Thursday, October 27, 2016

All the Knits, All the Time

It seems that my knitting mojo, which had been waning a bit, has come back in full force, and I'm fully taking advantage of it.

Over the weekend, I finished the hat for my father-in-law to go along with the mittens.

Trust me, it looks better when worn.

Pattern: Two by Two by Anne Gagnon
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted (100% Targhee wool) in Deep Unrelenting Gray, approximately 212 yards
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) circs, magic loop
Started/Completed: October 18/October 22
Mods: none

This was a quick knit and really very straightforward. There was a point in the middle where all that 2x2 ribbing started to get a bit boring, but I was spurred on by the excitement of the crown decreases to come to get through it. I really thought I was going to run out of yarn, and I had my swatches and small bit of leftover yarn from my Evenlight right there and ready to be used when the time came, but I actually finished with about a yard to spare. Although I would have felt very virtuous for having kept and used those swatches, it was still quite thrilling to win at yarn chicken.

Almost as soon as the hat was done, I went and had a dig in my stash for a skein of Malabrigo Worsted that I was pretty certain I still had. It's been in the stash for probably a decade (I'd bought two skeins in that purchase, and I eventually used one of them for a hat last year). It was where I'd thought it would be, and I promptly cast on another pair of Waiting for Winter Mittens with it. I haven't decided yet if these will go to my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law, but I'm making them in a ladies' size, so one of them will get them.

These have been my lunchtime knitting this week, and I've gotten through them very quickly as a result, but I did have a bit of a mishap with them on Tuesday. I was able to get the yarn and needles in my project bag, but I completely forgot that I'd need stitch markers, a tapestry needle, and some scrap yarn to do the thumb gusset, and as luck would have it, I got to the point where I needed to put those thumb stitches on waste yarn right at the beginning of my lunch break. At one point I think I had a piece of string in my desk, but I suppose I threw it away in a cleaning purge some time ago. So I did what any resourceful knitter will do when faced with a problem like this and time to knit: I used what I had on hand. In this case, that meant paperclips in place of stitch markers (which worked fine) and a cut rubber band in place of the scrap yarn. The rubber band was not a great choice, I know, but it was my only option (save cutting a bit of yarn off the other end of the skein, which wouldn't have worked so well either given the stickiness of the yarn). It worked well in terms of not losing or dropping the live stitches until I could get home to actual scrap yarn, but it was a major pain in the butt to get out of those stitches -- I ended up cutting it into a few smaller pieces. A couple of years ago I'd made myself a tiny notions pouch with essentials (darning needles, stitch markers, measuring tape, little scissors), and clearly I'm going to have to find it and keep it in my desk in case of any future emergencies like this.

Amid all the gift knitting, I've still been working on Rainbow's school sweater (her second Gramps Cardigan), and I'm quickly approaching the end. I'm in the middle of the yoke and am decreasing 10 stitches on every right-side row, so the rows are quickly getting shorter and faster. The button bands and shawl collar are worked simultaneously, so they will be a fast last step.

This project has not been without its hiccups, however. I realized right after finishing the joining row of the yoke (when you join the body and the sleeves together) that I'm pretty sure I knit the entirety of the second sleeve using the smaller needle I was supposed to use only for the ribbing at the cuff. Perhaps at another time I would have tinked back that joining row and ripped the sleeve back to the cuff, but I just didn't care. The sleeves looked more or less the same size, and it's only a matter of one size of needle (a 0.25 mm difference in diameter). The yarn I'm using is also half acrylic, so if the one sleeve is a tad snug, I figure I can hit it with some steam and hope it relaxes. Frankly, this sweater is going to get shoved in Rainbow's backpack, dropped on the floor, and dragged through leaves and dirt on the playground, and given that it's been actually cold this week, I'd rather get it done with a few imperfections so she can wear it than worry about it being right. She certainly won't know the difference.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pattern Release: Incline's Ascent Cowl

I have a confession to make: I am a bit obsessed with double-knitting. While I have been doing stranded colorwork happily for many years, I've only relatively recently discovered the infinitely cool knitting trick that is double-knitting. If it's not something you're familiar with, let me explain: Double-knitting is a method of two-color knitting that allows you to create a double-sided fabric that is fully reversible, where the image on one side is the reverse on the other. For instance, if I knit a white star on a blue background on one side, I'd have a blue star on a white background on the other. The really fantastic part about this technique is that, unlike stranded knitting, you don't have to worry about an "unused" color going long stretches between being used. There are no strands to catch, and it's much easier (in my estimation) to keep your tension even.

So, just how does the magic of double-knitting happen? It's much simpler than you might think. Double-knitting is worked in pairs of stitches, the first always knit and the second always purled. You always work the stitches in opposite colors. In my star example from above, if I'm knitting a white stitch for the star, I'll purl the accompanying stitch with blue. Really, if you can knit 1x1 ribbing, you can do double-knitting.

Given this little obsession of mine, you can understand why I wanted to include a double-knit piece in the Stitchburgh collection. It didn't take very much contemplation to figure out what image I wanted to feature. The Duquesne Incline is iconic in Pittsburgh. Chances are you've seen it in the foreground of a shot of downtown Pittsburgh. If you live here or have visited, you may even have ridden it up to the observation deck to get its stunning view of the city. Now, you can have it on a cowl of your own.

The Incline's Ascent Cowl is worked in the round (which I find easier in double-knitting, as you don't have to reverse the meaning of the colors in the chart as you would when working wrong-side rows in flat knitting). It starts with a two-color cast on for which there is a photo tutorial included in the pattern. While the front of the cowl features an image of an incline car, the back is all solid (though you could repeat the image if you wanted). I think of the above incarnation as the most traditional look of the incline, though you can always flip it inside out if you want a different look:

I highly encourage you to give double-knitting a try if you haven't yet. I think you'll find it just as addictive as I have!

Buy the pattern:

Buy the collection:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Last 4 oz. Are the Hardest

Another week, another bobbin of blended merino singles. I didn't spin much this past week, and I didn't spin as much as I'm planned to this weekend (I had to make an unexpected trip to the airport last night, so I missed all of my craft time), so I'm still working on the fourth and final bobbin of my Blue Footed Booby singles. Here's a gratuitous bobbin shot, though it'll look just like all the previous ones:

I would estimate that I'm one good evening of spinning away from finishing this one up, and that might just happen tomorrow evening.

In the meantime, I just might know what's going on the bobbin next. My August Southern Cross Fibre shipment showed up on Thursday, and it's a real beauty -- 65% merino/35% mulberry silk in a colorway called Big Sky.

I already know how I want to spin this: traditional three ply, aiming for DK-ish weight. Then I want to use it to knit myself a hat or cowl. Of course, I'll have to stop nuzzling the fiber to accomplish this, so there might be a slight flaw in my plan.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

One Down, Many More to Go

Given how quickly this year is flying by, I figured it would be a good idea to get an early start on holiday knitting. I still haven't made a final decision on what I'm making for everyone in the family (that's seven people, not including those I live with), but my father-in-law was fairly easy. He's a pretty plain and very practical guy, so a cozy pair of mittens and a matching hat seemed perfect. The mittens came off the needles on Tuesday.

Pattern: Waiting for Winter Mittens & Fingerless Mitts by Susan B. Anderson, size XL
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted (100% Targhee) in Deep Unrelenting Gray, approximately 197 yards
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) Addi Turbos, magic loop
Started/Completed: October 11/October 18
Mods: shortened the length of the hand and thumb by about half an inch

I've knit this pattern before, and I'll knit it again (likely for another gift or two, in fact). It's well written and easy to follow, and I like the length of the cuff of these mittens especially. I really like this yarn for mittens, too. Targhee is a very bouncy wool, and the fabric is delightfully squishy worked at a dense gauge. The only modification I made was to shorten the overall length of the hand and thumb because they seemed incredibly long. I had the Mister try them on to be sure, as his hands are a little larger than mine, and I'm hoping they will work out okay for the recipient. I know that when I block them they will likely gain a little bit of room as well.

Almost as soon as the last end was woven in on the mittens, I cast on for the hat. The pattern I'm using is a free one, Two by Two, that is basically just a ribbed watchcap with a folded brim. That means pretty much just miles of 2x2 ribbing, which is easy to enough to do without having to pay close attention. I'm using what's left of the skein (which my scale tells me is about 214 yards); the pattern calls for about 200, but I figure if I'm short on yardage, I have a couple of swatches from the sweater I originally knit with this yarn that can be unraveled and used to finish off the crown. This isn't going going to be a very interesting knit to look at, as it's just ribbing for about nine and half inches before I start the crown decreases.

I'm using a size 5 (3.75 mm) needle for this, though I will fully admit I did not swatch. The pattern calls for a gauge of 22 stitches over four inches in ribbing, but I always have a hard time measuring gauge in ribbing because I'm never sure how much to stretch it, if at all. I was getting about five stitches per inch in stockinette on this mittens with a US 6, so I figure going down one needle size should be good enough. Plus the whole hat is ribbed, so it'll be nice and stretchy. And if it doesn't fit him, it will fit somebody -- I'll even happily keep it for myself!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When an Oops Becomes a Design Feature

Even though I am a perfectionist in most aspects of my life, when it comes to my knitting, most of the time I will leave a mistake if it's not blatantly obvious. I think I've become okay with this MO because my knitting and spinning time is limited so I'm reluctant to use that time to undo something unless it's going to be a real issue. I call such a small error a design feature and move on -- especially if I'm knitting a gift for a nonknitter who isn't going to know the difference.

That's certainly the case with the mittens I've been knitting for my father-in-law. I'm using Susan B. Anderson's wonderful Waiting for Winter Mittens & Fingerless Mitts pattern, which I've used several times before with great success. This is a fairly basic mitten pattern, and there's really nothing in it that's difficult to understand. Because I had made it before and because I knew that there wasn't anything complicated involved, I decided not to print out the full pattern again this time but rather to jot down the important steps and numbers for the size I'm knitting on a small scrap of paper that I could keep in the project bag. I knew that I should be finishing the thumb gusset with 17 stitches, and I'm fairly certain I was counting stitches when I was finishing up the thumb gusset and putting those stitches on scrap yarn. And yet, when I went to finish the rest of the thumb and put those stitches back on the needles, how many did I have? Not 17 but 15. Yep, I was two stitches short, and of course my this point I had already finished the hand of the mitten, so going back to fix the error would have meant unpicking the end I'd already woven in at the top and ripping back half the mitten. Sorry, that just wasn't happening.

Fortunately, with only two stitches missing, the solution was pretty easy: Instead of picking up one stitch in the gap, I picked up three. This actually turned out to work very well, as it prevented the large holes you sometimes get when you pick up stitches like this. And honestly, though the thumb gusset is two rounds short, I don't think anyone will notice. The mitten still looks perfectly fine to me, and the Mister tried it on for size just to make sure. (I also tried it on, though it's much too big/long for me, but I discovered that if I flap my hand quickly, it makes a fun sound effect that sounds like a helicopter!)

I've been spending most of my evening knitting time in the past week or so focusing on Rainbow's school sweater. We got a bit of a reprieve from the cooler temperatures this week (I think we were actually expected to break a record high here today), but I know she'll be needing it soon. I finished up the body to the yoke late last week and started the first sleeve over the weekend. That was finished last night, and the cuff of the second is done.

Rainbow slipped on the first sleeve this morning, and it seems to fit well. (She did say that the lower arm/cuff are a bit snug, but they don't look to be uncomfortably so, and I'm sure I can block out a bit more room.) Given how quickly the first sleeve knit up, I'd say it's highly likely I'll be ready to start the yoke by this weekend!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bobbin the Third

It's Rhinebeck weekend, and yet again I haven't made it (it's on my bucket list -- I will get there eventually!), so I've been trying to enjoy my fibery pursuits as much as possible this weekend. We've had a relatively quiet weekend, and an usually warm one at that, and it's been good to relax.

My spinning will look familiar, and that's because it's another bobbin of my Blue Footed Booby blended merino. This is the third of four total, and I'm nearly finished with it.

I am trying to keep up the spinning on this project with some of the intensity I had during Spinzilla so that I can get the full pound spun and be ready to start the project.

I am going to be making a more concerted effort to spin up my stash during the rest of the year, at the very least, and I've found out recently that I'm going to have some help in that respect. You may know that I'm in two fiber clubs at the moment -- Southern Cross Fibre and FatCatKnits -- and the shipments that have come in from both clubs have at times kept me from spinning my stash. But both David of SCF and Ginny of FCK have recently announced that they're going to be taking a bit of a break from their business and thus both clubs will be going on hiatus. I'm a bit sad, to be completely honest, but I think both of them deserve some time to themselves -- and, frankly, the fiber stash is getting a bit out of control. I have a whole shelf of unspun SCF club fiber and quite a few braids of FCK, so I won't be lacking stuff to spin. I think this might be a good opportunity as well to get out the drum carder and make some fun batts. And let us not forget the fleeces that still need to be spun! Realistically, I could probably go a year or more just spinning from my stash without running out of fiber.

And with that said, I guess I should really get back to my wheel to try to finish that bobbin!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Knitting as My Constant

It's been an odd week. Rainbow was off from school on Monday, then we were all off yesterday for Yom Kippur, nad then today my office was involved in the president's visit to town. The schedule has been unusual enough that I've been struggling to remember what day it is and who is supposed to be where on what day.

Fortunately, I've had my knitting to keep me sane. It's nice to know that any time I'm feeling out of whack, a few stitches can soothe me.

I finished up the colorful shawl on Monday evening (it took pretty much all night to finish up the picot bind off) and blocked it after services yesterday.

Because the shawl was my lunchtime knitting, that meant I needed a new project, so I grabbed what was left of my third skein of yarn from my Evenlight sweater (most of a skein of BMFA Targhee Worsted) for some holiday mittens. I'm going to use it for a pair of Waiting for Winter Mittens and (if there's enough yardage left) a coordinating hat for my father-in-law for the holidays. After only two lunchtime sessions, I've already made good progress -- one of the reasons mittens make such good projects for gift knitting.

I've also returned to work on Rainbow's Gramps, and I'm only about a quarter of an inch away from starting the neckline shaping on the body.

I'm debating about starting a sweater for me soon or focusing on gift knitting for a while (the holidays are coming up, plus I have a baby gift to knit). Now that it's really starting to be sweater weather, I am feeling the urge to cast on something new, but at the same time I feel like I should get obligation knitting out of the way early so I can focus on knitting for me toward the end of the year. In any case, it feels good to hold my needles again after all the time spent spinning last week.