Thursday, November 30, 2006

THREE DAYS, people.

Well, two, now, because I'm posting a photo today. It's been THREE STINKING DAYS since I posted a baby photo. You guys are acting like heroin junkies, I swear.

From April:

So much for that willpower thing.

Scarves? Feh.

That's the start of the Baby Surprise Jacket from "The Opinionated Knitter" by EZ. I'm using Dale of Norway's "Baby Ull" and the blue and pink yarn I dyed last week. I hope I don't run out.

I wonder how long I can put off doing these scarves, and still get them done? (Have I mentioned I need them done by the middle of December because we're going to Ohio early?)

I'm also re-inventing the wheel and tweaking the design on the Geometric Star jacket. I don't like how the centers of the stars look, and I don't like the fit. So I'm changing it. And I'm not putting ribbing on the waist, either. And the collar needs fixed. And...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gonna be one of those days.

The yarn I soaked last night? The light blue? I put the pink overdye on this morning and it came out looking like vomit.

It's in the trash can now.

There's a book for dyers called "Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green". I'm thinking maybe I need a copy of it. Though in my case it's "light blue and pink make vomit". Either way.

Plus, I've finally decided it's time to get these mohair scarves over with. It's all I've got on the needles at the moment and I'm tired of them hanging over my head. Time to get the Christmas knitting over with, once and for all.


Time to scare the muggles.

As the Yarn Harlot calls non-knitters.

Normally I don't do this stuff, but I'm all in favor of skewing research results in favor of knitting.

There's a tech researcher who is trying to figure out how fast stuff can spread across blogs. He's doing it by tracking a link back to his own blog page explaining the project, here. So click on over, get the link, put a link to it in a blog entry of your own, (like I'm doing right here - and make sure you tell all your other readers to do it) and then leave a link to YOU in his comments.

I'm thinking the way knit bloggers interact, we should screw this thing all up by the weekend.

Power to the knitters, yo!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is all April's fault.

She insisted on sending me a yarn gift certificate in return for the blocking I'm doing for her. (After she explained that by keeping me happy, she is keeping the husbeast - who is in the military - happy, and therefore she is helping protect the United States and supporting the troops, and by purchasing the gift certificate from Elann she is supporting the economy of her own country, well, how could I say no?)

So, I went on over to Elann this morning with my shade card in my grubby little hand. And I realized almost every color was in stock. Then I had a very dangerous thought:

Why not kick off the Year of Me by knitting the sweater I've wanted to knit since 1987?

That's right. "Geometric Star" from "Glorious Knitting" by Kaffe Fassett.

I've been running patterns, photos, and shade cards through the copier to get the right color intensities, in an attempt to figure out what colors I need. (There will, hopefully, be an article in the next Knitty on how to do that.) I half think I'm crazy, but hell, I've got the skill to do it, and how much LONGER am I going to wait? The pattern will be twenty years old next year. Seems like it's about time.

The lace pullover and the mitered pullover, both out of cotton (both that I already have the yarn for), are getting pushed back to summer. Or closer to summer. Or 2008. Whatever.

Oh, and I'm also soaking more yarn for a tie-dye job:

Would you look at that.

That's the "Celtic Lattice" vest from "Folk Vests" by Cheryl Oberle. The large pattern of loops is chart number 97 from "Celtic Charted Designs" by Co Spinhoven. And the little ribbony pattern is an un-numbered border from plate number 29. Both are identical; I counted stitches.

Somehow I'm not quite as outraged by this, because to my knowledge, Cheryl Oberle has never sued anyone over copyright issues.

I also know that Meg Swansen has used some of these patterns in sweaters, but considering how good-humored Schoolhouse Press is about everyone in the universe using the Percentage System with never a peep about copyrights, I say she can use anything she wants.

Still, I'm amazed at all the places this book's charts are turning up. There's one other one in the book that I KNOW I've seen somewhere before. I'll figure it out. (Have I mentioned I have a strange visual memory, not quite photographic? It works with color, too.)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bloody damned cat.

A plethora of finished stuff.

Today was a wild day of casting off, grafting, blocking, and baby wrangling (she's got molars coming in).

First, the Knucks. (Knuck knuck knuck.)

They are knit with Silky Wool by Elsebeth Lavold, color number ten, which I'm gonna call denim blue. There is 190 yards in a ball, and I used one ball with that much left over (and I knit the cuffs extra-long to keep my wrists warm). If you're looking for a one-skein knit, these are your deal. And I started them, what, a week ago? They don't take long and the construction is kind of fun. I've got a few ends left to darn in, but otherwise, they're good to go.

The baby thinks they're freaky, but she better get used to them 'cause I plan to wear them all winter.


All I had to do was graft the arm pits, trim off a buncha yarn ends, and block it:

I'll take better pictures of it once it's dry, and post a pattern soon, but there you go. Photographic evidence that it's done. By the end of November.

Now all I have left on the needles is that one fucking scarf. Uf.

Oh, look! A baby!

Another fun thing about grandparents - they have no shame when it comes to taking cameras everywhere, and snapping photos wherever they happen to be. This was taken last Wednesday when we were out shopping.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A question.

My lace-blocking client and I are having a disagreement about compensation for blocking a lace scarf for her. (Process described in detail, here.) She's trying to overpay me, so don't take her to task over it.

So. What do YOU think is a fair trade, in either cash or yarn, for blocking a lace scarf?

(Hah. Try and overpay ME.)

Here's the baby, doing Transcendental Meditation in her toys. I don't have the heart to tell her that the secret to enlightenment is YARN. Ohhhhmmmm.

Dye job continued.

Bells left some comments on the last post, with some very good questions that I should have answered in the dying commentary. I'll post them here for everyone.

How to make a skein? First unwind it into a big loop, like you see here:

The size of the loop to be made is sorta tricky; if you're doing solid, one-color dyeing, it doesn't matter. But if you're doing a variegated like I did, the length of the loop determines the length of the color repeat. Beyond that information, all I can say is, experiment. I haven't quite figured out all the details, myself. (I want to find a way to do Noro-style color repeats WITHOUT getting food color on the ceiling, the cat, the walls, or the husbeast. I may have to take that to the back yard and the gas grill, next summer.)

After the yarn is 'looped', tie the beginning and end together. Then use some waste yarn (I suggest cotton, or something else there's no chance of felting) to make little figure-eights through the yarn. Under-and-over through the threads two or three times, then come back across the other way, and tie the two ends together. If you've ever bought hand-dyed yarns, you'll have removed these from it before rolling it into a ball. Here's the only photo I took of mine (I can't find any better pictures on the 'net, sorry):

The yellow is the waste yarn. You can click on the photo to make it larger.

I suggest putting in one of those ties every foot and a half/half meter or so; they're all that stand between you and disaster. (In the form of a snarled mess. My ties were about a yard/meter apart and I barely survived without a two-hour untangling session.) On the other hand, make sure they're fairly loose, so that you don't tie-dye your yarn by accident.

The crock-pot looked like this when I was finished:

I dumped in a little bleach and swished that around with a paper towel, then scrubbed down the whole thing with dish soap and hot water and it's perfectly fine now. (There is, however, a flourescent pink wooden spoon. It's safe to cook with, though.) If you're going shopping for a crock-pot expressly for this purpose, I strongly recommend getting one with a removable liner like this (a ceramic or corning-ware pot that fits inside the metal heater casing). It makes clean-up SO much easier. I'm almost disappointed the thing came clean; I hate my crock-pot for cooking and have been half-heartedly trying to destroy it for a while now, so I can buy a new one. (This attitude, that I can't buy new with a working one already, is entirely my father's fault. I come by the cheapskate thing naturally.)

Incidentally, if you're doing a two-color job like I did, you need to do a bleach scrub BETWEEN the colors. This seems really obvious in retrospect. But I didn't, and the blue picked up pink from the sides of the crock-pot, and became an odd, variegated blue-purple streaked. I rather like it, but I wasn't going for any effect in particular - the whole thing was an experiment. If I'd been shooting for perfect blue I'd have had a hissy fit. Or a martini.

So, no green eggs and ham for the husbeast. (Though if he continues watching Band of Brothers with the baby in the living room, green pot-roast may be the least of the things he has to worry about from me.)

And I'd love to upload the photo I took today of the baby stuck in her pile of toys, but Blogger is fucking with me again. Maybe tomorrow.

Live and let dye.

For a few years now I've been wanting to experiment with dying my own yarn. What with one thing and another (you know... pregnancy, moving seven thousand miles, raising a toddler) I've just now begun the experimentation process. I've been reading up on the subject for years, and I suspect have too much knowledge for my own good. Some things are better done in ignorance. Anyway, instead of a legitimate tutorial, this is more of a rambling monologue on what I did, how it turned out, and what I'll change when I do it next time. (And why.)

My materials were two balls of "Devon" yarn from Elann. It is advertised as 'unshrinkable' which I assume is a variation on superwash, and wanted something unfeltable for my first round of boiling yarn. Seemed the safe way to go. I used the bleached, bright white yarn (color #133) because I wanted to see how bright I could get the colors; if I were going for a muted or pastel, I'd look into dying over beige, off-white, or even a very light gray. (Plus you can do all kinds of fun things, over-dying colors, but I'll get to that in another post.)

The big question on my mind for the last year or so had been, what kind of dye to use? Commercial, chemical dyes, or food-grade colorants? I finally settled on Wilton's paste food coloring for two reasons: I've got a baby in the house, and I'm a cheapskate. Using a dye based on corn syrup seems insane, but the safety issues are negligible and that became the deciding factor. It's FOOD COLORING - use whatever kitchen utensils you want, it doesn't matter. No having to go out and buy all-new everything to use for dying, and then remember not to use it for food. Plus, it's easy to find, affordable, and comes in 27+ colors. (They sell 'theme' sets of food coloring at Wilton's. Wanna knit your kid a SpongeBob sweater? Buy the food coloring kit and dye the yarn the exact colors you need. The possibilities are endless.)

FOOD COLORING ONLY WORKS ON ANIMAL FIBERS. Let's make that real obvious and get that information out there. It won't stick properly to cotton or linen.

After a few weeks of 'net searching, I had a general formula for crock-pot dying with food coloring: One teaspoon of food coloring (about 10g?), 3/4 cups/175ml of white vinegar, and water. Cook on high for two hours. Unfortunately, there wasn't any information on how much fiber that was for, or how much water to use. So I winged it.

First, I skeined the yarn. I used my table, and put a box on top of it, to make a large loop of yarn. I wanted decently long color repeats in the finished product, and that means a longer skein than your niddy-noddy will produce.

After that, I tied off yarn between the planned color sections. I wanted to see what a loose wrap would do when it came to dye absorption, so that's what I did. Otherwise, I would use a contrasting color of skeining tie to mark the color-change spots.

Then of course I put little ties all around the rest of the yarn to keep it from tangling in the dye pot. I put them about every three feet/meter, and it was too far apart; next time, I'll try every two feet.

After that I put both skeins in a bowl of water and soaked them overnight. Next time I do this, I'm going to put vinegar in the soak water instead of waiting and putting it in the dye pot. I'm not sure that will avoid the problems I had, but it should.


So, the next morning, bright and early, I put the yarn in the crock pot (with the destined-for-another-color part of the skein hanging out into the bowl of water), put in enough cool water to cover (about, oh, a liter and a half?) put in 3/4 of a cup/175ml of white vinegar, and about half of a large container of food coloring left over from the hair dye experiment over the summer. In technical terms, that's about half an ounce/14g(?) of Rose coloring.

The food coloring immediately clumped up and I had to stir like a madwoman to get it to dissolve. Stirring yarn is bad. It tangles the hell out of it. Plus if that wool hadn't been superwash, I'd probably have wound up with a crock-pot full of felt. Then I put on the lid, turned on the crock-pot and crossed my fingers.

I went back every half-hour or so and prodded the yarn with a wooden spoon, in the hopes that it would help even out the coloring. At the end of two hours, the house reeked of vinegar, and I decided the yarn had stewed enough and to hell with exhausting the dye pot. (Exhausting the dye means that your yarn is sitting in a pot of clear water; all of the dye has stuck to your yarn.) Over to the sink I went.

In an effort to not 'shock' the yarn (shocks in temperature are hell on wool), I began running hot water into the pot, and gradually shifted it back to cool. Once it was cool enough to handle, I got my hands in and began gently squishing out the dye; my hands turned pink. Lovely.

Then I shifted the yarn; white bits into the crock-pot and the already dyed part in the bowl.

For the blue round (cornflower blue food coloring), I tried some things differently. I used VERY little dye in comparison to the first round; a bit about the size of a bean. Then I dissolved it in a tea cup with hot water before pouring it into the crock-pot, which was already full of water. And I only used a half cup/125ml of vinegar. I flipped it on, and away we went again.

This time, instead of waiting and waiting and waiting for the dye pot to exhaust, I pulled the yarn when I liked the color (allowing for the fact that it would be lighter when it dried); it took about an hour. Then back to the sink for more rinsing and squishing. Since I was completely finished dying, I also added a squirt of dish soap and gave the whole thing a wash.

Then I laid it out on racks over the sink and left it to dry overnight. In the morning, it still wasn't dry (next time I will run it through a spin cycle in the washing machine), so I hung it up away from the baby, and left it for the rest of the day.

That evening, I untied the skeins and wound them into balls, and then from there put them on my ball-winder and produced center-pull wheels. My fingers turned pink from handling the yarn, but no blue rubbed off. I'm putting that down to WAY too much dye in the pot; once I knit it up, I'm going to give it a really good wash and that should solve the problem. I'll never use that much dye again.

One reason for the color choice in this experiment was to try producing a decent purple along where the colors met; when using vinegar as a mordant, that's tricky, because it tends to turn purples red. I did manage to produce a nice violet, so the two-part dye process does work.

I also wanted to see how bright I could get food-coloring based dyes; the answer is, pretty damn bright. This pink is flourescent. I, the big fan of bright colors, am even hoping it will fade some. It almost hurts the eyes.

Use less dye than you think you need; you can always add more.

Less vinegar means slightly uneven coloring. The color doesn't 'take up' as fast, either.

Unless you've got a really good reason not to, use superwash yarn. It saves a lot of trouble and worry.

Keep track of exactly how much yarn, water, food coloring, and vinegar you use, and what the timing and temperatures are, if you want a hope in hell of reproducing the effect, ever again.

Pull the yarn when it's a shade or two darker than you want it, don't wait for the dye pot to exhaust.

Use a lot of ties to keep your yarn from tangling; winding up is the worst part of the whole deal.

This was really, really fun, and I want to do it again soon. I'm thinking it would be nice to do a tie-dye overdye with this cornflower blue overtop of either a light blue or an aqua, and then use it as one color of a two-color stranded knit. And I wanna up the vinegar content in the dye to make the color 'take' really fast, and then try pour dying, where you just dump color over the yarn and see what happens. And...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Why my in-laws are cool.

Do they say, "Why must you dress our grandchild like a freakazoid?"


Do they say, "What are you doing in the boy's department when shopping for our beloved granddaughter?"


They say, "Here, let us pay for that."

I now have the punkest baby, ever. (And notice, she's standing on her own? Still won't walk.)

Camo pants for babies. Mwahahahaha.

Another book review.

I've been on a book-buying frenzy lately, haven't I? I think it's because, with the yarn already sitting here for my next five or six projects, my brain immediately thinks "ooooo, books". Plus I quit buying knitting books a couple years ago, thinking everything useful was already published. Boy, was I wrong. So now I've got a bunch of titles to catch up on.

Anyway, books.

"Poems of Color" by Wendy Keele.

This is the book I knit the Blue Shimmer from, and am giving a copy to my mother-in-law along with the sweater. It's got a detailed history of Bohus Stickning, and sixteen patterns, most of them adapted for pullover, cardigan, hat, and mittens. With a little creativity you could do socks or scarves. (With a magnifying glass and some mathy tinkering, you could probably skim off another three or four patterns from the photos in the book.) Only six or seven of the patterns-in-the-back are what I think of as classic Bohus designs, but they're all pretty cool looking. All are done with stranded color knitting.

"Gossamer Webs" by Khmeleva and Noble.

Contains the long and rather depressing history of the ladies of Orenburg and their lace knitting. The main thing that makes an Orenburg shawl what it is, is material; they use 'goat down' that I imagine is close enough to cashmere as makes no difference (they're right over the mountains from Kashmir, on the Russian/northern side). They ply it with silk (!!!) and knit one or two color shawls with it. Other than the way they put on edgings (which is pretty damn clever, and I'm using it for next year's state fair entry), it's all fairly standard lace knitting. I'd skip this book unless you're really really really interested in esoteric lace-knitting skills or esoteric textile history, or both.

"Anatolian Knitting Designs" by Betsy Harrell.
(Fucking Blogger is refusing to upload the picture, so here's the link.)
Turkish sock patterns, baby! (Yes, I realize Turkey and Anatolia are not quite the same thing; if I said 'Anatolian socks, baby!' would you know where I was talking about?) I could knit a year on the stuff in this book. Deceptively simple-yet-complex-looking two-color patterns are the order of the day. There are about ninety of them, plus some text in the back about where the patterns come from and the folk traditions that created them. If you want it, move fast. I think Schoolhouse Press is the only place to get this book, and they're going out of stock.

"Celtic Charted Designs" by Co Spinhoven.

This is the one Alice Starmore ripped off to do "The Celtic Collection", but there's about a thousand more very cool charts besides the ones she used. (Okay, three hundred and eighty.) This is another book I could knit out of for a year, at least. It was originally created for cross-stitchers and needle-pointers, but since stranded color knitting is 'square' (the row and stitch gauges are the same), you can knit from the charts easily, though some charts are a little large to use the whole thing (even I am not going to knit a sweater a thousand stitches wide, sorry). Looooove this book.

I love getting books like the last two, because they motivate me. All those fantastic patterns make me want to finish everything I've got on the needles so I can dig into those and knit something new and cool and fascinating.

Now if you excuse me, I have to go break up a cat/baby brawl. I think the world domination plan is off again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Things I keep forgetting.

All my Christmas shopping is done. You may leave me hate comments for that. Other than two and a half scarves, the Christmas knitting is done, too. Hate me, hate meeeeeee. (This will not be the case next year, at least not with the knitting. But we always shop early 'cause I hate being broke in December.)

My mother-in-law wore a sweater I knit her when we all went out, Wednesday. It's a Christmas present from three or four years ago:

It's another turkish sock pattern, knit in lopi. I've been gradually perfecting the whole concept over the last several years. Anyway, not only does she take good care of the sweater and WEAR it, she went out and bought that turtle-neck because it exactly matched the lighter tone in the sweater. How can you not enjoy knitting for someone like that? (She's gonna freak when she sees the Blue Shimmer.)

There is no photo of the baby stuffed full of Thanksgiving dinner and unable to move. Unlike the rest of us, she had enough common sense to not eat that much at one time, and stayed on her usual meal schedule. (The rest of us stuffed ourselves in early afternoon and then had several pieces of pie, each, as a combination dinner and snack.) The baby does love pumpkin pie, though. We ate the rest of it for breakfast today.

We will not discuss the gravy. Oy.

The dye bath is almost exhausted and I'm about to do a rinse and then start on the other color (cornflower blue). I'm documenting the entire process with the camera, so I can subject everyone to a tutorial later. (Not that I have any freaking clue what I'm doing, here - this is the first time I've dyed anything since a round of tee shirts in 1986.) So far the yarn appears to be really fucking pink. Or as the husbeast says, "That's not pink. It's PINK!"

Yarn fumes.

It's very heady here at House O' Samurai. We've got wool stewing in dye, in the kitchen. I swear it smells better than Thanksgiving dinner. (Okay, it really smells like dirty diaper, but I don't care.)

The yarn hanging out of the crock-pot is destined for a different color. (The husbeast saw this and said "Is this going to stain the crock-pot?" I said, "It doesn't matter, it's food coloring." he said, "I don't want to eat pink pot roast." I said, "I'm doing another color after this. You'll be eating purple pot roast." he said, "Oh, that's fine then." and glared at me.)

Otherwise, I'm working on the Knucks and fondling the lopi for my jacket:

After the Knucks are done, it's back to The Bloody Damn Scarves. (I'm finishing and blocking the Husbeast Gansey Monday, when he's at work and won't see. Photos then.)

Now if you'll excuse me, the husbeast and the baby are up to no good and I've got to go rescue my house.

There should be YET ANOTHER book review coming up here, shortly.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A happy day to all.

Even y'all who aren't celebrating Thanksgiving. (And those of you who are, and don't want to be, may your day be short, perhaps with a nice wine to take the edge off.)

We've had a nice day so far - I got to cook dinner ALONE! Without having to ride herd on the baby! My mother-in-law took over baby duty and I had a lovely, peaceful day, cooking. (I like to cook, if allowed to do it my way, in my own time, with everyone leaving me alone. They did.) At the moment everyone is parked in front of the TV (Sci-Fi is running a Eureka marathon), reading papers, doing puzzles, and attempting to digest. I'm thinking I need a head start on that pumpkin pie I baked last night; they've got a lemon merengue to keep them happy, shouldn't I get to eat the pumpkin pie myself?

We'll see if I get away with it.

This was sort of the baby's first Thanksgiving; she was around for last year's, but wasn't eating solid food other than rice cereal, and I figure, if you can't eat on Thanksgiving, it's almost like not being there. This year she had a lovely time. She appears to have a prefrence for corn bread and cranberry sauce, and doesn't like green beans.

That's a Baltic amber necklace the baby's going for in that picture; apparently my kid has good taste in jewelry.

Now I'm gonna go skein yarn for the dye pot tomorrow. Oh, and I've got the fingers of the Knucks done, and half of one hand. (I figure once they're done, it's speed knitting on the scarves. Urgh.) Aaaand, I got my lopi for my jacket for the steek-along. Photos soon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So, so busted.

I've got to go bake pies, but I thought I'd check in really quick with my scandalous revelation of last evening.

Remember all the books I bought? One of them was "Celtic Charted Designs" by Co Spinhoven (available at Schoolhouse Press, if you want it, it's very nice.) For the record, it's copyright is 1987. Remember that date.

Imagine my surprise when I recognized a lot of patterns from another book:

That's right. "Celtic Collection" by Alice Starmore. Copyright 1992. As in, AFTER the charted Celtic designs book.

We're not talking 'inspired by', we're talking direct copies. Interesting behavior from someone who made a hobby of suing people right and left for copyright infringement.

Just for the record:
"Ardagh" is chart #42.
"Alba" is chart #123.
The bottom edge of "Ardagh" is almost a direct copy of #196.
"Donegal" is pattern #216.
And the animals in "Erin" are a copy of chart #378 with spots added.

In and of itself, I don't see anything wrong with knitting from these charts. I plan to do it, and I recognized some patterns used by other designers. But they aren't copyright crusaders, either, now, are they?

Very, very interesting.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

And then it rained.

It's barely above freezing here, and has been pouring rain since the storm moved in last night around ten. The broken-glass hedgehogs are back, throwing parties in my wrist. And my elbow. And my shoulders. So I'm heavily drugged and babbling. Whee.

In a fit of motivation, I finished the Husbeast Gansey today (except for the armpit grafting - that waits until I can see straight). My mother-in-law had a rough week last week and wanted to hang around today, relaxing. So we did. It was nice. She knits too (as a result of my nefarious influence).

This morning the baby helped her grandpa do his work:
Quote of the morning, "Hey, I think she deleted my hard drive."

Then the baby found the best place in the room to sit while watching cartoons; grandma's lap.

I'm not raising a dumb kid. Heh.

Monday, November 20, 2006

One other thing.

The baby's still cute. That's my hat she's putting on.

Blocking lace.

Wearable lace, that is. As opposed to decorative lace like doilies.

See, in decorative lace blocking, you use starch to hold it in shape. All the starch you want. Or even glue. But for wearable lace, you are relying entirely on the fibers to do their thing, to dry into the shape you want and then stay there. (Some fibers don't dry into any shape at all, particularly synthetics. You wash and pin and block and even steam, and the yarn remains curled-up weirdness just like when you took it off the needles.)

With this in mind, it's important to get the fiber WET. Swishing it through water isn't going to cut it. The water will sit on the surface of the fiber, to be blotted off again later, and it will be like you did nothing. No, for this kind of blocking, you want to soak.

When dying, you're supposed to soak your fibers; wool over night, cotton and silk even longer. And while that seems a bit extreme, you do need to leave your lace in water for a good bit. Generally, I leave the lace in the water until it sinks to the bottom, give it another half hour, and then pull the drain. This scarf is knit out of SilkyWool and took two hours, total, in the sink; an hour and a half to sink to the bottom and another half hour for good measure.

After that, drain it. DO NOT WRING THE KNITTING. If you've gotta, press on the knitting a bit and squoosh the water out of it, but remember - the water's what is going to work the magic when it comes to blocking, so mashing all the water out BEFORE it's blocked totally defeats the purpose.

Take your knitting out of the sink and lay it out on a towel or two:

If this were regular stockinette knitting, this is where I'd roll it up in the towel and stand on it to get rid of the water, or put it through the spin cycle in the washer to spin it out. But we've discussed how this defeats the purpose, so carefully roll up your knitting into the towel and transport it to wherever you're going to do the pinning-out. This will blot up a goodly bit of water, but leave enough to get the job done.

Spread out your lace, and pick somewhere to start pinning. Either an end, in the case of a scarf like this, or a long straight side in the case of a shawl. Stretch it quite a lot, but not to the absolute maximum it can be stretched. I'd say 90% of it's total possible width. Pin it down straight. Then measure it.

Do that at the other end; stretch the scarf to about 90% of it's possible length, then pin down the end to the same width as the other one. (That's why you measured.) Eyeball the center of the scarf, and pin that out to the proper width, too:

From there it's a simple progression.

Pin out at the one-quarter and three-quarter marks (halfway between the end and the center), then do the one-eighths, and after that, just pull it out everywhere along it's length and pin it down. Measure everything as you go so it doesn't look weird.

That's it. Leave it to dry, then unpin it and fling it about your neck with great flair and style. (Since the fibers are really wet, plan on giving it twelve hours to dry.)

Scarf knitted by April the wonder knitter. I just blocked it for her. So bravo, April!

This soaking method should work on any natural fiber, including silk, so long as very thin filaments are handled carefully. I've immersed silk before and it was fine (except for the dye bleeding like a stuck pig), and wool is a lot sturdier than you'd think. Keep the water as close to room temperature as possible; it's shocks in temperature that cause most problems with fibers, not heat. And for crying out loud, don't scrub the stuff around.

And if this cat bites me one more time because I'm petting her, it's no catnip for her.

I had a dream.

The other night... I dreamed I was spinning yarn. (Mind you, I've never spun any kind of fiber in my life, though I've watched it done and find it all very mesmerising.) In the dream I was working with a very dark teal-colored roving full of lumps, and when I spun it, it turned into light-blue two-ply sport weight.

I'm very talented.

Lately I've been having this horrible urge to branch out on the fiber arts, and am wavering between a loom or a spinning wheel for next year's mad-money tax return purchase. (It's not unusual for me to spend the tax return ten or twenty times in my head, before I actually get it in my hot little hands.) Mind you, the baby's getting more and more active, which is cutting into my knitting time more and more often, and school will rear it's ugly book-shaped head in about a year. I'd do far better to buy myself a laptop with the tax return and content myself with dying yarns. Which is probably what will happen.

There happens to be a spinning wheel in the family, living in the basement of the husbeast's parents' house. It is really really really old, and I do believe lacks any kind of flyer or head unit thingie. I haven't looked at it in a couple years, but I think it's just wheel, frame, and pedal. When I'm there in December I'm going to take another look at it and see if it's worth salvaging for use or not. Probably not, but you never know.

Otherwise, not much goes on here. I've got most of the cleaning done that I wanted to get done; everything's straight except my office, and really, I could clean at this office for weeks and not have it done, so to hell with it. (I just heard something fall over in the Yarn Closet. I'm afraid to look.) The rest of the day will be spent in more interesting pursuits - grocery shopping, yarn skeining (maybe, if I have time), baby art, and I need to bake a lemon merengue pie.

And just maybe, some knitting. You never know.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Somebody come clean my house.

'Cause the in-laws get here tomorrow and it's still a disaster. And I don't care any more.

I finished the review of Vogue Knitting. Since I started it yesterday, Blogger posted it down below yesterday's blog post. Or you can click here. Most of my outrage this issue is aimed at whoever styled the photos, not the projects themselves. Though some of them suck, too. (I know, I shouldn't say anything unless I can do better. But the annoying thing is, in some cases, I CAN do better. I gurandamntee that I'd come up with a better project than that fucking Koigu coat, given the same materials.)

Ahem. Othwerwise, I am avoiding housework by knitting. I've got over half the Knuck fingers done and have a shoulder strap and a half to go on the Husbeast Gansey. We won't discuss the damn scarves. I'm considering skeining the yarn I'm going to dye next week, too. Because it'd beat doing housework.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A day of cleaning and art and yarn.

Kind of in that order.

I got up and cleaned, mostly shelving ten million knitting books. Those OTHER books I ordered this week? Definitely oozing onto the third shelf. I'm gonna have to clear off the junk on that shelf so there's room for everything. I'm thinking I should hold some kind of contest to give away some books, but darn it... I want them all. We'll see. Maybe I can give away my copy of "The Principles of Knitting."

Haha. Just kidding.

Then I blocked a scarf someone sent me. I got paid for it, so I guess I'm a professional blocker now, but I feel like a fraud. At any rate, I took photos and will do an upcoming tutorial on how to block lace scarves, so we'll all have some benefit. (And, April, the scarf turned out really nice. Good job knitting it... I hope you wanted a sixty-inch scarf, 'cause lace stretches, particularly when knit with wool. Just caught the new by-line on your blog, and am laughing my ass off. Nice new photo, too.)

Then (I know you guys live for these run-downs of my days), I decided it was time The Baby learned about crayons. She's right-handed. The odds were in favor of it.

That's me, leaning over her shoulder. She seems to prefer the flat end of the crayon, because she can get bigger swipes of color that way. It was very interesting; she caught on really fast and was quite deliberate about how and where she put the color. None of that random scribbling you see from most young kids. (I'm sure she'll get to it.) I'd post a photo of her work in it's place of honor on the refrigerator, but the camera batteries are dead. She cried when we put the crayons away. I think we've got a budding artist. When grandma and grandpa get here next week, it's gonna be finger painting.

Anyway. The Elann order came, and it contained the $10 shade card for Highland Wool. I confess I was mildly disgusted by the price - most shade cards run $5 or less, and in this case, they're the only ones selling the yarn so it's assured the shade card will lead to purchase from them so it's almost like advertising. HOWEVER. It's a REALLY nice shade card, worth every penny. Eight-inch samples of each of NINETY-EIGHT COLORS. Eeeeeeee! Ninety-eight freakin' colors!!!! I've found the yarn I need to do several projects I have in the pipe for the Year of Me. It should felt, too, and there are enough colors if I ever have the time and lose my mind and try to knit the Map Coat. Happy happy happy. Should work just fine for any Fassett lunacy, into the bargain.

So, that's my day. Oh, and I wrote a rude review of the Holiday Issue of Vogue Knitting but I can't get asshole Blogger to upload the photos; I'll try that once I post this. (Or not. I just had to go through all sorts of BS to upload the next baby shot.)

And one more baby photo, becase I know that's the only reason any of you really come here. From October of '05, it's another of our favorites. She was two months old.

Vogue Holiday 2006 review.

I can't help it. It's a compulsion. A sickness. As always, photos from the Vogue web site and anything in quotes is their copy. I refer to the patterns by number, not page.

1. White lace Christmas stocking. With cables. Out of alpaca. They use the word 'heirloom'. Oh, please.

2. A little short-sleeved lace top out of - ha - Doucer et Soie. Of course I think anyone's insane to work with that yarn, but it's nice enough if you're looking for lace that causes heat stroke and want everyone to see your festive bra.

3. Cableknit in cashmere. It probably wouldn't be too bad in another yarn; still, it's cables, so it's bulky, and there's at least one panel in there done sideways for some reason. Plus some dorky ribbon wound around the shoulders and tied in a bow. ???

Four and five are missing; my copy had the page torn out. Ain't that sweet? reconstructing from the patterns in the back, we seem to have... oh, that's nice, the pattern pages are torn out, too. Talk about copyright infringement. I hope some theiving asshole slips on some ice this holiday season.

6. Lace cardigan with ruffly V neck. Not to my taste, but wearable.

7. Looooong, bulky, cabled coat with buttons the size of dinner plates and a massive shawl collar. AND the stylist had the model wear it over a green taffeta full-length gown while pushing a tree in a wheelbarrow. Because we ALL need overgrown sweaters to throw over our ball gowns when we're in the mood for a spot of landscaping.

8. Rather run-of-the-mill Fair Isle beret.

9. Felted bag. Pretty colors, but it's big enough to carry my cat, my kid, AND a week's clothing for all three of us. It needs luggage wheels on the bottom, or should come with a fork lift.

10. Run-of-the-mill navy blue cabled turtleneck. Oh, but look! It comes in sizes up to 2x! We're supposed to be impressed! Why the hell didn't they do this sooner, like, oh, 1960?

11. Tweedy scarf with "woodsy intarsia motifs". I want to know how much designers get paid for coming up with something like this, because I'm betting it's a hell of a paycheck for the work involved.

12. Grey cable-knit scarf anyone with a copy of Barbara Walker could come up with. It's thrown on top of (not wrapped around, just lumped on top of) some hunched over statue. Has the stylist been fired yet?

13. Maroon cable-knit with short sleeves, cowl neck, AND A BIG HONKING CABLED BOW RIGHT ACROSS THE TITS. Very attractive. I want me one of them.

14. Cable-knit (I sense a trend here) twin set. Nice. I could make up the pattern myself in twenty minutes.

15. Fitted cable-knit jacket with deep V neck and bell sleeves. If you cut the waist in to make it look small, why, then, are you tying a bigass kntited belt around it?

16. Yet another navy blue cable-knit. This one has a V neck and comes in plus sizes. Oooh. Wouldn't it be nice if plus sized people had more than navy blue cable-knits to choose from?

17. Pink thneed. Super-bulky, with bobbles. SUPER BULKY BOBBLES. There ought to be a law. The model looks like a bald mammoth. With warts.

18. Very Easy Very Vogue wrap. In blue stockinette. Looks like a bath robe.

19. Ruffled pullover vest-thingie. Wobbly poofs up from the shoulders, and TWO leather belts wrapped around it at the waist. Can we PLEASE kill the stylist? What in the FUCK? And doesn't the model look delighted?

20. Sideways knit short-sleeve cardigan. Eh.

21. Asian-inspired pullover with asymetric neck-to-shoulder seam and funky color pattern done over one shoulder and sleeve with the rest of the pullover done in solid olive green. I have no idea why it appeals to me because it's really weird looking. Really creative, putting an Asian model in an Asian-style sweater. Gosh. Never would have thought of that. And what's up with the red belt?

22. Slinky wrap with floral motifs. By Annie Modisett (why am I not shocked? She always turns out nice, wearable stuff.) Pretty if you go for that kind of thing.

23. Red sweater with gold and black edging. This started off as a cool idea, but I'd put in shoulder seams, fix the waist, and make everything longer. And not knit it out of SILK. Jeez. Bankruptcy and heat stroke, all in one project! Nice nipples. Really.

24. Slouchy crossover jacket with an entrelac bottom half. I don't know why it's in the dressup section; it'd be nice as a knock-around jacket, but to wear out to a party? Please. And WHYWHYWHY would you do entrelac in one color? It totally misses the point of it.

25. Two words. Koigu train wreck. Oh, that's three. Well. Here's another word then: Horrifying. And why in HELL is the model wearing big clonky leather boots??? Oh, I forgot. The stylist has the IQ of a rutabega.

26&27. Dorky purple vest and matching overgrown purple hat. Due to the stupid modeling poses, you can't really even see the vest. "See the enormous impact one tertiary tint can make." Good copy doesn't cover up hideous design. Plus purple's a secondary color, not a tertiary one. Morons.

28. Purple knit halter dress worn over a blue turtleneck, with blue tights and knee high brown leather work boots. There are no words. I swear I am not making this up. (Honestly, the dress wouldn't be bad in summer, all by itself, without the stylist making it look like someone's closet threw up on the model.)

29. AAAAH! My grandma's afghan is attacking that model! Quick! Save her!!

30. Brandon Mably rips off Teva Durham's short-row fair isle idea, but is too lazy to actually do fair isle, and so makes crooked stripes. Niiiice. Shame Teva can't sue for idea theft and destruction of a neat concept.

31. Braided scarf. Neat, but again, why do it in one color? It'd have more impact done in several.

32. Patterned jacket in teal blue. I like it, but the sleeves are too short and the collar's too big.

33. Mini-dress knit in metallic yarn. Very seventies. And the model looks irritated and has one hip cocked to the side and her hand pressed to her leg, which probably means the dress fits like a sack.

34. Overgrown wrap thing. It sort of reminds me of a slime mold, the way they ooze when filmed in stop-motion photography. I think we should feed the stylist to it.

35. One-shouldered sleeveless top. More hip-cocking and hand pressing. The sweater comes down over the woman's butt, to make SURE her hips look bigger.

36. Sleevless metallic vest-thingie, also at the wrong hip-growing length. Looks like Burberry tweed woven out of copper shavings.

That, thankfully, is the end.

I've got to quit buying this magazine. Got. To.