Round Peg In a Square Hole-crafts

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hard Times

Under the heading of "no good deed goes unpunished" lies the project I am currently knitting.

Let me first say that I love the woman for whom I am making this. She is a dear old friend, and we've known each other since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. We were fellow "Star Track freaks" in middle school, thus bonded similarly to the way that soldiers in fox holes do. (If you don't remember middle school as a war zone, then either you were extraordinarily lucky or you're in deep denial.) However, it is always a risk to sew/knit/craft for someone who does not do these things, as they really don't know what is possible and what is not, what is easy and what is amazingly difficult. This sometimes results in being outrageously thanked for simple, almost silly things. (I once impressed a whole skating team I was making costumes for, not with the elegant style of the costumes I chose, which looked good on most of the "mature" women on the team; not with the personal fittings; not with the speed with which I whipped them up; but... (wait for it)....because there were hooks at the top of the zippers!)

Unfortunately, the other possibility is that they ask for something which is fiendishly difficult, without even realizing it. While that is not exactly the case in this case, what she wanted (which I found out after I had said I would do it; my bad for not getting all the details beforehand) was something that was 1) much harder to do in knitting than crochetting (which I don't really do), and 2) something that was stylistically difficult for me, personally. And, it's not even really fair to blame her; once she explained what she wanted, *I* was the one who decided it had to be done this way. But I need to grumble a little bit, because the whole thing is further outside my comfort zone than I like to stray.

Kay's original request was for a shawl. I told her that, as long as it could be done on big needles and with bulky yarn, I could finish it in the timeframe allotted, and sent her links to sample shawls, to show her what I meant. Shortly after that, it morphed into a blanket; it was going into an auction basket, and she wanted it to be attractive to men as well as women. Again, back and forth with links to pics, but she never picked one. Her only input was that it was supposed to represent the ocean, and she wanted the other room mothers to go "Ooooh" when they saw it.

The first snag came when we got together to buy the yarn. When Kay had said "ocean", I began imagining chenilles in deep blues and greens. Kay was adamant that it should NOT be acrylic yarn, only natural fibers, dontcha know, and picked things in pale blues and whites. I argued for washability and economy, and we finally ended up with quite a few skeins of mixed-fiber yarns in four different colors. (Because she hadn't picked a pattern, I had to guess how much yarn to buy, and didn't want to run out. As it was, I ended up buying another skein of the darkest blue, just in case I needed it.)

It took me a long while to start the blanket, partly because I had other projects in the queue, partly because, not having a pattern, and only having a vague idea about what I was going to do, I didn't really know where to start. I finally just dove in and ran through one repeat of the colors; using two strands at any one time, it shades from dark to medium to light to white with sparkly bits. I am using short-rows to create shaped color patches that simulate waves, with the wide parts of one row hitting at the thin parts of the next row, and vice-versa. I've even borrowed a technique from sock-knitting book I have, to keep there from being holes where I turned, because I am not wrapping the stitches (that would be a nightmare with these yarns and these needles!).

What's really annoying me about all this is that it's not perfect. Now, I understand that nothing is perfect; and I tend to leave errors in projects, if they're not too egregious, for a lot of different reasons: humility, lowering my stress level, and increasing the probability that the freakin' thing will actually get finished are some of the top contenders. However, I only figured out the "not leaving a hole" trick well into the second color repeat. And, the more I think about it, the more I think that the first dark row should only have had half the shaping I put into it. And the two lightest color rows don't fit together spatially at all, but this is so big and bulky that I'm hoping that will all smooth out in the blocking.

Will eventually post the pattern As It Should Have Been here, so that some other anal soul doesn't have to go through what I went through. But it's also a case of "it's a really simple pattern that is a pain in the patootie to write down", and the no-hole trick is even harder to explain in writing. So, it may be a while.

Oh, and one more thing: it is really weird to go from knitting socks on size 0s to knitting this monstrosity on size 13s. Really.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gaming Update

So, both Headgames (knitting hats) and Death by Socks (Sock Wars by another name) have started, but I don't seem to be as excited by these as I was by Sock Wars. Is it because there are many fewer participants in these games (less than 50 in each, while Sock Wars had nearly 800)? Dunno. But, my first hat is in the mail, and I've turned the heel on my first sock, so I'm doing pretty well (even if I did steal the color scheme for my socks from Jan-Knit's first strike in Sock Wars). I think I'm even getting to like knitting with size 0 needles and fingering weight yarn. It's not like the lace shawl (lace weight yarn and size 5 needles); that's like knitting cotton candy. This is a little more substantial, but I've already poked myself several times, once or twice quite severely, with the darned pointy things. But I think I will make myself a pair with the extra yarn I bought (ordered online before we found out how much we needed), and try one of the reticulated patterns from _Sensational Knitted Socks_; they'd look better in fingering weight than in DK, I think.

As for Sock Madness, which starts in March, I think, I submitted three patterns, then had to retract one; I tried to knit it up and it simply wouldn't work at that gauge. (Have an idea for how to fix it, but no time to try it out. Another time, perhaps.) However, the Faux Cables and the True Cables do seem to work, so I'm hoping that one of them makes it in. Had a brainstorm, re: testing the pattern: my mom loves the socks that I knit for her, and wants another pair. (Silk and alpaca; what's not to love?) I am testing out the cable sock pattern by knitting them for her. Two birds with one stone! It seems to me that you could get a good chunk of your Christmas knitting done by knitting your Sock Madness socks for other people. We'll see how that goes.


I'm (FINALLY!) dead!

Yeah! Finally got my Sock Wars International Socks of Doom! (They came late last week, but I haven't had time to post.) They're mostly light cream, with pink and yellow and green flecks. They're thick, probably cotton or a cotton blend (they passed through several assasin's needles, and the ball band got lost along the way). I'm so happy to finally get mine!


Friday, January 12, 2007

Bobble Scarf


7 oz. worsted weight yarn
set of size 7 (US) dp needles
yarn needle
polyfil pillow stuffing


not really important, but I think it’s about 20 sts k5, p5 rib=3”


kf&b: knit in front and back of stitch
psso k st: pass slip stitch over knit stitch
k3tog: knit three stitches together


cast on 10 sts, leaving a long tail; join and work in the round, being careful not to twist the sts

Round 1: kf&b around (20 sts)
Rounds 2-11: k
Round 12: (sl 1, k3tog, psso k st) around (5 sts)

Place all sts on one dp needle and continue these 5 sts in I-cord (or this) until cord measures 5”; break yarn, and leave live sts on st holder or single-point needle.

repeat, making second I-cord 3” long, and transferring live sts to same holder or needle.

repeat, making 3 of the long cord bobbles, and 2 of the short ones. Do not break yarn on last long bobble.


knit across the 5 sts of last long bobble; cast on 5 sts; knit across 5 sts of a short bobble; cast on 5 sts. Repeat with remaining bobbles, alternating short and long bobbles and ending with final long bobble. (45 sts)

Row 1(WS): (p5, k5) 4 times, p5
Row 2(RS): (k5, p5) 4 times, k5

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until scarf measures half the desired length, approx. 24” (not including bobbles). Leave live sts on holder.

Repeat making bobbles and scarf for second half of scarf.


Graft two halves together.

Stuff a small amount of fiber fill into each bobble, then thread the tail through the cast on stitches, cinch tight and secure. Weave in ends.

Alternate method:

Grafting the two halves together is a pain in the patootie, since you have to go from grafting knit stitches to grafting purl stitches and back again. An easier method might be to knit the bobbles, knit the whole scarf, knit the second set of bobbles, then only graft the bobbles on, binding off the purl stitches. Or, if you were worried about running out of yarn, you could make both sets of bobbles, then knit the scarf until you reached the desired length, or ran out of yarn, whichever came first, then graft the bobbles on.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Knit From Your Stash 2207

Some folks have started a KAL designed to use up stash yarn. I think this is laudable, and am going to try to do the same. Their rules are:

Knit From Your Stash 2007: Guidelines for L-B and Wendy

1. The Knit-From-Your-Stash-a-Thon will start January 1, 2007 and run through September 30, 2007 -- a period of nine months.

2. We will not buy any yarn during that period, with the following exceptions:

2.a. Sock yarn does not count. What? You think we are made of stone?

2.b. If someone asks for a specific knitted gift that we really and truly do not have the yarn for, we may buy yarn to knit that gift.

2.c. If we are knitting something and run out of yarn, we may purchase enough to complete the project.

2.d. We each get one "Get Out of Jail Free" card -- we are each allowed to fall off the wagon one time.

3. We are allowed to receive gifts of yarn.

4. Spinning fiber of any sort is exempt.

My first modification to this concerns Headgames (like Sock Wars, but with hats): while I have bought some yarn for it, and have lots of acrylic in worsted weight, I know from my experience with Sock Wars that I might end up having to buy more natural fiber worsted weight yarn, if one of my targets flakes or my target specifically hates the color I bought. Also, I have offered to knit up ISoDs for Sock Warriors who remain sockless, and have very little DK yarn in my stash; however, I might be able to weasle this one out, as the yarn would be for socks, so could be considered "sock yarn". And, lastly, I have several "specialty" yarns that I may end up needing to buy other yarn to put with it to be able to use it up.

Also, I ordered yarn yesterday, but I didn't hear about KFYS until today, so I think that's O.K. (I suspect, though, that when I use the "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, it'll be a humongous order from KnitPicks or Elann..... :-) )

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2006 Wrap-Up

Whew! Got a lot more done over this holiday than usual, so let's start documenting:

First, something that turned out almost as good as I had hoped: the Cocktail Monkey Purse:
original; mine; mine.

I'm pleased with how it turned out, though this stuff is a bear to knit with. The author was right that metal needles were the way to go; you needed both the strength and the slipperyness of metal needles to make this work. Unfortunately, I usually need to use smaller needles than those recommended to get gauge, so I ended up using size 4s, instead of the size 6s called for in the pattern. The problem came in that size 4 dpns don't come in the longer lengths, and I was having trouble keeping the stitches on the needles. (Since the yarn had no give, nor any "smoosh", I couldn't find a circular of the right length, either.) For once, though, my packrat nature saved the day: I was using two partial sets of dpns, so I was able to distribute the stitches on 5 needles, and work them with a 6th, which was just enough to solve the problem. Had something of a shock when I went to block it, though; I was convinced that I had made the purse half as big as it should have been, since I only needed one stack of CDs to block it. Double-checked the pattern for the dimensions, puzzed 'til my puzzler was sore, then finally realized that the two stacks were supposed to be inserted into the purse short end first, and that you only needed the second stack if you had made it a little taller than I ended up doing. As it was, I stretched it over one stack of 8 CDs using long stitches of dental floss over the top to tension it. (The handles were pinned to the carpet on the floor of the sewing/laundry room, my usual blocking techinique.) Came out pretty well, and I was able to do the finishing work while watching the Rose Bowl yesterday. (Go USC!)

Next, we move on to a project that I promised my mom I would do for a friend of hers last year, then completely spaced. This friend is always cold, so I made her one of the cowls that I make for our Viking household at the Estrella War: on form, square, flat

The first picture shows how it is to be worn, the other two give some better idea of how the piece is shaped. (That last pic just makes me laugh! It looks like a cartoon character showing off it's muscles! But it does give you an idea of how full the edge is. Pattern will be posted here RSN.) I'm pleased with how it came out. However, after buying BOTH Nicky Epstein's knitted edging books (Knitting On the Edge, Knitting Over the Edge), I ended up inventing the design that I used for the bottom edge; go fig.

Up next, I have finally framed my mom's cross-stitch! (detail, detail) Got the mat cut some time ago, but finally had the time, inclination, and room to do the assembly yesterday. Forgot to take pics; will take some when I give it to her, if not before. Came out quite nice; the mat is the same bright green as in the stitchery, and really makes it pop! Frame is beveled white, which sets it off nicely.

And, finally, we have the scarf I designed and made for my step-great-neice: full, detail

I'm a little undecided about whether or not to give it to her. She's a tweeny, and a friend of mine thinks the scarf is a little too anatomically correct to portions of the male anatomy for a kid. Have asked the kid's grandma (my sister-in-law) for an opinion. We'll see. (Have several people, including myself, standing in line for this, if I don't give it to her. Pattern on this forthcoming, as well, though it's pretty straightforward.)

In addition, I finished a pair of stockings, a pair of mitts, got halfway through the last pair of mitts, finished my Christmas Eve sleep shirt (O.K., I only finished it yesterday, but I was still on vacation then, so it counts!), finished two loopy chenille scarves that I had started ages ago, started verifying my design submissions for Sock Madness, started diddling with a design for a scarf I saw in a store over the holidays, came up with an idea for a friend that involves both preztels and lobsters, finished the first and got almost halfway through the second of three pair of felted slippers, AND came up with a recipe for rice milk eggnog that is pretty darn good! (That will be posted over at my recipe blog RSN.)

Whew! I hope I can keep this momentum through the new year!