A Traumatic Day

Yesterday was a rough day. I’m not gonna lie. I haven’t slept well for a couple of nights and that usually means that there’s a full moon or that something is bubbling up inside me that needs to be gone from me … my life … my belief system … whatever it is. I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, angry, tearful (like the ugly cry kind) and, by the end of the day, traumatized. I know I’ll work through it and the personal stuff in detail isn’t something that really belongs here. I know I can work through it and if I can’t, I can reach out to my (former not old) therapist who will guide me in the right direction. In the meantime, today I’m going to burn some sage in the house to cleanse the energy in it and I’ll take time to be quiet and see what my mind/body/soul reveals.

Oddly enough, in addition to having a traumatic, emotional day, I heard a phone ringing in the house. It was neither mine nor my husband’s. It was distant but seemed to be coming from inside out house. This morning I heard it again when I was standing in the kitchen. There isn’t another phone in the house. Yeah, I know. This is an odd one. Anywhoo …

Signs of hope in the garden this morning

When I went outside this morning to take my morning shot of the lake (it will be a video) I made a discovery. Crocus! I had completely forgotten that we planted a couple of bunches of crocus bulbs last fall. What a pleasant and welcome surprise. Some critter is munching on the lakeside spot and he or she will pay for that if I have anything to say about it but I was so pleased to see a couple of flowering buds and more coming. It makes me feel hopeful again.

Lots has happened around the lake since I last posted. The husband and I have both received and recovered from our second Moderna doses. We had what I would call very, very mild symptoms of what may have been fever (I had chills one afternoon) and fatigue. My arm hurt a little bit as did his. Overall, however, we are so grateful to be closer to living without the fear of this virus being ever-present in our minds. The vaccine feels like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders. I can’t wait to hug my kids and my friends!

We had ice out on our lake!

What a difference a day makes! And with the ice going out, the loons and water birds are coming back. In fact, as soon as there was open water, the birds were returning. Pairs of mergansers, at least one loon (we saw it and heard it, too), mallards, Canada geese and others are here again. It’s quite a wonderful change of pace after the winter months. Our bird feeders are full of bright yellow goldfinch, and my hubby said he’s seen purple finch. They’re eating us out our house and home!

I’ve been knitting madly away on a few projects that are on my needles.

On Easter Sunday I knitted one of the eggs from Arne and Carlos’ new collection of Twelve Easter Eggs. I’m using tiny balls of Sirdar Happy cotton yarn and they’re fun and relatively quick to knit. I’ve begun a second but I’ve put it aside to finish a project for a customer … or at least get it started.

I”m to the bottom colorwork band on my Daytripper cardigan so the mindless rounds of stockinette stitch are done and I’ll have to concentrate again (and count). I love the colors that I chose and this will be a great addition to my sweater collection.

I’ve cast on the Evolve Cowl by Hunter Hammersen which is the second project in the Confident Knitting program from Arnall-Culliford Knitwear. The yarn is Dusty Dimples DK, this is a hand-dyed yarn from the UK and it’s really delightful to knit with. The yarn was purchased as a kit to go with the book (for now virtual) that includes a lot of technique tutorials. This is the third such program that I’ve purchased and I have yet to be sorry that I did. I have not finished all of the projects from the first two books; Some I probably won’t ever make and some I know that I will. When the time is right. The technique this month is blocking a cowl in the round so that it doesn’t have the horrible creases. Good to know.

The Flux Handwarmers were the first project from Confident Knitting and they’re finished. I don’t love them to be completely honest because they’re a bit too short for my liking. I like fingerless mitts that at least keep my fingers protected from the cold steering wheel. These don’t. But the Zauberball (the yarn, Muffin) is pretty and I like the weight of the mitts. They’ll be a good gift for someone one day.

March socks are pretty rudimentary average everyday boot socks. They’re made out of Raggi yarn which I love. I made it just under the wire finishing these socks in March with a day to go. I’m not sure what socks will be happening in April … and I may skip a month. How do you like that? Ha! Ha! I do have some green buffalo wool sock yarn that is begging to be Christmas tree socks … time will tell.

Opus. What can I say about Opus? I love him/her so much. What a joy to knit and I love seeing it on my guest room bed every time I walk by. It seems a bit silly to enjoy something so apparently random but I do. I wrote about him/her here before I got to the tentacles. What a creative project.

My Fine Sand cardigan is slow progressing. I have it down in the living room now, next to my chair so that I can knit a few rows when I’m sitting down there. It’s endless rows of stockinette stitching now with every sixth row having some shaping increases and decreases. If I’m lucky, this will be done before the end of the summer … and since it’s a summery cotton/linen blend yarn, it’d be nice to be able to wear it this year. But it’s definitely going to be awhile.

So, there you have it. My life and knitting in a nutshell. I haven’t been baking much but I have the intention of making apple dumplings today … whole apples, cored and wrapped in pastry dough and baked. I have such fond memories of these at the Ohio State Fair with my singing kiddos! I’ve been eating my granola like crazy in the mornings or sometimes for lunch after work. Overall, I’m so grateful to be where I am and with who I’m with … life is good.

Gone knitting.

Writing Your own Pattern – A Scarf

This Princess Scarf article (that I cannot read) has a photograph of a lovely scarf on the Princess of Norway’s neck. It’s a variegated pink yarn that is quite lovely with the background being her black and white outfit. (I tried, I really did, to get the photo inserted here. No luck! That’s why you have to click and go to see the scarf. It’s worth it, I promise, it’s very pretty!)

So, the big question here is, how do you knit a scarf like this?

IMG_0310The first challenge, obviously, is to find a similar yarn. I’d suggest printing the picture and heading out to your local yarn shop. It doesn’t matter what “weight” of yarn you choose because I’m going to tell you how to write your own pattern. But what you do need to know is how to find yarn that will mimic the scarf so that you won’t have a scarf that looks NOTHING like the Princess’!

The “Princess” scarf has a short color change. The pink and pink or pink and cream colors are fairly consistent across the knitted cloth in short lengths and nearly looks like it is “tweedy” or “mottled”. So you’re going to look for yarn that has short color changes. This yarn looks like it’s a lighter weight than a “chunky” or “bulky” yarn and is likely worsted or sport or even sock weight. It’s also a smooth yarn rather than a “thick and thin” or “slubby” or “fun fur” or even of a fiber that has a “haze” like angora or mohair. If you like another color, this is the time to choose color wisely – make sure you love it!

I went online to Jimmy Bean’s Wool and found a couple of different yarns that might work: Madelinetosh Prairie Short Skeins Yarn in Fragrant or Universal Yarns Bamboo Pop Yarn in Pink Joy. The first is a fingering weight and the second is a DK weight. Neither color is exactly like the Princess’, but both would work. Obviously, one will be lighter than the other. Take into consideration how cold it gets where you live! (I live in Florida and it’s not very cold here. Ever!)

needlesOnce you’ve found your beautiful yarn, you need to match it with an appropriate sized needles. The Princess’ scarf is not lacy or open, the stitches are close together. The yarn band or tag will tell you the needle size recommended for your yarn. Sometimes there is a choice (it may say on a size 1-3 or 3-5). Next you need to mix up your yarn and needles by making a swatch. You can read my post about swatching here! And there is a great article on Knitty here. Now you’ll be able to see how your yarn is knitting up and see how many stitches you need to cast on!

Now, it’s time to decide how wide you want your scarf to be. I’m guessing that the Princess’ scarf is about eight inches wide. But you can make yours as wide or narrow as you like (and you can even start, frog and start again if you don’t like it. I give you permission!)

The Universal Pop yarn says to use needles size 5-7 and I’ll get 5-6 stitches per inch. Measuring my gauge, let’s say I get 5 stitches per inch on my US 5 needles. And I want my scarf to be 8 inches wide. I need to cast on 40 stitches. (5×8=40).

For this scarf, I’m going to use a stockinette stitch (knit on the right side, purl on the wrong side) and I’m going to continue in this pattern throughout. It looks like the original scarf is pretty long – and I’m going to knit my scarf until it’s about the same length (or the length I like) and then cast off on the right side.

Ta Da! You have just designed your very own scarf!

A couple of tips …

1. Your edge will be much prettier if you slip the first stitch in every row. Slip it purlwise or knitwise but be consistent!

2. Block your scarf! (See my post about blocking here!) It will hold its shape and the sides of stockinette stitch fabric are famous for rolling. Blocking will help it to unroll … but if you look at the Princess’ scarf, you’ll see it does roll a little bit! 🙂

Gone knitting!

 

Wet Blocking vs. Steam Blocking vs. Spritz Blocking

Some tools you'll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

Some tools you’ll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

It took me awhile, when I started knitting, to figure out just what blocking means. There are a few (maybe several) terms that knitters use regularly that are not really clear to those who are new to the craft. So, I’m going to try to give a general description of two often-used blocking techniques – wet blocking and steam blocking.

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Blocked Shawl – wool. Wet blocked.

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Close up of what happens to garments when blocked – the lacy details just come alive!

For most sturdy fibers, I like to wet block. Wool is a sturdy fiber (and if it has a little bit of man-made fiber blended in, it’s still sturdy enough). I would also suggest wet blocking linen garments. I’ve read that some people “whap” their linen once soaked … sounds violent to me but I know it does get “softer” when washed a couple of times.

To wet block a garment, you want to immerse the garment completely in cool water mixed with a little bit of wool wash like Eucalan or Soak. Gently lift your garment out of the water and gently squeeze the extra water out. Never (NEVER) wring hand-knit garments. I usually put the garment on a clean bath towel, roll it up and then press gently to get even more water out of the garment. Then lay it flat on a blocking board or a new clean towel on your guest room bed. Or on an infrequently traveled area of wall-to-wall carpet. Gently pull the garment to the right shape and measurements and let it dry. It may take a couple of days.

An alternate method is to steam block. I set my garment on a clean bath towel and with my steam iron set to the steam setting, Pin the garment into the shape/size that you want it to be. I hold the iron over (without touching) the garment and give it a jolt of steam or two or three. The heat and moisture will relax the fibers enough to make it possible to give it a little bit of adjustment. Let it dry completely. (Another way I’ve heard some people steam block is by using a wet (clean) pillow case on top of the garment and putting the iron onto the pillow, pushing the steam button, until the pillow case is dry. This is a gentler method than wet blocking and you should get the same result.

Note: If your garment is made of hand-dyed wool, and the color isn’t “fixed” and you see dye in the water when wet blocking, you can also add a little bit of white vinegar (a cap-full or two) which should help “fix” the dye. If color is bleeding, keep rinsing with cool water until the water runs mostly clear.

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette (it’s for sale, if you’re interested)

The last method that I want to discuss is spritz blocking. If using this method (which is good for any fibers you have doubts about soaking in water or steaming with an iron … in my house that’s alpaca, silk, mohair, cashmere and anything I’m not sure of … I pin it into shape and then spritz it with a plant sprayer. Make sure the sprayer is clean (hasn’t been used for cleaning chemicals or anything) and filled with water and just spritz the garment until it’s moderately damp. Leave it there until it’s dry.

There you have it. A primer, if you will, on blocking. I hope this helps!

Gone knitting!

Finished and Blocking

My sleeves are finished and blocked. Now I can assemble the sweater … I love seams!

NOT!

But I am getting more and more at ease with the process. And it really helps to block the pieces before seaming. As soon as my

The shoulder seams are super easy. With your embroidery needle, bring a new length of yarn up through a stitch and then wrap around the bottom of a stitch and then go back down through the same place where you came up! This makes a totally invisible “seam”.

The side and sleeve seems are almost fun for me to do now. I use the mattress stitch for stockinette stitch garments and Knitty has a great article on seaming that I probably can’t duplicate here. I’ll sure show you pictures of my garment in process but they’ve got the camera and people to show you better than I can!

The last thing that I will be adding to my sweater is a crocheted edging. Many of you who follow me on facebook know that I don’t really know how to crochet so this is causing me just a teeny bit of anxiety! I know that I can do anything and will be searching the internet to find some help. But, it’s almost there … and then I just have to find a few cute buttons …

… and wait until it gets cold enough to wear a wool sweater!

Pictures will soon follow (tomorrow!)

Gone knitting!

 

Cowl Blocking

ZigZag Cowl

This is a cowl-in-process. I loved this simple but lacey pattern of zig-zags and open-work and I chose it to make for my aunt for her 70th birthday which is coming up. The pattern is  the ZigZag Cowl by Mandy Powers (and it’s a free Ravelry download).

The yarn used is Good Karma Farm’s 60/40 wool/alpaca blend which is a worsted weight and has the softest hand! I really enjoyed knitting with this yarn. It didn’t split too much and felt so good while knitting. The pattern wasn’t difficult, although in my case there is room for operator error – I get chatting and can’t seem to count!

Today, I’ve charged myself with blocking the finished cowl and will be using the most wonderful gentle hand-wash soap in the whole wide world – Eucalan. The reason that I love it so much is that you don’t have to rinse it out of your hand washables! Even if you’re not washing knitted items, you have to get a bottle of this stuff. I use the unscented (because of my allergies) but there is a lavender and a eucalyptus scent as well.

And since I had no pins to block with, you see them as well. I’m using a folded up beach towel as my base and it’s working really well.

Why block, you ask? It makes the stitches become more defined. Particularly when you’re knitting lace, and I’ll show you what I mean when the blocking is done and dry.