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Archive for November, 2009


Ode to Long Weekends

Oh weekend long, we do love thee.
You kindly let us sleep till three.
Our brains recover with ample rest,
And feel much more able to meet life’s test.

Dear Ellen,

That pretty much sums up my 4 day weekend.  We did go to the Gibson’s for fellowship and feasting on Thanksgiving, and Marian was here for 3 of the days, but really I mostly slept.  And when I wasn’t sleeping I should have been doing homework and some cleaning, but instead I knitted.  And I am happy.

dscn2122.JPGI finished the Hat for a Warm Necks and found that it was a pretty pleasurable knit.  I’m not sure it’s the hat for me…I like to wear my hair pulled back and found that the bottom was pulled away from my head allowing a neck draft when that really wasn’t the point.  I did take my hair down for a picture similar to your current Ravatar though.  That worked well, but as I said, I don’t typically have my hair loose, especially outside.  I noted on my project notes for the Winter Sky Hat that it blocked out very large…but then I threw it in the dryer and that worked well to tighten it back up.  dscn2112.JPGI’m sure this had everything to do with the fact that I knit it out of fingering weight yarn on your recommended needle size.  Marian was eyeballing the hat while here…it may be for her.  Actually would work well for the way she wears her hair and the gray and blue would look very nice with her hair and eye color.  I have a few notes for you on pattern adjustments…the only critical one is to correct your tree of life chart (left side midway up).

dscn2114.JPGdscn2115.JPGI finished the Robin’s Egg Vest too.   It had languished for quite a while.  I had finished the right side on the drive from Colorado and then it got away from me.  And then I didn’t want to get it out because I’d have to figure out how I had done it.  I finally did and have it complete.  I particularly like the way I did the shaping for the neckline and armholes by slowly shrinking the cables.  All one piece, no seams,  and it blocked out to perfect size.  I suppose I should write this up too, but it probably won’t happen.  Once I send it off to Mom for Christmas, I won’t have it to count the stitches and reverse engineer what I did.

dscn2109.JPGMy last little project is truly little…yet it really pleases me.  I did a tiny toe up sock form my sock blocker key chain.  The pattern that accompanies the key chain is top down — and I really prefer toe up.  I’m not sure why, especially for a project where you really aren’t concerned about running out of yarn if you make the cuff too long, but I do.  I made up my own version…and included a tiny lace stitch.  It doesn’t show that much, but I know it’s there.  Now I’m making one with seed stitch.

Love, Jan

Look Ma, no fingers!

114.jpgJust a quick note to let you know the fingerless mitt pattern is finished.  I’ve posted to our free pattern page as well as in Ravelry, where you’ll find it under “Handed Yes, Fingered No – Mitts that Fit” at TwinSet Designs.  Soon those fingertips will need serious covering (at least in Minnesota), so enjoy these while you can!

The surgery was a complete success!

Dear Jan,

Slicing a sweater in half is serious business, and I’m sure Karen thought leaving an incision open for several weeks was far too long, but finally we’ve sutured everything back up and the patient is doing very well.

24.jpgAt the beginning of the operation, I first had to tink back a row to get the right pattern going for the Kitchener graft.  Not a challenge – I just didn’t check to see where I’d separated.  I decided to take advantage of this and use the unraveled yarn for the graft.  Unfortunately, right about at this point, I figured out I’d made some errors already (over-confident!) and rather than unravel that long yarn, just cut it.

34.jpg44.jpg55.jpgBefore I had to reopen the wound, I did figure out a slick technique to prevent my very long yarn from getting fuzzy from pulling through so many stitches.  Before pulling on the yarn, I stretched it between pinched fingers.  This effectively narrowed the diameter of the yarn, letting it slip through the stitches with much greater ease.  It also prevented the twist from being pushed along the yarn from the friction, which always leaves you with yarn twining back on itself and is quite a bother.  The three pictures here show this technique in progress – 1) pinch, 2) use the left hand to pull while maintaining tension with the right, 3) ready to reposition hands.  It turned out that the Sylvan Spirit yarn I’m using was tough enough I didn’t need to do this with the shorter lengths I ended up using, but for a soft yarn this technique could be useful for even fairly short strands.

64.jpgI got half of the graft completed yesterday,

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75.jpgand the remainder today.

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113.jpg83.jpgI am so much happier with the new patterning – old pattern then new pattern shown.  No contest.

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101.jpgand the fit is still working, too.

On to the neck and sleeves!

Happy remainder of your Thanksgiving weekend to you.

Love,

Ellen

Goodbye, sweet girl…

Dear Jan,

112.jpgSurprising, how full an old dog asleep in the corner makes a house.

So quietly one doesn’t really notice until she is gone.

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Give Max and Ruby and extra scratch behind the ears today, would ya?

Love,

Ellen

Fabulous Finishes

Hi, Jan,

You’ve knocked a lot of balls out of the knitting park lately, and you’ve inspired me.  On this rainy vacation day, perfect for tea and handwork in your lap, I have determined to line up some long unfinished projects that are just missing a half hour’s attention in order to be complete.

The challengers:

63.jpgMicrogreens, an EZ surprise sweater that I thought would be wonderful in this sock yarn but turned out itty bitty – maybe a doll sweater?  Or a preemie sweater?  It has languished, lacking only buttons, in my knitting pile for a year and a half.

74.jpgDrosophila, a fairy purse from a class I took years ago.  Now that Susan Rainey has provided me with a slick strap idea (actually, she did that months ago!), I am determined to finish it in some form.

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93.jpgThis linen shawl has come close to being turned into a dish towel several times.  Its provenance is about 8 years PR (Pre-Ravelry) with linen from my local yarn store.  All that remains is to finish weaving in the ribbon yarns – clearly I like knitting more than weaving.

82.jpgFinally, the freshest project, just started on Sunday – Thanks for the Harvest Mittens knit for the daughter of our CSA farmer.  I need to nip the length of that first thumb and knit up the second.  The yarn is Mochi Plus – exciting color runs with no repeat of the color pattern (hence, fraternal twin mitts), but it is a tiny bit loosely spun and hence wants to split a bit.  Not a disaster, just takes a bit more attention.

I have some packages to wrap up and the mortgage check to get in the mail, then the rest of the afternoon will be devoted to pushing these through.  I’ll live blog it – I know you crave the suspense.  (ha!)

3:36 p.m.  Where does the day go?  Well, I’ve got my packages mailed (even one to my disbelieving daughter, who pointed out my careless lack of pun focus in the comments) and my farm share picked up, and spent an inordinate amount of time sorting through my buttons to pick out ones for Microgreens, but now it’s time to rumble.  First up – Microgreens.

18.jpg4:04 p.m.  And first down – why did it take a year and a half to get this done?  Next up – Drosophila.  I’m going to get a handle on that little thing right now!

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19.jpg4:41 pm – Drosophila – done.  I’m not sure I’ll ever wear it, but done.

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110.jpg5:52  Mittens complete!

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111.jpg11:15 pm – finally finished with the shawl.  I did take a break to cook dinner and eat, but getting all the ribbon yarn untwisted took a little longer than I hoped.  And the resulting fringe is pretty wimpy.  I’m not sure that this won’t be frogged and turned into dishtowels at some point.  I’ll wear it a couple of times this summer first and see if I warm up to it.

So, it took a lot longer than half hour each, but I’ve cleared some of my UFO’s off my mind.  My new goal is to avoid immediately casting on 4 new projects.  I do have one (maybe two?) that are itching something fierce, but I think tomorrow I’ll try to focus on getting that gansey back together.

Love,

Ellen

Gaining on the gansey

Hi, Jan,

I know you’ve been waiting breathlessly for a progress report on the gansey.  The thing is, I have to make progress in order to report it, but finally I feel that I can.  We have shoulders!

53.jpgI was extremely amused knitting in the saddle shoulders along with neck gussets.  I started at the neck edge, casting on the number of stitches in the strap, plus 2 stitches (one each side) to serve as the joining stitches, plus 14 stitches (7 each side) to serve as the neck gusset.  Each joining stitch was knit (ssk) or purled (p2tog) (depending on whether I was on the inside or outside of the garment) together with a live shoulder stitch to join the saddle as I went.  Note – because you are knitting two rows for every stitch eaten up on a side this way, it is wise to reduce the number of stitches across the shoulder first to prevent bunching, so the last row of the shoulder I decreased about 1/4 of the stitches (k2, k2tog across shoulder).   I didn’t decrease in the neck zone as I want that to go easily over my head.

16.jpgThe gussets were shaped by decreasing one stitch right next to the strap pattern on the right side.  In this picture, the stitch marker is at the cast on and you can see the decreases at the top of the picture where the gusset merges with the saddle.  Once done with the gusset, I shot straight down the shoulder, joining as I went.  I left the stitches live at the end to be the start of picking up around the scye for the sleeve, and the saddle pattern will continue without interruption right down the sleeve.

 62.jpgBut first, I had some mending to do.  I liked the way my revision to the horizontal band looked and determined to swap the lower one for the new version.  That started with one clipped stitch, careful unraveling of one row of stitches (after picking up the next row up on another needle), and  73.jpg finally completely separating the top from the bottom.  I then unraveled the offending section and will reknit to be followed by grafting.  I don’t mind grafting, it is a nice challenge, and then I can move with confidence to the sleeves.

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10.jpgI’ve got the bottom section well underway – I hope to report more progress later this vacation week.  The Solstice cactus is cheering me on with its first bloom.

Cheers,

Ellen

Loose Ends

Dear Ellen,

This week has been a fairly good one for knuckling down and taking care of many loose ends…some knitting and some metaphorical.  I moved along a few projects at work, got my paperwork straightened out for my next class, caught up on some of my office keeping at home and pulled two knitting projects out that had gotten pushed to the side.One of those two is the Robin’s Egg vest for mom.  It’s intended to be her Christmas present, so it was about time I got back to it.  It had been sitting to the side since our move east.  On that drive I had worked out how I wanted to do the decreases and shaping for the right front…no, I didn’t take any notes.  Why bother?  I was going to do the other side right away and I could surely remember how I did it for a few days, right?  Yeah, you know what happened.  And the greater the temporal separation the less inclined I was to pull it out and figure out what the heck I’d done so that the sides could match.  I finally pulled it out and took it with us yesterday.

dscn2093.JPGWe went to Fair Winds where the dogs got to run and play, Dale stacked piles of rocks and cleared brush, and I knit and frogged till I figured out what I had done and repeated it in mirror-image for the other side.  Now I’ve got the back to do, but as it doesn’t have to match anything, it should go quickly.

dscn2102-1.JPGThe other hadn’t been sitting very long, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, so it was a great risk for going dormant.  And since it’s your test knit for the Gansey hat, I didn’t want to do that.  I pulled it out this morning and sat out in the lovely fresh air on our deck and decided A) I’m going to finish in this colorway and B) I’m going to do a simple arrowhead pattern in the back “customization” area.  I had been trying to be too clever and chart our our logo, but the graph paper wasn’t knitter’s graph paper (so distortion of pattern when knit ensues) and your point about the colorway not allowing clear distinction of the pattern made it untenable.  My choices were to totally frog and redo in a “more appropriate” yarn — which would also require redesigning to eliminate the distortion of the logo — or to forego the logo and stick with my yarn choice.  I decided that I really like the muted, subtle effect that the colorway was giving to the rest of the hat.  (Remember, I’m the one who did a whole cloth quilting pattern on a marbled gray fabric and loved it, despite the fact that you have to slow down and inspect the quilt to make out the stitchwork?  Same here…you have to slow down to appreciate this and I like it.)  I ripped out the whole section and reworked what I had done.  dscn2099.JPGI referred to it as an arrowhead, but I was really thinking about the wild geese I had seen and HEARD flying over head while at Fair Winds yesterday.  And, to be clear, that’s the front of the hat in the picture above, not the reworked back.

dscn2105.JPGI’ve also knit up my basic toe-up baby booty pattern in a pink worsted with a nice ruffled effect at the cuff edge.  I’m calling them carnation booties because it looks kind of like a carnation if you gather the two together around the cuffs.  I’ve been asked by a Raveler to make my Cutie Patootie Booties pattern available and I will…along with these and dscn2103.JPGsome other variants.  I’m thinking of offering a combo that includes these and maybe a few other cuff options.  “Baby’s First Cashmere” is the name for the toe-up variant of the Cutie Patooties (which were cuff down).  Could be part of the Snack Knitting book…never heard back from you on that idea by the way.

I’m going to enjoy the rest of a very quiet Sunday.  Dale is out sailing and the doggies are exhausted from running around the property.

Love, Jan

Guilded

Hi, Jan,

15.jpgDespite the unseasonably warm November, there are signs that the season is advancing.  I’ve noted a lot of hoarfrost guilding our deck when I’m out chaperoning Judit in her morning chores.  I’m feeling excited about the season this year – will Santa bring health care to more children this year?  I hope so.

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32.jpgAnother moment of excitement happended at our Guild meeting.  We got to meet Sue Flanders, of Norwegian Handknits fame.

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43.jpgSue told stories and shared samples from the book.  This wimple is high on my list for knitting.  It looked so nice on Karen, my knitting group buddy.  You also get a nice look at her lovely Sideways Spenser, an Annie Modesitt pattern that many in my group have done.  (Not me – Bohus and gansey are too distracting.)

22.jpgSue’s trio of sheep are both cute and a great example of the impact of gauge.  These three were knit with the exact same pattern – same number of stitches and rows – but with different needle sizes and yarn.  From left to right – Lopi Light, Lopi, and Lopi Bulky.  Sue admitted she ran out of yarn on the first guy, hence one ear is missing.  He is still pretty cute.  No guilding or Guilding needed.

Love,

Ellen

Knit a hat a minute…

Hi, Jan,

8.jpgRemember the Ronco Popeil Knit a Row a Minute machines?  This hat is about that fast.   It was the hat I started at the Sleepout for the Homeless and finished the next day.

Recipe for a hat to fit a small/medium woman’s head (21-22″ circumference as worn):  2 skeins (50 grams, 35 meters per skein) SandnesGarn Canto, (a yarn that varies from super bulky to worsted weight all in one skein), one 36″ 7.0 mm circular needle (or 7.0 mm dpns if you prefer), and a few hours of time.

Cast on 48 stitches.  I used a 36″ circular needle with the magic loop method, mostly because I didn’t want to lose dpns at the sleepout.  You could, of course, use a 16″ circ plus dpns or just dpns – your choice.  Join in a tube – be really careful not to twist as this yarn plays tricks with your eyes!  Place a marker at start of round.  Knit straight (though your fabric will undulate because of the nature of the yarn) for  6 inches and start decrease rows.  It’s hard to measure,  just try it on and see if the depth is right after 3-4 of the decrease rows.

Decrease:

Row 1:  *Knit 6, k2tog*, repeat ** 5 more times (42 st).

Row 2: Knit

Row 3:  Knit 5, k2tog, repeat ** 5 more times (36 st).

Row 4: Knit

Row 5:  Knit 4, k2tog, repeat ** 5 more times (30 st).

Row 6: Knit

Row 7: Knit 3, k2tog, repeat ** 5 more times (24 st).

Row 8: Knit

Row 9: Knit 2, k2tog, repeat ** 5 more times (18 st).

Row 10: Knit

Row 11: Knit 1, k2tog, repeat ** 5 more times (12 st).

Row 12: K2tog around, 6 stitches remain.

9.jpgFinishing: Cut yarn and run through the remaining stitches.  Cinch tight and weave end in on wrong side.  Weave all ends in.  I recommend you get someone else to take your picture, rather than holding the camera out as far as possible yourself, for obvious reasons.

I had about 15 g of yarn left.  I figure that increasing the cast on to 54 and starting the decrease section with a set of *k7, k2tog* followed by a round of plain knitting would make for a hat for a med/large woman’s head and very little yarn left.  You’d start the decreasing about half an inch earlier in this case.

71.jpg61.jpgThe fabric is pretty cool.  And this colorway reminds me of a goldfinch in winter.  Can’t have too much of that!

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

dscn2081.JPGDear Ellen,

I did not buy any fat pigs, but there were many cute marzipan ones available for sale in the Brussels Confectioneries.  I did, however, buy Belgian chocolate.  I was grateful that the confectioneries were among the few shops that were open late, as our daily business kept us in Mons till the evening hours.  The thought of making it to Belgium and leaving without paying homage to the cocoa bean is simply too frightening.  I’m glad it didn’t come to that.

dscn2080.JPGdscn2076.JPGI did have a very good trip.  Unlike many NATO senior meetings, we actually made some progress on some key issues.  I also had the chance to become more closely acquainted with colleagues from the Office of the Secretary of Defense staff and with some of the other nations.  I head to London in 2 weeks and will meet with several of them then, so the added familiarity will make that meeting go more smoothly.  The food, the drink, the good time with my staff were all superb.  Site seeing was limited due to the business hours we kept, but we did get to spot one of the two famous “maniken pissen” — you can buy replicas in chocolate if you like.  I chose not to.  The Grand Place was beautiful at night.  Next time we’ll plan for an extra day to get some culture…other than the maniken.

dscn2061.JPGdscn2071.JPGRight before leaving I finished up Midnight Moth.  I took it with me and wore it several times.  It was very gratifying to have a Flemish woman (very stylishly dressed!) make a comment on how beautiful my shawl was.  Almost as gratifying as that little “Squee!” one always experiences when first spreading out the damp lump of fabric dscn2059.JPGdscn2058.JPGfor blocking and the real pattern emerges.  Did you know they are very concerned about H1N1 in Belgium?  They are having a hard time telling who might be infected as they are all quite a bit phlegmish.  (Har! Har!)

dscn2073.JPGnoname.jpgMarie was here when I left.  Dale picked her up on Friday and took her back Tuesday.  I finished up the cast cozy the first night she was here and she wore it quite a bit through the remainder of her stay.  I was glad to see she was so pleased with it.  She said her toes had been getting chilly and she certainly appreciated having something to cover up the bandages and make her feel a bit more secure.  Our big outing was a trip to Costco.   I knew they had the electric carts and wanted to give Marie a bit of mobility, even if it was inside a warehouse store.  She did enjoy the samples as well.

dscn2082.JPGdscn2083.JPGI put the travel time to good use.   On the flight over I cast-on for a pair of socks I’m calling Yarn Over the Atlantic.  The stitch is called a yarn over cable and is very easy.  Over 5 stitches you P1, K3, P1; P1, Sl1, K2tog, PSSO, P1; P1, K1 YO K1 in same stitch, P1; P1, K3, P1.  Makes for a very textured fabric.  I made them using Lane Cervinia Calzetteria yarn…not really a fingering, but not quite a sport weight.  I got 8 stitches to an inch with size two’s in stockinette, so you know I was keeping a good tension.  The resulting stockinette portions are very sproingy and cushy.  These were toe up with a slipped stitch gusseted heel, probably my preferred sock form.  I finished them today while doing the jet lag recuperation bit.

dscn2086.JPGNow I need to go put my feet up and spend some time with Dale who was out sailing all day.  It’s almost 7:30 PM and I’m ready for bed already!  I hope I recover fast…I’d like to spend part of the time before I leave for the UK awake!

Love, Jan