2014 Geek-A-Long: Child’s Play Charity

week 47 Child's Play Charity (3)

Ok, so Child’s Play is not a fandom, but I’m hoping you’ll bear with me on this one. It’s week 47 and as the 2014 Geek-A-Long comes to a close, we wanted to take some time to talk about what brought us all together in the first place. Child’s Play Charity has been close to my heart since its conception, and I’m incredibly humbled by how many of you joined up with us this year in supporting them. Nerds as a species are not usually known for being socially proactive, but Child’s Play proves just how wrong that assumption is. I’ve talked about Child’s Play several times in this space. I considered rehashing all of that today, but this week just isn’t about me. If you want to read about why Child’s Play means so much to me, you can check that out here and here.

This week I want to let the fabulous people behind Child’s Play do the talking:

As a part of their ongoing mission to atone for the crime of being gamers, Jerry “Tycho” Holkins and Mike “Gabe” Krahulik founded Child’s Play in 2003. Since then they have raised over 25 million dollars to improve the lives of children in hospitals and domestic violence shelters.

The truth is, this post could go on indefinitely. I could embed hours of videos and testimonials about the impact Child’s Play has had. And that’s before I even start fangirling about Mike and Jerry, which comes pretty naturally for me. I’ll spare you this once though, since it’s for charity. As always, show Child’s Play some love if you can, and knit on!

week 47 Child's Play Charity (1)

Child’s Play Charity

© Megan-Anne of Lattes & Llamas, 2014

Needles: Size US6

YarnCascade 220 in 2 sharply contrasting colors.

Gauge: 10 sts over 13 rows = 2″ x 2″ square. Final square is 45 sts by 57 rows.  Please note that in the written pattern I instruct you to knit the rows above and below the active color chart.  These rows are shown on the chart as solid color rows above and below the design.

Download PDF of the color chart Child’s Play. Cast on 45 sts for each side of knitting (with two strands held together CO 45, for a total of 90 sts on needle).

Work 2 rows of double-sided knitting (knit the facing sts and purl the back sts across). Note that the first row is a right side row.  You may choose to work the opposite color for the first stitch of each row (I do this), which will keep the edges closed. Alternately, you may choose to knit them without doing this and seam the sides when putting the blanket together. There is no “right” way to do this. It is really just what you are more comfortable with.

Follow color chart over next 53 rows in double-sided knitting.

Work 2 row of double-sided knitting. BO.

week 47 Child's Play Charity (2)

Don’t forget to tweet or instagram them at me @Doctor_Llama or Jac @jac_attacking with the hashtag geekalong, so we can all oooh and ah together. We even have a fancy new GAL Participation Button you can put on your blog or your Geek-A-Long posts. You can grab the html out of the side bar or find it here.

If you’re having trouble with double-sided knitting, we have a how-to video here and you can find moral support in the Geek-A-Long group on Ravelry here. We’re even raffling off some sweet prizes for our members at the end of the year! You can learn more about it in the group or on the GAL Benefactors page.

~ Megan-Anne
You guys are the best.

* * * * *

If you enjoyed this post, please consider making a donation to Child’s Play Charity. Here is a direct link to our donation page benefiting the charity. Please help us raise $1,000 this year! No contribution is too small.
About these ads

2014 Geek-A-Long: The Neverending Story

week 46 The Neverending Story (2)

The Neverending  Story was my favorite movie when I was a kid, but I didn’t read the book until after college. In some ways, I feel like I missed out. The book is amazing, and I can only imagine how much child-me would have loved it. It’s escapism at its best, and just meta enough to make it easy to believe the premise, which ought to be ridiculous. Even the name of the world, Fantastica, is pretty silly. But Michael Ende knew what he was doing, and at the beginning of the book he presents the fantasy elements as imaginary.  As the book within the book gets more and more real for Bastian, it started to feel more real for me too.

week 46 The Neverending Story (4)

This is the last literary reference of the year and I wanted to bring out something really special. I don’t know if I would have had the same reaction to the AURYN as a kid that I had to it as an adult, but grown-up me was fascinated by it when I read the book. I think the idea of a magical item that grants unlimited wishes, with the stipulation that the wearer loses one of the memories that makes them human, is brilliant. A friend recently showed me the movie The Brass Teapot and it reminded me of the AURYN in a huge way (you should watch it, it’s on Netflix!). No one in these situations really understands what they are giving up until the ante has been upped so much that it feels like there’s no way out. Bastian lost every memory except his mother, father, and his own name before he realized the power that the AURYN had over him. It is both the most delightful, and terrifying plot device I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

This square almost didn’t make the final cut for the blanket. We had cut it from our original list of square ideas to make room for other fandoms, but when I drew up this pattern we knew it had to go back on.

week 46 The Neverending Story (1)

The Neverending Story

© Megan-Anne of Lattes & Llamas, 2014

Needles: Size US6

YarnCascade 220 in 2 sharply contrasting colors.

Gauge: 10 sts over 13 rows = 2″ x 2″ square. Final square is 45 sts by 57 rows.  Please note that in the written pattern I instruct you to knit the rows above and below the active color chart.  These rows are shown on the chart as solid color rows above and below the design.

Download PDF of the color chart Neverending Story. Cast on 45 sts for each side of knitting (with two strands held together CO 45, for a total of 90 sts on needle).

Work 2 rows of double-sided knitting (knit the facing sts and purl the back sts across). Note that the first row is a right side row.  You may choose to work the opposite color for the first stitch of each row (I do this), which will keep the edges closed. Alternately, you may choose to knit them without doing this and seam the sides when putting the blanket together. There is no “right” way to do this. It is really just what you are more comfortable with.

Follow color chart over next 53 rows in double-sided knitting.

Work 2 rows of double-sided knitting. BO.

week 46 The Neverending Story (3)

Don’t forget to tweet or instagram them at me @Doctor_Llama or Jac @jac_attacking with the hashtag geekalong, so we can all oooh and ah together. We even have a fancy new GAL Participation Button you can put on your blog or your Geek-A-Long posts. You can grab the html out of the side bar or find it here.

If you’re having trouble with double-sided knitting, we have a how-to video here and you can find moral support in the Geek-A-Long group on Ravelry here. We’re even raffling off some sweet prizes for our members at the end of the year! You can learn more about it in the group or on the GAL Benefactors page.

~ Megan-Anne
DO WHAT YOU WISH

* * * * *

If you enjoyed this post, please consider making a donation to Child’s Play Charity. Here is a direct link to our donation page benefiting the charity. Please help us raise $1,000 this year! No contribution is too small.

A Shape in a Drape

Beatnik Beret (2)

This afternoon, as I transcribed my scribbled notes into readable instructions for the Beatnik Beret, it came to my attention that I hate writing blurbs. How can I possibly turn my inspiration for the beret into a few pithy sentences meant to make people smile and also convince them to crochet it for themselves? Answer: I have no idea.

Instead of just sitting down and writing the blurb like a normal person, I re-watched my original inspiration, Audrey Hepburn as Jo Stockton in Funny Face. Paired with a new skein of yarn and my crochet hook, it seemed like a better way to spend the afternoon. The movie reminded me that the greatest travesty isn’t that models like to trespass and ignore bookshop clerks, but that those pink monsters misshelve books after tossing them about for their photo shoots. Disgusting. Then, of course, I was reminded why I wanted to make a beret in the first place. This iconic scene:

Awesome, right? It makes me want to put on my Beatnik Beret and flounce about the living room, dancing out my feelings.

If you’d like a Beatnik Beret of your very own, I am currently calling for testers. If you’re interested, check out this thread on Ravelry. Besides receiving a free crochet pattern, all of my testers will get a copy of Kniterary Crochet when it releases in December.

~ Jac
“A shape in a drape” is beatnik slang for “a well dressed person”.

2014 Geek-A-Long: Lego

week 45 lego (1)

Everything isn’t awesome. Everything isn’t cool when you’re a part of Megan-Anne’s team. Everything isn’t awesome when she releases squares out of order.

I hope all of you have seen The Lego Movie or else the above paragraph isn’t very funny, but it’s still true. Last week, Megan-Anne released The Princess Bride square out of order, which sent off a chain reaction resulting in another week with minimal pictures. Sorry. Although, no one is more upset about it than me. I meticulously took pictures before she began the joins, using our preset schedule as a guide. I even took some great photographs of my cat being a jerk to post to Instagram on the appropriate Caturdays. But, no. They all had spoilers in them.

Anyway, Legos are awesome. They’re the perfect toy for children (and adults) to build motor skills, creativity, problem-solving skills, and also the ultimate home security system. All you have to do is sprinkle some of those bad boys on the carpet before leaving the house, and intruders will cry all the way to the ER. From personal experience, I also know that you can carefully craft swords and have the most epic battle known to man with your siblings.

The design for this square came together pretty quick. We knew we wanted to feature the traditional bricks. The biggest question was which colors we would use.

week 45 lego (3)

Lego

© Megan-Anne of Lattes & Llamas, 2014

Needles: Size US6

YarnCascade 220 in 2 sharply contrasting colors.

Gauge: 10 sts over 13 rows = 2″ x 2″ square. Final square is 45 sts by 57 rows.  Please note that in the written pattern I instruct you to knit the rows above and below the active color chart.  These rows are shown on the chart as solid color rows above and below the design.

Download PDF of the color chart LEGO. Cast on 45 sts for each side of knitting (with two strands held together CO 45, for a total of 90 sts on needle).

Work 1 row of double-sided knitting (knit the facing sts and purl the back sts across). Note that the first row is a wrong side row.  You may choose to work the opposite color for the first stitch of each row (I do this), which will keep the edges closed. Alternately, you may choose to knit them without doing this and seam the sides when putting the blanket together. There is no “right” way to do this. It is really just what you are more comfortable with.

Follow color chart over next 55 rows in double-sided knitting.

Work 1 row of double-sided knitting. BO.

week 45 lego (2)

Don’t forget to tweet or instagram them at me @Doctor_Llama or Jac @jac_attacking with the hashtag geekalong, so we can all oooh and ah together. We even have a fancy new GAL Participation Button you can put on your blog or your Geek-A-Long posts. You can grab the html out of the side bar or find it here.

If you’re having trouble with double-sided knitting, we have a how-to video here and you can find moral support in the Geek-A-Long group on Ravelry here. We’re even raffling off some sweet prizes for our members at the end of the year! You can learn more about it in the group or on the GAL Benefactors page.

~ Jac
On a scale from 1 to ‘Stepping on a Lego at 3 a.m. in the dark on the way to the bathroom’, how much pain are you in?

* * * * *

If you enjoyed this post, please consider making a donation to Child’s Play Charity. Here is a direct link to our donation page benefiting the charity. Please help us raise $1,000 this year! No contribution is too small.

New Kids On The Blocking Wires – Part 2

Last week, I told you a little bit about why you should block. True to my word, this week we’ll talk about how. If you didn’t read part 1 of this post, I recommend starting there. We went over materials needed and what blocking can do for you. Today, however, we’re going to discuss blocking techniques: Wet, Steam, or Spritz.

Wet Blocking

Generally speaking, this is the go to for wool, acrylic, and blends. Wet blocking is the most effective technique and will give very dramatic results. You can add several inches to a large piece if desired. When deciding whether to use this method ask yourself: is this a durable fiber? If the answer is yes, then block to your heart’s content!

However, if you say to yourself: “Self, this yarn is as delicate as a tiny glass llama.” Skip the wet block. You will run the risk of breaking fibers and ruining your hard work. If you just aren’t sure, you can do a quick tug test:

  1. Take about 4 inches of your yarn, in the thickness you knitted with. I.E. if you doubled up your yarn to knit, then double it up for the test.
  2. Hold each end and give it a firm — but not violent — tug.
  3. If the yarn splits in two, you should not wet block it. If it holds just fine you are good to go.
How to Wet Block

Completely submerge your knitting in water and let it soak for 20 minutes to an hour. The length of time largely depends on the size of the project. You want every stitch to be completely soaked, so for a really large project (like a Geek-A-Long blanket) you’ll want to give the yarn plenty of time to soak up the water. If you are going to use a wool wash, now is the time. I usually soak small projects like the Sweet Sixteen Hat in a bowl or stock pot, and larger ones in the bathtub.

How to Block

Once your project has soaked, take it carefully out of the water and ask yourself: Do I just want to add shape, or am I also adding length?

To add significant length, which means more than 1/10th of the total length, you’ll need to thwack it. I didn’t make up this term, I swear! But if you’re piece is 10 inches long and you’d like to add another two inches, you’ll need thwack it and thwack it good. Take hold of the piece firmly at the base of where you’ll add length, like the armpit of a sleeve, and whack it against the side of your tub. Don’t go crazy, there are no points awarded for extra enthusiasm, but get it one or two good whacks. The more you do this, the longer it will get.

WARNING LABEL:
For every inch you thwack, you lose the same amount in width.

sweet 16 hat blocking

Once you’ve thwacked, or if you didn’t need to thwack, roll up the piece in some nice clean towels and step on the towels to blot out the water. Then, immediately stretch it into the shape/size you want on your blocking surface and pin it in place. Allow the piece to dry completely before taking it off the pins. Just be aware that this method may cause colors to bleed. When working with strong colors, it’s always a good idea to wash the yarn with some Color Catchers before knitting with it.

Steam Bocking

Steam Blocking is great for cotton and silk, though I will sometimes wet block silk if I’ve made lace. Always use extreme caution when wet blocking silk since it becomes weak when wet and easily develops disfigurements that you may not be able to get rid of. Cotton, though strong, doesn’t take to wet blocking well. It gets stiff sometimes when drying, so I use steam when I can.

Steamers are a great investment for knitters, and you can get one for less that $30. Steam blocking can be much quicker than wet blocking, but the results are not as dramatic. There is no opportunity to thwack, and you want to be really careful not to damage your hard work with heat.

How to Steam Block

When using a steamer like the one I linked to above, hang your knitting on a hanger and then hang that from a shower rod. Holding the steamer at least three or four inches away from the fabric, and being careful not to steam your own face off, move the steamer over the fabric until the whole thing is warm and moist. Don’t go overboard. You don’t want to make it wet, just moist and pliable.

But Megan-Anne, I don’t WANT to buy a steamer. I only need to steam this one thing. It’s just not worth it. I think I’ll just wet block this super expensive silk instead. It’ll be fine.

Stop. Just stop, because you are hurting my delicate sensibilities.

If you don’t want to spring for a steamer, you can MacGyver a solution with a wet pillowcase, some towels, and a run-of-the-mill iron. You need a surface that can take the heat, like an ironing board with a clean towel on it. Even if you have a steamer, you might use this for very small projects. I blocked the Silver Pan collar this way since it wasn’t worth hanging such a small project up for the steamer.

duck face

I miss my blue hair. :’(

How to Steam Block the MacGyver Way

Lay out a towel on your ironing board, place the piece to be blocked on top, and smooth it as flat as possible. Put another towel on top of that, and then finish the blocking sandwich with a wet (but not dripping) pillow case and one more towel. Run your iron on medium heat over that top towel to force steam out of the pillow case and down through the knitting. Just do one pass, then lift up the towels to reveal your now compliant work. Smooth it into the shape you want it to take, replace the towels and pillow case and give it one more swipe with the iron. Don’t put the wet towel directly on your work or your iron.

WARNING LABEL:
Do not steam block wool as that can cause felting.

Just like with a wet block, immediately pin your project to the shape you want it onto your blocking surface. Let it dry completely before removing it from the pins.

Spritz Blocking

This final method is what you will use if you have something really delicate, or if you don’t know which fibers are in your yarn. For example, lets say you think it’s mostly merino, but it might also contain silk. Go the safe route and spritz block it. You won’t get the dramatic effects of a wet block, but you won’t ruin your work either.

How to Spritz Block

Gently pull and stretch the project into place and pin it WHILE DRY to your blocking surface. Then, spritz the whole thing with room temperature water using a spray bottle. Let it dry thoroughly before removing from the pins.

So that’s it! There are no excuses not to block your work to perfection. It really does a lot for the overall look of a piece and can fix a whole lot of knitting sins. If you have tips that I didn’t cover here, sound off the in the comments and share them with the class :D

~Megan-Anne
Don’t be fooled by the knits that I got, I’m still Megan on the block.

imho

Guys, my life is weird. To keep up with my obligations, I basically operate on the 36 hour Men In Black day. I suppose that does make me uniquely suited to being a doctor one day though. I easily work 80 hours a week, and depending on the time of year and what’s going on, another 40-50 on school.

I love every minute of it.

I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. There are MUCH easier ways I could spend my time. You know, like sleeping. But it does pile up. Along with the GAL (which between designing and knitting represents about 600 hours annually), L&L’s independent designs, a pattern book (spoilers!), research, volunteer work, teaching, marital duties, catching Pokemon, and smiting my enemies… There isn’t really much time left to stress about my med school applications. I’m an overachiever though, and I manage to work in the time to obsess over them anyway.

Just today I realized that I had spent a full episode of Criminal Minds staring at my knitting while my mind wandered to wondering why no med schools want me. I didn’t know what that episode was about and I didn’t know what row I was on, which was a real shame since I’m working on a gorgeous shawl using Manos Fino Yarn.

For awhile now, I’ve considered writing a post about the sting of academic rejection. I don’t usually use this space for a post like this — this isn’t my Hello Kitty Dear Diary, and I recognize that — but with increasing frequency, I’ve been hearing from readers who are going through the same thing. I’ve tried to offer support wherever I can. With a BA, Masters program, and post bac under my belt, I’ve become a seasoned veteran of the application process. But today, as I raged out of the room shouting, “Well now they’re just trolling me!” Jac suggested that the time to write this post had come.

I haven’t been shy about how PCOM is my first choice for a lot of reasons. I don’t mean to say that I wouldn’t be thrilled to go to a different med school, but everyone has a dream school and I’m comfortable discussing mine. Anyhow, my drama today happened after I got an email from admissions. For a brief moment, I thought that this was it: FINALLY that interview invite had come. Nope, just about an open house in November.

I have a strong application with great letters of recommendation and extracurriculars, and I have yet to be asked to a single interview. It’s easy to take it personally or read too much into things. Some of that is because we’ve all convinced ourselves we ought to act like everything is fine, the never let them see you cry mentality, but bottling it up isn’t good for you. Or me, apparently. So whether you’re waiting to hear from your first choice med school or your last choice undergrad, let’s all take a deep breath and allow ourselves a little rant, shall we?

  • Following me on Twitter, and then NOT inviting me in for an interview makes me think you just want to be internet friends. It’s like that guy who messages you on Facebook to say he’ll be in town next weekend and you pretend not to see it until the Monday after he leaves.
  • Communication matters: Send us complete emails. Post how many spots are left. Let us have an educated freakout process.
  • To the school that sent my friend a rejection email that simply read “INTERVIEW DENIED”: That was a jerk move. You know who you are.
  • Look, I know you probably get 1000 calls a day. But just being able to call and get an update of “we’ve looked at your application” or “we haven’t looked at it” would probably cut the collective American premed stress in half.

Whew, I feel better already! Sometimes you just need a little catharsis. I’m lucky enough to have a rock solid support system between Jac and Mr. Llama, but I know not everyone does. So to round it out, I’d like to finish with an open statement to applicants:

  • You are more than your gpa and MCAT score. I swear to you that 10 years from now children will not whisper about your Verbal score as they walk past your house, eyeballing you like the neighborhood witch known for cooking kids and getting less than a 30.
  • Adcoms are not trolling you, they don’t hate you, and they do the best they can with the crazy volume of applicants they have to deal with.
  •  Rejecting your application is not the same as rejecting you as a person.
  • You have great hair, and whatever you decide to wear to your interview will look awesome on you.

~Megan-Anne
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.

2014 Geek-A-Long: The Princess Bride

This post was NOT supposed to be about The Princess Bride. While I adore the movie and recently bought the bookto read, The Princess Bride was actually supposed to be released as the week 46 GAL square. Now, you might be saying to yourselves:

But, Megan-Anne, why does it matter that you announced The Princess Bride as the week 44 square in several places on the internet after posting a super cool spoiler pic, which you’ve been holding onto for months? Just roll with it and make the original week 44 square number 46. Problem solved!


Oh, if only it were that easy, gentle readers. You see, Jac photographed all of the squares ages ago, and almost every single picture she took of The Princess Bride contains spoilers. To make matters worse — or better, if you consider the fact that we’re already hard at work designing the 2015 GAL blanket — the joins are done and I just finished knitting the border, so Jac can’t take new pictures. Therefore, this week, the pictures of the square will be sparse. Instead, I was forced to flood this post with picture links of Princess Bride merchandise I’d like for Christmas.

hint. hint. nudge. nudge. I suppose when I open my presents this year I’ll find out if my husband reads the blog…

week 44 Princess Bride (1)

Hands down, The Princess Bride is my favorite 80′s movie. I would even go as far to say that it is in my top ten movies of all time. It has everything: fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

Designing this particular square was an opportunity to take a dip in lake-me and improve myself. I don’t recall drawing up most of the squares, but I very clearly remember working on this design at Starbucks. Actually, I did the designs for almost all of the squares at a Starbucks, but that’s besides the point. For this one, I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like. I could picture it very clearly, and it should have been a quick wham-bam-thank-you-Dread-Pirate-Roberts. I don’t know if it was a combo of stress and distraction, or just a general artistic fail, but my first few runs of this one were bad.

This was one of the last ones I put together and at the time I was under a huge amount of stress regarding my med school applications. (I’m still stressed about them, but at least now it’s a different type of stress.) I was not in the best head space for dealing with my own imperfections and it took a lot of will power not to freak out right there in the middle of the coffee shop. I called Jac, she talked me down, and I did eventually get the chart drawn up. I like to think I’m better for it.

week 44 Princess Bride (2)

Princess Bride

© Megan-Anne of Lattes & Llamas, 2014

Needles: Size US6

YarnCascade 220 in 2 sharply contrasting colors.

Gauge: 10 sts over 13 rows = 2″ x 2″ square. Final square is 45 sts by 57 rows.  Please note that in the written pattern I instruct you to knit the rows above and below the active color chart.  These rows are shown on the chart as solid color rows above and below the design.

Download PDF of the color chart Princess Bride. Cast on 45 sts for each side of knitting (with two strands held together CO 45, for a total of 90 sts on needle).

Work 2 rows of double-sided knitting (knit the facing sts and purl the back sts across). Note that the first row is a right side row.  You may choose to work the opposite color for the first stitch of each row (I do this), which will keep the edges closed. Alternately, you may choose to knit them without doing this and seam the sides when putting the blanket together. There is no “right” way to do this. It is really just what you are more comfortable with.

Follow color chart over next 53 rows in double-sided knitting.

Work 2 rows of double-sided knitting. BO.

Don’t forget to tweet or instagram them at me @Doctor_Llama or Jac @jac_attacking with the hashtag geekalong, so we can all oooh and ah together. We even have a fancy new GAL Participation Button you can put on your blog or your Geek-A-Long posts. You can grab the html out of the side bar or find it here.

If you’re having trouble with double-sided knitting, we have a how-to video here and you can find moral support in the Geek-A-Long group on Ravelry here. We’re even raffling off some sweet prizes for our members at the end of the year! You can learn more about it in the group or on the GAL Benefactors page.

~ Megan-Anne
My first choice school followed me on Twitter, but hasn’t invited me for an interview. I guess they just wanna be internet friends. Sigh.

* * * * *

If you enjoyed this post, please consider making a donation to Child’s Play Charity. Here is a direct link to our donation page benefiting the charity. Please help us raise $1,000 this year! No contribution is too small.

Free Stuff: Skacel

When Skacel said they would send us a few things for the Geek-A-Long swag bags, I thought they’d just send a few Addi Turbo needles, which was awesome. Then this huge box came in the mail…

skacel project bags

Inside were four of the coolest project bags I’ve ever seen. They have all these great secret pockets, including this handy-dandy flap thing that comes up and has places for little notions and snacks. I’m going to be honest here. I’m bummed they didn’t send an extra one for Megan-Anne and I to fight over. It would’ve been like a Knitty Hunger Games, and I’m pretty sure I would’ve been the victor. This bag could’ve been mine. Instead, it’s going to one of you!

When you post a picture of your finished Geek-A-Long blanket to the Ravelry GAL group in any of the three sizes (baby blanket, afghan, or full-sized), you will be entered into the raffle for that sized blanket. However, everyone in the group is eligible to enter the drawing for the fourth prize basket as our thank you for just being a member. If you’re not a member, however, it isn’t too late to join and get in on the fun! You can find everything you’ll need to know about the Geek-A-Long on the FAQ page.

skacel swag bag

Hidden inside each project bag we found the Tayberry Hat pattern by Cirilia Rose along with the addi Turbo needles and two skeins of their Kenzie yarn to knit it!

I’ve personally never had the pleasure of working with the Kenzie yarn, but my cheek sure was a fan of it when I rubbed it all over my face. It’s a beautiful tweed yarn made with 50% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils. Kenzie is a light worsted and falls between DK and Worsted when it comes to weight.

skackel kenzie yarn

I realize that what I’m supposed to love about addi Turbos is the nickel plating and super pointy tips, which while useful, just doesn’t hold a candle to the blue cord they come on. The flexibility of the cord gives you control over your project that you just don’t get with the regular run-of-the-mill plastic ones, and the difference is especially noticeable when doing magic loop.

About Skacel

The Skacel Collection, Inc. has been a wholesaler of high-end yarns and needles for over 20 years. Our fibers are manufactured using the highest quality materials in our German, Italian, and Peruvian mills.

Skacel is proud to be the sole North American distributor for the addi Turbo line of hand-knitting needles and accessories, as well as the Zitron, Schulana, and Schoppel-Wolle yarn lines. Skacel also distributes the Schoeller+Stahl and Austermann yarn lines within the United States. As a family owned and operated entity, we strive to provide top-notch customer service, world-class products, and cutting-edge designs.

Thank you for your generous donation to the Geek-A-Long participants, Skacel! You can find Skacel on their website, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’d like to view the other Geek-A-Long benefactors and prizes, you can find them here.

~ Jac
While my sister might be the better knitter, I can make it longer without coffee and would win the Knitty Hunger Games.

* * * * *
If you enjoyed this post and want to stay current on all things Geek-A-Long, join our email list via the link in the sidebar or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

New Kids On The Blocking Wires – Part 1

Blue Sky Alpacas Sweet 16 Hat in Extra Yarn

The lovely Alena sporting her new hat and dutifully putting up with modeling for her older sisters.

A while back we asked you if you’d like some free stuff. Turns out you do! Congratulations to Connie K., who will be receiving a fabulous box of goodies compliments of Blue Sky Alpacas.

They were kind enough to send me enough of their delicious Extra Yarn and a spare pattern so I could whip up a Sweet Sixteen Hat of my very own. After I cast off the hat, Alena snatched it up, put it on her head, and checked herself out in a mirror.

Um, Meganne*? This sort of doesn’t look anything like the picture on the pattern. I’m not trying to tell you how to do you, but is it possible that you don’t know how to read a pattern?

I know right? You can probably hear the sisterly love right through the screen. ;) The hat hadn’t been blocked yet, and like so many knits, it changed considerably when it was. Alena, like Jac, has a large noggin, so I blocked this guy pretty hard to give it the slouchy look that makes it so snazzy.

sweet 16 hat blocking

As I blocked it, Alena was looking over my shoulder, wondering what kind of fiber based witchcraft I was doing. She asked questions as I worked, and when I finished she asked me where I learned to do that. The truth is I don’t know. My blocking knowledge is more or less a hodgepodge picked up here and there from books, friends, and of course the internet. A while back I got super interested in the nitty-gritty makeup of the fibers I use most, and that understanding really helped my blocking skills.

Based on blocking tutorial requests on Instagram, I thought I’d share the basics of what makes a great block. Today, I’m going to talk about what blocking is and what you need to do it. Next week, I’ll go in-depth on techniques and which fibers to use them on.

What Is Blocking?

Blocking is when you moisten your knitting by submerging it in water (pictured below), spritzing it with a spray bottle, or steam. Then you pin it into the shape you want the final piece to take. This is especially useful to get a clean straight edge on blankets or to add shape to garments.

How to Block

Why Block?

Blocking is what makes your knitting really bloom. If you’re making lace, the difference between the cast off piece and the blocked piece will be especially dramatic. My wedding shawl pictured below is a great example of that. Sadly, I don’t have a great picture of it before I blocked it, but it measured about a 4′x4′ square off the needles. Once blocked it grew to 6′x6′.

megans shawl

Recently, one of my knitting students started her very first sweater. I had her do the sleeves first because they’re the fastest part of the sweater, so you get that instant gratification. And also because by the end, it’s easy to get bored with a pattern and not want to do them. Second-sock-syndrome gets the best of us. Anyhow, after finishing the two sleeves and ensuring she had done the same number of rows on each, she found one was nearly an inch shorter than the other. Her tension had evened out over the course of the sleeves, but the first had a much looser gauge than the second. She was worried I would make her tear it out, but that’s just not how I roll.

That’ll block right out.

Blocking is the great equalizer. Sleeves not the same length? No problem. Forgot to leave room in that sweater for your fabulous chest? Put a rolled up towel under the sweater before blocking to create a little room for the ladies. The pattern calls for 18 inches but you can’t bear to work that stockinette one row past 17? Girl, stretch that bad boy on your wires. It’ll feel good. Blocking is often skipped for non-lace projects, but you are missing out on a great opportunity to make your work look really polished and professional. Blocking can be a little tedious, especially if you’ve spent a long time on a project and you just can’t wait to get it on, but trust me, it’s worth the time.

Materials

Before you get started blocking you need to gather up the tools for the job.

A Blocking Surface

blocking a blanketMany knitters swear by Blocking Mats, but I’ve actually never used them. I like to block on a bed that has been covered with Hefty bags. For really huge projects, I’ll lay out a nice thick layer of beach towels on a carpeted floor and then cover that with Hefty bags.

The magic ingredient here is the Hefty bags.

They protect the blocking surface, but more importantly, they will speed the drying process. If you block straight onto an absorbent, or even semi-absorbent surface, the water will soak into it and sit there taking ages to dry. As someone who frequently blocks less than 24 hours before I need something, I don’t have time for all that. The trash bags keep the water from soaking into anything, and drying goes about three times faster than without them.

Pins and Wires

The wires are optional, but frankly I won’t block anything larger than a washcloth without them. I like Inspinknity Wires best. You use the wires by threading them through the edge of the piece, and then pin along the edge of the wire to adhere it to your blocking surface. You’ll want T-pins for that. Trust me on this. Do NOT try to use head pins, because you’ll wind up tearing your hair out in frustration later and probably ruin your knitting trying to get them out of the blocked piece. What’s great about wires is they give you a much cleaner edge than you can possibly get using pins alone. It’s also less stressful for the fiber since the tension is spread out along the whole edge rather than at localized pin points. Physics!

Water and Wool Wash

Like the wires, wool wash is optional. That said, if you’re blocking wool and don’t love the smell of wet sheep, it’s a must. Providing that I’m doing a wet block (more on that next week), I use wool wash on any fiber, not just wool. My favorite wash is Eucalan. It smells great and doesn’t require rinsing, so it’s perfect for delicate fibers.

This was just the introduction of course, come back this time next week for a follow-up on specific techniques, and how to tell when to use them!

~Megan-Anne
*My sisters stopped saying my name correctly a long time ago. At some point Jac started calling me Meganne (pronounced Meg-Anne-uh-nan-ee) and it stuck.

2014 Geek-A-Long: Jack Skellington

week 43 Jack Skellington (1)

Hey guys! Week 43 of the Geek-A-Long brings two very special things: the final 5 squares of the 2014 GAL and Halloween! Jac and I love Halloween, and what better way to honor it than with a Jack Skellington square? The thing is, and please don’t tar and feather me for this, I’m just not that into Tim Burton movies. I know I’m supposed to like them, but they just aren’t for me. So this week we’re going a little outside the box. We’ve asked the fabulous Alena Zent to have your back this week with a guest post. See you next week! ~Megan-Anne

Hi! I’m Alena the Jartern (Jar + Intern = Jartern. It’s a long story that involves cake incentives and assembling swag for an upcoming charity event.), a.k.a Megan-Anne and Jac’s baby sister. Much unlike my sisters, I do not enjoy knitting or crochet. I’d much rather spend my time pulling my hair out in frustration while complaining about how hard writing is. So relaxing.

This week’s Geek-A-Long square is one of my personal favorites, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s the story of Jack Skellington and his quest for Christmas cheer as opposed to the usual Halloween scares. We all learn the lesson that you should never trust anyone from Halloweentown with Christmas. And you probably shouldn’t trust three masked kids, who aren’t opposed to sending things to Oogie Boogie.

I think we can all agree the claymation is amazing, but the best part about the Nightmare Before Christmas (other than singing along really loud and off-key) is that it combines the excitement of Halloween with getting to enjoy Christmas two months early without anyone judging you. My sisters and I love Christmas, and if it were socially acceptable we’d wear our comfy Christmas sweaters year round. Like this delightful gem:

There were a lot of options for this weeks square, as The Nightmare Before Christmas has a lot of identifiable characters: Oogie Boogie, Sally, Dr. Finkelstein, The Mayor. There is actually an alternate square this week, due to that fact. You can download Zero here. But ultimately Megan-Anne and Jac agreed Jack Skellington would be best. So here he is. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I enjoyed watching it be made.

week 43 Jack Skellington (3)

Jack Skellington

© Megan-Anne of Lattes & Llamas, 2014

Needles: Size US6

YarnCascade 220 in 2 sharply contrasting colors.

Gauge: 10 sts over 13 rows = 2″ x 2″ square. Final square is 45 sts by 57 rows.  Please note that in the written pattern I instruct you to knit the rows above and below the active color chart.  These rows are shown on the chart as solid color rows above and below the design.

Download PDF of the color chart Skellington. Cast on 45 sts for each side of knitting (with two strands held together CO 45, for a total of 90 sts on needle).

Work 2 rows of double-sided knitting (knit the facing sts and purl the back sts across). Note that the first row is a right side row.  You may choose to work the opposite color for the first stitch of each row (I do this), which will keep the edges closed. Alternately, you may choose to knit them without doing this and seam the sides when putting the blanket together. There is no “right” way to do this. It is really just what you are more comfortable with.

Follow color chart over next 41 rows in double-sided knitting.

Work 2 rows of double-sided knitting. BO.

week 43 Jack Skellington (2)

Don’t forget to tweet or instagram them at me @Doctor_Llama or Jac @jac_attacking with the hashtag geekalong, so we can all oooh and ah together. We even have a fancy new GAL Participation Button you can put on your blog or your Geek-A-Long posts. You can grab the html out of the side bar or find it here.

If you’re having trouble with double-sided knitting, we have a how-to video here and you can find moral support in the Geek-A-Long group on Ravelry here. We’re even raffling off some sweet prizes for our members at the end of the year! You can learn more about it in the group or on the GAL Benefactors page.

~ Alena

It was a poem first. Educate yourselves.

* * * * *

If you enjoyed this post, please consider making a donation to Child’s Play Charity. Here is a direct link to our donation page benefiting the charity. Please help us raise $1,000 this year! No contribution is too small.