Friday, September 30, 2005

Rhapsody in Blue

So, the afghan is now an FO. In order to avoid the monotony of afghan-lying-on-bed-under-dim-light shots, I moved it out into the bright sunny sky and imitated a shot from the pattern book:


Not a very professional imitation, I must admit! Anyway, I feel really happy now that it is done. To be more accurate, I feel proud of myself ... especially when I compare it with the one I finished last year - everything shows that I have made a lot of improvement in terms of knitting skills, finishing skills, attention to details and patience in finishing a project.

Knitting the edging took up quite some time while the much-dreaded sewing process went without any drama. When the edging reached a length that was close to be done, I pinned it around the afghan with safety pins and started sewing:


Though it was a really long length to sew, it was done within yesterday ... really fast. I think the fact that the edging was knitted as a modified I-cord helped. However, when I was approaching the end, I realized that I should have done provisional cast on for the edging because when I tried grafting the end to the cast-on edge, it looked like this:


Not that anyone would really notice anyway. The edging gives a very neat and pretty finishing to the afghan:



Details:
Pattern: Rhapsody in Blue from Family Circle Easy Afghans
This is the second sampler afghan I made. I like the patterns of this one more than the first. There are more interesting cable patterns and there is no bobble pattern. (You can click on the photos to see a larger and clearer version of the square patterns.)



Yarns: Patons Decors Col: 1643 Navy; 1614 Winter White; 1640 Pale Periwinkle; 1641 Periwinkle; 1642 Rich Periwinkle
I like this yarn for afghans. The quality is good, except for the colour Navy, which seems to be a bit thinner than the others. If this yarn is available in craft shops here like Lion Brand Wool-Ease, I would certainly use it again. This is because I don't want to keep a large amount of yarn stash for afghans at home. What I am going to do in the future is just to buy one or two balls at a time and get to the shops when I run out. The dye lot is not that important to me. So yes, I am going to use Wool-Ease in Natural Heather for the next project.

Gauge and Needles: 20 st for 4" over St st using US5; US7 for the edging

Modifications:
(1) Instead of knitting the squares one by one, I chose to knit the afghan in long stripes. This involved a lot more planning beforehand. First I had to decide how I was going to arrange the placement of the squares and the colours of yarns used for each. I wanted it to be 6 squares (lengthwise) by 5 squares (widthwise). This meant I had to knit 5 long stripes with 6 squares each. Then, because the number of stitches to cast on for each pattern is different, I had to either decrease or increase for the correct number of stitches evenly every time I changed for a new square. Besides, I needed to pay attention to see if the first row of the next pattern was for the right or wrong side. If I didn't do this, I would end up with some of the square patterns on the wrong side. Furthermore, if there were both knit and purl stitches on a single row in the next pattern (for example, like in the cable patterns), it would be better to change colour on the wrong side using purl stitches (preparation row), otherwise, this is what I got:


Luckily, this can be fixed easily.

(2) The original design of the afghan is to sew a fabric border. Instead, I chose to knit a 6-stitch cable cord (from Nicky Epstein's Knitting over the Edge) as the edging.

Final measurements: 40" x 50" including edging

Conclusion:
Knitting afghans involves a lot of patience and work, but I love it. I think it gives me good opportunities to explore different stitch patterns. I learn a lot from the process of knitting and finishing up an afghan and this knowledge certainly helps me in other knitting projects.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Knitting on edge (Updated)

Well, quite the opposite ... I am not on edge at all, but rather at peace even though I am not knitting the most interesting or chanllenging thing in the world:


I am using a larger needle than that for the afghan squares. It turns out the cable knots are farther apart than what you can see here. I think I still have 2/3 to go. While working on this, I suddenly realized that I had better block the afghan so that I could have a more stable measurement for the edging. I think it is so lovely that I took the risk of boring you again with a picture of it:


I said I was "at peace" because I didn't even have the itchy feeling of wanting to start any new project. Usually, the period during which I work on the finishing on a project is the most dangerous time for me to seek new thrill. But this time, I amazed myself by being able to keep focus. That being said, it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking of new projects. I am planning on the next afghan project:


So, by now you can tell that I have an obsession for sampler afghans, right? One by one, I am going to make all of them!

I also found a good pattern for the next Husband sweater:



Update: Lolly asked me where the pattern of the polo sweater came from. Sorry for my forgetting to include this info. I got it from a magazine called get creative (November 2005) ... it is "the knitting issue". There are patterns for zip jacket, scarves, hats and ponchos ... but I bought it just for the sweater even though I know it's quite a generic pattern. ;)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

How much do you like finishing?

How was your weekend? Remember the French friend I mentioned last week? Since he still hasn't got his own computer yet, Husband helped him to set up a web-cam on our computer so that he can talk to his wife through MSN messenger. Not much privacy there, as you can imagine, but it was better than just talking on the phone. Three more weeks and his wife and kids would come join him. In the afternoon, we went to Santa Cruz beach. It is not our most favourite beach since it is always too crowded (because of the beach-side Boardwalk Park), but it is beautiful nonetheless:


And I saw the cutest coconut tree I've ever seen so far:



Up to this point, you must be thinking, "Mmm ... she's been talking about something else ... she's not been knitting this weekend." Well, you are darn right ... I didn't do much knitting ... but I've been finishing! All the knitting for the afghan squares were finished last Friday and they are now sewn together:


I was too excited to start sewing that I didn't even block the pieces. Last time it was a nightmare for me to sew up all the squares for the afghan ... but this time it just went a lot more smoothly. Knitting in long stripes is certainly a good idea as I only have to sew up vertically five stripes, therefore no more thick and clumpsy joints like last time. However, this is not an FO yet because I still have to add an edging to the whole thing. Last time I crocheted the edge:


It is nice and crocheting is fast and easy. However, considering that most of the squares of the new afghan are texture-patterned, an edging that is less "lacy" would be more suitable. And I found this from Nicky Epstein's Knitting Over the Edge (a lovely and inspiring book, if you ask my opinion!):


As suggested in the book, this edge can be knitted on or sewn on separately. I tried the first and found the result not too satisfactory. So, I would be knitting the edge separately and sew it on later. Considering the length that I have to knit, I think it is not inappropriate to regard it as an independent project ... LOL!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blue Sky



Blue sky from Santa Clara yesterday. These photos are not only for Sandy, but also for her and her, and many others who are part of the mass exodus trying out get out of Rita's path.

In case you didn't notice (there, on my sidebar!), I made great great progress on my attack on the blue afghan. In fact, there are only 1.5 squares left for knitting. I am now browsing Nicky Epstein's books for ideas on the edging for the afghan.

Have you ever read any wonderful stories related to knitting? I am a mystery/thriller junkie, but the closest I got is Miss Maple in Agatha Christie's detective novels. But I read a wonderful one on Lori's blog ... I love that story and recommend you to hop over to her blog and have a look too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

River shrug and Attacks on the UFOs

First, let's have a use report on the River Stole. It made its debut on Saturday night when we went out to dinner with a French friend who just started his life here. Maybe it was the mohair, the stole actually sat quite well on the shoulders and seldom slipped down ... and I like this. Afterwards, we went to a bar for a drink. We sat in the outdoors where it was quite chilly. When the guys were chatting in French, I played with my stole. It was at this moment that I had the idea of changing it into a shrug ... which would protect my underarms from the chill better, I think.

So, back home, I did this:



What do you think? I just used white thread as a try. If the stole is of a stronger fabric, I can possibly use buttons so that it can be a shrug when needed; but the mohair lace seems not strong enough.

I didn't start any new project, not even socks. Still waiting for the sock muse to come. Instead, I have plans to attack my UFOs. My first target is the blue afghan. If I could finish Kiri in 2 weeks, there is no way I can't finish the remaining 40% of the afghan ... which means just 12 squares. So, over the weekend, I worked solely on it and this was what I got yesterday:



Now, I am into the 5th square. Just keep this up and I would finish this afghan soon! Yay! And the next target would be Bomber.

RAOK
Just want to show you the RAOKs I received:



On the left is an origami bird and a card from Maryellen ... she made the bird herself ... lovely, isn't it? Maryellen is a crafty lady. I got this from her back in June but didn't get to take picture until yesterday. Then on the right are gifts from Caitlyn. The Jo Sharp Kid Mohair is beautiful ... will look for a good pattern for them. The photo album ... I'm going to make a scrapbook album with our photos for my parents. Thanks to both ladies!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Kiri Shawl

The internet connection was messed up by the cable tv guy this morning, therefore I have to wait for Husband to call Comcast after work. Now it's back to normal and I can present my Kiri to you:


I thought I needed to work 20 repeats of Chart 2. But then when I was at the 18th, I tried the shawl on and found that it was indeed big enough even for me. So, I stopped and started the edging. I learned from the Yahoo! Kiri Group that in order to get the points on the edge, I need to cast off really loose. So, I went up to US10.5 and kept reminding myself, "Get loose ... get loose!" But still, as you can see, the points are not prominent and the edge is close to a straight one:


Yet, I am happy with the shawl as a whole. One thing I learned about myself from the knitting of River and Kiri is that I am not a chart knitter. The charts are good in that they give me an idea of how the patterns would look like, but for knitting, I didn't do very well from reading them. I went much faster knitting from the instructions. And yes, I did knit very fast with lace. This one took me less than 2 weeks to finish ... I don't know on average how long others take to finish Kiri, but less than 2 weeks is a surprise to myself too.

Details:
Pattern: Kiri by Polly
This is a little bit more complicated than River. However, once I understood how the previous rows were related to the knitting row, everything went easier ... I found it easier to detect any mistake early, and therefore it was easier to correct.

Yarn: Kettled Dyed Pure Wool Lace Yarn from handpaintedyarn.com Col: Vermillion
I almost used up a whole skein of 850 yards. I chose this lace yarn over KSH (which I love) because I am not sure if my MIL likes mohair. Also, the colour is what she would love. I think this yarn is not the extremely super soft type but is good enough for first time lace knitters, who want to have a try. Besides, the price is good. I love the thousands of colours available on their website. However, there are too many other choices available that I would like to try, for example, Zephyr (Jagger Spun) and Alpaca Cloud (Knit Picks), it may be a long time before I use this same yarn again. That being said, I still have one huge skein in the same colour.

Gauge and Needle: To be honest, I never did a swatch for both River and Kiri. I had no idea how to because the lace is so airy. But when I measured the pattern repeats, my gauge is 3" x 3" for 2 pattern repeats (before blocking) using US7. For cast off, US10.5 were used.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Taggy Taggy Tag Tag

I was tagged by Debi and here are my answers.

TEN YEARS AGO: I discovered that the after-school hour get-togethers of co-workers, which used to be fun and relaxing, had degenerated into bitter ranting time of complaints about work. I felt that it was time for change. So, after the summer vacation that year, I started work in the second school I ever worked. Changing is not easy for someone who has worked in a place for 8 years, and this is especially so for teachers. But I never regretted the choice.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A casual encounter had changed the lives of 2 persons. I met this person who would become my husband in 2000. One year later, I left everything I had, my career, my family, my friends, my apartment, my home town city, to start a new life here; and the man who always thought he would never get married shocked his friends by announcing his marriage.

ONE YEAR AGO: I picked up knitting and was making my first sweater at this time of last year.

FIVE SNACKS:
1- Any fresh fruits
2- Dried fruits
(Husband always says I am a monkey!)
3- Potato chips
4- Chocolate
5- Ice creams and sorbets

FIVE SONGS I KNOW ALL THE WORDS TO:
Now this one really beats me ... I am an idiot in music and songs. But there was the time when I was really crazy about Bee Gees and I can still remember the lyrics of many of their songs.
1- How Deep is Your Love
2- Melody Fair
3- First of May
4- Too Much Heaven
5- I started a joke

FIVE SIX THINGS I WOULD DO WITH $100 MILLION:
1- Set up retirement funds for my parents and my MIL. This way we don't have to worry about their livelihood.
2- Set up an education fund for my niece.
3- Set up a record label company to publish Husband's music
4- Husband could use the money to start his own company
5- Give to charities

FIVE PLACES TO RUN AWAY TO:
1- Maui, Hawaii
2- The Provence, France
3- Venice, Italy
4- San Diego, California
5- Easter Island (Husband and I are both fascinated by the history of this island.)

FIVE THINGS I WOULD NEVER WEAR:
1- Gauchos
2- Tube tops
3- Fur
4- Ponchos
5- Platform shoes

FIVE FAVORITE TV SHOWS:
1- Real Time with Bill Mahr
2- The Daily Show
3- Counterdown with Keith Olbermann
4- Iron Chefs (the original Japanese version)
5- American Chopper

FIVE BIGGEST JOYS:
1- Being healthy and alive
2- Being married to Husband
3- Having friends
4- Learning a new skill
5- Knitting

FIVE FAVORITE TOYS:
1- my camera
2- my video camera
3- my yarn winder (yeah, finally got one because of the huge hank of lace yarn!)
4- the newly discovered Skype software (I can call my parents in Hong Kong spending just cents!)
5- my laptop

PEOPLE TO PASS THIS ON TO: Joy, Siow Chin and Lynette (that is, if you are interested.)

Knitting news: I finished knitting Kiri last night and after a cold bath in Eucalan, it is now resting on the bed. I think it would be ready tonight.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Wow!

What else can I say ... besides "Wow"? I got 20+ comments for River! And plus all those who came here just to have a look at her! Comment or no comment, I thank you all ... really, made my weekend extra wonderful.

I just found out that River is a "stole", not a "shawl". Then the narrower width seems to make better sense. I am still considering making it into a wider shawl.

I made good progress on Kiri ... but pictures have to wait until I finish. You know why, what I can show you now is just a big red mess! According to my gauge, I need to knit 20 pattern repeats to make the shawl minus the edging 30" long. I think that is long enough because my MIL is petite. Now I am at the 17th. This is the stage when I really don't want to make any mistake because I just lose count how many stitches I have on the needle now, and the only way I can rip the mistake away is to do it one stitch at a time ... imagine!

I am suffering from withdrawal - sock withdrawal and Bomber withdrawal. I have meant to start a new pair of socks for some time using the KnitPicks sock landscape. I have 2 good patterns too - Anna's Elfin's socks and the wavy pattern. But somehow the motivation is not there. Then, the Bomber jacket ... ::sigh:: I think maybe it is always my fear that the pieces won't fit together after washing. Am I being chicken?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

River

My first lace project - River - is finished! First, let me showcase the whole shawl with its rippling water pattern (photos courtesy of Husband):



The pattern is an easy one. I got the hang of it after the 3rd repeat and not too much frogging was needed. However, since I didn't use the knitted (lace) cast on, the beginning of the shawl tends to stretch more than the end, for which I used the ordinary cast off. When going through the pattern of Kiri, I found that Polly suggested a cast off method which I suppose would be better. But anyway, I have already cut off the yarn by that time, and it is not too bad as is, so I didn't redo the cast off.

Right from the beginning, I already decided that I was not going to knit that knotty thing. I didn't think I was going to wear the shawl in the way modelled in the magazine. How would I wear it?



I am not a shawl girl (yet) ... but I think I would start with wearing it the most common way. Perhaps I would look for a small pin to tie one end to the other side ... but definitely I don't like the idea of the knot. Besides, I would prefer the shawl to be wider, say having 5 repeats per row instead of 3. Maybe 2 balls of KSH was the limitation to the designer. I am already thinking if I have the time to spare, I would knit another River, a wider one, for my grandmother-in-law, using the same lace yarn I am now using for Kiri.

Details:
Pattern: River from Rowan 38
Yarn: Karabella Lace Mohair (61% Superkid Mohair, 8% Wool, 31% Polyamid) Col: 175 Charcoal
How does Karabella LM compare to Rowan KSH? I would say KSH is unique ... I have yet to find another mohair yarn that feels that soft and airy and halo-y. That being said, Karabella LM is also a very very soft one. Would I use it again? Sure ... because of the beautiful colour range and the "crazy yardage". Each 50g ball has 540 yards! And you guess how much I have as leftover?
Gauge and Needle: US7
One thing I like about this project is that I don't really have to care too much about the gauge. My shawl measures 13.5" wide and 50" long ... which is 2" narrower than specified in the pattern.

Finally, let me show you the magic of blocking:



However, I think I still have to learn how to pin out the end to achieve that pointed effect ... it seems all those points have disappeared by now!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sirdar Sweater Fini

This sweater didn't take me too long to finish. Unlike the Barnyard Guernsey Sweater, which I struggled for a long time to finish the sleeves, the sleeve island trip was a pretty short one this time. And here it is, modelled by Husband:


The fit is perfect. At first I was afraid the neck opening would be too small. But somehow he managed to pass his head through. I am really really happy with how this sweater turned out, especially with the set-in-sleeve-armhole (big salute to Ann Budd) and the tubular cast-off neckband (another salute to Montse Stanley):


Still, I can't achieve the very beautiful neckband I showed you some while ago ... I am still wondering what the secret is!

Details:
Pattern: Sirdar Leaflet 8337
Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton Ease Col:109 Blueberry Lot: 29430B
Modifications: I changed the dropped shoulder style into set-in sleeves with the help of Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. If you measure accurately the size you aim at and swatch the yarns you're using, this book is a great help. I used tubular cast on for the body and simple long-tail cast on for the sleeves. Tubular cast off was used for the neckband to achieve added elasticity. Another great help Nancie Wiseman's The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques for how to seam the sleeves to the body of the sweater.
Gauge and Needles: 20 stitiches to 4" using US6

Husband is actually one of my readers here. To compensate the lack of interesting pose last time, he was very cooperative last night. Therefore I can now present to you more sweater in action shots:


Which one do you like more, the thinker or the yogi warrior?

Monday, September 05, 2005

My Kiri

This post mainly aims at showing you how far I've gone with Kiri. Well, this far:



After posting yesterday, I moved a bit more to 9 repeats of Chart 2. Having read many other knitters blogging on this shawl, I know that having stitch markers helps with getting the pattern accurate. But if you take a look at my work, I only use one marker for the center stitch. My problem is that I don't really know where to put the markers so that they won't interfere with the k2tog and skp stitches. There had been some bummers at 4 repeats and 5 repeats rows and I had to take back a couple of rows from time to time. However, things started to get smooth after 6 repeats. Now, I don't have to refer to the pattern anymore ... and I think I would be able to finish this really soon ... YAY!

And I'll leave you with a close-up shot of the leaf pattern:

Sunday, September 04, 2005

It's lace again!

How was your weekend? I was still partially glued to the tv news on Katrina ... getting worked up emotionally from time to time by the incompetence of all these big-talking government officials and wondering where the hell Dick Cheney had been all this time! I remember he is still the vice-president of this country, or is he? But at the same time, I managed to finish 2 projects - the Sirdar sweater and River. Unfortunately, both are not picture ready yet ... I have to wait for work days to resume to begin blocking ... which will take up quite some space.

Yesterday, I started a new project. I got some lace pure wool from Handpainted.com in this colourway:


Beautiful, isn't it? The yarns that came were colour-true to what I saw on screen. I am now using this for a Kiri shawl, which will become a Christmas gift for my MIL ... this is the one colour that she really loves. Right now, I am at 6 repeats of Chart 2. I haven't decided how many repeats I'll be doing ... maybe 12, or maybe 14. A few posts ago, Debi left a comment saying that I would be addicted to lace knitting. Well, maybe she is right ...

Last Friday, I picked up a copy of Interweave Crochet and spotted this:


I am telling you - I am going to make this cool cool jacket! The Trendsetter ribbon yarn used is a bit expensive for a playful jacket, so I am going to look for a good but cheaper substitute ... but I am going to make this ... period.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Relief


This is organized by Margene and Susan. Click on the above button to see how you can help. I think there will be prizes along the way. I am going to donate a ball of Karabella Lace Mohair (enough for making River!) as prize. You can go here to take a look at the other prizes. Thank you in advance.

The moment of truth

So far, I have made 2 sweaters with sleeves - my first sweater and Barnyard Guernsey sweater. The former is a raglan but since I used the yarn specified in the pattern and was on gauge, I had no problem with the raglan sleeves. The latter is a drop-shoulder sweater. Therefore, I have yet to experience the agonizing feeling of the sleeves not fitting the armholes ... which I don't really look forward to.

For the Sirdar sweater I've been working on, with the help of Ann Budd's sweater pattern book, I modified the drop-shoulder into set-in sleeves. My progress with the sleeves is actually pleasantly surprising to myself. It took me less than a week to finish both sleeves. Last night came the moment of truth - whether Miss Budd's pattern and my knitting work well:



Notice I didn't cut the yarn from the finished sleeve? I was fully prepared for the possiblity of frogging! But perhaps I should have more confidence in Miss Budd ... the sleeve and the armhole measurements fit! *Bunny dance was witnessed by Husband in the middle of last night.*

Non-knitting aside: If you live in New York city, watch out for this pervert on subway ... better yet, remember his face and when you see him, report him to the police.