Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Best Laid Plans: A Lesson in Colour

Long before I finished Lizard Ridge, I was looking at the leftover bits of the Noro Kureyon and thinking what a shame it would be to just throw them away. I came up with an ingenious plan for how to use them and began to plot out a brilliant blog post that would delight everyone who read it. Unfortunately, the best laid plans, as they say...

I was going to start out with this lovely photo of the leftover Kureyon, wound into little balls. As I was knitting the blanket, I found that oftentimes the loveliest colours would be left behind when the block was finished. It seemed like, because of the way the ball was wound (and because the block was knit with yarn from either end of the ball, working toward the middle) the colours that seemed to predominate were often positioned in such a way that the knitting was over before I got to them. It seemed a shame to not use them, but how could one use randomly coloured lengths of yarn in some sort of reasonable project?

I thought of this hat from Drops, which I've been wanting to make for a while. What if I figured out the length of yarn needed to do a round on the hat, and then measured out lengths of the Kureyon that are consistently one colour, and then arranged them in such a way that it would make a beautiful fair-isle design on a solid background? Wouldn't that be stunning hat, worthy of praise for how complicated and well-planned it was? So I proceeded to swatch for the hat with some Cascade 220 in my beloved Sparrow Heather colourway, and test what length of yarn would be sufficient to do a round. Then I sat down with my balls of Kureyon and began to measure out lengths of single colours. It made a lovely rainbow of little tiny skeins, and I was pretty excited about how this project was going to go.

Then I started to knit it. Obviously it was a bit of a pain, since I had so many ends -- each round of colour being a separate piece of yarn. But I carried on. Then I realized that I hadn't accounted for the increases in the length of a round (since the hat is cast on at 120 stitches but increases after the ribbing.) D'oh! I soldiered on for another round or two, thinking I might get away with it, without any lengths of colour being too short (since I had made them long enough for all 120 stitches, and the rows of fair isle weren't ever solid in colour but would have some background stitches, and therefore hopefully wouldn't ever take up all 120 stitches worth of yarn.) Then I decided I was being overly optimistic, and that it would be best to save myself the stress and worry. I elected to frog back to before the increases and try making it without the increases, since then I would be assured that the yarn would be long enough. Besides, I had tried on the initial swatch I had made with the Cascade 220 and decided it was big enough for my head. (Did I mention that the pattern is designed for DK weight and I am using worsted, just to add to the complications?)

So I began the colourwork again, this time on a steady 120 stitches. I got about halfway through the flower motif and realized that something wasn't working. The design wasn't very cohesive and it wasn't standing out from the background very well. This was probably partly because the colours varied from round to round, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it also had to do with the value of the various colours.

Colour value is a hard thing to pin down. You can't really eyeball it as easily as you might think, since the brightness or saturation of a colour might make it look like it's a different value than it really is. The best way I know of to check colour values is to look at it in black and white. Before photoshop, a person would probably have to use a photocopier for this sort of thing, but I just changed the photo I took of the hat into black and white to check it out.

As you can see, the values of most of the colours are pretty similar to the value of the background colour. There are a couple of ways I could have tried to fix this: I could reknit it with a new background colour (something very very light, like white, or very very dark, like black) would probably make the fair-isle stand out better than the Sparrow Heather background I chose. I went with option two: make a blog post about the failed experiment in fair-isle and knit the hat in two solid colours that have more contrasting values.

I picked up the leftover magenta from the blanket edging and frogged the hat back past the colourwork to start again. It seems to be working better this time. The lesson? Take a photo and check the values of your colours before beginning a fiddly project. Or live vicariously through my mistakes and stick to solid colours.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Unveiling Lizard Ridge

I know it took me too long to get photos of this up, and I apologize to those of you waiting with bated breath. I finished it after midnight on Saturday night, and just didn't manage time for photos in the following days, though I have been admiring it quite a bit, myself.

All the worrying about the widely varying colours came to naught, as I seemed to find a layout that made it work. One could attribute it to the fact that I chose the colours for the last 13 blocks consciously to try to tie it together, or to the fact that I managed a layout of the blocks that gave it a nice flow. Either way, I'm a genius and it looks great. I think there is a nice balance of bright colourful blocks to darker or neutral blocks, and I am very happy with how they play off one another. Can you find your favourite blocks in there? (Click for a bigger view.)

I went for a 5x5 layout, with 25 blocks total, rather than the pattern's recommended layout of 24 blocks in a 4x6 layout. Since each block is already a rectangle (roughly 10" x 12"), I thought that the 4x6 would give a skinnier, longer blanket. The 5x5 makes it a nice rectangle shape, and leaves it wide enough for two people to snuggle under.

As for the scalloped edging (would you ever have guessed magenta??) I had briefly considered coming up with some kind of knitted edging, rather than doing this crocheted one, but in the end, I couldn't imagine anything that would suit the blanket better. I used a larger crochet hook than she recommended, since the swatch I tried made pretty tight little scallops, and I wanted something a bit more relaxed. This crochet edging took forever, even though it's really only two rounds on the blanket. But so worth it, yes?

My HLM says that soon I'll be designing tour costumes for Aerosmith. Smartarse.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sneak Peek

The seams are all sewn, so all that remains is to do the crochet edging tomorrow night. (Woo hoo! That's my kind of Saturday night partying!) I practiced my single crochet and double crochet this morning. I think I'm ready.

The seaming itself took forever -- I had planned to attach the squares to one another using a quick single-crochet, but that left Frankenstein's Monster-style stitches on the right side of the blanket. Not quite what I was looking for. So I ended up seaming the whole thing with mattress stitch: slower and more tedious, but ultimately much tidier. It also uses a lot less yarn than the single crochet would have. Thank goodness it's over.

While I don't have any finished photos to show off, today, I will give you a teaser: a blurry photo of the layout of squares, once I finalized it, but before I began the seaming.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Weighing In

I remember the first time I read about a knitter using a scale to weigh her yarn, to figure out how much she'd used with her project.
At the time it seemed pretty crazy, I must admit (and I assume you're thinking as much, as you read this.) Today, however, I was knitting the leg of my sock, trying to decide if I had enough to do another repeat, or if that would leave me short on the second sock. What better way to figure it out than to drag out the kitchen scale and weigh the sock and the remaining yarn, to figure out whether I'd used nearly half of the yarn, yet.

It was a bit more complicated than that, of course -- after all, I had to figure in the weight of the needles (rather heavy nickel-plated ones: 8 grams, for the record.) Fortunately I remember basic algebra well enough to do that sort of calculation. In the end, I decided I wouldn't risk another repeat; if I used more than another 10 grams of yarn, then I would be eating into the second half of the skein, and I still had a bit of cuff to do, plus the bind-off row. So I finished up the first sock and got set up for the second.

Meantime, I am still waiting for the arrival of the yarn to finish off Lizard Ridge. I know you are all as anxious as I am, to see the finished project (not to mention what I'm going to make with the leftovers...)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Dame With an Appetite

I have always been a sucker for goofy personality quizzes. First thing when I got a new women's magazine, I would flip to the quiz and take it, even though I pretty much always ended up in the middle category. (We could think of it as the Baby Bear category: not too hot, not too cold, but juuust right.) So today when I stumbled across the Classic Dames Test online, I just had to try it out. Happily I ended up with Katherine Hepburn, my favourite dame of all.

Your result for The Classic Dames Test...

Katharine Hepburn

You scored 21% grit, 38% wit, 38% flair, and 17% class!

You are the fabulously quirky and independent woman of character. You go your own way, follow your own drummer, take your own lead. You stand head and shoulders next to your partner, but you are perfectly willing and able to stand alone. Others might be more classically beautiful or conventionally woman-like, but you possess a more fundamental common sense and off-kilter charm, making interesting men fall at your feet. You can pick them up or leave them there as you see fit. You share the screen with the likes of Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant, thinking men who like strong women.

I think the funniest part of all is that I scored 17% class! Ouch.

Fortunately the kind of leading man that this dame attracts is the culinary kind. My HLM made a spectacular meal tonight, with steak and mushrooms and mashed potatoes and the most perfect yorkshire pudding this side of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
You might be tempted to come over and share, but too late. It's long gone, by now.

Hope you had a good V-Day, too!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Here Be Dragons

A long time ago, I read a cool novel called Tooth and Claw, by a Canadian author named Jo Walton. It was a sort of Jane Austen-ey tale of manners and love and strife amongst a family of dragons. Not only was it unique, it was also really entertaining, funny, and engaging. I've never forgotten it.

When I saw one of the sock patterns in the January Rockin' Sock Club shipment, it reminded me of dragons, with these little spiny ridges up the top of the foot. I immediately thought of this Madelinetosh sock yarn that I had sitting around from Sock Summit (which those of you with longer memories may recall had previously been knit into an ill-fated wrap and summarily frogged.) The colour is such a perfect dragon colour, and really suited the pattern. I couldn't wait to start knitting them up, and immediately thought to name them after my favourite dragon novel. I am nearly to the heel and am really enjoying these ones. The yarn is so soft and the colours make me swoon with every inch I knit. The green is a little bit darker and mossier than the photo, but the purple is very true to life. I am so glad I get a second chance to knit up this yarn.

p.s. Don't worry -- the also-stunning January RSC yarn will be knit up in the other pattern with the shipment, so you will get a chance to see it, soon enough. Fear not, my lovelies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Vampire Boyfriend

In plenty of time for Valentine's Day, I finished the socks last night -- the second one practically flew off the needles. I suspect that it was just because I'd run through the pattern once on the first sock, and got more comfortable with it, and with keeping track of where I was. (Also, because I'm so ready to start the two patterns that came with January's Rockin' Sock Club, one of which I am about to cast on in mere moments.)

The yarn was so beautiful to knit with; I just love the colours. I can see in these photos that the variegation really does take away from the cable pattern, but I still don't think I'm going to overdye it again to even it out. After all, I'm the only one that will see them, for the most part, and I like them like this. Perhaps I'm also rationalizing, but I also think the cables are more apparent in person than the photo would imply.

I also wanted to give a close-up of the cable that goes up the sides of the sock -- in the pattern, she refers to it as the Bitemark Cable, since it has two little bite holes within every little twist (hence the Vampire part of the Vampire Boyfriend.) I know I mentioned before that it was a bit of a pain, since it had a seven-row repeat, which made it a bit trickier to keep track of doing both patterns at once, but of course the payoff is worth it, since it is a really cute detail for the socks.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Way it is Progressing

Just in case you were worried that the Honeybee Cardigan was in hibernation...

It's been slowly ticking along -- not because it is overly complicated or difficult, but because I've been distracting myself with starting and/or finishing up several other projects along the way. When I sit down with this one, I prefer to do a whole repeat of the lace (six looong rows) all at once; that whole repeat takes a couple of hours, so you can imagine that I don't sit down with this one as often as some of the other projects I've had going on.

I am well into the yoke part of the pattern, and although it's my first time knitting a set-in sleeve all in one piece with the body (rather than knitting them all as separate pieces and sewing them together at the end) I am finding it fairly straightforward. I'm even looking forward to trying this sort of thing with some other projects I have queued up for the future.

Miles and miles of lace. Mmm... I can't wait until it's blocked.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

More Bloody Socks

Just so you get a chance to see how nicely my overdyed yarn is knitting up, here is a shot of the lovely variegated yarn on the sole of my Vampire Boyfriend sock. Purdy, ain't it? Perhaps it seems sacrilegious to overdye Socks that Rock, but I'm sure that Tina would approve of a little experimentation in dyeing, even if it's over one of her creations.

The socks are still moving along -- I am nearing the finish of the first one. The pattern takes some brain power, however, since the cables along the side are on a 7-row repeat, and the larger heart pattern in the middle is a 20-row repeat. Thank goodness I know how to read my knitting, for those pesky moments when I forget what row I'm on, on either/both of them.

Knock wood, I should finish the first one tomorrow night. I hope so, anyway; I am already chomping at the bit to cast on both patterns from this month's Rockin' Sock Club shipment. So many socks -- so little time.

The Last of the Lizards

The final block is finally blocked. Now I just have to play with the arrangement until the yarn for seaming it arrives. This could get interesting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And Then There Was One

Here is the second-to-last block for Lizard Ridge:

I am three-quarters of the way through the very last block, and have already ordered the yarn for seaming and edging. Care to guess what colour it will be?

I have also made some good progress on the Honeybee Cardi; it is now all in one piece and I am slowly moving up the yoke. Very happy with how it looks, so far. Soon, I'll get to pick out some buttons for a finishing touch.

Lastly, I am partway through the heel flap of the first Vampire Boyfriend sock, and am feeling good about how they are humming along.

Gosh, I feel so productive, all of a sudden.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Vant to Drink Your Blood

I have started the new sock project -- My Vampire Boyfriend socks from Knitty -- and I am loving how the yarn is knitting up. The less-dyed spots are pretty sporadic, and really add some extra depth to the variegated red. Almost like spots where the blood got drained dry...

The only question remains... does my vampire boyfriend have dark hair, or blond?