Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Overindulgence of Toasty Treats

A lot of big projects have stalled. Stalled is perhaps too weak a term. Crash and burn better describe my latest design efforts. Instead of pounding furiously at them in some vain attempt to make the designs work, I've decided that a dose of Instant Gratification is just what the doctor ordered. As with all wonderful little things (think chocolate morsels, petites pots de creme, and catnip mice), it is very easy to overindulge.

It started with one pair of legwarmies made out of the delicious Mini Mochi by Crystal Palace Yarns (80% wool, 20% nylon). At first glance, this yarn looks like Noro, but don't let that fool you. All it takes is one touch and you know Mini Mochi is something completely different. It's soft and fluffy. My only gripe is the preponderance of guard hairs that stick out every which way. You'd almost think there was mohair in it. The colors in this ball are a bit quirky if you aren't prepared for it. Nearly halfway through the ball, the color sequence reverses. My guess is that when you make one sock with one ball the color sequence reverses at the heel. The ball I used is in the Flame Rainbow colorway. I think it looks like a sunset and submit the following two pictures to support this claim.

Mini Mochi legwarmy in Flame Rainbow

Sunset from my back window

So far, I've made enough legwarmies for a squid with two warmies to spare. In addition to the Flame Rainbow, there are legwarmies in an assortment of bright sherberty colors. Turquoise, white, pale yellow, and lavendar. In the queue are other legwarmies in colors of comparable brightness and sherbertiness: pink, spring green, and stripes of the whole melange. Here's the pile so far.

Legwarmies for Squid+2

As if legwarmies weren't fast enough to make, baby mittens are even faster! Best part, it's a great way to use up all those little balls of leftover sock yarn. I've only used the more luxe sock yarns like Koigu, Casbah, and Baby Boom. If Huellen decides she hates these mittens, They make excellent spatula handle warmers... see, tee hee.

A Bouquet of Mittens

After finishing these mittens, a new question emerged. What to do with leftover, leftover sock yarn? A ball too small to make mittens and too nice to through away. Here's where the bunny comes into play. This pattern is so creative. The best part is all you do is knit a square of any size, perform some clever sewing, and voila! Bunny revealed.

Adorable little bunny

Bunny sits atop two Petal Bibs. Leigh Radford's pattern is ingenious. Lots of short rows and counting, but the results are worth it. Instead of an I-cord tie, I've selected contrasting shades of soft velvet ribbon. I'll get those attached... eventually.

Pink Misti Pima Cotton and Red Araucania Pomaire

All these resources for Huellen and below zero weather make me so thankful for all the modern conveniences. My gratitude is tainted only by despair for those who are not so fortunate. MamaSara informed me about afghans for Afghans latest call: they need mittens for children 4-8. Starting in early February, I set out to make as many mittens I could by Valentines Day. The end result: 8 pair. Not as many as I had hoped, but more than I thought would get done. The first pair I made are the purple-blue-green mitts (far right) made out of a Nashua wool donated by FavoriteTeacher. The second pair produced are the turquoise pair (third from right) made of doubled Arucania Atacama (100% alpaca) donated by MamaSara. The rest are Sockimo mittens. Sockimo is a lovely combination of any leftover sock yarn plus any leftover mohair. I love this combination. The two strands pulled together knit to most worsted weight patterns. On US 8 needles, these mittens went by fast.

Mittens for afghans for Afghans

I brought these to my knitting group one week to thumb the mittens (and to show off my industriousness). One lady, we'll call her MinneGranny, asked me a question that shocked me into silence. She asked me, in a tone of condescension, why I'd make mittens for those people when they don't even live where it's cold. After recollecting my wits, I managed a strangled "Uhhhhh... they have really high mountains where it gets really cold." She gave me a doubtful look. Had I been at the top of my mental game and not just had my socks shocked off of me, I would have said, "yes, parts of Afghanistan can be quite warm, but it's a large country where the weather is highly variable region to region. In the mountains, it can easily reach 0° F in January. Surely, you wouldn't begrudge children in a war torn country a warm pair of mittens under those conditions." I should note that this isn't the first time MinneGranny and I were at odds (witness previous conversations about ironing, a woman's place, and gay rights); we are as philosophically opposite as two people can get. Perhaps that is the true miracle of knitting: not so much the beautiful end product, but the way it brings together people of such diverse backgrounds.

Oh, one big project did get finished: Veil by Norah Gaughan. I used Artyarns Regal Silk, which is just heavenly. I'll have to get a picture of me wearing it. I don't know if I'll get much wear out of it, but it does feel nice against my skin.

Veil Shrug

I think I'll leave you with this little thought. No matter how different or alike we are, most of us just want a warm, comfortable, safe place to snuggle with our loved ones.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Frou Frou

Frou frou. On many previous occasions I said I would not subject my daughter to anything of the sort. Yet here we are. Pink, lacy, ruffly, and unabashedly girly... in short frou frou.

Name: Hemlock Ring Throw, 43" diameter
Yarn: DiVe Zenith, Iced Pink, 5.5 balls
Yarn Source: Webs
Needles: US 10.5 Bryspun dpn, US 10.5 16" Addi Turbos, US 10.5 32" Addi Turbos
Pattern: Hemlock Ring Throw, by Jared Flood, FREE from The Rainey Sisters
Comments: This is an awesome and beautifully written pattern. Emily Ocker's cast on is absolutely elegant and useful for many other occasions (can we say toe up sock). I just loved working with this yarn. It was so soft on the ball and while I was knitting it, but it only got better with steam blocking. The blanket feels like a cloud. I really wish there was a color available at Webs that would be good for an adult sweater. Since there isn't (IMO), I'll just have to be happy with my baby having the cushy goodness. All the gushing aside, I'm not that thrilled with the blanket. I should have gone down to US 9 for needles. The YO are huge. Nevermind about baby fingers getting caught... my big fat adult fingers get caught too! Master Blackhead said that we should save it for when she's a little older. I was hoping to get a shot of the blanket elegantly draped over the arm of a chair, but (1) it doesn't look elegant when draped (2) it isn't big enough to be draped, it just flops (3) Hex thought it'd look better with him modeling it.

I agree. He's a handsome little devil. You can almost read his thoughts in this picture. Something like "duh! doesn't she know everything looks better with a little black?" He actually posed for a whole series of photos, dutifully looking up whenever I called. And once the photo session was over and the camera put away, he promptly flopped all over the blankie, pawed it , chewed it, and tugged at a yarnover with his teeth. I love my Hex: he's just like me. :-D

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seeded, Buttoned, Ribboned, Done

Ten days and 1.5 miles of yarn later: the all seed stitch Smock Coat is done. I'm so proud of myself, I think I'm still all glowy from ego dust. I did not complain once (after I cast on that is) that seed stitch hurt my hands and was laborious. Master Blackhead said I griped more about the seed stitch before I started than once I started.

Name: Seeds of Love, 2-3 yr old
Yarn: RYC Cashsoft Baby dk, Imp
Yarn Source: Gift from MamaSara
Needles: US 3 32" Addi Turbos, US 5 32" Addi Turbos
Pattern: Smock Coat by Debbie Bliss, from Simply Baby
Comments: Thank goodness MamaSara provided such an ample amount of yarn. I used 9.5 balls bringing the amount of yarn used to around 1400 yd. The pattern called for less than 1100. Such a huge discrepancy could have spelled disaster. I know from past experience that dyelot matters very much when it comes to this yarn (witness the Glacial Mimosa). Originally, I had planned to knit a matching beret, but there simply isn't enough yarn.

All in all, the pattern is very well written. The one errata was trivial, most knitters would have figured it out right away. My one quibble with this pattern, indeed all the patterns in the book, is there are no diagrams! This was somewhat a big deal for me because depending on the sleeve type, I would either cast on at the cuff or pick up at the shoulder for the sleeves. In case you are wondering, it's a modified drop shoulder (so I picked up the sleeve stitches).

As for finishing, I already had three of the buttons I would need already in my button box. They were expensive IMHO, but absolutely worth it. Master Blackhead and I hit up the ribbon place and found a delightful black grosgrain. He thought all black would be better, but I think that would have been too somber. I was initially worried that black would be heavy for a little girl, but with the peach it reminds me a bit of Chanel. I think the white running stitch in the ribbon keeps it light and fun. Don't you?

Here's an overall shot of the coat. I'm not happy with the way the short rows left holes at the top of the collar; however, I imagine that once it is being worn it won't be such an issue.

I've already started the next project. Jared Flood and the Rainey Sisters' Hemlock Ring Blanket. I know it isn't really practical for a baby since it is lace, but it's so pretty. The yarn is DiVe's Zenith, which I love. Sure it is a little prone to splitting, but the softness and machine washability make up for it. Despite all the "no pink" talk, I just love this icy shade of that oft overused girly color. I think the center looks a lot like a dahlia and like its textural 3D look. It's a shame it'll get pulled flat during blocking. The well written pattern is just interesting enough to not be boring, but simple enough to bring to group knitting. I'm already halfway done. More to come later.

Monday, January 5, 2009

All Your Knit Are Belong to Us

It is no secret that while dogs have masters, cats have staff. What this little quip neglects to mention is that all staff possessions belong to the Cat. Knits included. Here is a much slept on back of Debbie Bliss's Smock Coat (from Simply Baby).

When not being used as feline bedding, this is what the back look likes.

There's a finished left front that nearly caused a nervous breakdown. I knit the whole skirt part with the wrong size needle. I forgot to change from US3 to US5 after the 3 row garter stitch border. About 200 yds and 24 hours of work... WASTED. What a stupid mistake. So as I sat in a dejected self-pitying funk, Darling Master Blackhead ripped it, wound it, and presented the yarn to me like nothing had happened. To my surprise, I actually cast on for the front again and started anew. This time I made absolutely sure that I switched needles after the first three rows.

The right front is off to a respectable start. I'm hoping I have enough yarn. So far, 5.5 balls have been consumed in making the back and left front. There are 10 balls total. I think I can eek by, but I'm nervous nonetheless. I swung by the Yarnery today in St. Paul to buy the last three buttons that I would need. Given my penchant for black cats, I think they are suitably appropriate. Here's a pic taken from the woollyworks website.

These buttons come in a variety of images. I was seriously tempted by the cow jumped over the moon, humpty dumpty, and Jack jumped over the candlestick. They do come at a hefty price ($4.15 each) and needing six for this coat make for a pricey accent. Sure there are much cheaper buttons, but these are perfect: color to compliment the yarn, black cats, and a good feel. Besides, do I really want to knit 1420 yards of dk yarn and not do the work full justice by adding subpar buttons? Answer: not really. Whoever says handknits are a cheap alternative have never shopped for buttons, or yarn for that matter. Thankfully, the cuddly soft yarn, Cashsoft dk in Imp, is a gift from MamaSara. Without her generosity, the Blackheads would be looking at a very cost prohibitive $115 hand knit coat. Oh yes, handknits are such a great way to save money. Yeah right.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Twinkle Toes Tutu

Twinkle Toes Tutu
by HelenHue

Our little girl has been dancing up a storm. So much so that I am beginning to wonder if my womb came complete with a DDR. I really hope she is this spry and energetic when she’s finally out in the real world. This skirt was knit in less than an evening and is perfect for all that novelty yarn that’s sitting in our Stashes. Berroco’s Tutu is a triple stranded novelty yarn containing one tulle material eyelash type strand, one colorful paper material eyelash strand, and one strand of thick and thin boucle. If you can’t find Tutu in a nearby sale bin, I think this pattern will work with three strands of novelty yarn pulled together. Experiment and see what interesting combinations you can make. One yarn I’d like to try is Ironstone’s Pizzazz.

The construction is simple (it’s a tube) and great for beginners who want to break out of the novelty scarf rut. In terms of fit, there is a LOT of give in the waistband. A ribbon belt is woven through the eyelets to cinch the waist for fit. The size of the waistband can be easily changed by adding or subtracting sts in multiples of 2. If you want this to grow with your girl, consider lengthening the skirt; it could potentially start at her ankles and eventually come to her knees as she grows taller. Master Blackhead did provide a little practical (and future looking) caution… she might love this skirt so much she’ll wear it as a tube top in her teen years. A definite no-no in our house, but hey… you might not feel the way we do.

Waist: 14-26 inches
Length: 7 inches in the sample, but whatever you want (you’ll just need more yarn)

MC: Plymouth Yarns Platinum [50% Rayon, 30% Nylon, 20% Angora; 99 yards per 50 gram ball]; color: White; half a ball

CC: Berroco Tutu [80% Nylon, 10% Wool, 7% Acrylic, 3% Cotton; 36 yards per 50 gram ball]; color: White Multi; 2 balls

2 yards 1.5 inch wide satin ribbon

1 20-inch US 8/5mm circular needle
1 20-inch US 15/10mm circular needle
1 removable marker
darning needle
1 crochet hook for pulling tulle strands through to RS (optional)

18 sts = 4 inches in stockinette stitch with smaller needle

With MC, CO 90 sts and join in the rnd, being careful not to twist the sts. Place a marker to denote the beginning of the rnd.
Rnds 1-5: [K1,P1] repeat until end of rnd.
Rnd 6: [K1,P1] repeat until 1 st remains. DO NOT WORK the last st. It will be knitted together with the first st of the next rnd
Rnd 7: Knit together the last st of rnd 6 and the first st of rnd 7. Place marker to the right of this k2tog. [YO, K2tog] until the end of the rnd. YO.
Rnd 8-13: Knit all sts. Break MC and join CC.

Using larger needle and CC, continue working stockinette stitch in the round for 5 inches or until skirt reaches desired length. BO off very loosely.

Weave in ends. Using crochet hook (or your fingers, mine worked pretty well), pull the tulle strands on the WS through to the RS. Please be patient with this step (and yes, it does feel like it takes forever). The skirt will look fuller if you do this. Take the length of ribbon and weave it through the eyelets in whatever pattern you think looks cute. I skipped over three eyelets at a time. Slip on your little ballerina, tie a pretty bow, and send her on her merry way.

Here's a picture of the WS once the tulle strands have been pulled through to the RS.

Advice from Mama Blackhead: dress her in all the bows and frilly things you can possibly get before she develops her own fashion sense and knows better.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Successful Knitting Marathon

Last weekend, Master Blackhead and I had 5 whole days to ourselves. I figured it gave me plenty of time to start and finish the Linus Project Security Blanket from Knitting for Peace. I paced myself at one ball of Comfort per day (about 200 yds), yielding an estimated time to completion of four days. After 3.5 days, Linus was done and the ends were woven. I love this blanket. It's wonderfully squishy and bouncy. The pattern was simple to remember: a three row repeat consisting of one row of all knit, one of all purl, and ONLY one of lace stitches. You can find the pattern free at Project Linus.

Name: A Linus for a Lucy, 30" x 30", easily stretches to 36" x 36"
Yarn: Berroco Comfort, Peach
Yarn Source: Amazing Threads, Maple Grove, MN
Needles: US 9 32" Addi Turbos
Pattern: Project Linus Security Blanket from Knitting from Peace, free online

I also finished another baby sweater. Initially, there wasn't enough Hacho to finish the raglan sleeves, which was quite serendipitous. I went back to LYS and got some sublime merino to finish it. I really like the results and will be posting the pattern here at some point.

Name: Daisy-ed and Confused, 18 month
Yarn: Mirasol Hacho Fuschia, Sublime Merino dk Navy Blue, spare sock yarn in hot pink
Yarn Source: Amazing Threads, Maple Grove, MN
Needles: US 5 32" Addi Turbos
Pattern: My own

Two nights ago, I started the Debbie Bliss Ribbed Baby Jacket. I'm almost done. All that's left is the collar and seams. Here's a mid-project progress picture.

With this next upcoming long weekend, the Hemlock Ring Throw (free at the Rainey Sisters' blog) is at the front of the queue. I ordered some yarn from Webs and hope it arrives in time. I picked a closeout merino, di.Ve's Zenith.

Despite all my "no-pink" talk, I really like this soft pink. I'm not opposed to soft pink, it's the cotton candy pink that drives me bonkers. Cross your fingers. Let's hope slow shipping doesn't get in the way of my knitting marathon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy 2009

Yes... the best presents still come under the tree.

If all goes well, this will be the last Christmas where it will be just Master Blackhead, Hex, Jynx, and me. To honor the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another, we're staying home this year and just enjoying the moment. The only real noise will be the sound of Starcraft gurgling on the computer. We've both long since learned to tune out the clicking of knitting needles. There's no hectic Christmas dinner rush, getting the place cleaned before everyone comes over, cleaning the place again once everyone leaves, loud family members sqwaking away about where to buy the cheapest item in bulk (you'd have to be Chinese to fully understand how loud that really is), and best of all no airports crowded with angry people. Of course, we miss our family, but one year to ourselves before all Hell breaks loose in a fit of diapered cacophony is surely a true treasure.

Speaking of Chaos in Diapers... the legwarmies are done. They are super cute. Hopefully they will also be very useful; especially, since I plan to make several more pairs. I really liked the TajMahal for this project. Usually variegated yarns pool in the ugliest ways and even more so when knit in the round. This yarn was subtle enough that the pooling gave interest without that "ugh... that's awful" look.

Name: Legwarmies, one size
Yarn: Filatura TajMahal
Yarn Source: Amazing Threads, Maple Grove, MN via MamaSara's Stash
Needles: US 3 9" Hiya Hiya

Next up is the Upside Down Daisy Hat from Itty Bitty Hats. This will be the third one of these that I make. I made the hat part about a year ago and put it away after making the petals got tedious. Hopefully, I'll get to finish it this weekend.

What I am really going to be concentrating on is the Project Linus Security Blanket from Knitting for Peace. The modified feather and fan pattern is pretty easy and relaxing to work. I'm using Berroco's Comfort, which has been a surprise and a half. I expected going into this that I'd absolutely hate the yarn: It's totally synthetic after all. Surprise surprise... it's been great. It has really nice elastic bounce, which almost mimics a nice wool. It's soft and non-itchy too. It does have a tendency to split. I can see how a fast or tight or both knitter would hate this. This hasn't been too big of an issue for me seeing as how I'm just an average knitter (both speed and tension) ... just call me Joe the Knitter.

I have this entire lovely long weekend to work on this. Hopefully, it's enough time to finish, but not too much time. If I finish too soon, then I'll be itching to get to my LYS, which might not be open. I've been eyeing the presents under the tree and hoping with all my heart that there's yarn in one of those packages. Not that I need more, it's just nice to know it's there. To all of you who are wishing the same thing, Merry Christmas and may your tree be pregnant with balls and balls of yarn.