Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Soft and Brown and Bulky

Originally uploaded by sunasak
Here are the nicer photos of the Wrenna cardigan I finished on Tuesday. You can see the pattern a bit better in these photos, but I have always found it hard to photograph dark lace. There’s a black sweater in the French Girl Knits book that I wish had been done up in a lighter color just so I could see the patterning a bit better, so it’s not just my poor lighting situation (we really need to get the separate flash for the good camera—that will fix things).

I’m still deciding exactly what I want to do for closures on Wrenna. I almost bought another agate button at the LYS, but hesitated. I am now thinking of doing three large-ish buttons fastened by loops on the edge of the front. I think it wants to close up a bit more, and that more buttons might give it a different look from others I’ve done recently.

I’ve been faithfully knitting along on the back of the Bridget cardigan. It looks tiny to me at the moment, but when I look at the Land’s End cardigan I’m wearing right now, I realize it’s pretty much the same size. I made it to the armholes last night, so it won’t be long until I to the fronts, which I am pretty sure I’ll do at the same time to ensure they are mirror images. Come to think of it, I should also do the sleeves at the same time. The yarn on this cardigan is really the star—such subtle grays and browns flowing around, but not distracting. I do like the pattern, though, which is in the Fall 2008 Wild Fibers magazine. It is a simple, pieced pattern done well, with subtle waist shaping and nice short-row shoulder shaping and other touches that will make it look good when finished, I think. Right now it’s hard to tell how it looks, since it’s all stockinette-like and folding in on itself at every opportunity!

I keep looking at other patterns and thinking about making them, but nothing, even that incredibly cute Montera cardigan on the Knitty Surprise, tempts me more than the thought of knitting up some of that yarn in my stash and those patterns I already have picked out. Two ideas are fighting it out in my mind as candidates for the next project (of course, after finishing a WIP). I am deciding between making Sara (Ravelry link), a little cabled top, in pink Rialto wool that I bought the yarn for last year or maybe earlier, and the temptation of making the Raglan Rust (Ravelry link) pattern in the Knitter’s Winter 2008 issue that I liked so much using the very special Brooks Farm Duet DK weight yarn I got at Kid-n-Ewe rather than doubled sock yarn. I don’t have any sock yarn that I have two 400-yard skeins of, so I can’t make it in the right yarn until I finish up knitting with stuff I have. Well, it’s decisions like these that keep the mind occupied during lots of rows of stockinette at a small gauge!

Thanks for all the nice comments about Dawn. I know she appreciated them, too. For Wednesday Wonders, I’ll probably alternate among people no one knows but were important to me in my knitting past, “famous” knitters whom I admire, and people in my life now. But, I’d love suggestions and nominations, too!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #4: Dawn Ortega

First, yes, I finished something else already. I feel like FO Queen when I do that, but since this was done on size 17 needles, I feel like I cheated. I took this photo of Wrenna in my office using the phone, so I had to lighten it up a lot. But you get the idea. It's a brown short-sleeved cardi, in the shape I like so much (Lee hints that I have perhaps too many items in this shape). The yarn, Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande, is incredibly, practically indescribably soft. I saw a wrap calling for it in the new Vogue Knitting, and wow,that would be one soft (expensive) item. Anyway, I haven't decided for sure what closure to use on this. The pattern calls for leather lacing, and I guess I COULD make something with some of the Berocco Suede yarn I have way too much of. Or I could get another of the wonderful Sculpey/Fimo buttons at the LYS. Or I could keep using a pin. Decisions.

So, before getting to my Wednesday Wonder, let me encourage you to go buy the wonderful French Girl Knits book and make something in it. And let me beg you to get NICE size 17 needles if you are making a project that will take a while. The inexpensive ones I used would NOT uncurl and were a royal pain to deal with. For sure the next item I make from that book will be one of the ones on slightly smaller needles, though I do note that the author is very fond of using larger needles than normal for a particular yarn. I guess she likes "airy" things, and there's nothing wrong with that. Especially here in Texas!

Dawn Is a Wonder

So, who is Dawn Ortega (I'll put her whole name in once I get permission), and why is she a Wednesday Wonder? No, she's not a famous knitting icon, and no, she didn't teach me any particular knitting skill. She's a knitting friend, and by friend, I mean a person who is kind, caring and giving to everyone she encounters. In this photo she's helping Wiebke at our yarn dyeing party.

I've been enjoying watching Dawn's knitting skills grow. She sometimes hesitates to try new things, but once she gets an idea in her head, she keeps going. A case in point is her green sweater. She had never made a sweater, and the really interesting pattern made of garter-stitch strips that she chose didn't quite go up to her size. Plus the only color there was enough of was green, and she's a BLUE person! But she swatched. She tinkered with the pattern. She believed her friends when they said green matched her eyes. She knitted. And she persevered. It came out at a weird length. She figured out a way to make it longer that actually improved on the look of the sweater. She put the sweater on, and it was amazing. It looked so good. Even better was the look on her face when she realized she had DONE it!

This kind of payoff is what keeps me going folks! When a knitter takes it on faith that she can do something she never did before, and it works--that's a wonder. It took a village to help her, but the village was willing. It's the great thing about knitting communities!

What caused me to think about Dawn was something she posted in an email yesterday. These are her own words:
I am on a continuing adventure called Knitting. Everything I thought was hard and scary is really easy and interesting. This is like being a kid at an amusement park. First you ride the baby rides that go in a circle and the you adventure to the kid area where you climb ropes and fall in ball bins eventually we all will end up on the scary roller coaster and find that we love it and have to do it again and again.
Does this describe your knitting adventure? It certainly rings true for me, and I see it going on around me regularly. I love teaching a new technique that lets a knitter step past a previous boundary, or encouraging a friend to give a new yarn a try, or being there when someone struggles through that first sock. And the adventure doesn't end; there's always something new to try.

To be honest, there are so many reasons Dawn is a wonder. Just in knitting reasons alone, I could go on and on. She knits baby afghan squares and items for the poor. She always makes a little mini sock ornament out of yarn leftovers as a souvenier--what a great gift. She brings gifts for all her friends' birthdays, many made by hand. And as a person, she is always there to listen, and never there to judge. So, she may not be famous, but she's treasured by all who know her, and I hear her sweet, small voice in my head when I read her words. A quiet, tenacious and kind human. Of course she's a wonder!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Threw My Sweater in the Wash

Thanks to all of you who commented and gave suggestions yesterday. It was really helpful! As you can see from these rather dim photos (imagine: I adjusted the brightness on these, so they were really dark at first! must get better flash on new camera) I am now wearing the Damned Orange Sweater.

What I did was put it in the washing machine and wash on warm with warm rinse, and on gentle setting. Since we now have a front-loader, that means not much agitation at all. Just a wee bit. When it came out, it smelled good, but didn't look much smaller, so I bravely threw it in the dryer and let it go for a while. The dryer decided it was dry and stopped long before it was actually dry, but that's fine. It did look a bit smaller, so I took it upstairs and just laid it flat on my drying rack.

This morning, I put it on (with lacy cute thing under it so I'd itch less), and yay, my fingers DID emerge from the ends of the sleeves, and the shoulder seams were where the seams were on the lady in the very dim picture on the pattern. I think it will do. It is just right in the arms--hugs them gently. The width is still a bit much for my taste, so it accentuates my...girth, yeah, that's the word. But it will do.

I think it looks just fine from the back. It's even attractive, perhaps! I can tell that the yarn fulled just a tad, but I didn't lose much stitch definition. The cables show up just fine, as you can see. I probably could have put it on "regular" wash and it would have gotten a little smaller, but I was afraid of over-doing it, because it's no fun trying to un-full a sweater.

You may ask yourself, "Hey, how come Suna didn't measure to be sure the sweater wasn't going to be too big?" Well, she DID. The gauge was right, and I thought I had blocked it to the right size, but my only guess is that I should have made it the smaller size. I keep thinking I am larger than I actually am. The thing was supposed to have a 40" chest, and I think I am more of a person who would wear a 36-38" chest in finished dimensions. I simply made it a size too big. But I fixed it sufficiently that I will wear it, though maybe as was suggested in yesterday's comments, as a slouching around the house sweater. Um, I mean lounging. I honestly don't slouch around THAT much.

For sure, it's cold enough today (and will be tomorrow) to wear a very warm alpaca sweater! So, hooray, I finished it in time to get some use out of it!

Moving on, I did quite a bit more on Wrenna last night, and it's possible it will be finished tonight--for sure tomorrow. I DID try it on, and I think it will be fine. I am making a mix of more than one size, due to using such different yarn from the one called for in the pattern, but it seems to be coming out coordinated enough. There were many knitting challenges last night--I had a bad headache, the phone kept ringing and that darned family kept asking for help. The nerve. But I still did quite a bit!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Orange Disappointment

I am glad I got to do all that good knitting on Bridget and Wrenna, because they are positive things that encourage me. But I am pretty discouraged today.

The results of blocking the Damned Orange Sweater and sewing it together did not result in the triumphant sense of completion and fashion happiness I’d anticipated. First, it took forever to sew all the seams. And even my nicest mattress stitch did not prevent a couple of little bulges in the sleeves (I will say the side and shoulder seams mostly look good). When I held it up, though, I thought, ya know, this looks bigger than it did when it was in parts.

Then I put it on. Oh, the immensity of the let-down was…immense. The danged sweater is huge. Did I make the wrong size? I thought I had blocked it to the measurements of the size I made! The shoulders hang at least an inch off, which makes the already-lengthy bell sleeves so long that you can’t see my hands. It looks like I’m a little kid putting on Mom’s sweater or something.

A year of knitting complex cables in really decadent yarn, and I get a giant orange sack. Pout.

I need to figure out what to do here. I have some options, and would welcome input as to what you think would be best.

1. I could undo the sweater near the cuff and take out a couple of inches, knit an increase row to get to the number of stitches on the needles where I stopped unraveling, and graft the thing back together. That would take care of sleeve length.

2. I could wash it again and re-block it, smaller. I am not sure how much smaller it would get, but it would not hurt the yarn at all to do that. And re-blocking would make the shoulder seams look better, guaranteed.

3. I could wash it on delicate in warm water and see if it fulls just a wee bit. All it needs is to get a little smaller. Then I’d re-block, or course. If I did this, would the cables still show? Would the sweater pill like crazy?

4. I could wash it in hot water on normal setting. Then put it in the damned dryer. If it gets too small, I can give it to one of my tiny friends.

5. I could press the sleeve seams, then chalk it up to experience and give the sweater to a taller, larger person. Perhaps someone who looks good in orange and lives somewhere cold. Anyone want a very warm and soft sweater?

Does alpaca felt a lot or a little? Is there a different alternative I have missed?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two New Starts!

Wrenna Start
Originally uploaded by sunasak
I am so thrilled to be finished with the orange alpaca sweater (named the "Damned Orange Sweater" by the gals at the LYS) other than the sewing up, that I started TWO new projects. As usual, I am tempted by new projects I've found, but I AM using either yarn I already had OR something free.

I admit that the yarn for this first project is new, not from stash. BUT I used the generous gift certificate that my friends on my special email list gave me to buy this sinfully soft 100% alpaca yarn (Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande). The project is Wrenna from the new French Girl Knits book.

I really love this book, because the patterns are imaginative and different, and the construction methods are new. She uses fun yarns and I like everything about the projects except for the huge amounts of grafting involved to keep them seamless. ARGH. I think I'll pay someone to graft any of the grafty ones I end up making. I like everything in the book, just about, but some is a bit young or unflattering for me.

Anyway, rather than review the book, let me tell you a bit about Wrenna. In the book it is knitted with that extremely bulky Twinkle yarn, which I don't own and they don't have at the LYS. So, I got the bulkiest thing in the store with the gift certificate. I checked on Ravelry, where Kristen Griffin-Grimes kindly gives suggestions and ideas for alternate yarns.

Though the brown yarn is a little less thick, I managed to get the gauge OK. Most of the patterns in the book are knit on larger needles than the yarn usually calls for anyway, so this will be OK, I think. I am really not used to knitting with size 15 needles, though, so it's a bit tedious. The photo shows the project up to the underarm break. When I am done here, I will see how much more I'll have done by the end of the night.

Because Wrenna takes a bit of concentration (lace pattern plus something seems to happen on every row), I also started something with great expanses of stockinette in it. And a yarn I love love love. This is Bridget, from the latest issue of Wild Fibers. In the magazine it is made from lovely natural black wool from Wales. I am making it with one of the yarns I got at Kid 'n Ewe, Plain & Fancy Sheep & Wool. Co.'s sport/DK weight single ply yarn made from Texas wool. It is dip-dyed in shades of dark gray and brownish gray that really, really look wonderful (the photo hardly does it justice). I got the gauge perfectly, so I sure hope I am not making it a size too small! If it is, my friend Karen at church will probably snatch it off me--it so looks like something she would love!

I need to sew the Damn Orange Sweater together this evening (it took a while to dry), and then I will have photos for you of it.

I am pretty darned excited to have two new projects going. The Wrenna will be done soon, but I expect Bridget (named after my favorite goddess!) will be with us a while.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #3: Elizabeth Zimmermann

Yeah, it's Thursday. I was really sick yesterday. But today I bring you a tribute to someone you should all be in awe of, the lovely and talented Elizabeth Zimmermann. I'm inspired to write about her today, because I made a post to the Zimmermania blog, where knitters who love her patterns share what they have made, and talk about her techniques. There are lots of other forums to discuss this famous knitter on, and lots to read about, some of which I'll put in the links section of the post.

OK, raise your hand if you haven't heard of EZ (as she is called). You can put it down now, 'cause I can't see you. Ha, Internets humor. You can read about her in any good history of knitting book, and you'll see her referred to often in discussions of top-down knitting, socks, hats, oh, practically everything! This English woman who moved to the US with her German-born husband and eventually set up a mail-order yarn business in a schoolhouse in Wisconsin is one of the world's biggest influences on modern knitting. And I am eternally grateful.

Rather than give you her history, let me just list a few ways she has influenced my own knitting and designing. You can tell me yours in the comments, if you'd like:

  • I feel free to change any written pattern, and am not ashamed if my inspiered modification isn't perfect--I just see if I can do something else with it, or chuck it and start again. I know EZ did a lot of that!
  • I am not ashamed that I don't like to sew seams in sweaters. And I know how to make them without seams. Oh my, her ideas, along with Walker's Knitting from the Top Down, saved me from a life of never knitting sweaters! Of course, she helped me learn to make nicer seams, too.
  • Her humor has gotten me through many a low moment--I'd keep all her writings just for the shining individuality that comes through.
  • She was one of the first to bring knitting to the mass media. I'm sure she'd have loved blogs! Her typed newsletters were amazing, and I wish I'd been old enough to subscribe (or to order her yarn back then, when all I could find was acrylic at the five-and-dime store). And she calmly bravely went on television and showed the whole world how she did so many interesting projects. (You can buy many of these videos today, just check the Amazon link below.)
  • She was a smart person who found knitting interesting and worthy of study, not just "women's work" to be dismissed. As a feminist, this impressed me a lot. It helped me take pride in my own work, even when people said I looked "like a little old lady doing that." (Of course, EZ looked exactly like the granny you'd imagine, sitting there knitting on her doily, only EZ was busy doing math many scientists would be impressed by!)
  • She was a loving wife and mother who was kind to her children and taught them the value of work well done. That's as important as the knitting stuff in my book.

I know I could do a lot more with this wonderful woman, but this is just how she affected ME, and some of the things I was thinking about while making those Baby Surprise Jackets (of which I gave the second one to Jen last night! Bye bye ladybugs!)


EZ's Books on Amazon
Schoolhouse Press
Bio on Wikipedia
Zimmermania blog

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Buttons and Slogging...and Happy

Briefly: Today I am proud to be an American. I am glad I lived to see this day.

But back to knitting (you can read my other rants in my other blog--just ask for a link). Here's the final shot of that recent Baby Surprise Jacket with buttons on it. I could not find the little scottie dogs on it that I wanted, but I did find ladybugs in the right colors and size (I decided to NOT get sparkly ones, though there were some at the Hobby Lobby we went to). I'll keep looking for better buttons.

I am slogging away with the last sleeve on the orange Inka Alpaca sweater. I got quite a ways up on it, only to discover that the previous sleeve wasn't exactly done the way the instructions said. Unfortunately, I was following the instructions on sleeve #2. Because the first sleeve came out so nicely, I figured I'd better mimic it. So this one is going to take a long time. Sigh. I guess I better go back to work on it. I sure want to work on those ideas I've had and projects I want to work on. But. must...finish...sweater.

Bye, and enjoy the rest of an interesting day, or week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

An Inspiration

Today I found in the back of my closet this old vest that my step-mother gave me a long time ago. I think it's from the early 90s or 80s, because it is quite square. I was looking at it while thinking about some technical writing task at work, and I realized how they'd made those stripes.

The garment is knit in reverse stockinette. The yarn is a cotton that has been dyed indigo. The stripes appear to be the same yarn in two natural shades. What they did (see close-up) was weave the light yarn through the every other purl bump for a few rows, staggering the weaving so that it makes quite a nice basketweave effect. And at the bottom of the sweater, they did little decorative squares.

The third picture I am posting shows the back of the work, which is also nice looking. It might be used in a garment, too. I wouldn't tie knots in MINE if I did it.

I got lots of ideas for using this weaving in garments. It sure livens up reverse stockinette! I might try it on a mitten, since the extra yarn would add warmth, and it is so tightly woven it wouldn't catch on your nails or anything. Or, of course, a vest would be great. Perhaps in one of those organic yarns in a natural dark brown with a natural off-white stripe. Hmm. I have some yarns like that.

I'll put this idea on the back burner and let it simmer (wow, what a boring cooking metaphor, sorry). If you have any ideas for other ways to use this technique or have seen projects using it, feel free to post!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Poor Lonely Sock

Spring Cable Sock in Progress
Originally uploaded by sunasak
I wrote this whole post and lost my connectioni to Flickr, so I am bravely trying again, this time pausing to copy the text every so often. you see my poor sock that has been on the needles since the beginning of November, back when i was a single person, not a wife, even. The good news is that the sock is now a whole sock, and its friend is getting close to the heel, thanks to three days of time to knit at work, plus time at choir yesterday.

These are actually quite beautiful socks, and this blurry, sorta washed-out picture really does not do them justice. They are made from that Creatively Dyed Luxury yarn i have raved about previously. It is so soft and the colors are so deep and varied--mostly shades of turquoise but also green and burgundies. You probably can't tell, but there is a cable in a seed stitch background on one edge. The second sock will have the cable on the other side. Now I have to decide, inside so I can see them or outside so anyone who happened to look at my foot would see them? (The only people who ever look that closely, of course, are other sock knitters.)

I would love to be able to tell you that I had a wonderful experience grafting the toe of the first sock. But, alas, I got distracted about 3/4 of the way through and got off somehow. had a nice hole. This taught me what my real grafting issue is: I just can't recover if I mess up. I have a horrible time tinking grafts, getting the stitches back in position, and re-doing it. So, never look closely at athat sock.

Now, remain seated. I don't want you to hurt yourself if you faint. But I actually have been working on the orange alpaca sweater. I finished the first arm and am on the second one's border. I learned something from this one, too. It can be hard to figure out what you were doing on a project that you've modified the instructions on. I am doing the sleeves in the round, and had to figure out how I did the first one. They look nice, though, and that saves two long seams to have to carefully do.

I look forward to getting this done, and feel like then I can start a new sweater (from stash of course) with no guilt. Then I can finish one of my shawls. One new, one finish. I can do that. Sure.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #2: Kathe Brinkmann

Today's Wednesday Wonder is another person who influenced me during the years I lived in Illinois. I met Kathe Brinkmann when a yarn shop opened in Champaign, Illinois, where I was living at the time. This was a huge event in my life--prior to that I was only able to get yarn when I visited the city my parents lived in, or ordered it from a catalog (no online ordering back then!). Kathe owned the store, which was so exciting and full of wonderful things. I remember buying a lot of yarn by Pengoin, a company that doesn't seem to exist any more. That's probably not the only one.

I went to the shop often enough to strike up conversations with her, but mostly on superficial topics. Having access to modern, professional instructions and yarn that was not from a discount store made a huge difference in my knitting output. I remember making a beautiful, purple cardigan for Tuba Boy with owls on it. We talked a long time about whether to put eyes on the owls or not.

Around this same time, I had a baby and "retired" from my career in technical writing for a while. I started making websites when that field had just started (really, my first site had no images, those were too exotic). A former coworker encouraged me to go to meetings of a group of Women Entrepreneurs, to make some connections and learn about doing freelance work. Lo and behold, there was my lawyer and friend from the University PC User Group and the yarn shop owner! (The lawyer will be a Wednesday Wonder on the other blog, as she was another mentor of mine.)

I really enjoyed getting to know Kathe more through this group, and we talked a lot about the business. The early 90s were not great times for yarn shops. People wanted her to teach them to knit, help with their patterns and all sorts of advice, but did not want to buy exotic imported yarn when there was acrylic at K-Mart. The shop became a labor of love and not a vehicle for profit. And eventually she had to close it. It was a real lesson in business for me--you need to do more than set up the shop--you have to find a way to sell stuff. Kathe ended up with a huge attic full of yarn. I ended up with a lot, myself. I still have some, even--some lovely Rowan natural cotton that I still haven't decided what to do with. (Since that time she has continued to other fiber adventures, but that's beyond the scope of this blog entry.)

Kathe remained a friend, however, and we still talked about knitting--she taught me a lot of skills, told me about the larger world of yarn, fibers and designers, and was a patient listener to my problems.

Kathe meant a lot to me outside of knitting, too. At some field trip in the Women Entrepreneurs group I mentioned an interest in women's spirituality. That's all it took for her to invite me to another group she was in, a UU women's group. So, she was the one who (though the lawyer had tried to do this for years)finally got me into a Unitarian Universalist church (coincidentally, the building where we met was directly across from the building where I had knitted with Georgia all through the 80s). That group formed the basis for my closest group of friends the rest of my time in that town (I mourned that women's group for years, and it's one reason I joined the one at the UU church in northwest Austin later). We kept in touch via holiday cards for years, until my life fell apart and I stopped sending them. Yeah, another person to try to find again. Why isn't she on Facebook? Oh, I am a nut. I just searched under "Kathleen" and there she was. I love social networking. Another friend found!

So, this entrepreneur was really important to my development as a knitter and a potential businesswoman--she showed me that it is a LOT of work to run a yarn shop, and even so you are not guaranteed success. I am much more resistant to Lee's suggestions of, "let's open a yarn and coffee shop" having witnessed her experience. And she was only the second "real" knitter I ever knew who could show me new techniques, give me ideas and move me forward in my skills. We all should celebrate people like this--they are our teachers even if they don't know it at the time.

I don't have any links, but if I find some, I will let you know! I am impressed enough that I found a photo!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From Very Young to Quite Old at the LYS

It's a bit late, but what the heck, I'll talk about what happened last Saturday at the LYS. It was another fun Saturday, because lots of people showed up, both regulars and new customers. It is nice to see people buying stuff (though it would be nice to have needles to sell them--still, I love my LYS to bits).

I spent a lot of time helping folks out, which is my favorite thing to do. We didn't start the sock class really, though Nancy got a little bit going. That will continue next week. Instead, I just randomly helped out with whatever people wanted help on--the seat next to me had quite a variety of occupants with questions on techniques, pattern selection, yarns and such. I felt really good that I could help a relatively new knitter who'd been told she was knitting "wrong" to get her twisted stitch issue fixed. She was purling just fine, but wrapping in the direction that causes twists on her knit stitches. Once she saw what she was doing, her face lit up. She will be a "real" knitter now!And as always, I reassured her she isn't the only one to have that problem--I had it for a long, long time until someone pointed out my problem!

The Quite Old (but Treasured) Section

Another person I helped is probably our oldest knitter, Miss V., whose daughter comes in when she has time. Miss V. has a tremor issue so she can't do anything fancy, and she has some trouble remembering things like how to cast on. But knitting has meant so much to her in the last few years, as it has allowed her to make some simple blankets and scarves for her kids' kids. They will treasure those. Lots of the LYS staff have helped her out, and I have lately taken over Saturday duty. The blue hat you see on the coffee cup is her first hat. She did is almost entirely herself, too. I cast on and fixed one dropped stitch, but she did the rest. She even did a swell job on seaming it (she knit it flat). She was so happy with herself that she set right off making a larger one.

I just can't tell you how fulfilling it isto bring joy to her life and help her feel good (plus she is always sharing nuggets of wisdom and observations from a most unique point of view). She told me, "I need you to help me make my knitting good, Suzanne. I need a lot of help." (She is also not great with names any more.) While it takes a lot of patience to help people with physical and mental challenges, the rewards are great, too. I'm glad I've had a chance to work with dear Miss V.

The Very Young (and Anxiously Anticipated) Section

We had some other fun, too. This is the "very young" part of the post! So young it's pre-birth!

Both the future mothers that I knitted the Baby Surprise Jackets for were at the shop. Both loyal readers of this blog, Katie is on the left and Jen is on the right. The babies met belly-to-belly and discussed their love of knitted products, which they will both be getting a lot of soon. In this photo, the mommies are being bookends. As someone who used to work with pregnant women and new mothers, I am enjoying having these two around. I look forward to watching the little girls grow, once they show up in a few months. It's Katie's first and Jen's third, but as we all know every baby is different. There are so many people with experience at the LYS, though, they'll have lots of support from our little "knitting village." And I know they will primarily listen to their hearts and make decisions that will work best for their own family, not what someone else did in a different situation. Both of these women are smart enough to "take what they need and leave the rest," as we used to say in the old mother-to-mother support days!

I do hope Katie gets her maternity sweater done before baby A. shows up. If not, I am betting it will make a very nice "new mother" sweater as well. She is making something very beautiful, nonetheless.

I guess that's enough stuff about my local pals, other than to say that wow, the LYS looks very neat and streamlined after inventory. Tomorrow there'll be another blast from my knitting past to read about. Obviously I have more writing time this week than usual!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baby Surprise Jacket #2!

Baby Surprise Jacket #2
Originally uploaded by sunasak
Well, I was so enthused at the possibility of making this pattern again that I zoomed through it. The self-striping DK weight "sock" yarn I used (Plymouth Encore DK Sock) didn't really make lovely stripes with shorter rows, but I like the tweedy effect that came out on the longer rows for this jacket. The only real modification that I made was to do the increases and decreases slightly differently. I made a line of stockinet stitches (which you can see if you click the graphic and look at it full sized).

Jennifer, the recipient and future mommy, requested white trim on the jacket, so I used some white sock yarn I had. I worried a bit that the thinner yarn would cause the edging to bunch up, but it did not at all. The white really makes the edges pop up.

I am especially proud of how I got the edging to go around the collar and to do the shoulder seams. It's all one long i-cord edging. To do the seam, I did i-cord on the little collar edge. Next, I picked up along the garter stitch edge, then using the other end of the needle, I picked up the same number of loops on the cast-on edge (I had used the knitted cast-on, which makes a nice edge that's easy to work with this way). That put the yarn at the cuff edge, which enabled me to i-cord bind off (knitting three together at the seam) heading back toward the collar. I then would re-join at the collar and continue to the other side.To finish, I did i-cord along the other collar edge and joined using a few grafted stitches. You can hardly tell where I the i-cord started and ended.

There's one sorta funky join where the left seam joins back up to the collar., but I don't think this looks too bad. it was fun to give this method a try, anyway.

I am going to go look for cute buttons one day this week. I was thinking of finding little black and red Scotty dog buttons, if any of the fabric stores around here have them. I think it will be one eledant little baby jacket if I could do that!

Tomorrow I will show some photos I took at the LYS on Saturday. I had a nice time teaching a variety of people a variety of things. But today I just wanted to show my lovely second BSJ. I will try to hold off making another one for a while, but an adult version sure is tempting.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Answer to Baby Surprise Jacket Question

Baby Surprise on Baby Kevin
Originally uploaded by sunasak
Jennifer asked in the comments to the previous entry whether this pattern (shown without my son mangling the doll, at right) is as hard as everyone says.

My answer is no, it is not difficult at all. It's fun and easy, and quite fascinating. You do have to be a person who can deal with some ambiguity, though--a confident knitter. I am never sure in the pattern exactly which row Elizabeth Zimmerman means for you to do things: " 172 stitches, do this..." Well, is that after the row with that many stitches, or ON the row that WOULD have that many stitches if you weren't increasing? But, I realized that it really didn't matter exactly which row, as long as you interpreted the instructions consistently. It's a very forgiving pattern. (And there is also, somewhere on the Internets, a list of exactly how many stitches to do on each row. If you go through the finished BSJs on Ravelry, you will find references to it and can use that to help your drive for precision--I just wanted to do it with no "help" the first time, to have an authentic EZ experience.)

It does help to DO one. Then you can tell what parts of the jacket your stripes are going to affect., for example And you can decide how to do some things differently without ruining the pattern. For example, in the next one (which, coincidentally is FOR Jennifer the question-asker) I am doing the increases and decreases in a more decorative way, since I did not like how they looked very much. I'm going to have a nice line of knit stitches in both places, and do more attractive increases on the front. I have seen others use YOs for the increases, too.

That new BSJ, shown here in its infancy, uses DK weight yarn originally intended for making thick self-striping socks. I got a bit farther along on it last night, and I am finding I like the stripes better on these longer rows than I did when I was trying to make a scarf out of it.

Really, my main difficulty with the original BSJ pattern (from the Opinionated Knitter book) was reading it, since it is all squished onto a page of very dense typing (literally, typewriter typing) and all folksy-like. I think there may be versions of the pattern laid out more clearly, but I have not gone out of my way to find them.

I plan to make an adult version. But, heh, you know, I have a lot of projects lined up. I've mentioned that, haven't I?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

OK, So Here's the BSJ

Since my passionate biography of my great knitting influence engendered no comments, I am hoping that large photos of a finished object will be more fascinating. (I hope this addresses the comments that my knitting looks better in person than on the blog, which I guess isn't fair to those of you I don't actually see in person!)

This evening I sewed the buttons on the Baby Surprise Jacket and asked my son to pose with Baby Kevin, who was the kids' toy when they were little and now is my baby product model. Beccano was pretty funny (and I uploaded even more photos on Flickr).

This first photo shows how it looks finished (and Beccano looking astonished). The arms are a little long, which is good, since I am hoping it will fit a baby more like 9 months old next winter. I hope Katie can move the buttons out for a little more growth, too.
The second photo lets you see the back, which shows the striping pattern. I really like it--just a pattern I made up, but I think it blends the blue, green and purple nicely. The colors of the O-Wool Balance are named after gems, so they are actually opal, jade and amethyst.

And the last photo is a close-up of the buttons, which I got at the LYS. They are pastel swirls that have all the colors in the sweater, plus a bit of yellow. I think they are pretty, but not too girly.

I had lots of fun knitting this, and sure hope the recipients like it, even though it is not a very traditional looking baby item. I have started another one in Plymouth Encore Sock DK in white, reds and blacks, for the next baby, also a girl. Also not traditional. Sigh. That's me, not traditional. Then for SURE I stop with the new projects and work on Orange Sweater and Maelstrom (sure, Suna, sure).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #1: Georgia Morgan

Today I am starting something new in this blog (and my personal blog, as well--just ask and I'll send you that link). I'm calling it Wednesday Wonders, and I will be honoring someone in my knitting/crafting life who has inspired wonder in me in some way. I have a fairly long list of candidates, so if I keep at it, this feature should last a while. I hope to cover people I've known, family, friends, colleagues and such, plus bloggers, authors, historical figures and the like, as well. There's a lot of inspiration out there. I have written a few posts before about my knitting ancestors and forebears in the past, but I am hoping to be able to go into detail about them in this format.

I'll give a bit of background about each Wednesday Wonder, how I know about them, etc., and then list at least Five Fabulous Factoids about each. If I can, I'll post a photo and add links. (There is no photo yet on this one due to Internet issues--there'll be one later.)

Wednesday Wonder #1

Today I am going to tell you why Georgia Morgan is a Wednesday Wonder. I'd been thinking about her this week, because she recently joined Facebook (I was her first "friend" there) and she launched her Etsy store (linked below), where I was delighted to see charming breastfeeding rings (you can flip the stone to remind yourself which side the baby is supposed to use next) among the offerings. It got me to reflecting on how some people really influence our lives, and I realized that she influenced mine a lot.

Who is this woman, you ask? A simple answer is that she was one of my teachers in grad school, in the linguistics department at the University of Illinois. But wait, there's more. She was someone who did so many of the things I wanted to do in life, only (at least in my mind) so much better. She was really smart (duh) and didn't dawdle over her PhD like I did. She was interested in the exact same stuff I was (pragmatics), had a biting wit (oh, if I could only be as sarcastic, punny and articulate as Georgia or her husband), had really smart children whom she treated as fellow human beings rather than objects, was proud to be a feminist, and most important: she knitted all the time! Georgia's encouragement led me to not fear pulling out the work in progress during lectures on phonology or the dreaded Sanskrit. Her willingness to try new techniques helped me not fear designing my own complex Aran sweaters armed only with needles, gauge, and a Barbara J. Walker book. And seeing her place an intellectual and artistic value to the crafts my poorly educated family valued as mere time-passing objects helped me value my own projects as worthy of respect, not just "women's work." It's fairly obvious, isn't it? I would have taken a lot longer to become the knitter I am today if I hadn't known her (and probably wouldn't have become the person I am today without her patience, prodding, understanding and forgiveness). (I won't go into how much the Fridays drinking beer and all the discussions at the Chinese restaurant shaped my political and social beliefs, but I am grateful for that, too.)

I spent most of the 80s following Georgia around, knitting and writing long sentences with many footnotes. I did a lot of growing, learning, improving and screwing up during those years. I am only sorry that I just couldn't keep going in academia (for reasons really having nothing to do with academia and having lots to do with being a dork at personal relationships--I think I am better at that, too). For many years I have wished I could have continued to do crafts together, but I was so ashamed of not becoming a professor that I cut all my ties to my former department once I went off to be an editor/techie person. Luckily, we have sort of kept in touch all this time, despite my poor correspondence skills, and now I can enjoy her ideas and humor every day again thanks to the joys of social networking.

I still love words and am fascinated in how people use them. And I still knit all the time, even in public. So, this is one Wednesday Wonder with a huge impact on me (mostly positive!).

Thanks, Georgia, for helping shape me, for better or worse, and for all you did for all the students you worked with through the years! Enjoy your art, kids, grandkids and friends!

Five Fabulous Factoids:
  • Georgia's knitting was creative and organic--it was obvious she was an artist as well as a craftsperson, because she had no fears about taking off in new directions instead of following instructions to the letter.
  • Georgia is the first person I met who breastfed her children. She was who I modeled my parenting style after, and led me to toddle off to that wonderfully frustrating decade plus of supporting new mothers.
  • Georgia was in the room at the moment I discovered that Barbara J. Walker the feminist and Barbara J. Walker the knitting goddess were the SAME person.
  • Georgia wrote the most sarcastic, yet accurate, comments on writing that I ever saw (but not in red ink; that would be too harsh). It's a wonder I ever became a writer. It's NO wonder I became a good editor--I wanted to limit those comments!
  • Georgia took care of me when my mom died. I won't forget that.
  • Georgia and I knit a lot of leg warmers in the 80s. But hey, it was COLD. We also knit beautiful sweaters for men who better have appreciated them (I sure would like that green Aran pullover I made for the Crazy Cajun BACK).

I know, that was six facts.


Etsy Jewelry Page:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baby Surprise Jacket Almost Done

A college football game featuring a local team was so exciting last night that I was unable to finish this (well, I also cooked dinner and did normal human stuff). I even hooted.

But, isn't this sweater cute? I am incredibly impressed with myself at how the striping pattern I totally made up randomly is working out absolutely perfectly for the BSJ! My buttonhole band looks especially good, because I diverged slightly from the instructions so that there is not an irritating extra purl ridge on one side. This makes my purple and green stripes look all perfect. I just have a few more rows to go, albeit long ones. I am thinking I will crochet neatly around the neck, and perhaps do a decorative 3-needle bind-off on the shoulder seams. I like the way that looked on the Wrap Me Up shawl.

My next goal is to make another one in a self-striping yarn with more decorative increases and decreases. Then, orange sweater!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Knitting Video Game?!?

I hope to have the Baby Surprise Jacket done tonight, so will post about that later.

But OMG, when I read on Lime and Violet's site there was a knitting video game coming out, I had to go see. Yep, soon, if you are stuck with no real needles, you'll be able to do Wii Knitting (or Kniittiing). I am not sure exactly who the target audience is, but I give the creators credit for finding an as-yet untapped market!!

More tomorrow. And thanks to all for the nice comments about OpArt. The high school kids just LOVED it when I posted photos on Facebook!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

OpArt is 2009 FO #1!

OpArt Pre Blocking
Originally uploaded by sunasak
OpArt is done, as you can see. It only took a month and two days, which is not bad, considering its size and the little things I had to make before Christmas. I spent all day yesterday finishing up on the edging, which I made with a picot bind-off. I figure that is nice and stretchy, plus the baby is a girl, so this sightly feminizes it. I must admit that the blanket does its job--if you look at it too closely, it will get your eyes all confused and start to appear to move around. It's hard to believe that such an easy pattern produces such cool results!

As you can see in the picture of the whole blanket, it does need to be blocked. The instructions warn you to not get upset when it comes off the needles, because it needs to be "severely blocked" to end up square. I'll be doing that at some point today or tomorrow, I figure. I measured it, and unblocked, it's exactly 40" across, which is what size it's supposed to be. That's a rarity for me! I am not sure whether it will block out slightly larger or not. The bigger it is, the more space for the baby to roll around and enjoy it.

The yarn is very soft and was quite nice to work with. I'd use it again in an afghan or something (KnitPicks Swish). I am going to get some Fray Check stuff and dab it on all the ends so that the back looks as neat as possible. That's for two reasons: there's no way to avoid the back showing when it wraps a baby, and I know babies tend to pick at things like yarn ends when they get a bit older, and I don't want the blanket to get picked to death (like my own baby blanket did). This baby will have a LOT of blankets, though, so who knows which one she will pick for her "lovey" if she picks any at all!

Moving On

The next project is the Baby Surprise Jacket. I just could not control myself from trying this, and I am happy to use up some of the organic yarn I bought a while back to try out organic projects. I am using O-Wool Balance, which is an organic wool/cotton blend. It is worsted weight, but I am using a size 4 needle, to get 5 stitches per inch. That supposedly makes the one year-ish size jacket, which would work for baby's first winter, I think. I am going to make a second one in sport-weight yarn for another knitting friend's baby, which will be a little younger so might need a slightly smaller jacket. That does, of course, assume I make it through this first BSJ. I am trying to follow EZ's instructions and not read any additional hints and helpers. I want to pretend to be a lady of 1968 who got the original newsletter.

I am using some new row markers to keep track of the double decreases in the BSJ pattern. I got them from Entrelac (in person, but YOU can get them from the Loopy Ewe online, or Gauge or Knitting Nest locally). They are shaped like little omegas, and really work well. They stay in when you want them to, but easily come out to move up to another row. I got these nice shiny anodized ones, because I love shiny colorful things (as you may have noticed).

I'm off to write in my personal blog, then work on the jacket, watch football, and finish taking down holiday decorations. A nice end to the holiday season!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Mystery Solved - Happy New Year

OpArt Mystery

You may recall from last year (a mere two days ago) that I was perplexed about running out of black yarn on OpArt when I had only gotten to the size of the "small" version of the blanket. I became more perplexed yesterday, when I realized that my two remaining balls of white, plus a little extra, were not going to allow me to get my last stripe ten garter stitch ridges wide. The first ball only got me 7.75 rows (that's almost four complete stripes).

As I knit, I kept thinking, well, this is still plenty big, for being the small size. It will be OK. And by the end of last night, it was pretty clear that I'll get at least 9 stripes on the last row, which means it won't look too funky.

This morning, I got the bright idea to look on Ravelry to see other people's OpArt projects. Well. Once again I DO wish I would look at these things before the end of a project. There are all sorts of comments about the small size really being the one ending with 8 ridges, not the one ending with 10. So, I am actually almost finished with the large size, so it is not so bad to be just a tad short of yarn. And I am not the only one for whom the 6 balls of each color weren't quite enough. I feel so much better.

It looks like I'll finish OpArt tonight or tomorrow, but, no extra baby things from leftover yarn! That's OK, because I got another idea for making an organic cotton baby surprise jacket...or using some of that luscious Louet Gems I bought last week. I can always get more of that for mittens.

The plan is to be sure to take pictures of the blanket before and after blocking, because it really looks funny coming off the needles, but great blocked.

Knitting Resolutions

Everyone's putting their knitting resolutions on their blogs. I know I am a total failure at that, but I am trying to make reasonable plans for the year. I know times are hard, so I will have to moderate my stash aquisition. I also know I have a goodly number of projects lined up to knit (plus a couple I really want to finish--the orange alpaca sweater and Maelstrom, for example).

So, my plans are:

  1. I will knit at least two items from my stash for every one item of new yarn. This is a minimum goal. I will try to knit primarily from my stash this year, but I know how the siren call of new yarn can be (witness the buying spree last week).
  2. I will only buy sock yarn from independent dyers or limited edition others. Anything that will be around a while, I will wait for.
  3. I will get back to concentrating on socks more and knit other stuff from sock yarn, too. Must use stash. (I actually have an idea that may work for making that Raglan Rust sweater I love in the current Knitter's from 5 or 6 different balls of Trekking rather than 3 each of two colors.)
  4. I will finish the items I am working on. I hope to get one item, the orange sweater, done this weekend (so optimistic) and then I vow to spend at least some time each week on Maelstrom, then each other item until they are done. I will feel good if I do that.