Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Two on Tuesday

This week, the "two" refers to the two sweater WIPs, both of which are still in progress and not likely to be done anytime soon. But there has been some forward movement.

For one thing, I finished the back of the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan on Sunday evening, right down to weaving in ends from joining in new skeins (the little yarn butterflies you see are reserved for seaming).

This is decidedly the most boring piece of the sweater, so I'm glad to have it finished up. I plan to start knitting the first of the front pieces tonight. The fronts at least have cables on them, so the knitting should be a little more engaging.

Meanwhile, I've added a handful of rows to my Floozy and have finished the very fun spiky section:

Please forgive the quality of the photo, but it's the best I can do when it's as gray outside as it has been. I think you can still see the stitches, which is what's important. The way this effect is achieved is really quite ingenious, but I don't want to give away the secret sauce by telling you how it's done. It's certainly the slowest part of the colorwork, so I'm glad that it's finished.

I've actually got one more WIP on the needles as of yesterday, a second sock for a pair that was started as a pattern submission that didn't make the cut (and thus is now with my tech editor for self-publishing), but there's not much to see just yet, so I'll share when it's done.

Because my WIPs aren't terribly exciting at this point, let's talk about reading! I've finished quite a few books since I last posted about what I'm reading, but I'm just going to highlight a handful of the best.
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton: I enjoyed this but found that it seemed to go on a little longer than it needed to. I didn't see the plot twist coming, and that always makes me happy (I just hate it when I've figured out a mystery long before the answer is revealed). I gave it four stars.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: I had gotten on the wait list for this book at the library because it was one of those books that everyone seemed to be reading and talking about, and it did not disappoint. I adored this book. It's beautifully written and has amazing character development. I gave it 5 enthusiastic stars.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This was also a book with a lot of buzz, and I enjoyed it, though at times it was difficult to read. I gave it four stars.
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: I started reading this book when (no joke) I was waiting to give blood and needed a way to pass the time. It was a title that I'd heard from award and best-seller lists, and it was available from the library, so I borrowed and started it then and there. While it's hard to describe the plot of the book because the setting is so vague, the writing is simply gorgeous. Hamid has a way of making run-on sentences a thing of beauty rather than something to avoid. I gave it four stars.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: After loving Little Fires so much, I was very keen to read Ng's previous book. I enjoyed it a lot, though not as much as Little Fires. The premise of the story is a sad one, and once again Ng triumphs in her amazingly in-depth character studies. I gave it four stars.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller: I very much enjoyed this book and the imaginative way that Miller has chosen to take the stories of notable characters from Greek myth, but it didn't pull me in quite as strongly as The Song of Achilles did. I gave it four stars.
Goodreads tells me that I've read 64 books so far this year, which is just bonkers considering that my initial goal was 25 and that was a step up from last year. Three cheers for the library and ebooks!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Perfect Combination

I didn't know quite what to expect when I started my combo spin. I knew I liked the colors in the three braids I started with, but combining them was a gamble. In spite of their similarities, the blend could have come out completely muddy. Or it could come out just perfect -- and it did.

I finished plying the first skein last night, after several sessions at the wheel, and didn't go to bed until it had been skeined and washed. Of course I checked it first thing this morning to see how it had turned out, and though it needed to sit on a radiator for a few more hours to fully dry, I couldn't be happier with the results. The colors mixed up enough that no one shade completely jumps out but also didn't get muddied. Overall, there's a soft pastel-like look to it.

After I skeined it up, I was hoping I'd have about 600 yards, but I forgot that I was working with Targhee and Targhee poofs up when you wash it. So my finished yardage is in the range of 550. Still, if my second skein is in the same neighborhood, I should have plenty of yardage for a Tegna to fit me.

The second skein will be under way soon, but I'm going to take a brief break to spin up some minis. Once again this year I am doing the Fibernymph Dye Works Merry Month of Minis in fiber form. There are enough minis this year to do one a day for the entire month of December, but because we'll be away for the end of the month, I thought I'd get a head start. I'm going to try to do one a day from here on out, maybe more than that if I have extra time, so that I've got finished yarn before we leave for our trip. If you're participating and don't want to get spoiled, look away now!

Day 1 is a colorway called Chambray on Polwarth (my favorite!), and it came with a lovely little soap sample from Dusty Tree. It smells wonderful and will definitely be put into use when we use up the Dusty Tree soap we're already using.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I'm Having Too Much Fun

You might think that knitting a fingering-weight sweater on size 2 needles would be a slog. It might get to that point, but for now, it's a delight. I can't seem to put it down.

I'd estimate I'm about halfway through the colorwork yoke of my Floozy cardigan, and if I keep up this pace, I'll be on to the boring part (the single-color stockinette body) before I know it. It might just turn into a slog then, but for now I'm focusing on how much I'm enjoying it. Surprisingly, I'm not even minding the small needle size. For one thing, they feel big to me because I'm used to knitting socks on size 0 needles. But the yarn is also quite robust for something classified as fingering; I think it's really closer to a sport weight, so the fabric feels pretty substantial and, I think, will even bloom a bit with blocking. It's definitely a rustic, woolly yarn, and I can definitely see myself knitting with it more in the future for other colorwork things. It would be excellent for steeking!

The other sweater WIP is pretty much the antithesis of my sweater -- plain old stockinette. Still, it's going well.

It's getting too big for my desk!

I started the armhole shaping yesterday, so now I just need to get to about 10 inches in length above that point before I do the shoulder shaping and finish off the back piece. I've just joined in the fourth ball of yarn, making me very glad that I ordered extra skeins!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Cardigan Club

My daily decision about what to knit just got easier, because I now have a choice of two cardigans: the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan and my Floozy cardigan. Those are my only projects on my needles now because, thanks to a late (for me) night on Saturday, my Fibernymph Dye Works minis shawl is done!

It's pretty big -- you just don't get a sense of scale here -- and, more importantly, turned out as I was hoping, so now I just have to finish writing up the pattern, take some real photos, and get it off to my tech editor. I stayed up late to finish and block it so that I could take it to Indie Knit & Spin on Sunday to show to Lisa. Of course, I didn't go just to show her the shawl; some shopping occurred as well (it turns out that Rainbow is growing into quite the enabler).

Aside from the bit of show and tell, my primary reason to go to the show was to get yarn to make Rainbow a Little Boxy. I had already checked with Lisa to see if she would have some semisolid in a blue available, and so we came home with three skeins of Bounce in Peacock Blue (the three skeins in the center). After that, we went a little wild. I'd like to point out that of everything you see in this photo, only the braid of fiber from HipStrings and the two skeins of Dusty Tree Dyeworks ROOT on the far right are for me -- everything else is for Rainbow! She picked out the HipStrings Double Major (just to the left of the yarn for her sweater) for some thicker socks for her and then went gaga for the skein from Wren House Yarns on the far left. As if that weren't enough, she then won the purple skein of DK from Unplanned Peacock Studio in the raffle toward the end of the show. I guess I should take her yarn shopping more often!

Obviously there will be a lot of small person knitting in the future, but for now, the focus is on sweaters. Now that the shawl is complete, the Mister's sweater has become my lunchtime knitting, and I'm a good way into the back. It doesn't look very exciting, so I'll spare you a progress photo until something interesting happens. Working on that during the day has freed up my evenings to focus on my sweater, which finally seems to be making some progress. Last night I did my first rows using the third and final color, and I'm really pleased with how nicely the colors are playing.

The contrast isn't quite as stark as it looks here, but that's early morning November light for you. I'm glad I decided to use the contrast colors in this order because I think the medium blue really pops well against the yellow.

Knitting this sweater is so different from knitting the Mister's, namely due to the yarn. His is knit from a supersoft superwash merino, and this Blacker Classic is decided not that -- it's much more rustic and wooly. I don't really need such a sticky yarn for this pattern, but I can see that this yarn would be perfect for stranded work that is steeked -- it's not going anywhere!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Wee Preview

I am now about two and a half days post-gum surgery, and I was feeling well enough to get out of the house today! I'm still a bit sore and swollen, but that will improve as the week goes on. My energy was closer to normal today, so things are definitely improving.

For most of the past three days, I was just laying low and resting at home. The last time I had this procedure, I pretty much lost the entire day of the surgery to holding ice on my face. This time around, I knew I had to find a way to use the time to be productive. If you follow me on Instagram, then you will have already seen that I found a way to keep the ice on my face and keep my hands free. This meant that I was able to get a lot of knitting done during the day, and by the time evening rolled around, I was feeling well enough to sit at my wheel for a bit. Between that time and a bit the following morning, I finished up the third bobbin of singles for my combo spin:

Today, while Rainbow was at Sunday School and the Mister was on a run, I started plying. I didn't get very far, but at least I got a little bit of a preview of the finished yarn.

This shot is a bit deceptive, because there were a couple of color changes before this point. I've found that thus far two of the three plies have more or less matched for a while or all three plies are sort of vaguely the same shade. It does look like I should have a fair amount of striping in the finished yarn, which should make for a fun knit! I'm going to try to put in time on this skein during the week so that, with any luck, I can have it finished up by next weekend. I'm plying on my miniSpinner, and I have to say that my body is enjoying the additional rest it's giving me.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Reopening the Knitting Factory

It has just come to my attention that we are now a full week (plus one day) into the month of November -- November! -- and that some serious knitting progress needs to be made pronto. There is one project that has been lingering on the needles for too long, in my opinion, and two sweaters that I would really like to have done in a little more than a month.

Let's talk about the oldest WIP. It's a shawl design that I've been working on since September using two sets of Fibernymph Dye Works mini skeins. I know that doesn't seem like that long ago, but this is the second version of the shawl; I ripped out the first iteration when it didn't work out as I'd hoped. Furthermore, Lisa and I were talking about this design idea way back in June when we went to TNNA together, so I feel like it's been in progress since then. Fortunately, my excitement for knitting it has resurfaced, and I'm determined to put in some serious effort and get it done -- ideally within the next week or so.

The good news is that I'm past the halfway mark on this -- the orange and orange speckle yarns you see at the bottom are the fourth pair of mini skeins and I have six total pairs. The number of semisolid stripes also seems to be following a pattern: There are 10 gold and eight green stripes, so I'm expecting I'll get six orange stripes, four of the next, and two of the last semisolid color. That means not very many rows left to knit, though they are getting noticeably longer. It's not ideal for lunchtime knitting because my time to knit is limited and I frequently have to stop mid-row, but I think it will be perfect for the weekend when I can plop down and knit for a couple of hours uninterrupted.

Sweater knitting has been happening at home in the evening. I cast on for the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan last weekend and have completed about 7 inches of the back (including 3 inches of 1x1 ribbing that was as slow as molasses). After not quite getting gauge with my swatch, but getting a really nice fabric (and determining that going up in needle size to get gauge would result in fabric that was too loose for my taste), I've decided to knit a size larger at my gauge, which should result in a finished sweater that's more or less the size I originally intended to make.

As you can see from the yarn tails at the middle top of the piece, I've just joined in the second skein of yarn (or, rather, a partial skein, as I'm using up the rest of the skein that was used for the swatch). The yarn that the Mister ordered for the original size of the sweater was not quite enough for the next size up, so I was forced to place another Knit Picks order (I know, the hardship!) with three additional skeins. I felt like as long as I was ordering those three skeins I should probably fill up the box, so I added various other skeins to my cart until I had enough for free shipping and will use them for charity hats and mittens.

Last night I felt bad about focusing so much on the man sweater while ignoring my own and pulled out my Floozy cardigan, which I'd been so excited to start on the way up to Rhinebeck and then promptly forgotten about when I returned. I put several rows on it last night, and now you can properly see the second color.

Of the two sweaters, I think this will be the more challenging to finish my by self-imposed deadline of mid-December, so I won't sweat it if it's not done. The deadline is because the Mister and I are attending the Mister Rogers Cardigan Party at our local PBS station, and really his sweater is more critical, as I've made many cardigans for myself but none for him. It would be great if both of us could have new sweaters to wear to the party, but if I have to wear an older cardigan, I'll be okay.

I'm hoping to make significant progress on all of these projects this weekend, and it will be a good weekend for knitting in part because the weather is supposed to be horrible (the S-word was in the forecast!) but also because my gum surgery is tomorrow morning and I'm really not supposed to be done much of anything following that. Tomorrow I'll have to have an ice pack on my face on and off for most of the day, and I'm planning to use an ace bandage to hold it in place so I can have my hands free to knit or spin. I still have a backlog of video podcasts to catch up on, so in spite of the discomfort from the procedure I think I'll be perfectly happy.

Finally, I did want to say thank you to those who you who have purchased my To Life pattern. As of this morning, sales are in excess of $140, and I'm so excited that I'll be able to write a big check to Tree of Life in the near future. Some FOs are already popping up on Ravelry and social media, and I'm planning to knit a bunch myself once I can locate my big bag of sock yarn scraps. Also, this Sunday is the fall Indie Knit & Spin show, and Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works will be selling mini skeins along with a coupon code for the pattern for $1, with all proceeds going toward Tree of Life. If you're looking for a quick charity project to add to your holiday knitting, I hope you'll consider it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Today's the Day

It's Election Day in the United States. Normally this would not be big news, as it's not a year we vote for president, but this year it's taken on more importance. All seats in the House of Representatives and some seats in the Senate are up for election. Here in Pennsylvania, we're also voting for positions in the state legislature and governor.

I know that some people are not interested in politics and feel a bit apathetic about voting in any election that they feel isn't a "big" one. Me? I have voted in every single election I've been eligible to vote in since I turned 18, even the ones that some might consider inconsequential. The right to vote is so sacred, so special. It's something that people have literally given their lives for. In the not-so-distant past, people of color -- who legally had the right to vote -- were denied that right. Women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years (if you haven't already read it, go read Ann's post on the Mason-Dixon blog today). Voting isn't hard and doesn't take a long time; it actually took longer for the poll worker to find my card today than it took me to fill out and submit my ballot! So please, if you are a registered voter in the United States and haven't yet voted, take some time to get to the polls today.

Appropriately, I am wearing my new socks for the first time today!

Pattern: Swing Left by Megan Williams
Yarn: Little Skein in the Big Wool House Sock (90% Targhee, 10% nylon) in Swing Left, less than one skein
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm)
Started/Completed: October 18/November 2
Mods: changed heel flap and turn, modified the stitch pattern a bit

These socks were cast on in the car on the way to Rhinebeck, and my intention was the have them finished in time to wear today (so mission accomplished!). The first sock pretty much flew off the needles and was completed on the drive home; the second one took a bit longer as I was working on it primarily during my lunch break at work.

Other than using a different needle size (because I was worried that using the called-for US 1/2.25 mm would give me a gauge that wasn't too durable), I made two notable modifications to the pattern as written. First, I substituted my usual heel flap and turn for the one given in the pattern. The one in the pattern is a bit different from what I'm used to, and I knew that to do it would require me to pay close attention to the pattern; as I was knitting on the first sock while in the booth at Rhinebeck, I knew that wouldn't be a good idea. So I subbed in my usual heel so that I wouldn't have to think too hard. The second change was to the stitch pattern itself. As written, the traveling stitches are accomplished through a paired make 1 and left-leaning decrease. I did that for my first round of traveling stitches on the first sock and didn't like how it looked (I ended up with a bit of a hole from the m1), so after that I changed it to a simple two-stitch left-crossing cable. There's nothing wrong with the pattern as it is; I was just unhappy with my execution of it. Overall, the pattern is great, and the stitch pattern, while involved, is intuitive; I didn't need to refer to the pattern except occasionally after the first couple of repeats.

I do have to stop to praise the yarn a bit. I've ordered a kit from Anne at Little Skein in the Big Wool once before, but this the first time I've ordered it with yarn. Anne's House Sock is, in a word, fabulous. I knew I'd probably like it because I love Targhee as a spinner, but it exceeded my expectations. It is floofy and bouncy and elastic, and even working with a US 0 needle, my fabric is delightfully dense (read: durable) without being stiff and I was able to get away with a 66-stitch sock. My skein was also quite surprisingly overweight as well; it was supposed to 100 g but in actuality was close to 120 g. Those robust leftovers from my socks (which took about 89 g) enabled me to whip up the sample for a new pattern this weekend, one that I felt I needed to design:

Following the shooting at Tree of Life, I, like many people, felt a bit helpless. And like most knitters, I wanted to do something with yarn and needles to somehow improve the situation. So when my friend Cortney (who grew up in Pittsburgh as well) contacted me about starting an effort to knit and crochet kippot/yarmulkes for Tree of Life, I knew I not only had to participate but to design something as well. The result, modeled so nicely here by The Mister, is called To Life. It uses a very small amount of yarn -- mine used only 10 g, less than 50 yards -- making it perfect for leftovers and mini skein, and it knits up very quickly. It's constructed using a series of triangular wedges formed by short rows, and the beauty of the fact that it's all in garter stitch means that you don't have to worry about picking up wraps. I've made it available on Ravelry for $1, and I'm donating all the proceeds to Tree of Life -- I'm even going to make up the cut that PayPal takes. I know that a couple of people have told me that they wish I'd made the price a little higher, but I wanted to make it accessible to everyone (and I will add that more than one person has bought multiple copies in one transaction to make their donation a bit larger). Cortney and I have also opened a thread in the Jewish Fiberaholics group on Ravelry for those who want to knit kippot to donate to Tree of Life or a synagogue more local to them (some people have also mentioned making kippot to auction off and then donating the proceeds). If you feel like this is something you'd like to do, please feel free to join us!

Sunday, November 04, 2018

A Touch of Twist

It has been a restful weekend -- and certainly a happier one than last weekend. I had hoped to get more spinning done over the past couple of days, but after giving blood on Friday, I found I just didn't have much energy. I sat down at my wheel on Friday night as I usually do but had to call it quits after about an hour; my legs just couldn't treadle anymore. So unfortunately I don't have a finished third bobbin of singles for my combo spin as I'd hoped, but I did at least get a bit of time with my spinning.

This third colorway is very much the wild card in the combo spin, as it is more unlike the other two than they are compared to each other. It has some of the same pink/purple that the other two braids have, but it also has this light sea foam green and some tan. I'm going to try to put in some more spinning time during the week with the hope that I can finish up this last bobbin of singles and be able to ply next weekend. Next weekend, at least, there will be plenty of time for crafting: I'm having oral surgery (for the third time) on Friday morning, so there's not much I can do for the rest of the day but rest. Although that will mean having an ice pack to my face off and on all day, I'm hoping I can MacGuyver something to hold it in place and keep my hands free to knit or spin.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

New Month, New Project

In an effort to try to keep my life as "normal" as possible (though really, I'm not quite sure what qualifies as normal anymore), I started swatching for a new project last night. Someone reminded me that November is NaKniSweMo -- National Knit a Sweater Month -- and as I have a sweater to knit for the Mister, it seemed quite appropriate. Unfortunately I didn't get the entire swatch knit up last night, as it was a late night due to trick-or-treating and a Halloween party at my brother's house; I didn't sit down with yarn and needles until sometime after 9, and 10 p.m. is bedtime. Still, I've made a start and will finish tonight.

The color here is way off thanks to the extremely dark morning we're having. The yarn is Knit Picks Swish Worsted in the colorway Squirrel Heather; as you can see from the photo shown on the KP site, it's much lighter in reality:

I haven't even attempted to measure gauge yet, but I'm getting a really nice-looking fabric. Based on my experience with yarn this weight and the needle size I'm using, I should be very close. I will finish and block my swatch tonight and, with any luck, cast on officially this weekend.

This weekend we'll attempt to have a normal weekend -- Rainbow has a birthday party on Saturday afternoon and her usual Sunday School activities (they were cancelled last week). But we're also planning to attend Shabbat services, something we don't normally do without a reason. All the Jewish Federations of North America are calling it Solidarity Shabbat and encouraging people to attend to show their support for the Pittsburgh community. That link will help you to find a service near you if you'd like to attend one, and as was the case last Saturday, doors will be open and congregations will be welcoming anyone who wants to come in.