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Friday, December 30, 2005

Mitts, Right AND Left

I finished the left mitt of my handspun, rainbow batt yarn. The one on the right looks more red but that's just shadow from the jade plant (alive and well in my house since June, thank you very much!) I'm really happy with the way the colors blend and even the way the colors match from mitt to mitt. The thumbs are tucked underneath, but they are there. I will definitely be spinning and knitting more Columbia wool - this stuff is so soft and pretty.

I'm off to pick out something new to put on the needles. See you next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wool at the Air and Space Museum

Yesterday we went to the Air and Space Museum Annex. If you've never been there, you should really go next time you're in the DC area. The annex is out by Dulles Airport, but they run shuttle buses from the National Mall (where the Air and Space Museum is) out to this new annex they built a year or so ago. Since its not on the Mall, its not as crowded as the regular museum is. Its in a modified airplane hanger so there is more room to put the planes (and you can actually see what you're looking at). But the best part is that its really kid friendly. If you go first thing in the morning, there aren't many other people and lets face it - giant airplane hangers were just made for whooping and hollering.

So what does this have to do with knitting? Well there are a pair of knitted mittens and some felted wool socks there. I guess early airplanes didn't have heat and its probably pretty cold zipping around in the sky, so you would want to pull on your airplane mittens (made in patriotic red, white and blue of course) before you went flying. They didn't give a date for these, but I love that knitters in the early days of aviation were plagued by color pooling too. If I knew more about mittens I could tell you what kind of thumb they have, but you'll just have to figure that our from the picture if you can. Want to know something funny? These are sized for men's hands. My husband will only wear black or grey, but some knitter, somewhere, got her pilot husband to wear these red, white and blue mittens.
These are labled as "embroidered Wool Stockings, Anne Murrow Lindbergh." They are felted socks with embroidery of green and red decorating them. I assume they were worn by Anne Lindbergh since they are small enough to be women's socks but it doesn't say if she made them or not. In addition to the two items I've shown here, they also have planes, jets, helicopters, rockets, and satellites at the museum (which is probably why they call it the Air and Space Museum Annex, instead of The Knitwear Early Aviators Liked to Wear Museum.) You can even see the Space Shuttle Enterprise (which is just so cool)!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Introducing the New ... Sudoku Blog!

I didn't knit last night. I could have finished the second mitt and done thumbs and had a finished pair. I didn't. I played Sudoku with my Dad. If you've never played and don't know how, here is a website with lots of free games. But just so you know, its pretty addictive so if you really should be finishing up some fingerless mitts you probably shouldn't go to the website. You've been warned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Photo - Right Here!



That's right, nothing new to show on the knitting front. I was going to have the finished fingerless mitts to show you. In fact at 8:30 last night I had 2 rows of seed stitch and a bind off row left. Do some quick thumbs and voila! Fingerless Mitts! Then I realized that I had made the second mitt for the right hand, which wouldn't be a problem except that the first mitt was also for the right hand. So, I unraveled back to the cuff and started again, this time with the thumb gusset in the correct place for the left hand. Ahhh, symmetry, ain't it great?

I might finish the mitts tonight. Or not. Its hard to tell.

Ramius would like to add a small public service announcement. If you sit in a wet shower and watch the drips slide down the wall, you should always dry your toes off BEFORE you climb into your litter box full of clumping litter. I'm sure you can imagine the situation you'd find yourself in if you didn't dry your toes off.

I've got to go wash Ramius' feet now.

Monday, December 26, 2005

There are banks with less security than some toys



The wrapping paper bits and bows have all been gathered up. The turkey has been eaten (or is bagged for reincarnation as sandwiches and chili). The batteries are still holding out and those infernal twisties that toy companies now use to secure the toy to the packaging (you know, the minimum of 385 per toy so you just keep untwisting and untwisting while your kid hops up and down asking, "Is it ready? Can I have it yet?" and by the time you get the toy freed from the highly secure environment it was packaged in, your kid has out grown the toy) have been thrown away in a trash can the cat will never find. We made it through another wonderful Christmas here and while it was great, it was also exhausting and I'm glad that its over.

I started another pair of socks. These are the Latvian Socks from Folk Socks and I'm knitting them with KnitPicks Essential Sock Yarn in the charcoal or dark grey color (I can't remember what the color is called off the top of my head). They have this pretty little picot hem at the top instead of ribbing and then switch to a simple lace pattern. This book is also written by Nancy Bush and it looks like she holds my hand through the heel turn in this one too. I do have a question for those of you that knit socks from the top down: How do you know how long to make the foot? She says to start the toe shaping when its 2 inches or so less than the desired length and I don't know how long the desired length is. I could measure my foot, but the sock is stretchy and how do I measure how much the sock will stretch? Do I try the sock on? Should I not worry about it right now and just keep knitting on faith and hope that tiny sock knitting mice (who would never eat the sock, but only help to knit it) will leave a note one night?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How to do Kitchener Stitch with out Kitchener(ing)

Here it is folks, the probably not at all highly anticipated directions for the two other knitters out there who can't do Kitchener Stitch without it looking like it was done by ferrets. Disclaimer: this is not my idea, this is probably one of those "Unventions" EZ talks about. It is also so easy, you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before. I am showing it here with socks, but I've also used it on cables (the hood of Rogue to be exact) and it works flawlessly. To do this, you'll need a yarn needle and some waste yarn that is the same weight as the yarn in your project but a different color. Cotton yarns work best as they are less likely to stick to the wool (assuming you've knit the project in wool in the first place), but keeping the weight the same is more important than fiber content - I used a wool in these pics because I don't have a fingering weight cotton. Color contrast is crucial. OK, here goes:


1. Above you see the second Snow Dragon Who Ate the French Child sock (pattern: French Child's Sock from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush). It is to the point where the directions say to Kitchener stitch the stitches together to finish the toe - yeah right - if I want my sock to look like it was done by ferrets! I have broken the sock yarn from the ball, leaving about a 2 foot tail attached to the sock.


2. Ignoring the crazy Kitchener Stitch directions, I work two rounds (if you're knitting in a pattern, continue in that pattern so it matches) with the contrasting yarn- you can see the tails hanging out to the side - don't weave them in, knot them, or do anything else with them, just hold them until you have three or four stitches done and don't have to hold them anymore. Just let them hang there - the ferrets won't bother them.


3. Thread the end of the contrasting yarn into a yarn needle and run this through the stitches on the needle, sliding the stitches off of the needle. Basically, you're using the tail of the yarn to hold these live stitches. I like to leave a loop between the needles (referred to as the front needle and the back needle by those who can actually do Kitchener stitch) so I have something to grab later. You can see the loop on the picture just above this paragraph.

4. Now thread the tail of your project yarn onto the needle. If you look closely at the part of the sock where the project yarn is the yarn below the contrasting yarn, you'll see that you can actually see how the contrasting yarn loops into the project yarn, forming the stitches. Take the needle and follow the contrasting yarn through the stitches of the project yarn (you're only looking at the first round of contrasting yarn here - the second is just there to keep it from unraveling). You'll be going from one side of the opening to the other, only following the contrasting yarn where it loops into your project yarn's stitches.

5. As you stitch back and forth across the opening, be sure to pull the stitches as tight as the regular stitches that you knitted so that your knitting and the join you're making are indistinguishable. (I've never typed that word before - its huge!) It helps to tuck the contrasting yarn into the opening to get it out of the way.

6. Once you've gone all the way across the opening, make sure all your stiches are the same size as each other and your knitted stitches. Pass the needle to the wrong side of the project. There might be a dent along the line where you just stitched - don't worry, this is because of the contrasting yarn you worked and then stuffed into the opening. Once its removed it won't be a dent.

7. Above you can see the inside of the sock. The contrasting yarn is all on the inside now, the yarn tail from the project yarn is also inside and is still on the needle. Now, grab the loop of contrast yarn you left between the two needles when you put the live contrast stitches on it. Pull it out, then pull the other side out. You should now have a bunch of live stitches in your contrasting yarn. Keep pulling and it should just unravel from the project yarn. When all of the contrast yarn is unraveled, weave in the end of the project yarn, just like you would if you actually knew how to do Kitchener stitch, trim the end and turn the sock right side out.

TA DA! A finished sock (or whatever you're making)! And I still don't know how to do Kitchener Stitch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Still Knitting

I know I said that when I got back that I would show you all how to do Kitchener Stitch without having to do Kitchener Stitch, but I'm still working on the sock. Finally. Knit. Past. Heel. I hate how long the heel turn takes doing socks this direction, but I'm really loving this sock pattern. I hope to get the foot knit today and then maybe tomorrow I can show you how to cheat at Kitchener. Or maybe we'll have pictures of Ramius instead. Who knows. I like to live dangerously around here. Tune in tomorrow....

Friday, December 16, 2005

Houseguests, and Birthdays, and Parties, OH MY!

I'm going to take a little blogging break. This weekend is going to be busy around here. My parents are flying in tomorrow and Monday is Caleb's 5th birthday, then we have Mickael's work Christmas party Monday night so there will be no knitting content for a few days. I'll be back Tuesday or Wednesday, hopefully sane and hopefully with a finished second Snow Dragon sock so I can show you how to do Kitchener Stitch without doing Kitchener Stitch. I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hey, It Worked!



Here is most of the first fingerless mitt (most because I have to finish the thumb) posing with the Official Pink Lemon Twist Knitwear Model. I just love the way the color blends from cool to warm on this mitt! I want to walk around all day holding the mitt and just looking at all the colors in it. Easily amused, remember? The Official Model thinks I should have made it bigger and maybe not a mitt but a blanket to keep his Official Model self warm. I mean we're having an ice storm today and as a Southern cat (born and bred near Houston, TX) he just doesn't have the coat for this kind of weather. I've got to go knit the second one of these and then put some thumbs on them. Maybe two of them will give poor little Ramius some more coverage!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy



Yesterday was crazy. Monday is always a little rushed around here, but yesterday I really didn't get a chance to sit down until 8:30 last night. I did a few rounds of knitting on this before I collapsed into bed. What is this? The yarn is the rainbow colored Columbia that I spun in November (I think). It blends from cool colors to warm colors, but there are speckles of lots of other colors within those blends. What I'm making is another pair of fingerless mitts. I just love these things! They are fast to work up, comfortable to wear, and you can drive in them safely because your fingers are out so they can grip the wheel. The other day I tried to drive in mittens (just to mix things up a bit), and before I even grabbed the steering wheel, I had caught my mittens in the hinges of my sunglasses when I went to put them on. Not a good start. I decided that I just do better with my fingers out. So, I wound this yarn in to balls and started them over the weekend. I haven't decided what pattern to put on them, and there is a thumb positioning issue I'm trying to figure out, but I have high hopes for today. I might actually get a little time to knit on them.

Did I mention that I'm done Christmas shopping? And Christmas knitting? Woo Hoo!

Monday, December 12, 2005

One Sock. Done



This weekend I finished all my Christmas projects! Today's big job is getting everything wrapped and taken to the UPS for shipping, then I can relax and enjoy everything. As you can see above, I've also finished (but not blocked) the first of the First Ever Top Down Socks by Melanie. This pattern is called the Child's French Sock, which is apparently what the original sock pattern from the late 1800's was called. I keep seeing dragon scales, and the more I look at it, the more I see an albino dragon, so in my mind, these socks have become Snow Dragon Socks. Maybe the Snow Dragon ate the French child, I don't know, but I'm really happy with the way this sock looks. Since I don't Kitchener stitch, I cheated on the toe. I'll be sure to get pictures of how I do the second toe since I can't be the only one who doesn't do Kitchener stitch. I'm off to pack up Christmas gifts. Happy Monday!

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm Getting There

No pictures today, but definite progress on the Christmas knitting. I've finished one of the projects and I'm about 2/3 of the way through the other project. I should finish that one today and then I have a little bit of sewing to do and I can pack everything up and ship it all out! WooHoo! Hopefully Monday or Tuesday I can knit what I want, when I want again.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Destressing, or How To Ignore What You Should Really Be Doing



Remember this? This is the Calliope colorway from The Silkworker that I got a month or so ago. I started spinning it a few days ago because nothing was on the wheel. I had finished up the Harvest roving singles and since I like my singles aged, couldn't ply them yet. Nothing is more pathetic than a spinning wheel with nothing on it, so I thought, "Why Not?" I grabbed Calliope, separated it into smaller sections for easier spinning and jumped in. As it turns out, spinning silk is a great way to ignore/forget what I should be doing (finishing Christmas gifts) and pretty relaxing once you get into the rhythm of it. For the first time ever, I'm spinning on my wheel's highest ratio (19 point something or other) and I put on the laceweight flyer - I figured it might be more gentle on the silk. Because the silk is so slippery, I have to pay close attention to what I'm doing, but I'm being rewarded by this amazingly, gorgeous shiny stuff on my bobbin: I am just loving the way the colors are looking together. The dull colors make the bright colors pop and it is totally reminding me of Kaffe Fasset's striped fabrics. I'm spinning the singles at 40 wpi, and since silk is so lightweight, I figure the 2+ ounces I have will probably give me 3, 248, 305 yards of yarn, once its plied. We've already discussed how embarrassingly easy I am to amuse, so you can imagine how I feel as I spin this (oooooh, grey into green, OH, here comes gold, and look at the little pink parts!), add in the fact that I have to pay close attention to my treadling and drafting and you can see how easy it is to relax into an almost meditative state. When I spin this, I can't worry about all the little things I have to do before Christmas, I can't worry about all the music programs, church pageants, Christmas parties, and (yeah, yeah) finishing and shipping Christmas gifts. I can only think about the silk and the rhythm of my body as I spin it into yarn. It's become a wonderful distraction from all the stress this time of year puts on us and even spinning for 20 minutes a day helps me keep it all in perspective and enjoy the Season for what it really means.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rendezvous at Dusk



Over the weekend, between checking to see if Knitty was up, I plyed the Rendezvous at Dusk singles. This is the best picture I've gotten of the color. I thought I was spinning the singles at laceweight, but when I washed the skein after I plyed it, the whole thing bloomed and the yarn is now a fingering weight. I love the way this yarn feels. If I could, I'd pass it around so you could all feel how soft it is! I have an idea of what I want to do with this yarn but I won't start until after I finish all my Christmas knitting. I have finished the first project (you know the - insert gift name here) and plan to start the other project today. There are also some sewing projects. My goal is to mail everything next Monday and then I can devote my time to doing whatever I want. Not that I haven't been doing whatever I want anyway, but after I mail the gifts, I can do it guilt free!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Socks and Frostbite


Do you see what I've done? I've done the heel flap and I'm on the heel turn of my first ever top down sock! I've come to some conclusions about socks in general and top down socks in particular, since everyone knows that knitting half of something (of course with a sock, its more like a quarter of something) makes you an expert. I've decided Nancy Bush is a genius. She wrote this book, Knitting Vintage Socks, and despite the fact that I've completely skipped the easy, more basic socks at the front of the book, she isn't punishing me. She is still holding my hand and walking me through how to knit this sock (the Child's French Sock - for women), patiently telling me exactly what to do when she could easily tell me to knit a French Heel and be done with it (she explained at the front of the book after all). But she is very kindly helping me through each step so that I don't overtax my brain. Thank you, Nancy!

I've also decided that many Western knitters and their families had severe frostbite of the toes. Why, you ask? Well, apparently Western knitters (I'm assuming we're talking about Western Europe versus Eastern Europe and the Middle East here) typically knit socks from the top down, while other knitters in more of an Easterly region knit from the toe up. As regular readers know, I've always been a toe up kind of girl, but I try to keep an open mind so I thought I'd give top down a whirl. When I sat down to knit last night, I was done with the cuff of the sock and ready to start something called a heel flap. What you see above - heel flap, stitches picked up again after the heel flap, and about half of the heel turn - is over 3 hours of knitting! So, therefore, I must conclude that if I were knitting socks to keep mine and my family's feet warm all winter, we would all have frostbite before I finished the socks (Caleb would probably be OK, he still has little feet, but Mickael? you're on your own, honey) I think this is also why there is so much discussion about socks wearing out. I've been doing socks for about 2 years now and I have yet to have a sock wear out. The closest thing to wearing out that my socks have experienced was when Ramius stole a puffball from one of the Pom Squad socks. My mom knit me some socks 5 years ago for me to wear while I was in labor with Caleb and those aren't worn out. So, I have to ask myself, why all the fuss about sock durability? After 3 hours of knitting last night, I get it! You top down people spend so much time doing the heel turn, that you need the socks to last for 15 - 20 years to get a good return on your time investment. I have come to the conclusion that as long as Nancy Bush (or someone equally patient) is willing to write a sock pattern that I can understand and walk me through every step of the heel turn, I will do an occasional top down sock. At the rate they're going, I should be able to make 2 pairs a year.

I'd also like to say THANK YOU! for all the wonderful comments about Bristow. I am so happy that you like the pattern! One thing I'd like to note, Shannon of the Comments asked a question about the gauge of the pattern which is 19 stitches/29 rows per 4 inch square and yes, this is correct. It sounded like a high row count to me too, but after counting it 5 times, then letting it sit for a week and coming back (because it could have been playing a trick on me) and recounting, its still 29 rows per 4 inches. Usually, if you get a slightly different row gauge, its not the end of the world, whereas we all know what happens if your stitch gauge is off.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bristow



This is Bristow. Bristow is a cardigan pattern that I designed and knitted for Knitty, the online magazine. This is my first pattern that was published by someone other than me and I am just so excited to see my own design in Knitty! For those of you not familiar with Knitty, it is a free online knitting magazine that is published quarterly, with a special issue during the summer. It is mostly known for its patterns, but also has book and product reviews as well as technical articles that shouldn't be overlooked.

This pattern is named after my maternal grandmother, Bertie Bow Bristow Long. She passed away this September while I was knitting on this design and I just felt that it should be named for her. When I was younger, she had more energy than I did. I remember thinking she could probably walk faster than any plane could fly and never understood why we had to go to the airport to pick her up. I now understand of course that walking from West Texas to Eastern Tennessee (and later Colorado), was a bit too far even for her! She was a teacher and later volunteered at a Texas historical museum there in Lubbock. She raised two daughters, was married to my grandfather for over 50 years before he passed away, and stayed active in the church for as long as her body and mind allowed. Sometimes it seemed like she knew everything there was to know about Texas history but the thing that will always remind me of her are her buttermilk biscuits. Grandmommy made the best biscuits in the entire world. Caleb actually called her Bicca, which was his word for biscuit when he was little bitty, because I told him that she was the one who taught me to make biscuits - something he's been eating and enjoying since he was about a year old. Something about the smell of the buttermilk and the feel of the dough always takes me back to when I was younger, standing in Grandmommy's kitchen in Lubbock, helping her to cut out biscuits. She never knitted, but she had red hair until the day she passed away, at 96 years old, so it felt right to dedicate this pattern to her.

For those of you that are interested, here is her biscuit recipe:

Bertie Bow Bristow Long's Buttermilk Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

  • 3 cups flour
  • 5 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups fresh buttermilk

Mix all the dry ingredients together until they are well blended. Cut in the shortening and mix thoroughly. (Its important to get everything as evenly mixed as possible before you add the buttermilk) Add the buttermilk and mix together quickly and GENTLY. If you take too long mixing in the buttermilk or mix it in roughly, you'll have tough biscuits. Turn out the dough on a floured surface and pat (don't roll) it out until its 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Cut it out with a round cutter - don't twist the cutter as you cut or you'll seal the edges of the biscuits and they won't rise as well. Place the biscuits on a greased cookie sheet (I actually use a pizza baking stone now and don't grease it) and put into the oven until the biscuits start to turn golden brown on the tops. I think this takes about 15 -20 minutes but I've never really timed it - I always just watch them cook. Serve hot, or once they are cool, they keep in a ziplock bag on the counter just fine (they never last more than 24 hours around here, so I have no clue how long they'll keep). I've found that if you put them in the bag just before they are completely cool, they stay a little bit fluffier or something.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

AAAAAAARRRGH!

No, I haven't lost my mind. I do have something to show you. The problem is that what I have to show you is on something else which isn't up yet. (I promise this will all make sense.) So, in the meantime how about a sing along?

Divide into 2 groups please, and starting with you on the left....*Row, Row, Row you boat, gently down the stream, (Now the second group starts at the *-hey, its just like a knitting pattern!) Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,....