Thread Thoughts

The Nut Graf knits, sews and attempts other crafts

I’m back! August 15, 2008

Filed under: Knitting,Quilting,Sewing — chengat @ 9:03 pm

I have finally found the time to take photos, upload them and update you on my goings on. Since coming back from Stitches in late February, I had been working nearly full time (8 hrs a day, 4 days a week) at my former job, filling in while they looked for a permanent replacement. Initially it was only going to be 2-3 months, but it ended up lasting through mid-July. Then I got caught up with some summer programs with my son. Anyway, enough of the excuses. Through it all I was still knitting, just not blogging. Check out my Flickr files and Ravelry account (user ID: thenutgraf) to see photos and more details of my knitting/sewing stuff.

The two knitted items I have been happiest with were the Manos Four Seasons blanket bought from a kit from the Yarndogs booth at Stitches and the Glee top. I thought it would take a long time to make the blanket because I have a hard time completing rectangular objects (i.e. stoles, scarves, and other things that require long sections of repetitive knitting). But the switching of the various colors and stitches kept it interesting and I was able to complete it in just a few weeks. Even the seaming wasn’t bad.

Here’s the Glee top using Sheep Shop 3 yarn from my stash. The only changes I made were a little shaping around the waistline and shortening the slit of the neckline (joining the piece to work in the round shortly after the sleeves.)

Recently, though, I have been focusing on sewing. My mom was in a town for a few weeks and I decided to enlist her expert sewing skills to help me complete a few projects. Plus, I had been inspired by all the fabrics and projects I saw at this year’s Southern California Quilter’s Run, which I missed last year because I was moving. Here are some of the small projects, some pillow cases and a table runner:

The table runner was my mom’s selection of fabric and her first attempt at free-motion quilting. Great job I think. It’s nice to grow up with someone with such talent. I have fond memories of helping her with her sewing projects as a child, and now the tables have turned!

And she found this great peacock fabric (made by Hoffman California Fabrics purchased from Cozy Quilt Shop in El Cajon) and we just had to make something from it. So to show off the fabric, we chose a pattern from the book, 9-Patch Pizazz. We were debating over whether to have a teal blue inner border or beige-gold inner border. We decided on one, but I will reveal it later. Here are both versions as seen on my design mat:

I am busy with more sewing, trying to get some of my quilt tops done. Here’s one that’s been lying around for a while, the Aloha Carlsbad quilt:

 

New classes = new projects = more multitasking! February 21, 2008

Filed under: Knitting,Quilting — chengat @ 8:39 am

I have recently taken some classes to learn some new knitting and sewing skills, which means once again I have added to my ever-growing list of unfinished projects. But what fun projects they are.

I kicked off my new year of knitting with a great sock class given by Cat Bordhi and hosted by Common Threads in Encinitas, CA. Cat recently published a new book on socks called, New Pathways for Sock Knitters (Book One). If you ever have an opportunity to attend a class by Cat, I highly recommend you to jump on it. She’s entertaining and has a great way of explaining knitting techniques using lots of visuals and stories. Here she is demonstrating Judy Becker’s Magic Cast-On. Notice all the charts and directions spread out on the floor in front of her:

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Cat’s recent book shows new ways of looking at sock architectures, that is, the various parts that form a sock — the cuff, leg, heel, instep and toe. She shows how you can shape the sock by adding increases at the bottom of the foot, the side, or even spread out around the foot. In the book, you learn each new “architecture” by knitting a baby sock. Here are the baby socks I made for the Coriolis pattern (using Dream in Color’s worsted weight yarn in Dusky Aurora). Notice how the increases swirl around the arch of the foot in different directions on each foot:

coriolis.jpg

The baby socks are followed by adult designs and a “master pattern” that you can just plug in your own numbers to knit with any yarn at any gauge for any size foot. That’s probably the hardest part, measuring your feet and gauge to get the right size. Here’s my first sock from her book, the Rushing Rivulet sock (using Claudia’s Handpainted in the Purple Dot colorway). I think I didn’t get an accurate gauge because it seems a bit large in the instep area.

rrivulet.jpg

The book’s instructions and illustrations are clear, written for DPNs, 2 circulars or Magic Loop. I especially liked Cat’s technique of right and left increases (La-Link and La-Rink), and she has the clearest and best instructions I’ve seen on how to pick up wrapped stitches when knitting short rows. Cat’s web site links to some You Tube videos showing some of these techniques, including the Magic Cast-On.

My second class this year was a class held at Sowing Sisters in Carlsbad, to make a wall hanging or quilt of batik elephants using the paper piecing method. This technique requires that you sew small pieces of fabric onto the paper pattern. You pin the fabric pieces to the back of the pattern, sew along the lines of the pattern and trim. It’s a great way to sew smaller, more complicated designs. It’s not difficult but does require a bit of concentration because the pieces are so small. These elephants measure about 4 1/2 inches square each. Here are my first three elephants and the batiks I am using:

elephant1.jpg elephant2.jpg

The elephants’ tails will be made of braided embroidery floss. The teacher used seed beads for eyes, but I think I will embroider the eyes instead because I am making a crib-sized quilt and don’t want any choking hazards. Here are some of the supplies I’m using: a cutting mat, a small rotary cutter, a quarter-inch ruler, flat pins and a fabric turner for the ears. To the left is the border fabric in black and the background fabric in cream.

elephant3.jpg

I’m off to Stitches West tomorrow to take some more classes and add to my yarn and project stash. Hope to report on my adventures soon!

 

Dark winter knits a la Kim Hargreaves November 8, 2007

Filed under: Knitting,Reviews — chengat @ 1:15 am

Something about the winter season, perhaps the grayer skies and deep nights, that makes us knitters turn to darker colors. I’ve noticed Blue Moon Fiber Arts (those behind Socks that Rock) has come out with a new color grouping called the Raven Clan, 13 colorways that are heavily shaded with black. Complex. Mysterious.

And speaking of dark Gothic themes, I just received Kim Hargreaves’ new pattern book, Heartfelt: The Dark House Collection. Doesn’t the title evoke a novel written by one of the Bronte sisters? The book is typical KH: timeless pieces with a modern look. The collection includes 21 patterns, including sweaters and accessories knitted in yarn of all gauges, ranging from simple to more advanced techniques – in other words, there is something in here for everyone.

Each of the patterns is well photographed. I hate it when photographs in knitting books and magazines (that means you, Vogue Knitting) obsure important details of the knitted piece in favor of some “artistic” shot, or pose the models to hide some flaw in the garment. Not to worry with Ms. Hargreaves. For example, look at Amory:
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See how each photo is beautifully shot, yet highlights the details of the design.

Of her designs, I especially like Faith, a cardigan with eyelet panelling and gathered sleeves; Calm, a light mohair sweater with eyelet detailing around the neckline; and Amory, a fitted sweater with a curved hemline and lace panelling down the front and back. Each design is elegant yet comfortable looking. For accessories, I like the cozy look of the Haven scarf, a lace design for a bulky yarn; and the feminine yet saucy look of Bonnie, a slouchy lace hat.

I bought the kit for Faith. It’s a pretty cardigan perfect for holiday parties when knit in the drapey and shiny Bamboo Soft yarn called for in the pattern. I got the kit in the color Gypsum, which is a medium gray that is less blue than pictured on the Web site, as you can see here. The cute flower pin and belt were unfortunately not included in the kit.
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Each of Hargreaves’ kits comes boxed with tissue, ribbon and gift card. They would make a perfect gift for a knitter or crocheter. They also include any buttons, beads or – as in the case with the Precious cropped cardigan – even handmade silk ribbons. The buttons I received with the Faith kit look to be excellent quality and are made of glass and have faceted edges.

I also bought a kit for Trinket, a ruffled scarf not from her book but from Hargreave’s Finishing Touches accessories collection, which is only available on her Web site. The kit is in the color Violetta, a deep purple, and includes silver-lined beads in amethyst purple. The glass beads, perhaps size 8/0, look like Miyuki beads, or similar quality. You beaders out there probably know that Miyuki seed beads have the highest and most consistent quality. You can’t risk using poor quality beads on your knitting as they can be difficult to string, or worse yet, they may snag or cut your yarn.
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Hargreaves’ patterns are formatted like other Rowan patterns, with clear instructions, charts and schematics. But one big negative (and this is a problem with other Rowan patterns as well) is the patterns don’t offer much details on the yarn used. Rowan probably does this intentionally to get you to buy their yarn. But even if I do buy Rowan yarn, which I often do, I would still like to at least know the composition of the yarn and yardage per skein/ball. This is a huge problem when knitters want to use an older pattern and Rowan has discontinued the yarn. Thank goodness for sites like Yarndex and Ravelry, to find info on discontinued yarn.

Other points: I did notice one piece of errata in the Heartfelt book. For Amory, the yarn is listed as Kidsilk Aura when it should be Bamboo Soft. But since this is a freshly minted copy, I’m sure this and any other errors will be corrected soon. The shipping from the U.K. to the U.S. is expensive, but she ships very quickly. I ordered the book and kits last Tuesday (Oct. 30) and got it today (Wednesday) – exactly a week.

Now I just have to finish my Road to Golden sweater and cast on for Faith!

 

I am falling in love again October 27, 2007

Filed under: Knitting,Uncategorized — chengat @ 8:10 pm

…with the Turkish Cape. Sometimes you do need a little timeout to revitalize a relationship. I got tired of it last year, all that demanding color stranding, the purling Continental style, the nasty knotting as the yarn twisted on each other, the complicated color chart. But recently, I revisted this former flame and remembered what drew me to it in the first place — such beautiful colors, such soft yarn. I’m not sorry I had abandoned it when I did. Perhaps it was for the best, I was impatient and wanted it done quickly. But now (maybe because I am a little wiser and more experienced) I have taken a bit more time and care with it. It is not a project to be rushed through. So, here it is blocking:
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I just need to pick up stitches along the bottom edge, work the band pattern and then the lining (the pink and turquoise section). My strategy of working just a few rows every day has worked. As soon as I got tired of this, I would drop it and move on to something else. It got a lot better after I completed the blue pattern section which required stranding up to 5 colors. I’m still not happy about the tension in that area but I’m hoping the blocking will ease it somewhat.
I think I’m also falling in love with the Tangled Yoke Cardigan, especially seeing how many lovely ones there are out there on Ravelry. This arrived on Friday from Elann, their limited edition Lana Cash in the oatmeal color:
lanacash.jpg
I’m swatching to see if it is a cheaper substitute for the Rowan Felted Tweed called for in the Tangled Yoke pattern. Lana Cash is 70% wool and 30% cashmere and knits up to a double-knit gauge on #3 needles. Yardage is an excellent 256 yards for only $3.98 a ball. This yarn sold out quickly, so let’s hope they bring some more back soon. There are still some black left and another color that looks like a tweedy ginger that they’re calling Sienna. The texture prewashing feels a little like raw silk, dry and nubby. Elann says it will bloom with “lofty softness” after washing. In any case, I like the way the swatch is turning out so far. I think this could make a nice rustic shawl as well.

 

The blues and other colors October 2, 2007

Filed under: Knitting,Socks — chengat @ 12:15 am

I’ve been drawn to the color blue lately. It’s a good all-season color, and just about anyone can find a shade of blue that works. Here’s my latest finished project, the Blue Sky Alpacas Eyelet Cardigan knit in their Dyed Cotton in what they call “mediterranean blue” (a gorgeous bright hue):
eyeletcardi.jpg
It took 5 skeins to knit the medium size rather than the 4 written on my pattern (which has now been corrected by the company). However, I should have knit this in a small given the heavy weight of the yarn (the small had a finished size of 34″ and the medium was 38.” I usually aim for 36.”). In retrospect, I also should’ve knit the neckline on smaller needles as it keeps slipping over my shoulders. I love the buttons on this cardigan, which give the sweater a more nautical look. You can’t see them in this photo, but they are speckled white and gray. I bought them from Jannette’s Rare Yarns on Ebay. You probably know she has good deals on Rowan yarns, but she also sells some nice ceramic buttons too.
Meanwhile, in my other pile of recently completed (or soon-to-be completed) projects are various socks:
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Top row are from Yarn Yard (browns and yellow), Skinny Duet in the Snapdragon colorway (pink, red and green), Yarntini’s Pure Breeze stripe socks, Fleece Artist’s Sea Wool in the Woodland colorway (Garter Rib pattern). On the bottom is Claudia’s Handpainted in the Pink Cloud colorway (Eiffel Tower/Springtime in Paris pattern), and Miss Babs Waterfall color (sock club yarn from Woolgirl). The browns are for the hubby (belated Father’s Day projects) and the brighter colors are for me. Also on needles is this Sundara Petals Collection sock, Blue Grape Hyacinth (note my Harmony DPs on this one – great for cabling):
bluegrape.jpg
This is my favorite yarn club. Although costlier than others, the colors are exquisite, the patterns are nice and the packaging is thoughtful. Here is the latest mailing: Poppy, a deep violet color. I’m trying to jam on the Blue Grape Hyacinth just to get to this one.
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Sundara is starting a new yarn club worth checking out. It’s called the “Seasons” yarn club. Many people don’t like yarn clubs because they want to be able to choose their own colors. The good thing about this one is you can choose your color palette: Spring (soft colors), Summer (bright colors), Autumn (warm colors) or Winter (darker colors). I had a tough time deciding between Summer or Winter. I ended up with Summer because I’ll likely make accessories with her yarn and I like wearing bright accessories with a darker wardrobe. Another plus with this new club is it will include a variety of yarns, not just sock yarns.
As for larger projects, I’m deciding what to do next. Perhaps a big needle project like Juliet juliet-2.jpg in some stashed Rowan Cork,
or the Peasant Blouse peasantblouse.jpg from Teva Durham’s new yarn collaboration with Tahki Stacy Charles.
For a challenging project, I’ve cast on for the Road to Golden sweater road_to_golden.jpg from the last Knitscene. Mine will be more a Road to Gray, knit in black as the main color with teal/lime/red/purple on a gray background, using Elsebeth Lavold’s Classic Al, on sale at WEBS. So, after a summer of distraction from knitting, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things again!

 

My new Harmony needles arrived! September 16, 2007

Filed under: Knitting,Reviews — chengat @ 7:32 pm

harm1.jpg harm2.jpg
These are the new Harmony wood knitting needles from Knit Picks.

I always take knitting when I travel but I don’t bring metal needles because of airline security restrictions. So as soon as I saw these, especially with the psychedelic-cool swirly colors, I knew I had to give them a try. They come in interchangeable circulars, fixed circulars, double points (6″ and 8″) and a cable needle set. I got a couple of interchangeables, two double points and the cable needles. One nice thing with the double points, as with their nickel-plated ones, is they come in all the small metric sizes (2.0mm, 2.25, 2.5, 2.75, 3.0 and 3.25mm). Those little mm’s can make a huge difference in socks (see my first blog entry). They also include 6, rather than the usual 5 sticks, in the package, just in case you break one.

I sometimes skimp on yarn, but I never skimp on tools. You know how you need different tools for different tasks? Well, as an ADD-knitter, I’ve amassed a wide assortment of circulars to accompany my various projects. Here are some of them, listed from top to bottom: Harmony, Knit Picks nickel, Clover bamboo, Lantern Moon Destiny in Ebony, Addi Lace (in a size 1), Colonial Rosewood.harm3.jpg
Here’s a close up comparing the tips: harm4.jpg
I haven’t tried swatching with the Harmony needles yet, but here are my initial observations:

My favorite double points for lace socks are the Inox, but they’re hard to find and pointy on the verge of being dangerous. I like using Crystal Palace double points and Lantern Moon’s Sox Stix for traveling, but the Lantern Moon tips are too blunt for lace (but great for stockinette and ribbing) and the Crystal Palace bamboos are not as rigid as I would like. The Harmony seems like a nice combination of the two. The tips are nice and pointy, the coating is slick like the Crystal Palace, but it’s nice and firm in the hand. I do wish they came in a 5″ like the Lantern Moon, though.

For circulars I still love my Addi Turbos for most knitting and the Addi Lace is great for lace, but, again, with airline security, I need versatile wood circulars. I’ve been using Colonial Rosewood and Pony Rosewood for lace, but the joins are not smooth and the cables are stiff. The wood (I chose ebony) on the Lantern Moon circulars are the best around (no surprise there), but they’re not pointy enough for lace or cabling. Again, this is where the Harmony needles seem to be better.

However, if I don’t have to get on an airplane, I think I’d still prefer the Addi Lace needles for lace knitting. Their coating seems perfect for lace yarns, not too slick. And the Harmony’s bright colors might be too distracting behind the finer lace yarns. However, I’d maybe use the Harmony for sock knitting using the Magic Loop method, since the slicker coating would make the yarn whiz right by.

Functionality aside, I still love the classic, elegant look of Lantern Moons. The Addis aren’t as pretty to look at but they’re the most functional. I prefer the nickel on the Addi Turbos over the Knit Picks. But the Harmony, well, just look at the photo above. It just pops out in the looks department. I think I’m really going to like these, but when I’m at home, my practical sense still tips the scales towards the Addis overall.

Lace knitting: Addi Lace 10, Harmony 9, Knit Picks nickel 8, Inox 9
Non-lace knitting wool: Addi Turbo 10, Harmony 8, Knit Picks nickel 9, Lantern Moon 7
Non-lace knitting cotton, silk and other slippery yarns: Addi Turbo 6, Harmony 8-9? (haven’t swatched yet), Knit Picks nickel 7, Lantern Moon 10
Looks: Addi Turbo 6, Addi Lace 8 (extra points for that pink cord), Harmony 9, Lantern Moon 10
Versatility: Addis 8, Harmony 9, Knit Picks nickel 10
Double points versatility: Inox 8, Crystal Palace 9, Harmony 10, Lantern Moon Sox Stix 7

P.S. I should also give a shout-out to Denise circulars. They’re great for airplane knitting. They’re versatile, light, have nice tips and look good (especially the pink set, with proceeds going to Breast Cancer research – a double plus). I just didn’t include them in the discussion here because I wanted to compare wood and metal needles. Plus, they don’t come in the smaller sizes.

P.P.S., I just looked on the KnitPicks site, and some of the needles are already backordered until the end of the month. I’m going to wait until the mania cools down to get some more.

 

Kids as knitting models September 11, 2007

Filed under: Kids,Knitting — chengat @ 6:03 am

Children are so fun to knit for — the novelty yarns and patterns, the bright colors, and best of all, small sizes. But the downside is you’ve got to finish the garment quickly before they outgrow it in a month or so. Luckily photos can help preserve all that effort. Children (and animals) are notorious photo subjects though. They’re impatient and move too quickly. Sometimes my son will sit still for a portrait, more often he’s running away. Here are some times when I managed to snag a quick shot:
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“Please, no paparazzi!” (Ladybug hat on my niece knit by me from a Fiber Trends pattern, bear hat on baby Nut Graf not crocheted by me)

Is this cruel? We’re not even Irish! stpat.jpg (handspun yarn from Material Whirled)

natedog.jpg Dog sweater pattern by Monkeysuits using Cascade 220 yarn.

purplehat.jpg “Aw, mom, just let me eat!” (Lise hat pattern knit in SWTC Optimum DK, which is now discontinued)

denimpants.jpg
“I’m trying to play and my pants keep slipping!” (Baby denim pants from Last Minute Knitted Gifts knit from Elann’s denim yarn)
bbear.jpg“Just let me sleep!” (Not to worry, Baby Bobbi Bear’s ears were later attached)

Is it too soon to think of Xmas knitting? (Xmas tree hat kit from Material Whirled and they’re already taking orders for this year) Notice the matching Xmas tree PJs — CHEEESY!
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“Gotta go, see ya later!” bluestripe.jpg(sweater yarn and pattern from Llamajama bought from Kpixe.)