Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'm on Fire

When I started out this month with some pretty lofty goals, I had every intention of meeting them, but secretly I had my doubts. After all, I have a full-time job and a kid and a husband who travels for work, so my crafting time is the first thing to go when there are other priorities for my time. Because of that I'm pretty darn impressed with myself for how well things are going.

In addition to finishing up my sweater last week, I also completed the secret pattern sample (and blocked it, so it will be ready to be mailed off to the publication this weekend). I also finished up the Sitka Spruce hat for Rainbow's teacher on Sunday evening, and last night I cast on for the first of the mittens.

As if all that wasn't enough, I've decided to try to knit a pair of socks by the end of the month, too, in order to qualify for a knitalong (and keep me on track for the Box 'o Socks knitalong). So far, it's going very well:

This is Fibernymph Dye Works Squoosh 2.0, a superwash Corriedale/nylon blend, in Bring Me Orchids. It's a bit heftier than Lisa's other fingering weight yarns, so it's actually knitting up a bit faster -- the sock you see here was started on Friday, and I really only worked on it on Friday, a bit on Sunday night, and the past two days during my lunch break. Considering we have a long weekend coming up, I'm feeling pretty good about my chances of finishing these.

I've already got the next pair of socks lined up thanks to the purchase and arrival of this sparkly skein of Fibernymph Dye Works Bedazzled in a colorway I've been lusting over called Impressionist Spring.

Also inside the package containing this skein was a skein of bulky weight for Rainbow that Lisa included. It made the kid's day!

The only bad knitting related thing that's happened in the past several days is that my beloved DSLR seems to be dead. There was an issue with the shutter mechanism, and my dear husband took it apart and tried to fix it, but now it only works intermittently. It would likely cost as much to have it fixed as to buy a new camera, and given that the camera is older than Rainbow, a new one is probably the route I'll go. Thank goodness for camera phones -- they do the job in a pinch!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Playing Catch-up

I can tell just how much spinning I haven't been doing by how many episodes of the video podcasts I watch are waiting for me to watch them. This weekend, with the major knitting projects off the needles and time to focus on my spinning, I think I had easily half a dozen episodes to watch. Fortunately, I had the time to finally catch up. My main goal for the weekend was to finish the Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale singles that I started at the beginning of the month. That goal was achieved just a short time ago.

The fiber at the very end was all dark gray/black, but if you look closely, you can see little pops of blue and golden brown underneath. I'll be chain plying these later in the week (I figured I might as well wait a few days so that I can count the finished yarn for Stash Dash, which kicks off on Friday).

In the meantime, because I still had half of my last episode to watch when I finished the singles, I started spinning the Fibernymph Dye Works BFL I won as a prize in a knitalong in the 90% Knitting Ravelry group. This will be a two-ply yarn, perhaps fingering, but I'll wait and see once I ply.

Here's a look at the fiber:

It's drafting beautifully, and I think it will spin up very quickly.

It felt so good to spend time at my wheel after largely ignoring it for the past few weeks. I hope to continue giving it regular attention this week!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

We Have Feathers

My Quill is done, officially, but I blocked it last night and it's still rather damp (in fact, I just tossed it into the dryer for a bit to try to speed things along), so you'll have to settle for preblocked pictures.

Pattern: Quill by Evie Scott
Yarn: Miss Babs Yowza (100% superwash merino) in Indigo Bunting, a little less than three skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 6 (4.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circulars
Started/Completed: February 25/May 16
Mods: none

This is an excellent pattern -- extremely well written, easy to follow, and resulting in a very well-fitting sweater. The sweater is worked in one piece from the bottom up to the underarms, then split for the back and fronts. The shoulders are joined with a three-needle bind off and then stitches are picked up around the armscye and short-row shaping is used to shape the sleeve cap. Finally, stitches are picked up along the fronts and the neck for the super squishy collar, which also has short-row shaping around the neck.

The other special feature of this sweater that you can't really see in this photo is pockets on the front, which are created in a very clever way. Waste yarn is knit in when you knit the body and then later removed for an afterthought pocket. I've never done pockets in a sweater before, but these were so easy that it's likely I'll do them again!

While this wasn't exactly a fast knit (it would have been faster if I'd been monogamous), I wouldn't hesitate to knit it again. Based on the FOs posted in the knitalong thread in Evie's group, it looks good on everyone. I know it would look great on both my mother and my sister-in-law, so perhaps someone will get a very special present one of these days.

I'm planning another sweater knit -- this one appropriate for the summer -- but first I've got to finish off the design sample. My goal is to finish that up tonight so I can focus on the last of the knitting obligation, the teacher knits. And there will most definitely be some spinning this weekend -- I've really got to make up for lost time!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I Have a Sweater-shaped Object

Some folks on the Ravelry spinning boards have been known to refer to some antique store and estate sale spinning wheel find as "SWSOs," or spinning wheel-shaped objects -- in other words, something that looks like a spinning wheel but doesn't actually function. Well, today I have a sweater-shaped object on my hands. It looks like a sweater, but it's not quite done and thus not quite functional.

I finally finished the collar of my Quill sweater on Sunday afternoon. I won't lie: It took an inordinate amount of time to knit. It's five inches wide along the sides, which translated to 60 rows of knitting -- and that's after the short row shaping around the neck. Each row took me about 10 minutes to knit, so you can get the idea of just how long it took. That said, it was entirely worth it. As the designer put it, it feels like a big hug. I have a feeling this sweater will become my favorite once cold weather arrives again in the fall.

All that's left between me and a finished sweater is the final pocket, which I only had time to start yesterday (the first pocket was completed on Sunday evening). The pocket construction is really quite clever. You place waste yarn for the pocket placement as you're knitting the body, then remove it to uncover live stitches. The stitches on the top are worked to create a long flap, which is then joined to the bottom stitches with a three-needle bind off. Finally, you seam the sides of the pocket flap together to close it up. So easy but so brilliant, am I right?

This is the first time I've added pockets to a hand-knit sweater, and I must say that I rather like them. In hindsight, I might have made the pockets a bit wider so they'd better accommodate the width of my hand, but then again a smaller pocket will also prevent me from trying to put too much in it and keep me from stretching it out.

In addition to having the benefit of a new sweater, it'll be done before the end of the knitalong and it looks like it will use up most of the yarn, so a win for the stash as well. I'll have just three small balls of leftovers plus my swatches remaining, so really only enough to use as a stripe or two in a charity hat or as waste yarn for another project.

My pattern sample is at about the 75% mark, so that should be finished up in the next couple of days, leaving only the hat and mittens for Rainbow's teacher left to be completed. I have no concerns about getting those done, and I might even try to squeeze in a pair of socks by the end of the month (just some plain stockinette self-striping, nothing fancy, which I can do in the dark while putting Rainbow to bed, among other places). It looks like putting the pressure on has paid off this time around!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I Swear There's More

It's been another week of mostly knitting and ignoring my spinning (and thankfully that has actually paid off, as I predict you'll see in my next post), but I did squeeze in about an hour at the wheel on Friday night and yesterday afternoon, so there's just a bit more on the bobbin than there was a week ago.

Please forgive the blurry photo. Some disaster has befallen my DSLR, rendering it unusable at the moment, so I'm relying on my phone camera at the moment, and that requires my hands to be still, which almost never happens. Still, I think you can see that the color changes are really subtle, and I think this yarn should knit up in a really interesting way. I'm in the middle of my third (of four) little bundle of fiber, and I expect that I'll be able to devote some additional crafting time to this spinning project this week.

We got a special treat today on our way home from a Mother's Day brunch today. We stopped over at the Steel City Fiber Collective, where we got to pet a week-old lamb from the Ross Farm:

He was so little and so soft! Amy and Scooter Pie were there to talk about their farm, where they raise heritage and rare breed sheep. This little guy was one of the most recent additions, and it was such a nice addition to the day to get to meet him.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

And Miles to Knit Before I Sleep

My apologies to Robert Frost, whose poetry I've corrupted for the title of this post, but I do feel like I have miles and miles of garter stitch to knit. I have been diligently working on my Quill collar every evening, and progress seems to be minuscule. When I put it away last night (following the successful completion of the Penguins game), I had 14 completed garter ridges. According to my calculations, I need a total of 30 garter ridges to get to the requisite 5 inches of collar. That means I have 32 rows left to knit, and at this point each row is taking me at least 10 minutes. Eight rows a night has been a good night for me thus far, so I figure I have at least four more nights of solid knitting before the collar is finished. Assuming I can squeeze in some extra time this weekend, I can probably shorten that.

When I have not been slogging through all the garter stitch, I have been working on my commission sample, and while I can't tell you much about it, I can tell you that it's more than 50% done now. I am hopeful that it will be completely finished in another week.

The weekend ahead is looking moderately busy, but the only really solid plans we have are to head to my brother- and sister-in-law's house for Mother's Day brunch on Sunday. I am planning on using the rest of the day for me time, which I think it only appropriate. I have quite a few things to catch up on waiting for me on the DVR and obviously a lot of knitting to do.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I'm Knitting as Much (and as Fast) as I Can!

The second week of May has arrived, and I am moving right along on my projects. I almost feel like I need a giant progress chart to track all of them and to keep me from getting too stressed out, because it seems like there is too much knitting and not enough time.

That said, some progress has been made. For starters, I finished up the baby gift for Rainbow's teacher, save adding the ribbons to the ears, which will be done as soon as the hat is fully dry from its blocking.

Note: Photo taken prior to blocking

Pattern: Bunny Tail from Itty-Bitty Hats by Susan B. Anderson
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% superwash merino) in Carnation, less than one skein
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: May 1/May 3
Mods: none

What you can't see in the photo is the tiny pompom on the back. I elected to attach it just below the base of the ears so that it won't form an uncomfortable lump on the back of the head for the baby. I'll be finishing this off by sewing on some bows made of pink grosgrain ribbon.

Meanwhile, the gifts for Rainbow's other teacher (her main classroom teacher, who is retiring at the end of the year) are well under way and seem like they will be a fast enough knit that I've kind of put them aside for the time being -- they just need to be done prior to her last day of school, June 2, so I figure I don't need to panic about them until closer to the end of the month. Here's the start of the hat from the Sitka Spruce set by Tin Can Knits.

The pattern involves lots of twisted stitches, which are very easy to do once you get the hang of them. I have had a few instances where I've had to tink back, but that's mainly due to my own inattention. Every other round of the hat is knit, so I only really have to focus for half of my knitting time on this project. The mittens will likely be even faster, as they're smaller and have patterning on only the back of the hand.

You'll notice that I'm working from a hand-wound ball rather than a cake, and that's because this particular skein appeared to have been wound by drunken monkeys and just would not work on my swift. I estimate I spent between 30 and 45 minutes winding it by hand; at the time, I felt like it was wasting valuable knitting time, but on the other hand, it did save me a lot of frustration from trying to get it to work on my swift. I haven't touched the second skein yet, but I certainly hope it's more well behaved.

At some point yesterday I realized that the ending date for the Quill knitalong was quickly approaching, so I really needed to work on mine if I wanted to finish in time. I am on the collar, the very long rows of garter stitch, and I managed to get eight total rows done last night, I think. I've got to knit a total of five inches of garter at the collar (measured toward the bottom edge, as there's short-row shaping around the neck) -- that's the same amount I worked at the bottom of the body, and that took about 30 garter ridges (or 60 rows total) to achieve, so there's still quite a bit of work left to do.

This will be my evening knitting project for the foreseeable future, and it's the primary reason why I've put the teacher gifts on hold for the time being. The knitting at this point is so mindless that I can do it while doing other things, and frankly I feel it's been on the needles for long enough.

The other good news is that my sample is nearing the halfway point, so I should be able to cross it off my to-do list by the end of the month as I'd hoped. The not-so-good news is that it looks like my spinning time will be very limited this month -- but I'm sure I can make up for that this summer when Tour de Fleece time rolls around again!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Fiber Neglect

Sadly, I have hardly touched my wheel in the past week. My knitting deadlines mean that I'm spending just about every spare moment with my needles, though I did dedicate my Friday night crafting time to spinning, as I do most Friday nights.

I am continuing to work on my Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale singles, which are overall very dark. I did, however, manage to capture this little bit of lighter blue on the dark background yesterday:

I am little more than halfway done with the singles at this point, so if circumstances were different, they'd be finished soon. At this rate, though, I expect that if I manage to finish them by the end of the month I'll be happy. I'm sure once the knitting deadlines have passed, I'll make up for the lost time on my spinning!

The sun came out again today after days of gloom and rain, so I took advantage of it to snap some new handspun pictures for the Etsy shop. Here's a preview of some of the skeins:

I'm going to be adding new listings to the shop tonight, so please do take a look to see these and some other skeins!

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Pattern Rerelease: Bendixen Cowl

I'm sure this is true for many people, but I find I tend to go through phases in my knitter where I fixate on a particular technique or a particular item and make that sort of thing over and over again. In the past year or so, that has happened to me with tube cowls -- you know, those cowls that you knit as a big tube and then finish by grafting the ends together? They're lots of fun to knit, and it seems they've become a new thing for me in my designing, as I published three such cowl patterns last year alone.

My Bendixen Cowl was originally published late last year in Knit Now magazine. While I've had some good experiences working with this particular publisher, the downside is that the magazine is primarily available in the UK, so that meant that a lot of knitters (me included!) didn't have access to it. But the magazine is also wonderful in that its exclusivity period is relatively short, and I've now made it available in my Ravelry store.

Like the two tube cowl patterns I published previously, Bendixen starts with a provisional cast on -- any provisional cast on you like! You knit a bunch of stripes, then a super-easy stranded colorwork section, then some more stripes, and then finally you undo your provisional cast on and place the live stitches on a spare needle to graft the stitches on both ends of the tube together. You can carry the unused color up the inside for the stripes and make your floats as messy as you want in the colorwork section because no one will ever see the inside of this cowl! If you do your grafting neatly (and trust me, this pattern will give you a great excuse to practice your grafting and adjust your tension), it's nearly impossible to tell where the graft even is.

I worked this sample up in Debbie Bliss Rialto DK, a super squishy superwash merino with a cabled construction that provides excellent stitch definition. I used two skeins each in Ecru and Teal; you'll need about 230 yards of each color. Should you want to use a different weight of yarn or adjust the length or width of the cowl, it's very easy to adapt the pattern -- simply change the number of stripes or adjust the stitch count by a multiple of four. It's a quick knit (it only took me about a week), so if you need a last-minute Mother's Day present, it's a good option.

I may have gotten this tube cowl fixation out of my system for now -- but never say never!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Maybe a Bit Overwhelmed

Every year during the Tour de Fleece, there's a team called Hopelessly Overcommitted. I'm starting to feel like that name is appropriate for my knitting life this month. I had projects on the needles already that I was hoping to finish soon (my sweater and the shawl design), but those are ending up having to take a back seat at the moment.

First, yarn showed up late last week for a sample for a pattern with a third-party publisher, so I'm scrambling to get that done by the end of the month at the latest so I can send it off (the sample has to be back with the publisher by mid-June and has to cross an ocean to get there, so I want to allow plenty of time). Then, Rainbow reminded me that I said I would knit a hat for one of her teachers who just had a baby girl last week (well, technically the hat is for the baby, not the teacher, but you know what I mean). I cast on last night using some Knit Picks Swish Worsted that had long been in my stash and Susan B. Anderson's Bunny Tail pattern. This should be a quick knit -- what you see here is probably less than an hour's worth of knitting:

I've also got some other projects to finish this month, for Rainbow's other teacher, who is retiring at the end of the year. I picked up these two skeins of Malabrigo Rios in Water Green at Knitsburgh last week, intending to knit one myself and have Rainbow knit the other one. But she's decided that she'd rather I knit up both of them, so I am going to use them for the Sitka Spruce set by Tin Can Knits.

I think I can get all of this done this month, but it's going to be close -- I'm really going to need to knit in every spare minute. The baby hat will be easy enough to do on the nights when I'm on bedtime duty with Rainbow (I can knit while she's reading and then while I'm sitting with her after lights out), and the design sample is coming with me to work every day. A worsted weight hat and mittens also should be fairly quick, but I think getting them done and ready to be presented to the teacher by the last day of school (which happens to be a month from today) will likely mean ignoring my Quill sweater until they're done. At least this weekend I know I will have some dedicated knitting time, as I have some girlfriends coming over on Sunday for lunch and knitting. It's something a group of us used to do many years ago, before there were kids for several of us, so it'll be nice to catch up with everyone and make some decent knitting progress in the process.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

It Might Be My Favorite

I love most of the yarns I've spun over the years. There are some exceptions, like the surprise fibers from a fiber club years ago that I never would have picked myself, but most of the time, when I pick out fiber that I've bought, I spin it the way I want and I'm happy when it's done.

Last week, I waxed poetic about how much I loved the Southern Cross Fibre club shipment I'd just finished and how the colors were so perfectly to my taste. I also mentioned how much excess twist was in the yarn even after finishing, and I was right that after the skein was dry, it needed a run back through the wheel to relax a bit. That took very little time, thanks to my miniSpinner, and while there's still a bit more plying twist than spinning twist in the skein, it's just about perfect -- and I am absolutely smitten.

I gained very little yardage in removing the excess twist (only about two additional yards), for a total of approximately 316, so I will still have shorter socks, but really that's not much to complain about. I love this yarn so much that I would settle for ankle socks if that's all I could manage. And I really loved spinning the fiber -- so much so that when David of SCF offered up a fantastic deal on 550 g lots of several fibers, including Charollais, I jumped at it. Despite my efforts to spin down my stash, I just couldn't resist what could be a sweater quantity of fantastic fiber for the price of about two club shipments, shipping included.

Meanwhile, as I have more SCF fiber now heading my way, I figured I'd better start spinning more of what I already have, so I started working on the most recent club shipment (November 2016), Corriedale in a colorway called Space.

There's a lot of dark colors in this, with a few pops of lighter gray and blue, so I decided to spin another skein of my "pseudo-self-striping" sock yarn. I'm about a third of the way into spinning the singles at this point, and it's a pretty effortless, mindless spin.

I worked on this quite a bit yesterday afternoon, when it got incredibly dark and then rained pretty heavily, and I was thankful that my fingers can spin this singles without my eyes having to get all that involved, because dark fiber in a dark room is not a good combination. This skein might be going up in the shop when it's done, because as much as I like the colors, I'm fairly certain I already have a couple of pairs of socks in very similar color combinations.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two Big Sleeves and Some Very Tiny Hats

I am very excited to share with you that my Quill sweater now has two complete sleeves! I finished the second one last night and unfortunately did not have time to start the collar (it was my night to put Rainbow to bed, and she took longer to settle down than I had anticipated), but I did weave in all my ends from the second sleeve. I'm hoping to at least pick up stitches for the collar tonight, but I will have to see what time I get home -- I'm headed out to Knitsburgh this evening for a book reading with a local author (and knitter).

After finishing up the last charity hat (for which a pompom has been made and will be attached as soon as the hat is dry from its blocking), I needed something new for my lunchtime knitting, so I grabbed a skein of Regia Stretch Color that I picked up off the freebie table at Indie Knit and Spin in February and started some preemie hats using this pattern. The first one is already done, and I think I should be able to get at least two, maybe three, more hats out of this one 50 g skein.

I also grabbed the leftovers from my Cape Cod Socks, and I'm knitting a teeny tiny pussyhat. It's kind of mind blowing to think that a baby could be small enough to wear such a little hat, but I know it happens.

All of the preemie hats will be going with me to SSK in July, and given how fast they knit up, I anticipate having quite a pile of them once I work through a bunch of sock yarn leftovers.

The weekend ahead is going to be a busy one. I've got a haircut scheduled first thing Saturday morning, then we have the family of one of Rainbow's classmates coming over for dinner that night, and on Sunday afternoon we're headed to an arts festival at her school. It's supposed to be warm and rainy for most of the weekend, so I'm hoping I can squeeze in some decent knitting time in between all the activity. I really want to finish up my sweater!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Greetings from Sleeve Island

It turns out that when you really focus on one project, it actually does get done! As of the end of last night's knitting session, I have a sleeve and a half complete on my Quill sweater, and if I can get in a bit of extra knitting time tonight, I might just finish up the second sleeve altogether -- or at least get close to finishing.

The second sleeve has certainly gone faster than the first, likely because I knew exactly what to do the second time around with regard to the sleeve cap shaping. Unfortunately, the second sleeve cap has the same weird gapping as the first; I think I will wait and see if it's still visible after blocking (I'm hoping the yarn will bloom enough to fill in the gaps), and if it is, I'll do a little creative crochet on the inside.

There's still a good bit of knitting left to do once the sleeves are complete, namely the garter stitch collar. The collar has a number of short rows to give it a shawl collar shape, but once those are complete the knitting should be relatively mindless. The final step is the pockets, but compared to the rest of the sweater, they'll be a piece of cake.

The amount of time I've been focused on the sweater has, sadly, been to the detriment of my shawl design. I'd really hoped to have it done by now, but the truth is that I haven't touched it in probably more than a week. It will be my primary focus once the sweater is done, and I hope that making it my main project at home will help to get it finished up quickly -- especially because I will need to knit another sample in commercial yarn once the handspun sample is finished!

What has been making noticeable progress is my charity hat, which I just about finished up during my lunch break today (it just needs a pompom to be truly completed).

I used the basic hat pattern from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, though I subbed 2x2 ribbing for the brim (she calls for 1x1, and I knew that would take me forever and a day, so I opted for something faster). The yarn was among the oldest in my stash, bought at Pittsburgh Knit and Bead shortly before they closed more than a decade ago. It felt really good to use it up finally, and while the hat is a bit too busy for me, I have a feeling someone will love it. It's going in the donation pile for SSK, unless Rainbow happens to claim it first.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Almost Like It Was Dyed for Me

If I had asked David of Southern Cross Fibre to dye a batch of spinning fiber just for me, based on my favorite colors, he couldn't have done any better than the fiber that became the yarn I finished plying earlier today. It had beautiful shades of my two favorite colors, blue and green, along with some deep blue-purple. It is exactly what I would have picked if I had my choice. It's one of many reasons why I have so enjoyed being in David's club -- he always seems to know which colorway you would like best.

To back up a bit, the fiber I spun for this yarn was Charollais, which was new to me. It felt rough and a bit harsh when I first pulled it out of the bag, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I truly enjoyed spinning it. It had a spongy texture to it and drafted easily, and I actually experimented with a bit of a woolen draft while spinning the singles. There's really no luster to the yarn, but the fiber really took the dye beautifully. I spun a three-ply fingering, splitting the original length of top into thirds widthwise and then dividing each section into fourth lengthwise. My goal was to distribute the colors as much as possible throughout the skein so that I wouldn't wind up with tiny bits of the bright green amid large areas of dark blue and blue-purple. I was surprised while plying, however at how often it seemed like two of the plies were the same color, and the effect was rather like a subtle gradient on the bobbin.

I finished plying late enough in the afternoon that I won't have a finished shot until tomorrow at the earliest (the skein is still drying from its bath), but here is a beauty shot on my niddy noddy:

I did my usual tight ply on this yarn, but I may have gone a little overboard, because even after washing and snapping to distribute the twist, the skein is still twisting up on itself and the yarn is corkscrewing a bit. Here's a (poorly lit) shot of it drying in the shower just a little bit ago:

I'll see how it looks in the morning and may ball it up and run it quickly back through the wheel to remove some excess twist, but then again extra twist never hurt anyone when knitting socks. I guess I'll have to see how much the skein shrank and get an estimate of my yardage first; my initial guess is somewhere in the 320 yard range, which isn't a whole lot for my big feet.

In the meantime, I got a very preliminary start on my next spin, some SCF Corriedale in the colorway Space. I'm spinning sock yarn again, so there will be plenty of time to see it in the coming weeks!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The End of One Slog

A simple stockinette item worked in the round really should not take a month and a half to knit, but I guess that's what happens when you knit a big slouchy hat in fingering weight yarn.

Pattern: Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure
Yarn: Trekking XXL (75% superwash wool, 25% nylon) in color 143, approximately three-quarters of a skein
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm) and US 2 (2.75 mm) Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: March 7/April 19
Mods: None

I was definitely late to the party on this pattern. It was very popular nearly a decade ago, and there are close to 14,000 projects on Ravelry. I guess I've just never wanted to "waste" a pretty skein of fingering weight yarn on a hat when I could use it for socks or a shawl. This yarn, however, was completely free -- I picked it up off the freebie table at Indie Knit and Spin back in February. These colors are not at all me, so I knew I wouldn't be tempted to use it for socks for myself, but I thought it would be perfect for charity knitting (and frankly that's the only reason I allowed myself to pick it up).

The pattern itself is super easy and straightforward, and other than remembering when to knit and when to purl for the ribbed brim, it's an entirely mindless knit. The only reason it took as long as it did was because I worked on it pretty much exclusively while putting Rainbow to bed until the past few days. The Mister and I trade off bedtime duty, so that meant I was, at most, working just a handful of rounds every other night. I probably would have devoted more concentrated time on it had I not had several other projects in the rotation as well, so perhaps calling it a slog is a bit of a misnomer. I wouldn't hesitate to knit the pattern again, particularly if I feel like using up some fingering weight yarn. Even with the self-patterning yarn, I don't think it's too busy, and it would be easy to enough to combine several partial skeins for some crazy stripes or color blocks.

I have not blocked the hat yet, but it will be getting a bath very soon and then will go into the donation pile that I'll be taking to SSK this summer. And because only having two current projects on the needles clearly isn't enough, I've started another charity hat to use up some extremely deep stash yarn (it was purchased more than a decade ago at a store that was closing, and it appears I never even entered it into my Ravelry stash).

This is Regia 6-fadig Crazy Color, which is now discontinued. I've tried to knit it several times but never been successful, so I'm sticking with something really easy this time around. I am following the Basic Hat Pattern from Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, so provided I can finish it before the end of the month, it will count both toward the SSK knitalong (because Ann Budd is one of this year's teachers) and for the charity knitalong. And it will be two more skeins busted from the stash!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Handspun Petals and Back on Sleeve Island

Over the course of the past week, I've felt a little bit like I've been juggling, what with all the projects I had on the needles at once. Usually I have only two or three, but I think toward the end of last week, I had four knitting projects plus spinning. Fortunately, I've reduced that number by one.

I cast on for Zuzu's Petals for the Knitsburgh Yarn Shop knitalong last Thursday evening and had the stockinette portion done by the time I was ready to turn in for the night. It took me just a bit of knitting time the following three evenings to finish it up, and I blocked it last night.

Photo taken by Rainbow

Pattern: Zuzu's Petals by Carina Spencer
Yarn: my handspun (Frabjous Fibers merino/sparkle blend in Trapeze)
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) 24 in. Addi Turbo circ
Started/Completed: April 13/April 16
Mods: none

This was a fast and satisfying knit, and it felt wonderful to be knitting with my own handspun again. I think that perhaps I did not choose the best skein, as I think some of the barberpoling of the yarn is obscuring the lace a bit, but it still worked well in general. I especially like the very first part of the cowl, in the stockinette section, where the colors transitioned rather like a sunrise.

While I was knitting the cowl, I was a bit skeptical that the neck opening was going to be wide enough to get my head through, but it ended up okay after blocking. Blocking was a bit difficult, I'll admit, and I think I'll likely need to steam the top edge to get rid of some inadvertent points, but the wonderful thing about blocking is that it's not permanent. I think the job I did was perfectly satisfactory.

The other project taking my time over the weekend was my handspun shawl, which has finally moved into the two-color portion. I'll just give you a peek for now -- I want to wait until I've worked everything out before I do a big reveal (plus there will still be a commercial yarn sample to knit before I can even think about sending it out to my tech editor).

My main focus for the week, I've decided, is working on the sleeves of my Quill sweater. I've ignored it too much in the past week or so, and if I want to finish it up at some point in the near future, I've really got to buckle down and focus on getting it done.

Photo by Rainbow; believe it or not, this was the best one she took.

The first sleeve is about at the elbow, and I've got four more sets of decreases to go. I'm getting a bit faster at switching out my skeins, too, and I've already decided that I'll break off one skein when it comes time to knit the cuff. The rounds are getting smaller at this point, but I still think I'll be marooned on "Sleeve Island" for a while yet.

I completely forgot to share some happy mail last week -- I won a prize in the Cape Cod Socks KAL on Ravelry! Aren't these mini skeins just so much fun?

These are from Sonnet of the Moon, and they're a fingering weight superwash merino/nylon. I've got a total of 275 yards, and I think these would look great in a colorwork hat or cowl or something as the contrast to a neutral color.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nothing at All Like That Scottish Play

I've been reminded a bit of Macbeth this week as I've been working on my latest spin, though it has everything to do with the name of the fiber's colorway -- Boil and Bubble -- and nothing to do with the fiber or the project. Quite frankly, it's been the complete opposite of my experience with The Scottish play -- every minute has been delightful! The first bobbin was finished up Friday afternoon, when I got to leave work early for the holiday weekend and found myself home alone (Rainbow had the day off from school, so she went to my in-laws' to sleep over).

Try as I might, I just cannot get my camera to capture the real depth of these colors. It's almost like David was inside my head when he selected these colors for me, because I can't think of any other combination I would be more drawn to. I've also been very pleasantly surprised by the fiber. It felt rough when I first pulled it out the bag, but it feels absolutely lovely to spin. It reminds me a little of Targhee, in that it's somewhat spongy, and it's got a very matte finish to it. I am spinning my default singles, which usually result in a three-ply fingering weight, but I have no idea how the fiber will change when I wash the finished skein.

Because the fiber contains only about three colors (with areas of blending), I have been splitting the top prior to spinning each bobbin. I split the original length of top in thirds widthwise, but now I'm taking each section and splitting each in half and then splitting each half in half again, which gives me four little bundles of fiber to spin per bobbin. I figure this will help to distribute the colors a bit.

Now here's the part where I must admit that more fiber entered the house this past week -- but I have to say that I feel zero guilt about it. A couple of weeks ago, Ginny of FatCatKnits posted in her Ravelry group that business hasn't been so good lately. Thus far this year, I'd been good about deleting the shop e-mails she's sent out without buying anything, but that post was all the motivation I needed to place an order. On Wednesday, after an extremely long and stressful day at work (9.5 hours with no break!), I came home to find this waiting for me:

This is, from left, 5 oz. of Rambouillet/silk in Little Sister,  4 oz. of Panda Sparkle (superwash merino/bamboo/nylon sparkle) in Algae Bloom, and 4 oz. of superwash Targhee in a new colorway called Eloise. I really should put these braids in with the rest of the fiber stash, but it's made me so happy to look at them and occasionally pet or squish them that they're still sitting in my bedroom.

In an effort to make more room in my stash for fiber and handspun, this week I finally took the plunge and opened up an Etsy shop! There are about 15 listings up now, but I'll be adding more soon once I did out the Big Box 'o Handspun from the basement. You can find me on Etsy at Fluvial Fibers.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I Need a Knitting Vacation

Is it really only Thursday? It's been a very long, very busy week. On Monday and Tuesday, we had late nights due to Passover seders. Yesterday, under the stress of a crazy work deadline, I worked through lunch (so no knitting break for me) and stayed at the office an hour later than usual. All this is a way of saying that I haven't had very much time for yarn this week, and frankly it's making me grumpy.

What knitting I have managed to accomplish this week has been on the sleeve of my Quill sweater. I finally finished up the short rows and have moved on to the sleeve, which is just about to my elbow. It would be moving a lot faster were I not alternating skeins -- I'm switching every round, to keep the beginning of the round neat, but that means a lot of moving of skeins to avoid tangling at the beginning of each round.

The shawl that I have been working on during my lunch breaks (when I get them, haha), is slowly growing. Though it doesn't look much different, there are definitely a lot more stitches on the needle (at this point, it's around 250) and they are getting crowded enough that I can't fully stretch out the shawl to get a sense of its size. I've got to weigh the skein of Corriedale to get a sense for how much I've used up, but I think I'm getting close to being ready to join the other color and start working the design.

The weather forecast for the weekend ahead is looking rather gloomy and rainy, but I'm thinking of that as the perfect opportunity to work on these projects and perhaps start a couple of new ones. For one thing, I need to cast on my Zuzu's Petals, the current KAL pattern for Knitsburgh Yarn Shop. I dug deep into the stash and pulled out this merino/sparkle that I spun back in the fall of 2013, originally intending to make something with it for Rainbow. It's been sitting in a ball ever since, so I'm claiming it for me.

The other thing I need to cast on is a baby hat for one of Rainbow's teachers, who is expecting a little girl next month. Rainbow has been taking in her knitting to school to show it off, and this teacher was so impressed that of course I felt I had to knit a little something. I've picked out the I Heart Cables hat pattern, and I'm using some of the pink Knit Picks Swish that Rainbow had set aside for her first piece of knitting but hasn't used (and likely won't). The teacher is on maternity leave as of tomorrow, so I really should have started this hat a long time ago, but I'm assuming that the school will be able to get it to her once it's done.

Do you have any big plans for the weekend?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Just in Time for a Warm-up

It seems that the key to getting the weather to finally feel like spring was to finish a new pair of socks! I wore them today anyway, because my feet are almost always cold, especially in my office.

Pattern: my basic vanilla sock, worked over 70 stitches
Yarn: ONline Supersocke 4-fach Season Color, color 2077, 0.84 skeins
Needles: 40 in. US 0 (2.0 mm) Knitter's Pride Karbonz, magic loop
Started/Completed: March 24/April 9

I think I did a pretty good job of getting the patterning to match up on both socks, though obviously with the machine printing, some of it isn't exact. There isn't too much to say about these, as they're just plain socks, but they are my fourth completed pair for the year and the first time I've knit with ONline sock yarn in probably close to a decade. As with most yarns of this type, I found this yarn not the softest to work with, but I know that these socks are going to wear like iron. And certainly the self-patterning made it fun to knit.

I am holding off on casting on a new pair for the time being because there are enough other projects on the needles. My lunchtime knitting is now the handspun crescent shawl, which is still just all cream. I'm hoping soon I will be ready to incorporate color. But I'm already thinking ahead to its being complete, as I picked up yarn over the weekend for the commercial yarn sample for this shawl (buying yarn for a design is kosher under the rules of the yarn diet, don't you think?):

This is Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering, a gorgeous superwash merino singles yarn with a generous 475 yards per skein. The colors I picked are Lauraville (the gray) and Station North (the deep red). I'm fairly certain that I'm going to use the gray for the main color and the red for the contrast, but I may change my mind before I actually go to cast on.

Meanwhile, I'm still chugging away on my Quill, and I got to a key point over the weekend. I finished all the parts of the body and joined the shoulders, and on Sunday evening, I picked up for the sleeves and started the short rows to shape the sleeve cap.

It's a bit hard to see, given the needles going everywhere, but it's moving right along, and I think once I get past the short rows, the sleeve is going to fly. The sleeves are stockinette with a garter cuff, and once they're done, all that will remain on the sweater is the big, squishy garter collar. I've heard that part might take a while, but at least I am now free from the charts.

I'm also still working on the self-patterning yarn Sockhead, but it doesn't look too different from the last time you saw it. It makes for good knitting in the dark when I'm putting Rainbow to bed.

I did not get as much reading done this weekend as I'd hoped to thanks to a lot of Passover preparations, but I'm more than 100 pages into The Underground Railroad (which, incidentally, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction yesterday) and am enjoying it. Somehow I managed to order the large print edition when I bought it on Amazon, so I laugh a little when I take out at night, but truth be told, my eyes are a bit thankful for the larger font after a long day of reading at work.