Friday, November 30, 2012

Thick and Quick Hat

I suppose a hat could be something other than hat shaped (like a cow shaped hat), but I find the title of this pattern silly enough (in a good way) to want to knit it.  Welcome to my construction of the Hat Shaped Hat!

I used ~136 g (85 yards) of Wool ease thick and quick on size 13 knitting needles.  This hat was certainly thick and quick to knit, easily finished in an afternoon.

My gauge is fine for width, but a little short for length. Therefore I did #17 total rows of ribbing to get ~ 5" of ribbing.  I followed the rest of the directions as written and BOOM a wonderful watch cap.  (Sorry, a "hat shaped" hat.)   What a great pattern to now have in my library.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rock Island

I have been in love with the Rock Island pattern FOREVER! I was a little intimidated starting this project from all I had read on the project notes. Since I wanted to make sure that I completed it in 2012, I needed to give myself enough time to take a break from the intense 2 sided lace. Thankfully, this is a project knit from the bottom up, so it will only go faster and faster as I make progress.

I used Grinning Gargoyle shimmer lace (104 g to start) and size 6 knitting needles.  I had 41 g left in the end which means that I consumed 63 g, ~550 yards. 

The first of many repeats.

First comes the lace border, which is knit sideways... A repeat of ~70 times! I know I will obsessively count this multiple times... The two sided chart is a little hard to follow since the symbols have different meanings on the RS and WS. I therefore added colored dashes to each stitch on the chart to help me keep track of SSK and K2tog without needing to check if I'm on RS or WS.

I'm having issues with this yarn. It is soft, and the color is great... but the Stellina has many breaks in it and they are sticking out. This is driving me crazy. Ultimately I don't think anyone else would even notice... I just may need to think twice about using stellina yarns in lace projects in the future.  (Update:  by the time I had finished the shawl the breaks in the stellina had stopped bothering me.  I suppose it was just something that took some getting used to.  
The border. Oh the border. 70+ repeats of an 8 row double sided lace. The pattern isnt' hard to follow (especially after I color coded it!) but it is just taking forever. I need to stop counting every couple of repeats, because it seems like I'm making no progress. (I should add that this isn't painful, but requires attention.)  Halfway through the border I decided that it may be prudent to insert a lifeline.  My first lifeline is inserted after 37 edge repeats.  This is really serving more as a counting marker than as a lifeline (I doubt I'd rip back 10 repeats!)  Second after 50 repeats.   Third after 60.  The end is in sight!  The second half of these repeats are going much faster than the first half.

I checked both edges of the border to make sure they were still ~ the same size. 
85 g remain after the border is complete.  I blocked out both ends of the border just to make sure that my bind off edge is as stretchy as the cast on.  It looks pretty good!

Putting in the lifelines when I did ended up being somewhere serendipitous.  It was easy for me to figure out where the middle repeat (#36) was so when I was picking up stitches I had some good benchmarks.
Success!  just enough stitches!

I used centered double decreases (S2tog, K1, Psso) instead of the SK2P used in the pattern ONLY for the center most stitch.  I followed the rest of the directions exactly.    Maybe this was a mistake, as it draws more attention to the center... but given that the of the shaw is designed pretty symmetrical I wanted to be consistent.  

As advised by others on Raverly, I inserted a safety line before beginning the 24 lace rows.  Many people have needed to rip back to start this section over again, and I want to make sure that my new simple garter rows are protected.  I counted my sts and I have 135 before marker, 136 on the other. Perfect yet again!

Once you've colorcoded the chart it really isn't a big deal at all.  The stitch pattern is essentially a 6 st repeat over 4 rows, where each RS and WS row are shifted versions of each other. Once I finished the chart I could have counted the stitches again, but I really didn't feel like it.    The pattern had lined up all the way around so therefore I should have the correct number of stitches.  If not... I'll make do during the garter stitch rounds.

I kept a very careful count of the yarn remaining after each step because I was paranoid of making the yardage cutoff for a large 12 in 2012 shawl.  78 g remaining after the garter stitch round. 65 g remain after the rock island chart. 56 g remain after 24 garter stitch rows. 49 g remain after 48 garter stitch rows.   And 41 g remain after the shawl has been bound off.  I DID IT!  EXACTLY 63 g consumed!

I decided to weave in loose ends after blocking so that the ends would not pull in any unfortunate places. I wet blocked the shawl (soaking for 30 min prior to pinning out.)  I aggressively pinned out the shawl, which meant that I had to weigh down the center with a book! 


As usual, Indy was a little too interested in what I was doing while I was pinning out the shawl. Thankfully, he knows he is NOT ALLOWED on the blocking mats.  

I LOVE the way this shawl came out, but I think that if I were to make it again I would finish it in a crescent shape rather than a triangle.  It is easier to adjust the yardage and length as you go when you are knitting the whole top seam (plus it is easier to pin out a crescent.) 

11 shawls in 2012 have been completed!  At the time of writing this post I am half way through #12.  (The post for that shawl will be published in early 2013.)  It looks like I'm going to make it!  Time to start planning out next year's shawl adventures.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This has been a year of knit shawls, so I have done a lot of blocking.  I have learned a lot with each shawl.  I have never taken the time to re-block a shawl, but my first (and most frequently used) shawl was beginning to lose a bit of definition.  (Not to mention that when I first blocked it I did not even own blocking boards!) 

Before the re-block
Pinned out
Unpinned - light an airy

The shawl still had a pretty shape before the re-block, not anything like before blocking the first time around.  But re-blocking opened the whole thing up again and made it much more airy.  How often do you re-block your lace knits?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Knitting Patterns

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am thankful for so many things; my family, my friends, my readers here at ChemKnits!  I just wanted to take a moment to wish you an early happy Thanksgiving and share some amazing free Thanksgiving knitting patterns (and free Thanksgiving crochet patterns) that I found.    It is never too late to add some little fiber crafted decorations to your feast table.

Photo Credit Me-Liss-A via Creative Commons.

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What a Stash

How do you keep your stash organized?  Yarn is taking over my house.  I have a whole yarn cupboard, bags in the closet and in the coffee table.  I recently started putting my yarn in plastic zip locked bags.  Part of this is paranoia of something deciding to nest in my expensive wools, but it actually makes it easier to find particular yarns.

Someday I will input all of the yarn into the Ravelry database.  Until then, I will just have to remember what I have on hand!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Welcoming Home Baby the Handcrafted Way

Welcoming Home Baby the Handcrafted Way by Tricia Drake is a fun knitting book. A lot of the beauty of these patterns comes directly from the yarn choice. The patterns themselves are simple and easy to create. You just have to make the right choices with your supplies. In the past I have had complaints when the patterns are simple and the yarn does all the work, but I want to recognize those designers who take advantage of fantastic yarns and designs simple patterns to really show them off.

I like that you get to see what many of the skeins of yarn look like before knitting begins. It is great to get a sense of the yarn type, to make it much easier to substitute a yarn you find at your local yarn store.

"20 quick & creative knitted hats, wraps and cozy coccoons for your newborn." This darling book contains 7 hat patterns, 6 wraps and blankets, and 6 Cocoons and pods. Somehow this doesn't add up... I only count 19! One of these patterns must have a couple of versions. Checking on Ravelry also shows only 19 patterns.... Whoops!

I cannot emphesize enough how important the yarns are to these projects. These are fast, totally adorable knits. The sweet dreams hat is darling. But you need to have interesting bluky thick and thin yarns to create the effects. Holding some standartd worsted yarns doubled won't give it the same effervescent quality.

These projects would be perfect for some first handspun attempts. I need to get some ribbon yarns!

You can bet I'll knit some pods or coccoons when I am expecting a child. They are such a great way to show off a newborn baby! (It doesn't even matter to me if they are functional because they are such fast knits.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Illini Alpacas Spun

Spinning a fun blend of 85% Alpaca, 10% merino, Sari Silk and Firestar fiber that I picked up at an Illinois Fiber Fair.   When I came across it at the yarn festival, the touch of the fiber drew me in.  It is so light and fluffy with little flecks of color.

The fiber is spinning up thin and smooth.  It makes me really wish that I knew how to ply yarn.  I mean, I know HOW to ply yarn... but without a second spindle or a lazy kate this would be difficult.  It is already a laborious process to unwind the spun yarn from my spindle onto the niddy noddy.  (Yet another reason why I would love to have a spinning wheel with all the accessories!)  This is making me consider getting another spindle, like the one that KnitPicks offers that helps you wind the yarn into a center pull ball.  I'd still wind it onto the niddy noddy to set the twist, but it would make the whole process a bit easier.

Thankfully I'm a bit addicted to single ply yarns ANYWAY.  I just hope I don't over block a project knit from one of my yarns and snap the strand... I'd cry!

I think this is the easiest yarn I have spun yet.  It drafts like a DREAM!  There is a a tiny amount of debris in the fiber (twigs or straw) but it is really easy to pick out as I'm spinning.  I haven't needed to do any predrafting at all.   Indy was very interested in the spindle, but thankfully he knows that it is not a toy for him.

During this spinning attempt I broke my spindle... I don't think this piece was supposed to come off!  After this project I'll fix it up with some wood glue and it will be good as new.

I was smarter when winding the yarn around the spindle this time.  Rather than winding the newly spun yarn up and down the spindle (making it really hard to unwind), I've been concentrating on winding around one section at a time.  The first few yards have been a dream to unwind!

It took about a week, week and a half for me to spin all 138 g of this fiber.  I know that I would be MUCH faster with a wheel where I wouldn't need to stop to wind the yarn around the spindle.   The yarn is ~24 WPI (a light fingering/heavy lace weight yarn) and there are over 800 yards!  (+/- 604 wraps * 4 ft/wrap = 2416 ft = 805 yards)   I did break the yarn in six places as I was winding it up, but I was able to easily (and subtly) repair these with small knots.   I think that if I were using a Lazy Kate to help get the yarn off of a spindle that there would be less tension and fewer breaks...  But then again, I would rather have the breaks happen now than when I'm aggressively blocking a lace shawl.

I can't wait for my next spinning project!  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dyeing Wool/Acrylic Blends with Food Coloring

I frequently get asked at ChemKnits on my yarn dyeing tutorials if these techniques will work on acrylic based yarns.  While I demonstrated in the video
What you can’t dye with food coloring that these methods do not work for 100% acrylic fibers, you can dye wool/acrylic blends with food coloring.  I started dyeing yarn in the first place because I had a mountain of 20% wool/80% acrylic cream yarn remaining after knitting a sampler afghan.  These hand dyed yarns ended up being the bulk of my 10 hour afghan design.  

What You Need
  • Yarn - In this tutorial I used Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn as the base, which is 20% wool /80% acrylic.  
  • A stove safe pot with a lid
  • Heat - In this tutorial we are using stovetop methods.  
  • Dye - I used a mixture of different liquid food coloring to create an orange/brown color.  
  • Acid - I supplement my dyebath with a healthy splash of white vinegar, usually 2-3 tablespoons per 6 cups of water.  
  • Water (6 cups)
  • Utensil - A slotted spoon, tongs, something to help you safely submerge the yarn.  
  • Rubber Gloves (Optional) - Keep your hands color free by wearing gloves!

How to Dye Wool/Acrylic Blends (See below for the video tutorial.)
  1. Before you dye your yarn you will want to wrap the yarn into a skein.  In the accompanying video, show how I wrap the commercial yarn I wanted to overdye into a skein using a chair.  
  2. (Optional) Presoak your yarn.  If you want subtle variations in the wool, you can follow our kettle dyeing tutorial by adding dry yarn to the simmering dyebath.  If you would like to get a more solid, consistent color to your yarn, then soak  your yarn in for 20-30 minutes before adding it to the dyebath.  
  3. Set up your dyebath as follows:  Put 8 cups of water, 2-3 Tablespoons of vinegar and your desired quantity of dye into the pot on the stove.  Since only the wool fibers will absorb the color, you will want to use more dye than with 100% wool to achieve a more saturated color.  
  4. Cover the pot and turn on the heat until the dyebath comes to a soft boil.  
  5. Add your yarn to the simmering dyebath.  (If you presoaked your yarn, gently squeeze out the excess water first.)  Use your slotted spoon to help submerge the yarn into the dyebath.  Recover the pot and reduce the heat.    
  6. Allow the yarn to heat 20-30 minutes or until the dyebath is clear.  
  7. Turn off the heat, and let the yarn cool until you can handle it comfortably.  Be careful when moving the yarn around, too much agitation can felt the yarn.  
  8. Once the yarn is cool, rinse with lukewarm water and mild soap until the water runs clear.  
  9. Hang the yarn to dry.  
  10. Knit or crochet a fabulous project!  

Dyeing wool acrylic blends is so much fun because you can easily get a beautiful heathered appearance even if you didn’t start with a heathered yarn.  This is a great way to give your stash a boost!  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vogue Knitting Live Chicago

Last weekend I attended Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago.  This is the second big knitting event I've been to, and the first time I've ever taken a knitting class.*  I posted some pictures to Facebook during my class, but here are some other highlights from my trip.  (If you haven't already, Like ChemKnits on Facebook to see current WIP's of my knitting, spinning and dyeing.)

*In 5th grade my teacher, Mrs. Fox, taught my friend Lindsay and I to knit during indoor recess.  We later did dyeing yarn and other fun crafts, too.

I took the "Designing Your Own Triangle Shawl" class by Brooke Nico.  I had initially registered for a Design Your Own Lace Shawl class (that would discuss more types of shapes and coming up with motifs), but that class was canceled.  I have knit a couple triangle shawls, so I am familiar with the construction.  I have also designed a number of knitting charts and familiar with using my computer to draw them.  (See my Drawing Knitting Charts in Excel Tutorial.)  I mention what I knew how to do before the class because I wanted to point out that I was in a good place for what we were about to learn.  A few of other students left the 3 hour class early because they felt it was over their heads.

Brooke's handouts are great.  There are schematics to show how the charts align, directions on how to start the garter (or stockinette) stitch tabs for even or odd # stitches and sample designs.  Here are some of my notes from her lecture on designing triangle shawls:

  • Using a stockinette tab (rather than garter st tab) gives an applied i-cord like finish to the top of the shawl. 
  • We learned how to orient your graph paper to draw your charts on the triangle shawl and that you only need to draw a chart for one half.
  • She recommends drawing out the YO spine on your graph paper first, and then trying to get your motif to fit into that triangle.  
  • When you have your motif (say 8x8 sts) block off areas the same size on your chart to see how they orient within the YO spines.  Then you can apply the charted symbols themselves.  This is when you can decide if you want to start with an even or odd # of sts between YO's to get balance to choose what tab to make.  
  • Once you have your chart and spine int he section, extend the charts to fill any blank space to make it more continuous.  
The best piece of advice I got from Brooke was to Just Swatch It!  When I was waiting for us to start the next section, I swatched up a lace "I" that sketched ages ago.  Rather than trying to draw mutliple forms on the chart, draw one and try it out.  If I don't like how it ended up, then I can try tweaking again.

I made a friend from Michigan, D* (I am awful with names, so I cannot remember the rest, but I think of her as Denise in my head.)  We had a lovely time chatting waiting for the class to start.   When it was time to start making our triangle base, I discovered that I had forgotten to put stitch markers in my bag.  I was prepared to use my hoop earrings to mark the center stitch when Denise offered me some of her markers.  Unfortuately, Densie was one of the students who left the class early.  When I tried to give her the stitch markers back (knowing that this swatch I made would be frogged eventually), she told me to keep them and pass some on to someone else in need someday.  What a wonderful random act of kindness!

Ultimately, did I need an in person class?  Maybe not.  If this information was available as a YouTube video, I would have the same knowledge that I do now.  Am I glad that I took the class?  Absolutely!  I cannot wait to take more classes in the future.

Another nice feature of registering for a class is that you get 3 day access to the marketplace included.  Now, I wasn't going to treck to downtown Chicago three days in a row, but I was more than happy to stop by after my lesson.  Unlike the other yarn festival I attended, there was not very much roving.  I was a bit dissappointed, since I was looking to fuel my spinning addiction.  I ended up purchasing one skein of yarn at the festival, but I will explain more about that yarn at a later date.  (Once the recipient has received the gift made out of the yarn.  It will become too obvious if I share it now.)

I saw this stunning Thinking of Waves shawl on display in the marketplace.  I would have never thought of combining these colors, but the effect is so elegant and expensive looking.  

What about my design?  Well I am saving this for a later date.  Hopefully I will finish the design and knit a sample up in early 2013.  For now, I am hoping to get a nice collection of Lace Knitting Books for my birthday so I can get some more inspiration.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Knitter's Gift Guide: 8 Homemade Gift Ideas eBook

I am so happy to be a part of A Knitter's Gift Guide: 8 Homemade Gift Ideas!  This darling eBook features the Ombré Mittens knitting pattern along with 7 other great projects.

These Holiday gift ideas include many quick and unique knitting patterns, featuring 1 scarf, 1 cowl, 1 pair of mittens, 2 pairs of fingerless gloves, 1 bag, and 2 hats.  I hope you get as big a kick out of checking out this free eBook as I did contributing to it!  

  • Spiced Plum Scarf - A fun chunky scarf that is a great variation of a ribbed scarf.  Simple enough to knit quick, but still contains a lot of visual interest.
  • Deep Night Fingerless Gloves - These do not have separate finger holes, so I would classify them more as mittens but they are cute nevertheless with a basket weave pattern.  I LOVE the yarn suggested to use i the pattern.  
  • Seaside Sunset Cowl + Fingerless - What a great example of how kntting with two opposite colors held together.  The visual effect of the orange and blue is stunning!   
  • Ombré Mittens - I am a little bit biased with this one, but what a stunning design!  The colorwork is very simple for someone just starting out with stranded knitting.  Plus this is a great stash buster project.  
  • Easy Midnight Bag - This bag is a simple small purse with an asymmetric triangular closure.  
  • Tilting Blocks Hat - This is a stunning baby hat.  The brim has a slight wave due to the stitch pattern which would be very cute.  I am tempted to cast on more stitches to make it for an adult!  
  • Vintage Hat - This is a soft and feminie hat perfect to take advnatage of any fuzzy yarns in your collection.  There is a log tie that goes around the brim that you can wind into a flower, tie into a bow or anything you want.  

AllFreeKnitting created a darling video to promote this eBook: