Friday, July 08, 2016

Me & Ewe

I've not been terribly attentive to my knitting at the end of this busier-than-I-would-have-thought first summer semester. I've been poking along on the Shady Marmalade throw, and planning out a final (I swear!) baby blanket for the year. But with the semester ending Wednesday and a having a little bit of time to catch my breath before heading out on a big summertime adventure, I took the opportunity to explore a local yarn shop I'd yet to visit.

Me & Ewe has been open for a little over a year. It's on Woodrow Ave., just off of 49th and Burnet Rd., very close to where the old Omelettry location used to be. It's a little tricky to figure out. Until a month ago, the shop was in the house right on Woodrow Ave., but they recently moved into the larger structure behind the house, with more room for yarn, fabric, and teaching spaces. In fact, classes are a big part of what this shop does, with all sorts of classes for every level of skill, including drop-in options.

I stopped by to pick up a few skeins for a surprise, and found the great t-shirt (above) with the shop's logo on it. I love that graphic, especially the little buttons between the words. Also, it's gray. So of course I had to get one.

I also got to meet and cuddle with Me & Ewe's own little version of Swatch from Project Runway! And her name, awesomely, is Purl.

Purl was seen scooting all around Austin on neighborhood forums several months ago and managed to make quite a journey before ending up at a construction site near Me & Ewe. She seems to have settled right in and was just the cutest little store mascot. She's quiet, doesn't disturb the merchandise, and you might not even know she was there. She was quite patient with me handling her and posing for a selfie. Pona & Kate were predictably put out with me when I got home for having stepped out on them.

Thanks, Purl. And thanks, Ella, for the nice chance to visit and for showing me around your shop. I hope I can be back soon.

As you can see from the stack above, I've been working slowly on my squares for the blanket. I'd finished about 14 when I noticed that the first 5 or so were noticeably bigger than the rest. I seem to have settled in at a tighter gauge, and because I noted that this newer smaller gauge lets me get exactly three squares out of each gray ball of yarn, I decided to rip out the first 5 and re-knit them. This means my blanket will be smaller unless I knit extra squares, but I couldn't see blocking out 58 squares to be bigger just to match the first 5. I've almost got the re-knitting wrapped up -- just 1 to go -- but it did set me back time-wise.

We;re heading to Germany next week to visit family, and I still haven't decided what to take in the way of knitting, whether these small squares, or the baby blanket that I'd like to get started on. Still have some time to decide, but I know I'll be taking something. I'll try and post something from the road while I'm gone.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Knitter of the World

Most knitters I know are pretty generous with their time and talents. They're willing to help with suggestions or opinions, to help others learn a new skill, and to just be there. I've made some wonderful friends through knitting, both near and far. And I love seeing all the creative ways that knitters get the craft out there. One of my favorite new knitting things is the Fruity Knitting Youtube podcast.

Fruity Knitting is Andrea and Andrew, a couple of ex-pat Australians living in Germany. Every few weeks, they post a video about knitting. It covers patterns, skills, projects they've made, their history with the craft, interviews, field trips, and more. One of my favorite segments is Extreme Knitting in which they and their daughter Madeline and their dog Jack head out into the world and knit on hikes and walks. Points for their extreme knitting at the end of Episode 1 in which they climb and knit on Snowdon in some rather nasty weather. Much of the podcast is done in a very conversational style. It's like sitting and knitting with friends.

Another segment they do is Knitters of the World (love the BBC-like graphic!) in which they shine the spotlight on knitters and some of the things they've made, with a focus on their knitting environment. Episodes have included knitters from Finland, Ireland and Germany. And now, Texas! Several weeks ago, Andrea contacted me and asked if I would send a submission. How could I say no? I agreed and then promptly fell off my bicycle. I had to postpone shooting for a few weeks while I healed, which they were quite gracious about. All I needed was a director / cinematographer / acting coach / lunch companion. Staci stepped right up. She knows a thing or two about knitting and video. Thanks so much, Staci!

We headed out into one of the muggiest days of the year to talk about knitting. It was quite fun, but because of the heat, much of the footage is indoors. Which actually represents knitting in summer for me. Kate even makes a cameo appearance! I sent all the clips to Andrea and Andrew, and they spliced it all together into a coherent whole along with some pictures of things I've made and some nice music. I'm amazed at how people can stitch what seems like a jumble into a coherent whole. Hmmm. Video editing is kind of like knitting, it seems. Thanks to Fruity Knitting for making me look so good!

I hope readers will take a look at this video podcast. It's great to just hang out and knit to. I learn so much from each episode. And, if you watch a few minutes past my segment, you'll note that Andrea mentions I'll be in Germany in a few weeks. It's true -- and not far from them. I do hope I can manage to meet them and thank them in person.

Here's the whole episode, Episode 7, below. (Or, if you prefer, you can jump to the part I'm in.)

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Shady Marmalade

It looks like I'm in a blankety mood these days. After the recent spate of baby blankets, I decided it was high time I made one for us, sans babyness. Ever since we got our orange couch last summer and had our walls painted gray, I've been knocking around the idea of knitting a cozy color-coordinated throw to drape across the back of a couch or chair -- and across our shoulders in the cooler months. Janelle, always looking out for me, sent me a batch of potential pattern candidates last year, all of which were very "me," and I chose one knit by yet another friend. This blanket is getting cozier by the minute!

I'm doing a variation of Staci's Log Cabin Scrap Blanket. I got the idea from Ravelry user bommeline's Blanket II (link requires Ravelry login). Rather than knitting a half-sized rectangle after the central square, I made another identically sized square, then two squares twice as long , then one three time longer. And, of course, unlike a traditional scrap log cabin motif, I used the same color. And they ain't scraps. They were bought for the express purpose of making this blanket. Because I'm using orange with two tones of gray, I've named this blanket Shady Marmalade.

Because I enjoyed using Knit Picks Swish DK so much on two of the baby blankets, I decided to stick with it for this project. I'm using 4mm(US6) needles and doing all the stitches in multiples of 10. Each section is 20 rows long. Each square is about 6.5" x 6.5" square. The little center sections are roughly 2" x 2". I'm planning on making this blanket 7 squares by 9 squares for a total of 63 in alternating shades of lighter (Dove Heather) and darker (Marble Heather) gray. The current plan is to use an applied i-cord to cover the edge. I just love the little pop of orange in the center squares. As I knit them, I alternate between seeing the smiling face of Ann B. Davis and the smirking face of Paul Lynde.



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dogwood Blanket

I was off work this week and had plenty of time to devote to the last baby blanket for this spring. And before I knew it, I was finished.

This pattern looks complicated, but isn't all that difficult. Mostly knitting and yarnovers, along with some purling and keeping track of which way various one-stitch and two-stitch decreases lean. Like many lace patterns knit in the round, every other round is a status quo round -- knit the knits and purl the purls. The trickiest part was having to switch out needles. I started on a crochet hook for the pinhole cast-on, switched to double-pointed needles, then about a third of the way through switched to 16" circulars and finally finished with a larger set of circulars for the last dozen rounds. I used the stretchy bind-off that I used for the first Vivid blanket I made. There's a description of this method in the pattern tutorial. I really do like it, and might use it for other projects.

After finishing four squares, they're seamed together with an exposed crochet chain. I wasn't too keen on this, because I had reservations about a ridgid, well, ridge, running crosswise through the middle of everything. I tried some other varieties of seaming, but came back to the crochet because it was the best looking after all. I did modify it a bit by pushing the hook through the outermost legs of the edge stitches on each piece, rather than through both legs. It made the chain just a little less bulky. It seems sturdy enough, and does lend a bit of structure and strength to the whole blanket, which could be useful in something that's otherwise rather delicate and flimsy.

This color was so difficult to photograph. My phone's white balance is off on the best of days, and blue-greens are nearly impossible to capture. To my eye, anyway. I'd say this third picture, taken outdoors, is closest to the true color albeit a bit washed out.

At one point I entertained the idea of adding a lace or picot edging to this, but after finishing I thought the stretchy bind-off's chain edging looked just fine. And anything I considered ended up looking like it would fight with the overall pattern rather than compliment it. So I'm leaving it plain.

This little baby arrives in July, so I finished with plenty of time to spare. I'm really not sure what I want to tackle next, but I think I may have gotten lace out of my system for a while!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Six Trumps Eight

A break between semesters and some stormy weather left me with plenty of time to swatch for my final baby blanket of the season. Is it still a swatch if you knit one fourth of the blanket to decide on the needle size? What about doing that twice?

The blanket I'm making is another Tin Can Knits design, by Emily Wessel, called Dogwood. I was drawn to the stylized dogwood blossom and the center-out construction. It looks rather complicated, but it's clearly charted and not difficult to follow at all. And I noticed that the stitch count per quarter is always 4 more than the round number, which makes checking in much easier. For instance, each side on round 23 has 27 stitches in it. I'm always looking for little patterns like that within the overall pattern. It's saved me several times already.

The original pattern suggests Dream in Color Classy, but my LYS had some Madeline Tosh DK in a color I liked, called Undergrowth) so I went with that. It's a silvery blue-green on the heavy side of DK, not quite the worsted called for in the original. I used 5mm (US8) needles as suggested, but thought the result might be too lacy -- if there is such a thing. I decided to finish it, block it, and assess.

I blocked it to 20"x20", which was a bit aggressive. It seemed a bit too formless and drapey, so there was nothing for it but to try another needle size. The second sample (on the left above) was made on 4mm (US6) needles as suggested on the ball band. I like it better. It looks darker in the photo above because it's still wet from its blocking bath, but it has more of a presence and structure, I think. This one is less aggressively blocked to 17"x17". I'll knit three more so that the final blanket will be 34"x34". I'm fine with this smaller size. I keep reminding myself babies are small.

I should have plenty of yarn now that I've downsized. If I get brave and creative, I might even consider adding a picot edging. Anyone have any suggestions for designs they like?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

16 Shades With Grey

I've been working on a project all month, trying to get it finished in time for a baby shower this morning. And having to work on other projects around the baby's mom, one of my good knitting friends. I finished it just before midnight last night, and am about to wrap it up and head out. I'll schedule this post for later so as not to spoil the surprise. That is, if I haven't managed to already.

This is a variation on the Vivid Blanket I made a few projects back for a colleague who was expecting. I knew I'd have enough yarn in all those colors for a second blanket if I choose a different color for the garter stitch borders on each square. It fit so neatly into my schedule of gift knitting for this spring's births and retirements. Cue The Circle of Life! Or squares, as appropriate.

I'm not one to get wound up in the nonsense of genders and colors. The heart and the eye like what they like. Any neutral would go well with all these bright and pastel shades. I chose grey because that's my favorite neutral, and it makes the colors stand out just enough. And I think it's absolutely appropriate for a little girl. I have a few knitting and blogging friends who have touted the magic of greyness. I'm looking at you, Janelle and Snowden. I just think that grey is that perfect tone to set off the other colors. Not so somber and adult-like as black, but not as likely to show grubbiness as cream or white.

I knit a shawl between these two blankets which used a super-stretchy bind off that I really liked. So instead of using the bind off called for in the original Vivid pattern, I used the one from the shawl. Well, part of the reason was that I liked it. The fact that it was still in the active part of my brain and I couldn't be bothered to revisit the original pattern was another.

I'm torn as to whether this was a good idea. I definitely noticed a difference in the blocking. In the original, the squares shrank back in on themselves about an inch even after thoroughly soaking, blocking and drying. This new even stretchier bind off allowed the squares to keep their shape better. However, it took more yarn, to the extent that I was concerned whether I'd ordered enough of the grey. I ordered six balls, and in the end I used five and a half. Not exactly a squeaker, but I'd planned to have over a ball leftover.

This bind off also made sewing the squares and attatching th i-cord a bit problematic. It created a chain that almost looked like it was floating on a row of crochet posts. It left a little row of holes around the perimeter of each square. I tried versions of mattress and whip stitch to join them, but they ended up looking too "stitchy" -- like the joins of Frankenstein's monster's body parts. So I ended up using a tracing technique across seams, much like weaving in ends. I think it matched the overall effect well enough.

So excited for this little one's arrival. But not as much as her parents and big brother! Now to get this wrapped and get to the party!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ethereality Show

I finished up the Ethereal Shawl this weekend.

I'm always seeing lace patterns and thinking "I totally want to knit that," forgetting how much time, attention and patience lace knitting requires. For starters, I'd never made a triangle shawl, where the shoulder edge grows out from the middle of the starting 5 stitches. That would be the center top of the photo on the left. For some reason, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around that. I even took an early photo with the shawl pinned out to get an idea of what I was doing, and only realized later that I'd gotten the dimensions all wrong. So, lots of challenges and a bit of tediousness, but quite worth it, I think.

I diligently put in lifelines every ten rows or so, and maddeningly had to rely on one when I dropped a stitch nine rows above and couldn't quite figure out the fix. But that's what they're for, and it did save me from starting over. The inner sections with the squares were actually more challenging than the outer edge. I didn't do the right style of decrease for most of that section because I read the instructions incorrectly, although the method I did use turned out just fine.

The pattern starts with just five stitches and ends up with 535 on the last row. So the early parts fly by, but the final rows often took close to an hour to complete down and back. I chose to do the initial repeat option five times, which produces eight squares in the center column (72 squares total). The final shawl weighs 61 grams. So it used one 50 gram skein and about a fifth of a second. In weird compounding shawl math, 10 of those grams, or one sixth of the yarn in this shawl, is in the last inch of work. The final piece is roughly 28" down the center and 52" wide.

I made this for a colleague who is retiring in a few weeks. I think she might read this ahead of time, but that's okay. She's always been so supportive of and interested in my knitting.

We have worked together for over 25 years. We shared an office in the early days, and she fearlessly took on mentoring this wet-behind-the-ears librarian from day one. She's always been a professional touchstone for me, and really guided me as I took on more of a role with health sciences librarianship at my college. Her approach to collection development and reference work have always been my model. She reads interesting stuff, tells great stories, remains curious about everything, and is always willing to listen. And over the last few years, we've acted as each other's memories when trying to recall names and events from the past. Work is going to be very different without her, but I wish her a happy and fulfilling retirement. I hope she knows just how much she's meant to me and all of her colleagues at the college.

Best wishes, Donna!