Monday, May 21, 2007

Rain, Rain Go Away

Let's talk about UFOs. Mine have spent over a month packed and waiting for moving day. This was an excellent strategy for finishing Patti since it left me with nothing else to work on for several weeks. The only drawback is now I have all these unfinished wooly items that frankly I don't want to knit in warm weather. So do I put them on the back burner until Fall and cast on something cooler or do I force myself to finish up and get them off the needles? Here's the line up from left to right... The Somewhat Cowl in KnitPicks Andean Treasure, Marilyn's Not-So-Shrunken Cardi in Silky Tweed, and the IK Greek Pullover in Rowan Kid Classic. Both the Greek Pullover & the Shrunken Cardi are 2nd timers for me, but this time I'm using the suggested yarn for both patterns. The Silky Tweed is gorgeous by the way and no pictures I've seen of it have ever done it justice. I love this yarn! I don't include the Cathay Boatneck Aran in this list because I've cast on the back this week and made some good progress which you can see here...
But what's that next to the boatneck aran? Not the oranges. I mean the little yarn cakes pyramid. Hmmm, that just might be a little Classic Elite Premiere and Artyarns Beaded Silk destined to be a shortsleeved Sahara. Considering that I cast on the boatneck sweater over a year ago and I've only just now cast on the back, I'm thinking that another work in progress might not be such a hot idea. On the other hand, I know that when I'm crazy about a pattern, especially short sleeves with a worsted weight yarn, it flies off my needles. I guarantee that by sundown I'll have come up with at least 3 more rationalizations for casting on and I'll have a gauge swatch done. Can you blame me? Tempting, isn't it? In the midst of all this UFO guilt I was suddenly struck with cabin fever. It's been raining for days here and I'm a stranger in a strange land. I needed to go in search of my people, so I googled local yarn shops and found one over a 1/2 hour away, but worth the trip. They were running a special where you could bring in your gently used knitting books in exchange for store credit of 50% of the cover price. While packing for the move I had discovered many of my newbie knitter books really didn't see the light of day anymore and here was a chance to turn them into new yarn! I have to confess it seemed too good to be true and I thought for sure there was a catch, but dreams do come true and I turned over my old books and received an $85.00 giftcard. WooHoo!!! I was so overwhelmed, I think the shop owner must be a sock knitter. There was Koigu, Claudia Handpaints, Trekking, Regia, Twisted Sisters, Colinette Jitterbug and more I'm sure I'm forgetting. They also had the 2 Noni bag patterns I've coveted for months, but could never find in the shops.

I finally settled on 2 skeins of Claudia Handpaint sock yarn in the Red Wagon colorway, 2 balls of Zephyr wool/silk laceweight in teal the new Interweave Knits Magazine, the Portofino pattern from Dolce Knits and these 2 Noni bag patterns. Prism & Adventure. The baby likes them as well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Space... The Final Frontier

How long ago did I first post that we were house hunting? It's been at least a year. I know I was knitting the Clapotis. (I mark time by knitting projects now.) All the while folks kept telling us the perfect place would come along at the perfect time and they were right. Blogging's been light because we've been moving house. After moving the belongings of all 9 of us, I never want to move again. At least not till the children have grown and taken all their worldly possessions with them. You know what's kind of fun about packing up everything you own? Finding hidden yarn you forgot about. I used to know this fella whose Mother was an alcoholic and growing up he'd periodically find a flask of liquor hidden in a bookshelf or the breadbox or what have you and after stumbling across various skeins I barely remember buying, ah yes... I think it's like that.

I love our new house and the yarn actually has it's own little room. The one drag is the lack of yarn shops. I've gone from feast to famine. Of course anyone who saw the boxes marked "YARN" coming off the moving truck might say this is a good thing. It got downright embarrassing after about box #5.

Now I have my first project finished in our new home. Patti from Rowan Studio, issue 1. It nearly broke my heart, but we worked it out and I love it. Here she is on Sally Stitch filmed live in my real live actual knitting/sewing room.

Sally Stitch has far narrower shoulders than I, so here's a back shot of the pleats. The reason Patti nearly broke my heart is that I knit an entire side reversing the slip stitches, so the pleat wanted to fold out instead of in. Keep in mind this is a sportweight yarn for a swing jacket no less. It took me a few days to make peace with the fact the whole thing had to be unravelled and re-knit, but eventually I pulled out the ball winder and just resigned myself to doing whatever I had to do to get it right. This was my first time working with Rowan's Felted Tweed (I used the camel color) and I would knit a big ol' swatch before substituting another yarn. Besides just personally liking the fabric it creates, I think the wool with a touch of rayon makes for a very light and forgiving fiber, but with a nice drape.

Next up, I'm reviving an old work in progress. The Debbie Bliss Boatneck Aran from the Cathay pattern book. I started this while pregnant with baby #7 and was knitting merrily along until one day, about 8 months along and sleep deprived I flipped open the cable charts to pick up where I left off and the whole thing may as well have been written in Greek. I knew I had better put it away until I could concentrate again or it was just going to be a nightmare. I'm using the Cathay yarn in the Duck's Egg Blue. The front is done. I'll cast on the back tonight.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I've been hankering for a hank of Yarntini sock yarn in Vintage Stripe for longer than I can remember. Then Jessie posted on the Yarntini blog that she would start doing self striping yarns primarily as custom orders. Then a few months later that she was so busy, new custom orders were on hold.

After seeing the colorway on other blogs I decided to take matters into my own hands. Let me state for the record that I would have been much happier paying for the real thing, but desperate times call for desperate measures. A girls gotta have her sock yarn. So I grabbed some Knitpicks Merino and silk blend sock yarn (YUM!) some koolaid & vinegar and wound up some reeeeeally long skeins. Thanks to Eunny Jang's post here on self striping yarns, I ended up with an FO I really love.

Ooooooh, purty. But how does it knit up? So glad you asked.

Love, love, love.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Recycle, Reuse, Repeat....

I'm a very thrifty (cheap) girl. I have no sense of urgency when it comes to knitting up my entire stash. If a finished object no longer works for me, I have no qualms about ripping it out and turning it into something new.
When I found out I was pregnant with #7 I cast on Rosebud from Knitty. The sweater was designed by Alison Hansel and she posted possible modifications on her blog that would convert the original pattern into a maternity top. Those mods can be found here. I knit it up with a few changes of my own and it worked beautifully. I knew I was due in mid November so I shortened the sleeves so they ended where they would normally start to flare out. I also used Merino Style from Knit Picks in place of the yarn originally called for.

Not only did the short row shaping work over the belly, but I was able to wear this right up to the end quite literally. I actually wore this sweater to the hospital on delivery day. If I hadn't been in labor on and off for hours I probably would have thought to have someone snap a picture, but you'll have to settle for the lovely Sally Stitches with a little help from a throw pillow.

So where is Rosebud now that I'm no longer pregnant?

I was suddenly taken with the idea of using the yarn from my maternity sweater to knit up a little woolly coat for baby next fall, but ecru is such a bad idea when knitting for little ones, so into the dye pot it went with some Jacquard acid dye in brown. et voila!

I know what you're thinking. Brown for a girl? YES! After 5 daughters in a row I'm so over the pink I could scream. Have you been to the baby girl section of your local dept. store lately? It's a sea of pink, pink and more pink, with the occasional pastel purple thrown in to break things up. Would you want to open your closet door and see variations on the same hue 365 days a year? I didn't think so. Plus I love the cool browns mixed with pastels that Debbie Bliss has been working with lately, so that was my inspiration.

I was a little concerned at first that I would have to throw this all back in the dye pot for a second time to even out the color, but I knit a test swatch alternating skeins, using a seed/moss stitch and I really like the results.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Busy Bees & Toasty Feet

It's been a whirlwind of activity here at Chez Aimee. I finally finished the Rebound Socks using Wendy's Toe Up sock formula and I can't imagine knitting socks any other way now. I know some folks have no love for short row toes or heels, but something about the fit is just perfect for my stumpy little hobbit feet. I also love that I don't have to worry about having too much or too little of my precious sock yarn left over. In the spirit of using up my yarn I think I got a wee bit carried away and ended up with some pretty funky knee highs, but it's been so freezing cold around here, I'll take all the woolly coverage I can get.

There's been some sewing going on as well. I received a new sewing machine for Christmas which I adore. My old kenmore bit the dust after 14 years of abuse just as I was finishing up Halloween costumes for my 2 eldest daughters. One was Pippi Longstockings. I used this apron pattern from The Paisley Pincushion, but basted on patch pockets that could be removed after Halloween, so now it's a useful reversible apron I keep in the kitchen for whichever child wants to be my assistant chef.

My other daughter wanted to be her American Girl doll, Kirsten. Sorry about the grainy picture. Everyone was more intent on getting to the candy than having their picture taken, but here you can also see the crossed back on Pippi's apron. The Kirsten costume was made up of The Girls' Regency Dress & Pantaloons from Sense & Sensibility Patterns and this Prairie Bonnet pattern. I was very pleased with all the patterns and the service from both Sense & Sensibility patterns and Sew Thankful was excellent. The pattern for the Kirsten apron was my own.

My new machine is Singer Model 7444. I'm not a quilter and I'm not interested in machine embroidery, so this was a really great fit for me. There's been so many changes in sewing machines in the past decade, that this one feels like a big improvement even though it's still a pretty basic machine. Just the fact that it adjusts tension automatically and only requires 1 step to make a buttonhole is fantastic! For my first pattern I decided to make a flannel version of this pattern from Built By Wendy.

I made the long sleeve version, but left off the ruffles. Even if it's been awhile since you've sewn, the conversational tone of her pattern directions make it very user friendly. I plan on making another in cotton with shorter sleeves for Summer. Maybe with contrasting fabric on the bodice. This is one of my favorite tops right now with the freezing temps we're experiencing here in New England. "It's wicked cold!" as the locals say. Stay warm.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Whip Lash

So here it is. My completed Licorice Whip, a free pattern from Blue Alvarez Designs, modeled for you by the lovely Sally Stitches. I cast this on while I was in labor and finally picked it up and finished when the baby was about 2 months old. Picture if you will me timing contractions & trying to count out stitches and markers while jotting down the starting and ending times for said contractions in a little notebook I keep in my knitting bag. My husband would check in on me, in between cooking dinner (Spaghettios) for the kids. "I'm contracting every other lace round." I'd say. Laughing hysterically at my own knitting humor. He didn't get it and would duck out of the room looking concerned for my mental stability. But my mental health survived intact, the baby was born and the sweater is done.

I've worn it quite a bit and it's a flattering design post-baby. Long enough to cover the recovering belly, but not so baggy that it adds extra weight and that long open work panel down the front draws the eye vertically. My only warning is this, when the pattern says bind off loosely, they mean "bind off LOOSELY". This should have occurred to me at the time. It is knit in unforgiving 100% cotton and the bind off edge has to fit around the hips, but I just barely made it with what I considered a pretty loose cast off. I would suggest binding off with a much larger needle.

My last complaint was the yarn itself. I used the yarn originally called for in the pattern, Blue Sky Dyed Cotton in the color Thistle. All the while I was knitting I loved this yarn. Really soft and really nice stitch definition with lovely muted colors. I've heard Wendy over at Knit & Tonic wax poetic about this yarn and her newest pattern is knit up in this stuff so I had high hopes. However, once the sweater was finished and actually on my body it began to pill like crazy! I looked like a mangy muppet by the end of the first day. The picture above doesn't really show that and in fact it seems to show more of a sheen to the fabric than is really there in person. I tried and tried to get a more accurate picture, but no luck. I purchased Wendy's pattern, Flair, but I think I'll be substituting some KnitPicks Salishan, a worsted weight wool/cotton blend they offered for a limited time a few months back.

My main project on the needles right now is Patti from Rowan Studio issue 1. I'm using Rowan's Felted Tweed in the color Camel and it's wonderful. This yarn is my last major yarn purchase for the year as I try to knit my stash. We'll see how that goes. I also completed the first rebound sock and got 1/3 of the way through the second while watching Band of Brothers for a few nights. Nothing like having a colorful sock to focus on during bloody battle scenes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Knits Gone Wild (Jan. 2, 2007)

It's official, I survived the Christmas knitting of 2006! Now that I can knit whatever I like I'm a little overwhelmed by my options. I decided to kick things off with what I call my "rebound socks". Quick, easy, out of character and thoroughly inappropriate. It's a Lana Grossa self patterning sock yarn. The color is #4833 and they're all for me. These are my first ever toe up socks, so I'm actually learning a little something in the process, but their mostly just a fun fling.
Near the end of the pregnancy and before I had to really dig into my Christmas knits I had cast on some Blue Sky Cotton in Thistle for the Licorice Whip sweater by Alvarez Designs. I finally picked it up again yesterday and it's such a joy to knit. The cotton is really soft and the color is growing on me fast. I had originally gone into my LYS looking for black or dark brown yarn, but all they had in the Blue Sky Cotton was pastel shades for some reason. I settled for the thistle with some trepidation, but now that I see it knitted up I really love it. I highly recommend this yarn especially for anyone with a wool allergy. I also love that I'll be able to try this on as I knit and will have minimal finishing at the end.
I did have one non-Christmas knit last month which was the Odessa Pattern from Grumperina which can be found at magKnits. It was for my 3 year old daughter and she absolutely loves it and shows it to anyone who'll listen, shouting, "That's my hat! That's my hat!" I had a partially used skein of Debbie Bliss Merino DK and afraid that I would run out of yarn I decided to knit the brim out of some leftover Rowan wool cotton in grey. In retrospect I would have had enough of the pink merino to complete the whole thing, but perhaps the cotton blend feels better against her forehead and it looks nice with the silvery beads. She certainly approves.
Last, but not least, I could not resist the pull of the Twisted Fiber Arts sock yarn for sale on Etsy again. It was a total impulse buy as a reward to myself on the day I finished all the gift knits. The colorway is Neapolitan and it's beautiful. The sock I'm wearing in that picture however is not from Twisted, it's Koigu. See the hubby and I went on vacation this summer to the Berkshires. I didn't bring ANY knitting, because I convinced myself that I would be too busy sharing romantic moments with my husband to knit. That lasted right up to the point that I saw a phonebook in our Inn room, and if you're a knitter on vacation and you see a phonebook you just naturally have to look up yarn stores and if you realize that Colorful Stitches with 2 floors of every yarn you've ever loved is just one town over, well, what's more romantic than watching your man buy you yarn?! That's 2 skeins of Koigu and 3 skeins of Rowan Denim he's got in the bag there. Colorful Stitches is so lovely and it was the first time I had actually seen koigu in person. I grabbed these skeins of bright hot pink and chocolate brown. I don't know what came over me. There were so many beautiful more subtle shades to choose from, but it was like going out for the first time on your 21st birthday and ordering the drink with the paper umbrellas and sparklers that comes in a plastic coconut when all you really wanted was a glass of wine. I picked up dpns and cast on right away. I knit till I was carsick all the way home and you know what? They were never quite what I hoped they would be. I still smile when I see them because of the happy memories I associate with them, but ever since I've had a hankering for a sock yarn with wider stripes and a slightly cooler, more muted shades of pink. Enter Meg over at Twisted to save the day! As soon as the rebound socks are done I think this skein will be next.

Chanel-ish (Dec. 11, 2006)

There's a lot of knitting going on here at Chez Aimee, but most of it is Christmas knitting and not available for photo ops yet. I've gotten quite a bit done, considering that I'm exhausted and having to hold a newborn for a good portion of the day, but I am one wooly mitten away from sheer panic. If I don't wrap up 2 projects by Friday I will be in trouble. As it is now, each day ends with the baby resting on a boppy pillow in my lap while I knit until my eyes start to close and I literally fall asleep sitting & knitting.
In an uncharacteristic fit of self-discipline I've refused to cast on anything for myself until the gift knits are done. I did however take time to finish up the Chanel-ish Cardigan Jacket from Greetings from Knit Cafe. In part because Winter has finally arrived and I wanted something warm and flattering to the post-baby figure, but my primary motivation was not wanting to start the new year with this @#%&*% project still on my needles! This was not a fun knit. I still love the Knit Cafe book and have had great experiences with other designs in the book, but this one was a pain. I wanted to make it on the cheap, so I used Knitpicks Wool of The Andes. The price was right and I was able to get gauge, but it was pretty rough on the hands. Maybe I've gotten spoiled rotten by all the soft fibers I'm able to find at my LYS, but I was not eager to pick this up and work on it whenever I had a free moment. The stitch pattern looks nice, but trying to maintain it while working armhole decreases under the influence of Third Trimester brain shrinkage was frustrating. I think I ripped the top half of the back out and reknit it about 4 times. By the time I finished I had 5 inches left of the main yarn, so do yourself a favor and order an extra skein just in case. In retrospect I wish I had spent a little bit more and used Andean Silk instead. The good news is I really like the finished product and will get lots of wear out of it for my trouble.
While I was wrapping that up and knitting things for everybody else, I decided to reward my self with some new hand dyed sock yarn. After months of trying to get my hands on some Vesper or Yarntini self striping sock yarn I decided to check out Etsy and see what I could find and I'm SO glad I did. Look at this big honkin' skein of yarny goodness. This was my first purchase from an Etsy shop and I couldn't be more pleased. When I unwrapped the package I literally gasped outloud it was so beautiful and that was before I even touched it and realized how soft it was. You can check out more of Meg's work on her site which includes a link to her Etsy shop. The yarn in this pic is resting on some new fabric purchased to make baby a new sling for Christmas. Speaking of baby...
Isn't there an old wives tale that placing knitting needles in the hand of a new baby assures them a life of happy knitting? If there isn't, there should be. While I don't normally give the baby pointy objects to play with, here's a picture of that landmark moment. The needle is an old wooden one that belonged to my Nana.
Happy Knitting Baby.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (Nov. 22, 2006)

I grew a little human! One of my best "FO's" so far. She was also the best dressed baby in the nursery with her little Schaefer Anne hat. I picked up the yarn at a NEW local yarn shop. One of 2 NEW local yarn shops. I now suffer from an abundance of yarn choices as I happily select which of my 5 local shops to visit. This last one to open was particularly exciting because they carry Rowan. I haven't been too excited about the Rowan magazines lately, but their Kidsilk Haze and wool cotton are two of my favorite yarns. The first time I walked into the store and saw all those fluffy little piles of Rowan goodness I literally gasped outloud. The shop owner came over to greet me and it took every ounce of self control not to grab her in a bear hug and offer to name the baby after her. This shop is also where I purchased the Schaefer Anne for baby's hat. This is the Eternal Gobstopper of yarn. If you check out my recently updated "Finished Objects" gallery, you'll see that I used one skein to knit a hat, sweater, and baby socks, and still have yarn left over!
You might notice that I haven't posted in a good long time. I always seem to go into this very introverted phase when I'm pregnant and have no desire to write anything for public consumption. I realize that pregnancy shouldn't require such intense concentration on my part, but I can't help it. At least I'm back now so here's my summer in a nutshell (minus the morning sickness and mood swings) I finally tackled the lace knitting and got the hang of it, thanks in large part to a wonderfully straight forward pattern by Evelyn Clark and some wonderfully pointy needles from KnitPicks. And yes, that's a loom you see happily coexisting with my knitting. Over the summer my husband and I took a little vacation to the Berkshires and while visiting Hancock Shaker Village I had the opportunity to try one of their floor looms. I was instantly hooked. Once I got home I started doing some research into the different types of looms available and discovered Syne Mitchell's Weavecast on itunes. I mentioned to a friend how eager I was to try weaving and he said he had a loom that he'd picked up at a yardsale and never used and I was welcome to give it a try. Turns out it was a 25" Rigid Heddle Loom, never used, and sold through the JC Penney catalog back in the early 70s. It had all it's parts and I was able to put it together, warp it up and start weaving in fairly short order. I have no warping board, so that was a pain, but now I've just been playing around with different fibers and weights to see how they behave in plain weave. This particular loom model is designed to sit right on the table's edge and propped up against your abdomen, so it became rather uncomfortable in the last few months. Now I'm stuck with one big question. If I get a little extra money in my Christmas stocking, do I pick up some lovely yarn, like the Louisa Harding Kimono Angora Pure I've been lusting after, or do I put it towards a 32" Kromski Harp rigid heddle loom with built in warping board?!!!!? This is what I'm thinking about when the baby wakes me up in the middle of the night and I can't get back to sleep. Decisions, descisions....