October 20, 2011

Magic Looping is a Good Hack

I hate DPNs (Double Pointed Needles, for the uninitiated).

Yeah, I said it.  I have never liked working on DPNs.  It's not knitting in the round that I hate; I love doing that.  As long as it's on a long circular needle, that is.  But I dread the point in my sweaters and hats where I have to pull out those crazy pointed things that stick out everywhere, catch on everything, and are a pain in the ass to knit on since you're constantly stopping to adjust the needles, move stitches, and on and on.

They also don't stop anyone from choosing to sit next to me on the bus, even when there's an empty row right in front of me.  But I digress.

This isn't to say I don't use them.  Not to say I haven't used them successfully either. But I don't like them, and more times than not, something ends up looking screwy.

Anyway, what brought it to a head this week was this:

Now, we already know I suck at 1x1 ribbing, but this is a new low.  Everywhere the needles meet, there's a big open gap between the purl and knit stitches.  If you look closely, you can see where I tried the rotating trick (rotating where the joins are is supposed to help hide the ladders, as they aren't lined up in a column.  Maybe for someone else it does, oye.).  To put salt in the wound, this is all I got done in three days of bus trips (though part of that is due to bus crowding and falling asleep on the bus...lets say this is all I got done in 4 bus trips).  3 inches of ribbing.  That's it.

It is now gone.  I got sick of all the gaps and curving ribbing. I ripped it out Wednesday night.  I then sat down and looked up a video on how to magic loop.

I now have this:

Look at it!  3 and a half inches of nice, neat, ribbing; the best 1x1 ribbing I've done so far.  And it was done in two bus trips.  No ladders.  No pointy needles clacking everywhere.  Why didn't I learn how to magic loop before?  Why did I buy every DPN from size 0 to 11 from KnitPicks when I had perfectly good needles and a long cable to knit small rounds?

I can tell you why, actually.  I bought most of the DPNs before I knew there were other ways of knitting small rounds.  And when I did learn of magic looping, most of what I was reading was along the lines of 'Why would you do that?  DPNs are superior.'  I got the idea that magic looping was a Bad Idea, a bad hack.  So I didn't go any further, and I bought more DPNs.

Well, magic looping may be a hack (after all, you are using a circular needle for something it really wasn't meant to be used for), but it's a very good one, at least for me.  I can knit faster, it works up neater, and I'm dealing with less needles.

It serves me right for ignoring the solution and wasting my time.  I shouldn't have cared.  When have I not liked a good hack?  It's like finding out that adding two lines to a stored procedure will make Microsoft Report Viewer generate columns using a stored procedure with a temporary table in it.  No, not my hack, but finding it did save my ass from having to completely destroy someone else's sproc to get rid of the temporary tables that shouldn't have been an issue in the first place (and, for the record, Microsoft Report Viewer is something else I hate.  But that's not knitting related, so I'll drop it).

Oh, and before I go, I guess I should clarify how I usually use the term hack.  A hack is a solution to a problem that doesn't actually fix the problem.  Instead, it works around the problem, and is often not pretty, efficient, or smart, but it works.  If I say I hacked something in my knitting, I usually mean I fixed my knitting mistake by doing something else instead of frogging it back and doing it right.  For example, fixing too many stitches increased by knitting two together on the next row.  That's a hack. Sometimes this is a good thing (who's going to notice an extra increase and decrease in the area under your armpits?).  Sometimes, it isn't, because the problem still exists and leaving it there or even the hack itself can cause other issues (that area where you had extra increase may now be too big, and will sag, making it noticeable anyway).

And by googling the word hack, I just found out the other word for it is kludge.  Anyone else ever hear that word used?  Kludge? Maybe it's because I'm a programmer, but I've always heard it called a hack.  Link here if you're interested.

October 16, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

This is a quick post, since I've been a bit busy this weekend, and still have things to do (like my laundry).  Was in the city Saturday for family driven plans, and then today I went to see this:

That's right.  I got up to Rhinebeck for my first ever Sheep and Wool Festival.  Which is funny, since I live, oh, a little more than an hour away (hence my last minute plans), and I have never heard of the festival in my life until I joined Raverly.  I, of course, also broke several of my rules and left with all of this:

Well, that and a crochet related item for my mom, which will be the surprise part of her Hanukkah present.

The middle two dark-blue skeins are some alpaca for a hat for my mom.  It'll be a Hanukkah present.  She requested that it be alpaca, though I have to get her to pick out a pattern for it.  The others were just 'oooh, pretty' buys, which means I have no clue what I will do with them, and they were the most expensive yarn I've bought so far.  I'm a sucker for jewel tone blue and black combos, and there were a lot of them. Not that I still have a sweater to finish, or at least get to the point where I can take it back on the bus, no suree:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I need to stop writing about this. 

Next time, I'll plan ahead and take the patterns I want to do to Rhinebeck so I can get yarn to match. 

Anyway, since I'm an idiot and forgot my camera, the sheep and alpaca pictures above are from my knitter-in-crime sister, who I got to come with me last minute, and insisted that since this was the Sheep and Wool Festival, we had to go see the sheep.  And I swear that sheep in the first picture was posing for us.

October 10, 2011

Problems with Vinegar Baths and a Resultion to Ribbing Woes

Ok, so I decided to still do the 1x1 ribbing on the bust of my Milk Maiden sweater:

To keep it tighter, I kept all the stitches I either knitted or purled on the tip of the right hand needle until I did the next one.  It seems to be working as good as the examples of other peoples' work I looked at.

On the other hand, I was helping my mom block a shawl she crocheted today (yay corporate holidays).  I ended up doing most of the work because the yarn she used, Madelinetosh's Tosh Light, bleeds oh so very much, and I dealt with the same problem with my Tosh Light shawl.  Now, for my shawl, I stopped the bleeding with two vinegar washes.  Hers...well, it was still bleeding after soaking it in three vinegar baths.  I just gave up and told her to tell the giftee that if they wash it, not to wash it with anything else.  It at least wasn't as bad as it had been.

Now, from my research, I know that vinegar is supposed to be the best way to stop bleeding yarn.  So I don't get what I'm doing wrong.  Am I diluting the vinegar too much?  Does it not work for some yarn dyes? Was I not using enough vinegar (the shawl was a whole lot bigger than mine, but I can't say I measured the vinegar out any of the times I used it)? I'm confused. 

At least I wasn't as confused as my stepfather, who was questioning my use of the vinegar, saying that he used vinegar as a caustic agent to clean out the coffee pot (that had recently decided to clog up and overflow coffee every time someone made it.  I claim no fault.  It worked fine for me last Friday).  I stupidly replied: 'Well, don't you know that that's how Easter eggs are set?,' completely forgetting that my stepfather has never dyed Easter eggs (explaining this would unfortunately require a whole paragraph, so I'm not).  My mom and I had to explain that vinegar is used in Easter egg dye to set the dye on the egg (for any other folks out there who've never dyed Easter eggs for one reason or another).

Tomorrow, it's back to my actual paying job, and not knitting the crazy cable blanket.  That I just found a mis-crossed cable on.  Ug.

October 9, 2011

Ribbing Woes

I have realized that I suck at 1x1 ribbing. I should have noticed this when I did it at the bottom of the sweater:

I should have thought, hey, this isn't good, I need to learn to fix this.  But no, I conveniently forgot that the bust area of the Milk Maiden sweater is 1x1 ribbing as well.  And when I actually got to that part of the pattern, I forgot that my 1x1 ribbing sucks. So I began ribbing, only to find out that, yeah, having gaping stitches is not conducive to the bust area of a sweater.

So I pulled out 6 rows, and tried again.  I tried twisting the rib, but that just creates huge gaping holes in between the stitches.  I tried twisting the knit stitches only, but that leaves gaping purl stitches.  I tried loosing my tension (this seems counter-intuitive, but according to what I read, trying to pull your stitches tighter makes gaping ribbing worse), but it didn't work either.  I've pulled this part of the sweater out three times already, and I've made no progress since Tuesday (though crowded buses and the idiot that sat next to me with a huge duffel bag in his lap that took up half my seat space didn't help either).

Now I just don't know what to do, other than change it to a 2x2 rib, since I magically don't have this issue when I do any other multiple of ribbing. It'll also mean the bottom won't match, which I'm fine with.  As long as I do the sleeves the same way, I think it'll work.  But I rather do it right.  How the hell do I do 1x1 ribbing without gaping holes?

October 2, 2011

Internal Rules and Current Projects

I know I wrote last time that my next post would be on something different.  That was last week.  I'll get there at some point, I promise.

For now, however, I'll cover something that's currently on my mind, and in the meantime cover what I'm working on now (as well as a couple of past projects).  Therefore, I present the first set of my Internal Rules for Knitting.  These are some rules that help keep my knitting under control, which means they're broken half the time.  Anyway:

1) I will only buy yarn if I have a project in mind for it  After all, this is what I ended up with the first time I didn't do this:

Yeah, that's a current picture of some ugly Lion Brand Swede sitting in my stash

I told myself after that little incident that I would never buy yarn on a whim again.  I would wait until I had picked it for a specific project.  Especially if it was on sale or cost a pretty penny. This would keep my yarn spending under control, and make sure I use what I buy.

However, it also seems that it's quite valid to make an exception when I feel bad about returning yarn to my LYS because I was allergic to it and bought the substitute yarn online.  That's how I ended up with two skeins of this:

The yarn is Madelinetosh's Tosh Light in their Baltic colorway, which I am rather attracted to.  That shawl is the first skein, and came out of the fact that I bought this yarn on a whim.  This, of course, leaves the second skein just sitting there, because while I enjoyed the challenge of learning how to knit lace, I'm not touching it again any time soon. It's this pattern, no modifications. My notes on it here.

It also seems that I'll make an exception I find out some distance relative is having a kid, and I have lofty goals and loads of motivation that I'll make dozens of baby things.  That's how I ended up with all of this:

At least I got a project done for said baby, though it only took one skein of that grey yarn in the back (Bernat's Softee Baby in Gray Marl by the way, though if you can't stand acrylic, don't get it.  It works up like acrylic, though it softens up in the wash)  That sweater is a modified version of this pattern. For notes, go here.

2) I will not spend more on yarn for a project than it would cost me to buy the finished product retail.  This will make my knitting practical, and save me money.  Well, sometimes.  It turns out that an alpaca sweater can retail for $130-140 dollars, which of course is only a little higher than I spent on making this:

However, spending a year and making several projects while twisting your knit stitches is priceless. But that's another post.  This is a modified version of this pattern.  My notes here.

It was also a gift to my mom, so I really didn't care about that one so much.  Given that she's spent more than that making a crochet bedspread that I grew to not like pretty quickly, among other things.  However, it also seems that the rule goes out the window if I like the colorway, which is how I ended up with this:

Project notes are here

This is my current bus project.  The pattern is the Milk Maiden Pullover from Brave New Knits, and it's one of the only reasons I bought the book.  The yarn is Madelintosh's Tosh Sport in their (new?) colorway Fathom. I officially love this colorway. Look at it, my favorite color combination, just slightly variegated enough to be interesting. It's perfect for this pattern too. I had to get it. I don't care if I can get a sweater for $40 bucks and this cost me almost $70, it's worth it. And I'll break rule number 1 if a Madelinetosh Sock onesie pops up in this colorway. Or this colorway gets discontinued. Love, love, love.

And yes, I've modified it, since I modify almost everything.  Why I tend to modify everything is another post, though. Back to the rules.

3) I will use up most of my stash before buying more yarn. Yeah, never managed to follow this one:

Most of my stash. It's a combination of whim yarn and extra skeins from other projects. It lives under my bed and out of my mind for the most part.

The only thing that makes me feel better about that is that it seems that most people I read about online have much larger stashes.  Hey, mine (barely) fits in a Tupperware container. Then again, they seem to have much nicer yarn in their stashes too. Yay?

And now for a rule I'm actually not currently breaking:

4) I should only have one bus project and one at-home project at a time.

First, I'll define what I mean by 'bus project' and 'at-home project'. Bus projects are, obviously, projects that I can do mostly on on the bus. This means that they get worked up faster, but they tend to be simpler. Though 'simpler' is a bit relative, as I have no problem including some sweaters in this pile, as you can see from my bus project above. If it fits in my briefcase and doesn't require either being chained to the pattern or a chart or a lot of color-work, I can usually do it on the bus. Lots of stockinette or very repetitive patterns are a plus here, though I have done drop stitch lace, finishing off projects, and cables on the bus successfully. On the other hand, at home projects are usually things I want to make, but are way too big and/or complicated to work on on the bus. This officially started when I made that lace shawl above, as I realized that in order to make a lace shawl, I was going to need to be chained to the pattern and be able to finish a row in a sitting. I can't do this on the bus without really annoying my fellow passengers. I decided to spare them.

I'm now working on this:

My project notes are here

This is the pattern St. Ciaran from the new and expanded version of Aran Knitting. I'm not really mortifying it (gasp!), though I'm using Berroco's Comfort Worsted to make it instead of a wool-based yarn. This is because I'm making it for my brother, who's still a kid and still trashes things. Therefore, it had to be 1)washable and 2)not too expensive to make. I picked the pattern out, though he approved it. I like torturing myself, though I'm not finding it too hard at this point, just tedious. I should be working on it right now.

I'll go do that.