Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sometime last fall, I fell in love with the Patrick's Pumpkins Hat. After getting the brim done, I realized something Very Important. It would look absolutely ridiculous on me. So here I was, with orange and green yarn, and desperately yearning to make a pumpkin, but not wanting a hat that would get me laughed at.

So I seached and search, and found the perfect little pattern. It's not perfect, but I rather like it, and it'll make a perfect pincushion, which will come in handy, because I've been itching to quilt lately.


Pattern: Pumpkins
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed in "Ginger" and "Pickle"
Stuffing: Soft Touch Poly-fil Supreme
Needles: 3.75mm Clover Takumi Bamboo DPNs
Duration: November 11, 2006 to Feburary 16, 2007, with lots of procrastination and working on other projects

Please ignore the cigarette in the image, gentle reader. One of my neighbours has a habit of flicking them onto the barkdust near our porch.

This pattern is super quick, provided you actually work on it. If you're like me, though, you've got one heck of a case of ADD, and will constantly neglect one project for another (or fifty). The yarn is rather nice, remarkably soft, nicely tweedy while still reading as a solid. Being that it's much finer than Cascade 220, I used significantly smaller needles, to make for a petite pumpkin.

This was my first experience felting. I've never really understood the allure of felting, it seems so strange to put so much effort into something and then to turn around and erase all the details. Not that there are many details in the pumpkin, of course. I can't say that I'll be doing much in the way of felting, but it certainly has its uses.

There's still a fair amount of stitch definition left. It's remarkably difficult to tell when a piece is fully felted. Nothing like pulling a sopping wet bit of knitting out of a pillow case, with tons of lint all over it, and trying to figure out whether it's done. The seams, which form the furrows of the pumpkin, aren't quite squished in as much as they should be, I managed to forget to wrap yarn around the seams until it'd already been drying for an hour or two.

Overall, I'm happy with this little guy. I may well make more of them for the sewers and quilters in my life. At some point I'll probably mist it with some water and see if I can't get those seams to scrunch in a little more, but if not, no biggie.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Something's fishy.

I admit it. I am not a sock knitter. Sock knitters fascinate me. There's a woman at my knitting group who, as far as I can tell, knits only socks. She says she's knit other things, but I'm not sure I believe her. Just socks, that's all she does. It almost sounds boring to say it, but let me tell you, she makes some pretty fantastic socks.

There's some sort of cult surrounding sock knitting, I think. It sucks people in. They make a sock, and then pretty soon they've got itty bitty needles flying everywhere and pounds and pounds of Koigu and Lorna's Laces.

But, like I said, I am not a sock knitter. I just Don't Get It. I'm perfectly happy with my little Adidas ankle socks. They're nice and cushy, they let my oh-so-awesome ankles show if I want them to (and let me tell you, I've got great ankles!), and I've got a million of them, so I don't have to worry about matching socks. So why would I knit my own socks? Many of the sock patterns out there, while complicated enough to be interesting to knit, really aren't that attractive. I don't like socks that go way up high, except for hiking boots. And the sock yarns out there aren't really suitable for hiking, they're far too thin.

But when I saw Pomatomus, I knew that I had to knit it. It is not boring, like many sock patterns. Even better, while it's somewhat challenging to knit, it actually looks good. It has a nice texture to it that non-knitters can appreciate. I'm still not sure when I'll actually be wearing them, but I broke down and knit a pair.


Pattern: Pomatomus
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in "Jeans"
Needles: 2.75mm Crystal Place Bamboo DPNs
Duration: First Sock: November 16, 2006 to December 1, 2006. Second Sock: January 18, 2007 to February 4, 2007.

I initially began these on November 11, 2006, with 2.25mm needles, but discovered that while the initial ribbing would fit over my heel, there was no way the fish-scale pattern would stretch enough to physically fit onto my feet. After a few days of being annoyed at the socks I desperately wanted to fall in love with, I began anew.

Naturally, being rather anal about certain things, the YO increases bugged the living hell out of me. Sure, it made them lacey. But those lacey eyelets only extended up half of each fish-scale. So I modified the YOs into m1 and m1p, leading to a more solid look. Even after washing, there's still a bit of looseness there, but it seems much more balanced to me than the versions with YO increases.

And, naturally, being not so anal about other things, I managed to lose my place in the chart a few times on each sock, always over the instep. And since I'd already discovered other things I wanted to modify in the sock, I simply winged it, fixing things on the fly, instead of ripping out. There are some lopsided fish scales in there, though they're hardly noticable.

The things I want to modify? Next time I make this sock (and there will be a next time!), I'll be using a ssk, instead of k2tog. Why?


That's why. Look just a little bit to the right of the center. See that beige stitch, laying so much more smoothly than the rest? That is a stitch I accidentally dropped and fixed, without regard to which way it was slanting. And it looks so much better than the k2tog.

This is a fantastic sock to make. Cookie is an amazing sock designer. Turns out that every single sock I've ever had the urge to knit has been one of her designs. Now if only I knew someone who was going to Stitches West, so I could get myself grubby little hands on the Twisted Flower Sock kit. You don't understand how imperative this is, fair reader. Cabling, lace, and a sock truly worth wearing. What more could a girl want?

Monday, February 12, 2007

I knit porridge.

Last week at my LYS's stitch and sip (ah, the joys of champagne and good company whilst knitting!), one of the guys was working on a gorgeous brown sweater. Aran weight yarn...and size 3 needles. The poor boy lamented how difficult it could be to knit projects with fingering weight yarn, given that he'd have to find size 00 or 000 needles.

I've always been lucky. That nice little gauge picture on yarn bands? Some people take it as a suggestion, as a starting to point to discover the needle size they'll actually need to use. Ditto for the needle suggestions in patterns. Some people knit tightly, having to go up a needle size. Some people knit loosely, going down a needle size (or six!). And I? I knit just right. I am the third bowl of porridge, the third bed. Just right. I swatch with whatever needle size is recommended for my yarn, as suggested by the yarn manufacturer or pattern designer, and nearly inevitably, my gauge is spot on.

I don't, however, tempt fate. I know that swatching is a necessity for all fitted garments, though with things such as scarves, I don't bother, I simply start knitting. Generally, things come out alright. If it's something like a scarf, swatching seems like a waste, since a 4" swatch is most of the width of a scarf anyways. I'll know within an inch or two if the scarf is going to be ridiculously wide or narrow, or if my cabling just isn't up to snuff, so every scarf is its own swatch. If it's not right, I simply rip out the small amount of work I'd done and start over, adjusting the needle size or the pattern itself.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I began Calorimetry, got about halfway through, and discovered it was huge. I'd seen innumerable blog posts from knitters who'd knit gigantic headbands. I'd seen the stern warning about gauge, but I didn't pay it heed. After all, I was using the recommended yarn. I was using the recommended needles. And I have a big head and extraordinarily thick hair. If it came out a tad large, it'd be perfect, right?

Wrong. Not only was it painfully obvious that I'd used well over half my yarn by the halfway point (though, admittedly, I had used a small amount of yarn from that ball for another project), but there was simply no way it would stay on my head unless I placed the button somewhere nowhere near the end, and I didn't fancy the prospect of multiple layers of knitted fabric wrapping around my head. So I ripped it all out (amazing how that becomes less traumatic every time you do it), and with size 6 needles, cast on all over again.

It's much better now. Just right, even. Not too cold, not too hot. I ran out of yarn four rows from the end, but that's actually just perfect. If I wear it with the wide half towards my forehead, it fits beautifully. If I wear it with the narrow half towards my forehead, the wide half does strange things with my hair. I wore it to my stitch and sip, and got tons of compliments. Not a single person noticed that one half was a bit narrow, or that I'd gotten impatient and hadn't attached a button, opting instead to tie my cast-on and cast-off ends together in a neat little bow.

Isn't it awesome? It keeps my hair out of my face, and does it oh so more stylishly than my beat up old bandana. It makes my bangs look coy and cute. It keeps my ears warm without making me look like an idiot (which hats always do). It makes my hair look super awesome, without my having to do anything. Which is great, because I have a love/hate relationship with my blow dryer and various hair goos.