Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas is Coming

It's the holiday season and gift exchanges are done for me.  The hardest one's are with my crafty friends.  Things exchanged are usually handmade and well, the talent and creativity it just endless.  I struggle to make something worthwhile.  Thankfully they have been well received so I can now present them here!

First up: Beaded Mitts off my Sock Machine

Yes!  I actually cranked these out on my 2007 NZAK using a 60 needle compound cylinder.  A compound cylinder is 1" smaller in diameter so it works perfectly for ladies mitts.  The pattern for the motif is available in Socks & More, but I used a different cuff and top from CSM Cafe.  These are csm pattern books that I'm really enjoying using.

Next up:  Heel Pin Cushion


These can be made with 3, 4 or more heels and on any size cylinder depending on the size pincushion you want.  It's clever I know but *I* didn't unvent it. There isn't a pattern available that I can reference, but details and original source are documented in my Ravelry.  This one was my "trial and error", after that I cranked out a bunch, they are very addicting to make.

It's strange.  Usually when I handknit something I don't knit it again.  There are exceptions, but they are rare.  Not so with the sock machine.  I find the instant gratification makes it satisfying and really, the more you make the same item the better you get (hand or machine).  I only made one pair of the mitts but there's a "test mitt" without a mate lying in a pile somewhere.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Fall Back!

This is what I did with my extra hour.
I finished my 7th pair of socks on my csm (circular sock machine) and decided to try a different yarn. I had been practicing with the same yarn and pattern with the last 6 pairs. Since I only had half a skein of Austermann Step (leftover from hand knitting mitts) I decided to try short socks. My daughters like these to wear with their converse. Here's the first pair I made, don't mind my dog Elsa, she's used to this:

This is also the first time I knit the socks one after another, this is how they look on the machine after the last toe.  I knit my socks cuff down and kitchener the toes closed.
 And here they are fresh off the machine:
Lindsey came home after I had finished these and immediately wanted a pair. She proceeded to the sock yarn basket and picked out a skein of turquoise Opal.  With the extra hour I had, I was able to start and finish the pair before the evening was over.

For those with a sock machine I've recorded the recipe here.

So, what did you do with your extra hour?

CSM Sock Tally: 9 pairs

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

EZ as pi

Ever have one of those days?

Why are these things so flimsy?  Am I suppose to buy new headphones when this happens?  Order replacement covers, only to have them rip again?  And from where?

Being ever the pragmatic one I thought I could do better if I just made them myself.  It sounded good in my head.  I searched Ravelry for patterns and found only crocheted ones.  I could crochet, but...hmm, think. All I had to do was knit a circle...and when it's big enough, stop.  But how many stitches do I start with?  And when do I increase?  Well, EZ, that's Elizabeth Zimmermann, had the answers, and I provided a few of my own.

EZ as pi Headphone Covers

leftover sock yarn, you really don't need much. 
2 hair bands
1 set of dpn's size US 1 (or whatever method you use to knit in the round)

Cast on 9 stitches using Emily Ocker's Circular Beginning (if you don't have Knitter's Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann, shame on you, both the pi shawl, from which this pattern is heavily borrowed, and this cast on is described in that book)

Round 1 knit.
Round 2 (increase row) knit into the front and back of each stitch, 18 stitches
Knit 3 rounds
Round 6 (increase row) see Round 2, 36 sts
Knit 6 rounds
Round 13 (increase row, do you see a pattern here?)
Knit until it's big enough (I did 3 more rounds, if you need to knit more than 12 rounds, you'll have to do another increase row).

Cast off over a hair band, like this:

That is, holding the hair band behind your knitting, when casting off alternate pulling the yarn through the inside (make a stitch, cast it off) then over the outside of the hair band (make a stitch, cast it off) thus wrapping your cast off around it.  I know! I thought of that all by myself!

Here's a youtube video of the cast off -- sorry no audio, I'll work on that.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Practice, Practice, Practice

Before the first sock, there were

Eight heels, one after another.


and set of armwarmers.


Afterwards, it's mate.


A setup bonnet and another sock.


Then it's mate.


And another.


And another.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

I did it! I cranked out a sock!

3 years and 10 sock machines later I finally cranked out one sock (not even a pair).  Here it is unfinished, fresh off the machine:


I don't really have an explanation for why it took so long.  I was pretty fascinated with the machines themselves and maybe that served as a distraction.  It's also not as easy as it looks.  There are lots of things to keep track of.  There are stitches that drop, ribber timing, tension, how to start, when to switch from 1-1 ribbing to 3-1, how long to do the leg, the heel, how long for the foot, the toe, and generally being able to fix whatever goes wrong -- and believe me there's plenty.  But here it is the first sock.  Modeled by my daughter below:


she's doing a little happy dance


So which machine did I use? I've got a cast of characters and named each from Phantom of the Opera. There's Christine the 2007 NZAK, Buquet a Verdun 47, there are the two Legare 400s Firmin and Andre, the large Legare Piangi, the Gearhart Madame Giry, the Canadian AK Meg, the Verdun Semi-Automatic Raoul, and of course the English AK the Phantom itself. That's nine. Recently I acquired this beauty:


A top of the line, NZAK Mark IV. It's the cadillac of all machines, with steel inserts, brass stoppers, she's a marvel, and my Carlotta.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Will work for yarn

IMG_3650 by theblairgirls
IMG_3650, a photo by theblairgirls on Flickr.

The Golden Fleece shop in Santa Cruz had a grand re-opening celebrating it's new ownership and invited Handwerks, the yarn company I do design work for, to do a trunk show.  I came along to help.  The day was soggy for the first weekend in June and we were wondering if anyone would show up.  Boy were we surprised.  The place was rockin'.  A constant stream of people, some coming just for us!  Well Laura -- and her yarn. I ended up with 2 skeins of silky wool in a new color Hummingbird, payment for 3 hours of "work".  We were so busy I barely had time to shop but I met a fabulous designer, one of the Bellsisters, and bought her pattern which I started in the same weekend.  Meet Joyette in-progress:
again in Handwerks silky wool, I swear it's fast becoming my favorite, color Sonoran Sunset.

I sold 3 of my own patterns as well.  And you know what the shop has?  A computer dedicated to downloading and printing patterns!  We had a great time.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yarn Shop Hop

Last weekend I participated in the Peninsula to Pier Yarn Shop Hop, details here. This year they had daily raffles at each shop, goodies donated from various sponsors, and on Sunday, I won the one from Bobbin's Nest! IMG_3644
There were 12 shops participating out of 15 in the area. Friday a group of us started our hop at Nine Rubies where a weaving class was taking place. We split up and half of us hit Uncommon Threads where I got the last skein of Handwerks 100% cashmere then met the others down in Morgan Hill at Continental Stitch where I got the cutest scarf kit. IMG_3643
Everyone we met along the way was nice and we oohed and ahhed at the raffle baskets. One person in our group won the basket at Continental Threads. We had dinner and picked up cupcakes in Morgan Hill, and ended the evening knitting with good friends and good wine. Three shops down and 9 to go.
The next morning we all got up and headed down to Carmel to Knitting by the Sea. It's been awhile since any of us had been there and we were all wishing we could stay for the day. But singled minded we had our breakfast and went straight, ooh a Coach outlet, to Knitting by the Sea where I succumbed to the cute project bag and some funky sock yarn. From there our GPS took us to a brand new yarn store on Foam St in Monterey. The Twisted Stitch was just getting their bearings but the shop was moderately stocked with some nice yarns, including some yummy laceweight merino from Pagewood Farms. A quick snack break and some carpool rearranging and we were off to Knitting by the Sea in Aptos. I fell down hard there what with the Misti Alpaca attacking me, recovered we split up again and went to Chic's with Sticks where I got tripped up by the Australian mohair. We all met up again at Swift Stitch who has Habu! Who could resist Habu? One final stop at Yarndogs before we called it quits and that was 9 shops with 3 more to go on Sunday.
Just the local shops now, 1-2-3, it was The Knitting Room, Bobbin's Nest and finally Green Planet where the two of us turned in our passports and celebrated our victory at Orchard Valley. Below is a sampling of handpainted goodies that didn't get past me. You can see all the spoils here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stitches West 2011

I found my other Stitches West posts from previous years and tagged them all "stitches" so they're easier to find. Stitches coincides with my Winter Longaberger order so as a tradition I've set my class samples with new baskets.

This years Stitches experience for me was very different from previous years. It's my 15th convention. The first one I attended I had been knitting all of 3 months. I haven't missed one since and I've taken classes every year. I try to review the classes before registration opens and usually signup the first day. This year I missed the first day of registration which meant alot of the "good" classes were filled. Knitting and Stitches have been gaining popularity over the years so you snooze, you lose. There were still too many choices and with 14 Stitches under my belt not much that interested me. All my favorite teachers were booked or not coming (Madrona, another knitting convention was being held the same weekend up in Seattle), and most classes covered things I'd already done. Frustrated I gave up. About a month before I checked to see if there were any classes still open and found there were, plus they added some. So, reluctantly I signed up.

I really wasn't expecting that much. My first class "Morphing Cables" was taught by Fiona Ellis -- love her stuff, have both her books. I came in sat down, got all my things out, knit the 4x3 purl/knit rib and waited. She talked about cables crossing and cables travelling then she said, "using the 4 right and left crossing/travelling stitches knit something from your swatch". I froze. I was utterly paralyzed. Um, where's the chart? She kept talking, "think about where your paths are and where you want them to go". She also put a graph up depicting the angle of acceleration of travelling/crossing stitches. I'm not good at this -- I can follow directions, charts, I know how to fix a missed crossed cable. But I couldn't just go. I wasn't the only one. Lots of us were just plain stuck. So she gave us permission to screw around, just play, see what happens and well, it was slow at first, but this is what happened:
IMG_3530 Cable swatch with Sweethearts basket.
Not bad, eh? I first went in, then out with a few twists here and there and something emerged! Not perfect, but it made me think. So many possibilities. I was inspired, hey, I was getting excited.

The last couple years I was busy with conventions, Stitches 2010 and CNCH 2010 were back to back and I managed booths at both of them, plus a spinning contest. For Stitches I coordinate the "Learn to Spin" booth where we teach spinning on drop spindles made with repurposed CD's, a grommet and a wooden dowl. Have I taught you to spin? Add to that coordinating the "Spinning Wheel Corral" at CNCH and their "Return to Sender" spinning contest. Plus my first year at pattern writing (with deadlines!) Well, let's just say I didn't knit much. So by the time Stitches came round again, I was altogether unenthused.

My second class was with Myra Wood, "More Creative Lace Knitting". I'd never heard of her, didn't know about her book and how it sold out w/in 4 months of it's first printing and was now out of print. She talked about lace basics, pairing yo's and decreases, that when designing place your yarn-overs first then figure out which decrease will work better, and what happens when you separate the yo from it's decrease (think feather and fan). She talked about shawls, and the shapes that make them up and how to fill in spaces so you get a continuous field of lace. Here's what I knit:
IMG_3529 Lace swatch with mini rose basket.
I know, boring. Then she brought out her samples. Wow. And I'm not talking intricate gossamer lace wow. Or complicated lace doilies turned shawl size wow. All of her stuff was knitted in simple lace patterns but in variegated yarn. It was beautifully unexpected. One of the pieces was Citron (from Knitty) where she filled the stockinette with random lace patterns she got from a chart generator. Unbelievable. I left the class thinking, 1) I gotta get that book and 2) I have to knit citron in rainbow.

IMG_3528Check it out, I found the book at Newtons and look at what was already in my stash? Serendipity. I'll have to tell you the story of how I found that book and my last class in my next post.

Monday, February 21, 2011

SSE: Stitches Stash Enhancement

This weekend was Stitches West 2011. For the uninitiated it's a convention for knitters. We take up nearly the entire convention center in Santa Clara. Just to let you know how big this is here's last year's numbers: 2250+ registrants, 150+ vendors and just over 11,000 shoppers. And you can bet it was bigger this year -- definitely more vendors.

I took 3 classes this year which will be the subject of my next post. For now, you'll have to be content with my yarn parade, or stuff I couldn't pass up in the market.

First up:

My kit from Continental Stitch. It's going to be a Cardi...someday.


This is a bargain bag of 50/50 Louisa Harding grace multi merino silk.


Here we have a gradient set of laceweight superwash merino from Tess Designer Yarns.


Alpaca laceweight from Ellen's 1/2 pint -- part of a scarf kit.


And last but by no means least, I got 2 things from Sincere Sheep. Above is some yummy 80/20 merino silk laceweight. And below is 4 sample skeins of merino/bamboo/nylon. All handpainted with plant dyes.


And that's it!