September 2006 Archives

Test Socks

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Simple Socks with Picot Cuff in Socks that Rock Crazy Lace Agate

These socks are for me. I know I said I wouldn't start any more socks for myself until I finished the socks for the people in my family, but, I decided that it was a lot easier to try out a new technique and determine gauge on a simple sock than on the more complicated sock I was planning for my aunt. Besides, I needed a plain stockinette sock that could travel with me in my purse for those moments when I needed to keep my hands busy.

First off, I love this colorway. The sock yarn is Blue Moon Socks that Rock (medium weight) in a color way called "Crazy Lace Agate". It's an incredible collection of blues, greys, oranges and yellows. The striping that occured was not really planned. It's just what works out with this particular skein when you cast on 52 stitches and knit in the round. For the record, I'm getting abotu 6.75 stitches and 10 rows to the inch on US size 2 needles (2.75 mm). So these socks are also a pretty fast knit.

What's the new technique? How about that picot edge? Pretty nifty, eh? Like most good ideas, I stole this one from another blogger whose sock instincts I respect a great deal. I'd never tried it before because I thought it would be hard and/or fussy. And, in truth, this edging is a bit more fussy than my usual twisted German cast-on. But the polished look it creates is more than worth it. If you want a description of how a picot edge is done, you can click here. I did mine slightly differently (I used a provisional cast on to start with, and after "turning the edge" I picked out the provisional cast on, transferred the stitches to a second set of double pointed needles, and then knit one stitch from each needle as I went around the circle).

Not only is all the extra effort worth it, but this experiment proved to me that it was going to be the perfect sock top for my aunt's socks, which are also now very much in progress and which I am very happy with. Sometimes I just can't start a new design unless I know exactly what elements I want to put together. For my aunt's socks, I knew exactly what I wanted for the body of the sock, but couldn't come up with the right top. Now that I have the top, the first of my aunt's socks is well on it's way to completion.

On a completely different note, I've finally gone and gotten myself involved in a swap! I have to be completely honest, I am not very good at swaps that involve creating something. My schedule is unpredictable, and I would hate to let someone else down because I couldn't get something knitted on time. But this swap is really perfect. The Spinning Roving Swap has two categories. The Rebel Rover category (the one I signed up for) involves swapping at least 4 ounces of roving and a pattern that can be worked in handspun yarn. If you don't spin yet (but want to) the second category is just for you: Virgin Spindlers will be trading a couple ounces of roving, a drop spindle and a pattern. I think they are taking sign ups until midnight tomorrow night (September 1st) so there is still time to get in on the action if you are so inclined. ! A big thanks to Christina and CJ for putting this project together. We're supposed to get our swap partners early next week. I'd have a blast picking out fiber for someone who reads my blog!

Hi All! This Labor Day Edition of the Family Sock Challenge comes with some fun new news! To start off with, I'd like to welcome Michelle to the party. Michelle, who starts off with a finished pair of Jaywalkers just happens to be the owner of a the Sweet Sheep a new online yarn store based in Canada. Michelle has some great standard yarn lines, hand dyes sock yarn herself, and also carries some other nice hand dyed sock yarn. The reason I mention this (although who really needs a reason when hand-dyed sock yarn is involved?), is that she has given me a coupon code to share, in case you're looking to do a little yarn shopping. If you type ML010 into her coupon code box in your shopping cart, you can get 10% off your order. How cool is that? I just placed a little order myself. A girl can never have too much hand-dyed sock yarn, can she? Especially when she has a sock challenge to work on! (Just a note, before the coupon code will work, you need to register with her site -- it's a very low impact process).

We also have another new participant in the group. Cathy is getting started with a bang. She's just finished a pair for her sister-in-law and is midway through pairs for her Mother-in-Law and Husband. Cathy has a small person on the way, so I think she's going to be a busy sock knitter indeed!

Meanwhile, a number of other people have been busy, too! Jessica finished up a pair of Opal Ladybug socks for her Mom and has started on a pair for a good friend. Janine has finished a pair of striped footies for her daughter. She claims she hasn't been knitting many socks, but if you check out her blog, it looks like quite a few pairs of very creative socks have been coming off of her needles! Carole has been knitting up a veritable storm of family socks: a lovely pair for her stepdaughter, and 2 pairs of socks (one for vacation, one for a birthday) for her daughter Hannah. Three pairs of socks in just about a month. And, last but not least, Michelle finished a pair for her son, Justin. He's completely adorable, and definitely worth a click just to see the picture of him modeling his socks.

So all told -- that's 8 more pairs of socks!

I'm working on my final pair for the challenge -- a special pair for my aunt. I also started another pair for myself.. as research for my aunt's pair, don't you know?

Wanna see the whole list? Here it is!

Funny Little Swatch

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A Funny Swatch and a New Pattern

So I've really been stalled on finding something that I want to knit for myself. Besides socks, I mean. I wanted to find something that I could knit out of existing stash. I wanted to find a project that really fell into the "close to instant gratification" category. I wanted a project that would actually be a useful and practical wardrobe addition. I wanted something that might even want to go on a Hawaiian vacation weith me. A summer top would seem like the perfect thing.

Now, if I'm making a cardigan sweater to wear over a turtleneck, practical and useful can mean just about anything as long as the garment is shaped well and provides warmth. But for a summer top, "practical" means "machine washable". Alas, my current stash does not include very many yarns with this quality. Aside from a small stash of CottonEase and a rather vast collection of sock yarn I couldn't remember anything else that fit the bill.

And then Silivia finished her Green Gable top and helped me solve all my problems at once. First of all, I definitely have 2 skeins of Tess Designer Yarns Microfiber Ribbon (as a matter of fact, I have 2 skeins in one wild variagated colorway, and 3 skeins in a more solid sophisticated colorway). The Green Gable top is a nice easy knit (mostly in the round and mostly stockinette except for the neckline detail). The top would likely be a nice functional piece in my wardrobe, and given that it would be constructed of microfiber ribbon, most eminently machien washable. Clearly, a bright colored, washable, almost impossible to wrinke top could go on vacation in Hawaii.

Clearly, I will also owe Silvia a good margarita the next time I see her for both the inspiration and because I am now going to blantantly copy her idea.

Today, while watching my husband sort through vacation properties on Kauai, I started swatching for Green Gable. I am a lazy swatcher at best, and while I figured I needed to knit a swatch in the round I decided I was just going to knit enough to determine "fast fail" a needle size. The first rows were cast on to 4 of the the pattern recommended US size 6 needles (4.0 mm). Eight rows later it was clear that both row and stitch gauge were too tight. The next set of rows were worked on 5 US size 7 needles (4.5 mm). Still no dice. I then discovered that I don't actually have any US size 8 (5.0 mm) double pointed needles, so the last section was knit on a singular Crystal Palace circular needle using the magic loop method. Almost perfect. Or, I should say, perfect enough for me. Truth be told, my row gauge was perfect, but my stitch gauge is probably a little tighter than it should be. But this fabric has an awful lot of horizontal give, and the top is meant to be quite form fitting, so I think I'll be okay. I'm going to stick with bamboo needles for this project, because this ribbon is quite slippery and I think the wood will give me the extra grip I need to keep my stitches looking neat.

So now, I'm off to rip out that swatch and get started. I know, not good form, but after all the other swatch sins I've committed here, I figure what's one more? I'm hoping the happy vacation vibes will win out over bad swatch karma

Miscellaneous Wednesday

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Today, since I have to admit I have very little in the way of inspiring knitting or spinning to show off, I'm going to answer some questions that I think deserve airing in a broader forum than the comments and I'm also going to announce the results of my contest to identify the fake man photo from Michigan Fiber Fest.

First, from Beth S., in reference to last week's post about the new superwash merino rovings I bought from Crown Mountain Farms:

Is one hank of pencil roving enough for a pair of socks? I've been wondering about that.

Teyani sells both her Corriedale pencil rovings and her superwash merino rovings in 8 ounce batches. Most sock yarns that I've purchased are sold in 2 ounce/50 g put ups (usually you need two of these for an adult pair of socks) or 4 ounce/100g put ups (usually you need one of these for a pair of adult-sized socks). So, depending on how much you decided to spin up as part of the sampling process, and how big the sock are that you want to make, 8 ounces is enough for at least 2 pair of adult sized socks. Given that Teyani's rovings cost about $15 (before shipping), and the average ball of Opal costs $12-$13 these days, that's a pretty good deal. Granted, you do have to spin it yourself, but, if you're a spinner, that's all part of what makes the socks truly special. It also means that you can create exactly the yarn that you want to have for your socks.

Tamara asked this question, in response to my post about the picot sock top (and there were several others in a similar vein):

I'm looking for instruction on how to do a picot bind off on toe up socks. I started a pair in koigu yarn and they need something special at the top - I really like how yours look. I just wonder if there is no ribbing, will they fall down all the time though?

The picot bind off on the toe up sock is just done in the reverse of the way you would do it for a top down. Once you get to the point where you are ready to create the cuff, knit as many rows as you want the cuff to be tall. You might want to mark the row that is the first row just so you remember. Then you'll do the K2Tog, YO row and then you'll do an equal number of rows to the number of rows you knit from the marker. Then you can bind off loosely and fold the cuff over at the K2Tog, YO row and just tack the bound off row down to the starting rown. Alternatively, I am sure there is some clever way to bindoff while connecting the bindoff row stitches to the starting row. As far as falling down is concerned, the secret is to make sure that the sock top is not loose, so you might want to have a little less ease than you normally have in the top of a sock so that the top grips the leg well. I helped to accomplish this by knitting the first rows before the picot row on needles 2 sizes smaller than the needles I used for the body of the sock, as well as by doing a real gauge swatch to make sure I knew the right amount of stitches to cast on for a sock for me.

And Kim (the Spinning Guy) asked an interesting question about STR in response to the same post:

Now I'm starting to research future sock yarns. What is it you like about the Socks that Rock yarn? The colorways are tremendous. What about the tactile aspects of the yarn? If you were knitting plain black socks, would you use this yarn? If not, what would you use?

What do I like about Socks that Rock. Hoo boy! Let me see if I can think of all the things. First off, all three weights of STR are 3 ply, and tightly spun. This means that they have extra durability (from the extra plies) -- which is important in a sock yarn that is 100% merino and has no extra added nylon to help improve the durability. The three ply also means that the yarn has a delightful squishiness. It is really cushy and comfortable from a wearing perspective and it shows off textured stitches better than a 2 ply will.

The yarn is just wonderful to knit from from the tactile perspective as well. It's very soft and easy on the hands -- at least the light weight and medium weight are. (Julie is working with some of the heavy weight and I found that yarn to have a very different feel to it -- I haven't knit a project with that yarn yet, so I can't really provide a good review of it). The light and medium weight yarns have a nice elasticity as well.

From a socks-in-use perspective, it washes well (you almost can't even tell the pairs I have washed have been through the wash) and it gets even softer after washing. Some yarns loosen up a lot after washing, but the STR does a pretty good job of maintaining gauge and shape. Finally, one of my favorite things about this yarn is that buying it supports a small business person and craft dyer who really works hard to bring a high quality product to market and who has exceptional color sense. We gotta support the artists amongst us, friends, if we want to keep having beautiful and unique yarns out there to play with!

If I were knitting plain black socks, would I use this yarn? You betcha! I made John's dragon scale socks in one of the STR "almost-solid" colorways (Beryl) and I'm knitting my aunt's socks in another almost solid (Amber). Blue Moon's "Almost Solid" series is really beautiful and the subtle variations give the yarn enough depth to be interesting but are solid enough to show off texture. That said, I would determine if I thought the yarn matched the recipient. I know some folks who wouldn't want any yarn but a true solid, and Blue Moon doesn't dye any true solids. So in that case, I would choose a different yarn.

And Now for the Winner of the MFF Picture Challenge

First off, I'll say that this was meant to be tricky, but fun. I loved reading all the guesses and the rationale's that went with the guesses. Secondly, I probably should have reminded you that I was raised by engineers. This means that I am as likely to ooh and ahh over a special car or a cool piece of equipment as I am over a cute fuzzy creature. Finally, my husband and father are pretty eclectic picture takers and I think they found it to be an interesting game to entertain me with the images that caught their attention.

So which picture was mine.... drum roll please...

My picture was the picture of the tractors on the third day of pictures (the one entitled "Four Wheels Good" -- you get extra bonus points if you know what obscure album from the 80's that is a strange refrence to). Initially I was worried that no one would guess this picture at all and that I would have to drop a few hints (or change how I picked the winner). But as it turns out, Gabrielle did guess the correct picture! Check your inbox for an email from me, Gabrielle and we'll talk about how you would like your contest winnings!

Big Spinning Project

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Roll music from the beginning of 2001, a Space Odyssey ... i.e. Also Sprach Zarathustra

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The Great Tower of Moorit CVM Stands Proudly in the Fading Sun

This, friends, is the sum of all my recent spinning. One full bobbin of moorit CVM -- probably somewhere between 4 and 5 ounces. It feels like a towering accomplishment. This is my first WooLee Winder bobbin that I have filled completely.

And then I go back and look at what's left.

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The Great Unchanging Ball of Moorit CVM

Sigh. Even after about 6 ounces (I've gotten a good start on the second bobbin now) it doesn't look much different than it did after I first got it. It keeps staring at me, just daring me to imagine how much yarn I can get from 2 lbs of roving.

Queue theme from Chariots of Fire... I've got a long race ahead of me.

(With apologies to those of you lacking either QuickTime or Windows Media Player)

P.S. Did you see all the cool things in the first issue of Yarnival!? I'm looking forward to really digging through it with my morning latte tomorrow!

The Spinning Roving Swap is in full swing now. Since it's been a little while since I've worked on my "100 Things About Me" sort of entries, I thought this might be a fun thing to do as a blog post rather than just sending the answers to my pal. So without further ado...

1) How long have you been spinning?

I started spinning on a drop spindle in May of 2005. In the fall of 2005, with the help of Toni Neil at the Fold, I got my mom's old Ashford Traditional into good enough shape to try out a wheel. In January of 2006 I bought my Lendrum DT -- so only about a year and a couple of months at this point.

2) Are you a beginner, novice, or experienced spinner?

I think I would consider myself a novice spinner. I can spin fairly evenly and consistently, I'm comfortable with longer and shorter staple fibers, I've made 2-ply and 3-ply yarns. I'm developing a good sense for when to use the different ratios on my wheel. However, I've never spun anything extremely fine, Navajo plied, or tried any interesting techniques like creating boucle yarns. Clearly I have lots to learn.

3) Do you spin on a drop spindle or wheel, or both?

The first 6 months or so I was dedicated to my drop spindle and I currently have 5 of those. But since I bought my wheel, I have to admit that I really haven't been interested in my spindles at all. So I think it's fair to say that any spinning I do, I want to do on my wheel, even though I know how to use both.

4) What types and weights of drop spindles (or what type of spinning wheel(s) ) do you currently own?

I own 5 drop spindles -- 2 Bosworth spindles, the heavier one is close to 2 ounces, the lighter one is around 1.5 ounces. I also own a Charis spindle. a Kundert spindle and a Golding Ring Spindle. The Charis and the Kundert are on the lighter side of things, the Golding is closer to the lighter weight Bosworth.

My wheel is a Lendrum DT with the deluxe package -- so I have the normal flyer, fast flyer and plying flyer head. I recently invested in a WooLee Winder for my wheel, which I absolutely love and now can't imagine spinning without.

5) What type of fibers have you spun with before?

I've spun solid wools (merino, cormo, corriedale, coopworth, blue faced leicester, wensleydale and CVM), I've also spun solid silk and some silk blends (cormo & silk, merino & silk) and some alpaca blends (cormo & alpaca & silk).

6) What fibers do you prefer to spin with?

So far my favorites are cormo, CVM and corriedale and cormo blended with silk. I really like how these fibers have a nice balance of softness and springiness and a reasonable staple length. I love wools with a significant amount of natural elasticity like CVM and Targhee. And silk and silk blends just generally make me happy. That said, I currently am working on a 2 lb bale of CVM roving and have beautiful chocolate brown CVM fleece on order for the spring, so I'd prefer not to add any more CVM to my stash for a while. I also have about 2 lbs of hand-dyed merino/silk blend coming my way soon as well, and a pretty solid stash of superwash merino for socks.

7) What fibers do you dislike?

Not a big fan of the long wools. I'm happy I got to try spinning coopworth and wensleydale, but I can't see knitting anything out of those yarns and longwools don't fit my spinning style very well. I don't dislike cotton or flax, but, to be honest, I'm not really interested in them because I don't really much like to knit with those kinds of yarns, either. I'm also not really interested in synthetics or the corn or soy silks.

8) Do you prefer natural colored fibers, or handpainted/dyed fiber?

I like both. But when it comes to hand painted/dyed fibers, I really prefer semi-solids or rovings where the colors have been prepared vertically rather than horizontally -- in other words, I really don't want any more rovings where I am going to get a lot of striping, although I love blends that give me subtle color variations and depth.

9) Would you prefer all one type of roving or smaller amounts of different types to sample?

I like to have enough of anything to do a project. While I love the little test skeins, they don't end up doing much except sitting around my fiber room. I'd much rather have all of one type of something, or a small collection of fibers meant to be in the same project.

10) What are you favorite colors?

Jewel tones. I am very much a "winter" when it comes to colors that I can wear. I like my colors to have cooler/bluer undertones, and blues and teals are my favorite colors over all (that said, the 2 lbs of merino silk I mentioned earlier is going to be a teal color, so I don't really want any more of that kind of color right now). I also love deep rich purples, burgandies, and emerald greens. I've even been known to gravitate towards the occasional fuschia.

11) What colors do you dislike?

Not a big fan of pastels, and while I like yellow and orange, they don't really look good on me, except as socks. So any color that has a serious yellow undertone is probably not a good idea.

12) What would you like to do with your handspun yarn, or what do you plan to do with it? (pattern clarification here)

I'd really like to make myself a pair of fingerless gloves with long cuffs to wear in the winter (it gets cold in my office and when I'm using my computer my hands get pretty frigid). I'm also open to lovely lacy scarves and shawls when it comes to my handspun. Socks, are also a possibility, but only if the fiber is machine washable.

13) What spinning projects are you currently working on?

Right now I am currently spinning up 2 lbs of moorit CVM roving that I am going to 3-ply and and make into a cardigan sweater. I am also working on spinning some superwash merino for socks for myself and my husband.

14) Do you have a wishlist?

I do have an Amazon wishlist. But it's probably not very useful for a spinning swap. But if my Pal should want to find it, it's there.

15) What are your other favorite hobbies?

I'm a geek toy junkie -- I love my iPod, RAZR, digital camera, laptop computer and my Palm device. I've been known to indulge in the occasional RPG. I like to do the occasional bit of gardening, I enjoy reading, traveling, most any fiber-related art that I've tried. My husband and I are having a lot of fun homebrewing beer and I think it's pretty fair to say that I am a bit of a foodie and never say no to an exotic chocolate or the chance to try out a new good wine or beer.

16) Do you have any allergies (pet, smoke, food, fiber,etc...)?

I'm latex, smoke, pollen and mold sensitive, but don't have any severe allergies to anything that I know of.

17) What is your preferred shipping method (USPS, UPS, FedEx)?

Any of the above are fine with me. But if you want to send something that requires that I sign for it, I'd prefer UPS or FedEx. It's a lot harder for me to get to the post office.

I'm off to Michigan for the weekend -- hopefully even a little end of summer beach time will happen. May it be a good one for everyone!

September 11, 2001

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Five years ago, the world changed completely for many people. New Yorkers were profoundly affected, but even here in Chicago, it was one of those mornings when time stopped. In my office, we were glued to CNN. It marked the start of significant financial hardship for my company, as it did for many small companies that were trying to get financing, but would now have much greater difficulty overcoming the barriers to getting deals done. Since no one knew what was going on,and Chicago hosts many tall, symbolic buildings, much of downtown was evacuated. My husband's small company had a branch in Boston and a branch in Chicago. Several engineers had flights out that morning from Boston to Chicago and were in the air when several other flights from Boston were ending in the most tragic way imaginable. They landed, not knowing what had happened, the immediately rented a car and drove back to Massachusetts. And everywhere you went, one set of images kept hitting you over and over.

To this day, many of Chicago's fire engines drive through the streets with a US flag waving off the back. A constant reminder of the sacrifice many people made in the course of just doing their jobs. It still gets to me a little bit when I see those flags wave by. On that day, like everyone else, I was profoundly shocked and devastated. I was also incredibly proud to be in a country that could handle such a terrible occurrence with grace and respect and committment. One where many everyday people became heros.

Tonight, I will sit on my deck and light a candle.

I will not forget.

Do You Habu?

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About a month ago, at the same time Stitches Midwest was going on, Nina's had a a very fun trunk show: Habu Textiles. Nina's is the only place in Chicago that I know of that carries Habu yarns, and even she only keeps a small selection on hand, so I was pretty excited about getting the chance to see more of the fibers up close and personal and to have a chance to see how one might use a stainless steel and silk blend or paper yarn in a garment. The trunk show featured most of the garments that you can see as kits on the Habu website. And there's really nothing like having the chance to get up close and personal with a unique fiber/fabric combination.

As you might suspect, most of the garments are relatively simple in texture and design since the yarns themselves are so unique. Instead, most of them have an interesting twist on the shaping that shows off the yarn to its best advantage. Habu yarns are a very tactile experience. There were many pieces that I was drawn to but would never wear. But there were also a few that really seemed clever and as if they might fit in my wardrobe. Combine that with a 20% discount on all kits that night, and it's no stretch to understand why a little shopping was done.

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Do You Habu? I do! I do!

With the stylistic guidance of the divine Ms. B I ended up with two kits. The olive green and navy blue cones on the left are 100% GIMA cotton tape yarn for Kit 76, the GIMA Cotton Cardigan. This is one of those garments that doesn't look like much in the picture on the website, but that I really liked when I put on. The combination of the two colors of yarn held together with the very open basketweave stitch creates a lot of depth. It will be nice over a turtle neck in the winter or something with shorter sleeves in the spring. Clearly, it's more of a decorator piece than something that will provide actual warmth. But a girl needs a little decoration every now and again.

The second set of cones are for the Kushu Kushu scarf. The grey cone is a blend of stainless steel and silk, while the black cone is a 100% merino. Both of these fibers are exceedingly fine, and for most of the scarf they are worked together. The unique aspect of this scarf is that the area with the merino is meant to be felted to give the scarf extra texture. But what really sold me on this scarf? The stainless steel does these crazy wild shaping things. And it stays put. So very very cool. Once again, not practical, just decoration. But a most excellent decoration, I think.

One thing that you might want to know if you are interested in these kits, is that the patterns are in English, but the instructions are definitely Japanese in style. The Jacket pattern is almost entirely schematics, as is the scarf pattern. The scarf patterns have instructions similar to the French instructions I've worked with in Phildar patterns that tell you how to perform any shaping. Also, at least for the cardigan, there is only one size provided. So if you want it to be bigger or smaller you would need to get out your calculator and make the necessary up- or down-scaling. I've heard that this one size per garment is very typical of Japanese knitting patterns. The knitter is expected to know how to manipulate the sizing to get what they want, given all the structural information.

The cardigan will probably be the next project up in my rotation for myself. It's colors have a lovely, if somber, fall quality to them and except for the texture, it is a simple garment to construct. And I think two cones of cotton could travel very well on vacation if it didn't get finished before the vacation got started!

P.S. The needles in the foreground are the Lantern Moon rosewood circulars that I found at Nina's when I picked up my cardigan kit. They don't have the sharpest points on them, but they are wonderfully smooth, have very nice joins and a flexible cable that doesn't require steaming. Kind of pricey, these needles are, but I very much like knitting with them, and can definitely see myself gradually adding a few more sizes (this is an US 8 on 29") in the future.

Rainbow Gable

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Rainbow Gable

So it seems that my microfiber ribbon yarn and the Green Gable pattern are willing to play nice with each other. I've been referring to this top as "Rainbow Gable", for obvious reasons. Clearly, this is not a subtle garment, even in the subdued light of a rainy, grey Chicago day. But I do think it is a perfect garment to take with me to the Rainbow State (as Hawaii is sometimes nicknamed -- in fact, last year, when we were in Maui, we saw a plethora of rainbows). Lord knows, John will not lose me on the beach -- or any place else -- if I am wearing this!

I do like the being able to "try it on as I go" part of knitting from the top down. You are not getting any modeled shots at this point -- no one needs to have too much exposure to my blindingly white belly (though John was entertained by the process) -- but I am very pleased with how it fits and the nice way the ribbon fabric interacts with my shape. I'm a couple of inches below the bustline right now, so there's still plenty of knitting to go. The only real decision that remains at this point: do I add waist shaping or not? I am tempted not to because I think the ribbon fabric will accomodate most of my curves, but my favorite garments usually turn out to be the "fully fashioned" ones and the only challenge in adding the shaping is doing it at the right place. Once again, an easy thing, when dealing with a top down garment.

And I have no fears of running out of ribbon. As you can see, that ball there is still quite substatial and only the last 2" or so are from that ball. So I should have plenty of ribbon to finish the bottom and the sleeves. I will definitely be lengthening this top beyond the recommendations of the pattern. I am a little past my days of belly tops, I think, and the top will get more wear if it is slightly less revealing.

The Red Scarf Project

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Red Yarn for a Cause

For this blog post, I want you to remember back to when you were starting college. For me, that means going back almost 20 years. For some of you, it might be longer, for some of you, that might be last week. College was the start of an incredible adventure for me. I was excited about starting a scientific career, meeting new people, being on my own and getting to pick what I was going to have to dinner. The feeling of independence was absolutely incredible. At least until I came face to face with a regularly empty mailbox. Who knew an empty mailbox could make me feel so lonely? Those days when I got mail, especially mail from home or from another friend at school, those were always great days. And there was absolutely nothing quite like turning the combination lock on my mailbox to open and finding the slip that indicated that I had an actual package!

My mom put the best care packages together. I remember one box that came right before my winter exams in December. In it, in addition to a gallon sized container of Pepperidge Farms Goldfish (still one of my favorite snacks) and some other indulgent food items and some cute office supplies that she had hand stamped to personalize, my mom included a miniature Christmas tree that came complete with a small set of lights and some ornaments. Getting that box from home reminded me that 1800 miles away, there were people that loved me and knew what I liked. People who would support me on my road to becoming an independent adult. It was a wonderful feeling to know that no matter what, somebody cared and wanted me to be successful in what I was doing.

But not all college kids that have worked hard enough to get to college are lucky enough to have that kind of support once they get settled in their dorm rooms. Imagine what it would be like knowing that you didn't have any support structure somewhere to help you through the rough patches. How tough would it be knowing that your mailbox was going to be empty most of the time?

The Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) is working hard to make sure that these students know that someone out there does care about them. Their Care Package Programwas set up to make sure that these students who have worked so hard to try to achieve their goals know that there are people out there who do support them and want them to succeed.

The Red Scarf Project is one of the ways that us fiberly inclined folks can reach out and cheer these students on as they try to achieve their dreams. For Valentines Day, the OFA wants to send out a very special set of care packages -- one that really lets these students know that people out there care enough to invest their own time in creating something for them. These care packages will all contain a handmade red scarf. If you knit, crochet, or weave and have some red yarn and want to help make someone's college experience a little brighter, I'd really like to encourage you to take part in this project. Here's the basic parameters that you need to know about:

  • Size: approximately 60” long and 5” to 8” wide. Scarves should be long enough to be wrapped around the neck with tails long enough to be tied in the front.
  • Style: Think unisex collegiate. Fringe optional. Should drape, tie easily and be soft.
  • Color: Red! This could mean burgundy, cherry, russet, red stripes with other colors, multicolor hues including red. Other unisex colors, including black, navy, gray, teal, olive or gold, are also welcome.
  • Finished & tagged: Yarn ends securely sewn in. For the personal touch, attach a tag saying “Handmade for You” with your first name, city, and group affiliation, if any. Donors have also included washing instructions, messages of encouragement, and gift cards/burger bucks/book of stamps.

For more information, I whole heartedly encourage you to check out the OFA website for the project, and to check in at the special Red Scarf Project 2007 blog that Norma, the blogger who I found out about this effort from, is hosting to provide information, encouragement, and progress reports for and by those who want to participate. Norma did a great job of getting the word out last year and she's working hard this year, too, to make sure that this project gets noticed.

I'm trying to get some local energy moving on it as well. Myself and a number of other very cool people in the ChicKnits KIP group are going to be knitting up a small storm of scarves. Bonne Marie very kindly created this very fun button to help us kick off our efforts.

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If you are in Chicago, I'd like to encourage you to knit along with our little group. In early January, we're going to have a "scarf fashion show" and gather up all the scarves and send them on their way to the OFA -- I'll post more about this closer to the date. Even if you're not in Chicago, I'd like to encourage you to take part in this project and be a part of our little group. I'll happily make sure that any scarves that get to my house at the same time will get included in the package to the OFA.

So dig through your stash, find some red yarn, and plan to make somebody's Valentine's Day a special one in 2007

Bobs and Bits

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I'm afraid this week, much of what I am going to post is going to be incremental improvements on previous projects that you have already seen. However, in order to sweeten the process, I am also going to show off some fun things that I have discovered recently that I thought would be fun to share. So the bobs are my current projects and the bits are the interesting finds.

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And Then There Were 2: Getting Closer to Plying my Moorit CVM

I have now finished spinning 2 bobbins of the moorit CVM roving. I'm now 2/3 of the way to getting to ply up my first mondo skein of 3 ply, which I hope will end up being somewhere between a DK and worsted weight yarn when all is said and done. In the process of spinning the singles for this project, I came to realize that it would be impossible for me to get sidetracked into any new projects if I didn't get some more bobbins for my WooLee Winder. How boring would that be? So now I have 3 new bobbins (for a total of 6) in my collection. This means that I can work on my CVM, but that I can also get started on the sock yarn I want to make for John for Christmas.

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The Ball is Still Large

And just for the record, I thought you might want to compare the current state of the CVM ball to the last picture I took. I tried to take it in the same location so that you could see the size relative to the post on my table on the balcony. Clearly Mr. Fiber Ball is still quite large. I would estimate that I have spun somewhere between 9 and 10 ounces at this point.

And as for the "bits" in this post:

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Paper Goods: Greeting Cards (top left) Knitting Print (bottom center) and a Redwood Datebook (top right)

I headed out to the Renegade Craft Fair, that is held in Wicker Park every September. Wicker Park is less than a mile north of where I live, so it's a nice walk from my house. It's always fun to see what crafty people who have other crafty passions besides fiber are up to. In particular, I like to see the paper artists. I discovered a new one that I love and revisited an "old" one that I had to get a little more goodness from.

The new one is Katie Muth, an artist from Toronto. The box of cards contains 8 cards, 4 of which are that lovely ball of yarn and 4 of which are the knitting hands (bottom center). I loved the Knitting Hands so much that I also bought an individual signed print that I am going to frame and hang in my fiber room or some other place that I like to sit and work.

The "old" one (I put the old in quotes because I discovered the work of this artist a couple of months ago) is Jill Bliss. Something about her whimsical flowers and plants -- along with the fact that she puts them on quad-ruled papers -- just makes me smile. I purchased a copy of the Redwood Forest Datebook for next year. What makes it so nice is that there are no actual dates printed on the pages, just blank weekly entry pages so that you can number as you go. Not a bad thing for someone like me who might forget her datebook for weeks and then might have several weeks where she needs to write a bunch of things down.

Bead and Braid

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Kumihimo Braid and Lampwork Glass Bead

Today's picture gets you both my handmade item and the interesting found object. The lampwork glass bead comes to me from Oak Grove Yarns. I found Linda at the Michigan Fiber Festival and really fell in love with her interesting beads in all shapes and sizes and irridescent colors. The crow in me that collects the shiny things had to have one. Only none of the ones she had on display that I liked had a hole big enough for a Kumihimo braid (at least not the ones I make, I am sure you can make them out of finer thread). When she offered make one custom for my needs, I jumped at the chance to have my own small piece of unique handiwork. It arrived last week and I love it's rough hewn texture and the sense of depth the bead conveys, like water moving under ice.

The braid you see threaded through the bead will not be the bead's final cord. This cord is barely long enough to be a bracelet. However, it is probably the first Kumihimo braid that I have created that I really like. It's made from silver and lilac DMC perle cotton. It was made on the Kumihimo disk. I seem to get better results from the disk thank the plate. I'd like to make a somewhat thicker cord for this bead. And I think I will probably choose darker thread colors to set off the bead better. Perhaps black with a teal accent? And then I will need to find the the jewelry findings. Amazing how one inspirational bead can send me off on a whole collection of new adventures.

Socks and Blockers

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Almost Socks and Sheepy Blockers

How progresses the socks? Slowly but surely. I haven't had a lot of long car trips lately, so my socks are languishing a bit. But with a trip to Kauai coming up soon, I'm anticipating a lot of travel time to be filled with knitting. Not just on the flight there, but as we drive around the island. I'm getting mighty darn good at knitting without looking at what I am knitting when it comes to kntting socks in the round. A good part of the top of the second sock was knit in the dark on the way back from Michigan. I thought I was going to get two fairly evenly striped socks out of this skein, but as I work my way down the foot of the second sock, I see the stripes beginning to widen. Ah well, STR is nothing if not unpredictable. I have no doubt that I will enjoy them no matter how the striping works out.

The nifty thing here is the sock blockers. I ordered a set of these from Chappy's Fiber Arts and Crafts on Ebay. I found out about them from Wendy. Wendy always finds the best stuff and she started talking about these sock blockers just about the time that I started being interested in having a better way to show off my hand knit socks. These took a little while to get to me (I suspect that they are made after the order is placed), but I think they were worth the wait. This pair is meant to block a woman's medium sized sock, but I suspect that I will eventually be investing in the smaller and larger size as well.

Sneak Peeks

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A More Significant Swatch

A lovely evening with wine well matched to dinner courses leaves me a bit tipsy and not so good at the writing (who would ever think that a vegetarian restaurant could be so luscious and upscale? If you come to Chicago and enjoy your vegetables, Green Zebra is a must. Definitely try their tasting menu). But I thought I would show you an idea that I think is progressing well.

Finished Rainbow Gable

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Finished Rainbow Gable

The Rainbow Gable,she is finished. The ends are woven in and glued down with Fraycheck. She is all ready to make the trip across the western US, across part of the Pacific Ocean to the island of Kauai in the Rainbow state itself.

As you can probably tell, I did opt to do the full waist shaping. It was definitely the right decision as this top fits perfectly and definitely works with my curves. The husband likes this one a good deal. "Could you have made the top completely with the mesh pattern?" he asked. "Yes, but then it would be kind of see-through." Pause for a moment. "What's wrong with that?"

Clearly the boys, they are not always thinking the same things about a garment as we are. But in the end, both John and I liked what we saw.

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Back of the Gable

In case I haven't mentioned it, this top was made with Tess' Designer Yarns Hand Dyed Microfiber Ribbon. I believe the colorway is called "Confetti". I started with two skeins and have a significant amount of the second skein left. I opted to make the top about an inch longer than suggested by the pattern. I considered going a little longer, but didn't want it to stretch too much over my hips. Overall I am very pleased with how this colorway worked. It is not a subtle sophisticated colorway, but it is bright, happy and didn't pool in any weird ways. And it will be perfect for warm sunny days both here and on vacation. Good thing that vacation is coming soon, because warm weather in Chicago is mostly on it's way out of town for a while.

A few comments about the yarn in this top. Generally speaking, the yarn and this pattern are well paired. However, the knit is quite loose at this gauge and it is very, very easy to snag this stuff. The ribbon doesn't get damaged (this stuff is like iron) but the ribbon gets pulled out and the stitches can get very distorted in the area of the snag. Easy enough to repair, but a pain to deal with. Clearly I will not be wearing this garment anywhere near my cell phone clip, and I will be careful about wearing it when I am carrying a purse with a lot of hardware.

The only problem with the top itself is the neckline on the back. It rolls over rather badly, even though it looks fine in the front (if you look closely you can see it just below my hair line in the back picture). I may have to thread a bit of elastic through the cast on edge to keep it where I want it.

This top is also accompanied by another purchase from Renegade that will be travelling with me. The floral pendant is from a local artist, ZN Creative Arts. I loved the color when I saw it (probably no surprise to those of you who have been reading for a while) and thought it would be a very fun addition to my jewelry box.

Crazy Lace Agate Socks

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One of the nice things about having a "work from home" day is that I can do this:

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Working Hard from Home

Yep, I can put on my just completed new pair of socks and snap a picture with my feet up on my own desk. Lest you worry that I am on my way towards slacker-hood, this interlude didn't last long because I had plenty of other things to do. Aside from taking a break to make myself a latte, working from home isn't that much different than working at work, except that I don't have to dress up quite as much and there are fewer distractions so that I can do some programming.

These socks are just about as simple as they get. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock, medium weight in "Crazy Lace Agate" (you can find out some encyclopaedic information about the stone here and some good pictures of the stones here -- I like the symbolism of the stone, which, apparently is a symbol of the love of good and it helps to banish fear, which I like to think are also qualities that handknit socks can embody). I cast on 52 stitches and made a picot edge (which I rather like, but may be too lazy to make on every sock) for the cuff. I switched from size 0 needles to size 2 needles on the row in the picot where the K2Tog YO is done. Then I knit about 7 inches down the leg, put in a short row heel using half the stitches and worked my way down to the toe. A pretty standard sock for me, and they knit up in no time because of the diameter of the yarn. I could really get to like this medium weight STR.

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Fraternal Twins

Not surprisingly, these guys are fraternal. The sock tops are at least fairly close in terms of the general striping pattern, but something changed a little bit on the instep of the second sock. No matter, they still make me happy. They kept my feet nice and warm on Friday and they had no problems staying up all day long. I had a lot of yarn left over. I could easily have added an extra inch to the top of each sock or to the instep. So I suspect one skein would be enough to cover moderate-sized man feet if simple stockinette was used.

Now I have this great moment of indecision where I am not quite sure what socks to do next. Maybe my handspun Sloopy? Maybe another pair for John? So many options!

Like Father, Like Daughter

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My dad has always been the family photographer. For as long as I can remember he has always had a camera. When I was small, it was this wonderful old twin lens reflex Yashica (to be fair, it probably wasn't that old at the time) that I was absolutely fascinated with. As time moved on, dad bought himself a treat -- a Canon SLR. He even invested in one of those big telephoto lenses. And he started taking some color pictures, even though it meant that he couldn't develop them on his own. Nowadays dad has a digital camera -- his current fave is a Canon EOS Rebel SLR. It gives him the limitless possibilites for photography that you can only get from digital media.

No matter what camera he has in his hands at any given time, however, my dad has always loved to take pictures of flowers. If you were to look back through the old contact sheets, prints wrapped in yellow Kodak photo processing envelopes or to dig through the image archives on his computer, you would find all manner of flora. Everything from the humble dandelion to the most complex orchid has made it's way in front of my dad's lens. And the thing of it is, most of them are quite good. He's got an eye for the small things, my dad does.

So perhaps it is no surprise that when I am not taking pictures of my fiber endeavors, I am often taking flower pictures of my own. The macro mode on my new little Canon is just incredible, and while I don't have quite the artistic vision that my dad does, I'm beginning to look for those things that make a photo interesting. On Sunday, a beautiful day here in Chicago, John and I took another trip up to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The light was beautiful and the many of the roses are still in bloom. Can you guess what I did instead of get started on a new pair of socks?

So there is no knitting in this post, but I do want to introduce you to a fun new toy I have installed to work with Movable Type -- the Photo Gallery plugin by Byrne Reese (I would put links here, but the ones I have are not behaving themselves right at the moment -- if you're interested, Google, they are bound to come back up). Just click the picture below to take you to the entire set.

And, as always, I'm thinking of doing more with this gallery than just posting flower pictures, so let me know what you think, and feel free to leave comments on the pictures if the spirit moves you.

The Beginning of the Habu Scarf

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Habu Stainless Steel, Silk and Merino Scarf

I've started a new project, but don't have a whole lot to show for it yet. This is the Habu Textiles scarf kit that I bought in early August. I was planning to take it on vacation with me, and then I realized that it requires 4 different sized needles. That's a lot of extra gear to take (lose, break...) on vacation, so I decided just to start it to get a feel for what it would be like to knit with a yarn containing stainless steel. As it turns out, you don't really notice much difference in the yarn. Perhaps that is because it is paired with the merino right now and my fingers only register the wool. The fabric does have an interesting stiffness however and I think it's going to be a trip to see what happens after it gets felted. It's hard to imagine that this tiny thread of merino is going to felt, so that is part of the adventure.

As an aside, you might notice that I am using straight needles here. This has to do with knitting with fine yarn (I mean fine as in very small diameter). I find that it's easier for me when the stitches all stay on the same needle and don't slide of onto a cable. The stitches that move onto the cable often seem to get smaller and tighter making it less easy to manipulate them. Combine that with the fact that I really love these short Brittany needles and you now know why my normal circs are stashed for this project.

Experiment in Texture and Stripes

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Well, y'all knew it would be impossible for me not to start another pair of socks. It was more a question of "which yarn?" and "what pattern?" than anything else. Corrine and Karen and ks all suggested that they would like to see some of my Sock Hop yarn on the needles. And as I got to thinking about it, it did seem like a good idea.

But that left me with a decision to make about a pattern. Sock Hop (which you can find at Crown Mountain Farms website) is a 100% superwash merino handspun sock yarn. It has lovely marled stripes that result from the barberpoling that happens when the yarn is plied. Whatever I decided to do had to be compatible with stripes. And this yarn is handspun. Somehow, it didn't seem right just to knit my standard sock with handspun -- even if it wasn't my handspun. So I pulled out my Barbara Walker pattern books and began to survey them for patterns which create a bias in one direction or the other that might create an interesting effect with the striping.

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Sock Hop Yarn in "Say A Little Prayer"

With the help of some lovely afternoon sun and a good latte I found a pattern that I liked, that I thought fit the scale of a sock. It combines alternating bias directions with a little bit of lace. Something I like because sometimes the techniques used to create the bias lead to a stiff fabric, and socks, in my book, aren't meant to be too stiff. I selected the Traveling Vine pattern from the first Treasury, converted it to chart form and knit a big ol' swatch out of Cascade 220 just to make sure that I'd interpreted the pattern instructions correctly. Then it was time to cast on my Sock Hop. So far I've completed the cuff and 1 full pattern interval. I'm hoping the texture will become more apparent when I've gotten farther, but I can already see the nice biasing effect in the stripes. The first repeat got me almost exactly an inch, so I've got at least 5 more of these to go.

I know that those of you hoping I would knit with my Sock Hop yarn were probably hoping that I would knit with my lovely orange "Hang on Sloopy". I guess I am not yet ready to experiment with that yarn yet. Since I love it so much, I'd like to play with a few of these biasing patterns to see if I can find just the perfect thing. I will say that I do like knitting with the Sock Hop yarn I bought a great deal. It is soft and smooth and has a nice cushiony feel. It is not spun completely consistently throughout, and there is no mistaking it for millspun yarn. But I think that is part of the charm of it. Not only does the color change, but there are subtle changes in texture as well. It adds an extra dimension to the yarn. And I find this particular colorway very soothing. Like a memory of spring. A nice thing to have in my hands as the leaves fall from the trees and I am confronted with the fact that cold weather will soon be here.

Some Days There Are No Pictures

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I wish that wasn't true today, but I am afraid that I made no significant progress on the Habu scarf, either pair of socks, my dad's vest or on the spinning of my moorit CVM. This seems to be the way of getting ready to go on vacation. My time gets channeled into focusing on the tasks that need to get done at work so that I don't have to feel too guilty about not answering most of my email for two weeks, and into trying to get things ready at home to prepare for the vacation as well. This weekend will be all about house cleaning.

About all I have gotten to do today with regards to being crafty was to think about what would be coming with me to Kauai. I've decided that I really want to keep this simple. And with one possible exception, I think I'm on target to do that. What's in my crafty "don't forget to pack" list?

  • Two skeins of Sock Hop sock yarn in "Say a Little Prayer" and a set of 2.25 mm double points.
  • One skein of Socks that Rock medium weight in "Amber" and a set of 2.75 mm double pointed needles.
  • One ball of grey striped Trekking XXL and a set of 2.25 mm double points (yes, I have more than a few sets of these now).
  • One 8 ounce bundle of 100% Sock Hop superwash merino in "My Boyfriend's Back", 3 WooLee Winder bobbins, and my Lendrum DT spinning wheel with WooLee Winder flyer, and some miscellaneous equipment for a homemade lazy kate

See, I told you everything but one item would seem pretty reasonable. Normally I wouldn't even think about taking enough yarn for three pairs of socks, but the first two are patterned and so probably won't be good for car travel. The grey socks for John are going to be straight stockinette.

And then there's the spinning wheel. Initially, I was planning leaving the wheel at home. I was. I really was. And then I mentioned this to John, who immediately started to tell me how it would be easy to prepare a safe suitcase for it to travel in and that it really wouldn't be that big a deal to bring it along. Still, I though it seemed like a lot of effort. But John had planted the seeds of doubt in my mind and the more I thought about it, the more I could imagine myself sitting on the lanai of one of the houses we were renting, happily spinning while taking in the island air. And then I thought, "Hey, how often does a girl get to go to Hawaii? Who knows when we'll be back next. Eat dessert first, for once, girlfriend!" So we're going to work out wheel packing logistics this weekend. It doesn't hurt that the Lendrum is, after all, a travelling wheel.

There's also the very distinct possibility that some red yarn for a red scarf will come with me as well, but that is dependent on selecting the yarn and the pattern, neither of which have been done yet.

This will probably be my last post for a little while. Monday is going to be crazy because we leave for Hawaii on Tuesday morning and don't get into Kauai until Tuesday evening. I'm going to have my camera, and both houses we're staying at have internet service, so I'm hoping to share a little taste of our trip with y'all.

Aloha!

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