Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Well, it's something made from a tree. The smooth cherry wood pieces fit together perfectly. It spins like a happy little merry-go-round.
I am forever freed from hanging hanks of wool around my knees, or enlisting hubby's hands, or using the back of a chair.
I'm one of the holdouts who never thought she would have a need for a swift. After all, how many times do I really need to wind yarn? A few times a month? Aren't knees good enough for that?
Why have another "thing" cluttering up the den? My great-grandmother never had one. My grandmother never had one.
My husband convinced me that I needed to embrace progress in the 21st century -- even though swifts are as old as ... well, older than my great-grandmother. Sailors carved ivory umbrella swifts (scrimshaw) on whaling ships in the 19th century. I'm sure swifts were around in some form well before that.
My swift is from Knitting Notions, a small, family-run business in Nashville, TN. They sell swifts, hand-dyed yarn, shawl pins, and other things for knitters. Their swifts are all handmade from solid hardwoods like cherry, walnut, mahogany and oak, and they are hand-finished with a blend of tung and linseed oil, and a topcoat of beeswax.
It came in a handy cotton storage bag. The pegs were in a small Ziplock bag to keep them together.
I am in no way affiliated with this shop, but I am a very happy recipient of a beautiful cherry swift.
Santa baby, slip a swift under the tree, for me
I've been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight ...
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The original pattern called for four balls of Coats & Clark Opera #5 thread in Cream with pearl beads. I ordered my thread from Yarn & Thread by Lisa in Russet - a deep auburn color. Then I found the beautiful dark red tigereye beads on eBay that were just the right size (6mm).
The beads were fairly easy to crochet on. For each tier of trim, the last round is a beaded round. When I got to a spot that required a bead, I put down the size D hook required to crochet the pretty shell trim and used a size 13 steel crochet hook. I slipped one bead onto the steel hook, and pulled the working loop through the bead. Then I put down the size 13 hook, reinserted the size D hook into the working loop and continued on my way.
The casing for the handles is straight single crochet, one casing made on each side. Each casing was folded over each handle and stitched down inside the bag.
I'm happy with the way this finally turned out after months of looking for proper handles. It's ready to go out on the town!
Monday, November 06, 2006
The shawl begins at the top center and is worked outward. The main body is in a Budding Lace pattern, followed by two tiers of the Lily of the Valley border and is finished with a Peaked Edging.
I'd have to say that this is a fast knit compared to other lace shawls I have made. It took less than a month to complete, and I was working on other projects as well, so I didn't work on it every day.
My best decision was made before I began. I chose two colors and wanted a subtle transition from one to the other. I wanted to achieve a "sunset" effect, and I'm pleased with the outcome.
The first part in the Budding Lace pattern is all in the color Silky Oak. The color change occurs in the first tier of the Lily of the Valley border. I knitted two rows of Silky Oak and two rows of Nectarine, then two rows of Silky Oak and two rows of Nectarine again. These two dyelots have a common golden color, so the transition was as subtle as I had hoped. I also like the way the nupps in the transition section are multicolored as a result of the color changes.
I've read about the "nupps" on various blogs. The general knitter consensus seems to be: we love how they look, but we hate making them. I think the roundness of the true nupp makes a difference. True nupps are five stitches purled together (p5tog). Slip 2, purl 3 together and pass the slipped stitches over is another way of accomplishing a nupp, but the shape is slightly different and not quite as round. See my previous post to learn how I accomplished these round nupps without going crazy.
The second tier of Lily of the Valley and the Peaked Edging is worked completely in Nectarine.
Blocking was fast and easy. I threaded a 1/16" welding rod through the eyelets at the top edge and secured the rod to my blocking board, making sure the right and left corners were pinned down tightly and placing just a few pins under the rod to keep it straight and even. Then I pulled the bottom point down as far as it would go and pinned it to the board.
After that, I pulled the center point of one side out and pinned it, then switched to the other side and pinned the center point, stretching hard each time to open up the lace. I continued in this manner, pulling out a point on one side and the corresponding point on the other side, taking care to keep the points evenly spaced.
After every point was pinned, I went all the way around making minor adjustments to the pins, because as I stretched the lace, some points pulled a little too much to the left or right and I wanted them to point straight out.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The Swallowtail Shawl from Interweave Knits Fall 2006 issue appears to be everywhere in blogdom. I had decided to make this short, lacy shawl when I first saw it a couple of months ago, before I knew about the knitalong blogs. Yes, there's more than one!
I'm glad I waited to find just the right fiber.
This yarn is Kaalund's Enchante, a 100% silk laceweight. It's a superfine laceweight, but not cobweb. And the colors! I'm using Silky Oak for the first section - a subtly variegated peach and gold - and I'll finish it off with Nectarine (the slightly more peachy-red yarn ball in the photo). I'm hoping it will look something like a sunset, but the proof will be in the lace.
So far, my only qualm about this yarn is that it doesn't "give" or stretch, so knitting the p5tog's in the Lily of the Valley border is a challenge. I choose to knit these nupps with a small crochet hook. The shawl is on a size 4 circular, and the hook is #5 steel.
What works for me is sliding the hook from right to left under five stitches on the lefthand circular needle, hooking the working yarn and pulling a loop through the five stitches. Then I slide the five stitches I just worked off the lefthand needle and put the new loop on the righthand needle.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Many thanks to Courtney on the laceknitters list for the translation from German to English!
Also many thanks to Judy Gibson who researched and found the smaller doily was published previously in Kunsthakeln & Kunststricken, as part of a series, and called "Strick & Shrick, Sonderheft No. 3." Judy notes that the designer Niebling is not credited in the previous publication.
I made the doily using size 0 needles and DMC Baroque thread. This thread is not my favorite, but it does block nicely. It doesn't have the silky sheen of DMC Cebelia thread. I would recommend Baroque for everyday items and Cebelia for heirlooms.
Some people have asked how I start a doily like this. I prefer the Emily Ocker start, something I learned a long time ago. Basically, make a loop of yarn around your finger, and then crochet the number of stitches needed to start the doily into it. Then, divide up the stitches onto DPNs and start knitting. When using fine thread, it sometimes takes me several tries! The DPNs have a tendency to flop around, so I support them on top of a pillow on my lap until I've knit a few rounds. After knitting a few inches of the pattern, I pull the tail of the thread to close up the center hole.
Another method for a circular start is Rosemarie's bellybutton start, which has become quite popular with lace knitters. This is similar to the I-cord start, which entails knitting a short length of I-cord with scrap yarn, then switching to the project thread to begin knitting your pattern. After knitting a few inches of your pattern, you can unravel the I-cord, weave the tail of the project thread through the first pattern row and pull the tail snugly to close the center hole.
Finishing is another story. I came across some very old German steel crochet hooks at a flea market a while back and bought about ten of them in various sizes. Some of these old hooks have sharper tips than most modern hooks I've seen. For me, a pointier tip is great for crocheting off a doily. This Niebling doily required slipping five stitches off my circular onto the crochet hook, then slip-stitching through all loops on the hook, leaving one stitch on the hook. Next, I chained 12 (ch12), then slipped five more knit stitches onto the crochet hook, continuing in this manner until all stitches were crocheted off.
To block, I rinsed the doily in cool water and rolled it in a towel to soak up excess moisture. I pinned out each ch12 to a a nice sharp point. I also measured the diameter all the way around to make sure the doily was round and even. A good blocking board is essential.
Sometimes I use spray starch or "sizing" to finish off a doily. I only do this after the doily is blocked and dry. This is fine for doilies that see occasional use and may be washed and blocked again. If a doily will be stored for a long time, I don't like to use starch which may yellow with age.
If you press a doily with spray starch, I suggest using a hot iron with steam, a dry doily, Niagara spray starch, and a white towel or pilowcase underneath on the ironing board (or you'll end up with a starchy ironing board pad). Personally, I prefer the texture of an unpressed doily.
Of course, there are many ways to to start and finish, but these are the things I've learned and have used with some success.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Kristin Omdahl shared with me a few new patterns to spice up the fall and winter. I'm currently working on a luscious wrap in Paca de Seda yarn, 80% wool and 20% silk. This stuff is soft and drapey ... and very warm for the cool months ahead.
I went to the Knitting Nature trunk show at Greenwich Yarn in San Francisco and saw firsthand the fabulous sweaters featured in Nora Gaughan's book. The Ogee Tunic is absolutely lovely, knit in a fine yarn with distinctive textural features that set Nora's patterns apart. The other sweater that I found elegant with tailored finishing is the Ram's Horn Jacket. I'd probably make it a bit longer for me.
By the way, those two gorgeous skeins of laceweight wool pictured on top of the book are from Inspirations Yarn. Margaret hand dyes her yarn in small batches, and the colors are phenomenal. These two lovely skeins want to be something, but I'm not sure what yet. I've got about 840 yards.
I also began working on something I had been thinking about for a long time. The last pattern in the book Dazzling Knits by Patricia Werner is the Metropolis Coat. The architectural design is mesmerizing. I had been storing up Classic Elite Montara and Cascade Pastaza for literally years, waiting for something to inspire me. If you haven't seen this book, it's filled with unique modular designs that build one upon the next, picking up stitches from the side of one module to add another. The Metropolis Coat and the Mola Jacket really caught my attention. I decided to stick with the purple-plum-blue tones for the Metropolis. I never would have guessed I would be using ALL my colors of this soft llama/wool blend to make one garment. (Montara and Pastaza are the same, both 50% llama and 50% wool, a somewhat chunky single.) The black lines throughout the pattern are the main color that improvise a stained glass look.
Aside from knitting, work and family pulled me in various directions. It's not surprising that I couldn't pin myself to one project at a time. I also started this small Herbert Niebling doily from the September 2006 issue of the German magazine Lena, purchased from Martina's Bastel und Hobbykiste in Germany. Martina is a member of the Knitted Lace list, and she speaks English. Her website is mostly in German, but if you click on the British flag on the homepage, you'll find it's easier to navigate. The doily is worked in DMC Baroque cotton and size 0 needle. The cotton is not the nicest, with little sheen compared to the lovely DMC Cebelia that I used for the Lyra.
Other cottons I've used are Opera and Manuela. Opera is shiny and smooth, made by Coats, and comes in a wide variety of colors and weights. You can order Opera from Yarn & Threads by Lisa. She has a good selection of colors and fast shipping. (I am not affiliated.) Supposedly, Manuela thread has been discontinued, but you can still find it in some shops.
Unfinished projects abound. It's a good thing I found this lovely faux leather box at Joann's last week. It holds a lot and fits nicely next to our sofa. When the lid opens up, it stays up, so I can sift through my knitty bits without too much trouble.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Lyra is finished and being blocked! After many, many days of following an insanely intricate chart, Lyra is finally on the blocking board. I came back from vacation intending to finish it up and spent the better part of this Saturday crocheting the edging, weaving in the loose ends, and pinning it out. My blocking board is about an inch too small in height, so I'm going to have to unpin it after it's dry, give it a quarter turn, and pin out just the center points on two sides.
I'm only posting a few blocking photos now, just to give a sneak peek. As you can see, this is the square version. Does it look square to you? I'm not worried about the shape. Of all the finished Lyras I've seen, it seems to be blocking out just fine. It's my Lyra!
My only advice in blocking Lyra is this: banish the trepidation and go for it! It's scary to look at a fluffy, frilly pile of unblocked lace. With the pins in place, and the lace blooming, you really begin to appreciate the fruit of your labor.
You'll think I'm crazy, but after seeing this completed, I really want to start another Niebling pattern! I'm not sure which one yet. I've got Krokus, Blutenkranze, Eichel and Ruth, and possibly a couple of others.
Niebling ... so addictive ...
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I took the elevator to the third floor, and the first thing I saw as the door opened was a rack loaded with Knit Lites, those lighted knitting needles everyone seems to be talking about. Aside from the gaudy neon colors, and the battery packs that seem to weigh the needles down a bit, I suppose they serve a purpose. They come in sizes 6 through 15, but they aren't for me.
Adjacent to the Knit Lites was a carousel of recent knitting books - a small selection, worthy of a browse. The last time I had been to the Notions department at Britex, the yarns available were mostly novelty, fluffy, furry and sparkly. Now they had a wider selection, in cubbies that reached to the ceiling on one wall, and sample scarves and handbags knit from some of the yarns. Another carousel held knitting needles, knit and crochet geegaws, hairpin lace looms, Japanese knotting gadgets, and lots of Clover knitting and crochet needles. One tiny bargain: knitting needle point protectors were $3.50. Two other stores I've been to recently had them at $4.95 and higher. They did have a basket of yarn that was 50% off - mostly novelty, overpriced frou-frou yarn, that should never have been priced at $15-$18 a ball in the first place.
On to the buttons ... the buttons ... oh, the buttons. I'm a closet button freak, so this giant wall of buttons always gives me goosebumps. I inherited a big button collection from my grandfather, who was a tailor in his youth. Maybe that's why I love them. The horn buttons I picked for the vest contrast just enough with the natural Henry's Attic Prime Alpaca yarn, don't you think?
Monday night I drove to El Granada to knit with the Stitching Sisters. It's always a bit nervewracking to traverse Devil's Slide, but especially now since the road has only been open a few days. I hadn't been over the Slide since it had closed in April. With mere hours left before my dad's birthday, I brought the vest and the buttons with me to the gathering. However, I forgot the thread to sew them on. I had to wait unit I got home to attach the pretty treasures to their rightful places. My father's birthday gift was finished after midnight, today, on his birthday.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Strait-jacket \Strait"-jack`et\, n. A dress of strong materials for restraining maniacs or those who are violently delirious.
Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall ... ninety-nine bottles of beer ...
Sunday, July 09, 2006
My knitting group, the BAWDies (Bay Area Wool Divas) met today at Allyne Park in San Francisco. Since our regular Sunday spot, Valencia Street Books, recently closed, we've been on the lookout for a permanent place to meet on Sundays. In the meantime, we're a floating knitting group - not unlike a floating crap game - and we pass the word of our meeting places along to our members via a well-established Yahoo group.
After knitting, Tina of Knitwhits and I walked down to Greenwich Yarn, which is having their annual yarn sale. I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive. The last time I had been there, I didn't feel welcome, almost a burden to the salespeople. This time, my experience was completely different. The salesperson was courteous and helpful, and didn't make a fuss when I mentioned I had a store credit to use. The sale was in full swing - many yarns on the shelves were marked down. And on the back patio, baskets and tables piled with high-end yarns marked way, way down made me gasp. I had to avoid touching the luscious Classic Elite Lush (angora and wool) - so soft, it's nearly irresistible. Debbie Bliss, Lang and Rowan were among the choices on the sales tables. Temptation was almost too much for me. I did pick up some goodies pictured here.
Madil "Film" - 60% viscose, 40% tactel, 25g, 87m (gold, fine, Italian ladder yarn)
Louisa Harding "Impression" - 84% nylon, 16% mohair (sportweight, supersoft, slightly glam Italian yarn)
GGH "Marathon" - 75% superwash wool, 25% polyamide (sock yarn from Germany)
The sale is worth a trip. It runs through the end of July.
One weird thing: If you're out there on the back patio looking at oodles of smashingly good wool and things, and you hear profanities beyond the back fence, don't worry. A neighbor hanging his laundry on the line may repeatedly announce, "... f***ing wind ..." and intermittantly curse is blasted socks.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
What a lovely foggy day in San Francisco! My sister, my brother-in-law, my friend and I decided to visit the Legion of Honor's Monet Exhibition which runs through September 17, 2006. The exhibit comprises 53 paintings by the artist Claude Monet. Admission is $15 and includes the exhibition, plus access to the Legion of Honor and the DeYoung Museum all day. (On the first Tuesday of the month, admission is free, but you must pay $5 for the Monet exhibit.)
We arrived early at 10:00 am. The parking lot was nearly full, and the crowds were thickening. We managed to see everything (twice) by the time the crowd became overwhelming.
My favorite paintings were "Road at La Cavee" and "Low Tide at Varengeville." Seeing them up close is inspirational. The colors and textures cannot be captured in the books and prints of Monet's work that we so often see. We also toured the Legion’s resident collections, including works by Rodin, Rembrandt, Matisse, Picasso and more.
We stepped outside into the light of day and the fresh foggy air to snap some photos of my sister in her new Susan Shawl, a gift from me. Also, I presented my brother-in-law and my friend with their very own handknit beanies.
The grey beanie is 100% baby alpaca and the multicolored beanie is 100% hand-dyed superwash wool from Interlacements. The pattern is very simple and easy to memorize.
OceanKnitter's Basic Beanie
22 sts and 24 rows = 4" x 4"
50 grams DK weight yarn (two balls to be safe)
Size 5 - 16" circular needle
Size 7 - 16" circular and dpns (dpns to finish the crown)
Cast on 90 sts with smaller needle.
Join in the round.
K1P1 rib for 1.5 inches.
Switch to larger needle.
Knit in stockinette for 3.5 inches (snug) or 4 inches (if you want a little air in the top)
Rnd 1: *K2tog, K8, repeat from * around
Rnd 2 and all even rounds: Knit
Rnd 3: *K2tog, K7, repeat from * around
Rnd 5: *K2tog, K6, repeat from * around
Rnd 7: *K2tog, K5, repeat from * around
Rnd 9: *K2tog, K4, repeat from * around
Rnd 11: *K2tog, K3, repeat from * around
Rnd 13: *K2tog, K2, repeat from * around
Rnd 15: *K2tog, K1, repeat from * around
Rnd 17: *K2tog, repeat from * around
Rnd 18: Knit last round
Cut yarn leaving about an 8" tail. Thread tail through remaining stitches with a tapestry needle. Sew in ends.
Monday, June 12, 2006
When I began several months ago to knit Lyra, I dutifully added two lifelines at strategic points. Since Lyra has been neglected for the past few months, she decided to break one of her lifelines, just to cause me worry. I guess sitting in my knitting basket unattended, a youngster will get into trouble.
For those unfamiliar, a lifeline is usually yarn or thread of a different color woven through all the stitches of one row, using a sewing needle. This is best accomplished after completing a plain row in lace knitting - i.e., a purl row. If I were to drop a stitch or make an error, I could rip back to the lifeline and not lose any stitches. I should add another lifeline, but I keep thinking about the Labor Day deadline and how much time it will take out of my knitting schedule.
So, I'm now on Row 134, and I'm knitting without a net. With 1,004 stitches currently on the needle, that's pretty X-treme. From Row 124 to Row 134, I've knit 12,412 stitches. I don't know if I can keep up this pace. Lyra is running me ragged. Her gauge is tiny, at about 11 sts/inch in stockinette, and she's feisty and particular. She wears me out, but I'm thrilled with her progress.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Many comments and emails later from concerned knitizens ... I'm thinking ... are they right? Are 60,000+ stitches too many to contemplate? Can I finish Lyra by Labor Day? I would need to dedicate myself to my Lyra. I would need to dedicate about an hour a day. I'm a competent lace knitter, accomplished in some aspects. But is it too insane?
More numbers ...
With 90 days, I'd need to produce about 666 stitches per day -- an obviously bad omen. To be more realistic, let's guess that I'd skip 30 of those days in favor of other pursuits. That would give me 60 days to knit 1,000 stitches per day. I'll be frank ... it's the chart that makes me dizzy and bugeyed. Many, many, teeny, tiny squares and symbols.
At this moment, I'm still with Lyra. I'm giving her a fighting chance (and me, too).
Sunday, May 28, 2006
I gave birth to my Lyra in the Fall of 2005. It was a difficult birth, foreign and nerve-wracking, with size 20 DMC Cebelia thread, and size 0 (2.0 mm) steel dpns. Herbert Niebling, a German designer who passed in 1966, created the original pattern for this masterpiece in lace. His pattern of tiny squares and symbols is the most complex of any doily I've attempted.
We got along famously in the beginning, but soon, Lyra became a difficult child, requiring so much attention, I could no longer take her with me on my daily commute. I found that my eyes would tire of looking at her. Upon my last eye examination, the doctor informed me that I was in the early stages of presbyopia -- could Lyra have hastened the onset of this affliction?
Lyra has languished in my knitting basket for months, neglected. I feel it is now time to give her another chance. After all, she is only half-grown at Row 123, with 876 stitches on my 60" size 0 (2.0 mm) circular needle. My calculations indicate that by the time she is fully grown at Row 179, there will be 1,420 stitches on the needle. It will take
*(Edited: 30,968 includes only the odd rows -- 61,936 is the correct number of stitches, including the even and odd rows.)
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Okay, I wear purple. I like purple. But not everything I knit is purple! My sis, who also likes purple, requested a purple shawl. She still hasn't seen it, so this is its debut (currently unblocked), here in OceanKnitterland. This is the Susan Shawl from Stahman's Shawls and Scarves. Myrna Stahman moderates the Faroese Shawl Knitalong on Yahoo groups. I've had such a great time knitting this shawl, I'm thinking about making another one soon. The shawls in the book are knit from the neck down, starting with a short neckband, and gradually working outward. The lace border is knitted on sideways -- yep, I said sideways. The lace border rows are perpendicular to the last row of the main body of the shawl. As you knit the border, you gradually eat up one stitch at a time off the last row of the body. Surprisingly, this is easy to do, even though it may sound intimidating. Myrna's instructions are foolproof. You just have to trust the pattern.
The yarn (if you can call it that) was fingering weight mercerized cotton, hand dyed by Interlacements. I bought a huge hank of this at Stitches, probably over 3,000 yards. It was a bit daunting to wind the stuff into useable balls, but I was determined. I wound about half of it one night by hand. I know, you think I'm nuts, but for fine yarn or thread, I have always done this by hand. The important thing to me was to make sure there were no knots, and that I had one continuous ball for the entire shawl.
THREAD WINDING, OceanKnitter-style
My method is to wind the thread in a figure eight around my thumb and index eight times. Then, I fold the figure eight in half, leaving the start of the ball hanging loose, and begin winding around and around. I always keep two or three fingers under the yarn I am winding to keep it soft and loose. After ten or twelve winds around, I pull my fingers out of the ball, and put them on the outside again, continuing in this manner until the ball is the size of my fist.
Now, this is the part that I may do differently than other knitters, but it works for me. I take a piece of scrap yarn and tie up that first ball like a bakery box. That means, the ball is now secured and will not unwind and roll away from me, as I start ball #2 from the same hank, without cutting the yarn. For this particular shawl, I made eight center-pull balls, all daisy-chained together, without cutting the yarn once. Each ball is tied up. I only untie a ball when I'm ready to use it.
The good: you will only have two ends to weave in when you are done.
The bad: you will have to carry around all eight balls of yarn with you while the work is in progress.
You might say, why not use coned yarn? Well, sometimes a particularly nice hank of yarn calls to you, and it's not on a cone. Also, some coned yarns will have knots hidden inside, and you won't know about it until you get halfway through the cone. It's just a matter of preference. For this shawl, I wanted it to be as perfect as possible for my sister.
I'm hoping to have time to block it in the coming week, in between working on samples for Kristin Omdahl, who is making great strides in the knit and crochet design world. I'm excited to be working with Kristin again, after working with her on two other sweater samples.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
This is the baby raglan cardigan I made for my neighbors across the street. Mike and Kelly are a very sweet couple, and they have an adorable new baby girl. The cardigan pattern is a very old one, knit from the top down with raglan shaping. I modified it with seed stitch trim. The only seams are the two that run under the arms and down the sides. I love the flower buttons, which leave no doubt the wearer is a little girl.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
I am no longer "blogless." As fast as my fingers will let me, I am starting a blog, knitting projects for books, knitting sweaters for babies, a scarf for my favorite aunt who turned eighty, and a lace shawl for my sister who likes lacy things. A photo pinned on her bulletin board of one of my lace shawls is a hint - she must have one! I'm in the midst of a Faroese Shawl, the Susan Shawl from Stahman's Shawls and Scarves. I'll post photos as soon as it's ready to block. In the meantime, I'll knit in my favorite chair, think of things to say, and post when I am able.