high fiber diet: the outer-limits of my comfort zone...

so, as i mentioned last time around, i recently completed an item that instantly became my (latest) favorite thing of all time, and it is going to be hard for any future project to top this one. best of all, it goes with my favorite mug, which is always within close reach (she says, taking a sip of tea from said vessel). do you see the connection?

how about now?

this is the Wonder Woman Wrap (by Carissa Browning), and there is also a crochet version... if you like that sort of thing. the pattern is totally free, but i would have paid any amount she wanted for a copy. seriously.

it is a simultaneously simple and clever design in the use of garter stitch (très simple) and short-row shaping (the clever part) to form the iconic design. the yarn is a merino/acrylic blend, but it is so soft that i can wear it wrapped around my neck and shoulders, even with my delicate, allergic to all the things, snowflake skin. the combination of the garter stitch and the super-soft yarn makes for a lovely, squishy fabric that is warm and incredibly snuggly. i really love this thing.

it even looks good on the back side.

no exaggeration... i took one look at the photo of the sample shawl, did the fangirl squee a few times, then instantly copied the image and applied a black and white filter... because i know the outer-limits of my comfort zone. plus, i was neck-deep in pink projects at the time, and i had to draw the line somewhere. luckily, my comfort zone has room enough for many shades of grey.

i am, however, tempted to knit up a couple-few of these in regulation colors for a couple-few awesome ladies i know who would get  a kick out of such a thing. the overall shape of the scarf/shawl means that it can be easily washed without distorting the design, which makes for stress-free gift-knittng... which brings me to other part of today's post.

blocking, as the name suggest, is the process of shaping a garment/item after it has been knitted. not every item requires blocking, while some require what is commonly referred to as "aggressive blocking". a simple item like a hat or a pair of mittens can be hand washed and laid flat to dry, or even tossed in with the regular laundry (if it was made from machine-washable yarn). by contrast, items with more complex shapes, especially those with lots of curves and points, have to be blocked back into shape... every single time they are washed. how can i possibly gift knitted items that require so much maintenance on the part of the recipient?

lace, for example, has to be pinned out while wet (to open up the holes in the lace work) and left like that until completely dried... and i do mean completely, or it will just curl back up on itself, forming a shapeless mass. case and point... the shawl i recently pulled from the bottom of the laundry basket, where it has resided for the past two years. it has a pretty lacy edging...

which curls right back up the second i let go. sigh!

this is a shawl i made five years ago. the pattern is Dream Stripes (by Berangere Cailliau), and it is also free on Ravelry.

this is a relatively common setup for a knitted scarf/shawl... most of the body is done in plain stockinette stitch, while the border/edge sports some sort of fancy lacy design.

lace is lovely, except it tends to lose definition with time/wear, meaning that it has to be blocked back into shape every single time the item is washed. even if you never use or touch knitted lace, the fibers in the yarn will relax over time, causing the fabric to curl up on itself. look how sharp those edges are after they have been blocked.

now, i really love this shawl. the dark brown is some commercial yarn i had laying around, and the lighter colored stuff is some of my own hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn in a colorway i called "Guinness", as it reminded me of waiting for the head to settle on a freshly-poured stout.

except, i have not worn this shawl for a few years, mainly because it needed to be washed... which meant that it needed to be blocked. and that (along with swatching) is the other thing that makes knitters cringe. blocking this shawl means pinning out all of the edges, especially the lovely points that i want to stand out in the design. this is aggressive blocking. note, i am using a combination of blocking wires and straight pins to hold the shawl in place on some interlocking foam mats i bought at my local dollar store.

a day later, and the scarf is thoroughly dry. the points stay in place when i remove the pins and wires.

so, now i can wear my striped shawl again... just as soon as i mend that little hole.

the Wonder Woman shawl did not really require blocking, as it is a simple shape that could just be laid flat and left to dry, making it acceptable for gift-knitting. i did still pin mine out completely while it dried... though, as my favorite animator suggested, that might be because i am completely insane. maybe i did go just a tiny bit overboard with the pins.

who cares. it is squishy and lovely and it makes me smile.


high fiber diet: but am i ever going to wear them...

my little grey shadow is napping in a cardboard box, so it is mama kitty's (the calico one) turn to keep me company. she is stretched out next to me on the bed, demanding belly-rubbing while i am trying to type. which part of "i want to get this posted before midnight" does she not understand?

so, as i mentioned last time, i ordered a couple patterns from a yarn shop in the UK, and i was eagerly awaiting their arrival to cast on my next project. i was binge-watching videos on Knit Nottingham's You Tube channel (be warned, she is bawdy and has a potty mouth), when channel host/yarn shop owner, Eleanor, quickly held up a project she was working on for self. it was the perfect thing for my 'Summer of cottony knitting' insanity, so i contacted her in search of the name of the pattern. turns out it was discontinued, but she had a few paper copies in stock. not wanting to waste her time for a single leaflet, i added another pattern (for the navy blue lacy item pictured below) to the order. one Pay Pal transaction later, and both patterns were on their way. all i had to do was wait.

i do not do patience very well, either with other people, or (most especially) with myself. i was in the zone. i wanted to knit all the things. one quick stash-dive later, and i had a bag of pink and white yarn, the same stuff i promised myself i would turn into a cardi at some point last year. this is why you should never make promises... especially to yourself.

i had just gotten through watching Amy Herzog's online class about modifying sweaters for a custom fit (i will save the first-world-problems rant about being a curvy girl is a straight-figure universe for some other day). i wanted to test out her approach to sizing, so i started said cardi... then left it sitting in a bag... in the depths of my stash... until that day when i needed a quick-fix. so, what was supposed to be an educational cardigan, ended up as a distraction tank top.

the pattern is Aster (by Dawn Catanzaro). there is a subtle bit of shaping in the body of the garment, which causes it to lay in a very flattering manner along the curve of the lower back, so it is not just another tent-like, boxy top. i will definitely be making a few more of these in the future.

i had forgotten how rough this yarn was on my hands. this was supposed to be finished in a week (or less) of evening knit-while-watching-stuff time. it ended up taking five weeks, as i had to give my hands time to recover in-between working with such nubbly yarn. that being said, i do love the texture of the end product, and i am keeping an eye out for the perfect pattern to use up the rest of that yarn... although there is always the possibility it may end up being tossed on the bbq grill as an offering to whatever gods are responsible for such torturous things.

the yarn was too thin for this project, so i held it doubled throughout, but i managed to drop one of the two strands on one single stitch, which most people would never notice...

unless i point it out. no worries. it is an easy fix, which i will get around to doing... some day.

so, there i was, admiring all of my Summer knits, when it dawned on me: they look great hanging together by my closet door... but am i ever going to wear any of these things? yes, i enjoyed making all of those items, and i really am quite proud of myself for turning out so many projects in one season... if you do not count the three years i took to finish that one top. so, while i was pleased to see my stash being put to good use, that was still a whole lot of pink, and i am still not into pink.

i was so traumatized by this realization, that i grabbed one of my UK patterns and went diving again through the stash for something that was a bit more me. i am still convincing myself that it was pure coincidence that my nails happened to also be navy blue. i am loving that pretty lace fabric.

my fluffy grey shadow approves.

speaking of grey, i recently completed this thing, which is already my new fave knitted item ever. i will talk more about that one next time. it is wonder-ful, trust me!

taking a forced-break from knitting is kind of like being between projects. i get restless, so i usually use that time to rummage through the hundreds of swatches living in colorful containers throughout our home. they are reminders of projects past, and inspiration for project to come.

i usually knit up a swatch when i get a new yarn, or before starting a new project, and i always take the time to wash and pin the swatches out while they dry. the navy blue yarn in the upper-left corner is the swatch for the navy blue sweater above.

i have been known to carry swatches from one room to another, just to see how they look in different light. bonus points if you spot the grey kitty lurking in the shadows.

the lacy swatch in the upper-left is an idea i was exploring for using up the light-salmon yarn leftover from the three years later top. maybe i will get around to that one for next Summer. the tiny light-grey swatch on the lower-left corner is the grey item i plan to talk about tomorrow. size was not an issue with that one. i just wanted to make sure that the fabric would have the level of squishiness i desired for this project. yes, there is such a thing as too little or too much squish.

my favorite animator uses my swatches as a handy excuse for buying cookies and chocolates in decorative metal tins, which can later be put to use as storage spaces. the red tin was from last year's Christmas cookies.

it currently houses the (mostly cotton) swatches for yarns that would be ideal for summer wear, except that brown swatch, which is already earmarked for a specific project... one of these days.

then there is this chocolate tin.

it contains the swatches for yarns i hope to use in the coming cold months.

i sometimes go overboard and swatch a few times, just to be sure. here you can see different swatches of the same yarns done on different sized needles, so that i can compare the resulting fabric. the green and navy blue swatches stacked together on the bottom row are the same yarn in different colors, because my brand of OCD demands such things.

here i casted on the same number of stitches, and made swatches on three different sized needles. note the difference in width of the three swatches. multiplied across the width of a whole garment, you can end up with something that is too tight, fits perfectly, or that has room enough for company... unless you are into that sort of thing. this is a judgment-free zone.

some knitters think it is wasted time, but swatching saves frustration. i originally intended to make my cabled cardi in a black yarn, but i had so much trouble seeing the individual stitches, that i knew it would be a nightmare for working such complicated cables. i kept the one ball of yarn i used for making the swatch, and took the remaining nineteen balls back to my local yarn shop, to be exchanged for the same yarn in a much lighter color. the alternative would have involved fire and twenty balls of burnt black yarn.

you may notice the notes everywhere. i measure a 2" x 2" (5cm x 5 cm) square on each swatch, count the stitches, then double those numbers and write it down for future reference as #stitches x #rows that would be in a 4" x 4" (10cm x 10cm) square. this is where i would need to break into basic math to explain why that matters, but just trust me when i say that it is important in determining the size of a finished item. i also note the size needle i used for the swatch, and i usually tie a series of knots in the tail end of the yarn to indicate the size of the needle, just in case i lose that piece of paper. one can always remeasure the stitches, but the only way to remember needle size is to take good notes... or have a really good memory... or just count the knots!

and, yes... some of those swatches are pink. clearly i have learned nothing from this Summer.


high fiber diet: please make it stop...

i am banned from knitting for a day or two while my arms, shoulders, and wrists recover from self-inflicted stupidity. i tried lifting something that was quite a bit outside the range of my available upper-body strength. had my favorite animator not come running in time, i would have likely dropped said object on my feet, which would have ended with one (or both) of them in a cast. trust me, it was that heavy.

it hurt so much when i went to bed last night, that i was certain i had torn something vital in my left shoulder-neck junction area. he attempted to put the classic man-spin on the situation.

me: i am in so much pain right now.
him: but it's a good pain.
me:  there is no such thing as good pain. it actually hurts across the back of my shoulders if i inhale too deeply. 
him: ooh... that's the traps. it's a good pain.
me: you really need to stop talking. 

the pain had subsided a bit by the time i woke up this morning, leaving me with that intense soreness one gets after a session of weight-lifting when you have not lifted anything heavier than a milk carton for years. so, now i have to wait till everything stops aching before i can resume normal activity. i was hoping to get in a bit of work on that cabled cardi, as i would like to have it ready for the colder days ahead, but i can barely lift a coffee mug to my mouth right now, so a (short) break seems to be in order.

regular readers of this forum (all two-and-a-half of you) might recall my regretful attempt at venturing into the world of crochet from a few posts ago.  i am still recovering from the shock of that experience, but i did manage to rescue all of the yarn involved and turn it into (yet another) cottony tee. this is the Rau Sweater (by Queanna Lee) from this Summer's edition of Knitscene. again, i made this one more tunicy that the pattern suggested. i also made it sleeveless. my top. my rules. but, mainly because i did not have enough yarn for that part.

i was determined to use every last bit of this yarn, so i started in the middle and worked up through the top garter section (the ridged area). here you can see the orange sherbet yarn i used for the provisional (temporary) cast on.

i worked the front and back sections separately, then joined them at the shoulders, which you can sorta see below the cat

i love this cat more than i can explain, but there are some days when i think i should have gotten a goldfish instead. she loves me... like really really... really... loves me. this means needing to be where i am... all of the time. i assure you that i do not intentionally insert her into any of my photos. she just shows up... and stretches that same front leg (or should that be arm) across whatever i happen to be working on, as if she is claiming it as her own. oddly enough, she tends to do the same thing every time she climbs up on my lap. your life has no meaning until you have been claimed by a cat. trust me.

where was i? oh, yes... the shoulder seam. this is what it looked like from the outside (left) and inside (right). the safety pins were used in the shaping of the shoulders. i removed them before washing and wearing the top.

i also completed the i-cord edge around the neck, before returning to the starting point.

i removed the orange sherbet yarn with extreme care, one stitch at a time...

and placed those live stitches back on the needle.

i then joined the front and back sections together...

and continued in the round in stockinette (plain) stitch down to the hem.

with the exception of the leaf designs on the front, this was a mostly boring knit, so there may have been adult summer beverages involved. if memory serves, that was my lazy sangria, which consists of equal parts fruit juice and cheap (lest i be accused of being posh) red wine, watered down with seltzer. i was trying to be responsible, because everyone knows that you have to stay hydrated while you knit.

i split the last of the yarn in two for  the front and back hem, and stopped knitting when i was in danger of running out of yarn. i used the last few yards to add an i-cord edge to the sleeves... and i even ripped out my gauge swatch to have enough yarn for the second sleeve edge. THAT made me incredibly happy.

this was about the point where all of the pink became unbearable. i had ordered a couple patterns from a crazy (said with great appreciation of all things crazy) lady in the UK, and i was awaiting their arrival in the mail. this would have been a good time to take a break, but i was on such a roll, that i did not want it to end. i needed a quick project to keep me occupied for a few days. i went diving through the stash to find some more Summer-friendly yarn. the first one i came across was pink! please... make it stop!!!