Sunday, September 09, 2012

I've been slowly working at finishing my yearly quota of hats for Arkansas Children's Hospital. Every year I try to make 50, and the one I just finished is #43, with 3 more on the needles, so I am well on my way to meeting this year's goal. I make some that are plain and some that are fancy and some that are plain with fancy yarn, so there's a variety. I mostly make larger hats that will fit an adult because there are plenty of people who make infant and children's hats. I like making them because they're small and get finished quickly, and I like that they're going to kids. So I make hats.

But after a couple hundred hats, the plain vanilla, ribbed brim, stockinette body, spaced decreases for the crown, gets a little boring and I start looking for ways to mix it up. Textured stitches work well, although I mostly avoid lace because those don't disguise hair loss quite so well. Sometimes I do a wide band of ribbing so it can be folded up and worn doubled. Sometimes I mix up the way I do the decreases. Sometimes I do just plain knitting but with something like fun fur.

A couple weeks ago I was watching an episode of Knitting Daily where the presenter showed how to make pleats in knitting. I wasn't particularly interested in putting pleats in my knitting, so I watched mostly out of idle curiosity. Then last night as I was trying to sleep I had an idea. Making pleats decreases the number of stitches very quickly. What if I made pleats at the beginning of the crown decreases, then finished off the crown in more or less the usual fashion.

Here's the result:
The self-striping yarn isn't the best for illustrating the idea, but I didn't know I was going to do this until I did it, and this was the hat that was ready for a crown. 

There are any number of tutorials on YouTube that describe how to knit pleats. This is the one I looked at to remember how to do them: There's too much time spent watching the guy knit ribbing, but the instructions for how to make the box pleat are clear, so it will work. 

For my hat, I had 80 stitches, so I worked in multiples of 16. To work the crown I did:
  • Round 1: k2, sl 3 sts onto cable needle and hold in front, sl next 6 sts onto right-hand needle, sl next 3 sts onto cable needle, sl 6 sts on right-hand needle back to left-hand needle, knit through 1st st on cable needle AND 1st st on left-hand needle at the same time (as if you were doing a 3-needle bind-off if you are familiar with that), do the same for the remaining 5 sts on the cable needle, k2; repeat 4 more times to complete the round (50 sts remain).
  • Round 2: k4, k2tog, k4; repeat 4 more times to complete the round (45 sts remain).
  • Round 3: Knit
  • Round 4: k3, s2kp (centered double decrease), k3; repeat 4 more times to complete the round (35 sts remain).
  • Round 5: Knit
  • Round 6: k2, s2kp, k2;  repeat 4 more times to complete the round (25 sts remain).
  • Round 7: k1, s2kp, s1;  repeat 4 more times to complete the round (15 sts remain). 
  • Round 8: s2kp around (5 sts remain). Break yarn, thread through a large blunt needle, pass yarn through all loops on needles and pull tight (I usually make a second pass through the loops for extra security. Weave end yarn tails and enjoy your new hat.
 I really like the way the pleats make a gathered look at the top of the hat. And the 5-pointed star looks good too. Give it a try the next time you want something different in an otherwise plain hat.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies are now in the books, and my first day of work on Aeolian is done. At 3:30 this afternoon it looked like this:

Somehow it always seems slightly ridiculous to cast on 3 stitches. but it grew fairly quickly to 13, and from there I've been adding 4 stitches every other row, so it's growing rapidly. At the end of the ceremonies it looks like this:

I'm nearly done with the 5th of 12 repeats of this first pattern, and starting to get into the rhythm so that I don't have to keep looking at the pattern. I'm getting the hang of the beads, although I've dropped a few. I suspect Trini will have fun rounding up all the escapees at the end of next week. My only complaint so far is having to use a needle with a 40" cable that won't straighten properly. I'm going to hang it with a weight on it overnight and see if that helps. I tried using a regular straight needle for a while, but then I couldn't see how the pattern was developing properly as the triangular shape evolved. With any luck the new ones I've ordered will arrive tomorrow and I will be happier.

As for the opening ceremonies themselves, I loved the bit with the entrance of the Queen, but I think the lighting of the torch was one of the best I've ever seen. I love that bits of it were carried in with the nations and that it was lighted by athletes who are not yet Olympians. I also liked the honor guard of construction workers for the entrance of the torch into the stadium. In a country where the monarchy is revered and where class distinctions are still important, it was nice to see ordinary people celebrated.

Now it is way past by bedtime and I need to put my fingers to rest for the night. Full day of games tomorrow means many hours of knitting, I hope.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is this what the athletes feel like on the day before?

I am having the worst time fidgeting tonight. I want so badly to get started on my Ravellenic Games project, and the only thing stopping me is that it isn't time yet. The yarn is ready, the beads are ready, I found some needles that will work for now and ordered some new ones to be shipped rush (who knew that I didn't have any 3 mm needles?). This afternoon I read through the directions again to make sure I understood them. I even cleaned out my project notebook and cleared away all the other unfinished projects cluttering up my knitting life. I just need for the opening ceremonies to begin, and then I can cast on.

I think tonight I will go read a book.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let the Games Begin!

It's July 25th, which means the Olympics start in 2 days. No, I'm not going to London to compete in any of those events. But I am competing in a different simultaneous event. It's called the Ravellenic Games. People from all over the world who are involved in fiber arts in any sort of way have formed up teams and will be competing in all sorts of events. I'm told there are even prizes.

I am entered in 4 events. The first is Charity Rowing. All the finished objects completed by these competitors are destined to be given away. Since I always have a hat or three in progress in my knitting bag, I decided to go ahead and enter this one. It will give me an incentive to finish at least one over the next two weeks. And I'll be traveling to Connecticut at the close of the games, and hats make better travel knitting than large complicated shawls.

My main event is Shawl Sailing. There is a huge number of competitors in this event, judging by the amount of chatter in the group. This is where I will be focusing most of my energy, at least until I leave for Connecticut. The project I have chosen is the Aeolian Shawl, designed by Elizabeth Freeman and published in the Spring, 2009 issue of Knitty. It has lace, it has nupps, it has beads; it is an enormous piece of knitting to finish in 2 weeks. But I am up for a challenge, and this is what I chose. Because it has beads, I am also cross-entered in the Balance Beads and in the Lace Longjump.

This is my yarn. It is Ella Rae Lace Merino. I bought it several years ago when I was in Atlanta for an event. I had started this shawl with a different yarn and didn't like the way the yarn was working, but loved the pattern, so frogged it, and bought new yarn. It gave me great pleasure this week to bring this yarn out of its drawer and wind it. The beads I've chosen are a mix of transparent amber and amber with a gold center. I'm really excited about putting the beads and the yarn together and starting this project on Friday night.

In the meantime I'm finishing off a few UFO's and generally clearing the decks. I'm crocheting an edging on a fleece blanket and should finish that either tonight or tomorrow. The only other project I have out is some knitted afghan squares, and I can easily put those away for a while. I need to take some patterns out of my project notebook and move Aeolian up to the front. I need to pick out the needles I'm going to use. I'm pretty much good to go.

I wish all my fellow Ravellenic Games competitors good luck and good fiber.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Great Afghan Square Sew-Up Part 3

Putting this afghan  together was so easy I can't imagine why I procrastinated so long. By Saturday evening I had the first 18 squares joined, and the rest went together over Sunday and Monday. Last night I put a simple border on it, and this morning gave it a ride through the washer and dryer. It made into a lovely large blanket that will someday warm somebody who's cold. 

The technique for the joining doesn't show up very well in the black yarn. This may be just as well, since I didn't take any great pains with it. I'm now working a second set of squares with the same technique using a pink yarn and I may be able to get better pictures with that. Of course what makes it go so fast is that you're adding the last row to the square at the same time you're joining it to the neighboring square. For this type of project fast is good. 
I'm now off and running on the next set of granny squares. When they are joined I will move the remaining bits of crochet to the second box and declare the first one emptied. This makes me very happy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Great Afghan Square Sew-Up: Part 2

That first lot of squares is now a finished afghan. I didn't do anything fancy with it since the squares alone made a pretty good-sized blanket. I decided I wanted the cream on the edge instead of more green, so once everything was assembled, I just worked a row of dc and a row of sc around the edge. It's now been washed and dried, which did indeed soften it up a great deal, and I like it so much I'm going to use it on my bed this summer.

This afghan was crocheted together using a slip stitch. The advantage is that you can go from one side of the blanket to the other with one piece of yarn and not have to thread needles along the way. The disadvantage is that it leaves a definite ridge on the wrong side. I prefer doing it to sewing with a mattress stitch, but I'm not entirely sold on the way it looks in the end. So I'm continuing to explore and experiment.

With that project done, it was time to face the dungeon. I took my K-hook in hand and opened the cardboard boxes. To my great surprise neither one of them contained afghan squares. Instead they both contained yarn. Just what I was hoping to find! And in the bottom of the second one, there was a huge lot of black yarn, none of it with ball band, all of it looking a bit seedy. Definitely time to use it up and make it go away. The rest of the yarn got stuffed into other storage areas so I can get rid of the cardboard boxes (at least as soon as Bart is through with them) and I'll work at this from the box until what's left will fit in the black yarn drawer.

These two boxes do contain afghan squares. I'm pretty sure the bottom one is the lot that I thought was in the cardboard boxes. It's all sorted and bagged, so for now I'll let it be and focus on the top box. It turns out to also have at least 5 projects in it. Two are blankets that were started and abandoned for various reasons. Then there are 3 separate lots of granny squares. One lot is color coordinated, and was made from the leftovers from several blankets worth of knitted squares (we won't talk about those just now; they're in another box). They need to be joined with something color-coordinated, perhaps brown, so for now they're set aside. Of the remainder, one lot seems to have a row of black incorporated, and the other is done with alternating bands of one row of one color and two rows of the next. They even alternate whether they start with two rows the same or one. There's quite a lot of those, so that's what I'm going to start with.

The next question was how to join them. I know I want to work a row of black around each square, so that gives me an interesting option of joining as I go. The technique is demonstrated here:
The sample that I've tried seems to go quite easily and gives a join that is both flat and soft. So now I'm ready to head to the Big Easy Chair with my stack of squares, a skein of "mystery black," my K hook, a cup of coffee, and my current audiobook, Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I expect to come up for air sometime next week.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great Afghan Square Sew-Up

 The Great Afghan Square Sew-Up has begun. I decided to start with these, since they're closer to a Finished Object than some of the other collections. These have been lurking in the bathroom off the studio. (This is a bathroom only in the sense that it has a commode and a lavatory; otherwise it is so crammed full of junk as to be unusable.) They were mostly already sewn together into "foursies" and a quick count showed that there are 15 of them, so a 3 x 5 arrangement is evidently what I had in mind. I also have a vague memory that I meant to work some rows around the "foursies" then sew those larger squares together.

So that's what I've been working on. There's a good bit of yarn in the same bag that was holding the squares. I'm not sure what size hook I was using, but I seem to remember that it was my old worn size E, so that's what I've been using. It's a bit tight, but it will probably soften up with washing. I'm just adding a row of the cream and a row of the green, then assembling the row of 3 of these units as they are completed. I'm also working in the yarn tails as I go, so that there will be less of them to worry about at the end. At that stage I was cutting them pretty short, so they're a bit fiddly to bury, but I'm getting there. 

Meanwhile I can start thinking about which set to tackle next. There are multiple possibilities.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Scrap Blanket #2 Is Finished

 Start with this (which was actually a bunch of skeins with no ball bands lurking in the black yarn drawer, and, yes, I have a drawer just for black yarn, and another for white yarn, which has nothing to do with segregation, just making good use of space):
 Add this: 60 balls of miscellaneous left-over yarn balls (which I do store in kitty litter pails because of a certain black cat who likes to make fiber art of his own design)
Crochet like a mad woman for some indeterminate number of days, snip off all the yarn tails, give the finished object a spin in the washer and dryer, and you end up with this:
 This one is rather large. It will adequately cover the average professional football player. It's actually larger than I meant it to be, but I wanted to use all the yarn that was in the pail. I quit with 4 small balls left when I realized I either had to stop or tie on another skein of black (I think I used 5 all together, but I'm not sure how many of them had been partially used). I didn't do anything fancy on the edge of this one either, for the same reason; just did a row of single crochet around to give a more finished edge.

The good news is this. I started out a month ago with this:

And now I'm down to this: Which is still a lot of yarn sitting in kitty litter pails, but it's not as much. And that was the whole idea. Now I'm on to the next stage, which is dealing with what's in that ugly cardboard box. What's in there are granny squares that I bought on Ebay a few years ago, thinking a good project for me would be to rescue other people's unfinished projects. What I forgot in the excitement of buying the lot for $4.95 plus shipping was that I hate sewing crocheted and knitted squares together. One of my resolutions for this year is to turn all my collections of squares into finished blankets. It's nearly May; I should probably start on that. 

And because every fiber artist deserves a moment of glory, here is Bart's latest creation. Note the interplay of tension and relaxation and the way every chair and table leg is included in the finished design at least once. He worked hard on this one, I can tell. I can't tell if the small disconnected piece in the lower left is part of the larger work or some sort of independent creation; maybe he just bit off a piece to see what it tasted like. He rarely comments on his work; if I'm not smart enough to understand, he doesn't have the time or the patience to waste on me. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More Scraps, More Blankets

Since I still have 5 kitty litter pails full of leftover yarn balls (and that's just counting the acrylic worsted), I'm making another scrappy spiral blanket. This time I decided to get tricky and start with a rectangle. If you Google "rectangular granny square" you will find a number of ways to start a granny rectangle. The one I chose was this:
The center doesn't have as obvious a line down the middle, and there were lots of pictures to help me adapt to the spiral start.

This is what I have so far. Except for the shape it will look pretty much the same as the first one. The only other change is in the way I'm counting how many balls of yarn are used. This lot in general is a little bigger than the last lot, and I didn't want multiple rows of the same color, especially in the beginning when the rows are relatively short. So I decided it was okay to cut the yarn and return the ball to the pail, to use up the rest of it later. This means counting snipped yarn tails won't work as a way to count the number of balls used. So I decided to just count how many balls were in the pail; I started with 60. I can add or subtract from here as needed.
Plans for #3 are in the works. Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Ending Off the Scrap Blanket

Eventually you run out of yarn or patience or just decide the blanket is as big as it needs to be. I decided to stop when I had used the last ball in the bowl I started with. When you decide it's time to stop, then you have to figure out how to stop. Since I was using the black to give the blanket some unity, I had decided I would finish the blanket with a round (actually two) of black. So I picked an edge to stop on, worked the first round of color to that edge and ended with a 3dc cluster. Then I worked the second round of color to that same edge and worked 2 dc in the top of the last dc in the round below.

I then worked the black around the corner, making the combination of 3dc cluster, ch2, 3dc cluster in the top of the last dc in the round below (purple). The next 3dc cluster was worked in the side of the next round (blue/grey) and from then around as normal. You are very aware at this point that this corner is not like all the others, but once you step away from it for a while, you'll forget all about it.
I had originally planned to end the blanket there, but then this morning I was watching Knitting Daily on PBS, and saw an idea for an edging that I thought would work perfectly for this blanket, especially if worked in a multi-color yarn. I did break out a brand new skein for this, but it could be done in scraps as well if you wanted. I didn't want to have to fuss with burying yarn tails at this point, so having enough yarn to go all the way around the blanket was important.
I started with making a ch1 and a sc, then a ch 3 in the black in the ch2 space of the corner. I dropped the black yarn. Then in the next stitch I tied on the color, worked a sc in the top of that same stitch, then a sc in the next stitch and a ch 3. Then I dropped the color yarn and picked up the black again. The ch 3 in the color and that yarn are held in front of the working row, as you can see in the photo. With the black work a sc in each of the next 2 sts (doesn't matter if it's the top of a dc or a ch1 space), ch 3 and drop the black. Pick up the color, hold the black ch 3 and the yarn in front, and work a sc in each of the next 2 sts, then a ch3. Repeat and repeat and repeat. You will notice that the yarns end up all twisted around each other and you will have to stop and untwist them; yes, it's annoying, but the result is worth the extra effort, I think. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When you make a project with scrap yarn, there is no way around the fact that you are going to have to deal with yarn tails. Lots of yarn tails.

It's what happens when you are working with at most a few yards of yarn at a time. Having an efficient way of dealing with these yarn tails is half the battle to accomplishing a successful scrap project.

Dealing with all those tails is why this is a crochet project in the first place, and not a knit project. Burying tails is a lot easier with crochet and both sides of the finished project can look neat and tidy. At the same time you don't want to have to deal with all those yarn tails at the end of the project, because weaving them in can be tedious. I tend to work on them in bunches. Here's how I do it.

First of all, I am not a purist about not tying knots in my yarn. Some folks act like you have violated the Eleventh Commandment if you tie your yarns together. I might do it differently if this were heirloom lace, but for a utility blanket, I'm not worried about knots. They let me attach a new piece of yarn quickly and keep on crocheting. The one thing I did decide with this blanket was that I wanted the knots to come at the edge of a space, not in the middle of a 3 dc cluster. This means I have some tails that are a bit long, but I go as far as I can, then tie on a new ball and go for it. When I tie on a new ball I try to leave myself a tail of between 4-6 inches in the new yarn. It makes life easier down the road. You're going to want more yarn than you think you do. You can make do with less, but it just makes the last step harder.

When I get back around to where I made the join on the next round I then start working those tails into the fabric so they won't come out and dangle with washing and use. I've learned over time that just trying to slide them under the 3 dc clusters isn't enough; they do work loose. So I start by working the tails through the tops of the stitches, matching colors.

Then I can go ahead and crochet over those tails, reinforcing the idea that they are supposed to stay neat and tidy.

The final step is to thread that yarn into a needle and work it under a 3 dc cluster in the opposite direction from the back side. I skip one strand of yarn when I do this, so it won't just pull through and undo what I am trying to accomplish. If you look for it, it shows, but not enough to be really noticeable. I've learned that this doubling back makes the yarn tail a lot less likely to work itself loose and cause a problem later on. I often do this last step in batches rather than sewing in each one as I go along.

 So this is what the blanket looks like at the end of Day 4. I've used up between 5 and 6 oz of the black yarn and probably about 30 balls of scraps. I have no rules about how I change colors other than to try not to put two balls that are really close in color together, but even that's flexible.

I still have to show you how to end it off. When I get there, I'll write a post.

Monday, March 26, 2012

When you knit a lot, you end up with a lot of leftover yarn. They are too good to throw away, but you have to pay attention in order to completely use them up. If you don't use them up, they begin to take over your life. First you have a plastic bin full of them.
Then the bin starts to overflow and you start looking for alternative containers:
At some point you realize that just putting stripes in the occasional hat or pair of mittens isn't going to make these little darlings go away fast enough, and you start looking for projects that will use them up. Granny squares are a logical choice, but at some point granny squares have to be sewn together to becomes something useful. If you don't like sewing them together, you end up with another plastic bin full of granny squares. Another solution needed to be found. 
The problem with most patterns that are designed for using up scraps is that a certain amount of territory needs to be covered in a given yarn. In a granny square, it might be just a small amount for the center square, but the last row requires a good bit more yarn. These patterns are good for making big balls of yarn smaller, but they don't make balls of yarn go away completely.
When I found the pattern for the spiral afghan, (, I realized I might just have hit upon a solution to the problem. I could just crochet until I came to the end of a ball of yarn, tie on a new one and keep on going. So here's my spiral scrap afghan.

You end up with three working yarns as your spiral your way around this afghan. I decided to use a single yarn for one of the strands, and since I had a good bit of black in my stash, I chose that. I then went through my bins and pulled out a bunch of small balls. So here's what I'm working with for this afghan:

You start the way you do for a normal granny square. I started with 4 ch then a sl st to form a loop, ch3, 2 dc [ch2, 3 dc] 3x, ch2, sl st in top of ch 3 to complete round 1. Yarn was cut leaving a nice tail for later weaving in. Round 2 (black) starts the way the 2nd round of a granny square starts, but when you get to the last corner, after the 3 dc, you don't complete the corner. Just drop that yarn and pick up another ball.

Round 3 (blue) begins in the top of the ch3 with which you started Round 2. Attach the yarn and work ch 4, then 3 dc in next ch 1 space, and continue on around as for a normal granny square. When you get to the last space you can work in Round 2 (black) stop and drop that yarn.

Round 4 (peach) begins in the space created at the beginning of Round 3. Attach yarn, ch 3 (counts as a dc), 2 dc in the same space and continue on around until you can work no further into the spaces of Round 3. Drop that yarn. Your piece now looks like this:
Now the fun begins. Pick up the yarn you left parked at the end of Round 2. Pretend that the cluster of dc's right in front of your hook is pointed up and down instead of sideways. Ch 1 to make a space over this cluster, then make 3 dc in the space created by the chains at the beginning of Round 3 (blue). Then in the 
top ch of Round 4 (peach) make 3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc (a normal corner). Continue on around working in the top of Round 4 until you can work no further. Drop this yarn and pick up the yarn you dropped from Round 3 (blue). Notice that now you have stitches oriented the way you are used to seeing them in a granny square. From here on you just keep spiraling around, dropping the working yarn and picking up the yarn 2 round below and continuing on. When you come to the end of a ball of yarn you just tie on a new one and keep working. Every bit of every ball gets used up. 
I use small locking stitch markers in the last loop of the yarn I'm not using at the moment to keep it from accidentally unraveling; safety pins would work, too. I've worked on mine on and off throughout the day. This is the way it looks now:
Notice that the slight wonkiness that you have when you start the spiral is hardly even noticeable. 

Go gather up a basket or tub of yarn balls and a crochet hook and start spiraling. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Random Update

I am so bad at keeping this blog current. I don't know why I even bother with the thing, except that it's a convenient way to show pictures of my finished objects, on the rare occasions when I have one, to my friends.

I was just looking at the goals I had posted for the year. I have crocheted a couple of baby blankets and I've made some hats for AR Children's Hospital, but I can't say I've done a tremendous amount of knitting. On the quilting side of my world I did finish a small quilt that is now serving as a table topper, and I've got another top basted and ready for quilting.

The big project at the moment is the quilt I decided to make during Lent instead of wasting my time with computer games. It's called Garden Delight and was a series quilt in Quilter's Newsletter last year. I had the advantage of seeing the finished quilt before I even started thinking about fabrics, so I could make my color choices with a bit of intelligence.There are six installments of directions, and there are six weeks in Lent, so I'm trying to finish one installment per week, but this first week is proving a bit of a bear. There are 52 blocks to make, each with 11 pieces, so it's slow going. I'm about 1/3 of the way through and the only good news is that I've figured out most of the ways I can do it wrong. I've also looked ahead to next week and it's a good deal easier, so maybe I can catch up then.

I'm also trying to figure out SeamedUp, the quilter's equivalent of Ravelry. I guess I've forgotten how much time I put into Ravelry when I first started with it.