Wednesday, April 30, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Ralph Askew 2

We were traveling last week, and I didn't get to knit as much as normal. Despite having a squirmy toddler in my lap most of the time, I'm happy with the progress that I made on Ralph Askew.

Check that out! It is a finished sock!

Every row of the second sock has had me wondering if the black spot would return. This has been the most anticipated pooling of my knitting existence, and ladies and gentlemen, sock 2 did not disappoint. In fact, it has far exceeded my hopes. Warning, if you found my zebra eye a stretch before, you might as well give up on me now. Today I present:


Monday, April 28, 2014

Welcome Rue!

I'd like to welcome our newest family member Rue!

We adopted Rue from the NYC ACC, and she has instantly taken to our family. The moment we opened the carrier at home she was out and curious. She was exploring our apartment and begging for affection. She has been patient with the girls, playful with Hubby and cuddly with me. I couldn't be happier!

Friday, April 18, 2014

FO Friday: My first charity blanket

Since starting my  new job, I've joined a great knitting group that focuses on charity projects. I've mentioned it several times and on Monday, I gave you most of a look at most of the finished blanket. I want to share a good finished object picture to celebrate its completion.

This was the first project that I brought to the group finished. I felt a weight lifted once I turned it in. It is odd and unnecessary, but I was carrying around some guilt for all the free yarn they had given me with out having given them anything in return. To defend myself slightly, I took 5 different balls of yarn for this blanket and 2 giant skeins for the second blanket before I brought this in. Now I feel I've proved that I will uphold my end of the bargain and I can be trusted with massive amounts of yarn.

Hubby has been playing and learning with his fancy camera so I've started asking for him to help me take better pictures of my completed knitting. He seems more interested in portraits, but I really appreciate the time he is putting into great lighting and staging for me. They are so much nicer than the quick cell phone shots I'd be sharing otherwise. Thanks babe!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Ralph Askew

A girlfriend of mine is making a big move from Arkansas to Indiana. I don't expect her to have too many winters like the ones that I grew up with in Wisconsin, but I'm hoping she will enjoy a winter that is truly cold and snowy rather than wet and dreary. (I confess... I like snow.) During her last visit we packed the time with yarn shopping and tips on how to winterize your home and keep warm in January. While at my LYS Knitty City we found some really fun yarn: Meow Yarn. It is a lovely fingering weight yarn with colorways inspired by cats and part of the proceeds go to benefit stray and abandoned cats. Everything came together when she found a black and white skein matching her lovely tuxedo cat Ralph.

(Isn't he a cutie?)

(So is that skein)

I knew instantly that she needs her first set of hand knit socks for her first snowy winter. When I unwrapped this skein at home, I got even more excited about the project. It is gorgeous all twisted up, but it is intriguing laid out. It is half black and half white to the length of the skein. I've worked with variegated yarns in a variety of color options. some with just one or two stitches in each color and others with long striping color changes. I haven't however worked with any two color yarn or anything so meticulous in the short repeats. Since these will be socks I'm very excited about seeing how they work up. The potential for one row stripes is making me nearly giddy.
(See? Half and half! and surrounded in toys)

(Look at that beautiful cake!)

My friend and I have also picked an exciting pattern: Skew. The unique construction of this pattern means that I can't predict at all what is going to happen. Even if I do figure it out, something new is going to throw me off all over again. Case in point, I've gotten the first toe done. I am seeing the cool striping that I expected and I love them. They are turning out much more zebra* than kitty though. The only spot of pooling so far is clearly a zebra eye.
(I like that the curled up edge makes a little ear too. Squint a bit if you can't see it, or just love me for my crazy.)

What really has me curious about this pooling spot is that there is no corresponding white pool, or any other pool the opposite side is all stripes.  Ralph Askew is my new subway project and since I am so fascinated  with this yarn, these are going to work up super quick. I'm still riding on the high of my first finished Christmas present, and I'm starting to wonder if I should make her wait for these. It would be torture for both of us, but then I'd have 2 Christmas presents done! That could be enough to inspire a hand made Christmas.

*Random lesson for the day: Zebras are black with white stripes. I learned this on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom so it must be true. According to our safari guide, we know they are black because their nose is black. There are some other more scientific explanations supporting the black animal with white stripes claim, but I like this one so I'm sticking with it. The more you know.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Adventures in Blocking Acrylic

If you learn anything about me from this post, please let it be that I'm not very adversarial when it comes to knitting. I have my opinions and preferences, but I don't really participated in the heated debates about how things should be done. Knitting brings me joy, and I believe that other people should knit in whatever ways bring them joy. As a cheap knitter I often encounter (and slowly back away from) debates about yarn and fiber. While I wouldn't consider myself part of the anti-acrylic camp. I don't generally knit with it and I find the texture rough. I wouldn't buy it without a very special purpose, but I also wouldn't throw away a bag full if it fell in my lap.

This claim has been put to the test because my charity knitting group gives us yarn for our projects. That's right, free yarn for all the knitting I could dream of doing as long as I'm willing to give my FOs to charity. It is all 100% acrylic yarn. It also appears to all be worsted. I am not about to complain. It is the most amazing set up I have ever encountered. Now I find myself working with acrylic yarn on almost a daily basis. Has it changed my opinion at all? Not really. I limit my time working with the charity projects, because they start to feel rough on my fingers. Though all of my other projects feel like butter sliding through my hands. So it is free yarn and it helps my appreciate my expensive yarn more. It is delightful on so many levels.

I recently finished my first charity project and fell right into a subargument of the pro and anti acrylic debate: Can you block acrylic? After reading articles and watching videos from both sides, I've reached an initial opinion and I'm using my charity projects to test it. First let me hash out the argument as I understand it:

Anti: You cannot wet block acrylic. I tried this with some of my very first learning to knit projects, and I can confirm that soaking a project and laying it out to dry will not do you much good. It also won't do you much harm.

Pro: Steam! Wet blocking is not the only type of blocking and you should choose a method appropriate to your project and fiber. In the case of acrylic, that's steam blocking.

Anti: That's not blocking; it's melting! The hot steam is melting the plastic based fiber into submission and by definition ruining the yarn.

Pro: It works, and it works better than wet blocking because you don't have to re-block every time you wash you FO.

This last argument is the one that sold me. I generally believe that blocking makes projects look better and I do it with everything except my toys (though I've had some toy pieces that made me consider it.) I am not a perfectionist when it comes to my knitting. I'm often fudging fixes rather than correcting mistakes, but I do want my final piece to look its best. I have a clothing steamer that we keep out and use on almost a daily basis, so there really was no hassle to trying. I finished seaming and sewing in ends on my Dream Catcher and it looked a little sad. I wrapped it up in an icord boarder and it still had a wonkyness to it that I couldn't shake.

As you can see the squares didn't want to be square and the boarder was curling under in some places and curling out in others. It is not what I wanted to present to the group as my very first project. Since this was an experiment, I let myself be a bit lazy. I didn't pin this or measure out perfect squares. I just threw a beach towel on my table and laid the blanket down on top (RS down per all the instructions I've seen online.) I went at it with  my steamer pretty haphazardly. I tugged here and patted there and really avoided overly committing or stressing myself.

I'm happy to report that even with my poor attempt it calmed down nicely. Here it is drying. It was a little damp so I left it for a bit and it held its shape wonderfully. I'm certain with a measuring tape and a right angle I could have made perfect squares and straight lines. I only blocked the one side. I've seen some tutorials on crochet blankets recommend doing both sides, but knitting tutorials say only the back. I think the reason is that one side is all that would be necessary for something like this and if you are working very textured, I could see the benefit of only blocking the back and not 'flattening' the front.

My initial conclusions. It works and it is worth it. My blanket now has the pretty finished look that a blocked FO should have. I didn't wash it to test if the blocking was permanent. I suspect that both the pro and anti acrylics are right here and it is a case of slight melting. My yarn didn't get shiny, there were no plastic drippy balls like if I took an open flame to it, and it certainly didn't make the texture rough or unpleasant. I don't plan on this yarn being anything other than this blanket so if I've just convinced it of the same, so be it. My next blanket has a hint of laciness to it, so we'll see if blocking can help open up a project.

Hubby has taken some FO pictures of this project with his fancy camera so hopefully I'll be sharing those soon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FO Friday: Christmas Cowl

You read that right! I finished my first Christmas present! and I am not scheduled to finish another one for... the rest of the year. I have spent years believing that socks were my favorite traveling project, but I might be changing my preference to cowls.

A few weeks ago I headed to San Francisco for a work trip. I had packed some sock yarn and DPNs. What I didn't do was empty the project bag first and it still had my spare ball of yarn  and needles from my Follow Your Arrow shawl. I sat down on the plane and found myself casting on that bright Christmas red. I knit right through the flight. It was a busy trip full of conference sessions and sightseeing so I didn't knit much while I was away, but as my plane landed back home, I had 7 stitches left to cast off. In the cab, I finished those up, sewed in my ends and had a FO before I got home.

It was a delightful project. Simple that didn't need the pattern after the first repeat and complicated enough that it kept me away when jet lag should have knocked me out. I Now I'll pack this away with a few Christmas presents that I've already bought and wait for December to return. (Honestly, don't think I'm so organized that I have started Christmas shopping already. These are presents that arrived too late or were discovered to be duplicates with other friends' gifts.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Treasured Heirloom Blanket

Last time I talked about this blanket, I didn't share much other that a photo. We had friends visiting and they were far more fun than my laptop. Since then, I've continued to make progress.

In fact, I've passed the halfway point and have started the decreases. This is the project that I had queued up and planned before I was anywhere near finishing the first charity blanket and it has been everything I hoped for: mostly mindless comfort knitting that will work up quickly for the charity group. Sadly though, I think this is my last day taking it on the subway. It has just become too bulky and doesn't fit in my bag anymore. It is going to make great tv knitting at home. Now I just have to decide what to take on my commute. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Jeanie Continues

I am dedicating this WIP Wednesday to math. I started Jeanie in September of 2010 and since starting up knitting again it has been competing with my brother's blanket for the project that will never end. It is a great pattern with enough going on that I don't get bored, I have a happy little cheat sheet that keeps me on track but doesn't require that I reference the pattern or charts anymore, and I am very excited about the finished wrap. For some reason, it just doesn't seem like it is getting any bigger. I can work and work and work on it, and I swear it should be somewhere between 8 to 12 feet long by now. Oddly though, it is only 40 inches. My goal is 66 inches. To help me get through it, I am going to try to rephrase my goals. Let's work some math magic, and maybe one of them will be more manageable.

1) 26 inches - Well this one is obvious.

2) 3 balls of yarn - that's all I've got so it has to work. The first ball knit up about 23 inches so in 6 more inches I'll be starting number 3. Then I'll only have 20 inches left!

3) 8 and a half more pattern repeats. One full repeat is about 3 inches so this is a bit more digestible of a goal.

4) 34 more cable rows. This isn't completely accurate because some cables twist more than others, but it makes sense to me because I really recognize the full cable rows.

5) 17 more dropped stitches. Really this is the fun part; these are the rows I'm really looking forward to so why not count them.