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Friday, July 6, 2012

Do Over

Knitting is one area of life where do-overs are free and easy, so why not use them?

I had the Comfy Cardigan about 1/3 of the way finished:

... when I realized I didn't like how it looked.  First off, I do not like the Pepto Bismol pink stripes on the arm and shoulder, and the color striping on the textured front obscured the honeycomb stitch pattern:

Great yarn, great pattern -- they just don't go well together.  I have found that with color-shifting yarns, a textured pattern can work if the striping is perpendicular to the direction of the pattern, but as you can see here, when the stripes follow the direction of the pattern, things can get muddy looking.

I'm going to repurpose the yarn -- some kind of wrap or capelet where the shape and color will be the focal points, knit in plain garter or stockinette -- or some simple all-over stitch pattern that won't compete with the striping.  I'll break the yarn to remove the pink sections and save them for the girls to use in a craft project. Since Noro Silk Garden is made of wool, mohair and silk, it felts together beautifully -- put the two broken ends overlapping in your palm with a few drops of water, rub vigorously for about 30 seconds and voila; a securely felted join.

Here's my do-over of the Comfy Cardigan in a solid color yarn, Valley Yarns Northfield.  The color is Deep Water, which is lighter and bluer than it looks in this picture.  Much better:

Northfield is an affordably priced luxurious blend of merino, alpaca and silk.  It also has an interesting construction -- the plies are spun smoothly, and then twisted in such a way that they lie almost horizontally -- click on the link to see for yourself.  This results in a super lofty, bouncy, soft and very warm yarn that will show off the stitch pattern in this sweater perfectly.  It is an obvious choice for this sweater, where the Noro was a risk -- one that didn't pan out, but hey, do-overs are free, after all.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

FO (Finally!): Sheldon

So here it is, finally finished:

Pattern:  Sheldon,  (of Sheldon and Leonard) by Wendy Johnson.
Yarn:  Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball, 75% wool, 25% nylon, 459 yds, 100 g; colorway Blackberry (Brombeeren in German).
Needles:  Addi Turbo 32-inch circulars, size 3.

This was a very enjoyable knit.  After a few repeats, the pattern is easily memorized, that and the small size (it's a scarf or shawlette, rather than a full-size shawl) make it a perfect stow and go project.

Tucked into the curve of the shawl is the reason a simple garter stitch scarf took me a whole month to knit -- Statistics.  The first graduate level course I have taken in well over 10 years -- probably closer to 15.  The usual 15 weeks of material crammed into an intensive 6 week summer session course.  I am doing well, but I am doing well because I am not doing anything else, outside of work and caring for the girls.

Speaking of the girls, here is a shot of the lovely Sophie modeling Sheldon:

If you look closely, you can see the shaping in these photos, but you can't feel how comfortable this shawlette is to wear:  the short rows create a scarf that hugs your neck and rests securely on your shoulders.  You could tie the front for visual effect, but you don't have to to keep it on.  I like the way it looks with the ends just hanging loosely:

Next up:  Comfy Cardigan, designed by Pam Allen, published in Clara Parkes' Knitter's Book of Wool:

I'm using -- shocker! -- a Noro yarn, Silk Garden, color 282, Lot L.  The wool and mohair fiber content of this yarn will make an incredibly cozy sweater, and the colors are gorgeous.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Knitting

Here's what I've accomplished on Sheldon (Leonard is the sport weight version, while Sheldon uses fingering weight yarn.)  I am loving the yarn (Zauberball, color 1872, Blackberry, 75% wool, 25% polyamid = nylon).  It's wooly enough to have both give and memory, but also machine washable.  The single ply construction gives the lace a nice definition, and, of course, the color transitions are gorgeous.

Some closer views of the edging and the garter body:

I will block this shawlette thoroughly, even though I don't usually do that to garter stitch items,  First, I want the points along the edging to be crisp, and second, it will even out the irregularities in the garter body.  This is a start and stop project for me -- knit a few rows while waiting for Annie at her guitar lesson, pull needle tips through, shove into knitting bag; knit a few rows at the girls' piano recital, pull needle tips through, shove into knitting bag; knit a few rows while watching Mad Men (can't believe Joan did that-- said with sadness, not judgement), roll knitting around yarn ball, leave on coffee table, find under coffee table the next morning, thankfully not unraveled, just a bit disheveled.  All that wear and tear affects the uniformity of the stitches, but blocking will smooth it out nicely.

This project is super fun to knit.  The pattern is easy to memorize, and the mindless garter is broken up by the simple, but very pretty, edging.  Perfect summer knitting -- the project itself is light and not uncomfortable to hold onto, the pattern lends itself to easy knitting while sitting in the shade with friends while the kids swim and play.  I have 10 or so repeats left to do on the increase section, then the body, and then the decrease section, which will mirror the increase section.  I'd say I am about 1/4 done.  

And then ... I can't stop thinking about sweaters.  Pro:  I have about 10 sweaters worth of yarn in my stash, and plenty of patterns to go with them.  Con:  summer is not perfect sweater knitting time; especially as I tend to knit sweaters in the round all in one piece.  Hmm ...

Monday, May 28, 2012

FO: Godzilla Ridge Afghan

Well, here it is, all finished; the Godzilla Ridge Afghan.  Mine was made using:

Yarn:  Noro Kogarashi, 9 balls, assorted colors
Needles:  Addi Click Interchangeables, size 8 -- for the squares
                Clover bamboo DPNs. size 10 -- for the i-cord border

I was surprised to find that the knitted i-cord border only took one ball of yarn -- I had about 4 yds left over when finished.  I love, love, love how it looks -- like a frame around a painting.  Some notes on construction:  I wound up ripping and reknitting the border several times due to gauge issues.  First, I used size 8 DPNs, and the border gauge was tighter than the gauge of the squares, causing the edge to pull into a curve.  Going up two needle sizes solved that problem.  That was on the sides (the longer sections in the picture.)  I thought I was ok to go ahead with the top in the same manner -- just picking up one stitch for every edge stitch.  However, since knitted stitches are wider than they are long, doing that across the top didn't work -- again, the border was coming out smaller than the edge I was knitting it to.  To correct for this discrepancy, I tried knitting into every fourth stitch twice, and that worked to solve the problem.

Gauge issues aside, I have to say, this was one of my favorite knitting projects ever.  I loved knitting it, the finishing was a snap, and I learned a few things about i-cord.

Next OTN:

Sheldon and Leonard, by Wendy Johnson.  I love knitting Wendy's patterns.  I learned to knit toe-up socks from her basic sock recipe, and have knit many of the patterns from her Toe-up Socks For Everybody.  What I like about her patterns is that they are written by a knitter's knitter -- interesting construction and techniques, but not too fiddly or unwearable.  Her patterns are always very clearly written and well tested, too.  This will be my first completely knitted sideways shawl.  I'm interested to see how the border works -- this seems to me to be one of those techniques that, once you learn it, can be adapted to endless variations of your own.

The yarn is Schoppelwolle's Zauberball, which I have been itching to try since I saw the amazing Wingspan shawls on Ravelry that people knitted from it.

I'll leave you with an action shot of Godzilla Ridge:

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Jim Croce Project Week 29: John Gorka

Singer-songwriter John Gorka is one of the main reasons I fell in love with folk music.  I saw him perform in Pittsburgh at a time when I was just beginning to discover that there were alternatives to Top 40 radio.  I was moved by the honesty and the genuineness of his performance; it was so different from what I had been hearing in pop music.  I liked the intimacy of the club setting.  I had been to stadium shows, and while they were loads of fun, I realized I preferred the mellower, more personal flavor of a small venue; it certainly was in keeping with the style and content of the music.

Imagine my delight, then, as I drove by a local B&B, which frequently hosts musical events (some readers might remember the JCP Beacoup Blue post from a few months ago) and read "John Gorka, Thursday, May 10th, 8 pm" on the sandwich board!

The show was every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be, with a couple of surprises.  First, John is goofy.  You would not think it from listening to his music, but his sense of humor is just plain silly.  He cracked himself up (and all of the audience, as well) several times during the show, saying things like, "Uh, better move this extra mike stand out of the way.  You never know when I might bust a move ..."  Maybe you had to be there ...  Second, he brought along a friend, whom I had never heard of, Antje Duvekot.  She will be featured in the next installment of JCP -- she was just fantastic.  Lovely voice, excellent songwriter.  What an unexpected pleasure to hear her for the first time in person.

Here are some of my favorite John Gorka songs:

Ignorance and Privilege:  beautiful and smart -- the artist and the song

Love is Our Cross to Bear:  so lovely

Where the Bottles Break:  the first song of John's I ever heard, written about Bethlehem, PA, where he went to college and got his start playing in coffeehouses and living as "an old blues man," as he said during the show the other night.

Writing in the Margins: At the show, John said the job of the folk singer is to tell the truth ...

Jacks' Crows:  love the guitar on this one, and the lyrics, too

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Catching Up

I am reknitting the I-cord edging to Godzilla Ridge.  The picture below shows the old edging, which was knit using size 8 needles.  Theoretically, since I used size 8s for the body of the afghan, I should not have had any gauge issues, because I-cord is technically knit in stockinette stitch, as were the afghan squares.  But, as you can see in the photo below, the edging was distinctly tighter than the square, which caused the edge to form an unattractive convex curve.  Had I kept going all the way around, my afghan would have been more like a parachute, rather than a flat rectangle.  I think the gauge difference was caused by the pulling of the yarn around the back to the right edge at the end of every row (which is how I-cord becomes a cord), and maybe the bamboo needles had something to do with it -- the yarn does not slide as easily over them as it does on metal, which I usually use.  So, I went up two needle sizes to a 10, and it's working out much better; as you can see in the first photo, there's not any pulling or stretching out of shape, it lies nicely flat. However, I must say that for me, a loose knitter who rarely uses anything larger than a size 7, knitting on 10s is like using rowboat oars!

As the afghan is too big to take with me, I have been working on the mawata scarf when I'm not at home.  It is such a conversation piece -- every time I take it out, someone comes up to ask me what it is and how it works.  I love showing and sharing with people.

I know I owe 3 JCP posts (including tomorrow's).  I'm going to work on them now and post them throughout the week, and hopefully I'll be caught up by next Monday.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Good Kind of Busy

I like to be busy.  My kids are the same.  Our house is filled with, as Stephen King put it, "Needful Things."  Things to cook with, play with, build with, draw, write, paint, sculpt, knit, weave, and spin with, and of course, more books than I can count.  None of us can leave the house without a project bag -- for me, it's filled with knitting and books, for them it's books, drawing materials, iPods, DSs ... because, oh my goodness, what would we do if we had to wait in traffic or at the dentist's office and we had nothing to do?

Having started grad school in earnest this month, my need to be busy is being satisifed in spades.  I have managed to make a little progress on Godzilla Ridge:

The squares are sewn together, and I am beginning to knit the applied I-cord edging:

In other news, my good old minivan has given up the ghost, literally.  That van was haunted -- indicator lights would go on and off for no reason; once when Livie and I were parked in the driveway after her riding lesson, with the car turned off and the keys out of the ignition, the radio turned on, blasting out country music from a station we never listen to (not that there's anything wrong with country music!)  For 6 months, the driver's side (electric) window did not work, making toll booths and parking garages a real PITA; and then, one day, it worked again as if nothing had ever been wrong.  Sadly, last Saturday, it overheated for the last time.  Bon voyage to "the sticker car" as it was known to all who saw the (no exaggeration) hundreds of stickers my children put all over the interior back windows.

Here's its replacement:

Dubbed "Cinna" by the girls (it's all about The Hunger Games in our house these days), it has 3400 miles and all-wheel drive and I can plug in my iPod to the stereo system -- I am giddy with the possibilities.

Speaking of music, I know I have sadly neglected the JCP lately -- I have two wonderful installments coming very soon, I promise.