Monday, December 04, 2006

Four Ounces and An Empty Bobbin

I've been spinning up some of this summer's Kool Aid dyed wool this weekend:

The colors are more varied and saturated than in this picture. Quite pretty, actually.

It seems that there were two different types of wool in that bag, one (most of it) rather short stapled and bouncy, the other much longer stapled and shiny/smooth. No information on breeds. The outside of the bag sported only the seller's name and the comment "Nice!"

I think only the green roving sections have the long stapled wool, but I haven't checked the other colors. Switching between the two types of wool has been an interesting challenge, having to vary how I draft the fiber depending on what roving section or batt I grab next. Batts, because the longer stapled wool felted just a bit, so out came the old drum carder.

Anyway, I ran out of bobbins. It was bound to happen. I found a bobbin that had what I think is some of the gorgeous merino roving I bought years ago at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. With only the one bobbin it was time for an experiment: plying from both ends of the ball.

I wound the ball on my ball winder from the bobbin on a tensioned lazy Kate, took the winder over to the wheel, carefully removed the ball of singles to a plastic bag, and started plying.

I haven't tried this technique before and I wasn't sure how much twist to put in while plying. Checking for a balanced yarn by pulling out a plied length from the bobbin to see if it hangs straight wouldn't help: the singles have been sitting on that bobbin for years, so the twist was quite "stale". I just went by feel. Appalling to purists, but the object was to free up a bobbin. If the yarn turns out well that's just a bonus.

(NB: I can and do more careful spinning, thanks mostly to a three day class with the wonderful Mabel Ross at the Mannings in October 1991. Just not this time.)

There were a few breaks. The first two were due to spots where the single didn't have enough twist to hold together; the others came when the ball started to collapse on itself. Each time I anchored the yarn to the wheel's T-knob:

... while I fixed the problem. When there was enough room in the center, I put the ball on my wrist and continued:

A full bobbin:

I wound it on my niddy noddy standing about 10 feet from the wheel to let the twist even out somewhat over the length of the yarn as it left the bobbin. When I took the skein off the niddy noddy it most definitely did not hang straight, but that was to be expected.

Finished skein, which is really a lovely heathered lilac and not at all blue (darn flash!):

A next-to-face soft two ply yarn, just shy of four ounces.

Not bad, and I now have that free bobbin!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bond Cap

Here she is, bathed and finished:

Pattern: Adapted from hat pattern in the Bond USM booklet

Mods: 2x2 ribbing rather than rolled hem. I had to rip and work the bind off a second time with US 10.5 needles since my first try wasn't stretchy enough.

Yarn: Brunswick Germantown 100% Virgin Moth-Proof Wool (they don't make 'em like that anymore), from the same skein I used for my gauge swatch for Stitches

Keyplate: Keyplate 1 on the Bond USM

Comments: Meh... After latching up the ribbing and sewing the seam I doubt knitting it on the Bond was any faster than hand knitting would have been. Still, not too bad for a beginner's first attempt, I think. To be donated to charity, as it's sized for a child.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bonding Issues

Ok, so the Bond. I watched the DVD that came with it. I downloaded and watched files from the Bond Knitting Club Digital Edition. Read lots of posts on Knitting Today's Machine Knitting Forum and just about all of the archived posts at Iwannaknit on Yahoo. Set up the machine, did the gauge swatch, took it off the Bond and let it rest overnight. Plotted out a pattern and bought an extension and row counter, set up the machine again, and cast on.


I tried. Really I did. From 4 in the afternoon until 3 in the morning Wednesday, trying to fall in love with a form of knitting that was clearly invented for the sole purpose of defeating all challengers. Dropped stitches, weights falling out of the hem, carriage jams - you name it, it happened. After all the prep and all the glowing recommendations, knitting on the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine should have been a piece of cake.

More like a severe case of indigestion.

When I went to bed at 3:30 Thursday morning, most of the back of a simple modified drop-shoulder sweater was hanging from the Bond. When I got up four hours later I finished it, threw in some waste yarn, and took it off the machine. There were several easily seen ridges on the piece, probably from when I hadn't moved the carriage along at just the right speed, maybe from when the yarn had the tiniest bit of tension on it, and certainly on the last row that I'd knit and that had hung on the needles overnight.

I hoped it would block out. Went to work. Came home Thursday evening and gently washed the piece in the bathroom sink, wrapped it in a towel to squeeze the water out and arranged it on another towel to dry, patting it into place. But there was no question, the ridges were still visible.

Very frustrated. Very disappointed. So of course I tried again.

Here's the new and improved gauge swatch:

Not too bad, not totally smooth, but acceptable. The swatch was done with Cascade 220 on keyplate 1.

And here's what I have to show from Friday:

One child's cap, totally finished and enjoying its bath before blocking. The ribbing was done while watching Elizabeth (featuring the new James Bond playing a Jesuit priest) on the DVR Friday night, dropping down stitches and latching them back up.

The cap's not too bad. Post-blocking picture to follow.

I'm still not completely convinced that the Bond and I were meant to be together, but I have hope.


Well, sort of.

Pattern: Jaywalkers by Grumperina

Mods: 6 stitches rather than 7 between increases and decreases, and Eye of Partridge stitch on heel flaps

Yarn: Superwash Merino from Labadie Looms

Needles: Addi Turbo US 1 circular and Clover US 1 DPNs

Comments: Love the pattern, love the yarn!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Back in mid-October I bought this:

... the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine. I'd read a lot of reviews online, good and bad. It seemed that people either really loved it or totally hated it. I just wanted an alternative to knitting row after row of stockinette stitch in worsted weight yarn. I love hand knitting, but boring is boring.

So I had one of those spiffy 50% coupons Joann's sometimes puts out and decided that at $80 it was worth a try. I could always return it. It was a few weeks before I finally got it out of the box and set it up on the kitchen table. I followed the video that comes with it, step by step. Totally frustrating, but I finally got it to work and knit up half of the worsted acrylic yarn that came with it.

I wasn't too impressed. First, bright yellow acrylic yarn? Second, the stitches were huge. I used keyplate 3 as recommended in the video then tried keyplate 2, which did look a little nicer. Still...

Fast forward a few more weeks. I've dug out my 15 year old copy of Catherine Cartwright-Jones' The Prolific Knitting Machine and read a bit, poured over the archives of The Bond Club Online at the iwannaknit group at Yahoo, and watched several videos (big thanks to Brenda Bell) along with the one that came with the Bond. I'm checking out Knitter's Review knitting machine forum. I am ready.

I wanted an alternative to the kitchen table to set it up on, so Brian and I looked at clamping a board to his workbench in the basement. I still might use that, especially since the board could handle several extensions, but for now I've set it up on my dresser. Worked just fine.

Remember this? I returned the Nature Spun and bought enough navy Cascade 220 for my WVU sweater. It's darker than the Nature Spun but a much nicer yarn, with very subtle heathering. Here's my gauge swatch (the navy is photographing dark):

A swatch only a mother could love: curling stockinette, fresh off the Bond. Keyplate 3 was used on the top section, then 2, then 1. The yellow is only there as waste yarn and to separate the three sections. I tugged it sideways and lengthwise and am going to let it rest a day or so, as recommended in the Bond Club archives. Right now it looks like keyplate 2 produces the best fabric, not too loose or tight.

Looking forward to measuring for gauge and getting started on this baby!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Post Stitches

So last Sunday was my big day at Stitches East, all 4 hours of it. I drove down to the Baltimore Convention Center for an 8:30 am class, Design Your Own Aran Sweater with Beth Walker-O'Brien. Quite a good class. Beth was well prepared with a number of gorgeous Aran sweaters and swatches and very clear and complete outlines and worksheets. We used our gauge swatches...

... done as homework before the class to come up with a basic Aran pattern based on our measurements. I'll definitely have to order Janet Szabo's Aran Sweater Design and the Harmony 220 Aran Stitches and Patterns, as Beth highly recommended both, and I already have the notes for Janet's FLAK, although I didn't participate at the time of the knitalong. And I took lots of notes!

After class I hit the market. Lots of great stuff, very tempting. I took a very quick look at a knitting machine, and walked past booth after booth of books, yarn, and needles. I bought some Blue Face Leicester roving (so soft!)...

... in the Petroglyph colorway and yarn...

... (in what I'm fairly sure is Henry's Attic Silk and Ivory / Carrera) from Lisa Souza. Her work is even more beautiful (stunning!) than the photos at her web site.

And that's it. Exactly one class and one purchase. I was home by 1:30.

This was the first Stitches even I've been to in about 15 years. I've done the whole deal before, loaded up with classes, gone to the lunches and dinners and fashion shows, made several rounds of the vendors to compare prices and decide what I wanted to go back and buy. Lots of fun, but rather expensive. Just not for me this time. I find myself thinking that a lot of the class material is readily available in books or on the web, at a much lower cost or free... I guess I don't really have a problem with teaching myself new techniques and poring over instructions until I "get it."

The big thing with Stitches and other events like it is the comraderie. More than anything else, it's fun being with other knitters. Who else but a knitter is going to get excited about a new technique or a finished sock? Just looking at other knitter's finished work is inspiring and you can always learn something new.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Socktoberfest ist Wunderbar!

AKA, The Long-Assed Post


...became these, my first pair of Socktoberfest socks:


Pattern: Sock pattern by Nancy Bush for Renaissance Yarns.

Mods: Kitchenered toes

Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Magico, 80% wool, 20% polyamide

Needles: US 1 bamboo DPNs

Comments: A fun knit. The yarn thickness varied a bit with the different color sections, but not too badly. I'm pleased with the results and love those colors!

The Magic Stripes (aka Frankenstein Socks):

Pattern: Too many to remember. Pretty much ended up with the Easy Toe as explained by Wendy Johnson and her short row heel from her Toe-Up Sock Pattern.

Mods: Ha! See below.

Yarn: Lion Magic Stripes in Sea Blue

Needles: Clover US 1, bind off with Crystal Palace US 3 bamboo DPNs

Comments: I ripped and tinked these babies more times than I can count. A great learning experience. With all that was done to make the socks I can confidently recommend the yarn - Magic Stripes can in fact hold up to quite a lot of abuse. I ended up using a part of one pattern, part of another, etc. , thus the Frankenstein designation.

Roughly, my progress was:

  • Started out as cuff-down with heel flap ala Nancy Bush

  • Tried short-row toes

  • Tried easy toes

  • Tried an adaptation of the Strong heel by Lauri Bolland (note: original by Gerdine Strong, Knitter's K72, Fall 2003). Ripped them out because I was confused on the upside down heel turn (have since been reassured after reading Charlene Schurch). And I'm not the only one freaked out by the upside down heel turn (see Cara Davis).

  • Tried short-row heel

  • Tried the "forethought heel"

  • Tried a peasant heel (same as Elizabeth Zimmerman's afterthought heel, but with scrap yarn rather than snipping at the spot you intend to work the heel)

  • Back to the Strong heel, this time knitting along with Nomis Heel and Toe Yarn to reinforce the heel stitches. Didn't like the result - shiny shiny heels!

  • Tried short-row heels again. This time it took. I decided that the secret to them is getting the tension right on the wraps, something I'll have to practice.

Last but not least, Claudia Hand Painted:

Pattern: Broadripple Socks from Knitty.

Mods: Knit toe up, changed the purl rounds to knit (not a fan of any form of garter stitch), and used eye of partridge instead of heel stitch on heels.

Yarn: Claudia Hand Painted Sport in Stormy Day

Needles: Clover US 2, bind off with Crystal Palace US 3 bamboo DPNs

Comments: I love the way these turned out, from beginning...

... to end:

I thoroughly enjoyed Socktoberfest, and many thanks to Lolly!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More Sock Goodness

Socktoberfest has begun over at Lolly's! To answer her questions:

When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?

A woman in attendance at an otherwise dull meeting was quietly knitting away on what turned out to be socks. As very much still a novice knitter, I plied her with questions. Her work was so impressive: tiny even stitches on DPNs in dark navy wool! But my first reaction was typical: who would want to spend that much time making socks when you can buy them so cheaply? What I didn't know then was that she'd hooked me. I kept thinking about those gorgeous socks! Finally one day at a LYS I broke down and bought a set of DPNs and a sock kit put out by Renaissance yarns that included two skeins of Froehlich Wolle Special Blauband, a card of reinforcing thread and a pattern by Nancy Bush. Armed with Nancy's pattern I manage to knit a rather respectable sock. This was over ten years ago, and the poor sock is still awaiting its mate.

What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?

I just finished my first actual pair, using the same Nancy Bush pattern. I love the way they turned out. It's too soon of course to know how they'll wear, but they were knit rather tightly on size 1 needles with heel stitch at the heels.

What would you have done differently?

I started working them toe-up but that proved to be an exercise in frustration. I just couldn't manage to dig into the double-wrapped stitches for short-row toes. The socks were frogged several times before I threw caution to the wind and cast on for cuff down socks. I'm still determined to learn how to work those short rows, though!

For the very first sock, I would have knit it using smaller needles. I may end up frogging it and reknitting the yarn at a tighter gauge.

What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?

I love the superwash Merino from Labadie Looms. Gorgeous hand-painted stuff. I've built up a small stash of sock yarn over the summer and I'm looking forward to knitting with Trekking XXL and some Claudia Hand-dyed yarn from All About Yarn in Columbia.

Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?

Love the DPNs. My favorite moment when knitting on DPNs was overhearing the comment from two co-workers passing by, "Wow, those look dangerous." Yes that's me, the dangerous sock knitter.

I learned the magic loop method from K. St. John's excellent tutorial. While I like the fact that I can knit two socks at the same time using this method it feels more comfortable with just one sock on the needles.

Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)

Heel flap, so far. I've tried Charlene Schurch's forethought heel and while I love the idea, mine didn't turn out so well and will have to be frogged (due to my mistakes, not Ms. Schurch's directions). I think I'll try afterthought heels on the socks I'm knitting now with Meilenweit Magic.

How many pairs have you made?

I've made exactly one and a half pair so far and am exceeding proud of them. They may not be perfect (far from it, in fact!) but they're mine. Now I just have to find the right shoes...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hot Off the Needles

We have socks!

Lovely kitchenered toe:



Pattern: "Directions for Knitting Socks" (how's that for a catchy name, eh?) by Nancy Bush. This pattern came with two balls of Froehlich Wolle Special Blauband, bought at least ten years ago.

Mods: Kitchenered toes

Yarn: Hand dyed superwash Merino sock yarn from Labadie Looms in Bird-in-Hand, PA. Very much worth the trip. This yarn is quite soft, very strong and I'm glad I have another two balls in variegated oranges to knit up!

: Addi turbo US 1 circular.

Method: Magic loop.

Comments: These were the socks that I ripped and tinked until I finally gave up on making them toe-up. The magic loop method was fun to learn and there's no worrying about counting rows (yes, I'm picky), but DPNs won't be given up any time soon.

Next up, some wild Meilenweit:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Knit One, Purl Two! Knit One, Purl Two!

Anyone remember Quisp versus Quake?

On the knitting front:

The less said about socks, the better. For now, at least.

The blue Nature Spun, less the ball I swatched with, has been returned to the store. After having knit with Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride and Cotton Fleece, I had just expected the same high quality with the Nature Spun. Very disappointing. It looked as if it would pill given the slightest chance. It looked cheap, which it wasn't. I've already bought its replacement. More to come on that.

The Nothing But A (long-sleeved) T-Shirt is coming along. Brian helped me measure for the sleeves ala Maggie Righetti. Definitely loving this yarn.

Off to watch the Steelers on ESPN!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Football Stuff: Steelers Win, Kudos to Comcast, The Pride of West Virginia

Roethlisberger was on the sidelines, Bettis was in the booth and last night the Steelers came through, beating the Dolphins 28-17.

(Um, NBC? We all remember the Heidi Game. Show the game, please. You barely made it back from commercial to show a Steelers touch down. Sheesh.)

Even better news? Comcast in Harford County has picked up the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. (Brian, about the digital cable? Your birthday present? Thanks!)

Just finished watching Mountaineer Magazine.

Fall Family Weekend 2006We're heading down to Morgantown tomorrow for the game and to see dear son #1, our family's current WVU student.

President and Mrs. HardestyPresident and Mrs. Hardesty

You call that a picture of the band? Hell, that ain't no picture of the band. Now here, here's a picture of the band!

Can you tell I'm a proud alumna of the WVU Band?

Click the link above for more pictures, especially of the pre-game. Simple Gifts, exploding circles, outline of the state: Best. Pregame. Ever.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

OMG, I Think I'm In Love

Behold the magic loop:

Ok, the actual loop is out of the picture but trust me, it's there.

After seeing Cat Bordhi on Knitty Gritty I read her book "Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles". Truly cool stuff. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against dpns ("And they make you look so dangerous!") but I was intrigued. Last night I stayed up to read more at K. St. John's excellent site. After reading the article about the magic loop method I ripped 'em out and started over again. So far I'm lovin' it.

And back to the game!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

WIPs Wednesday

What do you do when you have a number of projects to finish and not enough time to get to them all? That's right, go shopping. I drove up to Woolstock and spoke with the lovely Leslye Solomon. She confirmed my estimate of how much yarn I needed for my next sweater and helped pick it out. Eight balls blue, one gold. The gauge swatch is already underway.

The first game is 3:30 this Saturday against Marshall. I will be cheering on the Mountaineers whilst waving the pointy sticks!

The pink toe-up socks have been worked up to the start of the heels and I'm going to throw in lifelines and try out the magic loop method to finish them using my new 40" size 1 Addi circular needle from Woolstock.

Knit with the SB US 1 dpns (left sock "on hold" on another set). Destined to "sorta match" since one ball has darker areas than the other; I hadn't noticed that in the store. And the right sock looks like I must have knit the toe more tightly. May have to fix that.

I worked on the Cotton Fleece sweater last night and managed to get the front and back done. The short-rowed shoulders and deep V-neck were made much easier by entering the numbers into Excel, one column each for armhole, neck and shoulder shaping.


The Kiri shawl is done and awaiting blocking.

The other projects are on hold for now. And I still have to buy a pattern and fabric before Saturday's class on sewing skirts. Sometimes I wish there were a few more hours in a day. Or at least that I could manage to stay awake past 10 pm most nights!