Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fur Piece

My vacation got off to a rocky start.

When I got home from work yesterday afternoon, I heard a hissing sound by my garage. Not a snakey hissing (which would be bad), but a watery hissing. Either my house or the front yard retaining wall shifted, breaking our main water line right where it enters the house. It wasn’t exactly spewing, and I’m pretty sure that it hadn’t been doing that when I’d left in the morning, but it was pretty disconcerting. Jeff got a plumber out (at after-hours rates, grrrr) and we had it fixed by 8. At 10, we were able to turn the water back on, so all’s well that ends well. Still, scary.

Jeff and I went out for breakfast this morning, and then, while he headed to campus to finish up his grading,  I went to Joann’s to pick up some more Lion Brand for placemats. I accidentally turned down the wrong aisle and ran into a wall of “fun” fur. Yikes! It was all so weird looking. And funny. And sad. I like to think I’m not a yarn snob – knit with what you want, I say. But I just do not get the appeal. It may be fast, and you can use giant needles with it, but how they heck can you see what you’re doing? Any beginning knitter starting on this stuff isn’t doing him or herself a favor.  I think fun fur’s time has come and gone, but it can still be found. It almost always seems to be on clearance, though. That’s gotta be saying something.

Back to the placemats. They only had three more balls of the Clove color in the dyelot I’d purchased earlier. And the dyelots were radically different. So I’ve decided to knit three placemats in Clove and three in a new color I picked up, Espresso. You can see what I’ve got so far, here. I’m hoping that the Clove and Espresso will go well with each other and the widely divergent colors of plates that we have.

So things are much more relaxed today than they were yesterday evening. Here’s to calm days ahead.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Plan B

The Tunisian crochet just wasn’t working for this yarn. It was taking way too long and it was way too fiddly. I’m blaming it on the cotton. It’s still a really cool technique, but not for this yarn.

So I’ve switched to knitting and using the twill stitch. It’s a four-row repeat over a multiple of four stitches plus one. For these placemats, I cast on 49 stiches. It turns out they they are only about a half-inch narrower than my existing placemats. I’m knitting these from the side across. I may do all of them sideways, but I’m also toying with the idea of making half of them from the bottom edge up. Here’s the pattern:

First Row: KPKPKPKP…….K
Second Row: P
Fourth Row: P

Not too complicated. Easy to read in the work, and great for mindless TV knitting. The yarn is Lion Cotton in a semi-solid color called Clove (136). The website describes it as a “dark burnt orange,” so it makes sense that my local Joann’s in Austin had tons of it. My goal (which is really more of a wish at this point), is that I can squeeze one placemat out of one ball. I’m about a third of the way through the current one – and it looks like I’m a third of the way through the ball.

This could be a race to the finish…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tunisian Uprising

So, sweater finished, it’s on to other projects.

First up, a set of new placemat. I’ve been using the same old raggedy placemats for too long. Time to knit new ones. But how?

Ever since seeing the video by my good friend Staci, I thought I’d like to try this crochet technique called Tunisian (or sometimes Afghan) stitch. Tunisian crochet uses these freaky frankenhooks that are basically crochet hooks, but really, really long and with a stopper on the end. In Tunisian stitch, you pick up stitches across the face of the fabric, and then chain back across. Here’s a one of Staci’s helpful videos that shows you how to do it.


Tunisian Crochet


Simple, right? Except I figured out how to make things difficult. Because I want to be able to wash these things, I decided I’d make them out of cotton. And it’s just not working for me. To start with, the cotton wasn’t very forgiving when trying to cast on – which involves picking up stitches from the spine of a crochet chain. And since then, I’ve just not quite gotten the hang of it.

Here’s what I have so far. It’s not bad, but it’s just not good. It’s hurting my hands, and it’s going very, very slow. Crochet is supposed to go fast. I still really love this technique, but I’m thinking it may not be the way to go with this project. I’d like to make at least six of these things, but I’m just not feeling the love.

I’m considering switching to knitting and using the twill stitch that I used when making my Whitfield Jacket. What do you think?

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Was there ever a more appropriate name for a 100% wool garment worn on a day when it’s projected to reach 104°? Or the person modeling said garment?

By the time we got outside with the camera, just before 10:00am, the heat index was already at 92° with 67% humidity. Not to mention the mosquitos. It’s not even summer yet! I suppose we must suffer for our art…

But the rewards are great. I’m really happy with how this sweater turned out. Long stretches went by without working on it this spring and the whole project took entirely too long to complete, but I’ve got quite a sense of accomplishment now that this is finished.

The place I originally wanted to get buttons had either shut down or moved (I got conflicting reports), so I went by an LYS. They had nice buttons, but not any appropriate for a nerdy cardigan. So I went by Hancock Fabrics, which had a surprisingly wide selection, plus they were having a 30% off sale. I couldn’t make up my mind, so I freaked out several fellow customers by soliciting their opinions. After they calmed down, we eventually all agreed that I would go with wood. Nice, no?

Now, like any project, there are a few flaws. There is a school of thought that, kept to oneself, these flaws will never become apparent. But I’m the type to be wracked with guilt unless I confess, so here we go:

The buttons are not evenly spaced – they’re a little closer together at the bottom than at the top. The button band isn’t quite even with the bottom edge on the right side. I knit where I should have purled (or vice versa) in one place on the sewn-on button band. The necks or shanks behind the buttons are a bit tall; I did that so that they wouldn’t bite into the button band, but they look a little funny and dangly when not buttoned.

I feel better.

Now to put this away until it gets cold, if it gets cold, many many months from now. My plan is to wear this at work in my chilly corner of the library. Now to obtain and learn how to tie a bow tie…

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Got the Beets

Another slow week of knitting – meaning I didn’t knit a stitch during the week. But I did manage to work a bit more on the Chocolate Spiral Socks during my knitting group on Saturday morning. This morning, I buckled down and finished the button band on the Kerouac Sweater, while catching up with a bunch of PBS episodes of Frontline, Independent Lens and Secrets of the Dead that had been cluttering up my DVR for a while. I’ve tried it on, and it appears that all systems are go.

Two things left to do. One is blocking. There are some areas around the sleeve cap that need special attention. I think I’m going to go the steam route rather than full immersion. Secondly, I need to go shopping for buttons. The last time around, I had Snowden to go shopping with. We went to Silk Road and got some great buttons for my Whitfield Jacket.  Sadly, she’s moved away, so I’ll have to be a big boy and pick some out myself. The holes are kind of small, so I should have plenty of options.

This afternoon, I got to knit with some of the guys from our men’s knitting group. It had been WAY too long since I’d done that, and it was good to get out. I always have a good laugh and learn something. Those guys are always trying out something new – a pretty fearless bunch as knitters go.

Oh, and one more thing. A picture of food. Yummy, yummy, food. My knitting buddy Jene had some extra food from her CSA this week. I was the proud recipient of some peppers, potatoes, and these delicious beets. I found a recipe for Sweet-and-Sour Beets with Apples in The Joy of Cooking, and voilà! Very tasty, indeed. Thanks, Jene!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

I’m Still Knitting!

Um, hi.

Yeah, it’s been a while. An embarrassingly long time, in fact. And the reason is, I haven’t really been knitting.

I’ve only been knitting in fits and starts. I’m kind of monogamous with my obsession. Usually, I’m either knitting or reading. However, my reading and knitting were both recently derailed by a chance genealogical breakthrough that grabbed my attention for quite some time.

A class and get-together with some knitting friends seems to have shaken me out of it for a bit, and even though the thermometer hit a hundred today (before a freaky much-needed thundershower), I picked up my wool Kerouac Sweater and worked on the button band a bit more. I’m at the part where you have to sew the band on a bit, and then work a buttonhole, then sew on a bit more band, etc. I’m sweating like crazy, but it’s nice to see some progress. A few more hours of sewing and knitting, and then it’s all over except for getting some buttons and a bit of blocking. Just in time to put it away for six months while I wait out the hotbox that is Texas in summertime.

Last month, Jeff and I made a short trip to Big Bend National Park, one of our favorite getaways. We did some hiking, saw some spectacular desert scenery and wildlife (no bears this time), and I cast on for some toe-up sock. I’m using the yarn I dyed with Doug and plan to use my first afterthought heel, courtesy of some excellent videos posted by Janelle. The pattern is the Broad Spiral Rib from Charlene Schurch’s More Sensational Knitted Socks.

So I’m back at it.