Monday, April 30, 2012

Tawashi Tutorial

A friend of mine recently asked for a few pointers for finishing the tawashis I've been so fond of making since last December, so I thought I'd share this photo tutorial for anyone else who is interested.  I've knit several versions of Maryann Walsh's Two-Tone Tawashis, a great free pattern I found on Ravelry.  I became obsessed with this pattern!  If you are having a hard time picturing what the finishing instructions are telling you to do (as I did at first, too), hopefully this blog post will point you in the right direction.

1.  Lay your tawashi out as below:
2. Fold left side of piece over (fold line will be where arrow A indicates above - your piece should look like the photo below):
3.  Fold right side of piece over:
4.  Piece should now look like so:
5.  Using one of your ends and a tapestry needle, whip-stitch pieces together:
6. Your piece should now look like this:
7.  Now, use one of your ends or a new piece of yarn to gather the top edges together:
8. Once you have looped around the top edge (I pick up approx. every 4th stitch), gather all of the stitches together with a tug of the yarn: 
9.  Repeat for other side, then take the ends of the yarn and tack both ends together:
10.  Attach i-cord:
11.  Now you're done! 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Things + Cute Cat Pix

The Wisconsin Spin In got me excited about needle felting again - so I set up a little workstation in the enclosed porch earlier this week!  I hope having a dedicated workspace will help me branch out a little bit this summer. I've since relocated my yarn swift and ball-winder to the area; meanwhile, Robin has already staked his claim:
In other news, we FINALLY GOT A NEW LAPTOP.  This has been a long time coming, as our current laptop is simply unable to keep up with the amount of work we're making it do of late.  After I smashed the screen, it's been a little on the sensitive side; plus, the battery is kaput, it needs way more RAM to handle all of the graphics work we're doing on a daily basis, and you can make and eat a grilled cheese sandwich in the time it takes to do a restart.  Hence it is with great joy and ALL CAPS that I announce the latest addition to our home office, the MacBook Pro!  Tyler is getting it all set up, and Robin is demonstrating how I spend a good 75% of my work hours (unless it's a sunny day - then bring that number down to 30%):
One more thrilling bit of news:  I finally got that bean bag chair I'd been wishing for!  Now I have a comfortable place to take a knitting break (if only I would let myself do so from time to time):

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Three For Thursday

Traditional Gansey Socks
Unbelievably, I only have two projects on the needles right now!  In preparation for some knit-a-longs next month, I'm trying to keep my WIPs lean.  Currently, the only projects I'm working on are a pair of toe-up socks (yes, you read correctly!) and a sweater for myself.  Don't worry, I hold no illusions that I'll finish either project before May starts next week.  I am completely ready to slide down that slippery slope of breaking my self-imposed "three-at-a-time" rule.

Inspired by the Cookie A workshop, I cast on for a pair of toe-up socks by Wendy D. Johnson - the Traditional Gansey Socks.  I'm using some yarn that was hand-dyed by my tattoo artist, Kit; it's a luxurious MCN blend in a bright carrot-y color with subtle greenish undertones.  I brought out the size 0 needles for this project, as I figured such a soft yarn would need to be tightly knit if it were going to withstand many months in winter boots.
Deadly Stimulant

It's been a while since I've knit myself a sweater, and I've been fantasizing about making the Beulah Cardigan by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, which appeared in the Spring issue of Knitscene.  Having sworn off skinny-yarn sweaters indefinitely, I thought a cropped cardi would be a great way to dip my toe back into the water.  I cast on mid-month with my Deadly Stimulant in Tightrope (dyed by Sam of The Wool Dispensary and sold exclusively though Doodlebug Yarn) and it is flying off my needles!  Ok, maybe not by normal-person standards, as I am a very slow sweater knitter - but by my own reckoning, this is a fast-knitting sweater, and I should be done with the back and ready to cast on for the front pieces by the end of this weekend.

Zuzu's Petals in Finito
Finally, I thought I'd share an FO project that has thus far escaped blogger-ly mention (yes, that is a phrase now) - I whipped up this version of Zuzu's Petals with a single skein of Malabrigo Finito in a matter of days.  I went down a needle size to produce a nice, snug cowl (not to mention, ensure that I didn't run out of yarn).  I'll be knitting another version of this pattern next month for MadTosh May, so I consider this project to be my warm-up!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eventful Weekend: This one's a long-player

Robin-sized bite
Now that I actually give myself the weekends off, I manage to pack a ton into those two days - so if you're hungry, you better go make a sandwich before reading any further.  This will take a while.

Witness this weekend:  Friday night Tyler and I went to see our friend's band (Soft Speaker) play at Subterranean. Getting home from this show was much less traumatic than last week's Red Line/Blue Line debaucle, being that venue is much easier for us to get to, and they played first, so after sticking around to see what White Hills was about (answer: borrrrring), we headed home and were back on the couch by midnight.

Bird's eye view (one half of show floor)
Saturday was a big day.  It started off innocently enough - I made pancakes and Tyler and I shared a french press of coffee (for those of you who know me, I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but it was delicious!).  Robin decided to help himself to a pancake - or rather, he tried, but I caught him in the act and Tyler's pancake just had this cat-sized half-bite on the side closest to the chair (yes, he was sitting at the kitchen table as though the plate of food was put out for him!).  After breakfast, we divvied up:  Tyler went out in search of fresh vinyl for Record Store Day, and my buddy Lauren and I headed up north for the Wisconsin Spring Spin-In.  En route, I managed to get through the gusset shaping on my Trilobite socks, so already the day was off to a good start!

I've never attended any of the Wisconsin Spin-Ins, but Lauren used to go back in the day.  The Spin In had a good range of vendors, plus lots of cute animals - which means I'm a happy camper.  Though I do love attending shows such as Stitches (and I'm very much looking forward to Chicago's first Vogue Knitting Live! this fall), I appreciated the fact that this show was much smaller.  I'm not sure that it was necessarily less overwhelming, however, because each vendor was so unique that I probably spent more time browsing than I do at Stitches.

When you walked in, two very relaxed alpaca greeted you:

Trying out Spinolution Wheels
As you might have expected, many booths had beautiful raw fleece from alpaca, angora and the like.  Many also had batts and roving, which were usually specific breeds of sheep or blends of mohair, BFL, silk, or angora.  There were lots of hard-to-resist hand-dyed rovings, batts and skeins of yarn, but after the yarny blowout I've had these past few months, I'm trying to institute a yarn diet 'til Stitches.  This diet also applies to fiber, because while it's been a while since I purchased any, I have an overflowing bin to spin through.

There was a booth with some really beautiful baskets, though I didn't purchase one (that might be a regret later on!).  We spent some time in the Spry Whimsy Fiber Arts booth, where they let us try out the Spinolution wheels.  They're clever little wheels that you treadle with a side-to-side motion - very smooth and easy to set up, but I'm so used to treadling the "normal" way that I couldn't quite get the hang of it.  I ended up purchasing some needle felting supplies while we were there.

Another booth we spent a lot of time in was the Little Gidding Farm Suris.  These two ladies had beautiful skeins of hand-dyed yarn and very fairly-priced, ultra-soft Suri Alpaca fiber that Lauren ended up purchasing.  They let us try out their Hansen Mini Spinner, which was compact and easy to use - and if I hadn't just bought a new laptop, I probably would have walked home with one of these babies. Bonus - it has a car charger.  Now that's genius.

Pile o' bunny
Sugar River Fiber had a great selection of needles and notions, some pretty skeins of Harrisville yarn, which is a yarn I really like and somehow have never knit with.  I probably should have picked up a few skeins, but instead I ended up chatting with one of the owners, Mark, about upcoming fiber shows in Chicago.  Hopefully he'll make it down to the Windy City this fall and you can see for yourself!

These two angora bunnies are apparently besties - that's how they typically like to relax, said Mary & Kate at the Happy Hoppers booth.  They're german angoras, and the one on the top of the bunny-pile only has three legs, endearing him all the more to me (I have a soft spot in my heart for the three-legged animal).  These were just a few of the adorable puffball bunnies I saw at the show, and I'm quite surprised I didn't bring one home with me.  Maybe next time!
Beer & a pin cushion

My other two purchases were at booths I forgot to grab info/business cards from, so I have no idea what mystery vendors I purchased these from, but three finger puppets (not pictured - maybe later!) and an adorable felted pincushion made their way home with me.  So did a few six-packs of New Glarus beer!  Prized highly within the confines of Chicagoland, this tasty beer cannot be bought in any local store that I've found.  The few times we've made it up to Wisconsin, we've made a point to bring some home, as many Chicagoans do.

On the way back to Chicago we also stopped at the Cheese Castle!

I came home to a house full of new vinyl and the two skeins of Lhasa Wilderness I bought via Craftsy earlier this week:

Tyler and I had a beer and traded stories from our day, I took a much-needed nap, and then we headed out to see Cave at the Empty Bottle.  That ended up being a mistake - it was oversold and beyond crowded, and we ended up leaving after the second band because I not only got elbowed several times by a tall, drunk neanderthal (not jostled, mind you - that I can tolerate that if the music is good enough), a drunk lady stepped on my toe with all of her weight while wearing heels.  My toe is fine this morning and I'll survive, but it hurt for the next several hours, and we both mutually decided that this wasn't the way we wanted to see one of our favorite bands.  We headed home and had a New Glarus Golden Bock, watched an episode of Seinfeld ("Serenity Now" - entirely appropriate given the circumstances), and I finished my Trilobite socks. Much better than having a bunch of PBR-drinking hipsters invading my space and inflicting minor personal harm on me!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sock Report

Since finishing my Tightrope socks, I've been focusing on finishing that other pair or socks I'd cast on at the end of March.  Funny that the project in question is from Wendy D. Johnson's Toe-Up Socks, and I just happen to be knitting them top-down, right?  At the time I just wanted a simple sock project that I didn't have to fuss with, and I can knit top-down socks in my sleep.  Once I finished the first top-down Trilobite sock, I set them aside for a little while (a dicey move, I know!), but now I'm coming down the home stretch and hoping to have them off the needles by Sunday night. I can cast on for a pair of toe-up socks. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cookie A!

Fan-girl photo by Lauren!
Cookie A's Toe-Up Socks class this weekend was fantastic!  I can't believe I am only now writing about it, but it's been yet another crazy week.  

This is the first-ever "official" class I've ever taken, so I suppose I don't have much of a measuring stick to go by, but this class far exceeded any expectations.  Cookie was personable, knowledgeable, and above all, knew how to keep a large group of people with varying skill sets on task.  I loved that she prefaced the class by saying "I will read all the instructions three times - please hold all of your questions, and then if you still need help after the third repeat of the instructions, we can break out from the group for individual help."  Brilliant!  Those that wanted hands-on help received it, and for more independent learners such as myself, I was able to follow along with the detailed course materials and verbal instruction.  

I signed up for this class because I have never been comfortable with the toe-up sock-making process, though I've knit about three or four pairs successfully to completion.  I was hoping for an "aha!" moment, and I think I got it.  I love her yarnover short-row heel, and I'm excited to give it a try on my next pair of (you guessed it) toe-up socks.  The worksheets she included in the course materials will help me freestyle many pairs of toe-up socks, too - so I'm excited to plug in various stitch patterns while destashing yarn.  Finally, my favorite tip from the weekend was a sage bit of advice on avoiding holes when joining back to the round after working the heel:  pick up the bar between the instep and heel stitch (whichever one closes the gap) and knit three together/slip-slip-slip knit.  Genius!  Why didn't this ever occur to me?!

Everyone made a tiny worsted-weight baby bootie during the class as we practiced each of the techniques - here they are all at the end of the class! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How I spent my weekend

In photos - details to follow!

Friday night: Implodes, Lotus Plaza and Disappears @Lincoln Hall


Saturday: Tightrope Socks complete

Sunday: Toe-up sock class with Cookie A

Friday, April 13, 2012

FO Friday: Flapjack Frogs

At last, I have some FO photos of the Flapjack Frogs to share with you!  These knit up pretty quickly - each frog body took only a few hours, and I made all of the arms and legs over the course of a weekend.  Sometimes, the hardest part of toy-making is sitting down and attaching all the fiddly bits and weaving in yarn ends - I find the best thing to do is pick a "finishing day" and allow enough time to get properly psyched up.  To that end, I finished knitting these cute little guys and sorted all of my "frog parts" into piles for finishing at a later date.  Last weekend, I got the spring cleaning bug, followed quickly by the finishing bug - and thus these frogs came to life!  I love the way they turned out, and it made me realize that I need to get back to toy-making in earnest.

Pattern:  Flapjack Frogs from Mochimochiland
Yarn:  Cascade 220 in Palm, Highland Green and Herb, Berroco Vintage in White

Hot off the griddle!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sock School With Cookie A!

I keep forgetting to mention some more big news: I'm taking a toe-up sock class with Cookie A this weekend!  She'll be in Chicago for three days of Sock class awesomeness with the Windy City Knitting Guild.  Though I'd like to take a few more classes (or even the whole shebang), I had to choose just one, so I decided to take the socks from the toe up class on Sunday. Though I've knit a few pairs of toe-up socks successfully, I wouldn't say that I've made friends with them by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm excited to learn Cookie's tips and tricks for happy toe-up sock knitting.

Last year, I'd signed on for a Cookie A class with the WCKG, but she had a family emergency that required her to head back to Thailand and the classes were canceled.  Needless to say, it's been a long time coming, but some things are worth waiting for!  I'm very excited for this weekend - this will be my first formal knitting class, actually.  Hopefully I can get some good photos or share a few plum tips next week!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tightrope KAL Week 2: What Progress!

It's amazing to me how quickly I can complete a project if I don't let myself get distracted by anything else. To wit, I've already finished the first Tightrope sock for the KAL!  On Friday night I ended up watching a bunch of Home Movies (the show, not actual home movies) while Tyler recorded a new song.  When he emerged from his studio, he had most of the song recorded and I had finished a sock!  Yes, it's a wild life we lead...

Actually, this last week has been pretty eventful:
Instagram: Socks-in-progress
  • Tyler gave his two weeks' notice at his crappy job;  several places are now hiring that would be a much better fit for him - and closer to home, too, so it seems like a good time to take the plunge.  
  • We got good news from our tax preparer - we'll be getting a refund from the feds that will help us buy a second computer! This means that Tyler can pick up sidework with the transcription place he sometimes works for, as well as website design work (he recently re-designed our band's website - check it out!)
  • I found out that I get to attend the famed Designer Dinner that Marly Bird hosts every year at TNNA in Columbus - something I've been hoping would happen!  
  • I had a few technology-related meltdowns, the worst one being that Firefox decided to completely spazz out and delete all of our bookmarks.  Something is seriously wrong with it, but I don't have time to mess around with it to figure out just what - I just switched to Google Chrome finally.  The meltdown occurred as we finally switched to a wifi network at home (we'd previously had a usb thingy). Awesome, yes, but of course the setup was a little dicey.  All in all, I spent way too much time on the phone with Clear this week, but at least the end result is worth the inconvenience.  
  • Instagram finally made an app for the Android platform.  Great day in the morning!  In general, I don't find myself pining away for an iPhone or specific apps, but Instagram always seemed like it would be fun to play around with, and now I finally get to.  One of my first photos was of my KAL socks-in-progress, naturally. 
  • Friday night we had vegan banh mi for dinner!  Perhaps I need to get out more, but I think this counts as newsworthy.  There's an awesome place off the beaten path (read: a hike from the blue line stop) called Bon Bon that makes the most delicious Tofu Lemongrass banh mi.  They also have non-vegan items - actually a pretty extensive menu - and besides being super-tasty, they are also reasonably priced.  
  • We ended up buying Pitchfork tickets again this year - just to go on Sunday, when pretty much all of our favorite bands are playing (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Beach House...).  Man oh man, I hope it's not 100+ degrees like last year, that was brutal.  
Oh yes, back to the socks - they are flying off my needles!  I will probably have them done by the end of next weekend, if you can believe it.  Which is great, because then I can finish my second Trilobite sock (more on that later this week) and get ready for the two KALs I'll be participating in for May (more on those later, too!).  Is there a KAL 12-step program?  I think I'm addicted!

Friday, April 6, 2012

"You Just Can't!": A Special Edition of FO Friday

Not that my cousin would ever react in this manner (she and her husband are both super-cool, laid-back people), this is what I immediately think of whenever the subject of wedding gift-giving etiquette comes up:

Knowing that there "you just can't" give a wedding gift after the one-year anniversary, I wanted to be sure to hit that mark for my cousin Alex & her new husband Derek, who got married last May.  I actually began knitting their gift long before their wedding, but I didn't finish it til late last fall.  My intention was to present it when we went home for the holidays, but we ended up staying in Chicago instead.  When we went back for what was dubbed "fake christmas" in January, Alex & Derek were on a well-deserved mini vacation....and also it didn't fit in our luggage with all of the other holiday gifts.

Thankfully, I headed down to KC earlier this month and had PLENTY of room for some ginormous pillows.  I'm pleased to report that the newlyweds (I can still say that since I got it in under the wire!) loved their wedding gift and these two alpaca pillows with vintage shell buttons have found a good home! 

They proved difficult to photograph, however - the white buttons really gave me fits!  I never was able to capture them just right - each one was slightly different with natural variations and interesting carved designs.  Oh well, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

KAL Week 1: Cast On!

The KAL has officially begun!  Last night I cast on for my Tightrope Socks - they ended up being the perfect bar knitting while waiting for our set at Township.  We don't play a whole lot of shows these days, although this was our warm-up for next week's show at The Burlington.

Anywho, it's always a good idea to bring a project or two - preferably ones that can be worked on in the semi-dark while drinking beer, because there is a lot of time to kill from load-in to the start of the show. We even showed up an hour late due to a last-minute work meeting at Tyler's crappy job and I still managed to cast on and knit most of the cuff by the time the first act took the stage.

Shalloboi shows are usually odd affairs, mostly because we get booked on the strangest bills.  Quite often, two or three other bands featuring wildly divergent music styles are crammed on the same bill with us.  We've played with metal, hardcore, singer-songwriter, white-boy funk, experimental and straight up indie rock bands.  We're not really any of those things, although some combinations work better than others.  For example, last night we played with a very young singer-songwriter, a band that sounded like they wanted to be the next Coldplay, and a dude who sang kind of bluesy stuff like the White Stripes, only quieter and without a drummer.  Certainly not the strangest bill we've been on, nor was it the most aurally offensive, but I was pretty glad I had some knitting distraction. I think it would have been a much more cohesive show if the Coldplay band hadn't played - they were certainly the odd men out on the bill last night (and please know that right now I am doing my damndest not be snarky). 

So here's my progress from last night - as you can see, I not only cast on and blazed through that cuff (I'm not a fan of 1x1 rib, and yet it keeps showing up in my designs, wtf?),  I also made it through one and half pattern repeats!

I'm using The Wool Dispensary Useful Stimulant, a fantastic BFL/nylon blend with super-generous yardage (I had enough Circus Popcorn to make the original Tightrope socks, plus knit a pair of colorwork socks with yarn to spare!).  This is a test colorway, one of the benefits of being buddies with the dyer/owner of a yarn company, I suppose!  I'm also pleased to report that I knit for several hours last night sans wrist brace, thanks to the Knitter's Pride Cubics DPNs I'm using. 

If you'd like to KAL (even if you don't think you can finish during the month of April!), click here to join us in the Doodlebug Yarn Ravelry Group.