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Archive for the ‘On the Needles’ Category

Earnest Hemming (A)way

Posted by Janis on February 25, 2009

The sweater surgery was pretty successful. The patient did not expire, nor did the doc, though I had a very faint moment at the end of 120 (on each side) stitches grafted when I realized I was off by two stitches on one side. Yeah. Two stitches. No way was I going to pull the whole thing out and redo it. So I cleverly hid the problem in the seam.

Hemming (and hawing) the Sunrise Circle Jacket

Hemming (and hawing) the Sunrise Circle Jacket

I’m now onto sewing up the hem. Last night during Obama’s speech, I was so inspired I got both of the sleeves hemmed and started on the neckline, which you see here. I have got a lot of sewing left to do here, but it’s really not bad. It’s not making ugly marks on the front of the sweater so far, so that’s a huge relief. I had worked myself into a tizzy worrying about that little “what if.”

Aside from the Sunrise Circle progress, I washed and blocked the pieces of my Pretzel Logic Cabled Vest yesterday. Just peeked at it — blocking works wonders for cables – so here is a rather dim picture of the back. My basement blocking area is not a sunny delight — bear with me. I have fallen in love with cabling this winter — I love the variety it affords. I’m a little worried this vest may end up being just a smidgen small — I did some funky math with my yarn sub and am afraid I goofed it up. We’ll know tomorrow when it’s dry enough to baste together and slip on.



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Once Upon a Mattress (Stitch)

Posted by Janis on February 25, 2009

Carol Burnett as Winifred in "Once Upon a Mattress"

Carol Burnett as Winifred in "Once Upon a Mattress"

This is for those of us who grew up on wonderful television broadcasts of Broadway classics like “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin (OK, now that I look back on that one, she is rather grotesque as young Peter), “Cinderella” with Lesley Anne Warren, Celeste Holm, and Walter Pigeon, and this classic — “Once Upon a Mattress” with Carol Burnett as Winifred.

Having just completed quite a lot of mattress stitch, I felt it was a fitting tribute to my now better-honed skills in that area. It’s a funny thing with knitting (or any other skill one is learning, come to think of it) — the things that used to strike fear in my heart as a new knitter have, after three years of obsessive knitting, become… well, much easier. And not only are those things easier for me to do, they actually look pretty good, too. I’m sure you can recite the litany of scary knitting things with me, knitties: Kitchener stitch, seaming, lace, knitting with tiny needles… (And I must say, I had a proud knitting in public moment about a year ago when working on a sock on two circ’s – size 1 Addi’s with regular fingering weight sock yarn – and a woman came up and asked me if I was knitting with wire and thread!)

I know this is probably a real non-brainer for most of you. You do something more, practice, you get better. Our moms and dads told us that all the time. But get this — they were right.

Posted in On the Needles | 3 Comments »

Sweater Surgery

Posted by Janis on February 16, 2009

I know it’s a holiday, but the doctor is in and busy at work. I had a major surgery scheduled for this morning: my Sunrise Circle Jacket’s back is suffering from a moderate to severe case of shortness.

I diagnosed this problem only when actually suturing the fronts to the back yesterday (yes, this doctor even works Sundays). Of course, in my usual fashion, I insisted on completing the side sutures on both sides, easing the extra frontage into the backage, and creating what I’ll kindly call a gently undulating effect along the front — not unlike a bad lipo job. So I modelled it, looked, thought… “hmmmm, I really don’t want to knit a new back, even though I have plenty of yarn.” Then I thought — surgery! Snip a stitch, unravel, knit in a couple of inches, and graft it shut again. I had performed this procedure successfully over the summer on a baby sweater sleeve that needed an additional inch. The scale of the SCJ is much larger – oh, say 4 times more stitches to be dealt with – but I know I can do it.

The offending uneveness.

The offending uneveness.

Surgery in progress.

Surgery in progress.

At this point I have ravelled (unravelled?) the back just above the hem-turn line, and have managed to get all the stitches on both sides of the incision on needles. I’m sure some of them are twisted, but I’ll deal with that as I knit them or graft them. When I get the knitting done, I’m going to try the brilliant TECHknitter’s method of grafting with knitting needles.

And now, my big confession. It is utterly ridiculous that I’m having to do this in the first place. You see, I looked up everything ever written by anyone who’s done this pattern before I cast on. Did anyone mention a problem with back length? Oh yes, many times. Did I follow the designer’s recommendation and knit the back first, then match the fronts to it? Well, I knit the back first, but I didn’t understand how to adjust the size of the fronts, as they’re knitted in a semi-circle, so I just trusted the knitting goddesses. And here I am… having what I will choose to call “a learning
experience.” I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Posted in On the Needles | 4 Comments »

Fall is for Frogging and Felting

Posted by Janis on October 26, 2008

I can’t even bear to start off with an apology for not writing in ages yet again. So I’ll just jump in…

The summer’s huge kitchen renovation project is now officially FINISHED. Hooray! Though we didn’t do the work ourselves, it was more stress-inducing than I could have ever imagined. The end result is just lovely, though, and I enjoy it more ever single day.

So on to the knitting news. I’ve had a rather severe bout of startitis this fall, thinking about cold weather and wanting all sorts of fab new knitted garments for myself and others to sport. In September, I started a project that’s been on my list and in my stash for well over a year, Sasha Kagan’s Floral Lace Shawl (VK Fall ’06). It looks so beautiful in the mag and I thought I just had to have it. Except knitting it was a royal pain, for several reasons. First and worst, the little flowers that look Fair Isle-ish in the pictures are actually accomplished by the evil INTARSIA. This involved about a dozen bobbins across the back of the piece and a lot of twisting of yarn and, well… cursing. I had vowed never to do intarsia again after the Weekend Getaway Satchel (still awaiting final finishing/sewing in the basement), so this was a rude awakening. Secondly, I realized after about one full pattern repeat that the shawl would only be beautiful on one side – the wrong side would be very wrong and not at all suitable for public viewing, no matter how tidily I wove in the ends. This was very disappointing indeed. Thirdly, the charming leaf lace pattern that goes between the little flower motifs is almost completely lost on the dark colored yarn. It’s Rowan Felted Tweed in treacle, which is a gorgeous dark raisin-y color, yummy stuff, but the lace pattern was lost. Finally, it just wasn’t any fun — and at the smallish gauge, would have taken me the rest of my adult life to finish. Please bow your heads for a moment of silence for the Floral Lace Shawl. It is no more.

Abandoning a project still pains me, but I must say it is liberating to just say no to projects that I do not enjoy once I get going. I knit for pleasure and for peace of mind. Irritating or annoying projects do not meet these criteria, so buh-bye.

Also in the startitis pile: a Branching Out scarf for my pal Eileen on her birthday (late now), I’m about halfway through on it. I love the yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, my first time using it. I’m finding the lace pattern kinda boring, though it looks nice and will look really fine when blocked.

Whipped up a pair of Maine Morning Mitts for another friend’s birthday right before the scarf started. Those go so quickly, they hardly count as startitis. (And now you know why I don’t work as a hand model.)

I did finish a pair of socks for my brother for Christmas — one knitted gift down, ? to go! They’re simple garter rib in Moutain Colors Bearfoot — what nice yarn to work with! The colorway is Sapphire Trail, I think. I had the yarn in my stash and chose it for him because it has all the colors of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in it — that’s where we took a big family vacation at the end of the summer. Here’s a pic of one unblocked one:

I’m all set to join in the NaKniSweMo (National Knit a Sweater in a Month) festivities in November. I’ll finally pry out all the Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed out of my stash and make the Sunrise Circle Jacket. I hope. If that starts making me crazy, I’ll switch to the February Lady Sweater that’s so popular these days.

Oh yes — almost forgot the felting part of our show. I am possibly the last knitter in North America to make a pair of Bev Galeska’s felted clogs, but I did it! I see why they’re so wildly popular — it’s like magic to make this giant floppy sock-like thing that becomes a real shoe in the wash. Here’s a before-and-after pic of the clogs:

More soon as swatching begins for NaKniSweMo!

Posted in On the Needles | 4 Comments »

Knit It and They Will Come…

Posted by Janis on March 31, 2008

Spring break was a glorious affair this year: headed up to the mountains as usual (Leadville, Colorado – our family’s stomping – and skiing – grounds) and spent a great week with my dad (skiing like a pro at 79), brother and sister-in-law, and nieces. The skiing was fantastic, the snow perfect, nothing but sunshine, good eats, great company — but the highlight? The very highlight of the entire break? My nieces wanted to knit!

The girls are ages 9 and 10, and though I had given them each a little knitting kit for Christmas 2 years ago, they hadn’t shown much interest in learning themselves. I didn’t mention it, but I’m always knitting around them — always. So at our cozy rental house, Hannah picked up some size 9 KnitPicks Options tips that were lying around (not even on a cable) and some scrap yarn and started moving her hands in a knit-like fashion. I said, “Want me to show you how to do it? You almost have the moves down.” And she took off. Then Rachel had to do it, too. All I had left to teach her on were some size 6 dpn’s — no problem. Her little fingers grabbed ’em and away she went. I cast on just 10 stitches for each of them, and told them they could knit till they had little squares and they’d be blankets for the tiny bears I gave them in their Easter baskets that morning. h-knitting.jpgr-knitting.jpg Hannah is sporting the ski hat I’d just finished.

After they knitted for about half and hour or so, Hannah was getting frustrated so I suggested a game of dominoes. She set up the game and said, “Rachel, come on. We’re ready to play.” Rachel’s reply? “Just a minute, Hannah — I have to finish this row.” She’s hooked, my friends, hooked! I couldn’t be prouder. She wouldn’t go to bed till she finished her little bear-blanket, yawning every third stitch. Hannah finished hers in the morning. Here they are:


And Hannah’s bear with his blankie: hs-bear-blanket.jpg

The next evening I was working on the back of my cabled vest. Rachel was watching me like a hawk, asking what the stitch markers were for and how the yarn made the cables. Then she said, “I want to learn to knit in a circle.” So I cast on 60 stitches for her on a size 10 circ and told her that if she knit four or five rounds, she’d have a headband. (I’m doing the casting off, you understand.) So she sat there and didn’t budge till she’d done 5 rounds. My sister-in-law Liz took this shot of the two of us:

r-me-knitting.jpgAnd that’s how I turned two very modern little girls into little old ladies in just two nights… I’m telling you, they ate it up.

Posted in On the Needles, Travel | 5 Comments »

Finishing School

Posted by Janis on March 17, 2008

In a flurry of activity over the weekend, I have some progress to share on a couple of fronts. First, the Weekend Getaway Satchel is seamed up: not finished, mind you, but the seams are done, so it is in one piece. Pretty exciting! Still quite a lot of finishing to do on it, though — sew the metal frame in the top, sew the straps on, put the feet on and the board in the bottom. Oh, and I do so want to line it. Line it AND put some kind of pockets in the lining, because the thing is so big. Have I mentioned that I have no sewing skills? I’m trying to learn to use my mom’s excellent machine (a Necchi, for those in the know), but have just had a rather humbling experience involving a needle roll I was trying to make. Such pretty fabric, too…

Anyhow – I did finish the Halfobi sweater on Saturday. Seamed it, put the crochet edging around it – even the sleeves!, and properly wet-blocked it. It dried in time for me to wear it today. Many compliments — I love that part of knitting! Here it is: halfobi.jpg

Specs: The pattern is “Halfobi” by Ivete Tecedor, available at It’s very well-written and a really fun knit. I did mine in Silk Garden, color 213, and it took nearly 8 skeins because I added an inch in length. I think you could do it up in just about any light worsted weight yarn — my gauge was 5.5 stitches to the inch on US 6’s. I used an “F” crochet hook for the edging and added it around the sleeves, too.

Posted in On the Needles | 6 Comments »

Late to the (Silk) Garden Party, Think I’ll Stay

Posted by Janis on February 22, 2008

I may be the last knitter in North America to actually knit with Noro Silk Garden. I’ve been hoarding had a big bunch of it for quite some time now, thanks to one of Sue’s amazing sales at, and last night I felt inspired to cast on. When I bought it, I weighed 40 pounds more than I do now and was planning on making the Bettna cardigan with it, which is a long, covers-all-sins sweater. Now that I’m healthier, I wanted a less shrouded look. So the other night when I was poking around on Ravelry (yes, I do spend entirely too much time there – do not speak of this to me again – when it is less polar, I will go outside and play) – where was I? – oh yes, I found the “Halfobi” sweater. It’s a kind of shrug/bolero hybrid that just looks fantastic knitted up in Silk Garden. I’m going to make mine a bit longer than bolero length, so it doesn’t do one of those dreaded ski slope off the chi-chi’s effects… Ick!

I had made using this lovely yarn one of my 12 goals for the “Mission Possible” group I’m in at Ravelry, and after a snow day yesterday mostly spent felting the other pieces of the satchel from hell, I was ready for a change. And what a change! From knitting doubled-up strands of scratchy ol’ Lopi (love ya, Lopi, but you know you’re scratchy, man!) – the last bit all in black heather, no less — I turn to soft and delicious Silk Garden. Every row changes color slightly and every few rows I’m in new color entirely. A perfect antidote to Lopi. Will post in-progress pix when I’m further along than 3.5″ on the right sleeve.

Posted in In the Stash, On the Needles | 3 Comments »

And then, things got hairy…

Posted by Janis on February 17, 2008

What have I done?!! My creation is now a very hairy, wavy mess. I’ve read that people shave felted items, but I’ll need to take this to the groomer we take our Newfie to, and take the electric clippers to it. I think the color stuff turned out OK, pretty much like the IK picture, if I could only see it for the shag… I am worried about the puckery aspects, however. Maybe I can steam it flatter when it dries? And finally — it is still really BIG, and to trim it, I’ll probably have to cut off some of the colorwork that took me 5,000 hours to do. Gak. I need to go lie down for awhile, until I regain my equililbrium…felted1.jpgfeltedcu.jpg

Posted in On the Needles | 7 Comments »

Felting Today…

Posted by Janis on February 17, 2008

Wish me luck — I’m taking the plunge today. Well, the front of the Weekend Getaway Satchel is taking the plunge — I’m felting it today. Here’s a couple of “before” pictures:satchel-prefelt-front.jpgsatchel-pre-felt.jpg

And before you faint at the sight of a piece of knitting clipped to a skirt hanger — I would never do that if I weren’t felting it. It’s gonna be agitated within an inch of its woolly little life anyway. And I only clipped it up to photo it. I’m having second thoughts about felting it — I haven’t finished the back panel yet, maybe I’ll just keep it this way and wear it as a skirt…

Anyway — I’m very nervous about felting this, not because of the knitting, but because of the interminable EMBROIDERY. If it looks like hell, there’s no going back after felting. And I know I will not be willing to reknit another front. EVER. Under any circumstances. No. Not an option. Nuh-uh. No how, no way. What I’m trying to say here is that I did not enjoy taking up the embroidery needle after a 30-year absence. I was quite a prolific embroiderer in my youth (60’s-70’s, what can I say? Well, “embroidered work shirt” would just about sum it up, I think. And “embroidered overalls,” “embroidered jeans,” and the unfortunate memory of a gauze Western shirt that my uncle wanted embroidered with the Eagles’ logo skull… Oh dear…) My dear friend Kay is really wonderful at the stuff and I considered asking her if she would do the embroidery for this bag for me, in exchange for a lifetime supply of moon cakes or winter melon cakes from the Chinese bakery here, or whatever she likes… But then I got all muley on it — “I must do it myself! It is myyyyyyy CRREATION! (think Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein” here).

I will let you know if my creation is worthy in a little while. Or if it is so evil that it must be destroyed…

Posted in On the Needles | 6 Comments »

Socks Need to Get Gauge, Too

Posted by Janis on February 7, 2008

Though this little sock gauge epiphany thing dawned on me a while ago, it’s taken a little time and healing to be able to speak of it publicly. It is so amazingly idiotic that it’s hard to admit. Let me preface the story by saying that I am a swatching kind of knitter. I may not do a very big swatch, but I do swatch. Always. Except for socks. Because, you know, I knit socks on #1 Addi’s, 2 circ’s, and that’s that. I’ve made 7 pair of socks that way, in different sock yarns, for different people, and they’ve all fit just fine, thank you very much. Because when I knit socks, I do ’em on #1 Addi’s, 2 circ’s, and it works. Period. End of story. (OK, OK, I confess: I’ve never even CONSIDERED swatching for socks once my first two pair fit. The thought never even crossed my mind.)

So two Christmases ago (’06), I was knitting Trillian’s brilliant “Capt. Jack Sparrow’s Favorite Socks” for Orestes. Pirate socks, how great is that? Stranded colorwork – OK, it’s for the center of my universe, I’ll do it. And it was fun watching the little skulls appear and seeing how nice and even my stitches looked. When I got to the heel turn, I had him try the first one on, being a little nervous about the floats being loose enough. He struggled and pulled and yanked and finally got it over his heel. Obviously it was too tight. So I thought, well, I’ll just turn it into a wristband or something. He can wear it when he plays music. And I’ll start all over again, this time using the yarn recommended in the pattern instead of the basic striped stuff I’d used the first time.

Fast forward to Christmas ’07. I have the Lorna’s Laces Black Purl, I’m ready to go. These are gonna be AWESOME! Orestes helps me wind the yarn in the Denver airport (I forgot to wind it at home before we left) and I get half the pirate pattern done the first day. They look fantastic – I’m using both hands, one with each color, and it’s getting a little smoother, and the stitches look so nice and even. I check obsessively for signs of puckering or pulling – none! The next day I finish the pattern part and am ready to start the heel. I blithely offer the sock top to Orestes to try on. He’s delighted with the new improved colorway and can’t wait to try it on. Except — it won’t GO on. Waaay too tight. Too tight?! But my floats are PERFECT, there’s no puckering, the little skulls look amazing – how could this be??? I immediately accuse my love of having swollen feet from all the air travel. No, he assures me, they’re really fine. What the hell?! What the —-

pirate-socks-gauge.jpgAnd slowly, sickeningly, the truth begins to dawn on me. In slow motion, I reach for my measuring tape. I lay it on the new, perfect, pirate sock top. The gauge is 8.5 stitches to the inch. Frantic now, I grab the pattern and read, “Gauge: 7 st to the inch, on size 2 needles.” 7 to 1″ on a 2. Not 8.5 to 1″ on a 1. But I’m a loose knitter! I NEVER use the size needles in the pattern! I ALWAYS go down at least one size!!! Until now…

When we got home from the in-laws, I put the first sock top to the same test. 8 stitches to the inch. Still waaay off. Fortunately, Orestes is half-full kind of person, so he immediately stated that he’d rather have pirate fingerless mitts than socks anyway. He’d use them a lot more, he said. (Now you know why our marriage has lasted happily for nearly 13 years.)

And because I’m a half-full kind of person, too, and an incurable Pollyanna to boot — I took comfort in at least knowing that it wasn’t bad technique on the stranding, just plain stupidity. It’s also kind of a thrill to know that if I decide to knit these ever again – or to make the 2nd mitt – that it’ll go a helluva lot faster at 7 stitches to the inch, rather than 8.5. Ahhhh, nothin’ beats making some lemonade…

Posted in On the Needles | 8 Comments »