Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gift-A-Long Knitting

We are now officially well into the first week of the Gift-A-Long, and I am well into my (so far) two GAL projects.

I cast on for a Nara hat for Rainbow on Friday and finished it on Sunday evening, no small feat when you consider that I couldn't knit on it when she was around because it's intended for a Chanukah present.

N.B.: Color is not at all accurate.
I really enjoyed this pattern. There's just enough stitch pattern to keep it interesting, and when you're done with the lace and the twisted stitches, you're ready for the bit of stockinette that's above it. I started to panic that I would run out of yarn about halfway through the hat even though I should have had plenty (the pattern calls for about 170 yds. for the size I made and my skein of Quince & Co. Chickadee should have had 181 yds.), so I did not add extra length that I would have liked to have added. I ended up having plenty of yarn leftover, so I probably could have thrown in a few more extra rounds, but I'm happy to have not had to play yarn chicken at the end. I stretched the hat a bit when I blocked it, so that should give just enough slouch.

This pattern is going on my recommended list (and you can still get it for 25% off through Friday!). In fact, I'm very likely going to cast on another one for myself using some handspun that's been languishing in a WIP that I'm ready to rip out.

Before I can start knitting for myself, though, I have another GAL project to finish. My cousin gave birth to her second daughter last Thursday, and so I immediately cast on for a sweater for her (normally I would have knit one ahead of time, but my cousin and her husband chose to be surprised by the baby's gender, so I waited so I could make an appropriate yarn choice). I'm knitting Lisa Chemery's Boy Sweater again, this time in handspun superwash merino that's been marinating in my stash for many years. It was spun from an 8 oz. bundle of fiber from the now defunct Crown Mountain Farms; the colorway was called In the Skies, and it's a beautiful blend of blues and purples with the occasional shot of hot pink. I love how it's knitting up.

Colors also completely off
I am knitting the 6 month size for this, and as you would expect, it's going very quickly. In fact, if I can keep up my pace, I might even get it done by the end of the week so I can send it off to the recipient this weekend. Considering she lives in the Chicago area and they just got a big dumping of snow over the weekend, she's going to need a warm wool sweater!

These were really the only two patterns I was planning to make for the GAL, but then Rainbow announced that most of her sweaters are too small, so it looks like I'll be casting on a new one for her. I found (and she approved) Romane and Roman, and our plan is to head to my LYS on Friday to pick out yarn. I'll let you know what we find!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Contrasts in Color

I've felt a renewed urge to spin this past week, and I've actually got more than one project going, which is unusual for me. First, I started spinning the 8 oz. of gray Gotland. I managed to get the first bobbin done this week (that's 4 oz., though it doesn't look like much because the bobbin is so big).

I've started the second bobbin and am hopeful that I'll get it spun up this week, especially with the time off for the holiday. It'd be great to be able to get this plied by next weekend. I'm really enjoying this spin. The fiber is beautifully prepped and drafts effortlessly, and there's a lovely subtle variation in color.

Because I can't spin all gray all the time, though, I've been alternating between the Gotland and the Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale you saw last week. I managed to put a couple more layers on the bobbin over the weekend; I'd estimate I'm roughly a quarter of the way through the fiber at this point. The bobbin doesn't look a whole lot different from the last time you saw it, so I'll wait to take a photo when it looks a bit more substantial.

Meanwhile, my next shipment for the FatCatKnits Mixed Blessings club showed up this past week, and I was very excited to get it. The famous couple for this round was Anna and Mr. Bates (of Downton Abbey). I selected superwash Targhee for this round because I enjoyed spinning some of it during the Tour de Fleece this summer.

Anna is the green/gold/brown/purple colorway; Mr. Bates is the blue/red/brown/gray. I have absolutely no idea how to spin this, and fortunately with two projects on my wheels, I have time to ponder. I'm open to ideas!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pattern Release: Double Positive

Inspiration can come from the strangest sources. You may remember from my series of posts about designing that I'm often sketching out ideas and jotting down rough notes. What I don't think I mentioned is that I sometimes take photos with my phone when I'm out and about and spot an interesting pattern or architectural feature. One of those photos is the inspiration behind the pattern I published today:

This cement inlay (I'm not even sure what its official name is) was installed in a part of the sidewalk that happens to be on my walk to work sometime in the past year. I walked over it twice a day and then one day looked down and noticed what an interesting pattern it had. So I snapped a picture and then went home to start playing around with charting.

I thought this pattern would be a great one for double-knitting, a technique I learned several months ago and have been fascinated with ever since. Double-knitting is, in the words of my tech editor, a little bit of knitting magic. You end up with a piece of fabric that's double the thickness but has no wrong side, and one side is the reverse image of the other. If it were photography, you might say that one side was the negative of the other.

A play on words gives you Double Positive, my new cowl pattern. It's double-knit and has two motifs that look like plus signs in the pattern.

This cowl is worked entirely in the round, and it starts with a special two-color cast on (I've included a photo tutorial in the pattern to show you how to do it). Once you get the hang of double knitting, it moves along pretty quickly, and the end result is an extra warm accessory to wrap around your neck. You can wear it as one long loop (perfect if you've got one of those coats that's open enough at the top to let cold air seep in) or double it for a snug fit.

The yarn I used in the sample is Yarn Hollow Tango, a really dreamy blend of 85% Polwarth wool and 15% silk. Polwarth is one of my absolute favorites to spin and knit with. It's soft and very squishy -- very suitable for next-to-skin items. The addition of the silk makes it softer and even makes the yarn glisten just a bit. Tango comes in very generous skeins of 330 yards/302 m, and two skeins are more than enough to knit the cowl as written (you'll only use about 230 yards of each color).

If you've never done double-knitting before, I highly encourage you to give it a go -- I think you'll find it's quite addictive! If you're the sort who learns visually, I can recommend Alasdair Post-Quinn's Craftsy class, Adventures in Double-Knitting.

If you're looking to learn something new, I hope you'll give this cowl a try!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It's Almost Gift-A-Long Time!

It is almost time for the third annual Ravelry Indie Design Gift-A-Long! What exactly is the Gift-A-Long (or GAL, for short)? Think of it as a six-week knit- or crochet-along to get ready for the holidays focusing on the patterns published by independent designers. There are KAL/CAL threads for a number of categories (hats, scarves and shawls, sweaters, baby items, etc.) along with games and lots of chatter. Basically you can come join the group and have a big cheering section while you cast on and try to finish your holiday gift crafting in time!

This year, the GAL will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, November 19 (that's tonight!), and run through 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, December 31. To qualify for prizes, all projects must not be started until 8 p.m. tonight and must be finished before midnight on New Year's Eve.

In addition, the GAL kicks off with a pattern sale. This year, there are 335 participating designers (including yours truly), and each designer has selected between five and 20 of his/her self-published patterns to put on sale. From 8 p.m. Eastern tonight through 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, November 27, those selected patterns will be 25% off when you use the coupon code giftalong2015. You can find out which patterns each designer has selected by visiting that designer's designated GAL bundle (mine, for instance, is here). It is important to note that while these patterns are discounted for the sale portion of the GAL, all participating designers' patterns are eligible for the KALs/CALs, and all paid patterns (including those that might have been published in books or magazines) are eligible for prizes.

So, what can you do now while you wait for the GAL to start? Well, go join the Ravelry group, for starters. You can also peruse the list of participating designers here or search the group bundle or Pinterest boards that will go live shortly before the official GAL start. And of course you can raid your stash and find the yarn and needles you'll need to start when the clock strikes 8!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Theme Is Handspun

Since wrapping up my mitten spree, I've discovered that the projects I have on my needles have one big thing in common: They're both being knit out of my handspun. There's the brioche cowl that you've seen (and frankly it doesn't look much different from the last time you saw it), and then there's a pair of socks I started toward the beginning of October that I then proceeded to ignore for about a month. I finally pulled them out again last Friday, and they saw a good bit of attention over the weekend. Now they're my lunchtime knitting project.

The yarn is FatCatKnits superwash Targhee that I spun up during the Tour de Fleece this year. I'm not doing anything fancy with the socks, as per usual when I knit socks with handspun; really, I just want the yarn to shine. I'm using 70 stitches and size 0 (2.0 mm) needles. I did two inches of 3x2 rib for the cuff and the rest is stockinette. It's a bit hard to see, but I've just started the gusset decreases.

Tonight I'm hoping to cast on for yet a third handspun project. Rainbow has been asking me repeatedly to make her a pair of fingerless mitts, so I'm going to make her a pair for Chanukah (which is coming up rather soon, so I'm starting to feel a bit of pressure). As they're going to be a present, I'll only be able to work on them when she's not around, which means during lunch at work or in the evening after she's asleep. I'll be using this FatCatKnits Targhee in Hungry Horace that I spun earlier this year.

This yarn is roughly sportweight, and I'll basically be winging the pattern. I have measurements of her arms, wrists, and hands, so I don't think it will be too difficult. I'm thinking of putting a single repeat of the lace pattern from my Corbusier Socks on the back of the hand for some interest. Considering how quickly the mittens knit up, I don't think I'll have any problem getting these done in time. Plus, this is a fractally spun yarn, which means I'm always going to knit one more round to see what happens to the colros.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Finishing, Starting, and Planning Ahead

Yesterday was Indie Knit & Spin and it was a lot of fun, albeit an exhausting day. I did sell a number of skeins of handspun as well as several patterns, so I think it was a successful day. I still have most of the original pile of handspun, far more than I will likely ever knit, so I'm contemplating what to do with it. I may just mark it for sale on Ravelry, or perhaps I will open an Etsy shop. If you have any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them!

I did not buy very much yesterday, mainly because I was manning the booth on my own for much of the day. I did come home with two new things. First, a new Doctor Who-themed project bag from StarKnits:

Outside fabric

Inside fabric with pocket
I also picked out this 4 oz. braid of Targhee from Gwen Erin Natural Fibers:

Targhee is one of my favorite fibers to spin, so I'm looking forward to getting to this one.

But let's get back to actual finished spinning. This was finished up last week but not in time for my Sunday post, and it took almost all week to get a picture (this time of year makes it very difficult to get decent photos of anything during the week). This is my finished 80% superwash merino/20% trilobal nylon sparkle from FatCatKnits in two colorways, Sam and Dean. This was the first shipment in the current installment of the FCK fiber club, the theme for which is Famous Couples. Sam and Dean are the brothers who are the main characters in the TV show Supernatural. I decided to spin up each color on its own and then do a combined chain ply. To do this, I held both strands of yarn together and alternated which strand I pulled the next loop from as I plied. This did some really interesting things to the colors in the finished yarn.

The finished skein looks to be about DK weight and roughly 284 yards. I must admit that I was not a huge fan of the colors in the fiber, but I'm intrigued by how they mixed when plied. I'm really curious to see how this will knit up.

The finished yarn is not as soft as it could be, giving the merino content. I think this is due to the sparkle, which I found a bit bothersome as I was spinning. The last time I had sparkle in fiber from Ginny, it seemed to be much finer and very well blended. This sparkle was long pieces that stuck out, and I found myself pulling them out altogether at times. You can see some of them poking out in the photo above. I'm sure they'll be less of an issue when the yarn is knit and washed a few times.

Meanwhile, I am planning ahead. I really wanted to start something new last night, so I pulled out my Southern Cross Fibre October shipment, Corriedale in a very autumnal colorway called Splendour. I split the top into four long strips and am spinning them in order for another one of my pseudo-self-striping sock yarns.

I'm also hoping to spend some time later today getting started on another spinning project for the natural (undyed) fiber spinalong that Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works and the 90% Knitting podcast is hosting. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I've had some fiber from Louet North America that I was sent to review probably a year ago and I'd just about forgotten about it, so I am ready to start spinning it. I have 8 oz. of this beautiful gray Gotland that I'm going to spin into a two ply.

When I pulled it out, I also discovered a spinning project I'd started long ago and forgotten, another bit of review fiber -- 2 oz. of camel/tussah silk that I started spinning on my Bosworth mini.

This one won't count toward the spinalong as it was started before today, but I think if I spend a few minutes a day on it, I can finish it up rather quickly.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It's a Sickness

I have a confession to make: I can't stop knitting mittens. They are the perfect thing for instant-gratification knitting, and after all the thin yarn I've been using lately, using worsted feels like I hardly have to put any effort in at all.

I cast on for another pair of Waiting for Winter Mittens on Tuesday night, and even considering that I didn't have as much knitting time as normal the last two nights due to spending some of the evening doing preparations for the festival this weekend, I already have one mitten done and a good start on the second.

I'm using the skein of Spud & Chloe Sweater leftover from Rainbow's sweater for these. It was untouched, so I could have returned it to the shop, but I liked the feel of the fabric after it had been washed so much that I thought it would be wonderfully suited to being a pair of mittens. My LYS is gathering some mittens knit for its mitt-along to send to Laura Nelkin's drive to collect warm winter items for Syrian refugees in Europe. The last day they're collecting stuff is this Sunday, so I'm feeling a bit of pressure (though I doubt I'll have much trouble finishing a second mitten before then).

Meanwhile, I pulled a neglected project out to work on during my lunch breaks this week. Remember the sparkly handspun brioche cowl that I started for my mom way back at the beginning of October?

Trust me when I say that it looks much better in actual daylight, a resource that has been very limited around here lately (if the sun does come out, it's usually when I'm at work). When I do actually sit down and work on this, it grows fairly quickly; the challenge is finding the time. I am looking forward to the long weekend over Thanksgiving to churn it out.

Forgive me if I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this, but I do want to mention just one more time that Indie Knit & Spin is this Saturday. If you are within an easy driving distance, I'd really encourage you to come -- it's a great little show. There aren't a ton of vendors, but the vendors that are there are really great, and I like that it's a show with a lot of selection much not so much that it's overwhelming. I'll be sharing a booth with my friend Amy, and we'll have pattern samples for you to see and patterns to purchase (in addition to my mound of handspun).