Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Pattern: Trinity Fingerless Gloves Unleashed!



A friend wanted some fingerless gloves, specifically for playing the ukelele outdoors.  She is a ukelele enthusiast, and she designed and manufactures the fabulous UkeLeash, which I've heard is the best ukelele strap around.  Check out her website and watch her video for a demonstration.

Learning to play the ukelele sounds like fun, but I'm so inundated with fiber projects, the uke will have to wait, alas.

The caveat for making the gloves, however, was that she is allergic to anything woolly, alpaca-y, even baby llama-y.  So cotton was the fiber of choice in this case, especially since I still have oodles of Tahki Cotton Classic in my stash.




I experimented with my own design, and the Trinity pattern, now available, is actually the second one I did.  (I'll be posting about the first in due course.)  I call it "Trinity" because I used three colors, and because the stitch pattern calls for some simple increases and decreases in threes.

You aren't limited to cotton; you certainly could use another yarn for this pattern if you prefer.  I suggest a DK weight or light worsted.


The pattern is not complicated, and it's a great way to use up leftover scraps of yarn.  So dig into your stash and have fun!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Brandon Mably Persian Poppies Knitting Workshop

Yesterday, thanks to Roxanne, I got to sit in on a color knitting workshop with Brandon Mably, friend and colleague of Kaffe Fassett.

We all brought yarns from home, each student received four more little balls of the Rowan Pure Wool Worsted Weight superwash--it's a lot like Plymouth Galway or Naturespun worsted in general cushiness, and is nicer to work with than Cascade 220 in my view.

Everyone tumbled their yarns out onto the floor to share.


I don't think we have enough yarn, do you?

With a little coaching as to which colors were likely to work best together, Brandon encouraged us to grab a yard of one color here and another color there, tie them together (in unseemly knots) and just start knitting away according to the Persian Poppies chart.  To be more precise, we each chose 6 different light colors for one ball of yarn, and 6 different dark colors for another.  One ball makes the background, and the other is for the poppies themselves.

We had to vow: no whining (thank heaven for that one) and no frogging.  You make a mistake, you learn from it, and no harm done.  Love that attitude.


It's fun to see how the colors work together (or not, as the case may be) and the somewhat random nature means lots of surprises as you knit, usually serendipitous surprises, I'm happy to say.

It's also fun to see how many different color combinations people come up with, and how good most of them look.

Lousy lighting for this pic, sorry, but in some ways, the blur helps show the colors off.




Here's my swatch:  the bottom section I did in the morning, and after we broke for lunch, I decided to experiment some more for the top section.  It kind of looks like a multi-colored owl….



I've done Fair Isle before, and I like to hold one yarn strand in my left hand for Continental knitting, and one strand in the right hand to "throw."  This keeps the yarn balls from getting tangled as much as they do when trying to "pick" from both strands held in the same hand.  I usually catch the yarn I'm not using every third stitch or so, but Brandon was having us do it every other stitch, and the back really looks better that way.

After we experimented with the knotted strands for awhile, Brandon revealed that when he does this, he doesn't knot them together first, he just starts knitting and then grabs the next color when he's ready. That's definitely the way I would go if I do this again, since catching all those knotted ends causes major posterior clumping (and none of us needs that!) and annoying extra tails flopping about and getting in the way.  (And none of us needs that either!)

Brandon is entertaining and encouraging, the soundtrack he brought was good (flashbacks to the past, Beatles included, singing along irresistible), the lunch provided was yummy, and I got out of the workshop in time to wander through the Farmers Market and get some grapes and persimmons.  All in all, a good day!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Just How Hot Was It?!



Mom came to visit last week--alas, she's gone again--and I warned her to bring t-shirts, because it was going to be Hot.  Very Hot.  And I do not have air conditioning.

Just how hot was it?  High 80s to low-to-mid 90s, for the most part.  We actually did quite well with closing all windows and drapes in the morning, and hunkering down with a jigsaw puzzle in front of the fan.  Because it was also Very Dry.  Humidity was so low, I had a sore throat.  Or was that from talking and talking and talking?  We have lots to talk about!

We drank iced coffee, ate lots of salads (no turning on that oven to cook, no way!) and at night, it cooled off, thank heaven.

We ventured out for some exercise as early in the mornings as I could drag myself out of bed.

Here's how some of the other critters were handling the heat:


Notice the thin line of shadow across the drying grass in the center of this photo.  That thin line is the shrunken shadow of a palm tree.

What are those lumps in its shadow?


Closer inspection reveals: ducks.

Talk about getting your ducks in a row!



"Hey, is there room for one more?"







































The pond water must've been pretty hot.  Hope the turtles were finding cooler water under the lotuses (loti).  Or are they waterlilies?




"Hey, got room for one more?"
After Mom left, it finally cooled off enough to hand sew the binding onto that charity quilt I have been working on, off and on, for many moons.  I love the quilt and will reveal it in all its glory soon!








Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Yarn Stab from the Past

One of my crochet students brought in this huge blanket, a family heirloom.  With her permission, I have pictures for you.





She wasn't sure how old it was, but we all gathered around and tried to determine whether it was acrylic or wool or what, and therefore, when the yarn would have been manufactured, so we could get a better idea of when the blanket was made.

It seemed to be a combination of types of fibers, in the spirit of thriftily using up scraps.



Some of those bright colors and variegated yarns sure do look like good old Red Heart.  I just checked the Red Heart website, and they say they have been making their yarn for 75 years.




It's a simple but effective shell pattern, with a fancier border of arches tacked together with a tiny bit of thread so they would hang together.  Not sure I would want to bother with the thread myself, but it was interesting to see.

My favorite color combo is the Southwesterny one of turquoise and earth tones.

Time and use and maybe a moth or two have created a couple of holes in the blanket, and a couple of strands of yarn were poking out.

One woman was eager to try a burn test to figure out the fiber content, but a chorus of students and myself hastily nixed that idea, to the relief of the owner!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Taming the Wild Long-Tail Cast-On

Doesn't the "long-tail" sound like some kind of critter?

The long-eared rabbit.



The snub-nosed monkey.



The long-tailed brush lizard or the long-tailed shrew.

One definition of shrew is, according to my dictionary, "any of several small, mouse-like, insect-eating mammals…having a long, sharp snout and small, poorly developed eyes."  So it's not just a bad-tempered woman!

I can certainly relate to the poor eyesight (she said, squinting at the computer screen, raising and lowering her head to try to see clearly through her new glasses without straining her neck.  That's enough to make anyone a bit bad-tempered.)

But I have digressed.

Taming the long-tail shrew--I mean, the long-tail cast-on--is the topic.

Beginning knitters, a.k.a. "beknitters," often ask the infamous question that evokes fear and loathing in the most courageous of crafters, "How long a tail do I need?"

"Depends on which tree branch you want to swing on," is the obvious answer.

Seriously, folks, there are a number of ways around this dilemma (see below.  Way below.)  But sometimes, you just want to use the long-tail.  It's attractive, it's stable, and it's fun because you are doing this cat's cradle kind of thing that magically causes loops to appear on your needle.  It brings out the inner kid.

When I'm teaching beginners, I prefer to teach them the long-tail cast-on.  Unless they are really having trouble with it, I think a little extra time and persistence is worth it in the long run.  It's a good cast-on skill to have in your repertoire.

But that question, "How long a tail do I need?" comes up constantly, usually evoking rolling of eyes heavenward from all the other knitters at the table, as we chime in with various ways to wing it, because no one is 100% certain.

BUT NOW THERE IS HOPE FOR THE ENDANGERED LONG-TAIL!  ALERT THE MEDIA!
I recently read a tip in a knitting-related newsletter written many moons ago, a newsletter which I had stuck in a knitting folder labeled "Miscellaneous" and promptly forgotten.

This tip said that the length of yarn needed for the long-tail cast-on can be determined using the following formula.  For every 10 stitches, figure:

8 inches of yarn for DK weight.
12 inches of yarn for worsted weight.
15 to 16 inches for bulky/chunky.
18 inches for super bulky.

Oh, it sounded so enticing and reasonable!

"Eureka!" I said to myself, doing an inner dance on an imaginary tabletop.  Problem solved!

But then I did a little math.  My inner dance turned to a funereal mental march.

Say I wanted to knit a modest-sized baby blanket out of worsted weight yarn and I needed to cast on, say, 150 stitches.  Using the formula above, that would mean I would need 15 feet of tail?  5 yards?! Sounded fishy.  Long-tailed fishy.  Long-tailed, googly-eyed, bewhiskered catfishy.

So I pulled out various scrap yarns from the ol' stash, and a bunch of needles, and experimented.  All for you, dear reader.

Actually, for all of us.  Because wouldn't we all like to know a way to calculate this?  Not to be casting on 150 stitches and run out of tail at 147?  Whence cursing ensues?

Or not to have way more tail than any self-respecting shrew would need, regardless of tree branch selection, as noted above?  After all, "waste not, want not," as my mother always used to say and occasionally still does.  (Hi, Mom!)

So here's some chunky weight yarn, starting with 15 inches as suggested, with 10 sts cast on, using an appropriate sized needle.

An acceptable tail on the left there, wouldn't you say?





The next pic shows a cast-on of 20 sts, starting with 30 inches of yarn as the formula suggests.  Note the increased length of tail!




Uh-oh!  Imagine casting on many multiples of 10 stitches using 15 inches for each 10.  That there is gonna be one mighty long tail, gosh darn it.








But I did measure my previous acceptable tail length, and got 8 inches with my chunky yarn.  I subtracted 8 inches from the original 15 inches and got 7 inches (and you will too, if you do the math!)

That meant I really only needed 7 inches of yarn for each multiple of 10 cast-on stitches.

So if I want to cast on 20 stitches, that's 7 inches plus 7 inches plus 8 inches for the tail.  That's 22 inches, not 30 as the original formula suggests.



Behold the result:
20 stitches, acceptable tail.

Hallelujah!










You can figure this out any time you want to do a long-tail cast-on.  Whatever your yarn weight, whatever size needle you have.

You have to do some math.

Don't panic.  Don't forget to breathe.

I know a lot of people (hate to say it, but mostly women;  my apologies to the female math geniuses out there) who get instant brain freeze the second they hear the word "math."  They just assume it will be hard, so their brain gives up before they even try.

Trust me, most of you can do this!!!  You can even use a piece of paper and pencil, or a calculator--it isn't cheating!  And there will not be a pop quiz!

THE NEW IMPROVED LONG-TAIL CAST-ON FORMULA
I suggest using the original formula to cast on 10 stitches only.  To repeat, that's:

8 inches of yarn for DK weight.
12 inches of yarn for worsted weight.
15 to 16 inches for bulky/chunky.
18 inches for super bulky.

1.  After you cast on 10 stitches, if you're happy with your tail length, measure it!

(You know that song:  If you're happy with your tail, clap your hands, if you're happy with your tail, clap your hands….)

2.  Subtract that tail length from the original length you started with.
3.  The remainder is roughly what you need for every 10 stitches.
4.  Divide your ultimate stitch goal by 10.
5.  Multiply that number by the remainder number.
6.  Add the tail length, and that's how much yarn you need to start.

Here's an example:

Say I need to cast on 150 stitches with chunky yarn for a blanket.

1.  Using the original formula to cast on 10 stitches:  I start with 15 inches of yarn, and my tail is 8 inches.

2.  Subtract that tail length from the original length you started with:  15 minus 8 = 7 inches.  This is the remainder number.

3.  Divide your ultimate stitch goal by 10:  150 stitches divided by 10 is 15.

4.  Multiply that number by the remainder number:  15 x 7 inches = 105 inches.

5.  Add the tail length:  105 + 8 = 113.

So I need 113 inches to cast on 150 stitches.

Suppose I want to figure out how many yards that is.

I divide 113 by 36.  Here's where I succumb to grabbing a calculator.  It comes to 3.138, so I need a little over 3 yards, not 5 as the original formula suggests.  You could round up that 3.138 to 3.25 or 3.5.  You'll have plenty of yarn, and your tail won't be long enough to lasso the moon.

I tried this whole procedure with 12 inches of worsted weight yarn and a #7 needle.  Note the nice tail length in the first pic, with 10 stitches.


Next we have a slightly longer tail with 20 sts, using 24 inches of yarn according to the original formula.



But, just to be prepared, I measured the acceptable length of tail from the first pic.  It was 5.25 inches.

The original 12 inches minus 5.25 inches gives me 6.75 inches, the "remainder number."  That's how much I need for 10 actual cast-on stitches with this weight yarn and this size needles.

With my new, improved formula, even with 30 stitches cast on, I still had the perfect tail length!

"Eureka!" I say yet again, and this time I am still dancing!


Let's try it with DK weight yarn, shall we?

Yes, let's!




Here are 10 sts on an appropriate sized needle:
Peachy.
Here are 20:
Not bad, but not quite as peachy.





Next we have 30 stitches using the original formula above, and that tail is getting longer!  Imagine once again if you were casting on enough for a blanket!  You'd have a tail long enough to swing from vine to vine in a rain forest.






How about casting on 30 stitches with my revised formula?  Behold!  The perfect tail.


Now that I have led you, dear reader, through that mathematical song and dance, here are some other options.

How to Avoid the Dreaded Long-Tail Math:

Option 1:  Use the yarn ends from two balls of yarn, or the inside and outside ends of a single ball of yarn.  Tie the two ends together in a knot, then create a slip-knot and do the long-tail using both strands.  When you're done casting on, cut one strand, leaving a modest tail to weave in later, and proceed to knit with the other strand.

Option 2:  Cast on using the easy, stretchy (yet in my opinion, often loose and annoying) thumb cast-on.

Option 3:  Cast on using the stretchy yet firm and attractive crochet cast-on!  (You can tell by my exclamation point that I really like this cast-on!  But I am a crocheter and I don't find it difficult.  If you're new to crocheting, this cast-on could be excruciating.  My apologies to Lorrie.  You know!)

Option 4:  Use the cable cast-on.

Option 5:  Use the knitted cast-on.

In case you're not familiar with some of these cast-ons, all are eminently google-able.  Googlable?  All are worth learning.  They all have their uses.  But sometimes, you just want to play cat's cradle like a long-tailed shrew.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Where Have All the Projects Gone?

The reason I haven't blogged in a while is that I have been busy designing this, that, and the other.





Two crochet projects being submitted to Storey Publishing for one of their upcoming 101 One Skein series books:

the whimsical Zucchini Cocoon (with matching hat)

and below, a lace "cloud" of a blanket.

Wish me luck--I hope they make it into the book!








Submitting patterns to others, however, means a looming, brooding cloud of dreaded deadlines.  I kept trying to substitute the word "lifeline" in my mind, or "submission date" or "reception date," but I just couldn't fool myself.  It still felt like a deadline.  Cue the high blood pressure.

So I didn't let myself blog.  I hardly ever let myself spin, or quilt--I didn't finish my one UFO quilt a month "deadline" either!  Yikes!  It began to feel like a burden instead of a joy, so I told myself, "You don't have to finish the quilt.  Just finish the crochet patterns and get them out the door."

As of this morning, the pattern has been e-mailed, the "cloud" itself is off to Massachusetts by snail mail, and I have promised to reward myself with blogging and quilting and spinning like a wild woman, all the live-long day!

Just wanted to drop a blogline first.



And before I go, here's a sneak peak at one version of a new blanket pattern I'm developing.  This is just the center; the border really makes it pop.

All will be revealed in due course, as will the new patterns!

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.