Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why couldn't I design a HAT?!?

For several years, I have wanted to knit myself a poncho. If I voiced that wish out loud, it usually brought quizzical looks. Then this season, ponchos began appearing in department stores. Although I doubted I could get one knitted before winter's end, I embarked on this journey.

First, I pulled out a pattern from my Ravelry queue, then bought the required amount of yarn. Given the size of a poncho, I went economical and purchased Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool, in Oak Tweed, on sale. Only later did I realize the "tweed" would not work with the big fat cables of my desired poncho, as the stitch definition is non-existent. That's when I veered into design-it-yourself territory.

One advantage of DIY knitting is if I don't like something, I can change it up. Unfortunately, that is a disadvantage as well, as I keep second guessing my design decisions. Currently, the poncho has three panels, front and back, with the center ones in seed stitch. The side panels are 5x1 ribbing, with the plan to pinstripe the purl columns in contrasting yarn. During a brief period of insanity, I considered switching from the wide rib to a lattice stitch, but swatching again revealed that lack of stitch definition.

Why panels? For one thing, I think sewing them together will provide some "backbone" to the fabric, hopefully preventing too much stretching. Also, I can knit the panels on straight needles, which I find easier when having to purl much. The width of the poncho will be elbow-to-elbow, with each "sleeve" ending in ribbed cuffs, like the original pattern. The back will be a bit longer than the front.


Another plan is to use i-cord in contrasting color for edging and for the seams. We'll see how that goes. The front center panel includes short-row shaping for the neckline. I'm debating on either a cowl collar or a hood.


Oddly enough, as the design was taking shape in my head, my daughter showed up with a store-bought poncho that greatly mimicked what I had in mind, purchased for about $20 at the mall. *sigh* But mine will be better, warmer, and a work of art (I tell myself).

Meanwhile, I'm slogging along, wondering why I couldn't be inspired to knit something smaller. Thank goodness for books on CD.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Last pair of xmas socks

My SO is always understanding when his xmas socks are the last to be finished. And usually that finish date is after xmas, sometimes soon, sometimes far after. I started these xmas eve day, and now over a month has passed and I am just now getting them finished. It's not like they are the only WIP on the coffee table.


Pattern: Short-row heel and toe basic sock, by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: SSYC Poste Yarn, Striping, in 'Island of Misfit Toys' and SSYC Simply Sock Yarn in 'Silver Lining'
Needles: US1
Modifications: None really, other than to knit the toe and heel in contrasting yarn, as self-striping yarn does not work well with short rows.


One of my sock-knitting techniques that has evolved over time is to make the leg about as long as the foot, when folded in half. Otherwise, the recipient complains that the leg is too short. Sometimes longer legs means extra yarn, which in this case takes the form of contrasting heels and toes.


I'm pleased with my efforts to match stripes. This yarn makes it easy, as the length of the color runs is very consistent.


I shouldn't say these are the last of the xmas socks; they are the last of the xmas *gift* socks. I have two more colorways of the Poste Yarn, to knit socks for moi. After all, we can't let everyone else have all the fun socks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

OMG! These mittens are SO warm!

I started these mittens over a year ago, reached the point where all that remained was to knit the second thumb, and stopped. If memory serves me (a big IF these days), I struggled through the first thumb, then there was a tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum. Suddenly, almost fifteen months had passed. What possessed me to finally finish these? Your guess is as good as mine.


But finish them I did, and today, when the temps were in the single digits and the wind chill WAY below zero, was I glad. That wind chill did not penetrate the fabric AT ALL. Me thinks all future mittens will be double knit, one way or another. (Except the current pair I am working on for g'daughter - one is done and I'm not redoing it.)


Pattern: The Red and the Black, by Laura Ricketts
Yarn: Cascade 220, in gray and black (colorway numbers unknown - this was leftover yarn)
Needles: US5
Modifications: Not intentionally. The two thumbs do not match, nor are they the same length. Thumb #1 is not according to the pattern, and I chose not to reknit it. I did reknit thumb #2 and still it came out the wrong length. Wabi sabi.


These mittens were my first (and not very colorful) foray into colorwork. I am particularly proud of the floats (although I have to be careful not to snag them with a thumb nail). I assume the mitts will felt a bit with use, and then they will be perfect.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year!

I've come to the conclusion that there is no point in New Year's resolutions. I usually make the same ones each year - eat less, exercise more, keep a cleaner house, etc. - and usually fail. Instead of calling them "resolutions", maybe I will refer to them as "habits of the heart", some general goals to strive for without treating them as make-or-break commandments.

Regarding my knitting, here are some "habits of the heart" I am going to strive for:

Quality over quantity: I simply enjoy knitting, and sometimes get caught up in cranking out yards and yards of knitted products without paying close attention to the quality of what I am knitting. Consequently, there are sweaters that are too big and shapeless to wear out of the house, socks too small to wear at all, gloves made of too-stretchy alpaca, mittens that don't match, etc. Going forward, I resolve to pay more attention to knitting with the appropriate yarns, on right-sized needles for the desired fabric, in correct gauge.

Let's be practical: Over the years, I have knit a variety of items that never see the light of day once finished. For example, when my g'daughter was a baby, we could dress her in all manner of hand knits, but now she has opinions and a fashion sense that does not include the sweaters I so lovingly provided. Another example are shawls: fun to knit, not so much fun to wear. Going forward, I resolve to knit only what is asked for or agreed to, in colors and yarns the recipient approves. (The only exception to this is xmas socks - I get to have fun with those.)

Break away from patterns: I developed the habit of slavishly following patterns because 1) that is one way to learn, 2) it is quicker than coming up with my own patterns, and 3) if the results are not so good, I can blame it on the pattern (whether that is an accurate assessment or not). Now I have plenty of sweaters and blankets. Everyone I knit for has socks, gloves, scarves, hats, afghans galore. And I am retired, so time is no longer of the essence. Going forward, I resolve to invent my own designs, experiment with how to construct them, enjoy the journey instead of the destination.

What about you? Are there any knitting goals you would like to achieve this year?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Knitting binge

Even though my family celebrates xmas on xmas eve, I usually feed someone on xmas day. Not this year. Some might think it sad to spend xmas day alone, but after all the flurry of xmas preparations, I was ready for a day of R&R.

To get through all the holiday knitting, I listened to a lot of books on CD, the most recent one Stephen King's Under the Dome (30 disks!) Not quite done with that story, I binge-listened while I binge-knit this hat for my g'daughter.


Pattern: Official Kittyville Hat, by Kitty Schmidt
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in colorway 838 (pink)
Needles: US7
Modifications: worked and reworked the ear flaps until I was satisfied (see below); also, no ears.

I've knit this hat before, but always in dark colors. In pink, the ear flaps just did not look right along the edges. I tried this, that, and the other thing, and finally settled on slipping the first stitch of each row knitwise, then always knitting the last stitch of each row. That seemed to clean them up, at least well enough.


Ordinarily, I would knit this yarn on US8 needles. Since my g'daughter is but five, I used US7's with the hope that the tighter gauge would mean I would not have to adjust the pattern to get it to fit her smaller head. She hasn't tried it on yet, but the styrofoam head is close to the same size as hers, so here's hoping.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Island socks

This pair of xmas socks went much smoother than the others, helped by the absence of ribbing except at the top of the leg. They were for my daughter, so they are also in a smaller size than the other xmas socks, so knit up relatively quickly. Thank god.


Pattern: Short-row toe and heel basic socks, by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: Simply Socks Yarn Co. Poste Yarn, Striping in 'Christmas Island' and Simply Sock in 'Silver Lining'
Needles: US1
Modifications: Used Turkish cast on

The quality of the dyeing of the Poste Yarn makes stripe matching a breeze. Again, the 'Silver Lining' was a good selection for the contrasting heel. I've also learned that, when folded at the heel, the sock leg should be about the same length as the foot, or there will be complaints about them being too short.


So, three pairs of xmas socks were ready and waiting on xmas eve. I am knitting a pair for my SO, and may just have to knit a pair for myself, as the colorways are so enjoyable. Then I may take all the leftovers and knit up a crazy pair of socks or gloves with them. Wouldn't that be fun?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Santa Claus, IN socks

Xmas is over, and per usual, I didn't quite finish all my xmas knitting. Most, but not all. I'll post what did get done over the next several days, before the xmas spirit departs for the North Pole.

I think I knit these socks twice over, as I struggled with needle size and fabric density and angry knitting gods. I even managed to bind off too tightly, despite using Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. The needles were a square set which I grew to detest, not because of the shape but because of how sharp they were. Note to self: save them for lace knitting.


Pattern: Short-row toe and heel basic socks, by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: Simply Socks Yarn Co Poste Yarn, Striping in 'Santa Claus, IN' and Simply Sock in 'Silver Lining'
Needles: US1
Modifications: Used Turkish cast on

The chicken-legged men in my immediate family prefer ribbed socks, another annoyance, as I have never fully mastered the art of the purl, despite much practice. Fortunately, the troubles of this pair were balanced by the wonderful yarn in wonderfully xmas colors, enhanced by the contrasting heel. 'Silver Lining' worked with every pair of xmas socks I knit.

These socks were for my son-in-law, who is usually non-committal on my knitted gifts. I later asked my daughter if they fit okay, and she said, "I guess. He's wearing them." That is a good sign.