Jobo Designs

Letting the crafty creative juices flow. Knitting, spinning, crafting, dyeing, rabbits, sheep and more!

19. April 2011 11:02
by Jobo

Woody Knitters: Hand Crafted Knitting Needles

19. April 2011 11:02 by Jobo | 0 Comments

On my last trip up to Belfast Mini Mills... I saw these fabulous wooden knitting needles!  The company is Woody Knitters, and the needles are handmade here on PEI. 

I had been wanting some smaller (both in diameter and in length) wooden needles, as I have read that they are excellent for lace knitting.  The wood is smooth, but grips the lace thread so nicely.  Also, the needles are so feather light, and very warm in your hands.  I have tried bamboo dpns before, and they were ok... I didn't appreciate the bendy feeling of working with them.  I tried a pair of ebony wood Lantern Moon needles also, but for socks, they just didn't work for me.  I broke 2 of the set before I finished an entire sock.  They looked lovely, but didn't hold up to my rough travel-knitting needs.

For lace however, I am very pleasantly surprised at how much I like the wooden needles!  These are a 3 mm diameter set, made from Ramen Wood, with a bead top.  The wood is silky smooth, finished with Tung oil.  This set is 12 inches long, so just perfect for my build.  (I think maybe short people have short arms too!  The standard 14 inch steel needles I use feel like they are too long for me to be comfortable)

  April 11 2011 014lily of the valley samle with wooden needlesApril 11 2011 010

I've tried a few samples now on these needles, and I find them quite enjoyable to use... and here's why:

- Sharpness: The tips are just the right level of pointy.  For fine lace work with even finer thread yarns, a fairly pointy tip is required for manipulating the stitches properly.  I've done various stitches, including K3tog in Orenburg-style stitches, and Nupp stitches in Estonian style samples. 

- Flexibility:  For lace knitting (where presumably the knitting stays put, in one location from start to finish, unlike socks, that travel in various states of completion for a month in purses and bags for on-location knitting) a little bit of flexibility is okay!  The bendy nature that I hated in sock needles, was not a problem in lace knitting.  Where you are only knitting back and forth, and not in the round with all of it's requisite twisting and manipulation, that slight "give" makes the process less rigid and actually more enjoyable!

- Grip:  Steel needles are tough, they don't break, but they are very slippery.  The smooth finish results in stitches sometimes slipping off.  Have you ever sneezed in the middle of a lace repeat, only to have a half a dozen stitches slip off one or both needles?  Have you ever dropped a stitch in the middle of something complicated and have to try and pick it back up?  Wooden needles, though smooth in their own right, are just that teensy bit Grippier than the steel needles, and seem to result in less stitch-slippage.  The thread moves cleanly along the needles, stitches behaving as they should, but I am finding that I drop fewer stitches, and have less accidental stitch frustration

- Weight:  Compared to the steel needles I had been using... these needles feel like they hardly weigh anything!  I used to find that holding up the heavier needles, at sometimes uncomfortable angles, to try and create more complex stitch patterns - that I would get sore shoulders, or tired arms.  Not so with the wooden ones.  The length might also have something to do with that though...  The size and weight are just more comfortable for some reason.

Of course, there are a few drawbacks... I bet I could snap these toothpicks quite easily, if I wasn't careful.  And also, I'm not sure how durable they will be for many uses.  Only time will tell, but I have really enjoyed them thus far, and have plans to use them for my first Haapsalu Shawl (Beautiful Estonian Lace) as soon as I can get the yarn spun :)

All in all, the best 14 bucks I've spent in a long time!

If you would like more information about this brand of needles, please let me know... I don't think they have a website, but I do have an email address to share if anyone would like to contact the maker!

25. January 2011 11:58
by Jobo

Last Minute "Muse"-ing...

25. January 2011 11:58 by Jobo | 4 Comments

allegheny pincushionThe Muse is complete!  Blocked and dry, and ready to go!  I hear that my comrade polaropposites has blocked hers as well... and I have it on good authority that it is Beee-youuu-teee-ful!

For those of you who aren't familiar with the blocking process... the idea is simple.  You thoroughly wet the knit lace, lay it out flat on a surface of some sort, and pin out the piece to shape to enhance and open up all of the lace elements.  In this case I used a few "helpers"

- Quilter's rustproof pins (since I do my blocking on a mattress, I didn't want ginormous holes from big blocking pins, and also I didn't want any rust stains on either the lace or the mattress)

- Tig welding rods!  Cheap blocking wires... you don't have to go and buy a fancy blocking set at the yarn store, instead go to a local welding or metalworks shop and buy some stainless steel welding rods.  Thin, bendable, rust free, and about 20$ for a whole pound of them!  I just wiped mine down with a damp cloth when I got them home, and they've been great ever since.  Mine are around 40 inches long, and perfect for the job.

- Measuring tape... when you aren't sure if you are pinning the shawl out symmetrically.  Does this point look longer than that point to you?  Measure it!

- Soaking basin... aka a repurposed mixing bowl.  My family gets annoyed with me (read husband) when I leave woolen things soaking in various sinks around the house.  I soak for around 30- 45 minutes.  You can add soap/hair conditioner/wool wash in your soak.  I like it plain and simple.  Clean shawl?  doesn't need soap.

So here we go... Since blocking highlights the best characteristics of Lace, I thought I might use the blocking photos to show the best characteristics of this shawl!

allegheny edge slip stitch blockingSlip 1 edging...

Do you hate how edgings curl sometimes... or the way that an edge can look sloppy?  This solution (common among various lace styles, including Russian Orenburg lace and Estonian Haapsalu shawls) is to slip the first stitch purlways with yarn in front, and then continue along the row.  The resulting edge has a beautiful even feel, and looks almost like you crocheted a chain up the side.  This type of edging also makes for a great blocking pick-up edge.  See how nice and even the edge looks?  It's the slipped stitch!  I had nothing to do with it

allegheny points Pretty Points

Allegheny Muse starts in an unusual way... with a crochet beaded cast on.  I wasn't sure what to think in the beginning... but look how nice the points block out!  The crocheted cast on is nice and "loose" and stretches just the right amount to create those dramatic arches of lace.  I must admit, I think my favorite part of a lot of shawls is that dramatic arch edging.  The bead placement for this edging was also top notch.  The four beads at the very ends of the points dangle and sparkle at the perfect angle. 

allegheny closeup shells main body of lace - Shells

The main lace panel section of this shawl was quite enjoyable to knit.  The few rows here and there with no beads were a nice refreshing rest, and then back to the mega-beaded rows.  The break was much appreciated!  The lace stitches were pretty basic ones, K2tog, central decreases, lots of YOs and clear instructions on where to place the beads on the decrease stitches made the lace quite straightforward.  I found the placement of some of the internal beads to be a little wonky, but maybe if I had blocked more severely they might have come out more "even" in the end.  One thing that was unusual for this shape of shawl is that you don't start with shorter rows that increase over time to be longer and longer like you would with a triangle shawl.  The edging began with many stitches, and you maintained that number throughout the lace panel, losing a few on the last few lace rows, and then completing the garter section with short rows to create the crescent shape.

allegheny picot bind off and garterspeaking of the garter stitch crescent...

Once you reached the garter stitch portion... it was smooth sailing for the finish line!  I was surprised at how much the blocking process changed the texture of the garter stitch section.  I liked the little stripes that it created, and the bouncy, slightly stretchy feel it has.  The pattern also called for a crocheted picot bind off... which was also a new one to me.  In the end, instead of knitting 3 stitches together and then chaining, I found it easier to slide 3 stitches onto my crochet hook and then chain them together, and then complete the picot chain.  Once you get the hang of it, the edging was actually pretty simple!  To save time in blocking, I didn't pin out each individual picot, instead I ran a wire through them and gently pulled it into a curve (carefully pinning the curve to avoid any disastrous un-coiling).  If you were pinning by hand without wires, you could also use a shoelace, string, or any other reasonably tough cord to accomplish the same thing.  Basically by using a string or wire, it eliminates the need to measure each picot so closely - each one is pulled up the exact same amount!  genius right?  (I did not think this up... I read it somewhere!)

Allegheny edge beads gentle curves...

All in all, I liked the process and the elements of this shawl very much!  and I am pleased with the final results.  The cashmere blend yarn really blocked well, and feels soft and drapey in the finished piece.  The opalescent beads I chose have just enough sparkle to be seen, but not overpower.  The effect is kind of like dew on a rose... you know it's there, and it enhances the design, but doesn't take your attention completely from the elegant lace.  Some people like contrasting beads, but I tend to like the blending-in strategy more often. 

Now for the Modeled Pics (are you tired of hearing about this yet? lol)

allegheny jumbled around the neck allegheny over shoulders allegheny double draped

getting people to take shawl pictures is hard.... I tried the usual bathroom "Self-Pose-Photoshoot" and got a few decent ones.  The shape of this shawl is more long and skinny than some of the triengle ones I've made in the past, so I'm still not sure how I should really wear this one.  Jumbled around the neck?  simple shoulder drape?  double wrap?  I think I might have to play with this one a little more to decide.  I do very much love the color though!  Soft Purples and pinks, paired with the opal shimmer of the occasional bead. 

allegheny dark I know it's difficult to get decent night-time photos... even with a flash... but I think maybe this shawl might even look good with a dress or evening wear from the look of the last photo.   (I also noticed that my hair is getting really long again)

All in all - a very nice pattern, very well written, with neat style elements, fun sections, and a chance to learn several new techniques and skills.  Allllll gooooood.

Now... what should the next project be for the PEI KAL crew?  I think we are entertaining the idea of making some lace socks (yesss!  I love socks)

I just bought a copy of Hunter Hammersen's new book Silk Road Socks... and it is fabulous!  I hope we get to do a pair from there!  (please please?)  I think the plan is to choose something next week for the cast on.  I'll make sure to post in case anyone else out there is interested in knitting along with us!

Happy Tuesday!

24. January 2011 11:01
by Jobo

Yarn Candy Monday: Knit Picks Chroma!

24. January 2011 11:01 by Jobo | 2 Comments

chromaI know I might sound like a broken record talking about Knit Picks Yarns... but I really do find that they have great yarn for reasonable prices!  Plus, when I order I know it will be a no hassle experience - i.e. the package won't get stuck at the border, there won't be extra duty charges, and when it gets here, I know it will be full of yarny goodness! Ok, enough about Knit Picks... now onto the YARN

It seems every yarn manufacturer these days is trying to come up with some new Noro-esque yarn.  I can totally see why!  I love Noro's long smooth color changes, and fantastic colorways.  The trick is - I don't particularly appreciate little twiggy things in my yarn (I generally have enough hay in my hair and on my clothes from the Ruttibutt that the other day a coworker even asked me if I'd been for a "Roll in the Hay" recently... lol)  or the scratchy and irregular nature of standard Noro.  I also don't appreciate the 10+ dollar price tag for yarn that will no doubt have a splice in the middle, and only has about 100 yards in it to begin with. 

So now that I've been seeing these Noro-substitutes around.... Michael's has one, and now Knit Picks too... I thought I'd just give in and try one of them.  

One thing for certain... this yarn is a crap-ton softer than Noro will ever dream of being!  So soft in fact that I wonder how these softly spun singles will hold up to wear.  I'd hazard a guess it will pill like nobody's business, but time will tell.

The colors are great however!  I bought a plain cream skein, and a rainbow of blue and green in "Pool Party" with the intention of making another pair of Fiddlehead Mittens.  I chose worsted this time, but I think I'd like to try the fingering weight for a scarf or something sometime.

chroma2I wonder how many times the colors change?  hmmm...

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