Friday, July 18, 2008

Christmas in July: Circular Needles

Several months ago when the dollar was weaker and I was ridiculously besotted with getting knitting supplies via eBay and other sites, I ordered circular knitting needles. And other stuff. Tita Lulu was coming home from the US with a balikbayan box.

Finally, these arrived last Wednesday the 16th:

Addi Turbo Premiums (2.0mm, 2.5mm, 3.0mm, 3.5mm, 4.0mm, 4.5mm -- all in 100cm except for the 3.0mm which were 80cm). [I actually ordered those first, but ended up buying 80cm sizes in local yarn shop Dreams because I was too impatient (2.0mm, 2.5mm, 3.0mm, 3.25mm, 3.75mm, 4.0mm, 4.5mm, 5.0mm, 6.0mm & 6.5mm). Fortunately their prices were roughly the same, about USD 7.50 each on the average.] I actually have several projects on the needles and am glad I have extras because I tend to use sizes 2.0mm-4.0mm a lot. These Addis I got on eBay from a UK seller in a six-pack so the price was irresistible. My first eBay experience, and a positive one, thank goodness.

Knitpicks fixed circular knitting needles (2.0mm, 2.25mm, 2.5mm, 3.0mm, 3.25mm, 3.5mm -- in 80cm) from I got these because I couldn't afford the Knitpicks Options interchangeable needles and cables set. I heard about them from Knitters' Review. Something about being pointier than Addis. Someone said something like, "Addis are this shade of lethal. Knitpicks are lethal!" Check out the ff. picture (Addi on the top left, Knitpicks on the bottom right):

I think the Knitpicks would work really well for lace, but for other yarns people like Addis because they don't end up splitting the ply too much. But I think they'd knit pretty fast! And on the whole, are cheaper on a retail basis in the US. Addis fetch up to USD 18 for retail in some places.

And because these were so affordable (well, except for the 2.5mm which I got from Dreams), I got two Milwards 3.0mm, 40cm long from Carolina's Megamall.

These Milwards are roughly only 16" long. They're a British brand, Henry Milward & Sons (Studley, Warwickshire, England). Unfortunately with these needles stitches can bunch up where the cables meet the metal. Also please note that they are similar to Boye needles that have that angle at the base. An advantage of this is that stitches don't slide out. I plan to use these to practice the Cat Bordhi two-circular needle knitting method for socks.

And from my cousin Rosie Fe, a kindergarten teacher in Edmonton:

I know... it looks like overkill. I nearly ordered Inoxes from Paradise Fibers. And Susan Bates Quicksilvers or Silverados, just to compare. But I think I have most everything I need right here. I haven't even mentioned the inexpensive straight needles I got from different people or shops! I use the straights now mostly as stitch holders or, in the future, to lay lacework flat.

Yes, knitting is crack.

Work In Progress: Maize Cable Scarf

When I started knitting this scarf I thought it would be for Tristan's birthday, but when I showed it to Joy, she suggested it would be better for our dad PEC, who might actually need it and use it more each time he travels to Baguio.

Given that the stockinette stitch makes the edges curl, I will try to block it properly before presenting it to him. There's roughly 17" length knitted so far (I did the first 15" in one afternoon while watching the CSI Sunday Marathon on AXN). The cable stitch is "Coiled Rope". I cast on 45 sts using a double cast on (slingshot style) which should create a width of 9". The tension is not too tight. Most likely I'll use up both 100g skeins of Lion Brand Cotton Ease Maize from my stash.

It is so incredibly soft!!! I'll post more pictures when I finish and block. Hopefully that's by this weekend.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stash: Lion Brand Cotton Ease

During my first meeting with Ines last Saturday I saw some Lion Brand Cotton Ease which Joy was currently obsessed with. Cotton Ease is 50% cotton and 50% acrylic, and best of all, machine-washable. Joy was thinking, perfect for baby blankets... I ended up buying two of Maize (color 186) and one Violet (color 191). For non-knitters they might seem a bit pricey (PhP 320 per 100g skein at Dreams in Glorietta 2) but if it's for your loved ones, they're worth it*. The softness is unbelievably good against your skin. Such texture makes sure all your knitting effort is appreciated long, long after.

Having just learned cable stitches I was thinking, perfect for a man's scarf! The worsted weight makes the cables pop out against the background, and it's a real classic. Originally I was thinking of it for my brother-in-law's upcoming birthday, but when Joy saw the initial stages of the project she suggested it would get more wear if I gave it to my dad instead, who travels regularly to Baguio. "Tatay has a dark blue sports jacket that's always in his luggage, the Maize scarf will look great with that."

Wish list colors for this yarn: Olive Green (color 132), Lime (color 194), Lake (color 110), Hazelnut (color 125), Almond (color 099).

*compare with getting it overseas via eBay and with shipping... getting it locally is instant gratification, you don't "lose" it in the mail, and the VAT you pay helps the Filipino economy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cable, and I Don't Mean Internet

This is my first attempt at cable stitches, using Familia M yarn and 3.0mm Milward circulars 40cm long. What did I use for a cable needle? A Susan Bates Quicksilver dpn, US size 2 (2.75mm), with rubber point protectors to prevent the stitches from slipping off.

I got the classic stitch pattern "Coiled Rope", a 3x3 cable design, from the Reader's Digest Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing and Knitting (Sydney, 1993), p. 468.

Multiple of 9 sts plus 3
Rows 1 & 3: *P3, K6*, P3 [or add Row 5]
Rows 2, 4, 6: *K3, P6*, K3 [or add Row 8]
Row 5 [becomes Row 7]: *P3, sl 3 sts on cable needle and leave at back of work, K3, K3 sts from cable needle* P3

What I learned:

1. If you use a dpn as a cable needle, it ought to be slightly smaller than the working needles. This is so you won't be tugging too much at the 3 stitches on the cable needle in order to knit them. Knitting those 3 stitches will be a tad tight and uncomfortable for the knitter if the cable needle is the same size. Also, there will be no gaping holes on either side where the cable "coil" occurs (Row 5).

2. I prefer to modify the stitch pattern to be an 8-row rather than a 6-row pattern. It results in a more comfortable looking coil. This is recommended especially when you are knitting with worsted weight.

3. I made a mistake in the rightmost cable in the above photo. You can see that I missed a knit stitch and it wasn't coiled in. After that I started using point protectors on either side of the dpn, counting very carefully. Also, make sure that in Row 5, after slipping your 3 sts to the cable needle, when you knit the 3 sts on the working needle, keep your yarn source between the cable needle and the working needle. This is so that the long yarn spanning the 3 sts doesn't show in the back. It's hard to explain but you have to see it to understand what I mean.

4. To put this in the center of a scarf, for instance, a pair of coiled ropes would be a 21-st vertical motif. Three coiled ropes would be a 30-st motif. I'd have to make sure the number of stitches I cast on allows for this.

5. It's fun! There are so many cable stitches to learn! What a lovely way to create texture! But this "coiled rope" is a personal favorite. There is a "simple cable rib" that is a 2x2 cable, flatter, less bulky. Of course I am not really ready to knit an Aran sweater yet, but you never know.

Crafty Ladies: Lilli and Ines

Last Saturday after lunch I proceeded to Glorietta 2 for my date with Ines. I had no idea who else would be there, but I called first to make sure they were around. Had the good luck to finally meet Lilli!

Lilli noted that like most of the knitters in her group, I knitted Continental, while Ines knitted American style. Apparently Continental knitting is in again. I brought Ines the free diaper cover pattern, plus a free Bernat baby kimono pattern. Ines brought 2 projects, some baby socks and the start of a chocolate brown Lion Brand 100% cotton yarn afghan. I brought along Lilo's coral blouse as an example of what I'd finished, the current yellow dress front, and some practice cabling from a couple of days before.

I told Ines that the joins of my magic loop weren't that tight during my first attempt at home, but she said it had happened to her too on her first try. It really takes a lot of practice. I should have freed up my 2.5mm circulars so that I could start learning magic loop properly, but they were on the yellow dress project. So I didn't actually start on my socks lesson. Maybe on Tuesday afternoon. We ended up talking about how we got into knitting, and about the things we were still excited to learn.

Ines wanted to learn how to work with two colors. I told her about learning it from my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlecraft (Sydney,1987 - now out of print), but like most people I guess she learns faster from demonstration. I'll probably bring 2 colors of Monaco thread and some needles for that tutorial, apart from the materials for my learning to knit the socks. She was so pleased.

Lilli was doing hardanger, a sort of white-on-white embroidery on linen canvasthat involved some cutwork. The finished product looks much like lace, only geometric. It's for a wedding-ring pillow for her son's upcoming marriage ceremony. In the course of our conversation it turns out that she is the niece of my favorite English teacher in UPIS! And as part of the De Leon clan, she used to go to our church (UP Church of the Risen Lord)! Small world!

As for Ines, I asked if she was a fellow Ilongga, because she would inject the word "dason" ("and then") in her sentences. Turns out that she is from Iloilo (my mom is from near Bacolod). She is a great believer in cotton for most projects. The chocolate brown afghan she is making she wanted to trim with olive green, but there was no olive green available, so she asked the Dreams staff to wind for her a 3-strand ball of Cannon. Which gave me an idea... when the Royal Yarn Winder Joy ordered for me in the US arrives, I'll be able to do the same thing at home!

Lilli will be traveling to Hong Kong soon to get her new orders. Hopefully there will be cable needles in that box. And size 3.5mm and 5.5mm Addi Turbos... And my wish list goes on, hahaha.

I'll be seeing the other crafty ladies Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Stash: Sale Bin Mystery Yarns!

Welcome to sneak peeks of my stash. This is my contribution to the worldwide phenomenon of "yarn porn" (the term, my friends, is not mine, nor new, hahaha). Tactile fiber goodness!

Last Tuesday when I met the senior knitters at Lilli's Dreams boutique (see previous post) it was while looking for cable needles. I didn't find any, but I did get me some Susan Bates Quicksilver double-pointed needles in US 1 (2.25mm) , 2 (2.75mm) and 3 (3.25mm) to use just in case. I wanted to learn sock-knitting from Ines, but while I waited for the time I would be able to see my volunteer teachers on Saturday (or Tuesday), I might as well learn cable stitches...

I really wasn't looking for yarn, honest. I always say I have enough for the meantime, but for a knitter, how much is enough?

They just sort of called out to me. Lovely, anonymous, value fingering-weight yarns, in off-white, butter yellow, and dark chocolate. Butter yellow is Lilo's favorite color, and the rest of the family loves it as much. We also tend to go with the more natural looking shades. The yarn cakes (on average) went for about PhP 125 each (approx USD 2.25). I have no idea how long they are in yards or meters, since these are supposed to be factory/store close-outs. And while I'm not sure, I think they're acrylic. They have that slightly hairy shiny look about them.

When I bought them I had absolutely no idea what they'd turn into. I got 2 of each color. Maybe I'll make small shawls or scarves or maybe a simple knitted tank top...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tuesday Knitting Group

After coming from a business breakfast meeting last Tuesday I had some time to pass by our local yarn shop Dreams, in Glorietta 2. It's run by Lilli de Leon, a lady whose work with DMC inspired her to put up her own shop. She carries most of the stuff you'd expect of a modest LYS in the US or Singapore, and offers lessons. Two months ago I called her to find out whether she would stock Addi Turbos in specific sizes. That phone call inspired my first ever (don't laugh) MRT ride to Ayala, in fear that the needles would sell out fast. Lilli told me about a group of ladies who meet every Tuesday to do needlecraft together and share techniques. This got me all excited, but time passed and I forgot about it. Yes, last Tuesday I met three senior ladies, Pacita, Nora and Ines. Nora mentioned that the rest usually came after lunch, by which time things would get more lively. Unfortunately Lilli was not there yet. That's the second time I've missed meeting her.

Pacita does tatting and a Japanese embroidery technique, and gauging from samples of her work, she's VERY good. She said she was interested in learning bobbin lace, which Lilli is presently passionate about. Nora enjoys knitting, and showed me some baby socks in the works (one set circulars technique - MUST LEARN!). Ines was also knitting baby socks in a different pattern, and said that if I would join them Tuesdays (also Saturdays in Ines' case) she would teach me how to make baby and adult socks! How could I resist! She uses Monaco or Cannon crochet cotton with 2.5mm (US size 2) Addi Turbos. I will be there this Saturday. Pronto!

Ines asked me to show something I'd made, so maybe I'll bring Lilo's baby dress. I told her about this free pattern for a vintage knitted "soaker panty" or diaper cover that babies used to wear over cloth diapers when disposable nappies weren't invented yet. Apparently, using natural fibers meant that babies back then didn't suffer nappy rash. Babies using cloth diapers were also toilet trained earlier. I told her that the use of knitted diaper covers is coming back in vogue in the US, and I'm sure pretty soon some moms in the Philippines will follow suit. Since one of her sons just started a family and now works overseas, she was mightily enthused by the idea. I'll print it out for her when I go. I'll also bring the acrylic practice version I made (too warm for the Philippines, methinks).

I had to leave in order to get home in time for lunch and get back to work, but while I was there I got myself some double-pointed needles (in sizes US 1, 2 and 3) and some irresistible mystery yarn from the sale bin (fingering weight, in brown, yellow and cream). I went there wondering if they had cable needles, but those were out of stock. Fortunately I could use dpn's in the meantime. I want to learn cabling to be able to make gifts from male friends and family, and as detailing for garments.

Ambitious, hey? Yes, but more like inspired. You get that from meeting new friends who knit.

[Dreams. G/F Glorietta 2, Ayala Center, Makati City. Tel. 894-5380. Lessons offered in cross stitch, hardanger, tatting, knitting and crochet. Lilli de Leon, teacher and owner.]

Friday, July 4, 2008

Lilo's Coral Babydoll Blouse

Ok, I had to post this already, I took photos without waiting for the blouse to be washed. I couldn't wait! We tried it on Lilo, adjusted the strap length one last time, and wove in the dangling ends of thread you see here. This is a two-sister project: Auntie knitted the body and assembled it, Mommy crocheted the edging and the straps. THIS is bonding!

This is a children's size 6 blouse. There's no pattern, I just made a schematic based on one of Lilo's existing blouses adjusted for size. There are 4 pieces, assembled before adding the crocheted embellishments. It's all in stockinette stitch, with shaped armholes.

2.5 balls of Monaco mercerized crochet cotton (P19/ball in Divisoria, P25/ball from Carolina's Megamall)
Addi Turbo Premium 2.5mm 80cm (32") circular needles (P270 from LYS Dreams Glorietta 2)

Here's the crocheted shell stitch hem detail:

1. Since I knit Continental, I can see where the purls are looser than the knit stitches. The right side of the bodice shows some stitches bigger than the others, and they slant to the right. It bothers me. Just a little bit. No, it really bothers me. Must purl more tightly next time.
2. I drew the schematic on a piece of paper which promptly got lost. I should make another one to put in my knitting projects notebook, with measurement details like they do in the Lion Brand free patterns, so I can make it in another size for another kid, or in another color when Lilo grows bigger.
3. Must improve finishing techniques so that seams match up properly. My vertical side seams match ok, but am not satisfied with the neatness of the the horizontal empire seam.
4. This is my first project using Addi Turbos. They ARE the fastest knit in the East! [Will compare when I receive my Knitpicks needles later this month.] Best investment ever. I have some more coming in other sizes that I had ordered from Ebay. Lifetime warranty pa!

But the important thing is, Lilo likes it! Mommy and Auntie did a good job!

Handmade is beautiful.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Knitting Tutorials on YouTube

Amy, based in Quezon City, teaches Knitting for Beginners. I am not actually a beginner, but whenever I read her blog or contact her through our Filipino Knitters Yahoogroup she founded, I've been learning new things.

For instance, I used to wonder why my bind off was rather tight. I eventually solved that with a crocheted bind off, but it never occurred to me that I could use bigger needles, or to knit into every other stitch as I bind off. (Obviously I didn't read a lot of knitting magazines or books until recently.) I also wondered why Lola Mama taught me to hold my yarn source from my left hand, when I could see in pictures that most people wrapped yarn around their right-hand needles before making the stitch. I finally learned from Amy that my knitting style is Continental (as is hers). I just thought that it helped me regulate my knitting tension better. According to Amy, Continental knitters tend to purl more loosely than they knit, so that was one thing I was determined to control.

Still, I was very glad to read a blog entry listing some knitting tutorials on YouTube. There was a discussion in our yahoogroup on knitting books and how much they cost, so you can imagine I have only a few to my name (mostly bought on sale). I'm interested in a Magic Loop tutorial, and I know there is one somewhere. It's one of my ambitions to be able to make a pair of socks. I don't care if they're lopsided, as long as I made them.

Knitting Organizer Bag from Make Room

This is my Knitting Organizer Bag. I got it from the Make Room branch inside Rustan's Tower in Shangrila Mall, for about P295, just before Mother's Day. It's actually an organizer bag. Women who change handbags often are supposed to transfer all contents from one bag to another using THIS one. The very thing for Nanay, who manages to leave her house keys and senior citizen's id in the bag left at home. I thought I'd get one for myself, since I saw

4 main compartments
2 mesh inside pockets
1 solid nylon inside pocket
1 inside zip pocket
1 zip coin purse attached to main bag with lobster claw hook on a flat woven cord
1 flat woven cord with double coil jump ring for keys
2 outside pockets
and velcro to hold the thing closed if necessary.

The yellow knitting you see there is the bottom of a mercerized cotton toddler dress for Lilo. It has 8 repeats of Feather & Fan border before segueing into stockinette stitch. I have about 5 inches of knitting into this panel. The front and the back will be the same, the dress will have shaped armholes and a square neck with crocheted spaghetti straps. The fiber is a lemon yellow Cannon thread, sold in the malls for about P25 a ball, in Divisoria for about P19. I estimate I'll use about 4-5 balls. And no, there is actually no pattern for this. I made a paper pattern from one of Lilo's existing dresses, but adjusted for a child's size 8 (she is currently a 6). I'm so excited about it, since already it looks so pretty and it's in Lilo's favorite color.


assorted circular needles
2 pairs rubber point protectors
plastic knitting gauge ruler
measuring tape
small scissors
tapestry needles
stitch markers
one plastic container of round-headed straight pins
huge plastic coated paper clips (to use as stitch holders)
knitting supplier calling cards
wooden nostepinde (a 9"-long wooden dowel used for handwinding yarn into balls)
clip-on snakehead LED light powered by 3 watch batteries
Victorinox swiss knife
hot pink toothbrush case containing (4) 2.0mm dp needles, 3 crochet hooks
Visual Quick Tips: Knitting handbook

This bag is so handy for carrying work around the house! I do have a Work-In-Progress bag, a cheap P25 Winnie The Pooh zip bag with woven nylon handles (like the kind you put your Divi shopping in, but 7" x 7" x 4", made of waterproofed woven plastic straw). That usually contains yarn, the WIP, needles, scissors, a crochet hook and tape measure.

It's so lovely to know one's knitting paraphernalia are always at hand.

Needled by Two Grandmothers

Lola Nanay (mother's side) taught me how to crochet, and Lola Mama (father's side) taught me how to knit. I think I was around 12 or 13 at the time. I started showing interest at the precise age when I was captured by the beauty of the finished products and had the manual dexterity for it. Of course, my vision was 20:20 then.

One summer three cousins and myself attempted a very basic white grid crochet curtain (one panel for each of us). I was the youngest in the group. Needless to say, it took the whole summer, and the curtains were left behind in Lola Nanay's old house in Negros, and I have never seen them since. Because of that I never quite attempted such a large project again, but would occasionally knit odd granny squares,asymmetrical flowers and lopsided doilies. I even made doily skirts for my Barbie doll Francie. (Come to think of it I never actually played house with the hand-me-down Barbies. My play consisted of making them clothes from scrap cloth from the dressmaker. I think that's where the fiber and fabric arts interest began.)

Lola Mama lived with us in Quezon City when I was in high school. She was quite pleased when I asked her if she knew how to knit, and whether she could teach me. An Ilocana who lived most of her married life in Baguio City since the 1930s, she was exposed to American-style needlecrafts and took to knitting quite naturally. Apparently, I was the only grandchild who ever showed interest.

For 16 years our family lived in a 1950s style house in UP Diliman, which we rented from a Chinese mathematician who had immigrated to Maryland. On rainy Saturday afternoons I would open the cabinet Dr. Lin left behind, and inside were some of my childhood treasures: a
stained white silk short dress with lace overlay, a vintage green-and-gold chocolate bonbon tin filled with fancy jewelry, a wooden cigar box filled with unsharpened pencils and old fountain pens, a real corncob pipe, and postwar Sears and Jaeger catalogues. Not to mention a pair of US size 3 metal knitting needles that had begun to rust.

The Sears catalogues had really pretty feminine clothes and sexy shoes in them, as Christian Dior's influence on postwar fashions had just begun to emerge. There were lots of glamorous fitted twin-set knits, to fit women wearing the pointy bras popular at the time. All the models looked like Elizabeth Taylor or Grace Kelly. And all the men were pictured with martinis lounging in cashmere cardigans, or playing golf in Argyle vests. The Jaeger catalogues showed more of the same, only with instructions for making everything from socks to shawls to separates. I was fascinated. (The catalogues didn't survive our moving house.)

I have knitted on and off through the years. My fiber arts bible was the Reader's Digest Book of Needlecraft, a hardcover compendium of stitches and projects which must be around 20 years old now. I have knitted drawstring purses, scarves that fell short of yarn, and teddy-bear sized garments. Last year while I was spring-cleaning my bedroom I discovered a horseshoe-lace scarf in a fine cream yarn in a plastic bag. SHETLAND LACE! IN WOOL, NOT ACRYLIC! I was amazed that I had reached a certain level of experience. How sad it would be if I didn't use that! I was galvanized. Of course I had to relearn EVERYTHING from that point on.

Fortunately today there are more sources for yarn, and needles, and patterns. Fortunately I read my friend Amy's knitting blog, because now I have someone to share all this craziness with. None of my other friends seem to have any interest in fiber arts and crafts, apart from wearing the results. They prefer to cook, or bake, or maybe scrapbook for their children. Fortunately I have my little niece Lilo who inspires me to make REAL garments, not teddy-bear ones.

I have recently finished knitting Lilo a coral-colored mercerized cotton babydoll halter top! It took me a week of knitting a few hours a night in front of the tv, plus some time for assembly. It is currently being embellished with crocheted shell borders by my sister Joy. Pictures later.

Things made by hand (and eye and mind) are precious. Special. One day I'll make something beautiful enough to sell or swap in the online handmade crafts market