Friday, September 28, 2007

Flood Relief Contest & Pay It Forward

I'm almost done with the back of my Minimalist Cardigan, but I'll post about that later.


Right now I want to put in a quick plug for Knittymama's Flood Relief Contest. From her blog:

"I’m sure most of you have heard about the devastating floods that have taken place in Southeastern Minnesota and Southwestern Wisconsin by now. There has been terrible loss of life and property, but one group that has been hit especially hard are the organic farmers of the region. This is a fertile area, and home to a rich organic farming community....

This is an agonizing loss for these farmers. Not only have they lost their crops but they have suffered erosion and equipment damage, and have had to lay off workers as well. While most farms are hoping to make it through the damage there are also many who have an uncertain future....

Once I began to find out about the losses around our region, I felt helpless but unsure of what to do. But then I saw that Sow the Seeds is doing a fundraiser, and then I thought, “The knitters! The knitters will help!” And so here I am, with both a contest and a plea for you all to help our organic farmers."

Knittymama has some great prizes (sock yarn!, handspun!), but the contest will only remain open until September 29th (tomorrow!), so check it out. Of course, feel free to donate even if you read about this too late to get in on the contest : )

IMG_7123.jpg IMG_7123.jpg IMG_7123.jpg

Pay it Forward

Rosina of Noteworthy Knits has very generously offered to make handmade gifts for the first 3 people who leave a comment on her post (I think you can still leave her a comment, so give her a visit, and check out all the cool spinning she's been doing lately!).

I took her up on it (Thanks, Rosina!), and now I'm paying it forward.

This is "based on the concept of the movie Pay it Forward where acts or deeds of kindness are done without expecting something in return... just passing it on, with hope that the recipients of the acts of kindness continue to pass it along as well. Here’s how it works: I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I do not know what that gift will be yet, and it won’t be sent this month, probably not next month, but it will be sent (within 6 months) and that’s a promise! What YOU have to do in return, then, is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog."

If you would like to participate, please leave me a comment on this post and email me at octopusknits AT gmail DOT com with your contact info. (mailing address, blog address if you have one, Ravelry or flickr ID if you have one).

I'll try to make you something you'll like!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hemlock Ring jellyfish, Minimalist Cardigan, and 7.5 random things about me!

Thanks for all your comments on my Mystery Stole, the Hemlock Ring Blanket, and the potential dangers of letting cats play in your knitting (insert evil purring from Bug and Moana here).

I have been home sick with a cold, and not getting as much knitting done as you might expect under the circumstances, so Moana has (very generously) been trying to "help" me with the Hemlock Ring Blanket again.

This is Moana's version of helping:

Awe... isn't she cute?

Luckily, she's also easily distracted.

I like how the "wrong" side of the blanket (while on the needles, at least) looks kind of like a brain.

Looking at the "right" side, I see some sort of jellyfish or deflated and spineless sea urchin.
Ooo! For a second there, I thought it looked like an eyeball!

I swear, I don't have a fever (though my stuffy eustachian tubes can contribute a mild sense of dizziness at times).

...Hmmmm... doesn't the first photo in my post look like Moana is emerging from a walnut?...

I have also started working on the Minimalist Cardigan from the Fall Interweave Knits. I'm using Valley Yarns Colrain - which is a really gorgeous, soft yarn (50% merino, 50% Tencel) with an amazing sheen - in the color Chestnut:

I tried really hard to want to use a non-reddish hue for this (the original is done in a lovely red, and I usually like to use something different), but alas, I just love it in red! Here's a close-up of the moss stitch / 2x1 ribbing interface:

I haven't gotten very far yet, just about 5 and a half inches up the back (still on the first ball):

Not too long ago (I hope!) Tammy tagged me for 8 Random Facts about myself, while Kerry tagged me for 7, so to compromise, here are:

7.5 Random Facts about me

1. I love to bake, cook, and eat.

2. I broke my nose in elementary school playing softball (it's still crooked today!). Yes, I caught the ball with my face. That's the only bone I've ever officially broken (though I'm pretty sure I broke my big toe, playing basketball, a few years ago).

3. I like to watch tv shows like the various CSI's, "Bones," "House," and "Numbers" at least in part because I get to laugh (or stare in dumbfounded disbelief) at their frequent misuse of scientific concepts and misrepresentations of the limitations of certain scientific instruments, not to mention their sometimes bizarre portrayals of how "scientists" behave. (Yes, I'm a scientist.) I do find them entertaining, and that's all that matters, right? Edited to add: (Actually, I'm pretty concerned about what effect these portrayals have on the public's understanding of science and scientists, so my "that's all that matters..." comment was meant to be sarcastic. Can you tell I'm torn?)

4. I'm not a vegetarian (though I don't eat much meat), but I definitely would be one if I had to kill my own food. (I also really dislike killing things in general. I catch spiders and insects I find roaming the house in an overturned glass and free them outside.)

5. In addition to knitting, I like to draw and paint (and I dabble in photography, although I have no real clue what I'm doing).

6. My favorite color is... I can't decide. I don't like to choose favorites (never have).

7. As you may have noticed, I have a major problem with using too many parentheticals (really!).

7.5. I think Bug and Moana are pretty darn cute (major revelation, I know, but hey, this one's only a half...).

If you would like to participate, consider yourself tagged!

Moana says: mmmm.... sheepy...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mystery Stole 3 is totally done! Hemlock Ring Blanket has just begun...

First, I wanted to say "thanks" for all your wonderful comments about Fifi!

My Mystery Stole has been finished, washed, and blocked... and draped around cats (again!):

Here it is on me:
Mystery Stole 3 (Pink Lemon Twist)
Misti Alpaca Lace, "Sea Mist" color 7120 (437 yards per ball), 1.6 balls
US 3 24" addi-turbo circular needles
US 3 32" Knitpicks circular needles
US 11/12 (1.0 mm) steel crochet hook
size 8 beads

I had a lot of fun knitting Melanie's pattern (though it definitely would have been more of a mystery if I had kept up with the clues)! The yarn was also great -- soft and lovely, but strong (I didn't have any breaks).


I knit the pattern as written, but added my own bizarre twist by switching to the much pointier Knitpicks needles (which I had just received in the mail) in the midst of the second chart of Clue 4. Apparently I knit much looser with the Knitpicks needles... I could have blocked the last half much wider/longer than I did. Ah, well! I knew it was a risk, but it's not too horribly noticeable (as currently blocked) unless I point it out.

Here are a few more photos for you...

After blocking:

Some wing close-ups:
IMG_0199.jpg "wrong" side
IMG_0195.jpg "right" side


Ever since I saw Jared's Hemlock Ring Blanket, I've been wanting to make one. Well, I've succombed!

I went to Webs on Wednesday evening to see Norah Gaughan (of Knitting Nature fame) talk about her new pattern book with Berroco (and I forgot my camera -- brilliant, no?). Norah was great, as were the sample garments, many of which I tried on (there are several more things I will be adding to my too long knitting queue). She showed us all how to knit a hexagon (Webs supplied the yarn -- they had warned us to bring needles). Fun stuff!

While I was there I picked up two giant skeins of Cascade Ecological Wool in a lovely chocolate brown color.

The version of the Hemlock Ring Doily pattern that Jared links to has a typo (the last repeat of Round 35 should end with a k1, not (k1, O) twice, as the pattern states). Also, rounds 35, 39, and 43 are written in such a way that I get easily confused. I learned through the KAL that this version is better has these Rounds written in a clearer fashion (for me, anyway).

Here's my progress so far.

Bug was impressed with the size of the yarn ball created by one skein of the Eco Wool (I had to wind the last bit by hand, as my ball winder could no longer rotate with the huge ball in the way).

He thought the yarn smelled delicious, so tried to take a nip (don't worry, I didn't let him chew through it -- but, oh, how he wanted to):

Moana found the yarn ball intriguing, too. The yummy sheepy smell drew her in:

Ah, hah! Moana pounced the flatish-lacey sheep and inhaled deeply, maybe probed it a little with her sharp, pointy teeth:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fifi for me-me & cats wrapped in Mystery!

First, I forgot to mention in my last post that I received a gift of yarn for my birthday -- my family and friends have largely not caught on to the idea yet, so it was pretty exciting! I'm told that my young niece and nephew (accompanied by their mother, of course!) had a great time exploring their LYS, and they chose this lovely sock yarn just for me!


Thanks so much, guys! I love it!

Bug and Moana have been keeping an eye (and several paws) on it for me...

Shhh.... don't tell Moana, but I've been thinking about making her a body stocking out of it...


Ok, so I promised to have some modeled photos of Fifi for you. (These were taken at night under "warm" lighting, so if you're wondering, no I haven't gotten a tan!)

Fifi (French Girl Knits)
Rowan Calmer, "Garnet" (175 yards per ball), almost 4 balls
US 4 and 5 (3.5 and 3.75 mm) circular needles and dpns
US D (3.25 mm) crochet hook

Overall, this was a great knit, and I'm really happy with the results. (And I'm glad I got to use the Calmer -- what a great yarn!) However, I did experience a few moments of confusion with the pattern and even, at one point (actually, um, when I was already finished), complete, dumb-struck horror.

I wanted to knit more or less the smallest size, but my gauge was off a bit, so I used the instructions for the second (33.5") size instead.

My main point of confusion was when the instructions seemed to direct me to use what I had thought were the body stitches as the sleeve stitches. After some internal debate (geez, I thought the front and back were wider than the sleeves... this doesn't sound right), I went ahead and did what I thought the pattern wanted me to do, separated the sleeves and knit a bit on the body. Then I tried it on. And it looked funny to me. The neck opening looked too narrow and rolled pretty badly along both front and back, and the sleeves were suddently huge. I ripped back and switched to the lesser number of stitches (71) for each sleeve and the greater number (81) for front and back -- much better!


Modifications: I switched to smaller needles (US 4) after 5 repeats of the 8 round "Lower Bodice" pattern to cinch in the waist a bit. I switched back to US 5's after 2 repeats. I lengthened Fifi quite a bit by knitting 11 total repeats. For the sleeves: I used the instructions for the smallest size for the decrease round and only worked one additional round on each sleeve before the final K1,P1 rib round and rib bind off. Additionally, I single crocheted around the neckline to minimize rolling.


The "dumb-struck horror" I mention above occurred after I was completely finished, I tried it on (as I'd done repeatedly throughout the knitting process) and experienced a shock to notice (for the first time!) that the region of purl stitches on one side of each center cable was one third as wide as the column on the other side, both front and back. How I didn't notice this asymmetry before is beyond me...

If you can't see it in my other photos, here's a close-up of the asymmetry (after blocking):

I hadn't previously noticed any asymmetry in the finished Fifi's I'd seen on the web, but then I started re-looking at other people's photos and realized that this asymmetry was present in all Fifi's. Clearly, it couldn't have bugged me much, since I hadn't noticed before.

During knitting, my increases (especially the Kinc's) had resulted in some obscenely loose stitches, so I went through and redistributed the slack in the diagonal "rib" of the cental panels to make things look nicer. As I did this, I tried to loosen the stitches in the narrow P2 column, and tighten the stitches in the wide P2 column. Blocking helped both issues somewhat, but didn't completely "fix" either.

I love Fifi anyway!


Bug and Moana have been trying to help me finish up my Mystery Stole.

As you can see, all that chart reading and placing of beads has tuckered them out.

I'm now working the final clue! Here are a few photos of it for your entertainment.

Draped over the couch:

Is it safe to walk on? Moana tests it out...

The wing portion of the stole:

The "wrong" side of the wing (super cool bumpiness, Batman!):

It makes a snazzy Moana tutu:

Bug wants to know when it'll be finished, so he can wear it properly (without those pesky metal needles getting stuck between his teeth):

That's all for now! Thanks for all your great comments, and have a great weekend!