“Relaxing” on Saturday

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This past weekend, I found myself preparing for yet another fair – this time, the Will county (IL) fair.  I will have nine entries this year if everything goes as planned.  So I spent my weekend knitting, and stressing about the knitting, and stressing about the things I should be doing instead of the knitting. 

Since Saturday was a cool, overcast, nearly fall-like day, I decided (after hours of knitting feverishly indoors) that I should go out and finish my knitting while enjoying the day on my deck.  Since the dogs spend most of the week stuck indoors while I’m at work, I thought this would benefit them as well.

So I gathered my knitting, and my dogs, and my coffee, and my cell phone, and a bed for the dogs, and the citronella candles and headed out to the deck.  After cleaning off the deck chairs, lighting candles, placing dog beds, and filling water bowls, I realized that I probably would already have been done with my knitting had I just stayed inside….

In any case, I tried to take the opportunity to let got of some stress and enjoy the weather and enjoy my knitting.  I’m really bad at relaxing. 

As you can see, I was still sporting Peanuts PJs.

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I was finishing a cotton, kitchen towel for a fun category in the fair called “Three towels, all different, any type”.  The category is not just for knitting, so anyone making any kind of towels can enter, and we all get judged against each other.  It’s way fun (for nerds like me).

 

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One of my dogs settled into his place under my seat, and we all did our best to relax like normal people (eh hem) on a Saturday.

I eventually finished the towel, and I absolutely love it.  It is knit from Bernat kitchen cotton which usually costs more than I am willing to pay, but I got this ball on clearance (I’m guessing due to the color).  It is so soft with great stitch definition.  This towel will definitely get use in my kitchen after it has its big day at the fair.

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In other news, look what also found its way onto my needles over the weekend:

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Yep, I decided to reknit Scrollwork in a different yarn.  (Darn it!  I was so excited about that Rambouillet…).  This time, I used some wool tweed as the pattern called for.  I actually forgot that I had this Plymouth Tweed.  It was also bought on clearance several years ago.  It gave me an opportunity to use my new ChiaGoo stitch markers that I just got at Stitches.  They look like candy:

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I finished Scrollwork #2 Sunday night, and it does appear that it will be my knitted hat entry in the upcoming fair. 

~Happy knitting!

Scrollwork

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I mentioned in my last post that I was knitting with some special wool.  It was Equity Sport from Sincere Sheep.  It is made from Rambouillet sheep, who happen to have kinky fleece as they age. 

 

Here’s a Rambouillet ram:   (photo credit:  Oklahoma State Animal Sciences)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This makes for a great texture in the yarn.

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I was knitting the Scrollwork hat from Brooklyn Tweed, but rather than use tweed yarn, I wanted to try it out with my Rambouillet wool. 

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I knit the hat using size 3 circular needles for the brim, and size 6 circular needles for the body.  This yarn is sport weight, so I knew the hat would be a little smaller than the pattern promised to produce, but hats often turn out too large for me, so I was willing to take the risk.

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The pattern is lovely, and the root-like cables coalesce on the back of the hat:

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Unfortunately, the yarn did prove to be not the best fit for the pattern.  It wasn’t robust enough and the hat, even with all of those cables, is a little on the thin and limp side.  I will also go down an additional needles size on the band if I make this pattern again.  It doesn’t have the springy stretch intended for a ribbed band.

Luckily, after blocking, the hat grew a little, and will be wearable (at least for me….I have a small head).

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In other news, I realized after my last post that I had actually purchased YET another hank of yarn at Stitches Midwest.  I forgot to show it to you, so here it is:

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This was actually my first purchase at the market!  It was only $12 because it is only really half a skein.  I loved the colorway so much that I searched the full skeins in hopes of finding one with no luck.  This was the only skein in the whole place in this colorway.  I was about to walk away when I realized I could still make socks from it.  I have done this before:  weight the skein and split it into two equal halves (by weight since I don’t have a yardage counter, but I do have a gram scale), and then knit a sock from each half, using a coordinating color from my stash for the heels and toes to compensate for scanty yardage. 

Done!  I purchased the yarn, and if you read my last post, you know what happened next…

~Happy knitting!

Stitches Midwest 2014

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Stitches is a nation wide fiber arts convention that travels the country during the year, making stops in four different regions of the United States, one of which is the Midwest.

Last year I missed Stitches when it came to the Midwest.  By the time I thought to look into attending, it had already come and gone.  If you remember, I made a trip to the Stitches Marketplace for the very first time in 2012.  You can read about it by clicking HERE

If it’s possible that ‘too much yarn’ can actually exist, it would exist at the Stitches Marketplace.  Outside of being totally overwhelmed by the size of the marketplace in 2012, I had a great time, and had intentions to go again in the future – next time with a plan in place.

Stitches was in town again this past week, and since I work full time, I couldn’t attend the conference, but I did make it to the marketplace this past Saturday.  Due to my busy schedule, I did not have time to form a very good plan of attack, but at least I went in knowing that the market would be way too big for me to even consider seeing and digesting everything in it. 

The conference was held at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg, IL.  It’s a bit over an hour drive from the town where I live in Indiana.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I don’t have any ‘inside Stitches’ pics like I did from my 2012 trip, but I did take some photos once I got home so that I could show off some of my awesome finds.

I’m on a bit of a serious budget these days after deciding to refinance my student loans, and putting a closed gutter system on my house (no more ladders!  Whoot!).  I wasn’t planning on buying much in the way of yarn unless I found a deal I couldn’t pass up.  If I did buy yarn, it needed to be blue since I noticed I have nearly no choices within that color palette in my current yarn stash.  And it couldn’t be cashmere.  Somehow there is more cashmere than I ever intended to acquire in my stash, and cashmere is not practical for everything.

I did need some more stitch markers since mine always seem to mysteriously go missing as time goes on.  I was also excited about the prospect of seeing some actual books with paper and pages!  Here in Indiana, ALL of the book stores have gone out of business.  So I have no way to preview new knitting pattern books as they come out.  I love book stores, and I think it’s ridiculous that we have none left in Northwest IN as of about two or three years ago. 

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I did get some ‘freebies’ from the market.  A nice lady from the Windy City Knitting Guild gave me this cute book mark that has both a ruler and the steps to complete the Kitchener Stitch on the back!  Love it!  The button was also free (with a purchase) from Knerd knitting shop.  Check out her stuff on Etsy by clicking HERE.  She has some of the best gift tags for hand-made items I have ever seen (they are SO funny). 

I also got a free pattern for the Sweetly Zig Zag Cowl from the owner of Fiberstory (with the purchase of some gorgeous yarn).  I love the pattern and I will likely knit it up at some point.

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Here are the stitch markers I picked up.  The metal ones are from Knerd, and the plastic are from ChiaGoo.  I love them all!

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Here is the lovely yarn from Fiberstory.  I literally couldn’t resist.  This yarn was so beautiful, and the samples on display were so amazing.  In spite of my plan not to buy yarn, I was sold (obviously).  At least I remembered to pick blue…

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This is Fave Sock.  I SOOO wanted another set in a gray and a burgundy tone, but I was able to exercise at least a teenie bit of self control…

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Even though my plan was not to bring home more yarn, I felt I HAD to when I found this super-cute Angora blend yarn (remember my sister’s fixation with Angora….?) marked down to $5 per 100 yard hank.  It is Lush from Classic Elite yarns.  Even in the photo, you can see how fuzzy and soft it is.  It is actually 50% Angora in a nice worsted weight.

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These are SO going to be more mittens.  I’m thinking I can make matching mittens for my sister and me.  Mine will be the orange and hers will be the blue.  She likes blue.

 

I bought some Malabrigo since it is always so lovely and so reasonably priced.  I figured it would save me in the long run on shipping since I’d have to buy it online if I needed it for a project.  I also bought the multi-color twisted BFL wool seen here in the center of the pile.  It was a total impulse buy that I couldn’t afford and I still don’t regret it.

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Soooo, you might be starting to realize that I failed at my ‘don’t buy any yarn’ goal because I actually bought MORE yarn…. BUT it was a good deal.  Here’s the justification for this one.  Ready? 

I have plans to knit Wendy Johnson’s Nordic Cowl pattern.  I have adored it ever since she came up with it this past March.  You can read about it HERE on her blog.  Once I decided that I would like to knit this, I realized that I have literally no blue fingering weight yarn in my stash.  I really wanted to make my cowl in colors similar to those that she chose.  So I was on the lookout for an economical option for this cowl.  Here’s what I came up with:

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I found these Louet Gems in a discount bin at the Yarn Barn booth.  They were $6 and some change each, and the colors are so pretty.  Washable wool.  We’ll see how it goes….   If I don’t like it, my FiberStory purchase shown above would probably look fantastic as a Nordic Cowl.

 

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I was bummed to discover that none of the book sellers had a ‘show special’ or multi-book discount in place for the conference.  I ended up choosing two sock knitting titles.  The socks on the cover of the Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet have been in my queue for a while now, and now I own the pattern along with several others that I love.

 

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And lastly, I got these adorable, hand-made mugs.  I am a complete sucker for hand-made pottery.  These are dishwasher and microwave safe. 

In other news, here’s a peek at what’s on my needles right now, actually purchased at Stitches Midwest 2012:  Rambouillet wool!

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~Happy knitting!

Knit One…. Crochet Two…

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Since I haven’t been posting as much as I would like lately, I thought I would share what is currently on my needles….. and what was recently on my hook!

Last year, I decided to enter not only some knitting, but also a crocheted item into the county fairs.  I couldn’t find any fair-worthy pot holder patterns for my entry this year (but I think I found a pattern for NEXT year), so I decided I would crochet a hat instead.

I chose this:

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It is a tapestry crochet pattern.  Tapestry crochet is sort of like stranded colorwork in knitting, except with single crochet stitches.  The resulting fabric is really thick because you carry all of the yarn strands within the stitches of your work.  For this reason, it is often used for elaborately patterned baskets. 

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I chose some worsted weight wool yarn for the project in colors I thought would work well together.  All of the yarn was from my existing yarn stash.

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My hat about half way done. You can see why this technique is often used for patterned baskets.

 

I should have chosen a sport weight yarn, and dropped down a few hook sizes because my hat came out way too big to be a pull-on cap as the pattern intended.  In order to shrink the hat, I soaked it and ran it through the dryer, which did help to some degree.

Since the hat could still work as a ‘slouch’ style hat, I added a really large pom pom to the top to weigh the hat down and make it slouch better when worn.

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I entered the hat into the Lake County Fair this year, and despite its challenges, it scored a second place ribbon.  I was excited and happy to have ribboned.

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The red hat in the front right corner of the case behind me in the photo was my knit hat entry which actually won a blue ribbon this year.  I love fair season.  My items are still on display at Lake County Fair at the time of this post, but up next for me will be the Will County Fair. 

Since I have no socks to enter in that fair this year, I picked up my only half completed Snowflower socks that I started making for my cousin Sharon a year and a half ago.  I thought I could finish the second sock, enter them into the fair, and then finally send them to Sharon, who lives in Canada, when the fairs are all done.

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So far so good on that plan.  The second sock is currently in the Soak wash in preparation for blocking, and I expect to have the pair ready in time for the fair in another week.

~Happy knitting!

Spiral Lace Lap Blanket

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From June to July, I knit another Radiating Star Blanket.  This one is a lap blanket version for my own use at home.  If you remember, the first one was a baby blanket that I knit for a cousin’s first child, and it can be seen by clicking HERE.

I knew I wanted to make another one of these blankets because I am in love with the pattern, and I enjoyed knitting it the first time.  I wanted my blanked in chunky weight, washable wool, but I was worried about cost, so I did some bargain hunting and came up with this:

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It is Ella rae classic superwash wool: a 100% washable wool.  I loved the color, and the price was right, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong. 

As it turns out, in wool, as in many other things, you do get what you pay for.  Once I got started on my blanket, I noted that my yarn was full of knots and strings – not just a few, but enough that it was beginning to make me worry that it would affect the quality of my work.  Once I became frustrated with the issue, I hopped on Ravelry to see if other knitters had anything to say about the yarn. 

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As it turns out, I should have checked ahead of time.  There were lists of complaints, most having to do with major color bleeding when items are soaked for blocking.  There were so many painful stories of entire sweaters being carefully knitted in combinations of strategically selected colors, only to have the colors disastrously bleed into one another when the items were soaked for blocking.  Just the thought of such a scenario terrifies me.

Apparently the yarn also grows significantly after soaking, rendering the final dimensions of many a knitter’s project not what was initially intended.  Given all of this information, I considered myself lucky to be knitting an afghan (rather than a garment) in only one colorway.  Knots started to seem like not such a bad problem to have.

Since I already purchased the yarn for the project, I went ahead and used it to knit the blanket.  While working, I stored the project in one of these nice, deep, plastic bins that I found at the ‘dollar store’.  That’s right:  only a dollar for some good, square baskets in which to keep my projects organized.  Joy!  I love these things.

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I decided to get this project done by July because I was planning this summer’s fair entries.  I thought the pattern was ‘fair-worthy’, as I like to say, and if my blanket turned out as planned, I felt I had a good shot at a ribbon. 

Here is the blanket early on.  It is knit on large, circular needles, and it goes through an awkward stage where it looks like an over-sized tam.

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Here is the finished blanket all pinned out on the rug after steam blocking before the fair.

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Even though it was knit from washable wool, the yarn still joined reasonably well via felted joins.  That discovery made dealing with all of those knots a bit easier.  I cut them all and was able to seamlessly join the yarn for a nice, smooth finish. 

The pattern designer has actually posted additional instructions for continuing the blanket to make it larger.  I wish I had noticed that before I bound off my blanket.  I ended up with two balls of yarn left over, and I had expected the finished blanket to be a bit bigger.  It would have been great to have extended it a touch more.

In any case, I did enter it in this year’s Lake County Fair (it didn’t ribbon…), and I know I will get lots of use out of it around the house this fall and winter.

In other news, I am hoping to make it out to Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg IL tomorrow.  I actually missed Stitches last year, and I was really disappointed when I did.  It will be nice to see all of the new products available, and I am always happy to be around yarn!

~Happy knitting!

Knitting Pattern: Linen Stitch Dish Cloth

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I have had some requests for my linen stitch dish cloth pattern, so I thought it would be nice to share it.  It really is just a square of linen stitch, but I certainly can share specifically how I make mine.

 

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For functional dish cloths, it is generally best to use cotton yarn, but you could use cotton blends like cotton/acrylic, cotton/bamboo or cotton/linen.  If you want the look that I get with my cloths, choose a variegated yarn (a yarn with a combination of mixed colors).  This is the easiest way to achieve a confetti-like, multicolored cloth.  The pattern will distribute the colors throughout the cloth, preventing pooling of color which often has a splotchy appearance.

If you like working with colors, you can alternate three solid colors while following the pattern.  This will be a little more work since you will need to carry your yarns neatly up one side, and keep track of your colors, but it will also give a multicolored, confetti-like appearance to the cloth.

If you wish to get even more creative, you can try a self-striping yarn with this pattern, or knit yourself or a new neighbor a lovely set in a single, solid color, or coordinating solid colors.  The pattern is very versatile.

I use worsted weight cotton for my cloths.  Examples you might choose include:

  • Peaches and Creme cotton yarn
  • Bernat Handicrafter cotton
  • Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton
  • Knit Picks Dishie
  • Sugar ‘n Cream cotton

It’s also worth noting that Knit Picks CotLin is a cotton/linen blend that makes great dish cloths and towels, but it is DK weight (a lighter weight than worsted) so you will need to adjust your needle size.  Knit Picks recommends knitting needle size #5 or #6 for CotLin.

 

The pattern:  Linen Stitch Dish Cloth

Dimensions:  Approximately 9 by 10 inches

Yarn:  Worsted weight cotton

Needles:  Straight knitting needles, size #7

 

Cast on 40 stitches.  I use a long tail cast on.

Row 1:  *knit 1, slip 1 stitch with yarn held in front;  repeat from *        (row ends with a slipped stitch)

Row 2:  *purl 1, slip 1 stitch with yarn held in back;  repeat from *        (row ends with a slipped stitch)

For all slipped stitches, always slip purlwise (slip as if to purl).

Repeat rows 1 and 2 for a total of 100 rows.  Ending with row 2, bind off knitwise.  Block lightly.

 

The linen stitch is knit over any even number of stitches, so you can adjust the pattern for size/dimensions if you prefer a larger or smaller cloth, or you want to make towels. 

If you are a tight knitter, you might consider using size #8 needles to avoid a stiff and curly cloth.  If you knit very loosely, try needle size #6.  Gauge doesn’t matter so much with this pattern, but making your stitches too loose or too tight will affect the quality of your cloth.

 

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There you have it:  linen stitch dish cloths the Kristenisms way!  I’m happy to answer questions if anything is unclear.

~Happy knitting!

 

 

 

Better Late than Never: Lake County Fair 2013

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I decided that if I don’t post about last year’s Lake County Fair right now, I probably never will.  It’s nearly the 2014 fair season already, and there is only so much time left for procrastination!

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This was my second year participating in this fair, and I really enjoy it because there are always so many entries.

In 2013, I entered a hat, socks, a shawl, a scarf (all knitted) and a crocheted pot holder.  I was excited about the pot holder because it was the first crocheted item I had ever entered into a fair.  I have been crocheting since I was a little kid, but I prefer the appearance of knitted objects, so I don’t do a lot of crochet these days.

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My entry took 2nd place, earning me my first ribbon for crochet (red ribbon in photo above).  Personally, I loved the blue chicken (see photo above) which – oddly – didn’t place at all. 

I made a partner for my pot holder for entry into the Will County Fair later in the summer, and the set took first place.

The hat I chose to enter was the Butterfly Beanie (seen with blue ribbon below):

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I entered my Red Maple socks:

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I entered my Cladonia shawl:

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After being a little disappointed that I didn’t take any first place ribbons in 2012, I was pleased to have won blue ribbons (first place) in knit socks, knit hats and knit shawls this time. 

The scarf division was huge in 2013.  I think that there was likely somewhere around 30 entries.  I entered my Painted Cables Scarf (a previous first place winner at the Will County Fair), and it did not place.

Here are some of the scarf entries (my entry can be seen at the far upper right of the photo):

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The following photos show projects entered by other participants (meaning, none of them were made by me).

More scarves:

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I love to see all of the afghans that have been entered.  Here are some of my favorites:

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Here was the Sweepstakes Rosette winner:

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My favorite entry in the fair had to be this crazy, crocheted, ruffle pillow.  This thing was HUGE!  It was something like three feet in diameter.  It took a second place ribbon.

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There you have it:  my 2013 Lake County Fair experience.  Now I can look forward to this year’s fair season.

~Happy knitting!

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