Archive | January, 2012

New Look, New Hat

30 Jan

This tam was the first project I've ever completed using beading.

This week I used a new knitting technique and gave my blog a makeover. I’m slow to accept change most of the time, but this is just refreshing.

The new knitting technique was part of my Garden Party Lights Tam, made from the Holiday Lights Tam pattern published in Interweave Knits Winter 2011.

Though “Holiday Lights” was a very fitting name for the golden hat featured in the magazine, I felt that my green-and-blue version, knit on the cusp of spring, better represents a sort of garden-party, crocus-bud kind of feeling.

Using the beading technique for the first time was interesting, but very easy to get the hang of. This technique involved stringing beads onto your yarn before knitting, then placing the beads on certain stitches for the pattern. This particular hat highlights the beads using a slipped-stitch bow pattern, which to me makes the beads look like little droplets of water sliding down a green bulb.

The yarn is Cascade Ultra Pima (DK / 220 yards) in the Olive colorway, and has been hanging around my stash for nearly a year now. I purchased it at Loopy Knit/Crochet in Missoula, but haven’t been pleased with any particular pattern I tried for it. I knew I wanted to use it for a beret or tam, an after several non-starts, this pattern seemed like the perfect fit. The yardage was also perfect for this project, and I have a little chunk left over that will go into my hexipuff stash.

The beads were purchased at my local Jo-Ann Fabrics and are Blue Moon 6/0 seed beads in a blue/turquoise color. For less than $3 I was able to buy enough beads for two hats, with each hat requiring 360 beads.

This hat will not be staying with me, although I hope to knit one for myself in colors more to my taste. This particular hat will be arriving in the mailbox of some lucky lady within the next week, and I hope she loves it.

As far as the new look for my blog, I wanted to spice things up a bit and draw more attention to some of the extra links I provide. I hope to add more original designs to my Patterns page, and the links under More Blogs are my favorite source of humor and inspiration.

I hope you all like the new look! Coming up: The Scent of Lavender.

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The Case of the Missing Hexipuff

28 Jan

My ever-expanding pile of hexipuffs.

A mystery struck the Pallares household last week. Behold, the thrilling Case of the Missing Hexipuff:

I’ve been working diligently on my 2012 resolution to knit enough hexipuffs for a small, lap-sized Beekeeper’s Quilt. I don’t have as many as I should, but the pile is certainly growing, and I keep a small project bag (made from a T-shirt sleeve!) full of the supplies at all times, just in case hexipuff fever strikes.

My finished hexipuffs are kept in a separate, larger bag, which sits on the floor next to my favorite knitting chair in the living room. For three days in a row, when I went downstairs in the morning I found this bag dragged to the middle of the floor. On one of these days the bag was opened, with a few hexipuffs strewn about.

At first I though my 8-year-old stepdaughter was getting a bit too curious and inconsiderate about the hexipuff project, but something didn’t feel right. This didn’t seem like a cut-and-dry case of kid mischief.

One evening I was sitting in my bed, watching some Netflix and knitting a bright pink hexipuff, which has become on of my favorite ways to wind down my day. When I finished the hexipuff I handed it to my husband, who pretended to use it as a pillow and play with it a bit while I grabbed more yarn and began another.

When bedtime came, I asked for the hexipuff back, but Ismael didn’t have it. He had at one point gone to the kitchen to get some water, and I assumed he accidentally took the hexipuff to the kitchen table and left it there. No problem, I thought, I’ll get it in the morning. And off to bed we went.

The next morning I found no hexipuff on the kitchen table, and I hadn’t found it when shaking out the bed sheets and blankets, either. On the plus side, my hexipuff bag was still in its place by my chair, unperturbed.

For two days I kept up the hexipuff hunt. I had upturned just about every surface in our bedroom, quadruple-checked my hexipuff project bag, and steadily escalated the accusation against my husband. He must have kept the hexipuff on purpose, as a token of my sanity.

But throughout those two days, the hexipuff bag by my chair remained undisturbed. I began to suspect that the missing hexipuff and the ignored hexipuff bag were connected. And then it hit me.

The missing hexipuff is discovered!

I noticed that my rabbit’s “house” – a small sleeping hut intended for cats – was slightly ajar and pushed away from the wall. And there it was. The missing hexipuff had been purloined and hidden by 3, our 2-year-old Californian/Holland Lop mix. (Yes, his name is 3. It’s from a comic book)

The hexipuff was covered in rabbit fur – and probably spit – and thus it became a new rabbit toy, unfit for human use.

This means that 3 was also the culprit behind the hexipuff bag disturbances. So great was his interest in the tiny pillows that he would sneak down to the living room at night and try to abscond with them. So, when Ismael got up that fateful evening to get water, he must have dropped the hexipuff to the floor, and 3 saw his chance. He stole and hid the hexipuff, probably playing with it while we were away at work and school during the day.

The scoundrel.

Since the incident, there have been no further attempts to steal other hexipuffs. It seems 3’s desire to possess one of his own has been sated. I shouldn’t be mad. After all, it’s not as if he has enough toys already:

The toy collection of one spoiled rabbit.

Why Vegan?

23 Jan

Cotton is the most common vegan fiber. Photo by scottchan.

You may have noticed that there is one common theme for all of my projects on this blog: The yarn is vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle in which you abstain to the best of your ability from eating or using any materials derived from or tested on animals. This includes meat, dairy products, most mainstream toiletries brands, leather, silk and wool.

I’ve lived a vegan lifestyle for four years, and was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 6 years before that, which means I didn’t eat meat or fish, but I did eat eggs and dairy, and I used products made from and tested on animals. The switch came from my belief that human veganism is most in-line with my views on morality and biology. I believe humans are meant to be herbivores – though we can tolerate omnivorous diets – and I believe that I should respect the web of life that I am a part of by not causing any harm to other living creatures. This belief is also called “ahimsa” in Sanskrit, and literally means “to do no harm”. It is a term many people are familiar with because Mohandas Gandhi applied it to his non-violent revolution in India in the 1940s.

I have a tattoo on my forearm of "Ahimsa" in Sanskrit as a reminder to respect all life. Though many tattoo inks contain animal fat, this brand of tattoo ink is vegetable-based.

In the knitting world, I belong to a small, sometimes unwelcome community. Knitters who use animal fiber – wool, mohair, angora, silk, etc. – may believe that animals are intended for human use, and others still may work with those animals and have close relationships with them, seeing to their welfare and treating them fairly. I understand that some farms do treat their sheep, llamas or rabbits with respect and love. However, the idea of veganism promotes the respect of all animals, and not just the lucky few who live on nice small farms.

Say for instance that a small farm with less than 20 sheep produces high-quality yarn from their herd. This yarn will cost significantly more and be produced in tiny batches. Large companies that ship yarn to every craft store in America will need much more wool. They will likely use factory farms to get their wool. These factory farms are pretty much exactly what they sound like: Factories. The animals unlucky enough to be raised in these factories are not treated as individuals and often live short lives in filthy, cramped conditions. Because sheep are also killed for meat, much of this wool comes from sheared sheep on their way to slaughter, or even from their skin after slaughter. This mass production of wool means that skeins of yarn cost significantly less for the consumer, and many knitters will buy these brands because they are budget-friendly.

I don’t believe that these knitters are evil, careless people. But we live in a mass-production society, and often animals are caught in the cross-hairs of consumerism. If I purchased and used a wool yarn from a small farm where the sheep were loved and lived out long and happy lives, I would break solidarity with the unfortunate sheep serving their lives as cogs in a factory farm. If I knit a cute wool hat made with yarn from well-treated sheep, I may inspire another knitter to make that same hat out of factory-farmed wool.

Silkworm cocoons are boiled with the worms inside them to create silk (with the exception of “wild silk”, which uses found cocoons). Factory-farmed angora rabbits are tied spread-eagle and shaved, not carefully plucked by a hand-spinner. For every single animal raised with love, a thousand are treated with no regard for their life or comfort.

Some animals are harmed indirectly in the production of crops for plant fibers like cotton, bamboo, soy and corn silk. However, through vocal opposition of careless farming and harvesting practices, veganism continues to support a harmless alternative to animal fiber. Cotton may not be nearly as warm as wool, but at the end of the day I can wear my handknits and know that I did my best to live according to ahimsa.

I hope that non-vegan knitters read my blog. I want to share the joys and frustrations of knitting with all of you. But if anyone is turned away from my work because of my vegan lifestyle, I won’t apologize. I try my hardest to lead a good life, even when it places me out of the mainstream.

To learn more about veganism and mass wool production, visit the Vegan Society website.

Rose Red

22 Jan

This hat is a bit slouchy, and the cable decreases to the center.

I’ve had garter stitch on my mind lately. Garter stitch is the most basic pattern in knitting, and is usually the first thing any fledgling knitter learns. The simplicity of knitting every row, front and back, to create a fabric with little horizontal bumpy ridges, is the equivalent of crawling when it comes to knitting techniques. I believe that because of this, many knitters are happy to leave garter stitch behind as their skills develop, and will go years choosing patterns with little or no garter stitch. Garter stitch is just for beginners, right?

Wrong.

After spending a few years leaving garter stitch in the dust, I can’t get it out of my mind. Because it’s so simple, it gives patterns a classic, almost retro feel. The texture is soft and stretchy, and the little ridges can feel delightful against your skin. Just about every pattern I’ve been interested in lately has at least a little garter stitch.

In this garter-stitch craze, I stumbled across the Rosebud hat pattern by Brooklyn Tweed designer Jared Flood, and is part of the Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2011 design line. I knit Jared Flood’s Cobblestone sweater pattern for my dad for Christmas (another pattern using garter stitch!), and was very impressed with the quality of the pattern’s publication. I was pleased again with the simple but detailed instructions included for the Rosebud hat.

From start to finish, my Rose Red hat (named for my favorite fairytale character from my childhood) took only two days and about 140 yds of the Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton my mom gave me for Christmas. The colorway is True Red, and I think it suits this pattern perfectly.

Rose Red is slouchy enough to be a stylish accessory, but fits perfectly to keep my ears warm.

I originally planned on knitting the longer, slouchy version of the hat, but my yarn ran out too early. However, I have a small head, and the smaller size fits me perfectly with a little bit of slouch in the back.

Next to my TARDIS socks, this is probably my favorite knitted item. I think the pattern, yarn and color are perfect, and I’m so excited to wear my new hat everywhere.

I would recommend any Brooklyn Tweed pattern. The quality of design is fantastic, and every item looks like a modern, stylish take on a classic theme – like a long, meandering cable braid in a sea of garter stitch.

Husband Socks 2.0

16 Jan

There's about a 2-inch reason I knit more socks for myself than my husband. This is just a quick toe comparison. The socks are aligned at the heel. Keep in mind, his feet are also wider.

Last spring I knit my husband his first pair of hand-made socks. He liked them, but he’s not the type to be overly excited by things like socks, especially handknit socks, which are quite warm and only wearable in the cold, dark times of the year. (At least for him. I wear mine year-round. That’s commitment.)

So I was a bit surprised when I bought some yarn to make him another pair of socks late last fall and he seemed excited. He’d never asked for another pair, never seemed particularly interested in socks I was knitting for other people, and didn’t wear the ones he had very often.

But, with just a touch of encouragement, I was thrilled to make him another pair of socks just in time for those cold, dark days.

The problem was – as it always is with men and knitting – selecting a pattern that was simple enough to respect his masculinity, but interesting enough to keep me engaged. The glorious solution came in the Stepping-Stones pattern from “The Knitter’s Book of Socks” by Clara Parkes. Though I don’t have the book, I did find the pattern for free on Ravelry.

Now, here is an important tip for getting approval on sock patterns for men: Show them an example of the item in the color you plan to knit with. I’ve noticed, similar to obnoxious couples touring homes on HGTV, that men can’t seem to separate the item from its color. So, just like first-time homebuyers walk away from an adorable bungalow because the bedroom is painted chartreuse, men will wrinkle their noses at any pair of socks that aren’t the specific color they want. They don’t see the pattern, they see that exact pair of socks, color and all. It’s frustrating, but I’ve found that color matching my samples is the key to getting the go-ahead on patterns. It was just my luck that the main sample photos for Stepping-Stones are also in a burnt orange color, and Ismael approved.

The simple texture of these socks is a great feature for the knitter and recipient.

These socks are knit with Berroco Comfort DK, purchased on sale from Loopy Knit/Crochet in Missoula, Mont. They are thick and soft and machine washable! I sometimes feel bad for using this yarn all the time, but then I remember there are a lot of reasons for that. 1. It’s vegan (like me!) 2. It’s machine-washable 3. It’s very soft 4. The ball sizes in the fingering and DK weight are perfect for sock knitting. 5. It’s affordable, and for the time being I have a very limited knitting budget.

These socks are knit top-down, with a cuff and leg length of 5.75 inches. I modified the heel flap to a standard slipped-stitch eye-of-partridge heel. The pattern recommended a stranded technique that sounded like a bit of hassle for the same effect I could achieve this way. That’s the only modification I made to the pattern, aside from shortening the leg a bit to accomodate my yarn.

This pattern is a very quick knit and perfect for men. I wish they would embrace lace and intricate travelling stitches, but I just don’t see that happening in the near future.

Ismael seems very happy with his socks, and now has two handknit pairs he rarely wears. All is right with the world.

Coming up: “The Scent of Lavender” and “The Case of the Missing Hexipuff”

Finished socks = happy husband

3 Jan

"Ooo. I finally get another pair of socks."

A day past my deadline, I have finished my husband’s Stepping Stones socks. Details are forthcoming.

Hexipuffs

3 Jan

Hexipuffs are taking the knitting world by storm in the Tiny Owl Knits Beekeeper's Quilt.

One little, two little, three little hexipuffs.

Four little, five little, six little hexipuffs.

Seven little, eight little… well, I’ve only got eight, but you get the picture.

One of my goals for 2012 is hexipuffs. These delightful little pillows – each only about 2.5 inches wide – are part of the extremely popular Beekeeper’s Quilt pattern by Tiny Owl Knits. I started knitting them a few months ago with leftover sock yarn, and though they are not currently sewn together, I hope that by the end of the 2012, I can have at least enough hexipuffs for a small lap quilt.

Here’s to hoping. And hexipuffs.