Saturday, April 26, 2008

On a softer, gentler note...

...look what came in the mail yesterday --

I finally got around to ordering some new (to me) brands of hand-painted sock yarn. On the left is "Duet", so called because it comes with a little hank of coordinating heel/toe yarn -- listed as superwash merino with 475 yds. per skein. From the label it's not clear if that yardage is for both hanks of yarn, or only the main color. In the middle is "Chewy Spaghetti", also a superwash merino, with yardage listed as 430 yds. per skein. On the right is Apple Laine's "Apple Pie" sock yarn -- this one is 65% wool, 20% mohair, 5% silk and 10% nylon, in skeins of 190 yards.

I ordered from a source I've never used before: The Loopy Ewe. What a pleasant ordering experience! That's an Internet site I'll return to for sure. Service was quick and accurate, and the owner, Sheri, included a brief hand-written note of thanks, along with a little bonus of needle inventory cards and a couple of samples (Regia Bamboo and Regia Silk). Now that's a savvy merchant!

The Apple Laine yarn was so soft and nice it may have jumped the queue and onto the needles:

So far I'm loving both the yarn, and the colors. If I'm lucky enough to get to Maryland Sheep & Wool this coming weekend (a bit up in the air due to spouse's recurring back problems) I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for some more Apple Pie -- yummy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sole Sister

You know how sometimes you want to make something because you really want that item, and sometimes you make something just because it sounds interesting/clever/weird?

I saw a pattern for crocheted espadrilles in a back issue of Interweave Crochet, and something about it made me want to try it -- maybe because it seemed quirky, maybe because it seemed easy -- I'm not sure.

The soles are crocheted with jute from a hardware store (from a brand that apparently isn't available here). Now, I wasn't that familiar with jute, and when I felt it at Lowe's it didn't seem too scratchy. HA! Although it was a different brand, the type I bought was 4-ply and seemed fairly heavy, but when I swatched (stop laughing - yes, I swatched jute) I discovered it was probably a bit lighter than the called for 'yarn'. To compensate, I made the largest size and that seemed to give me the size I needed. It seemed a bit floppy though, especially for something meant to be worn as a shoe. I rummaged around the casa, and came up with a little ball of jute destined to tie up newspapers. Using the thicker, hardware-store-jute, and the skinnier, newspaper-tying-jute together gave me spot on gauge, and a thicker sole to boot (groan!). Observe:

The sole on the left is done with one strand (and has an extra row of stitches), the one on the right is the smaller size, but done with a double strand of jute. They're pretty much the same size, although the larger size/single strand one is just a bit wider.

I'm not sure I should offer up a review of crocheting with jute, because there might be someone else out there who would like to try making these. I will say this though -- I now have no skin on my left (tensioning) forefinger and (seriously) I think I pulled a muscle. Now, if I want to have an actual pair of crocheted espadrilles I will need to crochet the tops, AND re-do the thinner sole. Anyone want to place a bet on whether these get finished?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

All Done

I don't seem to be able to get a decent photo of this one, but finally finished the Soft Serve (Doris Chan, Everyday Crochet) made in Kimono Ribbon by Louisa Harding.

I think this will be a nice little wardrobe addition -- just enough to dress up a tank and linen slacks, but without being too fussy. I lead a fairly casual life, but every once in a while it's nice to make a little effort. Here's a closeup shot that may convey a little of the nice gleam the ribbon has:

The color runs from light gold through a coppery brown to an almost black dark chocolate brown. I don't see it listed on the Louisa Harding site, so perhaps it made its way to Elann as a discontinued color. This is my first time using Kimono Ribbon, although I've knit with many other ribbon yarns, and I would say it's fairly typical of a ribbon -- it really wants to twist and turn while you're working with it. I'm not one to try to keep it flat and smooth while stitching (and I wonder if you even could with crochet) so that didn't bother me too much. It's a nylon yarn, so to block I simply ironed it. As I mentioned previously, I'm not sure if the heat will 'set' the yarn (as in killing acrylic) or if it will return to its crunched up shape when I wash it. If I'd made a gauge swatch (I know, I know...)I could test it out with that, but since I didn't I'll just wait and see. Why no gauge swatch? Well, sometimes I take a chance when working in one piece from the neck down -- you can often "swatch as you go" when working that way, especially if you don't mind a little ripping. But kids, please don't try this at home!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

One Is The Loneliest Number...

...especially for a sock. No matter, one is what I have, and one is what I'm showing while waiting for there to be more progress on the Kimono Ribbon Soft Serve.

I'm using a yarn I have not previously tried -- from Claudia's Hand Painted Yarns, which is a nice merino yarn (probably Gems, though I'm not entirely sure). The colorway I bought is called "Santa Fe", and it's a nice blend of coral, gold and indigo -- the sample shown on her website is much paler than the yarn I used, but that's the nature of hand-dyed, I guess. While I absolutely LOVE the colors, I'm not terribly fond of the way the pattern developed over the sock -- I really like the pointillist effect that you usually get from Koigu (and probably some others), but wide zig zags -- not so much. Of course, the way the pattern plays out is affected by stitch count, stitch pattern, etc., so I could have had a little more control over it by making different choices, but this was a "travel" sock, so I wanted to keep it simple. I prefer the way the heel looks, so perhaps if I use this type of hand-dyed yarn again I'll do something with a slip stitch.

For now though I'll continue on to the second sock done in the same K2P2 ribbing, and consider a more intricate pattern for another time.

Still working on the Soft Serve, but progress has slowed due to wallpaper stripping -- ooh, what fun! (that was sarcasm, kids). Fortunately, it's a small room (guest bathroom), but man, that stuff is really stuck on. The spouse thought he could avoid helping by mentioning how much he "loved" the wallpaper, but sadly -- when it comes to home decorating -- he doesn't live in a democracy. Onward!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It was supposed to be...

...a knit item featured today. After so much crochet, I was looking forward to starting the Panel Jacket by Carol Lapin -- which is a free pattern located on the Unicorn Books site.

I thought I might knit it out of the Louisa Harding yarn Kimono Ribbon, since I had picked up a bunch at Elann recently. Too bad though, I got whomped upside the head by the Gauge Fairy. So, never being one to argue with the Gauge Fairy --

instead I'm starting another Soft Serve (by Doris Chan). Doesn't look like much yet, but you can see from the photo that there is a big difference in blocked/unblocked gauge. Since this is a nylon yarn, my blocking consists of actually ironing it. I'm not sure if this "kills" the nylon the way it would if it were an acrylic yarn, but it opens it up fairly well. I'm thinking that this crochet lace might be a better use of the yarn than the Panel Jacket anyway, so, thanks for the whomp Gauge Fairy.

Because this is such a slippery yarn, I'm joining in the new strands by a sewn join. You may see it called the Russian Join in various places (no idea why), but it seems to be working well for the ribbon. Simply thread the old strand through a needle (and make sure you leave enough of a tail so you have room to maneuver) and sew it back upon itself with a simple running stitch, like so (click for bigger):

Make sure that there is a little loop on the end opposite where you finish sewing, you'll need it for the next step. Now, take the new yarn, thread it through the needle, then thread it through that little loop you left on the old yarn, then go ahead a sew it back upon itself just like you did with the old yarn end. You'll end up with something like this --

For extra insurance I like to dab on a bit of anti-fray liquid to each cut end of the ribbon. You end up with a join that is secure, and relatively unobtrusive. Note, the yarn will be slightly thicker in the join area because it is double layered. I don't find this much of a problem, because I think it's still a neater join than running in the ends later, but your mileage may vary.

And, in a neat little bit of serendipity, when I opened up the latest issue of Interweave Crochet I noticed a review of The Complete Book of Crochet Border Designs by Linda Schapper. No mention if this is a re-issue of the book I wrote about in an earlier post, but same author/same title/same number of crochet border designs, so I'm guessing that it is. (ISBN 978-1-57990-914-7) I would recommend it to anyone who would like a nice selection of border designs to choose from. The price is just a wee bit "ouch" ($29.95), so let's hope that production values are better than the original (which was $12.95, wonder what that would be in 2008 dollars?)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The yoke's on me...

...or it would be if I had more of this yarn -- let me explain.

I like to swatch out various motifs, and was playing with this one:

a simple, 3 round (row) star shape. I liked the looks of it, so decided to try to make some more, and attach them to one another as I went (a technique that is pictured in the Japanese motif book I have). That seemed to work fairly well, but as I added more and more motifs I noticed that they could be joined into a circle to make a yoke, like this:

I thought it looked pretty good, although you lose the effect of the picot points when you join them that way. With a little more crocheting, I ended up with this:

and from this point I think it would be fairly easy to work down the center portion of the top and bottom of the yoke to end up with a cute little summer top. I was thinking something with angled (raglan type) armhole shaping. Too bad though, I really don't have enough leftover yarn to see how that would work out. You never know though, perhaps I'll find some fabric in the stash that would work -- you just never know!