Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Literary Effort

Hi, everyone--I hope you are having good and relaxing vacations. I'm still away from home, so no pictures, but I do have something to blog about . . .

K and I happened to stop by a bookstore here (okay, so we "stop by" any bookstore we run across, so what), and it was going out of business. Bad for them, but good for me--everything was on sale. I immediately raided the knitting books, of course, and came away with a bunch of stuff.

I snagged the Yarn Harlot's latest, Free-Range Knitter. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I enjoyed her first book of essays, but as always with Stephanie, it was witty and well-written. Definitely worth the read.

For reference, I got two of the new Harmony guides: Cables & Arans and Lace & Eyelets. After looking through them more closely, I'm glad I didn't pay full price. These'll be handy to consult, but the editing is terrible--duplicated patterns, misindexing, text errors--you get the picture. NB: check every pattern before knitting.

I also picked up three books of patterns proper. The most interesting is definitely Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr. This isn't a book for beginners or people who just want a damn pattern already. The author is obviously insane, but in a good way, and the book is gorgeously produced--beautiful photos, high-quality paper, detailed instructions, and so forth. The scarves themselves are crazy. Among others, there's one designed to look like a string of pearls and one designed to look like a high-rise in Dubai. A wonderful, inspirational book.

On the other end of the spectrum entirely, I got The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd, a collection of basic patterns for socks, gloves, mittens, hats, sweaters, etc. I have forever been longing for such a book--my college friends will tell you about my adventures in adapting whatever pattern I could find to whatever materials I had handy. I expect this will be a great resource.

Lastly, I picked up It Girl Knits, by Phoenix Bess. Unfortunately, I already regret it. I bought it for a single sweater pattern which looked good, thinking there might be a few more things worth knitting in the book. After reading it over, though, I don't think it was worth it. The sweater is the only thing I'd even consider knitting, as things stand. The rest of the patterns fall into two categories: so ridiculously easy why pay money for the pattern (headbands, kerchiefs, felted bags consisting of two rectangles stuck together) or so absurdly impractical you've gotta be kidding me (yoga pants, halter-top dresses, bikinis). Although I guess I now have MULTIPLE options should I ever need to knit someone a bikini. Another irritating thing--since the patterns are frequently slinky, skimpy, and clingy, they require specific yarns and caution against substititution. A definite negative for the creative knitter working on a budget. In conclusion: sorry, Phoenix. Go back to high school and try again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy holidays!

I'm off to my parents' for Christmas, then spending some time with my main squeeze for the New Year. Regular blogging will resume mid-January (when my camera and computer are reunited once again). In the meantime, have a merry Christmas if that's your thing, and a happy Pagan Winterfest all-around.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Et voila!

Behold, the finished shawl! Doesn't it look nice and cozy? It's not a large shawl, but that's good, I think--just big enough to pin around the shoulders and not get in one's way.

(To give you a sense of scale, my bed's a queen.)

The natural light picture gives you a better idea of the colors--they're not really as dark as they've been showing up.

Project complete. Now on to bigger and even better things . . .

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The magic of blocking

The last time we left our heroine, she was approaching blocking a finished shawl that, she thought, was probably going to be a complete failure.

Au contraire! Behold the magic of blocking. I'd never blocked lace before, or something so large. Most of my previous blocking efforts were pretty tentative--I'd adjust a few things here or there, maybe use a few pins, but nothing like this. This required my futon, a clean sheet, and approximately 432984029 pins. (True to form, I didn't use the proper quilter's T-pins, just regular old dressmaker's pins. They worked fine when placed at the right angle.)

Since this was my first time blocking lace or a shawl, I relied heavily on Eunny Jang's tutorial. Of course, once again true to form, I substituted some elements. I once again relied on my handy mixing bowl for soaking the shawl, and for a longer straightedge I used a broom handle. (Really. Apparently I don't own a yardstick.) For shorter intervals I used my trusty 12" ruler. Since the shawl was worked with fingering-weight wool and the pattern is mostly stockinette, it didn't need to be blocked very severely. As you can see, though, I definitely needed to pin out the points.

And what a difference it made. The points pop. The end looks gawgeous. And now, as Anne Hanson would say, for the money shot.

I am now a committed laceophile. I was frequently frustrated throughout the knitting of this, but going through with the blocking and seeing the results . . . I think I'm hooked. Check back next time for pics of the finished shawl in all its glory.

(I apologize for the poor lighting. My spare room has but one tiny window.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lace: the continuing saga

So the lace knitting referred to so mysteriously hither and yon was the Wild Flower Shawl designed by Dee of Posh Yarn.* The reason I kept it mysterious is that it was knitted as a birthday/Christmas gift for my dear friend Jane, who reads this, and of course I couldn't spoil the surprise.

I used two different yarns, Schaefer Yarn's Anne (60% merino/25% mohair/15% nylon) and Dale of Norway Baby Ull (100% merino), as I wasn't sure I'd have enough Anne to complete the edging. This, I admit in retrospect, was a mistake. Despite both being fingering weight, the Baby Ull is much poofier and knits up more firmly than the Anne, at least on these needles. This resulted in some . . . interesting challenges when it came to attaching the border and blocking. Despite all that, though, I ended up pleased with how it looked--eventually.

But it looks pretty wretched now, eh? This is the shawl pre-blocking, all rumpledly and out of true. The edges rolled up, everything was uneven, I didn't know WHAT in the world I was going to do with the point. In all honestly, I thought I'd made a gigantic mistake and would have nothing to show for my efforts. Little did I know! Check in next time for my ventures into blocking.

*I'd like, once again, to express my fangirlesque admiration for this site. Such pretty yarn, such nice people.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Works-in-progress update

Much knitting has been accomplished of late! Since I was at K's for the holiday, my travel projects got some time in. These are usually small, light, and portable stuff--a la lecture knitting--but they don't need to be so simple. Hence, Travelling Roses got some attention paid to it. I'm really liking the pattern so far--it's well-designed, and it looks nice even in the rumpled pre-blocking state. Even better, the repeat is really long (44 rows), so it never gets boring or repetitive to knit, and there are only 13 repeats. Excellent for the knitter with a short attention span. (I love how in the picture you can see errant dog hairs clinging to the scarf. Everything I knit has an unusual fiber content.)

I also did some work on the toe-up Regia socks. After working my way up the foot, I used the short row heel from Wendy Johnson's Generic Toe-Up Sock Pattern. It looks fine, but I think I'll try something new when I knit another pair of toe-up socks. I find the wraps kind of irritating to work with. This is a good lecture-knitting-type project. I can work on it in the car or on the phone or in the dark. And the stripes happen like magic! (Have I mentioned how fascinating I find the self-striping yarn? Once or twice, perhaps?) I do like the toe-up method, too--I may knit all my basic socks toe-up from now on. If nothing else, you cast on fewer stitches, which appeals to those of us who hate casting on.

Since finishing my last big project at home, I've begun work on these. You guessed it--another pair of North Star Mittens, same yarn as before. Since the last effort resulted in mittens a little too big for me, I'm knitting them in the smallest size this time. It's working fine so far . . . It's amazing how using all this very lightweight yarn changes one's perspective. The first time I knit socks in actual fingering-weight yarn, I spent the whole time thinking "this is sooooo sloooooow . . ." Now, after spending all my time with the Regia and the Diana, the DK Cashsoft seems huge. If I ever knit something in worsted weight again, I'll probably be shocked at how quickly it goes.

Having launched myself well into Travelling Roses, I'm already looking ahead to my next lace project. There are so many patterns out there, free or not, and they're all so gorgeous. I'm thinking another scarf or two, to earn my lace credentials, and then something bigger, maybe an Anne Hanson shawl. Now THAT would be a challenge . . .

On another note, I finally figured out how to turn off the flash on my camera. Hooray!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mmmmm . . . brioche . . .

So I mentioned that I wanted to make a Reversible Cabled Brioche Stitch Scarf a few posts back. A clunky, if descriptive, name; I shall call it simply Brioche. I knew exactly what yarn I would use the moment I saw the pattern. I bought some Alpaca Silk last summer, with the vague notion of making myself a scarf. I could eat this yarn, it's so delicious. I have four colors: Plum (128), Amethyst (129), Wisteria (114), and Blush (133), so the plan is stripes. I'm not quite sure how it'll work with the pattern--I may have to sneak in a few knit rows, but I think the curves will hide any color jogs. This is typically me--I follow patterns exactly as written . . . except when they don't say what I want them to say. Then I just alter them and pretend. Another example: the pattern calls for worsted-weight, but the Alpaca Silk is DK. It'll just give me a slightly looser scarf, no biggie. And mmmm, alpaca and silk.

I've cast on and begun knitting, but I haven't reached the first of the cables (or a point to switch colors) yet. Further bulletins as events progress.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Updates as soon as I can catch my breath and take some pictures!