Saturday, March 30, 2013

Boho Skirt, almost

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This is in the sewing-up phase right now.  I feel like it could go either way—maybe I’ll  look like a 1970’s boho chick doing grad studies in Postmodern Whatever at Vassar…or maybe I’ll look like an old lady wearing a blanket.  Nothing to do but go find out! 

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Kristin Hankins is the winner of the Learn to Knit goodies.  Thank you all for playing! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Folkloric embroidered earrings

 

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I have made something lovely and tiny.  These were unexpectedly difficult—not even the improvised cross-stitch pattern on microscopic 30-count fabric, but the affixing of the stitched fabric to the gold filigree jewelry finding in a non-messy way.  I settled on hot glue and wrapping the fabric around teensy circles of card stock.  That was tricky, with glue strings and burned fingers abundant, and my eventual success was somewhat marred by frustration, but so worth it in the end.  Oh, but they’re so pretty!  And I think my old eyes have mostly recovered—those stitches are nothing but specks, and the finished size is hardly larger than the eraser on a pencil.  If I were going to attempt this again, I’d find a way to use a magnifying glass.  Inspiration came from this artist.  My goodness, go and have a look.  So beautiful.  

The filigree findings are from snapcrafty, the gold earring wires are from my local bead shop, and the cross-stitch fabric was gifted to me by a very generous and anonymous soul—thank you out there, whoever you are.  When I wore these today, I got a lot of comments that went along the lines of “Did you make those?  What the heeeeck...”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Starting something, and a giveaway

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I was leafing through old issues of Vogue Knitting magazine this morning, and in Winter 2011/2012, one of the designs suddenly grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.   The Zigzag Skirt (oh my goodness, a knitted skirt.  Thank goodness for Spanx) in a striped (who, me?) chevron design, which is (Leda, are you listening?) reminiscent of Missoni.  Not too short (whew) with very little shaping (hmmm…) and a two row repeat.  Yes, please!  I shoved the other projects in progress to one side and started rummaging for yarns.  Oh, that first blush of a new project, how I love it.  Will I wear a striped knitted skirt?  I’d say that’s about a 50/50 right now.  Will I knit a striped skirt?  Oh yes, I sure will, with pleasure.  I must admit, I’m getting a little antsy to make something else, something non-yarny, maybe something with fabric that isn’t curtains (oh, right, I forgot to tell you, I’ve been making curtains.  They’re white.  They’re too boring to show you.)  But knitting is endlessly interesting to me, what can I say?

I was asked recently to review a new magazine called Knit & Stitch, which looks like it will be published weekly in the UK (weekly!  You lucky people) and which it appears will come with yarn and needles and hooks included, which is like getting a new kit in the mail, and which I think is pretty nifty.  It isn’t a magazine in the usual sense, but a series of pages you can collect as you please, building a personal pattern library.  In the first issue, you learn to knit.  That’s right, you learn to knit, and, well, as you know, I already know how to knit.  You guys are always telling me you wish you could knit—well, here you go! 

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If you’d like to have a small set of beginner patterns, a pair of knitting needles, a skein of Bergere de France Barisienne yarn and an instructional DVD to help you get started, please leave a comment here and I’ll draw a name at random next Friday, March 29. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Striped Scarf, revisited

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Another scarf is off my needles, and warm weather is nowhere in sight (oh, you there with your blooming plum trees and your daffodils, know that I am very envious.  Very.)  I don’t know why I expect spring to come in March.  This is New York.  I am not new here.  But I am ever hopeful. 

Along the lines of this, I decided this time to just choose two skeins of sock yarn (about 350 yards each) that seemed happy together and then knit them until they were gone.  A peruse through the stash produced a skein of Araucania Ranco in the lyrically named Color 107, which is a hand dyed semi-solid in indigo, and Cascade Heritage Sock something or other in pearl gray—the ball band is gone, so I don’t know what fancy number name they gave that one.  I used US 4 needles, and knit it back and forth on 80 stitches, changing yarns every two rows and carrying the yarn not in use up the side. It took awhile, because other projects beckoned, but eventually, I noticed that there was this much yarn left:

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So I bound off in the gray, and sewed up the ends and the long side.

I tried really hard to make sure my chin looked good in the photos.  There were a lot of fails. 

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Maybe if I tuck it under the scarf?  Better.

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I am often asked whether one could knit this in the round, and the short answer is yes indeedy, you sure could do that.  You would have to contend with a few extra issues, though--there would be some row counting, which seems like it would be relatively easy, what with it being a two-row repeat, but I think I have demonstrated how easily I am distracted.  Knitting back and forth lets me do a knit row and a purl row, and that reminds me to change colors, a good enough reminder even if I am deep in concentration elsewhere.

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You’d also have to deal with the jog, which is what happens when you’re knitting in the round and you change colors.  The stripes don’t line up.  (I know, there’s the jogless jog, but that’s also something to have to pay attention to.  Backing and forthing is utterly mindless for me, which is the whole reason I choose a project like this.  (I’d actually kind of miss the purling, too, if I am being totally straight with you.  I’m not one of those girls who hates to purl, though I know they are many.) 

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Worst of all, you’d have to spend a few minutes reconciling the length of your circular needle with the number of stitches you were hoping to cast on.  Not necessarily easy, especially if you’re wanting one of those long skinny scarves, since the minimum number of stitches you can get away with on a circular needle is however many stitches will reach around it.   You can’t work 40 stitches in the round on a circular needle, unless you’re willing to use a really teeny short circular needle, which, just, ugh.  You could do it on double-pointed needles, but then you’d be working on double-pointed needles, which have their charms to be sure, but which will tend to get annoyingly hung up in my sleeves or leap deftly into the crack of the couch cushions, and then I have to pause the movie, turn on the light, get up and take the couch apart…

See what I mean?  I just knit it flat, it’s easier. 

As I worked on this, with its manly blues and subdued neutrality, I thought I would stash it as a future gift for one of the wonderful men in my life. 

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But I really like it on me.  Sorry, boys! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hand/arm warmers

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I have been lured in by the promises of a beautiful photograph, and have come to believe that if I make these ethereal crocheted arm/handwarmer things, I will become ethereal, too.  In reality, I am the furthest from ethereal you can imagine, so I guess I’m really laying a lot of pressure on this project.  In my helpless pursuit of this goal, I have broken a cardinal rule—I am using thrifted yarn that has clearly and obviously been infested at some point by moth larvae. 

[pause to allow for exclamations of horror]

I know.  I am bad.  I will most likely be paying a stiff price for this transgression at some point, and I will have no one to blame but myself. 

The yarn is some kind of antique shetland in DK weight in the most gorgeous stormy gray, and it was only a dollar, and while there has been (so far) no actual insect spawn, there is a lot—a ridiculous amount—of breakage.  I have had to spit-join about ten times so far.  (Do you know about spit-joining?  If you hate knots and ends, you should know about spit-joining.  More on spit-joining later; it’s so handy.  I’ll tell you all about it sometime.)

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Come on, look at that gorgeous shetlandy halo.  Doesn’t it just make you want to wear a beautiful pearly gray dress with a tulle underskirt and with maybe a little beaded handbag, an updo, and a corsage from a boy?  I just had to take my chances. 

The yarn did spend a few days in the freezer first, and now the ice cream probably tastes like wool (totally worth it) and I don’t actually know if that trick works or not because I’ve never had a moth infestation before, or maybe that’s why I’ve never had a moth infestation.  It certainly isn’t because I’m super careful about what wools I bring into the house.  Probably I’ve just gotten lucky, and maybe I’ll keep getting lucky, and I’ll keep on spit-joining this as I go, and will finish up these lovely things just in time for the prom. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

TV Technicolor Blanket

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This is the latest in what seems to be my current series--Stripes:  A Hectic Melange of Whatever’s In the Cupboard.  It has an almost vibratory quality—as I look at it, my eyes can not rest, which your Studio Art 101 professor will tell you is not necessarily a plus.  It hums.  It’s like an optical migraine.  It might give you one, if you peer at it too long.  The interspersed neutrals offer breathing space and contrast, but the saturated darks just keep jumping, waving at me, jostling for attention.  Looklooklooklook!

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I began this, as usual, in an effort to cultivate a long term project for the winter.  I spent a few lovely months knitting long scarves in stockinette stitch, using random oddments from my leftovers basket, which sat beside my chair, always at the ready.  I knit some sections that were wide (45 stitches, 60 stitches) and some that were narrow (one of them is 15 stitches across) to accommodate the tiny leftover pieces.  I made an effort to place the colors well, all of which went down the tubes when I sewed the long strips together and pink and blue ended up next to each other a lot. 

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I chose the widths of the strips at random, trying to make sure there were a roughly even number of wide vs. narrow.  I worked 54 color stripes of eight rows each, then bound off and set the piece aside, and began another.  When the total number of cast on stitches equaled 285, I bound off the last strip and sewed them all together using mattress stitch.  I lost my mojo a little bit at this point, because it was all very wonky and weird, and then I was in the yarn store browsing around while they were having a class in the back, and I heard the instructor telling them [the truth] that no matter what you do to it, stockinette stitch will curl at the edges, and there’s no hope for it, and that they should not use stockinette stitch for things that they wish would lie flat.  Which, of course, is completely true, but which fact I have managed to circumvent on occasion, using the almighty steam iron and a couple other tricks; chiefly, a single crocheted border using a relatively small hook.  Still, I fretted.  The blanket was curling at the edges, a lot.  But I blocked the heck out of it, and of course, it turned out okay.  The blanket is flat.  So, yes, stockinette stitch will curl, no matter what you do.  That’s true.  But, you can also sometimes block out the curl, which is also true.  There you go, a little piece of knitting paradox. 

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When it was all finished and I held it up, we agreed it looks just like a television test pattern.  This station is experiencing technical difficulties.  (Remember that?)  The skinnier panels appear to neatly, almost disturbingly, bisect a larger striped scheme.  There is an effect of its having been cut up and sewn back together wrong.  My brain keeps trying to organize the stripes, to sort the patterns, and keeps failing. 

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Maybe I’m just being rebellious, but I sort of love all that discord.  It’s exciting, it’s crazy, it’s beautiful.  

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

All those ends!

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The time has come for me to sew a big wooden bowl full of striped snakes into a blanket.  I love how weird that sounds.  This part always takes forever, which, when sewing together my knitting, means more than an hour, because I don’t like doing it, but I’m trying to get all zen about it.  Needle in, needle out, breathe!  It’s working, but there are a lot of strips and it’s testing my patience.  I’m using mattress stitch and a neutral gray yarn to seam all those long strips together, and then I will (you betcha) block the living daylights out of this thing, to make it lie flat and be organized and tidy and drapey.  Then I will knit on the edging.  More on that later. 

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I know what else you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Are you insane?  The ends on the back of that must be madness!!!”  They’re not.  I knit them in as I go, and then there’s nothing to do at the finish but snip off all the tails.  Here’s what the back looks like:

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I didn’t use a tapestry needle to do that, I worked them in as I went.  I think this is what the stranded knitting experts in the Fair Isle style and tradition do when they’re dealing with long floats—they just tack them down as they go by, weaving the yarn they’re not using into the back of the stitches.  I promise, I find all that just as confusing as you do.  I took about sixty-two pictures of this process, because this is a really great trick and so handy to have in your arsenal.  Okay, here’s how it works:

I’ve just finished working the orange stripe, and have started on the next, which is red  On the first row, I will weave in the tail of the orange yarn. The tail goes over the stitch I’m about to knit.

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I wrap the red yarn to make the stitch…

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…and then pull the orange tail up out of the way.

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I complete the (red) stitch.  The tail doesn’t get knit into the stitch.

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On the next stitch, I hold the orange tail down and away, towards the back, and wrap the red yarn over it.  This is where it gets tacked down.

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I knit the stitch as usual. 

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I keep alternating those two steps—holding the tail across the new stitch for one, then holding the tail down and away for one—until it is sufficiently woven in; a couple inches or so. Then I purl back, and on the next right side row, I’ll do the same thing with the start tail of the red.  Tidy, and invisible from the front of the work.

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At the end, I just clip the ends off and it’s over.  No arduous hours of weaving with a sewing needle.  Well, until it’s time to sew it all together.  Aargh! 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Evolution of a Hat, not a pattern

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I love the juxtaposition of gray and neon.  It is the sun peeking though the clouds.  A bit of sweet surprise.  I’ve talked a lot about the huge need I have to add neutrals to my bright colors, and I think most everybody agrees that a little blah can set off the brights so beautifully, just droning in support while the limes and geraniums and fuchsias stand up and sing out loud.  I love how sometimes it works the other way, too, where the bright color can be a small counterpoint to the quiet of a big expanse of brown or gray, like a quick intake of breath. There is this, which has long been on the list of things I will be making eventually.   In fact, just thinking about it, just now, I want to start making that blanket today.  I just might.  I went smaller to start, though, and so I made this hat first.  

I started with the yarn; two small skeins of Mission Falls 1824 in taupe (color 03), leftover from this project, and went to the Infinity Circle Scarf pattern from this book.  I didn’t have enough yarn for the cowl as it is written in the pattern, so I decided to do a shorter cowl, one that would snug up to my neck and (despite the natural holes resulting from crochet) help keep the weather out.  I chained something like 60-ish and started working the cluster stitch pattern.  The yarn was really running out fast, and when I had done twelve rounds, I tried it on.  It didn’t really fit over my head very well.  In fact, it actually fit on my head, pretty nicely.  Oh!  Just like that, it was a hat.  On the next round, I worked one cluster as written and then the next two clusters together to decrease.  Another plain round of clusters, then two rounds of two clusters together, all of which snugged it up really nicely at the top.  Lo, it was hat-shaped, and so slouchy. Love.  I fastened it off, and wove in the ends. 

Going back to the beginning chain, I worked two rounds of single crochets and then switched to the brightest yarn in my cupboard—Ella Rae Classic in the very best lime green with a hint of mustard yellow.   I don’t have the ball band anymore, so who knows what exciting number the yarn company assigned to it, but it is similar, though warmer and more yellow) to Paton’s Classic Lemongrass.  I worked six rounds of sc in the contrast color, then just pulled the yarn through the last stitch and wove in the ends. 

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I made a pompom with the scant amount of Mission Falls that was left and sewed it on.  It looks totally perfect on a beautiful girl with long, long mermaid hair, and somewhat cute on me, too.

I thought about writing this whole thing up for you and doing a PDF and the whole shebang, but honestly, I don’t remember exactly what all I did, even though I thought I was going to remember.   I was sure I would remember.  Also, the foundation chain edge is a little on the snug side.  I might have worked a couple increases in the single crochet rounds to keep it from squeezing my ears so hard, but I actually don’t know how many or where.  All of which is a little too vague for me to feel comfortable writing it all down as instructions for somebody to try to follow.  Besides which, I know you are all way better than I am about this stuff and you can so easily just figure it out as you go.  Certainly if I can, you can.  For information about the cluster stitch I used, check out this tutorial, or just google “crochet cluster stitch”. 

The two-clusters-together part might seem confusing, but all you do is this:  work one cluster up to the point where you draw the yarn through the three loops, and instead, just go straight to the next ch space and work another cluster, until you have six loops.  Draw the yarn through all six loops.  That works two clusters together, and it makes a decrease. 

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We’re in March now, and I always hope in March that it might be almost spring, that the wind is not so insistent anymore, and that a hat like this, with it’s crochet granny holes, will be wearable.  Hoping.