Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Not-so-Pretty Petals

Mystery Solved
Kill Me Now

I brought the short-of-Koigu socks up from the laundry room yesterday to show to a friend who was over receiving sock knitting advice. After she left, I placed one sock on top of the other found myself puzzled, because they didn't appear to be the same size. How could that be? After I knit the 6 pattern repeats on the leg, I counted the number of rows on the first sock's heel flap 158 times to make sure the second one would be exactly the same length. I counted every row of the first sole to make sure I knit exactly the same number for the second.

Then I lined them up on the counter heel-to-heel, instead of cuff-to-cuff.

The pattern says to work six repeats on the leg, or however many desired. Apparently, I desired five repeats in August, which accounts for why I had some yarn leftover on that sock but not the second sock. Of course, while I was counting heel stitches and rows of knitting on the foot, I could have counted the number of lace repeats on the frigging sock leg.

Note to self: tell Cynthia she may want to search for sock advice elsewhere.

The genius women at knitting group today listened to my tale of woe, and then one of them (Connie? Beth?) suggested cutting the leg right above the heel flap of the longer one and ripping out the extra pattern repeat and then Kitchenering it back together. There are four rows of stockinette between the end of the lace and beginning of the heel flap, so it'll be reasonably easy to graft.

Thank goodness for that period of mourning I must go through after I discover a soul-crushing knitting error. Can you imagine how upset I'd be if I had ripped out the whole foot before someone suggested grafting?

In other news...
I have 9 days to finish 2 halves of 2 thrummed mittens, plus the extra thrummed mitten for Tina. Because I have a deadline, I am actively avoiding it by designing kitschy flamingo socks, involving eyelash yarn and beads for embellishment. More on that another day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Balloon in a bowl

Nothing like a cool project that doesn't take a lot of time, and also teaches me something new. Here, you see the moebius bowl, pre-felting.

That Cat Bordhi, she can write instructions. Because that moebius cast on is not something just anyone could figure out.

I'm a multi-tasking mom. I sat on the couch, finishing up the decrease rounds of the moebius bowl while Sophia did homework and asked me questions, then I secured the tail, threw the thing into the wash with some dishtowels, and while they were agitating, I slipped into the "craft room" next to the laundry area of the basement and finished up a pair of pajama bottoms that needed the safety-pinned elastic sewn together and the casing hole sewn shut, and then the leg hems finished. By that time, the agitation was complete, I searched the family closet for a balloon and voila! Manos moebius.

While in the laundry room, I gave the Pretty Petals socks that spent the night drying on the wooden rack a squeeze and contemplated how much my mother really needed a pair of socks, particularly that pair. Very soft, those Koigu socks.

This morning, the balloon had deflated, but it had done its job shaping the bowl:

Again, I'm not sure I want to part with this bowl.

Mano a Manos

I didn't get out of the yarn shop yesterday with just a $4 skein of leftover yarn. I bought a hank of Cascade 220 in black, for Tina's third mitten, and this:

Manos del Uruguay, color 116, which I believe is called "Caribe." I've always thought of Manos as a rustic yarn, but it is, in fact, very soft -- a mixture of merino and Corriedale. I want a whole sweater made out of this stuff. I'm sure it wouldn't cost more than two or three hundred dollars. Sigh. Maybe a hat.

I cast on immediately (well, after I finished the toe on the Pretty Petals sock) to make a Moebius bowl. I completed the handle and made it half way or so down the bowl when I put it down last night. I probably would have kept going till I had finished, if it weren't a school day today. I like the 4 1/2 day weekend. Once the cooking was finished, I got a whole lot of knitting done.

The bowl will be felted and then sent to my math-professor father, who will undoubtedly appreciate the art of the moebius bowl. I plan to make a moebius cat bed once my holiday gift knitting is done. I have this crazy idea that the cat won't sit on my arm while I type, if I give him a bed to curl up in. He sits on my arm, because I won't let him sit here:

Cat-induced writer's block.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I forgive you, Koigu

My LYS, Needlework Unlimited, opened today at noon and I was there at 12:01.
First, they had the yarn I needed. It was even the same dye lot, but the lovely woman working back by the Koigu display told me something incredible when I told her all I really needed was about 5 yards. She said that Koigu sends NU the "loose ends" and that they had them on a table over by the needle point supplies. I didn't know what she meant by loose ends, until she explained that at the end of a dye lot, they have leftovers that aren't enough for a whole 50 gr skein, and they send them to NU, which in turn sells them for 25 cents a gram.

There were two of these "loose end" skeins in my colorway. One was a 35 gr skein (waaayyy more than I needed) in the same dye lot as the socks, and another was a 16 gr skein (still more than I needed, but less than half of the other one)in a different dye lot that, oddly, seemed to match better, colorwise, although the percentage of light green seemed quite a bit higher. There isn't really any dark green in it at all. It's the toe, though, so who cares? And $4, not $12, which made me very happy.

The next time I buy Koigu, I'm searching that bucket o' leftover goodness for a little toe insurance, either matching, or coordinating. Either way, it's a wonderful thing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh, Noro, how I covet thee...

There are two types of knitting I'm not crazy about: scarves and afghans, mostly because of the rectangular sameness of it. Add garter stitch to it, and the revulsion is complete. I'm not clear at all about why the most popular first project is a garter stitch scarf. It's a wonder anyone goes on to knit anything else. My first project was a sleeveless, v-neck cotton sweater. It never occured to me to knit anything else. In fact, I probably didn't knit anything but sweaters for 10 years, when I started making fruit caps for babies (mine, and then others).

A year ago, for Christmas, I gave each of my close friends a gift certificate for a hand-knit item of their choice. To my dismay, three (three!) of them chose scarves. One wanted an Aran-style/cable-y scarf, which I happily knit, once I corrected the three major errors in the pattern.*

Another one wanted a black (black!) novelty-yarn scarf with bits of bright colors strewn through it. I finished that one in an evening. The third specified colors she liked, but nothing else. I made her a multi-directional diagonal scarf (still needs fringe, though). It's a garter stitch pattern, made tolerable by short rows and frequent increasing and decreasing. I was finished. Completado. No more scarves.

Until I happened to be perusing the Lion Brand website (I'm still not sure why I was doing that) and noticed they had a cashmere blend (more like a merino blended with a bit of cashmere and nylon) at a quite-reasonable price, which was discounted (a week later, the price went up and the discount went down). They also had a free pattern for what I felt was a very interesting item: the reversible cable scarf. Yes, a scarf. I ordered the yarn, and that was it. Until I found myself at the Knit Picks website a few minutes later (I think I was ordering more tips for my Options needles when I accidentally filled in the fields to search for cashmere blends.) Turns out Knit Picks has an even nicer cashmere blend yarn - Panache - which is baby alpaca, cashmere, silk, and superfine merino. And wouldn't you know it, there was a free Windowpane Seaman's Scarf pattern for that yarn. The next thing I knew, packages were arriving at my door filled with yarn I barely remembered ordering. I think this is the knitter's equivalent to a blackout caused by excessive drinking.

Somewhere in there, I found myself at the liquor store yarn shop five blocks from my house fondling Noro Kureyon and dreaming about Lizard Ridge afghans. Afghans! I had just finished Nina's Taste of Aran afghan, and I was thinking about making another afghan? Afghans are like scarves, only bigger. How could I be contemplating another afghan? I bought 9 balls of Kureyon that day -- every colorway the LYS had that I found appealing. Then I went online to find more colorways, and somehow I ended up with 10 more colors on a wishlist.

* I just looked at the designer's website, and she posted a corrected pattern just two days after I emailed her back in January. Which means I can happily recommend this pattern! It's absolutely gorgeous. It's Alison's Scarf by Annie Modesitt. I came across it originally on an Internet search, and then later saw it in my 2006 Pattern a Day calendar, too.

Climbing Lizard Ridge
Yesterday, I made this, the first of 24 squares:

Noro Kureyon, color 102. Everyone in the house finds this square repulsive, except for me. Michael deemed the square "'70s colors," Nina and Sophia thought some of the colors were okay, "except for the purple," only they didn't agree on which color was purple. Sophia wanted to know what I was planning to do "with that weird afghan you're making." This is the girl who huddles under the thin rayon chenille throw I bought at Costco. What possible use could this family, who lives in Minnesota, have for a wool afghan? Hmmmm.

After I made the square, I worked on my mom's Pretty Petals socks for a couple hours, getting past the heel flap, heel turn, and the gusset pick-up. A few more days and they'll be done!

Then I went down to the basement, where I had the Knit Picks cashmere stored, and knit the first of (approximately) five skeins the Seaman's scarf will take.

While I worked on this, Michael and I watched Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," trying not to get too depressed about the state of the environment and global warming.

All in all, a good knitting day, except for the derogatory remarks from the peanut gallery.

But back to the knitting group the other day, someone mentioned that WEBS had good prices on Noro and that when you bought a certain quantity, you got a nice discount. I like Noro and I like discounts. So this morning, I went to the WEBS site, clicked on Noro, and guess what I found? Noro has a new cashmere blend, Called Noro Cashmere Island! It's a dk weight, and I like the colors. I started calculating how much of it I would need for a cardigan, what my discount would be, etc., completely forgetting that I had come to look for Kureyon for my Lizard Ridge afghan. You know what else I found out, while Googling for more pictures of Noro Cashmere Island? Noro makes yarn for machine knitting. I have a knitting machine. I have two knitting machines: my SIL's old bulky-weight, completely manual knitting machine, and my "regular" weight, quite-computerized knitting machine that I haven't used for 10 years.

I really have to stop Googling for yarn. Although, have you been to the Philosopher's Wool website recently?

I had to recharge my camera before I could download the pictures. While that was happening, I worked on my mom's Pretty Petals socks. As I headed toward the toe, I began worrying about having enough yarn. Koigu is on the skimpy side of yardage for socks, and I'd run out of Koigu when I made my first Pomatomus sock, but that was a 72-stitch pattern (Pretty Petals is only 64 sts), and I was just getting the hang of Norwegian purling, so I was using more yarn than I should have, which I could tell after I bought a 3rd skein mail-order, spent two months knitting other things and getting better at Norwegian purl, and then knitting the second Pomatomus sock using just one skein of Koigu and finding that sock was a bit narrower than the first. But I digress...

The first Pretty Petals sock, knit this past summer in time for my mother to try it on when she was here for a visit, used most of a skein of Koigu, but I had enough left over that I didn't worry about the second skein. Unfortunately, I used the leftovers from that skein as scrap yarn for various other socks. I say "unfortunately," because here's what happened last night when I was about half-way through the toe decreases:

I need about five yards of this. If my LYS, where I bought this last spring, doesn't have any, I'm going to have to rip out the toes of both and knit them in green. Koigu apparently doesn't make this colorway any more, and googling for KPPPM P149 gives me exactly one hit: this blog. (Note: I have since discovered that I misread the handwritten label for this yarn. It's actually P140, which I can find online. Thank goodness.) I have put out an APB to several yahoo groups and the TKGA forum, and I sent a note to Shelly, asking her if she has any in her impressive sock yarn leftovers stash (sadly, she does not). I actually filled out Koigu's Contact Form last night, asking them if they had any in their backroom, gathering dust, but clicking on the Submit button resulted in a minor explosion and a request for a login id and password.

Koigu, I love thee, but from now on, I'm knitting you toe up.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yay, it's almost Thanksgiving!

My favorite holiday of the year, because it's all about food and family. Nothing to do with religion. I've been making Thanksgiving dinner since I was 13 years old, which works out to mmfff-1 years. There have been a few years when I didn't make it, but I enjoy the planning, the preparation, and the eating. Any time I can get other people to come over, I invite them.

On the menu this year:
Gingered Delicata Squash Soup
Green salad (courtesy the mil)
Honey Wheat bread (Sophia makes that in the bread machine)
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Cranberry conserve
Braised Brussels sprouts
Crockpot Spicy Glazed Carrots
Two-tone Roasted Potatoes*
Twice-baked potatoes (for the kids, who don't like sweet potatoes, even when coated with cinnamon, chili, garlic and roasted to perfection)
Brown rice/parmesan cheese casserole (courtesy of sil)

*"Two-tone" because the recipe calls for baking potatoes and sweet potatoes. I use just sweet potatoes.

for dessert:
Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry-Apple crisp
Melted-Center Hot Fudge Cakes

That's a lot of food for six people, but it's Thanksgiving and I can't help myself. I like everything on the menu (except the carrots, as yet, because haven't made those before), but everyone else has at least one thing they don't care for. No one likes pumpkin pie, except for me (and now Sophia), but I decided years ago that was no reason not to make it, because I love it. More leftovers for me! Yay. There are things not on our menu that other families always have. Stuffing. Gravy. Green bean casserole. Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows (Hasn't anyone tasted a plain sweet potato? Why on earth would you need to add any sugar?). Jellied cranberry sauce where you can see the ridges from the can. Food snob, that's me.

The recipes come from a variety of places -- the newspaper, various cookbooks, the Internet, TV shows. Every year I try a couple new things, usually a vegetable dish I hope the kids will like. Every year, the kids will at least taste some of the "favorites" on the menu and are gradually accepting things as they see them every year.

This afternoon I'll be making pie, prepping the chocolate cakes (after the ramekins I ordered arrive), making the brine for the turkey, so it'll be cool tomorrow morning. The cranberry conserve was taken care of yesterday, so that the flavors have time to meld.

Before the cooking starts, though, I'm off to my knitting group!

Monday, November 20, 2006

What have I done lately?

Mittens for Ro, in progress:

This is not an accurate representation of this color. The yarn is more purply, less blue. It has more red in it than is shown here.

I decided to do 2 mittens on one circular needle, to avoid a repeat of the unmatched mitten problem I had with Tina's thrummed mittens. Turns out I hate that, so I moved one of the mittens to another cable and decided to do 2 at once on 2 separate needles. A couple rows on one, then a couple rows on the other. They're going much faster that way.

Yarn: Cascade Quattro in 4 (surprise, surprise) shades of purple, with black thrums. This roving came from a sheep with curlier hair than the blue roving I used for Tina's mittens.
Needles: Knit Picks Options circulars US 6/4mm
Pattern: Free Thrummed Mittens pattern, from Yarn Forward

Next up, this reversible (Reversible! Isn't that cool?) cabled scarf, for a man to be named later:

One more ball (of 4) left to go. This is only the 3rd no wait, the 4th, dammit, the 5th scarf I have ever knit, because I find them, in general, boring to knit. (You see how I was repressing how many I've knit? And all in the past 11 months.) I make exceptions for interesting stitch patterns, or interesting yarn that only takes one skein to produce a scarf. And once, because a friend requested a scarf in a black (black!) novelty (blech) yarn with multi-colored confetti thingies attached to it. The good news on that one was that it only took one evening on large needles, which is probably why is was so easy to repress.

At any rate, the scarf above is fun to knit because there are cables on both sides, and because the yarn is so soft. (The scarf has become less entrancing the further into it I get; scarves are boring)

Yarn: Lion Cashmere Blend, in charcoal (72% Merino Wool, 15% Nylon, 13% Cashmere). I bought this online maybe a month ago when the list price was $7.99 and there was a 15% online discount. A week later, the price was up to $8.99 with an 11% discount.
Pattern: Free from the Lion website. Reversible Cable Scarf
Needles: 5.5mm Aero needles (US 8, I think)

This scarf, for a friend:

Still needs fringe, but I haven't decided what kind, yet. And it's kind of scratchy, which is disappointing. It felt soft to the hand, but when I held it to my face...itchy, itchy, scratch, scratch. It sure is pretty, though

My next camera's chief requirement will be to accurately capture the color of knitted items in natural light.

Yarn: Mountain Colors Mountain Goat. Color: Alpine (I think) and more than one skein of it, which I didn't expect, based on the yardage listed in the pattern, and which caused a bit of a panic when I went to my LYS, Needlwork Unlimited, for another skein just two weeks after I bought the first one, and we couldn't find any and I thought I'd have to frog the whole thing and start over with a pattern that didn't eat so much yarn. I got a voice mail from them a few hours later. "Don't frog that scarf! We found another skein in the back room!"
Needles: I have no idea. 5mm? 5.5mm? Aeros, I know that. I love my Aeros.
Pattern: Multi-directional diagonal scarf

Next up, these socks:

I had knit one of these last summer, so only had to knit one to make a pair. I kind of like this system of sock knitting. I can't wear them in the summer, therefore I'm in no hurry to complete a pair, so I tend to knit one of a pair, sock after sock. Now that it's cold and I want socks, I feel like I get a whole pair for only half the work. I'm not sure what it says about me that a) I delude myself and b) I'm fully aware of the delusion.
Yarn: Opal Silk, in colorway 1123 (purchased online from England. I couldn't find it here in the U.S.) (70% superwash wool, 30% silk). And, hey, it's dye lot #1.
Needles: Inox 2.75mm dpns (5 of them, my preference)
I love the color, and how these feel on my feet, but by the end of the day they're kind of saggy. I didn't think the amount of silk would make that happen.

And now these socks, for my mom:

Yarn: Koigu KPPPM, in colorway P149 P140
Needles: Inox 2.75mm dpns
Pattern: Pretty Petals, by Jeanie Townsend, available free in the Townsend KAL yahoo group files
My mom has trouble keeping her socks up (normal ankles, skinny calves) so I either have to knit her ribbed socks (boorrring) or some sort of variation thereof. This fits the bill. She loves yellow, and especially loves daffodils. I have a feeling she's going to like these a lot.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dyed and gone to heaven

Oct. 29
The afghan is done. The sewing up and weaving in of the ends took forever. At the moment, it's soaking in the washing machine with some lavendar Eucalan, along with my ancient Aran pullover. Then it's blocking time!

{six days later...}

Okay, I've been knitting, and I have lots of stuff to share, but I'll save that for another day. I have to share my first dyeing experience.

I was at knitting group the other day, wearing my favorite sweater. It's 10 or 15 years old. I was an okay knitter back then. Not so great on the finishing, but I still love the sweater. I wear it a lot during the fall and winter. Last winter, I wore it while decluttering the basement. Instead of just having dingy cuffs, which the sweater had for a number of years, it ended up with this on the front:

I washed this thing every way I could think of and couldn't get the stains out. I still wore the sweater -- holding my purse in front of me, or crossing my arms, if I wore it in public -- but I had decided I was going to have to relegate my beloved to yard work and wearing around the house. I did wear it to knitting group on Wednesday (too cold and windy not to), and showed the stains to the other knitters. One of them (Connie, I think) had the brilliant idea of dyeing the sweater. That had never occured to me. I drove from knitting group to Creative Fibers and bought two packets of this:

Then I got myself over to Value Village, just down the street, in search of a pot to dye the sweater in. No luck. I briefly searched eBay and decided that was pointless. Most pots were new or close to it, and the shipping wasn't worth it. So I went to Target and got this:

Fifteen bucks, brand new. There are two choices for a dye pot: enameled or stainless steel. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to tell whether or not a used pot was stainless steel, and if you haven't seen the going rate for a new stainless steel stock pot, you'd better sit down before you look. Good old Graniteware is light weight and enameled, so as to avoid acid reaction to the pot surface. Perfection.

I did want to try cleaning the sweater one more time, because I was concerned that the stains would just get darker, along with the sweater, and I wouldn't have a sweater any more wearable in public than I had before.

Shelly suggested Oxy Clean ("but don't soak it for too long") and said it had been discussed online before. So I googled around and couldn't find out why Oxy Clean warns against using their product on wool. Did it leach the color? Irrelevant to a garment made of undyed wool. Did it destroy the integrity of the fiber? One of the ingredients is the same as that found in bleach (not the chlorine, but something else). A dissolving sweater would be a problem.

Bill, on the TKGA forum, suggested I knit up a large swatch of natural wool and see what Oxy Clean would do to it. That seemed reasonable. I headed back to Target and searched the laundry detergent aisle. I read the Oxy Clean label. "Do not use on wool." I couldn't bring myself to put it in my basket. I couldn't bear to sacrifice a swatch knit just for that purpose.

Next to the Oxy Clean were other "laundry boosters." Good old Biz, which I used on my kids' clothes when then were babies. Next to that was Borax. I read the label. You can use that stuff to clean anything, it seems, including your delicate garments. No warnings about not using it on certain fabrics. Hmm. So home it went.

Borax says to soak delicates in a basin with 1/4 cup Borax and 1-2 tablespoons of laundry detergent for 30 minutes. I use liquid Tide Free for my laundry, including my machine washable delicates, so I figured I'd try that. I doubled the amount of Borax, because my kitchen sink is huge. In went the sweater. I squeezed the sweater in the water and set the timer for 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, I checked the sweater.

I couldn't believe my eyes. In fact, I flipped the sweater over because I thought I was looking at the back. Here's what Borax and Tide Free did to my sweater:

The cuffs are still a bit dingy, but better

Check out the water (I put the stopper back in when I saw how dirty it was, just so I could document it):

The Beloved Aran is a sweater that I had soaked and squeezed in various cleansing agents three or four times since its tragic staining. Never had I seen dirty water. This water was filthy.

I briefly reconsidered dyeing the sweater, but I already had the dye in the pot, and I wanted to learn how to dye wool, so after a brief rinse in clean water, in it went.

I had put enough water in the pot (I thought) to cover the sweater, but the level was a bit low, so I added more water after the fact, and worried that the dye wouldn't be evenly distributed in the water. I also worried that the pot really wasn't big enough. I would have bought a 20 qt stock pot (5 gallons!) if I'd found one, but 16 qts was all Target had. I gently lifted and stirred in hopes that the dye would be well distributed. A half-hour later I decided the water was as exhausted as it was going to get. After rinsing and a spin in the washer to get most of the water out, here's what it looked like:

Looks a little like faded denim. It's not evenly dyed (damn, you, 16 qt stock pot!), but I don't know that if even in the best of circumstances it could have worked out much better. The dense texture of the Trinity stitch kind of precludes dye saturation. The hem is a bit blotchy, too. And of course, the side seams haven't improved any, have they? Whip stitch? What was I thinking?

Here's a closer look at that blotchy hem

I like it. I've decided that the color variations make it Art.