Curly Whirlies!

Last night, I told you that I'm working on costumes and props for the upcoming Broadway Review, offered by a local theater? Hang on, this has a fiber connection, lol. Well, one of the numbers is "Fine, Fine Line" from Avenue Q. I've not seen Avenue Q, but I understand that it involves puppets? The director owns this completely BUTT UGLY puppet - she was Sister Mary Annette in Nunsense, lol. I flat out refuse to show the puppet on this blog, lest you think that I made her, *shudder.* I didn't make her, I'm only her costumer.

Anyway, Sister Mary Annette needed to shed the habit, and put on an evening gown, and she also needed HAIR. The director asked me if I could make Puppet look like the lady who is operating her. This lady is perfectly beautiful, and she also has a mane of auburn curls. So... I bought some nice, soft Corriedale roving at my LYS, in the perfect color, and the actress suggested that I try mousse to set her curls, and voila, it worked perfectly! I followed the directions on the bottle of mousse, for getting the mousse onto the roving, and then I wrapped the roving around a foil-covered dowel (I ever-so-slightly twisted the roving, as I was wrapping it around the dowel), then set the dowel into the clothes dryer on its hottest setting, and with the little tray thing so that the dowel didn't bang around in the dryer *grin*.

Let me tell you, I was amazed. The actress has worked with this puppet for a few days, and Puppet has gone into and out of her "box," over and over again, and her curls are just as bouncy as can be. Now, I'm thinking of experimenting with this stuff for blocking woolens for "show." The finished product holds its shape wonderfully, and it has body, it stays nice and soft, it looks and feels like "wool," and it has a fairly nice smell, even though I don't like perfumy smells. Really,it still feels just like plain old wool, only, you know, moussed, lol. Think of it - this is what it's designed to do with people's hair, yes? Imagine how nice it would be to block a lacy shawl with this stuff for entry into the State Fair? It would STAY blocked, and it would stay soft and wow, imagine the possibilities? Hmmm... gotta work on this one.

Here is Doiley #2, blocking on Weed Whacker Stuff, and off of the blocking "wires." Yes, two thicknesses of this particular weed whacker line works better than my fancy schmancy stainless steel blocking wires, for a circle this small in diameter. I think that I'll try to find some thicker weed whacker line for blocking purposes - then I won't have to double it. The straight wires will work perfectly on straight lines, but the weedwhacker works better for tight curves.

This was such a fun pattern! Relatively easy, and wow, isn't it pretty? I've decided that doileys are the most magical of knitting - they don't look like much when you are knitting them, but they undergo a complete transformation in the blocking process. I didn't know about the mousse yet, when I blocked this doiley, but I'm going to give it a try. Do you suppose that mousse works on cotton, too?

(Yes, it is round, not oval - I tossed the doiley onto my dd's cello case, for a quick pic against a black background, and the cello case is curved, so it looks oval. It stayed nice and round. Trust me. *smile*)

Knitting in the Mountains, ahhhhhh.......

Look where we went last weekend! These are stunningly beautiful mountains, and it was a lovely drive.

We stopped at the turnoff to Bear and Blue lakes, right past Cuchara, Colorado. We were hesitant to drive very far down the road, due to all of the snow, so we just parked our car, pulled out our blankets and our picnic lunch and our sleds and our knitting and we had ourselves a real nice day.

Actually, Grace pulled out her crochet project. Take a look at this girl - does she know how to live, or what? She is wearing my mitts, she has her bag of chocolate at hand, and right beyond that, her coffee. She is wearing my nice, warm snow boots, and she's leaning up against my nice, warm husband. OK, so he's her nice, warm daddy, but still! There's room for only one fiber artist to lean against his back, and she snuck into my spot while I was busy taking pictures.

She's making this up as she goes along, and it's coming out real nice. She's crocheting a tiny purse, and she's doing a great job.

Emma built a snowman - isn't he handsome?

...and I worked on my green socks...

...while listening to the music of this babbling brook. Aaahhhhhhhh..... I doesn't get much better than this! (Notice, I'm wearing my Mod Socks and the boots that they were knitted for. Also notice the Very Warm Feet)

Sam threw snowballs - do boys ever out-grow this?

Oh, yeah, and he did the Marlboro Man thing... How fetching, with the potty shack in the background and all... oops.

Mack is busy being Grace's backrest. Tough job.

Then, we sledded a bit. Even this old lady participated - see, that's me at the top of the picture.

See the rainbows? Click for a larger picture. I just *love* it when this happens. Of course, in "real life" it was much more colorful and sparkley.

Brothers are good sled pushers...


I know, you've already had enough of the photos of the snow, but bear with me, as I haven't.

Sisters can push sleds, too.

Yes - this is a photo opportunity. We've captured every single curl on film. This is a houseful of people with perfectly straight hair - any curl is a photo op, and cause for general rejoicing. Yippee! A curl! We should go sledding more often!

Then, between last Sunday and today, we've had a very busy week. I finished my green socks, and I finished and turned in the knitted doileys. (Wait until you see the picture of the second one - it came out so much better than the first one.) We had play practice every night of the week, which *really* cuts into my knitting time, and today was the children's piano recital. Whew! A fun week, but a busy one, too.

Next week - Opening Night yay, then FINALLY, I can get back to real life and REAL knitting. My kids and I have been involved in a string of plays - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in October, then right after that, Nunsense in Mid December. Then, Christmas shopping, knitting and general hubbub, then a short break. After the First of the Year, I volunteered to work on props for Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, and then this latest one - A Broadway Review, in which Grace and Emma are performing, as well. So, except for a short break around Christmas, we've been involved in one play or another since late summer, when production for Forum started. Whew! Pant! Pant! We are done for a while, and I don't know whether to be happy or sad. Theater *really* gets under your skin... I can't say no!

I am anxious to complete my Log Cabin Blanket, which is languishing in a backpack, somewhere in the house, and I want to really sink my teeth into Heere Be Dragones, so I'll be really happy to have my evenings back. I'm also working on yet another Red Tent Blanket - this time, in a wonderful sock yarn, believe it or not! So, stay tuned for more knitting! I'm itching to get back to spinning, too. Ahhhh.... spring is upon us, and it's time to get my garden in order. If it's not one thing (to get in the way of knitting and spinning), it's another. Sigh.

"Someday" is today!

I've been saying, "Someday, I am going to knit a nice lacey little doiley," and also, "Someday, I'm going to get myself a set of blocking wires," and "Someday, I'm going to knit something out of my Lace books by Marianne Kinzel ," and don't forget, "Someday, I'm going to find a use for that big block of styrofoam in the office closet - you know the one that falls on my head every time I open the closet door? Yeah, that one,"

Well... "Someday" is today!

A friend of mine is the curator at the Bessemer Historical Society Museum, a brand new museum which is just setting up. She asked for a knitted doiley for one of the exhibits - so - why not! I started knitting!

I knitted the Azalea pattern out of Modern Lace Knitting, and it was much MUCH easier than I thought it would be. In fact, it was so enjoyable that I cast on for another doiley - a pattern from

Take a look at how many pins are necessary for blocking this doiley? EIGHT! Actually, I could have done it with only 6, but I pinned down the ends of the wire for a prettier photo, lol. Without the blocking wires? It would have taken a jillion pins. I *knew* that I wanted a set of blocking wires, and wow, they are really nice, and makes blocking such an easy thing I know that the pattern doesn't show up very well against a white tea towel, but use your imagination - it is a really nice little doiley, lol. A little light starch; a styrofoam block to pin to; life is good.

Which reminds me - have you read the book, Life is So Good, by George Dawson? If not, then run to your nearest library and read it. It's such a wonderful book. You should read it. Really, you should.

Want to know what I've learned, today? Cotton doiley yarn is completely unforgiving of tension irregularities! Aarrgghh! I just took my doiley off of the blocking wires, and put it on something black, and ... well ... maybe I ought to knit a few more, just to get it right, lol.

Mod Socks, lol

How about these "Mod" socks, eh? The colors don't show up correctly on my monitor - they should be Chocolate Brown, Peach, Avocado Green, and Pumpkin Orange. Hey! It wasn't until I typed this in that I realized that these are all foods, lol!

A while back my friend gave me a huge box of yarn that was from her Mother in Law's basement - in other words, straight out of the early 70's. Can you read the labels? Tangle Proof! Washable Colors! I didn't know that there was ever wool yarn with the Red Heart label - I thought that Red Heart was only icky acrylic stuff.
This yarn is *really* nice - it is firmly plied and a nice weight. The colors are way too cool too, lol. As you can see, the repeat in the variegation is almost exactly one round on the socks - a wonderful, stripey surprise!

I haven't knitted socks in soooooo long; it was fun to knit a pair again. First, I cast on at the toe with 8 stitches. Have you ever cast-on by wrapping the yarn around and around two needles? It’s like the figure-8 cast on, only a hundred times easier, and better, and nicer, and more wonderful, and just the best, lol. I think that there is an illustration in the Gathering of Lace book, so check it out.

I increased gradually until I had 36 stitches per sock – do you know the trick about increasing 4 stitches per increase round, except for the very last increase round? You spread these last 4 increase stitches over two or even more rounds, so that you don’t get those annoying “corners.” The corners only show when the socks are off of your feet, but it’s such an easy fix that there’s no reason not to do it this way all of the time.

OK, where was I, lol? I knit the foot-part of the sock for 6.75 inches and then I put in a waste yarn - do you know how? I knit two socks on one circ - magic loop - and this is how I put in the waste yarn. I knit across half of the first sock with the waste yarn, then turn it around and knit back with the waste yarn. Cut the waste yarn, and tie the two ends together. Then, knit across with the sock yarn. Repeat on the second sock, and now, I'm back in sock-knitting action.

As you can see, I started the ribbing way too early - chalk it up to sock knitting forgetfulness due to the fact that it's been too long since my last sock. I *should* have knitted in stockinette for about an inch, then commenced with the ribbing, but oops... I've cast on for my second pair with the green yarn, so I promise that I'll remember.

After the sock is finished, I go back and take out the waste yarn, and knit in a heel like this –

Put the stitches back onto the needles, and yes, I do both socks at the same time on my Magic Loops. Notice that at each side of the hole which results from removing the waste yarn, there is one "regular" stitch and one "sort of half way" stitch - knit these two together, putting the “regular” stitch on top. Put the socks onto your feet – possible with circs, but I don’t know how you’d do it on dpns - one side of the hole is under the arch of your foot, and the other side of the hole is at the back of your ankle - measure how much distance you have to knit in order to make it from one side of the gaping hole to the other. Find a nice, plain, even portion of the already-knitted sock, and see how many rows this works out to be. Since you are knitting from the edges of the gaping hole to the point of your heel, and then purse-stringing the final stitches together, you will need to knit only half of this many rows, get it? Now, you will have to do the math. You want to end the heel with 6 stitches, and you want the heel to have a certain shape - rounded, but rather flat at the very end.

This is how I figured it out – I want the last row to end with 6 stitches – second to last row, k2tog *every* stitch - third to last row - k2tog, *every other* stitch. I began the heel with 36 stitches, and I planned on doing a 6 point decrease, just like a hat, up until these last couple of rows.

Based on my measurements, I figured that I needed to knit 4.5 inches, which worked out to be 34 rows. Yes, I think that it works out better to take the entire measurement, and count the necessary rows for the entire measurement, then divide the number of rows by two, rather than dividing the measurement by two, and then counting the rows. Half of 34 = 17, so I wrote from 1 to 17 on a sheet of paper, and then worked backwards like this – Row 18 (yes, I added an extra row!) = 6 stitches. Row 17 = 12 stitches, which is the amount needed to k2tog, all around and end up with 6 stitches. Row 16 = 18 stitches, the number needed to k1, k2tog all around and end up with 12 stitches. Row 15 = 18 stitches, which is how many I end up with by decreasing at 6 points. Rows 14-12 = 24 stitches, Rows 11-8 = 30 stitches, and Rows 7-1 = 36 stitches.

In other words – pick up the stitches from the waste yarn, and knit plain for 7 rows. On row 8, decrease in 6 points, and knit plain for 3 more rows. On row 12, decrease at the same 6 points, and knit plain for 2 more rows. On row 15, decrease at 6 points, and knit plain for another row. On row 17, k1, k2tog all the way around. On row 18, knit 2 together all the way around. Cut the yarn, and run the tail through the last 6 stitches, and pull tightly. Work in the tail, very securely, over many stitches. Cut the yarn, but not too close – leave about an inch of a tail on the inside of the sock. When the heel felts a bit, with wearing, then you can cut the tail shorter without danger of it working its way out.

The heels came out perfect!

If I had used sock yarn, I would have had many more stitches on the needles to start with – something like 60-70 stitches - and I would have included more rounds of k2tog at the very end, and I would have included more rounds of k1, k2tog right before that, in order to produce a shape which barely reduced until the very end, where the reduction is abrupt, in order to knit a heel-shaped heel. No matter if the off-the-foot-shape is heel like or not, remember, knitting stretches and fits to the form. *smile* Anyway, if you work backwards, and concentrate your decreases near the finishing row, then you will knit a perfect peasant heel, too!

If you don’t like the shape of your finished heel, then rip it out and do it again, it goes fast. Keep notes, so that you know what works for you. When these heels wear out, you rip them out and knit a new heel. This *was* my original plan, but my LYS owner, Emily, suggests that maybe I would prefer to needle-felt a patch over the hole. What? Oh my gosh, what a wonderful idea! I’ll keep you posted on how this works. This yarn seems pretty durable, though, so it might not happen any time soon.

I've never knit or worn worsted weight socks before, and I was apprehensive, but now that they are finished, I just love them! I wanted worsted weight socks because my feet get so darned cold that for the last two years, I've gotten chilblains - what a complete and total bother! The way to prevent chilblains is to prevent your afflicted extremity from getting too cold, so - thick woolen socks! I have a nice pair of boots in which I clump around in all winter long, but I didn't have the appropriate socks until now. These socks work perfectly!

I wear them over a thin pair of cotton socks and my feet stay toasty warm, and the chilblains are kept at bay, yay! The cotton socks are an absolute necessity, otherwise it feels like I have uncooked grains of rice in my boots, lol. Yes, I tried to wear the socks inside out, and it still was quite bothersome, but with the inner socks, ahhhhhhh....... warm feet.