Monday, December 22, 2008

A Fiber Tour: Day 5 - conclusion

I give you, A Brady Bunch of fiber

Multi-color domestic wool roving

Ashford spindle

Blue Steel roving

Natural BFL

Bright blue dyed corriedale

Naturally dyed BFL fiber

Natural merino roving - 1 lb.

first spinning yarn

Natural BFL Fiber

I guess that makes the blue corriedale Alice.

The final stop on our tour is one half (so far) of what will bring this all together. An Ashford drop spindle that was part of my haul from Pancake & Lulu 4 'days' ago.

Ashford spindle

She's a beast, but I'm very happy with my choice. It wasn't until I began to spin with it that I developed an appreciation for spinning thicker yarn. With my Schacht, I'm spinning for an eventual 2-ply fingering weight with the blue steel merino. It's Taking Forever. Spinning for a worsted or bulky weight on the Ashford uses up the fiber more quickly, but it's that much quicker that I get a finished product. I'm way too impatient for this :-)

Also, it may seem obvious, but spinning two different weight singles makes it that much easier to learn the difference between the two. When I first started spinning the multi-color roving that came with it, I was unknowingly spinning nearly the same weight as on my other spindle. It took going back and forth between the two to realize the difference.

The learning process with spinning is a lot of fun, but frustrating for me at the same time. It's hard to find enough time in the day to knit, let alone spin. I'm also being impatient with wanting to see how the finished yarn will look. Eight ounces is a lot of fiber to get through.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Fiber Tour: Day 4

Bright blue dyed corriedale
Bright Blue Corriedale from Hello Yarn

The rest of my birthday money went towards this purchase from Adrian at Hello Yarn. At these great prices, it's a good thing I have some restraint, or I'd buy up every thing she has. I still may.

I absolutely love the bright blue shown above. At $13 for 8 oz., it's a steal at twice the price. She has some dark blue that I'm thinking would look awesome plyed with the bright blue to create a tweed effect. 

Natural BFL Fiber
Natural BFL

Here we have a Full Pound of natural BFL, again from Hello Yarn. Like the natural merino two posts ago, I'll probably experiment with dyeing both before and after spinning. Hopefully I can convince myself that having so much allows for errors, and not stress about waste. This bundle ran me $18, again a great bargain.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Fiber Tour: Day 3

Natural BFL

Naturally dyed BFL fiber

These two little gems I received in my order from Tactile Fiber Arts. I ordered a Schact Hi-Lo drop spindle - my first - and was pleasantly surprised to find two little gifts nestled alongside it. TFA is run by Maia and Brooke, who endeavor to supply knitters with wonderful natural fiber products. All of their dyed fiber is created using all natural products - mostly plants and foods -no chemicals here. The result is lovely, earthy tones.

Both of the above fibers are 2 oz. of Blue Faced Leicester, on the right is a natural brown and the left is a natural white that has been dyed. Unfortunately there were no accompanying labels, so I don't know what gave it the gorgeous orange color. Maia, any ideas?

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Fiber Tour: Day 2

Welcome back to day 2 of my little fiber tour.

Today we explore the other (fiber) half of my Pancake and Lulu purchase, some natural merino roving. A whole POUND of it. It's literally crammed into that little bag.

Natural merino roving - 1 lb.
Natural merino roving - 1 lb. from Pancake and Lulu

HO-LY CRAP thisisthesofteststuffihaveeverfelt.

This is some seriously special stuff. It'll probably be the last I spin up of all this fiber I'm showing you. I want to be pretty darn good by the time I dig into it. I do know that I definitely want to play with fiber dyeing, although color ideas escape me at present.

Basically the reason I ended up with a pound of fiber was to use up the rest of the $50 gift card. The spin kit from my last post was $25 and the merino roving was listed at $6.50 for 4 oz. Do the math and I only spent $1 (plus shipping) for a pound and a quarter of fiber and a spindle. Not bad at all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Fiber Tour: Day 1

Recently, I've come into ownership of quite a bit of fiber. I don't really know how it happened so quickly. I barely have enough time lately to knit, so who knows when all this fiber will get spun up. Not to mention the fact that I only have two spindles and I'm not a fast spinner by any means.

Nevertheless, I thought I would get some use of the fiber by showcasing it here on the blog. You've already seen the Blue Steel from Zarzuela's Fibers, and over the next week or so, I'll show you the rest of my burgeoning stash.

Also, you'll be interested to know that every item on this tour came to me without hardly any money out of pocket.

Multi-color domestic wool roving
Domestic wool roving from Pancake and Lulu

This one took a while to get. I won a $50 gift card to Pancake and Lulu via Stacy's contest back in August. At the time, I didn't think I'd ever get into spinning if I had to spend my own money on it; yarn was way more important. This provided the perfect opportunity to delve into a new craft.

Multi-color domestic wool rovingWhy did it take so long? When I initially got the gift certificate, there were no spin kits in the P&L shop, so I had to wait until Aimee could post one. Then I had to wait until I found one I liked :) The colors are very interesting, quite a range from yellow to red to black to blue. I'm really curious to see: a. how much it will lighten/brighten up when drafted, and b. how the colors will mix once it's plied.

It's only labeled as 'Domestic Wool Roving' so I can't be more specific about the fiber content. It's not the softest stuff I've felt, but it's not real scratchy either. I think one of the hardest parts about spinning for me right now (other than the motivation/time to do it) is trying to decide for what I'll want to use the resulting yarn. That makes it easier to determine what kind of yarn to spin. I've already split it lengthwise into two pieces, and I'm thinking I want to try for a worsted weight yarn. Other than that, all I know at this point is I'll want to use the new spindle that came with it. But that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

FO: Matrix Mittens

Matrix Mittens: outside
Pattern: Matrix
Author: Kerry Palm
Source: Knitty, Winter '07
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Burnt Orange (7824) and Charcoal (8400)
Needles: ChiaoGoo bamboo DPNs size 5 & 6
Started: February 11, 2008
Finished: November 28, 2008
Photographed: November 30, 2008
Modifications: Added a pattern repeat to both sides to fit my man hands, used a tubular cast on, changed cuff to 2x2 ribbing instead of corrugated ribbing, changed thumb gusset pattern to vertical stripes.
Ravel It!

Finally finished these. I started them last winter because I couldn't take using the fingerless gloves I had at the time. I had one mitten finished, but bogged down when I realized the cuff needed to be re-worked. I followed the pattern as written, but the corrugated ribbing didn't pull in enough to suit me. Faced with the prospect of redoing the cuff, I gave up and they languished over the summer.

Matrix Mittens palm detailIt took the onslaught of cold weather for me to pick them back up. I devised a plan to replace the cuff and powered through. Using a tubular cast on, I knit a replacement cuff, removed the offending piece and grafted the new part on. It was surprisingly easy and gave me the needed motivation to finish the pair. The first mitt took me 8 months to finish, the second only a week. Why do I wait so long?!

I was keenly aware of color dominance as I knit these up after discovering it on Grumperina's blog. The only problem was in the long layoff between mitts, I had forgotten which color went where. I knew I wanted the gray to be dominant, but I couldn't remember how to hold the yarns to accomplish that. Instead of looking it up, I stubbornly knit an inch or two into the pattern before realizing I was doing it wrong. You can really see it on the thumb pattern where the gray lines of stitches literally sit higher than the orange lines.

Matrix Mittens detailSpeaking of the thumb, I made two modifications here. The pattern originally called for horizontal stripes on the thumb, which left either long floats while you knit with only one color or catching the yarn several times and you knit around. I wasn't a fan of either - and I like Elli's Herringbone Mittens - so it was an easy switch. I also made the gusset larger to suit my man hands. The only other modification I made was to add a pattern repeat to both side to better fit my hands.

Final verdict: Excellent. They keep the cold out and warm my hands up nicely. The only thing I don't like has more to do with my winter coat than the mittens. The cuffs don't play well with my coat because it has such tight cuffs. Putting them inside my coat sleeves makes for a good seal against the winter wind, but they're a bitch to get off. Outside my coat cuffs, they get stretched out and don't sit right on my hands. I need a new coat.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Life Gets in the Way


I've been so busy/stressed with LIFE this past week, I haven't had a chance to work on my favorite project (or blog about anything). It's patiently waiting, pinned to the blocking board, to be seamed.

I love how clean the guts are:

Argyle guts

P.S. - We voted on Tuesday and are over the moon with the results. I was all prepared to knit in line, but there were only two people in front of us!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some Success

Beyond the Sea Socks

Here's my progress for the weekend. While I wasn't specifically successful - I didn't complete the first sock - I'm calling it a success since I knit about the same amount. The one on the right is actually the first sock, lefty only had 3 pattern repeats done before this weekend. I got just past the heel (you can see the yellow waste yarn peeking out just below my thumb) while watching sports all day Saturday and crap TV on Sunday. I would've made more progress last night, but we saw Henry Rollins at the State Theater and I didn't think they'd let me bring knitting needles in. I was right, they were pretty vigilant at the doors, to the point of pawing through my wife's purse.

I had hoped to spend the weekend knitting on my Accepted Argyles, but my KnitPicks order with the needles I need only showed up this morning. Or so says. I hate their tracking system. I like to think that if they had arrived on Friday as I hoped, I would've finished the first one of that pair. Now, I'll probably switch to those at home and continue on the mystery/beyond the sea socks on my lunch breaks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sock Wrangling

This weekend, I will have from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon to myself. From now until then, I plan to make some serious headway on my sock problem. I currently have 6 pairs of socks in various stages of completion - from only a leg done on the first sock to some duplicate stitching away from a finished pair. This problem needs to be addressed.

The candidates:

Blue and yellow sockTyphoon Socks
Working up the leg of the first sock with this pair. The yarn is wound into one large ball, so I'll need to stop on the first sock soon and begin the second one.
Pros: stockinette stitch can be done without paying much attention, color changes in the yarn make it interesting
Cons: stockinette stitch is boring
Success = getting past the heel turn on sock #2

Koolhaas SocksKoolhaas Socks
Sock #1 is past the heel turn here as well. Yarn is in separate skeins, so no need to stop on the first sock.
Pros: cables, colorful slubs in the yarn keep things interesting
Cons: sooooo many tiny cables hurt my wrists
Success = completion of sock #1. cast on for toe of sock #2 would be a bonus

06-23-08_1354.jpgAccepted Argyles
Just picked these back up this weekend, knit the heel flap, turned the heel and picked up gusset stitches on sock #1. Realized intarsia, working socks flat and DPNs are one too many variables. Ordered fixed size 0 needle from Knit Picks.
Pros: colorwork keeps it interesting, I LOVE these socks, can't wait to wear them
Cons: high frustration level with yarn tangles, tiny stitches, intarsia
Success = finishing sock #1

image 003Rock 'n' Roll Argyles
One of the first pairs of socks I ever knit. Haven't touched these in months. Only needs ends woven in and black stripes duplicate stitched onto sock #2.
Pros: finishing these would be a monkey off my back, they look awesome
Cons: whew, that's a lot of work, they're too big to wear as is (80 stitches around)
Success = all ends woven in, all stitches duplicated

Mystery Sock 1Mystery Socks
This KAL is toast, they don't fit. As I mentioned in my last post, I have one sock started based just on the cuff pattern. The leg is almost complete, but I can't decide how I feel about the yarn color.
Pros: pattern is simple, yarn color can be interesting
Cons: these are kind of depressing due to KAL failure and yarn color ambivalence
Success = completion of sock #1 (although knitting on these at all might qualify)

carbonite socksCarbonite Socks
As you can see in the photo, these have not been touched since last winter. Progress halted slightly after this photo - the first sock is done. Sock #2 needs the heel ripped out to add increases before it.
Pros: stockinette is simple and easy, I can wear these to work
Cons: frogging hurts my heart, makes yarn barf that is not easily transportable
Success = second sock knitted, but not hemmed

My goal is to achieve success on at least one of these projects as defined above. Two would be wonderful. Three would probably be dangerous as I will probably have injured myself. Feel free to weigh in with your choices or general encouragement. :-) Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Latest Addiction

I started Friday afternoon with a little tuft and after two hour long sessions Sunday and last night, here's what I have.

Blue steel yarn - first spinning
I'm so proud!

This is unbelievably fun, and I absolutely love the color. I'm getting better each time I sit down to spin. I've only had a few accidents so far. I drafted too thin at one point and the strand snapped, and another time the spindle went all wobbly throwing the hook off and it went spinning under the couch. That one gave me a heart attack. You know how many dust doggies are under there? The worst part was that a lot of the yarn (it's weird to call it yarn in this stage, I still just think of it as fiber) unraveled from the spindle and I needed help from my wife to untangle it all.

The fiber is superwash merino from Zaruela's Fibers on Etsy. You definitely need to check it out. Jessica has some lovely colors up for sale.

Blue Steel roving
Blue Steel - Jamie Lee Curtis has nothing on me

Mystery socks update

These are proving to be mysterious indeed. I've now frogged three times. The first try that I described in my previous post - twisting the YOs - made the sock too tight. So I tried it as written - knitting the yarn overs the correct way - and it was still too tight. Now, I'm going to try going up a needle size to work the cable pattern.

The other sock - the one with ribbing instead of lace - I frogged back and just decided to carry the cuff pattern over the whole leg. If the cables don't work out, I'll at least be on my way to one complete sock...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's a Mystery

Kirsten of Through the Loops started a mystery sock KAL and of course I had to join. There is also a Ravelry group for fans of her designs and there are already over 1,000 members! No small wonder, all of the patterns and projects she posts are gorgeous.

Almost 300 people are participating in the KAL, so it's definitely the largest I've ever been a part of. I'm pretty excited about it, so far it's helping to alleviate any second sock syndrome. Because the clues are posted a week apart, I have time to work both sections of the pattern on each sock.

I am taking some liberties with the design though. Kirsten posted two versions, one with cables and one without. I love cables, so of course I chose to do that version, but with two different mods. The first mod is knitting a k2p2 ribbing as the background to the cable instead of the lace pattern.

Mystery Sock 1
See my wee cables starting in the corner?

The other mod is twisting the yarn overs of the lace pattern to tighten up the holes. I wanted to try this because after seeing some spoiler pictures, I do like how the lace creates a ripple pattern. Here's a good example.

Mystery Sock 2
Not much done yet.

I haven't knit enough yet to see how the pattern is going to develop, but I'm encouraged that the holes are closed up. If the 'ripple' pattern shows well enough I might choose this option. Or maybe I'll just end up with a fraternal pair of socks. :)

If the yarn for these socks looks familiar, you might remember my attempt at kettle dyeing yarn. I never posted a photo of the end result, but I ended up dyeing it one last time this past weekend to try and get more blue into it. It didn't turn out the way I really wanted, but I like it anyway. I call it 'Beyond the Sea' because it reminds me of the colors in the Caribbean.

Beyond the Sea
Somewhere, beyond the sea, somewhere waiting for me...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Oooh Pretty!

It's about time I got around to this. My birthday was in August and my wife got me an over-sized novelty check for what else - yarn. Now normally, I would have spent it all in one place, namely Knit Picks or WEBS. Inevitably, I would come across some fabulous deal or gorgeous yarn I had to have right after placing a large order and spending all my money. But this time I decided to take it slow. I think it took me two weeks to spend the full amount. The first yarn I bought was the Noro Silk Garden for my mitered mittens. I got three skeins and I have enough left over for a Turn a Square Hat.

My second order was for this:

Merino Basics - Runes II
Runes II

and this:

Merino Basics - Little Zentaur
Little Zentaur

It's superwash merino sock yarn from Germany. Specifically, from Now, I know you all know the preeminent German sock yarn out there on the market, Woolmeise. It's beautiful stuff and I would love to have some, but at present it's not really worth the effort of stalking websites or attempting to trade for it. I was reading a discussion about Woolmeise on Ravelry and someone mentioned the sock yarn from handgefaerbt. I checked it out and decided that with my birthday money I would take a chance a different German yarn dyer.

Kirsten really has some wild color combinations that are much different from Woolmeise. I really dug the orange, if you couldn't tell. The only thing I wasn't completely happy about was the Runes II shown on the website looked to have more of the light blue color than what I received. However, Kirsten dyes each order when it's placed (it takes a while to get it) so I understand why it's different. I'd say it's up for trade, but I really want to trade for the same yarn and I don't think very many people have some. I'm excited to see how it looks knit up and what it will turn into, but I feel guilty casting on for new socks when I have at least two pair out there unfinished.

P.S. - I actually did all three on Thursday: played Playstation for awhile, got some spinning in and knit on my latest cowl while watching the VP debate.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Quick Hit

Do you ever get into those situations where you have too many options? You just end up standing there slack jawed trying to make a decision? My wife has a work commitment that will keep her busy until late tonight. That means I'm on my own for dinner and for awhile thereafter. I could knit the whole time, play my Playstation - to which I was recently reintroduced, pick my spinning back up (whaaa? - that's a topic for another day), or I could be a good boy and clean the house/do laundry. And that's not even getting into what I could watch on TV. What to do?

By the way, do you like the new design? I'm not 100% happy yet, so it'll likely undergo some more changes, but I do enjoy the larger space for photos in my posts.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

FO: Zeebee

Pattern: Zeebee
Author: Schmeebot
Yarn: Knit Picks Shamrock in Doyle
Needles: Knit Picks Options, size 8
Started: September 6, 2008
Finished: September 8, 2008
Photographed: September 9, 2008
Modifications: I modified the instructions to repeat steps 6-14, also to finish with 22, then 20 rows and repeat
Ravel It!

Another reaffirmation of my love for garter stitch, I even love the raw knitted edge rather than a nice, smooth, slipped stitch edge.

The pattern
The instructions have you knit 8 total sections around the circumference of the hat using short rows to shape the crown. The first wedge has progressively shorter rows with the second section working back up towards the crown with increasingly longer rows. I flipped every second section around and just knitted straight back to the crown after completing the first wedge. I felt it gave a rounder shape to the crown. Oh yeah, by the way, I figured that out because I knit this beanie twice. The first time was too big all around, the second attempt fits perfectly. I guess that shows I can learn from my mistakes.

In order to end up with a completely seamless beanie, the pattern starts with a provisional crochet cast on. Never worked one of those before, but no problem there. The other half of seamless hat equation then, would be garter stitch kitchener. Whaaaa?! Of course, I hit the internet and was relieved to find this wonderful tutorial (PDF). Looks easy right? Right. The pattern instructions hold your hand with explicit instructions on how to orient the stitches on your needles to avoid a telltale indent at the brim edge. I don't know how, but I beefed it. Oh well, at least the rest of the seam turned out right.

ZeebeeThe yarn
The was the third time I've used Shamrock. I know from the scarf I have that it's warm enough, but I also know from the neck warmer I made that it gives off a lot of fuzz. What I found out this time around was the colors in Doyle are kinda weird. Light blue and brown together, it's become increasingly popular in recent years. Brown and white, sure why not? A simple combination. Even orange and brown works for me, they're both warm colors and the orange is not shockingly bright. But all in the same yarn? It's almost one color too many. I say almost because I'm just weird enough to wear it anyway :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

FO: Noro Mitered Mittens

Mitered Mittens
Pattern: Mitered Mittens
Author: Elizabeth Zimmerman
Source: Knitter's Almanac
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden
Needles: Knit Picks Options, size 7
Started: September 8, 2008
Finished: September 17, 2008
Photographed: September 17, 2008
Modifications: Thumb Gusset by Grace Ivy, garter edge instead of ribbing
Ravel It!

Love these. My hands will definitely be warm this winter.

Mitered MittensThis is the second pattern I've knit from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac and it's just as inspired as the February Baby Sweater. I swear, EZ never ceases to amaze me. I did add the thumb gusset rather than the afterthought thumb. I've knit mittens like that before and my hands just aren't built that way; The palm fabric ends up pulling like crazy.

I knit these both at the same time using magic loop - after the initial cast on. It saved me from having to count rows of the first mitten to make the second one match. I also knit the garter cuff in the round: knit to the end of the row, slip the next stitch, wrap it, return it to the left needle, turn and knit. Finally, for aesthetic reasons, I placed the thumb gusset opposite the 'seam' created by wrapping stitches in the garter cuff. That places the seam on the outside of my wrist, so even if it was a little wonky, I wouldn't have to see it.

Noro Silk GardenThis was my first experience with Noro Silk Garden (killer price at by the way) and I came away impressed. It was soft and buttery as I was knitting with it and bloomed nicely after a good soak. I haven't worn the mittens yet, so I can't say how well the yarn will hold up. There was some vegetable matter - which I hear is the thing to expect with Noro - but I wasn't bothered a bit by it. To me, it added an extra bit of interest to the knitting process. I did find a knot in one of the skeins, but it happened to be in the portion I didn't use. I used almost a full skein per mitten and the cuff starts about three inches before my wrist.

The only thing that bothered me about the yarn was the colorway. Most of the mitered mittens knit with this yarn look different for sure, but still related since more than one of the colors usually show in both mittens. In mine, the connective colors are the black and gray, so it's not quite as obvious. But, that's more my fault than anything, I should have rewound the skeins first and chose the two that coordinated best.

The photo of the yarn also marks the first and last time I got to use my DIY light box. I used a rather large box that our patio chairs came in, figuring I could use it for larger items like sweaters. Unfortunately, that meant it was stored on the floor of the basement. After last week's heavy rains from hurricane Ike, our basement flooded and the cardboard was soaked. Oh well. It was kind of a pain to make since it was so big and this gives me the opportunity to make another.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tips 'n' Tricks: Mattress Stitch

In the process of seaming my Ravelmpic Vest, I discovered a neat little trick I'd like to share with all of you. I have a few of these rattling around in my brain, so I'll start a series called Tips 'n' Tricks.

This trick assumes you already know how to do mattress stitch. If you don't, there's a great tutorial at Mochimochi Land. This tip will work for all three techniques that Anna describes.

First, seam up your sides until your work looks like this. Don't go too far before proceeding or you might have a tough time snugging up the stitches.

Mattress stitch trick - step 1

Grab hold of the top strand of yarn connecting the two sides and...

Mattress stitch trick - step 2

...pull! Watch as your little floats disappear and bring the two sides nicely together.

Mattress stitch trick - step 3

Now all you have to do is follow that long strand back to the seam to find where to insert your needle (pssst ... you insert it in the same place where the strand is coming out of the seam)

Mattress stitch trick - step 4

If you just pull on the very end of your seaming yarn, your top float disappears along with the others and it's really difficult to find where to re-insert your needle.

Mattress stitch trick - final step

This trick is also available in a Flickr set, click here to begin.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Dr. G's Memory Vest - Finished

Snip, snap, snout, this tale's told out.*

More on this (much) later. I'm off to ice my arms and recoup some sleep.

*A gold star to anyone who knows what that's from.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Dr. G's Memory Vest - back

Eleven days in (not counting today) and I've got the back done plus another 6-8 inches on the front. Roughly six days including today - and three of those have late night potential - remain to finish by the end of the Olympics. And what an end it will be. Apparently Jimmy Page is going to perform at the closing ceremonies. You can see more of my progress pictures here.

I know it's corny/cheesy, but knitting this while watching the Olympics has led me to really be inspired by what our athletes are accomplishing. To see someone run a marathon, or finish a triathlon by sprinting, or win 8 gold medals in one sport really spurs me on to continue knitting when I might otherwise want to lay down. More than once I've put my project down only to pick it back up after watching an athlete persevere through their challenges.

I've heard a few people mention "What's the point? It's not like I get a medal or anything," and believe me, I've had those thoughts a few times myself. But then I realize the whole reason we started this thing in the first place: to challenge yourself, to push yourself past your preconceived limitations and accomplish something you didn't know or think you could. It's rewarding when you see that you can in fact meet your goal. Even if it takes you until 3 a.m. to do it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

For the Love of Garter (or how I learned to knit)

I have never knit a garter stitch scarf. It would seem that every knitter has the story to tell of their first foray into the craft, only knowing one stitch and repeating it ad infinitum. For most, it's not looked upon fondly. I never had that experience. The whole reason I learned to knit was to produce stockinette.

The first fiber craft I learned was crochet. I crocheted probably 5 or 6 afghans (in acrylic no less, but that's a story for another time) before deciding I wanted to 1) make garments* and 2) create something with a smooth surface. I started noticing knit sweaters in stores and comparing them with the texture I was getting with crochet. The smoothness of little 'V's marching across the front of a sweater appealed to me.

I taught myself how to knit from instructions found on the internet. No one around me knew how to knit, so they couldn't coddle my mind by only teaching me the knit stitch and withholding the purl stitch until I was comfortable. I didn't know any better, so why not learn both at the same time? That's what I needed to know to make what I wanted anyway.

I still have my first test swatch. It actually does begin with a few rows of garter, but only because the instructions I had were less than great. If I remember correctly, I was knitting some version of twisted garter stitch, not understanding how the needle needed to go into each stitch to purl. But once I figured it out and saw those neat little 'V's stacking up, I was off and running. Bring on a pattern!

Now, don't misinterpret my ambition for skill. The first garment I ever attempted to knit was a hooded sweatshirt found on the back of the label of Bernat acrylic. It was blue variegated yarn and looked awful. Don't even get me started on seaming...I put the pieces together with sewing machine. It's since been frogged from embarrassment, but I'll never forget it.

I moved on to other projects, eventually discovered wool yarn, and created some nice items. However, it took me 6+ years to discover what a wonderful thing garter stitch can be. And I only have Elizabeth Zimmerman to thank. My first project to incorporate the simplest of patterns was the February Baby Sweater I completed earlier this year.

Feburary Baby Sweater

Pattern: February Baby Sweater by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitters Almanac
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash in Christmas Red
Needles: Knit Picks Options, size 7
Started: May 14 2008
Finished: May 23, 2008
Photographed: August 9, 2008
Modifications: Knitted sleeves in the round
Ravel it!

I love this sweater. I love how squishy the yoke and cuffs are. I can't wait to have a daughter or niece to give it to. The buttons are a shimmery mother of pearl, which adds just enough glitz to brighten the sweater up perfectly. I had originally intended to enter this into the Michigan State Fair, but my laziness got the better of me and I never submitted the paperwork.

Once bitten by the garter bug, it was hard to stop. EZ can be quite the enabler.

Baby Surprise Jacket

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman, The Opinionated Knitter
Yarn: Wollmeise Sockenwolle 100% superwash in Löwenzahn (Dandelion)
Needles: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 3
Started: June 2008
Finished: August 8, 2008
Photographed: August 8, 2008
Modifications: none
Ravel it!

Every so often as a knitter, you create something inspired. This was my first (hopefully of many). This will be the garment in which I bring home my first child.

I was lucky enough to win the yarn from Becca at Forward Motion and get my first taste of wonderful Wollmeise. I absolutely loved the vivid colors - green and yellow are two favorites - but I wasn't sure I could pull off socks in those colors. I had wanted to try the BSJ in sock yarn since I saw Alice's tiny version at KathrynIvy.

Baby Surprise JacketThe end result is something so impossibly cute, my wife insists that I not leave it lying around lest she spontaneously combust. It's light, squishy and almost delicate - a perfect baby sweater. And I found the perfect buttons. Combined with the colors of the yarn, they remind me of a shiny, bright yellow jacket I had as a kid. I loved that jacket and I love this one.

One more random thought: The BSJ is constructed with only two seams running across the top of the shoulders. Take those out and you're left with one piece, albeit oddly shaped. I've contemplated taking the seam out once the baby outgrows the sweater and having it become that item a child latches onto for comfort. How cool would that be?

Having been fully indoctrinated into the world of garter stitch, I couldn't possibly keep all the squishiness to myself.

Green BSJ

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman, The Opinionated Knitter
Yarn: Lornas Laces Shepherd Sock Solid in Pine
Needles: Knit Picks Options, size 5
Started: June 4, 2008
Finished: July 5, 2008
Photographed: July 5, 2008
Modifications: started neck opening one round before instructions
Ravel it!

My best friend had a little girl on June 12 and I definitely wanted to make something for her. With my wife currently doing tons of baby research, I know that most people like to give the cutesy tiny baby stuff that ends up only lasting the parents the first few months. Enter again the Baby Surprise Jacket.

Since Clara was born in June, this should be perfectly sized to fit her once cooler weather rolls in. I held two strands of Lornas Laces together to make the bigger size. I started the sweater with strands from two different dye lots, which created a nice jeweled look. Unfortunately, I ran out and had to finish with a single dyelot, doubling one skein. It worked out though, because the construction of the BSJ is very forgiving of stripes, ending up with a border of the different yarn.

Clara's Mom had requested something in Michigan State colors, but a green sweater with white buttons was the closest my Wolverine alliances would allow me to get. You don't see the buttons in the photos because I attached them on the way to deliver the gift.

So that's three garter stitch projects in about three months. And there are definitely more on the way. Next up are some modular pieces - a blanket and a vest - more baby items. Who knows where I'll end up, but I'll certainly get there with a new perspective on a timeless pattern.

*That's not to say you can't make garments with crochet. Those just weren't the type of projects I wanted to make.