Thursday, April 30, 2015

One More Sleep

Tomorrow is the day I've been waiting for for a year -- the day I leave for Maryland Sheep and Wool! There are still a bunch of last minute things to do: packing, picking out my knitting, getting the house in order, etc. Usually I worry about running out of knitting when I pack for a trip, but this is one where that will not be a problem!

The only project that might actually get finished while I'm away are my Boogaloo socks. The first one is just about finished (I should be able to do the rest of the heel this evening). Do I really need to express how much I love it?


I had a slight issue with it yesterday when I was knitting away at my lunch break, looked down at it, and started to wonder why it was looking so long. So I measured it and then quickly realized that the length measurement I'd figured out was two inches too long; I'd forgotten to subtract 2 inches for the toe. Fortunately, I was only about half an inch past that point, but it did mean some ripping. I decided to do the toe in the handspun and reserve the commercial yarn for just cuffs and heels because it looks like there's plenty for both socks. I will likely start the second sock tomorrow to work on in the car.

My Airflow is moving along as well, though not nearly as quickly. The sleeve stitches are sitting comfortably on scrap yarn, and I've knit to the back shaping of the body. The knitting is pretty mindless at this point, though I do need to keep track of rows for shaping and the eyelets on the fronts.


I did meet my goal of finishing up the last batch of Gourmet Stash punis before leaving, so tonight I will wind off these singles, thereby freeing up the spindle to take along.


I do not have a big list of things to buy at the festival this year, for once. My stash is pretty well curated, so other than one thing I would like to get (a maintenance kit for my miniSpinner), anything I buy will be something that jumps out at me and begs to be taken home. As fun as it is to buy new yarn and fiber, what I really love about this weekend is being out with my people -- the people who think it's completely normal to whip out your knitting anytime, anywhere, and who get excited about all things fibery. I'm looking forward to meeting some friends who live elsewhere, seeing the animals, and taking it all it. If you happen to see me (I'll be wearing a Ravelry pin with my user name on it), please say hi!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pattern Release: Leventry Loop

It has been less than a year since I released Leventry, but it has become far and away my most popular pattern and my best seller. It has gotten a lot of love, but I know that there are plenty of people out there who do not share my love for the triangular shawl. So, I decided to create a new accessory with the same combination of stitch textures and lace patterning but in a different shape. And today I'm pleased to present to you the Leventry Loop.


This cowl is worked in the round, with the only finishing being the weaving in of some ends. It's worked from the top down and ends with the fun, frilly picot bind off that I loved so much in the original shawl. Like the shawl, the top portion of the cowl features a two-color garter/stockinette stripe sequence, and it's finished with a band of textured lace. The lace pattern is both written and charted in the pattern.

Although this pattern looks fancy and perhaps complicated, it's much easier than you might think. The skills required are fairly simple: You need to be able to knit and purl in the round, work from a lace chart or written directions, do a centered double decrease, and do a cable cast on (for the picot bind off).


The pattern is written for fingering weight yarn (and the sample, like the original shawl, is worked in madelinetosh tosh merino light); you'll need approximately 175 yds./160 m of the first color (the gray in the sample) and 190 yds./174 m of the second color (the green in the sample). Instructions are given in the pattern for making the cowl wider or longer, should you wish to make it larger. I also think the pattern would be lovely in a heavier yarn, which would be a very easy way to make it larger.



My test knitters came up with some beautiful color combinations for their cowls, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what people who knit this pattern will come up with -- it's been one of my favorite things about seeing people knit the shawl! I hope you enjoy the pattern and have fun coming up with different colors!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Brights and Pales

A little over a week ago I started spinning the first braid in my most recent Fat Cat Knits club shipment. I decided to start with the batch for Rainbow and chose the brighter colorway of the two. Ginny named this one Hungry Horace, and I have to say that the colors do remind me of a certain children's book. I thought it would be fun to spin it as a fractal so that the colors would mix a bit but not too much. I finished plying up the the yarn and skeined and washed it this afternoon, so it's still wet this evening, but here is a shot of it on the bobbin:


I also split up the other colorway (called Pepperspark -- it's meant to be the butterfly that the caterpillar turns into) for a two-ply fractal as well and I'll spin it to more or less match. I must admit that while the bright colors are beautiful, I'm really much more drawn to this colorway.


I still have another batch of this shipment left for me, and after thinking about several ways to spin it, I think I've decided to spin each braid end to end and chain ply. I don't know that I'll use the two colors together, but they might look really pretty with a black or dark gray in some colorwork.

Today I also came to the realization that I'm leaving for Maryland Sheep and Wool in only five days, and there's quite a bit of fiber that I bought last year that's still unspun. Given that I actually have to work this week instead of spending it at my wheel, I don't think it's possible to spin all of it, but I thought that the second half of the punis I bought from Gourmet Stash would be doable. I can always ply when I get back. I managed nearly four just this evening, so I think if I spin three or four every night, I should be in good shape.


Finally, I have some new fiber to share that arrived earlier this week -- much faster that I was expecting. David of Southern Cross Fibre recently got some sort of special status with the mail that's enabled club packages to reach their overseas destinations much faster than before. That's why, almost miraculously, my April club shipment actually arrived in April:


This month's fiber is Finn, a breed I've spun only once before, and the colorway I got is called Breeze. I'm pretty sure I'm going to spin this into sock yarn -- eventually. There are a lot of other things in the spinning queue, including my SCF March club fiber!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Brain Hiccups and New Starts

Last night, I finished the stripey socks. By the time I sat down with them after dinner, all that was left was to do the toe, which I started right away. It was only when I was nearly done with the toe that I realized I'd made a pretty big error. You see, the way the pattern works on the instep of these socks, you actually have four more stitches on the instep than on the sole. I have written an instruction in the pattern to readjust the stitches (so that the same number are on the instep and sole) after completing the instep stuff, but in my excitement over being nearly done, I completely forgot to do it. It wasn't until I had decreased a bunch that I realized that my toe was looking a little shallow. Then I counted how many stitches were left: 18 on the instep and 14 on the sole. Whoops. So I pulled the whole thing off the needles, ripped back, and knit the toe again, this time correctly. It wasn't that big a deal, but it did waste some knitting time. More than anything, I was annoyed with myself for not remembering an important part of my own pattern. The important thing, though, is that the socks are done. I'll block them tonight and hope to finish up the rest of the pattern pieces this weekend so I can send the pattern off to the tech editor.

In any case, once the toe was Kitchenered and the ends were woven in, I pulled out the yarn for the next pair of socks. I'm using my handspun for the main part of the sock, but to make sure I have enough, I'm using some old stash yarn (specifically, some now-discontinued Knit Picks Essential Kettle Dyed in a mostly black colorway) for the cuffs, heels, and toes.


I am once again using my US 0/2.0 mm needles for a really dense fabric that will, I hope, be more durable. This means upping my usual stitch count of 64 to 70, so I'm doing a 3x2 rib for the cuff. The rest will be stockinette. I had hoped that the handspun would stripe, but in winding it I noticed that the colors changed pretty quickly, so any striping that happens will be very narrow -- so these socks will either be awesome or look like neon clown barf. I think the next time I want to spin a striping yarn, I won't split the fiber so thin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In the Face of Distractions

I'll admit that in the past week or so, I've been much more interested in spinning than knitting, and that's clearly evident in the fact that I finished two skeins in the past week. That's not to say that I've been completely neglecting my knitting, though. The knitting continues on my WIPs, though certainly the progress can be seen better on some projects than others. I put in several hours worth of knitting time on my Airflow over the weekend, but to be honest it doesn't look that much larger than the last time you saw it. I'm getting close to finishing up the sleeve increases, so soon I should be moving on to the body. That's still a fair amount of knitting though.


My socks, on the other hand, are getting very close to being done thanks to my lunchtime knitting. All that's left to do is part of the foot and the toe on the second sock.


That means it's time to get all my ducks in a row as far as the pattern writing is concerned. Because this sock has an atypical construction, the pattern is a bit trickier to write. Plus, I'm grading it for three sizes. There are a total of seven charts (only one really lends itself to showing what needs to be done for all three sizes) and written directions to accompany each one, so there's a lot of components to put together. With any luck, I'll be able to enlist the Mister to take some photos this weekend and then start putting everything together.

As soon as these socks are off the needles, I am ready to start the next pair. I've decided to take the Boogaloo yarn I spun last month and combine with some commercial black yarn (I'm pretty sure I have a couple of skeins of some black Knit Picks sock yarn somewhere in my stash) for cuffs, toes, and afterthought heels. I've never done an afterthought heel before, if you can believe it, so I thought this would be a good excuse to try it. My yardage in this handspun skein is limited, so I want to use as much of it as I can without having to worry about running short. I expect these socks will still be on the needles when we head to MDSW next week, so you may get a chance to see them in person if you'll be there.

As if spinning weren't enough of a distraction, something arrived in the mail yesterday that I'm sure is going to detract from my knitting time (and for this I totally blame Sara, because I first saw it on her Instagram feed). What you may not know about me is that before I got really into knitting, I was really into cross stitch. One of these days I'll show you some of the huge pieces I've done, but for today, here's what I'll be working on in the near future:


This kit came from the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. It's the Fibery Friends Sampler, which was their Stitches West 2015 exclusive design. I am quite amazed with how quickly it got to me -- I placed the order on Friday and it was in my hands yesterday! I'm also impressed with the packaging. It came in a heavy-duty paperboard envelope, and the kit was tied up with ribbon with an extra little pattern and a card to hold the embroidery floss attached. The invoice also included a hand-written note to thank me. I will definitely be ordering from them again!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Twofer

I have not one but two skeins of handspun finished today! I'm kind of surprised by how much plying I managed to do this weekend, and it's very satisfying to get these two skeins off the wheels.


The first finished skein was my February shipment from the Southern Cross Fibre club. It's a blend of Bond wool and silk in a color called Lady Grey. I spun it into a two-ply laceweight and got approximately 692 yards from my 110 grams. It took a good four plying sessions, but I finished it relatively early Friday night.


I left the yarn on the bobbin overnight before winding it off, but seeing as I had all that time after it was finished, I figured I might as well start chain plying the other singles that had been waiting. This is my Noble Dragon from Fat Cat Knits, a blend of superwash merino and nylon sparkle. I spun the braid from one end to the other and then chain plied to maintain the gorgeous colors. This colorway is part of the Mega Spinalong happening over on Ravelry.


Alas, I can never seem to capture the sparkle on camera, but this skein does glisten! It's fingering (verging on sport in a couple of areas) and roughly 372 yards. I was hoping for 350, so I'm quite happy with the yardage.

I was anxious to keep spinning, so yesterday I started the most recent Fat Cat Knits Mixed Blessings Club shipment. You may recall that I bought a second shipment from someone in a destash so that Rainbow and I could each have the yarn from one, so I started spinning hers. I decide to spin two skeins, one from each colorway, and I'm spinning them both as fractals. I began with the more brightly colored of the two, Hungry Horace, and split the top in half lengthwise. One half was then split in half again. Both plies will go through the same color sequence (one ply once, one ply twice); I started with the former.


These skeins should be a rather quick spin. Each colorway is only 2.5 oz., so each bobbin will have only 1.25 oz. on it. Plus, I'm not spinning my usual fine singles (I'm hoping the finished two ply will be a sport to DK). The colors are just amazing, so it's a complete pleasure to spin this yarn. I will be happy to do it a second time when I can finally spin my portion of the fiber!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Small Stitches

I have long said that my default yarn when I spin is something fine, usually fingering weight. So I guess it should be no surprise to me that I'm starting to default to that weight to knit with, too. I cast on for my Airflow a week ago, and it's making slow but steady progress. I've worked on it quite a bit in between spinning sessions this week, though when you're knitting with fingering weight yarn and size 4 needles, progress doesn't happen very quickly.


This sweater is knit using the Contiguous method, which is a fascinating construction technique. If you've never used it before, I'd recommend taking a look. It's a bit tricky to explain, but the gist of it is that it's completely seamless from the top down, and the collar of the sweater is worked along with the body. For this sweater, you actually start with the collar, specifically at the back of the neck. You cast on and knit a few inches in one direction, then pick up from the cast-on edge and knit the same amount in the other direction. Then you pick up stitches along the long edge of that knit strip, place a bunch of markers, and do increases in particular spots to shape the top of the shoulders. I'm at the point now where the marker placement has been adjusted and the increases are limited to between two sets of markers to shape the sleeve cap.

As I'm using a hand-painted yarn (Dream in Color Jilly, which is very similar to Tosh Merino Light), I'm using two skeins and alternating them every two rows to avoid color issues. I know it'll be better in the long run, but it is a bit of a pain to have to untangle every two rows.

Also on small needles is the new(ish) pair of socks. The first sock was finished today, and the second one was promptly cast on.


I'll share more of what they look like when the pattern is closer to being ready, but at least you can see the awesome stripey yarn. I'm hoping to find some time this weekend to finish up the pattern draft (the basic instructions and information are all written up, but there are charts to transcribe, which is tedious work). I'm hoping to have the second sock done in the next week or so.

I did have a bit of a falling down at my LYS last week (though I didn't buy yarn). Like many knitters, I really appreciate a good project bag, and my LYS has been carrying bags by Sasha for a while. I have two of her sock-sized box bags and quite a few of her notions bags already. I'd been eyeing one of her wristlets at the shop for several weeks, so when the shop announced that the latest batch of bags they'd received from Sasha would be the last they would carry (because she is going to focus on stocking her online shop), I decided to finally pull the trigger. Another one caught my eye as well, so it came home with me, too.


These are just the right sizes for two projects I have on the needles right now (Airflow can go in the larger bag, and my Cerise can go in the smaller), so I don't feel too guilty. Plus, it's always nice to buy something that's hand made -- and it's doubly nice when you actually know the person who made it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pattern Release: Margalit Shawl

Several months ago, I started swatching a lace edging that used some simple cables for a bit of texture. Those swatches very quickly turned into a shawl design, a design that I can finally share with you today. Meet the Margalit shawl:


Margalit is worked side to side, gently increasing as you approach the center and then decreasing as you near the far end. The shaping occurs in the top portion of the shawl, which is worked in garter stitch, while the stitch count changes in the edging create a bit of a zig zag along the bottom edge. Because of the way the shawl is constructed, it can accommodate just about any amount of yarn, making it a great pattern for handspun or a precious skein of luxury yarn.


The yarn I used in the sample, SpaceCadet Aurora, is a luscious blend of superwash merino, cashmere, and nylon. It was, in a word, amazing to knit with. It is soft and has a wonderful hand, and as you can see, it blocks beautifully. The number of plies in the yarn make the cables really pop from the background. And can we talk about this color? This colorway is Tickled, and yes, it really is that bright.


As far as skill level goes, I'd say this shawl is an adventurous beginner to intermediate project. The stitches used are fairly basic and easy -- yo, ssk, k2tog, m1, and 2-over-2 cable crosses. The edging is both written and charted.

There's one other feature that I want to highlight, though I certainly can't take credit for it. The top edge is formed by a faux i-cord, which is achieved through the simplicity of slipped stitches. While it creates an edge that looks really nice, the real benefit of this edging comes when it's time to block. You can run a blocking wire (or sturdy thread) through this edge and get a nice, crisp finish when you block.


I'm really very pleased how this shawl turned out, and I'm itching to knit myself another one, probably in handspun. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On and On It Goes

The problem with being a spinner of fine yarns is that they can take a really long time to finish. I finished spinning the singles of my Southern Cross Fibre Bond/silk maybe a week and a half ago, but I waited to ply them for a bit, both to give them time to rest and to take a break and spin up my Noble Dragon singles. Those singles, incidentally, were finished on Friday night.


These might not look all that exciting, but that's probably because I spun the braid from end to end and both ends were a dark black-ish purple. The beautiful sparkly golden color is somewhere in the middle of this bobbin. Eventually, I will chain ply these singles.

I can't be sure of when exactly I will ply the Noble Dragon because I feel like I am going to be plying my Lady Grey (the Bond/silk) forever. For. Ev. Er. This is the real problem with laceweight.


I've spend probably between three and four hours so far on this yarn, and I think I've only plied about half of it so far -- even with the electric spinner with a WooLee Winder on it so that it's practically automatic.

I am anxious to finish up both yarns because more fiber arrived in the past couple of weeks. You saw my most recent Fat Cat Knits club shipment a couple of weeks ago, but what I'm not sure I mentioned is that I ended up getting a double shipment because I bought a destash off someone else in the club so that I could spin one batch for me and one for Rainbow.

Then, earlier this week, my March SCF shipment arrived -- much faster this time around thanks to David's getting some sort of expedited international shipping thing!


The fiber this time around is superwash merino, and I got the colorway called Dom Pedro. Both colorway choices were a semisolid for this month, and I'm very happy with this deep teal-y blue. I'm thinking a traditional two or three ply for this fiber.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Riding the Wave

I didn't want to cram them both into one post, but I did actually finish two projects last week. The sweater seemed the more exciting of the two, so it went first, but now here's the second (and arguably the less exciting).


These are just plain vanilla socks -- I saw no reason to try to compete with the stripes by doing a stitch pattern. I did my basic sock over 70 stitches on size 0/2.0 mm needles for a firm fabric: 3x2 ribbed cuff, slip-stitch heel, wedge toe. The yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Bedazzled, a 75% superwash merino/20% nylon/5% sparkle blend, in the colorway Sad Panda. I love this colorway because of what makes it special: The blue stripes are actually variegated! I didn't try to match up the stripes in both socks, but they ended up being pretty close in the sequence.


I am enjoying the self-striping yarn so much that I cast on for a new pair on Monday with a skein that Lisa graciously provided me with for a new design. Here's a peek:


These are going to be a somewhat nontraditional sock construction with a bit of patterning to complement the stripes. I had already worked up a sample of these in a different yarn last fall, but I decided it was too dark to show off the pattern well, and frankly I like it much better in a striping yarn. I'm hoping to have the sample and a draft of the pattern finished up this month.

I'm still riding the high of sweater knitting, so I decided to start another one. Well, I swatched for it, at least.

I bought the pattern and yarn for it (Dream in Color Jilly) sometime last year, fully intending to knit it right away and have a lightweight sweater for the fall, but obviously that didn't happen. MDSW is coming up, and I'd like to have a larger project that isn't too heavy to take with me for the car and the hotel down time, so a fingering weight sweater seemed like just the ticket. I swatched on Sunday evening and got perfect stitch gauge after washing (my row gauge is close enough), so I'm ready to cast on soon. I have at least one other sweater quantity of yarn in my stash, and I'd really like to get that knit up in the next year -- think of it as tackling the stash one sweater at a time!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Perfection

My new sweater is officially done, and it's perfect!


Pattern: State Fair Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti, from Interweave Knits winter 2014
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Alpaca Lana D'Oro (50% wool/50% alpaca), a bit less than six skeins
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm)
Started/Completed: March 8/April 3
Mods: Totally winged the pick-up rate for the button bands and collar

This sweater was a joy to knit. The fact that I finished the whole thing in less than a month, while also working on other projects, says quite a lot about just how engaging the cable pattern is. Normally I'm very slow with cables and lose interest rather quickly, but that was not at all the case here. This project was very much a case of "just one more row" -- I honestly had a hard time putting it down at night.

I didn't intentionally pick yarn the same color as in the sample in the magazine, but I happened to have seven skeins of it (it was a prize from my LYS's bingo game a couple of years ago) and wanted to use up some stash. I was able to get close enough to gauge with it that I knew it would work. I knit the size that matches my bust measurement, but thanks to the drape of the alpaca content of the yarn, the sweater fits with just a touch of positive ease. That's perfect for me because I always wear sweaters with a shirt underneath, plus I don't really like the look of bulging button bands.


If you're wondering why I'm not modeling the sweater in these photos, let me assure you that it's not because I don't like how it looks on me -- quite the contrary, in fact. (If you really want to see me in it, you can check out the selfie I put up on my Instagram feed as soon as it was finished.) The photos here were taken on Sunday afternoon when the light was really good but my photographer was unavailable, so Matilda the dress form had to stand in for me.

The buttons were picked up at my LYS. They're some sort of metal with a bit of a fancy design on them that of course is difficult to photograph, but I tried:


That darkish spot near the bottom isn't tarnish -- that's my reflection!

I really can't say enough good things about this pattern. It was fun and engaging to knit, and the finished garment is sophisticated and comfortable. The weather was a bit on the cool side this past Saturday, so I got a chance to wear it once before it's packed away for the summer. I have a feeling, though, that it will be in regular rotation come fall!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

All That Glitters

Spinning this week has been all about the sparkle. I finished up the second bobbin of Southern Cross Fibre Bond/silk, which practically glows, though of course that doesn't come across in this photo.


I've been letting the singles sit for a few days before plying, which I'm hoping will happen this week. Ideally, I'd like to ply on the miniSpinner so that I can just sit and do it without thinking (if I want to ply on the Lendrum, I have to pay enough attention to move the yarn guide every now and then).

The miniSpinner is currently unavailable because I've been spinning the really sparkly stuff on it:


This is my Fat Cat Knits Noble Dragon, which is supposed to be only 20% nylon sparkle but seems like a lot more. Unfortunately, it's impossible to capture the sparkle on camera -- trust me, it's there. I started spinning this on Thursday and am more than halfway through the braid. I'm spinning it end to end and I'll chain ply when it's all done. My plan is to finish spinning these singles and let them rest while I ply the Bond/silk.

I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of spinning this month. Maryland Sheep & Wool is coming up in less than a month and I still haven't spun some of the fiber I bought last year!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

So Very Close

If all goes according to plan, I should have a finished sweater tomorrow. I started seaming on Tuesday night and got both sleeves set in, the side seam and sleeve seam on one side done, and the second side seam started before it was time to hit the hay. Last night I finally made it to knit night, and I used the time to finish the seaming and pick up for the first button band. I finished that band when I got home and picked up for the second. This evening, I'll finish that band and tackle the neckline. All that will then be left is sewing on the buttons.

I've mentioned that I don't really care for seaming, and I must admit that I have similar feelings for picking up stitches. I don't have an issue with the actual act of picking up the stitches; the frustration lies in trying to pick up a specified number. I've never managed to do it correctly on the first try, leading to further attempts and more time wasted. For this pattern, the number to pick up on each front was the same for four sizes, which didn't seem quite right to me, so I picked up approximately three stitches for every four rows, with a little bit of fudging at the top and bottom, and made sure I had a multiple of four plus two so the ribbing would work out. I ended up with eight more stitches than specified, which seemed close enough to me.

This is what a purple sweater looks like (without flash) on a rainy day.
Amazingly, when I sat down to pick up for the second band, I got the same number of stitches on the first try. Clearly, that number was the right number! I've marked where the buttons will go, so now I just have to line up the buttonholes. I'm putting the top button in the neckband to make the top of the sweater lie a little better, but that will be the extent of my modifications. It seems like the sweater will fit well, and having seen a preview of the weekend's forecast, it's not out of the question that I'll get to wear it once before it's time to pack all the woolens away.

I'm currently on "spring break" with Rainbow, which means that we were off today and will be off tomorrow. The weather was nice earlier today, so after running an errand, we walked up to our local shopping district, did a little shopping, and had lunch outside. It started raining shortly after we got home, so we settled in to relax for the afternoon. I did some spinning and managed to finish up my second bobbin of my Southern Cross Fibre Bond/silk and start my Fat Cat Knits Noble Dragon. I'm looking forward to some more crafting time tomorrow!