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September 30, 2005

Those socks...

Socks - I'm sorry. There is a delay, and I'm filled with the worst dread imaginable - I have no control over the situation, and I have not been able to find out any details. All I can say is, stay tuned, I'll let you know what I know, when I know it. Okay? ;)

Knitting - not much has happened recently - I've been very sick, and very busy. Somehow I feel the two are tied together, that not getting enough rest is preventing me from getting better.

Saturday - mushroom picking. I get so involved, it's quite priceless ;). I'll see if I can get someone to snap a picture of me, wearing my Martha Stewart gardening gloves, no doubt :).

Sunday - Boston Knit-Out & Crochet 2005 - I hope to see you there!

Picture - no blog entry is complete without a picture. Here's one of me, knitting, from maybe about a year ago:


Posted by Kathy at 08:54 PM | Comments (8)

September 28, 2005

Inside and out

Not to interrupt the Curlicue high or anything, but I've got something else to talk about - my sample knit for Annie Modesitt's new book, Men Who Knit (and the dogs who love them).

The description of the sample knit makes it seem almost trivial - it's just a felted dog bed knit out of KnitPicks Sierra. However, Annie's signature cleverness is present through and through!

First, the sides of the dog bed are striped and the reverse stockinette side is the public side. You know that's going to look super cool all felted up!

Second, the sides are double-knit. I've never used that technique before, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe traditionally only one strand is used at a time. However, the particular way in which Annie designed the double-knitting requires knitting with two yarns at once! At first, I was using both of my hands, the way people often do when knitting Fair Isle designs:

My left hand is purling, and my right, knitting.

You know on my Gilligan's Island left hand is Captain and the right hand is just an awkward Skipper, so to make sure I was on the right track, I e-mailed Annie and asked her how she intended the pattern to be knit. Annie wrote back that (no surprise) she has no intentions of telling anyone how to knit! But she mentioned that she held both strands in her left hand. I gave it a try, and the technique is simply brilliant:

Believe it or not, in this picture I'm alternating purling and knitting with each of the yarns! Incredible!

So, you know that double-knitting produces a double-thickness fabric with a "pocket" in the middle. Annie took advantage of this and wrote her pattern in such a way that one side of the pocket is closed, and the other open - that way fiberfill can be stuffed into each pocket before it's seamed up!

You wanna take a look inside this magical pocket? Remember, this is the wrong side of the work:

So cool! (Also, easy to adjust directions in case the dog owner wants the stripes on the right side).

I'm so excited about this project because double-knitting in this way is awesome (and looks mighty impressive), the way the pocket is formed without any extra work is genius (you'll just have to knit it yourself to find out how!), and I just love glancing inside it to see all the cool stripes!

Oh yeah, ten exclamation points in that entry! Well, now eleven ;).

Oh, that thing about my sidebar - I forgot to check browser compatibility. So although my girl Betsy, a fellow Mac user, was able to figure things out, those of you using PC IE... not so much :). Classic mistake on my part. I think it's better now.

Posted by Kathy at 10:02 PM | Comments (22)

Sedation

One of the reasons I love being a blogger is the constant encouragement! Oh my goodness, all of you are really maintaining the excitement, and continuing to urge me on! Well, I won't disappoint! At least for now ;).

Who needs a mop when I have a snow-white Curlicue splayed out on the floor every evening?

What you see is section 1 (with the scalloped edging), section 2 (looks sort of like a rhombus), and just the first few rows of section 3. Once again, my rhombus doesn't look very much like the little wedge in the schematic:

I like coloring in my progress - it makes the whole thing feel much more real ;).

So far things are going okay. My only point of concern is the puckering where section 1 meets section 2. I'm opting not to worry about it for now for several reasons. First, my photo is a bit "posed" - if I want, I can make it lay entirely flat, which actually causes a very delicate spreading of the scallops, like a fan. I'm thinking that's the actual intent of the pattern, and that once section 15 (ha!) is completed, everything will fall into place. Also, I see a bit of puckering in the pattern photo (how about you?). Last, this situation is entirely out of my control - the number of short-rows directly dictates the number of stitches at the joint.

To those of you who think that one section/day progress means a blanket in 2 weeks, I must say, eh, it's not gonna happen. The most important reason - I would go totally insane. Second reason - this cotton really dries out my hands and I can't handle it for long periods of time. Which brings us to reason number three...

Remember in my last entry I mentioned another project falling into my lap? Well, I'm sample-knitting for Annie Modesitt's new book, Men Who Knit (and the dogs who love them). Now, imagine this - a book will be published, and something inside that book will have been knit by ME! That is the coolest feeling in the world! Anyway, the project I'm knitting uses a lovely wool/alpaca blend, which, in the most amazing way, restores all the moisture the cotton Curlicue sucks out of my hands. Annie and I have agreed on some rules with respect to blogging about this project, and, yes, I'll be able to tell you more, although not everything (but for starters, here's a sneak peek). For now, I'm putting off writing the actual post because I'm just floored by how clever and creative this project is, and I'm afraid that unless I seriously sedate myself before blogging, the post will be a puddle of verbal diarrhea filled with praises and raves of every imaginable variety.

So, yeah, need to sedate myself first ;).

P.S. I did a small re-design of my sidebar. If you have any feedback, let me know!

Posted by Kathy at 01:53 AM | Comments (26)

September 26, 2005

Riding the good vibes...

You guys are great - thanks for egging me on! Woohoo! I'm totally psyched about the Curlicue Coverlet, and I really need to maintain that enthusiasm, because the schematic for blanket construction looks like this:

I may be pushing copyright boundaries by showing that to you, but I think as long as I don't specify how to actually make the blanket, I'm in the clear. Anyway, I've got one thing to say, "eh, shit!"

But until one casts on, one doesn't know how complicated the knitting will actually be, right? And so, I got started.

(We can discuss my choice of snow-white yarn at another point - there will be plenty of "other points," since this will be a very long-term project. Let's just say that it's a good thing I'm paranoid about washing my hands). The scalloped edging is worked as you go, just as the description claims. Very cute!

The pattern is not easy. There's constant counting, referring to the directions, second-guessing, shushing everyone - that kind of thing. The idea of frogging petrifies me because of all the short rows... and just the field of whiteness, all of it looking very much the same - how do you even start finding a mistake? So, I plan to avoid frogging as much as possible (famous last words) (don't we all say that at the start of every project?).

High pressure and fear of losing my place energized me to finish the first section in almost one sitting:

Well, you don't have to be a brain surgeon to see that it looks nothing like the little wedge in the schematic, but I think I've been able to locate that section in the picture of the actual blanket:

 

What do you think?

On to section 2? Yes and no. Of course, yes, but there's no way I'll be able to stay entirely loyal to this blanket which will take me until January to complete without going bonkers. Good thing another project sort of fell into my lap and it's out of this world! I'll tell you more about it very soon. For now, I'm starting section 2 of the Curlicue.

Posted by Kathy at 10:03 PM | Comments (28)

September 25, 2005

La Matadora

I first saw this Oat Couture Curlicue Coverlet on Kate's blog. It was cute, and I've had good luck with an Oat Couture blanket pattern in the past. Kate had some choice words about it, though, in a post entitled (appropriately) Meltdown:

By now I was starting to freak out a little. I tried fixing the stitches again, but now there were not only holes, but great big loops of yarn sticking out of the holes. It was as if SATAN had taken over my knitting.

A stream of profanity began to pour from my mouth, startling my mother and sister. I started to hyperventilate as I realized I was going to have to frog. I slowly ripped out a few rows, then violently ripped out a few more, then threw the whole thing across the room and burst into hysterical tears. I mean, I was SOBBING. I think it was partly due to pent-up theatre stress, but DAMN. It was ridiculous. Fortunately, my family members all know what to do in a situation like this. Mommy ran for kleenex and a cold wet washcloth for my forehead, and Elizabeth ran into the kitchen and got me a great big Tanqueray and tonic. Ethan just stood there and stared at me disgustedly.

Oh? Kleenex, cold wet washcloth, and Tanqueray and tonic, you say? I am not the type to back down from a challenge, and those ingredients certainly implied that a challenge was to be had.

Then, lo and behold, my coworker S. gets pregnant - she is expecting a girl in mid-January - perfect excuse to knit this challenge of a blanket. I got some yarn (remember all that Hand Work Cora I got?) and now needed to hunt down the pattern.

I went to the Oat Couture website to check the list of distributors, and then I saw the ominous warning on the pattern description itself: "This beautiful coverlet is not for the faint of heart."

Not for the faint of heart, you say?

Bwahahaha!!!

This is like waiving a red flag in front of a bull - the temptation, the excitement, the challenge was almost too much to handle.

But it gets better.

I hunt down a copy of the pattern at the always-delightful Wild & Woolly in Lexington. The owner, Jackie, is checking me out, takes one look at the pattern, and says, "Good luck!" "Oh?" I ask. She tells me that she gave that pattern and some yarn to her very best sample knitter, and she came back several months later saying that she couldn't do it, she couldn't finish it, it was too complicated.

All I have to say is, bring it on, Curlicue, bring it ON! I've got España Cañí playing in the back of my head - let's dance this paso doble.

Posted by Kathy at 09:58 PM | Comments (25)

September 23, 2005

Cursed? I think not!

I sort of finished them in a little more than a day:

I love them! They fit perfectly, and I just love the way they look and feel! I envision wearing these around the house when it gets cold, and they'll fit into some of my winter shoes, too.

Some details:

  • My first toe-up pair, and I now understand what all the buzz is about - this is a great way to knit socks! I mainly used Wendy Johnson's Knitty tutorial, but wrapped my stitches according to Véronik Avery's article in Interweave (winter 2004). After completing the heel, I knit about one more inch in stockinette, then one inch in 1 X 1 rib. I used the backstitch bind-off from Montse Stanley, but I think it's the same as EZ's bind-off. This is definitely stretchy enough to slide on and off my foot easily, maybe even a little too loose.

  • The yarn is Artful Yarns Candy in Sour Apple, a little less than 2 skeins. I could have gotten another 1 - 1.5" out of each skein, but I didn't want the socks any longer (did I mention how great it is to knit toe-up?!?). I love this yarn - it has no wool content, so my feet will not turn into the inferno. Not to mention, is it not the coolest thing you've ever seen? It's tweedy, texture-y, stretchy goodness. YUM. The yarn's first owner proclaimed it cursed, but it's been anything but in my hands ;).
  • I worked this sock on 48 stitches, the same number as my Pretty Comfy Socks. This was a sort of educated guess, considering the two yarns are about the same thickness and I was using the same needles.
  • Speaking of needles, I mainly used Bryspun dpns, US 3, with occasional interludes into insanity:

    Yes, each sock has one end of that circular. Don't ask. Just don't.

Well, I've got nothing to knit again. Eh, shit. I'll come up with something over the weekend, and hopefully I won't finish it in two days. In the meantime, have a good one!

P.S. I received the sweetest e-mail from my Sockapal-2-za sock pal yesterday. Her name is Yasmin, and she doesn't have a blog. She received the socks I knit for her, and she loves them! I'm so happy to hear that, Yasmin! In case you're curious, these are the socks Yasmin knit for her own pal.

Posted by Kathy at 02:04 AM | Comments (16)

September 22, 2005

Trials

Is it time to knit yet? Is it, is it?!? I want to knit! All these gifts, all these photos, all this swapping, all this blogging, but no knitting.

Until tonight :).

In case you want to read it again, this is the blog entry where I mention how I got some cursed Artful Yarns Candy, which I intend to make into footlets, toe-up style ;).

Pass me some needles, because I'm about to get knitting!

I started with a yarn-over short-row toe-up toe tutorial from Purly Whites. Her photo-based tutorial is extremely clear! There were some instances where our numbers didn't match, though; for example, sometimes I had to end on a knit row to have a symmetric stitch distribution, but Purly ended on a purl row. Okay, out came Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' Priscilla's Dream Socks article from Interweave. Between those two, I was able to come up with a toe prototype:

  

Good for my first try, but I can see some areas to be improved right away (other than my criminal flip-flop tan). The most obvious correction is that the toe is too shallow and needs a few more rows. Also, I remember why I don't like yarn-over short-rows: it looks wonky along the sides (at least for me).

Alright, back to the wrapped short-row method which I've used on sock heels in the past (Paula's and mine), but never on toes. I pulled up Wendy Johnson's Knitty tutorial, started knitting, and, man, her wrapping instructions are different than what I'm used to. Okay, back to the library - Short Rows: a few stitches short of a row by Véronik Avery, also an IK article. Combining Wendy's instructions and Véronik's way of wrapping, finally, I got this:

  

Much better. It still seems a little shallow, but it's not bad, and those sides are more attractive. I must say that picking up two wraps and knitting them together with their parent stitch is hell. I haven't done that before... I'm not sure if that's because I've been using a particular set of short-row heel instructions, or short-row heels typically don't use the double-wrap. But yeah, I can see why people would go for the yarn-over alternative - it's definitely easier on the hands.

Before I forgot what the hell I did, I knit the other toe and joined the round for both:

Ah, yes, my aging pedicure is covered :-D.

And now we zoom out (and Photoshop):

GARRRR!

And I'm off! Go, Grumperina, go!

Posted by Kathy at 12:30 AM | Comments (16)

September 20, 2005

Exchange Central

Thank you all for your wonderful comments on the Filati tunic! I’m so happy with the way it turned out, and your comments made me feel even better about it :).

Closing thought: I’ve never had Cheez Whiz, Cheez Its, Cheetos, Velveeta, or Cheesy Poofs (am I forgetting anything?) (I’m a picky eater), but the Filati tunic is a pretty close match to tonight’s dinner:


Closing up this season of exchanges, I received the scarf Polly knit for me as part of Stitch Ya Neck Out.

It was almost like a pleasant surprise, since I had forgotten all the nuances of the yarn color and texture. It is simply lovely, everything about it. Polly did a marvelous job of knitting and blocking, of course – we’re talking about the woman who designed the Kiri Shawl! If there’s one knitter to be entrusted with a lacey pattern, it’s Polly. Thank you for doing a spectacular job, I’m so happy with how the scarf turned out!

I had a particular outfit in mind for this scarf – in the spring, I bought this tan blazer, which is very much out of character for me, since I consider tan dangerously close to my most-hated color, brown. I wanted a scarf to pair with this blazer – all the others match my predominantly red/black/gray wardrobe. What do you think? I think it matches pretty well :).

In her package Polly included a very witty letter (those Brits!) and some yummy chocolate/orange cookies (those Brits!). Thank you so much! She also included for me two skeins of Jaeger 4 ply Silk in a deep red (my favorite!).

Polly, thank you for this incredibly generous (and discontinued) gift – I will do my best to find something for you along the same lines :).

Posted by Kathy at 09:06 PM | Comments (22)

Artificial cheese products

Kraft Mac & Cheese.

Cheez Whiz.

Filati tunic. (click for head-on shot)


Perhaps the way I feel about this sweater is not at all ambiguous :).

(Thanks, Betsy, Diana, and Michelle for a helpful discussion about which artificial cheese product most closely resembles the color of my sweater. Good times, good times.)

Pattern: despite what I’ve been calling it, the official name of this thing is Toccata Sweater from Filati magazine 27, subtitled, “The new trends: EXOTIC & EROTIC.”
Yarn: KnitPicks Shine in Apricot, 9 skeins.
Needles and gauge: US 4 Addis, 22 sts and 32 rows per 4” stockinette square after blocking.
Finishing: Other than the standard wet-blocking, I ironed the seams: high setting, high steam, through thin pillowcase - ever since I discovered the beauty of pressing seams to make them flat and the garment more streamlined, I have NOT been able to stop.
Finished size: 35” bust, 31” waist, 36” hip, 21.5” to shoulder.

Modifications and other thoughts: (a not-so-small rant, you’ve been warned)

I was so excited about this pattern when I first bought it – not only was it cute, but the finished dimensions of one of the sizes would work perfectly for me. At that time I was just parting ways with the Adrienne Vittadini sweater from hell, so I was looking forward to an easy knit.

But life doesn’t always work out simply, does it? The first pattern modification was made willingly and purposefully - waist shaping. But even a simple addition like that didn’t go smoothly since I failed to take into account that the lace at the hem was going to stretch like a mofo. Good thing Operation Orange Overload was a success and the fix wasn’t much of a hassle.

I was hoping the pattern would make the rest of my knitting experience simple by writing clear and accurate instructions, but I knew I was in trouble when the cast-on instructions didn’t correspond to the size of lace repeats. The rest of the pattern didn’t get any better, and a cursory glance would certainly lead one to believe that the writers were high on bunny crack when they published this nonsense. A perfect example is the sleeve instructions, which are SO wrong, you’ll make a tea cozy or a cabled children’s hat depending on how you interpret them. I ended up re-writing them.

And then we get to the neckline. Ah yes, the neckline. After all the pieces were knit, I proceeded to start seaming. With enough seaming completed to sort of “try on” the sweater, it became immediately obvious to me that the neckhole was incredibly wide. Like, “fall of my shoulders” wide, not, “cute boatneck” wide. I wish I had the patience to take a picture of that: it would make great blogging material – I looked ridiculous. And very angry.

In fact, I was so dumbfounded, shocked, and pissed off by what I saw in the mirror, that I tore off the half-completed sweater and started frogging before you could say, “Lifeline, crazyass Grumperina, lifeline!” There was much cursing, squinting, frogging, wishing for a lifeline, and referring to bunny crack. The fix took only (deep breath) knitting another 4 or 5 pattern rows after the whole thing was seamed (don’t even ask how I managed to do that), significantly decreasing the number of stitches in the front and back portions, changing the neckhole edging to be slightly more substantial, knitting the neckhole edging on smaller-sized needles (two rows on US 3, then two rows on US2), and a wee bit of a heart attack.

All along my yarn of choice wasn’t helping. I would describe KnitPicks Shine the same way I describe KnitPicks Merino Style - fragile; will never stand up to frogging and falls apart in your hands like cotton candy. But, damn, it’s soft and silky, and the stitches are crisp enough to knit by touch only. I think I’d use it again as long as I knew there’d be no chance of extensive frogging, and as long as the project was mainly stockinette – knitting the lace patterns using this yarn made my hands hurt.

And now I’m going to stop complaining because this thing is too damn cute and fits too perfectly to be pissed off any longer :-D. It was worth the headaches.

Posted by Kathy at 12:07 AM | Comments (60)

September 18, 2005

My socks have landed!

There I am, at my mailbox, la-da-di-da-da, when I see a padded envelope from Seattle. I'm totally oblivious, of course, because the first thing that pops into my mind is that it's from Meg (insert blank expression here; I, too, do not understand why I thought that Meg, who lives in Australia, and from whom I'm not expecting anything, would be mailing me stuff from Seattle!). Then I think, it must be from Polly (ditto with the blank expression, Polly lives in Great Britain). I rip open the package, and some yarn, some sock yarn, to be exact, flies out. AH! It is from my secret Sock Pal! I guess I just couldn't imagine it would get here so quickly!

If you only knew how much restraint I needed to take this picture, since it was taken before I opened it and revealed the goodies inside:

I love this tissue paper, "Smart Women are Gifted," and the pattern matches across the package's seam! But, you know, wrapping, shmapping, it was time to look inside:

(color more accurate in the other photos) I love them, as well as the cute sock sleeve! First, I love the color - it is extremely practical since I wear jeans 360 days out of the year (the other five days I don't leave the house, obviously). Second, I love the yarn, Regia Cotton 4-ply, since my hot footsies need a cotton yarn to stay cool. Third, I love this pattern, Waving Lace from the spring 2004 IK, so much so that I'm planning to knit a pair of socks for grandma using it! It is so cool:

And the fit is fabulous, as is the quality of the knitting. Whoever knit these did a wonderful job with the heels and toes as well as the overall knitting:

Only after all the ooing and aahing, trying on, inspecting, and taking pictures, I finally took out the two Seattle postcards my pal included and found out that my secret pal is Kim! Thank you, Kim, you did a great job with this pair, matching my crazy list of preferences perfectly, and made my Sockapal-2-za experience truly great!

Posted by Kathy at 11:32 AM | Comments (28)

September 17, 2005

Image this!

Strictly timed experiments. Everything must be imaged (roughly, put sample under microscope, then take pictures) within a 2-day span. "Everything" is enough to make 12-hour workdays. The imaging itself is tedious and must be done in as much darkness as possible. After the sample is prepared and placed under the microscope,

1. set camera
2. camera takes image for 30 seconds
3. look at image and adjust camera for the next take, which must start exactly 30 seconds after the end of the first
4. repeat from (1) 15 times per experiment
5. repeat as many times as necessary to image "everything" within a 2-day span.

Enter Ms. Yarn Harlot, and her new book. Inability to put book down results in crazy behavior.

1. set camera
2. camera takes image for 30 seconds while crazy-ass Grumperina reads Yarn Harlot's book with only the glow of the monitor to guide her tired eyes (it's amazing how much one can read in 30 seconds)
3. put book down, look at image and adjust camera for the next take, which must start exactly 30 seconds after the end of the first
4. repeat from (1) 15 times per experiment
5. repeat as many times as necessary to image "everything" within a 2-day span.

I read the majority of that book in 30-second intervals. In nearly total darkness. Did I mention, inability to put book down?!?

Stephanie, you've outdone yourself in this one. Spectacular. Dare I say, I like the format of this one much better than the first?

Note to self: experiment #24, which was done while reading "What Her Hands Won't Do," may not have precisely followed the imaging protocol since I was sobbing uncontrollably. Uhm, some of the other experiments may not have precisely followed the imaging protocol since I was cracking up. It's all good ;).

Posted by Kathy at 01:27 AM | Comments (8)

September 14, 2005

Isn't it getting warm in Australia?

Meg's Stitch Ya Neck Out scarf is done!

Well, sort of.

Because Meg substituted yarn (Australia's own Checkheaton 8-ply in place of Jaeger Matchmaker DK), and there was a yardage discrepancy, 5 full skeins later, Meg's scarf is only 43" long. The pattern calls for a scarf that's 61" long, which would take two more skeins of wool to complete.

Meg and I decided that when I used up all the wool, I would place the stitches on a holder and mail this sort-of-FO back to her so she could potentially finish knitting the scarf herself. Potentially because she may decide 43" is long enough for her purposes. Meg will also block the scarf to conceal any differences two knitters are bound to make while knitting the same object.

  • Pattern: Forbes Forest from Scarf Style, designed by Kathy Zimmerman.
  • Yarn: Cleckheaton Country 8 ply, 100% machine-washable wool, color #2265, 5 skeins. Grown and spun in Australia!
  • Needles: Inox circs, US 6/ 4.00 mm.
  • Finished size: 9 1/2" wide, 43" long.
  • Mods: different, more voluptuous bobbles that required no turning ;). The big bobbles, which are called popcorns in this pattern, are the "simple 5 stitch I-bobbles" straight out of Annie Modesitt's Confessions of a Knitting Heretic. I intended the small bobbles to be the 3-stitch version from the same book, but misread the directions, so they're slightly different. Oops!
  • For shits and giggles: I've knit 60 popcorns, 75 bobbles, and crossed 948 cables.

Would you be shocked if I told you that this is one of my favorite patterns EVER?!? The bobbles, the cables, the texture... How often do you come across a technically-challenging pattern that's also easy to memorize and strikes the right balance between boring and mind-boggling? This is IT. And every time I whipped out this scarf in the presence of other knitters - oohing and aahing, I kid you not.

So, I would knit this again in a heartbeat. How's that for endorsement?

By the way, I knit this scarf in true Annie Modesitt fashion: I crossed my cables without the aid of an extra needle, just like she taught me (uhm, does the number 948 mean anything to you? ;)), and her bobbles are simply brilliant - as though they weren't juicy enough before, but became simply monstrous after I "set" them - poked and prodded them from the backside until they resembled cherries!

Meg, your scarf (along with instructions about picking up where I left off) will be on its way shortly.

Posted by Kathy at 01:31 PM | Comments (18)

September 13, 2005

It’s raining socks!

Sockapal-2-za is coming to a close, so it’s time for me to wrap things up, too. First, a brief reminder of what I knit, since I finished these more than 2 months ago! Plus I took this photo after the FO report.

I still really like them, and I hope my pal does, too!

Similar to the sock sleeve I made for Paula (and once again copying Carolyn), my pal got one, too:

If you’ve been around these parts long enough, you know my intolerance of crap, so I just enclosed a little bit of spare yarn, wrapped the socks in some tissue paper, wrote out a nice card, and that’s that.

They will be on their way tomorrow!

But this is just the beginning of some sock adventures. In fact, I have at least two pairs of socks planned in the immediate future. As soon as I finish up Meg’s SYNO scarf, and make a bit more progress on my Filati tunic, I’ll get started.

First, the cold season is once again upon us, and Grandma needs some new socks. I will combine the periwinkle Lorna’s Laces I bought a few months ago and the Waving Lace pattern from the Spring ’04 IK, which Laura and Jody have recently knit.

  

Second, remember that truly cursed yarn I acquired via Diana?

This is Artful Yarns Candy in the Sour Apple colorway. I first laid my eyes on this goodness when Paula and I visited And the Beadz Go On… in Wickford, RI. It just seemed perfect to me for a pair of socks because it’s so cute, stretchy, and doesn’t have any wool! I didn’t buy any at the time because it seemed that Paula was considering it for our sock exchange.

Then a bit of time went by, and some of this yarn practically fell into my lap! Diana purchased two balls for a pair of footlets, and purely by accident decided to use a sock pattern that’s known far and wide for its inaccuracy (care to take a guess?). She struggled and struggled, declared the yarn “cursed,” and was ready to get rid of it. She mentioned it to me, and of course I wanted it! And now I have it – truly cursed yarn.

The plan is to knit a pair of footlets for myself from the toe up. I plan on making short-row toes (haven’t decided yet whether I will use yarn overs or wraps), and short-row heels (ditto). Hopefully the cursed status of the yarn will not transfer from Diana’s needles to mine ;).

Posted by Kathy at 03:27 PM | Comments (11)

September 12, 2005

I'm never paying for shit again.

This can mean only one thing - I'm not going to teach in my underwear this semester! Attendance may decrease, but without cool underpants like Laura's I shouldn't even try.

  

Even to my (often overcritical) eye, these came out excellent ;).

Click on the extended entry to read more.

From the scraps photographed above, it may seem that I did a whole lot of work (three blog-entries' worth) for not taking off much length. Well, it's true - I only shortened each pair by about 1 1/2", but with jeans, even if 1 extra centimeter gets stuck under my shoes, I go bonkers!

I pretty much precisely followed the plan I laid out in a previous entry, except I skipped the bashing with a hammer bit, and the hump jumper bit - once it was clear that my sewing machine couldn't handle sewing through a thrice-folded seam, all of that extra stuff became unnecessary. I still first basted carefully, then ironed the seam before sewing, and marked the needle plate with a piece of tape to create a very even seam.

Pair 1

 
 

At the top is the before and after. This pair by Red Engine is made from a thin, light denim, and was the easiest to hem - I was even able to tackle fully folded-over seams! It took just a little bit of pushing and prodding, but it wasn't an impossible task like my practice pair.

Pair 2

 
 

This is another Red Engine pair, but it's made from heavier denim and has a little bit of stretch. For this one, I was able to stitch through one of the side seams folded under twice, but the other I had to fold only once. The machine was able to negotiate all seams with minimal intervention as before ;). I will put some Fray-Chek on the exposed seam before I wear the jeans.

Pair 3

 
 

This pair is by Salt Works Jeans, and it is exactly like the pair above - heavier denim with a bit of stretch - so I hemmed them the same way, too. I'm particularly excited about this pair because I think they make my ass look like a million bucks. And all our asses can use some of that, right? ;)

I feel so empowered by this hemming exercise, it's hard to contain myself! Sewing is one of these things that I never got, you know? There are bobbins and thread and presser feet and needle plates - very intimidating! But I feel so good having hemmed my own jeans, and, in my opinion, having done a fantastic job - I've had jeans hemmed at the tailor before, and they come out absolutely no better than what I've been able to do here. In fact, want to take a look?

(I got these light denim jeans hemmed about three years ago, so the seams have been worn nicely.)

Oh. My. God. How in the world have I been paying $18 a pair for a shitty job like this?!? Do you see that? The tailor used regular thread, not heavy topstitch thread like I did, and the hem isn't even straight! And why in the world did he/she sew into the seam?!? Appalling.

As you are my witnesses, I will never pay $18 for shit again.

Now, what is it I hear about a special presser foot for blind hems, the type of hem often used on trousers? Oh, this is about to become a thing! ;)

Posted by Kathy at 11:49 AM | Comments (25)

September 11, 2005

Magic knitting gnome

I must have a magic knitting gnome living in my knitting basket because it seems that these socks appeared out of nowhere! I mean, did you see me knitting them? Nope!

But here they are, and they come with quite a story.

Click on the extended entry to read more.

Several months ago, Paula and I agreed to a sock exchange – I knit a pair for her, and she, for me.

Before even a second e-mail was exchanged regarding this swap, I knew exactly the yarn I wanted to use - Art Yarns Supermerino. I had seen Kate knit with this luscious yarn, and I had heard many great reviews elsewhere.

Of course I consulted with my buddies - Kate gave this idea an approving nod, Colleen advised me on colorways, The KnittingZone supplied the stuff, and I was ready to go.

Mmm hmm, colorway 106, also known as, perfection!

And then things got gloomy.

Paula started buying Art Yarn stuff.

And lots of it.

She was in a tizzy, and so was I! She was buying Art Yarns like it was going out of style! I nervously read her e-mails and blog, waiting for the moment she would buy the exact colorway I had chosen for her. She didn’t disappoint – voilà!

How many of you received a panicked e-mail from me that day? Thank you for keeping me calm, for encouraging me to cast on.

And cast on I did! This is a worsted weight yarn, and I decided to knit it on size 3 needles for a nice, tight gauge, to prolong the lifetime of these socks. I used a funky cast-on from Nancy Bush’s Knitting on the Road, and then I made up a simple slip-stitch pattern to get nice striping:

And that was that! Fortunately, Paula hasn’t knit up that colorway into a sock yet, so mine are unique. For now :).

Here is Miss Black Olive herself, modeling the goods:

They fit, and Paula seems to really like them :). She also really liked the sock sleeve, the idea for which I blatantly stole from Carolyn.

I think only a Designer like Paula would immediately pick up that, yes, that Hello Kitty matches the socks. What can I say, I'm a Photoshop ho!

As for the socks Paula knit for me, they are just fabulous! So cheery and sunny and cotton!

I really do love these socks - thank you, Paula!

I know Paula will post a similar entry soon (uhm, as soon as I e-mail her the photos from my camera), so go over to her blog and read more!

Posted by Kathy at 12:49 AM | Comments (22)

September 08, 2005

How do I get myself into these messes?

Hemming jeans. It didn't start out so good:

goddamnedsewingmachine

All that to loosen the needle clamp screw*!

I swear it was tightened like the Jaws of Life! I tried to loosen it with a screwdriver, but eventually had to put a piece of fabric over it and go at it with pliers. It was SO frustrating. But finally I changed out the regular needle and put in the Schmetz Jeans needle.

Then I took an old pair of jeans destined for the trash and practiced on them with this new needle. Here are the results:

    

I'm quite happy with the way the hem looks across the side seams and in the middle.

Let me tell you a bit about how I got here, and ask for more advice.

Continue with the extended entry to read more.

I folded down the new hem and basted it into place. Then I ironed the hem, and bashed it with a hammer to flatten the areas where the side seams are incorporated into the hem. I sewed with the right side facing me, and placed a piece of tape on the needle plate* to indicate the proper distance from the edge. Still, I had some close calls, and some calls which weren't close at all:

  

Either (1) I failed follow the taped guideline, or (2) my basting was a bit off in those sections, or (3) I sewed too close to the fold generally speaking, so it was bound to happen. Or a combination of the three.

I had to increase the upper thread tension* from the factory setting of "4" to the max, "9", in order to keep the top thread from making big loops on the bottom of the fabric. I feel that even "9" is not enough. Any comments/suggestions?

As for the side seams, the bottom line is that there was no way for my machine to sew through three folds of such thick fabric. Although I tried, I tried hard.

For starters, it wouldn't really fit under the presser foot* - I could squeeze it in there after a good bashing with the hammer, but it was too high of a stack to move (remind you of anything? I should've tried a hammer on that piece of shit, hehe.). Even if I could force it to move and/or released the presser foot, I had to turn the handwheel* with all my might, which caused a nasty blister on the inside of my right thumb (ouch!). A blister wouldn't have stopped me if I was getting good results, but I wasn't - the fabric wasn't moving, it was getting stuck, the thread was tangling, and I was frustrated to no extent.

I definitely dig the concept of a hump jumper, and I used my own version (just some denim folded up) to prop up the back of the presser foot when approaching the hump. But once I was there, I had bigger fish to fry, like the whole thing getting stuck and not moving.

So, what was my solution? To fold the fabric only once and sew through only two layers of the seam:

hemmingjeans8.jpg

This went very smoothly, no problems at all. But I don't know if this is good enough. Is this construction, with some of the fabric fully folded under and other fabric folded only once, asking for trouble? Will it come apart? Will it fray? Should I do a zigzag just on that part of the edge before hemming it down? Should I try other things to sew through three layers, like releasing the presser foot? I don't know about that last one since nothing would move even with the presser foot fully released.

I really want some jeans in time for the start of the school year!

*You betcha I wrote this entire entry with the sewing machine manual firmly placed in my lap, just as I would hold a dictionary were I writing in Spanish or French... 'cause you know I'm clueless when it comes to the bits and pieces.

Posted by Kathy at 12:26 PM | Comments (23)

September 07, 2005

Underpants

Other than picking raspberries and absolutely ruining my hands with thorn pricks, this is what I did on my summer vacation:

This is a good chunk (70%, to be exact) of Meg's Stitch Ya Neck Out scarf.

It is Forbes Forest from Scarf Style, and the texture is definitely something to write home about.

I've memorized the pattern by now, and I just cannot get enough of the textury goodness! There isn't much more to go - Meg, I should be done soon enough.

A few have hinted at the inevitable finishing of the orange Filati tunic. Hold your horses! :) I blog in real time, and the sleeves have not even been started, for real. I need to take a serious break from knitting for a few days and hem those jeans. The school year is about to start, and unless I get moving, I'll be teaching class in my underpants! Wish me luck!

With the hemming, that is, not with teaching in my underpants ;).

Posted by Kathy at 07:47 PM | Comments (21)

September 06, 2005

Operation Orange Overload

I've got a front and a back to my Filati tunic, but of course they aren't the same:

   

The wider piece, the one on the bottom, is the first incarnation, and it got just a little too wide after blocking - lace is pretty, but also pretty stretchy :). The more narrow piece resting on top is the second incarnation, and it has one fewer lace repeats - although I cast on 16.7-inches' worth of stitches in stockinette terms, it stretched to a perfectly comfortable 18" after blocking due to the lace.

Now I just need to make the wider piece match the more narrow one. I decided to follow a plan I conceived earlier: I would re-knit the bare minimum - a more narrow lace panel and decreases leading up to the waist - and graft it to the perfectly suitable upper portion of the sweater piece.

But first, some practice. My knitting reference book of choice is Montse Stanley's The Knitter's Handbook, and she has a lovely illustration on p. 242 explaining how to graft live stitches.

Can you tell which row is grafted?

Heh, not bad :).

Okay, okay, don't corner me!

That the third try ;).

Getting the right tension wasn't a problem, but (and I hope some experienced knitters chime in here) I didn't realize that cutting off some knitted fabric and picking up the stitches as though to work in the opposite direction results in one fewer stitches. It took me three tries to be convinced of this fact, although I haven't thought carefully about how the "geometry" of stitches causes this.

Practice out of the way, it was time to fix the real deal.

Continue onto the extended entry to read more.

(click thumbnails for big)

First, I knit the bare minimum replacement and placed it on a length of thread, in this case. I also threaded the equivalent of a lifeline through the stitches of the completed sweater piece - the lifeline will hold the first row of "saved" stitches.


  

Then, I snipped the first row of the errant lace portion and unraveled until it was fully separated from the perfectly suitable upper portion.

  

The lace replacement was introduced to its better half, and I started grafting. You can see the stitches are far from perfect - during the initial grafting, my goal is to secure all stitches in the proper orientation, nothing more.

I grafted while fully ignoring the lifeline threads, which remained in place until all the stitches were secured. They are very thin and did not at all interfere with what I was doing.


After the initial grafting was completed, I removed the lifelines. I think you can clearly see the grafted area, it is nowhere near perfect.


Then I worked from one edge of the piece to the other, meticulously tweaking the tension of the graft. To the left of that big yarn loop are stitches which have been tweaked, and to the right are ones that still need adjustments.


Here is the grafted row. The tension is right, but I bet you can still see the boundary between the two pieces of fabric. The top part is blocked, and the bottom part is not, adding to the visual difference.


Tada! Sealed and delivered! I mean, blocked and delivered :).


I can see the grafted row (how about you?), but I think it will blend in more and more with washing and wear. Besides, one grafted row is a whole lot better than reknitting the entire sweater piece from hem to neckline, don't you think? ;)

Posted by Kathy at 02:15 PM | Comments (36)

September 04, 2005

Against all rules

I'm a bad daughter, bad granddaughter, bad sister! Look at me! Blogging instead of spending quality time with my family!

My mom told me some interesting childhood tidbits that I needed to write down immediately before forgetting them. Obviously they have to do with knitting (otherwise they wouldn't appear here).

We were once again discussing if and when I ever learned to knit as a child. The answer is "yes, but it didn't stick at all." Apparently, when I was a little girl, my mom tried very hard to domesticate me. I had many dolls, doll strollers, and doll accessories. My mom sewed clothes for my dolls and tried to involve me in the process, in hopes that I would get interested.

I would have none of it. In fact, I insisted that all my dolls remain naked. Furthermore, I didn't give a single one of them a name. Ever. And of course I completely ignored them, their strollers, their accessories, their homemade clothes, and any attempts of domestication. Instead, I liked to do puzzles - what's next in this series? which thing doesn't belong? identify 10 differences - that kind of thing. That was my idea of fun playtime.

Then my mom tells me that someone finally forced me to learn knitting, and that I even finished a little scarf! The killer: she still has it - it's in the basement. Mama mia! Must see! It must be something very special to have been dragged across the Atlantic!

We dug through a bunch of forgotten boxes (one of which had my, ahem, college diplomas, you know, those fancy pieces of paper in Latin that cost a ton of money, but are eventually shoved into some box to never be unearthed again), and here it is:

This, my friends, is my very first FO. Moment of silence.

Sorry for the craptastic photos, I don't have my own digital camera with me, so I made do with my brother's.

Apparently I've always liked burgundy.

This little guy is 19" long, and, uhm, 6" wide on one end, 4.5" on the other. 1 X 1 rib with a TON of mistakes. My mom says I got bored after 19" of knitting, and didn't pick up the needles again until last year. She says that as a child, I never learned anything beyond knits and purls, that someone else cast on and bound off for me.

We also found this, which apparently I made as well:

I swear, I've never touched a crochet hook in my life ;). Magic crochet gnomes must've made that little thing.

Last, my parents were showing me some photos they took on their trip to Colorado last month. This is not posed, not planned, and I didn't ask for it:

    

Is there any doubt from where Grumperina gets her grumpiness?!?

Posted by Kathy at 10:33 AM | Comments (19)

September 01, 2005

Clarifications

Woohoo! I'm still pretty excited about the release of the Picovoli pattern! Based on some feedback I read on various message boards, I feel it is necessary to spell out how the Pico differs from its predecessor, the Tivoli*.

  • Unlike the Tivoli, all the sizes are written using the same yarn and gauge. I think this is quite important because I would receive at least a handful of e-mails every week asking me to clarify the gauge differences. Well, here's my response ;).
  • The gauge is 22 sts and 30 rows per 4" square in stockinette, which suits a variety of yarns, including Debbie Bliss Cathay and KnitPicks Shine.
  • Unlike the Tivoli, the t-shirt shape is maintained from size to size. The 3 Tivoli patterns were all different - some had wider hips, some had more square necklines, etc. Again, I would frequently receive e-mails about this, so here's my answer.
  • The Picovoli provides instructions for optional picots, which address flare and possible rolling issues, something you would ask me about at least once a day with the Tivoli.
  • The Picovoli is written for a wider range of sizes - to fit 30-50" busts. You know you've e-mailed me about this ;).

If you're considering knitting the Picovoli, you MUST visit my Picovoli website. MUST! It has charts and schematics and close-ups that didn't make it into the MagKnits pattern. I feel these extras are integral to a stress-free Picovoli experience, which is why I'm making them available through my own website.

*The basic Tivoli pattern is still there - just omit the optional picots ;). The picot-less Picovolis will differ slightly from the original Tivolis, but clearly in the direction of improvement.

Sidenote (in response to two e-mails I received last night): I estimate that it took me approximately 150-200 hours to work out the complete pattern for this t-shirt. This includes writing all the patterns - my own, more than a dozen test-knitters' (I mentioned only three on my blog, but there were many more in real life), and the standard one, plus knitting two t-shirts, making schematics and diagrams, website coding, taking pictures, writing tutorials, etc., etc., etc. Did I mention I don't sleep?

I need a vacation! Oh wait, I'm going on vacation! See you all on Tuesday when I come back ;).


In more upsetting news, Bloglines is ignoring my blog, again. I don't have much to say to those of you who still use that service disservice, other than to repeat that alternate, more reliable RSS aggregators exist.

Posted by Kathy at 12:04 PM | Comments (26)