Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day of Service: Chemo caps delivered!

Check here and here and here for stories and here for a video featuring the Knitters for Obama chemo cap project. The five chemo caps that I knit for the campaign have been delivered to the University of Chicago Medical Center along with all the others collected from around the nation -- over 200 caps in all! More are coming in as knitters wrap up their last-minute contributions.

A big round of applause for Kristen Rengren (retroknit on Ravelry) who organized this project, opened dozens of packages as they arrived, tagged the hats, and delivered the goods. I borrowed her photo that shows the caps she delivered. I know mine are in there somewhere...

ETA: I've removed the embedded video now that most of my regulars have seen it. I don't know about all of you, but I get irritated with music and videos that load themselves every time I go to a page.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On the needles: Prayer shawl

Friday morning we found out that the secretary in the division where I work (I teach at a university) had a heart attack. She's had a lot of life issues over the last year. I stopped at a yarn store on the way home, picked up some Cascade Superwash, and started a prayer shawl for her in colors that I know she likes. The ladies of my knitting group added rows and thoughts on Saturday, and I'll work away on it the rest of the weekend and see how fast I can finish it.

Another needle bargain? Not so much. Good ball winder, though.

I reported on the bargain bamboo needles from the Stanwood company, available on Amazon.com. The straight needles and the DPNs were fine, though a little polish would make them better. Pleased with these needles, I ordered a set of 24 inch circulars, 14 pairs for $25. Here they are:

Pleased? Not so much.

Why? Cheap, lousy joins. As it turns out, the cables are hollow silicon tubes and the bamboo points have been jammed into them. While the join is somewhat smoothed out on the larger sizes, take a look at the smallest size:

You can see why it would drive any knitter nuts to work with these. The clumsy join is visibly raised and would catch on the yarn loops like crazy. Run your fingers over these and the join feels rough.

Nope, most definitely not pleased with these. They're going right back for a refund.

On the other hand, the Yarn Ball Winder that I ordered at the same time delivered a decent bargain. It's plastic, and perhaps not the most solidly-constructed ball winder I've seen, it's in the mid-range for quality. I'm only winding the occasional skein, not running a yarn shop, so for me it should be fine.

Here it is just out of the box, set up with my tabletop swift, ready to wind a skein of 450 yards of sock yarn:

It's a big skein, so that should be a bit of a challenge. I wasn't looking forward to hand-winding it, and that's why I finally decided to get a ball winder. The end of the yarn goes through the metal coil and in the grooves at the top of the winder, and away we go, except, oops, I didn't pull the metal wire arm out firmly enough and it fell over:

Ah hah, it just takes a little more muscle to pull it firmly into position. Off and running again and voila, though 450 yards is quite a load for this little ball winder, it managed the whole thing:

And here's what it looks like when it's all done:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Putting a new spin on things

Ooh, check out what I got for Christmas!

It's a Louet drop spindle kit, which comes complete with 1/2 pound of unnamed "fiber." By the feel and the long staple of it, I'm guessing the "fiber" is wool, though I couldn't tell you what specific sheep it came from. There were three bundles of roving in the box: brilliant aqua, deep navy, and rustic-looking brown.

Within days, the rustic-looking brown became even-more-rustic-looking lumpy-bumpy amateurish... I mean beautiful art yarn. Yeah, that's it. Looks like the thick-and-thin stuff that they sell for outrageous prices at the yarn boutiques, no?

No worries about the lumps and bumps, I figured. It was part of the learning process, and my drafting ability would smooth out in time. Indeed, by the time I got to the end of the roving, I had to kind of try to add the thicker bits so the last skein-let would be more like the first skein-let. Even so, the last bit was thinner, more even, and knit up at a whole different gauge. But I do not let that stop me. We must all start somewhere, right? Kind of like when we learn to play the piano we don't start off playing perfectly. First we open the music book and start butchering "Mary Had a Little Lamb." After many months of regular practice, diligence, and hard work, we graduate to butchering Chopin.

No sooner had I finished spinning and plying the brown roving than I just had to put it on the needles and see what I could do with it. There wasn't a lot, only slightly more than 100 yards of super-chunky yarn (as estimated by the number of times it went around my tabletop swift). I decided on a neckwamer/scarflet thingy. I started with The Fidgit, but my yarn ran short far too soon, and while I like the stitch used in the pattern, it wasn't working well with this yarn. I frogged back and tried a waffle stitch, but didn't have much luck with that, either. Finally I tried Pidge Podge, a simple scarflet in K2P2 ribbing. That gave me much better results. I should have guessed -- a simple stitch for a fiddly yarn.

After finishing the Pidge, I had a teensy bit left, so now my tea mug on my desk at work has a sweater, too:

It's a simple band, 10 stitches wide, with two stockinette border stitches on either side and moss stitch on the middle 6 stitches, like so:

Row 1: K2, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K3
Row 2: P2, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P3

I repeated these until I literally ran out of yarn on the bind-off row, then used a couple of scraps to stitch the corners together.

There's still the eye-searing aqua and the deep, dark navy roving to go. This spinning thing opens up a whole new set of possibilities. I'm already eyeing pretty spindles with art glass whorls on Etsy, looking into spinning silk "hankies" into shimmery silk yarn, and looking longingly at some very expensive spinning wheels, which may be a real possibility once I get this drafting business down a bit better.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A bargain in needles

So what we have here is an entire set of 7 inch bamboo double-pointed needles, five in each set, from size 1 through 10 1/2, 13, and 15, AND an entire set of 13" single-pointed needles from size 1 through size 10 1/2 and 13, AND a fabric case to put them in, all of which I bought from Amazon.com.

For how much?

Would you believe $23.99 for the entire set of DPNs?

And another $23.99 for the entire set of single-pointed needles?

Add in the needle case for $9.99 (out of stock at the moment) and you have yourself a complete set of both kinds of needles for a whole lot less than you'd pay for the individual sets.

The brand is Stanwood, made in China like nearly every manufactured product on the planet these days. It's fairly close to the feel of a good set of Takumi Clover needles. A little beeswax and some rubbing should bring them up to par. I spotted this bargain a little over a week ago, but I didn't want to blog about it until I had the needles in hand and could inspect them for quality.

There are more Stanwood Products listed on Amazon, including circular needles and an inexpensive ball winder. I may have to give those a try as well.

FO: Violet Baby Kimono

The kimono is finished and it is teh kyoot, n'est-ce pas?

I used up some leftover Rowan Cotton Rope that had been in the stash, as well as a ball of teal textured cotton yarn for the trimming. The Rowan yarn is a little troublesome to work with, as it splits like crazy, and the stitching came out a little uneven. Washing helped a bit. Otherwise, I think it'll make for a fine baby gift.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Never mind the traveling pants -- check out the traveling shawl!

Never underestimate the organizational power of knitters! A story in the Myrtle Beach News (Knitted by a Nation) describes a traveling shawl project organized by knitters on Ravelry to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure. The shawl is making its rounds from one lace knitter to the next in every state in the United States. Once completed, it will be raffled off to a lucky donor.

Read the Traveling Shawl Blog for updates. There's a donation link on the page for donating to the cause. Every $5 donation buys a "ticket" for the drawing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First new project of the year

Do I not have enough projects going already? I guess not -- I cast on and started a baby kimono, using the pattern from the Mason-Dixon Knitting
book that I got for Christmas. This is for a colleague whose wife is expecting a baby in the spring. I'd better get knitting!

New Year's Day knit-in

Some years we have New Year's dinner with family or friends, but with all the storm damage this year, no one was ready to host a get-together. But all was not lost on the social front -- the Rose and Ram Knit Shop in Independence hosted its annual Knit-and-Spin-In for local knitting and spinning groups and guilds, while the 2EZ Cafe across the street opened just long enough for knitters and spinners to get lunch or coffee.

There were comfy couches and chairs for knitting:

And more knitting:

There was at least one snuggly baby from our Ravelry group, swathed in hand-knits -- Gwendolyn and her mama Patch:

There was considerable spinning going on in the hallway, with a variety of wheels:

And some spindle spinning going on as well:

Much food, chat, and productivity going on to fill the afternoon. A good time was had by all.

FO: New Year's Eve mitts

How quick is that? I started these at around 6:00 on New Year's Eve and had them done minutes before midnight, using up some leftover Manos del Uruguay Silk in Violets colorway from the Shawl Collar Vest project. I still have two skeins of the lovely stuff left. Hmm... maybe a cowl...

The pattern is the Basic Fingerless Mitts pattern from Sue Brady's Snail Spirals blog. Very easy to follow, and very quick to knit in DK yarns.

That makes the mitts the last completed project of 2008.

Happy 2009!

Goodbye to 2008, and hello 2009!
May peace settle over your house like a cozy afghan, and all your cares unravel.
May your knitting bag be a magnet for money of large denominations.
May you be blessed with cashmere.
May happiness cling to you like white cat hair to black sweaters.
May all your tears be tears of joy.
May all your problems forget your name and your home address.
Be fearless.
Knit on.

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