Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hat Journey Continues

Since I was making a hat for Charlotte, several of my other friends/co-workers asked if I would knit them one as well. Always happy to have a new project, I cast on two other hats.

Let me note that it was I that suggested the patterns for the hats they got. Melissa - an aqua Dufton hat that went great with her beautiful red hair, and Jenn - a version of Hermione's hat from a Harry Potter movie for the die hard Potter fan.

Both had cables.

Did I mention I hate cables?

Especially when they form a lattice pattern that requires them ON EVERY ROW!!!

No? Didn't mention that? Huh...well, I didn't think about that when I picked these patterns either.

I cast the Dufton hat for Melissa on first...then quit...it was terrible. I then cast on the Hermione's hat for Jenn....then quit. It wasn't as bad, but that alternate cable cast on was rough! I then decided to knit some socks.

Two weeks later, when I found myself avoiding my friends in the halls, I told myself No More Procrastination - the hats must be finished. Which I promptly went home and completed. (You believe me, right?)

Well, the hats did indeed get finished, and everyone raved about how much they loved them, though it did seem like the story of "Carolyn and the Three Little Hats"...one was too tight, one was too girlie, and one was just right.

I will be casting on another Hermione hat tonight...if only I can forget that it has cables...

Jenn, Melissa, and Charlotte showing off their new hats.
-Your (cable-hating) Knitting Girlfriend

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Charlotte's Green Hat

Things Knitting Taught Me (that contradict my mathematical logic): Two rights CAN make a wrong.

Just because you have a beautiful yarn, and a wonderful pattern, does not mean said pattern will look great in that yarn. The combination can actually be a huge mistake. Knitters world-wide know this, but for me, I have to learn things the hard way. And this classic mistake is what I ran into with Charlotte's green hat. 

When I was showing off one of my latest baby hat projects to my good friend and boss (is it weird that I am friends with my boss?), she asked if I would make her a hat. I immediately said yes! Not only would I make her a hat, but I would design it myself! (Way too ambitious, but hey, I am a glutton for punishment.)

She wanted a lime green (or pink) hat. She wasn't picky, she said. She wanted a rolled, or ribbed, or ruffled edge. (She couldn't make up her mind. We have that in common, so I understood completely.) She wanted a flower. She wanted lace work. With these specifications, I became a woman on a mission!

First, I had to find the perfect yarn. Then, while watching the weekly episode of The Knit Girllls podcast, I found it!!! It was this shocking pink yarn that they were giving away. I entered their give-away immediately. I promised Charlotte that if I won that yarn, it would become her hat. Charlotte was thrilled! Now, let me tell you...I have NEVER won anything in a give away IN MY LIFE, so the chances that Charlotte was going to be getting a shocking pink hat were next to nothing. I did NOT mention this to Charlotte, however. (True to form, I did not win that gorgeous pink yarn. Oh well, congrats to the happy knitter who did.)

So, still needing yarn, I took a trip to my LYS (local yarn shop, in case you need the knit-speak translated for you) in search of the second-best yarn. I found a green variegated, light worsted weight wool that I thought would do the trick.

The next step was to decide on a pattern. Since I had decreed that I would be designing this pattern myself, and Charlotte had asked for lacework, I began researching lace work stitch patterns that I could incorporate into her hat. The variation in the green yarn made me think of spring leaves, so I kept with that inspiration when looking through the lace patterns. And voila! I found a beautiful leaf lace pattern, that would actually knit up in the correct direction for a top-down hat (which is what I had decided upon.)

Now all I had to do was knit up the hat. A few hours of knitting, and Charlotte would be one happy customer! Or so I thought.

I thought that it would be terribly romantic if I brought along the yarn and stitch pattern on a trip I had planned to a New Hampshire bed and breakfast, and knit in front of the fire while sipping wine and chatting merrily with the other guests. Sure enough, my first night there...that is exactly what I did, completing the twisting top of the hat in no time. The second night there; however, is when things went south.

I was knitting in the room, while watching a movie, when I got to the leaf pattern. I had spent hours with paper and pencil making detailed calculations on how I was going to incorporate this simple pattern. Now, as a math teacher, I am embarrassed to tell you, my calculations were way off - something I did not realized until half way through the first repeat of the leaves. Thus began the rip out, reknit, repeat cycle that continued on for the rest of my NH trip.

Back home, I finally finished the three repeats of the leaves that I had intended when I realized something dreadful, since the yarn was variegated...the stitch pattern did not show up well at all. This not being my first rodeo with a knitted hat, I should have realized that would happen before I began, but alas I did not. Showing the problem to several "consultants", they suggested I keep it simple, and just continue the twist that formed the crown of the hat, finishing it off with a ribbed edge and a few girlie details. (Charlotte likes girlie details. The girlier the better.)

In the end, I took their advice, and produced a cute twisting hat pattern. I ended up ripping out the hat 3 times before I settled on this pattern, but oh well. At least I had bought quality yarn that stood up to all that abuse.

Last, but not least, I added an I-cord pink flower with a yellow button center...and then NOBODY liked it...except Charlotte...which is all that matters, right?

(Pictured: Charlotte trying on her new hat. Hopefully she won't hate me for posting this pic!)

















-Your (always logical) Knitting Girlfriend

Dogs Ate Amy's Sock!!

I DID have in my list of FO's First Sock for Amy. But NOW, thanks to a pack of mongrels I like to call my dogs, I have to REKNIT one of the socks. See, that is the problem with socks...you have to have two. Knitting just one isn't enough.

I have been in a war with my precious animals over these socks from the beginning. Shortly after I finished the first of the pair, one of the beasties stole it and ATE the TOE!! If they had eaten the cuff, that wouldn't have been an issue...a little ripping out, a little reknit, problem solved! But no...they are clever little rascals!!

I tried to fix it...but I did a poor job. I am still learning myself after all. (Look at the picture on the right closely. I took this one shortly after the first repair job. See the toe on the left is different than the one on the right, with a ugly seam across it.) 

With bad repair job and all, I humbly brought my project to my sock knitting class. My wonderful instructor painstakingly ripped out the bad repair job, picked up all of the stitches for me, and showed me how to reknit the toe so that when both were finally finished, I could not tell which sock had been the one repaired. (She later commented that she had never fixed a toe like that before either...I think she is a genius!)
Notice in the picture on the left, taken moments after both socks were completed, that both toes now look the same again, and there is no longer an ugly seam.

Yay! Amy has a completed pair of socks! Or at least she did for a whole WEEK! Now, one sock is missing. We have searched everywhere. Under beds, dressers, couches, and tables. In closets, drawers, bags, and shoes. Through dirty clothes and clean.

We believe we know the answer to the mystery of the lost sock...they are just too yummy for the animals to leave alone. But I can't bring myself to accept this yet. We have not yet searched the backyard for confirmation. I am too scared that is where I will find the missing sock. In a shallow unmarked grave littered with half-eaten bones and chewed twigs.

For now, I will knit Amy another sock to match the one still with us. Maybe one day soon I will be able to update this post with a note that Amy is the proud owner of a triplet of socks. Here's hoping!
-Your (dog-hating) Knitting Girlfriend

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's in a Name

So why did I decide to name my blog "Girlfriends Knitting?" Quite simple...because of Julia Roberts. During the filming of the movie Larry Crown, Tom Hanks (whom I love), played a prank on Julia Roberts (who is known for knitting on the set). He had an assistant and the costume director prepare 50 skeins of yarn with a few rows of knitting, then passed out these knitting projects to 65 men in the crew. When Julia walked in, she began cracking up laughing, and immediately got into the spirit of the prank, talking about knitting with the guys.

Here is a small excerpt of that from access hollywood, but the line I remember most came from another video, that no longer exists on YouTube. (This one is still cute and worth the watch.)

In the longer clip, Julia says something to the effect of "All you need to get started is a girlfriend who knits!" That is how I got started, with my knitting girlfriend after grad school (love ya, Virge!) She patiently showed me how to hold my yarn and follow patterns and fix mistakes while sharing amazing red wine, bellies full from her chef-husband's amazing dinner creation of the evening. It was fabulous.

I, in turn, have become that knitting girlfriend to several of my friends and family (you all know who you are...comment below! Haha, I don't have to do ALL the writing on this blog!) I have even convinced a few of them to let me video us knitting together. (Now if I can only convince them to let me share those bloopers...uh...videos...with you.) One of these "students" of mine I now jokingly call my knitting BFF (love ya too, Veronika!) because she took to this addiction of mine so quickly that there are many nights now that we sit together watching movies and knitting and sharing our latest projects. Going to a yarn store with the two of us is NOT fun for non-knitters, just let me tell ya! (As a matter of fact, we did both of these activities last night..oh yeah!)

So now, I want to bring all of you into my world of knitting with this blog. My friend and assistant, Stacy, says it is like the borg, with me dictating... "you will now knit....bwahaha." As a matter of fact, my latest recruit to my happy world is her mother.

Won't you join me? *sends out mind-controlling impulses to make all who read this blog have an immediate urge to find yarn and needles*
-Your (ever-enabling) Knitting Girlfriend

Self-Patterning Yarns

I have become fascinated with self-patterning yarns. Sock yarns, baby jacquards...I love them all.

I was first introduced to these wonderful yarns when a fellow "yarnie" who crochets, but has never sat still long enough for me to teach her to knit, passed along some Bernat Baby Jacquard that she had bought to make the toy bunny pattern that was included on the yarn label. She had loved the yarn and loves making toys, but didn't have the time to learn to knit in order to make this particular bunny. She suggested that I make it and give it to my brother and sister-in-law, who at the time were expecting my baby niece. I eagerly agreed!

The bunny came out fabulous! It was work for someone who had never made a toy before, but I enjoyed it. Its recipients loved it as well! I spent longer on it at a given sitting than I normally might, because I wanted to see what the yarn was going to do next. I ended up making a few of these precious bunnies and each one came out better than the next. My personal favorite was a brown and blue one that I made for a friend's first child - a little boy. Isn't he cute? (The bunny...not the baby. Well, the baby is cute, too, but...you know what I meant!)

Now that I am knitting socks, I always look for self-patterning yarns. Who would buy a solid color when you have PATTERN?!?! Maybe it is just the math-nerd in me...but I bet I am not the only pattern lover out there.

Speaking of, I have a pair of socks on the needles, so I better get back to them. Oh yeah...I finished that green hat for Charlotte! More about it later...

-Your (pattern-loving) Knitting Girlfriend

Friday, November 4, 2011

Into the Cedar Chest

With two (count them...one...two!) projects begun and finished, I was really on a roll! This is when I decided that I wanted to try my hand at knitting again. (Told you I would get to this part eventually.)

A good friend of mine at my first job out of graduate school taught me to knit. (I had been shown before, but it didn't sink in the first time.) I had knit several baby hats and a few scarves, but nothing above a basic beginner level. Most of what I had knit was UFO's (UnFinished Objects for the uninitiated in 'knitter speak') in a large cedar chest in my upstairs office.

With the bravery of a stalwart solider headed into battle, I forged through the tangle of cheap acrylic yarn and sharp metal needles in various sizes, on a mission to sort, separate, and complete the vast array of strange half-finished items in the chest. (Well, at least those that I could remember what they were suppose to have been.)

The first thing that I tackled will probably look familiar to anyone who has ever picked up a "Learn to Knit" kit at your local super-store. It is a simple vest pullover. (Forgive the blurry image. The striping in the yarn made it almost impossible to photograph anyway.)

I had begun it out of a lovely Red-Heart acrylic (no sarcasm here) in a tan and blue-green colorway. (Still not sure why we can't just say 'color', but it does sound so much more sophisticated, doesn't it?) I had no idea that there was such a thing as BFL, or Merino, or that wool feels so much better in your hands than cheap acrylic that refuses to drape in a pleasing manner. The idea of a LYS (local yarn shop) was completely alien to me, as well. Didn't everyone buy yarn at Wal-Mart?

Thus, with beginner vest pattern in hand with cheap needles and even cheaper yarn, I completed my first wearable garment! (It actually is wearable. See? It is modeled on a real-life person!)

Thus, I declared myself a success, a real knitter, and able to conquer all!!!

That' is until I tackled the green hat for Charlotte....but, I am getting ahead of myself.

Happy Knitting!!!

-Your (project-finishing) Knitting Girlfriend

Burst of Rebellion

Since my first project after my return to the world of yarn had turned out fine (remember the cute little doily?), and it had been soothing, I was onto a more advanced project. I chose another doily, but a larger one, for the center of my dining room table. It involved making 12 small "doilettes" in a flower pattern and then crocheting around them to put them together in a larger flower pattern. I diligently began the pattern as directed, with the indicated hook, indicated yarn, following obediently the designers rules as dictated by the pattern. (I am a rule-follower by nature, so that is how I rolled.)

Then one day, sitting in my chair on the back porch, sipping iced tea in the hot June sun, it dawned on me. "Who is this person to tell ME what to do? Why must I listen to this designer? Is he/she GOD? Is it the LAW OF CROCHETING? 'Thy must follow all patterns to the letter.'" "NO!" I screamed! "I am a smart, independent woman with a (usually scattered) mind of her own! I can do what I want with this pattern! It is my d@&# doliy!"

With this burst of rebellion coursing through my veins, I threw caution to the wind and .... switched COLORS!!  I know, I know, not much of a rebellious act, but then if you knew me, you would understand. I was running WILD! (Think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory going off on a wild streak...it is all relative.)

I made the small flowers in different colors and then crocheted them together in the called for white of the pattern. (I warned you I had a hard time with the rebellion thing.) It took a few weeks, and came out beautiful! (See picture below and marvel in my handy work. *grin*)

Next time, I will tell you where the knitting came into play...I promise!

-Your (sometimes rebellious) Knitting Girlfriend

How it began...

I have blogged on and off for a few years, just like I have done knitting and crocheting and other crafts that have tickled my fancy, until recently. Now I am knitting obsessed and on a mission to make all of my friends knitters as well! To that end, I decided to go back to blogging to share my renewed love of all things yarn with you - my girlfriends (or boyfriends...men knit, too)!

It all happened over the summer when after a discussion with a few close family members (well, it was more of an intervention where three of them sat me down and told me I needed to seriously take a look at how stressed out and unhappy I was), I decided to crochet a doily. I know, that sounds very grandmotherly of me, when in fact I am only 35. However, it was because of my grandmother that I decided to take on that particular project.

In my mind, my mother's mother was all things grandmotherly - clean house with crackling fire, squishy hugs, fresh baked cookies, and doilies on everything that would sit still. It was she who taught me to crochet when I was so young that I probably told people my age by holding up a certain number of fingers. (Ok, I probably never did that. I was way too verbal, even at a very young age...but you get my point.) Because I missed her terribly, because I wanted to do something to remind me of things that I loved most from my childhood, and because I had a whole summer to kill (a perk of teaching for a living) and the crochet hook and yarn on hand, the crocheted doily became my therapy of choice.

I began with a small doily that I planned to gave to my "other-half". It was a small and practical little thing to sit on the bed-side table and keep rings from ruining the furniture. I could excuse the time I was spending on it as being productive. (Please ignore the fact that you can now buy a 'Made in China' version of the same thing at most local dollar stores for...well...a dollar.)

With this small project, I ventured back into the land of yarn and hand-made items. I had planned on it being an amusing one-time thing during that summer to jump start me out of depression and an ever-deepening career rut. I had no idea it would turn into this obsession...which I hope to share regularly with you.

(Oh, yeah, I will get to how the crocheting became knitting soon enough!)

-Your (slightly obsessed) Knitting Girlfriend