Thursday, May 29, 2008

Knitter's post-its

Tina had a great pic on her blog of a sign she saw. (Seriously, you have to see it, it's awesome, so click on it!)

Just so everyone knows, our knitting group moved from the Hartford Coffee Co to the Gelateria mainly because of the overly-loud, not-very-good live music, but secondarily because of all the children running amok there. There's a whole little (or huge, actually) playpen area there, and while I understand the need for parents to have place to go with their kids, I don't want to knit there.

Anyway, I was so inspired by the sign, I went and designed and ordered some post-it notes:

Now you can stick one up if you don't want to be intruded upon whilst knitting, or if you need to leave your knitting unattended. I've only ordered a couple so far. Comment, email, or message me through ravelry if you'd like one, and I'll order some more. They should be only a buck or two.

Triple (Tribble) FO

Holy mole these are so cute and fun! I finished a supersecret project (pictures after it's gifted) from some cotton yarn, which I cannot confirm or deny looks like the onesie. The rest of the yarn is in a weird shawl-esque UFO (unfinished object), which I had apparently been crocheting several years ago. I cannibalized it to make the last little bits of the supersecret project, and felt sad about throwing out the rest.

Enter tribbles! I've only ever seen one episode of Star Trek, and it was the one about the tribbles. I'm still not sure what Star Trek is about (why some people are humans, some people who look like humans aren't, why some of them have weird grody prosthetics attached to their heads, and why they all fly around in a spaceship), but I absolutely loved the mod mod (!) outfits and the cool interiors. And the tribbles! It must have been sale day at the faux-fur store.

This is the last of the cotton yarn I have. This weird shawl I was crocheting was done on the diagonal, and I had cut the yarn on each row, so the frogged yarn is in short lengths, and I thought dishcloths would be annoying because of having to weave in all the loose ends. Besides, I'm sick of all these dishcloths that everyone makes. I recently learned about tawashi, basically cute japanese knitted/crocheted scrubbies, and love them mainly for the name. What are they for? Ta-washi the dishes! Har!

The pattern for the Tribbles is free, from 1870 pearl. I used Wendy Cotton Aran, in a blue-purple color. For the multi-colored one, I doubled the yarn with Plymouth Sockotta Sock yarn (previously used to make some toe socks and baby sherbet booties, which is also cotton but has a touch of nylon mixed in, so I thought it'd be good for strength for scubbing pots and pans. Also it's fun and self-striping.). I ran out before finishing, so I used the dregs of some Austermann Step yarn, which I had used for some toe socks and coffee mug cozies. (Btw, my sis gave away the cozies as part of her giving challenge).

These things really multiply fast! I had three made before I had noticed, and there is a wee bit more yarn left. I made one with the two yarns doubled with size 7 needles, and another with just the one yarn with size 6 needles. Then I made the last one with size 11's to make a looser, poofy one to use as a shower pouf. It looks like a bowl of blue ramen noodles, imho. You really can't stop these tribbles from multiplying! Each of these takes up about 15-20 grams of yarn, and I used up all but 20 grams of the purple cotton yarn, plus the rest of the pinky cotton sock yarn.

More next time on the awesome, awesome knitterly post-it notes I designed!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Birthday FO: Brea Bag

Hooray! The Brea bag is finished! The knitting was super quick and easy, but it took me over a month to get going on the lining. The lining took 4-5 hours, which I think is longer than the knitting! Still, the lining makes the bag a hundred times better, and it actually seems sturdy enough to handle some weight.

I was too lazy to get the machine out, so it was all done by hand. I used the fabric Tina recommended, which is a swirly green upholstery fabric leftover from a prior ill-fated project. The lining completely covers the inside surface of the bag and handle, so I suppose if I'm in a weird mood I can carry it inside-out.

Just as I finished, I realized with regret that I forgot to put in a pocket! And I don't have the skills to sew one in without having access to the other side of the fabric.

I conveniently forgot to block the bag, but I think the flower pattern still comes out pretty well.
The pattern is Brea Bag, which I did without any changes except to continue the strap all the way around in seed stitch. Yarn is some green worsted weight wool from the stash, too old to know the brand anymore.

I'm officially giving this bag to myself for my birthday today! That and a some cookbooks--and Charmed Knits, hee!--from Amazon. Yay!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tutorial: Double Decrease 1

This is the first of an intermittent series about how to do little things in knitting that are hard to find. Double Decrease (sometimes DD or dec2), is used frequently in lace patterns to make a "point" at the tip of leaves or whatever is the center of the lace pattern. Often double decrease is given as the instruction "sl 1--k2tog--psso". And this is how that looks.

I was doing a practice swatch of a lace pattern, and there are these hideous double decreases up the middle of each "leaf." (The little white arrow is pointing to the ugliest one).

The problem is that the slipped stitch that is then passed over, always stretches. Even in single decreases, the same issue arises. Right-leaning single decreases, aka k2tog, are nice and flat (on the left in the blue knitting). Left-leaning single decreases, either ssk or "sl 1--k 1--psso", somehow always turn out lumpy (on the right in the blue knitting). This problem is only exacerbated in double decreases.

(Btw, I have heard that only regular knitters (ie people who don't knit "continental") have the problem of the SSK and PSSO loops getting stretchy, something having to do with the amount that each stitch is twisted. So this is for those of us who are not so lucky to be continental knitters.)

To make a better looking double decrease, first let's dissect out what exactly it is. We start with three stitches, that need to become one. We'll call the red one on the left L, the brown one in the center C, and the peach one on the right R. (Very tricky so far). The different methods of double decrease basically "stack up" the stitches in different order. Since there are three stitches, the six possible orders (from top to bottom) are: RLC, RCL, LCR, LRC, CRL, CLR.

The most obvious double decrease, is k3tog. This makes an LCR pattern, ie the L loop is on top, the C loop is in the middle, and the R loop is on the bottom. While easy, this decrease leans to the right, and will make asymmetric lace. Basically, the L is doing a k2tog (right-leaning decrease) over the C, and the C is doing another k2tog (right-leaning decrease) over the R, and so you end up with a very right-leaning double decrease.

So a good double decrease need to be balanced, ie be made up of one right-leaning decrease, and one left leaning decrease. Right leaning decreases include k2tog, and passing over a loop on the left needle. Left leaning decreases include ssk, and passing over a loop on the right needle (psso). Slipping two stitches simultaneous will swap the order of the stitches, and will make a rightward lean.

The other issue to address is how to get the correct stitch on top. In the brown lace swatch above, the R ends up being on top, and becomes the most prominent of the three stitches. (the picture is upside down) This, combined with it being stretched and ugly, makes the lace unattractive. The topmost stitch is the most visible, so if you want a symmetric lace, ideally the Center stitch will be on top. This leaves CRL and CLR as the two good options for lace.

Before the instructions, in case there is any confusion: by "sl" or "slip" I mean to slip knitwise (left pic). But "slide," I mean to move the stitch without twisting it, aka "slip purlwise" (right pic).

First, the CRL decreases:
Method 1: sl 2 (C and R) simultaneously. K1 (L). Pass C and R over new stitch.

This is balanced because slipping the two together produces a rightward lean, a
nd the passing over on the right needle is a left-leaning decrease. The C loop is stretched because it was slipped and passed over. No pics as I don't like this decrease for this reason, and there are other pics of this method available online. This is the only CLR or CRL that doesn't use a cable needle, that I know of.

Method 2:
Sl 1 (R). Place next stitch (C) on cable needle, hold in front. sl 1 (L).

Insert left needle into front loops of L and R, and finish like an ssk.

Slide this new stitch on cable needle. Pass C on cable needle over new stitch. Slide stitch back on right needle.

This is balanced because there is an ssk (left-leaning), and a passing over a loop on the left (or cable needle in this case) (right-leaning). Again, the ssk portion stretches out the R loop, so although it is not on top (and not as visible), still the decrease is not quite perfect.

The CLR decreases:
Method 1:
Slide 1 (R) onto cable, hold in back. Sl 1 (C). Slide R from cable needle back onto left needle.

(first picture shows C being slipped)

K2tog (R and L together). PSSO.

This one is balanced because there is a K2tog (right-leaning), and a pas
sing a loop on the right needle (left-leaning). The top (C) loop is the one that is passed over, so it is, again, stretched out and prominent, so it is not too great.

The recurrent problem is the asymmetry in the sizes of the loops., which is always caused by an slip or psso. K3tog produces the most uniform loops, but how to make it balanced? After much tinkering, here it is:

Method 2 (THE BEST double decrease EVER!)
Slide 1 (R) onto right needle. Slide 1 (C) onto cable needle, hold in front. Slide 1 (L) onto right needle.

Slide C from cable needle back onto left needle. Slide L, then R, back onto left needle as well.

K3tog. (Do this with just the thinner tip part of the right needle, NOT how I'm doing in the pic, to make it the prettier).

Hooray! This produces nice, uniform loops, as there are no ssk or psso's involved, and the C loop ends up on top. This is balanced by the k3tog (right-leaning), and by swapping the C and L loops (left-leaning). Using a cable needle to slide stitches, rather than slipping them, prevents too much stretch.

More on all the different double decrease combinations next time. And a re-swatch of the lace pattern too!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Double FO: tiny hat and booties

This baby set is for a boy who decided to arrive quite a bit early. There aren't many knitting patterns specifically for preemie babies, so instead I made regular baby stuff, just in a much smaller gauge than recommended. And they turned out so tiny and adorable!

First is the hat. The pattern is Cable Baby Beanie, free from Sweaterbabe. The yarn is Dream in Color Classy, in Happy Forest, which is a medium worsted weight superwash wool yarn. Modifications were minimal and included using size 6 needles (not 9), knitting in the round not flat, ribbing in 2x2 (instead of 1x1), doing 2 extra rows of ribbing, and 1 extra decrease row at the top.

It's being modeled by a butternut squash, teehee! This yarn makes gorgeous cables, and the view from the top is especially pleasing.

The booties are from Simple Shoes, by Uniform Studio. The pattern looks simple, but is actually quite elegantly complex--there are no seams, and the toe shaping is done with short rows. It's much harder to design something clean and simple, so I think this is a great pattern. It's also super fast to boot! (teehee again)
They are supposed to be done with size 10.5 needles, but I used size 6, so they are really tiny! Here they are with a lemon, so you can see how small they are. I did no other modifications, which is rare.

After both projects, there's still more of this yarn left! So far from this ball of yarn I've made part of a cat sweater and a pair of fingerless gloves. And the identical ball before that made a pair of toe socks and the other part of the cat sweater. I love this yarn, but why won't it end?!? The hat used 24 grams, and the booties were 10 grams for the pair, leaving 12 grams. So close!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

FO: Cat bed

Felting and blocking are done! (See here for details). The cat bed took two days to dry, and halfway through I had to put it on other other end of the towel contraption, to make it dry faster.

The pattern is Kitty Pi, by wendyknits. (The increases are based on the Pi shawl). Modifications include knitting with worsted wool doubled, and knitting only 17 rounds (rather than 30) after the final increase. I also didn't do the second row of decreases, because I had switched to slightly thinner yarns.

Despite the overly painful and annoying felting, it's still pretty big, sort of like a kiddie pool for cats (har! kittie pool!). A pillow is not a bad idea, especially since Camembert has taken to using our pillows as her personal chaise longues. I'm disappointed the the walls won't stand up straight. I think a long, thin pillow, that can wrap around the sides and keep them standing up, is in order.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cat fancy

The cat bed is done, except the blocking. I ran out of the green and white yarn, started on the green (leftover from the Brea bag), ran out of that, and finished up with white wool (leftover from the needle case). I had to tack down the last stitch with another piece of yarn, because I completely ran out of all three yarns! Here it is prefelt:

The faux cat, Mrs. Chippy, lies within.

At Tina's suggestion, I decided to block lightly by hand. I didn't realize that felting "lightly" would take so much f*ing exertion leaning over a bathtub with my hands in boiling hot water! I eventually took to using two woolite bottles as paddles to agitate the thing. A whole bunch of yucky brown water came out, several batches-full, in fact. Then the pattern (Kitty Pi) calls for blocking it over a cake carrier wrapped with towels. Lacking a cake carrier, I rigged up this thing wrapping all my bad towels around a jar. Just ignore my toes.

Here is the cat bed blocking. A bit misshapen, yes, but full of love. And towels.

I'm afraid that this will be one of many cat-related objects in the house which are not actually used by the cat. (See puppet, sweater, talking bird, Mrs. Chippy, and many other toys). In fact, she is amused by anything that is not specifically for her, especially computers and books which are being used at that exact moment. She is so intrusive when I'm on the computer that I almost got one of these:

Then I realized she wouldn't use it unless the computer was also on there, duh.

Pics of the felted cat bed tomorrow or the next day, when it's done. Until then, here's a pic that reassures me that I'm not that cat crazy. (from

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Berry Hill Book Shop

The books are here! The highlight of the trip to Cooperstown was a field trip to Berry Hill Book Shop, which is a used bookstore nearby in Deansboro, NY. It's a humungus barn filled with books, mostly for a buck, and if I were a religious person I'd say it's a good approximation of heaven. It's easy to miss the sign the first time along the highway, but once you're there it's awesome.

It's super cute outside, with the owners' chickens (and rooster) rooting around. They look happy and fat.
Inside the barn are three levels jam-packed with books. The stairs are rickety and the air is filled with the scent of musty, dusty old books (yum!).

In addition to books, they have lots of posters, catalogs, sheet music, art, photos, etc for sale. I almost bought all their sheet music, just for the cover art, then realized I'm trying to cut back on clutter, and don't own a piano.

I surprisingly controlled myself and didn't go too crazy. I recently finished reading The Bostonians, so I thought a 5-volume biography of Henry James would be interesting, in addition to looking very handsome on the bookshelf. I'm always attracted by coffeetable type books, so a few of those made it, including a compilation of medicine-related cartoons by Daumier. In the end, there were too many books to take home on the carry-on, so they shipped the books to us. They finally arrived, and take up a whole couch. (The packing job was amazing btw.)

Sadly, although there were a bunch of needlecraft books, none of them were knitting books. I did get some cookbooks, my fave title being The Busy Woman's Cook Book, from the 50's. The recipes seem starchy and heavy and feature meat, but perhaps there are a few jewels in there.