Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sweaters are Not Books

When I was little I would hit a point in a book where I knew I would be up until it was done. The Harry Potter books were the worst. I would usually hit that point with somewhere between 100 and 200 pages left. Those were some really late nights. Even now I find myself staying up late occasionally when I find a really good book. Unfortunately that is not the case with the green sweater. I'm trying to focus, but it's really hard. I think at least once a night my husband is reminding me that I need to knit. Currently I just need to cast off the back, knit the other back shoulder, and bind the shoulders together. Then of course I need to knit the collar and sew in the sleeves and collar, and sew on the buttons. 

The buttons have their own story going on. I posted a couple of weeks ago that I found these really cute moose buttons on Knit Picks website. Knit Picks was great and had everything shipped very quickly. Unfortunately I'm not sure it's a good idea to release moose into the wild and not expect them to wander. (For those not familiar with Knit Picks US shipping policy they ship using smart post. FedEx takes the package to the nearest post office and the post office takes it those last few blocks to my door.) The moose appeared to be following a logical course from the warehouse in Ohio to the post office in Boyden and there they sat. Our postal carrier doesn't seem to like Smart Post so it usually takes a few days before he decides to put it on the truck. It doesn't pay to complain because then it will just be longer that he holds your moose hostage so I did my best to be patient. A week later and there are still no moose buttons. Late last night my husband checked the tracking page and my moose have decided to go for another trip. For some reason they've gone from Boyden back to Kansas City. We have had some winter weather lately. (The Tuesday they supposedly arrived in Boyden we had a fairly bad snow storm.) My husband and I are wondering if something got scanned wrong and the moose have been wandering the country for the past week. I'm interested to hear the stories they have to tell when they finally arrive, but I've heard rumor that what happens in the box stays in the box. At least they were sent out with some flowers for the blue sweater so I know my moose won't get hungry.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What I've learned from the Green Sweater

As the end of the green sweater gets closer I find myself looking back at what I've learned. I've read lots of comments from people who've never tried anything complicated. If that's what you like that's great. I'm a firm believer that you should knit what you love. If however you've never tried anything complicated because you're scared or don't know where to start I want to share a few of the things I've learned from this sweater. One of the best things I read when I was learning to knit was that all knitting can be broken down to the knit and purl stitches. If you can do those two stitches you can knit anything.

I struggled a lot with reading charts when I first started this project. Check your pattern to make sure your designer isn't trying something wonky, but most knitting charts I've encountered are read right to left and bottom to top on the right side rows. When you're knitting in the round every round is a right side row. When knitting a piece flat, like the body of the green sweater, the wrong side rows are read left to right. I love the magnetic chart keeper I got from KnitPicks, but I found out that highlighters are really nice with complicated charts. I don't have to worry about my magnets getting moved, and by using different highlighters for each day of the week I can see how much progress I'm making. 

I've also really perfected the art of tinking. Several of the cables in this sweater have seed stitch in between.   It's not uncommon that I put a knit where a purl should be or vice versa when working the wrong side. I've gotten really good at using a crochet hook to drop down a single stitch and turn it into a knit or purl by pulling it through the front or back of the loop. (Insert the crochet hook into the front of the stitch for knits and into the back for purls.) I've also learned how to drop several stitches four or five rows to fix miscrossed cables. 

Take the stitches for the wrong section off of your needles. (I also find it's a good idea to move the stitches that are staying on your needles far back so you don't have more loose stitches than you want.) Pull out the stitches to the row below the mistake and place on a DPN. In the background you can see the chart keeper and highlighter trick that I was talking about.

Working with a second DPN, and possibly a cable needle, knit the stitches according to the pattern using the loose yarn from the rows that you've ripped. Make sure to keep your yarn tension steady as you work so that you have enough yarn to knit the last stitch, but don't have lots left over. (It does take some practice, but if you do it wrong rip it out and try again. It's just yarn.)

I like using DPNs when I'm doing this so that I can slide my stitches to the end of the needle and always knit on the right side of the fabric. Continue to knit the stitches that you're fixing following the pattern until you get back to the row you were on when you discovered the mistake. You can either slip the stitches back on the needle or just knit them off of the DPN. It's a little scary to see all those loops of thread hanging loose, but I prefer this method to the options of leaving the mistake or ripping out four or five rows.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Farmer's Wife Friday 8

I'm pleased to report that I'm almost healthy. (There's still a little cough, but it's hardly worth noting.) Unfortunately my sewing time falls on the weekends. I was hoping to fit the second block in sometime this week, but between recovering, visiting the dentist, and sleep problems it just didn't happen. I know that those are all perfectly reasonable excuses for not getting my blocks done. In reality I should be thrilled that I have one finished, but I do feel a little guilty for falling behind on my goal. Hopefully this weekend I can make three blocks and will be back on schedule.

#10 Bowtie


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Comfort Knitting

This week I've been struck with a nasty virus. I didn't have the mental capacity for the complicated cables the green sweater required so I turned to a bit of comfort knitting. When I began knitting socks were very scary things. I could grasp the concept of how yarn could turn into a scarf and that a sweater was just a bigger scarf. I couldn't figure out how it turned into a tube and the heel was a complete mystery. I decided to trust the pattern. It felt a bit like waving a wand and hoping some magic would occur, but I created a sock. Three years later and socks still hold a bit of magic. However it's now magic I'm familiar with and making a basic sock is like working with an old friend.

Hopefully by the time I finish the second sock the last traces of this bug will be gone and I'll be able to return my attention to the green sweater. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

First Finish of the Marathon

So my marathon of finishes has been interrupted by an unplanned illness. I don't think things will get finished in time to meet my original goal of two weeks, but I'm still chipping away at the pile. I will admit I make a horrible patient. I hate sitting still even when I don't have the energy to do anything. I've been able to focus most of my restlessness into a basic sock (I'll share that on Wednesday.) These gloves were past the complicated cables so I've also been working on them off and on this week.

I started these gloves in December, but have mostly been focusing on my green sweater so they've taken a while to finish. I think if these were my only project they'd finish really fast and will be a great pattern to keep in my repertoire for gift knitting. The pattern is Fingerless Gloves from Lion Brand Yarn. I used Imagination from KnitPicks (sadly they don't make this yarn anymore.) I still have a ball and a little left from these gloves so I'm thinking about making a matching cowl. It's such a beautiful yarn I don't want any of it to go to waste.

Special thanks to my husband for doing today's photography. 
It's really hard to take pictures of your own hands.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Farmer's Wife Friday 7

I was really dreading Squash Blossom. I was looking at printing the templates, but I really hate how the templates are one per page. I know that someone has compressed all of the templates into about 15 pages, but the only place I can find them I have to pay $9.00 for access. I'm not using the templates enough to justify paying for them. I've also heard that Marti Michell has a set of the acrylic templates, but again I don't want to pay for them. I decided to google the quilt block and found a great tutorial. The block in the tutorial is for an 18" block, but seeing how she did it allowed me to figure out how to scale it down to the 6" block I needed. I'm not sure I'd want to add all of these extra seams if I was using a print, but since I'm using solids it didn't bother me.

#86 Squash Blossom

I also figured out a fun way to make the churn dash block. I cut (4) 3" squares of black and white. I drew diagonal lines across 2 of the squares for my HSTs. The other 2 squares I drew a line down the middle and sewed 1/4" away on both sides of all of the lines. I cut on the lines and trimmed everything to 2.5". If I was making a lot of Churn Dash blocks with the same fabric like I did for my mystery quilt I would strip piece them, but if I'm doing a scrappy churn dash, or a single block I like this method. It's a lot easier than keeping track of all of those tiny pieces. (If you want I can do a full tutorial on this method and show pictures of each step.)

#20 Churn Dash


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Almost done

The green sweater is getting extremely close to being done. I've finished both fronts and just have the back and collar left. I even made a choice on buttons and should be getting them in the mail soon. I'm not sure where to find buttons on the KnitPicks website without doing a search, but when you do a product search there are 8 pages of buttons! I found some cute Scottish Thistle buttons but couldn't justify twenty dollars for buttons when there were 8 pages of options. I ended up going with the moose buttons. I think they'll look really good with the sweater.

I'm hoping I can get this sweater finished in the next week or so. Once it's done I have plans to cast on for Anne's Cardigan. I really want to alter the pattern and knit it as a single piece to the arms like I did on the green sweater. This would mean I wouldn't have to mess with any seams, but I'm not sure how to alter knitting patterns. Do I just knit across the charts and act like they're all combined, or do knitwear designers add a stitch or two at the edges to leave room for seams? These are probably crazy questions considering the sweater I'm just about to finish, but I've never altered knit patterns. Quilt patterns I see as loose suggestions of what to do, but knitting feels like I'm doomed to fail if I go off pattern. I know this is ridiculous and lots of knitters alter patterns all the time, but it still is very scary to contemplate. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Focusing on the Finish Line

Last week I was happily working along on the green sweater when I saw another blogger posting about the Ravellenic Games. Immediately I wanted to set greeny aside and cast on a new sweater with the lofty hopes of finishing it in two weeks. My husband knows me very well and knows that at the end of the two weeks I'd have another WIP and would be upset with myself for not meeting the impossible goal. He gently reminded me that I have several projects on the verge of being done and questioned if this really was the best time to start a new sweater. As usual he was right and inspired me to set my own goal. In the next two weeks I will focus on finishing everything that is close to being finished. It won't count towards any competitions, but it's still a good goal.

Writer's Block is still patiently waiting for binding. I also got two tops back from my quilter so now there are three quilts that need binding and labels.

In addition to finishing the green sweater I also need to finish the button band on the brown blob (I ordered more yarn when I ordered buttons for greeny.) I need to finish sewing the ribbon onto the steeked part of the purple monster and add buttons. (I also might need to find a solution to loosening the wrists. The color work on the cuffs have made it so that the sleeves aren't comfortable.) The last thing on the list of things to be finished are my fingerless gloves.

These aren't all of my WIPs. (You'll notice the mystery quilt is no where to be seen.) These are just the projects that are one or two steps away from being finished. Last summer my husband helped me wind up my yarn mountain. The light blue yarn in the mountain is going into the fingerless gloves, the yellow yarn became Omelet (I should probably add a photo shoot of Omelet to my list of things to do in the next two weeks.) The brown yarn became a hat I made for my husband for Christmas, which leave the blue yarn at the base of the mountain. When I finish with this list I get to cast the blue yarn on for Anne's Cardigan.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Farmer's Wife Friday 6

I think I set a personal record this week with my Farmer's Wife blocks. I finished two blocks in 1 hour and 20 minutes and didn't use a seam ripper once! Even better I'm really pleased with how both blocks turned out.

#64 Peace and Plenty
I decided to make the corner blocks for Jackknife using the same technique I used for my Tennessee Road blocks in Coffee Lover's Delight. After making 2.5" HSTs I cut 1.5" squares of white and black. I sewed diagonally across the squares and trimmed the excess. The waste was very minimal and by using squares instead of triangles I got the placement perfect every time.

#53 Jackknife


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Green Sweater goes Pink

You might be wondering how the green sweater has gone pink. No I haven't dyed it. I got two of my Valentine's Day gifts early and I get to announce them today. I've been struggling to get the Pintrest image to hover over my pictures so linking can be easy. My husband figured out how to add that to the blog, and has added a thing that causes thumbnails of related posts to show up at the bottom of posts. (This one only works when you are in a specific post. If you're on the home page you have to click on the title of the post to see related posts.) After spending a half hour working on those things my husband commented that he felt he was getting off easy and asked if there was anything else I wanted. I suggested he could always get me a sheep.

This blog has been a great motivator this week. On Sunday I had 13 rows left until I reached the armscye. I got it into my head that if I really focused I could finish those rows before today's posting. Last night I had four rows left. I usually don't knit four rows on weeknights. I'm too tired to give the charts the focus they need, but nothing new was on t.v. We found some reruns of one of my favorite shows and I finished the last four rows in the chart! 

The next step involves knitting the left front, back, and right front as separate pieces. The pieces not being worked on get slipped to waste yarn. I always hate slipping things to waste yarn because it's such a hassle to put them back on the needles. When I woke up this morning I remembered that I'm using interchangeable needles. Rather than slipping the stitches not being worked on to waste yarn I can just move my needles to a new cable and leave the current cable in the stitches. Then when I'm ready to pick up those stitches I can put my needle back on the cable and I'm ready to knit the next set of stitches. (This method would also work with fixed circular needles by using a second circular needle.)

*Update: I keep forgetting to include the link to the pattern. Sorry about that. This sweater is KnitPicks Fogarty Creek Blazer. You can get the sweater as an individual pattern of part of the Rocky Shores book. I love all 6 patterns in the book and would recommend spending the extra money to get the book instead of the single pattern. I'll probably be making more items from the collection in the future.

Monday, February 3, 2014

2013-14 Mystery Quilt Step 6

The final step is a little bit complicated. Basically you alternate the blocks made in steps 4 and 5 lining up the HSTs in the Contrary Wife with the lower HST in the Churn Dash. By twisting the direction of Contrary Wife every other way it creates this interesting woven pattern. 
You can go here for the official pattern.

I tried to take this top outside to take some of those beautiful snow pictures I see everyone else taking. Unfortunately I forgot about the fact that my glasses have tinted lenses that get darker when I go outside so all of my pictures were over-exposed beyond the point of saving. Combining that with the bitter cold and the wind that kept stealing my top I've decided to save outside pictures for the spring. 

My husband and I have started scouting locations for photo shoots and have found some great possibilities. I'm sorry for teasing you, but please bear with me during these winter months. Better pictures will be coming.

I went back and forth on including these borders. Most of the quilts I've made so far don't have borders, but I decided to trust the instructions and include them. I'm so glad I did. The green was a bit over powering, but with the tan and purple borders it really helps control it. I love the HSTs in the corner of the first border. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Groundhog's Day!

Today is one of my favorite holidays. What other day of the year do we stop to celebrate a furry little rodent and imbue said rodent with the power to predict the weather? Not to mention it's very hard to commercialize Groundhog's Day. Sure there are towns across the country with their own groundhogs or substitutes that will sell accessories and souvenirs, but the local Wal-mart didn't have a single groundhog themed item. Nevertheless I do have a Groundhog's Day gift for you. (As I type this Phil has just predicted six more weeks of winter. The way things have been going I expected it, but it's still disappointing.)

This is the Writer's Block quilt I've been making for my husband. I got it quilted last weekend and just have to do the binding. Since I've been teetering on the edge of health this week my dear sweet husband is strongly encouraging me to rest today and celebrate Groundhog's Day with a winter movie marathon. It will be a while before I can do a final photo shoot, but pictures will come when the weather gets a little better.