Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Orange (and Gray) is the New Blanket

I seamed like a fiend this past weekend and attached an applied I-cord border to tidy things up. The Shady Marmalade blanket is now complete!

To refresh your memories, this blanket is based on Verypink's Log Cabin Scrap Blanket. Her original pattern is more akin to a quilt-style log cabin blanket, in which all but the center square of each patch is made of rectangles. My variation started with two squares, which makes the whole patch a square. All 63 of them. The final blanket ended up being in the neighborhood of 43" x 56", so my squares were close to 6" x 6",

I seamed up the edges to make 9 strips of 7 squares each with short seams, and then used a long scrap of yarn to seam up the strips. Sometimes when doing seams, I go through two stitches per side, but on this one I went through every single one.

I rotated the squares so that the garter ridges in the orange centers of the light squares ran in one direction, and in the opposite direction for the darker squares. I also rotated where the solid side, my term for the edge with thirty stitches all the way across, was positioned. If you follow the squares diagonally in one direction, they are all the same. As you might ask, and indeed guess, I did sew one of my strips on upside down. The checkerboard pattern worked, but the flow of solid sides did not. I didn't realize it until I was ready to sew on the next (and final) strip. I almost let it go, but just couldn't. I un-seamed the whole strip, flipped it, and started over. It would have driven me up the wall. As it is, I found one tiny row on the edge of a square where I did two stitches of stockinette instead of garter like the entire rest of the blanket. I'm willing to let that one go. But I will point it out if you ever see this thing in person. I just can't help it.

I'm really pleased. It looks great on the orange couch and on our gray chair. And, it turns out, even looks quite fetching against red dogs. I asked Jeff to "model" it on the couch, and he had barely draped it across his lap when Kate hopped up to give it a try. Even Pona was a bit curious. It's going to be quite warm, I think, as the days cool down, especially with a dog warming our hips. We tested it out, and it's perfect for sitting side-by-side and staying cozy. And Jeff, not usually one to compliment wool fiber, says that this blanket isn't bothering him at all. So despite calling this the Shady Marmalade blanket, it turns out it's not too itchy-itchy ya ya da da.

So glad to get this project finished. Now I can concentrate on getting Jeff's Guido Sweater completed and get started on some new projects! In the meantime, here are a few more pictures that I couldn't quite squeeze in here.


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Seamingly Tedious

I'm still here. I seem to post less and less these days, and I've also had way less time to knit than I'd like. My two big projects have progressed somewhat, so I thought I'd check in.

The Shady Marmalade Blanket squares are all finished -- all 63 of them. And now the sewing begins. I've had quite a few rough starts, but I think I'm getting better at it. I'm trying to rotate the squares so that the garter ridges on the dark and light squares run perpendicularly to each other. And I'm trying to pattern them out so that the solid side of garter stitch alternates from side to side across the row. I found this creates diagonals of like-oriented squares across the blanket. I messed this up twice while getting the first two rows together, so I'm learning to be careful. I'm sewing up 7 squares in a strip with short seams, and then using a long piece of yarn to connect each strip. Seems (or seams) to be working so far. This is going to take a really long time, though. I worked much of the day and only got these 14 squares together. But now that I've figured out my rhythm, maybe I can go faster tomorrow.

Jeff's Guido Pullover is rolling along. I've got most of the front completed, and am just a few rows away from the neck shaping. Then it's on to the sleeves. I've used three of the four balls of the light colored yarn (Pumice) already, and I'm having serious doubts about the last ball making it through two sleeves. Fortunately, although the yarn is discontinued, this is one of the easier colors yet to be found. I'll know soon enough, I suppose.

Kate, featured in the photo above, has gotten the crafting bug herself, it seems. At work last week, I got a panicky text from Jeff and a photo of yarn strewn all around the house. Kate just couldn't resist digging her nose into a bag of yarn for this sweater and getting creative with the aforementioned remaining ball of Pumice. Miraculously, she didn't bite through it or get any of it tangled up. No real harm was done, but now Jeff will think fondly of Kate drool every time he wears it.

Not much else to write about. If I'm writing this, I'm not knitting, right? I did get a gift of yarn today to make a Fair Isle hat that I'm kind of excited about, but that will have to go on the back burner for the moment. I'm also happy that the weather has taken a slightly cooler turn of late. Maybe this will kick me in the tail to get back at knitting in full force.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Squares and Stripes Forever

I've hit a few milestones of late on the two large projects I've got going on. Normally, I'm a fairly monogamous knitter. It makes me antsy to have more than one project on the needles. But the Shady Marmalade Blanket and the Guido Pullover compliment each other quite nicely and I'm learning to appreciate juggling two very different fibers. When knitting with the kite-string-like cotton blend yarn of the sweater fatigues my fingers and wrists, I can switch over to the much more forgiving wool of the blanket. And when the blanket becomes too mind-numbingly mindless, I can switch back. This was basically my M.O. over this long holiday weekend, and I got a lot done on both projects.

First, the sweater. This sweater is composed of a 96-row pattern, that gets repeated on the way up. For the medium size, the back repeats the 96 rows a little over two times. I was happy to note that I seem on-track stripe-wise when I looked at other medium samples on Ravelry. Of course, I'm going through my usual anxiety about running out of yarn. Since this yarn is discontinued, the clock is ticking on finding sources. Which only makes me want to knit faster. My tension is fairly close to the one outlined in the pattern, but leans toward being a little smaller. However, I've held it up to Jeff and it looks like it's going to work. I just cast on for the front to try and keep my momentum going.

The blanket, too, is humming along. Like the sweater, I also had some anxiety about running out of the orange -- a discontinued color -- but knew I'd be alright when I passed the 2/3 point. I'm making a total of 63 squares, and I got 45 squares out of the first two balls of orange yarn. I should just make it. Just 15 more squares (or 5 balls of gray yarn) to go. The end is in sight.

I'm still toying around with ideas for seaming this up and think I'll just have to try a few techniques and see if I like them. I think a lot of trial and error will be involved. I don't know if I'll have enough yarn leftover for seaming -- I may have to buy some more. I'm also debating whether to add an i-cord edging around the outside. I'm leaning toward yes. Beside just looking tidier in general, the outside edge will be a hodge-podge of little sections of cast-off and garter edges. It's going to look a little ragged if I don't do some sort of edging. Raggedness is a look, but I don't know if it will go with the overall geometric design.

So, no finished objects, but time marches on. Just ask a certain little one who got a new baby blanket this summer. Can't believe she's already been around for 2 months! Her mom shared a picture of her little bundle of joy enjoying her blanket. I got her permission to post this picture here. I love seeing this -- so happy it's getting used and so happy for my colleague and her family. Isn't she precious? Also -- how cute is that poppy dress?

Back to the sweater, and the blanket, and the sweater, and then the blanket...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Blanket Statement

It's been all about the blankets since returning from our trip. One for us, and one for a friend. First, the friend.

Rhonda asked me if I would knit something for a great-niece that she is expecting to arrive later this month. I don't always "take commissions" (as if I did this professionally!), but Rhonda is such a good friend to us. And I'm more comfortable with non-garment requests where I don't have to worry so much about fit. We sat down and discussed fabric and style, and I ran some ideas past her. The little one is going to be named Rose, a family name, so she wanted something that evoked ideas of rosiness. We settled on a pattern called Bounce from Tin Can Knits. I've already knit two of their blanket designs this year and was pleased with the results, so I knew this would work well. We settled on some Knit Picks superwash, which I'd also been using quite a bit this summer. The colors here are Dove Gray, Rouge and Carnation.

It's not a very complicated pattern. It's a 12-row repeat, with the first four rows garter-stitched in the main color (Dove Gray), and the other 8 done in a simple lace pattern. The edges are done in garter stitch (an easy thing to screw up) to keep the edges from curling. Unusually, this lace pattern has shaping on the wrong side, too, making the decreases that much more angled. The two-stitch decreases that create the rib lines also pull in the gray to make the whole thing look like it's draped with bunting. Or like icing on a cake. Especially with all this pink. I quite like it.

I made the crib size blanket, which is supposed to be 30" x 45", but in order for the 3 Rouge / 2 Carnation pattern I set up to come out symmetrically I had to add a few stripes, making it closer to 30" x 48". It's the biggest baby blanket I've ever made, that's for sure. And because superwash can behave unpredictably when wet-blocked, it did stretch out a bit. I was able to tame it during blocking, but it wants to be even bigger.

I've also been working on the Shady Marmalade Blanket that I started way back in June. The plan is to make a lap-sized coverlet, for two laps, that will go with our orange sofa. I'd only plugged away at it sporadically, but I've been focusing on it during these strange rain-soaked cool August days that have miraculously arrived. They're easy to work and I really don't have to think much while knitting them. If anything, their mindless ease has led to me ripping out unneeded rows as I've gone too far. I seem to have the gauge down better now, unlike earlier when I had several that were noticeably larger than the others. I've made 29 as of today. Only 34 more to go to hit my goal of 63 squares in a 7x9 configuration.

So, lots of knitting in these cool rainy days that in most years are so unbearably hot I can hardly think about knitting. I've also recently cobbled together some colors of a discontinued yarn to make Jeff a sweater. It should start arriving next week. I'm hoping that I can have it finished in time to take advantage of truly cooler weather. Like the immigrants convinced by Great Plains land speculators and railroad developers that rain follows the plow, I'm gambling that my knitting will bring on the autumn and winter. A surer bet, but still, you're welcome.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

German Knitting Adventures

Jeff and I were fortunate to be able to get away this summer to visit my brother's family in Germany and take a beautiful side trip to Slovenia. Not as much knitting activity took place as I'd planned. I brought yarn to work on squares for the Shady Marmalade blanket I've been working on, but I only completed three or four squares. We were so busy that I didn't have a lot of quiet, still time for handwork.

Still, I did have one great knitting-related day. I got to meet Andrea and Andrew of the Fruity Knitting podcast! You may remember from a previous post that I got to be on their Knitters of the World segment in episode 7. I got in touch with them and they graciously set aside part of a very warm afternoon to have lunch and to visit a few yarn shops in Frankfurt. Andrea and I even got to spend a bit of time knitting together in a park -- I wish I'd taken some photos of that. It was such a lovely afternoon and I can't thank them enough for their hospitality. I loved hearing Andrea's passion for design and colorwork and style and all the things that bring her to knitting. I can't thank them enough.

One of the shops we stopped by was Maschenwerke. Andrea introduced me to Heidi, the shop owner, who showed me around, pointing out the amazing variety of yarns she carries, mostly from the UK and Japan. She also had an amazing number of pattern books -- more than I think I've ever seen in a shop in the states. She flipped open some Japanese pattern books with some really cool men's designs and showed me how the patterns were written slightly differently. She seemed pretty fearless. Her knowledge of the economics of importing yarn and how she looks at quality was so impressive. I love hearing people discussing things they're passionate about, and Heidi was no exception. She clearly knows her stuff. And I also admired her drive to try new fibers in interesting combinations. It was infectious.

So much so, that I decided to knit a scarf pattern that she'd whipped up, using two fibers I'd never think to put together. Both are from the Japanese company, Ito. One is Sensai, a mohair/silk blend (60/40) in an electric blue color, the other is a flat navy ribbon-like cotton yarn, Gima 8.5. The pattern is called Schal Sommerbrise (Summer Breeze Scarf?). Every row is knit with the Sensai, and then the Gima 8.5 is brought in from time to time and knitted together with the Sensai to make beautiful stripes. The effect was quite beautiful in the shop sample she had. It will be fun to play with these new fibers and, though it might not be quite me, it will make a great gift.

Meanwhile, off to the side, Andrea was showing Jeff some nice men's sweater patterns from some Rowan design books. Jeff doesn't always care for handknits, mostly because of my preference for wool. But I think Andrea may have convinced both of us to branch out a bit, so be on the lookout for a future project that I think we'll both be happy with. Thanks, Andrea!

I did try to visit some yarn shops in Ljubljana when we were in Slovenia, but the two I had identified weren't around any more. The first had closed up it's city storefront and was now based in a small town many kilometers away. And the other seemed to have shut down for the summer. As near as we could tell from the sign in the shop window, the owner was saying she'd be back in January. So much for Slovenian knitting. I didn't see a single soul knitting in Slovenia. However, a few days earlier, on one of the hottest days  in a city on the coast, I did see a woman crocheting in the shade on her rooftop terrace. She looked so relaxed and peaceful...

Since I've been home over the past week, I've been able to work one last baby blanket for the summer. It's soaking right now and getting ready for blocking. More on that later.

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.)