Monday, September 29, 2008

An Empty Suit!

Manic Monkey

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amped Up Photography

I would love to take credit for the fantastic photography you're seeing in the last few posts. But I have to admit, they are not mine. As luck would have it, I have handy access to a very talented photographer who willingly agreed to help me from time to time.

If you want to learn more about his many talents, you can check out his website here.

Adventures in Hand Dyed Yarn

KoolAid Dyed Sock Yarn4 0908

A couple of Sundays ago I took a really fun workshop through Brooklyn Krafthaus. We all gathered in a wonderful studio space down in the Gowanus area. Side note - that whole area holds lots of fascination for a number of photographers, artists and others. In fact, it is the subject of an upcoming show at the Brooklyn Public Library in 2009. I might have mentioned something about it here.

Anyway, I digress. Something I do with regularity. Is it Attention Deficit Disorder or that I have so many things to talk about or is it that my mind just races from one thing to another, always riffing, riffing, riffing.

So. Fellow knitter friend Tomo was teaching this workshop and I really like what she's been doing with her Kool Aid dyeing. I mean, this girl has it going on with the dyes! Check out just a small sampling of her efforts here. Tomo had a few moments of fame in an article about knitting in the NY Daily News. She was named DJ Tomo thanks to one of her many talents.

I ordered up a couple of skeins of KnitPicks bare sock yarn and worsted weight in preparation for the class. When the shipment arrived it all looked like so much yardage I wondered what in the world was I thinking?! For the workshop I took one of each, and decided to work with the sock yarn. It's wonderfully smooshy and soft. Fingering weight, it's 75% merino and 25% nylon (necessary for socks, my opinion, to add durability). For a superwash wool, this stuff is pretty nice. I've never actually knit with it, so this skein will be my first.

KoolAid Dyed Sock Yarn3 0908

After soaking the yarn for a good 20 - 30 minutes to really prep it, we launched into dyeing. I've been in a heathery, softer color mood lately, so I didn't want to go for a multicolor effect. I took some Slammin' Strawberry Kiwi diluted quite a bit and then dumped the whole skein in the bowl. SLURRPP. The dye soaked up IMMEDIATELY. I mean in an instant, there was clear water and the wool had absorbed the dye. A bit unevely too because there simply wasn't enough to cover over 450 yards of yarn. First lesson learned: make enough to go around, unless you want a variegated look.

Then I shared a small amount of Soarin' Strawberry Lemonaid mixed by another dyer to do some section dyeing. I didn't have that much and didn't bother to dilite it. I dumped one small section into the bowl and again. SLURRPP. Gone. I now had a blob of a darker color smack in the middle of the skein. Second lesson learned: plan ahead!

Here again, an example of me leaping before looking. I am such a risk taker it amazes me I haven't actually hurt myself! Bravery or stupidity I don't know. Reckless, wild, fearless, trusting, impetuous, silly, thoughtless. All of that.

But now I had a problem to solve. I like solving problems. I had to figure out a way to overcome the blob (sorry I didn't photograph it, but when it gets knitted up, it might become evident).

KoolAid Dyed Sock Yarn2 0908

My next move was to mix up some diluted Black Cherry and dump the entire skein in. It seems to have worked. Some sections darkened, while others picked up just enough to make this skein have varietion of pink/salmon/burnt orange. Third lesson: you can build the colors like layers but you have to plan ahead (see lesson 2).

KoolAid Dyed Sock Yarn1 0908

All in all, this was a really fun workshop and it's easy enough to work with the Kool Aid. I can see it takes some practice to get control of the effects. Next time I do this I will think ahead about what I really want. The truth is, I didn't go into the workshop with a clear idea of what result I wanted. My friend Marci knew exactly what she wanted to do with her yarn. She even had the projects all lined up.

Every time I go to the grocery store I keep meaning to buy more Kool Aid and then I forget. I guess because I have never bought Kool Aid for drinking, it's not on my mind. I will need to scour the bodegas and ethnic neighborhoods to get the good stuff (I am told these are the best sources for the unusual colors). I realize one needs several packets to work up enough dye to really cover the quantity of yarn, especially if dying 460 yards of sock yarn.

Someday soon this skein will be knit into a pair of simple ribbed socks. Then we will see how the stripes end up looking!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

About that Milestone...

Milestone Shawl

Pattern: Clementine Shawlette, by Michele Rose Orne
Source: Interweave Knits, Spring 2008
Yarn: Collinette Lasso, 2 skeins
Needles: Size 8 INOX circulars
Started: August 24, 2008
Finished: September 14, 2008

My sister just reached a milestone birthday. Auspicious. I've been there, I know. Inside you don't feel like the number. But there it is, like it or not. When it happened to me, 18 months ago, I went a little crazy. Well, more than a little crazy. I went completely off the deep end. Rebelled like a teenager. Had some serious good fun.

Milestone Shawl

So for her birthday, I wanted to make something a bit memorable. Not that she's about to get nuts like me, or anything. I started making that little hat and realized a birthday this big needs something a little more more. She lives in California with mild weather. My inclination would be to make a sweater, but that requires fittings, yarn approvals, coordination. I didn't have the luxury of time, thanks to my lack of planning.

So. A shawl. But that might make her feel "granny". And a big lace shawl would take forever. There are some terrific lace shawls out there. ADD Knitter made a beautiful shawl using Malabrigo Silky Merino. I have some in my stash, but mine's variegated, not a good combination with lace, my opinion. I'd like to make one like that someday soon!

I've been thinking about this little shawlette for some time now. And the yarn was purchased two years ago. I kept pulling it out and looking at it, wondering when I would find the right project.

Milestone Shawl

Well, once I realized the hat wasn't going to do it, in short order I had a plan and sat down to knit, knit, knit. I really wanted to get this one done before the birthday. Ack. I am so bad with deadlines!! Well, now it's a belated Birthday gift.

Milestone Shawl

This yarn is a bit odd. Very pretty colors no doubt. I love the green/blue/hint of gold/ combination. I like the interplay of matte and gloss. The way the light picks up the shiny bits. It makes the yarn sort of dressy. Maybe she can use this for evenings, even down in Cozumel when she's on a diving trip.

But knitting with it was a bit tough. The threads catch like crazy. You have to take your time, to make sure you are really grabbing it right. And there's an odd chenille bounciness to it. This yarn is not my typical choice. My tendency is for much earthier choices.

It's good to step out of one's comfort zone every now and then. It opens doors and gives one a chance to try new things. In this case, it worked out okay but all in all, I don't know if I'd use this yarn again. And next time I choose a fast lace project, I will consider something like a leaf pattern knit with a DK weight yarn. Lesson learned.

Milestone Shawl

She deserves the sweater. Next time she visits, we'll take measurements and go yarn shopping.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's About Time!

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan 1

Pattern: Flutter Sleeve Cardigan
Designer: Pam Allen
Source: Interweave Knits, Spring 2008
Yarn: Classic Elite Classic Silk, pale yellow #6950
Buttons: wooden, from M&J Trimming, NYC
Needles: US6, US4, US3
Started: July 3, 2008
Finished: September 21, 2008

Did you miss me? It's been a couple of weeks since I posted anything substantive. Life has been pretty hectic lately. Work life really geared up during September. The good news is, I closed several significant sales projects - a grand slam of sorts - good for the income, bad for the day to day life! Work these days needs my attention. Given that 45% of my income is commission based, closing sales is necessary. And as complicated as the job is, it takes a tremendous amount of stamina. Whew!

I did manage to finally finish the Flutter Sleeve Cardigan. There were challenges to confront. Like overcoming the sheer boredom of knitting the seed stitch band up the fronts. And seaming the shoulders, which took me all of two entire evenings to get it just right. Eight hours!! I finally resorted to using embroidery thread to stitch them because yarn was making it look too bulky. Other challenges included placing the little tabs on the sleeves so they are aligned properly and then the multiple blocking sessions to get the shaping just right.

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan 2

This project was a lesson in construction. How shaping affects fit and the importance of seaming. I gave lots of thought to knitting those dreaded seed stitch bands as part of the fronts rather than separately. But in the end I concluded the bands need that seam to give structure to the overall shape. Here's one instance where seaming is a critical component of the design. I might be wrong on this, but it helped me overcome the mild frustration of actually doing the work.

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan 2

In the end, I am quite pleased with the project. I like the color, the waist shaping, the kimono shape of the sleeves. I like the yarn but only time will tell how it holds up with wear. Sometimes these 'raw silk' blends end up looking shabby in very short order.

Now, if I were to do this one again maybe I would not decrease as much toward the top of the fronts. For my shape, I'd like just a tiny bit more coverage across the bust/chest area. I think eliminating the last one or two decreases would have worked better. And truth be told, this sweater is a bit snug. I knit it to what I believed to be my size, and I think I maintained gauge throughout. Maybe I grew a bit over the course of the months it took me to finish this. Which of course opens a whole new can of worms -- time to get serious about my fitness! But that subject is for another blog posting.

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan 1

I picked up the buttons at M&J the other night and was able to actually wear this to work on Thursday. Given that the weather has really turned to fall, it might be the last time I get to wear it till next Spring. Maybe I'll be in better shape by then! ha.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yarn Harlot and updates

Hey all you Brooklyn knitters! Yarn Harlot is coming to Barnes and Noble on 7th Avenue in Park Slope, Tuesday, October 14 at 7PM! Guess where I will be that evening? Read more about her current book tour schedule here.

I'll have some finished projects to show you in the next few days. I just need to get them photographed. First up is the secret project for my sister's (now belated) Milestone birthday. The Flutter Sleeve cardigan is all finished - just needs buttons! And there are some socks comin' off the needles any day now.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Resurrection Knitting

Turbulence U Neck Pullover

Last August I started a sweater called Turbulence U Neck Pullover (ravel it) from Norah Gaughan's book, Knitting Nature. I finished the back, and got way far into the front. In fact, you can see I was nearly complete with the complicated charted cabled section at the top and was about to bind off the center when I noticed waaaay down in the lower third of the front a tiny mistake.

Turbulence U Neck Pullover

And that mistake (a purl where there should have been a knit) stopped me cold. It was too upsetting to think about. I agonized for months whether to carry on or rip it down to correct. I didn't think I would be able to drop a stitch down to the error because of all the cables in the Turbulence part. Needless to say, my feelings toward the sweater turned quite turbulent.

I didn't have the heart to rip and for an entire year I have been looking for ways to correct the error without frogging. I gave this one lots of thought over the past year. I pulled it out of the storage bag often and just stared at it. I thought about just leaving it. But in the end, I couldn't live with the mistake and it just seemed a bit disrespectful to the design to not be perfect. It went into hibernation.

So today in a fit of organization and resolution, I took a breath and frogged all the way down. But of course, in typical Knithound fashion, there were no notes and that means I have no record as to what size needle I'd used. And months ago I'd pulled the needle for another project (which one?!?) so it wasn't there today. Argh! Why can't I think ahead!?! Why do I always leap before looking?! Reckless risk taker -- that's me.

Now I want to get this sweater done in time for Rhinebeck. Let's see if I can pull it off. I'm usually pretty lousy with knitting deadlines.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

4th Project

I can't tell you about this one till it's done. Boxed. Mailed. Received. It's a secret.

No Flutter Here

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan

This, the third of the current projects is the one moving the most slowly. It's called the Flutter Sleeve Cardigan from IK Spring '08. It's a really cute sweater! But there's no fluttering going on in this house. No fluttering for weeks now.

It was started over the July 4th weekend The initial knitting flew by. I was on a rippin' streak. Within three or four days I had knit up the back and both fronts. I was in love. Head over heels in love. I couldn't believe my luck. The yarn was in the stash. The first swatch was perfect. I cast on and away I went. No mistakes, no problems, it was easy as pie. My heart fluttered at the thought of wearing this one before summer's end.

Then. Screeching halt. The button band! You mean to tell me I have to knit up a small width of 9 stitches in seed stitch? And then I have to sew it on? Wait, I didn't sign up for this! It's easy - convince oneself. But it's so boring! I sobered up. And then I avoided. I didn't want to face the notion I'd made some error in judgement. Was it only flirtation and not true love?

You can see I have made some progress on the band. But it's only the first one and I haven't even finished that yet! I let my heart get seduced by other suitors. I got distracted trying to win over a skeptic. Excuses.

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan

Where is the love now? How to get past the doldrums and feel that love again? Turn it around. Call it anticipation. Look forward with eagerness to fluttery feelings sure to return. Savor the anticipation, knit on.

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Kicking My Ass

Second of the four projects in progress is something I just started a few days ago. And let me tell you, this one is kickin' my ass big time. The yarn is 100% Cashmere. Oh, it's wonderful. It was costly. And it's really really thin. Now, I've never knit with Cashmere before, and certainly not one so fine. But the thing I've learned thus far is, it doesn't have the "memory" wool does. It's not springy. And it is very fragile. Making mistakes and ripping out means weakening the yarn and then it just rips.

Wine &Roses Mitt

All this adds up to three attempts to get it right, a pile of used yarn that may or may not be reusable and even so, I have "ladders" up each needle join that I cannot make go away. The yarn overs are a bit wonky and lopsided. The whole thing looks really sloppy despite my attempts to knit slowly, carefully, and as consistently as possible. The only thing I can reckon is it's the combination of yarn, small needles and lace that are conspiring against me! I hope all this will work itself out when I wash and block, but just the same, this project is daunting!

This is what they are supposed to look like:

Why go through all this effort? Why put myself through so much frustration? And believe me, if you had seen me the other night struggling to make these look good, fiddling with the needles and breaking a sweat, you'd know this is one frustrating project. The reason is I'm making these wonderful little fingerless mitts is to give to my cousin, JA. She suffers from a terrible autoimmune disease called Scleroderma and her hands need to be warm or else she is in lots of pain.

I have to remind myself to stay calm, focused and relaxed. I have to recognize that while knitting these little mitts is a huge challenge, it doesn't come close to the challenges JA faces every single day of her life. Take a deep breath. Take it one row at a time, one day at a time.

Wine & Roses Mitt

I can't wait to see how they turn out.

Raglan Sleeve Cardigan Progress Report

There is progress to report, yes there is. Currently I have four projects "on the needles".

This one, a Raglan Cardigan, got it's start about a month ago and it's coming along nicely. With this type of sweater, knit from the top down,one has the advantage of being able to try it on as it grows. Good thing too, because I was able to get the first sleeve just right.

Top Down Raglan

My Mom's arms are long and she likes to have the cuff come down over her wrist bone. She wants to wear turtlenecks and other long sleeved winter items with this cardigan, so a little ease in the arms is needed.

I am following a written pattern, but realized the sleeves might be a bit snug in circumference. I ripped back about 7 inches and altered the row count between decreases. The original pattern called for decreases every 4 rows. That was okay up near the top because the sleeve is wide. But by the time you reach the elbow the stitch count is around 50. I decided to change from decreases every 4 rows to decreases every 8 rows till I got to 44 stitches. This allowed for more ease through the elbow and forearm. I also decided to maintain this count all the way down to the start of the ribbed cuff. I knit the cuff on size 7 needles while the body is knit on size 8. This will give the cuff a bit more firmness. I did a quick standard cast off just to be able to try on the finished product. I took lots of notes so I can replicate the changes on the other sleeve.

My plan is to change the cast off to one that is outlined in the fall 2008 issue of Interweave Knits. It's a tutorial for sewn cast ons and cast offs that offer a lot more elasticity and supposedly makes a nice finished look.

This method also gives the same finished look to a start and an end of a knitted piece like for instance a scarf. That's always been a bit of an annoyance for me. I thought is was just me being OCD, but it bugged me silly on all my scarves and couldn't figure out how to fix it. Till this tutorial came along. Assuming I can make this method look good, it might be my go-to approach for necklines, cuffs, etc. But I digress.

In the last fitting, it became evident the hips are a bit snug. I don't think it's something I can work out in the blocking. I guess my Mom has put on a few pounds in the last few months. I'm actually happy about that, she had become too thin.

This means I wil attempt another modification. In this case I will rip out about six or seven inches above the ribbed edge and work in some increases. I reckon it will need about 1.5 - 2 inches of ease. We also discussed doing some nice edgings on the sweater but she wanted simple. So simple she got - a 2x2 rib. The neckline and button band will be the same.

Top Down Raglan

One thing I really like about this project is the way the increases were made along the raglan. It reminds me of Gucci bracelets. I also like the color of this yarn, which is the workhorse Cascade 220. Worsted weight, it knits up nice, has good yardage, comes in a zillion colors and best of all, it's affordable. This one is Lake Chelan, part of the Heather series.

So far this project has been an opportunity for me to experiment with modifying a pattern. Up till now I haven't had much need to make lots of changes to a written pattern so it's kind of cool because I am learning things like creating ease, incorporating new finishing techniques, and such. All this is good in the long run - someday I will end up designing my own stuff and these lessons are an important part of that process.