Wednesday, December 31, 2008

FO: Red Chemo Turban

One more chemo cap cast on, started on December 26 and finished December 30. Amazing what you can accomplish when you have to sit in a dentist's office and then a doctor's office in the same day.

This is another turban knitted from the Esprit Chemo Turban pattern. Like the last one I did in white, the completed ribbed band isn't as long as the pattern calls for when I was done knitting up two balls of Esprit, but it does stretch sufficiently to fit around the head, since the yarn is cotton with elastic.

I think this is the last one I'll knit for this project. I need a little time to wash and disinfect them before shipping them off. I'm also hankering to knit something for myself again!

Friday, December 26, 2008

FO: Man's Chemo Cap (with free pattern)

I've been working away on the chemo cap project and decided that the ball of navy Elann Esprit was going to be a man's cap. Looking at all the caps people have knitted for the project, I'm seeing many women's caps and some unisex caps. They needed some "guy" caps, so I came up with this pattern. It took a bit of work to come up with a set of decreases at the top that I liked. I hope the instructions are clear enough.

If you substitute yarns, be aware that Elann Esprit is elasticized cotton yarn and this cap relies on the stretchy fabric that the elastic produces. If done in another yarn, it might not stretch enough, though it would make a dandy boy's cap.

Man's chemo cap

This cap borrows a portion of the subtle cabling from the Earl Grey Socks on the Yarn Harlot website. If you find this pattern useful, please visit the Yarn Harlot's blog and make a donation to Doctors Without Borders. Thanks.

1 ball Elann Esprit 50 gr ball, navy
Size 7 16" circular needle
Set of 4 size 7 DPNs

Cast on 80 stitches. Join, being careful not to twist the stitches. Knit K2 P2 ribbing for 3 inches. On the last round, place markers every 16 stitches (divides hat in to 5 sections).

On next round, begin cable pattern. Do one cable pattern after each marker. Adjust markers if needed so that K and P sts of first cable round match K and P sts of ribbing, so cabling emerges from the ribbing. Knit all stitches up to next marker.

TR (twist right) = K the 2nd stitch on the left needle, K the first stitch, slide both off together.
CR = P the 2nd stitches on left needle, K the first stitch, slide them off together.
CL = K the 2nd stitch on the left needle, P the first, slide them off together

Round 1: *p1, k2, p2, k2, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 2: *p1, TR, p2, TR, p1, k8* 5 times
Rounds 3,4,5: *p1, k2, p2, k2,p1, k8* 5 times
Round 6: *p1, TR, p2, TR, p1, k8* 5 times
Rounds,7,8,9: *p1, k2, p2, k2 ,p1, k8* 5 times
Round 10: *p1, TR, p2, TR, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 11: *p1, k2, p2, k2, p1, k8*, k8* 5 times
Round 12: *p1, k1, CL, CR, k1, p1* 5 times (correction added)
Round 13: *p1, k1, p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 14: *p1, k1, p1, TR, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 15,16,17: *p1, k1, p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 18: *p1, k1, p1, TR, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Rounds 19,20,21: *p1,k1,p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 22: *p1, k1, p1, TR, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 23: *p1, k1, p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 24: *p1, k1, CR, CL, k1, p1, k8* 5 times

Continue in pattern for two pattern repeats (about 4 1/2 inches). Begin decrease rounds, continuing cable pattern for the next eight rows.
Round 1: Continue pattern over first 8 stitches after each marker, K2tog, K6
Round 2: Continue pattern over first 8 stitches after each marker, K5, ssk
Continue decreases in this manner, making K2tog decreases on odd rows at the start of the knit panels and ssk decreases on even rows at the end of the knit panels until there is only 1 stitch between the cable panels.
Next round: *P1, K2, P2tog, K2, P1, K1* repeat around
Next round: *P1, K2tog, P1, ssk, P1, K1* repeat around
Next round: K2tog all around
Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail. Use a tapestry needle to run the tail through the remaining live stitches. Pull tight, secure ends.

If you want to make the hat larger:
- to make the hat bigger around, cast on an additional 16 stitches and work 6 repeats every round.
- to make the hat longer in the crown, add another pattern repeat.

FO: Kitty toys (with free pattern)

Yes, I was a busy little crafter while I was sick and snowed in. The kitties had their share -- a handful of kitty toys stuffed with catnip and fiberfill for them to chase around the house.

Chain 3, join ends.
Round 1: Chain 2, SC in the loop about 8 times.
Rounds 2 and 3: Ch 2, SC twice in 1 stitch, SC in next stitch around
Rounds 4, 5, 6: Ch 2, SC around
Rounds 7, 8: Ch 2, SC in next 2 sts, skip 1 stitch around
Stuff with fiberfill and catnip after round 7
Round 9: Ch 2, SC in next st, skip next st around
Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail. Thread through last loop on the hook. Use a tapestry needle to close the hole at the top, and weave ends in.

ETA: Alternately, instead of chaining 2 at the start of each round you can work the entire toy in a spiral. Just be sure to use a marker to mark the beginning of each round so you know when to increase and decrease.

FO: A Hat for James (with free pattern)

It was the Christmas that almost wasn't. I was stuck in the house with pneumonia. Then it snowed. Then we had an ice storm that covered everything in a thick layer of ice and shattered numerous trees in the neighborhood, including the more-or-less dead crabapple in our front yard (that really needed taking down anyway). Then on Sunday evening (Winter solstice, the longest night of the year of course) the power went out.

And stayed out.

And stayed out.

For three nights the DH and I huddled around the fireplace and found out first-hand that yes, most of the heat from a fire in a brick fireplace really does go up the chimney. A little battery-powered fan would have been very useful. A big ol' generator would have been even more useful to get the gas furnace to kick on and keep the deep freeze running. (On this summer's to-do list: have a fireplace insert installed and research generators.) The real saving grace was that we have a gas water heater that doesn't rely on the electrical system to work, so we had hot showers and used a tub full of hot water to heat the bathroom so we had a warm place to put the birds.

On top of that, my son James was stuck in Portland, 45 miles to the north, snowed in. Worse still, he was at a friend's house instead of his own apartment where he'd gotten by bus. The bus routes were shut down because of ice and snow, so James couldn't get home to change his clothes, pick up presents, and come home.

I had no Christmas baking done, no Christmas tree up (though we had a tree -- guy at the tree lot a few blocks away saw that we'd walked to the lot and delivered a tree for us with his tractor), and little to go in the stockings. But dagnabit, I had yarn and was determined to get something nice into my son's stocking. Some Lion Brand Cotton Ease became the mini-cabled hat in the picture above. So yes, James did make it home because...

...on the 24th, just as we were wondering if we should check into a motel, the power came on. The next morning, James' girlfriend borrowed her mother's car with studded tires and drove him home for Christmas. The two best Christmas presents EVER. My mom had us over for Christmas dinner, and my brother stopped by on his way up to Seattle the day before and dropped off cookies. So while it was slapped together at the last hour, Christmas happened.

A Hat for James
Since I had no power, I had no internet access to look up nifty patterns, and so I made up the pattern on the fly. I tried several times to get a decrease pattern at the top that I liked. I hope people can follow what I worked out. Here it is:

Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, 1 skein
Size 8 16" circular needles
Size 8 DPNs

TR (twist right): Over two knit stitches, knit into the second stitch on the left needle, then knit the first stitch, then slide both stitches onto the right needle.
ssk: slip, slip, knit (right-slanting decrease)
K2tog: knit two together (left-slanting decrease)

Cast on 80 stitches onto circular needles (or onto 3 DPNs). Join, being careful not to twist the stitches. Place a marker at the beginning of the round. Work K2P2 ribbing for six inches.

Begin pattern (adjust marker so that the TR aligns to the first K2 rib):
Round 1: *P1, TR, P1, K4* 10 times
Rounds 2, 3, 4: *P1, K2, P1, K4* 10 times
Repeat rounds for about four inches (or more if desired), ending with a Round 4.

Begin decreases (switch to DPNs when necessary):
Dec round 1: *P1, K2tog, P1, K4* 10 times
Dec round 2: *ssk, P1, K4* 10 times
Dec round 3: *K2 tog, K4* 10 times
Dec round 4: *ssk, K1, k2tog* 10 times
Dec round 5: *K1, K2tog* 10 times
Dec round 6: *ssk, K1* repeat to last 2 stitches, ssk
Dec round 7: K2tog around to last st, K
Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail. Use a tapestry needle to draw the tail through the remaining stitches, pull tight. Weave in and secure ends.

The doubled-over ribbing provides thick insulation over the ears. If you prefer, knit just three inches of ribbing and work the pattern for 7 inches instead of four. Either way works.

Friday, December 19, 2008

FO: Green Mobius Chemo Cap

When you're stuck on the couch recovering from pneumonia, when getting up and putting up a few Christmas decorations is exhausting, when making Christmas goodies is out of the question because it wouldn't do to cough bacteria all over them, funny how it's so much easier to catch up on one's knitting.

Here's another cap for the chemo cap project I'm working on. This one is in jade green Elann Esprit, using the Mobius Hat pattern. Though the pattern called for one ball, it would take two complete it as the pattern dictates. I found I was starting to run short on yarn when the crown had reached 4 1/2 inches of the required 5, so I began the decreases and still ran out before I finished the decrease rounds. I pulled the last few inches through the live stitches and pulled them tight enough that it didn't leave a hole at the top, though the crown was more puckered than the pattern shows. Still, the crown was high enough, and I think I could have stopped at 4 inches and had enough crown and enough yarn to finish the decrease rounds.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Elinor's "Your Feet Are Cold" Bedsocks - free pattern

I've been pretty much confined to the house for the past several days since 1) it's been snowing off and on since Monday and 2) the nasty cough I've had turned into fever and deep fatigue which turned out to be pneumonia! My brave hubby took me to the doctor on Monday (over snow-packed streets that were pretty much a skating rink, but then he grew up in the Chicago area and knows about ice) where they did the chest X-ray and even I could see a slight woolly look in one lung. So I've been home, taking my antibiotics, drinking lots of juice, and breathing steam from a vaporizer at night.

I put my chemo cap project on hold until I stop coughing pneumococci all over everything. I'll have to thoroughly disinfect everything I've knitted for the project already. I wonder if you can autoclave Elann Elite?

One has to keep oneself occupied even when confined to bed or the couch, so out came the needles and some spare Lion Wool-Ease from the stash, and I set to work on a project I'd barely begun for the Jane Austen Book Club knit-along on Ravelry. We're in the middle of Sense and Sensibility, and I thought of the scene in the 1995 Emma Thompson movie, where the sisters and their mother move into Barton cottage, and on the first chilly night, Marianne and Elinor share a bedroom. Elinor gets into bed where Marianne is already curled up, and Marianne whines, "Your feet are cold." Elinor gets up again and struggles into a pair of woolly socks.

So for Elinor, here's a pair of warm woolly bedsocks, knitted in worsted-weight yarn and with a simple openwork pattern:

Elinor's "Your feet are cold" bedsocks

Lion Wool Ease or any other standard worsted-weight yarn, 1 skein MC, 1 skein CC. One pair of socks uses only a small amount from each skein -- you can probably get three or four out of two skeins.
5 DPN size 8

Gauge: 3.5 st/inch approximately

Size: These fit my size 9 1/2 wide feet a little loosely. I'll add a couple of changes in parentheses for people with more fashionably-sized feet. If you have narrow feet, try the smaller size and size 7 needles.

I borrowed the Easy Toe cast-on for toe-up socks from Knitty issue Winter 02 to begin these socks, so go and print a copy of that before you get started. The instructions come with clear illustrations, so better for you to go and get their instructions that for me to try to summarize -- that is, plagiarize -- them here.

With waste yarn and a large hook, crochet a chain of about 12 stitches. Tie a knot in the end you draw through so you can find it again and undo it easily. Use CC, cast on 8 stitches by knitting into the "bumps" on the underside of the crochet chain. Work in stockinette stitch for 4 rows. Undo the crochet chain and put the live sitches on another dpn.

Continue with the instructions for the Figure 8 cast-on from the phrase "Begin knitting circularly." You will divide the work onto 4 needles, and place a marker that marks the beginning of the round. Continue working until there are 10 stitches on each needle (stop at 9 stitches for smaller feet than mine). End with a non-increase round, and stop at the end of Needle 3. (Next needle begins stitches for the top of the foot.) Move all stitches for the top of the foot (needles 1 and 4) onto the same needle -- 20 (18) stitches. You will work the lace rib pattern on the top of the foot.

Tie on MC. Knit 1, PM, begin lace pattern on next 18 stitches, PM, K last stitch.

Lace rib pattern:
Round 1: K 5, P 1
Round 2: K 1, YO, sl 1, K2tog, psso, YO, K1 P1
Round 3: K5, P1
Round 4: K2, YO, ssk, K1, P1
Round 5: K5, P1
Round 6: K5, P1

When foot is long enough (5 lace pattern repeats for my size 9 foot), begin short-row heel. You now have 20 (18) stitches on one needle (pattern needle) and 10 (9) stitches on each of the other needles. Work the heel on these two needles only.

Short-row Heel:
Tie on CC.
Row 1: K to last stitch, W&T
Row 2: P to last stitch, W&T
Row 3: K to last 2 stitches, W&T
Row 4: P to last 2 stitches, W&T
Row 5: K to last 3 stitches, W&T
Row 6: P to last 3 stitches, W&T
Row 7: K to last 4 stitches, W&T
Row 8: P to last 4 stitches, W&T
Row 9: K to last 5 stitches, W&T
Row 10: P to last 5 stitches, W&T (stop here and skip to row 13 if working the smaller size)
Row 11: K to last 6 stitches, W&T
Row 12: P to last 6 stitches, W&T
Row 13: K to first wrapped stitch, knit stitch & wrap together, turn
Row 14: Sl 1, P to first wrapped stitch, purl stitch & wrap together, turn
Row 15: Sl 1, K to first wrapped stitch, knit stitch & wrap together, turn
Repeat rows 14 and 15 until the last of the wrapped stitches have been used. End on a P row, on the side where the MC yarn was dropped.

Turn work. Pick up MC.
Across 2 needles at the back of the sock:
K 1, PM, begin lace pattern across needles (divide sts as needed to work lace pattern) until 1 st is on needles, PM, K1.
Continue around leg of the sock, knitting lace pattern between markers. Yes, there will be a K2 rib on each side between the lace panels. If this bothers you, leave the back of the sock plain and work the lace only in front. (If you stopped at 9 stitches at the toe, you won't have the K2 rib -- just lace pattern all the way around.)
Work two repeats of the lace pattern (12 rows) or longer if desired.

Switch to CC. Knit 1 inch of K2P2 ribbing (or longer if desired).
To bind off:
K 2 sts, slip sts back to left needle, knit them together through the back of the loop. Purl next stitch, slip both sts on right needle to left needle, purl together. Continue binding off in pattern, knitting (or purling) 1 stitch, moving both stitches from the right needle to the left, and knitting (or purling) them together in the back of the loop until all stitches have been bound off. Sew in ends.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Teeny Weeny Jaw-Dropping Knits

If you've got a good connection, go here: Coraline's Bedroom

Once the page loads, click on the upper drawer of the white bureau on the left. This will load a short movie on the fiber artist who has been knitting intricate sweaters on the micro-scale for the upcoming movie, Coraline (based on a Neil Gaiman novel).

We're talking this kind of scale:

For the animated figures in the movie:
'Kay, then there's another movie I have to go see for the knitting!

Now, if you want a pattern for the starry sweater in the picture above, click the bottom drawer on the white bureau. You can download a free PDF knitting pattern for Coraline's sweater -- in a wearable size, not microscale!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Introducing... the cats

The cats have made an occasional appearance in various posts, but they've not been introduced yet. So here's the herd:

First, there's Licorice. He turned up as an abandoned half-grown kitten in someone's garage, and we took him in. This was shortly after we'd adopted a kitten who died at nine weeks, so we had a lot of new kitty stuff and no kitty to go with it. Licorice was a sweet boy at first, but later developed some odd emotional problems. For one thing, he wants to be the only cat in the house and goes bonkers when he's cooped up for more than a few hours indoors with other cats. Consequently, he's the only one of the herd who goes outdoors on his own. Indoors he has a vile temper. Outdoors, he's a sweetheart.

Belle (a.k.a The Princess Belle) was the runt of a litter that was being passed around my husband's school. Everyone wanted the bigger, healthier-looking kitties, so the teeny one came home with us. She may weigh about as much as a paper clip, but she packs a pile of energy in that pint-sized body. Some mornings she rockets around the house, doing banked turns two feet high in the corners. With her light weight, she can get herself into the oddest places -- like on the top shelf of my closet. She's got the softest fur ever, like bunny fur.

This handsome boy is Wild Bill. He was the survivor of a pair of kittens that were born to a stray mama kitty in our back yard. We caught the mama and got her fixed, and took in Wild Bill when he was about ten weeks old. That's just on the edge of the period in which kittens can be socialized, and Bill was probably third-generation feral. He's a gentle boy, but not even remotely a cuddler. He thinks human touch is kind of creepy. We kept feeding and caring for his mother, but sadly she vanished the winter after we took him in.

The next three are all from a litter that was born in our back yard to yet another stray. There were four in the litter, but something got into the nest and killed one (probably a tom cat or a raccoon). Their mama, Toast, is a beautiful tortoiseshell that we think was born outdoors to a cat belonging to some renters across the street. They left, leaving the half-wild kitties behind. By the time Toast found food at our house, she was visibly pregnant. I kept feeding her, hoping to keep her around where I could take care of her and the kittens. That May she had her litter under the Japanese Aralia bush in the back yard. The neighbor's nosy kid discovered them when they were just over five weeks old (the kid who is not supposed to be playing in my yard, mind you), and said his mom was going to have the Humane Society come and get them. So before the neighbors could interfere, I trapped Toast and got her spayed, rounded up her babies, and brought them indoors. My intention all along had been to tame and foster them for later adoption. Foster and adopt out. Uh huh. That went well.

So here's Gizmo, who was the biggest of the litter. She looks just like her mommy. She's also got a weight problem. She gets diet food, carefully measured, and we make sure she gets exercise, but she's still a big kitty, so the best we can do is make sure she's healthy. But she's a pretty girl and a sweet cuddler, preferring to sleep by my feet at night.

Gizmo's sister, Sprocket, is a gorgeous calico with a cute little face. She's the shyest of the bunch, and always runs and hides when people she doesn't know come to the house. She likes petting best if she's up at human level, like in the cat tree or her hammock, or here, on top of the bird cage. When she's there, she lets out a little "queek!" that says, "Okay, pet me now!"

The third in the litter is my darling Edison. The first time I met him, before his eyes were even open, he hissed and spat at me. I thought he'd be a fighter like his daddy Bruiser (who looks a lot like him), but he's a sweetie. He's the goofy little brother of the trio, a bit of a runt when he was little, though he's bigger than Sprocket now. He was born with several bone deformities in one leg, and had surgery last summer to correct most of the problems. Of all the kitties, he has the loudest voice, and trumpets away like anything when it's feeding time.

Last summer, a starving ginger tabby with one bad eye arrived at the outdoor feeding bowl. I thought at first he was a feral boy, but after working with him a bit, I found I could pet him and he'd purr up a storm. This was no feral -- this was an abandoned cat. When I could handle him safely, I picked him up, put him in a cat carrier, and took him inside. I took him to the vet to get him fixed and get his shots. His bad eye was abscessing, so that had to be removed. We named him Odin for the one-eyed king of the Norse gods. We had intended to find a home for him, too, and may still, but first he has to learn to use the litter box and only the litter box, not the bed and not the couch. Now that he's well-fed, he's a lot fluffier than in this picture, taken shortly after he had his stitches out.

So that's the herd. In addition, we've got one lone finch surviving from a small flock, one very bossy lovebird, and one guinea pig who was a literal roadside rescue. We also feed and look after Toast (probably the most spoiled stray cat ever, with her own bed and a microwaveable bed warmer), and two stray toms Bruiser and Murphy (who will, one of these days, get fixed, too). They do keep us busy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

'Nother FO: White turban (chemo cap project)

Another project checked off! This is one I began back in November for a chemo cap charity project I'm working with through one of the Ravelry groups I'm in. I have until early January to crank out as many chemo caps for the University of Chicago's Cancer Center, in honor of Madelyn "Toot" Dunham, grandmother of president-elect Barak Obama.

The center takes in serious cases, and there's a big need for caps for the chemotherapy patients, especially given Chicago's chilly climate. Those winds whipping down off of Lake Michigan -- brrr!

This turban was knit from a pattern offered free from Esprit Chemo Turban. The yarn is Elann Esprit, a blend of cotton and elastic. Strange, stretchy stuff, and it takes a bit of getting used to. I read lots of reviews on Ravelry from people who said they hated it. I didn't hate it, I just had to get used to working with yarn that kept springing off of my finger. I can see lots of possibilities for this yarn, in situations were you want DK-weight cotton and a lot of stretch: socks, baby garments, close-fitting summer tops, that sort of thing.

Or a close-fitting hat, as the case might be, one that's warm but not overly-warm.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

FO: Shawl Collar Vest

In spite of October and November's busyness (this has been an incredibly fast-paced fall term), I managed to get something off of the needles. This shawl collar, shrug-like vest using the Bingo Shawl Collar Vest pattern and done up in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend (violets colorway).

After completing the piece and blocking it, I discovered that 1) silk really does stretch during blocking and 2) the Manos yarn doesn't draw up as much in the ribbing as the original yarn the pattern called for. Consequently I had a lot more ribbing than I needed. I had to rib back the bottom ribbing and re-knit it to narrower dimensions. Once that was done, I stitched up the seams and tried it on. Second time is a charm!

Because of the softness of the yarn and its variegation, the textured pattern on the back doesn't show up as clearly as it would with a crisper worsted and a single color. Still, I like my little vest, and the Manos yarn is as soft as a cloud. Mmmm! Goes well with the vintage cashmere turtleneck, also soft as a cloud (something my mother ::gasp:: didn't want any more and asked if I'd be interested in).

Now it's back to bed to try to get the better of this nasty chest cold I seem to have picked up. Hack, cough, hack.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Radical Knitter Nabbed by Border Patrol

While yes, a border patrol is necessary to a nation's security, isn't it great to live in a country where we can poke fun at authority?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Free pattern books from Bernat

I'm not sure how long this offer will last, so check it out soon. Bernat is offering two free PDF pattern books if you take the Bernat e-survey. Choose your books before taking the survey, because there will only be numbers to choose from at the end. There are two books of baby patterns, two afghan books, and two books of women's garments.

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