Sunday, March 25, 2012

Waisted Weekend

After working last weekend to get gauge, I spent this week casting on and knitting the ribbing. I did the lion's share of it yesterday and finished the ribbing this afternoon.

The ribbing is done on US1 (2.5mm) needles, so the fabric is a bit dense and cramped. It's made in a 2x2 pattern, with the lighter background colors from the main pattern being knit, and the darker pattern colors purled. To execute this, the colors have to be held in the opposite hands from where they will be held once the pattern starts. Confusing, no?

In the ribbing, both the pattern and background colors flow from dark to light and back to dark, which isn't exactly how it works in the pattern. And the turquoise (or Caspian) is grouped with the pattern colors, whereas on the charts it is a background color. I thought it would be eye-searingly bright, but I have to admit it works here.

Now I get to multitask through switching to a larger needle while simultaneously starting the pattern and remembering to increase every 15 stitches. Piece of cake, right? I predict the next row of knitting will take hours. I'm looking forward to getting this on the "larger" needles and watching the pattern develop. That's really my favorite thing about stranded knitting. I just need to remember to take my time and consult the pattern from time to time to make sure I'm on track.

Oh -- and while trying to be patient between swatch making, swatch washing, and swatch drying last weekend, I managed to crank out an additional Christmas Ball. I like how the motif flows from one quarter-panel to the next in this one. I've used so many red beads (over 300 so far!) that I'll need to go purchase some more soon. And some fiber fill for stuffing. I've been going through that stuff like there's no tomorrow.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

.25 Millimeters

My latest project is called the Hillhead Slipover. It has already been the source of much drama.

Let's start with the carbon footprint that I have stomped across the planet's northern hemisphere. The yarn is grown, dyed and spun by Jamieson's in Scotland. Thinking I would save some money, I ordered the yarn from a place in Canada at the end of January. But after several weeks, I learned that two colors were back ordered. I cancelled those colors with Store 1, and ordered them from Store 2 in Wisconsin. But store two told me that one of those colors was back-ordered with them, too. So I cancelled it and got the problematic color (black -- really?) from store 3 in Oregon. Fittingly, these orders arrived in the reverse order in which they were purchased. Two months after starting the process, I finally had all the yarn. You can click on the picture to see the color names in the notes at Flickr.

Then came the gauge issues. The pattern calls for using size 3 (3mm) needles to get a gauge of 32 stitches over 4 inches. I grabbed some size 3s and knit the awesome swatch on the top, but my 32 stitches spread over 4.5 inches. Doesn't sound like much, but gauge differences compound like interest. Staying with size 3s would turn this vest from a roomy 48" to a man-swallowing 54"! Then I took a closer look at my needles. While they are indeed size 3, they are 3.25mm. My size 2 needles are 3mm, so I made a new swatch and got gauge. Always go by the millimeters on needle sizes, people.

It appears I'm on track for this project. Time to cast on -- finally.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March Mitt-ness

This certainly wasn’t part of my plan for spring break knitting, but I picked up and finished the March Woodland Winter Mittens in a matter of days.

I’d been looking for something to do while waiting for more red and white yarn to arrive for Christmas Balls, and this project had been languishing for a while. It’s my least favorite of the 6 patterns, but it worked as that thing you go to when you’re between projects. I suppose if that between phase lasts long enough, you just finish up all your backup projects. I completed the right mitten (on the left in the photo) on Monday, immediately cast on the for the left mitten, and by this morning, the Ides of March, I had finished blocking both of them. It was very thematic to split my time this week between working in the yard and knitting designs based on spring blossoms. Of course, the kind of budding seeds and bulbs as depicted here happened close to a month ago. We’re in full bloom in central Texas these days.

I ended up liking this pattern more than I thought I would. I think the design fits into a mitten shape quite well. I do have to say that the palm pattern is my least favorite so far – not memorizable at all, and not particularly striking, to my eye. It does work better at a distance than close up. So now I’ve completed the October, January, February and March patterns. November (deer and mountains) and December (Northern lights) are quite nice – I’ve been saving them up for last.

As of yesterday, all the yarn has finally arrived for a new stranded knitting project that I’ve been wanting to start for months now, but had trouble tracking down all the yarn. It was quite a saga, part of which I’ll fill you in on next time around.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Little Christmas Eve

When I saw this as the title for the chapter of Christmas ball patterns I tackled this week, I thought maybe the authors were just trying to find categories to plop things under, but it turns out December 23, Little Christmas Eve is a real thing in Norway. It’s the day when all the final preparations for Christmas should be made, and the tree brought in, prepared for trimming.

The chapter starts with a pattern called Sledding Run, and features a little figure sitting on a toboggan. Now, I don’t know if either Arne or Carlos have ever spent much time behind 18-wheelers on an American interstate highway, but I’m thinking they have gotten just a wee bit of inspiration from a certain silhouette commonly found on tractor-trailer mud flaps. I’ll let you know if I find any Yosemite Sam ornaments in the book. This pattern stretches across two panels, rather than four. You can’t see it in the picture easily, but there are bejeweled snowflakes on the sides between the two sledders.

Next come two tree-themed patterns, Pinecone and Christmas Tree. Pretty self-explanatory, both of them. So far, I’ve been following the color schemes as set out in the book, as to whether red or white is the background color. In most cases, I think white works better, but in both of these, I like the red.


I’m not sure I did the increases and decreases very well on the pinecone. It looks nice enough in the picture, but I wouldn’t inspect the top and bottom too closely. I used 48 beads across the 4 Christmas trees, including a little gold one for the star. I bought gold beads at the outset, but right away decided I didn’t want to use them. I made an exception here.

And finally, I made Decorating the Tree. Now this design, based on a mitten pattern in a booklet by the Norwegian Handcraft Association, isn’t specifically related to Christmas, but the authors say it reminds them of someone decorating a tree with garland. So I shined up the “garland” with a few beads. The three stitches at the bottom of the figure make rather realistic shoes, I think, but someone needs to tell these ladies that the bustle went out over 100 years ago. That’s some serious junk in those trunks.

I’ll be on Christmas Ball Hiatus for a few days. I finished this last one with only 5 inches of white yarn to spare. I thought I had more, but checked, and realized I’d only order one hank. So I’ll have to wait until more arrives. I’m also running low on beads and stuffing. But I’m a little over 40% of the way through this project (23 out of 55 balls), way ahead of schedule, and still enjoying it immensely.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Christmas Greenery

Brought to you in redery and whitery.

I completed three more Christmas Balls this week – all from the chapter called Christmas greenery. The first, Selbu, is based on a pattern found in Selbu mittens. A quick Google search found the image on the right at the blog Yin & Yarn. You can see almost the exact motif from the ball across the wrists of the mittens.


Arne and Carlos describe this motif as representing a four-leaf clover.

Fittingly, the next ball’s pattern is called Three Leaf Clover. This one was kind of hard to pull off, because of the long floats between red stitches. I found that putting the red bead in at the base of the three leaves caused the red yarn to pull at the one other stitch on the entire side. I had to work a needle under the pulled stitch to try and loosen it up but it still looks like the “stem” is broken. It’s not bad enough for me to want to redo it, but, still, kind of wonky. Although this pattern is worked in quarter panels, the pattern bleeds across panels in an interesting way.

And finally, the third pattern is called Poinsettia. A bit stylized, I think, and very quilty. If you’d asked me, I would have thought I’d used many more silver beads so far, but a quick glance at this (and the tubes of beads) shows me the opposite. In fact, it looks like I’m going to have to get some more red beads, in addition to some more red yarn.

I am having all kinds of problems tracking down the yarn I want for a big project I want to start. So far, yarn is coming from two places. And I’ll probably have to order from a third. The first place told me part of my order would arrive from the mill in a week or so, but when I checked three weeks later, was told it wouldn’t be available until April. So I canceled the unavailable colors in order to try somewhere else. There was no indication on store 2’s website that they were out of one of the colors I ordered, but I can tell by how much they charged my credit card that they’re only shipping one of the colors – no correspondence with me about that at all. This is so frustrating. Why do online retailers not keep their inventory up-to-date on their websites?

So I wait and search. In the meantime, I can always knit more balls!