on the needles

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Epic Painting Begins Again

Well - knitting will be on the back burner for awhile. I pitched a minor fit about the current state of our unfinished house so we are off and running again. We did tons of work around here before Christmas and completely burnt ourselves out. Took two and a half months off until I couldn't stand the blank white hallway anymore. So poor hubby was off to Home Depot to buy some more paint and (deep breath) here we go again! This time it feels infinitely worse because we are at a point where we can no longer just do a room here or there. It's the domino effect. If we do this bit then we have to do this bit etc etc.
This time it is the guest/craft room to start with. We are painting it for the second time (long story) which unfortunately means that we are painting a dreamy light blue (Celestia Blue to be exact) over a very dark forest green. The good news is that we have been working on this house long enough to become near experts in the art of painting. We have primer and we know how to use it. We've got the first coat up and it looks great. Tomorrow second coat and hopefully first coat of the trim. Won't it be lovely when I have an actual room just for my yarn and other crafty bits? That's what I keep reminding myself anyway....

After the craft room is finished (at least painting wise - it's going to take some money to buy furniture & shelves to really finish that room - sigh!) then the real pain starts. The plan is to attack the stairway and work our way down through the entryway, family room and a small nook area. Walls will become Pumpkin Butter - which is a great terra cottaish color which we have used for part of another room in the house and the trim will be our good old standby Mission Brown. It's going to take forever...............it's seriously daunting to think about it but it has to be done. All of these rooms are so connected that they have to be done all together. I may be really sick of Pumpkin Butter by the end of this. On the bright side, the main floor will finally be all finished painting wise - other than a small bathroom and a laundry room. Of course someday soon we will need to remodel the kitchen...............arrrggghhh!

This is life when you try to "move up" in the world. We bought the crappiest house in the coolest neighborhood we could find. Seriously the old owners had not done anything to improve the house in about 20 years. Other than install truly heinous carpeting and put up gynecologist's office wallpaper that is. When we moved in we had to redo EVERYTHING. We stripped the house down and now we are about halfway through rebuilding it. It must have been a smart move because according to the government - who wants our tax money - our original investment has almost doubled in a very short period of time. I'll tell you though - there is nothing like renovating a house (on a do it yourself budget) whilst holding down jobs and raising kids to test a marriage! Poor hubby must rue the day when he married a woman with more "vision" than sense!

In knitting news - my sister loved her Clapotis and has promised to get me a photo of herself wearing it. She said she had been longing for a new pashmina and that the Clapotis had fulfilled her wish. I guess that is a testament to how soft that yarn is!

I also whipped through the latest basketweave hat and finished the Byzanz scarf. Photos to come - someday!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Progress in Knitland and Project Runway

Recent progress in Knitland. I finished the spiral Kureyon #88 hat. I have now made two items in this same colorway and hope never to see it again! I still have one skein left though so I guess someone will be getting a hat made out if it sometime. Hopefully in the far far future.

Here's a photo of the back of the Myrtle jacket. It is coming out well I think. On the back burner right now though because I got a bit tired of working on it. You can't see the moss stitch at all in the photo. It's too bad because it looks really nice in person. Too subtle for the camera to pick up though. I'll try to get a close up of it when I work on it some more.

And finally a (semi-terrible) photo of the finished Clapotis in Mango. Please forgive the jammies. It seems like I only ever take photos of these things late at night! Besides, to be honest, the wacky jammies are practically my knitting uniform. :)

As I suspected, the color variation between skeins is much less dramatic or noticeable when the stitches are unpicked. I love the soft drapey feel of this yarn. I will be casting on tonight for the Clapotis in Verdes Esperanza. I had to go and get another needle though. My gague was just a wee bit off on the Mango Clapotis so if I go down a needle size I won't run out of yarn this time! I have a leftover skein of Mango which I may turn into either a hat or felted purse to go with the Clapotis. That is - if my sister likes the color! I will be giving it to her this weekend so - we'll see! On second thought, ever since the KRB did their review of the Handpainted Yarns line it is becoming scarce. Perhaps I should auction off my extra skeins on Ebay and go into early retirement. ;) I'm glad I discovered that yarn before the rush - maybe by the time I use up my stash Marcos will be stocked up again. Although with all the rumors about price increases and changes in the availability etc. I may just have to hoard this stuff like gold! Soon I will be like Golom sitting amongst my stash and stroking the skeins murmuring "my precious, my precious..."

Project Runway. The bad news is the show is finished. The good news is that Jay won! I really thought he would be the winner since pretty early on. He always had the freshest ideas, the most individual style. I loved his runway collection. The vibrant color palate was inspiring and I loved his use of layers. The most unique thing was his use of knitwear, crochet and quilting. I (obviously) really love it when someone can take a fresh look at a traditional craft and update it without seeming to diss it's history. So many young designers either seem to think they invented the wheel or they don't realize they are simply copying the wheel. Jay's work was intellectual but not the slightest bit arrogant. Nor was it derivative. Tough to do. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!

A word on the other finalists: Kara Saun. She is a good designer - no doubt. But her collection was a disappointment and her behavior over the custom made shoes was just wrong. I credit her with the intelligence to know that she was trying to pull a fast one. I hope she learned from the outcome. Wendy: I thought her collection was okay with a few really good pieces. It just never really came together though. I'm glad it wasn't a total disaster because I hate to see anyone crash and burn!

Someone on the review board said maybe we should all honor Jay's evident love of knitwear by knitting him tons of funky hats and scarves. I thought that was a fun idea. Maybe we should have a Knit Jay a Funky Hat Along. Anyone interested? :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Wow - the last couple of days have been a veritable yarn-a-palooza! first the sale at the craft store. Then I went on a yarn playdate with my mom. One of the LYS was having a 20% off sale on Noro. Being a total Noro ho I was in heaven! I got a bag of Kochoran #21 for my stash.

I also got some Silk Garden #208 which I think will become Karlsro.

AND I got some Silk Garden #204 which will become a sweater for my DH.

Then - because good things come in threes - the very next day I got my latest order from Marcos at Handpainted Yarns. This box had the extra skein of Mango which I needed to finish the Clapotis for my sister. I also ordered "insurance" skeins of Verdes Esperanza and Oriental Night in case I run into the same problem with those colors. The good news is that these skeins - even though they were ordered a month apart - are identical to the ones I already had.

I also got seven or so skeins of Azul Bolita.

It looks just the same as the picture on the website - super vibrant and saturated with color. The entire box of yarn was a feast for the eyes with super bright orange, green, purple and blue. A feast for the nose too! I love the vinegar smell of hand dyed yarn - it keeps me awake on all those late night knitting sprees! It's such a homey smell and I associate it with the super softness of the Handpainted Yarn line. I sat right down and finished off the Mango Clapotis. That only took a few minutes because I only had the last ten rows to do! But then I stayed up until 3:00 am unpicking stitches. The Handpainted Yarn doesn't unravel at all. I think it was born to felt. I will definately have to choose which projects I use this yarn for because I don't think it will retain a crisp stitch definition for long. So really intricate textured patterns would probably be lost as the yarn blooms over time. But something intended to be soft and comfy - like a hoodie or sloppy cardi would be perfect.

My good old DH spent the evening updating and adding to my blog site. He came home to find an extensive list of demands - poor thing! "I want this flashy button, this cool link, these funky icons - puhleez...all the other knitter's have them! I don't want to be uncool." poor hubby. He thought that making a blog for me would be fun. He never thought he was unleashing the blog monster.

So anyhow - thanks to him - my blog has lots of new bling bling and lots more to come. I joined the Purling Puppies - which I thought was only fair since at least one of my dogs is an active participant in my knitting. It is my little shadow Luca, an Italian Greyhound. Here he is giving you his best smile.

No really that's how he smiles. He keeps my left side warm while I knit - or if he can't squeeze in there because my DH is knitting too then he snuggles up to hubby too. He's not picky, he has a job to do.

This is Susie our Lab. She has the biggest heart in the world but beware if you are an intruder in our house. She is totally serious about guarding HER family.

We have a third dog too. Gracie, a cocker spaniel. Typical middle child, full of subversive mischief she hopes she can blame on someone else. Here are the Three Musketeers with Grace on the end.

I will try to get photos of the finished Clapotis up later tonight!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Jane Eyre is a trouble maker

I finished the back of the Myrtle coat a few days ago. It was a welcome relief to be able to switch over to moss stitch for the top section - I had just about had it with stocking stitch! I loved the moss stitch in the Shinano yarn. Shinano is a bit stiff, lots of vegetable matter in it too. The stiffness works well with moss stitch though because you can really feel the texture. Changing over to moss stitch gave me enough of a lift to power me through the first half of the left front before I ran out of steam. I was plugging away when I suddenly felt as if I would either scream or fall asleep if I knitted another row of stocking stitch! I packed it up quick and put it on the back burner..........it would be a serious pity if I hated the coat by the time it was finished! :)

So I am knitting away on the Gedifra scarf in Byzanz. It is the exact opposite of Shinano. Felty and soft with the glam bit of metal thread through the middle to appeal to my closet girly side. My dear hubby and I are fully exploiting the long weekend to spend some quality knitting time together. Yep - you heard right - my hubby knits with me! Jealous? You should be. :) Knitting is really just one of his bonus good qualities. :) Of course if he attempts to raid my stash all bets are off...........Anyhow, he is a beginning knitter. My mother taught him last year and he was hooked right away just like the rest of us. He knit a few "easy" things in garter stitch and now he has branched out & is working on the Pia scarf from Rowan Big Just Got Bigger - in two colors too. So there we were, both knitting away watching a dvd of Jane Eyre (oh yeah - he watches period dramas with me too - isn't he GREAT!!) when we both discovered that we had each messed up our knitting. Damn that proposal scene!!! Who can concentrate during that? But I thought it did create a certain symmetry...isn't there some saying about couples in harmony mirroring each other?

In other news - one of the local craft stores was having a midnight madness sale. 25% off everything in the store! They carry Gedifra yarn so I ran down there and loaded up. I got some more Byzanz to make another scarf for a relative. I will really take any excuse to work with this yarn! The only problem with the craft store is that they rarely have more than ten skeins of any of the higher end yarns available at any one time so I knew I wasn't going to be able to get enough of any Gedifra to make a sweater. I did pick up some Tagliato that I plan on using to make the cable vest on page 75 of the Holiday 2004 issue of Vogue Knitting International. I also liked the shrug by the same designer on page 74 so I picked up some Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick in Navy for that. I think the cables will look nice and chunky.

Still waiting for the Mango to finish my sister's Clapotis. I got the shipping notice though so it should be here soon. As soon as that one is cast off I will be starting the Clapotis for my mom. I will be knitting on that pattern for a long time.............

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Recent Work

I've been promising everyone on the Knitter's Review Board that I would post photos of the Clapotis I have been working on as a gift for my sister- so here it is (if you are my sister avert your eyes now):

I used Mango from Handpainted Yarns. Several people on the board were wondering about using this yarn because of the potential variation in the dye between skeins. I ordered three colorways of yarn at the same time and the Mango was by far the one with the most variation between the skeins. I wish I had taken a photo of the Mango before I used it up but here are a few photos of other yarn I have purchased from Handpainted Yarns.

This is the Oriental Night which I am going to use to make the Clapotis for myself:

The color consistency was very good with this batch although one skein did have a knot in it. (The only one I have found so far in the 12 or so skeins I have wound).

This is Cypress which I was planning on using for a jacket:

I ordered 20 skeins of Cypress and found the consistency of color between the skeins to be very high - however the color itself was darker than I expected. Still really pretty though!

This is Lavanda which I was thinking of for Klaralund:

It is quite a bit lighter than I expected and the colors are a bit less consistency. I'm not sure I will use it for Klaralund. What do you think?

Anyhow - it is a bit of a gamble when you use this yarn.

You can clearly see where I switched skeins in the photo - although I assure you that it looks much more drastic in a photo using flash then it does in regular light. I'm not really bothered by the variation - especially since once the dropped stitches are unpicked (they don't want to unravel by themselves with this yarn - it would be great for felting!) the ripple effect of the ladders and the division between the positive and negative spaces make the color variations much less noticeable.

The flash exaggerates the effect. Plus - I really like the randomness of the yarn. It is more organic looking and not flat. I really dislike flat expanses of a solid color. It's too overwhemling to my eye. There is nowhere for the eyes to rest. The handpainted yarns are much more soothing and interesting to me. So if anyone is thinking of using this yarn - I say go for it! I did use four skeins on the Clapotis & actually ran out with about an inch left to go! Perhaps if I had been a bit less liberal with the tails......but really the Clapotis pattern calls for 750 yards and the Handpainted Yarns claim to be 218 yards per skein. So (given that I followed the pattern) how did I use up 872 yards? Clearly something wrong here somewhere. I would plan on getting some "extra" for whatever project you have in mind.

Look what I got for my birthday! My husband (with the advice of my artistic son) got me this custom made knitting bag. I love it! Great print, great colors! Good job guys!!

Other stuff I have been working on:

The Dixie scarf from Rowan. I liked making the icords but the pattern has you changing needle sizes every few rows which got old fast. I much prefer the Gedifra scarf which has the same pattern effect without changing needles.

Instead you yarnover after every stitch and then drop the yarnovers on the next row and pull the stitch up creating a long stitch. Much more efficient and fluid. Plus the Byzanz yarn is super yummy! So soft!

Here's the back of the Myrtle coat - chugging along through 169 rows of stocking stitch.

Last night I actually got to the part where the pattern finally switches to Moss stitch and starts the shaping. Hooray! Not a moment too soon either! As you can see I am making no effort to keep the striping consistent. Why drive myself crazy & waste yarn? Knitting is supposed to help me relax, not become something else I need to stress over!

Lastly - here is the spiral patterned hat in Kureyon #88.

Super quick & easy. Good for those short attention span days.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

On the Needles Philosophy 101

I am a person who needs variety. It's not that I lack commitment and focus, I just need stimulation! I could never choose just one pattern, just one type of yarn and then sit down and knit only on that from start to finish. No matter how wonderful the project was I would soon find my mind wandering into greener pastures....How about that lovely handpainted yarn I saw? Maybe I should tackle that crazy pattern I think I will never be able to understand.... So much yarn...so many patterns...so little time! Yet with all this stimulation you must strive for balance. For every yin there must be a yang, so here is my philosophy of knitting or" How to keep yourself sane & motivated & plugging along to knitting victory!"

On the needles you should always have:
One project that is small and one project that is large.
One project that is quick and one that will take forever.
One project with "plain" yarn and one with crazy yarn.
One project using a simple stitch or pattern and one with a complex stitch or pattern.
One project that is a gift and one that is for yourself.

For instance - I am currently working on the Myrtle coat: huge project, takes for ever, plain yarn, simple pattern & for myself. In contrast there is the spiral patterned hat which is small and quick and intended as a gift. If I feel like a challenge I pick up the Gedifra sweater - incomprehensible pattern and completely insane yarn but knit on huge needles so quick to knit if you can actually figure out the directions and of course it is for myself because no one else wants to dress like a yeti. When I tire of the beastly chapello, I soothe myself with the elegance of the Clapotis - plain but luxurious yarn, fun pattern, and intended as a gift.

Unfortunately I haven't yet worked out a philosophy for blocking and seaming..........When I work that out I will probably have reached the ultimate level of nirvana!

Monday, February 07, 2005

I've been too busy knitting to be blogging - but thankfully my burst of activity had some productive results! First off I hit a major snag in the Clapotis I am making for my sister. This was potentially a big disaster since I am on a deadline with that project. I was so frazzled by this that I'm not even sure I remember rightly what I had done wrong - I guess that's what comes of knitting until 2:00 am! The result was that I had to spend about three hours unpicking five rows & fixing one of the (correctly) dropped stitches in the process. Luckily - I am back on track. Hurrah! I am using Mango from HandpaintedYarns.com.

I LOVE this yarn. It is the only thing in my life I have ever wanted to call scrumptious. It's so soft you could use it for underwear! I will be knitting Clapotis for quite a while since I also have Verdes Esperanza for my mother and Oriental Night for myself. I am still a beginning knitter in terms of branching off from the basic knit & purl stitch so I really appreciate how easy the Clapotis pattern is - but yet I have learned many new techniques (knit through the back of the loop, knitting in the front and back of the stitch, dropping stitches and fixing dropped stitches). I guess like everyone else in the knitting world I am in love with this pattern. Thanks Kate!

So while I was letting the messed up Clapotis cool down in the yarn can. I picked up and finished the back piece for the Gedifra Chapello sweater - henceforth known as the evil yeti sweater. The pattern in the book has patches of plain yarn interspersed with poufy, hairy patches. In real life it is not so interspersed - more like a hairy beast with a bit of demodectic mange. Not that I really mind that look. I have a penchant for clothing that looks like it was made from Muppet skins. The really bad part is the evil pattern instructions. I tried to start the front piece which is knit from the bottom up starting at the tip of the point. I'm not even going to get into the pure evilness that is the yeti pattern for fear that my head will explode. I had to write out my interpretation of the pattern which took me a couple of tries to get it to make sense. Of course by then I was thoroughly sick of yetis - so back in the box with the evil sweater.

At this point I needed the sweet sanity of miles and miles of mindless stocking stitches. So out comes Myrtle which has enough miles of stocking stitch to make anybody happy. The Shinano is a better yarn than the Kureyon which has billions of knots in each skein. I've been through 4 skeins of Shinano and not one knot yet. :) I've got about thirty rows left on the back piece until the pattern switches to moss stitch - but it took about 100 rows of calming stocking stitch before I felt able to go back to Clapotis.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this I decided to frog the Rebecca poncho. I realized that the Golden Tweed color I was using looked very nice when you are just looking at one skein - but tons of it all knitted up together turned into what looked like (and I'm not just being dramatic) a big pile of vomit with bits and pieces of lunch and dinner in it. Look at the color & imagine yourself draped in it. Not a pretty sight.

I think the yarn will be great if I use it in a project mixed with other yarns but by itself - puke! So that yarn is in retirement. I still really wanted that poncho though so I hit the internet & found some Lorna's Laces Shepherd Bulky in River which will be MUCH prettier.

The poncho was my first project beyond scarves so I don't feel too bad about it - you live and learn. :)

So tonight I will be happily knitting Clapotis & watching Medium. It's been a crazy yarn week but satisfying - only a breakdown like that could have powered me through the miles of stocking stitch on Myrtle, rid myself of the vomit poncho and gained a yeti sweater. :)