Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fat Socks

Way back when I was a lot younger and more athletic I would go skiing with my family.  One of the best things about skiing was that afterwards I could take my ski boots off and put my poor tired feet into something big and sloppy.  Apres ski boots were never in my wardrobe but over sized socks worked for me.

Flash forward more years than I care to count, and I now live in Houston which is many hours of hard driving from any ski slopes.  The only thing that remains is that in the winter my feet get cold and tired and that walking on cold tile floors does not make them feel any better. 

House slippers are okay but want I really want are over sized, sloppy wool socks.  Try to find ill fitting scratchy socks in the stores and they will ship you off to the funny farm.

Enter the Twisted Yarns sale bins.  A couple of months ago I spotted two large balls of something called Classic Worsted Tapestry yarn from Universal Yarns.  The color I found was China Blue which is wonderful mix of blues, creams and golden yellow.  With my imagination running wild, I bought two balls and decided to make bulky socks using one ball per foot.

After a few weeks this is how they came out:

Yes, they are big over sized wool socks but they look pretty awful with that lazy squared off toe.

Light bulb moment...why not felt them? They would still be bulky wool socks but maybe they would look a little better.

Into the washing machine and dryer they went and this is how they came out:

Not very different from the before picture!

What was going on here....

It turns out that your intrepid knitter had not read the label on the skeins of yarn.  Classic Worsted Tapestry is not a 100% wool yarn.  I had imagined that.  It is really a 75% acrylic yarn with 25% wool thrown into make you think it is really wool..BUT IT IS NOT! 

I still love my socks and their over sized scratchiness but I have learned a big lesson here:

READ THE LABEL... not just the name of the yarn BUT THE WHOLE LABEL!  Read it once when buying the yarn, again when you get it home and again when you are considering what to do with it.

Then you might not be in the position I will be in when I show them at the knitting guild meetings this month where I will have to confess that I cannot read and that yarn with any acrylic in it will not felt.

I think I am now ready for winter...sloppy house socks, small shawls/scarves and ear warmers.  If I get down to really knitting I will even finish the sweater I started two years ago for the complete homemade look.

OR maybe I should try mittens before I finish that sweater?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cold Nights, Warm Ears

Well, we haven't had any cold nights yet...unless you count the 80F we had the other night, down from 100F during the day.

Anyway, Knitters North of Town (KNOT) of the Knit at Night Gang (KANG) had a great program the other night to create a cute ear warmer headband with a little flower on it. Mabel agreed that it would be a great addition to her winter wardrobe so, after many false starts, here she is in her new ear warmer:

Pretty cute, yes?

This was created from a class pattern that the wonderful Marilee had and that many of us wanted to learn about.  The pattern is unpublished but if you ask nicely I'll see what I can do about getting you a copy.  UPDATE:  Here is a similar pattern I found...looks the same except that this pattern makes a wider headband of 33 stitches instead of the 19 I used.

This ear warmer is made out of chunky yarn on US size 11 needles.  I used Berroco Ultra Alpaca (won as a door prize that evening!) in a lovely heathered blue to make Mabel's ear warmer.  I worried about the increases and decreases being too prominent with such thick yarn but the stitch changes are all hidden within the 1x1 rib pattern.  I did have some trouble keeping straight which was the right side so ended up with some huge markers to remind me that the right side was not the wrong side.  The flower is a somewhat free form piece of crochet with a knitted bobble in the center.

I so enjoyed my adventure with this pattern that I have started another one.  I think my second one will go to the church that provides KNOT with space FOR FREE!  With the high temperatures that we have been dealing with here, their generosity is very much appreciated.

I also want to let the world know how generous the KNOT group is with their excess yarn and needles.  Thursday night I collected enough yarn and needles from this group to over fill a huge plastic bin.  Their donations were made for the middle school knitting program that  I hope will be restarting soon.  Some of it will be going to a group locally that knits hats for chemotherapy patients.  One little bit of it went onto my needles and became another ear warmer for Mabel.

The yarn was very chunky, almost like roving, and I wanted to see what it was like to work.  I kept knitting in garter stitch until there was none left, at which point I realized that it was just the right size to warm Mabel's ears.

Good thing Mabel is generous with her hats as I really do need ear warmers when I walk the dogs in the colder weather.  Of course, it feels like we won't ever have cold weather again but I have faith that the weather gods will screw with my expectations of a couple of months without air conditioning or heating bills.

Now back to watching Irene's progress up the coast.  Stay safe and dry!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lace #2

I decided to try another lace project because the first one proved I really don't know how to count stitches.  If you don't remember that effort, check here.

For  my second try I decided to use a pattern that someone had copied for me.  It's called a Larch Scarf and looked slightly lacy without becoming dreary.  The pattern is here along with the notes by the designer.

The notes by the designer proved to be incredibly important for a lace newbie like myself as they included some very important information.  If you not a knitter you can skip this part but for the knitters out there the notes included such vital information as the symbol chart and that the whole scarf is in garter stitch.  These two pieces of information, if they had been in the pattern, may have resulted in a better looking scarf for me.

However, I think it looks pretty good and, at 52"wide and 22" deep, it will make a nice little triangular scarf to tuck around my neck when it gets a little cooler here.

The yarn used is called Stroll from the online retailer Knit Picks.  It's a super wash wool blend and the color I used was Queen Anne.  I originally got this yarn in a kit from Knit Picks for six different pairs of socks with cable detailing.  I never made one pair from the pattern book but i will be using the yarn for non-cable socks and, maybe, more lace knitting adventures.

As always, there were lessons learned (again!) in doing this project.

  • Free/self-published patterns have not been vetted by a bunch of testers.  Not that retail patterns are always better (see the errata for 100 One Skein Wonders as an example) but the pattern I used could have had better documentation and less gushing over the pattern.
  • I really can't count stitches without lots of markers.  My final count was about 30 though only about 25 made it back into my box of stitch markers.
  • A more solid looking color did give better results however 476 yards of yarn do not give you a shawl, just a scarf.
  • Cable needles are a blessing and a curse.  They make large projects like this easier to work but my cable never really relaxed enough for it to be pliable.  I have heard that if you soak them in some warm water before casting on you can soften up the nylon cables but I will need to try it before endorsing that method.
Alex and Kelis were so excited that I had finished this project that they wanted to join in the fun of photographing it in my front yard....without their leashes!

Fat chance guys!     

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

Some of us are dealing with friends and family with Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.  Some of us will be victims later in our lives.  Some of us remember the first time they saw a friend cry because her husband kept playing with his zipper.  And some of just want to help both the patients and caregivers to make their lives a little better.

One of the side effects of these diseases is described as busy hands.  Fiddling with a zipper, buttons, pockets, shoe laces, towels etc. etc. etc.

To help keep busy hands busy and to help the patients with a sense of accomplishment someone came up with the brilliant idea of creating Busy Aprons.  Essentially a busy apron is a butcher's style apron that has been embellished with simple activities and interesting textures.

It will be the next activity for the once Upon a Time Bee and I made up a sample the other night.  Here is what I came up with:

On my apron I included chunky buttons, a Velcro key tab, a key ring, a tassel, a sideways pocket, a pocket held together by a ribbon bow, a big pocket, a bit of toweling, a chunky zipper with a ribbon pull tab, all with rick rack and other trims for more texture.  I have space to add more things but for now I'm calling it done.

Other things I could have included were:  shoe laces pulled through shoe grommets for lacing, a see through pocket for family photos, a key to something innocuous like a treasure box, big beads and cording for stringing, a soft toy tethered to a pocket, pompoms, ruffles, pockets for washable markers and a coloring book, laminated family pictures to dangle from a key ring, beads and sequins, all kinds of trims, a bow tie or regular tie to tie, cords/yarn to braid ... I think you get the idea. 

Several web sites have more information on practical solutions to busy hands.  Here are some that focus on Busy Aprons - 
Time to get busy... after I turn off the soaker hoses which may have flooded my yard by now!