Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hand-y knits

Where are they now?
Whatever happened to your __________?
Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

This prompted a lot of digging around the knitwear drawers and thinking. And in the end I decided that the knitted item that has held up the best and been most useful is:

These Staghorn Mittens! These were knitted in June of 2008 and I wore these almost every day for 2 winters. They still are in good shape without holes or snags, and I think actually fit better than they used to. Here they are today, pretty much looking the same.

Considering this more, it seems gloves/mittens and other hand-y knits are the ones most worn and appreciated as gifts, for several reasons.

1. Fit. No one laments that their hands look fat in mittens, or that gloves aren't flattering to their thumb shape, or other such nonsense.

2. Mittens are worn frequently. In the winter, they are worn daily. Even the most popular sweater can't claim that. Scarves tend to be changed frequently, and besides, a lot of men don't wear scarves period. Hats are also changed quite a bit, and many people, both male and female, will not wear hats for hair reasons. Gloves/mittens are the "lowest threshold" cold accessory, in that they are the first cold accessory to come out when the temperature drops. Even indoors or in warm places, you can wear fingerless gloves.

3. Knitted mittens/gloves aren't "weird." People expect mittens/gloves to be knitted and don't think they are unusual, as they might knitted socks. Sadly, many people would not wear knitted tops or sweaters, and even more unfortunately, most people don't wear shawls as they are a wee bit into "crazy knitter" territory. "Knitted mittens," on the other hand, sounds redundant, because "normal" mittens are knitted.

4. You don't have to worry about washing them. Gross, I know, but how many times have you washed your handknit gloves? Seriously, the yarn care worries me the most when knitting gifts, to the point where I've taken to offering a lifetime service of mail-in cleaning service for gift shawls. So it's nice to give a gift without obsessing over whether the yarn is going to hold up.

5. Comfort. Most people don't find yarn on their hands itchy. This is why knitters surreptitiously rub yarn against their necks when they are yarn shopping.

6. Versatility. Gloves/mittens offer a quick platform to show off a special technique, and an appropriate pattern can be found for every level of knitting, technique (cables, lace, you name it), and style.

As proof, here are some more beloved mittens/gloves.

These are my sock monkey head gloves, which are heads attached to fingerless mittes. I do not wear the heads much because they keep falling off (kinda freaky), but the fingerless mitts parts I don indoors.

DH has worn these fingerless gloves every day this past winter. He keeps them on at work too! However he wears them on the wrong hands so the cables are on the palms, like a special treat for anyone he shakes hands with, I guess!

Here are two pairs of fingerless mitts from the same yarn (Chlorophyll and Bluebell). I keep mine permanently in a drawer at work, and they come out on cold days, and hot days when the AC is too high (in total, almost every day). The other hobo gloves are also worn sometimes I hear, even though the recipient lives in sunny Florida.

These Flutter Mittens are pretty recent, but they have still gotten a lot of wear, having replaced the red staghorn gloves as my daily gloves.

Yay hand-y knits!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

I started blogging during a quest to rid myself of all my yarn stash, which I did! So you may be wondering what has reaccumulated in the following 2.5 years. Here it is! (The ruler is a 12 inch or 30cm one--these are "shoe box" sized bins.)

Actually, one contains yarn, and the other contains all the other crapola. Here is the yarn box:
There are only two yarns that are "real," ie have not yet been used for a project. They are an orange yarn for a top and a blue kid linen which was a gift from Rosalia, to be a shawl.

The rest of the bin consists of leftovers . Here's the smorgasbord sorted on one of the bin lids, by weight of yarn. I hadn't realized I'd accumulated so much sockweight recently, from a flurry of cardigan and mittens (these, these, and these).

And then there is a small (~4x6") bag of "small" scraps, which is pretty full and I should probably figure out something to use them all up! (Hello, cat toys).

Onward, to the other bin! This is where all the needles and crap live. As you can see, it is highly organized.

Once in a great while I will arrange the needles by size and rubberband by size the double pointed needles, but soon they get all disheveled. So it ends up being more efficient to dig through like a little mole. I have been putting off getting a nice circular needle case from Etsy because if I were ever to get the beautiful Addi lace interchangeable circular kit, I would just give everything away and bow down at the fantastically organized loveliness of the kit. However if someone wonderful were to, say, give me the circular needle case, or a dpn needle case, as a gift, I would love them forever and be super organized for the rest of time!

In contrast, here are my "regular" single-pointed needles, which reside in a knitted roll-up case.

This is the most faved (178 hearts!) project of mine on Ravelry. So it is too bad I never actually use these needles. Due to non-use, the needles/case still look super orderly. (Angel voices here.)

Plastic bin #2 also contains a pile of plastic bags. I don't have project bags (also hint hint nudge nudge for anyone looking to send me a gift) and instead I organize all of my active projects in "ziplock" plastic bags. I put in the pattern, needles, yarn, notions, any other necessary notions for a specific project into a bag, and keep them all bundled sturdily together.

Like so.

Then all of the active projects (currently only 1, as usual) each in their plastic baggies go into the knitting bag, which is knitted from three different balls of bamboo yarn from a swap.

The other item in the knitting bag is a Le Petit Prince pencil case, which holds all notions.

The needle gauge fits perfectly on the underside of the lid. All the other notions fit inside the case.
Working clockwise from top right...
  • The little green baggie holds stitch markers; leftover from a pair of earrrings.
  • Chibi needles--I lost my one needle and then could not get any metal yarn needles that did not come in a set in a plastic case. But the green case is so cute it gets to stay for now.
  • Cable needles and stitch holders
  • The 3 wee circles are things which I use as stitch markers, but are actually colorful rings that come with electric toothbrush heads (to mark which one belongs to whom).
  • The black thing in the corner is a magnetic rock I got in Los Alamos, ostensibly to keep a cable needle from getting lost during a drive. Unfortunately the cable needle (now lost) was made of aluminum and did not stick! However the little rock is really useful for corralling safety pins, little scissors, and the one ferromagnetic crochet hook. 
  • The business card is from Wolcott & Co, a wonderful yarn shop in Cambridge MA, which I used to visit during college, but is now unfortunately closed. I keep the card for the memories, as well as the useful info jotted all over (the card opens up for a needle tracker), like how many yards are in 100g of a various weights of yarn, typical gauge in different needle/yarn combos, etc. I started keeping these notes before one could look up the stuff online, and really it is a lot easier just to pop open the card than sort through the internet.
  • Row counters, two of them with yarn attached to stitch markers so I can use them to mark between rounds when knitting in the round. I guess I am too cheap to get the row counters made with attached stitch markers.

So that's it! Hope you enjoyed the tour of all the yoelknitting stuff!

Click here to read all the other Day 3 posts from 2KCBW.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FO with a new skill

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

Not only is it day two of Knit and Crochet Blog Week, it's a twofer today because here's a FO! It has been finished for a long time, but I've been waiting as it is a test knit for a pattern. It's Un Peu de Chance, by Marie Adeline (unfortunately blog-less now, but her designs are available through Ravelry). The pattern is not yet available but hopefully that will change soon!

The skill learned for this cardi was...steeking! The cardi is knit all in one piece, including the set-in sleeves, then steeked. Here's a blow-by-blow, and here are pics of the before and after.

After steeking, the edges are all picked up and ribbing added, then buttons sewn on. The buttohs on this cardi are my favorite type, shank buttons in a pearly color. These were vintage, sold out of a big bin at Paste, a super-fun crafts store in St Louis City.

I have not worn the cardi yet to keep it pretty for potential pattern illustrations, so it still looks pristine. The pattern features bell sleeves, a fitted twisted-rib waist, and most importantly, a pretty eyelet lace pattern on sleeves and torso that becomes less hole-y further up (and creates some shaping too).

The length is a bit long (and I am long waisted), so the main portion of the torso poofs over the waist, sort of 1940's style. Despite the dramatic aspects (lace, bell sleeves, sillhouette), due to the neutral color this will work as a versatile cardi. I dressed the dress form in a dress, but the cardi would look really cute with jeans and ballet flats too, don't you think?

Yarn is Alpaca with a Twist Baby, two ginormous hanks (except for a few yards left, whew!), for a total of ~1098 yards and 500 grams of DK-weight yarn. In retrospect I would have used a yarn that had at least some wool or acrylic, as 100% alpaca does tend to stretch, but hopefully the ribbing at the waist will hold things together.

For the other KCBW posts for today, click here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yarns, the good and bad

Woot woot, it's Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! Hooray for Eskimimi for organizing! Today's topic is "A tale of two yarns," and we are to discuss the yarns we love and hate. However, unlike most knitters, I don't harbor overwhelmingly strong feelings about yarn. Gasp! Shocking! I appreciate some yarns more than others, but I don't go out of my way to seek out rare or valuable yarns, and, since clearing my stash, just get what I need for the next project and don't squee too much about yarns in general. However even in my rather asperger spectrum of feeling toward yarns, some do end up a little lacking or superior compared to the others...

The only times I feel compelled to buy yarn is when I am traveling--if I visit another town's LYS, I do try to get something "local," or at the very least something unavailable  at my own LYS. So when I was in Boise, I got some Jojoland Melody.

Soon, they became these Knotty or Knice socks, way back in October of 2008.

Cute, eh? Check out the detailed twisted-stitch cables.

Unfortunately, this yarn did not hold up well. At all. They have been washed cold twice in the machine, and flat dried, and in the process they have felted and fuzzed terribly. I should have known about the fuzz, because the yarn shed fuzz that got formed into a "donut" around the yarn while I was knitting, but who knew it would become so, well, scraggly-beardy?

These socks don't stretch anymore, and now they are teeny little boots. I have small feet, and even so, it kind of feels like my feet are bound, and subsequently I have not worn them in a long time.

Saddest of all, the pretty (and tedious) cable pattern has been obliterated by the fuzzing and felting!

In the end, this yarn disappointed terribly, and taught me a valuable lesson: don't be tempted by the colorway no matter how pretty, it's the base yarn that's important!

As for good yarns...the longer I knit, the more I graviate towards sock/fingering weight (I believe that's 4-ply for the Europeans/Brits) yarn, even for non-sock items. Many sweaters and tops knit with heavier yarn have started to droop (or just make people look bulky), moreover a lot of fun vintage patterns are written for fingering weight yarn. Besides, sock yarns, specifically, are (supposed to be) designed with additional qualities that make them good for socks, but are advantageous for other garments as well. They are 1) non itchy, 2) sproingy, and 3) machine washable (and sometimes dryable). Also, except for uber-high-demand brands/colorways (madelinetosh and wollmeise, I'm looking at you!), they tend to be inexpensive and get good yardage. I've made a lot of sleeveless tops, as they are my fave thing to knit, and the only two I wear regularly are the ones knitted with sock yarn: Golden Poplar and Jersey.

Both are knitted from "sock" yarns which have held up nicely in shirt form. First, about Golden Poplar. It's knit from nice, cheap, Knitpicks Stroll (way back in the day, in 2009, when we walked uphill both ways and only like 1000 people were on Ravelry, it had the less sexy name of Essentials).

 It is 75% superwash merino wool and 25% nylon, and the nylon helps it keep its shape. Here it is almost 2 years later (this was finished in July 2009), looking pretty much the same! (Sorry about the weird shadow; that is the biggest patch of sunlight today.)
Even the underarm portion, which tends to be the first area to get felted and icky, looks pretty good, after an estimated 10-15 wearings.

The yellow Jersey is knit with Spud and Chloe Fine, which is 80% wool and 20% silk. The wool itself is tightly spun for sproingines, and the silk gives it a lovely sheen.

This yarn knitted up easily without splitting or fuzzing, and, while this top is only 6 months old (done in Oct 2010), it has held up through several washings and bounced back to its original shape. Oddly enough, it is a hand-wash but machine-dry yarn (!). This yarn was a souvenir from a trip to Denver, and I am wishing really hard that a LYS starts carrying this yarn soon!

So there you go, one "bad" sock yarn and two "good" sock yarns, with lessons learned. I am working out the math to knit up one of the great 70's dresses from the vintage patterns that Betty sent, and I'll be using one of these "good" sock yarns for sure!

PS: To see all other 2KCBW posts of this topic, click here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Thanks to everyone who suggested patterns for a lace or eyelet fingering-weight cardigan! I have a sweater's worth of this cascade sock yarn,

and at first I tried to (again) knit Honeybee, by Laura Chau (cosmicpluto). The last time I tried, my row gauge was waaaay off. I had the same problem again, so I suspect I am doing something differently, maybe doing my yarn-overs the wrong way or something. (I knit a couple more inches of the swatch after taking this picture, and the gauge just got worse.)

In knitting, two strikes and a pattern's out. (I love her patterns but for no one will I knit a third swatch.) This yarn is a red-orange, too peppy and energetic for a lot of the frilly or overly-precious cardi patterns out there. In the end, I case on for a pattern that had been in my queue for a long time, Apres Surf Hoodie, an Interweave Knits pattern by Connie Chang Chinchio. I don't like or wear pullovers, so it'll be a cardi instead. The lace pattern is not too flowery or girly, and the jaggedy pattern looks great in the orange!


I am a little worried about the i-cord edge, as it is rolling up like crazy. It may need some crocheting-down later. For now, some new spring shoes are holding it down. And oooh, I know you can't tell at all, but this last picture is from a new camera!!! I finally saved up enough bonus points on my credit card and got a DSLR for free! It is a pretty basic camera, as far as DSLR's go, a Canon EOS Rebel XS, but it is already kind of overwhelming with all the different buttons and options. I am just using the total-auto mode, but even so it's a swell time! The camera arrived just in time for the spring bloom:

What's that black and white fuzzy blob down there? Why, it's only the subject of 20+ pictures already!

Cammy is enjoying spring immensely, and has resumed her throne on the patio chair. The shadow of the grid from the table makes her look a bit like spider man. What a cute spider-kitty!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Snow peacock chart

Remember snow peacock?
Cammy does!

It's been 9 months, but spurred by a request through Ravelry, I updated the chart I made to knit this shawl. Here is the PDF, free!

The original shawl is available online (also free) as Snow Peacock by Tonks, which is pretty much the same thing as Panache by Lankakomero. However I changed all of the decreases to lean symmetrically and in the correct direction, added beading in a peacock feather pattern, and just plain redid the outer rows so the shawl would drape better.

You will need to know how to read a chart, bead using the crochet method, knit lace, and bind on/off. I did 12 repeats of the chart, but 8 would probably be sufficient for a semicircle. Cast on the same number of stitches as the number of repeats you want to do, plus 1-2 selvage stitches at the edges, and go to town! Markers are strongly recommended between repeats. I chose peacocky yarn and beads, but this would be very pretty in white with white/silver beads!

If you find any errors please comment or contact me, so I can fix straightaway.