30 December 2009

Knitted Buttercup in the Round

Jolie’s recipe for Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Buttercup

This is a significant variation of the flower on page 22 of Knitted Flowers (New York: Sixth&Spring Books, 2006). The changes:
  • specified cast on
  • in the round not back and forth with seam
  • centered and straight rather than slanted decreases
  • threaded center rather than bound-off center
  • bead instead of french knot
  • felted instead of not felted
Nicky's design is probably easier for the novice knitter to execute, certainly less fussy on the decreases. If you have the book, try both her approach and mine and see what you think.

Use size 9mm/US 13 needles
Samples made with Cascade 220, color 8555 (black)
Yarn held double throughout
Each flower uses about 6-7 grams/13¼-15½ yards

Makes a 7-petal flower
Flower is worked in the round on double-pointed needles, two-circulars, or a magic loop.

Special techniques:
dec 5 into 1 (worked over a group of 5 stitches)= slip first stitch knitwise, slip second stitch knitwise, knit third stitch (middle stitch of the group); place middle stitch back on left needle and pass fourth stitch over middle stitch, slip middle stitch to right needle and pass second stitch over middle stitch, slip middle stitch to left needle and pass fifth stitch over middle stitch, slip middle stitch to right needle and pass first stitch over middle stitch. Adjust tension of middle stitch before proceeding.

centered double dec (worked over a group of 3 stitches) = slip first two stitches together knitwise, knit third stitch, pass first two stitches over.

Using crochet cast-on, cast-on 43 stitches.
Round 1: Knit first & last stitch of the cast-on together to join. Knit all remaining stitches in the round. (42 stitches total)
Round 2: *k1, yo, dec 5 into 1, yo; repeat from * across round. (28 stitches total)
Round 3: *k1, centered double dec; repeat from * across round. (14 stitches total)
Round 4: *k2tog; repeat across round. (7 stitches total)
To end: Break yarn. Thread yarn end into blunt needle. Run end through all 7 stitches. Pull tight. Run through all 7 stitches again. Run through first three or four of the seven. (Yarn has circled the 7 final stitches 2½ times.) Plunge end to back of work.

Thread needle with yarn end from cast-on. Weave end through stitches on back of work. Try to have end come out near center of flower.

You should end up with both yarn tails on the back and near the center of the flower. This is handy if you wish to use them to attach your flower to something.

My flowers were about 3½ inches across before felting and 2¾ inches after felting.

If you want to experiment with more or fewer petals, cast on 6 stitches per petal, plus one extra to join.

Add beads or knots in contrasting color to create centers. I used wooden beads from the local big box craft store.

29 December 2009

More Making Do and Mending

In the process of chaos control this autumn, I did look around at items that needed a little love. Actually, I looked around to see what needed to be tossed or donated, and what needed just a little bit of my time. This Lantern Moon bag needed a little attention. I bought it some years back at Purly Gates. I liked it a lot, but the bamboo fractured on one side. (Another bag in the shop had the same problem.) This is a wonderful project bag for a small project, but it has also been a fabulous handbag. So I didn't want to throw it out.

The solution? Nicky Epstein to the rescue! I pulled out the copy of Knitted Flowers and began to browse. I decided that a few black felted flowers, artistically placed, could be just the thing to save this cute bag from the trash.

While I do like Knitted Flowers, I have to admit that this book is not without its flaws. There are no diagrams, just pictures of finished flowers. This means that you may be surprised when knitting the Five-Star Flower (page 100) that is featured on the cover and the directions have you making yarn-overs. You discover later that you thread the row of yarn-overs and pull tight. So you don't always have a clear sense of what shape you are making.

And while the pictures are nice, sometimes they are done so artistically and with such a shallow depth of field that flowers are blurry. A particular example is page 57, with the five versions of the Stellata Thistle. Three of the five versions are blurry in the photograph and two of those are cropped. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to knit up any of these items, so you can always knit and see what you get. Also be aware that many of these are knit back and forth on straight needles and then seamed.
I personally prefer to knit circular shapes in the round. If you are an inventive knitter, you can rewrite the patterns you like to match your needs.

For this project, I chose the Buttercup from pages 22-23. I re-wrote the pattern for knitting in the round. You can find it here. Basically, I used two strands and large needles to make a plain black flower. Because I planned to felt it, I worked it larger, looser, and more open. Oddly enough, knitting felts better if you make it looser and more open.

I'm purposely showing the finished flower at a different but proportional size. The unfelted flower was about 3.5 inches across. But the finished felted flower shrank to about 2.75 inches across. So my flowers are a little less than 80% (4/5ths) of their original size. By the way, I felted them simply by throwing them through the laundry with the regular load of wash. I did have a little trouble getting the felting started because I was using cold water. After allowing them to dry overnight, I used black sewing thread to attach the wooden beads from the local big box craft store. These beads were probably from JoAnn Etc. I've had them in my stash for several years. I don't know if you can still get them, but I'm sure you could find something similar. I attached the flowers to the bag using a hot melt glue gun. I was very generous with the glue, both to keep the flowers in place but also to keep the bamboo bag from continuing to fray apart.

I must admit -- I'm very pleased with the final product. I haven't used the bag yet, so experience will tell whether this fix is durable enough for use in the real world.

25 December 2009

A Merry Alpaca Yule

The Cuddly Hubby gave me some alpaca fiber for Christmas. This batt is rather interesting in that it appears to have color but doesn't. The alpaca fiber is white. But it appears to be pale blue and pale pink because it has been carded with blue and pink angelina fibers. Angelina is a rather Christmas-appropriate fiber, as it is basically tinsel, just on a thinner scale.

After reading Deb Menz's wonderful book Color in Spinning -- thank you to JennaB the Yarn Pimp for lending me her copy -- I need to spend some time considering how I divide this batt. I also need to consider whether I want a single, double, or triple-ply yarn. In this case, multiple plies might allow me to create some interesting color variations. Plying pink on pink will produce pink, but plying pink on white should produce a paler pink. And I need to see if the pink and blue will blend visually to produce purple. Also, I need to think about how long I would like the color changes to be. Do I want stripes or do I want a mottled effect?

On the plus side, so far I'm spinning for the enjoyment of what happens rather than to create something I want but can't buy. So I'm not even sure what I want this to be when I knit it up. A hat? A scarf? Mittens or gloves? It is lovely baby colors, but I am thinking that an 85% alpaca 15% angelina blend is probably not baby-proof wash & wear. Then again, this might become another amigurumi. An alpaca teddy bear would probably be just the thing to hug.

12 December 2009

Odd Gifts for Knitters

Last year, I had a post similar to this. As it is the giving season again, here is another post on some unusual gift choices for the knitter who already has everything.

While I'm at it, let's just make sure that we know what "everything" is. In this case, "everything" means the knitter has a pleasingly generous stash, favorite needles in the full run of sizes, needle cases, bags, notions, all the best books, subscriptions to good knitting magazines, and dvds featuring Lucy Neatby and Elizabeth Zimmermann. In other words, you've run out of the obvious things to purchase.

Page Points:
Levenger recently redesigned and renamed these Page Nibs. They are thin clip-on bookmarks that you can leave in the book. They are perfect for marking interesting patterns in your knitting books. Some clever soul ought to include a sample with any purchase of a Barbara Walker stitch treasury, so that you can mark interesting things as you thumb through for that other stitch pattern you know you saw in here somewhere. (See picture above of my own personal "marked up" copy.)

Couch Cover:
I bought one of the these because the blue-gray couch in the living room did not coordinate with the rest of the decor. It turns out that not only is this a slick way to freshen up a room, but a couch cover prevents anything from falling in between the cracks in the seat cushions. If your couch monster is a regular consumer of stitch markers or double-pointed needles, a cover may be just the thing to muzzle its appetite.

Color Consulting:
My mother and sister bought me this about 20 years ago and it continues to be a gift that gives. I sat down with a professional color consultant who figured out my colors and and showed me how to use that information. (For those of you wondering, I am a "contrasting lustrous summer," which means that intense cool colors are my friends.) Especially if you are buying for someone who knits for herself/himself, knowing that you should buy the hot pink and not the tangerine orange cashmere is important. Those of you on Ravelry can see that my color card and my stash match pretty well.

Spill-proof Thermal Travel Mug:
This is something that almost anyone could use. It is nice to keep hot drinks warm and cold drinks cool. And it is nice to have a mug that cannot be spilled on your knitting or your friends' knitting. I am on my third mug. I started with a now discontinued Brookstone model. After that broke, I moved on to a Starbucks mug. I broke that a couple weeks ago, and have replaced it with the Highwave JOEmo XL, which you can find at Hammacher Schlemmer or Amazon. I have purchased some plastic mugs, but they always seem to leak, so do be sure to test any spill-proof claims over the kitchen sink. Also, I use an instant-read thermometer to check temperature. The really good thermal mugs prevent your beverage from cooling, which means you can't just wait for the tea or coffee to cool off. A thermometer can protect your tongue and taste buds from scalding.

Business Card Holder:
Nancy Barke of both Atlanta Knitting Guild and North Georgia Knitting Guild showed me a business card case with a knitting design on it. It and other cool things are available at Kyle Designs. There are also eyeglass cases, lanyards, barrettes, and many different size boxes that could be perfect for keeping knitting notions in your bag. I am wondering if the pencil or cigar cases would work for wooden sock needles?

Audio books:
If you are a knitter who enjoys reading, you may have discovered that knitting and reading are not the easiest things to do simultaneously. There are several options. Straight-up audio books on cd are a simple choice. David Reidy of Sticks and Strings podcast has recommended both Audible and the Amazon Kindle. Brenda Dayne of Cast-on podcast also recommends Audible. I started an Audible subscription this summer and have enjoyed it very much. It has been about the only way I can keep up with our knit lit group. Or course, this works best if you have an iPod or other mp3 player. You can listen while you knit even if you are a novice and need to watch every stitch lest it morph and lead your project to the frog pond. If the Kindle is more your style, then you have to be technically proficient enough to look away from your knitting. The Kindle does have an experimental reading aloud feature, but not all books for the Kindle will function with this feature. I have had some luck reading from a normal book while knitting stockinette mindlessly in the round. David Reidy has bought and tried out a Kindle. He pointed out that you can change the font size on the Kindle to make it quite large, so that if you look back and forth between your knitting and your book, you can find your place easily as you read.

Storage Organization:
Since "Get Organized" is a common new year resolution, why not help someone get a jump on the chaos? In the Atlanta area, we are lucky to have Ikea, the Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond and the like. My stash is kept in a series of graduated woven baskets from Hobby Lobby. Or you could try a ClosetMaid cubby system from Target or Lowe's. Lots of possibilities to keep all that stash safe and ready for action. In the picture at left, you can see a number of hand-knitted items neatly put away in the closet using Ikea Skubb organizers. As you can see, I'm using the shoe cubbies for small items like scarves and mittens, and the sweater cubbies for larger items like bags and shawls.

Spring-loaded shower curtain rod:
If you wash yarn, an extra shower curtain rod can be a very handy thing. I have a spare rod installed well above the shower head in the guest bathroom. I'm not afraid to frog and reuse yarn, and it is nice to be able to hang it up, let it drip into the tub below, and forget about it. If you install two or three rods, you'll even have enough support to drip dry a sweater or shawl. And if you hang them high enough, you don't have to take them down to use the shower. These can be found at most hardware or big box home improvement stores.

Have a very happy gift-giving season everyone!