Archive for the “scarf” Category

It's finished!

A scarf in navy blue and white, folded over to show that one side is the reverse colors of the other side.

I seamed it by hanging it sideways on the knitting machine with the wrong sides together (right-side out), and pulling loops through both sides, then binding off those loops.

It's so squishy, just the right length for me, and I think it'll be very warm - though I'll have to wait 'til winter to find out, of course. I need to weigh the leftover yarn to figure out exactly how much I used, but it was roughly 2.3 skeins of each colour.

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Inspired by Sockmatician's Sanquhar Scarf, but unwilling to do that much double-knitting with sock yarn, I decided to design something similar to knit on the machine. I began by using Excel as graph paper to fill in squares, which is probably not how its developers ever imagined a spreadsheet application would be used, but it works!

Then Michael helped by writing a magic spell – er, I mean, a program – that would convert the Excel spreadsheet to a bitmap, with one pixel per cell. I loaded that bitmap into the knitting machine software, transferred the pattern to the machine, and 700 or so rows later, voila! a scarf! (At least, in theory. I may have messed it up a few times and had to start over.)

The Sanquhar scarf in progress, with the wrong side showing.

I'm including my initials into the "cuff," as was traditional for mittens. I'll put them on the other end of the scarf too!

The Sanquhar scarf in progress, showing the front side.

With machine knitting, it's often easier to begin again than to try to correct errors:

Behind the knitting machine, two re-raveled balls of yarn sit and wait for another attempt.

My plan is to knit the second side of the scarf with the colours reversed in order to mimic the double knitting look, and then seam them together. The floats will then be safely sandwiched between layers so they can't snag on anything, and the finished scarf should be thick and squishy.

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Before last week's vacation, I decided that I wanted to make a new scarf on the machine (since there was no way I was going to get new mittens finished in time) using Loops & Threads "Woolike" yarn from Michaels that I bought as practice yarn for the machine. It's a light fingering weight, mostly acrylic yarn with a soft feel to it, and it's quite inexpensive - $2.99 for 678 yards, but with the ubiquitous 40% off coupons, it comes out to $1.80 a ball.

First, I spent some time using Excel as graph paper (tedious, but sometimes I have a lot of down time at work) charting out the design for the border and main body of the scarf. This is what I came up with, though it got tweaked a little before I started - partly to adjust the stitch count for the width of scarf I wanted, and partly because it's more convenient to have even numbers of solid-coloured rows to avoid breaking the contrast colour yarn.

A screen capture of a fair isle knitting chart, done in Excel

Then, I had to figure out how to get this chart into Designaknit, which isn't exactly the most intuitive or user-friendly program. With that accomplished, I then figured out how to load the pattern into the machine, and began to knit.

It wasn't long before things went sideways. I didn't quite get the contrast yarn into the carriage properly, and dropped a whole bunch of stitches as a result. After some time trying to rescue the piece, I decided that it would be easier to just start over... so I did.

The end of the scarf, with solid blue lines separating a small snowflake border from the main body snowflake pattern.

The second attempt went a lot better. Not that I didn't make mistakes! The major one was that I forgot to keep an eye on my yarn supply as it fed up through the mast, and at one point a big chunk of yarn barf got hung up in the tensioner and I produced one super-tight row. I successfully unraveled it and then didn't get the machine set properly, so my next row was the wrong one in the pattern... which I didn't realize for another ten rows.

It takes 2.5 minutes to knit a 28 row pattern repeat across 150 needles. It takes an hour to unravel ten rows of colourwork.

Anyway, that was the worst of it, and I made the rest of the scarf with little further problem. I brought it on vacation with me, optimistically thinking that the seaming wouldn't take the whole week... but it did, and I sewed the last bit of it up on the morning that we left for home. For the seaming, I used a small crochet hook to line up the motifs on each side, and then made an attempt at doing mattress stitch.

Seaming the long side of the scarf

As a test piece goes, I'm quite happy with this scarf. I've worn it twice now, and it's incredibly squishy, soft, and comfortable - and warm! I have no idea how well the yarn will wear or how quickly it will get fuzzy and pulled, but since it took a few evenings to make and under $6 in cost, I don't mind if it does. My seaming skills could certainly use some improvement, and I already know how I would change the design and making-up for the next time... because there will definitely be a next time!

A long scarf with traditional snowflake motifs in navy blue and gray colours.

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Whooooboy, February really threw me for a loop - a phrase which, now that I've typed it, looks as if it's just a wrong way to assemble a group of words. What does that even mean? In this case, it means that the whole month went wrong. :/ I missed a few days of work to take care of family business and another for a snow day, and spent the rest of the (short) month working late to make up the hours. Now we're into a new month and a new pay period, so I get to have afternoons and evenings again!

I did manage to finish knitting my new red and white hat. I put a lining in, but I'm afraid that I didn't make it tall enough. Unlike the other colourwork hats I've done, this lining was meant to have a full inner hat for extra-extra warmth. Blocking probably won't be enough; I know I'm going to have to rip back and add more length... which is why the hat has just been sitting in my bag, ignored, for the past two weeks.

The lining colour is pretty excellent, though.

A blue lining peeks out from inside a red and white fair isle hat.

Michael and I got the chance to visit my grandma for her birthday, which was a real treat for everyone. She still wears my first real knitting project! It's a basketweave scarf that I made for her birthday in 2005. The thing I remember most about it was how much trouble I had just counting to four, over and over again. I'm just a little better about reading my knitting now. For years, my only picture of the scarf was an in-progress scan, because I didn't have a camera when I made it. Now that I do, I was able to get a proper picture of it. Since it's Red Heart, it looks exactly the same as the day it came off the needles.

A teal and tan scarf with a basketweave texture, artfully arranged on a beige carpet.

I'll make a separate post about my adventures with the knitting machine. I've been working on a new couch-blanket, but there's enough to write about that it deserves a post of its own.

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Back in December, inspired by this project and how much I enjoyed making the Rook for Grandma, I started a Rainbow Rook while on a train ride. I had two balls of Knitpicks Chroma Worsted, one in grey and one in "Prism", the most rainbow of their colourways. ("Lollipop" and "Rollerskate" were close contenders for this one, but I went with the rainbow after much consideration.)

Rainbow Rook

I love the yarn (even if it doesn't seem very durable - it's a 70/30 wool/nylon blend, but a very soft single, and I think it will pill) and I love the spike stitch. I love that the pattern is completely reversible. I actually love this pattern enough that I could see making a third scarf, one with offset spikes. And, obviously, I love the long gradient stripes. That reminds me to work on my Stripey Striped Socks! Those need to be finished.

Rainbow Rook

Yesterday I had another train ride, another 4.5 hours to while away with yarn, and I was able to almost finish the scarf before I got to Washington. "You did that all on the train?" the conductor asked me. "You're good, I'm impressed!"

This afternoon, after my first day on the new job, I came home and crocheted the last few stripes. And now, though it's the middle of June and I've no need of it whatsoever, I have a new scarf! It needs to be blocked, still, and I'll try to get a better picture after it's come off the blocking wires. I would have arranged it artistically on the rocks, but it's been raining and so that seemed like a bad idea.

Finished Rainbow Rook

P.S. Yes! New job! I'll be doing web design sorts of things, which will severely cut into my knitting and spinning time. Obviously I'll just have to be more dedicated to it (and blogging) in the evenings.

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Last week we had a spectacular snowstorm here in the mountainous DC suburbs. The whole city shut down, as it does at the mere mention of the word "snowflake," but everyone east of here seems to agree that the storm itself was anticlimactic. After two days of being told "A foot or more of snow! It's the snow we haven't gotten for two years, all at once!" people were hyped up for it.

Well, perhaps closer to the city the storm was insignificant, but up here on the mountain we got a foot of snow in the low spots, and 18" in the high spots... and we lost power for six hours or so when a snow-laden tree gave up and fell down across the lines.

Snowed In

What's a yarn addict to do, snowed into the house with two cats and no power? That's right, dose the cats up with catnip and crochet for a few hours.

Rainbow Rook

I'm really enjoying this project. It goes fast, the colours are simply beautiful, the spike stitch is showing up perfectly on the stripes, and for some reason the cats leave crochet alone more than knitting.


This last picture is also available in giant 4000x3000 (3.8 MB) if anyone wants to use it as their desktop background. Enjoy!

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I enjoyed making the Rook Scarf for Grandma so much that I immediately wanted to make one for myself, but I wanted the spike stitch pattern to be a little more noticeable. In looking through the pattern's other projects, I was drawn to this awesome rainbow version. I ordered two skeins of Knitpicks Chroma, one in Prism and one in Grey. I started the scarf on the train between Washington and Connecticut, and beg your forgiveness for the washed-out colours of the photo - between the phone's camera and the poor lighting on the train, it was hard to get it accurate.

Rainbow Rook

The yarn itself is pretty nice. It's a loosely spun worsted weight singles, and it's very, very soft. Unfortunately I get the feeling that it's going to want to catch on everything and will probably end up pilling after only one or two seasons, but I'll enjoy it until then!

Meanwhile, in the colourful department, I found myself in need of new suitcases and could not resist the pink polka dots. There is something about having a matched set of suitcases that makes me a little bit giddy. I feel so coordinated!

Matched Luggage

Also in the colourful department, a new car! My little Mazda wasn't really capable of handling the mountain roads in wintertime, so with some wistfulness but no regrets I traded her in for this orange beauty. We've already been on our first road trip together, and she's a delight. Even if I'm still getting used to her clutch.

Subaru XV Crosstrek

Here at the tail end of winter things are seeming pretty grey, so it's nice to have a few shots of colour to liven things up a little bit.

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Well! I am back, after a completely unplanned and unexpected hiatus. I haven't been doing very much knitting (or spinning or crocheting) lately, to be honest... and I think that's a rotten thing. So I'm getting back into it! There's something finished to show off:

Rook Scarf

Way back in 2008 I bought three skeins of Noro Silk Garden at WEBS. For the longest time I didn't know what to do with them. I thought of making an entrelac scarf, I thought of making something with stripes. I thought of lots of things, but none of them seemed right. And every time I looked at the yarn, I thought "These really are Grandma's colours, aren't they."

So I went looking for a suitable pattern and found the Rook Scarf. Then I had to run out and get a set of larger crochet hooks, and there was no waiting - I was so excited that I made a special trip to the artsy-crafts store for them.

The scarf took under a week to crochet, and then it lived on my mantel (where no cats could shed on it) for a while, waiting for its ends to be woven in. Pirate-Ex came by the house for one reason or another and I showed him the scarf without any more comment than, "Look what I made!" His first response was, "That's nice, but... those are really much more your grandma's colours than they are yours."

And so they are.

Grandma's Scarf

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This, my friends, is what is known as a Very Silly Picture. This is me, dancing like a fool, at Winterlude this past February. Friend Patrick, who is a very good photographer indeed, took the shot while I was being ridiculous in the park for the amusement of those around me. Fortunately, more people were looking at the ice sculptures than at me, or I might have been photographed whilst blushing bright red.

The great part about this picture, at least for the purposes of this blog, is that I am covered in handknits. The Winterlude Hat(tm), the Stripey Striped Scarf, the Fleeps... and, though you can't see them, I believe I was wearing handknit socks at the time. And the picture wasn't taken to show off any of those things. No, it's just a candid shot of me, wearing lots of things I knit myself. And one thing I spun and then knit, which shows up surprisingly well in pictures even if the contrast is a little dim in person.

I'd like to have enough handknit (or crocheted) stuff that all my friends' photo albums have pictures of me wearing stuff I made myself. It would also count if I learned to sew and was photographed wearing clothing I'd sewn. That's next on the list - once the craft room is set up, I'll have a place for the sewing machine and can re-familiarize myself with its ways. I have a simple skirt in my wardrobe that I'd love to be able to duplicate. After that, who knows where my skills might branch out?

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Not a single stitch. I was having too much fun visiting family, eating a ridiculous amount of food, joining good conversations, and, well, having no need to hide in a corner with yarn.

However, I did discover that my cousin Sara knits, and we had a good laugh over our matching Stripey Striped Scarves. Seems that we used at least two of the same colorways, which is pretty funny. I got to show off the Fleep-Tops, too, because it was cold enough to require gloves at night.

But now that I'm home, and I have the whole day ahead of me to spend as I wish, I think I will spend at least some of it with yarn.

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