Something From Nothing

 

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Today I found 3 balls of yarn in a plastic bag with a note in my mother’s handwriting. “Do not use this yarn! It is needed to extend a sweater I have.” It was dated January 1986, over thirty years ago.

I inherited my mother’s knitting things when she died and I generally feel great joy when I carry my projects in her Van Gogh Starry Night Bag or use the wooden ruler with her initials written on the back of it. But sometimes I get caught off guard a bit, especially when I find one of her notes. And she wrote a lot of notes. If she was keeping something, it likely had a note.

I still have a lot of her yarn, but today I was sorting my stash by color into large, clear zipper bags. I thought the bags would keep the yarn clean and organized but still let me see in. So these three balls of yarn, all different colors, would need to be separated.

But the note said not to.

I decided to knit them together into a scarf. That is not what she intended but at least they would always be together. There was about 40 g of each sport weight yarn; white, brown, and rust. Scarves vary in size so my plan was just to start knitting, quickly on big US 35 needles, until I ran out.

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I cast on 15 stitches and worked a seed stitch pattern with all three yarns held together. Every row was K1, P1 all the way across ending with K1.

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The seed stitch made the scarf thick and soft. I think it is also very interesting visually. This stitch also lies nice and flat without curling up at the edges.

When I got done, the scarf was about 12” wide and 58” long. That is just how long I make my looped infinity scarves so I sewed the two end together into a loop. It turned out so cute that the first person I offered it to adopted it. Six hours from the time I found the note until the scarf was on its way to its new owner. Not bad.

I guess it wasn’t literally something from nothing, but it did feel like a problem turned into a scarf.

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.

 

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My Sampler Color-Strand Knit Scarf

 

As a prelude to writing this post, I looked up the definition of sampler. I had always thought of it in terms of an embroidered piece used to practice different techniques. Beginners would create a sampler and in the process be introduced to a variety of techniques and materials.

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Turns our there is some disagreement. Many definitions emphasize that a sampler is for showing off your best skills. Another complained that the term is often misused and must include an alphabet. Still others extend the definition to the person as well as the piece.

Well, I feel pretty safe calling my scarf a “sampler” of color strand knitting. I made it to try patterns and colors without committing to a single scheme. I didn’t really plan it out ahead of time, but rather looked for a pattern I liked, chose some yarn, knit for a few inches, and finished a section. Then I moved on to something new.

Color strand knitting is fun, but challenging. For me the hardest part is getting the tension right. The stranded colors are carried behind the main color and it is easy to pull them too tight and make the work bump up or pull in. While watching a video a knitter answered the question “how loose is too loose?” (for the color strands). Her reply was that there is no such thing as too loose.

For me, the easiest patterns are those that interchange the colors a lot. If the colors change every stitch of two, then the yarns aren’t pulled on the back. On the other hand, if one color is carried for a lot of stitches before it is used again, there is an opportunity for it to get messy.

Each sections taught me something about color strand knitting. Where I worked up the pattern myself from my imagination or examples that I saw, I have included the pattern. For those sections where I used a pattern created by someone else, I did not include it.

I chose to make the scarf on size 7 circular needles so that all the strands would be on the inside and not messing. In this way, I didn’t even have to weave ends! I cast on 72 stitches. I love this number. It is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 24, and 36. This meant I had a great deal of latitude when choosing the size of the pattern to be repeated. Each section starts and ends with two rows of the main color. This helps delineate the sections.

The yarn is acrylic yarn from my stash. If I make another, I will choose better yarns. But this was a good choice for a starter scarf. I hate to waste my good yarn on projects if I don’t know how they are going to turn out.

It is wonderfully warm and thick. I can’t wait to liven up my gray coat with it this winter. I wonder what people will think.

Section 1 – Gray and White Fair Isle

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I started with an easy section that didn’t need a written pattern or row counter. The stitches switch color often enough that there was not trouble with tension. Every other row has stitches of every other color. The white thread is just carried up the rows when not in use. I didn’t want the too ends to be the same, exactly, so I reversed the colors for the last section. I like the way it turned out.

Section 2 – Sheep

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Baaaa! This was a big leap for me. It is one of  only two sections where there are more than two colors in any one row. The sheep are a bit “puffy” due to inconsistent yarn tension, a mistake. But most people like them. Some even thought I had done this on purpose. It seems to be the favorite. Maybe I will make a scarf with just sheep the next time.

Section 3 – Red on Red Diamonds

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Whenever I used bright colors, I tried to make the sections more narrow so the color did not take over the scarf. In this section I use a solid red and a variegated red yarn. I thought the diamonds would look nice, but instead the yarns were so close in color that the pattern is lost. Lesson learned. In the future I will choose more contrasting yarns.

Section 4 – Egyptian Border

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I designed this pattern from some borders on old Egyptian textiles. You can see that I was still having tension problems. Here is the pattern:

Egyptian Border Pattern Pic

Section 5 – Fish

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These are supposed to be gold fish swimming in the pond. I chose a blue sparkly variegated yarn for the water and I like this choice. For the fish I use the only orangish yarn I had, a fluffy, variegated, yarn with varying thickness. Bad choice. The details of the fish are lost where the yarn is extra fluffy. Some people even have trouble seeing the fish when I tell them they are there! Next time I will use yarns that are similar in texture, especially with small detail patterns.

Fish Pattern Pic

Section 6 – Argyle

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I love argyle. What I learned from this section was not to knit when I was tired. I left out a row! Can you see where? I didn’t notice it until it was far too late to go back.

Argyle Pattern Pic

Section 7 – Transition

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This pattern transitions from one color to another and the second half of the pattern is the mirror image of the first. This section turned out longer than any so far. I think if I made another scarf I would try to make the sections more similar in size. Perhaps two sizes.

Transition Pattern Pic

Section 8 – Squares

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This is another bright, an therefore narrow, section.

Section 9 – Owls

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This section also turned out larger than I would have liked. In order to get any detail in the owls, they have to be large. I probably would choose simpler outlines next time so the section did not turn out so long compared to the other sections.

Owl pattern pic

Section 10 and 11 – Fair Isle Geometrics

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This is a narrow red and gray section, followed by a more intricate fair isle pattern in blue, light blue, and white. Here again, there are three colors in some rows. I hold the main color in my left hand and “throw it” while holding the other colors in my right hand and “picking them”. It isn’t that hard to keep two colors in one hand, but it does increase the complexity of keeping all the tensions even.

Blue diamond patter pic

Section 12 – Binary

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This black and white section actually says something –  the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (preamble and article 1). Each letter was converted to an eight character ascii code consisting of zeroes and ones. The digits were then knit in black and white. Because each letter is eight characters and 8 goes into 72 evenly, the letter line up. Each letter has a some similarities and when it is knit you see stripes of two black stitches. This section was very difficult to knit since it did not repeat in any meaningful way. To help keep track of the pattern, I used a pattern reading device made of cardboard, similar to the one shown here. Once I transferred the pattern to a spreadsheet and printed the columns, it worked very very well. There is a typo. I dare you to find it.

Section 13 – Camino

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This section commemorates my hike on El Camino de Santiago del Norte. As you walk along the route, you find your way by following blue signs with yellow arrows and shells.

There are official signs and those painted by helpful people. I tried to work out a pattern for the shells, but the diagonal nature of the lines made that difficult. I like the way the arrows turned out.

Camino Pattern Pic

Section 14 – Purple Fair Isle Diamonds

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This is similar to the argyle section but better. I didn’t skip a row and the yarns show more contrast.

Purple Diamond Pattern Pic

Section 15 – Peace Baby

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I knew I wanted many colors in this section but I couldn’t work out the color rows in a way that I liked. So instead a chose a rainbow variegated yarn. I wonder how it would look with the yarns reversed, rainbow background and white or black peace signs.

Peace Pattern Pic

Section 16 – Diamond Fair Isle

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This is a geometric pattern was good practice carrying the yarn with loose tension. I thought it was getting too long so I stopped the pattern one diamond series earlier than the pattern shows. By this section I was getting pretty good at “trapping” the carried yarn into a stitch in between where it shows through. It was tricky to learn and makes the work go more slowly, but in the end it is worth it to control tension and the loose hanging yarns.

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Section 17 – Cats

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These cats are adorable and I copied them from a cross stitch towel at a friend’s house. Nothing I came up with was any cuter. Each little face is different. This is another section where a color was carried for 10-15 stitches on the back. So here again I “trapped” the yarn. There are good YouTube videos to learn this technique.

Section 18 – Gray and White End

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This section is the opposite of the first, with the white yarn being the dominate color.

I sewed the ends of the scarf closed with the invisible stitch. I had planned to decorate the ends with pom pons but the consensus was that they would detract from the scarf. I can always add them later I decide it needs them.

I worked on the scarf off and on for months. I’m glad its done and mostly happy with the way it turned out.

Here are the main lessons I learned:

  1. Control the tension of the yarns.
  2. Be sure the yarns contrast enough that the pattern can be seem.
  3. Use yarns that have the same thickness.
  4. Keep motifs of a similar size.

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.

My First Knit Socks

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I finished my socks! I have never knit socks before. While I was at my spinning class recently, one of the others spinners helped my choose a pattern at the Siever’s bookstore and gave me some advice on how to proceed. I bought two books including one that shows how to knit socks two-at-a-time on a larger circular needle.

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I decided to take along the basic pattern when we went to Florida in September. We were flying so I couldn’t take all my knitting but thought I might have some time to at least read about socks.

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As it turns out, we ended up weathering Hurricane Irma in a shelter. When I thought we were just going to be in for some rain I bought some needles and yarn. There was not a good selection and I ended up using cotton/nylon yarn. It sounded like a good idea but probably was not the best choice. I even knit a small sample to check the gauge, something I have only recently started doing.

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I began with the “simple socks” as instructed by the author.

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Working with two circular needles was easier than I thought. I don’t mind DP needles but this was pretty interesting. I never had to use stitch holders or worry about needles slipping out (something that happens to me occasionally when I use DPs).

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But the pattern wasn’t without its challenges. Because of the ribbing, I sometimes had to purl the first stitch on the new needle. After a bunch of practice, I finally figured out where the yarn had to be placed, but you can see I made a number of mistakes. After another “fatal” flaw I had to pull out these stitches and I did better after the second start.

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Since I hadn’t actually planned on knitting, I did not pack my implements – no row counters, stitch markers, rulers, etc. So when we moved to the shelter I had to improvise. I used a paper plate to keep track of progress and some yarn ties as stitch markers.

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Of course I didn’t get them completely done in the shelter. But once I got home I did. I understand now what is meant by “second sock syndrome”. But I persevered and eventually got them both done. After having to restart and unknit some sections I decided to put in a “life line” in case I needed to go back. As you can see, I ran the lifeline through the stitch marker. Well, that wasn’t right! So I just left it there and used another marker to proceed. Lesson learned.

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The socks fit pretty well. But the cotton yarn doesn’t have much elasticity so they bag out a bit after wearing them a short time. I threw them into the washer and dryer, but they are still too loose. For my next pair I think I will drop down a needle size and choose a wool yarn.

I may move on to trying the magic loop method and then eventually two-at-a-time with magic loop. I have already learned so much about sock knitting! I am looking forward to perfecting the process.

Thanks, Shawn, for your advice!

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.

 

Hurricane Irma

Its hard to know where to start the story of Hurricane Irma. Maybe its best to tell the end of the story first. We are well and our property had very little damage. That was not how we thought the story would end as we sheltered for three nights at a local high school.

We do not live in SW Florida permanently, but we do own a home there that is a vacation rental. We needed to go there during the week of September 7, 2017 to transact some business related to a water/sewer improvement project. There was an assessment that needed to be paid during a short window of time to get the best rate. We planned the trip a couple months earlier when we learned that our house would be included in the project. We had plans to fly in and out.

People keep asking me how it is that we decided not to leave when we knew there was a hurricane coming! But the week before our trip, I was on Washington Island in Door County WI at a yarn spinning class. I was staying in a converted barn dormitory and there was no TV or internet. It was peaceful and refreshing, but I was a bit out of touch. So I did not see the lead up to hurricane. I was only home one day before leaving for Florida and that day was spent unpacking, doing laundry, and repacking.

We arrived in Florida Monday noon. There were some issues at the house that grabbed our attention. The pool had not been maintained very well so we had to get ahold of our pool cleaner. The pool pump was not running reliably so we contacted the company and made arrangements for a new pump to be installed Wednesday. But worst of all, the AC was not working and the house was very hot. We contacted the AC repair people and then started waiting for all the repair people to arrive. It was only then that we saw the news and knew that Irma was a large storm and that ONE, just ONE of the models predicted it might affect us directly.

On Wednesday, our repair people came, the AC repair had to be done twice for some reason. Neighbors let us sleep at their house, the first kindness that was to become a week filled with such incidents.

We kept hearing from the newscasters that the track of the storm was quite unpredictable and that by Thursday the models would probably coalesce into a more clear picture. The forecasters kept referring to “spaghetti models”.

spaghetti models

On Thursday most models showed the storm heading up the east coast or perhaps even staying out into the Atlantic. But there was that ONE pesky model, the “European Model”, that kept showing a track through our area. We started thinking about taking the rental car and driving north into Georgia, or even farther, to wait out the storm and then drive back to assess any damage and catch our flight home. But by that time a great problem was beginning to become apparent. There is only one route out of SW Florida, Interstate 75, and it was packed with traffic and they were running out of gas. Veteran storm survivors knew to have some extra cans of gas ready to go, but we did not. And there were no gas cans for sale.

On Tuesday we had decided to lay in a few supplies, mostly in case the power went out. We went to the grocery store and bought food that did not need refrigeration and could be heated up on the grill. We bought extra tanks of propane for the grill, though this was the most difficult supply to find. We bought buckets to fill with water and planned to fill the bath tub as well. Since we do not have city water, if the power goes out, so do the well pump and filter system. While other folks were planning for possible weeks without power, we knew we were flying home after the storm, so we were just planning for a few days. We bought a couple small LED flashlights and stocked up on batteries. We moved the outdoor furniture in.

 

There were a couple supplies that I could not find. I wanted a cell phone charging pack (or two) but those were all gone. Even Amazon could not guarantee delivery before the storm. Even Amazon!! I also wanted a crank radio but could not find one. We knew the car had a USB port that would charge a phone at least a few times. I also charged up my laptop thinking its battery could charge a phone.

I contacted family to let them know our plans and not to worry if they didn’t hear from us. I promised to take video with my iPad and document the storm. Our house is new and built to withstand 160 mph winds. After Hurricane Andrew, building codes in Florida were updated. We were nervous but did not feel unsafe.

I started seeing posts on news and Facebook about weathering storms.

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Then, late Thursday and into Friday the forecast began to change. More and more models were predicting a more westerly track for the storm. First they said central Florida and then the gulf coast. The most frightening prediction of all was the storm surge. Some predictions had it as high as 15 feet for our area. By this time we were glued to the TV news. They showed the effect of various levels of storm surge on houses. A surge of 15 feet would have destroyed the house and killed anyone inside.

We are pretty close to the coast. The authorities have mapped out evacuation zones based on altitude and proximity to water. We learned that we were in ZONE A, the most vulnerable. Yes, yes, I know. Didn’t we consider that when we bought the house? Well, no. Everyone said there hadn’t been a hurricane to affect this area in decades. The new houses were built higher and stronger than before. And we were pretty naive. Close to the water means better boating!

A neighbor of ours had flown north earlier in the week because she works from home and needed electricity and internet for her business. But her husband stayed. On Friday afternoon, about 4 o’clock, he showed up at our door and said he was going to the shelter. We watched the news one last time. The forecast was dire and the surge predictions were terrifying.

We decided to all go to the shelter together. He had it plugged into his GPS. It was a high school built recently with shelter capacity in mind. These people are brilliant. It was on the highest ground in the city and miles inland from the gulf. We took about 15 minutes to do what we could. We moved some things up onto higher shelves. We did not have as much stuff here as permanent residents so that was fortunate. We grabbed a few supplies, some food, a couple yoga mats, a pillow, computers, phone chargers. I took some house keys, still thinking there might not be electricity when we returned, and some paperwork that showed that we owned the house. We still have out of state drivers licenses and I had heard that sometimes only residents are allowed into areas after the storm.

We got to the shelter about 4:30 pm on Friday. Others were arriving as well. We stood in a line to fill out a form with information about who was there in the family, what car we had in the lot, contact information, etc. A shelter worker OK’d our form. We were directed to a second line where police used laptop computers to do a background check. If you passed you got a red wrist-band. If you failed, I do not know what happened.

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Then we got in a third line where a worker took you to a hallway spot that had been marked out with painters tape and told you this was “your spot”. “Please stay within your boundaries”.

 

Just as we completed our registration, a mandatory evacuation for ZONE A went out. This meant that hotels near the water were closed. All those people were seeking shelter and the lines became much longer. I was relieved that we had chosen to go when we did. I felt safe on the second floor (flood would only reach the first floor and tornado would take the top floor). I hoped that people on the other floors would be able to make it to our space in time.

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The shelter ended up registering over 3200 people and 800 pets. Cats, dogs, birds, turtles, and at least in our hallway 6 new world monkeys. That was 1000 more people than were planned for and soon more shelters were opened.

 

We settled in Friday night to sleep. Others who had been through this before were much better prepared; blow up air beds, cooler full of food and drink. We were not locked into the shelter and could come and go as we liked. But two things kept us there. First, if you left someone might take your spot or your things. We did not yet know the folks around us nor how kind they would turn out to be. Secondly, when the wind reached 45 mph, the doors would be locked, no more in and out. There was no timetable for this, just a warning. Friday night, the guys went back to our houses to grab a few more things. Saturday morning, after the shelter quit taking more people, we all three went back. We got an air mattress, more bedding, more food. We took showers, made coffee, packed more coffee for the morning, put up a few more things on shelves and watched some more news (still dire). We hurried back to the shelter and stayed there for the duration.

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There was electricity but limited outlets. Everyone took turns charging devices. We never knew when the power might be interrupted so we used our devices sparingly and kept them charged. I texted my daughter and asked her to be our contact and post updates on Facebook. She did a great job. Before that, I was getting lots of texts from people wanting to know how we were. I knew I couldn’t keep answering everyone so the Facebook solution worked well. Even those who do not use FB probably know someone who does. My daughter excepted friend requests from lots of people she didn’t know. I imagine this week she will have to sort that all out and unfriend some who only wanted to keep posted about us.

We found a coffee pot in one of the classrooms and had brought coffee and filters. We shared coffee and many were delighted.

The shelter served meals. It was the only shelter in town that did. The lines were long but moved quickly. After all, the cafeteria is set up to feed lots of hungry teenagers in a short time on school days. We tried to use the food we had brought, especially the food that was not going to keep, but ate a few meals in the cafeteria. There was orange juice at every meal, of course.

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Anyone with medical experience was asked to report to the information desk. They were given masking tape name tags. Nurses made rounds to see if anyone needs medical attention. Any student who attended the high school was asked to report to the office. Many of them were acting as host/hostess walking around asking if anyone needed anything. Some folks brought trays of food from the cafeteria to those who are less able to get down there and stand in line. Women who were 38+ weeks pregnant were asked to come to a special room.

Some young men made paper fans and passed them out.

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On Saturday night, a 90-something year old man and woman moved in across the hallway from us. They had an air mattress and food. She had a walker and a bad knee. She had difficulty getting up and down from the floor and he was helping her as much as possible. Soon, the folks in the hallway were there, helping her up and down, clearing a path for her in the hallway. They were cheerful, but it was obvious that the stress we all felt was hard for them, as it was for all of us. All night I worried about her. While we were at breakfast  she felt unwell. EMS was called and decided she was dehydrated and needed to be taken to the hospital. The EMT was in radio contact and called for a transport. Then she said, we need to GO! They are closing the roads and locking down emergency services. So our (by now) friend, Mary, went out on the last transport from the shelter before lockdown. I was worried about her, but glad she had made the cutoff if she needed to go. Her husband went with her with just the most important of their belongings. We packaged up the rest and took it down to the information desk. Except the air mattress. We used that until we left and then took it down, too, I felt sure they wouldn’t mind. (Update: We have heard from our new friends and they are home and well!)

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I was keeping a journal, writing small on a scrap of paper I found in my purse. I also tried to take some pictures and video. I wanted to document the event but not invade people’s privacy. It was a remarkable intimate view of strangers lives. I could see how people interacted with their children and spouses, watch people as they slept, notice all kinds of personal habits and actions. One young man brought enough clothes to change several times a day. The teenagers tried to maintain a good appearance. Most adults tried to stay clean but the hallways were a little less than fresh with all the worry and pets, especially after the doors were closed and locked. After that folks could not take their dogs outside, so a special area with concrete flooring was used as a dog walk. I never went there so I have no idea how it will be cleaned up.

As the storm moved in on Sunday, you could sense the tension. Each update plucked at already tense nerves. The storm slowed and predictions of surge were very scary. I couldn’t help thinking about the house. I imagined what several feet of water would do. All the furniture would be lost, all the lower cabinets, all the drywall up several feet. It was hard not be sad and worried. There was absolutely nothing to be done. I worried about people who had not evacuated, those I knew and those I did not. I wanted the storm to stay away from us, but didn’t want it to hit others either/instead.

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I passed the time knitting “hurricane Irma socks”. Others were knitting, too. Lots of people stopped by to ask about knitting. I was glad I had my iPod to help relax. I had a book, a real paperback book, that I had saved for this trip. I copied a pattern for a cute baby sweater from a woman near us who had to leave the Westin. They were from the UK and here “on holiday”. They were smart enough to bring pillows and bedding from the Westin. They were not sure if they would be allowed to return there and the future of the bedding was in question.

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Eventually, the storm hit Naples and then moved inland a bit more than predicted. It weakened and passed west of the shelter.

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I did not hear wild wind nor see things flying through the air. The school seemed pretty sturdy. The palms were definitely bent and the rain came down pretty hard.

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We began to hear that the surge predictions had gone WAY down and the storm was moving off. Low tide was going to occur at the same time as any storm surge. This was very fortunate. I went to sleep Sunday night hopeful but still anxious to see what would be left in its wake.

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We never lost power completely at the shelter so when I woke up on the night I could check the status of the storm. Of course, no one could tell me how the house faired, especially since it was dark.

Monday morning at 6:20 am, they announced over the PA that they were unlocking the doors. We could go to our cars, even pack up in anticipation of leaving. But we could not actually leave because the entire county was under a curfew until 7:00 am. That dusk to dawn curfew remains this week because some hazards are hard to see in the dark.

We were able to drive directly from the shelter to our house without any flooding to stop us. As we went we noticed that there were lights on. Hard to believe. We were delighted to arrive home and find very little damage. One tree tipped over, one pool screen ripped. We still had power and even internet. 85% of the people in our county did not have power.

It was a remarkable lesson. We now have a second chance to prepare for a future hurricane. We will reassess our insurance coverage, acquire and store emergency supplies, and plan to evacuate early and often. I will research emergency preparedness and make lists of things to do and get. Perhaps I will write a future post about it.

I keep thinking about the people I shared space with at the shelter. They were certainly a cross section of humanity. Nearly everyone was as patient, tolerant, and helpful as you could ever expect good people to be in a stressful situation. I think if I saw them on the street now I would be tempted to hug them.

I need to get out some thank you notes. The folks who planned for this emergency did a remarkable job. I don’t know of anything they could have done better.

Here are a few more pictures.

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National Guard at the shelter.

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Five day old baby.

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People sleeping in the stairwells.

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Airbeds – some people have been through this before and knew what to bring.

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White bedding from the Westin.

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Masking tape name tags.

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Snippet from my make-shift journal.

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Red band souvenirs of the shelter.

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Coffee and a shower at home.

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After the storm many hazards remain – generator fumes, downed power lines, flooding, damaged roads.

It has been helpful to write about this experience. My best wishes to those who are still recovering from Irma and Harvey. My greatest thanks to those who serve others in planning for , protecting from, and recovering from disasters.

Learning to Spin (Yarn)

Fibers have always fascinated me. Years ago, my sister and I collected reeds and tried to make paper after hearing about papyrus. I have since learned to knit and weave and my love of fiber continues.

So I was delighted this months to finally learn to spin. The class, “Beginning Spinning and Rainbow Dyeing”,  was at  Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island off the coast of Door County Wisconsin. I have been wanting to take it for years and finally the timing was right.

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Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 10.14.43 AMThe instructor was Deb Jones, the owner of Fiber Gardens in Black River Falls, WI. Deb is a wonderful instructor, patient and kind. She has an excellent plan that takes you from no spinning experience to confident spinner is just a few days.

Like all such skills, practice after the class is key, but this course really got me off to a good start. My goals were quite modest – just find out about spinning. But I became so confident after this class that I actually bought a spinning wheel. I can’t wait to get spinning!

On day one, we treadled several wheels to see how they felt. We then “spun” some yarn from a commercial skein to see how the wheel’s uptake felt. Then we talked about what you needed to start with to spin. We were given some wool and hand carders. We carded the fiber into “rolags” (soft rolls of carded fiber ready to be spun) and practiced spinning them. To spin, you partially separate some fibers from the bunch in your hand (a process called called drafting), pinch the already spun yarn, treadle the wheel to save up some rotational energy, release the pinch and let the energy spin the separated fibers. It sounds straight forward enough but several things can go wrong.

One thing that might happen is that you will draft too few fibers and the thread will break. Another is that the twisting energy can take over the entire bunch of fibers in you hand creating  a large twisted mess. My greatest difficulty was getting a similar amount of fiber drafted each time. My thread ran from thin to thick and back again. With practice I got better at drafting and treadling. All of you limbs are working at the same time! One classmate said I treadled as though I were peddling a bicycle. Indeed, I had to learn to treadle much more slowly and to stop treadling when things went awry.

5325 cropped.pngOnce our first yarn was spun we left it on a spindle and spun a second yarn. This time we were given an already prepared piece of wool with the fibers neatly aligned. This type of wool is called a “top” and is prepared by combing. I chose a blue wool. More practice spinning and I had a second spindle of twisted yarns.

IMG_5320The yarns that have been spun once have a more limited use then yarns which have been “plied”. By taking two yarns that have been spun in the same direction and spinning them together in the opposite direction they are less inclined to twist up on themselves than single ply yarns. Deb said that by plying a natural color yarn with a colored yarn we would be able to see the plying process more easily. She was right! This is my first skein of hand spun, two ply yarn. I love it!

Class didn’t start until 2pm on that first day. That was a lot to accomplish in just a few hours.

Hand carding it tedious. On day two, Deb introduced us to the drum carders. They are hand crank versions of the hand carders and process the wool in much higher volumes. Deb had brought a large supply of fibers from her store and she showed us how to combine and blend fibers with the drum carder.

We each selected some fibers to combine. We split our rovings i and shared with each other. It was fun to see how each of the yarns looked when spun. I have not plied that yarn yet, but will sometime soon.

Later, I carded a grey wool with some sparkly blue fibers called Angelina and spun the resulting fiber into a single ply yarn. It turned out kind of thick so I didn’t want to ply it with another thick hand-spun yarn. One of my classmates had gone over to the Siever’s store and purchased a thin commercial yarn to ply with her handspun. It turned out very well so I copied her. I purchase a thin wool/tencel blend in blue. I think the result is pretty.

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We were planning to dye, not spin, the third day so I came back after supper to finish spinning and plying this yarn. One of the advantages of staying in the women’s dorm at the school is that there is easy access to the studios that remain available all night.

Since I have spun a variety of yarns, but in small quantities I have been thinking about how to use them. After I came back from a weaving class here at Siever’s, I could not get myself to cut the fabric I had woven and it is still in a box more than 20 years later. I don’t want that to happen to the yarns so I think I will knit myself a cowl/scarf. I will use all the small yardages  spun in class and in between them I will use all the “local” yarns I have collected over the years. It is hard to go into a yard shop somewhere, like Kelleys Island, and not buy something. I have also received several gifts of hand spun or local sheep yarn. I will get them all out, arrange them and knit something on big needles.

Day three was dyeing day. Deb had given us several balls of wool yarn that had already been washed and was ready to dye and three wool rovings also ready to dye. She had a huge selection of dye colors and introduced us to several processes, some in the morning and more in the afternoon.

Painted Roving

These were painted with dye, wrapped in plastic wrap, and steamed for 30 minutes to set the dye. They were then washed and hung to dry.

The third roving was divided into thin sections and combined with one from each of the class members. The resulting yarn, called our Friendship Yarn, had 20 colors. Each person spun their yarn and plied it with their choice of yarns (mine is the one with the light colored second ply). Deb spun some and plied it on itself. The resulting yarns looked completely different from each other!

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I have not spun the other two painted rovings yet but can’t wait to do so!

Canning Jar Locks

Locks of Coopworth wool were placed in canning jars. Dry dye powder as spooned on top in three places. Hot water was poured into the jar  mixing the dyes as little as possible. The jars were placed in a steam bath for 30 minutes. I have not spun my locks yet. They are so pretty just like they are.

When I showed them to a friend from Chile, she said that there were necklaces she had seem that were made from hand spun wool and embellished with felted flowers, art yarn, jewels, and locks! I found them on Pinterest and they look like they would be fun to make.

Half and Half Immersion Dyed Balls

In this process, balls of yarn are placed in a shallow dye bath and baked for 30 minutes. The dye only comes part way up the ball. Then the balls are flipped over in another dye bath of a different color and processed again for 30 minutes. The resulting skein had two colors (and maybe some undyed areas). Because the ball is wound in an interesting pattern by the ball winder, the colors are distributed in the yarn in a pretty way.

I used Chinese Red and Turquoise.

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Injection Dyeing

Another technique for dyeing balls of yarn is injection. Syringes full of dye are injected into the ball. I was surprised at how many injections were needed to color the balls. The grey and burgundy yarn in the picture about was produced in this way. After injecting, the ball was wrapped in plastic wrap and steamed for 30 minutes.

Painted Skeins

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Niddy-noddy

Like the painted rovings, the painted skeins were laid out and painted with cotton ball dabbers or rollers. The balls of yarn were wound onto a niddy-notty, then laid on plastic wrap and painted. They were wrapped in plastic, steamed for 30 minutes, washed and hung to dry.

 

 

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This mohair boucle yarn was painted with a roller in shades of gold and red.

 

 

 

This brushed mohair was painted by daubing confetti colors. It was too bright and loud, so I toned it down by immersion dyeing it in a bath of dilute silver gray. This process made it look completely different.

On days four and five, we went back to spinning. We were supplied with generous amounts of fibers to try.

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Baby alpaca is very slippery and I ended up wearing a lot of fiber.

Spinning from the fold is an alternate way of drafting. I found it very useful.

This green wool spun up pretty. I am taking some of this home.

Spinning with different fibers.

Well, this is a lot to write about in one post. It was a big week with lots of learning. In the end, I decided that spinning is something I will really enjoy. So I bought a spinning wheel, one that will fit in my car.

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Deb is hosting a spinning retreat in Baraboo WI in October. You can read about it on her webpage. I think it will be a  wonderful follow up to this week long spinning class.

We each loaded our week’s worth of effort into pretty baskets.

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It was hard to get on the ferry and leave the island. But the sky was so beautiful I couldn’t help but be inspired to create something to commemorate the week. What should it be?

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I’m sure there will be more to post about my spinning week at Siever’s on Washington Island. This post is big enough for now!

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.

 

18” Doll Cardigan with Lacy Raglan Seam

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18” Doll Cardigan with Lacy Raglan Seam

After knitting two little baby sweaters in the “top down” raglan design, I decided to try a couple variations. One way to practice a concept is to make doll clothes. The 18” dolls, like the American Girl Dolls and those like them are large enough to judge results, but small enough to work the project up quickly without too much material. Here is picture of the finished sweater and the pattern for making it.

This is the story of this pattern for a lacy cardigan for an 18” doll. My approach to many projects is like sighting in a gun. Try it, fix it, try it, fix it again.

target

I had been using US 5 needles for the baby sweaters so I had a gauge for them using baby yarn. I really wanted to use worsted weight since I have so much of it so I measured the dolls and guessed at the gauge. If you are a regular reader you know that I am lazy and optimistic when it comes to gauge.

My plan was to cast on some stitches (40), knit some ribbing (K1P1 for 3 rows), use a single stitch as the raglan “seam”, increase before and after each seam with a YO stitch (to create holes in a lacy pattern), create front plackets (K4) at the start and end of each row, create buttonholes with YO (4 evenly spaced), and finish the body and sleeves with ribbing (K1P1 for 4 rows). Easy peasy, right?!

Here’s how I came up with 40 stitches to cast on:

Front Placket – 4

Front – 3

Seam – 1

Sleeve – 6

Seam – 1

Back – 10

Seam – 1

Sleeve – 6

Seam – 1

Front – 3

Front Placket – 4

I first guessed that the raglan region should be about 16 rows. That would give me 8 increases since increases are only done every other row on the right (knit) side. Each increase row adds 8 stitches, one before and one after each of the 4 seams. Half of those stitches are in the body and half are in the sleeves. That gave me a body of about 58 stitches and that seemed like a good starting point.

When the body was done and the sleeve stitches were still on their holding yarn, I tried it on the doll. Big moment.

It was passable. If I were in a hurry to give the sweater to someone I would have finished it, sewn on the buttons and sent it away. But I was really interested in perfecting the pattern so I didn’t even finish the sleeves. There were several things I didn’t like about this first attempt and set out to fix them.

  1. The worsted weight yarn on the small size 5 needles was so bulky that it filled in the spaces around the raglan seam and holes obliterating them visually. The lace didn’t show up.
  2. The sweater is generally just too big.
  3. The buttonholes were created in the front placket by K2, YO, K2tog. To space them evenly I tried to recreate this look working back across on a purl (WS) row. As you can see from the picture, I did not get the horizontal spacing right. Sometime I will work on that issue, but for now, all buttonholes should be created in the same direction, at the start of the knit (RS) rows.

There really was not choice but to switch to a lighter weight yarn. I guess the worsted weight yarns will just have to wait for a different project. I chose a Lion Brand  Wool-Ease sportweight yarn (5 oz = 435 yards) color 232 “Wood” and knit the exact same pattern with no changes. There was really no quick way to tell how much effect the lighter yarn would have on the sweater’s fit. So this was shot number 2.

The sweater was too small. I was starting to feel like Goldilocks. So I decided to extend the raglan seam 2 rows, extend the length of the body 4 rows and extend the length of the sleeves.

This third attempt was pretty close to the target. I think the sleeves are still a little short. Four to six more rows and they will be perfect.

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I like the pattern and I think the details in the raglan seam show up much better with the lighter weight yarn.

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Just for fun, I have included these two pdf documents to show how to make a pattern reader that acts as both instructions and a row counter.

Doll Cardigan Reader Version

Pattern Reader

Full Disclosure – This was not my idea!

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Print the instructions and trim them. Print the reader and use a sharp cutter to slice along the lines. Insert the instructions into the gap. As you can see, only one row at a time is visible. At the end of each row, slide the instructions up to the next line. Using this device, there is no need for a separate row counter. In this example I figured out exactly how many stitches were in each row and described what to do with them. You may think this is excessive in detail, but I’m sure some new knitters (or those who get disturbed often) will appreciate it.

I hope you enjoy the sweater pattern. Post a picture of your sweater in the comment section if you make one. I would enjoy seeing them.

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.

Sewing for 18″ Dolls – Pants

Sewing for 18” dolls is fun, doesn’t take much material and is a good way for new sewers to understand clothing construction. The only really expensive part are purchased patterns which can cost $20 or more. But you really don’t need purchased patterns to start sewing doll cloths. In a previous post I tried to show how you can make simple skirts and dresses for the dolls, and even their human girls, just by measuring.

Today I would like to show you another technique. You can use clothes the dolls already have to make a pattern.

 

For the first example, I chose a pair of knit capri pants with an elastic waist. I found them in a bag of clothes I bought at a garage sale. The nice thing about this is that it doesn’t matter if the garments is old or stained or torn. They will work equally well for making a pattern.

Capri Pants Pic 1

Capri Pants Pic 2

Notice that the store bought clothes are not really “high quality” sewing. The seam allowances are small and the seams unfinished.  The hems are just roughly turned under once with cut edges showing. Most of these clothes are mass produced using as little fabric and notions as possible.

But these are just doll clothes. No one is going to prom or a job interview here. So try to keep this in mind when you are sewing. Of course make things as neat as you can, but don’t go overboard trying to make them as good as human clothes. Also, the dolls are not really concerned with comfort, so a thick seam won’t bother them. The goal of this post is to show how young sewers can make inexpensive doll cloths. They should be easy for little hands to get on and off the dolls.

The first step is to take apart the garments. This little device is called a seam ripper. It fits nicely under stitches to break them.

Carefully pick the seams apart and when you are done, you will have a pile of loose thread, two cut garment pieces, and a piece of elastic. Measure the elastic. In this case it is 1/8” wide and 8 3/4” long. It is actually is pretty good shape so you could use it again. Looking closely at the two fabric pieces reveals that they are identical. We can copy one to the pattern and use it to cut two pieces.

Taken Apart 1

pants piece 2

The fabric piece is wrinkled and bent, so iron it carefully to make it flat and easy to trace. You can use the fabric directly to cut a new garment or you can trace it create a reusable pattern. Sometimes I use wax paper but if you want to make more than one garments you will need to use something more durable. Non-fusable interfacing works very well. It don’t unravel, it can be ironed, and it can be written on.

trace 1trace 2trace 3

finished pattern 1

I usually make the first item out of some scrap material just to make sure the garment will fit and that I like the length and style. I this case I used some cheap lightweight knit. Remember to cut two. This is often the case with purchased patterns as well.

cutting 1cutting 3

To construct the new pants:

  1. Stitch the center front seam. I have used a slight zigzag stitch here as I often do on knits to provide a little “give” in the seam. The materials stretches so its nice if the seam can, too.IMG_0643
  2. Turn down the material at the waist and sew across to create the elastic casing.IMG_0644
  3. Insert the elastic. Use a bodkin or safety pin to thread the elastic through the casing. Be sure to stitch the elastic in place when the end reaches the edge of the fabric. Continue pulling the elastic through and secure the second end in place with a few stitches.
  4. Stitch the center back seam.IMG_0651
  5. Turn up the hem on each leg and stitch in place.IMG_0652
  6. Align the inseam and sew the pant legs. Sometimes I start at the center and sew each direction. Sometimes I sew from one pant hem to the other along the entire inseam. It depends on whether the pieces line up well or if they are being difficult.
  7. The practice pants are done. Try them on the dolls and check the fit. These seems to fit fine.

There were a couple things about the pattern that I did not care for so before making additional pairs, I would make the waist area a little higher and use 1/4” elastic. It would be easier to thread through and make the casing easier to sew.

It would also be easy to make these legs shorter to make shorts or longer to make pants. I used wax paper to make a couple quick adjustments.

shorts and pants

Here is the pattern that I made for the knit capri pants. I put it on the scanner and created a pdf that you can print. Set your printer to print the image at 100%. There is a reference line 2” long that you can use to make sure that your printout is the same size as my original pattern.

Knit Capri Pattern

The knit fabric was definitely easy to sew and fit. I didn’t know if the pattern would work as well with woven fabric, which has less stretch, so I made a pair of shorts in woven fabric. They did not fit and I could not get them on the doll. So I found a pair of woven pants and repeated the process. This gave me new patterns for doll pants out of woven material. I am including those patterns as well.

Unfortunately the pattern pieces are wider that the 8” paper most printers and scanner use. So those patterns are included in two pieces. Print them out and tape the two pieces together along the “tape line”.

I have included some pictures of the pants, capris, and short made from these patterns as well.

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This is the first pair of pants I made in woven material. Here is the pattern. It is in two parts which should be printed and tape together.

woven pants part 1

woven pants part 2

These denim shorts are cut from the leg of an old pair of work jeans. The faded denim is great! This pattern is also in two pieces which should be printed and taped together.

woven shorts part 1

woven shorts part 2

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These board shorts use the same pattern as the other shorts, but I cut them a little shorter in the waist and added a band of contrasting material. The ends of the band are folded under and come together at the front, not quite touching, to allow for the insertion of a string or ribbon. Once the ribbon/string is inserted I usually stitch it at the back center so little hands won’t pull the string out.

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These khaki shorts (maybe part of a school uniform) have the traditional “flat felled” seam found in store bought pants. I had the legs of a pair of pants that I had cut off for shorts. So I just centered the pattern pieces on the seam so it would look like I had sewn the sides this way. Nice trick!

As you can see from the pictures, I decided to make these shorts a little shorter so I folded up the pattern a bit. Also, to make the garment symmetrical I cut one piece, flipped it over and used it for the pattern from the second piece. In that way I could line up the seam and make sure they would end up in the same position on both legs.

I hope you enjoy the patterns and that you learned to use old doll clothes to make new ones.

Post any pictures you take in the comments section. I would love to see what you make! If you create some patterns that you like, consider sharing them so others can benefit from your efforts.

Next time I am going to use the same process to make some patterns for tops. Watch for them if you are making doll clothes with little friends!

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.

Confetti Baby Sweater

I don’t like to have more than one project on needles at a time, but babies just won’t wait. So I set aside the Fair Isle Sampler Scarf that I have been working on and decided to knit this sweater for my niece whose baby is due soon.

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I used a free pattern I found online. I had already made this sweater in a marl grey for another family baby.

 

sweater patternTop Down Raglan Baby Sweater     Designed by Carole Barenys

I am very grateful to those who share instructions online. I used her newborn size but it turned out bigger, maybe 9 month.

 

yarn front

 

 

I used the same kind of Bernat Softee Baby yarn that I used last time, in a different color. The sweater is VERY soft and cuddly.

 

 

 

 

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The yarn I used this time is confetti color and turned out really cute.

Note the little buttonhole (at the left in the picture above) created by a YarnOver stitch followed by KnitTwoTogether.

Here some more pictures.

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I love the way this pattern uses two purl stitches to delineate the raglan seam. It make a little “ditch” that is very pretty.

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The cuffs and collar are knit on smaller needles than the rest of the sweater to make the ribbing nice.

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I used white buttons. I would have preferred pink, but the local fabric store seems to have a more limited selection every time I go there.

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The design is top down, so there are no seams. Last time I used rigid stitch holders to hold the sleeve stitches while I finished the body. The stitches in the underarm area seemed to get stretched out. So this time I use yarn to hold the stitches. It didn’t help. I still had to reweave the area. Next time I will do a little research and see if I can find out what I am doing wrong.

I hope she likes it. It is so much fun to knit for babies. I will drop the package in the mail today.

Now, back to my scarf.

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.

 

 

March For Science Hats

I am in support of science and I have become convinced by the evidence that the process of peer review is a self correcting path forward to understanding the universe in which we live.

Logo

On Earth Day, April 22, 2017 there will be a March For Science in Washington DC and satellite marches in other cities around the country. Why would someone march for science? Why would such a thing be necessary?

Because, non-partisan, evidenced based policy is in the public interest.

If you want to make a hat to wear, or just to commemorate the occasion, here is my contribution.

The women’s Peer Review Hat pattern is 64 stitches. If you make it with a US size 8 or 9 needle, it should fit most women. The men’s Demand Evidence Hat pattern is 88 stitches. I suggest a US size 6 needle for a man’s hat. Use whatever gauge you need to make a hat with the circumference you plan. I feel certain that my science friends will be able to figure out the math using these guidelines.

In honor of science, the measurement are are given in SI units.

Note that the patterns appear as reverse lettering. This is because the knit stitches are worked counter-clockwise but people read the message clockwise. This issue doesn’t affect motifs like snowflakes, animals, or geometric patterns as they can be reversed and still look OK. But letters are different, they have to be oriented in the correct direction and placed in order correct. Except I guess for some words with reversible letters and letter orders: MOM, TOT, OH HO. Though I have never actually knit any of these words on a hat.

 

W inst

Peer Review Backwards

 

M inst

Demand evidence backwards

As with my other recent projects, I tried to practice a new technique with the hats. On the Peer Review hat, the white strand is carried across the back of the work for quite a distance, especially at the top and bottom of the letter pattern. After watching a few videos and checking out a few posts, I learned how to “trap” the yarn every few stitches so that it did not hang too loosely in these places.

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I had a bit of trouble pulling the trapped strand too tight so that it showed through from the front, but I got better as I went along.

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In this picture you can see several of my tricks. I use a different color marker (white in this case) to show the beginning of the round and to distinguish that from the section stitch markers (cream color). You can also see that I use a gray “life line” before I started the crown. This is because no matter how careful I am I sometimes let a DP needle slip out of the work. I think it is particularly difficult to pick up all the stitches on circular work since it won’t lay flat on the table as you try to save it. The life line is a thread that is run through all the stitches at some point. If you have to pull out stitches, this offers an easy place to pick them back up again.

I am always so grateful for the willingness of others to share their expertise. You never know when the advice you post will be exactly the thing that someone needs to move forward. These bits of advice are timeless and will continue to provide instruction and encouragement for …… I don’t know how long. How long will the internet be around?

I plan to send my commemorative hats off to my favorite science couple.  Remember, as the woman’s sign says:

sign

 

Baby Sweater and Hat – Expanding My Repertoire

 

Lately it seems I have been knitting a lot of easy hats, scarves, shawls, and cowls. They are fun and relaxing, but I have decided to try some new things. I have been trying to select projects that force me to practice new or more complicated techniques.

My nephew and his wife are expecting a baby soon so I decided to knit a sweater and hat. This Bernat Softee Baby yarn in grey marl color was hard to resist.

Those of you who are frequent readers know that I am rather lazy and over confident when it comes to gauge, so I wasn’t surprised when the sweater turned out a little bigger than expected. Nice that the baby can grow into it. I used a free pattern:

sweater pattern

 

Top Down Raglan Baby Sweater     Designed by Carole Barenys

I am very grateful to those who share instructions online. I used her newborn size but it turned out bigger, maybe 9 month.

For the hat  I used measurements (again, thanks to those of your who share your knowledge) to decide dimensions, used the same size needles and the same yarn as the sweater, so I already knew the gauge. The hat turned out newborn size. I thought about knitting a new sweater or a new hat so they would be matching size but in the end I just sent them both. Who can guess what size babies will wear in each season?

So here are the sweater and hat with a list of the new techniques I used to make each.

sweater with wordshat with words

I learned quite a bit with these items. I have started a new sweater for my niece’s expected baby. I am adjusting the size a bit. But I don’t want to tell too much because I want her to be surprised.

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.