Still here, still breathing, still making progress on the scarlet Swish mystery project. I am about 2 thirds done on this one and reaching the point where I am fantasizing about a good dozen other projects I'd like to cast on for ASAP.
I might be closer to the finish line if I hadn't been sucked up in the fascinating time-warp otherwise known as Ravelry. After long, long weeks at the very bottom of the waiting list, I finally got through the magic door earlier this month, and wow! I suddenly understand my three daughters' devotion to Facebook. The combination of database, social network and search engine completely devoted to knitting and crochet is a brilliant idea.
I haven't completely explored Ravelry and I am only uploading projects little by little, but so far, my favorite feature is the yarn search. I have typed in names of impulse buys, yarns that I have squirreled away without any idea of what to use them for, and discovered a wealth of project ideas just by seeing what others have knitted with those same impulse buys. (Well, in their case perhaps a bit more forethought was involved).
I can see the yarn search feature as my best friend in my efforts to use up my stash and combine patterns and yarns more inventively. In general the site is a great resource at times when one feels low on inspiration. If you haven't signed up for Ravelry, you can do it here . Once inside, you'll find me as Scarletknitter. Say hello, add me as a friend, show me the knitting!
I have been deep in the throes of a scarlet red mystery knitting project for the past ten days or so. The bottom corner looks kind of like this:
Scarlet red, garter stitch, what else is new? Actually there is a lacy component to this project that keeps it from becoming boring. I have been working on it while watching a TV series or two and on occasion massive frogging has ensued as I forgot to count my yarnovers and K2togethers. Still the project has already eaten a good six skeins of yarn and is about a third done. No signs of boredom yet. Best of all, no internal monologue about the merits of the pattern, the yarn, the color, the whole idea. This is as close to zen knitting as I can get and I don't miss that nagging voice one bit right now.
The yarn -- again a darker and richer red that what transpires here -- is a happy surprise. I needed a superwash wool for this project and I was ready to experiment, so I decided to try Knitpicks's offering in this category, a worsted weight wool called "Swish". I trusted the colors on my computer monitor and was very happy to receive a soft, squishy, good quality wool in "dark brick", which turned out to be exactly my kind of red. So much for being a snob and staying away from mail order yarns.
The label claims that the yarn can withstand the dryer as well as the washer. I doubt I would be this bold. Machine-washable is all I am asking for in this case. I have put the yarn through its paces in other ways, and it has withstood a good amount of frogging and re-knitting without looking the worse for it. Now I am contemplating more projects in this soft wool, maybe for my daughter the college
girl woman who lives in a colder climate and would love that baby blue shade, maybe in the form of a cabled jacket or ribbed turtleneck.
An often untold pleasure of knitting: indulging in fantasy knitting and visualizing the next best thing, the pale shade that will follow the bright colorway, the textured cables to make up for all this automatic-pilot garter stitch.
Rowan Pure Wool DK, which I picked because it offered the elusive pale grey I had determined necessary for this project. This one too claims to be machine-washable. It is going to be used with a pattern that calls for a worsted-weight yarn, so I need to do a little bit of arithmetic before I cast on for this one, but once I figure out the basics, it will be a small-scale project.
OK, so let's review the clues. Superwash. Machine-washable. Deadline. Small-scale. Enough said.
And those eyelets on the grey swatch? They aren't part of the pattern at all. It's a neat trick I learned in a workshop taught by Lily Chin. To keep track of the needle size used in a swatch, on one of the early rows, I make a number of *yo, k2tog that matches the number on the needle. It works great with US sizes (except with size 10.5 needles of course). If you ever have the chance to take a class with Lily Chin, do. You will be vastly entertained and learn a considerable number of useful tips and techniques...and end up with a whole lot of cute and holey swatches, too.
The morning after the day of my last post, I woke up with thoughts on my tendency to be hyper-critical of my knitting. It is such a knee-jerk reaction, the knitter's unability to see the finished object for what it has become -- a jacket, a pair of socks, a blanket, something serviceable and fairly attractive, to be put to good use. Instead I remember the iffy gauge issues, the occasional struggle to make corners meet properly, the various compromises made in figuring out what colors to use. The process -- which includes the insecurities that inevitably come up during the weeks of taking a project from start to finish -- looms so large in my memory that it prevents me from enjoying the finished work as much as I should.
The blanket -- the pretty-good-after-all blanket -- has been packed away, along with hundreds and hundreds of other wool garments contributed by talented and generous knitters to the afghans For Afghans drive. If you, dear reader, are among those who participated, thank you. I finished my vest just in time for the deadline.
The photograph is a little dark, unfortunately. I didn't realize in time that I was casting a shadow on half of the thing! At any rate, I am pleased with the results. I improvised the stripes because I was worried that I would run out of the main yarn otherwise. I was probably wrong. Eco Wool is sold in hefty skeins with a pretty generous yardage that would have been, I think, exactly enough for the whole vest.
All at once, I find myself free, like a schoolkid who just caught up with long-overdue homework assignments. Hey, I am free to cast on! And so I just did, for a secret project that I won't be able to photograph for a while. All I will say for now is that it is red all over; once a Scarlet Knitter, always a Scarlet Knitter.
This loose adaptation of Barbara Walker's "Learn to Knit Afghan" may well be my oldest UFO. Some of the squares were knitted as far back as 1997. As much as I love the book and the concept, I can safely say I won't embark on this venture again. Blocking the squares to an even size was no fun -- even though I had made it easy on myself by sticking to only 15 or so of the square patterns instead of the original 63.
I was also frustrated to see how much the blocked squares shifted in size after a very last laundering of the finished blanket. Perhaps I should have resisted the urge to soak it and dry-block it once I had knitted the borders. I tugged and pulled a little to even things out once the whole blanket was laid flat on a sheet in a bedroom floor, but it was a bit dismaying to see what can happen to a block-style blanket after all the stitching work is done. I'll have to experiment a bit more but for now, my next blanket will be done all in one piece.
Which leads me to a final note on the yarn I used. The main drawback with taking ten years to complete a project is that one's taste will probably change radically in the meantime. I loved Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride Superwash for its jewel colors, its washability, its reasonable price, etc. That was then, however. Using it for so many textured stitches, I was annoyed at the fuzziness of the yarn. There are more choices in Superwash wools now, and I'd rather investigate those next time. I still have a couple of skeins of this yarn in two colors that were eliminated from this project -- enough for a small child cardigan, perhaps.
In other knitting news, the triangle part of the Ruffled fichu is all done. Now comes a part where the knitter picks up hundreds of stitches on the two shorter ends, only to increase to roughly a zillion stitches in order to create the ruffle which is the point of the whole exercise. In other words, this was the perfect cue for me to procrastinate, by way of casting on for something else.
This is a quick, last-minute vest for -- you guessed it -- the current afghans For Afghans drive. With the help of Sweater Wizard, I came up with a basic vest pattern for a 10-year-old child, which I am knitting with Cascade Eco Wool. I love this yarn, especially in its natural colorways. I wish I had put more thought in the designing and added some patterning to this, but that will have to wait for a project with a longer deadline.
Tomorrow came and went, and the next day, and the one after that. Sure, knitting was on my mind; in fact it was on the agenda, and in a big way. The Knitting and Crochet Guilds of America just held a conference in Oakland, a convenient 15-minute drive from my home. I hesitate to call it a yearly event, in case I jinx it and it doesn't happen next year, but this event has taken place for the past three years, only at different months of the year each time. The attendance this time wasn't huge. In fact the market on Saturday was very civilized and eerily easy to manoeuver compared to Stitches events, which leads me to wonder if TKGA will continue these events much longer.
I certainly hope it does. There was not a huge range of class-offerings for knitters, but what there was was terrific. Laura Bryant gave us the basics of combining oddballs and stash leftovers to make coherent, attractive color combinations in our knitting. From Margaret Fisher, I learnt a methodical and detailed way of inserting zippers into my knitting. Both classes were considerably smaller than their equivalents at Stitches conventions, which was a huge advantage to the students. The atmosphere was more relaxed, and in both cases the teachers shared their knowledge expertly and generously.
Since the class on using stash yarns gave me several ideas and a new outlook on the yarns I do already own, I passed on the chance to augment said stash at the market. Instead, I brought home Vicki Square's new book on knitted kimonos, which features some beautiful patterns as well as basic "recipes" on knitting your own version; I'd like to do that sometimes soon, once I figure out the right fiber to use, ideally from my stash. Yes, that's the theme of the day -- the week -- the year.
TKGA also brought with it the opportunity to spend time with knitting friends and to meet far-flung correspondents at long last. That would be Sarah Peasley , whose blog was one of the very first I started to read several years ago, and who came to Oakland to teach several classes. I forgot to take my camera to mark the occasion, but I will correct this glaring omission when she returns to teach several classes at Stitches West in February.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming: the blanket now has two borders done.
A border, possibly just any border, even a fairly dull and traditional one like this one, improves a blanket enormously. The dark, monotonous garter stitch is just what the textured, colorful squares have been waiting for. Funny how this automatic-pilot stage of knitting has its own excitement or at least its own rewards.