Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rainy Weather

means I've been staying inside, and I've been moving right along on the new socks.

Even though these are done in finer yarn than the last pair, they feel as though they are going more quickly. I suspect it's because I really enjoy working the pattern stitch.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Last of the Tulips

Are a variety called "Texas Gold"

One of my very favorites

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How, I Made the Shawl, More of Less, Part II

OK: about color. This was totally improvised, too. I had several skeins/part skeins of worsted weight yarn sitting around. I pulled out the ones that were in the blue/blue grey range, plus one teal. I started with one color and kept adding in others, switching around as the spirit moved me. I tried to alternate between primarily a darker hue with light contrasts and primarily a lighter hue with darker contrasts, but only is the most general fashion. Toward the end, I ran out of the darkest blue, so I added in some dark grey and used that to finish things off.

Scientific, huh? But playing around with the colors in a totally improvised way was part of the fun of the knitting. Sticking to a nearly monochromatic color scheme ensured that there would be at least some unity among all the color/texture activity.

I did try different things with the color transitions to add to the variety.

"A" is obviously all stockinette, smooth, crisp transition. "B" is interesting. Worked only one row of dark blue, but because it came in a reverse stockinette section, the color peeks through in two rows at the top and bottom of the narrow ridge. "C" is a single garter ridge. Here I introduced the new color on a Right Side row and knit back in the same color. It would have looked quite different if I had started the new color on a Wrong Side row.

As you can see, there were times when I used a given color for only one row. There is a slight trick to this when knitting flat.

Here I've added in green and knit my row.

Normally, when I reach the end of the row I turn my work and purl back.

But, Oh No!, I want to use the red yarn that is way over on the left side. I really don't want to cut it off and rejoin. So I do not turn the work at the end of the green row. Instead I just slide all the stitches over to the right

where I can now pick up that red yarn and knit with it. Of course, this only works with a circular or double pointed needle. If I had been working on a traditional straight needle, the knob at the end would be in the way of knitting the next row.

For the most part, I carried unused colors up sides on the theory that would leave fewer ends to weave in later. The theory was good enough on that count BUT once I had four colors going at once, often with colors coming off each side due to that slide the needle method, and the whole thing was getting bigger and more bunched up on my needle by the minute, well, turning at the end of a row tended to put things into quite a tangle.
Also, carrying 2-3 unused yarns up the edge got pretty messy looking. It would have been better if I had remembered to wrap the working yarn around the unused ones every row (which in all the improvisatory excitement, I didn't). But even so, it would have been less than ideal for an exposed edge.
Moral of the story, I should have sucked it up and done less carrying up the edge, limited it to no more that 1 yarn at a time if possible, and just dealt with more weaving in.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How I Made the Shawl, More or Less, Part I

The I-Cord edging didn't work so well, so I just crocheted along the top edge to catch the yarn floats in place. It looks, shall we say, rustic, but it's relatively unobtrusive.

Kmkat asked if I planned to describe my method, and in somewhat rambling, perhaps semi-incoherent fashion I'll give it a shot. It's really more "method with madness", or "basic structure meets chaotic improvisation."

I'll start here with the basic shaping, which happens to be a very standard triangle shawl knitting gambit.

If you start with a very few stitches, and then increase one stitch at each side every other row, you will build up a triangle (familiar to anyone who has ever worked the standard Grandma's Favorite dishcloth). It looks something like this.

If you simultaneously work two of these triangles side by side it looks like this

Notice that the "side" edges of the knitting as it is worked will form the "top" edge of the shawl. Since you are working "top down" as it were, this is the edge that appears at the bottom of the sketch. Clear as mud?

So I started by casting on 5 sts and marking the center stitch.

On every RS row I worked one stitch, made a yarn over for my increase, worked to the marked st, yo, worked the marked st, yo, worked to the last st, yo, worked the last st.

Every WS row was worked even.

Now I will say right here that I would have had neater edges if I had worked two or even 3 edge stitches before the first increase and after the the last increase. So do as I say, not as I did.

Each row was either all knit, or all purl. Actually, I meant to work the first and last 4 sts of every row in garter, but I forgot a lot. I just improvised whether I would knit or I would purl any given row, and this resulted in some sections of stockinette, some garter ridges/garter sections and a couple of reverse stockinette sections. I did try to keep the center stitch in stockinette (knit every RS row and purl every WS row), but sometimes I forget this, too.

AT THE SAME TIME, I did a little compensating in the shaping. I'll backtrack to explain. If you work the shaping as described above all in garter stitch, you end up with nice even right triangles, because garter has a lovely gauge characteristic: the height of two rows generally equals the width of one stitch. But the proportions of stockinette are not so accommodating, and much of this shawl is either stockinette or reverse stockinette. So instead of a nice right triangle I was likely to end up with something more like this

I've exaggerated the distortion a little for illustrative purposes.
So to fill in the shaded areas

I threw in extra increases at the side edges every 4-6 rows, or whenever I remembered. I placed these about 5 stitches in from the edges and used M1 instead of a yarn over, so they would show as little as possible. I did not do extra increases on either side of the center stitch. Placing extra increases at the sides only had the (to me) advantage of increasing the width of the shawl a little more than the depth.

So I continued in this fashion until I was tired of it, but I did make sure that I went long enough that the top of the shawl would equal my "wingspan", that is the length from fingertip to fingertip when I hold my arms straight out to the sides.

Enough for one day. I'll post something about color changes and knitting on the edging later (maybe sooner-later, and maybe later-later, we'll see).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Other Unfinished Business

I decided that the Scrap Shawl was big enough.

Well, OK, I got tired of those ever increasing rows of either plain knit or plain purl. But it is big enough if not any too big. So I switched to knitting on a simple edging, much more interesting to work and it looks cute if I say so myself.

Here's a close up - though the real color is a very dark grey twist.

I haven't decided what to do about the top edge, but it needs something, because it is ugly. I carried the yarn(s) along between color changes, and didn't do a very neat job of it, either. I've never actually worked an applied I-Cord. Maybe that will be the first thing to try.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Numb and Number

Dental appointment this morning. I don't know what they use for the numbing up stuff, but I suspect it's horse tranquilizer. I've been feeling totally dopey for the last three hours, very pleasantly calm, but slow, very slow. It was an appropriate enough mood and energy level for weaving in ends. Once they were woven, it seemed easiest to take a picture of my foot while lying on my back. So here's the Cheerful Traveller up in the air.

Opal 6 ply yarn, 58 stitches, top down with a heel flap heel. Mostly stockinette, with a little cable down the back of the leg, just to keep things interesting.

Now I think I'll go take a nap.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cajun Fun and Time in the Sun

Though not necessarily at the same time

Last night we went to hear Dennis Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp at the Monroe Art Center: bouncing around in your seat music, for sure, educational, too. They played a variety of Cajun and Creole music, including some from French speaking communities in southern Illinois (who knew?). Mostly they just rocked.

Today started out cool, but sunny and getting warmer, and I had some coupons burning a hole in my pocket so I headed out to The Salad Garden.

Here's the view from the parking lot

There's a pretty little pond in that grove of trees.

And here's the first view of the business end of things.

They give fair warning (you can click on the picture to make it big enough to read).

Some of the goodies are outside.

Some of them are inside.

Seems hard to believe, but they do pretty much sell out by the time they close for the season (get there before the first weekend in June or you'll miss it).
I love getting locally grown plants. They have been well cared for, not stressed by travel and I feel virtuous about supporting the local economy, which goodness knows, needs the support.
I restrained myself, and came home with only some impatiens and some alyssym, and one dill plant. But there are three weeks in the season to go, and I have a couple more coupons. Hope they don't run out of stuff before I get back. There was a gorgeous big columbine I had my eye on, if I can only figure out a place to put it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Listening to the Yarn

Because I have been faithful and diligent, and as a result the Cheerful Travelling Socks are all done except for grafting one toe and weaving in ends; I allowed myself to spend most of the day playing with some yarn and trying to ascertain which stitch patterns it liked best of the ones I had to offer.

I bought this from Sandy (of Sandy's Palette) at the Alpaca Festival in Madison a year ago. It's a wool/nylon sock weight and I love the colors.

The patterns are all variations of small cable moves (1 over 1 and 1 over 2). In either case, I slipped the stitch that would be travelling over the other(s) on the round or two prior to the cable round.

Why the slipping? Well I think it's interesting, just slightly different looking than a standard cable or twist. And it breaks up the color striping just a bit. And for me, anyway, it's a little easier to work when I'm going without a cable needle. When I drop a slipped stitch off to hang for the moment in mid air, it seems less prone to slither down into the row below than a regular stitch would be.

Why work without a cable needle? I hate picking the darn things up and then putting them down and then picking them up again all the time for small, closely spaced motifs like these.

I've about settled on which pattern combinations I want to use, and where I want to place them on the socks. But I'm not casting on yet. Right now I have a swatch. The minute I cast on for the real thing I'll officially have another UFO. I'll polish off the Cheerful Travellers before heading down that slippery slope.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

KIP pays off

Today was blood drive day. Now the last time around, the Red Cross was short staffed and the waits were very long, first to do the medical history stuff and then to get an open table. I must have spent at least an hour and a quarter just waiting in different lines. So before I left the house today I tossed one of the travelling socks into a Ziploc bag, just in case.

As it turned out, there was no line. I breezed through the preliminaries and never accomplished more than about 10 stitches worth of actual Knitting in Public.

But, when I got to the area where the needles go in, the nurse asked me what I was working on, with that particular gleam in her eye that bespeaks a fellow knitter. So the whole time I was pumping away at the little rubber ball we were discussing different projects, and sharing notes on favorite yarn stores (I think I need to take a day trip to Galena), and she told me all about her friend's daughter's alpaca farm, and I convinced her that she really ought to try socks. All in all, I do believe it was the most fun I have ever had while bleeding.

The feverfew jumps around

I'm fond of feverfew. It's not showy, but the little white flowers make nice filler in a casual bouquet, and it blooms for a fairly long time. It's supposed to be perennial, I think, but I've never had a plant make it through the winter. However, it does seed itself around. I'm never quite sure where I'll have it any given year, but I'm always pretty sure it will show up. This year it's trying to crowd out the creeping phlox.

I've always wondered whether the common name "feverfew" is just the result of a long ago mispronunciation of "febrifuge", which this plant is according to the herbals.

Fortunately, the apple tree is staying put.

And the lilac is only moving around enough to make the picture fuzzy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From unfinished to long finished

While I was at Annie's house, I was tickled to see this. It's a baby blanket I made for my nephew Sam. He's in high school now, so it was a treat to run across it after all these years.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Got my knitting mojo back

Don't know if it was the yarn fumes, inspiring company, or just the R & R, but I came back from my trip jazzed up about knitting again. I have at least a couple of ideas for new projects buzzing around in my head, but then there are (ahem), there are those UFO's..... What to do? Charge into the new and exciting, or follow up on the poor abandoned orphans?

Well, I've decided to do a little of both.

For "new and exciting" I spent a day swatching some patterns from one of the Japanese stitch dictionaries. I have no notion whether I'm doing the technique correctly, because what I was doing seemed very awkward. But the results, while somewhat sloppy, do look more or less like the photos. (Will be in email consultation with Gayle on this one).

Finished a pair of baby socks that had been all done except for one foot and toe. (why did they sit around so long?)

Knit a blanket square that I can't show because it will be part of a gift (the recipient probably doesn't read this, but just in case).

Got about four more inches done on the "scrap shawl". This has reached the point where every row has about 240 sts, so it's growing more slowly. Now I will put it aside for Thursday night knitting, because those long rows with very little going on are perfect for conversational knitting.

I've turned both heels on my travelling socks, and progressed most of the way down one foot. I like these. They are cheerful.

So that only leaves the purple vest and two pairs of socks that need mending in the unfinished category (well there's a shawl that has been sitting for almost two years, but we aren't going to talk about that right now).

If I faithfully work away on at least one of the above every day, I'll allow myself to start some more noodling with swatches. Soon, very soon.....

Saturday, May 09, 2009

One of the many nice things

about staying at Gayle's house is the bedtime reading.

After sitting up in Gayle's studio talking shop (knitting shop, that is) and drinking David's good wine, I toddled off to bed toting a whole stack of Japanese stitch dictionaries. And if there's anything I love for bedtime reading, right up there with Jane Austin, it's a good stitch dictionary. OK, call me a geek. I love looking at stitch patterns, analyzing how they work, thinking about how they might be used. And these books have some very cool stuff. The white book in particular had some lovely lace patterns.

Gayle's knitting library is, to put it mildly, extensive. From it all, these were among the "things I'd be least likely to run across on my own", and they are a treasure trove. I may just have to order one or two for myself. Everything is charted, and most of the symbols are familiar, plus the books have such clear illustrations of how to work the stitch associated with each symbol that I could figure out many of them even without knowing Japanese.

Gayle teaches classes on working with Japanese knitting patterns, (she'll be at Knitters Connection in Ohio in June, and also at Stitches Midwest this fall), and she sent me home with her very thorough class handouts that also explain a lot of the symbols.

I see some major swatching coming up.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Springtime in Maryland is Breathtaking

Lush green woods

Azaleas rioting through whole neighborhoods

Dogwood floating like dreams

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I'm Baa-ck!

Well, the trip was absolutely wonderful, in about a hundred different ways, The Sheep and Wool Festival was huge, and exciting and just fun. Gayle is a seasoned hand and got us there early on Saturday to get a good parking place - wise move because the cars kept arriving in a steady stream until past noon - even on a cool and drizzly day. We had time for a "tailgate" cup of coffee before the gates officially opened, headed in and grabbed a program book, picked up some sheep milk cheese to add to the lunch stash, then headed for an initial spin through some of the vendors. Overwhelming! I was too involved with gawking and fondling yarn and ooohing and ahhing to snap pictures. Trust me, it was amazing.

Met up with Sis and niece, who were taking a class in drop spindle spinning and made arrangements to meet up for lunch. On the way back from picking up the picnic supplies from the car, Gayle and I took a quick detour through the Ravelry meet up.

Whoo Hoo, brush with greatness. Casey really is a complete cutie. Well they all are.

After lunch, the barns. I think I have more sheep pictures than any others. This was the cutest face in the bunch

It's little brown muzzle made it look a bit like a koala. And the young girl prepping it for show was a sweetie, too.

The Jacobs just fascinate me. What evolutionary impetus ever led to those horns?

A Khatadin Hair Sheep. The overcoat just falls off - no shearing. From what I can tell, it's mostly a meat breed.

Merino on the hoof (at least, I'm pretty sure that's what this one is).

Then back to shopping. I didn't escape a little stash enhancement.

And my niece acquired her very own drop spindle. By three o'clock the crowds were really thick, and we were all pretty pooped, so we headed out tired but happy.

Gayle and her hubby and I went back again Sunday afternoon. It was pouring rain, but we slogged happily through it to catch the sheep dog trials, visit more vendors, say and"hi" to the sheep again. After closing out the festival at 5:00 we topped off the day with a visit to an incredibly good Belgian restaurant on our way back to their place.