Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Hereby, Solemnly Swear, Never to Knit Lace Around Small Children

Yes, I got cocky. I was feeling fine, knitting away at my Charlotte, groovin in the lace pattern, and I thought I could get in a few rows while in the company of my children. A couple of rows here, a couple of rows there, and it all adds up, right?!

Then, later that evening after the kids are in bed, I pick it up again I'm knitting away and loving life, when I notice a blob of knitting "gook" that shouldn't be there.

As you can see from my lovely visual aid (the black arrows), there are nice neat rows of knit stitches that form a line, every 8 stitches, that line up through the entire pattern.

The white arrow in the middle of the knitting, pointing upward, refers to one of those columns that has gone badly awry. The circle marks the spot of the mangle. The neat column of knit stitches takes a left hand jog amidst a clump of gook-y stitches that just aren't supposed to be there.

The thing I have discovered about lace, is that the key (for me, anyway) isn't to count the stitches after knitting a row, or even to memorize the pattern. For me, the key is to analyze what the pattern is supposed to "do", and watch every so often, to make sure that it is doing what it is supposed to. For instance, in this lace pattern, there are those knit stitch columns that line up every 8 stitches, all the way through the whole thing. So every time I get to that 8th stitch in the pattern I glance down to make sure it is lining up with all the others. Good.

So, why I wasn't paying attention to the 8th stitch, and how I could get four rows past such a mangle, I have no idea. (Well, I suppose I do have a good idea. Refer to the title.)

I analyzed the mistake for quite awhile and came up with a few possible solutions:

1/ Leave it as is, and fudge some yarn-overs to get the amount of stitches I need, and continue on.

2/ Run the offending stitch down a few rows, and try to knit it back up.

3/ Frog back about 4 rows, and put the whole thing back on the needles.

4/ Go back to my lifeline. In this picture, the black arrow on the right is pointing to my last lifeline, about 5 inches down. (At least 2 days worth of knitting.)

I put it down for awhile and came back to it later. I analyzed again, and realized that there were two clumps that threw off an area of about 16 stitches, that the problem was four rows down. I have heard all these horror stories about how it impossible to fix lace.

But it occurred to me that it might be possible to fix it by running that particular section down 4 rows and knitting it back up. This is what I have done with regular knitting, and now that I could see exactly what the problem was, if I was careful, why couldn't I do this with lace?

If it didn't work, I could always try to take the whole thing off the needles, frog four rows, and get it back on. Worst case scenario, I would have to frog it back to the lifeline. It would be painful to lose two days of knitting, but I wouldn't die.

I marked the area I needed to correct with the green markers. I secured some double decreases with the orange markers, in case things got out of control when I took it off the needles. Then I carefully slid the stitches between the 2 green markers off the needles.

Lace off the needles is a bit panic inducing.

Here is one row carefully unraveled.

Here we have 4 rows unraveled and the live stitches are put back on a third needle.

Here 2 rows knit back up.

Here are all 4 rows knit back up and all the knitting is back on my original needles.

And I am ready to knit back across the row.

Whew. It worked, just like it works with regular knitting. You just have to be more careful with lace, because of all the yarn overs and decreases, but it works just fine. Onward ho!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Charlotte, Birthday Socks, and a Recipe

I am completely obsessed with this:

I am at the 3rd/4th color blend section. On row 100 of 154 rows! (But using Jessica's Shawl Progress Calculator, I calculate that I am still less than 40% complete. It seems to defy logic, dang geometry.)

I love the way the colors are blending, hopefully it will be as subtle as I intended. It is hard to see while it is in the unblocked, crumpled state, and all I can think of as I knit this is, "I can't wait to block this, I can't wait to block this". I have calculated that if I do 10% per day (approximately 10 rows), I will be blocking by next weekend. I am scoping out the largest and best blocking spot in the house.


In a brief interlude this weekend, I finished up Woolease sock #2 for my birthday boy.

Black with red toes.

You might remember I gave him the first sock for Christmas. (I learned a few days before Christmas that the man doesn't like to receive an unfinished gift. It hurts his feelings. I know, I must do a better job of teaching him the Crafter's Way.) Instead of giving him an unfinished pair of socks, I gave him one finished sock.

So, very conveniently, his birthday comes up one month later, and he gets the second finished sock. Whew.

He likes it!

It has a little detail, just above the red toe, done in duplicate stitch. Well hidden inside the shoe, so nobody will know it's there except him, and he can maintain his gruff manly exterior. Only I know he's really a big marshmallow. (Hi Honey!)

The reason for the recipe: without going into great detail, my friend Melody and I conspired to give Dave a suprise birthday dinner party. She is the most fantastic hostess, and she has the story on her blog.

When I asked Dave what kind of cake he would like for his birthday, he asked for a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake. With all due respect to the folks at Baskin Robbins: blech. I decided a nice substitute would be home-made tiramisu. It was a pretty big hit, and Melody wanted me to post the recipe. It is actually the same recipe that I found here, except their version uses 1/3 cup Kaluha, and mine used 2/3 bottle, (hic).

6 egg yolks
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. mascarpone cheese (that will be a little more than one container)
1 3/4 c. hvy whipping cream
2 pkgs ladyfingers
1/2 to 2/3 bottle of Kaluha
unsweetened cocoa for garnish
semi-sweet chocolate curls for garnish

Whisk egg yolks and sugar in double boiler for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in mascarpone cheese. Whip cream and fold in.

Soak ladyfingers in Kaluha. Make sure they are really absorbing the liquid, but then again, don't let them fall apart. Layer 1/2 of them in a springform pan. Spread on 1/2 the filling. Do another layer of the ladyfingers and the filling. Dust with cocoa and garnish with chocolate curls. Don't eat and drive.

I leave you with a parting shot of Charlotte:

Friday, January 27, 2006

You Guys Rock

Thank you, thank you, thank you for voting. You made my little day so exciting, as I slipped back to the computer many times during the day to see if there were new votes.

Charlotte's Web took an early lead, and some people were so enthusiastic about it, I was tempted to count their votes twice! Then Ene's gained a following and Martha also had a good showing.

I can't believe there were no smart alecks who wanted to see me wind up the yarn mess.

In the end, it was a tie between Charlotte's Web and Ene's Shawl, and I will attempt to do both! But can you blame me for casting on Charlotte's first, the Koigu is so seductive.

I have had some questions over the past few days and I will go back and make sure I answer all of them:

Susan, the pink baby sweater is "Sam" from Mission Falls Wee Knits.

Lauren, the sweater is a dog because it is an ugly color, too big, and I don't think it will really go with the dress I wanted it to go with. But, I will give it a chance and the embroidery will probably help.

Diane, I LOVE my bryspuns. I love the flexibility, the pointy tips, they are lightweight and warm, and inexpensive. They are so easy on the hands. You might not notice it while knitting, but over an hour or so of knitting, my hands don't hurt like they might with metal needles.

Kristin, sorry I didn't put a picture of Charlotte's Web, it was so popular last year I didn't think that some people wouldn't know what it was. Thanks for looking it up!

Many people asked about the PBS show last month and I never announced it: they said it will air in March of '07. Yes, over a year away. Believe me, I'll send out an APB when it is closer to air time.

Carla, you must drop everything and knit a Charlotte along with me! It is completely addictive, and I can now see why many people made more than one. I am loving this knit.

Charlotte in the Snow. She's "radiant"! And "humble"! (Thanks to my brother's comment from yesterday, which had me fall off my seat laughing, I'm picturing a Charlotte's Web shawl with "Some Pig" written out in the lace pattern.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ok, People, You Decide!

New Project Try-outs, Take II

I have been meaning to say thank you for all your comments recently, especially your sympathy for my tendonitis flare up. I have been resting, using my brace and heating pad, and am getting much better.

I also wanted to say hello! to all the new people who have commented recently. I love to hear from new people! I try to reply to a lot of my comments, but it goes in waves, depending on how busy life is, and I have a lot of comments that I haven't replied to recently. I'll keep trying. Meantime, thank you.

Here is my slow knitting progress for the past week:

Semi-finished green baby sweater is blocking. It still needs buttons and pink embroidery to match the dress I want it to go with.

I have a feeling it's a dog. But, it will look better with the embroidery.

I am sure it will be too big. Which is ok for a baby sweater, she will wear it someday. But probably not with the dress I intended it to go with. See how much bigger it is than her current sweater!

I also finished the second sock of a pair of Lorna's Laces. I love the colors (Mixed Berries, I think)

But the patterning is a little too weird for me. I especially don't like the barber-pole striping on the leg. This was my first use of this yarn (except for some child's socks) and I probably won't use it again.

So, ready for a new project. Something to work on between now, and the Olympics. The Debbie Bliss raglan and Cafe Bastille that I started two weeks ago, are going to have to wait, because of the cotton of the first, and the bulkiness of the second, are both hard on my hands. I need a kinder, gentler project.

Maybe something I could finish in a few weeks? A Shawl?

Here is where you come in! To thank you for reading and commenting, I would like to knit what you readers decide. OK, I will attempt to knit what you decide. I can't take responsiblity for a disgruntled yarn or pattern, and reserve the right to stop any project that isn't behaving.

Project 1. Charlotte's Web.

Project 2. Ene's shawl in Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud, color "Stream". (This one may be a little complicated to be my main "Knit around kids and while having morning conversation with husband, just to let you know.)

Project 3. "Beauty and the Bias" Shawl from Two Old Bags, in a beautiful "natural black" (i.e. dark dark brown) alpaca, that I bought last year at Stitches. I tried this shawl last year and ripped it in frustration when I had a mistake in the lace pattern. It doesn't look like it should be that hard, and I'm ready to try again, I would really like to wear this in the spring with my jean jacket. (But that goes for any of them.)

OR, I could get started on another sweater, although I don't think I'd finish before the Olympics, but I could get a lot done so that I could pick it up and finish it in March.

Sweater option 1: Martha. I've kind of abandoned the idea of using the yarn I dyed last weekend, due to the varigation. Here's another possibility, baby yarn.

Another sweater I've been wanting to do for years, the Uptown Jacket from Jo Sharp's Village. In the brown worsted I dyed this weekend into a super-dark, almost black, purply brown.

Or then again, you could watch me spend the next three weeks untangling this dyed mess. (Koigu thrown in for scale.)

Please vote!

Leave your vote in the comments. You have a day and a half. On Thursday afternoon I have 2/3rds of the kids at school, and I will use that time to cast on a new project.

While I await your decision, I will cast on a new sock from this yarn I dyed last year:

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dye Party

What to do on a totally snowy Saturday in January when you need a little lift?

Meet up with girlfriends and sniff wet wool all day.

Place: The Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles.
Participants: Me, Laura, Blogless Gretl, Judy, April, Blogless Carla and Jodee (Late Night Suburban Train Sock Knitters)
Objective: Dye and overdye until we pass out.
Secret Objective: I really wanted to dye yarn for Martha so I could finally participate in the KAL I signed up for, like, a year ago.

Here is my booty: (L-R) Henry's Attic Kona Superwash sock yarn for Martha, some Knitpicks sock yarn, 2 different skeins of green sock yarn to overdye, the brown is a sweater's worth of worsted that I overdyed last year and haven't used this year so it's time to try again, some GGH TriKolore pastel to overdye, and some dark green Manos to overdye.

Here I am mixing the dye. Go ahead, make fun of me. Everyone else did.

We used acid dyes. Mine were from Pro Chem. The fantastic thing about doing this at the Fine Line is that they have 3 large sinks, 4 stoves, and all the pots and steamers we needed. Here I am pouring the dye into beakers.

And here are all the dye solutions ready to go.

Carla brought a million yard roll of plastic wrap, to share. Really Carla, what possessed you to buy so much plastic wrap in the first place? I'm afraid to ask. But glad we could take some off your hands! Here she is concentrating on her sock.

Jodee is wrapping hers up, ready to steam, while Laura supervises.

My sock yarn method was a little less precise. In fact, I believe someone might have used the word "sloppy". I did my socks at the end of the day, after dyeing the Martha yarn THREE TIMES, and I was tired.

However, you just can't go wrong with a little white yarn and some beautiful color, no matter what your technique. Here's the sloppy yarn, still wet:

It shows promise.

So did I mention that I had to dye my Martha yarn three times? I wanted a deep, rich reddish purple, and the first two times I dyed it, I wound up with whitish areas. After the third time, I had the saturated color I wanted, but my ten skeins of yarn had merged into one huge tangled blob:

Yep, that's about 1600 yards of fingering weight yarn. I'm laughing in the picture, but what do you want to bet I'll be crying when it takes me about a week to untangle that mess.

Meanwhile, here is an action shot of everyone hard at work. Carla is in the foreground, painting sock yarn, April and Judy are organizing their skeins of sock yarn, Gretl is doing some crockpot maneuver, and I'm in the back dyeing the Martha yarn on the stove for the second or third time.
Laura is stitching some quilts and supervising:

Gretl scored a perfectly beautiful but ugly-beige cabled sweater at the thrift store, and dyed it whole. Deep grape. We were all jealous.

Man, I wish I had taken a picture of the finished sweater. Go Gretl!

Judy looks happy as she is rinsing:

And she should be. Look at all that gorgeous sock yarn she and April cooked up:

Jodee and Carla are happy with their results:

This is Carla's favorite:

And here's one more of my sock yarns, still wet:

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Newsflash: Olympic Knitter Pulls Muscle While In Training

Ok, so maybe that's a little exaggerated for the silliness factor, but seriously, I have been doing too much knitting and have aggravated the tendonitis in my right wrist/arm/shoulder. I kind of knew I was overdoing it and I was sore, but then I was knitting and talking on the phone yesterday, and I felt some kind of muscle twist. No, you didn't miss anything, no backflips, no spectacular fall down the stairs, I was knitting while cradling the phone on my left shoulder. Apparently, that was enough to put me over the edge. I'm feeling really old right now.

So, I've been laying low with the knitting this week, and, as you could imagine, I'm cranky. On the bright side....well....um..... I have my taxes done.

Make that super-cranky.

Late Monday night (pre-tendonitis flare up), in a fit of insane excitement, I signed up for the Harlot's Olympic Challenge. It probably jinxed me. I hope to feel better by then because I am really excited about it. I'll be knitting the VK Winter Cardigan (Number 12) that I showed a picture of earlier this week.

Meanwhile, to keep myself from biting my nails off or eating non-stop, I have been knitting just a teensy bit on the green baby cardigan. (Daisy from Knitty). Lightweight wool, knit on flexible Bryspuns, pretty easy on the wrist.

The green looks blah in these pictures. I think all of us in blogland would like a sunny day to take some pictures!

It is to go with this dress (Sophie's Christmas dress...and spring dress...and Easter dress...) The pinks will be embroidered flowers reminiscent of the print on the dress. I hope it works.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New Project Try-Outs

I had a bit of panic when I finished Sugar Plum on Friday night. (I just noticed on someone's blog that apparently there is a "Sugar Plum Pullover" in the recent book Handknit Holidays. Hello all you googlers! Mine is not the same. Move along now, and sorry for the confusion.) Panic because I didn't have another juicy sweater project started in the queue. I got up super early on Saturday, before the rest of the household, spread out yarn and patterns all around me, and basked in the goodness of possibility.

Here's what's cookin:

Top left, an aran raglan from Debbie Bliss's book Cotton Knits for All Seasons. I've wanted to make this for a long time, but I've put it off because there are no charts. I've gotta have me some charts.

Moving clockwise, that is a cardigan from the new VK Winter issue. (Number 12). I am determined to make that out of the Rowan Magpie I've stashed for ages. The Magpie was originally intended for the Paton's Must Have Cardigan, pictured up there on the far right. But I think this new one will be a little more flattering on me with the shawl collar, and it is pretty much the same type of sweater as the Must Have, just slightly updated.

Moving along: the Cafe Bastilles sweater from the IK Fall 03 cover, I've wanted to make for a long time, and would look good in stashed Lamb's Pride Bulky in black.

And lastly, the Harlot's Daisy sweater from Knitty. It looks brown above, but it is a soft green. It's for Sophie, and was easy to cast on and get going since there was no re-doing of measurements or math involved.

Here is what is winning:

I Love This Sweater. I charted the cables, and cast on a sleeve. So Cotton-Ease worthy, don't you think? In black. Please squint, to make out the texture, and I'm sorry. Let's hope for some sun, so I can wash this puppy out in the sunlight and show you some cables.

This one was also a serious contender, but is going to require a lot of swatching, I mean training. In a wild and crazy moment late last night, I joined up The Harlot's olympic challenge. So this one will wait for February.

Meanwhile, we'll see how far I can get with my C-E cables, before I give it over to the Olympic frenzy.

P.S. This weekend I had my good buddy Melody over for knitting and daquris, I mean, "dinner". Oh, and the Daves got to watch football. In fact, my Dave (as opposed to her Dave) thought it was his idea in the first place, to have them over for football and dinner, that's what a great job I've done of brainwashing him.

So anyway, Mel and I were knitting and discussing blogging, etc. and she said that she was thinking of doing a bio entry on each of her girlfriends in her sidebar. Little did I know that she would do me the Very Next Day. So, she has written a report about me, much more glowing than I could ever write, and if you would like to know more about me or my quilts hop on over to her blog and read her entry from yesterday (January 16th). Heck, if you are new to quilting, you need to hop on over to see HER stuff, as she is the Queen of Art Quilting, and supremely generous with her information. Thanks Mel!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sugar Plum Pullover

Presenting my first finished sweater of 2006. I call it the Sugar Plum Pullover. Vogue Knitting Fall '02 creatively named it "Number 25". Designed by Adrienne Vittadini.


Yarn: Cotton-Ease color Sugar Plum. Less than 5 skeins.

Knit using #5 Bryspun circulars (2 different lengths, both of which broke at the join during the knitting of this sweater.) Switched to addi's when the Bryspuns broke, and used bamboo dpns for the sleeves.

Changes: I knit it in the round, instead of knitting the separate pieces flat and sewing them together. It went a lot faster this way, but if I were to do it again, I would knit it flat, for 2 reasons. First, the decreases were complicated at the yoke, and if I were just concentrating on one piece at a time, it would have been easier to keep track of the decreases. Second, I think the seams in a cotton garment give it structure, and would help keep it from stretching and growing. This sweater fits well now, so I don't know yet what a lot of wearing will do to the stretch factor.

I also changed the cable, as you read in my last post.

I love the hem detail, and will use this again for sure. All the hems directions I have seen so far include a purled turning row. It makes a little line at the bottom of the hem, which I don't always care for. This is a tiny 5 row hem, with no turning row. I believe the pattern instructed you to sew the hem up afterward, but I knitted it like this:

Cast on with waste yarn. It helps if you use a thinner, smooth yarn. Knit a few rows. Change to your sweater yarn. Knit five rows. Carefully unpick the waste yarn and put those first row live stitches onto a different needle. Knit the next row by knitting 2 together, all the way around, one stitch from the first row and one stitch from your current row needle.

That K2T row is a little tedious, but it makes a perfect hem, and no extra sewing up later. When you have done this, you can knit away, and your hem is done! With the sewing, you have to be careful to get one stitch per one stitch, and make sure you stay in the same row, so your hem will be even. The knit way, it automatically matches the stitches up perfectly, so your hem is perfect.

*Thank you Melody, for taking the pictures!