Friday, November 23, 2007

The VK pullover is blocking...and I'm in a knitting rut

It's blocking. Or was, actually, since it's been dry for a few hours. I laid down the sleeves last Monday but only got to the body this Tuesday. Everything looks alright so far, although the fabric got alarmingly fuzzy-looking after getting wet.

Next I have to sew one shoulder seam together and knit a neckline. One of my reference books suggests using a needle that's one or two sizes bigger than what was used on the rest of the garment, so I bought size 4 needles today. The picking-up-stitches part is a bit indimidating to me, actually. I'm really hoping that I don't mess it up.

I'm aiming to have it done by Wednesday, which is Knitting Night. A couple of members also have green FOs, so we've arranged to share them then. 'Can't wait!

This past week has been beyond busy--I didn't have time to knit at all! Hopefully I'll make up for it this weekend.

I decided to start Dad's Glitten's tonight--what a disaster! I knew learning to use DPNs would be challenging, but this seemed near impossible! The needles (the project calls for 4) kept moving out of position and twisting around. Just like when I was learning to use circulars, casting on a few times helped a lot. I still haven't got the hang of actually knitting with them, but I'm sure it's only a matter of practice. Seriously though, these things are so awkward!

One of the downsides to having non-knitting parents is their ignorance of things like UFOs or project boredom. I'm the kind of knitter who is more focused on the finished object, so it's a bit unnerving when my folks ask me why I haven't finished the VK pullover and why I'm looking to start a new project when I've got two already. They're so serious about it too, as if it's something akin to my schoolwork. They're probably just antsy because I haven't knit them anything yet!

Speaking of folks: this year's Thanksgiving was quiet and modest. 'Just us, a salad, and the turkey I got from work. And some good white wine, too. Desserts was similarily simple: I baked a pumpkin mirengue pie which we had with tea and more wine.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

So close I can almost taste it!

I may have finally gotten cables down, but the art of regular blogging still escapes me. That's something that I need to learn how to do; if I'm going to document this knitting adventure of mine (which is actually rather subdued), I might as well do it right!

I've since finished the front of the VK pullover! As with the back, I somehow lost my place in the ridge pattern repeat and while I fixed my mistake much faster this time around, the de-ja-vu feeling was less than enjoyable. (Afterwards I started circling each row as I got to it to make sure I knew exactly where I was. Who knew that it was okay to write on patterns?!) There was also a bit of confusion about the length right before I began to bind off for the neck. At first it seemed like the piece was going to be a bit longer than I wanted, but as I finished up the armholes, it turned out that it was just right. At this point I don't care how that worked. I'm just glad that it did. Both front and back pieces match! Well, actually, the back is wider in the bust than the front and I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's my knitting tension, or maybe it's just because of different armhole placement for each piece (which doesn't make any sense).

I finished the front on around Oct. 21st.

The second sleeve is about 2/3 finished!

After that it's on to blocking, picking up the neck cuff, and stitching it all together. It hasn't really sunk in yet, actually. The thought of wearing a garment that I made is bizzare to me.

I'm still plugging away at the VK Block and Cable Throw for Paul. This sucker is going to take a while to finish. Why is it that I always choose projects with small gauge? Talk about masochism! I worked out the math in my head while riding the bus home one day (warning: NERDY CONTENT):

There are 28 rows in the repeat, and I need 12 repeats plus the first 14 rows, and then 5 rows for the border. I can knit an average of 3 rows per day. I've done 1 repeat so far and am 12 rows into the second one. This means that I've got 327 rows to go, and if I knit 3 rows each day, then I'll be finished in 109 days (!!!!!!!) Methinks I've got to knit more than 3 rows per day. Or at least knit more than 3 rows on some days.

A few photos:

(A closeup of the stitch pattern. No idea where the funky color is from; the color in the other photos is correct, though)

(The WS looks like chromosomes! Hee!)

On the bright side, I bought some new yarn recently for upcoming projects! The first one is Berroco's Ultra Alpaca for a Seaman's Cap . A co-worker asked me to make him a beanie so I, will oblige, soon. As soon as I finish my VK pullover. (No photo of the yarn yet as I still haven't recieved it.)

Next, I'm going to make a pair of Urban Necessity Gloves for my dad. The yarn will be Cascade 220 :

A few weeks ago I took my mom to a Real Yarn Store! It's owned by a woman who I know from knitting night ('not sure if she'd care to be mentioned, so she'll stay anonymous for now!). Ma wants me to make her a hat and after parousing patterns on Ravelry, she finally picked one out: the Sideways Bobble Hat. Ma doesn't want the pompom, and so don't I, for that matter! At first I was really against this pattern seeing as it's so simple, but the upside is that it's going to knit up very quickly. My mom picked out some Rowan Big Wool Fusion for it:

Knitting night is still the thing I look forward to most during the week. Even if I'm not in a social mood when I get on the bus to go there, I already feel better when I get off at my stop. By the end of the night, I'm in a pretty damn good mood. So, long live knitting night! I need to remember to get the new issue of VK and possibly IK's Holiday issue. Like I need more projects in my Ravelry queue.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

WIP update and a bit of inspiration

On the WIP front: The VK pullover is coming along well. The front is about half-way done as of now. A photo from 2 days ago:

I have since started the ridge pattern (which takes forever). The sides are held down by pins, so they're not really that angular!

I cast on for Paul's afghan on the 2nd (Sunday) and was less than 10 rows in when I frogged it at Wednesday's knitting night. My stitch count seemed off and since I'd be dealing with cables, it seemed best to have the correct amount of stitches on my needles. I've since gotten further than I was before I frogged it but I'm still a few rows short of cabling.

At this point the stitch pattern doesn't look like much so it's not worth photographing.

At first, knitting with circulars was a bit awkward, but once I learned to turn my work so the two ends of my knitting wouldn't join, things progressed pretty quickly. Circular needles have intimidated me for so long, so it was a surprise to me how easy they are to handle. My only complaint is that the needles can spontaneously untwist from the cable! It's happened twice so far. I sort of panicked the first time and did this fancy maneuver of transfering the stitches from the separated needle onto a stitch holder. The second time happened in class and I didn't have anything to hold the stitches. Sliding them all down onto the cable and then re-attaching the needle worked perfectly, so I guess fancy maneuvers aren't necessary. I'm used to stitches getting lost the instant they slip off the needle, so I think the chunkier yarn of this project plus the bigger gauge is the reason that didn't happen.

These needles are the screw-in kind and it looks like that's not the best mechanism.
I've also discovered the joys of knitting in class. Yes, I swore that it could never work for me and yes, I am now eating my words. As long as I don't need to constantly write things down, knitting in class is possible.

Now on to the inspiration:

Some leaves I found on the ground a few days ago. The colors are absolutely stunning. Someday, if I ever learn how to dye yarn, I hope to attempt to recreate these colors. A few of my favorites:

In in attempt to preserve them, I've pressed these leaves into a Webster's dictionary. I discovered a pressed spider as I was flipping through it--made me jump about a foot. Note to self: don't use books to kill spiders hanging in mid-air by their webs.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My First Cables! (and other good stuff)

One of the sales managers at work, Paul, asked me to knit him an afghan a little while ago. I nosed around online for a while, searching for a suitable pattern. Paul wanted it in a solid color so the dog hair wouldn't show, so I needed to find one with an interesting stitch pattern. I finally decided on one I found in the winter 97/98 edition of VK:

Stitch detail:

Knit Picks had a sale a few weeks ago so I ordered the yarn for them: 17 balls of Swish Superwash in Sand Dune:

The pattern requires size 9 circular needles (24" cord) so I bought those as well. This project includes a few techniques that I've never used before, such as using circular needles and making cables. After a few weeks of hemming and hawing, I finally sat down to learn how to cable:

So far I only know how to make this basic cable--making it gradually 'unzip' at the end didn't work out too well. Thankfully, it looks like I can skate by with what I know so far!

I finished HP 7 a few weeks ago, which means that the knitting hiatus is over!! My friend C invited me to an A's game on 8/14 (Tuesday) and I thought it'd be a good idea to start the front of my VK pullover there...except that I'd packed a skein instead of a ball of yarn. I wasn't about to start converting it on the train, so I cast on when I got home instead. My progress so far:

I've got 2 more decreases to do and then I'm on to whatever's next! Its been coming to school with me every day and I can usually do about 2-5 rows per day. My new back pack even has a nifty little compartment for it! (Well, it's actually a sort of built-in notebook sleeve, but no matter)

The compartment holds a bag containing my WIP (not pictured), as well as the pattern magazine and a ruler.

And...last but not least, I went to my first knitting night last Wednesday! It was mentioned on Ravelry--I was surprised by how many knitting nights there are in the bay area. It's held at a bookstore close to campus and it's very easy to get to by bus. Overall it was awesome and a huge treat since I've never knit with a group of people before or listened to people talk about things that I've only read about. I couldn't make it this week but I'm hoping to make this a regular event for me!

I finally picked up the new IK and VK issues and both are fabulous, although I like VK a little more. Then again I'm partial to VK in general! It's definitely a drool-worthy issue.

Before quitting my barista job a few weeks ago, I used my benefits to get so yummy tea and a cup. I can't wait until the weather gets cold enough to make hot tea in the morning. The tins will definitely come in handy when they're empty (DPNs, anyone? Notions?)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Kitsch of Yester-year

HP 7 went on sale yesterday and I'm still desparately plowing my way through the fifth book. I want to be up-to-date before I read the final one. Pops picked up #7 from Costco the morning it was released and has since settled down to read it. He gives me smug looks at the dinner table and laughs when I clamp my hands to my ears and hum loudly when he drops hints about the plot.

Preparing for HP 7 has definitely been the reason for my knitting lapse; I think that I should continue with the VK pullover soon if I hope to finish it before it gets too cold to wear short sleeves!

A few evenings ago, the absense of knitting drove me to rummage through drawers in search of kitsch. And kitsch I did find!

Circa 1995. This sweater was knit for me by a family acquaintance while we were still living in Russia. Though this photo doesn't show it, the panels of ribbing are actually diagonal. The sweater is really itchy so I didn't like it much. I wasn't too keen on the color either. 'Still had to wear it, though...

Circa 1987. This dress was crocheted for me by my godmother. There's a tie in the front (photo on left) and a button closure in the back (photo on right). I've got to hand it to my mother, she kept this dress in pristine condition all this time!

Socks!! L to R: Slip-on socks made from dog hair (my guess is that it came from a dog my uncle's family used to own); wool socks; my baby socks! All of these were definitely brough over by either my mom or dad from Russia at some point.

More socks! These are a combination of dog hair and what looks like the same wool used for the white socks in the photo above.

Detail of the heel.

The potholder at the top was crocheted by my grandmother's neighbor, who then gifted it to my mother. I'm not ashamed to admit that I sniggered at it. A lot. Dad came home, took one look at it, and scoffed. He then began to rummage through the kitchen drawers, looking for something. After asking him what he was after multiple times, he replied that he was looking for his mother's crocheted potholders. I benignly pointed to a hook on the wall above his head which held the two potholders (bottom photo). "Now that's crocheting", dad proclaimed. I've always been in awe of his mother's handiwork, though I've only just begun to truly appreciate and understand it.

Her crocheted coasters.

Amazingly, these items satisfied my need for a knitting fix without me even so much as looking at a pair of needles. Pathetic? Maybe. Nostalgic and inspirational? A definite 'yes'!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

At the half-way point--pausing to enjoy the view!

Progress on the pullover's sleeve became faster as I got closer to the shoulder thanks to the decreases. And the less stitches on the needles, the more rows I was able to do on the train! Returning home from work today with five minutes until my stop, I had almost finished binding off when I accidentally dropped a stitch. So much for my triumphant finale! I ended up finishing the sleeve at home in front of the computer. Here it is, in all of its triangular glory:

(click on photo for larger version)

A different perspective:

(click on photo for larger version)

The two finished pieces together:

(click on photo for larger version)

It's starting to look like a pullover now, eh? Two more pieces like this and I'll be ready to block and seam this puppy together! I'll probably cast on for the front in a few days--I'm a bit behind in reading the first six Harry Potter books before the final one comes out next month! (A change of activity is supposed to be good for concentration, right?)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Making a knitter of her

Today I sheared a live'un!!

My father, to be more presice. Sadly, he produces hair and not wool.

Ever since I learned about Ravelry, I was anxious to join and see what it was all about. So many knitters and crocheters in one place--who can say 'no' to that? Finally, a few days ago I received an invite and signed up! I haven't had time to explore it yet or get settled in, but after reading about various bloggers' addiction to it, I think it's only a matter of time before it becomes one of my daily habits.

Work was busy this weekend so I didn't get to knit as much as I'd hoped; my goal was to finish the sleeve I'm currently working on, but no cigar. I'm about 3/4 of the way done, with 11 of 16 repeats out of the way. 'Not much time to knit this week, so the soonest this piece can be finished is next weekend.

Eventually it'll look like this:

The list of knitting/craft blogs I read has gotten longer again. I read sporadically, but I do read them! It's extremely uplifitng to interact with people with a common interest, to give and receive compliments and critique. Mostly, I just like oggling at crafts!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You CAN take it with you...but will you use it??

The mominator (aka my mother) and I left for a vacation on the 12th, but amidst the hustle, bustle, and shouting, I didn't find time for an update. So here it is, in all its posthumous glory!

Knitting needles and planes: there's a lot of infrmation about this topic if you know where to look. (Craftster has a thread featuring experience as well as rock-solid evidence; then there's TSA's list.) Up until the day before our flight, I'd been looking forward to whipping out my knitting 38,000 feet above ground...then the pink fog of dreamland cleared and I came to realize reality: no carry-on inspector in their right mind would let an abundantly-pierced gal wielding sharp, thin metal sticks onto an airplane full of unsuspecting people. Well, they might, but the odds were against me. Besides, I wasn't prepared: circs or even plastic needles look much more benign, and point protectors are good to have as well. Having weighed my chances, I concluded that it would be best for both me and the knitting if it rode in the suitcase. Better than having to stick it in an envelope and mail it back home.

Since our destination featured a beach, I'd imagined that I'd get a lot of knitting done there. And wow was I wrong! Maybe it's because I had forgotten what a sandy, wet place the beach was, or maybe the Harry Potter books I brought along proved more interesting (with #7 coming out soon, I've gotta get in the mood). So in conclusion, the knitting only came out in the hotel room, and just a few times at that. Silly me, I'd even brought materials for starting the front of my WIP, as well as my Vogue Knitting reference book and some larger needles and scrap yarn for the purpose of practicing new techniques. Oh, well. I guess knitting on the beach just isn't for me.

Knitting on the train, however, is definitely my thing. Getting a second job in San Francisco has proved to be pretty beneficial to my knitting, since there's not really much to do for the 35 minutes that I'm on the train. It warrants some interesting comments/conversations/glassy-eyed stares. The interaction is one of my favorite things about knitting, second to the finished product and the experience, that is!

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Small Mistake Almost Sunk This Kitschy Ship...

Yow, not one update for almost a month. (Some would call it a curse, while others insist that it's a form of genius that's closely related to procrastination).

To summarize: I was progressing well on my current WIP and getting a lot done at work...until I made a mistake. About halfway through the ridge-patterned section of my pullover, I must have gotten distracted by something (like my job) and instead of purling 2 rows, I only purled one and moved on. As I was knitting the next row, things didn't look right and I realized my mistake. No problem!, thought I. I'll just frog this row and that'll be the end of that. So I frogged the row, undoing the stitches one by one (they're so small that ripping them out will almost guarantee that some will get lost). My workday was just about over by the time I finished frogging, so I put my knitting away; I could go back to it the next day, right?

That's where things went painfully wrong (insert screeching violins here).
I didn't get a chance to knit at all the following week but when I started again Saturday morning, I was confident that I knew where I'd left off. The first ridge looked right but as I finished the second, I saw that the repeat didn't look right: the WS was on the RS, and vice versa. To say I was perplexed was an understatement. So I frogged what I'd done and set out to correct my mistake, a process that took almost 2 full days of knitting a few rows and frogging them again (stitch. by. stitch)! It got rather depressing after a while. I somehow finally managed to find the right place in the pattern repeat.

After that, things went smoothly until the "knit both sides at the same time" direction for knitting the neck. I'd initially thought that this meant keeping the work on the same needle and to keep knitting as usual. As I tried to knit on the other side of a bound-off row, the two sides became connected and I realized that there must be something else to the whole "knit both at the same time" thing. I looked up the term in my Vogue Knitting reference book, which cleared things up: each 'side' is to be knit using a separate ball of yarn. So I made another skein of yarn into a ball and things went merrily on their way.

Behold, the finished back piece!

I cast on for this piece on April 22 (Sunday) and finished on June 3 (Sunday); that's a little over a month. Not bad for knitting twice a week, plus a row here and there on weekdays.

A few detail shots:

A view of a shoulder and the neck opening.

Armhole shaping.

For the sake of variety, I decided to knit a sleeve now. My progress so far:

As suggested by Gloria, I've been writing out pattern instructions to prevent myself from losing my place (instructions like "decrease every other row 5 times AT SAME TIME cont. ridge pattern" or "*dec. 1 st each side, work even 3, dec. 1 st each side AT SAME TIME...." are just asking for it). Writing out the pattern repeat (k, k, p, k, etc.) and then adding whatever it is you have to do next to that row helps tremendously. I check off rows as I go and there's no chance of losing my place!

A (blurry) example of my notes:

This update is dedicated to a Mr. B. Franklin, whose aphorism I stole and twisted into what is now the title of this post. You rawk.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Selfless Knitter 6.0 (batteries not included)

My FOs are few, but I can safely say that I enjoy knitting for others more than for myself. (My current WIP is a necessary exception). Coupled with my love of pleasing people is my reluctance to disappoint them: in essense, to say 'no' when they suggest that I knit them something.
Now, don't get me wrong, getting requests is flattering and frankly, sometimes I suggest it myself. But I get to thinking sometimes...could that be what knitting is all about? I'm by no means a knitting history buff, but I do know that from the very beginning, knitting was a practice that benefited many people other than the knitter. Whether it was a necessary craft (socks, sweaters, etc.) or simply entertainment (lace, etc.), the knitted items always seemed to benefit somebody else. But does that meant that knitters are selfless folk working tirelessly for the good of others? I'm not so sure. The act of knitting something is, by itself, highly rewarding, pleasing, and challenging. Watching somebody accept your finished item and knowing how much good they'll get out of it is, as they say, the icing on the cake. Besides, there are only so many things you can knit for yourself. Would you ever be able to use them all? Not to mention that after weeks of working on an item (if not longer), I'm pretty eager to send it on its merry way.
So perhaps there's more to knitting than yarn and needles, cardigans and baby socks. Maybe knitting has hidden intrinsic value that only really makes sense to a knitter.

So what has my knitter's nature wrought upon me? Why, more future projects, of course! There are many thigns I want to knit for myself, but the majority of future projects are for other people:

M-the-younger: He's my co-worker and we're only a few months apart in age. He was the first to (jokingly) ask for something after seeing me knitting the now finished faux-lace scarf at my desk. He requested a tie (really) and since then I've found a few good pattern that will work.

M-the-elder: Another co-worker. This one wants a vest, with cables and all. Well, if he wants it done before the year is over, he'll have to settle for something simpler.

G: My little cousin. She requested a rainbow-colored scarf and matching hat. I'm planning to have them ready for her by this fall.

N: A former lady co-worker who may have asked for a scarf at some point. I'm thinking something lacy.

M&C: The original muses :) These two can pull off things like shrugs and capelets. I'd love to make things like that but I know that I'd never wear them; just a matter of taste. Having friends to gift things like this to allows me to make things that I wouldn't necessarily use myself. And of course, it's fun figuring out what they'll like.

The rest of my list includes projects for people that didn't ask for them. A huge benefit of making things for others is the opportunity to learn new skills and practice learned ones--both parties benefit!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Moving right along...

I've made a lot of progress on the pullover--it's almost time to shape the armholes, neck, and shoulders!

Aerial view: the sides roll horribly, so they were pinned out for the photo session. Look--shaping!

A close-up of the ridge pattern.

Another view of the ridge pattern.

I wasn't kidding when I said it curled! Half of the time, it doesn't even look like the front or back of anything.

And the WS of the piece. Lots and lots of garter stitch.

Currently, the piece measures 36.5 cm; it needs to be 37.5cm before I can start shaping the armholes. I started a second hank last weekend! This time around, winding it into a ball by hand turned disastrous towards the end--a scary, tangled mass that took me about a half hour to fix. Maybe it was a combination of the late hour and listening to a radio show. Perhaps there is something to having a partner help you wind...
The photos were taken with different types of flash, which is why they all look different. Still not sure which is best for 2am photo sessions with the floor lamp on...
It's been very smooth sailing so far and I'm a bit nervous about starting on armholes, shoulders, etc. Something about "working both sides at once" scares me. That and the AT THE SAME TIME directions--not only must you continue the ridge pattern, but you should also decrease/increase every x number of rows. The first two repeats of the ridge pattern called for this and it wasn't so much difficult as it was about planning ahead and knowing after which row to increase. My other concern is the length. The ridge pattern on the sweater the model in the mag is wearing doesn't start at the same place it starts on me. Granted, we're not the same person but the size of the sweater is the same! I'm afraid that it'll turn out ot be a little long for me. In that case, I'll probably frog from the bottom and re-do the ribbing so that it fits better.
Not only have I been able to knit at work, but during the week as well! A row here, two more there--that adds up to a lot, considering that it takes me about 10-12 minutes to knit a single row. There are currently 134 stitches on the needle, although it doesn't look like it! (No, I didn't count them! 'Just glanced at the pattern!) Initially, I thought that bringing my knitting to school would just distract me, but I've actually found that knitting a bit before hitting the books is relaxing. Plus, I'll never be bored during a dull lecture hour!
I should be done with this side by the end of this month, finals and all being taken into consideration. Maybe I should do a sleeve next instead of the other side, to keep things interesting.
I'm considering starting a second, smaller project in addition to this WIP. There are a lot of things I'd been planning to knit--mostly things people have requested. But that's another can of worms meant for another post...