June 03, 2008

Salve Bellas! Photos from Italia

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Clockwise from top left: Us on the terrace in Vernazza; Horse by the Spanish Steps with a crocheted head dress; M basking in the sun in Vernazza harbor; Vernazza from above; Me & Mishka at Trevi Fountain; Me in Venice; the Colosseum; Us in the Bardini Gardens of Florence; M at Trevi Fountain; Florence's Duomo; My baby belly at Trasimeno lake in Umbria; Vernazza Harbor; Stoic Cats in the Bardini Gardens.
Most photos are clickable, but the ones of Moxie aren't.

We're back! Both tired and happy. It was a wonderful romantic trip and a great way to steal some time for ourselves before the little bundle of joy hijacks our lives. Many knits were worn, and some were photographed. The little snippet of pink in the first photo is the River Stole, Mishka made it to the Trevi Fountain and Rome, the Daktari Skirt strolled through Florence, and several sweaters kept me warm in chilly Venice.

I had originally hoped to finish the Bubble Pullover prior to our trip, thinking that at least Venice would be sweater-worthy. When that didn't happen, I realized knitting memories are created on trips even more than before, and that I would probably enjoy making the Bubble Pullover in Italy more than I would enjoy rushing through it to wear it there. I'm still not quite done. I have about five and a half inches of collar left to knit, two sleeves to seam together and buttons to sew on. I'm going to savor the process and finish when I do. I won't be able to actually wear this big alpaca sweater until late fall, regardless. It has been a lovely journey as well - my first Norah Gaughan pattern after years of admiring her work. And the Misty Alpaca yarn is heaven. I'll try to get some decent progress shots so that you can enjoy it, too.

The Bubble Pullover may well be the only knit just for me this year (gasp!). I have several projects for publication that I'm working on this summer and I'm going to sneak in some baby knits where I can before D-day. I have a feeling that the end of the year will get swallowed up by a screaming, pooping, boob-wrecking baby who has already stolen my heart.

Posted by Julia at 08:15 PM | Comments (29)

May 08, 2008

Knits for an Italian Honeymoon

Well, a pregnant Italian honeymoon. If you've known me since the early days of blogging, you know that our honeymoon was supposed to happen four years ago in Italy. Time and money have gotten in the way, but as soon as I got knocked up I was determined to go to Italy this spring, even if it meant waddling through Rome! Happily, I am not nearly as large as I envisioned at this point, so if the kid can manage not to balloon me out for another month, it should be a pretty easy trip, pregnancy-wise. In preparation for the trip I've been going through my closet to find things that fit with room to spare, because I have a feeling that all that wonderful Italian food will aid in the expansion campaign. Happily, I have much more than I thought because, wonderful things that they are, knits stretch! I'm so glad I tried things on rather than assuming I didn't have anything. The shopping can be confined to Italian shopping - the best kind.

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Knits In Action!
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: River, Birch, After Dark Nightie, Pia (top) & Daktari (skirt), Japanese Motif Skirt (Marnie), Nautical, Deciduous (Marnie), After Dark Nightie ('cause it shows off the bump)

Now I realize that it's no big shocker that the shawls fit, but it is nice to have them to accessorize the cute little empire waist dresses that have over-run my closet. (This one is from J-Crew, and may technically be a beach cover-up. Ask me if I care.) I have a little snippet of lingerie that I've been stuffing myself into, but it's short, so the belly makes it looks ever more ridiculous. The after dark nightie is much more forgiving. The skirts were a bit of a surprise. Marnie lent me the Japanese motif skirt when I visited her in March, and lamented the 40 inch waistline - how fortuitous was that? Fabulous and tons of room. The Daktari skirt still has a lot of play, too. The tops were probably the biggest surprise. Pia is still a little big on me without a blouse underneath it - a testament to how off the sizing was in the first place - and nautical fits perfectly with the aid of that fabulous invention, the yoga skirt. (Seriously back-ordered, but worth the wait if it appeals to you. I have two!) Deciduous is probably pushing it, but with a bella band I could probably manage that, too. Absolutely nothing I'm wearing is maternity. (And I'm showing more than in these pictures - my waist is 7" greater in circumference than it was when this all started.) Between yoga-wear and those adorable waistless dresses everyone is wearing, I've only gone to maternity for things like jeans and shorts. Normally I can't get anywhere near one of those empire waist dresses that pouf out below the bust because they make me look pregnant. Now that I am pregnant, they rock. Comfy, too.

The next time you see these knits of yesteryear they'll be in front of Italian architecture. Yay!

Posted by Julia at 07:38 PM | Comments (23)

May 23, 2007

What I'm Wearing Today

No time to pontificate on knitting today, so instead I bring you another "knits in action" photo.

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I. Love. This. Skirt.
Posted by Julia at 06:29 AM | Comments (40)

May 12, 2007

Friendship

When I first began blogging, I was very cautious about meeting other bloggers and commenters in person. It took me about eight months to meet with anyone, and almost two years to become completely comfortable with the concept of making in-the-flesh knitting friends from on-line.

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Nonnahs, MJ, LoriZ, MH and Yours Truly. Photo taken by LoriZ's extremely photographically gifted husband, Cam.

Oddly enough, the first person I met up with was a commenter. Mary wrote to me when I had just moved to DC. She volunteered to help out with my job search, and I was so touched that a total stranger was interested enough in me through the blog to lend a hand in that way, that I just had to get to know her. DC didn't end up being the right place for me at the time, but I still have fond memories of sock yarn shopping with Mary, our lunches in Chinatown, and her kind and generous efforts to help. I also met up with Froggy several times during that period. The two of us spent hours upon end on those rainy DC days pouring over knitting patterns and yarn in Teaism. Sadly, I have lost touch with both of these wonderful women. They seem to have departed the knit-blogging world or at least relegated themselves to lurkdom. Girls, if you are out there and see this, know that I dearly miss you both.

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HP and MJ during the vows.
I was still very shy in DC, and regret that there was at least one special person that I did not get to meet up with. I am sure there are even more. But I have made up for that loss of blog-buddy-time since I moved back to LA.

When I came back here almost all of my friends had moved (this is a city of transients if ever there was one), and with M still back in DC for six months my only option was to make friends in any way that I could. I had already cultivated a long-term e-mail friendship with Marnie and met up with her once when we vacationed here, so she was an obvious choice for a *real* friend. (MH has always been a *real* friend, and I met Kat for *real* before I read her blog as well.) From there it just grew.

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MJ looking lovely.
I began to notice more and more LA knit bloggers who shared my interest and passion for fiber and for other topics as well - environmentalism, cooking, fitness, travel. So I started collecting a larger circle of friends - first by e-mail, then at events, and finally friends "for real." It was a process, often taking at least a year of "auditioning" on the part of each person to determine whether we were a good fit. But with this small band of women I have begun to build up a network of what I believe will be lifetime friends, and we, like so many others in the blogosphere, have been truly acting on that feeling of friendship lately. I feel so lucky to have been a part of so many special events in these women's lives.

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I was just a little giddy.
A month ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to assist with MJ's wedding. A generous friend of mine performed the ceremony, and M and I served as both witnesses and photographers. It is a very special thing to be involved in a small ceremony like that, and I see MJ and I as forever bonded by it, even if our paths rarely physically cross in the years to come. (I'm sure Frank sees he and MJ as forever bonded by it, but never mind that!) It was a beautiful and perfect day - the kind that brings friendship full circle.

Now that I have made so many blogging friends, and found them all to be as great in person as they are virtually, I've become much more laid back about meet-ups. I trust my instincts, and if I have read someone for a bit and feel comfortable, then we must meet!


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Owen on his fourth day in the world.
I started seriously corresponding with my most recent blogging friend, Mames, while she was on bed rest during her pregnancy with twins. (Twins!) The hospital where she delivered was just blocks away from where I office on my remote days, so when she suggested we meet there, I didn't think twice. I would love to meet the babies. I met Mames for the first time in the maternity ward, and met Mason and Owen at the same time. It was pretty wonderful. They were so tiny and perfect. (Happy first Mother's Day, Mames!)

Friendships on line really can be lasting and meaningful (I'm writing this from Marnie and Leo's in Portland), so if you are in doubt take a chance, and if you are in town, let me know!

xox, J

P.S. Thanks to all who commented on the fire. I was particularly comforted by those who have seen many fires and assured me that the vegetation will return, along with the coyotes and geckos.

Posted by Julia at 08:28 AM | Comments (26)

March 20, 2007

Postcard from Phoenix

I made a whorl-wind journey to Phoenix this past weekend to bask in the company of my friends from the law firm where I worked right after finishing school. These are my friends with whom I made the wedding quilt; now the first of them (Ellen) is very, very pregnant and a second (Julia) is pregnant as well. The last of us left the firm in the fall, and only one of us remains in private practice (she was smart enough to do transactional work, the rest of us are litigators). It's really interesting to see the changes in our lives and careers. It's also nice to see everyone happy.

I feel like each of us has found a way to make life work, which is a far cry from the stressful blur that our first few years of practice were. Phoenix was not the right city for me, but it has a place in my heart because I did so much growing there, and made so many wonderful friends. When you get out of the strip malls and move toward South Mountain or the Superstitions, there is a quiet and an alien beauty to the place that doesn't exist in my current landscape. It was nice to remember that quiet, and to enjoy seeing so many people that I care about enjoying their lives and starting their families. The weekend was filled with happiness and hope. Here are some photos of Ellen's shower, hosted by Julia, who will be having a baby shower of her own soon...


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Photos taken by Me, Jessica and Nick.

Top to bottom, left to right: The proud father-to-be displaying his son's tiny argyles; Julia and Bert's beautiful home; Yours truly happily contemplating life from behind her Mimosa; My gifts: the soon-to-be-blogged Harvey vest and pee-pee tee-pees purchased at Edna's; Close-up of the argyles made by Ellen's mom using the intarsia method; The girls all together: Me, Julia (pregnant), Ellen (pregnant) & Jessica; The radiantly beautiful Julia with her devoted pup Chewie; Ellen's mother and Delana laughing; Ellen's darling niece; A blessedly flattering close-up of my posterior in the Daktari skirt, petting Chewie; Ellen's nephews transfixed by the presents; Homemade cupcakes from Nikki's kitchen; Ellen unfurling the "cuddle quilt" which her mother hand-stitched for her.

Edited to add: I have had a few questions on the baby argyle socks. My guess is that these are not from a formal pattern, but I will make inquiries when Ellen's mother has finished her travels. In the meantime, these very cool posts are a great place to start when making argyle socks.

Posted by Julia at 07:47 AM | Comments (9)

March 04, 2007

Modifications: A Designer's First Step

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Debut of the Daktari Dress - with a curtsy!
Right after I kicked off the createalong, I realized that before I can play with my design in earnest, I really need to get the current WIPs off my plate. Except for the Marseilles Pullover, they are all gifts and will need to be gifted soon. The Marseilles Pullover itself is best suited to cool weather, and since LA has such a short chilly season, I need to finish it if I am going to get any wear out of it this year. So while I am finishing what I started, I thought I would participate in the CAL by doing some posts on the creative process in general.

This post covers the basic starting point for most designs - modifications - and borrows photos and an example from one of our very talented CALer's, Samantha. Sam started making a version of the Daktari Skirt (Lacy Skirt with Bows) for herself, but quickly realized that a single panel of the skirt could be modified to make a dress for her daughter. The pattern is the same as the original, except that only a single panel is used and there are garter stitch straps added at the top. These are simple modifications, but brilliant - what a lovely transformation.

I was completely taken by Sam's dress idea. When I was Sam's daughter's age my grandmother had a very similar ingenious idea. She took some of her old slips, smocked them at the top to gather the fabric in, and sewed on satin ribbons for ties. I had several of these slip dresses that I wore as nighties and used to play dress-up. I still remember all the details of those little dresses - that is how much I loved them. (I know that my mother, who reads this blog, has a photo of me in one - maybe you'll send me a copy, ma? I don't know if she still has any of the nighties.)

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Guess who got the "shy" gene...
I am sure that many of you have made some sort of modification like this. We all do a little bit of tweaking to change a pattern to suit our needs, even if it is something as seemingly simple as lengthening the sleeves of a sweater or adding short rows to the bust. Don't underestimate the power of these tweaks. They aren't just useful for the project you just finished - they can also be a springboard for the next project.

Having finished her daughter's dress, Sam can now go on to make other dresses using the first one as a template. She has the measurements from the Daktari dress to use as a baseline, so for the next dress she can use the same basic shape and change the patterning. Or she could go one step further and tweak the shape a little, too. What would the dress look like with a fitted bodice? What if she changed the length a little? A completely new and different dress can be designed using what Sam has already figured out here, and with a few little changes she will have stepped from modification to design.

The same is true of little sweater modifications. I try to keep track of little details that I add to commercial patterns, and I also follow which measurements will tend to work best for me in different circumstances. I've learned over time that a bodice twenty inches in length is my "standard," and will fit in such a way to keep my midriff covered (No muffin-top to be seen here people! ). A twenty-two inch bodice will cover the waistband of my trousers and give a nice elongated look to an outfit (which is why I plan for Mishka to be about twenty-two inches in length). Twenty-five inches will give me a tunic or coat length. Knowledge of these measurements gives me a good starting point for design. I am fairly standard-sized, so I can take my measurements and simply add to them proportionally (more on that later) to get the other standardized sizes in a range, but if you aren't standard-sized you can simply figure out how differently your measurements run from the standards proportionally and then make those adjustments across the board for all sizes in a pattern. The opposite approach works as well. If you are working from a commercial pattern and know that you need to take in two inches at the waist as compared to the usual standard size you can work out that modification before you start knitting so that the piece will fit you in a flattering way.

These are just little things to think of as you design. Don't undervalue your experiences as you go along - use them for the next step. Just look at that dress!

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A stroll on the ocean in Guam. With a backyard like this, would you miss wool?


Posted by Julia at 05:47 AM | Comments (7)

February 11, 2007

Pattern Notes: Daktari Skirt

I am so freaking excited to finally be at the point where I can write up pattern notes for this skirt. As you may know from my last post, it's been a long journey. But the results are so worth it. This skirt is both feminine and extremely comfortable, which is a rare treat. I can feel "pretty" when I wear it, but still feel as comfy as I would wearing jeans. It goes well with both flip-flops and ballet flats, so you can dress it up or dress it down.

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My "photoshoot shot" graciously taken by Moxie.

Lacy Skirt With Bows
Designed by Kat Coyle, Greetings from Knit Cafe
Knit with four skeins (167 yards/skein)* of Twisted Sisters Daktari (100% Slubbed Cotton) in Cappuccino, using size US 5 and US 6 Addi Turbo circulars.
Gauge: 21 sts and 29 rows per 4" in Stst using US 5 needles; 25 sts per 4" in lace on US 6 needles.
Size: small, 26" at waist, 36" at base. This size should fit sizes 0-4. I have a 37" caboose, which it accommodates nicely.

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Close up of the lace and ribbon, with Mr. Townes.
The Pattern
First things first. There is one pattern correction: at the point where you start the waistband, you will begin on a RS row, rather than a WS row. Please make a note of this if you decide to make the skirt.

Other than that the pattern is wonderful, easy to follow, and a surprisingly quick knit. I have watched Kat's work since she was first published in Knitty in 2003, and had the pleasure of becoming friends with her through our work with Suzan on the Greetings from Knit Cafe book. I have long admired her amazing lace pieces, and her incredibly wearable knit skirts.

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The waistline.
Generally speaking, I am wary of the skirt as a knitted item, but Kat's skirts are the exception. She uses a wonderful a-line shape which works beautifully. During the photoshoot for the book I got to see many people try on the Lacy Skirt with Bows, and had a chance to put it on myself. It works well on a surprising range of body types. I generally wear pants myself, and am pretty picky about the few skirts that I do wear, so it's no small compliment to say that I could happily live in this skirt. This holds true for Kat's other skirts as well. I tried on the skirt Kat designed for the upcoming issue of Interweave Knits and it's a keeper as well.

Going back to the pattern, although it looks complex, I think that it's the type of garment that a newer lace knitter could work without frustration. The panels are worked from the bottom up in crest of the wave lace, capped with eyelets for the bows (or in my case, ribbon). Then it's stockinette and another eyelet section for the ribbon drawstring. The lace will eat up much more yardage than the stockinette, so don't be concerned if you get to the end of your first skein soon after your lace is done for the first panel. You will have plenty of yarn for the stockinette.

The knitting goes very quickly. A fast or dedicated knitter could bang this out in two weeks easily.

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Candid shot by Moxie.
This one's for Kodachrome - I wear my knits!
Techniques:
Advanced beginner lace knitting. Nothing overwhelming here, just a fun, lacy diversion.

Modifications: The only modification I made was the use of ribbon rather than a second yarn. I found a wonderful coordinating ribbon in the garment district at Michael Levine. I purchased 6 yards to be safe, but the skirt only required about half of that. (Buy 4 yards to be safe if you go this route - that should be more than enough). I omitted the bows and just threaded the ribbon through the eyelets. At the waistline I did the same. Other than that, my skirt is exactly like the original.

Finishing:
I had some issues with the color consistency of the yarn, so I took special measures to combat those. I am not sure this was the best solution, but it worked. Afterwards, I soaked the panels in woolwash, gave them a whirl in the spin cycle to get the water out, and blocked like mad. I did the panels one at a time, both because of space constraints and because I wanted to use the blocked measurements of the first piece to guide me in blocking the second. The pattern said to block gently, but to get the dimensions I needed I was more aggressive. I'm pretty sure that the skirt would "wear" into those dimensions anyway - knit skirts tend to settle in and grow several inches in length after they've been hanging in the closet for a little while - so there was no harm in moving that process along. With blocking, the panels grew about 5 inches in length and 3.5 to 4 inches in width. Here's a shot of the unblocked panel resting on the blocked one, and here's a close-up of the unblocked lace on top of the blocked lace

DaktariIMG_0697.jpgImpressions of Twisted Sisters Daktari:
Sadly, I had major issues with color consistency within the same dyelot for this yarn - three identical light skeins, one medium skein, and one dark skein. The color also ran substantially, which is another indication that the dying process was not what it should have been. For more details on the color issues, read my last post. If you have read my blog for long, you will know that I do not usually speak ill of yarn companies or designers. If I have constructive criticism, I try to include it in a friendly way, so that my fellow knitters will be aware of the potential pitfalls and the pleasures of working with certain products. My last post was a bit harsh regarding this yarn, but I felt that it was really important for other knitters to understand that they should proceed with caution if they chose to use it. I am pretty easy-going about subtle variations within a dyelot, especially from a smaller distributer. If Daktari were produced by an indie company, you can rest assured that I would work with the individual dyer regarding the problem before discussing it on my blog. I have written patterns, and I have made mistakes, and I know how difficult it can be to monitor quality control as a party of one, or even few. Twisted Sisters is still a relatively small operation, but they have reached the point of growth where knitters will expect more, and I don't want my readers to be disappointed if they purchase something that I recommend. So there you have the pitfalls.

There are substantial pleasures to this yarn as well, which I hope you can see in the finished product. It is a slubbed cotton with a wonderful organic feel, and the colors, consistent or not, are truly beautiful. It reminds me of something that Blue Sky Alpacas might produce if they partnered with Habu Textiles. I haven't seen anything quite like it, and honestly, I might very well purchase Daktari again for this very reason. I will definitely work with it again, as I have a skein and a half left. I will just have to plan for the variations.

Possible substitute yarns:
This is a tough one, as I really haven't seen a cotton quite like this on the market. For the skirt you could use a smooth cotton - something like Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece or Tahki Cotton Classic would look great - but to get a similar texture you'd have to go to something along the lines of Jaeger Trinity (finer gauge), Rowan Summer Tweed, or possibly Manos Cotton Stria. Of those three, Trinity has the best reputation. I have not used the other two yarns, but they've gotten mixed press on wear. Although it isn't a cotton, I think Elsbeth Lavold's Silky Wool (finer gauge) would be a wonderful substitute for this skirt. I may have to design a skirt in it myself. If anyone tries a substitute, let me know how it turns out. I'd love to see the variations.

A Parting Shot:
Naturally, we had to get a photo with our little stink pot in it.

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The Zosh.

*Yarn Market has this yarn listed at 145 yds/skein. I am not sure if Twisted Sisters has changed the yardage or if this is a misprint. For the small size skirt, 4 skeins should still be enough, as I only used around 3.5, but it may be wise to check before purchasing if you have concerns about yardage. I would also highly recommend buying an extra skein to ensure that any color variations can be worked out.

[Read all entries on the Daktari Skirt.]
Posted by Julia at 08:47 AM | Comments (29)

February 10, 2007

Iron Knitter: Battle Daktari

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Ignorance is bliss: the beginnings of Daktari near Kauaii.
2006 was not the year of the knit for the Hoolia. Everything I touched seemed to be destined to have issues, and as a result the few FO's I managed to slog out consisted of the types of patterns I can do in my sleep - socks and berets - or rectangles. My biggest triumphs were both just fancy rectangles - the River Stole and Project MIL (a sweater for my mother-in-law), and those were definitely not without their trials and tribulations. Now that I believe myself to be safely past that nasty year of knitting - oh, the hubris! I am doomed now - I am starting to think it was a good learning experience, because in the instances where I stuck to it and fought back, I ended up with some beautiful pieces. In the end, knitting is like the serenity poem: you must have courage to change the things you can, serenity to accept (and rip) those you cannot, and most importantly the wisdom to know the difference. With that introduction, welcome to Battle Daktari:

My experience with Daktari began quite happily. Despite the fact that I was knitting a skirt which appeared to have quite a bit of stockinette at the top to slow me down, the fabric sailed off my needles. Within the span of about a week I had knit almost all of the first panel. I was excited. Even better, we were getting ready to spend a week in Hawaii on vacation with the family, so I knew that I would have hours of time ahead of me in planes, boats and cars, where I could knit away contentedly on my skirt. Perhaps I could even finish it and take some lovely shots on those lush Hawaiian Islands.... I got pretty far on the skirt over vacation, and blocked the first panel with stunning results soon after we returned. Then suddenly, I hit a snag.
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The not-so-fine line between cappuccino and mocha.
Exhibit A. Do you see the problem here? Within the same dyelot there is a very dramatic shift in the densities of the color. It is even more dramatic than what you see in the photos, though I think its pretty clear from those as well. To be fair, Daktari is a hand-dyed fiber and comes with the disclaimer that there will be variations in the color. The label also wisely suggests that you alternate skeins every other row to overcome this issue. (This works well to combat pooling in variegated yarns as well.) If alternating skeins had solved the problem and just created a little variation, I would have no issues with the yarn. However, alternation of skeins in this case creates stripes (no photos, just use your imagination).

I would now like to draw your attention to the fact that there are four skeins of yarn knitted up in these photographs. The first three skeins flow together fairly seamlessly, with some expected, yet subtle, variation. Given this state of affairs, I thought that perhaps I had a rogue skein, so I decided to go back to my LYS and purchase another. Interestingly, the newly purchased skein, also in the same dyelot did not match the first three knitted skeins or the "rogue" skein, but was instead a shade somewhere in between the two. The difference was not as stark as before, but still not negligible enough that alternating the yarns would do anything to alleviate the problem.

I had several possible plans of attack for solving the problem with this new, closer-to-the-original-color skein, most involving some variation on ripping out most of the skirt and incorporating the darker-colored skein into the lace in alternating rows on both panels, so that there would be less of a noticeable difference both horizontally and vertically. DaktariCIMG5961.jpg
Close-up of the offending skein.
I think that one of these plans would have worked, but at the time I was pissed. So pissed, in fact, that I just could not stomach even looking at the skirt. So I balled it up and put it away.

Then last weekend, when we had that lovely bought of unseasonably warm weather, I was inspired to pull the Daktari skirt out again. I still wasn't in the mood to rip it all out and start from scratch, so instead I ripped out the offending very dark skein, and decided to make use of some information that I learned while blocking the yarn. I knit the rest of top of the second panel with the medium-dark skein, and then I took a little gamble. When I blocked the first panel I noticed that the fabric bled a lot. So I thought why not dip the top portion of the panel in scalding hot water a few times to see if I couldn't get enough of the color out to make it match the rest? Daktari is cotton, and cotton can handle the heat. So I soaked the top of the panel in three changes of really hot water over the span of an hour, and miraculously....it worked. Not perhaps the most reliable cure for this issue, but you can't argue with the results.

This one goes to the Challenger. Next up: pattern notes.

Posted by Julia at 09:21 AM | Comments (12)

August 16, 2006

Daktari Blocking


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Twisted Sisters Daktari, 100% Slubbed Cotton in Cappuccino. Heaven.


Posted by Julia at 06:56 AM | Comments (10)