Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nearly a pillow.

The ikat pillow has now been sewn up and is technically a usable pillow. The front is all in the ikat stripe pattern, with two different patterns on the back. The backs overlap with vintage mother of pearl buttons closing the envelope.

I find that this envelope style is easy to put on and take off, and looks good flat, but often pulls open and gaps when a pillow form is stuffed into it. So I like to use several buttons to keep the flap more neatly closed - 3 buttons minimum; preferably five. I've got oodles of these buttons so I might as well use them with abandon.

The pillow isn't quite done yet. I like having some sort of welt or cording around the edges of the pillow, somewhat like a frame around a picture. I've used I-cord in the past, either in a plain colour or striped, but since this pillow has a very strong striped pattern to it already I didn't want horizontally striped cording around the edges; it just seemed too potentially discordant with all those stripes that didn't line up.

So I'm knitting a long stripe of bias knitting in stripes which once it's sewn around a cord and attached to a pillow the stripes will be on an angle instead of horizontal. I've got the bias strip a little over halfway done; it's the last thing to be knitted for this project. Once it's sewn in place the pillow will be done. Oh, yeah. I still need to make the pillow form to go inside. A flat pillow isn't much of a pillow, after all. Ok, so it'll be almost done!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Newly almost-finished UFO

In spite of my resolution to post more consistently on Sundays, I simply had to wait until today so I could get some better pictures of a newly almost-finished UFO project. It's now being blocked, and just has a little finishing left to be done, so as far as I'm concerned it's done.

In my post on April 29 I mentioned a Kaffe Fassett-like vest project I was thinking about. I actually got most of the back done before it began to languish in a most serious manner.

Now, UFOs are not usually a big problem for me - there aren't piles of them lurking in dark corners around the house and studio. Usually, if I don't finish something in a fairly reasonable length of time it's because there is a good reason - I don't really like the pattern I am knitting, or I don't like the yarn, or I made a bad decision in combining pattern and yarn. The trick is to realize why a project has become a UFO - once I figure that out the project usually gets unraveled and returned to the stash rather than becoming a fixture in my life.

Recently, after pulling the vest out and mulling it over on several occasions I finally realized that I wouldn't ever wear a vest that was as heavy and , well, woolly as this one was going to be. I realized it wanted to be a pillow much more than it wanted to be a vest, so I unraveled the beginning end and the slight amount of shaping that I had done, put the newly-live stitches on a separate needle, and got started again a week or so ago. And at long last I have the knitting done for the body of the pillow.

The pillow is knit in a single long strip beginning with the original vest back in the middle, which will become the pillow front. In the photo it's the center section with the broadest stripes, which were knit in an ikat-like pattern adapted from Kaffe Fassett's book of charted knitting patterns. the ends of the strip will become an envelope-style back for the pillow - it will have a flap at the top that will button closed over the lower end. The patterns for the back sections were invented ones of my own, but all the way through I drew off of Kaffe's approach - changing colours often, and not necessarily just at the beginning of a row.

Almost all of the yarns are handspun- mostly my own, with a few from friends. The browns, greys and whites are primarily test samples that were spun as part of my Sheep to Shawl team's practice sessions with various fleece types and preparations. I always love knitting on projects that I rely only on what I have on hand, and that use up lots and lots of little bits and pieces that are too much to throw out but not enough to do much with on their own. Once the blocking is done I'll sew up the sides and add some sort of border or i-cord piping, and then it will be a completely done UFO!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A new project.

Now that all the holiday knitting is done I can turn my thoughts to bigger projects. I'm really looking forward to starting something that will take a lengthy amount of time and that I can just work away at. Since I do a lot of my knitting on the ferry commuting to work I need to plan ahead enough to be sure I have a project that is in a suitable state for such knitting. I get a lot done on my commute and so am while doing my small holiday season projects I am constantly needing to find new things to start. I am now ready to luxuriate in a slowly unfolding project.

So what will it be? A long-awaited start on a cardigan sweater. I had a well-loved blue wool cardigan done mostly in seed stitch with some lacy edgings. I loved that sweater and wore it to death, and sadly, finally realized that it was time to let it go. In preparation for this sorrowful turn of events I had ordered some blue mercerized cotton yarn from Elann some time ago but hadn't quite come up with what the design should be. I wanted something similar but not the same as my old sweater.

Over the holidays my mom gave me a Debbie Bliss book, Nautical Knits for Kids, that she loved but knew I'd be more likely to make something from than she would. In looking through it I found one design that, while it was sized for small children had panels of 2 different lace patterns and a seed stitch/cable panel that I knew I could adjust into something for myself.

So I've swatched and measured, figured, and fiddled, and am well into the first sleeve. As each pattern knits up to a different gauge I am using the sleeves as more accurate swatches before launching into the body, especially as I plan to knit the body in 1 piece (no side seams) and I'd like to be really sure what the multiple patterns are knitting up like before I commit to all those stitches. I'm really enjoying having a lot of knitting to look forward to!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A day of rest

While my intention is to post on Sundays a quick perusal of my past posts reveals that I have been anything but consistent in achieving this goal. In the coming year I hope to become more dependable in this regard, so even if I lack photos, witty things to say, or endless lists of WPIs and UFOs I will attempt to post something. So today all I have to say is that I don't have much to say. I have had some health issues this week which have gotten in the way of knitting - I had a serious allergic reaction to some antibiotics that caused a nasty itchy rash from head to toe; so itchy that I could not stand the thought of anything even remotely woolly coming anywhere near my body. I am happily feeling much better after a solid week of itchiness and plan to stay well away from penicillin in the future. And I am deep into swatching for a new (cotton, still no wool for me!) sweater project that has been brewing for some time; I will provide updates soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

They're Done!

To continue with what I accomplished on my vacation - I finished two projects that have been hanging around for a while, and I am so happy! Neither was intended as a Christmas gift but I'm glad to have finished them now any way.

First of all, I completed the long-awaited vest for my Mom that was a challenge project with my Knitters & Spinners group. I'm always amazed at how much better things look when all the finishing work is done, and this vest was no exception - especially all of the bands, buttons, etc. The armhole edges and front bands are all done in simple garter stitch with a needle size 4 US needles (the main vest knitting had been done on size 6 for the plain areas and size 7 for the stranded sections). The beige main colour yarn (Touche by Berocco) is very smooth but loosely twisted and almost string-like and I'm a little concerned that it will snag and stretch easily, so I wanted the bands to be good and firm.

I had intended to do a folded under hem for the lower edge, but after some experimentation determined that a hem would add far too much bulk. Since the vest was knitted from side to side rather then bottom up, and also had lots of garter stitch ridges it didn't curl at all on the bottom, so all that was really needed was something very simple to just clean up the edge.

So I picked up stitches all across the lower edge as if I was going to do the hem, and then bound off in knit on the first (wrong side) row, leaving a single garter stitch ridge on the right side. It worked like a charm.

The only blocking that was really needed on the vest was a vigorous steaming with a concentration on the chenille areas, which are also the stranded parts.

Buttons were a little challenging - the greens are all greyed/blue greens and I couldn't find anything in a toned-in colour that worked. I ended up with some antiqued pewter look buttons in a simple knot shape that were perfect.

And doesn't Mom look great in her completed vest! Zoey the gigantic Labrador Retriever thinks so too. All of the dart shaping that I did worked out really well and is well worth the trouble to do to get such a nice fit.

The other project I finally finished is the Bunad Mukluks from Folk Style by Mags Kandis/Interweave Press. I loved these boots right from the start, and was especially intrigued by the idea of the suede slipper soles being dyed to be a better colour than the usual chamois tan. However, the designer/Interweave provided almost no information about what dye they used or how they did it other then to dye with "fabric dye according to package directions. " I couldn't locate any fabric dye that sounded like it would work, and I certainly didn't want to risk a dye that might bleed if it wasn't thoroughly set (black footprints through the house just didn't sound like a good idea at all). So I tried RIT due, and sure enough, they did turn very nice and black, but also became twisted, rock hard little hunks that were also 2 inches shorter than they had been before. Sigh. Luckily, I found a new pair of soles by Fiber Trends at Patternworks that came in a perfect grey colour that didn't need to be dyed to look good with my boots.

As described in an earlier post, I substituted Cascade 220 for the yarn, and knitted a wide stripe on the leg to use as a base for the embroidery. (They look dark grey in this picture but are actually a dark purple with lavender, grey, and crimson trim.) I used duplicate stitch to work the floral design before felting, and then added a little surface embroidery and some beading after the felting. The soles are cross-stitched in place and I added silver beads to the ends of the drawstrings at the top of the leg rather than the tassels from the original pattern. Now that I have solved the problem of the soles I am thoroughly happy with my boots and have hardly taken them off since I finished them! My advice for anyone who's as puzzled by the dying problem as I have been would be to buy your soles first, and then choose yarn colours to coordinate with the soles, rather than the other way around.