Sunday, October 28, 2012

A much belated thing or two...

Oh, my! I got so good about blogging on Wednesday nights that I sort of assumed on Thursday morning that I'd done it, and then things got hectic! (We'll get back to that...)

This week at Stitch n' Bitch:
Madeline made an appearance with not one, but TWO completed sweaters! Check out the fabulous buttons on this one! Plus, that I-cord edging that I still haven't found a project to try out for myself! I like it. Combined with Katharine's diligent progress, It almost makes me want to knit a fingering weight sweater. Almost.

Here's the other one, with a very happy Madeline inside:
Clara is sticking her tongue out in this picture, which makes me smile. Madeline is hard at work on yet another sweater (this one, however, is baby-sized, and should move a lot quicker for that reason.)

Speaking of Clara:
Look at the size of that Tube! It grows ever so much longer. Maybe she should suspend it from the ceiling and use it as a Tube of silence. Maybe it's a sleeping Tube. Maybe it's a top down sock for a particularly tall person. It could even be a carrier for a great many cats. It could be a Tube trap for assorted mythical creatures. It's up to us to guess, I suppose.

Aaaand look what we have here, ladies and gentlemen! A sweater that surely, by now, has sleeve progress, as this picture is a few days old. Katharine is making record time on this sweater, it will definitely get some wear before too much longer!

Check out the crochet stitch pattern on Lena's blanket! I know it looks like a scarf right now, but it's not. It's a blanket- the beginnings of a blanket!

 Here's a yet-to-be-determined project and some ever -so -diligent crochet chain stitch practice (practice makes perfect! I read somewhere that it takes the average person 300 hours of doing something in order to become a master- like drawing, or playing the violin. There's no reason 300 hours of chain stitch would be any different, but I doubt I'd make it to 5 before I started second guessing the merit of mastering it.)

Here's a Halloween doggy sweater for Megan's new puppy. She seemed to be aware that most dogs do not enjoy sweaters, and seemed also not to care. We'll see if her puppy stops wiggling long enough for her to snap some pictures in costume!

Look! A foot! and Jordan's Ridiculously Organized bag of yarn for her sister's granny square blanket. I should have taken a picture of my yarn bag for comparison. Also, you can see my toes in this picture- which reminds me that this week is a very important week- Halloween on Wednesday means it's Halloween sock week! I started with toe socks featuring skulls and roses, and then today was black and white striped witchy socks! Whatever will tomorrow bring...Halloween is the best time of the year for sock shopping. But I digress...

This is what Jordan's sister's blanket will look like when it's done. I don't think the colors are quite right, judging by the yellow of the carpet. It's still really awesome though! That's one lucky sister. The good thing about granny square projects, though, is how portable they are. As soon as she fills her bag up with squares, she can just empty it out and start over until there's enough- no lugging around a big old blanket!

And then there's silly old me- as if knitting wasn't weird enough:

I'm making yarn! I know it looks like I know what I'm doing in this picture, but I promise I don't. I keep dropping the spindle because such thin yarn requires quite a lot of twist. I'm working on it, though. 300 hours, like I said. I'm still stalled on my sweater because I haven't had time to sit down in a quiet place and do the math to figure out what the appropriate increase pattern is. Math is hard. Maybe tomorrow. I have been just as hard pressed for knitting time as I have for blogging time!

And now, a story:

Aric and I visited Iowa State University over the weekend, because they were holding an event for prospective graduate engineering students. I drove. We were nearly there, when I spied a Joann Fabrics sign right next to a Michael's sign, right next to a Target sign, so I did a little happy dance and got off the highway...Bought some fabric, and something truly fabulous that I will show you all on Tuesday. When we were pulling up the ramp to get back on the highway, we were stopped in a line of cars because a police man was at the top of the ramp, stopped with his flashers on, and blocking traffic. I thought there was an accident or something, so we waited. All of the sudden, ten or so police cars drove by on the (empty, because the ramp was blocked) highway- followed by exactly two black SUVs with tinted windows, and eight white SUVs. Behind that, were two large luxury busses ( I don't know what the word for them is- the kind that look like RVs, but they're not...) The not-RVs were followed by an additional eight white SUVs, two black SUVs, and a bunch more police cars with flashing lights. Following up this parade were two more police cars, blocking traffic so that nobody could get into the caravan.

Every time they passed an on-ramp, a car from the front of the line would block it, and a then join again at the back. When we got to Ames, they exited onto a new highway (we watched all this from the bridge over said highway)- and two cars stopped traffic on that highway so that it was empty for the caravan.

Aric and I resolved to Google when we got home, to figure out who the very important person was, blocking traffic and traveling exactly at the speed limit (Gah!).

Wanna Guess? You really only have two options.

It was Mitt Romney. He made a campaign stop in Ames, Iowa, while we were visiting the Applied Mathematical Sciences lab at Iowa State.

In other news: the bell tower there played the theme song from Mario at 11:00.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In lieu of other things

I forgot to bring my camera to Stitch n' Bitch this week. I even forgot to bring my back-up camera, and my phone was dead. Imagine! So I don't have updates to current yarn projects, but I do have some evidence of yarn-y awesomeness nonetheless, and her name is Clara:

It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's the ever amazing Clara, who has attached a zillion handmade pom-poms to the ceiling of her bedroom! Makes my lousy glow-in-the-dark stars look completely lame. (Which really they are, because if you're supposed to be sleeping but your desk light is still on, and then you hear your mom coming to check on you and you turn off your light, and really quick jump in to bed, the glow in the dark stars betray you, because the ones around your desk are particularly charged and therefore extra glow-y....) Anyways. These pompoms show no signs of betrayal, so Clara is probably okay.

Meanwhile, you're going to have to take my word for what went on at Stitch n' Bitch because I have no pictorial evidence. Clara has extended her sock-thing past leg length (what it is now is anyone's guess...a very skinny sleeping bag, maybe? or maybe the statue of liberty's feet are particularly cold this winter). Mary is knitting experimental yarn things with yarn from Paris- she doesn't know what the yarn wants to be yet. I didn't pet it or look closely, but it looked pretty french from where I was. Katharine is making excellent progress on her sweater (more excellent than my progress, but we'll get to that), and Jordan (Whose last name I now know) has...drumroll please.... FINISHED THE LAST OF THE HEAD COVERS! Except that her dad has recently bought a new set of golf clubs. First, he is a crazy person, second, he apparently bought the golf clubs to match a golf shirt that she bought him, which is even more crazy, and third, he seems to be expecting obligatory matching golf club cozies for this set as well. Jordan is currently working on a hat, as well she should. Madeline skipped Stitch n' Bitch last night to watch the presidential debates, but she has promised us that she will be displaying not one, but two new sweaters! So I definitely have to remember my camera next week.

In yarn-bomb preparation news, I have completely forgotten to ask Dave if I can cover one of the pillars in the Hub with granny squares, on the six or more occasions I have seen him since the conception of that idea. Even, in fact, one occasion where he asked me if there was "anything else I could think of that I wanted to ask him"....I'll remember next time. Or the time after that.

There's this thing that's happened to me this week, and I'm not at all a fan of it, and I think that I might actually implode (or explode, really, any sort of thing like that) if this thing is not rectified soon. It's a very bad thing: I have not knit anything since Saturday. That makes three whole days with not so much as a single stitch knitted-that's how busy I've been. Even now, the only reason I have decided there is time to blog, is because I am procrastinating on writing a paper. Like I said, there might be some kind of implosion soon. I think the rush is almost over, though, and hopefully I'll get some knitting time this weekend. Hopefully.
So what did I do at Stitch n' Bitch this week then? Well I'm glad you asked. I worked on homework. There was stitching involved, though, and probably some bitching as well. I bound a little over half of my hand-printed books for printmaking class with a method called 'Japanese stab stitching'- which really is not a very accurate title, considering you pre-drill the holes. It's really more like a 'Japanese poke a needle through pre-existing holes to make fancy patterns stitching' My book is about a dog my family used to have named Tinkerbelle, and all of the silly/memorable things that she did. Well, some of the things, at least, because I couldn't make the book as long as I wanted. There are 18 copies, because there had to be enough for everyone in the class... The books are really massive projects, and they have been eating my knitting time alive, but I'm turning them in tomorrow, so maybe my knitting time will come back to me. Also the 'surprise' take-home-paper-test-thing that was assigned today and is due tomorrow is done, so bonus points for me!

Way back in the day, when I still had knitting time, I finished the front and back of my sweater and stitched them together, and cast on for the sleeves....I knit six inches of sleeve before I realized that I was increasing much too quickly for anybody's good, despite my careful calculations to do what the pattern was telling me to now when I sit down for the first time in 3 days (which will probably turn into 4 before I have time) to knit, I'll be ripping out six inches of sleeve, and resolving from now on, to do things my own way, if and especially when the pattern I'm supposedly following looks funny.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A 'Short' Answer.

Hello, internet world!

Sorry about the lack of blog last week. There was confusion. And unsureness. This program seems to think 'unsureness' is a word, but I am unsure. Just go with it. Katharine will be blogging next week, so that will be an exciting change of pace! Meanwhile, you're stuck with crazy old me!

This week at Stitch n' Bitch, many exciting things happened- but many exciting things often do.

Clara was working on a smaller, and closed counterpart to her big papa tube. It looked like a sock, so she tried it on. Best.Sock.Ever:

I should also mention that this device is crochet, not knitted. This girl is the whole package! Also, Madeline was quick to point out that she is dressed like a pirate. All she needs is a parrot. or an eye patch. or a peg leg. or, you know, all of the above. Halloween is coming up!

Speaking of Madeline, here is an almost finished cotton-wool sweater!:

second sleeve almost completely finished! We won't get to see it finished next week because she's ditching the booming metropolis of Kirksville for a visit to Albuquerque (which I did not spell correctly without spell check. Close, but no cigar...) but the week after that, certainly. I wonder what her next project will be! whatever it is, it will surely involve new and exciting yarn to pet!

Mary's pile of accent scarf is getting ever so much longer:

I love it! I love it all.

Check out Katharine's progress on her fingering weight cardigan!

It's knit with palette (which I might have told you) and I was informed this week that she did not swatch. The daredevil. It will be a lovely cardigan regardless, though. She has some bulky yarn lined up for a cowl in the future, in case she needs a break from all that fingering weight.

Katherine is making speedy progress on her Halloween costume (she's got the right idea. Start early.):

It also has a matching skirt. Not finished yet, but she has a whole month, so progress is being made!

Megan is making a table runner:

Check out that lace pattern! I hope it's not a terribly long table!

We had two new people join us at Stitch n' Bitch this week:

Bri, who is making a brightly colored scarf:

Fabulous! Mary showed her how to purl, so now we'll be expecting great things.

And I forgot to ask our other guest's name: She was invited by Katherine (Katherine, not to be confused with Katharine, or me- Kat... there are so very many...) and was learning to crochet: she seemed very intent on her learning:

I am still working on my rainbow sweater- a little over 2/3 done with the back. I had a hiccup where the stripes didn't match up (which makes absolutely no sense, but it's yarn, and it does what it wants)... I seem to be back on track now, though. Soon, I'll be starting sleeves! I also got a new shipment of yarn in a few days ago- two pairs of socks, and two extra balls of rainbow for the sweater, just in case.

Group Picture! Everybody do something with your face!
And quite a group it is!

Jordan came a little late, and I forgot to snap a picture, but she is working on finishing up that set of golf club covers... and her Dad asked her to make another set! The nerve! We agreed that there has to be an intervention. Things are getting out of hand. However, in anticipation of being done For Good with the golf club cozies, she is excited to be thinking about knitting things for herself! In her excitement, she asked me a dangerous question: What kinds of yarn are there?

We were talking about Knit Picks, and other yarns, and where to get them, and how we knew they would be soft. Jordan enjoys knitting with Simply soft, and was worried other yarn would be expensive. We talked a little about it, but it was near the end-half of the group had left for the night already, and so today's lesson (remember my knitting history lesson?) is about my experience with different types of yarn!

A quick note on yarn weights. They go like this:
Bulky: is bulky...
Worsted: is average 'normal' yarn. A lot of sweaters are made with Worsted. Unless you're Katharine.
Fingering: one half the thickness of worsted. For shawls on the thicker-but-not-too thick side, and thin knits that could be accomplished with worsted as well. Holding two strands of fingering together will give you close to the same gauge as worsted.
Sock yarn: fingering weight yarn with a percentage of nylon in it. Nylon keeps your socks from getting holey. You can use sock yarn for things other than socks, I promise.
Lace weight: around one half the thickness of fingering weight yarn- this weight is good for wedding shawls and other very thin knits. Things knit with lace weight wool can still be surprisingly warm.

We'll start with animal fibers:

Firstly, and most obviously, Wool:

There's a million different types of wool, and some of it is best suited for carpets, while others are better for sweaters and hats. The most recognizable breed of sheep for garment yarn is the Merino, and its wool is very soft indeed. If you're going to knit something that will be next to your skin, Merino is a pretty safe bet. Softness can be affected by a number of things- if your wool is blended with something softer, then it will feel softer. Sock yarn can sometimes feel softer because there's a bit of nylon in it.
Also, if it is spun tightly, it might feel less soft than if it is spun loosely, and single ply yarns often feel softer as well, but are more likely to pill. There's a certain balance there, because the tighter it is spun, generally the more durable it is. If there's a micron number listed wherever you're buying your yarn, look for something under 30. Anything above that, most people find scratchy. A micron is a unit of measurement that is pretty standard for measuring the width of a single hair. Merino usually runs about 20 to 23, average.


these guys are so cute. Also, they look silly when they're shorn. Alpaca yarn is very, very soft. Like, a lot. It has a bit more of a sheen to it than wool. It can't take the same beating that wool can, so I wouldn't use it for gloves. It tends to fuzz up, which is either very good, or very bad, depending on your project. If you want to make yourself a sweater that will make people want to hug you with a very strong magnetic pull, then Alpaca can do that job. It has a light halo of fuzz that will make you the softest person on the planet. It may pill a little, but you can cut off the pills, and they will stop after a few washes.  On the other hand, if you make a hat, it won't pill at all, because it's a hat, and hats don't rub against anything the way sweaters do. Alpaca can get as small as 10 microns, for those of you keeping score at home. It's pretty slippery to knit with, but not in a bad way. It's really just different. Awesome. It's important to swatch with alpaca because it is more likely to grow, shrink, or stretch than wool.

I've not shown you silk worms. You can look them up, if you like. They just look like caterpillars.
Silk is spun by silkworms, and is generally known for its drape, and its shine. Silk isn't especially warm, but if you want elegance, you've come to the right place, Unlike alpaca, it has an excellent stitch definition. It's very soft, but without the fuzzy halo. It can also increase the stitch definition of other fibers if it is blended with them. I like silk for shawls and wraps, but you can use it for anything you want to have excellent drape. I should also mention that the process by witch silk goes from those little white cocoons to yarn is some kind of voodoo of which I am not currently familiar. I had a friend who went to Japan and tried to explain it to me, but she didn't know yarn, and I didn't know silkworm-farming, so the whole thing ended with no knowledge gained. I've been told they unravel the silk in one long thread, but this sounds difficult.

Those are the major animal fibers, I think, so I'll move on to plants:

 Cotton! cotton is very practical, but a lot of people don't like to knit with it because it doesn't have elasticity. Things knit with cotton tend to sag, but if you account for that in your pattern, it's not a problem. It's extremely durable, and you can just throw it in the washing machine, unlike most other fibers. It may get a little fuzzy, but that depends on the yarn specifically. It has a pretty wide range of softness. I read an article in a spinning magazine earlier today about a woman who spun yarn out of cotton balls, which I believe is a crazy thing to do, but she did it anyways. One could make a light summer wrap out of cotton- drape wouldn't be an issue, and it would keep the sun off your shoulders without being too warm. Also, dishcloths, and face cloths.

Linen: Slightly less used, and sometimes expensive. Knitting with linen is like knitting with grass. Once you wash it, though, it magically becomes soft. Then, it magically becomes softer every time you wash it after that. It can also sag, and has little elasticity, but so many people love the feeling of it that it doesn't matter. Its heaviness allows it to drape a little better too. It's good for cool, summer knits.

Bamboo!! A personal favorite of mine. Bamboo is naturally antimicrobial and 10 times more absorbent than cotton. It can be processed a lot of different ways, so the yarn can be anything, really. It's good for baby clothes because it's super soft and low maintenance (did I mention super soft?) It has a drape and sheen like silk, and a pretty great durability as well, in my experience. A bamboo-wool blend is very similar to a bamboo-silk blend.

The most important thing when knitting with a new fiber is to swatch it, to see how it will behave. Or, not, if you're adventurous. Also, If you're not sure how durable something might be, you can make a little mini-hank (or swatch) of it, and attach it to your key chain for a week or two, and see if it ages nicely.

I'm sorry if you knew all that already. Also, I ramble, I know. It was a lot longer than my history of knitting...I don't know if I meant for that to happen. Mostly, I just really like talking about fibers- and that was the short version! Blame Jordan. She asked me that dangerous question.

Just one last thing: I learned to spin yarn properly a few days ago! I though I couldn't do it, but it turns out I was just doing it wrong. So, there will be many hand spun projects in my future!