Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Green of Spring

It is officially spring this week so imagine my horror when I woke up to this.
This is a sight you just should not have to see. We have been taunted with beautiful days in the 60's and 70's for the last week and I have to admit I had already converted to my Spring way of thinking. Meaning I simply did not want to see this when I awoke this morning. It's cold, grey and icky outside and I can't open the windows to hear the birds sing and I just don't like it at all. I wanted to spend today sitting outside by the fire pretending I am in the woods in my own little world. Instead, I'm going to sit inside and try to sink myself into some brainless TV and catch up on some knitting.

To supplement the green outside, I did a little "green" shopping yesterday. I decided to got o one of our local thrift stores and see what might be available for some direct recycling. I've heard of other people having some pretty good luck finding sweaters with nice yarn that can be unraveled and repurposed. I love this idea! Any time I can come up with a new use for something that might otherwise be disregarded I just get a warm fuzzy. (see these little examples) Also, who can complain about finding an entire sweaters worth of yarn for under $10. Well, here's what I got:
This sweater is a White Stag 55% Acrylic/ 45% Cotton sweater that I got for $3.99. While I was hoping to avoid any acrylic fibers, this one is pretty darn nice. I like the color of the yarn and the overall softness. I also like that it's big enough that I can see myself using this yarn again. I think this might make a nice spring/summer t-shirt or tank top style. Not bad.
Next I found a Faded Glory lace sweater. This is 100% Cotton and looks to be about a DK weight. I paid $3.99 for this one as well. I like the natural color and softness of this cotton and I could see it making a really nice summer weight top. I've actually been eyeing several patterns on Ravelry for summer t-shirt using yarn very similar to this so it seems to be just right.

The funny thing is I didn't even really look at the lace work before buying the sweater. This morning when I was taking the pictures, I was surprised by how pretty the lace work really is up close. See, pretty.
I might need to take some more detailed photos before I unravel anything. The actual sweater is a little shapeless but the details are sure nice. It almost seems a shame to rip it out. Maybe it will fit S. I'll have to check before I start.

Next sweater, an argyle. Now, I don't know about you, but argyle has never really done much for me. On second thought, I should say it never really did much for me, until I started knitting. Like many things in my life, once I figure out how they are made, I find them infinitely more interesting. (Can I just tell you how much I love the TV show "How It's Made?") Anyway, back to argyle. So, argyle, to me, always represented "preppy." Now, again if you are me, preppy is bad so therefore argyle is bad. However, now that I knit and I understand the skill involved in making the argyle pattern, it is much more interesting. It's still not my favorite look though. OK, get back on track. The next sweater I found is a dark brown argyle in 70% Acrylic and 30% Wool. Again, I didn't want a bunch of acrylic yarn but this sweater is a great color and the yarn is really yummy soft.
The yarn is probably a fingering weight and I was actually thinking it might make a nice lace wrap type thingy. Who knows. Of course, I decided to try all of these sweaters on this morning and I actually kind of like the way this one looks. I never thought I would wear argyle but the colors are nice and like I said, the yarn in yummy soft. Hmm. Oh, what did I pay? Well this one was marked $3.99 but it was also on of the 50% off tags so I ended up paying $1.99. Now that is a bargain!

As for actually knitting something, I continue to knit swatches. I am doing my best to find the perfect pattern for things like this..
and this...
And this...
Now that's "green." :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Somebody's Swatching You

Do you swatch? For those who may not know, swatching is when you knit a small square of fabric and you learn things about the yarn from it. Once knitted you can determine the number of stiches per inch, what the colors might looks like knitted, and once you wash and block this piece of fabric you know if it will shrink or expand. Pretty nifty little things really. So why don't more of us swatch? Or if we swatch, maybe we don't take it all the way. I don't know about you guys, but I rarely make it through the washing and drying stage. I've gotten pretty good about actually taking the time to knit the swatch and measure it to get my gauge but the idea of waiting another day while the little swatch dries just about kills me. I want to get started on my project.

So one of the things I'm trying to be better about is swatching. And better yet, keeping track of the swatches and the infomation to be learned from them. To this end, I went to Office Depot and purchase some nifty little tags and as I knit my swatches I am attaching a tag with the vital information of the yarn.

I'm pretty pleased with this system and I think it will be fun to look back on these little pieces of fabric and remember the excitement of starting a project, like a fabric scrapbook.

Meanwhile, I've been knitting swatches for socks too. I've realized the number of stitches per inch is really vital in socks and I absolutely have to take the time to at least knit a small swatch. One day while I was cruising the internet, I saw someone who knit their sock yarn swatch as a continuous tube. What an ingenious I idea! So the last few yarns I've gotten for socks I've knit in a continuous tube for my swatch.

I like this for several reasons. Again, the scrapbook affect is really cool but I also like that I can knit these swatches without having to deal with the headache of the first 1/2 inch of sock knitting. I don't like the first half inch of a sock with all the fussing to try to get enough fabric knit that you can actually grab it when you're knitting. Also the curling up of the knitted fabric meant measuring the gauge could be a challenge at best. By knitting one continuous swatch, I only had to cast on once and now I just knit, knit, knit. Even changing needle sizes is no big deal . And once I get a couple inches of swatch for my current yarn I just knit the next row of stitches onto the needles I have dedicated to this swatch and then snip the yarn. When the next yarn is ready to be swatched, I just join it in and knit along. The last step is to make sure I write down the yarn and needle size on the tag I've attached and I'm good to go. Neato!

So why all this talk about swatching? Well, I've gotten some new yarns lately and swatching has been a primary knitting activity. And this week, I think it's all paid off. Not because I'm done and I won't need to swatch again but because I learned something profound enough that I think it will keep me inspired when swatching is losing some of its glow. See what happened is this. I've been wanting to try out some Tofutsies yarn with the Chitin in it. It's supposed to be naturally anti-bacterial and sounded like a good fit for a pair of boot socks for S. I looked at the colors online and then looked at my LYS but I just wasn't thrilled with the way it looked. The colors were pretty enough on their own but they seemed all jumbled in the ball. Well this week one of our local yarn stores started a "Going Out of Business" sale and had yarn 30% off. I figured this was the time to buy some Tofutsies and check it out. Below is the first color I got.
Surprise, blues and greens. Like I said, the colors are pretty enough but they just seem kind of jumbled or something. Also, the yarn seems really thin and I was afraid it would make a really thin fabric. So I started knitting on my sock swatch. And as I knit, I realized that I was amazed with this yarn. The fabric was turning out to be really nice and firm on US 2s and even feels pretty soft. But it's not that which made me catch my breath. It's not the view of the yarn as you hold it feet or yards away. This isn't the view that wins you over...It's this one...This yarn, up close is so cool! It is composed of 50% Superwash Wool, 25% Soysilk Fibers, 22.5% Cotton, and 2.5% Chitin. Chitin is a fiber from crab and shrimp shells and gives the yarn its anti-bacterial qualities. But what I love is the colors moving through the knitted fabric when you get really close. Each fiber takes the dye just a bit differently and the way it all does together is just cool. Its got a pretty sheen you can't see in the picture too. So I learned a lot from swatching this week and I think I'm going to get some more Tofutsies. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Step Number One

For those of you who might be reading this blog entry and you don't actually knit, what I'm about to say may not make a lot of sense to you. Why? Because it reflects a severe obsession with yarn and if you are not a knitter, you just might think I'm a bit off somehow. For you knitters out there, I think you'll understand just what I'm saying. So here it goes...

For Christmas, I was lucky enough to get to pick any skein of yarn I wanted from Dyeabolical Yarns as part of an exchange my lovely partner worked up. So, with no effort or money required of me (wow), I got to go to and pick out any skein I wanted for my Christmas gift. Well, Rachel dyes some beautiful yarn and it was really hard to decide which one I wanted. I love her sock yarn, which I used to make my first pair of Jaywalkers, but I was thinking it was time for something different. I wanted to try a real lace pattern so lace yarn it was. I picked a beautiful blue kettle dyed yarn and now it was time to find the right pattern to show it off. You see, the yarn is amazing.

It's soft. The colors move back and forth and when it's all pooled together it feels and looks like ripples in water. So looking for the right pattern was more difficult than it sounds. It needed to have enough stitch pattern to keep me interested but not so much as to interfere with the color variation in the yarn. I wanted something to show off these beautiful colors and after a LOT of searching, I decided on a lace stole called "Upstairs." I'm linking to the Ravelry page since it's from a German (I think) on-line knitting mag and I don't speak German. I found it through Ravelry. :)
So last weekend, I printed the pattern and got started on the stole. Now, this pattern is not difficult but it is little tiny yarn. I worked for a couple of hours during a movie and I got half of the first repeat finished. From what I can see so far, I think the pattern is going to be just right for this yarn. It is so pretty and I already can't help rubbing it against my arm and such to enjoy the feel of the soft yarn.
I've also been working on my most recent pair of socks. I've decided to just try to always have a pair of socks on the needles so there is always a small, quick to grab project available when I'm running out the door. The pair I am working on now is another pattern from the Little Box of Socks called Waves and Piers. I bought some KnitPicks Essential Sock Yarn with a self striping pattern and I thought this pattern would really show it off. Also, since I can't seem to knit things without tinkering with the pattern a bit, I am using the Strong Heel from the Roman Rib sock pattern in the same collection. Well, I got the first sock all finished and started the second from the second ball of yarn. Now, I tried to make sure I started the cast on in about the same place of the yarn repeats but either I REALLY screwed up or the yarn did.
You see, I love the striping in the first and yet the second doesn't look anything like it. I checked and the dye lots are the same so I don't know if it's me or the yarn. I like the way both of them look, I just wish they looked a bit more like each other. I also bought the yarn for my next pair of socks but I'll save that for another post.
I'm continuing to work on various stitch patterns while using up my cotton yarn by making dishtowels. So cool. The one above is Mosaic pattern #20 from Barbara Walker's Mosaic Knitting book. Fun to do, pretty to look at, and oh so useful. I love dishtowels.

Lastly, I just wanted to touch on some "outside the box" thinking I've done since I'm a little impressed with myself. :) I've been looking for a little container to put in each of my project bags that could hold stitch markers, safety pins, a little bit of yarn, a darning needle, and when I can afford it, a pair of those cute little fold up scissors. I was looking for a container small enough to fit in my project bags but I also wanted something rigid and maybe see through. So one day I'm sitting in the bathroom, I look up and lo and behold...the perfect little container.

Works pretty nice and it will even fit the little scissors when I get them. And best yet, I've got a continual supply of them for free...well, sort of, considering the cost of what comes in them the first time. I'm pretty darned pleased and I have made several little on-the-go kits like the one below.
And to end...gratuitous cute kitty picture.