Thursday, July 25, 2013

Loser Mo vs Barbara Walker

Life has been pretty calm here in the Pacific Northwest.  I actually haven't been tortured by freakish, little, old ladies of late.  Also, on a good note, I haven't done anything that would take away my points towards becoming an awesome mo.  In fact, I may have added points because I made apricot jam the other day and I'll be doing blueberry today.

Anyway, lets get down to the issue at hand.  I (yes, loser mo Buck Strong) have decided to take on Barbara Walker.  (That's right girl; you and I are going down on the mat!)

It all started the other day when I was contemplating what type of stitch I wanted to use for a cardigan that was floating through my mind.  Yes, I have visions of sweaters.  Hmmm...I wonder if that makes me a knitting saint or something.  Ooops, digressing again.  So, the cardigan vision needs a stitch pattern.  I quickly grab my three volumes of Ms. Walker's "A Treasury of Knitting Patterns" to see what strikes my fancy.  I'm sure this is what most people would do.  However, there are a couple of problems with picking a pattern from her books.  First, there is way too much material and it can be a bit overwhelming.  Second, and in my opinion the most troublesome, the pictures really, really suck.

I was like three or so when the first book was published and it seems like the pictures haven't been updated through any of the subsequent printings.  I almost feel as though I'm looking a knitting patterns from an episode of Dark Shadows but without all the fun.

Now, this is the point where my brain got involved.  It popped up and said, "Hey, Loser Mo, why don't you knit up those samples and take better pictures?"  Then I replied, "Uggh, Brain, please."  However, my brain kept nagging me and I found that I had to relent.  It's actually, an interesting adventure.  I'm going to knit up the patterns from Barbara's first book and chronicle my findings here.
(Should I be cursing my brain now?)

Let's start.  This is from page 10.  It was knit on US 3 and the yarn is some left over Baby Ull that I had lying around.  I don't have the label but I think that it's sport weight.
This is the sample before I blocked it.  I did a garter stitch border to help with the curling.  The swatch is the reverse of the picture in her book.  The bottom band is plain Stockinette Stitch.  The next band is Crossed Stockinette Stitch, then Twisted Stockinette Stitch and lastly Garter Stitch.

We all have had experience with plain Stockinette and Garter; so, I'll not comment.

Out of the four stitch patterns I found that I liked the Twisted Stockinette the best.  It has nice texture and is not at all complicated.  I think that with a thicker yarn, it would be fab.

Now, to the Twisted Stockinette, can  just say, "Why bother."  In my opinion, this is a total pain in the butt stitch ("PITBS") mostly due to the fact that you have to purl through the back loop.  I have only ever encountered purling thorough the back loop in knitted lace.  It's a pain then but to have to do it for every stitch is agony.

If you are not familiar with this stitch, let me show you.
First, you have to insert the needle through the back loop from left to right.  Giant pain already because you have twisted the stitch on the right side of the work, PITBS.  I found that I had to pull down on the material to make a space to get the needle into the stitch.  I also wished I had used my lace points.  Yes, that is a gin and tonic in the background.  I needed it to get through all of the back-loop purling, PITBS.
Once you have wrangled that needle in through the back loop, you can wrap your yarn around and purl.  Now, I'm a Continental knitter; this may be easier for someone who knits English but I doubt it, PITBS. (Notice that the gin is still back there.

Here is the sample blocked.  (Well, not really blocked, I just ran over it with a steam iron.)  The Twisted Stockinette still leans to the left.  I'm thinking that a hard wet block would straighten things out but I still think the pattern is way too much work for very little product.  However, if you like gin and tonic, you may want to pursue this stitch pattern for your sweater visions.

First sample down...Yeah!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fiber vs Gym

The weather here in Portland has been absolutely amazing.  Of course, this is why we put up the wet winters.  Currently, we are having perfect blue skies with temperatures in the upper 70s and a lovely breeze coming in off the Pacific.  I mean really, this is one of the most beautiful places to live.
While I did not take this photo, this is exactly what it is like now.  Isn't Mt. St. Helens pretty? I consider this to be our volcano and not Washington's.  They can have Mt. Rainier but St. Helens is ours.  Anyway, it's during these beautiful times that the universe likes to poke a little fun at you.

This is what the has been put in front of me to shake up my day.
They look sweet don't they.  Look at them, all smiles and such.  You can almost see them going home and baking you cookies can't you.   Don't Buy Into It!  Trust me; little, old ladies at the gym are a whole different type of creature.  Really, I'm just as surprised as you but I wouldn't lie about this.  I would have never thought them to be so awful but I have witnessed it first hand.  Here, let me try to explain.

I have been a very good boy in that I have made it to the gym each day of summer break.  Not just going there and hanging out, I mean actually going there and working out, sweating, panting.  Yup, I'm buffing up.  Anyway, this past week, I was starting off my workout with pushups.  I love pushups.  Seriously, they are such a great exercise and you feel so manly after doing a bunch of them.  I especially love it when some other guy thinks he can do them better than me and then poops out after ten.  Oops, digressing again.  Stay on topic...Stay on topic...  So, at my gym there is a big open area where people stretch, do pushups, situps, etc.  That's where I'm at and I'm on about pushup 12 or so when the old ladies next to me start talking VERY loudly about their dermatological issues.  It went something like this.
"You know those skin flaps that you get?  You know, the kind that bleed when you scratch them off."
"Oh, yeah.  They are called skin tags."
"Yeah, that's it.  Well, I have them on the inside of my thighs.  But these don't scratch off."
"Maybe you should see your doctor."
"Remember that time that I had all those warts on my foot.  It was so amazing when they got rid of the big one on my heel, all the baby ones went away."

I hope you didn't just throw up in your mouth like I did.  It was far worse than what I wrote here because it went on and on.  Who knew that you could have so many gross things go wrong with your skin.  Now, imagine that you are trying to be a good, healthy person exercising up a storm and you have to listen to that.  Really, doing pushups while retching is not pleasant nor is it a skill that I would like to hone for later use in life.  Also, I don't see it as something that would increase my earning potential.  ACK!

At this point, you have to agree with me that only universe, with a sense of humour,  would put cute grandmas in my midst, the kind that might be enamoured with my knitting skills, and have them turn out to be sadistic, hags out to make decent people vomit whilst exercising.  Seriously, this is the kind of stuff that an older sibling does to the younger ones.  I guess the one silver lining here is that the conversation didn't end up with them discussing their gynecological problems.  Shudder!

Well, after that horrifying event, I had to go home and work on some sort of fiber related task.  It's just amazing how spinning wool into yarn can calm a grown man's stomach. 

As I remember from my last post, I promised to show some knitting fun.  While several of my projects are still very secret, this one is not.

This is my latest sweater fun.  Ain't it Purty?  I'm really getting into stranded/fair isle knitting and especially sweaters.  This was done all in one piece.  There is not one of those EVIL seams in this bad boy.  God, I hate piece work and seaming.  Knitting is NOT tailoring!  Oops....sorry, soapbox slipped in there.

It is bottom up construction knit in the round.  It has gussets under the arms.  You can see the gusset pattern here.  It doesn't stand out as well as I would like but it's still pretty cool.

Of course, with stranded knitting you need steeks!  I love steeks.  I really don't see what people have against them.  They are one of the most useful knitting techniques around.   So don't be afraid world, steek away!!!
I joined the front and back with a shoulder strap knit at a right angle to the body.  I have done this on all of my sweaters to date.  I really like the look, kinda sexy.  The shoulder strap pattern was continued down the arm adding even more sexiness.  Yes, I tingle all over when I think about sexy knitting.

Since the sleeves are worked from the shoulder down, I hid the sleeve decreases in the contrasting colour for a bit of subtle sexiness....

 ...and then topped it all off with a nifty pattern in the cuff and collar.

I'm very happy with the way this guy turned out.  I'm actually writing up the pattern and should have it out in a few days. 

Well, that's about it for this post.  Jeff's birthday is tomorrow and I have a ton of things planned.  Should be a lot of fun.  I'll give you a little preview.  I'm baking him lemon blueberry sweet rolls in the morning.  I just finished the dough and it's resting in the fridge. 

Until next time.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The 4th of Fun and Fiber

Well, the Fourth of July has come and gone.  It's actually not one of my favourite  holidays.  However, we have FAB neighbours and we do almost all of our holidays together, including the Fourth.

As usual, we all got together for a big meal.  My responsibility was the procurement of burgers and baked beans.  Notice that I said "my responsibility." My partner Jeff doesn't like to be bothered with such things.  However, to his credit he always will help if I need it.

Anyway, coming from a southern family, I learned that when you cook, you don't cook for a few, you cook for many.  Now I'm deadly serious here.  In my family, you make food in batches large enough to feed all of Christ's soldiers and then have enough left overs for the Second Coming.

For example, my Aunt Mimi's, (pronounced Mem-ee, it's a Louisiana thing) gumbo recipe calls for a bunch of celery.  Now, in a normal world, you would think that this would mean a few of these, maybe four or five.

Not in our family.  When we say add a bunch of celery we mean one of these.
That's right!  You add the whole damn thing including the leaves.  Oh, and it also calls for 14 cups of stock.  Seriously, how can you possibly show your face at a Knights of Columbus dinner with a dish that only serves six.  You'll be lucky if they let you in the door on bingo night.

Anyway, this is the approach that I also use in cooking.  I can't help it.  Here is the Vat O'Beans that debuted on the 4th.
Of course, in the greatest tradition of Southern Cooking, I made these beans with this.
That's right baby, BACON.  Render the fat from these bad boys first, then saute your onion in the drippings.  YUM.  The bacon is then placed on top of the beans when you put them in the oven.  This particular batch used almost a pound of thick cut bacon and filled an 9"x15" baking dish.  Yes, I actually own a baking dish that big.  It's also 3" tall.  I love this dish.  Seriously.

I also thought I would try my hand at some of these.

Our neighbours LOVE deviled eggs.  Which is great, because we love them too.  Actually, I think that they are a total pain in the butt to put together.  However, being a good mo, I thought I would step out of the norm and do something a little different.  I dyed the eggs in beet juice and kicked up the filling by adding wasabi.  Then, the finishing touch was to add a sprinkle of hot, smoked paprika.  I'm calling them Red Devil Deviled Eggs.  They were the bomb.

So, what was Jeff doing while I was busy in the kitchen?  Why, he was enjoying his Holiday.  See....
Yup there he is relaxing with our two show girls.  The one on the couch is Libby and the one on the floor is Goldie.  They have REALLY big hair, poor things.  However, you know what they say, "The taller the hair, the closer to God."  My girls are pretty tight with the G dude thanks to that big hair.

The 4th wasn't all cooking and watching my partner relax; it also had a good amount of fiber fun thrown in.

I'm still working on those three fleeces of mine.  So, I decided it was time to do some combing while the beans baked.  Here is the Tub O'Wool before I started.
It was a beautiful day here; so, I decided to comb the wool outside on my deck.  Here I have the comb all loaded up.
Looks kinda nasty doesn't it.  Oh, and sorry for the white trash bit with my rugs hanging on the railing in the background.  Really, I don't leave rugs out in my yard.  I was truly just airing them out that day.

Here is the wool after the first pass with the comb.
Second pass...
Third pass...

Pulling it into roving...
Okay, now this is really white trash.  I am actually using the top to a milk jug for a diz.   It's actually the best one that I have.  I almost cried when I thought I had lost it.

And, here it is all ready for the spinning wheel.

Here is my afternoon's take.
Oh, please note that the rugs are no longer there.  I think they got moved in early because Jeff woke up, saw them and made disparaging comments about living in a trailer court.

Now, on the left are all the nasty bits that you get after you comb your wool.  Most people throw this away.  I'm too cheap to do that.  Plus it seems to be such a waste.  I actually go back and spin the nasty bits.

Here is a hank of some merino spun up from the nasty parts.
It's a bit nubby and bumpy but it's super soft.  I got three hanks of the stuff.  When I finish with that fleece, I might have enough of the nasty bits yarn to make a blanket.  I kinda like that "Nasty Bits Yarn."  Sounds scandalous, just the thing to have my mother call to remind me to go to confession.  What is it with Catholic moms and confession?  Oops, ignore me.  I'm digressing into the tortures of my Catholic childhood.

Oh, and here is the Tub O'Wool after all that combing.
 See, I made lots of progress, right?  Sigh....

Well, I'm thinking it's time for me to hit the gym.  I'm almost done with pattern writing; so, I'll definitely have some knitting to show next time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Not only a Loser Mo but also a Loser Blogger.

Well, it does seem like it has been for ever since I have chronicled my knitting adventures.  However, I really do have a good excuse.  The excuse is this; last school year was a awful.  I don't want to get into all of the icky stuff, but the short version is that my school district cut 395 teaching positions.  This raised my student load to 267.  I actually had a class of 56 seventh graders.  Okay, I may be exaggerating just a bit.  It was actually 53.  I had three of them move during the year.  So, maybe I'm a whiner.  You know, I just want to say again that I had 53 seventh graders.  Maybe I'm not a whiner but really a saint, Saint Geoff.  Only a saint would be able to teach that many seventh graders all year without killing them or him/herself or possibly both.

Enough of that, the school has been put to bed and I'm on BREAK!  Yeah!!!

Actually, a lot has happened since June 14.  This was my last day of work from the Year From Hell (you know, in my brain, when I just typed that, it was a loud, booming voice that echoed).  On that same day, my mother arrived for my nephew's graduation from college.  My sister was already here along with her partner, Keith.  In a way, it was like going from one Hell to another Hell (hmmm, still got that booming, echoing thing in the brain going on).

Here is a lovely picture of my nephew and a not ,so lovely picture of me and my partner, Jeff.  Doesn't my arm look all weird and bent.  What's up with that?  It kinda looks like I'm getting ready to take off.
Alex (I call him goober)  worked very, very hard and earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and he is making a shit-ton of money at the age of 24.  This is good, because as I age, I want him to invest in retirement property that I can live in for him.  I'm hoping he will buy one somewhere in Scotland.  However, he could twist my arm into caring for a home in Italy, France, Sweden or Spain.  It would be rough but I think I could manage. 

My mom actually had a really good time.  I have to say that I got a bit sad when she left.  I walked into the guest room and it still smelled like her.  My mom doesn't wear perfume but she has stuck with the same soap, lotion and shampoo for years.  They all add up to mom smell and it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Well, the family is once again spread out across the country and Jeff and I are at home with our herd of poodles.  Oh, one fun thing that happened during the family visit/graduation was that four of our girls went into season, at the same time.  Dealing with one is bad enough but four put me over the edge.  OMG!  They were humping each other constantly.  I finally just put them out in the yard and let them hump each other to exhaustion.  Hell, I was exhausted just watching it.

Jeff, of course wanted to breed one of them and, of course, I caved and said okay.  So, Jeff was off for a breeding adventure in Canada with our girl Gracie.  She's so pretty! You can gush over her too; I'll let you.
The stud and Gracie hit it off very well but, apparently, there were some ED issues.  The semen had to be collected manually (yes, I said manually, and yes, the picture in your brain is correct) and then placed into Gracie.  They did this three times.  Hopefully, I will be posting a picture of  cute puppies in two months time.

While Jeff was off having breeding fun, I got to go to my dermatologist.  Let me say that I am not fond of going to any doctor except for this one.  Well, actually he's not a doctor he is a PA but I digress.  The reason why I like this one is that he is Smoking Hot! (hmmmm, no echo that time)  Everything was going fine until Tim (yup we are on a first name basis) tells me that I have acne.  What?  I'm going to be 50.  Acne is the purview of middle school children, not well aged adults.  So, now I have acne medicine that I have to apply daily.  The only consolation is that this truly affirms that I am actually still 13. 

Now, it's time to get down to the good stuff, Knitting!  I actually did complete quite a bit of knitting during the Year From Hell (did you hear that echo?).  However, much of it I cannot share here as the items are heading into patterns and then into publication.  It's all very secretive and James Bond but without all the cool toys and glamourous people.  What I can say is that two of them involve colour work and one involves kilts.

I have also been trying to get back to spinning and processing the three fleeces that I have in my garage.  I am happy to say that I washed one.  Here it is in all of it's fluffiness.
This is corriedale fleece and comes from one of these.
It spins up like this.
The fleece has lots of greys, creams and a touch of dark brown.  I going to do a three ply with this so that I get a nice heathered look.  If it looks like crap, I'll just end up having a dye pot fun fest.

Speaking of fleece, I had best stop typing and get busy combing.