January 2004 Archives

Versitility

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Lately I have been surprising myself in seeing things differently. I'm a pretty literal girl. I can imagine sweaters in different colors, but it is only recently that I am starting to get better at imagining how that same sweater might look if the collar was altered or a little more shaping was added.

I've also been doing a lot of simple knitting as well... socks, scarves, stoles -- things with simple, but versitile shapes. My most recent simple project for myself is a stole out of Classic Elite Ibis in "Frisky Fern" (otherwise known as color #4772). I was "introduced" to Ibis by Rob a couple of months ago. I bought a couple of skeins of the Fern and the Cordovan thinking that I would make scarves for myself and my mother-in-law, and was pleasantly surprised when the Ibis turned out to be pretty nice to knit with.

Before I got around to my scarf, I was browsing through KnitPicks and came across this free pattern. But I didn't think the fabric was substantial enough or long enough. So I changed it to the following:

CO 40 stitches with US size 15 needle.
Switch to US size 10 needle
Row 1: Knit across
Row 2: (K1 YO2) repeat until 1 stitch remains, K1
Row 3: Knit across

Repeat Rows 1-3 until stole measures 66".
Bind off loosely knitwise with US size 15 needle.

The end product is roughly 66" long and 10" wide. It took 2 skeins an a bit more from a third skein to match my wingspan -- I have quite a bit of the third skein left to play with. You could probably get very close to 60" with only two skeins.

After finishing something for me, I like to stand in front of the mirror and take a look at it. For a sweater, I'm looking to see if the shaping works out, if the sleeves are long enough, if the seams lie the way they should. For a scarfy object I like to look at drape and color and figure out the best way to wear it to show it off. This stole had so many different personalities as I stood in front of the mirror.

First, there's the classic stole/shawl look. Here you get a sense for how the width of the stole widens when the drop stitches are parallel with the ground. I think this configuration would work best if I had a nice pin or clasp to hold it in place.

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Stole as Shawl

Next, if you let the stole wrapping fall, there's the scarf action. I like wearing my scarves this way a lot -- almost like having a vest. I also love the vertical lines created. I think it has a nice, slimming effect.

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Stole as Scarf

While playing with it in scarfy mode, I realized that it also had a lot of shrug potential. The wide scarf ends give almost a bell sleeve effect. I am thinking that it might be quite pretty with some sagey green ribbon woven through the edges under the arms to create "sleeves" that would stay on (although it gripped to my turtleneck pretty well without any extra binding). I was thinking about fringing the thing until the shruggy idea hit.

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Stole as Shrug

This is just a shot to give some idea of the length of the finished stole.

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Wingspan of an Ibis

Suffice it to say, I'm pretty pleased with this simple item. I need to give the humble rectangle a little more credit! I think it's something I can wear to work to give a turtleneck a little zing, or something that could dress up a sleeveless top for a dressier night out. I love the soft, fuzzy quality of the yarn. The fuzz is much more like soft feathers than like fur and the binder strand has some shiny properties to add just a little more sparkle. Ibis is very soft next to the skin, and could easily be used for cuffs, collars or sleeves.

What did I learn?

  • Not all eyelash yarns are evil to knit with. After knitting with the Crystal Palace Splash I almost swore never to go near them again.
  • When working with an in-elastic yarn, to get a starting edge that isn't narrower than the project as a whole, cast on and bind off with a larger needle than the body of the project will be worked in. If I hadn't done this, not only with the thing not look as good, but I also never would have seen the shruggy possibilites.
  • Try not to limit a garment or project to the exact function for which I originally envisioned it.
  • Don't be afraid to modify a pattern to suit my tastes. In this case, it wasn't rocket science to make the changes I made to the simple pattern I found, but it was more the principle of the thing... I just thought about what I wanted and went for it. And it worked (at least for me). That gives me the foundation to go onto more daring changes for other things and believe that my instincts could be okay.

Happy New Year to Everyone! May 2004 bring good things to your doorstep.

Evolution and Resolutions

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Something about the New Year always makes me start digging through my stuff, wondering what should travel into the next 365 days with me. This weekend I took a long look at my stash and planned projects and current projects and made a few decisions. I'm de-stashing again. The first of the things up for trade/sale can be found here. There will be a few more things that go up this week if I can't find local homes for them.

I also did some cleanup on my blog. All of my links have moved here (you can get to them by clicking on the "LINKS" rollover in my header bar as well. Nothing has really changed, I just moved them to a new page. I was finding it too hard to control all of them easily in my Movable Type template, so I decided to move them into their own space.

The blog cleanup also got me thinking about my projects. I ditched the pair of socks I was going to make for John out of Mission Falls 1824 wool -- he wore a hole through the bottom of one of the socks in his first pair, so I don't think it's tough enough stuff to stand up to John and our carpet. Not to worry though. I found some more durable stuff while out shopping in Wheaton with Julie this weekend. And I've got a bunch of Mountain Colors Bearfoot. John's feet will not be forgotten.

Of course, it's almost impossible for me to dig through my stash without thinking about getting something else started. Since I finished up the bottom edging and the collar of Mom's Holographic cardi, I decided it was okay if I started something new (there are no pics yet as I have not sewn on the button or sewn in all the ends).

I thought about returning to my Bullseye pullover, but decided that I would let it linger a little longer in the closet when I remembered I had some Colinette Giotto just waiting to become something wonderful.

And after this Christmas, I do have a reason to make myself something wonderful. My absolutely fabulous husband surprised me with a night at the opera and dinner at my favorite French restaurant, Les Nomades. When I was in grad school, some friends and I used to have season tickets to the Lyric Opera (no, we didn't make that much, we just took advantage of some well priced seats in the nosebleed section of the opera house). I never really thought I would enjoy the opera, but something about it really moved me. Lately I'd been mentioning wanting to see one again. Lucky me to have a guy who listens when I don't think he is.

Anyway... just because I can't resist showing off Giotto, here's the swatches I made for Siena. I ended up going up from a size 11 needle to a size 13 needle to get gauge (the big swatch is the correct one). It's impossible to tell from the picture, but the gauge really makes a difference. Not only in finished garment size, but also in terms of how the Giotto shows itself off. The larger gauge lets a lot more of the shine through while the smaller guage makes for a much duller fabric.

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The Difference a Needle Size Makes

Obviously, when you're knitting on tree trunks, it doesn't take very long to see progress. That ruffle at the bottom is cast on to US size 17 (12 mm) needles. I never thought I would see circular needle ends connected by what looks like Tygon tubing. A big thank you to Rob who loaned me this pair so I could get started on this project since I wasn't able to find anything this big at my LYSs

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Big Needles + Big Yarn = Rapid Progress

I guess it goes without saying that I don't expect this project to take me too long. Not just because of the big needles, but because I love the colors in the yarn and the fabric that it makes. I particularly like the streaks of bright green and blue that are shot throughout the yarn.

I've seen a lot of people out in the blog world talking about New Year's Resolutions. Usually I stay away from these things. And I'm not going to talk about the ones I consider personal. But I do have a few that are knitting blog appropriate.

  • No more yarn diets. If I find something that makes my heart sing, I'm not going to feel guilty about bringing it home. But I am also going to be a little bit more choosy. I'm not going to get something just because it is on sale. Nor am I going to buy without some idea of what I am going to do with my new purchase. I look at this as the "balanced diet" approach to stash control.
  • I'm going to be more critical of patterns -- and I am going to read them all the way through before I get started. Most of the time when something didn't go quite right in a project, my gut was already telling me to stop and think. But because I hate to rip, and because I can be such a slavish follower of instructions, I tend to over-ride my gut instincts. There's nothing wrong with modifying a design to suit my needs. Or to fix a problem the designer didn't originally forsee.
  • I'm going to explore my own design skills more. Working on my felted bag pattern was an incredibly rewarding experience. Putting that pattern together woke up something inside me that wants to keep creating. I'm going to try to devote more of my knitting time to designing things on my own. First up is a variation on the Chicago bag, after that, a sweater for John.
  • I'm want to master two color knitting. I want to take on both intarsia and Fair Isle projects this year -- and finish them.
  • I would like to review one knitting book a week on my blog. I've acquired so many this year...
  • I'm going to try to learn more about photography and photo composition. A good photo can really make even simple things look wonderful. Whenever I trip on over to Bonne Marie's blog I am usually struck by her lovely pictures -- not just by the quality of the photo but also by how she puts things together in a photo.

I think that's almost enough words to start the week and the New Year with!

But I do want to add one thing before I close... I'm hoping to create a gallery of finished Chicago bags for everyone to see and also to provide others with useful information about what works and doesn't work when it comes to yarn. If you complete the bag, I'd really love to have your pictures an comments. Just send them to the email address in the link on the side bar. If you send me something, please be sure to tell me what yarn you used and the colors so I can include that information with your picture.

Chicago Variations

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So. There I was, working on Siena when wet wooly vibes started to radiate out of my stash containment area. I have a lot of goodies to be felted right now, so that, in and of itself, is probably not surprising. What did surprise me is that the wool that started to talk to me was not all that Manos del Uruguay, but some humble but lovely Cascade 220 that came back with me from Columbus.

After my first success with a full sized version of Chicago, I knew I wanted a somewhat smaller version of the bag. But, since I have almost no patience for repeating the same pattern twice (even if it is a pattern of my own creation), I didn't really want the medium-sized version to be just a scaled down version of the first one. Scaling is just about math. I decided that I wanted to play with the shape a little more to create something narrower at the base and taller.

And I wanted to play with more color.

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Cascade 220 in 9460 and 9448

These colors are a little more dynamic in person, but still have a subdued, reserved feel. The 9460, while light, is definitely not bright and punchy. It has greyish highlights that I can't wait to see felted. The 9448 is a heathered version of a classic dark olive. My husband has a suit in this color. I think the two look very classy sitting next to each other here on my desk.

So I took the ideas that were banging around in my head, downloaded some knitters graphpaper and started to play around with curves and colors. By early evening I had the shape together, had figured out how I wanted to do the strap, and I re-engineered the flap using seed stitch so that I could get a little bit more coverage than I would if I stuck with the short rows. (I still have to felt my test swatch... I'm curious about what it will felt like and if any of the texture will remain after felting). And then I put it into a document format that I could knit from.

Usually when I put a lot of effort into something, I like to put it aside for a little while and let it simmer. But this one I just couldn't. I really want to see how it's going to turn out! So an invisible cast on and some odd garter stitch rows later...

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Could it Be Another Bag Bottom?

I know. It's not interesting yet. But it's not a big bag, so hopefully it won't take me too long to get the fun parts.

Back to Siena

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After a brief battle between luxury and design, luxury won. Initially I was just going to get to the armhole shaping for the back of Siena and switch over to my bag, but once I got to the armholes that "almost to a milestone" instinct kicked in and I just had to finish the back.

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The Back of Siena

Not such a good picture colorwise (I'm told digital cameras have a hard time with intense reds in indoor lighting conditions), but this is the back pinned down and ready for blocking. I didn't pin down the ruffle since I figured that ruffles, like ribbing, should probably just behave as comes naturaly to them. Like everything else I block, after pinning I just spritzed down the fabric with water from a little spray bottle. I guess you could call it wet blocking but I am definitely not soaking the fabric. Just getting it wet enough to relax a little. Then I turn the ceiling fan on in the yarn room and let chemistry and biology work their magic.

This project is proving to have a very different feel than the first project I did with Giotto -- Sally Melville's Simple and Sleeveless Top. The gauge in that pattern was about 4 stitches per inch. For this pattern, it's about 2-3/4 stitches/inch. The fabric is much drapy-er and doesn't have as much self-supporting structure as the top did. I suspect that gravity will have more affect on the behavior of this garment. Tina noted this about the pullover version of Siena in a comment to my previous post about the project, and I suspect that I will experience the same thing.

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Big Stitches

The image above is a much better representation of the colors. It also demonstrates the looseness of the fabric. It's not particularly stretched, but you can still see my Spaceboard peeking out from behind.

Now I just have do decide whether to do a front or a sleeve next. Probably it will end up being one of the fronts followed by a sleeve. For some reason, I always get bogged down on that second sleeve and spacing the sleeves out with something different in between helps me not get quite as bored with the second sleeve.

Creative Gifts

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I've often thought that I inherited my crafty desires from my Mom. And there's no doubt that she had a lot to do with it. She was always doing something: sewing, counted cross-stitch, painting, stamping, knitting. More recently she has turned her interests to sculpey clay and doll making which combine a lot of elements of the previous crafty things. And, of course, her daughter is trying to get her back into knitting.

While I was home for Christmas, I had another realization that I should have had a long time ago. My Dad is a pretty crafty guy, too. I've always considered him a wonderful photographer. When I was little I was fascinated with the darkroom he set up in our basement. In addition to his interest in photography, he made some wonderful stained glass pieces, including a Tiffany-style hanging lamp that he actually restored after a house fire.

And all while I was growing up my dad was doing projects that involved wood working -- at one point, he remodeled my mother's entire kitchen in oak. I think it's fair to say that the older I got, the less room there was in the garage for vehicles. Instead, it housed power tools of all varieties, a table saw, a planer, a drill press. A whole collection of "man toys" whose quality evolved with my dad's skills.

When my parents built their dream home, it's probably no surprise that it included a workshop -- or that my dad built most everything in the interior of the house -- from the plumbing to the kitchen cabinets and including some gorgeous mosaic tilework in the master bathroom depicting wood ducks in flight. I came home from my first year of college and helped install wood flooring and bathroom tile and his handmade kitchen cabinets (I stay away from power tools... some of us don't have enough hand eye co-ordination not to be dangerous to ourselves and others with anything more powerful than a cordless screwdriver).

Needless to say, it's a pretty special house.

When I went to grad school, my dad built me some beautiful oak pieces, one of which includes the small dining room table that now serves as my desk (whenever you see an oak background in one of my pictures, you can see that desk). When I split up with a guy I am lucky to not have married, my dad made the most beautiful coffee table for the wonderful couple who shared their home with me for a few weeks while I found a new apartment -- to help me say thank you for their kindness.

Yes, I do know that I have the world's greatest Daddy. But somehow, I never saw him as a crafter. I don't know if it was because his creative hobbies were man oriented or if it was just that it was so much a part of him that I just couldn't imagine him not doing it.

But then last spring he got his lathe. Wood turners, I think, have a lot in common with knitters, except for the issue of sawdust. He's been building up his "wood stash" -- all of us knitters should be glad that you don't have to age our wool several years before we can use it and that we don't need a pickup truck to bring it home -- and building his collection of the lathing equivalent of Addi Turbo needles. And he's been making beautiful things.

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Turned Lovliness

This is a small sample of what he was working on when I was visiting at Christmas. The piece on the far left in the front is a set of stacking boxes, the two walnut pieces and the light colored piece behind the boxes are meant to hold knitting needles and crochet hooks. The small cherry piece in the center is meant to watch a ring or two while you wash dishes or cook. You can get a better look at it in the picture below.

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Little Containers

The stacking box above was made when I asked him to introduce me to his lathe and how he used the different carving tools. He just set up a piece of wood and then asked me what I wanted it to be. I'm a little box-aholic, so it wasn't hard for me to pick. Can you believe that its the first set of stacking boxes that he ever made? He just made it happen as I watched. Needless to say, it was inspiring.

Something about lathe work is just magical. I could have watched him all night. I think that's about the time when the two ton block hit me in the head and I realized that my Dad has had as much to do with my desire to make things with my hands as my Mom has. I just never saw it because what he was doing was never something I could see myself doing. I could definitely imagine myself working with a lathe.

The next time I go back to Ann Arbor I'm hoping to get to go from watching to doing. I'm going to get lathing lessions from my very crafty and creative dad. I'm hoping that maybe I can do something simple like a nostepinne. How cool would that be?

I think I feel another pair of socks coming on....

Bits and Pieces

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Chicago and Siena

I was feeling scattered today and you can see it by the stuff on my desk. In the foreground is the next version of Chicago. I'm working my way towards the shaping, but the base of this bag doesn't have too much shaping to speak of. Behind Chicago is the left front of Siena. I probably would have gotten farther on this, but I got annoyed with juggling two balls of yarn after I decreased to create the ruffle and set it aside.

In the far back of the picture is something that is not knitting, but is fun. For Christmas Mom got me a stocking stuffer -- a Kirigami Calendar -- which is the Japanese art of folding and cutting paper. You can check out this site to play with a virtual Kirigami tool (be sure to read the instructions before you head into the program... it will make it a lot easier to play with). Since it's early in the year yet, all the shapes have been pretty simple to fold and cut. All I need is my fingers and a pair of little scissors. As they get more challenging I will probably need an exacto knife. When I am not playing with yarn, it's an awful lot of fun to play with paper.

Speaking of playing with yarn... guess what I got in the mail yesterday?

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Plassard Merinos and Louinie

Isn't this fab? It hopped across the ocean with a skinny rabbit. The lovely fuzzy stuff is Louinie -- the stuff Becky used when she was constructing the brim of her perfect black bucket hat. I just adore the color -- and the nice note Becky enclosed said the Louinie color was a special run that's not likely to be made again (they didn't even make labels for it). So I will have a very special hat indeed -- made from lovely yarn from a very nifty new knitting friend. How could such a project not have good vibes?

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Louinie Up Close

One thing I think is important to say about the Louinie -- it's not your average novelty furry yarn. It has a very sophisticated quality to it. And rather than the eyelash being a separate strand wrapped around a wool core, the eyelashes are somehow a part of the wool strand. Very cool and very classy indeed.

Once I finish Chicago, I think it's going to be Bucket-O-Chic time.

The Front of Siena

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Several projects drifted through my fingers over the weekend. All of them will eventually grace my blog, but since I am trying to focus on my Giotto cardigan, I'm going to start the week with my progress on Siena.

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Front and Center

Both fronts are now complete. Here they are right before blocking. I didn't notice until after I took the picture, but it looks like the right front (from the perspective of the wearer, not the picture) has more blue in it than the left front. I was a little worried about that. I started the right front from two new balls of Giotto. Every skein of Giotto is a little different when it comes to exact coloration and depth of colors.

I know I said I was going to alternate between fronts and sleeves. I decided against this because I got a little pang of "not quite enough yarn" fear and figured that it would be a good idea to do both fronts before embarking on the sleeves, just in case I my worries were realized. After completing the right front I think I will be okay. But I also think it is going to be a little closer than I would like.

When I first talked about completing the back of this project, a number of people asked why I didn't do both fronts or both sleeves together to diminish some of the tedium of doing the same thing twice. I suspect that it is possible, but I don't think it would be easy, given the way I am working with the Giotto.

To make sure that there are no obvious areas of different color, when I knit with Giotto I alternate from two balls every two rows, and carry the inactive strand up the side. To hide this process, I made sure that the side I was carrying on was the side that would be pulled into the seam when I put the garment together.

I don't have much patience for carrying two balls of yarn around with me -- especially not two balls of slinky ribbon yarn that likes to get tangled. In order to do two sleeves or two fronts at once, I think I would have to juggle four balls at once. I don't think I could do that and keep my blood pressure low. So all the pieces of this sweater will be done individually.

To give myself a little break with the sleeves, I'll probably knit up the first sleeve, seam the shoulders together and knit the collar border and the button band, and then go back to the remaining sleeve.

One thing I notice a lot in patterns from UK yarn distributors/designers are the following finishing instructions: "Join side seams. Join sleeve seams. Insert sleeves". To me, this seems like the hardest possible order in which to attach sleeves. What I usually do instead is join the shoulder seams, attach the sleeve cap to the appropriate place in each armhole, and then seam up the sleeve followed by the side.

I'm curious if anyone can tell me if I am making some grievous error in construction or if the instructions are actually easier than I think they are or if that's just the shortest possible set of instructions to use for finishing and it saves space in a pattern publication. I know that patterns from the UK tend to assume a more thoughtful knitter than those you find in the US. Knowing the answer might not change my construction methods (especially if it's just a space saving measure) but I always like to try to understand the pros and cons of different finishing methods.

And while I'm on the subject of Colinette, has anyone out there tried out one of their cushion kits? I am really entranced by the Mahjong cushion in the opal colorway. I've never done any needlepoint before, but those pillows look like they might be fun to try.

The Chicago Red Line Enters the Station

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Just a warning... today's entry ends with a wooly cliffhanger...

The other project that spent a lot of time on my needles over the weekend was the second of my "Chicago Variations". Red Line is meant to be a small go anywhere hand bag that knits up quickly and fits into even modest yarn budget.

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Red Line Shapes Up

This pic shows off the before felting shaping and how I decided to use the color. I wanted coloration that was suggestive of a two-toned leather bottomed bag. To create a little more continuity for the flap joining area, the last two rows are done in the same color as the bottom of the bag.

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Double I-cord Goodness

I changed the straps a bit. I didn't want to do a pair of single I-cords again, instead I wanted something with a flatter quality. Julie had shown me a bag where she used "double I-cord" for the handles. It gave the handle a flatter, less round quality that I thought would be perfect. So, I thought it might be reasonable to give it a try here.

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It Wouldn't Be Chicago If There Wasn't Some Graft

I kept the handle short -- makes for both easier knitting and a trendy look. This is the model just before the grafting process. Lately I'm very into Kitchener. Once I figured out that I shouldn't pull the yarn too tightly when weaving the grafting strand in and out, Kitchener went from something just useful to something I think is very cool. I weave loosely and then go back and snug things up after I've grafted all the loops together. That means I can make the stitches look exactly how I want them to.

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Sassy Little Flap

And here's the bag after the grafting was completed and I added the flap. I changed the construction of the flap so I could get a different shaping effect. All said and done I had over half the skein of the light colored yarn left over and I think I've got a 1/3rd of a skein or so of the dark color. So in terms of time to knit and amount of yarn required I definitely met my goals with this project.

Now you're probably expecting an "after" picture to go with all this before stuff. And I have to admit, the washer experience has occured. But one of the hazards of posting to my blog late at night/early in the morning is that I don't have the benefit of good natural light. So stay tuned... tomorrow the results of my little experiment will get revealed in the the bright light of day.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Take the Red Line

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When we last left our heroine, she was bravely preparing an unsuspecting knitted item for a trip into some serious hot water. Did the bag return victorious from its transformation? See for yourself....

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Chicago, Red Line Edition

This is that natural light picture I wanted to get. The colors are pretty close to true. This little bag just wanted to happen. Normally it takes me two washer cycles to get something to the size I'm expecting. This time, it took one -- granted, I did the "heavy" cycle (which just runs longer) so maybe that made the difference. Final felted dimensions: 9" wide, 3.5" deep, 4-3/4" tall. The strap is 16" long. Perfect size for a wallet, a cell phone and a few other little carry along items.

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Chicago Variations

Red Line is shown in this picture with Blue Line to give a sense of size and perspective. I like the shaping of both bags, but Red Line is actually closer to what I was striving for when I was first trying to put my vision on paper. Red Line's is a little more circular, Blue Line is a little more angular.

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Red Line from the Side

The side tapers more gradually than the side of Blue Line did, and some pinching is required to pull the shape together. The slight bulge in the front is due to the fact that I stuffed it with some cotton towels and hadn't quite gotten it prodded into the shape that I wanted yet. (As an aside, this bag needed a bit more manipulation than Blue Line to get it into a shape I liked, it's not obnoxiously fiddly, but it does require taking a look at it in multiple directions).

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Front and Flap Detail

And this is an up close shot of the area under the flap. For some reason I am particularly pleased with this little detail even though it won't be noticed much in normal usage.

On the overall, I'm pleased with the result. The shaping worked and my new flap design almost turned out the way I wanted it to (see below for more on what I didn't like). I love the dark olive color yarn felted. It has faint fuzzy yellow flecks that give it a lot of depth. The jury is still out for me on the 9460. I go back and forth between liking the grey marble haze and thinking it makes the bag look dusty. But I think the combination is good.

So what didn't I like... well, take a look at the closeup of the flap...

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Snaggletooth Flap

There are two issues for me here. One is that the edges are a little jagged instead of smooth. This, as you might have guessed, is due to where I did my decreases. When I did a test felting of this shaping, the edges weren't so pronounced, but I also felted the test piece down a little harder. The second, and by far the most serious, issue is the little indentation on the left side near the tip. I think this is more due to felting pixies than to the design, but I don't like it at all. I'm thinking there might be some scissor action that needs to go on here -- that's the great thing about felt. It's just another fabric.

Fortunately, I think a very slight modification to my flap design will solve this problem -- I need to add a selvedge stitch and do my decreases inside this stitch.

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Would You Buy a Used Car from This Woman?

I just couldn't leave you without putting this goofy image up. I couldn't help but laugh at it, so up it had to go. Perhaps I have a future in used car sales? The picture does serve a purpose, too, because you can see the bag holding my wallet and phone.

So, I'd love to know what everyone thinks -- good and bad. Don't be shy and don't be afraid to be honest!

P.S. If you haven't checked out Janet Scanlon's felted designs lately, now's the time to check in. Her new Mercury bag is incredible! And she has a free pattern for a very cute felted bag that could be used to hold business cards or a little treasure if you're in the need for a quick project.

Friends Get Friends to Knit Socks

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While I learned many many crafty things from my mom, my knitting teacher is a dear friend that I met while in graduate school. Judy started in the MD/PhD program when I started on my PhD and we did our doctoral research in the same lab. She defended her doctorate the day after I defended mine and we both saw each other through the process of going from being engaged to being unengaged. Yep, Judy and I have been through a lot together.

It was between unengagements (mine happened first and hers almost exactly a year later) that Judy taught me to knit. She and her fiance really helped make my transition to singleness bearable. Some of our nights just involved sitting around and watching TV -- and Judy knitting. Eventually I just had to know how to do it. And the rest is history. After I got into it, she generously gifted me with a small collection of Alice Starmore books... Aran Knitting, In the Hebrides and Stillwater all have a very special place in my shelves.

Judy was a great person to learn to knit from. First of all, she was very patient. She taught me continental style but I never mastered it while she lived close by. I was a continental thrower which was not terribly efficient -- but Judy told me there was no right way to do it, knowing that eventually I'd probably want to take it to the next level. Secondly, she loved complex sweater projects. I don't think I've ever seen her knit a project that didn't have multiple colors or lots of texture. It never occured to me starting out that I could knit a simple stockinette sweater. Finally, she's fearless about knitting and encouraged me not to limit myself by what other people told me I could accomplish. She steered me away from big bulky yarns. My second ever sweater was Alice Starmore's Grapevine. And, yes, it isn't perfect (I had a very loose definitition of gauge at that time) but it's still one of the most major accomplishments in my collection.

Below is a picture of Judy (a swing dancing, synchronized skating, research pediatric rheumatologist!) wearing a sweater that is probably one of my all time favorites. I don't know the name of this Kaffe Fassett masterpiece, but it's even more stunning in person than in the photo.

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Judy and a Fabulous Fassett Sweater

Pretty nifty, eh?

Judy came to visit Chicago in the fall for a conference and she and I spent part of the afternoon just hanging out with yarn. It was then that I learned something... Judy, knitter of fabulous sweaters, had heretofore never knit a scarf or a pair of socks.

Well. I just couldn't stand for that. So I let her go stash diving into to my stash and she came out with a lovely ball of Kitty (a ladder yarn like EROS) and knit her first shiny garter stitch scarf. I'm such a bad influence.

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Bearfoot Pheasants for Judy

Not too long ago I finished the pair of socks that I decided would be Judy's birthday present (her birthday is in October...I'm so not on time). This was my first pair of socks in Bearfoot Pheasant. I gotta say, this yarn is a real treat to work with. It's soft and shimmery and makes a beautiful fabric. Special warm socks for a special friend.

But you know, I can't just give a knitter a pair of socks... I've got to convert her over to the darkside... I've got to find a way to get her to knit socks, too. After all, it was just about this time last year when the sock bug bit me, aided and abetted by Julie and Emma. So when Judy gets her socks... she's going to get a little bit of a sock starter kit, too!

I have some of my own ideas about the physical contents of such a kit, but I was also hoping to provide some good web sock resources, too! I have a few of my favorite places (see my Links page), but would love to know about other good places to go...

Warm and Toasty

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Rowan Polar Scarf for Dad

This scarf is strategically arranged to hide the ends that have yet to be woven in. I finished it about 15 minutes ago and I'm just too tired to deal with careful end placement so it will have to wait for tomorrow. But I like the scarf a lot. If it didn't have a very worthy recipient, you can bet I'd be thinking about keeping it for myself.

This project is made of up of three skeins of Rowan Polar. Two of the dark blue/grey color (which comes out olivey in the unnatural light of my office at night) and one of a lovely taupe. Mom bought it about a year ago when she was visiting me and we made a trip out to Tangled Web in Oak Park. She thought it would make a perfect scarf for my dad. And since it's big stuff, I encouraged her to get it since I figured she'd be able to get it done pretty quickly.

Over Christmas, Mom remembered it and retrieved it from her stash, and it wandered home with me since I needed a good simple car project and I love knitting for my Dad, who is tolerant of more than one color in any single knitting project.

Lately I haven't had a lot of interest in the big yarn, but I did like the Polar. Like anything with a little alpaca, it's nice and soft and fuzzy. It actually has a soft halo about it. I like both the stitch definition and the subtle sheen that the yarn has. I did the scarf in K2P2 ribbing on the recommended needles for gauge and that gives it a little bit more loft.

Similar to the Angel scarf, I cast on 32 stitches and knit in ribbing until I used up my yarn. The end result is a scarf about 6 feet long and about 5" wide.

Unusually enough for me, I don't have much to say tonight. I had a wonderful time at the knitting get together at Letizia's which helped to ease an otherwise stressful and depressing day. It really is hard to hang out with this group and not come away feeling better. Everyone was working on wonderful projects and I am completely jealous of Carolyn and Heidi who are heading to Columbus with Lynette and Monica.

I'm looking forward to working on Siena over the weekend. Bonne Marie and Carolyn spent a good portion of the evening explaining to me about the structural aspects of set in sleeves, and I've decided that I am going to give it a try "the hard way" on Siena. Hopefully I will emerge on the other side of the weekend with a pretty new cardi and a good learning experience.

Siena Completed

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I had a pretty good weekend -- both knit-wise and otherwise. On the otherwise category we marked the end of the holiday season by taking down all of our decorations and returning them to their various hidey-holes in the house and garage. It's always a little sad whe I see the tree head off for the alleyway. Knit-wise, I completed Siena -- well, almost... the buttons still remain to be chosen and attached, but, lucky for me, this cardigan works fairly well without them as well.

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Siena From the Front

I was also lucky in that while it wasn't warm outside, it was sunny enough to be worth stepping outside and getting some natural light shots (it was still pretty chilly, tho, which is why my expression is a little stoic). In temporary lieu of buttons, I've used some of the leftover Giotto to tie the cardigan closed at the neck.

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Siena From the Side

After much deliberation, I actually did follow the instructions for setting in the sleeve. Last Thursday night, Bonne Marie spent time explaining garment structure and stresses. Apparently, sleeves set in after the seams are sewn create more structural integrity and flexibility for the garment.
While I have to admit that it is not all completely clear to me (the explanation was clear, I just needed to create a concrete example for myself), one aspect of it appealed to me a lot: less seam bulk under the arm.

And the process wasn't quite as painful as I might have anticipated once I decided to do it. I centered the top of the sleeve cap on the shoulder seam and pinned down the top of the sleeve to the top of the armhole. Then I did the same with the side and sleeve seams. Then I pinned down the sides and started mattress stitching from the sleeve/side seam join area.

And I'm more or less pleased with the result. There is definitely very little bulk under the arm. The "less" part comes from just the Giotto and gauge fo the fabric itself. The loose gauge of the fabric made it easy to distort and I was constantly poking my darning needle through the ribbon instead of under or around it. I sewed up all the seams with the Giotto because anything else would have been noticeable through the fabric. And on the sides of the pieces where I carried up the strands as I worked with two balls, the seam is a little thicker. I like the outside of this cardigan, but the inside is not as neat as I would like.

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Siena From the Back

There's not really any shaping in the pieces of this cardigan -- except for the sleeves. All the body hugging qualities come from the drape of the fabric. I like the ruffle a lot. It hangs just below the hips instead of at the hips and, thus, doesn't give the wearer the illusion of elephantine proportions in the hip region.

While these shots show off Siena, my favorite shot was one John took while playing with light and shadow in our dining room. Since it's not really a great shot of the cardigan, if you want to see it you'll have to click here.

I liked this project. It knits up quickly and it shows off a simple ruffle making technique which I know I will use again. I still love Giotto. I like the way it feels, I like the texture it creates, and I like that it has just enough shine that it can be dressed up, but is also matte finish enough to go to work. The pattern was well written -- I didn't find any mistakes that I had to correct. Perhaps the only thing that concerned me was the amount of Giotto I had left over. Supposedly, 4 skeins is supposed to be enough for the size I did and the size one size larger. I defintely did not have enough left over to convince me that this cardigan could be made one size larger in the stated gauge with the same amount of skeins. I made the second smallest size... if you make the third smallest, I would consider having a reserve skein, just in case.

My only gripes are small ones. It would have been nice for the pattern to include a suggested button size for the buttons. And it would have been better if the picture of the cardigan included 5 buttons as stated in the pattern rather than just the 4 shown in the picture.

What did I learn?

  • Setting in the sleeves after seaming the sleeves and the sides wasn't so bad. It did take a little more patience to place them correctly, but it did reduce the bulk I often get under the arm.
  • Creating ruffles is kind of neat. I wouldn't want ruffles on all my clothes, but if they're the singular design element, they work out well.
  • Wind Giotto by hand. I think the swift/ball winder combination would have put a lot of twist into the ribbon and made it hard to use. I never felt like I got too much twist as I was knitting.
  • I need to learn a different technique for carrying the yarn up the side. It worked out better this time than the last time I tried it, but I still feel like one side of the fabric was pulled a little tighter at the edge than the other. Also, there was more bulk at the carry edge than I would have liked.

Well, now Siena is ready... I just have to wait for the end of February to wear it out to the opera. Plenty of time to go shopping to find the perfect skirt to go with it.

Turquoise Rainbow

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I finished up Siena Sunday morning before breakfast (which for John and I is around 1:30 pm). This gave me plenty of time to contemplate what would come next. Since it's pretty chilly in Chicago right now, I wanted to knit something warm and comfortable.

At first, I thought I should finish up my Bullseye Pullover... and then I started ripping. And then I started wondering why I had ever decided to make a mohair sweater. And then my frustration level grew high enough that I figured that I had better stop before I completely shredded the yarn. I still haven't finished ripping the front of the darn thing. If I ever manage to finish the ripping and I reknit it, it's just going to be a simple drop shoulder pullover without the Bullseye in the center.

Sitting next to the pieces of the Bullseye in the armoire was a kit I picked up at the Michigan Fiber Festival from Traci Bunkers and her company Bonkers Handmade Originals. I liked the simple cable and lace motifs in the Rainbow Dyed Pullover and found a colorway that was compatable with my skin tones. Bonkers yarn is beautiful, but most of her colorways have strong yellow undertones which don't do very much for me. Turquoise is a lovely color because it complements those of us who look better in the blue range of colors and those of us who look better in the yellow range -- words of wisdom from Maggie Righetti.

To calm my mohair addled nerves, I balled up a skein of the Bonkers yarn with the help of my trusty swift and swatched on the suggested needles. After working with the ribbon, it was kind of nice to get worsted weight wool back in my hands. This yarn is very soft and has thicker and thinner areas that give it a lot of character.

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Bonkers Worsted Swatch

Digital cameras, I am told, have difficulty with vibrant colors. In real life, this swatch is much bluer. I think the stitch definition is lovely. I knit to gauge on the recommended needles, and the fabric is quite dense. For a more detailed closeup of the stitches click here.

I blocked the swatch a little and let the swatch sit overnight while I started another quick scarf project. I almost stopped at this point. Why? Because, once again, my love for hand dyed yarn means that I have to knit from two skeins at once and carry a strand up the side. I really wanted something simple that could be ported from place to place. By Monday night, however, my desire for another warm pullover overcame my issues with portability, and I cast on for the back of the sweater.

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Rainbow Dyed Ribbing

The color in this picture is much closer to real, but is still not quite on target. This is the not so impressive beginning of the back of the sweater. Three inches of K1P1 ribbing and then the rest stockinette. The back is likely to be nap inducing, but that makes it good to get out of the way first.

I may use my desire to complete and wear this sweater as a means to motivating myself to finish a sweater that has been lingering in my to do list since summer -- the Lo Tech Sweat for my Dad. I'm going to try to alternate between the projects. Finish the back of the RDP, finish the sleeve for the LTS, work a RDP sleeve, finish the other LTS sleeve, etc. Maybe this approach will result in a sweater that my dad can wear this winter...

Slow and Steady

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Almost 9 Inches on the Back of the Rainbow Dyed Pullover

Tonight saw the completion of the ribbing and the beginning of the long expanse of stockinette stitch that lies between me and the completion of the back of the Bonkers Rainbow Dyed Pullover (which will heretofore be referred to as BRDP because I am too lazy to type the whole thing out). At this point, I am only two inches (and a little) from the armhole shaping.

I don't see myself flying through this project. The yarn is soft, but for the yarn, the gauge is tight, thus, it's putting a lot of strain on the tendons in my right hand. I knit continental, so my right hand does most of the needle manipulation work. The knit side is no problem, but the purl side is giving my hand some grief. This is probably an argument for spending some time learning how to do the combined knitting technique (I've been reading about it a little in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts Knitting in the Old Way and you can also find information about this technique on Annie Modesitt's site -- she has some great graphics to describe how it works). Or coupling this project with something a little lighter.

I was asked in a question I got via e-mail (Hi Larisa!) why I have been knitting from two skeins for Siena and for this project. If I was working with Cascade 220 or Lamb's Pride, I wouldn't. But both of these projects involve hand dyed yarn. And no two skeins of a hand dyed yarn are going to be exactly the same, even if they were dyed together. They are lighter or darker or contain more of one color than another. I don't know if it is clear from the picture above, but the skein on the right has a lot more white or lightly dyed areas in it than the skein on the left.

If I knit with first one skein and then the other, these differences would show up in the garment as if I was working with skeins of conventionally dyed yarn from two different dye lots. You would be able to see where I switched skeins because suddenly there would be more light stitches in that area of the fabric. By alternating two skeins as I work up the back of this sweater, the differences are blended and minimized and it's much more difficult to distinguish where one skein ended and another began. This technique also has the extra added advantage of minimizing pooling, because it is unlikely that the repeats in any two skeins of yarn will be the same.

The drawback of this situation is that you always have to work around two skeins that are both attached to the garment piece (I carry the yarns up the side). This makes the project less portable. It also means that you can spend a lot of time untangling crossed strands until you figure out which way to turn the project to keep the strands from twisting.

Unexpected Angels

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I have a hard time doing anything more than once. I don't like to go back and re-read a book (at least if I can remember the ending) or re-watch a movie or re-play a computer game. When I vacation, I don't like going back to the same place all the time. When I was in the lab, after I had one successful experiment that I knew I had executed well, it was always a chore to make myself do it the second and third times it needed to be done to make sure that it was reproduceable.

I joke that I have a TV sitcom attention span... which is probably why I don't have a stunning collection of aran sweaters right now.

The same thing applies to knitting. Not only do I usually not like to knit the same thing more than once, I also tend to not like to use the same yarn more than once. The major exceptions to this rule are Cascade220 (although I don't think I've ever used the same color twice) and Opal and Regia sock yarns (once again, same yarn, but never the same pattern).

And then there's Angel.

I'm on my third batch of Lorna's Laces Angel -- and I don't think it will be my last. This time I'm working in the Baltic Sea colorway.

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Lorna's Laces Angel in Baltic Sea

Baltic Sea is dyed a little differently than Oceanside or Aslan where you get bands of color at different places (and fairly regular intervals) in the skein. It is much more random looking when unskeined. One thing that I love about hand dyed yarns is that they always surprise me. I still can't predict how a skein of Koigu will look in a sock. When I looked at this Angel in the skein it said to me "dove grey with a hint of green and blue". When I knit it up, it said "forest green and a soft rusty orange on a soft grey field". I'm quite taken with it.

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Not What I Expected

Not only am I knitting with my third batch of Angel, I am also making my second K2P2 ribbed scarf in it. It's a perfect TV project -- knits up fast but doesn't have to have too much attention. I've knit up two of the four skeins I bought as interludes to knitting the RDP.

Who is this scarf for? Well, not for me. It's final home will have to remain a mystery for a while. Will I be ordering more Angel? Very likely so. It makes such a nice luxurious special gift. And I love the feel of it. I'd love to have a sweater out of it, but I've also been thinking that it would make a lovely ruffly cuff on a sweater (some of us are not brave enough to take on ruffles in Kid Silk Haze).

Wednesday is "date night" for John and I, so I didn't get too much knitting done (instead I was out eating the most delightful gnocchi at a local upscale Italian place, Fortunato). But I did manage to creep past the armhole shaping on the RDP. 13 inches down, 6 inches to go before the back is finished.

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RDP Progress

Since the swatch knitted up a lot like a board, I decided to block the swatch to see if it softened up. I am pleased to say that a little wet blocking did wonders for softening the fabric up a little bit, at least for the swatch. Hopefully the sweater will be the same way.

The Great Expanse

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The Back of the Rainbow Dyed Pullover

Well, it's not exciting, but it is finished. All the remaining pieces of the BRDP have cable and lace motifs to add interest to the knitting. I almost put it down a couple of times tonight but the thought of just having it finished spurred me on.

Before I have to contemplate another 3" of K1P1 ribbing for the front, I'll be switching to the Lo Tech Sweat that I am making for my dad. When last we left that sweater, I had just made the heartbreaking discovery that having the same number for the dyelot on all my skeins of yarn did not guarantee the same color. I almost started ripping, but then I talked with my mother, who reminded me that the point was for my dad to have something warm to go running in. Warmth was more important than subtle shading issues. So instead of ripping the back out, I put it into my armoire and let it simmer.

I think it's simmered long enough and now it's time to stir the pot. I've finished the back of BRDP so now it's on to the Lo Tech's first sleeve. The only drawback I see about knitting for men (other than the fact that the one I am closest to is very monochromatic) is size. Even a sleeve means an ocean of stockinette ahead. I try to keep reminding myself that once I finish the Lo Tech, I can go on to the Jo Sharp Vest that I am dying to start.

Heh. Or I can order yarn for something else that's been calling me. I thought Banff was kind of cute when I saw the pattern in Knitty, but I didn't really give it much more thought than that. But lately I've been watching Heidi and Carolyn plan for their Banffs in Manos del Uruguay. I thought I could resist, but today I lost the battle of willpower and sent an email off to my favorite supplier of fibery goodies. I'm thinking green... or maybe a deep blue or purple...

Back to Basics...

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...or, simple stockinette can still teach me something.

With the completion of the back of the BRDP, I moved back to the LoTech Sweat that I had started for my Dad so long ago. I must have been feeling motivated, because by Saturday afternoon I was blocking the first sleeve.

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Lo Tech Sleeve #1

Lest you think I am too speedy, I must make the admission that I had the ribbing and a few inches started before I abandoned the project.

Now, I'll be the first one to say that there is almost nothing exciting about one raglan sleeve done completely in stockinette, other than the fact that it moves me a little closer to the completion of this project. But it did teach me -- or at least remind me -- of a few things. And since the stich definition with this yarn is good and the yarn is a light color, I thought I'd post those reminders in the hope of re-inforcing a few neural connections that somehow stopped firing.

Make 1 vs Knit 2 into 1 Stitch

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Top: Make 1
Bottom: K2 into 1 Stitch

The increases in this sleeve are done with "Make 1"s. Now at the beginning, instead of reminding myself what a "Make 1" was, I simply decided that I would just knit 2 into the front and back of one stitch to get the new stitch I needed. After all, I figured, would it matter that much?

The figure above demonstrates that it does matter. Now, in this case, these increases are close to the sleeve edge and will not be terribly visible once the sweater is assembled. However, I think it's pretty clear why the Make 1 is a much better instruction choice here. The M1 is visible, but doesn't leave any gaps in the fabric. The K2 into 1 stitch leaves a small but visible gap. In a fabric that wasn't as dense as this fabric it might not show up quite as starkly, but here, it stands out fairly dramatically (at least when I use macro mode on my camera).

In addition to being neater, you can control the slant of the edge much better with the M1 since there are left and right slanting versions of it, whereas my K2 increase was done the same way on each side of the sleeve. Since this sleeve is quite large, I got to practice my Make 1's until they are pretty well ingrained. Suffice it to say, I won't be translating M1 into K2 into 1 stitch in any other garments.

Slip Slip Knit

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Top: SSK the Right Way (knitwise)
Bottom: How Not to Do SSK (purlwise)

While I had forgotten about left and right slanting M1s, I'm pretty clear on the need to match up right and left slanting decreases. Slip, Slip, Knit (SSK) causes a slant to the left, while Knit 2 Together (K2Tog) leans the edge towards the right.

What I had lost my grip on here was the way in which the slip stitch operation is performed. In the picture above, the bottom circle encloses stitches where the two stitches were slipped purlwise, while the top circle encloses stitches where the two stitches were slipped knitwise. I suppose it is possible that under some circumstance slipping the stitches purlwise before knitting the stitches together could be considered decorative, but I think for raglan sleeves it just ends up looking sloppy.

I'm not sure when I started mis-executing this stitch (I noticed this unkempt looking decrease edge on some socks I've worked on, too) but it's definitely been a while. I'm also not sure what made me decide to look up the right way this time -- maybe having Montse Stanley's great book close at hand. But this demonstration makes it pretty clear what way the right way is. I am hoping that having to do about a zillion decreases to shape the sleeve cap re-inforced the right slipping procedure.

I think this whole experience is also a good reminder that simple projects are often where I can best hone my techniques. When it's easy to see the stitches it's also easy to see the differences in how two different methods accomplish the same thing or when something isn't being executed quite right.

Better Bucket

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It's been chilly here in Chicago lately. So this girl's thoughts have turned to warm fuzzy hats. I've been wanting a bucket hat something fierce. So finally the lovely French accented voice of the Plassard yarn that Becky sent me over Christmas whispered in my ear and I pulled out Bonne Marie's pattern and started knitting. I got started late Saturday night and by Sunday evening I had my new chapeau.

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Plassard Merinos and Louinie

I am much in love with the Louinie. It's fuzzy but subtle. Creates an almost velvety texture for the brim and the top of the hat, and doesn't scream "Elmo incoming!" The top is Louinie alone, the brim is a combo of Louinie and Merinos. Bonne Marie's non-rolling brim modifications are excellent.

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Bucket-O-Biologist Francaise

This hat is a little oversized -- my hair is flat but it doesn't need help from a hat accomplishing the process. And some times I like to pull it back with a barrette. Nothing makes me crazier than taking a hat off and having my hair holder go with it (well, some things do make me crazier, but when it comes to hats, this is probably the tops). As a result of a little extra looseness, this hat also comes down over my ears. Not as stylin', probably, but warm. And warm is everything in a Chicago winter.

Merci beaucoup, Madame Lapin! J'adore mon chapeau nouveau!

NOTE: If you want to see another version of this bucket, and the original source of knitting inspiraton for me, you should also check out Becky's swanky black version. It was she who discovered how wonderfully well these yarns went together and made the original fuzzy top and brim version which I thought really looked like it had a texture like velvet.

Rainbow Dyed Details

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When I finished the sleeve on my Dad's LoTech, I celebrated immediately by casting on the front of the BRDP. I was pretty motivated to get to that pattern stitch, and that 3" of ribbing that seemed to take days on the back moved much more quickly on the front. By the end of Saturday, I was about 1/3 the way up the front. I got a little more work in on Monday night, and finished up the front tonight. Here's the milestone shot:

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Front of the Rainbow Dyed Pullover

Based on this picture, you might be wondering, "What pattern stitch?" And, unfortunately, the flash has obscured some details, but even in person they're still subtle. While I am enjoying both the yarn and the pattern, this yarn doesn' show off the cable details very well. But given how nice and simple this sweater is, I can imagine doing it in a different more simple yarn someday.

The picture above also gives you some idea how variable the dying in this yarn is. Even though I am alternating skeins, (and I worked with 4 different skeins in this piece because I finished up both balls I started on the back) you can tell where the changes occur. It's a little starker in this picture than it is in person.

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Proof of Cables

Just to prove that there actually is a cable motif in the center, I took a close up shot. You might noticed that there are both left and right leaning decreases in this project. Because I had done the first part using SSK's where I slipped both stitches knit-wise, I decided that this would be a great opportunity to see the difference between SSK's where both stiches were slipped knit-wise and SSK where I slipped the first knit-wise and the second purl-wise as suggested by Laura and Melissa in the comments to Monday's post.

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Top: knitwise, purlwise
Bottom: knitwise, knitwise

The SSKs in the top half of the picture were done with the slips going knitwise, purlwise. In the bottom half of the picture, both slips were done knitwise. Both produce and acceptable result, but I do think that the knitwise, purlwise slipping results in a more subtle decrease where the front stitch is less pronounced. I'll have to try this experiment in a project where the yarn doesn't obscure the results, but I think I've found "the way" for me to do SSKs. I'm looking forward to trying this out in a more sophisticated lace project where the blocking process will let me get a closer look at the details.

All that's left now on this project are the sleeves and the collar. I have to decide now whether I'm going to race to the finish and "cheat" on my agreement or whether I am going to go back and do one of the fronts on LoTech. It's going to be a tough decision as I am just dying to have a new sweater in my closet that I can wear to work, and this one now seems so much closer than it did before....

Speaking of Rainbows

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A little sunshine peeked through the snow clouds today and everything seemed a little more vivid and cheerful. But sunshine is a mixed blessing in the midwest in the winter. The absence of grey is wonderful, but it also means a cool down since the protective cloud layer holding in the warmth (and what little humidity we have right now) disappears. Coming back from our date night dinner, the car thermostat said 6 degrees Farenheit!

So, of course, I came home and fondled the rainbow of warmth that arrived from Wales last night from Marie. I sent her some goodies from this side of the ocean and this is what made the return trip:

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Colinette Skye: Florentina, CopperBeach, Velvet Bilberry and Lapis (from left to right)

I absolutely love Colinette's aran weight yarn. It's soft and springy and is exquisitely colored (this picture is a little dark). I can already imagine a sweater for my mother out of the CopperBeach -- which is a little lighter in person and has the most beautiful cominbations of brown and red and green. I am just stunned at the difference between the Florentina Giotto and Florentina Skye. And as a lover of almost all things blue I can't help but want to get started with something in the Lapis. A cowl perhaps?

Not too long ago I bought Jenna's Rogue pattern. I love the cabled hoodie idea and even if I don't knit it this year, I wanted to have the pattern in my library. It calls for aran weight yarn... and I'm thinking that maybe the Velvet Bilberry would make for a lovely comfy weekend hoodie.

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Velvet Bilberry Skye Up Close and Personal

There's definitely color variation, but I think it's subtle enough not to obscure the pretty cable work. I'd love to hear other people's opinions.

But that's not all that was in the very fab box Marie sent me. Here were the other goodies that came along for the trip:

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The Mahjong Cushion Kit in Opal, Some Awesome Sock Yarn and Some Delightfully Soft Striping Eyelash

I must have Giotto radar... I had no idea that the needlepoint cushion kit was stocked with three different colors of Giotto to use as "thread". Yum. I'll be starting that one soon. I think it will be a good carry along project. This will be my first stab at needlepoint.

And you can't tell from the picture, but that lovely big ball of sock yarn has the most wonderful sparkly thread in it. The little fuzzy bundle is a skein of Brazilia, made by the same folks who make Regia sock yarns. According to Marie it stripes! And it is very much against the skin soft. Do I need another scarf? Of course not. Will I make another one out of this stuff? Most definitely!

Thank you so much, Marie! What a wonderful way to warm up a cold January day!

And speaking of warmth... I started knitting the first sleeve of the BRDP. I just couldn't resist since the knitting goes so darn fast. Sorry, Dad... I'll be picking up the LoTech again just as soon as it is finished.

P.S. to all you Chicago folks -- the KIP at Letizia's is tonight at 7pm. Hope to see you there!

Weak Resolve

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The First Sleeve for the Bonkers RDP

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I decided to cast on the first sleeve of the BRDP. Yes, I am weak willed when it comes to these sorts of things. Some days it's just all about me. Amazing how a little cable down the center of a sleeve can make the whole sleeve knitting process a lot more satisfying. I'm hoping to finish the sleeve tomorrow night and get started on the next one. With any luck I'll have a new sweater on Monday...

However, I am developing some concerns about having enough yarn. They aren't to alarmist proportions yet, but my fiber senses are tingling. Hopefully they are just being over sensitive.

I had a lot of fun at our KIP tonight. In addition to the usual suspects (Carolyn, Heidi, Mary, Elisabeth, and Bonne Marie) we were also joined by Rachael and Alice -- who was knitting a very neat sock using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. It's such a blast to make new friends and I hope we see both of them at our next meeting in two weeks.

Mary was starting a sweater in KidSilk Haze. I've got lots of yarn to keep me warm right now (more on that on Monday, but suffice it to say that I when I finish the BRDP I am all ready to dance with Banff), but I have to say that the KidSilk Haze is really lovely and soft and inviting. Maybe I could tackle Birch? Hmmm....

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