Thursday, November 24, 2011

Posting, yay!

Very, very, very busy week! Some of this:

Bit of that:

And a touch of this:

As well as all kinds of work stuff and meetings and baking and preparing the house for guests and planning a vacation and planning people coming to visit and OMG PhD APPLICATIONS and...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Wear

for Siberia.

Lee and I are planning to walk the entire Appalachian Trail next spring/summer, after Japan but before Grad School (ohgodohgodohgod), and one of the recommendations was to bring a warm wool hat and a balaclava, for the really cold bits towards the end. I'd already decided to make us hats, because what's the point of being a knitter if you don't knit the simple wool hiking hats you need? Instead of carrying a hat and a balaclava, I decided that a hat plus a ninja mask/cowl/half balaclava of some sort was the way to go. Not like these though:

I found this lovely pattern that is meant to be form-fitting for a ninja mask that is perfect for biking. I probably won't test that since I don't usually bike when it's that bad out, but may use it for walking to work this winter! I used thicker wool than recommended, so that they'd match the hats and be extra warm, but I'm not sure they're as comfortable as they could be. I may re-knit this pattern in the future if I live in an area where such winter wear makes sense, in a thinner, softer yarn. As they are, they'll be perfect for the Trail, and any other winter activity we might ever want to do. Like go to the South Pole. Or scale Everest.


Yarn: Patons Classic Wool, roughly half a skein.
Needles: US8/5.0mm
Timeframe: Roughly a day for the hats, maybe a couple of evenings - quick easy pattern!
Mods: I knit a nice rolled hem on mine and an extra inch fold-up brim on Lee's. Same hat pattern, different personalities in the details.
Problems: None.

Pattern: Ninja Bike Mask (of awesomeness)
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool, same as the hats, a little over one skein for the masks
Needles: US6/4.0
Timeframe: April 17 for mine, 29 for his, finished both with a block on May 11.
Mods: None, it's a fill-in-the-blanks with your gauge pattern.
Problems: None really, though a thinner yarn would have been better. 
My mask doesn't like to play nicely with the amount of hair I currently have, but I won't have any when we do the Trail, so it should be fine! I just hope they don't stretch out. Two skeins was a good amount for the hat plus mask, and you can also get a pair of mittens or fingerless gloves with the leftovers if you want a full set of worsted weight snow gear.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sewing Useful Things

I have a sewing machine. Sometimes I even use it! Unlike the poor, dusty spinning wheel - I promise, once the Christmas presents are done, we will have some quality time!

Anyway, sewing machine. I bought a cute little kit from the 100 yen store ($1 store) that came with three pieces of fabric, a ribbon, a small piece of fabric for a button loop, a button, and a small piece of fabric for a pincushion. The directions, though they were in Japanese, were very clear and mostly explicit drawings. This, plus some thread (I luckily had the perfect blue) and a cotton ball for the pincushion, as well as some machine- and hand-sewing time made a lovely little notions case, perfect for some scissors, a tape measure, darning needles, paper clips, and anything else that catches my fancy to easily travel in my travel knitting bag. All of those items had previously been just floating around in there, and while I hadn't yet lost a darning needle, I know it was coming!

First, you sewed the ribbon to the outer fabric. Then, the inner two fabrics were sewn together, hemming the pocket fabric and creating separate pockets with lines of sewing:

Cute, no? Next the outer be-ribboned fabric and the inner be-pocketed fabric were attached, making sure to place the buttonhole loop correctly while doing so. Once those were turned inside-in and the turning hole was sewn up, it was time for the final two embellishments, the pincushion, which was just gathering the small fabric bit around a cotton ball and then attaching it to the center pocket, and the button, which was placed where it would hold everything together when the packet was closed. To close, the top is folded over the tools and then it's a simple tri-fold, securing the tools with the button:

I used a similar method to make a roll-up case for a set of Tunisian crochet hooks I bought on eBay and all of my DPNs, which have previously been floating in a rubber-banded bunch in my crafting bags. This is much more convenient! I followed the same general sewing steps, using a recycled happi coat that I also used for box bags for the fabric. I made more pockets, roughly the size of the correct crochet hook, and leaving two large pockets for all the DPNs and/or whatever else I decide to put into it later.

There's no button or ribbon on this one, but it rolls up nicely and ties so that it's all kept in. The top part folds down to keep the tools safe as well, and the DPNs and other things that would be more likely to fall out are in the inner pockets, so will have less opportunity.

While it's not the most impressive roll-up needle/hook case I've ever seen, it works for me and was an excellent use of scrap fabric! I only have a couple of box bags worth of this fabric left, which I'm planning to make before I leave Japan. I just need more interfacing and zippers first!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baby Knits

 I made another Placket Neck Pullover since the first one turned out so well and I had enough yarn to make the next size up. This is a nice quick knit, I think it looks great, and it should fit the kid nicely next year and probably the year after. Maybe even the year after that. I'll have to find a different pattern for next year though if I'm going to keep knitting things for him!

Pattern: Child's Placket Neck Pullover (Rav)
Yarn: Almost exactly four skeins of a very soft Japanese acrylic/wool called Mamarm.
Needles: US7/4.5 mm 
Timeframe: October 15 - 31
Mods: None, if you don't count omitting the buttons.
Problems: None!
I also figured I should make something for him to wear now, rather than something that won't fit yet, so I took a look through my stash to make the hat. Found the perfect yarns, now I'm just hoping it fits! Cute hat, very quick knit, and my submission to the House Cup* Care of Magical Creatures October homework:

Pattern: Cozy (Rav)
Yarn: Multiple Japanese aran/bulky weight acrylics
Needles: US8/5.0 mm 
Timeframe: October 23 - 31
Mods: No intentional ones.
Problems: Slight problem - I misinterpreted the pattern at one point, knitting a bit too far after the stripes. The pattern meant to measure from the bottom of the earflaps and I knit about a half inch extra before realizing my mistake. Not a huge problem, I just left it in and kept going!
I finished the knitting on this one in a single day, but didn't block it until the end of the month with all of my other finished knits. It does look warm and cozy, and I hope it fits and the baby likes it!
*The House Cup is a Harry Potter themed knitting group/competition on Ravelry. Every three months, they sort people into different houses, and you earn points for your house by completing homework and extra assignments (Ravelry projects) each month. You must complete one homework assignment from any class each month to be eligible for sorting for the next round because so many people are interested, and additional homework or a lot of yardage earns extra points for your house. I've joined as a NQFY, Not Quite First Year student, so that I can learn the rules and play along so I can be sorted next time. There are multiple classes each month that assign homework, all from the Harry Potter series (Transfiguration, Potions, Muggle Studies, etc.), and each one has a specific theme for the month. For Care of Magical Creatures, the theme was zombies, and one possible way of meeting that theme was making something that would protect someone's head from a zombie looking for brains. This project fit perfectly!


This is the second half of the post from way back in November here. I apparently never posted this, not sure how that happened. I'll leave this post here for a bit, then put it back in chronological order.

We still had another day of fun on Sunday before taking the train back home. We wanted to go to the Lupicia tea room for breakfast, but they weren't open yet, so got breakfast from another small shop before shopping at Lupicia for delicious teas. I got a giant M&M covered cookie and a Chai, which I proceeded to combine:

After my somewhat decadent breakfast, we went to Minoh, a place famous for its fall foliage and its consumption of said foliage, fried. Apparently Americans were not the first to deep-fry everything, we just choose the most fat-laden things to dunk. Here, they go with maple leaves:

There is also a nice waterfall, down the path from the station that is lined with touristy shops and stalls selling anything from venison to those deep fried leaves to candy and beer. We purchased most of the above, and enjoyed our day in the crisp fall air. I even got some nice pictures of a sweater I'd recently finished knitting (actual FO post here):

Another draw for this area is the waterfall, the goal at the end of the stall-lined walkway.  The waterfall is pretty nice, but as you can see, THE place to be in the fall, at least around here:

A picturesque place, for sure, but I'm not sure it merits all that attention! There are also signs saying to watch out for the monkeys, who apparently populate the area. Sadly, we didn't get to see any along the path, but I got a lollipop with a monkey on it anyway:

We finished up the day with a trip to a brewery near Minoh, very tasty beers:

There was some Weitzner on tap, and it was delicious. This place is kind of out in the middle of nowhere, but is a really cool little brewery that seems to be family run and sells its product to local liquor stores. I would enjoy going back there, if I were in Osaka with some free time again.

This was followed by a dinner where no pictures were allowed. Seriously. I'd've taken a picture of the sign, but, well, obviously. Thus ends my excellent trip with the girls to see some Japanese girls in drag.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Box Bags

I sew a bit.  I seem to have a natural EMP though, any electronics I purchase for myself are likely to break shortly after I get them.  Any drive I've purchased for myself, any electronic device, begins to behave in a funny manner shortly after getting it.  This seems to have been the case with my sewing machine.

We fixed it once.  Then I took it to the repair shop when it needed it after we fixed it.  Now, a different problem is happening, the thread is catching the floating plastic bit the bobbin sits in and unseating it.*  I am using a different bobbin, and it could be that the bobbin is just not heavy enough to keep the plastic bit seated, but I've no idea.  I am so close to completion with my Tunisian crochet hooks and DPN case, I just need seven straight lines, two only 1/2", and a buttonhole to complete it.  So close, yet, so far!

I have, however, finished three box bags and a wall hanging that I've never shown off.  The last one took me only an hour or two - they really are easy, once you get the hang of it!  The nice thing is that the kimono come have the nice outer fabric and the matching liner.  There were even thin straps that I could use for key clips if I wanted.  All I needed to choose was matching thread and zipper, which were pretty easy to choose for the most part:

I made the first one for myself, and it's been my traveling project bag ever since.  It's got my current sock, glove, scarf, or what-have-you in it all the time, along with necessary notions, and is typically hanging from my wrist as I knit and walk to and from work.  They're all made from recycled silk kimonos, and the silk really isn't all that hard-wearing.  I've had my bag for, oh, I don't know - two years? and it is wearing through at the corners.  Not a problem, it's served me well and I will keep using it until it is completely dead.  I will just have to make a few more for when it dies:

Fabric: Recycled kimono with medium-weight interfacing
Timeframe: No idea, but it took a while, I know that much!
Mods: Tried the sew all the way across mod from the comments, not necessary, but useful, and tried to add a strap for a key clip.  It didn't work so well this time.
Problems: Lining up everything correctly the first time.  The seam ripper, it was my friend!

Fabric: Recycled kimono with medium-weight interfacing
Timeframe: No idea, this one sat around mostly finished because I couldn't line up the triangles when I was first trying.  Didn't need to rip at all when I picked it back up though!
Mods: Added a strap with a clip for keys.  Love this bag, hope my mom likes it too!
Problems: Sewing the zipper onto the correct side the first time.  I got it in the end.

Fabric: Recycled kimono with medium-weight interfacing
Timeframe: A couple of hours - though it was already cut out.  This time, it went very smoothly.
Mods: None except for mistakes!
Problems: Sewing the zipper onto the correct side the first time.  I left it long this time.
Apparently, my subconscious deals with things when I'm not working on them.  I pick up the box bags, and the go together smoothly after having issues the first time and a half.  I put down the paper baskets, and when I pick them up again, they go together like magic.  I don't get it, but it works for me!

Pattern: None
Fabric: 1 m of fabric from the craft store
Timeframe: An afternoon, I believe.
Mods: No pattern, no mods.
Problems: No real problems aside from the learning curve, used this as a simple project to learn a new technique.

* This was a long-ago post, written before this one mentioning the fixing of the bobbin case (sandpaper on a rough edge of the plastic bit). Didn't realize I never posted it, so fixing the bobbin case made no sense to readers at the time, d'oh!

Takarazuka Revue

Last weekend I traveled to Osaka with some friends to watch the Takarazuka Revue put on an all-female musical version of Ocean's 11, in Japanese.  Yes, you read that correctly.  As you may have guessed, Lee decided to stay home rather than accompany the all-girl crowd to the all-girl show.

Friday night we took the train to Osaka and watched the movie (it's based on the Clooney version, not Sinatra's) to prepare ourselves for the show and hopefully to follow the plot a little bit better.  This was especially a good idea for me because my Japanese is the worst in the group (most of them studied Japanese in college). We went out for scones the next morning:

Then headed on over to the theater itself:

The show had just opened the day before. Ocean's 11 in honor of 11/11/11 I do believe, and we went to the 11 am showing of it. The theater itself is pretty small, and our seats weren't particularly close. We rented opera glasses in order to get a better look, and wow do they ever work! You could see every expression, which was great when one character was being highlighted but not so good when you were trying to follow two characters at opposite ends of the stage.

The show had singing, dancing, sequins, and some very odd plotlines, so much so that watching the movie wasn't really a great help! Of course, it was still about a Las Vegas casino heist, but the similarities ended soon after. No pictures during the show, though there were one or two things I wish I'd taken a picture of anyway to show off. During one of the Vegas numbers, the supporting showgirls were all in costumes that looked suspiciously like these guys, but with capes, for no discernible reason. We certainly weren't expecting the Spanish Inquisition during a Japanese version of Ocean's 11!

After the show, we still had most of Saturday left. We went out for frozen yogurt (Lee's note - she created this dish, not the staff, it was a create-your-own-and-they-weigh-it place):

And Mexican food with Yuzu (Japanese citrus) margaritas:

Yes, in that order. We ended the night with two hours of karaoke and a Mister Donut (chain doughnut store like Dunkin' Donuts) run. An excellent time was had by all!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FO: Blaze

This one's been around for awhile.  I started it way back in 2007, thinking I'd have a nice fall sweater.  With over 300 stitches in a round for the yoke and lots of cabling every other row, this is a nice fall sweater...for 2010.  It's finally done, less than ten minutes before I wore it out to a nice dinner on Halloween, all decked out for the occasion! A year later, I re-did the cast-off (it contributed to the gapping) and had a friend take good pictures of it, so here, a year later than I originally finished it, is the official FO post!

Pattern: Blaze, 36" bust
Yarn: Peru DK Luxury in Orange, around 11 skeins.
Needles: US5/2.75 mm and US6/3.0, DPNs and Boye Interchangeables.
Timeframe: September 4, 2007 - November 1, 2010, with a 2+ year break when I left it in the US and didn't have enough yarn to finish it.
Mods: None.
Problems: None except the cabling takes FOREVER and I think the sizing is a bit off.  The arms are great, lengths are awesome, but I think the body stitch count might have looked better with a smaller size.  No way in hell am I re-doing that to fix it though!

I think that while I don't love the sizing, I'll still wear it a bunch, and this just confirms my inherent mistrust of circular yoke shaping.  If I stand straight, the back should be smaller than the front, at least for my body type, so standing straight up with my shoulders back, the back gaps.  I have the same problem with my Valencia, the back gaps a bit if I'm standing correctly.  Ah well, live and learn, and I shall continue to stay away from sweaters with such shaping, no matter how much I think they're cute.  I may do a Bohus at some point, but I have culled (nearly) all others from my Ravelry queue.

In ripping out the cast-off, it took me much, much longer than it should have to find the end. Plus for my knitting skill, minus for spending a long time going 'round and 'round the yoke! Then, I realized that I'd originally done a sewn bind-off for stretchiness (hah!), so that took a bit of time to pick out once I found the woven-in end. I also found a dropped stitch that I apparently didn't in fact bind off, so there's another plus with the re-do - that stitch would have been quite problematic had it decided to run later on, though considering how sticky and prone to felting this yarn is, it may not have been a problem.

A note on the yarn - this is my favorite yarn EVER and I would absolutely love it if the base could be found again. I think I had found it once, but have no idea. It's a very smooshy 70% merino, 20% alpaca, 10% silk yarn that I love, love, love, and would stockipile some in every color if it hadn't been discontinued years ago. Sadface!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Doesn't work if you don't push Publish...

I went away last weekend. I went with some friend to see the Takarazuka Revue, an all-women troupe of singers and dancers, full of sequins, sparkles, and gender-bending. We saw an all female musical version of Ocean's 11 (the Clooney version) in Japanese. It was an experience. More on that later.

I tried not to over-pack a weekend's worth of knitting, but managed to anyway because the current sock has cables so is slower than average. I was planning to finish it, having about 1" of the cuff done before heading out, and then start Guitar Man Socks in the black yarn, but I only got to the end of the heel flap instead:

I also brought some chocolate covered flavored fondant (plain, peppermint, and orange-vanilla) on the trip, to get rid of the chocolate in the fridge and the fondant in the freezer:

I had also lined up a few posts, but apparently left them all as drafts. Oops!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finally, a Lopi FO Post

I did drag out the camera and the sweater for better pictures this time - I've been using really bad ones with my dalmation shorts on Ravelry for the longest time ever! See:

This is a very warm sweater - so warm that I really can't wear it all that often! In addition to how warm it is, it gaps, which is the style and I knew that's what it'd do when I was knitting it, but I don't particularly like it. I do enjoy the sweater and wear it instead of a jacket on cold fall days. It's warmer than my leather jacket, as long as there's no wind!

Pattern: Toggle Cardigan
Yarn: Reynolds Lopi
Needles: US9/5.5mm and 10/6.0mm
Timeframe: Not sure
Mods: None
Problems: Not really, first sweater, lots of learning! I do wish the front edges wouldn't curl so much. I have extra yarn for a matching earflap hat, and I may make some kind of insert or flap so it doesn't hang open so much.

So Freaking Close!

Originally written May of 2007, the final saga of the Lopi cardigan.

Well, the seaming is done, the collar is done, the front edging is done, and I have decided on toggles. Now I just need to buy the stupid things!

Trying it on, I was still worried about the bust. It really seemed to want a zipper, as I just automatically reached down to zip it up the first couple times trying it on. I think that's just because all of my knitted (all store-bought) cardigans have zippers. After wearing it around for a bit, I decided I should probably knit the collar on. Those seven inches of ribbing took FOREVER! Hours and hours of mindless ribbing, I hate ribbing! Though I must say, I finally have fixed the problem I used to have of ugly knit stitches next to the purl stitches. Practice does make perfect, who woulda thunk?

When the skein of yarn I was working with ran out most of the way through the collar, I decided to do the edging of the front bit next to save myself from the miles of ribbing, at least for a little while. Since the side with the buttons was going to be straight single crochet no matter what I did with the final product, I did that one first. It added enough to the edge that I decided that toggles were the way to go. So, I did that edging, and now I can pull the cardigan closed over my bust and not have the color changing bits next to the raglan seams go all wonky.

Now I just need to find somewhere that sells toggles. I was at Jo-Ann's because I needed a new Tunisian crochet hook for my washcloths/handtowels project and looked quickly for toggles, but could not find them. I think AC Moore may have them as I recall them having a macrame section, and it might be there. Who knows? I certainly don't.

I found that spit-splicing when you've recently put on lotion actually helps the fibers to join faster. Kinda gross when doing it, but there you are. I finished the collar, the last bit of knitting, while going out to dinner with friends. Actually, I was binding off when we pulled in, so bound off the last fifteen stitches at the table, cut the yarn, realized I neglected to bring a crochet hook to hide the end of the yarn, and wore it anyway. I like it a lot! The collar needs to be blocked a bit though; the ribbing needs to be more relaxed as right now it just all bunches up in the back. Easily fixable. So all that needs to be done is weaving in that last end (I did all the others in my break from the endless ribbing), adding toggles and blocking the collar. And then I have a sweater, yay!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

It Seamed Like A Good Idea...

Another one from cleaning out the drafts, this one was from before Japan even, May of 2007!

Yup, I've been seaming. And honestly, it ain't so bad! In fact, I'm rather happy with my seams. Not so happy that each piece didn't quite have the same number of rows, but apparently I was angry working on the right front piece and my tension was tighter.

Here is my beautiful seaming job:

I'm just so freaking happy with it and proud of myself for getting it so nice (on my first try, no less) that I was dancing around. Lee was even impressed.

Here's a half-done shot:

I'm just so freaking happy with this thing! Though I tried it on when it was half done, and it seems as though the front is a bit more open than I'd like it to be. Gotta finish to be sure, but I do believe that it is a bit snugger in the chest area than desired. Then I gotta figure out what to do for closures...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Extra Panels in Blanket of Awesome

I got a comment on my original post regarding the extra panels, and realized that as a reader of blogs, I would find the process of adding to the original design interesting, so as a writer, should probably write about that!

The original blanket is meant to be more of a lap blanket, perfect for keeping on the couch. I wanted a blanket that could be used on a queen- or king-sized bed. This required lengthening the blanket in all dimensions. Making it longer was easy, just knit more repeats until it's as long as desired, roughly 80". I did that for the three original pieces, and then had to figure out how to make it wider. Some people also widened theirs, knitting the edges or inner piece again. I didn't like that solution. Instead, I wanted to make something that looked like it could have been part of the original pattern, if the pattern were originally made for a queen-sized bed. I tend to be better at taking something that exists and improving it (changing the decreases, ways things are attached, small technical details) rather than coming up with something 100% from scratch, so a knitting designer I am not. However, I think this modification turned out well!

In the original panels, the main panel is a nice mix of a lot of cables:

The side panels have one main cable, a lot of background stitches, and a nice border on either end, separating the panels. The edging braid is repeated in the last two pieces knit for the blanket, a top and bottom border as well:

I knew I needed roughly the equivalent of two more edge panels to bring the blanket to the size I wanted. I decided I liked the outside panels as-is so I wanted to add something in between the two original panels, something with some background stitching (the trinity stitch on either side of the main cable in that second picture) and some cables. I wanted the panel with many cables to fade into a panel of few cables to fade into the panel of one cable. I also wanted to keep the border braid in between each panel; the outside panels had one on either side so I would just need one on the side closest to the center in the new panels. Thus far, the general stitch count was set (about as many as the edge panels, give or take a few to make the patterns work), two motifs (more than zero trinity stitch, one braid on the edge by the center panel), and I knew that there would be more than one cable but less than three.

Both original panels have a fairly intricate and large cable down the center. Since I was trying to match them, I decided I should have a large-ish cable down the center, with trinity stitch on either side. I didn't want any stretch of trinity stitch as large as the stretches on the end, in keeping with the fading from many cables to a lot of background. I'd knit Valencia from Gardiner Yarn Works somewhat recently, and really, really, really liked the front cable motif. It fit the general cable requirements, fancy, large-ish, so I chose that one as my main cable:

Ooh la la, I know!

I also needed another smaller cable to break up the trinity stitch on either side of the main cable for this panel, so I chose a little fun one that I think I used somewhere sometime but I don't remember anymore because this was over a year ago. For that one, I decided how much of the trinity stitch I wanted on either side (one repeat on one side, two on the other, because it worked out nicely that way and you really can't do half-repeats) and then figured out roughly what size cable I needed to fill the rest of the space. I recall looking online, but am not sure where exactly I got that little cable from. Either way, it fit, I love it, and here's the panel I ended up with, shown off in blocked and unblocked format:

I love this blanket, love how well the panel I came up with works with it, and really truly am planning to knit it again, even if it was months and months and months of knitting. It ended up being late, actually, and I was knitting it in the car on the way to the wedding, frantically trying to finish the borders so I could give it to them there:

Had I not knit one of the borders 10" too far, it would have been fine, but I'm almost happier I didn't finish, because then I was able to give it one final block and take finished pictures of it!