Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday night ponderings and tam fun

This first pic is the tam I made for my friend at work, Kathy, who recently turned 50, an important age for a woman now. I used colors from Mara, except for the bright blue in the center. That is Scottish Campion Aegean blue, from a skein I had scored on Ebay last summer and was hoarding. But it was just the right color to go with the other two blues so I got the skein out, wound it into a center pull ball, and used it in the center of the pattern. She loves the tam, says it's in "her" colors, and is off work today and tomorrow to care for her DH who had minor surgery today, so she can fondle it a bit in between getting him water and pain pills. She has pale red hair and a redhead's complexion, so I picked Claret, Salmon Heather, Natural, and the three blues for her tam.

This is the bottom of the tam, so you can see that I used two different patterns on the body section, but I think it worked well for this tam.

This is my Mara tam, waiting to get off the needles. It's now finished, washed and blocked and nestling on Mara waiting for the Knit In this Saturday in Vancouver, WA. I plan to show it, err, wear it there, along with the tam, which will probably come off pretty quickly once I'm inside the building. Terri's is finished except for the finishing work, as she had talked about wanting to try tying the ends of the yarns instead of weaving them in so I left them for her to choose how to finish. She won't be going to the Knit In as she caught a cold last weekend at a knitting retreat, poot!

Last night and tonight I'm going to be knitting on my LLV (aka Lovely Leftovers Vest) as it's been languishing for a while now. I spent some time last weekend working on DH's Forest vest and got around 12-15 rounds done, in between lots of interruptions, which I count as pretty good progress. I'm almost halfway through the matrix of row patterns, which I think totals 168 rounds in all. I need to figure out how much further to knit before starting the neck shaping and armhole steeks.

I'm still waiting on a replacement set of Swallow needles to arrive so I can pick up DH's St. Enda again. I broke two of the needles, one I have no idea how it got broken or when. I wrote the company and they gave me the email for their rep in the USA and I wrote her. I paid for the needles last week but they still aren't here. I can't work on it until they arrive as they are 9 inches long and I'm on the second sleeve where I need the dpns and the extra length. I'm trying not to move the sweater because, of course, the needle that broke had a lot of stitches on it and I don't want to drop them. So it's sitting here next to my desk wondering what it did to cause me to sigh and shake my head when I look at it.

I did learn something important about the Swallow needles made from milk casein - they last longer if you dunk them in hot water every few months. It helps the crystal structure stay soft, I guess, and they don't break as easily. It doesn't seem to apply to the wood grain clear-ish ones, just the solid color marbled ones. Now I just need to find a way to remember to do that with them - maybe dunk them every time I get them out for a project before I have stitches on them.

I have to make a small confession here - if I didn't have to work full time to support my knitting habit, along with DH, the furkids, the house, etc, I'd be buried in tams! They are so much fun to knit and go pretty quickly, once you settle on colors and designs. I got Kathy's done Monday, then took it to work (sneakily, of course) to deal with the ends before washing it when I got home Tuesday night. I put it in a small Victoria's Secret bag I had from shopping with DH last weekend wrapped in pink tissue. It would have been better if I had asked someone else to write the card, though, she recognized my disguised handwriting right away.

But it was a great gift and I really wish my DH liked to wear hats, I have so many ideas flying around in my head for tams for him. He told me to go ahead and make them, when he loses more hair and his head gets cold (in 20 or 30 years) he'll happily wear them. Should I take him up on that and make some or just wait until his head gets cold and see if I still like doing FI then?

Happy knitting!
Helen B

Friday, February 16, 2007

First Mara tam almost done!

This is the first Mara tam, just waiting to be taken off the needles, have the ends tied, wash and block. I've cast on for the second tam and am working on the ribbing at this point. It's interesting to see how much darker the claret looks without the salmon heather and natural next to it to lighten it. I'm pondering knitting a tam for a friend at work who turned 50 a week ago and really appreciated my Mara when I wore her to work on Valentine's Day. It would also use up more of the leftover yarns. I've discovered that Erin and other projects I'm considering don't use the same colors for the most part so I'm free to use them up in my LLV or other projects.

I'm planning to make some more progress on DH's daughter's Elizabeth of York this weekend, so he can relax for a few more weeks, lol. I'm also going to work on my LLV a bit, it's been sitting in its basket looking forlorn for a while now.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tam update

Now on to my tam design. I'm frustrated a bit, I used the Italian tubular cast-on for the Endpaper Mitts (the second one) and it worked fine. However, I could not get good tension on my tam last night, even though I cast on using a size 1 needle. On the Mitts, I cast on using a size 2 and then went on to knit the ribbing on the same needle. I'm thinking I used a different website for the instructions, which still didn't use waste yarn, but I can't find the link in my files. The tension on my Mitts came out fine. Guess it's one of those flukes one has in knitting from time to time, or it's the number of stitches I'm using.

What happened is that the edging ruffled way too much for my taste and knitting as tightly as I could on the tips of my needles didn't fix the problem. I might try the cast-on again when I make Terri's tam to see if I was just having a bad day. Anne got it to work just fine, it sounds like, so it might just have been me and the day. I like to learn new techniques with our projects to keep growing in my knitting knowledge and I'm not going to let one bad time stop me. But I did rip it out and just used my usual backward loop cast-on and zipped on through the ribbing.

I'm now starting the OXO pattern after increasing to 180 stitches. Remember that since the tam is knit in a circle with no cut edges, we don't need edge stitches or the "last stitch" on the chart. Just do the 36 stitch repeat around the tam. Oh, and I've also switched over to a size 3 16 inch circular needle as it makes the tension on the FI knitting so much more even, no fighting between needles to get even stranding on the back. I will have to go to dpns at the top of the tam when it gets too small for the circular but by then it will be going fast and easy. This is one project where you will definitely get lured in by the "just one more row" leprechaun, as they go so fast.

If someone needs to have elastic in the edge, but doesn't want to do the tubular cast-on and use round elastic, there is another option. Last summer I made several tams for a friend of mine who likes to wear the plain one at work to keep his head warm outside. So I knit the ribbing for one inch, purled a round, then ribbed for another inch. At that point I knit the cast-on stitches together with the working stitches, except for about 1/2 inch, to make a casing for flat elastic. He put the elastic in, fit it to the tension he wanted, sewed the elastic together, and I closed the little seam up. He wears his tams all the time and gets loads of compliments on them and no one seems to notice the casing on the bottom. So here's an alternative for folks who have trouble keeping a tam on - make a casing for flat elastic!

On a personal note, I've really been missing my Dad lately. The 18th will be two years since he passed, which was okay since he was 88 and his health failed, but it's still rough at times. I'm always amazed by folks who never seem to miss the loved ones they've lost. It seems to me they either are so afraid of the emotions that they lock them away, or they never really loved the person for real at all. Either way it seems like they are in denial, which can't be a good way to live. As the old saying goes, "Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all." So think of trains next Sunday for me, Dad spent 45 years working for Southern Pacific RR as a conductor/brakeman in all kinds of weather and with all kinds of passengers/crew.

Happy knitting!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mara finishing, tam thoughts

I took some pics of the finishing steps for my Mara and am posting them for you to check out.

On the buttonholes, I tried making the stitches I was going to cast off with both colors used in the round, then cast on with both colors on the next round. On the following round, I knit both strands as one, either knit or purl, whatever the pattern required. As you can see in the pics, it made a nice neat buttonhole with no loose strand across the back. It also gave a little reinforcement at a stress point. I'm really pleased how they came out on Mara. Since the two colors at that point in the ribbing are used in the round before the decrease, the decrease round, the increase round, and the one above that, the doubled strands blend right in and you can barely see the buttonholes after the bands are cast off. I am so pleased with these buttonholes!

My apologies for the blurry pic of the steek at the bottom, I took two pics and ended up deleting the good one by mistake! But you can still see the 9 stitch steek I worked there so I could work the front bands in the round. I'll crochet the steek tonight, then cut and turn it under as I did on my Oregon vest. It gives a nice edge to a part that tends to get tugged on a lot.

Now I will finish off the ends inside, by tying knots in adjacent ends and then cutting the ends 1/4 inch beyond the knots. Oh, yes, I use surgeon's knots, not square knots. The difference is the first time you cross the strands, you wrap them twice, then cross them the other direction once, as on a regular square knot. The extra wrap on the first half of the knot helps the strands hold together better.

Then wash and block her, sew the buttons on, and she will be finished finally!

At this point I'm pondering what color to start the tam with for the ribbing, I have enough of all the colors left to do the ribbing in any color, but since I'm going to use the red pattern after the ribbing, I'm going to pick a color that will look good next to it. I'm planning to try a tubular cast on for the tam, as then folks can put elastic inside it if they wish to help the tam fit better. It's actually a pretty simple method, once I found good instructions for it. I plan to use the large OXO pattern for the side of the tam, the stitch count works fine and it will work with the tree pattern I plan for the top wheel section of the tam.

So for the tam, we will need size 2 and size 3 dpns, you might also want to use a 16 inch size 2 and size 3 circular needle, until you get to the top of the decreases. Depending on how my fingers are feeling (ie, did I stay up late the night before knitting into the wee hours?) I start with either dpns or a circular to cast on. A tam is the ideal project to try tying knots in the yarns with, as possible, to avoid having so many ends to run in afterward. Or you can try Russian joins or spit splicing, since it's a small project. So much fun to be able to try something new and not be intimidated by it!

Happy knitting!