2.27.2011

On Blocking My Bridgewater

If ever there were a bad time to come down with the flu, it would be now. Here I am, two days into a terrible bout of blechghs that (if Mancub's progress is any indication) will stick around at least a week... and I am supposed to start back to work Wednesday after four months of parental leave. I'm not on my feet much right now, we'll see how I'm doing in a few days.

In my desperation to fully finish Bridgewater before returning to work, I blocked it today. Illness be damned!  

Allow me to share a few truths and thoughts culled from this experience:
  • My study is narrow; my Bridgewater is not. 
  • Finished dimensions: center garter section, 36" x 36"; total piece, 54" x 54" 

Yes, my study is that narrow! In fairness, it's lined on one side
by a wall of bookcases and on the other by a wall of deep cabinets.
  • Blocking a large lace piece on the floor while suffering a flu that includes impacted sinuses is painful and exhausting and decidedly not recommended.
  • Lace blocking wires are little miracles. It may take awhile to thread them onto the shawl, but it's nothing compared to the time you would spend pinning the whole thing! 
  • When blocking on the floor, it's best to have more than six inches of walking space around the item, not only so you can move your body but so you can manipulate the wires.
  • If your edge is longer than a single wire and you need to use two, don't bother with any of the tricks recommended to connect the wires (such as taping them). It just makes the stitches move less easily along the wire and doesn't yield enough benefit to be worth the aggravation.
  • Turn off that space heater! Otherwise the lace dries lickety-split before you get the wires set. You need all that wonderful dampness you spent 20 minutes soaking into it to hang around awhile.
  • A little lavender essential oil in the spray bottle when you re-moisten is heavenly!
  • Block in a space where it's possible to close the door and have everyone -- cats, dogs, kids, etc. -- forget it exists for at least 24 hours.
  • Insanity is not the answer. Leave your inner perfectionist at the door and allow that not every single line will be perfectly parallel/square/perpendicular/straight/whatever. Get the dimensions right; make it look good; do your best; be happy with your work. Remember that when the fabric's on your shoulders, you want it to move fluidly and defy the rigidity of the lines.
Someday soon I'll give Bridgewater a proper photographing. The beach towels and rug don't do it justice!

2.24.2011

Off The Needles!

Bridgewater is finished!

Actually, it was finished late Tuesday night, but I've had no opportunity to block or photograph thanks to the pleasant little virus that's held Mancub in its grips the last two days. By way of a teaser: It's oh-so pretty!

In other news, I'm in the process of writing up the pattern for Challenge Socks #3 and will blog and post the pattern for these amazingly cable-y non-cabled lovelies as soon as possible.

For now, back to my sick little guy and pleasant dreams for a better tomorrow.

2.19.2011

Hubris

Bridgewater "should" have been done three days ago. After having flown through the horseshoe lace section, which I completed Sunday night, and based upon my round speed at the largest perimeter, I figured I'd just need two days to crank out that cute little 13-stitch edging.

Right.

I'm five solid, heavy-knitting days (4+ hours each, with one double) into it.

It's kicking my butt.

Each side has 188 live stitches by the end of the horseshoe lace section. The edging section incorporates 1 edge stitch for every 2 rows knit. That means 376 rows per side. And taking into consideration the 16 rows at each corner, this "cute little edging" adds up to 1,568 rows... knit flat.

20,384 stitches in short little burst of rows. Very challenging to create the momentum that fosters stitch rhythm.

flip flop flip flop flip flop

It'll be beautiful when finished, but the way things look now -- at just one-third of the way through the third side -- I've got another three or four days to go. (If I can carve enough knitting time.)

2.16.2011

Rounding Up The Reinforcements

Today I had a nice exchange with Mingo08 on Ravelry. She wrote to ask about the Russian wool I mentioned using as reinforcing thread in yesterday's post about the Marshlands Lace Rib Socks. I've been meaning to blog about reinforcing thread, so I'm grateful to Mingo08 for her nudge!

I reinforce heels and toes in all socks I knit. "Always" -- which means it's my rule (but exceptions can be found).


Back when I first started knitting socks, I considered it mission critical to buy the little cards of reinforcing thread sold in a range of colors to match most yarns. I was in graduate school when the passion for sock knitting really took hold of me. And with a grad student's income, it wasn't long before I decided that, relatively speaking, reinforcing thread was expensive. Too expensive.

Pictured above are just the cards I have left. The sticker prices range from $2.50 to $3.50 per card (the last I bought would have been at least four years ago, so those are old prices). At two cards per pair of socks, reinforcing thread tacked an additional $10-$14 onto the cost of my "affordable little projects."



About four years ago, I picked up several skeins of Moscow Yarn Company's wool in two lace weights Ksenia (cobweb) and Lydia (even finer cobweb). I found them at A New Yarn, the non-profit yarn store I adored which sold both new and donated yarns -- you could find amazing things there until they closed in Spring 2009. I didn't have a project in mind, but at $1 per skein figured I'd come up with a nice shawl pattern someday. The wool went into my stash, where it sat for awhile.

One day I wanted to start a pair of socks but didn’t have matching reinforcing thread on hand. I was looking around for somethind else that might work and remembered the Moscow Yarn Company wool. At such a light weight and with a nice twist, it held up in comparison to the cards I did have on-hand and seemed like a good substitute.  

I've never looked back. The darker, Lydia, is my favorite. In fact, I use it pretty much exclusively now. And whenever I teach sock classes, I invite my students to wind off enough for their projects, too. It’s performed really really well and saved me a ton of money. I haven't even finished off one skein's worth yet. Plus, because it’s already put-up in a center-pull format, it’s really convenient for me to pack two skeins in with my sock project pack and just knit off what I need.

The darker grey color works equally well when in contrast to the base yarn...

On Stripes of Sunshine I experimented with reinforcing toes only 
so I could see how well the Eye of Partridge heel stitch 
holds up on its own. (The answer is "very well.")


I expected it to show up more and was surprised
by how little contrast it ended up having.

On the Twin Rib socks I made my Mom in December, 
the contrast is more apparent yet still looked 
as if it had been designed expressly to go with the Regia Bamboo.


... as when in harmony with the base yarn....

 I can't even see it on the Country Garden socks, can you?

 The only thing giving it away on the Marshlands Lace Rib is the denser fabric
where the reinforcing wool is used. I suppose you can see a hint 
as if outlining some of the lighter colored stitches on the heel.

It wears like iron. I haven't worn through any of the toes or heels on socks reinforced with it yet -- and unless I'm wearing gym shoes, the only socks that go on my feet are handknits. I may have mentioned before that as a die-hard fan of heeled boots, I'm pretty hard on my socks. Toes, especially.

But there’s nothing particularly special about the Moscow Yarn Company wool for reinforcing except that it's what I have in my knitting bag at all times and that the dark grey truly does blend nicely with everything I’ve made. I don't even bother to take this yarn out of my bag. It's always at-the-ready.

As far as I'm concerned, you could use just about any nice lace-weight wool and be happy with it. You probably have something sitting in your stash already that’s left-over from another project and more-than-enough to keep you in toes and heels for awhile. 

In fact, I have another couple of wools that I also picked up from A New Yarn once I figured out this little trick.


As you can guess, I haven't felt the need to use them yet, so I can't say how the 2/20 weaving worsted performs. I can say that the mustard one held up remarkably well to the playful assault of my cardboard-chewing cat, Mouse, when the tube skidded under the bed during the week of our move... although it did lose its label!

2.15.2011

Challenge Socks #1: Marshland / A Bit Of A Rant About Pooling

Warning: I'm opinionated about pooling in yarn. Although I don't normally get crabby in my blog, I do in this one. If you just want to know about the socks, skip way down to "About The Socks."

On January 1 of last year, my sister, mother, and I went in together on a rather large purchase of sock yarns from DBNY. The girls at DBNY were hosting the 10th Annual Cherry Tree Hill Yarn January Sale and with free shipping on orders over $100, what better time to stock up? I picked up the usual Cherry Tree Hill deals found at DBNY and also tried some stuff from Indie Dyer and even-newer-comers Ivy Brambles and 2DI4 (a hand-dyed co-op). I won't go into all the inter-relatedness of the dyers and the retailers. Suffice it to say they're all related by blood or by virtue of having been trained/mentored by Cheryl of Cherry Tree Hill.

2DI4's Marshlands Duo colorway had seemed so promising. If you look really closely at the sock below, you'll see that it really does contain a lovely array of color:


When you take a wide view, though, less-than-desireable results in the yarn practically scream at you. For example, there's a dominant color split almost exactly dividing the top from the bottom of the foot. See how the green's on top and the brown's below?



It's only a problem on the foot; the leg looks lovely. The foot and leg are the same stitch count. The only difference is that I didn't do decorative stitch on the bottom.

Here's another aspect of the same problem:


Looking from the top you see that the sock on the left has a big swooping S-shape in brown; on the right is the same swooping S-shape, this time in green/yellow.

Ugh!

Pooling is unsightly and displeases me. It's the aesthetic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. When the same shape of pooling appears in two different colors within the same hank of yarn, I question not only the dyers' sophistication and attentiveness but also their very goal. Are they serious about making a quality product? It seems to me that unless a dyer is deliberately aiming for a self-striping effect, a clearly repeated pattern of color, or long color changes, pooling of the kind seen above just plain shouldn't happen. Period.

It doesn't matter how beautiful the color combinations are -- and this color combination is quite pretty -- if the end results look like lazy hack work. This is what you get from simplistic space dyeing techniques -- the kind of stuff anyone can shlop together in their kitchen. It's not artistry, it's mindless pouring that lends itself well to what has, perhaps, become its own genre of fiber dyeing: mass small batch production (lay out 4 hanks, pour color A "here," pour color B "here," etc.).  The reality of that laziness is disguised when the yarn is re-skeined (often at a slightly different swift diameter), so buyers can't tell what they're really getting.

The whole "one-of-a-kind colorway," "done in small batches," "never to be repeated" exclusivity rhetoric is great when the product is great. (Think about Koigu PPPM: That's artistry... colorwork of the highest order.) But this product isn't great. The reason it can't be repeated has less to do with the dyeing process or any artistic inspiration than with the technical mixing of the colors.

It may be hand-made, but I'm not convinced it earns the descriptor "hand-crafted." It's priced more in line with the boutique yarns. (The $15.99 I paid for my 100g was a sale price.) For me, it's either a step just above or a step just below early incarnations of commercially produced variegation.


If you've been following my blog, you know that this isn't the first time I've mentioned my disappointment over pooling. 2DI4 is my example of-the-moment and certainly not alone in such criticism. Perhaps it's the rest of their PR that exacerbated my frustration:

From the 2DI4 PR: "'2DI4 Duo' starts as one 450 yard hank of yarn. Then it is divided in half and tied together with a gift tag. This enables the knitter to knit both socks, mittens, or gloves at once as desired while also ensuring that each pair will look similar and that one sock, mitten or glove can be knit from one duo. Plus, it allows for convenient portability." 

Fancy language for "dyed in 100g hanks and split at the shop so sock knitters don't have to do it at home." As for "convenient portability," doesn't that come with the territory of small yardage? It's not like they wind it into center-pull balls. The description is so over-thought as to be almost insulting to the intelligence of the knitters they seek to woo.


Thus endeth the rant. I have one final comment to make on the performance of this yarn within the sock description, but I promise not to go on at-length! 

About The Socks



Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (MUMTUS) by Zhenya Lavy
Decorative Stitch: Lace Rib Stitch
Started: December 5, 2010
Completed: December 25, 2010
Materials: 2DI4 Duo, Marshlands colorway, 2 skeins (450 yards), 80/20 superwash wool/nylon
Needles: US 2 / 2.75 mm
Primary Stitch Count: 68
Gauge in Stockinette: 8.5 st/in

These socks are for my sister and will be sent to NOLA shortly. I hadn't set out to knit them for Beth, originally. I even wore them twice myself already. But when I washed and reblocked them, I looked at them on the sock blockers and realized that these socks practically screamed at me to send them to her. They look as if they were made for her -- and because the decorative stitch pattern is so forgiving, I'm pretty sure they'll fit her, too.




The decorative stitch, which starts at the toe, is the Lace Rib Stitch. I like it and will definitely use it again! As with the Mock Cable from my handspun, handknit socks, it's a simple 4-row repeat (multiple of 6 + 2, make sure to swatch for gauge/fit):


1 & 3 (WS): *P2, K1* repeat; end P2
2: *K2, P1, YO, SSK, P1* repeat; end K2
4: *K2, P1, K2tog, YO, P1* repeat; end K2
I love the serpentine effect of the line between the major ribs!



To finish off, I used Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, which has become my first-choice bind-off for toe-up socks. I like to shoot pictures of the top edge because this particular bind-off follows the line of the stitches you're binding off -- which means it always looks different. With these socks, I shifted from the decorative stitch to a simple 2x2 rib for the last 3/4 inch.


As I mentioned, I did wear these socks twice before the first wash. I thought you'd be interested in seeing how the yarn has performed so far:


See how the heel is fuzzy and lacking stitch definition? That's not a depth-of-focus issue, it's the yarn. I was shocked! This, after just two wearings, is worse than most of my handknit socks look after six months. Fortunately, the heels are reinforced with my favorite, Russian reinforcing wool -- and that yarn is still in fine shape, it's the 2DI4 that's fuzzing out around it. So for performance, too, I have to call this another strike for 2DI4.

My sister and I had a long chat about these socks. She knows my frustration with the yarn. She's also really excited that she's being gifted a handknit pair. As I've mentioned before, she's usually the one gifting to everyone else. 

Next time she gets a pair from me, I'll have set out with her in mind from the beginning. I feel bad for having missed out on that wonderful experience when I'm knitting something for someone else of spending the duration of the project thinking about that person, imagining how much enjoyment s/he'll get out of the gift, envisioning her/him wearing the gift, imbuing every stitch with love.

2.13.2011

Confession 2.13.11

Like a dieter deliberately withholding from friends and loved ones any indication that s/he is dieting until she's had some success and is sure she's committed, I've been keeping a secret. Today I go public.

My So-Called Sock Challenge: 
December 2010 through November 2011, 
I will knit no fewer than twelve pairs of socks. 

It's self-imposed. I need to knit down my stash. 

Historically I've prided myself on having a very small and tidy stash, purchasing new yarn only as-needed for a new project and rarely having more than one or two extra projects' worth on hand. After coming down from the euphoria of a few indiscriminate buying binges in 2008 and 2009, I now have a luxury of beautiful yarns (especially sock yarns) that, frankly, borders on the obscene. The magnitude became all-too-apparent when we moved last spring and I gathered all the skeins that used to be scattered around our old, much-smaller house into a single location at the new house. Too much... way too much.

The rules of the challenge are simple: Produce at least one pair per month of the challenge. That's it. Nothing rigid like "must begin and end during the same month" or "must cast on a new pair the first of the month." Twelve months equals twelve pairs (minimum). If I get ahead and finish twelve pairs early, great! I'll consider my challenge successful. In that case, I may or may not stop early. We'll see how I feel about it if that happens.

My only confidant about the challenge was my sister, and she decided to participate in solidarity -- which I love! She created a more rigid challenge schema for herself, though, so we're not doing exactly the same thing. And รก la the Yarn Harlot, she also already picked out what yarn's she's using, selected patterns for each, and set up monthly kits. Not me! No, I'm winging it all loosey goosey on-the-fly. 

My So-Called Sock Challenge Tally (as of 2.11.10):
Total: 4 pairs in 3 months

I already blogged about the Twin Rib socks for Mom. I decided to count these in my challenge, even though they didn't use yarn from my stash, because they use yarn from my mom's ample stash -- which aligns them with my goals for the challenge. My challenge, my loose rules!


You also already saw a bit about my conundrum (now resolved) with the Sleep Socks for C.

Postings about socks already completed are on their way. A new pair will hit the needles as soon as I finish my Bridgewater Shawl (which may... may... happen as early as tomorrow).

Mind you: This challenge won't completely deplete my sock yarn stash. It will make a good dent, though!

Anyone who wants to join us in our So-Called Sock Challenge is welcome -- no application necessary. 

2.11.2011

Fast And Loose (or) How I Escaped The Inferno By Free-Skeining

Back in early March I decided to give Brooklyn Tweed Jared Flood's Bridgewater Shawl (from the pamphlet Classic Elite #9108, Made in Brooklyn) a go. The biggest obstacle to my committing to this project was the laceweight yarn -- not because I don't like it or don't like knitting it but because skeining that much fine yarn into a center-pull ball is the quickest way to what surely must have appeared in Dante's in early drafts of The Inferno as the tenth circle of hell.

Visions of a center-pull ball collapsing in upon itself over time and my gorgeous, vintage Jaggerspun Seafoam Zephyr 50/50 wool/silk (2/18) turning into a hopeless, #%*@&!-ish pile of knots, never to be saved from the tangled abyss, all but paralyzed me.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I turned to free-skeining. Before you accuse me of having gone over the edge with this one, it's not a drug-induced state! It's this:


I'm more than 3/4 done with my Bridgewater, so that  gorgeous round of fiber draped over the arm of the chair doesn't look nearly as daunting as it used to. What you see is about 350 wraps of yarn wound on my 1-1/2 yard niddy noddy. Back when I started, the hank consisted of 921 wraps  (1,387 yards)!

To prepare the fiber, I segmented the skein into 9 sections of 100 wraps each and 1 section of 21 wraps. Ties were placed at each of the compass points, and then a larger tie bundled all the segments together at each of the compass points. Here's what it looks like with the few segments remaining:


That unbound bit at the top of the image is the segment I'm currently knitting from.

So how does it work in practice? I drape the ring over the arm of a chair or just put my arm through it and wear it draped over my elbow if there aren't any good arms on my seat. I untie the segment I'm currently knitting from, allowing the yarn to flow off the ring as I work. (Some people advocate wearing the yarn across the body like a pageant sash, but that just didn't do it for me.) If I'm knitting while mostly reclined -- like sitting up in bed or laying on the couch -- I'll bend my right leg and pop the ring over my knee.

I discovered an inexpensive little tool to keep it all straight: a pipe cleaner!

The pipe cleaner lets me easily see my beginning of ring area, wrap up the segments not currently in use, and partition off the segment in use for easy release.  Here it's wrapped for storage:


Here it's unwrapped for knitting:


The pipe cleaner is also a good anchor for winding the ring back into a neatly twisted hank at the end of the day. I just hold the pipe cleaner end in one hand, twist into a hank, and insert the other end back through the pipe cleaner end. (Sorry there's no picture of that, but I bet you can figure it out just fine.)

Free-skeining has worked brilliantly for me. Consider me your free-skeining pusher for projects when center-pull balls just won't cut it. I would totally do this again and can't think of anything I'd do to improve upon my system. If you're considering this technique, just know that the careful and methodical tie-up really is key to its success -- and to keeping you from panicking yourself into wearing a funky fiber pageant sash just to be doubly certain you avoid catastrophe.

In fast, after having worked on my free-skeining project this long, I've become so comfortable and casual about it all that on occasion I don't do due diligence in twisting my yarn back up at the end of the night and leave it looking like a spaghetti jumble on the side table!


I have absolute faith that all is well -- and I haven't been wrong yet.


The shawl is coming along nicely, too! I completed the garter square center and am halfway through the horseshoe lace. I'm gunning to finish in the next five days.

2.10.2011

How To Extend The Life Of Handknit Socks

Why do I crank out multitudes of socks?


Because I adore knitting but have a scarcity of time and their diminutive palatte holds infinite possibility for the exploration of design and technique. Every stitch is a precious thing.

For my mother, who forges on despite disability, it takes an entire year to make a single pair of socks. Every stitch is a precious thing.

My sister believes everybody in the extended family -- and even extended circle of friends -- deserves not just one but two pairs of handknit socks. So strong is her conviction that she has committed to being a one-woman go-to source for fiber love. She moves them out at breakneck speed -- and still, every stitch is a precious thing.


Rather than frame our work behind archival glass or limit their rotation in our wear cycle, we firmly believe we (or our loved ones) ought to be able to wear the heck out of our handknit socks well into the next millenium.

But socks pay a steep price for the privilege of being among our beloved pairs. Worn patches appear on the best of them, and none can escape the assault of toes and their insidious toenails pressing upon them from within a heeled boot. Sooner or later, something's gonna give!

Here's a little tip that can help delay the inevitable:


Before washing, turn your socks wrong side out!

Washing your handknit socks wrong-side-out increases likelihood that any fuzzy halos accumulating over time will appear on the insides rather than the outsides.

Turning the foot-sweaty side out when you wash encourages dirt to move more freely out into the wash water rather than staying trapped within the sock itself -- and less dirt equates to less wear.

I know, I know... somewhere out there is a scientist who can produce research demonstrating that those of us inclined to knit socks by hand are also, nine times out of ten, inclined to turn our clothes right side out before tossing them in the hamper. But muster the strength to move past your compulsion and give this tip a try. Can't hurt, and your socks might thank you!

2.09.2011

Goal!

Early last spring, just before things got crazy with my job and the move, I achieved a milestone: I spun singles that were both fine enough and consistent enough for me to ply into a viable, fingerweight sock yarn! The fact that I'm only just now writing about it should be some indication of just how fantastically life intervened.

The story:

When my Aunt Mae died late last January, I flew back to Ohio, and my sister and mom (who still lives in Ohio but had been visiting my sister) drove up from New Orleans. They picked me up at the Cleveland airport on their way into town. No sooner had we finished our hugs than we started plotting which yarn stores we could hit on the way to Mom's house. Mind you, Beth had been driving for 20 solid hours, proving two things: our compulsion for fiber borders on the masochistic and, apparently, is also genetic.

We landed at KNOTS (Knitting on the Square) in Chardon, the quaint little town where my husband grew up which is, conveniently, just a 20-minute drive south of my mom's current home. At KNOTS we chatted with the wonderful owner, Kate Jackson, and found so many great things. We were surprised to find spinning fiber at all, let alone her healthy stock of indie-dyed beauties. Kate was flabbergasted that we went straight to her shop before even getting to our destination! We picked up several kinds of fibers and colorways. More on my purchase in the future -- the subject of today's post is this lovely:

Dancing Feet Roving by TomBoy Yarns.
4oz or superwash Blue Faced Leicester.
Colorway: Jewel Tones.

They may be common colors, but they spoke to me that day... and the BFL was just so luscious.

Jump forward to April. Joseph and I had just signed a contract to purchase our new home. With the pressure to pack and move within six weeks crushing down upon me, I made what seemed then to be a logical choice: I spun the entire 4 ounces on April 5 and Navajo/chain plied it the next day. The whole time, I was thinking, "This could be socks," and behold:

380 yards. Sock yarn!

I cast on and madly knit the toes, foot, and gusset before I had to get serious about moving.

Flash forward to November. With four glorious months of parental leave stretching out before me, sanity and space returned and I found my creative energy restored. Out came the socks!



Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (MUMTUS) by Zhenya Lavy (workshop pictorial, Ravelry page, downloadable PDF of the condensed pattern)
Primary Stitch Count: 52
Started: April 28, 2010
Completed: November 28, 2010
Materials: My Navajo-plied handspun from Superwash BFL, Jewel Tones (Dancing Feet Roving by TomBoy Yarns)
Needles: US 2 / 3.00 mm

I used a mock cable stitch with alternating twists for the leg:


This Mock Cable has a simple, four-row repeat:

1: *MT, P2, K2, P2* repeat
2 & 4: K2, P2
3: K2, P2, *MT, P2, K2, P2* repeat

(MT = Make Twist. K2tog but don't slip off needle. Insert needle back into the 1st stitch and knit. Slip both off needle.)

Blocked 

My handspun was a joy to knit. I found myself stopping to admire my work much more frequently than usual!

I have 26 grams of the handspun left -- that's about 23% of my starting quantity. I only used 77% of my fiber... about 266 yards. This confuses me. The yarn looks and feels like fingerweight, but it knit up like a higher grist. Hmmm... Thoughts?

Doesn't the color flow beautifully through the fabric? I didn't do any special spinning techniques to manipulate the color. I just let things fall where they may in the spinning and Navajo plying processes.

Before blocking. Squishy and luxurious!

They're definitely a fraternal pair, which would drive my sister crazy, but I'm good with it!  It's most obvious here:


I know it's generally preferable to block before photographing, but sometimes I feel like the blocking renders a "sterile" picture. In their pre-blocked state, they shine with all the charisma of the kinesthetic experience they have to offer!


When all was said and done, they didn't take all that much touch time to spin and knit... but they ended up being a seven-month project. Yikes!



Sadly, last week Kate announced that she's selling KNOTS to spend more time with her two little ones and prepare for the arrival of a third. Congratulations, Kate! I've really appreciated your approach and your fun voice in the newsletters. 

I'm praying someone wonderful buys the shop. As my mother-in-law says, "It's such a nice addition to Chardon Square." As I see it, a yarn store is perfect for a serene, historical setting. I'd be all over it if we still lived in Ohio!

2.05.2011

Getting A Grip On (En)Tangle(ment)z

Did I mention I had joined the Girl Scouts last fall?

I innocently took The Girlio to a meeting and ended up a collateral registrant, and... well... now we're up to our ears in cookie sales, pursuing the Bronze Award, and fundraising for an early May trip to San Francisco. There, C and seven other Seattle Juniors from her troop are joining 5,000 Girl Scouts to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge for their Bridging Ceremony. Our girls are working as a team to raise the $745 travel cost per person. They made great progress doing holiday gift-wrapping at Barnes & Noble. Today they're selling home-made or -baked items at the region's Annual Meeting.

C and I are very proud of our contribution to the fundraising efforts:


That's right, we designed and made those cute little hair ribbon things otherwise known as


Feast your eyes on the fruits of our labor. Three days of my life, to be exact. Thursday through Saturday of last week. Thursday went something like this: Woke up at 4am stressing about what we would make. Tossed. Turned. Tossed some more.



Got out of bed at 6:30am to surf the web for inspiration before the kids woke up. Having been a Girl Scout fewer than six months, I didn't have a clue what was done or not done or cool or not cool. The heat was on!

Then I discovered that the Girl Scouts licensed cute fabrics designed by Robert Kaufman. I could do something with that! But what?

Four ideas emerged based upon my research: Sit-Upons, Pledge Money Purses, String Backpacks, and Pony O's. Pony O's seemed the most manageable and the most salable -- and I hadn't seen anything like them out there specific to Girl Scouts. Yes!



Teachers at C's school were to have a professional development day on Friday. Since that meant she would be home with me the next day, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for us to assemble everything. I located the closest local store carrying the fabric and ran over to pick up supplies so we could start working as early as possible the next day.

I also had to pull out both of my sewing machines and open them up for repairs. Neither was working, and I knew it. I diagnosed the older one and ordered some parts for repair. Fortunately, I was able to put the newer one back into working order so we could use it right away. And use it we did!

Captains of the Industrial Revolution would have been impressed by the brilliance of the mass-production assembly line we set up in our living room.

Even though the cute little beads are hidden by the way I've secured all the bands, I love how these Pony O's look en masse!

It took a day longer than I had hoped, but by Saturday evening we had cranked out a total of 36 C & Z Original Girl Scout Pony O's. Wooo - hoooo! Of course C selected two to keep, so we're actually selling 34.

These are some seriously well-crafted Pony O's, too. We used the sewing machine to stitch fabric tubes from the Girl Scouts fabric, which we then turned right-side-out. She was a miracle of fiddly fabric-turning stamina! Catherine carefully assessed which color ribbons went with which color fabric... then which color band... then which color bead. The ribbon ends were neatly trimmed and sealed. And the whole was assembled and finish stitched by hand.

If you think that was the hard part, think again. We still had to figure out how to display them! The girls have about 20 different types of items to sell on a single little table, so space would be at a premium. We knew we had to go vertical. Six days passed before we figured out a simple, doable solution:


If you guessed "shoe tree," you're correct! C made a great sign. I figured out how to rig it to stand up nicely.

C practiced assembling and disassembling it all so things will go smoothly at the sale. Then she practiced her sales pitch and her best "How could you possibly say no to me?" look. Again, success:


She has every reason to be proud of all her work! We got out of a fundraising idea tangle, and we can help 34 lucky girls keep their hair tangle-free stylishly while participating in all their Girl Scout activities!

My fingers are super-duper crossed. These fundraisers are challenging in so many ways, and it would be nice to make another big step toward the girls' goal. Anyone want to order some for their own little Girl Scouts? Let me know! Leftovers will be posted for sale on Etsy Sunday, and we'd be happy to make more if they all sell at today's meeting.


2.03.2011

What Was I Thinking?! (What Do You Think?)

Last night I threw caution to the wind and cast on a pair of sleep socks for The Girlio without checking gauge first.


Here was my thinking:
  1. The number of stitches cast on at the toe is somewhat irrelevant since I just need a handful, and to be off by one or two would not make or break the socks' fit.
  2. The toe increase section itself would become my gauge swatch! The sock would be knit in stockinette, and because it's a sleep sock that won't be getting hard wear, I wouldn't reinforce the toes or heels. Conditions were right!
  3. I knew I wouldn't overshoot the right stitch count for circumference before having knit plenty of fabric to test gauge.
  4. I really wanted to knit up some handspun I'd made on my trip back to Ohio and Pennsylvania late last January for my Aunt Mae's funeral. It's been a year, and I've been thinking about her a lot.
  5. The handspun had been languishing and needed just this kind of inspired moment to get it on the needles. Back when I made it, C was wearing an orange coat, so these 185 yards of yarn would have made a great little hat or skinny scarf. Now she wears a light purple coat. Not so good. But for sleep socks? Wonderful!
  6. It's a heavier yarn -- mostly worsted -- so they'd knit up lickety split!
  7. C would love them. This is a girl who uses three of those grain-filled foot-warmer things you heat in the microwave each night.
I cast on while watching old episodes of Nip/Tuck on Netflix before bed (my current guilty pleasure... I had turned my nose up at it when it was in syndication, but I'm loving it now). Semi-dark room... a wickedly delicious absinthe cocktail at-the-ready... an equally wickedly delicious episode to watch... and I was in heaven, zipping blissfully along on my US 4 needles without really looking at what was going on.

It all seemed so perfect!

But this morning, when I picked up the socks to admire my handiwork and (I thought) celebrate my great success with this seat-of-the-pants cast on, I saw it:


I'd spun the yarn thick-thin.

Fergus!

I guess I have two choices:
  1. Frog them and come up with a different project for the handspun, or
  2. Keep going and call it a worthy experiment. It's not a severe thick-thin and doesn't seem awful so far. And since they're sleep socks, she won't be putting them in shoes or putting her weight on them enough to be irritated by the irregularity of the fabric.
What do you think?

2.02.2011

Pattern Now Available: Basic Instincts Shawl

The Basic Instincts Shawl pattern is now available as a free download!
You can download a PDF via Ravelry or get it on Flickr by clicking the photo above.

NOTE: The pattern is 4 pages long. The Ravelry link is to a single, comprehensive document, but if you get it through Flickr you will need to download 4 separate pages.

More updates on all my various aesthetic entanglements to come soon -- including a big confession!