Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring Sweater -- Edelweiss

I finished this sweater last Spring, but this is the first really good picture of it so I thought I'd post again. I call it "Edelweiss" as it uses Austrian lace patterns and the silver buttons have edelweiss flowers on them. I used Coats & Clark's TLC Cotton Plus (an acrylic/cotton blend that knits up beautifully!)

Friday, April 27, 2007

How do you get a 4 year-old boy to dance at 7 in the morning?

Custom-designed, custom-sized, custom-knit cozy hiking socks worked for BamBam! These are the socks I posted about last night and BamBam had to try them on as soon as he came down this morning, "just to make sure they work, Mommy". He is one happy camper today and -- with the cozy thickness of Lion Brand's Wool-ease Chunky -- he'll be a happy hiker and camper all summer with these great socks!

And here's BamBam's socks

As promised, here are BamBam's sox just off the needles -- I'm thinking I'll make the same sox for dh and then reverse the colors for a new pair of hiking sox for MOI!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thick Mittens and Socks

There is something absolutely amazing about knitting with thick wool -- everything goes together so quickly!

Here are two pairs of mittens knitted with Dale of Norway's Hubro and size 10.5 needles ... they went together in a weekend and will be ready for dh and I when next Denver has a snow-storm (which around here, could be any day between now and June!).

And here are two pairs of socks -- the "orchid" ones for String Bean and the "charcoal" ones for Lego-Maniac. Since I can never make the same socks twice, each of these are slightly different -- note the 3x3 rib all the way to the heel flap on the orchid socks and (which is harded to see) the difference in heel flap patterns. Designing socks is fun because you can experiment on a small portion and have fun with it. And it's not a big deal to visit the "frog pond" with these socks as there are only 24 total stitches cast on. These will make great hiking/camping socks for this summer as they're very thick but tightly knit on size 8s using Lion Brand's Wool-ease Chunky (a wool/acrylic blend which is machine washable).

Bam-bam, of course, now wants a pair -- with orchid heel and toe but charcoal elsewhere. I'll post a picture when I finish the second of the pair of those. Socks are so fun to knit and with this thick yarn, I'm able to make a pair in 4 hours or so!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Knitting Book Reviews ... finally!

About a week or so ago, I promised to write up some reviews of knitting books which I've been perusing (and some, drooling over) for the past couple of weeks. So, your patience has been rewarded and here are the reviews:

The Joy of Knitting: Texture, Color, Design, and the Global Knitting Circle and The Joy of Knitting Companion: A Knitter’s Handbook by Lisa R. Myers are pretty unassuming volumes by this Pennsylvania yarn-shop owner. Don’t be fooled by the covers – both of these books have lots to offer. The first volume goes through all the aspects of knitting uniqueness – texture (through stitch patternings, yarn choice or needle choice), color (whether traditional ethnic design or random intarsia) and overall design. Myers gives great, clear explanations. The only down-side is that there are no photographs, just drawings of the suggested projects – and we all know that “artist renderings” are a bit more fanciful than the camera’s eye!

The companion book, which I actually read first, is a working notebook – with lots of blank record-keeping forms, graph paper and other helpful tools (including a needle sizer and a gauge ruler “built-into” the cover). Suggestions abound for designing your own – or adapting a have-to-have design to really fit you! I only wish they had bound the book with a spiral (rather than a glued paperback) so that the book could lie flat.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting Projects Illustrated by Barbara Morgenroth is one of those “knitting for dummies” books that I usually don’t like. In fact, if you read the blurb about the author, you find that she has very little knitting experience but instead is a “cookbook and craft book writer”. Now surely, they could have found a KNITTING writer to write this book. That said, I found this book to have GREAT, clear illustrations and instructions, interesting projects and a wealth of information about my favorite activity! The photographs of the finished items could be better, but this would be a wonderful starter book for beginning knitters.

The Knit Kit Book by Sandy Carr, Josie May and Eleanor VanZandt is sadly out-of-print, but well worth the hunt to find a copy. This book teaches all the basics – with great illustrations and directions – as well as a whole section (or really, a second book) on designing basics including measuring, sketching, adapting existing patterns, etc. Hunt for this one – you’ll be well-pleased you did!

Knit it Now! Turn Great Yarns into Great Sweaters by Julie Montanari has some really cool designs. Also, Montanari, who’s been knitting since she was 8 (same as me!), gives ten easy steps for ensuring a good fit of the final sweater. Many of the sweaters, ironically, look like crochet (which I can do but avoid) but are so lovely that I think I’d break down and knit them!

Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave edited by Ann Budd and Anne Merrow is a must-have if you knit (or dream about knitting) socks. Talk about eye candy! This has a collection of the prettiest, coolest, most useful socks I’ve seen in a long time. There are lacy socks, hiking socks, ethnic socks and plain socks. I love Interweave books because they often spiral-bind them inside a hard cover so the books can lay flat; they are also invariably fun to read.

I love ethnic knitting. The next four books are some of the best of this kind of book:

Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel is the definitive book on knitting the heavily knit-purl patterning sweaters from the British Isles. The author does a fabulous job of explaining the history of these sweaters, describing the basics of a traditional sweater and then showing the reader how to make one. She leads the reader through either a sampler sweater (doll size) or a full-size sweater so that you not only learn how to make a gansey, you learn about all the parts of the sweater and why they are made the way they are. This is a classic!

The Complete Book of Traditional Scandinavian Knitting by Sheila McGregor is another classic, this time discussing knitting from Scandinavia. History, how-tos and a plethora of lovely examples make this book one to use again and again to make these lovely hand-knits – sweaters, hats, mittens, and socks.

Simply Socks: 45 Traditional Turkish Patterns to Knit and Magnificent Mittens: The Beauty of Warm Hands are both works of art by Anna Zilboorg. Sadly, these are both OOP, but take time to search for them – you’ll never regret it. Taking the traditional patterns of Turkish knitters (where the yarn is tensioned behind the head and flicked in a very unique manner), Zilboorg has charted these gorgeous multi-colored designs and created simple socks for the sock-knitter. These are amazingly beautiful as is the text which lovingly describes the history of knitting in Turkey. Her mitten book continues this work of amazingly beautiful multi-colored designs and blends the designs in such a way as to create unique works of art. I love the long cuffs that are meant to go over the coat/jacket sleeve to keep the wearer toasty warm. Zilboorg also describes how to do three different thumb treatments on these mittens – thumb with gusset, invisible thumb and sore thumb – which can actually be interchanged on the specific designs. But one thing I like about Zilboorg’s books – she encourages the reader to go beyond her designs and create your own work of art!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Latest Felted Project

Here's the latest thing off the needles: a felted backpack in olive/dusty brown made from Dale of Norway's Heilo.
Now, I really enjoy felting -- because you can have such fun with it. If you'll notice, I have a felted I-cord drawstring to close the bag. Once I felted everything and put it together, I needed to trim the cord as I'd made it too long. I took that cord, made a loop, sewed it to the inside of the bag and now I have somewhere to clip my keys! I also added a small, button-flapped coin pocket on the outside and a long, multi-pocket piece on the inside.
The straps are doubled, 10-stitch wide (like a really wide I-cord) and knit right onto the backpack (from the base to just under the flap at the top). Knitting them on (altho a bit more cumbersome than knitting them separate and sewing later), ensures a good strong bond to the backpack. The "X"s at the top are more decoration than for utility.

Here's the bag with one strap done and the pickup for the second strap. Here you can also see the pre-felted size. It was HUGE! The felting will shrink the knitting (so you can't see stitch-definition) about 40% (with more shrinkage in the length than the width). The final product -- as you can see above -- is a nice, wide bag that will be used by me ALOT!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Felting for Beginners

Felting -- the process of taking a natural-fiber knitted piece (wool, alpaca -- any fiber that will shrink) and washing it by hand or machine until the fibers cling together, making a thicker, non-raveling piece. Felting often will shrink the garment about 40 percent (more in length than in width). Fulling is doing the same thing, but with a WOVEN piece of natural-fiber.

I love to felt my knitting things -- it's very fun to be able to mindlessly knit a huge sack that will ultimately be something quite useful. I usually felt bags or backpacks, but I've also tried felted slippers (which are amazingly warm and sturdy); I've even been known to purposely felt something that I didn't like, cut and sew it into something completely new -- just ask my MIL: I made her a gorgeous Christmas tea cozy with matching coasters from a fair-isle vest that I hated once I was finished with the knitting. Felting gave it new life.

Felting is also a GREAT beginner project because you can alter the shape of the finished product and hide small mistakes (like a doubled stitch or uneven gauge). Felting is a very do-able action with your knitting that exponentially increases your design possibilities!

If you're interested at all in finding out more about felting, here are some of the best (IMHO) books on the subject:
  • Felted Knits by Beverly Galeskas -- this wonderful book is written by the established "queen of felting". Galeskas is the designer behind Fiber Trends, the folks who were trying to get everyone felting their knitting back in the '90s (actually 13 years ago)!
  • Felt It! 20 Fun & Fabulous Project to Knit & Felt by Maggie Pace -- I like this book! The designs are a bit too funky for my tastes -- wait till you see the "Night Star Wrap"! -- but they are extremely varied and unique. More importantly, she has great tips and techniques that will save new felters (or even those "experienced felters") quite a bit of time and effort. This really is a great paperback!
  • Fabulous Felted Hand-Knits: Wonderful Wearables & Home Accents by Jane Davis -- has such wonderful projects, with nice clear directions and information. Like Maggie Pace's book, you get so much more than the unique designs -- you get helpful advice from a woman who has felted many items and so knows how to do it right!

There are MANY other knit-felting books out in the stores. If you browse Tattered Cover, you'll find nine others (plus the plethora of felted crochet books).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Books, bookstores and your opinion, please!

Hey y'all -- hope you're not so busy eating Easter goodies that you miss reading my blog this week. For the next few days I'm going to be posting reviews of some marvelous knitting books you might want to check out.

But I wanted to explain something first: If you notice, my "book store" is now affiliated with Tattered Cover Book Store, an independent book shop here in Colorado. This is a book shop that carries tons of wonderful books that you can mail-order. So, when you request a book that I've mentioned here, I get a small (certainly wouldn't keep me in books or yarn very long) commission; but more importantly, you'll be supporting independent booksellers!

Don't get me wrong, I love and Barnes and Noble and some of the other biggies. Amazon has earned a HUGE percentage of our annual income for many years. But, I think there also comes a time to make a stand -- if we have only the biggies and none of the independents, I think we lose a BIG piece of what's made this country great for the past 250 years or so.

Today dh had the day off so we visited the Ben Franklin Exhibit. When I came away from this wonderful exhibit, which does a fantastic job of chronicling this man's amazing talents, I had a strong sense of what the individual can do in regard to making things better for all. Franklin's focus was on social betterment -- free libraries, college/university education, volunteer fire departments, volunteer militia, etc -- and he would be unimpressed with the colonies 250 years later. Now we have mega-companies that have pushed out the little guys; companies that are so large, it's very hard to be an independent.

From now on, when I recommend a book, I will be linking to the book at the Tattered Cover site. If I recommend something that Tattered Cover doesn't have, I'll link to Amazon or Barnes & Nobles.

But what's your opinion -- is it worth it to buy from the independents (paying maybe up to 20% more per book) but knowing that you're helping keep independents from being swallowed by the big guys? Would you rather I continued to link to Amazon? What's your opinion?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Way Cool Wooly Lambs

Thanks to Gail's post on Life a la Cart, I have fallen in love with her felted wool sheep. Seems a few years back she bought the Fiber Trends "Felted Flock" pattern to stick in the kids' Easter baskets. Have I mentioned, that I LOVE THESE?

I think, though, I'd have to come up with my own design -- I HATE following directions. So I'll keep y'all posted on my unvention of a felted flock, ok?

BTW, I suggested to Gail who has little time but two children that will be getting these little darlings -- to get different colored ribbon to "collar" the lambs and add a little bell so they'd tinkle as well as look so cuddly cute!

Monday, April 02, 2007

It can be interesting to read the boxes ...

... of even something as ordinary as the Wheat Thins box!

Seems Wheat Thins (or rather, the folks at Nabisco - actually Kraft -- love those corporate mergers!) are holding a contest for creative women. Titled, "Express Yourself", you can win $5000 for your entry on how you express your creative side and how this has impacted your life.

But hurry, deadline for entry is April 16, 2007!