Friday, April 29, 2011

Can't over-dry, but you can overdye.

Red overdyes - before
Red overdyes - after
I was thrilled to actually have a Sunday off this week - and I don't know if it was the holiday, or just the fact that it was finally not raining outside, but I really had a jones to dye something. I've been wanting to play around with crock pot dyeing, but because I'm paranoid about having dye fumes in our house, had to wait til the weather permitted.  Most of Sunday afternoon was spent on the back porch, tending to my yarns, knitting, and drinking beer - sounds like a perfect day to me!  I used some Jacquard dyes I'd picked up at Blick, a LOT of vinegar, and just a tiny bit of dish soap to make sure the dye got worked through all the skeins.  The yarn in question is stuff from my stash that just isn't my style (read: pink!).  I started out with a couple things I wanted to overdye red - I remember hearing somewhere that a dyer on etsy would overdye skeins of yarn with red if they didn't sell as-is - and then they'd fly out the door!  Turns out that's good advice - I can't wait to knit with these now.

Green overdyes - before
I also did a batch of olive green - and clearly, I got heavy-handed with the vinegar, because these turned out so dark, I had to use the flash to pick up any hint of green.  Luckily, I was hoping for a so-dark-green-it's-almost-black effect - happy accidents are the best kind. 

Green overdyes - after
The rest of the week didn't involve too much knitting time, unfortunately - most of Tuesday was spent running errands (of course, some of those errands involved visiting some new yarn stores in Andersonville!), and Wednesday was more of the same - Tyler had a job interview in the morning, I had a meeting in the afternoon, and on Tuesday night our band shalloboi recorded a live set on WNUR's Airplay (scroll down the page, we're the first band listed under "recent performances").  Somehow, in between all the running around, I did manage to get a good amount of knitting done on Tyler's sweater (V2.0) and I also  finally started the second stalagmite sock, but unfortunately that's all the knitting news I have to report.  I got stuck on the heel for my toe-up sock design and just haven't had enough time to spend figuring out what to do instead - and don't even say the words 'koukla cardigan' to me.  I haven't touched that forlorn sweater in weeks.  Perhaps on the upcoming road trip to Kansas City....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Everyone loves a good trilogy

It's still quite cold here in Chicago, so I'm really glad I finally finished the last pattern in my Nest Egg series - a cowl to coordinate with the hat and fingerless gloves featuring the same cable pattern.  This cowl is so warm!  I've made a few cowls over the last year or so, and I always liked the way they turned out, but their either a) didn't cover enough of my neck or b) let the wind through the fabric because they had a lace pattern on them.  I know, I know - that last one I should have seen coming!  But sometimes, it's easy to get blindsided by how cool something looks that the practicality gets thrown right out the window.

Practicality is, of course, very important when you're readying yourself for another Chicago winter - or waiting for one to finally throw in the towel! With that in mind, I created this extra-warm cabled cowl which is knit flat and cozily overlaps around the neck, secured with two buttons.

Just the facts, ma'am:

Pattern:  Nest Egg Cowl by Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter, $6
Yarn:  1 skein Malabrigo Rios - shown in 'Solis'
Needles:  US #7 straights or circulars

Other supplies:   cable needle, 2 removable stitch markers, several regular stitch markers, two buttons (mine are from Soutache in Bucktown), sewing needle & thread. 

Cable pattern is charted.


I posted a coupon on Twitter Tuesday night (hint:  I do that fairly frequently, so mayhaps you should give me a follow!) for $4 off the Nest Egg Trilogy.  Since I like you so much, I'll let you in on the secret password for check-out:  APRILSNOW.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Scatterbrain

Security Breach

This past week has been super-weird - I need to preface this entry by saying that.  In my non-knitting life, things are really heating up....in the case of the project I've been working on since January, that's a good thing - I can log more hours and really hold out hope that this thing is going to take off!  In other areas, it's not so good - Tyler's work situation continues to suck, and as his hours get whittled away more and more with each passing week, so does our "fun" money.  We aren't the type of people who live really high on the hog - for us, a blowout is to go out to dinner and spend less than fifty bucks on a meal and a few beers.  We are, unfortunately, very good at being broke - our three years in Portland was a great crash course in this, and let me tell you, we ate a LOT of pancakes and quesadillas.  I digress - where I was going with all this is to say that, along with the rest of the world, we're feeling the pinch and tightening our belts.  For those of you not familiar with Spa Week, it's a twice-a-year promotional event that my place of work has participated in years past, but opted out of this time around.  Though I have complained about being overscheduled during Spa Weeks of the past, I also appreciate the fact that I have people to work on and a paycheck that doesn't suck (see above).  Let's just say I was busier than I thought I'd be, but not busy enough to make up for not taking part in the promotion.  So it goes. The next few weeks may not be pretty, but I'm determined not to let The Man get me down.

Prince was right.
Things that made last week weird?  I think "Trash can on fire on the Irving Park Blue Line Platform on Saturday Morning" certainly tops the list.  A rash of clients who simply could NOT get off their cell phones and onto my table is high on the list....and overall, it was just a feeling.  I don't know if there's some planetary misalignment, or what comes when one is overextended, super-stressed, and just needs a vacation, but I felt incredibly scattered this past week.  So scattered, in fact, that I did something last night that I haven't ever done before:  I left Robin's bag of food out on the kitchen floor.  As you can imagine, the second we went to sleep, the frenzy began....I'm just relieved that I didn't leave Tilly's food out - for those of you who are new to this blog, my cat Robin has Chronic Renal Failure and is on a special low-protein prescription diet.  In essence, if he eats normal cat food, such as Tilly's, it will overstrain his kidneys...and as you can imagine, that's not a good thing!  So I woke up this morning to a mangled bag of cat food and - of course! Snow in April! 

Stalagmite the First
At some point I should probably get around to talking about knitting, right?  I think this entry says it all - somehow I haven't had very much knitting time of late (light bulb!  That explains the weird feeling, no?).  I did manage to finish the first stalagmite sock, but I haven't cast on for #2 - should really get cracking on that before second sock syndrome, which has never been a problem of mine, sets in!  I also started a new toe-up sock design I'm pretty excited about - more on that later for sure.  And last night, I frogged Tyler's sweater and re-started it.  I had taken off the sleeves on Saturday and did a fitting and everything seemed alright - but for some reason I just wasn't happy with the way it was going - it wasn't perfect.  That's not normally something I worry about when I knit - achieving absolute perfection - but in this case, I want it to be perfect.  I've never made Tyler a sweater in the 11 years we've been together - and it may be a long while before I make him another one, so this one needs to be the Best Thing Ever. 

Well, if you made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading - now you know why I typically don't mention my personal life on here!  Here's a little something to make up for this misery guts of a blog entry:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roar!

Robin 'helps' finish the dino.
Dino is done!  Tuesday night was the second night of The Sweatshop of Love's dinosaur-making class - I spent most of the time sewing the top of the body together because I got super anal-retentive about the placement of the scales.  I'm usually don't worry myself if something is imperfect - after all, it adds character to a project, and in this case, it's just a toy! - but for some reason having wonky scales was really bothering me!  Sometimes the masochism of doing something only to rip it out and do it again is fun, apparently. 

Securing the leg.
At any rate, I spent the lion's share of this morning with Robin purring in my lap as I finished sewing together my dino.  I mentioned in the last blog post that I picked up some good finishing tips - my favorite being something I wish I'd thought to do eons ago:  when attaching legs or other bits and bobs, tie a firm knot with the yarn you're using for sewing.  Especially when you intend to give the FO to a child, this is a great idea because it ensures those wily little ones won't pull off limbs or other small pieces that could be choking hazards.  I ended up knotting the yarn several times as I sewed each leg onto the body - it's a neat trick, and now I know those legs are super secure!

Not only do I have a cute FO to play with, but it was really fun to meet some new knitting people while supporting a local/indie designer.

Pattern:  Roaring Dinosaur by ZoĆ« Mellor from Knitted Toys

Yarn:  Knit Picks Capra in Scarlet (MC); Knit Picks City Tweed DK in Orca (CC)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh, the squishing!

Intense mustard yellow
Just had lunch with one of my knitting buddies who is beginning to dye her own yarns - and of course, she let me squish and ooh and aah over her latest handiwork....not to mention bring home a few skeins to play around with!  I'm loving these shaded solids....not sure what designs I'll create with them, but rest assured I'll keep you posted. 

Beautiful variegated blues
Meanwhile, I'll probably have a new design ready to post by the end of the week, and with any luck, an FO or two!  Despite the tantalizing yarns trying to lure me into casting on for yet another project, I'm going to try to resist the urge until I get at least one or two things off the needles.  It's been weeks since I've touched my Koukla cardigan - also known as one of my Malabrigo March projects.  At this rate, it'll be done by next Malabrigo March!  Last week, in an attempt to rekindle my interest in knitting this lovely, lovely sweater, I finally made it to Soutache and picked out some fancy buttons.  Unfortunately, nearly a week later, I have yet to knit a single stitch.

Red buttons:  Koukla.
I suppose I've been distracted by the toy dinosaur I started last week at the first knitting class I've ever taken - my new Twitter buddy and local designer/teacher Alysson Dykhuizen of The Sweatshop of Love is putting on this fun little class at one of my favorite local coffee shops, New Wave Coffee.  You may find yourself wondering what I could have to learn at this point, with eight years of knitting under my belt and tons of completed toy projects....but the answer is, in the world of knitting, you never stop learning!  In this case, I picked up a few great finishing tips (which I'll blog about in a future post) during the course of the first class last Tuesday night - and tomorrow night, as we assemble the many pieces of this adorable toy, I expect to learn a few more.  Finishing has always been my weakest area in my opinion - so whenever I'm able to learn pointers to a) make finishing easier and b) make my FO look nicer through better technique, I'm all ears. 

Making progress!
Additionally, I've been working much more diligently on my Cookie A. socks started so long ago (January 15 of this year, to be exact).  The charts for the Stalagmite Socks are scary at first - but once I got into the zone, I found I barely had to consult the legend and could pretty much tell what needed to be cabled when, just by looking at the round below.  Last week I turned the heel, and as of right now, I'm nearly ready to start the toe shaping - with any luck, these babies should be done by the end of April!  Which is great, because I really need to deliver them to the person I'm knitting them for, before she thinks I totally forgot about them. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kickstarting

Now that the fun of blog week is over, it's time to return to my usual posting fare - but before I get into my WIPs and FOs and all that, I want to spread the word about Shannon Okey's Kickstarter Campaign for the Cooperative Press Fresh Design Series.

Even if I weren't a part of the project (I have a design that will come out in the Toy book), this would be the type of company and project I'd love to throw my support behind.  They have a great concept and working with them has been nothing short of fantastic.  Plus, you can get some excellent thank-you gifts for pledging - for ten bucks, a digital version of The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design can be yours!  Even if you aren't planning on pursuing a career as a designer in this field, it's a really great book that is chock full of interesting and helpful information.  There are lots of other thank-you gifts available for various levels of pledging - so please take a minute to check out their page on Kickstarter and donate to a worthy cause!

It's incredible that she's nearly met the $5,000 fundraising goal in less than a week - but the more money we can raise, the sooner these awesome books will become a reality!  Tech editing, professional photography, and fancy layout/design aren't cheap - and what's the point in doing it if it's not going to be done right?  My thoughts exactly. 

Now that the hard sell is out of the way, let's see what I've been up to in the past week:

Exhibit A: yet another completed monster!

Pattern:  Harold the Houseplant Monster by Rebecca Danger - from The Big Book of Monsters

Yarn:  Mystery Yarn from Kitchen Sink Dyeworks - I'm fairly certain it's the Merino Bamboo Worsted, but I managed to lose the label somehow.




Exhibit B:  finally making progress on the first pair of Cookie A. socks I'm making from Knit. Sock. Love.

Pattern:  Stalagmite Socks by Cookie A.

Yarn:  Lorna's Laces Limited-Edition Organic Sock in a color I custom-dyed myself when I used to work there.

Also making a little progress on Tyler's sweater while completely ignoring my own (didn't even get halfway through my Malabrigo March sweater - oops)....and, as previously blogged, I made a little panda chart to play around with!  All in all, another busy week. 

I have a lot of new and exciting designs on the horizon - found out a few of my recent submissions have been rejected, so I think I'll just D.I.Y. it and work on them in my own time, because I think they're going to be great once they come to fruition.  I don't think my intentions always come across in my design sketches; it's definitely one area I'd like to improve upon.  What I see in my head and then get down onto paper never seem to match up - but somehow the finished project ends up being just what I was going for - sometimes even better!

Panda Panda!

Last week I made this panda chart to play around with - Tyler has a love for pandas and I thought it would be fun to knit some panda-themed projects (I have a really cool top-secret one in the works!).

Since my whale chart was so well-received on Ravelry, I thought I'd share this one as well.  I can't wait to see everyone's panda-emblazoned FO's!

I knit up this swatch using some leftover Malabrigo Sock in Terracotta for the contrast color and some lovely chocolate brown silk/wool blend yarn from Brooks Farm.  I think this is destined to be the cozy for my new Eco Travel Mug!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blog Week Entry #7: My Knitting Time

Today is the last day of Blog Week - thanks for reading!  Here's how we'll be closing out the week:

Write about your typical crafting time. When it is that you are likely to craft – alone or in more social environments, when watching TV or whilst taking bus journeys? What items do you like to surround yourself with whilst you twirl your hook like a majorette’s baton or work those needles like a skilled set of samurai swords? Do you always have snacks to hand, or are you a strictly ‘no crumbs near my yarn!’ kind of knitter?

No one told me to get ready for my closeup.
This had changed drastically over the last year.  When I used to knit primarily at home, I would watch dvds with my husband - usually whatever came from Netflix, or a selection from our home library (my personal faves for knitting were Arrested Development, Seinfeld or Invader Zim - so easy to pop in a disc and knit the afternoon away!).  I've even been known to knit in between takes while Tyler's listening to playback!

Nowadays I don't get to knit at home as much - there is just too much distraction!   I usually end up knitting on the train, where my sound track is courtesy of the CTA or my iPod - I can't say I have any one band, album or song I prefer to knit to; whatever I happen to have 'in rotation' at the time suits me just fine.  It's ironic to me that, with 30 gigs of music at my fingertips, I tend to stick to the same four or five bands with which I am currently obsessed (right now that would be the dum dum girls, ty segall, grinderman, the vivian girls and beach house).  I used to make monthly playlists which were geared more towards my morning commute, but would also make for some good knitting music - as my life gets busier, I find it harder to find the time for such things.

Since I tend not to be able to stay on task if I try to knit at home, I find that more and more of my knitting time is among friends - we'll all take turns hosting a craft night, during which there is plenty of beer, baked goods and other tasty foods (clearly, none of us are concerned about getting food or beverage on our yarn - isn't that why you block it once you're done?!)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blog Week Entry #6: Something to Aspire to

Welcome to Day 6 of Blog Week!  As we begin to wind down, it's time to talk about the future:

Is there a pattern or skill that you don’t yet feel ready to tackle but which you hope to (or think you can only dream of) tackling in the future, near or distant? Is there a skill or project that makes your mind boggle at the sheer time, dedication and mastery of the craft? Maybe the skill or pattern is one that you don’t even personally want to make but can stand back and admire those that do. Maybe it is something you think you will never be bothered to actually make but can admire the result of those that have.

I'd like to design a sweater someday - I've modified sweater patterns to suit my needs, but have yet to design a unique sweater for myself.  I'm not sure if I would take the extra step of grading it to be published, although that would also be an excellent challenge for myself as well.  Perhaps I can combine this goal with my resolutions to improve my colorwork skills!

What's holding me back, you ask?  Hmm, let's just ponder that for a moment....ok, I think I have it narrowed down to two major variables:

These are but 4 of the 39 sweaters I currently have in my queue.
Variable #1:  Time!  At the moment, I barely have enough time to work through my queue, make up new designs for smaller projects, have a life, etc.  I'm sure I could make time if it were a greater priority....but apparently that isn't the case at the moment. Plus, I like to sleep.

Variable #2:  Laziness!  I used to want to design a sweater for myself because I had a hard time finding patterns I'd actually like to invest the time and money in knitting....but these days, there are tons of great sweater patterns out there - just check out how many i have in my queue!  Plus, all the tough stuff is already figured out - and by 'tough stuff' i mean those pesky mathematical calculations that bog me down.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blog Week Entry #5: Embellish the Story

Buttons! Glorious Buttons!
Tea Leaves:  Fancy Buttons
Today I'm playing the wild card!  It's time to talk about the joys of embellishments - namely, buttons, because the right buttons can make or break an FO.  Over the years I have acquired huge containers of buttons, and I never tire of sifting through them, time and time again, in search of the perfect accent for my project.  Each time, I come across buttons I hadn't noticed before.  With such a huge amount to dig through, I'm always amazed when I can find the right number of buttons I need, but it's rare when that isn't possible and I have to head to the craft store.  I have so many that I feel guilty keeping them all to myself, so I've taken to selling some in my Etsy shop and letting my friends shop my stash.  I recently used some very fancy buttons that I'd been saving for several years, waiting for the right project to come along.  That project happened to be the Tea Leaves Cardigan I knit with some beautiful skeins of Malabrigo Rios - they always fetch compliments!