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!