Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My first attempt...

...at designing a crocheted cropped topper.

The body is done in a stitch pattern from a Japanese crochet stitch dictionary. Sleeves are diagonal mesh, the front border is a simple shell edging, and the bottom border is a shell edging variation. Yarn is Longmeadow, previously reviewed.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Longmeadow by Valley Yarns

  • 60% cotton 40% microfiber
  • Made in Peru exclusively for Valley Yarns
  • 50g balls --- 117 yards per ball
  • suggested gauge - 5.5 stitches per inch
  • price: US$3.49 available in 25 colors

The days lengthen, the air is softer, and thoughts turn to lighter, lacier garments for warmer weather. There are plenty of glitzy, ritzy or just plain ditsy novelty yarns out there, but everyone needs some good, solid yarn basics in their repertoire. Cotton Classic by Tahki has long been a favorite of mine, but all-cotton garments can get heavy in anything but the tiniest of sizes, so I've been searching for a lighter, blended yarn.

Longmeadow is a house brand from the folks at Webs . The 60/40 cotton/microfiber blend was appealing, so I took some out for a spin.

The recommended gauge of 5.5 spi (stitches per inch) puts Longmeadow in the sportweight category. It consists of 3 strands of (somewhat) loosely plied yarn. Because of the looseness of those plys, it can be splitty -- it wasn't a huge problem in my crochet project, but I did notice it. It's quite soft, and has a 'cottony' feel -- puffy, with just a tiny hint of fuzz. My first thought was that it would be a great yarn for babies/children's wear -- and then I noticed the care symbols on the label. HAND WASH -- DO NOT TUMBLE DRY This takes it right out of consideration for kids wear, and frankly, just how many of us want to hand wash warm weather clothes for anyone? Too bad, I've enjoyed working with it -- just how did I miss that little fact when I ordered the yarn?

I decided it might be worth testing it though, so I made a crochet swatch, measured it and sent it through my front loader's light wash setting (warm water). It looked pretty good coming out, so I threw caution to the wind and tossed it in the dryer too. Results? Minimal shrinkage (less than 1/4 inch in each direction for a 7x6 swatch) and no visible pilling. I was using white yarn, so I don't know if there would be any color loss. Now, my swatch wasn't huge, and my treatment of it was on the gentle side, plus I only sent it through one cycle, but I think it might be safe to upgrade the care of this yarn from hand wash to machine wash - gentle. I still would avoid it for heavy use, heavily laundered kids wear, but I'll probably use it again for a summer tank top for myself. Disclaimer: These were my results, but please do your own testing of swatch before committing your time and effort to a project! Naturally, I'll be using my 'after laundering' swatch to calculate my gauge.

In short, I found it to be a pleasant yarn to work with, available at a reasonable price in a range of colors that appeal to me. The laundry issue may loom large for many knitters/crocheters though, so proceed with caution. As always, your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Some days...

...you're just too sore to want to mingle any yarn.

Nursing duties take precedence over knitting, crocheting and blogging as Monty recovers from his neutering surgery.

Now, will someone explain to me how you keep an active little guy from running and jumping for two weeks?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The finished Sea Silk scarf

And a closeup --

There now, isn't that better? A finished project that doesn't need tweaking.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off...

...start something new. The heartbroken Heartbeat sweater is taking a little time out while I decide whether it's better to add even more neckline edging, or simply set it free to find a new owner with broad shoulders -- so, time for something completely different.

I'm using a new (to me) yarn to experiment further with shaping in crochet. Once again I'm using the Lily Chin method of photocopying actual stitch swatches and outlining the shaping directly on the photocopies in order to have smooth shaping transitions. It isn't "automatic" -- you still need to think about (and sometimes re-do) areas of shaping for best results -- but it is a great help in visualising just what you need to stitch. The yarn is Longmeadow -- a house brand from Webs -- and I'll do a short review when I've finished the design. I'm hoping that the finished garment will be a bolero-type coverup with short sleeves, meant as a light layer over sleeveless summer tops. As envisioned (at the moment) it will have sleeves done in a different stitch pattern. probably a simple net stitch, and some type of simple edging (which hasn't been determined yet). It's not meant for a particular person, which is liberating insofar as sizing is concerned, but the experimental nature of it means that there is great potential for, well, failure is such an ugly word -- let's just say there is great potential for having another 'learning experience.'

Here's a closeup of the stitch -- from a Japanese stitch compendium -- which reminds me a bit of fleur de lis, although I suppose it could look somewhat 'tulip-y' also.

It's really very liberating to be new enough at a craft to not have any grand expectations as far as results. If it works -- good, if it doesn't, well, you've learned something for the next time. Helps keep everything fun and light, I think.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's not officially here yet...

...but Monty wishes you all a HAPPY SPRING!

(and who wants to guess what he did next?!)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Beaten down by geometry...

...or how the HeartBeat sweater became the heartbreak sweater.

The latest project was the HeartBeat Sweater from www.justonemorerow. The premise of the design is that you knit out from the center to whatever size you wish. Any size yarn (although it is noted that worsted weight works well), knit to your own (suitable for the yarn) gauge -- sounds like a really neat premise, yes?

In fact it IS a neat premise, and it IS a perfectly fine design, but knit to any size? Well, maybe not so much. Because here, my friends, is where geometry rears its ugly head.

See the neckline? See how it's just a wee bit wide? Like the Grand Canyon is just a wee bit wide? Well, blame ol' Pythagoras -- because the way the sweater is knit, as you widen the body that right angle neckline is just hypotenusing away. Man, I really should have paid more attention to my high school geometry instructor instead of to the cute guys sitting right behind me! Ah well, file it under live and learn.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Moving right along...

...with the Heartbeat Sweater from Just One More Row .

The photo shows both back and front knit and joined together at the shoulders. In a departure from the pattern directions I have knit the side band in two sections (so far just on one side) so that I can have the sleeve inset. I am hoping that this will give me the illusion of a more fitted sleeve instead of a drop-shouldered effect when placing the sleeve on the other side of the panel. I have also added some short-row shaping to the side panel. It's not too visible in the photo, but the bottom of the side panel is just a bit wider than the top -- it was short rowed just up to the green marker.

It's not a lot of extra fabric, but I'm hoping that it will give me just a bit more breathing room at the waist, without a lot of excess around the bust. We'll see -- somehow even with trying on as I go it's a bit hard to evaluate the final fit until the whole package is put together.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Still chugging along...

...on the Sea Silk crochet scarf. The good news is that with a wee bit over half the length completed it looks like I'll have enough to finish, and perhaps even to make it just a bit longer. As much as I love the ease of working Japanese charted patterns, especially for crochet, it's always a leap of faith for me to start a project not knowing if I'm using the right type of yarn with enough yardage to complete. I realize that the patterns contain this information, and oddly enough the familiar Arabic numerals are often used, but I've yet to work out what they mean. For instance, this pattern has -- (10) 30g -- in the header. So, is this 10 balls of some type of yarn/thread put up in 30g skeins, or ten balls for a total of 30g, or something else entirely? With knitting I'm on much more familiar ground -- I have a rough idea of how much I need for various garments in my size. Crochet is another story though. I just haven't made enough to really know average yarn usage. Ah well, that's living on the edge, Mingling Yarn style!

I'm really enjoying this yarn. The color is lovely, and the sheen from the silk is attractive. It does have that characteristic silk odor, but not oppressively so. Some folks have mentioned that they can smell the sea, perhaps due to the sea kelp content, but I think that's just the power of suggestion. Here's a closeup of the stitch detail -- I like the way the pattern is forming little hexagons.

The pattern is easily committed to memory, and it works up fairly quickly, but I'm just not devoting enough time each day to get it finished quickly. Too many other projects calling my name I suppose.