Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scurvy Yarn Project

Woohoo! I'm finally finished with the Scurvy Dust Rag of Doom:



I gave up trying to make it big enough to be square, so it's a couple of inches wider than it is tall, but it's done and I don't have to mess with it anymore. Boo-yah.

Spooling Yarns

I've posted a pic or two of my Yarn Booty, and as can be seen, much of it is spooled into what look like multi-colored bales of hay. When I first got my yarn winder, I immediately wound every bit of yarn I had that was in non-usable twists, etc. I wondered, however, whether it was really worth the time and effort to re-wind skeins of yarn that are allegedly wound by the manufacturer for use directly from the skein, such as those from RedHeart, Patton's, or Lion Brand.

I have since come to believe that re-winding them is well worth the time. I don't recall any skein of yarn ever that didn't have at least a few tangles within (Homespun, in particular, loves to cling to itself). Sometimes, as a special treat, the end of the yarn you're supposed to use is simply not to be found without pulling a large wad out from the center, making the skein appear to have given birth to a smaller skein. Unless you knit a lot more quickly than I do, something has to be done with the "baby" skein, which can not be simply shoved back into the mother skein without causing even more tangling and possibly some mental scarring as well.

Yarn wound into balls, while incapable of plopping out a baby skein, don't store efficiently and can become indented with lines from the crisscrossed layers, especially if stored for long periods. Bales stack far more neatly than balls or skeins, and are far less likely to go rolling off the shelf or table unless you put one on the side and send it off with a push. In that case, of course, you're on your own. You can also use either the center strand or the outer strand of the bales, or both at once: an option not available using skeins or balls. Local yarn stores will generally wind yarn for you that you purchase there, especially twists of yarn, but if you have a large stash at home (and who doesn't), I think the money spent on a good winder is well worth it.

Be warned, however, that consistency in tension is important while spooling yarn with a winder. Occasionally, I let my children help with the winding, and they have a tendency to wind it rather loosely. Thus, when one of them gave up halfway through winding a ball of yellow worsted weight, I began winding the rest, rather more tightly, and rather more quickly. You can imagine the laughter when the whole thing came shooting up off the winder and onto the floor below like a big wad of spaghetti.

On a side note, I use index cards folded over and curled into an expandable circle to keep the center of the bales from collapsing between knitting sessions; it's also a good place to stash the yarn label for future reference. Naturally, you can also make notes on the cards regarding the particular yarn, but I don't generally do that because I re-use the cards. Using two index cards partially overlapping each other makes the core even more expandable, so as the yarn is used up from the center, again, the bale won't collapse between knitting sessions. Obviously, the core has to be removed while knitting from the center, though not when knitting from the outside strand. I've considered purchasing some of the cardboard spools I've seen online, but they only allow you to use the outer strand, and are designed to be hung from a holder, thus also reducing portability. I might consider that option one day for yarn to be used with Vera, as it might make maneuvering yarn a bit easier while machine-knitting. For hand-knitting, though, I think I'll stick with using the index cards as spools.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Problem of Yarn Storage

Ugh. I have a lot of yarn. I love my yarn (well, 95% of it), and with the obvious exception of making something and giving it to someone, I don't want to part with it. Half of it is stored in neatly-stacked clear plastic bins in the upper part of my closet, though "organized" would be too strong a word:





The other half, however, is not so neat:


 

There's more, but it only gets worse and becomes interspersed with other arts-and-crafts supplies such as cloth and the sewing box (the black toolbox partially visible in the last two photos). Also, having settled into our house rather late in life, I still occasionally find a random ball of yarn I evidently stuck somewhere while packing during one move or another, in some cases, many years ago. Some of my yarn is older than my children. The taupe colored ball perched atop the plastic box and looking like a small bail of hay in the last pic is one such randomly-located ball, and I just found it yesterday while unpacking some boxes that have been waiting their turn for over a year. Usually, I have a good laugh at myself while walking the stray yarn to the closet, only to look around in dismay, sigh, and stick it randomly in one the yarn boxes, hopefully one that has yarn of similar color. In this case, I just gave up and stuck it on the box, hoping the cats don't get into the closet before I figure out where to put it.

With that in mind, I did some online research this morning for yarn storage solutions, and found nothing to suit my needs except a lot of good suggestions, all of which involve my making something. What? Me? Make something? Perish the very thought!

So for now, my search for an acceptable yarn storage solution continues. I'll post again if/when I figure something out. Naturally, I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Coolest Sweater Ever

I admit I look at an embarrassing number of patterns. I browse the knitting mags every month for new and interesting patterns, I have a number of books on the subject, I am subscribed to several knitting mag email newsletters, craft newsletters, and so on.

As time goes on, a decreasing number of the patterns I see interest me at all, and many seem merely a re-hashing of old patterns, or are just too freaky to subject any decent yarn to. Of all of them, perhaps 20% of them grab my attention. Perhaps 10% elicit an "oooh" and a save to disk (or purchase, in the case of magazines) for future use. A very small number, however, elicit a "Gasp! Dude!" and become immediate members of that elite list of "Things I Will Make Before I Die." This sweater is the newest addition to that list, and is surely the coolest sweater I have ever seen:





This gem was designed, photographed and knitted by Avital Pinnick, who provides the chart and the story behind the sweater here. As she points out, the color is not great, but easily changed.

I discovered it thanks to a Facebook link posted by Knitwhits on the topic of unusual things people have knitted. The original article from Discover Magazine is worth taking a look at for the other pics, too, but the sweater is an I-gotta-have. Okay, so I'm a nerd. I have the nerd t-shirt, I wear it proudly. As I mentioned in Facebook, however, I am apparently not a big enough nerd to have thought of this myself, so thanks to Ms. Pinnick and those who brought the story to me!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adventures in Double Knitting

I have been thinking for some time about getting one of the knitting boards from LionBrand. Unfortunately, there isn't a reliable link to a picture of it on the site, so I can't post it here. It's basically an oval board with a hole in the middle and a lot of pegs. One of the reasons I haven't purchased one is that I have a number of round Nifty Knitters, and while they're useful for some things, especially for getting the kids to knit, you can't vary the gauge much except by adding thicknesses of yarn. However, I have been thinking that there must be a way to do this double-sided knitting thing without spending money on a knitting board that I'm not likely to use all that often. Finally, it occurred to me that there have to be instructions on the Web somewhere. It is an unfortunate truth that these little epiphanies usually happen when I'm nowhere near a computer, so it has taken until today for me to get around to surfing for instructions. Thankfully, my search led me to this little gem. RedThread's excellent instructions on this topic are clear and concise and include pictures that are, of course, far neater than mine:



This is my youngest, after putting the extra DPN's between his fingers like a wood-knuckled Wolverine and spearing the yarn. This pic is a bit neater:



Note my feline assistants in the background, napping. They're all tuckered out from jumping on my little work table and grabbing at the yarn. This pic was taken after retrieving all the DPN's they sent rolling across the floor.

Naturally, even after my feline assistants fell asleep, I messed up early on:



Despite my momentary compulsion to undo the entire row and fix it, with a nod to Athene, I just left it alone. After all, I figured I'd make plenty more errors to keep that one company.

Ultimately, the chart I made was not a good fit for this project:



It's supposed to be a leaf, and on paper it looks vaguely leaf-like. While knitting, however, it became rather less leaf-like and more cat-like, especially since I miscounted the rows (in my defense, this was knitted partly at home and partly at the doctor's office we took my youngest to). After adding some ears, it became less cat-like and more like some sort of fancy slug, although my youngest assures me it's still cat-like. Okay, perhaps I've knitted a Rorschach test, but it'll still make a good potholder:



This is my youngest again, modeling the new potholder in a frame he built from the yarn and needles I was using: there are two more needles behind the potholder and the fifth is stuck between the spools of yarn, apparently to keep them from escaping the box. Well, at least the cats can't reach them now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Holiday Dish Rag

I just finished this holiday dish rag:



If it looks a bit wobbly, it's not yet been washed and blocked. It's knit in seed stitch with a garter stitch border, using Hobby Lobby's I Love This Cotton #16 Buttercup Print.

I'd been looking at this color for quite some time before I finally purchased it. It reminds me of eggnog and holiday green and red but I wasn't originally sure I liked it. Having knitted with it, it's very soft, as are all the I Love This Cotton products, and continues to look festive and remind me of eggnog now that it's knitted up.

Making the rag took a bit over half of one of the 2 skeins I purchased, so I will probably end up with 3 dish rags, or maybe a tea cozy. I haven't decided. Maybe I'll ask CrapCat.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

CrapCat

Earlier today, my Hubby was teasing me about a pattern I found because the colors are a bit drab (I won’t go into detail, but he said it looked moldy, and I can't necessarily disagree). Generally, when I show him things, I turn my monitor so he can see the image. Having given up trying to convince him that the colors could be changed, I was returning my monitor to its normal position when CrapCat tumbled off like a Humpty Dumpty wannabe. When I picked him up, he had two size 00 DPN’s sticking out of his head. Ignoring the obvious statement that makes about the condition of my desk, I re-positioned the DPN’s and here is the result:



You can't see them in this photo, but to CrapCat’s left are his new buddies: a Lego Jedi-Wizard and his Owl familiar that my Hubby pieced together from several sets the children decimated long ago:



My Hubby is a Lego fan, so now that the children don’t play with them anymore, he’s put all the sets together so he can build something. Not sure what yet, but I’m not complaining since the same can be said of my yarn stash.

Lions and Tahkis and Bernats, Oh My

I've added several links to my blog leading to the yarn and yarn-related sites I visit most frequently, including Lion Brand, Takhi Stacy Charles, Bernat, Classic Elite, Paton's and of course, the Woolie Ewe.

The sites for the yarn manufacturers are full of great patterns, many of which are free, though they usually require a sign-up. It's also convenient to see what yarns are available for any given upcoming holiday, and often they have some really cute and pertinent crafting ideas. Takhi Stacy Charles is a bit more up-scale and less craft-ish, and of course the Woolie Ewe is a local shop and features many different brands of yarn and yarn-related products.

Just my little way of spreading the yarn wealth.

Arrr, matey: would you be wantin' to knit and purl?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Scurvy Yarn Projects

Occasionally, I find myself knitting things I don’t particularly want to knit, with yarn I don’t particularly like. Currently, I am slowly knitting my way through a dust rag, using Lion Brand’s Homespun in Metropolis, which is a puffy black and white yarn. Normally, I’m a fan of Lion Brand’s Homespun because even though it’s mildly difficult to work with, it machine washes and dries and gets softer with use and washing, yielding articles that are soft, warm and comfortable. I have a hat and scarf in Edwardian, which is a steel grey, and I love them. Homespun comes in a number of lovely colors, many of which are variegated and yield pleasant, cloudy swirls of color.

As they say, however, there are exceptions to every rule. I don’t particularly like the Metropolis color, which was originally purchased for a sweater for my Hubby. I didn’t think it was a color he would like, but he picked it, and by the time I was mostly done with the back, he agreed that he didn’t like it. Thankfully, he requested I not finish the sweater. Now, I have skeins and skeins of the stuff and am trying to figure out what to do with it all. So far, I’ve made a couple of crocheted coasters for his desk, and a small square liner for a mesh CD box. He’s also asked me to make a matching dust rag, which is the project that brings me to this blog entry: I hate it. Ok, It's not that I hate it, it's that I don’t like knitting it, I don't like looking at it (which is required when one is knitting), I don’t like the color, I don’t like anything about it, and I can’t seem to finish the thing because I just don’t want to do it. Fortunately, I am about 80% done with it, so there is light at the end of the Metropolis Dust Rag tunnel. Below is a scan of the thing, or at least a small portion of it:



There’s no need to adjust your screen: it really looks like a big black and grey field of rubble, and while this is only a small cropped section of the original image, there’s nothing to be missed in the remainder. It’s knit in seed stitch, but I suspect that if it were done in cable stitch, eyelet stitch or even macram├ę it would look exactly the same.

If it were a bit more interesting, one might think one were looking at a small part of the Greyed Rainbow [Jackson Pollock, 1953, currently located at the The Art Institute of Chicago®]. The dust rag is not interesting, however, and that could very well be my problem with it. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind making useful items like kitchen rags or dust rags, I love making things by request, and I like the color grey just fine. This, however, is not a good kind of grey, nor a true grey at all. It’s a mottled black and white, and the white is made a dirty-looking grey by the black fibres that, by virtue of the style of yarn, overlap the white fibres. It yields neither a mist grey nor an other-worldly grey, just an ugly, dirty grey. Yuck. I can’t wait until I finish the thing, and yet I have trouble bringing myself to work on it, thus my fairly quick progress on the gloves for my oldest:



Nonetheless, I still have to finish the scurvy dust rag of doom. Oh well: the knit must go on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gloves

Currently, I'm working on a pair of gloves for my oldest using this pattern




from Lisa Knits, in Berroco Sox, color 1421, pictured below (image from Berroco).



The pattern is one I've used before to make myself some hobo gloves, by simply ending the fingers at the desired length:



These are knitted in Plymouth Yarn Rockin' Sox (which has apparently been re-named Sockin' Sox, Color 006.

A note about Lisa Knits patterns: they're inexpensive and really good, especially for the money. She has a number of basic patterns as well as some lovely more complicated ones. They can't be ordered from the website except wholesale, but the website has a convenient store locator. I get mine at the Woolie Ewe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Famous Knitting

Wow, I've just realized I've not posted about my prize-winning tea cozy:



My hubby did post about it, the day before I started this blog, and I guess I forgot to post about it myself, since I helped gather the info on the type of yarn, etc., thus satisfying my internal record-keeping needs. As he says, the original test swatch for the tea cozy ended up as a dice bag, since I had to use an entire ball of the yarn so I'd know how much yarn I would need for the tea cozy. We still use the tea cozy, but she is not normally all stretched out like that; normally, she's curled around the tea pot like this:




Here is my youngest, who just can't stay out of pictures, posing with the tea cozy:



This is our second tea cozy, which didn't win any prizes, but which has a matching cloth to go under it so the tea pot doesn't lose heat to the counter:



We usually use both tea cozies in tandem, since we have two teapots of different sizes, and it takes several pots of tea to fill our iced tea container. The dragon tea cozy fits the larger tea pot, which has pictures of roses on it; the smaller tea pot is plain white, and rather shorter, and fits better into the blue tea cozy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Birthday Cakes

My younger daughter had a birthday yesterday, so we managed to have her party actually on her birthday. As with all my kids, I wanted to make a couple of cakes based on something she likes. Currently, that thing is vampires, and has been for about a year or so. I wanted to make something like a 3-D crypt or coffin, so I started out with a 9x13" cake. It didn't pan out:



Ok, it's a Cake Fail: it just wouldn't come out of the pan whole. However, I managed to salvage enough pieces large enough to make a smaller version:



I also made a castle cake, and tried to make it look like a ruin, which was not difficult given that it also didn't come out of the pan whole. Fortunately, the green icing used to portray moss was also useful as an adhesive:



I had to make a third cake because the coffin was basically a 1-2 person cake, so I used an idea my Hubby found online, and made a basic white cake with an added vampire-related feature:



I put the same strawberry goo in the middle of the layers, which added flavor without adding too much sugar, since I made the filling myself.

So what happened to the coffin cake? As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:


Famous Knitting

Here's another blog post by my hubby about one of my dice bags. This one was knitted in a white multi-textured yarn that made it look somewhat vaguely like a small dragon pelt, if dragons at any stage of their lives have a bit of fuzz. This one actually does have a liner, though it was added some time after the dice bag was originally made. Given that the yarn is thin and fine, I used crochet thread for the liner. As he points out, I make better drawstrings these days: this one was just a length of the yarn tied at the ends; generally, I use two crocheted strands these days, which makes them a bit sturdier. I believe we bought the yarn on one of our very earliest trips to the Woolie Ewe. Unfortunately, I have no idea what kind of yarn it was, so I can't post it here. If I figure it out, I'll update with the name, etc.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Barbie Sweater

I finally finished my Barbie sweater (pp. 80-81 of Nicky Epstein's Knits for Barbie Doll) It's the pattern pictured on the cover:



Here's my version, using leftover sock yarn:



She looks a bit puffy thanks to the dress underneath, which is a 2-piece number I knitted quite some time ago without a pattern:



So now Barbie, or in this case Summer, just needs some sort of foot coverings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Halloween Cookies - Late

So we're a week into November and I finally got the Halloween cookies made:


 
 

All the kids were at their grandmothers' so I managed to get the cookies iced before they were all eaten. Well, except the other two cauldron cookies - someone has to do quality testing, after all.

Meanwhile, it was beautiful outside this morning, despite the cloud cover, so I got these two pictures of my front yard:


 

Normally I'm not big into the color orange, but it was really pretty, and I was quite pleased to have captured this year's fall colors before they disappeared. The time when the trees are colorful is very short: they go almost directly from full and green to brown and bare. It makes one wonder how I managed the autumn leaf cookies earlier this year:

 
A friend told me I done pretty good for a southern gal. Oh well, now that the cookies are made (and, no doubt, soon to be eaten), back to the dragon dice bag. If it comes out right, I may have to knit CrapCat a new hat.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Continued Adventures of CrapCat

CrapCat is still perched atop my computer monitor, overlooking the stuff on my desk (CrapDesk, if you will).  Currently, he sports what was supposed to be a dragon-skin dicebag, complete with tail.  Said dicebag is not turning out quite as planned so I put it on the cat:



Here is that which he oversees:


Messy, huh? Objects you see include a d20 approximately 3" in diameter; foam shuriken (next to the d20); the remains of the brown yarn from which CrapCat was made; a flashlight, generally used to locate dpn's that have rolled under my desk; a pen/pencil cup; a pretty box hiding many miscellaneous (mostly useless) objects; a toy rolling pin; my sharpies and some software. Oh, and a sheep, who from this angle appears to end in a small cloud. I'll leave that a mystery.

I post the picture of my desk because I have recently seen (in other people's blogs) pictures of desks well-organized and neat, desks organized with interesting and useful things, desks that invite one to sit and create. Unfortunately, my desk does not fit into that category. And yet, it is the very process of creating things, repairing things, etc., that repeatedly brings my desk into its current state. Funny, my desk at work does not look like this: at work, I am very organized. Apparently I leave my organizational skills in my desk drawer at work when I come home. Fortunately, I can still locate poo-brown yarn and needles so I can make a CrapCat on demand.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CrapCat

Well, the stackable cat is cute, but perhaps knitting him in brown wasn't the best idea. He had the unfortunate effect of reminding my children of poop: you've heard the expression, poop a brick; well apparently I've knitted a poop brick. He's still cute, but my older daughter has dubbed him CrapCat. Here he is, atop our Halloween candle tree, which is surrounded at the base by small rubber mice. My Hubby found it amusing to think a cat had been run up a tree by mice.









Now that Halloween is over, he sits atop my computer monitor, where he balances oddly well, despite listing slightly to port.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stackable Cats

Currently, I'm working on this adorable pattern, which my Hubby was kind enough to purchase for me after alerting me to its very cute existence.

This little kitty knitted up very easily. I didn't even do a test swatch or read the needle sizes, and simply grabbled needles appropriate to the yarn I used, which is a dark brown worsted-weight, possibly wool yarn from the Yarn Booty. The yarn label is uncharacteristically missing, but I think it's from Patton's.

The instructions are pretty easy and mostly clear, though there are a couple of spots that might give a beginner some trouble. The pattern does contain a link to a tutorial on their website for the stitched used to sew the kitty together, which is handy, and any other trouble spots are easily figured out: certainly none should be a deal-killer: this cutie is well worth the $5.00 for the pattern. Personally, I'm thinking of knitting 3 of the small ones for my office so I can juggle them when someone walks in without a smile....