Friday, April 26, 2013

Color Disaffection

Everyone around here is making the Color Affection shawl.  They are so darn pretty!  I got sucked into the vortex--and then spit back out.

First, I wanted to use up stash.  But then the stash yarns I had, even though they looked pretty together, wouldn't have shown the pattern as well.  I like the Color Affections that use a light, a medium, and a dark, and a bit of contrast of color as well.

So I bought some yarn at Anacapa Fine Yarns to go with the stash yarn.  And then I bought some other yarn at Monarch Knitting to go with that, and before I knew what hit me, all the original stash yarn was back in the stash.

FINE.  Be that way.

When you're an artist, sometimes the palette changes.

Finally satisfied, I began to knit, conveniently half-forgetting or ignoring all the stuff I read on Ravelry about how the edge gets really tight, and you have to knit it super-loose, or you have to block it like a banshee when it's done.  Some people have introduced a yarnover to help loosen things up, and there are great directions on how to do it, and some people do it one way, and some do it another, and some don't do it at all, but everyone seems to be chiming in on the tightness of the edge.

I read all about it, I just didn't think I needed to do it, because I'm a loose knitter.  I felt a little smug about it, to be honest.  Pride goeth before a fall.

I cast on blithely and began to knit.  And then, as I knitted, and started the second color, I didn't think the colors were that great together after all.  Not enough contrast.

Off to Anacapa again.  Much conferring with various knitaholics who happened to walk by.  Many said the colors were fine as is--even the owner, which is awfully ethical of her, considering she was essentially talking me down from buying more yarn.

But I bought more yarn anyway.

Took it home.  Started knitting with it.  Hated it.  Too much contrast.  Went back to the grey.

I kept trying to ignore how the turquoise/teal color is wonderfully soft and squishy MadelineTosh, while the grey is Cascade Heritage sock yarn, and while the latter is perfectly acceptable yarn, it isn't as delightfully squishy and puffy as the other.  I kept trying to ignore its relative thinness.  I kept trying to ignore the thinness of the third brand and color yarn I had bought, that was sitting in the project bag, waiting for its turn, staring back at me with its dark eyes.  Three of them.

Sure, they were all fingering/sock yarns, but that doesn't mean they are all truly the same weight.  Or density.  Or fluffiness.

And then one evening I held up the partially finished shawl, about to let it flop back into the project bag after an evening of knitting denial, and I noticed how super-tight the edge was.  How this made the shawl as wavy and rolling as the Tennessee hills.

More precisely, I finally allowed this information to sift into my conscious mind, whereas before it had been loitering in the subconscious, leaning against a lamppost, smoking something it shouldn't have, and smirking at me.

I thought, "This will never block out."  And I disliked the relative thinness of certain otherwise perfectly acceptable yarn, as mentioned before.

So I frogged the whole thing.

Someday I will buy MORE yarn to go with the teal.  It will be soft and squishy, and it will be the right color.  Someday.

In the meantime, I just got a job blocking someone else's Color Affection!  She too was discouraged at the tight edge and the wavy rolling hills it created.  But I blocked it and it came out beautifully!  No more hills and valleys.

I'm encouraged, and itching to start my Color Affection all over again.  Must go shopping.

Luckily, I just got a part-time job at--wait for it!--a quilting AND knitting shop, Roxanne's a Wish and a Dream!  They have yarn AND fabric!  Clearly a little piece of heaven on earth.  I start next week!  People keep telling me not to spend my whole paycheck in the store.  I keep telling myself I will put myself on a yarn diet.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

She's Come Undone! How to Repair a Granny Square

One of my recent repair jobs was a crocheted blanket.  The lady who brought it to me had bought it some time ago in New Zealand for a future grandchild.  Finally the grandchild arrived, the blanket was gifted, and everyone lived happily ever after... until the wash cycle.

The main body of the blanket was a standard granny square, done in a delicate, soft, sport weight yarn, while the border was a celebration of arches and picots.

Who knows, maybe the yarn was good old Plymouth Dreambaby or some such perfectly suitable stuff, but I imagined it was an exotic New Zealand yarn.  I hear they have a lot of sheep there.  Hence they must have wonderful yarn.  My logic is unassailable, my imagination unbridled.

It looked like at least two or three rounds of double crochet were missing, but a closer look showed me it was really only the center.  An excellent prognosis for recovery!

So here's a pictorial tutorial, or pictutorial, if you will.  I'll start with the blanket saved, and then show the whole procedure again with a swatch I made, which shows the technique more clearly.

First, to save the loose stitches:

With a tapestry needle, I threaded a scrap of contrasting color sock yarn through the loops at the bottom of each dangling double crochet in the round above the missing section.  I tied a little bow and I was ready for the next step.

Because the tear was in the center of the blanket, the loose partial stitches of the "lost round" had to be pulled open/unknotted/untwisted by hand.  This took quite awhile.  I'm just warning you, in case you have a chance to do this some day.

Once that was done, it was time to re-crochet.

I wanted to use as much of the original yarn as possible, but I was going to need something on which to latch the round of double crochets I was going to create.

I found a strand of yarn in my stash that matched the color, miracle of miracles.  It was actually 2 strands of fiber unwound from some 3 ply Plymouth Encore.

So I chained four from my matching yarn, joined it with a slip stitch to the first chain, and I had a little loop which is blurry in the picture due to the limitations of my camera and my skills as a photographer.

Then I took the original yarn, which was still attached to the innards of the blanket, and did 3 double crochets into the loop I had made from my yarn.

Then I chained 4, dropped the loop from my crochet hook, stuck my hook into the bottom loops of the 3 double crochets in the round above, grabbed the loop I had dropped, pulled it through, then undid a couple of the chains, because you only need two chains in each corner of the granny square.

Then I did 3 more double crochets into the beginning loop I had made from my yarn.

And so on until I got back to the first 3-double-crochet group.  Slip stitch to join, finish off, weave in ends, and like new!

Here's the beautiful edging:

I suggested to my happy client that in future, putting the blanket in a mesh lingerie bag and washing it on a delicate cycle would be the way to go.

Now for the swatch I made, and some basic directions repeated.  I'm not using abbreviations here since some people have trouble reading those, and I am feeling merciful.

Insert tapestry needle with scrap yarn into bottoms of double crochets in round above "problem area."

Here I undid the center section of the swatch, as in the blanket above.

Thread the scrap yarn all the way around, in the round above the missing section.

Notice, on the lovely ebony crochet hook below, 4 stitches chained.

Join with slip stitch to beginning chain to form a ring, then chain 3, which counts as a double crochet, and do 2 double crochet into the ring.  (Equals 3 double crochet.)

Then chain 4, to make this section easier to pull through the saved stitches.

Drop loop from hook, and poke hook through saved stitches, from left to right, or clockwise.

Special note which I hope doesn't sound too complicated:  In this case, since it's the center round we are fixing, we will only need 4 groups of 3 double crochets each.  These will go in between the 6 double crochets that make up the corners of the round above.  That is why my hook has picked up the bottom loops of 6 double crochets in this picture.  If you had a repair in a different round, you would pick up the bottom loops of 3 double crochets at a time in each section along the sides.  Also, you would only need 1 chain in between those 3 double crochet groups.

Anyhoo, grab your dropped loop:

Pull through the bottoms of the saved stitches.

Then drop the loop, and undo 2 of the 4 chains--it's very easy to do that part.

Now do 3 double crochet into your center ring.  Chain 4 as above, and continue these steps until you have finished the round and you are back to the beginning.  Join with slip stitch to beginning double crochet.

That's all there is to it!  It's easy!

I can just picture my mom rolling her eyes heavenward.

"Easy for you, maybe!" she would say.

And I would say, "Well, once you get the hang of it," and then we would both roll our eyes heavenward.

Anyway, the blanket is dear to a family's heart, and I was happy to get the chance to repair it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's Twins!

Now I know why I dreamed I gave birth to twins last night.

I had been thinking about how, sometimes at knit nights or quilting classes, or really, any social situation, I sometimes feel at a loss because I can't join in when people start talking about their kids and their grandkids.

I don't have kids, I have novels I wrote.  Oh, and that as-yet-unproduced screenplay I carry around in the trunk of my car as ballast in case it rains in Southern California and the oily roads get slick.

And I don't have grandkids, I have... well, I went out and got this on Thursday, and I have been thinking of it as my brand new baby:

Which is what got me thinking about kids in the first place.

It's a Janome Jem Gold sewing machine, small and lightweight for carting to quilting classes.  I traded in my other machine, the one I bought to find out if I even wanted to sew, and got the Jem instead.

I also got this baby: the 8200.  It has 11 inches of quilting space.  It's kind of the baby grand of home sewing machines, if you will.

If not a grandbaby.

I just got it out of the box this morning.

I was busy for a couple of days making sure I knew how to thread the Jem, and change all the feet and lower the feed dogs and so on, because I have a machine quilting class coming up next weekend, and I need to know how to use it.  Turns out, it's very easy.  Yay!

The big kid will stay home, currently on my desk, as I have nowhere else to put it.  Yet.

Soon I will be able to quilt like a maniac.  As if I haven't been already.

Anyway, getting the "twins"--obviously fraternal and not identical--made me think about how I always meant to have actual children.  A husband, too.  Things just didn't work out that way.

There are times I feel sad about it, especially when everyone around me is bonding over talking about their families.  But when I hear other women share about how hard it is to find time to knit because their young children or grandchildren won't leave them alone for five minutes, or how they have to sneak yarn into the house so their husbands won't see it, I feel pretty lucky.

I can knit whenever and wherever I want, I can pile yarn up to the ceiling, and leave projects in varying stages of completion all over the living room, turn my dining room table into a blocking table, my desk into a fabric cutting station, and if I want to buy a new sewing machine, I don't need permission from anyone but myself.

Getting permission from myself is a whole other challenge, mind you, but clearly, I have triumphed!

Now I need another work table and some shelving.

I am strongly considering getting rid of the couch.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gone But Not Forgotten

Back when I lived in Los Angeles and was volunteering regularly with Binky Patrol, I met one of our members who used to make deliveries for us to various clinics and shelters.  Her name was Diane.

She had been ill but was doing better when I met her, and she often apologized to the group that she didn't make more blankets, but we didn't care; we LOVED that she made deliveries--are you kidding?!

When she grew too ill to continue with the group, and realized she wasn't going to recover, she gave me all of her remaining yarn and other supplies, and told me to do with it what I willed.  Most of it went to Binky Patrol, but there were a couple of things she suggested I keep, if I wanted them.

Some months earlier, she had bought some lovely sea green Berroco GlacĂ© yarn, planning to make herself a shell or light sweater.  She never got around to it.

She told me she knew I could make something beautiful with it.  I felt honored, but after she passed away, it took me a long time to make anything out of this yarn.  I just couldn't find the right pattern.

I tried a few things crochet, a few things knit, and I didn't like the look of anything I tried.  (What, me, a perfectionist?  Nooooo.  I guess Diane had me pegged.)

Finally, I was browsing through one of Barbara Walker's wonderful treasuries of patterns, and found something called Milanese Lace, which I thought would do justice to Diane's yarn.

Finally I was happy with the result.  I call it the Milan Scarf, and the pattern is available now in my Etsy shop.

It's a good beginning lace pattern, not too challenging.  The worsted weight ribbon yarn gives it a really nice drape.

The Berroco GlacĂ© has been discontinued, but you can probably still find some out there in the yarn-osphere.  You can also substitute any worsted weight yarn, ribbon or otherwise.

As soon as I can get to the post office, the scarf pictured is going off to Handmade Especially For You.  They give "comfort scarves" to women in shelters for domestic violence.

Among other treasures Diane gave me were a couple of ivory crochet hooks, which I love.  I think of her every time I use them.

I just used the smaller one to make a pair of socks from a pattern by Elisa Purnell, called My Favorite Lacy Top-Down Socks.

You start at the ankle and work to the toe, then go back to the ankle and make the cuff.

I chose not to make them too high, and had plenty of yarn left over to start another pair.

I don't know if Elisa is offering this particular pattern for sale or free or otherwise, but you can clamor for her to do so at her blog, Yarn Tails.

She does have a lot of cool free patterns there.  Just in case you like free patterns.  (Insert giant grinning face here.)

Anyway, the ivory hook was the perfect size for the fingering weight yarn (Cascade Heritage Sock yarn, in case you were wondering.)  So, thanks again, Diane, wherever your spirit may be.