Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Taking a Break

The Kneedler will be taking a hiatus for a while; there might be occasional posts over the next few months but not on any sort of regular basis. Have a wonderful summer, and I'll look forward to starting up again in the fall. Happy knitting!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunny Days

Well, it has been a while since my last post! Times has certainly gotten away with me for a bit, so I'm just now getting around to posting about my Easter knitting. The Spring issue of Twist Collective (and for any one who is not familiar with this new online knitting publication, do take a look.) had a pattern for an adorable set of sunflower dolls, and I immediately wanted to make the girl doll for my niece, Madi. I had been recently gifted with a skein of the brightest yellow wool I have ever seen, along with a green and yellow skein of Koigu hand dyed yarn, and had the green left over from the dinosaurs I had made for her at Christmas, so all I needed was a skein of cream and I was off.

It's a simple pattern to knit, if a bit fiddly, but then knitted toys usually end up being that way. It's knit on size 2 US needles with Cascade 220, which makes for a very dense fabric that really keeps the polyfill stuffing from poking through. I did buy Cascade 220 in cream for the doll's skin tone, but all of the other colours were assorted other brands of knitted worsted. I ran out of the yellow and therefore couldn't do a double row of flower petals around the head as specified, but it really didn't matter. I also had to substitute another yarn for the dress and used the skein of Koigu in yellows and greens which did the trick. I made the dress much more full in the skirt than in the pattern and added a few rounds of eyelets near the hemline to make it more girly.

The only other changes I made (that I can remember by now!) are a picot bind-off around the edge of the cap and for the hem of the dress in place of the picot folded-up hem in the pattern. I also drew a more sophisticated face than the pattern used which suited me much better. I used a light brown worsted wool that I split into single plies to do the embroidery.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bodega Bay and beyond

Bodega Bay was wonderful. It always is, but this year it was more special than ever, for me at least. This year the trip was not about the shopping on the way, or the sewing projects I would make or the amount of knitting I would complete, but about being with my friends. This year is posing some major challenges for m e personally and to just being there with so many people who I love and respect meant everything to me. Ladies, you are all the best and I can't tell you how much of a difference all your love, support, and words of kindness, encouragement and wisdom make. You are all the best friends I have, and many of you I have known longer than any other people in my life outside of my family. Thank you so much for being there and sharing your time with me. You are all the best.

( I did take pictures of Bodega Bay, due to technical difficulties with my new phone/camera and a new computer, they absolutely refuse to upload into this post. This also explains in part the extreme tardiness of my post-Bodega Bay -post!)

But of course, I did shop on the drive up! I couldn't resist this gorgeous red Silky Wool by Elsbeth Lavold, found at Yarns on First in downtown Napa. I hadn't seen this particular shade before, and felt a huge urge to wrap myself in the gorgeous, rich, warm colour. I bought all 9 skeins that the store had and am thinking of making another cardigan with it.

Later on I found this fun purple heathered cotton, spun from 75% recycled cotton with 25% acrylic. I usually don't mind acrylic when blended with cotton, whereas I loath it when blended with wool. There are little flecks of red-violet mixed in with the purple that gives the colour a lot of life. This was from Knitterly in Petaluma, and they had lots of gorgeous shades in this yarn. But I bought all of the purple - all 10 skeins! I'm not sure yet, but I think this will become Pam Allen's Come Together from Twist Collective.

I did get a lot of sewing done while there. I didn't take photos of my sewing projects, as everything I made was in natural coloured linen and would just look like a bunch of beige clothes in photos. But I got a good start on the Tangled Yoke Cardigan by starting on a sleeve to double check the gauge as I went. I have since finished the first sleeve up to the armhole, and it's now residing on a string holder until the rest of the sweater is ready. The cardigan is knitted in one piece to the armholes, and the sleeves in the round, to the yoke, and then all the pieces are joined together. I must say, I really love this yarn!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bodega Bay is coming up!

Anyone who's known me for a while knows that one of the big events of my year is the annual retreat to Bodega Bay with my Sew Group. We've been making this trip every year for over 15 years now, and it's truly the high point of my year. This year's trip is next weekend, and a small group of us is going up a day early this year to have a whole extra day. The timing couldn't be better. Life has gotten a whole lot more complicated on the last few days and a long weekend in a beautiful place with my wonderful friends is a dream come true.

So, this will be a boringly picture-less blog post as all I have to talk about is what I am going to knit on over the BB weekend. I'll also not be posting next Sunday as usual as I won't be back from the trip until Monday sometime but I'll catch up when I can.

So what are my knitting projects going to be? (And of course, determining what my projects will be is one of the most critical pieces of planning that goes into each year's trip.) I've got 3 projects lined up, not with any idea of finishing any one of them but it's always possible a project just won't work out the way I planned so I always need a back-up.

A fairly quick project (I hope) will be the Krista Tee from White Lies Designs. I'm using a nice ivory shade of Cascade Sierra (80% pima cotton/20% merino wool) and the swatch is drying as we speak. I'm probably going to make the lace borders on the sleeves and body a little deeper butotherwise think I'll be making this one right by the pattern.

I'm also excited to finally be starting the Tangled Yoke Cardigan from Interweave Knits. I saw another Ravelry member Llyrmoon's version done in Elsbeth Lavold's Silky Wool yarn, and it looked great. As this is already one of my favourite yarns anyway I have been planning on using it for this sweater; just which colour? I ended up choosing a beautiful periwinkle blue - yes, the same periwinkle I used in my Moderne Log Cabin Blanket a while back. That blanket has been such a deep source of comfort for me, n an almost spiritual way, and that convinced me that now was the time too make this sweater n this yarn, and to stick to my favourite colour. I'm in need of a little portable comfort right now and I think this sweater will carry me through the summer in the best way imaginable.

Lastly, I am planning another knitted toy for my niece, Madi. Twist Collective's spring 2009 issue had this adorable Sunflower doll and I had almost all of the necessary colours in my stash, so how could I resist? I'll probably gussy up the dress on the doll a bit to make it more interesting but I love the petals on the head.

So, it looks like I won't be bored at BB. Not that that has ever happened.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's finished!

The Alpaca Striped Fringe Scarf is finally, finally done. It is soft, beautiful, oh so warm, and I love it. It has been a very lengthy project (I started it on Christmas Eve and just finished it this weekend) I really enjoyed it and only started getting tired of it on the very last few inches of the intarsia portion. The fringes on the second half flew by and then the knitting was over at last.

I gave it a good soak in Eucalan and warm water, spread it out on some towels on the floor to dry, the floor being the only place bug enough for the whole length of it. And now it's really, really done.

The only downside to this scarf was that I failed in my goal of using up al of the yarn. I weighed and measured each ball after I finished and found that I used just a little more than half of the yarn. I think I can feel a hat coming on to finally finish up all the yarn............

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finishing things

With lots of rainy weather and and a damp chill in the air over the past week or so it has felt like a great time to finish things and to work on long-neglected or protracted projects. I have accordingly spent the last few days concentrating on projects that were close to being done but just needed a bit of a push to get them over that last hump.

The Delft Pillow is the most noticeable product of my self-imposed industriousness, and it is in fact now completely done. I even had an old pillow form lying about that turned out to be the correct size. The pillow came out much smaller than I expected - it's only about 13" square including the i-cord around the edge, but it's still big enough to be a respectable pillow. Aside from using cotton and linen for the yarns, my biggest change from the pattern was to make the back sections overlap by a couple inches; otherwise no matter how many buttons are on it once the pillow form goes inside it will gap terribly if there isn't some sort of overlap. I added an i-cord border and crocheted loops and buttons.

I've also made considerable progress on the Alpaca Fringed Scarf, and while it isn't exactly finished it's a lot closer to it than it was last time I blogged about it. The solid, unfringed center section is now at 46" with a goal of 50". The trick is to use up as much of the yarn as I can while still leaving enough for the fringed section at the end. I know the light apricot colour is the smallest ball, due to a small error in initially making that stripe 16 stitches wide instead of 14 stitches. I weighed that ball after finishing the fringed piece at the beginning and know that I need about 7 grams of yarn to make a comparably long fringe for the end, and I've got 23 grams left right now. So I'm going to keep going on the solid portion until I'm down to 7 grams on that one colour. The fringed section goes pretty fast as each stripe is 14 stitches (or 16, in the case of the light apricot!) so once I reach the fringe I'm going to be so close to done I can taste it. And it's about time; I wouldn't say I'm sick of this project yet because it's been the right thing for me to be working on as of late, but I am definitely getting pretty ready to finish this baby up.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

After a long delay....

....the Delft Pillow is nearly done! Over the holidays I got to within striking distance of the end of the charted design, but for a variety of reasons ended up putting the project aside worked on simpler projects for a while. Just yesterday I pulled it out again to see how far I really did have to go to finish it and was so close I sat down and got going again right on the spot. I finished the charted portion of the pattern this morning and am now on the final stretch. I have just commenced the devilishly difficult 3-needle-i-cord-bind-off (if you count the dpn that is used to move stitches around it could be considered a 4-needle bind off, I suppose) but as this marks the end of the journey I shan't mind it a bit, or at least as much as I would have if this was the beginning.

This has been a challenging project for several reasons. The charted design is part of it; it's not something that can be memorized like a traditional Fair Isle type of stranded design, but with the help of my magnetic chart minder from Knit Picks it wasn't too bad to follow. It still wasn't exactly TV-watching knitting, but was manageable in quiet times and even on my commute. The bigger problem was my choice of yarns. Using inelastic fibres - cotton and linen - made for very hard-on-the-hands knitting, especially the linen. I used Euroflax sport weight, doubled, and the fibrous strands were easy to drop or split, in addition to the lack of elasticity. Also, the unique method of knitting the icord around the edge of the pillow required either 2 circular needles, or a Magic Loop variation (I used the latter). I found this to add a significant additional annoyance factor to the knitting which slowed me down a lot.

While the knitting was definitely a challenge for all these reasons, the finished product is turning out very well, and I'm happy with it in spite of its difficultness (is that a word? It fits what I mean so I'm using it anyway). While I can't promise to make this again anytime soon - and using wool would definitely have made it easier - I am very pleased with it and more importantly, I am quite sure my mom will be happy to have it on her couch at long last.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

In the bag

While I really am still knitting on my Striped Fringe scarf, the progress is so incrementally slow that if I blogged about it again it would be hard to prove that any progress had indeed been made. I am still enjoying it, and the simplicity of it suits my pace these days, but to blog about it again at this point seems pointless - agreed?

So what have I done that might be of any interest to my friends out there? Well, I did a little sewing just before the end of the year so please let me present a new knitting bag!

Someone in my Sew Group (sadly I can't recall who it was) made this bag and it was so obviously perfect for a knitting bag that I promptly ordered the pattern - the Birdie Sling from Amy Butler. I had an oddball assortment of decorator fabrics and quilting cottons all in some combination of yellow, blue and white. I've been collecting them thinking that some day I'll have that blue and yellow Giverney-style kitchen I keep dreaming of. It's still possible that that will happen but I decided not to wait for it, and just go ahead and use my fabric stash for this bag.

The pleats in the bag body give it a full shape that will hold oodles of yarn and/or a big project. The pattern doesn't include a fastener, but I added a magnetic snap on the inside to hold it closed (they're very easy to put in).

I had to shorten the strap due to fabric constraints, which I did in the center of the strap, but the next time I make this bag I'll shorten it at the end that attaches to the bag. The strap flares from a wide bottom to a much narrower area where your hand would got to carry the bag. By shortening it at the top I ended up with a much larger area of the really wide part,which gets in the way a bit in getting into the bag, but otherwise I really liked the pattern.

I added piping on a lot of the seams and a pocket on one outside edge. There are two roomy interior pockets, one of which is large enough to hold a knitting magazine, for example.

I had so much fun making the bag that I added a small zippered bag with a clear vinyl pocket on one side to hold knitting gadgets (sorry, it's from a long-discontinued pattern).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Catching up on the New Year

The New Year's knitting has gotten off to a slow start but things are getting back to what passes for normal at Chez The Kneedler. At least I now have evidence that I have really been knitting, at least a little bit. I've been slowly working away on the Striped Fringe scarf that I blogged about a couple of posts ago, and while it is indeed slow going (size 1 needles/1 x1 rib) it's the perfect project for my somewhat slow state of mind these days.

The centre solid section is now about 20" long (the fringes are around 16") and if I follow the pattern the centre will be 50" before I start the fringes on the other end. After holding the scarf as is up to myself, I think I might prefer the centre to be more like 60" but we'll see how well my patience and yarn hold out. I don't want it to be skimpy in length but I also don't want it to drag the ground when I wear it. I also want to navigate the tricky waters of using up as much of the yarn as possible, without running short on the fringes. I fortunately had the presence of mind to weigh several of the balls after finishing the fringes to give me an idea of how many grams I need to leave after finishing the centre section.

The centre section is worked in intarsia, the very idea of which often gives knitters a queasy feeling. The secret to a safe and sane intarsia experience involves two simple steps. If your yarn balls (and centre-pull balls are critical here) are held in an orderly fashion in some way that doesn't allow them won't move around half the battle is won. For this scarf, I have a small bag that is shallow, long and narrow with a zippered top and it fits the bill perfectly. Depending on your project and the number of yarns you are dealing with, , a large ziplock bag or even a shoebox with a lid will work. For the shoebox, punch a hole in the lid for each yarn and thread them through the holes. Needless to say, this method requires that the threading be done before you cast on, not after - and yes, this is the voice of experience talking here.

The second tip is to always turn your work from right to wrong side in a clockwise fashion, and then from wrong to right side counter-clockwise (if you're a lefty it might be necessary to reverse this order, depending on how you knit). These two steps really work wonders on those nasty intarsia yarn tangles.

Granted, this doesn't eliminate all tangles, especially for one as prone as I am to reversing left/right as much as I am, but it's a simple matter to occasionally spread out my knitting, carefully pick up one ball at a time, and unweaving them through the other yarn strands to straighten everything out again. Sometimes it only takes doing this with 2 or 3 of the balls before all the yarns are once again happily in order.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ode to a Knitted Blanket

No matter how beautiful, or well fitting, or skillfully crafted a knitted object is, at their most basic level most knitted objects are utilitarian items destined to a life of glorious service to their creators or lucky recipients. This is no small or inconsequential fate, and it's part of what I love about knitting. While of humble originals, knitting can so easily result in a finished work that extremely beautiful as well as extremely useful.

But there are occasions when a knitted object transcends itself and becomes something that truly makes a difference in the wearer/user's existence. Chemo caps, prayer shawls, charitable knitting, and the like are clearly examples of this. However, on a more personal and private level, may I tell you the tale of my own transcendent piece of knitting?

I finished knitting the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket last September (click on the link for my post about the completed blanket) from the Mason-Dixon knitting book and have enjoyed it as an occasional napping blanket, but mostly have enjoyed it for its elegantly simple beauty. The silk and wool yarn is also truly luscious - Silky Wool by Elsbeth Lavold.

But in recent weeks I have been quite ill, resulting in being both very cold and in need of spending many hours sleeping or simply lying about the house in a very languid state. Most of those hours have been spent snuggled under my Moderne blanket, and I can honestly say I think this blanket has contributed as much to my feeling better as anything else that I have done.

It is simply a perfect thing - it provides just the right amount of warmth without being as heavy as the big bulky comforter on my bed; just soft enough to make me love to snuggle it up under my chin; just the right size to cover as much of myself as I wanted. The yarn is gorgeous, the colours made my heart sing, and the design of the blanket has a quiet elegance that soothed me when I needed soothing. I dragged the blanket around the house with me like a 3-year old with her favourite blankie; when I finally returned to work I had to restrain myself from taking it along to work as well (I might have actually done it if there was any reasonable place in the office to nap, but the floor was my only option and I know how filthy that carpet is - yuk!) I have grown to love this blanket with a passion I don't often reserve for inanimate objects.

May I suggest that if someone in your life your life needs a little extra comfort and warmth that you knit them a blanket? And may I recommend the Moderne Log Cabin blanket in Silky Wool? Your recipient will thank you for years to come.