Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Blocking Mats

I've been worried about the fact that the blocks for my Great American Afghan have quite a bit of variation in size. That means I had to take the plunge into blocking. I knew it was inevitable but for some reason it was a scary proposition to me. My mom showed me how to use a steam iron to block but my iron is about 19 years old and doesn't get used much. It has all sorts of dry and crusty minerals built up on the steam holes. Yes, I do need to invest in a good quality iron. But for now, I wanted to try this wet method of blocking. The blocking mats from Knit Picks are fantastic. The pale lavendar diagonal block was the smallest among all of my completed blocks, so today I blocked it along with the other block I completed today. I had no trouble at all stretching the lavendar block to match the size and shape of the larger teal block. I used a spray bottle of water to spritz the blocks. I was a bit unsure how much or how little water to use, but I am very optimistic this method will make my knitted projects look very nice! I found instuctions on http://www.knitpicks.com/ about how to block knitted projects in this manner, using these blocking mats.

#15 Gift Wrapped Package is Complete!

When I first saw this block (no offense to the designer... Marge Hayes) I thought it was... ugly. Sorry to be so blunt, but the block has these huge petals or leaves on it and it just did not appeal to me. Our course instructor showed us the block WITHOUT the petals and I could not wait to make it! It is gorgeous and to me... it resembles a square gift wrapped package with ribbons and a fancy bow. The petals, to me, cover up so much of the block. The Editor's note on the pattern reads, "You either really love the leaves or you really don't... the square is beautiful without the leaves." I agree of course, but when I read the pattern designers inspiration for the block, I had a whole new respect and appreciation for the design. The designer writes, "garter stitch (border) represents the running band of a brick wall; smooth stockinette stitch, like patches of lawn bisected by a path; branches, clover, leaves, and finally bobbles that look like raspberries. I didn't know how I would finish the center until I got there and it came to me. I'd use I-cord ~ perfect for (flower) stamens!"

Wow, how creative is that!? That being said, this block was an absolute BLAST to make! Dare I say... it was maybe the most fun one yet!? The block starts with 196 stitches joined to make a circle on circular needles (of course). Then you decrease at each of the four corners on every other row. The pattern is complicated enough to keep you interested, but logical enough that you actually start to memorize it. The middle part is completed on double pointed needles. My dpn's are duller than my circular needles; that made the "raspberry" bobbles a bit tricker. When you are almost done, you are left with 12 stitches. You put 4 stitches on each of 3 dpns and then you make two inches of I-cord (each 4 stitches wide). You leave a long tail on the I-cord and then wrap the I-cords around each other to make an attractive looking center to the "flower". The raspberry bobbles and the flower center resemble a bow and the great cables resemble fancy ribbons on a gift wrapped package. Whatever the case may be, I LOVE this block.
You can see from some of the photos, I am making my first official attempt at blocking! My mom got me these blocking mats from http://www.knitpicks.com/ for Christmas (Thanks, Mom!). I pinned the block into shape and then spritzed the block with water (got a cheap spray bottle in the area where you find irons at WalMart). I hope this does the trick. Maybe blocking won't be so scary after all. I hope I have good success with this method; it is a super easy method if it works! More on that tomorrow maybe...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Great American Afghan... it's coming together!

Every once in awhile I like to lay out my blocks and see how things are shaping up. Most of the blocks are pretty similar in size which is great since I've not yet put much effort into shaping or blocking. I still have a lot to learn about blocking. The only block which seems significantly smaller to me is the pale lavendar diagonal block but it feels very stretchy much like ribbing. Still need to stitch down the trees and the appliques on the Under the Tree block. I have two more blocks on needles as I write... the Entrelac with a Twist Block (#19) and also #24. Block #24 has an invisible cast on down the middle of the block. We were so focused on the invisible cast on in class that by the time I got home and got the block started, I got stuck on rows #1 and #2 of the chart pattern. I'll get it figured out with some help from the course instructor. In the mean time, I am working on the blocks I can complete on my own. I am looking forward to starting Block #15. I also need to get working on Block #5 and Block #10. No pressure!

#8 Cable Block is Complete!

Glad to be done with this one. I got easier and easier as I went along. The color coding of the different cable stitches throughout the pattern helped immensely! I have not blocked this one so I had the help of Santa and Mr. Christmas Duckie to weigh down the edges.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

#8 Cable Block still in progress

You can tell I was distracted by my cheery Christmas stocking, but now... back to the Great American Afghan! Again this photo is a bit dark, but if you "click" on the photo, the image will be enlarged for you so maybe you can see the detail a bit better. I love this block. The other day, a gal in knitting was looking at some of my completed blocks and she asked, "do you enjoy the textural knitting over colorwork?" I had never given this much thought, but I think I really do love these heavily textured blocks. I am simultaneously working on the entrelac block made with two colors and the thought of weaving in all the loose ends really is bothering me... so YES, I really do enjoy the textural knitting! I am a bit of a lazy crafter... I have known that for years... and I've accepted that about myself! (Hee, hee!)

A stocking on Christmas Eve

I found this free pattern for a Christmas stocking on http://www.knitpicks.com/

The pattern is named "Miss Eiderdown's Stocking" if you are wanting to search for it.

There are some embellishments I have not yet gotten to. The pattern includes three charts for duplicate stitch motifs... a snowman, a snow flake, and a pine tree. You can see there is a nice area on the stocking portion just screaming for more decoration. You might recognize the yarn I used from the miniature sweaters I made a few weeks back. Yarn from my Mom's yarn stash (Thanks Mom!). We had light dustings of snow the last two mornings, but now it's bright and sunny and melty.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

#19 Entrelac with a Twist in progress!

This block is vastly different than the others in the Great American Afghan. This is the entrelac square (which translates to interlace.... I think "entrelac" is a French term). I've experimented with the entrelac technique a bit in the past so I understood in advance how this square was going to come together. I call this square "Entrelac with a Twist" because the aqua blue squares also have a cable twist within the squares. I am enjoying making this square (although entrelac is very labor intensive... involves lots of picking up and knitting stiches and lots of weaving in loose ends!) I am a bit worried this square is going to be rather messy looking. An interesting thing about this square is that the garter stitch borders on the left and right sides are going to be knit at the end and then stitched to the sides of the block. Currently there are three stitches "on hold" on the right and left sides way down at the bottom or beginning of the block. The colors in the photos sure look different, don't they? The second photo (with the book in the background) depicts the colors more accurately. The flash does weird things to the colors it seems. In looking at the photo, I think I see a mistake in one of the aqua blocks???? Do you see it???? If there's a mistake in there, I don't have the heart to go back. This square is just too much work! I am going to have to settle for "good enough"...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gift Exchange

Earlier in the week I showed you the miniature sweater ornaments I made for my coworker, Mrs. W. Well, this is a photo of the gift she made for me. Homemade gifts are so much more special. Mrs. W is into ceramics and she makes beautiful things. This is a ceramic canister and it also came with a bottle of wine (which is in the refrigerator! Yum!) I am using the canister to hold my wooden spoons and other utensils. The design is a decal which goes perfectly with my kitchen theme of chefs and waiters. Apparently, Mrs. W went to a huge effort to find just the right decals to match my kitchen and she did a great job! I love, love, love it! New chicken recipe in the Crock Pot this morning (you can see the Crock Pot in the photo). A variation on Mrs. W's chicken recipe. Four chicken breasts, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1/2 a can of diced green chilies, 1 1/2 coarsely chopped red bell pepper (before they spoiled in the refrigerator), 1/2 a can of water, along with some garlic powder, salt, pepper and oregano. I think it might be like chicken enchiladas without the tortillas. I plan to have this with basmati rice made with chicken broth. McRibs are back in town; boys are excited about that... I am not. Mickey D's for the boys, awesome Crock Pot recipe for Mom!

#8 Cable Block in progress

I wish I could take better photos of the dark colored squares! If you "click" on the photos, the photo will be enlarged and you can see the detail a bit better. This is the first repeat (it's a 24 row repeat). This block is not difficult... you just have to be really focused to ensure you use the correct cable stitch. There are eight different cable stitches in this pattern. The colored markers and all the post it notes are keeping me on track! I think I need to work on something less complicated at knitting group today or else I'll just make a bunch of mistakes!

#22 Knit Stitch and Cast On is complete!

I finally finished the second side of block #22. I think I am glad I used a contrasting color yarn for the I-cord portion which is supposed to mimic the look of casting on and binding off. Right now, I am working on Square #8. It is full of cables. I just finished the first repeat of the cable pattern. It's very easy to make mistakes on this block because all the cable stitches sound the same.
I rummaged through my son's room to find a variety of colored markers to mark the
pattern and the "in other words" portion so I can use color as a reference to see which cable stitch I am supposed to be using. I'll have to post a bit about that later!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Miniature Sweater #5

Purple is Mrs. W's favorite color. This sweater was for her...

Miniature Sweater #4

A sweet little pink sweater for a sweet little girl. This sweater has a heart on the front (made from alternating from stockinette to garter stitch). I crocheted a scalloped collar around the neck.

Miniature Sweater #3

I found this fancy white yarn and cheery, cherry red yarn in my yarn stash! Look like Christmas to me!

Miniature Sweater #2

A few different views of Miniature Sweater #2. I put a hood on this one!

#2 Mariner's Compass is Complete!

This square, although it looks rather simple, really gave me fits! The designer calls her pattern a shape within a shape within a shape and so on... she says she has a degree in math and likes geometric shapes! Go figure! I think this block resembles a Mariner's Compass design like you seen in quilts sometimes. There is a square in the center. To make the bottom and top side of the square, you have to bind off stitches and then pick up and knit stitches in the same place when you return to the bound off stitches on the following row. The instructions got me goofed up. The instructions say "bind of 16 stitches, following special instructions". I thought this meant to bind off the 16 stitches USING the special instructions. But the instructions would have been more clear if it said, "bind of 16 stiches THEN follow the special instructions for the next stitch". It was also a goofy pattern because the cable stitch instructions have different instructions for the cables depending upon whether or not you are on a wrong side row or a right side row. Needless to say, I am constantly becoming more and MORE proficient at unknitting rows! Also, when I picked up and knitted the stitches to make the bottom and top of the square in the center, I don't think I picked up the stitches in the correct bumps so I don't think my ridges are as prominent as they were supposed to be. But I am settling for good enough!

What's keeping me busy!

The other day I was trying to figure out what to knit for my friend and coworker, Mrs. W. We are great pals and it's wonderful to have some one you enjoy so much as a coworker. It's pretty much just me and Mrs. W. in an office space for 10 hour shifts so it's a great thing we like each other so much! I decided to make sweater ornaments for her... but not just one. I wanted to make one for each of her family members. That's Mrs. W, hubby, teen daughter who turns 14 today by the way, and boy girl twins who just turned four! That's five little sweaters. After I finished the first one, I was determined knitting miniature sweater ornaments was going to be my new addiction, but after staying up late for a few nights in a row, I am ready to go back to my Great American Afghan for a little bit! Phew, I am exhausted! But this project was totally worth it because that's how much Mrs. W means to me!
I will post separate emails of each little sweater so you can see the detail but for now, I am guzzling coffee, gobbling cereal, and I am out the door to work! I have other blocks done as well and will post them soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Miniature Sweater #1

If you go to http://www.berroco.com/, and then type in the word "minutia" in the search box, you'll find three sets of patterns for the most adorable sweater ornaments. Apparently they've put out such collections in 2007, 2008, and 2009. I finally sat down to make one of thes and I just love the result! I just used the directions (how many stitches to cast on, how many rows, and ideas for needle size and yarn weight) and then just took it from there as far as my own design. A simple little cable on this one with some alternating rows of knit and purl. You start on the bottom front with a few rows of ribbing and then work your way up from there as you would a big sweater, then you bind off a few stitches in the middle of the row for a neck opening, then the very next row... you cast on the same number of stitches in the middle of the row to finish the neck opening. You complete the back of the sweater in the same manner as the front and then pick up and knit stitches on the right and left sides of the sweater up by the neck hole to make sleeves. Then stitch the side seams and the arms... done! Piece of cake. The possibilities are limitless. I have been digging through my stash of yarn for inspiration and it's not hard to find it! I could easily get addicted to making these! Hmmm, if I start now, how many of these little buggers could I have done by Christmas 2010!? You can easily make one of these in an evening. I am working on another one right now...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

#22 Knit Stitch and Cast-On nearly complete

This block was not difficult and it forced me learn to make a decent looking I-cord. I have to make a second I-cord for the opposite side of the block. The block background is made up of a nine stitch repeat. It takes six rows to make each "stockinette" stitch. I think this block is very clever. When describing her block design, the designer of the block writes...

Since I love stockinette, I wondered if I could come up with a cable that looks like stockinette stitch fabric and his is my result. I also wanted to mimic a cast-on and bind-off edge on a big scale. I found I-cord worked in chain stitch stitch did the trick.

#4 Under the Sea... still in progress

Slowly but surely I am making progress on the Under the Sea block! It turns out the blocks with appliques are a lot of work. (I was also distracted by Square #22. I guess baking and candy making for Christmas gifts, wrapping said baked goods, packing and shipping, and Christmas cards have all had me distracted as well. Imagine that!? Phew, sure is good to have all that done!) Nothing about the Under the Sea block is particulary difficult. I found the background to be a bit boring on this block. The appliques are pretty quick and fun, but all the loose ends took a bit of labor to work into the backsides of the appliques so they look more presentable. The burgundy colored appliques are the crab... can you tell yet? I need to make more I-cord legs for Mr. Crab. I think I have the I-cords figured out. I really like the fishies and the snail on this block. I am glad I chose to make the appliques in different colors... I only hope the block will not look too busy with so many colors.

Friday, November 27, 2009

#9 Diagonal Square is Complete!

This block seems much smaller than the others but it's very stretchy. This one was a lot of fun and not too terribly difficult once I figured out the new techniques, but I am glad to be done with it and on to something else!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

#9 Diagonal Block in Progress

This block is sure different. It's knit like so many dishcloths from one corner to the opposite corner and on the diagonal. It starts with just one stitch and then grows to 69 stitches; I just started to decrease so now I am working my way backwards to just one stitch. This block has killer bobbles. I think each bobble is about 25 stitches! This block also incorporates a new technique for me - purl one in the row below. I was glad I was able to figure it out on my own. The purl one in the row below makes a really deep set looking ribbing. The brown bow in the corner marks the right side of the project, but now that the bobbles are so prominent, there's no doubt about which side is the right side and which side is the wrong side. This block is very fun. I worry about how difficult it will be to stitch this block to the other blocks since this block doesn't have a garter stitch border like most of the others.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I took a photo of pumpkin pie today because this year, we used Great Grandma Fluck's Fostoria glass dishes for Thanksgiving dinner and dessert. The boys were disappointed because the dinner plates are much smaller that the dinner plates we use each and every day. Looks like I went a little crazy with the Cool Whip on my pie... it was the fat free kind! I think everything tasted a bit better today since we were using special plates...

#7 More Acorns and an Oak Leaf is Complete!

This block was a lot of work and I really had to watch the instructions very, very carefully, but the finished product is great if I can say so myself. You really have to watch the instructions on this block because there are so many different cable stitches. On the chart, the symbols for the cable stitches look pretty much the same to me, so I found myself referring to both the chart and the written out instructions. This is a very good block for Thanksgiving... Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Under the Sea in Progress

I am too lazy to grab my instruction book to look to see what number block this is, but this is the block with the crab, the snail, and the three fishies. In the book, this block and the appliquies are all made in one color but the folks in my class seem to agree that making the appliques in different colors is much more fun! The background for this block is not as simple or straight forward as I had imagined. I think eventually I will have the cable portion memorized... maybe. The part which threw me for a loop was the simple seed stitch portion on the left. There are three instances where you are to complete short rows to the wavy cable portion, wrap a stitch, turn the block and then knit back... away from the waves!? Huh! Thankfully we practiced wrapping some stitches in class the other day, but I did not notice this portion of the instructions when I decided to work on this EASY block after tackling the Oak Leaves and Acorns block... silly me! What was I thinking? I have completed the fish but they need some more shaping. I have also completed the crab body and the crab claws (the crab will be a sort of burgundy color). I have a lot of I-cords to do for the crab legs and for the snail, which is a coiled I-cord. The blocks with the appliques really are a lot of work, but this is shaping up to be a very colorful block.

Snowed... again!

Good KNITTING weather!

#16 Oak Leaves and Acorns is complete!

I really love this block! And I am happy that I finally seem to have taken a photo which shows the block's great texture. The block is completed from the bottom up from row 1 to about 45 and then rows 1 through 24 are repeated. In some of the rows, you add an amazing number of stitches only to decrease them away in subsequent rows; this gives the block such a nice three dimensional quality. With this block, I did not use the chart one bit. Instead, I used the row by row written out instructions and they are GREAT! Post-It Notes are also great tools to help keep a person on track... otherwise I think I would have gone blind.
I don't think a person could ever memorize a pattern this detailed, but it was still very, very fun to do! Up next... sand and waves, a crab, a snail, and three fish!

Friday, November 13, 2009

#16 Oak Leaves and Acorns in progress

Wow, wow, wow! Whoever designed this block must be a real genius. It's so fun to see this block take shape. You can see the acorns and oak leaves emerging. I am only on row 26...
this block is time consuming but so worth the effort. I learned today that some patterns are a cinch to follow using the charts provided; other patterns are easier to follow using the the written out instructions. This pattern is easier following the latter. There are other blocks in the Great American Afghan which include acorns and oak leaves I think. When I am done with this challenging block, I am looking forward to starting the block which includes the crab, snail, and three fish. That will be a lot of fun!

#14 Scandinavian square is complete!

Okay, this will look familiar! This is the block I almost completed but had to redo since I left oout a few rows of stockinette at the very bottom at the very beginning! Dang it! I call this block "X's and Hearts," but the block's designer suggests the design is Scandinavian in origin. This block was very easy and was great for learning how to read charts.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A cool knitting gadget

The other day I had to get the oil changed in my car. I was eyeing a Yarn Outlet store in Colorado Springs near the car dealership where I get the oil changed. I ventured over to the Yarn Outlet and was absolutely overwhelmed by the selection of yarns. The store manager explained the yarns were all discontinued yarns, with the exception being a small selection of Cascade 220 Superwash. The Superwash yarn is available at this store so folks can purchase it to make helmet liners for soldiers. She gave me a copy of the pattern and encouraged me to make helmet liners and bring them to the shop upon completion. She told me about one knitter in particular who had made about 300 helmet liners! The skeins of Cascade Superwash available in the shop were all muted tones... black, brown, olive green, etc... because they are most appropriate for the project and for the safety of the soldiers. I could not bring myself to purchase any yarn at this store since I did not want to "cheat" on Anne at Anne's Knits and Such in my home town... I am a loyal customer! I could not, however, leave the Yarn Outlet empty handed! I have seen this Knit Kit in magazines and on the internet. It's a cute little plastic shell which keeps a bunch of knitting notions all in one place: a tape measure, a crochet hook, a pair of scissors (TSA approved!), a stitch counter, a yarn cutter, a few rubber stitch markers, and those little things I am supposed to put on the tips of my needles so the stitches don't fall off. This Knit Kit was a bit of a splurge for me, but I was tickled to buy it! Looks like a person could find out where to find one of these by checking out the following site http://www.theknitkit.com/

#25 Estonian block is complete

The designer of square #25 indicated she made use of a technique found in an Estonian knitting when she designed this block. As a result, I am going to call this square the Estonian block. I worried I would not be able to figure out the "button stitch" used in this block, but once I was able to figure that out... this block was a snap! It was very fun to do. I love how when I learn a new technique, such as this new "button stitch," my mind starts to wander to how I could use this newly learned technique in a different application. I think if you wanted to write a name or date of birth into a baby blanket, this button stitch would be useful. The possibilities are limitless! By the way, the flash on my camera makes this block look much lighter in color than it really is.

#3 Oodles of Cables is complete!

This block has oodles of cables and it is complete! I am learning it is a bit more challenging to knit with darker colored yarns and it seems to be more difficult to take a nice photo of the blocks done in darker colors as well. I love this purple yarn. And I love how nice it is to knit with the Cascade 220 Superwash yarns. I am very glad I selected this yarn for this project!

Monday, November 9, 2009

#3 in Progress

Here is my progress on Square #3. I love this pretty purple yarn. Please excuse my hand and stocking covered left foot in the photo! It was kind of like playing TWISTER for me to take this photo! I think it's the cables in this block which make it want to scrunch toward the center; I am sure some blocking will solve the problem when the block is complete. My biggest fear with this block was that I would make a big mistake and have to rip back a few rows and then not be able to find my place due to the multiple yarn overs. Last night, I neglected to complete the two small cables before and after a bobble and I did not realized the mistake until about 2 1/2 rows later. I contemplated leaving the mistake but then I realized I would probably later regret it. I also wondered if I could fix the missing cable stitches like fixing dropped stitches. I thought about calling my course instructor for advice (she gave us her phone number for Knitting Emergencies but it was Sunday night and I did not want to bother her at home!). I bit the bullet and unknit the few rows and, am happy to report, I did not drop any stitches and I did not ruin the block. I fixed the missed cables and am back on track. I probably have one more pattern repeat to do and then will finish with a few rows of garter stitch as the pattern indicates. This pattern is listed as one of the easiest in the Great American Afghan. I struggled with the bobble at first but now it's a cinch. In this block, I have learned to be more comfortable with chart reading. Aside from that, it is a rather EASY block. I can't believe I pretty much have the pattern memorized which I never anticipated.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I was so excited about my progress on block #14. (By the way, I think I'll call this block "X's and Hearts"). I was just about to knit the final five rows of garter stitch to complete this block when it occurred to me I had missed a four rows of stockinette stitch at the very beginning of the block! Now I am not a perfectionist or anything, but leaving out this many rows and then deleting the same number of rows at the end of the block to make both top and bottom match simply won't do. The block would end up a rectangle instead of a square and would not match the other 23 blocks in the afghan. So I quickly snapped a photo of this block to show how GREAT it turned out before I rip it out and start all over. Thankfully this block was super easy and actually a blast to make. It's just frustrating to realize I spent some time at knitting group Thursday afternoon, the better part of Thursday evening at home, then more time Friday morning at home, then all my time at the cafe' Friday morning, and then more time at home after grocery shopping Friday afternoon ALL on this block, only to rip it out! To realize a mistake five rows before binding off... UGH! Oh well!