Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The miracles of steam blocking ...

Blocking lesson 1
Well I have finally finished my first set of swatches (5 in all) for lesson 1 of the TKGA Basics course. I am enjoying it immensely. Primarily because for the first time in my life I am actually granting myself the luxury of thinking about my knitting, analyzing my knitting, researching, rethinking,re-doing, and finally appreciating unreservedly what can be done with two sticks and string. I am learning how to actually make increases lean left or right at my will. I'm learning how to make them invisible. I am using duplicate stitch to weave in my ends. All of this is new to me.

 I'm trying out new techniques and comparing them with my old standbys. I am humbly learning that some of my old standbys are sadly lacking. Case in point: Being the lazy so and so that I am (fully admitted) I taught myself to knit right wise and left wise so I wouldn't have to purl. "I hate purling" I announced. In Swatch 2 of my swatches, I did the requested stocking stitch dutifully turning my work knitting one direction and purling back on the next.  By the time I hit Swatch 3, I declared "I don't like this - and I'm returning to my lazy ways" and I knit back and forth. I was quite anxious by this, and wrote to my instructor asking for "permission". The response was a common sense one telling me it was not the intent to tell my how to execute the required task at hand - but that the tension must be even, the stitches not twisted, and the increases were to slant in the correct direction indicated in the instructions. Relieved, I carried on my merry way.

Today I blocked the swatches... and look what I discovered.

 A : Swatch 2 (back) - stitches look even. B:  Swatch 3 (back) - uneven stockinette stitches with gutters. C: Swatch 4 (back) more gutters! Needless to say Swatch 3 &4 are now in the do-over pile.

On a happier note, steam blocking did wonders for the appearance of my ribbing:

Remember this Swatch - with the awful looking ribbing?

Post blocking....

Yes! It really is the same swatch...

 I found a little video on YouTube a few years back when I was looking to block a fairisle afghan that I had knit for the Ravelry 2010 Winter Ravelmpics. The author is Annie Modesitt.  She had me so sold on the Scunci Steamer, that I found one on Kijiji and was rearing to go.

Well, time to revisit Swatches 3 and 4 -Swatch on!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Basics, Bascis, Basics - TKGA here I come...

Just got my BBB package (as in TKGA Basics course) last week and I  have spent a good deal of time doing "prep work." IE: finding a suitable yarn that I think will sustain me through the levels. I've decided to use Cascade 220 based on it's availability (my LYS carries it) price (seems reasonable) and it does a nice job of showing off stitch definition. It also seems to be a TKGA fan favourite.

I've made about 6  "first swatches" trying out various needle sizes (4.5 - 5mm) and types (plastic / bamboo / metal / circs / long / short). Having said that - my biggest decision has been around whether I'll knit Continental or English.  I started swatch 1 doing continental and was horrified at my tension and edges. Tried again (blamed the needle size) and not much better. Next - I resentfully tried an English knit swatch - which looked better. I was somewhat miffed because I didn't want to do my swatches English... (nothing to do with the whole English vs Continental business). Finally I needed to review why I am even embarking on this journey. Generally speaking it is to become a more proficient  knitter - more specifically however, I want to accomplish this proficiency using the continental technique. For some reason my "hand -brain" connectors seem to navigate more naturally  towards this technique. It feels like home (I guess home needs a little sprucing up at the moment).

And so all was frogged again - and finally swatch 1 was done. (Almost - still need to block it).

Swatch 1 - Sample A on needles. Sample B 5mm needles. I've decided that B has a bettter hand. These swatches aren't yet blocked - we'll see what they look like post "finishing."
Bumpy side of long tail cast on - and uneven looking K2P2 ribbing

K2 P2 rib - I know a number of these stitches look twisted - but when I pull the swatch and look more closely I know they aren't. Also shown is the long tail cast smooth side.

Garter stitch selvedge - unfortunately - no slip stitches allowed!

K2 P2 selvedge

In looking at my tension with an analytical eye - I see one loose stitch. I am hoping with proper finishing  the fibres will relax and it will "disappear" into the fabric when the wool fulls a bit.
The bind off instructions were BIND OFF 12 stitches purl wise and the remainder knit wise. Interesting how it looks different - eh?
 Well that's it for today. Swatch on!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good morning - eh?


So -  I am clearing up a number of commitments which have been taking up immense chunks of my time:
  •  Tour de Fleece - I am letting my singles "cure" on the bobbins for a bit before I start plying. This is just my way of justifying not quite completing this project as that would require pulling out my swift and winding off a few already plied yarns that have also been "curing" since.... ?
  • I have finally thrown in the towel on The Young & the Restless. I have deleted all my saved episodes and removed it from my PVR series recordings list. I cannot watch Nikki go to rehab one more time, Nick and Phyllis do the dirty on yet another company desk, couch, floor, bathroom or Daddy's jet, yacht,  helicopter or icecream truck. Or watch yet another victim rise like the phoenix,after falling into an active volcano - for what -  the fifth time?And with a new face??? And Victor? Don't even get me started...
  • I'm ready to call it a day on my vegetable garden - the weather has conspired against me and either pummelled it with hail or hidden the sun away for days on end. It's been cold. My tomato plants have a total of 5 little tomatoes holding on for dear life as the dog sniffs them every morning. I'm waiting for him, or the rabbits to make lunch.
  • I had fund raising commitments for a Weekend to End Women's Cancers Walk that I did a few weekends ago and that has wrapped up as well. Our team raised over $6,000.00! We were delighted and especially appreciative as our fund-raising efforts were largely successful due to the support we received from family, friends and work colleagues.

And so here I am. I continue to quilt on the weekends and my Mondays off. But I have this evening lull before me which usually occurs around 7 pm. I usually watch my soap (see above) or surf the net. I really don't have many projects that I need / want to work on (knit wise) and I'm getting bored with mindless surfing.

I've been thinking about "my knitting" quite a bit. I've been knitting for a long, long time (it was recently pointed out to me that it's been 42 years. I had to check the math on that - and in reality it's been longer than that). I used to be a fearless knitter. Primarily self taught, I converted patterns to suit my left handedness - and since I hated to purl, I started knitting back and forth and converted the patterns again. I used to knit sweaters and never really had a flop! And then I had kids. And somewhere along the line - I lost my knitting mojo. I started to lack understanding about what the pattern "wanted me to do." Things started "not fitting". I started to just knit kid's sweaters saying "oh well - he'll have to grow into this one". I stopped buying enough yarn to make a project - because I wasn't sure I'd really make it. I started picking up 1 skein orphan yarns in the bargain bin - just to sample. Sampling wasn't that satisfying - so the stash just grew and grew. And grew.

And then I found a book called "Knitting for Anarchists" by Anna Zilboorg. I have always admired her work. And lets face it - anything that can marry the words "anarchy" and "knitting" has to be worth a look. And it was... Ms. Zilboorg definitely has opinions about knitting.

It changed my knitting. I learned to knit continental style. I started to "give a hoot" about my stitches. But there is a difference between "giving a hoot" and actually incorporating into one's knitting practice. And that - is my next project. I have signed joined the Knitting Guild Association. I would very much like to start my Master Knitters Certificate - but I'm a little gun shy as I am a great starter of things (see way up on this post) but not so great on the following and finishing aspects. And so I'm starting with the Basics course. It's set up like the actual Masters program - so if I enjoy it I can give it further consideration...

So there you have it folks - knit on!

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