Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cool beans

If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Here in Pennsylvania, we've been having an extreme heat wave for a couple weeks now. We hope it will break in a day or two, but you know things are messed up when 88°F (31°C) sounds cool.

Does this stop us knitting?

No it does not.

That's what air conditioning is for.

I've been making a sweater (Tempting II from Knitty, Winter 2005). Which goes to show that even 11 years later, a good pattern is a good pattern. Overall ribbing is flattering, and the yarn is a beautiful one-off colorway from Potlock Yarns called "Pools." My only change so far is that I'm making the sleeves long, figuring I'll get a lot more use out of it that way. If it's cold enough for a worsted weight sweater, short sleeves won't provide enough warmth.

Here's the "cool beans" part of the post. Remember Dewdrop Paths? I learned today that it was featured in the KnitPicks Blog as #1 in their list of "9 Things We're Loving for August." Go have a look - their other selections are summery items in shades of blue. I'm particularly fond of the stacking mug (#2) and the dark-blue semi-solid yarn (#4).

Happy knitting,

Friday, July 1, 2016

A foray into crochet

glissando {ɡlisˈsando, plural: glissandi, abbreviated gliss}: A musical term referring to either a continuous sliding one pitch to another (a “true” glissando), or an incidental scale played while moving from one melodic note to another. Italian, from French glissant, present participle of glisser, ‘to slip, slide.’
It’s the sound many people think of when they think of a harp. “Perpetual Gliss” is a small soft-sculpture crocheted harp that can be used to decorate any area. Due to the fragile nature of an open harp frame, it’s more appropriate as a decoration than as a toy. Make it for yourself or for your favorite musician. Note: Does not actually play music.
I've been crocheting since long before I learned to knit. To be honest, most of my early crochet revolved around oddly-hued granny squares that didn't necessarily get used for anything after they were finished, and once I learned how to knit, crochet didn't figure in my crafting for a long time. At times, it still calls to mind salmon tinted or pale blue acrylic purchased on sale from the local discount store.

However, because crochet fabric can be thicker and sturdier than knitted cloth, there are some items for which it is far more suitable. Case in point: my newest pattern, Perpetual Gliss.

Concert harps have such a delicate silhouette that to make an open crochet harp that would stand up, the fabric needed to be dense and sturdy. My solution? Single crochet, and lots of it, stabilized with plastic.
So what do you need to know to make one of these sweet little harps?
  1. Use any yarn weight you want with the appropriate hook. All the harps shown in the photo have the same number of stitches; only the yarn and hook changed.
  2. It's not necessarily hard, there are just a number of steps to follow. Most stitches are single crochet with a few half-double or double crochet for shaping. All the pieces are both written out and charted.
  3. You can use plastic canvas or sheets from the craft store for the stabilizing pieces, but it's not necessary. I used straws in the pillar and pieces cut from leftover food containers for the flat pieces. Just be sure the plastic you choose is clean, dry, and not too brittle - the kind with a little flexibility.
  4. The smaller the harp, the more stable the finished item. All three sizes are free-standing, but the larger size is a little wobbly. Because of the delicate nature of the open frame, they are more suitable as decoration than as toys.
  5. Each harp shown is strung with a single long length of jewelry elastic. Strings were colored with permanent marker. 

So are you ready to try making your own?
Perpetual Gliss, $5.95
View details at Ravelry | Patternfish  | Sylvia Woods Harp Center

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Joyful Lace

Photo ©KnitPicks
So I know it's been ages since my last blog post. In between designing and knitting, life happens; I won't bore you all.

But in knitting news, I am excited to share with you that one of my designs is included in the newly released KnitPicks Joyful Lace Collection. This one has been in the works since its conception in June 2014. May I present to you: Dewdrop Paths. It's available in printed book, ebook, and individual PDF download format.

It's an honor to be included with such designers as Susanna IC and Stephannie Tallent. In fact, every pattern in this book is gorgeous! Have a look, I'm sure you'll find something you like. My design looks like one of the easier knits in the collection. I originally designed it to be a take-along project with a quickly-memorized stitch pattern. It truly turned out that way, and much of the prototype was knitted in waiting rooms and hospitals. I've made two of them so far.

KnitPicks chose a lovely dusky blue yarn for their sample shawl, but I've also made it in lavender and light brown. Delicate colors are a good fit for a light and airy accessory. Here's a photo of the lavender one:

You can see how the color changes the look of the design. I don't have any pictures of the brown one yet, but they should be posted on Ravelry eventually.

Happy knitting,

Dewdrop Paths at Ravelry | KnitPicks
Joyful Lace Collection at Ravelry | KnitPicks

Friday, July 17, 2015

A long time ago in an art class far, far away

So my current ISP has decided in their infinite wisdom to discontinue the hosting of personal web pages. For the most part I don't care, but I did have my art portfolio uploaded there with a fancy-schmancy lightbox interface.

What did this mean for me? I'm not going to fight their decision, so it meant several hours yesterday evening messing around with the computer, trying to get the lightbox coding to work with Blogger. And at last it does!

What does it mean for you? A brand new page on With Strings Attached - my art portfolio. There's nothing knitting-related there, but here it is anyway, in its new home, home on the web. It's been years in the making, since long before I learned to knit, I was drawing, sketching, and painting. Enjoy!

Technical note: If any of you are trying to get an album lightbox to work with Blogger,this is what worked for me. I put the Light Box Code from Bloggerplugins.ORG into the site template following their instructions, but please note: the script sources that appear at the end of the original code are outdated and must be replaced. This only affects the script source pages at the end of the code. The original code read as follows: 

<script src='http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/prototype/' type='text/javascript'/>
<script src='http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/scriptaculous/1.8.3/scriptaculous.js' type='text/javascript'/>
<script src='http://blogergadgets.googlecode.com/files/lightbox.js' type='text/javascript'/>

I replaced it with this, and it works fine: 

<link href='http://rilwis.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/blogger/lightbox.css' media='screen' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>
<script src='http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1/jquery.min.js' type='text/javascript'/>
<script src='http://rilwis.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/blogger/lightbox.min.js' type='text/javascript'/>

Happy knitting and coding!

~ Caroline

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy First Day of Spring

So today is the first day of spring. This is what it looked like in my backyard.

A hardy robin hanging out in the peach tree

A female cardinal and junco in the rose of sharon

Hope your day was warmer!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Shout-Out to the 70's and 80's

Pantone released their Fall 2015 Fashion Color Report today. This is always an event of interest to designers - what colors will people be wearing, and what will appeal to them - and us - in the near future? According to Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman, this autumn's selection features "a truly unisex color palette." I'm loving the rich teal Biscay Bay and the vivid Amethyst Orchid. The other colors they've selected include both neutrals and brights which hearken back to shades fashionable from the 1920s through the 1970s.

All this brings me to the question: Have you ever been stuck at home because of illness or the weather and watched your way through a marathon of old TV shows? A couple channels in our cable lineup have recently begun running shows from the 70s and 80s - Mary Tyler Moore, Hart to Hart, and Magnum P.I., among others. I vaguely remember them from their first run, but since that was during the years of my childhood, I was far too young to appreciate them then. This time around, I've particularly enjoyed watching them from an adult's perspective. What surprises me is how well they hold up in the days of modern scripts and special effects.

The plots are mostly straightforward, and even the humorous characters are earnest. Modern audiences might see them as naive, but I found it refreshing. Take Jonathan and Jennifer Hart - a married couple who love each other, rather than fighting at every opportunity to give the audience a cheap laugh? Sweet! The writers didn't have the technology to rely on special effects and the censors wouldn't let them aim for shock value, so most episodes are story- and character-driven. Even the "tough" characters rarely swear, and the little they do is on the mild side by today's standards. Sarcasm is rare enough to be notable. And if all that adds up to being a little less than realistic, well, that's because it's fiction. It still has entertainment value. (One exception to the special effects comment: there seem to be a disproportionate number of scenes involving helicopters. Does Hollywood make helicopter shows anymore?)

The other thing that holds up surprisingly well are some of the clothes. Many of the outfits from the late 70s and early 80s are strikingly classic. The sleek turtlenecks and elegant gowns are the best - and it would take a lot to make a man look bad in a tuxedo, don't you think? So many of them would be wearable today - right in line with Pantone's color choices! I will admit that the hair can be hilarious at times, such as an episode in which our hero and heroine are trapped in a wind tunnel cranked to top power and atomic-strength hairspray keeps their styles nearly perfect all the way to the end of the episode.

Sadly, as much as the 70s styles turned out to be way better than I remembered, the mid 80s didn't hold up nearly as well. Pastel floral prints! Puffy sleeves! Matronly hair! Awesome! (Not.) It left me wondering whether the costume designers secretly hated the actors and wanted to make them look like they'd escaped from a cotton candy factory. At least the 80s eventually left and we moved on to other styles.

Bottom line: fashions change. And sometimes that's a good thing.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Adventures in Blocking

Knitting big items has some really good points. In its favor:

1. A sense of accomplishment. You get to demonstrate your sticktoitiveness and feel good about yourself, both for starting the project and for completing it.

2. Pride in your work. Others will be impressed that you made the item. When they ask, you can say "Yes, I made that!"

3. Warmth. More yarn = more warm. That's especially important when the winters are this cold.

That's all I can think of, really. Still, those are some pretty good reasons to Knit Big.

On the other hand, knitting large projects has its cons.

1. Time. More stitches take longer. Lots longer.

2. More yarn. It cost more, it's harder to store, and it makes the project less portable.

3. Blocking. Oh my, the blocking.

Some time ago, I decided to make a blanket. A warm blanket. A blanket made of worsted weight yarn, double knit. When it was finished, I was so excited. It was big! It was warm! It matched the couch!

Once the ends had been woven in, it came time to block. Well! It was too big to fit in the bathroom sink, where I usually block my handknits. Enter: the bathtub. First, I wanted the blanket to come out clean, so the tub needed scrubbing. Since I used Soft Scrub with Bleach, and wool and bleach don't play well together, I had to make sure to rinse away all traces of the cleaning product. A few minutes later, that was done. Next step: fill the tub with water and wool-wash. (I like Eucalan. It's gentle, it smells good, and it doesn't require rinsing.) Finally, put the blanket in to soak.

So far, so good. Here's what I didn't consider: the blanket contains about 3,300 yards of pure wool. Do you know how heavy that gets when it is wet? The answer: VERY. Wringing the excess water out was quite the adventure. It involved some experimenting with towels, squeezing by hand, and squishing the blanket with bare feet and a death grip on the bathtub hold-bars like I was stomping grapes to make wine. Finally, I wrapped it in beach towels, put the whole sodden mess in a laundry basket, and made a trip downstairs to the opposite end of the house to put the blanket in the washer on spin cycle. Fortunately, enough water came out to air-dry the blanket over the shower curtain rod with no mess. Yay! Now if I could only figure out why I feel the need to start projects like this at 11:00 at night.

Since this was my own pattern, I decided that the pattern needed to include washing instructions for any brave knitters who want to take it on. There's no need for trial and error for you, the knitter. Here, for your enjoyment and edification, are my instructions on how to hand-wash and block a large project. If you have any suggestions for a better way, please leave them in the comments!

A Word About Blocking
an excerpt from Mayan Hot Cocoa Blanket by Caroline Steinford

This is a heavy blanket to begin with, and when it gets saturated, it becomes MUCH heavier. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't wet-block it. It's a utilitarian as well as a decorative object, so at some point it will need washing.

If you plan to machine wash, follow the instructions on your yarn label regarding water temperature and delicate cycles. After all the work you put into this project, you don't want to risk felting or shrinking it unintentionally.

If you are washing by hand, use a large container, such as a bathtub or (clean) utility sink. Soak the blanket according to the instructions on your chosen detergent. When soaking time has elapsed, drain the tub or sink. Now comes the tricky part: getting the water out. With your hands, wring out what you can. It probably won't be much. If you are using a bathtub, you may be able to VERY CAREFULLY use your bare feet to squeeze out some of the remaining water. Warning: wet surfaces are slippery! If you do this, be sure to take precautions so you don't fall.*

After as much water as possible has been removed, carry the blanket to the washing machine. (If you have a distance to go, try wrapping it in a large towel or two to prevent drips across your floor.) Use the spin cycle to remove the rest of the water. The blanket should now be manageable enough to air dry. You can use a large flat space like a bed or floor as for smaller blocked items as long as you make sure to flip the blanket periodically so both sides can dry thoroughly. Alternately, you can hang the blanket over a shower curtain rod. Pro: air can circulate freely, drying both sides of the blanket more quickly. Con: your bathroom will smell like wet wool until it does. To minimize this, use a fan to circulate more air and shorten drying time.

* According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. alone over a quarter of a million people are injured in the bathroom each year, and more than 80% of those are fall injuries. - http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6022a1.htm