Doodle Fun

Yesterday, I discovered the Generic Norwegian Hat and Generic Norwegian Mittens charts at Hello Yarn. Printed out the hat chart, took it home, started playing with the colored pencils. Realized this charting is trickier than it might first seem. I have lots of ideas, but then when I remember that I’ll have to knit this hat in the round and that I don’t want to be stopping and starting yarns all the time and weaving ends in for fifteen years after then project has been knit… well, things get complicated.

Basically, every row needs to use both colors, and colors should change at least every seven stitches or so. I started by charting a cat. Whoops! Too many yellow body stitches in one horizontal stretch. So I made my cat a tabby with stripes to break up the body color. The tail presented another problem, as it rises above the head and is only one stitch wide and surrounded by overly-long stretches of my main color. I haven’t solved that one yet.

Maybe, I thought, I should start with a background pattern of some sort, simple checks or diamonds. Then I could superimpose my primary design on top of that. But by then I had scribbled over the one chart I’d printed out, so I had to wait and stare at the thing in frustration.

Today, I have printed out half a dozen charts to play with myself and a few more for Melissa as well. I’m imagining a blue-on-blue hat with a convoluted, William Morris-esque octopus (did William Morris ever do octopi?) and a waves-spitting-foam sort of decorative band.

I want to go through all my books of Morris’s designs and just think about the mix of detail and simplicity he could conjure up and what my own version of that simple intricacy might be like.

Given that these will be trial runs, once I start knitting I’m thinking of using ribbing at the base of the hats instead of doing a provisional cast on and knitting in lining afterward. I can get fussy like that once I’ve come up with a truly satisfactory design.

Works in Progress

In the last few days, I’ve done the following knitting.

1. Knit up a Horse Shoe Cable Hat in Rio de la Plata Twist color TS-96 (a turquoise, maroon, brown, and tan marl), using the free pattern from Dropped a Stitch. (Photo this weekend.) The pattern is very clearly written and fun to work, with effective, subtle decreases.

2. Begun work on a folk art scarf I dreamed up a while back before I knew how to do intarsia. The problem is that the motifs are very scattered and I’m knitting in the round, so I’m getting long, nasty stretches of contrast-color yarn on the inside of the piece, which means I will be doing lots of weaving in ends later. Once I finish the bit I’m on, I’m going to try converting to flat knitting to see if this makes the back of the intarsia neater. I’m using Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Warm Red and Sunflower—a lovely, crunchy yarn with rich, deep color.

3. Knit around and around and around on version 2.0 of my felted bag. I’m on the solid color part now, so it doesn’t offer much excitement, especially since I’ve increased to 200 stitches from the 120 I used on version 1.0. Originally, I’d planned to do the final version of this bag in Malabrigo, but given that a) the Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride I’m using now is knitting up well, b) it’s significantly cheaper than the Malabrigo ($4.25 a skein on sale from Discontinued Brand Name Yarns) and c) I’m felting the final project, I’ve decided just to stick with the Lamb’s Pride and to list Malabrigo as an alternate yarn on the pattern. I’m using Plum as the main color, Turquoise for the contrast.

4. Felted the i-cord for felted bag version 1.0. I did this in the sink with hot water because I didn’t want to wait to do a whole load of laundry. I’m always amazed by that “it’s not felted… it’s not felted… it’s felted!” moment.

5. Played some more with cotton/modal kids’ knits—thinking about sun hats at the moment. I’d been frustrated because all the standard measurement charts for hats included curcumference, but not height, and I don’t have any kids at home to use as my test models. But I posted my question on the Forum Pages at Knitter’s Review, and Fran posted an answer within fifteen minutes.

The pattern cards for the hat featured in “Five Yarns, Five Hats” arrived Monday (whee!). I’ll be taking them to Stitches West and will post the pattern once I’m back—so you can expect that in another two weeks or so. Melissa did an amazing job on the layout.

Let’s Have a Party!

No, not immediately… but soon. I’ve been coming up with ideas for informal knitting get-togethers among friends that might help us reduce stash and generate new ideas.

1. The do-it-yourself yarn tasting. I’ve been to two yarn tastings now at Article Pract and enjoyed them both. They plan to do one every month, and I’m hoping to get to most of them. But why settle for one a month—especially one a month all the way up in Oakland, a 1.5 hour drive for me—when I could have more?

I’m imagining an individualized, “what-the-hell-was-I-thinking?” yarn tasting. Each participant could bring six (or more or less, depending on the number of attendees) ten-yard “tastes” of a particularly perplexing yarn from her stash (one of those yarns that makes you suspect you must actually be a completely depraved, substance-abusing fiend because no woman in her right mind would have purchased that yarn sober). We could play with them together, knit swatches, unravel them, knit more swatches, until we found a stitch that really worked for that yarn. Then we could browse pattern books together and think about project possibilities. A couple of hours, a little tea, some cookies or fruit, and each participant could leave with one of her great stash mysteries solved.

2. Tail-end trading. I know I’m not the only one: I’ve got three bags now of left-over yarn bits, one stored with the yarn proper, the other two crammed into kitchen cupboards because I ran out of room in the yarn storage area. I can’t throw them out, but I’m not in any rush to use them because they’re not new. They have already posed their questions for me, and I have explored and answered those questions to the best of my ability. They bore me. But they are yarn and therefore must be preserved. And to someone else, they would be new yarn. Very small bits of new yarn—but new.

Oh, the possibilities. We could each bring a dozen or so, dump them into a big bag, then draw them out blindfolded. We could put them all in the middle and take turns picking. We could play take-away bingo with yarn-ends as the prizes. Someone else’s boring yarn might be just the exciting thing I need to add a decorative to row to the edges/cuffs/whatever of a current project.

We could spend an afternoon together knitting up these ends into pot-luck scarves. Scarves knit lengthwise, changing yarns with every row and leaving long tails for fringe are gorgeous. And if you knit on big needles, you can get away with using a number of different yarn weights. Or maybe a pot-luck hat with yarn changes every round or two.

Party, party, party. I don’t know when I’ll have the time to really set one up, but I’m having lots of fun already.

Yarn on the Stoop

When I got home from work yesterday, I had a bag of yarn from Discontinued Name Brand Yarn waiting for me on the stoop. Inside? The eighteen skeins of discontinued colors of Lamb’s Pride Worsted that I’d ordered—and more! I don’t know if they always include extras in their mailings or if this was a first-time buyer deal, but my bag also included a skein of a very glitzy black yarn (perfect for knitting a small evening clutch or maybe a case for some opera glasses), sample cards for two South West Trading Company yarns, three different patterns (including a cute t-shirt style knit top from Cherry Tree Hill), and a pair of 10″ US 1 needles. Wow!

Let me tell you—I would order from these folks again, with or without the bonus items. Their prices are great and their shipping is fast.

And do you have any idea how huge a bag with 18 skeins of Lamb’s Pride is? When I saw that package on the stoop I knew what had to be inside. (For those of you who are interested, I ordered six skeins each of Plum, Mahogany, and Turquoise. They had Medieval Red a while back, and I’m kicking myself for not ordering any of that.)

So until I find some Malabrigo in stock once again that suits my color sense, I will keep playing with felted bag patterns using the Lamb’s Pride.

I also got email last night from Kathryn Connelly, of Hilltop Yarn Shop, who designed the beret pattern in One-Skein Wonders that I used as the basis for my bulky-weight pattern. She’s graciously given permission for me to post my reworking of her pattern, so I’ll get that up in the next two days, along with some photos. (Apparently a One-Skein Wonders web site is in the works—more about that as it develops.)

Felting Malabrigo

I’ve successfully felted version 1.0 of my Malabrigo bag. The first time round, I just washed it on warm for fear of turning it into something suitable only for Polly Pocket, which resulted in virtually no skrinkage at all. The second time around, I washed it on hot and got a nice, thick fabric, with about 15% shrinkage. (The thing to remember here is that since the bag shrank 15% in every direction, that results in about a 30% loss of volume overall.)

I’d worked the top part of the bag in 2 x 2 K, P check to see if that affected the texture of the finished project. The answer: “no.” Or, “maybe, but only if you’re a complete loon and run it through your fingers doing everything you possibly can to convince yourself that one section does have a bit of a boucle feel to it.”

Using the shower curtain rings to get openings for the drawstring worked nicely. Now I just have to knit another half-mile or so of I-cord so I’ll actually have a drawstring to run through the holes.

I am already planning version 2.0, which will begin with 200 stitches cast on, instead of 120. Unfortunately, while I love Malabrigo, I don’t especially like many of the colors it comes in, and they don’t necessarily go together in ways that please me. Yesterday I went to the LYS that carries Malabrigo and stared and stared at the yarn, but couldn’t find three colors (or even two) that went together in a way that said “happy” and “sunny weather ahead” and “knit me now” (which was what I wanted them to say), so I actually left empty-handed. I will just have to keep cheking back regularly and hoping the gods of yarn roll the dice in my favor one of these days. (Meanwhile, I do have a number of skeins of Lamb’s Pride Worsted in dicontinued coloways coming to my house, so I can play with them—but I’d like the final product to be in Malabrigo.)

For now, I’ll go back to kids’ clothes/accessories in cotton and see if I can come up with something better than the mutant yarmulke I wound up with last time.

Dr. Belgum’s Grande Vista Sanitarium

This morning, Melissa and I set off to photograph the completed “Urban Trekker” hat at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, the site of Dr. Belgum’s Grande Vista Sanitarium during the WWI era. (Text from one of the original advertising pamphlets here.) Nothing remains of the sanitarium now but some overgrown foundation stones. However, in its day it was the ideal place for wealthy San Francisco and Oakland residents to send their addled/inconvenient relatives as it offered a highly civilized, but very out-of-the-way location and featured comforts like evening concerts and weekend dances. The site seemed appropriate for our photo shoot as the hat does give one a bit of an “elderly mad” look.

Here is the Urban Trekker modeled by a stick.
The Urban Trekker hat in the wilderness

Here is the Urban Trekker modeled by Melissa. (You can’t see it, but Melissa is perched on a bit of sanitarium foundation stone.)
Melissa models the Urban Trekker hat

The former sanitarium’s grounds present the sort of jumbled flora that typify our part of the California coast: oaks, palms, eucalyptus, spring bulbs, and various brambles.
California scenery

I’m adding a close-up of some of the flowers, just for the sheer delight of seeing them pushing their way into the world.
Lilies of the valley

As I write this, the Malabrigo bag is thumping about in the washer getting felted. I asked myself a “what-if” question: What if I attach shower curtain hangers every few inches along the opening of the bag to make nice, round holes to thread the drawstring closures through? The answer to that question and comments on felting Malabrigo coming up soon.

Another Kind of Question

My contribution to the Second Annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading. A bit didactic perhaps, but always worth thinking about.

QUESTIONS FROM A WORKER WHO READS
by Bertolt Brecht

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times?
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them?
Over whom did the Caesars triumph?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Years’ War.
Who else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.

To which we might add our own questions about the families of those workers and soldiers, women at home unable to protect those they love from the real harm, so instead they knit up scarves and hats and mittens and whatnot to protect them from the harm that they can fight.

Is Anyone Besides Me…

… going crazy because the Yarn Harlot hasn’t posted since 1/25?

Last night I continued working on the bag in Malabrigo worsted, falling more and more in love with each stitch. I want, I need a sweater in this yarn. Exactly this yarn. The Col China colorway: sweet, sweet cranberry richness with occasional bursts of vivid, tangy green. I want to cover my entire body with it. (I am not alone in this. The Malabrigo folder at Knitter’s Review is currently on fire.)

I am thinking of something like Erica Alexander’s Diamond-Weave Baby Jacket from Interweave Knits, Winter 2004, but in my size. Texture, but not too much texture. Moss stitch borders (every sweater in the world could be knit with moss stitch borders and I wound’t weary of them). A few buttons up near the top and the rest left to drape comfortably. Today’s All Tangled Up has a lovely photo of one of these (baby-sized) in progress and links to several more renditions of it. I am thinking that the bag I’m knitting now will give my a nice sense of my gauge with this yarn (particularly when I work with a mix of Ks and Ps), which should allow me to do some fairly accurate estimating when I got to work on a sweater for myself.

Meanwhile, the bag brings me great satisfaction. I worked on it last night while I indulged first in reruns of CSI, then in the new episode of House. Originally, I’d been picturing this project as a textured bag in a narrow, rectangular shape, with a triangular flap and long shoulder straps. But while I knit, I kept envisioning different versions of it, including the possibility of just forgetting the whole bag thing and making it into a needle roll. The current vision is of a round-bottomed, drawstring bag—I like how the work looks on the circular needles and just want to keep that shape. So, I now appear to be knitting top down instead of bottom up. I expect I’ll need to buy one more skein before I’m through and am considering switching to a solid color for some contrast.

I just need to measure carefully to see what my unfelted gauge is before I start felting or my sweater dreams will be delayed.

I Can See That I Will Have to Buy My Own Camera

I have been using Melissa‘s camera on the weekends to take photos for my blog. (Actually, Melissa has been using her own camera to take the pictures for me. I just ask, “will you take a picture of this?,” and “how about this?,” and “this too?,” after which I say “and will you post them here?,” and “that one goes there,” and on and on.) So in the interest of eating up less of Melissa’s art time and of having a blog with some visual interest on week days, as well as weekends, I can see that a digital camera for me is quickly becoming inevitable. If anyone out there has recommendations, I’d be glad to hear them.

Meanwhile, you will be forced to bear with my photo-less weekday ramblings.

The first of my brightly colored kids’ wear projects was a prototype hat, which I finished up last night. Sadly, it is less a hat and more a very vivid yarmulke with a brim. At least I got the brim right. I used two strands of yarn, then switched to one for the hat itself, so the brim has a nice bit of body to it and doesn’t go all floppy. I will mail version 1.0 off to my niece for use as a doll hat and move along to version 2.0 once I get a bit more of the yarn.

To get my mind off that project, I pulled out a skein of Malabrigo Worsted in the Col China colorway that I’d purchased back at the beginning of the month. This yarn was a new offering at The Golden Fleece, one of my local yarn shops (I’m lucky enough to have four of them). It reminded me of Manos del Uruguay, only a) a few dollars less expensive, b) in larger skeins (210 yds), and c) in somewhat simpler colorways. A and B were positives; C was a negative, but the skein I did buy is lovely.

I’d like to work on some designs for practical, but not boring, felted bags, so figured I’d start with the Malabrigo. After fretting a bit about size, I cast 120 stitches onto a circular needle and began working in 2 stitch x 2 stitch alternating squares of knit and purl. My main “what if?” question on this project regards the percent shrinkage I’ll get when I felt the bag. Once I know that, I can start playing with more complex designs. Whether knitted on I-cord straps will hold up well is a secondary “what if” question I’ll have to answer over time.

At any rate, I just want to say—this yarn feels wonderful in my hands. Soft, soft, soft, much softer than other single-ply wools I’ve worked with. I can’t tell you anything about the bag I’m knitting yet, as I’m only a few inches into it, but the knitting itself is going to be a delight.

Pics

This weekend, I’m reading a set of student essays, so I can’t spend as much time as I’d like thinking and writing about knitting. But with Melissa‘s help, I am going to get some pictures posted so you can see what I have been/am doing in those moments I can squeeze out for myself.

I’ve completed two of my bulky tams in Cache. (Pattern adapted from One-Skein Wonders.)
Two tams!
As you can see the mossy colorway (“Smartie”) knits up into much clearer stripes than does the more neutral colorway (“Serengeti”). I’ve still got two skeins of the “Siren” colorway to play with—I’ll post info on its stripe-ability (or lack thereof) when I get some results.

This is Sparky, our aspiring yarn reviewer.
Sparky in the yard
He feels he should have been asked to test the Serengeti Cache, since it compliments his personal colorway so well. He would have made something very interesting out of it—maybe a free-form bathtub liner.

Here are the wrist warmers with the new matching hat.
Wristwarmers and a hat - all for $3.99
All that from one $3.99 ball of yarn!

Last of all, Here’s my current work in progress—
My current work in progress
—the “Urban Trekker” from Lion Brand Yarn‘s Just Hats (it’s the cover project). I’m knitting it in Cherry Tree Hill‘s potluck bulky wool in the “Earthtones” colorway. (Note that contrary to my claims of seldom using patterns, I am using a pattern—perhaps I’ll have to rethink my self-concept a bit.) I chose this pattern because a) I think it’s darling and b) I wanted to practice top-down hat knitting using a substantial yarn in order to minimize the wiggliness of the first few rounds.

Now, I’m back to the land of student essays. Melissa will add the photos and post this when she finishes playing with her new etching press. Whee!