Mama Knits Crochets and Quilts

Mama Knits Crochets and Quilts

A mom and needle craft blog

Out of the kitchen

So between Christmas, a new cat, getting a cold and having a six year old home from school for winter break, I’ve only been doing a little knitting.  But I am still knitting the Glenfiddich tunic, around and around and around.  I am alternating two different balls of yarn every other round to blend the colors of the hand-dyed yarn, and I finally got something that helps with this technique.

So when I knit with two yarns, every time I switch from using one yarn to using the other one, I twist the yarns around each other.  This makes sure that there is not a hole or gap in the knitted fabric at the switch point.  The little twist is not at all visible, but a consequence is that the working yarns end up being twisted together like a candy cane, and you have to stop and untangle them from time to time or you’ll end up with a big mess.  I have knit entire sweaters without my latest gadget, but my new tool really helps straighten things out easily.

It is simply a lazy susan, like you’d have in the kitchen or on the table, but I got one just for my yarn.  It is big enough to comfortably hold two balls or cakes of yarn, with or without knitting bowls, and I can untwist them by gently kicking the platform in the opposite direction of the twist and letting it rotate until the yarns are free of each other.  It sure beats picking up one of the balls and passing it over and under the other one until they are separated.  I don’t often use more than one yarn at a time, but this is a relatively inexpensive thing to use that makes a big difference as you are knitting.  I highly recommend it, and I won’t work with multiple yarns without it again.

Christmas cookies

My memory is pretty bad.  I really can’t remember stuff I feel like I should remember, but that’s how I am, so I just go with it.  I mean, some things stick in there, but ask me the date of almost anything and I pretty much won’t know.  But every now and then there’s a trigger that brings something back so clearly it’s like it’s happening right in front of me.

Every year for Christmas one of my sisters sends me homemade cookies.  This I remember, and look forward to, very much!  I wait happily and a little impatiently for her box to arrive, then I take it upstairs away from everybody else and open it.  I pull out the cookies, candy, anything like that, and put the other things under the tree.  The goodies, I keep for myself.

Now, I am not entirely the family scrooge for doing this.  My husband is very healthy and good with his diet, and he doesn’t eat any sugar or sweeteners other than fruit, ever.  I am in awe of this, because I grew up eating any number of sweet things and continue to do so to this day.  I have a definite sweet tooth, and cookies especially are my comfort food.  In an effort to keep this same thing from developing in our son, we limit the sweet things he’s been exposed to.  I’m not saying he’s never had sugar or a cookie, but he’s had a lot less than the typical American kid, and his diet runs closer to my husband’s than to mine.  So I am very comfortable with keeping all the cookies to myself, since I don’t bake those kinds of things anymore, and I really really really like them, and my husband won’t eat them, and it’s better for my son not to eat them, so they are mine.  I’ve been doing this for years, now, and I hope to continue in the future.

Anyway, this year, as I was upstairs away from everybody else eating my first cookie, a memory flashed from last year, actually from the last several years, and I realized that this year I was not sick for Christmas.  My memory was of me, in bed, sick with a head cold and trying to rest, sneaking Christmas cookies and getting sugar and crumbs all over the sheets, while Dennis took Evan out somewhere to do something fun.  It’s strange, I remember the cookies, but didn’t remember being sick every year until I ate one when I wasn’t in bed.  Then I remembered those sugar crumbs all around me as I tried to sleep a little with my sinuses all stuffed up, year after year.

This year I didn’t get a cold until the week after Christmas.  Luckily, not a bad one, because, sadly, the cookies are all gone.  Until next year.

Yarn and other stuff

Well, I am still knitting around and around and around…

The Glenfiddich Wool tunic is well underway.  I am knitting in the round, so no purl rows to make stockinette stitch, just the knit stitch over and over.  It is simple, soothing, but, yes, a little bit boring.  It’s a good project to do while lightly watching something on TV; usually there is nothing too compelling on that I want to watch, but I can usually find something to have in the background.  Say Yes to the Dress is good, low attention required watching, as well as most cooking shows.  I’ve watched all the episodes of The Good Doctor, and knitting is good for that if you don’t want to look at the surgery parts.  I also knit during football, but I think it affects the tension of my stitches.

I am still knitting with the first two balls of yarn, alternating a bluer one with a grayer one, changing on every round.  Since this yarn is hand-dyed, there are variations from skein to skein even though they are all the same dye lot.  This happens a lot with hand-dyed yarn, and the differences can be minimized or blended together by alternating yarn from different skeins as you go.  I am almost at the end, though, so I’ll be switching to my next two skeins soon.  I’ll still try to mix gray and blue together.  And then, soon, I’ll be switching from working in the round to working the front and back separately and flat, leaving openings for the sleeves.  The back goes straight up but there is some shaping to be done for the front.   And then ii’s just sleeves and a little neck detail and I’ll be done.

Two things are sort of interrupting my knitting.  One is getting everything done for Christmas: shopping, wrapping, mailing, decorating, cooking, visiting, church, all that holiday fun stuff.  And the second is playing with our new cat, Lookie.  My six year old has been wanting a cat for months and months.  And months.  Every wishing well coin toss, every birthday candle blow out, every “what do you want for Christmas, little boy” Santa query has had the same solemn plea — “I wish I had a cat.”  Well, now he has his wish come true, and I have to say she is darn cute, and a very good addition to our family.  I just have to teach her to leave Mama’s yarn alone!

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Really started

Well, now I am really started, for the last time, on my Glenfiddich tunic.  I am still making gauge with the size 10 needles, and I am back to working in the round.  I am using two skeins of yarn at the same time, one more blue and one more gray, and I am changing them on every round.  The color distribution is good.

Only a few things hanging around in the back of my mind:  1) when I split at the armhole and work the back and front separately and flat, will I need four balls of yarn to keep alternating every row?  And 2) the tension of the stitch right where I am changing yarns while working in the round needs to be hand adjusted; they are not at all even and I am hoping I can fix this at the end.

Now I am at the part where you ‘knit around’ for a very long time before something else happens.  Later!

Not started again

I have started my Glenfiddich Copenhagen blue tunic again.  This time I think I will do the sweater in pieces the way the pattern is written; work the back, work the front, seam the shoulders, pick up stitches and work the sleeves, seam sides, work the neck edge.  I am going to knit with two skeins at the same time, alternating every other row, so working two rows with each skein.  I’m using the two I’ve already started, the more-blue and the less-blue skeins.  I’ve looked at all 6 skeins of yarn that I have, and there seem to be two that are more-blue, three that are less-blue, and one in the middle.  I will save the middle-ish one for the neck edge and intermix the others as I go.

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Well, I have the back piece started, and it is looking a little stripe-y to me.  Are the skeins that different?  Am I too picky?  And why am I not working in the round?  Would it be better to switch yarns every row?  I could do that if I were working in the round; I would just need to make sure I twisted the yarn when I switched to make sure there are no holes.  I don’t think it would be obvious, but I won’t know for sure unless I try it.  I might be starting again.

Started and not started

I have been knitting my Glenfiddich Wool tunic in Copenhagen blue, and have been thoroughly enjoying myself.  I’ve blogged about this yarn before; it is a light worsted yarn from the Glenfiddich Border Leicester sheep, hand dyed, and then custom spun at Gurdy Run Woolen Mill.  The first project I did was with an undyed, natural from-the-sheep color, yarn and I remember the lanolin feel of it on my fingers as I was knitting.  I am getting less of that feeling with this yarn.  Maybe because it was dyed and is therefore more ‘processed’.  Anyway, it feels a little different that way, but still has that incredible spring and bounce to it that I remember.

Border Leicester sheep are called long wool sheep and the fleece is long, crimped, and lustrous.  Apparently it is very popular with hand spinners.  It makes yarn that is not as fine or soft as some other wools, but it is great for outer garments, and will give a nice casual look to my tunic.  I love working with it; it really has a distinctive feel.  It is springy, not soft or limp (more politely called drape-y).  It’s got a stand up personality.  I like it.

So I was super excited to start my tunic.  I did my gauge swatches to figure out my needles, and then I did something a lot of other knitters seem to do.  I tinkered with the pattern.  Why we do this I’m not sure, but if you read the notes for other knitters’ projects in Ravelry the first comment often starts “I modified the pattern…”

I modified the pattern to knit in the round.  I don’t like seaming, and it looked like a simple pattern that would work in the round.  This means I would be knitting the front and back pieces together from the bottom up until I get to the armhole.  Then I would stop working around in circles and work the front and back separately and flat.  I know that part would work.  I thought a little bit about how the sleeves would then work; I would seam the shoulders together, then pick up stitches and work the sleeve flat.  The problem is it wouldn’t really be flat, my knitting would be going back and forth in a U shape, but I think it would work.  I guess I could do the sleeves in the round, too, if I wanted to go to double points.  Not my favorite thing, but I can do it.  But I thought I could figure that out when I got there.

So I started at the bottom edge, and committed a really basic, not-thinking-straight error.  I knit a whole skein of yarn and switched to the second skein before I thought about it.  Well, I think it crossed my mind, but it didn’t stay there long enough to make a difference and save me.  You see, this is hand-dyed yarn.  It is all the same color and dye lot, but it is hand-dyed.  There is a simple rule for using hand-dyed yarn when you are knitting something that uses more than one skein.  Knit with more than one skein at a time.  I didn’t even think, and I broke the rule.

Hand-dyed yarn is variable.  Even using the same dye mix and doing skeins one after another, each one will come out slightly differently.  When knit up into fabric, each skein will produce slightly to not-so-slightly different colors.  The differences in the fabric are more obvious than what is visible in the skein/ball/cake of yarn itself.  They might look the same, but when knit up, the differences are more apparent.  To minimize this, you work with more than one skein at a time.  This means, you work a row or two from one skein, then work a row or two from a second skein, and then switch back.  If you calculate how many skeins you need for a piece, you can use that many skeins.  I’ve done three skeins at a time before.  You simply pick up a different yarn at the edge, and carry the non-working yarn up the side as you go, making sure you don’t pull it too tightly.  Alternating yarns this way dilutes out the differences and makes a more cohesive fabric.  Always do this.  I don’t know why I didn’t.

Here is my first bit of knitting.  When I switched to the second skein, it became obvious that it was grayer and had less blue in it.  If I continued, there would be definite differences in color in the sweater, so I have to start over.  It is a little frustrating, but the sweater will last a long time, so what is a day or two of knitting lost?  Not a big deal.  But it is pretty, no?

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Gauge swatch(es)

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!  (Evan and I are reading a book about a hamster who repeats things in threes, and it seems appropriate to copy Humphrey right now.)

Here is my blue Glenfiddich wool yarn, knit up into my (first) gauge swatch.  I am so thrilled with the subtle color variations when the yarn is knit into fabric.  It is even prettier than I was hoping.  In real life, I think it looks grayer than in these pictures, but it must look like this in a certain light.  I like it, no matter what.

I knit my swatch on the recommended needles with a few extra stitches and rows, steam blocked, and then measured, and it was small.  Meaning I needed more stitches and rows to get to 4 inches than stated on the pattern.  That never happens for me!  I am always at least a little bit too big, so I double checked things and realized that two different needles are used in the pattern and the gauge swatch should be done with the larger needles and I did mine with the smaller needles.  Now it all makes sense!

I guess I was a little eager to start my project.  So I repeated a swatch with the recommended bigger needles, and came out just right.  This is also just a little surprising, but I am glad, because that means I will be knitting the body of the sweater with a size 10 needle, which should be FAST FAST FAST.  Hooray!

Knitting!

So I haven’t actually knit anything since August, I think.  I should check this blog to make sure, because I probably would have written about it, but I think, off the cuff, that it is true.  I was knitting a shawl while we were on vacation, and then after we got back I’m not sure what I did for a couple of weeks but I knew they flew by and then Evan was going back to school.  After I had time back during the day I went back to quilting and finished the queen-size Lone Star quilt I had put aside at the beginning of summer.  I don’t quilt when Evan is around, it takes too much time and concentration, plus the steam iron is usually out (and dangerous) and my big scissors (ditto), so quilting was on hiatus over the summer.

After the big quilt, I did the doily thing, and that is crochet work with thread, not yarn.  And I made a several dozen quilted potholders, anticipating a craft show at school.  And a little cross stitch.  So no knitting.

Until now, and I am so happy to be back.  I should have gone back to one of the three major projects that I have started (a tunic sweater, the vacation shawl, or the blue summer top) but of course I am going to start a Glenfiddich Wool project with the new yarn I bought on Saturday.

But which project?  I decided to go with the tunic.  Yeah, I realize I just said I already have a tunic sweater started, but I want this tunic, so here it goes.  I think I also talked once about what a great starter I am.  Someday I will have no needles of any size available because they will be all over the house with partial projects started on them, and my husband will have moved out to someplace tidy.

Anyway, here is my new yarn.  I have it wound into cakes, six joyous bundles ready to go.  It is hand dyed, so kind of heathery, a denim-ish blue mixed with grayed purple.  Gorgeous.  I can’t wait to see what it looks like knitted up.

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Ho Ho Ho

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The cross stitch Santa is finished!  I am happy with the way it turned out, very jolly and Christmas-y.  This kit from Mill Hill came with everything except the frame — perforated paper, floss, beads, buttons, needles and instructions.  I learned a new stitch while doing it; the kit called it double stitch and it is used in the red part of the coat.  I did it, but I can’t fully explain it; it is cross stitches that are two holes wide but three holes tall, and the rows are staggered so the stitches are nestled into each other.  Plus there is a bead in there between the rows.  Easier to do than describe!  I put on the beads first, and then used them as a guide to place the floss.  I got a lot of practice doing French knots, too, as well as bead stitching.  Overall, it was quick and lots of fun.  I really like these Mill Hill cross stitch kits.

I ordered a blue frame with snowflakes on it from Amazon but it is not here yet.  The frames are also made by Mill Hill, so they fit exactly.  To take a picture I used my red frame, but after I have the blue one I will decide which cross stitch goes best with which frame.  So, I am not quite, but almost done.

I Googled cross stitch shops in Pittsburgh, and found that there are more needlepoint shops, but there is supposed to be one cross stitch shop in Murrysville.  That’s a little bit of a drive for me, but I will check it out sometime now that I know about it.

Now since Santa is done, it is time for a new project!  Knitting, anyone?

Leftovers (not turkey)

Another leftover from my past that I am finally finishing is a beaded cross-stitch kit from Mill Hill that I bought at least fifteen years ago.  It is amazing what is hanging around in my drawers and closets.  I don’t know if this exact kit is still available, but I have found that there are still Mill Hill kits available on Amazon, along with the frames that are made to fit (6×6 inch).  The frames are nice because they fit exactly and don’t have glass, which is perfect for cross-stitch.  They come with a little dowel rod that fits into a hole in the back so the frames stand up on a shelf or mantel.  Without the dowel they can hang on the wall.  All that needs to be added is a stiff piece of cardboard as backing; if you cut it so it is snug it holds the perforated paper picture in place just right.  Use the Amazon box the frame gets delivered in!

I have two of these for Christmas that I did years ago.  I had found a great cross-stitch and needlecraft store that I loved to visit.  Right now my memory is so bad that I can’t remember exactly where it is, but I think it was on the way to Charleston from Myrtle Beach, SC.  In what seems like another lifetime I used to vacation in Myrtle Beach, and would often take a day trip to Charleston.  I think the shop was somewhere on the way, and I made a point of going every time.  I’m sure these kits came from there, and I am also sure the store is not around Pittsburgh, or I would be going still.  (There is an awesome needlepoint store in Sewickley, but they don’t have cross-stitch.)  These kits are great because they are quick to finish and are a mix of different cross-stitch stitches, beading, and button embellishments.  Here are the two that are finished.

The floss colors are similar if not identical, so they definitely go together.  I also have one for Halloween that I forgot to put out this year, and there are kits for other holidays and more general ones that can be left out all the time.  I think it would be fun to have a dedicated space to hang at least one of these and then change which one is hanging to match the season or current holiday.  They are small (8×8″ framed) so just a cute little accent piece; no major commitment.

Here is the one that I am still working on:

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There is still a bit to be done but I’m sure you can see where we are headed.  This kit is very beaded, more than the others.  I think all three will be cute together.  I saw a Mill Hill frame on Amazon that is dark blue with white snowflakes that I think will work well.  I wish there was a cross-stitch store in Pittsburgh so I could shop local, but I don’t know of one.  I think I will do a Google search right now and see if there is one that I’ve missed!