Sunday, July 19, 2009

Status Check: Lots of Swatches

As a relative newcomer to knitting, I feel like I am just now understanding the importance of swatching. I've known of the importance for awhile, but I just didn't get it. I guess when all you're knitting is scarves and iPod cozies from your own made-up patterns, swatching in not crucial. I also bought a lot of acrylic yarn that I found at Hobby Lobby and Michaels (I still buy yarn thee, just a lot more selectively).  When I first heard about swatching, there were two obstacles I faced. One: I worried that if I "wasted" yarn on a swatch, I would run out for the intended project.  Two: I didn't have the patience to start with a swatch: I just wanted to start my project BADLY. 

But now as I move on to hats, mittens, sweaters, etc. and spend more money on finer yarn, I get it. I don't worry about running out of yarn anymore. I either buy enough from the start or I tell myself it's just another reason to buy more yarn : ) And even though I am not a process a knitter (which surprises me since I enjoy the process of so many other pursuits) I am trying hard to incorporate some time and reflection into my process.

Kendall Mittens: Now that I have my intended pattern nailed down I can play with yarn choices. I made three swatches today with some Patons Soy Wool blend. I did three needle sizes: 8, 6 and 4. I think 6 is the ideal. I do like the way the yarn feels, but it's a hand wash. I had convinced myself that Kendall's mittens and hats should be machine-washable, but so far I have been dissatisfied with the yarn selections I have in my stash that are m-w.  I could go to the yarn store, but I know I will just get overwhelmed and spend a lot of money and come home with a lot of yarn that is everything but what I need for the Kendall project.

Kendall Hat: I found in my stash some pink Bernat alpaca blend. I knitted a swatch on some size 8 bamboo needles that I forgot I had. They came from my only-bamboo-needle phase that followed my plastic phase that I was started on by my Aunt Nancy.  I thought that I didn't like bamboo anymore, but I guess it really depends on specifics. These were Crystal Palace and very slick; I really enjoyed them. Even though I'm feeling doubtful about this 18-inch head measurement, I went ahead and cast on with the alpaca.  It's really soft but also hand wash - oh well. I started off thinking I would make the umbilical cord hat since I never have, but I keep picturing how Kendall looked in the sherbert hat I made her and I decided to switch to the Kittyville hat. In Stitch and Bitch it's for adults, but with an 18-inch head, it needs only minor adjustments. So that's off and rolling.

Cashmerino Silk iPod Cozy: Kind of stalled out. I'm too lazy to bring my iPod to the couch and check the size. It's really close to being finished - suck it up!

Blue and Brown Boy Bonnet: Started the nape decrease today. Nothing major. Dreaming about combining all of my scraps of Sublime Organic Cotton into one beautiful blend of a bonnet.

Spring Booties: I hadn't worked on these in so long that I thought I had frogged this project, but then I found the one finished bootie. I really want to master the pattern because I LOVE the way the booties look, but that half-brioche stitch is really hard for me! I haven't yet cast on the second bootie, but I foresee it happening within the week.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Third Time's the Charm

Finally a mitten pattern I can live with. The funniest thing is that it's the first pattern I looked at and printed out and then for some reason I put it away. It did look a little daunting with all the different numbers for all the different sizes, but after completing a one mitten, they are some of the best written directions I've ever used!

So I still haven't matched the perfection of the rainbow mitten, but I'm getting closer. I still can't tell if the rounded effect is the yarn or maybe the age. Like maybe there is nothing I can do to recreate that aspect.

The new white mitten is still too stiff for my liking, but I think it's the yarn and the needle size I used. I started with 4s for the cuff and it felt fine. When I started the hand though it felt too tight and I wanted to switch to some 5s but my only circular 5s are otherwise engaged in another project, so I made do - it wasn't that bad, nothing like the green mitten. I'm debating if when I make these mittens for real if I will drop down a needle size for the cuff.

Now I just have to find the perfect yarn...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mitten Research

Have found a third pattern. The only drawback is the smallest size is for a two-year-old. Seeing as how Kendall is on the big side, I'm going to make a two-year old size and we'll see how it fits.

So far these tutorials has been very helpful:

Will try mitten #3 in white acrylic. Will attempt to follow directions for four needle mittens and do with a magic loop. The two needle mittens calls for different right and left mittens - I'm not going there. 

Mitten #2

While on the quest for the perfect mitten pattern, I've decided I might have to purchase a pattern: either singly or a book. I usually have such great success with free patterns, but this is #2 and it's mostly a let-down.

I kept with size 2 needles, but this time I tried a purple Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino - a yarn I've been dying to try. It felt so much better on the needles! I'm fine with the cuff. I think it's long enough and has enough stretch to keep the mitten on the hand. I also like the hand evern though the tip is more pointed than I would like. But the worst part is the thumb. The thumb looks so terrible I don't even want to look at it. I had high hopes for it because it was worked differently than the last one but I think it's so hideous the way it sticks out from the side of the mitten like it was a last minute addition and has no business being there. I wish I could just take if off and seam up the side and have a thumbless mitten, but I think that would look wretched as well.

So I have this mitten I found at my mom's house in her old Singer sewing machine that no longer actually houses a sewing machine. The sewing machine stand (?) is a safe haven for loads of miscellaneous little odds and ends. The mitten was knitted by Helen Noise (one of my grandmother's friends) for one of us kids, but I don't remember it ever being worn by me or my brothers. Now that I'm older and a knitter I can appreciate it for what it is: a perfect mitten. It appears to be a 32 stitch cast on and starts with a 2x2 rib. From there the hand and thumb is started together, simultaneously. I can see the bar increases make their way up the length of the thumb.  looks like there are six stitches including the actual increases. Then a row is knit plain. On the third round two more stitches are added giving the thumb 8 stitches. This is repeated so when the thumb is started there are ten stitches. Here the hand breaks and goes its separate way. The top of the hand is rounded not pointed which I think entailed a sharper decrease: no alternating rows of decreases and knitting even. 

If I were to recreate this I would attempt to use circular needles and form the thumb increases in the middle of on of the needles. I'm going to look around for another pattern, but if it comes to it, I'll attempt a recreation.

The mitten itself is also a good lesson in not using acyrlic yarn. The right side is dusty and fuzzy looking (no doubt because of its 20-year hide out in the sewing machine drawer) and the wrong side is sharp and pristine.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mitten Time

Lauren has commissioned me to make a hat and mittens for Kendall for their trip to Alaska in September. I was intrigued to try out some mittens since I never have before. I had trouble finding a pattern that satisfied me enough to try it though. A lot of patterns I found didn't include a thumb, which I wanted to learn how to make the thumb. Then I found only patterns that had sizes that were too big for a one-year-old. I finally found this one and decided to try it, but I had a lot of problems with this mitten: I used my standard green crap yarn to make a practice mitten and it was way too thick at least with size 2 needles - so that was an ongoing trouble. It wasn't that bad on a regular knit stitch, but the k2togs were nightmares. This was my fault; I should have used bigger needles - this seems to be a recurring problem for me. The end product is quite stiff and I think would actually be good for warmth because the stitches are so close together, but the acrylic feels awful to the touch and I know it will only get worse as time goes on.
I like the extra long cuff but because this was a practice mitten, I only did 12 rows instead of 24. But I like the 12 rows so if I do end up using this pattern, I would probably stick with 12.
As I made the increases for the hand I was unhappy with the placement of them - they seemed out of place, but looking at the finished product they're okay. You can see one at the center back of the hand and the other two on the palm-side at the edges of the wrist. Since I've never made mittens before I don't know if this is standard or not.

I would have preferred to use my circular needles, but I decided to follow the pattern and use 4 dpns. I t was fine, but I would like to convert for next time.

Making the thumb was fun and easier than I thought it would be. Although it did leave two gaping holes (one on each side) that I had to stitch up from underneath. I need to research a way of avoiding or decreasing this problem.

It's driving me crazy that I can't try these on to see if they fit and have the right proportions. I'll have to try one on Kendall asap.

So I don't know what yarn I will actually end up using. I'm thinking of getting some Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply in pink; it's so soft and it's wool, so it would be warm, but it's also thin.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One More Bonnet

I realized I hadn't made any booties to match the bonnet I'm giving Erin at her shower this weekend. But I just didn't want to knit another pair of booties. I'm fearful with the booties that they don't get much use. I feel like bonnets may have a little more mileage.

So I started a light pink bonnet for baby Finley. The bonnets are so fast, it's almost done. I think I will embroider some flowers on it in a similar pink color - you know monochromatic-like. Oh and I'm making this newborn size so hopefully she can wear it right away.