Monday, July 31, 2006

How To Turn Stockinette into Garter Stitch

First, screw up some knitting to the point that ripping it out would make you cry. Misreading the pattern is recommended. Putting some intarsia between you and the error is recommended but does help increase aggravation. (The following is a dramatization and is not a real project).

Second, pick the stitch you are going to ladder down. I recommend the one furthest away from the edge... if that is a factor.

Next, drop the stitch and slide all of the rest of the stitches onto a stitch holder. Now tug on both sides of the dropped stitch until it ladders to the point you want to catch it. Stick a needle in the stitch you want to catch, just in case you get a bit too excited with the laddering.

Replace the needle with a crochet hook, hooky bit facing you.

Since you want this to be garter stitch, you have to alternate the direction from which the loops pull. The easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is to connect loops stockinettely on alternating sides. The first stitch will be stockinette on the wrong side, so stick the blunt bit of the crochet hook under the first ladder, flip your work so that the wrong side is now facing, and push/pull on the hook until the loop pops out in front of the ladder and you've caught the active loop with the hooky bit.

Now point the groovy part of the hooky bit downwards (toward the bottom of your work), come over the ladder from front to back, twist the ladder around the hook, and yank it on through the loop actively on the shaft.

The hooky bit should be facing you again. Now pull nearly the whole length of the shaft without dropping the stitch off the blunt bit.

Find the next ladder, aim the blunt bit of the shaft under it, and push it back towards the other side, flip, and do the stockinette loop shuffle again, this time on the right side.

Repeat until you get back to the top. (That's only 50+ rows, right?) Then repeat for each stitch you want to be garter stitch.

So I did this with three stitches and goodness knows how many rows per stitch (probably around 30). My project went from this:

To this:

Look, it even got less blurry! It does work, and it looks a lot nicer than I thought it would. You actually can't tell the difference between the rows I knitted this way and the ones I shuffled. So while I'm quite pleased with the results, I will make sure to read the directions more carefully next time.

What a grand birthday present!

For my birthday, Meg gave me 23 balls of Shetland Spindrift, enough for me to make an 8-color sweater for myself. It wasn't exactly a surprise, though she made me go into the back of Mosaic Yarns while she picked up her special order from the front counter. As if I didn't know.

I actually had to go on a scavenger hunt around the apartment to find each ball. It was quite a blast! The clues were generally pretty easy, though a few stumped me for awhile. Anyways, this will be my next fair isle project, I think.

In other news, this arrived from The Fold:

This is two pounds of roving that Meg says she'll knit up into a sweater for herself, once I've spun it, of course. I certainly have my work cut out for me.

The cat has finally figured out that, while it's noisier in the bedroom where the AC unit is, it's much cooler. So Meg is reading, I am typing on my laptop, and Spoot is perched between us. One big, hot family.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

It's very hot in Chicago

We don't have central air, just a window unit, which we are using to make the bedroom and adjoining sewing/ computer room habitable. The Fool has taken to his bed with his knitting, the stockinette sweater, and refuses to spend time keeping me company in the (un-air-conditioned) dining room, where I am sewing a pirate shirt. Don't ask. It's just one of those projects that needs to be done.
I showed him how to do a three-needle bindoff on one of the shoulder seams of his wee sweater, and he is so pleased with it that he sits petting it and otherwise getting cuddly with the little slip of stockinette.
The heat makes me a little irritable, so when I muttered something about, "Why don't you quit fondling that and actually knit the other front half?" he got snippy and said he'd throw it on the floor and roll on it if he wanted to; it was his knitting.
The weather better cool off soon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

We were very tired tonight

... but as we drove back from some emergency grocery shopping (Emergency! There's no dinner!), we still tried to have an intelligent conversation about how we had heard that The Tangled Web is closing. We're both a little sad about this, even though there's another LYS nearby.
ME: I wonder why it's closing.
FF: I hope it's not those knitting bitches.
ME: !?!
FF: I mean, the bitches with stitches ... the ... what's that other yarn store?
ME: Chix with Stix?
FF: Yeah, them. Wow, I'm tired.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Is Anyone Else Ever Fooled?

On the train, I've often been sitting in my seat knitting when I notice the flash of a long, thin white thing out of the corner of my eye. My first thought is usually, "Cool! Someone else is knitting on the train." Then I actually look over, take a moment to process what I'm seeing, and realize that it is not, in fact, white yarn at all. It is a pair of iPod earbuds.

You would think that I would have made this mistake only once. In fact, it happens nearly every time someone pulls an iPod out of their bag. I almost was at the point of asking one of these folks what they were knitting before realizing my error.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Musings of the last month or so

Yes, so what's this, you ask?

It's my latest spinning adventure. Having recovered from Alden Amos Syndrome (the fear of being ridiculed by him for having a double-treadle wheel and using spinning techniques he would scoff at), I recently got back into spinning after the temporary "spinning blues." Every skein I make is better, and I'm really pleased with the way this one turned out. I thought the combinations of colors in both spinning and plying would produce a puke-like color overall, but I see now that I was wrong. Meg took this picture, as she thought I needed an artsy closeup of my newly-created yarn.

So about a month ago, I did something funky to my right hand while playing the fiddle at an extremely long gig, and whatever it is has taken awhile to heal. I can finally fiddle again without pain. I still have to be careful about knitting, as that seems to aggravate it more, though I can gradually feel my hand getting stronger as the days pass. This has contributed to my recent lack of posting, though the intensity of my day job has grown immensely as well, which means I want to spend even less time in front of a computer when I get home.

So this is Spearhead Sock #1, completed. Spearhead Sock #2 will be the exact color negative. I have gotten a few rows into the second sock, but have been working on a few other things.

Meg insisted on taking another closeup.

In other news, we decided to go to Asheville this year for vacation, partly because we had some other matters to attend on the way, partly because we have always wanted to go. The trip did not fail to disappoint. For those of you unfamiliar with Asheville, it is a lovely town filled with arts and crafts of all types, musicians, and lots and lots of contra dancers. Every night we either found ourselves dancing or playing tunes at Jack of the Wood, a local pub with a unique atmosphere and appreciative crowds. The first two nights we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast called the Wright Inn in the Montford Historic District. I highly recommend it.

What struck me most about Asheville, however, wasn't the town, but the people we met in the town. We ran into about six people that we knew but were not expecting to see. Almost all of them did not actually live in Asheville (one of them had just moved to the area 24 hours before). Many were visiting to scope out the area to see if it was a place they could live. Strangely enough, the three people we thought we would run into we didn't see at all.

There are some great yarn stores down there. One of them is called the Earth Guild, which sells just about everything crafty you could think of. Meg purchased some difficult-to-find supplies for indigo dyeing. I noticed that it's much easier to find roving at yarn stores in Asheville than up here, so I ended up purchasing some merino multi-colored roving (the new yarn pictured above).

Here's a sock I'm working on that doesn't have a name yet, other than Sock for Susan. It's essentially a 2x2 rib, except that every fourth row is completely purled.

A very cute picture of Border Collie puppies we saw at the Saline Celtic Festival last weekend. Seriously, who doesn't like wee fuzzy dogs? One of them fell asleep in the food bowl.

And, by the way, Meg is pulling your leg about the plain stockinette sweater on big needles that she thinks I am knitting. See, it may look like plain stockinette to the naked eye, but in reality, it's an advanced technique I learned from a vagrant on the streets of Asheville. Only a trained eye can tell the difference.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dyeing and transfiguration

Having not gotten my act together in time for Memorial Day indigo dyeing, I decided the next big patriotic holiday would have to be the one.
On the Fourth of July, we invited a small handful of friends over, (it seems like we can either invite two people or 18 people for dinner. The fact we limited this to six is sort of a miracle) and rather than crash and burn in a bucket of bad indigo in front of a whole bunch of people, (and thereby be embarassed and blue) I decided to make my first foray into indigo a smaller one. The guys cooked (burgers, corn on the cob, plus homemade French potato salad and an apple pie from Mary Lee).
The women dyed.
While we messed with string and tie-dye stuff, they also played old-time music. (Just to make it clear that it wasn't one of those parties where the guys played music and the women sat around tying string in little bunches, some of us would have played old-time music too and Aradia probably would have clogged ... but we were busy.)

I followed the directions outlined in the booklet on natural dyeing by Michele Wipplinger, of Earthues, whose dye kit I bought at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool last year. I also did a little more research on my own.
There I found that everyone seems to have their own opinions on how to use indigo properly. So I split the difference and headed down the middle.
I mixed the finely powdered indigo with water to create a paste, but not before I forgot to turn the kitchen ceiling fan off. Michele Wipplinger's powdered indigo is ground very finely indeed. Wiping it up with a damp cloth is a stupid idea.
Then I added some lye to "dissolve the indigo," as someone else wrote.
Next time, I am getting a secondhand indigo whisk at Goodwill.
I added water to my old Mason jar of blue stuff, then a few tablespoons of sodium hydrosulfite, per the directions, which said the entire thing would heat up and turn green in about 15 minutes.
We ate dinner.
This is what it looked like. That top layer is not as green as it appears in this photo. It was actually more blue than that.
We all consulted the various books. None of them described what to do in a case like this.
I decided to throw caution to the winds.
I diluted a cup of my indigo sludge with three cups of water in an old bucket. I waited for it to turn pale green. Now, I could have tested the pH with some pH strips that I happen to have but I decided not to.
First off, plenty of unlettered peasants dyed plenty of things blue back in the day without pH strips.
Second, if it turned out that the pH was wrong, I'd have to do something to fix it, and at this point, I was going on faith anyway and didn't really understand the chemistry enough to know what to do to "fix" things anyway.
So I added a little more sodium hydrosulfite until the vat turned a pale green. Said a couple Hail Marys and we tossed our yarn, roving and fabric in.

And look!
It's blue!

Next time, I think I might have a few more people over, now that I know how this is supposed to work. I also think I might do a little more reading and try to get my head around the chemistry of it so I don't feel so much like I'm getting all Hogwarts on my back porch.

Ask the Fool about this last picture. Am I prompting him to post? Damn skippy.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Shhh... be very, very quiet

The Fool cast on for his latest project tonight.
It is a feat of knitting unlike any he has ever attempted before.

It is a baby sweater, knit at 5 stitches to the inch on No. 6 needles, done flat in pieces ... and in stockinette.
There is no seven-color Fair Isle, there are no cables, it is not argyle, it is not lace. it is not knit at a teeny, tiny gauge. It is a plain old sweater.
Stay tuned.