Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What makes you fall in love with a yarn?

I am not crazy about cashmere. I know it's luxurious and super heavenly soft. But after the fiasco of washing Husband's pure alpaca sweater, I had the idea that washing a cashmere sweater would yield the same tragedy. And I don't really like dry-cleaning sweaters. So, I never buy ready-to-were cashmere sweaters. If there has to be a diva in my house, it should be me but not my sweaters. :)

The same goes for sweater yarns. I want something lovely and dependable and reasonably prices. I think I have found my most favourite yarn for sweater.
This is the latest version of the sweater for Husband ... and it should be the final successful one. To compress the long process into a short story, swatching didn't work the way it should with this stitch pattern. I made a large piece of swatch (really large ... no skimping there) and did the math. But when it came to the real thing, the real measurement didn't come out true until I had knitted at least 40 rows (plus the ribs). I finally got it right after 4 unsuccessful try. Yeah, I kept casting on and knitting the ribs plus 40 rows and then ripping them away and starting again.

If I were not knitting from a cone, I would usually cast on with a new ball. Repeatedly casting on with the same ball would wear out the yarn and make it fuzzy and old. I couldn't do that with a cone. But the JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk dk weight didn't show any sign of wear at all. Besides the yarn shows beautiful stitch definition:
I am sure it would be the best for aran and cable patterns.

Besides, it is comfortably soft ... comfortable!

I love down to earth dependable yarns!

Monday, January 28, 2008

You All Made My Day

Melissa of Tia Knits honoured me with a You Made My Day Award ... really, I'm so surprised! Thank you very much, Melissa. Honestly, Melissa's blog is one of those many many that always amaze me ... either by her beautiful shawls, or more recently her colourworks.

missalicefaye is another passionate lace knitter that is always my source of inspiration for lovely lace.

I think when we read knitting blogs, besides project inspirations, we are also looking for something extra that draws us closer to the bloggers. Well, FluffyKnitterDeb is full to the brim with Debi's personality that I just couldn't help but love this girl! And of course not to mention her project-matching OPI and her assistant Pumpkin.

Whether it is sewing, knitting, following a pattern, improvising one, or coming up with her own ideas, Lori always makes it look so easy that lovely projects seem to flow from her needles like running water!

I have always been a city girl, so life in a farm is something very remote to me ... reading Jessie's life in her farm with her big family of human and animals is always very interesting. Each and every animal in her farm has their unique personality ... enticing! Besides, I just love the title of her blog!

Who wouldn't wish they can take pictures of their own handknits like Jared does?

It's just great to be able to have a peek into one of my favourite knit designers' mind through her blog.

Sockapaloooza 4 brought us together, but it is Tuulia's talent that keeps me hungry to see more of her projects.

I always love it when Savannahchik posts her project inspirations ... open my eyes to projects that I might have overlooked.

Nanette's Knitting in Color is my must-read to get my fix on colour-knitting ... I may not be doing a lot myself, but I surely enjoy seeing others' projects and learning more.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sock Interruption

The sock knitting has been interrupted. First Husband's Riverbed has to be ripped and started all over. Well, that happens when you are trying something new, right? I was amazed when the heel turning came so fast ... lesson learned! Trust your gut feeling, Agnes! I must have mixed up some measurements and math. So, I'll have to start from the beginning.

The Granny Smith Fancy Sock is progressing slowly because I have been busy working on a sweater for Husband. Swatching, washing, choosing a stitch pattern, starting, ripping, choosing a pattern, starting, ripping ... and on and on. Final decision:
Isn't the casual, relaxed style very cool? This is from Filati Special Men 3. (God! I love knitting patterns with their own names! It's so much easier!) But instead of garter stitch edge, I would use a ripping edge. Orange is a foreign colour in Husband's comfort zone, so I am using Zephyr DK weight in Pewter:
My gauge was tighter (surprise! or no surprise!), so I needed to add stitches. At first I put the extra stitches into the ripping between the main pattern ... which turned out not too great. Now they are in the main pattern.

Oh ... did you notice I have added a little widget to my sidebar? It's a free knitting pattern widget. Pretty cool, huh? But some of the links generated are dead. I'll have it there for a while ... before I get bored with it. :) I hope you find it useful too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Knitwear Review No.3

It's been almost a year since I did my last Knitwear Review. Seeing Theresa doing her Time Machine Tuesday and Claudia's review of her beautiful Icarus, I think it's time for my third installment of the series.

Diagonal Twist Princess-seam Jacket
This is a close-fitting style jacket. Not the type that I would buy when it comes to ready-for-wear garments. But it is good for a change. However there is a reason for me, or anyone else, not to like too close-fitting jackets ... they are not as comfortable as standard-fit ones.
How does the yarn hold up? See it for yourself:
When it comes to pilling check, I usually look at the seam line running along the underarm of the sleeves and the body ... where most friction would happen. The jacket gets some heavy use but the actual pilling isn't too serious. However, the whole jacket has a kind of fuzzy halo ... is this the first stage of pilling? I don't know. Before putting it away before summer last year, I shaved and washed it. I guess shaving would be a necessary routine.

Ogee Tunic
Remember I told you this sweater was a bit itchy? The problem seems to have become less serious ... especially after washing. I love love love wearing this sweater. The style, the colour, the fit ... everything works extremely well for me. However, honestly, the fuzzy yarn doesn't show the Ogee pattern well.
About the yarn, it's excellent ... of course, except for the itchiness. It's light and the colour is beautiful and pilling is minimal:
No need for any shaving and it still looks like fresh off the needles. I still have 2 balls of this red yarn in my stash, but since I can't use it for a scarf obviously, I am thinking of mixing them with another colour for a sweater like Alice.

Ink Flared Sweater
This is a relatively new sweater but has already been worn a lot. The very loose fit makes it a very comfortable wear ... the kind that you tend to grab when you don't know what to wear or in a hurry. I absolutely dislike this yarn during the process of knitting because of the thick and thin nature as well as the fact that it had the tendency to break easily. However, knitted up into a sweater, it is lovely and comfortable. I especially like the very subtle sheen (maybe from the silk) which makes the colour very interesting. More surprise:
The yarn holds up a lot better than I have expected. Some pilling does happen but very acceptable. However, since the sweater has only been steam blocked, how well it would do after washing is still unknown.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Comeback with a vengeance

I am talking about my sock mojo. I've already made 2 pairs in the first 3 weeks. It does seem that having a focus enables me to match yarns and patterns easier. Right now, I am again having 2 other pairs on the needles ... yes, 2 pairs!

Doesn't the colour remind you of the delicious granny smith apples in the produce section? I have tried this yarn with Friday Harbor from Knitting on the Road ... it almost worked. Almost ... US2 was too small but with US3, the fabric was too flappy. It was just too bad because I have wanted to make Friday Harbor for the longest time ... just waiting for the right yarn to come by. For the Ranco I have, this Gentleman's Fancy Socks pattern is perfect.

So the granny smith socks seem to be a breeze to knit ... but this is going to be challenge while it may not look like one:
I have chosen the Riverbed Architecture from Cat Bordhi's new book. With the arch expansion done in the sole, it seems to be a very comfortable sock structure. So far, I am very very happy with how this sock is going. First, I used Judy's magic cast on ... and it is the best cast on I've tried so far ... not because it is easy, but because it is the one cast on in which the stitches don't require tucking and tweaking to tighten them. I am still knitting the toe section but I have already worked out my RPI (rounds per inch). But the most pleasurable thing about this sock is THE YARN! It is Regia Silk ... the most sssssmooth and sssssoft yarn I've used! I just can't help squeezing the yarn even when I am not knitting!

Do you know that today is called "Blue Monday"? According to some experts, today is the unhappiest day of a year ... and I do find the analysis gave some really gloomy reasons to be unhappy! Gratefully, I don't feel unhappy today ... just normal ... another normal day. But I did take the opportunity to care for my personal grooming ... and had a long overdue haircut! It felt great ... and I feel a lot lighter! So, I wish you all have a safe "Blue Monday"!

Friday, January 18, 2008

08:02 Laila's Socks

I am happy. I am just happy that I chose to do a 2-coloured sock pattern. It's always a good thing to meet a challenge head on, right? Well, it started when I checked the sock stash and saw 2 single balls of different colours (Yarn Focus Challenge prizes from Rebekah), which incidentally were the colours of Laila's Socks in the book. That was it ... the yarns told me what to make! :)

If you are like me, new to 2-colour knitting, you'll find very useful resources in this blog, Knitting in Color. Nanette has just released a series of posts about how to hold the 2 strands of yarns, with excellent photo illustrations. Besides, she has a few free patterns too.

I think I still need lots of practices to be really proficient in colourwork knitting. Look at this:
This is the beginning/end of rounds. I am not sure if it is supposed to be like this, or I could have done it better. But anyway, whatever imperfect spots the socks have, they seem to have disappeared when worn on the feet ... happy feet hold no grudge against little things, right?

Pattern: Laila's Socks designed by Nancy Bush from Folk Knitting in Estonia
Well written pattern ... no mistake at all (at least I didn't have any!). Actually, it's quite a good pattern for beginners because it is not overtly complicated. In a way, colourwork is just like lace ... it's extremely addictive. The urge to see the pattern forming will keep you going one row more ... then another row ... then more and more. I was just amazed at myself when I managed to finish the first sock within one day last Saturday. Given the leisure of no chores to do and no meals to cook and no other distractions, the sense of time will be lost in the knitting of colourwork.

Yarns: Nature Spun Fingering Weight (100% wool) Col: Pagan Pink and G.B. Wolle Cosy Socks (40% Acrylic, 40% Superwash Wool, 20% Polyamid) Col: White
The 2 yarns are not of exactly the same thickness but still they seem to work together well. Thanks Rebekah.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns US1 (cuff and foot) and US1.5 (leg)

Cast On: 01-11-2008
Cast Off: 01-18-2008

Next task is to find a pattern for the lovely Ranco gifted by Debi. I have tried 3 or 4 patterns but it seems a simpler one, like Gentleman's Fancy Socks, would be the best.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I must share this with you

Back in August last year, I bought some Zephyr DK weight through a Yahoo! co-op for a man's sweater. But I didn't get enough. So, in December, I bought some more, this time directly from Sarah's Yarns. Usual problem with buying yarns in 2 batches ... the dye lots don't match. And yes, they didn't. The 2 batches are so different in colour that even if I knit in alternate rows from the 2 batches, the difference would still be visible to the naked eye.

So, what could I do? Yesterday, I finally contacted Sarah and asked if she could find me the extra yarns needed to make a man's sweater in either of the dye lots I had. My intention was to get the extra yarns and then see what else I could make. Surprisingly, Sarah offered to exchange the yarns so that I would have all in the same dye lot. She absolutely has no obligation to do that ... but she is willing to help me. I don't have to spend extra money and get yarns I don't have plan for. We had several emails back and forth before the arrangement was finalized. Sarah responded very quickly and I could tell she is sincere in trying to help the best she can. I just can't put into words how pleasant the whole experience has been. It just made me feel so good ... and the whole world suddenly seems so bright and optimistic. This. is. good. customer. service. Period.

Now I can finally cast on the sweater for Husband ... after finishing Laila's Socks, of course.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I think I found it

Among the few colourwork projects I've done, two of them are intarsia. While knitting the fingerless glove, I never really tried to learn holding the 2 strands of yarns at the same time seriously ... yeah, I dropped one and picked up the other.

So, over the weekend, I worked on Laila's Socks and found that it was really slow, but more importantly, the knitting lacked the satisfaction of knitting at a non-stop regular rhythm. It was time to start learning! I began with the way most knitters claimed to be "the way" ... one strand on each hand. The left hand is forever awkward ... oh, have I told you I knit the English way? But I did take the learning seriously this time ... and spent enough time to know, well, this is definitely NOT my way! Besides, the stitches just came out funny ... or was I looking for excuses not to go that way?

Then I started thinking there must be a way to hold both strands with the right hand. Well, there is ... it would come when you set your mind to it. Never mind the frogging again and again because of the uneven tension ... when I took a break and put down the sock, I pulled out my Knitter's Handbook and read what Miss Stanley wrote:
"Third Method: A good method: keep one colour over the index finger in the usual hand, and the other colour over the middle finger of the same hand."
That's sweet ... Miss Stanley's good method is also what works best for me! But the real sweetness is in the process of discovery. Besides, the stitches come out great ... at least to my eyes:
I still have problems to work on. For example, keeping the tension even with the floats across 2 needles. But for now, I am happy. Another thing that makes me happy is the toe:
It looks nice and fits well ... what more should I ask?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

08:01 Conwy

The 2008 Maverick Surf Contest is on! There is a live surf cam available. It is much less exciting to watch than standing amidst the cold on the beach and the crushing roars of the waves, but you can actually see the surfers' actions instead of specks somewhere out there.

Despite having bad dreams of finishing the Colour Wheel Quilt (yeah, I really dreamt about it ... time to pick up my act and got it done!), I managed to finish the first FO of 2008. I did what I usually do, started the toe section 2" shy of the full length but have to do the decrease-even rounds all the way. The toe shape was longer and sharper. So, when I did the second sock, I did several rounds more before starting the toe ... voila:
Both fit well, but I like the blunter one more.

The second skein of the yarns was actually enough for finishing both toes, but I thought if the heel flap was in a different colour, the socks would look better with the toes were of the same colour as the heel flap. I started the heel almost immediately when the decreases on the back of the leg were done, giving me a 6" leg instead of 8". But I can see that with the decreases, the socks would hug to the leg nicely.

Pattern: Conwy designed by Nancy Bush from Knitting on the Road
I definitely enjoyed working on this pattern, which is best for semi-solid colours. Seriously, this is very good for "knitting on the road" if you want something just a bit more demanding than stocking stitch.

Yarn: Koigu in unknown colourway plus leftovers for heel flaps and toes
I LOVE this yarn even though it is just my first time actually working with it. I proudly own one pair of Koigu socks ... very beautiful colour and skilfully knitted ... and in a Nancy Bush pattern! I know Koigu socks are supposed to be hand washed, but mine still look smashing gorgeous despite being put into the washer (cold water cycle, air dry).

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns US 1.5

Cast On: 01-01-2008
Cast Off: 01-11-2008

I have already cast on for my second Nancy Bush project of the year. It's Laila's Socks from Folk Knitting in Estonia. Since I am still fiddling with the right needle size, there is not much to be seen. But I can see that it would be quite a challenge.

Yesterday, I brought home Cat Bordhi's latest book and was fascinated by all the new structures for socks. I don't think Husband would really like to have socks in Nancy Bush's patterns, so I would explore Bordhi's book when knitting plain stocking stitch socks for him.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

In the mood for squares

Rain is good ... water is the source of life, right? From what I heard on the radio, we are already having voluntary water rationing here. I haven't heard the apartment complex's sprinklers on at night for quite some time. Just that I would be a lot happier if the rain comes in a more friendly way. Like yesterday. Then a little break ... like today. :)

With the start of the new year, I am in quite a mood for afghan squares. Despite being put off by the colours of the Great American Afghan, the knitting has been as much fun as the Great American Aran Afghan. I got another square done today:
I swear next time choosing a colour for an afghan, I would choose a lighter one which would be easier to show the pattern. Someone made it in 2 colours and that certainly shows better. I have always wanted to make this square because the geometry makes it so interesting. Besides, every time I stare at it intensely for some time, I would start feeling slightly woozy ... which always reminds me of those graphics used in Hitchcock's movies. The square was knitted in the round. This one is the second one I made ... the first one came out too big so I had to go down one needle size.

Before I return to my Conwy, just want to show off a gift I received in the mail today:
Two friends in Hong Kong just returned from a trip to Japan and they bought me these fabrics from Takashimaya. Too bad they only have one American branch ... in New York.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Stormy weekend

I certainly consider myself lucky. We just had the worst storm in 5 years here. Rain poured for 2 days straight and this was a river near us:
2 more days of heavy rain like last Friday and Saturday, I was pretty sure there would be flood. Our power and gas are intact ... lucky indeed, still got to watch tv, use the internet and keep the apartment warm. So, no complaint here.

There was high surf advisory during the weekend ... the highest went above 40 ft. We missed those when we arrived at Pacifica on Saturday, but what we saw was high enough to impress:

Best way to sit out the stormy weather was of course to work on the cozy afghan. Another square got done:
Isn't this square gorgeous? It is funny that I also share the designer's feeling of disappointment if a beautiful motif is separately knitted and sewn on. I especially like the way the acorns are made in this square.

Besides actual knitting, sniffing and patting lovely yarn gifted by a good friend is also a great way to spend the weekend:
I am looking for another Nancy Bush pattern for this beautiful yarn. Thank you so much, Debi!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Year of Nancy Bush Patterns

I hope you all enjoyed the little fireworks show on YouTube. It took place in Central district of Hong Kong ... the skyscrapers make a good setting for spectacular firework display. But if I were in Hong Kong, most probably I would only watch it on television ... or I would have gone to bed and watch it the next day. The magical wonders of the internet! Recently I started exploring the hidden treasures in YouTube ... and I found so many videos of old Cantonese pop songs that I used to love!

I was able to keep to my words and not start a new project until New Year's Day. It was great because I was able to finish 2 squares for GAA:

I especially enjoyed the geometric construction of the Paul B Levy Square (left). The deep green is not easy to photograph ... you can click on the picture for a bigger view. I have good feeling about finishing this afghan in 2008. :)

While browsing my books for a sock pattern, I suddenly felt that I should focus on one designer this year ... and I chose Nancy Bush. With so many talented designers and wonderful patterns available, I often feel the helplessness of not knowing where/what to start. I am hoping to be more focused. So, 2008 would be my Year of Nancy Bush. Every time I start a sock project, I would consider hers first.

On New Year's Day, I started Conwy from Knitting on the Road:
Love those little twining cables! The yarns I am using is Koigu in unknown colourway which seems extremely similar to that in the book.

However, I only have 2 balls of such yarn (a gift from Elspeth) ... so I think my better option is to use another colour for the heel flaps and toes:
It is my first time doing this ... so I still need some time to adjust to the 2 colours!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008