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.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Der Blaue Pullover

I did it! Twenty-one days from start to finish. Looks like I'll be cozy while in Germany after all.

Evenings this past week were mostly consumed with working out the shirt yoke and collar details, grafting the underarms, weaving in ends and blocking. I decided to go with the 34 stitches across the yoke. I was totally overthinking the whole thing -- 32, 33, 34 -- it really didn't matter. It all came together the way it was supposed to.

I found that the grafted line on the back of the left shoulder is more visible in this one than on the one I made for Jeff several years ago. But I still ended up with that expected little leftover half stitch at the end of the grafting that Elizabeth Zimmerman calls the Schönheitsfehler, or "little mistake of beauty." I like that I was able to fudge it away, but I also kind of like knowing that it's there.

And I also like how the hems and cuffs calmed down and flattened a bit with blocking. Now the lighter Marine color just barely peaks through. I've always liked a photo that Caro posted showing the contrast color when she made a version years ago. In fact, her sweater inspired my first attempt, and thus this one. You can see a bit of the contrast peeking out at the cuff. The colors go so well together. I'm not always confident on my ability to match or contrast colors effectively, but I think I made some good choices this time around. Speaking of cuffs, you might think that the sleeves are a bit long and I wouldn't argue. But I did that on purpose as I have rather long arms and just hate having to pull sleeves down all the time. Not as long as those as of Charlotte Greenwood who played Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!, but still, I have to be careful.

So the sweater is ready to go. And so are the ManU hats that I made for my niece and nephew to wear at the Boxing Day game in Manchester. Here they are side by side so that you can see most of the motif that goes around the circumference. I pointed them out to my brother a few days ago, and he said they would be perfect. In fact, my niece had been worrying about how to "represent" at the game, so she'll be pleased to have something like this. I hope to get some pictures of them at the game.

Glad to have this finished in time. I was skeptical at first. It was one of those "It's so crazy, it just might work" moments. Luckily, it did. Hah -- maybe I should have patched together one of those 80s movie montages with some sort of power ballad playing in the background.

All I need to do now is get some packing done before we go. And some house cleaning. And maybe a bit of yard work. And a bit more shopping. And get some gifts over to my sister's house. And one more chorus performance. Oh, and I need to get something on the needles to work on while I'm "over there." I sort of have something in mind...



Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Pits

Just a quick post to log my progress this week. I didn't think I would get a lot done, but I did manage to finish the second sleeve and attach both sleeves to the body of the sweater. Now I am working on the raglan decreases that draw in the sleeves and the body as I work toward the yoke and the neck. You can see little creases down the sleeves. Those are where I jumped across from one side to the other using the magic loop method rather than a very small needle (which tends to hurt my hands) or double-pointed needles. I think they'll go away with a little steaming. I hope so anyway. The little gold threads are where the armpits will be grafted. Except Elizabeth Zimmerman refers to that part of the human anatomy as underarms. I don't think she would never write the word armpits.

Rotating from the pits to the shoulders, I've had bit of a counting and/or math issue. The sleeves end up with an even number of stitches before attaching them. And the decreases eat up two sleeve stitches each time. Yet Elizabeth Zimmerman's instructions say I should have 33 stitches when I begin the yoke. How can that be? I've pored over the text like a Talmudic scholar seeking clues or looking for overlooked hints, but I've come up with nothing. Should I only do one of the pair of decreases on the last round? Or should I settle for either 32 or 34 final stitches and just deal with it, keeping in mind that all subsequent instructions will need to be followed by "plus 1""or "minus 1"? I still have a few rounds to worry about it. Rest assured, I will.

The end is in sight, though, and it looks like I'm on track to get this finished before we leave in just 11 short days.