Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Did a little engineering

I ripped out the hairpin lace I started because I wasn't satisfied with it. The fork kept coming apart at the oddest opportunities, so I ripped it out and rolled the yarn into a ball. I got to thinking about how I could stop the spacers from moving around whenever they wanted and I hit on an idea-very simple, as are most good ideas. Electrical tape, or tape of any kind, I just had electrical handy. I put the top spacer on, then wrapped a small piece of tape around the tops of both rods, then pushed that spacer up and then taped right at the bottom of it so that it would stay at the top-no need to remove that one anyway. Then I put my loop back on the left rod and put the spacer on and taped a tiny piece at the bottom to keep that spacer from just slipping off while I was working. It works.

I'm guessing that this fork is quite old, considering the price on the piece of cardboard it was attached to said $1.75, or something like that and they're like $4-$7 for the inexpensive ones now. Anyway, the spacers didn't fit on the rods tightly enough to keep from moving, so the tape gave me just enough extra to keep everything where I want it while I'm making my strips. All I need to do is remove the tape at the bottom when I'm ready to remove the strip, or make room, then all I'll need is another piece of tape when I put the spacer back on. I also used a piece of the tape to mark the center bottom spacer so I could judge how big to make my first loop, which gave me a better-looking strip. I shouldn't have to remove the strip until I'm done with it now, because I think I can get what I need on it, or close to it. We'll see, it all squishes down quite nicely and now I can move along quite quickly since I don't have to worry about my spacer falling off at odd moments.

It's amazing what your brain can think of.

Especially early in the morning. After I finished my oatmeal, and as I was sipping my second cup of coffee and working on my hairpin lace, I got to thinking about how I could make another hairpin fork. I'm not sure how it would work yet, but if I use the one I have as a template I can get the measurements right for the spacers, and even create custom spacers. This last came after I saw what one woman made (to avoid paying through the nose for one) to get a six-inch fork-ugly, but it worked. However, I think I could make one that size and still have it look nice, and still for much, much less than buying one already made. Personally, I don't see the need for making strips less than four inches wide, but I could see the need for six-inch-wide strips, or wider, though the fork would be a bit unwieldy if it were much bigger than six inches, I think.

All I'll need are two long sticks (skinny dowels or small knitting needles would do) and something to make the spacers with. I'm thinking about making them out of several layers of plastic canvas hot-glued together like stacked pancakes. All I would need to do is to snip a small hole where I wanted my spacers, then glue them together between the holes.

It would come in handy if I wanted to have more than one project going or just to have more than one strip of a single project going. Either way, it's always handy to have spares, no?

I'll let you know when I have it all figured out.

My first hairpin lace strip

I'm almost done with it, I think. One by itself would make a trendy (I really dislike that word, who cares what is or is not trendy?) skinny scarf. It twists because of being flipped while working on it, but shouldn't be hard to straighten out when I get ready to join another strip to it, I'll just roll it up and store it while I figure out which color to do next. Joining them probably won't be easy either, no matter how I try to do it, at least until I get the first two joined together, then I'll know how best to do it for me.

I'm thinking about designing a lacy jacket using this tool, I'll just need to figure up how best to do it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hairpin lace

It's very easy, once you find instructions that don't go into so much detail that they end up confusing you. Sometimes A, B, C, D works much better than A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H.

A: Make a slip knot at the end of your yarn and slip the loop onto the left prong of your hairpin lace loom, having the knot at the center of the loom and the working end of your yarn draped over the right prong. Put your bottom spacer on to hold this in.

B: Bring yarn around the back of the loom, insert your crochet hook from the bottom through the middle of the left loop, catch the working yarn and pull it through.

C: Keeping loop on hook and holding the working yarn in your left hand, flip the loom over, going from right to left and passing the hook through the middle of the loom. (Don't drop the loop from the hook.)

D: Insert hook through the left loop as before and pull the yarn through. (you'll have two loops on your hook now) YO and complete the sc to get back to one loop on the hook.

Now, repeat C and D until you have the specified number of loops on your strip. making sure that you have an equal number of loops on each side. Then cut your yarn, leaving a decent tail, pull it through the last loop on your hook and tighten to end your strip. If you need more room on your loom, simply remove the bottom spacer, drop off all but a few loops, then put the spacer back on and continue making loops. Once you start dropping loops off the loom, be careful that you don't twist the working yarn around the strip. This is easy to do and easy to prevent, just keep them separated when you're flipping the loom. However, you can get a pretty large number of loops on the loom before you have to do this, just scrunch them together as you near the top of the loom and you should be able to get at least a couple of hundred loops on there before you have to make room for more.

If you do this right, your yarn will always be in the back of the loom and will always wrap around the right prong of the loom each time you flip it. You'll soon find a rhythm and a way to hold it all that will suit you, I'm not going to tell you how I hold mine because it may not be right for you. Once I found some instructions that made sense I was off making my first strip and it really works up fast. I'm going to make a wrap out of it from some leftover stuff in my stash and see what joining method I like for it.

The instructions that finally made sense to me are here if anyone is interested. They may not make sense to someone else, but when I read them and tried it, everything suddenly clicked and I was making hairpin lace instead of a mess.

One last piece of advice if anyone is reading this: Don't hold your yarn too tightly, just tight enough to make the loop around the fork. Pull it too tight and you'll pull in the sides of the loom and have an uneven strip.

Stay tuned.

Bottle cap crocheting

I found some interesting instructions and patterns for making bottle cap trivets with beer bottle caps and #10 crochet thread. They're vintage patterns, invented when most bottles used the same kind of cap, nowadays, you can only get them on beer bottles, or order them online apparently-something I'm not willing to do, nor am I going to go to a bar and ask for their used bottle caps. However, there are always ways around most things and if I want to try this, I'll find a way. I've already got an idea or two that might work, all I really need are similar-sized inserts that won't melt or burn if something hot is placed on it.

Almosts done

With a pair of socks I started awhile back, the ones I'm doing in the Bernat Baby Jacquards in I think Petunias-a striping yarn in mostly pinks. I decided to do afterthought heels on them and am at the heel of the second sock, I unzipped the stitches at church yesterday evening while waiting for the services to start. I've had several people admire them while I've been doing them, mostly at church while waiting for class/services to start and they like the color combination. I'm doing the toes and heels in a nice contrasting pale purple, which is also a Bernat baby yarn, but no nylon like the main sock. It's still very soft though, and I hope it holds up under wearing, if not, I'll simply unravel it and add in a heel done in the Jacquards, or another sturdier yarn. That's the great thing about afterthought heels, they can be replaced very easily, especially if they're done in a contrasting color to the main sock.

I also picked up another project that's been sitting around awhile and I can't remember if it was going to be another pair of socks or a pair of fingerless mitts. Since I can't remember, I've decided to go for another pair of mitts since I have a pair of socks in that yarn-Bernat Baby, the pound skein with pale blue/green blotches on white. The socks are very comfortable, so I might still make another pair of socks with this yarn since there's so much of it-perhaps another DK pair, once I finish the other pair I'm doing so I can have those needles. This project is on #3 needles and I don't want to DK with them since I'll likely need to do the heel with a larger needle (if I go with afterthought heels again).

Also, another friend from church who is a crocheter like me, and likes to give me stuff when she digs through her things, gave me a hairpin lace maker. I've been wanting to try hairpin lace, but the doohickey is hard to find. Hers is an old one, but it doesn't really matter as long as all the parts are there, right? I intend to look up projects and different ways to join the strips before I get started, and I hope to be posting about my first project before long, which will likely be something simple, like a wrap/shawl, likely using different leftover yarns from my stash before trying something with matching yarn. One way or another I'll keep you posted.

I always like to get stuff from her because she always gives me vintage patterns, some of which would still work today, or could be reworked to look more modern. She gave me a magazine that has several projects I'd like to make from it-a couple of tops and a skirt set. The magazine looks like it's from the early '70s, but the designs look classic, or at least would still look good if reworked just a bit. I'll have to adjust them anyway since the largest size might be a bit too small for me, nothing more than changing needle sizes and finding comparable yarn, if I can, I don't think most of those yarns called for are being manufactured today, with the exception of Red Heart classic.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Afterthought heel/kitchener stitch

After reading around on the web, the heel made by using a waste yarn 'zipper' like I described a few posts ago is still called an afterthought heel. I don't think it should be called that, because it wasn't done as an afterthought, it was planned. Maybe they should change the name to forethought for the planned one and keep afterthought for the one where you go back and cut your yarn to unzip the live stitches (called steeking).

Personally, I think one should use the waste yarn zipper, it's much easier and doesn't require counting stitches/rows to get it right on both socks, you know exactly where it's at because you can see the contrast color waste yarn and don't have to worry about accidentally ruining a perfectly good pair of socks.

While I'm at it, why are so many knitters scared stiff of the kitchener stitch? To me, it's practically mindless. My mantra is K, P, P, K-which means slip the yarn needle through the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit, slip the stitch off the needle, slip the yarn needle through the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl and leave it on the needle, slip the yarn needle through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl and slip that stitch off the needle, slip the the yarn through the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit and leave that stitch on the needle, lather, rinse, repeat until all stitches are worked off the needles. What this does is weave the stitches off the needles with an invisible seam that looks like it's been knitted, nothing to it and nothing to be frightened of.

Now, before anyone starts whining "But you've probably been doing this all your life!", let me explain. Yes, I've been knitting since I was about nine, which is a little longer than forty years ago now. But I didn't try knitting in the round until after I was much, much older. And socks are a recent attempt as well, in my knitting life, anyway. My first pair turned out rather well because I followed the pattern to the letter and the first time I tried weaving the toe off, I was a bit nervous because I'd read that kitchener stitch was difficult. When I got to that part and carefully read the instructions and started, I just had to wonder "Who are these people who said this was difficult?"

So, while I've been knitting off and on for practically all my life, I was a fairly older woman before I tried kitchener stitch and I found it no harder to do than learning how to knit in the round with double pointed needles (which is also not as difficult to learn). If you think of it the way I finally did, you'll find it's not so hard either-you may have four separate needles in your work and one spare, but you'll still only be working with two of them at a time and the rest just sit there and wait their turn. The hardest part is casting on and joining, then after the first round, the rest is a piece of cake. So, just have some chocolate handy to munch on until you get to the piece of cake part and you'll do just fine. Of course, if you really want to get into something that'll blow your mind, get into knitting an entire pair of socks on dpns-using the doubleknitting method-but only if you're really adventurous, because that is a project that will have you using words that got your mouth washed out with soap when you were a kid (if you have parents like mine-who favored the backhanded approach-literally). TTFN.

Friday, November 26, 2010

To go up a needle size or not

That is the question. I'm debating that on these Jinx socks when I go to do the heels. I'm planning on just doing the Granny heel, then doing each heel separately after the socks are done. I'll use scrap yarn when I think my leg is long enough, which will mark the stitches for the heel, then use the same yarn to make the heel.

However, I got to thinking that when I go to do the heel, my gauge will change because I'll no longer be doing both socks at the same time. It will likely be tighter, which will make a smaller heel, so I'll likely go up a needle size to compensate. Nothing like a handmade sock with an ill-fitting heel.

Pair of socks

Almost finished with a pair of socks I started in Bernat baby jacquard, color Petunia. I'm also almost through with a pair in the same yarn, color Boo Berries, which has been discontinued. I wish they hadn't done that, I like that color, but the Petunias is pretty too, though you can't see the flowers because I'm using much smaller needles than called for in that yarn, I'm just getting  pools of pink and yellow on a white background in that stripe.

The Petunias socks are turning out very nice, I'm doing the toes and heels in Bernat baby yarn as well, in purple, which contrasts well with the pinks of the stripes in the socks. The heels are Granny heels, where I use a small piece to knit off the heel stitches, then remove it when I get ready to do the heel and use the live stitches it exposes. I'm almost to the toes in the second sock, using the first to make sure I keep my stitch count the same. The Granny heel is basically a heel done just like the toe-with decreases until the heel is large enough, then use kitchener stitch to weave the remaining stitches off.

I like this heel, or the yarn over short row heel if I'm doing the heel in the same yarn as the sock. I never have liked the heel flap/gusset and could never do them right.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Jinx socks

Yes, I think I'm going to call them the Jinx socks. I had to work back several times into the top ribbing before I finally stopped crossing yarns. (I also had a dropped stitch I missed, which contributed to the constantly crossed yarns).

Now I'm going along swimmingly with the leg and I read her instructions for doing the heels at once and I just don't think I'll do that, for two reasons...

A) I hate wrapped short rows
B) I'll end up crossing yarns again, I just know it.

So, like the other pair I started and didn't finish, I'm going to do the heels one at a time. It's just a simple matter of having an extra needle to put each set of heel stitches on, which I will have if, on the last row of the leg I simply knit all of the heel stitches onto one needle (I'm using a set of five needles)...UNLESS, I decide to try something else that she didn't cover at all-the Granny heel.

What is the Granny heel? Well, it's also called the Afterthought heel because you simply keep knitting until you finish the sock, go back to where you want your heel, cut your yarn to expose live stitches, slip your needles into them and knit a heel like you would a toe-using decreases. The easier way to do this is to simply knit the leg of the sock until it's as long as you want it, get a scrap piece of yarn, knit the heel stitches with the scrap yarn, go back and knit these stitches off with your working yarn. Now, not only will you know where your heel stitches are, you'll also have an easier time getting to the live stitches-all you have to do is pull the scrap yarn out and the stitches are exposed. In these DK socks, you would need two scrap pieces of yarn (preferably a contrasting color). I know this will work because I used the same technique to do the thumb hole on a pair of fingerless mitts that I DKed. If  you use the scrap yarn and plan where  your heel is it couldn't be called an Afterthought heel, so folks named it the Granny heel instead-same difference, you're exposing live stitches at the heel of the sock. This style is really the most easy thing to do for any knitted sock, and makes it easier to rip out an old heel and replace it when you get a hole in it-no more darning socks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DK Fingerless Mitts, cont.

I've pretty much finished the DK part, now all I need to do is finish the thumbholes. The easiest way I found to do that was to take two scrap pieces of yarn and, continuing to DK, knit five stitches on each mitt and then go back and knit those five stitches back off, something like doing a granny heel on a sock. When you pull the scrap yarn out, you have two sets of live stitches to work with.

I'll get to it maybe when I get home, I've pulled the first one out and put the live stitches onto to dpns. All I need to do is attach the yarn and start knitting. I'll try to take a picture when I'm through.

Right now, I'm working on a pair of DK socks on dpns. I'm using #2 Boye aluminum dpns in a set of five and Bernat Baby Sport yarn in Lollipop Drop, a varigated yarn in white, reddish-orange and yellow. Looks like the colors are going to knit up speckled, which looks pretty cool, I'll know more when I get off the ribbing and get onto the leg of the sock.

I'm tempted to name them jinx socks since I've had to start over once and un-knit several times, before I've even finished the top ribbing! Anyway, I think they're all straightened out now. Don't let those DK instructions fool you, if you're using the same color yarn for both socks and accidentally cross strands, it isn't just those two stitches that are frelled up, it's also the rest of them if you don't notice it for several rounds, so I've found it much more economical to knit back to the crossed strands and uncross them, as much of a PITA that it is.

And if any sock purists turn their nose up at them, they can always get some comparable, pricey sport sock yarn and do just as well. Me, I have no money to spend so I get yarn where I can afford it. I like handmade socks, so if I have to make them from acrylic baby yarn, I will. Baby yarn has come a long way since I first started crocheting/knitting and the socks I've made from it have kept my feet warm while being wash/dryable. Yes, I would love to use that handpainted, priced-through-the-roof stuff, but for the price of one-one and a half oz skein of it, I can get at least three 8-oz skeins of Bernat Baby Sport and knit at least three pairs of socks from one of them-you do the math.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Double knitting fingerless mitts

Double knitting is not for the faint of heart. Double knitting in the round is doubly so. Casting on and getting that first round can be very frustrating, but once done, the rest is much easier. I'm working on a pair of fingerless mitts, as the title says, and using some leftover Vanna's Choice in white. I made a pair of nice thick ankle socks out of them and decided to try the mitts next.

Doing socks, mitts, gloves, sleeves, whatever in this manner means you'll have both done when you're finished, however I wouldn't call it a shortcut or timesaver, just another way to get both at the same time. This method is best done in plain stockinette stitch, 1x1 rib, or any other rib, but nothing more complicated than that. If you want to do some kind of lacy sock, glove or sleeve and still want to do both at the same time I recommend Magic Loop or two circulars and do them side by side.

Another problem that presents itself is gauge. Your gauge will be looser, no matter what you do, so you'd have to experiment with needle sizes if you're doing sleeves. Also with gloves, mitts and socks if you're following a pattern. Plain socks you can just adjust the number of loops cast on. For instance-for my socks done one at a time I used 48 stitches. If I'd done the mitts one at a time that number would also be sufficient, but since I'm double knitting, I'm only using 40 stitches, the gauge is that loose.

For the directions on socks, visit Knitty. I do have a couple of more cheats that I used for the heels and toes-I simple separated them onto two different needles and did the short rows one at a time since I don't like wrapped short rows, I prefer YO short rows. Then, when I got ready to knit in the round again I simply knit them off both needles when I got to them and continued DKing. Same for the toes, just separate and finish them individually-less headaches, if you ask me.

So, that's my take on DKing to get a pair of socks, mitts or sleeves. It's not a shortcut, it's not for the timid knitter and it's fun to do just once in awhile just to wow non-knitters ;)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Sock construction

I'm a notorious non-finisher when it comes to knit and crochet things. Well, I do finish some things, eventually.

I have completed several pairs of socks though, mostly just plain, ordinary socks and one or two pairs of Tadpole socks. I changed the heel of the Tadpole socks from heel flap/gusset to short row because I like a short row heel better. However, the heel and the resulting short row from working back and forth always looked....odd. I found out awhile back it's because of the way I was doing my purl stitches-which was to wrap the yarn from top to bottom around the needle when I made the stitch. Now, while this method works to keep the stitch turned right when you turn to do the knit row, it actually makes that stitch just a hair bigger when you work it off on the next row. I found out from Nonaknits that if you wrap the yarn from bottom to top around the needle when making the purl stitch this will remedy that. However, as you will notice if you try that, the stitches are backwards on the needle when you turn to do the other row. This is remedied by knitting the stitches through the back loop when working back. I tried this when I did my short row heel on a plain pair of socks and the resulting heel looks like the rest of the sock, with no oddities. The short rows even look better when I worked them off as well. Just FYI, I like to do the YO short row, it's easy and much less complicated than any other one I've ever tried and it looks the best of all of them. The only oddity I still have to work on is the large stitch that's left at the end of the last short row I work off. I still haven't figured out why that is and what to do about it, but when I do I'll let you know.

The other thing about sock shaping that I experimented with was two different ways to make a left-leaning decrease. Nonaknits has a post about this somewhere on her blog, but I'm too lazy today to find it and can't be bothered to try. The two easiest ones to make are the SKP and the SSK. On one sock I did the SKP and on the other I did the SSK when I did the toe shaping. My verdict for my socks? While both of them didn't look nearly as good as the K2tog, the SSK stitch was much smoother than the SKP.

So, when I make socks from now on I'm doing my heels and toe shaping in those manners, no matter what the pattern calls for. Oh, and while I'm at it, I'll also sub k1p1 for any pattern calling for a k2p2 ribbing at the top, the k1p1 is much better-looking.