« November 2005 | Main | January 2006 »

December 31, 2005

Puerrrrrrto Rrrrrrrico

I'll be out of the country till Friday, Cousteau-ing it up. The blog will pick back up by the weekend - in the meantime, I hope everyone has an outstanding start to the new year. I've got big plans for this little blog; lots of ideas and changes you'll see in the next few months - huzzah for 2006!


Well, thar she be:

Stacks of patterns 1 a and 2 b, alternating the pattern gradient direction every other row. I'm liking it, I think.

Then, too, I've tweaked the colorbox to try and help the patterns read better. The rule of thumb, I suppose, is that FI motifs must be light on dark, or dark on light for the pattern to pop - I've cut out the lightest blue (background) yarn, and have added a very deep navy, making the background color transition fairly smooth within a very dark spectrum and making the pink pattern look a bit more coherent by contrast.

Heaps of thanks to everyone who weighed in on this and on the button question. I'm thinking that I'll go with the overlapping-shoulder style described by several of you (perfect, since I detest buttonhole math) - if the garmet were laid flat, would this be about right?

December 29, 2005


Re: Joe's party - you guys are great. Thanks to the people who nominated me, and to everyone who voted...it's just a fun little bit of frivolity, but it sure is nice to know that people are enjoying this corner of the in-ter-web.

Re: the cloche - the one I felted today was an unmitigated disaster, so much so that I didn't have the heart to take a photo of it tonight. I know exactly what I did wrong, though, and will get started on another one soon - it's awful hard to play Scott and Zelda without one.

Re: the baby Fair Isle - the paper planning is DONE.

The math works out perfectly, horizontally and vertically, repeat-wise and gauge-wise, shaping-wise and armscye-wise. I need some opinions, though, from all you insightful knitters, you:

Pattern 1

(a) (b)

Pattern 2

(a) (b)

These are the two border patterns I've decided on, and the color combinations I picture them in. I want to keep the continuity going by keeping the blues background and the pinks pattern, but I'm having a tough time deciding the gradient direction. Right now, I guess I'm leaning towards 1a and 2b, but I'd love to hear your advice.

By the way, the color accuracy here is pathetic - the true colors are more like this:

(that would be number 2b).

The other issue concerns my lack of comprehensive peanut-related experience. How do people wrestle their babies into clothes? I was thinking at first that I'd do this:

with buttonholes at the left shoulder and all along the left arm, but it occurs to me that this might be cooler-looking than it is functional. Pullovers, even cool split-neck pullovers, probably aren't ideal for months 0-6, right, or at least until the kid can hold her head up on her own, yes? Would one of these make more sense?

The only options that I can think of are to have closures at the side and up a raglan seam, or to just make a cardigan (not preferred). Those of you in the know - which of these would be LEAST likely to make you roll your eyes and think, "a cluelessly childless person conceived this"?

Pun not intended.

Okay, I lied, the pun was intended.

December 28, 2005

Sweet fancy Moses...

Check this out!

All those times they tell you in school that x is not a popularity contest? Yeah, it didn't stick. I'm unreasonably, childishly, burblingly excited to have found this.


I am remiss for not posting this sooner - Yahaira sent me a gorgeous scarf early this month.

It's Cashmerino, in a delicious apple-y green. It's funny - I've been knitting for going on twenty years now, but I've never before received anything handknit. I am so in love with this thing, what with the baby-softness and the maxi length and the color and the fact that it was knitted! Just! For! Me! I've been wearing it every day - since I basically wear nothing but black and white and shades between, it's a great little bit of pop against my face.

But then, this unbelievable package came. I mean, just LOOK:

She's sent me some HPY laceweight in Polar, along with some jaw-droppingly gorgeous bamboo yarn hand-dyed in pinks and purples and cerises and crimsons. I'm boggled by its delicacy - just for yuks, I've unreeled a few inches of it next to a strand of green cobweb weight (my usual lace yarn) and a strand of pink fingering weight. Humbling, huh? I have to think long and hard about the perfect project for this - lace, of course, but something exceptionally fine and dainty, I think, with the bold colors being a saucy little wink and saving the whole effect from being too twee. Thank you so much, Yahaira!

I've been doing very little actual knitting lately - I think I'm kind of burned out from the Christmas crunch. I have, however, been working on a little hat:

In doing some seat-of-the-pants Googling to research the design, I came across a lot of interesting information (most of it apocryphal, I'm sure) about the cloche, a lot of it very Womens Studies 101 kind of stuff about burgeoning political enfranchisement and the symbolic shearing of feminizing characteristics. I'm shallow, so I'm more interested in the shifting details of a style that was popular for nearly thirty years - I think I'm going for an early twenties look, before the cloche became a truly severe skull-cap and was still a proper hat with a low, brow-skimming brim that guiltily recalled the modesty enforced by the previous century's bonnets. I know very little about millinery - I know true felt hats are draped and steamed to shape - but I believe crowns were occasionally made in pieces and decoratively seamed, particularly when it came to furs and skins. My little topper will have two columns of cascading, traveling purl lines to simulate construction seams in the (felted, brushed and clipped mohair) "fur" of the finished hat, a very deep crown, and a fairly wide, shaped brim. And flowers - oh yes, there will be flowers.

December 27, 2005


I hope everyone is having a nice holiday season, with a minimum of stress and a maximum of pastry seasonal cheer.

Me, I'm just glad it's winding down. Despite my efforts to keep things simple, everything combined always ends up being too...too, what with the booze and the sodium and the electronics and the paper and the lights and the crowds and the general atomoshpere of frenzy. I spend the last week of every year slightly dazed, as though I've just emerged from out of a particularly garish pinball machine.

Last night, that sweater coat became

a lot of very fine, somewhat fragile yarn. I was wrong when I guessed that it would be a fingering weight made of several plies - turns out it's two strands of laceweight-ish knit together. It needs to dry, and be wound, and then we'll see what we see.

To rip the coat, I used this


Courtesy of my boyfriend, who apparantly braved the uncharted and highly treacherous territory that is the knitting store in order to pick this up. It's perfect, since I don't need a ballwinder - I'm getting pretty handy with the nostepinne method - but the whole outstretched-knees-as-skein-holder thing wasn't really cutting it.

He gave me this, too:

I've been wanting this collection for a long time; there are some unbelievably beautiful patterns and motifs in here (Frost Flowers, anyone?). It's worth having for the charts alone, but the prose is charming and some real effort went into making this a coherent collection. Huzzah for wonderfully thoughtful, much-needed and much-appreciated presents!

Yesterday, I got my first (long-delayed) closeup look at the winter Interweave. This design was the only thing that caught my eye in the magazine -

but, oh, what a winner it is! I'm not crazy about the colors, but I love the concept, the shaping, the sense of geometry together with those sinuous cables that interlace and join the panels of the garment as though they grew that way. This is the sort of stuff I want to come up with - there's so little that's truly innovative when it comes to a craft as old as knitting, but man, is this a clever take on things.

Project Rundown:

--I decided Friday afternoon that I wouldn't try to finish my dad's sweater or the houndstooth clogs - a copout, maybe, but there were shrimp to be fried and temaki to be rolled in preparation for a big party. I really should learn not to bite off more than I can chew or choke down or chug.

--Some time ago, I took stalled-out projects off of the progress list. Brief obituaries follow:

  • Circular shrug: I hated the way the motifs were looking, hated the length of my rib section, was running out of yarn, and probably would not have found a shrug all that flattering (I think I was induced to cast on by the same flight of wild fancy that makes me think every May that yeah! This is the summer I can pull off one of those cute string triangle bikini tops. Yeah, no). I've been thinking lately of making a tightly shaped felt cloche, the mohair brushed up and shaved to resemble rabbit skin. Some wilting felted flowers and a droopy ribbon, and Ann Darrow'd have nothing on me.
  • Fair Isle Vest and the Fair Isle Sweater Jacket: The Fair Isle Exercise lives on, as the Fair Isle Armwarmers. The sweater jacket was poorly planned (suprise!), while the vest never really got off the ground. Until I develop an eye for color and pattern, I'll experiment with small projects.
  • Martha: Sigh. I have no excuses here, except that I got tired of knitting it. I came to dislike the Dale Stork (weird-feeling, like knitting with a full strand of embroidery floss), and dreaded the thought of stringing more beads. Maybe I'll get back to it when spring rolls around, or maybe it'll become a little baby jean-ish jacket.

Phew! Now, I just have to decide what knitting to take on vacation with me. The Austrian stockings? The baby sweater I've got to make? Those damn convertible mittens?

December 26, 2005

Baby Argyle Vest




I made this one up with only the vaguest, sketchiest plan - I ended up scribbling decrease ratios and armscye bindoffs on my arm with Sharpie as I knit. It's so cute; I wish I could eat this thing up with a spoon.

Pattern: My own
Yarn: Dale Baby Ull in colors 5755 (dark blue), 5703 (sky blue) and 0020 (cream).
Yardage: approximately 250 yds MC, <50 yds contrast colors
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 2.50mm Addi Natura bamboo circular
Gauge: 9 st/inch; 24" around chest
Modifications: --

See all entries on this project

December 25, 2005


Last night, I'm sure there were families gathered around eggnog and cider, their cheery windows squares of yellow light in the blizzard - welcoming the weary and heart-sore traveler home, home for the holidays.

Us? We had good scotch, cheese and crackers, and Bad Santa on DVD. Here's to good times with people we love, whatever we do and wherever we might be gathered. Happy holidays!

December 23, 2005


The Print O' The Wave Stole pattern is now available - click here to download the PDF!

I've proofread as carefully as I can, but please do let me know if you find an error or have suggestions for improving the pattern. Also, I haven't yet test knit the lace weight version - the numbers are fine, but the finished size and yardage are just an estimate.

I'm always ready to clarify or explain if you come across something written poorly - give a shout anytime.

Let me know if you make one, and I'll start a gallery!

***unrelated administrative note - As Elle pointed out yesterday, there seems to be a problem with search engine hits being redirected to a series of porn pop-ups. I'd love to tell you that I'm exploring career options and that it's not a problem, but it is - alas - a big pain in the ass (so to speak). It's being taken care of - my apologies to anyone who was offended.***

December 22, 2005


Yes, I let them keep the pattern. I felt like a doormat for doing so, but at some point, my principles gave way to preserving dignity. It just seemed so ugly to get into a fight, you know? Still, how frustrating that grown people can successfully use tactics that most six-year-olds can't get away with!

I've sourced another copy, and will be picking one up today, so no real damage done. We'll see if this crazy houndstooth check idea will work, and work in time for Christmas.

In the meantime, I've been putting the sleeves on my dad's sweater (remember that one?):


My main concern with this one is getting it done quickly enough to block before Sunday. I think it'll be okay if I get it done tonight or tomorrow morning.

But oh! Look at what my mom gave me last night:


It's a 100% lambswool maxi-length sweater coat, in a (lucky for me!) x-large. My mom lost a lot of weight recently, and can't wear it any more - I'd guess there are at least 3,000 yards of beautifully deep brown, fingering-weight wool here. Can't be too grouchy with something like this around.

December 21, 2005


Wow - thanks for all the wonderful feedback on the stole! I'll have the pattern up soon - I'm thinking that it would be doable at a number of gauges, like cobweb for a delicate neckpiece, laceweight for a proper shawl, or even fingering for a wide, long scarf. It would also be a good primer, too, for anyone who wants to learn some traditional shawl construction methods: grafting, picking up stitches to work a border, and knitting on a perpendicular edging (thus eliminating a constricting bindoff row) are all covered. It's coming soon!

In the meantime, bitch bitch bitch. I went to the store today, to pick up a copy of the Fiber Trends felted clog pattern - I bought a copy years ago, but seem to have lost half of it. I'd gotten some great colors of Lamb's Pride Worsted yesterday:


to make a pair for Jeff's dad in a houndstooth check, letting the Fair Isle stranding take care of the double-thickness requirement. Anyway, so I went in the shop (I'd called around, and this shop - not my usual - was the only one that had it), poked around for the pattern, and finally found a copy buried in the middle of their sock binder. I was turning towards the register, when I heard a woman exclaim, "Oh! That's the pattern I came in for!"

Of course, it was the only copy they had left. I had no intention of giving it up - I was there first - but this woman started moaning about how she was only in town for a month(!), couldn't pick up a copy anytime like I could, was going to Japan, blah blah blah sobstorycakes.

I mentioned that Fiber Trends published a very similar felted slipper pattern, of which there were many in stock, and that we could perhaps compare them to see if it was just a reprinting of the same pattern or easily adaptable. Her husband basically knocked me out of the way and grabbed the pattern out of my hand to compare, as though he didn't trust me - when the yardages proved to be different, he started glaring at me as though I'd tried to decieve them. It was such an awkward situation; I clearly didn't want to give my copy to her, but she either failed to take the hint or was just knowingly putting the screws to me in a busy shop full of people, escalating in volume and hysteria until I finally just told them to keep it.

The Husband, with the most provoking air of condescending generosity, offered to make a photocopy for me. He said it right in front of the store owner, who was understandably peeved, and got more annoyed when he cut her off with an "I'm not talking to you." I demurred, he pressed, she got angry, and they got into a bit of an argument over copyright law while the Wife told me that I could buy a copy when some more came in, and that she really needed it a lot more than I did.

I wouldn't have really cared if they hadn't been so aggresively obnoxious. Apparantly, boorish is the new macho, and shameless is the new gracious. I must have missed the memo...or maybe this is just a cosmic hint for me to clean my house.

Bah. There's knitting to be done! There's a baby I forgot about - he's getting a little argyle vest, made out of the stash:


December 20, 2005

Print O' The Wave Stole




I wish I were a better photographer, and could properly express the delicacy of this piece - we're getting dangerously close to true gossamer, here. The way it drapes and ripples is amazing: a breath runs through it when stepping into a current of wam air; it continues floating for a moment after the wearer stops moving.

Pattern: My own (free PDF available this week!)
Yarn: Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro, in color 60 (teal)
Yardage: approximately 600-700 yards
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 1.75mm (US00) Susan Bates Silvalume DPNs
Gauge: 18" x 60" finished dimensions
Modifications: --

See all entries on this project


December 19, 2005


Thanks for the gift-giving solutions! I think I'll take your collective advice, and give each shawl to its original recipient. And then make my escape as quickly as possible :)

A quick throwaway post- there's so much going on. I know everyone rolled their eyes when I started hyperventilating about the Austrian Knee Socks - there Eunny goes again, with her swooning and her hyperbole and her lust-at-first sight. Not so, friends. Once again: they are the alpha and the omega of handknit socks.

Still doubt me?


Edit: I see Jody has left a thoughtful comment about Heirloom Knitting to yesterday's entry. I agree with her sentiments - I absolutely believe in paying for quality, and the book (which I've gotten a chance to flip through) certainly is that. I think the confusion came because I thought it was priced at 32 pounds - still, as she says, that would be the price equivalent of buying two lighter tomes but worth a whole lot more. I think mine was just a knee-jerk reaction to a sum I'm not used to seeing next to my Interweave Press softcovers, but wouldn't blink at dropping on yarn or needles...definitely some interesting food for thought.

December 18, 2005


Thanks for the nice feedback on the dyeing entry, guys - I'm glad you enjoyed it!

(A bit of administrivia - I usually reply by email to every comment with an address, but my mail has been acting wonky for a couple days now, trashing some auto notices and marking others as junk. I'll get it straightened out soon.)

On to knitting - what do you think?

I scrapped the idea for the English lace edging, and instead went with this slightly elaborated version of the central pattern. I can't decide if I like it or hate it - there's only the slightest of inner borders, one YO row and three plain, because the math for the edging worked out perfectly that way, and I have some persnickety issues with the edging itself (like, the center was painstakingly grafted to make the "waves" run in specific directions, but the edging will be continuous; and the relative size of the edging and center waves sort of bothers me).

This is an interesting process - I was really, deeply invested in picking out the perfect edging for this lace, not least because I'd complained so heartily before about incoherent patterns. It would have helped to have had more resources my disposal (the outrageously priced, wont-pay-that-on-principle Heirloom Knitting remains an object of secret deep-seated lust), but I think the real reason for my angst was (as usual!) a lack of planning before I started. Did I want a modern, simple rectangle? I should have worked a garter stitch border in one piece with the center. Did I want a shawl worked in the traditional Shetland method? I really should have picked all the motifs and done the math before I started. As it was, there were a lot of moments where I had to just shrug and go with something.

Still, the organic process here was, at the least, pretty absorbing. Pick up stitches! Choose an edging! Will they work together? Only long division will tell! Go ahead, do it, I dare you!

Who says knitting isn't an Xtreme sport? We should have our own Mountain Dew commercial.

On another note:

Remember these? Would it be unforgivably tacky of me to stick the three of them in one box addressed to my mom, grandmother and aunt? We'll all be together on Christmas, and I have absolutely no desire to go through the inevitable gift-autopsy (you know...how much care/time/effort/money went into this? How much went into yours?) that will happen if I assign shawls to women. Better to let the three of them puzzle it out - the post-mortem will go on as usual, but I thankfully won't be a part of it. Opinions?

December 16, 2005

Techniques: Self-striping yarn

As a novitiate in the Order of Kool-Aid Dyeing, I've been having a lot of fun making self-striping yarn. My method (which, I should warn you, is fraught with shortcuts and awkward work-arounds) follows. I can't stress enough that I'm new at this - all this is old-hat to many of you, I'm sure, but I thought it would be interesting to document it.

Step 1

Pick a yarn. All my dyeing thus far has been superwash wool (Dale Baby Ull, to be precise), which takes dye thirstily. I'm told that Merino, like Knitpicks Color Your Own works very well, too, but any animal fiber should be fun to experiment with. This sloppy, low-maintenance girl just can't bear the thought of handwash-only socks, is all.

Step 2

Once you've got a yarn, you need to determine how much yarn will go into each row of your piece. I've been working with a pattern in mind - Grumperina's Jaywalkers, which show off stripes beautifully - but you could also use an all-purpose number derived from a basic pattern to make stash yarn.

Cast on, mark the starting point of your working yarn (don't include the caston row) with permanent marker, and knit a few rows. The most accurate measure, I think, comes from working several rows and then taking the average length, particularly with a patterned fabric. Mark your end point, and frog.

Fold the frogged length into the number of rows you knit, and measure:

Don't worry too much about pulling the kinky yarn perfectly straight - just lay it out and take the measurement. With this pattern, I got about 32" of yarn in each row.

Step 3

Now, you need to do a little math.


Come up with the stripe sequence you want - I'm going with six rows of dark red, two of dark pink, three of light pink (undyed), and two more of dark pink, for a total of 13 rows in each stripe repeat. Multiplying by the number of inches per row, each stripe repeat will take up 416" (13 x 32"), broken into a 192" (6 x 32") run of deep red, a 64" (2 x 32") run of dark pink, a 96" (3 x 32") run of light pink, and one more 64" (2 x 32") run of dark pink.

Note: I think stripes of at least two rows are the most visually coherent - a stripe of just one row is impossible to match joglessly, and any overlap is immediately obvious. Overlaps or gaps in stripes are harder to see when the stripe is a little wider.

Step 4

Now, you need to wind off a skein 416" in circumference. Each 416" loop will create one stripe repeat. You could use a warping board, or go the low-tech route with two lamps set 208" apart.

Step 5

Tie the skein with some waste acrylic or cotton every 18-24" or so to keep the loop intact and prevent tangling, and then mark your color divisions. Measure out the sections you came up with earlier, and tie them off with a different color of waste yarn.

Step 6

Now, soak the skein in cool water with a dribble of wool wash:

while you mix the pots of color. I'm going with a deep red (4 packets Black Cherry, sprinkle Cherry), a deep pink (2 packets Cherry), and a light pink (the starting color of the yarn).

Step 7

Now, dye your yarn as usual - I mix the color with cold water, add the yarn sections, and then turn on the heat. The magic seems to happen faster that way - and if you were working with non-superwash yarn, there wouldn't be any concerns about temperature shock and resulting felting.

Superwash provides one more benefit - you can stir without fear. Let the placenta - I mean wool - sit just under a boil until the solution is exhausted.

Step 8

Let the pots cool, rinse your yarn

and hang it to dry.

Step 9

Now, wind off your dyed, dry yarn into a more manageable hank (I don't have a niddy noddy, so I wind around my arm).

You can make a pretty skein by holding the hank stretched on your index fingers, twisting the right end, and tucking the two end loops together. The twisted hank should double back on itself to form a neat, compact little smugworthy spiral:

Step 9

Enjoy your delicious stripey goodness. If I were the kind of person who named her craft supplies, I don't think I could help but dub this "Let Me Call You Sweet Tart." Not that I'm the kind of person who would do that. Or would secretly think it. Or anything like that.

Extra reading:

Diana's great tutorial
Knitty's Kool-Aid dyeing guide

December 15, 2005


Is it possible for knitting to become a form of self-flagellation? A couple days ago, I realized that I would probably make my Christmas deadlines. I started wearing a poncho of unflappable serenity, calm in the knowledge that I'd be able to gorge out on cookies and eggnog without gift guilt, comfortably smug and satisfied by my foresight and timing.

So what did I do? I started another project, of course, and started the cycle of what-was-I-thinking, how-am-I-going-to-get-this-done panic all over again. Without climbing too deep into my belly button, wtf? Is there a name for this kind of pathology - lack of willpower as a tool to further self-hatred?

Or maybe, the project is just very pretty and I think knitting it is a lot of fun.


Austrian-Patterned Knee Socks from the Knitter's Magazine book Socks, Socks Socks. They are the socks of my dreams - all my thoughts of kilt hose, of fireside-knit woolens, of silk stockings presented to the Queen, begin and end with these, covered in patterns made of intricate twisted-stitch lines that cross and recross and swoop about to form the knitted equivalent of filigree.

They are the alpha and the omega of handknit socks.

I'm going to do them thigh-high, with an eyelet row inside the knitted hem for threading an elastic band. Unfortunately, the yarn I started with - my all-purpose Baby Ull - couldn't be more unsuited to the single cable crosses and very fine (9 st/inch on US0s) gauge: first, it's superwash-slippery, merrily falling out of pinched-for-cabling stitches; second, it's rather loosely twisted, prone to splitting and not conducive to showing off the stitches. What I need is a tightly spun, firm fingering-weight wool.

In case you can't tell, I'm twisting my own arm over here.

December 14, 2005


I'm working on putting together a little tutorial on how I calculated the stripes and dyed the yarn (for those who asked - it's not sock yarn per se, but rather, just Dale Baby Ull, a superwash fingering wool. The superwash drinks up the Kool Aid smashingly well)...but in the meantime:


Yankee navy blue: 3 packets Grape, three packets Berry Blue, sprinkle Orange.

December 13, 2005

Mumble mumble

Those virgins I sacrificed last night must have done the job:

It is not absolutely perfect - the pattern is asymmetrical, so mirror images will never quite perfectly match up at any point in the repeat. Therefore, the seam (or, I should say, the location of the seam) is quite obvious, consistent or carefully worked though the tension may be.

It's not awful, though, and anyway is impossible to fix without starting over or busting out a pair of scissors, so it's going to stay. Lazy? Yes. Twelve days until Christmas? Yes.

The scarf is a pinned 40" x 10" right now, and will probably grow an inch more in both directions when blocked. With edging, final measurements will be something like 45" x 15" - a nice lace piece to go once around the neck and gather with a pretty pin, or to tuck into a coat collar.

It seems a very real possibility that all my Christmas plans will come to fruition. Brave last words, I know...

Meantime, my Kool-Aid yarn is striping sort of spectacularly (it was sheer beginner's luck, so I'm not self-tooting too much):

But I can't get over how bright the colors are, particularly when compared to the colors in the skein:

I was going for a beach feel, Derek Walcott's bleached sand and sky and sun. It looked right in the skein, but knitting it up turns the sand color orange and the blue more intense by contrast. I should have thought of all this - the color wheel is tucked away somewhere in my brain, I'm sure, covered in an inch of dust - but now I'm thinking that I still like it. It even still feels sort of island-y.

Finally, I've come to the conclusion that this is the absolute ideal pattern for working with a self-striping yarn. The diagonal lines hide the joins amazingly well:

So clever. I'm just so endlessly amused by these - I could see myself with enough new socks in different dyeing experiment colors for every day of the week.

December 12, 2005


Grafting is, I think, a revenge exacted by forces mysterious for knitting sins unknown. How else could the perspiration, the lip-biting, the mortal dread be explained?

I don't think there's any way around it this time. Look:

It would be a nice touch to have the waves flow down from the shoulders on either side. Since the halves are worked from the outer edge in, the only other way to join them would be three-needle bindoff, which would be bulky and obvious. Grafting should produce a flat, seamless fabric, if I do it correctly, and get my tension right, and don't pull out my hair in fistfuls or commit seppuku on a DPN.

On a happier note, I think I've found the solution to my edging woes. How about a variant on this, worked as an edging around a YO row or two? It would create a straight frame for the center panel, without peaks or points. I think it might look quite modern...

Steph - these photos show you what I did to dye seperate colors:

Basically, I tied off sections I wanted colored, and just dyed them in seperate pots of color. It's not any harder or more time-consuming than doing a single color, really, especially if you use a method like Diana's with mason jars in one pot - that way, you can do them all at once instead of having to wait between dyes. It could be a fun project with your son, mixing and combining colors.

Eek - I'm not sure what colors I used, exactly. My documentation for this project was really shoddy...I think it was something like

Blue - 3 packets Berry Blue, 1 packet Lemonade, sprinkle Grape
Sand - 3 or 4 packets Lemonade, sprinkle Black Cherry, sprinkle Berry Blue, sprinkle Lemon Lime
Orange - 1 packet Orange, 1 packet Black Cherry, 1 or 2 packets Lemonade. Half this solution was poured out to reduce the saturation of the color.

My regular grocery store is attached to the shopping center of a retirement community - I must say, their Kool-Aid section was woefully lacking. Where were my X-Treme FlavR Twistz? Where were my Kool Aid Tinglers? Clearly, our senior citizens are missing out on all the fun.

December 11, 2005


This Kool Aid dyeing business is a lot of fun.

Enough (hopefully) self-striping superwash to make another pair of Jaywalkers.

December 09, 2005


Baby Fair Isle colors:

We'll see how all this works out.

And don't think that I haven't been busy working on other things -

That's the first 17 repeats of the Print O' The Wave scarf, stretched for a little mid-morning preen. I love the fabric, I love the lacyness, I love the pattern - it is, however, a bit shorter than I expected. 20 inches for 17 repeats, when it should be at least 22"...there's some thinking that has to be done here. I've been obsessing over border and edging choices, like staring-at-the-ceiling-before-falling-asleep and dreaming-violent-dreams-involving-YOs-and-tatting-shuttles kind of obsessing, with the result of wishing that I'd just started with a plain garter stitch border and worked it straight.

Ah, well. The original plan has been slightly modified to include 20 or 25 repeats (depending on whether the length is livable), working the other half, grafting them so the waves flow away and down from the shoulders on either side, picking up the border and working it, and finally knitting on the edging. I'm thinking of a very simple frame of lace mesh for the border (is that the right way to describe it? You know, like where every other row is just "YO, k2tog, YO, k2tog" and it makes a fishnet kind of thing) and then a variant on English lace for the edging.

The thing is, I want the edging and the border to be unobtrusive (the better to showcase the center panel), but not so blunt and plain that they appear incongrous or - worst of all - clumsy and thoughtless. I'm worried, too, about the shape of the thing - am I knitting a scarf, which should be quite long, or a stole, which is wider and may possibly be okay being a bit shorter, or a little neckwarmer piece like the Fiddlesticks Whisper Scarves? Gah! Let the hand-wringing begin.

December 08, 2005


I'm overwhelmed by the number of sweet comments on the bag - thank you! A (spottily) illustrated guide to finishing a bag the way I did follows:

Instead of knitting the side panels straight, I decreased to make a sharply sloping piece - I picked up the directed number of stitches, and decreased one at either edge on the fifth row and every fourth row thereafter for 61 rows. I did knit a hem of five rows, and sewed it down.

After felting, I blocked the piece over a padded portfolio that happened to be just the right size and shape. The first time (pictured above), I didn't get everything perfectly, and ended up reblocking it later to straighten seams and pull out irregularities. For such a structured bag, it's worth it to get the shape exactly right.

I cut four pieces of heaviest-duty craft interfacing

and quickly whipstitched them into place.

Then, you need one of these things - a spring punch fitted with a 1/16" (00) tip - to make holes that run the entire length of a 72-inch leather strap.

I sourced the strap and the tools from Tandy Leather, a huge retailer with lots of stores as well as an enormous mail-order and internet operation. The troll-ish little man who sold me my wares tried to insist that I also purchase a groover, for marking the stitching line, as well as an overstitch wheel for marking the hole locations, but I (apparantly) commited leatherwork heresy and just eyeballed it for the short length I had to do.

The strap itself is just a 3/4" (that's the width of the buckle it takes; the actual strap is about an eighth of an inch narrower) strip of 6-ounce latigo leather. Punching the holes is really easy (and strangely satisfying), though it certainly takes time.

I sewed the two ends together to make one long loop, laid it out this way:

and put the bag on top, to get an idea of where the handles should begin and end, where the straps would turn the corners, and where the feet should go.

I psuedo-rolled the portions I'd marked off as handles:

Rolled handles are typically done with MUCH thinner hide, wrapped around a core of cotton piping or the like and sewn with a machine. I just saddle-stitched the two sides together, pulled as tightly as I could, and forced the center into a round shape. It would have been a lot easier with a clamp of some kind, but I rigged up a system with a pair of pliers and rags wrapped around my hands to protect them from the waxed linen thread. It worked tolerably well, even if I did look like some kind of deranged, leprous little match girl.

Here's the hardware I used:

Two-part magnetic clasps from JoAnn, and nickel 1/4" round spots from Tandy. Both are the simple-installation type with prongs that just need to be inserted into two tiny slits and bent over to secure.

I attached four spots for feet in the places I'd measured, and sewed the strap to the bag body using a simple backstitch. I basted in a guide of contrast thread, first, in the exact place I wanted the outside edge of the strap to run:

To sew through the interfacing without resorting to a pair of pliers, you really need a glover's needle, or some other kind of needle with a sharp, wide point. During strap installation, I tried to focus on the consistency of my stitches - I wanted to pull the thread tightly enough that it sunk into the leather a little, but not enough to pucker it or the felt. Even with concentration, I found that the bag was a little shorter along the sewing line - about 1/4" - than anywhere else. That was fine - just sturdier, as far as I was concerned - but I did make a point to sew in the same direction (bottom midpoint to top edge) for all eight seams (two for each strap), to keep any and all gathering going in the same direction rather than pulling in opposition.

This is the inside of the bag after it was done:

Now, I'd originally intended to add interfacing just once - the point was to give stiffness to the felt and to make it a little tougher for seaming - but I found that the felt kind of rippled and puckered where things had been pulled slightly out of joint by my imperfectly tensioned sewing. I cut out the interfacing on the wide panels, leaving only the strips where it was sewn into place, and added new, better fitting panels.

I made my closing flap, and put in my magnets:

The flap (not pictured) was made of a small piece felted along with the bag - fifteen stitches wide by thirty or so rows, worked with two stitches of moss stitch at either edge to prevent curling. I took a snip of lining fabric, wrapped it around a piece of interfacing cut to be just a little smaller than the felt, and installed the male magnet to it. Then, the piece was machine-sewn to the felt rectangle, and the whole thing backstitched to the back of the bag with more waxed linen.

Almost done now! I'd skipped the bottom facing, so I made a cardboard bottom insert with a piece of extra-heavy chipboard, cut just large enough that it would fit tightly into the bottom. I covered it with interfacing:

And stuck it in. It was amazing, how it seemed to square everything that was a little bit cockeyed, and made the whole thing seem straighter and more solid all at once.

I figured out the shape of my lining:

Cut all my pieces:

Made a zippered pocket with the help of this clever little tutorial, and whipstitched the completed lining to the bag. It's kind of a clumsy solution, but I didn't see any other way to do it. The thread sinks into the felt, and closely matches the lining fabric, so it's not too clumsy. The lining is a little bit too big in the bottom (enough to bunch a bit in the corners), but it fits absolutely perfectly at the top, so I'm happy.

Things I learned from this project:

  • I loathe pictoral intarsia. Blocks of color are fine - even argyle patterns can be fun - but I hate, despise, abhor this garbage about cutting a new length for three stupid stitches five over from a block of the same color; I dislike not being able to easily estimate how much thread you need; I detest the general sloppy and imprecise nature of it. I would never do a project like this that wasn't felted to hide gauge problems.
  • working with leather is probably a lot of fun...if you have the right tools. Then again, working with leather probably isn't ALL that much fun, judging from the staff at the store - hotboxing Bronco 120s inside a teeny, cramped, stuffy little storefront and laughing immoderately at the poor guy who sliced his hand up trying to follow their instructions
  • sewing is not for clumsy people; neither is ironing

It was worth it, though. I think.

Oh - I'd forgotten - I received my invitation for the shower that the Baby Fair Isle was meant for. I've learned a lot about Fair Isle since I stopped working on it, and the sloppy math of the original design kind of annoys me now - no big deal, right? I'll refine it, and be glad that there isn't much actual knitting involved. Except, uh, the shower's on the seventh of January, and I get back from a week of diving in Puerto Rico late on the sixth. Crap! Preemptive yarn-ing today, and hopefully I can get it done in the week after Christmas.

December 07, 2005

Floral Felted Bag




I am really proud of this one.

Pattern: Floral Felted Bag, by Nicky Epstein for Interweave Knits fall 2004
Yarn: N.Y. Wool (Korean) Fine Wool merino in chocolate brown and cream
Yardage: Approximately 300 yards main color, 150 yards contrast
Yarn Source: Gift
Needles: 4.5mm (US7) Crystal Palace bamboo circular
Gauge: 14st/4" before felting; 18.5st/4" after felting
Modifications: DK weight merino substituted for Jamieson & Smith Double Knitting; two colors used instead of seven; side panels narrowed instead of pleated; leather cargo-style handles used instead of twisted, felted icord; purse feet and magnetic closure added; backed with heavy-duty interfacing and cardboard bottom insert; lining with zippered pocket added.

This was an adventure for sure. It's not perfect - one of the handles is a bit wonky, and my sewing leaves a lot to be desired - but I hope the overall effect is "carefully handcrafted" rather than "shoddily homemade".

See all entries on this project

December 06, 2005

Fever pitch

December 05, 2005

Two steps back

Thanks, you guys, for the rooting you're doing for the felted bag. Will it keep for a couple days? I ripped everything I'd done and reblocked the bag last night:

Before, it looked fine - even on close inspection - but it just wasn't even. Blocking it over a form made the shape right, but the seams kind of wandered, and it was annoying to sew the straps on and feel like I was fudging for symmetry's sake. Besides, I think I ironed the wrong side of the interfacing - rather than staying patiently put, it was flapping and flopping around every time I moved the bag. I picked up some more interfacing, and the bag has been pinned to painstakingly precise right angles.

Are you getting the feeling yet that I maybe didn't plan this out very well? You would be right. Observe:

That's the reverse of the latigo saddle straps I'm using here. Ugly - that's the, uh, cow side of the skin. The body of the bag covered it up, of course, on the strap portions, but I didn't have a plan for the handle part - I tried lining it with the pink shantung, with mixed (pretty, but irredeemably wrinkly) success. I thought about lining it with another strip of leather, but that might have made it too thick.


What do all of my handbags do for leather straps? Why did it take me so long to figure out what to do? Bah. It does look pretty though, very finished and polished. There won't be any buckles on these straps - turns out that sewing them in would be way beyond my skills or patience - and this treatment will polish the look, I think, just as well as hardware would have done.

So, two steps back. Still, it's not a total loss. I went shopping last night and am now armed with everything else I need: zippers, magnetic clasps, feet, glover's needles, a thimble(!) - and most importantly, the beginnings of a glimmering of a clue as to what I'm doing. Bring it.

December 04, 2005

Anyone have a thimble?

1/4 done.

December 03, 2005

Christmas Spirit

I started the Print O' The Wave Scarf last night.

It took a long time before I could figure out a way to even up the edges - though the number of YOs and compensating decreases matched, the pattern kept migrating one stitch to the left with every row. After trying umpteen different things, I finally settled on adding another half repeat on either side - this seems to work fine, though it feels clunky and inelegant. However, the wonderful website that Jody referred me to (thanks!) had a couple of very similar patterns. They seem to incorporate the same idea behind their edge treatments, so I'm not going to obsess over it too much.

After all, there are always other dubious choices to be tormented by. Take, for example, my working needles:

That's a dime, friends, included for scale next to 1.75mm (US00) needles. Madness, you say? Wait till you hear this: I had four repeats done on 1.5mm (US000) needles, before I frogged and started over with the larger (hah!) ones. It all came down to the pattern - this lace looks better with every additional repeat; the pattern seems to pop and create this interesting ripple illusion when several of the "wave" columns are lined up. I definitely wanted at least four repeats - but done on US2 or 3 needles, the piece was a) huge, and b) sloppy-looking. That ruined the greatest charm of the stitch, which for me lies in the way very crisp, sharply delineated shapes successfully describe a rolling, wavey subject. I tried the smallest needles I had - the 000s - and was knitting merrily away when I realized I didn't like the fabric they formed. 000s are really for gossamer-weight thread, I suppose, and the lace was stiff enough that I had my doubts about how much blocking would relax it. So, then, on to the US00s it went, and we seem to have struck the right balance between crisp and lacy.

The only problem is, am I going to get this sucker done in time? Each repeat will give me about 1.25 blocked inches. I want this thing to be at least 54" long. Given 1.5 inches each of edging and inner border (a YO row and maybe a couple bead stitch rows), the central panel must be 48", or about 38.5 repeats.

Yikes! Leaving time to do the border and edging, I would need to knit at least three repeats a day. Can I do it? I still have a gansey to put sleeves on, the bag to finish, and at least three pairs of slippers to felt.


December 02, 2005

Up Up and Away

Floral Felted Bag

Last night marked the launch of The Great Felted Bag Adventure. I've never before done a sewing project like this, with fiddly construction and steps that must be planned in a logical order - when I do sit down at the machine, it's usually accompanied by swearing when I realize I should have attached the zipper before sewing the cushion in, or throwing the whole thing down in disgust when the thread somehow gets tangled around the presser, or insisting on complete silence as I meditate on the nature of the adjustment knobs and the mysterious forces they control behind a veil I cannot seem to penetrate.

Point? Oh, yes - I suck at sewing, but I really want the bag to be beautiful and functional, and am therefore dubbing this A Learning Experience. The construction and little mechanical details are proving to be sort of fascinating - everything flows in a logical progression, and you're forced to think about exactly what you're doing, and what comes next. I thought I could finish the interior of the bag and slap on handles later - but no, I'll want to do that before putting the lining in to mask the handle stitches - etc. etc. etc.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to do that cool extended-entry thing, and so am forced to subject y'all to witnessing the trainwreck/success story that lies ahead in The Great Felted Bag Adventure. Advice is freely and eagerly welcomed at all times.

(By the way - thank you so much for 1) the sweet comments about the bag, and 2) the excellent suggestions for notion sources. I'm actually going to head up to Baltimore this weekend to the Tandy store up there, for some discussion and possible decision-making)

So last night, I picked up some nubbly, rich shantung for lining,

with only a little bit of agony in the store. There was some cute pink pinstriped cotton, too, that would have made a witty little juxtaposition with the fuzzy jacquard, but would have instantly made the bag a very casual item - this (manmade) shantung has the right kind of heavy richness to go with the "parlor carpet" feeling we seem to have going.

I also backed the piece with some heavy-duty interfacing (seriously, this stuff feels like posterboard), hand-sewn in place and then ironed.

Once I got the hang of only picking up half the thickness of the felt, it was a breeze (though I started to wish I owned a thimble). The lining will look quite pretty, I think:

I've started to give some serious thought to handle attachment. What do you guys think of straps that run all the way around the body of the purse, buckled at the top to the handles?

It would obscure some of the flowers, but I think it might give it a tailored luggage sort of look.

Hardware and leather scouting are on the schedule for today - stay tuned!

Print O' The Wave Scarf

I'd almost forgotten about this project! To refresh all our memories, I'd intended a scarf out of some ocean-colored cobweb weight in a print o' the wave pattern. I had a hell of a time trying to find the lace chart - it is, supposedly, one of the oldest Shetland lace patterns, but it doesn't seem to have found its way into stitch dictionaries or the like. I could have purchased any number of patterns that encorporate the motif, but my stubborn streak reared its muley head - why should I pay $9.95 for a shawl pattern that leaves me cold, when this stitch was, in theory, handed down through generations without a chart? I could totally figure it out.

And holy crap, I did. I puzzled over different representations of the pattern, made the straightforward and unchanging YO zigzags my starting point, and went to town.

It worked! I can't believe it worked! There's some wonky stuff going on along the edges, where the stitch count seems to change every other row, but that's probably easily fixed. The fingers, too, could easily be made wider, I think.

I really don't know how lace designers do it. Charting this simple, ancient motif was pretty much blood squeezed from the stone that is me.

December 01, 2005


It actually worked. I can't help but feel a bit smug - it's just so damn pretty.



It shrunk from 19" x 9" x 7" deep to 15" x 7" x 5" deep. The fabric is wonderfully firm and dense, and my lazy end-finishing (that is to say, none at all) seems to have been completely masked. Just as everyone else who's made this found, the suggested hand-felting instructions are total bullocks; it took two cycles in the wash for the magic to happen.

I blocked it on a padded portfolio pilfered from a long-ago conference, bent and folded to accomodate the flare of the sides:

It needed some rather aggressive pulling and shaping and pinning to even everything up, but it seems to have resulted in a perfectly flat, smooth, heavy-but-drapey felt. Backed with interfacing, it'll be perfect.

Lining shopping today, and then some investigation into sources for some of the hardware I need (hint: Googling "leather straps" does NOT give you purse and handbag supplies, gah).

While the wash ran, I gave some more attention to The Fair Isle Project. I've come up with a pattern:

based on a jumper in the Shetland Museum:

I am completely besotted by this sweater, totally and wholly in love with it. I've taken some of the motifs from it, and am planning to work them as shaded bands of dark-pattern-on-light-background on a natural white canvas, punctuated with threads of currant red for a little visual wink. The yarn is wound:

and swatching has begun:

That edge is the product of cutting a tubular swatch. They're telling you the truth - it won't unravel. Could it be a real possibility to scissor gaily away into an unreinforced sweater, without madness or a mind otherwise diseased? The idea is starting to flirt rather dangerously with my brain.