Monday, January 23, 2006

"Irish Moss" sweater

I started Nancy Bush's "Irish Moss" sweater from Arans & Celtics: The Best of Knitter's Magazine this weekend, since I've got itchy fingers waiting for the next installment of the Aran FLAK.

I thought about knitting one of the FLAK Arans for myself, making a V neckline and adding a shawl collar like another one of Janet Szabo's designs that a FLAK participant knitted, but I really wanted a cardigan with a shawl collar, somewhat more delicate than the traditional style Aran (which can be a bit bulky), and didn't feel like redesigning the FLAK sweater. So when I saw this picture, it fit the bill. The yarn is some of the Patons Classic Merino I bought the other day, in the "New Denim" color. I've been wanting to knit something with this color for a while -- it's one of my favorite colors, and works well for me.

So far, I'm really enjoying knitting it. Nancy Bush designed the sweater so that it could be knit without using a cable needle, which is interesting -- there's a lot of knitting stitches out of order. The patterns are pretty easy to memorize, and after a bit I found I didn't need the chart or markers anymore.

Oh, and my gramophone is here! I ordered this replica on Ebay for about $100 (not including shipping). It's going to go to WWI events with me. I would feel guilty about taking an original to events with me, and besides, a gramophone would have been new in 1914, so one that looked really old wouldn't be accurate anyway. These replicas are made in India, and pretty much duplicate the original technology, as far as I can tell. K. put the thing together, and it does work. Woo hoo!

I'm trying to figure out how to rig up a CD/MP3 player with some more period music (hidden under a table or something at events), since I don't want to lug a whole bunch of fragile records around to events. I have two records so far, and want a few more. Will have to look on Ebay for relatively timeless stuff -- need to look into what classical music composers were popular at that time.

I'm flying to Austin tomorrow to visit a friend, and looked up the baggage guidelines for Southwest Airlines. Google also pulled up a post by the Yarn Harlot about her experience with a stupid fellow passenger, and cool attendant, on Southwest. Knitting should NOT be a problem (I've spoken to plenty of knitters who've brought their projects with them with no hassle), but it seems that idiot passengers can be.

The TSA recommends bamboo circular needles, so I'll probably see what I've got in my needle drawer -- I think I have a size 10 needle (for the Pi with Sleeves) but not a size 6 (for the Irish Moss sweater), so might run by A.C. Moore and pick up another set of Clover circs. I really don't like knitting with bamboo needles, but... (shrug) It's better than being bored silly on a flight with nothing to do. I could always read, of course. But it'll be a longish flight. I'm trying not to indulge my usual habit of bringing five projects and 10 books on this trip. It's only six days; I should really just bring ONE book and... Um. Which projects? Definitely the Pi shawl. Maybe some socks. Maybe the cardigan. I'll have to pack my luggage and see how much room is left.

I'm trying not to indulge my usual habit of bringing five projects and 10 books on this trip. It's only six days; I should really just bring ONE book and... Um. Which projects? Definitely the Pi shawl. Maybe some socks. Maybe the cardigan. I'll have to pack my luggage first and see how much room is left.

Dyeing Mohair for Pi

I fell in love with the "Sleeves in your Pi" shawl at the beginning of January, and, since I don't have any lace projects on the needles right now (the hap shawl doesn't count, since you only work the pattern every other row), I've been jonesing to start it. Bought the book with the pattern (Ponchos & Wraps: A Knitter's Dozen) -- not sure I'd knit anything else in the book, but I had a coupon -- and started to hunt for yarn.
The pattern suggests a bulky yarn, so I considered using Brown Sheep yarn (found some on Ebay on cones), but then, when I was at The Mannings on Saturday, I saw some "Henry's Attic" Toaga mohair yarn in 8 oz. skeins that looked more like what I had in mind. Now, I know that the mohair is gonna be a PITA to knit, after doing the Flower Basket shawl in white mohair and trying a bit of a heavier mohair when someone in my spinning group was de-stashing, but it'll probably be lovely when it's done.

So I bought four skeins of the Toaga, plus two packets of green Cushing's acid dye (mix of Bronze Green and Reseda Green), which is now dyed and drying at home. The fiber was a little crowded in the dyepot so there are some uneven spots, but I think that'll be ok. They'll give the project character. Note to self for future, though -- don't put 2 lbs of fiber in this particular pot at one time.

Edit, 1/24: One skein was dry this morning, the others slightly damp. I wound that skein off into a ball and knit the first few rounds, and the color differences -- so far -- aren't a problem. And it IS a PITA to knit.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Help Fight Sew Fast / Sew Easy

Sew Fast, Sew Easy is trying to copyright the phrase "Stitch & Bitch", and to force local SnB groups to stop using the phrase. This is insane -- the phrase has been in common use for decades.

To contribute,, click on the image to the left. To read more, see what The Knitting Curmudgeon and The Girl From Auntie have to say about it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

knitting machines

The Knitting Curmudgeon has a good post today about knitting machines. I've thought about getting one, but perhaps the "soullessness" of the machines is why I haven't done so. I mean, why not just buy knitted fabric? (It might actually be tempting if I thought I could design and make some of the more complicated ideas I have, but I'd really need a good demo to convince myself that it'd be worth it.)


Golden Apples

I've been getting spam at work recently from an outfit called "Golden Apple Oil and Gas". Why do I suspect a Discordian influence, here? Interestingly, when you Google "Golden Apple", this company doesn't even show up on the first two pages.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What's the Matter with Patons Classic Merino? (More swatching, a yarn store visit, and computer rant)

Patons Merino: So I went to the local A.C. Moore on Saturday and bought a whole bunch of their Patons Merino Classic, because a) it's a decent, 100% wool yarn, and I like the texture and color, esp. the medium denim blue and "rich red" colors, and b) it was on sale for $3.99/skein. I've already got odds and ends of that sitting around the house, and have been thinking of buying some of the colors I like before they get discontinued or the store quits carrying them, which is sure to happen eventually.

I don't understand what people have against yarn from "box stores" except that they think it's all Red Heart -- which used to be true, I admit. But since the A.C. Moore moved in, they have yarn that's much more interesting than what used to be available around here -- and their competitors have been goosed into expanding their own yarn selections. Now, granted, a lot of the stuff that these stores carry is still crap; the Red Heart is still there in large quantities. But at least they're now carrying SOME decent yarn (I saw the same mohair yarn at both A.C. Moore and the snooty yarn store I visited, for instance) that I don't have to either drive 45 minutes to buy or order online. See the rant at the bottom of this post about visiting a "real" Local Yarn Store, at which I couldn't find anything much to buy, either.

FLAK: I'm done with one of the saddles for K's FLAK Aran (pics when I'm done with both), but am thinking I might as well either knit one for myself too, or start a similar sweater with different cables and (possibly) a shawl collar, since I find I don't really wear sweaters with crewnecks. I might use some of the yarn I bought this past weekend, or buy something completely different, but a little swatching doesn't hurt. So here are the swatches, using a size 4 needle (the blue) and 5 (the orange). Going to do a swatch using size 6 needles shortly.

I've been thinking of knitting a gansey for a long time now, and have started and ripped out on this project a couple of times already. I have some goldenrod-colored yarn that's (maybe) earmarked for the gansey... but I may decide to overdye it first. I like the yellow when I'm looking at it, but when I'm not, I wonder why on earth I bought it. If I overdye, I'll use dark blue, so the yarn will be dark green/olive, a color I tend to wear quite a bit.

Overdyeing: I bought some Knitpicks Shimmer in "Morning Mist" a while ago, and after trying some lace knitting it, I decided I really didn't like the abrupt color changes (it went from white to medium blue very quickly), and it's been sitting in the stash for a while. This weekend, I got some RIT (Evening Blue) and overdyed it. Here are before and after pics. (Gee, think I like blue?) I'm much happier with the results.

Computer rant: I recently got a new laptop, so decided to give my mom & dad my old PC, which worked just fine but wasn't being used (I found I prefer to use a laptop at home to sit on the couch and read email, instead of cloistering myself away in my study). Well, easier said than done. Mom & Dad are still on dialup, and my PC was on a broadband connection, so we had to go get a modem and install it. The modem is fighting us. Or, rather, K., since he's doing the installation. We've returned one modem and are about to return another in exchange for a USB modem -- I sure hope that works. We've been on a broadband connection so long that troubleshooting the modem (which we both tried to do at various points) was just painful. It's tempting to spring for a better connection for them. Will have to think about that... Might be worth it, since Dad wants to get into the whole genealogy thing. (We worked on transcribing and scanning some family journals to CD a few years ago, and he wants to do more of that sort of thing.) In the meantime, it's all we can do not to drop-kick the darned PC out the second story window.

Yarn store: After visiting the 'rents, and NOT delivering the PC (I took it back home with me when the modem wouldn't work), I dropped by the yarn store near their house, which I won't name at this time. Now, this store has been in business for several decades. It's a mother-daughter business, and used to be at another shopping center in the area when I was a teen -- I'd go in and drool over the yarns I couldn't afford to buy. So it was interesting to see them in their new location. The owners must know their market to stay in business so long, but it's pretty clear to me that I'm not their target audience. They're selling lots of expensive, "boutiquey" yarns -- Debbie Bliss, mohair, Kidsilk Haze, lots of fuzzy artistic types of yarns. Not much in the way of "real" yarn (i.e., plain ol' worsted wool), so if I'd wanted to pick some yarn up to knit, say, another Aran sweater, I'd have been SOL. They had about five (?) skeins of Guernsey yarn (tempting, since I want to knit a gansey), but didn't seem to have enough on hand to knit an actual sweater, though maybe I missed seeing where they had the rest of it; I didn't want to interrupt the owner's scarf knitting class to ask about it since I had just bought a bunch of yarn and didn't want to spend $100 or so more on yarn right then. I may go back later for some gansey yarn, though. They had some sock yarns, but not enough for a really good selection. The knitting needle rack was embarassingly small, and had only Crystal Palace and Addi Turbos (and not in a size I needed at the moment).

I asked the owner whether she had any Inox double-pointed needles (I think I'd seen an Inox poster in the window), and she said that they weren't carrying small-gauge dpn needles, since they were teaching a class on knitting socks on two circular needles. I probably made a disappointed face, since she said they did have DPNs in larger gauge bamboo. I made some polite noises, bought two skeins of sock yarn, and went away. I haven't tried the "two circs" method, and I suppose I should, but I like my DPNs, so why switch? Is knitting socks on small-gauge DPNs a dying art or something? Well, as I said, I suppose she knows what sells in her market.

I think this store mostly caters to people who want something "artistic" to knit without having to work too hard at designs or patterns. It strikes me that most of the yarns this shop carries do all the work for you -- you can knit a very plain pattern in fancy yarn, and the yarn is so interesting that you'll wind up with something fun without a lot of work. (Like Opal sock yarn, which, I admit, is fun to knit.)

That's fine, and has its place, but I want more than just that... I'm still exploring what I can do with various stitches, and yarns that distract from the stitches used aren't interesting to me right now. So I prefer Springwater. Or Knit Happens. They have some of the same "artistic" yarns, but their selection of regular yarns (stuff like Brown Sheep Worsted) is much better, and ditto their selection of knitting needles. For that matter, the selection of needles and other knitting tools is much better at A.C. Moore -- they're not Addi Turbos, but you have a better chance of finding the size or style you need.

Ah, well. I guess it takes all kinds (of knitters, and yarn shops). But, having seen this shop, I think I'll tell my mom to go to A.C. Moore (or Springwater, if she feels like driving that far) when she needs needles or yarn, especially given her budget and experience level (beginner). So much for the Local Yarn Shop.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Various projects

Ok, so this first pic isn't my project. It's a Christmas present from my hubby, who loosely based it on plans from New Yankee Workshop. Isn't it lovely? He does great work.

This is "The Blob", aka my hap shawl. Progress is all but stalled on it due to the recent rash of Christmas sock-knitting. This thing has me bored to tears. I don't like doing the pattern row (the yarn fights me on the k2togs), and the other rows are repetitive and tiresome. I have a feeling I'm going to be picking it up and putting it down a lot more over the coming year. I'm gonna try to keep plugging away at it, but more enticing, and quickly finished, projects keep beckoning.

Speaking of socks, here are Kevin's socks. I've knitted everyone else socks, so now he's got his, finally. They're Opal sock yarn, knitted on size 0s. He loves them, and they fit well.

There were, alas, two knots in one ball of yarn (none in the other), which threw the pattern off a bit, but that doesn't matter much since he'll be wearing them inside his boots.

And last but not least, here's the start to the Bicycle Socks I mentioned before. I've since ripped them back to the ribbing and started over with bigger needles, since the gauge is too tight. I'm not sure this will completely do the trick, but will just have to block again and find out...

Went to the local spinning & weaving group's annual holiday party, which is usually held in January since everyone is so busy in Nov/Dec. Lots of fun -- we have a gift exchange, the type where people pick numbers and can either take an unopened gift, or pick a gift that someone before them has already opened. This leads to lots of very amusing swapping and plotting, as people see something they want. I brought a decorative bowl with sheep on it (sheep-decorated objects are always popular, and this particular item did change hands; I had requests for more if I happen to see any while shopping), and got a book on Weaving Overshot that I've had my eye on for a while but hadn't gotten around to buying yet. Last year I got the Folk Shawls book, which was a pretty cool thing to get, so I've had pretty good luck at these gift exchanges.

I really ought to get to more of the group's meetings. I'm too busy most of the year, with reenacting events etc., and I miss seeing them.

FLAK Aran Swatch

So here's my swatch for the FLAK Knitalong. It's LB Fisherman's Wool, which shows the cables nicely. It's a little scratchy to knit with, but blocking softened it up nicely.

"What kind of yarn" quiz

You are Mohair
You are Mohair.
You are a warm and fuzzy type who works well with
others, doing your share without being too
weighty. You can be stubborn and absolutely
refuse to change your position once it is set,
but that's okay since you are good at covering
up your mistakes.

What kind of yarn are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Actually, I think I'm worsted weight wool. But that's ok.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Killer Rabbit, Dress alteration, SOA swatching, and yarn guide

Here's the Killer Rabbit K. got me for Christmas. It's going to work with me, where it will join the Dead Parrot and Black Knight.

Yesterday my sis came over and we went shopping for patterns for her wedding dress. She settled on a McCall's pattern which, strangely, I can't find online right now, which we took back to my house and made up in muslin for fitting, with a few alterations. All told, very successful. I won't post pics because the muslin is a touch seethrough in the pics, but we're happy with the results. The next step will be the full-size mockup, since we're going to lengthen it; that could be done in the lining fabric.

I bought a Vintage Vogue pattern for my dress to wear at her wedding -- well, several VV patterns, since they were on sale -- and some dark blue poly satin (I'm contemplating getting some silk satin next payday for the final version). Meant to make the muslin mockup today, but instead I spent another day burning shows off the TiVo and ripping more CDs, and swatching for the Son of Aran sweater. Also made some black beans & rice (still cooking) and beef stew (done), and cleaned the fridge out.

I've been having a problem lately with yarn bothering the skin on my left index finger, where it runs over the finger for tension. (See the angry red line on my finger, at left.) So I bought two more Clover yarn guides (I already had one). These are normally used for stranded knitting, but it works just fine for preventing yarn chafing, too. I tried the wire knitting thimble I bought a while ago, also for use with stranded knitting, but it actually doesn't work as well -- it's a little too heavy, IMO, and doesn't stay put on my skinny fingers that well. Also, the yarn tangles up in the little wire curlicues when I take the thimble off, so I have to disentangle it when I come back to the project.

And yes, there's an error in the braid in my swatch. I'm not going to fix it; the swatch is just for the purpose of measuring, so it's not worth ripping back.