Thursday, March 15, 2018

Like a Cowl

Hi all -

March's Lola's Choice project from Laura Nelkin is a pattern called Like a Cowl. These projects are a surprise so you don't know what you're getting until it arrives in the mail:

This pattern is a cowl, but it has a strange shape, hence the name. You start by knitting the bottom border which has all of the beads:

I do love beads and this yarn is gorgeous! You then start shaping a bandana-like front using short rows:

You continue to add shaping with more and more short rows:

Once the shaping is completed, you knit up the cowl to the top:

And, finally, you bind off with Laura's really cool I-cord binding technique:

I love the way I-cord binding looks! But I haven't decided if I like this pattern or not. Sometimes I look at it and think "That is so cool!". Other times I look at it and think "That is so weird looking!" I definitely feel ready to hold up a stagecoach with this!

I blocked the cowl to flatten out the bottom of the "bandana" since it was curling, and I somehow elongated the bandana part at the same time:

I didn't notice this when I laid it down to dry so this is the current shape. I really don't like this shape so it looks like I'll be trying again with the blocking! A good lesson to me to pay attention to the entire shape of the piece when blocking and not just look at the portion that I'm worried about. I had basically just laid the piece on the mat and slid things around to get it symmetric-looking, then put 3 pins at the point to keep that flat without stepping back and looking at the whole thing. Now I know better.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Navigatrix Progress

Hi all -

I've been continuing to watch basketball and knit. One of the projects I've been working on is my Navigatrix scarf from a pattern by Laura Nelkin. I received all of the supplies and the pattern for this scarf last year as part of a mystery knit-along, but didn't get around to making it with the group (partly because I was still feeling a bit intimidated that the pattern would be too difficult for me and I would really mess it up). But I decided to dive in and finish it now, so I've been working my way through it.

This pattern was written as a mystery, so it has a really interesting construction. You first knit several square "rays" (I think because they look like manta rays), then you join them to make a scarf or a cowl. I have my initial rays finished.

My first ray is the "Chevron Ray":

This was an easy ray and was a good place to start to see how all of the rays are made.

My second ray is the "Slipped Ray":

This one was a little more difficult because the increases were in different rows than the decreases, which confused me at first. But once I figured that out, it was all smooth sailing.

My third ray is the "Slipped Ray":

This was the second one in the pattern, but the instructions were just a little block at the top of a page so I missed it at first. This one was easy to knit, but added beads (they'll show up better when the finished project is blocked). It was good practice at using beads that are strung on the yarn before the knitting begins and I feel much more confident with that now. I have a bit of trouble getting the bead to sit at the right place while I'm knitting, but I now am comfortable with moving the bead to the correct place after the knitting when I have to.

My fourth ray is the "Senshi Ray":

This was a much more difficult ray to knit because of the tiny chains and the twisted stitches. And this one has beads that are placed on the stitches using a tiny crochet hook while you are knitting. It sure is nice to not have to count out all of those beads at the start and have that weight on the yarn as you knit!

My final ray is the "Nuppy Ray":

This one add nupps, which I had never done before, and also has the beads that you add with a crochet hook while you knit. The nupps are a bit niggly to knit, but I think they turned out nice. I think they could be a little bit smoother, but it will take experience for me to figure out what I need to do to get that. And they might look smoother after the blocking.

I think it'll still take a while to get this project finished. Where you join the rays together, you use sections of the same stitches that are used in the rays themselves. You can either join the rays in a circle to make a cowl or can leave one join out to make a scarf. You can also, if there's enough yarn, make one more ray to make a longer cowl or scarf. I'm leaning towards making the longer scarf, but I'll start the joining process and see how things look and how much yarn I have before I make that decision.

I thought I would also talk about the Ravelry web site in this post. My good friend had told me about this site when I first started knitting and I had been using it to find new patterns, but I've been playing with it more this year and it's really incredible. If you are a knitter, I highly suggest you check it out! It's a free site. You can create an account for free, and in that account you can store all sorts of information. My initial use of Ravelry was to just search for patterns, mostly free, that I would download and store on my computer. I thought that was wonderful and made the site extremely useful to me on its own. They also have a library of your knitting patterns where they put all of the patterns that you have purchased on the site so you can download them at any time. Again, a nice feature and I was also adding free patterns to this library that I thought might be nice to use for my homeless shelter knitting. This is all I'd done with Ravelry for the last year or two that I've been a member.

But this year I decided to join a Laura Nelkin knit-along. For this knit-along, I had to start using more of the features of Ravelry. The first thing I had to do was start keeping keeping track of my projects on the site. This is a neat feature. For every project, you can create a page with pictures, the pattern, information about needles and yarn and any notes that you might want to make. It's really nice and I'm really enjoying keeping track of all of my projects now.

Another feature of the site is a utility for keeping track of your yarn stash. I've been buying a lot of yarn on sale to use for homeless shelter items, so my yarn stash has grown quite a bit. So the stash feature started to appeal to my OCD tendencies and I decided to try it out. I bought some new yarn when I was in Kansas City last week and decided to put it into my stash on the web site. You can record the manufacturer, yarn type, colorway, lot number, where and when you bought the yarn and more. You can also take pictures to store with the information so you can look at your stash online and see what you have. A feature that I didn't expect is when you are looking at a knitting pattern, Ravelry will look in your stash and look at the projects others have made with that pattern and let you know what yarns you have that others have used for that pattern. And you can look at the pictures of their project to see how the yarn looks. Pretty cool!

The other day I was thinking about my books of knitting patterns. I really don't use them much because it's so much easier to search on the Ravelry site for patterns than it is to look through my books. The I had a lightbulb moment. Could I put my books into my Ravelry pattern library and search them, too? Why, yes you can!! So I figured out how to add my books to my library and now I can just search online for something like "fingerless mitts in sport weight yarn" and I can see all of my patterns, whether in my books or in my online library, and decide what I want to make, then click on the pattern page and see if I have any yarn in my stash that might be good for that pattern. Incredible!!

And, as a cherry on top, I have apps on my iPad where I can connect to my Ravelry account and download the online patterns to my iPad and knit from that, so I no longer have to print everything out and waste all of that paper! I'm sold!

Well, that's all for now. The Jayhawks play in the Big 12 Tournament finals today so you know where I'll be! And next week March Madness starts so you will find me plopped down on the couch with the games on and some knitting in my hands!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Woods and Water

Hi all -

I have another knitting project to share. This one was going to be for the homeless shelter, but I ended up loving the yarn so much that I decided to keep it for myself. The pattern is Woods and Water by Roxanne Yelle. I used a Japanese yarn (Noro Shinryoku) that I picked up some time ago on sale. (I can't pass up a good sale!) The yarn was a bit difficult to work with because it had a lot of extra twist. This would cause the yarn to twist up in front of the needle. I had to keep smoothing the twist away from my work and then the knitting was fine.

The pattern was also interesting and included a new stitch: the "double twisted yarn over." This stitch creates extra space in the center of the cowl. I really love where the colors in the yarn ended up:

(The colors are a little brighter than they appear in the picture, but are still muted.) It looks planned, but it was all serendipity!

The yarn is a wool/silk blend that actually feels cottony. I really like the feel of it. And so does my favorite model!

Sorry for the slew of knitting posts, but I want to keep the non-charity knitting in separate posts so I can find them. I'll be doing some more charity knitting, which I'll queue up for one big post, and will work on larger "keeper" projects, so you won't be overwhelmed by posts as we go forward.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gallatin Scarf

Hi all -

Along with the homeless shelter knitting projects, I've had a couple of other projects on my needles lately. One of these is the Gallatin Scarf by Kris Basta. I made one of these scarves a couple of years ago for myself and I love it. When I was home for Christmas, it was really cold outside so my sister needed something that she could wrap around her face when we went for a dog walk. My Gallatin Scarf was the perfect solution. I made the mistake of telling her that it was my favorite when she borrowed it, so she refused to keep it after the walk even though she loved it, too. So, I had to make one for her, too!

This is a quick knit that starts with just a few cast-on stitches:

You regularly cast on more stitches as you go along and the scarf grows in length. You end up with a scarf shaped like a long, thin triangle:

This is a really great shape since you can easily wrap it around you neck or tie it around your face. And the narrow ends curl nicely as they hang down:

And it has an interesting stitch pattern:

This is one of a series of three scarves by the same designer. I'll definitely be trying the other patterns, too! (And, as a plus, all three patterns are free!)


Knitting for the Homeless Shelter

Hi all -

When I started knitting a couple of years ago, I had grand plans of knitting a bunch of projects for the homeless shelter. I did a good job of this the first year, but last year I let this drop. So, I made a big push this year to make a bunch of items for the homeless. This post shows what I've accomplished so far. Now you'll see where most of my time has gone this year.

The other thing I'm trying to do is use up some yarn that I bought a couple of decades ago. A friend had taught me a crochet blanket pattern and I was making a blanket, but then I let it drop and when I went back to it I couldn't figure out how to continue in pattern. So I had to rip it all out. At that point, I decided to make a different crochet blanket. I found a pattern and started working it. I wasn't sure if I would have enough yarn, so I bought some more in a matching color. Again, I let it slip and then couldn't get back into pattern. (I don't know how to crochet so was trying to learn while making the blankets.) I've given up on this blanket and now want to use up the yarn. So, you'll see a lot of the light rose and mauve yarns below. I've made a good dent in my supply, but, alas, still have about 10 skeins to go....

My first project is the Sailor's Rib Cap by YaYa Lovestoknit. (This isn't the old yarn I'm trying to use up, as you'll see when you see the other projects below.)

I really like this pattern and will probably make more of these. It's hard to find an interesting men's pattern to knit since they tend to like things plain!

Since the yarn I'm trying to use up is light rose and mauve, the rest of the projects are women's patterns, which I find much more fun to knit!

The next project is the Cabled Moss Stitch Cowl by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas.

This is made with the worsted weight yarn doubled to make it a quick, bulky knit. It was a bit stiff with the acrylic yarn so I stopped at one less pattern repeat than called for in the pattern. The pattern would be a lot nicer in a softer yarn, but I think it still turned out nice and will definitely keep someone warm! (And it used up a good amount of yarn!)

My next project was the Lace-Edged Women's Hat by Julie Hentz.

I think this is a really pretty, very feminine hat. And it was a quick knit!

I also made the Gnarly Hat by Diana Troldahl.

I really like the texture in this hat and, in a different color, it would make a nice men's hat, too.

Finally, I made the Definitely Diagonal Scarf by Kris Basta.

This was kind of big for a scarf, so could also be thought of as a small shawl. Either way, it's easy to make and has more wonderful texture. And it really used up a lot of my yarn!

That's all of the homeless shelter projects I've made so far this year. I'll try to keep plugging away at these and will periodically post my progress.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Patsy Thompson's Ruler Class

Hi all -

The only quilting thing I've been working on so far this year is Patsy Thompson's ruler class. In the month of January, Patsy shared a free ruler class every Monday and Friday on her blog. A good friend of mine turned me onto the class (I never remember to check people's blogs that don't have email reminders so, even though I love her, Patsy's blog fell off my radar and I haven't looked at it for a year or so). Since I love Patsy's stuff and I wanted to do some more playing with rulers, I decided to do the class.

Before getting into the details of the class, I want to apologize for the pictures. I had a tough time getting pictures with reasonable colors. Part of the problem was the time of year and part of the problem was the difficult colors I chose for my class samples. I hope you can still see the stitching, which is the important part!

The first couple of lessons were simple exercises just to get used to using and lining up rulers. I already felt comfortable with these simple tasks, but I decided that I would faithfully do all of the exercises. The first lesson had us using a straight ruler to make some "arches" using lines that radiate out from a single point:

Then she suggested we practice filling in some of the channels, but only do it on two of the arches so we could see what a difference it makes:

In the second lesson, we did some more straight line arches, but this time the lines were parallel rather than radiating from a single point:

Again, we filled in some of the channels:

In the third lesson, we started doing the same, but using curved rulers:

And again in the fourth lesson:

And in the fifth lesson:

These were the base lessons. I have done enough ruler work that these lessons weren't that useful to me, so I concentrated more on playing with the fills. But this was an opportunity to try using the HandiQuilter gripper tape on my rulers and I have to say that it completely makes the difference for me! With the gripper tape, there is absolutely no slipping of the ruler so I can concentrate on keeping the ruler foot flush against the ruler and get nice, smooth lines.

The sixth lesson didn't have any quilting in it. Instead, it talked about how to space your motifs on a border. I already know how to do that from border stencils and things like that so I really only skimmed this lesson.

The seventh lesson is where things got really interesting. In this lesson, we started putting everything together into a little project. This is what I'd been waiting for. I wanted to dig in and do some beautiful Patsy Thompson quilting! We started by preparing our sandwich. Her instructions had you cut the sandwich exactly to her finished size and then make the markings. I've always found that it's better to cut the sandwich larger than the desired finished size and then make the markings with that finished size in mind, so that's what I did instead. That just give you some wiggle room to take care of mistakes and unexpected problems. I also decided to play with some different colors from what Patsy does and chose this shot cotton for my background. It is black threads in one direction and gold threads in the other. You always start with registration lines:

Then you quilt the frame using your rulers. I decided to do the ruler work in black to match those thread in the shot cotton. (Patsy had done the center lines in a different color of thread so I did the same thing.)

Then I played with different thread colors while filling in the areas. I used the same quilting motifs as Patsy so I could practice her stuff.

My colors are a bit subtle on the gold background, but they also kind of glow and I really like them. I'm not so pleased with the black ruler lines, but once you make a decision, you sometimes just have to stick with it. This piece wasn't important enough to unstitch or to start over.

In the eighth lesson, we continued to build outwards. We started with more ruler framework:

And added some more fill-in quilting:

In the ninth and final lesson, we added a border to our little quilt. As you probably guessed, we started with the ruler work:

And then filled in with other quilting:

Overall, I thought this class was useful and a lot of fun! And I really like my "finished" project. As mentioned above, the only part I don't like is the black thread in the ruler work. If I were to do this over again, I would probably go with a medium to dark gray for that part. Now I just have to decide what to do with it! I'm not sure if I want to make it into a wallhanging or a tote bag or use it in some other way. For now, it'll just sit aside and marinate.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Flowsaic Shawl

Hi all -

With the cold weather, the still shorter days and basketball season going on right now, I've been knitting up a storm. In this post, I'm going to share my Flowsaic Shawl. The Flowsaic Shawl is the first project in this year's N Club with Laura Nelkin. In the N Club, we paid last year to join, and this year will receive three surprise knitting kits with all of the supplies for three larger knitting projects. There is also a private Facebook group and a Ravelry group where we can share our progress and ask questions with others in the club.

For the first project, we had a choice of either the Flowsaic Shawl or the Flowsaic Cowl/Poncho. I decided to go with the shawl since that seemed like a more useful shape for me. This project is made with a beautiful self-striping yarn that was dyed specially for this project. I didn't think to take a picture of the hank before winding, but here it is early on in the project:

It was fun to knit along and watch the colors change.

If you look closely at the photo, you will see some blue threads woven in the knitting near the end where I'm working. These are life lines and can be used to easily unknit a portion of the project back to a known point if you make an error that you can't fix. I hear about people using dental floss for their life lines, but I had trouble finding unwaxed dental floss at a reasonable price so I looked around an realized that cheap crochet thread would work well for this, so that's what I use. It's nice because it's thin and smooth, like you need for a life line, but it also comes in lots of colors so you can always find a color that contrasts with your knitting.

Since this was a group knit, my competitive nature came out and I worked on it every spare minute that I had so that I wouldn't get too far behind those crazy fast knitters out there. I'm proud to say that I was able to finish my shawl in 14 days! I loved the feel of the shawl when I was finished! Here are some pictures of it when I was done knitting:

The next step was to block it to bring out the stitch pattern. Here it is after the blocking:

It's kind of amazing how different the shawl is after blocking! I think the stitch pattern is beautiful and really shows up now. But the shawl is a lot thinner and lighter after the blocking, which I did pretty aggressively. I'm not sure how to wear it now. So, I think I might reblock the shawl less aggressively to get it back to its original shape and then I can wear it like a scarf with a wide end. But I'm leaving it as is for now so I can think about it before messing with it anymore. Either way, I think it turned out beautiful and I'm very proud of it!