Friday, April 30, 2010

Location, Location, Location - Knit & Crochet Blog Week Day 5

Location, Location, Location

Where do you like to indulge in your craft? Is your favourite arm chair your little knitting cubby area, or do you prefer to ‘knit in public’? Do you like to crochet in the great outdoors, perhaps, or knit in the bath, or at the pub?

Well, I do like to knit in all of those places, (maybe barring the bath--I don't think I have those mad skillz) but once place stands above the rest. Behold:

Ahhhh. '70s style luxury.

The backstory: my grandpa (technically my dad's step-dad--but to me he was G-pa, a moniker that always tickled him pink) was known for making impulsive and sometimes inexplicable purchases. I loved the dude, but I will admit that his taste was questionable (read: tacky). He originally bought this chair as a gift for his mother. This chair, even by the standards of the time, is quite small. His mother was, as they say in polite conversation, a large woman. She didn't even begin to fit in the chair, so it went back to G-pa. Now G-pa wasn't a large man in the sense that I just used, but he was fairly tall. Hence, he never really fit in the chair either. It eventually went to my parents and sat hidden in their basement, mostly due to the color which could be described as '70s puke green.

Flash forward to my first 'real' job--an internship at DC Cook Nuclear Plant (I was the designated Homer Simpson of the operation). I needed to furnish an apartment, fast. My parents suggested the puke green recliner, since it separates into two pieces and is easily transportable.

There is is, tucked in the corner.

Let me tell you, I fell in love with the chair that summer. I'd just learn to knit, so when I wasn't knitting beside the apartment complex's ratty pool, I was parked in the recliner. It's followed me everywhere since. Perfect fit for a munchkin, and good for napping too, when knitting tuckers you out:

Puke green is back in style. No, I swear!

To find other participating blogs, search for knitcroblo5.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A New Skill - Knit & Crochet Blog Week Day 4

A New Skill

Is there a skill related to your hobby that you hope to learn one day? maybe you’re a crocheter who’d also like to knit? Maybe you’d like to learn to knit continental, knit backwards, try cables or attempt stranded colourwork.

First of all, 'colourwork'--you Brits and your adorable extra u's.

Second of all, one word--steeking. Let me try to sum this up for you: it's a Shetland technique, where you knit a Fair Isle sweater in the round, without worrying about the armholes--then you cut the 'steek' (an extra line of stitches, constructed supposedly in a way that you won't unravel your entire sweater when you cut them) for the armholes. Let me repeat that last part. You cut the armholes. YOU CUT YOUR KNITTING. I can't think of anything more terrifying, and I'm including J-horror ghosts, clowns, dolls that come to life, and my hair in the morning.

You can check out this nifty tutorial for more info on how to do it, and what your finished product can look like (ominous voice: IF YOU DARE).

To find other participating blogs, search for knitcroblo4.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Praise Jebus:

Merry Christmas, Becca.

One Great Knitter - Knit & Crochet Blog Week Day 3

One Great Knitter

Write about a knitter whose work (whether because of project choice, photography, styling, scale of projects, stash, etc) you enjoy. If they have an enjoyable blog, you might find it a good opportunity to send a smile their way.

At first, this was a topic that stumped me. I have been relatively isolated in my knitting experience; I have one local yarn shop to my name, no knitting friends to speak of, and discovered Ravelry less than a year ago. There hasn't really been anyone to clue me in to who the heavy hitters of the knitting world are (boo hoo whine whine, right?). I considered doing the wild card topic, but while I was pondering I thought, seriously? Let's be honest with ourselves. I have a total girl-crush on the Stitch Diva (given name: Jennifer Hansen).

Her royal highness.

The Sahara pattern was the first design I found that struck me as so gorgeous that I actually had the guts to drop cash for my first really nice yarn (Tilli Tomas silk...ooh la la!). I later made the Silken Scabbard for my mom:

Somebody looks like a happy camper!

And as discussed in a previous blog week post, it was the first project that I felt totally in control at the wheel. Awesome feeling--and I loved the result so much that I'm in the process of making another one for myself!

The Stitch Diva Studio's site states '[W]e've been aptly described as offering "well-written knitting and crochet patterns for hipsters."' I think this is what drew me to her patterns--not that I'm a hipster (hold on, gotta adjust my skinny jeans and plastic glasses--OK, good)--but that the patterns are definitely sleek and modern. I also appreciate and am impressed by the fact that she designs for both knit and crochet; though I don't crochet, it's an incredible feat. I may be in a bit of a rut with her patterns, but I don't care. Love!

To find other participating blogs, search for knitcroblo3.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Testing, testing

I want to take a quick break from the rigorous topics of blog week to update on the status of the Infinite Cabled Hat. Encouraged by Natalie J, last Sunday I pulled the trigger on submitting a request to the Free Pattern Testers group in Ravelry. First of all, let me say that my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I requested three testers, one each for sizes S, M, and L. I immediately got one tester, then service was a little slow but the next two came in a day or so. Oddly enough, two additional people volunteered after I posted this picture in the thread to show how the brim looked when someone was wearing it:

I know, right? For some reason me imitating the Fonz is a selling point. But it has been amazing to get so much feedback, and so quickly. The first tester who started was terrified when she first cast-on and her work looked like it was going to be a gigantor hat (the cables pull everything in a lot). She actually took what she had started apart thinking that it must be a typo. She recommended that I add a line to assure the pattern user that this was in fact expected and correct, something that I never would have thought of. I know how it's supposed to look, so why doesn't everyone else (because everyone is a mind reader, right)? So what I'm saying is that I love my testers and I want to marry them. Well, maybe that would be rushing things. Civil union?

But. It wasn't all chocolate and roses. I wasn't sure that I was going to even discuss this, because it was actually fairly upsetting to me. Since the rest of my experience has been so much fun, though, I think we're OK. After I'd confirmed my first tester, I got this message. I'm going to quote verbatim, so there's no chance of hyperbole:

"It’s really adorable. I’m wondering if there may be some copyright issues with Cully’s Cabled Hat. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional when you designed it, its just terribly similar."

My jaw dropped. I was ready for my testers to rebel, saying that my pattern sucked ass and was completely wrong, or not to get any testers at all, but this wasn't even on my radar. This penetrated deep into my stone cold heart. The post was edited about a half and hour later to add:

"Then again, culley’s is two color, and what do I know about copyrights. Just something for you to consider when you publish.
Good luck with the test!"

I'm assuming the addition was brought on when the poster realized how incredibly bitchy his/her first post sounded, so I do appreciate that. But the whole thing really threw me for a loop.

Now if you check out Cully's Cabled Hat, you'll see that it's actually the same concept as what I was referring to as the South Face Hat: the two color stranding that I didn't think turned out very well as a swatch. Even barring the difference of being one color, my design has a different brim and a much different decreasing scheme (which I prefer, naturally). Now this was from Vogue Knitting (the Winter '09/'10 edition), the supposedly high fashion knitting mag; apparently we are both so cutting edge that we knocked off a hat that I've been seeing on the ski slopes for at least two years now. Needless to say, I've decided not to pursue constructing the South Face Hat, unless I completely redesign. I think to actually get the effect that I'm going for, we're going to have to go entrelac (which definitely has already been done).

What I've taken away from this is that I need to be confident in my creations and stand behind them! Grrrrrrr! (That's my scary-stand-behind-my-creations growl).

Also! New stash came in. Behold:

First peek.

The skein at the bottom has the football, I think.

That's what we call a 'made my day' right there.

An Inspirational Pattern - Knit & Crochet Blog Week Day 2

An Inspirational Pattern

Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to. Whether it happens to be because the skills needed are ones which you have not yet acquired, or just because it seems like a huge undertaking of time and dedication, most people feel they still have something to aspire to in their craft. If you don’t feel like you have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb, say so!

At first I was thinking, those few that feel like they don't have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb (that's kind of a mouthful) are lucky, but let's be honest. Learning new techniques is the addicting part of knitting--sort of knitting crack for us number cruncher types.

I can't think of a particular pattern I aspire to, but I can think of a couple of projects that I'd like to tackle. One is a blanket--I pulled the trigger on this one just a couple of days ago and I'm excited to get started. The reason I shied away from doing one for so long was for two reasons I'm sure we can all relate to: time and $$. I bought the Mason Dixon Knitting book a couple of years ago, and have wanted to try the log cabin technique for a blanket since (they make it look so lovely, but they never show Ann or Kay throwing their project against the wall since it's been a year and a half and they still have an unfinished blanket, which I was sure I would). Finally, a good friend's wedding has been enough of an excuse to get my lazy & cheap ass in gear. You can justify blowing cash on a milestone like that, and it's a hard deadline so I can't drag it out too long.

Another type of project that I've always thought was lovely but never had the cajones to try is a large-scale lace project. I can deal with a little lace, but I always picture myself sitting in one giant tangle of yarn thinking about something like this:

Copyright 2010, mikomiao

*Drool* This was knit by my husband's cousin, the wonderful woman who introduced me to Ravelry. It's her take on the Mystery Stole 3 and I definitely aspire to making something so delicate and beautiful. I feel like I'm too much of a bull in a china shop to make lovely things like this!

To visit other blogs taking part, search for knitcroblo2.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Starting Out - Knit & Crochet Blog Week Day 1

Starting Out

How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

For me, learning to crochet after learning how to knit was like trying to learn how to snowboard once I'd learned to ski--one thing is hard enough to perfect, so let's not muddy the waters yet. For me, the question is just "How and when did you being knitting?"

I started knitting my junior year at Purdue, after one of my friends on the rowing team decided to knit her soon to be formed niece a baby blanket. I don't know what drew me to it; it wasn't gorgeous yarn (she was using acrylic--we didn't know any better) and it certainly wasn't the coolness factor (I can remember her knitting at this regatta during some cold fall weather, sitting in a chair with a blanket over her legs looking totally like a 22 year old grandma) but I knew I wanted to learn too. She showed me how to do the long tail cast on and the knit stitch; by then we'd exhausted her knitting knowledge. Her mom and sister were also knitters, so they had let her borrow some pamphlets that showed how to do fancy things like purl.

And that is the story of much of my knitting 'career'--teaching myself techniques out of books. There are no knitters in my family, no one to ask if they could show me how they do something. I ran away with it, while my friend lost interest; I was fascinated with different ways of doing stitches and how everything interlocked together. The first time I felt that I had actually come a long way was working on the Silken Scabbard pattern as a present for my Mom; I could predict what was supposed to come next, I could tell when I was doing something incorrectly, and I could correct my mistakes without unraveling all the way back to them--I could just drop the stitch down and finagle it until it was correct. It was the first time I felt that I could truly 'read' my knitting, and it was an awesome realization!

To visit other blogs taking part, search for 'knitcroblo1'.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Extrapolating a hat to different sizes

In writing up the pattern for the Cozy Cabled Hat, one of the things I got the biggest kick out of was figuring out how to fit different sizes. Finally, something fun to do with math! I'm actually exaggerating, I'm one of those freaks who likes to do math (please don't throw your rotten fruit at me--I'll help you balance your checkbook if you'll put down that torch). For hats, it's relatively straightforward: if your gauge is X in units of stitches/inch and your head circumference is Y in inches, multiply X times Y and you know how many stitches you need to make it around your noggin. In formula form:

Full disclosure: I made the formula picture in Gimp, thinking it would be a great time to work on my graphic design skillz. I thought maybe I could make it pretty and colorful and loveable, and after working on it for 30 min this was as far as I'd gotten. Graphic designers, I bow to you. To atone for this crappy, boring picture, here are some puppies!




There, now don't we all feel better? The same principle of the formula also applies to rows. It was easy-peasy on the Cozy Cabled Hat; the extra stitches I added for the larger sizes meant extra rows when it came to decreasing at the top. I also designed it with a fold-up brim--which added a LOT of leeway--so I didn't worry about length too much (i.e. at all). On the Infinite Cabled Hat, I used a specific decreasing scheme to get the cables to appear to continue, even though half of them were gone. I needed to make sure that it would translate to the larger sizes.

But first, how many inches of length does one need in relation to the circumference of their head? Assumption #1: The human head is a sphere (a ball, basically). Assumption #2: A hat should cover approximately half of the sphere. This leads to the conclusion that length from the top to bottom of the hat should be approximately half that of the circumference of the hat. I was hoping that I could get pi involved (mmm pi) but it wasn't even that complex.

Now, for the task at hand: for every one inch increase in circumference, a 1/2 inch increase in length was required. The problem: my row gauge was 8 stitches/inch, and the pattern repeats every 8 rows. See what I'm driving at here? The small and large sizes work out perfectly, but the medium size ends up cabling smack in the middle of the decreasing, which we just couldn't have. I pondered and pondered. I started to think of it as AC and the Angry Half-Inch. And then it came to me, as almost all of my knitting solutions do, right before I was about to fall asleep (seriously!)--stick that extra junk on the bottom half of the sucker instead of the top. And they say today's youth don't have any critical thinking skills.

I'm going to try to get the various sizes tested through a Ravelry group of free pattern testers. I've tried to be a tester for others a couple of times, but nothing has gone all the way to fruition. It seems like a neat system though. I feel a bit silly asking for people to try out my little endeavor, but nothing ventured, nothing gained (it also doesn't hurt that internet tends to be anonymous, so no one can laugh directly at my shame).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blog week & new stash

Just for poos & giggles, I've decided to participate in Blog Week, pioneered by Eskimimi over at Ravelry. Check it out (she has the info on her site), and feel free to participate whether you're a Raveler or not. Starting Apr. 26th, each day will have a specific topic and everyone participating will expound upon said topic. Fun fun!(?)

If you'd like to check out other blogs that are taking part, Eskimimi has devised an ingenious tagging system, which I shall not attempt to explain, but quote from her site:

"Knitting and Crochet Blogging week is gong to attempt to use google to implement a tagging system. Each of the 8 topics (7 daily topics and one wildcard) has a code, starting with ‘knitcroblo’ and then a number 1-7 or ‘wc’ (for wild card) at the end. If you use the appropriate tag in each of your blog posts during Blog week (or add them at the end of your blog post) then Googling those terms will bring up a list of blog posts for that same topic, from all blogs taking part."

So if you're searching for the first day's post, it would be knitcroblo1. Since it's not a real word, it should only yield hits from those participating. Clever.

I've also taken the first step in a project for a friend who is getting married. First step - get materials. I guess deciding on the project was the first step, but we're talking the first concrete step. Money has changed hands, so there's no going back. If you are my friend, and you're getting married soon, read no further or your surprise will be spoiled (and I'll kick your ass).

Are we alone now?

Good. So I'm diving into the world of log-cabining. If you've never heard of it, check out the Mason-Dixon gals--they make it look gorgeous. You knit in garter stitch (knit stitch only), typically rectangular shapes, then turn the work and pick up stitches from the side when you decide you want to make a new color block. I just dropped [undisclosed amount of money] on [undisclosed number, because if said friend is being naughty and looking, she knows how to do math] skeins of Silky Wool by Elsebeth Lavold. It is a line recommended in the Mason-Dixon book for a blanket, and I'm buying it sight unseen (and un-felt, which might be more important); this is fairly unusual for me. I have yet to meet a silk-wool blend I haven't liked though, so I figured let's flippin' do it! Let's make an heirloom blanket! Check out the colorway:

That's eggshell, deep pink, sandstone, and bristol, clockwise from top left. I'm going to go for a mod look, with large blocks of color and no real symmetry. I'm pumped!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tubular cast-on

Now for the pay-off to the chained cast-on. It's tubular! The tubular cast-on is GORGEOUS for ribbing, and stretchy to boot. I have a new favorite...but it does take extra effort, compared to your standard cast-on. So let's check it out.

Tubular cast-on

With a waste yarn in contrasting color, cast-on half the number of stitches you need using the chained cast-on. If your pattern calls for an odd number of stitches, add one to that number and then divide by two. Switch to your main yarn. Purl one row, knit one row, twice (total of 4 rows):

You're ready to knit on the wrong side. My fabric is curling under in this photo, which is why it looks funky.

Purl one:

Yes, we know how to do that. Move on.

Now you're going to insert the right-hand needle into the purl bump from the first row. It's intermixed into the waste yarn. Here's where your contrasting yarn colors are key.

Purl bump is circled.

Insert RH needle from top to bottom (can also be described as from the front of the stitch to the back):

Place the stitch on the LH needle from bottom to top (back of the stitch to the front). Knit the stitch:

Two stitches successfully tubularly cast-on! That's a mouthful.

Repeat to the last stitch. If you wanted an odd number of stitches, purl the last stitch and you're done. If you wanted an even number of stitches, knit the last stitch, as well as the last purl bump. It will be a selvage edge, so it may be pulled fairly tight, and you'll have to work to get your needle in there. Here's what we've got so far:

Do a few rows of K1, P1 ribbing, then you can start to carefully take out the waste yarn. If you undo the last stitch cast-on with the waste yarn, you should be able to pull the rest out by tugging on the end (which is what makes the chained cast-on a sweet provisional cast-on). Check it out:

You'll notice that part of the waste yarn ends up in the tube you created with the cast-on. You can carefully pull it out. If you wanted an elastic band in your garment for extra pull on the edge, this is the ideal spot. You can thread it in post-mortem, or you can use the elastic as your 'waste yarn' if it is an appropriate shape.

And here's the finished product!

I *heart* this so much. It's gorgeous and definitely worth the extra time spent.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chained cast-on

Back to our regularly scheduled tutorial. I hated this one as purely a cast-on, it's relatively ugly and difficult to do evenly. So why the hell would you want to learn it? Because it's a necessary step for the tubular cast-on, which is way cool and has nothing to with surfers or outdated 80's lingo, just an awesome finished edge. More on that tomorrow. But for now, brace yourself: the chained cast-on is coming for you. And it totally demands that you have a crochet needle similarly sized to the needles you plan to use. How presumptuous.

Chained cast-on

We start with our old friend, the slip knot. Situation normal, right? But this time, we're using waste yarn, in a contrasting color to the yarn we plan to use.

Place the slip knot onto the crochet needle.

Crochet needle in right hand, knitting needle in left hand. It's like a crafting yin and yang.

Hold the yarn in your left hand (along with your knitting needle) and make sure the yarn is running under the knitting needle to the crochet needle. Hook the yarn with your crochet needle, pulling it over the knitting needle:

Then continue pulling it through the loop on the crochet needle:

Tighten down the stitch by pulling on the yarn your left hand:

Voila! One stitch cast-on.

Repeat, starting with the step that begins "Hold the yarn in your left hand.." until you've cast-on the desired number of stitches.

Here's what it looks like after you've cast-on a few (not to be confused with tying on a few):

Now you can go ahead and use this as your cast-on, but I didn't do all of that work (crocheting is flipping hard, apparently) for a crappy edge.

Tomorrow: How are we going to use this to facilitate a super awesome cast-on?

Monday, April 19, 2010

CA to WI

The arduous journey from Berkeley (the Madison of the west coast) to Madison (the Berkeley of the midwest) is finally complete. I'm sorry for the blog hiatus, part of it was forced--there's no internet on the "Loneliest Road in America" in Nevada. It looks mostly like this:


Other than the giant sand dune cleverly named "Sand Mountain":

Pile of Sand, NV

Southern Utah had crazy rock formations, sand, scrub brush, and more crazy rock formations:

Some Rocks, UT

A Gorge, UT

Colorado was snowy when we entered the mountains. It still remains my favorite state to drive through (until you reach the flat part outside of Denver, of course). I must have been so entranced that I forgot to take any photos. Sorry.

Then we entered Nebraska. Enough said.

When we started to get into Iowa, I started to feel like I was back home agaaaaaaain in Indiaaaaana:

Farmland, IA

Lots of farmland, but nice rolling hills to drive on.

A short jaunt through Wisco, and I was home. Then we unloaded the car, and unpacked everything right away. Ahahahaha, sorry, I couldn't even type that with a straight face. The apartment is a wreck, naturally.

I'm proud to say that some knitting was completed over the course of the trip, in fact, an entire deconstruction/reconstruction of the Infinite Cabled Hat:

Who's got two thumbs, speaks limited French, and has a kick-ass hat? This moi.

I'm actually going to give it to my friend in Oakland, who fed me many times while I was on my CA project. Here it is in all it's glory:

Love. It. Want one for myself.

But in conclusion, I'm just glad to be able to stop punishing my body with diner/fast food, and get back to punishing it with cheese and beer.