Monday, October 23, 2006

When will I learn?

If you read yesterday's post, you'll know that I have trouble estimating the difficulty/time suck of sewing. I attribute this to my lack of sewing experience. I sew only a couple times a year, usually costumes for Halloween, and when given a choice of similar costumes, I always choose to make the most difficult one. Because it looks better. When Nina was in 1st grade, she was Snow White. Every pattern company makes at least one Snow White costume. Instead of choosing the pattern that had blue sleeves with red ribbon attached to the outside, giving them the "feel" of slashed sleeves, I chose the one that actually looked like slashed sleeves. Each sleeve took 5 hours to construct.

There was the year (2003) Nina wanted to be a Renaissance Lady and Sophia wanted to be a Flower Fairy

Aside from the fact that satin is a pain to sew with (until you discover why you own pinking shears), I had to make a corset-like thingy with stays, install grommets, and sew on a bazillion yards of metallic trim. Tip: look at the price of metallic trim before you have it measured and cut and you're handed the slip to take to the cashier.

The next year, we had a Sorceress and a Princess:

Again with the satin, but this time I had to work with satin and sheer fabric. That was the year I first used my pinking shears.

Then, in 2005, I took the girls to seethe movie Bride and Prejudice and they fell in love with the costumes. They wanted to be Indian girls for Halloween. So my friend Monica had her mother buy Salwar Kameez fabric in India (where she lives) and bring it with her that summer when she came to Minnesota for a visit. (Here's and interesting aside: "Salwar" is the name for the pants and "Kameez" is the name for the tunic. Notice how Kameez sounds like Camisa, which sounds like chemise? Don't you love how languages are related?) Unfortunately, no one made patterns for traditional Indian clothing at that time, because people don't sew for themselves in India. They go to a tailor, get measured, and a couple days later, they pick up their outfits. So I had to wing it. (Naturally, this year we found a pattern. I also noticed there are fish patterns, which didn't exist the year Nina was 2 and wanted to be Rainbow Fish. Still no pattern for a violin costume, though) I found a website that showed how to make a tunic, and I cut out the pants using the pajama bottom pattern I use for the girls' PJs. I think I spent less than 2 hours on each costume, which has to be a record. Michael sent these pictures to the people in India who do work for him, and they were delighted. Monica's mom was pretty tickled, too.

What does this have to do with knitting? Well, I'm a more accomplished knitter than seamstress. I keep thinking that means I can better estimate how long it'll take to do something I haven't done before (as opposed to knowing I can do a fruit cap for a baby in one evening). Last night, I decided to work on the finishing for Nina's afghan. I had already sewn 5 strips of 4 squares together. All I needed to do was sew the strips together and weave in all the ends. (That's so funny to me now. "All I needed to do...") I started at 7 o'clock, figuring it'd take me a couple hours.

At midnight, this is what I had:

I gave up for the night when I realized I'd sewn one of the squares in the 4th strip upside down. Looks like I'm in for another couple 4 or 5 hours.

I did make this first, though, for the Dulaan Project:

It looks a little lumpy because I have one of Nina's cami tops stuffed inside to give it some body.

Simple Hat
Yarn: Cascade 220 worsted weight wool, doubled
Needles: Knit Picks Options circular needle, 8 mm (U.S. size 11), using Magic Loop
Gauge: 2.75 sts/in; 4 rows/in (not that row gauge matters so much)
Size: approximately 19" circumference, to fit a child 6-10 years old
Pattern: My own, based on excellent sizing guidelines in the Yarn Harlot's book, Knitting Rules!

CO 54 sts. K1P1 rib for 4 rounds. Switch to stockinette. Knit till hat is 6" from cast on edge. Decrease as follows: *(K7,K2tog), repeat from * 5 more times (48 sts); Next round: *(K6, K2tog), repeat from * 5 more times (42 sts); continue decreasing in this manner, knitting 1 stitch fewer before the K2tog each round. After the final decrease round (which will be K2tog all the way around), cut the yarn, leaving a longish tail (maybe 8"), thread the yarn through the remaining 6 loops and fasten off. Or you could knit an I-cord for a few inches and then tie it in a knot. Whatever. I'm taking the "think simple" advice to heart.

I'm working on a way to line the hat with polar fleece to make it warmer, but my prototype didn't quite work out. Gotta work on that.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

One of these things, part II

Regia Silk, unbelievably soft. Purchased to make the husband some Broadstreet Mittens because his office temperature is so low he wears his coat while he works. Sometimes he types with his winter gloves on. He could turn up the thermostat, but then the computers (of which there are many) would suffer.

So I snatched two balls of the Regia, which were in the same bin at the LYS, and bought them. I ran one through the ball winder. Then I ran the other through. It wasn't until I set the second ball next to the first ball that I realized they were different colors. I couldn't tell while they were both in their original balls, nor after the first was wound and they sat next to each other on the table. No, I couldn't tell until it was past the point of being able to take one back to the LYS and exchange it.

So there you have it. Regia Silk, in colors 90 and 91. I don't know which is which.

Otherwise, very little knitting has been accomplished this weekend. Just this:

Michael told me the other day that one of this best customers just had a baby girl. Then he says to me, "What would be a good baby gift?"

Take a moment to ponder the craziness of that statement. The man is surrounded by yarn. Most evenings he has to arrange himself on the three square inches of the bed not taken up by me, my knitting, and the dog.

After I had a moment to compose myself, I responded with, "How 'bout some socks and a hat?"

To which he said (get this), "That seems like an awful lot of work."

I would have banged my head against the counter, but then I'd have a headache, which would make it hard to knit.

I looked through my baby patterns and found something I liked. It's part of a Dale collection. When I get the rest of the stuff made, I'll post the particulars. The pattern for the booties has to be one of the worst written patterns I've ever encountered. It can't be the translation, because the problem is with the numbers. There are so many errors in stitch numbers I can hardly believe it. The directions for decreasing around the toe are so awful I ended up rewriting the pattern in a way that made some sort of sense. I had to. You can't cast aside something this cute, just because the pattern writing is terrible.

So why have I not spent much time knitting this weekend? Because I've been chained to my sewing machine, making Sophia's Halloween costume so she'd have it in time for a party this afternoon. I finished it 10 minutes before she left, which left time only for me to comb her wet hair and put it up in pig tails. Sadly, no picture, but I'll get one later.

When am I going to learn that the brand name "Simplicity" is a misnomer? When will I learn to recognize that pleats and the requirement of 7 yards of trim that must be sewn on both long edges to keep it down are not the signs of an easy-to-make costume? Apparently, not this year.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

One of these things is not like the other

Here's what I've been working on (inbetween other things) for the past week:

Tina's mittens, almost done, it would seem. (How crazy is that perspective? My feet look Barbie-sized and the mittens look Gigantor-sized.)

Unfortunately, the one on the left is poofier than the one on the right. This is what happens when you knit the first of a pair of something using a new technique (in this case, mittens with thrums) and then you wait a really long time to knit the second one. I knit the first one last December/January. (It's been so long I forget when it was.). This is about the time I knit my first Pomatomus sock, using Norwegian purling, because I couldn't purl Continental, and my method of throwing the yarn when I knit English requires anchoring the needle in the junction of my hip and thigh, which doesn't work so well with DPNs.

My wrists ached after I finished the first sock, so I waited to knit the second one. I waited three months, during which time I got better at the Norwegian purl technique. By "better" I mean that my purl stitches weren't so loose compared to my knit stitches. As you can probably imagine, the second Pomatomus was a bit ... skinnier than the first. A bit...shorter. Just a bit, but noticibly shorter. Those socks were a gift for a friend, and by the time I'd finished the second sock, she'd sold her first book. (Treasure, by Helen Brenna, Harlequin Superromance, February 2007) and I wanted desperately to give them to her in celebration of her hard work and persistence. I had a decision to make: knit a third Pomatomus (something I didn't think I had the fortitude to do, at least not before she'd sold another book or two), or give Helen socks that didn't quite match?

She wanted the socks. She loved the socks. She loved the yarn (Koigu). She apparently loved the fact that they DIDN'T quite match. Mostly she loved that I made them for her, which is all a knitter really wants from the recipients of her work.

Back to Tina and her thrummed mittens: do I knit a third thrummed mitten for her? Or do I give her one puffy mitten and one not-so-puffy. I tried to tell myself the difference in puffiness was due to the age of the first one -- it has been turned inside out a lot, and tried on a fair number of times, so I decided the thrums had just felted down and that's why the first mitten was flatter.

I tried them on. The skinny one is warm. The puffy one is REALLY warm. The kind of warm that will block the coldest Minnesota winds. The kind of warm I was shooting for when I started these things.

I'm going to need more black Cascade 220.

In other knitting disaster news, the socks I was knitting (for yet another friend) weren't working out.

Here's one side of the sock:

Here's the other:

This isn't pooling so much as oceaning, and it's what I dislike about handpainted yarn. I love it in the twisted hanks, with all its beauty and potential, but not so much on the needles, where it can be unpredictable, even unattractive. These socks were for a friend who loves blue and yellow. I spent six months searching for yarn that had blues and yellows in it. Perfect. Except they were for a friend who asked for a scarf, not socks. For a friend who isn't a fan of handmade anything. I didn't think a pair of handknit, handpainted, pooling oceaning socks would go over that well. I didn't see the point in expending all that time and energy for a gift that would be underappreciated. So I decided I'd give her what she asked for, sort of.

A scarf. In blues.

Garter stitch, made tolerable by short rows and yarn with a better color mix (Mountain Colors...something. Mountain Goat? Could that be right? Why can't I keep track of yarn labels?)

Sure is purty.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Baby, it's cold outside

Which means it's time to get moving on the December (Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Birthday) gifts. It also means that today's pictures were taken with indoor lighting, rendering the colors even less life-like than they look when I take them in natural lighting.

In no particular order, these are my current projects:
Again, we have this, for Nina:

Close, but no cigar afghan. Yet. Although, if the seaming continues to drive me insane, I may just end up smoking it. I am also in denial that the green square in the upper left corner may have been knit with a 4mm needle, instead of a 4.5mm needle. All my needles in those sizes were purchased overseas, so they don't have U.S. sizes stamped on them, and I tend to forget that it's the 4.5 that's a size U.S. 7, not the 4.0.

I still need to install the @#$% zipper in my Samus cardi (no more pics of this thing till it's done and I'm wearing it)

Then there's my FLAK, which has been at the bottom of my very large in-progress box since March.

Now that I've taken it out of the box, I'm in love with it again. I think we'll be seeing this thing grow very soon.


At 12 o'clock we have green and orange baby socks, made of leftovers from my own green/orange mystery yarn socks I made for myself. I actually finished the second one today and then frogged it when I realized how not-identical these socks turned out. I either knit the second one on different needles, or I was very tense. I'm going with the stupid mistake, because if I go with tension issues, my tenuous hold on sanity will become a free fall into an abyss.

At 1 o'clock are GI Dennis socks in boring, manly beige for my mom's husband, Al.

From 3-4 o'clock are Jaywalkers for a friend, which need to be frogged (I could tell after I turned the heel that the first one was too small; I need a little recovery time before I can frog all that Jaywalking)

At 7:30-ish are the socks I started after frogging the baby sock. They're for a friend who loves blue and yellow. It's not easy to find a yarn with yellows and blues. I know, because I searched for about 8 months before I found this. This yarn is 100% merino, hand painted Gypsy Girl Creations yarn from Stone Barn Fibers. The color is Lagoon Nebula. Or Nebula Lagoon, I can't remember. I knit my rpm socks from a different colorway of Gypsy Girl merino and I love them.

At 11 o'clock are Pretty Petals socks for my mom, in Koigu. She loves daffodils and this yarn reminded me of them.

Mittens and hats

Thrummed mittens for a friend in black Cascade 220, with royalish blue thrums

Thrummed mittens for another friend in Cascade Quattro purples, with black thrums (Okay, technically, these aren't in progress, but I promised these to my friend last December, so they'd better get started, and soon. Just as soon as I re-invent the pattern I created for the black and blue one. I seem to have, er, misplaced it. Nothing like counting black stitches to figure out what you did the first time. I'm pretty sure I understand now why my hold on sanity is so tenuous.

Blue baby hat to (sort of) match the blue striped socks I made last week. I finished the hat before I finished this blog entry, so that one is actually off the list now!

And still, there is the Master Knitter thing to deal with: re-knitting the hat project because I screwed up the gauge on the first one, and knitting a new cable swatch. Probably something else, but I either forgot it or I'm repressing. Either is possible.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A face in the crowd

I tend to think of myself as a fairly generous knitter. After all, I knit for my friends and family often before I knit for myself. In fact, I was knitting for myself back in August at a Bar Mitzvah party when the uncle of the boy who'd been Bar Mitzvahed said, "You knit? You need to talk to my wife." His wife, it turned out, wasn't at the party, but when I found out what she started--what she continues to do--I had to get involved.

So Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday evening, this is what I did:

All it needs now is a face.

Dead Sock Jaywalking
In other news, all smugness I have ever had for knitting my Jaywalkers and having them fit perfectly is out the window. I started a new pair last week sometime for a friend, and had Sophia try them on, because she has the same size feet. No dice.

Is that a frog I hear croaking in my knitting bag?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fly away home

I started these socks this summer some time, using Opal Ladybird colorway, and then tucked them in one of my sock yarn drawers (yes, I have several) and forgot about them. As typical of me, I knit one sock and then started on something else, so all I had to do was knit one sock and I had a pair!

I cast on at Nina's swim meet Tuesday, worked on them during Sophia's Wednesday ice skating lesson, and then on Friday, while waiting for a friend to arrive at the airport, then finished Saturday morning during her writing workshop.

Yarns: Opal Rainforest, Ladybug colorway
Needles: Inox dpns, US size 2/3.75mm
Technique: cuff down, heel flap, kitchenered toes using Lucy Neatby's toe chimney
Gauge: about 8 sts/in; 60 sts

Looks like I forgot to include pictures of Nina's afghan last time. Here are the 19 afghan squares, with space for the 20th, laid out (without the green squares having been blocked yet)