Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's Really Happening

Tonight's the night: I am going to finish my Color Affection. I feel like it's been on the needles for a really long time, but in actuality, it's been less than a month. Still, it will feel great to finally bind off. I'm in the middle of a wrong side row at the moment, and the rest of that row plus the next right side row should get me to the two inches of border I'm supposed to have before binding off.

I'm pretty sure that once this shawl is fully finished and blocked, it's going to be put right into service. The Mister tends to run warm, which means that we keep the thermostat in the house a bit lower than I'd like, so as a result I'm always covering up with blankets or extra layers. This shawl will be great to throw around my shoulders on a chilly evening.

My striped socks are moving along, slowly but surely. I'm just about to the toe on the first one.

They're taking longer than I'm accustomed to for plain stockinette socks, but that's perfectly understandable given that I'm working on smaller needles with a higher stitch count than usual. I'm hoping that the smaller gauge pays off in the end. I much prefer wearing the merino and merino blend socks for wearing, but they just aren't as durable as the socks that were knit with coarser wools blended with nylon. The socks I wore today, for instance, are of the latter type and look like new -- but I just don't like them all that much!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Brown and More Brown

Sometimes spinning projects seem to take forever. Sometimes they just whoosh by and they're done before you know it. My current project is of the latter type. I started spinning this Manx Loaghtan about a week and a half ago, though I didn't make all that much progress on it at first. Then, this weekend, I managed to finish spinning the first bobbin, spin all of the second bobbin, and get started on the third (which I'll work on some more as soon as I post this). It's hard to believe that this is 8 oz. of fiber, but I guess this is what happens when you spin thicker singles.

I thought I'd be sick of brown by now, but I really love this moorit color. It reminds me a little of what my tea looks like with just the right amount of milk in it.

At the rate I'm going, I should be plying by midweek. I will need to get some color on my wheel next, though, and I already know what that will be -- but you will need to wait until next Sunday to see it (and with any luck, it'll actually be started by then).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Where I Left Off

It's been a weird week. Remember how Rainbow was sick with that mystery virus last weekend? Well, the Mister and I caught either that or some other bug and ended up spending last Friday at home together in bed (which sounds more exciting than it was). Really that meant I spent most of the day drinking tea, blowing my nose, and binge-watching Luther on Netflix while knitting. Actually, that was what I did for most of the weekend, as whatever it is I had took its time getting out of my system.

I can't show you what I spent the weekend knitting (at least not now), but suffice it to say that it was not my Color Affection as I had planned. I finally got back to it last night, and I now have just three short-row sets left to do before I can start the border. It's gotten to the point that each set takes 20-25 minutes, so very little gets done each night. I'm hoping that this evening I'll be able to finish this section at the very least and release myself from two of the three skeins of yarn that are currently attached to this WIP.

Meanwhile, my striped sock is moving along, slowly but surely. I completed the gusset during my lunch break today, so now is at least the easy part where I just knit without having to think or count until I'm ready to start the toe.

As close as these two projects are to being done, I'm getting twitchy and feel ready to start another project. I really think I need to get a sweater on the needles once the shawl is done, so I'm pondering my options. Part of me thinks I should finally cast on for my Cabletta Cardigan, a pattern I bought in February 2013 and for which I bought three skeins of Miss Babs Yowza at MDSW that year. It will be a lot of knitting, which means it's unlikely I'd finish it in time to actually wear it this winter, but it would clear a lot of yarn out of my stash. The other sweater I keep thinking about is the State Fair Cardigan. I have a sweater quantity of a Cascade wool/alpaca worsted weight (I can't remember the name) that I won as a door prize a couple of years ago that would probably be perfect. Then there's Airflow, for which I bought three skeins of Dream in Color Jilly last summer. You see my dilemma? I might just have to pick one at random at this point. Of course, it's somewhat of a moot point until I actually finish my shawl!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pattern Release: Ravessa Scarf

I hate keeping secrets, but it's so much fun to tell them. So I'm super excited that I can share a secret with you today! Several months ago, I received a commission to create a pattern for Yarnbox, a yarn subscription service. Each shipment includes a knit pattern and a crochet pattern to go along with the yarn, and for January, I'm the knit pattern designer!

The yarn I received for my pattern (which is also the yarn the subscribers will receive) is Feederbrook Farm Entropy DK, a really fun two-ply BFL yarn that's meant to look like a handspun yarn. The colors of the plies change gradually, resulting in knit fabric with colors that slowly shift and change. I used my two skeins to design the Ravessa Scarf, my new pattern out today.

I'm not normally one to knit scarves -- frankly, I get bored about a third of the way through them. However, once I started swatching and came up with this stitch pattern, I was addicted. There's a little bit of everything in this pattern: stockinette, garter, increases, decreases, lace, and cables. There's enough going on that you don't get bored, but it's intuitive enough that, after a repeat or two, you understand how the pattern works and know what's coming next.

This pattern will work with any kind of DK or light worsted yarn -- solid, semisolid, or even a gradient. If you're a spinner, this is a great pattern for your handspun, especially if you've spun a fractal yarn. The length of the scarf is completely customizable, too, so you can use up all the yarn you have.

There are more secrets for me to keep, but I'm excited that this one is out of the bag and I hope you enjoy the pattern!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Speed Spinning

While I was home with a sick Rainbow earlier in the week, I found that I was too anxious about her to knit, but I could manage to spin. As a result, there's been a lot going on and coming off the wheels this week.

I mentioned last week that I'd started spinning my Fat Cat Knits Shetland the previous Friday. I finished spinning up the first bobbin on Sunday, spun up the second on Monday, and plied the whole skein on Tuesday. It was a quick and dirty spin, but I'm still pretty happy with the resulting skein.

I spun each colorway braid separately and then plied them together. Both had wonderful depth of color thanks to the fiber (a "swirl" blend of ecru and black Shetland), and there was enough variety in the dyed colors that the yarn barberpoles pretty much throughout. After washing, the yarn is roughly sportweight and 282.5 yards for my 5 oz. I have no idea what to do with it -- perhaps a hat or some mittens. For now, it's going to marinate in the stash.

Almost as soon as this skein was off the miniSpinner, I pulled out something new. You may remember that a couple of months ago, I received a package from Louet (courtesy of the nice folks over at Stitchcraft Marketing) with some fiber to spin and review. With the frigid weather we've had recently, I've decided I need some new wool mittens, so I thought it would be a perfect use for the 8 oz. of Manx Loaghtan top in the package. I'm spinning it into a three-ply worsted/Aran weight, and I think it'll be great to use for something cabled.

I've spun this breed once before but didn't know much about it, so I pulled out my handy copy of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook to do a little research. This breed is native to the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom and is considered a conservation breed. The sheep have fleeces in a variety of colors (white, gray, and black, for instance), but, as the authors note, "Today brown is by far the dominant color within the breed, an artifact of its near extinction and the breeding preferences of the individuals who brought it back from the brink. The lambs are born black and turn brown within weeks." The fiber can vary in its softness, and its staple length is usually 2.5-5 inches. The authors indicate that it can make a very durable yarn when spun worsted (as I am) and a very bouncy, relatively soft yarn when spun woolen. It's a fiber that's great for knit sweaters and socks or woven fabrics.

The fiber I have is the lovely moorit brown that's the most typical color, and I'm working from combed top. It is beautifully prepped, which means that it drafts effortlessly as I spin. I've not run into any significant VM or neps, which means there's very little stopping while I spin to pull those things out. I'll save a full review for when I'm done with the skein, but I will say that I'm really enjoying it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More of the Same

I'm in one of those places in my knitting life right now where it feels like I'm stuck in the middle of my projects and can't seem to move very far forward. I'm still working on the same two things: my Color Affection at home and my striped sock at work.

Despite being totally worn out from my cold last night, I did manage to put in a bit of time on the shawl. I have less than two repeats of the short-row section left to do, but the rows are so long now that it takes me a good 15-20 minutes to complete one set of short rows. I know that once I get to the border, the rows are going to take me even longer, but at least by then I'll be working with only one color, so logistically it'll be simpler.

So close to the end, and yet such long rows!
The sock now has a heel and the start of a gusset. It's not exciting knitting, to be honest, but it's good mindless stuff when my brain can't handle anything else.

I am eager to make enough headway on these projects that I feel I can reasonable cast on something new: one of Hunter Hammersen's Curls. If you haven't seen this book yet, you need to. All the patterns in this book have the same rough shape and construction, but they're knit in such a way that you can knit with any weight of yarn and with just about any amount (basically knitting until you run out). Hunter has a knitalong going in her Ravelry group, working through the patterns in order (each pattern KAL goes on for two months, with a new one starting the 15th of each month). I'm going to try to knit all of mine in handspun, mainly as an excuse to use some of it up, but I also think it will work well to maximize my use of sometimes odd yardages -- plus there's no worry about the yarn not falling neatly into traditional weight categories.

We have a three-day weekend coming up, and with this cold (which the Mister seems to have as well), I think it's only right that I spend it resting and knitting. I'm going to try to power through the rest of my Color Affection and perhaps dig through the handspun stash to get skeins lined up for Curls.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

One Big Tangle

It's been an interesting several days. Rainbow came down with a fast-moving virus on Saturday, so I've been sitting around home with her for the past three days. Fortunately, she's back to normal, but I was so worried about her that I didn't eat or sleep much for a while. I think we both needed the past two days at home! In the midst of all the sickness anxiety, I didn't knit much, though I'm planning on rectifying that situation as soon as possible. (I did do a whole lot of spinning, but I'll save that for Sunday.)

The main project, which I'm determined to focus on this week, is my Color Affection. I'm now a little more than halfway through the three-color short row section, which would move along more quickly if I didn't have to untangle my yarn every two rows.

I know I will love it when it's done, but goodness, what a headache!

Meanwhile, I've been working on my sock here and there and am just about ready to start the heel flap:

The colors are not at all accurate in this photo -- it's more of a chocolate brown and greener turquoise. Though I'm fairly certain my yarn will hold out through the toe, I still feel a bit like I'm playing yarn chicken. I keep having to remind myself that this is only a 200-yard skein and that there's another one for the second sock!