Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another project update

I finished the back of the Must Have Cardigan. I put the stitches on a holder but am heeding the Yarn Harlot's recommendation to crochet a chain across the neck to stabilize it. The fronts are started and I'm hoping the few changes I've made to the right front will make the cables mirror each other. (Just realize that if I have made the changes to the left front by accident, the cables will still mirror each other, just turn away from each other rather than toward.) I'm on row, hm, 9, I think, and it's going well. I'm using even more stitch markers than last time, setting off the 3-stitch wrapped-stitch column as well as Pattern Panel A and B and the moss stitch. I love doing both fronts at once, as it means I don't have to jot down any notes to make them match. And when I'm done with both, well, they're done. If you see the trend from the two-socks-on-two-circs thing. (Ditto for the sleeves. They'll be exactly the same length, too, another bonus.)

Still working away at the Mega Boots Stretch basic toe-up socks. Still loving (loving!) the colorway. I took these to Stitches West as my unthinking knitting project. I was tempted to bring the Must Have, at least for the train, but I forgot how much I enjoy talking and how talking and knitting anything complex are not easily compatible. My seatmate on the Stitch & Ride is the RPM designer--how cool is that? And on the way back, I chatted with some women who, it turned out, were from Alameda. The "Gail" they were talking about is Gail T from our somewhat new Alameda Yarn Company, our LYS that I hope will stay.

Still can't find Captain Underpants. Annoying! I do think I left it at church but haven't been able to find it anywhere there.

To document my haul from Stitches West:
I walked up one aisle and there before me was the guy from the Fair Isle book I have at home, and have drooled over many a time. In the Philosopher's Wool booth, surrounded by all those gorgeous sweaters. And knitting on one. And what I didn't realize: it's worsted weight! I could finish it within my lifetime. So lovely Carol in their booth helped me try on several sweaters to find the one I wanted. The first one just didn't do it for me. The second, even less so. The third had my heart racing (that's Carol modeling it). So beautiful. I whipped out my credit card and was given a lovely knitting bag with the kit and so much encouragement. They even said that if you finish your sweater and write them, they'll send you a pattern for a matching tam as a "congratulations." Apparently, there's enough wool for most sizes in the bag, so you don't even have to pick it out by size. It's big like a jacket, too, which is perfect, as the wool is certainly on the itchy side.

Next, I went by my friend Maia's booth, Tactile Fiber Arts, which was partnering with Brooke's company, A Verb For Keeping Warm. As I am into the dark, dark, dark these days, I was able to pass up plenty of spinning fiber that was just too pale, but she had some bundles of way dark wool in the back, and as she was writing up two of them, I reached out and felt a bundle of nearly black alpaca and had to add that in. Oh man, so soft. I managed to ignore the right-hand wall of beautiful handspun wool in lots of colors and fiber mixes. (so beautiful, my glance told me.)

Next, when I visited the YarnDogs booth for a Ravelry passport stamp, Lucy Neatby was there, in all her multicolored-hair, high-energy self. They had all of her DVDs for $9 off the usual $29 price, so I quizzed her on which one would be right for me. I settled on Socks 2 (but she did mention I could benefit from Socks 1 as well) and bought it. By the register, they had tiny sock blockers... and sets of tiny dpns (like 3" long, 0 or 00 or 000) to knit tiny socks with! Insanity. (I managed to resist, but just barely.)

The last purchase was at the Purlescence booth. They're all the way in Sunnyvale, so it's about an hour's drive for me. I wish I could patronize them, but it's hard to justify the gas plus the yarn cost in general. So when I saw yummy sock yarn, Claudia Handpaints no less, I went for it. Black walnut, so gorgeous.

Thankfully, I was given the pass to attend a free class, which prevented me from doing more shopping... my budget is grateful.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tips and Tricks for the Must Have Cardigan

Updated to correct row counts and pattern names...

The Harlot just posted that "The [Must Have Cardigan] pattern is intuitive, you'll have it memorized in no time at all."

Well, for bears of very little brain like me, it can take the entire back for you to 'get it' and understand some basic facts about this pattern that can make it much easier.

Step 0: stitch markers. Mark off each section so no stitches get misunderstood to be part of a different section. This made it much easier from the get-go.

Step 1: row counter. I couldn't easily do the patterns without a row counter. You have one pattern (Panel Pattern A) that repeats every 10 rows, with cables on 3 and 7. One pattern (wrapped stitch) every 4 rows--but the wrap happens on row 3 (so every 3 + multiple of 4 rows). And one pattern that has cables on every right-side row, with a total of 26 pattern rows. So very few of the pattern rows line up with one another.

Step 2: Copy your pattern and draw vertical lines next to Panel Pattern A and Panel Pattern B, and write down the row numbers for the repeats through 95 or so (depending on how fast you catch on; it took me through row 87, I think).

Step 3: Understand that the moss stitch is different for every right-side row (knit the Ps and purl the Ks), and same for every wrong-side row (knit the Ks and purl the Ps)... even within the crossing-cable pattern in Panel Pattern B. This helped me a lot.

Step 4: Pay attention to where you hold the stitches for Panel Pattern A's braid. If you put them back instead of front, ugh, frogpond time. I ended up writing "F" and "B" on all the cable crossings for both patterns. That helped a bunch.

Step 5: Realize that after each first twist in Panel Pattern B, when you knit the 3 stitches from the cable needle, the next stitch is always a purl. This works for the moss stitch because you're always increasing or decreasing by a stitch. If you understand that you're always going to be purling after the cable twist, you don't have to look at the pattern--just p1, k1 across till 1 stitch before the 3 knits (on the lower half of the chart) or right up to the 3 knits (on the upper half).

Step 6: Learn what the wrapped-stitch column looks like when it's time to do a wrapped stitch. Then you can stop doing math on the row numbers (hm, is 87 a multiple of 4 rows + 3?). Also, every row that Panel Pattern A cables on is a wrapped-stitch row.

Step 7: On the shoulder decreases, when you're doing 1 dec at each end for X rows, just figure out how many moss stitches you'll have left at the edges (2 sts for size L), put a stitch marker there, and forget the counting. Much easier than ticking off on paper how many decrease rows you've done so far.

I hope this helps someone.

Tips & Tricks for Two Socks on Two Circs

I had several people on Saturday's Stitch & Ride train comment and ask about the two socks I was knitting on two circular needles. I love, love, love knitting socks this way, because there is no second sock syndrome. When you're done, you're done. Period.

But as I chatted with them, I realized I have a few tips & tricks to share. First, the instructions--I found this to be the most useful set.

Beyond those directions, though, there are a few things that have helped me.

First, my Rule #1 of Knitting: don't panic. I never did (knock on wood) knit one sock with the other sock's yarn. But I have knit 3 sides of socks onto 1 needle. Blast! What I figured out after I shifted stitches to dpns and back was that it really is pretty easy to shift the just-knitted side back onto its needle. You transfer those stitches onto the opposite end of your free needle, and then use that free needle to place the stitches where they belong. (I'm going to have to make this mistake and take photos of fixing it to make this section more useful.)

Second, I've found it infinitely helpful, especially for avoiding the above calamity, to use two differently-colored circular needles. The Susan Bates circulars come in various pastel colors (pink, green, blue), and you can usually pick up one of each color for knitting. This helps to underscore that you always knit with one set of needles at a time, ignoring the other set. So, for my needles, always knit pink with pink, and green with green.

Finally, a mantra: at the end of each span of knitting, you switch yarn or needles, but not both. That is, either you switch from one sock to another, picking up a new strand of yarn, or you continue knitting on the same sock (same yarn), but switch needles.

I hope this helps. I love my new KnitPicks Options dpn set my sister gave me, but I do love me some 2 socks/2 circs/no-SSS method, too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What else can be humbling and exciting at once?

I am still working away at Patons' Must Have Cardigan. I have a few more inches of the back to do, and then I start the fronts. I am loving it. It is so beautiful in this rich reddish brown color:

Must Have Cardigan back

And even as I enjoy knitting on it and looking at it... it is so humbling. I have lost count of the number of times I've had to rip back a cabled section--one of them twice in a row (I finally got the twists on the correct sides, but held the stitches on the front/back when they should have been on the back/front).

I've also finished a crocheted chemo cap in some of the Lion Brand Chenille I picked up at Beverly's for $1 a skein, back when I was still deluding myself into thinking that I could make myself a bathrobe for it (yay, super soft and nice, $20 from Target, delusions gone!). So now I have like 8 skeins each of deep blue and deep garnet. Any ideas welcome. The hat did turn out nice, even with the random loops sticking out a bit. G of course loved it and wanted one of his own right away. Hm, maybe I can do his in stripes.

I got Captain Underpants done up to the point where I have to embroider his facial features, then I misplaced the entire project. The things I'll go through to avoid embroidery...!

I'm nearly done with the k2p2 ribbed scarf in Plymouth(/Indecieta) Baby Alpaca Brush. It's so close to 5' that I am tempted to wear it, knitting needles and all. Still lovely grey and soft.

I also picked up the Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch socks again. That yarn is so freaking great. I needed a mindless project for church and it totally fit the bill (knit knit knit around), plus I got into a discussion with another churchmember about the yarn after church was done. We bonded a smidge--that was fun.

I also picked up the Twinkle Toes socks again... and put them down again. Just isn't floating my boat these days. I may frog them and start something else. I did get it ready for socks for G at one point; at least his socks are super fast to knit!

I think that's it for my project update. I would love to be doing more on the lace project I have, but I also want to finish Must Have for Saturday's Stitches West (ha ha ha!).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Looking for an ass to kick

Anyone else see a problem here?

Monday, February 11, 2008

State of the UFO

My latest active project is the Must-Have Cardigan from Patons' booklet, Street Smarts. I'm using the stated yarn, Patons Classic Merino Wool, in a gorgeous deep brown-orange, Russet.

It took me a while to 'get' the pattern, as I haven't done a lot of moss stitch, and the cables are unfamiliar. One part of the X cable was just so messed up. I ripped the middle of it down twice, then finally ripped all of the stitches of the cable down 15 rows and knit it back up. What a difference! What was before a mass of weird bumpy stuff was now orderly, pretty moss stitch in the middle. I have 7.5" done on the back; less than 5" to armhole shaping!

I've also gotten quite a ways into a Captain Underpants for my son. I did the underpants in Red Heart (man, is that some awful yarn! No flex whatsoever), and was poised to do the flesh in an off-white superwash wool I have, but was at Michael's and found Bernat Soy on sale in a very pale pink. It's lovely to knit with--the soy gives it softness and a nice sheen. I'm at the stage of needing to embroider the face before I finish off the head.

The only other active project is my Plymouth Alpaca Brush k2p2 scarf. It's almost 4' long, so it's nearly done now (I'm aiming for about 5', since it's for me). I'll have quite a bit left over, as the first ball probably produced 3.5' of it. I wonder if I can knit a basic hat with the leftovers. It's soft and so pretty and I'm knitting the scarf on 9s. I wonder if 10s could work for the hat?

After lots of self-doubt on the sweater, I feel like I'm back in the groove again. Doesn't keep me wishing all my started projects were done and I was casting on the next ones, but it is still good.