Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spin a Yarn. . .

Here's the story of a gal named Pretty / who was knitting with some very lovely yarns. . .
All of them came from a store or an online shop / and some of them came from a barn!

Here's a story of that same lady / who decided one day she should learn to spin. . .
So she bought herself a spindle and some fiber / and she decided to jump in!

She sat herself down at the dining table / with the spindle and the fiber in her hands. . .
And she made some slubby yarn and some mista-akes / and in the end she wound up 7 yards!

Which doesn't rhyme! It doesn't rhyme!
But in the end, she wound u-up Seven Yards!

There was a time, I am sure, when the farmers and their families raised the sheep, and sheared the sheep, and cleaned and combed the fleece. Then they probably spun the wool into yarn for knitting warm goodness for winter. I wonder who did the spinning. . .and I wonder what stories were told during the spinning. I have been told by the hand-spinners I know that spinning fiber into yarn is a very relaxing, almost yoga-like, experience once you have worked a few times with your spindle or wheel. . .and the phrase "spin a yarn" (meaning tell a tale) must come from somewhere!

Last Thursday, at knitting, I sat next to Stephanie who was using a spindle to make singles of brightly colored fiber. . .it was mesmerizing. I was once again motivated to look for my own simple spindle, the one I bought last summer at the Great Lakes Fiber Festival, and promptly stuffed into a box when I got home, in favor of the yarn I had also purchased.

I signed up for the Ravelympics again this year, and had pretty much ignored the fact that I had done so until yesterday. Yesterday, I actually went into the basement to dig out the spindle and the fiber that came with it. I was determined anew to actually learn how this art works. . .and I did! I am so proud of myself!

Here is what I started with: A ball of coarse fluff, with some tangles and plant material still peppered in. . .I am sure this is not what the big-city spinners use for their handspun, but I am sure it was cost-effective to include in a Learn-to-Spin kit! I know that I am not going to be making yarn-to-die-for. . .my whole goal is to become familiar with the process:
The spindle came with a yarn leader already tied on. I thought that was good, until I started trying to spin the raw fiber onto the yarn leader. After picking up the spindle several times from the floor, I slipped off the yarn, and twisted some of the fiber in my fingers to make my own leader from the fiber. This worked much better, and so I kept going. . .

Eventually, I produced some single-ply "yarn," and wound It around the spindle:
I made a total of about 15 yards of "singles". . .slubby, dirty, coarse, uneven in weight, and pretty unattractive singles. . .but I made yarn!
Later, I wound the singles into two balls, and I plied them together, spinning the spindle in the opposite direction, like the videos and Stephanie had instructed. . . On the other side, I had about 7 yards of uneven, slubby, dirty, coarse yarn! Not pretty but then, pretty was NOT my goal!
I can't wait to get my medal from Bob! Congratulations to all my fellow Ravthletes, thank you to my husband and family for supporting me in my goal to make it into the 2010 Revelympics, and to my mom and dad for, well, you know. . .having me; and to all my fellow Oddballs and TeamCKW friends who cheered me on tirelessly! I could NOT have done it without you!

In Knitting Knews, I have seamed and finished another sweater in the Baby Steps with the knitting machine project. . .here she is:
Once again, still needs buttons, but pretty cute, nonetheless, I say!

There is still a LOT of snow at Pretty Knitty's house, and I will not bore you with more photos of that, but suffice it to say that I am sooooo glad I knit myself mittens after Christmas!
I hope that you have warm mittens, and that you will Knit in Good Health!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Frustrated! You make me feel frustrated!

I still love the project, but the Salsa Sweater is really giving me fits this week! I had the plan, knit the waist and the top fronts and backs, no problem. . .it worked out just about exactly how I had planned, and (bonus!) fits! I was so excited to start the sleeves. . .

So, I cast on, and started knitting, taking meticulous notes so that both sleeves could be the same. . .not a pipe-dream, I swear this can be done! And I kept thinking, "Man!, this sleeve is taking forever! It must be my imagination, but it seems like it will never end!"

Did I stop to check the stitch count in my notes? Of course not. But, in my defense, I had actually written down the wrong stitch count anyway, so even if I had checked, I still might not have seen it as a problem.

Finally, I got to the decreasing for the cap of the sleeve, where it would fit into the armhole, and the decreasing felt like it was taking FOREVER! What is up with this sleeve?!? Eventually, I decreased to the requisite 12 stitches, and I bound off. Whew! Then I started the second sleeve.

Did I stop to look at sleeve one, admiring my work, or checking the fit into the armhole area? Of course not. Even though I had originally planned to sew it in when it was done so I could show it off a knit-night on Thursday. Instead, I just took it off the needles, and I stuffed it into the bag.

As I continued a bit with sleeve 2, I looked at my notes. Hmmm, 120 sts seems like a lot for a sleeve on this sweater. . .where is the original pattern I started with, the one from Here it is. . .whaaaaaa? 102 sts??????? What do my notes say? 120?!? Well, booger! "Yep, I should have definitely stopped increasing long before I did. . .how does that mess me up in the shoulder?," I wondered.
Well, if you were originally supposed to do 52 rows of decreasing (8 decs each row twice; followed by 2 decs, every other row 25 times), and your final stitch count should be 36 sts before you start decreasing 3 sts every other row, that's one thing. If you abandon your row counter, figuring that you will just decrease every other row until you reach 36 sts, but you started with 120 rather than 102, you will now have 70 rows of decreases incorporated into a verrrrrry loooooong sleeve that will NOT fit into it's armhole by any stretch of the imagination. (Please do NOT even think of suggesting 80s-style puffy sleeves to me. I would have to hurt you, and that would be so un-Pretty. . .)

Soooo, I will be ripping and re-knitting, correctly I hope, eventually. For now, sleeve two is increased to 102 sts. . .sigh!. . .and stuffed in a bag. And sleeve one is just stuffed in a bag until I feel it is (or I am) ready to come out of the time-out corner. . .

In the meantime, it is doing this again where I live and where I work. . .
. . .and it is very pretty out there. But I really wish that tires could have more traction in fresh snow. My slippery ride to work today, while very pretty, was also peppered with radio newscasts of snow-related accidents, and punctuated by cars that I saw ditched along the way. If I could have stayed inside all day, that would have been lovely. Alas, it is probably too early in the year to use up my vacation days. . .especially for silly, slushy snow!

To lift my spirits, I have been doing a bit of machine knitting. I had 3 sweaters knit up, in pieces, waiting to be seamed up and finished by hand. Now there are only 2 in waiting, because I worked on this while Salsa was in time-out:
And it's very cute, if I do say so myself! It still needs buttons, and I think a quick hat and wash are in order, then off to the recipient! I am pretty glad there are babies to gift the knitting to. . .they are so appreciative and so very adorable in their hand-knit garments! (Ever heard a baby ask, "Yeah, but does it make my butt look big?" Didn't think so!)

And still no Ravelympic spinning. . .well, I guess every entry doesn't achieve a medal in Vancouver either, so I will just settle down, and maybe I'll learn to spin another time. . .

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Post #98 - the one with the Mittens

Wow! I have almost posted 100 times to my blog! That is seriously some kind of amazing! And I guess twice a week for 49 weeks so far since I started, yep. . .98 is right about where I should be! By the way, there is a 1-year anniversary coming up verrrry soon, so stay tuned!

As you may have guessed, this post will contain my first pattern! Now, before you get too very impressed, it's a simple pattern for mittens. And it's not that much different than many other mitten patterns. There is a slightly complicated part, if you want a flap on your mittens, but it's really not all that hard, and I am not claiming to have invented the idea, this is just how I do it. . .and anyone can make these.

So, here it is, for those who have been waiting (Annie!):

Mittens with a Flap
Double pointed needles or long circular needles (for magic loop), size US 4 (3.5mm)

Worsted Weight yarn, less than 100g (I used Cascade 220 for the red ones, and a superwash I can't remember the name of for the tan ones)

1 stitch marker (for working thumb gusset)

Waste yarn (to hold thumb stitches)

You may at some point want to use a row counter, but it's not necessary. However, my lengths are measured in rows, rather than inches or cm.

5.5sts and 8rows/inch, but shhhh! I never check gauge. If they are looking too small after a few rounds, rip 'em out and start over with a few more stitches. If the row count I give you doesn't look long enough, knit a couple more rows!

To fit my hand, woman, medium-sized, shall we say?

Take them while you knit. Record your adjustments, get comfortable with the procedure, and you should be able to adapt the flap to any other mitten pattern out there!

Cast on 36 sts loosely and divide onto double points or magic loop for knitting in the round.
Join without twisting, and work k2, p2 ribbing for 24 rounds.

Start at Row 1 again (if using a counter), and knit all stitches, increasing 4 evenly around (40 sts total). At this point, I put the stitches on 4 dpns (10 sts on each) unless I am doing magic loop.
Round 2: Knit all stitches
Round 3: (Rt): k1, kf&b, k1, kf&b, place marker, knit around (incs made on "front" of mitten)
-------- (L): k16, place marker, kf&b, k1, kf&b, k1, knit around (incs made on "front" of mitten)
Rounds 4 & 5: Knit around, slipping marker as you come to it.
Round 6: (Rt): k1, kf&b, knit to one stitch before marker, kf&b, slip marker, knit around
-------- (L): k16, slip marker, kf&b, knit to 2 sts before end of "front", kf&b, k1, knit around
Rounds 7 & 8: Knit around, slipping marker as you come to it.
Rounds 9 - 20: Repeat rounds 6-8 four times more. There are now 52 sts total.

Top of Hand:
Start at row 1 again.
Round 1: (Rt): K2, slip 13 sts onto waste yarn for thumb, cast on 1 stitch, and knit around.
-------- (L): K17, slip 13 sts onto waste yarn for thumb, cast on 1 stitch, and knit around.
Round 2-10: Knit around plain. (You are back to working on 40 sts now)
Round 11: k20, p20 (The purl bumps mark the placement for the flap on the back of mitten.)
Round 12: Knit around plain.
Round 13: While decreasing evenly 4 sts around, work k2, p2 ribbing.
Rounds 14-20: (k2, p2) around
Bind off loosely, and cut yarn.

From the waste yarn, place 13 stitches on dpns or circular needles, and pick up and knit an additional 4 sts in the "gap" where the thumb joins the hand. Then knit around the other 13 sts as well, this is round 1.
Round 2: knit around, with one k2tog where the thumb joins the hand. (16 sts total)
Rounds 3-15: Knit around.
Round 16: k2tog around, cut yarn leaving a long tail. Using a tapestry needle, draw tail through lives stitches once or twice, then bring to inside of thumb to knot and weave in the end.

Cast on 18 sts to an empty dpn or the cable needle (if magic-looping).
With same needle, and the mitten back facing you, wrist ribbing at the bottom, pick up and knit a stitch in 20 purl bumps on the back of the hand.
Join and arrange these 38 sts to work in the round, 18 free sts, 20 sts on the mitten back.
Rounds 1-8: (k2, p2) across the 18 free stitches cast on, k across the other 20 sts.
Round 9: k1, m1, k16, m1, k21 (40 stitches total)
Rounds 10-22: knit around
We are now finished counting rounds.

(k4, k2tog) around until 16 sts remain.
(k3, k2tog) around until 10 sts remain.

Place stitches on parallel needles and graft closed, taking care to make the top of the mitten "flat" in the same direction the mitten will lie flat OR

Cut yarn and draw through all live stitches, as for thumb, bringing tail to inside of flap to knot and weave in.

Make another mitten, preferably for the other hand. lol!

And that's all there is to it! Simple, huh? And quick, I tell ya! Now, winter's not quite over, so go whip up a pair, and make a bunch for next winter, too! They make great Christmas gifts!

Knit in Good Health!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who Loves You, Pretty Knitty?

Well, apparently 105 Etsians love me! I feel so. . .well, so LOVED!

Thanks to all who have favorited my shop on Etsy, including my latest favorite of the favorites, Tamarie Highland Fibers, is a shop that carries hand-dyed batts for spinning (and some other things, too)! Since it was already in my plan to learn to spin during the Olympics this year, I am linking the shop here as much for me as for my readers. . .she has lovely stuff, and in nice, small, affordable starting quantities!

But, alas, I have not started learning to spin. . .I have been too busy learning to LOVE my knitting machine. I think I like it, but I am not sure if I Like It like it yet. . .still working my way to Love, I guess. Here is what I have managed to produce so far:

One pair of hot-pink and brown baby overalls, still needs buttons. All of the ribbing, the bib and the straps are hand-knit. I am guessing the size would be 3-6 months. . .
And several pieces of a sweater to match, well, it kinda will match. The brown is a little different and I am having trouble successfully knitting two sleeves, of the same size, to match. . .not sure why that is so difficult. . .:
The purely hand-knit items that are taking me away from learning to spin have been far less stressful and/or traumatizing than the knitting machine, and I KNOW that I love them! The first is my Salsa Sweater in this orange-y color:
What you see in the picture is the empire waistband, with stitches picked up for the fronts and back. I knit in one piece until I split for the armholes, and I have both fronts finished. I am about 20 rows from finishing the back, and I am eager to seam the shoulders and try it on for fit before I start the sleeves. My plan is to do the top and arms, then the flirty-skirty bottom. I have 12 balls of this yarn, and I want this sweater to be longer than the Mockery of a Sweater, so I will probably use 11-12. I am not sure of the closure yet. . .I was originally thinking a short button band (on the waist and top to the start of the v-neck), but have also considered a tie closure. . .or do I wanna save my yarn for the skirty part? Oh, decisions, decisions!

Oh, and did I tell you about the swap? I belong to the
Mothers of Soldiers group over on Ravelry, and there was a swap, and apparently my partner (Tinkerpro) read carefully my answers on the sign-up questionnaire, because she sent yarn AND spinning fiber from a llama that is sooooo soft, ooooh, I can't wait until I can try it! And there was a keychain calculator (yay!) a pen and some pretty note cards, and samples of SOAK and some luxury lotion. . .
By the way, in case you can't tell, I love this group. I found them just after Army Boy found out he would go to Iraq for a year, and these ladies jumped in with virtual hugs and prayers and well-wishes and sage advice, and I felt so comforted. Now they are good friends and a support system that will take me through whatever deployments come. Thanks, Ladies!

My last work-in-progress for this post is my newest sock-a-month project,
March through February:
The pattern is Harris Tweed Socks, the yarn is Knit Picks Stroll in the color Grass. It's an easy pattern, and I think it will be a good one for "boy socks" as they become necessary! This is my carry-along knitting now that the Salsa is getting big. I love them. . .sigh!!

Knit in Good Health!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

De-de-de de-deee-de, dedede, De-de-de de-deee-deeeeee...

So goes the fanfare to the Winter Olympics! And they are off! (as of 9pm last night, EST, when the torch was lit)

And so are the Ravelympics, but I could not wait for the games. . .silly impatient knitter am I! But here's a look at how I warmed up anyway:
Gray Leg-Warmers for College Girl were finished last weekend, and mailed off on Monday. When she received the box, the warmers were donned, and a photographer commissioned to document the occasion, with the picture being sent to the knitter! The message was a resounding she loves them, and they are the perfect color!

To which the knitter replies, "Yaaayyyyyyy!," commissioning her own photographer to send the photo to College Girl.
Then off to the wannabe Ravelympic project for Ravelry, but the impatient knitter could not wait, and she cast on the Salsa Sweater on Wednesday. . .
It's a design in progress, and she is not even sure what it will eventually look like, but it is started, and the knitter is excited about the progress so far!

And the Edwardian Boat Socks are also finished. . .with more snow photos on the DIY blockers that the knitter fashioned for use on for wash day:
Whew! I ain't got no time for no stinking Ravelympic project! Wait! I do. . .at some point, before the closing ceremonies, I have vowed to learn to spin. Yeah, like I need another hobby, I know, but I at least wanna give it a try.

That's all for today folks! I hope that you are enjoying the Olympics (and the Ravelympics, if you are playing), and I hope that you will all Knit in Good Health!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Cats and Yarn. . .

Are you a cat, or are you yarn?
Hmmm, that doesn't translate as well as I had hoped. . .oh, well.

So, I have a cat. . .
Actually two of them. . .
Don't they look like they might be trying to "will" the furnace to kick in? In the second picture, it actually looks like there is a conversation going on:

Black Cat - Soooo, you been sitting here long, Chloe?
Calico Cat - Dang it! I know the heat comes from here. . .is it on vacation?
Black Cat - Soooo, you been sitting here long, Chloe?.
Calico Cat - Maybe if we both look at the holey-thing, the warm air will start again.
Black Cat - Soooo, you been sitting here long, Chloe?
Calico Cat - Zoe! You are not helping! Look at the holey-thing!

And I have some yarn. Actually, over the weekend, I was gifted with a BUNCH of acrylic yarn in many, many colors. . .so, now I have my own color wheel (thank you Penny from church!):
And I am thrilled! And I have even used some of the pinks and browns to start a baby set on my knitting machine, but I have not yet taken pictures of that.

And the thing about all of this that really amazes me is that my Calico Cat loves my gray yarn the best. . .she cannot get enough of it! lol
All of this leaves me with one nagging question. . .
Do you think I should turn the heat up FOR MY CATS?!? lol

Knit in Good Health!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Still Snowing. . .

And again. . .because I live in this neighborhood today:
And because the drifts were this high when I woke up (Thank You, Honey!, for digging us out!):
I decided to work on some of this last night and this morning:
Chunky Monkey Scarfie for College Girl in Lion Brand Homespun USA (above), and
Mosey Into February legwarmers for College Girl in Red Heart Super Saver (below). By the way, there is nothing better on a cold and snowy Saturday that a kitty on your lap and a cup of hot coffee or tea! sigh!
Then, because I was able to purchase a $100 knitting "machine" second-hand for $25 last week (Thank you Ravelry, and Mary1968!), I decided that I would set it up and do some manic knitting! Because, you know, it's a will be easier (and faster!) than knitting by hand, right? So I set it up on the dining room table, which I could not clamp the machine to, but I figured the clamps probably weren't crucial, right?
So, I set it up, and I made a couple of passes with the carriage. . .
And this happened (and I could not fix it without taking it apart):
So, I unravelled, and I re-set, and I tried (and tried) again. . .and this happened:
And I started to question myself and the machine, and the need for the clamps. So, I planned a new set up, and Honey adjusted the holes so that the clamps that came with the machine originally would actually fit. . .and then I had a nice set-up, under a bright window, with the machine clamped to a sturdy table:
And still I managed to goof things up enough that the knitting actually fell off the machine!
I was so frustrated! So I stopped and went with Honey to the church where he cleared some snow and I played with a couple of little darlings whose dad was also clearing snow, and I introduced them to some Classic Sesame Street music! (They thought I was a little old to be listening to Sesame Street Music, but I assured them that I was not!)

When I got home, I gave the machine another go...and look! Knitting!
I produced a swatch! 25sts x 25rows! Yay! I CAN do it! There is hope for the machine yet!
And then we baked a frozen pizza (which was pretty yummy), and I remembered that I still had not blogged! Soooo, here I am! Eventually, I hope to use the machine for quick baby sweaters, and other projects with a lot of stockinette. . .and to knit up yarn into "blanks" for dyeing. That's the plan, and I am sure that I will let you know how it goes until it gets there! In the meantime, I hope that you and I will all. . .

Knit in Good Health!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

4 Things I am Hoping For. . .

Less knitting this week than I would like, but I have hope!
Is there anything more hopeful than a snowy mailbox with the flag up? I was thinking that this morning as I put some mail out at work, so I went back in to get my camera. The pristine, pure white crystals falling gently into the fluff on top of the box was too much to not try to capture. And, in the middle of a snowy, gray winter, hope is a good thing. Here are 4 things I am hoping for:
Spare time with daylight, which will come in a month or two.
New yarn. . .really, what knitter isn't hoping for new yarn?
Opportunities to get together with friends - see "S" above!
World Peace - I know, I know! Every beauty queen says that. Forgive me.

Keep your hopes and dreams alive this winter, and Knit in Good Health!