Wow, Labor Day has come and gone, and we’re off and running into Fall already, making yarn plans and dreaming up new projects. More to come on those subjects. In the meantime, I don’t know where everyone else’s Summer went, but I spent my downtime reading my way through the Game of Thrones series (just finished Book 3) and working on those cute teddy bears for the 2KnitLitChicks MotherBear knit-a-long (KAL). Since last post, I managed to complete 5 more before the August 31 deadline. I had never made one before, so each became a learning experience. First bear (Eric) was done from the head down, on 8″ double-pointed needles. No joke, trying to manage such a small number of stitches for the arms and legs on those giant dpns! Shortly after #2 (Albert), I went to a “Socktacular” event at the Li0n Brand Yarn Studio, and it occurred to me that I should try doing a bear from the bottom up on 2 circs (since that’s the way I like to do socks). And since I liked doing the little garter-stitch paw, I had to re-learn the Emily Ocker cast on to start the circle and draw it closed so the stuffing wouldn’t fall out. The paws were coming out a bit wonky, though.
By #3 (Barry) I had acquired not one but two sets of little 5″ dpn’s to make the arms and legs easier to knit. And, although this project was supposed to be a stash-buster, I found myself acquiring several skeins of worsted-weight acrylic for “bear-work.” Okay, it was sale yarn, but still… Number 4 (Chip) and 5 (Donny) moved right along.
Oh! And then came a total revelation. I was curious to see if YouTube had any bear making videos, so I surfed around and stumbled upon a fantastic way to make the arms that did NOT involve one of my least favorite activities, picking up stitches. Are you ready? It’s a raglan join. I set to it immediately, and created bear #6 (Frankie).
And just to show the learning never stops, last week Knitter Simona suggested a perfect resolution to the bottom-up paw problem — start with a provisional cast-on for the arm or leg, and do the paw at the end (towards the bottom, in other words, rather than starting truly bottom-up). Thanks, Simona!
Ever since Knit Picks introduced their Chroma yarn last year, I’ve been enjoying trying out the different colorways on small 1-2 ball projects. In the process, I discovered that while I love the worsted weight of this yarn, I am not so crazy about the fingering weight. All the worsted weight projects I tried turned out well. The yarn has a great feel, very soft and smooth. I learned some new techniques — mittens, a keyhole scarf with a ruffle, and more.
Best experience was an entrelac cowl. I actually had to learn entrelac first, but it wasn’t so difficult. The pattern (Lacy Entrelac Infinity Scarf by Michele Bernstein) was designed specifically for the Chroma yarn, so the changes in color were automatic rather than having to break off one color and start a new one. That made knitting it a whole lot easier. It became fun and addictive, and I took the project along with me to a conference where I worked happily away during the sessions as well as breaks. Cowl and I had a great time in Philadelphia.
Kudos by the way to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) for a “green” conference. This meant no papers or handouts to carry around, thus room in my tote bag for more important stuff (like my knitting). More important, it meant that all the slides and session notes were available online after the conference, so I could knit during the sessions and not have to worry about hastily scrawling notes. This being a really easy pattern, I could focus my attention on the speaker. And last but by no means least, knitting in public at a conference is a great way to make acquaintances and “network.”
As for that fingering weight… I bought one ball and tried it out on what I call my “Up and Down Rainbow Sox.” The finished sock is Cat Bordhi’s basic sock (from Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles) knitted cuff down. I never do them that way anymore, so it was going back to the way I first learned. (Well, not quite all the way back — I learned on dpns. That was BC — before Cat.) I remembered that I did not really like doing up the toe with the Kitchener stitch, but the real annoying thing was the yarn. It has a thick-and-thin quality that didn’t work for making tight stitches on small needles. I decided to do the second sock toe-up, since Cat’s method makes a nice rounded toe, but the knitting isn’t any more pleasant with this yarn. Maybe it would work for a shawl or a scarf, but I would not use Chroma again for socks. Oh well, live and learn.
Cat Bordhi has done it again, come up with yet another take on sock knitting. This time, she has taken all the angst out of wraps and turns for the short row heel with her Sweet Tomato Heel. I don’t know about you, but even when I can remember where to put the yarn for the wraps, I rarely can find the wraps on the way back to knit them to avoid holes. Cat taught us how to do it correctly in a class she gave at the Lion Studio last October, but… I am a timid knitter, hanging on to my stitches with a death grip, not really wanting to risk lifting the wrap up and over the stitch to knit them together. I am always afraid they will slip off the tip of my needle.
Clearly, I am not the only one of Cat’s students to feel this way. She invented the Sweet Tomato with us in mind, and let me tell you, it is wonderfully easy. Here is my first attempt:
No gusset, no holes, no wraps to pick up. Just a nice series of wedges and a lovely rounded heel that fits. Cat has produced a serial e-book that explains the technique and shows how to apply it in some very clever patterns.
Read about it and order it from Cat’s website or from Ravelry. The best part about the e-book is the instant gratification factor — you download each part as it is completed rather than having to wait for the whole book. It also includes links to videos to demonstrate the techniques. Cat has created a Ravelry group that already has hundreds of members, where you can discuss the technique, post pictures of your heels, and ask questions. Cat is very active and generous with her time and advice. When I posted this picture to the show-your-heels forum, I got a very nice note back from her, suggesting a way to avoid the slight “laddering” effect that I always seem to get when switching from one needle to the next. Now that’s a teacher. Thanks, Cat!
This has got to be the most stressed-filled week we’ve had in 10 years! First the earthquake, an unusual event in New York at best, but rather nerve-wracking coming up so close to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. And then, the ever-more-dire anticipation of Irene, the hurricane of the century. Yes, we had lots of advance warning, and yes, the City was prepared and ready, but really….
I think last night was the worst. Lidlady and I spent the better part of 2 days battening down the hatches — laying in emergency supplies and food; hunting down flashlights, batteries and bungee cords; pulling in all the outside stuff and securing everything else; packing our “go” bags (!) — and then what? Remembering the images of Katrina, and thinking about the six cats, and what if the windows blow out and we start to take on water in the house? So, planning a move upstairs and preparing for hunkering down against a rising tide. Hours of waiting, listening to the grim newscasts, wishing we could either project ourselves 24 hours into the future when it would all be over or else somehow putting ourselves into an oblivious state where we could sleep through it all.
As I write this, we have come through everything just fine, safe and dry. And I sincerely wish and hope the same for all the Library knitters, especially those who live in New Jersey and Long Island.
And, as for the hours of waiting… may I just say that there is nothing more calming than a healthy dose of fiber fumes? Knitting! The simple, calming regularity of just plain stockinette stitches can do wonders for the nerves, calming the mind and slowing down the heart rate. Here is a picture of what I will henceforth think of as my “hurricane sweater” although it is actually the “Out of the Shell Turtleneck” from Top Down Sweaters: Knit to Fit from Top to Bottom, by Doreen L. Marquart.
July 3 — The newly-named “Fiesta Sweater” is done! Just in time to celebrate the holiday, though far too warm to wear right now. Only one really bad mishap along the way (what the Knitmores might call a “when knitting attacks!” moment, or what Abby and Ben at Knit Knit Cafe might dub a “bitter cup”). Clearly I need much more practice in picking up stitches. My lack of mad skillz in this area didn’t matter so much for the sleeves, when I not only did NOT pick up the requisite number of stitches around the armhole, I didn’t even get the same number of stitches on each sleeve! Did this faze yours truly? No, I wasn’t planning to do decreases along the length of the sleeves anyway, so I calculated the number of stitches I would need for the lacy scalloped edge (13 stitches x 8 repeats), kept the sleeve that had closest to that number, started the other sleeeve over, and sneaked in a couple of extra stitches to add up to the required number on each. After that it was, as they say, a piece o’ cake! Many thanks to my knitting buddy, the estimable Lidlady, for the tip about figuring out what I’d need at the end and working backwards.
But wait — my tale of woe and my gratitude to Lidlady do not end there. Somewhere during the body knitting I had tried on the sweater to test length, and the neckhole was perfectly fine. However, my decided lack of aforementioned skill hit with a vengeance at the end. I did the neckline pickups, finished the edging, and confidently slipped the sweater on over my head… only to have it stay there. AAARGH! My lovely sweater was now a hat. Thankfully, Lidlady was kind enough to do the picking up for me. So now I have a finished sweater, all that awaits is blocking.
Back to my Discovery Sock project. Not as recent as I thought, this sock was actually done in 2009. I was fascinated by the idea of making a sock that would actually fit my foot. There is a learning curve, but once you get that sock to fit you transfer all the info to the cardboard foot and that becomes your “pattern” for any sock you want to make.
Last October I was lucky enough to take a master class with Cat Bordhi herself, at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio here in New York. As expected, she was a terrific teacher. It was hard to concentrate on making my little learning socks. Cat had so much info to give us, so many tips and tricks, that I kept putting my knitting down to scribble notes.
Probably the most valuable thing I learned was that I had been making my socks much too large, and that I would get a better fit if I either used fewer stitches or went down a needle size or two. It was a real “duh!” moment, but my socks work a whole lot better these days. So it was a discovery sock in more ways than one.
It has been a long time since Meredith’s “basic training” session (March 17), and I had hopes to be up and running before now! My new goal is this Thursday, May 26 our first Personnel Development Day here at the Gladys Marcus Library. I want Fiber Fumes to be part of it. We are a craftsy bunch and I want this to be a place to talk about it and show off our fibery interests. This isn’t meant to be my blog, it is for all of us. But here’s a picture of one of my recent projects, just to get us started.