Thursday, July 31, 2008

meh, ew

Well I finished another baby object. Here is its picture: It is a free pattern from the Berroco e-newsletter, Knitbits, called Baby Picchu. It is a mini version of an adult design that is also published as a free pattern. (This site has a lot of nice free patterns.) I made this one from Lion Brand Cotton Ease (1.5 balls) and # 7 U.S. needles. It is fastened with an old clear glass button.

As to how I like it, I have to say 'meh.' I see that expression in some blogs and forums to mean indifference. I don't think I actually say meh. I think I'd say more like 'aeh', but I guess that is harder to put in writing. Getting back to the sweater, I have a feeling that it will be very cute on a baby. It is meant to go with a summery dress in the spring when the weather will be bright but chilly.

In further exploration of sounds, here is a 'ew':

It is a swatch in Knit Picks new handpainted sock yarn, Imagination, of merino, alpaca, and nylon in the colorway Damsel. It looks like raw meat, so I won't be making a baby sweater from it. I can possibly see wearing meat socks, but a meat baby sweater - no.

What is it with Knit Picks multis? Are they all yuck? Perhaps you will recall the bird doo Klaralund I made from Knit Picks Shimmer.

As it happened, I loved the feeling of this yarn (alpaca/silk) and the fit of the resulting sweater, so I was able to overlook the bird doo-ness of the colors. But come on - meat? Actually meat is a euphemism for what it really looks like.

Let me be clear on this. It's not me, it's Knit Picks. I never go around say things like "Ew, that looks like vomit." I never even think them. I am not easily disgusted. I like all animals including insects and reptiles, and I can tolerate gore in movies. But Knit Picks has the power to make me sick. I have some Shimmer in shades of brown that I am afraid to swatch.

On a more pleasant note, here is the latest Learn to Knit Afghan square, Diagonal chain:

Monday, July 28, 2008

obsessed with the learn to knit afghan

I am starting on the second section of Barbara Walker's Learn to Knit Afghan, the mosaic squares. I have totally fallen in love with this mosaic design:

It is named something utterly prosaic, Horizontal Chain. It should be called Cool Jazz-Like Square of the 1950s. This color combination works well too. It has a sour-candy look that suits the design. It is a sky/azure blue with dark purple.

I had to wait more than a month after starting the afghan for this dark purple Cascade 220 Superwash yarn. So I couldn't make squares with purple for a long time. I ordered from the online store of Roxy Yarns in Brooklyn. I understood from their website that they were in the process of moving, so maybe I can cut them some slack. But I waited and waited and the yarn didn't come. There was no communication regarding a delay.

I emailed and called and finally got the response that they were out of stock and would be posting the parcel in about a week. Of course the deadline came and went, and no yarn. When they finally sent the yarn, they did refund the shipping charge as a courtesy. That was nice of them, but I would rather pay and get good service. In contrast, Jimmy Beans, where I got some of the other colors, gave lightning fast service and great communication.

I also made this mosaic square. It is of the azure with a deep blue called Blue Velvet:

I realize that one thing I love about this afghan is that it forces you to make a large swatch of many different patterns. This gives you an intimate feeling for each stitch pattern and a good view of how it looks and behaves. For example, Ruth of Ruthless Knitting recently made a little carseat baby blanket using the Rose pattern from the first Learn to Knit Afghan section (Knit and Purl designs). I had just been thinking that it would make a cute baby dress in bright colors.
Each of the squares you see here is sitting inside the little blocking device Barbara Walker advises you to make. It is a traced outline of the prototype square (Garter Stripe) stitched over with embroidery thread, made upon the ironing board cover. Here is a picture of it.
Not a very pretty picture, but it works well. Each square is steamed to shape and pinned. It dries in no time and becomes the uniform size and shape. Some shrink a little when removed from the pins, but not too much to stretch back when it's time to sew them together.

Monday, July 21, 2008

ez deconstructed

I'm a little crabby today. In knitting life some crabbiness is coming from the large numbers of baby things I've been knitting. I can't wear them and neither can the baby because she isn't born yet. This is sterile knitting. I have a baby sweater on the needles and plans for one more, and that's it for a while.

Some extra crabbiness came to me courtesy of Elizabeth Zimmerman. Although I own all of her books except for The Opinionated Knitter, I have always harbored a slight aversion to her. Now I know why. The pattern she published for this design in The Knitter's Almanac is mean and nasty. There are no other words for it except maybe stingy and mingy.

Here is the design. First of all its author doesn't bother to tell you what size this pattern makes. She only tells you to knit at a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch. She also fails to tell you what pattern to use when measuring your gauge. So I guessed and measured the gauge in stockinette stitch and got 5 stitches to the inch. I used DK weight yarn and # 7 needles; EZ gives no suggestions as to yarn weight. The result is a sweater for a gigantic baby, or perhaps, a toddler sweater. It measures 26 inches wide and 14.5 inches long.

In her verbal stinginess, Zimmerman includes this helpful instruction: "Place remaining 92 sts on needle, knitting up 4 x 7 sts at the cast-on sleeve-sts...." Of course she has never told you to place the stitches on a holder in the first place, and how do you "knit up 4 x 7 sts"? As an experienced knitter I and others like me were able to follow these obscure directions. But if you are inexperienced, run the other way. And I will point out that in 1974 when The Knitter's Almanac was published, there were well-established pattern-writing conventions that knitters expected to see in published patterns, with good reason.

So much for the knitting directions. As for the design, I call it quaint. I mean by that antique or vintage, but not in a good way. I take some of the blame for that. I liked the design in its many Ravelry incarnations, but now I see that many Ravelers did what I did not do. First, many used shades of red and purple which, for some reason, is the best color for this design. Second, many did not decrease stitches along the bottom edge as the designer instructed. The swingy look they get as a result is more modern. By decreasing the bottom and using yellowish white I got the most Victorian-y version possible of this nameless sweater.

On a positive note, I am fascinated by the one-piece construction of this garment although I fear that underarm comfort may have been sacrificed as a result. I am also grateful for the gull lace pattern. It is soothingly easy to knit and would be pretty for a scarf, wrap, or blanket.

I named my sweater Temptation after the book I listened to while knitting, The Last Temptation, a thriller by by Val McDermid. And also because I was tempted to make this sweater against my better judgment by the cleverness of its construction. Elizabeth Zimmerman missed her calling as an engineer. This sweater is going to charity. All in all I don't like it and don't want to see it again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

vacation knitting

Although I had a wonderful time in the country last week, I am glad to be home and blogging again. While I was away I finished these:
I used a set of five 2.75 mm sock needles (Knit Picks Harmony) for a gauge of 6.5 stitches per inch in Dream in Color Gaia, color called Lipstick Lava. I had beginners luck with the first short-row heel. The heel on the second sock was more lumpy and full of holes than the first; even the grafted toe did not come out as well. The socks are still ok though. Even though they're wool I wore them on an outing to the Fernwood Botanic Garden in Buchanan, Michigan where I saw this (below). Look closely in the center of the photo and you'll see what I saw. I am rarely lucky enough to see reptiles or amphibians in nature. The socks kept my feet comfortable and must have brought me luck.
I also worked on my endless skirt (first photo), making some progress, and I made 3 more Learn to Knit Afghan squares. I realized that the dark blue yarn I originally planned to use, because I already owned it, won't work because it makes squares the wrong size. So I had to buy some more Cascade 220 superwash in dark blue to make the squares a consistent size. Now my whole project has cost a large fortune rather than a small one as I had expected.

That bottom square is sort of ugly, but I made a rule that I have to use all the squares, so I will.

Here is a final comment for those unfamiliar with Chicago and the Great Lakes. Great Lakes country is unlike that of anywhere else in the U.S. Some people say that the green lanes of southwest Michigan remind them of England. Others say the Lake Michigan shores remind them of the Baltic Sea. The countryside is domestic and gently green. The lake, actually an inland sea, is wild, even when calm, with more shades of blue, green, grey, and brown than it is possible to imagine. Here are some photos:

We had perfect weather. Happy Bastille Day!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

how cute is this?

If not the very cutest, Kate Gilbert's Anouk is at least the most eye-catching children's design on the Internet or elsewhere. The pattern has been out there for over four years, and has yet to be surpassed. Here is the original pattern as seen in Knitty. Here is the Anouk ravelry page.

As usual, I have opinions about how this pattern should be made. I think it looks best in bright cheerful colors as in the original, and the lower border must be green. That said however, there is really no version on Ravelry that doesn't look good, even those in browns and greys. The shape as well as the surface is a winning design. Thank you Kate for sacrificing this and Clapotis to Knitty and making less than you could have made by selling them as individual patterns.

I used Cascade Pima Silk (my latest favorite yarn) on number 7 needles at a gauge of 5 stitches per inch. I knit the 6 month size in width and the 3 month size in length hoping to get the 3 month size over all since the pattern gauge is 4.5. The pockets and tabs are in Berroco Comfort, a synthetic I am interested in learning more about, although the small amount used here won't give me much of an idea. It did knit up well though.

Aside from baby things I haven't been doing much else. I am starting the heel of my neglected short-row heel socks maybe today, and I knit three squares of the Learn to Knit Afghan.

What's wrong with this picture? Why is the top square so much smaller than the others? I understand that this is meant to teach the idea that different combinations of stitches take up different amounts of space, but this lesson should be covered by casting on different amounts of stitches. I am saving the blocking to the end, but I can't imagine that the top square will block to size without major distortion. The second square is also smaller, but I think that one can block out. I anticipate having to do the third square over, maybe twice on different needle sizes to get in the right size ballpark. Have others had this problem? Am I doomed almost before I begin?

The deer ate three massive hostas, most of the buds from my lillies, hydrangea buds and leaves, roses, and phlox. It probably has a stomach ache. I will be away from a computer all of next week. See you when I get back.