Monday, August 11, 2014

In Threes Sweater

Just a quick pic to show what one of the ladies in my knitting help class made:

This is the "In Threes" baby sweater pattern that is popular on Ravelry, and around here; it seems almost everyone with a grandbaby on the way is making one, or three.

Please note:  bird not included!  Rachel made a little bird out of felt to attach to her sweater, with a button for the eye.  We are calling it the Bluebird of Happiness.

I just wish I had thought to take pictures of everyone else's sweaters over the past few weeks; they were all beautifully made, but when things get busy, my camera doesn't quite make it out of its cozy pouch in my purse.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Reusing, Recycling, Reviving Used Yarn: A Trip to the Yarn Spa

A long time ago, I journeyed in my imagination to a wondrous land where every sweater I knit fit me just the way I wanted it to fit.  Sweaters were never too tight under the armpit, or too saggy and heavy in the sleeve, too baggy in the waist, itchy in the neck, too short or too long, but just right.

In reality--THUD (that sound is me coming back to reality)--as a new knitter, the first sweater attempts I made were less-than-wondrous.  The first was made of cotton yarn.  Turns out, cotton is heavy and does not hold its shape, especially when you are a woman of Traditional Build and you need at least twice as much yarn as the usually-smallest-size-sweater sample on the teeny-tiny model who looks so dang cute in the picture on the pattern.

The knitting itself on my first sweater wasn't bad, the pattern was fine, but I couldn't even give it away among my friends, and it certainly wasn't something I was going to wear.

Off to Goodwill it went, a brand new, hand knit yet ill-fitting sweater.  I hope it found a home.

Sweater #2 I nicknamed "Gargantua."  (What, not Frankensweater?!)

In this case, oblivious to my body type (perhaps traveling mentally in that other wondrous world where everything fit me because I was still 28 years old) I used Super Bulky yarn.  It was very nice yarn, and the sweater did actually fit, sort of, but it was boxy and Super Bulky, and it also had some mohair in it, and the shedding and "bloom" of that mohair got to be annoying.  Too much bloomin' fuzz!

I think that one ended up as a rescue sweater as well, although I salvaged the beautiful silver buttons first.

Other better sweaters came off my needles in time, and they began to fit a bit better, and then I found the book Big Girl Knits.  This book has a "recipe" where you are supposed to be able to customize a sweater to fit you perfectly.  Let there be rejoicing in the land!

Miski brand new
I and a friend took an afternoon to measure each other's various dimensions.  These were not just bust and waist and hip, these were back and shoulder and forearm, and lengths and widths of things I never really thought about measuring before.  (See above, "Sweaters That Do Not Fit.")

Armed with this magical mathematical knowledge, I shopped for yarn.  I settled on a gorgeous lavender, heather-y baby llama, Miski by Mirasol.

The otherwise splendid, knowledgeable people at my then-LYS neglected to mention that baby llama, like alpaca, while delightfully drapey and soft, gets very heavy and loses its shape.  Especially when you need enormous quantities of yarn for a Grown-Woman-Who-Is-Not-a-Model Sized Sweater.

Not yet knitted
Remember the cotton drama?

Hm, yes, well, I was knitting and knitting, and following the recipe in the book, decreasing dutifully at the waist, and increasing after, and doing short rows for the absurdly ample bust, and cleverly doing a nice vee-neck which suits my Traditional Build, and at last I cast off and sewed the pieces together, and having finished my masterpiece enough to try it on, BEHOLD!

It was so drapey as to be downright revealing.

The vee-neck was plunging in a way that would suggest a starlet's gown at the Oscars, but trust me, I am no starlet, Scarlett.  And even those clever decreases were not enough to cinch in that saggy waist.

It was, in a word, deplorable.

Sigh.  On your mark, get set:  FROG.

So, for several years now, I have had a big bag full of crinkled, crumpled balls of yarn, old and used, never to regain the youthful spring in their step(s).


A vague memory came to me, of someone, somewhere, who repurposed old sweaters, or was it someone else who asked someone somewhere, how do you get the crinkle out of old yarn?

And the answer bubbled up into my brain like expensive champagne.

Yes, it was time to go to the yarn spa again!  (And now that the Festive Fish are gone, it's quiet and restful there.  They were such a rowdy bunch.)

I didn't even bother to google the topic.  I'm such a wild, carefree gal, I trusted my memory.  I wound one small ball of that used yarn into a hank, tied it in a couple of places, threw it in some cold water, and let it soak for a few minutes, just long enough to get the fibers wet.

On left, never worked yarn
On right, worked and frogged
In the middle:  revived!
Then I rolled it in a towel and let it sit for a minute or two, just to get the major dampness out, and then I hung it on a dryer rack and let nature run its course.

And it worked!

So I wound all the old yarn into hanks…

...and I soaked them all, a few at a time, and hung them up to dry.

While the yarn was still wet, it did not look promising.  But once it was dry, it was perfectly lofty and lovely again!

Now I have a great big honking pile of pretty yarn again, and I know now that baby llama is great for scarves and cowls and fingerless gloves and all manner of small things that will not drag themselves into never-before-seen and totally unsuitable shapes due to the force of gravity and the power of stretchiness.

All's well that ends well.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Golden Cliffs of California

Someday, hope to quilt this:

Always an inspiring day at the beach.

The sun setting behind the cliffs created these amazing halos.

The only downside of the beaches around here is the tar.  Turns out, it is naturally occurring, or so I am told, and it has nothing to do, so they say, with the nine thousand or so oil rigs squatting like fat ugly bugs off the coast.

I now travel with a 'tar removal kit' consisting of Dawn detergent and a dish scrubbing pad for the really bad days, baby oil and cotton balls for the lighter days.

Kinda takes some of the joy out of a beach walk--but not enough to keep me from getting my feet wet, thinking about all the beauty in the world, and planning to knit, quilt, or crochet a version of everything in sight!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Patriotic Quilt Top

I committed recently to finishing one quilting UFO a month (see the 52 Quilts website for more details), and while I was finishing my June jelly roll project, I pulled out some fat quarters that I won during last year's Central Coast Quilt Shop Tour.

I am determined to use up my stash!  So I cut up the fabric in June, creating another UFO.  As if I didn't have ten UFOs already!  But this one looked so easy!  I couldn't wait to start sewing.

The patriotic theme of the fabrics fits perfectly with July 4th, although I didn't finish the top until July 13.  Yes, some of the fabrics are more modern than the others.  Yes, some of the white is white-white, and some is cream.  Who cares?!

I followed a pattern by Gail Abeloe from Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove.  It's from a booklet called Top 10 Saturday Demo Patterns.

I added a couple of borders to make mine larger, since I had half the amount of fabric the original pattern called for.

I decided just the top counts as an FO, and even though it is still rather small, it would be a challenge to quilt it on my home machine, so I gave it to kindhearted Debbie to quilt for the Quilting Angels charity.

She has a longarm machine!  And she knows how slow a quilter I really am.

Fabric in, fabric out!  FIFO!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Free Pattern Link: Frankencowl, a.k.a. the Shoreline Moebius

Wrapped copiously, doesn't look bad

Some months ago in a land not far from here, I was given this very cool Moebius cowl pattern to make as a shop sample.  The free pattern is the Shoreline Moebius.  My copy was fresh from Skacel Knitting, the yarn was gorgeous Simplinatural by HiKoo, the pattern stitches were simple but nicely textural, and I was looking forward to it.

Now, this was not my first Moebius.  I have made several, but it was awhile ago, so I wanted to refresh my memory on how you cast on for this, because the Moebius cast-on is its own remarkable technique.

I went to the link provided by Skacel Knitting, where they say they have "detailed instructions" on the Moebius cast-on, and I watched the famous Cat Bordhi YouTube video where she demonstrates this cast-on in a perfectly clear and sane manner.

She tells you to count only the top cast-on, even though clearly you are getting stitches on the bottom cable as well, i.e., double the stitches.  The pattern I received said to cast on 400 stitches, so, following her directions to the letter, I counted to 400 and ended up with 800 stitches.

It seemed like a lot to me.  An awful lot.  Then again, the pattern called for a 60" circular needle.  So who am I to question the great Skacel?

I went on Ravelry, I googled a bit; I couldn't find more than one sample of the cowl, and nobody was complaining about the cast-on, or giving any extra info or errata, so I boldly began to knit, AS PER THE DIRECTIONS, I re-emphasize here.

The pattern says you can actually get two cowls out of the number of skeins and colors required.  It seemed like I was using an awful lot more yarn than that per color.  How odd.

But then again, when you look at the directions for the Moebius cast-on for the umpteenth time, and you look at the ones you followed with your original Moebius that you made years ago that turned out fine, and it says "cast on 80--and you will end up with 160," well, if you're me, you just keep on knitting.  Call me crazy.

No, really crazy.

I kept having a bad feeling about this, but when everything is bunched up on a circular needle in a Moebius, all twisting on itself, it's kinda hard to tell how big it's going to be.  One could do some math, but one would be confused and one would still not be able to figure it out.  ("One" was me, in case that wasn't clear.)

I finally started to cast off.  I was running out of yarn.  But then again, the pattern calls for an I-cord cast-off, which uses a lot more yarn than a regular cast-off, so who am I to say that this is a big mess and I got it wrong, and am I really going to rip everything out and start over?  Hardly.  Roxanne threw another skein of yarn at me for the casting off, and the cowl was slowly inching off the needles into its amazing enormous cowl-ness, like a great twisting shawl for a giant, or a slide at a water park, or a multi-colored jumprope for hobbits.

When it was finally off the needles, petite Michelle at the shop tried it on: it hung to her knees.  I should have snapped a picture but I was too upset.

I felt somewhat on the defensive.  I really thought I had followed the directions correctly, and to have it clearly be WAY too big was embarrassing.

I even asked a friend, "Have you ever made a Moebius?"
She said yes.
I said, "If you got a pattern that said to cast on 400 in the Moebius cast-on, how high would you count?"
She said, "400."
I said, "Thank you!"

Then someone else from the shop wanted to make one, and was asking how many to cast on.  Yes, she too wanted clarification of the cast on.  I was not alone, and now someone would benefit from my misery.

So I explained a bit about Moebii, and said, when it says to cast on 400, only count to 200, and she said, huh?  It turned out that by the time she got her copy of the pattern, the great Skacel had CORRECTED the TYPO, and the pattern now said to cast on 200.  Which meant you would end up with 400 cast on.

Much grumbling about people who don't edit their patterns and test them within an inch of their lives ensued from the peanut gallery.  (Me.  I am the peanut gallery.  In case you weren't sure.)  Are you hearing my frustration and annoyance?  Is it coming through the computer?  But of course, we all make mistakes, we are only human.

Now, I am no stranger to the knitted or crocheted Franken Object.  I have made a Frankenhat (which actually turned out fine), and a Frankenbear, which some child probably loved, and I usually can find a way to laugh at myself, but it has taken me quite a few months to get to where I can laugh about this cowl!

Finally I am able to reflect with equanimity.  The yarn was, and is, yummy, and now that it's CORRECT (emphasis mine), the pattern is fun!  So I can recommend grabbing those 60" circulars and giving it a whirl!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Baby Bolero

This utterly adorable newborn baby or doll sweater is another shop sample I made using one of my favorite new yarns, Simplinatural by HiKoo.  The pattern is from One Skein, 30 Quick Projects to Knit and Crochet by Leigh Radford.  Very fun to knit.

I didn't have an utterly adorable baby to pose wearing it, so was reduced to putting it on a stuffed…monkey, I think it is?

Note the cute bit of decoration in the back:

I only had to frog here and there because I was busy chatting with people and not completely paying attention to the perfectly clear directions!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Building (Quilt) Houses from Scraps

One of the most amazing quilts I've seen was at the Seven Sisters Quilt Show in San Luis Obispo recently.  I have been fascinated with Log Cabin patterns and house patterns for a long time, in part because I have moved so often.  Lots of ideas have been percolating in my brain about how I would do a quilt of many houses.  Then I saw this!

And read about it, above, and went to the Building Houses from Scraps website.

I don't know if I would make one myself, but it certainly gets the creative juices flowing!