Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Look Back

Hard to believe it, but the last hours of 2014 are upon us (or me, anyway -- it might already be 2015 where you are). I'm typically not one to do a whole lot of end-of-year navel-gazing, but it's a day to blog, so that seems the most natural thing to do.

It's been a busy year. In terms of my design work, I blew away my original goal of publishing 10-12 patterns for the year and published 15, including one in a magazine. For next year, I've set a somewhat lofty goal of publishing 17, which would get me to 50 designs total. That might seem like a lot, but I already have nine or 10 that are in varying stages of readiness. I think that if I can keep on top of designs in progress and take advantage of my free time, it's doable.

My theme for the past year was meant to be "Love the One You're With" -- in other words, I was supposed to have been appreciating my stash. I won't lie to you: I didn't avoid buying new yarn. I will say, though, that very little was bought just for the sake of buying it. For the most part, I bought yarn with specific projects or designs in mind, and most of the yarn I bought was used up fairly quickly. From the spinning side of things, most of the fiber that came into the house was spun up in short order (though I did get a little behind with my Fat Cat Knits club shipments toward the end of the year as I was working on finishing up gifts). I am planning on continuing to subscribe to that club, but I'm also going to make a concerted effort to catch up with the backlog once we're back home.

If there was one significant accomplishment, it was that I did use a good amount of my handspun. All three of my completed Gift-a-long projects were done in handspun. That is a trend I hope to continue next year, and I'm also hoping to finally spin up some deep stash fiber.

To get back to more recent events, I've been very productive while we've been on vacation. I finished three pattern samples (all of which I predict you'll see in the next two or three months), and that meant that I could finally cast on for my long-planned Color Affection. I'm not going to finish it tonight -- not by any stretch of the imagination! -- but I should at least get to the two-color section.


I'm using a kit from Miss Babs with three colors of her Yummy sock yarn (Peony, Impatiens, and Lilac) that I purchased at Maryland Sheep and Wool several years ago. I have eight rows left of this first section, and I'll be working on it this evening while we celebrate.

As this year draws to a close, I want to thank all of you for continuing to read the blog. I know that blogging has fallen somewhat out of vogue in the past couple of years, but it's still a valuable practice to me and one that I'm not likely to stop anytime soon. I hope it has been a good year for you, and I hope that 2015 is even better. I wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous new year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hooked

Needless to say, I have not been doing any spinning in the past week, which is why there was no spinning post yesterday. I have, however, been working with handspun, which I guess is the next best thing. And I finished a thing -- my last Gift-a-long project!

Here it was earlier this afternoon, poolside, very close to completion:


And here it was a short while later, after I finished the final round:


I nearly made it through one full color sequence, which means I used a bit less than half of my yarn. And you know what? I enjoyed almost every minute of it (the only part I didn't like was the messed-up first attempt). I definitely gained speed as the muscle memory came back to me and I remembered what it felt like to crochet. There are tons of mistakes, but I did a lot of fudging, and frankly I don't think you can see them unless you get really close and start counting stitches.

I will save the official FO post for after I'm home and can block it properly, but the pattern is the Dalgada Cowl by my friend Amy Maceyko. The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn and an H (5.0 mm) hook, but I wanted to use my much thinner handspun and so used an F (3.75 mm). My cowl is thus a bit smaller and lighter than the original, but I think I can block it out a bit bigger -- there is silk in the yarn, after all.

It had been years since I last did any real crocheting, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I foresee some more crochet projects in the coming year!

Tonight, the goal is to finish this purple Malabrigo hat:


I have about an inch and a half or so before I start the crown decreases, and once this one is done, I can cast on for my Color Affection! You know what that means? I packed just the right amount of yarn for my vacation! (Well, perhaps there was some extra sock yarn, but sock yarn never counts!)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

In Which I Am a Hooker

And by hooker, I mean crocheter, of course!

One of the projects I packed for the trip was a skein of handspun, a crochet hook, and the pattern for my friend Amy's Dalgada Cowl. It's been years since I crocheted following a pattern (I've mainly just used it for cast ons and edgings), so this was a big challenge for me.

I finally sat down to start it yesterday. The first attempt did not go so well. You know that direction in knitting patterns to join for working in the round, being careful not to twist? Yeah, it turns out that that's also important in crochet. I finished several rounds before I realized that I didn't have a twist but rather several twists. Oops. I ripped it out and pondered how to keep from twisting and to make it easier to see the stitches in the chain for the first round. Then I had a revelation.

One cast on that I've used for a provisional cast on is a crochet cast on -- one in which I crochet around the knitting needle. I didn't see why this wouldn't work for my chain. Instead of knitting into the loops on the needle, I could just keep the needle there, flip the loops around, and crochet into the stitches on the other side. I figured that would keep it easier to keep the loop from twisting, plus it'd be much easier to get into each chain correctly.


I'm feeling quite proud of myself for figuring out a solution to this problem, an unorthodox as it may be. The crocheting is going slowly, but I have a feeling it'll speed up as I get the hang of it.

If you are celebrating today, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with the ones you love. I'm off to go sit in the sunshine!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Vacation Knitting Is Good Knitting

So. I'm on vacation. That means I keep forgetting what day it is (not entirely a bad thing, I'll grant you, but it's helpful when you're trying to remember to blog on certain days). We arrived Saturday afternoon, spent the first couple of days doing a lot of shopping for groceries and toiletry items, and today we finally got a chance to just relax all day. The weather has been pretty good -- upper 70s to low 80s, mostly sunny, and generally with a nice breeze. It's been a touch on the humid side (which I realized when I went out for a run yesterday morning), but the plus side of that is that my winter skin is no longer painfully dry. So it's been a great few days, and I'm looking forward to the week and a half we have left that I'm sure will fly by.

Despite all the running around, I've been managing to get in a lot of extra time to knit and get a jump on next year's designing. On Sunday afternoon, I started a hat. Yesterday, I finished it. If it looks familiar, it's because it's the same pattern as the handspun hat I knit last month but worked in commercial yarn (Madelinetosh Vintage, to be specific).


I wanted to make sure that it worked out in commercial yarn before I bothered to write up the pattern, and while this sample still needs a good blocking to even out the stitches a bit and make it a little slouchier (I'm counting on the superwash to stretch!), I'm quite pleased with it. I have a draft of the pattern written up and a hard copy of the chart sketched, so I'll just need to do some calculations and some computer work to finish it up.

Meanwhile, I started something new yesterday in two colors of Mountain Meadow Wool Cody, a delightfully springy and almost velvety sport weight. I'll wait until it's done for the big reveal, but here's a sneak peak of the guts:


The colors aren't quite accurate -- the yarn on the left, for instance, is more reddish in real life -- but you can tell that this is stranded colorwork. It's been a relatively quick knit, one I've been working on while working my way through the last of the Doctor Who episodes that are streaming on Netflix.

After this sample is done, I have one more to knit up from the yarn I brought (another hat, so I expect it'll be another 1-2 day project) and then all that's left is personal stuff. I think my Color Affection will wait until everything else has been done, so that means that the next project in line will be my Dalgada Cowl -- yes, you read that right, I'm going to try to crochet again! It's been years since I crocheted anything other than a simple chain or a single-crochet edging, so it will be a bit of a challenge, but I'm going to give it a go. After all, I have this gorgeous yarn all caked up and ready:


This may well be the prettiest skein I've ever wound up like this. It's my handspun (a pseudo-gradient I made from a Fat Cat Knits club shipment earlier this year) and quite a bit lighter than the yarn called for by the pattern, so I'm going to need to make some adjustments. Luckily, if I run into trouble, I happen to know the designer, so I'm sure she can offer tips if I need them!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

One Last Skein

It's Sunday, and while I'm away from my wheels and my fiber, I do have a finished skein to show you. It'll be my last skein of handspun for the year because I decided not to bring any spinning with me on vacation (in part because there's plenty of knitting to do, but also because I didn't want to risk putting a spindle in my luggage and having it get broken).

This skein is half of the November Fat Cat Knits Mixed Blessings club shipment, a Polwarth/tussah silk/nylon sparkle blend. I decided to spin the two colors separately, each as a three-ply fingering weight, and started with the more red colorway, Roulade.


It's very hard to capture the sparkle on camera, but trust me, it's really there. It seems to be easiest to see under artificial light, but try as I could, I couldn't get it to play nicely with the camera.


The finished yarn is a nice bouncy fingering weight, and the skein measured approximately 200 yards. I'd hoped for a little more, but I'll take it. I'll try to match it with the other braid of fiber in the new year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Finishing and Planning

Vacation is almost here, but there's still one more day of school and work and a heck of a lot of packing to do. Usually when I pack for a vacation, the clothes are the most difficult part, but this time it's the knitting. But more on that in a minute. First, I have an FO!


Pattern: Coaxial Hat by Amy Maceyko
Yarn: my handspun Jacob in two shades
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: November 13/December 14
Mods: followed the cast on number for child size but followed length directions for adult small

This hat was such fun to knit. Amy is a friend of mine, and I'd seen her working on the sample at our knit night and admired it, so I was thrilled when she released the pattern. The stitch pattern is a lot less complex than it might look -- you only work with one color at a time, changing colors every two rounds. It does make for a very dense fabric, however, which is not necessarily a bad thing in the case of a winter hat, but combined with my handspun, which was already pretty dense, you can understand why it took several days for the finished hat to dry when I blocked it, despite spending two days sitting atop the radiator.

One day I'd like to knit this again in a commercial yarn, and when I do, I think I'll go down a needle size or two for the brim. The hat was designed to be loose around the brim (Amy designed it for her hair stylist sister-in-law, so it's meant to be able to be worn without messing up one's hairstyle), but I think that I'd like a slightly snugger fit. I believe that Amy is also working on matching mittens, so those may be in my future as well!

Now, back to the packing. It's been hard not to pack everything, and I'm probably packing more yarn than I'll actually use, but I'd rather have to bring back some yarn untouched than run out part of the way through the trip. (There is supposedly a yarn store somewhere in the area, but I would doubt that a Florida yarn store would carry much in the way of yarn I'd actually want to knit, given the climate.)

Here is what I have so far: two skeins of worsted weight (Malabrigo Worsted and Madelinetosh Vintage) for hats, both pattern samples; two skeins of Mountain Meadow Wool Cody for another design; a skein of handspun Polwarth/silk for a crocheted (yes, you read that right!) cowl for me; and a set of Fibernymph Dye Works Inversibles for another pair of socks (the Electric Avenue socks that are already in progress will be coming with me on the plane).

As the sock yarn is going to be out and about with me (for work in the car or at restaurants), I don't think it really counts. The hats will probably get knit up in a day or two, so that leaves really only two projects, neither of which is all that huge. So I think I might throw in a Miss Babs Color Affection kit that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool several years ago (I think 2012). I figure that that can be my last-resort project, and it's not one I'd have to finish while we're still away. The yarn is fingering, too, which means it'll be easy to squish into my suitcase.

Tonight I'm going to try to gather all the knitting stuff (including patterns) in one place and begin laying out my clothes. I don't want to be in a last-minute panic to pack -- vacation is supposed to be relaxing, after all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tying Up Loose Ends

This coming Saturday, we are headed to Florida for two blissful (and warm, I hope) weeks of vacation. That means that this week is going to be full of getting ready and finishing up things before we leave. On top of all that, it's also a busy week. Yesterday was Rainbow's fifth birthday -- can you believe it? -- so we took her out for dinner to celebrate. That, of course, was after two birthday parties over the weekend (one for her friends, one with the family) and another friend's party on Sunday. This evening she had her annual check-up at the pediatrician, and tomorrow evening is her pre-K class holiday party. I'm exhausted just typing all that!

I did finish up my Coaxial Hat on Sunday night but didn't get to block it until this morning. I have a feeling it might be wet for a while yet given the fact that it was raining pretty much all day today.


I'm really hoping that the top flattens out a bit more; it was a bit ripply when it came off the needles. Once it's fully dry, I'll try to get some modeled shots and do a proper FO post. I've got it drying on top of the radiation, which I'm hoping will speed up the process.

At the moment, the only thing I have on the needles is my Electric Avenue socks, which have gotten a bit more done since you saw them last -- I've just finished the ribbing.


I'm not going to start anything new before we go away, but I have grand plans for the knitting I'm going to get done while we're there. I wound some yarn the other night so that it's all ready to go. I'm probably going to end up packing more than I'll actually use up -- but that's far preferable to running out of yarn, right?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

There's the Sparkle

I'll be honest -- there hasn't been that much spinning going on here in the past week or so. I've been focused on knitting projects and planning ahead for the trip south. Today, however, I realized that I should take advantage of a little bit of down time to finish up the third and final bobbin of the yarn I've been spinning (half of last month's Mixed Blessings club shipment from Fat Cat Knits). Normally I prefer to take photos in natural light to get a good sense of the colors, but given the amount of sparkle in this fiber, it really requires a flash. So here it is in progress:


and here the bobbin is all finished:


My goal is to get this yarn plied sometime this week so it can be all skeined up and washed before we leave. Can't wait to see how this looks when it's plied!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Counting to 2 Is Hard

The cowl is done. I finished just before bedtime last night. It would have been earlier than that had I not messed up the ribbing so much. You see, I guess I was so excited about getting to the finishing ribbing near the end of my lunch break yesterday that I forgot how to count to 2. I realized this as I got to the end of the first round and discovered that I wasn't going to end with two purls as I should have. Rather than tinking back, I decided to just go ahead with the second round and fix the stitches individually as I came to them. This was a good decision, I think, but it meant that that second round took a heck of a lot longer than it should have. Fortunately I was not on bedtime duty last night, so that meant extra knitting time, and by the time I was ready to go in bed, the cowl had been bound off and all my ends had been woven in. Tonight, I'll block it, though I'll admit I'll be a little sad to lose the wonderful texture it has in its unblocked state.


I have to say, I really, really liked working with this yarn. I mean, I know there's not much not to love about merino, cashmere, and silk, but having not worked with it before, it was exciting for me to do so. It was very smooth and easy to work with, and the color saturation is stunning. The knit fabric already has great drape, even before it's blocked, and it's delightfully soft and silky -- it will be divine around my neck! If I had one complaint about the yarn, it's that I found a knot in the skein as I was approaching the end of my ribbing. I somehow missed it when I was winding it, and it wasn't a huge deal to cut it out, but it did mean two extra ends to have to weave in. I know that knots do happen, but I expect to see them less in a hand-dyed yarn. One knot wouldn't stop me from knitting with Pashmina again, though!

Because the cowl had been my lunch break knitting for the past week and a half or so, finishing it meant I needed a new project for lunch today. Happily I had wound several skeins of yarn last weekend, so I had some new stripey sock yarn waiting for me. This is one the skeins that I picked up at Indie Knit & Spin last month from Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works. The colorway is called Electric Avenue, and it was definitely that hot pink that drew me to this skein.


I am knitting some very simple stockinette socks with this to let the yarn do the talking, but I'm using a smaller needle than usual -- a US 0/2.0 mm -- because this yarn is a two ply and I want the socks to be a bit more durable than that would be on my usual US 1 needle. I cast on 70, rather than my usual 64, and am doing a 3x2 rib at the cuff. Unless I am crazy productive in the next week, these will make for good airplane knitting next weekend!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Should Just Make It

I'm sure none of you will be surprised that I'm still working on the same two projects I talked about in my last post, my handspun Coaxial Hat and the Pashmina cowl. I have been dividing up my evenings so that I work a bit on both of them (though, truth be told, the cowl is getting a bit more attention because I've been working on it at lunch as well).

I started the crown decreases on the hat last night and got through the first eight rounds, so I believe I only have about 24 more rounds to go before it's done. It's already easier to maneuver on the needles now that some of the stitches have been decreased away, and I expect that the rounds are going to get a lot faster now that I'm working with fewer stitches. I do really like how the decreases were worked into the pattern so that the areas of both colors are getting narrower.


The cowl, although more comfortable to knit, has been the more concerning of the two projects because I wasn't sure if I could get all the pattern repeats I'd intended out of the one skein of yarn. My intention was to use as much of it as I could without having to play yarn chicken at the end. I tried to deal with this issue by weighing the skein at the beginning, and I've been weighing it again after each pattern repeat. I was hoping to be able to do four repeats (with an inch or so of ribbing at the beginning and end), but it was looking like it was really going to be close. I finished the third pattern repeat last night and weighed what I had left: 39 grams. The ribbing and the beginning and one repeat took 36 grams, so it looks like I have just barely enough. I think it's still going to be a bit of a nail-biter, though.


If I can continue the pace I've set thus far, I should have this done by tomorrow evening and blocked by the weekend. I can't wait to block it and see it transformed from a wiggly, bunchy thing into something open and airy.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Knitting in the Face of Temptation

Now that my gift knitting is done, I've turned my attention back to knitting for me, at least for the time being. I'm waiting for some yarn support to arrive for a commission (shhh! it's a secret!), but until then I am trucking along on my Coaxial Hat. I was very good and got in a couple more repeats on it on Saturday while I was at my LYS, and I believe I have only one more repeat left to go before I start decreasing for the crown.


As much as I'm enjoying the pattern, the knitting itself is not all that enjoyable because it's rather hard on my hands. The yarn, being handspun, is a bit denser than most commercial yarn. Add to that the fact that the stitch pattern has lots of slipped stitches and you get a very dense fabric. This hat will probably stand up on its own when I'm done (though I'm hoping blocking will help some). I know I'll be happy with it, but I need to knit it in relatively short knitting sessions. As it's for me, there's no real deadline, though I'd like to have it done before the end of the Gift-a-long -- and, unless I want to pack it, I really should have it done by the end of next week before we go to Florida for two weeks.

The real trouble with the hat is that I would rather knit on my cowl. And really, can you blame me? It's Pashmina! This yarn is so soft and smooth and enjoyable to knit with, and it's a really nice treat for my hands after they get all achy knitting on the hat. I gave it some attention over the weekend as well and got through a repeat and a half of the lace.


I worked on this last night, after taking the photo, and have now made it my lunchtime knitting project. Unfortunately, I had a slight mishap with my needle at the end of today's lunchtime knitting session, and I can honestly say that I've never had this happen before with these needles (ChiaoGoo Red Lace) -- the cable just snapped off of the needle tip!


Luckily, I was able to grab the stitches and get them back onto the cable (not very neatly, but well enough), and this evening I'll transfer all of them to a new needle so that the cowl can go on. I'm hoping to finish it before the trip as well -- my plan was to take all new things to knit while I'm on vacation. I already have some self-striping sock yarn wound and ready to go, but I need to decide on some other projects. Deciding what knitting to take is almost harder than packing my clothes!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Subtle Sparkle

After spinning cream-colored fiber for a month, I needed some color. So earlier in the week I started spinning my November Fat Cat Knits fiber club shipment. As a reminder, here's what it looked like:


The fiber base I chose for this shipment was 63% polwarth, 12% tussah silk, and 25% nylon sparkle. Originally I was going to spin up each colorway on its own bobbin and ply them together, but somewhere along the way I had a change of heart. I've decided on spinning up each colorway separately as a three-ply fingering weight. If there's enough contrast, I can use them together in some sort of stranded colorwork.

I started started with Roulade, the colorway you see on top in the photo above. I finished up the first bobbin on Friday night, and if you look closely, you can just see the sparkle (though perhaps not in this photo -- it's really subtle).


The second bobbin has just barely been started, but I'm hoping to spend some time on it later today or this evening.


Meanwhile, my final club shipment for the year showed up on Thursday, and it's another beauty. This shipment is natural black and ecru Shetland swirl. The mix of natural light and dark makes for a very interesting variety of shades.


The colorways this time are called Cosmos and Botanica. The Cosmos braid is underneath in the photo so it's a bit hard to see, but it's shades of blue, purple, and brown. Botanica, on top, has greens, reds, oranges, and browns. I will have to ponder how to spin these for a while, though a certain someone has already asked if they could be turned into mittens.

Friday, December 05, 2014

My Holiday Knitting Is Done

I'm sure some of you who are still knitting madly to finish your holiday knitting are probably feeling some pretty strong resentment toward me right now, but please take the title of this post in this context: I only knit two smallish things as presents this year. This month is going to be a whirlwind of activity (crazy days at work, parties, Rainbow's birthday, Chanukah, and vacation at the end), so I knew better to overcommit myself. Every member of the family has already gotten at least one knit item from me except for my soon-to-be sister-in-law. She and my brother-in-law got engaged just a couple of months ago, and as he's the type that we all thought would never settle down, I wanted to make her some nice things to induce her to stick around.

As it happened, I ended up making both projects for her in handspun, so she's really getting the nice stuff. You already saw the slouchy hat I made her in Fat Cat Knits superwash merino. Last night, I finished up the second part of the gift -- a pair of Metropolis Mitts in All Spun Up superwash merino that I spun years ago (perhaps as far back as 2009, judging from the dates on the Ravelry page).


I can't say enough good things about this pattern. You would think that with all the twisted stitches they would be a bit of a slog, but I found that they actually moved along quite nicely. The second mitt went even faster than the first because by then I knew what was happening and could anticipate some of the traveling stitches' moves. My only complaint about the mitts is that it was a little trickier to weave it my ends because the inside is mostly stockinette (as the outside is twisted stitches moving over a reverse stockinette background), so my finishing was perhaps not as tidy as it normally is.


I did make one little oops on these that I only discovered as I was finishing up the second mitt last night. Apparently the twisted ribbing at the top of the hand was meant to be 1 1/2 inches long, but when I was working on the first mitt, I misread it (probably because the 1 was at the end of one line and the 1/2 was at the beginning of the next and I was not reading slowly enough). It's not a huge deal, and I made the second mitt to match the first anyway. Had I not gone back to double check the directions, I probably never would have noticed.

I knit these as part of the Indie Designer Gift-a-long on Ravelry, which is still going on in full force through the end of the year. I still have to weigh the finished mitts and the leftover yarn to see if I might be able to eke out another pair for myself, but I will definitely be knitting some for me in the future regardless.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Long-Awaited Sweater

It's finally done!


Pattern: Sople by Justyna Lorkowska
Yarn: Yarn Hollow Tor DK (100% superwash merino) in Winter Lake, approximately 4.25 skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm), US 3 (3.25 mm), and US 2 (2.75 mm)
Started/Completed: April 2/November 2
Mods: Lengthened the sleeves

I'm not sure what it was about this sweater. I love how it turned out, I was really intrigued by the construction, and I adored the yarn, but for some reason it look me more than seven months to finish it. In truth, it probably did not take me any longer than normal if I could total up the actual knitting time, but this sweater suffered a lot in terms of being shoved to the bottom of the knitting bag. I suppose that I should try not to start a sweater just as the weather is warming up because I tend to completely lose my motivation to knit it. And then there's the twisted ribbing on the bottom of the body that nearly did me in. But in spite of all this, I'm very pleased with how it turned out -- I even wore it to Thanksgiving dinner, and I wore it again today!


Aside from the design, which was what originally drew me to this pattern, its construction was a big part of the appeal. Only once before have I knit a sweater in the way this one was knit, and it was years ago (and a bit of a flop, if I remember correctly). The sweater starts with a provisional cast on that corresponds roughly to the top of the shoulders. You work down the back to about where the underarm would be attached and then put those stitches on a holder. Then you do the same with each front section. Then the fronts and back are joined and you work in one piece, flat, the rest of the way down the body (and that's where I got tripped up by the twisted ribbing -- I do not care for purling through the back leg).


At that point, you pick up stitches all the way around the armscye and use short rows to shape the sleeve cap. I had to wing this a bit because I needed to pick up more stitches than specified, but luckily it worked out (though it took several attempts due to some stupid mistakes I made). I worked some extra decreases on the sleeves to get back to the target number for the cuff, which actually worked out well because I lengthened the sleeves anyway to make them full length.

I found the buttons at my LYS, and I think they're absolutely perfect. Because the button bands on this sweater were worked with a smaller needle, the buttonholes are pretty small, so these are a snug fit (which, to me, is preferable to a gaping buttonhole).

I cannot say enough nice things about the yarn. I've used it once before and knew that it would block out well (and thank goodness for that, because the sweater did not reach all the way around to button before blocking!). I did not alternate skeins except when I had to transition from one skein to the next as the first ran out, and honestly I cannot tell where I did it. What's more, this yarn gets really, really soft and drapey when you block it, so this is now a really cozy sweater. Seriously, I have to stop myself from petting it all the time.


Some final thoughts about the pattern: I did have some issues with it, which really have nothing to do with the quality of it -- these are just my own personal things and shouldn't necessarily keep you from buying the pattern if you like the sweater. First, it's a bit long -- somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen pages. Despite having various iDevices and apps that would help me manage such a pattern better, I still like to print out a hard copy of my pattens so I can highlight and take notes and cross things out. That meant there was a lot of shuffling back and forth between pages, and the pattern got a bit disheveled after all those months of taking it out and shoving it back in my knitting bag. There was also the issue of a line on a chart that was never needed and never explained. It didn't really have an effect on my knitting, but it was a curiosity that continued to confound me.

Would I knit this pattern again? Hmm, maybe not, but then again I don't think I've ever knit a sweater pattern more than once when I didn't have a compelling need to. I did enjoy the seamless top-down set-in sleeve, and I would definitely do it again. Overall, I think this project goes in the win pile -- but I think I also need something a little more intuitive for my next sweater.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Fingers on Fire

Clearly I needed a long holiday weekend to get my knitting mojo back in full force, because I was a crazy knitting machine this weekend -- and I say that both in terms of actually finishing things and casting them on.

Last Wednesday, I got out of work early for the holiday, so I took myself straight home, got into my PJ's, and sat down with the handspun hat I'd started for my future sister-in-law the previous weekend. I had hoped to have finished it the night before but ran out of time before bed, so there were really only a handful of decrease rounds left to do on the crown. It was finished and blocking in no time (and, thanks to cold weather and warm radiators, it was dry the next day). I did hope to get the Mister to snap a picture of me modeling it over the weekend, but in all our running around it just slipped my mind, so please excuse this flat photo of it freshly dried.


I pretty much made up the pattern as I went along. The main part of the body is reverse stockinette, but the feature is that wavy cabled thingy (yes, that's a technical term) with garter stitch inside. When worn, the hat is slouchy and really cute -- exactly my future sister-in-law's style -- though I know it doesn't look like much just sitting here. I made some rough notes of what I did to knit it, so perhaps sometime I'll sit down with a solid color yarn and knit it again.

The other part of my gift for FSIL is a pair of Metropolis Mitts, also being knit in handspun, that I'm knitting as part of the Gift-a-long. I finished up the first one shortly after wrapping up the hat. I know this photo is a little blurry, but it gives you the idea (and given how much natural sunlight is in short supply these days, I doubt I'd get a better one).


The second mitt has been started and is moving along at a fairly brisk pace. With any luck, the pair will be finished by the weekend.

On Thanksgiving Day, I pulled out a gorgeous (and impossible to photograph) skein of madelinetosh pashmina that Stefanie at Stitchcraft sent me to review. The colorway is called Midnight Pass, and it's exclusive to the shop A Good Yarn in Sarasota, Fla. With the fiber content of this yarn, I knew that it had to be made into a cowl, so I sketched a little lace pattern and cast on. Once I'd knit an inch or two, I realized that the needle I'd picked (32" circular) was just too short for a decently sized cowl, so on Friday I ripped out what I'd done and started over with a 40" circ. I haven't make much headway since then, but that's mainly because I've been so focused on other things the past few days -- this one will definitely get the attention it deserves in the near future. At present, it looks like this:


While it isn't much actual knitting, I can tell you that I'm already completely enamored with the knitting experience. This yarn is soft and silky and smooth, and it knits almost effortlessly. I expect that it will have wonderful drape as well thanks to the silk content, and I wouldn't be surprised if it develops a slight halo from the cashmere. Stay tuned; I'll keep you updated.

Finally, there was the neon. On Black Friday, the Mister and I went in search of some cold-weather running gear for me (I haven't been doing much running since the weather started changing because most of my running clothes are meant for warm weather). I was a bit appalled at how pricey even a simple beanie was, especially considering that all the ones I looked at were synthetic. I knew I could do better, so while I was knitting at my LYS on Saturday, I picked up a couple of skeins of Uptown Worsted in a shocking shade called Bright Salmon -- a color that will ensure everyone sees me when I run. I cast on for a simple hat on Saturday evening and was done by last night. This was another pattern I made up as I went along, and I'm really pleased with how it came together.

This hat is so bright it defies photography!

I used less than a skein of the yarn, but the extra means that I have plenty should I want to make a giant pompom or a matching headband for those days when it's just chilly enough to make my ears cold.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering why I selected a 100% acrylic yarn when you know I really like natural fibers. For one thing, I knew this yarn came in really bright neons. But I'm also expecting to sweat a lot in this hat and wanted to be able to throw it in the wash with the rest of my workout clothes. Yes, there are superwash wools, but sometimes they're only superwash to a point. So I figured I'd try this out (and at $5 per skein, it certainly didn't break the bank).

There are other things on the needles and one big project that's finished that I still have to tell you about, but I think I've done enough rambling for one day. I promise the next post will feature at least one finished project!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

112%

It took me more than a month, but I finally finished the giant skein of Shetland/silk. And when I say giant, I mean giant -- I had trouble getting it into a twist that would stay!


In the end, I had roughly 536 yards of three-ply fingering weight, which is pretty much exactly what I was aiming for. I had hoped to match this skein of moorit-colored Shetland that I spun a couple of years ago; it was roughly 550 yards, so pretty darn close. My plan is to use the two skeins to knit myself a Rockefeller, a pattern that has long been in my library.

Tomorrow is a new month, so I will reward myself by spinning something with color!

P.S. If you're wondering where the title of this post comes from, I give you the label that came with this fiber. You can figure out the math for yourself.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pattern Release: Mirit

Before those of us in the United States spend the next few days gorging ourselves on delicious food and then shopping until we drop, I thought I'd drop a little surprise on you -- a new pattern!

To date, Leventry has been far and away my most popular pattern, but it's also a very sizable shawl, and I know that many people prefer to knit smaller shawlettes. So for quite a while I've been thinking about what it might look like at a smaller scale and perhaps with some variation in the pattern. That reimagining led to the pattern I share with you today, Mirit.


Like Leventry, Mirit is worked from the top down, starting with a garter tab, and begins with two-color stripes. This time around, however, garter stitch is the more prominent stitch in the main body of the shawl, so there's much more texture. The lace band near the bottom is similar, but the top and bottom edges of the lace section are straighter because the decreases are right and left leaning rather than centered. And the dominance of the colors is a bit different in Mirit as well. In Leventry, what could be thought of as a contrast color formed both the garter ridges and the lace; here, the color used for the lace is almost in the background of the stripes, so there's a lot of color and texture interplay in this shawl.


The main difference between the two is in the amount of yarn used and the resulting size. Mirit uses roughly 600 yds./549 m (split evenly between the two colors) and blocks out to a finished size of approximately 48 in./122 cm wide along the top edge and 22.5/57 cm deep at the center. This is a shawl that will sit nicely on your shoulders or around your neck and tuck easily into your coat.

I absolutely loved the yarn I used to knit the sample, Quince & Co. Finch, a springy, bouncy, round American wool. I used Damson (the brown) and Glacier (the blue) for my sample and needed a bit more than a skein of each. The yarn was a delight to knit with and is, I think, a fairly economical choice, especially compared to some of the beautiful hand-dyed yarns that so often call my name. If stripes aren't your thing, you might consider knitting the shawl in handspun or a yarn with long color repeats for an interesting effect.


I hope you enjoy this shawl as much as Leventry, and as an added bonus, if you've already purchased Leventry (or if you haven't and want to buy them both together), you'll get an automatic discount when you add Mirit to your cart. You will need to be on Ravelry for that to work, I believe, so keep that in mind before clicking the button below.


 

If you're in the States, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving! If you're elsewhere, enjoy the rest of your week!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gift-a-long Designer Interview: Ashwini Jambhekar

I think I mentioned last week that one of my favorite parts about the GAL is getting to know other designers. We interact a fair bit in the designers groups on Ravelry, but usually our discussion tend to me about design-specific stuff -- how to word something or how to represent something in a chart, for example. During the GAL, though, we're all chatting as we're working on a holiday knitting, so it's almost like a vacation from the design business.

One of the designers I knew a little bit through our earlier interactions on the forums is Ashwini Jambhekar (she's AshwiniJ on Ravelry). I was delighted to get to interview her for the blog and learn a bit more about her background and design process. I think you'll enjoy getting to know her as well!


How did you start designing? What inspired you to start? Tell me a little about your first design.
I started designing when I was in grad school in San Francisco. Up to that point, I had mostly shopped only in big box yarn stores, and had worked only from patterns published in women's magazines or LeisureArts leaflets. Needless to say, none of these was particularly attractive to a young 20-something, and I actually didn't do a whole lot of knitting in college or early grad school. In San Francisco I discovered a wonderful LYS called Artfibers (which sadly closed about a year ago). Their yarns were amazing, the staff was helpful and knowledgeable, and the shop samples were to die for. And if you purchased their yarn, they would use their sweater design software to help you create a pattern for anything you could dream up! Kira Dulaney (kirakdesigns on Ravelry) was the manager then, and I definitely picked her brain about the design process. This was the first time I realized that knitting didn't have to be frumpy sweaters sized to fit the whole family! I finally found the freedom and skills to create what I wanted. That being said, I don't even know what to call my "first" design, because I started by gradually adapting existing patterns. One of the early "designs" just involved substituting one lace panel for another in the center front of a sweater. I gradually started substituting yarns with different gauges and recalculating the pattern, or changing the construction method, until I was finally making truly original work.

My first published design happened by fluke. One of my fellow dancers discovered that I knit (I had posted some photos on Facebook), and she referred me to her mother-in-law-to-be (Vicki Stiefel, LaidBackKnitter on Ravelry), who was working on a knitting book. After a chat with Vicki, I agreed to recreate an existing design for 10 Secrets of the LaidBack Knitters. It took me a while to discover Ravelry after that, but I did eventually. And it even took me some time after that to start designing more regularly. But I'm very glad to have finally stumbled upon this path!


Cranberry Brioche Sweater
You have an interesting background in that you're a scientist and also have done professional ballet dancing. How do you feel that these interests have influenced your knitting and designing?
I think in all three areas -- science, dance, and designing. What I enjoy the most is using a defined framework to create something unique, interesting, and possibly beautiful. So far these three areas haven't melded together in any tangible way, but one of my dreams is to design a ballet-themed ebook, with dance shots interspersed with garment photos. I discovered that garments don't photograph well in actual dance shots, so I'll probably keep the two separate. I just have to find the time to make it happen!

My science background has definitely helped with the technical aspects of pattern writing. I've become proficient at writing complex instructions in a rigorous manner, and making sure all math is correct. I'm also proficient enough with image editing and graphic arts software (mainly the Adobe Suite), so that also helps. I see how much of a struggle writing and photo editing can be for other designers, so I'm always grateful to have had formal training in these areas. Getting good photos in the first place, however, has been the most difficult aspect of designing for me (and my husband, who plays photographer).

What is your favorite type of item to design and knit?

Sweaters for sure. I like my creations to be front and center, and to steal the show! Additionally, I like that sweaters provide a huge canvas to explore a variety of ideas, such as different types of shaping and the interplay between different stitch patterns.
What (if anything) are you knitting for gifts this year?I always make something for my mom and for my husband (my mom generally supplies my dad with a hand-knit, so she has that covered). This is the first year that my holiday gifts are coming from other designers' patterns. My mom is getting Lingerie socks (designed by Maria Naslund), and my husband is getting a Sandpoint Pullover (designed by Elizabeth Morrison). I originally knit the socks for myself, but they fit my mom so much better that I'm giving them to her. In both cases, the recipients know what to expect. In fact, my husband practiced casting on and knitting for the first time with the pullover, so he has actually contributed to his own gift! The socks are finished, but I'm not sure the pullover will be done in time for the holidays -- I'll be knitting like crazy during the last week of December to try to make it happen.


What can we expect to see from you, design-wise, in 2015?

I think I'd like to try out different sweater constructions. All my sweaters are worked flat, bottom-up, and seamed, with set-in sleeves. There are so many possibilities to explore in this format that I don't think I'll ever run out of ideas. But I do want to try some other types of construction, like top-down or sideways. It will involve stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit, but I think I'm ready to tackle a new design challenge!
Thanks so much for taking take to answer my questions, Ashwini!

You can see all of Ashwini's published designs on Ravelry here. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Very Good Motivation

So, my spinning. To be completely honest, I have barely touched it all week save for a couple of hours this afternoon when I put a little more on this bobbin:


I'd estimate I'm about halfway done with this final bobbin, and I hope to spend a little more time spinning this week so I can finish it up and ply before the end of the month.

Aside from the desire to finally finish this spinning project, I got some really good motivation to finish yesterday. When we opened the door to some friends who came over for dinner last night, we found a fairly large package in the door -- one I kind of knew was coming but also kind of wasn't expecting. You see, what I didn't tell you in my interview with Stefanie last week is that she has a really amazing job. She works for a company called Stitchcraft Marketing, and part of her job is getting clients' products in the hands of knitters and spinners. She very kindly offered to send me some spinning fiber to review and ask me to give her some suggestions of what I might like to spin, so I did, expecting just a sample size bit of fiber.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the package last night to find a whopping 18 oz. of fiber in total. I'm sure you want to know what it was, don't you? Well I won't keep you in suspense.

The star of the package (and the item that really makes me wish the Internet had the ability to let you touch through the screen) is this lovely packet of camel/tussah silk:


This stuff is unbelievably soft. It's just begging to be spun into a light, soft yarn that will be knit into something for my neck. I think it's going to go on the spindle very soon.

Also in the package was a full pound of wool -- 8 oz. of Manx Loaghtan and 8 oz. of Gotland.


I have spun both of these breeds just once before and really enjoyed them, so I'm looking forward to really getting to know them better. And they even smell good -- when I opened the package, I got a lovely waft of that nice sheepy smell.

So thanks again, Stefanie, for hooking me up with this great fiber! I see a lot of fun spinning sessions in my future!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It Must Be the Cold

While I am always happy to knit, I've been surprised by a real urge this week to Knit All The Things. I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised -- after all, fall is a knitter's favorite season, and we had our first measurable snowfall (followed by bitter cold) the other day, so it's only logical that I would want to surround myself with wool.

It's been several years since I did serious gift knitting, but I am doing a bit of it this year. My brother-in-law got engaged a couple of months ago, so I'm making a couple of smallish gifts for my sister-in-law-to-be. I of course had to take advantage of the Gift-a-long pattern sale this week and bought the pattern for Bristol Ivy's Metropolis Mitts (among a number of other patterns for myself). I am knitting them out of a skein of handspun superwash merino that's been sitting in my stash for several years now:


You'll have to take my word for it that these look a lot better in natural light (and when I'm not trying to take a photo of my own arm). These aren't really a quick knit -- there's lots of traveling twisted stitches and cables -- but they are a fun one. If I'm not completely sick of all the knitting gymnastics after I'm done with the pair, then I'll knit a pair for myself.

I'm planning on knitting a hat to go with the mitts, also in handspun (a skein that coincidentally coordinates quite well, I think):


I'm going to make something up for the hat -- I'm thinking something slouchy with some kind of cables. I'll figure it out as I go.

I'm not casting on for the hat just yet because take a look at this -- the rest of this sleeve is all that's standing between me and a finished sweater:


I should at least get to the cabled detail on the top of the sleeve (which you can't really see in the photo because of how the finished sleeve is folded) tonight, and I think I should be done before the weekend is out. The nice thing about this pattern is that you do the neckline and button bands before even starting the sleeves, so once I've bound off the second sleeve and woven in a few ends, the only finishing I will need to do is pick out and sew on some buttons! My goal for this sweater was to have it done by Thanksgiving, and frankly I don't think that's going to be a problem at all. The hard part will be deciding what to cast on for next -- there are too many things in the queue saying "Pick me! Pick me!"

Just a reminder that the Gift-a-long pattern sale (25% off all eligible patterns with the code giftalong2014) ends tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. EST. You can find my eligible patterns here. Once the sale is over, keep knitting with us in the group! There are literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of prizes to be won along with a lot of fun and encouragement in the group.