Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Dad Can Do Anything!

Today I teamed up with my wonderful, gifted, extremely handy father to make my very own Swift! And it worked! We produced a real, live, working, awesome Swift for winding yarn! IT IS THE COOLEST!

Fine Points, the yarn store I worked at in Cleveland, had a cool portable one that disassembled. A few months ago I drew up a similar design for my dad to make (since he can make/fix/do anything). Slowly he worked his way down his enormous list of various things to do around the house and today arrived at making my Swift! It was the first actual nice day of spring. This winter has been brutal, but today was a shorts and tshirt kind of day, so it was the perfect day to be outside, woodworking.

This was my design:

Pretty simple. I showed it to my dad, and he thought it reasonable. Today we embarked. And with naught more than a piece of wood and a sophisticated array of power tools, we did it!

Here's my dad hard at work with his table saw.

So first, we discussed our vision for the Swift, and then we started measuring and sketching on the wood. I unwound a skein of yarn and held it out in a square so we'd have an idea of how big it had to be. We took an old piece of wool and re-appropriated it. My vision was thus: two interlocking base pieces which fit together with notches. Two long arms which criss-crossed to form an "x", with several holes drilled in each end to accommodate removeable pegs around which the yarn would be wrapped. To hold the whole thing together, a peg would be fitted into a hole drilled through the midpoint of the two arms and the base pieces. We discussed lengths, widths, aesthetics, and portability, and we (ok, my dad) decided on base pieces which measured 18", with a height of 2.5" at the widest point and 1.5" at the narrowest. Daddy cut up the wood using an ingenious sled thingie that he had made a few years earlier which enabled him to stabilize the wood when he was making diagonal cuts, which is apparently difficult to do on a table saw. But he fixed every problem that arose!

Here was the rough result of the first few cuts:

You can see it starting to take shape.... the notches to ensure a sturdy fit, the sloped edges so the arms would be able to rotate easily. This was originally supposed to be the "practice" version because my dad wanted to make a more perfect one using nicer wood, but that wood ended up being splitty, so it turned out that our practice version was the final version.

Then we did the arms. We decided on a length of 22", with similar notches to lock them into place:

Daddy drilled the hole for the central pivot, and we used a nail to hold it together:

Then we (ok, Daddy) drilled holes for the arms-- three in each arm, spaced by 1.5"-- and I cut a dowel into four 5" pegs. Daddy found a little piece of hardware to put between the base and the arms to enable easy rotation. And we put it all into practice...........

TA DA!!!! A SWIFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Daddy used some kind of sanding machine to smooth out all the edges, making it look way more finished and professional:

I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO THRILLED WITH IT!!!!!!!!! How many girls are lucky enough to have daddies that can build them their very own personal Swifts!?????!? I've been playing with it all day long. I can't wait to get a ball winder and put it to use! No longer will I have to wind yarn around my knees/bedpost/an upturned chair!

Witness just how perfectly it works!!!!!!!!!

I am simply ecstatic with how it turned out. It disassembles easily into a few light pieces of wood and some hardware, and I plan on sewing up a canvas case to carry it in. Portable Swift!!

I'm just SOOOO happy with it!! Thank you Daddy! You're simply the best!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Knit and Knit Again

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I am anything but a fastidious knitter. As far as knitting goes I place myself firmly in the "quick and dirty" category. Missing a stitch in a lace pattern? Pick one up! Got an extra? K2tog! Miscrossed a cable twenty row back? Rip out the ten cable stitches down to the mistake and then re-knit it up to the rest of the work! Something looks a little weird? Look somewhere else! It's a little big? Hide it in the closet! It's a little small? Give it to my mom! I will do pretty much ANYTHING to avoid ripping stuff out.

Which is what makes this post so uncharacteristic of me. Recently I had to frog two items down to the nub and start all over again. Yes, I've done it before-- with my short-sleeved sweater and my lace dress. But with both of those things, I was still in the process of knitting. I was maybe 70% through the sweater and 45% through the dress when I ripped them out. The difference now is that both items were totally complete when I ripped them back-- bound off and everything!!

So what were the things? Well, one of them was my I'm Not Married Slouch. After wearing it for a day or so I noticed that it was excessively loose. When I shook my head quickly it kind of slipped back and forth instead of staying put. The band stretched until it was way big. I guess part of the reason was that the yarn I chose is not very stretchy. The other part was that it was just too big from the beginning. I don't know if I mentioned the fact that I knit and ripped back two entire ribbing bands before I forged ahead into the lace. Both times, the band was way too big. I kept adjusting my numbers and calculations, but I guess I should have tried again. Also, I knit the ribbing with a size four and Magic Loop (which I really don't like), and the gauge was loose. Plus the hat itself was not perfect. While knitting, I had lost/gained stitches pretty often (see above) and so the pattern was a little messy. Since I'm not a perfectionist, I didn't care, but all those things together made it clear that if I left it the way it was, the hat would quickly become yet another thing I never wore.

Sooo.... I ripped. Instead of casting on 116, I cast on 100 and used a size 2 needle for the ribbing, which made it much more snug. I did 15 reps of the vine lace pattern instead of 17, and I counted carefully on every knit row to make sure I hadn't lost (or gained) any stitches. It was finished in a few short hours, and then I had a much better-fitting hat.

See how much happier I look! I really love this hat. It's so cute and springy and artsy looking, like I'm on my way to a poetry slam or something. Of course, if I put my ponytail in it, I look like I should be leading around five little kids in a row.

Second re-knit project: Skew socks from Knitty. I don't know how I missed these socks before, but now that I've discovered them, I have found my new go-to sock pattern! These socks are possibly the coolest. They are knit on the bias-- which is a style I discovered I really like-- and they kind of get all swirly and interesting around the heel. Basically, they are so freaking awesome!!! I decided to use one of my new yarns from Lancaster, so I chose the Knit One, Crochet Too Ty-Dy Sock. I think next time I will use a hand-painted/variegated skein of sock yarn, so the twisty turny nature of the sock will be even better illustrated.

Here is the toe, which gives you an idea of how the whole "bias" thing starts:

The blue area on the upper right is where I cast on, using the Magic Cast on method (really cool-- enables you to start with one row of knitting and split it into two halves, thereby avoiding a seam).  Then the pink slope to the left was the mid-toe, and after a few rows the foot shaping began, requiring decreases at the beginning and end of the round and two increases at the middle of the round. In that way the traditional rectangular foot is shaped while still knitting diagonally. So, so very cool.

For the first sock, I decided to use my 32" size 2 circular and the Magic Loop method, which I had never used on a sock before, since my two Addi's were in another project. So this sock was a first in a few ways-- it was also the very first toe-up sock I've ever made. Do I like the toe-up method? I dunno. It was cool to start with the toe, but it gets kind of tedious up around the calf ribbing. Anyway, I cast on and went to it, but I hit a few snags immediately. I misread the pattern and ended up making the toe way too long, so I had to rip that back. Then when I got to the ankle shaping I realized I had two few stitches, so I had to improvise some increases. Then, after I had finished the ankle shaping and mini-gusset, I realized the sock was ENORMOUS and I had to rip the foot back about three inches. The pattern was written for a size 8.5 foot. I am a size 8. I thought it wouldn't matter, but considering my loose gauge, it did. The pattern called for the foot to be knit to 7.5" before ankle shaping. It was unreasonably big on me so I ripped back until the foot measured 6". Anyway, I eventually got past the ankle shaping and gusset (for the third time!) and reached the cool heel, which involved grafting. Until the heel, I thought the sock was just going to be too big, period. After the heel, I realized how the whole thing came together and it was freaking awesome. I finished it up quickly. Since it's knit on the bias it was SO much faster than a traditional sock, despite the different sections of special increases and decreases and so on. The slowest part was the ribbing at the end, which was the only part knit straight.

Look at that awesome swirly heel!

But the sock was still too big. It was loose on my foot, partly because I had made the foot too long, partly because of the loose tension with Magic Loop, and partly because of the messy increases on the ankle/gusset. I decided to knit the right foot with two circulars (put the other thing on a holder and used my Addi's. LOVE those little guys) and started the ankle shaping at 5.5" instead of 6". I also followed the pattern extremely closely and it came out looking great and fitting much better. See:

The one on the right was the first sock I made, obviously, and the one on the left was the second. It was obvious that I had to rip back the first one and re-do it. So rip I did. I ripped back to the point where the green stripe started so that I could match up the striping on both socks, make them semi-symmetrical. I went to work on my second left sock and finished in a day or so. (I'm telling you, these socks were SO QUICK.) Here they are this morning all done!

The striping didn't match up perfectly. The left sock lagged a little bit behind the right, color-wise, so the ribbing ended up a different color, but overall they look pretty matchey and they fit really well. Not perfectly, they are still a little bit loose, but I really love them nonetheless, and I would make them again and again and again. If I need to whip up a quick pair of socks this would be my go-to pattern. SO MUCH quicker than regular ol' socks.

Love that crazy heel.

I am just so impressed with this pattern-- it's so smart and well-written. I love it so much. Definitely worth re-knitting. Now I am done with all current projects! Need something new... As usual.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Amish Knitting

Okay, there's really nothing Amish about this post other than the fact that the things I'm going to talk about originated from Amish Land! Otherwise known as Lancaster, PA. I went there this weekend with my family and can you guess what I found?! That's right, a YARN SHOP! It was my first destination. I dragged the whole family there, straight from the three-hour car ride from New York. To be honest, this weekend in Amish Country involved a lot more shopping than Amish, but I am not complaining. I got a lot of cool stuff, and I got to ride in a buggy to boot!

So first allow me to present my lovely yarn store finds.....

Knit One, Crochet Too Crock-O-Dye. 416 yards, fingering weight, 65% superwash wool, 20% nylon, 15% silk.

This is a really pretty yarn. It's very soft, and it is painted in shades of gorgeous pink. I do love my pink. This wasn't a hard one to choose.

Knit One Crochet Too Ty-Dy Socks. 436 yards, 80% superwash wool, 20% nylon. To be honest, what most appealed to me about this yarn was the fact that it was 436 yards of sock yarn in one ball, winding not needed!! I realize that's a stupid reason. But these will make cute socks. I have never actually made myself a pair of socks-- well, I have, Karira, but I've never worn them because they're too nice. So I've never made myself a pair of wearable socks. And there are a few cute patterns on Ravelry that I would like to try. So, could be a cute project! Took me a loong time to choose the colorway. In the past I've bought yarn that didn't immediately appeal to me color-wise because I thought to myself, "Hey, maybe I'll make something for (some other person) and they would not like to have bright pink socks like I personally would prefer. And I don't have any brown yarn. So I'll get this nice, sedate brown." But what ends up happening is a few months later I'm like, "Yuck, I hate this brown, why did I ever get it?", and so on. So I've decided to give up trying to shop for future projects for other people because I won't end up making them anyway, and from now on I will shop purely for myself.

Blue Heron Rayon Metallic, 550 yards. Ravelry claims it is worsted weight but it really doesn't seem like it. It seems much finer, like DK or sport. Definitely not worsted. But anyway, this one has a story. I originally just bought the two skeins pictured above, and walked out with a smile on my face. But I kept thinking about the above yarn because I used it once before and it was sooooooooooooooooooo gorgeous. I made this:

It's a little shrug that, to be honest, doesn't fit me so well. It's very small on me. But it's SO gorgeous-- the drape of this yarn is truly art. Doesn't wrinkle. Feels like water running through your fingers. I've worn it to some events. And I just love it. The color, the sparkles, everything. I bought that yarn after literally thirty minutes of deliberating because of the cost-- $44-- more than I had ever spent on a skein of yarn before in my life up to that point. But it was also the first truly premium yarn that I had used. I had bought pretty wool before, but it was also pretty scratchy. This was soft, such a pleasure to knit with, and beautiful.

So I went back and got it.

 Not a clue what I will use it for. But whatever it is, it will be beautiful.

I also got this cool contraption, at a crafty Amishy store where real Amish people buy stuff:
It's a snap-putter-on-er!


It squeezes real snaps onto fabric. I thought I could use it on my knitted iPod/blackberry cases to make them look more professional, since the sew-on snaps look kind of homemade and they never seem very secure. When we were still away I tested it on a shirt with the above results. The first try, however, ripped the fabric when I tried to unsnap the snap, because the fabric was too thin. It worked (above) when I did it on two layers of fabric.

 The doohickey can also make eyelets/grommets! See:

This was a way-cool feature. But the real question remained: would this work on knitted fabric? If not, then it could not do me much good.

 So today I attempted to put it on a wrap-around sweater that won't stay closed, with the following results:

You probably can't tell, but these are the destroyed prongs of at least a dozen snaps that I tried to snap on to the sweater. This was bad news. I would squeeze the gun thing on the knit fabric, but it simply wasn't creating a snap-- just bending all the prongs out of place and rendering them unusable. I was getting a little uneasy when I tried putting one of the little metal thingies in the OTHER way-- the opposite way advised on the packaging-- and it worked pretty much perfectly!

I tried it on a swatch from another project, just to make sure-- and it worked fine. Then I tried a grommet, but that didn't work as well:

Because putting in a grommet requires punching a hole in the fabric, it is not the best for knit stuff, which cannot really handle holes that well. I tried a few different things and I may have figured out a way I can do it-- if I insert the grommet through a natural gap in the fabric instead of punching a hole-- but it still rips the yarn a bit. If the metal grasps tightly enough to the yarn it's fine, but still risky.

However-- point is, I got it working and now it's a really cool tool to make my stuff look way professional!

I also worked on a hat I started a few days ago when I was away in Amishtown, and I finished it tonight:

I call it my "I'm Not Married Hat", because it really makes me look married, but it's very pretty and funky looking. Makes me seem all literary and cool (which of course I am, but this is not often obvious by my fashion choices). Still, if/when I wear it in Israel, it's as good as wearing a wedding ring and gaining thirty pounds. It screams MARRIED MARRIED MARRIED!!! I will have to be careful. Of course, it could also be useful in warding off the TONS of attention I get from religious guys hitting on me.... ha hahahahahahahhaha....haha. Hahaha. I guess it would be interesting to see if people treated me differently because of it. Maybe it can be my "Social Experiment Hat."

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Finished my skarf today! It's so gorgey. I love the colors, love love love!!! And I love this yarn! It's the Claudia Handpaints Fingering. I would like it in every color. I decided today that I'm going to take my last paycheck before I leave for Israel and splurge on beautiful yarn. I'm going to be in Israel for at LEAST a year before I come back-- I need at least a year's worth of yarn!!! My stash is nice, but it's not nearly enough to last me. Then again, last year when I lived in Israel I barely knit ANYTHING because I was busy actually living my life... so maybe I won't use as much yarn this year... hm... Well, it's best to be prepared. It'll be a going-away present for myself, a little fortification, some soft pretty yummy cushioning for my transition to a new country. Yeah! Justifying yarn purchases is what I'm all about.

Here are piccies of my COLORSPLOSION SKARF:

Skarfy is so pretty! And the perfect spring accessory. It's light, and bright, and will match everything.

I hadn't been looking forward to binding off-- we are talking about 450 stitches here-- but other than trying to find the right needle size to do it with, it was fine. I had seen some Ravelers write that you had to be careful with the tension in the bound-off edge, or else it would be too tight, so going up needle sizes was the smart thing to do. I knit the scarf with size 6 needles, using my Knit Picks interchangeable circulars, so I simply replaced the 6's with 10's, but those were WAY too big-- I couldn't get the stitches past the join onto the needle. So I replaced them with 9's. I could wedge the stitches onto the needle, but when I started binding off, the edge was actually TOO stretchy-- it began to ripple. So I ripped back and started over with 8's and those worked great. The bound off edge is the perfect tension. I do have to block it, though, but you know me and blocking. Plus, my room is still a mess-- haven't unpacked from my vacation. My suitcase is still sitting in the middle of the floor, filled with clothes that I haven't hung up in my closet, so there's no room to block anything anyway. I really do get tired of living in a pigsty-- I do! But I can't seem to keep it neat. I spend a few hours straightening and putting away clothes-- I did this a few weeks ago-- and my room looks great for a few days. But the clothes accumulate, along with other random crap, and I can't seem to keep it all in order. I'm just a complete slob at heart.

Anyway, now I have only ONE WIP-- one!!! And no ideas about what to make next. It's kind of nice though-- not to have anything I MUST knit. No pressure, no time squeeze. I can relax.

Friday, April 1, 2011

knitting like the wind

Past few weeks have been filled with whirlwind knitting, on two projects specifically. I went on vacation last week (yeah!!). Before I left I really wanted to finish and mail my best friend Jill a pair of socks that I made for her. They were a surprise-- I didn't tell her, so I couldn't post about them since she occasionally reads this blog. They went SUPER fast. Definitely the quickest pair of socks I have ever made. I started them on Monday, and finished them Thursday. Woowoo! I used some stashed Patons sock yarn, a pretty pink/white/gray multi. I don't remember what I originally bought it for, but I thought she would like it. I didn't use a pattern. I recently got this adorable little book, "Knitting Rules" by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and there are kind of quick-and-dirty guidelines for making hats, scarves, shawls, socks, etc. I used her instructions for socks, and a sock pattern I wrote a while back, to improvise these socks. Your standard sock pattern is pretty simple. Here they are:

I also sewed in some of my "Made Especially for you by Abra Melanie Forman" labels. Because every knitter likes her recognition. I mailed them to Jill and she claims to love them, so that makes me happy.

My other lightning-project was another gift for someone else: my pregnant friend Michelle. I was going to be pretty leisurely about the baby blanket I started for her in February, considering she isn't due until July, but circumstances jogged my hands-- a friend of hers threw a baby shower for her and the pressure was on to finish the blanket by then. The party was on the same day we returned from our vacation, so I thought to myself, "Well, I'll just finish the blanket on the cruise!" Other knitters take knitting on vacation, right? Why shouldn't I?

Turns out that knitting on vacation with a deadline is kind of like work. All I wanted to do was lay around and read, but I had this nagging feeling that I was neglecting something. Like I had homework to do. It was a mildly annoying feeling. I was on vacation! I kind of felt like I wanted to be on vacation from knitting, bad as that sounds. But seriously, sometimes knitting CAN feel like an obligation. But I did manage to do quite a lot of laying around and reading anyway. I finished about four books, and they were all really fantastic. I highly recommend "Never Let Me Go"-- it was so good. It really made me think. Also a fantastic post-apocalyptic novel by Margaret Atwood, "Oryx and Crake." I am looking forward to reading the sequel. I devoured about a book a day. That is what vacation is about for me: reading. Yet, the reading came with an uncomfortable sense of guilt.

Knitting on vacation.

So all the hours I wasn't reading, I was knitting like mad!! I had twenty inches of blanket to knit inside of a week. I brought another four skeins of yarn, in addition to the two that I had already used, to reach the calculated length of the blanket-- 41" as recommended by the pattern-- but after I finished four skeins, the blanket was already pretty big and I didn't have that much time left. I used a few yards from the fifth skein to finish up the garter edging and bind off. The finished measurements were approximately 39" by 30", I think, which was plenty big.

I brought a little case of notions with me to finish off the blanket: tapestry needle, measuring tape, needle and thread to sew on one of my labels, Fray Check, and some pins. After I cast off, I wove in the ends, which was difficult with this cotton yarn. I wasn't that pleased with how the woven ends looked, but I don't think most other people would notice.

I finished the blanket in one of the lounges on the cruise. To my surprise, no one on the cruise had commented on my knitting-- I had been knitting all over the ship for a week-- until the last day. A woman came up to me in the lounge and asked what I was making. She said she'd seen me knitting earlier, and that she was also a knitter, sewer and crocheter. I showed her the blanket. She asked about the stitch pattern, and I gave her the blanket pattern, since I was pretty much done with the blanket. It was great to talk to a fellow knitter. I had really expected more people to approach me, since when I knit in public people often do, but I guess I was on a ship of mainly non-knitters. Anyway, I finished up the blanket, sewed on my label and it was done. I photographed it in my cabin but the light was horrible. The colors came out badly, even though they were really pretty in real life:

Finding a way to wrap it was fun. I had brilliantly forgotten to bring a nice gift bag and some tissue paper with me, so we ended up begging some from the gift shop. It didn't end up too bad. And when Michelle saw it she was very happy-- and that's all that matters!

Yay! Labors come to fruition. Still quite a few months before the blanket meets baby, but it's best to be prepared.