Friday, September 25, 2009

Today's Blog Entry Is Cute

This is the baby hat I knit for Zack. See the "Z". Doesn't my Ted make the handsomest model ever? I think the cap looks like a batter's helmet on him.

When I was 15 months old, I told my Gramma that the only thing I wanted for Christmas was a black teddy bear -- not a brown bear, not a panda bear, a Black bear. She searched the entire Detroit metro area and finally found one. I loved my Gramma and I love my Ted Bear. When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was The Velveteen Rabbit because Ted Bear had been loved into "real" and every kid in the neighborhood knew it. (You too can probably tell by how smooshed and worn from kisses his nose is.)

I have my Gramma's good sterling flatware and a lovely eggshell thin porcelain sugar and creamer set, which are both very fine, but not a patch on my Ted. You can't cuddle cutlery.


Hmm... Today's blog entry didn't go where I thought it would. I was going to make a snotty remark about saccharine subjects, but then I thought about my Gramma. She died before I turned five and I missed her horribly. I was totally disconsolate until my Aunt Mary, her oldest daughter, assured me that we could send her oranges in heaven.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason she shines so perfect in my memory is because she died before I was old enough to see her feet of clay. They say that everybody has them. But I don't think that she did. She was perfect.

Battle Bowl, The Happy Afterword

Finishing off the Battle Bowl was a snap. I followed Liat's pattern without a pause or problem. I knit one strand of the Manos silk blend into the round of 40 stitches for a bit of highlight.

I like the subtle gradations of the Cascade 220 yarn (9872-Thunder) color way. This picture is pretty accurate.

The finished bowl was almost nine inches in diameter and quite floppy. I tried it on as a hat and it looked very silly, though vaguely Elizabethan. The contrasting Manos silk blend showed strongly against the dark wool.

After two cycles in the washer on hot-hot-hot, it was still pretty limp, so I ran it through once more for a total felting time of about 28 minutes. At some point in the third cycle, it felted. It felted like a yurt. (I think that's going to be my felting motto.)

It came out smaller than I expected, about six and a half inches in diameter, with creases in the bottom where the Möbius twists pulled at the structure of the bowl. I stuffed it with a saucer for shape and a couple of dry cleaner bags for bulk and let it dry overnight.

The felted Battle Bowl lost most of the lovely color spectrum and the Manos felted right into the wool, showing very little. I think it looks like a rock.

But that's okay, the Engineer is getting it and he works in geoscience, so it's apropos.

Lessons Learned
  • Use larger needles next time for a looser fabric. I think this may decrease the pumpkin-like appearance of the bottom of the bowl.
  • Brighter colors, more contrast between body and rim of bowl - so much of that was lost in the felting.
  • Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend felts easily, but the gleam of the silk is lost in the process - so don't felt it.
  • Pin it out on a blocking board in the first place instead of turning into a screaming maniac trying to pick up the stitches freehand.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Battle Bowl, Week 2, Part 2

Fini - Rebellion and Retribution

Saturday night I waited until the Engineer was snoring; I didn't want him to witness the full and ugly wroth of GrumpoGirl. I seized the monstrous Möbius, yarn, ball, needle and all, and frog marched it into the antique bedroom. I turned on the bright overhead light and whipped out a big box of T-pins.

"You're going down!" I snarled.

I pulled my blocking boards out from under the bed. What color would be most intimidating?

Blue or green? No good. Those are soothing colors of nature (plus poor contrast against the dark gray of the Möbius.)

Red - the color of blood! But would that subdue a bloodless, mindless hunk of yarn? I thought not.

Yellow - bile and venom! (and good contrast.) The choice was made.

I slammed the Möbius twist down on the board and stabbed it with the first pin, then held it, spread pentagrammed, against the poison yellow board as I rammed pin after pin into its unresisting i-cord bind off.

Panting, I leaned back and surveyed the splayed knitting before me.

Five folds.

Evenly aligned.


The Möbius was helpless before me, but I feared if I removed a single pin it would contort again. I pulled out my orange crochet hook.

"If you so much as twitch, I'll sharpen the tip of this and show no mercy..."

Then I thrust the crochet hook through the loops of yarn, picking up stitches and transferring them to the following circular needle, cackling like a demented woman as I worked.

(No pictures illustrating these dreadful doings, this is, after all, a G rated blog.)

When all the stitches were on the cable needle, I pulled out the T-pins, one by one, chortling and drooling with each tug of cold metal. Then I knit. I knit six rounds and posed the tamed Möbius on the rack of its yellow blocking board to document my triumph, stark in the 60 cycle per second illumination of the overhead fluorescent light.

(Can you tell I've been reading a rather violent fantasy novel? Do you think it might have influenced or inflamed me at all?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Battle Bowl, Week 2 - Part 1

Most of the week between the two Möbius bowl classes, I spent knitting a baby hat for a baby who had arrived prematurely. It was a rush job. I didn't get around to knitting any more on the bowl until Friday evening.

I picked up the stitches as directed and knit away.

After a few rounds, I realized I'd done something wrong because it was coming out all twisted. Darn!

So I studied my mess and noticed that some stitches had been picked up from one side (does that have any meaning on a Möbius topology?) and some on the other. Ah, well, that must have been my mistake.

Tore it all out and started again, making sure that I picked up from the same "side" this time.

It still came out all twisty.

Okay, I muttered to myself, must have been because I was watching a video (Billy Elliot) as I was trying to do the deed and paying insufficient attention.

Frogged that puppy again.

Picked up the stitches again. Twisty, twisty, twisty - froggy, froggy, froggy - try again.

Knit another half dozen rounds.

It looked like an acrobat going through some pretty intense moves, so I frogged it and tried again.

Still twisty - and it was almost 4:00 a.m.

Ouch! I had to pick the Engineer up at the airport at 9:00 the next morning, so I stuffed the yarn contortion into my knitting bag and tucked myself into bed for three hours of sleep.

I did get an hour's nap between picking up my Beloved and going to class, but I was not (to put it delicately) in tip-top mental condition when I arrived at Blazing Needles.

One of the other students had finished her bowl, in multiple colors, no less. Cynthia, the owner of Blazing Needles, modeled it as a hat. It looked quite Elizabethan. Then it went into the shop washer for felting. It came out three cycles later looking marvelous.

Poo, I wanted to felt my bowl too.

"Liat, what have I done wrong?"

"You've picked up the stitches wrong, you're going to have to pull it all out."

She gave me further instructions. I replied, "But that's what I've been doing."

Ripped it out again, the yarn was looking a little shopworn, and started again. Are you counting? This was start number five (5!)

Still twisted.

Evil Language! Frogged it again.

Liat laid it out carefully on the table for me and once again told me how to pick up the stitches. I was muttering and cussing under my breath.

Try number six. My eyes were crossing. I couldn't focus on the stitches.


My growling and cussing was no longer subvocal. I tore out the errant stitches with unnecessary vigor.

Liat offered to pick up the stitches for me. I wanted to do it myself so that I would learn, but I also wanted to get the dang thing done, so I told her to go ahead.

She flattened it out on the table and looked it over. It wouldn't flatten properly.

"That's odd."

She turned it over and tried to flattened it out again. It wouldn't flatten.

She examined it carefully and announced, "I think you have six twists in it. It won't work."

I took the monster Möbius back and threatened to throw the whole mess at the rapidly spinning yarn twaddler just to see in which direction it would fly when it hit.

Liat pointed out that might mess up the lovely peacock colored silk that was being twaddled.

I restrained myself.

So I decided to make the smaller bowl to try Magic Looping a Möbius. You can probably guess how much success I had with that...

GrumpoGirl reared her ugly head and snarled at the universe. How embarrassing. She's supposed to stay hidden from view at all times. Never show her face in public. I followed Liat out to her car after class and apologized. Liat was gracious. Thank you Liat.

But now it's getting late and this post is getting too long. I'm going to finish this sordid story tomorrow night.

(So who you think is gunna win this battle - GrumpoGirl or the Monster Möbius?)

The Battle Bowl, Week 1

I truly enjoy taking classes, partially because I'm lazy - I like having knowledge poured into my head - and partially because I'm bright enough that I usually grasp the subject matter quickly. When these two criteria are not met, GrumpoGirl emerges. (This isn't the only time she rears her ugly head, mind you, it's just one set of conditions which tends to call her forth.)

It's no secret that I think the Möbius topology is fascinating and that I really enjoy messing around with it, So when Liat, who designed a totally cool Möbius bowl, taught a class on it at my LYS, Blazing Needles, I presented myself on Saturday afternoon with cable needle at the ready. I was all set to turn out a good looking bowl like Liat's. These three (and the photo) are hers.

First thing she taught was Cat Bordhi's Möbius cast on. I'd already learned that from the video on YouTube, but refreshers are always welcome. It seems a little weird at first, but once you get into the rhythm, those stitches just swing onto your needle.

Then comes the hard part -- counting how many stitches you've actually cast on. I'm not good at that part. I think it has something to do with being a klutz and trying to hang on to the needle and the yarn and count all at the same time.

After that Liat showed us another hard part; getting four more twists into the Möbius.

Okay, putting the extra twists in wasn't hard. Making sure they actually were there and that there were as many and no more than wanted, that was the hard part. The klutz factor again.

I put the twists in and Liat checked them out. I was good to go,

Knit, knit, knit.

Did something wrong.

Frog, frog, frog.

Knit, knit, knit.

Looks good this time.

The last part of the first class was doing an i-cord bind off. I really liked that.

Here's what my embryonic bowl looked like at the end of the first class:

P.S. You can visit Liat's web site, or Ravelry, to get a copy of her bowl pattern.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Mother Who Raised Me Is So Tight She Squeaks

As a relatively new knitter, I am still trying to answer that timeless question: "What the heck do I do with the ends of all these skeins?"

The Engineer suggests throwing them into the trash can.



You know that within a week after throwing something out, it's going to be needed in a very urgent way. Besides, if my Mom was dead, it would make her spin in her grave. (Fortunately, she's alive and bouncing off the walls like a ping-pong ball.)

I do have some uses for the remnants:
  • Tie up hair (or other things) when it's getting in the way.
  • Use instead of ribbon when wrapping small packages.
  • Keep some of the shorter left-overs in a baggie in my knitting bag -- especially cotton yarn, it's good for provisional cast-ons.
  • Use as contrast color/texture in new projects.
  • Test out new techniques/stitches instead of ruining part of a new skein.
  • Stick in plastic bags and save forever - this is the most commonly done.
Came up with a new idea a couple of days ago in response to the Engineer grousing that I have been horribly remiss in sewing a button back on to his work shorts. Not that I don't have a very good excuse...

My sewing machine is in the basement along with all the rest of my sewing gear. To sew a button on his pants, I not only have to remember to do it in the first place, I have to remember to go downstairs and get the stuff to do it with and not get distracted before getting back upstairs to actually do it.

Then, of course, there's the problem of finding the right color of thread. Or to be more accurate when trying to match the Engineer's wardrobe, the right colorless of thread. He goes in for such stimulating shades as taupe, khaki, beige, putty, etc.

So I decided to make up an upstairs sewing box.

I had an empty stationary box with a magnetic clasp on the lid (way cool, that's why I bought the stationary, I liked the way the lid thunked shut) and filled it up with the necessaries. JoAnn's was selling thread for a dollar a spool, so I bought a selection of drab colors along with a box of straight pins, a packet of needles and a pair of embroidery scissors and put them into my little box. It fits into the drawer of my nightstand. I wanted a pin cushion too, but all of the ones at the store were too big to fit in my cool box.

Then the light bulb went off. I got out the remains from the Technicolor Dragon Skin Scarf. Though it was only a couple of yards, it was already rolled into a bitty center-pull ball. I went at it with my felting needle. With only one shallow stab wound and minimal cussing, I ended up with a lovely little pincushion.

Still looks like a ball of yarn, but it's one fairly solid mass; it won't unwind.

Spiffy, huh?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Continuing the Kool-Aid Saga

Kool-Aid yarn number two came out even nicer than number one, partially, I'm sure, because I much prefer saturated colors to pastels.

But what the heck to do with my masterpieces?

If Kate wasn't allergic to wool, I would probably have knit her something from it. She did drool just a wee bit over it. But it's 100% wool and kinda scratchy to boot. She's a friend, and I can't have her itching to death.

Then I remembered a vest I'd seen at one of the Yarn Quest stores; a vest I'd liked enough that I'd actually spent $5 on buying a copy of the pattern even though it would have cost $80 to knit using the suggested bulky alpaca yarn.

Hmmm... Maybe if I knit with strands of both yarns held together it might be bulky enough. Added advantage: knitting it with two different skeins should break up any potential pooling or striping.

Sounded good, so I knit a swatch. The gauge came out to about four stitches per inch instead of three, so I cast on 33% more stitches to compensate and away I knit.

And knit some more.

I really like the way the fabric came out; the colors meshed better than I'd anticipated. It sure as heck doesn't look like it was dyed with something as fluorescent as Kool-Aid.

I'm the queen of cutting it close. I ran out of the lighter yarn half way through casting off, so I spit spiced the other end of the dark yarn to the tail end of the light yarn and bound off with that doubled. After I sewed the side seams, I had all of about five feet of yarn left. (And, yes, I did hyperventilate more than a little while finishing up.)

Once the object was finished, it went onto the back of the best (and most obliging) model ever for documenting.

She even wore her own top secret sun glasses so I didn't have to Photoshop them in.
(Thanks KC, you're a pip!)

Lesson's learned:
  • If you cast on 33% more stitches, you'd darn well better have more than 10% over the suggested yardage to start with.
  • Holding one's breath and crossing all appendages can help.
  • If I do it again with doubled worsted weight, I will cast on 200 stitches, go down one needle size in the middle section, make all of the sections a little bit longer, and have lots more yarn to start with -- say at least 66% over what's called for of both yarn strands.