Sunday, May 29, 2016

FOs and gifts

I have actually finished things.  Some are for classes.  Some are personal.  Some are for guild projects.

A few years ago, I started a shawl called "Flower of Life Chain Shawl" found on  I thought I had posted about it.  This is just chain and slip stitch in crochet.  I was using an unnamed sport weight wool yarn.  I had 4 big balls, yardage unknown either total or per ball.I started with a D hook, got impatient and after a few rows, moved up to an E, got impatient again and moved up to an F.  I did the last 6 or 7 rows with a 4.00mm G hook.  Yes I had to make the distinction.  G hooks come in 4.00 and 4.25mm.  Depends on who makes them.

Yarn: unknown brand, 100% wool, sport weight.  Fabulous violet color
Since my yarn was sticky*, I didn't want to make fringe or tassels with it.  I'm not really a fringe or tassel person but this shawl calls for it.  I next thought of purchasing tassels such as I had used in my day job a while ago.  However, I needed 55.  Purchasing that many tassels was exorbitantly expensive and would have not lasted through washing anyway.  I also was unsure of the color for tassels since the shawl was a definite violet purple.  I settled on a beaded tassel with some council from my husband.  He agreed with me.  Color choices that I ran through with him were black, white, grey, violet, rose quartz, jade, silver, gold, copper.  Most were not really seriously considered.  I took the shawl with to the store to pick, really the only way to do this.  Stores don't mind since they  want satisfied customers.  I really thought the silver would have been good.  One looked tarnished next to the shawl.  The other silver was very bright and looked close to white.  Again not something I was looking for.  None of the colors I saw did anything for me.  Then I saw some called iridescent.  The color reminds me of an oil slick on a black macadam road, dark rainbow-y coloring.  I was unsure but drawn to them.  I kept them on the shawl as I continued my shopping waiting to see if they grew on me or were growing less and less right.  I got all the strands of size 6/0 beads they had.  I went out the next day to another store to purchase more after I determined what I had gotten would not be enough by half.
A close up of the bead tassels.  3 strands 25 beads each for an approximate length of 3".  Bead gallery beads from Michaels in iridescent colorway.

Another FO is a babbling brook pillow.  I designed a lace pattern for a lace entrelac class for the Lebanon Valley Knit 2Gether  Guild meeting.  The pillow case was done and only waiting for a pillow form.  This will be going to the Guild for sale.  It's done in neutrals that don't match my decor.  I need only to insert and seam one side.  It's all but done.

Another FO is a snow and ice scraper mitt.  Despite the weather where I live, the calendar says it's May and that this particular item, now that it's found again, won't be needed for 6 months or so.  This is also another Guild project and will be going to them also.  This was done and only needs a scraper, but had been misplaced.  I also found in the same place the felted cell phone case.  It was completely done and just waiting for delivery.

Last weekend was Mother's day in the US.  My children (OK they are adults and have been for a while) got me combination Mother's day and birthday gifts.  My married son and his wife got me a shawl pin, hand carved buffalo horn into the shape of a calla lily.  To go with this they also got me a hand knit shawl from Lithuania.  Both gifts go to support small businesses.  Something I am behind wholeheartedly.  My other son got me some plants that remind me of my own mother and when I was younger, African violets and flowering cactus.  My mother could grow vine houseplants and African violets.  Other houseplants didn't last too long but these......  The African violet that was there when she died had been with her for more than 20 years.  It was beautiful.  The flowering cactus is beautiful and is reminiscent of the ones we had for years before the kittens chewed them and made themselves dopey.  The kittens have grown into adults and are now middle aged.  I also hung it in a more inaccessible location.

*Sticky yarn is not something that has glue or sugar applied accidentally or intentionally.  It means instead that the yarn will most likely felt and wants to cling to itself.

Monday, May 2, 2016


What to do with all those swatches?  We all know as a good knitter or crocheter you have been making swatches.  A proper sized swatch is about 5 to 8 inches square.  Some of us have also started sweaters or other large projects that for whatever reason have been abandoned.  I know I have a few.  If you don't want to frog your project and deal with the ramen noodle* yarn, you will probably have left it sit there unloved.

Does this seem to also relate to granny squares?  It should.  Squares are amazing for so many things.  Granny squares are not just the ones that were ever so popular for centuries.  Google granny squares and you can come up with hundreds of different patterns.  There are books upon books of granny squares, old and new.

If your projects are usually the same color family, you will have an easier time.  But even if they aren't, you can still put together a unique and completely charming project.  It is best if the swatches are the same size, but even that can be gotten around by adding a frame or border around the edge.  By using one color for the border you can make them all not only the same size, but you can make them all cohesive, like adding the black border to the old granny afghan squares.

Joining the swatches/squares can be just as fun.  There are the old standards of slip stitching them together, single crocheting them together, or sewing them together with your choice of method.  Whipstitch was my husband's grandmother's favorite.  I like that one and the mattress stitch.  Please don't use a sewing machine.  The yarn gets caught in the feed dogs and jams.  The thread can cut the yarn over time.  The yarn gets caught on the presser foot.  It doesn't look nice because you usually can't get the tension loose enough.

Ok.  Swatches and Granny Squares.  Check.  All the same size.  Check.  Joining method picked.  Check.  Now what can I make????  The list is almost endless.  An early post here is about a cardigan for a baby.  Afghans come to mind but that is a no brainer.  Don't need that many afghans?  If this is what you love to make anyway, here are some ideas.  Donate them to your local Warm Up America project, hospital for cancer patients to use during chemotherapy treatments, hospital or maternity home for underprivileged babies, animal shelter for them to have a comfy corner in what amounts to a concrete jail until they can be adopted.  Seam small ones together in a variety of ways to make eyeglass case, soap saver, scrubbies for dishes, wash cloths, hats, cushions, pillows, tote bags or purses.  

What are your ideas??  Post below.

*ramen noodle yarn is the crinkly curly yarn isn't straight after ripping out.  This is worse the longer the project sits in the knit or crochet state.  Winding into a long hank, tying in at least 6 places, and washing by hand (soak for at least an hour in water with a rinseless wool wash) then hanging to dry can fix some of this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ease -- What is it? Do I need it? How much do I need?

Ease.  It can mean the difference between sausage casing and drowning in your clothes.  Ease is theEase.  It can fluctuate between sausage casing and drowning in your clothes.  Ease is the difference between your measurements and the finished size of the garment you are making.  When you look at a pattern in a magazine, you will almost always see a sizing chart and a finished size of the garment.  Usually a small is a 30 – 32 inch bust in commercial patterns.  If you see the finished measurement of the garment for small is 36 inches, you know there is 4 inches of ease.  What does this ease do for you?  1.  It aids you in putting on the garment by giving you room to maneuver in putting it on.  2.  It causes the garment to fit in a pleasing manner.  3.  Positive ease as used in the example allows the garment to skim over your supposed trouble spots. 
What happens if your ease is 0?  Zero ease amounts to sausage casing for most garments.   In a couple of examples it is still too much room.  Zero ease in sweaters and skirts will make them difficult to put on, difficult to wear and difficult to remove.  No ease will show every bump, every bulge, every hollow.  It’s never pretty.  Zero ease in garments like socks and swim suits have the opposite effect.  These are too big still.  Socks will puddle around your ankles and sag into your shoes.   Swim suits.  For those of you who have worn the old wool swim suits or cotton swim suits that someone made you, you know how they sag when they get wet.  Droopy suits when leaving the water is an unsightly problem that can lead to embarrassment.
Hats, socks and swimsuits have negative ease.  Negative ease means that the finished measurements of the garment are less than your measurements.  You want your hat to hug your head.  If it doesn’t hug the head at some point, it will fall off or sag into your eyes.  Too small though and the hat will slide up the head to perch on top.  You want a sock to hug your foot.  If it doesn’t it will pool in your shoe and be uncomfortable.  You want a sock to be 10% smaller than your foot to fit well.  Swim suits need even more difference, 15 – 20% are numbers I have heard.  I don’t know if this is accurate or not.
Cardigans can have up to 10 inches of ease.  It really depends on the design, what the designer intended for each size, and the wearer’s preference.  If 10 inches of ease were used in a pullover, the wearer would look like a child wearing his or her parent’s clothes or the stereotype of the boyfriend sweater.  Comfy as this might be, it probably won’t be the most attractive item to be worn.  Of course, if the clothes are this big, it might not be so comfy if you have to keep pulling it back on your body.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Weather and Knitting

Last post I had been complaining about the warmth.  Sort of.  The day after posting, the weather turned back to the norms for March and my area.  This means cold and damp with temps in the 40's and 50's.  It's been cloudy and damp feeling.

I opened up my cedar chest to get out a WIP.  Ok this had been an FO.  However.  It's my mobius shawl.  I had finished it a year or more ago.  It was just stockinette stitch.  It curled.  Alot. I blocked it, with steam.  It still curled.  I blocked it with misting.  It still curled.  I wet-blocked it.  It still curled.  I tried the steam again with a wet press cloth.  It still curled.  My 12" depth curled to 4".  It also stretched quite a bit, due to my bind off method choice.  It made a nice cowl twirled 2 or 3 times around my neck.  This was not what I wanted.

So I decided to pull out the binding and add.  I had a ball and a half of the same yarn leftover.  I added all of it.  I used seed stitch. The amount of yarn I had gave me approximately 3" of depth of seed stitch.  I bound off using the Russian Bind off but knit through the back loop.  It's not so stretchy that way.  This is a good thing.  The seed stitch also firmed the edge up a bit.  You can see a picture of this shawl on the knitting class page at the Mobius knit class.

I started this post mid March and being unhappy with the weather in general and the state of my WIPs.  It is not the last third of April.  My WIPs have stayed in their chest.  I have finally gotten all the parts aligned to take some pictures for the pages of classes.  I'm still working on this.  My peach tree bloomed 2 1/2 weeks early.  My apple trees are blooming right now.  My lilac bush is starting to blossom, 2 weeks early.  My locust tree is leafing out and it's a month early.  It's been warm, up to 80+ some days.  The result of this weather is a severe lack of motivation to knit or crochet.  I'm slogging through some of the have to be done things.  Share your ways to keep motivated on your projects.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Warm Weather, Weeds and Knitting

The weather has become unseasonably warm in my little corner of the woods, 80*F today give or take.  Courtesy of the rain that fell early in April, ALL the chives in my garden are up.  I have to wonder what I have to do to get rid of them.  I've been digging them up.  I hack off their flower balls.  And still they come.  I'm hoping my dog will give them nitrogen burn but even that is a lost hope.  They are flourishing in the yard where they escaped to.  I have to get some of my other herbs in but will wait just a bit yet.  I can't wait for my tomatoes and other crops to be ready to go in.

In addition tothe weed chives (yes I can call them weeds.  No restaurant could use this many), my beds are full of crab grass mixed around my iris and tulip and hyacinth.  There are some weeds I can't identify.  My dandelion are missing.  Dandes are tasty with hot bacon dressing.

I'm going to have to dig out my yellow delicious apple tree.  Not only is it laying on its side but the trunk has split.  I thought hubby was not seeing correctly but I was wrong.  I also found out finally why it kept falling over.  The root stock is such that it needed to be staked at all times.

Yes all these things are growing rampantly while I have been knitting and designing.  I finally have all my patterns for classes written.  I'm working up samples.  What's the one thing I have not been working on?  I'm glad you asked.  The advent shawl/scarf times five for the ladies of my family for Christmas.  I seem to have a terrible work habit.  I will get back on track.

Friday, April 8, 2016

shawls, the next installment

Recently I started a shawl that was very popular on facebook on one of the crochet groups.  I'm using two skeins of silk I got as part of my christmas gift.  It's beautiful if I do say so.  The pattern translates to lizard.  The pattern can be downloaded from here.  It's a free pattern on Ravelry.  Originally published in either Dutch or German, there is an English translation.  The pattern can use any size yarn and a hook appropriate for your gauge and yarn choice.  I'm using a G hook.

Another shawl that came across my inbox was the Marlybird Garter Stitch Shawl KAL.  It started March 30 and ends April 27.  Full details can be found here and here.  There is a giveaway from if you post all the homework each week before the next installment comes out and your name is drawn. As stated above, get all the details on Ravelry or Marlybird's webpage.  While I realize this is supposed to be done in Red Heart yarns, I'm doing mine in Patons Pure Wool Crepe DK, cranberry and bottle, and Patons Pure Wool DK in cream.  These yarns are discontinued by many years but I happened to score them after a shop owner died 20 years ago.  I can't do the synthetics or acrylics so I use the natural fibers.  I'm using a size 6 US needle for this.

The first shawl will be sort of crescent shaped and sort of very long right triangle with stair steps on one long side.  It's a fun crochet accessory.  I know my daughter in law will want one when she sees it.  I have no clue what I'm doing the single crochet along the edge with.  Marly's shawl is a very wide short triangle with a point in the center.  It's a fun knit

UPDATE;  my Marly Shawl
This is Week 1.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Shawls and Shawl Shapes

Recently, I have taken an interest in shawls and shawlettes.  What is the difference?  Shawls are large.  Shawlettes are small and used more as a scarf around the neck.  Why the interest?  I can't really say.  I know I did one of my first ones recently for my daughter in law for her Christmas present.  It was the South Bay Shawlette from Lion Brand.  It has a very easy to remember four row repeat and is offset every two rows.  I used a cashmere and silk blend yarn that I had recently found in a bright blue that reminds me of electric blue and Caribbean Sea blues.  I paired it with a fabulous shawl pin. This was a triangular shawlette.  It should be fairly easy for her to find a bunch of different ways to wear it on Pinterest , with one site here that has 8 different ways plus a pattern.

When I decided to make a study of shawls for myself, I found the basic and most common shapes were Round, Crescent, Rectangle, Square, and Triangle.  Crescent, rectangle and triangle are the simplest to wear.  Squares come next in my opinion.  Round shawls I find a challenge to wear and still display the beauty of the stitches in the shawl.  There is one site that has a cheat sheet of basic shawl shapes.

Popular shawls to be found on ravelry are the virus shawl, the south bay shawl, the Elise shawl, the Hitchhiker, The Haruni, The Age of Steam and Brass shawl, anything made by Martina Behm, Ysolda Teague or Stephen West.  Knit shawls seem to be more popular with projects in the tens of thousands than crochet shawls which number in the thousands.  There are many things to be said for doing shawls that have many others doing them, such as mistakes, if there are any, are found quickly, if you have questions about a specific part there are many others who either have it figured out or with the same question.  Your yarn choices make the shawls your own even if you do the same as someone else.  Remember your gauge makes things change even if only in a subtle manner.

So whether you choose to create your own shawl utilizing the basic shapes sheet or choose a popular or not so popular pattern, free or paid, there are so many choices to make.  Do you want to knit or crochet one?  Do you want to use a very fine yarn or something thicker?  Do you want a tighter or looser gauge than is stated if using the yarn and hook/needles stated?  

Most shawls utilize some kind of lace.  Very few, if any, use cables that I have found after a very brief search.  Shawls that are very basic will use only one stitch.  I recently made myself a large shawl.  I used a yarn that matched a skirt I had made a couple years ago.  I had envisioned a half dishcloth shawl.  You know the basic drill.  Cast on 3 stitches, Increase in the first stitch and knit to the end.  Repeat this row until you have enough.  Because of the size of needles I was using (15 US) for the chunky yarn, I did each row with an increase in both first and last stitch on every row.  I was going to either knit until I had used all the yarn I had or I reached 200 stitches.  I reached 200 stitches first.  It's beautifully large and warm.  The size of the stitches also give a pseudo lace effect.   I worked on this at night when I could not sleep.  It didn't take more than a week of insomnia.  The size of the needles was a key part of the speed, not my lack of sleep.  I listened to the History Chicks on an mp3 player on a low sound.  When I fell asleep, it didn't matter about the needles or the mp3 player.  The battery ran down and was easy to recharge.  The needles I used were circulars and I didn't lose any stitches.

In reading different history stories, historical diaries and the like, I've heard about smoke rings, veils, shawls, and how women and girls wrapped themselves up in them to stay warm in winter but also, when these were wrapped around their heads, could still see to do chores and walk from here to there. I had to wonder what was going on.  Then it dawned on me as I read further and further.  In yesteryear, the yarns were very fine.  Our sportweight was heavy, if I understood what I was reading correctly.  Laceweight and threads were used with fine needles and hooks.  Laces were the patterns used.  This allowed warmth and the ability to see even if wrapped in layers and layers.  Perhaps this isn't a windproof option but few things are.

Now that I have all these shawls (or not yet), what else can I do with them?   I would not hesitate to wrap a baby in one if needed.  I would lay one over the bed to warm me more than my husband needed if I'm sick.  On the infrequent times I fly, if the flight is cold, I would cover up with it.  I've never been on a cold flight with the exception of 16 years ago.  We had to fly in winter, at night for a funeral and this was a time when you could get a flight every hour or two to any destination and planes flew 2/3 empty.  I didn't have a shawl at that time.  I would use it to cover a part of my attire that is less than perfect (perfect is relative and not always what it seems) or a part of my body I'm less than happy with at the time.  I would not leave it lay about though.  I have a dog who likes to rearrange a blanket or blanket substitute to suit himself and that would rip any lace shawl I leave out.  It would also get covered in white straight fur.  Fur sticks.  Fur is hard to remove without a lot of shaking and shushing and tumbling in the dryer.

Do you have a favorite shawl pattern?  Do you have a favorite way to wear a shawl?  Share it here.  Share it on ravelry.  If we ever get sun again, I have a bunch of photos I want to take.