Monday, September 7, 2009

Time Flies When You're Having Fun and Making More Socks

Has it really been three months since I last checked in?? It sure has been a busy summer!

My daughter graduated high school a few days after my last post. Here we are on her big day - and the necklace I crocheted survived the trip (whew!):


She's since started college, while my son's started Kindergarten and lost two teeth, almost all in the same week:


My husband also hit the big four-oh last month. We first saw a Dotsero concert:


video

I then took him to Beau Jo's, where I had friends and family gather for a surprise party to get back at him for whining all summer about "getting old." He had no idea what hit him:


video

I baked him a gluten and dairy free cake for the occasion:


Somehow I've managed to find time to knit in between all this, daily life, work, etc. I finished the striped socks I started a while back. They became a "just because" gift for a friend:


I also finished some baby socks this morning, my first attempt. I used the Basic Baby Socks pattern from KnitList.com and the Magic Loop technique:



My son's godfather and his wife had another girl almost two weeks ago but didn't know what they were having when I started, so I used a ball of Berocco Comfort Sock in Stewart Island that I had in my stash. It doesn't have any wool, so it won't irritate baby's delicate skin, and the colors were neutral enough to work either way.

I'm planning to make yoga socks for Mommy in the same yarn so they match. Let's just hope I can get little one her pair before she has a growth spurt!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Statement Necklace

Stitch Diva recently posted a free crochet pattern by Jennifer Hansen called the Statement Necklace. I'd been looking for something to go with the dress I'm wearing to my daughter's high school graduation and this was perfect.

In the pattern Jennifer suggested trying seashells instead of the flat marbles. So I picked up some Patons Silk Bamboo yarn in Sapphire and found a bag of shells at Big Lots that had some pretties in it.

Here's how the necklace came out:


I found the pattern really easy to do. It took me about half a day to assemble all told. The shells were a little tricky to work around, but still fun.

Because of the shell's irregular shapes, I had to use some glue on the backs of each piece. I chose Aleene's Jewel-It, which I had also used to put the googly-eyes on my friends' kids' fish hats a while back.
So far it's holding well. I'll put a little more on tomorrow to make sure it holds together while traveling.

Cross your fingers and let's hope it makes the trip... if not I have another crochet necklace I made from a Berroco pattern last year I think I can use as a backup.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another Sweater for My Boy!

I put together another sweater for my son on the USM. He picked out the color, it's Caron's One Pound in Sunflower. I added a stripe of Red Heart Kids in Crayon Multi:


I'm happier with how this one came out. I had a better idea in regard to the size, especially as I wanted to make it a little larger so it will fit him in the fall and winter. Next time I should be able to get the ribbing down better too - the woman who sold me my USM was able to find the instruction/pattern booklet and get that to me so now I'm able to go over the techniques at my own pace rather than having to skip back and forth through the DVD.

A handsome sweater for my handsome boy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Drop-Stitch Lace Shawl

I finished my black shawl - this is the one I initially started on needles and then decided to do it instead on the USM:




I'm really happy with the outcome... I used the size 4 keyplate, and a lace technique. Then when I was done I dropped stitches at various intervals. The end result is a more open, lacy pattern.

I wanted something nice and light to go with the dress I'm wearing to my daughter's high school graduation next month. I think this will work well, and it will be easy to pack.

Also, while it was still a bit slower to do on the USM than regular stockinette because I had to stop at each row and prep it for the lace work, it went faster overall than using the needles. I was able to finish this within a couple of weeks, compared to it taking several weeks to finish it maybe a third of the way, so it really saved me some time.

If anyone wants, I'm posting the pattern here - feel free to print up as you wish:

Drop-Stitch Lace Shawl

Skill Level: Easy-Intermediate

Measures approximately 45"x80"

Materials:
  • Lace or fine weight mohair or similar blend yarn. I used 3-1.75 oz. skeins Patons Lacette in Touch of Black. However, Patons has since discontinued this yarn and does not have a replacement. Possible substitutions are:
    • Rowan Kidsilk Haze
    • Crystal Palace Kid Merino
    • Karabella Lace Mohair
    • Colinette Parisienne
  • Size US11 (8.0mm) knitting needles OR
  • Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine using size 4 keyplate
  • Tapestry or yarn needle
Gauge: 13 sts = 4", 15 rows = 4". Gauge is not important for this project.

Notes:
  • The knitting needle instructions use the garter stitch as this allows for a simpler pattern that is reversible. This is not possible to do on the USM, but it still works well reversed. You can adjust the knitting needle instructions to use stockinette instead if you like - just purl the knit stitches on the even rows instead of using knit stitches for each row.
  • Patons Lacette tends to catch onto itself, both when unwinding it from the skein and when working the dropped stitches after binding off. For this reason I recommend winding the yarn into a ball before using it to detangle the yarn and make it easier to use.
  • Additionally, when doing the dropped stitches, the yarn may again catch on itself. If this happens just carefully and gently pull it loose from itself, using a crochet hook if necessary. It will require a little patience but is worth the end result.
Instructions using knitting needles:

CO 88 sts.

Row 1: K10, *(YO, K2 tog) 4 times, K12*, repeat between *s four times, (YO, K2 tog) 4 times, K10.

Repeat Row 1 until piece measures 80" or desired length. If you wish to go longer you may need an extra ball of yarn.

Binding off:

*BO 4 sts, YO, drop next st, pass previous BO st over YO.
Next, BO 3 sts, YO, drop next st, pass previous BO st over YO.
Next, BO next 10 sts, YO, drop next st, pass previous BO st over YO.*

Repeat between *s until you bind off the last YO/K2 tog group. BO 4 sts, drop next st, pass previous BO st over YO, BO last 4 sts. Pull on work to make dropped sts go all the way down to the bottom row.

Instructions using the USM:
  1. Bring forward 88 needles to holding position.
  2. Use the closed-edge cast-on (e-wrap) technique to cast on 88 sts from left to right.
  3. Thread carriage and K 2 R, ending COR.
  4. Going forward, prep all ODD rows as follows:
    • Working R to L, leave the first 10 sts on their needles.
    • Transfer every other st from RIGHT to LEFT to the next needle for the next 8 needles, meaning you will transfer 4 sts total. After establishing the eyelet rows, you will basically transfer a normal stitch to an eyelet stitch.
    • Leave the next 12 sts on their needles.
    • Repeat second bulleted step for the next 8 needles.
    • Repeat third bulleted step.
    • Repeat fourth and fifth bulleted step twice more.
    • Repeat fourth bulleted step once more.
    • Leave the last 10 sts on their needles.
  5. Move carriage from right to left.
  6. Going forward, prep all EVEN rows as follows:
    • Working L to R, leave the first 10 sts on their needles.
    • Repeat second bulleted step above, except transfer the sts from LEFT to RIGHT.
    • Repeat bulleted steps 3-8, except again, this time going left to right.
  7. Move carriage from left to right.
  8. Repeat Steps 4-7 until you have K 216 R, ending COR. As the work hits the floor, roll it up around the hem and clip it on either side.
  9. Bind off using the backstitch technique, working right to left. To achieve dropped stitches, thread the yarn behind the stitch you want to drop - do NOT thread it through the stitch. Then, simply thread it through the next stitch over in the same way as if it were the adjacent one.
  10. Remove knitting from the machine and pull on the dropped stitches until they run all the way down to the bottom row.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ta Daaa!

I finished the shawl I started last weekend on my new Bond USM, thanks to hubby letting me be a knitting fiend on Mother's Day:



Even if I hadn't had that much time on that day to work with this project I still get the feeling I would have had it done in less than a week. I just love how fast the machine works. Again I am not completely done with knitting by needle, far from it, but knowing I can do something this nice on the machine and quickly really tickles me pink.

I've packed up the shawl along with a few other things to send to my daughter as a late Easter/care package. I hope she really likes it!

In the meantime this got me thinking a little outside the box with my black shawl I'd been working on to bring with me to my daughter's graduation. I've started to realize I may not have time to finish it before I fly out next month, so I bit the bullet, unraveled the work, and restarted it on the USM. No pictures yet but will have that soon.

It's definitely going nice and fast for sure, but not without its challenges. Because I'm working with a single strand of Lacette, a fine weight yarn, and I'm using a larger gauge plate (4) to get roughly the same effect I had with the size 11 needles, the USM seems to try and drop stitches a lot more easily. But as long as I take it nice and slow it seems to be doing okay.

I'll try and update this post with pictures later on showing my work in progress. If not then I will definitely show the finished product, and again I will share the pattern... this time I'll be able to provide instructions for both by hand and by USM.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Confession Time...

I've joined the ranks of cheater: I got myself a used Ultimate Sweater Machine Deluxe kit off eBay. It arrived in the mail a few days ago:


For those who are curious, here are my impressions so far:
  • It has a steep learning curve.
  • For best results (or results at all), you MUST watch the DVD/video that came with the kit and follow all instructions EXACTLY as they show. If you don't you'll have a lot of dropped stitches or work that falls off the needles entirely.
  • Prepare to have this happen in the beginning anyway even if you do follow the directions to the letter. It takes some practice to get used to how to run the carriage across the needle bed, get around when the carriage jams, etc.
  • When the nice lady on the DVD says take an evening to yourself without the kids or pets around to distract you to learn the USM, DO IT. Otherwise your dog won't come out from under the bed for a week and your kids' teachers are going to be calling you asking where they learned such creative combinations of swear words. Like I said, steep learning curve.
  • If you try to get the USM off eBay, ask the seller about the condition of the machine. Does it have parts that are cracked or broken? How long have you had it? Are there any missing accessories? I didn't out of my excitement in finding one for half the retail cost and discovered upon opening it that a tab on the carriage was broken, a part on one of the needle beds had cracked and broken off, and the pattern booklet was missing. If I had known any of this I would have negotiated a lower price or asked for free shipping - thankfully the broken parts were repairable and minor flaws so it wasn't that big of a deal, but it would have been nice if I'd had the pattern book as it apparently goes into much better detail about using the USM than the DVD does, and I don't think I should have to spend $10 for one online. Not enough to rate the seller as bad, but very possibly neutral.
That said, I'm having fun learning to use the USM and have already done my first project - a long-awaited and promised sweater for my son:

Bear in mind this is before I washed and blocked it, so it looks a little short here. Now that I did, it's a nice length in the torso so he'll be able to wear it nicely. The only part I did not do on the machine is the neckline and that's because it's not possible to do stuff in the round on it. The yarn is Patons Classic Wool Merino in Denim Marl.

I've also started on my second project with the USM - it's going to be a lace shawl using Patons Lacette in Lilac Lace and Cream Caress, double stranded:

There are some people who have claimed on Amazon reviews that you can't do anything intricate with the USM like lace and ribbing. This isn't true - no it doesn't do it just straightforward, you have to remove stitches off the needles and rework them by hand, and it does slow down your work. But it still goes much faster than knitting the work by hand on needles.

It isn't to say I'm giving up making things by hand for good. Far from it! I still have my pride, LOL. I also still love doing socks, making crochet projects, and more. But I love that I can crank something out quickly as a gift or to incorporate with other techniques.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Projects du Jour

I've been a huge knitting fiend the past few weeks. Life has been pretty stressful, and knitting and spinning are my favorite escapes. I like to keep several projects going at once as although these pastimes center me, I'm still pretty fidgety and like to jump back and forth.

First, I've been spinning some alpaca fiber I bought last summer while my daughter was visiting. It's Alpaca with a Twist's Handspinner's Dream in Brindle - I got it from The Recycled Lamb:


I also knit a baby dress/jumper for a friend - she's 35 weeks along with her first girl. I borrowed my inspiration from Berocco's pattern Alexa Bernadette, adjusting the stitches/measurements slightly to accommodate the yarn I used and make it newborn size. I made it sleeveless with a crocheted neckline and armholes. The yarn is Sugar n' Cream in Maple Sugar from their Confectionary Colors:


I decided to use the Sugar n' Cream yarn to make myself Knitty's W tank too. I used the Maple Sugar and Marshmallow Confectionary Colors. I really do like making garments using Sugar n' Cream - it's light, soft, comfortable, easy to find, it interchanges easily with most patterns using worsted weight yarn, and you can't complain about the price:


I'm also working on a shawl where I'm incorporating lace and will add drop stitches after I'm done. I'm using Patons Lacette in A Touch of Black to make it. If it turns out I'll share the pattern here, as well as a list of yarns that you can use instead of Lacette, which Patons has discontinued:

Finally, I'm trying my hand at Knitty's Plaited Points sock pattern. I'm using the Magic Loop technique and using Berocco Comfort Sock yarn in Southland. I think the colors are so pretty and yet subtle enough to still let the cable pattern pop: