Saturday, October 22, 2011

Update Session, Recent Projects


Once again, winter comes.  Funny, when it's winter, I can't even picture summer.  And vice versa.  But now that I've been reminded that a very drafty old New England farmhouse will be in the near future, it dawned on me that drafts tend to run low to the ground, and my lower legs are always cold.  My at-home winter wardrobe consists of men's PJ bottoms in flannel; but as of this year, a fleecy flannel, the legs of which are way too big and too long.  So to kill two birds (horrible analogy), I made a pair of gaitors out of Berroco Peruvia Quick (a super bulky yarn) to wear over the pant legs.  They'd keep them off the ground and close them off at the bottom, but then also keep my lower legs toasty.  These sucker are 19" long so they can be rumpled a-la-slouchy (hides the bulky folded flannel underneath) and I also wanted length for a foldover cuff at the top.  The bottoms, I wanted slightly flared just in the front so they'd span over the arch of foot and not ride up.  So first photos, then pattern...

(ETA:  SEE CORRECTIONS BELOW.)  I used Berroco Peruvia Quick (2 skeins) and 3 needle sizes, US10.5, US10 and US9.  Cast on 36 sts onto US10.5 needles, join in the round and do 2x2 ribbing (k2, p2) for 5 inches (top).  Switch to size US10 and continue another 2-3 inches.  Switch to US9 and continue until long enough, depending on whether you want slouchy or not.  Stop when you are at the point where leg meets foot.  Create flare to accommodate top arch of foot.  (Becomes important if wearing over fitted boots, but also fills in the gap if wearing slippers or clogs).  To create that flare, on four consecutive K2 columns, do the following:  K1, M1R, K1, P2 and repeat one time.  K1, M1L, K1, P2 and repeat one time.  This gives you 40 sts now because with those increases, you've created 3x2 (K3, P2) ribbing on four ribs which will be worn in the front.  Follow stitch pattern for another inch or so, then bind off using Jeny's "Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff" which can be found on youtube with "that" search criteria, and choose the video done by Cat Bordhi, one of my all time favorite teachers. Et voila!  Warm legs.  They kind of look like English riding half chaps (where I got the front arch flare idea). 
These are stretching out a bit from on/off-ing them.  No biggie, that's what elastic thread was invented for, but if doing over, I would likely cut down to one or two less ribbing sets AND I would also use smaller needle sizes, and I'm not so sure there's any reason to vary needle size.  I think I'd use a size US8 needle and cast on 32 sts if, say, a 12" calf at the widest point, measured while standing.  I'd try on after a couple inches knitted, aiming for a smooth slide over heel/arch point of foot, but not with a whole lotta leeway.  Say a smooth but snug slide over that humpy part.  All else regarding these stands, as written.
I'm so enamoured of these that I bought yarn yesterday in a less bulky (but still bulky) weight to make some that I can wear over bare skin under jeans.  I know, worsted would have done it, but I can only take so much knitting of tubes, maybe it'll go faster.  I'm going to use size 7 needles on those because now that I'm learning a bit about ribbing, the trick to maximizing elasticity is small needle-to-yarn ratio, and everyone seems to think that 2x2 ribbing has the most aggressive bounce back.  ETA:  Used worsted weight Berroco Ultra Alpaca, started with US7 and dropped down to US6 for that grist yarn. They are WIP (works in progress) as of this writing.

But I LOVE these dumb things.  I never realized what a difference warm calves make in cold weather in terms of your overall comfort level.  And since I'm practicing being an old lady, I'm already seeing that things like that just feel really nice. 
MY FIRST GRAMMY KNIT...  While this was a very tedious knit (all 10-stitch rows, each picked up from the preceding column, mitered corners done via shortrowing, the whole knitted in a continuous spiral) the finished result was absolutely worth it.  To make this a really large blanket would have been difficult because it's fingering weight yarn on a size 4 needle, namely Crystal Palace Mini Mochi.  Rather than go beyond my point of loving to work on it and into where it represented a chore, I didn't want that association, so stopped at 26" square which makes a perfect size for a car seat blankie because much bigger and tucking in becomes a hassle.  Daughter picked out the yarn and colorway, and says she has gotten compliments on it already.  I still have 2 more skeins which I will hold aside in my yarn stash, in case Squeak makes it her bankie, in which case I can add to it at any point and make it bigger.  

Several photos of this because it does such amazing things in different lights.

Shot from above (back side where you can see seam joins)

Shot at an angle

And sometimes it glows...

While under construction (shows how it's done)

MY SECOND GRAMMY KNIT...  I'm having "second sock syndrome" about the other one, but it's going to be a while before she will be big enough for them anyway, so there's time. 

No pastels for this little kidlet...

Learning crochet because I wanted to make her this hat (part of a photo op set).  The yarn might be too thick for that, but might work for a to-be-worn hat.  Will see.  In any event, it was practice crocheting.

So this is how it goes.  I hate spending time on something that won't work out.  I read TONS of feedback comments on the Central Park Hoodie to find out what any complaints were, and it was time well spent.  They included "sleeves too tight" and "this pattern runs small."  But then there were just enough (barely, but they were there) where people said "great fit."  (Doh?)  Try as I might, I couldn't establish who swatched for gauge and who didn't, so I checked MY gauge and even washed my swatch.  Revised pattern so it WOULD fit. 

I LOVE this sweater and I wear it all the time.  I used Berroco Ultra Alpaca which is a soft, squishy, wonderful yarn.  I even got the sleeve length I wanted, which isn't always easy to dope out because (a) it's really hard to measure that on yourself; and (b) everything changes once the pieces are seamed together.  But hey, some luck too.  ;-)   I only have the zipper basted in (still!) so it has the wonky-ness at the bottom, but I know how to fix that.  Turns out you CAN ram a needle right through that hard plastic coated bottom zipper stop tab.  Yay.  Until then though.... 

I have another CPH finished and seamed together.  All that's standing between it being in a UFO bag (knitspeak for "unfinished object") and wearable is the button bands and collar.  On that one (more fitted, with waist shaping), I want buttons.  I'm researching the best buttonholes.


One for me, sort of a 1920s look.  Not great in an icy wind because the seed stitch used on the band has holes.  Otherwise though, very warm, and it does pretty well with not giving too bad of "hat hair."

Liked it enough to do one for Jenny in her color ranges (jealous, I just can't wear this color)

This one really works great.  Sort of a baseball cap. 
Does not give "hat hair."  Does keep rain off my glasses.  Yay.


I have a warped button band on this, and I will never be happy with it as is, so I have to frog it out.  That is not a minor thing.  Both button bands AND the collar are all knitted in one piece and attached stitch by stitch as you go.  Not only that, button band and collar also have facing.  Arg! 

As for the way the collar inside corners miter together, I also don't like the original pattern because it only works if the collar is worn as a stand-up.  I want to fold mine down.  I might have to wait on getting that figured out until my design skills are farther along, because what I want to do is above my head at this point.  

Additionally, sleeves not done yet.  (Those have to be re-designed also, I started one and the original pattern just misses the boat.) 

This is what I don't like about the construction of the collar's facing.
If worn folded down and open, the inside corner is just flat out wonky. 

SCARVES:  Two for now...

A very simple but lovely stitch pattern called Feather and Fan and also called Old Shale lace,
I bought a single skein of a very lovely CASHMERE yarn.  There's just nothing like cashmere.
Ridiculously expensive yarn, so it's not a long scarf.  It's a length you'd wear inside your coat.  But that's how I wanted it anyway, so it works out. 


And my latest contribution to scarfdom, this is the first mohair I have ever put near my skin that didn't itch to death.  It doesn't itch at all.  LOVE it!  Warm, snuggly and not run-of-the mill.  We are talking a LOT of tail ends to weave in.  Every six rows, in fact.  23 x 2 = 46 tail ends and then some. 

While it took two skeins of the mohair, the other yarn is Lana d'Oro Alpaca (worsted) and I am low on what I want to be a big fingerless mitts wardrobe, so made a pair from that yarn.  Matchie matchie!  But hey, they are soooo soft, they'll also be nice and warm.  To me, fingerless mitts are just the way to go. 

During construction and a better representation of the actual colors in some lights...

An even better photo for the real colors.  The changes very subtly done...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Shawl For My Sis

Last week my sister had a key birthday.  Her favorite color is Periwinkle. 

Meanwhile, I had gotten "The Shawl Bug" which seems to happen sooner and later to spinners and knitters.  And after a lot of obsessing, THIS shawl is something I'm thrilled with.  The reason is... well, long story short, the first shawl I made was a disaster.  I liked the looks of it in terms of stitch pattern, but it had the same problems I've found in just about every other knitted shawl I've tried on, and that's a LOT.  (All yarn stores seem to have a zillion of them hanging around, and you betchum that I've tried on all of them.)  They just don't fit!  They don't want to stay on at the best, and at the worst, you have to fight off the antithetical build of their shape just to get them to wrap around you, and then all they want to do is find a way to fall off.  Talk about frustration no one needs.

So after I made that shawl, I hated it.  It was too small (partly my fault but not entirely).  But then also, while it met in the middle at the neck (almost, okay, it really didn't), the front edges just spread out from there on down so that it was just not flattering at all. 

So I frogged the whole thing, just sat there unraveling hours of work.  And started over, this time with a calculator and a whole lotta measuring and picturing the dynamics of "hang."  So I kept the stitch pattern design.  Totally changed the build.  I was semi-happy with it, actually more than semi, but not entirely.  But it served as my prototype from which to make more modifications.

And voila.  The second one I made was this one for my sis, and THIS one FITS!!  Also, to make it tailored to my sister's size and lengths, I sneakily got measurements by asking her to play "dress form" on the shawl I was re-making for me (after frogging the whole above first try).  She never knew I was taking her measurements, not the shawl's. 

So here it is.  I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  It stays put.  It meets in the middle in your choice of two places (high neck or lower V), and it keeps meeting in the middle all the way down.  Yes, yes, finally Yesss!!  I also added some moving room on the sides (where arms DO exist and move around, hello?)
All her kids came with families except those who couldn't because of distance.  We all brought a dish including a super tasty birthday cake made by her Daughter #1, and yours truly spent a full day going through zillions of 1940's music to ferret out 2 hours worth of music by original artists (Mills Brothers, Inkspots, Earl Bostic, Andrews Sisters and the like) into a master mix, each and every one of them being music we both grew up with during the very happy childhood times.  Many were among the "Our Songs" of our parents, all stuff we listened to daily when Sis was 3-10 years old.  Jenny gave her a hand woven project for her kitchen which I happen to know hits the spot on Sis's taste, and Sis's #1 Daughter also put together a phenomenal picture book where every page spread was themed around each person in her life, whose HANDWRITING appeared in letter form, each telling stories about times with her that were so meaningful to them.

It turned out to be a pretty amazing birthday day, not only for Sis but for all of us.  Very much like old times, with something very magical about the whole day, from start to finish.  If you believe in Sainthood, my Sis is one of those.  Dusty sense of humor and all.

A New Chapter... Cloud Horse Re-homed

UPDATE NOTE, added 10/27/11.  I'm leaving this post intact so it will remind me just how wrong I was.  I've always been a great reader of people, and must have gotten cocky.  I gave them a horse on 9/20 who was in perfect condition (I have videos of her cantering happily with each of them riding her, taken 2 days prior).  With every term on the contract having been defaulted upon, and more egregious defaults on the horizon, I got wind of it all and took repossession of Cloud on 10/19, just 29 days later.  Horse was rendered lame.  Details cannot be gotten from anyone as to how she showed that, but I got plenty of details how my "stellar new owners" know NOTHING about responsible horse care.  Lies, lies and more lies.    And everything I've learned about them since just spells very, very irresponsible, and beyond stupid, people.  Some of the things she did with my horse just defy rudimentary common sense.  Next time, I will dig a little for real references and ask very specific questions.  I got royally and expensively duped, and my horse got royally messed up.  

So this post stays, just as written originally.  I need to re-read it a thousand times to tune into any signs I could have seen.  My only excuse to myself is that this woman is a very accomplished liar.  Can't believe I didn't see some sign. 


A bittersweet decision. 

There comes a time in life where you have to give something up, not because you want to, but because continuing to do it is just getting harder to maintain.  Sometimes it's because not giving it up becomes selfish.  And sometimes, it's just the smart thing to do from a standpoint of common sense.  Any of those reasons can be independent of the others, but in this case, all three were becoming undeniable realities. 

I knew it was time to find Cloud a new home.  I kept putting it off.  Didn't advertise.  Didn't want to deal with it.  Didn't want to give up what was.  But as well as Cloud did as an only horse while she was being trailered to trails and outings, at a point she started becoming a lonely horse, because she wasn't.  The guilt in seeing that happening is crushing.

First of all, meet Cloud.  Photo taken 3 months ago.  Trotting in for afternoon yummies, nickering the whole way...

    It's pretty hard to believe that this horse is at the higher end of 23 years old.  Beautiful registered Paint, great blood lines, bred by a physician whose hobby was breeding horses, she has gorgeous blue eyes, to boot.  Stunning under gait for an older gal, unusually straight, strong top line, outstanding health and soundness.  Now add extremely well trained, responds to English as well as the most sensitive Western neck reining and other cues, responds to those as well as verbals only, loads herself in and out of trailers of any type, great on the trails, will go into water, over/under bridges, climb rocks, and if you canter her next to another horse, she thinks it's off to the races and her stride widens so she flies.  Fun spirit.  And an absolute shame to allow to stand around, languishing day in, day out.  All that highly desireable stuff, going to waste. 

New owner came along, a better situation for Cloud than I could have designed from a wish list.  A solid, young family of horse lovers, where Mom is very experienced and has her own horse, Dad isn't as experienced but not ashamed of that, and a gentle, sensitive man.  Mom works at a boarding/training facility where there are 17 other horses in fantastic accommodations from a horse's standpoint.  Beautiful corrals with run-ins, stalls if needed, bathing station, outdoor training arenas, one bare, one with obstacles to learn on, and miles of gorgeous wide trails with great footing.  Cloud will be Dad's horse, and he's 5-8, weighs 150 which is a great size for a 15:3HH horse Cloud's age.  And Mom is not only there on property every day, but a Vet Tech to boot.  I really like these people.  She could easily be my daughter and he could easily be my son in law.

Money?  Got very little.  I know, and they know that Cloud is worth over 5 times what we ended up at.  It wasn't their opinion of her value, just finances.  They'd just bought their daughter a horse at the same time, and it turns out that he might need some special medical care.  I'd set a low price to start with, specifically so I could have a big choice of homes, but we ended up at 1/3rd of that.  Instead, we worked it out that I can still ride Cloud from time to time for a while.  It gives me a soft landing on hanging up my reins.  And since I'm easy to ride with, and Mom would be also, it's an easy condition for Mom to satisfy.  She got a great deal, Cloud got a great deal.  And actually, so did I, in the form of knowing a horse who's meant a lot to me, is getting a phenomenal situation. 

Yeah, I really like these people, and trusted them by gut feeling the second I met them, as well as everything I've seen since then, which is a fair bit.  It just doesn't get better than that.