September 2009 Archives

Cashmere Sophie


20090901_CashmereSophie.jpgIn my never ending quest to search out luscious, man-friendly sock yarn, I bring you today's post. 

What do you get the man who has (almost) everything for his anniversary?  The man who tells you he won't wear any other jewelry but his wedding ring?  The man who tells you he wants something for his computer and then gives you the exact SKU number and location to purchase it from?  The man who, though he has several hobbies, has no hobby that really allows for stash accumulation?

The answer: handknit cashmere socks. 

I've been entranced by all the cashmere blend sock yarns I've seen lately.  Stunning hand paints, soft merino blends.  But when it comes to my husband, hand paints are not compatible, and merino is nice, but not durable enough to hold up to a daily winter Chicago Public Transportation commute.   So a cashmere treat seemed out of the realm of possibility until I got an email from Emily Parsons that her Sophie's Toes line of sock yarn was going to have a cashmere blend that contained an critical component: nylon.

The yarn stock that she uses for her cashmere blend is 10% cashmere, 80% merino and 10% nylon -- a perfect blend of warmth, softness and durability.  Not only that, but one of the other reasons I love Emily's yarn is that she has a range of man-friendly colors.  The "Charcoal" colored yarn on the left side is both man- and knitter- acceptable.   (The other skein, aptly titled "Mossy" is a little treat for me) as well as being delightfully squishy and soft.

The next part of the project will be to pick out a suitable pattern -- I've trolled through my Barbara Walker books and I think I have a good candidate.  Something that will be interesting to knit, but not too complicated, and should work well in the round.  Once I finish up Damson and Z's Zebra Striper sweater, this project is going to be the next one up.

Otto, Elijah and Sophie

20090903_OttoSophieElijah.jpgWow, you're all thinking,  another picture of yarn in a bowl.  Certainly she can come up with something different to post about than more yarn.

Well, actually, I probably could. But at this point, I don't think of this as a bowl of pastel yarn, I think of it as Elijah, Otto and Sophie (from top to bottom).  A good friend of mine is expecting her second son to arrive in the next couple of months, and while I would love to knit the impending arrival something similar to what I made for his older brother, I decided that it might be nice to make the new little guy something that was special and all his own. 

I haven't made very many toys.  Z got a Baby Bobbi Bear and a Doddy and my nephew received Celestine, but those are the only three I've ever started and finished.  Generally, when I've tried to knit toys, I find them kind of fiddly and get frustrated when joins and closures don't look as clean as I want them to.  But after watching Z with her ball and after knitting Celestine and realizing that it's very important to have a pretty tight gauge, I've been thinking about giving it another try.  And Ysolde's adorable little creatures kept popping back into my browser.

So, Monday night, I purchased all the patterns, ordered the yarn and was pleasantly surprised when it showed up lightning fast and the colors were what I expected them to be.  Because I'm knitting for a little boy, I tried to select colors that fit into a little boy's palette -- except for the white.  Otto is a polar bear, and I just couldn't see that one in any other color.  Fortunately, this is Cashsoft Baby and the yarn is machine washable, so all the toys will be able to get a bath here and there when they need them and will still be incredibly soft. 

The other big reason I'm posting that yarn picture is because it's a commitment -- I will get these toys done before the child is too old to be interested in them!    

To all of you in the States, may you have a lovely long Labor Day weekend (I will be enjoying mine in Ann Arbor with a Georgia Reuben from Zingerman's and the company of family).  To everyone else, I wish you a lovely weekend as well, even if it's only two days instead of three. 


20090909_Sophie.jpgPattern: Sophie
Yarn: RYC Cashsoft Baby DK in "Cloud"
Needles: US2.5 (3 mm) bamboo double points

Labor Day weekend was a lovely one for me.  A nice weekend with my family and plenty of knitting time while the kiddo enjoyed time with her grandparents and a whole array of new toys and books.  I, of course, brought about 12 more projects than I could possibly work on. And the only projects that actually saw any new stitches added were the Dragon shawl and Sophie.

Sophie is a lovely little knit -- and doesn't take that long to work up if you're dedicated.  I finished almost all of her in Ann Arbor (and the only reason she didn't get finished on the ride home was because I got drawn into a game of Civilization Revolution on my iPhone -- and it's almost as addictive as the desktop version).  She's constructed out of RYC Cashsoft Baby DK in the colorway "Cloud" and stuffed with polyfill so that she's washable.

I really love that the toy is made as one unit, with additional body parts added by picking up and knitting stitches on existing parts.  So much nicer than knitting pieces individually and then trying to sew them together neatly.  One full ball got me the head, body, both arms, both legs and about 1/3 of the way through the first ear.  And I used a little bit from a second ball for the rest of the first ear and the second ear.  I'm thinking that after I finish all three toys, I'll probably have enough left overs to put together a patchwork animal for Z.  Who kept coming up to me and letting people know "Momma is knitting!" and "That's a bunny!"

I was much lighter on the stuffing than I have been in the past -- I wanted my Sophie to be soft and squishable and easy for little hands to grasp.  This also had the side-effect of not distorting any of the body shapes in  bizarre manner.  And I absolutely love the final resul. 

The thing I was most worried about with this project was the French knot eyes.  French knots and I, generally speaking, do not get a long.  But we worked together just find on this project.  Must be the good karma that comes from knitting for a baby.

Overall this pattern was easy to follow and the instructions, including the images guiding the picking up of stitches, were quite good.  I think Otto will be next.  But not before I cast on for Ms. Z's second Zebra Striper sleeve. Can't forget my own baby as I'm knitting for someone else's!

Comment and Blogging Issues

Hi All --

It has become apparent to me that my blog system needs some overhauling.  I can't explain why so many people are having problems with comments (even I get them when I try test posts), although I suspect it has something to do with the interaction of my spam control plugins and Movable Type's native software.  Then there's the fact that I seem to be getting double posts when I preview a post before I post it.  Also, it's time, I think, to convert my current RSS feed into an atom feed to make it easier for people to look at in blog readers.  And I need to update my pattern pages to include sales through Ravelry.  And then there's the fact that Six Apart came out with a MT 4.3 all the way back in June that I haven't installed -- and this release promises better performance, security, etc.  I've decided that to best celebrate my 7 year blogiversary I need to get my poor blog into better shape!

So, rather than try to do a lot of things at once (like I usually do) and put myself into a blog update frenzy as I try to make all the code work correctly in time for my next blog post, I'm going to go on a little blogging hiatus until I get it all taken care of and hopefully come back mostly better -- at least from a back end perspective.  Unfortunately, web site updates and actual crafting also tend to be mutually exclusive, so if I want to do the former, the actual crafting is going to be lacking for a bit, too.  Which is the other reason for a little hiatus while I do this.

In the meantime, if you're trying to comment and having problems with that, please try again  and be patient with me.  I'm pretty frustrated with the darn thing not working correctly and am going to work hard to make it work better again. 

See you on the flip side!


Wanna Help a Shepherd?


I'm still not done with the upgrade, but since the world does not wait to me, I wanted to make a quick post.

For those of you who love sheep, and appreciate the shepherds who work hard to give fiber bearing animals a good place to live, I encourage you to help out Susan at Martha's Vinyard Fiber Farm by voting for her small business at the AMEX Shine a Light competition.  I've been following Susan's blog for about 6 months now and hope to buy one of her spring yarn shares when they become available.  Her pictures of her sheep and goats are beautiful, and her animal husbandry practices are wonderful to read about.  She's clearly a person who has found her calling. 

But like all small business owners, she's struggling and could use a financial boost.  The AMEX program could help give her that. 

Please consider taking a look and giving her your vote -- it does require registration, and a little more time than just making one click, but if you take a read through her blog, I hope you'll agree that it's worth the effort.*

*  I don't know Susan personally, but I've enjoyed her blog and fiber animal pictures and stories so much that I would jump at the chance to get to meet her sometime.

And the Blog Upgrades Continue

Thought I would pop in just to say a few words about where the blog is...

  • I am fully migrated to Movable Type 4.31.  It was relatively painless and went smoothly. 
  • I got rid of all the anti-spam plugins except TypePad anti-spam.  In my previous installation, I actually had several modules installed and active and I'm suspicious that they didn't all play nice together or make for a better user experience.  So far, I haven't seen a wave of exciting new spam with just the TypePad anti-spam plugin, so I'm going to leave it on its own in the hope that maybe it will improve the commenting situation on the blog.
  • All of the links for purchasing my patterns have been converted over to Ravelry.  Unfortunately, this does eliminate the shopping cart option that I had with E-junkie, but it also saves me some money for months when pattern sales are low to none. 
  • I learned a bit about the concept of "pages" in Movable Type -- these are web pages built from a template that are separate from blog pages and entries.  The idea is that they are meant mostly as static pages that have some consistent HTML wrapped around them.  I converted the pages for the patterns I have for sale into this system and have decided that I need to move all of my old static pages into this system.  Previously I maintained the static pages with an elderly version of DreamWeaver and my blog with Movable Type.  I'm now going to migrate everything into Movable Type, which, I hope, will save me time and be easier for me to maintain.
  • The newest version of Movable Type has nice basic templates for building full on websites with multiple blogs, community sections, etc.  After installing a test site just to see what it looked like, I realized that not just my blog, but my whole website could use a little face lift.   Since I also suspect that some of the problems I have with commenting are related to page layout issues and how fast my templates can be processed and pages generated (I think that blank page comes up because the pages that are being updated with the comments are still building and the webserver times out the process) I want to try to move my blog into a fresh installation, moving my old templates into the new framework.   So far, the process is going well.  After a few evenings of jiggling around the base CSS and bringing in some of the stuff that Becky built for me I have a very presentable front entry screen into my website.  The blog is next!
So I'm pretty happy about where things are going right now, even though I am just beginning to appreciate the mountain of effort I will have to climb to perform the entire migration.  I think that after I get the main site pages and blog running, the rest will move over gradually as I get time.  Even though I am enjoying my dip in this particular pond, my fingers are getting itchy for a little knitting. 

The New and Improved Website/Blog is Here!

Here it is, midnight, Monday morning and I have just finished up getting the new site to where I want it to be.  There's still a lot to do, but I'm really happy with what I was able to accomplish in the past week or so.  I'm now using Movable Type to control my whole framework for my website.  While some of my pages still have the look and feel of one or more of my previous generations of blog/website design, little by little, things are going to all migrate into this one.  How fast it goes is going to be dependent on how much html re-coding I can stomach at any given time. 

What things might you care about?

  • All navigation can now be accomplished using the top bar.  It has links to all the major parts of my site.  All my contact information is now on the Contact page instead of in the sidebar, and links to all my patterns are now on the Patterns page instead of in the sidebar. 
  • The "Recent Comments" widget in my side bar is fun and a nice way to keep track of the dialog in my recent posts. 
  • All my entries have been republished and my category archives and tag cloud should be up-to-date. 
  • I think overall the site and my blog pages are cleaner and easier to navigate. 
  • I hope it will be easier to publish comments now.  My comment templates are pretty much the default MT4 templates, so they (in theory) should be optimized to perform well.  Please consider giving me a holler if you run into persistent problems with trying to submit a comment.  My blog has gotten rather large (1367 posts and more than 24,000 comments) so I think sometimes that my web host chokes on processing and re-creating all the pages it needs to whenever you leave a comment.  Added after testing... seems like for some reason when you use the "Preview" option for your comment and then submit, it gives you an error about not accepting the comment because of too many submissions in too short a time.  For some reason (and it happens for my blog posts, too, when I preview them before posting) when you do a "Preview" it seems to posting the comment and when you hit submit, it thinks you're posting the same comment a second time.  So if you get that message after a preview, don't worry, your comment most likely got through.
As I was working on updating my site, I got kind of nostalgic looking back over all the posts I've made, all the different styles my site has had.  And I was extremely appreciative of how clean and flexible Becky made my site styles when she gave it the spectacular facelift that produced all main images color themes.  I still think of it as my "new look" even though I can't exactly remember how long ago she created it for me.  I still love it and only tried to update/change it to be compatible with some of the new goodies made available by MT4.  Any oddities you see now are all my responsibility.  But I hope they are few and far between.

My next project will be to bring my technique section back on line -- I'm still pleasantly surprised by the fact that my little tutorials are useful to folks.  After that, I'll work on getting my project gallery back in to shape.  I've been using Ravelry for that for awhile, but I think I'd like to get things back here, in house, where I have more control over how they look.  I'd also like to create a book and tools review section for the site -- I have so much fiber arts stuff now, I'd like to share what I've learned about it with my readers.

But, most importantly, my next posts are going to be back to focusing on the crafty good stuff.  While I love all manner of coding, I've really been missing having some needles in my hand!

Kitchen Sink

It's been way too long since I've had a post with a picture in it.*  And there almost wasn't one today, since I got home from work much later than I expected last night.  I decided to look at bad lighting as an opportunity to play with my camera and my "daylight" fluorescent bulbs.  I think it kind of has a late night, artsy sort of effect.  The colors are pretty good, just a little darker than they would be in real life. 

This lovely yarn is part of the treasures I took home from shopping at the Renegade Craft Fair that happened on nearby Division Street two weekends ago.  While Renegade mostly seems to suffer from an overabundance of T-shirt and eclectic jewelry vendors, buried here and there are booths that a knitty girl can appreciate.  While I have been known to give in to the occasional artsy screenprint T-shirt vendor, my favorite booth had to have been that of Kitchen Sink Dyeworks.  I thought her color palettes were lovely and complex.  Most of them had a soft, watercolor quality that makes you want to pull them out of your knitting basket on a quiet, rainy afternoon. 

The bottom skein is "Luxe Merino Fine" in "Cary" which is 80% wool, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon (a perfect sock blend, if you ask me).  My eyes were immediately drawn to the soft blues, purples and greys.  This yarn is not destined to marinade in my stash for very long.  Once I can find it a few more friends, I'll be booking it on a long trip across the water. 

The top skein is "Merino Bamboo" in Leona.  It is composed of 60% superwash merino, 30% bamboo and 10% nylon.   I've been wanting to try a bamboo blend yarn, and I thought this one was absolutely beautiful in a bit beyond pastel versions of fall colors: rose, lilac and gold are the primary hues in the skein.  It will make something lovely when its time comes.   She claims that her method of dyeing prevents pooling and striping. -- and the samples she had in the booth seemed to bear that out -- so I'm thinking it will be time to dig out my pattern book and look for something fun to go with with it... a twisted stitch pattern, maybe?

And, speaking of knitting, it's time for me to get back to that, now isn't it.  Maybe tonight is the time for Z's second Zebra striper sleeve to get cast on....

* And I'm particularly excited about posting pictures now, because my blog posts are in a wider column and my pictures can be about 100 pixels wider.

Back to Sleeve Island, Zebra Style

Yesterday I decided that I absolutely had to start the second sleeve for Z's Zebra Striper Sweater.  October and cooler weather is fast approaching, and since even after I finish knitting this sleeve, there are still ends to be woven in, a sweater to be steeked, sleeves to be sewn in and the neckline and fronts to be edged -- clearly I need to get going or plan this sweater to be for another child other than my own. 

So, after knitting the two rows on the Dragon Shawl that I do ever day that I have free time in the daylight (I'm now up to 80 rows completed and have just started on the head of the dragon), I cast on for the second sleeve.  The picture was meant to show an unconventional angle on the sleeve -- after all, if I showed the same things as I did for the first one, the second sleeve would be just as boring to read about as it is to knit (after the brief two color motif at the wrist, it's pretty much just plain stockinette until the bind off).  I sort of like how the purl bars line up and alternate on the inside.   The good thing about it being simple after the cuff, though, is that it will be easy to take with me to Austin next week when we head down south for a long weekend. 

A Sock and a Toe and a Bit to Go

At Kitchen Sink Dyeworks on Friday she had a contest for a free skein of yarn.  All you had to do was leave a note in the comments telling her what color combinations made you think of autumn. This was my entry:

I like the rich purples, reds and oranges of that mark the end of fall leaves -- like nature's final hurrah before going dormant for awhile... at least in the midwest.
And this is all true -- when I knit my Charlotte's Web Shawl the color theme was very similar (this post shows the original Koigu colors off) -- my goal was for the colors to be evocative of a walk in the fall woods. 

So when I picked up this sock to work on it this weekend, I had a small epiphany.  The reason I always felt myself drawn to this yarn was because it pretty much fits my ideal fall color spectrum -- albeit it a rather oversaturated way. 

I finished the first sock and used the remainder of the first skein to cast on for the second -- it's amazing to me how easy it is for me to defeat second sock syndrome simply by doing my socks toe up.  The magic cast on takes no time at all and then suddenly I have a toe and I'm on my way.  I don't have to remember how to do a twisted German cast on, nor do I have to think about dealing with a flap heel and gusset. 

This project remains in my basket by the couch where I settle in for TV watching, so I am anticipating a new pair of fall socks soon!

Two Color Knitting Experiment

The second sleeve is never interesting to talk about -- unless you can talk about trying something different with it.

I'm a real newbie when it comes to two-color knitting.  It was while working on the Zebra Striper dress that I finally managed to get both hands in on the action.  My normal "mode" of knitting is Continental style, and I have to admit, it was a real mental hurdle for me to get over to get my right hand pulling it's weight. 

I'd always read that which hand you carry the yarn in has an impact on the final fabric.  On the first sleeve (the one on the right), I knit with the main color in my left hand (my dominant knitting hand) and the secondary colors in my right.  You can see that the secondary color stitches (i.e. the non-red stitches) almost fade back into the fabric, while the red controls the show.  On the second sleeve (the one on the left) i knit with the main color in my right hand and the secondary color in my left.  In this, the secondary color stitches are much more prominent.  The main color stitches are also a bit looser (I know it doesn't look that way... I accidentally neglected to do some increase stitches because I am not good at reading instructions and decided not to rip back and just make it up as I moved along the sleeve since it doesn't really make much difference) and the color stitches come to the foreground much better.  Unfortunately, this meant that the knitting went slower, because my speed with my right hand is not all that good.  But I like the general effect.  So I'll have to file this information for future reference.

Now all that remains is to do the alternating color rows.  I'm about 1/3 of the way through the sleeve.

My other project is to figure out what I'm going to take with me to knit in Austin (we're looking forward to a little burst of warm weather and getting to see my adorable nephew for the first time).  I figure with two small children and no grandparents for miles, there's not going to be a lot of free time, so it's likely going to be a sock project and my next baby toy project.  But just which sock project should I take... or should I start another one, just to be sure that I don't "run out" of sock knitting?


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