Tuesday, December 4, 2018

WIPs: Ahmanet and Japanese Stitches Scarf

I'm just popping in to give a couple of quick project updates. 

First, I'm still slowly crocheting my way through "Ahmanet".  It's taken a backseat to my other current WIP, but every so often it gets a little attention.  Here's the latest progress photo:

It's a little rumpled, but you can at least get an impression of it.  That's a Clover Amour steel hook, for scale.  This will be a big one, once it's finished and blocked!  I've started the third and final ball of thread.  At this point, it kind of feels like there's not much to do, but with large doilies, those last several rounds can take a lot of time to crochet. 

- - - - - -

The main crafty focus for the past week or two has been the "Japanese Stitches Advent Scarf".  It's a knitting project-- fairly ambitious for me, with some unusual (or at least new-to-me) stitches.  There have been some bumps in the road (see my project notes for details on some-- not all!-- of those bumpy patches), but I'm enjoying the challenge. 

Though I've made the effort to fix a few problems along the way, there's at least one minor mistake I've left in (and probably more I haven't noticed yet).  I figure no-one will know but me, so it doesn't matter-- and it's not glaringly obvious to the casual observer.  A little acceptance of small mistakes (particularly those that would be a lot of trouble to fix) will probably make this a more pleasant project. 

As far as keeping pace with the project goes... Just when I finally caught up, my right arm felt sore, so I thought I should take it a little easier for a day.  Then those longer clues on the weekend caught me by surprise. (g)  Something else came up yesterday (life, eh?)-- and suddenly I'm behind again.  It's alright; I'll finish it in my own time, and I'm not (yet) too far behind.  It's conceivable that I might catch up, if life cooperates.  It's all for fun, anyway.

Here are some progress photos taken this morning.  It looks a little rough in spots, but a lot of that will block out (I hope and trust!)...

I'll try to make a point of updating the blog more often, but you know how it is.  Life gets busy.  And complicated.  Thank goodness for the comfort of escaping into our hobbies and interests! 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

FO: Cables and Lace Advent Scarf (2015)

If you've been reading along, you know that I recently washed and blocked (for the first time) an Advent scarf I knitted three years ago.  If I remember correctly, I finished the knitting not too long after the holiday season, but I then took a long, long time to decide how to finish it-- then even longer to finally wash it!  (I hope to be a little faster with this year's Advent scarf!)

My blocking job is far from perfect.  This is partly due to the challenges of blocking a loop scarf, but probably owes more to the fact that I was in a hurry to just be done and test the softness of the yarn.  (Uncertainty over whether I'd actually ever wear such an itchy yarn as a scarf made me unwilling to spend too much time fussing over it.)

My knitting isn't perfect, either.  The grafting is kind of ugly, to be honest, but that's fairly easily hidden.  I'm more distracted by the "rowing out" in the reverse stockinette background around the sections of cables.  I try not to mind it.  (And I'm pretty sure there will be rowing out in the upcoming scarf, too...  It's ok, really.  I don't know anyone else "in real life" who knits.  Most people will probably think it's a design element, if they notice it at all!)

Enough apologizing (excuse-making)!  On with the FO reveal!

The pattern is Cables and Lace Advent Scarf 2015 by Tricia Weatherston.  I think the last time I mentioned the pattern on my blog (just a week or two ago?), the pattern was not available, but that's fortunately changed, now!  It's available for purchase on Ravelry!

I really enjoyed knitting mine and recommend it to anyone who likes cables-- and lace-- and lots of variety.  This would be a great project for anyone who gets bored by too much repetition, because it's constantly changing, from section to section.

It's been so long since I knitted this that I don't remember much about it (beyond that I enjoyed the knitting), so I'll just link to my project notes and let my photos do the talking!

Even if I never wear it, I had fun making it, and it's good to have this project finally properly finished in time to start this year's scarf.  Just over a week until the first clue is released!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

So Much for Good Intentions!

Well, I washed and blocked the 2015 Advent Scarf.

(I also blocked a couple of small cable swatches knitted from the same yarn, mentioned briefly at the end of this post.  Basically, they're an excuse to try out cable patterns just for the fun of it, and I have nebulous plans to frame them for my craft room.)

As soon as the washed yarn was dry, I tested it against my neck.  Tentatively... Cautiously... Reluctantly...

...Ick, it still itches!  (~scratch shudder scratch~)

Not exactly surprising, but disappointing.  That yarn would probably be ok for certain hat patterns, if the wearer is used to rustic, scratchy wool-- and it would definitely be fine for anything that won't be lying next to bare skin-- but while it's possible to wear the scarf I've already knitted, it's not the most pleasant texture to have draped against your neck (and possibly face).  It just... prickles.  Life's too short to waste on knitting a scarf I might not ever want to wear.  (Especially since I've already done that once, apparently! (g))

As for the idea of simply doubling the width and making a couple of cushion covers (using the itchy yarn), I've reconsidered.  It might work.  I've seen examples from previous Advent scarves where knitters basically worked the pattern twice, side by side, to widen the scarf into a wrap.  However, I'm not the most confident knitter around, so I'm feeling hesitant to improvise much with what is supposed to be a fun, carefree project.  Also, I'm not a very fast knitter, either, and I'll probably have all I can do to try to keep up with the KAL as the pattern's written; doubling the daily stitch-count will definitely put it beyond my knitting speed ability.

All this to say that I caved and ordered some yarn!

I actually haven't bought much yarn for a pretty long time, so I'm trying not to feel too guilty about it-- especially as it should make this project so much more enjoyable.  Besides, this was a fairly responsible yarn splurge-- no $20+ skeins (x however many skeins it would take to reach the yardage requirement).

I'm using a new-to-me yarn that I found while browsing Ravelry project notes-- Cloudborn Highland DK, available only through Craftsy (if I understand correctly).  It's 100% "fine highland wool", and reports vary on its softness, but it seems much gentler than the prickly yarn I would've used otherwise.  (If someone thought this wasn't soft, I wonder what they'd make of that other wool?!)

Should I admit that I even ended up copying that other Ravelry user's color choice?  It wasn't intentional.  I just decided I wanted something very neutral for optimal flexibility (and charming rusticity) and ended up gravitating toward that same color!  It's called "Shaela Heather" and is a greyish beige.  (That may not sound exciting, but if you want a neutral, it doesn't get much more neutral than that.) 

Here's the yarn in the skeins:

I'll wind it into balls soon so I can knit the part of the pattern that has already been released.  The first clue is coming soon-- November 24th!  (That's just a week and a half away!!) 

- - - - - - -

Since I'm already posting photos, how about a couple of the swatches I mentioned blocking?  This is a project from a year or so ago.  I thought it would be fun to knit swatches from Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook, with the ultimate goal of hanging at least a few of them in frames, to decorate my craft room. 

My blocking isn't perfect (neither is the knitting), but I like them. 

#33, "Fancy Double O":

#95, "O Knot Ogee":

I might try to make a few more, at some point, but for now, this project is low down my list. 

WIP Updates (and Some Griping About Flickr...)

I have an update on the yarn I'll use for the 2018 Advent Scarf project, but that'll wait for another blog post.  This time, I'm here to share a couple of progress photos of a couple of WIPs (and to complain a little about something).

First, there's the "Sitka Spruce" hat.  As expected, it looked a little shallow/short for a beret, so I've followed the example of many other knitters before me and added in an extra half of a repeat (so it has 1.5 repeats, total).  I'm just a few rounds short of finishing that, then it'll be time for the decrease, and hats usually fly off the needles, at that point.

Hats don't usually take this long, but I've taken my time on this one.  I'm not a speedy knitter at the best of times, and these twisted stitches have slowed me even further-- plus I've been working on another project or two, so there have been some long breaks.

Incidentally, I noticed when skimming my project notes for the 2015 Advent Scarf that that pattern included some twisted stitches, so I guess this wasn't my first time trying them.  I'm not sure how I feel about them, yet... I don't love knitting the left-leaning type, but I guess they might be worth the effort.  Maybe I'll reserve my final judgment until after the hat is done.

Here's my latest progress photo:

I like the way it's turning out, despite some wonky stitches.  (Tension issues!)  I'm not even sure who the hat's for... I really have enough hats for myself, and I'm not sure it'll fit me well.  On the other hand, maybe there's no-one else who'd want it/need it, either... I'll just wait and see what the hat says when it's finished.  ;o)

(...Oops!  I see a mistake in the photo that I hadn't noticed before!  One stitch is leaning to the right when it should lean to the left.  I guess it's possible to drop some stitches and fix it, but since it's a column of twisted stitches that build diagonally, I'm not sure how wide a patch I'd have to drop to fix it.  It might not be worth the effort... And now that I look at the side not in the photo, I see another mistake there, too.  Darn it!  This evening is just one irritation after another, so far.)

- - - - - - -

The second WIP is the "Ahmanet" doily.  As a WIP, it hasn't been blocked yet, of course, so it's not looking its best... But you can see some progress, at least!

Those rounds are getting loooong already, and I still have seventeen more to go!

I'm very happy with it, so far.  Wouldn't want to make one this big every time, but I think it'll be impressive when it's finally finished and blocked.

- - - - - - -

The promised (threatened?) gripe is about Flickr, the photo-sharing website.  It has announced that (in the very near future) if you don't pay a $50-per-year membership fee, they will only host up to 1,000 of your photos-- size doesn't matter, just the number of individual photos.  Either you can cull photos yourself before the deadline or they'll delete all but your 1,000 most recent photos.

Personally, I simply don't believe the site is worth $50 a year, for what I get from it.  These days, I don't use it as anything but a photo storage site.  Plus there's the principle of the thing... This is the site that, not so long ago, was advertising a free terabyte of photo storage per user.

Sure, the company has changed hands since then, and they're perfectly within their rights to change the deal, but as someone who's used the site for so long (over a decade) and was a paying member for much of that time (until the free terabyte made it unnecessary), it's frustrating that they've decided to reduce the number of "free" photos so drastically (and increase the membership fee at the same time).

I can't help but think it's the beginning of the end for Flickr.  Based on reactions I've seen, even many of those for whom the fee itself is insignificant, there's a certain feeling of broken trust and a lack of faith in the company, going forward.  People are saying their photos are being held ransom, and though that may sound like a silly exaggeration, there is an element of truth in it-- especially for bloggers.

You see, for all these years, I've embedded my Flickr-hosted photos into blog posts-- not just here on this blog, but on my (extremely photo-heavy) garden blog, on my old polymer clay blog, and on one or two other blogs I've written through the years.  Though I can of course migrate my photos from Flickr to another hosting site, all those embedded photos will now have broken links.  Instead of a pretty photo of a doily, this blog could soon display an ugly blank spot (or worse).

All my blogs-- even the currently active ones-- will be riddled with broken links and blank spots where the photos used to be.  The thought of going back and manually changing all of those links is... well, laughable.  It would take forever, and it's just not going to happen.

I blame myself, partly.  I probably shouldn't have relied so heavily on Flickr and embedded photos in blog posts, but I did, and now I'm left with the prospect of paying the ransom every year (and just hoping they don't raise the price even further-- or someday "go poof" altogether) or bidding a fond farewell to all that old content.  Some of my blog posts will still make sense without the photos, but they'll look awful-- abandoned and depressing.  I think that if I can't find a (non-Flickr) solution whereby I can keep the photos in place, I might just leave my old blogs and start with fresh ones...

Maybe I can at least manage my photo cull so that the majority of photos for this blog remain.  My garden blog is probably a goner, though. It's not likely to matter to anyone but me, probably, but I did enjoy going back and seeing how the garden has changed over the past few years... Yes, I feel a little sorry for myself that it's about to be ruined!

I'd have understood if Flickr had said, "You can keep what you have, but no more free uploads beyond the 1,000-photo limit."  Grandfathered us in, as it were.  I would've been disappointed to have to find a new solution for photo hosting, but it wouldn't have made me hate the company (like I now do, to tell the truth).  My old blog content would've been safe, at least.

----But to go from "A free terabyte for everyone! Woo-hoo!  Par-tay!" to "1,000 photos only!  Oh, you're currently using just 0.4% of your previously promised free terabyte?  Well, too bad, sucker! NO MORE PHOTOS FOR YOU!  ...Oh, and we're deleting most of your old photos, too.  Nyah!"-- all served up with a heaping side of "Ooh, we love our precious community spirit so much!  You guys are, like, super important to us!!"...No.  I'm done with you, Flickr.  It's over. 

That's that, really.

On one positive note, I've read that Ravelry's "code monkey" (and owner), Casey, has begun the process of migrating projects/patterns/stash/yarn photos over from Flickr to Ravelry, where they'll be hosted safely (for as long as the site's around, probably).

So if you've made a habit of uploading project/stash photos to Flickr and then just linking to them in Ravelry, they should still work, even if Flickr eventually deletes the photo.  However, he did ask (in this forum thread) that Ravelry users not delete their Flickr photos, to make sure there's been enough time to save all those photos on Ravelry.  (I'm not sure how you'll know when your photos have been migrated.  I assume they'll no longer show the Flickr logo underneath.)

That really is helpful; at least we won't have to find and re-upload all those photos!  (Whew.)

- - - - - - -

Well, enough griping about Flickr (for now).  Time to find the silver lining.  Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, it's hardly a blip on the radar.

I have a more enjoyable blog post to write, next time.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Let's Knit an Advent Scarf!

A few years ago, I participated in Tricia Weatherston's advent scarf for 2015-- the "Cables and Lace Advent Scarf".  (The pattern is not currently available, unfortunately.)

Much to my shame, I still haven't finished that project! (!!!)  I think I did all the knitting, but I'm not sure if I ever bound off... I know I was debating whether or not to make it a loop, but I can't recall if I ever decided and bound off!  One thing I do know is that it still needs blocking.  Maybe I'll do that in the next couple of weeks...

In any case, even though I haven't done all the finishing, even after all this time, I really enjoyed the process of knitting that scarf, and so when the designer's advent scarf for this year popped up in my Ravelry pattern suggestions, I gave it a closer look.

The last two years' advent scarves have been in styles/techniques that I either didn't feel up to trying (stranded colorwork) or wasn't really interested in at the moment (mosaic), but this year's theme is intriguing-- Japanese knitting.

Now, I know next to nothing about Japanese knitting, but I've seen (covers of) books of Japanese knitting stitches, and they're beautiful.  How does Japanese knitting differ from other knitting?  I couldn't tell you.  It looks a lot like other (beautiful, textural) knitting to me, but maybe it's distinctive to someone more familiar with knitting stitches than I am.  I'm excited to learn more about it and give it a try!

The pattern page is here-- Advent Scarf 2018-- and there's more information in the Sock Madness Forever group on Ravelry (see this thread in particular).  The pattern will be updated daily between November 24th and December 24th and is generously offered for free during that period.  Very shortly after that, it will be available as a paid pattern (with photos added).

I'll have to see what I have in my stash.  It calls for quite a bit of yardage!  This might be a good excuse for a little yarn shopping... ;o)

I dug out the 2015 scarf and found that I actually already have bound off.  (I grafted the two ends together to make a circular scarf.)  No excuses, now.  Must wash and block it!

I also had a look through the stash, because despite my joke about shopping, I'd really rather not spend money on more yarn, at the moment-- definitely not for a very warm scarf that I probably won't even wear much, given our brief, mild winters.  (But I still want to knit it!  Process over product!)  Frankly, there are just too many other things I'd rather put the money towards.

I don't want to make this from acrylic, because I simply don't enjoy knitting in acrylic.  (Crocheting acrylic is perfectly fine, but when I'm knitting, I prefer the stretch of wool or other animal fibers.)  I tend to buy only small amounts of "knit-friendly" yarn, because I don't make sweaters and other large things-- and this scarf will be fairly large. 

Just about the only yarn I have enough of is the same yarn I used on the last Advent scarf.  It's a relatively rough-textured yarn given to me (in a large quantity) by Donald's mother.  100% wool, I believe, but that's all I know about it.  I enjoyed knitting it, but it is a little rustic, and when I drape that 2015 scarf around my neck... Let's just say I'm not sure I'll ever wear it, if it doesn't soften with washing. 

The first step will be to wash the scarf to see if I can get it to soften up significantly.  If so, great!  I can then make the scarf with more of the same yarn without worrying it will never be used.  If not... I might still knit with the itchy yarn, but maybe instead of making a scarf, I'll double the width and make a couple of throw pillows.  It doesn't matter so much if a decorative pillow is prickly, since it's mainly for looks and needn't come into prolonged contact with bare skin. 

Practically speaking, with our lifestyle and climate, a couple of throw pillows will get much more use than a scarf, so maybe that's the best option, even if the scarf comes out of the wash as soft as cashmere.  ;o)

And then there's the question of whether or not to dye the yarn.  (What color would be best for cushion covers?  Hmm...)

It's all still up in the air, but the first thing I need to do is wash that scarf. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Scrabble Bag, Bobbins, and Two WIPs

The silver plastic tile bag that came with our game of Scrabble was falling apart at the seams, so I decided to sew us a new one.  I don't have a lot of experience sewing bags-- or anything "3-D" / not blanket-flat.

I've hemmed some cut-off jeans (hurray for cooler capri pants!), made some pillow shams, pillow inserts for stuffing, dog toys (smaller pillows/tubes), a cover for my old sewing machine, and a couple of extremely simple (but still flawed) bags, but I'm definitely not in my comfort zone when sewing anything that has "shape".  (I'd like to make myself some pj pants and a lightweight kimono-style robe from sheets, but I'm kinda scared of sewing clothes!)

Considering all that, even a small bag was a little intimidating!  I found this video tutorial, though, and thought, "That looks manageable." So I went stash-diving and chose a colorful (even kind of crazy) fat quarter, part of an old sheet for the lining, two smaller scraps for the ribbon-holders, and a lime grosgrain ribbon.

It's not perfect (I can name at least three imperfections), but as someone who's not particularly comfortable sewing bags, I'm proud of the results!  It should certainly do the job, which is the most important thing.

Scrabble Tile Bag

I recommend the tutorial linked above.  It was a big help!  My bag is smaller than the one demonstrated, and I added a zigzag stitch around the top of the bag, but other than that, I followed the tutorial fairly closely.

Here's the other side:

Scrabble Tile Bag

...And this is what it looks like when the bag is open (i.e. the ribbons aren't pulled tight):

Scrabble Tile Bag

We've used it once so far; it seems to work. ;o)

I might even consider making another similar bag or two in the future for project bags, for knitting and crochet projects.  I don't often have a need for project bags, but it might be fun to have a couple available.  I like that this type of bag doesn't have a zipper (which can catch the yarn/thread) and would be silent, compared to the rustling plastic bags I tend to use when I do crochet on the go.

Scrabble Tile Bag

- - - - - - -

The toilet paper bobbins I ordered came last week!

The bobbin out of the bag is one of the few that came with the quilting machine.  It looks like an exact match.  They were supposed to be the right thing (based on description, photos, and reviews), but you never know until you get something in your hands if it's going to be "as described".  These are!


Actually, the photos made it look like these other bobbins might not have quite the same... profile(?) on the top.  They looked perfectly flat, whereas the ones that came with the machine have a slight... I don't know how to describe it.  Not a ridge... A bevel?  There's a slight angle on the flat sides, as you can clearly see in both my photos.  For whatever reason, that wasn't easy to see in the product photo, but they do have that same angle.

I'm not sure if that bevel would matter or not.  I considered some other bobbins that have a hole for the thread to come through, which might be slightly easier to wind (not that this type is difficult to use).  But these had good reviews and would get here faster... And I just wanted to play it safe and get something that was exactly the same (as far as possible) to the ones that came with the machine.


- - - - - - -

I've made some progress on the "Sitka Spruce" hat.  My tension is not perfect.  Those twisted stitches are throwing it for a loop, but I guess it's good enough.  I'll see how it looks after blocking...  Maybe it's even normal for it to look like this-- or at least not uncommon.  I can deal with it.

I'm having fun with this project, for the most part, though sometimes those twisted stitches can be a little harder to work than a plain old-fashioned knit stitch.  (Through the back loop, indeed!  How rude!)

I've glimpsed a project note or two that refer to adding a repeat or at least a partial repeat of the chart to get the hat to the right size, and I suspect I'll need to do that, too.  It certainly looks a bit short, at this point.

WIP: "Sitka Spruce" Hat

- - - - - - -

One more WIP-- "Ahmanet".

It feels like I haven't made a lot of progress on this one since last time, but looking at it, I'm a bit further than I thought.

Rnd 25 slowed me down for a while.  There’s a link to a FB video (I think) demonstrating a special stitch (“special FP-quadtr2tog”) for that round. The link wasn’t working when I tried it, and I was having a hard time visualizing where to insert the hook.

However, I remembered a similar stitch in another pattern and found the PDF photo demo for that stitch very helpful in reminding me what it looks like to insert the hook into a specific “yarn over” in an earlier stitch. For future reference, see the PDF linked in Rnd 23 of “Kalani” (the Y-stitch demo). (That demo shows the hook inserting into a different yarn over than specified in this round of this pattern, but it’s easy enough to count up to the right one.)

There's also been another round of crab stitch since then, as well as some back-post stitches, which can be a little more time-consuming to crochet-- for me, at least. 

WIP: "Ahmanet" Doily

This is a big doily, and each round keeps getting longer, but it has a lot of variation in it, so far.  It keeps things interesting!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Various and Sundry

Today, I have a couple each of FOs and WIPs. 

First, the most boring of the bunch-- another crochet mesh grocery bag.  I've lost track of how many of these I've made, at this point.  It might be the seventh one. 

The project link above has all the particulars, but suffice it to say that these are handy bags for toting some things (not so great for others, of course, with all those holes), and they work up quickly.  I made this one mainly because I had one final skein of that variegated mercerized cotton and couldn't think of anything better to do with it.  This way, at least it's out of my stash, and it's a useful object. 

Mesh Grocery Bag

Second FO:
Earlier this week, I decided I'd like a box of tissues for my bedside table.  Time to make a kitschy tissue box cover!  This was the fourth such cover I've crocheted (two as gifts), so I was familiar with the pattern.  It works out great every time! 

I pulled four balls of yarn from my scrap bag (the one I'm using for granny squares), selecting two shades of light blue, a cream, and a very pale violet-pink-- all worsted-weight acrylic. 

Crocheted Tissue Box Cover

I opted to add a round of crab stitch (reverse single crochet) to the bottom edge, which ended up a little tight-- almost a built-in cinching at the bottom, to hold the cover more tightly around the tissue box. 

I'm satisfied with the results.  :o)  It's a cozy project, wonderful for instant gratification. 

Crocheted Tissue Box Cover

There's a doily waiting for blocking, but I've also started a new one-- "Ahmanet", which is Grace Fearon's latest release.  I don't often bother with "in-progress" photos of doilies, these days, but this is a fairly large doily, so it seemed a little more worth the effort (and it may be a while before I finish this one). 

I'm enjoying making this, though it did get off to a tricky start!

WIP: "Ahmanet"

I've also cast on a knitting project-- a hat.  The pattern is "Sitka Spruce" by tincanknits. 

It's been months since I knitted!  The last time was probably when I was working on the hedgehog mittens (...which I still need to finish...), so it's been a while.  I'm excited to be knitting again, even though it's not quite my comfort zone, compared to crochet. 

"Sitka Spruce"

This pattern has twisted stitches.  It might be the first time I've knitted twisted stitches.  (At least, making them doesn't seem familiar.)  So far, I think I like them.  They seem to work up faster than cables. 

So, those are the two main knit/crochet projects I'm working on, for now, with the occasional granny square thrown in.  It's hard to choose between them!