Thursday, December 4, 2008

moving blog

yep, it's true. i'm switching blog servers. and trust me, this is only after thinking everything through. anyone's who's read this blog has likely heard me complaining about how slow blogger is and how long it takes me to write, edit and upload ANY post and even longer to add extras like pictures. and after sending messages to the blogger service team and never getting any sort of reply or resolution to my problem, i've finally decided the best thing to do is to leave. i'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause anyone- however, change you bookmarks or feeds!! my new blog can be found at:

after giving any readers *who may or may not be out there* enough time to change feeds and bookmarks, i'll be completely deleting this blog and/or account. i hate going to a blog or website that hasn't been updated in years. also, it junks up the world wide web!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

project updates

right now i do have a few projects going on at the same time. the most urgent *and therefore the one that gets worked on most* is of course my mitered mittens. then i have gigi, which has been put to the side for a while since it's already too cold to wear it. and then i have a new project *the one i eluded to in the last post*.

my mittens have taken a lot longer than i anticipated *and hoped for*. i knew i wanted to make the cuff a little longer to go down over my wrists and that's been the cause of all of the frogging sessions. i'll think i have a good length but once i get to the thumb gusset and try them on, they're too long. and it doesn't help that i have severe knitting denial- i always ignore that first pang of trouble. instead i knit on, wasting tons more time when i finally decide to frog back to the problem area and start again! so if you're reading this: you should always believe in your intuition!!!

once i thought i finally had a good length, i discovered a slipped stitch about 20 rows down!! usually i would just fix that, no problem, but with the miters in this patterns it makes it much more difficult. and the stitch in question was right next to the miter- had it been half way in between one, i may have been able to fix it. so the easiest/fastest/least frustrating thing to do was to frog it... again..... all the way past the thumb gusset. that mitten better hope that's the last time i have to frog it!! i'm almost done with it now- i've knit the thumb gusset again and am working my way back up the palm. please pray for me!!!

poor little gigi has been hibernating since the mitered mittens were cast on! i feel so bad and i WANT to knit on it, but the mittens are priority #1. and i'd be lieing if i said that 5 inches of knit 2 purl 2 ribbing and 11.5 inches of stockinette was particularly thrilling. but i'm up to the shoulder shaping on the back piece and after that it won't be too long until that piece is finished and i can start on one of the two fronts. it's not a hard pattern to knit and i really enjoy it, sometimes i wish the pattern was written a little more clearly, but besides that gigi has been a really chill knit.

here's gigi in her current state: 5 inches of ribbing and half way up the back. more stockinette to follow and then shaping and binding off!

the next project on the waiting list is one that i've been wanting to do for a long time- a bathroom rug. something functional! we threw our cheap wal-mart bathroom rug away a long time ago, it was one of those with the plastic non-skid stuff on the back and once it got really dirty, i couldn't throw it in the washer. so i chucked it. i've had the idea for a long time, but couldn't decide on any specifics: yarn, pattern, etc. but a couple of months ago i saw a project on craftster that i LOVED. a girl made a bathroom rug out of an old bed sheet using a rag-knitting technique. it's totally awesome! to keep this post short, i'm directing you to the original post for details and i'll be posting more as i go. the girl added some details on the third page about needle size and stuff and you can see my original comment on page 3.... i think.

so as pure coincidence, my mother-in-law has been buying us a bunch of sheet shets *i have no idea WHY... she's a thrift store junkie and always picks up little odds and ends and especially knitting/spinning stuff for me, so i don't complain, i just thank her for what she brings me!* the problem is, we don't use the flat sheet that goes on top of you- i feel like my feet are imprisoned and it irritates me to no end- so what is to become of the divorced sheet sets??? a bathroom rug, that's what.

i had pale sage/mint green or faded pepto bismol pink sheets to choose from. the pink sheets *however ugly* were a very soft, good quality muslin fabric, so i thought that would feel great under our feet. but, they are still too ugly for words, so i went out and bought some purple rit. the color on the box was a very saturated purple, but one box is only enough dye for 3 yards of fabric and i'm sure a full sheet is more than that- so i got two boxes. i dyed the sheet using only one box of dye, knowing that i could repeat the process if i didn't like the outcome. the purple i got is very bright, which i love, so i decided to stop there. this was my first time using rit and i'm really happy with the results- i'll definately use it again under the same circumstances. it's not what i would choose for any high-end projects or for anything that you want spectacular results on, but for something like this it's perfect! on to the cutting!!

new pretty purple sheet on the left and old faded pepto on the right!

i used the rag knitting tutorial on cocoknits *like the girl from craftster* but i had to modify it a little bit for my needs. i looked through my knitting needles and i don't have a size 35 or 19. my largest is a 15, so i decided to cut my strips to be an inch long. i think that will work well.

oh, and i almost forgot! the crochet name doily! i must admit i have been avoiding it.... crochet is just not my favorite medium! i've been working on a gauge swatch *well, not in a measuring sort of way, just to see what hook i like with the crochet cotton of an unknown size* but i haven't gotten too far.

hopefully i'll have alot more free time in the near future to work on these aforementioned projects.

most of my time lately has been taken up with the custom spinning for the local weaver *which i can't believe i forgot to mention!!!* i'm actually already done with all the spinning and she loved the yarns! i was really nervous but was super pleased! i hope she would like to work with me in the future!

she sent me some interesting and fun fibers to spin for her and gave me total control of what the finished outcome was to be. lots of what i'm 99% sure was merino in ROY G. BIV colors, a reallly pretty blue merino/silk blend *which i'm antsy to try* and an assortment of blue, black and white fiber which i couldn't identify! i've certainly never had anything like it before, but i LOVED how it spun up and i want MORE MORE MORE!!! hopefully she will email me back with some answers very soon!

Monday, October 27, 2008

elizabeth zimmerman

well, i've gone and done it. i bought my first elizabeth zimmerman books. up until this point i had been able to resist the EZ hypnotism. i checked out my first EZ book from the library while i was still a pretty green knitter. the only book of hers my library carried was 'knitting without tears', so that's the one i got. *it wasn't until much later that i realized my small town library had no good knitting books, and that if i wanted to get my hands on them without buying, i'd have to get them on loan from other libraries*. i had heard that if you wanted to learn to knit, 'knitting without tears' was a most valuable resource, but when i opened the book, i discovered that i already knew most of the skills covered in the beginning of the book and i became impatient. like so many novice knitters, i was consumed with passing the "beginner" phase of knitting and moving on to bigger and better things. dissapointed, i returned the book to the library. maybe i didn't give it enough of a chance.

after my first few years of knitting, we finally got the internet and i quickly found and joined ravelry. i was amazed to find so many groups there devoted to everything EZ. but my breaking point was, of course, the baby surprise jacket. as soon as i saw it, i fell in love and i wanted more. after looking up where i could find the bsj pattern, i asked my library to find 'the opinionated knitter' for me.

i had no idea what the book was about when i requested it, but before the book was due back i had read it cover to cover. i knew i was addicted. i've always enjoyed reading patterns to get a feel for them, but most are written so complicated that unless you have the knitting in your hands, you'd never be able to visualize the process.

not only are most of EZ's patterns only one paragraph long, you can actually understand them! even with her longer patterns, like her myriad of sweaters, i was able to learn so much from! i've always wanted to knit an adult sweater but have been terrified to try. with her writing style and ability to simplify everything, she takes out the intimidation factor and makes the process easier to understand. i could ramble about her all day long, but the truth is, until you read one of her books for yourself, you'll never really understand the hype. you can read about an innovater all day long, but to understand them, you need to see it for yourself.

about half way through 'the opinionated knitter', i knew i wanted to own it. not only own it, i wanted to start my collection of elizabeth zimmerman books. as luck would have it, i got my knit picks newsletter shortly thereafter announcing their 40% sale on all in-stock books for the month of october!!! i never have such great luck! i am now the proud new owner of 'the opinionated knitter', 'the knitter's almanac' and 'knitting workshop'!! i had a hard time choosing which books to get, but i can always get them from the library and buy them later if i love them.

on a semi-related note- my son was finally accepted into a preschool *yes, this late* about three weeks ago, and this brought up a strange dillema for me. since i'm now driving him to school in the early morning hours i've realized how important it is to have a good pair of mittens!! and i have none!!! since i knew there were mitten patterns in 'the knitter's almanac' i decided to start swatching while i waited for my books to arrive in the mail. i wanted to use handspun yarn and since i didn't have any on hand i decided to do the unthinkable.... i frogged the yarn over cable socks!!

i never fell in love with the combination of the ultra-textured yarn over cable pattern and the short color repeats in the autumnal yarn; that stitch pattern would be much better suited with a solid or semi solid yarn. but i fell hard for the autumnal yarn! the roving was much more expensive then i ever pay (if i remember correctly it was around $40 for 8 ounces) but when i saw it, i knew i needed it! and i fell equally hard for the high twisted navajo-plied sock weight that it ended up as! so throughout the knitting of the yarn over cable socks, it had crossed my mind more than a few times that if i knit mittenswith it, i would be able to drool over the yarn every time i wore them!! it was decided.

by the time the books arrived, my gauge was measured and i was anxiously waiting to cast on!
i did a little math to revise the pattern as my yarn was slightly thinner than the pattern called for, but the pattern's so simple, i only had to change the number of stitches cast on, nothing else! after browsing through the many mitered mitten projects on ravelry, i noticed that a lot of people had used thumb gusset modification instead of the "afterthought" thumb that EZ did. some people call it the "sore thumb mod" describing the original as uncomfortable. so i decided to save myself any further frustration and go this way the first time- as opposed to going with the original (which calls for knitting the entire mitten and then cutting and unraveling stitches to pick up thumb stitches) and then finding out i didn't like it after all, which is what i would normally do!

so after a few *first tries* of knitting the mitten way too long- around half way to my elbow- i've just barely finished the thumb gusset on my first mitten and am hoping it all goes much faster from here on out!! especially since i'm reminded how urgent the situation is every morning while trying to drive and use fine motor skills!!

oh, yes, and i have started another new project that's taking the backseat until my mittens are done... updates to come soon!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

bambigi- Part 2

woohoo! swatching is over and actual garment knitting has begun on my gigi!! thank god, i don't think i could take much more of that swatching- i think my final count was around 15 knitted, washed and measured swatches! and don't tell anybody but.... i still didn't make gauge!! i was almost exact on the stitch gauge, but almost an inch off the row gauge. i wouldn't normally be okay with that but i read the pattern thoroughly and didn't see anything that called for a specific number of rows to be knit- it's mostly "continue until piece measures 5 inches*. but if i run into a problem, i'll just recalculate the length based on my gauge.

the cover up is knit from the bottom up and is made up of pretty simple shapes. the back is knit first, followed by the two fronts. i'm pretty happy with the knitting so far. it's very easy to separate the strands of the yarn while knitting it, but i swatched so much that i'm used to it! it still happens, but i pay more attention to make sure that it doesn't. my only other gripe with the yarn is that it has way too many knots in it! it's so annoying to find a knot in the yarn on something with such long rows that you have to rip out an entire row to take the knot out!

the 2x2 ribbing at the bottom of the cardigan is really nice in the bamboo yarn. even though the fabric is pretty open and drapey in stockinette stitch, the ribbing is a nice medium weight and still extremely stretchy!

some strange knitting phenomenon did happen above the ribbing though. i'm still at a loss, but i think it had more to do with the yarn than the knitting. there's an elevated band about an inch and half tall across the entire back.... and it looks king of ugly. not only does it look like an entirely different gauge than the rest of it, but the yarn looks kind of gnarly! like a cat chewed it up or something!! and i don't have any cats. i'm pretty mad about this and i contemplated ripping it out, but i was too far along when i noticed it, so i kept on going. my fingers are crossed that it comes out in the washing and blocking. but even if it doesn't, i'll still love it. after all, that's what makes a misfit knit!

unfortunately, this piece is creeping along at a snail's pace. the rows are so long and i had to go up a size since my measurements weren't included in the pattern- making the rows even longer!! oh well. my patience hasn't run out yet, so i'm just trying to stay positive. and since all the separate pieces are knit flat, i'm able to get more practice on my knitting backwards! when i started knitting i was doing the standard "knit one row, purl one row" but when i got to the stockinette portion, i got bored very quickly. so i decided i'd knit a few rows using the knitting backwards and if i saw any changes in my gauge i'd just them. i was quite shocked that my knitting only changed in one way- the over-all fabric was noticeably more even and smooth!! so i'll continue to use it for the rest of my pieces and probably for everything in the future.

on a completely different note- i'd like to announce that after an inexcusable amount of time i have a finished object to share- 2 swiffer cloths! isn't it pathetic how rare that is for me?!?! if only knitting was my full time job! these pictures were taken right after i finished knitting the second one, so there are still ends to be woven and buttons to sew on, but you get the idea!

i knit the cloth on the left first to test out the pattern. *which is why it was knit with left overs.... that didn't exactly match!*

if you'd like to knit one of these for yourself, i have made a few notes that will help you out! *for those of you who aren't interested in the pattern details, you probably won't enjoy reading this!!* you can find the pattern on this page, but be warned: the link for the stitch pattern on her blog is out of date!! the instructions i used can be found here (also note: this is a link to a pattern for a dish cloth, but you cast on the same number of stitches and follow the entire pattern for you swiffer cloth). once you've done 3 repeats of the textured slip stitch, refer back to green mountain mama's pattern and the directions are crystal clear from there!

and last but not least, i've been going through a painful spinning drought lately!! it's not like i don't have anything fiber to spin, it's just that i like to have a rough idea of what i'm going to spin before i start and once i start spinning, if the direction changes and the fiber wants to do something else, i'll let it, but i don't just randomly grab fiber and start spinning. but lately, i don't even have any "rough" ideas coming through! BUT, on it's way to my doorstep is a box of unknown fiber in an unknown quantity for commission spinning. so please please please send some creative vibes my way!! i'm imagining that it will happen something like this: *the box arrives and upon opening i am instantly struck with inspiration by all the beautiful fibers and colors and head straight to my wheel!!*. but how it plays out in my imagination is not how it usually happens in real life!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

going green!!!

while looking for something to knit for my cousin's impending nuptials, i came across a pattern for reusable knit swiffer cloths!!

instantly.... i LOVED it!! not only do i get tired of throwing away the disposable swiffer pads, but i think it's hilarious- harking back to those knit toilet paper cozy days..... but in a very updated way! it's almost a pop culture pattern- not that the state of our planet's health hasn't been a concern until recently- but with this being an election year, all the candidates are trying to convince voters that they actually care about the earth! hell, even the maury povich show advertised during a commercial break that their offices and studios are "going green"..... MAURY POVICH??? the man who sells onesies that say "YOU ARE NOT THE FATHER" on his website! now that's pop culture! *and yes, i DO watch maury povich! i'm a stay at home mom, give me a break!! it's a guilty pleasure that i just can't tame.... it's too damn hilarious!!*

anyway, the pattern is funny, cute and actually usefull- i'll be knitting one immediately!! even if only to say that i actually did it! AND- among all of this excitement- i was able to come up with an idea of something to knit for my cousin's wedding. after searching ravelry for some nice wedding "things" i was still coming up empty handed *they had plenty of pretty girly things, but i really wanted to make them something they could BOTH enjoy. my first instinct was to knit or crochet an afghan or throw, but i wanted to give them something really special, and i'm not sure i could get it done by december with all the other things i have going on*.

so, i called my mother for suggestions. we talked, and debated, and i threw out an idea from left field: a name doily. you may have seen them before, almost every married couple in our family has one... except for my generation. she told me that many members of our family had commissioned them from a local woman years ago. translation: no one in my family could tell me how to make one!! since this is not the kind of work i usually do, i had no idea where to look for instructions, patterns, alphabets or anything, but we ended the conversation on the idea that i would look around on the internet.

after a few failed searches, i learned that the technique used to crochet said doilies is "filet crochet", and after searching for FILET CROCHET name doily alphabets, i started getting some results! almost immediately i was finding free charted alphabets, but i don't think any modern "patterns" exist anymore, as all the patterns from back in the day were from those little phamplets you find in the yarn section of wal-mart *or similar chain/craft store selling yarn*. but if you can read a chart, you can interpret any charted alphabet for filet crochet. i also came across a message board where a woman said that she followed the instructions and chart from Stitch 'N Bitch: The Happy Hooker to learn how to filet crochet. i almost couldn't believe it- that was the book that i taught myself to crochet with! and lo and behold, the instructions were on my book shelf the entire time! and i will say, her explanation of filet crochet was easier to understand than any i found online!

so, i have found an alphabet that i love and since i can't find a suggested weight of crochet cotton to use, i guess i'm going to try out what i have and i'll go from there! i have some left over from the wedding garter i made, but i doubt the end of that ball will be enough. i think i will crochet one full letter with what i have and see if i like the size, weight and look of it. and luckily *if i don't like it* crochet cotton is super cheap! now if i can only get print-outs of the letters i need, i could start on it right away! unfortunately, however, our printer doesn't work! i'll have to call in a favor.....

Monday, September 15, 2008


if you put it out into the universe it will come to you? well, that's the saying that comes to mind after finally being able to buy the yarn i wanted for the gigi pattern from knitty!!! i had been fawning over Gigi *a kimono cardi* since the summer issue of knitty hit the web, but i knew we didn't have the money to buy the yarn.... especially when i researched the yarn used in the pattern. it's a handpainted merino/tencel blend called radiance from yarnbotanika priced at $23 a skein..... and i would need 4 skeins for my size!!!! it's a really nice yarn, just not in my price range at all!!

after doing some research for "budget or discount" yarn companies, i found elann. like knitpicks, they carry lines of yarns that are produced exclusively for them, which enables them to offer such great prices. their website has a really usefull tool that allows you to search their yarns by fiber content, season, weight, etc. so in less than five minutes i had a list of yarns to choose from that were suitable for my project - without having to sift through everything. i was having a hard time deciding between the price of their cotton yarn or the luxury of the *slightly more expensive* bamboo yarn, but after checking the color card, i fell in love with the "oriental teal" color. and at less than fifty cents extra, the bamboo is worth it. plus, i've been dieing for some bamboo knit wear!

and so, swatching has begun. the yarn is a bit fiddly, but not unmanageable. it has a major problem with splitting- if you're not looking when you insert your needle into the stitch, you'll totally split it. and splitting the yarn makes the new stitch not want to be removed from the needle, so i'll be yanking at it, trying to get it off the needle, which distorts the surrounding stitches. it can turn into a mess if you don't watch it. a wool yarn would definately beat bamboo in the ease-of-use department. but no matter how many times you hear about bamboo yarn reacting differently than other fibers, learning how to deal with those effects is best done by experiencing it *and figuring it out* for yourself. oh, yeah.... did i mention this is my absolute first time knitting with bamboo yarn AND this will be my first knitted garment? since the yarn i bought is different than the one used in the pattern, i'll have to be pretty thorough in my swatching.

swatching and blocking technical support: where i explain a little bit about swatching for THIS yarn and how i block swatches

i absolutely believe in swatching in large projects- in smaller projects where gauge doesn't really matter, or the article can be knit in ANY gauge, i don't bother. but for something that you want to look nice, and have around for twenty years, i want to know how the resulting fabric is going to look, behave and especially wear over time.

the first step, of course, is the knitting. i usually start with the needle suggested on the ball band for the yarn i'm using, and then if i'm not getting the right gauge, i will switch needles accordingly. i think that knitting a swatch that is big enough to measure four inches of fabric is one of the most important steps of swatching. however, some people like to "speed up the process" by kniting a two inch swatch and multiplying that gauge by two, but i think that opens the door for more inconsistency. i want to be as precise as possible. if you're going to take the time to do it, you might as well do it right. i cast on as many stitches as i think i'll need for four inches of measurable fabric plus however many stitches i'll use as a border *i add 8 stitches- 4 on each side*. borders of non-curling stitch patterns help your swatch to lay flat while you're measuring it *which helps greatly when you're wrestling with a ruler and a swatch and counting... amd we all know how hard counting knit stitches can be!!!*

for a long time there was one thing that still had me confused about swatching- the blocking phase. to sufficiently know how your fabric and resulting garment are going to react when you wash them, there is *in my opinion* only one way to block: by simulated washing. what i mean by "simulated" is that i follow every step of the washing process, except i don't add soap. i read the washing instructions on the yarn's ball band and follow them to a T.

for example, my bamboo yarn says to hand wash in cold water and air dry flat. so for this yarn, i knit my swatch and soaked it in cold water *sans soap*- the amount of time i leave a swatch to soak varies by the fiber content of the yarn. the fabric needs to be completely wet throughout, with no dry spots left. some fibers may take a while to "wet". once my swatch was done soaking, i GENTLY take it out of the water and press the excess water out or roll it in a hand towel or rag *again, GENTLY* to get as much of the water out as possible so that the drying goes by faster. i then lay it out on a DRY hand towel and prepare to shape it. this is another step that i had been doing wrong since i began my *self taught* knitting career. most books instruct you to "pin to desired dimmensions or to pattern specifications". so if you're not following a pattern or the pattern you are following doesn't go into great detail about what the measurements of the individual pieces should be, then what?!?! so i usually just quessed about how to pin out my swatches- stretching, pulling and forcing them into shape..... and ultimately distorting them.

once i joined ravelry, i started a discussion about blocking handspun, in an effort to clear up some of my confusion. the advice and tips i got were varied and numerous. so, like most things in knitting, everyone has their own *very steadfast* opinion about how to do things the "right way" and you take everything you've ever heard, and try to make sense of it.

i personally like the technique that involves NO pulling or stretching of the fabric. instead, i lay my swatch out and try to make it as flat and neat as possible. i would describe it as more of a *finessing* of the fabric- i smooth out any lumps and bumps and try to make any wavy, distorted edges of my swatch even *which, admittedly, does involve the TINIEST amount of "pulling"- but done gently!!* and sometimes, if my vertical rows are wonky *which was quite a problem with the bamboo yarn* i may go UNDER the fabric to straighten it out.

in my opinion, blocking your swatch this way gives you the truest gauge. instead of pulling and pinning the swatch- making it bigger than you knitted it- you are merely flattening any bumps and wrinkles out that may have happened with all the handling that is involved in blocking soaking wet knitted fabric. from there, all that is left is to wait for your swatch to dry and measure your gauge!!

my last tip for swatching is to take notes on each swatch- any important yarn information, needle size, gauge, tension and basically any information that may be important to you in the future!! i keep a notebook that is reserved for keeping notes on my on-going knitting projects. it's much easier to have all of my notes in one place!

things i learned about this yarn from the swatching process:

having now done at least seven swatches with this yarn *because i still can't get pattern gauge!!* i now feel overly familiar with this yarn. here are a *few* of the things i learned about this yarn through the swatching process: the yarn looses twist when knit with a few times, bamboo "wets" faster than i imagined it would, if knit at a tight enough gauge the swatch still has fantastic drape without too much sag, the stitch definition of the yarn when wet is terrible and the stitches become sort of smooshed *which had me scared the first time i blocked it* but once dry everything returns to normal, the rows become very wonky once wet *where i learned to go underneath the fabric to fix that problem*, and that after all these washes, the yarn actually holds up pretty well *to my relief*!!

i think one of the worst knitting-related disaster scenarios is knitting the most beautiful garment you've ever seen, only to find out that later that the yarn shrinks, sags, bleeds, etc. terribly on the first wash! it really is amazing how much you can learn about your yarn before you even start knitting your garment, and for that alone, don't you think swatching is worth it???

what to do with all those swatches??? (yet another area where everyone has their own preference)

many people *especially serious knit-wear designers* like to keep EVERY swatch they've ever knit for future reference- and if you're a really serious knitter or use a specific yarn often, this would be really useful to you. personally, i'm a tight-budgeted knitter. although i do think it's important to buy more than enough yarn for a project, i'm not a knitter who buys an entire extra ball for swatching *no, i'm not making that up*. in fact, i'm so frugal that when i bind off my swatches, i DO NOT cut the yarn. instead, i leave the last stitch of my bind off row on the left needle and instead of tieing off the yarn as i usually would, i insert the right hand needle into the stitch, hold the swatch tightly just below the stitch and i pull up on the right needle- creating a big loop. then i take the yarn that is still attatched to the ball, slip it into the loop, and pull the loop tight- making a sort of slip knot. once the swatch has served it's purpose, i can pull out the loop, rip out the swatch and wind it back around the ball- freeing up the yarn so that i can knit with it instantly. in my opinion that saves alot of yarn *and money* and the trouble of having to store hundreds of swatches.

as soon as i can get the right gauge on this yarn i will be more than ready to get this project on the needles!! i've been as close as one stitch and 4 rows off!!! if i can't work this out soon, i think i'm going to have to rewrite the entire pattern for this yarn. and as horrible as that sounds, i've scanned though the pattern, and i don't think it will too extremely hard to rewrite it..... i hope.....

more detailed information on other swatching and blocking techniques:

great knitty article on swatching:

details about blocking *also includes blocking different fibers*:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

edit notice!

just a little note to let anyone interested know that i just added pictures to my post about the TAGRA first year fiber festival. there are pictures of the goat judging, the teeny, tiniest little skein of handspun known to man, and the stuff i purchased from kai ranch mohair.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


ah, freedom! it's been so refreshing to be able to do whatever i want without having to worry about a timeline. the creativity 350 project had me so unraveled in every way possible!! of course it's funny now, and i'm not too proud to laugh at myself. but i really didn't realize how much pressure i was putting on myself to finish that project until it was all over.

of course a stay at home mom doesn't deal with deadlines every day, and it surely sounds pitiful to those who actually work to listen to me complain about one project, with one deadline, for such a short amount of time. but the truth is, i'm not afraid of deadlines. it was just such an ambitious project for me to take on at the last minute, and i knew that. i knew it would be stressful and that i would be pressed for time. i literally worked up until the last possible moment that i could!! if i didn't have the kids to look after, it would've been much more peaceful. at least at a 9-5 job you are garaunteed a certain amount of hours and days to work on a major job....hell, you even get overtime if you need it!! there's not overtime in my day job.....
it was a lot of fun, but thank god it's over! now i just have to motivate myself to start cleaning the house again!!

so what have i been working on?!?! well, i've been taking advantage of the fact that i'm not tied down to any certain project at the moment! my wheel has been taken out of hibernation and the first thing i wanted to do was finish up some singles that i had been thinking about plying together. remember the navajo plied bamboo yarn that i UN-plied to get back into single form? at first, i had no idea what i would ply it with, but after seeing and fantasizing about all the bamboo/cotton handspun yarns on craftster, i knew what i wanted to do. i would ply the bamboo with the white cotton single i spun from the indian punis.

although i knew what i wanted the fibers to do, i was worried that they wouldn't cooperate with each other. since cotton is so much shorter than bamboo, i thought the cotton single may pull apart and disintegrate. but, true to form; i live uncomfortably with the idea for a couple of weeks, until one day i just tell myself, "shut up and do it, already!!!"

to my disbelief, the two polar opposite fibers plied together beautifully! i haven't set the twist yet, but as far as i can tell, the strength of the cotton single was compromised. and the bamboo's longer staple length will help with that too. i really like the way the white looks with the colors in the hand dyed bamboo. it makes the colors more springy than they already were. the bamboo plied with itself made the colors really dark and it sort of looked easter/cheesy! now it looks easter/chic!

some may remember my depressing rant about having nothing to knit after finishing the creativity 350 socks. the only excuse i can give for forgetting about the yarn over cable socks is that sometimes i feel like i have no brain at all! i can't believe i forgot about a project that i was so excited to start knitting! but, they're back in action now, and i still love the stitch pattern as much i did when i first began the socks! but, i have altered them a little bit again..... *surprise, surprise*! when i first picked them back up, i decided to solve a problem that i was ignoring with the handspun i was using for them. the yarn at the beginning of the skein *the part that i knitted the swatch with* kept getting thinner and thinner as i knit more of the foot of the sock. if it would've done that past the the heel i wouldn't have been so worried, but since it was thinning on the foot and up to the heel *the parts of the sock that take the most abuse* it had to be resolved.
so i frogged back down to the thicker yarn and went looking for the other two skeins i had to see if i could match the thickness. i cut the yarn and added on the new skein, but after knitting over half of the foot *again* i realized how warm the socks would be and how little i would be able to wear them in texas. so now i'm going to look through my internet bookmarks and find the knitty pattern for pedicure socks. you knit the leg of the socks, the heel, and most of the foot and then bind off before knitting the toes. you can see how that would be beneficial for getting a pedicure, but i plan to wear them for a different occasion. i like to wear flip flops year round....i know it sounds weird. if you lived in texas, however, you may understand. i use my feet to regulate the temperature in my body. if i'm hot while sleeping, i throw the covers off my feet to cool off. if i'm cold, i must cover my feet. not to mention, the weather in texas can go from cold to hot to everything in between in a matter of hours. so, a sweater with flip flops makes total sense to me!!

and, last but not least, i'm working on processing two fleeces right now. the most urgent is the targhee fleece i bought for the danish tie shawl in spin-off. the bulk of the wool is still only washed, nothing more. i did start the carding process a while back, but was extremely dissapointed and DIS-motivated (and i know that's not a word, but it describes my feeling perfectly!!!) when i took the first batt off the carder and the presence of VM (oh.....and the left over sari silk that refused to come off the drum carder from the last carding project....oops!!) in it was outrageous..... way to much for spinning quality. after that i was stumped... i had no idea what to do. so, i took a break from it. the obvious problem was that i wasn't removing enough of the VM before the wool hit the carder. after stewing for a while, i got the idea of combing the wool before carding it. i know it sounds mental to comb somthing and then card it (!!!), but combing wool to the point of getting out all the neps and such is so tedious, and as i learned very quickly takes a lot of time. but what if i combed it until it was clean and then carded it? it sounded good in theory, but i had to prove it in practice. although it still took a while to comb the wool clean *it was still a little bit dirty* it was much better than having a batt of such a beautiful, fine fleece packed full of hay, grass and burs. so i've continued doing it that way. i haven't pulled the second batt off the carder yet, but i hope and pray that when i do, i will be rewarded with a pristine batt. i can't wait to start spinning that wool!!! it's doubtful that i'll get the shawl done by autumn at this point, but fall comes late and is extremely mild in texas *and a texas winter is similarly deppressing*. maybe i stand half a chance.....

the second fleece is the babydoll southdown i purchased from sapphirechild on etsy. i'm trying a new washing technique which i plan on giving full details about in a later post. all i can say right now is stay's super-dirty!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

VOTE NOW!!!! your votes determine the winner!!

originally written august 17th

woohoo!!! i got my creativity 350 project entered before deadline...but just barely!!! it only took three tries to get it submitted, thanks to our internet connection!! i'm just grateful it went through, even though it took three hours and i barely made it in with only 4 more hours to spare! *surprisingly, i wasn't the last entrant....i came in second to last!*

now the contest is in the hands of the voters!! if you would like to see all the projects that were entered go to the CREATIVITY 350 HOME PAGE!!! and if you want to vote on your favorite project, be warned that they hid the voting button on the very right-hand side of the screen, and you may have to scroll over to see it!!

*note that the link above takes you to the third page of entries. my socks are at the very bottom of that page!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

i can check my creativity 350 project off the list!!!

originally written August 11th

i just finished knitting my creativity 350 socks this afternoon!!! ugh, i already feel relieved! i've been freaking out about not finishing on time, all the hours and work *and brain cells* that i put into those socks, there was no way in hell i wan't going to have them finished and entered in the contest! it's not as easy as knitting from a pattern, either! a certain design aspect may sound good in theory, but then you have to translate that into knitting. it's not all laid out in front of you, and if you mess up, you better pray that you even remember what you were doing so you can fix it *because if you're anything like me, you haven't written anything down!!!*. and if something doesn't work, then it's back to the drawing board for you! my poor brain, i never was any good at math. when i see a beautiful and intricate knitted garment, it blows me away- the amount of knowledge and time it must take to make such amazing pieces.

here they are, all blocked out. this was actually my first time blocking socks, i am overall happy with the results, but the ankles and toes could use some improvement.

when i first started designing and knitting my socks for the contest, i was planning on keeping them a surprise until they were finished. that's why i never really gave any details on them which i'm sure some people have been scratching their heads at. as you all know, i couldn't keep them a secret long, especially with all of the obstacles i ran into, i was bursting at the seams to vent my frustration and get some advice! so here are the most basic details: the yarn i used to knit the socks is knit picks palette yarn in clover and natural (i can't remember the actual name of the cream/neutral yarn, but you get the idea!) i ordered one ball of each color and despite my constant fear and frequent blogging about running out of yarn, i was super relieved that i didn't!! i did however try to stretch the amount of yarn i had by using equal parts of both colors; mostly green on the legs and natural on the feet of the socks, as the background for the stripes.

i love the way these pictures turned out! my husband took them....who knew he was such a budding photographer!?!?

i used short row toes and heels on these socks, and learned some very valuable lessons them along the way: mainly that while knitting them you must concentrate!!! they are not suitable for mindless knitting in front of the tv OR in the presence of ANY small children who command your attention!! it is not easy or fun to go down a few rows and fix a mistake, i usually had to rip out the entire heel and start over. AND, use the damn stitch markers!!! even though we tend to think that we can do everything by ourself and rarely use markers anymore *at least that's what i was thinking!!* it makes the process infinitely easier, especially if you're not familiar with wrapped stitches, in a smaller gauge they are hard to distinguish from regular knit stitches. even if you are paying pretty close attention....

i also learned some new techniques with this project; intarsia, knitting backwards and intarsia in the round. i've already gone over intarsia and knitting backwards in some of my previous posts, but i haven't yet mentioned intarsia in the round. i found alot of different techniques online, but the one that i thought would be easiest to learn and execute in the short amount of time i had was one which incorporates yarn overs and decreases to simulate flat knitting. i found this great site that has a complete explanation of what makes intarsia in the round so problematic *until you know how to do it*. it also goes over a couple of the techniques all in one place so that you don't have to go to numerous sites to find them. if at all possible, you may want to have a swatch if you're reading the instructions for a technique that you plan on using so that you can follow along with her, otherwise it can get a little confusing.

this is the seam that is created by using the yarn over/decrease method of intarsia in the round. i actually like the way it looks, the effect is like a tiny corset, with the yarn overs on each side. i might use it in the futute as a design feature.

here is a VERY brief run-down of how the yarn over/decrease technique works: let's pretend we are knitting a sock, toe up. we knit the toe, the foot and the heel and then we want to knit an intarsia motif on the leg of the sock. we'll decide that we're going to put the "seam" on the back of the leg, straight up from the ankle. so we knit to the exact middle-back of the ankle, yarn over and then knit back the way you came (this is where you can use the knitting backwards, instead of turning and purling). you then knit the "second row" following your intarsia chart, until you reach the stitch before the yarn over. purl the last stitch together with the yarn over.

*TIP: if you're knitting backwards and you have a hard time figuring it out, you can turn your work around and pretend you're going to purl 2 together to see how to do it. AND you can do this for any stitch while knitting backwards, or if you get absolutely stuck and don't know what to do, just turn the work, purl it, turn it back around and continue knitting backwards!!*

once you've done your decrease you will be back on a knit row! since we decreased, we'll need to add another stitch, so at the beginning of the next row, yarn over. knit the "third row" following your chart and when you get back to the seam where the yarn over is, this time you'll be doing a SSK decrease. again, yarn over at the beginning of the row. continue on in this manner until you are finished with your intarsia motif and then you'll return to knitting circularly for the rest of the leg and cuff of the sock.

a front and back view of the intarsia motif and the seam created in back. and there's nothing wrong with your eyes or your computer, the zero on the left IS extremely wonky! it resulted from too many yarn ends and not enough space to weave them in. i'm going to go back and try to fix it. real problems in the real world. not every knit is perfect!!

BUT, it's all done now.... well, the knitting is done. i told myself that i would be happy if both socks were bound off and i had the pictures to prove it by friday *after all, you only have to send in pictures, so i wasn't too worried about weaving in the loose ends, i could just stuff them down inside the sock!!* but now i have a 4 day cushion to do finishing touches! and believe me, for all the color changes in those socks, i'm going to need 4 days to weave in the ends!

and now i'm getting the anxiety that i believe most knitters experience once they near the end of a project: i have tons of patterns that i'd love to jump into right away, but no yarn.... or money in this modern-day depression. my heart is already sinking!! i would love to get back to spinning, though. i feel guilty for my poor wheel!

i did mention in once post that i was allowing myself a tiny bit of spinning time, only when the socks became brain-numbing and i needed a break. the wool i chose for this couldn't have been any better! i got the four ounces of wool *unknown breed, but wonderful nonetheless* from my june FOTM swap partner. the colors are so calm and relaxing, and it was the first time in a really long time that i allowed myself to spin without overthinking it. i didn't care what it looked like in the end, where or how the colors met up, how many WPI it was.... i let my mind wander, while serendipity took over. that's the best kind of spinning.

i did take the plying seriously though. dictatorially serious. i've been so frustrated with the fact that all of my yarns are at least slightly over-twisted and it really started to bug me. i know everyone says that a balanced skein of handspun is something that "comes with time" but i'm not one of those people who likes to sit around and wait. i'm a little more proactive.

to pin-point exactly what i was doing wrong, i would ply about a yard of singles and stop and do a ply-back test. it was then that i noticed something that was always there, but i had never paid any attention to: when you attatch a leader to your bobbin, you take it up through the flyer hook (or hooks) and then down through the wheel's orrifice. it was that very small couple of inches of yarn that led to my breakthrough!! i had plied a yard's length of singles, with my right arm extended out behind me. when i started the ply back, i noticed a reaction in the yarn between the oriffice and the bobbin: the second you bring your arm forward, you release the tension that you were holding the yarn under and in a matter of seconds, the yarn behind the orrifice would untwist, sometimes drastically.....but only with yarn that did not have enough ply twist!!!

but if i pulled about five inches back off the bobbin (towards me) and put more ply twist into it, it wouldn't unwind! in fact, if i watched it closely, you can see it either lose twist *not enough ply twist*, stay exactly the same *balanced yarn* OR extra twist from what i had just plied would travel BEYOND the orrifice and into that yarn. so i knew if it unraveled i needed to put more twist into my yarn and if it gained twist i had too much ply twist (which can be easily fixed by pulling about 5 more inches of yarn off the bobbin and the twist will even itself out a bit). it is a revelation for me, although i can't tell you how tedious it is to do this for an entire 4 ounces of fingering-weight singles!! of course, you wouldn't have to do it that way, you could use it periodically to test your consistency. i was just determined to spin a FULLY balanced yarn! and i did.

Look at that skein!! and that's before washing!! and there's all that's left of the singles! i really love this yarn. i don't have a name for it yet, but the colors remind me of an ocean somewhere in greece.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

deadlines, goats, and inspiration

**Notice the date below, yes, this is how long it is taking me to get posts up for right now.... i have taken the PC to the DR. to get it checked, and have been stirring it up on the verizon technical support lines..... hehe, i'm very proficient at those angry *MY (fill in the blank) hasn't been working and i want it fixed NOW or i'm cutting off my contract and you won't get one red cent from me!!!* that certainly gets their attention! so hopefully the problem will be fixed soon!

originally written: july 30th

the deadline approaches. i have 2 weeks and 2 days to submit pictures of my creativity 350 project for judging!! i'm getting nervous i'm not going to finish! i have completed the feet and heels of both socks and am half way through knitting the intarsia motif (the numbers 3-5-0) on the right sock. it may seem weird that i decided to knit them in this strange order, but there a couple of reasons for that.

the first *and most important* reason is that i'm terrified i'm going to run out of yarn. since we were broke when i ordered the yarn, i ONLY bought what i thought i would need to make one pair of socks, without allowing any extra yarn for screw ups!! but then i made a decision that i thought would make the socks more interesting; instead of knitting both intarsia designs horizontally on the leg of the sock, i would knit the left sock's motif horizontal and the right one vertical. that complicated the knitting incredibly, not necessarily in terms of skill level, but in terms of time and the amount of yarn i had.

that brings us to reason #2 for my strange order of operations: most socks can be worn on either foot, but since i did stripes, this makes a visible line of color changes and the smartest way to hide that is to position it on the inside of the leg, also meaning if you wear the left sock on the right foot, you will see the line of color changes on the outside of the foot, where everyone is looking at and *should be* admiring your hand knit sock.

#3: since i'm knitting the intarsia on the right sock vertically, it is taller AND will take more yarn than the same motif knitted left to right. to make sure that i wouldn't run out of yarn and also to know how tall i would have to make the left sock, i had to knit the right one first. i hope everyone's still following me after that!!

once i'm done knitting the intarsia on the right sock, i will put the entire sock's worth of live stitches on hold with spare double points or waste yarn (instead of binding off so i can go back and knit the ribbing later) then i will have to decide where i'm going to put the design on the left sock. i'll have a TON of length to work with, but i'm 90% sure i'll place the motif in the top 1/4 of the length and somewhere it can be seen from the front and/or outside of my leg.

i did have a good diversion from all my creativity 350 knitting this week! an odd sequence of events led me to a VERY small town fiber festival, one that i had never heard of, no less! in november of 2007, i attended my first fiber festival in boerne, texas, called kid 'n ewe. i was actually shocked once i got there at how big it was for being in a kitschy boutique-style town.
there were 2 large buildings with vendors only, and a third *the llama barn* that was for llamas and alpacas mostly, but also had a great selection of anything and everything that could possibly made from the animals, and of course, spinning fibers and fleeces.

one of my favorite vendors there was kai ranch mohair, a texas based business. they had the most beautiful mohair i've ever seen, in the most beautiful and fun colors and most of it was locks, locks and more locks *my favorite*!!! a couple of months ago, i had pretty much used up all of the precious locks i purchased from them, so i emailed them to see what they had available. although i didn't end up buying from them at the time, they added me to their email list for store updates. out of the blue, i get a message from them asking everyone to come by and visit them in junction *a town about an hour away from where i live* for the !!!NEW!!! fiber fair running concurrently with the TAGRA *texas angora goat raisers association* show. i was stoked!! this was the first time i'd ever heard of the show, and for everything you hear about texas being one of the world's largest producers of mohair, i've never seen or heard of ANYTHING going on locally, so i had to go.

i started looking around the web for more info on the show, concrete times and vendors and such, with absolutely no luck. so, i asked my mother in law to go with me and we figured we had a 50% chance of having a good time, and at the very least, it would get me out of the house and away from chaos for a couple of hours.

after driving an hour AND getting lost *thanks to the LACK of advertising they had done for their show* we finally made it! as soon as we got a little closer, i got nervous. there was one tiny covered but open-air pavillion type structure and all i could see was goats *which wasn't a surprise since the main purpose of this get-together is an angora goat show and sale* and to be honest, i'm not quite sure what i WAS expecting, as this is only my second public fiber foray, but i'll just say, i was a little stunned. driving around the other side of the building, we did see ONE area where someone had set up shop, so we decided to reserve judgement and go have a look around.

the judging line-up. i couldn't get everyone in one frame *see below*. the main purpose of the TAGRA show is the judging and selling of the angoras. there were more goats that weren't in the judging.
there were all age groups showing their goats- the youngest is the little boy above, and the oldest was a woman of around 70!! it was pretty funny to see them wrestling with the animals!!
this was the biggest goat there, i'm pretty sure he got first, but i wasn't paying that much attention. my husband called right after they started pulling goats out of the line for placement.
*i would like to say that this paragraph is making me sound like the bitchiest fiber snob, but i assure you, i'm not!!! it's just that there are a lot of little back-woods towns in the hill country of texas that can be VERY creepy, not in a "deliverance" sort of way or anything, but i'm NOT your average texas gal, ya'll. sometimes my look isn't readily accepted in the stock show/rodeo type of atmosphere, and, in alll fairness, they're probably terrified of me, too. this was the merging of two very similar and yet intensely different worlds and people*

we got out of the car and took in our surroundings for a moment..... there were more angora goats in attendance than people, and 3 vendors *one of which was an elderly woman selling her handmade goods*. we walked in and stopped at the first vendor we came to- a husband and wife angora breeding team from oklahoma.

they had some really nice rambouillet fleeces *and a couple of prize winning charcoal-colored angora fleeces *which was new for me, because i have never even seen a colored angora goat, much less been able to closely examine one's fleece!!* i began chatting with the ladies there, asking questions about the fleeces, admiring a 1980's ashford traditional and ashford's new golden child, the joy. in less than 15 minutes, she was asking me if i wanted to take her joy for a spin! how could i turn that down?!?! while i was spinning we continued talking, and as soon as i mentioned my LACK of spindling skills. she rushed to her car and brought back a bag with two home made spindles and some roving.

i reluctantly conceeded to giving her spindle a try. my hands had forgotten the movements, and i felt quite awkward and self conscious *i've always been a little ashamed that i could never pick up the most basic spinning, which is practiced all over the entire planet..... by four and five year olds* she was watching me very closely, giving me tips when i needed them and letting me figure it out on my own when i could. her intuitiveness was inspiring. although i was still using my park and draf method, within a couple of minutes, i didn't feel so awkward anymore! and as my brain soaked up some of her experience, the roving began to flow freely from my hands and turn into yarn.

crowning achievement of the day- the tiniest little skein of handspun i have ever seen!! it's size does not measure the importance of it, however- i'll probably keep it for the rest of my life.

i spent most of my afternoon spinning and talking at her table. she encouraged me to perfect spindling so that i could teach it to others *which i've always wanted to do* and for some reason she was more than overtly suggesting that i open up a shop at some point *as i've said a million times, there are no spinning supplies, teachers or resources within 45 minutes of where i live. i don't think i'll ever forget her. and now i'm convinced that i was where i was supposed to be that day.
oh, yeah and i almost forgot!! i couldn't leave without buying something!! i couldn't resist getting some beautifully dyed kid mohair roving (right). but along with the old favorites, they had added something new to their store- faux cashmere!!! it's actually nylon..... i've seen it on some of the websites, and heard it was devilishly soft and luxurious, but i've never seen *or felt* it in person!! i can only describe the feel of it as a mixture of angora bunny fur and bamboo!!! *but when i said that, the lady looked at me like i was on crack, so it may not be accurate!!* it also has a hint of the sheen of bamboo. i couldn't get large quantities of either fiber, but i can't wait to spin them up!!! lisa *who does the dyeing at kai ranch* said that the cashmere takes up dye extremely well.
aren't those color ways awesome?!?! i L-O-V-E the faux cashmere (right)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

electronic woes

hello world! my updates have been taking increasingly longer to get posted because, once again, we're having computer related problems. i don't think it's the actual computer this time, i think it's our internet service. i've been having to write posts in about 4 sessions, and since blogger automatically saves your post every time there's a pause in the typeing, it's making the process exponentially slower. it's a really great feature when everything's running at peak performance, but not when your connection is so crappy. so, you'll have to forgive me if these updates are taking longer than normal!

there is something i would like to mention here before i get into any knitting news and forget. while knocking around the knit picks website ordering the yarn for my creativity 350 socks, i saw that that they will be debuting a new sock book called "Socks a La Carte". it is exactly the kind of book i've been searching for, and the current subject of most of this blog; sock toes, feet, legs and cuffs, that you can mix and match at will! just my kind of sock knitting!!! and although you won't be able to get your hands on it until december 31st, you can preorder it on amazon right now and have it automatically arrive at your doorstep after it drops!! i'm really excited about it and i'll most likely be buying it as soon as we have the money! i hope it's worth it, though, considering that i thought "Sensational Knitted Socks" was going to be formatted like that, but it has actual patterns. i like *recipes*.

so, after the last post i did some researching online looking for possible heels for my creativity 350 socks. i did come across some great resources *talked about and linked to in the last post* and came to the conclusion that a simple round heel would be fastest. after almost finishing it though, i didn't really like how it looked, it came out VERY square??? i think the numbers were a little bit off for my sock, which is not to say that you shouldn't try it on one of your own projects.

the square-looking heel would not have mattered to me one bit, had it fit well. after all, it looks fine once you put an actual heel in it. but of course, the sock came nowhere close to having a good fit! in my newest book, Sensational Knitted Socks, the instructions for a toe up sock were; knit the toe, knit the foot of the sock until it reaches your ankle bone (the big round bone on the outside of your foot, near the ankle, if there's any confusion) and when the foot of the sock is long enough to reach that point, you should start knitting the heel. i thought that sounded easier than all the measuring i normally do. it wasn't.

so i frogged the "round" (*SQUARE!!*) heel and a little bit of the foot, and went back to my tried and true method of measuring the foot- i take my total foot length minus two inches for the heel. for me that measurement is 7 1/2 inches, so once i reach that point, i know i'm reading to start knitting the heel of my sock. works like a charm every time for me! i also try my sock-in-progress on alot at this stage of the knitting, just to make sure everything feels right.

once i got back to the right length, it was once again time for the heel. i'm not sure what came over me at this point, but without second guessing myself, i started knitting short rows again!?!?! i just felt like i needed to do it. and although i had a few problems, i was surprised to find myself fixing my mistakes with ease!!! it seemed as though all the experience i'd gained recently from constantly ripping out and reknitting those short rows had finally paid off! and let me tell you, fixing short rows is not easy! it sort of feels like when you first start knitting and you watch someone drop a stitch and go down a few rows to fix a mistake, and it just blows your mind!! but once i knew what everything was supposed to look like, it was easier to tell what i had done wrong. i will admit, at one point i had to frog about 4 rows and redo them, but it was much better than frogging the whole heel! i had found my short row zen- i finished the heel without any major melt downs or cursing! it was nice.

at the beginning of the short row heel, i had an epiphany- when i was researching how to knit intarsia in the round, i came across a technique called "knitting backwards"; most commonly used while knitting flat, but has MANY other creative uses. now, i'm not going to get into instructions here, but i will be giving links so you can look it up!! a most basic explanation of knitting backwards is: without turning your work around, you will be making purl stitches on the back side of your knit fabric while viewing from the front of the knit fabric. here's a visual; instead of knitting stitches from the left needle to the right needle, the stitches you just knit will be on the right needle, and your left needle will become your working needle.

why i DO want to mention it is to tell you about my experience with the technique. i think this may be the one most creative and innovative improvements on the basic, thousands-of-years-old knitting that we do in every project, every day. and especially for me, i'm a little embarassed to admit that 75% of the time, i fall asleep about 10 rows into a knitting session.... most often on a purl row. knitting has always been relaxing for me, but now i find it a little too relaxing! and then there's a more common plague of the knitting community.... PURL STITCHES!!!! i have no idea why so many people say they hate purling, but for me personally, i'm half as fast on my purl rows, which is why i usually fall asleep on them. i don't know how fast other people knit, and i'm certainly no lilly chin or anything, but in my own mind, i think i'm a pretty fast knitter. and i like it that way. and then there's my other reason to dislike purling, though it may be a less common affliction of purlers out there, i'm not sure, i've never told anyone this: my hands feel drunk or something while purling! seriously, they're totally ineffective!! i'm not sure what that's all about, but it's true! it just doesn't feel right. so for anyone who may hate purling, for whatever reason- read on, this part of the post is for you!!

now, just like most of my great-idea flashbacks, it was very late at night, like 1AM. i did a search for knitting backwards tutorials on google, and was delighted to find that knitty did an entire article on the subject! of the hundreds of thousands of knitting websites and blogs on the globe, knitty would most definately be in my "top 5 most-trusted knitting websites" list.

since it was so late at night, i ONLY wrote down what i thought i needed to know to be able to execute the technique. i did notice that there were other tips and i still haven't read the entire article, i was on a mission! i went back to the bedroom *where i unforunately have to do ALL my night time knitting, AWAY from the help i can find on the internet because the baby sleeps in the living room*. so i sat down, with my minimalist notes, and picked up my sock in progress. to my surprise, i was knitting backwards with no trouble! i was shocked, it sounded so hard! i knit a few stitches backwards, and the only thing i struggled with was how to hold my working yarn. it was tricky, too tricky for learning a new technique. so i dropped it. the easiest way for me to learn was to first concentrate on how to move the needles. to teach my fingers and hands to do something that i've been doing for years backwards was hard enough on it's own. can you imagine trying to teach yourself to write from right to left?!?! it would take a long time. so, while my hands were still learning, my working yarn would hang dilligently at the back of my knitting until i needed it, and only after i got the needles in place and was reading to make the stitch would i pick it up, make the stitch, and drop it again. and although i'm making it sound harder than it is right now, i was knitting backwards fluently in 10 minutes! for the rest of the night, i knit the heel, picking up the yarn as i needed it, until i was too tired and had to go to bed.

the next morning, i worked on knitting backwards while holding the working yarn. i tried a few different ways of holding it in my hands, i even tried continental. but, i settled on holding it in my right hand, like i usually do, with one modification: when i need a little extra tension, i use my middle finger to hold the yarn down a little more, making it easier to control the yarn.

now that i learned to knit backwards, i look forward *no pun intended* to purl rows!! it hasn't proved to be necessarily faster than purling *for me* but it's certainly more entertaining!

so, the moral of the story is: try something new!! this technique was pretty darn easy for me, even though i thought it sounded like a lot of work! but if i hadn't tried it, i would never have found that out! i LOVE trying new techniques, SO SPICE UP YOUR KNITTING LIFE! and perhaps the most important thing to remember is: you don't have to do anything a certain way, if it's not working for you, try something else! experiment a little and see if you can find a way to make it easier on yourself!

ok, here's where you can find out more about knitting backwards!

knitty summer 2006 (note that they call the technique knitting back backwards)

rexenne's you tube video for knitting backwards (if you want to see the technique in action, i suggest this video. she uses very big needles, so you can really see how the it's executed. she does knit with the working yarn in her left hanb, but everything else is the same for right handed knitters. it's a little bit long, and if you've never watched one of rexenne's videos, you may be surprised at her quirky style, but i've watched all her spinning videos and she's good at explaining things, so stick with it!)

all of rexenne's videos can be found here

the knit witch's knitting backwards you tube video (no frills video!! this is strictly technique here, but she is a traditional right handed knitter, if you don't like rexenne's left handed style!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

this little piggy:
sock toes

as some may have guessed, my time is still being devoted to knitting on my creativity 350 project. i'm trying to stay focused, which can be very hard for a right-brainer like me! the only other thing i've allowed myself to do with my free time is about an hour of spinning my june fiber of the month swap roving every couple of days. pretty good, if i do say so myself!

i thought i'd had about all i could stand of the 350 knitting, until a knitting angel sent me an IM on craftster. it was my june FOTM swap partner! she is really sweet, and through conversing for our fiber trade, we found out we have alot in common. she sent an "are you out there?" IM, after not hearing back from me, and i couldn't help but unload all my project stress on her! after all, i don't have anyone in my personal *not internet* life that knits or even an LYS to seek help or consolation from!

*warning; in the next paragraph, i let my creativity 350 project out of the bag. i just couldn't keep it a secret anymore, it's too exhausting NOT to write about it here! there was no stopping it either, the words just exploded from my hands to the key board! so here is the original paragraph, unedited!*

after reading my pitiful message, she sent along some encouraging words. and, although i knew how thoughtful it was of her, i didn't feel particularly enthused to pick up my needles right then and there. but, at my next knitting session, i was able to finish the toe of the sock *whoops, i let my super top secret project out of it's knitting bag!!! honestly, i'm too exasperated trying to keep it under wraps on the blog anymore! so there you go, my super top secret creativity 350 project is(!!)........SOCKS!!! i know, who would have guessed?!?! this is only my 3rd pair in a row!*

that stupid freakin short row toe!!! after barely making my way through it on the yarn over cable socks, here it is again!!! why didn't i just go with a different toe? because i didn't know any others to look up off the top of my head, and i don't have a book saying "here are the toes, here are the heels, put them together however you like!" not to mention, i was just plain being lazy about it. so after struggling on it *see all my yarn over cable sock rants* it just magickly happened! it was so smooth, and natural. the knitted fabric just poured from my hands! my knitting angel has some well-deserved knitting karma coming her way!! and she's not even a knitter.

so, after knitting the toe, the foot of the sock went by faster than i ever imagined! *after all those stupid short row toes, i forgot that i actually AM a good knitter, i just learned that i SUCK at short row toes!* the first thing i thought when i started designing these socks was: "STRIPES!!", and since i was doing the intarsia motif on the leg, i knew i'd at least put the stripes on the foot of the sock, if not use them as the back ground of the leg, too. but right now, i'm only knitting the foot. so, what type of stripes should i do? fat? skinny? painstakingly thought out? or randomly knitted? and then, from the corner of my brain where i store all of those really great ideas or techniques for future inspiration or use: "FIBONACCI stripes!!!" and so, it was decided. i would LOOSELY base my stripe sequence on a method called fibonacci knitting, which i saw demonstrated on knitty gritty.

a word about fibonacci knitting:
i would really love to explain this to you, but for the sake of time i'm directing you HERE. that link will take you to the knitty gritty web page that FULLY explains what the fibonacci numbers are, and how to incorporate them into your knitting. the tutorial is beautifully written and SUPER easy to understand, plus it gives a very interesting mini-history lesson about Leonardo Fibonacci and the way he came up with his fibonacci sequence

so, if you're interested, but telling yourself you can't do it because it involves math and numbers, trust me when i say- i suck at math!!! THIS IS EASY, i promise!!! it's only numbers, no math included! the work is done for you! if i can do it, anyone can *and if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll believe me, because if there's anyone who can mess up the simplest knitting pattern, it's ME!!!*

okay, back to your regular scheduled blogging:
now here's where i start to fudge my numbers *this is why i said my stripes would be LOOSELY based on 350*. so, i already know that i can't use the number zero, because i obviously can't knit ZERO rows of anything!!! so i had to substitute the zero with the number one.

then, i had to make sure my numbers (now 3-5-1) were actually included in the fibonacci sequence. so, using the link above, i checked it out, and was grateful that all of them were there! so, that was easy, right?! yeah, too easy.

i soon realised that with my TINY gauge, not only would the stripes not look good, but changing colors that often would be down right tedious, and my knitting would probably look like CRAP from the frequent joining of new colors. i had also decided early on that i wanted my pair of socks to really stand out. i wanted to people to notice them and wonder why the hell my socks had "350" so proudly emblazoned on them, and subsequently come ask me about it! the stripes needed to be bold and graphic. so, i figured the easiest solution would be to double the numbers: 3 to 6, 5 to 10 and 1 to 2.

it was easy to knit the stripes this way, and i really like how they turned out- just bold enough, but not like striped witch stockings or anything! there is a visible line down the length of the foot, giving away the exact point where i changed colors, but i decided i would put that part of the sock to the inside of the leg, where it would be less visible to someone viewing the sock from the outside.

sneak preview!!! here the foot of the sock is completed, at the left you can see the line of demarcation where i joined the new colors. it's not too pretty, but i will tighten up the joins in the finishing stage of the sock and hopefully it'll look better!

here is a closeup of the joins. this will face the inside of the foot.
i would like to note, however, if you were to knit a pair striped socks using a "knit 10 rows in main color, knit 10 rows in contrasting color" pattern, the joins would likely be less noticeable. my theory on this is they're easier on the eye because they are farther apart than the stripes with only 2 knitted rows, so we perceive them as being less noticeable.

this is an illustration of the aforementioned theory of how the thickness of the stripes affects the look of the color joins.
on to the heel! my first thought after finishing the toe and foot of the sock? there's no way in hell i'm going to do another short row technique here!!! so i logged on to ravelry, and began searching the sock knitting groups for an alternatives. i was massively dissapointed. so instead of wasting my time searching the internet *as some of you may already know: i'm completely useless when it comes to searching* i went to the "tips and techniques" group on ravelry and posted this message, a call for names of ANY heel or toe known to man, so that you could look for them by name, making the search infinitely easier. the message has already gotten a few replies, which isn't alot, but the information given is worth it's weight in gold! i've checked out all the links provided in the first 3 replies, and although some of the websites were abandoned EONS ago, the information is still good, and most of the internal links (ie; click here to go to "socks, page 2") are still good.

so please, if you read this and my previous posts about my infuriating yarn over cable sock experience and feel like i'm reading a page out of your sock knitting book, CHECK OUT THAT LINK!!! and if you're not already a member on Ravelry, you should sign up today, even though they have a waiting list *which is already much smaller than it was when i applied* and it is a challenge in itself to figure out how to work all the totally amazing *FREE* features their website has to offer, IT'S TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!

so that is where my first sock stands as of now- next i'll decide what heel to use and with any luck, that will go faster than the toe, because i can't much more paranoia about not finishing these socks by the deadline of the contest, this has come to be so much more important to me than i ever could have imagined!! i really want to be able to show people what i can do, and hopefully everyone will like them and appreciate how much work and thought was put into them!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

knitting, knitting and more knitting.....

forward: you should know up front that this post is pretty long, but i did put pictures of my finished intarsia swatch somewhere near the bottom! not only does this post contain all the hilarity of my usual rants, but i've also tried to give an educational account of what happened, and a few things i discovered on my intarsia adventure. so for those of you who have always wanted to try intarsia *especially those who have always been told that it is HARD!!!* here is a first hand account of my experience with it. and for those who came to feel better about themselves and their knitting by reading about MY perpetual back luck, continue on!!
as you can see from the title, most of my spare time since my last post has been spent.... knitting. knitting on the creativity 350 super top secret project and the millionth redo of the yarn over cable socks. at least this time i have GOOD news about these projects, no major snafus again *but i'm not holding my breath*!

the best news of all?!?! i finished my sample of the intarsia section of the 350 project!!! i'm thrilled that it went so damn good! i get so intimidated by techniques that have always been labeled as "hard" or "challenging". that's why i can get pretty heated on the message boards on craftster or ravelry when someone replies to questions by saying "oh, (insert specific technique) is so hard!!!" i think that's why certain techniques, such as fair isle or intarsia, and even ENTIRE CRAFTS become virtually unheard of *can anyone say: spinning!!!* or considered antiquated. anyways, i'm getting off topic *so out of character for me, right?!*

back to the point, i finished the sample, which i decided to knit before starting my project mainly because i've never done intarsia, but also to see how the motif *which i charted by hand* looked and whether or not it needed to be changed (which i'm glad i did, because the chart did not translate well in some areas of the knitting). it took me three of four rows to really get the hang of the intarsia, to a point where i wasn't having to stop and refer to my book. but, in my opinion, 3 or 4 rows is a pretty small learning curve! intarsia's not as difficult as fair isle considering that you don't have to hold 2 *or more!!* yarns at the same time. instead, you simply drop the color you're not going to knit with anymore "the old color" pick up your "new" color and bring it UNDER the old color and then just start knitting, not worrying about the "old" yarn!! and it will be infinintely easier to understand what i mean by bringing the new yarn UNDER the old yarn, when you're actually trying it out for yourself *instead of just reading it* and there's a VERY helpful video on that shows in real time, from the knitter's view point (like what you see when you're looking down at your own knitting) with no cut-aways, so you see everything the knitter in the video does AND it shows the techniques in both continental and english in the one video. this video was my *AHA!!!* moment, as i was getting my instructions *which were very minimalistic* from a book, but i'm such a visual learner that when i saw the video, i instantly knew what i was doing wrong and how to correct it. so if intarsia is something you want to learn, then go watch that video!!!! *i know i went over the video in my last post, too, but seriously, that video was the single best help i could find on the web, even of the written tutorials, and so i think it would be pretty important for other people who may want to learn intarsia, and thus, worth mentioning......again!

to start off, here is an explanation of the basic principle of intarsia: you need a seperate strand of yarn for every different block of color in your knitting. the best way i've heard this explained is that to knit something with a solid pink circle on a brown background, you would need one strand of yarn for the right side of the background, one for the pink circle and one for the left side of the background (since the background splits and goes around the circle in two different areas of color). so, i deduced i'd need seven different strands of yarn for my sample:

1) the right margin of the background
2) the number zero
3) the space in between the zero and the 5
4) the number 5
5) the space in between the 5 and the 3
6) the number 3
7) the left margin of the background

and i was right, at least until i started getting further into the charted design and you go to grab your new color, and there's nothing there. so what do you do at this point?!?! well, i never found anything that explained what to do then. this was the one place i found in my entire swatch that i was absolutely stuck and had no idea how to remedy it.

so, here's how i figured out my solution. i was knitting the numbers "3-5-0" in my sample. BUT, there is one area enclosed by a solid line: the inside of the zero. so, once you get the bottom line of the zero knitted, you have to start a new strand of yarn for the background color.

*which, by the way, i only noticed right now as i typed out the numbers, so i obvioulsy didn't know to account for it in my swatch!! this is just one of many examples that illustrate how i get myself into so many ridiculous, totally avoidable situations!!!*
anyways, so i would reach down for my new color, and the yarn would be in another place and NO WHERE *not even on that blessed video* did it say: "if this happens to you, the proper thing to do is to add another yarn"!!! so at first i thought stranding *which is what you do in fair isle* may be the answer, until the yarns started getting further and further apart, and i was creating more of a problem than a solution.

and so, i was left to rack my brain for the solution to my problem, when it hit me like a ton of bricks "DUH, add a new piece of yarn!!" in my opinion, the MOST important thing to remember with intarsia *and, unfortunately, the the most unmentioned* is this: you can add a new yarn ANYWHERE in your row!!! on the left, on the right and even SMACK in the middle of a row!!! i know, it seems like knitting heresy, but most of the places you will introduce a new color of yarn in intarsia is NOT at beginning of a row!!!

and now, here's my two cents concerning the war of words on knitting intarsia with bobbins versus no bobbins. i started out my swatch with my yarn on bobbins. i had 6 or 7 that i had bought AGES ago but never got the courage to use!! turns out, the one thing i DID underestimate about intarsia was how many strands of yarn i'd have hanging off the back of my knitting!!! and since i only had those 6 or 7 yarn bobbins, and i don't know how to make those nifty yarn butterflies that unwind from the center, i had only one other option which i had never heard of until i started researching intarsia on the web. this method came from people who absolutely HATED using yarn bobbins and/or butterflies and is perhaps the easiest way to handle your yarn when you know you're going to have a gazillion yarn butts hanging out back there.

now pay attention, this is tricky!!! you take the color of yarn required, measure off about a yard and a half *this is a matter of personal preference, but this was best for ME as i had only small blocks of color and my swatch was TINY, you can certainly do longer pieces on a bigger project, though!* so you measure off what you think you'll need, cut the yarn off the ball and add it to your piece and......... oh wait, THAT'S IT?!?! yes, really, that's it!!! it's so easy and it makes the yarn super accessible and you don't have to worry about tangles at all because the butterflies and bobbins are what REALLY facilitate those tangles. so when you need a particular strand, you just pull it loose, and i NEVER had a problem, not once! and briefly, i will end this topic by saying that i didn't have any problem using the bobbins, either, when i was at the beginning of my work. but once i started compiling so many yarn ends, that's when those bobbins get all tangled up in there, and if there are ANY rough parts on the bobbin that snag your yarn, you might as well forget it. that was my major problem with them, and let me tell you, snag my yarn they did! so for a small project, you may find you get along quite well with the bobbins. as for me, those brand new yarn bobbins are headed to my embroidery box, to be wound with floss.
and i'm going to try not to ramble on about this, but people make such a big deal about their work getting all tangled up with intarsia *like, tangled to a point where they have to totally start over on their project*. but i only got one such tangle in the entire process of my swatch. and that was when one of the monsters *still not sure which one, but the investigation is ongoing!!* got a hold of my finished (!!!) swatch, and i have NO idea what they did to it, but i found it, laying on the floor looking like a cat had gotten ahold of it. and luckily, although it took some time to untangle it, at the end of the debacle, everything was okay! so i'm not sure what other people are doing to their intarsia projects to get them to that point.

okay, if you're still awake and not comatose, here are some pics!!! and just know that i was in a hurry and i didn't take alot of time to pin it absolutely flat and straight, in fact, i only took these pictures was so i could put them on the blog- just for you!!!

here is the finished swatch in its entirety

and this is to show just how tiny the gauge is for this project!!! that's your standard size tomato pin cushion there

and here, in all its glory, is the back of the piece. note at the bottom are the bobbins i originally started out with but gave up quickly!!

oh, and a quick note about the yarn over cable socks- i started over with the different crochet cast on i described in the last post, which worked with great success!!!! i counted the stitches relentlessly, and am proud to say that i still have the correct number!!! i have finished the toe and started on the foot of the sock, where the stitch pattern begins and have only messed up very slightly once, but there is a good reason!! i was watching nanny 911 and was so repulsed by a mother who let her two daughters eat and drink their pot belly pig and cat's food and water, that i got distracted on one row. can you blame me for not paying attention to my knitting?!?!