Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stardust shawl

This shawl started with the yarn. It is Red Heart!  Can you believe it??  It's Red Heart Stardust in colors orange and blue. My mom was browsing her local Alco store (a small home goods store) and found a good supply of this yarn on clearance. It is a discontinued line, but I told her to grab me several skeins since it is wool (70% wool, 25% nylon and 5% metallic) . The metallic sparkle adds a nice touch, dressing it up a notch.

 I decided to make this Sothia shawl with it. I thought the colors would play nicely with each other, and I was right. The orange and blue have a southwest feel to them in my mind. Reminiscent of terra cotta and turquoise. 

I made some alterations to the pattern, shortening the ruffle section and adding an additional orange stripe at the end. 

The stardust shawl has a huge wingspan of more than 60". It is 22" from neck to tip. It's a nice size for putting over a sleeveless or strapless dress on a chilly evening. The long wings on it will allow it to be wrapped completely around you and stay in place. 

So hurray for discontinued yarn and finding the perfect pattern for it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pointers for using double pointed needles

I'm a huge fan of double pointed needles (DPN). I use them whenever I get the chance and often will pick using them over a long circular needle. They are very versatile: you can make flat items and  items in the round. Small tubes like fingers for gloves and the tops of hats cannot be accomplished in any other way.

As I was working on a project with DPNs, I decided to share with you all some pointers that I have learned along the way that help me with using them. In the wrong hands, DPNs are unwieldy and awkward. With practice, though, you'll get it!

1.  Whenever possible, buy DPNs in sets of 5. Many stores sell them in sets of 4, but don't do it. One of the needles is the one you're working with, so it works much better to have the live stitches will be divided between 4 needles instead of 3.  Your knitting is less likely to have "ladders" where the needles join and trying on that sock you're working on will be much easier with that additional needle.

2.  Cast on all your stitches on a single DPN.  Let's use an example of 40 sts. Once you have all 40 on one needle, start from your first cast on stitch and slip 10 onto each of the remaining 3 needles, letting the needle fall once it has ten. Then you can arrange the needles into a square, being careful not to twist the stitches, and join in the round to begin your work. 

3.  Beginning of the round stitch markers can be problematic on DPN's. At the end of the needle, they'll slide off. You can choose to move your stitches around so that the beginning of the round starts in the middle of a needle, or (as I prefer) you can use a locking stitch marker and attach it just below the first stitch of the row. 
Every few rows, I move the marker up again so I see and feel it coming. 

4. I briefly mentioned laddering in number 1 above. Laddering is when the stitch traveling between needles is more loose than the rest of the knitting. It can be unsightly in the finished work, so here is how I prevent it.  When I move to a new needle, I work the first stitch and then insert my needle into the second stitch but stop there. I take the working yarn and tug it tight - not so tight that first stitch won't slide on the needle, but firm. I then go ahead and work the second stitch and proceed. Here is a picture of when I tug, sorry it's blurry - 4 year old photographer. 

5.  I like to have each needle below the needle to its right, and above the needle to its left. This keeps my work neat and laying flat, allowing the gaps between the needles to be as small as possible. 

6. One problem I watch for on DPNs is an inadvertent increase between the needles. In the picture below, I found a place where I was knitting the last stitch on one needle and purling the first stitch on the next needle, and I didn't do a good job of making sure the working yarn  was in the right place. Essentially, if you work this stitch, it will be a yarn over, making a hole in the knitting. 
So be careful when your moving yarn from the front to back, particularly at the join of needles, and make sure the yarn passes both tips of the needles. 

7. If I'm working a large cable that spans more than one needle's worth of stitches, I try to put the (or one of the) cable crosses between the stitches. That way you're not moving stitches back and forth from needle to needle. 

8. Decreases can cause headaches on DPNs, especially when you have one stitch left on the needle and you're needing to k2tog. Think about the direction your work is headed and divide your stitches as best you can to avoid this. Don't get too hung up on having the stitches divided evenly. 

Hopefully you won't be afraid to give the DPNs a try.  They're a lot of fun to work with!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wool Leftovers Blanket

I had a lot of fun planning for and making this blanket.  I had bought a lot of classic wool for various projects, including some Christmas stockings I made for my boys, and some mittens.  These projects involved colorwork, so I had a lot of partial skeins left over in a variety of colors.  It finally hit me to make a patchwork-sort of blanket out of the remnants.  The wool, although different brands (I used Cascade 220 and Paton's Classic Wool), has similar feel, size, and care instructions.

At first I dreaded the idea of making a ton of little pieces that then would need to be sewn together, but it turns out it was great.  As I said in my last post, I have been feeling miserable lately, and a small project that didn't require looking at a pattern or much brain power was just the thing I needed.  It could be worked on straight needles, also, making it small and manageable.  Anyone who has made a blanket on circulars knows it can be tedious to have all those stitches on at once.

I took each ball of yarn and started knitting until I became concerned I was running low, then I would weigh a finished square on my trusty food scale, weigh the remaining ball of yarn, and see if I had enough.  Worked like a charm.  Some colors I was able to make 5 or 6 squares, some I only made one. 

Before long I had a big stack of squares (why I didn't take a picture of this, I don't know), but I ended up with 45 squares.  45 did not compute into a normal sized blanket, so I sacrificed 3 squares and made a 7x6 square blanket.  It measures 41"x36".
I left the cast on and cast off tails between 16-18" long on each square so I could do all the seaming with tails, and that worked well.  I didn't have to use any supplementary yarn for seaming.
I arranged the squares in a random sort of arrangement, and I think the colors work nicely together: earthy, warm, rich and comforting.
Here's my son Noah (2 years old) modeling for me.  The blanket is a great size for kids, or for a lap blanket or throw.  I also thought it would be nice in the car, the perfect thing to put on your lap when it's cold out.  It certainly is warm - having it on my lap while I was seaming was heavenly.  My heat-loving dog enjoyed it, too!
I'm so happy with this blanket, and for getting to use leftovers in a meaningful way.  I might have to make more of these in the future!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Post Op

I'm trying to get back into the swing of things again. I had surgery a week ago yesterday to remove my gallbladder.  It wasn't much fun, but I'm now mostly recovered and have it behind me. I'm just hopeful that my pain will be gone now.

I did find some time to do a little knitting while recovering- it was really nice to have something small to work on that didn't take too much concentration (you can guess how lace work would have gone while medicated), and the wool scrap blanket was the perfect thing. I was able to do a few blocks a day and I used up all the wool and am beginning to piece the blanket together. 
I'm going for random patchwork, since I have different amounts of each color. It's fun. My mind doesn't do random easily, so I have to force it sometimes. I'm sure it's good exercise. 

I made sure to leave 16-18" tails on both ends of each block, and I devised a way to use the tails to do all the seaming. I love killing two birds with one stone. 

I'm still undecided on whether to put a border on the blanket. It will be a small blanket, and I have some wool I could steal from another project, but the prospect of picking up zillions of stitches is a real turn off. We'll see. 

Just tonight I cast off on my two color shawl. 
I'll get the ends woven in and give 'er a bath before pictures. Yay!  Project completion!!

My mom, bless her heart, came up (uh, down?) to help me out through my EGD and surgery. It was a God-send. But it was also nice to have time to sit with her and knit. Well, she crochets, but you know what I mean. She churned out items for the craft show like a machine!  She made market bags, swiffer pads, kitchen scrubbies, and washcloths. I'll have to take some pictures. I kicked it into low gear and made several pot holders, too, but she put me to shame.  She also helped me get all my items priced and tagged.  I was sad when she had to go, as always. 

I'm hoping my energy returns and I can get back to my weaving - I've had to miss 2 weeks of classes and I'm not really sure how I'm going to make it up and finish the project before the next class of weaving students starts in. They might have to take my work off the loom to use it for another student. 

The other thing on my mind lately has been the GARDEN!  I've got the spring bug bad. There've been a few 70 degree days this week and it's been so beautiful. This evening, it's raining. I'm so excited to get my spring vegetable seeds in the ground.  I'm planning beets, spinach, carrots and the new one this year: potatoes. I bought a 40 gallon grow bag for the potatoes and am going to give it a whirl. Chris is working on building me some herb boxes for the fence that will allow me to use all the square footage on my raised bed for veggies. Bring on spring!