Monday, May 28, 2012

More Purple...

 The purple top is getting bigger....about 15 inches down, 12 or so  left to go.  I slipped it on last night, but it's so hard to tell at this point if I'm getting what I intend....  I haven't made a bottom-up shirt in a long time, and I think I've only made one for myself.  So much of the fit has to do with the shoulders & chest, so to try on a tube of fabric that is just over the hips & waist....well, it doesn't tell you a whole lot.  So I knit on knowing that I may end up frogging and starting over after I figure out what I want to change about my initial attempt.  It's all part of the process though, so I'm just going to enjoy it!  Plus, this yarn is just a dream to work with and I have no doubts that it will take frogging like a champ if it comes to that. 

This morning I inexplicably woke up with hives on my back.  The last time this happened was 20 years ago when I was nervous about a music contest I knew I hadn't prepared as much for as I would have liked to.  I'm not nervous about anything today, so I don't know what these hives are about.  I was outside for a few hours last night at dusk though, so I wonder if I was bit by something that I'm allergic to.  I went up to the walk-in clinic in town this afternoon, but since it's Memorial Day, it was closed.   Instead I stocked up on Benadryl, but I haven't taken it yet.  I'd like to stay awake for a good part of the day before I submit to being knocked out by the medication!

Since this is a knitting blog and it's common knowledge that knitters like cats, I thought I'd share a picture of one of mine that my daughter took yesterday.  She came up to me and said, "Tevie is depressed."  Then she ran off to take pictures of the 'depressed' cat.  I think he was just relaxing on the cool bathroom sink, his favorite place to be when it's warm out!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New Design

Things have been clipping right along here in the workshop.  I finished a long-term project last night.  It has actually been sitting around for 2 months waiting for me to put a neckline on it, but for a number of boring reasons, it took me until last night to get it finished.  Now, all I have to do is finish writing the pattern and get the test started.  I won't be able to take modeled pictures until late in the summer because I'm waiting for my little model to grow just a bit more!  (I originally made it for another child, but that didn't work out, so rather than frogging and modifying the size, I'm just going to wait for another child to grow.  That's not lazy, is it?) 

Now that I'm done with that project, I've started on something else. This one (finally!) is a top for me.  I've held off from doing adult garments until now because I felt like I still had so much to learn.  So it was much more manageable to practice new techniques and perfect my grading skills on smaller child's garments than it was to take the risk with larger things.  But I have an idea that I really love and I think my skills are there, so I'm jumping into the world of women's garments. 

I had two skeins of Madeline Tosh sock yarn in the hollyhock colorway that I've been petting for months now, so I knew exactly what I wanted to make it out of.  I ordered 3 more skeins from The Loopy Ewe yesterday so I know I'll have plenty.  I think I might be able to do my size using every last bit of 3 skeins, but I'd rather have the extra just in case.  And if I have enough extra, I'll make a kid version so my daughter can have one as well. 

Stay tuned....this project might take a while, but I'll post updates as it progresses.  My hope is to have it testing in July & August so I can release it in September....but I think that's pretty optimistic.  But, never say never, right?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Button Swap: FAIL

 I was going to write a really happy post about this little sweater.  You see, it's the first draft of the Guacamole sweater you've been seeing so many pictures of lately.  I had this one gorgeous skein of merino wool that had various shades of pink, peach, orange & white.  (Really, these pictures don't even almost do it justice.  It's way prettier than these pictures are telling you.)  Anyway, I had a little baby up north in mind and I decided I was going to make something for her.  I thought she'd be wearing 12 month sized clothes once the weather turned cooler again next fall, so I tried to conjure up a design that I could complete in 440 yards or less.  I was really sweating the last few rounds, but I finished this pretty little sweater and had a tiny, tiny ball of yarn left over.  Really tiny - like maybe 2 yards tiny.

I put some little buttons on it, but I didn't love how they worked.  They really needed to be bigger to work well with the button loops I had made for them.

Tonight I sat down with my new buttons and started removing the old ones with the intention of swapping them out.  On button #3 I got a bad feeling as I cut the yarn holding the button in place.

Apparently it wasn't the button-holding yarn I had snipped.


Be brave - take a look....I only ruined something that took about 10 hours to make.  And, it served its purpose as the first version of what became a new sweater pattern, so I can't be too sad about it.

But how pathetic is that hole??  (Of course it has to be like 40 yards from the cast-on of the darn thing.  Couldn't have caused a big hole near the bottom, that I could easily fix, right? 

 So I spent tonight un-knitting this sweater.  All the ends were already woven in, so it was kind of a pain.  But, it's finally all back in a ball, albeit in about 10 different pieces.  I have no idea what I'll turn it into now, but it's still very pretty yarn!

Looks like it's back to square one as far as that baby gift is concerned!

PS - Wondering why I have a random piece of white paper in the first picture?  Ever try photographing something red on top of something else red? (Or on top of anything that isn't black or white?)  The camera goes nuts and thinks the sky is falling.  Little photography tip - always throw something white in the frame of your picture.  It'll help your camera recognize colors correctly, or, at the very least, it will give you a neutral color to use when you're messing around with editing the photo on the computer after the fact.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brain Overload

Every once in a while, and always while editing a new pattern, I have a few moments of "my head is going to explode and I just don't know how to do this."  I imagine that lots of people get to feeling that way about a lot of things, but most of the things I do every day don't challenge me in the way pattern writing does.  It's all making sure I'm communicating clearly (which I think I'm pretty good at) and lots & lots of math.  Math doesn't scare me the way it seems to freak out some people, but it's still what gives me my moments of "How am I crazy enough to think I can do this??" 

But then, I suck it up and go, "I wrote this darn thing, I can sure as heck edit it", get out my blank sheets of paper and pencils, grab my calculator and lock myself in a quiet room for a few hours.  I really need big blocks of time to edit because once I get into the "groove" of thinking through the construction of a garment, it's so much easier to just keep going than it is to get sidetracked and have to start all over once the interruption has passed.  This is the main reason I don't do much writing in the summer.  I knit plenty, but I can't concentrate on writing when my kids are around.  They're even old enough that they don't come looking for me all the time, but just being conscious of them being around the house and listening to them play is distracting enough that I don't trust myself to have my full attention on my work.

With that in mind, I was determined to get the Guacamole sweater edited today so I could get its test started before my kids get out of school (and that is coming up really, really soon!)  I just posted the test with a deadline in late June, so I'm hopeful that I'll get to release this pattern before the end of next month.

Meanwhile, it's time for me to give my overworked left thumb some time off.  Since February, I've made 5 child-sized cardigan sweaters and I've made an adult cardigan to fit me.  Half of each of those sweaters were purl stitches, so I'm pretty sure if I don't give it a rest, my poor little purling thumb is going to kill me in my sleep.  I am extremely thankful that the next thing I have to work on is done entirely in the round and is 95% stockinette stitch!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Other Fun Stuff...

 Yesterday and today were fun days for me.  I love knitting and I love designing.  If you lived with me for a couple days, you may think I have no interests other than those two things.  But I actually have more hobbies than I have time to cultivate.  Yesterday and today I got to spend some time playing with another interest on my list: photography. As fun as it is to create a new design, it's even more rewarding to put it on a model, see that it fits properly, and take pictures!  To be able to do that two days in a row is a real treat!

I took the two pictures in this post just as a thank you for the parents who let their kids model for me.  They're not going to be great "sell this sweater pattern" shots, but there's nothing I love more than a gorgeous close-up of an adorable child. 

Yesterday's shoot was a lot of fun because it was with a little girl who is very comfortable with me and thought we were having a great time playing "dress-up".  She changed her outfit 3 times for me and even let me french braid her hair half-way through our shoot!  Afterwards we went to the park, which she loved.  When her mom joined us, we decided to go out to lunch.  Her mom said, "You pick two places you like and Miss Nicole will pick between them."  She gave us the choices of "Panera Bread or McDonalds".  She did not like it much that her mom and I both thought that was an obvious choice.....we quickly learned that she really had her heart set on McDonalds.  She didn't seem to mind that Cinnamon Crunch Bagel once we were at Panera though!

Today's little charmer was a little more suspicious of me.  I've seen her in a great mood the last couple times I've gone to visit and fit her sweater as it was being made, but today she didn't have many smiles for me.  It might have been the stiff breeze we were dealing with, or she may have just had too much to concentrate on (sister & sister's friend were trying their best to get a smile out of her, and big brother was driving his power wheels around me, so those things were very important to focus on!)  But, even though most of her shots were pretty serious-looking, we still got some good ones!  It was a perfect morning....until I was packing up to leave and big brother crashed his power wheels car into the lamp post in the yard.  Brother & battery-operated car were unscathed, but the light and glass casing on top of the pole sprang loose and ended up dangling from the electrical cords off the side of the pole.  Whoops!

Friday, May 11, 2012


So here's what I've been working on this week.  It's a new baby/little girl's sweater design tentatively called "Guacamole".  It's a zippy little layering sweater perfect for spring, fall or cool summer nights.

This pattern is a milestone for me.  Up until now, I have pretty much written my patterns as I knit them.  I needed to check myself as I wrote just to make sure that the ideas I had would actually work out that way in real life.  After I made the first sample, I'd knit it again in a different size just to make sure I didn't write something down incorrectly during round 1.

For this pattern, I wrote the first group of yoke instructions as I knit the pattern.  But, not all the sizes work with that set of instructions.  So last night I did a little pattern analysis and figured out how the pattern would work for the second group of sizes.  As I wrote it out, I thought I was basing my guesses on things that made sense, but this was new territory for me.  I figured there was a very good chance that I'd start knitting the second sweater and find out that every line I had written was wrong.

Much to my glee, I'm now 28 lines in and everything is looking good!  It'll be a big time-saver if I can write patterns before I knit samples, so I'm glad to have turned this corner.

I wasn't planning to release anything this summer, but I think that I'll have this pattern ready for testers in about 2 weeks, then it'll take about a month for the test.  Since this is a nice light summer sweater, I will plan to release it sometime in late June/early July.

One thing I learned during this knit: I absolutely love the Three Irish Girl's Adorn sock yarn.  The colorways are gorgeous and the wool is quite soft enough to make baby garments out of.  My only confusion is that the label says it's 100 grams and 430 yards.  But my actual skein weighted 131 grams.  So I'm not sure if the yarn is just much heavier than the label says (I don't think it is, because the gauge is very much a fingering-weight gauge) or if they give you 30% more yarn in each skein than the label states.  I'll have to unravel this mystery before I can accurately estimate how much yarn each size will take.  This size 4T only used a little over 1 skein and I had estimated that it would use about 1 2/3 skeins.  So something isn't quite adding up!

Monday, May 7, 2012

God is Pro-Knitting, Anti-Housework

I know - that's a pretty bold statement.  And until yesterday, it's not one I would have ever made.  But a recent personal experience has taught me that the All-Powerful Universal Force is a much bigger fan of creating than of cleaning.  Here's my evidence:

Exhibit A: We have giant locust trees in our backyard.  Around this time of year, they drop seeds all over our backyard.  It's messy, sticks to our feet, and my family drives me a little nuts by tracking the seeds into the house through the back door (there's a mat there...what's keeping you from wiping your feet, people?)

 Exhibit B: Yesterday afternoon, I happily sat, knitting away with my pretty green yarn.  After about an hour, I started to hear that little voice in the back of my mind.  You know, the one that says, "Aren't you the Lady In Charge around here?  Isn't there something that needs your attention?  Should you really spend the entire afternoon knitting?"   Normally, I'm good at telling that voice to take a hike, but after spending pretty much every spare moment all week on my knitting, I decided I'd humor the voice and do a token chore.

Exhibit C: Brilliantly combining my surrender to housework with my love of knitting, I decided to sweep off the back patio and set up our patio furniture.  Once it was all cleaned off, I could resume my knitting outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Exhibit D: When I carried the broom & dustpan to the backyard, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, it was in the mid-80s with a very light breeze.  I spent about 45 minutes sweeping up all the seeds and leaves (it had been a while, so there was plenty to collect!)  Then I dug out a working hose nozzle so I could wash off the chunks of mud and the seeds that were stuck to the patio.  My husband carried the patio table out of the basement and we got that set up. 

Exhibit E: Just as I was finishing up, the wind started to blow and the sky became very overcast.  I heard thunder in the distance and had the sinking realization that I had just spent an hour creating a clean patio that was going to be a mess again in just a few minutes.  There are probably nicer ways to make you point, Lord, but I got the message loud & clear.  Housework will always be there and every finished chore will need to be done again before too long.   I will remember that next time I hear that rotten voice trying to tell me that there are toilets that need to be cleaned or floors that need to be vacuumed. 

Exhibit F:  That patio?  After an evening of rain and more showers overnight, it looks like this:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's Easy Being Green

I'm working on a second sample knit for a new pattern I'm writing.  because of the 4-stitch pattern, it'll take more than one set of instructions to get through the yoke of all the sizes I'm planning to include (newborn - size 6).  I like to really write out my patterns, not just say "here's the stitch pattern, best of luck to you trying to figure out how to make it work with the increases".  I thought I was going to have to write 4 different sets of yoke instructions, because with a 4-stitch pattern, there are 4 different possibilities as to which stitch each section might start on.  But, in a stroke of luck, all the sizes fit into one of only two categories, so that will save me half the work I thought I'd have to do!

I'm not typically a green person.  But as I looked for yarn at The Fiber Universe a couple days ago, this "Mojito" colorway in Three Irish Girls fingering weight jumped out at me.  It's a really pretty "spring" green with just enough variety in the color to keep it interesting, but not so much that it overpowers the stitch pattern.  There was also a really pretty light yellow/orange/peach colorway that I would have gotten too, but they only had one skein left of that and I needed two.  I'm glad I found the green though - it'll be a nice change of pace from the typical pinks & blues I tend to pick for my sample garments (I'm a little predictable like that.)

This is a pretty quick knit, even in the size 4T that I'm doing.  I'll have to knit one more yoke once I'm finished just to double-check the pattern for the other group of sizes, but it will definitely be ready for testers next month!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's Like Real Yarn!

The Big Reveal:

 Right??  It's like real yarn that you'd see at the yarn store and totally pet and sniff and bring home because it calls your name.

480 yards of pretty for about $14 in yarn and 70 cents in kool aid, plus about a half hour of your time.

I can't wait to try this again!

I didn't drink the Kool Aid.

 Today I crossed something off my knitting bucket list. Back around January I bought a skein of bare Dye For Me "Happy Feet" yarn with the intention of taking kool aid to it.  (Just for the record, it's 90% merino wool & 10% nylon.)  It has sat in my yarn basket since then, but today I decided to get it together and try out yarn dyeing.

I didn't want it to turn out a solid color, so to prep it, I divided the 440 yards into 5 small skeins.  Then I gave them a little twist so the dye would have some trouble getting into the areas in the cracks.  By the way, I never cut the yarn while dividing it into small skeins - you can see the little strings that connect the skeins to each other so I'll still have one unbroken skein when all is said & done.

Next, I filled a bowl with water & a bit of Eucalin wool wash and let the yarn soak in there while I prepared the dye bath. 
The dyeing was actually super-easy.  I started by dissolving 2 packets of kool aid in a bowl of water.  (The formula I found on-line was 1 packet per ounce of yarn if you want "saturated color".  I had about 4.5 ounces, so my goal was to use 5 packets worth of dye on the darkest little skeins.)  The amount of water isn't significant at all.  Just use as much as you need to cover the yarn.

Anyway, I started by putting all 5 wee skeins in the dye bath. The yarn soaked up the dye so fast that by the time I grabbed my camera and took this picture, the water was already clear again.
So, I wrung out all 5 skeins and put them in the blue bowl while I dissolved another packet of kool aid in the clear bowl's water.  I left one little skein in the blue bowl and put the other 4 back in the dye.

Slurp.  The yarn loved it!

Everybody got out of the pool once more while I dissolved the last two packets in the water.  This time only 2 small skeins got to take another swim.

When all 5 packets of pink lemonade kool aid were used up, I untwisted one of the skeins just to see what was going on in the middle.  It was a little too un-dyed for my taste, so I dissolved two extra packets into the water and untwisted the skeins.  I put them loose (still tied into loops, but just not twisted up) into the last dye bath.  It tinted most of the yarn at least a teeny bit pink, but if I had bought more kool aid packets, I probably would have used a couple more in this last dye bath. 

Anyway, on to the next step.  I plucked those puppies out of the water and squeezed out the excess water, then laid them out side-by-side on a piece of plastic wrap.  I rolled the yarn into a little jelly roll shape to get it ready for steaming. 

While I was doing the plastic wrap thing, I had a spaghetti pot filled with about 8 cups of water starting to boil on the stovetop.  Once my yarn was wrapped in plastic, I put it in my steamer pan inside the spaghetti pot, covered it with a lid, and turned the heat down to low.

I left it there to steam for 30 minutes, flipping it over at the halfway mark.

Once the time was up, I unwrapped the yarn (use potholders or gloves, folks!) and put it in a bowl, then put the whole thing in the fridge to cool because I'm impatient.  After my shower & morning routine was over, it was cool enough to lay out with with my bare hands.  I pinned down the loops on my blocking table in the basement and aimed a big fan at the whole thing because (once again) I'm impatient.  At last check, it was almost dry, so I may be able to get a picture of the finished skein up before the end of the night!

If you want to dye yarn:

Time: Real work, about a half hour.  The rest is "do something quickly then leave it" type of stuff.

Difficulty: Can you boil water?  If yes, you'll be fine.

What you should know: Next time I do this, I probably won't twist up my skeins to begin with.  It left spots of the yarn a little too bare for my taste.  But if you want a skein with major differences in color saturation, you may like the look the twisting gives you.

Hardest part: I believe it will be undoing the 5 tied off loops I have and putting them back into one skein or ball.  It actually was pretty easy to make the skeins to prepare the yarn, but I've already tried untangling one of the loops and I think it's going to be significantly more difficult this time around.  If I was using a yarn swift for this project that might have made it quite a bit easier!