Monthly Archives: September 2009

MFKR 2009

The Men’s Fall Knitting Retreat 2009 was one of the highlights of my year. Yes, Socksummit 2009 was wonderful but even more so was the oppotunity to meet and knit with 28 other men who all knit great stuff and share their pleasure and knowledge with all of us. A great experience for me and one I want to repeat year after year now – as a matter of fact once a month would be nice too.

The Dumas Bay Center was a great location – we had a wonderful meeting room, with windows overlooking a beautiful green lawn and the deep blue of Puget Sound.  The food was excellent – Chef Rob took care of us a little too well perhaps – all those desserts I enjoyed. The wine was generously shared and poured. My bed was comfortable and I had a great view of the Sound from it too. And the grab-bag of wonderful things provided by yarn stores and people was an unexpected and very happy surprise.

WonderMike was such a good host – he led all the group events and kept us on our toes and on schedule.

WonderMike leads the contest give away

WonderMike leads the contest give away

Franklin was there – one of my favourite bloggers and a great person to know. He led the photography workshop and I have been using the ideas he shared with us ever since as well as telling others about it. Not all the photos you will see here were taken post class so don’t expect perfection yet.

Franklin has a big lens.

Franklin has a big lens.

We toured too. Here is Skacel Yarns for whom co-host Brian works and designs great patterns. He showed us his Knit Boxers and I had to have the pattern – haven’t bought the yarn yet but I know they are going to be fun to wear around the house. I looked for the pattern on the website but didn’t see it there. You’ll have to wait until I’ve knit it.

Look at us in the reflection - all ready to explore.

Look at us in the reflection - all ready to explore.

Franklin Habit on the left, then Brian and his colleagues from Skacel.

Franklin Habit on the left, then Brian and his colleagues from Skacel.

We got a tour of Skacel’s operations. They are wholesale, but the opportunity to be surrounded by so much yarn was not to be missed. And yes we were able to buy yarn through one of their customers, Morgan, who was also at the retreat with us.

Here are some of the others who shared the retreat experience with me. I didn’t get everyone, but you will get a flavour of the group. I had just a little disagreement with WordPress here, and let it have its own way. Hence you will see not only the attendees, but also the animals of Moonshadow Farm which we toured on Saturday.

We also got to tour Moonshadow Farms run by Deb and Nancy. It was such a pleasure to have them show us the animals – all those gorgeous alpacas, mothers and babies.

Deb and Nancy of Moonshadow Farm

Deb and Nancy of Moonshadow Farm

And very friendly animals.

Mike gets a little lovin'

Mike gets a little lovin'

It was a great day – folks were enjoying the weather and the animals.

Yes, I had a great time. I can hardly wait for the next West Coast retreat – but I will have to settle for the fact that over the next year I will be cementing my links with the men I met here this year.

Hasta la vista.

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Is This a Bag I See Before Me?

Ah, remember my plan to knit a messenger bag using Entrelac? Here’s how it looked in April of this year.

Entrelac messenger bag in process.

Entrelac messenger bag in process.

The plan was to finish it, then felt it severely, affix a strap and voila, a beautiful, hand-made, unique messenger bag for me. Here’s the bag finished with a lovely flap knit right in, I-cord bind off. Looking good.

The bag open. Note my foot for size comparison.

The bag open. Note my foot for size comparison.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men” you say. Indeed. I finished the bag and went off to Spain before I found an opportunity to felt it. It looked bulky but I was looking forward to getting it into the wash and shrinking it down to wearable size.

Hah! Sounds so easy, doesn’t it. A couple of weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and got the bag into the bathtub where I was going to felt it with bath tub temperature water and a broom for agitation. You know how that went, I bet. It didn’t take long to realize that I was not the equal of a good washing machine.

But the problem is that I don’t own a washing machine – we use the machines supplied by our building which are housed in the basement. But since that was the only available machine, I took the soaking wet, heavy-as-lead bag down to the nether reaches of the building and dumped it unceremoniously into the machine, set the dial for hot water, threw in a pair of jeans as extra insurance and turned the thing on, then left it alone for the required half hour. I figured it would never felt to small, so no worries about that.

Back to the basement where I threw the mass into the dryer, set the dial, and let it go for an entire hour of heat pumping in – our dryers really put out heat, so I figured that could only help. Then I did my best to clean the lovely lint off the sides of the washing machine.

After it finished and was indeed bone dry, I took it out, cleaned out the lint trap and took the thing upstairs, where I showed it to my husband. Hmmm, not exactly small, this bag. Here’s what it looked like spread out on the hassock.

The bag after felting

The bag after felting

It looks a little big, doesn’t it? A little. Here’s a close up of the felting – not quite as good as I’d hoped. But you can see the lovely I-cord bind off really well.

Felting close up

Felting close up

Yes it was bigger than expected. “How big?”, you ask. Really big. Well, my husband demonstrated that for me a couple of days after I did my felting. I was out knitting and when I got home, this is what he showed me.

Bag? Or Pillow?

Bag? Or Pillow?

Yep, this little baby is stuffed with a full-sized pillow, one with a pillow sham on it. And yes, that is a human-sized chair it’s gracing. Big? An understatement. Let’s say I’m not going to be carrying this around slung over my shoulder with a great looking strap. As a matter of fact it is about the right size to be a carpet-bag, which would be great if this was the Dirty 30’s and I was an itinerant salesmen, but it ain’t and I’m not, so there will have to be other solutions.

I have had suggestions – and yes, pillow is one. I polled a few people and asked what they thought of me cutting it down and making it messenger bag sized. But that would mean the edging would be missing from one side. One of my consultees suggested I could do that, then call it a “Deconstructed Aesthetic” (thanks, Rodger). Anyone else with suggestions for this rather large piece of fabric (which took hours of my time, and lots of yarn but not costly stuff, thank heaven) is welcome to comment and give an opinion. I’m looking forward to it as a matter of fact.

Tubular, Man!

I bought some great multi-colour self-striping yarn in Spain while I was walking the Camino de Santiago in the spring. It’s Katia’s Bombay which is also available in North America. I only bought two balls since I was travelling light, so I needed a small project to use it.

Katia Bombya without its label

Katia Bombya without its label

DSC02033

While we were in Spain, my husband bought a couple of those light scarves that Spanish men can drape around their necks so casually and with such elan that one suddenly wants to move to Europe to be among such fashion forward people. Alas, that is not to be, but I realized that this brighly coloured, self-striping cotton yarn would make a great flingy scarf, so my project was born.

After looking around I found a lovely scarf pattern called Palindrome with a reversible cable which would fit the bill. On Ravelry the scarf is listed for 1029 projects, and that doesn’t include mine yet. It’s by Kristin Bellehumeur and is a very easy project, which may explain its popularity. And since it’s reversible it really is great to drape around a neck.

I did want the scarf to look good all over so I decided that I would find a tubular cast on to make the ends look good. I have used the Italian Cast-on before and it was perfect for this project, but I also had a little fun making it work for a 2 x 2 rib. Here is the cast on edge of my scarf

Here is the cast on edge of my scarf

The Italian cast on is a 1X1 rib and I needed a 2X2 rib.  The Italian Cast-on is, in essence, a double fabric. By knitting the knit stitches and slipping the purl stitches on either side, one is making the front and back of the fabric. Creating the 2×2 rib also has the effect of returning the double fabric to a single one.

I don’t have a link for this so I photographed the process for you and provide it here in a few simple steps.

This technique can be done with or without a cable needle. I went without because it was one less thing to worry about. [See the note at the end of these illustrations for the cable needle instructions – text only.]

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
Step 1, Knit the first stitch.First knit stitch
Step 2: Skipping the next purl stitch, put your right hand needle into the next knit stitch as if to purl.Skip the purl pick up the knit
Step 3. Slide both the purl stitch and the knit stitch off the left needle while keeping the knit stitch on the right hand needle – don’t panic.Slip 2 stitches off left needle
Step 4. Let the purl stitch fall to the back then immediately scoop it back up on the left hand needle.Scoop the purl stitch to left needle
Step 5. Put the knit stitch you moved to the right needle back on the left needle, then knit it. Note, in the picture the right needle is in the stitch as if to purl. You’ll have to remove it to knit the stitch in the correct orientation.Slipped knit stitch back on left needle
Step 6. Purl the next stitch (the one you dropped in step 4).
Step 7. Purl the next stitch, then knit the next stitch.

Two knits, two purls, one knit, ready for step two again.

Two knits, two purls, one knit, ready for step two again.

Repeat from step 2.

[Note: If you want to do this with a cable needle for safety reasons (nothing worse than a stitch you can’t pick up), at step 2  you will move the next stitch, a purl, to the cable needle and leave it at the back. Then knit the next stitch on the left needle, and return the purl stitch to the left needle and purl it. Then continue with the next stitches until you are ready to begin at step two again. But don’t you want to live dangerously? This could easily be in the book, A 1000 Dangerous Things To Do Before You Die.]

So that was the beginning  of the scarf. But what about the other end. I wanted the two ends to match, so I had to figure out the process for getting a tubular bind-off, and happily I solved that problem all by myself. Here’s  how. (Sorry, no pictures of the steps here.)

Here you want to get the stitches back to their 1×1 rib double fabric which is how you started. It’s easy really. You just have to reverse the process of slipping and moving stitches, thus creating a tubular fabric again.

Step 1: Knit the first stitch.

Step 2: Place your right hand needle into the second stitch on the left hand needle (a purl stitch).

Step 3: Slide the two stitches off the left hand needle letting the knit stitch fall to the front of the work.

Step 4: Pick up the purl stitch with the left hand needle then pick up the dropped knit stitch with the left hand needle.

Step 5. Purl the next stitch, knit the next stitch, purl the next stitch.

Repeat from Step 2 to end of the row.

To create the double fabric turn the work.

Row 1: Knit the first stitch, slip the next stitch with the yarn in front, repeat to end of row. Turn.

Repeat  Row 1 twice more. (Three times in all as with your cast on edge.)

To cast off in tubular knit you will have to divide your stitches.

Using two needles, slip the knit stitches alternately with the purl stitches to the front and  back needles. When you are finished you will have all the knit stitches on the front needle and all the purl stitches on the back needle. Now all you have to do is graft the sides together using Kitchener stitch. I recommend using the technique espoused by Knitting Daily in a recent post on their blog. It uses a third knitting needle and is easy to follow.

Can you tell which is the cast on and which is the cast off edge? Nope, neither can I.

Can you tell which is the cast on and which is the cast off edge? Nope, neither can I.

So there you have it, my adventure with Katia Bombay yarn, knitting a Palindrome scarf and making it look great from end to end. Here is the scarf flung jauntily, in a very European Je ne sais pas flair around the neck of my husband. Looks great even if the weather outside doesn’t call for cold any time soon.

Geordie looking positively Spanish in his Palindrome scarf.

Geordie looking positively Spanish in his Palindrome scarf.

And here is the scarf coiled seductively as if it were dropped after an evening of cool weather dining outside on some lovely cafe patio in Madrid.The coiled scarf

Go on now, make your own beautiful scarf with a wonderful cast on and cast off, and fling it ’round your neck for some insouciant European flair.