December 2005 Archives

City Scapes


Lighting is everything. This morning, it's a grey, snowy day here in Chicago. The kind of day that makes a girl glad that she and her trusty computer are indoors with a nice cup of warm green tea and some entertaining toys. And this time, it's not just AddiTurbos and wool -- it's Exacto knives, paper and glue!

City in Silhouette
City in Full Sun

Initially, I wasn't going to post the silhouette shot, but it really is emblematic of so many December mornings in Chicago... quiet and grey with tall buildings reaching fingers into the sky. The flash shot shows off the results of my cutting and trimming and pasting and punching and gluing -- a nifty little city scape that will provide a little extra decoratation for our holiday party. This was a lot of fun, and hardly took any time at all, because Paper Source does all the hard work (i.e. cutting out the city form) and puts all the pieces (and I mean all the pieces --- including a glue stick and a punch for the snowflakes) into one little box. All I had to do was use my imagination and my scissors to get my own little version of Chicago in profile. (For a look at all the goodies that came in the kit, just click here.) How could I not love the cut out shape that looks like the Hancock Tower? Or the Prudential building tower spike?

Of course, art does imitate life in this case. Guess what you can see right outside my window:

A Little Bit of Chicago in the Snow

Backyard Leaves


In my continuing quest to work beautiful things from my stash, I started on a scarf for my mother out of Brooks Farm "Harmony" (a silk, mohair blend yarn). This yarn is in perfect "Mom" colors. In fact, when I purchased the skein, I did so thinking that I would find something wonderful to make my mother for Christmas. But come Thanksgiving, I still didn't really know what I wanted to make out of 500 yards of luscious shiny soft warm yarn. So I did the most reasonable thing I could think of -- I let someone else make the decision. After a bit of pattern book browsing, Mom selected the "Backyard Leaves" scarf from Scarf Style, which I started working on immediately. (Just for the record, I want you all to know that I did give her the option of having the skein to do whatever she wanted with it, but she opted to have me knit her a scarf).

I've been intrigued by this scarf for a while, but really hadn't found just the right thing in my stash to make it with. I was also a little concerned that I would get bored/frustrated with what looked like a complicated pattern and get yet another thing started that I would almost certainly never finish. But I've been surprised by myself on this project. I actually find it quite engaging. I can't really do anything else but work on it when I am working on it, but watching the leaves take shape is almost as motivating as waiting for a new color or pattern come up while knitting with self-patterning sock yarn. I've promised myself to tackle at least one pattern interval per day. And so far, that's been no problem at all. Here we are, a week past Thanksgiving (the day I started) and I have seven repetitions all done.

Backyard Leaves in Brooks Farm Harmony

Because the shiny properties of this yarn make it difficult to get good pictures with flash photography (and when the weather is as grey as it is right now in Chicago, flash photography is the only kind of indoor photography you get). The raised areas are the leaves. The color reproduction is reasonable, however. Beautiful fall maple leaf colors. I do think that the variagation does detract a little bit from the pattern, but I am hoping that when the time comes for blocking, the pattern will stand out a bit more. I may also do a few more intervals -- I've got 500 yards of Harmony to work with and I don't think my row gauge in the Harmony is the same as the Karabella yarn recommended. The point is for mom to have a warm, luxurious scarf. And if there's still left overs, maybe there will be some mittens or a hat in Mom's future as well -- I love knitting with the Harmony, and it would be terrible to let any of it go to waste!


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Seems like that Backyard Leaves scarf is one popular scarf! Thank you to everyone who left comments about their own experiences or someone elses. I particularly liked the link that Stacy (who is also knitting a Backyard Leaves Scarf) provided that showed a before and after blocking shot of the scarf. It will be interesting to see if I see a similar transformation.

Believe it or not, I'm getting a little bored with my smaller projects. So I decided to do a little swatching for something a bit bigger in scope than a scarf.

Jo Sharp DK Wool on 3.5 mm (above) and 3.75 mm (below)

The bottom swatch is actually the first one I did -- I felt the guage I got was rather iffy, but didn't want to rip it out until I had seen what a slightly smaller needle would bring. Lately, when I use my AddiTurbos, it seems like I'm a bit loosey-goosier when it comes to gauge than I used to be. The one needle size down turned out to do the trick perfectly. Yes, I know, I did not knit a 4" x 4" swatch, but since I find these things can be a little dishonest with multicolors and textures, I figured that this was good enough to start with and I would let the project be a bit of a swatch.

Any guesses as to what I might be swatching for? One small hint, as mentioned in the caption to the picture. This is Jo Sharp DK Wool, procured a couple of years ago. With the exception of one of the colors (which I had to substitute because I could not get enough in the required color), it is exactly the yarn called for in a specific pattern. Oh, and the finished product won't be for me.

Ribbing and Stars


I guess yesterday's swatch and hints were pretty obscure -- that, and it's pretty hard to compete with both the arrival of a new Knitty online and a new Interweave Knits in the mailbox (at least, I got mine yesterday). So here's a bit of the start of the project -- along with a little paper star art courtesy of the Paper Source.

Sable Ribbing and Silver Stars

That esoteric bit of swatching is for Kaleidoscope from Jo Sharp's Knitting Bazaar pattern book. I wish I could find a picture to link to for vest. No doubt, since this book was published in 1999, and there's been several interations of yarn distributors and color palettes, there's probably not much interest on the part of internet vendors on making pictures of these garments available. Oh well. Hopefully it will be just that much more interesting to watch it come together.

And, as a quick review of the paper stars -- these are easy to make, but time consuming because there is a lot of precision scoring and folding that has to occur. And not likely to be small person friendly because of the amount of fine motor control required. With a little patience, I think it's not too difficult to get nice results, and I'll be making a few more as window accents for my party. However, right now, even I don't have the patience to make 40 of them!



A while back I mentioned not being quite sure how to start with the large and lovely mass of teal fiber that I purchased from Spinner's Hill while at MS&W. I'm not sure if being uncertain how to proceed kept me from just trying some on my wheel, or whether it was because I find myself sorely lacking a lazy kate and wasn't sure how I was going to ply anything or whether my spinning muse had decided to take a holiday Iceland. I just didn't feel drawn to the wheel. Which is a bit sad when I have half a pound of fiber (of a most remarkable blend -- alpaca, silk and wool) in my absolute most favorite color out of which I could make something absolutly lovely for myself while facing predictions of "the coldest winter since 1976".

On Sunday, something grabbed me and I boldly ripped a few narrow pieces off the mass, pre-drafted a bit to make it move easier as I spun and just joined it up to the bobbin on my wheel and got spinning. I didn't spin up too much -- I just wanted to see what it felt like to spin with something prepared differently than the top I'm used to, find out how it would look in a two ply (I'm still not good at spinning thicker singles) and give myself enough to do a little swatching.

A Little Bit of Teal Magick

One thing is clear -- unless I find a way to comb this stuff a bit, the yarn is going to have a little bit of a rustic quality to it. But I don't think that is going to bother me all that much, since I'll probably be lucky to get a sport weight yarn out of this stuff, even as a two ply. Another thing that surprised me completely -- this fiber seems like it is even softer as a yarn than it was as just fiber, which I didn't think was possible. I was just amazed with it's texture as I was winding it onto my niddy noddy. Granted, I didn't get too agressive with the amount of twist I put into it, but it has a pretty decent amount of tensile strength. Finally, I didn't get bored spinning something that is basically a solid color -- and I love the idea of working with some handspun that doesn't spontaneously burst into stripes.

I'll probably ply this with one of my spindles -- this is an amount that I can easily manage with a center pull ball and I think that would be hard to control with the wheel.

Every time I spin a little bit on my wheel, I feel like I learn a little more about what I like and don't like about my wheel. For instance, I really love how my wheel spins -- it is pretty easy for me to control right now while I'm learning. But I'm not so excited about the tensioning for the bobbin (is this the Scotch tensioning? I'm still not so good with the technical spinning terms) -- the Ashford traditional has a little peg around which the fiberglass line is wound. This peg is twisted and untwisted to control the tensioning on the bobbin. But I find that this peg slips a bit (probably because I don't push it in tightly enough) and midway through spinning I have to stop and tighten it to keep the yarn drawing onto the bobbin. I find this a bit frustrating, but I can't tell yet whether this is just because I am a spinning wheel newbie who hasn't completely internalized all the motions yet or because I ultimately won't like this kind of wheel. I guess it will give me something to explore when I start trying to find my next wheel.

If anyone has any opinions about different tensioning systems, I'd love to hear more from folks with more experience than me.

Halfway Through Raking Leaves


The problem with pieces of knitting that are 5" wide and 39" long is that it is almost impossible to capture a picture for the web that makes the project look like anything more than a long strip of color.

39" of Leaves

In this case, you get a long strip of color with a small teaser of how clever looking those leaves at the end are (I'll save a closeup for when the scarf is completed), but even I have to admit that it's not particularly awe inspiring. So I decided that I needed to get a few detail shots. But as always tend to find, it's hard to capture both color and texture of a yarn with a lot of sheen in the same picture.

Backyard Leaves in Close to True Color

While this photo brings the color out well, most of the texture is lost. Some of this, I know, is due to adding the complexity of a variagated yarn to a somewhat subtle pattern. But most of it is due to the fact that this yarn reflects light like crazy when I use the flash, and in the room I'm taking the picture in, a flash is required for good color representation.

Backyard Leaves in Close to True Texture

While this photo brings out the texture, you don't get a good reproduction of the color. You lose the soft reds that are an important component of the yarn. You do, however, get to see the texture of the leaves once the scarf has been blocked out (albeit with a bit of fuzziness -- taking a macro mode shot without a tripod and without flash in low light while trying to get ready for work is a recipe for somewhat fuzzy pictures).

I was relatively gentle on the blocking of this. I thought about stretching it a bit more aggressively, but felt that that would probably reduce what little elasticity is in this yarn, and would end up creating a more lacy texture than I wanted. I had no problem getting the right width (i.e. stitch count) relative to what was called for on this pattern, but I had to had 2 more pattern intervals to get to the desired length, so clearly Harmony does not deliver the suggested gauge for this pattern. But since it's a scarf and I had a huge hank of Harmony, this isn't really a big deal to me.

I'm still a bit surprised by how quickly this went. Especially when combined with a book or two from Audible. Maybe there's hope that I'll get the remaining half done before Christmas!

Basket Case

A Lovely Basket and the Beginnings of a Vest

This picture is really just an excuse to show off one of the beautiful new Longaberger baskets that I acquired with Julie's help. This lovely round basket is the "Darning Basket". It is unlikely that I will ever do any darning in my life, but it sure makes a nifty project basket for the Kaleidoscope vest.

I started the vest with a tubular cast on. I'm always kind of mystified and amazed by this cast-on -- it's like some wonderful knitting slight of hand that anyone can do with a little patience -- and it creates the most beautiful stretchy edge for K1 P1 ribbing. When you combine it with a wonderful DK weight wool yarn like the Jo Sharp wool that I am using, it makes the perfect start to what I hope will be a beautiful garment. I want my dad to have something truly wonderful to add to his cool weather wardrobe. And that means pulling out all the stops to make sure that the detals really are thought through -- using the tubular cast on, adding selvedge stitches at the edges to make seaming easier and more neat when I mattress stitch the edges together.

And I'm a bit embarrased to admit this, but I love the idea of a project that doesn't involve sleeves! I get all the joy of working on something colorful and happy, but none of the pain of having to deal with sleeves. And I really do think the pattern is lovely (and very easy to work -- it looks like two-color work, but every row is really just one color). I'm looking forward to getting the next couple of intervals on there so that I can give everyone a really good look.

Baskets that Rock

A Little Basket Full of Socks that Rock

There's more basket adoration today. This delightfully tiny basket is just perfect for a special sock project. The wonderful liner zips at the top and has a handy little pocket inside to hold a few little notions that you might need while working on a sock -- tape measure, extra double point from a set of 5, a small crochet hook. It's just about the sweetest thing. Well, I guess it could be sweeter if I had actually bought it for someone else to put a sock project in. But when it comes to this kind of stuff, I just can't resist adding a little sweetness to my own life.

Currently in the basket are my Tiger Eye Socks that Rock socks. Very fraternal these socks will be (in fact, this is one of those pairs that if I hadn't actually seen the two original skeins, I might have though that I was knittng with two different yarns -- the second skein had a lot more white in it than the first one). No matter, I will enjoy them. They are delightfully soft and it's been a while since I've added a new pair of socks to my collection. And winter is here in full force now in Chicago -- a girl needs all the warm socks she can get. And now that I've turned the heel and am working on the instep decreases, it feels like I'm on the road home with these. So soon, not only will the socks rock, but my feet will as well!

Looking for a Tip


This isn't really a post, but a request for information.

So I broke down and bought Handknit Holidays for myself (I had a Amazon gift certificate buring a hole in my pocket, so my good Christmas resolutions just didn't make it for this one). I really like this book. It's rare that I can go through a book like this and find something I would love to knit on almost every other page. I love the cabled tree skirt in Lopi, as an example. I'm also smitten with the Stained Glass Scarf -- a double knitting project that also received the cold man who has to wait for a bus in a windy city seal of approval. And he liked the colors.

Of course, there's no yarn store in my 'hood that carries the Artyarns Ultramerino. I managed to find the Ultramerino 4 in the desired color at WEBS but had no luck with Google or Froogle finding the Ultramerino 6 (that's not completely true -- I did find one place that sold whole bags, but I only need two skeins). Does anyone out there know of a store that sells this stuff and ships. I'm not that concerned about price -- it's only 2 skeins and its for my favorite guy -- mostly just about finding someplace reliable that has the Ultramerino 6 #3113 (brown) in stock.

I'm going to start calling suburban stores, too. But my one attempt to visit only turned up the Artyarns Supermernino which isn't really the same animal.

If you have any suggestions -- or have some that you'd be willing to sell -- please let me know!

Holiday Blessings

Beautiful Hand Dyed Tussah Silk

This week has defintitely been one of those "Some good points, Some bad points" kind of weeks. Not to worry, most of the bad points have been along the lines of dealing with a cold, but they're still things that get me down and make it hard for me to do everything I want. So imagine the lovely pick-me-up I got when I found that gorgeous silk roving in my mailbox courtesy of the very fab Marie! (If you don't already listen to Marie's Knit Cast podcast you should! And you can even get them from iTunes if you are an iPod user).

This silk is gorgeous and hand-dyed by Fyberspates. I'm definitely in love. I've wanted to try spinning from pure silk -- and now I am going to get my chance.

I also want to say thank you to Dani, who, kindly helped me find the Ultramerino that I was looking for at her LYS, Lettuce Knit. I am constantly amazed by the kindness of my fellow knit-bloggers. Y'all have definitely made my week.

Swap Socks

Lovely Happy Swap Socks

Aren't they lovely? These arrived for me on Friday evening from Jan as part of a little swap I participate in. This is the first pair of socks I've ever had made from Online yarn and I think they are lovely. Clearly Jan knows what my favorite colors are! They got their first try out on Saturday and are just wondeful to wear. Believe it or not, I've never knit myself a pair of socks that is ribbed all the way from the top to the toe. I may have to try doing it myself in the future, since these socks do a very nice job of conforming to the shape of my foot without being too tight.

I just love socks! I have lots of sweaters and scarves, but the knitted things I wear the most are definitely socks. And there's almost nothing better than special pair of socks knit for you by someone else. A big thanks to Jan for giving me a nice warm happy feeling on Friday evening that will return every time I pull these lovely socks out of my sock drawer to wear!

Two Socks that Really Do Rock

A Pair of Tiger Eye Socks that Rock

Inspired by having that lovely new pair of socks from Jan, I figured it was about time that I got my own current sock project finished up. Saturday evening I finished my delightfully fraternal Tiger Eye Socks that Rock Socks (the pattern for these socks is Lucy Neatby's basic sock pattern from Cool Socks, Warm Feet). I wore them all day Sunday and these socks are soft, warm and fabulous. Very likely destined to be some of my favorites. They held their shape and didn't slip around on my feet.

Were I to knit with this yarn again (and I might if I can find one that is muted enough in color to be "man friendly" -- the husband loved how thick these socks were) I would probably use a size 1.5 needle rather than a size 1 to give them just a bit more flexibility -- and to stretch my yarn just a little bit farther. I did have a little bit left but probably couldn't have gotten a man-sized pair out of the two skeins I had knitting at this density.

Little by little I'm filling up my sock drawer with handknit socks. I'd love to think that there might be a day when that would be all I would find in there!

As If Two Pairs of Socks Wasn't Enough

Tess Designer Yarns Sock Yarn Meets Jaywalker Pattern

I guess I've just got a sock thing going in right now, because about 15 minutes after I finished up the Socks that Rock I cast on for Grumperina's Jaywalker sock pattern using a hank of Tess Designer Yarns Sock Yarn in the "Confetti" colorway that I bought from MS&W in May (I am just so proud of myself for using all this yarn out of my stash lately! I feel like a very virtuous knitter these days!).

When I started this pattern, I wasn't sure that I would actually keep going with it. Not because it is a bad pattern -- it's not. So far as I'm concerned it's well written and easy to follow. But the fact that it has an actual pattern/texture to it meant that there was a 50/50 chance that I would get a couple of inches in, get annoyed that it wasn't mindless enough and rip it out and go back to my straight stockinette mindless sock pattern. So far, the sock pattern is as advertised -- simple enough for anyone but interesting enough to keep a non-patterning sock yarn engaging. This picture was taken this morning, and this evening I added an inch or two more while watching TV. Given how far I've gotten in a few short knitting sessions, I think it's likely that I will not develop pattern apathy for this sock and might actually finish the pair.

Believe it or not, it would mark the first pair of patterned socks in my sock drawer knit by me -- if I actually get to the point where I have a pair. Which I give good odds since I love this yarn and it would break my heart never to see it become a nice pair of socks.

And right now, socks are about all I have the brain power to knit... seems like I always get a cold right before Christmas. It used to happen to me when I was in college every year after final exams and it is one of those holiday traditions, that, unfortunately, have continued on for almost 20 years... (wow...can it really be almost 20 years since I started college... I have just, officially, made myself feel old). I'm into the last phase -- where I am coughing like someone with end stage antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis so hopefully the end is near and I'll get to enjoy the actual holidays -- and work on some patterns that require some brainpower.

Knitting and Coughing Don't Mix


Yesterday was all about working out my diaphragm muscles. You know that when people at work start to feel sorry for you and tell you that you need to go home that you really must sound pathetic. And that's pretty much where I was yesterday. My major mission of the evening was to find a new filter for my room humidifier (Chicago + cold weather = extremely dry, bad for upper respriatory tract). One good thing about the holiday season: having stores open late. A humidifier filter wasn't exactly on my Christmas list this year, but, as it turns out, it will probably be one of the best presents I get for the holiday, since I actually could sleep last night. Hooray for humidifiers and patient husbands.

Thus, yesterday was not exactly a knit-friendly day. I looked longingly at the Jaywalker sock project, but that was about as much energy as I had for it. Thus, I am forced to go beyond knitting projects into my stash for something to talk about today.

Winter Acquisitions: Fiesta Yarns La Boheme, Rowan Kidsilk Night and Artyarns Ultramerino 4

Believe it or not, this is all the yarn I have purchased since MS&W -- except for the two skeins of Ultramerino 6 that are on their way to me from Toronto. Perhaps not surprising it's almost all for projects in Handknit Holidays, a book that I'm kind of glad I didn't wait for Christmas to get for myself -- I would probably consider making about 75% of the projects in this book!. The La Boheme (in colorway Raspberry Mocha) is for a modular scarf for me. I've been dying to work with some of this yarn ever since I saw it in Handpaint Country a couple of years ago -- it's a two stranded yarn with one strand of rayon boucle and a second strand that is mostly kid mohair, so you get shiny and fuzzy in the same yarn. Tthe Ultramerino 4 & 6 are for a double knit scarf for John -- this stuff is, dare I say it, softer than Koigu and should be perfect for the guy who can't stand having things that aren't soft near his skin. The Kidsilk Night is just a little special thing for me so that I can have something sparkly around my neck this winter -- what can I say? I couldn't resist when I found it in Nina's).

The whole scarf thing may seem a little lame from me right now, but I gotta tell you, when it gets cold in the midwest, there's nothing like having something soft and warm and special around your neck -- when you're bundled up in a goosedown parka or trench-coat a special scarf is often all the bling you get to show!

A Short Break


I'm going to be taking a brief break from blogging. This weekend has been remarkablable and terrible for me. The kind of time that truly makes you appreciate your family and a caring medical system. I don't mean to be cryptic, but I just can't really put any more of myself out in public right now.

John and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!