Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Store Review: Sew Biz in Radford!

Once upon a time one of the lovely ladies in my knitting class at the library brought up this store in Radford by the name of Sew Biz.  She said she had found that they had yarn "in the back" and wondered if anyone else had ever checked it out.  It was mostly a quilting/fabric store, but there was a selection of non-acrylic-big-boxy stuff, she says.  Well, I certainly hadn't heard of it, so, naturally, my curiosity was piqued.

Also, since the closing of a previous store in Radford that had a great yarn selection in the basement, I've been yearning after my semi-local yarn jaunts.  Another local store in Radford that can provide me with yarn?  YES, PLEASE.

It took me a few weeks but last Wednesday I drove over to the Radford and tried to find the place.  During my college years I got a bit conditioned to turning left after passing the bridge over the New River, and this place was to the right.  This meant that I drove up and down between Sal's Italian Restaurant and the bridge trying to spot a sign, a quilted flag, anything.  Eventually I broke down and pulled out my GPS and used some of its precious battery life to find Sew Biz.

The store itself is just slightly off the main road, installed in a fantastic yellow building that looks old.  I don't want to call it as Victorian because I'm not architecture-saavy, but it sure looks it.  The yellow is new but pretty.

There's a lovely window display chock-full of fabrics and thread and buttons and sewing machine stuff.  It's dandy and I liked how heavy the door was.

Once I got inside I was greeted by two older ladies who, instantly, struck me as competent.  They weren't bright and bubbly and cheerful, but they weren't necessarily frosty either.  The two ladies looked me up and down and, over their half-moon bifocals (not making it up), asked me what they could help me with.  Slightly overwhelmed by the tons of fabrics and buttons and sewing machine foot attachments, I said "Yeah, I heard you had some yarn here?"

"Oh yes," one of them got up from her esoteric quilting work.  "Now what kind of knitting do you do?"

In the back of my head I thanked my stars I wasn't mainly a crocheter because I'd be a little offended by this assumption (I feel bad that hookers never get the benefit of the doubt... or respect afforded knitters- but I'm also very glad I didn't have to go through the social awkwardness of explaining that I don't knit to a stranger trying to help me, even if assumptively).  I told her I liked socks and lace because it's the truth.  I forgot, like the genius I am, that she was actually trying to save time by asking me reference questions.  Which I should KNOW ABOUT BECAUSE I'M A FREAKIN' LIBRARIAN.  No-frills competence, see?

She proceeds to lead me through, what I can only describe as, a rabbit warren stuffed with every imaginable sewing implement and bolt upon bolt of fabric.  The building is older, and while inhabitable, was built in an age before central heating and air, composed of rooms that are designed to be small, economical, and, well, warren-like.  Because this store is also fantastic, it tries to offer all the options that a Joann's or Schoolhouse Fabrics (in Floyd) offer, but in less space.  Some places aren't very well lit, but the ceiling is high, and I personally found the environment adventuresome and cozy.  Although, I imagine it probably wouldn't make a claustrophobe happy, I found it swell.

We eventually land in a poorly lit antechamber- a sort of short hallway between the main hallway and what may have been a large sunroom back when women wore corsets, it now serves as a quilting classroom.  Packed into this dim semi-hallway is the yarn selection.  Certainly, it's lit by lamps so you can absolutely see what you're doing, but I had to take a could of skeins over into the classroom to get a real reading on their color under natural light.

The lady who guided me here shows me the yarn and points me to the sock yarn (almost entirely Noro Kureyon) and leaves me to browse.  

The second most striking thing about the yarn selection at Sew Biz is that it is the most competent (again) selection of basic LYS-type yarns that you could hope for.  If I could pick out a small hallway's worth of yarns to carry, my selection would have been almost identical to what Sew Biz carries.  Brands included: Cascade (including Heritage Sock, Pacific, and Ecological Bulky) Ella Rae, Noro, Cestari Farms (yay local Virginia yarns!), and Sublime, among many others.

I was really here on a mission to get luxury yarn for a gift for my sister.  SHHH!  I'll tell you after Christmas.  But suffice to say, I was drawn to the lightly-colored (dare I say, peacefully? SOPORIFICALLY-COLORED) Sublime bamboo and pearls DK.  Entirely consistent of vicose rendered from bamboo and pearls, it was a yarn that I recall Cate of Wyrd Sister's carrying for a while.  It's dangerously soft and I had to employ a lot of self-control to keep from crawling into the display and rubbing my face over all of it like a cat tripping on a kilo of nip.

I did control myself, and finally picked out a skein of white.  Only to turn it over and see that the price was $10 even!  That's a great price for a LYS!  Sure, I could get it off WEBS for $8, but 2 bucks isn't a bad markup.  And $10 for a handmade gift is a deal!

Gleeful, I continue to browse, only to be drawn to these huge pillows of Cascade Ecological Wool Bulky.  Which are marked as $15 for almost 500 yards of Bulky yarn.  BULKY!  It generally retails for $20!  This seals it in my mind that for buying in person, Sew Biz might be my new ticket.  It's a bit closer than The Woolly Jumper in Floyd, and the prices are the best I've seen in a brick and mortar in a while.  So, the prices are the first, best, most striking thing about Sew Biz.

I pick out two huge fawn bundles of the Ecological and proceed to carry my stock, which is extremely un-socklike, back up to the front registers.  Then the cherry on top happens.  I also ask to see their button selection and the other woman shows me: an old library card catalog!  SQUEE!  All the drawers that would say Aa-Al, are full of BUTTONS!  Thus, I pick out 3 gorgeous shell buttons.  And also some T-pins for blocking stuff.

And I go away HAPPY.  What a great place!  I spent some more time perusing their upstairs fabrics and wandering through the tunnels and dreaming of the day when I will become fully Little House on the Prairie and start quilting.  

Thus, I would highly recommend Sew Biz, even for knitters.  It doesn't have a huge selection, but it has a nice- essential selection, and since their bread and butter is fabrics and quilting stuff, they can price their yarn lower than usual.  Which means bargains.  It puts lots of yarns into my price range while also allowing me to patron a somewhat local store!  Yay!

Here's a link to Sew Biz's website: www.sewbiz.com

Check them out!

P.S. I've finished my gift for Amanda, and am going to be casting on for a sweater for myself with the Ecological tonight.  I'll be making an Ariosa Wrap Cardi by Cecily Glowik MacDonald.  Yesssssss.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 2: Souvenir Socks

Alas, after an evening of knitting, I am facing a bit of a conundrum with my Providence souvenir socks.

For starters I love love love the color of this yarn as it knits up.  It quickly becomes this glorious blend of dark, harmonious shades.  The bamboo gives it a marvelous lustre, and it looks very clean with no fuzzing or pilling.

The downside is that the 35% bamboo apparently reduces the elasticity of this yarn a LOT.  As in, knitting with this almost feels like knitting with 100% silk or cotton.  It is truly beautiful, but it's also very strict and this lack of give makes it kind of a pain to work with.

Normally working with a non-elastic yarn doesn't bother me-except when I have to do thinks like k3tog.  Which the lace pattern on Isabella D'Este happens to call for.  A LOT.  So, about every fourth row, I'm must to do multiple k3togs, and wince every time because I'm certain this will be the moment that I snap my bamboo US1 dpn in half.  Everytime.  

Sometimes, I manage to shake off my nervousness about the integrity of my needles, but still can't get over the sheer amount of force required to shove my needle under 3 stitches for this whole k3tog business.  Sure, I could try something rebellious like substituting a different kind of decrease that isn't so frustrating, but I'd rather knit these socks the way it's intended.

Further, I'm getting a little antsy that the lace pattern won't show up well in this yarn anyways.  I keep putting the cuff over my wrist to see if my pallid skin showing through the holes will make the pattern pop, but it's not really working.

This leads me to my conundrum... I love this pattern and I love this yarn, but I fear this might not be a match made in heaven.  I think the yarn might be too dark and too inelastic to work for this awesome awesome design.  I kind of want to go on, but then I look at how many k3togs I'm going to be forced to do, and I frown.  And knitting isn't supposed to be a frown-y exercise.

Perhaps I'll let it marinate in my mind for a day before ultimately picking out a new pattern and starting over.  Le-Sigh....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Providence Socks

Quite a sabbatical I've taken from posting here...  But I'm BACK!  To talk about news and my new project.

In happy, secretive news- I just finished another pattern for the Unplanned Peacock Yarn Club.  Both of my proprietary patterns will be available next year so I'll post all about them and have them for sale on Ravelry.  

In happy, public news- in November I started teaching (or would it be leading) a small knitting group at the library.  About once a week a group of lovely ladies get together to learn about a specific project/technique. For November, they learned to make a dishcloth.  The first pattern was just a plain stockinette square with garter st border.  The second difficulty level was a washcloth with a snowflake design in the middle (created via knit and purl texturing).  The best part about this loverly group is that they're OUTSTANDING students, so eager to learn and full of questions I actually can answer!  Whee!  It makes me so happy to explain things to them!

For December, I've picked out a cowl for them to do: it's lacey.  Well, eyelets really.  But they're progressing so well and are so awesome, that I want to jump them in on the basic yo/k2tog dance.  That way, they'll be both entertained and not intimidated by gigantic lace charts.  Soon comes knitting in the round, and cables, and oh YAY!  I'm so excited.

Sad news is that I'm not sure if the library will be able to continue the One Skein Wonders Class as an official library program after the new year.  It's mainly a matter of available hours and I probably won't get the chance to be paid to teach people knitting.

Thus, my solution is that I'm going to insist on having Monday nights off, and keep this thing going as a club that is totz unofficial and not library related...  We'll just, you know, meet in the library on the same day at the same time.

In backburner news: A woman from Mosaic, my LYS, contacted me through ravelry about whether I had any new patterns to add to their book and would I be interested in teaching a class.  Since this is the first I've heard from Mosaic in about, oh 10 months, I replied stating that I wasn't sure which patterns they had and that I'd be happy to give them any new ones I have available.  Also that I'd be happy to teach anything they wanted, just let me know.  Haven't heard back from them.  Oh WELL.

The nicest thing about my knitting class is that it has inspired me to really pump out the small objects so that I have samples to point to.  I really wish I had a chalkboard sometimes...

In this vein, I've finished my sample cowl for tomorrow and am now finally casting on for a new pair of my souvenir socks.

Souvenir Socks!

Totally the best idea.

I love each pair of hand knit socks I own.  I'm not a voracious sock-knitter so I only have about 4 pairs, but I am dearly attached to each one.  I also love putting each pair on because it reminds me of the time in my life when I was working on them.  Sort of like how it's nice to collect books in hardcopy because every so often you can run your fingers across their spines and reminisce.  

Therefore, I've decided that the best souvenir for myself from a trip is a skein of sock yarn.  This way, not only will I get to visit neat little yarn shops and learn about local-to-them yarns, but I'll always think of my vacation and those lovely memories when I wear the socks.  

This year, in early October, we went on a tour of Connecticut and lower New England.  Notably, Providence, RI, which was a bit of a literary pilgrimage for me.  To commemorate a trip laden with adventure and gothic architecture and wine touring, I tried to pick out a yarn for socks I could wear to an encounter with Poe outside the Athenaeum.

Along our travels we met up with my friend Annie (also a knitter, very dear to me) around Stonington and Mystic.  Which is how I was in the are for checking out the Mystic River Yarns shop therein.

Rather quickly, I grabbed a suitable skein of marvelous sock yarn in dark shades of blue, purple, silver, green, and reddish-brown.  I also made a point to try for a local dyer, not just snatch a skein of Berroco.  I ended up with 420 yds of Ellyn Cooper's Yarn Sonnets Zohar's Sock.  In a colorway called "Coo's Canyon".  It's 65/35 superwash merino/bamboo and feels luscious.

Here it is in the skein.

I'm going to be making it into a pair of 'Isabella D'Este' by Jayme Stahl from the book "The Knitter's Book of Socks".  I can't wait to wear them!!! EEEEEE!

Friday, August 24, 2012

How is a Balaclava like a Boule? Brioche Knitting Commentary Pt. 1

While I sit here waiting for a package in Norway to be opened, I'm going to work on my weekly blog post.  I must first compliment the wonders of the internet- that I can watch a live stream from across the world where it is almost night, while museum directors take a powerdrill to screws, opening the safety glass cover above this parcel.  It was sealed with twine and wax in 1912 by somebody named Johan Nygaard with a note that says it can be opened in 2012.

What will be inside it?  Evidence of an affair, some incredible crime?  Maybe it's a time capsule full of sweet momentos.  What if it's a dark artifact that summons a Lovecraftian horror to ravage Scandinavia?  If cats will ever stop crashing across my keyboard, I'll find out.  I can't wait!  (Side note: it's very soothing to listen to Norwegian small talk.)  Also, I think the Queen of Norway is sitting in the audience- there's at least an old lady in a very shiny crown.  Looks royal to me.

One color brioche knit fabric.

Since I'm not done with my Hosta project, I don't have a full report to give.  I will, however, write what I've learned so far about brioche knitting (which may or may not be entirely accurate- so seriously look up Nancy Marchant's book on the subject, she's a much better authority than I.)  But, like anyone paying attention in school learned from school, writing things down and trying to teach them to someone else is the best way to make knowledge stick to your brain.  So here goes:

Names and Words

First off!  Here's a neat little etymology lesson.  Lots of people try to google "Brioche" and assuming that Google can read their minds, are terribly surprised when they get a bunch of entries for bread.  How are knitting and bread connected?  Wikipedia has a tiny blub that the word 'brioche' is a modification of French slang for 'mistake', which sounds a touch dubious because brioche knitting does NOT lend itself toward error of any kind.  Rather, you have to look to the bread.  Brioche parisienne is a version of brioche bread where one ball of dough is formed, and then another smaller one is placed on top of it before baking.  Kind of like a 2 level snowman.  It ends up looking like this:

In essence, dough is stacked on top of itself.  Which is a pretty good analogy for what happens with brioche knitting.  Many stitches get slipped and wrapped, resulting in a network of stitches that stack on top of each other.  I'm pretty sure this is why brioche knitting is called brioche.

Needles and Yarn

Months ago when I first started this project at the prompting of the lovely Leslie, I must confess I was a bit unprepared.  For one, I brought the wrong type of needles to the meeting.  It's not quite like bringing a knife to a gunfight, but maybe a muzzle-loading black powder musket.  You can do one row but nothing else.  Brioche knitting (at far as I'm aware) requires double-points or a circular needle.  In essence, when you finish knitting with one yarn, you have to scoot the entire project back to the 'beginning' like a type-writer, and knit with your second yarn.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before needles, I should talk about YARN.  Brioche knitting doesn't necessarily require two different kinds of yarn, but it does require two strands of yarn.  You can use yarn coming from both ends of a skein to brioche knit, but you need both.  At first, I thought brioche was a funky version of double-knitting (aka, creating a fabric using two strands of yarn with a stitch formula with causes them to interlock- it's used in socks).  But it's NOT.  The strands are NOT worked at the same time like any other kind of knitting I'm familiar with.  It isn't like stranded knitting where you carry both strands along to the current stitch place.  It's not like intarsia where you drop strands here and there, only to be picked back up and wrapped when you get to them again.  It's not like double-knitting where you knit with one strand and then another, again sticking to the current stitch place.

When a Row is not yet a Row

Brioche knitting is like hand-writing an entire sentence in cursive without spaces, then going back with an eraser- separating the words, and crossing Ts and dotting Is.  You knit to the end of the row with one strand, then swoop all the stitches back like a reset typewriter, and knit with the other strand.  Then turn (at least for this project), and repeat.

Thus, every "Row" of this pattern/technique actually feels like 2 rows because you work across all stitches with 2 strands of yarn, or twice.  Then turn to the next "Row" where you work through all the stitches twice again.  Running with the cursive analogy- you haven't finished writing the sentence just because you've laid down the cursive, you have to dot your Is as well.  So you're not done with your Row just because you've worked across all the stitches with one strand.

With single color brioche-ing, both sides are the same.  I find it to be akin to garter stitch.  You work your Row with one strand, then the other- turn and repeat.  This gives you a reversible fabric that looks the same on both sides.  Go crazy until you have a scarf.

Two-color brioche knitting is a bit more involved, and produces a reversible fabric - only one side is one color and the other is the other.  Ultimately, I think that working with two differently colored yarns makes learning this Row system easier, because you can distinguish between Light and Dark, and thus keep track of which strand on which side you're working on.

With Hosta, in particular, everything is written in Light Side/Dark Side and Light Yarn/Dark Yarn notation.  So the very first thing that will happen is LS LY- you work the light side (which serves as a RS of sorts) with the light yarn.  Then LS DY, then is flipped to the DS.  Aside from being a good system for keeping things straight (like a kitchener stitch chant), it's also ripe for nerd jokes.  But, two-color brioche requires purling and if you don't want to jump right into that, you can certainly stick with just one

Sl1yo, or The Proto-bark

Further, the actual working of the brioche stitch is interestingly novel.   At a given time on any half-row (once across with one yarn), only every other stitch or so will actually be knit into.  The rest will be worked as a slip-1-yarnover or sl1yo (or yarn in front sl1yo = yf-sl1yo) where the working yarn is brought to the front, the stitch is slipped purlwise, and then the working yarn is wrapped over the needle (and a bit over the freshly-slipped stitch) and kept to the back of the work depending on the alignment needed for the next stitch to be worked.  Thus, for example, if the stitch right after this is supposed to be knit- the yarn goes to the back, and if the next stitch is to be purled - the yarn is brought to the front again.

This sl1yo practice creates a plethora of what I'm quaintly calling proto-barks.  I'm sure Marchant has the correct, definitive, and better name for it, but I'm an outlaw and a bad influence so there.  I think of proto-barks like a sack of sugar and a sack of flour sitting on the counter before you make cookies.  They are very separate in their own bags, but soon will be combined for deliciousness.  There is a slipped stitch and a yo-wrap, and soon they will be worked together.  At first, it may be tricky to identify the parts of a proto-bark because it's easy to mistake them for a regularly knit or purled stitch because depending on your tension as you're getting used to this whole mess, the yo-wraps can drift away from the slipped stitches and hide.  But the yo-wrap should always be there (even if it's trying to hide), crossing the slipped stitch's shoulder like a Miss America sash (or for the nerdy, like Mr. Worf's baldric).

Barking and Burping

The point is, both of these things have to be there because you knit or purl into them simultaneously like a k2tog.  And this brings us to the most amusing new abbreviation in the brioche arsenal: brk and brp.  These stand for "Brioche knit" and "Brioche purl" respectively, but are commonly spoken as 'bark' and 'burp' because if you used the real terms, the word brioche would stop sounding like a word and you'd start to lose touch with reality.

To brk or brp is simply the act of knitting or purling into the proto-barks, you end up with only one stitch on your needle but you've combined the slipped stitch and the yo wrap.  Regular knit or purl is one stitch into one stitch: brk or brp is one stitch into a slip and a wrap (combining them).

The ultimate result of brking and brping is that you produce a fabric with lots of (let's say) interstitial strands.  The yo-wraps, when worked like this, end up sort of lingering in the netherrealm between RS and WS.  You can see this if you stretch brioche-knit fabric out a little.

Wraps shown here masterfully in red.

Here you can identify knit-looking stitches, but they have little flying buttresses or arms or some better metaphor.  Those are the yo-wraps that get tucked into the fabric, and likewise happens on the WS.  These yo-wraps don't end up obscuring the stitches on the opposite side because of how the algorithm of brioche knitting works.

Remember how I said "only every other stitch or so is actually worked"?  What ends up happening in brioche knitting is that when you sl1yo, you almost always follow that up by knitting/purling (brking/brping) the next stitch.  This means that the yarn you just wrapped with is now the yarn that constitutes the next k/p stitch.  So the wrapping never gets out of control.  This structure is what makes brioche knit fabric so squishy and flat.  Instead of just battling over curl-inducing tension like stockinette stitch, the yarn overs give each knit or purl stitch a bit of slack.  In fact, this reminds me a lot of how Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off is worked, if you're familiar with that.  There's more room to wiggle, and twice as much yarn being used, so this creates a big, spongy, relaxed fabric.

Something to Watch Out For!

Be sure to distinguish the different between brking into a proto-bark, and knitting 2 together.  I've seen a couple of internet videos that kind of confuse these two terms and will say things like: "So you're going to knit these two stitches together, and that's called barking!"  The two "stitches" they knit together are the individual parts of the proto-bark (the slipped stitch and the yo-wrap).  This gets very confusing if you try to do shaping in brioche knitting because then what happens if you're told to k2tog and the stitches waiting on the left needle are a knit stitch and a sl1yo (proto-bark), do you combine the knit stitch and the slipped stitch?  Leaving the yo-wrap hanging out in the cold by its lonesome?  No.  I'll get into this a little later when talking about advanced thingies, but for now it's important to know that you either brk or you k2tog.  Brking is NOT k2tog.

Marchant, of course, never says anything like brking is knitting things together, and goes to lengths to explain the new definition of "stitch" in the context of brioche-ing.  She does it better than I.  That's why she got to write a book on it.

Two-Color Brioche

Thus far, everything I've talked about has tried to be a bit open-ended to cover single-color and two-color brioche knitting, unless specified in particular.  I personally don't think that two-color is much harder than one-color- it involves keeping track of RS and WS and has purling in it.  Once you get down the concept of the proto-bark and brking/brping, working two-color brioche is not a lot harder than learning a textured stockinette-based stitch.  Just like after you've done stockinette, you can easily recognize a RS and a WS, two-color brioche is easy enough to pick up .  Just pick one yarn to be your Dark Side yarn, and let that be your theoretical WS.

Just like with a textured stockinette-based stitch (think cables), you will do things on the WS that are the mirror opposite of the RS.

I like using The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as a way of thinking about this.  If you're in the Light World, you do certain things, there are bushes to slash, happy music plays, and stuff's nice.  However, if you happen to be from the Dark World (you're Dark Yarn Ganondorf) and you're visiting the Light Side, things don't go so well (you end up having to purl and stuff).  This is why if you're working on the LightSide with DarkYarn, you usually have to brp.

The reverse it true.  If you're Link and you travel to the Dark World, you've got to jump through a lot of hoops to get anything done and not be a pink rabbit.  Thus, on the DarkSide, the LightYarn ends up purling because it's in the wrong world.

I guess you could also put it that two fabrics with right and wrong sides are being knit simultaneously and the work is in keeping them straight.

The Most Important Thing

If all of this makes your head spin and you're a little afraid, here is the most important thing you can do: 

Read the written-out instructions step-by-step.  Word-by-word.

Don't brk until the words tell you to, don't yarn over until you're certain it's a sl1yo or a regular yo.  Go stitch by stitch and eventually a lovely pattern will emerge.  If not, try again, you'll get it eventually.

Advanced Thingies

I'm not sure I'm qualified to write about advanced thingies, but the Hosta pattern does involve shaping.  Good News though!  Once you get down the rhythm of two-color brioche-ing, increasing/decreasing is very easy; you only really have to remember one thing.

When increase or decrease instructions refer to a "stitch" they can mean a few things.

-A Knit or Purl Stitch
-A Brk or Brp Stitch
-A Proto-Bark

All of these should be treated equally as a stitch.  So if you have something like a sl1, k2tog, psso, and the next three things on your left needle are: proto-bark, brk, proto-bark, you'd do the following:

Slip the nearest proto-bark knitwise, knit the brk and the following proto-bark together like they were two unassuming whatevers, then pass both parts of the proto-bark back over them as one and transfer the whole thing to the correct needle.  Treat each thing that is called a 'stitch' the same.

Hosta is kind in that shaping only occurs during LSLY- that's only one out of four passes.  I'm sure that somewhere out in the world there are meaner patterns that shape on the Dark Side, or even involve things like lace or something insane.  Who knows what lurks in the hearts of knitters.

At any rate, I still need to finish this wonder and then I'll weigh in about things like charts and finishing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Salt Harvest- the finishing of The Seaside Shawl among other things

I started back part-time work at the library shortly after my last post about hats.  This led to the inevitable silence that happens when I'm not suffocated with free time to the extent that I'm compelled to blog like a good girl.  As I've been re-adjusting to gainful employment, I've also had a bunch of life events happen:  My mom's amazing 60th birthday bash, my friend Rachel's wedding, Cate of Wyrd Sisters is moving to Nashville, and this Sunday is my brother-in-law's birthday.  Also, Patrick had another kidney stone but this one was resolved quickly and easily (unlike ones in the past).  It's been distracting.

This last week, however, I took stock of life, and decided I had far too many knitting projects languishing in the dust.  My spring-based cast-onitis had generated quite a few projects that I had let slide and so it's time to finish them!

Firstly, I had began work on the Hosta by Nancy Marchant but after two repeats of the B chart (the one that makes up most of the scarf), I dropped a stitch.  This might have had something to do with the wine I'd had that night, but that's what I get for drinking and knitting.  What made this particularly pesky is that Hosta is a two-color, reversible, brioche-knit, shaped monster, and so dropping a stitch and trying to repair it when I'm not even very familiar with brioche knitting was brutal.

So I frogged the thing and started over.  In the course of this reboot, I skipped a necessary decrease, and instead of frogging/rebooting AGAIN, I decided to tink back a couple rows and rework it.

LET IT BE KNOWN: that if you want to understand how something is constructed, tink a few rows of it.  This is more enlightening than any 'fix your mistakes' guide I've ever read.  Tinking is key!

Anyways, I've restarted and gotten back to where I messed up, only now I have the ability to drop a stitch and not spasm!

Not too shabby!

I also pumped out a pair of socks with some yummy sock yarn that I got last Christmas and have been too lazy to knit with until now.  I had originally cast them on in July after I'd gotten my library gig back and needed something mindless and productive to do (since my other projects were demoralizing and complicated). Thus, some basic ribbed socks.

Foreshortened legs look fat X(

The awesome thing about these socks is the yarn.  It's Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street Collection Petals Sock Yarn.  What a mouthful.  But it's a fabulous blend of 50% fine Merino Superwash, 30% Nylon, and 20% Angora.  Mmmmmmmm.  So fuzzy.  Better yet, it comes pretty cheap if you order it from Webs or somewhere else online.  As in, I think I got this on sale for something like $3 or $4 a skein.  And at 426 yards a skein, that's a pair of fuzzy socks right there!  In fact, the pair I made for my Size 7 feet only took about 60% to 70% of the skein. Fabulous!

The yarn itself is in the Olympic Blueberry colorway, and has the sort of subtle striping/ faux-fair-isle that reminds me of Regia Sock.  It is kind of sheddy once it's knit up into fabric, but I have yet to wash them so we'll see how it stands up.  At worst, the angora will shed away like it always does and I'll be left with some superwash/nylon socks.  Oh DARN!  Cool thing is, this brings my sock pair count up to 3!  That's a long weekend of hand-knit sock action!

The other neat thing about these socks is the pattern I used.  It was Adult and Child Socks by Bernadette St. Amant from the book 101 One-skein Wonders  - Yarn Shop Favorites.  I've only made socks from the toe-up (I like to start ambitiously), so this was kind of new.  They're worked from the top down, so I had to do 2x2 ribbing for the legs.  Somehow, though, because this was my mindless work probably, this ribbing went quickly.  Then some provisional yarn is knit in for an afterthought heel.  This was my first afterthought heel!  Then the instep and foot and finally a kitchener stitch bind off.  The heels are then picked up and shaped just like the toes until you kitchener bind them off the same way.  HOW EASY!  Also, I'm kind of good at kitchener stitch now.

The reason why I blasted through the socks so quickly is that I needed my US 2 double points for my next EPIC project.  And I mean EPIC.

MadroƱa by Romi Hill is unbelievable.  Here is a photo of one of Romi's finished shawls for reference.


The most awesome part about this shawl is that it starts with what you see above (a circular kind of thing that starts at the center) and then at 2 o'clock and 10 o'clock branch off into rectangular stole-like arms.  It's a huge V shape overall with this amazing 4-petal figure in the center of the back.  It is so AMAZING.

Also, it is worked on US 4s mostly and thus goes quickly.

I am this far along.

4-petal figure thingie accomplished!

I'm using Knit Picks Shadow because it's cheap and feels fine and I've never gotten the chance to pet the huge cones of laceweight Jaggerspun-whatever.  With the purchase of a few needles needed to complete the thing, the total cost of this amazing shawl will be around $30.  How cool is that?  And it'll keep me knitting for the next year.  That's economy, my friend.

Finally, I wanted to write about my Seaside Shawl.

I finished it.  I haven't blocked it out to be pretty yet, but I FINISHED IT.

The roadblock that I'd hit was due to my own cheapness.  I wanted to make the shawl, and I wanted to knit with MadelineTosh Sock.  ToshSock, however, is a bit expensive, so I thought: "Hey, yarn requirements are usually an overestimate, let's see how far I can get without having to drop $60 dollars."  so for $27 dollars I began my fool's errand with a single skein of ToshSock and got most of the way to the end of the shawl.  I was left with 4 rounds of the loooooong circular border to knit when I ran out.  I had almost made it!

So, I was reduced to stash-diving to find something in the same weight that didn't clash horribly.  This is the problem with sock yarns and my stash.  I basically keep 2 kinds of sock yarn, blue, and red, and colorful.  (Okay, 3 kinds.  Three kinds of sock yarn.  Blue, Red, Colorful, and The Element of Surprise.  No, FOUR.  There are four kinds of sock yarn in my stash...)  Both reds would have looked heinous, and the blues would have clashed horribly.  Bordering something with colorful variegated or novelty yarn is just asking for tackiness.  Not my style (usually).

That left one skein.  The Noro Silk Garden Sock in the discontinued colorway.  The creamy, pearlescent, grey, light beige colorway that looks like shifting beachsand.  I only have one skein of it.  Ouch.

But it was the only thing that would work, and colorways are getting discontinued all the time so it's no big loss.

I whipped out the border and even though Silk Garden is a very different texture from ToshSock, it ended up working remarkably well.  The color combination turned out to be kind of French provincial, and the light/neutral border accent sets off the shawl like lightning.

 I really need to get this thing blocked so I can wear it everyday on our upcoming New England vacation!  It's really fascinating what just a few rows in a contrasting color can do for an object!  The wonders of color!

And considering that now I can't make anything out of the Silk Garden Sock by itself, I think I'll keep it in reserve as a perpetual life-saver yarn.  Use it for borders and embellishments so it can work it's magic on other projects in need of super-hero rescue.  Long Live Silk Garden Sock!

So that's the update in the knitting world.  I'll be posting on Fridays, and hopefully banging out this Hosta so I can give my completely unprofessional criticism and advice on brioche knitting.  That'll be fun.

Until then, happy knitting!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chemo Cap #1

Here's my first chemo cap made for charity.  I finished it about a week ago, but have been distracted and thus haven't posted anything about it.

It's crocheted in Caron Simply Soft in a light grey color with J and H hooks.  The pattern is the 'Divine Hat' by Sarah Arnold.  Once I got to the main shell repeats, it was very easy to bang out.  I think that chemo caps are going to be what I use my nicer acrylic stash for.

Just have to wash and drop off at Wyrd Sisters on Saturday (to eventually end up in the sweet hands of Star City Chapeaus).

I've been quite a fan of crochet these past few weeks because it's offering me instant gratification in the face of my messed up brioche knitting.  Also, my MadTosh Seaside Shawl has stalled out because I've run out of yarn.  Grrr!  Lying yarn estimation!  So now I get to contemplate my two options:  ripping back and modifying, or getting some coordinating yarn scrap to finish off the edging.  I'll figure it out, but right now I'm giggling to myself while making hideously ugly hexes from hideously ugly scrap acrylic for the UGLIEST AFGHAN IN THE WORLD.  It is seriously the grossest thing I've ever made.  There's something deliciously self-destructive about making these hexes as foul as possible, to the point where it comes back around and is fun and possibly neat looking.  Who knows, maybe I'll be able to sell it to gawkers on Etsy....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Buckling Down: News of a Sort.

Last week my husband and I finally sat down and had our State of the Union style discussion about finances.  When we married almost two years ago, we had a plan to stay in our rental house and save up money for three years until we reached our goal: enough money to buy some land in the country and build our forever house on it.

Well, two years has passed and we haven't gotten nearly as far as we had hoped on that goal.  Along with other things like wanting to get in better shape and (at least for me) wanting to simplify our home, we've decided to buckle down and be SERIOUS about things.  So now the plan is to try to save 40k in a year.  Which is doable, we believe.

It's going to be difficult, no joke.  But we both think that it's a start.

Saving money is not difficult on paper, but can be mightily hard in practice.  On paper it's usually a matter of decreasing your outgo (expenditures) and increasing your income.  DUH.  But actually putting expenditures under your thumb is a big problem for people and increasing your income isn't a cake-walk either.

Therefore, because I'm in charge of the household economy (so to speak), I've decided on some rules saturated with my typical dramatic flair and enthusiasm.

Rule #1:  Don't spend any money on food until we NEED it.

And I mean NEED.  This is going to be a challenge that's going to play out its drama within about a month's time on my foodblog as I gradually cook through the stores of our pantry.

By NEED I mean, we aren't going to eat at a restaurant, a fast food joint, not even a candy bar from a gas station unless Patrick is stranded somewhere and having a blood sugar attack and is at risk for passing out.  There's going to be $0 outgo with the exception of a small list of key items.

cat food
cat litter
toilet paper

This should drop our food expenses from a hundred or so dollars a week to about $15 (pro-rating the cat food).  All other food will be made from the pantry stores.

Cool thing about this is that I have a magnificently stocked pantry, and it's going to take us a bit to eat through it.  Also, the berries outside are ripening and that means we won't run out of jam for a while.

Further, it'll make me get creative in the kitchen.  FURTHER, it'll drop my caloric intake because we won't be having wine with dinner and I'm having miso soup and coffee for 1-2 meals of the day (we've got a large package of miso to use up).

Rule #2:  Sell some crap.

My house is quite far from being hoarded, but I always seem to find myself wishing I had less stuff.  So I'm trying to sell some of it.  Clothes and books mostly, and this will do the double duty of simplifying the home and making a trickle of income.  Stuff that can't be sold is going to Goodwill.

Another part of this is that I'm going to add a shameless FOR SALE page to this blog that will be a photo-filled listing of all the items for sale.  This will include some things I've knit to learn a technique and that I just never wear- at BARGAIN prices.  Seriously, like $10 a thingie.

Rule #3: Get a job, ya bum!

My sister Amanda is a great inspiration to me in this respect, having built up a successful transcription business from scratch, so I'm going to try to follow after her to help bolster the home's income.  When I'm not gambling on whether semolina flour can be used to make bread, or bashing out listings on the internet, I want to be making money typing things.  Yes.

As you may gather from Rule #1, all other expenditures are ceasing as well (with the exception of gas to get around).  That means knitting from my bountiful stash.  Sigh.  Creative on the knitting needles too.

There's the news!  Buckling down, keeping the money from leaking, making some more money.  Good Times.

Hopefully in a year I'll be writing about house plans!