Tuesday, September 30, 2008

FO: St James top

This has been done for a while, but the weather finally cooperated today for an autumnal sweater. The pattern is St James, by Tonya Wagner (who actually visited here and commented!), from Metapostmodernknitting. I used 2.5 skeins of Cascade 220 heathers, with US size 7 needles. It's a very quick and easy top-down raglan, and I think I may have to make another one! Maybe it seemed so fast because it's the only non-skinny yarn project I've done in months. It flew off the needles, and if I hadn't been dithering around with modifications, it would have been extra super fast.

The biggest modification was doing a larger size just for the front initially, and then doing bust darts to decrease below the bust. I'm really pleased with how the bust darts turned out, and I wish I had done increases just above the bust instead of starting with a higher number of stitches from the neck. This makes the neck gape slightly unless I have my shoulders completely squared, and there is a little bit of extra fabric at the side edges at the top. Well, I can always use motivation to have better posture, so it's not a huge deal.

The only other mods were making it shorter at the bottom, and starting with the neckband and continuing with the main body (rather than picking up stitches for the neckband at the end). I did mess up quite a bit with the lengths of the ties at the neck for the bow, but when tied it's not obvious. I may put in a little metal hook at the neck closure so that the ties don't get strained, otherwise I'm very happy with this top. It definitely has that 1950's secretary aesthetic, without being dowdy, and is really versatile. It's the perfect sweater weather sweater!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Mexico yarn shopping

The 2 must-do things on vacation: a good used-book store (more on that in another post), and a local yarn store. There's a big yarn/knitting/weaving culture in New Mexico, so I was pretty psyched to visit some yarn stores. Initially, I had no luck at all! In Albuquerque, I tried to go to B's Yarns & Needlearts, but couldn't even find the store in the big strip mall, despite circling around several times. Maybe it's closed? Then I tried to stop by an alpaca farm/yarn store along the Turquoise Trail (a scenic byway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe), but had the foresight to call ahead, and they weren't open that day. Boo!

In Santa Fe, finally, a LYS! The Needle's Eye was right down the street from the B&B where we stayed. The sign is very cool and New Mexican.

At least one other person (besides myself) was wearing a Ravelry shirt! It's quite large inside, with two U-shaped areas filled with yarn.

There was a small shelf of local yarn, which I wanted to get, but since I was shopping for yarn for a vest for DH, the colors weren't quite right.
The tree o' organic wool was also tempting, but again, no appropriate man-vest colors.
After conferring with DH, who had never gone yarn-shopping and seemed somewhat overwhelmed by all the choices, I got some fingering/sport weight gray New England Shetland wool from Harrisville Designs. I had wanted some fatter yarn, but couldn't find the right combination of weight/color/price.
The yarn is slightly scratchy in a good way, and clings to itself. Very sheepish! I love the colorway--it is subtly tweedy without the weird lumps of random color that one sees in tweed yarn.

I balled up the skeins watching this spectacular sunset in Taos.

The next day, I was wandering around, looking for free WiFi, when I looked up and saw this [cue angelic chorus and trumpets]:

The Yarn Shop
! It is owned by a very friendly "Granny G," who will spontaneously tell you your fortune while explaining the stories behind all the local yarns in the shop. I am a four of clubs, which apparently means I have an affinity for "old knowledge." She was pleased that I had started a garden, and I did not have the heart to tell her about my near-criminal non-abilities at gardening.

At least half the yarn in the shop is local, or made by people she knows (all the pictures are of said yarns). The climate is good for raising sheep, llamas, alpacas, and churros. I had thought churros were those cinnamony street-cart snacks, but I guess they are also sheep-like animals with a strong, non-stretchy wool good for rugs. The churro-yarn is the unskeined yarn in the pictures.

There is a whole wall o' alpaca, and a shelf of it is devoted to this adorable prize-winning alpaca and other yarns from the same grower (also friend of owner).

I ended up getting some laceweight organic silk, for a shawl for myself. The yarn is named Quail, and the brand is Yarns Handpainted In Sedona, by Mary Gavan (also friend of owner). It is a pinkish-purplish delight.
Now, I should get going on knitting up all this yarn...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

FO: Market bag


Whew! Finally home! I have lots of great photos and yarn store visits to share, but for now, just a little FO before heading to bed.

This is the Ilene Bag (free Ravelry PDF link), by Hannah Ingalls of iknityouknot. Needle size was US 7. I used three balls of Rowan Bamboo Tape, which I had gotten from LittleMii, from a yoga swap on Ravelry. This bag was a quick, fun knit, and I love the way the bamboo tape knit up into a drapey, stretchy, mesh fabric.

The only modification was not knitting the handle continuously with the body, because I ran out of yarn just as I finished the body of the bag. There was a bit of dark blue grosgrain leftover from this onesie I made a while back, and there was just enough to make two little handles. This way, it's easier to drape the bag on one arm and throw in veggies and fruits with the other hand.

But right now, the bag contains something even better! Check back tomorrow for pictures of the yarny goodies inside!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

see you soon

More FO posts (plural, woohoo!) coming up, but check back in a few days. This is being composed on an iPod, on vacation in New Mexico, I'll scope out some yarn shops and report back!

Monday, September 22, 2008

FO: Corny Ballerina


Two objects were finished yesterday, but only one has finished blocking so far: Ballet Camisole, by Alexandra Virgiel (free pattern, Ravelry link). The yarn is Amaizing, a yarn made of 100% corn, from Southwest Trading Company. I used 4.5 skeins, and US size 6 needles.

Here's the back:

Modifications include
-changing from bottom-up to top-down construction
-changing shaping row frequency, to fit me better
-made much shorter
-did six instead of seven ribbing rows at the bottom, because I just hate 1x1 ribbing!
-did not make the shirring at the top quite as deep-necked, because it is pretty low-cut already

This would have been a quickie knit, except I started from the bottom, frogged, and started over from the top, and then later had to frog back quite a bit due to yarn problems. I don't like how the crocheting around the neck and arms turned out, as all the edges keep curling under, even with a full, wet blocking. This yarn is breatheable and cool and non-itchy--good for summer, which is officially over today. So this top will get put away for the year, but at least it will have lots of company in the green short-sleeved shirt village:

That pile does not include the corny ballerina. Hmm, maybe it's time to get some new color clothing?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Swappiness!

I got a beautiful package from Littlemii, as part of the Yoga Swap on Ravelry. Everything was wrapped beautifully in color-coordinated jewel tones.

Each wrapped package was sealed with little knitting stickers!

Inside were lots of treats. Most importantly, there were two different type of bamboo yarn from Rowan, Bamboo Soft and Bamboo Tape.
















Also included were wooden buttons, incense, massage oil, a yoga DVD, and--very cool--a hand-made row-counter abacus bracelet!

Every package was supposed to contain an om symbol, and she included this pretty om doohicky, which I think I will use as a stitch marker.

I am so happy and thankful, and feel so inadequate about the swap package I sent her!

Today's mailwoman visit was extra special because another package came too!

My replacement Amaizing corn yarn from South West Trading Company! Hooray! All in all, it was a wonderful day, with lots of lovely yarn involved. Now I just have to knit it all up!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Top-down homage

The St James sweater is knitting up so fast, especially since I haven't knitted with anything above sport weight in a few months until now. Size 7 needles and worsted yarn feel like huge, magical, wonderful objects.

The collar tie turned out fine despite my counting disability. I had combined two sizes initially, then used bust darts (does anyone else accidentally say dust barts?) for shaping, which turned out surprisingly nice.









I could not resist an homage to one of the best knitting books ever, Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Swiss chard and apple quiche

All my knitting is boring ole stockinette, so I thought I'd share a recipe with you. This was the first year I made a real effort to try to make my little garden grow, ie have some green around the little patch of concrete behind the house. I planted lots of plants, and did get some mileage out of the herbs, but everything else (tomatoes, lettuces, bok choy, peppers, and lots more) got gobbled up by the evil, evil squirrels. Except the swiss chard! I got three baby swiss chard plants from Bowood farms waaaay back, and they all survived! I inherited most everything from my mom except her green thumb (and boobage), so it is amazing that the swiss chard survived at all. It's the only food that DH introduced me to, and I love swiss chard because it's like spinach, except variegated!

Back to the quiche. I initially started with a recipe from Vegetarian Times (before they got all slick), but I've changed it a lot over the years. It's a great early fall recipe, but can really be adapted for any dark greens and mushrooms. I even served mini ones at my wedding, although I never got to eat one.

Ingredients:
1 9" pie crust
2 T olive oil
1 onion
1 c (~4 oz) swiss chard
1.5 c sliced mushrooms, any type
1 apple (depending on apple size, 1/2 to 1 apple)
2 T flour
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
2 eggs
1 c shredded cheese -- a sharp cheddar or a blend works well
1/2 c milk (soy milk is fine)
salt and fresh pepper.

Heat oven to 375F

1. Roll out pie dough, and place into pie dish, cake pan, or on cookie sheet.
2. Heat olive oil in pan. Chop onion and saute. Add mushrooms, and saute until liquid is released and boiled off. This will all take ~20 min.
3. Meanwhile, shred swiss chard (roll up several leaves like a cigar, and slice ~1/4" thick). Add to pan. Saute until wilted. Add salt and pepper. This mixture can be refrigerated for a week.
4. Dice apple. Save 1/2 c, and eat the rest. Toss together with flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
5. Beat eggs, cheese, and milk in a separate bowl until blended.
6. Add apples to egg mixture.
7. Spread swiss chard-mushroom mixture into crust. Pour in apple-egg mixture, and spread around until roughly even.
8. Bake 35-45 minutes, until top is browned and egg is set. Let cool and set for at least 10 min.

Delicious! Here's a half-eaten one in the pie pan (it got eaten before the camera came out).

And here's one I made in a springform pan in a rough tart sort of thing.

I love this recipe because it is so adaptable--you can replace the chard with spinach, kale, or other greens (beet greens would be very good), depending on availability. And because of all the green, you feel sort of virtuous eating it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Counting integers

I simply cannot count. Seriously. I can do algebra, geometry, and multivariate calculus, but cannot count positive integers. It is really mind-boggling how stupid I am at counting!

I cast on for the St James top. Here's the sketch from the metapostmodernknitting website so you know what I'm talking about:

This is a top-down raglan, with the neckband added afterwards. Since I hate and am very bad at picking up stitches, I decided to cast on for the neckband and ties, and then bind off the ties and keep knitting the sweater with the stitches in between. Since I'm between sizes, I calculated that I should cast on 259 stiches: 75 for each of the ties, and 109 for the sweater. I double and triple checked my math. Then I cast on, putting a marker every 30 stitches. I cast on what I thought was 8 sets of 30, plus 19 stitches. Then I knit the first row. There were 30 too many stitches! I don't think I've ever cast on the correct number of stitches on the first go, so that wasn't too bad, and I ripped out to start over.

I cast on 259 again, double counting each set of 30 (both in singles and in pairs), AND turning the counter for every set of 30. After 8 sets of 30, confirmed by counting the markers AND on the counter, I cast on 19 more. On the first row, I put markers after 75 stitches, and then after 109 more stitches. I knit 75 more stitches for the other tie, and I had a whole another set of 30 cast-on stitches extra!!! A true mystery! I figured it utter craziness to frog again, and decided to just cut those mofos off.

After an inch of knitting for the neckband, it was time to bind off the ties, and leave just the stitches for the actual sweater. All was well, or so I thought. I was happily doing the raglan increases for the main part of the sweater, and decided to take a break. Look at the ties!!!

One of the ties is twice the length of the other one! I am too flummoxed to count the stitches, to figure out which one is too long, which one is too short, or--most likely--both. I have decided that I purposely made the ties unequal, because I'm super-stylish like that.

I did weave in all the ends so far before I took picture. It is too funny of granny to accuse me of weaving-in-as-you-go being my method, as I have never done so before. It feels really good and smug, like after one does the dishes or does sit-ups.

This sweater is going to be a slow project, because of this:


The new ipod touch!!! I took a picture with it showing my ravelry page, except mini! So far, I've found only one knitting-related app, a row/repeat counter. It seems a knitting design program would be perfect for the ipod, like one where you enter measurements, desired collar/sleeve/etc, and gauge, and then you get the instructions. Any takers?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A happy ending, almost!

Thanks for all the empathy about the randomly unraveling yarn that formed a hole in my ballet tank. I took your collective suggestion and emailed Southwest Trading Company. I think this is the first time I have complained to customer service, ever, to any company. And they were so nice and responsive! At 6:27PM on Friday afternoon!! Here is their email:

Hi there,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write and let us know about the problem you had with the yarn. As you know, knots here and there are a hazard of knitting, but I’ve never heard of a problem like the one you described.

I’d be happy to offer you a replacement ball of A-MAIZing for your project. Please just let me know what item number and dyelot you need. I’ll also need your name and mailing address.

Thanks so much for writing and giving us the opportunity to make this into a positive knitting experience for you. We really do care!

Very best,

Katherine Cade

General Manager

SWTC, Inc.

www.soysilk.com


So lovely! I feel bad about ever complaining at all, and will be buying lots of their yarn!

I was so cheered by this email that I finished the tank, except I'm waiting for the last ball of yarn from SWTC to finish the inch or two on the bottom. I even did the crocheting around the edges, doing the ruching in the center, and the weaving in of ends.
Every time I knit something I vow to weave in the ends as I go, so that it's not such a huge overwhelming task at the end. And every time I can't be bothered to do it until the end. Today I watched the last bit of Harry Potter 3 during the weaving in, which helped tremendously. I am so in love with the hats the Beauxbatons wear in the movie!
Anyone have any good ideas where I might find one?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Corny shite

Oh, the horror! I was doing mindless, stress-free stockinette in the round for the ballerina tank, with aMaizing, which is a yarn made from corn. There was a tiny loose thread, which I just ignored, because in regular yarn the other plys will hold the yarn together just fine. I knit a few more rows. Then this happened:

Aaaarrrrrgggghhh!!! The yarn is not plied, but is actually sort of an I-cord, so that when one little thread gets loose, the yarn unravels. And a giant hole forms in the knitted fabric.

And just minutes before, I'd come to a random break in the yarn, which I HATE because weaving in ends is the pits.

And I looked at the rest of the ball, and this is coming up:

This is the inside end of a ball of yarn that's wrapped around a cardboard ring, so I know it hasn't been exposed to any sharp objects or been agitated in any way. It just auto-unravels!

So that makes three shite yarn problems in a very short stretch, and now I have to rip out a few rows to get back to before the hole. I am officially so over this yarn!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Feeling old

There isn't a whole lot of knitting to show, just more of the same old stockinette top and sock pattern, so I'll wait until they're further along.

Truthfully, not much knitting has been accomplished recently, due to lots of self-imposed work. Also, last night I went to a Vampire Weekend concert at The Pageant with DH. We were waiting in a very long, long line to get in, which seemed extra long because the doors hadn't even opened yet. (You can take the gal out of Manhattan, but you can't take the Manhattan out of the gal! When you live on a wee little island with like a billion other people, you get in the habit of making sure you get to do what you planned for the night. Ie I always show up early and wait in line, like I'm in communist Russia. And it's such a treat not to have to spend a whole paycheck to go to a little concert.) Anyway, some dude in an official-looking T-shirt came around and said that people over 21 could get in the other door, where there was no line at all. So DH and I joyfully sprinted out of line, thinking how awesome we were compared to the the not-over-21 suckahs. I may have whooped. Suddenly, it was strangely silent, except for our footsteps on the sidewalk. I turned around, and realized with a very sick feeling that we were the ONLY PEOPLE going to the other line. All the hip little peeps in line looked at us with a mixture of pity and derision, the way my 18-year-old self looked at, oh, 30-year-olds pathetic enough to live on the same planet. I felt so, so old. Still, I went to the other door (without a line!) and got great seats for the concert, in time to get a gin&tonic beforehand. The band/concert was really cute and fun! Also, they know only like 12 songs, so the concert was over well before my usual bedtime. I put on extra extra eye cream before going to bed.

I saw these knitted quasi-taxidermy thingies on ApartmentTherapy today. They are by Rachel Denny. Creepy but cool! I wonder whether she does shaping while knitting, or if she just stretches knitted fabric over the animal forms.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

WIP-o-rama

Now that I'm done with the stash and the "big" projects, it too hard to resist starting some new projects. Not only do I have my knotty-or-knice socks going, I ripped out the corny ballerina tank from before and started it over again. Except this time, from the top, in case the yarn runs out. It's done so far to the bottom of the armholes.

It looks so sad, like a moldy, twisted, wife-beater, but I promise it will be nice once the edges are uncurled.

Having two WIPs--one for home, one portable--isn't so bad. Then I happened to be in the yarn store exchanging some yarn I'd bought for a swap, and had to use up the rest of the store credit. So I got some Cascade 220 in a heather dark red to make St James. Oh, so bad! But I did do my penance:

A whole swatch with each needle size! Blocked! Oh, and I got both vertical and horizontal gauge! I consider all my sins forgiven.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Finding a portable project

Thanks for all the lovely comments on the Urbane sweater. It's good to be done with a ginorm project and starting anew!

Now I'm hankering for something that's easy to carry around, and easy to knit without thinking too much. After a lot of hemming and hawing about the Jojoland yarn, I decided to go with the Knotty or Knice (by Chrissy Gardiner) socks after all. I don't like any of the patterns in the fall Interweave Knits except these socks, and I figure I should try to make at least one pattern from the issue. Here they are so far.

I'm loving the color changes! The yarn has different colors plied together, and this cable pattern --which has a lot of twisted stitches and one-stitch cables--really brings out the yarn. The bad part is, this isn't quite a portable project, because the cable pattern is just tricky enough that it's hard to memorize, with cabling on every row.

So I'm back to the old mindless portable project, the corny ballerina top. Unfortunately, despite knitting tighter than gauge, it is huge and using up yarn too fast. So this has been frogged, and the plan is to modify the pattern to knit from the top down.

Sigh. I am trying to be very good and not get yarn for another project, because that is the slippery slope that leads to stash accumulation. Then the new Metapostmodernknitting goes up, and the St James top (Ravelry link) is just begging to be knitted!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

FO: Urbane sweater


At last! A sweater for an urbane man (see rant about men's sweaters)! It's a svelte and stylish V-neck sweater with ribbing and subtly textured cables.

The pattern was based on the top-down set-in sleeve instructions in Knitting from the Top by Barbara Walker. If there is enough interest, I'll write it up, so please comment! By the way, this uses size 3 needles, so you really, really have to love the recipient.

The cable pattern is also new, adapted from yet another Barbara Walker Treasury. There are three cables each on the front and back, and one down the outside of each arm. The circular shape is a nod to the olympics rings, since this is a Ravelympics project.

The coolest part is that the cables in the front and back meet on the shoulder seamlessly!

Five skeins of Louet Gems Sport in Indigo went into this sweater. In the end, all I had leftover was the swatch and less than 3 inches of yarn! Whew! This yarn is wonderful--it's 100% wool but doesn't itch at all, and it's so soft and smooth and easy to knit. I absolutely adore the colors of all the Louet Gems yarns, and it pains me that I do not have the wherewithal to take proper pictures of this yarn. Just know that is is a lovely, deep blue with a bit of sheen. The only pic that showed it somewhat ok was the picture of the inital skeins:

The very wet blocking was worth the two-day wait. I love how the ribs relaxed with blocking, so that the fabric drapes instead of clings.