December 2003 Archives

Return of the Holographic Sweater

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Happy Belated Thanksgiving to all of you who were celebrating the holiday. I had hoped to post during the four day break I had, but a house full of happy people kept me away from the computer. I did get a few things accomplished. The most significant one was this:

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Holography from the Front
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Holography from the Side

Given how quickly Christmas is approaching, it seemed like a good idea to try to make a little more forward progress on the sweater I hope to give my Mom to celebrate the occasion. Somehow, having someone visit always inspires me to get working on any project I have going for them, and this weekend was no exception. Now both sweater fronts are complete and blocking. Hopefully tomorrow I will get the fronts attached at the shoulders and pick up stitches for the first sleeve. I now feel much more comfortable with the yarn situation for this sweater. I think I will have plenty to complete it. So concerns of that nature will no longer keep me from making progress.

At this point, I have not committed myself to knitting too many Christmas presents.

  • Shadow Boxes Cardigan (Holographic Sweater) for Mom (60% complete)
  • Ibis scarf for my mother-in-law (50% complete)
  • Some kind of felted magic for my new sister-in-law (not started)
  • Moutnain Colors Bearfoot socks for Judy (50% complete)

All of these should be eminently completable if I stay honest and don't get too distracted by new projects. Hopefully I'll get a few things for me finished, too.

I do have to admit that I fell off the wagon on my yarn diet. On Friday, Mom and I took a little trip out to Wool and Company out in St. Charles, IL. I wasn't really planning on buying anything except wool for a felted Bucket-O-Chic so that I can get in the groove with Becky's Bucket-Along. I settled on Cascade 220 9323 (a foresty green color that matches my current coat). I also found some Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille that had to go home with me and another skein of Cascade 220 that has no purpose yet but will go into my fun felting collection. So I wasn't too bad. And then I found Alice Starmore's Tudor Roses and decided that it was time to add it to my collection.

Now I have to be good for a while. Or at least until I head off to Columbus, IN...

Welcome to Chicago

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Lest you think that my efforts were only directed towards the cardigan over the weekend, I'd like to present the finish of Chicago. Mom and I had a felting adventure together, I dunked Chicago and she did her first ever felting project, one of Julie's very popular Booga bags.

Here's the finished bag before taking a swim. Since the last pictures, I created the two i-cords and grafted them to the other side and I knitted up the flap using a short-rowing technique I pinched from the MultiDirectional Scarf pattern.

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Chicago Before the Long Hot Bath

Two washer cycles later, here's the project as it dries in my knitting room:

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Chicago After a Swim

The finished project is about 11.5" wide, 5.5" deep and 4.5" tall. It narrows from bottom to top on the sides. For a closer look at the side: Chicago, A Side View (this also gives a better look at the straps, which came out perfectly!). The back is quite plain, but you can take a look at Chicago from the Back Side (those handy binder clips are helping to set the shaping in the side).

To give you a better sense of proportion, here's the Chicago bag carrying a very trendy sock project -- there's plenty of room for a full skein of Opal and a sock-in-progress plus some extras. Because it narrows towards the top, you can't really pack it to the hilt.

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Sock Project On the Go!

And finally, here's a picture with me shouldering the bag. The straps are of moderate length (they could be shortened if just a little handbag was desired). I put my wallet and my mobile phone in the bag for this shot so you could see how the bag hangs with some real weight in it.

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Chicago in Action

And if you want a modelled picture of how it looks from the side, here's theChicago, Side Model Shot

I still am going to play with the flap a bit. I'd like to see if I can widen it just a skoosh with the help of steam and a heat. I am probably also going to try to make a 3/4 size version of the pattern.

It has the following "elements":

  • full fashion shaping
  • i-cord straps
  • contrasting color or same color triangular short-rowed flap
  • some post washer prodding required

So whaddaya think? What do you like? What would you change? What options would you want? Does it radiate cute urban and fun? Would you want multiple size options for it? Is it a pattern you would want in your library?

Odds and Ends

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Let me make one thing clear about my knitting: I'm pretty selfish. I really like to knit for me. Some of this is because I rarely say to myself "Gee, thanks, it's... uh, so interesting..." when I try on a finished piece. But some of it is just that I love giving myself presents. There, I've admitted it. I'm most definitely a material girl.

So when the holidays come, I always have the best of intentions. Sweaters and scarves and bags and socks for other people fill my head. But completing these projects becomes difficult unless I have a little bribery for myself. Usually I "let" myself work on my bribery project after I've done something on the projects I am supposed to (and really do want to) do. Currently, that bribery project is Bonne Marie's Bucket-o-Chic. After making a little more progress on the Ibis scarf for John's mom (pretty scarf, not so exciting knitting) and seaming the shoulders of the Holographic Cardigan (I meant to go farther but got too frustrated by matching the garter stitch stripes), I decided that I could work a little on the bucket. I'm about 1/2-way through the band now. I'd post a picture, but a 18 stitch by 45 row strip of stockinette in greenish yarn looks exactly as you'd expect it to.

I so appreciate all the nice comments and helpful suggestions for Chicago. Steph pointed out that Dritz makes some magnetic closures. I think I am going to look into those. When I desgined the bag, I really wanted the contrasting flap to be set off against the background of the bag and I didn't want any other ornament other than the triangle bisecting what was originally supposed to be a hemi-circle. I'll be gettings started on a 3/4 sized version, too. It may be narrower and taller or it may be the same, just scaled down. I'm not very good at knitting anything more than once, so I may alter it just to keep myself entertained.

Chicago has actually been banging around with me for a while. I originally put together this small test bag in hopes of creating a design for the winter issue of Knitty.

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Don't Stick Your Tongue Out

The flap was hopelessly awful, but I liked the shaping. The strap was just garter stitch. I wouldn't have the double i-cord strap idea until taking a shower a few months later. It didn't go to Knitty because I am not very good at working to deadlines with my knitting (I have a job and a masters thesis if I want to do things on a schedule... knitting is about relaxing not about stressing about due dates) and because part of the joy of any project (for me at least) is being able to journal about it.

I am not quite sure yet how I will make this pattern available. On one hand, I feel bad about selling it, on the other hand, I would like to sell it in hopes of "funding" future design projects, since I have a few other ideas crashing around in my brain that might want to get out someday. I think the pattern would include instructions for a small, medium and large version with some suggestions for additional modifications. As soon as I know what I am going to do, you'll hear about it here!

Holographic Run Way

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Flight 15 you're cleared for take off...

Oh, yes, we've got stripes tonight. Berry-colored stripes for miles. Over the last couple of days I managed to get the shoulders on the Holographic Cardigan seamed up. This shouldn't have been a big deal -- especially with the selvedge stitches that are designed into this sweater, but it sure as heck took me a long time. I think ripped out one of the seams three times trying to get everything to line up right. I'm still not 100% pleased, but I think when the sweater is on a real person, it won't be a big deal. Fortunately not too many people look at a sweater from the shoulders down. Here's a close-up of my efforts.

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Lining Up Stripes

For some reason I was having a real hard time following instructions tonight... or at least, interpreting instructions. I had to pick up stitches for the sleeve I started on twice. The first time I started with the garment facing in the right direction from a RS/WS perspective, but 180 degrees in the wrong orientation so the cast on edge became part of the "detailing" instead of pulled inside. The second time I got the stitches picked up fine, but had to to set the second pattern row twice before I got it right. I guess I shouldn't have had that glass of wine if I was planning to tackle higher math.

It was kind of a low key night for me overall. Didn't get as much knitting accomplished as I would have liked (mostly because I kept making mistakes, no matter which project I worked on. (Just for the record, Ibis isn't as bad to tink as you might guess from just looking at it), but I did manage to clean my desk. Oh yes indeedy, I live a wild urban life.

Tonight is the Wicker Park/East Village KIP at Letizia's. Come on down if you have some needles and some spare minutes. We'd love to meet you!

Fuzzy Lacy Scarf

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Chicago Models Ibis

I love the KIP nights at Letizia's. Every evening I meet someone new or learn something or get to finger some nifty new yarn. Linen stitch was one subject of discussion, along with garter stitch gloves and anti-rolling techniques for bucket hats. Tonight I brought Chicago for show and tell. It seemed to do well in a hands on setting. I'm still not sure about the closure, but I got some good suggestions and I'll be doing some thinking. I'm also going to finish putting the pattern together for Chicago. I think in the short term, I am going to try to do things through PayPal

I spent all of my knitting time at the KIP working on my Ibis scarf for John's mom. I really do like this yarn a lot. Much nicer to work with than the Splash and it's cloudy soft stuff. It really does feel like goose down. I've got about a 1/3rd of a skein left to go. Probably it will get finished off tomorrow night. I've hit that "critical point" in the project where it's just time to run to the finish line so that I can move onto something else. I can hear my bucket hat calling to me reminding me that it's only a matter of time before it starts to get really cold here in the Windy City.

John has been telling me that he would like a headband for the winter. John, as I have said before, is kind of picky. K2P2 ribbing in a big yarn isn't going to do it. I have a ball of lovely grey Rowan Wool Cotton that I think would be good. Does anyone have a good source of "design" information for headbands. I'm trying to figure out how much "give" I need to plan into the design if I don't do ribbing. Is it like socks? Measure and subtract 10%? What are the best cast-ons? I want something elastic but stylish. Tubular? I-cord? Time for me to check out all those books I've been buying for just this sort of occasion. I'm thinking maybe some gansey-style pattern around the band might be nice. If I come up with something good, I'll share this pattern with everyone.

Good weekend to you all!

The Ibis Has Landed

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Here's the first of my finished Christmas presents. My mom reads my blog but knows what she's getting. My mother-in-law doesn't own a computer and doesn't read much English, so I think the secret will still be safe.

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Sparkly Fuzzy Mother-in-Law Scarf

The Ibis knits up into a light fluffy fuzzy fabric. It feels nice against my neck and not at all itchy. This scarf was made using the pattern on the back of the ball band. There's a row of YO K2Tog at even intervals, but it's hard to see here.

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Garter Stitch Ibis

Because it's hard to get a sense for the texture of this scarf without a closeup, I thought it would be good to post a close up. This yarn was easy to knit, although it's important to pay some attention or you end up splitting the fuzzy and sparkly strands and knitting two loops instead of one. While I wouldn't want to knit with this stuff every day, given the choice between Classic Elite Ibis or Crystal Palace Splash, I'll take the Ibis every time.

Given the soft delightful fuzziness of the Ibis, I would be sorry to let this scarf go if I didn't have two more skeins in a sage green color awaiting my attention. I don't think I'll be making this scarf again, however. More likely I will do something like the free pattern in the December 2003 Knit Picks catalog (p.23 if you don't want the on-line version). It's just a simple drop stitch. That I'm thinking of modifying just slightly (probably 2 YO instead of 3, size 10 needles instead of size 11 to make the fabric a little denser). I got my goods from ThreadBear Fiber Arts, my enablers of choice.

The Cat in the Hat

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I'm sorely tempted to try to rhyme about bucket hats. But I think that would end up being painful for all concerned. Instead, I'll just give you the progression of development of what should have become a Bucket-o-Chic, but instead, became something not entirely unlike a Bucket-o-Chic (with apologies to Douglas Adams).

Here's the starting point -- a whole lot of Cascade 220 in color 9323. I think it goes smashingly well with my cotton Gap Fair Isle (an ancient sweater), and Angel skinny scarf. Don't you just love that 3-needle bind off?

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Not Quite a Hat

Here it is after one full cycle through my washing machine. I like to let my felted goods go through the spin cycle, because by the time they finish they are not so wet any more -- but damp enough so that the fabric can be manipulated. Gotta love that flowery floppy brim. I'm not so sure it's a good idea to do a doubled thickness of yarn in the brim... I've done enough felting to know better -- the brim felted slower than the rest of the hat. Thus, something that should have been proportional came out having a lot more extra fabric than it should have. I think if I do another of these, I'll only do a single thickness of yarn for the brim.

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Damp and Silly

After playing with it for a while, and being pretty disappointed that it was not going to be a chic fabulastic hat, I set it down on my desk. Hmmm... the brim flattened out like magic. What, I thought, if I let it dry that way? Maybe the brim at least won't be all fluttery.

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After a Night of Rest

After an overnight rest on my desk, the brim has developed a little bit more poise and conformation. But it's not very buckety. It makes me feel like I should be reading "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" and "Green Eggs and Ham" while Thing 1 and Thing 2 run around and demolish my house.

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Still Pretty Silly

I'm fortunate in that I get to chat with the Divine Miss Burns on a semi regular basis. I read the FAQ... I even blocked that brim. I'm hoping that maybe she has some other pointers to keep in mind. Maybe I'll try to knit one without going the felted route. I'm very into Becky's awesome bucket that looks like it has a velvet brim and top. Since I don't think this hat is going to win any prizes, maybe I'll have to work out a trade for some of that fabulous French fiber that made for the perfect hat.

I have to start a little count down today. Some people are counting down to Christmas. I'm counting down to Columbus. I've got a trip to Indiana planned this weekend. Only 4 days to go until I'm giving myself permission to fall off the de-stashing wagon for a while.

First Holographic Sleeve

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I think I have safely overcome my fear of not having enough yarn to finish the Holographic Cardigan for Mom. Here's the "flat" view of the sweater with 1/2 of the first sleeve in place.

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Parallel Lines

It is a testimony to how much I love my Mommy that I am willing to contend with weaving in all those different colored ends. Here's the more interesting view of the sleeve.

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Checkerboard

I love doing sleeves from the top down. With even decreases every 6 rows, I am always "looking forward" to the next shaping or color changing event, plus the sleeves are narrowing. That's a good recipe for keeping my attention. I really do like the construction of this sweater so far. The only draw back is that I have a lot of wool in my lap and it's something of an effort to keep the yarn from getting tangled around extraneous ends and sweater parts. I'm going to try to be faithful to this sweater project until I get it finished, and just work on some other smaller projects when I need distraction.

Before I close, I just want to make a few quick comments about felting. Although that Bucket-O-Something that I put up yesterday does not fall into my "unqualified success category" I'm not too disturbed by that. Part of why I enjoy designing felted things is that I really do like the fact that you mix 2 parts engineering with one part biology and one part magic to get something new and different. While I wish I had a hat that looked like it was supposed to, I did learn a few things from the project (even if I forgot to include them in yesterday's post).

  1. Beware felting different fiber densities in different parts of the same connected garment -- rates of felting could be different. Part of the reason that my brim is wonky is because the band uses a single strand while the brim uses a double. The next time I try, I'll stick with a single strand. If you know your stockinette is going to "roll up" then at least cast off purlwise on a right side row. Knitwise and purlwise castoffs roll in different directions.
  2. Don't felt without the right tools. I should probably have had a steamer and some good cylindrical shaping form to help this project along. I am now beginning to wonder if Bonne Marie's steaming and shaping operation doesn't do a little pre-felting of the fabric that means she gets better results when she heads to the washing machine.

And if you want to see a fantabulous Bucket, check out Bonne Marie's latest. Wow! I gotta get me some of that!

Countdown to Columbus... 3 days!

Exhausted

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I really did have the best of intentions to come home from work and get something in my knitting basket finished.

Really, I did.

And then I got a last minute email from my company's most important customer. I've spent most of the evening talking remotely to their computer, talking to people from work, sending emails, trying to figure out how to make everything work out right.

It's a fitting ending, I suppose, to a day which started out with one of my cats projectile puking in two or three places throughout my house, me forgetting about a glass I was filling with water and ending up with a small flood in my kitchen, and one of my neighbors trying to run me down as I pulled out of my garage this morning (Oh, the joy of Chicago alleyways and people with expensive fast cars).

And there's going to be more fun tomorrow. Ah well. At least I am pleased with how I handled things tonight. And I got to do something technical, which seems to happen more and more rarely for me of late.

So there's really no knitting to talk about. But I did get some goodies in the mail. They don't violate my diet since I traded out of my stash to get them.

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Opal 158, 21 and 160; India Color 08

The middle Opal is Mexiko... but does anyone have any idea what 158 and 160 look like knit up? Deb (who sent it to me) didn't know.

The India is an absolutely spectacular ribbon yarn (thanks, Michelle!) . I don't know if it's destined for scarfdom or little pursedom yet. Or I could just leave it on my desk where I can enjoy it's shinyness. Oh yes, I like shiny things. At heart I am a crow.

Countdown to Columbus.... 2 days.... 2 DAYS!!

Bloom

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Thank goodness, today was a better day. Somehow, when I wake up to sunshine, everything just starts out better.

Like a lot of folks out there in the knitting blog-o-verse I've decided that I needed to work on the Reverse Bloom Flower Washcloth that comes out of Weekend Knitting and was also published in the Winter 2003 Interweave Knits. It never would have occurred to me to knit something that I would actively soak in soap and water, but this pattern looked so cute and easy that I decided to give it a try.

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Orange Crush Face Cloth

I can't wear orange, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy working with a bright happy color, especially when it's cold outside. I used the yarn suggested by the pattern, Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille (the color is called Persimmon). I was a little worried that it would be unpleasant to work with, but as it turns out, it wasn't all that bad. It got a little rough on my hands towards the center as I dealt with keeping things tight on the double points, but that was only for a few rows.

I was surprised how much of the skein I had left over. (I think if I do another one I may do it on one size larger needle because this cloth doesn't lie as flat as I would like...) I wish it went better with the sage green skein I have to make a second one. I've been thinking this pattern would be kind of cute if the petals and center were different colors. I'm going to be keeping my eyes open for a skein of yellow or fuschia when I visit ThreadBear this weekend.

I can hardly believe that I'm going to set off on my road trip to Columbus tomorrow!

And in case you didn't notice the link that Beate provided, I'd like to point anyone looking for a source of examples of pattenered yarn to this German site, Die Sockenstricker Homepage -- in particular, check out the Gallery of finished socks and the Advent Calendar of little socks -- what a neat way to use up some of that left over sock yarn! (I've really got to learn some more French and German!)

Yarn Diet? What Yarn Diet?

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Bonne Marie and I headed down to Columbus on Saturday in search of fibery adventure. There's just nothing like a good road trip. And when you've got good company, the distance between Chicago and Indianapolis just doesn't seem that great.

I must say, you just can't go visit Rob and Matt and be on a "yarn diet". That would be like going to Disney Land and having an allergy to Mickey Mouse. Walking into ThreadBear on Saturday was like walking into my dream yarn store -- the place I would want to open if I had a store of my own. Wall to wall wonderful wool and fibers of every blend and color and people who make you feel like you've come home. That whole yarn diet thing went out the window as soon as I saw the front door. As my dad would say "Yarn diet? We don't need no steeeenking yarn diet!"

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Just a Small Part of What I Wanted to Bring Home...
  1. Cascade 220 in 9448 (dark olivey green) and 9460 (light)
  2. Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Evergreen -- Socks for John
  3. Cascade Indulgence in 507 (white) -- Headband for John
  4. Cascade Fixation in 9843 -- Special Delivery for Emma
  5. S.R. Kertzer Fizz in Shade 21 -- for Mom's felted hat
  6. Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille in 2615, 1317 and 1404 -- flower face cloths
  7. Manos del Uraguay, Color 109 (woodland) and Color 54 -- Knit Kit felted bag
  8. Lamb's Pride in black and green for Marie
  9. Noro Kureyon, #52 for Chicago Bag shop model
  10. Noro Big Kureyon, #7 for test felting
  11. 10 skeins of Sweet Grass Wool -- Sweater for John
  12. Cascade 220 in 9336 (dark blue with purple accents) and 9324 for Chicago bag shop model
  13. Not pictured: special goodies for a certain rabbit...

So many good things -- and most of them have purposes! I'm particularly pleased with the Indulgence -- an incredible blend of alpaca and angora -- and the Sweet Grass wool. Sweet Grass wool comes from Targhee sheep and it's an unscoured wool so it has a soft quality that you wouldn't expect from just looking at it. It's also got an incredible springi-ness. And since it was in a perfect manly color, I just couldn't pass it up. I'm going to use it for a sweater for the hubster... he has a pattern he likes, but I decided it would never get finished if I made it out of DK weight yarn. So I am going to modify the pattern I have to use the Sweet Grass.

Hiding in the back where it is hard to make out the incredible colors is some of the most stunning Manos that I have ever put my grabby little fingers on:

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Woodlands

It is destined to become Janet Scanlon's AllAround Companion. As a felter, I am fascinated by Janet's shapes and construction techniques. I'll probably do the bag with the variagated skeins in the center and the solid color for the top and bottom. When I told John I was going to felt this yarn he got this horrified look on his face and told me that I couldn't felt something that beautiful. And I sort of feel that way about it, too. But I hear it creates a wonderful boucle like fabric. And it would make a perfect little winter bag.

While I had great fun picking out the goods, probably the best part of the afternoon was hanging out with Rob and Matt and Bonne Marie at the table in the back and just working on our respective projects together. You'd have thought we'd all known each other forever. It was such a pleasure to meet Rob and Matt in real life after so much electronic communication. Rob was a great source of encouragement as I workeed on Chicago and Matt has done some fabulous color work for two Charlotte's Web shawls for me. I wish these guys were closer to my home stomping ground! In spite of there being so many stores to choose from, I still haven't found one that I would want to hang out in . ThreadBear has a warmth that comes from more than all the wooly goodness.

Probably the only "down" point of the day was that in spite of my best intentions, my Chicago bag stayed in Chicago instead of coming to Columbus (that'll teach me to name bags after locations). You see, I set it on the roof of my car as I was loading things in it... you can probably guess what happens after that. Fortunately, I noticed while we were getting gas and John was able to go out and rescue it from my alleyway.

(While the felted model didn't make it to Columbus, a few printed copies of the Chicago pattern did. I'll be knitting up a store models in Cascade and Kureyon -- stay tuned this week for pictures of the Kureyon test... and if you want to see another Chicago knitted, check out Steph's version in Patton's Classic Wool -- she kindly volunteered to do a test felting for me, and so far I think it looks very fab!).

I had planned to take lots of pictures so that you could be amazed by the fabulous walls of Koigu, Cascade, Lana Grossa, Noro and sock yarn, but somehow I managed to not even pick my camera up except for one picture. Fortunately, that one picture turned out to be a good one. Bonne Marie's furry Bucket-o-Chic came along for the ride -- and I got this pic as deep discussion of bucket hat technique and architecture ensued.

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Rob and Bonne Marie and a Furry Bucket-o-Chic

Happy Monday!

A Second Visit to Chicago

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In case it isn't incredibly obvious, I'm pretty psyched about my little bag design. Thank you to everyone who has left suggestions, nice comments or inquired about when the pattern will be available. And a special big thank you to Steph who did a very successful test felting using Patton's Classic Wool. For the time being, you can pick up a hard copy from ThreadBear. Once I figure out PayPal, you will also be able to buy the PDF version directly from me (hopefully by the end of the week).

A number of people have asked/mentioned "What about a Chicago in Kureyon?". Well, from a color perspective, I love Noro Kureyon and all that magic striping action. And it occurred to me that the perpendicular stripes in the flap and the body of the bag could produce an interesting look. But when it comes to felting Kureyon, I feel about it the way I once felt about an old boyfriend: I dearly love it, but due to past history I know it can't be trusted. (No, I am not referring to John... I love him dearly and have always trusted him!)

I've done/seen several felting projects with Kureyon. I've seen both good results and bad. When I used it for a pair of Fuzzy Feet, I discovered that I loved the fabric it made and the subtle shading that developed, but that I wasn't so keen on the fact that it didn't seem to like to felt in all dimensions. In fact, it was very difficult to get the stitch definition to fade. When I do a felted/fulled project, I don't like to see the original stitches. I also like the fabric to have a nice thick slightly stiff quality, and Kureyon tends to be a little drapey after felting. Maintaining the shape of Chicago post-felt requires a reasonably stiff felt.

Lately I've had the priviledge of seeing several of Julie's felted Kureyon projects up close (if you haven't seen Lily yet, you really should take a look) and I've been more impressed with the felting results from Kureyon. I don't know if they've changed how the yarn is processed or if the dark colors just behave better than the lighter ones (which is not uncommon). But I'm a little more comfortable now with the yarn being likely to "do the right thing".

And since there's been a lot of interest in doing this bag in Kureyon, I thought the most responsible thing for me to do would be to try to test felt one myself. That way I could pass on anything I learned along the way, or let everyone know that Kureyon is definitely a "felt at your own risk" operation with my pattern.

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Noro Kureyon #52

Here's the lovely colorway that I am going to test out -- this also came from ThreadBear, and, if successful, will return to ThreadBear in the form of a felted bag. The big mystery of the week: will 3 skeins be enough?

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At the Base of Chicago

I did the base last night (and picked up stitches) and I finished the body of the bag tonight. This is actually a pretty quick project when you don't run out of yarn in the middle of it. I'm very into the blues, purples, greys and browns in this colorway. Tomorrow night I'm hoping to get the flap and the handles completed. I'm a little worried about yardage, though. Here's what I have left:

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How Far Can I Go?

I have a nasty suspicion that this is going to be enough to finish the flap and maybe start the base of one of the handles but probably isn't going to be enough to get me to the home stretch, even if I opt for short handles. I've really got to get better at doing these sorts of estimates.

Wild Chicago

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I am one extremely lucky felting lady tonight. Guess what I finished up?

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A Finished Stripey Chicago

Yep yep yep I had enough yarn. I had decided after my last bag that I wanted to try one with shorter handles. Nothing like desperately wanting to finish a project with the amount of yarn I had on hand to motivate me to try that idea out for real. The first bag started with 34" handles. This bag went into the washer with 19" handles.

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Successful Kitchener

I was pretty pleased with my technique execution as I connected the handles. If you didn't see the dramatic difference in striping colors, I bet you couldn't tell I had Kitchenered those pieces together! That little piece of yarn to the side of the handles, attached to the needles is exactly what I had left over. And after I sewed in the ends, I had this little pile to contemplate:

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The Pitiful Leftovers

I'm just so pleased when I can be so efficient with my yarn. I am also pleased when I can figure out a way to handle a problem in an elegant way. In this case, the problem I had: get two handles the same length and the piece I need to graft to the other side. The solution... knit from both ends of what remained of the last skein. I knit up one i-cord to a reasonable length, then knit the other to match. Then I just kept going on both sides until I was pretty sure that I would have just enough to finish the piece to be grafted. This had the extra added benefit of having both i-cords end in a similar color.

So, so far, so good. This bag can be knit in three skeins of Kureyon if you don't mind shorter handles. If you want an over the shoulder thing or you're really worried about color matching, you're definitely going to want 4 skeins.

Of course, even though it was 11:30 CST I just couldn't resist throwing this project into the washer. I'd show you the results even if I didn't like how it turned out (probably especially if I didn't like how it turned out), but I'm pretty pleased. After two cycles through the wash, I think I can officially give Kureyon a thumbs up for this bag!

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Wild Chicago

The garter stitch in the flap didn't quite full to completion. I hope the lighter colors of this bag make it easier to see what I did with the binder clips. Like the Cascade 220 version, the flap on this bag will need a little post drying manipulation. Here's a side shot that gives you a better look at how I am pinching the sides of the bag to create the shaping.

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Check out the Wild Side

I'm two for two on getting bags with even handle lengths. That's the thing I was most worried about with the Kureyon. The Kureyon fabric is a little drapier than the Cascade fabric, but I think it will still do the trick. In case you were interested here's the starting and final dimensions:

Pre FeltPost Felt
width17"11.5"
depth8-1/4"5-1/2"
height (side)10"5"
straps19-1/2"15"
flap width9-1/2"7"
flap height6"4-1/2"


A little drying and a little steaming and this specimen will be ready to go on it's way. Another Chicago roadtrip to Indy!

The Keyboard Biologist Gets a Makeover

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How do you like my new look? I'm ecstatic about it! The fabulous Becky, put some of her design skills to work for me and came up with something very wonderful. It's so crisp and clean and fun! Be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom so that you don't miss the fun in the footer. Nothing like getting something done by someone who knows what they're doing. There's dancing Chez Keyboard Biologist tonight!

It wasn't exactly timed this way, but the arrival of my brand new look (at least on this page, the rest of the site will migrate gradually as I find time to convert my old pages) is happening exactly as I put my very first pattern up for sale. Chicago is now available through me and my website. Just scroll down a bit on this page until you see the "patterns" section on the side bar. The "Buy Now" button will let you use PayPal to purchase the pattern for the "Blue Line" edition of Chicago. Click on the picture to find out more information about the pattern.

As soon as I see a message in my inbox from PayPal with your email, I'll send you the PDF version of the pattern. Please be patient with me if the turn around isn't instantaneous. I just can't monitor my email 24/7. But I will try to get your pattern to you in 24 hours or less. I don't want to collect too much personal information, but please make sure that I get your full name and email address. Hopefully in the future I'll get a little more hi-tech.

If I was talking about a pattern of someone else's that I finished, I would be writing a "what did I learn" segment here to close it out. I've still got a lot of ideas for Chicago variations, but it feels like I've cleared the first hurdle here.

So what did I learn about the pattern design process?

  • Take notes. Even if something seems easy, and like something I should remember, chances are that three weeks later, I won't. As in science, reproduceability is important in a pattern for a knitted item. Keeping a "lab notebook" of the process is critical when you're trying to put everything together at the end.
  • It's hard to take good pictures. And I think it's fair to say that the ones I've got are serviceable, but not top notch. It's time to learn a little more about my camera and about photo composition.
  • Get people to help proof the pattern. There's nothing like having a second set of eyes to look at what I've written after I've looked at it umpteen times. I learned a lot from the people who pre-screened it for me. Thanks again to Julie, Bonne Marie and Steph for taking the time to look it through and give me their feedback. Steph also gets extra special thanks for test knitting the bag. It was such an incredible thing to see my little pattern work in someone else's hands.
  • Make at least one following the instructions as written in the pattern. For the Kureyon version of Chicago, I forced myself to read every line.
  • Good formatting is harder than you think. I hate MS Word even under the best of circumstances. Using it to make a pattern fit into a reasonable number of pages can be painful.

Bottom Line: It's almost as much work to put the pattern together as it is to create the design in the first place.

And even when it's over, it's not over. I want everyone who spends their hard earned money on my pattern to have the best possible experience. Felting is a somewhat mystical process involving wool and water. If you do the bag in something different than Cascade 220 or Kureyon, I'd love to know about the results. Then I can share them with others and we all benefit. And I love pictures. I'd like to create a Chicago gallery. If you make this bag, send me a picture and tell me what yarn you used to make the bag and I'll put all the info on display for everyone who comes to visit me here.

So what next?

Well, I'm going to put the felted bags down for a while and finish up a few things for some of the wonderful people in my life. The Shadow Boxes Cardigan for my mom, a winter headband for John. When I was visiting ThreadBear I puchased a skein of Cascade Indulgence -- it's 70% alpaca and 30% angora and soft as an angel's wing. Just perfect for my sweetie who likes everything soft. Even better, the yarn was on sale. Apparently Cascade is closing it out so it can be had for ~$9/246 yards from my favorite online LYS. Not a bad deal. Here's the swatch:

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Headband Swatch in Indulgence

This pattern is "Diamond Brocade" from the 365 Knitting Stitches a Year calendar (December 11). I've put 4 rows of seed stitch on either side. The hubster informed me that the fabric was a little too thin so I am going to create a tube with the patten on one side and plain stockinette on the back so that he can get a little more warmth from it. The yarn is surprisingly elastic when knit up. Hopefully it won't take me too long to figure out the right mechanics.

And one last thing... it's KIP night at Letizia's. We're doing something special, so if you can, please bring a couple of Christmas ornaments with you. One to trade and one for someone special.

Not Forgotten

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Almost a Sweater

You might be thinking that in all my excitement about felted bags that I forgotten about a sweater for my very special Mom person. Actually, I've been keeping something from you... I finished the first sleeve on Sunday (I wouldn't let myself start the Kureyon version of Chicago until I got the sleeve finished). Amazing how completing the sleeve begins to make the project look like a real and wearable sweater.

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Sleeve at A Different Angle

I really feel like I am in the home stretch now. One more sleeve, the collar, and the finishing work on the bottom of the cardigan and it will be done. I'm not going to dwell yet on all those ends that I am going to have to sew in or the task would just be too daunting for me. But I still have hope that Mom will have the sweater before I come back home Ann Arbor.

We had a great KIP tonight. I so love seeing everyone -- and we had a great time trading ornaments. There's something special about having a group of buds to hang out and knit with.

And just a brief note in the shameless commerce component of my life... if you don't like PayPal and/or would rather use a money order, that's totally fine with me. Just send me an email to theresaATkeyboardbiologistDOTnet or patternsATkeyboardbiologistDOTnet (replace the letters in caps with symbols)and I'll send you my address. I don't have a P.O. box and I'm a little uncomfortable publishing my home address on the web. Be sure if you send me a money order to send me your email address, too! I'm not equipped to do mail order hardcopies. If you would like a hard copy, the guys at ThreadBear have them.

Sage Ibis Stole Beginnings

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It was a great weekend, but I don't have much knitting to show for it. On Friday I had the stunning realization that not only did we have our big Christmas party on Saturday, but I had done almost none of my Christmas shopping. So Friday and Saturday were devoted to the party (this is my one big "do" every year... two Christmas trees, catered food from an incredible Polish deli down the road from us, Kasia's (if you need pierogi, this is the place you want to go!), a cookie exchange and a bunch of wonderful friends. It's hard to find a better way to spend a Saturday evening.

Today was a mall day. Too crowded to walk around the mall with my little sock project, plus I had to carry stuff. Ugh. Normally I don't wait this long. And I'm not quite done yet...

I did sneak a little work in on a simple project, however -- a sage green Ibis stole that I am working on for myself. It's based on the pattern from the last Knit Picks catalog, but modified to be a little less airy. The scarf in Knit Picks uses one skein, I plan to use three. Here's a shot of the progress so far:

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Fuzzy Green Happiness

This is really easy. Cast on 40 stitches with a size 15 (US) needle (this was a hint from Rob so that the bottom edge is not narrower than the body of the stole) Switch to a size 10 (US) needle. Knit 1 row. On the next row, Knit 1 stitch, YO 2 until there is one stitch left. Then knit the last stitch. On the third row, knit all the stitches that were knit on the previous row, letting the YO's drop. You repeat this 3 row interval until you get tired or run out of yarn.

Want to see a close up? The sage color shows itself off a lot better than the cordovan color did.

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Hold Onto Your Hats... it's a Drop Stitch Ibis Swatch!

I just love this yarn. Soft and fuzzy and a little bit glitzy. And I think it's going to look great going to work over a black turtle. Initially I was only going to do two skeins, but I am feeling ambitious (and I was able to score another skein from ThreadBear, where I first purchased this wonderful yarn), and this will be a great project to work on when we're on our way to Ann Arbor to spend the holidays with my folks.

Another reason I like this project is that it can carry itself for multiple seasons. The color works year round, and the yarn is light-weight enough to be at least three season compatible. I didn't have much use for shawls, stoles and wraps before I made Charlotte, but lately I've been finding these sorts of garments more and more appealing.

White Indulgence

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Doesn't Look Like Much, But Feels Like a Dream

It doesn't look like much yet, but it is well on it's way to becoming a small part of John's Christmas present. John got a very big man-toy in advance of Christmas (think four wheels and a hood ornament), and since he is the world's most difficult guy to find presents for, he's getting something simple that he's been asking for for a while now: a head band.

But not just any headband, my sweetie loves soft stuff. His headband is out of Cascade Indulgence. This yarn is 70% alpaca and 30% angora and just as soft as a cloud. I'm getting the stated 5 stitches/inch on US size 7 needles over stockinette. You might think that knitting with such an inelastic yarn would be a chore, but I'm not noticing it. The fabric has pretty good resiliancy when stretched, as well.

So why does it look like a roll brim hat? Well, when I did my test swatch, the intended recipient liked the softness (and deigned to let me include an actual pattern stitch), but he felt the swatch was a little airy. So, my idea is to create a double thickness of angora/alpaca goodness between him and the cold outdoors. The front of the band will contain the pattern stitch (called Diamond Brocade) and the back will be plain stockinette.

The whole thing is knit in the round. I knit two inches of plain stockinette, the 4 inch pattern panel (I'm halfway through it in the picture) is in the center, and then there will be two more inches of stockinette. After I cast off, I will mattress stitch the long edges together and block in such a way that the tube becomes flattened just above and below the seed stitch border around the pattern. John's still a little suspicious about the pattern, but I assured him that if he wanted to have me knit this headband, it had to have some detail that would keep my attention.

I guess you could consider it my first gansey-style garment.

I'm glad now that I ordered an extra stash of Indulgence for myself. I've got three skeins of a nice purplely color awaiting some kind of scarfdom for me. If you're looking for some for yourself, it's on sale at ThreadBear -- only $9/skein for 246 yards! Really an awesome treat!

Post Christmas Greetings

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I haven't disappeared, I've just been transported to Ann Arbor to spend the holidays with my family. It's been a while since my whole family has been in on place on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I've been doing a lot of eating and knitting and hanging out. Can't ask for better than that!

It was a good fibery Christmas for me... there will be pictures as soon as I can figure out how dad's photoeditng software works.

Happy Holidays!!!!

Lorna's Laces Aslan Angel Scarf

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Perhaps you remember this:

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Aslan Angel

Well, it became this:

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Touched By an Aslan Angel

For a close up of the texture and colors, click here.

I started this scarf on the way to Ann Arbor on the evening of the 23rd. By Christmas morning, I was weaving in the ends. Lorna's Laces Angel is one of those yarns that doesn't require a complicated pattern to look absolutely fabulous. Because the texture and hand dying create so much visual complexity very simple stitch patterns make for very lovely end products.

Pattern:

With US size 9 needles, loosely cast on 32 stitches
(K2P2)* repeat until row end
Continue in K2P2 rib until just enough yarn remains to bind of.
Bind off in K2P2 rib.

I'm not sure what the gauge is, but it really doesn't matter. US Size 9 needles give a nice gauge and create a drapey fabric. I chose bamboo needles which have a little more grip for me and help keep my stitches a little looser than my Addis would. Each 50 yd skein generated about 12" of K2P2 rib, and with 4 skeins, this scarf is approximately 48" long -- perfect for a snuggly, glamorous neck warmer. I love the Aslan colorway. It's soft but earthy and the combination of beige, grey and red clay colors can complement almost any coat.

I haven't found too many retailers that keep this yarn in stock (at least not in Chicago). I "met" Angel for the first time at a LYS, Arcadia Knitting. They now have an online presence to complement their brick and mortar location and they appear to have Angel available in a small selection of Lorna's colorways. Angel is available in almost any color you can get Lorna's yarns in (except the striping sock yarn colors). I special ordered the Aslan Angel with ThreadBear Fiber Arts.

This scarf is going to stay in Ann Arbor. I didn't finish Mom's sweater on time (I'm close, but not quite close enough), so I wanted to have something special for her. She's a very fabulous mom person, much deserving of soft fuzzy angora blend scarves. I have to admit, though, that the temptation to keep it was great... so not only was I touched by an Angel, I was tempted by one as well.

Christmas Presents

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I can almost never complain about my family's ability to pick out good presents for me. This year, instead of going the electronic route they chose to indulge my creative side. My brother and sister-in-law bought me two wonderful books: "Kaffe Fassett's Pattern Library" and "The Business of Bliss". Ever since I read about "The Business of Bliss" on Denise's blog, I've been dying read it. I'm not planning on giving up my day job any time soon, but it's nice to dream.

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New Entries in the Library

"Knitting in the Old Way", by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Montse Stanley's "Knitter's Handbook" were purchased with a gift certificate they gave me to my mother's LYS. "Knitting in the Old Way" is just packed with interesting information about the designing sweaters in a more holistic manner. Stanley's book is one I've wanted to add to my reference collection for a while.

The magazines were just little gifts to myself. I wouldn't have picked up the Knitter's except for Elsabeth Lavold's sweater. I don't spin (and don't want to right now) but I love looking through Spin Off for color ideas and patterns. But the real score for me was InKnitters -- I don't think I would do any of the patterns, but there's some great pictures of doing one handed two color knitting Continental style, and a number of other technique discussions that made this one leap into my hands.

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A Basket Full of Goodies

My mom put together a very nifty felting basket for me. In addition to the lovely little sheep ornament (which I may hang above my washing machine to scare away the negative energy felting pixies), there were two zippered pillow protectors, a wonderful little steamer (in the box), a Janet Scanlon pattern and 5 skeins of fabulous Manos del Uruguay in colorway 110 and color "X". How did mom know exactly what colors I wanted and exactly what bag I wanted to felt next? Apparently she had a little help from Rob, who remembered what I had been fondling when I visited the store.

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Up Close and Personal with Manos del Uruguay Colorway 110

The colors in the 110 look pretty drab in that picture, but this closeup is closer to reality. The flash has made the colors a little brighter than they should be, but all those colors are definitely in the wool, just subtler.

I just can't believe how many fun felting projects I have ahead of me:

I'm not sure which one will happen next, but I really really do want a warm, felted bucket hat to add to my winter wardrobe...

Not Quite There Yet

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You would have thought that 5 days in Ann Arbor would have resulted in at least one completed sweater. Well, not quite. There was one completed scarf, another scarf that got started (some Rowan Polar that Mom had and wanted to become a scarf for my Dad), a second sock that almost got finished, a felted bag design session for my sister-in-law and start on a new sock.

That's not to say that I didn't work on the the Holographic Sweater... here's the sweater with both sleeves. It may look seamed, but that's just an illusion due to the brightly colored table cloth.

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Please Give Me Some Seams

I also got the body all seamed up. No, I haven't woven in the ends yet (I wanted to make sure that the fit on the sweater was good before I did that...yes I can rationalize anything). In the interests of full disclosure, I must note that the background against which this sweater has been shot is the futon in my office in Chicago. Yes, the sweater came back to Chicago. Sigh. Fortunately my parents are planning a little trip to Chicago in February so I have a month reprieve.

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All Seamed Up

Here's some proof with regards to the seams. Let me just say now that I don't like seaming garter stitch stripes to each other. Nopenopenope. I'm not sure why I find this so challenging, but I do.

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Side Seams and Texture

Now all that awaits is the bottom band and the neck band. Oh, and all those ends.

P.S. I am just so touched by Rob's nice post today! Truly, for me, one of the greatest parts of blogging has been the meeting of new friends. If ThreadBear was closer to Chicago, you can bet I'd be sitting at their table or on one of their couches every weekend.

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