Monday, 28 July 2014

Something big

Yesterday I realized the dress I'm making for my niece is going quite quickly.  It makes sense when I think about it, the bodice is knit while the skirt is sewn and a knitted bodice to fit a 6 month old is not very big.

As I thought about this I realized I should either do something to make my knitting last through my Tuesday knitting group or cast on something else so I'll definitely have something to knit there tomorrow.  I have tried casting on there, it just doesn't mix well with trying to talk to people while paying attention to Caleb.

I have a list of things I want to knit, they're all gifts for friends that they've requested and they're all pretty small.  A tea cozy, a pair of mittens, little things that will be used and loved but overall don't add up to a big project.  I like all of the things I plan to knit but feel like I'm always casting on.

To that end I wove in the ends of two pairs of mittens yesterday to try to get that finished, and then knit a little bit on the dress.  I'll totally be done today the main part today, which means I'll have to cast on a new project so I have something on the needles tomorrow.  (Sewing up seams and doing fancy edging are also tasks that aren't super-compatible with my knitting group.)

I want to make something big.  To start something and have it stretch out in front of me and finish little by little, to have it be a constant for a while.  I'm still ruminating on what, but I want it to be big.

Thursday, 24 July 2014


Recently I've made two pairs of fair isle mittens, the first took longer than normal because I kept ripping it out when I wasn't happy with my colour selection.  I spent time planning the second pair of mittens and was much happier with the result (and process), but I concluded I'd like to learn more about colours and how they work together.  I ordered some books from the library (I love the library), and this week one of my holds came in, Exploring Color in Kitting.

It's a quick read (I read through the entire thing during one of Caleb's naps), but gives a really good overview of selecting colours and things we can consider when deciding on colour combinations.  I like that it's specifically about colour in knitting, they point out that a painter can mix different colours of ink  but that knitters have to chose from available yarns (unless you're cool and dye your own and are good enough to tweak the dye to get exactly what you want, I am not that cool yet).

I like how they talk about how different stitch patterns can play with colour, and how to break down what's happening in a colour way so you can understand it better, which in turn can inform our choices about how we're going to change it.

They show swatches in multiple colourways to demonstrate what they're talking about which is fantastic and doesn't get too far away from the concrete.  The book is well written, well photographed, and well organized.

I'm going to read it again and take a few notes.  I like this one a lot.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Somewhat distracted

Every week I go to a knitting group. It's an absolutely lovely haven of adult conversation. I don't get a ton of knitting done at it because we're talking and I'm trying to prevent Caleb from getting in trouble, but it's still wonderful.

I call it a knitting group because that's what I do there and what most of us do but actually it's a craft group and a few weeks ago one of the some organized a tea bag folding lesson for whoever wanted to try.

I am now making two wreathes. My knitting has had some slow progress as I have been a tad distracted.

I'm about to start a lovely dress for my niece, though. I'm very pleased with the fabric and yarn, and today I will swatch.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Almost enough

The colourwork mittens I'm making are using up leftover balls of yarn.  As a result when I planned out which colours would be used for which parts of the pattern I was making a guess that I would have the right amounts.  The guess wasn't completely random, I weighed all the balls before I started and assigned the larger balls to the large sections and the smaller parts to the smaller sections, and I was fairly confident I would have the right amount but it was still a guess.

In these mittens there are two sections that use green, at the tip of the mittens (which is the start, as the mittens are made top-down), and a large stripe of green and white colourwork around the hand.  As I started this stripe on the second mitten I looked at the yarn I had left and wondered if it would be enough.  As I neared the halfway point of the stripe I realized it would be pretty close.

I ran out of yarn about 50 stitches short of where I needed to be.  I contemplated my options.  I could order a whole other ball of yarn, which wouldn't be the same dye lot and would mean I'd have to wait to continue.  I could use another colour, which would drive me absolutely batty, and since these mittens are for me isn't an option because I'd never ever ever be able to forget about it.  I sat there for a moment wishing there was a third option until I realized there was a solution.  I wove in the green ends up then spliced the scraps together.

I cannot tell you how relieved this makes me.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

That horrible hat

Lately I've been noticing that I've changed in how I make decisions about my projects, once it was about the finished project.  Would someone notice that a yarn over was missed in a shawl?  Nope, so whatever, I'd add in another stitch randomly so the stitch count would match and carry on.  Would someone notice the tiny mistake in the colourwork twelve rows back?  Nope, I'd knit on.  Would anyone notice that there are 6 colours being used in a fair isle hat and I hadn't cut them between lines?  It only pulls a little, I'll be the only one to know, it's fine.

But I'm different now.  Now the answers to those questions are, "no one else will know, but I will, and I want it to be perfect, perfect for myself."  Part of it is the fact that I'm a perfectionist and have come to appreciate that little things really do make a difference to the overall product and I'm happier putting in the effort to make things right.  But part of it is that I often used to think that since something was only for me it wouldn't matter, and part of growing up has been realizing that if I deserve to have things done well too, and that if something is for me there's all the more reason to make it nice for myself.

My first project that wasn't a scarf was a hat.  I was in high school and while I wasn't broke I was saving for university so money was tight.  Lewis Craft had a drive around Christmas where if you bought yarn from them, then knit it into hats, mitts, or other warm things for the needly and brought the item and your receipt back they would refund the price of the yarn.  I thought this was brilliant so I decided I would make a hat.  I got the yarn and needles and diligently kept the receipt.  I started the hat.  It was taking a really long time so I decided it would go faster if I knit more loosely.  I thought this was also brilliant.  Needless to say the hat was terrible.  Unspeakably terrible.  I lost it at school but found it again to I could take it to the store.  I drove to the mall but when I got there the hat was missing (I have since concluded that God was trying to prevent me from making a total fool of myself).

Sometimes I'll think of that hat when I'm ripping back to fix something small, the difference between how I approach knitting now so different from how I approached it then making it seem almost like the decisions were made by two different people.  Perhaps, in a way, they were.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Mitten Love

The second pair of mittens are coming along beautifully, I love how they're turning out.  (I have made absolutely no progress on my pile of almost finished objects because these are so much fun).  I have a thing for mittens, they're probably one of my favourite projects.  I'm not sure exactly what it is that captivates me about them, it might be because they're visible when worn, or the fact that you can do so much with them, or the fact that they don't need a lot of yarn so it's easier to afford the good stuff, or the fact that they get done relatively quickly, or that they're easily portable, or maybe it's the combination of all three, but I do know that I love them.

Now when I say I love knitting mittens I don't mean that I like making plain ones out of worsted yarn (not that there's anything wrong with that) but fancy colourwork ones out of sock weight.  I've knit a ton of them in the last three years, and as I was knitting these I was reminded of the book that really got me hooked, Colorwork Creations by Susan Anderson-Freed.  It has patterns for toques, tams, mittens, fingerless mittens, and gloves with a woodland theme (birds, reindeer, etc), and they are beautiful.  The patterns are clearly written and the charts are large enough to be read easily.  The book is extremely well done and the reason why I have a ton of leftover balls of drops alpaca yarn hanging around (which is also amazing in its own right).  I've made more projects from this book than any other pattern book I've ever bought and think they're all stunning.

One thing I really like about these patterns is that the mittens are knit top down (you make the thumb first).  That way you don't have the entire weight of the mitten pulling on the thumb that you knit last while trying to force yourself to finish because thumbs are boring.  Nope, this way you get it over with while the project is still new and exciting and you're not thinking about all the amazing things you're going to knit next.

As I made my current pair of mittens (not from this book), I started to look back through it.  I think my next project is going to be a tam.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Learning with Mittens

I haven't put the finishing touches on the projects I wrote about in my last post but I have begun another pair of fair isle mittens. It was really interesting to experiment with what did and didn't work with the last pair but this pair I wanted to be able to just sit down and knit, so before I begun I sat down and planned out which colours I would use for each part using what I had learned from my trial and error pair of mittens. This is what I learned:

1. Fair isle depends on contrast to be seen, there are some pairings of colours that look lovely together but were too close to each other for the pattern to stand out. I consistently underestimated how much contrast I needed.

2.  Fair isle is a good opportunity to use bolder colour combinations than I would normally have thought I liked, especially in smaller motifs.

3.  Some motifs are spread over enough rows that they start with one pair of colours, change in the middle, then return to the first set at the end. I found that it works best to have either the two main colours or two contrasting colours be of the same family (for example red and maroon) for the design to stand out instead of getting lost. I can see that this wouldn't be the case in all designs but for some of the smaller ones I was using it's hard to see the stitch pattern as clearly when the same design traveled through different colour families.

I had a ton of fun with the first pair and am really looking forward to see how my current pair will turn out as I use what I learned last time.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Vacation Knitting

We just got back from a lovely week in Vermont, I didn't get as much knitting as I expected done, partly due to my multiple rip-outs of mittens and partly due to the fact that I packed more than I needed, but that's fine. Who wants to risk not having enough knitting?  Not me.

Things I got done:
1.  The blue shawl, I just need to block it.
2.  Caleb's hat, but not his mitts.
3.  One pair of fair isle mittens (weaving in the ends).

I'll post pictures when the last step is done for them. :)