Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mitts and Sweater and Koigu, Oh My!

"Man, it Pours!"
Wednesday was another rain day, even heavier than Tuesday night. Here's a photo of the downpour in our back patio. We laid the bricks on a bed of sand, so there aren't any puddles. All the plants look so clean and fresh. With as little rain as we get, the leaves get really dirty in between feedings, which is about the only time we 'wash' the plants, lol!

Knitting and Knitting
I finished another pair of Maine Morning Mitts, this time in Paton's SWS Natural Pink. I used this colorway last year for a hat for our DGD, and if I don't finish another project for her, one that's been a UFO for too long, at least she'll have a warm gift under the tree.

I've started and made good progress on the pullover for DH. This is the Woven Bands Pullover from the Winter 2008 IWK that I posted about last time. DH wasn't too excited about the DB Merino Aran - he likes more subtle, interesting colors - so I'm using Elann's Sierra Aran in the Fiddlehead Green color. Sierra Aran comes in lovely heathery colors, and the 20% alpaca content makes it soft. I bought this last year to make the Arwen hoodie, but that can wait a while longer. It will look really good on DH. I have huge problems with my row gauge, though my stitch gauge is right, so I've been making lots of calculations to get the right size. I'm nearly to the end of the 4th skein, and it's going well. Of course, being mostly stockinette with linen stitch bands, it curls up a lot, so it's not showing up well in the photo. The color in this photo is washed out. Check the Elann link for the ferny green shade.

Koigu Attack!!
I hadn't planned any 'Black Friday' shopping, but my LYS emailed about a just-arrived (after a year's waiting!) shipment of Koigu. You never saw such fast toothbrushing, hair brushing, etc. I arrived while most of the shipment was still in its packages. ;D So I had my choice of 2 dozen or so colorways. Yeah, Koigu is pricy, a little more so here, but I had saved up my 'loyal customer' card, and this was the best use of my $30 discount I could have wanted. There's enough here for a couple of shawls and a scarf. Early Christmas? Oh, yeah.

OK, off to knit on DH's sweater, and listen to some more audiobooks. In the last 2 days I've gotten all the way through 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' (HP #1) and J D Robb's novella 'Midnight in Death'. Not only has my library had a good selection of audiobooks lately, but both and have had sales and specials.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It Does Too Rain in California!

Well, sometimes. Last night it really rained, pouring down with some thunder-boomies as accents. We set a new record for the date, 0.95 inch of rain, beating the 0.71 record set in 1960. And it's crispy out, hitting our today's high of 60F.

Our soil Chez CBM is quite sandy, so we don't have many puddles, but oh, the trouble the people are having in the burned areas. At least we had enough rain to help avoid some of the worst oil-slicking on the roads. When we get just a little bit of rain, it 'floats' the oil that has built up on the roads over all our dry months, and it becomes a bit dangerous for braking. My friend Curlerchik, who lives near Toronto, recently commented about the problems people there have with the first snowfalls, seeming to have forgotten how to drive in snow and icy conditions. We have the same phenomenon here, but it's just rain.

In the Knittery News:

I finished the green cabled mitts, and another pair as well. This pair is done in Clara Parkes' Maine Morning Mitts pattern, which is a really fast knit. And she has written what may be the absolutely best directions for knitting a thumb gusset. The yarn is an oddball of Lang's Mille Colori blend of wool and acrylic, one of those 'same dyelot but only a cousin' sort of colorway. This yarn is a lovely singles, and the colors repeat but in no pattern I've been able to find. So the mitts are fraternal. I'm still having camera problems, so the colors aren't very true.

After much dithering and changes in yarn, color and pattern, I finally have a combination I like for the scarf I'm making for my internist. This is Elann's Baby Cashmere in the Tapestry Blue color, and the pattern is Brooke Nelson's Column of Leaves. This is an easy 8-pattern row knit, though I haven't yet, even after 10 repeats, gotten to the point I don't need to look at the chart. I know I bitched about being done with scarves, but this one really insisted on being knitted; it does remind me about why I was bored with scarves - 39 sts and turn. Over and over.

And after some not-too-subtle hints and downright questions, I'm starting a sweater for DH. The Winter 2008 Interweave Knits had this simple but attractive sweater pattern, Woven Bands Pullover, knitted from sleeve edge to sleeve edge, and I have some Debbie Bliss Merino Aran in color 506 (a sage-y green) I grabbed a while back from one of Little Knits' great sales. I'd love to knit this in a heathery yarn, like the Eco Wool used in the pattern, but hey - Shop the Stash, y'know. And hey! Here's a swatch!!

Tonight we start with the side dishes for our T-Day feast tomorrow. I wish all of you a happy and uneventful celebration.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pattern Notes, or How to Decorate a Mitt

I've been reminded that I forgot to link the pattern I used for the green cowl. It's 'La-La-Love-You' by Sandra Park, available free at the Popknits site (in the link). One warning if you make the cowl: the instructions still contain (as of last week or so) the border sts for a flat knit. So take those out and just follow the chart. I wanted to make a pair of matching mitts, so I used my 'standard recipe' for adding a motif to a pair of plain ribbed mitts.

Heart Motif Mitts
For these mitts, I used 3 vertical repeats of the heart motif from the cowl pattern. BTW, I do the left mitt first. Sandy has small hands, so I started with 36 sts on US4 needles. I like to knit mitts pretty firmly, so I go down at least one, if not 2 needle sizes from the size per the label, and 2 sizes smaller than that for the wrist and top ribbing. I knit pretty loosely, so you may want larger needles.

Knit 12 rows of 2x2 ribbing with US4 needles. Then switch to US6 needles.
To center the motif, here's the math: I try to leave at least 2 sts between the thumb gusset and the beginning of the motif. For this 36-st mitt, the motif took 14 sts, and the 2 sts before and after centered the motif perfectly (14 +2+2 = 18).

Starting from the beginning of the round, knit 2 sts then work Row 1 of the motif, omitting the beginning and ending yo's and decreases on the chart, followed by 2 more knit sts. For the rest of the round follow in the 2x2 ribbing. Knit across the motif sts for the even-numbered rows, then work the ribbing. For the first Row 3, again omit the yo's and the decreases. Follow the chart through one repeat and through the 2nd Row 4.

In Row 5 of the 2nd repeat, begin the thumb gusset, working 2 increases (M1 or Kf&b, your choice) between the 2 purl sts just before the 2 knit sts at the edge of the motif. Work double increases (one on each side) on each pattern row until you have 16 increased sts, working in the 2x2 ribbing. To make this easier to keep in pattern, make all the increases after the first purl st and before the last purl st. You'll be gradually adding 2x2 ribs one st at a time, like this: Row 1, p1, increase 2 sts, p1. Row 2, purl 4 sts. Row 3, p1, incr1, p2, incr1, p1. Row 4 p1, k1, p2, k1, p1. This is fiddly, but comes out looking nice. You can work the gusset in stockinette for simplicity if you prefer.

On the next pattern row, knit the first increase st in the 2x2 pattern, put the next 14 sts on waste yarn, and then knit the last increase st. When you finish the 3rd repeat of the motif, switch to US4 needles and work 5 rows of 2x2 ribbing and bound off in pattern, cutting the yarn.

Then transfer the thumb gusset sts back to US 4 needles, join a new strand of yarn and knit around, picking up 2 sts from the main portion of the mitt, thus having 16 sts (multiple of 4). I knitted 6 rows and bound off. If you have loose sts or open spaces, leave an extra length of yarn when you join the yarn, so you have a bit to weave in to tighten up the holes.

For the right mitt, begin the thumb gusset increases between the 2 purl sts to the left of the motif.

'Recipe Notes'
You can use this 'recipe' to add any motif you like to the back of mitts. Just center the motif over 1/2 of the sts you cast on for the mitt, leaving at least 2 sts between the edge of the motif and the thumb gusset. If you don't want a thumb, you'll stop at the stitch where you would begin the thumb increases, then work back and forth as if flat knitting for however many rows you want the thumb slit to be, then return to working in the round. The thumb slit part I'm winging here, since I almost always put in a thumb.

If you want a larger diameter to your mitt, using more sts (for 2x2 ribbing must be divisible by 4), you'll need to adjust the starting point of your motif, leaving more sts between it and the thumb gusset to center the motif. If you want your thumb shorter or longer, add or subtract rows after you pick up the sts.

Cabled Mitts
For the cabled mitts I'm working on, I cast on 44 sts for a larger mitt. The cable pattern takes up 14 sts, and I've centered it between 2 purl sts on each side, since I think that sets off the cables best. So again I have 18 sts. To put the design in the center of the back of the mitt, I have 4 sts between the beginning of the thumb gusset increases rather than 2 (2 purl sts and 2 knit sts). That gives me 22 sts, half of the total.

Begin the ribbing as k2, p2. Knit as many rounds of 2x2 rib as you want, then at the point where you reach the base of the hand:

Round 1: K2, [P2, 3sts to cable needle, hold in front, knit 3 sts then 3 sts from cable needle] twice, p2, then continue round in 2x2 ribbings. This is an 'outside cable' twist row.
Rounds 2-5: Work 2x2 ribbing around

Inside Cable Twists

Round 6: [K2, p2] twice, move 3sts to cable needle, hold in front, knit 3 sts then 3 sts from cable needle, continue 2x2 ribbing around.
Round 7: Work 2x2 ribbing around, except knit the 6 cable sts.
Rounds 8-9: Repeat Row 7
Repeat Rounds 6-9 twice more.
Knit 6 rows of 2x2 ribbing around; the 6 cable sts should be knitted as k2,p2,k2

Outside Cable Twists
Round 1: Repeat Row 1, except work 2 gusset increase sts between the last 2 purl sts of the round
Rounds 2-5: Repeat Row 7 , working gusset increase sts on the odd-numbered rounds
Repeat Rounds 1-5 twice more.
Continue working 2x2 ribbing until you have 16 gusset increase sts. See instructions for the Heart Motif Mitts for further details of working the thumb gusset.

When you move the 14 gusset sts to waste yarn, change to US 4 needles and knit at least 5 more rounds of 2x2 ribbing. Bind off in pattern. For the right mitt, you can either make the cables the same way or hold the first 3 sts in back, which will make the twists go in the opposite direction. This would make the cables on both mitts twist outward.

Looking at these now, for symmetry, there should have been 2 'outside twists' at the beginning and the end, rather than one and 3. Oh, well. This modification I leave to you, my talented knitter friends.

Of course, if all of this is as clear as Mississippi gumbo mud to you, LMK and I'll try to clarify. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Been Really Busy!

OMG. Where did a month go? I'm just fine. Srsly. But there's been knitting and knitting, and reading and reading, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts and music. And the days just go by and I forget to post.

Before I forget to mention it, Chez CBM is a long way from the fires. Makes us very happy that we settled in the 'flats' of Burbank. One of my good friends from my Friday knitting group lives in a foothill area, a tad too close for comfort to the big trailer park fire, enough to be worrisome, but the fire never blew their way. We've suffered from the smoke and ash, with smoggy, smoggy days and difficulty breathing. The fires were really bad on Sunday, and Monday morning I woke up feeling like I'd slept with my mouth open all night. Sniffles, coughing, ugh, most of the week. DH said it was even worse over in West LA than here. Our air quality is much better now, but it's awful for the hundreds and hundreds of families whose homes are gone.

I've rediscovered the local library, and I can't tell you how much I've saved on books in the last couple of months. I've been toting big bags of books back and forth, books and audiobooks both, (reminds me of the junior high days when I used to check out as many books as I could cram into my bicycle basket). Burbank isn't a full part of the Los Angeles library system, so I'm planning on zipping over to Pasadena soon to get a card in the LA system. Then I can figure out the download systems LA libraries have.

Our librarians have commented that visitor levels are noticeably higher than last year; I expect it's the effect of the economy. And for me, it's part of the Ravelry effect, lol; all the new authors and audiobooks the other Ravelers tell me about that I have to read or listen to. I've also spent a bit at sales at Audible and AudiobookStand. Audible recently had a half-price sale on a lot of unabridged books, and AudiobookStand has some good unabridged selections in their $10 list. iTunes is a good source of audiobooks, too, and you can check the prices there by comparison to Audible and to Amazon.

And then there are the podcasts. Oy. News, music, knitting, Garrison Keillor, etc. And there's Podiobooks, too. Some of the serialized books I've been enjoying are Max Quick, Shadowmagic, and Karen Moning's Darkfever, which you can get as a podcast via iTunes. For those of you looking for good knitting podcasts, I'm not a good source for suggestions. I find many of them either tedious or shrill, though interviews with knitters like the Yarn Harlot and Franklin Habit are good. If you go to the Podcasts part of iTunes and search for knitting, you'll find a lot of choices.

OK, about the knitting. I warn you, I've had a terrible time getting a good match of actual color and photo color, and currently I can't get my digital camera to flash. Gotta go online to get this figured out.

I spent most of October madly knitting scarves and hats for my senior's charity boutique, which was Nov 7 & 8. I found myself knitting and frogging and knitting a lot; why is it we knitters feel that projects have to be the 'just right' combination of yarn and pattern???!! The multicolor scarf is knitted from Bernat's Satin acrylic yarn, in a 'moving square' pattern I dreamt up. It looks like there are cables, and I hope I remember where I left the notes for the pattern. Then I finally put together some deep purple Lion Brand Microspun and Crystal Palace's Little Flowers yarn I bought a couple of years ago, using the Montego Bay (aka Mimi Very-Long) pattern. And there had to be a plain warm hat and scarf set, this one with a mistake-rib scarf and a good deep brim on the hat for warmth. This took 2 of the big skeins of Universal Yarn's Classic Worsted Long Print, which is an 80/20 acrylic/wool blend. I loved how the yarn made perfect random-but-repeating stripes. And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I finished 2 Odessa hats in red Bernat Satin.

There were noticably fewer shoppers at the boutique, and I think a lot of the other sellers didn't do well. We sold a LOT of scarves; we started out with more than 3 leaf bags full of scarves and had less than a kitchen trash can full left. We had some adorable baby jackets, lots of baby and adult hats, knitted and crocheted afghans and small quilts, mostly lap-sized, and tote bags. Overall, we made $1400+, which makes us very happy. We've already sent off checks to the local Temporary Aid Center and a local church's Thanksgiving dinner fund. BTW, we took over 350 hats (our liaison quit counting at that point, lol!) to the Operation Gratitude group for inclusion in the boxes they're sending to our troops. And we have at least 80 scarves left for the Christmas party given by a local foster kids' group.

Then I switched over to knitting Christmas gifts, and I've finished a hat & mitts set for my cousin and a cowl & mitts set for his wife. The cowl and matching mitts I did with WEBS' Valley Yarn Superwash Merino, and I have to give this a *RAVE* review. Nicely sproingy, good color, and it blocked very nicely. Good price, too. My cousin's hat and mitts are stash-busters: I found a last skein of the Cascade Lana d'Oro yarn (discontinued in 2005) I used for a scarf for him a couple of years ago, then I found a single skein of WEBS' Valley Stockbridge yarn (freebie from Stitch & Pitch) and a gorgeous hank of Shelridge Farm Soft Touch yarn that Curlerchik, one of my near-Toronto friends, sent me a couple of years ago in exchange for some Chibi needles. The mitts and hat don't quite match, but I think they're a close-enough set, since the hat does match the scarf and is trimmed with the same dark blue as the mitts. Yes, I'm sure my cousin still has the scarf; he still has one I made him some 20 years ago. Gotta really love family who appreciate home knitting, don't you!! Mitts being the addictive projects that they are, I'm half-done with another set of mitts with the left-over 1.5 skeins of yarn from the cowl. None of these three pictures has the real green. Sigh.

My remaining gift knits are for our honorary family and for my beloved DH. I have an EZ Ribwarmer done for one of our 'daughters' and another nearly done for her daughter, using some yummy pinky-lavender Cascade Cloud 9. Plus I think there are matching mitts and a hat. These are on my Mission Possible 2008 list, and I'd really like to get them done. The biggest project, and with some 5 weeks left there's some pressure, is the entrelac vest I started last winter for DH. I discovered when the first front was nearly done that it was way too short below the armscye; hence a lot of frogging and its long time in the UFO pile.

And for a very special Awwww! moment: Last week I got an email from one of our honorary daughters. I've sent baby things now for 2 babies, hats and scarves for the holidays, and nary a peep. Well, she made up for all of that BIG time. She said that she wanted me to know how much I am a part of their lives, and that each of them have favorite CBM gifts. The newest baby is now wearing the baby jacket I made for the first one (2005), and the matching blankie has survived and is still keeping babies warm. I wrote back, kind of choked up and teary, that I had just gotten a really big, warm hug! Yeah. Like that.