Laziness

Well, only in terms of posting. Sorry to have fallen off the face of the earth for a little while. In the past month, I’ve kept busy deciding to go to Indiana University for grad school [WOOHOO!], workin’ two jobs, turning 23, and finishing up a buncha knitting projects for loved ones [hats, slippers, socks, etc.] and experiencing the absolute magic of felting wool projects. I’ll get to those eventually. :]

Just wanted to shoot a quick post about the most recent project I’ve started:


Yes, that is me wearing my big girl pants and swatching before I start a project. And yes, those beautiful needles are Addi Clicks (borrowed, of course).

500 points to Gryffindor if you can guess what it’s going to be!

More food and coziness soon, I promise.

Dr. Strange(g)love(s) or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Knit the Glittens

Sorry about the title, but I couldn’t resist. Last summer I got the idea into my head that it’d be really cool to knit something other than a hat. Then I discovered Knitty. Then I asked my brother if he’d want some glittens. But these weren’t just any glittens. They were non-bulky glittens, made with sock yarn. Ben, my brother, feels like most glittens look dopey with their worsted weight yarn that inhibits dexterity, even if it does keep ya fingas warm.

I really can’t say that I disagree. I’ve got a pair like the aforementioned, and not only are they so loosely knit that my hands still get cold, and they’re way too stinking huge and more cumbersome than they’re worth. So along came the pattern for Broad Street Mittens from Knitty. At this point I’d only been knitting for 6 months and totally disregarded the “spicy” difficulty level because, damnit, these mittens were perfect for Ben. Perfect.So I made my dandy way to the craft store and got some sock yarn that was a wool/bamboo blend that felt so smooth and squishy in my hands. I realize that I keep describing yarn as squishy. I’m sorry – my knitting vocab isn’t huge and if it’s squishy, I’m sold.

The first hurdle of the project was gauge. This was the first project I’d ever even bothered to mess with gauge.  I think I tried the size needles the pattern called for and thought that the fabric was too loose to keep your hands super warm. I wanted these glittens to be dense. Make way for smaller needles and gauge conversion [ugh].

Two months later and I still hadn’t finished a glitten. Granted, there was still a long way to go before winter. Honestly…I was freaked out about converting gauge and devoting a lot of time to a project that could go horribly wrong. I mean, fingers?!? Me? Knit fingers? On teeny little pointy needles?! Again, the pattern won over my doubts because of it’s fit for exactly what my brother wanted.

So I converted the gauge, with the help of a well seasoned knitter, and started the ribbing for the cuff. Great. Boring 2×2 ribbing. I can totally handle this. Bring on the glittens.

Next were the increases to start the body of the palm. Can do. Or so I thought. After I knit about half the palm of the glitten, thumb gusset included, the stupid thing was really loose. So much for that gauge conversion making everything magical and easy and, oh, you know, CORRECT. With knitting mentors nowhere in sight, I decided to just figure it out for myself, which brings us to October. I went to NYC for a few days to hang out with my brother, and thought it’d be a great opportunity to try them on him as I knit. It was the only way I was going to figure out sizing. Unfortunately for me, I had to try a few times to get the number just right. Or close to it.

”]There’s an increase in the palm for the thumb, which forgave any guesstimating of the palm increase from the ribbing on the wrist. The increase, or gusset, seemed to me like it would go on and on forever. Annnnd now I have to wait until Thanksgiving to see my brother again to check how the palm fits before I start knitting the fingers.  Lucky, lucky me. The palm fit really well and the fabric was turning out to be dense, yet elastic. Onward, ho.

I was really excited to see how the fingers would turn out. Fingers are so cool. They weren’t as hard as I’d anticipated, and they knit up very quickly. At Thanksgiving, I tried the partially complete glove on my brother’s hand, squealing with glee. FINALLY, something came out right. I think a little of the glee was contagious – my brother was pretty excited, too.

The thumb was a little different – a closed thumb would defeat the entire dexterity purpose of the glittens, right? So I grew some cajones and decided to go rogue from the pattern, making a half thumb with a flap on top. My brother quickly decided that this was going to be transformative of the way he gives thumbs ups – definitive only when the thumb flap has been pulled back. I mean, I guess it’d also be pretty functional for using his iPhone.

Ok, so all the fingers are finished, and all I have left to knit is the mitten shell. I had to try for a while on this, too. It’s amazing how delicate the shape is for what would seem like a simple cap for a glitten. I had to knit and re-knit until I had enough rows knit evenly in the round before I started the decrease. It was so long ago and so frustrating that I can’t even remember exactly how many rows I ended up knitting.

One glitten down. I started the other, happily presuming that it’s be a breeze since I had 1 down. Boy was I wrong – I knit the entire palm before realizing I followed the wrong adjustments, making the palm HUGE. Frogged the whole stinkin’ thing and started over. Needless to say, I was relieved when this whole project was over. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with the way the glittens turned out, I’m proud about knitting an intricate project that’s custom fit for my brother – who’s even happier with them than I am. It was just an exhausting project.

Overall, I learned:

  • Converting gauge isn’t always accurate.
  • Seemingly intricate processes, like knitting fingers or a thumb gusset, aren’t as hard as they look. I’m continually surprised at how the combination of patience and simple techniques can create something that I’d never dreamed I’d be able to produce.
  • Patience, patience, patience. If it doesn’t come out right the first time, rip it out and do it again until it looks and fits the way I want it to. There’s no point finishing a project that is ill-fitting, and why waste all the time you already invested to begin it?
  • Hand knit gifts carry a lot of oomph. My brother says he smiles every time he puts the glittens on. That’s what makes a project’s trial and error worth it.

Verdict? Misadventure, but a big learning experience.

Sweet Spiralin’ Leg Warmers

So I may not have any project updates from recent stuff yet, but these were a fun project I knit for a friend’s sister for a Christmas gift. My friend did most of the work in terms of the pattern search, after I exposed her to the wonderful world of Ravelry.

If you haven’t heard of it, Ravelry is basically a huge online database of knit and crochet patterns. I started using it to keep my projects organized and keep notes on them, but it’s a great way to explore the larger knitting community. I feel like searching for patterns on Ravelry is like shopping for shoes on Zappos – there are a million different kinds and the site lets you tailor your search and be [k]nit picky and search in terms of knit versus crochet, yarn weight, needle size, free versus available for purchase patterns, and category of the knitted goodie you want to make. Even better? If you like a pattern and want to see how it came out for knitters other than the designer, you can see the pictures they uploaded and comments they made about the pattern before you commit to starting the project. What more could you want?! Oh, you know, each pattern is rated overall out of 5 stars and then rated for difficulty. This place is a dream.

[This is awkward, but…I don’t really have any Ravelry friends yet, I stick to groups, so, uh…please be my friend if you’re a fellow Raveler? See the new little button on the right of my blog page? Click away 🙂 ]

Back to the legwarmers, yes? My friend, Julie, told me that her sister likes bright colors and needs the legwarmers to keep cozy, as she works at a ski resort. Because of these being a super functional gift, I figured the best route for yarn would be washable wool. I went to my local little yarn shop and bought some bright orange Cascade 220, which, from my understanding, is a pretty popular worsted weight washable wool, not to mention SOFT.

The problem with non-washable wool is that it can be scratchy on the skin and when you wash it, it’ll felt. Not the case with the yarn I bought. It felt so good in my hands as I knit it – it was soft and smooth. The most reassuring part was knowing that when I finished them, they were finished. No worry necessary about shrinking in the wash or becoming a felted train wreck later.

The pattern Julie picked was a Purl Bee pattern [just about everything they do is swoon-worthy]. In terms of heeding the directions in the pattern, I only followed the pattern for its spiral rib. I actually swatched beforehand to make sure they wouldn’t come out too small or too big, but I felt like knitting the whole leg warmer on the same size needles would be weird, unless Julie’s sister’s legs from the knee down are of freaky uniform circumference. My solution for this was to knit the ankle on needles 4 sizes smaller than the bulk of the legwarmers [size 3 dpns], and then gradually increase needle size until the gauge the pattern called for [size 5 dpns, then size 7 dpns]. My last sizing issue was with the part of your leg just above your calf but below your knee. It’s smaller circumference than your calf, and droopy legwarmers would probably look pretty sad, even if they are bright orange. So I hopped back over to my smallest size needles and knit the last inch on those.

One last thing before I get to the actual pattern. The original called for the legwarmers to be really tall, but I thought that could either of two ways: ridiculously high above the boot or ridiculously bulky when scrunched down to the height of the boot. I made ’em 17-18 ins tall instead of the 30 the pattern called for.

Now that I look at it, these look a little on the short side. It's because my tall sister is the model - she was blessed with mile-long legs.

Here’s my tweaks to the original pattern:

  • Knit the first 18 rounds on size 3 dpns [or needles 4 sizes smaller than the size you need to obtain the pattern’s gauge].
  • Knit 6 rounds on size 5 dpns  [or needles 2 sizes smaller than needles used for pattern gauge]
  • Knit on size 7 dpns until leg warmers are about 1 inch shorter than desired length, ending on a round that’s the end of one of the rib rotations – each is 3 rounds]
  • Switch back to smallest size dpns [size 3, in my case] and knit 6 rounds [2 portions of the spiral rib rotation]
  • Cast off as pattern indicates.

When these were finished, the spiral pattern totally jazzed up what would otherwise be straight, boring rib, and the rib contributed to the bounce and squish of the things. It was really hard to give them away. Just to squish them in my hands was heaven.

Verdict? Triumph.

I’ve never, ever worn legwarmers, but now that I knit, I’m considering the idea. Anybody have a sweet pattern for ’em? Or thoughts on how to make the ones I made even better?

YARN. SALE.

Ohmygoodnessyarnsale. I’m pretty sure adrenaline was coursing through my veins as soon as I realized EVERYTHING was cheap.

A thing of beauty.

Michael’s had a huge sale on yarn last week and I just couldn’t stop myself from thinking up more projects to knit, even though I’ve already got lots of unfinished and not-yet-started projects in my queue. AH. It took me 2 hours to choose because there were SO many colors and SO many brands on sale and there was SO much excitement about patterns bouncing around in my head. [Think I’m gonna brave it and write my own simple hat pattern soon!] Aside from that, I spent a few hours with Laverne last weekend just to sit and knit together, and this week she donated that huge Bath and Bodyworks bag [the one in the picture above] full of wool to me. My glee level is insane right now.

Some knitters may scoff at mass produced, non-local yarn shop yarn, but man…soft yarn is soft yarn. Blame it on my knitting youth (I’ve only been at it for a year), but I can’t turn down cozy yarn that’s $2 a skein, even if it is mass produced. Even if I did have more money to spend on yarn, I don’t always want wool, which is most of what our local yarn shop sells. Whatever, man. I do what I want.

Knit Earwarmer Headbands

There’s only one pattern in my repertoire that I’ve duplicated over and over and over, yet varied just as much. Say hellooooooo to winter headbands. It all started with wanting to make them for the captains of my college ultimate frisbee team, Betty Gone Wild. At fall and early spring tournaments, it’s too hot to wear a hat and too cold to go completely without. Headbands are so perfect for sports, but kind of a hassle to take on and off. I found this pattern for an adjustable cabled headband that’s easy to wear and remove, and adapted it a bunch.

The pattern makes a pretty wide headband, so all the ones I’ve made have only been 15 sts wide instead of the 21 the pattern calls for. I’ve basically ignored the given cable pattern. The first ones I made for my former teammates were all garter stitch in between the sl1, yb, k1, yf, sl1, yb border except for a smooth middle section of stockinette, on which I used a duplicate stitch to write the name of the team [Betty Gone Wild]. Duplicate stitch is alot easier/neater for adding in words or small patterns, at lease that’s what I’ve found for small patches of contrast color. You just take a needle and thread and copy each stitch in a contrasting color on top of the original stitch.

The garter stitch sections helped the headband to be even more elastic. I used a skein of Simply Soft and size 5 needles. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure gauge, but just knit the beginning of the headband on size 5 needles and ripped it out a few times before settling on the 15 stitch width. Relaxed, they were 21-23 inches, with the smooth logo portion measuring around 7 inches. For my first foray into knitting with a double strand of yarn and into duplicate stitch, I think they came out pretty well – the yarn is ultra soft and my friends wear them a lot!

The other versions of the headband I made were a little more tame, color-wise. All include cables instead of wording and use calmer colors.

I started knitting last December [this was my first project], and the first thing I’ve made for myself was this teal headband. I used size 4 needles for each of these cabled ones, the teal is Paton’s Classic Wool and the lighter ones are Bernat Alpaca. These were knit specifically to stay warm when we’re outside for recess. I work in a special education classroom and we still venture to the playground irregardless of how windy and cold the weather is, and it just plain stinks to wear a hat or headband that makes for a messy hairdo afterwards.

I made these for myself, the teacher, and the other aide in our classroom and thought it would be cute if they were all similar but had their own unique cable. I was so surprised to discover that cabling makes it look like you put way more effort into a project than you really did. Looks intimidating at first, but is easy peasy after a quick look at instructions. Mine [the teal one] is the reversible cable found here.

The light blue cable is a just braid: Each border of the headbands is comprised of 3 stitches, so I added one more in the middle sts to make 10 in between. The pattern for the braid I fiddled around with for 10 sts ended up like this:

  • All even rows: P2, K6, P2.
  • Every 6 rows, alternate between cabling 3 in front and then 3 in back (P2, K3, C3, P2)
  • Knit until about 2 inches from finished length.
  • All odd rows: K2, P6, K2

The marbled headband’s cable is a double twist with an elongated section in between, again for 10 sts, here‘s the pattern I found for it.

These are a favorite project of mine, so far. They only take a day or two to make, are easily customizable, and are incredibly functional.

Verdict? Super Triumph, over and over and over… 🙂

A Hat’s Humble Beginning

If you’d have asked me a year ago if I knew anything at all about knitting, I’d have laughed and replied with something to the effect of “Yes. You should also ask me about rocket science.” I had no knitting knowledge whatsoever until a wonderful woman named Laverne entered the picture. A warm, wise, eighty-something woman with the patience to teach an impatient, exasperated twenty-something me. Thanks go to my aunt, who, after watching me try to crochet with a stiff, clawlike, miserable excuse for a hand, picked up the phone and told me to go see Laverne.

The motivation for learning to knit spurred from my hat-loving boyfriend, Noah. At Christmas last year, we’d been dating long enough that we decided to exchange low-key gifts. What better to give a guy who owns no less than 20 hats another one? His neon and trucker hat collection lacked warmth. Noah’s a relaxed kind of guy, so I thought making him a hat would be a fitting way to give something heartfelt without being too cheesy or too basic.

So, back to Laverne. Laverne took me to her house where we sat in the cozy living room and she showed me the basics of knitting as we chatted about life in general. This woman is a miracle worker. I thought my pathetic try at crocheting meant that I would be an equally abysmal knitter. How would I ever even begin to mimic the skills of Laverne, who creates intricate finger puppets for her grandkids or amazing afghans or complicated lace patterns or slippers or sweaters?! Luckily, Laverne isn’t entirely gung-ho about crocheting, either, and she thought I should give knitting a try. After lots of demonstrations  and encouragement on her part and awkward, disjointed stitches on mine, things started to click. If I had a dollar for every “aha!” moment that day, I’d have some serious dolla dolla billz.

Anyway, I told Laverne a little about Noah and that I wanted to knit him one of those winter hats with earflaps. Sure enough, after a little rummaging around in the back room, Laverne the Knitting Sage produced a page from a project-a-day calendar with the perfect ski hat. I was thrilled. Something about the way Laverne asked questions and listened with such genuine interest got me so excited to knit things for others to show how much they mean to me.

Laverne loaned me some needles and shuttled me back home, where I practiced knitting some more, back and forth, over and over. After a couple inches worth of practice fabric, I felt comfortable enough to go buy the yarn for the project. Here’s where the disobedience to directions kicked in. Why oh why would I knit my neon color obsessed boyfriend a plain hat? The thought still makes me shudder.

A few hours spent browsing knitting websites (such things exist?!), I found patterns for snowflakes, but wasn’t happy with any of them as is. Using them for a springboard, I grabbed some graph paper and designed my own snowflake pattern. Noah’s navy blue hat would now include bright orange snowflakes. Little did I know that knitting with two colors could be a little challenging for a novice knitter like me.

Alright, enough jibber jabber, here’s the basics of the pattern:

  • bulky yarn [I used Charisma from Michael’s, and Sugar ‘n’ Cream for the contrast color]
  • size 10.5 [6mm] needles
  • gauge: 14 sts = 4″ [HA! I had no idea what gauge was]
  • First knit earflaps in stockinette st, ending on a purl row, and place on st holder.
  • Cast on sts, knit across sts of earflaps as you go.
  • Work in St st for 6 inches or so, then start the decrease.
  • Finish by sewing up the seam of the hat.

Gauge, you ask? Why bother? Well, I was struck with some definite beginners’ luck with this project. I didn’t bother to check gauge, which is basically a sample of how your fabric will look using a certain yarn at a certain tension. It can really mess with sizing if it’s not right.

I just guessed and knit an inch or two of fabric before adding the snowflake, and it turned out alright. The hard part was guesstimating how much yarn I’d need for each snowflake, because I figured carrying the same strand of contrast color would make a lot of long, unused strands on the inside of the hat. I ended up doing some fancypants thing called intarsia.  Basically, each snowflake had its own strand of yarn that would hang down in the back of the knitting. To keep them from getting tangled, I’d wind them up and clamp ’em with a clothespin. Good enough for me! At the time, I had no idea it was actually a technique – guessing tends to serve me pretty decently. If you’d like the pattern I made for the snowflake, just say so and I’ll get it to ya.

Here’s the almost final product:

I say almost final because it turned out the stitches were a little too big to keep the wind out, so I guessed again and knit Noah a bright green liner for it. Guessed again, got lucky again. Noah was pretty pumped about the hat, which made me even more excited about it. He wears it everywhere (even in Australia), which is big confidence booster and excites me to keep exploring different knitting projects and improve as a knitter.

Verdict? Triumph. [a lucky one, at that.]

A big part of continuing with knitting after this project was Laverne’s encouragement. To receive bona fide praise for my first knit hat from someone who taught herself to knit as a schoolgirl using pencils and string really inspired me. Whenever I was home, I started attending the knitting group Laverne leads at the local senior center. It’s the best thing ever. Sitting around with 10 ladies, all very much senior to me, listening to their stories and inquisitively watching their projects is such a comfortable place to be. Laverne, who I’m pretty sure knows everything there is to know about knitting, would teach me new techniques and give me new patterns she wanted me to try. Her seemingly boundless patience and  heartening words are really what keep me going. If I can be someone who even distantly resembles Laverne when I’m 80, I’ll be quite happy. She’s sharp, active, engaging, and generous. Recently, she’s invited me to come over some evening to hang out and knit. I can’t freaking wait.

p.s. one more picture, because it’s just so stinkin’ charming.