Random Ravelings

Thoughts on knitting, yarn, writing, and life, as the mood strikes me.

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Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mitten and Glove

With the official start of my Olympic Knitting assignment (Flying Geese Gloves) less than two weeks away, I'm beginning to feel some urgency to get on with the swatching and finalize my yarn choice for the gloves.

The mittens

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to work on mitten #2. I finished the thumb gore today, and tried a slight variant on the cast-on for the stitches that fill the gap when the thumb stitches are taken off the needle. On the first mitten I cast on all of the stitches in the MC (main color, in this case, blue), starting the pattern when I knit across them on the next row. This time, I tried alternating the two colors in the cast on, in pattern. So far, so good. I'll see how it works when picking up stitches for the thumb later.

I'm also considering alternative decrease patterns for closing the hand. The pattern has you decrease at both ends of all three needles, every other row, or decrease six stitches every other row. This comes out a bit more pointy than I really liked. [I'll get some pictures of the finished mitten up eventually.] So, I'm thinking I probably need to decreas more often (more stitches per round) or more quickly (every round instead of every other round). Not sure yet which I'll try. If I get something I like on this mitten, I'll undo the end of the first mitten and knit it to match the second one.

Swatching for the gloves

I started the second attempt at a gauge swatch with the Tiur today. Doubled the number of stitches to 60, and dropped down one needle size to size 1. Definitely easier to work with and I feel like I'll be able to get a more accurate stitch count this way. Preliminary counts look like I've hit the recommended gauge (9 stitches per inch). I'll knit a few more pattern repeats and count again to be sure.

I'm also taking this opportunity to see for myself the effects of carrying each of the two different colors ahead (for me - in my left hand). The gloves use two different patterns, with different colors carried ahead: flying geese on the back of the hand (CC carried ahead) and salt and pepper on the palm (MC color carried ahead). The first couple of pattern reps in my test swatch I'm keeping the MC in my left hand (carried ahead), with the CC in my right. I'll swap them for a couple of repeats, and then do the patterns as recommended for a couple of repeats. After only one pattern repeat, I can already see that the salt and pepper pattern is showing up more clearly than the flying geese. Very interesting. I'm looking forward to finishing the experiment.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Like I Really Need Another Project

Yesterday I finally succumbed. I've been contemplating knitting a Doctor Who Scarf on and off for a while. I found patterns on-line, studied pictures, looked for yarn with colors that came reasonably close. Yesterday, I did it.

I bought some yarn. It was on sale. The colors aren't really that close a match, but I think they at least express the general idea. Especially after I got the yarn home, looked at a picture again and swapped two colors for yarn in my stash. I've opted for washable and virtually indestructible Red Heart acrylic. Not that I wouldn't use wool if I could find it, but this scarf is going to be at least fifteen feet long. It's going to get dragged on the ground. I'm not sure who will end up with it and would hate to see it shrunk into unrecognizable condition because someone threw it into a washing machine.

Since the pattern I'm using (16th season) lists the stripe pattern in numbers of rows, and I'm using worsted weight yarn while the pattern calls for sport or dk weight, I knit a gauge swatch. I then checked my row gauge, added up all of the rows in the listed pattern and got an estimated length for the finished scarf. Allowing for some stretch in the garter stitch, I figure it ought to be long enough.

Then I started knitting. 40 stitches wide. Garter stitch. The only thing to keep it interesting is counting garter ridges (multiply by two to get the number of rows) so I can keep up with the color changes. I found it rather medititative. I enter this project with the knowledge that it is a long-term project. I don't expect to finish it soon. By some time next fall would be nice, but isn't essential. It's something I want to see if I can do. I'm already contemplating the idea of doing another one in wool. (What am I thinking? Not one, but two fifteen + foot scarves? Not this year, that's for sure.)

Because the colors I'm using don't actually match that closely and I'm using heavier yarn, I'm thinking of calling this a "Dr What" scarf, or maybe a "Dr Hoo" scarf. Any other ideas?

Here's where I found the pattern I'm using. Lots of other information and photos here as well.

Year of the Mitten

Some progress on the second "Snowflake" mitten (aka Salt and Pepper done in blue and white) - still working on the thumb gore. My gauge seems to have tightened up a bit compared to the first mitten at this point. I was spot on with 6 1/2 stitches per inch on the first mitten; now I'm getting more like 7. I went back and checked other parts of the first mitten, and the hand above the thumb gore is also about 7 stitches per inch. The mitten fits okay, so I'm not worried. It is something I'll have to watch in making mittens for other people though.

Which I'm planning to do. I like to make hand-knit gifts for Christmas gifts for family and close friends, and have done so for several years. Last year was the Year of the Scarf (and at a couple of shawls). This year is the Year of the Mitten (or Glove or Fingerless Glove). Inspired by Robin Hansen's "Favorite Mittens", which I bought last fall, and wanting a theme for this year's Christmas knitting so I could get started early enough to hope to finish in time, I decided on mittens for all, or variants on that theme.

Now, double-knit wool mittens are a good choice for family that live in New Hampshire, where they actually get winter, but I'm not so sure about Arizona, or Florida. While I've already started to choose color combinations and buy yarn for everyone on the list, I'm having second (and third) thoughts on the appropriateness of mittens for some of my family. I figure fingerless gloves (aka wristers) ought to be a workable alternative for warmer climates, where it still gets chilly in the winter, at least occasionally. I hope I'm not indulging in wishful thinking here. I probably ought to at least do a little research on average winter temperatures in Arizona before I get too far into this project.

Since some of the gift recipients might end up reading this blog, I'm not going to go into details of who is getting what right now. It would be nice if at least some aspect of the gift remained a surprise.

The mittens I'm currently working on are a first project for the basic techniques involved, a chance for me to become more familiar with the two handed approach to the knitting that I've chosen (one color in each hand), and also serves as a warm up for my Olympic Knitting project -- the more complex Wild Geese Gloves, in the same technique.

I made a first run at a gauge swatch in the yarn I'm tentatively using for the Gloves (Tiur, by Dale, a mohair and wool blend). The instructions suggested knitting a small tube for this purpose. I tried a 30 stitch tube, in pattern, but decided it was just too narrow a diameter to be useful, so I frogged it and will try again with more stitches, or another technique, but still circular. Preliminary stitch counts though, suggest I may want to try a smaller needle size.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dog Eats String

My dog eats yarn. Also string and other string-like materials. This includes rugs. I came home from work yesterday to discover that Jazzy had eaten about half of the fringes off an area rug in the living room. And thrown up most of it again back on the floor.

The photo shows Jazzy and the rug in question a few days before the fringe-eating incident. Does she look guilty here? Any signs of incipient fringe interest?

The whole saga actually began several years ago. It was late autumn. I was knitting hats for Christmas presents for my brother's family. I left a partial skein of white Lion Brand Chunky USA (100% acrylic) from that project on an end table by my favorite knitting chair while I was at work. I didn't notice anything different about the yarn, but Jazzy was unusually subdued that evening. I didn't think much of it.

Then, that night, at around 3am. I wake up to the sound of a dog retching. If you have a dog, you know what I'm talking about. I'm a light sleeper, so I was out of bed within seconds, got Jazzy into the bathroom (linoleum floor rather than carpet) and she did what she had to do. It took me a while to figure out what she'd been eating. (I'll spare you the details of this part.) Eventually, I realized that she had been eating yarn. White yarn. I then scouted through the house to figure out where she'd gotten it and found the partial skein of Chunky USA in the living room. When I picked up the skein, it did feel suspiciously lighter than the last time I'd handled it. I'm still not sure why she went after the yarn. And it was acrylic! Wool might at least have had a chance of being digested. After that, I started being careful to keep the yarn put away, or at least out of reach.

That's where the rugs come in.

Having been deprived of yarn for her string obsession. Jazzy took an unusual interest in a throw rug I bought in December of 2004. It was one of those with continuous loopy pile and rubberized back. I figured she couldn't do much do it. I was wrong.

She gave me fair warning. A couple of times I found her chewing on the rug, pulling at the strings in it, occasionally even pulling one out and getting a length of thread several feet long. I was always there to stop her and trim off the offending strings. Until one Friday last spring. I came home from work and discovered a large chunk of the rug was now missing and the rug had a definite chewed look to it. Since there was no one else in the house, I had to conclude that Jazzy had eaten it.

I called my Vet and consulted with the vet tech about whether I should bring Jazzy in or not. I was advised to wait and see what happened. So, I waited. The next morning, while I was showering, Jazzy regurgitated the missing part of the rug onto the living carpet. (Again, I'll not go into detail here.)

Fast forward to this past summer. I found a really good deal on an imported silk rug while visiting my mother in Florida (pictured above). I was concerned about the fringe, but figured I could trim it off if Jazzy showed any interest. She pretty much ignored the rug, other than sitting on it, for several months. No particular interest in the fringe that I noticed. Until yesterday. And then, half the fringe is gone. When she does something, she goes all out.

What will be next? Who knows. I'm careful to keep yarn out of her reach, at least when I'm not around to supervise. So, yes, I can set down a work in progress and leave the room. No, I can't leave the same work within Jazzy's reach if I'm out of the house. I can't store yarn where she can reach it. I'm keeping a mental list of rug and carpet materials that are reasonably Jazzy-safe and which are not. The large braided rug in the living room is reasonably safe -- though she occasionally tries to chew on loose threads, she's not managed to get any significant quantity of fiber loose there.

Oh yeah, she also eats grass.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Keeping Busy

I finished the first "Salt and Pepper" mitten on Monday evening. The top of the hand came out a bit "pointy" for my taste, following the directions as written. I'll probably look into alternative decrease patterns to see if I can find a mitten top I like better.

Hoping to avoid Second Mitten Syndrome, I immediately cast on for the second mitten. I worked on it a little for the last few days. Today, I finally started the stranded portion of the hand and had gotten three or four rounds into it before realizing I'd forgotten to change to the larger size needles at the end of the ribbing. Sigh. Pulled out the needles and ripped back to the top of the ribbing. Put the needles back in. Oops, those were the same needles. Move the stitches to the larger needles. Knit one round before lunch ends.

Yesterday, I got to knit in my dentist's office, in the chair, while waiting for the local anesthesia to take effect and my jaw to get numb enough so the dentist could drill off an old bridge and do the prep for the replacement. Since I was knitting socks on size 0 needles, I volunarily put down the knitting before the drilling started. I didn't want to be holding sharp, pointed objects while the dentist was drilling; I didn't think the dentist or assistant would appreciate being skewered if they hit a nerve.

The drilling wasn't too bad, this time, but they took a bunch of impressions. Okay, it was just three, but it felt like more. And of course each one had to set up for awhile, so after I'd been there two hours (really), and the last one was a whole mouth impression, I was pretty much over it. Just wanted to get the temporary in and go home. I go back in three weeks to get the permanent bridge put in.

Last night, I experimented with winding a center pull ball, using a make shift nostepinne (I think that's how it's spelled). I don't own a swift, so I draped the skein on an inkle loom (works pretty well), and used a plastic, size 35 straight knitting needle to wind the ball on. For a first attempt, I was pretty pleased with the technique. It's not speedy, sort of meditative almost. The real test will be how the yarn knits out of the ball.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

In Training

Taking my self-chosen Olympic challenge reasonably seriously, I started "training" this week.

Tuesday: Read the pattern for "Flying Geese Gloves" (in Favorite Mittens, by Robin Hansen, published by Downeast Books). Go back to the beginning of the book and read the General Instructions so the pattern makes sense. Read the pattern again. There may be a typo there that I'll try to track down before starting these.

Wednesday: Decide to knit a stranded mitten as a training project (and likely Christmas gift). Cast on 45 stitches for a child-sized "Salt and Pepper Mitten" (same book) in Lamb's Pride worsted weight yarn (blue and white), using needles one size smaller than suggested by the pattern (I usually have to drop one or two needle sizes to make gauge). Gleefully start in on the ribbed cuff, in K1P1 ribbing and then wonder why the pattern had me cast on an odd number of stitches. Had already decreased one stitch to "fix" this when I looked at the pattern again and saw that the ribbing was actually "K2P1". Oh. Frog that attempt. Cast on again. Knit a couple of rounds of ribbing before bed.

Thursday: Continue on the child's mitten. Start the stranded pattern, with one color in each hand. This works well (first time I've tried to do this). Okay, I did spend some time last year practicing carrying the yarn in my right hand (I usually knit with the yarn in the left hand). But the gauge seems kind of tight.

Friday: Knit some more. Get enough knit to actually check the gauge. Yep, it's way too tight. Pattern calls for 6 1/2 stitches per inch (in pattern). I'm getting 7-8 stitches per inch.

Friday evening: Frog the first mitten. Start over using the recommended needle sizes, and in an adult size.

Saturday: Knit a lot on the mitten. Decide to add a couple of stripes to the solid colored ribbed cuff. Get most of the hand knitted, just starting the decreases to close the hand.

Here's the partially finished mitten. The lumpy looking spot in the middle with the strings hanging from it is the thumb gore with the held stitches on a piece of narrow ribbon.

Saturday, I also bought yarn. For the gloves (probably). And for some other mittens. I'll need to swatch for the gloves prior to February 10th. Not sure if the second mitten of this pair will get finished now, or after the Olympics. Is there such a thing as second mitten syndrome?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Olympic Glory - Maybe

I've taken the plunge and signed up for the Yarn Harlot's 2006 Knitting Olympics. The challenge being to start and finish one knitted item, knitter's choice, between the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics and the closing ceremonies, that's 16 days. The chosen project should be a challenge appropriate to the knitter's ability.

I've chosen something that should be manageable, but still challenging. The Flying Geese Gloves, from Robin Hansen's Favorite Mittens. This is two-color knitting, something I've yet to actually tackle yet, as well as being gloves (with fingers), another first for me. Now, I just have to find some appropriate yarn.

A Beginning

I've decided to take the plunge with a blog about my knitting (and other stuff), coming out the shadows of lurkdom as it were, to hover on the fringes of the knitting blogosphere.

Having learned to knit (and crochet) years ago, knit through college and beyond, I'm thoroughly enjoying the resurgence of interest in knitting and the availability of interesting and luscious yarns. It makes the long years of tough, hard-wearing acrylic almost worth it. I still have (and wear) a sweater I knit more than fifteen years ago out of good old Red Heart acrylic. No, I haven't worn it continuously through that time. It languished in the back of the closet for most of those years, being too small to accomodate my ample girth, greatly diminished since then.

About twelve years ago, after completing a baby blanket for my brother's first child, I had to stop knitting for a while because of severe wrist problems, which the knitting aggravated. Not being able to give up textile arts altogether, I entered my counted cross-stitch phase. I enjoyed the process, but found myself subtly dissatisfied because of the lack of creative input I had into the designs.

A few years later, after some improvement in the wrist problem, I gingerly tried crochet, and after a couple of afghans and the encouraging example of a knitting co-worker, I took up the knitting needles again. And haven't looked back again.

I'm hooked on hand-knit socks, and rarely wear anything else now, though it took a couple of years to knit up enough socks to be able to do that. I wear them year round and find them very comfortable. Even in summer. It's great to be able to go tromping in the park with my dog, Jazzy, getting my feet thoroughly soaked in the wet grass, and because of the wool socks, my feet weren't the least bit cold! Wool socks are also great in the air-conditioned building where I work. An the other hand, I get cold a lot, and wear long underwear, multiple layers and sometimes even a hat inside in the winter. In Tennessee.