Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sally Melville Has Redeemed Herself!

I remember having a crochet doll that my grandmother made me when I was like 4 or so. It was my most favorite toy ever. It was as simply constructed as possible with a bright pink front and purple back, black hair, and buttons for eyes. It was soft (filled with old scraps of fabric from things like pillowcases and cotton tee shirts) and cuddly and I took it to bed with me every night. There just wasn't anything as charming and comforting as this out there when I was little. Think scary, dumb, plastic heads. Nowadays, I'm sure there are similar "soft" options that can be purchased. But nothing is quite as endearing as a hand-knitted toy.

So thank you, Sally Melville.  This totally makes up for that frustrating poncho pattern! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Elegant Scoop Neck Sweater

Elegant.  Right?  It does say elegant?

Because when I think "elegant," my mind immediately goes to droopy, deflated breasts encased in fine-gauge alpaca while standing against a tree in the OBVIOUS cold. Come on. 

Just because you have small breasts does not exempt you from wearing some undergarment if you plan on being photographed -- outside -- while specifically modelling a knitted close-fitting sweater.
The saddest set of all.

Also? You are about to be rounded up by the posture posse. But that's another story entirely. Also, also? That's not really a scoop neck. Almost. Not quite.  Good thing, too.  I mean, had this been an actual scoop neck, I have the feeling I'd be seeing a rather uncomfortable amount of knobby sternum....

I don't hate this sweater. I actually LIKE it. I'd consider knitting it. But it's almost $8 for the pattern and I'm a cheap jerk.  Plus, it's a fairly conventional design that I could probably figure out on my own anyway.

Anyway. Trust me, I hate wearing a bra.  HATE IT. And the fact that I'm a DD cup exacerbates the discomfort with or without a bra.  But I do it every day because it would be greatly disturbing to a great many living things if I did not. And being bra-less isn't exactly all that comfortable or practical either in my workplace setting. Do I even need to discuss appropriateness? Heck, I'm bra-less right now in a tank top.  But it's 9:10 pm and I'm sitting, alone, in front of my laptop at home.  How's that for a visual?

Yes, you are correct.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Illegal Use of a Cable: 15-Yard Penalty...

If knitting were a major sporting event, this garment should basically just forfeit.  I can't even begin to explain the multitude of eye-assaulting, taste-battering faults committed by this one knitting pattern.

Let me just sum up what I see:

Knit sideways in super bulky, reverse-stockinette (or garter), cropped, cowl-neck with a gigantic, poorly executed cable right across the bust, extending to the ends of the elbow-length sleeves.  The whole thing is just FOUL.  Maybe the color is passable?  It's bordering on teal, though.  And y'all know how strongly I feel about teal.


It hurts.

Like getting cleats in your face in a soccer match, socked in the jaw by a hockey puck, or slammed at the line of scrimmage by a truly "offensive" lineman.

Anyway, I stumbled on that crime against wool up there while searching for a knitting pattern for a winter pullover that featured an interesting use of a cable or cables.  There are several contenders, but I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of the above, utterly dumbfounded.

Leaning towards one of these:

Saturday, June 06, 2015


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Of All The Things That I Need Right Now...

THESE are not among them:

Yes. That little, shimmery, golden-winged creature is a clothes moth. They are actually kind-of pretty and a bit adorable with their tiny, fuzzy heads and shiny, black eyes --- very non-threatening to behold. Non-threatening, unless, of course, you are like me: a knitter. A knitter with a WALL of yarn in which 70% of it is made up of some animal-based fiber (wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk, etc.). It's like a never-ending buffet of tasty moth delights!

To say I have an infestation would be an extreme exaggeration. I have seen 3-4 of these flying around the house over the last couple of weeks. I finally got the emotional strength to look in the closets last night and I found 3 of them living on that pink, fuzzy, angora nightmare (a beautiful nightmare, to be sure) of a cowl neck I knit a couple years ago, which I lovingly refer to as Nummy Muffin Coocol Butter.

And there were two of them just chillin' together on that felt hat (see previous post). No holes or damage to either item, mercifully. But where there is smoke, there is usually fire and I'm not taking any chances.

So I did a preliminary cleaning of just the surfaces in that room with Trader Joe's Cedarwood & Sage cleaner. I love this stuff. I use it to clean all over the house. I left a sponge soaked with it on top the the wall-o-yarn too. This weekend, I am going to begin the process of pulling everything out of that wall shelving unit (whimper) and checking it out for damage. 

First glancing over everything last night and it all looks perfectly intact. I actually reorganized this monster a few months ago. And everything was cool then. But, as I learned from the great internet, moths like to be in the dark and their larvae are what eat the fiber. So it's possible that there has been some serious snackin' going on where I can't see. RAGE. Deep breaths...deep breaths....

Then I will have to thoroughly wipe down all the cubbie holes.  I'm debating buying some large-ish clear, plastic bags to put the yarn in before committing it back into the wall unit. I find it more difficult to figure out what I have when they're all crammed in bags. And aesthetically it looks like crap. So I don't know. I have a few space bags, but Titus likes to chew on them. (Oh, Titus, WHY?) and I never had that much success with space bags anyway.  They don't ever deflate as much as they show on TV.  Not even half as much.

I don't know about you, but the scent of moth balls makes me gag, or think of that one great-great aunt that you had who you met when you were like four and she had a weird parrot and wore her apron backwards and ate potatoes raw...and then gag. But, I absolutely love the smell of cedar. So I plan on using that as a defense. Some people say cedar is fool-proof (right up my alley!) for getting rid of moths and others say that the moths point and laugh and continue swaddling their babies in your merino. Since I find the scent pleasant, I did order some cedar balls and cedar oil from Amazon. Those should arrive early next week.

So wish me luck as I try to nip these little beasties in the bud. I'll try to keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Struggle Was Worth It...Well, Mostly

So I've been wanting a "real" hat for years. And by "real" I mean a hat that doesn't look knitted or crocheted. I have plenty of hats that I made, ranging from simple ski caps to intricate lace patterns and they are fine, ostensibly. But I've always admired a lovely, wool, felt hat --- even had a couple when I was first in college. One thing I remember is, hot damn, they are expensive to buy. I think I got the two that I had on an off-season clearance sale from a hat store (Hats in the Belfry, on South Street in Philly). We're talking about 23 years ago too.

Heh, didn't even think Hats in the Belfry existed anymore, but it's still there. And, lo and behold, felted wool hats are still VERY expensive, by my standards. I can't afford to plop down $140+ for a simple felted cloche. Seasonally, it seems the wool ones will go down in price. But even still, $78 is too rich for my blood.

So last month, I finally decided to embark on a project to make a felted wool cloche with my own hands. I used two different wool yarns that I had in my stash, so it literally cost me nothing except time to make it.  But boy did it take time. This is the pattern I used. I, of course, altered it because, well, that's just what I do. I seem to never be equipped to knit a thing directly and exactly as outlined in a pattern. In this case, my yarn gauges were: dark gray Wool of the Andes bulky & American Beauty red Malabrigo worsted, not DK (and yay me for choosing two different gauges as well). I also felt like it looked too tall --- almost Cat-In-the-Hat-ish. So I reduced the number of overall rounds.

The actual knitting part was not too bad. Yes, it is knit ginormous. Like ridiculously large. You look like Dumb Donald when you try it on. And, indeed, I felt like Dumb Donald for taking on this project. Then the only other instructions are to basically felt the living shit out of it until you end up with something that fits your head.
"Godammit this cannot be right...."

Below is a picture of the pre-felted hat compared to another hat I knit in a lacy pattern. I wear this lacy hat all the time. (By the way, here's that pattern.) I knit it with cashmere and it feels lovely and is warm as hell...literally, I suppose. I might have to retire it soon, though, because I've worn it straight for 3 winters in a row now. It has worn like IRON, surprisingly. But I should have it dry cleaned and put away so that I don't wear it out completely. Anyway, here's the comparison:

I was happy with the color combination. The gray and red (and it's an unusual red, almost a red orange) have a sort of classic, bygone-era look to it, which is what I was going for. I wanted this cloche to look like someone lovingly stored it in a cedar chest since 1928.

Well to achieve that look took a metric ass-ton of work. Knitting took, off and on, about three days. But the felting was, well, pretty much a whole weekend, if you count the time to felt the hat AND make and felt the tie that goes around it (see pictures below). I have a front-loading washer and dryer and by all accounts felting in a front-loader is not an easy task. Also, since this is a wearable item, size matters. It's not exactly easy to gauge what's happening to the knitted fabric if the hat is in a washing machine for an hour. So, hand-felting it was.

I spent a good 90 minutes (or more) standing over the sink in my kitchen and a tub of scalding hot water to get the first round of felting done. Aaaand it didn't look all that much different:

"Great. This is going to be harder than I thought." So I spent another hour working the fabric with hot water and rubbing it between my hands. This is one time when wearing rubber gloves actually helps the process go faster. Starting to see more of a difference, right? Maybe? A little? BETTER SAY YES, DAMMIT! Whimper....

My arms, hands, and back were killing me by this point. I went to Ravelry to see what others had done with their felting. Some of the suggestions were just not going to happen. I wasn't about to take everything and a roll of quarters to a laundromat and use a washing machine there on a Saturday. Come on. Someone else suggested that it's the heat more so than the agitation that will shrink the size down and to toss the hat in the dryer for "a bit" on high heat. So that's what I did. I did it for an hour. Went to check on it. Still very wet and the same size. Another 30 minutes. Checked it again. Pretty much the same. Another 45 minutes. Starting to look and feel drier, but the size wasn't doing much.  Gave it another 30 minutes. Starting to budge now! Another 40 minutes. It was mostly dry by this point and I could see that it looked more like felt and less like stockinette (yay!) and I did see a difference in the size too. And I was also really flippin' tired from running up and down steps all afternoon.

But running it through the dryer created another problem. It was nearly the right size (still not where I wanted it --- too tall) but it had no real shape or style to it.  It looked like a misshapen, upside-down bowl. Not happy. Also, because it was nearly bone dry by this point too, there was no way of shaping it. I didn't like how the crown looked either. Too floppy and sloppy. A felted cloche (which is French for "bell," by the way) should have a smooth, domed top. This

Welp. Back to the sink! Tossed some earbuds in, got my gloves on: let's finish this bitch. I spent probably another hour working most specifically on the crown to get it to that smooth, domed shape I wanted and on the brim to give it that bell shaping. I paused a few times to try it on my head as well. This was not really that helpful. Putting a sopping-wet, woolen bucket on your head doesn't really give the same effect as the finished product. I kept measuring it with a tape measure to see if it was changing, shrinking, or growing in the ways I wanted it to.

By this time, it was like 5:00 pm. But I got it where I wanted it. Crap. Now I realized I had nowhere to put this thing to dry while holding its shape. I almost ran out to a local beauty-supply store to see if they had a styrofoam head I could buy. I was quasi delusional and thought, "Hey, what if I made a bunch of these hats in the future?!" Yeah. No.

But sheer exhaustion got the better of me and I ended up stuffing the inside with plastic grocery bags and propping it up on a plastic storage container we use for cat food. It worked out fine enough. Let the 2-day long drying process begin:

After about eight hours of dealing with this hat, the last thing I wanted to do was knit a 45-inch long i-cord. I hate knitting i-cords. But I cast it on anyway. Only got about a foot done during that Saturday evening. I was worn out and preferred to vegetate in front of the TV for the rest of the night.

Finished the i-cord on Sunday and had to felt that too. Since the i-cord was knit in the red Malabrigo, which is pretty much one step above roving, it was pretty easy to felt. It took maybe 45 minutes. I don't know if you notice it in the photos above, but even after just the first felting, the red portion was already full-on felt! Maybe if my sanity escapes me again or I get hit on the head with a brick and lose all memory of having made this cloche and I do it again, I will remember to use ALL Malabrigo....

So, it was done. It looks amazing, if I do say so myself. Now I just need a decent coat to wear with it. :-P  Next year!