Monday, October 25, 2010

The Multnomah Shawl

This summer, my friend Gail was surfing the net looking for shawl patterns & came up with this jewel: The Multnomah Shawl. It's a little shawlette made with just one 100g skein of sock wool, & hers came out so beautifully I had to make one myself.

I have been knitting shawls for quite a few years, & have not only designed my own shawls but taught workshops on how to design your own shawl (not to blow my own horn, but to add perspective :). This pattern is quite lovely & the addition of the lace occurs quite naturally, just when you're ready for a bit of a challenge, after knitting along mindlessly in garter for a while. I changed only one thing in the pattern, which was to make the edge increases M1 rather than "knit through front & back of loop", because I really prefer the look of the "make 1" increase.

I made this one in KnitPicks Stroll tonal, Spruce colour, & I had to use a size #2 needle to make gauge (down 2 or 3 sizes from what was suggested). Although I love the look of Feather & Fan (the name of the lace used in this shawl) it's one of those lace patterns that I find easy to mess-up if I'm not paying attention. I found this out the hard way a few years ago when I used it as the pattern for an enormous handspun stole- I worked very hard on that shawl, with all the ripping, until I got the clue: add markers between the repeats of lace, so if I messed up, I knew much sooner & only had to rip back a repeat or so's worth of stitches rather than the whole darn thing. I did the same on this shawl & was glad I did!

A new experience with this shawl was that I have never really just cast-off a shawl edge, but usually crochet loops or  make knitted-edgewise lace for a stretchy, blockable edge. I used a #4 needle for the cast-off, so the edge would be loose, and although you can't really block sock wool very much (thanks to the nylon content), I blocked it anyway for a finished look.

This shawl will be a gift, mostly because Christmas is coming (!) and I don't need another shawl... but I do need presents to give! I think the next one (it took 6 weeks to make only because I was working along very desultorily, having loads of other projects laying about) will be my own version, with a different lace edging. It's a quick-to-make gift and, as I mentioned at the top, really pretty!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sock Projects

It's not all just crochet around here, although my most recent posts make it seem so... Here in the northeastern US it gets cold, so we need a good supply of woolies to help us through. For many years, a big part of the summer ritual was getting a good start on wool socks for Brendan, since he grew like mad & rarely could he wear the same socks from winter to winter. A couple of years ago he slowed down, foot-growth-wise, although he still shoots skyward at an alarming rate :) So I am knitting for him at a more desultory pace, and am alternating socks for me with socks for him this year.

The socks for him are in process, from KnitPicks Stroll sock wool (Lily Pad Multi). I have to work them on size 0 needles because I knit so loosely, that's the only way I can get within 7 sts/inch gauge (what I find to be a good fabric for socks in fingering-weight yarn). I work them on 2 circulars, & wooden/bamboo needles snug up the gauge even more, so that's what I prefer to use (although I went through a distressing number of wooden needles over the summer by sitting on them & snapping them, or snagging them in baskets & losing one needle out of the cable- let's hope I've learned my lesson!) Brendan's feet are now ~ men's size 9, so I work them on 72 stitches around, adjusting the length about 1/4"-1/2" every year as he grows.

The socks for me are from Veronik Avery's "Knitting 24/7" in a lacy faux cable stitch that looked fun to try. Unlike Brendan's plain-knit ones, these were not mindless knitting, & I had to rip each sock back a couple of times because I lost my place in the lace. They were also knit in KnitPicks Stroll (tonal raspberry) and on the same size 0 needles. I like them a lot. They're lacy enough to be cute, but no less warm for the lace. Building on this less-than-mindless trend, I plan to tackle toe-up (my first for at least for 10 years...) socks. I'll let you know how they go!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lindsay's Lace

Here is another project that I was waiting to post (until after the gift was given :) but then things got busy... Our friend Lindsay got married in late August &, as she was combining households with her new husband, it took some creativity to think of something to give her that she wouldn't already have. I decided that everyone could use a little lace on occasion, & decided to make her some odds & ends that she could use around the house- under lamps, as coasters, a small runner for dinners, that sort of thing. I had already made shower presents for her (domino knitted trivet & dishcloths) using a natural palette of browns & creams, so I stayed with the same yarn (KnitPicks Simply Cotton organic yarns) but went from worsted weight to sport, for crocheted lace.

I used motifs from the wonderful book again & it was a lot of fun to mess around- combining the motifs & the colours. For example, I really love how the lace in the top picture forms a wreath in the middle when you put 4 motifs together...

Once again, this lace can be washed by machine or hand, & just patted out flat to dry. I blocked them with pins (as you can see) to make it nice, which is an easy next step, but not necessary to useability. 

I do wonder sometimes if these ideas I get for prezzies are just weird, or do they work out the way I hope? I sure hope they are enjoyed as much as I enjoyed making them!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Patty's Lace

Well, I had to wait to post this until after my friend Patty's birthday, but then I got so busy that I'm posting it way after! Ah well...

My friend Patty likes the colour combo of black & red, & her home has lovely modern touches that make black & red a natural, so for her birthday this year I decided to make a table runner for her. The motif I chose is from that wonderful book of crochet motifs from Japan. I chose KnitPick's Comfy Fingering yarn (in Black, White, & Hollyberry) because it's easily washed- I feel strongly that it takes something away from a gift if it isn't practical, so I like my friends to be able to take care of things I give them without worrying.

The beginning of a motif project can be a bit nerve-wracking- even if the motifs look nice, will they look nice together? How long should it be? Will the giftee like it? As it all came together, I liked it more & more. It was hard to stop crocheting!

Each motif is about 5" wide,  so although I didn't measure the runner, I estimate it ended-up about 40" long. I had fun alternating the red & black filler motifs, just to add interest.
 I found a matching red & black bag & paper to wrap it in :) and we celebrated her birthday at a favourite Japanese restaurant. I hope she enjoys using it as much as I enjoyed making it :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I can crochet a towel... (but does it work?)

Hello! Sorry it's been so long since I updated. I think that all the busyness around the beginning of school took a few weeks to make itself apparent, but now we're over the bump. It hit me this morning, as I dropped Brendan off at school, that I don't so much drop him off as he releases me into the world when he gets out of the car. If I'm busy that morning, then the uneasy feeling doesn't get through to me... but when I'm not busy, the rest of the morning feels awfully empty. The nice thing is that, when I'm energetic, I have been Doing Things with this time (deep-cleaning various parts of the house, making curry powder from scratch, learning how to make coffee cake all over again). When I'm not so energetic, I think about the holidays coming up, & what do I need to start making for whom (then I sit at the computer & order yarn :).

I am in the midst of designing 2 sweaters from crocheted motifs, & it's become apparent that I need a dress form to make headway on at least one of these projects. I dug out my old Threads magazine files & found the article about making dress forms from duct tape. Charlie seems up for it :) so I'll let you know how it goes!

Today's headliner project is one of those near-to-my-heart things- how to make something that is useful, beautiful, & above-all, hand-made! And how much more basic can you get, project-wise, than a towel? I have been trying to make towels for years, & happily, I have succeeded more often than I've failed. But the best towels (so far) have been handwoven & I just don't have the free brain cells these days to weave, so next-sturdiest fabric for towel-making, to my mind, is crochet. Last Spring I found a crocheted ripple-pattern towel pattern at Lion Brand that called for their Recycled Cotton yarn, so I gave it a try. I had to rip the pattern & start again a few times before I could get it right (which got me searching for a better ripple pattern- more on that later...) but eventually I produced a finished towel- hooray! I was very pleased to ensconce it in the downstairs bathroom (where I have the most need for hand-towels) & put it to work. This is where I re/discovered that towels need to be more than just rectangular & somewhat larger than your hand- they need to be Absorbent. Lion Brand Recycled Cotton yarn is nice stuff, great for shawls, etc, but it is made from a certain amount of non-natural (unnatural?) fibres, which seriously impedes the absorbency. So much for just picking up pattern, yarn, hook, & making something...

(In other words, had I actually thought about it, I'd never have chosen that yarn to make a towel, so why did I suspend my good sense just because the towel pattern called for this yarn...?)

The desire to crochet a towel then sent me into 2 different directions: the search for a reliable (understandable, dare I say, simple?) ripple pattern, & the search for yarn that is absorbent enough to be made into towels. My weaving experience tells me that 100% cotton is a good place to start :) so I decided to try KnitPicks' Simply Cotton Sport yarn, using the Toffee, Ginger, & Malted Milk colours from their organic yarns' line. I was also fortunate to run into a lovely ripple pattern from dear Lucy at Attic 24. If you like ripples, hers is very simple to make & remember, so give it a try! I swatched it first, & found I liked the fabric I got with a G/6/4.00mm hook. The finished towel is 12.5"x30" because I wanted a decent-sized towel when I was done.

How does it work? The pattern was a dream to crochet- fun & relaxing. The striping sequence was easy to keep track of (& based mostly on what yarn I had on hand...). So I have successfully found a ripple pattern (yay!). Is it absorbent? The jury's still out on that one. It wasn't very absorbent before it was machine-washed, and after one washing it's a bit more, but not nearly as much as one of my hand-woven towels. However, I (and my patient family) am giving it more time. It does look really nice in the bathroom though, doesn't it? :)