May 2003 Archives

Spring Friday

It's a beautiful spring morning here in Chicago. After two-three days of fog and rain, I am very much enjoying the sunshine outside my window. It's still cool, but temperature doesn't bother me as much as low barometric pressure does.

I do love spring. My favorite flowers are spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips. How can you be unhappy with bright yellow daffodils telling you the weather is getting better? I also enjoy watching my own garden (such as it is) perk up. I have three clematis that are all taking advantage of the spring weather. These clematis are starting on their third spring with us and are finally beginning to come into their own. I'll share some pictures as soon as they share some flowers.

Knitting has been slow this week because other activities have intervened. However, I wanted to recommend an excellent book that I finished up not too long ago:

Angle of Attack: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon

This is an incredible story told from the perspective of the people on the manufacturing side of the race to put a man on the moon. It's not a long book, and it focuses much more on the personalities and the events in the project than descriptions about engineering. It's well written, and it is on of those books that manages to be suspenseful even though we all know the eventual outcome. It is also one of those books that simultaneously makes you amazed at what humans can do and create and disappointed at what politics can destroy.

Broken Promises

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I was so pleased with myself going into the weekend... I was getting some of those unfinished projects taken care of! I felt for certain that I would get some major work done on Mom's second sock and the front of Pebbles.

And then I did some shopping and got a serious case of Startitis. Here's the spoils from the trip:

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After a long dry-spell, Julie and I got out and got a chance to do a little yarn store exploring. Since my mom was in town, she came along with us. The first stop was a little store in Evanston, Close Knit. Close Knit was probably the first yarn store in Chicago that I went to. They're a nice little store, and carry a large selection of Brown Sheep and Dale of Norway yarn. I enjoyed looking at all their shop samples, but only came away with a skein of Sockotta in color #75 -- bright rainbow colors that I couldn't resist. Of course, when I got home I just had to cast it on.

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I don't know if it is supposed to form those lovely zig-zags or if that is just a fortunate accident, but the yarn is definitely cool stuff. My goal for this pair of socks (for myself!) is to try out a short row heel. I'm using Michelle's sock pattern with a few less stitches around (60 instead of 80). And for anyone who hasn't tried out the Twisted German Cast-On for starting top down socks, you don't know what you're missing. It makes a lovely edge -- and for once I didn't have to cast on to needles 2 sizes larger to get an opening stretchy enough to put my foot through.

The next stop on the trip was Caroline's Fine Yarns of Winnetka. I was both inspired by this shop and disappointed. The store samples are lovely and the yarn collection is definitely exotic. I would have loved to have walked away with one of their neat kits. This was one of the first times I was able to lay hands on yarn from Prism and from the Great Adirondak Yarn Company. The disappointment for me came in the prices. Now, I am perfectly aware that Winnetka is not part of the "discount" part of Chicagoland, but the prices on some of this yarn was $3-$4 more per skein/ball than in other places I've been. Julie and I both left with circular needles, but no stash additions. Nice, artful shop, but I like to get the most for my money, especially when times are uncertain.

After Caroline's and a latte at a nearby Caribou Coffee, we still had time to hit one more store -- Knitter's Niche in Chicago on N. Southport. This store has a totally different ambiance -- no artistic, designer shop displays, but tons of wonderful fiber. And Mary Anne is the kind of person who makes you want to come back -- and inspires you to think for yourself. Before we left, Julie and I both had more goodies in our bags. Here's an upclose picture of the incredible Zen that I picked up for a spring scarf:

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Now, you're thinking that starting 1 sock isn't too bad... but after seeing Julie's incredible felted daypack, I new I needed to start one for myself. No pictures of that (it doesn't look like anything yet) until I make more progress. So on Sunday, a day where I also managed to finally find a dress for my brother's wedding, I started two projects. And that Zen is calling to me...

Pebbles, Front Left

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Well, after "cheating" on Pebbles with a few other projects, I decided it was time to finish up the first of the front parts of the sweater. It still needs to be blocked, but I was pleased that it matched up so well with the back piece -- looks like I finally have the tension for this project in place. I tried several times to get a picture that would show off the cable a little bit, but this was the best I got. I think I need real daylight instead of the flash.

I'm now trying to decide whether I am going to do the right front panel or one of the sleeves. I always hate doing sleeves, especially two in a row, so I am thinking that maybe if I break up the sleeve knitting with the front knitting, it won't seem so bad.

Obsessive Compulsive

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Sometimes I just get started on something and then can't put it down. After seeing Julie's Felted DayPack last weekend, I just had to get one of my own. Something about felting really appeals to me and I am not sure what it is. Perhaps it is in the fact that a seemingly destructive act results in the production of incredible beauty?

I decided to do the primary color in Cascade 220 9450 and the stripes in Cascase 220 9454 (Ranier Heather).

Here's what it looked like before the dunk in the washer:

DayPackBefore.jpg

And here's what it looks like after felting:

DayPackAfter.jpg

I made no modifications to the pattern except how I made the straps -- instead of stockinette that gets mattress seamed, I just did a 6 stitch I-cord. This was much faster for me than instructions and gives pretty much the same results.

One thing that is hard to see from these pictures is just how much depth of color is present in both these heathered yarns. The Ranier Heather actually has greens in it that pick up the green in the 9450. Here's a closeup of both yarns before felting:

Cascade9450Before.jpg

And here's a closeup of the felted fabric:

Cascade9450After.jpg

Now that I've gotten this project finished, it's on to my mom's second sock and Pebbles. I made a lot of progress on the sock today, but then made a stupid mistake. I am trying to decide whether to frog or whether I can find another creative solution. Probably I should frog, but I think I will leave the decision until tomorrow.

And I finally got the Baby Cashmerino gift in the mail. Amazing how I can work and work and work to get something done and then take 3 weeks to put it in a box and send it to Boston.

What I didn't accomplish this weeked was doing the laundry... Ah well! A girl has to have her priorities straight ;-)

Midweek Notes

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Thanks to everyone who left nice comments about the felted daypack. I really do love the way the bag came out, and I want to take it with me everywhere now! It is the perfect size for my wallet, my iPod and a small knitting project. I really like taking it outside into the sunshine. The colors really light up.

For anyone who hasn't done any felting before, this is an excellent first project. It doesn't take too long to complete and at only 3 skeins of yarn, it shouldn't set you back too much either! And the best thing about felting is that it really hides mistakes. No one is going to see your stitches, so you almost never have to frog!

In knitting news, I have started a sleeve on Pebbles and I am trying to finish up the second sock for my mom since I am visiting Ann Arbor this weekend. I started playing around a little with my Zen and Cotton Twist, but so far my efforts have not been worth reporting. I'm not sure what my next big project will be, but my next small, neat project is going to be this:

<--- This Link Removed Because Some People Get Upset About Nothing ---->

It's hard to resist the opportunity to play with Fair Isle techniques with a kit put together by the guys at ThreadBear

Finally, I found a lovely little felted handbag pattern on the web. It looks similar to something I found in a Knitter's mag (Summer 2002), but without the cost of the back issue:

"Football Warmer" Purse

Mother's Day, Part I

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I had a lovely trip to Ann Arbor this weekend. I love car trips -- plenty of time to knit. I used this one to finish up the Koigu socks I was making for my Mom. Here's a pic of the finished footies:

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Yes, this is another pair of fraternal socks. This time, however. it's not my fault. I asked mom to pick out the Koigu, and she got two skeins, the same dyelot, but different dye intensity.

Of course, I immediately cast on another pair of Koigu socks -- and I'll be working on that one on the way home. I'm working on a slighly modified version of the Crusoe sock from the last Knitty. When I say "slightly modified" I mean I changed the gauge and the number of stitches. I think I'd have to knit the socks on size 5's to get the 6 stitches/inch that is the gauge in the pattern. I also think, given my previous sock making experiences, that that would make the sock fabric way too loose for my tastes.

I started them out with a twisted German cast on (I love this cast on) and 64 stitches. Actually, this is my second start, I started the first one with 56 stitches (I knit about 8 st/inch on size 2 Addis) and could hardly get my feet through them once I got the stranding going. So I decided that the first attempt was my "swatch" and ripped it out.

I came to Ann Arbor this weekend to take a knitted doll making class at the Knit A Round with my Mom as her Mother's Day present. That could be a whole post in and of itself, so I will save it until I can get home and take more pictures.

Cashmerino

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This little blanket should be safely arrived in Boston so I thought it would be a good time to post it here. This pattern is from Debbie Bliss' Knitting Workbook. I did it in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino instead of the recommended cashmere. It is a wonderful soft fabric, and I would definitely use this yarn again for another project. However, I don't think I will be doing any more projects that require miles and miles of garter stitch on small needles again.

Probably the most challenging part of this project was getting the border attached to the blanket. Here's a closeup of a corner:

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Anyone thinking about tackling this project should be aware of one important thing: this blanket has a right side and a wrong side. I mattress stitched the border to the blanket and you definitely get a seam on the other side. If there's another way to do it, I would love to know. Probably the only bad thing about this pattern is that there are no finishing instructions.

On the Road Again

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I'm off to Houston today. It's hard for me to belive, but my "baby" brother is finally getting himself hitched on Saturday. I'm going down to stand up in the wedding -- and to make sure it happens. I figure someone has to make sure the bride knows the "no give backs" rule!

Actually, we're all very excited for Joe. As brothers go, I got a pretty good one and he's picked a pretty special person to be his wife. I will be wearing this (you can click on the picture to get a closer view):

Dress.JPG

Since I will be getting on the airplane with a desire to knit, I spent some time looking up the official list of allowed and prohibited items. In case anyone else needs it, you can get to that information from here:

Transportation Security Administration Permitted & Prohibited Items

A family member also let me in on a great little travelling secret -- carry a FedEx envelope and pre-addressed form (or comparable stuff from another mail carrier) with you when you travel by air. That way, if you have anything valuable to you that they won't let through the security check point, you can just pop it in the envelope and find the nearest FedEx box. Defintely better than losing something precious to the security screeners!

I'll be back Sunday night. Have a great week everyone!

Haltwhistle Dolls

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About a week ago, I took a course in Ann Arbor at Knit A Round (a totally absolutely faboulous yarn shop that everyone should visit) taught by Kathryn Carras on making knitted dolls. Her card (below) gives you a sample of one of the dolls she's made:

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Her dolls are all based on a very simple tube-based pattern. All you need to know is a little increasing and a little decreasing and you can do one of these. She brough a number of examples, almost all of which were a lot more elaborate than mine. I used this opportunity to play with eyelash yarn and Mission Falls 1824 cotton.

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The yarn she is made out of (from left to right) is Dalegarn Svale (50% cotton, 40% viscose, 10% silk), Crystal Palace Fizz in color 7117, a beautiful hand dyed blue faced Leceister roving, Mission Falls 1824 Cotton and Manos Del Uruguay in WildFlowers (100% wool).

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Here's a better look at her hair, which was attached with a very nasty looking felting needle. Attaching it makes you feel a little bit like a voodoo practitioner sticking pins into a voodoo doll. This lovely roving has bits of olive green nestled amongst the rich auburn and goes nicely with the Fizz.

She's a bit of a short, squat girl with a thick neck and less than ordinary features. But fun to make. She could use a lot more embellishments: a crocheted skirt border, perhaps, maybe more detail to her braid (some of my classmates came up with very clever braids), a collar to cover her less than perfect neck. In a future iteration, I think I would choose to use more elastic yarn.

Probably the best part of this class was Kathryn -- I got to hear about the trials and joys of sheep ownership, spinning, dying and knitting design (all of which she does). Almost all her dolls are made out of her own hand spun, hand-dyed yarn (with the exception of the one on the card which, I think, is Mexiko). What I enjoyed the most about her was that she encouraged people to go beyond the pattern and enjoy the creative process. She very much saw the pattern as just a starting place. I would highly recommend this class, but it does pay to be a fast knitter.

If you would like to meet Kathryn in person, she will be at the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan Michigan. This festival will be running from August 13th to 17th and I'm hoping to convince Julie that she needs to make a road trip with me...

Koigu Crusoe Cousins

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Et Voila! Another pair of Koigu socks. I would call them fraternal twins, but I don't think they come that close. More like kissing cousins, if you ask me. The socks are based on the Crusoe pattern in last quarter's Knitty, but modified for my gauge and general style (I don't do double pointed needles if I can at all avoid them).

You'll probably notice right away that the toes are different. I did the one on the right first, thought it was a little too tight, and decided to try the original toe in the pattern on the second sock. I figured that no one really ever sees the toes anyway, and life is too short to rip out something 99.9% of people will never notice. I guess you all know my dirty little secret now -- I am not a knitting perfectionist.

The yarn for these socks is Koigu PPPM p122. Yet another Koigu colorway that looked totally different to me knitted into socks than it did when I saw it in a skein.

KoiguP122CrusoeSock.jpg

I'm adding this extra pic to show how the side-to-top seam area looks -- also to show that Koigu does show some regular patterning under some circumstances.
I was a little disappointed that the blue/red/pink areas and the green/orange/yellow areas sort of striped and stuck together, I was hoping they would be a little more intermixed. The other sock, had even stranger behavior (probably because my tension was looser). Almost all the green/yellow/orange areas ended up on the front of the sock while the blue/red/pink areas ended up on the back (at least for the leg portion of the sock). It almost looks like I was using two different colorways.

They are wonderful and soft and a perfect complement to a very cool spring day here in Chicago.

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