Monday, November 26, 2012

Update: What's been up?

Hi everyone!

I'm happy to be getting back onto the blog. It's been a very busy past four/five weeks. A lot has happened that I'm excited to show, so let's get on with it!

1) Elli, came to visit from Germany for three weeks in October so when I wasn't working, we were out exploring the area. We went to the state fair, thrift stores galore, a used book store (more on this next week), had a Halloween get-together, and generally just hung out. Not a ton of knitting got done in this time, which was absolutely appropriate.

That said, no progress was made on the Blue Sweater or the peach wool on the Schacht spindle, and the Emerald sweater is currently on my body and I totally forgot to take the pictures of it.

2) The Houndstooth socks were worked on during knit nights and I cast off the week before last.

Knit in Knit Picks Palette on 2.5mm (US 1?) double points. I don't remember the name of the brand of needles. I bought a bunch of them in Germany, but immediately tossed the packaging.

I decided to do an afterthought heel because I went a little too long on the sole stripes. I'm starting on the second before I place both heels.

The same night I cast off the first, Beth came in with some really cute project bags she was working on and gave them out to us to test. I got this one with what look like falcons on it.

She also sent me the pattern for the bags, which inspired me to take out the sewing machine that my grandmother gave me years ago and which I have never touched. I'll see if I have time this week to set it up and play with it a bit.

3) I was itching for some stranded knitting and wanted to use up my Noro so I started a fair isle cowl.

Knit in Noro Kureyon (crayon) and Knit Picks Palette on a 2.5mm (US 1) circular Addi Turbos needle.

I hand-wound that ball of Kureyon and it shows off most of the colors in the yarn. I'm using up three different greens from my stash of Palette. I really just wanted to use up the yarn that I have.

Using charts from Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting

It's been in another new project bag that I bought at Downtown Knits.

Apparently by Della Q, whom I have not previously heard of but who makes nice bags. It's a simple drawstring closure with a little pocket on the inside. It's done well so far. I'll let you know if it falls apart or anything.

4) The biggest thing that happened concerns the wheel, or more accurately, wheels.

That's right, folks. I have not one, but TWO DODEC spinning wheels. I've taken to calling them The Twins.

The older twin is the one I put together and is the shorter (and wobblier) of the two.

The younger twin is prettier and taller.

I am not generally a namer of inanimate objects, but these are begging to be named. 

Elli took these on as her project while I was at work. We made tons of trips back and forth to hardware store between other errands and outings troubleshooting little problems that arose here and there in the making of the wheels. I am happy to say they are now both (mostly) in working order.

They were both made to the specs and then tweaked to allow smoother spinning. Some of the holes are slightly larger than the instructions specify, and I used longer carriage bolts to get the cog spinning directly above the wheel so that the drive band doesn't slip off.

The wheel is meant to be portable and easily taken apart, which is such a smart feature, as traveling wheels can be quite expensive. That's where I made what I think is the most clever and useful tweak to the specifications.


I replaced the regular nuts on the back of the spindle assembly with wing nuts that I stole from the clamps of my Bond USM. That way, rather than needing a wrench to remove and replace the nuts, I can just use my fingers. I'm forgetful and can just see taking the wheel apart and transporting it to knit night, thinking I can get some spinning in, only to realize that I forgot a wrench and having the parts too loose to spin properly on or getting the nuts too tight and not being able to take it back apart after.

Here's how the wheel looks taken apart.

It's really simple to use and pretty simple to make. Making these (or helping to make these) made it much easier to solve the little problems that arose.

Elli is interested in making more of these, which I'm sure many many young spinners would love to purchase. There are so few options for travel wheels under $300. I'm still working out the kinks as I spin with it and need to ask for permission before we go forward with that. Let me know if you're interested in knowing more about that venture.

5) Yes, I said "... as I spin with it..." which means there is some spinning.

That's a Loop Bullseye batt that I bought last year and have been spinning on another Schacht spindle. The spindle is about full and although I hate to use this batt for practice on the wheel after getting a pretty consistent single on the spindle, but I don't have any other fiber with me except a bamboo/silk blend. I didn't want to fry my brain trying to capture new fiber on a new wheel at once, so I'm holding off on that for now.

I'm still getting the hang of controlling the wheel with the foot pedal and getting a feel for the way the wheel spins. Still, I haven't practiced as much as I probably should to get really comfortable with it.

6) Ladies and gentlemen, we have a convert. I took Elli to a knit night and she had so much fun that she decided to learn to knit too. Mind you, her mother has knit her whole life and she's seen me knitting the whole 2 1/2 years she's known me and we couldn't convince her before now, but she's on a roll.

I started her with a hat as her first project. It was a little frustrating for her at first because it began with ribbing, but she caught on to the decreases really easily, started her second immediately after the first, and took off like wildfire. You can find her and her projects at insomnie on Ravelry.

*phew* That was long. I'm excited for more progress next time! Yay!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Progress Report: Royal Blue Sweater, Emerald Sweater, Houndstooth Socks, and Lace Scarf

*Runs in out of breath*

Sorry I'm late, but I'm here! Slipped off the wagon a bit, but I'm back on, so let's get on with this week's Progress Report.

1) The Royal Blue Sweater is still a work in progress, it seems, or rather, I seam.

I've begun sewing in the insert in the side seams and have got half of one side attached.

I think I said last week I was going to do it on the machine and started to do so, but it was so very ugly so I took it out.

Then I started seaming on it today while I was watching the first episode of Call the Midwife (great show, by the way). I was nearly at the end (of the seaming and the show) when I realized that I was seaming the front to the back without the insert and spent the rest of the show removing that seam. It's going to be a busy week, so here's hoping that's done to show you next time.

2) The Emerald Sweater is nearly finished!

It has been seamed and all of the ends woven in. I even wore it for most of today over a button-up with denim shorts. The last thing to do on this sweater is the collar, which will most certainly be done by next Tuesday.

I have to say that the fit leaves a lot to be desired. There are several inches of positive ease and no waist shaping, which makes the shoulders a bit too wide, the sleeve holes a bit too deep, the sleeves far too short, and the body a bit too boxy for the short length. In the future, I will make the following changes:

a) if I intend to keep the length the same, I will subtract a few rows from the top of the shoulder on the fronts and backs and add them to the body just before the armhole shaping;
b) add a little waist shaping;
c) lengthen the body for most sweaters;
d) lengthen the arms considerably.

I am contemplating adding some sort of embellishment to the sweater as it is to make it nicer. So far ideas are:

a) darts to cinch the waist (invisible, of course);
b) some sort of embroidered animal;
c) beads or paillettes, which are so a propos of this season. I've got some lovely pearly beads that I could sew on or I would purchase a sequined fabric or ribbon to put on.

Whatever it is, I'd like it to be semi-permanent to easily removable because really, I like the idea of being trendy, but I didn't just make a whole sweater only to wear it for one season.

Thoughts anyone? I would love some advice here.

Next item!

3) I started these Houndstooth Socks two weeks ago at knit night, both of which I alluded to briefly last week.

I wanted to knit something small and easy while I was at knit night so I brought two balls of Knit Picks Palette in sort of giraffe colors.

The colors are, as usual, a bit muted in the picture but you can see that there is not much contrast between the colors. I chose these intentionally because I'm not one for bold patterns in bold colors: I can only handle one at a time.

The chart is from April Ries' Houndstooth Beanie and Mitts pattern (also on Ravelry).

I didn't look very closely at the shape of the houndstooth when I was searching Ravelry for a free pattern or I would have noticed that this one is rather odd in shape. I'd like to make another pair with a royal blue (I've been saying that cobalt blue is my favorite color this season) and more contrast, so I'll find a different pattern with a nicer chart or just tweak this one until I like the shape.

4) Two days of last week were spent knitting this scarf for my mom's birthday.

I did this one on the machine, so I wanted something simple and fast with a good fanfare to effort ratio. I used my 3-prong transfer tool (because it's the largest I have just now) and just transferred three stitches over to the right one needle all the way across. Then, I moved the pattern to the right one stitch every other row to give a nice diagonal lace effect. The equivalent in handknitting is yo, k2, k2tog that repeats to the end, knit next row straight, then move the pattern one stitch to the left (i.e. k2, k2tog, yo). It has a similar look to the Clapotis without knitting on the bias.

The knitting was finished on the morning of my mom's birthday, but it was still drying throughout the day, so I didn't give it to her. I decided to sew the ends together and make it a cowl that could be doubled, but the ends aren't the same so I'll just weave in ends and call it good.

Before I forget, it's made of one skein of Plymouth Yarns Baby Alpaca Lace, a 100% baby alpaca laceweight in a gorgeous rusty red color (Color 2095). I bought this at Yarns Etc years ago and have been meaning to make a lace shawl for my mother ever since. I should have had it balled at the store but I knew I wouldn't use it right away and I didn't want the yarn sitting in a ball for years. Ultimately, I spent almost two hours winding it into a ball by hand. I have finally decided to bite the bullet and get this ball-winder this week.

5) Finally, I've done a little spinning that I haven't shown. None got done this past week, but I pick it up every now and then.

From Three Waters Farm, it's really wool for little needle-felting projects, but it's nice practice yarn for spinning and the colors were gorgeous together.

That's all this week, folks. Don't forget to leave me suggestions for my sweater below in the comments, follow me here and on Twitter (@GenniSimon) to see what shenanigans I'm up to during the week, and tell me

What have you been making this week?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Progress Report: Royal Blue Sweater, Emerald Sweater, More Yarn!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

I'm doing well on the weekly updates so far. It's keeping me making progress. I've noticed that I get more done when I'm doing progress reports. SO, first things first.

1) The Royal Blue sweater has not had any work done on it since last week. If you recall, it was on hiatus until I got a second yarn for side panel inserts. I got that yarn Friday.

That is, indeed, another Patons Classic Wool from Michaels.

Patons Classic Wool - 00226 Black - 1206 300990

This week's task will be a simple rectangular insert to go up the side seam and down the inside sleeve. I think it will be a fun detail since I have to add the width to the body and sleeves anyway. It will be unique and a little bit trendy with the mix of royal blue and black.

2) While I was waiting for Friday to get the black yarn, I started the Emerald sweater. I decided to take an ENORMOUS leap and use a pattern. I hear the collective *gasp* in the crowd. Allow me to explain.

I have resisted patterns because they always seem to need sizing modifications. My proportions are mightily abnormal. My waist is tiny, my hips and booty are big, my wrists are very narrow, shoulders very broad and my arms are much much longer than I am tall.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no point knitting a garment that won't fit, nor do I see much merit in making the mathematical modifications to every single measurement of a pattern. Isn't a pattern written so that I don't have to do the work? If I'm going to invest the time, I want what I want. (I'm kind of a brat that way).

That said, I'm still working out the kinks in my design process, as you've seen with the blue sweater. I have been using a template that I created for a very light gauge sweater, which I realize now is not well suited for the heavier gauge sweaters I have been trying to make. Really what I need is a dress form, but that's a project for another time.

All of that is to say that I used Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.

iPad Screenshot 1

Actually, I'm using the app through Interweave, which is $9.99 in the app store, even less than the Kindle download. Yea, I know. I thought that too. She also has The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns as an app for $9.99 as well. I will probably be purchasing that one as well. Just to be clear, these apps ARE the books.

The Knitter's Handy Patterns app for iPad has patterns for mittens, gloves, hats, tams, scarves, socks, vests and sweaters in children's and adult sizes. The sweaters alone have five gauges for each of ten bust measurements. She uses an set-in sleeve shape, which is generally a good enough start and easily modifiable if you want raglan or drop sleeve shaping.

I knit all four pieces up and "buried" the ends in about 8 hours on a single day last week.

That night, all four pieces were soaked and blocked and two days later, I started seaming.

I've sewn the front and back together and set in one sleeve. I decided to sew them in by hand again because I couldn't get the seams to match up quite right on the machine. I prefer the look of the hand-sewn seam. It's much tidier than a machine seam, but takes far too long for production purposes. I'll finish the long seams up the side body and down the sleeves on the machine.

As for fit, it seems perfectly serviceable except I ended up with a 3/4 sleeve, which is not at all what I was going for.

I have to admit, I will probably be using Ann Budd's book as my production pattern source in the future for items that go into my shop. I can do a wide range of sizes with what is already offered. It took so much less time to finish the knitting because I wasn't second-guessing my calculations through the entire process and reducing production time means lower end cost, which is great.

3) When I was at Michaels getting the black yarn for the Royal Blue sweater, I found a gorgeous color (of Patons, of course) called Deep Olive, which perfectly describes the color.

It's a green-based brown that's a little darker richer than your standard Spanish Queen olive green.

Patons Classic Wool - 00205 Deep Olive - 1009 943539

This will become a sweater after the Royal Blue, Emerald, and Lemongrass sweaters are completed.

4) My mom's birthday is Thursday, so I have the beginnings of a little angora-blend lace cowl idea in mind with yarn from the stash. More on that next week.

5) I stopped by Downtown Knits in Apex today for the first time in a long time and they had some Berroco Lustra on sale. It is GARgeous and I want it. It's SO soft with a beautiful sheen from the Tencel. There were three skeins of Marseille, two of Bouquet Garni and one of Menthe, if memory serves. I want them all. I really have to get my booty out to the yarn store more often.

6) Oh! I almost forgot some things! I went to knit night on Thursday at Panera Bread at Alexander Promenade for the second time. Lots and lots of fun and I'll be going again next week. While I was there, I started a Houndstooth sock out of some Knit Picks Palette stash yarn. I've also been spinning on my Three Waters Farm fiber and have almost finished spinning the peachy color singles. Wow, I've been busy this week and I still haven't put any of this on Ravelry. I'm going to have to do more updates.

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @GenniSimon and Facebook - Genni Simon.

What have you been making this week?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Progress Report: Royal Blue Cabled Sweater

I finally got to the store last week (or the week before?) to get the last two balls of the yarn for the royal blue cable sweater.

Normally, I would seam right on the machine by hanging both pieces face to face, knitting one row very loosely, and doing a regular crochet  bind off. This way, I leave a little bit of vertical stretch room in the garment, but not a lot. I tend to tug on my clothes out of habit so less vertical flex is better for me. 

In any case, since the reverse stockinette side is actually the public side of this garment, I went with a hand sewn mattress seam to attach the front and back to the sleeves. 

The sleeves were knit as set in sleeves, but with a  tab to go across the top shoulder. The front and back pieces attach directly to the sleeve at the arm and shoulder.

The seam came out much better than a machine seam would have and allows me to turn the entire garment inside out for a second look with exposed (but very tidy) seams. 

Public Side Shoulder Seam

Reverse Side Shoulder Seam

So far, I've used 4 balls plus about 10g for the sweater.

You can also see that the front is a bit smaller than the back. I hadn't noticed when I did the front that my gauge dial  slipped back a couple of spots and knit at 4.5 instead of 5.5. In any case, the sweater is a bit more snug than I intended.

Rather than start again, I'm going to add an insert in a different color up the sides and down the inside arm. More on that next week.

I have to say I was pretty lucky. I got the last two balls of yarn several weeks after the first and forgot to bring the tags. Imagine my surprise when I got them home and they were the same dye lot. Saved! In any case, I should put all this in Ravelry... 

Patons Classic Wool - 77132 Royal Blue - 04 09 277392

While I was at Michael's, I MAY have seen the yellow color I've been looking for all summer...
Patons Classic Wool - 77223 Lemongrass - 12 05 308099

AND been totally taken by an emerald green.

Patons Classic Wool - 77708 Emerald - 11106 271118
The Lemongrass is a pretty true chartreuse: bright yellow with a hint of green. Emerald is a bright green with a bit of blue underneath. The blue undertones in both are showing up in these pictures. It's quite overcast today. 
Both of these will be sweaters, although I think a very simple stockinette jumper with limited shaping will suit these bright colors.  

Not true



What are you making this week?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Progress Report: Striped Leggings Part Deux

Or more accurately, lack of progress report.

I suppose that's not entirely fair. I did several important things:

1) I knit a swatch.

2) I took my leg measurements and created the schema.

I didn't have enough of any one color of yarn to create a solid color legging, so I decided to use several balls of what I have available to create stripes. Actually, I really wanted to do something like tribal stripes, but I want a finished product this year, so I'm going with the stripes.

Most of last week was spent deciding if I would have the legs be identical or not. I only have one ball of most colors so the only way to get really identical legs would be to split the balls exactly in half. The best way to do that is with a small kitchen scale, which I didn't have and wasn't sure I wanted to purchase.

3) Ultimately, I decided to buy the scale.

I know. Exciting decrescendo. I will be knitting today.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Progress Report: Royal Blue Cabled Sweater and Striped Tights

Last week I showed you my new project plans on Instagram (If you're not following me there, I'm @GenniSimon):

This week I have this:

 That's the front (blocked) and the back (unblocked) done. I have about 3/4 of a skein left, which isn't enough for both sleeves. I'm waiting until Friday to get more yarn.

In the meantime, I already have this:

Which I think will be fun as leggings a little bit like this:

Using what I learned from making these shorts:

Clearly, there were some fit issues with them, so I made some notes and am pretty confident I can improve on the second version. 

I will probably do thinner stripes on the tights than the ones in that sketch if I can take all of that extra work.

How would you wear these tights? 
What are your plans for this week?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Swift Kick in the Pants

A lot has been happening over the past couple of months, but the most important things happened yesterday.

My knitting machine arrived from Germany! Hurray! 

You can see I've gotten right to work on it.

This is the Silver Reed LK-150 Standard Gauge Knitting Machine. It can knit so many more yarn weights than the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine, has more needles on the bed, and the carriage falls off the bed way less often (which means HOURS saved from picking dropped stitches back up on each piece). I can knit a fine-gauge sweater with lace-weight yarn on this. 

If you'd like to know more about my knitting machines or that small spinning wheel you see in the back there, go to my primary website (it's still new) Chic Crafty Geeks. There I offer online classes on how to use either the LK 150 or the Bond USM as well as drop spindle spinning, hand knitting, and lots of other things.

In any case, having my better machine back has me inspired and feeling ready to open my shop, so I've put up some of my newest items in my Etsy shop (see the shop page at the top).

Here are some samples:

I'm happy with the items and everything else is a work in progress, but I'm excited to have some items up.

Can't wait to show you more!