Thursday, May 31, 2012


On Sunday, I went to buy more silver beads, only to find that the shop owner wasn't planning on putting in an order for some time. But, she was nice enough to write down all the details so that I might order them online -- which I later did. So while I waited for beads and yarn to arrive to help me continue with Christmas balls and Faite Isle vests, I decided I would start something quick and easy as a diversionary tactic. I kind of forgot how satisfying it can be to start and finish a project in just a few days!

The pattern I chose was Claudia, a free Ravelry pattern which I gender-reassigned to Claudio. It's a unisex hat made from worsted yarn, the beginning of which reminds me a lot of Jared Flood's Koolhaas hat which I made a few years ago. Staci made several of these when my knitting group made hats "for the boys" a while back and I really admired them at the time.

I had some nondescript brown worsted, snagged in a yarn swap, that was halfway consumed by a scarf I started a few years back but had since lost interest in. It was sitting in a bag, not even on needles anymore. Kate had gotten into it at some point, so it was all kind of a mess. I unraveled, untangled and unsnarled it, and had plenty for a hat. I used Staci's video instructions for the German Twisted Cast-On for extra added stretchiness. I started it Monday night, worked on it Tuesday a bit, and finished it up last night. Very satisfying, and I'm quite happy withe snug fit.

The yarn for the vest has since arrived, though, so it'll be back to the big project soon enough.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Highland Missed

I must have jinxed myself in my last post by mentioning that I had enough yarn. Because not two hours later, I found I only had a few feet left of one of my background colors, Highland Mist. I briefly considered cannibalizing my swatches, but quickly came to my senses. I ordered an additional ball from a different supplier than where I got the original. It won't be from the same dye lot, but since the two batches will be separated by many rounds, it shouldn't matter. Still, it will be the middle of next week before it arrives. So as regards the state of my vest, I have to paraphrase Jane Seymour as Dr. Quinn, "It's resting now."

So it's back to more Christmas balls. I've finished up the last two patterns in the chapter on hearts. The first here is Hospitality: Room in the Heart. I like how these nested hearts connect solidly across the panels, creating a cut-out paper-doll or snow-flake effect. Since I used so many red beads on the other heart patterns, I opted for silver beads in the negative space. This wiped me out of my supply, so I'm off to get more this afternoon. I hope they have some in stock this time.

The last pattern on the chapter is Meeting Hearts. It might remind one of two sideways hearts joined by a square buckle. Like many of the two-paneled patterns, these are hard to photograph and show the whole effect. There are little heart-ish shapes within the sideways hearts, but frankly, this pattern confuses me. I think this has been my least favorite ball to knit so far. The pattern doesn't appeal to me much, I made lots of mistakes on it, and I don't think I executed it particularly well.

But onward -- and upward! The next section is all about angels and thing angelic. Better dust off my halo.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Sweater Vest Returns

After a quick run of Christmas balls, I returned to the Hillhead Slipover this week. And I've managed to get quite a bit done in only a few days.

Things have gone more smoothly since I've stopped trying to figure out ways to track the number of decrease rounds. They're different for the armholes and the neck opening. I started keeping separate counters for the two, and then tried marking the decreases with stitch markers, but that got tedious fast. I finally just decided to read the knitting as I went, and count rounds on the pattern to double-check. It helps that the design is symmetrical to the point that the same stitch in the pattern always appears on either side of the armhole steeks -- so, in four places. It makes it easy to check my work. The armhole decreases are now finished -- only the neck still to go. I'd feel better if there were more stitch-count reality checks in this pattern, but I seem to be okay so far.

It's been a relatively quiet time between semesters. Interspersed with visits by and to the in-laws, we've been taking care of landscape and general yard chores. I've been doing one big outdoor thing a day, and then catching up on knitting while watching episodes of Peep Show. Still almost a week to go -- I should be able to get a lot done. Should.

It feels good to get back to the sweater. The longer I was away from it, the more anxiety built up about whether I could remember my little mnemonics that carry me through. A little rough going at first, but all's well now. I still feelike I have enough yarn, and I'm still glad I added the extra length. I'm a little under gauge recently on spot checks, but well within the range of a little blocking adjustment.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Hearts Are Trump

There are lots of heart-themed ornaments in 55 Christmas Balls to Knit. It must be a common motif in Scandinavian patterns.

The second of the Christmas goodies patterns, Christmas Package, isn't even in the chapter on heart patterns, but it features little heart-shaped baskets. These are traditionally filled with candies or treats and hung on the tree. It's hard to capture the rounds of pattern near the top and bottom of the balls in a photo, but it is a cool effect. I put beads on the point on the basket where the handle might be attached. And because the color of the hanger is determined by the color on the bottom of the ball, it's red, despit the overall whiteness.

The first pattern in the chapter called Hearts is, appropriately, Heart. And that there's what it is, as we say in Texas -- just four big hearts all the way around. The sample in the book shows an offset crystal pattern overlaying the red heart, and although it looks kind of cool, it's not me. I opted to just outline it in red beads. It ate up a lot of them, though -- 64 for this ornament alone! Even though I bought two more tubes of 350 beads the last time I was at Nomadic Notions, I might just have to go back for more. Now that I've finished it, I think it might have been interesting to have two of the hearts outlined in clear/white beads. I'll keep that in mind for future patterns.

Finally, we have Heart Lattice. I like the cartoony blobbiness of these hearts. After I finished this, I thought it might have been more symmetrical if the hearts in the bottom part of the panel pointed up, and the ones that jumped the seam pointed toward the center of the lattice. Since these motifs aren't geometrically uniform, though, it might be hard to pull off.

There are two more heart patterns in the chapter, but they'll have to wait until later. This week has been filled with yard work and I've been snagging bits of knitting time here and there when I can. It's warmed up quite a bit, and knitting on these little things is much more appealing than sitting with the vest on my lap.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Halfway There

I cranked out two more balls this weekend. That takes me to 28, which is just over halfway to all 55! And a month ahead of schedule, even though, until recently, I've been concentrating on the Hillhead Slipover. Despite my rapid start, I'm all too aware how quickly I could get behind.

First, I completed the Rocking Horse, the last pattern in the chapter called The night before Christmas. I wanted to add beads, and thought I might be able to style a saddle and reins using them. It almost worked. It's hard to get the concept of a line using beads -- they work better as accents and broader patterns. Also, my horses appear a bit more, er, well-fed than the samples in the book. Maybe saddles add a few pounds?

I did realize while making this that the increases described in the book work better with patterns that go right up to the edge of the panels than the ones I've been doing. So I've decided to switch from now on.

Pattern 28, Peppermint Pigs, is the first in the chapter Christmas goodies. Peppermint Pigs are a type of hard candy that are available in Norway at Christmas-time. This pattern, while simple, fills up all the space in the panels with large geometrical figures. Beads would have just been distracting, so I left them out. Usually, the second color doesn't come in until the 10th or 12th round, but these started in on round 2, which was a bit fiddly.

We're on a break between semesters, with no big travel or project plans, so hopefully I'll have a bit more time to devote to knitting. I haven't touched the sweater this past week, and I need to get back to it. I am getting a little restless with just the two projects going, even though the Christmas Balls have built-in pattern variety. For the past few months I can say, literally, that if it's not one thing, it's the other.


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Le Steek, C'est Chic

So glad I added the extra pattern round. I'm much more confident that this while give me the necessary length, and it doesn't appear to have gobbled up too much of my remaining yarn. In the picture to the right, start at the first white stripe below the needles, then trace down two more white stripes. That more or less represents the amount of extra fabric I added. I got the lion's share of it done last Sunday, and I've been working on it when I can during the week.

Next week is the last week of the semester, and our chorus has a concert next weekend, so it's going to be quite busy, and I don't know how much time there will be for picking up the old needles. I do still want to keep my momentum going, especially since I've finally started the steeks, but it's gotten hot around here, and sitting around with a wad of wool on one's lap is getting less and less appealing.

Speaking of steeks, I have three going now -- one for each armhole, and one for the neck opening. This picture shows the right armholes opening, I think. For those who don't know, a steek is a section of knitting done across an area where a large hole will later be. It allows the knitter to easily maintain the established pattern while knitting in the round. Eventually, the extra stitch section (which can be as few as 3 stitches, but in this case is 12) is sliced up the middle and folded back under. Then, things like edging or zippers can be added. Steeks have a reputation of being a bit unnerving for the uninitiated, but I'm really looking forward to the snipping -- that sweet, sweet snipping that will set this garment free! Mwahahah!

Because I didn't want to be working on the steek setup when I was at my knitting group this weekend, I started another Christmas ball on Friday and finished it up Saturday afternoon. It's the third of the four patterns in the chapter called The night before Christmas. It's name is Dancing Around the Tree, and, according to the authors was the first design created for the book. I was a little at a loss as to how i miht bedazzle this particular design, but eventually settled on adding beads to the white stitches on the female figure's dress. It looks pretty good, but unfortunately, this photo's angle makes the dresses look a bit bottom heavy. I could hear the judges on Project Runway clucking their tongues as I knitted.