Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More needlefelting

Pretty cool, huh? I'm not sure I can make the dozen or so that I originally planned, though. He took two full evenings to make.

But you know what I need now, right?

More colors!

My dye setup (two big canning kettles) lets me do 14 jars at once. I was too impatient to mix up new dye, so I used what dye stock I had on hand. I also decided to wing it on the weight of the wool & therefore on how much dye & auxiliaries to use -- very seat of the pants. But I'll weigh the amount of wool that fits in one jar so that I can be more accurate in the future. (Based on the amount of rinsing that I am doing this morning, I'm pretty sure that 40 grams of wool per quart jar was a wild over-estimate.)

So I dyed three jars each of turquoise, blue, cherry red and fuschia (white Shetland, white Columbia, gray Corriedale/Churro), two jars of yellow (the two white wools), and one jar of black (the gray wool). I plan on blending lots of colors from these primaries. I'll probably dye some more colors, but not until after Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Not so Dala, but darling.

Yesterday afternoon Gloria Galasso of Tres Hermanas came to my house to teach a class on needlefelting. It was fun & I think I learned a lot.

Here's the little guy I started in the class. I intended to make a Dala horse; I think I've made a Mexican donkey.

It was 20 years ago today ....

What's happening here? Why, it looks like someone is finishing off the ends of a sweater ... and indeed that is what is happening.

But the sweater was finished 20 years ago. Back then I was in too much of a hurry to wear it to bother to finish the ends, except for the ones that hung out of the sleeves or the bottom of the sweater.

For years I've been meaning to do it -- you know, when I could get around to it. Really the ends didn't cause much trouble, except when the long ones came out of the neck when I put it on. But I could just tuck them back in. It was a little annoying, but that was no reason to actually sit down and *fix* it ....

Here's a closer look. Many of the tails had felted themselves, although a scary few look just like they did 20 years ago. I assume those are synthetic blends. This was my third or fourth sweater, and the first one I designed myself, and I wasn't very picky about the accent yarns I used. The main yarn is Lopi Light, and it has held everything in place very nicely.

And here's what it looks like on the outside. I've been generally happy with it except for two things. The sleeves are too long (see folded cuffs), and the round yoke is a little too small. Fortunately the sweater as a whole is very roomy so the yoke isn't constricting, but I've never used this style of construction again.

So there you have it. I should have done this years ago, and I'm glad I did it today.

Monday, August 14, 2006

How big are my feet?

Last spring I made my first pair of socks since pregnancy made all my old socks obsolete. My first pair, the yellow ones on the bottom, turned out to be so roomy that I wear them as bed socks. (That is, I wore them as bed socks back when it got cool at night, some unimaginably long time ago.) So I made the next pair quite a bit smaller. But I may have swung a little too far in the other direction. These socks are matched at one edge. Doesn't that seem a little drastic?

These are my first socks made of self striping yarn and I've got to say that I am unimpressed. I was expecting something a little more exciting. Instead I kept thinking, oh, God, here comes the orange again. And what do you know, it was followed by the green, and then the purple, and then back to the orange. I really think that solid colored yarn would be less boring because I wouldn't be expecting any excitement. To test this hypothesis, the next pair will be made of the same yarn, only in solid brown.

I'd cast them on right away, but look:

One of these things is not like the others.

I am so buying a sock needle protector sleeve.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Pi Are Squared shawl

After posting the picture of Stephanie & the purple blob, I got to wondering what the shawl really looked like. So here's a photo of it spread out onto half a dozen needles:

and here is a close up of the patterning:

The madeira wave around the neck was difficult to do, especially since I was in the car and my husband was talking to me from time to time, and now I think it will be invisible when the shawl is worn. Maybe I'll repeat it around the bottome -- when there will be a few more repeats of it.

The shawl currently hangs just above my elbows unblocked, and gains about six inches when I stretch it (very unscientific). I'm almost at the next doubling point. The discussion of the shawl in Knitting Around says they generally don't double a fifth time but this shawl needs so much more length that I think I'll do it. I've got about 8 rows to decide, though, and 8 rows takes a while.

This faggoting pattern is simplicity itself, which has made the shawl mindless knitting. I'm hoping, though that it won't look funny in the middle of the shawl, with more solid areas above and below. I can't quite remember why I launched myself on this huge project without any planning (something to do with a looming vacation & no travel knitting on hand, plus this huge quantity of purple laceweight Shetland and a decade's curiousity about this oddly shaped shawl ....). Maybe what it needs is something that combines the top and the middle -- something more open than the top but more patterned than the middle -- say, something like Sharon Miller's Feathered Border pattern (Heirloom Knitting p. 164 - 167).

That's a good plan for someone with two little kids and about half an hour of knitting time every day.

Well, I've got the 12 rows of the zig zag and a couple of rows of increase and maybe a plain row or two before I really need to figure out what I'm doing next. I'm sure inspiration will strike. Suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

still here .....

Last night I went to hear Stephanie Pearl-McPhee speak. It was lots of fun -- both to hear her and to be around so many other knitters. I was particularly impressed by the people who wore handknit sweaters, considering that it was 102 degrees.

I brought along my endless project, a Pi Are Square shawl (EZ, Knitting Workshop) in laceweight shetland. Here's Stephanie puzzling over it:

Can't you just tell she's thinking "what is this shrivelled heap?" Really, though, I was impressed by her composure. We were at the end of a line of about a thousand knitters getting their books signed. It's hard to imagine making polite chit chat for that long.

On another other front, the cotton is coming along great. Here's George (in his space helmet) beside my little plantation:

He is facing south. There is a fence about 30 feet to the east of the plants which blocks the sun early in the morning. The tallest plants get the sun a little earlier in the morning -- that's the only explanation I can think of for the difference in size.

I'm surprised by the height; I had thought it would only get to about 18 inches, but the tallest is over 40 inches now. (George is 45 inches; I put him in for scale.) The flowers are beautiful! I wonder what the yield will be.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Picker & swift

Overall dimensions are 27 x 27 x 11. Cradle is 15 1/2 x 11.

Cradle height is adjustable for different fibers.

Here are the teeth in the lower section (upper section held out of the way).

And here is the upper section. (Light colored blocks are just propping this upper section up high for the photo.) When you use it, you use one hand to push the fiber under the front bar (keeps your hand away from the teeth) while swinging the top cradle with the other (the handle is at the top of this photo).

This handmade swift holds skeins from 39 1/2" to 56". Overall height is 33".

Here are the two separate pieces. The center axle is a little slanted but it does not affect performance. I don't think I'd use this with silk, but it is smooth enough for very fine wool.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Neither wool nor yarn.

I have been making a top for Charlotte. It's from a pattern for a nightgown or corset cover yoke from 1916, although I made it in size 30 thread instead of size 50. I just need to finish the round of picot edging around the bottom and then attach it to whatever sort of fabric I'm going to put it on. I'm a little foggy about that at this point.

But here's what I'm trying to decide. The pictures above show the yoke in two different orientations. If you look closely you'll see there are five flowers across the front on the top picture, and only four on the bottom. And on the top there are only two flowers going up and over her shoulders, while on the bottom there are three.

So the one on the top has a wider neck opening, shorter armholes, and more of a suggestion of sleeves. The one on thebottom has a deeper but narrower neck opening, deeper armholes, and less "sleeve." Dean likes the one on the top. I think I do, too, but I'm afraid it will fall off her shoulders. Ideas? Comments? Am I just obsessing too much?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Something of a disappointment

I wasn't very happy with the way my last hat turned out, but I didn't want to post until I had really thought about what went wrong.

The hat is an entrelac design by Kathryn Alexander. You can see it on her at Rhinebeck last year here . I was thrilled by it & bought the pattern from her.

I want to make it in handspun, but couldn't really visualize the hat by reading the pattern. I didn't know how the bits went together and where the colors would end up. So I made a "test hat" out of commercial yarn.

The pattern calls for a very small needle -- 5 st/inch with worsted weight yarn on size 3 needles. Size 3 needles? That seemed nuts to me, so I used size 6 and got gauge just fine. I haven't knitted much entrelac, and I had forgotten that entrelac stretches. A lot.

As I was knitting I realized that the hat was turning out big. I couldn't really tell how big, because of the bumps, but pretty big.

I was right.

Here it is after fulling. It's still big, but it's wearable. The fabric is nice and dense and furry (the yarn is a wool/mohair blend).

Here's a back view, before fulling:

Turns out it was a mistake to change colors on the last two points of the center -- but I ran out of yellow. When I make another I'll do a whole round in one color.

So was this a success? A failure? Not exactly either, I guess. I'll need to think more about what I want to do differently next time. A smaller needle and thinner yarn, to start with.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


In October I ordered loads of Henry's Attic yarns through my first-ever yarn coop.

It arrived in February. I'm sure I had plans for this yarn -- I even have some of my scribbled notes -- but for the life of me I can't remember any of it.

So for the moment there's a big box of potential sitting in my yarn closet. I can almost see the moment when there are big hanks of colorful yarn hanging on my clothesline drying, but not quite. For now, I'm just going to wait until it comes into focus.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Everyday knitting

Lena's post has made me think about everyday knitting -- knitting that may well have a short and inglorious future.

I grew up in Illinois, and lived in Vermont, Michigan and Minnesota as an adult. Now we live in Oklahoma, and there is much less call for warm knitted things. I've knitted sweaters for my children, and they wear them, but they don't NEED them.

For the last year, though, my daughter has been wearing wool pants over her (cloth) diapers. The wool doesn't wick moisture, so keeps her clothes dry while letting air through to her bottom.

I've got to tell you, I just love seeing her wear things I made for her as part of her everyday clothes.

I think you can see here that some of these have had some serious wear. The crotch bits are felted, some of the colors are fading. But several times a day my husband and/or I have been dressing her in things made just for her. Two of them (the blue one and the multicolored pink one) are made of handspun.

It has made me look at knitting a little differently. Maybe if I pick just the right yarn and just the right pattern, someone will love what I make enough to wear it out!

The title of this post refers to Annemor Sundbo's book Everyday Knitting: Treasures from a Ragpile. She owns a shoddy mill in Norway, which shreds knitted garments and recycles the fiber. The book shows items she pulled out of the 16 tons of discarded garments that were on site when she bought the factory. Many of them are in serious disrepair -- patched, repaired, and finally worn out. It's a different view of knitting than the one we usually see, but one worth thinking about. Thanks, Lene, for reminding me of it!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

more about the Zilboorg hat

Here's the front view as worn by my little pirate -- he's saying "Aarrr" here. On an adult the brim doesn't roll up.

The pattern calls for boning to hold out the ridge between the sides and the top, but I don't think it's necessary.

Project specs:
Egyptian hat from Anna Zilboorg's 45 Fine & Fanciful Hats to Knit.
126 gms (about 4 1/2 oz) assorted handspun wool & mohair yarns, mostly worsted or heavy worsted weight.
Size 6 needles.
While I corrected the chart for the top of the hat, I knitted the sides as shown in the book, and so I increased quite a bit immediately after the garter stitch band. This is incorrect (as shown in the corrected charts) and makes the hat a little looser than it might be right at the bottom. Also I knitted the sides two rows longer than shown in the charts; I regret that now.

The finished hat is very warm and comfortable. I like the contrast between the muted stripes on the sides and the punchy yellow on the top. I think it's a keeper.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Much better.

Reknitted, with the correct number of decreases, the hat came out flat on top. I love the way it fits. From the front, all you can see is the band --- I'd show more pictures but blogger is not cooperating. This is the first picture I've been able to upload in days, and now I can't seem to add any more -- very annoying.

Lark Books sent me a set of corrected charts for the book (Anna Zilboorg's 45 Fine & Fanciful Hats to Knit). They came in just a few days; if I had waited for them I would have realized that there was an error in the chart for the band, as well. There are 24 corrected charts -- almost everything that looked odd to me in the book turns out to be a mistake. All but two of the corrections are for missing increases or decreases. If you have a copy of the book, you can request corrected charts from Lark .

I'd make another hat from this book right away, but I just got Folk Hats and I am in love. My only problem is deciding which one to make first. 2006 might be the Year of the Hat at my house.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Going backwards.

I've owned Anna Zilboorg's hat book for about 8 or 9 years now, and I decided the time was ripe for me to knit one of the hats. Since the book had been out for quite a while, I even checked the publisher's website to see if any errors were listed. There was no mention of the book at all. So I started knitting one of the hats (Egyptian Hat #3).

A couple of things didn't quite make sense to me, so I emailed the publisher. I got a quick reply, saying, "What's your address -- we'll send you the corrected charts."

In retrospect, perhaps I should have set the hat aside at this point.

But it was going quickly and I needed a travel project, so I just kept knitting. I did wonder about the design -- why on earth would you have all that blank space in a stranded knit project? why did I have to do so much weaving in? -- but hey, I can do that.

And I did wonder about the end of the chart, where it looked like I would suddenly decrease 8 out of 9 stitches, all the way around. Perhaps it was a gather? I hate gathers in the crown of a hat or the tip of a mitten, but I was trying to knit Zilboorg's hat, not my interpretation of what I thought she was getting at, so I'd follow directions (this time at least) and see what I thought when it was done.

Besides, since the directions and the charts are separate from each other, I thought that the finish would all make sense once I sat down and really read the directions.

Four rows from the end (the center of the crown) I did sit down and really read the directions. And look at the chart. And look at the hat. It didn't make sense, and I could no longer deny that something was Really Wrong:

Blocking cures a lot of woes, but this is just not a flat-topped hat.

So I went to bed.

In the shower this morning it all suddenly came together. The chart was wrong. All that tedious blank space wasn't meant to be there. All that tedious weaving in was unnecessary. The decreases on the right hand side of the chart should have been mirrored by decreases on the left hand side. Then the inexplicable instructions about a double decrease would suddenly make total sense. All is clear.

I'm really quite embarrassed that it took me 18 rounds to figure this out. But I'm even more annoyed that the PUBLISHER or perhaps the EDITOR or even the AUTHOR didn't notice that three out of the 5 charts in this chapter of the book are missing half their decreases. If it had been only one, I think I would have figured it out sooner. But I looked at those other erroneous charts and thought, "Well, it looks like she uses that weird ending quite a bit -- I guess it will make sense when I get there." Wrong.

Gotta go -- I have a hat to rip out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Feet accompli

Well, here they are -- the first socks I've made myself since my feet grew enormously during pregnancy five years ago. See how long the feet are? See how short the cuffs are? See how much yarn I have left over? I think I've just been converted to toe up socks.

The yarn is a mystery to me. It's four plies, two of which are yellow and two of which vary. I bought it in Michigan, which means mid to late 90s; somewhere along the way I lost the ball band. I think it was a 100 gm ball, though I only have about 90 gms --- at some point I must have done some sampling. It's about 17 wpi, and knit up at a hair over 8 stitches to the inch on #1 needles. I think maybe I should have used #0.

I used the basic crew sock pattern from Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' Simple Socks. It certainly was easy. I'm not too worried about durability, since my socks tend to wear out at the ball of the foot rather than anywhere on the heel.

I liked making them. I think I may be back in the sock knitting business.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What was I thinking?

I've been trying to resurrect a project that I set aside (abandoned) last winter. I've figured out the stitch pattern, but I just cannot remember what sort of garment I was trying to make.

It's one long piece, with a knitted-on edging. I think I was making a vest, or maybe a cardigan, and I'm about to where I would split for the armholes. But this puppy is HUGE. It's a bulky yarn, but I still cannot imagine needing 8+ inches of ease.

So I think I'm going to have to rip the whole thing out. Is it worth starting again? I'm not sure. I don't usually like bulky knits, and I'm not sure why I bought this yarn except that it was a really good deal. But I love the fabric:

It's a simple pattern -- seed stitch interrupted by rows of stockinette -- but it really makes the most of this yarn (Bernat's Scandia, from the last big yarn craze, or maybe the one before that). I've had it sitting around for about 10 years, and I think maybe I should knit it up before we all come to our senses and go back to smaller yarns. But why knit something if I'm not going to wear it.

Clearly I have some thinking to do.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bucket hat, finished.

Here's the finished hat. Pattern is the bucket hat from Chicknits

-- not a style I've knit before. I think it looks better on the wig stand than on me. I also think it might be a little small for my head. It took me 4 tries (!) to get this size since the yarn is not a consistent size; I'd make it bigger but I'm afraid that it would fall down over my nose then.

Yarn is handspun from the early 90's. The hat weighs 77 grams. The brim was knit on size 4 needles; the stand & crown on size 6's.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Oklahoma madness

I have finished my new wool hat, except for darning in a few ends.

It is 92 degrees. On March first.

This is no place for a wool lover.