Thursday, January 31, 2013

Indecision

The title of this post refers both to the weather and my state of mind; neither can really figure out what to do. It's been positively springlike the past two days, with a big rainstorm sweeping through yesterday; this morning, we woke up to chilling winds and snow. Similarly, I can't quite settle on what I want to knit or get particularly excited about any of my current projects.

At knit night last night, I did finish up a pair of simple ribbed socks for Rainbow -- they're so unexciting that I never blogged about them or even started a project page on Ravelry. They're made from Cascade Heritage sock yarn, and I still have most of the skein left (which means I can likely make her several more pairs from the same skein as she gets bigger).

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I have worked with the Heritage Silk before, but not the regular wool/nylon stuff. With the exception of the additional softness and sheen from the silk, the yarns are pretty much the same. They're really on the skinny end of the fingering spectrum, in my opinion -- I get 8.5 stitches and 12 rows per inch with a size 1/2.25 mm needle, as opposed to the 8 stitches and 10 or 11 rows that I get with a more middle-of-the-road sock yarn. I'm not really complaining, mind you, because the denser stitch gauge will mean a longer-wearing sock, but for a toddler, she's more likely to outgrow the socks before she wears them out.

Now that those are off the needles, my cowl has become my official lunchtime knitting. Last night I put in a few more rounds, so I'm now nearly complete with the first ruche (and those rounds take a while, because they're each 400 stitches). I can't remember how long the pattern sample took me to knit, but I think if I can work on it a little each day and put in a few additional hours over the weekend, I could get this done in two or three weeks -- plenty of time to still need it.

Ruche an Welt Cowl in progress

I am quite enjoying working with the Dream in Color Calm. I'd describe it as the American cousin of Malabrigo Worsted. It's a singles yarn with a beautiful dye job, but the strand itself is a lot more sturdy than Malabrigo; it almost feels like the yarn's been fulled just a bit. It's also not as soft as Malabrigo, but it's still soft enough to wear around my neck. I think it might fuzz up and pill if it were used in a sweater, where there's likely to be areas of high friction, but I think it'll wear just fine as a cowl.

Tonight I think I'll put in a little more time on Rainbow's baby doll, specifically on the head. I can only handle about an hour or so of knitting with cotton at this gauge, so it's going slowly. Perhaps I'll have it finished by the time Rainbow's ready to start kindergarten!

What I really want to do is cast on for a sweater using the purple tosh vintage I have in my closet. I think I may be able to hold off for at least another day to make it my February project. Or maybe I'll start swatching tonight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blame It on the Rain

I'm not quite sure what's gotten in to me lately with regard to my knitting, so I'm blaming the weather. (Crazy weather it has been, let me tell you. Yesterday morning, we had an ice storm. Today, it was 65 degrees. I'm happy to not have to wear my big winter coat and to see the snow melt, but my sinuses are not at all pleased.) I haven't felt like working on anything in particular, so I've been spending little bits of time here and there on different projects.

On Sunday night, I worked on Rainbow's baby doll while watching Downton Abbey (well, I must admit I stopped for a while toward the end -- those of you who watched know why). I couldn't spend too much time on it, though, because it's worsted weight cotton yarn that I'm working on size 5 needles, so the hands, they hurt. It isn't a very portable project, because I'm not going to tote around the giant bag of stuffing/poly-fil I need to stuff it, so I can only work on it at home. And at the moment it's not very exciting, as I'm knitting the second of what are essentially two balls.

Last night I could have worked on my Breezy Cardigan, but there is only so much stockinette one can do without making visible progress before one starts to get a little restless. I'm fairly certain it's a law of knitting physics, in fact. So, instead, I gave in to the urge and cast on something new. You see, some skeins of Dream in Color Calm followed me home from the LYS on Saturday. I'd been wanting to try this yarn since they got it in. It's a worsted weight single, but it feels a little more stable than something like Malabrigo worsted.


The photo is particularly crappy, I know (rainy weather means cloudy skies and thus a reliance on my flash), but you can see how luscious this stuff is. The colorway is Scorched Lime, and I've got three skeins of it. I should have enough leftover from this project to make a hat, too.

And just what is that project there in the background? Well, it's not much to look at yet, but I'm making myself a Ruche and Welt Cowl.


You see, I sent the sample I made back to Tangled, and I think they get to keep it (I don't remember reading anything in my contract about getting the sample back, but I think even if I did get it back it wouldn't be for quite a while). I've been getting a little sick of the store-bought scarf I've been using (my mother bought it for me and it kind of matches my coat, so I've been wearing it), especially on those bitter-cold days when I have to walk home and need something to keep my neck covered but also want something to pull up over my face. I think this will fit the bill -- and besides, shouldn't I be showing off my own design?

I cast this on last night and got through the garter border and just started in on the increase row for the first ruche. I'm using a size 8 needle (one size up from the pattern) because my yarn is a little heavier than what I used for the pattern sample, but I think this iteration will come out just a bit bulkier. And that will be a good thing, because the cold is coming back. Can you hear my sinuses groaning?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Long-term Spinning

Today's post really should have been published about six months ago. Let me explain the delay.

During the Tour de Fleece last summer, I decided that one of my challenges should be to spin up the yarn that I'd use for my Ravellenic Games project. I'd picked up this vibrant turquoise merino my LYS and also had some Louet silk sliver in the stash.


I used my handcards to very roughly blend the two fibers together (I realized fairly quickly into the process that it would take me hours and hours to get them truly evenly blended, so I went with the quick-and-dirty carding). The result was a fairly rustic looking bunch of fiber, but I figured that the finished yarn would have a really interesting tweedy texture to it.

I started spinning it up somewhere in the middle of the Tour and then had the brilliant idea that I should take my WooLee Winder apart and clean it. Unfortunately, that did not go so well, and I mucked something up sufficiently that the mechanism refused to work. I didn't spin on my miniSpinner for several months until I finally mustered up the courage to try to get it working again. Fortunately, I was able to get it back to (mostly) normal, and I've been spinning away happily on it ever since.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was high time that I finish this long-languishing project if only so I could get the bobbin back (the WW bobbins are significantly more expensive than those for my Lendrum, so I only have four of them). I got out the rest of the fiber, carded it up into little batts that I pulled into roving, and spun them up fairly quickly. I spent at least four spinning sessions (a total of about five or six hours) over the past week plying -- this was one long skein! The first bobbin's worth clearly had more silk in it, because the other one ran out first. I wound off what was left on the first bobbin, spliced in the end, and plied from both ends of a center-pull ball, so I used every last inch of singles.

The finished yarn is awesome, if I do say so myself.


Based on the amount of silk that's left, I used about 3/8 oz. in addition to the 4 oz. of merino. Although there are some thick bits and some thin bits (I let some silk slubs get in), it looks to be about heavy laceweight overall, and I have approximately 622 yards.


You can see in the close-up how the silk comes out here and there. I really do love the texture of this yarn. With this yardage, I have enough to knit a medium-sized shawl, but probably something simple so that a pattern doesn't get lost in the texture. For now, though, I'm just really happy to have this off the wheel finally. Considering this isn't even the largest skein I've ever spun, it really shouldn't have taken me six months to finish!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Quickie

In the midst of the slog that is my laceweight sweater, I decided I needed to start a quick project that could give me a sense of satisfaction and achievement. The skein of madelintosh Vintage that followed me home from my LYS over the weekend was clearly calling out to be turned in a much-needed hat, for which I cast on on Monday night. By last night, it was done, and by this morning, it was in use (with apologies for the cell phone car picture):

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Unfortunately, I've decided that I don't like how the crown decreases worked out, and I'm feeling like a bit of a bonehead for not realizing a simpler and more elegant way of doing them, so this evening I'll be ripping out the top and redoing it. I'm not usually the sort to rip and reknit unless there's a legitimate reason, but in this case I don't really mind because I've fallen absolutely head-over-heels in love with this yarn. I might even have to pick up another skein in this color so I can make a matching pair of mittens. I'm really glad I've already stashed a sweater's worth of it or I'd be tempted to go and buy ALL THE TOSH right now!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Out with the Old, In with the New

After finishing up my sweater sample, I thought about casting on something new but decided that I really should work on finishing up a long-languishing WIP. So I pulled out my oldest active WIP (I'm not counting the sock yarn blanket that I started for Rainbow before she was born and still have yet to finish, as it's safely packed away in the stash) -- that would be my handspun Breezy Cardigan. It hasn't even appeared here on the blog since last September, which appears to be just about when I shoved it into the bottom of my project bag. When I pulled it out again last week, there was only a bit of knitting on the body left to do before I could start the ribbing at the bottom. Despite the fact that this is laceweight yarn on size 4 needles and the rows have hundreds of stitches each, I somehow managed to finish the body, ribbing included, on Saturday.


As you can see, I've also started the first sleeve, which is going considerably faster than the body. I'm under no illusions that this sweater will be done anytime soon (there are other things I'd rather knit, frankly), but it's nice to pull it out every now and then and put a little bit of work into it. This is a really a spring/fall sweater anyway, so it wouldn't even be practical to wear it now, when it's ridiculously cold outside.

That cold (or, at the time, the coming cold) was what caused me to pick up a skein of madelinetosh Vintage  in Well Water at my LYS on Saturday. My everyday hat -- a Koolhaas worked in a fuzzy singles yarn that I knit about three years ago -- has been starting to show its age and pill a lot, so I decided that I needed a new one. I'm improvising this "pattern" (I use the term loosely) myself, and it's knitting up very quickly. I should have a finished hat in a day or two, depending on when I can sneak in some knitting time. (I confess my wheel has been calling to me.)

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On a completely unrelated note, it seems that I was quite timely in posting the baby sweater last week, as we heard yesterday that the new cousin has been born! And it's a girl! Of course, now I will need to knit some gender-appropriate stuff (not necessarily pink, but certainly lacy and frilly are now acceptable).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Into the Nebula

In a lucky break, the Mister and I found ourselves child free for much of the weekend, as my in-laws offered to entertain Rainbow for a sleepover. I spent a leisurely afternoon at my LYS yesterday while the Mister was at a movie, and then yesterday evening I finally got around to plying up the singles I spun last week. As a reminder, this yarn started out as this 85% polwarth/15% silk batt from Into the Whirled in a colorway called Nebula that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool last year.


I knew I wanted to keep the color progression, so I tore off strips starting at the pinky orange and spun them up one at a time. Then, I chain plied the lot. You can tell I was getting a little impatient to be done by the end, because the light blue part of this skein is thicker than the orange part. Nonetheless, I'm quite in love with this yarn.


I have a total of 261 yards, and it averages out to somewhere in the sport/DK range, I think. In all honesty, I don't care that it's inconsistent. I know I can turn this into something where gauge won't matter, and I don't think anyone will notice in the face of these colors.

I was expecting the yarn to poof up a bit in the finishing, but what I didn't expect was how the silk's shine would come out. The batt was so well blended that I didn't really notice the silk content while spinning, but after this came out of its bath and dried, it positively glowed.


I haven't done a whole lot of spinning from batts, but now I'm hooked. Time to figure out how to make my drum carder work for me!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baby Ready

Thank you to all of you who commented on my sweater. I'm really very pleased with how it turned out and am a bit bummed that I can't wear it every day (I've got to keep it nice at least until I get through the photo shoot and then send it off to Knit Picks). I'm hoping to get decent photos taken this weekend as well as find time to finish working out all my numbers and write up the pattern so I can send it off to be laid out and then to my tech editor.

In all of the excitement of finishing up that project, I completely forgot about the wee baby sweater I finished way back in the middle of December. It sat in one of my knitting bags for several weeks until the other night, when I finally remembered to pull it out for a wash and block.


Pattern: Gramps Cardigan by Kate Oates, 6 months size
Yarn: madelinetosh tosh dk (100% superwash merino) in Cousteau, approximately 1.25 skeins
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 6 (4.0 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: December 5/December 16, 2012
Mods: pretty much the same as for this sweater

This is now the third time I've knit this pattern, and while I still like it, I'm pretty much convinced that it works better for the larger sizes than for the smallest. The pattern has supposedly been updated since I last knit it, but I didn't spot any changes in the size I was making. I think my issue is more that with the small size, the decreases "eat up" the cable motif much faster than they do in a larger size. That's not really a fault of the pattern; it's just a by-product of trying to incorporate cables into a garment with so few stitches.


This particular iteration of the sweater is for my cousin's baby, who's due to make his or her arrival very shortly. This will be a baby born in Chicago in the winter, which is why I made this sweater in the smallest size. Normally I'd make something that would fit at about a year of age, but this kid is going to need to be kept warm! My cousin and her husband decided that they didn't want to find out the sex of the baby ahead of time, so I had to go with a fairly gender-neutral color. I tend to like babies in vibrant colors, so I thought this gorgeous blue/green would be neither too girly nor too boyish. As with the last time around on this pattern, I used just a bit of the second skein of yarn, so I'll have to figure out something to do with the leftovers. I might even whip up a quick hat to go with the sweater, if I can manage to do it in time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Better than Good

There's such a great sense of satisfaction when you make something and it turns out just as you wanted it to.

On Saturday, after a marathon sleeve-knitting session, I finally finished my sweater. (I say "finally," but it really didn't take me that long -- less than three weeks, actually.) I threw it in the bathtub on Sunday morning and promptly forgot about it until Sunday night, when I finally got it out and laid it out to dry. This morning, it was dry and I was able to try it on -- and it's perfect!


This turned out exactly as I wanted -- fitted in the body, but not so fitted that it's uncomfortable or tight; cozy around the neck; and flowy enough that I feel like I can wrap myself up in it. I'm particularly proud of the technique I used to get the pleats to fold nicely as they do.


All in all, this was a fun knit. I really enjoyed working with the yarn, though if I can make one complaint, it's that the skeins are a little too short on yardage for my taste (I'd much prefer a 100 g skein so I don't have to join as often). The yarn felts really nicely and easily, though, so it was relatively easy to join in a new skein. I used at least parts of 10 skeins (I still have to weigh my leftovers to see if I really needed to break into the 10th one), and in only one skein did I encounter any knots. Those knots were a bummer, but, again, because of the ease of felting, they ended up being only a minor inconvenience.


Now that the sample is done, it's time to get down to business and write out the pattern (and crunch a few more numbers). I have my tech editor lined up, and I'm hoping to do a proper photo shoot this weekend, so the pattern should be ready to go and be test knit by later this month, if all goes according to plan. I might even knit up another one with my test knitters -- there's a sweater's worth of pink Cascade 220 in my stash that would look great on my mother!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Spin, I Did

Though most of last week was spent furiously knitting on my sweater in an effort to finish it (and I did, but that's a post for another day), on Friday night I decided to take a little break and do some spinning. I was determined to finish spinning up the singles from my Into the Whirled batt. It took me until pretty late into the night for me (that's 11, for those of you wondering), but I did get it done.


I'm going to chain ply this, so it had to sit for a day or two to rest. In the meantime, I thought it was about time I finished up a project I started last summer, so I took my miniSpinner, my handcards, and some fiber with me over to a friend's house today (we were having a Downton Abbey marathon). It went much smoother this time around, though I'm sure my arms will still be sore tomorrow.

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I managed to spin up about two-thirds of it while we were watching and I hope to get the rest done early this week. It'll be nice to finally have that project off the bobbins!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

One (Almost) Down

Just a quick post for tonight, because I have some serious knitting to do. I have to finish the first sleeve of my sweater.

If you think this shot is bad, you should have seen the rejects!

I am determined to get this thing done by the end of the weekend. That seems totally possible but for the fact that the rest of that batt is still calling my name, so I might have to cheat on the sweater a bit to get in some spinning time. If all else fails, though, I'm going to a Downton Abbey marathon at a friend's house on Sunday, so that will mean lots of uninterrupted knitting time.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Peek

I've been neglecting my knitting a little the last few days because I've been so busy getting reacquainted with my wheel, but I wanted to give you some proof that the sweater is almost done. It's a bad picture because I took it in the mirror without a flash, but you can get a general idea.

Please excuse the pajama pants!
I have a sleeve and a half to knit and then all this needs is a few ends woven in and a really good blocking (if you couldn't tell that from the bottom edge curling up). I'm really pleased with how this is turning out, and I can already tell that it's going to be one of my favorite sweaters to wrap up in on those horrible frigid days of deep winter. It also looks like it's going to take a lot less yarn than I thought, so I don't have to worry so much about running out.

I'm also really enjoying working with this yarn -- Knit Picks Capra. It's developing just the slightest halo as I'm working with it, and it felts beautifully when I need to join in a new skein (I started out trying a Russian join, but I don't like how it looks). If you're looking to knit a cashmere blend sweater and don't want to spend a fortune, this might be a good option for you.

Now, I have some holiday thank-you notes to write and then it's back to sleeve #1!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

New Year's Yarn

And we're back. It's been a bit of a rough reentry -- I think we all got rather used to sleeping in and having leisurely days -- but tomorrow we go back to school and work and get back to the usual schedule. As nice as it was to be away, it was equally nice to sleep in my own bed last night and have all my stuff around me.

Though I did a lot of knitting while we were away, I did really miss my spinning. I thought briefly about bringing a spindle with me, but I decided against it because I was worried about it getting broken and decided I didn't want to risk it.

The night before we left for Florida, once I'd improved enough from the stomach virus to be able to get out of bed, I spent a little time at the wheel finishing up some plying, but I didn't get a chance to wash the yarn until last night, so I'm calling this my first yarn of 2013. It started as 4 oz. of BFL swirl from Gale's Art that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool last year (i.e., in 2012). The colorway is called Velvet Elvis -- isn't that the most perfect colorway name ever? In any case, you can see why I bought it -- I just couldn't resist these blues.


I didn't have a real plan for it when I started spinning; I basically just wanted to get it on the wheel and get it done in a hurry, so I spun singles that were slightly thicker than my default. The finished yarn is a two ply that's roughly sportweight. My 4 oz. got me approximately 255 yards.


I'm really quite pleased with this yarn, though as usual I have no idea what to do with it. I have quite a bit of ply twist in it (perhaps a tad too much, as it's still curling back on itself in a few spots), but that's the way I tend to like my yarns. I didn't split up the fiber any way but in half, but interestingly the colors match up in some places and barberpole in others, almost like a fractal.


Sportweight isn't a weight I use a lot, so I'll have to do some thinking about what to make with this, but, as usual, for now I'm happy just to admire the skein. I do love these colors.

Simply washing a skein didn't cure my yen for spinning, so once I'd unpacked, done a couple loads of laundry, cleaned the bathrooms (I didn't have time to do it before we left and I wanted to make sure I'd gotten rid of all the stomach bug germs), and gotten Rainbow to bed, I sat down with my laptop and my miniSpinner. As I'd just finished one MDSW spin, I figured I might as well start spinning up my last fiber acquisition -- specifically, this polwarth/silk blend from Into the Whirled:


It's been a while since I did any spinning from a batt, and in truth I'd been putting off spinning this one because I was worried that my spinning wouldn't do this gorgeous batt justice, but I got over it. This color progression obviously begged to be kept intact, so I'm breaking off strips from one side to the other and spinning them in order. When I'm done, I'll chain ply. I started with the orange-ish shade you see at the top and got into the purple-y pink by the time I was done last night (unfortunately, the gloomy day wouldn't let my camera capture it without a flash, so please pardon the glare from the silk).


I spent several more hours on it this afternoon, so now I'm well into the dark purple in the middle. It's spinning up beautifully, and I must admit that I'm loath to do anything but spin at the moment, but I thought it wise to give my fingers a little rest for the remainder of the evening. Besides, I'm ready to start the sleeves on my sweater and I have some Downton Abbey season 3 to watch tonight!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Starting Out Right

Happy new year! Only when I'm on vacation do I lose track of what day it is so easily (not that I'm complaining, mind you), and I was a bit shocked when I looked at my watch this morning and saw that it was already January 3. We are on our penultimate day here in sunny, beautiful Florida, and I'm typing this as I sit just inside of the pool -- it's just a bit too sunny outside to see my screen well. I'm enjoying this gorgeous weather for as long as I can, because there's nothing waiting for me back home but snow and cold.

Although I've been spending a lot of time relaxing while I'm here, I've also been giving my sweater-in-progress lots of attention. I'm doing my best to get as much done as possible now, when I have time and energy to devote my full attention to it, because things are bound to get crazy again once I'm back home and back at work. We took a little side trip to the opposite coast on New Year's Day (coming back yesterday), so I had lots of time in the car to work on it, especially as Rainbow was very considerate and slept for most of the trip both ways. I'm now done with the body but for a couple of finishing rows and am working on front bands/collar. Because of the way the sweater is constructed, I have to do this section first before I can finish the bottom (I thought it was a rather clever way of doing it, and it has the added bonus of minimizing the number of ends I have to weave in).


It's really exciting to me to knit up something that seemed to work on paper and have it also work in practice. I'm under no illusion that I'll finish this before we leave here on Saturday, but I will have gotten most of it done; at most, I'll just have to knit the sleeves when we get home, which shouldn't take me long at all to do. Then it's just a matter of working out the numbers for the other sizes, writing up the pattern, and sending it out for tech editing. My goal is to get this ready to be published by the end of February/early March.

As I settle back into reality in a couple of days, I'm going to do my best to stay in this low-stress vacation mindset. In the year ahead, I want to continue to be productive in my knitting, spinning, and designing as well as in my full-time job, but ideally I'd like to do so without getting so stressed out that it begins to affect my health. I don't usually like to make new year's resolutions because they are so easily broken, so instead I'm sticking with the idea of a theme for the year -- specifically the theme of "stress less." There are things that are important in life, but none is as important as my health and my family. Knitting, spinning, and designing are my hobbies and the things I do for stress relief, so I hope to be able to devote enough time to them in the coming year to help me maintain my balance.

I hope that whatever you're hoping to do or be in the coming year is something that will make you happy!