Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pattern Release: Emblematic

All my life, I've been a doodler. I did it in the margins of my class notes when I was school; I do it now when I'm in meetings at work. Part of it stems from not being able to sit still, but part of it is also because the creative side of my brain almost never shuts up. More recently, my doodles have taken the form of stranded colorwork knitting patterns. I sit down at a computer with a charting program and see what I can come up with. Sometimes it looks great on the screen but terrible when knit. Sometimes, though, I get lucky and end up with something that translates beautifully from computer screen to yarn.

The pattern I've released today started out its life as one of those doodles. I wasn't trying to get the pattern to look like anything in particular when I first sketched it; I was just seeing how the pattern developed as I went along. It ended up not only looking good as a knit pattern, but it's also a very beginner-friendly colorwork pattern, as the repeats are short and there aren't any long floats. I call this pattern Emblematic because, when knit, the colorwork motif looked a little to me like a heraldic shield or emblem -- not to mention that nothing screams "warm hat" more than one with a thick doubled brim and a band of colorwork for extra warmth.

The yarn I've used in the sample is a familiar one to me: Shetland Sport from the Ross Farm. This stuff is fantastic if you're a fan of woolly wools. It's minimally processed and completely undyed, so what you're seeing here is the natural color of the sheep (and the sheep are Marigold and Nassau, if you're curious). This yarn is by far the softest Shetland I've ever used, and it blooms beautifully when you wash it the first time. An added benefit of working with a minimally processed wool is that there's still some lanolin left in it, so your hands get nice and soft while you knit!

The hat is available in three sizes, from child to adult large, and uses about 170-240 yds./155-220 m total of the two colors of yarn. The Ross Farm Shetland Sport is on the heavy side of sport, so you could also use a DK-weight yarn. I had two skeins of the Shetland Sport and make this hat for me and another hat (with colors reversed) for Rainbow, and I still had some leftover. I won't say that I'm ready for the cold weather to come, but at least the two of us are prepared with cozy new hats!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Falling Back into a Routine

Crafting was all back to normal this weekend. I spent Friday evening (and a good portion of yesterday afternoon) at my wheel, working on this Southern Cross Fibre BFL.

I am nearly halfway done with the singles and am enjoying this spin, though I'm also keen to get it done.

In the meantime, my HipStrings fiber club shipment arrived a couple of days ago -- a complete surprise! I am way behind on this fiber club, as I haven't even touched the previous shipment, but that's okay.

This shipment is a blend of BFL and Shetland in four different shades. I think I will likely spin up each color on its own so I can combine them in some sort of colorwork something-or-other. The thing in the center is a cute little notions tin -- always useful!

It's a good thing that my spinning mojo is high right now, because I have quite a lot of stash to get through (remember that haul from last week?). I think once I get all the obligation projects done, I'm going to be devoting a larger portion of my crafting time to spinning to see if I can make a dent.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

An Itch Scratched

I said I really wanted to do it, so last night I did: I cast on a new sweater. I ended up finishing the crazy deadline project Tuesday evening, so last night I wound up the yarn that Rainbow picked out for her next sweater way back in March and finally cast on.

This is the very start of the Hyphen sweater by Lisa Chemery (aka Froginette) in Spencer Hill Molly, a worsted-weight Merino that is naturally dyed. The colorway is called Raspberry Beret and is a blush pink that seems to be hard to capture on camera, particularly in the early morning light. You may remember that I've knit this pattern a couple of times before as baby gifts; this time I am knitting the largest size, size 8, in the hopes that it will still fit Rainbow when I finish. She seems to have gone through a growth spurt over the summer and is noticeably taller, but she's still a bit of a string bean, so I figure if anything it might end up a bit short on her. That might not be an issue, as I actually have less yardage than the pattern calls for and thought I might make it a bit cropped anyway. The beauty of the top-down sweater is that length is completely adjustable, so we'll figure it all out as I knit.

I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to cast on for my Floozy cardigan, but that hasn't stopped me from planning ahead for yet another sweater for me and ordering some yarn over the weekend that arrived a couple of days ago.

This is Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in the colorway Runaway, a colorway I've coveted since Rainbow bought a skein of it and used it for her first hat. I am very close to earning two skeins of yarn through Lisa's Conversion Rewards Program, and I'm planning to get two more skeins of Bounce in this colorway so I can use them all for a sweater -- perhaps another Boxy or a similarly shaped pullover. I must be a glutton for punishment if I'm pondering another fingering-weight oversized sweater, but I can't help it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Yen for a Sweater

There's nothing quite like having projects you need to knit to give you the urge to start things you want to knit. In my case, I'm really dying to cast on a sweater or two. It felt so much like fall the past few days that I really wanted a new, cozy sweater to wrap up in, and it was so frustrating to not be able to cast on immediately. But my extreme deadline project is in the home stretch (I'm hoping it'll be done by tomorrow, at the very latest), and the two remaining projects are small enough that I can finish them up fairly quickly, so I predict that I will have a sweater on the needles by the end of the week.

Because the sweater I'm going to cast on for me is worked in fingering weight yarn (and thus will likely be a long-term project), I thought I'd start by casting on Rainbow's next sweater. You saw this yarn back in March when I bought it at Indie Knit & Spin, but as it's been sitting in a bag since then, I thought I'd show it again.

This is Spencer Hill Molly, a naturally dyed worsted weight, in a lovely deep pink color called Raspberry Beret. I'll be using it to make Rainbow a Hyphen in the largest size (though I have a bit less than the recommended yardage, so we may be making some adjustments like a more cropped body or shorter sleeves). I also bought a skein of fingering weight in the same color from the same dyer so that I can make a matching mini sweater for Rainbow's American Girl doll.

As soon as all the remaining obligation knits are done, I will finally be casting on for my Floozy cardigan. I don't imagine I'll be able to whip it up that quickly, but as the majority of it is plain stockinette, it will be a good project to have on the needles for when I need something mindless.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

I've Been Spoiled

After super hot and humid temperatures all last week, this weekend it has felt decidedly autumnal. It's been raining pretty much nonstop since early yesterday morning, and it's been much cooler -- I actually had to break out some handknit socks last night! So it feels right to start spinning some fiber that looks like fall foliage.

This is oatmeal BFL from Southern Cross Fibre; the colorway is called Allegory and reminds me a lot of fall leaves just starting to change. I've only just started to spin the first little bundle of fiber (there are four total).

I'm spinning this as fine as I can and plan to chain-ply for sock yarn. I always struggle with my yardage when I spin BFL (in the sense that it's always much lower than what I get with other fibers), so I'm trying to spin my singles as fine as possible.

I'm sure you're wondering how I've been spoiled, so I won't keep you in suspense any longer (and it's not that the weather has finally been seasonal). I can't say that this was entirely a surprise, because I knew it was coming, but the real surprise was the magnitude. Last week, I got a text from my friend Colleen asking if she could send me some spinning fiber, as she's planning to move soon and needs to downsize a bit. Of course I'm always happy to get free fiber, so I said yes, expecting a braid or two. Instead, what arrived in a large box yesterday was this beautiful bounty:

There's quite an assortment in here -- some fiber from the now-defunct Crown Mountain Farms, some Abstract Fiber, some Yarn Hollow, and some new-to-me dyers. This should keep me busy for a quite a while! Colleen was exceptionally generous, and though I offered to spin up some of this for her and send her the yarn, she simply asked that I consider selling some of what I spin up and donating that money to charity. So you may see some of this available to you in yarn form before too long!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Project Me

I regret to tell you that all the projects I'm currently working on are still things I can't share publicly, which is very rare for me and, I hope, something that's not likely to happen again soon. I'm trying my best to get these secret projects wrapped up so at the very least I'll have something to talk about on the blog (though it will of course feel good to get those deadlines dealt with as well).

Because I can't really talk about my knitting, I want to talk about a different sort of project today, and that's me. Over the past six months or so, I've really been making a concerted effort to get healthier, and it's not something I've really talked about online until now. The story really starts about a year and a half ago, when I went in for my annual physical and blood work and learned that my cholesterol was borderline high. At the time, I thought I would adjust my diet to deal with it, so for the next year or so, I pretty much stopped eating all meat and added more vegetables. But when the next year's testing came around, my cholesterol not only hadn't gone down, it actually went up. So I figured that more drastic measures were needed, and I resolved to lose weight.

My original goal was to lose 20 pounds, which would more or less get me back down to the weight I was when I graduated from high school, before I gained the college "Freshman 15" (really more like 10 for me) and weight that never came off after having Rainbow. I knew I wanted to do it in a healthy, realistic way, so I used the Fitbit app to count the calories I was consuming (something I'd never done before) and made smarter choices about what I ate. And of course I tried to be more physically active, which meant making exercise a priority when time allowed for it and spending less time sitting around and knitting, I'm sorry to say.

It's now been about six months since I first started the process, and I'm down 18 pounds. But it really isn't about the number on the scale; what's more important is that I feel better. My clothes fit better; in fact, some are now way too big and some items that haven't fit me in a long time are now comfortable. I feel like I'm consistently making healthier choices about what I eat, and I've noticed that my digestive issues are less of a problem than they used to be. I can even drink coffee again without feeling horrible afterward! And I'm seeing muscles where I only saw flab before, and generally I feel stronger and more physically able to do things. Most of all, I feel more comfortable in my own body, and I don't feel like I need to hide myself behind loose clothing. That self-confidence has been more than worth it.

So where do I go from here? Well, I anticipate that if I stay on track with my diet, I'll hit my weight loss goal in another month or so. But that doesn't mean I'm going to slip back into my old ways of eating whatever I want and sitting around a lot, and certainly I'll have to wait until my next cholesterol test to see if it's really been effective. But I do think it's been a massive success for me in the way that I feel about myself, and certainly in that way it's the only diet that's ever been a success for me. I've realized that it isn't about how much you weigh or what size you wear, it's about feeling healthy, confident, and comfortable in my own skin. And while it's great that I've lost the weight, that's really secondary.

Because this is a knitting blog, and not a weight loss or health blog, I'll leave you with a picture of pretty yarn that I'm using for one of my secret projects. I think it's okay to show you this, given that the final pattern will use different colors, but all you can see is the yarn (the WIP is off camera):

How do you like my Rainbow-original window ledge decorations?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

All Squared

It's Tuesday, right? I certainly hope so -- Monday holidays always get my internal calendar messed up.

It was a relaxing weekend in spite of a number of obligations, but I did manage to get my second and final blanket square done just before bed last night (and before the long weekend was officially over). Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to block them before it was time to turn in for the night, so you'll have to settle for a still-wonky shot.

As I suspected, it was much easier to knit the square and end up with a tidier result the second time around. I also saved myself some grief by weaving in all ends but the last one as I completed each miter, so when I finished binding off, I had only four tails to weave in.

I plan to block these neatly tonight and then send off both squares and my leftover gray to Kat this weekend so that she can seam them. I'm very glad to get this obligation done because I have some crazy design deadlines to deal with and didn't want the rest of the group to be waiting for me. It feels good to be knitting for someone else, though next time I think I might choose a less crazy time of year to do it!