Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Brights

I've finished my last skein of handspun for January, and it's a pretty one, if I do say so myself:


This is the result of spinning the lighter/brighter colors in my Day's End braid of Falkland from FatCatKnits. The fiber was 73 g to start with (from a total of 120 g) and split more or less in thirds. I did a traditional three ply spinning my default singles and ended up with a lovely fingering weight that's approximately 260 yards. The pictures here are doing a poor job of conveying just how bright some parts of this skein are -- the brightest green is very neon, almost like a highlighter.


I really did everything I could to use up every last bit of these singles. When the first bobbin ran out, I wound off what was left on the second bobbin so I could ply from both ends of it along with the singles coming from the third bobbin. When the second bobbin's singles were used up, I chain plied the bit that was left on the third bobbin. So the very end of the skein might not be that even, but I felt very resourceful.

The darker fiber is now on the wheel and should go a bit faster because I only have 47 g of it. Once that skein is done and I know my final yardage, I'll have to figure out what fun thing I can knit with this very colorful yarn!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Is It the Weekend Yet?

What a week it has been! Work has blown up this week, with big projects all arriving at the same time and needing to be done by the same deadline. The result has been a very stressful several days, and I am very much looking forward to the weekend to recover. I've been relying a lot on my knitting to relieve some of that stress, and while I haven't made a huge amount of progress, the rhythmic, repetitive motions of making the stitches has done a lot to bring my blood pressure down. And I did manage to finish a project!


Pattern: Sandrine Slouch Hat by Katy H. Carroll
Yarn: my handspun, from Crown Mountain Farms Heinz 57 fiber in Sumer (spun in October 2011!)
Needles: US 2 (2.75 mm) and US 3 (3.25 mm)
Started/Completed: January 18/January 25
Mods: none

This was a fun knit, and it went a lot faster than I was expecting (really the slowest part was the ribbing on the brim). I really like the cables, especially the way they're cleverly decreased for the crown. The pattern is very well written, and I'll definitely be looking at the other patterns in Katy's Virescent Collection in the future. I've still got a little less than half of the yarn leftover, so I'm thinking of making another hat in a smaller size (I knit the largest size for me).

I've spent the last couple of evenings working on my Evenlight, which seems to be growing more slowly now that I've moved on to the body. I've got about 4 inches knit under the underarms at this point; I need to get to 14 inches before I start the bottom ribbing.


I've reached that point in the project where I'm starting to worry I'll run out of yarn, even though I should have more than 100 yards extra according to the pattern's yarn specifications. I'm not panicking, because I can get another skein, but I'd prefer not to. Fingers crossed!

Tonight I should be finishing up one project that's been on the needles (one you haven't seen because it has to remain a secret for now), so that will leave me with just the sweater as an active WIP. That means it's time to cast on something new! For starters, I'll be casting on for the socks for my father-in-law -- plain black ribbed socks (to be knitted only in sufficient daylight, presumably). Those will be my lunchtime knitting for the foreseeable future. In addition, I'm going to knit another Zeccola Cowl for myself as part of the knitalong! I haven't yet settled on my colors just yet, but I know it's going to be two of these skeins from my recent Knit Picks order:


Originally I was thinking of using either the two greens or the two blues, but now I'm thinking the dark blue and the light green. I still might change my mind. For this iteration, I'm just going to use two colors and do the stranded sections pretty much continuously (so no big one-color sections between the stranded sections). There's still time to join the knitalong if you're interested, and there's still a few days left on the introductory discount on the pattern!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Pattern Release: Zeccola Cowl

You've seen the sample for this pattern a number of times as I worked on it back in December, but here, finally, is the finished piece. This is the Zeccola Cowl.


This cowl is an entirely seamless piece. It's knit in the round, starting with a provisional cast on, and when you're done, you graft the beginning and end together to form a continuous tube. This both makes the knitting easier and neater (because the wrong side of the colorwork and all the ends are hidden on the inside) and makes the finished piece extra cozy, as you end up with a double thickness of fabric.

The yarn I used for the sample is Frabjous Fibers' Wonderland Yarns line, specifically their Mad Hatter Mini Skein Packs. I picked two gradients: a neutral (#20 Dormouse) and a bright gradient (#31 Fuchsia to Turquoise). As you can see, the sections alternate between neutral and color, transitioning from the darkest to the lightest neutral and from the lightest to the darkest color. Each time a new color is joined, there's a stranded colorwork section.


As far as knitting skills go, I'd say this is a fairly easy knit. All you need to know how to do to knit this cowl is a provisional cast on, stranded colorwork with two colors, and Kitchener stitch to graft the ends together. The stranded pattern is the same every time, and it becomes fairly intuitive after a couple of repeats.

While I designed the pattern with the specific yarn in mind, it lends itself customization. In fact, I've included an extensive customization section in the pattern to help you adapt the pattern to just about any yarn you want to use and just about any number of colors.

If you think you might want to cast on right away, then I'd like to invite you to join us in my Ravelry group for a knitalong! We'll be knitting our cowls together for the next six weeks or so, and there will be prizes available for those who finish. We'll be around to help with color selection, customization, and any other questions you might have. I hope you'll join us!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Distracted

I am supposed to be spinning my gradient right now. You'd think I'd want to be, as it's my favorite fiber to spin, Polwarth. But I am not. Why? I've been distracted by bright green fiber. I suppose it's a reaction to winter and its darkness and lack of color, but really, can you blame me?


This was taken yesterday, as I worked on spinning the second bobbin of these singles (FatCatKnits Falkland, in case you were wondering). We did get hit by the giant snowstorm, though fortunately we were at the tail end of it and only got about six inches. That was enough to make the roads very messy, so we laid low at home and let the crews plow and salt before we ventured out. It was good to have the excuse to sit behind my wheel for a while.


Even in terrible light, the greens in this fiber seem to glow! I've moved on to the third and final bobbin, which I hope to finish up tomorrow evening. Then I suppose I'll go back to the long slog that my gradient spin has become -- as least until it's time to ply these singles.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Back to Sweater Knitting

As soon as I mentioned working on my sweater the other night, it seemed to light a fire under me. I've spent the last two evenings working on it, and I'll probably do so tonight as well. When I put it away last night, I'd just finished the raglan increases and started the round where I'll put the sleeve stitches on waste yarn. I'm very happy about that, because those rounds were getting long (each one was taking me about 15 minutes)! That's the tricky part about top-down raglans -- they seem so fast at first because you're only working on a relatively small number of stitches, but when you're increasing your stitch count by eight every other round, the piece starts to get big very quickly.

I call this composition "Gray Sweater Blob on Gray Duvet in Horrible Lighting"

This doesn't look all that much like a sweater at the moment because all those stitches are bunched up on a 32 in. circular needle, but once I've separated the sleeves from the body, I should get a much better idea of what it will look like. I suspect the body will move along a bit faster than the yoke because I won't have to worry about increasing every other round. I must admit that I haven't yet read through the rest of the pattern, so I don't know if there's waist shaping at all, but even if there is, it's likely to be minimal.

It looks like we're going to be pretty lucky and most of the big winter storm that's coming is going to miss us (I've heard estimates of 1-3 in. and 3-6 in. total), but it still looks like it will be another good weekend to curl up with my knitting. Assuming the roads aren't too bad, the Mister is planning to take Rainbow skiing on Saturday, which means I'll have the whole day to knit, spin, and basically do whatever I want (I suspect I'll have to do some adulting in the form of laundry and cleaning the house, but I'll try to keep that to a minimum). I will say that while I'm sick of winter -- the cold, the snow, the lack of light -- I do rather enjoy being forced to stay inside with my wool. People look at you kind of funny when you want to do it in the middle of the summer, but it seems totally logical and normal this time of year.

If you're in the path of the storm, I hope you stay safe and have plenty of food and wool for the duration!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

All According to Plan

It's Tuesday, and I was finally back at work today after an unexpected five-day weekend. I hardly left the house the whole time -- just once on Sunday to do the grocery shopping and once yesterday to fill up my gas tank and put some air in my tires. It was the kind of weekend where I really didn't want to get out of my comfy clothes and go out into the cold, and, fortunately, I didn't really have to. I slept in, when possible; did some reading; and did a fair amount of knitting and spinning.

The spinning you saw on Sunday, and it hasn't progressed any since then, but the knitting is all new. For one thing, I cast on a hat for Rainbow and had it done in a couple of days. It might look a little familiar:


This is my own pattern again, albeit in a smaller size. I reversed the colors for hers, and I will likely still add a pompom (there is still plenty of yarn leftover, even after knitting two hats -- just another reason why I love this yarn!). Now that the two hats have been blocked, I can take some final measurements and do the needed calculations to finish up the pattern. With any luck, I'll be able to squeeze a photo shoot in next weekend and I'll have all the pieces I need to get it laid out and sent to the tech editor!

I cast on for a new hat yesterday, this one for me (though I expect it won't be worn for a while given that we're in a bit of a cold snap and it'll be a bit light for this weather). Part of my effort to knit down my stash includes my ever-growing stash of handspun, so I thought it would be great to participated in the 90% Knitting handspun knitalong. I pulled out a skein of Crown Mountain Farms Heinz 57 that I spun years ago (I don't remember exactly when, but the fiber was from an October 2011 club shipment). I'm using it to knit a Sandrine Slouch Hat, and while it's not a really fast knit, it is working up very nicely -- certainly nicer than this photo would have you believe.


I have not touched my sweater in probably more than a week, but I'm going to give it some attention soon. I spent most of the weekend wrapped up in an oversized sweater that's now in the laundry pile, so I could really use another one!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Spinning Variety

I have been dutifully spinning away on my Gradient-along project, though spinning fine singles means that even after hours at the wheel, it looks like little progress has been made. Still, I'm moving forward. I'm now well into the pink section of this braid, and purple (the final color in this braid) isn't far off.

It's not nearly so electric as it looks; gloom necessitates a flash.
This is such a big project that I decided I needed a little diversion. I've had a braid sitting next to my wheel for several months now -- I'd originally hoped to spin it during last year's Tour de Fleece, but I never got to it -- and I decided now was finally the time to spin it. This was a day's end braid of Falkland from FatCatKnits (meaning it used up the dye at the end of a day's dyeing) called Xavier. Here's what it looked like to start (it's the braid on the far right):


I decided to spin this a little differently, so I split the fiber up into lights (greens and blues) and darks (dark purples). Then I split each pile of fiber into thirds:


The idea is to spin a three-ply yarn of each and then use the two skeins in some sort of stranded colorwork project. I started with the lights, as that's the bigger portion of the fiber, and I got the first third spun up today (trust me it looks much better with real light):


It didn't take too long to spin, so this will be a nice break in between spinning sessions on the other project. And these bright greens and blues are so welcome on a gloomy winter day!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Surprise FOs

Sometimes you get some unexpected extra knitting time, even if it's not for a great reason. I was home today with a sick kid (and it looks like we'll do it again tomorrow), so I spent nearly all day sitting in bed, watching horrible kids' TV shows, and knitting. As a result, I managed to finish not one but two projects!


Pattern: my plain-vanilla sock recipe worked over 70 stitches
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino, 20% nylon) in After the Harvest (Brights), one skein
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) 40" Addi Sock Rockets
Started/Completed: December 29/January 14

I am quickly amassing quite a collection of striped socks, many of them knit from Lisa's yarn (and I have another skein in the stash, too!). These socks might look like they match, but they're actually just a slight bit different. The second sock (the one on the left in the photo) was started one stripe earlier in the sequence, and you see it if you look closely. I didn't really intend for that to happen, as I wasn't planning to obsess about having matching socks, but it's a nice bonus.

As soon as the last ends were woven in on the second sock, I picked up the colorwork hat to finish off the last of the crown decreases. I'm quite pleased with this one.


I weighed my leftovers and it looks like I will have more than enough for a coordinating hat for Rainbow (switching the order of the colors) plus pompoms, if I choose to add them. I still need to block this hat, and I'm looking forward to that because this yarn gets so lovely and soft and plush when you wash it. Rainbow is already asking when I will knit hers, so I will likely cast on tomorrow (during another day watching bad TV, no doubt).

I did get away from bed for a few minutes to wind some more yarn today, and some of it is already on the needles.


On the left is some handspun (Heinz 57 wool from the now-defunct Crown Mountain Farms fiber club) and on the right is some very well marinated Socks That Rock Lightweight -- so well marinated, in fact, that it's in the old put-up. The handspun is destined to be a Sandrine Slouch, while the STR is already being knit into a new pair of socks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

All Shades of Gray

The title of this post would be easy to apply to much of life right now. We're in my least favorite time of year, when it's cold and dark and there's hardly any color to be seen. That might explain why I've been knitting really bright socks (and I'm nearly done with the pair!). You've seen these before -- these are just my basic top-down stockinette sock in Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in After the Harvest (Brights). I hope to have these finished before the week is out.


Also on the needles is the sweater I finally cast on for over the weekend, Jennifer Dassau's Evenlight in -- quite fittingly -- Deep Unrelenting Gray.


It took me a bit of time to get a handle on this pattern, as the stitch patterns on the body and sleeves are different and the sweater starts by being worked flat and transitions to being worked in the round. But now that I know what I'm doing, it's moving along at a good clip, which I suppose is at least partly because I'm working on size 8 (5.0 mm) needles. Considering most of the sweaters I knit have been worked on needles in the US 4 to US 6 (3.5 mm to 4.0 mm) range, these feel positively enormous and the fabric really grows visibly from row to row. I am knitting a size that will give me almost three inches of positive ease, so assuming it comes out as it should, it should be a sweatshirt-like sweater -- roomy and cozy and generally something you want to lounge around in. That is just the sort of garment I need at this time of year.

There's a third project on the needles that you have not seen yet, though I believe I did mention it last week. This is a hat to coordinate with the colorwork cowl I finished at the beginning of the year. I've finished the stranded portion, so now I just have to figure out how much additional length I want before I start the crown decreases.


Now remember when I was talking about my goals and intentions for the year and I said that I wasn't planning on buying yarn unless it was absolutely necessary? Well I may have had a little slip-up, though it started with the best of intentions. Back in December, when I was handing out my hand-knit gifts for the whole family, I gave my father and father-in-law IOU's saying I'd knit them socks in their choice of color and pattern. My in-laws were at our house over the weekend to babysit Rainbow, so my father-in-law took the opportunity to place his order, as it were. He wants black socks. (I know -- what I wanted least to hear. Actually, first he said he wanted "black with a white pattern," but I didn't think he'd really want stranded socks, so I convinced him to go with all black.) Then I checked with my father, and he asked for dark brown -- really only marginally better. I know these guys are both pretty much no frills, no special treatment type of guys, so I had planned to order some Knit Picks Stroll for their socks because I knew I could get lots of colors and plenty of yardage without breaking the bank. When I went online to order, I discovered that Stroll is on sale, so when I put the four skeins I needed for the socks in my basket, I realized that the total was not as much as I was anticipating -- and that meant some more shopping to get my cart to $50 and free shipping. So four additional skeins of sock yarn are on their way to me as well now (I figure I can always use them for shawls or designs or something). Please, don't judge. I tried to be strong and I failed. I'll do better next time.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Splendour in the Wool

This skein was finished last weekend, but the lack of daylight in general at this time of year and the gloomy morning weather we've had this past week have made it extremely difficult to get a decent photo of anything, so I had to wait until yesterday to get a photo that would do it justice. But here it is, finally:

Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale in Splendour

I had split the top several times vertically and then spun the strips end to end. Once all the singles were on a bobbin, I chain plied them (after they rested a good two weeks while we were on vacation). The finished yarn is fingering weight and approximately 385 yards, which should be enough for a pair of socks for me.


I will say that this yarn is maybe a tad underplied for my taste (I tend to like a lot of plying twist in my sock yarns), but the skein is balanced and that means less fighting with the yarn when I do eventually knit it up.

Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of what will likely be a long-term spinning project. This is my Polwarth gradient for the Gradient-along. I've just started seeing a bit of the second color show up on the bobbin.


I haven't taken a close look at the fiber that is left of this first braid, but I'm guessing I'm probably in the neighborhood of a fourth of the way through it. I have 8 oz. total to spin, and given how fine I'm spinning the singles, that's not going to be an easy task, so expect to see bobbin shots of this project for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

January Doldrums

Last night I made it to knit night -- an unusual occurrence lately because the Mister seems always to have work events on Wednesday nights (and usually only Wednesday nights that are knit nights). I took the opportunity to knit a second swatch for my sweater (the first attempt was unsuccessful), this time with a size 8 needle -- a truly huge needle size for me. I washed the swatch when I got home and left it to dry on the radiator overnight, so we'll see if my gauge is closer this time. It would be nice to be able to cast on for the sweater soon, especially before the urge to knit it goes away!

Most of my knitting the past two days has consisted of my striped socks, and as a result, I am nearly finished with the first one. Here's where I was at the end of my lunch break yesterday:


I should be able to at least start the toe today, and perhaps I can finish up the first sock this evening.

I also cast on for a new hat on Tuesday evening, though I don't have a photos of it just yet -- just as well, as it's not much more than a ribbed brim at this point. I'm using the same stranded colorwork pattern that I used for the cowl, but the hat will have only two colors (so I'll start with one and finish with the other). I'm using two colors of one of my favorite yarns, Yarn Hollow Tor DK, that I rescued from the orphan bin at my LYS late in the summer. As I did with the initial samples for Schmur, I'll be knitting two hats, one for me and one for Rainbow, and reversing the colors.

Because I seem to have a dearth of knitting to show you, will you settle for some pictures of stuff that came in the mail while we were gone?

First was a package from Ravelry. If you read the main boards regularly, then you will have likely seen the thread about the items for the shop with an unfortunate typo (a letter was missing in one word). These items were offered for a discount because of the error, and I promptly ordered a tote bag and a T-shirt. They arrived while we were gone and were picked up by our neighbor so they wouldn't wander off before we could get back.


I haven't worn the T-shirt yet (too cold!), but I used the bag last night and love it. It opens up so that the bottom is flat, and there's even a generously sized pocket along one side.

The other package was a really delight to open. Thanks to the enabling of the Knit Girllls, I had preordered a Charlotte's Web-themed kit from Little Skein in the Big Wool. It arrived really beautifully packaged, but of course I was too excited to take a photo before I ripped it open. Here's what was inside:


There are several options for the kit, but I went with the "work from stash" option, which means my kit contained no yarn. But I got the rest of the items: a project bag, a set of stitch markers, and the pattern. (There was also a square of Ghiradelli chocolate in the box, but I quickly devoured that.) Here's a close-up of the stitch markers, which I find particularly enchanting:


My hope is to knit the pattern using handspun, but that may require me to spin the yarn first because I'm not sure I have two colors that will go well together and have enough yardage for the pattern in my stash. I am thinking of perhaps using the two coordinates from my last big SCF shipment if nothing else presents itself.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A First FO and Looking Ahead

Things are now back to normal, sadly. I'm already missing vacation, but it's also good to be back in my own bed and surrounded by my stash.

We got home at midday on Saturday, and after I unpacked everyone and got through all the mail, I managed to get over to my LYS for a bit, as I do most Saturdays. It was great to see everyone and catch up, and I also finished my colorwork cowl while I was there (not a hard thing to do, as I only had half a round to finish grafting)! Here it was fresh off the needles, with my LYS's table full of yarn as a backdrop:


It's now been blocked and is awaiting its photo shoot so I can finish up the last pieces of the pattern. With any luck, I'll be able to do all that this coming weekend so I can get it in layout and send it to my tech editor.

As it's the beginning of the new year and the time of year when a lot of people are making resolutions, I thought I'd set out a few goals and aspirations for my knitting and designing for 2016. I don't really like to make resolutions because they're usually broken within a few weeks, but goals and general themes for the year seem more reasonable and more likely to actually be accomplished. So here is what I'm thinking for the year ahead:
  • I am planning on keeping up with my designing, but I'm going to try to be a bit more reasonable about the number of patterns I hope to publish. I still can't believe that I met my goal of 17 for 2015, and I very much doubt I can do it again, so I'm setting a more reasonable goal of 12 for this year. That's one a month, and considering that two are already with third-party publishers, I'd say that's very achievable.
  • As a subset of those 12 patterns, I'm hoping to publish a collection of patterns around a particular theme. This has been an idea I've been kicking around for quite some time, and I already have some notes and ideas written down. I need to flesh out the ideas a bit more, do some swatching, and solicit some yarn support to get this moving. Ideally, I'd release this collection in the fall/early winter, so that gives me most of the year to get it done.
  • More generally, I really want to make a concerted effort to knit/spin down the stash this year. I won't even bother to try to knit or spin up my stash entirely, because I'm fairly certain that I've reached the SABLE stage, but I'd like to at least knit up yarn that I bought with specific patterns in mind years ago and that has been sitting in the stash unloved ever since. I won't say that I won't buy any yarn in the coming year (I might have to for some design purposes, for instance, and I'm still planning to go to MDSW), but I'm going to try to use stash yarn first. The same goes for my fiber stash. I have a ton of unspun fiber, including two fleeces and remnants of a third, and while it's doing a great job as insulation, there's no reason not to spin it. I'm still in one fiber club that's ongoing, but I'm going to try not to buy any more fiber until I've got the fiber stash under control.
  • I'm hoping to keep up with my blogging schedule. I've gotten into a fairly good rhythm with it and put up three posts a week (about mainly knitting on Tuesdays and Thursdays and about spinning on Sundays). While I know I'll likely adjust the schedule from time to time, keeping those regular days on my mental checklist helps me to stay accountable to myself in a sense. 
    While some of you might say it's cheating, I did bring home some new yarn from my LYS on Saturday (I'd say technically I hadn't yet stated my intention to knit down my stash, so it's kosher). This is for my first sweater of the new year, Jennifer Dassau's Evenlight, and it's Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted in the colorway Deep Unrelenting Gray (a fabulous colorway name, isn't it?).


    I swatched on Sunday night and washed it yesterday, but it looks like I'm going to need to swatch again with a larger needle, a US 8, specifically. That's several sizes larger than I usually use, so if it works, the sweater will likely fly off the needles. (Or at least I hope so -- it's been cold here and I wouldn't mind another layer!)

    Sunday, January 03, 2016

    First New Yarn

    I really missed spinning while we were away, so as soon as the necessary things (unpacking, cleaning, etc.) were done around the house after we got back yesterday afternoon, I sat down at my miniSpinner to ply of the bobbin of singles I finished just before we went away. I must have been really excited about spinning, because I managed to ply everything by the time I was ready to go to bed. That might seem like a lot of spinning, but using my miniSpinner with the WooLee Winder meant that it was actually less than about three hours' worth.

    The finished skein is currently soaking in the bathtub, but here's what it looked like freshly plied (though bear in mind that the colors are a bit muted because it's a very dreary day here and the light was not so great when I took the photos):

    On the bobbin
    Skeined on the niddy noddy
    This yarn is Corriedale from Southern Cross Fibre in a colorway called Splendour. I believe this was one of the October club colorways, and it's certainly very autumnal. I spun it into one of my "pseudo-self-striping" sock yarns, and unless it shrinks a ton in the wash (which I very much doubt), it should be plenty for a pair of socks.

    Meanwhile, while we were away, two more club shipments arrived. First was the final installment of the FatCatKnits Famous Couples for this round, in Rhett and Scarlett (I'll bet you can tell which is which):

    I ordered this round in BFL, and I'm thinking that I will do a traditional three ply with each color separately and then use the two resulting skeins for something striped or with stranded colorwork.

    Also, in a minor fiber miracle, my SCF December shipment actually showed up in December! I can't be sure exactly when, but it was here yesterday before the mail came, so it had to have arrived by New Year's Eve at the very latest.


    This should be a very interesting bit of fiber to spin: It's 80% merino and 20% rose fiber. It's soft and silky, and I think it should have good drape. The colorway David chose for me for this shipment is called Primordial.

    Before I can tackle these two new arrivals, though, I have some fiber to spin for the Gradient-along I'm hosting in the Ravelry Spinning Knitters group. The idea is to spin a gradient yarn and then knit/crochet/weave it into a project. I'm going to be spinning some Bee Mice Elf Polwarth that I bought quite a while back.


    I have a total of 8 oz., and I'll be joining them at the purples. My hope is that I'll have enough to knit a Hitofude Cardigan when I'm done.