Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mission possible – replicate Mom’s Half Circle Hot Pad

I was cooking the other day and reached for my most favorite hot pads (or “pot holders” to some). My mom made them for me a long time ago and they are the best hot pads ever. What makes them so special? Shape and flexibility, and of course, my mom.

Anyway, the hot pads are crocheted semicircles, 8 inches at the widest and 4 inches top to bottom. They are in bad shape, having been washed a kabillion times, set on fire a few times, dropped in the chili pot, and generally abused. I decided to knit replicas – how hard could it be?

I first did a pretty extensive search on the web and found no knit patterns that were like these hot pad gems. I can make up a pattern, I thought. No problem. After all, I am The Inquisitive Knitter!

I can hear some of you say, why not ask your mom to crotchet some more. Or crochet them yourself? Good questions – I wanted to knit replicas as a tribute to my mom and I don’t like to crochet. And I’m a bit stubborn, umm, I mean persistent.

I rummaged in the stash and came up with some Peaches and Cream worsted cotton. I tried two strands together on size 7 needles but the stitches were so tight I could hardly knit. Made my hands hurt.

Back to one strand, the size 7 needles made it too loose. I moved down to size 5s. The density was better so I knit away. I cast on 8 stitches, put 4 each on a circular needle and joined ala Cat Bordhi’s instructions in
Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles. I LOVE this knitting-in-the-round technique and use it often. I HATE dpns.

So I knit away, adding stitches every other row until I get a circle big enough to fold in half to test the thickness. I give my mom’s hot pad and my folded over, in-the-rough hot pad to my engineer husband for the thickness test. Was mine the same as mom’s? If it’s too thick, it’s hard to use. Too thin and I get burned. The verdict? Mine was too thin. Just by a bit, but still too thin. I trust the man’s abilities so I ripped out.

How could I make it thicker? I got out the new
Harmony Knit and Purl stitch guide and trolled for a stitch pattern that would be thicker but still flexible. Maybe plain old garter? Using a moss stitch or something similar just seemed too complicated with the increasing.

So I started again using garter stitch. This time I started with a big circle and decreased instead of increasing. It seemed smoother. Here’s prototype #1. Pretty sad looking. Too small, too misshapen.
By this time I was in Ft Myers visiting the Ohio pals (same trip as in this post ) and we discussed and deliberated my next attempt. Ohio D generously gave me her extra ball of Sugar and Cream to use. Prototype #2 was better in size but I miscalculated and had an odd number of sections. The whole folding-in-half thing didn’t work, as you can see. But great colors!!!
Back home, I dug out a ball of Peaches and Cream and tried again. I think I’m satisfied with the pattern but I’m not so crazy about the color.
I don't know how to post the pattern as a separate download on this blog but I'd be more than happy to send it to you, free for the taking. Just send me an email at inquisitiveknitter@comcast.net
I’m going to try again with different yarn and if I make any changes, I’ll let you know.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Knitting or reading about knitting

I’ve been splitting my spare time between knitting and fiction reading. It’s hard for me to do both because I love to read and I love to knit. And I have a day job, and laundry, and cooking, and cats, and golf, and - oh, yes, a husband (who heard about and bought me this book).

I’ve been reading a novel that has knitting as a central theme - The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. If you haven’t heard about or read this book, it’s worth the time away from the needles.
I think that any knitter can find a connection to the story or the characters in some way. It started out a little slow for me but the story picked up and I enjoyed it to the end.

The main character is a single mom who runs a knitting store and cares for her 12-year-old daughter. And of course, she has a Friday night knitting club.

Monday, January 21, 2008

They sell yarn in Key West

Just returned from a trip to south Florida where I scored some great yarn. I stocked up on some felting yarn on sale at half price. Huge skeins of Paternayan at $8 each at Idle Hours in Ft. Myers. Nice shop – the owners are very helpful. I don’t have anything specific in mind for the yarn, but I’m sure some felting project will emerge.
I bought this aqua Euroflax to make a washcloth for myself at Knit Wits in Key West. We were just walking down Whitehead St. and I spotted the shop across the street. I gained major points with my 2 Ohio BFFs (the same ones that forced me into knitting, God bless them).
Speaking of my 2 Ohio BFFs, they very nicely let me take pictures of their projects to post here. Ohio K is working on a sweater for her daughter-in-law. The pattern, Trina, is from the Fall 2007 Adrienne Vittadini book. The yarn is Trina and you can see for yourself how fantastic (and complex) the pattern is. Ohio K is a master knitter.
Ohio D is making a baby sweater for a new grandson coming all the way from Russia. The pattern is Handsome Blue Cardigan from the Baby-Soft Sweaters book by Lois J. Long. The yarn is Plymouth Dreambaby DK. Lucky little boy, to be entering this family. They are the best. Ohio D is also a master knitter. I keep good company… I am working on creating my very first pattern. Prototypes 1 & 2 are complete and I think #3 will be the winner. More to come…

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I felt fine, thank you very much

I really like to felt. I may be out of control, but who’s to say? How many felted objects are too many? Fifteen, twenty? Some were gifts so I’m not sure they count.

Here is my latest FFO (felted finished object). This is the one
JennyAnyDots was guarding. I started this little bowl over the New Year’s holiday weekend, and started, and started. I must have ripped out the stabilizing ridge and sides three times.
The first time I forgot to flip the base over before starting the ridge rows. Rip. I am using variegated yarn and wanted the stockinette side to be the inside of the base, not the underside of the base.

Then I changed my mind about the ridge color. Rip. Then I forgot to flip the base again – caught that mistake quickly, but still - Rip. There may have been another rip in there somewhere, but it was a holiday weekend and there was college football and wine involved.

This is a great pattern although it’s a slow process picking up a purl bump from the first ridge row and knitting it together with the last ridge row. Once that is done, knitting in the round moves quickly. The top is bound off in a 3 stitch I-cord. It takes about an inch and a half to see the I-cord emerge. It looks pretty messy and wierd at first. Try not to freak out for an inch and a half - it will work.

I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Bulky Hand Dye in Yukon, Wool of the Andes Bulky in Sky, and Wool of the Andes Worsted in Spruce. This yarn felts up so great. It’s not too fuzzy and the colors stay true. It’s my favorite felting yarn. And felt again, I will...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Cultural Harmony

I was in Detroit for part of the Christmas holiday and my husband, mom, and I went to a Polish Art Center in Hamtramck.

Hamtramck is a city within the city of Detroit and during 1910-20 thousands of immigrants, mostly of Polish and other European descent, settled there. My mom’s family is Polish and we thought it would be fun to remember our heritage. And of course to buy stuff like Polish pottery.

I have seen Polish pottery in magazines and have admired the intricate details of the different patterns. The pottery is hand-formed and hand-decorated in Poland by local artisans. I found a small vase that said Buy Me and then my mom spied a matching bowl. So now, as you can see, I have two pieces of Polish pottery.
The pieces are sitting on placemats that I made out of King Tut yarn from Halcyon Yarn . King Tut is a soft, mercerized 100% cotton, worsted weight. The long-fibered, Egyptian cotton fiber is machine wash and dry and wears like iron. And because it is spun in Croatia, I have a Central/Southern European thing going on. A little cultural harmony on my kitchen table.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Smarter, but not wise

2007 was a good year for expanding my knitting know-how. My third knitting year has passed and I have added a few more things to my knitting knowledge stash.

  • Yarn substitution is tricky. A cardigan sweater designed for merino doesn’t work up the same with cotton yarn. I’ll be ripping out the red sweater and using the yarn for a vest. Helpful books on understanding fiber characteristics: No Sheep for You by Amy R. Singer and The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes.
  • Ripping out isn’t as scary as it used to be. Understanding the way stitch loops work gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to fix problems. And reading the awesome Techniques with Theresa on Knitty.
  • Thinking through the pattern is a very good skill to have. Taking the time to really analyze the pattern before knitting will save you time. Swatching is equally important.
  • Checking my knitting often while in progress is not wasted time. Even though I thought I was paying attention while knitting during the late night football game, the next morning’s check proved me wrong. How could I have done that? What was I thinking?
  • When knitting a garment it is crucial to understand size. Being brutally honest about my measurements, gauge, and finished size will help avoid banishing the garment to the back of the knitting cabinet. After all, no one is monitoring my size but me. I can be honest with myself, can’t I?
  • You can never have enough knitting accessories. Isn’t that right, Karin?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hail to the Victors

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m starting off 2008 with lots of pictures.

The University of Michigan Lola Bowla (pattern by Vyvyan
Knitting in a Happy Camper) has been felted and celebrates the Wolverine’s victory over the University of Florida. GO BLUE!

Before felting…

I felted the bowl in the kitchen sink in about 20 minutes.

I have been felting for about 2 years and like felting by hand. It is good exercise and it’s fun to feel the yarn bind together to make fabric. I prefer felting tightly – until all stitch definition is gone.

JennyAnyDots is guarding the beginnings of a Nantasket Basket (pattern by Susan Pierce Lawrence).

I’m going to modify the pattern to make it bigger and shorter and maybe with no handle – I haven’t decided yet. Its mission will be to hold toiletries in a guest bathroom.

I have made five baskets following the pattern – two of them were Easter baskets for my two granddaughters.

Spread the love in 2008 – teach someone to knit…