I Heart Aran – Nearing the Finish Line

img_7413

I Heart Aran by Tanis Fiber Arts – blocking!

I started knitting the I Heart Aran sweater by Tanis Fiber Arts in early September. It’s a 32nd birthday gift for my eldest daughter. I’m not sure how she got to be so old when I remain young and nearly the same age as she! Kate chose the sweater pattern from Ravelry and this was the one she loved the most. This morning I finished the knitting and it’s blocked. Woo! Hoo!

I was gifted the yarn by my sister-in-law, Annie, who found it and some purple at an estate or garage sale several years ago. For ten dollars! She’s a very thoughtful person and I’m delighted to be able to make a sweater with five of the ten skeins of ivory/aran color that she gave me which leaves several skeins for me to make something for Annie! It’s Shetland by Jaeger (80% wool, 20% alpaca 100 g/166m). The hand on this yarn is wonderfully soft thanks to the alpaca. It was great to knit with – not splitty and no little bits of wool all over my dark jeans. Because it’s an Aran weight yarn and the sweater was rather small, it knit up in no time at all. It helped, too, because the sleeves and back are all a very simple, almost boring, stockinette. If I were going to knit this sweater again, I’d consider adding a cable up the sleeves or on the back or both. The stitch definition is amazing and there is enough wool so that the sweater shouldn’t stretch out (or grow!)

Superior Stitch Definition

Superior Stitch Definition

I used my good old Hiya Hiya Interchangeable needles with the US6 and US8 tips. I used the US6 tips only for the sleeve ribbing and chose to use the US8 (not the US6 as written in the pattern) because I don’t love sweaters with very tight ribbing at the waist. Hiya Hiya Interchangeables are decent needles. The join is mostly smooth. The tips could be pointier.  They were ok for this project because the yarn is heavy enough and the cables weren’t too tight. I chose to knit flat on my circular needles. You could also have knitted this on straight needles.

A good set of schematics make blocking so much simpler!

A good set of schematics make blocking so much simpler!

One of the things I liked about this pattern is that it had a perfect schematic so that when I was blocking (and knitting) I knew exactly what the measurements were to be. This makes my life as a pattern-follower so much easier than when I have to go back into the pattern to decide what the measurements are – and Tanis even added the measurement that is supposed to be across the neck (3″) to eliminate any guesswork. Thank you! The directions were clear and concise.

There was only one place where I was unsure of the directions and I think it was the knitter not the instructions after a quick discussion with knitwear designer Lori Versaci of VersaciKnits.

If it says, “Dec every 8 rows”, you should make the first decrease after 8 rows. If the designers means for you to make the first dec on the next row then start every 8 rows, the directions should say, “Dec on next and then every 8 rows” or something like that!

– Lori Versaci, VersaciKnits

Fortunately, I had figured it out because the decrease instructions all happened on the RS (right side) rows which meant that it was going to have to happen on rows 1 and 9 not on row 8. Being thoughtful, taking a pause to think about my knitting answered the question for me. A life lesson put to use in my knitting yet again.

I block everything on my guest room bed. Today I have two projects blocking – a hat for a customer and the sweater. I can’t wait until it’s dry and can be assembled and I can knit the collar. Then we can choose a button on Tuesday when I’m at the yarn shop and send it off to Kate who is in rehearsal for Carousel which will open later this month at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC. I know it’s sweater weather in Maine (at least in the morning and afternoon) but I’m not sure about the Washington area.

I’ll show you the finished garment in a day or two!

Gone knitting.

Crew – A Test Knit

 

IMG_5175

Crew

If I show you a picture of the finished sweater, I think Lori would have to kill me. (Not really.) But just in case, I wanted to show you my progress on my test knitting project for VersaciKnits.

I “worried” about the yarn for several days and finally just “bit the bullet” and bought some lovely Berroco yarn in their Folia line (40% cotton, 30% viscose, 15% alpaca, 10% nylon, 5% wool). It’s like a mutt blend of yarn with a little bit of everything. But I liked the soft hand and the gauge looked like it would match the pattern requirements. I bought eight skeins/hanks to make the size large in the teal blue color #3856 (dye lot 83925) and, of course, neither of my photographs is color-accurate! I’m knitting with a US 5 circular needle (Knitter’s Pride Dreamz).

IMG_5188I have nine or ten inches knitted up and I am loving the drape and feel of the fabric. I guessI should recheck the gauge to make sure I’m on target. My swatch was pretty much perfect. Stitches were spot on and the rows were a tiny bit shy of what was required but I didn’t block the swatch very aggressively and I know I could have made it work. I’ll remember that with the sweater pieces before I seam!

Our timeline is to have the sweater finished in four to six weeks. We got the pattern on July 16th and have had one update since then. I’d better quit blogging and get knitting!

Gone Knitting!

 

 

Needles, Needles, Needles

I’m working a lot knitting socks. Trying some new patterns and trying different needles, too.

Knitter's Pride Dreamz DPN

Knitter’s Pride Dreamz DPN

I have a set of new Knitter’s Pride “dreamz” 6-inch double pointed needles in US1 (2.25mm) needles and they’re going to help me knit up some wonderful socks using  Susan B. Anderson’s “How I Make My Socks” pattern and Patons Kroy Socks in Spring Leaf Stripes colorway (that I’ve had in my stash for a few months.) I am really liking these needles. They are smooth but not slippery. The tips are pointy enough but I’d like to have a little more tip … they are almost rounded off at the tip rather than pointy and pointy is better when you’re using fine yarns. At this price point, however, they are very reasonable and they are nice to work with.

Signature Needle Arts DPN

Signature Needle Arts DPN

My other socks are on my Signature Needle Arts 6-inch US1 DPNs. (One of which I seem to have lost already. I am hoping that I left it at the office on Friday and that I will find it when I return tomorrow. You’ll understand why one would worry about the loss of one needle when you are told that I paid $48 for a set of four needles. Thus, one needle is valued at $12 which, by the way, is more than a set of 5 Dreamz needles.) The yarn that I am using is Gale’s Art Wonder Sock in the Graffiti colorway. I love this yarn’s color and it was one that I fell in love with and went to buy immediately after casting my eyes upon it. That doesn’t happen often. The Signature needles, while pricey, are worth every cent. I love the stiletto points and the yarn slips easily over them without slipping off them. I’d say that these are my favorites and I will collect more as my pocketbook allows.

I’ve had many (many!) sets of needles over the course of my knitting career. From the “cheap-o” needles that you can buy on sale at the big box craft stores to my pricey Signatures. I bought my first boxed set of needles at a half-price going out of business sale in Cincinnati, Ohio. I thought spending $50 for a set of Denise Interchangeable Needles was a huge expense. And I loved the needles. Until I discovered Addis! Addi cords were so much more flexible and they’ve been through several iterations since my first circular needles. One summer I bought a set of HIya Hiya needles (around $70- $80?) and I fell in love again. The transition between the needles and cords were much smoother than the Denise needles and the single circs that I bought here and there. No matter what brand of bamboo circular needle I seemed to buy, the transitions were often rough.

And then one  year I took some classes with Annie Modesitt and discovered Signatures. I’ve often asked for them for my birthday and Christmas and mother’s day, too. I tend to buy 40″ circulars because I can use them in magic loop in so many applications. I have one pair of straights and one pair of their DPNs. They are all magnificent and the tips are nice and pointy.

Limited Edition Knitter's Pride Dreamz (well worn!)

Limited Edition Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (well worn!)

I was gifted one more lovely set of needles a couple of Christmases ago. They are a limited edition set of Knitter’s Pride Dreams interchangeable circular needles. They have been so well used for so often (and taken with me when I travel or teach) that the box is starting to show some wear. I love the needles. The cords are nice and flexible and the transitions are mostly smooth. I have a couple of needles that are not as smooth as others. But, over all, this set is a decent price point and they are pretty colors and they are great to knit with.

Needles, like friends, are a personal choice. We all have our favorites or besties. None are “bad”, some are better for different projects. Have you ever travelled with a friend who you can only take in small doses or one who snores? It makes travel a challenge! Needles are the same! When you have the wrong needles, your project will be a challenge. I like to use bamboo with “slippery” yarn (like mohair). I use circulars for almost everything these days but I still like to knit socks on DPNs, too.

Variety is the spice of life, right?

Gone knitting.

The Anatomy of a Sock

Circle of Life Socks

Circle of Life Socks for baby – pattern by Cat Bordhi

As I was sitting here in my atelier last night, I started thinking about how much people know about socks. I’ve knitted quite a few socks; baby socks, short socks, bed socks, yoga socks, cabled socks, patterned socks … toe up socks, cuff down socks, socks on DPNs, socks on two circs, magic loop socks … you get the general idea. Right?

Turkish Bed Sock

Turkish Bed Sock by Queen Bee Knits – pattern by Churchmouse Yarns

Well, what are the parts of a sock? Do you know what they’re all called? If you’re a knitter like me, you may … or may not! So, let’s do a post about the anatomy of a sock.

Whenever I’m preparing to write a post on knitting, I go out to the internet to search the topic. I searched the internet “Anatomy of a Sock” and this is what I found. A wonderful article, entitled Sock 101, already written beautifully by Knitty – a great resource and some fun free patterns – so I don’t have to write it myself. I can merely comment and compliment the Knitty article. Because there’s no use recreating the wheel, right?

Knitty's Picture of the Anatomy of a Sock

Knitty’s Picture of the Anatomy of a Sock

There it is. The perfect picture of the anatomy of a sock! Perfect!

Depending on the pattern that you’re using, you may start at the toe or the cuff. Everyone stresses (at least when you’re a new sock knitter) about turning the heel. The beauty of it, however, is that all socks have all the same parts. Once you know the anatomy of ONE sock, you know it all! It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Birthday Party Socks - by Queen Bee Knits

Birthday Party Socks – by Queen Bee Knits

If you haven’t knitted socks yet, you really should give it a shot – they’re so satisfying to knit and when they are finished and you put them on your feet or give them to someone as a gift, it’s amazing. They fit so well, they feel so good. And as a gift, they’re not soon forgotten – a true labor of love.

A personal sock story and then I’m going to end – I bought a ball of sock yarn with the idea that I’d make them for my son (then a freshman in college) because the colorway was similar to tiger stripes and he’s a Cincinnati Bengals fan – hey, no comments necessary, we lived his entire lifetime in Cincinnati! When I told him I was making him socks, he sweetly(-ish) told me he didn’t want hand-knit socks. Because I had the yarn, though, I didn’t pay attention and knitted the socks and gave them to him for Christmas one year.

Who Dey!

Who Dey! Socks by Queen Bee Knits

He graciously put them on his feet on Christmas day. Then, awhile later, I got a call from him,

“Mom, about the socks you knitted for me …?”

“Yes?”

“I love them. Will you make me some more?”

Like a good custom shirt or suit or whatever else is made specifically for you, hand made socks are super special. My brothers, boyfriend, niece and at least one daughter have pairs of their own. My goal is to knit some for all of my family. My son has three pairs that I’ve made to his request … including a brown pair that have a short cuff, a black pair and the Who Dey! socks that were his first. We all know that our first is something special!

The anatomy of a sock. There you have it. Now go get your yarn and needles and start knitting a pair! A good place to start is with Knitty’s Fuzzy Feet … worsted weight yarn and on a large scale. One step at a time. You can do it!

Gone knitting!

Lost & Found

I lost my 40″ circular needle wire (with some points on it) and was having difficulty knitting the booties that I wanted to start. wanting to make I’m not sure I’ve ever made booties before and wasn’t sure how the process went … consequently, my super long cord was essential to the project. I searched my entire Atelier to no avail. But yesterday after my Michael’s knitting demo, I searched for a third time and voila! I found the needle! An Easter miracle the day before Easter?

I got the first bootie cast on and finished now. It’s cute. I’ve used a pattern that I found on Ravelry but I’ve changed it up a bit – as a knitter has a tendency to do. So, one little bootie is finished. Three to go! (And I have to make a couple of pompoms for the matching hats, too.)

Haven’t moved much on the first of three (or more) baby blankets but those aren’t “due” until summer. And I have all the days of driving north … it’s almost time again!

It’s a beautiful day here in Florida. Great Easter egg-hunt weather and I’m sure kids all over are having a joyous day. I have such fond memories of the egg hunts at our house when the kids were little (and not so little) and one failed hunt when I decided to fill the kids’ baskets and hide the baskets. That never happened again (though the baskets were a success!)

Gone knitting!

Annie says … On slipping and decreasing

I “promised” way back when (I took the weekend courses with the wonderful, beautiful, talented, Annie Modesitt) to post some tips that I gleaned from the classes. There were so many wonderful bits that she offered and, today, I’d like to share a couple of those with you!

Tip 1

When asked to slip a stitch, the default is always to slip the stitch purl-wise by inserting the right needle into the stitch to be slipped from the right to the left in front of the left needle.

Insert right needle as if to purl (from right to left in front of left needle) ... OMG, my thumb has dry skin!

Tip 1.1

Annie attributes the following tip to her friend Sally Melville (I have all of her books. Now, it’s time to actually read them rather than looking at the pretty pictures and reading snippets!)

When slipping stitches: if you’re going to use the stitch again in the same row, slip the stitch knit-wise. If not, slip the stitch purl-wise (the default, see tip 1).

Tip 2

Annie has her way of decreasing down to a science. When you want to decrease with stitches leaning to the left, you would “typically” be told to “SSK” or “slip, slip, knit”. To do this you slip one stitch from the left to right needle knit-wise as if you were going to knit it (see tip 1.1), slip another stitch from the left to right needle knit-wise and then knit the two together (bring the left needle through the front of both stitches on the right needle, wrap the yarn as if you were knitting, slide the new stitch on the right needle and slip the two old stitches off the left needle.)

Slip - Insert right needle into stitch from left to right as if to knit

Knit - Insert left needle left to right into the front of the 2 slipped stitches

An easier way …

SSK is very manipulative (to the stitches, anyway!) The more you manipulate the stitches, the more likely they are to get stretched out. So, you end up with the same thing if you K2togTBL (knit two together through the back loop) or as Annie writes it K2togL (knit two together left). To K2togTBL, insert the right needle through the back loop of two stitches, wrap the yarn as if to knit, slip new stitch onto the right needle and the two old stitches off the left needle. One stitch decreased. The decreased stitch leans to the left.

Insert right needle through the back loop of two stitches

Another way to think about this (decreasing to lean either left or right) is to watch your needles.

A K2tog (Annie would write this K2togR) will lean to the right (in the direction of the direction of your left hand needle) …

K2tog - right needle points to right ... decrease will lean right

SSK or K2togTBL or T2togL will lean to the left … again, watch your needles!

K2togTBL - Right hand needle is pointing to the left, decrease will lean left

The final result … whichever way you choose to make a decreased stitch … is the same. Look at the first two (on left side of needle) stitches. One is a SSK and one is a T2togTBL.

After ... two left leaning decreases (one on l. is K2togTBL, on r. SSK)

Tip 3 and Tip 4

Totally unrelated to knitting except for the fact that it’s about a knitter.

Annie uses Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals make up. I’m going to look into it because I love the idea of sunblock being in the makeup!

She also loves to knit on Signature needles. I’m coveting my first pair and will report on their beauty when the gift fairy brings me some.

But for now, I’ve gone knitting!

Sore Fingers

Eight hours today … knitting a pair of fingerless mittens. But I now know that this is not the pattern to “follow” for my order of 15 pairs! I’ve got to devise a much simpler pattern with heavier weight yarn and bigger needles! I’m thinking a worsted weight yarn and size 7 dpns.

Starting where I was today, I think I can safely guess that I’ll have to cast on about 35 stitches and will do a rib pattern around. Perhaps the cuff can have a couple rounds of purled stitches so that they “stand out” from the rest of the mitt. Then a rib pattern with a thumb gusset and ta da! They’re done!

I have some great colorful wool from Maine and will have to check my stash to see what other wonderful yarns I have that would be appropriate.

For now, I’m going to stop knitting and go read a book – my fingers have knitted enough for today and they need a rest!

Back in the Saddle …

The house in Maine survived Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. While we weren’t here on Sunday when the storm hit, we arrived on Wednesday to clean up the yard … one fallen tree and a collection of sticks and small branches.

I’ve finished one really cute baby hat and am starting a second. The first, an “Aviatrix Hat” is really cute but the pattern wasn’t particularly clear. I used a wonderfully soft medium blue yarn and I think the baby will be kept really warm … until he grows out of it. The second hat is a Dropps design. It’s a bit like a hood in that it goes over the head (and thus won’t come off so easily!) You can click here for the free pattern – and while you’re there, they have a ton (TON!) of really beautiful patterns. Shop till you drop!

I’m nearly done with my vest. If I hadn’t gotten this creeping crud upper respiratory thing, I’d have it done and could be wearing it. I still love the vest – wish I’d made mine a bit longer, but I think (if it fits around my body) that I will get a lot of wear out of it.

I’m working on the “hexipuffs” for my knitted quilt. Did I show you a picture of this project? Yikes! I love it! TinyOwlKnits has designed the most wonderful one-of-a-kind knitted quilt that I, the Queen Bee, must have. It’s called the beekeeper’s quilt and here it is …

It’s beautiful, is it not? Well, I am working on mine (I have three or four of the 3 million little hexipuffs that I need to knit) and I can’t wait to show you as it’s put together. You can make this project too … by visiting this website and purchasing the pattern for a very reasonable fee! Here’s the site … http://tinyowlknits.wordpress.com.

I have a couple pairs of socks still on the needles: a pair of black ones for my son, Bear. A pair of scrappy/birthday party/celebration socks for my Etsy shop and the dreaded two socks on one needle which I’ll get done soon … once I get a bit of help from the master (rather, mistress) of two socks on one needle, Betty, at my LYS here in Maine.

So, this Queen Bee is busy, busy, busy. (Can you imagine that?)

Running out to get the laundry off the line and then wrapping my afghan around my shoulders while I knit a bit … think I’ll attempt the seam for the vest’s shoulders and finish that baby!

Gone knitting!

 

 

On the Needles (and in my head)

So many patterns and so little time!

I’ve got a couple of projects on the needles and I’m nearly finished with one of them. My big brother’s birthday socks – only a few more inches on the toe of the second sock and they’ll be done. I still love the yummy “java” sock yarn by String Theory … it feels so good knitting with it (and that doesn’t happen with all yarns!)

Today I visited my LYS here and bought a new knitting needle – a 40″ US 13 Addi that I will be using to make my life much (MUCH!) easier. I finished the bottom of my Noni Medallion tote bag and had started picking up the stitches around the bottom for the main part of the bag. The two needles that I had on hand were not working for me – yarn was getting twisted and it was a mess. My new needle makes life oh so very much easier! The two colored knitting colorwork is getting better and better with every row. Knitting in the round on the right side is so totally more easy than purling on the wrong side! Anyway, I got the new needle today because otherwise, I am going to have to knit with two needles and that’s a challenge for me – particularly since this is my first colorwork. Did I mention how much I like my colors? I am looking forward to seeing the bag once the colors and pattern really start to show!

When I was at the Yardgoods Center today, my darling Betty, who also happens to head up my Wednesday night knitting group, sold me a new sock yarn which I will wind and cast on this week! I’ll be happy to knit with and make another pair of socks – and she’s going to teach me how to do two socks at once. The yarn is a German brand … it’s hand-dyed and wound with two strands together so that when you make two socks at once they come out exactly the same. Fliegende Untertasse means flying saucer, she tells me … and that’s what the package looks like. Very different and we’ll see how it looks when I get knitting!

I started to look for a yarn with which to make some fingerless gloves for a darling girl who I haven’t knitted anything for yet. Her birthday’s coming up and she loves gray. Pattern will be with me on Wednesday (I love the Yardgoods Center! They have knitting classes several days and nights a week, it’s not overly expensive and you get a 10% discount on all purchases.) I’ll find yarn on my knitting night because I know I don’t have the right color in my stash that I brought up with me.

There are so many other projects that I have saved patterns for  … and they’re just burning a hole in my knitting bag (kind of like money burns a hole in a “normal” person’s pocket!)

OH, I forgot to mention  that I finished a new cowl. This one will go up for sale in my Etsy shop pretty soon. It’s made from two different navy blue wool blends so it feels really soft and it will be washable (in the machine, on cold and gentle cycle, always lay flat to dry) and wear like iron. I love the way it turned out and it reminds me of the color of our lake when it’s a beautiful blue day with a little breeze.

Bella mittens, colorwork fingerless mitts (fiddlehead pattern from Ravelry is really cool. The “yarn lady” at my LYS had a pair made in two shades of grey, black, cream and lined with grey – yes, in my head there is another pattern to try.) Oh, yeah, and there are the sweaters that I want to design for my dog line. Oh my goodness, there is a lot of yarn out there and I really want to try it all!

So, with that, I’m out of here – going to bed so I can knit again in the morning!

 

The way to a man’s heart …

There are white caps on the lake this morning. When I look outside from the warmth of the wood stove, it looks (and sounds) a lot like the ocean. It’s a bit misty, too. Not a warm spring day in Belgrade!

We have a copy here of The Settlement Cook Book. Copyright 1944, the “Victory” (26th) edition published by the Settlement Publishing Company during WWII. Compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander. On the inside of the front cover is a lovely “autographed” photograph of Mrs. Simon Kander (if you click on the link above, there is a photo of the page!) who compiled the recipes and (not to worry) they’re “tested” recipes from “The Milwaukee Public School Kitchens, Girls Trades and Technical High School, Authoritative Dieticians and Experienced Housewives” … what a hoot!

As you may know, I love to bake. When I’m up here I like to use what we have around – much of which has been here for 50+ years. This cookbook is one of the things I love (and who’d ever have thought that it’s a rare, collectible book!) The big mixing bowl, is another. Anyway, I digress … Chapter One is entitled, “Household Rules” and it tells you all you need to know about keeping house – literally. Including, how to light a “modern” gas range, set a table, and how to make soap. One of my favorite recipes, though, is a recipe for “Scotch Scones” which I’ve used as the base of my recipe below and have adapted over the years according to what I’ve been eating. Since I’m now eating gluten-free, I’ll give you the basic scone recipe and then gluten-free!

Maine Blueberry “Scotch” Scones (best served warm with a cup of coffee or tea on a cold May day, inside by the wood stove when Lake Messalonskee looks like the ocean!)

2 cups bread flour (I use unbleached all-purpose flour)
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter, cold!, cut into small cubes
2 eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk or cream
1 cup Maine blueberries (frozen or fresh)
 
 
 
Wash your hands now and take off your rings … this gets messy!
 
 
 
Preheat oven to 350°.
 
 
 
Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add butter and with your hands, mix butter into flour mixture until it is all blended in by pinching it between your thumb and fingers. Flour will look like larger grains and no lumps of butter will remain. Add eggs and buttermilk and mix until just combined. Fold in blueberries. Toss dough onto a floured surface and pat or roll to a square about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into triangles about 2 inches across. (This time, though I patted mine into a circle 3/4 inches thick and cut it into large wedges.) Transfer to greased cookie sheet, brush with egg white, and sprinkle with your choice of brown sugar and cinnamon, organic raw cane sugar, cinnamon sugar, etc. (My traditional sprinkle is with Turbinado sugar but today I used brown sugar and cinnamon.)
 
 
 
Bake for approximately 15 minutes.
 
 
 
For the gluten-free version, substitute Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free baking mix for the flour and add 3/4 teaspoon of xantham gum but the rest of the recipe is the same.
 

Now, for a cup of tea and a bit of knitting … new on the needles this morning, the Queen Bee’s Tweed Boulette Blanket. My French daughter and her family are coming to visit after waaaayyy too many years and I’m worried that the baby, la boulette, will be cold. So, what does a good “grand-mere” do? … She knits one!

Off I go to knit and snack!