Gloss in burgundy and cocoa. There's also a lovely pair of fair isle socks in Vogue Knitting on the Go: Socks that I would like to make. They are knit in about nine gorgeous heathered shades of Alice Starmore wool. I am thinking of substituting Jamieson's Spindrift or jumper weight. No doubt there will be others, or I will be distracted by the other knitters' projects!

Is this your first colorwork project? If it isn't, what was your first, and has it survived the test of time?

No--relatively early in my knitting career I made a number of kids' hats with stranded colorwork motifs incorporated in them. They were highly unsophisticated but appreciated by the recipients. I made one for my son that he liked so much he would play with it too, putting it on his stuffed Thomas the Tank Engine. It is now just a pile of tangled yarn, as he has loved it into oblivion.

Earlier this year, I made mittens, which were my first attempt at all-over stranded colorwork. The pattern is Mittens from Lapland, and appears in the book Folk Mittens. (I highly recommend this installment of the Folk Knitting series.) I love the cuff. They were knit in burgundy, teal, and cream Cascade 220. I expected they would take a long time to finish, but really the total knitting time was pretty short. It's just so much fun to watch the patterns develop.

They are not perfect, but I am very proud of them.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another Pair of Small Socks

NB, Ohio readers: no inferences about my loyalties should be drawn from the colors of these socks. Yellow is S's favorite color.

Pattern: None, just basic house socks
Yarn: Plymouth Encore Worsted in navy and school bus yellow
Needles: US 5 Knit Picks Options Circulars
Size: About 6.5 in circumference (unstretched) and about 7.25 in long
Method: CO 40 sts in navy and worked two rows in 2 x 2 rib. Continued rib in yellow until the leg measured about 3.5 inches from the cast on. Worked a traditional sl1, k1 heel flap for 14 rows. Turned heel using this method and then picked up 10 sts on each side for the gussets. Decreased back down to 20 sts for the sole. Worked the instep in rib for a better fit. When I was ready to decrease for the toe (at about 5.25 in from back of heel), changed to navy yarn. Decreased on alternate rounds to 10 sts, then every round to 6 sts. Grafted toe on first sock successfully, while knitter friend who is killer finisher sat next to me telling me what to do. Grafted second toe alone. Not so much a success. Oh well.

Because the recipient of these socks hasn't been pictured here in a while, because he is so darn cute and so dear and because, frankly, foisting pictures of one's children onto innocent bystanders is one of the pleasures of parenthood, I present a completely gratuitous picture of my elder son, S.

Something interesting has happened this year. It's been about five years since I started knitting again and I've been really seriously knitting for about three years. Suddenly, in the last few months, family members have started to request knitted goods. I guess it took a while for them to have confidence that they would get something wearable. Or maybe they have concluded that as it is unlikely that I will ever stop knitting, they may as well cash in on my obsession.

Mostly, they want socks. My mother requested socks. My aunt now wants socks. My sister's boyfriend wants socks. (Query: does the Knitting Curse extend to siblings' boyfriends? I think not. I hope not.) J wants another pair of socks. They'll all be getting pairs made from machine washable worsted. It would take me forever to knit fingering weight socks and I don't want to take a chance that they will forget to hand wash. I may need to do some yarn shopping. Darn.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fastest Project Ever

If you want to finish something fast, make house socks for an almost-four-year-old in worsted. J noted that I was making socks for Grandma and requested that I make him a pair of socks, too. Red ones. I have a hard time saying no to this face.

Pattern: No real pattern, just plain ribbed socks
Yarn: A little bit of Plymouth Encore Worsted in dark red
Needles: Size 5 Knit Picks Options Circulars
Gauge: About 4.75 sts per inch
Method: Cast on 30 sts and worked 3 x 2 rib. Did a short row heel with 5 unwrapped sts in the middle. Knit the foot plain until it looked about the right length (about 5 inches from the back of the heel). Decreased the toe (working decs one st in from the end of each needle) until I had 3 sts on each needle. Drew tail through remaining sts and tied off.
Thoughts: I usually think short row heels fit me a little better than heel flaps, but I think the heel flaps might have fit J better. Now on to socks for his brother!

Tomorrow is without a doubt my very favorite holiday. You can't beat a holiday that is all about hanging out with the people you love, eating yummy food, and generally relaxing. I am hoping to get a little knitting in as well. To all of you in the United States, Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Non-Violent Weekend of Knitting

That means I didn't get around to the acrylicide. But I was very productive. I finished the socks for Mom.

Pattern: Karen's Sugar-Free Socks by Chrissy Gardiner
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran color #104 (grey), 2 balls plus a little of a third
Needles: 2.5mm (US 1) Knit Picks Classic Circulars
Modifications: Changed needle size and made them shorter for my mom's petite feet; worked a short-row heel; made left-leaning cables on second sock so that they would be mirror images of each other. This was a wonderfully fun pattern to knit and I know my mom will enjoy wearing these very luxurious socks.

My friend Preeti and I also dyed yarn. Because I am the cheesy sort that likes to name her craft projects, I'm calling my new sock yarn "Everything's Gone Green." Naturally.

Yarn: Knit Picks Bare Merino sock yarn
Dye: Kool-Aid, 10 packets of lemon-lime and almost 1 whole packet of grape
Method: Microwave; poured dye bath directly onto yarn and then added water to bowl.
I like the results! Preeti used the same recipe to dye a skein of Cascade 220 worsted and hers is equally lovely. The colors vary from very pale green to olive to dark green. Next time, I'm going to try using more kool-aid and go for a darker, more solid shade.

I also dyed some worsted weight.

Yarn: Cascade 220, in white
Dye: Kool-Aid, 7 packets ice blue raspberry lemonade and 4 packets plain lemonade
Method: Microwave, mixed dye bath, added the yarn and stirred.
I wanted to do two things with this skein: first, to try to achieve a shade that is not super dark, but is nevertheless not too kiddy-looking and, second, to get a less variegated result. I think I was relatively successful. The yarn is nearly solid, with just tiny areas that are darker. Very pretty. My first impression of the color was, mouthwash. But the more I look at it, the better I like it. It's a vibrant happy aqua blue, like the paint on an Art-Deco stucco beach house. I'm calling it "Swimming Pool." It is destined to become a pair of One Skein Cabled Footies.

Finally, I spent Saturday morning and afternoon cleaning out the third floor of my house. For the last three years, we have been using the two rooms up there as S's therapy area for his ABA program. But now he's in full-day kindergarten. The little bit of home therapy we are still doing we like to do all over the house, so that he can generalize his skills. So I organized and put away reams of paperwork, threw out a lot of trash, and made one of the rooms a play room. The other room now houses the stash, some of my knitting books and magazines, assorted crafty goodies, a comfy chair, a CD player, and my hard copy of The Crane Wife, among other things.

It's a happy place.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I have just learned that my best friend is expecting a baby. (O frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!) It did not take long for "baby knits" to join my list of good karma knitting projects.

I pulled out my knitting references, first among them La Zimmermann's Knitting Almanac. For such an auspicious knitting occassion, you have to go to the master. Like just about every other knitter who has ever cracked open one of her tomes, I am in awe of her. If only I could always remember her admonition that I am the boss of my knitting, there would be far fewer fiascos documented herein. Like Nona, I endeavor to embrace her "knitter's choice" philosophy. If I could approach life and knitting with even a fraction of the enthusiasm, fearlessness, and good humor that she did, I could be very proud of myself indeed. I might even posit that everything you ever needed to know can be found in The Opinionated Knitter.

On the subject of baby knits, her advice is naturally sage. In her pithy directions for the Practically Seamless Baby Sweater, she directs that the pattern gauge is "about 5 sts to 1 inch, but babies come in various sizes." As you probably already know, she is rather unyielding on the issue of fiber choice and washability for baby garments.
Pass the synthetic yarn department, then, with your nose in the air. Should a clerk come out with the remark that All Young Mothers In This Day and Age (why can't they save their breath and say "now"?) insist on a yarn which can be machine-washed and machine-dried, come back at her with the reply that one day, you suppose, they will develop a baby that can be machine-washed and -dried.*
I wonder, though. Would EZ say the same thing today? Back in the day, when she wrote this, the knitter's options for machine-washable fibers likely did not extend beyond cheap, plasticky synthetics. But today, there are many lovely superwash natural fibers available which can accommodate both the wool-loving knitter and the harried new mother with no time for handwashing.

With the availability of such yarns in mind, would it be foolish of me to adopt the EZ attitude of "Let Them Use Eucalan?" I have some lovely wools in my stash, which would make charming baby garments, but which would require my friend to wash by hand. I most certainly would not want these sweaters, bonnets, etc. to come out only for holidays and professional photo shoots.

Do you knit for babies in "hand-wash only" fibers? Tell me!

* "Some Babies' Things", Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac (1974).


Thanks, everyone, for the nice compliments on Clapotis and Licorice Whip. I am slowly making it through my email inbox to respond personally. This weekend, the acrylicide will occur. The sweater is great, but I feel a little like "Laura, wrapped in plastic." Just a little too David Lynch for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cast Off, Cast On

I know what you're thinking. Yay, another picture of Laura's foyer! Sorry. I seem to be incapable of taking a decent picture of myself.

Pattern: Licorice Whip by Blue Alvarez Designs in size XXXS
Yarn: About 6 skeins, I think, of Wool-Ease Chunky (25% wool, 75% dinosaurs) in Grass
Needles: US Size 8 Knit Picks Options circulars
Modifications, Thoughts: The original pattern called for a cotton yarn; I had several skeins of this Wool-Ease Chunky in my stash and the recommended gauge was exactly the same as that for the sweater. I shortened the sleeves considerably, to a bracelet length (otherwise known as "a little too short"). Long sleeves are nice for the warmth, but they get in my way when I am in the kitchen.

I knit the XXXS because I wanted a fitted sweater, and I certainly got it. I did block it to be slightly bigger, because the lace pattern was not as open as I wanted. The finished bust measurement after blocking is 35 inches.

It's a fun and easy pattern to knit, and I do like the finished object. It fits. But I'm not thrilled with the yarn. The fabric is a little stiff and the bottom edge is still rolling in spite of the blocking. I'd love it if it were a tiny bit drapier. My friend Preeti and I are thinking about killing the acrylic with steam to make it less stiff. Does anyone have experience with killing acrylic with purpose? Here's another picture, included completely gratuitously because it features my seriously cute son.

As you know, I've had good intentions lately of doing knitting for others. (Not long after I started those good-karma socks for Mom and the scarf for the Red Scarf Project, this happened. Coincedence? I think not.) I've finished one of those Mom socks and I've made good progress on the red scarf. I resolved not to cast on anything for myself until those projects, and the Anastasia socks, were finished.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Clap Happy

Pattern: Clapotis by Kate Gilbert for
Yarn: Almost 6 skeins of Noro Silk Garden, color # 226
Needles: US Size 7 (4.5mm) Knit Picks Options Circulars
Finished Dimensions: 23 inches wide by 67.5 inches long
Modifications: Yarn substitution; worked one fewer increase repeat than the original pattern.

I loved, loved, loved knitting this pattern. And I love, love, love wearing this scarf/wrap. My Clapotis has already attended two events: the Decemberists concert and, last night, dinner and a Cavaliers game. I wear this scarf and I feel glamorous, fabulous, chic. Even with jeans. I may never take it off.

This pattern has me scouring the internet for deals on Silk Garden, looking through my stash for yarn that could be a Clapotwo, considering other yarns to acquire to make others. Is Clapotis poised for a little renaissance? I've seen other lovely finished ones lately: Kris's Clapotis with an 80's punk flair in Sundara yarn here and Caro's Mini-Clapotis made with just three skeins of Silk Garden here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Words Cannot Express completely amazing the Decemberists show was. I won't bore you with the blow-by-blow, but suffice it to say that any concert that involves some of the band members entering the audience to stage a "reenactment" of the Battle of the Somme is going to be memorable.

If I were not a mommy with adult responsibilities, I would be driving down to Columbus to see them again tonight.

I must have had a rather rapturous look, or at least a big dumb grin, on my face during the entire show. Afterwards, a woman at the table next to mine said she worked for the band and gave me a print of some of the artwork from the Crane Wife. She wanted me to have it, she said, because I seemed to be the biggest fan of the band in our section of the theatre. I am not certain whether I should feel honored, or embarrassed.

I'm going to go with "honored."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Just Like Consumer Reports. For Yarn.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about scarves. Thanks, Lolly! One that I am just dying to cast on is the very popular "My So-Called Scarf" in that lovely Manos del Uruguay Wildflowers wool I bought on my yarn crawl. Then I got to thinking. (Uh-oh.) If I wanted to make more of these scarves as gifts, maybe I could save a little money by using Lion Brand Landscapes instead. As Gwen Stefani might have sang, "I'd have all the Manos in the world, if I were a wealthy girl." But I'm not.

But would I really be getting a better deal? I set out to do a little comparison shopping and thought you all might be interested in what I learned. So, here I present another in an occassional series of Lion Brand v. Fancy Yarn smackdowns!

My-So Called Scarf calls for two skeins of Manos del Uruguay multicolored yarn. That's 276 yards of a heavy worsted-weight yarn. It's 100% wool. At the LYS where I purchased it, it cost $14.99 a skein, but I found it at Jimmy Beans Wool for $13.50 a skein and a limited selection of colors can be found at eBay Express for only $9.99 a skein.* If you buy it at Jimmy Beans, you'll pay $27 for the yarn to make this scarf. This is unequivocally a beautiful, soft, delicious yarn that is also a fair trade product.

On to the Lion Brand alternative. Landscapes looks a lot like Manos or Malabrigo. It's a space-dyed, unplied soft yarn which comes in 55 yard balls. However, it's 50% wool and 50% acrylic. It's a bulkier weight than the Manos, so let's assume you would need a little less of it. Four balls would give you 220 yards, probably plenty to make a similarly-sized So-Called Scarf. In the Lion Brand catalog, Landscapes is sold for $5.99 a ball. I found it at Knitting Warehouse for only $4.73 a ball. If you buy your yarn from Knitting Warehouse, the project will cost you $18.92. It's important to note that although this yarn has a high synthetic content, it is not machine washable. Lion Brand claims that it will felt with machine washing and drying.

Conclusions: I have knit a scarf with Landscapes and I get many compliments on it. But it's not nearly as soft and pretty as the Manos yarn. If you buy Manos, you are providing economic opportunity to rural craftswomen, who are being paid fairly. You are also getting 100% wool rather than a synthetic. If you are willing to be flexible about your color choices, you can buy the yarn for this project on eBay for just a dollar or so more than you would pay for the Lion Brand yarn. I could charitably say that it's a toss-up, but to me, getting a natural fiber that's handspun and dyed is worth the extra money. You can make the call.

* I'm going to ignore shipping costs, as they can vary widely. To keep things simple, I'm just going to compare the cost of the yarn. One could say that the Lion Brand yarn has a cost advantage in that it can be found in big-box craft stores, avoiding shipping costs, but the ones that I frequent don't always carry it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I'm Laura, and I'm a Pattern Addict

Because I am an admitted pattern ho, I will go to great lengths to add to my already burgeoning collection of knitting books and magazines. Recently, I became obsessed, obsessed with acquiring copies of Jo Sharp's new magazine, Knit. The issue pictured at left was simple enough to find from American online sources. But, no, I also had to have the newest issue. I simply could not wait. Even though the latest issue of an Australian knitting magazine would obviously feature summer patterns.

So I ordered these lovelies from an Australian source, Ozeyarn. The prices were amazing--half what each issue cost at the American sources I found. Even with international shipping, it was a better deal than ordering them from a U.S. source. I received my order surprisingly promptly, considering the distance that it was travelling, along with a nice note from the proprietor, color cards for Ozeyarn's own yarns, and a price list for the other yarns they carry. I'll have to do some comparison shopping, but their prices for Jo Sharp yarn look very competitive.

As to the content...well. The photography is beautiful, the layout is uncluttered, and the patterns are really fabulous. Be aware that these are really pattern books; there are no articles such as those you find in, say, a Rowan magazine. But if you like simple, clean, classic knits as I do, then these books are for you. Hie yourself over to Ozeyarn and order them!

While I liked both issues, I actually found more patterns that tempted the immediate cast-on in the summer issue. There are several long-sleeved pullover and cardigan patterns offered that would be suitable for winter wear in most parts of the Northern hemisphere, either in cotton for the more temperate climates or in wool for us Northerners. Several of the patterns had alternate fit options -- a shrug pattern offered both a snug and loose fit in various sizes and a bolero pattern was written for both long and short sleeves. The patterns are offered in a somewhat limited range of sizes; most patterns are written for four bust sizes ranging from 80 to 110 cm (31.5 to about 43 inches). A few patterns also included 120 and 130 cm bust sizes.

Once I finish some good-karma-creation-knitting for others, I hope to cast on one or more of these lovely patterns. The bolero and the shrug from Issue 2 are calling me, as well as the lovely lace sweater pictured below.

I also love this shawl collar cardigan knit in an alpaca blend from Issue 1.

I must have the finishing bug. I finished Clapotis, and I am furiously at work on the Licorice Whip sleeves. I've also knit a couple of 2 x 2 ribbed hats for the boys. For some reason (gnomes?), even after thorough searching, I cannot find an entire box of winter hats, gloves, scarves, etc. I swear I am not as disorganized as that makes me appear. Last week, I was embarrassed to send my children off to school hatless with snow on the ground. Shamed, I cast on hats for them over the weekend and finished the second one last night. Bad Mommy no more. Just in time for the warm front.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Almost Done

I'm such a sucker for the blocking photos.