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Archive for August, 2013

Yes it is ready for its moment in the spotlight.

cape ann afghan 1

My Cape Ann Afghan.

acape ann afghan edge 2

Looking at it gives me such a feeling of accomplishment. Memories of time and place are woven into these stitches and forever entwined with them.

cape ann afghan cu edge

cape ann afghan 2

The free pattern in pdf form can be found here on my Ravelry page for download now.

Have a good weekend.

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The Afghan Survives

The afghan and I have survived. It is safe in the closet from little teeth and paws. In order to help it dry quicker, I took it off the door, rolled it up in towels, and did a little dance on it squishing out most of the water. I never realized just how many towels we have.

It was suggested that I use the washing machine for soaking and then spin dry. Yes, that makes so much sense, which is probably why the idea never occurred to me. I don’t normally knit or crochet large projects because I find them unwieldy. I fight them during the creating phase, I struggle with them in the blocking phase. My usual projects are portable, so I can take them with me and work on them.

Nothing soothes my nerves like having a pair of socks in the works. I love everything about making socks and love designing them. I love wearing them. Yarn Rascal will be a challenge when sock season comes, but I have hopes that he will learn to live with them without eating them.

I’ll have pictures of the afghan on Friday along with the pattern in pdf. It will be a freebie.

For now I have a great little picture of a hummingbird moth that frequents our butterfly bush. The Skipper took this shot of it.

hummingbird moth 1

I love the picture he caught of the evening sky during those nights when it got chilly last week.

evening sky 1

To me, it just sang of cooler weather and bye-bye summer. I was fooled. The warm and humid weather you can wear is back. But I like to look on the bright side, at least I’m not trying to dry an afghan in it.

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Start by making sure that any chance of sanely laying afghan out to block somewhere in the house is not an option. This can be achieved in many ways. The most sure fire way is to have a pet that is attracted to yarn and anything knitted or crocheted. It doesn’t matter whether the pet is a dog, cat, guinea pig, or iguana, as long as it has a strong, destructive pull to yarn.

Next step: Accept the idea of blocking the afghan in an unconventional way, outdoors. Fresh air, wet wool what could go wrong? Put afghan in to soak in the basement sink. The sink is nice and deep, the stairs are nice and steep. Fill sink with water and leave afghan to soak thoroughly, letting wool become heavily saturated.

At same time as afghan is saturating, set up saw horses on patio. Lug old door from garage to patio and unload onto saw horses. Realize for umpteenth time that old door is not wide enough to support flat blocking of afghan.

Next step: Accept the idea that some of the afghan will be hanging over the edge of door. Ignore screaming little voice inside that says this may not work.

Return to basement, pull plug in sink to drain water. When water is drained try and remove afghan from sink.

Next step: Accept the idea that afghan can and will be removed from sink. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers made beautiful afghans that were soaked and blocked.

Next step: Accept the idea that they were in better shape and had techniques that are unknown now. Those grandmothers and great-grandmothers did laundry for families of eight at a time when there were no washing machines.

*Wring and wrestle afghan expressing as much water as is humanly possible. Stop just before collapsing. Try to lift afghan. Rest. Take deep breath repeat from * until afghan can just be lifted.

With wet, dripping, heavy afghan resting in arms and against chest, climb steep basement stairs. Do not pause for breath on steps, momentum is everything: A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Hope that saying is right.

With afghan dripping water like a leaky bucket, make it to top of stairs, run through living room, dodge snapping, leaping, yarn loving pet, kick open screen door in kitchen, and collapse with afghan onto door on saw horses. Catch breath.

Lay afghan out, patting into shape. See that door is too small for afghan to block properly. Walk away. Close self in bedroom until weeping subsides.

For rest of day, walk into kitchen and stare at afghan dripping over old door.

Next step: Accept that this may not work.

As evening approaches, notice there are an abundance of moths in the area. Do not connect the dots between moths and wool, that way madness lies.

At 2 a.m. wake from sleep because of strange smell. Recognize smell as Eau de Pepe Le Phew. Spring from bed to see if Pepe has sprayed afghan.

Turn on flood lights and spend next 15 minutes smelling every inch of afghan for skunk. Sniff nothing but wet wool.

Stand and see clouds of fluttering moths. Turn off flood lights, return to bed.

Next step: Accept that this may not work.

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The Yarn Rascal is in top form today. Wednesday he had his traumatic bath. The howling, he’s a Bichon and not a Beagle, began the instant he and the water met. I told The Skipper to close all the windows or else the neighbors will think we’re finally killing the little imp. The howling is accompanied by repeated, unending attempts to jump out of the bathtub. Soap suds and water go everywhere, and in the end the bathroom tiles resemble a Jackson Pollock painting, if of course he’d painted in water and suds.

pollock_shimmering

Thursday the Yarn Rascal got groomed. We groom him ourselves. I had 16 years experience clipping my first Bichon, Sport. Sport was a groomer’s nightmare, which was why I had to learn how to take care of him. Yarn Rascal is quite a bit easier. So easy in fact that he tends to fall asleep. But once the weight of the hair is off him the only speed he knows for the rest of the day is full tilt. He rips around the house, rips through his walks outside, he’s crazy. Both The Skipper and I stay as active as we can at our ages, but we are no match for the Yarn Rascal. By bedtime The Skipper and I were falling asleep in our respective chairs, and the little monster was still ripping from room to room.

Today is food shopping, running to the vet for heartworm medication for you-know-who, making tomato sauce (will this summer ever end?), baking zucchini bread, and worrying that all the knitting books I have on loan from the library are overdue. I can’t find the slip of paper that tells me because you-know-who shredded it and ate it. I could go online to check, but I don’t know my library card number off-hand.

This weekend I am blocking the Cape Ann Afghan. Yes, I decided that since most of the birds have migrated out of here, I will set up the saw horses and block it on the patio. It will certainly be safe from Yarn Rascal, and hopefully not be target practice for bird poop. Stupidity and hope forever spring eternal.

And now a word about knitting baby sweaters with collars. Collars on sweaters should be reserved for the 12 mos to 24 mos old set. At the older ages the baby spends more of its time upright. Babies 3 mos to 9 mos spend most of their time on their backs in a car seat, stroller, crib, or lap. A collar on a sweater at these ages just ends up bolstered uncomfortably behind the base of the baby’s skull. The front of the collar ends up in baby’s face, and the caretaker is continually having to smooth it down. A collar at the 3 mos to 9 mos age also makes bibs fit tighter around the throat of the baby. Bibs are crucial during the drooling stage when the baby is cutting teeth. My nephew drooled so much I worried he’d dehydrate. I knew St. Bernard’s that drooled less. So, while baby may start sitting up on its own around 9 mos, the drooling stage is in full swing and collars on sweaters are a nuisance that can be done without. 12 mos to 24 mos can handle collars better. Their necks are distinguishable enough to keep the collar out of their face and where it belongs. Bibs are not being worn by this age group around the clock.

A baby at 3 mos to 9 mos is developmentally different than one at 12 to 24 mos. The 12 to 24 mos are upright, walking. The 3 mos to 9 mos spend a significant amount of time lying on their backs, they twist and turn when supine. They crawl, rock back and forth on hands and knees. The types of movements between the two ages groups is significantly different. Dresses, matinee coats, tunic sweaters are not for the 3 mos to 9 mos group. The lengths hinder their twisting, turning, crawling, rocking movements that are essential developmental skills. Dresses, matinee coats, tunic sweaters can be worn by the 12 mos to 24 mos group. They are upright, walking. Since the types of movements between the two groups are so different, not all patterns are necessarily appropriate for all age groups.

Next up, a moment of calm. The water lily in our Serenity Pond in bloom:

water lily

I don’t have any idea how the ant got there. Do they swim?

Have a good weekend.

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Things are really moving along here. I am inundated with tomatoes. As usual, they all ripen at once. It means lots of time spent in the kitchen making tomato sauce and putting it up in the freezer for winter eating. This is also when we draw heavily on our onions, garlic, parsley and oregano.

And the zucchini just keep on coming! I’ve put them in salads, paired them with stewed tomatoes, and of course the old time-consuming standby, zucchini bread. Most days the kitchen looks like someone went crazy in it after all the cooking and baking are done. I restore order, then the next day I end up with the same mess. I keep telling myself I will appreciate all the work during the winter months.

The beans are coming in too. But they are easier to deal with and prepare for storage because The Skipper handles all things beans.

In the meantime, I have a shawl to photograph. The November Woods Shawl is going to be a free pattern. The Skipper needs to do the camera work and getting him to do that takes the exact same amount of labor it takes to put the kitchen back in order day after day.

Bath time is on the immediate horizon for the Yarn Rascal. He hates wet. In fact, it almost borders on a phobia with him. It’s full out wrestling and this afternoon is the match date.

In the meanwhile, the animals have been plentiful and visible around here. Here is The Skipper’s photograph of a Red Admiral Butterfly.

red admiral butterfly

The butterflies have been plentiful this year, but no Monarchs. It seems their habitat in Mexico has been destroyed. I miss them.

A word now about knitting or crocheting a baby sweater. The reason why there is usually no armhole shaping, especially on the 3 mos to 9 mos old sizes, is that babies at that age don’t really have shape. The diaper negates any waist a baby might have, so waist shaping is not practical. Also, many babies don’t have well-defined shoulders. A baby’s bones are more pliable than adult bones because the baby’s body needs to move through the confined space of the birth canal in order to be born. Sometimes the result is not well-defined shoulders. Where shaping is needed, however, is the neck.

Look at a baby. It is basically, with the help of diapers, two bowling balls on top of each other with tiny legs and tiny arms. The biggest feature on a baby is its head. The feature most lacking on a 3 mos to 9 mos old is a neck. The neck does not distinguish itself until 10 mos. It is quite distinguishable by 12 mos. Why shaping is needed most around the neck for the 3 to 9 mos old is to prevent constriction around the throat. Keep it loose around the neckline. Cardigans are good because they have a loose neckline. The very top button on a baby cardigan should be 3/4″ (2) cm from the top edge of the sweater. Sweaters with V-necks, boat necks, sweetheart necklines, keyhole necklines, square necklines, any neckline that doesn’t constrict the throat area is good.

Friday I’ll ask why designers put collars on sweaters for 3 mos to 9 mos olds and why designs that go from 3 mos up to 24 mos usually don’t work.

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Knitters and crocheters who are interested in knitting / crocheting baby sweaters need to know that there is no one set standard that everyone in the industry uses. A uniform sizing standard for knitted / crocheted baby clothes that is followed by knitting / crochet magazines, knitting / crochet book publishers, designers, and publishers of knitting / crochet leaflets does not exist. Each magazine, book publisher, leaflet publisher, designer, has its own in-house set of sizing numbers and they don’t agree from one to another. Some say a 3 month old baby’s chest size is 16 inches (40.5) cm. Others say it is 17 inches (43) cm. Still others say it is 18 inches (46) cm. So where do designers and publishers get their numbers from? A variety of sources: the British Standards Institution, for one, and which was last updated in 1982, Yarn Standards and Guidelines is another, The National Bureau of Standards Body Measurements, and ASTM Standards. By the way, one of the latter two was last updated in 1930. Somehow I don’t think body measurements taken during a Depression when there was little affordable food available qualifies to be called a standard. None of the standards found in any of these places agree on measurements. This is why a 3 month old baby has a chest size somewhere between 16 and 18 inches.

Some designers and publishers tend to favor the larger numbers in a size range. That means they begin with the assumption that the baby is on the bigger side of things and will design their garments accordingly. Some tend to size their garments smaller, starting with the assumption that the baby is on the smaller end of the size range. What this does to the knitter / crocheter is drive him / her nuts. In order to prevent this, I suggest you look at the schematics of the project before you begin. If they aren’t readily available look at the numbers the designer provides regarding Finished Chest Circumference. Decide whether these figures agree with what you think will fit the baby you are knitting / crocheting for. The important point here is that you, as the knitter / crocheter, need to have some idea of what an acceptable size range is for you. For that, you need to do some homework and research baby sizes. Don’t panic. I know everybody has enough to do.

I made up 5 schematics for babies from 3 months to 24 months old. Each schematic shows the variations in measurements that a knitter / crochet might find for that age. Click on the schematic to make it bigger. Print it out if you like. Use them to get an idea of the measurements you feel best fit the babies you knit / crochet for. Don’t expect that you won’t find sweater designs that are outside the range I’ve given. You probably will. But if you know what measurements you feel most comfortable with, you can then chose projects that don’t give you anxiety attacks.

I hope you find the schematics helpful. They are for the basic boxy sweater and I will explain more of why boxy sweaters are the dominate shape for baby sweaters in Wednesday’s post along with other things knitters and crocheters need to know before you pick up that pattern and are disappointed.

baby 3 mos sizes schematic

baby 6 mos sizes schematic

baby 9 mos sizes schematic

baby 18 mos sizes schematic

baby 24 mos sizes schematic

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New yarn came yesterday. Nothing can fix a foul mood better than the arrival of new yarn and the allure of a new project. It doesn’t matter that I am buried up to my eyeballs in knitting that needs to be completed before Autumn officially arrives.

Along with the new yarn, The Yarn Rascal revealed a new talent. Out of the 3 packages that arrived yesterday, The Yarn Rascal instantly singled out the package that had the yarn, much like a bomb sniffing dog ferrets out bombs. He danced on his hind legs for it, he leaped for it, he salivated for it, he did everything but scream “give it to me”. So thanks to The Yarn Rascal I was instantly busted.

yarn

randi with yarn

Usually I can ease my package of woolly goodness upstairs before The Skipper has the chance to register that yet another package of yarn has arrived. He doesn’t understand my relationship with yarn. I tell him that when the apocalypse comes he’s going to be glad that I have stashed all this yarn. He will have socks, I tell him, omitting the issues of no gas, no food, no electricity. I can knit by candle light. I’ve done it twice during long electrical outages. The knitted fabric looked positively interesting in broad daylight. Not a distant resemblance to what it should have been. Perhaps, this is one way new stitch designs were created back then?

The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Sand Ridge. It is destined to become this:

20130624_191142_medium2

Scalloped Edge Shawlette by Tempting Ewe Designs. Her Ravelry website is here.

Have a good weekend.

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Getting Gauge

I am in a bit of a brain freeze state. I just finished tech editing the Victorian Child’s Coat for the Highland Crafters. Their website can be found here. Making the inches, centimeters, current sizing standards, of a vintage pattern all come together while still being true to the original designer’s vision is a bit of a whirlwind in the brain. When it came to an end this morning, my brain just said, “See ya!” I love the work, especially on vintage patterns, so I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s just that my brain has temporarily left its room.

Don’t know if it is just me, but it seems lots of people are knitting baby things lately. I get many questions in my emails about baby sweaters, sizing, and so on. I thought it might be beneficial to run through some information that can help the knitters and crocheters with their baby sweater projects.

First, if you are working from a pattern, follow it. Start by getting gauge. I know you don’t want to hear about gauge. As a knitter, I don’t want to hear about gauge. As a designer and tech editor, everything depends on gauge. Think of gauge as a Supreme Power; it is what holds everything together and makes it come out right. It is a Power greater than the knitter, the designer and the tech editor. It is The Great It.

I’ve been knitting for a while, I’m 57 so it’s been a long while. I have favorite yarns that I turn to time and again. Over time, I have learned what gauge I can get from a specific yarn and with what needles. However, I don’t trust this information to be stored in my brain only. My brain, and I am kind of attached to it, can be a little like a sieve at times, not great at holding in water (info). Over time I created a notebook where I’ve noted yarn, needle and gauge. This is a help when I look at a pattern and want to knit it in a yarn I am familiar with. I look at the gauge in the pattern, the gauge in my notebook and I know if it is doable. It is of no help, however, if the pattern I want to knit or crochet is calling to me in a yarn I have never worked with. In that case I absolutely, positively need to knit or crochet a swatch, which feels unbearable, and an impossible task. I might as well be asked to move the moon closer to the earth. How much do these people expect from a knitter? I want to knit the project, I don’t want to waste time swatching. This is where I need to have a little bit of control over myself. I am an adult. I can do this.

Usually, I swatch for about 2 inches. Okay, not true. I swatch for maybe an inch. Okay, I swatch for maybe less than an inch, just enough to allow the tape measure space to gauge the stitches, rip it out and start the project.

As I said, gauge is king.

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There is no way of saying it other than just saying it: The Yarn Rascal had a Gold Paw weekend. Yes, the Cape Ann Afghan is done, thanks to The Skipper who kept the Yarn Rascal in another room while I completed it. No, it is not blocked. I fear it may never be blocked, but that may be just my hysteria rising. I looked in the garage, where I planned to block the afghan in safety. Truly, it’s the only place in the house that is Yarn Rascal proof. He has no way of gaining access to it. As I said, I looked in the garage ready to move the saw horses into position and realized there’s a ton of heavy stuff all over the space.

Every heavy object The Skipper owns is in the garage but the car, and the car definitely wouldn’t fit even if for some apocalyptic, super-storm reason we needed to get the car in there the task of making space is so monumental that the apocalyptic, super-storm would hit long before we could make a dent in the “stuff”. I can’t move any of it by myself. The standing band saw weighs upwards of a 1000 pounds and would need to be moved with the tractor which is also in the garage. The industrial band saw isn’t the only heavy piece of wood working equipment calling the garage home. In short, there is no way to eek out a space of 60 x 60 inches (152 x 152 cm) without engaging tractor and straps and strategic planning on the level of a major construction job.

So I thought I’d try Plan B. I knew it was risky. I knew in the pit of my stomach that it might just send Yarn Rascal over the edge. Block the afghan in the living room in the space I have already set up for blocking, but which hasn’t been used since Yarn Rascal arrived. Not wanting to wantonly subject the afghan to the wild and unknown, I thought I would do a trial run with a shawl I made during Super Storm Sandy. I’ve written up the directions and plan to offer it as a free pattern this Autumn.

The one thing the Yarn Rascal hates is water. He can’t stand it when his feet get even minimally wet. A full bath is traumatic for him. I reasoned (lied to myself) that once the shawl was wet and laying out to dry that it would be safe. To ensure its safety, I employed the equivalent of a medieval moat around a castle: I wet a few towels and placed them that if when he got up on the table where the shawl was blocking he would have to step on the wet towels before he could get to the prize.

I’ll omit the lurid details. Let me just say at dinner time on Sunday evening the Yarn Rascal reached the pinnacle of his version of Mt. Everest. Dinner went up in flames (literally), the shawl recaptured. To my amazement, it weathered the onslaught quite well.

In the meanwhile, we have a brand new older buck in the area. The Skipper took these pictures. The buck’s antlers are still in the velvet. His coat has already turned to the gray brown Autumn coloring.

deer cu

deer ls

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Friday and things are hopping here. The Yarn Rascal who was MIA for the last 15 minutes just jumped into my lap all happy with himself. He’s done something dastardly, I just know it, and it has to do with yarn. It’s wet and rainy so it is not his kind of day. He hates being wet on any part of his body, including his feet. From the weather, it looks like today he won’t get his requisite number of walks to help lessen his puppy energy, which means yarn disasters, shredding, and gnawing on cables and electrical wires. When he is tired, he doesn’t have the energy to do these things, although you can see it in his eyes that he wants to.

The Skipper shot these three pictures of a yellow warbler who is frequenting our Serenity Garden. I think it has such a cute face.

yellow warbler c1

yellow warbler c2

yellow warbler c3

We specifically designed the Serenity Garden with birds and butterflies in mind. Year after year, it doesn’t disappoint.

The Cape Ann Afghan is 75% complete. I am crocheting the border and plan to block it Sunday. I’ve settled on a large plywood board over two saw horses as the blocking table in the garage. The garage is a complete out of bounds area for the Yarn Rascal so the afghan will be safe there. I’m going to cover the plywood with towels. It will probably take a few days to dry. I was worried that I might not have enough yarn to finish but the fear was unfounded. Yeah, something finally worked out right!

I’ll spend the rest of my day tech editing the Victorian Baby Coat pattern. I completed the schematics yesterday. The plan is to finish editing the fronts today and then edit the sleeves tomorrow, all the while being aware of the saying about how plans of mice and men go astray.

Have a great weekend!

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