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Friday, July 31, 2015

Necessity is the mother of invention.

We know nothing (for all you Game of Thrones fans) of true ingenuity.  Ok, so I'm speaking in broad generalizations; some of you may very well be quite ingenious.  For the purpose of this post, play along.

On Wednesday I had an appointment with a woman who had sought me out to help an older friend of hers who was knitting a sweater and needed help with the next step.

I asked all the typical questions.
Me: Can you tell me a little about the sweater: yarn, pattern name, the part of the directions that are giving her a problem?  Pictures of the passage in the directions would be great.
Friend: I know she said she is having trouble finishing the part around the neck of the sweater.  I'll try to get more information from her and will be in touch.

and later:
Friend: She does not have a pattern but is copying the sweater from another sweater!!!  I haven't seen it and truthfully know very little about knitting.
Me: Ok, then I definitely need to see her.

Friend: Also do you have some large round needles to bring along for her to try?  I think Alba needs a different size needle also.
Me: Do you know what size she is on?
Friend: No.

I had no idea what to expect.  It was an adventure.  I was pleased to meet Gail (the friend), Alba (the knitter), and Miriam (Alba's daughter).

Alba laid out all the pieces. The yarn was super-bulky and she was knitting it all in garter stitch. She was in fact copying a sweater from a sweater

and had made a paper pattern.  That took me back to Home Economics sewing classes.

As I looked at the sweater pieces and knitting needles, I did a double take.  She had knitting needles that were made from wood dowels. They were super long, shaved to a narrow tip, and had sliced wine corks for needle ends. I can't tell you how happy this made me. Alba wanted to knit and knit she was going to do.

The sweater is for her Minister.  Through mixed English and Spanish she explained that she wanted the sweater to have raglan sleeves and didn't know how to go about it.  I took gauge measurements from her knitting and finished raglan measurements from the store bought sweater and did some rough calculations. Then I wrote out instructions and reviewed them with Miriam who was also a knitter.

Miriam told me she had tried to convey to her mother that she needed to learn how to purl.  Unfortunately she had not been able to teach her.

It was then that Alba took out her practice swatch.  SHE WAS KNITTING ON CHOPSTICKS! I kid you not.  It was awesome.  I even took out my needle sizer to see what size "needle" she was on.  It was a #10.5, in case you were wondering or are ever at a loss for #10.5's.

I taught her how to work the decreases for the raglan, purl, and stockinette stitch. As she knit I would correct her in English and her daughter would relay it in Spanish.  High School Spanish came trickling back.  I also learned the word for knit: tejer.

Alba told me how much she loved knitting and all she wanted to do was knit.  When her daughter asks her if she wants lunch, she just smiles, laughs and says she just wants to knit.  I know how she feels.

While Alba practiced her new skills, I talked with Miriam and Gail.  I asked Miriam what they would do for circular needles.  Really, I was only half kidding.  I wasn't disappointed.  Miriam said that once when she needed circulars, she took the wire from a wire hanger, put cut pieces of straws on the ends, and taped them on with scotch tape. I just love the ingenuity. That was totally thinking outside the box.

The time flew by.  I'll have to brush up on my Spanish, specifically knitting terms before we meet again.  I think I will also bookmark google translator!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Going the distance.


Jane liked knitting the cabled afghan she knit as a gift so much that she knit a second- for herself. Remember this is the afghan that she found in a closet and hadn't touched in years.

Her next goal is to knit a sweater coat for one of her daughters.  It was no easy feat finding a pattern and it's been even harder to find the navy color/gauge yarn the pattern requires. While visiting her (in the south) she bought a skein of Baa fingering because it was the exact color her daughter wanted.  Baah yarns didn't have a aran version and she went on a hunt for navy.  Finally she found a yarn in the color she wanted, named navy.  She bought it online. When she received it, it turned out to be royal. So she returned it.  That is the trouble with ordering online; different computer monitors can display colors differently. I applaud her perseverance in going the distance to make this coat exactly the way she envisions it.

Jane said it was good to be back at stitch and chat.  She learned a lot, and not just from knitting. Among the things talked about were the following shows/movies:
Poldark series of books and on PBS
Forsythe saga
Best marigold hotel
Gosford park
Woman in gold

When Cornelia left her CustomFit sweater for the finisher, she learned that she didn't pair decreases properly on one of the sleeves. She stoically ripped back 9" of the errant sleeve. In the past, she had seen me pull the needle out and rip back to the row above the row I needed to return to.

Well, that's exactly what Cornelia did. She pulled needle out and ripped back until 2 rows before desired spot and then pulled stitches out one at a time.  Cornelia was going the distance with this sweater, she reknit the sleeve correctly.

She is almost finished with the back of her Houston top.  She modified the pattern to have a k2p2 ribbing instead of folded hem. The yarn she is using is Rowan Silky Stones (Worsted: 52% Silk, 48% Linen, 109 yards).

Eleanor swatched for her second CustomFit with Kid Paillettes (Lace: 42% Mohair, 40% Polyester, 18% Silk, 136 yards). This sweater will be a Christmas present to herself.  Last year she knit my Manteau Capelet in Artyarns as her Christmas present.  I like Eleanor's style, treat yourself to yummy yarn.

Trammi brought out her swatches for the Apres (Ruched) vest. She's working toward a gauge of 12 sts = 4". She got 14 sts on #10.5 so she will try on #11. For the smaller gauge of 20 sts = 4" on #4 ok she was all set.

She also worked on finishing the sleeves on her CustomFit sweater. The pieces are all done.  She just has to block and sew it.  I'm looking forward to finished knit.  The yarn is Rowan Aran (unfortunately discontinued)

FYI, there is a CustomFit sweater class starting in September at Westport Yarns, click here for the details.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A stranger in a strange land.

Mary finished the first block of her building block afghan and began square two, reading charts.

Michelle brought in a pillow she'd like to knit a cover for (it's the plain pillow top/center).  We talked about a tubular cast on/bind off to give the look of piping around the pillow.  I have to think about it some. In the meantime, she'll knit one side plain and the other side will (possibly) include a decorative edge. By the way, can you spot her dog in the picture?

We measured it, then she swatched. Her yarn color choices are so in sync with her interior design.

The student becomes the teacher as Michelle showed me how she holds her yarn for knitting English style. She was responding to a comment I made that English style knitting is much slower for me.   The way she holds her yarn in her right hand is exactly how I hold my yarn for Continental in my left hand.   I like this way the best, and it is definitely faster than what I was doing.

Michelle picked up the stitches around the neckline of her Customfit sweater. I can't wait to see her wear it.

Linda brought her Etched Rio Wrap poncho, knit with Alpaca Silk (Sport: 50% Silk, 50% Alpaca, 146 yards) in for repair; she was off a stitch in the lace section.  She thought about just adding a stitch, then a little voice (that would be me) said "don't do it".

As often happens when Linda comes to knitting, we had a philosophical conversation. Today it was about doing things outside of your routine or comfort zone.

Linda related how when she temporarily moved to DC for a few months, she had to focus on where she was going (and what she was doing) because she was a stranger in a strange land.  When we drive our normal pathways, we are driving almost by autopilot.  Her story reminded me of when my kids were in 3 different schools all on the same street.  I can't tell you how many times, when driving them to school, I would drive past one of their schools. I can still hear them say, "Mom, you just drove past my school". I would get into the zone.

It's (obviously) not a good thing.  Whether knitting differently or driving in a new place, it forces you to be more alert versus being mechanical in your actions.  Trying new things like this is a way to cross train your brain. It is also a humbling experience to not know how to do something.  We've come to a time when we all expect to be perfect the first time.  It's good for us to learn/do something from scratch.

I'd love to know what kind of experience you've had in this regard.

Book recommendations from Mary: Keeper of the Light and Necessary Lies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tuesday's Stitch and Chat

Calann's granddaughters wanted cowls just like her Fallen Halo.  We adjusted the cast on for the girls who are 4 and 7.  She is also knitting one for her daughter.  Can you guess what color belongs to who? Let's just say I bonded with the four year old over color choices. ;)

She will be using the same yarn the pattern calls for, Artyarns Cashmere 5 (Aran: 100% Cashmere, 102 yards) and Artyarns Cashmere Glitter (DK: 100% Cashmere plied w/ metallic, 170 yards).
Her grandson wanted a different cowl so we did a Ravelry search and found the Snowbunny Hat, Cowl & Mitts. She'll be knitting it in Cascade 220 Superwash Sport (DK/Sport: 100% Superwash Wool, 136 yards). Calann had to knit a mock circular gauge for the cowl.

Just as we thought, Eleanor is knitting the second sleeve of her her Textures Cardigan in Tahki Rosa (Aran: 100% Cotton, 93 yards).  There is a very good chance she'll be wearing this next week. (No pressure, Eleanor.)

Cornelia finished the pieces of her Customfit and got it ready for the finisher.  I am so proud of her, this is the third sweater she has completed this year.

We discussed several books we really enjoyed:
From Eleanor: Red Tails in Love and Maisie Dobbs 
From Me: Chasing Fireflies and In the Unlikely Event

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Knitters Day Off

 Saturday was a gorgeous summer day. Happily I had the day off.

I started out with a cup of tea to wake the brain, followed by some necessary household duties.  I have timed it and the amount of time it takes to steep a cup of tea equals the time it takes to empty the dishwasher.

Relatively alert I head outside.  We have a birds nest on top of a speaker on our deck.  It is inhabited by two baby birds (picture taken with a selfie stick).  The momma bird gets very disgruntled every time we go outside and leaves the nest.  This morning I caught her and the poppa on a tree limb opposite the deck.  She was highly animated and I could imagine what she was saying:


momma: "You've got to do something about those giants" (Major wing flapping and chirping).)
popppa: "Just ignore them, you are being dramatic"
momma: (more wing flapping and chirping)
poppa: (exit stage left)

One row also equals the time it takes to steep my second cup of tea. Fully caffeinated and having gotten the bird conversation out of my head I settled into Big Damn HeroesIn the morning I like to knit things that are  too complicated to work on with people around.

Which is why as soon as I picked up the needles I got Face Timed by one of my kids. We talked for over an hour. That's longer than I think we've talked in consecutive minutes since she got home. Go figure. There's meaning in there somewhere.  At any rate, I had to put down the lace knitting and get something I can knit and talk with.

Otto the Polar Bear is a great pattern. I've knit this 3 times already. Now I'm knitting a sample for the store, it will ultimately be a class. The yarn is Plymouth Select Superwash Merino (Worsted: 100% Merino, 218 yards).  It took less than one skein.  This is going to be my "go to" gift in the future.

While on the phone, she reminded me that she wanted me to knit her a sock monkey.  I think this was somehow influenced by Otto.  Using Ravelry and Face-time (talk about juggling electronics) we narrowed down what she wanted.  

Harry kept a close paw on a new toy. He took this very seriously.

During the day, I finished Otto, bailed on Big Damn Heroes (for the day), and worked on a new cardigan pattern I'm designing.

We ended the day with take out at the beach.  I think half the town was there. Truly a well spent day off.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Don't fly in the face of the Knitting Gods

The gauge play continues. 

I just finished knitting the Bandana Cowl in Malabrigo Worsted (Aran: 100% Merino, 210 yards).  The pattern called for a #10 needle.  Since I've been knitting closer to gauge when I knit English style, I decided to (uncharacteristically) cast on without knitting a gauge swatch.  I know, I've shocked you, haven't I?

When I finished, the cowl felt a little small.  Not much, a little.  I measured the gauge and found that I was knitting at 4.5 sts/1" versus the gauge of 4 sts/1".  What irony, if when I knit English I might need to go up a needle size.  The Knitting Gods have a sick sense of humor.

I also only used half a skein to knit the Bandana cowl.  If you're looking for a quick knit with aran/bulky yarn, this is a good one. As I'm reading this, and linking to the pattern and all that happy stuff, I realized that I didn't knit the beginning border in garter (as written). I wondered why it rolled in and was figuring ways to fix it.

Big sigh.  Well, I think the Knitting Gods have made their point.  When you skip the gauge swatch you roll knitting roulette. So, as I write this post it becomes clear that I'm going to rip it out and knit it over again with the following adjustments: #10.5 needle and garter border (as written).  Selective reading strikes again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Name that yarn

After finishing her first sleeve, Cornelia looked it over and saw exactly where she had changed skeins.  Since Malabrigo Worsted is a hand-dyed yarn there can variations within the same dyelot.  Sometimes people are really thrown off by this.  Cornelia embraced the hand dyed effect. She said it's part of the appeal of the hand dyed yarns, their artistic quality. She's got a point.

Cornelia started the second sleeve and was stumped by the make one left purlwise. The make one right purlwise she had down. The angle and awkwardness of the make one left purlwise was getting the best of her.  After a few tries she did get the hang of it. Kudos for perseverance.

She's very excited about finishing the second sleeve. That means she's one step closer to sending it off to the finisher to be blocked and sewn.  Since she has several sweaters in the queue, she decided to have her knit the neckline as well.

Eleanor had finished the back and was well into the one front of her Textures Cardigan in Tahki Rosa (Aran: 100% Cotton, 93 yards).  It's quick knitting. She really wants to wear it this summer.  I figure at this rate she'll be done in approximately 2 weeks.

She told us she sorted through her stash and brought in these skeins to see if I knew what they were.  I don't know if it's good or scary that I actually could name them all.

From left to right: the first three balls are Malabrigo Worsted, the middle skein is Malabrigo Rios, next is Plymouth Mushishi, then Madelinetosh DK, and finally on the far right, Cascade 220 Superwash Sport. What can I say?