Tuesday, July 31, 2007

So Much News

First up is a pic of my 12 finished blocks. I'm so pleased with how the afghan is shaping up. My husband said, "are you going to take new pictures every time you finish a block?" Well, dear, the answer is yes! It's so fun to see how the blocks look together. For the first bit of news I decided that I just can't finish the afghan in time for the fair. I really want to enjoy the knitting and not be so rushed. I was also running very low on Kureyon. I placed an order with Webs (http://www.yarn.com/) on Friday and I got it on Monday. That is amazing service. I put a note in the order that I needed the yarn ASAP and asked if they could send it priority mail. I will definately use them again! I'm a little disappointed that I won't finish in time for the fair. When I'm done with the afghan I'll go out and buy myself a blue ribbon for finishing such a big project!

The other big news is that I am the new volunteer webmaster for Mother Bear Project. This is a great organization that delivers hand-knit bears to children in Africa. To the left you can see my unfinished bear. The bears are easy to make, only use a small amount of yarn, and bring so much joy to the children. I encourage all the knitters out there to donate to this wonderful cause.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lizard Ridge Progress

So far I have 8 squares blocked and I'm blocking 4 more tonight. I can't believe I'm halfway done with my squares...yeah! The squares have been a lot of fun to make. As with most knitting projects, though, there have been some frustrations along the way. The "thick and thin" nature of Kureyon can be a pain at times and sometimes the color repeats just aren't quite long enough. Will I finish in time for the State Fair? Well, I'm going to really have to speed up the pace. So far I am about 3 squares shy of where I should be to finish on time. Each square takes me about 4 hours to finish. I need to knit for almost 7 hours a day for the next week to finish the last 12 squares. That will leave me 12 days for seaming, edging, and blocking. I'll keep pressing on and see where I am after this weekend.

I found a cheap alternative to the $80 blocking boards that I've seen online. Joann Fabrics had this "Super Board" for $14.99. It is just cardboard material and therefore not very waterproof. I put clear contact paper over the top of the whole thing to solve that problem. So, for around $20 bucks I have a huge 72" x 36" blocking board. You can also see my other new toy, my Ott-lite. I'm so glad I got the little portable one instead of the floor lamp. (Maybe Santa will bring me one of those) Michaels and Jo-Ann both carry these lamps. Wait till they are on sale, or use a coupon, because the retail price is ridiculous. The bright, white light the lamp emits is wonderful. I can actually see what I'm doing now. They are worth every penny (as long as you use your 40% off coupon).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Did I mention I get distracted easily?

The Minnesota State Fair has gotten me all distracted. We go every year and enjoy seeing the sights, people watching, and eating various things on a stick (the pickle on a stick and key lime pie on a stick are my faves). My favorite place to go is the Creative Arts building which houses beautiful quilts, needlework, and lots of knitting. For some reason this year I really have the urge to enter something. I thought about entering my dragon scarf but it's now in "used" condition. Then I thought about Lizard Ridge. Even though I have less than a month to finish, I'm going to give it a try. I just finished my 8th block. I have a timeline all set so I can meet the August 14th deadline. I need to knit at least 1.5 blocks a day through August 1st. That will leave me two weeks for seaming, edging, and blocking. I have six new skeins of Kureyon all ready to go. Six of my squares are blocked and they look amazing. The pictures of these afghans just do not do them justice.
The pattern modifications for the sundress are on indefinite hold. I'll finish them as soon as I can!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sundress: Progress and Frustration

I'm making good progress on the sundress. I have 19" complete and just a few inches left! I want to go into more detail about the problem with the decreases in this pattern. A few of the stockinette sections decrease from bottom to top for a nice slimming effect. The pattern is written with some of the decreases placed in the center of these sections. The sheen of the yarn makes these little k2tog bumps very noticeable. There are also ssk decreases in other stockinette sections that look really bad as well. Over the next few days I'm going to rewrite a few lines of the pattern so that these decreases will be much less visible. The pattern itself isn't written wrong...it could just be written better. If I'm going to spend 40+ hours knitting something I'd rather have a garment that I'm proud to give away. For me it's too late on this project. I'm not going to frog all this work. After all...it is just a swimsuit cover-up. But given how obvious the decreases are, and how simple it is to improve the pattern, I'll take a little time to post the modifications. Look for them soon!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Surfing fun

I love the internet. You can just keep digging away following links until you have no idea how you ended up somewhere or how you ended up with 10 tabs/windows open. I was about six degrees of separation away from http://www.knittyboard.com/ when I found this: http://www.ravelry.com/ All I have to say is WOW and you must check this out. I hope they have huge servers because when they go live they are going to be busy. So what is Ravelry? Well, say you bought 4 skeins of Rowan Calmer on sale and added it to your stash without much thought. Weeks later when you have time for a new project you remember the Calmer in your stash. Now you need a pattern. You can go to Ravelry and pull up the yarn by name and see what other people have made with it. You can find pics of finished garments, blog posts describing projects, etc. all in one spot. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out all the great features here! This will be a great site.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Finished Squares

I have made good progress on the afghan. I have 3 blocks completed with the new garter stitch edges. The top left block I still need to redo. So far, this has been a very interesting project. Working with the color changes is challenging and fun. I was really unsure about block #164. It seemed like a cross between baby poo and split pea soup. It is starting to grow on me now, though. Block #182 has been redone from the original pattern design. You can now see what it looks like with the garter stitch modification. So far block #40 is my favorite. I could see doing a whole bedspread in this colorway. It's beautiful! Click on the pics to enlarge.

I'm getting excited to cast on my Clapotis, so I'll be working pretty hard on the sundress over the next few days.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lizard Ridge-Part II

Yesterday I had the pleasure of knitting with Bernadette St. Amant. She holds teaching clinics at various locations in the metro. She is an amazing teacher with expert knowledge of knitting. She also designs for Malabrigo....what can be better than that? I went to her for advice on Lizard Ridge. I wanted to see what my options were for seaming and to see how my short rows were coming along. I also had her look at the sundress I'm working on. I always learn new things when I attend her sessions. I noticed my decreases in the sundress were very noticeable. I knew the sheen of the yarn would make them show up more, but I wondered why the designer had placed them right in the middle of the stockinette sections. A quick check with Bernadette and she agreed that they could have easily been placed at the beginning of the stockinette section instead of the center. So, the more I knit, the more I will start to trust my own instincts. Patterns might be written accurately, but they may not be "optimized".

I was very excited to show Bernadette what I had learned so far with the Lizard Ridge afghan. I did my own experiments with yarn-over short rows and really liked how they turned out. She said she usually recommends this method. I did find out that I am not knitting backwards...but actually purling backwards, since I am doing this with the purl side facing me. She showed me how to knit backwards from the knit side...but it just confused me and felt awkward. By this time I'd had about 16 hours practice purling backwards and had gotten pretty comfortable with it. My brain and hands had also memorized which direction to go for the short row section. So, I will continue to purl backwards on the short row sections. I might even place a video on the blog showing how I do it.

Now to seaming... I told Bernadette that I didn't want big bulky seams and that I would prefer to do the squares rather than panels. (I really like the patchwork look of the individual squares.) She said I can't have my cake and eat it too. Edge-to-edge seaming is out of the question given the weight of the afghan. My compromise is to knit a garter stitch border on either side. There are definately a few advantages to doing this. 1. There's no curling of the edges and they are nice and neat. 2. The seam should, in theory, be less bulky. To the left you can see a sample of the pattern with the garter stitch edge and garter stitch modification to add more definition to the block. I'm pleased with how this has turned out.

The block below I finished before I met with Bernadette. It does not have the garter stitch edge. I'll probably rip it out and re-do it later. It is colorway #209. It's so pretty!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Boredom leads to a new Obsession

I've grown tired of knitting purses, tired of felting, and tired of small projects. I feel the need to make something more substantial. Due to my busy work schedule, I was only able to start one new project between February and June... a Noni bag for my grandmother. A few weeks ago I heard my knitting bag call my name. After an uninspired search on the web I headed out to gather up the latest knitting mags from my LYS. This is where I found the sundress that I'm currently working on. Why is it that you can't ever be happy with just the project on your needles? As soon as my knitting senses kicked into high gear they were already thinking about the next project. "Hey, why not make an afghan?", they said. After searching the usual online haunts, I remembered the great Lizard Ridge pattern.

I first fell in love with Lizard Ridge when it appeared in Knitty last year. I printed it out and added it to my very thick knitting binder. I had no interest in knitting an afghan, but I loved the way the Kureyon colors exploded before your eyes. The nice thing about waiting to knit this pattern is that many people have had a chance to finish one. A quick google image search yielded lots of great photos of finished afghans. You can see the finished products here, or here, how about here, or even here. This one made with Paton's SWS shows a very suitable substitute yarn, but this non-Kureyon one just doesn't work for me. There's even the obligatory knit-a long.

This is just a small sample of all the Lizard Ridge information available. This afghan incorporates short row knitting to achieve the wonderful wavy shapes. For many knitters these short rows with wraps and turns can seem quite intimidating. As usual, the wonderful website http://www.knittinghelp.com/ has a great video to explain them. Here's another method of doing short rows that I plan to experiment with today. You can also learn how to "knit backwards" to avoid turning your work so frequently. The best explanation and video I found showing how to do this from the purl side is here. With every good pattern comes unique modifications. Click here for one of the best sites with lots of pictures, tips and modifications.

I hope this post will be helpful to those of you thinking about starting this beautiful afghan. So, without further ado.... here's my first Lizard Ridge Square.

Friday, July 6, 2007

New yarn!

I saw a post on Knitty about a yarn sale at Amazing Threads in Maple Grove. They had 35% off lots of different yarn including *some* of their Noro. I bought some Silk Garden Lite in colorway #2033. I got enough for Clapotis. I don't know how these colors will look either A) on me or B) as a Clapotis, but they are beautiful.

The only other project I could think of at the time is a Christmas present for my MIL. I want to make her a summery top. They had a few finished tops from Noro designed patterns in the store. So the hunt began for a good pattern and sale yarn to match. I came up with the one pictured to the right. It is made with Sakura. A really great Rayon/Poly/Nylon/Silk & Wool blend. I chose the fun colorway #5. My MIL looks great in lime green. As usual pictures just don't do the yarn justice. So, I had a fun and successful time shopping and I saved more than $40!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Knit.1 magazine "Sundress"

This is the sundress that I am working on for my sister. It is coming along nicely. You can find this in the sum-mer '07 edition of Knit.1 magazine. I'm using the Lion Brand Microspun yarn that it calls for in the colorway #158 Buttercup. I've read so many negative comments about this yarn, but it really isn't bad at all. It is very soft. It does have the tendency to split easily. To avoid this, just use dull tip needles like bamboo or Denise. I'm not having any trouble with splitting the yarn on my Denise's.
I hope the stockinette sections will flatten out a bit after blocking. (they are a bit wavy) I'm concerned that the decreases in the st-st are going to show too much as well. I'm sure my sister will like it either way!