Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Knit Picks Harmony Needles

While I was working on the Hemlock Ring Blanket I realized my 29” Circular needles that I am using are not going to be big enough. What is recommended is 40”. I considered using two 29” circulars, which I have, but I fear stitches may fall off one while trying to knit with the other. I couldn’t find my Denise needles, which I’ve had for over 20 years. I didn’t think I had an extra long cord in that set anyway. Soooo…..what a good excuse to order the new Knit Picks Options Harmony Wood Needle Set. Since I didn’t get one for Christmas, I’d thought I’d treat myself to a set.
They arrived today. I was so excited. I carefully attached the Size 11 Needlepoints and tightened the cable with the tiny tightener, and started transferring my 300 stitches on the new needles. As I was halfway around, the stitches got more crowded and to my HORROR, as I was sliding the stitches down the cable, IT CAME APART and stitches were dropped. I wanted to scream!!!!! And cry!!!! Apparently the glue they used to join the plastic to the metal attacher screw is not very strong. I was however, able to push the plastic cable back in and now am carefully pushing the stitches along, trying to avoid a repeat of this. I have heard that other people have experienced the same problem.

On the aesthetic side, they are very colorful. Since I am knitting with a solid cream color, these needles are beautiful but the multicolors make the point difficult to see, at least at night. Thankfully, I can knit by touch so this is not so much a problem. I do fear, however that there might be sensory overload when I use a variegated sock yarn with these needles. It may be hard to find the needles in the explosion of color.

I don't mean to sound so negative. I am having a bad day. On the positive side, the colorful needles are lovely in daylight. The more I knit with them, the more they kind of grow on you and are likely to become my favorite needles. As I knit along long stretches of stockinette, they keep my mind occupied as I contemplate each color on the needle. I can feel those neurons working and the synapses connecting.

The needles are a little heavier than the bamboo, which takes a little getting used to. I believe they are birch which is a solid wood. The metal attachments connecting the cable to the needle also add to the weight. I'm not sure how they will perform when knitting fine laceweight yarn, as at times the screw sometimes loosens, if they are not tightened properly, and are likely to snag.

On the whole, I think I'm going to like them, especially their interchangeablility and portability. A whole set of circular needles for $70 is a real bargain.

Edit: Sadly, a new flaw with these needles. I was trying to cast off and realized the wooden needle that is beautifully cut on the bias or slant of the wood, and colored so beautifully, lifted and was snagging my yarn. These needles are made with a coating in order to prevent splintering but this didn't protect my Size 7 Harmony needle. I was very surprised that this happened with birch wood, which is a harder wood than others. I will need to contact Knit Picks for this one. I hope they will replace it as this Size 7 is one I use often. :(

Sunny California and Brioche Stitch

“Sunny California” hasn’t lived up to it’s name lately. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last week. However, change can be very refreshing. We’ve needed the rain water so desperately and God has surely blessed us. Between storms He has smiled on us and brought blue skies and lovely snow sprinkled mountains to gaze at in wonder. I just couldn’t help but admire the beauty.

For those living in the East, I’m sure you are tired of snow, but here in California we have such a short cold winter season, that this kind of change is just a wonder to behold. We finally get weather worthy of sweaters, hats and mittens. It’s something to warm a knitter’s heart and hands. Needless to say, I have been inspired to knit as much as I can.

Today, I am home from work, having woken with some dizziness and all that comes with it. This is very unusual for me, but most likely due to the excessive amount of stress at work lately. I guess it has all caught up with me.

So I am confined to bed and have kept myself busy finishing the Medallion capelet. I managed to have enough yarn in the Caron’s One Pounder Worsted weight to complete the three medallions, but just enough. I still have to put it together and make the collar and I don’t think the amount I have left will do it. I decided to block the circles before putting it together so that it will likely keep the circular shape. I am so excited that this is almost finished and “If” I decide to go to “Stitches West” the end of February it would make a lovely piece to show off. I have always admired all the ladies who go to shows wearing their lovely creations. It makes good conversation starters.

I have lately been intrigued with the Brioche stitch. One of my co-workers has a lovely poncho made in Brioche. I have been searching online for info on Brioche and found several YouTube demos and instructions. I recently discovered my style of knitting is called Combination Knitting, the style of Anne Modesitt (aka Heretic Knitting). The regular (Western) way of doing is broche is

O, S, / for the Knit row. (yarn over, slip, k2tog)
/, S, O for the purl row. (k2tog, slip, yarn over)

My k2tog needs to be reoriented and retransferred in my style of knitting, which can be quite cumbersome with all these stitches.

I’ve been wondering if I can change this to an SSK , which for me in combination knitting is knit2tog through the back.

The pattern would be:
O, S, \ (yarn over, slip, SSK)
Would this come out to result in the same stitch pattern?

Stay tuned…….

I tried to do a sample using the latter pattern: O, Slip, K2tog using the combination method. See the bottom portion below. As you can see, it didn't quite come out as I wanted. Using the Western knitting style I made the actual brioche (upper portion) as directed by the pattern. Actually, this way was much easier and it took less steps.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ready, Set, Go...Knit Hemlock!

WEBS podcast, “Ready, Set, Knit”, has finally started the Hemlock Ring Knit along. I wish they had started this sooner as I just couldn’t wait. Pixie, the knit along teacher,has some great suggestions in starting the ring and has some excellent tips available on their website. One of the best advice she gives is to diligently count each row to ensure you have the right amount of stitches. I wish I had done this. It would have saved me a lot of time unknitting several rows. Fortunately, as it was during the beginning, I didn’t have many stitches to unknit. It gets harder and more frustrating when you discover a mistake on row 61, which is what I did.

I had to lay it out to see if I could find my mistake. This was utterly impossible, as you can well imagine. So….I unknitted about eight rows until the count came out right. I mentioned before that I didn’t like “feather and fan” stitch because I always seem to miss or add a “ yarn over”. When you are increasing, in a progressively bigger round, this makes a BIG DIFFERNCE. One stitch off can mess up the symmetry of the increases.

So now I’m on Row 63 and plugging on. Pixie’s homework was to only go to Row 26 or so. I’m still not a fan of feather and fan and wish this section had more of a variety to it. You can only knit so much feather and fan without it becoming boring.

Luckily, I’m trading off knitting this hemlock ring with Nicky Epstein’s Medallion Capelet, which I love knitting. The pattern is mesmerizing and so EASY! It reminds me of a spiral they use to hypnotise you. I’m on my second medallion. I hope I will have enough yarn from the Caron’s One Pounder. I’m not sure I will be able to match the dyelot if I have to buy more. I’m actually trying to make it larger than the pattern. Nicky explains this is done by making a bigger medallion the diameter measuring across your back from shoulder to shoulder. How can this be easier?

I’m thinking about how to make a closure for this capelet. Nicky Epstein’s book Knitting Embellishments has instructions for make a frog closure. I purchased a Bond “Embellish Knit” Automatic Spool knitter. I’m curious to see how this turns out. Stay tuned…….

Friday, January 18, 2008

Multitasking: skill or curse?

Ack!!! I am hopeless. I just can’t help myself. I see a pattern that inspires me and I just have to start it. The blog has been silent this week, not because I haven’t been doing anything, but because I have been trying to do everything. I am trying to finish some UFO’s. I also started some Saartje’s bootees.I had them finished when I realize I had missed some rows and had to rip them back. They were so easy, this wasn’t too difficult. Although, I didn’t take any pleasure in correcting them. I still have to sew in the ends.

I also started a supposedly quick baby hoodie sweater with some Lion Brand Homespun I had in my stash. I was to get this sweater finished this week in time for a birthday party tomorrow, but the new issue of Vogue Knitting Magazine distracted me. I fell in love with the Nicky Epstein’s Medallion Capelet and casted on with some Caron Pounder of Worsted Acrylic from my stash. On the plus side, I am sincerely trying to use from my stash, which is good. These medallions are turning out easier than I thought. I just hope I don’t get bored with it before I finish the three medallions it calls for.
I did, however, frog one UFO from my old UFO list. I am finding this deciding what to frog harder than I thought. As I look over the UFO, I briefly fall in love with it again and just don’t have the heart to frog it. I keep telling myself that I will get to finishing it when I reduce some of my other “on my needles projects”.

Think about frogging
Jan 06 40% Red Chenile Capelet- frogged 1/2008
Pre-2000 50% White Cotton Sampler Vest
Pre-2000 80% Mohair Scarf
June 05 50% Black/Multi color Handspun sweater(I can’t even remember what this looks like??)
Jun 05 25% Philosopher’s Technique Fair Isle Sweater
June 05 75% Cotton Flag sweater (Would probably bleed after the first wash anyway)
June 05 50% Blue Cotton crochet vest
Fall 05 50% Color Fair Isle Wool sock (?) Second sock syndrome
Pre-2000 50% Diamonds Woman’s sweater
Pre-2000 75 % Bulky Vest
July 07 10% Handspun Tencel Dog Paw’s Shawl
Oct 2007 30% Dad’s tofusies socks

The hemlock ring blanket has briefly stalled for a time, when I can sit for a period of time to figure out the mistake I made. I am going to have to frog back to the mistake but I have to find the mistake first. I have knitted up to the 51st row. I was looking forward to getting some encouragement and guidance from Pixie on the WEBS knit along, but was disappointed in the delay of another week to allow others to gather supplies. So I figure I’m still ahead of the pack, having already started my hemlock ring.

I have come to the conclusion that I am a victim of my ability to multitask. At work, I am always in a state of putting down one thing to start a new task because of a fast approaching deadline. This seems to be happening a lot lately. I eventually finish tasks but am having to switch gears so often, it causes one’s head to spin, trying to keep everything straight. Is this what I am doing with my knitting? I am hopeless. I may need professional help!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hemlock Knit Along

I’ve been so excited to listen to all the New Years podcasts. One that particularly caught my ear was Ready, Set, Knit, the podcast from Webs owner, Kathy Elkins. She and Pixie, the knitting instructor that conducts all her Knit Alongs, are planning to knit the Hemlock Ring Blanket. Their encouragement has inspired me to look at the different finished Hemlocks on Ravelry. To my surprise there is over 500 finished blankets on Ravelry. Apparently, this pattern is very popular.

At first glance, I didn’t like it because of the feather & fan stitch. I tried to knit a fan scarf once and had to keep ripping it out because I forgot a yarn over or something else. It was so frustrating. I have since learned how to create a yarn over from a previous row, which should make things easier if I find a mistake after the fact.

Looking at all the variety of yarns and the fact that it could be a lap blanket, inspired me to try to make one for my Godmother who has Alzheimer’s in San Diego. This would be a perfect use of my large stash of Acrylic. Acrylic is washable, and would make it easier to launder. I’m not sure it would need constant reblocking. I’m hoping that if I choose a not so stretchy Acrylic, it might at least lay flatter and not need to be reblocked everytime it’s washed. Well, acrylic is a inexpensive experimental yarn. It it comes out good and I’m not too bored with it, I might make another in a better yarn.

I could also substitute this blanket for a table cloth or a coffee table doily if things don’t work out. I chose a Beige Cream colored Walmart Mainstays Worsted Yarn, which in now discontinued. I have lots of this. I estimate it might take 2 or more 8 oz skeins to finish it.

So I cast on with 10.5 double pointed needles. I later switched to bamboo circulars and then in row 31 I changed to a longer Size 11 circular needled. I did make a few mistakes because I didn’t compensate for my particular style of knitting by switching the k2 tog to SSK. Nevertheless, it is hardly noticeable unless you really look hard.

Here’s my progress…..

I’m such a bad girl. I am supposed to be frogging and finishing my UFO’s, but I just couldn’t help myself. I have a need to be in a community project such as a KAL. I just got a head start, that’s all. Why kill my motivation by waiting for it to start? I feel like getting started now, since I have the yarn. I see this as slowly reducing my stash. Yea!

I am slowly trying to finish my Branching out scarf. It will be so nice when finished but it takes all my concentration to knit this lace pattern. I wanted something else I could memorize and knit mindlessly and I hope this Hemlock Ring will do it.

The more I see this pattern, the more I am liking it. It looks complicated, but with the big yarn and needles it doesn’t seem so intimidating. This one will be in one color, but perhaps in the next one, I’ll try changing different colors in wide bands. I used to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE crocheting doilies, until my wrist started hurting. In fact, crocheting a lace table cloth as a wedding present just about did me in. That is why I switched to knitting. It didn’t cause my wrist to move as much.

I'm in Love with knitting Fuzzy Feet. Here are the ones I made for my sister-in-law with the hand dyed wool in baby blue. I also tried making some for my 17 mo grandaughter. I cast on 30 instead of 44 for adults hoping to make them much smaller. I think they still turned out a little big. Next time I'll try casting on perhaps 24 stitches to see if they result in a smaller fit. Stay tuned.....

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Let There be Compassion in the World

Compassion! This will be my goal this year. Our new pastor has shared in his first message “Who is Man?” that ”showing compassion can change the world”.
He says that

“Man (or woman) is God’s primary tool to alleviate suffering and pain in this world and God’s secondary means by which to draw all men unto Himself”.

- Jeff Vines, Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) in San Dimas, CA

I have always worked toward this aim (compassion) and it is clear to me that I need to focus even more on how to demonstrate more compassion than ever before. This is not to say that I am compassionless. On the contrary, everyone who knows me, knows that all that I do focuses on compassion: in my work as a Head Start Nurse, working with low income families, in my family opening my home as a sanctuary for them to return when overwhelmed, and in my hobbies of knitting and spinning and crocheting. I have never been the partying, shopping, self-indulgent, me-focused person, I unfortunately see so much in this world.

So…in brainstorming, I am trying to figure out a list of things I can do to show Compassion. Here’s my list so far…..

1. Knit a hat for a homeless person.
2. Knit a shawl or slippers for a senior.
3. Bake something for a neighbor.
4. Be a good listener to the lonely.
5. Communicate with my elderly parents at least once a week.
6. Think about starting a knitting group or craft group.
7. Reflect of scripture to receive direction.
8. Pray daily.
9. Plan some time to have some compassion for me when feeling burnt-out.
10. Check out church compassion ministries to see if there is something I can do within my time frame and limitations.
11. Donate to our community food bank or service clubs.
12. Carry food gift certificates to give to spontaneous encounters with people who are homeless.
13. Knit a child a sweater or hoodie.
14. Be as flexible as possible. Be willing to let things go, to help with a situation that comes up.
15. Make an effort to attend funerals and support the grieving.
16. Don’t forget about those who have lost loved ones this year. Send a note of encouragement.
17. Send a care package to a soldier.
18. Knit a helmet liner or convertible gloves for a soldier.
19. Make some cool collars for soldiers for the summer. For those who do not know what this is. This is a strip of fabric, sewn in a 1-in tube, filled with special absorble beads (purchased from a garden shop) that expands and swells into a gel when soaked in water. One wears this around your neck to keep your head cool in hot weather. It is very portable and makes a big difference in 100 degree weather.
20. Encourage someone to learn to knit. Prepare some “learn to knit” kits to give out with old unused needles. A good use of my acrylic yarn.

Friday, January 4, 2008

In Search of UFOs

As I started my quest in search of UFO’s (unfinished objects), low and behold (I just love to say that), I found some sneaky UFO aliens hiding among my nicks and crannies of “hidden” fiber, yarn, and things. These projects escaped my original UFO list and I’m sure I’m bound to find more of these sneaky aliens around the house. They are very “crafty” beings. They like to hide in drawers and boxes that are unused all year behind the “Oh my gosh” Acrylic yarn that is avoided. Avoided, unless you run out of your luxury yarns.

It’s fortunate that these projects don’t have legs, like the luxury yarns seem to have.
Luxury yarns never seem to be in the right place when I want it for that perfect project. You swear you bought it and put it in “that” place but now we have a “runaway yarn” to list on the back of a milk carton. Headline: “Alpaca Yarn Missing! Merino Wool Aliens Suspected of Kidnapping and Using Disintegration Torture Techniques!” It is suspected that the moths, who love these luxury yarns are in cahoots with others that nibble this yarn to dust so that it is hidden forever.

To my delight I found a beautiful shawl UFO made in the Thrift Shop Pattern in some lovely multicolored 3-ply cotton, rayon and silk yarn I purchased from Interlacements many years ago. I think the yarn was called Santa Barbara and I don’t think they make it anymore. The shawl has knitted up like a Monet painting or landscape of blues and reds with a sprinkling of violets and browns. I tried to capture its loveliness with my camera but I’m not sure it really shows the true colors.

I spent all morning knitting the last skein I had. Once finished, I contemplated who I should give it to. Remember, I’m trying to clean out my projects and make my life simpler. I was planning on visiting one of my best friends from high school days that day, and since I remembered she was allergic to wool, I thought this would be a perfect gift. I missed her birthday, which was on Christmas Eve, so this was a good chance to give it to her and catch up on all the news we exchange about what’s going on in our lives. I know she will treat it with all the love and care that I would give it. It’s amazing how God puts into your mind the perfect person and plan when you need it.

Here are some pictures of the shawl……. I named it “The Monet Shawl”.

Another thought I’ve been ruminating in my mind and heart is that I need to make a focus to think on certain scriptures to guide my life for the year. There are so many lovely scriptures and I’m making a resolution to pick out one at least weekly to meditate on for the week.

Here is the first one: Phillippians 4:8-11

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”