Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It Might Actually Happen

I know that, relatively speaking, I'm a pretty fast knitter. But my knitting time is usually limited, what with a full-time job and a small child and all the demands of life. When I decided to knit a Rhinebeck sweater, I knew it was a big proposition and there was a very large chance I wouldn't finish it in time. But, lo and behold, my sweater is actually starting to look like a sweater!

I'd added quite a bit of fabric since joining the fronts and backs at the underarms and am now halfway through the underbust decreases. Once those are done and the knitting reaches just above the narrowest part of my waist, I do a series of waist/hip increases and then work even until the body is the right length.

Now that I've done a good amount of rows involving both front bands, I've gotten into a good rhythm. I won't say that I've memorized those stitch patterns, but I'm beginning to get a rough feel for where the increases and decreases lie, and I'm also less confused about which chart to refer to (they're side by side on the page, so which one you refer to first in a row depends on whether you're working on the right side or wrong side).

The further I get into this pattern, the more impressed I am with it. It's not exactly a difficult pattern in terms of the knitting skill needed, but it is an involved one in the sense that there's a lot to pay attention to. There's the two charts for the front bands, for starters, which are symmetrical, plus the shaping, plus some short rows on the edges that you do every time you repeat the charts to keep the I-cord edging from pulling too much. And while I was worried that the sweater was running small while I was completing the first parts, I've tried it on and it looks like it will fit perfectly.

Aside from the sweater, which has been my main focus, I'm also trying to finish up my current socks. I'm about an inch away from starting the toe of the second sock, so a completed pair will soon be in the offing.

The second sock has gotten me a bit annoyed with this yarn, to be honest. I was already not a huge fan of all the cotton because of how hard it is on my hands, but for some reason the skein decided to start knotting up as I was pulling the yarn out on this second sock, resulting in a lot of yarn barf. As if that wasn't enough, I encountered a knot, and after cutting it out, I found that the self-patterning was completely disrupted, as you can see from the photo above. I'm not terribly concerned, as it happened on the foot of the sock and that part will be hidden in my shoe when I wear these, but it's rather irksome that it happened this close to the end of the sock.

To avoid having more ends to weave in on these socks (because I'm dealing with enough ends on my sweater), I used a clasped weft join after I cut out the knot. I think I've used this join once before, and I really like it. It's very easy to do, and although the join feels a bit bulky for the first round or two after you do it, it seems to blend in very well after that. I can feel where the join is on this sock, but I can't really see it from the outside (the bits of ends sticking out on the inside are a dead giveaway). I did do the join on the instep of the foot rather than the sole, just to be safe, because although my feet aren't as sensitive as other parts of me, I have some other socks where there was a join in the foot due to a knot (where I did a normal join and wove in the ends later) and I can feel it every time I wear them.

I may try to finish the socks up tonight, if I can, so that I can start something new at lunch tomorrow. I have yarn support for a new design on its way to me, but in the meantime I have a hat design I've been meaning to cast on for months now that I think will finally get its turn.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Same but Different

I haven't gotten as much spinning time as I would have liked in the past week (Rhinebeck sweater knitting is taking priority at the moment), but the time I have spent at my wheel has been very enjoyable. I've been working on the FatCatKnits top/batt combo that I bought a few weeks ago, and it's been such fun. I started spinning the batt yesterday after finishing the 2 oz. of top, and to say that the experience spinning the two is like night and day is a bit of an understatement -- and it's all the more interesting given that the two preparations are, at their core, the same fiber.

The fiber that was carded to create this batt was combined with silk, silk noil, angelina, and some other fun stuff, so it's creating a wonderful texture in the singles. While I'm trying to end up with singles that are more or less the same thickness as the singles I spun from the combed top, all these add-ins make it virtually impossible to have a completely even singles -- and I'm just fine with that. For comparison's sake, here are singles from the combed top:

My plan is to chain ply both bobbins, with the expectation that the yarn from the combed top will be slightly thinner and much more even that the yarn spun from the batt. I'm planning to knit something with colorwork with both finished yarns, and I think the differences in thickness and texture should have a really interesting effect.

In other spinning news, I am happy to share that my Flatiron is finally all together and working (though I haven't actually spun on it yet)!

I had so many issues getting this wheel together that I was really starting to think it was cursed -- first half the parts were missing, then some of the bolts didn't work, and then I finally got it put together but I couldn't seem to get the flyer to move when I treadled. Thanks to some very helpful folks on Ravelry, I finally figured out that my bobbin needed to be turned the other way to spin in double drive and all I had to do to get it to work was flip the bobbin around. I expect that I'll be giving this a go as soon as I finish up the singles that are currently on the wheel, so I'll be able to give a full report then. I definitely want to spend some time spinning on it before Spinzilla (which kicks off in about two weeks) in case I want to use it for some of my spinning then.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Join as One

I'm happy to say that I've reached a rather momentous stage on my Rhinebeck sweater: I am ready to join the fronts and the back to start the body.

(Apologies for the crappy photo -- we're dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Irma here, and any light is coming from a lightbulb at this point.)

I finished up the left front last night, just before bed, and put all of the live stitches on the needle this morning. The joining row will be the first order of business this evening when we're back from Curriculum Night at Rainbow's school. After I've gotten a few rows done, I plan to pause and weave in all the ends that I can so I can stop fighting with all those dangling bits. I shouldn't have any more ends on the body until I'm done with it or I have to introduce a new skein, whichever comes first, so it should help to speed things along a bit -- because don't you just hate it when you finish knitting a big project only to realize that you have to weave in all your ends?

I've definitely gotten the hang of the front bands by now, so those are going much quicker now that I'm not constantly stopping to double check the charts. Of course, now I will have to pay attention to two charts and remember which is which, but I think I should be okay. I just need to remember to only knit on this when I can pay attention to it -- sleepy knitting is a no-no for this project!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Ticking Clock

When I started my Rhinebeck sweater, I knew I was likely cutting it close (not that I had much of a choice given how quickly the plans came together). But yesterday I looked at the calendar and realized that I had even less time than I thought. Although it's a bit less than six weeks until we leave, one of those weeks is Spinzilla, so I will be spending ever spare moment spinning. That means that I've got less than five weeks to finish my sweater, and I have a feeling I will need every moment.

Still, I've made some decent progress. I'm two rows away from finishing the upper part of the right front and then I'll tackle the left front. As you can see, I've started the decorative band, which is a lot of fun (though it does require some close attention, as the right and left are a bit different).

Although I was alternating skeins in the back, I've been using just one at a time for the band and fronts so far, simply because the rows are so short and involved that I thought adding a second skein would make things completely crazy. I think I will be okay -- there's enough variation within the skeins that it almost looks like I'm alternating -- but I'll resume using two skeins at once as soon as I join the underarms and start working the entire body.

I am enjoying this sweater so far and the unusual way in which it's constructed, but my one complaint is that there are tons of ends to deal with due to the fact that you knit pieces in different directions and different sections. I have been trying to weave them in as I go wherever possible, but at the moment I've got a couple dangling (along with the ends from waste yarn holding live stitches) that can't be woven in just yet and they're driving me a bit batty. I really think a lot of this annoyance will go away once the body is all joined up as one piece, but for now, I find I'm spending more time that I would like untangling and generally moving ends out of the way.

Meanwhile, my lunchtime socks are a lot bigger than they were the last time you saw them -- I'm nearly finished with the first one!

I'll be glad when these are done, as they're still not super comfortable to knit, but I think they will feel nice to wear -- and it will feel even better to have knit up a deep-stash skein of yarn.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Soft as a Bunny

Another skein of yarn is fresh of my wheel; I finished plying Friday night and skeined and washed it yesterday. I'm glad to see this one done!

This yarn was spun from some 80% merino/20% angora fiber that I won earlier this year as part of the yearlong knitalong happening in the 90% Knitting Ravelry group. The colors weren't really me, but generally I find that even if the fiber doesn't appeal, the finished yarn often does. That was certainly the case with this spin. The colors softened and blended as I drafted the fiber, and they're very attractively autumnal in the finished yarn. The finished skein ended up being in the range of sport to DK weight and 308 yards of two ply.

I didn't entirely enjoy spinning this, in part because of the angora content. While the fiber was extremely soft, as you would expect, I found it tricky to draft at first and during the whole spin had to deal with those angora fibers coming off on me and occasionally getting up my nose. I tried to encourage a bit of a halo when I finished the skein, doing some hot/cold dunks and then snapping and beating it a bit, but there's only the slightest of halos in the dry yarn; I suspect my usual high amount of twist is to blame. I would run the yarn back through the wheel to remove some of the ply twist, but it seems to be pretty well balanced and isn't really kinking up on itself, so I will likely leave it as it is. The lack of halo may also be an indication that this won't pill up as badly as it might if it were more loosely plied, too.

Given my feelings toward the angora content, I'm pretty confident in saying that this yarn will be available for sale in the Fluvial Fibers booth at Indie Knit and Spin in November, so if you love it and will be there, it could be yours.

I received some fiber in the mail earlier in the week after finally succumbing to something that had been tempting me for quite a while. One of the cool things that Ginny of FatCatKnits offers is a braid/batt combo. She dyes up 4 oz. of combed top. Half of it she leaves as is, but the other half she throws on her drum carder along with add-ins like sparkles and silk noil. So you end up with two preparations of the same colorway. I've been wanting to spin up one of these combo for months, and I finally splurged and bought one in a colorway called Arcadia, which, as someone on Instagram pointed out, looks a lot like a Monet painting.

I couldn't wait to dig into this package, so I started to spin the combed top yesterday while I was washing the finished skein. It really did not disappoint.

I've decided to spin the braid from end to end as a thin single and then chain ply it. For the batt, I'll work from one side to the other by tearing off thin strips and spin it more or less the same way. I'd like to use both skeins together so that the subtle differences in the preparations are apparent. These colors are so gorgeous that I have a feeling it will be hard to tear myself away from the wheel to work on my Rhinebeck sweater!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Trying to Extend Summer

I must start out my post by admitting that while I have made a bit of progress on my Rhinebeck sweater, it's only a very little bit because I have been cheating on it with my spinning the past couple of nights. I was very anxious to finish up some singles and then ply, so that meant a few hours at my wheel. But I'll be giving the sweater my full attention tonight and try to get in some extra time over the weekend so that I don't feel quite so guilty.

Meanwhile, I have started a new pair of socks for my lunchtime knitting using some extremely deep stash. I bought this skein of ONline Supersocke Cotton Beach Color (now discontinued) at Knit One at least a decade ago, likely when I was living in my apartment and it was my LYS. It was likely before my former LYS, Natural Stitches, opened and before the Mister and I moved in together (we were living together for a bit more than a year before we got married, and we just celebrated our 10th anniversary this past weekend, so that should give you a sense of the timeline).

I am not sure what caused me to buy this skein, although I know I did knit the Mister a pair of socks in the same yarn at one point, so perhaps the two skeins were bought at the same time. Regardless, it's been sitting in my stash ever since. The yarn is a blend of 45% cotton, 40% wool, and 15% nylon, and I suspect that high cotton content is what has kept it in the stash. I don't usually knit with a lot of cotton or cotton blend yarns because their lack of give tends to make my hands ache when I work with them. I am managing okay with this sock, but I'm definitely slower than I am with pure wool or mostly wool. I do like the feel of the fabric I am getting, though, and I think the socks will be good for times like now, early fall and late spring, when there's a bit of chill in the air but it gets warm enough over the course of the day that wool socks are a tad too warm. And the colors make me think of the colors of Cape Cod, where we just were on vacation, so working on the sock makes me feel a bit like it's still the middle of summer.

The weekend coming up should be a fairly busy one, but I'm hoping to find time to finish plying that distracting skein of handspun, get in a run, and get in some decent knitting time on the Rhinebeck sweater. I hope that whatever you have planned, you enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

An Unexpected Development

The long holiday weekend that has just passed was a good one, filled with a lot of crafting time and an exciting development in my plans for the fall. I'll get to that in a minute, but first I have an FO!

I finished up these quick socks for Rainbow on Sunday evening and left them by her bedside so she would see them when she woke up on Monday. I was very pleased to find that she had put them on almost as soon as she got up -- clearly she likes them! I used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern and worked them toe up using the foot template process described in the pattern. I did make them a little bit big (maybe a quarter of an inch longer than her actual foot length) so that she won't outgrow them too quickly; she's planning to wear them mainly around the house, so a bit of room isn't an issue. The yarn is the My First Regia that I picked up when we were on vacation last month, and I used US 1/2.25 mm needles. Amazingly, Rainbow's feet are only an inch less in circumference than mine and only two inches shorter in length, so it almost felt like I was knitting socks for me! I'm usually not a fan of toe-up socks, but it worked well in this case to use up almost every bit of the yarn. I ended up with about 2 g left from both of the original skeins, and it felt good to be so efficient without playing yarn chicken. I didn't do anything special to get the colors to end up like they did -- I just started with the yarn on the outside of the ball regardless of where it fell in the color sequence -- but I'm tickled that the two socks ended up like complete opposites.

Though I spent a lot of the holiday weekend spinning, I did take the opportunity to cast on a new project. And I've got a deadline for that project. Why? Because, dear readers, I AM GOING TO RHINEBECK! Attending the New York Sheep and Wool Festival has long been on my knitting bucket list, and I honestly thought it would likely be several years before it was a possibility. But on Saturday evening I got a text from Amy at the Ross Farm asking me if there was any way she could convince me to come with her and Scooter Pie to the festival and help out in their booth. Honestly, it didn't take much convincing! As soon as I knew it would work as far as my family's calendar and my available time off from work, I was in! But of course going to Rhinebeck means that I really must take part in the annual Rhinebeck tradition: knitting a Rhinebeck sweater. I started mine last night.

The pattern I'm knitting is Copperplate by Elizabeth Doherty, for which I'd swatched (and gotten gauge) months ago but never gotten around to casting on. To give you a sense of how long I've been planning this sweater, I bought the yarn at my former LYS, Natural Stitches, long before they announced they were closing but when I found out they were no longer going to be carrying that particular vendor. The yarn is Yarn Hollow Tango, an absolutely luminous blend of Polwarth and silk, in a deep red shade called Garnet. As you can see, I haven't done that much yet, but that's mainly because I screwed up at the beginning and had to do a do-over pretty much right away (I blame the headache I had last night). I'm sure this small piece will be growing much more quickly now that I've read the pattern correctly and know what I'm doing, and the deadline to get it done is surely going to keep me on track.

I unconsciously made a smiley face with my yarn and sweater!

I'm very excited about my first Rhinebeck, though I'm sure I'll be just as overwhelmed as I was for my first Maryland (this time I'll know to bring extra allergy meds just in case my body decides to have the same reaction as well). If you're a Rhinebeck veteran, please feel free to share any bits of wisdom you'd like with this newbie!