Friday, January 30, 2009

The Finished Set?

Admittedly, it is difficult to put a shrug on a hanger. It needs the rounded shape of the shoulders and the arms to stretch it to proper proportions, but here is the top to the Jane Austen dress displayed on a hanger with the shrug. I asked on the Mason Dixon Group on Ravelry if I should make the shrug matching or contrasting, and all the replies said contrasting:

And the back:

I love the cable pattern. I'm thinking of socks. . . .

Should I have used matching yarn and made more of a “sweater set” of it? I can still do that since I have planned a set that is the same size and the exact reverse. Comments are welcome.

Evaluation of the pattern: I found this pattern a little hard to start. It seemed to me that the directions could have been written a little more clearly in spots; nevertheless, once I figured them out, the pattern was extraordinarily easy to follow. The same criticism could be applied to the finishing instructions. If I had knitted shrugs before, I might have had a clue. Thank heavens there were some flat pictures to look at on Ravelry. I also notice on Ravelry that some people are knitting the shrug as a separate accessory to wear with shirts and jeans. It would be a great project for that purpose. It takes such a small amount of yarn that it would be a great leftovers project for a little girl.

I’m taking a Jane Austen break for a little while and doing some garter stitch knitting on my charity blanket. Seed stitch makes my shoulders tired for some reason, and I think I need to give it a rest before starting that ruffle again.

Furthermore, DH is home with a really rotten case of the flu, and next week our DGS will be staying with us for a few days, so I will be a kindergarten mom again. I just know I’ll forget the word rings on Thursday—I always forgot to see that his dad had them, so why should things be different now?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Vintage Eye Candy and a Little Whining

My mother made this dress for me when I was three--very early 1950s. I've always liked it, and I know that she did because she kept very few "treasures" from those years. For one thing, it fits very attractively. I know THAT because I still have one of those 3-year-old-sized Patti Playpal dolls.
It is, however, very short, mid-thigh, because that's how very young children dressed back then.

This is a detail of the pocket flap. If you look closely, you can see that a princess seam meets the top left corner of the flap. The seam does not, however, go all the way down the skirt. The same detail is used on the back of the dress. I really, really want to make a dress like this for each of my younger granddaughters. I would like to make it for the older one as well, but she is already larger than this dress, and I am not sure I could size it up. I think I might be able to make a copy and just wait till the smaller girls grow to fit theirs. I hope to try this summer.

Now for a semi-rant. First of all, you should understand that I am beginning to look toward retirement. If you noticed the quotation at the top of my blog, you probably had a clue. I will be eligible in April, and during the last 4 years I have been anxiously awaiting that date because I was working in a bad situation--for me, for other personnel, and for the students as well. Happily, that situation has changed, and, coupled with the woes of the economy, I'm planning to stay on for a couple of years more at least. I like my job, the people I work with, the students, and, quite frankly, the money.

Last week, I discovered that due to some changes by the state and some anticipated local shifting, I will need to pick up a couple of supplemental certifications for next year. This will necessitate extra work this spring--that's ok--and work that will hang over my head for most of the summer vacation--not ok. I just really didn't want to do this, not just for 2 more years. For one thing, I spent over three hours on the computer trying to find out when one of the tests was being given. Yesterday, I finally discovered that to find out what the schedule was so that I would know when to study, I had to register for the test. Does that seem a little backwards, or is it just me? Anyway, after spending the weekend in a snit, I have managed to space out the anticipated work load so that it won't be such a pain. There is also the fact that one of these supplementals comes with a nice stipend. I know that in today's global situation, I am so fortunate to have a job I like in a place I like to live. I am truly blessed, so I'll try hard not to whine about such little things.

I've also posted some new book reviews on the Shelfari shelf on the sidebar. Take a look.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Which the Top Is Being Blocked

You can tell the top is still damp by the unevenness of the color. I had the opportunity to try it on the child this afternoon, and the fit/gauge came out right.

I did make some changes to the pattern in the finishing. The neckline edge is one row wider than called for on the pattern. After doing the armholes, I decided I would like the seed stitch to show a little more around the neck. In addition, I made some changes to the closing. I will get a photo when I get a button and make the loop for it, but basically, I increased at the corners of the edging between the part straight up the back and the part around the neck in order to make the corners square. I turned the left edging under and loosely overcast the edge to the outer fabric, so that there is a smooth finish to the back opening like the dresses in heirloom sewing.

I am not going to finish the skirt on this dress yet. I am first going to knit the shrug pattern for this dress and then move on to the other tops. Right now the heat in my sewing room is disabled, and it's cold out there. I would also just like to do all three skirts at the same time.

I plan to chronicle the knitting of the first shrug. I will also make note on the blog of adaptations to change the dress knitting to in the round.

This was a delightful knit, both the pattern and the yarn!

Why I Love My Knit Picks Options

The top for the Jane Austen Dress, completed except for finishing the shoulders and back seam and knitting on the neck and armhole edgings. The knitting is really quick. This picture illustrates one reason I enjoy my Knit Picks Options and Harmony needles--being able to slip stitches off to an extra cable as a stitch holder and then being able to screw on a tip to resume knitting without having to do a bunch of shifting. It is particularly nice when needing to fit a sweater because you can have a holder that is conveniently long enough for fitting.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not Exactly a Sock

I'm sorry the photo is a little blurry--I left the macro on accidentally.
I usually keep a sock OTN all the time to grab to carry in the car and also to have to knit a row or two in some spare minutes at home. I can get an amazing amount done on a sock with 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Right now my "small" project is the Jane Austen Dress, but this blanket seems to be filling in for an at home sock. I can work in a couple of rows here and there, and it is growing quickly. Of course, sooner or later my 10 minute times will be taken up with weaving in all those ends!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Dress Again

I finally returned to knitting on the dress. This is the section from the bottom of the ruffle to the underarm point. The directions said to knit 3" from the top of the ruffle before stopping to divide for the underarms. I have knit 2 3/4". Some posters on Ravelry mentioned having to go back and lower the underarm. If this is too loose, I think I can simply make the edging a little wider, and that will be much easier than ripping back.

The lace pattern itself is very simple--in fact, so simple that it can lull you into being careless. I am following the directions and knitting back and forth on the circular needles, which means that I am purling back between every row of lacework. I cannot figure out any reason that the garment up to this point could not be done in the round. It would go much, much faster, at least for me, and my hands do not tire of knitting the way they do when making an extended number of purl stitches. For the next garment, I think I will try to figure out how to do this much of the pattern in the round. I don't see why it wouldn't work, but if someone reading this blog has a different idea, I would like to hear about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Knitting to Show

Last night, I was very tired--it was one of those hard, uncooperative days at school. I used my knitting time taking a hot bath and reading a book! Tonight, however, I have plans to make some progress on the dress.

This morning my class listened to the Inaugural on We couldn't get a video feed in that didn't keep stopping. The radio coverage was excellent. I think that was the first time I've sat in a classroom listening to a radio broadcast since Nov. 22, 1963, an afternoon I will certainly never forget. I particularly enjoyed the Perlman/Yo Yo Ma music because it occurred during the passing period, so I was in my room all by myself listening to that beautiful selection. I felt it was important for students to hear and be a part of something this historically significant. Perhaps it made a difference for a few of them. (One student had come in asking if we were going to listen to the "Iraq-nation." Scary. He's 18.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Ruffle is Finished!

The ruffle has 249 stitches of seed stitch for eleven rows; then the stitches are purled together in pairs, so that the stitch number is cut to 125. I really like the texture of the seed stitch, but I am horribly slow at it. I am now ready to begin the pattern stitch, which should go much faster since it is on a stockinette background. Because there is a center back seam, I am slipping the first stitch of every row to make seaming easier. I hope that's OK. I think I remember Meg Swanson suggesting that.

My knitting for the rest of the afternoon will be on the charity blanket. DH and I have a pay-per-view movie lined up, and I can do big garter stitch in semi-darkness.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Which I Document Gauge and Reasoning

The second swatch came out to the required 21 stitches per inch on size 5s. I am thinking that this issue could be why people are having trouble with sizing on this pattern. The pattern itself calls for size 3 needles. I am a loose knitter, and I pretty much always have to drop needle sizes. Had it not been for reading that this "ran small," I would have started with a 2.

After checking the underarm measurement on a similar style dress that is just a fit right now, I am going with the size 4 pattern on size 5 needles. The dress that fits is exactly 22" at the underarm, and it is certainly not any too big. In addition, this knitted top dress will have the bulk of the skirt gathering underneath, and I also notice that the armholes are made so that they will fit closely and not gap like a tank top, so I think a little more ease will be fine and give some growing room. I plan to cast on later this afternoon (housework calls, alas), using a knitted-on cast on to give a prettier edge to the ruffle.

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Second Thought. . . .

I measured after I got home from work. I have a gauge of 23 stitches for 4". If I want the 24" size, a size 4, I would need to cast on for the size 6. Somehow that number makes me feel very insecure since this garment will be for a 2-year-old. I just don't think that I will be satisfied until I try a swatch with a size 5 needle and wash and dry that one. Perhaps I'll like it even better.

Get Ready for Short Frequent Posts

I have decided to document the knitting of the Jane Austen Dress and Shrug patterns in detail. Since I am finding different opinions about the sizing and so forth, I thought it might be helpful to others looking at the pattern if I did so, particularly since spring is coming up, and someone else may be wanting to knit this dress for a child.

The yarn I am using for the pattern is Knit Picks Shine Sport, which is a pima cotton/Modal blend. This yarn is a substitution for the original Rowan yarn, which is not readily available to me, and which would be expensive to use for three dresses and shrugs. In the ball, the Shine has a slight sheen, similar to that of mercerized cotton. It knits very smoothly. I swatched in stockinette on size 4 Knit Picks options needles. Last night, I tossed the swatch into the washer with a load of my knit slacks, ran it a full cycle, and then put it into the dryer. The fibers fluffed up a little bit, making a very nice feeling fabric; however, they are not quite as shiny as before. Nevertheless, I am going to measure the gauge this evening and take the measurements I need and choose the size I am going to knit by the gauge of my swatch because I really, really like the feel of the fabric. I think a bigger needle would look too "coarse" for the delicate nature of the dress style, and the smaller needle would spoil the drape of the fabric. I have just been reading some of the Yarn Harlot's comments about swatch betrayal in Free Range Knitter, but I hope that mine won't betray me this time. I still have time to reknit if necessary.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

ELMO and Swatching and a Little Sheepy Recreation

When I got to school yesterday, the copy machine wouldn't work. I hadn't run off my class materials for the day because the copy machine man was there the previous afternoon working on it. Time for Plan B--

We are fortunate to have some nice technology available, and one of the things that I have new this year is ELMO. No, not the little red guy with the song--this ELMO is something like an overhead projector that will electonically project not only a transparency but also a book, a paper, my hand, or anything else under its light through the center mount presentation projector in my room. I have used it once or twice, but frankly, because it is new, I forget that I have it and don't plan for it. After some adjustment and extra twiddling which necessitated actually READING the manual, it worked beautifully. I did not run off paper on the copy machine for today --it works if you don't open the front door when it tells you to--and I'm planning to ELMO my way through the day. Of course, if ELMO is nonfunctional, I'll have to move to plan C, I suppose. This is one of the problems when they keep fussing at us to integrate technology. The only time my chalkboard didn't work was when someone had cleaned it with some strange cleaner.

The only downside to using ELMO yesterday was that I personally was in semidarkness for almost the entire day. That just made me feel gloomy.

Last night I swatched for the Mason Dixon dresses. I used a 4. The dress pattern said a 3 and a gauge of 21 stitches to 4"; the shrug said a 4 and a gauge of 22 stitches to 4". That doesn't seem logical somehow. When the swatch is dry, I'll measure. I really like the fabric the 4s created.

Finally, for anyone in need of a sheep fix, there's a nice computer jigsaw puzzle here. Puzzles are updated daily, so if you're reading this a day or two late, you may have to hunt a little.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Plans, FO's, Knitting in Progress, and a Question of Etiquette

The Knit Picks order arrived at last! The yarn and fabric are for the Easter outfits for the granddaughters. I'm planning to make the Jane Austen Dress and coordinating Shrug from the second Mason Dixon knitting book.

Much of my stash is leftover yarn from various projects. During the Christmas holiday, I made projects from a couple of leftovers. First is a garter stitch scarf from Noro Silverthaw that was left over from one of my favorite sweaters. I had a really cool outdoor shot at a local color location planned for this one, but the wind has not cooperated, so here it is anyway.

I have already posted about the other project, the case for my new digital camera. I suppose I should have borrowed a camera and made a picture of the dressed camera, but that seemed like a lot of trouble. The case is a little bit larger than it should have been. I lined it with some leftover Minkee, so it is very non-scratchy. The yarn is some Paton's Classic left over from some felted slippers.

Now for a current knitting project--a blanket I'm knitting for charity. The yarn is Red Heart Super Saver because of certain requirements of the project. It's going fairly fast, but I'm finding that I tire quickly because the acrylic doesn't give.

Finally, the etiquette question--Suppose you walk into the workroom to pull your sack lunch out of the refrigerator and someone says, "Wait a minute! X brought stew for everyone." Sure enough, there's an enormous crockpot full of stew, bowls, and spoons. There's even a box of crackers. Several of us dip up some stew and begin eating. Then the "announcer" says this--"We'll have to remember to unplug and clean the crockpot this afternoon. X was so sick when she got here that she was going to leave when they got a substitute." What should one do under those circumstances? I just finished the bowl of stew, but I do wish I had known that information before I dipped it up. Perhaps I would have made a different choice. Am I being picky?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Somewhat Silly New Year's Resolution

In my quest to work smarter so that I can have more time to do the things that I really want to do and spend time with people I value, I have tried all sorts of things. However, it has dawned on me that I haven't been doing a very good job of using tools that I already have. For example, I seem to be habitually tossing a load in the washer early in the morning, running it before I leave for school, and then taking off out the door without drying it, either because there isn't time or because I get busy and forget. When I come in after school, I more than likely have wet stinky clothes that need to be rewashed, or at the very least, rinsed again. Think of the waste of water and electricity and detergent and time! This situation is particularly idiotic because I have a computerized washer with a timer. It is perfectly possible for me to load the machine, set the cycle, set the timer, and have the clothes wash just in time for me to walk in the door from work and, as my daughter says, "reboot" the laundry to the dryer as I go by. I just haven't been doing it. I have the same sort of cycle on my dishwasher. (I really don't like leaving the dishwasher running to cut off when I am not at home. I had an unfortunate incident many years ago when I lived in an apartment.) I am quick to take advantage of technology at school, so why haven't I been doing it at home? Notice that I haven't mentioned the oven timing system. That's because it doesn't work. Therefore, I resolve to make better use of the technology I have that will make my life easier. (Now I just have to remind myself to empty the dryer.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I Was Afraid to Say Anything Earlier, but. . .

someone else's misfortune turned into good fortune for me. I have a Maytag Neptune front-loading washer and dryer set that I've had for a few years. I know there have been many posts on line by people who absolutely detest these appliances, but I am generally very pleased with mine. There has only been one problem. About 2 years ago, my sensor dry function on the dryer quit. It would turn off too soon, and the clothes would be wet and cold. We live in a small town and getting a repairman in is a chore, so I decided to wait until I needed one for something else. I haven't. Meanwhile, I was using the time dry, which still worked fine; however, I knew that having to guess at the time was probably wasting both natural gas and electricty.

Well, somewhere in all the comments and postings about the Yarn Harlot's recent experiences with the death of Sir Washie and the coronation of his successor and the successor's companion, someone posted about a similar problem and that they had solved it by cleaning the sensor inside the drum which had evidently become coated with residue from lint and fabric softener. I decided to give it a try. It took a little bit of on-line research to positively identify the sensor, but it worked! The load of clothes dried beautifully.

Meanwhile, an appliance repairman from a nearby town came into my DH's place of business. When DH told him what I had done, he said that my fix could not possibly have worked and gave my husband his phone number and wanted the model number of the dryer. However, I have tried the dryer again, and it has worked just fine. So far, I have a "repair" that has cost me nothing--if you don't count the cost of a laptop and internet service and all that yarn because otherwise I wouldn't have been reading the Harlot's blog--and one that will hopefully save me money in energy costs. I just hope that posting about it doesn't jinx my fix. (I'm feeling pretty smug because of what the repairman said. )

You may also notice that my blog design has changed slightly. I had to make changes in order to be able to use widgets. Book reviews will appear by mousing over the books on the bookshelf.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Thought for the New Year

One of the great privileges of being a grandparent is not feeling responsible for certain things, either because you just aren’t or because you’ve learned that some things can’t be changed or don’t matter anyway. Sometimes it’s just very interesting to sit back, observe, and “wax philosophical.” Beware. This is one of those times.

The other afternoon after we opened Christmas presents, the little ones were watching an Elmo video on the tv. At our house we have some small chairs—one rocker, one tiny straight chair, and two child-size folding chairs that go to a little card table. The older two grandchildren, aged almost 6, were busy playing with their toys, but the not-quite-twos were more or less watching Elmo. Why more-or-less? There were three chairs and two toddlers. They were constantly moving positions. As you watched, it became clear that they were engaging in a mostly non-verbal competition to control the most chairs. One would try to entice the other away from her spot with a toy or some babble. If it worked, she would take the chair and then try to control the empty chair next to it, leaving the other toddler with only one. A very short time later, the control pattern would change.

Watching something like this makes it very clear that it is human nature to be competitive and acquisitive, far beyond our personal needs. That is why we spend time teaching sharing and caring for others. A church youth director, having just returned from a trip to a waterpark with a group of teenagers on a hot day, told me that he looked at people at that park—soaked, stringy hair, sunburned, all the bulges and less-than-glamorous characteristics showing—and wondered if that was humanity as God sees us, without the “fronts” that we put on for each other. I couldn’t help but reflect on the same idea when I think about how many of the problems in the world today are over cornering the rights to someone else’s chair—or to the unused chair that no one really needs anyway.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

On the Ninth Day of Christmas. . .

I can finally post about some knitted items that I made for Christmas presents since we had our family Christmas gift opening today. Some of you have already looked at the projects on my Ravelry page, but here they are for those of you who haven't.

I made two pair of Symmetrical Braided Mitts for my DD and DDIL. I made them so that they could buckle toddlers into carseats without having to remove their gloves, but both of them immediately said something about working on their work computers when their hands are cold. I think these are a little bulky for that purpose, so I may try some Endpaper Mitts out of some sock yarn. Those would be a nice colorwork project. This pair of mitts is from some Paton's Classic Merino in Very Blue. They have a really nice feel.
The second pair is from Lion Brand Wool Ease in a green heather color which I think has been discontinued.

The Symmetrical Braided Mitts pattern is available on Ravelry.
I also made Christmas socks for the two older grandchildren. The first pair is based on the Eclipse socks that I found on Ravelry. I made the ribbon shorter because I thought the duplicate stitch might be uncomfortable when stuck in a little shoe. The pocket is just big enough to hold a quarter.

The socks for the grandson also have a pocket. I thought the ribbon design would be too girly for a young man.

Both pairs of socks are knitted from Knit Picks Essentials and Essentials tweed.