Luscious Gracious! Look What We Made Today!

A blog devoted to the art of the Luscious Gracious clan.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sweater Fever

Not only do I have sun poisoning (again), in February (again), but I have also been afflicted with SWEATER FEVER. Please, a warning. If you are under the age of 12, or elderly, or suffer from any type of autoimmunity, please DO NOT read this post. Or if you are fiber-impaired (as this post will be boring).


Here is Ms. Lily modeling our new "Out of the Blue" sweater. Lucy named it, after asking over and over again, "What are you going to make out of that blue?". The yarn is South West Trading Company "Optimum" (100% wool, color 560). The red and black at the top is Malabrigo of Uruguay (100% merino wool, color Torero - the red one...the other one is just Black).

Above is the lace rib stitch that I used at the bottom. I think maybe I made it up, but I won't put out a pattern for it because it is so poorly documented in my notes, and I don't want to give away someone else's pattern for an edging inadvertently.

Also, I know for sure that I used someone else's beautiful cable for the top part. It originally went down the front of a man's sweater in the Schoeller Stahl Winter 2002/03 pattern booklet. And was brown. And there were several of them, so just imagine this cable criss-crossing itself across the front of a handsome European man's handsome chocolatey brown sweater.
But here I wanted to use a cabled top on the horizontal to hold the sweater up. It can be worn as a loose collar around the neck, or like here across the shoulders.

The second sweater that I made these last two weeks was this one. It's in the round, and also out of the Malabrigo wool shown above. By the way, I bought 3 skeins (215 yards each) and made both of these sweaters. I still have quite a bit, one entire skein plus a largish ball, left. I LOVE this stuff, and highly recommend it. The colors are sensational, and it feels so good to knit with, you should totally go buy some right now. Or not. Because you live in Arizona, and how practical is that, really?

The cable is an open cable that is based on the one on #37 "Interlacing Cable Sweater" in Rebecca #25. I used wool with a different gauge, and repeated it several more times than the one in the pattern to get the size I needed, but the stitches are the same, and it is a fun knit. I converted it to the round, and made up the rest of the pattern (shaping, armholes, straps, back), but I really think that the pattern straight from the magazine would work for you if your wool were big and chunky, and if you have very little "shaping" of your own to do, if you know what I mean. Let's just say, this red sweater looks GORGEOUS on Letoya!

Remember how Lucy designed the LusciousGracious Valentine Sweater? Her sister is also quite the designer. She came up with this over-sized t-shirt pattern, and even chose the yarns and colors. The orange is a Cascade 220 heather yarn that I bought so long ago that it no longer has labels (I used to be really handy and think it would be a good idea to put all of the yarn labels off of new skeins purchased in a bag and keep them separate from the yarn. Two moves later, I can't find them). I did originally buy this yarn with Lily in mind, as she has always adored orange. The green stripes are more of that leftover Rowanspun dk that keeps haunting me. After this sweater, where I even used it doubled, I STILL had more than 8 skeins left over. But, I finally gave it to a worthy recepient last night. Let's not say "unloaded", please.

This sweater is called "Lily's Orange T-Shirt". I knitted this one in such a hurry that I almost made a huge mistake. I forgot that Lily had wanted the stripe repeat on only one sleeve! Luckily for all of us, Pam was with me, and she remembered. Thanks Pam, for contributing to family unity once again!
It is kind of hard to see here, but the cuffs, as well as the bottom ribbing and the collar, are ribbed with a baby cable (knit 2 sts btwn any number of purl sts, and on every 4th row, "turn" the baby cable....you do this by knitting the two sts tog but NOT taking them off of the left needle....instead, you knit again into the first stitch and take them both off of the needle at the same time - If you didn't get that, have someone show you, or look in any knitting book of good or even fair repute).

And here comes Number Four. The idea for this one came from some iron-ons that Stephen had as a kid. He got them at the Burger Chef. They were so fancy, and made his t-shirt say "I'm the boss, apple sauce" and other catchy phrases. During that same time (think late 70's, people) I had a shirt with Frankenstein's monster on it that said, "If I wanted your opinion, I'd beat it out of you". Nice for a tiny first grade girl. And then, Stephen's dad and stepmom owned a silkscreening business when we were growing up and when we were in college. One shirt that was a popular one for many groups pictured a bedraggled, skinny cat and the words "I have pms and a handgun. Any question?". Classy.
Now, all of the "cool kids" have shirts that say crazy things. We even have some at our house. Lucy is partial to the ones from Napoleon Dynamite, and one that has a calculator instead of a heart (I "calculate" math). Lily's favorite says "Science Rocks". And when Steve dons the bright red "Chick Magnet" shirt, I know it's time to end the laundry strike.

I dreamed up the idea for this design while talking to Illanna and Stephen about crazy things to write on knitwear. A few days later, I decided to cast on, and surprise Lucy with her own t-shirt. Instead of orange, I went with her favorite shade of 22o, color #7809, which is a nice lavendar. I used some of the huge amount of a burgundy that I have (also 220, also pre-label) to do the Fair Isle writing.
Can you read it?

This side says, "I like your clever t-shirt",

and the back, "now go knit something".

A call to arms for knitters everywhere! And along the bottom of the back? LUSCIOUSGRACIOUS.COM ....because that's just how I roll.

The front has a bottom border of hearts and x's, which is how I sign my letters.

The best thing about all of these sweaters? They all fit me! Hahaha! I am Evil-Mom!! Increasing my sweater wardrobe at the expense of my own offspring.
The reason for all of this crazy knitting (and not sleeping)? Dearest Becca (our college sweetheart and new mother of beautiful Ezra)

sent me this gorgeous yarn last fall. It's Noro "Kureyon" and Cascade (yeah!) "Pastaza", which is a half-llama, half-sheep hybrid. I think I saw one at the zoo.
Anyway, suddenly I was taken by the wild desire to make this sweater! Immediately! No matter what!! I had Sweater Fever!!
So, I started designing, but nothing I did on paper seemed worthy of this yarn. Especially since Becca had made it so clear that the sweater was for me, and me only. Oh, she loves me.
So I want it to be perfect. I decided that all of the other yarn in my closet was fodder for practice, and I started trying different techniques and styles that I want to (maybe) incorporate in my Magic Hybrid Sweater.
Just look at this yarn. What does it say to you?

You say that you want to see more magic yarn? Here it is!!!!!

We set foot for the first time in a long time in a fabric store (read: Big Chain), and found this. Yes, Target Yarn. I think. Wasn't this the same stuff that was in those kits at Target? I know that this store was also selling the yarn from the Target Dollar Section for the low, low price of $1.50. And they were also selling the Target kits that are no longer on the shelves at Target. Not that I am a Target expert or something. Sometimes entire weeks go by without me looking things over there.

Anyhoo, I bought this "$39.99 Value" for a desperately discounted price. Who can resist yarn as big as your head? (Just so you know, there is a big ole styrofoam ball in there....600 yards of skinny string is not so much). I like the kitsch value. But the real reason I couldn't resist? This post at Good To Be Girl. She is making something spectacular out of a yarn that she otherwise wouldn't even let into her stash. So, I decided that we needed a little bit of that at LusciousGracious. I must say, though, that if you decide to follow in our footsteps....I recommend only the gold color. Something in the process of making the silver, black, or rainbow (what were they thinking?) colors makes the yarn/string very stiff. I actually knitted a small swatch, and could stand it! Wow! Who would have thought it? No, I totally see the place for cheap-o yarns in knitting, so don't bust my chops. But come on, this stuff is 70% polyester and 30% sparkle. I don't even know what that is.

What didn't turn out to be worth even a dollar (at the cute dollar store next to the Fabric Store of No Name) was this circular needle. The original idea was to "force" myself to knit with inexpensive, perhaps even - dare I say it? - poorly made, products. But the needle was too much for hands accustomed to Addi Turbos. I couldn't stand the feel of the actual needle, which was something akin to powdery sandpaper, so don't ask me how the cord works. I didn't get that far. The crochet hook may be ok, which makes the price of the useless circular only 50 cents.


Make sure that you check out the "feeding hole" included on the sparkle yarn box. Lucy used to stick Cheerios into every small space she could find, and all I can think is that someone should feed this yarn some cereal. Through that special hole. You know.

Believe it or not, I have already designed a sweater (yes, another sweater) with this yarn. I hope to knit it soon. Seeing how I have Sweater Fever and all, I bet it will be done shortly.

And I am not the only one. SF has already creeped into the lives of several International Knit Circle members. My own daughter is exhibiting signs.

Here Ms. Lucy shows the progress on her new pink sweater. It's made of Malabrigo wool and she is writing the pattern as she goes along. Ahhh. My offspring are good for so much. I hope it is big enough for me....I love the color. And that cable down the front! What a clever girl! Much better than a t-shirt! She's using Moss Stitch for the bottom.

Both girls have been busy with some amazing writing projects. I think that a post in the near future is FINALLY going to be a poetry post. To give our non-fiber readers something else to bore them. No, really, we are good writers. For my own part, I just can't spell. Or speak. Hey, don't listen to me at all.

In other news, Illanna and Steve have been sitting here knitting without me for hours. Even I am getting bored with my writing.

So, just a quick thank-you to our readers, especially for the ones who left awesome comments and sent links and photos of LusciousGracious designs that they have made. We may even have some of those available for you soon, but we want to check with them first to see if it is ok. I do know that Rebecca won't mind you taking a quick tour of her blog to see the lace shawl she is making out of pink merino that she spun herself. She's using my Random Lace technique, which is a fun and easy way to introduce yourself to lace knitting, and a good "knitting with company project", as it requires very little attention to attain stunning results. I am honored that Rebecca is using it for such a special project. Based on her other work, I have no doubt that it will be a beauty.

I, for one, think that no knitter should have any outside distractions (work, school, family life, romantic entanglement, travel, chores, etc.) to take away from the pleasure of knitting. Hey, I pretend that I don't all of the time. Maybe I'd be a better writer if I did less knitting, but I sure wouldn't have as much fun. Or as much to write about! Sorry for the four sweaters in one post. Hopefully it takes you a week to read, which is about when we will get around to posting again. Hey, we've got knitting to do!

You too!

Knit on,

kiki

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Funky Little Bag

For those of you who haven't seen it in person or on Sarah's blog, here is a bag I knit (& Kiki finished) for Kiki as a Valentine's gift (at least that's what I read). The yarn is by My Paper Crane. Illanna picked it up for us in New York last summer.

There are 2 different skeins of yarn used here. The base is knit in a Fair Isle pattern that is very hard to see, but it sorta swirls around the bag. I'm finishing something tonight that uses the same pattern with a little more success. Both this & the current project are prototypes before I hand-dye yarn for the bag for which the pattern was originally designed. I've now modified the design for the final project so the pattern will be more visible.

The handle & closure used to be a belt purchased on clearance from Target. I find that cheap belts beat knitting I-cord any day.

The top & bottom (not shown - how did we forget to take a photo of the bottom?) are crochet. I made a long chain of each & then swirled them together to make this design.

Kiki lined the bag with plastic canvas to give it a little more structure. Normally I would felt luxurious hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn like this, but knitting it in a FI design that is not visible seemed lavish enough. For the lining Kiki used some of the last few pieces of her hand-dyed fabric from back in the day.

This little ribbon was what originally held one skein of yarn together. Kiki added a snap & made it an inside handle to hold all the little extras. No waste allowed at LusciousGraciousStudios.

Here you can see that the lid flips off trash-can-style thanks to that great belt.

Speaking of no waste, you can see Kiki used the last little pieces of the belt to add to one of the inside bags she made. That cool stripy fabric used to be the bottom of Lucy's cool stripy pants that were a little too long. One bag is perfect for DPNs and the other for small notions.


Kiki has found this funky little bag to be just right for her current sock project (there is always a current sock project, right?). It holds all of this and more!

Steve

p.s. Is anyone starting on either of our free for now patterns (Kate or Crazy 8's) or any of our other patterns, or using our tutorials, or even reading this blog? Send us pictures, e-mail a link to your blog post about it, leave us comments about anything (except current events or your cat), and we might just give you more free stuff.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Steve's First Socks

We are soooo proud.
He did it. Himself. As in, "all alone".
Well, for the most part.
Tah dah!
Steve's FIRST pair of socks. And like everything else that he knits, the yarn is not-so-shabby. Thanks to a luxuriuous holiday gift from Illanna, these beauties are made from two skeins of 100% baby camel yarn, which is indeed made from the hair of baby camels (I only asked about a million times). The yarn is Clasic Elite "Blithe" and it is perfect for socks (and as an added bonus Steve enjoys calling them his "Camel Toe Socks"). They are so soft, and the colors are very muted and traditional. Great for dressy wear. Or for like today, with shorts and a tee-shirt (and the fish bag, how manly). At least he doesn't wear socks with sandals - (cough**CuteDavid*coughcough).

The sock pattern is the one that I made up one time, and continue to use almost exclusively, with variations thrown in for cables or colorwork, or for length. But always toe-up, always (for me) both at the same time. Steve made his one at a time, just to see if he liked socks, and liked this yarn as socks. Yes and yes. I laughed at him the entire way through sock number one, sure that he would be struck with a crippling case of SSS, but nooooo. He started on, and finished, sock number two in record time. He's trying to beat Stephanie as she goes for the gold! His two socks are even the same size (unlike the only pair I attempted to do separately).

Just so you know, he finished them so quickly due to what has been called "The Great Kiki Laundry Strike of 2006". I'm not really on strike, but his socks were a move toward self-preservation. Have cold feet and no clean laundry? Knit some socks. And besides, I still have clean clothes, so I'm not worried.

One skein of this yarn still remains. I am hoping to make a small pair of my own "Camel Toe Socks", but I just know Steve will have it knitted into something and probably felted before I get a chance.

Remember when we said that we couldn't post because everything we were knitting was a big, dark secret? Well, one such secret has been revealed. Cynthia received her going-away package this week. It was only 2 months late. It's not still cold enough for the first item, but maybe she'll get "lucky" with a rainy day soon.


I designed and knitted this sweater for her out of Mission Falls 1824 wool. She is perhaps the most sophisticated woman I have ever met, and I really fretted about this gift. I wanted classy, and let's be realistic here, shall we? My usual knits and clothing do not scream, "Take me to the opera!" unless you mean as a costume....But I was pretty happy with how this one turned out, and it seems to fit, which was also worrying me. I'm not so good with the sizing thing, either. And in case you think I'm some sort of genius who knits successful sweaters for people in secret without them knowing or trying them on or even measuring them, let me tell you something. I knit an entire OTHER sweater for her first. In the time period between the body and the sleeves, winter set in, as did my arthritis. The sleeves were so tight that Jack Skellington couldn't have worn them, and the body was too big for Oogie Boogie. My gauge is all over the place lately! I ripped it out, as it was not only comical, but also NOT classy, NOT sophisticated, and definitely NOT Cynthia!

Here's a little close-up of the cable bottom, and the double seed stitch black stripe connecting it to the body of the sweater.


And this is what else lined her package.

This tote bag is an original work from Stephen. It's hemp yarn, and his own Fair Isle design. This was only his second Fair Isle project. Remember, he learned how from the Kate pattern, which is free for now along with Crazy 8's. It took Steve 5 attempts to settle on a design he deemed "Cynthia - worthy". All started as pink and grey and swirly, but they just weren't right until this one emerged (thanks to his fine skills with Excel - AND bowhunting) & then magically fit the bag we already had. The bag is lined with a water-proof document zipper bag from the office supply section of Target. We want Cynthia to be able to use it as a portfolio, as she is an artist and art teacher. AND she works for the circus, in the costume department! Can you beat that with a stick? That's right, she ran away from her knitting family and joined the circus!

The LG girls even stuffed the bag with art to make sure it would work. Here is Lily's "Next in Line" featuring sheep to be sheared. Look at that poor, naked sheep on the right. Do you think he's cold? Maybe we should knit him a sweater. I really love the sheepy clouds, too.

Lucy did a nice watercolor "Water Lily" that takes my breath away. And Cynthia is right, we did see some gorgeous water lilies at Balboa Park in San Diego. The girls spent many, many days with Cynthia drawing and knitting, and talking about what matters in life. She has been a very good influence on the creative life of our family, and we miss her very much. It is hard to find people with such quiet grace and poise, even more rare is her ability to act as mentor to so many different people from such diverse backgrounds. Her support about the important things (art, child-rearing, friendship, and patience) smoothed most of the bumps out of our move out West. That and a great deal of shared chocolate! We hope that she finds a new knitting family in her new home that gives her just as much. And we also hope that she knows that we can't wait to see her this spring!

To see more about Cynthia's package, and what else she is up to, click here.

Until next time, hold close the ones who make your life rich,

and knit on,

love,

kiki

Monday, February 13, 2006

HVD

Happy VD to everyone. (Once, when my sister and her husband got their first VCR, my grandmother said, "Oh, those poor kids. They should see the doctor." She wasn't kidding. I love my family).

Our Valentine gifts to you, dear reader, follow. And you won't even need a shot of penicillin....

Lucy Jane models our newest LusciousGracious design. She designed it herself!!! Here is a page from our Big Red Book of Knitting (and poetry, and grocery lists).

Notice that she wanted the cables to be "more sporty", which means, "less girly" than what I had originally suggested. Also notice that I wish I could find that color of Phildar in a lipstick. Ahhhh, the superficiality of being a girl sometimes.....

By the way, in case you are foaming at the mouth to make your own LG/VD sweater, just make up some cables, or find a stitch encyclopedia, and apply to your favorite raglan method sweater. This is a one-of-a-kind project, which means that there will be no official pattern available. But you can do it! We know you can! After all, each one should be an individual work of art, one that fits you, or everyone in your family.

Back view, with more cables. The big ones are from a bunch of different sources, a basic horseshoe cable, and the smaller ones with holes in the middle are the ones that I designed to travel up the back of a pair of silky wool stockings that I made for Letoya in December.


The plan was to make a sweater that the three LG girls could share. After casting on the first time, I started to panic that 12 skeins was not going to be enough yarn (Eleni and Ippolyti sent us a dozen perfect skeins of Phildar "Laine et Cachemire", which is 85% wool, 15% cashmere....with only 65 yards per skein). But then I tried it on, and realized that it would fit us all....at the same time!!! With Stephen included!

Whew!

So, I started over, and made it more fitted, and less wasteful. Turns out that I had very little to worry about, as we have quite a bit over 3 skeins left. Socks seem like a very nice match....but I have seen Stephen eyeing it, and know that he's going to felt it into something before I get around to casting on for socks or gloves.

I was determined to finish in time for VDay, so I knit only this project for a couple of days solid. We stayed up late Friday (thank you, International Knit Circle members, for keeping me company, and keeping me awake), so I was able to finish it in time for City Bakery Saturday!

Good thing it is a reversible design, because I like it better this way, on me, that is.


I especially like the way that the middle cable makes a second "spine" up my back.

Lucy really likes the twisted rib (Knit one stitch in the back of the stitch, Purl one stitch) that I put on some other sweaters, and we thought it would be a good way to add stretch, since three girls, even in the same family, are likely to be shaped in different ways.

We echoed the use of the twisted rib sides by ribbing the collar and the sleeve cuffs in the same way. I really like the cap sleeves, and plan to use them often. Also, the pattern worked well with raglan decreases, but only because I used about 30 stitch markers to help me keep my place.


Ms. Lily Grace, our youngest Valentine, can wear our new sweater as a layering piece. Here she models it over a long-sleeved black tee, rock and roll style.


She couldn't resist what she called the "magazine pose". Not sure what magazine she's been reading, but we are pretty sure it must be Rebecca.

As a further gift to you, some more drawings on Connor's Cards, including a fiber-worthy sheep. These are the last in the series, so make sure to check out the rest on previous posts.




I really, really love the way that Tom is standing. I would be a little frightened if I saw one in the wild like that....even with a smile. Maybe, especially with that smile!


And now, an important message from our sponsor, Steve the Valentine Fairy (a name that he has come to love.....how can you resist something that your babies called you when they could barely speak?). He even has a Valentine Fairy Crown that some of you lucky winners saw on Friday. LusciousGraciousStudios is big on crowns...

Happy VD to you all, and keep knitting (and loving),

kiki

If you've read the LG's, you probably already know how much we love color. For Valentine's we've decided to give you a pair of free patterns that celebrate color. The first, Kate, is the perfect pattern to learn Fair Isle knitting. That's how I learned, Illanna too. If you already know how, it is still a fun pocketbook to knit.

Free, for now.

The second one, Crazy 8's, is actually 2 patterns in one! So if you are still too chicken* to try Fair Isle, give these felted bags a try. They call for outrageously extravagant felting yarns, but if you are unlike us, and prefer groceries over yarn, feel free to substitute.

Free, for now.

These patterns will remain free for as short or as long as we feel like, Gosh! It probably won't be forever, which means it isn't part of The Official Luscious Gracious Studios Complete Organizational System. Feeling bad because you paid full price, and now these are free? Consider it a late fee for not sending us photos yet (because I'm sure you've knit them already).

So, enjoy our little gift and send us pictures of your colorful creations!

TVF (a.k.a. Steve)

*When our children were little, we saw an episode of Sesame Street in which a child wondered what would happen if we used chickens instead of hearts to celebrate Valentine's Day. Would we say "I love you with all my chicken"? Of course, now we say just that in our family.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Knitting Content on a Knitting Blog

Ahhh, at long last, a reason to post that is in keeping with our mission statement (i.e. "Look What I Made Today!").


This shawl went to a dear friend who is entering a new phase of life. Therefore, the "doorway" painted blue (which I found out is her favorite color...it's kind of a periwinkle shade) for her protection and safe return.


The shawl is made of 7 skeins of grey Classic Elite "Lush", 50% angora/50% wool, and one skein of that blue. The yarn is yummy (Steve likes to felt with it, because if you start with a luxuriously soft yarn, your finished items are that much more gorgeous) I made up the pattern, but the stitch repeat in the body of the shawl is "Idella" from Myrna Stahman's Stahman's Shawls and Scarves (Rocking Chair Press, 2000). Please run and buy this book, if you can find it, as it contains so many cool patterns. More than that, you could knit lace for a lifetime with variations you make up from these patterns, and each lace repeat is presented in charted and word format, and easily adapted to any project that you have in mind. I often add a bit of lace to the bottom of a sweater, or a hat, or whatever.

I used a provisional cast-on, and then picked up all live stitches, as well as edge stitches, with the blue angora and a "biggish" crochet hook (Kate in England, that technical term is for you!). To that, I added the knit-on border that I have tried to explain before here. This time, I made some of those knit-on stitches toss and turn in a simple cable-y way. The blocked shawl is 37" by 72", which is plenty big for car rides, hotel stays, and curling up in that cold Northern winter that I am missing big time. It's already too hot here for sweaters, and I didn't get them all worn! Too short for sweater season, Phoenix/Scottsdale! Bad desert!


And at the corner is a bit of fancy mitering, made up as I went along. Please ignore the poor blocking, as Illanna and her blocking wires were too far away one late night, and I couldn't wait. The shawl was already a week late, and I was up anyway. So I used a million pins, but could have used a million more....
Anyway, Happy Birthday, and Be Well to Dear Steph....poet, princess, and long-distance friend of my heart.
Love, and happy knitting,
kiki



Sunday, February 05, 2006

Steve's Old School Shot Of The Moment #4

Since a 22 picture post isn't enough to hold some of our readers for more than 10 days, I figured we had better post again. However, due to a week dealing with a flooded apartment (even with 100+ days of no rain), and knitting super-secret gifts and other items we can't blog about, this is going to be a photo post.

Lately, we have been decorating our new place with some of our favorite old shots. This group of Polaroid Image Transfers are going under mirrors.
To learn more about Polaroid Image Tranfers, go here. I found the mirror technique in a book Lucy had from the school library. I'll try to track down more info on it. - Update - The book is called Photocraft and has lots of cool ideas.

The tips I have for Polaroid Image Transfers are the following: Use Cold Pressed watercolor paper. Wet the paper before using. Use warm water to place the image in while transferring. Peel apart under the water. The rest is pretty much the same as Polaroid's instructions.

If you'd like to see more of my Polaroid Image Transfers, browse the Images section or check out my portfolio on Polaroid's site.

Here is the first picture without the mirror.

Here is one more old school - redux. I combined 2 old photos to create this new nude.

By the way, the gorgeous model in all of these photos is my beautiful wife, Kiki.

Now - a reward for those knitters who read this far. A sneak peak of some of my super-secret knitting.

Once I send the packages to the lucky recipients, I will show more. Here is another one.


Oh, Lucy had another project that we can show. She made this needle case from Brown Sheep Bulky.
Love that felted fringe!


The one below is the best picture - truest color.


And now some more cards.







Steve