Thursday, October 29, 2009

All I'm Going to Say is "Kool"

My latest project, the Aestlight Shawl, came to an abrupt standstill when I ran out of yarn about 4 inches from the end. I knit as fast as I could but it didn't help. ;) That's like driving as fast as you can to a gas station when your tank is low. So I quickly ordered not one, but TWO more skeins of the lovely Dream in Color Smooshy in Shiny Moss from Little Knits. My plan is that I will then have enough wool to knit another shawl when Aestlight is complete. Dye lot should not matter that much with the variation in color inherent in the skein, but we shall see. I might be in for a rude awakening.
In the meanwhile I had ordered a few things from Knit Picks. Carmen Banana is in the works. She is a female sock monkey with several outfits including a poodle skirt. What a fun, though fiddly, knit. I doubt that saucy Carmen will have a boyfriend anytime soon in this household, at least from the needles of this knitter, but who knows? I estimate that she is taking about as much time as a pair of socks, which is fine. The kit was $19.95 and that included quite a lot of wool. In fact, I'm sure you could get two sock monkeys out of one kit.
Among of the items I ordered from Knit Picks were some skeins of Bare, their undyed wool. What a bargain! Fingering Weight, 75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% nylon, 462 yards for $6.29! (free shipping if order is over $50, which mine always is). It is actually quite lovely in its bare state. Given the "hobby gene" that runs in my family, it is incredible that I have never in my knitting or former spinning life, dyed even one little bit of wool. No, I was not going to GO THERE. It was another world of chemicals, pots, mordants, and a load of paraphernalia that I did not want to deal with. Then some time ago along came dyeing with Kool-Aid, to which I gave a cursory nod. Can you tell what I am leading up to?
First I read through quite a few tutorials online, all of which varied somewhat in approach. Since microwaves and I don't get along real well lately (I've ruined two), I chose the crock pot method. Armed with a dozen or so packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid, my largest crock pot, a few towels, and a skein of Bare, I delved into the world of color. It was easier than I thought it would be and the result wasn't too bad. I found that although I thought I had PLENTY of Kool_aid, the wool sucked it up pretty fast. Less than 10 min after putting the dye in the crock pot, the water was clear. So I mixed up more "dye" and poured it in. That got sucked up quickly too. Note that my first doses of dye were 3 packets of Black Cherry mixed in water for one end of the crock pot and the same in Cherry at the other end. Still there were areas where the strands are light pink. (It was not my intention to try to match the color of the crock pot.)Nonetheless, I will be excited to see how this fruity wool knits up. It is rather pretty, isn't it? It still smells like Kool-Aid but I think that will dissipate.

Has anyone overdyed something like this to tone it down a bit (just in case)? Is there a food related way? Back in the 80's we used tea to stain muslin for sewing projects. I'm wondering if that would work.
Now I'm taking a poll on how you feel about music on a blog site. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I find it a little distracting and on the other hand I've found some music I really like through blogs. So what do you think? Of course, you can always click on the pause button...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


This is Ishbel in all it's loveliness. As for Lilith's wool, I couldn't have purchased anything in Scotland that would have pleased me more than this particular skein.

I've started on another project now so you won't be seeing another least for a while.

Ishbel Bind Off Video

I enjoyed doing the bind off on Ishbel and was so pleased with the result. It made a very flexible edge for the shawl. While it is very simple and Ysolda's instructions are excellent, I soon found a streamlined way of doing it. I'm sure you would discover a shortcut also, but this tip might save a little time. To find my YouTube video click on the link below.

I'm not sure whether this bind off has a name but I plan on using it again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Ishbel

It only took 6 days from start to finish on Ishbel in Old Maiden Aunt, Bracken (green).

I have laid the smaller red Ishbel on top of the larger one to show the size difference. The only difference is that I knit one more repeat of the charts A and B. As you can see there there is a considerable overall size difference with just this small change.

This is the amount of wool left after I bound off my second Ishbel. Whew! That was a close one. I was sweating it out on that last row. Needless to say, I can't run to Scotland for more wool. Or can I?

The lace detail is so pretty especially with this particular yarn. While it was on the guest bed in the blocking phase I kept going down there to admire it.
What I learned about Ishbel:

(1) Follow charts and ignore the written directions. On my first Ishbel I followed the charts but my stitch count was off so I tried to check it with the written directions. That only made things worse. The second time I stayed with the charts and had no problems.

(2) The pattern repeat is 8 stitches. Stitch markers don't work because the repeat shifts. At the center point, or before that point when the rows got very long, I counted the pattern repeats. The double decrease always lines up. That is important to note. Usually when I got off on the pattern it was because I forgot one of the YO's at the beginning and end of each row or forgot to psso on the double decrease.

(3) If you love garter stitch, as I do, it works fine to do the center portion in garter stitch. Make absolutely sure your stitch count is correct before starting on the lace.

(4) Pay particular attention to Chart C line 5. There is where you stop making the YO's in the center of the shawl.

(5) If you are accustomed to slipping the first stitch of each row, do not slip on Ishbel. The border is more flexible when this stitch is knitted loosely rather than slipped.
Proper photos will be coming shortly.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Lovely Ishbel Shawl

Although Ishbel gave me fits for a while I believe it was due to my choice of yarn, or rather the color of the yarn. There is a strong contrast in the reds and purples which camouflaged the lace pattern. Araucania Sock isn't as soft as Malabrigo Sock but is still lovely and I do love the colorway. Since I bought two skeins of it back in June at A Sow's Ear in Verona WI, there is plenty left to make Damson or perhaps Aestlight by Gudrun Johnston. It is fantastic that designers are coming out with patterns for small shawls that can be knit with one skein of sock yarn. While I have knit my fair share of socks I do not consider myself a sock knitter. To me a Sock Knitter is one who always has a pair of socks on the needles and maybe even knits socks exclusively.

During these cool fall days a light wool scarf about one's shoulders takes off the chill, both indoors and out. We had our first frost last night. The woolens are coming out.

I enjoy wearing the shawl with the point on the side (top photo) or as Ysolda usually does, in the front.
To avoid a peasant or granny look (although I am old enough to be a granny), do your best to keep the point from aiming toward your backside. Since Ishbel has shaping to curve around the neck a shawl pin is not necessary to keep it in place.
I LOVE Ishbel and will soon post my tips for Ishbel along with photos of Ishbel #2 which is currently pinned on the guest bed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Just for Now

How could a basket filled with luscious skeins of soft wool not make a person smile?

And how could knitting on a sunny porch while gazing at birds and treetops not be the best place in the world at the moment?

What is better than knitting one's first Ishbel? It could be knitting the second Ishbel while wearing Damson. I bought the wool in Scotland in West Kilbride at Old Maiden Aunt. The color is called "bracken". Knitting with it evokes memories of the glens and mossy vales of Scotland. Bliss.

And how could a pair of red shoes not make the world a little brighter, too?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Something is Very Red

While it may seem as if I have been knitting up another garment every few days, that is not entirely the case. As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I am usually a monogamous knitter. My MO is having one project that is somewhat challenging or large, and one that is easy and portable. I uncharacteristically got too many (for me) projects going and suddenly felt the need to finish them all up. It was time. Some just needed a few finishing touches. The red cardigan, which gave me a few fits, just needed the button band and a button. I knitted that button band 3 times and I'm still not entirely happy with it. The button, which was strategically placed to "lock and load the girls" doesn't do the job. I know how to sew on a button properly and to make a non-shank button have a bit of a shank, but it doesn't hold up to activity. It may need to be moved down about 2 inches. So this part may go back to the frog pond (just the band, mind you), which will be tricky because I have already woven in the ends. Sigh.

The pattern is Wendy Bernard's Something Red, which I purchased on Ravelry. The pattern seems very similar to Mr. Green Jeans, a free pattern on Knitty. I debated between the two and now I wonder if I would have liked Green Jeans better (and not just because it is free). My other main concern about Something Red are the sleeves. Quite a few folks on Ravelry said they did not make the sleeves so deep. I wish I had heeded that advice. Although the sweater isn't uncomfortable, there is a lot of extra ease around the underarms and it looks a bit messy. The extra depth also made the lower part of the sleeves very wide so I had to knit them twice.
Need I mention that YO's on a top down raglan scream "handmade" from the rooftops? Note to self: next time Make 1's.

I also have a bit of an issue when a pattern says "pick up x number of stitches for the button band." It is unlikely that every knitter is going to have the same number of rows on the sweater since torso length varies on humans. I use the ratio of 3 pick ups for every 4 stitches, which is what I learned from Elizabeth Zimmermann who mostly did garter stitch borders. Looking at the photos I realize that something DEFINITELY has to be done with that button band. It really looks sloppy at the bottom. I tried unsuccessfully to hide it with a basket but I suppose it is impractical to try to carry an object in front of me all the time. That would be too weird. Upon further reflection I think the problem is not the ratio of stitches that were picked up along the edge but the fact that the ribbing on the band naturally pulls in. I'm not sure I can fix that and keep the ribbed band. A garter stitch band would behave better but there is no other garter stitch on this sweater. Garter stitch, although my favorite for a band, doesn't seem like the best solution.
I would love to hear your suggestions.


This morning the prayer shawl knitters from my church met at our local coffeehouse, The Blend. This shawl, which I have been knitting off and on since July, was blocked and ready to go. I had a faint idea of the intended recipient, but was not certain. While we were having our hot drinks (it is cold here today!) we found out that one of our fellow knitters is still not well after a fall she had several weeks ago. Right then I knew this shawl was for her. It is made of luxury yarn, Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk, so it could not go to a sick household where it could be tossed in a machine. We laid our hands on the shawl and prayed for our friend. Immediately following our gathering I took the shawl to her. She exclaimed, "It is my favorite color!" as I put it around her shoulders. She looked beautiful! It was indeed her color. I knew right then that the Holy Spirit had guided us to the right place.

The pattern is Cheryl Oberle's Feather and Fan
Triangle Shawl from her book Folk Shawls. One feature I especially like are the long tails, made by extra increases on each of the side points of the triangle. These long tails make the shawl wrap nicely about the shoulders and neck.
Of course there was all that blissful garter stitch, too!
I only put about 5 repeats of Feather and Fan on the border of the shawl and it still is a fairly ample covering.
It makes me happy knowing this shawl has found its way home.

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