Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Somewhat Fetching Peace Fleece

Too many of my knitting projects evolve erratically from repeated failures rather than develop serenely from swatches and careful planning. If the Yarn Harlot's friend, Lene, made me a Christmas Knitting Schedule, there is no way I could possibly keep up with it. It would be doomed from the beginning.

Example #1.
While sipping coffee in my favorite LYS/Coffee Shop I found some lovely grey/blue/white speckled Peace Fleece. Who could resist Peace Fleece at this time of year?? Let me quote from their website:

Peter Hagerty and his wife Marty Tracy started buying wool from the Soviet Union back in 1985 in hopes that through trade they could help diffuse the threat of nuclear war. Since then they have worked with shepherds in Russia, Kyrgyzia, Israel and the West Bank, as well as in Montana, Ohio, Texas and Maine. By working with people who tend livestock every day, they hope to find a common ground that slowly leads to mutual understanding and economic interdependence. After twenty-one years, their goals remain the same.

Definitely the world needs peace in 2007 as much, if not more, than it did in 1985. So, I bought the Peace Fleece, determined to give a friend or family member some hope for peace as well as a warm hat. So, I made a hat.
Cute, I thought. I avoided the pitfalls that caused previous hats to be rejected by my youthful and fashion minded daughters. First, the hat shall not cover the ears. Who would want warm ears in Wisconsin winter?? Second, no dorky ribbing at the bottom of the hat. Instead, I used Elizabeth Zimmerman's I-cord cast off to give a finished edge. the pattern was from Lion Brand yarns from which I removed the dorky ribbing.

OK, I had yarn left over. How about some fingerless gloves to match?? I thought I would have enough yarn for fingerless gloves. The Fetching gloves from Knitty looked pretty good. Of course, Peace Fleece was heavier than the yarn called for, and I used size 8 needles for the hat, so I reduced the number of glove stitches to 30. And, I ALWAYS make thumb gussets--I hate it when mittens and gloves stretch uncomfortably then I move my thumb. So, I added thumb gussets. Good enough.

So far, so good. Now we enter the knitting zone called "WHAT WAS I POSSIBLY THINKING???"

I finished the hand part of the gloves and was about to start the short thumb when I decided that I had enough yarn for a full thumb! So, I made two full thumbs on fingerless gloves.!! I saved you the horrible vision of these deformed Fingerless-but-not-thumbless-gloves by not taking a photo. Rather than simply rip out the thumbs, I realized that I had enough yarn to make mittens!!! Let's look carefully at the lovely Fetching fingerless gloves and think about what problem we could avoid when turning them into mittens, shall we?

Do you see any problem?? No? Well, neither did I. so, I blissfully removed the cast off edge, and continued the cute cable pattern to the tip of the new mitten. Now do you see the problem?
No? Maybe the photo is too dark. I didn't see a problem either. I was floundering in the knitting River of De Nile (denial!).
What was I possibly thinking??? Skinny narrow cabled mitten tops?? Cables eat up width. Fingers do not like to feel constricted. Fingers like to splay out at times, wiggle, breathe. They do not like to be folded up upon themselves. I determined to remove the cables. But, thankfully, I had not cabled the palms.
It seems that in knitting once completely submerged in the River of De Nile I tend to stay there. I can't quite get out of it. Rather than frog the entire tops of the mittens, down to the thumb, I decided to SAVE TIME by dropping down the cabled stitches and knitting them back up. Dear reader, does this sound like a good idea to you? Did you say, "no"? If so, you are much smarter than I. You, dear reader, are not dog paddling in the River of De Nile with me.

OK, here is what the mitten looks like when you drop the first of the four stitch cables. Did I think this was a problem?
Nooooo,.......... Here I am with my faithful cable hook picking up the first of the four cable stitches to form stockinette ribs of 4 x 1.
Here is the mitten-in-progress with the first of the cables removed and replaced with stockinette. Is there a visible problem at this point, dear reader? No. I think not. Let's continue.

Here are the finished mittens.
They look pretty good, don't they?? Cables on the cuffs. None on the hands. None on the fingers. Good. But no, now some type of weird perfectionism crept in and I continued to tread water in the River of De Nile. In examining the mitten I remembered that cabling four stitches takes more yarn than knitting those same four stitches in stockinette. This meant that the last stitch that I crocheted up after dropping each set of four stitches was looser than the other stitches. This, I felt, would let in too much cold winter air. This, I felt, would not go away after blocking.
Again, WHAT WAS I THINKING?? I frogged the entire top of the mittens , down to the thumb, and re-knit the mittens from thumb to tip.
Tell me, dear reader, had I saved any time??? No, I had not saved any time. By this time, I had gobbled up approximately three times the amount of time needed to knit the entire mitten!!! Fortunately, I realized this after re-knitting the first mitten. I left the second mitten as is. I think it is fine, just fine. I have finally crawled up the bank and and onto the sandy shore of the River of De Nile!!
And, voila, here they are! The beanie hat without dorky ribbing and the Somewhat Fetching thumb gusset mittens!

Ok, let's take a break from knitting. As I write this it is snowing heavily outside. Here's the view out of my front door.
Look closely in the lower corner!
A melange of Christmas and Halloween decorations! We never managed to remove the pumpkin from the bench, although we got Santa up. The Snowman wind sock is draped over the bench, awaiting being hung from the tree. Oh well, with the cone of snow on top, it kind of looks like a Halloween elf helper for santa!
At least this Christmas decoration is completely up. The antique wagon belonged to my husband's mother, who played with it as a child. My husband also played with it when he visited his grandparents in rural Iowa. Now, we keep it at our front door. My mother in law passed away a number of years ago, but we honor her every year by filling it with wrapped (but empty) boxes, ready to deliver. We like to think that Helen is watching from heaven and smiling.
In 1971 I sent out my first batch of Christmas cards as a young adult. This was the time of the Vietnam war, which we opposed. I found a card with a lion and lamb on it, and with the message "Peace" inside. Each year since I have sent Lion and Lamb Christmas cards, but they have been harder and harder to find--just as world peace each year has been harder and harder to find. At Christmas time I scatter little lions and lambs around the house, in the hope that I will do all that I can in the coming year to work towards peace and understanding. May 2008 be filled with peace, understanding and acceptance for you and for the world!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Awash in Seafoam and Surrounded by Scarves

Many of my knitting friends as well as people I see on the street and in yarn shops ask me for the pattern for the "seafoam scarves" that I make and wear. Therefore, I promised to put the pattern on my blog. I assure people that it is easy to make, but they don't always believe me. Here's a photo of some of the seafoam scarves that I have made for my Christmas gift basket this year.
Free Pattern for Seafoam Scarves

1. Buying yarn. I use one skein of yarn--typically medium weight hand dyed sock type yarn such as Koigu KPPM, Mirasol Hacho, Interlacements Tiny Toes and the like. I have found that Hacho makes the shortest scarf (37 inches) when using only one skein, then for a slightly longer scarf (41 inches) Tiny Toes (my LYS carried Tiny Toes in "one-sock" skeins), and for my longest scarves (52 inches), Koigu. Of course, you can use any weight yarn and any amount that you wish. Simply adjust needle size accordingly . Self striping and shadow type yarns work very well. I used one skein of Skace's Avanti for a scarf for my sister and she loved it!

2. Selecting needle size. I use size 4 needles for the yarns listed above, or, if you use a heavier yarn, I use one needle size smaller than recommended on the ball band.

3. Number of stitches to cast on: Cast on a multiple of 10 plus 6 stitches. For my one-skein scarves, I used 26 stitches.

4. The knitting: All rows are knit.
Rows 1-8 (or rows 1-4, or rows 1-6--knitter's choice!) Knit every row. This is the beginning edge of the scarf. After this, do the pattern stitch until you have enough yarn to knit 8 (or 4 or 6) rows to end the scarf. Bind off loosely. I use the Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind off that can be found in all of her books, I believe.

Seafoam Pattern Stitch: (from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns)
Rows 1 and 2: Knit

Row 3 (right side): K 6, *(yo) 2 times, k1, (yo) 3 times, k 1,(yo) 4 times, k 1, (yo) 3 times, k 1, (yo) 2 times, K 6* repeat from * to end of row.

Row 4: Knit, dropping all yo's off the needle without knitting them.

Rows 5 and 6: Knit

Row 7: K1, rep from * of Row 3, end last repeat k1 instead of k6.

Row 8: As row 4.

Blocking instructions are important. See this post for instructions. The scarf looks best when blocked quite severely.

My Dad's scarf
Last year I made my 81 year old father some lightly felted mittens using a Komi pattern. This year I made him a reversible scarf to match the mittens, but using a knit and purl stitch pattern instead of a color pattern. I can't remember the name of the stitch pattern that I used. I just pulled out my leftover Cascade 220 from the mitten project, pulled out some size 5 needles, cast on stitches until it looked like enough, then worked the pattern until it looked long enough, but not too long!!

In his older years, my father has become a very appreciative recipient of my knitting. When I was younger, I made him a cabled vest out of fingering weight yarn in browns. I don't recall that he ever wore it. Brown wasn't his color and neither were vests. I'm glad that I can finally make him something that he will wear--he loved his mittens last year. Said they were the warmest mittens he ever had!! (He sure knows how to sweet-talk a knitter, doesn't he!) He even asked me to make a cord to put through the sleeves of his parka to hold his mittens. He doesn't want to loose them!!!

My father has made us many wonderful wood items for Christmas presents. Beautiful boxes to hold treasures, a stable for our Nativity set, a gorgeous quilt rack, a clock, a pen, a candle holder with a hurricane glass top, and more. The first item I remember was a ranch style doll house with a removable roof--and a book of wallpaper samples to use in decorating the walls!!

Mosaic Scarves
After making the one-color scarves, I decided to do something more challenging--two color scarves! I saw an Amy Anderson scarf from her pattern called "Pardon Me Your Slip Is Showing". (Amy doesn't have a website, but you can order her patterns (by telephone) from Lakeside Fibers.) Unfortunately, I failed to read Amy's carefully written instructions before buying the yarn. I selected two yarns, one solid and one hand painted, and one of the hand painted colors overlapped with the solid color. Result: complete lack of mosaic effect, but attractive nonetheless. I used a beautiful merino/silk blend from Manos del Uruguay called descriptively "Silk Blend". The fabric is soft and the color shimmers. Perfect for the NorthWest USA.
Now, for my second mosaic scarf, I decided to use two colors of shetland wool. Because I was using my stash and because I wanted the scarf to be manly, I picked a reddish and a grey . I thought, for sure, that the mosaic design would be discernable. But it wasn't. Nevertheless, I liked the effect--and I wasn't about to rip it out and start over with new colors.

Lo and behold, when I photographed the scarf, I started to see a pattern!
Can you see it? Maybe not. Maybe it was an optical or wishful illusion.
It's subtle, I grant you that. My apologies to Amy Anderson--her pattern clearly says to use "contrasting" yarns and not to have a hand painted yarn that overlaps with the solid color! Next time, Amy!

Meanwhile, I'm off to make a beanie and fingerless gloves out of Peace Fleece!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reversible Scarves or Living Inside Out

As I write this in Wisconsin, Mother Nature is giving us good reason to keep on knitting. Snow, wind, sleet, ice coming at us from all directions and encouraging us to sit in front of the fire and knit! Alas, my knitting these days is mind numbingly boring. I long to make beautiful Dale of Norway patterned sweaters-- thick, beautiful and warm. Protection against elements that Mother Nature throws at us periodically.

Unfortunately, in my post-menopausal temperature recalibration, I can no longer wear warm wool sweaters for more than 15 minutes. My body temperature has changed from being constantly cold and blue fingered in my youth to tending toward toasty in my somewhat older years. Wool socks on my feet and a warm, wool scarf around my neck and I can practically trot around nude in winter. Well, not quite, but I can dress comfortably in a cotton turtleneck and jeans without shivvering. A wool sweater does what the word suggests--I sweat!

This means, I've been making a lot of scarves, for myself and for others. I have practiced wearing them in as many ways as possible--wrapped twice around my neck (I have a short stubby neck and I long for the Audrey Hepburn type women who have giraffe like necks that look good in repeated, multiple wraps of wool!) ; folded in half with the ends tucked into the fold a la European style; hanging loosely over my shoulders, dangerously dangling ends that might get caught in revolving machinery; tied over my shoulder with one end in front and one in back.

But, none of these methods guarantees that the pattern side of the lace or cable design will be dazzingly on the "public" side of the scarf, to impress the passers by. I am constantly rearranging the "casual" panache that I try to impart with my dramatic hand made scarves!! The panache goes down a few points when the scarf is obviously inside out! How can I be dashing and daring with an insideout scarf???

Therefore, I've been trying to produce reversible scarves. Two posts ago I displayed a seafoam stitch scarf that has two identical public sides. I've now made about 10 of these scarves for myself, family and friends, out of beautiful handpainted yarns, and I needed to branch out.

Barbara Walker to the rescue. Her seafoam stitch is on page 218 of her Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Lo and behold, on the opposite page, page 219, is another reversible pattern--the Vertical Drop-Stitch. Fortunately, this reversible stitch gives two equally attractive but different public sides.

OK, here is one of the public sides, with a weird stripped effect from the flash. This is a sideways view.

Here are the two public sides, next to each other. Can you tell the difference? No? Good. It's subtle and will not make the casual observer think you are wearing part of your clothing inside out, as if you don't know what you are doing.
But here, closer up, you can see that there IS actually a difference, noticeable mostly to knitters. The left side of the picture has wavy two-stitch columns. The right side shows wavy one stitch columns.
Still don't see it? Maybe this is better. It's hard to photograph.
The yarn is a hand dyed wool/mohair from a Wisconsin dyer--Joslyn's Fiber Farm, that I purchased this summer at Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp.

Next post, a manly man reversible stitch pattern for my father's scarf!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Working the Wonderful Wallaby

When I was younger, I never felt the ticking of a biological clock warning me that time was running out for reproduction. Somehow I managed to have children nevertheless. I had one child at age 27 (planned) and another at age 42 (unplanned) and each one provided a different and exciting foray into motherhood. However, neither provided an opportunity to knit cute little baby things. I was working full time when pregnant with each child; and as they grew I continued to work. I sewed lots of clothes, nightgowns, doll clothes and Beanie Baby outfits, but I never had the time to knit.

Now that I am a woman of "a certain age" and have time to knit, my grandmother biological clock is ticking loudly; it's screaming "I want grandchildren, NOW!!" Maybe it is that I want little ones for whom I can knit cute little Dale of Norway sweaters, dresses, hats, mittens-- you name it, I want to make it--preferably for little girls. I want to knit frills and flowers. Alas, neither my husband's older daughter nor mine want children. Therefore, I have "adopted" two little boys as my "surrogate grandchildren." (I couldn't find any little girls; besides, we like the parents and we weren't about to dictate the gender of their children!) Thomas and Sean are 4.5 and 2.3 years old, energetic, noisy and adventuresome. Not frilly. Not pink. After having girls, I am astounded at the energy packed into these two little male bodies! These guys need clothing that will stand up to tough wear and that can go directly into the washer and dryer after rolling in the mud.

What to do?? The Wonderful Wallaby to the rescue!!! (Despite the comments that follow, the Wonderful Wallaby is a fantastic pattern, quick to knit, ingenious, etc. Make one, or two!)
LinkNo fuss knitting, no fuss wear and no fuss care. These are knitted hooded sweatshirts, with kangaroo pouch pockets and no-drawstring hoods. Pattern by Carol Anderson, from 1984, but not out of print. Carol Anderson channels Elizabeth Zimmerman--both overlapped with their knitting in Wisconsin and I believe Carol attended the early knitting camps. Carol started "Cottage Creations" for her no fuss creative patterns, illustrated by her artist-daughter. She now lives in Iowa and has numerous grandchildren. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a website. But, you can find her patterns here. If you haven't tried one of her no-nonsense, clever, knit-all-in-one-piece patterns, try one.

The Wallaby has only two small seams--the underarm stitches. I'm not going to show you the arm pits of the blue sweater. That was my first Wallaby, and I must admit that my fudging in the pits will not stand the scrutiny of blogdom. But, by the time I got to the arm pits of the second, green sweater, I was ready for prime time--or so I thought.

Here's the sweater when it comes off the needles, needing only grafting of the underarm stitches to the matching number of body stitches. Easy, right? I've done lots of sock toes. I can do this, no sweat. Hmmmmmm, Knitting Rule #10: Beware the technique that seems easy!"

Here's the raw pit:

Here's the full sweater just off the needles. Minimal finishing required. Should take just 5 minutes tops!
See the gap between the last live stitch on the underarm, and the first stitch on the body?? Note: stitches are held on fuschia sock yarn. That is not blood and arteries showing.
Well, I thought, this is a minimal finishing sweater. The directions say only to graft the stitches, and you're done!! I told myself that gap will disappear in the grafting!!! Lies, all lies. I know these boys play hard, but I don't think they need ventilation holes in the underarms of their sweaters. Somehow I had to close the gaps.
I can't really explain what I did. I tugged and pulled at the adjacent stitches, hoping to reduce the size of the holes. Didn't work. So I did a version of duplicate stitch and creation of new stitches to work the gaps together. I think it turned out well. At least, I'm counting on the Thomas and Sean not to examine the arm pits closely. I'm pretty sure their first response on opening the presents will not be, "Oh, cool sweaters. Let's check out the finishing details!" Rather, I think they will say, "Sweaters??!! Where are the toys?? !!" I'm thinking of getting some little matchbox cars to put in the pockets. Little cute knitted bears won't cut it with these guys.
Lucy Neatby to the Rescue!
A few days after finishing these sweaters, I watched a Lucy Neatby DVD about socks. She demonstrates how to eliminate the little holes created when picking up stitches for the heel gusset. I can't quite imitate Lucy's succinct description of the technique--basically she sews a little circle around the hole, on the reverse side, then pulls the circle taught. She makes a duplicate stitch over the tightened hole on the right side and, ahoy matey, the hole is ship shape and all is well! I'll remember this on my next Wallaby!

I think my next wallaby will be fitted in the body and made out of a merino/angora yarn I've had in my stash for a while. And, it will be for me!!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Seafoam Stitch blocking tutorial

I know, I've been ignoring my blog. Sometimes life just gets in the way. However, I've been knitting like crazy on Christmas presents. This year I will reprise my successful Basket of HandKnit Items, from which family members and friends can select a present. This year the basket will be filled with scarves and socks. Last year it was mainly hats.

This year I am in production knitting mode for the basket. I find that I am more broadminded than others, even if I say so myself, on what type of hand knitted items I will wear. Therefore, rather than getting "creative" with my knitting, this year I am sticking with a scarf pattern on which I have received rave reviews from recipients and observers alike--a one-skein scarf using the seafoam stitch. I should carry patterns for this scarf because MANY people, knitters and non-knitters alike, ask me how I made the scarf when I wear one.

I recently drove my parents to Colorado to visit my sisters in Denver and Boulder. When I was not driving, I worked on a seafoam stitch scarf. My mother fell in love with the scarf and decided that she would make one for a Christmas present. However, my mother hates knitting. She hates building fabric one stitch at a time. But, she can't bring her sewing machine with her when she spends a month in Colorado. Therefore, to pass the time in Colorado, she decided that she would knit. Otherwise, she spends all of her time cleaning my sisters' houses. (Somehow, the "keep the house clean" gene did not find its way to any of my mother's three daughters!!)

My mom is an insecure knitter. Every wrapped stitch and evolving pattern in the scarf on her needles is examined for perfection. I keep telling her, "Relax, mom. Blocking will eliminate all the perceived problems and you will have a gorgeous finished object. " She doesn't believe me. She wants it all to be perfect while still on the needles!

This post is my "blocking tutorial" for my mom and for whomever needs a little knitting reassurance on-line. Believe me, it's hard for a scarf to go wrong with the seafoam stitch and some pretty handpainted yarn. (Mom, I know that you are not working with Koigu yarn, and the following photos show a scarf in Koigu. If your scarf doesn't look exactly like this one it's OK. Yours will also be beautiful!!)

Mom, this is for you!


Step 1: Soak the finished item in cool water for 30 minutes.

See how some of the scarf is dark purple and some is light purple? The light purple portion of the scarf is floating on top of the water. Wait until all of the scarf is underwater! You need to have every little wool fiber saturated with water. That's why I said to soak the scarf for 30 minutes. If your scarf is saturated in 15 minutes, move to step 2. Don't shortchange the soaking.

Step 2: Squish the water out of the scarf by pressing it against the side of the sink bowl. (Oh, don't forget to pull the drainplug first!!) DO NOT WRING the scarf. Just gently squish it against the side of the bowl. Don't worry if the scarf is still dripping when you move to step 3.

Step 3: Plop the scarf onto a towel and fold the towel over the scarf.
Step 4: Stomp on the towel.
Step 5: Spread out the scarf on a bed sheet on top of a bed or on a floor carpet. I spread a bed sheet out on the living room floor carpet. You need something underneath the sheet into which you will stick pins.
Step 6: On one end of the scarf, pin out the points created by the seafoam stitch pattern; see below.

Step 7: With your hand, gently pull out the scarf until you have the degree of "airy-ness" that you want in the scarf. Mom, with the yarn you are using, you will need to stretch the scarf quite a bit to get it long enough to be a scarf.

Don't worry, you stretch as you go with the pinning. The yarn won't break. As you can see in the photo, I put a pin at each segment along the edge where there is an accumulation of four ridges of garter stitch.

I also spread out the scarf width-wise as I pin, because when I stretched the scarf for length, the scarf got too skinny. The un-pinned section of the scarf is on the left of the photo above. The pinned portion is on the right of the photo.

Step 8: Now, after you have finished pinning out the scarf, with points pinned out on each end, you can check the seafoam ovals for perfection!

Ah, HA! I found a wiggly strand in a seafoam oval!!! Look just to the right to the yellow-headed pin that is on the middle left of the scarf photo below! Baaadd, baaaadd, baaaadd!!!
I would just leave it alone. But I know, Mom, that this will bug you to your grave! So, get out a pointy object, like a knitting needle, and stick it under that wiggly strand. Give the needle a tug.
When you gently tug the strand, you will see or feel a neighboring strand move and become straight. Go in the opposite direction, gently tugging successive strands, until you have worked in the excess wiggles of that miscreant wiggly strand. For a moment, it will look as if you have created more of a mess than you had in the first place. Keep cool. As you work along, you will see that you have used up the excess and the oval now looks perfect. If it doesn't look perfect to you, just tug at the scarf as a whole around that area. It will all work in. See photo below for proof!
See mom, I told you so! It will all work out in the blocking!! Good luck on your scarf!!! Hugs and kisses to you and Dad, and to the dogs and cats and humans at the places you are visiting!!

Love, Gail

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Holiday Knitting and My Mom

Making presents for Christmas was always a tradition in my family. I think it may have started during the depression, when my parents' parents didn't have any money to purchase presents. I remember my mother telling me about how her father would glue colored pictures (from magazines? calendars?) to a piece of wood and then cut it into pieces with his jig-saw making jigsaw puzzles!!

My mother always made each of us (five of us) a new outfit or new pajamas for Christmas. Usually it was a new outfit, and for the girls, a matching outfit for our dolls. One Christmas she made a three piece wool suit (jacket, pleated skirt, vest) for my teenage sister, in addition to making items for everyone else. And, she made everything in secret. How, on earth, did she do this??

My dad also made things, such as a doll house one year. It was a simple ranch home with a removable roof and removable walls. He also gave us a discarded wallpaper book. We decorated the walls and floors with ever changing wall paper! We also made furniture out of boxes and cardboard.

These days my dad makes beautiful wood items for each of us, carefully turned decorations, lovely boxes with fitted joints and inside shelves. As they've aged, my dad's creations have become smaller and more intricate and my mom's have become simpler. Sometimes she makes placemats or decorative pillows out of sale item placemats!

One thing my mother never did was to knit. She was a seamstress who hated making "fabric" stitch by stitch. Knitting was not relaxing to her. She learned to knit in the late 1940's when all the girls made argyle socks for their boyfriends. No wonder she didn't like to knit, when you first project is argyle socks, who could ever fall in love with the process???!!!

However, she must have knit a little when I was young. She described knitting wool soakers, felted wool diaper covers in the days when rubber was in short supply after "THE" war. No wonder babies in those days were "trained" early!

My mom also must have made two wool ascot style scarves that were in our mitten/scarf/hat drawer throughout my childhood and that of my four siblings. There was a smaller pink scarf and a larger red one. The little kids wore the pink one and graduated to the red one at some point. I'm not sure what my brothers did--maybe they went straight to the red one. Those scarves are long gone, but they looked like this.

The neck portion was just long enough to go around our necks, outside of our jackets, as I recall.
The ends looked like little hearts, I always thought, or maybe triangles, or spades from the deck of cards.
The narrow part was a little pass through for inserting the other end. The flanges of the heart end prevented the end from slipping out.

A few years ago, while teaching elementary school kids how to knit, I 'unvented' the pattern from my memory of what the scarves looked like. I'm sure there must be published patterns around, but I haven't seen them. I made this scarf as a sample and the kids liked making it. It may be the first scarf ever finished by a beginning knitter!!

At any rate, I resurrected the pattern for my knitters' guild charity knitting challenge. Instead of a knit along this year, we are making monthly items for donation to local charities and schools. For November, the item is kids scarves. You can find the pattern here, scroll down to the second half of the post--look for the photos.

If you make one of these scarves, consider donating one to your favorite local charity. And, think of all the moms, whose skills, care and love kept us warm during the cold winters!!

Meanwhile, I am busy knitting items for presents this winter. I flit from project to project, beginning many, finishing few. Photos and more later.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A little of this and a little of that

I've not been blogging much lately as you may have noticed. The end of the summer has turned me into an isolationist. How did the summer come to such a precipitous ending? It was just June and now it is simply September. My mind is still back in June, when possibilities are endless, when the sweet summer smell convinces you that all is within reach. And suddenly, September springs on you from its hiding spot--evenings are shorter, the heat of August dissipates and the projects planned in June are embarrassingly incomplete.

In my defense, I plead a rush of family activity. I attended my 40th high school class reunion in mid August and all of a sudden school planning stared me in the face. Trips to Kohl's, Target, Macy's, back to Kohl's and two more trips to Target. My 16 year old had a hard time deciding what to buy--from folders and note books to tops, shoes and T-shirts. Unfortunately, she doesn't yet have her independent driving license so I have to accompany her on each and every indecisive trip.

Daughter #1 purchased a scuzzy condo earlier in the summer. She knew that a lot of work would be required to turn the disgusting place into something habitable, but she vastly underestimated the amount of work necessary. This wasn't her fault--she is short on cash, she bought a condo built in the late 1930's, in an up and coming location, that was cheap because it needed work--a lot of work. She had the eyes of youth and promise and saw through the scuzz to something beautiful. I (mother that I am) saw the scuzz and saw a mountain of work. It has been the entire Himalaya range of work. We are trying to do it ourselves. All of us are complete neophytes at ripping out carpet and installing a bamboo floor; at patching rotting concrete and plaster and painting over; at determining whether the wiring is good or rotten; at every possible task required!!!

Maybe this has something to do with my magnificent lack of good taste in planning an Elizabeth Zimmerman baby sweater for a new baby in my husband's department at the University. I decided to work from my stash--and I didn't have much good in washable baby yarn. I didn't have enough of any color to make an entire sweater. But, I held up some baby blue, some baby yellow, some white ------and some avocado green. Oh, I know, avocado green just doesn't go with the first three colors. But, I thought it might be funky, cool and creative. (note, I am a child of the 60's and 70's--decades of terrible taste in color and style). The yarn was fingering weight and I wanted to finish this little sweater fast, so I doubled the yarn. I had faith in EZ--nothing done in her style could possibly fail. Right?? Wrong!
The result?? An inflexible, ugly, ugly little thing, but I plugged on. I finished the first sleeve.

Finishing the sleeve didn't help. Both of my daughters told me the sweater was "just ugly, Mom". I stopped. Finally, I realized that I knew it was ugly from the get-go. I went back to the stash and found some pink yarn I purchased 17 years ago for daughter #2. I never finished that sweater. So, the pink yarn became:

Earlier in September I dug out the Dale sweater I started 18 months ago for my husband. I stopped and put the thing in the back of the closet when I became dissatisfied with how the lighter yarn showed through when I twisted it so that the carry wouldn't be too long. I had been trying not to carry more than three stitches.

Ugly, ugly, ugly. Something needed to change. Then the light dawned. At Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp she and Joyce Williams displayed some of their projects for their new book on Armenian knitting. I recognized my Norwegian sweater for what it was--an example of Armenian knitting where the floating yarn is "trapped" every few stitches. The result is a tweed-y texture. Now I felt better; I had used an Armenian technique for a scandinavian sweater. Why not return to a scandinavian technique of long floats?? So I frogged....

And I re-knit.

As you can see I did some trapping when the carries were about 7 stitches long. Much, much better.

Maybe I'll actually finish the sweater for this Christmas!! Two years after I "gave" him the idea of the sweater for Christmas!

The socks I knit for my Sockapalooza sock pal, inspired me to knit a similar pair for myself. Because I wear my home made socks year round, I need something suitable for summer. I made these short socks out of a cotton/wool blend using my favorite pattern of all time--Feather and Fan from Socks, Socks, socks. The snug fit, the cute little scallop on the cuff--perfect!

OK, a success. I decided to start another pair of socks for myself for the approaching fall. I like the self striping yarn, but I get bored with stockinette stitch. And, I just finished Feather and fan. I decided to do something new. How about Canal du Midi from Knitting on the Road?? Sure, let's go to France!
Next time, I'll go to France with a solid color yarn. The wonderful patterning of the travelling stitches is not shown off by the striping yarn. The stripes of the yarn are blurred by the traveling stitches, and the traveling stitches lose their definition due to the stripes.

Oh well, I'll make the second sock. The socks are for me and I like the pattern and the yarn.

Knitting is kind of like life these days--I take two steps forward, then one or two steps back with each project....

Hope your projects are perfect the first time!!