Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finishing School: A Master Class For Knitters by Deborah Newton

If you hate finishing your sweaters, raise your hand.  Me!  Me! Me!  Why?  Well, it is similar to washing dishes: tedious, time consuming and somewhat boring.  After reading Deborah Newton's new book, Finishing School: A Master Class for Knitters I think I might actually start to enjoy seaming, picking up stitches, etc.  I suppose I never liked doing those things because I only had a vague idea how to do them so I would end up rushing through just to get it done.  This book answers a lot of questions I spent doing some late night Googling and feeling a bit embarassed to ask other knitters.  For a few examples: why are there HOLES along the neckline when I pick up stitches?  How exactly do I sew a smooth shoulder seam?  Why is it so difficult to seam a nice seam worked in a textured pattern?  Should I pick up collar stitches on the right side or wrong side?  Well fear no more, knitters, Ms. Newton seems to magically know all our questions and has answered them all plainly in this book.

Chapter 1, Finishing 101 is a basic overview of  finishing and what sort of tools you need to get the job done.  Choosing a pattern that is right for you and using schematics is also discussed.

Chapter 2 is Blocking Basics.  For a long time I thought the only way to block something was to dunk it into a bucket of warm water mixed with a bit of Woolite (yikes! what was I thinking???) and pinned down onto a dry towel.  I blocked the heck out of a lot of projects before I realized that some fibers need to be treated a bit more gently.  I was so happy to read that Ms. Newton doesn't even particularly like wet blocking and finds it to be unnecessary for most projects.

Chapter 3 is Seaming Seminar.  Yes, if you knit a sweater in flat pieces you have to seam them eventually.  No, they won't seam themselves.  But after reading this chapter it might be a little less painful.  The most important thing I learned from this chapter was the use of seam stitches.  I had never heard of them before, but after reading I thought the idea was so simple why didn't I think of it?  Seaming together two pieces in a complicated stitch pattern would be very difficult so why not make the job easier and add in a couple seam stitches worked in plain old Stockinette stitch.  This chapter also covers seaming the dreaded sleeve cap seam.  Stitches meet rows, ahhhh!!! run for cover.

Chapter 4 is Edgings Intensive.  And you thought that all edgings had to be either Garter stitch or rib.  Well maybe not you, but at least that is what I thought.  Learn the right way to pick up stitches, and how many stitches to pick up and let your imagination go wild with creative edgings.

Chapter 5 is Extra Credit: Buttons, Zippers, Pockets and More.  Buttons just need to be sewn on right?  With a needle and a bit of thread?  Erm, no.  If you have ever made a beautiful sweater only to have it ruined with saggy buttons you know it is not that easy.  And don't even get me started on zippers.  I made one cardigan with a zipper and was a bit less than pleased with my sewing job.  Now that I know the correct way to sew it in (which is not the close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best method) I might actually try it again.

Chapter 6 Continuing Education: Special Finishing.  Covers a few miscellaneous topics like alterations, linings, felting, and (gasp) steeks.

Scattered throughout the book are projects associated with the various techniques explained.  I might not rush out to knit any of them (beautiful as they are) but it really helps to read the why and how and then see the ideas implemented into a pattern.  This book was a bit difficult to get a hold of.  In early December I ordered it from Amazon and got a notice that it was on back order.  A month went by with no update until I got an email from Amazon that my order was being cancelled because the book was still on back order.  Luckily I checked Knit Picks and found that not only did they have it on their website but it was on sale.  It appears to still be on sale, you can find it on the Knit Picks website here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Busy New Year

The end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 have kept me busy with lots of projects.  Most of them I can't really share yet, but a few non-knitting related ones I can write about.  A few days after Christmas my husband and I took a two day trip to Savannah.  On our way there some sort of projectile hit the sunroof on our car and completely shattered it.  Luckily no one was hurt and after a very creative tape job with some plastic sheeting and contact paper we were able to continue on with our little vacation.  We brought along our dog, so the activities we could do were rather limited.  But we were able to enjoy some good food and visited Old Fort Jackson.  Being in the military, my husband was really excited to visit a civil war fort and he happily explained to me how the cannons worked.  I brought along a new hat I had made for him and found the perfect place to photograph it while we were exploring Fort Jackson.  I hope I can find some time soon to write up the pattern.  This one uses twisted stitches (one of my favorite things to knit!) and is worked up in a lovely mustardy yellow worsted weight wool.  Hubby might not look like he's having a good time, but he really was happy to have a hat to keep out the cold wind.
When we got home from Savannah, I found an Amazon box waiting on my doorstep.  It was a late Christmas present to myself.  I had received a canning set for my birthday and wanted the Ball Book of Home Preserving.  I successfully canned some spicy applesauce that turned out fantastic!  Next up are some pickled vegetables.  Along with the canning book I purchased Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills.  I'm a big fan of the Little House on the Prairie books and always wonder exactly *how* they processed the wheat, smoked meat, milked the cow, etc.  My inquiring mind just had to know, so I got this book.  It explains the basics of how to do so many homesteading skills, I can't even begin to list them all.  For example: how to build a log cabin, how to dig a well, how to build a smokehouse, etc.  There is a whole section on handcrafts that include how to made natural dyes, and how to spin and weave.  While reading the chapter on how to grown your own vegetables I was inspired.  My New Year's resolution for 2012 is to get rid of my completely black thumb.  Thus far I have managed to kill every plant I have tried to grow either from over- or under-watering.  This year will be different!  I hopped on over to Home Depot and got an array of seeds and some little peat pellets that came in their own plastic greenhouse.  It is far too cold to grow these outside, so I tried to pick vegetables that will work in pots indoors.  I am happy to say that as of this morning I have some radish and lettuce sprouts!
On New Year's Eve my poor little doggie was sick.  He was acting funny all morning; several times he wanted to go outside but he wouldn't do anything then he would run back inside.  He hopped up on my lap and then I saw what the problem was.  A brown thing, about the size of a sunflower seed, was sticking out of his side.  This was my first experience with a tick.  Hubby wanted to pull it out himself, but poor little Che was sick to his stomach a few times so we ended up going to an animal hospital.  The vet there was very nice and pulled out the tick and gave us a few medicines to keep him from vomiting more and prevent any tick related diseases.  Che did not have a good time though, he jumped up against me in his "Mommy, save me!" stance.  He is ok now, and is very happy to take his medicine in lumps of cream cheese.
As far as knitting goes, the secret projects continue on and the calls for submissions keep coming in.  Better publish this post and get back to knitting!