Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Break Squared

Turns out my college's spring break framed my latest knitting project from start to finish. I cast on just hours after getting home a week ago Friday, and finished sewing up the seams this morning. I'd been wanting to make some cabled pillows to match our duvet cover and had bought yarn in colors I liked in January. Then I got side tracked making toys and socks. But as spring break loomed I found a pattern with cables I liked -- the Christmas Cables Pillow.

The only thing that read "Christmas" about this was the red color, but I had to change a bit more than my mindset to make this work. I had already bought some pillow forms, and didn't have one in the 16" square size that the pattern was designed for. I "knew" I had a 12" one, so I swatched carefully with the needles and yarn I wanted to use and reduced the number of horseshoe cabled from 6 to 4 to get close to a 12"x12" square pillow and set to work.

It's really an easy pattern to memorize. The edges have a cable motif that crosses stitches on every right-side row, and the larger horseshoe cables only cross every eight rows. The whole thing is made in one long piece and then folded over the pillow form and seamed on three sides.

I worked along until it was a little over halfway done and then grabbed the pillow form to see how things were looking. The form that I'd had in mind (and now had in hand) was for a 14"x14" pillow. Sigh. For a while I played with the idea of just stretching the hell out of it during blocking, but figured it would just look too stretched and strained. The cables would have been distorted beyond recognition. So I bought a new 12"x12" form. And, looking on the bright side, I now have an additional pillow size to experiment with. Not exactly a win-win situation, but close.

The new pillow turned out fine, with just the right amount of stretch across the form. The edges of the pattern have built-in knit column runways perfect for mattress-stitch seams. And I was able to line up the cast-on and bind-off edge stitches so that they flow into each other on the final edge seam -- it doesn't look that different from the opposite, folded-over edge. I only had one cable snafu, but it wasn't too difficult to rip back and get on the needles, even without a lifeline. The looser-than-usual gauge helped with that.

So now, I get to troll around for some new pillow patterns on Ravelry. I have a 16" circular form (yes, I just double-checked the size!), so I think I'll tackle that next.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Two by Fours

I started some new socks in late January, and just finished them last weekend. But I haven't gotten around to writing anything about them until today.

I knit these on size 2.25 (US 1) dpns. I go back and forth between using dpns and a long circular needle for magic loop sock knitting. Right now, I'm in a distinctly double-pointed mood. Sadly, I seem to have lost one of my favorite green Signature Needle Arts size 1s, so I may have to go back. I'm sure it will show up somewhere. I imagine it's lurking in a cushion or pillow, waiting to impale me at some opportune moment. I just discovered that you can replace these singly if necessary. I think I'll put that off since I still have the bare minimum of four, but it's nice to know it's possible to get single needle replacements. I love these sharp pointy things so much.

I didn't really follow a pattern, but used my standard personal sock recipe. I did a German twisted cast-on of 72 stitches and knit in a K4, P2 pattern to the heel. I executed an eye-of-partridge heel across half the stitches until I had 18 slipped stitches on each side of the heel. I actually ended up picking up 20 on the edges after turning the heel on the first sock, so I made sure I did the same on the second. Then it was just reducing the gusset back to a circumference of 72 stitches and knitting on down, with the 2x4 pattern continuing across the instep and stockinette across the sole. The toe was pretty standard, ending with 8 stitches left to be grafted.

The yarn was Trekking XXL, which I've used before. It's nigh on indestructible. And I can get nice man-sized socks out of one ball. I could have even made them a bit longer. I had close to 7 grams left over from100 when finished. This yarn was a gift from someone in Jeff's dance class! She used to have a yarn shop, and had some yarn to give away, so Jeff brought this home for me. How nice is that? Thank you, Karen! I'm really going to enjoy these.

Spring has finally sprung around here. My college is on Spring Break this week, and some of my time-off plans involve a yarn shop not far from my hometown. More on that soon, I hope.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Here Be Monsters

I've been doing some knitting since I last posted, but amittedly not much. I've been poking away at a pair of socks, but that's about it. Then, last week, we were invited to a 2-year-old neighbor's birthday party. I really wanted to make this little one something special. She's always happy to see us walk by with the dogs and likes to shout out our names -- a collective proper noun that sounds like "TeevenDeff!" It's such fun getting to see her grow up right before our eyes.

My friend Abbe had made the cutest toys for other tots, and I hit her up for info on a pattern I thought would be perfect for our little pal: Daphne and Delilah the Momma and Baby Monster by Rebecca Danger. It's a little striped stuffed monster with a pocket for carrying an even tinier monster. What 2-year-old wouldn't love that? I bought a copy via Ravelry and set to work.

I had some Cascade 220 worsted yarn in a light heathered gray that I'd already bought for a pillow project that has yet to get off the ground. And I found what turned out to be just enough worsted purple yarn leftover from some previous project. I think it might have been from a baby surprise jacket I made several years ago, in which case it's Berroco Vintage in a color called Petunia. I think they ended up working pretty well together.

I started this on Wednesday evening and wrapped it up this morning. It's a fun and fast project -- but does require paying attention to color changes, counting rows, and doing those little tricks to avoid color jogs in the stripes. It also requires a lot of sewing up, which always seems to rattle my confidence. But I managed to fudge and guess and figure out ways to do it that look okay.

The pattern calls for safety eyes, which I couldn't find locally on short notice, so I embroidered some instead. I think the eyes turned out a bit squarer and more menacing than I intended, so I compensated by curving the glued-on felt teeth into slight smiles, hoping to soften their countenances somewhat. Hopefully, they'll come across as goofy and friendly, rather than the stuff of nightmares.

It was a lot of fun getting to visit with our little host's cousins, aunt, uncles, and grandparents this afternoon. Many thanks to her parent for inviting us! We had a marvelous time. We left before the guest of honor got around to opening her gifts, but we see her nearly every day, so I'll give a report when I found out what she thought.

Happy Birthday, Amelia!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Deflect Reflection

This afternoon I finished up my latest pair of socks, from a pattern called Deflect.

In my previous post, I spent some time pointing out flaws. Not this time. Okay except for the odd unevenness in the picking up of the gusset stitches on the left sock. But besides that, I'm pretty happy.

I had a bit of panic toward the end of the second (or, right) one. Even though I thought I'd divided the hank evenly by weight when winding it into balls, I either mis-weighed or wasn't consistent with my tension. The first sock had several yards remaining when it was finished; I saw that the second sock was going to cut things closer. Much closer, it would turn out.

When I finished grafting the toe on the right sock I had exactly 5 inches left over. Barely enough to weave in the ends properly. I don't think I've ever cut a project so close. I still had the leftovers from the first sock, but having to use a scrap to finish up the toe would have been so demoralizing. I kind of dodged a bullet this time. That's what I get for ignoring the yardage listed in the pattern. It seems I got lucky this time. All's well that can be woven in well.

I like so much about this pattern. I like the fact that there is a left and right sock, and hope that I can remember that when wearing them. I can imagine looking down and seeing these cables snaking down into the inner sides of my shoes (shudder). I like how the cables split and their little cablet spawn continue twisting on their merry way down toward the toes. I worry that they might sag a bit doe to their sparse ribbing, but we'll soon find out. Overall, a cool pattern.

What's next? I'm thinking pillows. We just got a new duvet cover that has a lot of earth tones in it. Rather than try and find what a friend refers to as "show pillows," why not just make some? There a lot of great patterns out there in all kinds of shapes -- square, rectangular, hexagons, round, tubes. I've seen some stranded patterns that might be fun to play with. And the cable bug hasn't departed, so there may be a few more twists and turns in my near knitting future. I've also seen some good cabled pillow patterns out there. I'm toying with the idea of coming up with something on my own. If anyone has a favorite cable stitch dictionary or design book that you could fill me in on, I'd appreciate it.



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Deflect Defect

This week has been full of working on those little chores that get put off -- a little tree limb trimming, fixing the garage doors, catching up on housework. One of of my self-assigned tasks was to tidy up my knitting basket that I keep in the living room. In doing so, I found some yarn I'd purchased last spring and decided to use it for a new pair of socks.

The pattern is Deflect from the Deep Fall 2013 issue of Knitty. Most of the sock is straightforward, but the two socks are sided for specific feet, with a cable that runs down the outside of the leg down to the toes. This cable starts in the cuff ribbing and splits at the gusset, with half of it trailing off into the heel flap. The heel flap is half cabled, half slip-stitch. And this smooth Shibui Staccato yarn in the color Ash is perfect for it.

However, I got off to a rocky start. It probably had something to do with knitting while binge-watching Vikings, distracted by all the woven and knitted garments, among, um, other things. I swear I saw a woman putting out hanks of yarn in the Kattegat marketplace in the last episode of season 2. See how easy it would be to be distracted? In my daze, I left out two 8-round cable sections in the pattern. In the first picture here, there should always be two cables leaning in and then two cables leaning out. You can see that twice I left out the second leaning-in cable. So I ripped it back.

I paid more attention the second time, and it looks better now. Cables are so strange to work with. It can be difficult to discern from the charted pattern what the resulting design will be. In a pattern like this one , it doesn't really make much difference visually if a small error is made. But this was a pretty big error, and it did make a difference in length, which is how I caught it. The sock just looked a bit shorter than it should have. Plus, not fixing it would have bothered me to no end for as long as I'd owned these. Take that, Loki!

I'm getting down to about 16 rows left for the left foot and its cable before decreasing for the toes. I think I have enough yarn left. And then it's on to foot two, where I get to do all these fancy cables in mirror on the opposite side of the foot. Here's to more luck the second time. Skol!


Sunday, January 04, 2015

Grayscale Hat

Still jetlagging a bit from the trip home. I didn't have anything on the needles for the second half of our journey after finishing the cowl for my sister-in-law, but that was okay. We were so busy. But on the flight home I got fidgety. I felt stupid carrying knitting needles on a plane without any actual project on them
So when I got home, I got to digging through some odds and ends of yarn. I remembered that I had some leftover Shelter from the sweater I made for my brother last year (proudly, I can say that he wore it while I was there!) and figured I had enough to make a hat.
I found this four-stitch colorwork motif that I liked in Ravelry and figured I could adapt it. I've seen something similar in vintage ski sweater patterns from the 60s. I added an extra color change from the second color back to the original and had just enough. I'll put details in the notes at Ravelry later, but here are the basics:
I cast on 100 stitches. Originally, I tried 112, but that turned out too big -- you were right, Staci! She helped me unwind the colorwork I'd knit up so far. Which I think is the knitting equivalent of the sorority girl holding her sisters's hair back while she yaks. Or something like that. In any case, I appreciated the help.

I did eight rounds of 2x2 ribbing on size 6 needles, then switched to size 7 and knit two more rounds. Then I did the colorwork section, knitted two rounds plain, and then started the decreases. According to this neat hat decrease calculator I found, I needed 102 stitches to get six even sections of 17 stitches each, so I increased two stitches randomly just before decreasing. That kind of bugged me, but I'm trying to let that go.

The first time I tried the decreases, I neglected to note that I had to decrease on each side of the 6 markers. I only did it once. And despite my years of knitting experience, I didn't think it was weird that I had to draw the yarn through 54 stitches (!) to close the hat. But I sure thought it was weird when I had finished pulling the yarn all the way through. Plus the yarn snapped, which probably wouldn't surprise anyone who has worked with Shelter. It looked like the ribs on the top of a pumpkin. A quick instructional re-read set me straight, and I ripped it back and fixed it. Much better the second time around -- only 6 stitches to pull through! And it was perfect for the chilly dog walk this evening.
I like that I repurposed and re-used these scrap ends. I wonder what other little treasures might be lurking in bins, bags and boxes around here?

Friday, December 26, 2014

In the Winter, When It Drizzles

Greetings, from the City of Light! Germany and France have been beautiful, and thankfully, the only wet weather we're likely to have is tonight. We had a soggy walk back and forth to dinner this evening, but it was well worth it. Things will be a bit drier, if colder, for the rest of our stay here in Paris.

My mad dash of Christmas knitting was well worth it and seemed to have paid off. I've been enjoying the blue seamless hybrid sweater that I finished just before we left and have gotten to wear it a few times. I'm still cold much of the time, though. I'm amazed that in a sweater I can only wear comfortably for a few days each year in Texas, I'm shivering in Germany in France. I should have brought some long underwear, I think. Still, it has helped some, and I hate to think what shape I'd be in without it.

The day before we left I cast on for a gift for my sister-in-law, an active duty colonel in the US Army who works so hard when we come to visit. She deserves something nice, if anyone does. I saw the Cosi Cosa cowl in the latest edition of Knitty and thought it would be perfect for her. I even had some heathered dark green yarn that was just right for it. I just worked on it during the evenings like it was no big deal, and I think she was really surprised when it turned out to be for her! I had a bit of a challenge blocking it in a damp German winter, and it might have been a tad moist when I gave it to her, but I think it looks great and once it's dry, should keep her neck nice and warm. And it's quite modest, size-wise, compared to some of the king-sized neckwear popular amongst European women.

On Christmas Eve, the kids got to open their ManU hats. I think thy liked them. Gracie had been worried about how she would "represent " at the big game, so she was very excited. Hers was a bit big, but she'll grow into it. Michael didn't take his off the whole evening! This afternoon, my brother sent me this photo of his family watching Manchester United playing Chelsea in their Boxing Day match. I'm eager to hear if they got any comments from any of the local fans.

It's been a great trip, and we still have a few days to go. If you want to hit me up to see some more photos from the trip, I'm sevenlefts on Instagram. Send me a request and I'll add you. I haven't stumbled into a yarn shop yet, but hope to find the time soon. I hope all of you are enjoying this holiday season and that we all have a fabulous new year.