Friday, June 25, 2010

Alhambra Scarf Happiness

Pattern:  Alhambra Scarf by Anne Hanson
Source:  Knitspot
Materials: 1 skein Sea Silk in "Pumpkin" and US 3 circular needles
My Modifications:  I knit 6 extra patterns repeats for a longer scarf. 

After knitting the recommended 16 pattern repeats, the scarf didn't seem long enough.  I perused Ravelry for Alhambra FOs and found that many knitters wished their scarves were longer.  I decided just to finish the whole skein of Sea Silk.  After blocking it is just over 5 ft. long.  I love this color!

I'm getty ready to pick up our boy from the airport.  Tonight he is getting his favorites:  lasagne, green beans steamed right after being picked from the garden, and homemade banana chocolate chip bread for dessert.  Can you tell I missed him?   (I'll be glad to get my camera back too!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Taking my own advice...

The Alhambra scarf is being blocked.  With that done, and the Vinnland socks waiting for their giftee, that's 2 items checked off the list in as many days.  It's a personal record, but only because our son is on a trip this week.  I miss him, but I am taking advantage of the extra knitting time.  And though I have more UFO's, I'm just not capable of doing all of the finishing work for 2 things in a row without casting on for a new project. 
There are sweaters in my queue, more gift-sock skeins waiting, as well as some shawls that are calling to me (esp. Citron).  But, I'm going to take my own advice and cast on some socks for the current afghans for Afghans Summer of Socks drive. 

I have this Lorna's Laces sport weight leftover from a baby blanket.  I'm thinking about using my favorite Priscilla's Dream Socks pattern, but knitting them toe-up with the method I just learned from knitting Vinnland.  I'll let you know how it works out.  I'm off to wind yarn. 
(P.S.  Angie this means you have more time to decide which sock pattern you want!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

FO - Vinnland Socks

A "P.S." before posting: 
If you are a sock knitter like me, or even if you haven't knit socks but you wish to learn, consider knitting a pair for afghans for Afghans.  They haven't posted their new campaign on their webpage yet, but they are looking for socks in children's and women's sizes.  You can even learn to knit socks, as you knit a pair for them, by following along in their KAL blog sock class.  Believe me, if you choose a simple pattern, and knit a smaller size, socks are practically instant-gratification knitting, and someone will appreciate having warm feet!

On to Vinnland:  They are washed and blocked now, so I thought I would share a better photo and an overview.

Pattern:  Vinnland, by Becca Compton
Source:  The AntiCraft, a webzine
Materials:  1 skein Miss Babs Bamboo Baby in "Grapitude", and US 2 circular needles
My Modifications:  I used a different bind off than the one called for, as noted in yesterday's post.

My favorite thing about these socks?  There are no seams!
They are knit from the toe-up, starting with a provisional cast-on from the point where the seam normally would be. ( I refreshed my memory on a basic provisional cast on with this tutorial by Knit and Tonic.)  Then after knitting a short-row toe from top to bottom, the original stitches of the provisional cast on are picked up, and the knitting continues in a circle until all that is left is binding off and weaving in ends - Yay!

Other pattern notes:
Gauge:  I swatched on US 1, US 2, and US 3.  I got the called for gauge of 29sts for 4" on the US 3 in the swatching process, but realized as I started knitting the socks that it was off.  I went back to US 2 for the socks and it worked.  Go figure!
Needles:  The pattern is written for DPNs but easily adjustable to the Magic Loop method. 
Stitch pattern:  Easy to follow and addictive!  The author provides written instructions of the 16 row stitch pattern repeat, as well as a downloadable chart.

Overall, a great pattern.  I'm almost ready to cast on for another pair!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vinnland Socks Bind-Off

The Vinnland socks have been almost done for 2 whole weeks.  I finally realized that some quiet time, interrupted by neither beast nor man, had yet to magically occur.  (Even as I typed the last sentence, the phone rang, the cat tried to sit on the computer, and a neighbor knocked on the door!)  So this afternoon I barricaded myself in our spare room for an hour.  Armed with the computer, some knitting tools, and, of course, some chocolate, I sat down to finish up.

My big plan was to learn how to do the "K2P2 Grafted Bind Off" from the pattern, and take photos to share what I learned.  It didn't quite work out that way.  I began to follow the instructions, and realized that the Grafted Bind Off is very similar to the kitchener stitch.  Even though it is a bind off, not a seam, it is just like seaming.  You divide the purl stitches and knit stitches onto 2 separate needles and then use a yarn needle to to draw the working yarn through the stitches in a set series of steps.  I quickly realized that I was having a hard time maintaining even tension.

So, I decided to google "stretchy bind off for ribbing" and was amazed at all the choices that came up.  After reading about a number of them, I settled on this one described in a post by Grumperina (scroll down past the 3rd photo to see her bind off instructions).  She also included one of my favorite knitting tips:  go up one needle size to avoid binding off too tightly. 
I was a little worried at first that the cuff looks slightly flared, but I don't think it will when the sock is actually being worn. 

You can see what I mean here:

But here is the sock on a sock blocker:

(My regular camera is on a trip with my son, I couldn't seem to get good pictures with the only other camera that was available.)

My goal was to finish with a stretchy bind off that still looks tidy, and I am pretty happy with the final product.  I am off to wash and block them.  Now I just hope they fit!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Socks! Not From Antarctica!

Hey, remember this post?  Well, when we got back from our San Francisco trip, a very nice package was waiting in the stack of mail:

Bullwinkle/Eva, the Out of Yarn blogger, was very nice and knit the socks as a contest prize even though she didn't get to go on the trip to Antarctica.  The socks are great.

And she even included a gift of sock yarn in the package along with a note apologizing for the socks taking a long time to get here.  Totally unnecessary but still much appreciated!

It is Socks That Rock lightweight in the "Flower Power" colorway, which is a beautiful combination of colors.
Thank you Eva!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Knitting in Public

First, check out this raffle:  The prize is so nice, I wanted to make up new email addresses and enter multiple times.  Instead I decided to tell you about it.  Go to the Winged Knits blog to read about the prize, then go to the Quince and Co. website to enter.

This year worldwide Knit in Public day became a whole week.  I haven't had a chance to participate in a group event, but I'm doing my part while visiting San Francisco on a short family vacation.  I've made progress on my Alhambra Scarf:

In the hotel lobby,

in front of the Ferry Building with a view of the Bay Bridge,
and even at a Giants game:
I admit I didn't get very much knitting done during the game.  After correcting 3 mistakes, I decided that maybe beer, baseball, and lace knitting didn't mix that well after all.  But we did get to watch Tim Lincecum strike out 10 batters.

I hope you are having a nice week and maybe even doing a little knitting in public.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chick Knits

Well, I'm still waiting for that magical moment to finish the Vinnland Socks.  You know, the uninterrupted time, free of distractions, that never seems to arrive?  I'm sure it's not difficult to do the grafting, but I want to do it well, as they will be a gift.  Soon. 

Meanwhile, here are my latest distractions, newly hatched Araucana chicks:

One of our hens had been sitting on a clutch of eggs, which we thought were due to hatch today.  So, we were surprised on Thursday, when collecting eggs, to find they had already started to hatch.  As we were wrong about the timing, we hadn't yet separated the broody hen from the other girls.  And, unfortunately, other laying hens had hurt some of the fragile half-hatched eggs.  My son held out a cracked shell in his hand, looked up at me with worry in his eyes, and said, "Mom, we have to help them."  Luckily, we had some incubators stashed away.  We set them up in the house, and carefully moved the remaining eggs into them.  It wasn't until the next day that this happened:

Finding myself without an appropriate knitting project, I did what many of us knitters would do when we know we will be sitting around waiting:  I cast on for a new project.

This is the Alhambra Scarf pattern, by the talented Anne Hanson, of Knitspot.  I love the color of scarf pictured on the pattern, so I dug into my stash for this Handmaiden Sea Silk in Pumpkin.  I knit away, while checking on the hatching chicks and moving them into a brooder, under a heat lamp, to dry off then they were ready.  Soon enough, the little fuzz balls were rested from their ordeal and finding their way around. . .
So, the chicks are happy and healthy, and I have a new knitting project!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Which one of these ladybugs is not a lady?

Now that our boy has officially graduated from 8th grade, I've been preparing the garden for summer.  I've been busy watering, weeding, mulching, and doing one of my least favorite jobs, dealing with squash bugs.  I keep finding them mating on my pumpkin and squash vines.  In the middle of this unpleasant task, I was happy to see that they are not the only ones finding mates out there. 

I couldn't resist going in to get the camera, as I wondered, "Should I use the "action" setting?" 
I didn't want to scare them away, as there are plenty of aphids which I hope they, and their offspring, will dine on.  Still I had to take a few pics.  And to tell you the truth, they did not seem to be bothered in the least, even when I zoomed in for a closeup of their romantic rendezvous.

Meanwhile, both Vinnland socks are now just waiting for the bind off, with plenty of yarn leftover.  I hope to finish up in the next day or two.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Socks and Shrooms

Our son's last day of final exams was a half-day yesterday, so we used the afternoon to do one more check of our porcini and morel spots.  The pickings were sparse, probably due to a combination of the weird weather we are having this spring, and other mushroom hunters beating us to the ones that did grow.  No matter.... like always, it was more about the hunting, than the finding.  It's always good to hike around in the pines with views of snow-covered Mt. Shatsa nearby.

We squeezed 2 adults, 2 dogs, and 3 teenagers into the car, so I ended up riding around with the mushroom basket on my lap.  Still I used the driving time to finish one Vinnland sock.  I haven't done the bind off yet, because Becca Compton included specific instructions for grafting k2, p2 ribbing that I will take more time with when both socks are done.  Another new skill.... I'll show you when I get there.  I highly recommend this pattern and just might have to make a 2nd pair for myself sometime.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garden Celebration or Diet Disaster?

I'll let you decide....
Ever since my post about the 10,000 steps program, I've been making an effort to exercise more and eat healthier.  After reading about blueberries as a "superfood" I had been talking to my husband about replanting some blueberry bushes.  (We used to have a short row of them, but that was before our chickens were fenced in behind our house.  The chickens would always find the ripe blueberries before we did, and eventually the bushes died, embarassingly enough, simply from lack of care.)  To my surprise my family added 8 bushes to our garden as a Mother's Day gift to me. 
The info from the nursery recommended that we pinch all the flowers off the bushes the 1st year, so that more energy would go towards developing healthy roots and strong plants, instead of towards producing fruit.  We just couldn't bring ourselves to do it.  We wanted to enjoy the blueberries this year.  Yesterday, we gathered our first harvest, along with some snow pea shoots which we sauteed for dinner:
It's a good thing we ate our greens, because somehow I was talked into making this with the blueberries, along with some strawberries and cherries that we picked up from our favorite local stand:

   It's the Pinwheel Fruit Tart from The Silver Palate Cookbook.  It's basically a big, buttery, shortbread cookie topped with pastry cream and fruit.  I substituted whole wheat flour for the white flour, and used skim milk to make the pastry cream.  But still, I think the health benefits of the berries and cherries were cancelled out by the butter, sugar, and egg yolks.  Still, I had a slice for breakfast, before knitting away on the Vinnland socks on this lazy Sunday.  The bushes seem healthy enough despite our refusal to follow instructions, and at least the chickens aren't getting the berries this year.  I wonder how many calories I'm burning while knitting socks?

Friday, June 4, 2010

What I'm Working On Now (FO - Betsy's Socks)

During the last 6 yrs. of my knitting adventures, I've knit projects for myself (of course). I've knit for family members, and for friends. I've knit hats and sweaters for charity. I've knit baby gifts. I've even knit items and sold them. Some of the items I've made, for myself and others, have been well-received and well-loved; others. . . not so much. This year, I've fixated on a sure-fire way of getting more satisfaction out of my gift-knitting time. I am knitting socks for other knitters.

It actually started last Fall, while traveling through the Bay Area, I fortuitously stopped by the friendly yarn store K2Tog.  I say fortuitously, because my visit coincided with the arrival of a gloriously large shipment of Malabrigo.  After fondling the gorgeous piles of the stuff, I limited myself to 2 skeins of Malabrigo Sock yarn.  Once I got home from the trip, I realized, as much as I loved the yarn, I already had many pairs of hand-knit socks.  On the other hand, a knitting friend whose birthday was imminent, had yet to knit herself a pair.  From there, it was a no-brainer, and this is where the 2 skeins of Malabrigo Sock ultimately went.

In March, another pair of Priscilla's Dream Socks in Malabrigo, this time in Ravelry Red, went out as a birthday gift to a knitter:

At this point, the element of surprise is gone, so I'm asking the rest of my little circle of knitting friends to choose their own sock yarn and patterns.

Which brings me to my current WIP.  A friend who met up with us at Stitches West chose Miss Babs "Bamboo Baby" Superwash Sock & Baby Yarn, in the color Grapitude, and settled on the Vinnland (Rav link) pattern by Becca Compton.

So far, I'm really enjoying knitting these up.  The color is beautiful, and the pattern is cleverly written.
I like how the beauty of the design pops out once the sock is stretched to actual foot-size.  Maybe this is something only someone as easily amused, and overly fascinated with knitting, like me can appreciate, but I'll share:

I've turned the heel on both socks, and they'll be done before my next visit with their recipient, which means my other knitting friends might want to be thinking about which pattern they might like to have on their feet in a few months.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A little something for my bird-watching friends...

After all the mushroom hunting, my husband was telling our 13 yr. old that he needed a new nickname.  (All of our fellow mushroom hunters seem to have one.)  They had settled on either "Owl Eyes" or "Hoot" as a nod to his sharp vision (he always finds the most mushrooms).   Later that day, our flock of chickens started cackling the danger calls they make whenever a predator is nearby.  We went out in the back yard and found this lovely Barn Owl in our walnut tree:

Only a few hours later, we heard hooting, and spotted a huge Great Horned Owl in the top of a tall pine tree in our front yard.  We decided the owls approve of the new nicknames.

Meanwhile, our locally famous Bald Eagles have done it again, by successfully raising 3 chicks despite the bridge construction going on near their nesting site.  The eaglets can be seen during daylight hours via the solar-powered web cam  put in place prior to the start of the construction.  Recently, the eagles were provided a modicum of privacy courtesy of spiders who constructed cobwebs across the camera lens, but the eaglets can still be seen testing their wings around the edge of the nest.

P.S.  Twice now, I accidently typed "y-a-r-n" instead of "y-a-r-d" while describing our owl visits.  I think it's a sign that I need to get back to knitting content.  Tomorrow I will write about my current "yarn" project.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Catching Up

How gratifying to check back here after my first new post in a long while, and see comments!  I love hearing from you.  I plan on answering The Student Knitter's knitting question in a minute, but first I have to tell you about the mushroom hunting that has been cutting into my knitting time.  

                     How many morel mushrooms can you see?

Over the last month, 3 of my 4 regular knitting nights were usurped when my husband's mushroom hunting buddies came to town.  (Not that I mind.  Besides being fellow foodies, they are charming and funny.  One of them is a wonderful chef, and one of them even knits!)  Still, it is only fair that this past weekend, the roles were reversed, and my husband and I took some of my knitting friends into the forest on a morel mushroom foray.  

The morels grow in the spring the year after a pine forest fire, so while hunting you get a first-hand view of the past devastation, as well as the new growth.

One knitting friend, who joined in, has started her own nature blog. If you are interested you can read more about our day here.

Alas, the morels are not one of the mushrooms that can be used for dyeing yarn, but they are delicious.  The loss of knitting time to mushroom hunting is fine with me when my husband makes a breakfast like this one:  his homemade biscuits, topped w/eggs fresh from our own chickens, spinach from the garden, and morels fresh from the forest.  I can't speak to the bacon being fresh from the forest, but soon there will be our own farm-fresh bacon. (But that's another blog entry.)

Back to knitting:
So, first off I'll answer the question about the scarf pictured in my last post.  It's just as well to start there, as the Chevron Scarf was my first FO in chronological order since I was posting here regularly.

Pattern:  Chevron Scarf
Source:  Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
Materials:   Precious Silk & Merino from Coloratura, in the "Cosi Fan Tutte" colorway, 1 Pastel skein, 1 Rich skein, and US 5 needles

The Student Knitter wanted to know if I used 2 different yarns to make the stripes.  The answer is... yes, and no. 
The fantastic thing about this handpainted yarn from Coloratura, is that every colorway is produced in both a "Pastel" and a "Rich" version.

A couple of years ago at Stitches West, I bought both a light and a dark skein of the Cosi Fan Tutte colorway, because I couldn't decide which one I preferred for a sweater I had in mind. The sweater never came about, but the yarn seemed like a perfect choice when I decided to knit the Chevron Scarf.  As you can see from the 2,270+ versions of the scarf on Ravelry, most knitters use a variegated sock yarn to create the stripe effect.  But I've been wanting to knit something like Brooklyn Tweed's Noro Striped Scarf.  So this was a perfect opportunity to combine the 2 patterns while destashing. 
 When I first started knitting, the greens and golds in the yarn were jumping out at me, and I started to worry that my scarf would end up coordinating with 1970's kitchen decor.  But, now that it's done, the roses and pinks stand out, and I do love it. 
Well, I think dinner is burning, more catching up soon...