Friday, December 31, 2010

Double Spin

So here we are on the last day of 2010. It's been a big year for many reasons, but it's been a really productive year in terms of my spinning. I've learned a lot and definitely reached outside my comfort zone, in large part due to my membership in the Crown Mountain Farms fiber club. I've signed up again for next year (and already received my first shipment!), but I have two spins from 2010's shipments to show you (and one more to come, but it's in its bath right now).

First is November's shipment, which was Norwegian top dyed in gorgeous jewel tones in a colorway called Mandala. I knew that I wanted to maintain the colors and have a fairly fast spin, so I spun a relatively thick single and chain plied it.

The resulting yarn is a heavy worsted to bulky and a whopping 95 yards. This is most definitely the thickest yarn I've ever spun, which is actually an accomplishment if you know what I normally spin.

Next is the final shipment for 2010, a soft and lovely BFL in a lovely colorway called Karmapa. I opted for a two ply on this one.

The big skein is DK weight and approximately 145 yards. I chain plied the singles leftover on one bobbin and got an additional 13 yards (which Rainbow has enjoyed squishing).

I'm excited to see what the 2011 club has to offer; if the first shipment is any indication, it's going to be fantastic.

As this year draws to a close, I'd like to thank all of you who have stuck with me on the blog, even though I haven't been able to post as often as I'd like. I really appreciate your comments and the fact that you're still reading. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and fibery 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oblique

Thanks to my friend Jenn, who was working when I stopped by my LYS earlier today, I finally have pictures of my completed Oblique to share with you!

Pattern: Oblique by Veronik Avery (Fall 2007 Knitty)
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool (100% wool), color 8085, approximately 2.5 skeins
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: September 15/December 4
Mods: slight changes to the collar (see below)


I am completely thrilled with this sweater. I wanted something that would be warm and roomy, like a guy's old sweatshirt, but with a little bit of style. This truly fit the bill.

It took a while to get into a good rhythm on this sweater, which is part of the reason it took almost three months to knit. Every row has three different stitch pattern, two of which are a four-row repeat and one of which is an eight-row repeat. I had to make sure I was awake enough and had enough attention to spare when I worked on this sweater, and I also had to make sure I had my row counter handy. Eventually I had the stitch patterns memorized and could tell which row I was on without the counter, but I still needed it when I got to the shaping so that all my parts would match up.

This was the first time I'd knit a real (i.e., sewn up) raglan. I've done enough top-down raglan sweaters to understand how the shaping would/should look, but I'd never had to sew up raglan seams before. I discovered that I didn't loathe sewing up raglan sleeves like I do set-in sleeves; in fact, I quite liked it! The only thing about raglan seams that I didn't really care for is that I had to sew them all up before I could pick up for the collar, which meant that by the time I got to the collar, I had the weight of the whole sweater on my needles. I guess it's fortunate that the collar isn't that big and was relatively fast to knit.

The collar is where I did make a few modifications. For starters, I picked up about 12 stitches more than I should have (I don't know about you, but I never seem to pick up the same number as the designer!). I made sure to keep the additional stitches in a multiple of four so that the ribbing wouldn't get messed up. I also bound off for the collar in plain knit, rather than in rib as specified in the pattern. The reason for this is simple: The button bands are knit first, and the pattern didn't specify to bind them off in rib, so I just bound them off normally. By the time I got to the collar, I needed to match the button bands. I actually think it was a rather wise mistake design feature on my part, because had I bound off the collar in twisted ribbing, it would likely have been a little wavy and loose. I believe I also ended the collar a couple of rows early for aesthetic reasons.

The final verdict is that this is a great sweater; in fact, I've been wearing it almost every other day since it was finished. It's very warm and cozy, so it's also been doubling as a sweatshirt over my pajamas when I'm sitting in bed or at my wheel in the evenings. I'm definitely a fan of raglans now, too, so this won't be my last one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Knitting

I didn't do very much holiday knitting this year, and with good reason. Having a 1-year-old around the house means that my hands are busy most of the time. But I wanted to do a little something for some very dear friends with whom we celebrate every Christmas (except for last year, when we had a very good reason for missing the holiday). They are three sisters who lived across the street from me for the first seven years of my life. The middle sister has been my best friend since we were born; she was in my wedding and I was in her wedding last fall, when I was about eight months pregnant. The youngest sister went to college with my brother, and the oldest babysat him. Needless to say, these are some very knit-worthy friends.

Knowing that my knitting time was limited and that these are some very stylish girls, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out a pattern that had been on my radar for a while.

Pattern: French Press Felted Slippers [Ravelry link] by Melynda Bernardi
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino (black and red) and Cascade 220 (green), roughly a skein and a half of each
Needles: US 15 (10.0 mm) circs
Mods: none

This was the first time I've ever felted something that had to fit, and it was a bit of a pain, mostly because I had to go over to my parents' house to do it (they have a top-loader; I have a front-loader). It took the better part of an hour to get the slippers felted to my satisfaction. The Patons slippers felted a lot faster and a lot better than the 220 slippers, which was no surprise given the characteristics of the yarn. The green slippers could've probably felted a little more (there's still some stitch definition visible), but they were the right size and I didn't want to risk them winding up too small. I plan on giving the recipients some instructions on how to felt them a little more and get the slippers to mold to their feet if desired, so I don't think it will be a problem in the long run.

These slippers are definitely a fast knit, especially once you've knit a pair or two. I'd estimate that it probably took no more than four hours to knit all the components and sew up a pair, which is really quite reasonable when you need a quick gift. Now that I'm officially on vacation, I'm going to make a point of airing out my stash to find some yarn to make myself a pair.

There's one more small Christmas knit to show you, but I'm hoping to get a shot of it in situ, so you'll have to wait for that.

To all of you who celebrate, I wish you a very merry Christmas! To everyone else, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Mittens

Finally, a chance to show an unblogged project!

Pattern: Vespergyle Mittens by Elinor Brown
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette (100% Peruvian highland wool), colorways Bark (23 g) and Blue (31 g)
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) dpns
Started/Completed: October 20/December 5

These took me a little while because these were my designated lunch break knitting, which meant they only saw about 30-40 minues of knitting a day during the week. Add to that the fact that I'm a little slower when knitting colorwork and you can understand why they took a month and a half to finish.

The last time I knit these mittens, I used a circular and magic looped. This time around, I decided to try dpns to see how I liked them for colorwork. The answer? Not so much. I found them to be more difficult to hold, probably because I do stranded colorwork with one color in each hand, which means less fingers to hold the needles. There's also a slightly noticeable line down the middle of the mitten where the split for the needles was, but I think it'll even out with wear.

The only real glitch with these mittens is that I somehow mismeasured when I was knitting the thumbs and ended them a little soon -- so these will go into the long-term planning box for someone with stubby thumbs!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Foiled Again, with Handspun

I had fully intended to get some shots of me modeling my finished Oblique this past Saturday, when the weather report was calling for sun. Unfortunately, Rainbow woke up with a slight fever, so we spent the morning taking her to the pediatrician (diagnosis: ear infection #7) and the pharmacy for her prescription. And there went my chance for photos. Perhaps I'll get another chance later in the week. For the time being, I can tell you that blocking helped to even it out immensely and that I wore the sweater to work on Friday and was extremely cozy all day -- to the point of actually getting sweaty after my walk home.

We're in the middle of a winter storm here in Western Pennsylvania, so natural light is extremely hard to find. I couldn't even get any for taking shots of my latest handspun, so please excuse this photo, taken with a flash in my shower (I thought the lighting might be better there).

This is a BFL/silk blend from All Spun Up for the latest spinalong. This particular colorway is called Rustic, and this photo doesn't really capture the true beauty of the chocolate browns, deep orange-y rusts, and little peeks of blue and green here and there. I'm a bit disappointed with my yardage -- roughly 392 yards of light fingering weight -- but I know that it's because I did a poor job of splitting the fiber. I had a significant amount left on one bobbin when I'd finished plying; those leftovers went on to my leftover bobbin (to which I add all my thin leftover singles) and will be plied up eventually.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Photos* to Come

Well, at long last, my Oblique is finished. I did the raglan seams and picked up stitches for the collar last week at knit night, finished off the collar on Friday night, and sewed up the rest of the seams on Saturday. It is exactly as I hoped -- big, cozy, and exceptionally warm. I wore it with my pajamas a couple of times over the weekend while sitting around and watching TV, and it very much has the oversized sweatshirt/stolen father's cardigan feel to it that I was going for.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to get in a photo shoot over the weekend, and this sweater really deserves some shots in good lighting, so you'll have to wait to see it. Besides, it really needed a good wet blocking to even out all the stitches, so it's soaking now (and I expect will take a few days to dry) along with a pair of colorwork mittens I'd been working on during my lunch breaks for the past couple of months. For now, I hope you'll settle for a little preview -- in this case, a close-up of the buttons I'd been saving for just the right project. I just love the little design etched around the circumference.

Now that my sweater is finished, knitting of holiday gifts has officially commenced. I'm limiting myself to only a few things that are fast projects, so there will be no Holiday Knitting Crazy here as we get closer to Christmas. I also cast on for a hat for Rainbow, who, while she won't know the difference between a hat that's a gift and a hat that I force her to wear on a daily basis, really needs something stylish to wear for her first Christmas trip. I'm very excited about this particular hat, as it's being knit out of some of my handspun Polwarth from this summer. If there's enough yarn leftover, I might have to make a chapeau for me to match!



*Good photos, in natural light -- I promise!