Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Xmas FOs -- Hats! and more

My babies are out the door, hopefully warming their new owners. I was almost sad to see them go. At least a few of them genuinely looked good, so I hope to get up pics of people wearing them soon. Here's one of Sylvia in her cloche:

I started most of the hats from the top down, based on the hat pattern in Interweave Knits' winter 2004 Crochet special issue, and did something different once I got to the right diameter for the crown. (Bought an old copy from a LYS, but it's not on Interweave's website.)

The pattern has a helpful but hard-to-understand tip to keep the seam from roving as you crochet in the round in one direction. Basically, you start every other row one stitch ahead of where you normally would. Because the last stitch then overlaps with the slip stitch/turning chain, this produces a tighter, less visible seam. One of these days I'll put together a photo tutorial.

The above brim, I adapted from Crochetme's Gulf Shores cloche pattern. The flower is from The Happy Hooker's Spring and Winter hat/scarf pattern. The yarn--Plymouth Outback Wool--is a find, with 370 yds/hankd for $16!

I certainly got a lot of practice making hats! Here are a bunch; the ones on the right are for my 8 month old nephew. Unfortunately the gray skies washed out all the colors. :(

Besides the cloche above, my favorites are the gray/light blue starburst hat and the bobble hat below:

... there were some scarves in the mix, too. Here's one with detail. The photos don't do it justice; the yarn is beautiful and lustrous, Lang Pearl in #0046.

I still have a couple projects left, then it's back to sweaters for myself.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sweater Deconstruction

In the last post I mentioned recycled sweater yarn into hanks. Here are some pics of the various stages. I more or less followed Ashley Martineau's very helpful tutorial.

Started with a very nice sweater that didn't fit well. 1) took the seams apart--tricky the first time! 2) unraveled the yarn into balls. 3) wound them into hanks and tied them, like funny christmas wreaths--slightly wrong, since I was supposed to tie the ties like figure 8's to minimize tangling.

Then I soaked them in mildly warm water with a small squirt of my regular shampoo, gently squeezed (but did not wring) out the excess water, rolled them in towels, and then hung them to dry over a vent in the bathroom. Wound them back into balls, luckily no tangles.

Voila! After about two evenings' worth of work, 1000-1200 yards of sport weight, high quality, 97% wool/3% elastic yarn. Soft, squishy, beautiful.

My apartment doesn't get a lot of light, so the pics are always a little off. But my friend Sheila loves this color so I am going to crochet a keyhole scarf for her.

If I'd known I was going to get into this, I would have bought a yarn swift and ball winder instead of a sweater machine. Argh!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Holiday

I turned in Chapter 4 several days ago. Woo-hoo! Rewarded myself by goofing off the whole weekend. Last night my sister Song came over and we watched "Go" and ordered out for Zachary's deep dish pizza (yum....). She spent the night and I made waffles this morning. Then my friend Sheila came over and we headed off to the Telegraph Avenue holiday street fair in Berkeley. Sheila went mad taking photos of everything. Here are some pics:

I decided to "unveil" my face because I find blogs with pictures of people more interesting. (But I'm not using my legal name because I dont' want to wonder if employers and colleagues--I have some work that appears on the web--might read some inane entry later on. After all, I used the word "boobs" in a post about the Sweet sweater. That's very me. That is not, however, very professional sounding.

Sheila labeled this "Liberation Groupy":

If you look closely, the banner says WWW.LIBERATIONINK.COM. Proceeds go to community organizing in San Francisco. I snapped up the olive cap sleeve t-shirt, which has a network of human hearts and reads: "keep loving/your heart is a muscle the size of your fist/keep fighting". Inspiring and cute to boot.

Speaking of cute, look at my hubby:

The hat, BTW, is a brimmed beret I crocheted right before Halloween, which I always wear tipped back. I saw a several vendors with knit and crocheted hats, including brimmed berets, and felt a little smug that I could make one myself.

Last night I unraveled a stretchy wool sweater from Banana Republic that never did fit me right. Someone told me about recycling yarn from thrift store sweaters. I read this helpful tutorial before getting started. Here I am winding balls into hanks before washing them to straighten out the kinks. The hanks are drying in my bathroom as I type. Man, it's a lot of work! Only worth it if the yarn is nice.

It was a good day. Only seven days to Xmas and so many projects to crochet and knit!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter/Xmas Projects

First of all, I am still bogged down in Chapter 4. 42 pages and counting, me swimming in news articles and archival documents. A vampire's life: after crocheting late into the night I was inspired to write some more. Fell into bed at 4am, got up at noon.

Finished two Xmas presents. The pink one, in Trendsetter Granito, is a cloche from's Fabulous and Flirty Crochet. Given the color variations, I skipped the fuzzy accent yarn. Also added another row of shells. The multicolor one is a stocking hat made from some sock yarn I got ages ago. It fits almost as tight as a skullcap. Basic Dc; rolled up brim in the simplest V-stitch. You can't see it in the picture, but I topped the brim join with cute little points that stick out when you wear the hat.

Scary looking, isn't it? Reminds me of Edward Scissorhands, tatty and unfinished. Frou Frou cardigan (from Stitch n Bitch Happy Hooker) turned out too narrow in the back (and I checked the gauge, goddamn it!). I've made so many adjustments, the pattern will be useless until I get to the trim. Plan to rip out a few inches at the bottom to make it shorter. But the way it's hanging so unevenly perturbs me.

It's fun design the garment as I go and watch how the fabric behaves. See how the grain of the fabric slants in the front? Happens purely from the way it lays across the chest, as the torso narrows towards the waist. Now I think I can design a bolero jacket using the same stituch pattern.

Oh, and I took up handknitting again. Spent a couple of hours browsing through Knitter's Review and Knitty. Options, options!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Respect for Crochet

The night before Thanksgiving, I stayed up late putting my Ultimate Sweater Machine together and giving it a try. I didn't have a suitable table so I attached it to the breakfast bar. (See the glass of beer?) I'll post on that whole experience later.

Here's the fingerless glove I made one evening, based on a pattern at My partner had been asking for it for weeks. I used leftover Knitpicks Merino Style, nice and soft. I'm modeling it on my much smaller hand below; it barely fits over his knuckles.

This is my progress so far on the Frou Frou cardigan. (The color faded b/c of the flash; it's a much darker green.) Some technical issues because I deviated from the pattern when starting the collar. We'll see how it goes.

I was going to work on it over Thanskgiving (and my dissertation too) but there was so much do hair at my partner's parents' house in Ashland, I kept it tucked away. But I did work on a scarf using Elann's Luna Collection and a Moda Dea eyelash yarn I got at Long's. The colors coordinated very well.

It turned out all the women present (mother in law, sister in law, brother-in-law's girlfriend) either crocheted or knitted. We all bonded over that. I was crocheting the entire time--working on either the scarf above or a wool scarf for my father-in-law's birthday, which I gave him on Friday. Soon the other women joined in with their projects.

My sister-in-law was really impressed with the lacy texture of the fuzzy scarf, comprised of shell stitches and v stitches. She said it was much more intricate than anything she knew how to do in knitting so far. Funny, 'cause I've always been envious of knitters. Anyway, I gained new respect for how crochet really lends itself to interesting textures. And when I finished a wool scarf in a few hours--Cascade 220 Heather #9454, a wonderful earthy purple, double-stranded, in front loop hdc stitch--everyone in the house was amazed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Frou Frou Trouble

I've been madly crocheting the Frou Frou sweater from The Happy Hooker every evening. (Pics later.) Recklessly, I veered off the pattern after completing the back up to row 26 of the sleeves. Started the v-increase sooner than instructed for size M, figuring I'd have a collar that laid flat rather than hugged the back of my neck.

Er, the collar just got wider and wider... I dig myself deeper and start working on one half of the sweater, decreasing at the back of the neck sooner than instructed. After decreasing at the neck edge every row, I'm almost to the front. Uh, guess I'll wing the decreases for the front panels, which are supposed to end in a point.

Other projects: One fingerless glove for my sweetie, who insisted no new yarn. A fabulously cute brimmed beret in black, bordered with a shiny red, in time for Halloween.

Came home today to find a big box on my doorstep. (drum roll please) The Ultimate Sweater Machine! $30 off at, and only six bucks shipping. My dastardly plan: to save my wrists for typing my diss and still crank out homemade gifts. Visions of crochet-embellished machine-knit scarves and hats dance in my head. Is this cheating? Will my partly-machine-made gifts sparkle less because they didn't result from painstaking handiwork?

Sweetie and I are driving to Ashland, Oregon for Thanksgiving with my partner's family. Four days is a long time with in-laws, so we'll see how it goes. We'll both be working a bit. But lots of time for crochet, I hope, to shield me from my father-in-law's hairy dog stories.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Funky wrist issues (or, I love my chiropractor)

Too much crocheting and typing: my wrist started to throb last night and I got worried it was carpal tunnel syndrome. Mentioned it to my chiropractor today, Dr. Tribble in Berkeley, and he started massaging my forearm muscles on the opposite side, especially where they connect to the elbow joint. Ouch! I asked what that had to do with it.

Apparently too much tension in the upper forearm can make your wrist wonky. He's amazing with musculoskeletal dynamics, so I took his word for it and did the recommended exercises: flexing my fingers and hand outwards and backwards to counteract all that pinching and grasping. My wrist does feel much better. Also need to regularly massage my forearm to keep it from getting too tight.

Thanks, Dr. Tribble!

Monday, November 13, 2006


First of all: I gave up on the cardigan rendition of the Sweet sweater. The yarn--some abandoned TLC Lustre--looks too bulky. Or maybe I am the one who is too bulky. So I've started the Frou Frou cardigan from The Happy Hooker.

My advisors said go on Chapters 1-3. Hurray! Slow going on Chapter 4, and here I am instead of writing because someone just forwarded a somewhat garbled but inspiring letter from an a Canadian Anglican minister. It's about her experiences visiting the people's movement in Oaxaca. A selection (paragraph breaks added):

So again at midday the Chiapanecos [an indigenous tribe], who live in indigenous autonomous communities, came to the APPO [Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca] Congress, amazingly dropped off two pickup trucks of food to feed people with during the meeting, at the remaining barricades, etc. And then they, with me in tow again, headed off on a two hour procession through the streets of Oaxaca. They were still fasting, and it was hot and we walked, women on one side, men on the other, for blocks and blocks with Oaxacans clapping, and many crying to see such a sign of love.

All of the city is occupied, but especially the central square, the Zocalo. There is no civilian movement allowed there, even the cathedral's shut down. So we arrive at the permanent police line. The elders speak at length with the police and suddenly the lines are opening up, and we are squeezing through two nasty looking tanks and then along the deserted street, lined with very, very scary police in full riot gear, down to these wierd pads covering their legs and feet, all with plexiglass sheilds and faces of stone.

We go all the way to the steps of the cathedral where we engage in songs and prayers, much kneeling on stone (I'm glad I'm an Anglo-Catholic). This goes on for at least an hour, and much to my deep honour, at the end the Mayan elder asked me if I would come and say a closing prayer. So on the steps of the cathedral steps this mild-mannered Anglican priest basically stole from her All Saints Day Sermon, and prayed to our God, the God of Life who created heaven and earth, prayed for those who build God's Kingdom on earth, for the martyrs who have died for the love of God, and then reminded the grey police who ringed the ring of beautiful Mayans that they are sons of this same God, and owe Him primary allegiance. We then processed out of this circle of death, back onto the streets.
I hadn't been keeping up with the situation in Oaxaca, but the letter caught my imagination because I had a magical time in the city several years ago. It was a peaceful, friendly city (in my eyes as a tourist) with marked political ferment. There seemed to be a protest or march every other day: children demanding more funding for education, teachers demonstrating at a major intersection, and rallies against U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. Music, carnaval mixed in with all of it.

Don't know enough about events to give an analysis, and don't really want to use this blog for that purpose anyway. But if anyone is interested, here are links to pics of the uprising and federale presence in Oaxaca, an article that summarizes the origins of the conflict, and a recent article on nyc.indymedia.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Yarns

Quickly, because I'm supposed to be writing Chapter 4 now... A little while ago I went to Artfibers' knit and crochet show. I was a little disappointed by the dearth of crochet showings. Isn't that always the way? But there was a gorgeous cardigan made of linked double crochet--the inspiration for the waist band on the Sweet sweater. I bought three balls of Ming and asked them to wind some extra balls from their last cone.

Also got Trendsetter's Granita--a soft bulky one-ply--from Article Pract to make a cloche for my friend. Poor thing got into a car accident and had some stitches in her scalp. She now needs to wear hats while her hair grows out.

The swatch is in a textured stitch, from a cloche pattern in's Fabulous and Flirty Crochet.

Completed Felting Projects

I learned how to felt crocheted items this summer. Love Patons Classic Merino and Knitpicks wool yarns (Wool of the Andes and Merino Style)! They're really affordable too.

The first project, I adapted from a large messenger bag pattern in Hip to Crochet. Instead of having raw edges on the outside I turned them inward. The bag measures about 8.5" x 11" x 2.5" with a strap long enough to wear across the body. Gave it to my friend Scott for his b-day. He loves it. We all call it a "man-purse."

Materials: Patons Class Merino (worsted), 2 balls Royal Purple, 1 ball Leaf Green, 1 ball Grey Mix, and 1 ball Aran. Also tossed in some leftovers: Knitpicks Merino Style (DK) in Cream and in Storm.

Made another man-purse exclusively with Knitpicks Merino Style for my spouse, will post the picture later.

This one I made for myself. It's about 13" wide and 11" tall. Long straps. Stuff tends to get lost in it so I need to make a lining with pockets.

My own improvised design, with three pieces sewn together. The bottom of the bag is a long oval crocheted in the round. The two sides have with tapered shoulder straps. Mostly single crochet, except the diamond effect with 5-dc shells. I wound up with small gaps between shells, though the bag is perfectly functional.

Materials: Patons Classic Merino, 2 balls Leaf Green, 1 ball Royal Purple, and 1 ball Aran (actually, leftovers from the previous bag).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sweet - Finished (or almost?)

My first sweater!

Frogged the last version back up to the v-neck join, where I tied it off and joined anew at one of the armpits. Then I crocheted in the round, reversing direction after each row to keep the pattern regular. Did sc in back, then transitioned to hdc then dc (and then back to hdc and sc) in front for about three rows to simulate sideways darts for boobs.

The waist band: alternate one row of linked double crochet, right side facing, with one row of: sc/dc/dc in one stitch, skip two stitches, repeat. (For how-to on linked Dc, see "linked treble crochet" directions.) Then half double crochet in one direction to hem, with dart inc

Finishing: Bordered the neckline in single crochet with red to draw the eye upward. I'm wondering whether to add sleeves, either in the same color as the body or in red. My husband is rooting for the cap sleeves, but it's getting cold.

This was a beta version so I used Soft by Red Heart, which has great shine and stitch definition but turned out not to bounce back when stretched. Lesson learned: look for yarn with some elasticity for fitted items.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Affordable yarn

I'm a grad student and don't have a lot of money for yarn. But I love natural fibers. So I spend a lot of time hunting through the web for good deals.

My favorite so far is Knitpicks which contract manufactures its own lines of yarn. You can get 100% wool yarn, reasonably soft (Wool of the Andes), for as low as two bucks a ball in really intense colors. Or go for a really soft DK weight merino wool (Merino Style) for $2.49. Both are awesome for felting projects. My favorite is Elegance, a soft, sheeny silk/alpaca blend at $4.29 a ball. They have pretty low shipping charges and color cards for almost all their yarns.

I've also ordered discount yarn from Elann. But you really have to know what it is you're ordering. Spend $20 and you'll get color samples of several yarns each month that are going to go on special.

If you want to splurge on sumptuous yarn, I recommend Artifibers. They also manufacture all their own (very original) yarns. I think the prices are reasonable considering the incredible design quality--rich variegated colors, interesting textures and fiber combinations. At their showroom in downtown San Francisco, you can knit or crochet swatches for free and have a nice conversationwith their staff, especially Kira the manager who tries to keep up with crochet trends. In fact, they're having an urban crochet fashion exhibit Sunday October 8 and I am so going.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


My first crochet-along, and my first real sweater ever.

After some trial and error I followed the template for the Sweet sweater at www.crochetme. com--starting with 7" for the back of the neck--to figure out the base chain length and where to increase for the raglan shoulder seams. Then I reduced the back by a few stitches, and increased the sides by a few stitches to accommodate my long upper body.

Even so, I had to shift the raglan seam increases towards the center body a bit as I went. Then after joining at the bottom of the V neck, I did some dart seam decreases front and back to keep it nicely fitted.

Most of it is in double crochet so far. Kinda boring, but the increases went at the right pace. I always have a problem with the seam wandering when I crochet in the round, so after joining I started to spiral. To keep the beginning of the spiral from looking too funky, I did the first round with single crochet (sc) and then the second round with half-double-crochet (hdc). Then back to dc. It's still a little funky with the plain yarn, but oh well.

I'm also using pretty cheap yarn--Soft by Red Heart, soft acyrlic with nice sheen but probably will pill terribly. But I figure I should finish one sweater (all those balls of unused yarn from aborted projects!) before I allow myself nicer yarn.

I plan to add another color to make long , somewhat flared sleeves with embellishments and perhaps a color block waist band. The bottom will flare out a bit too, for a nice hourglas look I hope.