Following the Rules

When you start a game, you’re given a set of rules to follow. They help play go smoothly, so no one runs away screaming.

Knitting is a lot like a game with rules to keep, and if you don’t follow them, you’ll run away screaming.

I had one of those moments recently with the Brooklyn Bridge Cardigan I’m knitting from the book Metropolitan Knits. I’ve got the back done, the left side done, and am half-way through the right. Before I started increasing I laid them all out to see if my shaping matched up, and that’s when I saw it.

lot-matters

The shaping was great; it was the color that was off. The back is medium, the right front has a brownish tint, and the left is bright orange. How did this happen?

I bought a bag of yarn years ago. They’re all the same kind and color—Araucania Nuble. It’s a lovely wool-silk blend that makes up beautifully. Perhaps I never looked at the dye lots, perhaps I thought since they were hand dyed it didn’t matter. All but one of the hanks I’d rolled into balls for a project that didn’t materialize at the time, so I don’t have labels to check.

There are rules that I blithely ignored. Dye lot as you can see is greatly important. And when you are using hand dyes for a large project, you should knit two rows with one ball, and then two rows with another ball to help obfiscate any discrepancies in color. That sounds like a lot of work and bother, but it would save me a lot of work.

Ugg, now what? I’m going to look for the darkest balls of yarn and restart the left side. I’m hoping the disparity between the back and the front won’t be as apparent once I have the sleeves done and am wearing the silly thing.

Another good rule of thumb when you’re knitting: Don’t frog or “rippit” out late at night when you find a mistake. Wait till the next day when you’re not tired and frustrated. I’ve ripped out shoulder shaping, redone it, and gone back the next day only to realize I had it right in the first place. A tired mind can play tricks on you.

While I’m offering tidbits of advice, let’s go ahead and talk about gauge. It makes me cringe when someone says “I never swatch” or “I hate to block”. OK, that’s all well and good, but I guarantee swatching will save you from heartache and blocking will make your finished project look so much better. Believe it or not, while I enjoy the process of knitting, I also want to enjoy the end project. If my sweater is two sizes too large, or worse yet two sizes too small, I’m not going to be happy with it.

By swatching, you also get a sneak peek at the fabric you’re making. Is it going to drape nicely? Does the yarn have good stitch definition so you’ll be able to see those great cables? Does the yarn’s color pattern hide or enhance the design?

I’ve been trying to use up my stash recently; I have a lot of yarn that’s causing me guilt. So when I purchased Self-Striping Yarn Studio recently and saw the Hexagon Sweater, I had an a-ha moment. I have Sweet Georgia’s Tough Love Sock yarn just waiting to be used. It would be great for that sweater. Unfortunately, the yarn is more of a variegated rather than a self-striping. Thankfully, I had some other yarn that would work. But if I hadn’t swatched, I’d have been disappointed.

I’ve also been trying to find the perfect project for some chunky gray yarn and some cotton-bamboo in army green. While I was able to get the crocheted green to proper gauge, I didn’t like the density of the swatch. I’m not going to wear something that feels stiff and awkward. I tried the pattern in a lace-weight which has a much nicer feel, but is way too fine for the pattern.

The gray swatches are the same yarn, just different needle sizes. I’ve made guage and think I’ve found the perfect pattern. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

swatching

I know, I know, you just want to get started on your project. You don’t feel liking making some silly swatch and the idea of blocking it is ridiculous. If you want to be pleased with the end results, that bit of extra effort really makes a difference.

And now I have to carefully select the darkest balls of orangey-brown yarn, and hope for the best. Wish me luck, and happy knitting!

What are you making at your house during the rainy days of winter?

 

Learn Something New

A couple months ago, the boss was talking about a knitting technique and asked if I knew how to do it. Of course I said yes and agreed to teach a class, and then I started thinking about it. Wasn’t that the hat I made for the MR that didn’t really turn out like the pattern because I just didn’t get it? Did I really know what I was talking about?

That was the beginning of the period of brioche—not the bread, the knitting stitch. Next stop was the library where I found some books to help. Me and the MR were headed to sunny Cabo San Lucas with our extended family for a fishing trip. While the guys were out on the boat, I would have plenty of time to figure this out. After restarting the pattern five times, I realized that this was not a sit by the pool, chit-chat with your family, and sip a margarita kind of knitting project. This one needed my full attention—at least until I had the technique down.

Now, I only read part of the book before starting on my pattern, since I’m impatient that way. Nancy Marchant—brioche knitting guru—encourages knitters to drop down a needle size or two to improve the fabric. I did not. Perhaps that’s why my cowl turned into a tunic.

It’s still rather lovely, but a bit intimidating as a sample for my class. So I wrote up a cowl pattern and started making very accessible mug cozies featuring Marchant’s stitch patterns. Guess what everyone received for Christmas?

I think it’s fun to challenge yourself by learning something new, and Baby Girl wound up with a cozy cowl  in lovely alpaca as part of the bargain.

lsn-bg-cowl

This cowl was inspired by Nancy Marchant’s book Knitting Fresh Brioche using the S-Twist Pattern. After my fourth or fifth mug cozy, I decided the book was a must for my growing knit library. There are truly amazing, creative people out there willing to share their ideas with us; I’m so glad to be able to support them in this little way.

What have you been working lately? Learning anything new?

 

 

 

 

The Big, The Bad, The Broken

We love the windows, we love the view they afford, and we love the light they let in. Let’s be honest, the windows are what makes this house so special.Great Room Closer

But they can be a bit of a headache. During the cool months, I love the extra heat they allow in, but during the summer, it’s another story. It can be 75-degrees outside and 85-degrees inside. The glare is so obnoxious, we’ve had to don hats upon occasion. That’s why we went the window film route. (You can check that out here and here.)

The films have been great. They really cut down on the heat absorption and glare, but… Isn’t there always a but? Window films can cause problems. While they’re not insured for fogging, they are for breakage, and lucky us we had two windows break. Last fall is when we noticed them, and we decided to wait until spring in case the cold weather caused any other problems.

I know I said spring, but this has been the headache that never seems to end. The film company had me contact the glass company. The glass company comes to measure, but didn’t bring a large enough ladder. Come on guys; you’ve been here before. Once the glass was measured properly, they tried to order it, but the glass company no longer made one of the larger sizes that we needed.

Sadly, we were out of town, and they didn’t want to order the glass until we’d signed off on another pane from a different manufacturer that was slightly different in hue. We scheduled a meet up in September, and then the glass had to be ordered and an install time scheduled. Can you see why this is lasting forever?

Meanwhile, the film company is pushing to have the films put on before installation. Last time we had the windows replaced, there was a problem, and one was broken. My question was who would pay for the film then. It ended up being a mute point in that the glass company felt the films could pose a safety threat to their men. The film company was all like I never heard of such a silly thing.

Anyways, last Tuesday the glass guys showed up with ladders, gloves, and two very large panes of glass.

glass-install

I don’t know about you, but three grown men on ladders, huffing and puffing, using colorful language, and carrying heavy things makes me nervous. Perhaps I should have been. They were able to take out the old broken window and break the new window as they were replacing it. At least the new one isn’t as cracked as the old one. To be fair, the windows are large, slightly off, the house is over 20 years old, things have shifted, and I’m totally glad they’re the ones doing it.

This being the smaller of the two windows they were replacing, I decided to go to knit group and let the MR hold down the fort. The second install went off without a hitch. Of course by the time the second window was removed, the sun had broken through the morning fog. It was a glorious day—just the kind of day that makes ladybugs swarm on a sunny, southern exposure with easy access to the indoors.

So in another two weeks, the new window should arrive, they’ll schedule an install time, I’ll call the film company, and schedule them, and maybe we’ll have it all taken care of by Christmas—if we’re lucky.

Meanwhile, I finished some rather lovely projects at knit group. The socks are for Sweet Miss. When your family travels to Italy for two weeks and you stay home because you’re a grown up, and have a job, and are responsible, you get a pair of hand-knit socks. The most complicated hand-knit socks I’ve ever made. The poncho/cowl/shawlette is mitered, garter stitch squares joined at an angle. I had some Noro that I knit up into tiny squares and hated, so I took it out and made something lovely in colors perfect for fall.

knitting-projects

Any projects household projects going on forever and ever? What are you knitting?

 

 

 

 

 

On the Needles

I was thinking about it the other day. I haven’t shared recent knitting and crochet projects for awhile, and with multiple trips back and forth to Oregon over the last month coupled with down time at the yarn shop, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to knit and crochet to my hearts content.

So here’s a few of the projects from the last month. You have to remember that I finished Sweet Miss’ blanket in time for graduation, and I spent a few days on the local yarn shop tour back in May, so I was itching to start something new, and quick, and pretty, and easy.

I spent most of the trip back and forth to graduation designing a “Shoulderette”. It’s somewhere between a shrug and a shawl.  The pattern is free with purchase at Quintessential Knits. I talked Baby Girl and Cocoa into modeling for me.

Shoulderette Collage

Some time in June, I decided to make the crocheted cowl from All Wound Up. I followed the instructions exactly including the hook size even though it seemed way larger than I would have chosen.  Sometimes it pays to listen to your instincts.

Cowl Xwide & tape measure

But it was a cowl, and can it really be too wide? Does gauge really matter? Yes, yes it can and does. It was supposed to be about 34-inches wide not nearly 40 inches. I ended up taking it all out and starting over again. It wound up much closer to the expected size.

Cowl Take 2

I think it will be great come fall.

Cowl Modeling

I also made the scarf from Acorn Street Shop. I wasn’t excited about the yarn they featured with their LYS pattern, but I had a few skeins of beige-to-peach at home that were waiting to be used. I was totally surprised as I worked up the yarn to come across vibrant coral.

Before I blocked my scarf, it looked a little, OK a lot, wonky.

Wonky scarf

But that’s what blocking wires are for. They turn a crazy looking scarf into a thing of beauty. I simply soaked the scarf for about 20 minutes in a sink full of warm water with a few drops of Eucalan (wool wash). Then I weaved in the wires and used T-pins to move it into place. Let it dry and you have a thing of beauty.

Blocked ScarfOK, so maybe the lime green beach towel isn’t the best backdrop, but you get the idea.  The yarn I used was in a finer weight than the pattern called for, but with two balls of yarn, I wound up with a lovely scarf. I’m quite pleased.

Scarf Selfie

I’m not a big selfie fan, put I looked “deer in the headlights” crazy when I ran in front of the camera on the self-timer for the other photo. You’re just going to have to deal. Wrinkle remover is a paid feature on PicMonkey, so you get me in all my glory. 🙂

I also crocheted Country Yarn’s featured pattern the Lattice & Blossom Scarf. Have I mentioned that tencel is a lovely fiber to work with? Or that crocheting allows you to scream through patterns oh-so quickly? This tencel yarn has beautiful drape and sheen along with a richness of color.

Lattice & Blossom Scarf

I have been knitting up the Tea Cozy Summer Poncho in a beatuiful sik blend and have another road trip in the works, so it’ll be done soon. I’ve been working on a sample pattern for the yarn shop using an ombre yarn that moves from beige to taupe to dark brown and back. By pulling from one end of the ball and then from the other, I wound up with some beautiful contrast. Some of those new yarns make colorwork a no-brainer.

I also saw some recycled t-shirt yarn gift bags on Etsy and have been inspired. All those pot holders I made a few years ago that are really too loosely woven to be “safe” pot holders I’ve been reworking into gift bags. The yarn sheds like crazy, and I’ve learned new ways of making a long length of yarn rather than making so many knots… Live and learn.

I’ll share some of my gift bags in the monthly recap. One good thing about being the only part of the country that’s rainy and overcast this summer, you’re totally content staying indoors and playing with yarn.

I did send Sweet Miss and her Fella’ home this weekend with broccoli, blueberries, beets, and some giant cucumbers from the garden and orchard. And her roommate also received a jar of jam ensconced in a crocheted t-shirt yarn gift bag.

It might break 80-degrees this week for the first time in July. I think things are looking up.

Any projects in your queue?

 

 

A Piece of My Heart

This is a week of celebration. Sweet Miss and Her Fella’ are graduating from college.

Time marches on. I still remember Sweet Miss and Baby Girl as little teenies filling our house with shouts and laughter, dancing and music, and some tears. BG is winding up her first year of college, and Sweet Miss is ready to take on the world.

Last year you may remember, I made a blanket for BG in her school colors.  I made the mistake of telling her sister that when BG was homesick, she could wrap herself up in the blanket, and it’d be like a hug from home. That’s when I heard that no one ever did that for her… OK, so sometimes it takes me a while to come up with these brilliant ideas. Let’s face it, those first-borns are guinea pigs.

With that in mind, I started working on a blanket for SM in late winter. It followed me everywhere and haunted my dreams. Last weekend, I made the decision that it was done, or at least I was done.

I hope Sweet Miss loves it and knows how much she is truly loved. We’re so proud of you.

SM Quilt

Sweet Miss’ school colors are orange and black, but she’s graduating, and I didn’t want to spend all that time and energy on a Halloween blanket. Hope she sticks with the beach theme for a while.

Here’s a little bit of the story behind the Beekeeper’s Quilt.

Dear Sweet Miss,

As I was sewing these blocks together, I laughed to myself and said I’d have to tell you all the places your quilt has traveled and the people it’s met along the way.

You see, your blanket has been my constant companion for months.  It’s known evenings of wine and laughter on the deck with your dad, and long car rides.  It’s hung out with Baby Girl in studio for hours and has been worked on in many a hotel room.  It’s filled quiet days at the yarn shop and spent a sunny afternoon at a park in Corvallis.

It’s laughed with ladies at knitting group talking of grandkids, husbands, and weddings, and it inspired a mom going through a difficult time on the flight back from Maui.  

It’s flown first class and coach and was almost derailed when I lost one of the needles on a sandy beach in Hawaii.  Poolside in Cancun turned out to be a safer bet.

It’s watched Castle and Bones and listened to good books and bad.  The pattern has been laid out and rearranged by Cocoa’s tail and the cleaning lady’s vacuuming.

The yarn is a mix of fancy hand-dyes, sturdy wools, and bits and pieces from my stash.  I picked some up at our little yarn shop here at home, some from one of the shops in Eugene, and another skein when the yarn tour took me to Seattle.  I had some sock yarn that I knew would never become socks, and some left over from a favorite scarf. 

Some were the perfect color, others added depth or a bit of light.  A few obnoxious hexagons  I had on hand were reworked into stripes that subdued the hues.

Sweet Miss, know that all 375 of these blocks were made with love.  That you were a wonderful child who brought light and joy into our lives, and now you’re an amazing woman with so many great things ahead of you.

Like this blanket, I hope in your life you will know hard work and laughter.  I hope you will explore new places and enjoy quiet days at home.  I hope you will be surrounded by those you love and the friends you’ve made along the way.  I hope no matter what you’ll work through problems and change the world for good.

The funny thing is, I know you will.

So here’s a little bit of home, a bit of my heart, to wrap yourself up in when you need a hug.

Love,

    Mom

(You can check out Baby Girl’s Quilt at The Tale of a Blanket and the Books That Got Me There. This pattern is the Beekeeper’s Quilt by Stephanie Dosen published by tiny OWL knits.)

SM CloseUp Quilt

 

As Society Changes…

That old song by the Buggles, Video Killed the Radio Star, has been running through my head lately. I’ve been thinking about how our society has changed and the price it’s paid for those changes.

It was the local yarn shop tour last week, and I visited 15 of the 28 shops on the list. I spent hours in the car, some with friends and some on my own, following the nav trying to find these little gems tucked away in strip malls, neighborhoods, and industrial parks.

You might be saying, now Kim, you can just go online and have any yarn you want delivered. While for the most part, that’s true, but then I’d be missing out on so much. I know the local shop I work for, Quintessential Knits, offers yarns handspun especially for us in our own little town. The owner features local dyers and spinners from Portland to Bellingham. These specialty yarns don’t have a huge online presence.

But it’s not just fancy yarns, it’s the comradery and fellowship of knitters, crocheters, and spinners—all artists in their own right. On the tour, the shops share their creativity with original patterns. Some were over-the-top and amazing, and some were simple and accessible.

While I can google an unknown term or stitch pattern and click on a youtube video that will explain everything to me. The lady on the video won’t compliment me on my yarn choice, laugh at my jokes, or ask about my project. So while it’s very helpful, it’s not very human.

One of the customers stopping by our shop last week had driven four hours, straight from work, to start on the tour. When she told me all this, I mentioned the large shop in her home town. She responded that shop was really big, but it had no soul. These little yarn shops have character, charm, and soul in spades.

Yarn & Pins

One of the shops on the tour featured yarn made in Seattle with colorways named for women scientists. I picked up Madame Curie in vibrant red, because we can all use a little color in our lives.

I made my last stop across from a fabric store I’ve shopped at for years. It’s been the source of curtains, Christmas pj’s, Halloween costumes, and countless home dec projects. As I made my way to the front of the store to pick up some pillow forms, I saw a huge banner:  Going out of Business. While I was happy for the deep discount on some outdoor fabric, I was sad to think of it closing. I couldn’t help but think of all the creativity this store has fostered over the years.

Halloween 04

Sweet Miss and Baby Girl on Halloween 2004. Some girls want to be princesses; mine wanted to be a vampire and the Bride of Frankenstein. Hancock Fabrics made their wishes come true with a little help from Mom, of course.

Sure you can order tons of beautiful fabric online in the comfort of your own home, but you don’t get to see the true color and the hand of the fabric on a monitor. In the name of savings and convenience, we’re losing some of our individuality.

I hope these little mom and pop shops won’t become a thing of the past.

Do you have a favorite, locally-owned place you like to shop at?

 

 

Her Mama’s Girl

Sweet Miss returned from her Irish adventure safe and sound with gifts for everyone.  The MR received a Guinness mug and a rugby scarf, Baby Girl received a beautiful aran scarf, and Sweet Miss brought me 450 yards of beautiful wool yarn.

IMG_2603

When she texted me that she’d spent a lot of time talking to a woman who spun her own wool, I was hoping.  I guess she knows her mama well.

Thank you Sweet Miss!  She claimed that after a night of flying, fresh out of the shower, with no makeup  on she looked horrible.  Ah foolish youth, you’ll always look beautiful to me.

Now I have to decide what to do with my new found bounty. Sweet Miss mentioned that the contact info was included just in case…

So many patterns and only one skein.

How do you decide?