Bead Story

I have been knitting the Edith’s Secret shawl (without any side trips into other projects!!!) all week. I am through the stripes and the totally new to me Diamond Tweed stitch, and finally the time has come for lace. Lace means beads. Yeah, beads!!! I have been looking forward to this since I got the shawl started. I went to the bead store Tuesday to pick up a nice selection of beads to play with as I wasn’t sure what I would want when I got down that far on the shawl.

Cat
As usual my cat MacKenzie has moved in to supervise my knitting (and to deposit some more cat hair just in case there wasn’t enough in the knitting…) Doesn’t he look irritated with me? I had just admonished him to leave that ball of yarn alone!

After asking around I narrowed the bead contenders down to a purple matte finish bead and a shiny light amethyst bead. Gee, everyone at my knitting group felt that the darker purple bead would be best, but I wasn’t sure if I would like that much contrast. Also, I kind of like the pink in the yarn and would like to highlight it if I can. To further complicate things the shawl pattern directions include a chart of the lace with the sweet note that “beads are appropriate in this section” with no notation of where to put them. Yep, a little knitted sampler was in order.

That’s how I ended up knitting at the table with MacKenzie. This lace is English Mesh, and the pattern is pretty simple. It is little tear-drops surrounded by yarn-overs and it seemed to me that it would be good to put the bead at the top of the double decrease in the pattern, or perhaps in the middle of two yarn-overs.

Lace with beads.
Here’s the sampler with the purple beads placed in a couple of different places: at the bottom of the swatch the beads are right above the double decrease, and in the middle they are between the yarn-overs. The amethyst beads (the lighter ones at the top of the swatch) are placed just above the double decrease.

This is what the beads look like next to the shawl.

Purple beads and lace.
Purple beads with lace next to the shawl. They don’t stand out as much as I thought they would. The strip of knitting right above the needle is the infamous Diamond Tweed stitch which I had to frog twice while knitting. It is pretty, isn’t it. Worth every “ribbit”.
Beads and Lace.
Amethyst beads with the lace against the shawl. See how the pink in the yarn is more noticeable?

Well, after all of that it was easy for me to make my decision. If I am going to do all of the work to put these beads into the lace I will be using the beads that have a little flash to them: the amethyst beads win! I have also decided to place the beads right above the double decrease (sl 1, k2tog, psso) in the lace pattern. That means that the bead is placed onto the stitch in question on the following purl row using a little crochet hook right before I purl that stitch. Here’s a video tutorial showing how to do that if you’ve never tried it before.

Yeah! Time to start knitting this on the actual shawl. Edith, here I come!!

WIP Wednesday: Edith’s Secret Update

Sunday my current shawl project failed a reality check big time, got frogged and then I rebooted the entire project with new yarn. One of the factors in the first effort’s meltdown was the extreme attentiveness (and shedding) of the cats, and between one things and another I was almost 30 stitches off the stitch count. Since Sunday the weather has been great, the cats are outside most of the day and then sleep in the afternoons when they come back in. Prime knitting weather!!

Sleeping Cats
Here they are all tuckered out after spending the morning on a bug hunt outdoors. Guess who is the problem child leaving his fur all over the house?

I’m still working on Edith’s Secret by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich, and have now knitted through the first three clues and I am still exactly on the correct stitch count!!! Yeah! I have made a little chart for myself to track the colors and increases, and have been counting stitches every 4th row, and it has paid off big time.

Shawl
Here is the shawl the way it was Sunday at the end of Clue #1. 
Stripes
I am now at the end of Clue #3. You can see that right now it is all stripes that become more narrow as you go down the shawl. This is the end of the stripes; tomorrow I start knitting something called “diamond tweed” and then it is on to lace. Gosh, I love lace.
Stripes and Beads
Lace means beads. What do you guys think about these beads? I’m thinking of mixing the two colors together and then putting them into the lace (which will be the grey yarn) randomly color-wise.

Edith’s Secret is a shawl in 7 parts (clues). Tomorrow I’m going to my favorite yarn shop for knitting group and I hope to get another section of the shawl done. Woo-hoo! I just love it when a knitting project comes together.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Morning: cat hair, finished mitts and a shawl reboot

I started a lot of projects last week and then went out and bought a tons of yarn. What a week I had. The weather is finally warming up, birds have come back to Colorado, the first green shoots have appeared in my garden, and the cats and I are spending afternoons outside.

Buff Cat
Doesn’t he look innocent? Morgan is a rescue cat of mixed heritage. He has a pot-belly, a bob-tail and Maine Coon fur. This cat also seems to produce his entire body weight in shed fur every spring.

My long-haired cat Morgan, bought to be a companion to my over-active and complex cat MacKenzie, has decided he now wants to be a lap cat. He is also shedding like there is no tomorrow. Everything I am knitting is getting covered with blond hair and some of it is now knit into the fabric. Of course this is interfering with my knitting zen, but the weather is so nice and Morgan is so sweet I’m just kind of dealing with it and am knitting a midst the cloud of cat down.

Mitts
I made some changes to my easy mitt pattern so they would hug my hand better. I love how the simple stockinette shows off the yarn. Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

I finished my fingerless mitts on Friday, and that evening I got through the first clue of the shawl that I am knitting. This shawl, called Edith’s Secret, was originally a MKAL meant to be knitted during Downton Abbey this season. Because it was a MKAL the pattern is organized into seven clues. With a thrill of accomplishment at the end of a fabulous Friday night knitting marathon I picked off as much cat hair as I could from the shawl,  and counted my stitches to make sure everything was on track.

Shawl
Looks good, but seriously off the pattern. Yikes!!

Oh,  no!!!  Almost 30 stitches off from where I should be. Morgan was dumped off my lap, I laid out all the pages of the pattern (yep, another battle with the cat and the pages of paper on the floor…) and started making a diagram with little boxes and stitch counts to figure out what had happened. Seriously, how was it possible to mess up this seriously? I blame the cat, of course!!

Everything was frogged. Both cats thought this was a new game. I calmly reminded myself that ripping out my own hair wouldn’t improve matters, and finally got everything back into two balls.

Here's the frogged yarn. See all the cat hair in it?
Here’s the frogged yarn. See all the cat hair in it?

Hey, that grey ball doesn’t look big enough. Maybe I should check the label again… Are you kidding me? The yardage is 50 yards too short!

Suddenly the cat is back in my good graces again. Wow. If I hadn’t made soooo many mistakes that I ended up frogging this shawl I would have had a crisis down the road when I ran out of that yarn. And besides, there is a silver lining to all of this: I get to go back to the yarn store!!

Back to the yarn store I went Saturday afternoon. I took several yarn candidates with me with the hopes of making a good match with a contrasting yarn that would work for the shawl. It was a great visit, I found the perfect yarn, connected with an old friend while I was there, and bought even more fabulous yarn!! I got the new shawl yarn wound at the store, came home, bribed Morgan with kitty treats, and cast on again.

Yarn for the shawl
This purple/pink handpaint yarn was one of the original contenders for the shawl. I was able to match it with this light grey colored yarn.
Shawl
Here is the shawl this morning at the end of Clue #1. I think that I will like this even better than the first effort.

Wow, what a difference. I’m really happy with how this looks, I’m positive that I have enough yarn, and Morgan and Mackenzie have been running around outside so I’ve been able to concentrate on the pattern while I was knitting. What a great ending to a frogged project. I definitely need to give Morgan some more kitty treats!

Oh, the color of the grey yarn that I bought to go with the purple handpaint from my stash?

It’s called Silver Lining.

 

In Pursuit of Joy: Out of Control (Part 2)

Control is a thing that is highly over-rated. I was a classroom teacher and learned to just get over it. The art is to savor the chaos and to keep steering things along in the right direction while understanding that learning, successes and growth come at their own rate. Knitting, scleroderma, life: lay your best plans, hope for the best, but know that dropped stitches, hail storms, and bad lab reports are a fact of life. Surrender to joy when you find it, and don’t sweat the other stuff.

It’s been 6 months since my diagnosis for limited systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), and for the most part it hasn’t been all that rocky. I got through the first round of medical testing with only three hospital bracelets, my doctors were nice and mostly informative, and some of my symptoms have subsided thanks to the immunosuppressents  that I am on. New symptoms have appeared, however, and some surprising results showed up in routine blood work drawn two weeks ago. (OK, I was surprised. Now that I think about it, this is why there was so much medical testing 6 months ago. My rheumatologist was probably expecting this…) Even through I was warned to stay off the internet (really, they thought that would work?), I pursued the possible causes for the test results and went to PubMed to find out if there was a correlation with my symptoms, the test results and the auto-antibody profile that I have.

Well, crap!

OK, now I have a list of specific questions to ask the rheumatologist when I go see him next week. The internet can be a scary place, and sometimes ignorance is bliss, but I think that it is best to tackle these things head on so that I can make informed decisions. Still, I was a sad puppy at the start of the week which was one of the reasons I cast on new projects that facilitated smooth knitting and a zen like calm. Three projects at once? Sure. It’ll be fun!

Yesterday I decided that it was time to fight back; I packed up my purse, my knitting, and headed out to find some joy. Where can these things be found? At the local nursery and my favorite yarn store, of course!!

Plant
This kalanchoe is moving into the bedroom to keep me company in the mornings while I drink my latte and read in bed. (Oh, I am so retired!)

Look at the plant that I found! Happy, happy colors. I bought this and a cute little cyclamen in a hot pink.

Then I headed off to Colorful Yarns in nearby Centennial, Colorado where I knew ladies gathered to knit together on Wednesday afternoons. Oh my goodness, what a good idea that was. I had a great time knitting, was inspired by the yarns and projects of the other ladies and was even was treated to a decadent snack. (Rice crispy treats made with Nutella and drizzled with chocolate! Hello… if you are hunting joy, chocolate is always a hot ticket!!  This recipe looks like what she made. Yumm!!) I made some friends and will definitely be going back next week.  And the best thing? I was in a yarn store!!

No one should ever go into a yarn store while facing down mortality-related issues linked to their health status! Ever!! You can predict what happened here…

There was a whole section with newly-arrived cashmere blend yarns. Oh dear.
There was a whole section with newly-arrived cashmere blend yarns. Some with sparkle. Oh dear.
Yarn
Gradient dyed yarn! I have to make a lace crescent shaped shawl (with beads) out of this yarn. There was a striped hat set in matching colors that will let me make a hat and mitts in the same colors. How can I walk away from something like that? Black winter coat, you never had it so good!!
Green Yarn
I had never heard of this yarn label before. Hello, beautiful. This yarn is to dye for!! It is cashmere/silk/merino, and if ever there was a yarn that wanted to become art, this is it.
Blue yarn
Same label, but all merino. Won’t this make a happy pair of socks? It’s hard to see in the picture, but the colors just glow.
Cofetti Yarn
It is not possible to walk out of this store without some Zen Yarn Garden. This is 20% cashmere, and the colors are happiness guaranteed. This colorway is called confetti. 🙂
Yarn Haul
Here is the entire yarn haul hanging out with me while I eat lunch outside with my cat MacKenzie. How much fun (and out of control) is this? You are looking at JOY, people!

Time to cast on even more projects!! It is time for me to knit, knit like the wind.

This is me spitting in the eye of scleroderma.

Wednesday Update: I am now officially out of control!

What can I say. I started a shawl that I really, really was obsessing over. I had some nice variegated yarn that I struggled to match with another yarn. I finally settled on a beautiful grey and started knitting on it. But… I am a big sucking baby about struggling with the color changes. I mean, you have to cut the yarn and attach another one. There are ends to knit in. It is so interfering with my zen of knitting.

Shawl
This is my Edith’s Secret shawl that was the Downton Abbey MKAL from Jimmy Bean’s Wools this year.

So, in a fit of “whatever” (did you read that with an internal “Valley Girl” voice? That’s the spirit!) I cast on two more projects that would be fast, portable, and involving NO yarn color changes. (See, I am being a baby about this). Here they are:

Fingerless mitts
I’m making these simple finger-less mitts to match my latest Hitchhiker shawl. The cashmere blend yarn is the leftover from the shawl, and I’m using plain stockinette as I have learned it shows off the yarn well.
Socks
The BFF socks that I made for the March New Year’s resolution turned out so cute that I cast on again with this cashmere blend yarn from MJ Yarns. March is Colorado’s snowiest month, and another pair of socks always comes in handy, right?

I now have three projects going and very little progress to show for any of them.

Whatever. It’s all about the zen, anyway. 🙂

Here are the links to my project notes for each of these.

Shawl: Edith’s Secret

Socks: Fire Dragon BFF

Finger-less MItts: Serendipitous Phenomenology Mitts This is a pattern that I’m writing down as I go in the Ravelry project page.

 

House of Cards Special: March Socks are Done!

I just couldn’t wait for the new season of House of Cards. Frank and Claire, it has been just too long without you! Luckily for me Netflix posted the new season just in time for me to cast on my New Year’s resolution March 2015 socks. Yeah! I knitted through all of the episodes over the last week and last night I finished off the toe of the last sock with some Kitchener stitch, put them on my feet and watched the end of the season (and all the big reveals) with about 30 minutes to spare. I don’t want to be a spoiler, so I’m not going to say anything about the show other than to say that Claire definitively needs some knitwear. Good grief, don’t you think that it would be nice to let the First Lady wear a nice cardigan or even a pair of knitted socks on occasion? Isn’t she entitled to some cushy joy in the breaks between campaign stops? Just saying…

Here are my socks. These are definitely cushy joy on the hoof. 🙂

Socks
Look at those cables. These are socks that you can love for a long time.
Socks
and here’s the flat view. I wasn’t sure I would like the cables on my foot, but they are really comfy in my shoes. There is a lot of stretch and give in the socks which makes them really non-restrictive.

Project Details:

Sock pattern: BFF by Cookie A from the book knit. sock. love.

Yarn: Shibui Knits Sock in colorway Peony

FO: Embellished Alpaca Half-finger Mitts

I knit myself a pair of half-finger mitts a couple of weeks ago using the pattern posted by Andre Sue on her website. The pattern is called Tipsy, and includes both a plain and a fancy ribbed version. I modified the plain version to make myself these mitts from Blue Sky Alpacas sport weight yarn with some modifications. Here’s my project page on Ravelry where I noted my modifications.

Alpaca Mitts
Here’s my finished mitts. They fit great, are really warm, and I like them. Don’t they look a little plain?

I decided to try to embellish the mitts to jazz them up a little. I hunted through my knitting books and found directions for knitted and crocheted flowers. A dig through the stash produced a light grey alpaca lace yarn, and after some false starts and a lot of anxiety with the crochet flower I finally produced some.

Small Knitted Flowers
I used the pattern for small knitted flowers found in Louisa Harding’s Knitting in the Details to make these.
The pattern for this flower was found in Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 6.
The pattern for this flower was found in Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 6 (it is pattern #203, “Flower Show”)

I spent the afternoon arranging things onto the mitts, and here is the first one.

Embellished mitts
Looking good!! These will look very cute with my black cold weather coat.

Fun, huh! Almost too cute to wear.