October 2009 Archives

On the Road Again

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Well, my bags are packed, my book selected, my projects in my travel bag and soon it will be time to leave for the airport.  And just in the nick of time, because Chicago has officially started displaying chilly fall weather. 

Our next stop is San Antonio, on the way to Marble Falls, TX, to spend a long weekend with my brother and his family.  It will be the first time that we meet his sweet little boy -- my only nephew -- and I think that we are all looking forward to that.  I can't wait to see what Z thinks about him.   Even if it rains (which is, unfortunately, what the weather forecast is predicting) it will be warmer weather by a lake. 

What am I taking along?  Well, I decided against anything major (Dragon is staying home, as is Z's second Zebra sleeve) and am packing the yarn for Otto, the JaWoll sock I am currently working on, and the pair of Francie socks that I started some time back (even cast on and knitted the cuff for the second sock) in the hopes that I'll be motivated to just wrap some things up so I can focus on the last toy and the Zebra Striper sweater when I get back.

Wherever your weekend takes you, may it be a good one!  Happy Trails!

If in Doubt...

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Lead with a cute baby, pet or nice new yarn.  Lucky for me, sometimes I can do best two out of three.

20091006_HocusPocus.jpgWe're back from our Texas hill country adventure.  Z was an angel all day today, even though she spent a lot of time "bonding" with her car seat.   This was a complete contrast to Sunday night when we had a tantrum that seemed to us like it must measure a 9 on the Toddler Tantrum Richter Scale. 

When we got home, a little package was waiting for me: my Knitterly Things "Hocus Pocus" Vesper, which is a loverly combination of a purply-blue, lime green and muted red (the picture doesn't capture the red very well).   I talked Ms. Z into "modeling" it for me tonight.  Unfortunately, you can't hear the audio that went with the photo: "I have Momma's yarn.  Now I can knit." 

I hope that she holds onto that thought for when she can comfortably hold needles!

Otto Begins

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Much is in progress now, little is finished.  Otto came with me to Marble Falls, and I had hopes of getting a little farther.  I got bogged down on the head shape.  In Ysolda's lovely picture, Otto has a fine rounded snout.  In my version, he looks a bit like one of his parents might be some kind of large, beaky bird (which is why the yarn tail is still hanging down from the side of his head instead of trimmed off... I suspect that I may take out a row or two in order to give him more security in his parentage). From what I can see in Ravelry, this is not a particularly unusual problem and a number of knitters have shortened his nose.  I didn't really knit any kind of gauge swatch for this, so some variation from the intended doesn't surprise me.

As with Sophie, the pattern for Otto is written well and has excellent illustrations of all the challenging bits.  Ysolda's patterns are definitely well worth her asking price -- she really goes the extra distance to make sure you have a high quality experience with her patterns, IMHO. 

Otto will definitely be on my "to do" list this weekend -- after all, I still have one more toy to get started!


JaWoll Socks

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Pattern: My Own Standard Simple Socks
Yarn: Lang JaWoll Color, Color 82.0067
Needles: U.S. 0, 2.0 mm


The JaWoll socks, they are finished.  Clearly these socks are fraternal twins.    Little I could have done would have diverted them from that path. 

20091011_JaWollSockHeel.jpgThese socks follow my standard, toe up (square toe), short row heel, ribbed top.  The heels are possibly the only sort of matchy things between the two socks. 

20091011_JaWollSocksFront.jpgThis yarn was interesting, because even though the color intervals didn't seem to change throughout the skeins, the heathering did.  At the beginning of each skein, the yellow and reds had a purple thread that was very dominant, causing a very marled look (see the right sock).  But towards the end of the skein, the yellow and red and blues lost the marling and were more clear colors (note the toe of the left sock, which I started with the last part of the first skein).

20091011_JaWollSockTop.jpgGiven that, it amused me no end that when I got to the bind off, the socks were almost an exact match -- and this picture is a pretty accurate read of the brightness of the colors -- these socks are not shrinking violets.  I think I shall enjoy wearing them when I need a little extra confidence boost -- a reminder to keep my outlook and attitude bright even when the my personal or actual weather is a little gloomy.

20091011_JaWollSocksSide.jpgIn addition to this rather elaborate photo shoot, the socks also got their first wearing and passed with flying colors.  They did a great job of keeping my feet warm while we took a certain small person out to the Chicagoland version of a pumpkin patch (which is to say, fun, but not very authentic) in 40 degree weather.  I'm hoping that the fact that they were knit on 2.0 mm needles means that they will wear well -- even though they were knit on small needles, they don't have that stiff-as-a-board feeling that many socks I have made on zeros do before washing. 

With these socks finished, new TV knitting will have to be identified.  I've decided that the heir apparent to that position will be the second sleeve of Z's Zebra Striper sweater since all the ribbing in my second Francie sock isn't conducive to actually paying attention to what's on screen.  And with the cold weather already here, my baby girl definitely needs a new sweater soon!

Otto

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Pattern: Otto, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: RYC Cashsoft Baby DK
Needles: 3mm (US 2.5)


Otto is finished -- I am now two toys down and one to go... this gift is definitely going to be late, as the baby they are destined for decided to put in an early appearance. 

After knitting the body and limbs, I went back and shortened the nose up a bit (I took out the last three straight knitting rounds and just left the decreasing rounds.  I also did shift the stuffing around to round things out a bit more.   That made a great deal of difference.  Unfortunately, I didn't get quite as much stuffing in there as I thought, and my embroidery skills are still a bit lacking, so his nose did not really the way I would like it to be.   I think I really do best when I avoid needlework on knitting projects.  Lucky for me that Elijah only has French knot eyes to worry about!

But even with his slightly less than perfect nose, I think he now looks more like a polar bear than a strange, mutant polar anteater. 

I under-stuffed him just a little bit to make him an easier grab for little hands.  Also, the legs are joined to the body differently than Sophie's were, and if I'd stuffed them a lot, sitting would have been hard for my Otto.  I think if I were to make Otto again, I might close the bottom of the toy the same way Sophie was closed and attach the legs in that manner, too, as I prefer the look of that and it would prevent Otto from having those little wrinkles around his middle.  And what self-respecting polar bear wants love handles?

As with Sophie, this pattern was very well written and easy to follow.  I do like that she took the time to link to references for things such as the cast on for the head and the French knots (which I always forget how to do), and her images make picking up stitches for the limbs a good deal easier than if she just provided text and left it up to my imagination.

I think Thursday will be casting on day for Elijah -- and I'm looking forward to it. Which surprises me a bit, since every other time I've worked on toy projects I get tired of the fiddly bits and just want them to be over. 

YarnCon

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While a whole  lot of lucky knitters and spinners are heading off to Rhinebeck this weekend, I'll be staying here in Chicago and checking out a much smaller fiber show, YarnCon.  What YarnCon lacks in the presence of live sheep, it makes up for by being practically within walking distance of my house. But don't think that I won't be a little jealous of all those heading to NY -- though that jealousy will mostly be over getting to see fibery friends rather than getting to indulge in fibery consumerism.

In addition to YarnCon (which should be doubly fun, because I hope to be heading there with Julie), since the weather is likely to keep us indoors this weekend (what, I ask you, happened to the gentle entry of fall?) I suspect my needles will be in motion.  I cast on and got started with Elijah this afternoon, and last weekend, while heading out to our pumpkin patch experience I picked up my second Francie sock and made some headway on that project.  The other thing I did today was start to work out the design for my next pair of socks for John -- these socks are going to be my first foray into designing with twisted stitches, which I think will be just the perfect amount of patterning for the lovely cashmere blend Sophie's Toes.

In lieu of actual knitting photos, I have a few pictures from our trip to see the pumpkins.

20091015_Pumpkins.jpgI just loved the way those green squash looked with the pumpkins.  They were just the perfect sagey color contrast to the bright orange.  Definitely not a pair of colors I would have thought to put together, though!

20091015_MeAndZ.jpgAnd here is rare photo of me and Z -- riding a toddler sized train and both wearing our handknits. Z has on (and she actually requested to wear) her upsized "Baby Surprise" sweater and I spent the whole day cozy and warm in my cotton turtleneck and OWLS sweater (which I love).  The Owls are rapidly becoming one of my favorite go-to cold weather sweaters! 


YarnCon Stash Additions

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20091015_Sophie'sToesYarnCo.jpgOn Saturday afternoon, whatever powers that control the weather in Chicago finally decided to give us a little sunshine.  It made for a lovely day to head to YarnCon with Julie.  Both of us did a little stash enhancement at the Emily Parson's Sophie's Toes booth.  And on Sunday it was not only warm enough to take pictures outside, but I even sat and worked on Elijah on my balcony. 

I've been fondling the cashmere blend Sophie's Toes that I purchased earlier and was hoping that Emily would bring some more man-friendly colors with her.  I already have a skein of the regular merino yarn in "Walnut" (the lovely brown yarn on the left), but after sadly saying goodbye to several pairs of merino only socks, I've come to the conclusion that, at least in my house, if a yarn doesn't have a little nylon, it probably won't survive very long unless it's also very tightly spun or has more than 2 plies.  So I will save my original skein of for another project and use the cashmere/merino/nylon blend skein for the socks I had originally planned.  So, with any luck, John will get two pairs of nice new socks this winter.

The skein on the right is "Lagoon", also in the cashmere blend.  It's a much deeper, more saturated teal in real life, but still isn't dark enough for man-sock duty, so those socks will be destined for my feet.

The biggest prize, however, was the "Magic Ball" (the center pull cake in the center of the bowl).  Emily's Magic Balls are made up of sections of multiple colorways.  This one is called "Enchanted Forest" and features all my favorite jewel tones.  When I first laid my hands on it, Julie told me "Those are your colors!"  Yep.  Deep colors with purply-blue undertones go well with my skin.  Perhaps this ball is destined for a new scarf for me... with all the different colorways available in it, I've been thinking something modular might be fun.

I wrapped up the weekend with working steadily on Elijah (he now has a head, body and two legs) and even got a few rows in on the second Zebra Striper sweater sleeve.  My conversation with Julie, who is trying to decrease her unfinished project pile, has inspired me to go back to my UFO list and figure out what I can start finishing up...  

Still Life and Neverwhere

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I
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I wasn't planning on a photo today, but then I saw what is becoming Elijah amidst my desk in the grey morning light and snapped a picture.  My desk is a mish-mash of knitting items and work-related papers, scissors, and yarn.  And an unfinished purple elephant.

What I was planning on talking about is a book I've just finished, Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman:



I've always been a devoted reader of fantasy fiction.  I love the idea of being able to do magic, of creatures that go beyond the ordinary.  Of a world where the laws of science don't always seem to hold.  Neverwhere is an lovely combination of fantastic creatures and not-quite-normal people set in the real, but not quite real, underground of modern-day London.  At it's core, this book is about the main character finding himself and understanding what he really wants in life, but wrapped up in that journey is a tour through the  London subway system of an alternate reality inhabited by people with remarkable skills and beasts from mythology.  As I was reading this book, it struck me a little bit like The Wizard of Oz meets Paradise Lost.  This book is a quick read, and Gaiman's writing is a treat to run your eyes over.

I'm also pretty psyched tonight because I purchased a farm share for the 2010 Cormo shearing from Juniper Moon Farm. next year I'll be looking forward to 24 ounces of lovely Cormo yarn.  Ever since I first found out about this sheep breed I've been wanting a Cormo sweater!
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Pattern: Elijah, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: RYC Cashsoft Baby
Needles: US 2.5 (3 mm)


I have finished the sweetest little elephant.  And he definitely has kid appeal, because the second I finished seaming the second ear, Ms. Z wanted to make him her own. 

By now, I'm getting pretty accomplished with French knots -- and I almost feel good about how mine look.  In the past, I've considered French knots to be my embroidery nemesis.  I think I will be less concerned about them in the future. 

Elijah, like Sophie and Otto, comes from a well written pattern.  The only tricky bit,  in my opinion, is picking up the stitches for the ears since there are no easy to follow guide stitches.  My Elijah's ears are a bit off-center from each other, but I don't think the average toddler would notice, and I like to think it gives him a little extra charm.

Of the three patterns, I would rate the difficulty (from easiest to hardest) as Sophie, Elijah and Otto.  Most of the difficulty has little to do with the knitting, and all to do with proper stuffing and the embroidery.  That said, all of them are very approachable and knit up relatively quickly if you need a present for a special child in a hurry.

20091022_ElijahOtto&Sophie.jpg Here are my trio of toys enjoying a brief respite from the rain on my deck this afternoon.  Soon they will be making their journey to Madison, WI where they will be keeping company with a sweet, tiny new person.  What more could a toy ask for?

I'm pretty sure that I have enough yarn left to make at least one of these toys for Z.  I've been thinking about doing Sophie in some kind of patchwork manner (I don't have enough of one color left to make a whole toy), but have to think about how to do it so that it comes out cute and not just rag-bag looking.

Zebra Striper Dress in Action

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Finally, finally, finally I acquired the right turtleneck and leggings so that Z could wear the Zebra Striper dress.   Norwegian 24 month olds must be quite large, because it took her a while to grow into this dress.

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A front, side and back shot to demonstrate how long and voluminous this dress is on Ms. Z - and she's tall for her age group.

She was a real sweetie about getting into the dress and wearing it all about.  Lately she's been asking me to make her socks and to wear her hand knit sweaters and telling me that she wants to knit something.  It's nice to be in that phase where Momma's hand knits are appreciated and desired.  She was also quite careful with the dress.  We went out to Sunday brunch in it and she didn't get an iota of jelly, butter or bacon on it. 

What's nice about this garment, though, is that it's not the sort of garment that has to be treated like it's made out of glass.  It went to the park after breakfast and performed admirably.

20091025_ZebraStriperDOnFie.jpgNeed to stop and check out something close to the ground?  No problem!

20091025_ZebraStriperDOnSli.jpgWant to take a trip down the slide?  No problem!

John and I both figure that this dress is going to last her well past her third birthday, as a dress and then, probably, as a tunic.  I love the color on her (yellow almost never looks good on me!) and love that it provides an extra layer of warmth without restricting her mobility. 

And, apropos of nothing, I just have to tell you all how much I love her shoes.  I almost wish See Kai Run made them in adult sizes. 

Fall Colors

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On Sunday, not only did I get to watch Z try out her new dress*, I also spent some time trying to capture the fall colors.  We had a break in the clouds that presented us with some actual sunshine, and I knew I needed to get my camera into action. I may not leave near a spectacular fall forest, but there are plenty of trees and plants getting ready for winter to come here in Chicago, putting on a display of their finest colors.  Given how grey it has been in Chicago for most of October, I've been trying to find more ways to bring color back into my world.  This is one of those times when I wish I had a dye studio and a better knowledge of dyeing -- I'd love to capture the fall colors in a fibery way. 

Here are some of the displays that caught my attention:

20091027_FeatheryLeaves.jpgIt almost seemed like these fine, feathery leaves were slowly rusting away. 

20091027_FireBush.jpgThe brightest red, framing a pale green hidden treasure

20091027_MapleLeaves.jpgSunlight through faded Maple leaves.

20091027_FlamingTree.jpgSo many colors in one place.  This tree made me think of a torch, bright flames at the top.

20091027_GoldRimmedLeaves.jpgThe gold outline on these leaves was such a stunning contrast to the green centers.  Some yellows and golds in fall are faded, this yellow was bright and bold.

Amazingly, while some trees are in full color change, and some have even lost most of their leaves, there are still others that have barely turned color at all.  The foliage from my peonies is slowly yellowing and falling to the ground in preparation for hibernating for next year.  All around me is the reminder that winter is coming, making all my woolly knitting projects seem much more appealing.

*Z and I appreciate all the kind words for both her and the dress.  I, am smitten with both, but I think the special little girl makes the special little dress even more special.

Zebra Striper Parts Complete

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At long last both Zebra Striper sweater sleeves are complete.  For most projects, this would feel like getting close to the finish line, but with this project, there are still three steeks, two shoulders to sew, two sleeves to set in and sew down facings for, the facing around the bottom to sew down, creating the neck band and sewing down it's facing, creating the button bands and, finally, buttons to sew on.

Clearly, if a sweater project is a journey over a mountain, I feel like I've reached the summit after a long climb, but I still have to turn around and head back to the bottom over complicated terrain.  Seeing these pieces is a bit like looking out over the landscape, imagining all the possibility, being amazed by how far I've come.  This project has definitely gotten me excited about two-color knitting.

I thought I would be nervous about the thought of impending steeks, but actually I'm kind of excited to try my hand at this time-honored kitting technique.  I've been looking over Wendy Johnson's tutorial on Norwegian Steeking -- and I can't wait to get my sewing machine ready and get going!

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