Thursday, April 23, 2015

Brain Hiccups and New Starts

Last night, I finished the stripey socks. By the time I sat down with them after dinner, all that was left was to do the toe, which I started right away. It was only when I was nearly done with the toe that I realized I'd made a pretty big error. You see, the way the pattern works on the instep of these socks, you actually have four more stitches on the instep than on the sole. I have written an instruction in the pattern to readjust the stitches (so that the same number are on the instep and sole) after completing the instep stuff, but in my excitement over being nearly done, I completely forgot to do it. It wasn't until I had decreased a bunch that I realized that my toe was looking a little shallow. Then I counted how many stitches were left: 18 on the instep and 14 on the sole. Whoops. So I pulled the whole thing off the needles, ripped back, and knit the toe again, this time correctly. It wasn't that big a deal, but it did waste some knitting time. More than anything, I was annoyed with myself for not remembering an important part of my own pattern. The important thing, though, is that the socks are done. I'll block them tonight and hope to finish up the rest of the pattern pieces this weekend so I can send the pattern off to the tech editor.

In any case, once the toe was Kitchenered and the ends were woven in, I pulled out the yarn for the next pair of socks. I'm using my handspun for the main part of the sock, but to make sure I have enough, I'm using some old stash yarn (specifically, some now-discontinued Knit Picks Essential Kettle Dyed in a mostly black colorway) for the cuffs, heels, and toes.

I am once again using my US 0/2.0 mm needles for a really dense fabric that will, I hope, be more durable. This means upping my usual stitch count of 64 to 70, so I'm doing a 3x2 rib for the cuff. The rest will be stockinette. I had hoped that the handspun would stripe, but in winding it I noticed that the colors changed pretty quickly, so any striping that happens will be very narrow -- so these socks will either be awesome or look like neon clown barf. I think the next time I want to spin a striping yarn, I won't split the fiber so thin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In the Face of Distractions

I'll admit that in the past week or so, I've been much more interested in spinning than knitting, and that's clearly evident in the fact that I finished two skeins in the past week. That's not to say that I've been completely neglecting my knitting, though. The knitting continues on my WIPs, though certainly the progress can be seen better on some projects than others. I put in several hours worth of knitting time on my Airflow over the weekend, but to be honest it doesn't look that much larger than the last time you saw it. I'm getting close to finishing up the sleeve increases, so soon I should be moving on to the body. That's still a fair amount of knitting though.

My socks, on the other hand, are getting very close to being done thanks to my lunchtime knitting. All that's left to do is part of the foot and the toe on the second sock.

That means it's time to get all my ducks in a row as far as the pattern writing is concerned. Because this sock has an atypical construction, the pattern is a bit trickier to write. Plus, I'm grading it for three sizes. There are a total of seven charts (only one really lends itself to showing what needs to be done for all three sizes) and written directions to accompany each one, so there's a lot of components to put together. With any luck, I'll be able to enlist the Mister to take some photos this weekend and then start putting everything together.

As soon as these socks are off the needles, I am ready to start the next pair. I've decided to take the Boogaloo yarn I spun last month and combine with some commercial black yarn (I'm pretty sure I have a couple of skeins of some black Knit Picks sock yarn somewhere in my stash) for cuffs, toes, and afterthought heels. I've never done an afterthought heel before, if you can believe it, so I thought this would be a good excuse to try it. My yardage in this handspun skein is limited, so I want to use as much of it as I can without having to worry about running short. I expect these socks will still be on the needles when we head to MDSW next week, so you may get a chance to see them in person if you'll be there.

As if spinning weren't enough of a distraction, something arrived in the mail yesterday that I'm sure is going to detract from my knitting time (and for this I totally blame Sara, because I first saw it on her Instagram feed). What you may not know about me is that before I got really into knitting, I was really into cross stitch. One of these days I'll show you some of the huge pieces I've done, but for today, here's what I'll be working on in the near future:

This kit came from the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. It's the Fibery Friends Sampler, which was their Stitches West 2015 exclusive design. I am quite amazed with how quickly it got to me -- I placed the order on Friday and it was in my hands yesterday! I'm also impressed with the packaging. It came in a heavy-duty paperboard envelope, and the kit was tied up with ribbon with an extra little pattern and a card to hold the embroidery floss attached. The invoice also included a hand-written note to thank me. I will definitely be ordering from them again!

Sunday, April 19, 2015


I have not one but two skeins of handspun finished today! I'm kind of surprised by how much plying I managed to do this weekend, and it's very satisfying to get these two skeins off the wheels.

The first finished skein was my February shipment from the Southern Cross Fibre club. It's a blend of Bond wool and silk in a color called Lady Grey. I spun it into a two-ply laceweight and got approximately 692 yards from my 110 grams. It took a good four plying sessions, but I finished it relatively early Friday night.

I left the yarn on the bobbin overnight before winding it off, but seeing as I had all that time after it was finished, I figured I might as well start chain plying the other singles that had been waiting. This is my Noble Dragon from Fat Cat Knits, a blend of superwash merino and nylon sparkle. I spun the braid from one end to the other and then chain plied to maintain the gorgeous colors. This colorway is part of the Mega Spinalong happening over on Ravelry.

Alas, I can never seem to capture the sparkle on camera, but this skein does glisten! It's fingering (verging on sport in a couple of areas) and roughly 372 yards. I was hoping for 350, so I'm quite happy with the yardage.

I was anxious to keep spinning, so yesterday I started the most recent Fat Cat Knits Mixed Blessings Club shipment. You may recall that I bought a second shipment from someone in a destash so that Rainbow and I could each have the yarn from one, so I started spinning hers. I decide to spin two skeins, one from each colorway, and I'm spinning them both as fractals. I began with the more brightly colored of the two, Hungry Horace, and split the top in half lengthwise. One half was then split in half again. Both plies will go through the same color sequence (one ply once, one ply twice); I started with the former.

These skeins should be a rather quick spin. Each colorway is only 2.5 oz., so each bobbin will have only 1.25 oz. on it. Plus, I'm not spinning my usual fine singles (I'm hoping the finished two ply will be a sport to DK). The colors are just amazing, so it's a complete pleasure to spin this yarn. I will be happy to do it a second time when I can finally spin my portion of the fiber!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Small Stitches

I have long said that my default yarn when I spin is something fine, usually fingering weight. So I guess it should be no surprise to me that I'm starting to default to that weight to knit with, too. I cast on for my Airflow a week ago, and it's making slow but steady progress. I've worked on it quite a bit in between spinning sessions this week, though when you're knitting with fingering weight yarn and size 4 needles, progress doesn't happen very quickly.

This sweater is knit using the Contiguous method, which is a fascinating construction technique. If you've never used it before, I'd recommend taking a look. It's a bit tricky to explain, but the gist of it is that it's completely seamless from the top down, and the collar of the sweater is worked along with the body. For this sweater, you actually start with the collar, specifically at the back of the neck. You cast on and knit a few inches in one direction, then pick up from the cast-on edge and knit the same amount in the other direction. Then you pick up stitches along the long edge of that knit strip, place a bunch of markers, and do increases in particular spots to shape the top of the shoulders. I'm at the point now where the marker placement has been adjusted and the increases are limited to between two sets of markers to shape the sleeve cap.

As I'm using a hand-painted yarn (Dream in Color Jilly, which is very similar to Tosh Merino Light), I'm using two skeins and alternating them every two rows to avoid color issues. I know it'll be better in the long run, but it is a bit of a pain to have to untangle every two rows.

Also on small needles is the new(ish) pair of socks. The first sock was finished today, and the second one was promptly cast on.

I'll share more of what they look like when the pattern is closer to being ready, but at least you can see the awesome stripey yarn. I'm hoping to find some time this weekend to finish up the pattern draft (the basic instructions and information are all written up, but there are charts to transcribe, which is tedious work). I'm hoping to have the second sock done in the next week or so.

I did have a bit of a falling down at my LYS last week (though I didn't buy yarn). Like many knitters, I really appreciate a good project bag, and my LYS has been carrying bags by Sasha for a while. I have two of her sock-sized box bags and quite a few of her notions bags already. I'd been eyeing one of her wristlets at the shop for several weeks, so when the shop announced that the latest batch of bags they'd received from Sasha would be the last they would carry (because she is going to focus on stocking her online shop), I decided to finally pull the trigger. Another one caught my eye as well, so it came home with me, too.

These are just the right sizes for two projects I have on the needles right now (Airflow can go in the larger bag, and my Cerise can go in the smaller), so I don't feel too guilty. Plus, it's always nice to buy something that's hand made -- and it's doubly nice when you actually know the person who made it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pattern Release: Margalit Shawl

Several months ago, I started swatching a lace edging that used some simple cables for a bit of texture. Those swatches very quickly turned into a shawl design, a design that I can finally share with you today. Meet the Margalit shawl:

Margalit is worked side to side, gently increasing as you approach the center and then decreasing as you near the far end. The shaping occurs in the top portion of the shawl, which is worked in garter stitch, while the stitch count changes in the edging create a bit of a zig zag along the bottom edge. Because of the way the shawl is constructed, it can accommodate just about any amount of yarn, making it a great pattern for handspun or a precious skein of luxury yarn.

The yarn I used in the sample, SpaceCadet Aurora, is a luscious blend of superwash merino, cashmere, and nylon. It was, in a word, amazing to knit with. It is soft and has a wonderful hand, and as you can see, it blocks beautifully. The number of plies in the yarn make the cables really pop from the background. And can we talk about this color? This colorway is Tickled, and yes, it really is that bright.

As far as skill level goes, I'd say this shawl is an adventurous beginner to intermediate project. The stitches used are fairly basic and easy -- yo, ssk, k2tog, m1, and 2-over-2 cable crosses. The edging is both written and charted.

There's one other feature that I want to highlight, though I certainly can't take credit for it. The top edge is formed by a faux i-cord, which is achieved through the simplicity of slipped stitches. While it creates an edge that looks really nice, the real benefit of this edging comes when it's time to block. You can run a blocking wire (or sturdy thread) through this edge and get a nice, crisp finish when you block.

I'm really very pleased how this shawl turned out, and I'm itching to knit myself another one, probably in handspun. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On and On It Goes

The problem with being a spinner of fine yarns is that they can take a really long time to finish. I finished spinning the singles of my Southern Cross Fibre Bond/silk maybe a week and a half ago, but I waited to ply them for a bit, both to give them time to rest and to take a break and spin up my Noble Dragon singles. Those singles, incidentally, were finished on Friday night.

These might not look all that exciting, but that's probably because I spun the braid from end to end and both ends were a dark black-ish purple. The beautiful sparkly golden color is somewhere in the middle of this bobbin. Eventually, I will chain ply these singles.

I can't be sure of when exactly I will ply the Noble Dragon because I feel like I am going to be plying my Lady Grey (the Bond/silk) forever. For. Ev. Er. This is the real problem with laceweight.

I've spend probably between three and four hours so far on this yarn, and I think I've only plied about half of it so far -- even with the electric spinner with a WooLee Winder on it so that it's practically automatic.

I am anxious to finish up both yarns because more fiber arrived in the past couple of weeks. You saw my most recent Fat Cat Knits club shipment a couple of weeks ago, but what I'm not sure I mentioned is that I ended up getting a double shipment because I bought a destash off someone else in the club so that I could spin one batch for me and one for Rainbow.

Then, earlier this week, my March SCF shipment arrived -- much faster this time around thanks to David's getting some sort of expedited international shipping thing!

The fiber this time around is superwash merino, and I got the colorway called Dom Pedro. Both colorway choices were a semisolid for this month, and I'm very happy with this deep teal-y blue. I'm thinking a traditional two or three ply for this fiber.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Riding the Wave

I didn't want to cram them both into one post, but I did actually finish two projects last week. The sweater seemed the more exciting of the two, so it went first, but now here's the second (and arguably the less exciting).

These are just plain vanilla socks -- I saw no reason to try to compete with the stripes by doing a stitch pattern. I did my basic sock over 70 stitches on size 0/2.0 mm needles for a firm fabric: 3x2 ribbed cuff, slip-stitch heel, wedge toe. The yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Bedazzled, a 75% superwash merino/20% nylon/5% sparkle blend, in the colorway Sad Panda. I love this colorway because of what makes it special: The blue stripes are actually variegated! I didn't try to match up the stripes in both socks, but they ended up being pretty close in the sequence.

I am enjoying the self-striping yarn so much that I cast on for a new pair on Monday with a skein that Lisa graciously provided me with for a new design. Here's a peek:

These are going to be a somewhat nontraditional sock construction with a bit of patterning to complement the stripes. I had already worked up a sample of these in a different yarn last fall, but I decided it was too dark to show off the pattern well, and frankly I like it much better in a striping yarn. I'm hoping to have the sample and a draft of the pattern finished up this month.

I'm still riding the high of sweater knitting, so I decided to start another one. Well, I swatched for it, at least.

I bought the pattern and yarn for it (Dream in Color Jilly) sometime last year, fully intending to knit it right away and have a lightweight sweater for the fall, but obviously that didn't happen. MDSW is coming up, and I'd like to have a larger project that isn't too heavy to take with me for the car and the hotel down time, so a fingering weight sweater seemed like just the ticket. I swatched on Sunday evening and got perfect stitch gauge after washing (my row gauge is close enough), so I'm ready to cast on soon. I have at least one other sweater quantity of yarn in my stash, and I'd really like to get that knit up in the next year -- think of it as tackling the stash one sweater at a time!