Sunday, May 31, 2009

My cat, the terrorist

Butters the terrorist

Butters has been making trouble while I've been sleeping. A couple of days ago, while picking up stitches on the blue cardi, I find a snag in the cord of my beloved addi turbo lace needle!

The cat bit my needle!!!

I know it's hard to see, but it's there, just below my thumb. The little turd bit into my needle!! So there was a little snaggy bit on 2 sides of the cord. Grrrr! I would have liked to use super fine grade sand paper to file it down, but I didn't have, so I used my nail file, which worked pretty well.

cat bite--post filing

It looks rough, but it's smooth enough now that my knitting passes over it without event. I learned a lesson: all knitting needles securely stowed away when Butters is left unsupervised.

The day after the needle incident, I go to open the blind in the front room and the cord breaks as soon as I pull it.

Butters chewed the blind cord

Somehow, he managed to chew it so that there was just one little filament holding it together, which gave out as soon as pressure was applied. I don't really know how he even reached the part that broke. It's pretty high above the window ledge. Grrr. So I tied it in a knot and now it looks super ghetto. The next discovery of terrorism happened a moment later:

Butters attacked the blinds

Appears he attacked my lovely honeycomb blinds. Why, Butters, why??? I tried to keep in him in my bedroom over night last night, but he was making too much noise at the door, so I let him out. No terrorism discovered today...yet.

Let's make something! Part 6--the collar

I decided to knit the collar before the sleeves for this blue cardi. My reasons for doing this were fairly arbitrary, but if you're worried about running out of yarn (I'm not, but still), I would recommend doing this, that way you can use half of whatever remains for sleeve 1 and the other half for sleeve 2. The pattern instructs you to pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows of knitting on the fronts, and 1 for 1 along the cast on edge at the top of the work.

Picking up stitches

I picked up the stitches, starting at the bottom of the right front, with the right side facing. I pick up my stitches between the edgemost stitch and the second edgemost stitch of the work, so that once the stitches have been picked up along the front, there's an entire column of (messy) edge stitches behind the row of picked up stitches

Row of picked up stitches

The way the stitches are picked up along the cast on edge, the collar appears to be continuous with the back of the sweater, which I like. This shows the collar along left front and sleeve:


Once you've picked up stitches ALL THE WAY around (this might take a while), you work back in forth in stockinette until desired width. I decided I wanted my collar to be about 4". I pondered how best to cast off quite a bit, and considered working a super small hemmed edge, but after a test swatch, decided against this method. In the end, I used a loose knitted cast off, worked on the wrong side but in knit stitches. I liked this better than the look of the knitted cast off worked on the right side.

Collar cast off

Whatever cast off you choose, make sure it is super stretchy. It would suck to have a tight cast off on such a light an airy sweater. The collar is SUPER rolly, which is a little annoying, but I'll get over it. That's why I decided to go for 4", to compensate a bit for the mad rolling.


Next up, the sleeves!

Friday, May 29, 2009

What the ....???

In case you haven't seen this yet, let me share it with you now. Read the review section. It's hilarious and bizarre, I promise you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Let's make something! Part 5--finishing the body

The knitting of the body of the featherweight cardi went surprisingly fast. It's all stockinette, but it still surprised me by the quickness. Yesterday morning I was half done, and last night--poof!--it was all done! I knit a full 10" of stockinette, as directed by the pattern, though I considered stopping at 9.5". If you're of shorter stature, you might want to do less than 10" of stockinette.

For the edge of the body, the pattern calls for 1x1 rib. I'm not always pleased with how my 1x1 rib looks, so I considered doing seed stitch for the edge, but in the end decided to give the ribbing a chance. And I like how it looks. The pattern recommends 2", but I stopped at 1.25". I didn't want a full 2" of ribbing at the bottom, but I wanted enough so that the bottom of the sweater doesn't curl up. Something else I considered was a folded hem, but in the end decided this might counteract the lightness of this sweater.

1x1 ribbin

To cast off the 1x1 ribbing, I used what calls, the Knit-One-Purl-One Bind Off. Basically, you use kitchener stitch to graft the stitches together, as though the knit stitches were one piece and the purl stitches were another (like how you graft the toe of a sock). I find it easier to complete this bind off with the knits and purls on separate needles (though this is not necessary):

Ready to cast off body

For the sewing, it's important to have lots of yarn--3x the width of your knitting (or more). Many times I've run out of yarn, then have to join in a new piece, and this is just annoying. So more is better. Plus, I want this cast off to be nice and stretchy, so I don't want to worry at all about yarn budgeting. While working this cast off, I like to keep it super loose. It looks messy, but it's easy to go through and clean/tighten things up a bit when it's done (or every few inches for a project with this many stitches).

Casting off

The thing about this cast-off method: it takes FOREVER. The new Phoenix album and an entire episode of This American Life (#381 Turncoat). But I'm pleased with the result. It's nice and stretchy but still neat-looking. This cast off creates the same look you would get with a tubular cast-on if you worked the sweater from the bottom up.

Cast off edge

I was super congested this morning (thanks, allergies) so I took some Sudafed, which is a wonder. But now I'm left with that jittery feeling, like I had too much caffeine, plus a weird foggy head. It's not pleasant.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Avec toi, cheri, la vie est belle

I haven't talked about music for a while. I'm listening to so much great stuff right now that it would take too long to discuss it all, so let me just touch on one CD that I can't get enough of:

Amadou & Mariam's new one, Welcome to Mali. This duo met in a school for the blind. Their music is mostly in French, has a great world beat sound. I just LOVE this CD. I've listened to it at least twice per day since I got it on Tuesday. My favorite song, and the reason I was compelled to buy it, is the first track, Sabali. It starts out sounding like an old French song, something from the era of Edith Piaf or something, except the words she's singing at this point aren't actually French, then a synthy beat picks up, and a refrain of "Sabali, sabali, sabali" and some other African words. It isn't until more than 1:30 in that the French lyrics that I can understand start. They go:

Cheri je m'addresse a toi (Dear, I'm talking to you)
Avec toi cheri la vie est belle (With you, dear, life is beautiful)

Avec toi cheri (with you, dear)
C'est si bon, la vie (it's so beautiful, life)

Cheri je te fais un gros bisou (dear, I give you a huge kiss)
Je t'embrasse fort (I "hug" you firmly)

And there's lots of lalalalalas and ooo ooo ooos. It's just great.

The weather this weekend is GORGEOUS. I'm going to go listen to this outside now.

Let's make something! Part 4--dividing for the sleeves

Thanks mostly to the bus ride to and from the game, I managed to finish all the increase rows last night. Woo hoo! I was afraid this day would never come. Toward the end of the increase section, it was taking me 20 min/row--that's 20 focused minutes. Not gabbing with Tracie while sort of watching baseball (which would explain why I only finished 4 rows during the game). Now that I've taken the sleeves off, I'm knitting roughly 200 fewer stitches per row, so things should go a bit quicker.

But how did I take the sleeves off, you ask? This picture shows what the knitting looked like after the last row of the increase section (ended with a WS row).

end of increase section

If you look hard, you can see my 4 stitch markers--lower right, upper right, upper left, lower left. Contained within each pair (right sided pair, left sided pair) are the stitches that will become each sleeve. And now I finally get to put these stitches on hold to knit just the body. So, you knit along what will become the left front of the sweater until you get to the first stitch maker:

right front

Remove the maker, then take a darning needle and some random yarn and thread the yarn through the stitches that were after the 1st stitch maker. Thread all the stitches on to the yarn until you get to the second stitch marker:

sleeve stitches on hold

It would have been more illustrative if I'd chosen random scrap yarn that wasn't nearly the same color as my working yarn, but this stuff was right next to me, and you know, laziness wins. So you see all those stitches inbetween the 2 needle points--those are the stitches that will become the left sleeve, but for a while, they're going to chill on that piece of yarn. I like to tie the 2 ends of the scrap yarn into a little knot, just to be extra sure those sleeve stitches stay put (yeah, learned to do this after an unfortunate event). Now it's time to join the left front (stuff in the far right of the above picture) with the stitches that belong to the back (stuff in the far left of the above picture). The pattern calls for casting on 2 underarm stitches before knitting the stitches that belong to the back. To do this, I use the backward thumb method (does this have a more official name? I don't know), basically you make a little loop of yarn around your left thumb and slide it into the needle in your right hand:

thumb loop cast on

(You like that nail polish? It's super dark raisin-y purple, almost black. Makes me very happy.) Pull this loop nice and tight, then knit the stitches that belong to the back (they used to be after the 2nd stitch marker). Repeat the above steps to put the stitches between the 3rd and 4th stitch makers on another piece of waste yarn, then knit the stitches that will become the right front. This is what it should look like:

both sleeves removed

The future left sleeve is exiting the frame on the left, and the future right sleeve is exiting the frame on the right. Now the pattern says to knit the body plain for 10 inches or until desired length. So it might be a while before I have more to say about this project. But I must say, being able to separate the sleeves made me feel like I'm making real progress with this--kind of renewed my knitting mojo with this project. Now I'm going to go try on what I have so far (one of the good things about knitting top down reglans)--I want to make sure I have a good number of stitches for the sleeves before I do a ton of knitting on the body then hate it and have to frog a whole bunch. I plan on being able to wear this to Tracie's graduation on 6/9--so I can't lose my mojo again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The cheating continues

I've knit on the blue cardi for a couple of hours since the last pics, but the change would be noticeable (is that really how you spell that???) to no one, so let's not dwell on that. I would have done more, but instead...

Sea Blue Sea quilt back

I pieced the backing to go with that quilt top. I wanted the back to be interesting, but not more so than the front, and I this about does it.

Spring Ruffle Top

And I made this summery top, per this tutorial on Sew Mama Sew. Of course, I made the mistake of choosing fabric that is not quite opaque. I think I'm going to tinker a bit more with the fit--the straps need to lose 1/2 inch in length, and I might size in the body a bit more. I might also unstitch the pleats in the front (the back has 2" pleats, the front has 1" pleats)--in this pic it looks like I have a unaboob.

Tonight I'm going to the Mariners game, known around these parts as 3 solid hours of knitting time. So maybe I'll be ready to divide for the sleeves tomorrow.

I made a super yummy enchilada lassagne casserole thingy a couple nights ago. I intended to make enchiladas, but at the last minute, decided to instead do a lassagne-like thing.

Enchilada lassagne ingredients

Wow, I just realized while previewing this post that the color coordination in that there photo is something to marvel at! Green dutch oven, yellow tea kettle, red sauce pan; green pepper, yellow pepper, red pepper; Old El Paso can; green serano chilis, yellow corn, red tomato. I wish I could say that I planned that. Anyways... Ingredients: red, green and yellow bell pepper, sauteed until soft; canned green enchilada sauce; ~1 cup dry black beans, soaked over night then cooked 45 min; 1 serano chili (btw: I have become a PRO at cutting chilis without actually touching them with my fingers--it's all about the creative use of a fork, spoon and sharp knife); canned corn kernels; 2 diced roma tomatoes; corn tortillas; a little mozzarella and a little cheddar; crumbs from the bottom of my bag of blue corn tortilla chips for a little crunch on top (optional)

Enchilada lassagne

The result? Crazy delicious!

Oh, and in case you haven't had your daily fill of cute, I present my kitty:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let's make something! Part 3--Increases

I said I would talk about increases, so let's do that now. Where the pattern says M1, I'm doing either a M1R or a M1L, which create right-slanting and left-slanting increases, respectively. I do M1R 1 stitch before the stitch marker that represents the raglan line, and M1L 1 stitchafter. The result:

Raglan line

An alternative to this method would to just pick up the bar between two stitches where it says M1 and knit this bar WITHOUT twisting. This would give more of an eyelet appearance, like you had made a super small yarn over on the previous row, which I considered, but decided to go with twisted paired increases instead. Info on increases.

Hopefully I'll ready to divide for the sleeves some day soon, and I'll talk about that next. :)

I cheated...

...on my knitting. And the result?

Sea Blue Sea quilt top

This quilt top. It's going to be a throw-size blanket. I'm planning on machine quilting, though not sure how yet. Probably a little in-the-ditch around the squares, something wave-like in the white spaces, and something TBD in the squares.

I needed a break from knitting on the featherweight cardigan. It's getting monotonous, but I feel like I still have to pay attention to the knitting because the stitches are so small, if I miss one, I'm not sure if I would notice it right away. And there's that pesky business of knitting across then purling back. I much prefer just knitting in the round.

Featherweight cardigan progress

I've done 20-some-odd increases so far. About half of the called for #, and with each increase round, there are 8 more stitches in a row, so it's gotten to the point where one row takes me a LONG time, and after a row or two, I'm bored and put it down. Hence the desire to cheat.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Let's make something! Part 2--The pesky issue of gauge

So, after I blabbed on about color choice for the featherweight cardigan, I went to the LYS and got some gorgeous blue yarn.

That's Malabrigo Merino Lace in Taureg, and goodness, it's gorgeous! And I think it will look good with my skin tone (as compared to a bright green). I finished up my Knitter's Mission with these simple wrist warmers

Simple wrist warmers

and set about starting this cardigan. And that's when I started butting my head against the wall we call gauge.

Oh, gauge. The bane of this knitter's existence. The pattern author got a gauge of 6 stitches and 9 rows per inch, on size 6 needles. Since I'm a loose knitter, I started my gauge swatch using a size 5 needle. And my gauge? 7 stitches and 10 rows per inch.

Gauge swatch

Grrrr! Since my 6 and 7 needles were in the other room, I went up size 8s and continued my gauge swatch. And with this needle, I got gauge. But the fabric looked awful--the top half of the gauge swatch.

Gauge swatch

So I went back to the 5s and swatched a bit more. Measured my gauge again and again, still 7 and 10 per inch. And decided that I would adapt the pattern to fit my gauge. So I did the math to change the numbers from a gauge of 6st/in to 7st/in. And I cast on.

Cast on

I chose to use a cable cast on, my cast on method of choice. I like this cast on because it's quick and easy to work, doesn't involve 2 tails and is more sturdy than a simple knitted cast on. Worked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Sigh. And measured my gauge. 6st/in. Sigh.

darn gauge

Ugh. At this point, I could have continued knitting with my changed numbers of stitches--the beauty of top down reglan is that you can try it on as you go and stop increasing when it fits right. But instead, I chose to frog it, and start over, using size 5 needles and the numbers called for in the pattern.

Next time I'll talk a little bit about the increases used where it says M1 in this pattern. But for now, a pic of my new cat Butters when he discovered yarn.

Butters discovers yarn

Friday, May 15, 2009

Knitter's Mission, part 1--complete!

I cranked out this Second Shawlette in just about 2 days of devoted knitting. I'm pleasantly surprised with the results.

Second Shawlette

First of all, the yarn was wonderful to work with. And I don't think I've said it before, so I'll say it now: I am hopelessly devoted to the Addi Turbo Lace Needle. I wish ALL my needles had such pointy points--really makes things easier. So far I have sizes 1.5, 2.5 (x2--my most frequent sock needle size), 4 and 5. Someday I want to have one in every size. Anywayzzz.. back to the shawlette. The single skein of Dream in Color Smooshy has a pretty generous yardage, so I was able to get a good sized shawlette from it--though at the end I was consulting the scale after each row to determine how much I had left.

Second Shawlette

I would have liked to do a few more edge rows, but I'm still happy with how it came out. I ended up using the lace pattern from the Matilda Shawl for the lace portion of the shawl. I like the simplicity of it, and it was super easy to memorize, which is always convenient.

Second Shawlette

This shawl is basically a pretty scarf, just big enough to wrap around the neck. I kinda want to keep it--a sure sign that I'm pleased with the result. It's hard to tell in these pictures, but the color is just gorgeous--a deep purple with the slightest variation in tone.

Second Shawlette

Now I'm onto the second part of the Knitter's Mission: wrist warmers. These should be done in no time. :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let's make something! Part 1--Pattern and yarn choice

Chana and I are going to do a little 2-person knit along (or KAL) and I'm going to blog about it in intricate detail. The goal is to make a little light-weight sweater appropriate for summer. Our first plan was to make the Whisper cardigan from the summer 09 Interweave Knits.

This pattern uses lace weight yarn, which guarantees 2 things: it will be lightweight, and time-consuming. Based on finished pics on ravelry, this cardigan looks like it would be flattering for most people, and would work well as a little coverup to wear with a dress or tanktop for chilly summer nights (those might not exist in NYC, but they do here). But, then I saw this Featherweight cardigan on some else's blog.

Simpler construction than the Whisper, more basic design, but really pretty. Also knit from laceweight yarn--this pattern calls for Malabrigo Merino Lace, and you know we love us some Malabrigo around here! Malabrigo is a single ply lace weight, and the dying technique yields vibrant, slightly varied colors. The question of what color to use: I am drawn to making the cardigan out of something bright and lively--a bright light green, like this yarn

Though I think a light grayish color would be more versatile. And I'm not sure if the green would look on my skin tone.

The other issue with yarn choice is getting gauge (duh duh duhhhh!), something I'm a bit worried about. The pattern says the gauge should be 6st/in, and the author used size 6. Well, I'm getting more than 6st/in on the project I'm working on now--and it's with fingeringweight yarn on size 5 needles! So I'm not sure how I'm going to get the required gauge with laceweight yarn. Hmmm. There will definitely be some swatching--next post!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Instant gratification fix

I started this little thing on Friday, and finished it last night--pretty quick turnover for an item knit out of sport weight on size 5 needles (for me, at least).

Summer toddler top

Made from some knitpicks shine sport that was hanging out in the stash, this little top is sized to fit a 1-2 year old. And I just love it! So cute and summery, I kind of wish I had one for myself. :) Knit from the bottom up, using the EPS (Elizabeth Percentage System) to get the numbers for the sleeves and underarms. I did an I-cord cast on for the sleeves, and I really like the way this turned out. Since small people have large heads, I made a little notch in the collar to (hopefully) make this easier to get on. Not sure if the neck is the right size, though. Worried it might be a bit too small.

I used one of my mom's (11) sewing machines to do the free motion quilting on my placemats. And I'm so happy with how they came out!

Placemat and napkin

The free motion quilting was super fun. I finished sewing the 12th and final napkin today. These were definitely more of a challenge than I expected, thanks to turning such a small hemmed edge and the pain in the ass mitered corners. But I'm very pleased with how they came out. Look at that corner!

Mitered corners

And I finished just in time, too. I was worried there for a minute while sewing the last one. This is all the brown thread I have left:

Brown thread

I had so much fun sewing, I want to start more sewing projects RIGHT NOW. I saw this tutorial posted on a blog yesterday, and I really want to make one. But this will have to wait. Because now I am a knitter on mission. I gave my Aunt Michelle that little heart shawlette that I made last week, and she loved it so much, she's paying me to make another one for her to give to her mom. As a general rule, I do not make things for money--it's never really worth it. But when your sick aunt asks you to make something for her to give her mom, you say yes. So I went to the LYS this morning and got a skein of some lovely sock yarn to make another shawlette. I'm basically going to make it the same as the first one, I just wish I'd taken more notes the first time--I didn't think I'd be trying to recreate it. :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It must be in the air here!

Brr! It's chilly today. Good thing I finished up this cozy wool sweater!

Noro sweater--all done!

The sleeves are definitely too short (and so's the body). But I haven't washed the thing yet. So we'll see. And it fits kind of weird in the shoulders. I definitely want to try EZ's seemless sweater technique again to see if I can get better results. Maybe in June.

I finished knitting the pieces of the modern lace henley. I still need to block them then knit the placket and collar and sew all the pieces together.

Modern lace henley pieces

Also finished a pair of socks. Remnant Stripies!

Remnant stripy socks

I used yarn left over from Tracie's xmas socks and Christine's xmas socks. Not too impressed with these socks. They'll enter the gift pile.

With all these projects off the needles, that leaves just one sock in progress. Gasp! Must start new project ASAP! But I'm not sure what to start. I want to start my May sweater, but I'm still waiting for the pattern to arrive in the mail. I kind of feel like knitting a baby sweater--I could use some near-instant gratification.

Speaking of near-instant gratification, I did some sewing yesterday! I made some placemats.

Place mats

I love the apple/pear fabric, and I think the leaves match it pretty well. I'm going to machine quilt around the fruit. I'm also working on some cloth napkins out of the same 2 fabrics, but these are proving to be more laborious.

I've been listening to so much great music lately. I don't want to take the time to go into all of it, but today I'm grooving to local kids Say Hi (formerly Say Hi to Your Mom, which I think is a hilarious band name). Their newest CD, Oohs & Aahs, is great, clap your hands, dance around music. They're playing tomorrow night with Cloud Cult at Neumos. And I'm totally going, whether I can find someone to go with me or not! :)