UFO Rescue: Week 3. Hell hath no fury like an unloved sock…

OK, this was hell week. I took these cute, cute, cute lace socks out of their storage bag and decided that I would finish them up this week. The needles in the sock are a set of my new square double-pointed ones, and I really kind of wanted them back. I had the first sock worked all the way through the heel, and it seemed like it wouldn’t take that long to get them done.

Twisted Flower UFO
Here is the UFO as I took it out of the bag. Once I had figured out where I was in the pattern I was ready to start knitting.

These socks are the Twisted Flower pattern in Cookie A’s book knit.sock.love. I loved the socks as soon as I saw them in the book. The pattern is really interesting, and the design is cleverly laid out to make the pattern flow onto the heel and down the foot. The chart and directions are extremely clear. Fun! I couldn’t wait to get started on these socks again.

Oh, boy. It wasn’t long before I remembered why these socks went UFO in the first place. The problem was the yarn. I had bought this hand-dyed Bluefaced Leicester yarn at a local shop as I thought that the color was really nice.  Once I got into the pattern, however, it displayed some truly unsavory yarn qualities. It was a 4-ply fingering weight yarn, and should have been round enough to show off the pattern well. Well, the yarn was round, but something ugly had occurred in the dyeing process (I think) and it had the sullen personality of garden twine.  There was absolutely no bounce in this yarn at all! It was stiff and slippery; at every opportunity a stitch slipped off a needle and unraveled down three rows in the blink of an eye. The individual  plies of the yarn kept springing apart from one another and I kept splitting the yarn with my needle.

This sock pattern has tons of personality and detail.
This sock pattern has tons of personality and detail.

Then there was the beautiful pattern designed by Cookie A.  This pattern involves lace on every knitted row, cables, twisted stitches and a partridge in a pear tree. You need to read the chart forwards and backwards while manipulating the (slippery) little stitches. There was no way I could watch television while knitting; every bit of my attention needed to be focused on the chart and the sock. Normally this isn’t an issue as this type of knitting has a zen-Iike meditative quality, but things weren’t working out for me with the demon yarn. I had to use five double-pointed needles and a cable needle while working;  I tried four different cable needles trying to find one that wouldn’t slip out. Yeah, right. The cable needle that I needed doesn’t exist.   I began to pull on my hair and refer to socks as THE HELL SOCKS.  More than once they came very close to entering orbit and becoming true UFOs!

Knitted Sock
Too cool for shoes. These babies will be my reading buddies next winter.

Beautiful socks. Wrong yarn. I’m thinking now that I should have washed this yarn before using it to help it recover some of its life before I started knitting.  Oh well, lesson learned.

Tomorrow I am washing these socks to see what will happen. They are beautiful, but I am never putting these babies into shoes. They will grace my feet with their beautiful lace on cold nights while I am reading and remind me that art never shows how long it took, only how good a job you did.

 

 

 

UFO Rescue: Week 2

For the second week of rescue knitting I picked up a shawl that I had started last fall. It fell to the wayside when the weather got colder and I started working on Christmas presents and socks for the winter. Ignored and forgotten (and wearing some of my favorite stitch markers!) it  ended up getting stuffed into the back of the yarn stash closet.

Princess Shawl
UFO shawl and pattern the day I pulled it back out of the bag.

Poor thing! Hard to remember why it was abandoned in the first place.  It’s kind of a cool pattern, the lace was pretty easy to learn once I was past the edging, and I like that hand-painted pink yarn (Malabrigo Arroyo).  I only had about a foot of the shawl knitted, so this was a little bigger project than the ones I did last week, but still not too bad. I thought I should be able to make a lot of progress on it in a week.

English Rose
Princess Alexandra of Kent rose in my garden.

I took the shawl out to work on in the garden, and there it was. One of my new roses was blooming, and the color was close to that of the shawl.  The name of the rose is  “Princess Alexandra of Kent”, and the colorway of the shawl yarn is  “English rose”. Wow! Synchronicity! Obviously this UFO was meant to be rescued at exactly this moment.

Knitted Shawl
The finished shawl in my garden. I just love how international it is. The pattern is Norwegian, the yarn is  from Uruguay, the yarn colorway is “English rose”, and I’ll be wearing it here in Colorado.

I named the shawl project “Princess Alexandra of Kent Shawl” on Ravelry and got to work. I knit like crazy all week, and the shawl was finished today. Time to prune the rose and to dive back into the UFO pile to find a project for the rest of the week. I think that I’ll do a sock next…

UFO Rescue: Week 1

Monday I waded into the pile of UFOs that I had located in my big hunt last week, and pulled out two projects that I thought I could finish fairly quickly. I’ll be honest: I was motivated by needle recovery more than anything else. These two items are pretty easy to knit, so I thought I would be able to work on them while watching television.  Here they are.

Ugly MItts

I really liked this yarn when  bought it. It’s a single ply yarn that is soft, soft, soft. I liked it so much that I  bought two skeins and cast on to make a pair of mitts right away.

Yarn for the mitt
Malabrigo Worsted yarn in the colorway “Deja Vu”

The mitts did not show off the yarn very well. I knitted one mitt thinking that maybe the next one would look better. Nope. Not so much. I lost heart and quit about halfway through the second mitt.

Mitts with ugly yarn.
I decided that the yarn on these mitts was just too ugly to go on.

Well, enough is enough! Time to face the UFO pile down! I made myself a nice caramel latte, put some cookies on a plate by the latte mug and then pulled the mitts out of the storage bag. There, that wasn’t so bad. I finished knitting the second mitt while reading (so it wouldn’t be too painful), and then took them out for their picture. Funny, I was wearing a pink top and some moss green pants, and the mitts actually looked kind of nice. I’m thinking of maybe keeping the second skein of yarn and might make a cowl from it. It sure is soft yarn…

Finished Ugly Mitts
Finished mitts. They aren’t all that I hoped for when I bought the yarn, but they look better to me now than they did. 🙂

Bronco Baby Booties

I started these booties using yarn dyed by Luna Grey Fiber Arts in Denver Bronco football colors a few weeks ago, and then put them aside while knitting some fun socks for myself. The trouble is that the booties use the same size double-pointed needle (2.25 mm) as most of my socks. Since I just finished those origami socks (June Beetle), I decided to complete the booties while the needles were free. These are square needles, and I just love them as my hands never get tired and the stitches come out looking really even.

Baby booties made from the family pattern in Denver Bronco team colors.
Baby booties made from the family pattern in Denver Bronco team colors.

I kind of like knitting these booties as they remind me of my grandma, and I got them done this morning while it was raining outside. Yeah! Two UFOs moved to the finished objects pile.

Only 14 more UFOs to go…

If anyone else has been inspired to attack their UFO collection, let me know what you are working on. This is kind of fun.  🙂

UFO Hunt

It seems like all of my stitch markers have gone missing, and there are several empty knitting needle holders in my needle drawer. This is the point where I have been known to go out and buy more needles, but today I decided to take my courage in hand and to go on an UFO hunt.

Pile of UFOs
Here they are! This is the pile of the 16 UFOs that I located in my stash and craft room.

UFOs are, as every knitter knows, UnFinished Objects. Those knitted works in progress that fell out of favor one day and were pushed to the bottom of the knitting basket or the back of the stash cabinet. Basically, they are kind of unloved and abandoned. It happens for a lot of reasons: the knitted fabric wasn’t what was hoped for, the color was icky, the fit seemed unflattering, a difficult pattern caused headaches, a disheartening knitting error, and so on.

Mitts with ugly yarn.
I decided that the yarn on these mitts was just too ugly to go on. UFO status was instantly obtained!

Well, I tore the craft room and the stash closet apart and recovered all of those UFOs. Wow! This is what I got:

  • 4 sweaters
  • 3 shawl/scarfs
  • 2 vests
  • 3 socks
  • 1 baby bootie
  • 2 mitts
  • 1 lacy wrist cuff

Good grief! Sixteen UFOs! No wonder I don’t have any more stitch markers in my knitting bag.  I organized the UFOs into groups and made some decisions.

Sweater and hat partly knitted.
Some items I just don’t like but the yarn is worth saving. I’m going to rip them out and get the yarn back.
Pink UFOs
Some items were abandoned because they were demanding too much attention. I’m going to suck it up and finish these!
Scarf and Mitt
This scarf and mitt are really nice, but the yarn wasn’t working right in the design. The mitt will get a different finish at the top and the scarf will be re-knitted in a leaf lace pattern.

The biggest UFO of all was this Alice Starmore cardigan/coat that I have had packed away for over 15 years. I think that the Hunter Green color went out of fashion and I quit working on it. What was I thinking of?

Sweater detail
Beautiful Starmore sweater left to languish in the back of the stash.

This definitely needs to be finished; I was doing the decreases at the neckline when I packed it away! The steeks at the armholes look almost large enough for the sleeves. I don’t even know where the pattern is at anymore, but I must have it somewhere. Another hunt! 🙂 I packed the sweater away again to save for the winter and cold weather knitting. In a perfect world I’ll have it done before the end of the year.

Today I started on the ugly mitts as I want to get those needles back. If I just do one UFO every week or two I should have most of my needles and stitch markers back by the end of summer. It’s a plan!

June Beetle Socks

It’s the end of June. The weather is always interesting in Colorado, and I’ve spent the month working outside on landscaping projects and gardening in the late morning and early afternoons.  As the afternoon wears on I usually need to move inside to escape thunderstorms, and if they are bad enough I end up watching weather updates on the television while knitting.

Early in the month I saw a June Beetle in the garden. I haven’t seen one of these guys since I was a kid in Southern California when we would catch them, tie threads to their little upper bodies, and then fly them around like little pets. I was still thinking about the beetle when I cast on this yarn to make some new socks.

This yarn is mostly blue, but it has some green in it too which reminded me of the beetle. The yarn is from Hedgehog Fibers, which is an independent yarn studio located in Ireland. I decided to knit a sock pattern called “Origami” which uses a lace pattern that is Japanese in origin. The pattern comes from the book Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner.

Origami folds in sock.
The pattern makes the leg of the sock fold into a strange shape.
Lace sock.
The lace opens up once the sock is on.

As I knitted the socks and watched the thunderstorms bloom and thunder across Colorado on the weather radar I pondered the international connections open to me and other knitters. How fun this is! I made socks of Irish wool in a Japanese pattern to fit my fat little Swedish-American feet while watching thunderstorms in Colorado in a color that reminds me of my childhood in California. What a time to be alive.

Finished socks on feet.
Socks made with Irish wool in a Japanese pattern on my Swedish-American feet.

June is almost gone, the weather is beautiful and summery outside, and my socks are done. Time to go back into the garden to show them off to that June Beetle.

Cowl Study Part 2

What can I say? I had some more of the Freia yarn in a turquoise-blue-purple colorway called Blue Velvet, and a tube of beads that kind of looked like they would go with the yarn. The beads , size 6, are called Serenity Mix by Miyuki. I had to get knitting!

Beads on fabric of cowl.
These beads were a mixture of greens, purple, yellow and clear in pastel colors. Pretty good fit!

The last time I knit this cowl (Zuzu’s Petals by Carina Spencer) I was reaching the end of the cowl just as I arrived at the most flashy color in the ball of yarn. To get some of that color into the cowl I knitted a picot edging to use up more yarn and to make sure that I captured the color. I weighed the leftover yarn from the first cowl and discovered that it was 7 grams. To reduce the amount of light yarn for this new cowl, and to maximize the amount of purple color at the end of my cowl project, I pulled off 5 grams of yarn from the middle of the ball before I cast on.

I decided to attach the beads to only the lace portion of the cowl, and only in the part of the pattern that was one knit stitch with a yarn over to either side of it. (YO, K1, YO). To attach the bead I slipped a bead onto this isolated knit stitch with a small crochet hook, put the stitch back onto the knitting needle and then knitted it.  This placed the bead at the tip of the petals in the lace pattern.

Beads in Lace
I decided to place the beads into the lace so that they would be at the tip of the petals.

The edging of the cowl has a pattern of stacked YO,K1,YO sections. I added a new bead into each of these knit stitches.

Lace with beads.
Beads at the edge of the lace pattern. I put a bead into each YO,K1,YO part of the lace edging.

When I got to the end of the cowl I was just getting to the start of the purple yarn. Curses! I thought I was so clever to remove yarn at the start of the knitting, but it just didn’t work out for me . I had to put on another picot edging to get any of that purple onto the cowl. I weighed the leftover yarn again when I was done knitting, and there was 5 grams left over. I must have knitted tighter, or the yarn was a little thinner (this is one-ply rustic spun yarn), or… Such is life in the knitting universe.  Clever tricks will just get you so far. Another lesson learned.

Finished Cowl
Here’s the finished cowl. I just barely got that purple color in, and had to bind off with the picot edging again to do it.

Now I’m wondering what it would look like if I added beads in a scattered fashion through out the stockinette portion at the beginning of the cowl?  Heading to the yarn stash to see what I can find. 🙂

Cowl Study

For some inexplicable reason I have suddenly gotten stuck on cowls.  Never mind it is already spring and summer is on the way. I seem to only be interested in cowls, scarfs and socks. I put the socks onto the back burner last week and dived into cowls.

I have had this nice pink yarn for a few months now, and couldn’t seem to find the right project. Dream in Color “Perfectly Posh” yarn: it is made of merino wool, mohair, silk, and cashmere not that I’m letting that intimidate me. Then while poking around the patterns at my local yarn store I discovered a nice pattern for a lace cowl that looks a little like a scarf with the back point tied to the front. That’s a look that I really like, so I bought the pattern Zuzu’s Petals. Here’s the finished product.

Finished cowl made from Dream in Color "Perfectly Posh" yarn.
Finished cowl made from Dream in Color “Perfectly Posh” yarn.

See, it looks just like a little scarf, but it is a cowl with a narrow back. Perfect to wear over tops with a cardigan or jacket.

Detail of the cowl. I added a picot bind-off to the original pattern.
Detail of the cowl. I added a picot bind-off to the original pattern.

Well, it was hard to not notice that the original cowl pattern was designed to display yarn that changed colors gradually, so I just had to buy a couple of cakes of Freia Handpaint Yarn even though I have more yarn in my stash than I can knit in my lifetime. I ended up with the colorways Conchinilla and Blue Velvet .

I think that the cowl really shines with the color changes. I was running out of cowl just as I arrived at the brightest magenta yarn so I added a picot bind-off again.
I think that the cowl really shines with the color changes. I was running out of cowl just as I arrived at the brightest magenta yarn so I added a picot bind-off again.

I just love the way the colors change in the cowl.

I plan to wear this with a navy cardigan next fall.
I plan to wear this with a navy cardigan next fall.

I can’t help but wonder what the cowl will look like with beads added, so tonight I started another version of the same cowl in the Blue Velvet colorway of the Freia yarn. Hey, it is a cowl study. I’m just surrendering to this thing without giving it too much thought. I wonder what I can find in my yarn stash for the next cowl after the beaded one? I think that I have some silk/wool yarn that I got on sale a couple of years ago…

 

Swedish Knitting Genes

I grew up in the world of knitting. The neighbor was having a baby? Baby booties were produced like magic. I needed a red sweater to match a new outfit for school? Ta-da! It arrived in the mail from my grandma. I didn’t know there was any other type of dishrag than the knitted kind. When mohair sweaters became popular, a fluffy pink one arrived under the Christmas tree. All the women of my family knitted, and suddenly, around the age of 8, I was a knitter too. I made slippers for everyone, made clothes for my dolls, and began to collect my own knitting needles and yarn. There were some off years, but by the time I was a mom myself there was hardly a day when I didn’t find some time to knit.

Hey, it’s not like I had a choice in any of this. This is the fault of my mom, her mother and all those ancestors living in the Swedish countryside who passed down these knitting genes. I think that  knitting was probably a survival skill back in Sweden, but once the family was in America and located in the desert Southwest the knitting continued. It’s hot in New Mexico and Southern California, so a lot of that knitting  was done for the house (placemats, bedspreads, pillows, and even a tablecloth) and gifts. In general, if there was spare time and you couldn’t read, some knitting got done: obviously a genetic trait!

Knitting Heritage
My knitting heritage: a placemat made by my mom, a knitting pattern from grandma, and antique wooden needle case and wrapper.

I received a lot of  knitting artifacts from my mother, aunt, and grandmother as the years went by and their knitting stopped. I have antique patterns, old needles and hooks, and even an ancient darning egg. I still have some of the things that they knitted, and a little collection of patterns that my grandmother knit up and sent to my mom over the years. Of all the girls in the family, I am the only one who is a compulsive knitter, and so I got the stash. The knitting gene must be a recessive one I guess.

Pink Baby Botties
Superwash wool booties made from Malabrigo Arroyo on 3.0 mm needles for a 3 month old baby.

One of the patterns that I remember the best from my childhood is for a baby bootie that my grandmother used to make. The big deal about the bootie was that it was kick-proof and it stretched as the baby grew so that it could be worn for a few months. My mom and her sister also made these booties, and the pattern (oral tradition only – I never saw this thing in writing!) was explained over and over to me. I’m not an auditory learner, and I never caught on until the booties for my own boys arrived. Then suddenly I understood the pattern as I tied the little booties onto their tiny feet. Clever, clever, clever. The whole bootie is constructed in one piece and definitely performs as advertised. I loved these booties and used them until the boys were walking. Now I make them for other people.

White Baby Booties
Bootie made from KnitPicks Stroll on 2.25 mm needles for a newborn.

This weekend I made two pairs of the booties for the office manager at my car repair shop, who needs to give them to new mothers as baby gifts. They are just little booties, but they are so much more than that. They are the past, the present and the future all at once. They are my connection to the women of my family who gave me the pattern and the Swedish knitting genes. With each stitch that goes into them the gift lives on.

The baby bootie pattern was written up by Christine Bourquin, a woman about the same age as my grandmother, and was published as a letter to the editor of a magazine in 1989. The pattern and more information can be found online at Fuzzy Galore. There is also a great online tutorial posted by Major Knitter. I wonder if Christine was Swedish?

Just Desserts: Serenity Socks

What can I do? I went to my favorite yarn store over the weekend, and they had this absolutely fabulous sock yarn in colors to dye for made by Zen Yarn Garden . I have a lot of sock yarn already, but sometimes a skein is so unique and perfect that I just can’t pass it by; I just know that I will never see it again. This yarn was called Serenity 20 and it was 20% cashmere, 70% superwash merino wool and 10% nylon. In other words, a yarn that is wonderful to touch, can be machine washed and will wear well. I found a skein that was extremely interesting, put it back on the shelf, and then took it down to look over at least twice more before I decided that it needed to go home with me. It was part of what they call their Art Walk Series, which I think means that the yarn is dyed in colorways that invoke specific works of art. This skein is inspired by Ice Cream Dessert by Andy Warhol.

This is the label that came with the skein of yarn.
This is the label that came with the skein of yarn.

Not a great shot, but you can sort of see the colors in the picture; the yarn is dyed in these same colors, and these colors go with almost everything in my wardrobe. I love mauve and plum colors, am constantly in denim jeans and darker blues, so the colors are perfect matches. The socks made from this yarn will blend in with most of the things that I wear. To be honest, now that I am retired, everything that I wear goes with jeans!

So, here is the yarn.

Ice Cream Yarn Closeup

The socks that I decided to knit are my old favorite, Chouwa from the book Knitted Socks East and West. I love this book, and have made several of the different patterns, but Chouwa is my go-to pattern. The socks always fit and wear well, no matter what yarn I am using. I know it so well that I can knit away while watching TV or reading. The word “chouwa” means harmony, and what could be a better match for a yarn called Serenity?

Here's the finished sock!
Here’s the finished sock!

I knit the socks while watching Firefly. (I’ve been watching all the old Firefly episodes because I just read some books that reminded me of the show). As it turns out, this was the perfect show to be watching while making these socks. I mean, what else can you watch while knitting socks made with Serenity yarn? Can’t help but think that the crew would have enjoyed some ice cream dessert and that while the socks invoke the harmony of the tea ceremonies that Inara conducts, they would have been a favorite worn by Kaylee while working in the engine room.

How Many Yards?

How much yarn is in that mitt?

So, I’ve gotten a little crazy with the mitt making. I’ve been making them while I watch television or read; basically they are something that I can produce while watching television or reading as they are kind of automatic knitting. Since I have so much yarn in the stash, they are kind of a stash buster at the same time. The only problem with this is that I don’t like making the thumbs as I need to focus a little on what I’m doing to make them. That’s how I found myself with 10 pairs of mitts without thumbs.

Unfinished Mitts
After knitting in the thumbs I still had to weave in all the ends to finish the mitts.

Good grief! I had to spend the entire weekend working on thumbs to get them finished. I watched all the episodes of Firefly again and settled into the project. While I was working I started to wonder just how much yarn was in each pair of mitts.

I have a little electronic balance that I use when dying yarn (to figure the amount of dye to use for the weight of dry fiber), and realized that I could use it to measure the number of yards of yarn in the mitts. I had already started using the balance to determine if I had enough yarn left in a ball to knit another mitt by weighing one mitt, and then the ball of yarn. If the ball weighs more than the mitt, there is enough! With a little calculator action and some simple algebra I could use the balance to get my yardage.

Mitts on the balance.
I weighed both mitts together on the balance with unwoven ends attached.

Since I had so many pairs of mitts that were made of the same yarn (but different colors…) I was able to weigh all 10 pairs and then figure the average. These mitts (the Darwinian Mitts pattern on this blog)  made in Malabrigo Rios yarn weigh 43 grams each. To make sure I was measuring the amount of yarn needed in the construction of the mitt and not just the yarn in the finished mitt I weighed them before weaving in and trimming off all the loose ends.

Now for the math! Malabrigo Rios comes in 100 gram skeins with about 210 yards according to the wrapper. I’m just going to take their word for this. Since my mitt weighs 43 grams, and if I use “X” to stand for the number of yards of yarn in my mitts, the relationship can be expressed as:

mitt math_1Then if I cross multiply so that I can solve for “X” I get:

mitt math_2This can be cleaned up by cancelling out the grams and dividing the 43 by 100 to convert it to a decimal. That leaves:

mitt math_3Which forced me to use a calculator. When I multiplied the numbers I discovered that in this case:

mitt math_4Which is the number of yards of yarn I need to create these mitts. This is great, as I have some skeins lurking in the stash that are right around 100 yards, and I think that I will put some of them on the needles to see what they look like as mitts.

Now that I have worked this out I think that I see the pattern that I can use to do future calculations. If I know how many yards are in 100 grams of yarn, and I weigh my knitted item to get the number of grams in it, I just need to move the decimal place over two places to the left on the weight of my knitted article, and then multiply that number by the yardage in 100 grams of yarn. Fast, easy, simple.