Sunday, April 07, 2013

A Design of One's Own

This knit begins with a preface about a Christmas gift. My husband got me these...

Yeah. I know. He's pretty great.

Before Christmas I had purchased a pile of Quince and Co. Osprey (in the Sorbet colorway in case anyone is wondering) to make my daughter a sweater. I even had a pattern picked out but when I swatched... it just wasn't working. I knew I wanted some type of cable going down the front but that I wanted the rest to be simple. I kept toying with the idea of picking up Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Top Down Sweater Patterns* and my husband kept dissuading me. Of course the reason for this was that he had already purchased it.

Almost immediately Christmas morning I began perusing and planning and swatching. I decided on the clustered braid cable from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns (pg. 186 in my edition) and away I went.

Here is the result.
Chloe's Cables
I'm really, really pleased with how it came out. Next time I would maybe start with a wider neck opening which I believe you can do by casting on more stitches and doing fewer raglan increases. That makes sense, right? I think?

Also, I love, love, love the definition of the cable in this yarn.

Once I finished I pretty much wanted to design and cast on about a million little sweaters. I always forget how quick knits are for kids.

*If you even think you might like to make a sweater I would recommend you to buy. this. book. It has all the numbers you need to build your own top down sweater pattern, a few patterns in each style (raglan, yoke, etc) to demonstrate the technique, and all sorts of handy little tips that make you slap your forehead for not thinking of that yourself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Big Bang Jaywalkers

I've a got a bunch of projects I've finished over the last few months that I'm excited to share over the next few posts.

First up, a project I had been working on for, excuse me while I check my project notes, oh, about five months - the eponymous Big Bang Jaywalkers*.

Big Bang Jaywalkers
Socks. Socks that took me five months to make. In my defense, these were my carry around everywhere project that I only worked on while waiting in doctor's offices, and picking up my daughter from preschool and the like. I also admit that finally I Could. Not. Take. It. and just pounded out the last two inches of the sock just to be done with them.

Jaywalker's Pattern Page

Oh, and something fun about them - they started out looking like this...

Spunky Club BFL in the "Big Bang" Colorway
Can we take a second to have a " I made that" moment?

From the moment I got this fiber I knew I wanted to split it, chain ply it to retain the stripes, and then try it out with the Jaywalkers pattern to get that cool chevron** effect. In a shocking turn of events they turned out pretty much how I was hoping.

* Note to self: Form yet another sassy all girl musical supergroup and name ourselves the Big Bang Jaywalkers.

** Extra geek points if every time you see the word chevron you start thinking, "chevron one, encoded...".

Monday, March 11, 2013

Knits in the Wild

I love to knit. I also love what I produce. There is no better feeling than when your knits get put to good use. 
I tend to post clean, clear pictures of my hand knits right after they are completed onto Ravelry. And don't get me wrong - I love a pretty project page as much as the next person, but sometimes it's fun to see the nitty-gritty (knitty ha. ha.) pictures of those hand knits being put to actual good use. So here, I present, knits in the wild...
Morgan's M'gonigle and Snow Shovel Mitts

Thorpe Hat and More Snow Shovel Mitts

I actually made that hat for Chloe a few years ago out of leftover yarn I had on hand. It came out a wee bit big, so it still fits and works wonderfully for keeping her ears warm. The mitts are snow beasts. They laugh at snow. I swear they get warmer the more snow that gets on them. The whole family has a pair for snowy days and I recently got a request in from Grandpa. I have a plan for May with mittens...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sock Parade: The Caboose?

Happy Valentines All!

What do you call the end of a parade? The finale? The Caboose? In any case here we are.

Pink with White Stripes
I am officially done knitting little girl socks this year. I am questioning the wisdom of it all as now my daughter won't wear commercially produced socks - and feet get bigger over the years, not smaller. I have a plan though. This August might be the month of slightly bigger little girl socks to have us covered come next winter. Stay tuned - or run screaming away - fair warning either way. And really, if I feel daunted all I need to do is look at this picture...

Aren't coordinating pairs of things the best?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sock Parade: And That's How They Get Ya...

So, when I ordered all this yarn for socks I tossed a plain ball of white into the order. Yes I could just knit a plain white pair of socks - but really, what's the fun in that? I tossed it into the cart to mix with leftover bits to see if I could get an extra pair of socks out of the whole shebang. I had a decent chunk of the pink leftover from last year's socks and a little bit from this year. Even though the dye lots weren't the same, they really were identical. I became obsessed with the idea of pink socks with little skinny white stripes and contrasting white cuffs, heels, and toes. If there was enough left I could even do an opposite pair.

Have you ever been so pleased with an idea that you lose all sense? You see, if I would have taken even a second to think about it, I would have realized that there was not enough pink left to make it through even one pair, much less two. Reason set in only by the time I had already knit one. I know I could have just ripped it back but I was enchanted*.

The Return of Reason

So off (or at least online) to Knit Picks to order another ball of pink. Shipping is so crazy though that it practically costs more than the ball of yarn. If I add just a few more balls then it spreads out the shipping and makes it more reasonable. Oh yeah, I want to knit her a summer cardigan again this year and I really should just go ahead and get that ordered so I'm ready to go in a few months when I'll be knitting it. Man my feet are cold, I really need to replace those slippers that wore out - just another couple of balls there. And then I see that I'm only fourteen dollars away from free shipping - the exact amount of that chart keeper I've been wanting to try.

And that, my friends, that is how a ball of yarn turns into fifty dollars worth of yarn. That is how they get ya. These have turned into some seriously expensive socks.

*I can't help it. I truly am enchanted by stripes. One day I was squealing with joy over her peachy stripes socks and saying how much I loved stripes. She asked me why. I thought about it and told her because I think they're cheerful. "And happy," she added. So there you go. You heard it here first - stripes, they're both cheerful and happy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sock Parade: Peachy Stripes

When I saw this colorway, I knew I had to make these for my daughter.
Peachy Stripes

The colorway is Peachy in Knit Picks Felici. If you ask my daughter though - it is pink stripes with golden stripes. Not yellowy-orange, or peach. Golden. We would not besmirch our feet or the noble color of pink by having yellowy-orange or peach mixed in - but golden stripes are entirely acceptable.*

Even though I took a break from the afterthought heel with the purple socks, I still just wanted to knit basic heel flap socks. I decided that I really wouldn't mind differing widths of stripes around the gusset like I would have with the rainbow stripes. My daughter's feet ended up being pretty much the perfect dimensions that they kept the stripes even down the gusset without any weirdness caused by the heel and flap. Go figure.

*Breaking News: This morning we were sharing a piece of green taffy, (as one does on a Sunday morning ) and I mindlessly made a comment about what a pretty color it was. Chloe's response, "Yes it is. It's green.". I think we've turned a corner.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sock Parade: Purple Socks Lead to Insanity

Pink socks - check. Rainbow socks - check. So that leaves only one pretty color left.

The Socks that Tried to Launch A Thousand Stitches
I ordered Knit Picks Duchess Heather to scratch my daughter's purple itch. I didn't give it much thought until I opened the box and saw this color in person. Oh. My. Goodness. Pictures don't do justice to how rich and heathery this color is.

While knitting these socks I just kept thinking about how nice a sweater this color would be. Then, insanity set in. I started thinking about how nice a Still Light tunic would be. A tunic - out of fingering weight yarn. The truly crazy part - I've made one already so I know how much knitting is involved.

I promise I'm not angry, just awkward getting my picture taken.

Looking at my project notes I see that it only took, oh, a YEAR to knit the thing. Don't get me wrong - it is a very lovely thing that I wear all the time. Man, though, that is a commitment - especially when you've knit one already.

In the end, I managed to make it through the socks without ordering a boatload of yarn. However, I have to say, every time my daughter wears these socks I wage a small battle with myself. So far, reason has prevailed - but if this color goes on sale I may not be able to be held accountable for my actions.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sock Parade: Thoughts on Afterthoughts

Once my daughter discovered the balls of self-striping yarn she was done with plain colored socks. Done. Especially when I explained that this particular ball would make rainbows.
I really wanted the rainbow stripes to stay equal  widths and decided to try the afterthought heel to achieve this. Now, in case you've never tried it, the idea behind an afterthought heel is that you just knit a tube with a  toe and then add a toe where the heel should be. In this case, I wanted it so that the colors wouldn't get out of whack being used up unevenly by a normal heel flap. Also, in this case, I should call it a forethought heel because instead of making a snip at the heel once it was all knit up, I put the stitches on a piece of waste yarn to pick up later. 

If I had it to do over again, (and I'm sure with a little girl who loves hand knit socks, I will) I might try the snip method to really be able to place the heel exactly where it would fit the best. As it is, these are just a smidge too long because I kept feeling like the foot looked too short.

In the end I can't say that I love how the afterthought heel sits compared to a good ole' heel flap heel, but it's a nice trick to know when I want to get all OCD on some self striping socks.

Oh. And smidge too long be damned, she loves them.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Child Sock Parade : The Pretty Colors

 My husband and I try very hard to allow our daughter to get excited about whatever tickles her fancy - whether that be Hot Wheels or princesses. When the Christmas catalogs came this year she was even quite indignant when she saw that a whole section was labeled "boys". "Can only boys play with these toys?" she asked, crestfallen. I assured her that anybody could play with any toy that they wanted. This was a relief to her considering one of her main requests this year was the Lego Monster Hunter set with the skeleton horse. *

All of that being said, if you ask her what her favorite color is, the answer will always be pink, purple and rainbow. If you ask her why - because they are the pretty colors. I might slip and say that the sky is a pretty shade of blue. "No, mama! Only pink and purple can be pretty." Sigh.

And so, inevitably, we begin our parade of socks with "a pretty color".

Pinks 2012
This is also the first time I tried the Magic Loop method for a pair of socks. People, I have to say, I may be a convert. At first it felt fiddly and I got a weird spot (sorry for the highly technical term there) where the joins are, but I quickly got the knack for it all. I was very much expecting for it to feel awkward having those extra loops at each side but I didn't even notice them. Really the most "difficult" part was paying attention to the yarn to figure out how to avoid an unintentional yarn over at the end of each needle. Oh, and not bursting out into giggles like an 11 year old boy every time I set my work down and saw how much it all looked like a model of a uterus. Once I had played around for a minute or two with the tension and got it all sorted and collected myself, (who am I kidding? Never collected myself. Still occasionally look down and think "wow. uterus.") I realized that Magic Loop allowed me to fly through the socks. It really helps me go much faster. Note I said me, and not everyone - but if you haven't tried it yet, you really might give it a shake.

*Funny story: My husband went to the Lego store and an employee asked him who he was shopping for. Hubs told him his four year old daughter. Lego employee began to show him all the Lego Friends and Hubs had to tell her that actually she was really set on the Monster Hunter Mummy set. Daughter was super excited when she got it and began talking about what a pretty, nice skeleton horse it was and "look at the pretty flames coming out of its' eyes". Um, yes dear. Exactly what I was thinking.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sock Parade and Inadvertent Review of Cascade Heritage, Knit Picks Stroll and Knit Picks Stroll Tonal

I don't know when exactly I decided I would be knitting all of my daughter's socks. Actually, maybe I do. Last year I bought a pack of socks for my daughter. She had long feet but still had chubby little toddler ankles. I hated that when I took her socks off they left deep marks in her ankles and her feet still felt cold. That's when I remembered... I'm a knitter - I can fix this. I bought a skein of pink yarn and raided my own sock leftovers to produce a set of socks.

Army of Socks for a Three Year Old

She LOVED them. And honestly, I loved them too. Warmth and comfort for my baby? Check. Use up leftover yarns? Check. Satisfyingly quick knit? Check.
Extra bonus - by the end of the year the ones I had striped in different brands of yarn gave a really easy comparison of the durability of different yarns*. I'm not sure there's a better test for sock durability than a very active three year old.

Fast forward to this year. The socks from last year still fit okay (knitting is stretchy), until literally overnight, they didn't. I could have just run to the store for more socks like a sensible person. You can guess what I did instead. So over the next few days we're going to have a parade of little girl knit socks up in here.

Clockwise from top left: Rosy Pink SocksPink and Grey SocksPink Socks 2Jack's Piano Socks, and Sunshine and Thundercloud Socks
*In case you're wondering, last year's batch included Cascade Heritage, Knit Picks Stroll, and Knit Picks Stroll Tonal. They all got heavy use since there were only five pairs and she wouldn't wear any other socks. Thankfully none developed holes or thin spots in a year of wear. The Knit Picks yarns were slightly thicker than the Cascade. The Knit Picks Stroll ended up pilling a decent amount, but so did the Cascade Heritage. Surprisingly, the Stroll Tonal was the clear winner in durability (it was the yellow and the Cascade was the grey in the striped socks - which made for easy comparison). I say surprisingly because it felt the softest to me and usually softest also mean pilly-est. Also, I would have assumed that the Stroll and Stroll tonal would be the same base yarn. Maybe not? So, in both feel and durability my favorite was Stroll Tonal - but in all honesty I'd use regular Stroll again too (and did). I probably wouldn't get the Cascade again simply for the fact that I prefer a slightly thicker yarn - but that's simply personal preference, not a statement on the quality of the yarn.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Food Processing Rage

I now interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post for a rant. A rant about food processors. Yes, really.

I like safety. Really, in general, I approve of improvements designed to keep me from injuring myself and others. I can use all the help I can get in that department. That being said, why, oh why, must some series of tiny plastic bits align perfectly to depress a safety button to allow me to turn on my food processor? It's like it all was designed by Rube Goldberg. I'm surprised it doesn't involve the use of marbles and chutes a'la the truffle shuffle scene from Goonies. Think I'm exaggerating? Look at this.

If any of those tiny plastic bits are even a little bit off, then when I turn on the switch - nothing happens. I cannot express the amount of impotent rage this makes me feel. And here's the thing - those bits have nothing to do with actual safety. It's not as though that little spring in there is keeping the blade in place and without it the kitchen turns into a bloodbath filled with finger bits and shattered dreams of salsa.

As far as i can tell, all of that nonsense is there to make sure you have the lid on.

So now, upon this realization, I feel not only enraged, but also insulted. I wonder how those geniuses of safety would feel if they knew I actually hold a knife, with an uncovered blade *gasp*, in my hand *oh no*, to cut things *get the smelling salts*. I'm pretty sure if they had their way every knife would come with safety measures that would involve a hamster wheel, three pulleys, a marble and a water wheel. Strike that. Every knife would be in a locked box that could only be opened upon completion of the board game Mouse Trap. You know. For safety.

What has this got to do with knitting? Simply this - without knitting I would be the crazy lady outside heaving tomatoes and jalapeƱos into a wood chipper screaming about salsa and food processors.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Odds and Ends - And the Softest Hat Known to Existence

 Happy Holidays, a Happy New Year, and any other holidays I've missed since last I've blogged. Now that I have a preschooler, I'm slowly coming to grips with the fact that for the foreseeable future we will just always have a low grade, constant illness in our house over winter. I guess that's the price you pay for getting to see this...

Yes. She really was this excited about a Kit Kat. 
In any case, despite the continual sick-house conditions, I've gotten some knitting done. Some serious knitting - which I'll show you another time because I don't have pictures. In the meantime I'd like to show you the softest hat known to existence.
Note how the sunglasses really distract from the lack of makeup and aura of illness. I am super cool.

This is the Hermione Hearts Ron hat that I knit in the recommended yarn Road to China Light. This yarn. Oh my goodness, this yarn. How can you go wrong with baby alpaca, silk, camel, and cashmere?  I'm also quite convinced that it contains the hopes and aspirations of unicorns because this stuff is MAGICAL. Ever since first feeling it, I have dreamed of a sweater made of this stuff. In fact, let's not even call it a sweater. We would call it a full upper body experience. That is how good it would feel. I've been scared off of attempting such a thing by both the price and the worry that with the softness would also come the pilling. So far the hat still looks pristine after being shoved in and out of my purse all winter long so I might have to make a pair of exploratory fingerless mitts to see how those hold up. We shall see...

And in other news...
Oh the cuteness. See. I shouldn't have even put this picture up because now I want to knit 550 more baby things.