Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mindless Knitter Knitting

The Kids Crayon Sweater and now Hat continues to kick my butt. What is the problem?!!! It's the yarn, no it's the knitter, no it's the pattern instructions, no it's the knitter. It could be all of the above. I have come to the conclusion that my favorite part of any knitting project is the mindless knitting. Give me garter stitch or stockinette in the round and I reach my zen. I can even reach it in garter in the round or straight stockinette where I have to purl, but throw in some other colors, a knit two together on every third row, a knit two together every fifth stitch and my rhythm is thrown off. I have to pay attention. My zen is gone.

I love patterns, the more intricate the better. I love to figure them out and get them going correctly. I've swatched for a cable sweater I can't wait to begin. But I know what will happen. I'll have to pay attention. The process will become jarring to my senses. Let me put it in writing here and now: I LOVE MINDLESS KNITTING!!! Some complain of it. "Aaccck! More mindless knitting" they say. I absolutely adore it. Bring me more mindless knitting!

So maybe I'm a mindless knitter. No I'm not! I have a brain. I have a mind. It just doesn't like to work too hard on the knitting. It wants to wander off onto summer vacation, home decorating, the storyline of an audio book or a movie, Jeopardy, Top Chef, even American Idol. Anything except remembering to yarn over after the eighth stitch. Once the mystery of a knit pattern is solved, that I have conquered it, I'm ready to go back to wonderful, comfortable, mindless knitting.

My favorite handknit socks are top down stockinette with just a couple of inches of 2x2 ribbing at the beginning. My least favorite handknit socks have been the 2x2 cuff then 4x2 ribbing down through the instep. Never again! I'll save those for the circular sock machine.

Okay, I'm making time on the hat. Somewhere during the trip to the pageant in Little Miss Sunshine I screwed up the decreases. I tried to fix them during the pageant. Big mistake. As the credits rolled at the end, the perfectionist in me raised her ugly head and today I will rip back to the first decrease row and start decreasing again . . .

Bona Fide Knitter--Mindless?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The View, the Cookies, the Calories

The Kids Crayon Sweater ensemble took a little hiatus while I went to The View television show today. Actually I started the hat. It went with me on the train to NYC, but I got no more accomplished than casting on. My friend and I gabbed too much on the way up and marveled at our loot too much on the way back.

There was a lot of standing in line and waiting, but finally we were seated and the show began. Yes, they all look as good in person as on TV, only thinner. It was interesting to see the making of the TV show. It was even more interesting to find out what we were getting for FREE (my favorite four-letter word). Walking into the studio we received a little bag of cookies and a bottle of apple juice. On every chair was a large, red tote bag suitable for using as a briefcase, laptop case or knitting project bag. One of the segments on the show was about cookies. On the way out we received some of every cookie featured! And this the day after the ban on cookies at my house! Are animal crackers cookies? We got a huge bear shaped container of 'em! To top it off we received a $50 gift card for Michael's craft store. Not a bad haul! Now what I need is a 50% off coupon and maybe I could get that Ott floor lamp I've been coveting.

While the cookies were on the floor (all individually enclosed in their wrappings) being photographed, Snowball asked if they are dog treats or human treats.

Back to knitting: The sweater is on its way to the blocking board and the hat will be finished in a few days. Can another UFO be nearing completion?

Bona Fide Knitter

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sweating the Baby Sweater

Wondering how the chenille baby sweater is coming along? Do inquiring minds want to know? It's coming! For a little sweater with no side seams, it has so many loose ends to weave in I am again reminded why I like knitting socks so much.

I have half the loose ends taken care of and still a bunch to go. After that comes "block pieces carefully" and adding the neck and front bands . . . and sewing on the crayon buttons. Did I mention there is a matching hat? Oh yes, there is a hat to make too! However, with my new found drive for completion of UFOs, the Kids Crayons Cardigan and Hat (its official name) should be finished in a week or so. And I'm enjoying the process now that the shoulder-seams-on-stitch-holders problem was solved. FYI, I did the required three needle bind off closing the seams first, then picked up the stitches for the sleeves. Easy-peasy.

While on the subject of baby sweaters, I have the Mason Dixon Knitting book and was champing at the bit to make a whole passel of those baby kimonos of cotton yarn. That brought me full circle to EZ's Baby Surprise Jacket which I've also wanted to make. But alas, the new me of the modified Three Projects Rule cannot start another baby thing until the Crayons ensemble is complete. I'm being so good it's scary!

Bona Fide Knitter

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Very Knice Knit Day

What a great day I had! I went to the Knit Out and Crochet Too! in Pottstown, Pa, at the Brookside Country Club, sponsored by the Brookside Knits & Relay for Life Team - Caring Crew. Although it was my first time attending, this was the third year for the event which benefits The American Cancer Society. The day included vendors, a choice from almost 20 classes, lunch, a participants' fashion show, knit and crochet lessons, free patterns, free yarn, help with projects, prizes, massages and the piece de resistance--an alpaca named Santana!

To further support the cause I purchased beaded stitch holders, "hand made with love" heart shaped metal tags and a note card with a two dimensional tiny sweater affixed to the front from the club's table. Pictured is a sample of the yarn available at the Olde Peddler Wools table.

I was very good and did not add to my yarn stash, but could not resist a couple of patterns: Little Necessities from Close Knit Press (undies and hose for 18 inch dolls) sold by Yarnsmith and Pop Up Paws (convertible gloves or hunters' mitts for people) from Olde Peddler Wools.

I attended the class, Knit a Sock in an Hour, by Tammy Noble of Knit and Sew. Tammy demonstrated how to set up a flatbed knitting machine and knit a sock. I'm not a flatbed knitter but remember, I do have the antique circular sock machines that I make socks on. It was interesting to watch how this is done on a flatbed. I'll keep to my circular machines, thank you very much! The last thing I need is ANOTHER hobby or piece of expensive equipment.

The fashion show in which anyone could model or show their vintage or current items ended the day. By the way, Santana modeled a long blue scarf! There were some lovely items. I was especially pleased to see older garments made by grandmothers and mothers from 10 and many more years ago that have withstood the test of time and multiple generations of wear. There children's sweaters, a prom dress, a smock with matching pants and many adult sweaters. One in particular was this owl/cable sweater and hat made by the model's mother-in-law approximately 25 years ago.

A closer view to show the owls:

The matching hat:

In the fashion show there were crochet (left) and machine items (modeled and right) represented as well. Donna does it all.

The high point of the day was the appearance of Santana, an eight year old Chilean alpaca stud. Yes, Santana came right into the country club, into the meeting room and spent most of the afternoon with us as docile and nice as can be. Santana is much better behaved than most children and he didn't have to go to the bathroom every half hour, which is better than some adults I know.

Santana was having a better hair day than I.

Aside from Santana I met many interesting and talented people, many wearing or toting exquisite garments of their own making. Oh, and I won a raffle prize! Love it! It matches my Koigu anklets.

It was a very knice knit day.

Bona Fide Knitter

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Eating My Words

"It's a sweater for a baby for goodness sake! How long could it possibly take?!!!" Last night I found those words written on January 5 and ate them. The baby sweater, which turned out to have even less left to do than I thought, has become a royal pain in the . . . er, a royal pain. The pattern calls for sleeve stitches to be picked up (right side facing starting at the underarm) around the armhole and knitted from the top down. No problem, one would think. However, this is to be done before the shoulder seams are joined AND the shoulder stitches are not bound off but have stitch holders in them! What a juggling job that was, trying to keep those stitch holders out of the way and on the wrong side!

Then I thought what kind of hole will I have at the shoulder when I do the three-needle bind off of the shoulder seams that the pattern calls for. I decided I don't want to find out and I don't want to do the control-the-stitch-holder act again for a second sleeve. Right now I plan to block the sweater, three-needle the shoulder seams then pick up the stitches for the sleeves and work my way to the cuff. Easy peasy--I think.

In the meantime, after ripping out the picked up stitches (that I finally got evenly spaced around the opening!), I put it down for the night. I'd had enough. I was not enjoying the process. What to do in the meantime? A bona fide knitter can't just sit. She must knit. My mentor's Three Project Rule allows swatching for another project and it doesn't count as a new project begun. That's what I did! I swatched for a cable sweater, Tierra, that I plan to make with Knit Picks Salishan, 45% wool, 55% Pima Cotton in turquoise.

Back to the baby sweater today. There are a lot of ends I can weave in while making my final decision about the sleeves.

Bona Fide Knitter

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Love the One You're With

I've learned a good lesson on loving the current project you're knitting and getting it finished instead of being fickle and flitting off to another pattern/yarn/idea/hobby.

After the babiesbearsgrownupssweater/jacket was completed I immediately started on one of the four . . . er . . . six UFOs I confessed to. I picked up the navy blue chenille baby sweater and started to work.

And work it was! First, the pages of the pattern were jumbled and it took me a while to realize my next step. Once that was determined I realized I needed a large stitch holder and I was away from home with only a small stitch older in the bag. I am nothing if not resourceful so I used the smaller size circular needle used for the beginning cast on and ribbing that was still in the bottom of the bag. That problem solved, I started with the right front of the sweater. The directions were written in that word and space-saving terse way, "Work as for left front reversing the neck shaping."

Okay, I certainly didn't remember what the left shaping was, but I can read. However, I was so out of tune with knitting the sweater after all these months, I had to read those directions over and over (and they were very simple!) before my brain could wrap itself around the reversing of the neckline shaping. Even after I knew what to do it took a couple of false starts and a few tinks before I got it right. Oy vey!

Today I continued knitting the right side, working to reach the total length I needed to match the left side. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but the fact that the left and right side neckline shaping was not on an even keel. No wonder! I should have knit some rows even before starting the decreases for the shaping. How'd I miss that little detail?

I'll tell you how. I was too long away from the rhythm of the knitting instructions. I wasn't reading it right. Well, I read the words but I didn't get the gist, at least not the right gist. "Work as for left front" meant until it was 9-1/2 inches. "Reversing the neck shaping" was to start after I had 9-1/2 inches. Had I done that months ago when the back was complete it would have been quite clear.

The good news is it was just a quick frogging back to where I joined the yarn and therefore very easy to get back to the correct row and reinsert the needle. I am now back on track knitting my way to the point of shaping the neckline. I can do this.

So from now on when I fall in love with another pattern while in the midst of one gone cool, I will not create another UFO. I will remain faithful by remembering words to a song, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."

Bona Fide Knitter

Friday, January 12, 2007

Can't Touch This!

Whoa! Can't touch this! Even Hammer can't touch this artful striped jacket being modeled by its maker. The 'artful' part is due to Noro Kureyon yarn. The yarn's random striping, skeins with knots, no two skeins exactly alike, and my spit splices left the outcome a mystery even to me.

I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. I made a very large size and found that it was ideally roomy even with a shirt and a velour big shirt layered under it.

After some initial silliness with the photographer/husband I tried to spruce up, sober up and strike a pose. How's this?

Uh-oh! Does it make me look fat? I don't care! I'll look slimmer after I wrap it around me and close it with a shawl pin.

Wooohooo! Finished!! Ain't no stoppin' me now!!!

Bona Fide Knitter, fresh out of exclamation points

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Did It! I Did It! I Did It!

The sweater/jacket is completely finished and ready for wearing!

A finished project larger than a sock, waaay larger. So large with the arms extended I couldn't frame it completely in the picture.

My model needed hair and makeup before she could allow any photos. She also needed to be wearing something other than pajamas--and definitely a bra! My model is me. Tomorrow will tell the tale.

I am inspired! So this is what completing a sweater feels like. Look out UFOs. Here I come!

Bona Fide Kitter

Deadline Day!

It's D Day for the Babies and Bears Sweater for Grown-ups. Is it finished? Are there pictures? Did she do it? Okay, here's the story. I was doing fine, right on schedule until Tuesday afternoon. Then the vida loca got really loca. No, this isn't a "dog ate my homework" excuse. The sweater will be completely knitted in a few rows/half hours. It's the finishing, blocking and photographing that might not make it. Especially if I go on blogging . . .

Bona Fide Knitter

Monday, January 8, 2007

I'm No Expert

The weekend went and my knitting didn't. I thought I'd give my sometimes achy fingers and wrist a rest on Saturday. The rest of me was feeling poorly on Sunday, so the B & B Jacket for Grown-Ups did not get it's just desserts. I did get the border started.

This might be a good time to tell you I'm no expert knitter, if you haven't figured that out already. The knitting blogs I read have such wonderful projects completed and pictured, and so many! These knitters know what they're doing and are fast and prolific. I'm fastidious and procrastinating. The new me, the blogging me, will get the job done eventually. I still aim to meet my Thursday deadline for the jacket even if I do have an appointment tomorrow and a day in New York on Wednesday. I work best under time constraints.

Since I am really a plodding-along 'Advanced Beginner' or 'Intermediate' knitter who will take on any knitting challenge, including 'Advanced' and 'Expert' I thought I'd share with you the books that have been most helpful to me in my knitting journey:

Knitter's Handbook - Montse Stanley
The first knitting reference book I purchased in recent history. It was the only one available the day I went to JoAnn Fabrics in Hyannis, MA with a 40% off coupon. The book is "A comprehensive guide to the principles and techniques of handknitting"--really!

Knitter's Companion - Vicki Square
I needed a smaller reference book to carry in my knitting tote. It's a flip book with concise explanations and clear drawings. Loaded with information!

Learn to Knit Socks - Edie Eckman
An easy-peasy lesson on knitting socks. Calls for DK weight yarn and US 3 needles so your first sock doesn't take a lifetime to complete. Ya gotta love it.

Folk Socks - Nancy Bush
A great history on knitting socks and stockings and instructions for knitting a variety of heels and toes along with some very wonderful sock patterns.

The Knitting Experience Book 1: The Knit Stitch - Sally Melville
The book that made me a Bona Fide Knitter! I got more knitting instruction out of this book than any other and I have many. This book's concentration on KNIT was just what I needed and in the quantity I needed.

Those are just my favorites. I am not claiming that they are the best. I have no affiliation yada yada (NAYY).

Time to knit or cut bait,
Bona Fide Knitter

Friday, January 5, 2007

Making Progress

I finished the second half of the Babies and Bears Jacket for Grown-Ups. Yes, that is a picture of the right half, not the left half turned over to fool you. I have woven the two sides together down the back. Oh boy, was that a long bit of Kitchenering! "Knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on, knit off . . . " I will have the border complete and the sweater blocked and ready to wear by my self-imposed completion date of January 11, 2007 for sure.

I've taken a good look at the projects I have started and it's time to get a grip! All these projects started and nothing finished is part of the clutter in my life. It's time for a change. I have decided to finish the baby sweater next. I got it out and was surprised to see how close I had come to the end before I abandoned it for something else. It's a sweater for a baby for goodness sake! How long could it possibly take?!!! Well, the baby it was meant for is in first grade now. There's another family baby due this year. This time the sweater and hat will be ready and waiting.

I have only the right side to finish, make the border, sew on the little crayon buttons and make the hat. I can do that!

My modified version of my mentor's Three Project Rule might be just the tonic I need.

Bona Fide Knitter

Thursday, January 4, 2007


You know of my UFOs so now you must meet my LWDs (Little White Dogs).

The first is Snowball. Look at that face! Isn't he the cutest?!!! That's why I named him Absolutest Cutest Snowball. Okay, so I had to coin a word to describe him. He's a lap dog and a cuddly caretaker. He loves everybody. He'll lick your wounds and wash your face. Never open your mouth to say 'Hi' to him with your face too close to his. He's a great French kisser. Fast too!

The second is Icecream (one word). She's the protector, but don't let her steely stare fool you. She's a pushover for a belly rub. Her full name is French Vanilla Icecream. She likes to kiss your face (if she knows you) and blitz (run as fast as lightning). Her mission in life is to get the squeak out of all squeaking plush toys. She's like a surgeon!

My furkids' breed is Bichon Frise. They were both born in 1996, Snowball in April and Icecream in December. They're related by adoption only and they've been neutered and spayed. We call them Ice and Snow and they are the rulers of the roost.

They have coats and sweaters, but no hand knits, not even a UFO. Does that make me a bad humom?

Bona Fide Knitter

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

UFO Confession

They say confession is good for the soul. Maybe it will be good for my knitting soul, my stick-to-it-ability, my productivity. Okay, here goes, I HAVE A LOT OF UFOs! For the uninitiated that stands for UnFinished Objects. This is a knitting blog of sorts, although you might get to read about and see my dolls, dollhouses, quilts, Bichons . . . the list goes on. But for today I want to confess my knitting UFOs. Bear with me. I will only mention the ones I really intend to finish, or start over and finish.

In reverse chronological order:

(1) KnitPicks Abundance Afghan in Sand Dune and Sand colorways. I pictured myself being wrapped in the colors of the Cape Cod sea, sky and sand. The pattern calls for US 19 needles. I added those big honkers to my Denise Needle set only to find them very hard to work with. The yarn, Suri Dream, would not slide smoothly from cable to needle and the needles are uncomfortably short to work with. Since this is a KnitPicks pattern and yarn it's too bad that KnitPicks doesn't make US 19 needles. I love KnitPicks needles, but they only go up to size US 17. I had to break down and buy the expensive Addi Turbo US 19 needles. The Addis are great! Smooth as silk and the cable of plastic tubing is a good size for stitches to slide easily to the needles. I experimented with Continental and English knitting. My Continental rows were much too loosey-goosey (a favorite technical term of mine). I frogged the swatch and cast on again.

(2) Side to Side Jacket, a Judy Ditmore class I took at Stitches East 2005 and 2006 and still haven't gotten it going to my satisfaction. In 2005 I attended the class with scrap yarns as instructed, not yarns or colors with which I would really want to knit a jacket. In 2006 I went to class armed with lovely yarns in my at-this-time-in-my-life favorite colors. I veered away from knitting the jacket when I found the perfect Noro Kureyon for the current project.

(3) I saw a scrumptious afghan kit, the Absolutely Fabulous Throw. I had to have one in the French Vanilla colorway. I lucked onto a kit on eBay at a great savings (40%!). I bid. I won. It came. I wound the skeins into balls, bagged and labeled them. I did a few rows of the pattern. I put it away. Why? Because I went into sock machine knitting mode to get Christmas 2005 gifts completed. I never went back to the AbFab Throw. It's been socks, socks, socks, machine knit and hand knit, until the current project.

(4) From my favorite knitting book, Sally Melville's The Knit Stitch, I started Sally's Favorite Summer Sweater. I Googled until I found the exact same yarn Sally used in a colorway that I liked. I even bought a skirt to go with it. I've started it once a year since the book was published. The last time I started it I got the bright idea to knit Continental since it is garter stitch. The trouble was I had started it knitting English. I stopped. I could see a difference. To frog or not to frog. I had half a front made, almost. However, the answer was frog it and forget it for a while. That's what I've been doing, trying to forgetaboutit.

Four UFOs, I will leave it at that. I have others that are socks and they will get done. They're portable and get done in waiting rooms and other knitting-in-public venues. The four UFOs listed are, as of today, scheduled for completion this year. No pressure. We shall see. I plan to stick to a modified version of a knitting friend and mentor's rule and start no more projects until one of the four listed is complete. Ooops, I need to do a little back-pedaling here. There are a few extenuating circumstances which will allow me to start something else before one of the four is completed. I'll explain that when I have to.

Uh-oh! I forgot one. My first jacket kit, the Cocoon Jacket designed by Caroline McInnis of Sweater Kits which has changed over to a wholesale operation and appears not to sell the Cocoon Jacket anymore. Oh nooooo! I've thought of another, a baby's cardigan, also from Sweater Kits. SIX UFOs!!!

The picture below is of the Cocoon Jacket UFO. Can you tell I'm in a color rut?

Bona Fide Knitter

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Woman Doth Not Knit on Socks Only

My apologies to Deuteronomy. Like "Man doth not live on bread only," the Bona Fide Knitter does not knit on socks only. Well . . . maybe socks could, quite possibly, almost, if you check back the last few years, be the only knit items I've completed. Oh, wait! There were the scarves from The Knit Stitch that I finished and filed away for future frogging because I found I am too hot a mama to wear decorative scarves knit of wool or of yarn requiring a needle larger than US 1. Wool or bulky scarves as outer wear in the cold of winter, yes. Knit scarves as fashion accessories, no--unless they are lace and I haven't gotten to lace yet.

To prove my point (that I can knit more than socks, in case you forgot the point), I started a sweater on November 11, 2006. This isn't my first sweater either. I have one sweater and two jackets filed away waiting to be frogged or finished. And then there are the two afghans. But we won't talk about all the UFOs yet. Anyway, this sweater, that I prefer to call a jacket, is more than half finished. I am pushing for completion by January 11, 2007 just because I'd like to finish in record time (for me) and be able to show something I've knit without having to lift my pants legs or kick off my shoes to do so.

The pattern is Babies & Bears Sweater for Grown-Ups , by Carol A. Anderson of Cottage Creations, you know, the neat little booklets with light beige covers and pen and ink drawings of the patterns. The yarn is Noro Kuryeon colorway #159.

Each half of the sweater is knit in one piece, left side and sleeve then right side and sleeve. To finish, the two sides are joined together down the back with a Kitchener Stitch. I've had a lot of Kitchener experience finishing sock machine socks! I can do this.

Bona Fide Knitter

Monday, January 1, 2007

$3,000 Socks

When I finally got a whole pair of perfect socks out of a sock machine I refused to wear them. I am going to frame them! They are the most expensive socks ever made. I have approximated the cost to be more than $3,000. They are not to be put on feet!

It had taken one convention, one new setup basket, one new Black & Decker Workmate Portable Project Center and Vise, one B&D Workmate Mastercart, one folding table (formerly a folding bar stool) with cutout, two years, two small folding bistro chairs, three sock machines, three workshops, four new fork weights, 150 different new needles and a partridge in a pear tree.

If anybody wants to give it a try I have to say in all honesty that I could have knit socks without the B&D equipment and quite a few of the other add-ons I purchased in hopes of changing my luck when everything was going wrong. I must also admit it was not always the machine that was the trouble. A lot of it was the operator.

Many people who are interested start researching and learn there are quite a few brands of these old machines. The question then is which machine is best. I now have an AutoKnitter, a Legare 400 and a Gearhart (circa 1917-1918). The best is the one that you can get a pair of socks out of, and that can be any brand. Another admission: in the two years it took me to knit a pair of socks there were periods of weeks when I could not devote the time needed for the learning curve. I did get at least one sock out of each of the machines, but perfectionist that I am, and not about to allow a machine to stop me from making my "ideal" sock with a ribbed cuff, I never made a second sock if the first had flaws. I raveled, rewound and started again. Some of those socks didn't just have flaws, they were flaws!

The last machine I bought was the Gearhart which is a war horse that doesn't throw up at the least little hitch in the yarn. I was able to knit a very nice pair of socks made from KnitPicks Simple Stripes, Crayon colorway.

Those are the socks to be framed. They were made on the Gearhart using a 60 slot cylinder and 30 slot riber. I'm going to knit a pair by hand in the same colorway and try to make them identical. Trial and error have shown that using a 60 stitch caston I'll need to use size US 0 needles. I'll frame those for comparison--$3,000 Socks vs $13 Socks.

Happy Knit Year!
Bona Fide Knitter