Saturday, July 14, 2007

Timid Forays Into Lace Territory (And Other Tales)

So after learning how to do feather-and-fan, and realising that yarn-overs weren't actually the scary thing I believed them to be, I sort of became hooked on lace. I've been looking up lace patterns (starting with simple things, of course, but printing out much harder-looking patterns for future reference), put a couple of lace books on my wishlist, and have generally been trying to ferret out as much information as I can about lacy knitting while trying to restrain myself from all-out obsession (because the budget we're living on doesn't accommodate such luxuries as new sets of needles in much smaller sizes and actual decent yarn suitable for lace).

After a few stitch patterns kind of crashed and burned right on the needles, I finally got the hang of arrowhead lace, and I felt more prepared to branch out. After searching for "simple knitted lace" on Google I found The Cherry Leaf Scarf. The chart is extremely simple and the key for interpreting it is right there, and thanks to the arrowhead pattern I already understood S2KP, so I had a go at it. It was a bit slow and awkward at first, but with the help of some strategically placed post-it notes to keep my place in the chart I got on board, and by the time I finished my first sixteen rows I was almost agog at what I'd created. I kept staring and it and nudging my husband, all, "OMG, I can't believe I knitted that! I did it! Me! ME!"

Up thar be photos, and it might not be much to look at (bear in mind I'm practicing on Red Heart Super Saver, and it's pretty scrunched up on the needle there), but I'm pretty giddy right now with the thrill of it all. Also, I plan to save up and buy some of the recommended yarn from the pattern (Dale of Norway Tiur wool/mohair blend) and I also have my eye on some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, the recommended yarn for this beautiful scarf from the Knitty Spring '05 issue.

Well, time for me to do a couple more rows and go to bed. Work sucks, but you have to pay the rent and afford yarn somehow, right?

Monday, July 9, 2007

One Finished Wrist Warmer and a New Obsession

Sweet fancy Moses, it's THE CLAW. Or rather, it's my hand awkwardly modeling Wrist Warmer #1 of #2. I am yet to actually knit #2 (I already cast on to that set of needles with another yarn because I wanted to try something... I'm always wanting to try something), but at least one wrist at a time can be toasty warm. Even if it does happen to be the middle of a sweltering Arkansas summer right now. I'm happy with how it turned out... I went Googling for wrist warmer patterns and happened upon a tip for making the thumbhole: once you get the length you want, knit straight for about six or seven rows, then join again and continue to the top. Huh. What a concept! I mean, it's perfectly obvious once you think about it I'm sure, but to me it was like stumbling across a nugget of gold, only it wasn't gold, it was pure, unadulterated genius.

Another view to the right... again, awkward, but attempting to get enough distance from one's own hand in order to photograph it skillfully is something that escapes me.

So, let's talk fandom knitting, or perhaps the junction where fandom and knitting intersect. (I didn't really know there was such a thing until I found a Livejournal community called, funnily enough, Fandom Knit.) I had a little time to waste before work today and I happened upon an ABC Family showing of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", interspersed with bits about "HP and the Order of the Phoenix". I watched for a bit and found myself growing gradually more excited for OotP. I've always gotten a bit worked up for the books and movies, but I guess I've been a bit disconnected from fandom of any type lately, so I hadn't heard much. Anyway, it was during their little snippet on Luna Lovegood that I had a "you know you're a knitter when..." moment. It was a scene where Luna was wearing this cute cropped cardigan/capelet with sleeves thing and I thought, "I have to know how to knit that, and I wonder if anyone on Fandom Knit has thought about it yet". I managed to scrape some pictures up from the intarwebs to illustrate what I'm talking about:

See, it's not a capelet, not yet a cardigan. It would probably look stupid on me. But I love it anyway! I love the colour, the shape, the lacy bits. I don't know if I want to knit it or hug it and squeeze it and call it George. Probably knit it first, the rest later. Plus I dig the character's whole casual-weird-layering thing... yeah, it's a bit Olsen-Twin-Boho, but it works.

If I'm lucky my doctor's appointment in ye olde Little Rock towne on Wednesday won't take all day and we'll be able to catch a showing! Is it the movie or is it the cardi-cape that moves me? I think it's both. In any case, it's all tangled up in the yarn and pointy sticks... as a dear friend wrote to me, "knitting slowly takes over". She is quite right.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Come For The Knitting, Stay For The Kitties!

Or maybe that should be, "come for the kitties, stay for the knitting". I mean, my knitting isn't that much to look at yet, so I'll have to post cat pics to keep y'all entertained. The little one on the left is Minkey Boodle (it's from "Space Ghost's Musical Barbecue". You know, that old chestnut... "there's a noodle in my strudel and its name is minkey boodle"? Okay, maybe just me and the mister then!). She also goes by the name Dog. She is a rambunctious chatterbox who likes to chase anything that moves (including yarn, natch) and will come running when we call for her... about seven times out of ten.

The grumpy-looking girl on the right is Boodie. I thought it was hilarious and appropriate when I found her lounging around on a copy of one of my favourite magazines. She's loud and not shy about displaying her displeasure at... just about anything, really. If you walk past her, she'll squall. If there's no food, she'll squall. If I'm eating corn, she'll squall, and try to steal it from me.

So those are "the kids". More on actual knitting coming soon!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Two Hands, Five Needles, No Problems!

Currently working on: a pair of wrist warmers. Again. I've made a couple of pairs on straight needles, but seams are for losers. Okay, seams aren't really for losers. It's just that I'm the sort of loser who can't manage to sew something up and have it look normal, and I'm slightly bitter about it. Anyway, since I've had so much practice lately on DPNs I finally cast on and have been steadily knitting this wrist warmer up since last night. (For those keeping score: size 8 needles, Lion Brand "Vanna's Choice" yarn in beige.) It's coming together nicely - it's not laddering or anything! I give the last stitch on every needle and the second stitch on the next a bit of a tug, and it seems to keep everything from falling apart (the knitted item, my sanity...). Since I realised that it's not the best choice to photograph cream/biscuit coloured yarn on a cream coloured couch cover, I also took a shot of it leaning against a black cushion.

And for a bonus, my favourite stitch marker. I bought a set of these from Dragonlady Designs - she has all sorts of neat stitch markers and jewelry items for sale. I highly recommend her store - she answers all questions quickly, shipping is expedited, and it's a bargain for truly nice work. Even people who aren't that interested in my knitting have oohed and aahed over my stitch markers!

Personally, today was quite trying and I came home from work feeling much worse for the experience. The combination of dinner, a crappy movie, and some knitting has made me feel a lot better. Receiving a pair of size 10, 47" Addi Turbos in the mail from a spur-of-the-moment, "what the hell, I have money in my PayPal account" Ebay purchase didn't hurt, either! Can't wait to start making my next blanket with those babies :)

Alright, time for this tired knitter to hit the hay. Hopefully I'll get enough break time at work tomorrow and will have finished this sucker, and have pictures to prove it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Aw Haw Haw... Eet Ees Feeneeshed!

Last night we popped "Anchorman" into the DVD player and, although sometimes it was hard to keep my stitch count on decrease rounds, it was enough to allow me to get my beret finished. I thought I was going to run out of yarn before I even had the opportunity to make a pom-pom for the top, but I made it. I was actually really chuffed when I got it all finished... it didn't look like a tea cosy at all! It actually looked like a real, live beret type thing! I took a few pictures of myself wearing it but I'm not one of those people who can pull off an artsy-fartsy type hat, so my husband graciously stepped in to be the model, despite complaining that my creation was too small for his noggin:Hee hee hee :) I think it looks cute on him. If only he played golf, and I knew how to knit argyle sweaters... he'd be set!

Well, happy 4th of July, everybody! Enjoy the fireworks, set off a sparkler, stuff yourself full of meat from the grill, whatever you do to celebrate freedom. Just don't blow yourself up or set fire to somebody's yarn stash, okay?

P.S.: you know, when I finished making this, I thought, "Yes, it looks like a beret, but more like a tam-o-shanter" (especially because of the pom-pom). Well, when I started casting on for the three-colour version of the hat, I noticed it says in the introduction to the pattern, "This hat and scarf from Lois Young pays tribute to the classic Scottish tam-o'-shanter". I guess when I see the word "beret", as the hat is referred to as in the pattern, I think "French"! Hence today's title, in case anyone was going, "Heh, heh... what?"

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Incredibly Exciting and True Adventures of a Low-Budget Knitter and Amateur Photographer

Finally! I got batteries for my camera and I took some long-awaited photos of my current projects... okay, "long-awaited" might be a bit of a stretch, but I've been promising my friend Sarah pictures for ages, so here's something! :)

I finished my first legwarmer today. I switched from size 6 to size 10.5 needles for the bind-off... a bit much, perhaps, but I certainly didn't want to do any ripping back. I'm pleased with the overall result, but it is a bit too baggy around the knee - not long enough at the top and it doesn't "grip", despite the ribbing. I might try to pick up the stitches around the top and lengthen it some. The next one I'll start my stitch count based on a measurement of the five inches above my knee and make it extra-long. Anyhoo, here's the photographic evidence - nevermind that it looks like a weird fish creature. The yarn is TLC Essentials in "Surf N' Turf". (It's very soft for an acrylic, which also makes it nice for hats.)

I also continued work on a beret pattern I found in "Vogue Knitting: Chunky Scarves & Hats". I had some leftover Lion Brand Homespun in "Montana Sky", so even though the pattern calls for three colours I gave it a shot just to see if it would work. So far it looks a bit like a tea cosy, but in about two rounds I start decreasing, so I'll see what happens. I have three colours of the new line of yarn by Vanna White - honey, chocolate, and cream - and I think they'd look smashing together. (I know, more acrylic, but a) seriously, broke and b) on account of being broke I can't afford to become a yarn snob yet. I really wish I could but y'all, this is how broke I am: we visited ye olde LYS today (Handheld: A Knitting Gallery) and I walked out with NOTHING. This wasn't just self-control. This was total lack of fundage. But I pledged to buy something next week when we have cash. There's this lovely Tahki tweed I want to try out!)

I'm giving the pattern for Argosy a try. It's very interesting and once I gave the chart a thorough once-over I thought, "SURE I can do that!" The yarn is cotton, though I'd like to get the suggested kind (Elsebeth Lavold's Hempathy). I thought this one would help me see the pattern more clearly while I'm trying to figure it out.

And here's a couple of things I've made in the last couple of weeks: I made a trial run of the "Luxe Neck Warmer" from "Knit 2 Together" (my current favourite knitting book) using... a certain brand of cheap, brightly coloured acrylic. (It's still quite warm and cosy!) Once I figured out yarn overs the "feather-and-fan" pattern became quite easy and it knits up in a snap. I used three different colours because I was thrilled at how wavy it turned out and wanted to see if the colours would follow the lines of the knitting. (Not that bright, I know, but I'm a visual learner. :P)

From L - R: the warmer flat-out; me wearing it as suggested, and... wait, who is that? Oh right, it's just me. I'm incognito! Don't tell anyone!

Here's the hat I knitted on the way to, during, and on the way home from our trip to Little Rock last week (alright, I already had about an inch on the needles before we pushed off, but I did that while I waited for a doctor to finally decide there was time to fit me in an hour after my appointed time, ha). The yarn is TLC Essentials in "Brownberry".

Well, I guess that's enough visual adventure for today. When I uploaded this batch of photos I found ones from months ago during my "obsessive cotton phase" when everything I made was either a washcloth, a coaster, or a dishtowel. I still would like to make more washcloths, though - can't have too many...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

If Ripping Back Isn't So Scary, Then Why Are My Hands Shaking?

This week I started on a pair of legwarmers. I'm not following a particular pattern, but instead decided to use gauge and my own leg measurements to shape a custom-fit for myself. (Ever since I really grasped the concept of gauge/tension, it stopped being a boring, bothersome thing I didn't want to do and became a gateway to the possibility of a near-perfect fit. I realise now how nerdy that sounds but I'm okay with that!) I started the first one on Thursday using a size 8, 16" circular needle, and by Friday afternoon had about three pages of notes and 12" of a nicely decreased tube. I got the thing onto size 8 DPNs with no real drama, and by the time I was about 2 or 3" away from the end, I transferred to size 6s so my end ribbing wouldn't be so untidy. I was so excited when, still on the needles, I put the warmer on to make sure I was ready to cast off and found the length to be just right. So I went ahead and bound off carefully. It was neat, and pretty, and though not perfect by any means, it was great for my generously proportioned calves!

So imagine my horror when I put it on and realised I had bound off so tightly that I couldn't get the end over my heel. Oh. I felt like the biggest idiot. I tried and pushed and pulled and yanked and attempted to manipulate, but it was not budging and I was in serious danger of cutting off my circulation. I had already woven in the end tail and everything! I was so bummed at the idea of all of that knitting going to waste that I did what I ordinarily thought I would be too frightened to attempt: I unpicked my weaving and ripped back. Oh, it hurt to do. I am not a fan of ripping back even on straight knitting, let alone on something I did in the round. I can never get my stitches back on the needle the right way and things end up twisted and dropped. To some people it's not a big deal but it just throws me right off.

I threaded some contrasting yarn on an embroidery needle and managed to locate all of my stitches, and somehow after that got them back onto the DPNs. By the time I had everything evenly distributed and knit a couple of rows plain (at this point I couldn't even think of matching up my ribbing; I just wanted to get everything in order and untwisted and sane), I was exhausted, mentally fried, and ready to go to bed. I mean, written down here in the plain light of day, it doesn't seem like such an ordeal but at the time I was freaking out, yelling at my legwarmer, "WHAT DID I JUST DO?!" Meanwhile my husband was looking up ways to do a stretchy bind-off while I barked at him to try different search strings so I could find a way to undo my damage. Eventually we found a couple of options and I've decided I'll try binding off very carefully with a set of needles a bit bigger than what I've been knitting with.

I am actually kind of proud of myself, though, for wanting to stick with a project so badly that I didn't just abandon it when it went south, but tried to undo the problem and salvage my work. That I was so committed to my legwarmers that I didn't just say, "Screw it, I'll buy retail". In my relatively short time knitting I have found myself loving it so much that I can't bear the idea of a day without it. I can't exist in a world without pointy sticks and loops of string. I have crossed a line and I am here to stay. I am a Knitter, and there is no turning back!