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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Knitting, Crochet and Books in Progress!

It's been a while, but I've talked with my editor (a lovely and gracious woman) at Kalmbach Publishing who also published my first book (see it here) about blogging the development and writing of a book. As long as I don't use specific material from the books, I can share the process here.

Right now, I am working on two books - one each for new knitters and new crocheters. We're actually well into it now and are at the pattern drafting stage. That means making swatches, working out the math and then putting it together into a project that works.

This morning, I've just finished a swatch with a nice Bam Boo yarn from Classic Elite. It's really lovely and drapes beautifully. It puts me in mind of nice summer weight things -things that we can actually wear here in Florida! I'll put that idea on my ever growing list of things to do when the books are done.

One other fabulous thing I stumbled on - the wrist yarn holder by Lacis (here) This is great! It lets me make swatches and other work while standing and walking around. I'm working up to taking it with me on my morning walk.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just Fruit

That's all I have for now, just a small painting of pears. Quickly done and lots of fun.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Completed Sweater - Too Little, Too Late

Well, that title just about sums it up. I mentioned starting another sweater for my goddaughter in my last post, and it's finished. Here's a peek:

The problem is that the temperature here is in the mid eighties to low nineties now. That is definitely too late! As for the too little part, it's very likely to be too small by the time cool temperatures roll around in November or so. Even though I made it purposely large, she will have probably outgrown it by then.

Oh well, nothing to do now but move on. That's what I've done with the next little girl project. Because it is warm now, it seemed that a lacy, feminine vest/overdress would be a good choice. Because knitting and crochet have different "personalities," they lend themselves to different applications. This idea is the basis for my book, Knit & Crochet Combined: Best of Both Worlds.

For this new project, I chose to crochet because I like the look and feel of that technique for this type of garment. It has a substantial hand and nice drape and weight. Using a cotton blend yarn keeps it from being too hot - an important consideration here. Another thing crochet has going for it is that it is faster for me than knitting for a similar size item. Maybe this one will be done in time for her to wear it! Here is a preview:

The bodice is a denser wavy shell stitch while the skirt is a much lacier wave stitch pattern. Since it is meant to be worn over another outfit, the neck and arms are a little more open. The yarn may or may not give out, so I'll have some decisions to make regarding the front bands and the edgings, if any, when I reach that point.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Update on the Pirate-Princess Cardigan

After Sue's kind words, her comment here, I realized that I never reported back on the reception the sweater received.

The sweater was a hit - for about two minutes - then our goddaughter took a tumble on a sofa in the lobby and seriously cut her lower lip. She was pretty upset by that, naturally, but was comforted by her mom. Thankfully, no stitches required.

A side note about this little accident. With tears streaming down her face, she asked for YoGos. I found a package in the bag and offered a couple to her. The tears stopped like magic!! I had never seen them before, but her parents apparently never go without them. I can surely see why.

We went on to have a lovely breakfast with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. The incident in the morning didn't seem to dampen the day too much.

Anyway, the next time we saw them, Allanna was wearing the sweater constantly and her mom reports that it gets lots of use. I'm just happy that she liked it and didn't associate it with anything unpleasant.

I have started another, much simpler sweater, for her as well. Just a plain pullover, but it is looking more like it will be for next year as we are almost past sweater weather here. It is hot pink, knit in the round, and will maybe have bright purple stripes on the yoke.

Here it is in progress:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Knit & Crochet Combined Best of Both Worlds

That's the title of my new book, out in April from Kalmbach Books. Just last week, my advance copies arrived. I had no idea how proud, and just down right excited, this would make me.

There are 15 projects that combine knitting with crochet to take advantage of the different characteristics of each technique. Knitting and crochet have distinctly different identities and it doesn't make sense to ask one to do the job of the other.

Coming up, I'll be sharing more on the book and how it came into being. For now, you can see the basics on it here.

Take a look, drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Sweater is Finished!

Well, it seemed to take forever, especially at the end, but I've finished the sweater for my Goddaughter. And, just in time to give it to her this weekend! We'll be seeing her and her parents for a special breakfast at Disney World so I can see if it fits her as well if she likes it. Surely, after all this effort she has got to like it!

Here it is in all it's finished glory.

The front (forgive the adult size hanger, no small ones on hand):

A detail view of the front:

For the closures, I found some decorative coat hooks and loops at Joann's while I was looking for grosgrain ribbon to finish the inside band. There is a hidden coat hook at the top neck to keep it looking tidy. The flowers are all attached individually - there are 18 of them - in clusters of three. The embroidery is simple chain stitch with the darker shade of wool that I split down to two ply.

A bit of explanation about that ribbon facing inside. Normally, the cut edges would have been fine the way they were. But, because I had used a thread color that stands out so it would show in the photographs and changed the band treatment from what I had planned, they were unattractive and really needed to be covered. While the ribbon isn't my favorite thing to have in a sweater, it doesn't give like knit fabric after all, it is better than the edge that was there and still suits the more coat-like nature of this sweater.

The back:

The little decorative belt is just single crochet with coordinating buttons sewn at either end.

Overall, I am pleased with how it turned out. The color scheme is as I had planned, feminine but not babyish and it has a nice overall decorative effect. Maybe, if I hadn't already worked on the finishing for so long, I might have done a different type of embroidery on the fronts or, perhaps, more of that same theme. But, she is only two and will outgrow it if I don't finish it!

Now, the knitting bug is backing off a bit . Embroidery has been calling my name lately! I've already started an old fashioned table runner using the very grannyish, but still attractive, Aunt Martha's transfers and am checking out the Sublime Stitching patterns as well.

Monday, January 15, 2007

In Progress: STILL Working on the Sweater

Yes, I am still working on this sweater. It seems, to me anyway, that I am the slowest needle worker in the world. But, some of that is just because I am working on way too many projects at one time. In addition to this sweater, there are two other sweaters on needles plus a multitude of other types of projects.

Not that I'm blaming the weather, no this dawdling is all my own, but it is hard to concentrate on warm sweaters when the temperature is in the eighties. This looks like one of those years we won't have a winter. I hope my goddaughter gets to wear this sweater at least a little bit this year!

Now, to show off my progress on the front bands, neck and sleeves. Last time, the fronts of the sweater were just cut open and all wobbly and scary looking. I had planned a crochet band, but that just didn't work out. So, falling back on good old garter stitch, I was able to work a nice continuous band on the fronts and around the bottom in the contrasting color.

As you can see, the neck edge is now finished in a lacy crochet collar to match the bands. It is a very simple crochet pattern of mostly chain and single crochet that I made up by trial and error. It is quite full so it ruffles nicely. The same crochet lace is on the sleeves as well, only there are not as many rows.

Another view of the sleeve showing the stitches a bit better:

There's not a lot left now: a closure for the front, the belt on the back, and the flowers and embroidery. What am I thinking? There I go again with that crazy talk about finishing it quickly!

These last details and some inside finishing work should be posted here soon!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Thoughts on Finishing Knitting and Crochet

OK, so I am a complete lunatic thinking that I could finish the pink flower/lace/pirate sweater by this evening. What was I thinking? Chalk it up to baseless optimism.

After working on the sleeve edging and front borders for a couple of hours last night, it's clear that it won't be done today. Everything I tried did NOT work so that means re-thinking most of the details that I had in mind. Fortunately, we are having unseasonably warm weather here in Central Florida right now so she won't need the sweater for a bit.

In my mind, just about all of this work falls under the category of finishing the sweater. You know how that looks in patterns - there's a caption that says "Finishing" and it has short snappy little instructions like "Pick up and work single crochet along front edge," or "Sew side, underarm and sleeve seams," or, one of my old-school favorites, "Finish in the usual way."

The problem with this is that "Finishing" really does make the difference in how well the project turns out, whether it's a full blown sweater or just a simple purse. However, it is a set of skills rather than just some instructions and the knitting and crochet patterns really aren't the place to spell that out.

The good news is that because finishing is a set of skills, it can be learned. The way to go about that is to start with reference material and then practice. Here are some sources to get you started:

The "I Hate to Finish Sweaters" Guide
This book is only about finishing. The author has a blog you might want to check out as well.

The Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book
This is an old standby with a lot of useful information.
An online forum for all types of craft and handwork. The place to ask specific questions.

Well, that should be a good start for getting information on finishing projects. Be sure to practice a new technique and ask questions when in doubt.

The most useful, though not necessarily pleasant, tip I can give on getting a professional finish is this: Just suck it up and re-do it if it doesn't come out right. Repeat until correct.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

In Progress: CUTTING the Sweater!!

Finally, back to my goddaughter's sweater. Since we missed them at Christmas, I have another chance to finish this up as a gift. We have plans to see her and her parents on Saturday, so I am trying, again, to complete this sweater. Nothing like making another deadline for yourself!

Even though all the knitting is done, there is still quite a bit of work to do to finish it up. Today, I cut it open to make a cardigan. As promised, the process is shown here in pictures.

First, the before picture. The underarms have been woven closed and the ends are worked in. It is a perfectly good, though plain, sweater. Well, except that the neck is way too small to go over a child's head as a pullover. Kids and babies have heads that are much larger in proportion to their bodies than adults. Note that the back neck is higher than the front neck. This helps keep the back hem from creeping up and makes for a much more comfortable garment.

First, using the decreases at the neck edge as a starting point, find the center stitch and mark it with contrasting yarn basted down the length of the stitch. This is the cutting line, so be accurate!

Next, using a sewing machine set to a wide width and medium length zig zag stitch, sew the stitches on either side of the center stitch. I used red thread because it was what was in my machine and it would show up in the photos. Ultimately, it won't show in the finished sweater, but using matching thread is a good idea.

Here is a closer view of the stitching showing how the two side stitches are enclosed by the zig zag stitch. Some people like to sew each stitch twice for security. I've never had a problem with just one row of stitching and the extra stitching adds bulk to the edge that I really don't like.

Time to cut! Using regular scissors, cut carefully along the center of the marked stitch. Be sure to only cut the top layer of the sweater or you will really have a mess.

That's it! Now you have an uneven, wobbly and slightly stretched out edge, just what we wanted.

Don't worry, the unevenness and lenghtwise stretch will be taken care of when the borders are worked. The sewing thread and that ragged front will also be hidden by the stitches worked over the edge. The fronts will be finished with crochet bands of some sort.

Now, it's time to work out the details for the crochet front borders, hem bands and sleeve cuffs. Also, I need to start giving some serious thought to the buttons and other finishing details- like the flowers that I promised her. Thinking about it, I'm not sure if this will be done by Saturday, but let's see what happens.