Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Insouciant Christmas Stockings

I've been knitting away in preparation for Christmas, and with Cat Bordhi's new footprint technique fresh in my mind I found myself churning out these stockings. I actually have had them ready for a few days now (This year for a change I managed to not be knitting on deadline until the wee hours of Christmas morning?!) but have been having an absolute nightmare of a time getting the written words and photos to come together in a technologically manageable way. ugh.

I feel absolutely crippled by how fast technology has passed me by. It has been a few short years that I have been more absorbed by mommy-ing than keeping up with computers, and I can barely put together a simple document. In anycase, I finished the "document" in what I thought was a satisfactory resolution this evening, but cannot seem to get it into pdf format without wrecking some formatting and cutting photos into bits, so for now this will just have to do. I apologise for the mess.

If you have any suggestions for me regarding programs or tools that I should learn to use for lay out and writing down my designs please let me know! ;-)


download now (Many thanks to Mizzle from the Netherlands!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reading While Knitting...

When time to oneself is limited (very, very limited!) it is wise to take the best advantage of it possible. In my case, I like to use this time to knit, and if possible (when not doing anything very complicated, just plain stockinette or garter for example) read something relaxing. I prefer light mysteries featuring Hercule Poirot or Ms. Marple, but sometimes the latest fluff can be equally entertaining. The tricky bit for me is to position my book in such a way that it will stay open, and not fall off the arm of the couch as I sit. Large thwacking dog tails and meddlesome toddlers add to the trickiness. I have found a couple of options that look like they would take care of this problem.

There is a product put out by bookmatesplus that seems quite ingenious. There are a few different versions, I am most interested in the bookmate plus stand option b/c it would hold the text at a comfortable angle, rather than flat on the couch or slightly propped on a folded blanket, etc. Much more comfortable for eyes and neck.  The additional benefit of this option is that it can be sued with any books I already own (quite a handful...) and does not necessitate purchasing new downloads, etc... Certainly the budget option. (Unless you can get someone to read aloud to you, which of course is my first choice, and free other than perhaps owing them dinner or a pair of socks eventually...)

The next choice I found is a Kindle which I have not paid particular attention to up till now b/c I was so turned off by the idea of a) no more paper books (what can I say, I actually like them...) and b) having to deal with technology and c) having to purchase books that I already own for electronic versions. (Also expense is a factor, and I actually assumed they were much pricier than they turn out to be based on my second hand knowledge of just the larger version.) So, I decided to look into the details of this particular version and found that e-books are not necessarily much more than my usual purchase of a used copy from half.com  which somewhat eases my mind about future investment, and many, many people (considerably more anti fiddly gadgets than myself) have enjoyed their Kindles so far. I like the prospect of being able to carry vast numbers of books around with me at once, (with no shoulder strain?! these crazy modern times...) and the built in dictionary and online access is a huge bonus as well. The Kindle can also hold/display pdf's of any knitting patterns I would want to view with it, very nifty. I wish there was a way to check one out in a bricks and mortar shop since I still have some reservations about eye strain from gazing at another electronic screen for hours on end, but I am considering this as an option. The "read aloud" mode is very, very tempting as well, though again, I wonder how grating the electronic voice would be. Must try to find one to play with...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Insouciant Sock Knitters

When life impedes knitting I like to at least think about what I wish I was working on, and often reading books by *Knitting Heroes™ helps inspire my thought process. My most recent book acquisition in this vein is Cat Bordhi's "Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters" which I am thoroughly impressed with. I have the first in this series as well ("New Pathways For Sock Knitters") which I enjoyed, but was not the *Tome of Knowledge™ which this second volume is. I am fairly passionate about toe-up socks, but until recently they were somewhat the pariah of the sock knitting world (or so it seemed, vs. "traditional" cuff down socks) with sock gurus such as Charlene Schurch suggesting that knitters who preferred toe-up must not be very good at grafting, and other derogatory nonsense like that. ("but short row heels are inferior", etc, etc...) It seems that finally many knitters are becoming aware of the benefits to knitting socks toe-up, and accepting that it is simply a choice in the manner of execution and design of your sock.

The shaping options and trying on for fit as you knit, and myriad interesting cast-ons, as well as (possibly the most compelling for me, though I know not exactly why, pure thrift?) being able to knit until you reach the end of your yarn, and not being left with scraps of sock yarn (much harder to use up than worsted) or, (thrill of terror) running out before coming to the end of the piece are for me quite compelling reasons to prefer this method, in spite of being quite good at grafting and even finding it a very satisfying technique in and of itself. (You may choose to employ it in the heel of Cat Bordhi's new "footprint" sock plan, so there!)

I particularly like the shaping options laid out in this book.  (excuse me while I go see what the shrieking is about, surely one of the children has fallen and fractured something...

aha, no, actually it was just a case of the oldest not sharing with the youngest. not at all an example of my entire daily existence... no. not at all. must make a mug of calming tea. right. now.)

One can play around with increases strategically placed to create a perfectly anatomical and snug foot, as well as a comfortable cuff and heel. Plus, (thrift rearing it's head again?) this makes re-knitting toes and heels a total breeze! (why is that possibility so thrilling to me?)

I actually found the links to the youtube videos from Cat before I realized the book had come out, and the demonstration of the toe was enough for me to use some valuable amazon funds to order immediately. The page with videos of various needles used for Judy's Magic Cast-On and toe shaping is available here.

Of course I made cardboard cutout footprints for everyone in the household immediately, and have knit one and a half pairs of children's "footprints", and will finish them...eventually. So far I like the toe quite a lot, and am looking forward to trying a pair on myself, and I am anxious to fiddle with heel shaping. I am pondering a top down cap applying this toe shaping right now, though I have to keep shoving it farther to the back of my mind as I am in the middle of too many projects to manage as it is right now. I think it may be a worthy endeavor to get everyone in the extended family who might from time to time receive knitted gifts to send me a tracing of their foot before next Christmas... Just a thought.

*Knitting Heroes™ = Elizabeth Zimmerman, Meg Swansen, Barbara Walker, Sidna Farley (apparently, though I am not actually very familiar with her own writing), Cat Bordhi, and others who inspire fearless knitting and elegant technique by their own designs and or writing. I think we should have little figurines or stickers (like the She-Ra Princess of Power™ colorforms I had as a small child...) to keep in knitting corners like talismans or baseball cards...

*Tomes of Knowledge™ include but are not limited to: Knitting Without Tears, Knitting Workshop, Knitting Around, Knitting from the Top, all 4 Knitting Treasuries, Fair Isle Knitting, and, in another genre, but not less important, The River Cottage Meat Book, Les Halles, Soup, and others...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

halfway there...

I am having to learn patience and acceptance as my children and dogs and life in general interferes with my knitting. The past year has been "educational" for me to say the least!

I've been working with plain brown fisherman's wool (can't beat the price, and some variety with bits of colorful wool of the andes helps brighten things up for sure!) which is pretty much my go to cheap and cheerful wool for everyday. I found as I made the first series of short row turns that if I continued picking up every wrapped stitch I would end up with a square sort of top of the cap, so I am leaving a certain percent of them (I like working with percentages!) as I work my way around. The very top of the cap may end up a teeny bit pointy with this shaping, but I'll have to wait and see b/c right now things are a wee bit amorphous.

We somehow ended up with a stray dog attaching himself to us at the playground last weekend and have been overwhelmed with trying to find him a home and then getting him some vet attention, and THEN finding out that (probably) he had been hit by a car "some time ago" and had his hip out of the socket, and would probably need surgery to repair it. We hoped that just getting the hip re-located in the socket and keeping his leg in a sling for a week or so would do the trick (keeping a couple of adoring toddlers off of their new "baby" while keeping him medicated and rested and fed is not a stress free endeavor, let me tell you!) but it seems not to have worked. Calling around and emailing rescues, etc, (etc=new food regimes, stomach upset cleanups, keeping two excited "big brother" Labradors from rough play, finding cash for x-rays and procedures, and figuring out where we will dig up over a thousand dollars to pay for this surgery as it looks like nobody else will take over the responsibility) has taken up almost every moment of the last week, but I have gotten about halfway through what seems to be an acceptably shaped cap.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

baby pilot cap....

Many months ago I became slightly obsessed with the idea of a seamless baby cap with shaping around the face like those adorable sewn pilot caps from a certain children's clothing catalog. I think I began subconsciously stewing over this after watching (several hundred times)the "Baby Surprise Jacket" dvd from Schoolhouse Press and knitting said BSJ and a couple of Ribwarmer vests which use wonderful short row shaping and folding to sort of origami into the finished object.

I started knitting, and knitting, and re-knitting, because I just could not visualize or sketch how it needed to come together, but somehow I just KNEW it could be done, and I needed to keep fiddling with it until something magically came together. Not the most efficient design process I grant you, but things began to take shape after a couple of months and I knit a (weirdly oversize) completely seamless garter stitch cap that did indeed frame the face with a neat little peak, but it just was not as elegant as I had hoped for. I set the project aside for a bit.

Several weeks ago I came across some pictures of Sidna Farely's "Peaked Baby Cap" and realized that a greater knitter than I had accomplished my mission before I had ever conceived of it. Theoretically. I hear it is seamless with a single elegant graft bringing the cap together in all it's shapely garter stitch glory. The pattern is, however, unavailable according the the shop that has distributed the pattern for years since Sidna's after death they cannot find any next of kin and therefore have no way of paying the profits of the pattern to whomever they belong to at this point.

I was given a brief description of a basic shape by someone who thought they had knit this cap at some point, but having knit this "recipe" up a few times I am quite sure it is not Sidna's design. A) it is not seamless, and B) certain of the shaping elements are quite different from pictures I have seen of the original pattern. This gracious knitter who tried to help me did however set me off in a new direction and I think I may be able to work out a garter stitch, short row shaped, seamless, elegant little pilot cap after all. I will keep posting with my progress...