Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ljod is done!

I finished Ljod (see post of May 19th for more details) and am very happy with it! It in fact fits me better than it does Jezebel, my vintage wicker display mannequin; she's got a real forties-era shape that is much tinier than I am. But the sweater has a very feminine hour-glass shape that makes me look like I still have a waistline, and is a good length with a nice flare at the hem.

I did shorten everything, as I am only 5'2" tall and I suspect the pattern was drafted for a classic Nordic Goddess physique. The yarn also relaxed in water and everything grew in the blocking, so the sleeves that I planned for 3/4 length are much closer to my wrist-bone than I planned (but that's one reason I chose 3/4 length; to allow for yarn growth). For anyone using this Silky Wool yarn, with it's high silk content, I would definitely suggest erring on the side of less than more, and anticipate everything growing in blocking by a bit.

I made a number of small tweaks to the pattern, aside from length, that are more to fit my personal preferences than because of problems with the pattern. All of the tweaks were done with short rows. I added curved upper back shaping to accommodate my big shoulder blades, and also knitted in bust darts. The front bands are knitted along with the fronts,which I don't like as the bands end up stretching more than the body, and the front gets too long in the center where the bands are. To eliminate this problem I worked short rows across the fronts, stopping at the band stitches when wrapping/turning. I did this short row about every 10 rows (I base a lot of my invented shaping on the "every 10 stitches, rows, etc" principle; this gives me a 10% adjustment which I can mentally figure out without doing a lot of math.). The bands looked a little tight while I was knitting but relaxed perfectly in the blocking. I used small square vintage mother of pearl buttons for the closure. And it's done!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lots to catch up on

My friendly local knitting group (we haven't really seemed to come up with a name for ourselves) has decided to do a Vest Knitting Challenge. The idea came about in part because several of us have made the Swallowtail Shawl from Interweave Knits Spring (or was it summer?) 2006 issue, and it's wonderful to see how different each person's interpretation of it has been. We decided to do vests rather than another shawl. As we've got a variety of levels of knitting experience within the group we decided to let each person choose their own pattern, keeping the idea of the vest as the common thread, rather than having us all work on the same pattern.

I'm always looking for things to make for my mom, and as she/I had a number of skeins of teal/sea foam green yarns in a variety of shades, fibres, and weights (none of which was enough by itself to make anything significant with) I thought that would be a great starting point. On one of my visits with her we went to the LYS in her area and found some Berocco Touche (50% cotton/50% rayon) in a perfect shade of grey-beige to set off the green colours. here's my swatch, which used all the choices of yarns (some of which I chose not to use in the final design).

She really liked the Dineh Vest from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Vests from Interweave Press (Interweave features in my blogging a lot, I've noticed). As seen in the photo from the book it's designed for two shades of red with an accent of light blue. I'm using the grey-beige as a background, and choosing the brightest of the greens I have (which is also the smallest ball) to be the bright accent colour. The remaining darker teals will be mixed up amongst the darker red stripes/patterns.

It's knit with the rows running from shoulder to hem rather than side to side to make the stripes simple. I will leave the bands until after the vest is done; the pattern uses garter stitch bands but I want to see what the vest looks like once done before I decide (with Mom's input) what they should look like.

On a totally un-knitting related project, I've been doing a lot of sewing for my upcoming vacation. I'm turning 50 this year, and am planning a long road trip to Wyoming and Yellowstone Park with my sweetheart to celebrate not only my birthday, but also our 10 years together. The most creative project out of the bunch of sewing is a little purse; something not as formal as my workweek backpack purse, but still big enough for my wallet, glasses, and camera. I used a variety of linen fabrics in a design I made up myself (and will probably never be able to be recreated!) and added a decorative deer-antler button on the flap. I love it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Where was I?

Where have I been? My mind has been elsewhere recently (and it's always a busy place in there!) and I hadn't realized how much time has gone by since my last bog. My goal is to blog about once per week at minimum but sometimes my life and my knitting don't always keep to that pace.

The most recent and pressing project has been socks for my Mom. Her feet sometimes swell and don't allow her slippers to fit onto her feet. But her feet still get cold so I wanted to make her some warm, beautiful sock. She's very sensitive to wool so I have been stumped to determine what yarn to use for her socks. I got the clue form the Entrelac Socks knitalong I have been participating in (see here for more on the knitalong) and was very interested in Bex's solution to problems she had with the socks being too tight - she used Cascade Fixation yarn, and elasticized cotton that is very springy and cushy for socks. She mentioned that had a similar yarn called Esprit that was less than $3 a ball. I immediately placed an order for 3 balls each of 2 nice teal-y- greens that I knew mom would like.

Using my favourite feather and fan lace pattern I made some socks based on the Yarn Harlot's basic recipe. The photo here shows the first sock done and the 2nd done through the turning of the heel. The yarn is VERY springy with a "boing" factor, and takes a bit of getting used to in terms of tension; do you stretch it while knitting or not? I found that if I stretched it making the stitches I soon ended up with the tightest stitches imaginable, so I kept fooling with it to find a relaxed and fairly even manner of knitting. Using size 6 US needles made for really fast knitting. The pair of socks used about 1 1/2 balls of yarn.

The socks were beautiful knitting up and stretched to fit anywhere from my little feet to my mom's larger size. I'll be curious to find out how well they hold their shape and wear over time, but I do recommend the yarn for knitting socks for a person who has problems with wool, and/or who's foot dimensions are unknown.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Knitting around

I've gotten one more sweater done for my sister in law's fundraiser for her friend with cancer. It is an addictive pattern so it's been almost automatic to just keep knitting around and around and around.... I finally found the pattern again on elann's website; look for it here. Shelley Mackie, the designer, has done several of these pinwheel sweaters and they all look great. This is the first one I've done with several colours; it's all Cascade 220 except for the purple in the center, which is Plymouth Galway, and as usual it's all yarn that's left over from other projects. I don't usually like hot, bright colours but this combination looked cheerful to me and is different from the other two I made before. I also added a backwards single crochet edge around the sleeves and body in the purple to keep the colours flowing a little better; I'm glad I did as this really perked the whole thing up. I pretty much used up every bit of all 4 yarns; of course, if I'd kept track of the yardage of each it might be helpful for future reference but I can't locate all my little scraps of paper telling me how much I had left. Maybe this will serve as a good hint that I should write the colour and name of the yarn on my paper scraps as well as the yards left. Live and learn.

I gave the other 2 sweaters to my brother, and he was quite mystified by the unusual shape, but Helen (my sister in law) e-mailed me that she loved them and wants another one for my niece. Needless to say, I'm delighted to have a chance to make more stuff for Madi! I'd like to try one for myself as well; it's somewhat like a shawl with sleeves and I'm curious to give it a try.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Feeling sheepish?

I learned to spin about 5 years ago, and shortly after moving to Vallejo met up with a group of local women who spin, weave and knit. Under the team name of Silverado Spinsters we began participating in Sheep to Shawl competitions around Northern California at county fairs and other regional events, as well as occasionally at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. What's a Sheep to Shawl competition? The rules vary from venue to venue, but in general each team is allowed about 5-8 members. We begin with a fleece that has been washed and dyed but not prepared for spinning in any other way, a warped loom, and a good sense of fun. Over the pre-set competition period (usually around 4-5 hours) we card the wool, spin it, ply it, and then weave a shawl of a minimum size of around 20 x 72 inches (also pre-set by the competition rules).

I was a beginning spinner when I met these ladies and participating in these events compelled me to improve my spinning in a real hurry! The team had placed first in several S2S events before I joined on and I sure didn't want to be the reason they didn't win anymore. There are many more people who contribute to this effort than in the picture (from left to right, is Cathi, Kathleen, Christy, me, Cat, and Barbara); each event has a slightly different team makeup; everyone helps out at some point in the preparations as well as the competition itself. As a group we spend most of the off-season in"training" by practicing spinning to a standard (ie all spinning to the same grist), taking workshops to improve and expand our skills, designing and planning the next season's shawls, and experimenting with different wools and weave structures to get the result we're after - a light, drapey, soft shawl that feels as beautiful as it looks.

On May 26th we competed in the Sacramento County Fair's first S2S event. We're always eager to support a new event and had a fantastic time, largely due to the efforts of Sue McCormick, who set the whole event up. Stephanie Gaustad, fiber fanatic extraordinaire, was the judge for the event. Along with two other teams, we started at 10 am sharp; feverishly carded the beautiful Romney fleece from Terry Mendenhall's ranch, spun like demons, plied a 2-ply yarn, wove like mad, twisted fringe with frenzy, and whisked the shawl to Stephanie just in time to met the 3:45 deadline ( a much needed 45 minute lunch break was in there somewhere). After careful examination, Stephanie talked about each shawl in a way that always enables us to learn more about what worked and what didn't, and at long last announced the Silverado Spinsters as the winners!

It doesn't show off as well in the photo as it does in reality; it's shades of a rich Prussian blue as the main colour, with accents of olivey-gold and some bright gold silk as accents. We spin our warp from a Romney/merino cross that is also from the Mendenhall ranch; Terry's fleeces are pure joy to work with. It weighs in at about 12 oz finished; it will be interesting to see how it changes with washing.

My teammates are amazing ladies and I feel so privileged to be a part of this team. Thanks, Silverado Spinsters! Let's do it again at the Alameda County Fair on July 8th!