Saturday, January 30, 2010

On the spinning tip

I have been spinning as well as knitting, but it's been a while since I've posted any pictures of the products of my labors. Here is the first half of the two-ply yarn from 11.5 oz of BFL from Briar Rose Fibers. (I couldn't find the exact one on her site, but this one is a pretty close match.) The rest of the singles are waiting to be plied together. This half took me about two hours to ply, and my back started to hurt, so I put the rest aside for later.

Next up is unknown yardage of singles from Fiber Optic Yarns, "Formerly Cranberry overdyed Besame Mucho, No. 26 'Days of Wine and Roses' superwash merino/nylon Foot Notes UNSPUN pencil roving". I have no idea what most of that title means, but it was a super soft and wonderful spin. As you can see from the Etsy listing, the colors were beautifully varied, yet the color after spinning ended up remarkably homogenous, though perhaps with a depth it wouldn't have had with a single color roving. Also, I think this is the first time I've spun pencil roving (although I have a bunch of it, undyed, in my stash) and it certainly makes the process easier - no pesky predrafting needed! It feels a little like cheating. I always have to remind myself that I am not getting graded on things.

I wound it into a cake because I had run out of bobbins and wanted to start plying today. I was considering using it for a 2-ply, although it is quite nice as a singles, I realized after winding it. But it could even go bigger, into a cable-plied 4-ply yarn, because the color is so nice. It's not as pink as this picture makes it look; it's really a deep, intense, cherry red. Or maybe cranberry, like the name of the roving.

Below is 2-ply spun from some gorgeous roving from Pigeonroof Studios. I was a huge fan of P.S. for a really long time and have raved about her skills as a colorist in this blog before. However, I'm kind of disappointed in the direction she has gone of late. She has a cool new methodology she seems to have invented for applying dye to yarn, and within what she calls The Luminosity Project she has been selling beautiful yarns in lots of deep and complex what you might call "anti-dyelots." However, the dye work in the roving she has been selling alongside those yarns does not seem to have the same depth and complexity, but instead seems kind of anemic and faint hearted. I have the RSS feed from her store in my reader and avidly scroll through the pictures whenever I see there are new listings, but I haven't felt the old craven greed to have something from her in a long time. So when I saw this, 4.2 oz of BOMBAY Blue-Faced Leicester/silk roving, I snapped it up. I spun it into this:

Next up, probably, is 'BLACK COFFEE' superwash merino roving, also from Fiber Optic Yarns. It's a grand mix of browns, containing black and gray and green and blue and purple overtones. The name alone makes me happy. I am looking forward to spinning it!

* * * * *

My LYS, Stix-n-Stitches in Montclair, is having a yarn swap this weekend. I participated last June when they had one, but on that occasion I only brought commercial yarns from my stash. It occurred to me this time that maybe I could bring some of my own handspun. I somewhat timidly asked the owner, Sheila Handelsman, and to my surprise she was happy to let me do so. When I brought it in last night, I received the nicest reception to all the yarns from both Sheila and Patty, another staff member there. In fact Sheila bought some of it on the spot, which made me very happy. It was tremendously gratifying. Usually, almost nobody sees my yarns other than myself and MHA; I sometimes feel like I'm in a vacuum out here in the wilds of NJ, making my yarn and then just putting in a huge Tupperware storage container in my studio!

In fact, Sheila put my handspun yarns in a special basket, separate from the yarn swap, with specially attentive focus on the presentation. She said that she thought we might work out something going forward where I could sell it on consignment. She pointed out some bags she sells there; every sale of one of those, she gets a piece of the price and the seller gets the rest. I would be delighted to set up an arrangement like that, so I hope that what I have brought over so far sells well!

Orange sweater, briefly noted

In my previous post, which I just re-read, I noted that I am going to be working bust darts in the orange sweater. (For the uninitiated, this means you add a little extra fabric where the boobs are, so that there is room for them.) I realized as I was reading that, although I am working on the back piece right now, I have been measuring as I go so that when I get to 12-1/2" I can add the bust dart short rows in the current piece. I'm delighted to have realized this before I add bust darts to the back of the sweater, rather than after.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The orange sweater is underway

I don't think it's going to be exactly like the sweater of my memories. It will be better fitting, because I am a grown-up and I can't hide in oversized men's sweaters anymore. It is variegated in color, rather than one single orange hue, because I fell in love with an orange colorway of Nate's Sock Yarn from Briar Rose Fibers and bought all of it that she had. It might be a little scratchy (in this, I think it will be like the sweater from college days), because there is a little VM in the yarn from time to time, and although I have been trying to pick it out before it gets knitted into the sweater, I have occasionally been working in the dark (while we are commuting home) so I have certainly missed some of it. But that stuff will come out in the wearing, if not the wash.

I considered cables and various Aran embellishments (even though the original was just a simple, boxy, man's stockinette sweater), and I even swatched some, but I was underwhelmed by how those felt once worked using the yarn, so I decided not to use them. I used the Sweater Wizard software to plot out the basic numbers for me, and now I am about 2/5 into the back piece. I am adding a bust dart because I gotta da big boobs. Time to admit it.

Whenever I knit sweaters, I like to do the back, then the sleeves, and then the front. It's a delayed gratification thing; I like that when I am finally working on the front, I am close to being done, and I know when I finish the front, I will be able to put it all together.

Kai's Purple Sweater

This is Kai, our friends Cory and Michelle's little peanut. He is wearing the sweater I knit for him several months ago. Like a dumbass, I forgot to take a picture of it before sending it off to them, and then I had to wait until he was big enough for it (squee!) so they could get me some pics. Now he is big enough, and apparently rapidly growing through the size of the sweater, so it may be that next week he won't be able to wear it anymore. In any case, it was a very enjoyable, and of course fast, knit.

It's made from Queensland Collection Bebe Cotsoy; I've never used yarn with soy fiber in it before, and I liked it. Usually cotton is a little rough on my hands, but the mix of soy with it meant that this was really soft. The pattern is Top Down Raglan Baby Sweater by Carole Barenys, and it was quite a pleasure to knit a sweater from the top down as well as in this yarn. All in all, especially taking how small the thing was and therefore how fast it went, which adds the quick gratification factor, this was a great little project that I enjoyed a lot.

I got a little bit of guff for using purple for a boy. C and M were fine with it, and that's all I care about, really. Kai certainly doesn't care. But, to those who are uptight about purple on a boy, let me just say, get over it! Srsly!

Besides, I used these very boyish blue bear buttons!

Ravelry link

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Connectivity upgrade

Adam fulfilled his promise of running an ethernet cable into my office here at home, despite his certainty that it would not improve the experience on my machine. (I have a Mac, which he would like to believe is the root of all evils.) There was a small amount of squabbling during the process, but it got done eventually and some testing was then done to determine whether it would have any effect. You may ask, how can you tell? We went to, at which very well-named website you can test the speed of your connection to the internet. Here is the output of the test while connected wirelessly:

And here is the output of the test while connected via the new ethernet cable:

Adam was surprised, but convinced. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Charts vs written instructions: Barbara Walker

I was reading in Annie Modesitt's blog about charts for lace and it occurred to me that there are few (if any?) charts in the first two of Barbara Walker's Stitch Treasuries. MHA gave me vols. 1-3 of these for Christmas this year. I've been poring over the first two and, although I am certainly comfortable with reading written-out instructions for knitting patterns, I find charts much easier to read as a general rule. My question to the world is: Has anybody taken on the task of charting all the instructions in the Barbara Walker books? It strikes me that this would be a monumental task ... but also a tremendous gift to the knitting world if this were done.

I began looking through Google results for "Barbara Walker charts". I found this gem: The Walker Treasury Project, a blog-form collection of color photographs of all the patterns and stitches in the Walker Treasury books (including Mosaic Knitting). I gather that the third book, which I haven't gotten to yet, does include charts. I need to keep pressing on. However, I still wonder if anybody is working on charting the patterns and stitches in the first two books, and whether the fourth one, and/or Mosaic Knitting, include charts.

I discovered that one person, at least, has done some work on it: Lucia, the Knitting Fiend, has a couple of charts she worked up in her blog's stitchpatterns category. I am wondering if there is a community project in this, and whether others would be interested in starting to collect charts they have done of the uncharted material?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Technical details ironed out!

Back in the start of 2008 - so, two years ago already, I can't believe it! - I created a pattern for gloves with longish wrist coverage called Gauntlets. (The original post is here.)

Originally I put it up for sale on my Etsy shop, but I have now decided to offer it for free. It took me a little while to get myself set up as a designer on Ravelry, but I am all connected up there now, and the pattern is now available as a free download there.

I continue to use this pattern, with variations, for gloves for myself and MHA, and even for my mom. (If you look close, you can see these are Pittsburgh's colors - black and gold.)

I would love to see anybody who wishes it to take advantage of this fun pattern! One expects it to be a little fiddly, since it starts with the fingers; each finger is done in turn and set on an extra circular needle to await joining. Then the index, middle, and ring fingers are joined, then the pinky, then part of the hand is knitted, then the thumb gets attached and its stitches "gobbled up"! Once the thumb stitches are all consumed, the hand is practically done! After that it's on to the decorative edging, which is easy as pie even though it looks sweet when you finish.

Download Gauntlets now - FREE!

If you are not on Ravelry, leave a comment that you would like the PDF and I will be happy to send it to you. I hope you enjoy using this pattern!

Monday, January 18, 2010

My First BSJ

That actually sounds kinda dirty! My first Baby Surprise Jacket, that is.

I have been looking for something worthy to make from this yarn, which I spun a while ago, and really loved for all the colors it has in it:

I also wanted to make a Baby Surprise Jacket for the longest time, but always had another project in line first. Suddenly I put the two ideas together and the result was this:

It was surprisingly fast to knit. It only took me a week! My only disappointment about it is that the fabric melds all the colors together so much that they kind of end up looking a bit muddy. Here is a closeup of the sleeve, where you can still make out some of the lovely colors of the yarn:

(click to enlarge, as always)

After finishing (I see why people love this pattern - you only have two seams to sew and about four ends to weave in) I confronted the issue of buttons. Based on the pic showing where I had my grandmother's curler pins that she, and my mom, and I have all in turn used to pin together knitted items (they really help when you are getting ready to join edges), you can see that pink buttons would actually have been really cool. But when I raided my button stash I had no pink. I found other options, though. I really liked these yellow beads, which could have done service as buttons quite nicely.

They almost work. Ultimately, though, I felt they were a little outré and there isn't enough yellow in the yarn to be called out by the beads. I also found a big handful of mother of pearl buttons in my stash, and I actually liked their reverse side a great deal in this context. So here is the finished button placket!

Now I think I need to put my mind, finally, to designing the replacement for the orange sweater from college that I wore to pieces. I've put it off long enough (out of fear that it won't be perfect) and it's time!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I love super-nerd-enabling knitters

As you can see, this is a screenshot from Mario Bros. mapped into knit stitches and made into a vest for her gamer husband. Read the blog post for more views and a discussion of how the knitter custom-dyed the lime green because she couldn't find exactly the right color!

This same designer, The Happy Seamstress Pattern Co., previously posted a free pattern for a baby outfit she made for some Legend of Zelda-loving parents, so her nerd-enabling cred is fully "vested."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Insanely cute

I think I've found the next thing I want to make - Berroco's Baffin, a knitted down jacket for a baby. With down-stuffed channels to complete the effect!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Newest gloves for Adam

Adam and I thought of these cool gloves and were very excited about trying to market them worldwide and make "a million dollars" until we found they have (a) already been patented and (b) already been marketed by the dude who started Cool Hunting. So, the visions of riches blew away like the fog. However, Adam retains his very cool, very personally customized set of Pro Tips (the name we coined):

What you can't see here, the interesting part (so, sorry 'bout the incomplete info right now, I'll take more pics later), is that the tips of the index finger and thumb can be tipped off backward so you can use your naked fingertips for things like interacting with your phone or with your wallet.

What you CAN see here is that the left glove is once again customized to Adam's hand, with its unique configuration.

I'll post the pattern here for free in a couple days, for anybody who would like to make these themselves.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Free Dallas Cowboys "pattern"

As you may recall, I made this potholder for my friend Jimmy.

It occurred to me that there may be other Dallas fans out there who would like to use this pattern to make their own fan swag of whatever ilk. (No judgments.) So here is the grid:

This is the pixilated image I used to make the potholder. If you would like to use this for your own Dallas Cowboys related items, please feel free!

I made this in Photoshop. I got a couple images online, one of a helmet and one of the Cowboys team name, and put them together in one image. Then I converted it to use indexed color mode, with flattened layers. (Palette: Master Perceptual; Colors: 3; Forced: None; Diffusion: 100%; Preserve Exact Colors checked.)

Then I went in and touched up various areas by hand using the brush. Then I changed the image size considerably (from about 550x550 pixels to about 165x165). Then I overlaid the grid. THEN I took a screen capture of that to give the impression of pixilation, which gives you the grid for knitting against.

This is only approximate and my actual steps were slightly different; I'm not being coy but I'm trying to simplify. In fact, the pixilation was much grainier than what I'm describing; after I knitted a swatch, I knew my potholder would only be about 45 stitches across, which was a lot less than 165 across! and I had to do some hand drawing and tweaking. Even then, my original swatch was done with size 11 needles, and I ended up using size 7's to compress the gauge, and even THEN it was way too big, but finally after I felted it down from there, it was a good potholder size with a reasonably recognizable image. There was a lot of eyeballing and seat-of-the-pantsing with this. But it was an interesting experiment.

Ravelry link

Sunday, January 3, 2010

First FO of 2010

Here is the potholder I made for a friend in the rooms who is a big Cowboys fan.

I just realized I forgot to measure the thing before I felted it! Here it is in its prefelted state, about 9" tall and maybe 10" across.

I put the knitted piece in a zippered pillowcase, and washed that with a pair of jeans and a shirt or two that were in the dirty clothes basket anyway. I rolled back the washing machine (extended its wash cycle) twice for a total of about 18 mins in the washer.

After felting it in the washing machine (I didn't know whether the blue would run, and I'm damn glad it didn't, cause I'd of been PISSED) here is the finished product:

It's definitely smaller, about 7.5" square. The cool thing is the curling at top and bottom is largely flattened out. It curls a little, but it's not out of control. I LOVE felting! It's SO COOL to pause the washing machine, pull out the object being felted, and see how much progress it's made in the six or seven minutes it's been washing.

I pushed and pulled it into shape and I now have it on a mesh screen on top of a tall vase, under the ceiling fan, to facilitate drying. I doubt it'll dry before tomorrow, but I hope it might, so I can bring it to my friend. I hope he likes it. Frankly, I think it's a little, uh, furry, which is because of how the various fiber in the yarn does or does not stick together in the felting process. That's normal, but I'm thinking of trying to shave off some of that, because I think it's kind of stupid looking. I wonder if Adam has some kind of beard trimmer, and whether that would work?

Ravelry link

Friday, January 1, 2010

The year in FOs (finished objects)

This is the collection of items I knitted this year. This set doesn't include the baby sweater I made for our friends Cory and Michele's baby Kai, because I forgot to take a picture before sending it, and apparently it's still too big for the baby so they can't take a pic for me either! The list also does not include a should-have-been-lovely item that I ripped out after several false starts. Also, technically, the top left item, which is most recent in the list, isn't technically finished because the ends aren't woven in. Who cares? I'm including it anyway. This is not being graded.

As it is a screen capture from Ravelry, the order is from most recent backwards. If you are on Ravelry, please feel free to look me up - kewpiedoll99.

Top row, from left:
  1. Socks for Adam

  2. Sweater with built-in mitts for my niece Julianne

  3. Socks for me, using silk & wool yarn from A Verb For Keeping Warm and a very useful (and free!) pattern from Wendy Knits

  4. Orange sweater originally for me, given to my lovely coworker Shannon J. instead; Alpaka Tunic by Deborah Newton in the Fall Interweave Knits

  5. Lap robe made of silk and wool from Blue Moon Fiber Arts

  6. Pillow for my sister as a thank-you gift for being my bridesmaid
Second row:
  1. Socks for me, using a pattern from Knitspot

  2. Scarf for me, using hand-dyed silk lace yarn from Sundara Yarns

  3. Cashmere cap for Caitlyn, Tom and Renee's firstborn

  4. Cap for my pal Beth V. as a thank-you gift for being my bridesmaid, made from silk & cashmere yarn

  5. Socks for my mentor and role model, the great and wise Nora Y.

  6. Mitts for my sister-in-law, Ange, as a thank-you gift for helping plan my wedding, using a pattern from Knitspot
Third row:
  1. Socks for Adam

  2. Cashmere hat for my sister-in-law, Tracy, as a thank-you gift for being my bridesmaid, in a pattern I made up to look like a hat from the TV show Bones

  3. Neck warmer for my mother as a wedding thank-you gift, using a pattern from Knitspot, knit from yak and silk yarn that I spun myself

  4. Cashmere & angora hat that got lost almost as soon as I finished working in the ends :(

  5. Angora hat for my sister-in-law, Tammy, as a thank-you gift for being my bridesmaid

  6. Cashmere neck warmer for my pal Dana as a thank-you gift for being my matron of honor, using a pattern from Knitspot.
I also did a decent amount of spinning, but don't have pictures to show of that work. I sold some of that yarn on Etsy, and through friends (thanks, Pete!), and I do have pics up on Flickr of some of my yarn still available for sale. I'm still interested in selling my yarn, but I want to find another venue. I found Etsy disappointing: It's such a huge marketplace, I felt like a tiny invisible ant. It seemed really hard to get found by people there. So I have let my store listings expire and am not certain I plan to re-list them; it feels like a waste of money and time (because it's not exactly a cake walk to go through all the steps in listing items).

In the upcoming year, one of the things I'd like to do is work through my stash. I have a ton of sock yarn, among lots of other stuff, and if I want to I can knit all year without buying any more yarn. Having said that, I'm sure I will buy more yarn, but I am beginning, at least, to feel like everybody else who has a stash, that I "should" use what I own before buying more. I also have a ton of spinning fiber that I can also work through before buying more. That includes up to a pound of fiber, or maybe more, that I dyed myself, and it's pretty nice stuff, Cormo and superwash Merino and BFL.

One thing I realized suddenly while drooling over some listings on Sundara Yarns was that what I really love doing is looking at the gorgeous colorways. I don't even get as much joy from owning it as I do from looking at the photographs! The same is true of other indie dyers whose work I like so much. Don't get me wrong, their wares are fabulous. I have their stores' RSS feeds in my blog reader, and I love to check in on what they are listing in their stores, but I actually don't HAVE to buy the stuff as urgently as I thought. I really felt almost this need to acquire some of the lovely fiber when I looked at the pictures, but I took a few deep breaths and the feeling did pass. (Almost like a nicotine fit.) So I'm holding steady here with what I currently own, mostly, reserving the option of course for special situations like the orange sweater from senior year in college that I have gotten a hankering lately to replace.

I wish everybody joy in their creative pursuits, whatever they may be, in this coming year. Whether you are a DM, a knitter, a spinner, a designer, an amateur chef, or a software developer, may you have all the pleasure and satisfaction there is to be found in solving new challenges, developing new skills, and doing what you love.

Merry New Yeah!


* * * * *

I'm making a potholder for a friend who requested it - I'm not sure how he got me to agree to it, but he really wanted something with the Dallas Cowboys' logo on it. So I've knitted a swatch and am now washing it to felt it to see how it shrinks down so I can figure out where to put the logo and where all the colors go. <eyeroll> Ah well, it will make him happy and it's pretty easy to do.