Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tying Up Loose Ends

This coming Saturday, we are headed to Florida for two blissful (and warm, I hope) weeks of vacation. That means that this week is going to be full of getting ready and finishing up things before we leave. On top of all that, it's also a busy week. Yesterday was Rainbow's fifth birthday -- can you believe it? -- so we took her out for dinner to celebrate. That, of course, was after two birthday parties over the weekend (one for her friends, one with the family) and another friend's party on Sunday. This evening she had her annual check-up at the pediatrician, and tomorrow evening is her pre-K class holiday party. I'm exhausted just typing all that!

I did finish up my Coaxial Hat on Sunday night but didn't get to block it until this morning. I have a feeling it might be wet for a while yet given the fact that it was raining pretty much all day today.

I'm really hoping that the top flattens out a bit more; it was a bit ripply when it came off the needles. Once it's fully dry, I'll try to get some modeled shots and do a proper FO post. I've got it drying on top of the radiation, which I'm hoping will speed up the process.

At the moment, the only thing I have on the needles is my Electric Avenue socks, which have gotten a bit more done since you saw them last -- I've just finished the ribbing.

I'm not going to start anything new before we go away, but I have grand plans for the knitting I'm going to get done while we're there. I wound some yarn the other night so that it's all ready to go. I'm probably going to end up packing more than I'll actually use up -- but that's far preferable to running out of yarn, right?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

There's the Sparkle

I'll be honest -- there hasn't been that much spinning going on here in the past week or so. I've been focused on knitting projects and planning ahead for the trip south. Today, however, I realized that I should take advantage of a little bit of down time to finish up the third and final bobbin of the yarn I've been spinning (half of last month's Mixed Blessings club shipment from Fat Cat Knits). Normally I prefer to take photos in natural light to get a good sense of the colors, but given the amount of sparkle in this fiber, it really requires a flash. So here it is in progress:

and here the bobbin is all finished:

My goal is to get this yarn plied sometime this week so it can be all skeined up and washed before we leave. Can't wait to see how this looks when it's plied!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Counting to 2 Is Hard

The cowl is done. I finished just before bedtime last night. It would have been earlier than that had I not messed up the ribbing so much. You see, I guess I was so excited about getting to the finishing ribbing near the end of my lunch break yesterday that I forgot how to count to 2. I realized this as I got to the end of the first round and discovered that I wasn't going to end with two purls as I should have. Rather than tinking back, I decided to just go ahead with the second round and fix the stitches individually as I came to them. This was a good decision, I think, but it meant that that second round took a heck of a lot longer than it should have. Fortunately I was not on bedtime duty last night, so that meant extra knitting time, and by the time I was ready to go in bed, the cowl had been bound off and all my ends had been woven in. Tonight, I'll block it, though I'll admit I'll be a little sad to lose the wonderful texture it has in its unblocked state.

I have to say, I really, really liked working with this yarn. I mean, I know there's not much not to love about merino, cashmere, and silk, but having not worked with it before, it was exciting for me to do so. It was very smooth and easy to work with, and the color saturation is stunning. The knit fabric already has great drape, even before it's blocked, and it's delightfully soft and silky -- it will be divine around my neck! If I had one complaint about the yarn, it's that I found a knot in the skein as I was approaching the end of my ribbing. I somehow missed it when I was winding it, and it wasn't a huge deal to cut it out, but it did mean two extra ends to have to weave in. I know that knots do happen, but I expect to see them less in a hand-dyed yarn. One knot wouldn't stop me from knitting with Pashmina again, though!

Because the cowl had been my lunch break knitting for the past week and a half or so, finishing it meant I needed a new project for lunch today. Happily I had wound several skeins of yarn last weekend, so I had some new stripey sock yarn waiting for me. This is one the skeins that I picked up at Indie Knit & Spin last month from Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works. The colorway is called Electric Avenue, and it was definitely that hot pink that drew me to this skein.

I am knitting some very simple stockinette socks with this to let the yarn do the talking, but I'm using a smaller needle than usual -- a US 0/2.0 mm -- because this yarn is a two ply and I want the socks to be a bit more durable than that would be on my usual US 1 needle. I cast on 70, rather than my usual 64, and am doing a 3x2 rib at the cuff. Unless I am crazy productive in the next week, these will make for good airplane knitting next weekend!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Should Just Make It

I'm sure none of you will be surprised that I'm still working on the same two projects I talked about in my last post, my handspun Coaxial Hat and the Pashmina cowl. I have been dividing up my evenings so that I work a bit on both of them (though, truth be told, the cowl is getting a bit more attention because I've been working on it at lunch as well).

I started the crown decreases on the hat last night and got through the first eight rounds, so I believe I only have about 24 more rounds to go before it's done. It's already easier to maneuver on the needles now that some of the stitches have been decreased away, and I expect that the rounds are going to get a lot faster now that I'm working with fewer stitches. I do really like how the decreases were worked into the pattern so that the areas of both colors are getting narrower.

The cowl, although more comfortable to knit, has been the more concerning of the two projects because I wasn't sure if I could get all the pattern repeats I'd intended out of the one skein of yarn. My intention was to use as much of it as I could without having to play yarn chicken at the end. I tried to deal with this issue by weighing the skein at the beginning, and I've been weighing it again after each pattern repeat. I was hoping to be able to do four repeats (with an inch or so of ribbing at the beginning and end), but it was looking like it was really going to be close. I finished the third pattern repeat last night and weighed what I had left: 39 grams. The ribbing and the beginning and one repeat took 36 grams, so it looks like I have just barely enough. I think it's still going to be a bit of a nail-biter, though.

If I can continue the pace I've set thus far, I should have this done by tomorrow evening and blocked by the weekend. I can't wait to block it and see it transformed from a wiggly, bunchy thing into something open and airy.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Knitting in the Face of Temptation

Now that my gift knitting is done, I've turned my attention back to knitting for me, at least for the time being. I'm waiting for some yarn support to arrive for a commission (shhh! it's a secret!), but until then I am trucking along on my Coaxial Hat. I was very good and got in a couple more repeats on it on Saturday while I was at my LYS, and I believe I have only one more repeat left to go before I start decreasing for the crown.

As much as I'm enjoying the pattern, the knitting itself is not all that enjoyable because it's rather hard on my hands. The yarn, being handspun, is a bit denser than most commercial yarn. Add to that the fact that the stitch pattern has lots of slipped stitches and you get a very dense fabric. This hat will probably stand up on its own when I'm done (though I'm hoping blocking will help some). I know I'll be happy with it, but I need to knit it in relatively short knitting sessions. As it's for me, there's no real deadline, though I'd like to have it done before the end of the Gift-a-long -- and, unless I want to pack it, I really should have it done by the end of next week before we go to Florida for two weeks.

The real trouble with the hat is that I would rather knit on my cowl. And really, can you blame me? It's Pashmina! This yarn is so soft and smooth and enjoyable to knit with, and it's a really nice treat for my hands after they get all achy knitting on the hat. I gave it some attention over the weekend as well and got through a repeat and a half of the lace.

I worked on this last night, after taking the photo, and have now made it my lunchtime knitting project. Unfortunately, I had a slight mishap with my needle at the end of today's lunchtime knitting session, and I can honestly say that I've never had this happen before with these needles (ChiaoGoo Red Lace) -- the cable just snapped off of the needle tip!

Luckily, I was able to grab the stitches and get them back onto the cable (not very neatly, but well enough), and this evening I'll transfer all of them to a new needle so that the cowl can go on. I'm hoping to finish it before the trip as well -- my plan was to take all new things to knit while I'm on vacation. I already have some self-striping sock yarn wound and ready to go, but I need to decide on some other projects. Deciding what knitting to take is almost harder than packing my clothes!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Subtle Sparkle

After spinning cream-colored fiber for a month, I needed some color. So earlier in the week I started spinning my November Fat Cat Knits fiber club shipment. As a reminder, here's what it looked like:

The fiber base I chose for this shipment was 63% polwarth, 12% tussah silk, and 25% nylon sparkle. Originally I was going to spin up each colorway on its own bobbin and ply them together, but somewhere along the way I had a change of heart. I've decided on spinning up each colorway separately as a three-ply fingering weight. If there's enough contrast, I can use them together in some sort of stranded colorwork.

I started started with Roulade, the colorway you see on top in the photo above. I finished up the first bobbin on Friday night, and if you look closely, you can just see the sparkle (though perhaps not in this photo -- it's really subtle).

The second bobbin has just barely been started, but I'm hoping to spend some time on it later today or this evening.

Meanwhile, my final club shipment for the year showed up on Thursday, and it's another beauty. This shipment is natural black and ecru Shetland swirl. The mix of natural light and dark makes for a very interesting variety of shades.

The colorways this time are called Cosmos and Botanica. The Cosmos braid is underneath in the photo so it's a bit hard to see, but it's shades of blue, purple, and brown. Botanica, on top, has greens, reds, oranges, and browns. I will have to ponder how to spin these for a while, though a certain someone has already asked if they could be turned into mittens.

Friday, December 05, 2014

My Holiday Knitting Is Done

I'm sure some of you who are still knitting madly to finish your holiday knitting are probably feeling some pretty strong resentment toward me right now, but please take the title of this post in this context: I only knit two smallish things as presents this year. This month is going to be a whirlwind of activity (crazy days at work, parties, Rainbow's birthday, Chanukah, and vacation at the end), so I knew better to overcommit myself. Every member of the family has already gotten at least one knit item from me except for my soon-to-be sister-in-law. She and my brother-in-law got engaged just a couple of months ago, and as he's the type that we all thought would never settle down, I wanted to make her some nice things to induce her to stick around.

As it happened, I ended up making both projects for her in handspun, so she's really getting the nice stuff. You already saw the slouchy hat I made her in Fat Cat Knits superwash merino. Last night, I finished up the second part of the gift -- a pair of Metropolis Mitts in All Spun Up superwash merino that I spun years ago (perhaps as far back as 2009, judging from the dates on the Ravelry page).

I can't say enough good things about this pattern. You would think that with all the twisted stitches they would be a bit of a slog, but I found that they actually moved along quite nicely. The second mitt went even faster than the first because by then I knew what was happening and could anticipate some of the traveling stitches' moves. My only complaint about the mitts is that it was a little trickier to weave it my ends because the inside is mostly stockinette (as the outside is twisted stitches moving over a reverse stockinette background), so my finishing was perhaps not as tidy as it normally is.

I did make one little oops on these that I only discovered as I was finishing up the second mitt last night. Apparently the twisted ribbing at the top of the hand was meant to be 1 1/2 inches long, but when I was working on the first mitt, I misread it (probably because the 1 was at the end of one line and the 1/2 was at the beginning of the next and I was not reading slowly enough). It's not a huge deal, and I made the second mitt to match the first anyway. Had I not gone back to double check the directions, I probably never would have noticed.

I knit these as part of the Indie Designer Gift-a-long on Ravelry, which is still going on in full force through the end of the year. I still have to weigh the finished mitts and the leftover yarn to see if I might be able to eke out another pair for myself, but I will definitely be knitting some for me in the future regardless.