Taking my own advice

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You know, sometimes I talk all knowingly about how there isn't one right needle and you should swatch and blah blah blah, but you know what? I love metal needles. I use them almost exclusively. I like that they are smooth and fast and many have sharp little points. It's all about efficiency to me. Wood needles seem slow and plodding to me, like swimming in molasses. Plastic needles range, but are often just too grippy for my taste and certain brands are all wobbly bendy.

But you know what? I've been hating this sleeve I'm working on for a particular pattern. It's lace, worked in the round, on a small circumference. The lace requires working 3 stitches together, and every other row, those three stitches shift, which means that stitches have to be moved between needles. Worse, it's laceweight black yarn worked on big ol' needles.

needles.jpg

I tried two circulars, but the problem with this method is that it's nearly impossible to move stitches back and forth between needles at such a tight circumference. One, essentially, has to use a cable needle or spare DPN. Talk about inefficient.

So then I moved to some metal DPNs. I'm sure there'll be gasps of disgust but I have absolutely no issues knitting with Susan Bates DPNs. The really small ones are a bit bendy, but anything above a US#1 seems to work fine and they come in pretty colors. Who could complain? Unfortunately, working with laceweight yarn and these heavy needles was almost as bad as the 2-circs. The weight of the needles was so great that I couldn't maintain a comfortable tension on the yarn. This got even worse between needles, forcing me to maintain a constant death grip on the yarn while also fearing that the needles would make a run for it. I finally had to admit it, I was using the wrong needle. I'm a stubborn woman.

I went over to the local craft store, picked up some cheapo bamboo needles, and it's been smooth sailing since. The wood's grippiness keeps all the needles in place and the weight is light enough that the thread isn't pulled from my fingers as I work. I'm not a convert, I'm just reminded that sometimes I have to step out of my perceived comfort zone.


And since my 1970s ripple afghan has received so much attention, here she is again, albeit a bit rumpled. Oh, there are also a couple of dogs next to her.

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Thea seems to think she's a cat.

It's a hard knock life, for us

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Three sleepy girls

One Wild Scarf

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Scarf
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Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

It's always good to have one little mindless project on the needles that can go anywhere. I've been toting this little project around for a month now, and mostly working it on the train, when my more involved projects would be unmanageable.

The final piece is really dense, so very warm, long enough to wrap around the neck several times, and bright and cheery enough to counteract the winter gloom in Portland.

Stats

  • Pattern: my own
  • Fiber: Merino/Silk roving from Red Rock Fiber Works
  • Color: One Wild Night
  • Spun on: El Matchador (Schacht Matchless)
  • Plied: 3-ply using the chain plying method to produce self striping yarn
  • Weight: Approximately worsted
  • Needles: US#9/5.5mm
  • Finishing: Single crochet

Rainy, muddy and fantastic

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This weekend, we made a long overdue trip to the beach. It was a little cold (thought not too cold) a little rainy (no one here minds the rain) and foggy like you wouldn't believe.

Check out these shots.

Manzanita Oregon
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That's the same stretch of beach we almost always go to. We would have spent all day there, but the rip current was pretty strong and Thea is not the most buoyant dog around. Visions of her being pulled into the briny deep made us uneasy.

We thought the day might be shot, after about a half hour, but we decided to do a little hiking to make the long drive worth the while.

Off we went to Ecola State Park, where we had nearly the whole trail to ourselves. The fog made the view look like a fantasy.

Trail to Indian Beach in Ecola State Park

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By comparison, this is how it looked the first time we went.

But I think there's a pretty good reason why we had the whole trail to ourselves. By the end of the hike, the four of us were coated in mud.

Getting muddy on the trail
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We learned that Panda would make every effort to go around giant puddles of mud, while Thea would aim for them. Either way, there was no keeping clean, but we definitely appreciated Panda's efforts to stay clean.

We had to put the girls in the car, however we decided that a dip in the ocean before we leave would be much preferred to a bath, when we got home. So we headed back to Seaside and played a wee bit of fetch.

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It was good to see their beautiful white coats again.

As we were clipping on everyone's leash, someone nearby said, "Did you see the elk?" and pointed to the hill ahead. I looked up and saw three little heads, just showing above the ledge. Leo had the the good sense to go put the dogs in the car, and I walked over to where a small crowd had formed, a safe distance from the herd.

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We've seen our share of elk at the coast, but never this many at once. Such a great way to end a fantastic ocean trip.

Our day wasn't over with the ocean, though. My sweet guy treated me to a delicious meal to celebrate our 8 year anniversary.

It was a great meal, beautiful view and, of course, perfect company. And for the toast, he said "Here's to 8 years, 8 years more and nothing more."
Of course, I refused to toast to that nonsense, so he said, ok, well, what if we lay the second 8 on its side?"

Cute.

There's a reason I keep him around.

It's a shame to have this lovely long weekend end, but it was great while it lasted.

Using Photoshop to color your sketches

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Most images can be clicked to zoom.

Perhaps you need to submit sketches of a pattern for consideration in a publication, or maybe you are just designing for yourself and want to play with color combinations, regardless of your reasons, you don't need a full set of pencils and markers to colorize your drawings and if you use Photoshop, you change the colors over and over again, without having to do a new drawing. I'm going to cover some very simple techniques, that you can build upon to create your own style.

As with all my tutorials I want to make it clear that I'm not an expert, these are just some suggestions. I don't supply support for these methods and cannot offer instructions for older versions or open source alternatives to the program indicated. I am using Photoshop CS3 on a Mac, but will try to provide PC equivalents when I know them.

And, of course, if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments. I love learning new tips.

Start your sketch

You may download my original, unretouched sketch here, and play along at home. The final document is available here.

I generally do my sketches on paper. I'm not a fine artists, so I often use catalogs as reference for the way clothing drapes and the correct proportions for the human form. I don't like to actually trace images, because I think this looks too stiff. I prefer to just use the image as a visual reference and draw the images by hand. You should do what produces the best results for you.

In this case, I want to draw a skirt. I looked around online and found this cute number over at the Gap. I lightly drew my sketch with pencil then outlined only the most important features with a thick dark marker.

If you have a scanner, great, scan it. I have one but I generally just take a picture with my digital camera, like I have here. The lighting was atrocious that day, so the paper is pretty dark, but that's totally fine.

Now, open the image in Photoshop.

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