Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blocking Part II, or The Four Ps: Pushing, Pulling, Prodding and Pinning

For things like stranded knitting and cabled or ribbed things, you don't need aggressive blocking. Usually. You can get away with washing the thing, prodding it into place, and letting it dry to just even out the stitches. This is enough for items where your gauge was correct in the first place and it isn't a kind of pattern where you have to stretch it open to really see the design, such as lace. So, for the straight stockinette socks with the colorwork, that is what I did. Laid them into place, made sure the toe was rounded correctly, and left them to dry.

You can see my big toe in this picture...heehee...

Next up was the Mystery Stole 3, a.k.a. Swan Lake. I really, really, really wanted to see this one done. It took so freaking long to make, and is my first large lace piece. Once I started the Secret of the Stole, a.k.a. Guinevere, I realized that I should have knit the MS3 using size four needles. Not a big deal, but there was no way I was going to get the size that the creator did when blocking!

Which brings me to my biggest gripe with lace knitting: Yes, gauge is not important, but when you give an estimated size for the stole, you should also give a recommended swatch and the SIZE YOU GOT WHEN KNITTING THE SWATCH! I am an engineer, so I understand that I desire a lot more from schematics and instructions than are normally given, but when you say swatch until it looks good and I think it looks good at a gauge a little over half the size of your gauge, then I will have to change things to get the size that you estimate. So I suppose I could take your stitch count and divide it by the length to see what the blocked gauge should be for a certain part of the pattern, but the type of edging can change it, and what about when you have seven different patterns going across and you can't really figure an accurate gauge. So what I'm saying here is please, when you give an estimated dimension and a gauge swatch so the knitter can decide what open-ness pleases him/her, also please give the dimensions of YOUR swatch instead of just saying "swatch until you like it best."

Back to blocking.

I threaded my blocking rods through the eyelets for the border. By blocking rods, I mean an $8 package of 100 orange marking flags picked up from Lowe's. Pull the flag off and you have 100 rods that are somewhat flexible, so you can shape them along curves if you want. I pinned the centerline between the wing and rest of the stole first, then pulled the sides out and finally tackling the length.

At this point, I was unhappy with it. I thought it looked squat and the curve of the wing was not very curved, and I really did want a larger one. But I did not have the time to be re-pulling it into a new shape, and I could always re-block it later, so I'm leaving it to dry and I'll decide if it needs a re-block then. If I re-block, I'll be pinning the length out and then going for the sides for a longer stole. It's 20" x 40", so the ratio is about the same as the original, but it just looks squat and un-pretty to me right now.

I also blocked the Hemlock Ring. For this one, I pinned the center, and moved out from there. I did the center circle, then the leafy bits, and then tackled the feather and fan section. It's not as large as the original, but that's really more due to material choice than anything. I made this from acrylic, whereas the original was made from wool. The wool would block much better than the acrylic does. I already made a version from this yarn, so I know it will turn out, but would be better with wool. Here's the pinned out Hemlock ring.

This one requires a lot of pulling and prodding to get into place. The thick yarn and the non-woolliness of it all make it not want to cooperate so much. But I got it pinned into submission, and there it will stay until it is dry.

Yay pelts!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blocking, Part I or I Knit an Amoeba!

When you finish knitting lace or Fair Isle knitting, chances are your knits will look more like an amoeba or other strange creature than what you were intending. It has nothing to do with knitting skill, it's just how it goes. So, I finished a few amoeba-like projects and decided it was time to get the blocking blanket out. I have a blocking board, but it's in storage at home since I wasn't sure I'd have a spot to put it. My blocking blanket is a large rectangle of leftover leopard print fleece my grandmother gave me as a blanket, since she had no idea what she originally bought it for. Her sewing room is FULL of fabrics bought for never-made projects, fabrics that were on sale and pretty, and leftovers from projects. A lot like most knitter's yarn bins. So she's been slowly cleaning it out, going down and organizing, removing bolts every so often, using scraps for pillows and mending, and I've got me a soft, nice leopard print fleece that's awesome for blocking on. I unfolded the blanket and placed it on the floor in blocking preparation. Lee took one look and said "This means there will be pelts all over the floor for days, doesn't it?" He thinks all of my blocking pieces look like pelts when they're pinned out and drying.

So, I have the blanket out, and now, for the amoebas!

Jellyfish, or Hemlock Ring?

Arrow pointing the way to knitting lessons, or Mystery Stole 3, a.k.a. Swan Lake?

Argyle socks with ghost/alien blobs, or Aaargh-yles?

These will be washed, stretched to within an inch of their miserable yarn-y lives, and once they are dry, should look like something to be proud of! Though the socks really don't look that bad.

Also, if I commented on anything in the past couple of hours, and my posts are not coherent, I have had three glasses of champagne and a large glass of Jack and coke this evening. Yes, the majority of this post was written a few days ago, when I had the camera out and took pictures and uploaded them, and so is mostly coherent. I think. I still have a couple of pre-written posts, but since I can't seem to sit at a computer long enough to check my e-mail, let alone post, I am spacing them out. So for you, my two readers, you get posts, and you even get posts with pictures, yay!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blocking Party Imminent

I like to wait to block things until I have a few things that need blocking. I feel bad using a bunch of wool wash (currently Soak in flora) for just one small item, so I like to wait until I can fill up the tub and get a bunch done at a time. I have a Hemlock Ring blanket waiting for its bath, my Mystery Stole 3 is FINALLY all knit up, and now I just need to finish one pesky little detail on a pair of Aaargh-yles, a Christmas gift that just didn't make it and now needs a bath before being sent off.

Can you see it?

Other than the slight difference in gauge which will be mitigated with blocking, look at the second sock. The one on the right. See how the white lines don't quite touch in the centers of the colored diamonds? Yeah, that's an oops. When you're making argyles, you knit the leg flat, then you seam it up later. These are not quite traditional argyles, as I stopped the pattern at the foot instead of continuing down into it, but they are constructed up to the heel as argyles should be. Nine strands of yarn coming off the needles which causes a lot of tangling and therefore swearing, especially when you realize that you started to decrease the skull a line early and so the cross lines are not going to line up and you have to rip back about ten rows, ten rows of eighty-two stitches with NINE different colors all wrapped around each other each row to get rid of holes and I did the same thing on the first one except I thought the chart was wrong but fixed it and WHY CAN'T I READ A STUPID CHART I WROTE and...

Times like these, when you have to rip back a whole bunch of rows to fix something you should have realized when you started, calls for a drink. Not an alcoholic one, as that could worsen the problem, but a nice, calming drink.

Mmmm, hot apple cider with caramel, whipped cream and some cinnamon on top. The mug was free from the college women's center, I did not pay for something that had that saying on it!

So, now, I need to rip back almost 100 rows of mattress stitch because I stitched the wrong bit. For mattress stitch, you stitch the bar between the first stitch (selvedge, edging, whatever you want to call it) and the second stitch. This brings the second stitch on each side nice and snug together. When making argyles, you realize you have to do this, so after you chart your diamonds, you add a stitch onto either side so you can mattress stitch them together and the cross lines line up in the back. I did that part. What I did not do was stitch into the bar between the first and second stitches. I stitched into the bar in the middle of the first stitch. Which brought the two ends of the first stitch on either side together, creating what seemed like a whole stitch between the cross lines. Maybe an illustration will help...

The arrows on the first bit show the direction of the yarn. It loops around and around, and you see the "V"s as the fabric of the sock. In the second one, I originally stitched under the blue lines, along the orange dashed line, which left half of the first stitch visible. Since I was stitching two sides together, the two halves got together to make a whole incorrect stitch between where the nice white lines were supposed to touch. So, I ripped out the orange line of stitching, got a drink, put in Seven Years in Tibet, and started to stitch along the pink line, picking up the green bars and making a nice seam. This made the white cross lines actually looked like they went all the way around the sock, instead of being a nice, big, obvious seam. Fixing this was especially important since the second one was done correctly the first time and would have brought lots of attention to the fact that the first one was WRONG.

Still not correct gauge-wise, but it's time for a bath and a block since the seams are now beautiful and matching!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Yay, New Year!

Yes, I am alive. In the moving, starting school, going on Christmas break with almost no internet availability and the fact that all pre-Christmas (and some post) free time was used to finish gifts, I have not blogged in awhile. But I am back! I had some enjoyable holidays, and I hope you did too!

So, what have I been up to? Well, there's the Christmas knitting. Socks, socks, more socks, and an Intricate Stag Bag turned pillow have been finished. Pictures you say? No, along with the blogging hiatus, I seem to have forgotten I owned a camera. Took it along with me for Christmas break, and took no pictures. Saw friends and family, finished a few awesome knits, my family got a new dog, I went to Niagara Falls with my bestest friend in the whole wide world, and took no pictures. I'm especially sad about the no pictures of my Stag Pillow. I wasn't impressed with the stranded knitting while knitting. Yes, you could see the picture, but it was lumpy and weird. However, once I blocked it, it was FREAKING AMAZING. Like seriously, I was amazed that I knit it. It looked hot, hot, hot, and blocking is now the love of my life. I never knew that blocking stranded projects could give you such amazing results. I thought only lace did such wonderful things when blocked. I now want to knit more and more stranded projects, just so I can block them. It's not my first stranded project, but the first one that was entirely stranded and made an image, instead of some geometric shapes running through a few rows.

Ah well.

In my first post of the new year, I will share with you my resolutions. My first one, non-knitting related, is to lessen the vending machine habit. I am currently living in campus housing which requires me to have an exorbitant amount of debit on my ID card. This money can only be used on campus in restaurants and vending machines. If you don't use it by the end of the quarter, you lose it. Even by the standards of overpriced campus food and the fact that I took the reduced plan, this is just under $100 per week to spend on food. I am at Lee's a lot, so I get good dinners often. To compensate, I buy Lee campus foods whenever possible and do the same for a few of my other friends. I also frequent the vending machines. Craving a sweet something? Twix bar and Cherry Pepsi. No time for breakfast? Chocolate chocolate chip muffin and chocolate milk, again from the vending machines. Pretty much at least once a day, I get stuff from the vending machines. Uses up money, which is great, but too much sugar and stuff. Wouldn't be bad if they had SoBe machines or semi-healthy stuff, but the choices are really not that good. This is especially bad because in a few short months, there will be little to no extras until my loans are paid off. Junk food is very expensive!

I'm also trying for fewer sweets and more healthy food in general. I'm a "yes, cake batter, Kit-Kats dipped in frosting and Mountain Dew is dinner" kind of person, whereas Lee is a "root beer is desert if and only if you've earned it" kind of person. He wants something sweet, he reaches for fruit or orange juice. I most certainly do not. He has a much healthier lifestyle, and it would be better for me to gravitate more towards his than him towards mine. So I'm not going with a set "I will not have junk food" or "I will limit calorie intake to..." because I know I'll break it. I'm the kind of person who will keep a bag of Lindt truffles tucked away for a long time because they're nice expensive chocolates, and then one day go on a binge and eat them all, simply because I've been saving them and ohmigodiwantoneNOW. The goal is not none, it is less. Much more reachable for me.

Knitting wise, I've only brought a small amount of stuff with me to school. Less than 1/3 of my stash, all of which is earmarked for certain things. The goal for the school year is to finish if not everything I brought (as I brought all the laceweight), then to finish everything that is currently started and not buy more yarn. I think that last bit will be broken, but it's for my mom's fiftieth birthday in a couple months. It's a present, and as long as the yarn doesn't stay in the bin until I leave, I can make that an exception. Right? I'm also trying a two steps forward, one step back until I've finished all the currently started projects. Right now, I am ever so close to finally finishing my MS3. I'm on the last clue. Then I will finish the SotS, which is also ever so close to completion, so I can start a stole for my grandmother's birthday. Two steps forward, my two stoles in progress finished, one step back, starting a new one for my grandmother. I want to make my mom a sweater, and to start that I want to finish the two in progress ones I have with me. One will be pretty simple, the 70% finished one I'm crocheting, Peasantry. I found the pattern in with the knitting stuff my sisters borrowed from me, so I can finish it now, yay! The other one is Blaze. The sleeves are done, but the gosh durn thing just has so many cable crossings that it takes awhile. I may substitute an amigurumi or socks as the second step forward so I can actually finish the sweater for my mom by her birthday! I have a bunch of socks I really want to start, but two steps forward...I'm trying to be strong about this one. I technically finished a pair of socks this month already, but since they were late Christmas presents, I'm trying really hard to not count it as a step forward. I just need to finish the sock on the needles and get another old one on before starting a new one!

Anyway, that's enough for now.

Next time (hopefully) finished, but unblocked MS3. Unblocked because I'm probably going to block it the minute I finish it tomorrow, so if I post before blocking, I'll post tomorrow. More posting is also a goal for the new year. I'm sure I can make that one, because nothing plus anything is more!