Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A Look Back

It's hard to believe it's already the end of 2008. It's been quite a year, both in my knitting life and in my real-world life. The Mister and I bought and sold a house, friends had babies, and this country elected a new president. I also knit even more socks, four adult sweaters, and lots of baby things, and I learned to spin. I'll say it again: It's been quite a year. And I have many big plans for 2009.


Wherever 2009 takes you, I hope it is filled with health, happiness, and many good fibery things.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Little Bit of Lace

Even though I told myself that I was going to be "good" and finish up my long-languishing Icarus before casting on another shawl, the itch to knit a Swallowtail proved to be too much to overcome. I cast on and did the set-up rows last Tuesday night and then knit the whole way to D.C. and back (and a little bit while we were there). Just a few more hours of knitting time were left to do at home before it was done!

Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark, Interweave Knits fall 2006 (now available as a free download here)
Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn Sock (100% superwash merino), colorway Lettuce, one skein
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: December 23/December 28
Dimensions: approximately 27" by 55" after blocking
Mods: none other than needle size

This was a quick and satisfying knit. As with all Evelyn Clark patterns, both the charts and written directions were clear and easy to understand. I was thrilled to discover that the pattern was available on her site (thank you, Ravelry!) with larger charts; I have the issue of IK in which the pattern originally appeared, but the charts are always too small in the magazine, in my opinion.

The budding lace chart, which forms the majority of the shawl, is a six-row repeat -- and three of those rows are purled -- that is easily memorizable. I only had a little bit of trouble once I got to the lily of the valley charts, and not from the nupps, as you might think. In all the other charts in this pattern, the two border stitches are separated from the body stitches; they're right up against the body stitches on these charts, which I didn't get at first, resulting in my having to tink back the first row three times. The nupps themselves actually weren't as bad as I was expecting. Sometimes I was able to get my needle through all five stitches, but when I wasn't, I just slipped the first two stitches onto the right needle, loosened all five up a bit, and then purled them together. The tip to make the YOs loosely when forming the nupps is spot on.

If you're planning to knit this from the pattern on Evelyn Clark's Web site and you're using the charts, be aware that there is a small typo with the last chart for the edging. You are directed to look at the written directions for Row 18 -- there is no Row 18. It should say Row 8.


This pattern also vastly overestimates the amount of yarn you will need. For the record, I used a fingering-weight yarn (of which the pattern says I will need 516 yards when knit with a US 6) and a smaller needle. Of the 440 yards I started with in my one skein of yarn, I estimate I have between 35 and 40 yards left. I didn't do extra repeats of the budding lace chart to make the shawl larger, but it still came out to be a nice size.

The verdict? It's a winner! It's a relatively fast knit and doesn't take very much yarn, so I have a feeling this will be a good option when I need a quick-ish, somewhat fancy gift. I also want to make another one for myself someday -- a larger one, with sparkly beads instead of nupps.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

That Shiny Yarn

Well, I'm back. I've been meaning to blog, but I've been too busy knitting new-ish projects and playing with my big Chanukah present. I thought it only appropriate that the first real thing I took pictures of was my latest handspun.

Two-ply laceweight, approximately 680 yards, spun from Chameleon Colorworks 50% merino/50% tencel, colorway Ophelia. It took a long time to spin and even longer to ply, but I'm thrilled with the results.

This is enough yarn to knit a decently sized shawl. It's a little uneven in spots, but I think the shine more than makes up for any inconsistencies or flaws in my spinning.

I did have some singles leftover on one bobbin, so I decided to go back to my old practice of Navajo plying for a mini-skein. The results looked pretty bad at first, but a wash and whack evened out the yarn beautifully -- and the resulting skein allowed me to play with my camera for some fancy-schmancy shots.

This shot was my favorite -- see the little fibers sticking out of the end? There's no way I could've gotten a shot like that with my old camera except by sheer luck.



I hope everyone had a good holiday week, and I'm excited to hear what exciting knitterly gifts you may have gotten!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Quick Post before Hitting the Road

We're leaving soon to drive down to D.C. to spend Christmas with friends, but I wanted to post once more quickly before then to wish all of you celebrating a very merry Christmas! I hope all of you, celebrating or not, get in some good knitting time and some good relaxation time. (I've got a bag packed with three projects for the nine hours in the car, so expect to see some pretty things when I get back.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ear Flaps Are All the Rage

Yesterday we had our family Chanumas/Chrismakah celebration and I got to give out all the handknits. Everything was a big hit (although I think my father may need a little more convincing that green socks aren't all that wild). My brother also got the opportunity to model my latest FO, his present:

Pattern: Norwegian Star Earflap Hat by Tienne (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Cascade 220 wool, colorways 8393 (~half a skein) and 8401 (~quarter of a skein)
Needles: US 6 (4.0) mm circs
Started/Completed: December 11/December 14
Recipient: my goofy kid brother
Mods: made ear flaps bigger; omitted stranded design all together; and added two rows of single crochet edging, bigger-than-called-for I-cord straps, and tassels

You may remember that my brother is in college in the Land of the Big Snow. He had mentioned to my mother that he was interested in a hat with ear flaps to keep his sensitive ears warm on his walks across campus. He is not at all interested in knit socks (thankfully -- the kid is now 6'3", so that should give you some idea of the size of his feet), so I was thrilled that there was one knit gift I could make him.

The hat pattern is very cute, but I knew there was no way my brother would go for snowflakes, so I got rid of the stranded patterning altogether and stuck to a solid color. I made the earflaps just a couple of stitches wider and a couple rows longer, adjusting the stitches for the rest of the hat as necessary. The brim starts with a couple of purl rows that were causing it to curl most unattractively, so I added the crochet both as a decorative element and to get the hat to sit flat. I made the I-cord straps just a little larger than called for (five stitches rather than three), and I just had to add the tassels for the fun factor.

My brother has always been the first in my family to make fun of my knitting obsession, so I took it as a compliment that he put the hat on as soon as he opened it and kept it on until he and my parents left our house. Here he is channeling his inner Zoolander.


Can you say "Blue Steel"?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

For.Ev.Er.

I finally finished spinning up my latest yarn this weekend, after a full week of plying. It started its life as this fiber, 4 ounces of 50% merino/50% tencel from Chameleon Colorworks, purchased at Natural Stitches.

I think it took me a full week to spin each bobbin of singles -- very, very thin singles.

And then it took me another week to do the plying, a little here and there and then a marathon session of three hours Friday night and two hours Saturday morning.


In the end, I wound up with approximately 680 yards of laceweight two ply as well as a smaller skein (yardage not measured) of Navajo-plied leftover singles from one of the bobbins. The finished yarn is now hanging to dry after its bath, so I can't show you a fully finished picture. I love the results. The yarn is shiny and the color is muted, even compared to the original fiber. It will make a lovely shawl, eventually.

P.S. Happy Solstice and Happy Chanukah to those of you celebrating!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Update

I'm a little brain inpaired this evening, so I can't really put together a good blog post. Will you settle for a progress shot of my vest? Okay.


Moving right along. I'm just a handful of rows away from starting the neck steek. I don't think I'll have it done in time for Christmas, but maybe for New Year's ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Serendipity

This post has been a long time coming.

Pattern: Mystery Stole 4 ("Serendipity") by Georgina Bow Logsdon
Yarn: Aisling Yarns superwash merino lace weight, colorway Perfect Storm, ~1.75 skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: September 7/November 28
Mods: none

This stole was an interesting knitting experience. It was the first time I'd incorporated beads into my knitting -- 6.0 mm hematite beads, applied through the use of an almost impossibly tiny crochet hook. The beads are mainly on the two ends of the stole, which give it a nice weight when worn.

As far as the construction of the stole is concerned, that turned out to be the one tricky part. It's knit in two halves, from the outside toward the center. When the two sections are complete, a row is knit in waste yarn, which is then followed in order to graft the two halves together. This proved to be the most difficult part of the process for me; I spent a good hour and a half weaving the yarn tail through the stitches and then tightening up the grafting row. I'm not too anxious to do that again.

I really, really liked this yarn. It has a nice tight twist and a lovely shine to it, and I think it feels a little more substantial than a typical lace weight. The dyer names all her colorways after movie titles, and I do think this one looked rather like rough ocean waves. I had set out to knit this stole in a solid color, but once I saw this yarn, I knew I had to have it.

Now that I've been through two mystery knit-alongs, I think I've gotten them out of my system for a while. I'm happy with the results of this particular stole, but it's not a pattern I would have necessarily chosen on my own. I think I will stick to the many lace shawls I have in my mental queue for the foreseeable future while I enjoy this addition to my accessory closet.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm Related to Bigfoot

They took me about two weeks -- two very long weeks! -- but my brother-in-law's socks are finally done.

Pattern: 2x2 rib worked over 68 stitches, decreased to 64 stitches for the foot
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential (75% superwash wool, 25% nylon), colorway Navy, two skeins
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: November 26/December 11
Recipient: my big-footed brother-in-law

Just how big are these socks? Here are some shots for comparison. For starters, they're more than an inch longer than my rather sizeable feet.

They're noticeably bigger than the average banana.

They're even bigger than The Mister's laptop!


All I can say is that my brother-in-law had better appreciate these! Assuming he does, and he wants more socks, he'd better like socks knit from heavier yarn.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Chugging Along

Knitting continues here chez Knit/Wit. I'm still working on the socks for my brother-in-law; miraculously, I'm already into the gusset of the second sock, having finished the first last Friday night. They're not much to look at, so I'll spare you the in-progress shots for now. (I'll bet you can imagine what a ribbed navy man sock looks like anyway. Right? Okay, moving on.)

I had to take a break from my stranded knitting last week when I had cold brain, so I decided to do a little charity knitting and whipped up a chemo cap with some, well, interesting novelty yarn that Jen forced on me donated to me last year.

This would be the No Hair Day chemo cap or, as I like to think of it, the I-Skinned-a-Muppet-and-Made-a-Hat chemo cap. I know this picture is blurry, but trust me when I tell you that it looks very much the same in real life.

I was ready to get back to some patterned knitting after dealing with all that fuzziness, and I've made some progress on my Ivy League Vest since last you saw it. I'm now through the waist decreases.

Meanwhile, I also have some blocking going on. Full reveal to come later this week!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Finishing Touches

As much as I'd like to spend a weekday at home with my yarn, it doesn't often happen. Yesterday, however, I found myself in just that unusual situation. What started as a tickle in my throat on Tuesday turned into a fireball in my throat and kept me awake most of the night, so I was home nursing the beginning of cold yesterday. I was a little too out of it to knit anything too complicated, so I figured it was a perfect time to put the finishing touches on one of my holiday knitting projects -- time to sew the buttons!

Pattern: Felted Trees from Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne
Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (100% Peruvian highland wool), colorways Grass, Fern, and Avocado, two skeins each
Needles: US 8 (5.0 mm) dpns
Started/Completed: October 26/November 4
Mods: I made a mistake on the smallest tree (my own fault for not reading the directions carefully enough) and knit the largest tree single stranded because I would have run out of yarn if I'd knit it double stranded

I'm really not sure why it took me so long to finish these. They knit up very quickly and were felted in my mother's washing machine while we watch the election returns. Yep, that was a month ago. I had a somewhat reasonable excuse in not having any buttons for the embellishment, but that was soon solved by a trip to Michael's. I guess I just needed an hour or two with nothing else to do.

The buttons are nothing special; I just picked up a few bags of button assortments and then spent about half an hour with all of them spread out in front of me. The real challenge was in finding enough that matched to cover each tree.


I really like how these turned out. Yes, they're a little mishapen and lumpy, but I think that adds to the rustic look, don't you? I will say that the double-stranded trees are a little sturdier than the single-stranded tree. Notice how the front two trees have a little roll at the bottom? The large tree stands up just fine, but if I were knitting these again, I'd get a little more yarn.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Just a Taste

It's slow going, but my Ivy League Vest is coming along.


I'm getting more and more used to the two-handed knitting thing, but this pattern is just complicated enough that I'll be taking a simpler project to Hurricane Knitting tomorrow night (Waterworks Barnes & Noble, starting at 7 p.m.).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sleepy Doormouse

I finished some more sock yarn! It started life as this fiber, another Dyeing Arts Dazzling Duo (two strips of superwash merino in complimentary colorways), purchased from the Loopy Ewe. This one is called Sleepy Doormouse.

The two colorway thing already decided the number of plies for me (I love not having to plan what to do with a yarn once in a while!), so I just sat down and spun. I ended up with approximately 400 yards of two-ply fingering weight.

This is probably my most even two-ply yarn to date; keeping my singles even was something I was really focusing on while spinning this fiber.


I'm excited to see how this yarn knits up into socks -- eventually. First I've got to finish some very boring man socks.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post-Turkey Yarn

Yesterday was what is known in the United States as "Black Friday," or the day the Christmas shopping season officially kicks off with big sales. In years past, I have braved the crowds to find some good deals, but this year the only sale I made it to was the grand reopening sale at Bloomin Yarns. I went with a specific mission: find yarn for the Climbing Yarns Pullover and the Welt and Rib Raglan, both from the winter 2008 Interweave Knits. I was successful!

First, for the Climbing Vines Pullover, I picked up some Queensland Kathmandu Aran in a lovely shade of lavender. I tried really hard to pick something other than blue or green, my usual color selections. I was deciding between this shade and a dusty pink, but this won out because there weren't enough skeins of the pink in stock. I think I like this better anyway.


I picked this blue/teal shade, called Kingfisher, for Welt and Rib. I'm hoping this sweater will replace what has been my favorite store-bought sweater, a felted wool turtleneck, which is unfortunately starting to develop holes and pull apart at the seams.

I'm anxious to start one or both of these sweaters, but they will have to wait, because I finally cast on for my Ivy League Vest this afternoon! I decided to go with the smaller needle and larger size, so please keep your fingers crossed that the math will work out for me!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In the Nick of Time

From fiber ...

to yarn ...

to socks!

Pattern: my basic stockinette recipe, with 2x2 ribbed cuffs and eye of partridge heels
Yarn: my handspun, 3-ply superfine merino from All Spun Up
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: November 13/November 25


There really is no greater pleasure than knitting with your own handspun. I'm looking forward to repeating the experience as many times as possible -- including with the leftovers of this yarn, which are enough to make quite a few baby socks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Warm Head

Cross another holiday gift off the list!

Pattern: Koolhaas by Jared Flood, Interweave Knits holiday 2007 and Knitting Daily pattern store (link)
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted, colorway Verdes, one skein
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) and US 8 (5.0 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: November 10/November 13
Recipient: my brother-in-law's girlfriend
Mods: none

This was one of those patterns I'd long been wanting to knit, and after kicking myself for months for not buying the IK holiday issue last year, I finally decided to just buy the darn pattern from the Knitting Daily pattern store. It was well worth it, if you ask me.

This hat was a delight to knit and only took as long as it did because I had some difficulties in reading the pattern (entirely due to user error, not the quality of the pattern). This was my work knitting, too, meaning I only knit on it about two hours each day. I didn't have any smaller circs in the sizes required, so I magic looped the whole thing and that worked just fine.

I think my favorite part of this hat is the way the decreases spiral up to the top, which isn't shown in any of the pattern photos.


Your eyes do not deceive you; this Malabrigo is indeed the same colorway as my Foliage. I thought it would be overkill to make another winter accessory for myself, so I used this second skein in my stash as a gift for my brother-in-law's girlfriend, on whom I think it will look spectacular. I have a couple other shades still in my stash, though, that are contenders to become a Koolhaas for myself!

I thought this was my last holiday knitting project, but it occurred to me after finishing it up that I didn't knit anything for my brother-in-law. The Mister suggested that he'd probably like some socks -- which figures, because he's got the biggest feet among all the men I knit for (excluding my brother, who thankfully will not wear handknit socks). I think some ankle socks may be in order.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shiny!

Today I have some handspun yarn pr0n for you. It was finished about a week ago, but the whole time change has messed with my ability to get any natural light until the weekend, so it had to wait a while for its photo shoot.

This yarn started life as a 60% merino/40% bamboo blend dyed by Kristin at All Spun Up (my favorite fiber pusher).

Because of the shine of the bamboo and the way it took up the dye differently, leaving that beautiful silvery effect, I knew I wanted to spin this into a laceweight yarn. I discovered that while it seems to take as long to spin the singles as it does for, say, a three-ply sock yarn, it takes forever to ply. I spent several days' worth of spinning sessions just plying. The last day, I was at my wheel for a total of more than four hours! In the end it was worth it, though, because I got a gorgeously shiny yarn with the nice tight twist I like.

Starting with 4.2 ounces of fiber, I yielded approximately 625 yards of two-ply laceweight (about 27 wpi). I was a bit worried about how the finished yarn would look, because the singles had some noticeable runs of a burnt orange shade that I wasn't too fond of, but everything blended together in the plying process. The finished yarn reminds me of chocolate-covered berries.

This yarn clearly wants to be knit into something lacy that will show off its shine to full effect. I'm thinking perhaps Waves of Grain from the most recent Knitty; I have some silver-lined beads that I think would be a perfect match.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No More Secrets

At long last I can reveal some super-secret knitting I did over the summer.

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Handpaints (100% superwash wool), colorways Arctic Ice and Spring Meadow, approximately 1.5 skeins each
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: August 15/September 10
Recipients: "Luke" and "Leia," Jen's newborn twins

When Jen announced to us that she was expecting a boy and a girl, I knew I wanted to make coordinating sweaters as a gift for them. The BSJ has treated me well before, so it didn't take me long to settle on it as my pattern. My idea was to choose gender-neutral colors so that either sweater could be worn by either baby. The only thing standing in the way of making the jackets truly interchangeable was the placement of the buttons. So I eliminated the buttons altogether.

Instead of buttons, I used applied i-cord around the entire border of each sweater (including the cuffs) using the other color of yarn. It was a bit slow going at first, but I love how it turned out!

I must say a few words about this yarn, because it made for a truly wonderful knitting experience. Everything that there is to love about classic Cascade 220 is true of this yarn. Wonderful yardage, great hand, consistent quality, excellent stitch definition, and a great price point. I was planning to do a regular superwash when I was pointed in the direction of this gorgeous handpainted variation. The variegation behaves -- and I mean really behaves. Absolutely no pooling or flashing to be seen. I couldn't be happier.


As happy as I was to present these to Jen last night at Hurricane Knitting, I was a little sad to see these go. I have a strong feeling these are not the last BSJs I will knit!