Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Jamaica Holiday or PATIENCE

I have finally, finally, finally finished the UFO from a Dale of Norway pattern called "Jamaica."  As you saw in my last post, there were issues with the project.  It seems that every step had some type of slow-down complication.  That hex persisted until the end. 

The collar and button bands were tedious and only took three tries on the front band to find the appropriate number of stitches to pick up per rows of knitted fabric.  The magic number for me, using smaller 2.0mm needles, was pick up one stitch in each of three rows, skip one row, pick up one stitch in each of two rows, skip one row and repeat.  Of course I tried two different versions and ripped them out until I found this ratio that produced a nice firm fabric.

Then, I bound off around the neck and down both button bands using a two stitch I-cord bind off.  This gives a nice finished edge, I think. Despite the style these days, I do not like button bands that droop significantly lower than the back of the sweater.  (Guess I sound like an old fart, don't I.  Sigh.  I never thought my life would become one of an old fart.)  The I-cord prevents stretching of the button bands, but it seemed to take forever and ever.

The keyword for this project has been PATIENCE.  And, of course, perseverance.  But above all, patience.  I wonder how I ever developed the patience to keep working at a project over the years and not abandon it.  My husband loses his patience, on my behalf, when he sees me rip out knitting and attempting to re-design something.

In education/teaching circles, I know there is a lot of talk about developing patience in kids; maybe they don't use this word but the concept is the same.  Kids are short on the attention span and short on patience.  I'm not saying that I am a model of the patient human.  Rather, I often have a short fuse in the anger department, and I am very impatient with other humans who don't seem to work effectively or who thwart my progress--on anything.  But, give me a project (most projects that is) and I will keep at it until it is fairly well-done and complete, even if I need to re-do things repeatedly.

Is this patience or is it something else?  Refusal to give in or give up?  Not wanting to "waste" money by throwing away an incomplete project?  Anything else?

How do you define patience?  And how did you learn to have patience?




Thursday, June 19, 2014

What WAS I thinking??


Yet another unfinished project from the past.

When looking backwards in time I have often wondered, "What on earth was I thinking?" when trying to figure out why I did what I did--or didn't--do.  My vow to complete all of my unfinished knitting projects has prompted me to wonder this many times.

Recently I've been trying to finish a lovely lavender lace cardigan, made out of a cotton/viscose/silk yarn.  I found this poor abandoned item at the bottom of a knitting bag for another project.  Turns out that I began this project in 2011. I love the lace cardigan pattern, the color of the yarn, everything.  Why on earth did I stop working on it?  What WAS I thinking??
 
I had completed the body of the sweater, one complete sleeve and one half of the other sleeve.  I was almost finished.  And I left it, abandoned, in the bottom of a knitting project buried under a larger project, never to see the light of day again until recently.

Maybe I just didn't want to sew the darn thing together.  Maybe the season changed and I didn't want to wear a cotton cardigan in the fall, and started a warm wool project. Maybe Christmas present knitting took over.  Maybe I got all the entertainment value out of the project and was seduced by a new, more interesting project.  I can't possibly get into my state of mind back in 2011. 

But, it turns out that my failure to complete on time was serendipitous. 

Look closely at the top third of the photo on the left.  The top third of the front of the cardigan.  It's subtle.  I didn't see it at first either.
And, look closely at the top third of the photo on the right.  Can you see anything that looks odd??    I didn't until I took the project to my favorite yarn shop cum coffee shop, The Sow's Ear.  There, under better lighting, I noticed that the yarn had changed color!!!  No, this wasn't magic.  The color changed when I started a new skein of yarn, having run out of the previous skein.

I diligently checked the ball band for the yarn.  All the ball bands indicated the same dye lot. 

Conclusion, one skein of yarn obviously was a different color, even though the company sold it as the same color. 

So, the question is, was this the reason for abandoning the project?  Did I throw it into the bottom of the project bag in disgust?  Sometimes having to rip out hard work is annoying, to say the least.  Luckily I have other skeins of the yarn that match the color of the rest of the cardigan. So, why didn't I just rip and re-knit the sections back in 2011??  I'll never know. 

So, the past week I've been ripping out the aberrant color and re-knitting--in between working on the cute, fun red and white baby sweater.  Today I finished the second sleeve and after careful study determined where I was in the complicated cable in the front of the sweater when the color changed.  I'm now on the path to completion.

New vow--no more work on the cute, darling, fun-to-knit baby sweater until I fully complete this troublesome summer lace cardigan.  Tomorrow I hope to finish re-knitting the front, sew the thing together and shop for the pretty little buttons.  Then the neck band, the button band and FREEDOM!!! 

p.s.  In case you want to know, the pattern is Jamaica, from Dale of Norway.  The yarn is Svale, now discontinued.


Monday, June 09, 2014

Hat Ladies in June


Hat Ladies in June is just about like Christmas in July!  I belong to a group of women and two men who sew polar fleece hats for kids and adults in need.  The sewing project started more than 12 years ago by sewing polar fleece hats for kids at all of our county's Head Start (and related) programs.  We wanted to use our sewing skills to make sure that all kids had warm heads during Wisconsin's cold and windy winters.

Some of the solid color triangles.
We purchased polar fleece and cut hundreds of pieces, using solid colors only, and brought the pieces and our sewing machines to the Head Start locations.  Kids and their care givers selected the colors for each hat and we sewed them onsite, with the kids sitting next to us, while we talked with them.  It was great fun and all the kids (and parents!) loved the hats.

This is only a small portion of the array of patterned rectangles for the brim.

We expanded to include elementary schools one year when I did a lot of volunteer work at a low income school.  I tried to think of a way to make hats for all the low income kids at the school.  But, I didn't want to stigmatize the low income kids.  So I proposed making hats for ALL the kids in the school.  And we expanded the color choices to include printed fabric!  The entire school had a great time selecting the colors and patterns to make about 400 unique hats. 

Well, this was truly the start of something big.  In the years to come we expanded the number of hat "seamsters" to more than 30, including two men.  We now have people who dedicate themselves to cut the fleece.  We still purchase the fleece and donate it and our time.  Sometimes the PTO at a school donates fleece.   This past year we sewed more than 6,000 hats.  At about six hats per yard of fleece, this comes out to 1,000 yards of fleece!!!
Hat Ladies ready for action.

Back to my story.  This year I have been volunteering in a Spanish immersion classroom.  The teacher wanted to have the kids write a book about how to make something.  She asked if I would make hats with the kids.  Due to curricular schedules, we made the hats on June 3!!!  Not quite the season for polar fleece hats, but this did not dampen the kids' enthusiasm.

I was able to recruit two "Hat Ladies" who were suffering "hat making withdrawal" and they helped me make hats for two first grade classrooms.  We took pains to explain the process carefully to each child while we were sewing his/her unique hat.
Me, in Librarian mode.

First, I read a book to the kids about making hats at another school.   Then, the kids selected their six triangles and one rectangle in their colors of choice.  If desired, they also selected three little pieces for a tassel on the top.
 When each child came to sit with one of the Hat Ladies, the child explained how he/she wanted the pieces arrayed.  Regardless of age or gender, all the kids had firm ideas of the color order.  Then we began to sew.

Talking with the students while we are sewing is great fun and enlightening.  We talk about why they selected the colors, what subject they like best in school, what they want to be when they grow up, how many siblings they have, whether they have a pet, whether they have ever seen a sewing machine before.  Most kids have not seen a sewing machine.  Some kids say that their grandmothers have a machine.  One girl commented that her 15 year old sister has a machine!  Often kids want to run the machine themselves, but we explain how dangerous the needle is, and so forth.  We make sure the kids keep their hands on the table.

 The crown of the hat has six triangles.  This is when the hat begins to look like a hat.  Kids are typically thrilled with this step, and put the crown on top of their heads.  Of course it doesn't stay on.  So we explain the importance of the band--to hold the hat on the head and to keep the ears warm.  I sometimes talk about the use of the word "crown" for the top of the hat. 
Here we are at "full strength" for this classroom.  When we sew hats for an entire school we set up shop in the library or the gym, with 15 or more machines and "sewers", five or more helpers, plus teachers, the principal and curious other staff.  The teachers use the event for literacy lessons (writing), art (drawing) math and more.  Kids are uniformly polite, grateful and awed.




I would love to show photos of kids in their hats--their smiles are so genuine.  But, I hesitate to post photos that would identify any child.  Here are some of the hats.  All different, each unique, each reflecting some aspect of the child who designed it.  The excitement and gratitude of the kids does not vary according to income, grade level or gender.

My mother made all of our clothing when I was young, and hers as well.  For me it was normal to select fabric, color and design to have a unique garment.  But I longed to have what all the other kids were wearing.  Thanks, mom, for all of the talent, time and love that you put into my clothing.  And for teaching me how to sew. I think of you every time I sew hats for people. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Starting All Over Again

How time flies!!  I've been neglecting my blog for four years and it's time to get back into the blog-o-sphere.  I find that Facebook is not sufficient for saying much of import.  Not that I have much of import to say!  But, at least here I can expand on my knitting projects!

The Yarn Harlot admitted to having at least four unfinished projects.  I have been going her one better by proclaiming all of my unfinished projects on Facebook, one at a time! 
I made a knitter's vow after Christmas  that I will finish all of my incomplete projects before starting a new one!!  Thus, far I have almost stuck to my promise.  Here is where I stand.

1.  Sipsy's Folly.  Designed by Amy Detjen.  Available on Craftsy.  
Excuse for not completing: 1.  Charted the poetry for the inside hem five times, and knit the poetic hem three times.  I'm not doing it again.  I have to live with the fact that the letters are upside down.  2. The hip/waist shaping is too dramatic for me, a woman of a certain age.  I have ripped back to the hem and am starting anew.  

Where it stands now:  In time out, once again. 



2.  Lingerie Socks.  I promised these socks to a friend for her birthday, back in August 2013.  I finished them after taking my vow on February 14, 2014.  I think the socks are beautiful, but they remained incomplete for a long time due to: 1) intervening Christmas knitting; 2) the need to carry a pattern with me at all times.  Status: friend loves them.


3.  Lengthen beanie made for Daughter #1 years ago.  Status: Done!!  Excuses for delay: 1) needed to find matching yarn in my yarn bins; 2) Ripped out two different extensions that were unsatisfactory. 3) acceptable to Daughter #1. Status: The Black and Blue corrugated ribbing was a successs!  Ears warm.

4.  Make Shawl for church auction, Exception #1.   For this, I needed to violate my vow; I started this as a new project post-vow taking.  I know, Knitter's Vows are not really worth much, but I felt this was for a good cause.  At least I used yarn already in my stash.  I whipped this up as quickly as possible and it sold for $60 at the fundraising auction!! Yarn used: Noro Taiyo sock yarn.  Pattern: Simple Yet Effective Shawl, with applied lace edging.  






5.  Socks for purse knitting, Exception #2.  Ok, I admit it.  I made another exception to my vow.  Purse knitting.  Easy knitting for which no pattern is needed and that fits in my purse.  Knitting I can do at a stop sign, while waiting in line at the grocery store, when I need to really pay attention to the friend with whom I am talking.  I can't carry my incomplete projects with me at all times, so I need a bit of a project for my purse.  Besides, I need to replenish my sock drawer.  Status: happily living in my purse.

6.  My Wonderful Mittens.  I started these Winter Wonder Mittens before Christmas, using Fresco yarn., made of wool, alpaca and angora!!!  The ultimate in soft warmth.  Excuses for not completing: 1) Intervening Christmas knitting.  2) Finishing Lingerie socks, above.  3) not really NEEDED.  4) items for me tend to go to the bottom of the heap.  Status: Knitting completed.   Now I am looking for supple white leather to put on the palms so that I don't wear holes in them due to driving, etc.  This is Wisconsin, people, mittens are not worn just for show!!































7.  Heirloom Blanket.  I don't recall when I started this blanket, but I fell in love with the motif, swatched it, and started knitting with Kauni yarn in long lengths of purple to blue to green.  I am still deeply in love with the project.  But, it has been marinating in the knitting bag for a LONG time.  Excuses for not completing: 1) This is a 5.5ft by 4ft blanket people!! 2)  I'm using size 3 needles!!  3)  The Kauni yarn does not pull evenly and gets stuck on my fingers, for pity sake!!  The knitting is a slog.  Status: since taking my vow I have knit 12-14" and it is now about 4 ft long.  

8--????.  More incomplete projects.  I actually have more incomplete projects, but I am too exhausted from having confessed my knitterly sins and from the daunting task ahead of me.  I'm not sure when I can ever start a new project.  Clearly, being bored and thinking that I can just whip out a small project without affecting progress on larger projects is misguided and has landed me in an ever deepening abyss of Unfinished Projects!

Stay tuned for more, unless this also makes you depressed!!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kate's Cardigan for Gail

This is a very belated post. I made Kate's Cardigan last spring, but am finally writing about it this spring, after a season of wear and a winter in the basement closet! My apologies to those who think I am a speed knitter--I truly am not!!

I definitely have a soft spot for anything named "Kate," and I don't know why. I wanted to name my second daughter Katherine just so I could call her Kate. (I was overruled by my husband) My fascination with all things "Kate" has nothing to do with "Taming of the Shrew" but may have something to do with Thomas More's beloved daughter. (I am too old to have another daughter, just to use the name. But if my daughter's ever get pregnant, there will be a lot of lobbying on my part for the best girl's name!) I also have a thing for pie crust collars--me, a woman who eschews ruffles and typically wears only unadorned and very simple items of clothing.

So, last year when Knit Circus (Issue #5) came out with the Kate's Cardigan and put the signature sample in my LYS, I had to make the cardigan-- it even had a pie crust collar!!! It was made in lovely green wool, but I wanted the cardigan for summer wear. I selected Queensland Bebe Cotsoy as my yarn of choice, due to the color, the drape, the gauge and the light weight.

The sleeve construction was quite interesting--stitches picked up across the top of the armhole, working short rows to pick up additional stitches along the armhole, then knitting down. Unfortunately, did the body of the sweater in one piece (I hate to sew fronts and backs together) and then had a difficult time doing the short rows. But, fudging a bit it all worked out.
This sideways photo (I don't know how to turn photos once they are uploaded into Blogger) shows a couple of my attempts to make Kate's Cardigan truly "Gail's Cardigan." First, I loved the simple diagonal lace accent up the front. Why not put it also in the middle of the back?? Done! A few more air holes for a summer cardigan, and it give people something to look at in the back--that is, people can think, "Oh, what pretty lace detail down the back of that cardigan" rather than, "Oh, that woman is getting big in the hips."

I also wanted to be sure that the bound off edge of the pie crust collar did not pull in. therefore, while binding off I added stitches so that the bound off edge would continue the minimal ruffle and lie flat. Success.
Third modification--I added I-cord up the button bands. I dislike button holes in ribbing or in stockinette. I don't know why, but they always shout "home-made!!" to me. Therefore, I usually find a way to use I-cord to make hidden button holes. Praise to Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen. Those women know detail.
Fourth modification--I knit the lace edging perpendicularly onto the bottom of the cardigan. I abhor sewing knitted pieces together if there is a way to knit them together. With some fudging, this worked well.

A few weeks ago I dug into my summer clothes bin in the basement and found the cardigan. I took it with me to the Smokey Mountains and didn't wear it--due to the fact that there was unseasonably warmer weather in the mountains than typical! I would have worn the cardigan, had I needed it!! Just looking at the cardigan made me evaluate my choices.

Evaluation one year later:
1) good pattern selection. Love the lace detail on the back.
2) bad yarn selection. Great drape, great color. But the cotsoy pills under the arms and along the side. Ugh!!!
3) "dreaded frontal droop" Meg Swansen's phrase for sweaters that end up being longer in the front than in the back. One problem for this sweater is that the lace border stretches more than the stockinette. When picking up the button bands I should have picked up fewer stitches. now, I think I will do a chain crochet up the inside of the button bands to pull the fronts up.
4) button misplacement. I put a button hole in the bottom lace edging. This pulls in a weird manner. My tummy and hips are too big and the pulling makes them look even bigger. Solution--Weight Watchers.
5) good drape. The cardigan lends itself to a drapey yarn, in my opinion. The waist shaping holds its own and gives the illusion of having a waist when one no longer has one. And the draping is great for summer. Just select a yarn that does not pill.

Meanwhile, my college daughter is home for the summer and the house now feels complete again! My older daughter drops by more often and the cat is in his heaven--sleeping next to her on her bed. Life is good.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Double Applied I-Cord with Apologies to Elizabeth Zimmerman

Apologies to my husband whom I blamed for deleting photos of the blanket I made for Daughter #2. I found the photos on i-Photo!

I thought I would do a small tutorial on using I-cord to join two knitted fabrics. I could not find anything about this technique in Elizabeth Zimmerman's books, so I un-vented the technique myself. I later learned that Meg Swansen has a demonstration of this on one of her videos. Experience doing applied I-cord to an edge of fabric is helpful.

Tutorial:
Getting ready: Pin the two fabrics together with the amount of ease you need to make the two pieces match.

STEP ONE:

Perhaps you can see that I am applying a double edging (the pink garter stitch strip with the purple knitted-on lace) to the blanket. The section on the middle left has already been applied with green yarn using I-cord. The upper middle shows the edging pinned to the blanket but not yet applied. There are three stitches on my (sharp points) double pointed needle. This is a three stitch I-cord. I simply cast on three stitches to begin.

Concept: The idea is to generate one stitch from each fabric being joined. In this case, I generated one stitch from the blanket and one stitch from the edging. I obtain easy and good stitches from the blanket, which was knit on the bias, I did a single crochet in the green yarn all the way around the blanket, doing one single crochet stitch in each garter stitch "valley" row.

STEP TWO: Picking up stitch from the edging.

I "generated" an I-cord stitch from the edging after working the three I-cord stitches. Using the working yarn from the left, I pulled the yarn through the slipped stitch edge of the edging using a second double pointed needle. I found that this all worked much easier with very sharp double pointed needles.

STEP THREE:
Put this new stitch on the right side of your working needle and knit it together with the second stitch (previously the first stitch) on the needle.

STEP FOUR:

Do the same idea for the blanket edge. You have already knit the first (new) and second stitch on your needle together. You then knit the middle stitch of the I-cord on the needle. Then, you slip the third I-cord stitch.
Put your left needle under both loops of the single crochet edge of the blanket. Pull the working yarn through these loops so that you have one strand of yarn on the left needle as a fourth stitch. Put this stitch on the right needle.

STEP FIVE:

Pass the slipped (third) stitch over the new stitch. Slide the stitches to the other end of the needle and repeat from the top.

This photo (ABOVE) was taken just after I slipped the third stitch over the new stitch. You can also see the single crochet edging on the blanket (left of center) and the edge of the pink and purple edging to the right of center.

Here is the corner of the completed blanket with the I-cord holding together the edging strip and the blanket. I think it gives a nice framed picture kind of look. The I-cord adds texture and depth to the blanket.


I am very proud of how the blanket turned out. As with most projects, there was a point at which I thought the entire project was stupid and should be tossed into the trash barrel.
Because the knitting of the squares was so easy (garter stitch squares on the bias), I concluded that I needed to have a very nice edging. I didn't want future generations to say the blanket was ugly or that great-grandmother really didn't have many knitting tricks up her sleeve.


I like how the squares go together to form x's and diamonds. The effect is of an optical illusion at some points.
Credit where credit is due to Cosmic the Knitting Kitty. He helps with blocking, sitting on the wet wool to help it dry and removing the pins holding the pointed edges of the blanket in place.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Keeping My Girl Warm

As a knitter and as a mother my main goal in life seems to be keeping my daughters warm. The main goal of my daughters, however, seems to be avoiding receiving un-stylish sweaters from their mother. Un-stylish translates as "anything mom would knit." They do accept hats, mittens and gloves, provided that they have approved the yarn and the style ahead of time. Daughter #1 also accepts socks--in certain colors and certain (plain) styles.

These smaller projects were not enough to fulfill my mother/knitter goal however. Four years ago I convinced Daughter #2 that she needed a blanket for when she went to college. I began to make a blanket on size 2.5mm needles, using leftover sock yarn. The blanket went slowly, since I needed to generate leftover sock yarn. Then, people began to give me their leftover sock yarn, but progress was still slow. Gradually the blanket grew and grew and my daughter, while in high school, kept the unfinished blanket on her bed. Click here for previous posts about the blanket.

Well, in September Daughter #2 left for college and the blanket still needed an edging!! There is nothing wrong with her memory, and she reminded me as we dropped her off at college, "Mom, where is my blanket!!??" Now, I knew that the weather wouldn't require a blanket until late October, when I finally finished the blanket.


Unfortunately, my husband's camera (or my husband) deleted the photos of the blanket that I had taken while it was blocking. This is a photo taken by a friend at The Sow's Ear, a much loved knitting and coffee shop. I think the sun shining through gives the blanket a nice effect.
I made a chart for Daughter #2 identifying the yarn in each square, for whom the socks were knitted and whether the yarn was donated. When she comes home from college, I will take better photos.

The blanket edging was a life time project in itself. Daughter #2 selected the edging colors while we were on vacation in 2008. She wanted a three colored edging, to give the blanket a framed and matted effect. I first knit miles of a 10 stitch garter stitch strip, with mitered corners. (The blanket is the size of a sheet for a long twin size bed.) That nearly drove me insane. In my blind need to find a more interesting stitch, I found a garter stitch lace diamond pattern, which I knit onto the garter stitch strip using a purple sock yarn. Although that was far more interesting to knit, it was twice as wide as the plain pink garter stitch and took about three times as long to knit.

I was ready to stop right there. Forget the green yarn my daughter had selected. But, promises are promises and mothers have to keep their promises. So, I determined to minimize the number of stitches using the green. I "un-vented" the double-applied-I-cord. If Elizabeth Zimmer could un-vent knitting techniques, I figured that I could un-vent something that she probably tried, but never published. I attached the pink/purple strip to the blanket using the green yarn and a four stitch I-cord, picking up one stitch on the edge of the blanket and one stitch on the edge of the edging. After a few fits and starts, I got into the rhythm and it worked!!

I delivered the blanket to my daughter's dorm in early December 2009, hoping to keep her cozy and warm from the brisk, frigid winter winds of Minnesota. Her bunk bed is right against the uninsulated windows of the room. Has she used it? No. The dorm heating system blasts out hot air 24 hours a day and she is always too hot. Does anyone see it? No. To make room for three girls in a room built for two, the beds are elevated with the desks and dressers underneath. No one can see what is on top of the bed. Does she love it? Yes--she treasures the blanket and would not part with it.

I guess, after all, what is most important is that we mother-knitters warm our children's hearts, even if we are unsuccessful at warming their bodies.