Friday, May 29, 2009

The siren call of of wool

Having caught up with the on-line group of knitters doing the Great American Aran Afghan, I decided to take a break from knitting afghan squares and try my hand at something a bit different.

The truth of the matter is that Barb, who is also working on the afghan, said that if I didn't slow down she was gonna (sob) confiscate my pattern book! I wisely decided to take a wee break; after all, she IS younger than me. However, I advised her that I was only taking a break until June 1, which she thought was reasonable. Here's the fun part -- old age and treachery will overcome youth and innocence every time! June 1 is MONDAY! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

In the absence of a square to knit, I decided that the store definitely needed a new sample of Filatti Carezza. The May 2009 Creative Knitting had some lovely designs, and I had plenty of a really nice blue-green. Away I went.

This design is called Spring Flowers Cardigan, found on page 26. Considering I started this late last week, the fact that I've got the back AND most of the left front completed means that this is a really nice project. In fact, forget all the blustering about not liking Carezza. I'm really liking it these days.

My home knitting has been a wee bit frustrating lately. I've been trying to complete a super-bulky cardigan for a customer. I wasn't happy with the cable; I knit too few rows of ribbing; I knit too many rows of ribbing; I crossed the cables wrong ... Just plain frustrating. I don't love, love, love this project and it knows.

And just to make matters worse, my stash has been calling. Oh, has it been calling. More like screaming, actually. The problem is this: I have some really, really nice wool and yarn in my stash. Some of it has matured and is ready to come out and be knitted. Now, normally it matures one project at a time. This is good -- it lets me believe that I can get back to the one-project-at-a-time process. Not a LOT of variety in that you only have one project going, but man do you get a lot of finished objects!

The reality is that I'm never going to get back there. How do I know? Well, there are still 8 projects on needles, two waiting to be blocked; and then there is ...

Debbie Bliss cotton angora (sorry, it's discontinued) and the Rusted Root pattern from Zephyr Style. Technically speaking, the yarn is thicker than specified for the design; however, if I knit a smaller size it should end up fitting. I'll do the math first, but it looks like I can make the smallest size and have it fit me just fine. This little gem is knit from the top down, so there is minimal seaming. Nice, eh?

And THEN there's this little beauty:
Casbah from Handmaiden and a pattern from Knitter's Spring 2009 issue, requiring sock yarn. Mmmm. I knew there was a reason why the daughter got me the same colourway that I picked out last fall, and this is it.

The biggest question is which project will I start tonight. We're driving to Mississauga to see Tanglefoot in concert ... and there's a two-hour ride.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Just how big are those anyway?

Not long ago, a very good friend of mine celebrated a milestone birthday. I'm not going to say WHICH milestone birthday ... except to say that it ends with a 0 and ... is larger than the size of the needles her wonderful husband made her for the big day.

Just how big are those needles anyway?

As you can see, it requires a lot of concentration to work these puppies!

Happy birthday, Barb! Thanks for being my friend and a great sport!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Woman on fire!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Woman on fire!

Well, not EXACTLY on fire, but certainly getting caught up in a hurry!

Below are the Suzanne Atkinson and Ginger Smith squares, bringing me totally up to date with my knit-along group on Knit 'n Chat.

The Atkinson Square (page 28) was a lot of fun to knit and watch the church and tree take shape. I must admit that once the decreases for the church roof started, at no time did I have the proper number of stitches between the tree and the church. Everything worked out all right in the end -- as in the church and the tree did not collide, and no one will be the wiser except me. And everyone who reads the blog. It really was a well-charted square, and I enjoyed it.

The Ginger Smith square (page 40) was another square which I wasn't that keen to make. I had quickly read through the directions and was totally put off by the idea of knitting the thing in sections. Why would you do that, when the cables and such all ran the same direction? Since I don't have a love-thing with seaming, it just seemed to be a bit much. In fact, I had decided that I WOULD knit it in one piece when the time came.

The time came, and I read the directions more carefully. As in actually READING and not skimming at a preposterously high rate of speed. You see, there is a reason for knitting the square in sections. There is a little raised knit stitch between each of the cable patterns -- a raised stitch made by slipping a stitch every other row and then knitting the slipped stitch along with a picked-up stitch.

The light came on, the room grew bright and I understood. And knit the square in sections.

The added bonus of knitting this square in sections like this is that you only have to read one chart at a time. This sure makes finding where you are easy, and enjoyable.

I now have 16 squares knit, of the 25 I need for my afghan. The pattern only provides 24 squares, so I was trying to decide which square to duplicate. Then a friend had a brilliant idea. Why not make a square with my initials and a date? Like I said ... brilliant.

What's really interesting to me is that ... even as much as I dislike seaming my projects together ... I'm actually looking forward to sewing this baby together! Who would've suspected, eh?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Long weekend in May

I am finding that my days go by entirely too quickly. After all, it is the long weekend in May, which is the traditional kick-off to summer. Summer. Wasn't it just yesterday that we celebrated Easter?

In any event, I have been working diligently on the Great American Aran Afghan for my knit-along. In the past 10 days or so, I've finished another two squares -- the Judy Sumner square and the Susan Rainey square.

The Rainsey square was the square that made me lust to make this project. A miniature aran sweater on an afghan square! How cool!
Now, I'm not saying that I am disappointed in the entire project. I am just gonna say that I found this square to be a let-down. The square is knitted first ... 10.5 inches of mostly stockinette stitch. What a yawner! Then comes the tiny sweater. Following the directions, I used 3.75mm needles and knit the sweater front and one sleeve. Sewed the sleeve to the front. Lovingly placed the sweater onto the square.

I admit that I had been thinking all along as I knit the sweater "This is kind of big;" and "this doesn't look like it's going to fit;" and "Yowza! This is looking pretty large!" Seeing in real life that the sweater wasn't going to fit -- no how, no way -- well, there just aren't enough polite words that can express my emotions.

I ripped the sweater back and started up again on 3.25mm needles. As you can see, the sweater fits as the designer intended. But doing the trinity stitch on 3.25mm needles with knitting worsted? Not a chance. I switched to a double moss stitch and decreased the centre panel by 2 stitches to accommodate the design change. Unless you look carefully, you won't see the alteration. This had the added benefit of making the sweater fit the square ... otherwise I'd have been ripping yet again.

The Judy Sumner square didn't really catch my eye, nor my imagination. In fact, it was a square that I had thought of not doing. Spider? On my afghan? I squash every spider I come across inside my house. So to put a spider on my afghan just seemed sort of sacreligious.

When the knit-along group decided to make this square I was less than enthused. In keeping with the spirit of the knit-along, I grabbed my needles and wool and started.

To my surprise, I found that I quite enjoyed it. Seeing the spider emerge was fun. Putting the wings on the bugs in the spider web was way too much fun. That part happened during a weekly knitting group meeting here at the store, and everyone was entranced. Myself included.

I guess it just goes to show that you can't be certain about the things you will like, or won't like, to knit. Keeping an open mind will lead to plenty of surprises ... in knitting as well as life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Amelia's Dress

A while back I was at The Yarn Garden and saw this little dress pattern. Since I had a young niece at the time (3 months old, actually!), I picked up the pattern and yarn. I especially loved the hat.

Turns out that my niece isn't so much a hat fan. And I kind of ... got busy (yeah, that's it, busy, not forgetful!) ... and didn't get around to knitting it up. In the meantime, my niece was growing quickly. After all, the difference between 3 months and 2 years is pretty drastic.

With that in mind, I figured that this summer was the last chance I'd have to knit this puppy and have it worn by the intended recipient. A quick perusal of the pattern seemed to indicate that if I knit the dress with no hat I'd have enough. Since Amelia doesn't much like hats, it seemed like a great plan.*

I was correct -- I had just enough yarn to make the dress. With about 12 meters of the white to spare, in fact. I started this project the last week of April, and here it is, the second week of May, and it's done. Simple, straightforward ... and fun.

Details: Gussied-up Toddler Dress & Hat from Vermont Organic Fiber Co.; two skeins each of blue & red and one skein of O-Wool Balance and a size 4mm needle. I did modify the pattern a wee bit around the neckline. I was supposed to do a row of crab stitch; I don't like crab stitch at all, so I opted to do a mini-shell row instead. (Three SC in one stitch, skip one stitch, repeat.)

Now to drop this baby into a box and ship it to my niece ...

*Turns out that my Amelia's parents have been working on the whole hat thing. She is a pale blonde child and needs the sun protection ... Oh well ... Wonder if The Yarn Garden has any more of that yarn left.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Catching up

Over at Knit 'n Chat (Delphi forums), one of the ladies organized a knit-along of the Great American Aran Afghan. Since I was starting a knit-along at the store, I signed up. Was going great guns, in fact. Then somewhere last fall I bogged down. I'm not sure why ... that's not correct. I know why. On-line, the ladies selected two squares that I had already done. Since I didn't need to hurry and push myself, I kind of ... slacked off. That was August. Since then, the group has knit up 7 more squares ... of which I already had two. You do the math -- I don't want to admit how far behind I am.

In any event, I decided it was time to buckle down and get busy. For your viewing pleasure, I present:

On the left is the Berztiss square, directions on page 48. It was a fun knit, presenting no real problems. The four-stitch decreases were interesting; if you followed the directions one step at a time, the instructions were spot on.

On the right is the Martin square, directions on page 36. There are three charts to this square: chart A provides the cabled rope; chart B is the fishing net; and chartC is the fish. I don't mind having multiple charts; in fact, having multiple charts can make knitting the squares easier. The problem is when the designer (or editor of the book) tries to cheap out on the charts. For instance, in this square the directions state "knit 19 stitches in pattern established ..." OK, fine. That means the 3-stitch garter border, the 6 stitches for chart A and the 14 stitches from Chart B, followed by chart C, B and A, and the border. Uh, no. What that really means is the border, chart A and part of chart B ... all of chart C ... part of chart B, chart A and then the border. Deciding where to end in Chart B was no problem; after all, 10 stitches is 10 stitches. Unfortunately, it took several tries to figure out where to restart the pattern in chart B at the conclusion of chart C. I may be slow to figure these things out ... but I may also have a point that the designer/editor could've and should've included those first and last 10 stitches with chart C and made everyone's lives a little easier.

You know the worst part of it? Several customers have come in and looked at the square and commented how cool it is that there's a pineapple square for the afghan.

In other knitting, I have finished yet another pair of socks destined for someone's holiday stocking. This particular pair has a seed-stitch rib for the leg portion, which made the project more interesting than a plain stockinette stitch leg. You know what is really, really cool though? These are identical socks. Without any attempt on my part to make them so. They just turned out identical.

Go ahead. Admire the awesomeness that is my first (and only) pair of identical, self-patterning socks. I still am, and they've been off the needles for a couple of days now.

The yarn is Super Soxx, colour no. 630.0057. I purchased it at the 2008 Knitter's Frolic for half price, possibly because it was being discontinued? Does anyone know if this yarn is still available? It is really nice sock yarn. The colours are gorgeous, and right now I have several potential giftees making a pitch for ownership.

Speaking of the Knitter's Frolic ... the 2009 Frolic occurred this past weekend. Four carloads of knitters from my shop made it the Frolic. A good time was had by all, some goodies purchased (I only bought one skein of Noro sock yarn #S217 and a skein of Misti Alpaca Suri Silk, to match a left-over skein of #SP08 in my stash), and lots of fondling was performed. Shown here is one chance encounter of two of the carloads:

Dorothy, Cathy, Dot, Barb, Sharon and Linda. I, of course, am taking the photo ... and Irene was too busy at the Indigo Moon booth for the photo. Also seen at the Frolic but not photographed were Sue, Pat and Christine. (Hi ladies!)