July 20, 2010

donegal cap

Posted in finished object, knitting at 6:15 pm by peachknits

Pattern: Donegal Cap
Yarn: Hemp for Knitting Hempton
Started: July 12, 2010
Finished: July 18, 2010

Notes: A quick and satisfying summer knit. Zach really liked the original driving cap I knit for him, but had one complaint: the brims were a little too wide, and protruded a little too far from his head. I agreed. He imposed a new mission: find a hat pattern that would fit him better.

I’m really puzzled as to why this pattern isn’t more popular. Despite a somewhat intimidating construction method and some pretty awesome short row shaping, it’s really not that difficult once you get a handle on it. I want to know, as a blossoming designer (can I call myself that yet?) how Cheryl Andrews of Wooly Bear Hand Knits got her head around all that shaping and structure. The end result is pure genius.

Hempton by Hemp for Knitting is surprisingly forgiving on your hands, for being, well, hemp. It had a hand similar to cotton, but was stiffer and didn’t stretch much. The rigidity of the yarn makes a perfect fabric for this hat: it doesn’t sag or lose its structure, and you don’t even need a plastic template for the brim. Amazing!

This hat is an early birthday present for Zach. I think it really suits him!

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July 17, 2010

haruni

Posted in finished object, knitting at 2:47 pm by peachknits

Pattern: Haruni
Yarn: madelinetosh tosh sock
Started: March 7, 2010
Finished: July 11, 2010

Notes: What a lovely, thoroughly enjoyable pattern. Haruni has a very simple lace pattern up until the border, where there’s rapid increases for several rows, followed by rapid decreases to create large leaves and blossoms. The crocheted edging was a first for me, but well worth the extra time it took to complete. The end result is a very elegant and wearable shawl that I just love love love.

Tosh sock is amazing to knit with: really springy, yet also incredibly soft. And the color! The variegation is subtle and perfect for this intricate pattern.

tutorial: wet blocking lace

Posted in knitting, tutorial at 2:29 pm by peachknits

Believe it or not, it took me about two years before I tried wet blocking my knitting. But as someone who loves knitting lace, I’ve obviously realized that blocking is essential to the process, and often takes your knitted piece from “just okay” to pretty gosh-darn spectacular.

The steps to blocking are pretty simple. And look, there are pictures!

1) First, knit your lace piece. As you can see, it’s pretty small and garbled; not shawl-like at all! Wet blocking stretches the lace so the yarn overs are exposed and the pattern is clearly seen, which also brings out the drape in your yarn.

Step 1: My shawl, ready for blocking.

See how the edges are all curled and unattractive? Wet blocking will fix that!

2) Now comes the “wet” part of wet blocking. Prepare a bath for your knitting with tepid, lukewarm water and a soap specifically for yarn. I like Eucalan because it’s a no-rinse formula, but Soak is also good, and there are many others. Swish your hand through the water a little bit to get some bubbles going. Place your knitting into the water.

Step 2: Get that lace wet!

3) It’s important to completely submerge your knitting in the solution. At the same time, be mindful of the fiber content of your yarn. This shawl was knit with merino wool, so I must be careful not to agitate the water too much, or wring the piece–this will induce felting! Gently squeezing the knitting will release the air bubbles and let in the water; just don’t overdo it. Let your shawl sit in the water for 15-20 minutes.

Step 3: Make sure it's submerged, but remember: gentle does it!

4) When 15-20 minutes has elapsed, remove the knitting. Again, be gentle when draining the water from the piece. Don’t don’t don’t wring it! Gently squeeze out the majority of the water, then lay it on a towel. (Some dyed yarns will “bleed,” so you may want to use an old towel.) Spread the piece out slightly so it doesn’t sit in one lump, then begin rolling the towel into a snug roll.

Step 4: Rolling, rolling, rolling...

5) Once the towel is rolled up, apply lots of pressure to squeeze more of the water from the piece. I sometimes sit on the towel!

Step 5: Squeeze out that water!

6) For good measure, repeat steps 4 and 5. Your shawl won’t be bone-dry from all that squeezing, but it shouldn’t be dripping with moisture, either.

7) Now comes the fun part. Select a surface to block your knitting on. This could be as simple as a towel, but I suggest using something that’s non-porous, such as a rubber mat. You’ll be sticking pins into this surface, so make sure it’s not something that you don’t want lots of little holes in! My blocking surface was purchased at Walmart in the athletic section: it’s several interlocking rubber mats that are usually used as padding beneath treadmills and workout equipment. However, lots of people also use interlocking play mats found in toy stores.

Step 7: My blocking surface of choice is an interlocking rubber mat.

Step 8: Spread out your knitted piece on the blocking surface. I always begin pinning in the center of the piece and work outward. Since my shawl is triangular, I’m starting at the point where I cast on.

Note: Make sure to use non-rusting (nickel-plated works!) quilting or straight pins, unless you want rust all over your nice knitted shawl.

Step 8: Pinning along the top of the shawl.

Step 9: For a triangular shawl, I use blocking wires to evenly angle the left and right sides of the shawl. Thread the wires through each of the natural “points” in the shawl that were created from the knitting. Thread both wires through the bottom point. The wires should cross at a 90-degree angle.

Step 9: See the 90-degree crisscross?

Step 10: My shawl had a crocheted bind-off, so it has a lot of extra points. I don’t have a very scientific method for pinning these smaller, less protruding points. I tend to just eye it until it looks right to me.

Step 10: Pin and stretch by eyeing it.

Step 11: Once you’re satisfied with how your shawl looks, sit back and let it dry! It takes a good 12-24 hours (sometimes longer!) for a shawl to completely dry, and you don’t want to unpin before then.

Step 11: Waiting can be so hard.

Step 12: Once the shawl is completely dry, unpin it. You should be rewarded with a beautiful piece that you’ll be proud to wear!

Step 12: Another wet-blocking success!

June 14, 2010

TNNA

Posted in knitting, work at 8:04 pm by peachknits

The National Needleworks Association: a day in pictures.

TNNA is a test on my will power. I have to refrain from running from the building, arms filled with pilfered skeins, screaming “I couldn’t help myself! It was just so soft and beautiful!”

June 11, 2010

need, not want

Posted in knitting at 12:39 pm by peachknits

I think some people I know get puzzled when I say “I need to knit.”

I mean, there’s a definite difference between what we need to do, and what we want to do. I want to go bike riding every day, but I don’t need to. I need to breathe oxygen; it’s really not a matter of want (although I want to, too!) With so many daily demands on our lives, we’re often forced to make those distinctions, and draw harsh lines. What we once felt we absolutely needed (an hour alone in the tub, that new skein of yarn) may not be so necessary. It might be because things are tight financially (I, for one, am feeling the pinch) or because we don’t have as much time as we used to.

But back to knitting, and my supposed need for it. Knitting doesn’t pay my bills (although I wish it did) or keep me warm at night (Z does that). So why do I need it?

I’m sorry to say that last week was a rough one for me and Z. Hector was very ill on Sunday night and had to be rushed to the emergency vet, where he learned he had most likely been exposed to a bug poison or other toxin, as he was bleeding profusely from his mouth or nose. However, we weren’t able to get conclusive evidence that this was the cause, so we’re still a bit on edge about it. Two vet visits, two Vitamin K shots and $600 later, and he’s just fine. Poor guy.

This, coupled with a Check Engine light coming on in my car this morning and a vacation to go on next week, and I’m a bit frazzed. What to do with these super-stressed out nerves?

Why, knit, of course.

I found myself today wishing that I were home, a friendly, familiar bamboo needle in each hand, with a cake of laceweight yarn sitting in my lap and a shawl slowly growing from it. I craved that rhythm, that simple heartbeat of loops and tucks, that combination of tension and control and mistakes and craziness and warmth and joy that makes knitting so very special, relatable, human. It made me realize that, no matter how busy, hectic or money-deprived my life becomes, I will always make room in my life for knitting. It’s what keeps me sane in all this craziness. It’s a need, not just a want.

June 3, 2010

a bit away

Posted in good news, knitting, spinning at 11:03 pm by peachknits

I apologize in advance for the long bout of radio silence. Alas, I cannot guarantee it won’t happen again, but I will try to be more diligent.

We have been busy! I moved into a new place in Ft. Mitchell, with Z and my little brother, who is 18 and graduating from high school on Friday. It hasn’t come without its own set of unique challenges. Evan tends to ball up his dirty socks and leave them inside-out in the hamper; he leaves gunked-up bowls in the sink. His diet consists chiefly of ramen and beefaroni. In short . . . he’s an 18-year-old boy.

But overall, this experiment in in-house birth control is going pretty well. We’ve had a smattering of arguments, but nothing to throw anyone out over.

What else has happened? . . .

  • I knit this:

Pattern: Owl Baby Vest
Yarn: Encore Worsted
Started: May 7, 2010
Finished: May 13, 2010

Notes: I knit this up in less than a week for a coworker who is now on maternity leave, expecting her first child. Technically, it’s the first baby item I’ve ever made; I guess this means I don’t know many babies. The Encore Worsted was okay, but it’s also 50% acrylic, and I have a vendetta against synthetics. I’m sure it will stand up well to baby drool though.

I chose green because the sex of the baby is a surprise.

  • I spun this:

This was Jacob wool, handspun woolen on my Kiwi (loooove that wheel), for my dear friend Lynne. She and I went to a wool festival in Lexington in early May, and I convinced her to buy some roving for me to spin up for her. It’s surprisingly soft and very lofty (that long draw method, you know) and still has that earthy, yummy lanolin smell. I was sorry to see it go, but I know it will be cherished.

  • I took the plunge:

After much deliberation, I finally gathered the courage to submit a quasi-proposal for a knitting book to Jenni. That’s right: a real, live knitting book, with patterns that I design myself. I pitched it to her, and got positive response. I can’t say much more right now, but come the end of July, I might have some really awesome news.

Until then, though, I’m going to chill on the couch, drink my diet cherry 7-up, and watch reruns of Futurama. Cheerios!

April 13, 2010

laceweight

Posted in knitting at 6:28 pm by peachknits

I’ve been on a laceweight kick of late. There are a lot of little bits of projects floating about my apartment, and none of them are anywhere close to being finished.

Like this:

And this:

But I’m most excited about this:

Holy geez, I’m spinning laceweight.

April 1, 2010

198 Yards of Handspun

Posted in knitting, spinning at 6:57 pm by peachknits

So…I made a shawl. Out of my handspun.

My very first handspun. That’s right.

Pattern: 198 Yards of Heaven
Yarn: my handspun!
Started: October 2009
Finished: March 24, 2010

Notes: I was a little nervous about the yardage for this shawl, since I knew I had more than 198 yards, but I also went up a needle size to accommodate the bulkiness. The yarn is a 2-ply bulky, spun on a single treadle, somewhat antique Leclerc, and yes, it is my first “real” handspun. (The other attempts don’t count, since there were only a few yards, and none of them were knitworthy.) The composition is 80% wool, 20% tussah silk that I purchased in Yellow Springs, OH at their wool festival last year. My dear friend Jenni (you can see/buy her book here) taught me how to spin. She is one of the most accomplished spinners around, and specializes in spinning cobweb-weight yarn that’s some of the most beautiful and amazing stuff I’ve ever seen.

I had a mini-meltdown with the Leclerc (which I purchased from a friend for $75) because the whorl kept flying off (as mentioned here) but now it seems to be behaving. She’s a stubborn girl, but she spins fine when she wants to. I’m going to save up for a newer spinning wheel, though, so I can spin without incidence.

March 8, 2010

a busy weekend

Posted in general, knitting at 2:28 pm by peachknits

A lot happened this weekend.

1) I finished a project on Friday that I had casted on for on Tuesday.

Pattern: Emerald Fingerless Mittens
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed
Started: March 2, 2010
Finished: March 5, 2010

Notes: These mittens flew off my needles. I was crunched for time, because the recipient’s (Lady Bear Crafts) birthday was on March 5. I was literally casting off about 30 minutes before I was supposed to meet her for birthday dinner plans.

This was a fun pattern, and the tweed gave the mitts an interesting texture. I’m not sure the bobbles are as defined as I would like them to be, but that’s probably just personal pickiness. If I were to knit these again, I’d probably choose a smoother yarn, and I’d make boobles instead of bobbles, as the author of this pattern suggests. Plus, I just like saying boobles. 🙂

2) I attended a birthday party for Rachael and saw Alice in Wonderland.

Rachael and her boyfriend Brian at Red Robin

Lady Bear Crafts (a.k.a. my friend Rachael) turned 25 on Friday night. We went to Red Robin, where I ate an uncomfortable amount of food, and then we went to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D. My consensus? It’s a fun movie, though bleaker than I would have liked, at least visually. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonam Carter are exceptional, as usual. I even liked the girl who played Alice. The plot fell a little flat, but then, I’m a harsh critic of plots. I’d say go see it, if you’d like to be reasonably entertained. It’s no epic, but it’s at least amusing and witty, and there’s plenty of insanity to go around.

3) I did the birthday thing with Mom and family.

Happy mom.

Mom’s birthday is March 10, so we decided to throw her a little impromptu birthday get-together. We ate at Cracker Barrel, then went back to the house for some awesome cake that my sister Lynleigh made.

Lynleigh is going to culinary school at Cincinnati State this summer to get her pastry chef degree. She’s already awesome at making cakes that also taste amazing. I mean, I can’t even make a cake that doesn’t lean to one side.

4) I watched the Oscars at an Oscar party.

My friends Geoff and Terry hosted an Oscar party in their beautiful home. I wish I had taken pictures. (My camera was with me, but the battery was at home, plugged into the wall.) We filled out the categories ahead of time and competed for a prize. I didn’t win, but I did get 13 out of 24 categories correct. Not bad for someone that hadn’t seen most of the movies in question.

The Hurt Locker was the big winner for the night, and I was surprised to see how much the Academy (and several celebrities) snubbed Avatar. That’s really okay, in my book. Avatar was a great visual and technologically advanced film, but it had. no. plot. None. I don’t think a movie sans plot deserves the top award our society bestows upon cinema. But that’s just me.

Some other things I learned from watching the Oscars:

  • At least one crazy thing will happen during the night. This crazy thing can vary in the degree of craziness, but it will most certainly puzzle and confuse the audience, and it will end with an awkward musical ushering of the winner(s) from the stage. This year’s craziness was the woman dressed in purple who inexplicably appeared onstage beside the winner of the short documentary award. What was she saying? Why was she up there? We may never know. (Or will we? Read this.)

When I'm an old woman, I will wear purple...and make loud, crazy-ass speeches at the Oscars.

  • There have only been 4 female directors ever nominated for Best Director, and Katheryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever accept the award. She looked absolutely stunned when she walked up there, as if she could hardly believe it. I was really happy for her. I haven’t seen The Hurt Locker, but with all of the accolades it received last night, I’m definitely planning to now.

I'd like to thank the Academy, and the cast, and my crew, and my dog....

  • Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin still got it.

Is that a banana in your Snuggie, or are you just happy to see me?

  • Holy cow, is it appropriate for me to have a crush on a gay man? Because Neil Patrick Harris has my heart after that opening act.

Wait, can I do that part over again?

  • The Oscars are still waaaaay too long. Although this year, it seemed as if they cut back on the commercials. It’s thoroughly appreciated.
  • Interpretive dance WTF?

5) I cast on for Haruni, a lace shawl.

Like I said, a busy weekend.

March 4, 2010

guess what Peach is knitting

Posted in bunny, knitting at 3:47 pm by peachknits

I’m knitting a special something for a special somebody. Can you guess what it is? (Sorry for the untrue colors . . . that’s fluorescent lighting for you!)

Hint #1:

Bobbles!

Hint #2:

Gusset!

I’ll reveal the finished project on Saturday.

Knitting has been coinciding with my mission to capture the Perfect Rabbit Picture. Attempts thus far have been mostly unsuccessful. My bunnies have camera-dar and can sense when I’m about to snap a picture; they shift or hop away at the most inconvenient time, resulting in a sub-par image.

My attempts:

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

These last two aren’t so bad:

We’re working on it.

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