Conclusions on Machine Knitting

I have been making these machine-knit things for a few weeks now.  They’re all based on the rectangle, which is not bad, and my machine can’t do much else (it’s an oldie, remember?).  For the last week or so I found myself investigating new (or "more advanced," I guess) machines, machines which could do lace and double-knitting and fair isle and other stuff.  My mind whirled around with the possibilities and with trying to choose which machine to get.
Well, I sat down today to work on a new pullover for Chris (started last night), and yeah, it’s coming out OK, and it’s an interesting and useful craft, but…I do NOT get the joy of knitting like I do with handknits.  After working on the pullover for a while, I came down and picked up my Ocean Wave shawl to work on that, and I get so much tactile delight from handling the cashmere that it really makes me happy.
So, in conclusion, I will keep my cheapo knitting machine, finish up the projects that have been started, and only use it for skirt portions of dresses in the future – dresses where I’m writing the pattern, and the skirt part is long sections of plain stockinette.  No more machines for me!

Cashmere Jubilee

That is the name I gave to this Alex-sweater, first real attempt at machine knitting, project, because it looks sort of like a cherries-on-fire theme.
There’s quite a saga to this one.  Want to hear it?  Of course you do!
This is the same yarn combo as in the center (largest) machine-knit bag in the picture below.  Alex really loved that bag and asked me to make him a sweater with those yarns.  OK, fine.  I had no real plans for them.  So I cast onto the machine and started knitting.  These were two yarns stranded together, both laceweight 100% cashmeres from Colourmart.  One (orange) was called Aragosta and the other (pinkish) was called Marchesa.
As I knit it became clear that I was going to run out of Marchesa before finishing the garment.  (It was slightly thicker, and therefore less yardage per cone, than Aragosta.)  To help forestall any weird design issues that might result, I decided to knit one really long rectangle and then cut a steek for the neckline, instead of trying to guess at the finished length, start a front piece, and (possibly) run out of yarn.  So I machine-knit a really long rectangle, as wide as Alex needed for a sweater (plus ease to allow for shrinkage during finishing).  I just kept going until there was no more Marchesa left.  The rectangle was long enough.  That’s sorted.
When it came off the machine, there was a garbled section near the rear right hem where several stitches had dropped and made a bit of a mess.  I cut a piece of faux leather and sewing-machine-stitched it behind the hole in the garment to keep it from fraying further.  (Couldn’t see how to fix the stitches with any knitting technique.)  Purchased the racecar patch and sewed it on the front side, over the mess.  So, that’s sorted.
Now it was time to cut the steek for the neckline.  Well, cashmere doesn’t steek nicely, so I first pinned out the area to cut, then zigzag-stitched around that hole, and then cut out the fabric inside the hole.  My original intent was to allow the cut strands to unravel down to the zigzags, to make a decorative neckline, but this looked like garbage, AND, it failed to cover up the zigzags…so this neckline was looking pretty bad.  Well, thinks I, why not machine-knit a collar and sleeves using the remaining Aragosta yarn plus some cherry-colored other cashmere I have hanging around?
Cast on the machine, knit a "thing" (supposed to be a short sleeve).  Started the second "short sleeve," finished it, took it off the machine, discovered the second one was only 1" long whereas the first one was 3.5" long.  Argh, scrap the sleeve idea.  I’ll make it a vest.  Hey, I’ll use the wider sleeve piece as the collar!
No dice; couldn’t get it to attach right.  By this point I’m out of the cherry-colored cashmere and almost out of Aragosta, so it was time to come up with another solution.  Luckily, I had a spare skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in a cherry red color.  I picked up around the sleeve openings and knit some ribbing, and then picked up around the neckline and knit some ribbing.  To conceal the mess from the zigzag stitching, I made this ribbing extra tall, and then folded it down to the inside and seamed it down.  Now you can’t see the mess!
I finally finished all this Macgyvering tonight and flung it in the laundry.  "Ack," I hear you screaming, "cashmere in the laundry?"  Well, the test piece – the pillowcase or bag shown below – responded very well to this treatment with minimal shrinking.  I didn’t really fear for that.  I’m not planning to throw this in the machine every time we do laundry, but the Colourmart yarns are oiled specifically for machine-knitting, so while they’re a bit gritty to work with, they bloom and soften beautifully in the wash.  So this was the Inaugural Wash.
After the cold water wash and tumble dry, we took it out and Alex tried it on…and VOILA, your favorite knitter has TRIUMPHED AGAIN!  All that monkeying around has resulted in a really nice little sweater.  It fits him nicely, it looks and feels good.  I wouldn’t hesitate this to show this garment to even the most discerning of judges (although I wouldn’t expect fulsome praise from them either).  I am happy with it, and pleased with my perseverance and knowledge of how to tinker with problems and fix them.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Cashmere Jubilee!

A “PS” to Machine Knitting

I just discovered that there is a machine called a linker, or linking machine, which is basically like a sewing machine that makes chain stitches, but it (a) uses your choice of yarn, rather than thread, and (b) allows you to easily get exact stitch placement so you end up with a straight seam.  (I really wish I’d known about these machines years ago…all those pullovers I’ve made would have been SO much easier!)  Someone was auctioning a brand new one on ebay, and the bids were less than 1/3 of the retail price, so I bid…and won!  It should be here this week.  I’ll report back.  There are a few recent projects hanging around waiting for the linker to arrive.  I can test the linker, and finish the projects, probably by Wednesday.

Machine Knitting

Well, I’m glad I only paid $49.99 for my old knitting machine.  Yes, it’s speedy with stockinette.  But it’s finicky about tension – yarn in balls isn’t playing well with it, although yarn on cones knits like a dream.  But I’m finding it hard to get each project started – I end up with a lot of dropped stitches and weird loops, and it takes a long time to fix them.  Also, the three successful things I made had to be seamed by hand, and it was an awful lot of seaming.  When I knit by hand, I usually do the seams as I go – so there might be the same number of seams, but not all at once.  And the ends need to be picked up and finished.  This is all really time-consuming and stressful for me.  I had hoped that the knitting machine would allow me to knit the long, plain sections of stockinette for the skirt parts of the dresses I want to design, but with all the seaming required, I’m not sure I want to bother!  Maybe I just won’t design any more dresses!

L-R:  bag knit with Filatura Superior and tencel; bag knit with 2 strands of laceweight cashmere; bag knit with laceweight cashmere and Kidsilk Haze.

Great Wolf Recap

OK.  That last entry was a little sketchy because I didn’t have a mouse, and the netbook touchpad kept inadvertently getting touched while I typed Disappointed smile  So, the thing about Great Wolf Lodge.  It’s a hotel with its own indoor waterpark.  That’s the attraction; at least, that was the attraction for us.  You have to be staying at the hotel to go to the waterpark, so we knew it wouldn’t be fiendishly crowded.  It wasn’t that far away.  And being indoors, we wouldn’t have to be sunscreening Alex every ten minutes.
So, on the waterpark side of things, it was all that and more.  There was a wave pool (which reminded me of Diane and me and "bobbers" at the beach).  A hot tub.  A fort with water things (like, built in water shooters, and booby-trap showers that douse you unexpectedly, stuff like that).  That reminded me of Virginia because there’s a similar one in Sterling that we used to go to when Alex was a toddler.  There were the tube rides.  One of these was freakishly scary (the Howlin’ Tornado); this was also the one Alex liked best.  We also rode the Alberta Falls ride (individuals in tubes).  One time the three of us went up for the River Canyon Run ride.  The sign clearly said "weight per tube not to exceed 800 lb."  Eight hundred, OK?  So the idiot attendant asks the three of us if we meet the weight requirements! 
There was also what you might call a plain pool, but it had b-ball hoops in it, and floaty things to climb on (they were anchored to the pool floor by chains).  There was also a baby pool, which we did not patronize, and an outdoor pool ditto.  So, water-wise it was a fabulous place.
Out of the water – not so much, due to (a) the screaming throngs of kids running all over trying to do everything, (b) added expense for everything, and (c) gigantic size of the place, making it easy to get lost.  We spent all our non-waterpark time in our room (except for the times we left the premises).
On Saturday we visited Wolf Haven International, a sanctuary for wolves and a learning center.  It was quite informative in a dinky kind of way.  We walked around to eight or ten pens (each with a pair of wolves, like at a zoo) while the tour guide told us about wolves in general and these wolves in specific.  There were a lot of bugs and it was a hot day so we left at the second-last pen, which was coyotes anyway, not wolves.  Chris got a wolf shirt.  Alex got a telescope.  I got a bottle of water.
We had also talked about visiting the Centralia-Chehalis Steam Railway, but ended up not doing it because the weather was soooo hot.  Yes, we went back to the waterpark!
So, we decided that in the future, this may be a "one overnight" thing for us.  You’re allowed to use the waterpark both on the day you check in, and the day you check out, plus any full days between.  We had thought we’d only be able to use it on Friday and Saturday.  But if we went for one night, we could get there, waterpark at night, get up, have breakfast, check out, swim until lunchtime, and then leave.  It might be worth it.
Our next planned venture is camping at Leavenworth, but not for another few weeks.  (No, I do not mean Leavenworth Prison!)

A Mid-Trip Report from Great Wolf Lodge

As a waterpark, the lodge is great.  The hotel rooms are adequate; about on par with any Marriott or similar kind of place.  But I’m here to tell you there are some things just unbelievable!  For one thing, we knew it would be expensive.  But we’re not planning a real vacation this summer, so this is kind of it, and we’re willing to splurge a little.  Well.  Not only are meals not included (kind of expected), but they are $$$.  The room was billed as "having Nintendo" in the kids’ area…didn’t realize it cost $6.95 an hour to play.  There are all sorts of activities you can participate in (story time, learn about frogs, learn to be a junior lifeguard, etc.), but they all cost more money, too.  Renting a locker at the pool, $5 a day.  We have seen families laden with gift shop bags and stuff, can’t imagine how much they are spending!  We are trying to keep the spendies to a minimum.  Frankly we were surprised that charging our netbook in a wall outlet didn’t cost us extra!
This is probably not a repeat destination for us.  Last night we went out to dinner and asked our waiter where the nearest book store is.  He said Olympia (about half an hour’s drive BACK towards Seattle)!  We drove around a while, stumbled upon a Staples, and then came back.  Bleah.  Tomorrow we are leaving right after breakfast and going home to our cats and my knitting machine (which works, but not well, because I don’t have all the bits).  More on that when we get back.