Fighting the good fight

I continually struggle dealing with neck pain. Some days are really bad. Other days are “life is good, smiley face” days. I seem to sway back and forth between the two. I am fighting to increase the things I can do. It’s a daily struggle. I have a bit of a terrier personality and refuse to give in/give up.

One of the activities I miss is cordwaining (shoe making). I see shoes I’d love to wear (bear in mind, I wear a mens 3FF, not a size that is commercially available) and think . . . I could make those! Today, on Pinterest, I ran into these beauties.

I think I’m going to have to try and make them. They are just too fabulous.

My most favorite of brothers introduced me to a Chinese made sewing machine designed to stitch layers of leather. I’m going to have to get myself one of these. I’m viewing it as a must have. It solves a lot of the problems I have with cordwaining. I cannot do the stitching by hand so must have a way to do the stitch that is not by hand.

I have the leather. I have the vision. I must have the way to do the stitching!

Next sweater in Graphite Bamboo Pop

There was a terrific sale on Bamboo Pop a couple months ago. I bought enough yarn for three sweaters plus balls of variegated accent yarn. I love this yarn for a number of reasons. It has terrific drape, it’s lovely to work up, it comes in 40 colors and it comes in balls that are twice the size, almost 300 yards of yarn. The regular price is somewhere in the $8.50 range. When it’s on sale it’s a huge steal. So . . . yeah, three sweaters worth plus. I’ve got Ink Blue on the needles. Once the cable threads connect I’ll take a pic and post it. I’m only ~25 rows out from that event. And while I’m knitting I’m thinking about the next sweater in Graphite.

Testing Latvian Braid

I had an “aha” moment for the Graphite Bamboo Pop. Latvian braid has been enticing me for a while. I’m still testing . . . and pondering but this might be just the thing. Here’s my current sampler. It’s going to get bigger as I try different things.

The bottom two tests are the same thing, just different colors. Nope, this method is both overly complicated and messy.

The top right is doubled yarn. It’s too heavy, though it may have been alright if I had matched the colors in the strands . . . uh . . . maybe.

The top left is really really nice, smooth, clean, even . . . but a slightly heavier yarn might be that perfect middle ground. I’ll keep adding yarn to my test to see what I like best. I’m pulling scraps out of my stash and trying them. I may want to do random weights and colors, each row one accent yarn. I’m liking how it’s working up. I’ll have to find the happy middle for spacing of accent stitches, background stitches and rows.

This will be an awesome way to use up short pieces of yarn. I have a bunch of those. I think most of us do.

Done being bored

Lion Brand Ombre Life gradient paired with bamboo 4-ply.

Wadly (venerable spouse) noticed I wasn’t spending much time knitting. This is why. It’s boring. I’m not doing a single thing interesting. It’s stockinette in the round which, by its very definition, is boring. The end result will be nice but for now . . . yeah, pretty darned boring. There’s nothing here to catch my interest. I’ll put it away until the new audiobook on my pre-purchase list comes out. I *will* finish it as it’s a sweater I’ll want to wear . . . I just need to power through the week of boring, boring, boring. A new audiobook by one of my favorite authors should do the trick. Shattered Bonds comes out on the 29th.

Gradient in the works

NOT working . . .

I bought a couple cakes of Lion Brand Ombre Life. It did not go well. While this yarn is a lovely color, it’s made up of four strands of what is basically heavy cotton/acrylic thread. The changes in color are achieved by knotting two colors together with the joins staggered over the four strands to achieve the overall color change. Not a big thing unless . . . yup, you guessed it, multiple breaks in one or more strands. Ugh. If it had been a single break it would have been okay. Multiples? Yeah, not so much. So, I asked for replacement. I was working on something else when it came so I set it aside.

Bamboo/cotton/acrylic.

I started the gradient sweater this morning. So far so good! I’ve got the first shoulder done and I’m ready to start the second. I’m pairing the ombre with a 4-ply bamboo navy that matches the dark bits of the gradient. Because of the way the gradient is not spun (yup, a flat ribbon of four strands of heavy thread) I’m having to knit carefully. Missing a strand in the stitch is a thing with this one. This should be a fun knit.

 

Jacob’s Gauche

Scrap yarn bonanza!

I’ve used up all but a small amount of scrap yarn. I’m really pleased with the result. I learned lots of stuff, I had a good time and I’m glorying in the result. The pockets are fabulous. I love all the colors. I discovered a new way to secure the ends of cotton yarn when working in the tails. I’m really going to enjoy wearing this one. Okay, that’s not fair . . . I enjoy them all!

Make it up as you go along

Mindy’s sweater is done and off to her. I’ll get pictures eventually and I’ll share. I’m really pleased with that sweater. The length is what she wanted, the colors suit her coloring and the design was fun to execute. Plus plus plus! And because it’s off my needles, I’m onto something else.

Have you seen “Milk Money” with Melanie Griffith? She has a quintessential line in that movie . . . “and the rest of it we’ll make up as we go along.”  It’s a cute movie and that line stuck with me. It really defines my approach to sweater design. I really do make it up as I go along. I’ll start with a plan and before I know it, the project has jumped tracks and turned into something entirely different. I live in a world of “what if?”.

It’s fairly inevitable that when knit projects are done there will be scraps left over. Sometimes it’s skeins, sometimes it’s partial skeins and sometimes it’s little balls of yarn just a few yards long. I’m a penny pincher and I can’t throw out left over yarn. I don’t know a knitter who can. The challenge is to use up the disparate lengths of yarn, a far more interesting project than whatever the original yarn supply was used for.

Here’s my current project. I was going to do a reprise of my kangaroo pocket sweatshirt but the train completely jumped the tracks. It’s actually a really neat use of all the disparate lengths of yarn left over from four different sweater projects. Bear in mind, this is *after* I used up a lot of it in my kangaroo pocket sweatshirt. Just to be clear, this is sweater #2 from the same batch of left over yarn.

Unexpected direction!

There’s usually a penalty for haring off in a new direction. The penalty here is the enormous number of ends needing worked in. I think the end result is worth it. It will be interesting to see if I have enough yarn to create sleeves. I’m thinking I won’t and will have to buy more yarn. Oh darn.

The end is in sight!

I started this sweater over two years ago. I got it to this point and there it sat. I had no plan, just lots of lovely Lang Recycled Denim yarn. Because I couldn’t decide where it was going I put it away and worked on other things.

Turkey day, 2017

Then April rolled around and I had something I wanted to try that was going to fit with where I thought this sweater was headed. I got this far and put it back away.

April 2018

One of the projects I worked on was Bamboo Pop Banner which had lots of lovely color and beads on the front.

Bamboo Pop Banner

I loved the yarn, I loved what I did with it but the addition of the 3.0 glass beads upset the balance and caused the sweater to shift slightly forward on my body causing the back of the neck to come in contact with my neck. Nope, couldn’t do that and there was no way I was frogging all that lovely work so I gifted the sweater to my niece. She loves it and I didn’t have to frog it. Win win!

But that experience got me thinking. I wanted to make a kangaroo pocket sweat shirt with the left over yarn from knitting Swoop but the weight of the pocket would throw off the balance. If I lengthened the back at the hem using the same amount of yarn I used in the pocket, I would get a sweater that stayed in balance and I’d have the benefit of the pocket (which I couldn’t use without upsetting the sweater’s balance but it would look cool. Plus I could try some stuff I’d discovered when I knit the bolero cardi . . . which I frogged to get the yarn to knit the kangaroo pocket sweat shirt . . . yeah, you can see where this is going.

Goshen Kangaroo Pocket

Mindy tried my sweatshirt on and loved the pocket. I now had a plan for her Lang Recycled Denim sweater! Beauty! She came yesterday and tried it on and it’s right on the money! I’ll be squeeking on the yarn to get the body length she wants. I’m almost there! I finished one sleeve last night and got the other started.

Test fit!

Conti-raglan, green

I started this eons ago. It’s not my colors but the colors work beautifully for my sister. It’s not my neck shape (hugs the back of the neck) but it is right for my sister. I had set it aside because I couldn’t figure out where it was going. Now I know, kangaroo pocket Henley for my sister.
I am totally loving this project. Sometimes the *make it up as I go along* doesn’t go so well. This time, it’s totally rocking it!
 
The yarn is a combo of Lang’s Denim Cotton (recycled cotton) and Lion Brand Recycled Denim. The bit on the yarn holder (bluish yarn in the center) is the start of the kangaroo pocket.
 
Truly, I’m loving this. Plus I’m learning new stuff. Totally cannot beat that.WIP, conti-raglan, green

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye . . .

You’ve probably seen the brouhaha in the news regarding how conservatives were treated by the owners of Ravelry. It was bad. It was egregious. It was completely unnecessary. The bigotry and bullying have reached a point where conservatives no longer feel welcomed, and changing the meaning of hate speech to “any speech which offends” is truly offensive. And as a result, I’ve left Ravelry. My profile page is still there but by the end of the week, every other presence I have there (other than purchased patterns) will be history.

As a result of the Rav owners’ bigotry a lot of people have left Ravelry. Anyone who commented favorably on Trump or Kavanaugh was banned. Anyone who said anything negative about Blasey Ford was reviled. As a result of the changed atmosphere, conservative knitters no longer feel welcomed and are leaving Ravelry to congregate in other places on the web.

Don’s expect to find any of my projects on Ravelry. I will neither participate in nor support a group whose leaders practice studied and blatant intolerance. In deleting my posts and projects I am removing all the help I ever gave anyone. All the tips, tricks, advice, work-around, new stuff I discovered . . . all of it. And I don’t feel bad. If people had stepped forward and said “this is wrong” instead of staying silent, my help/advice/tips/tutorials would still be available to all therein. And if my deleted content means there are gaping holes where my contributions used to reside, tough cookies. For those who failed to step up and confront injustice when it lifted its ugly head, don’t bitch when the fallout bites your backside.

Actions have consequences. The blowback for Ravelry may be a punch they can take. Their membership is truly global. Whether they suffer from their bigotry is inconsequential. I’m gone because I can’t support something I don’t believe in. Intolerance and bigotry have no place in the knitting world.

The beauty of organization

I’m a process knitter. I don’t work off a written pattern. I create as I go. I figure out what I want to do and start from the top and glory in doing my own thing. It makes me happy. I’m not horribly unusual in the way I do things. I know people who work the same way and I feel I’m in really good company.

In my other life I’m a programmer. I’ve been doing it for years and it’s something I enjoy. I love puzzles and programming in php/mysql is like solving a puzzle. I figure out what I want to come out the other end and off I go.

So here’s how the knitting and the programming mesh.

I wrote a program to give me the calcs for knitting my top down sweaters. It works like this.

I enter my measurements. My measurements pretty much don’t change so this is a one-time thing. Once it’s done, it’s done!

I enter create a record of the project I want to work with using my swatch info for my preferred yarn/needle combo, a record of the yarn I’m using, how much drop I want for the back neck, how much ease I think the garment should have and I’m done. Truly, that’s it.

Then I run the programming. It applies the calcs I have worked out for my conti-something base using my measurements, the SPI/RPI derived from the swatch I knitted on the needle size I prefer and I have sweater calcs! I’m ready to cast on for my sweater in the amount of time it takes me to set my preferences. Yup, it’s really that simple! Organization and automation are truly beautiful things and programming ROCKS!

Here’s what my fun times look like. This isn’t all the projects I’ve done. I’ve got a tunic length henley that’s lovely to wear and other stuff I knit before I did the programming gig. Enjoy!

4-ply blue WIP

This will finish in a dress length. The goal is to use up all this very unique yarn. I’m pecking away at this when I’m in a position I can’t work anything complicated. I have miles and miles of very boring stockinette to go!
Swoop

Mindy loves it so it’s all good! This was a fun knit. The yarn (Valley Yarns Goshen) is a lovely cotton/modal/silk combo with a very nice sheen.
Sunset Vneck

Sunset on the farm, knitted up in Scheepjes Softfun Denim!
Bolero Cardi (WIP)

WIP in Valley Yarns Goshen. All that’s left is the hem. I’ll get there . . . eventually. I’m balking just a bit at the cardigan . . . I may just sew the front shut. I think I’ll like it better . . .
Too Much Sunset (using Sunset on the Farm vneck numbers)

This is all the yarn left over from the Sunset on the Farm vneck. I had a lot of yarn to use up! Okay, okay. I *still* have yarn to use up. The sun took less than a yard of two different colors! The only color I ran out of after this was done was navy.

Too much sunset

I learn by doing. Each project has lessons for me and I embrace them with joy. Each less than perfect spot in a project means the next project will be just that much better because I’ve learned something.

Each sweater I’ve knit has taught me a lot. I can lay a sweater out and show you where I learned something, like how to do intarsia in the round, how to improve the back neck shaping, tweak the shoulder shaping for a flawless fit, perfect faux sleeves . . . the list goes on. I can’t conceive of working a project and not learning something new, not *trying* something new. It’s how I’m wired.

I had a lot of yarn left over from the Sunset sweater. The sun took less than a yard of two different colors. Each block of color used up only a portion of the supply I bought. What I had left over was *almost* enough for a sweater . . . almost. So I bought a couple more skeins of purple and waited for inspiration to strike. And it did!

I saw a sweatshirt on Pinterest that spoke to me. *This* color blocking was what I wanted to knit. Ooo, the challenge!

You can pop this off in raglan . . . it would look great! If you’re interested in trying this, here are the skills you’ll need beyond basic top-down sweater knitting.

Using up the yarn left over from Sunset at the Farm

What? You thought this was hard? Nope. Tedious? Yes. Hard? Not even. The result . . . yeah, that’s pretty spectacular.

The tips on what I will do next time (assuming there is such a thing) are at the bottom of this post. The following instructions are for what I did on *this* sweater.

The angle is created by working a short row turn every fourth stitch starting six stitches from the point at which you want the angle to start. For this sweater it was right under the arm after working the underarm caston.

Place a marker where you want the center top of your angle to start. Work six stitches and then work a SRT (short row turn). Turn your work and work in the opposite direction past the marker and six more stitches, then work a SRT. This completes your angle setup. This next bit is the repeat. Turn and work to the previous SRT. Work the SRT and three more stitches before working another SRT. Repeat until you have ~12 stitches remaining. This is the low side of your angle.

Now work three rows of the background stripe color in the round working all the stitches. Knit the first row, purl the second, knit the third. That’s the separation border between body and striped section.This will be repeated at the end of the horizontal color stripe section before the vertical stripe section.

Now work the horizontal stripes doing the same SRT sequence changing color every second row. Once all the horizontal stripes are complete, work the separation border.

To prep the bobbins for the vertical stripe portion, knit a two-stitch swatch. Do *not* slip any edge stitches. The goal is to get a good estimate of the yarn required for each vertical stripe of color. Knit to the length you want the vertical stripe. Put a temporary knot in the yarn and frog it. Measure from the start of the yarn to the temporary knot. Multiply by 2. Add 10%. If you’ve lots of yarn to spare and are worried that you won’t have enough, add another 10%. That’s the length of yarn you will need for each *pair* of stripes.

Use the *carrying yarn without floats* technique to connect the bobbins to the live stitches. I need to do a video on this. It’s super easy to do but really tough to explain. I’ll add it to my *to do* list. Soon. Maybe.

I worked six rows of seed stitch at the bottom edge of the sleeves and used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Castoff in the stripe colors. I used an invisible closure and worked the ends in. This, too, needs a video. It’s a tiny bit fussy but the join where the start and end of the castoff occurs truly does vanish, like it was never there.

If I were to do this color blocking sweater again I would make the following adjustments. I would . . .

  • extend the angle up/down onto the sleeves for a more harmonious color break. I would start the SRTs on the upper sleeve prior to the separation of the sleeve. This would require a bit of calculation. It would go something like this. Count the sleeve stitches at the underarm caston point. Subtract 12 (for my measurements – it should be about 1/3 the total count) stitches for the top of the angle. Divide that number by 3 (working with the new numbers – see below). That’s the number of SRTs/rows before the underarm caston where the angle must start.
  • make the SRTs every third stitch to give the angle just a little more heft.
  • start the color change under the arm with a jogless stripe connection at the center of the start of the angle so the end of each stripe on back and front matches exactly in technique.
  • knit three rows of horizontal color so the width of the color bands more closely matches the width of the vertical stripes.

So, there you have it. What I did, what I would do in the future . . . it’s a thing.

Fabulous chili!

Awesome chili!

I made a huge pot of chili last night. It’s fabulous! I’ve finally wised up and am getting my spices from Spicely. No chance of gluten cross contamination and that’s a truly wonderful thing. I’m getting smoked paprika and chili powder in one pound containers and that too is a wonderful thing! Next time I order cumin I’ll do the same. Garlic powder came in a resealable bag. Yummy stuff. So chili . . . here it is.

3 carrots, diced
equal amount of mushrooms, diced (volume, not weight)
sautee in butter

Once the carrots have started to soften add 1/3 pound of ground sausage, 1.5 pounds ground pork, 1.5 pounds ground beef and stir until broken up, then stir occasionally until browned.

Add 3-4 heaping tablespoons of spice mix (listed below). Stir this in and let it simmer just a but. This seems like a lot for a pot a chili but it’s a super mild mix so taste test and add the amount that suits you. If Wadly’s not going to share in the feasting (not a fan of anything spicy) I will add a bit of red pepper flakes for a bit more bite.

Add 1 pint bone broth (I make my own), 1-16oz can of diced tomatoes (organic), 1 pint of kidney beans (organic – I cook them in my crock pot).

Let simmer on the stove for a while to ensure all the flavors are fully integrated.

Serve with a huge dollop of sour cream. Mmm, heavenly.

Spice mix. I can’t take credit for this. I got the recipe somewhere in internet-land. I multiply this times four and store it in a glass jar with a screw-on lid. Don’t be afraid to use this generously as it’s mild . . . and super-tasty.

1 tbsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
(here the recipe calls for 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce. I ran out and didn’t get any more. Add to the chili making if it suits you, I like it just fine without)
1.5 tsp ground garlic

The original recipe shows a substitution of 1 tbsp minced garlic which cannot be added to a mix you will be storing. If you elect to go with minced garlic, you’ll need to add it to the chili pot instead of the mix.

I decant the chili into pint jars while it’s hot, seal them. Once cooled I store them in the freezer for easy quick meals.

The downside of inventiveness

So . . . I come up with this ingenious thing and before the ink dries on the “how to”, I come up with something better. Such is the life. What has gone before now needs and update . . . before anyone can even assimilate what I’ve done. *sigh*

Here are the videos on Conti-something. Updates to follow. Watch these videos in order and while you watch,  pause the videos as you work. As always, email me if you have any questions.

1. Overview

2. Caston Math

3. Back neck shaping markers

4. Shoulder row calculations and prep rows

5. Working the drop

6. Fading saddle front

7. Second shoulder

8. Finishing the shoulders

9. Setup for faux set-in sleeves

10. Knitting the faux set-in sleeve cap

Relearning an old skill

This week I’m diving back into programming. It’s been so long much has changed. The latest iteration of PHP is so different much of what I knew before must be rediscovered. What fun!

For months I’ve had in mind a program to produce conti-something stitch and row counts based on the user’s gauge and measurements. Paired with a database in which the data resides, the program will make all the necessary calculation to produce a garment that fits the way the knitter envisions.

I got a good start yesterday. From the initial start a few months ago I polished up the database tables and got the program started. I now have an accurate caston calculation, something I hadn’t done in my spreadsheet. Woot! Let the good times roll!

Beef/Pork Soup . . . OMGosh.

Beef Pork Soup

OMGosh. Awesome soup today. I made chicken soup for Wadly yesterday, which smelled fabulous, and beef/pork soup for me today. Amazing beautiful nummy soup

Prep: Make bone broth. Wadly gets huge intact beef leg bones from our local butcher. He whacks them apart into big chunks using a dedicated chop saw which gives both marrow and cartilage for bone broth. Roast the bones for 1 hour at 400 deg. Place in crock pot with 1/4 c apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns and fill to the top with filtered water. Let sit for one hour, then cook on low for 3 days. Bottle the broth. Freeze in pint jars until needed. Wadly gets multiple bones at a time and stores them in the freezer in clean pet food bags with a zippered top (reuse/recycle/re-purpose) and cuts them up when I’m ready to run a new batch of broth.
 
Prep: Black beans. Clean and rinse, add to crock pot, 5.5 cups water, 2 cups beans, sea or Himalayan salt, 1/2 c orange juice, 1/2 onion. Cook for 6 hrs. Drain off liquid and freeze in wide mouth pint jars until needed.
 
Prep: Canned diced tomatoes . . . run a 16 oz can through the blender. It’s about 1 pint of tomato sauce. Most blender rings will fit a small mouthed pint jar. I dump the 16 oz can into the pint jar, spin on the blade/ring and blend it for about 30 secs. Instant tomato sauce.
 
Dice meat (2/3 beef / 1/3 pork, hamburger and ground pork works just fine, 1.5 to 2 lbs). Sautee in a couple tbsp of butter. When it no longer looks like raw meat add spices. Oregano or marjoram/ thyme/rosemary/crushed red pepper, black pepper, a bit of sea salt (not too much). Add 1 cup bone broth. Add 1 cup tomato sauce. Let it simmer for a while. The acid from the toms add tenderness, the bone broth adds nutrition and flavor. The spices (use what suits you) adds flavor.
 
While that’s doing its thing . . .
 
Cut up three good sized mushrooms, sautee in butter.
 
Peel and dice 2 carrots (about 3/4 cup)
 
Dice onion (about 3/4 cup)
Dice zucchini (about 3/4 cup)
 
Add one more vege. I used asparagus as it’s what I had. Pick something you like. Squash, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Same thing, about 3/4 cup. The stronger the flavor of the vege, the more it will change the flavor.
 
When all the parts are ready, add them to a 6 quart or larger stew pot. Add an additional cup of bone broth, the rest of the tomato sauce and let it stew until the carrots are tender.
 

Ready to go in the freezer

Turn the pot off and stir in the pint of black beans. The result is a chunky almost stew-like soup loaded with nutrition and flavor. Serve with rolls, bread, salad . . . whatever your favorite side is. Store what’s not used in pint jars in the freezer for when you need a quick and nutritious meal.