Thursday, December 20, 2007

Handmade Christmas

I've wanting to write this post for awhile, but I was sidetracked by school, that bane of my knitting life. As of 11:42 this morning, however, the last paper was turned in, the last exam taken, and I never have to worry about medieval polyphony EVER again. Come Saturday, I'll be winging my way across the country with a suitcase full of yarn and dirty clothes. Hey, ho, let's go knit!

Anyway. The thing. The thing is, I love Christmas. I really do. I love snow and decorating the tree and making (and eating) about a thousand tons of Christmas candy. I love hanging our stockings in just the right order on the mantelpiece. Since coming to college, I've loved being at home with my family, who I miss so much and don't get to see nearly enough. I will admit that I like getting presents, but what I love most of all is GIVING presents. I love finding or making just the right thing and watching people's happy faces when they open their gifts. I really, really love that.

However. Much as I hate to admit it--there are a few things about Christmas that I hate. Well, just the one...I hate the "Christmas shopping season." How, I ask you, is the "Christmas spirit" in any way related to maxing out your credit cards and stressing out all the time? What, did baby Jesus tell you to go stand in line at Wal-Mart at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to buy a 40-inch TV? Honestly, I think it's a little disgusting.

Which is why, then, I've decided to do my own little boycott: I am not buying a single new gift this year. All of my gifts are either coming from Salvation Army (always a source for amusing and...unique gifts) or, more importantly, I'm making them.

This is important to me. For environmental reasons, for political and social reasons, and yes, let's face it, because I'm an unemployed student and while I don't have any money I do have a lot of yarn and beads and in about forty-eight hours I'll have access to my mother's sewing machine. (Is this related to how I don't shave my legs partly because I don't let society dictate what I do with my body and partly because I have fine, blond leg hair and I'm lazy? Hmmm.)

Anyway. Now that I've revealed myself as the fuzzy-legged tree-hugging hippie that I am, let's see how we're doing on this gift-making. (keep in mind that those pesky exams were getting in my way until this morning, so there'll be a lot more knitting going on in the next few days.

Our first exhibit: Urchin, for my mom, out of that accursed Manos from my last post. I really think it might be working out this time, though!

As always, I modified the pattern a little bit--I wasn't getting gauge, not by a long shot, and I didn't have bigger needles (plus it was about 1 a.m. when I cast on) so I just added some stitches in the middle of each wedge. I really like this pattern--it looked like a blob at first but it's really taking shape (I've knit about another two and a half wedges since this picture was taken).

And doesn't the manos look nice in garter stitch? I think this might finally be the pattern for this yarn! I'm a little worried I'll run out, but if that happens I have another skein of Manos in a purple color that'll go with this one. It'll be a design element. Yeah.

Next up: gloves for my aunt, from this hand-dyed yarn. Should be done, no problem.

My dad asked for a hat before I left home after Thanksgiving, and he was very specific: "No fancy cables or anything, and not too bright a color...and I want it pretty fine, a small yarn." So...fine-gauge stockinette. Thanks, Dad. I think he'll like this though:

(the yarn is really soft, for his bald little head)

Finally, a hat for my brother, which currently looks like this:

Yeah. Um. There's more:

Originally it was going to be sweater vests for my parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary (purple for her, green for him), which was last week, but I've come to my senses. It's actually going to be a swatch, some yarn, and a sweet card.

And actually, in some ways, that's better--I really think that for anything bigger than accesories, especially something like this that I want to be really good, it's good to have input from the recipient.

So. In the next four or five days, I need to finish one hat, make two more, finish that glove, and finish the cabled swatch. Hmmm. Excuse me.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gift Knitting: Engage!

It's that time of year! My college marching band traditionally does a secret santa gift exchange, with three presents on three successive days. Check out my gifts for days 2 and 3:

I knew I'd find a use for that novelty yarn...

Gift #3 was the Ultra Alpaca scarf, which I did end up reblocking to get rid of the scallops. Evidently I'm more compulsive than I thought.

Oh, and remember that #$%^!! Manos hat, that I was so convinced would finally work?

On what planet, I ask you, would this possibly fit a normal human being? I mean, I know I have a gigantic head, but still. (also: note handknit sweater! whee!)

All right, you stupid yarn. This is your last chance. You're going to become Urchin or I'll know the reason why.

(On second thought, the cables didn't really show up that well anyway, so I suppose it's for the best).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh, the humility. Oh, the handknits.

It's 12:52 a.m. My paper is due in approximately 11 hours. I have 17 pages done, not counting the works cited page, and I still need a conclusion. I'm camped out in the library.

It's chilly in here, though. Brrr. What am I wearing? Why, my Iro hat and my hot pink cabled armwarmers, of course! (No picture of those; loosely based on these. And I do mean loosely).

I'll be back soon, once the paper is done. In the meantime, can I just point out the cosmic unfairness of final exams coming right during Christmas knitting season? Yeah. "Here you go, mother dearest, woman who carried me, gave birth to me (giant head and all), raised me, put up with my whining, cleaned up my messes, didn't kill me when I went through my "Spice Girls phase" when I was ten, fed me, did my laundry for eighteen years, and now pays for my college education all while flying me across the country several times year and shipping me boxes of yarn that I've left at home. What a wonderful job you've done raising me, and how I appreciate you. Merry Christmas. Here, have this circular needle with two rows of knitting on it, and my apologies."

Sigh. When I'm not whining, I like to imagine that I'm knitting this. Except not as sparkly.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Speaking of which...

(One final exam down, problem set half-done, so I'm allowing myself to indulge in a little blogging today)

Speaking of dying, look at this article in the new Knitty! It's fascinating--I knew some of it already, but it was so interesting. I didn't realize (although I guess I would have if I'd thought about it) that Kool-Aid, liquid food coloring, and paste dyes all use the same kinds of commerical food dye. How interesting. And the way different dyes are absorbed at different rates, and the question of mixing colors vs. overdying--it's so interesting.

And the stuff on color theory-again, I knew a lot of it, but it never even occurred to me to use complimentary colors to tone down the really bright colors I've been getting with food dyes (i.e. add a couple of drops of green to my red to make it a little murkier). Oh, I can't wait to try some of this out! I've always shied away from acid dyes because of the scary chemicals (plus I'm lazy...and cheap...big surprise), but knowing the range of results I can get just with food dyes is great.

Relating to the dying, though, a Cautionary Tale: when dying on the stovetop...make sure that the other burner that you're setting your plastic plate full of yarn on is OFF.

No joke.

(all that shiny stuff on the burner? Yeah. Molten plastic. Mmmm.)

(don't worry, though--no yarn was harmed in the melting of this plate).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Aww, man.

Oooh! New Knitty! New Knitty new Knitty new Knitty!

...problem set, paper #1, paper #2, final exams fast approaching...sigh.

OK, I'll only look for a LITTLE bit. Just ONE pattern. Maybe two. Oh man, look at the cover. Is that kidsilk haze? And beads? Oh man. I've never knit lace before. Or with beads. But I WANT THAT. Ice Queen, it's called. How beautiful, and how warm it would be! (It's been really, really cold here lately, although no snow yet, cold enough to make me daydream knitting a balaclava. My nose is cold). Oh, and look at Three Tams! They remind me a lot of Fake Isle, except with Silk Garden instead of Kureyon.

OK, no more. Back to the problem set.


In the meantime, here's a progress report on the glove: getting there! I've tried it on a few times (OK, a lot) and I really like the way the fingers feel.

I do have a problem, though--it's looking kind of big. Here's a picture with my hand for contrast:

Now, keep in mind I have freakishly tiny hands, and since I don't yet know who these are for, I'm making the size medium. And when I put them on, the fingers are really only too long by about half an inch.

Still, though...I don't think I'll weave in the ends just yet.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dyeing to Knit

Auuugh. Sorry about the pun.

Over Thanksgiving break, taking advantage of an empty house and an excess of free time, I embarked on more dying adventures. Last time, when I'd dyed the yarn for the Kool-Aid Sweater, it came out REALLY bright and colorful--this was fun, but I thought I'd aim for something a little more sedate this time. I settled on Lamb's Pride Worsted in "Misty Blue" for the cool colorway I wanted to try, and Bulky in Victorian Pink for the warm colorway.

Here's the yarn pre-dying:

Mmmm, can't get enough of that bulky single-ply.

I skeined the yarn using a piano-bench-turned-skein-winder:

For the cool colors I wanted to do, I knew that Kool-Aid wasn't going to cut it--even with a base color, the Kool-Aid blue and green are too neon and not saturated enough. I'd had good results with food coloring and vinegar before, so after some searching I found a box of food coloring (can't find a link, but you know those little tubes that look like dwarves and come in boxes of four? Yeah, those) that had pink, purple, blue, and green. Just what I wanted.

Since I wanted blue to be the predominant color, I came up with a color scheme that looked like this:

Next, I used a very very scientific method to determine how much dye to use: since I would be dying two blue sections and one each of purple and green, I poured all of the blue dye into a pyrex pitcher, mixed it with water, and then divided it into two jars. One of these jars went into the pot, mixed with more water and some vinegar (I actually did measure this, though I don't remember how much--I think 3/4 of a cup?)

I brought it to a boil and then added 1/4 of each of the two skeins I was dying (I'd sectioned them off into four parts earlier):

I cooked it until the water was clear (it was opaque when it started):

(seen here about halfway)

and then repeated the process with the other blue sections.

Then I repeated the process with the green dye, except since I was dying half as much yarn I only used half the bottle to begin with. I was concerned, though, when it still looked really clear, not dark and almost opaque like the blue solution, so I eventually dumped in the whole bottle (yes, I am very precise and scientific. Shut up) along with 3/4 cup of vinegar.

Right away I was concerned, though, when the yarn took up the dye MUCH faster than the blue had done, and when I took it out it wasn't nearly as saturated as the blue, despite having used the same amount of dye for half the amount of yarn. The color wasn't what I'd wanted either--it was much more olive-lime and less the emerald that I'd envisioned. Hmmm.

In the meantime, I dyed the purple portion (also using half the dye; this time it worked like I thought it would, just as saturated and rich as the blue) and then let it all cool.

(after it cooled I decided I still didn't like the green, so I overdyed it with some other green food coloring I stole from my mother's baking shelf. Much better).

For the bulky pink yarn, I used a selection of warm (Kool-Aid) colors, using a pyrex baking pan and the microwave. Evidently the vinegar fumes had gotten to me at this point, though, because I forgot to take a picture.

(I also somehow managed to to melt a plastic plate on the stove and drip molten plastic all down the cabinets, but let's not go into that, hmmm?)

At the end, I had some Kool-Aid still mixed up, so I dyed a few mini-skeins I had lying around.

And the end results...

Tah-dah! From left to right: food coloring on "Misty Blue" LPW; Kool-Aid on "Victorian Pink" LPB, and leftover Kool-Aid on some random wool scraps. One of them is Patons; the other, a mystery single-ply.

I really think this is my favorite yarn that I've dyed:

(reskeined so it looks like Real Handdyed Yarn)

I love it. I love it. I want to carry it around with me and show it to everyone I know. I'm kind of doing that already. I'm aware of how obnoxious that is. I can't stop.

and in its current incarnation:

(see how the fingers are striping? Isn't that cool?)

Christmas break, here we come! I'll try to keep the damage to the kitchen at a minimum this time.

Friday, November 30, 2007

FO like whoa

(The title only works if you say "foe" instead of "eff oh," which I don't, but still I am a fan of the rhyme).

This was a quick little knit, started (as I said) on my journey home for Thanksgiving, nearly finished on the plane, but then put on hold when I fell asleep somewhere over Montana. I finished it the next day.

As modeled by the lovely roommate, who graciously allowed me to put her face on the internet without even questioning whether it would be used for porn (don't worry, I won't.)

Berrocco Ultra Alpaca, in what I think is "Pea Soup Mix." (Ew! Who names a yarn color after soup?) Note, of course, that the reason I know the color is from looking at the website, because I lost the ball band about a year ago. 50% wool, 50% alpaca.

My own pattern: cast on 35 stitches (I think), knit in mistake rib until the yarn's almost gone, bind off. I guesstimated pretty well this time--I only had about three yards left when I bound off. 200 or so yards made for a pretty short scarf, not long enough to wrap around my neck, but it blocked out pretty nicely. There are a few scallops along the edges where I pinned it out, but I'm not too bothered. Certainly not enough to re-block it. Ah, the advantages of not being a perfectionist.

And isn't the heathered color nice? I would definitely use this yarn again--it was lovely. Not quite as soft as some other alpaca yarn, but I'm sure that was because of the wool content, and it was great to work with. I think perhaps I have a little bit of a bias against a company that produces an excess of novelty yarn, but to each his own, I suppose.

Now, if you're reading this blog and you get this scarf for Christmas, act surprised, OK?

Mittens for me!

After some consideration, I've decided I'm definitely a "process" knitter...I really enjoy knitting and planning and futzing, but after the knitting is done if I give it away/it looks goofy I'm not too fussed.

Which is why I'm so pleased that my long blabbed-about mittens actually worked! I've talked about these before, I know, but now you get the promised photoshoot, and it's not even at 2 a.m.

In all their glory:

Closeup of the flip top, v2 (ripped out the first version because it rolled, reknit in k1p1, bound off. Does it count as a provisional cast-on if I didn't mean for it to be provisional?)

Closeup of the fingertips--dear God, that was a lot of ends to weave in.

Also, can you tell I'm finally figuring out how to use macro mode?

I've gotten a lot of use out of these already--they're warm, practical, and I love the colors.

And they're pretty cute! Don't you think?

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Thanks to my darling roommate for taking the pictures!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Procrastination Nation

I desperately want to be knitting right now, but I'm supposed to be writing a paper on West African influences in the blues. So, naturally, I'm ...blogging.

Some time ago, I'd bought two skeins of Cascade Pastaza in this lovely green, wonderful and warm and fuzzy. They seemed destined to keep my hands warm--especially when paired with the leftover Brown Sheep Handpaint Originals that I'd used to make mittens for my mom last year.

I'd loved the convertible gloves I made for a friend last year, so much so that I was tempted to keep them for myself, so sometime this fall, the yarn went from this:

To this (nasty rolling hem on the fliptop mitten part--bad mitten!)

Ripped out (note to self: they do not lie when they say that ripping mohair is a Big Fat Pain), reknit with k1p1 ribbing: much better.

"Fall-Colored Flip-Tops," pattern: my own, with generous help from Ann Budd and her wonderful book. Cascade Pastaza, colorway#huhIwonderwherethatballbandwent. About 1 1/2 skeins, I would imagine. Scraps of Brown Sheep Handpaint Originals in colorway...damn it. It's really pretty, though, really shiny with a nice halo.

Better photos coming soon.

Also, this was spectacularly awesome: on the plane on the way home for Thanksgiving break, I sat in a row that looked like this:

No joke. One mistake-rib scarf (me), one shawl (lady #1), and one cabled sock (lady #2). Incredible (not so much for the guy between me and lady #1, who had to put up with my leaning over his lap to talk to them. Ah well).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

break time = knitting time

A week at home, a week away from school, a week not doing all the homework I'd planned to (big surprise)...a week knitting/dying/playing like mad. A week with no wireless at home, alas, so I didn't post like I'd planned...but here is a brief summary of the week's activities.

1) dying project #1, soon to be a Christmas present
2) dying project #2 (my favorite), now in the process of becoming:
3) gloves for an as-yet-undetermined recipient. Let's just say that whoever I draw for Secret Santa this year had better have women's size medium hands.
4) Manos hat, started as "dumb TV knitting." This is about the eighteenth project I've tried with this yarn--nothing has seemed quite right. I hope this works, because godammit if I have to rip one more time I might consider knitting a noose. Bonus points to the yarn for holding up really well, though.
5) Swatch for a Big Ambitious Project still in the planning stages--my first try at fancy cables! More on that later.
6) Yarn destined to become a similar swatch for the same project--again, you'll see soon.
7) Alpaca mistake-rib scarf--started on the train to New York last Sunday, finished in my living room Monday evening. Need to weave in the ends still, but hooray! A Christmas present for...someone.
8) School-colors headband, almost finished but then derailed by an unfortunate blocking accident (no, really). You can't see it in the picture, but let's just say white yarn + blue dye that bleeds = disaster. Still deciding whether I really want to fix it or if I have better things to do.
9) More dying experiments, little mini-skeins--definitely less than 50 yards each. To be incorporated in some kind of gift? Alternatively, to be carried around and petted. That works too.

Still working on my blogging/photographing skills--I'm envious of all the beautifully photographed blogs I see, because it seems like I have to take about a million pictures like this:

to get one like this:

Ah well. In the meantime, though, because I am getting better--look at the pretty Manos!

The purple on the left is the swatch for the Big Project. I'm still undecided about the combination of heathered yarn and fancy cables--I know they don't show up that well, but they do in some lights, plus maybe I want to go for the subtle look. Hmmm. The project's intended recipient did like the swatch a lot when asked, though (unsuspecting of my true motives), and especially liked the colors...we'll see.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

fall knits

Well, fall speeds right along chez Rita--I study, I write music, I play music, and I don't knit as much as I'd like. The math test is over, though, thank god. Did my self-imposed knitting moratorium hold out? Erm. Hey look here, it's a mitten glitten!

Cascade Pastaza, Brown Sheep Handpaint Originals. My own semi-ripped-off-from Ann Budd "pattern," as always. The idea is that these will be fingerless gloves with a mitten top, and the top of each finger will be in the Handpaint Originals, leftover from the mittens I made my mom last year. The first one is actually finished already, but I'm too lazy to go fetch my camera.

Aren't the colors pretty?

Nonrelatedly, here's the yarn I dyed awhile ago, and from which my blog header picture comes. Wow, this is a spectacularly blurry picture. I didn't realize that. You get the idea.

Brown Sheep (mmm, my favorite) Lamb's Pride Bulky, about 9/10ths of a skein leftover from another project. I found some old jars of paste food coloring from ca. 1970 that had hardened into chunks. I dumped the blue and a little purple in a pot of boiling water, added some vinegar (how much? Oh, you know, a bit. We're not real scientific around here), and cooked until the water was clear. The dye clearly wasn't distributed through the water evenly, and I think I had way too much dye for the amount of yarn I had (less than 4 oz.) but I really like the results:
Aren't the colors nice?

In other, non-knitting news, I got some sad news this week.

Calvin, December 15, 2005--November 11, 2007

Rest in peace, buddy. I hope you have lots of sheep to play with--you would like sheep.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Special Delivery

So I have a big math test next week. I did rather (well, rather excruciatingly) badly on the last one, so I should probably study a lot.

There's also a football game this weekend, and I, as always, am in charge of making sure that the band has lots of new music to play.

Also, I have some reading & transcriptions to do for my other classes.

The upshot of all this, then, is the following rule: I am Not Allowed to Knit, not a Single Thing, until next Tuesday when my test is over. This should be easy enough--it's only a week, right? Right. Except...

Look what came in the mail today.

A package!

Now, where is it from, I wonder?

(aka KnitPicks)

Oh, look, it appears to have ripped open. I don't know how THAT happened.

And look!


This is the yarn, you see, that I ordered for the Anniversary Vests, a big project that has been percolating for quite some time. I was interested in KnitPicks yarn primarily because of, to be honest, the cost (attending a private college and working occasionally as a concert usher does not exactly rake in the big bucks, as it turns out), but I wanted to see what the yarn was like first. The colors I have in mind for the vests are purple and green, so I got a couple of shades of each to try them out.

And some others, just because, well, they're pretty and they're freaking $1.99 a ball!

But what about that math test, you say?

Yes. Well. If you'll excuse me...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Projects Past and Present, Plus Procrastination

...all alliterative, all the time.

But I'm not just being goofy-I really do have something exciting to show off--a real FO!

Noro Iro hat, finally finished on the third incarnation, after about ten months. The first version had fancy cables running up the earflaps and onto the hat-I spent a long time charting and fiddling to get the cables to get bigger as the flaps got bigger, and then knit half of it and realized it didn't work-the yarn colors and slubs obscured the cabling. I got bored and put it away, until last week when I finally fished it out, frogged, and did it for real.

But I really think it turned out pretty OK! The yarn is so gorgeous that the simple design shows it off well, I think.

Yarn: Noro Iro, 50% wool, 50% silk

Needles: Addi Turbo size 9 (love! so smooth, and I love the weight of the cable) and Brittany birch DPNs

Pattern: my own

While I was at it, I also frogged a sweater (well, "sweater"--does anyone remember the "Anthropologie Shrug" from Craftster?) that I never wore because it didn't fit. I'd sort of screwed up the YO increases (I made it last fall, when I was a much newer knitter) and then blocked it bizarrely so it was way too wide, and also too short because I'd run out of yarn.

Better yarn that I will use than a shrug I won't, I decided it, so I ripped it and ripped it good.

(taken when I'd already skeined half of it--there's actually about twice as much yarn).

For a skeining device, inspiration struck. My roommate was gone, and I didn't think she'd be too keen on holding still with her hands three feet apart for an extended period of time, so I devised a solution:

Stacking metal shelf by day, poor man's skein winder by night.

Next project: Bulldogs headband (made in my school colors), out of Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora and Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, my own pattern, ripped off from inspired by the famous Jaywalkers

...meh. I knit the two halves separately and then grafted them together in the middle, and it shows. I'm not thrilled, but I'm hoping a good blocking and especially adding a border will help neaten it all up a little.

There's more on the needles, and in my head, but for now, I'm going to bed-besides, look what I've been knitting instead of doing: