Saturday, August 23, 2008

Let 'Er Rip

All week I've been knitting and frogging (that's "unravelling" to non-knitters). As in ripping out work. It's probaby a testament to my excitement, ambitiousness, and the unhappy realization that for some projects (the patternless ones that I make up as I go along) I might not have enough yarn. Sometimes despite knitting a swatch I end up overestimating how a fiber will stretch sideways. If I'm a couple of inches deep into a project I don't mind doing it again. I guess I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Sometimes. Thank God for the nostepinne and the yarn winder!

Funny. I used to be the little tween hothead who plugged the new Betamax directly into the 220v socket without reading the manual and promptly fried it. I could list down everything I've done in that nature when I was younger and more foolish. Have I grown up? When confronted with a morass of crochet cotton that looks like the instant mami you could eat after three minutes in boiling water, I set to work unravelling, unknotting and winding with a single-minded focus for at least 30 minutes. Now that's a long time for most people. I could leave it, go to work, and return to it after dinner and not go to sleep until everything's just right. It's so nice to wake up to neat, usable balls of yarn. OK, that sounds OC, but if I don't impose some kind of order in my yarn wilderness I can't move on to my next project. It's a different kind of satisfaction.

Now I can face myself in the mirror and say: You've bitten off more than you can chew, so at this point take a look at your work and see if you can finish it. You might end up hating the project and go off knitting altogether. You don't want that. You don't want that. Just rip it up and do it all over again. (Somehow the prospect of doing things over sparks my interest in the project afresh!)

Of course this sort of thing only works if you really enjoy something and want to keep at it for the long term. And I really, really want to keep on knitting. Especially as I just bought some inexpensive made in China bamboo straight needles! Photos later. More knitting coming up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Christmas in July: Yarns & Accessories

We're right smack in the middle of August. I waited three months for these goodies to come to me, and they've waited another three months to be blogged about. I wrote about receiving the needles first, otherwise the baby socks and other exciting projects wouldn't come into being.

First up, my Knitpicks Sunset Picnic Lace Sampler. Six beautiful colors! Actually I also liked the selections Sea View, Winetasting and Riverside Cafe, but was on a budget (needles before yarn) so I chose the brightest, warmest, happy colors. Of course I keep in mind that whatever is made of these yarns must be suitable for the tropics. I can't stop touching these, they're made to attract the hand, otherwise you wouldn't work with them or wear them. Knitpicks really tries to live up to their motto: "Passionately committed to affordable luxury knitting." It sounds like an oxymoron, the combination of the words "affordable" and "luxury". But if it means Knitpicks offers access to better quality materials to motivate the home knitter, I'm all for that!

Next, my Lacis Yarn Ball Winder. I remember mentioning in a previous post that I wanted a Royal Yarn Ball Winder as it was mentioned in Knitters Review, but when I discovered the price difference (Lacis at USD 27.99 vs. Royal at USD 34.99) I figured that the basic mechanism didn't differ too much between brands and ordered the more affordable Lacis. Locally available crochet cotton sometimes comes wound around a cardboard tube (Cannon, Anchor) and therefore I can't find the center pull to knit from. It's a major pain to have the ball rolling around madly and then getting all tangled up. After I've wound the balls (as needed) I just keep the working ball in a ziploc bag with the project needles to keep it clean and portable (stash in handbag and go). It can be addicting winding balls, but there's one area where they can't compete: winding frogged (read: unravelled) yarn while the project is still attached. That's where I use our nostepinne (made for us from a photo by our local furniture repairman). And I love this, because this is Joy's advance birthday gift to me.

I really wasn't planning to order these notions (Susan Bates Universal Knit Counter & Boye Balene II Stitch Marker Rings, both under USD 2), but Joy needed to make up a minimum purchase to avail of free delivery for sale items from Knitting At the moment they cost more locally than online, so I decided to get them. The row counter helps, especially when knitting to pattern, to shape. I've already used the stitch marker rings on the beginnings of a shawl project, just to remind me where I am in a 200+ stitch cast on (a fine yarn, better not make more mistakes than necessary).

And last but not least:

Lion Brand Pound of Love claims that you can make a baby hooded blanket using just one giant skein. Caron One Pound claims that you can make 4 full scarves! Don't you just love value! Best of all, they are machine washable acrylic. At first glance they seem a bit thick (worsted weight) for the tropics, but I don't think I'd complain if I snuggled into a finished afghan at the height of typhoon weather. I chose nice antique-ish colors so that either gender may benefit from a finished product. I still have no idea what that would be, but it's nice to have these on hand.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Etienne's Striped Cotton Socks

Yes, I took the time to trim out the messy background with Adobe Photoshop. Doesn't it just look ADORABLE?

This "gradient blue" baby sock was made using the Magic Loop method, with 2.75mm Knitpicks 80cm circular needles. The pattern is the one taught to me by Ines J. of my Dreams Knitting Group two Saturdays last month. We call it "Tita Ting's Baby Socks Pattern". I am rewriting it to make it clearer to me, since I had two false starts with a practice sock before coming up with this little beauty.

I used Cannon "escalado" mercerized crochet cotton thread, which would be about PhP30/ball retail from mall outlets, or P22.50 wholesale from Divisoria. The "escalado" refers to the gradient colorways. This particular one is SHD # 00210, Ticket 8, 175m per ball. Ines estimates that with the Tita Ting Pattern she can make roughly 2 pairs of baby socks from one ball with a bit left over.

Knitting one sock took me three hours from the beginning of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony (8pm Beijing/Manila time). I rested at around 11pm last night, then spent one final hour this morning knitting the toe, grafting it with Kitchener stitch, and weaving in ends. I love it! It's so (almost) perfect for a sock attempt! Why not perfect? I really need to tighten that first stitch before the picked up stitches connecting the gusset to the heel flap. It's the only stitch at the moment I can see daylight through. Other people can't see that tiny flaw, but since I made it, I can... Oh well, continuous improvement is always to be desired.

The practice sock looks cute here, but let me list down the things I needed to work on after finishing it:

1) Picked-up stitches were loose, creating holes along the gusset.

2) When stitch tension is uneven, you can see the glaring errors in 1x1 rib and stockinette.

3) My Kitchener graft was bad. It was twisted, when you're supposed to be able to flatten the sock from the instep. The graft was extremely strong, though.

4) I noticed that from 2.75mm-3.0mm size needles the resulting cotton fabric is softer. Work up faster, too.

But I am happy with this attempt.

Up next: baby socks for Jianna, for Lilo, for Ethan, for Inigo, for Meg, and for Red's baby boy whose name escapes me at the moment.

I am grinning from ear to ear.