Thursday, August 15, 2019

Complete 180

Despite a similarly crazy schedule to last week, that knitting ennui has been replaced this week by a desire to start All The Projects. I guess fall (aka Prime Knitting Season) must be just around the corner!

I am still working diligently on my Rhinebeck sweater and am about 8 inches into the body; I joined my second skein of yarn last night. No photo because it looks the same, just a bit bigger.

I did finish up that blanket square over the weekend, and Rainbow has declared it to be the last one, so now it's time to seam all the squares together. We took a good dig through the stash the other day and came up with this leftover partial skein of handspun sock yarn, and I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be enough.

I am just planning to crochet the squares together and not add any border, so it should be a fairly straightforward process, as least in theory. I still have to have Rainbow decide on a layout for me so I can have some semblance of a plan.

Meanwhile, I seem to have started another sock yarn blanket without noticing.

Rainbow's been wanting to expand her crochet skills (you may remember that she taught herself single and double crochet earlier this year for a school project), and I'd promised I'd teach her how to do a granny square. The easiest way to do it was to crochet one alongside her, and, well, it's addictive. I still have a big bag of Fibernymph Dye Works leftovers that I thought I'd be using in more blanket squares, and then I came across a couple more partial skeins in the dig for seaming yarn, so it looks like I'll be busy with this for a while.

Though I haven't cast on yet, I am itching to start yet another new project, this time for charity knitting. Last week I ripped out an old sweater to reclaim the (non-superwash) yarn to make some Snow Day Mittens, and I washed it and wound it into cakes so it'd be ready.

I've got roughly 830 yards of this to play with, and lots of scraps of superwash to use for the cuffs, so I should be able to make quite a few pairs of mittens.

Finally, I've got my lunchtime/on-the-go knitting, and it's socks (surprise, surprise). I'm using the yarn from the first shipment of the FDW Just Desserts club, and as the colorway was named Summer Fruit Tarte, I couldn't not use the contrasting mini skein (appropriately crust colored) to make a crust-like cuff.

It looks like I'll have a lot to keep me busy if the weather this weekend forces me indoors!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Pattern Release: Schuss Socks

Though fall is getting closer -- the days are starting to get shorter, the mornings a little cooler -- we're still in summer for a while yet. I'm not the kind of knitter who gives up working on larger projects in the summer (I'm always cold in the air conditioning anyway), but when I take my knitting out and about on warmer days, I do find that I prefer something small and light. That usually means a sock. And this summer, I've been all about the shortie/ankle socks.

When I finished Rainbow's Little Boxy earlier this year, I had a fair amount of yarn leftover, so I thought I'd use at least some of it to make her some ankle socks and use them as an excuse to try out a stitch pattern I'd been playing with. As soon as I finished them, she promptly put them on and wore them every evening until I had to steal them to wash them, so I knew they were a hit. And I knew I'd also need to reknit them for proper pattern photos and in something other than semisolid yarn so I could make sure the stitch pattern looked okay. And also so I'd have my own pair.

I have to admit that I'm rather shamelessly fond of these socks. The stitch pattern looks complicated but isn't, and something about that texture makes these so much more addictive than self-striping yarn on its own. Of course, you don't need to use self-striping yarn for these -- the stitch pattern looks nice in solid, semisolid, and variegated as well.

If you followed my progress on this second pair on Instagram, you'll know that I had a hard time coming up with a name for them. For me, naming my designs is the hardest part of the process. I had the same issue when I was a teenager and did a lot of creative writing: Coming up with a title was always the thing I struggled with most. I asked for suggestions on IG and in my Ravelry group, but nothing really struck me as the right name. I wanted something that was a little onomatopoeic, something that was fun to say as well as somewhat descriptive of the pattern itself. And then, over the weekend, it suddenly hit me.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, a schuss is a straight downhill on skis at high speed. It's sometimes also called a schussboom (isn't that a great word?), and apparently it was also the name of the first Olympics mascot. I thought it was perfect for these socks because in addition to the fact that they are a very fast knit, the stitch pattern reminds me a bit of the marks on the snow left behind by skis. Also, how awesome would it be to shout "SchussBOOM!" when you finish a pair?

These socks are essentially a heel, a foot and a toe. They use a traditional heel flap and gusset, but I've moved the gusset decreases so that they fall on the bottom of the foot and hug the heel. The stitch pattern is both written out and charted, and the pattern is graded to five sizes so you can knit these shorties for the whole family. This sample was knit using Knit Picks Felici, and though I did use two separate skeins so I could get the stripes to match on this pair, I used 49 g to fit my large feet, so if you have smaller feet, you could easily get a pair out of one skein (I'm planning to use my leftovers to make Rainbow another pair of anklets). Any fingering weight yarn will work, and to make these even faster, I've knit them up at a larger gauge than normal: 8 stitches per inch. As always, the pattern has been tech edited to ensure an easy-to-understand, error-free pattern.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Very Little Spinning

You may think from the title of this post that I have not done much spinning in the past week. That's not true -- thanks to Camp Spin 15 in 19, I got quite a bit done on my Polwarth singles. But this weekend I was a bit distracted due to the arrival of a new little spinning thing on Friday.

This is our brand-new Electric Eel Nano, which I'd backed on Kickstarter many months ago. I say "our" because this is meant to be Rainbow's wheel, but as she's still very much learning how to spin, I am spinning on it a bit first to get to know it so I can help her when she's ready to have a go. We have a total of seven bobbins (three purple, two white, and two green) as well as the power cord and a USB cord. The rolag I'm spinning was an extra goodie in my Fibernymph Dye Works fiber minis package last year, and I've been waiting for the perfect excuse to spin it. I'm not terribly concerned about how well it comes out, which gives me some freedom to play and put the wheel through its paces.

I will give a full review of this nifty little wheel once I've had more of a chance to get acquainted with it, but for now I will say that it's very light and one of the most clever features I've found yet is that there's a magnet in the body of the wheel that holds the orifice threader in place.

Thursday, August 08, 2019


I think I have hit the lull of the summer. I'm not feeling particularly excited about anything at the moment, and I think the main problem is that work has been so busy that I have very little mental or physical energy at the end of the day. That won't go on forever, thankfully, and I'm sure my enthusiasm will return eventually, so in the meantime I'll just keep on keeping on.

After spending the evenings in the early part of the week spinning, I'm back to working on my Rhinebeck sweater. I think I've knit a little more stockinette than ribbing at this point, but there's still quite a long way to go before I get to the fun part.

My sock yarn blanket square is growing, and perhaps it'll be complete by the end of the week.

Reading update: I haven't had a ton of time for reading over the past week, but I've managed to finish one (audio)book, Maisie Dobbs. I started listening to it on a run, and then I continued listening while spinning this week. I very much enjoyed it -- four stars from me. I will likely start listening to the next book in the series when I run this weekend.

I may be cheating a bit here, but I've put this book into the "About politics" square on my bingo card. The book deals with war, social class, gender roles, and mental illness -- all of those are political, right?

After hearing positive reviews from Kat and Bonny, I started reading Middlemarch. I was hopeful that my preconceived notions about it (based on a college roommate's complaints when she had to read it for a class) were wrong, but I have to say that it's rather a slog. I've always experienced some weirdness with Kindle books and the page number, but for this book, it seems to take several screens before I've read a page of the book -- and considering that the book is 500+ pages long, that really adds to the length! As I'm not reading this for a class and don't need to pay such close attention, I'm essentially skimming it, and I'm hoping that the goal of filling in a bingo card square will be good motivation to finish it.

Tonight we're taking dinner over to my brother- and sister-in-law's to spend some time with our adorable nephew, and the weekend ahead should be perfect for spending time outside. Here's hoping the summer doldrums go away soon!

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Ravel and Unravel*

It's shaping up to be a heck of a busy week. The calm of the summer at work has passed, and now I've got more work to do than time. So I look forward to my brief breaks to knit more than ever.

I finished these socks over the weekend. I had sent off the pattern to my tech editor on Friday, so I figured I should really finish the second sock so I could take pattern photos and have them ready for when she gets the edited pattern back to me. I'm happy with them but am even happier to have them done.

I am still working on my Rhinebeck sweater and it doesn't look much different, but because the socks were finished I needed a new work project. I decided to resurrect a very old project. Some longtime readers may remember that when I was pregnant with Rainbow, I started making a bunch of log cabin blanket squares with leftover scraps of fingering weight yarn, thinking that I'd have enough to have a blanket complete by the time she arrived. Unfortunately I ran out of yarn before that happened, and then she was born and I didn't have time to knit much, so the squares got put away for about a decade. But since then I've collected quite a lot of scraps and Rainbow has proven herself to be quite knitworthy, so I though it would be a good project to work on again. And for a very busy time at work, garter stitch worked flat is the perfect mindless knitting.

This was what I accomplished during my lunch break yesterday. It isn't much, but it was soothing knitting. The yarn is some leftover Fibernymph Dye Works Bedazzled in Sad Panda (self-striping, hence the color changes). It was one of the bigger balls leftover, and my plan is to knit with it until it runs out or the square is done, whichever comes first.

Meanwhile, there has been some unraveling here the past couple of days. I decided that one of the first sweaters I made wasn't really my style anymore and the yarn could be put to better use. I'm also not buying yarn from that company anymore. So I unraveled it. Here's what it looked like most of the way through the process:

I've got five skeins of various sizes that have now gotten a bath in some warm water and Soak and are drying and un-kinking a bit. I plan to use this yarn to make some Snow Day Mittens to donate, using some leftover scraps of superwash yarn for the cuffs. I'm not sure that using up yarn that was already in a sweater counts as knitting down the stash, but at least there's some more room in the sweater drawer for something I will wear!

*The title is taken from a poem of the same name by Jorie Graham, which I read years ago. It's about Penelope in the Odyssey, and how each night she unraveled the weaving she had done during the day in an effort to ward off her many suitors as she awaited the hoped-for return of Odysseus.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Weekending Done Right

This was the weekend I really needed, one I would like to have every week, to be honest, but one that I really especially needed after a busy workweek.

Friday nights we usually have Shabbat dinner at my parents', but this weekend they are away getting the new house in Florida into shape (have I mentioned that when they took Rainbow down over her spring break in March, they bought a new one?). So instead we went to a family "cookout" (it ended up being indoors due to rain) at our synagogue, and we were home on the earlier side, so we all were able to relax a bit before bed, me at my spinning wheel, Rainbow with a book, the Mister with his various electronics.

Yesterday, I went for a run first thing, before I lost my nerve and before it got too hot. I've been training all summer for the two 5K races that the Mister and I typically run in the fall at the end of September/beginning of October, and I've slowly been building up my endurance. Last week, I managed to go for 2.1 miles before I took a walk break. This week, I felt really good, so I thought I'd just keep going until I felt like I had to stop -- and I managed to make it 3.15 miles! I walked a bit and added on an additional tenth of a mile to make it an even three and a quarter, but I'm super psyched to have managed more than a 5K at this point in the year. I still have to repeat it, but I am feeling good.

After I had breakfast and cleaned up, we all walked to a local farmers market nearby (about another two miles round trip) and picked up some fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and cherries as well as a freshly baked loaf of sourdough. We had a quiet evening at home with "snacks" for dinner -- including the bread, the cherries, and the tomatoes -- and Rainbow and I made a batch of pesto with the basil we'd bought and some from our herb pot outside. It felt really good to get into bed last night, and if you need a visual representation of why, well, here you are:

My legs were tired -- and that doesn't even count all the treadling I did at my wheel yesterday! This weekend was the kickoff of Camp Spin 15, and I managed about an hour and a half both yesterday and today. I'm trying to spin up as much of the Polwarth I started during Tour de Fleece as I can, and I'd estimate I'm about halfway through the second bobbin.

When I started the project, I had two full bags of the fiber bundles plus about half a bag with the overflow. I've now got about one and a third bags, so I can tell that I'm making progress even if the bobbin seems slow to fill. Camp continues for two more days, and while I don't think I'll finish all of the singles in that time, I may just finish up this bag of fiber. My goal is to complete the singles and ply all the yarn before the end of Stash Dash -- mainly because doing that would rack up a heck of a lot of meters toward my total!

The best part of the weekend, however, was something that was expected but still a surprise: My nephew has finally been born! After getting to the hospital at about 11 Friday night and laboring all day yesterday, my sister-in-law gave birth at about 9:40 last night, and today we got to go and meet him. I know I'm rather biased, but I think he's absolutely adorable!

Rainbow is, quite obviously, in love with her cousin. She said after we'd left that she wished she could have stayed with him all day to cuddle him! I'm hoping that even though he ended up being a bigger baby (8 lbs. 9 oz.!) he'll still fit into the sweater I knit him earlier this summer. I'm planning some additional baby knits soon, and I'll likely err on side of making a larger size. The new family of three is expecting to go home on Tuesday, and we plan to take them dinner sometime this week, so you can expect more cute baby pictures in the near future!

Thursday, August 01, 2019

One, Two, Three

I'm keeping things simple today with a list:

1. One stitch (all knit)

Last night I successfully finished the ribbing on my Rhinebeck sweater, which means I'm now on to the ease of stockinette -- just knit knit knit until it's long enough. The switchover means that this project is now fully mindless and thus faster. I've also switched over to larger needles, and I've actually gone from a 40 inch circular (which was really too big for a sweater that's going to be about 38 inches in circumference) to a 32 inch circ, so things are now much more comfortable.

2. Two books read

I finished two books this week, one of which was a quick read and one that I've been reading for far too long.

The Lost Girls of Paris was a library book that I'd had a hold on for more than a month, I think, and I ended up being rather disappointed in it. For as much as it was a quick read and moderately entertaining, I was so distracted by the implausibility of the story lines that I really didn't enjoy it. I gave it two stars; if you're okay with some minor spoilers and want to know why I didn't like it, you can read my review here.

I'd been reading Dreyer's English since late April (silly me thought it would be my first bingo square covered!) and finally finished it last night. It didn't take me that long to get through it because it wasn't good or I didn't enjoy it. Rather, I kept putting it down in favor of other books (many of them library books with a due date and a waiting list) because I knew I'd get back to it eventually. This one was a good read. For those of you who may not already know this, my day job is as a copyeditor, so style, punctuation, and grammar are very pertinent to me and at heart I'm a language nerd. This was an interesting and humorous read that earned four stars from me.

When I checked on my Goodreads reading challenge after finishing these, I was surprised to see that I'm way ahead of pace to meet my goal of reading 50 books this year. I'm at 44 already!

3. Three skeins of yarn (if you include the mini skein)

Despite my self-imposed yarn diet, I have had some new skeins of yarn come into the house over the past week or so, but they're sock yarn, and sock yarn doesn't count, right?

The skein of the right is the free skein I won for participating in the Fibernymph Dye Works Monthly Makes program for the first half of the year. I got to pick the base and colorway I wanted, and I chose Cosmic on Bounce (superwash merino/nylon). Rainbow tried to steal it from me when she saw it, so I've agreed to use it to make us matching pairs of shortie/ankle socks (they are her new favorite thing -- she's been wearing the most recent pair I made her every evening since I finished them). The skeins on the left arrived yesterday, and they're the first shipment from Lisa's Just Desserts sock yarn club, which I caved and signed up for. This colorway is called Summer Fruit Tarte, and it came with a mini skein dyed to look like pie crust and a recipe for the tart itself. The yarn looks good enough to eat, don't you think?

We've got a quieter weekend planned, with the only things currently on the calendar being a cookout at our synagogue tomorrow evening and a birthday party for a friend of Rainbow's on Sunday afternoon. Rainbow and I have talked about maybe checking out the farmers market near us Saturday morning as well. We are still anxiously awaiting the arrival of our nephew; my sister-in-law's due date has come and gone, and when she went for an ultrasound yesterday, they told her that they estimate the baby is now weighing more than 9 pounds! They are headed back to the doctor today to discuss the plan going forward, and for her sake, I hope the baby comes soon!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Itching to Stitch

It has been one of Those Days. It is just after 8 o'clock in the evening, and I am finally sitting down to have some time to myself. My fingers are just itching to get to some crafting, because I did not get a lunch break today and thus did not get my midday knitting time.

The day started with an early delivery: After waiting a couple of months, my new spinning chair is finally here!

It is so cozy and comfortable -- I'm actually sitting in it sideways to type this on my laptop right now, and it's not at all awkward. It was definitely worth the long wait! I predict that this will become a favorite spot for reading as well as spinning.

I've still got the two same projects on the needles, my ankle socks and my Rhinebeck sweater. Both have seen a little attention the last few days. I finished the first of the socks Sunday evening.

Its mate has been cast on, but so far all I've got is the cuff. Meanwhile, the body of my Rhinebeck sweater has a few more rounds of ribbing on it.

I'll be very glad to finish the ribbing and move on to the stockinette portion of the body if only so I can stop knitting on this particular set of needles -- there's a spot at the join where the yarn keeps catching, and it's really slowing me down. I'm hoping I'll get to the switch-over point this evening, but first I think I need to break in my new chair with a little spinning!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Back of the Pack

Today marks the end of the Tour de Fleece, and I've accepted that I am not ending this year wearing a yellow jersey. There were just too many other things going on this year for me to spend as much time spinning as I would have liked -- and that's okay! Here is where things stand on my big spinning project:

I could probably get more on that first bobbin, but I decided to stop when it got to this point and start on bobbin number two. I'd like to have three full bobbins when I'm done with the singles, so I can squeeze a bit more on all of them if I get to this point on all three and still have some fiber. I may not have finished in time for the end of TdF, but I do want to get this project done before the end of summer (or at least the end of Stash Dash). To that end, I've got some dedicated spinning time coming up in the form of this:

Camp Spin 15 is a virtual camp being held over four days, August 3-6, and participating will give me a good excuse to work on finishing up these singles. I think if I can get all the singles done by the end of camp, I stand a good chance of getting all the plying done.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Thank Goodness It's ... Thursday?

This has been one of those weeks that seems to have gone on forever. Today I woke up thinking surely it must be Friday already. Sadly, it is not, but at least we only have one more day to go.

After all the finishing that happened over last weekend, I feel like I have been slacking a bit this week and haven't gotten a lot accomplished. Our summer schedule is more relaxed, in that Rainbow can sleep in during the week because camp starts later than school and thus can go to bed a little later, but that also results in less crafting time for me. Typically I sneak in a bit of knitting when I get to the office, before the workday officially begins, but during the summer I get into work a bit late after dropping her off at the bus to camp. Likewise, because she's going to bed a bit later, I also don't sit down in the evening until about 8:30, so my evening crafting time is diminished as well. So progress is slow but steady.

During my lunch breaks this week, I've been working on the sample socks for the new sock pattern using some Knit Picks Felici. I think I like how the stitch pattern works up in a self-striping yarn even better than in a semisolid! I've still got a ways to go, but at least with a shortie sock the knitting time is much less than a typical sock -- and I'm using larger-than-usual needles for me (US 1/2.25 mm), which is adding to the speed.

I also cast on a much bigger project last night. Can you guess what it is?

These three or so rounds of knitting, believe it or not, are the start of my Rhinebeck sweater! I spent several hours last weekend trying to get sweater math to work out for a top-down pullover, and after a lot of pulling my hair out, I realized it might be easier to just work it bottom up. So that's what I'm doing. I'm still not 100% sure how the yoke will work out, but I figure that going bottom up will at least allow me to get the easy knitting done while I work on that. I'm already behind schedule (granted, it's my own schedule), so I see no harm in getting started on what I can do now.

As it's Thursday, I think it's time for a Summer Book Bingo check-in.

I finished a book yesterday and achieved another bingo, though I think the category I put it in might be a bit of a stretch (but that's allowed as long as we make it work, right?). The book is The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, which I've forced into the category of "Epistolary." Though the whole thing isn't written in letters, one of the main character's narratives is told almost entirely in letters, so I thought that was close enough to count. It was an okay read -- pretty well written but also pretty depressing, and throughout the book I felt like there was something I was missing or not understanding that I expected to be explained in the end. There was closure of a sort in the final section, but I wasn't entirely satisfied in that I still didn't feel like I got the whole story. It was a library book, so I'm not sweating it too much. I'm now reading The Lost Girls of Paris, also from the library, and my hold came up as I was reading the last book, so I'm feeling a time crunch to get it done (especially because the library app oh so helpfully tells you how many people are waiting to read it!).

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


It was a weekend of finishing chez Knit/Wit. Like so much of the country, we were treated to an oppressive heatwave, so we spent much of it inside in the air conditioning. That proved to be a very good situation for finishing up projects, including one that was long overdue.

I'm not sunburned; I've just been photographed by a 9-year-old

Pattern: Soldotna Crop by Caitlin Hunter
Yarn: Yarn Hollow Tango (85% Polwarth, 15% silk) in Ash Gray Patina, Moroccan Blue, Smokey Rose Petal, and Eggplant, less than one skein each
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm), US 5 (3.75 mm), and US 3 (3.25 mm)
Started/Completed: June 9/July 20
Mods: added length to the body and sleeves

The knitting on this was finished late last week, but I didn't get a chance to weave in all my ends and block until Saturday. If you can't tell by the smile on my face, I'm very happy with this sweater. It's a bit of a departure for me in terms of the cropped fit, but it was a very fun project to knit and even better as a stash buster -- all four skeins of yarn I used were already in my stash!

I extended the body a bit so that the bottom edge hits right about at my belly button, and I added a handful of additional rounds to the sleeves as well (two rounds in just the light blue and then two rounds of colorwork with the dark blue to match the body. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but I actually used the dark purple for the ribbing at the bottom, mainly because it was already attached and I didn't want to add more ends to weave in; the two shades are so close that you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference without looking very closely.

I'm pleased with the fit and actually wore it for a while on Sunday afternoon after I pulled it off the blocking drying rack -- I put it on originally just to check the fit, but it was so comfortable in the air conditioning that I just kept it on! Now I just need to look through my wardrobe to come up with some outfits to go with it.

Another quick project that I finished this weekend was the Ball Band jar cozy that I started crocheting last week. Rainbow liked it so much that she asked me to make one for her water bottle that she takes to camp and school (and which has been aggravating her by making puddles of condensation), and I was happy to oblige.

These were super easy and fun, and I'm sure I'll be making more in the future.

Finally, to complete my trifecta, I finished Rainbow's shortie socks on Saturday night.

She is delighted with them, which of course makes me very happy, and having finished up the second I now have a better sense of where I'm going with the pattern. The sample has been cast on and just barely started; I anticipate working on that during most of my knitting time this week.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Slow and Steady

I am most definitely not winning any races in Tour de Fleece this year! Instead, I am just continuing on, adding a little bit to my bobbin at a time. I suppose my approach to TdF this year could be said to be savoring the spin rather than rushing to finish it. And as much as I wanted to blast through some stash this year, I'd rather end up with yarn I really like than yarn that's just done. So here is the latest bobbin shot. Though I'd hoped that this bobbin would be full by now, it's not, but it is getting close (the wonderful thing about the WooLee Winder is that is does pack an awful lot on there!).

I have some excellent motivation to finish up this spin in the form of the last two shipments from the Southern Cross Fibre club, which I have neglected to share until now.

The May shipment is called Forest Gathering, and it's a super luxurious blend of 70% superfine merino and 30% mulberry silk. The photo doesn't do the fiber justice -- it's got some seriously amazing shine.

June's shipment arrived last week. This one I adore. It's South African superfine merino in a colorway called One Fish, Two Fish, and these colors most definitely bring Dr. Seuss to mind!

I'm obviously going to focus on finishing up my Polwarth spin first, but I think this fiber will very likely be the next thing on the wheel. I'll either be splitting it to spin thinner strips end to end and chain plying or doing a barber-poling two ply. Thoughts? I'm sure there's no wrong way to go with this beauty!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Three Thrills for Thursday

In keeping with Mary's theme this week of "good newses," here are three things making me happy today:

1. My Soldotna Crop is almost finished!

The body was bound off a little earlier in the week, and last night I started and finished the first sleeve. Tonight I plan to get the second sleeve done and, I hope, weave in all the remaining ends so that it's ready to block. I won't be wearing it anytime soon, as we're expecting heat indexes above 100 degrees the next couple of days, but at least I'll be able to model it around the house. I've got some less-than-stellar photos from this morning courtesy of Rainbow (who's a little shaky with the phone and, obviously, shorter than I am):

And here's a close-up of the sleeve so you can see the modification I've made (three rounds in the light blue, followed by two rounds of stranded colorwork and a round in the dark blue before the called-for ribbing):

As you can see, this sweater has a good amount of positive ease, perhaps more than I was expecting, though I'll take full responsibility for that because I'm still having trouble with accurately judging my size. I expect I'll get a bit more drape when I block it (and I'm certainly counting on it to loosen up in the collar area).

2. I'm hooking again.

One of my crafting goals for the year was to improve my crochet skills, and I decided to start with something relatively easy. Jen of the Down Cellar Studio podcast recently released a free crochet pattern for a cozy/sleeve for Ball jars, and as I unearthed a random skein of Knit Picks Dishie in my stash this past weekend, I figured it was as good an excuse as any to give it a try, particularly as we'd just bought a package of the special blue Ball jars. I was home with Rainbow a little early last night (I left a work retreat to pick her up from the camp bus, and by the time the bus came it was too late to do anything but go straight home), so I got down to business. In less than an hour, I was more than halfway done. I forgot how fast and satisfying crochet can be!

If I have time, I'll finish this up tonight -- I think I only have about a dozen more rows to do.

3. I have less than 100 pages left in my book.

I've been reading Twelve Years a Slave for the past couple of days, and I'm hoping that I'll find time to finish it up today or tomorrow. Despite the fact that it was written in the 1800s and uses language that's a bit old fashioned compared to today's books, I've found that it moves along fairly quickly. It's also a great (albeit heartbreaking) story; while it's incredibly sad that Solomon Northup found himself in slavery, it could be said to be to our benefit because, as a man who was born free and was educated, he was really uniquely positioned to write such a powerful account of what it was really like to be enslaved.

Stay cool and hydrated this weekend!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Divided Loyalties

Typically at this time of year I devote nearly all my crafting time to spinning in an effort to be as productive as possible for the Tour de Fleece. This year, however, I'm just not feeling it as much. I am spinning, but not in every spare moment. This is mainly because I have knitting projects that I really want to get done and I'm dealing with time pressure on design projects. You saw what I've been spinning in my last post, and frankly my bobbin doesn't look much different two days later, so I'll spare you an update. Let's turn back to the knitting.

I'm still working on Rainbow's shortie socks at lunch, though they haven't progressed too much. What I'm really focusing on this week is my Soldotna Crop, which is close enough to done that I think if I can just buckle down for a few evenings, I should manage it. It saw some attention over the weekend while the Mister and I finished up the new season of Stranger Things.

I have about a round and a half of the body ribbing left to knit before I'm ready to bind off. I ended up saving a bit of the light blue so that I can add a bit of length to the sleeves. I'm planning to knit two rounds in the light blue, then add in the dark blue and make the sleeve cuffs look like the bottom hem of the sweater (so two rounds of stranded work with both colors before doing the ribbing). I'd estimate I have between two and four hours of work on this left, between knitting and weaving in ends. I'd say it's doable to get this done this week.

One of the reasons I'm so anxious to finish up this sweater is because I really need to get started on the next one -- and that's the one I'm designing. I did swatch again, using size 6/4.0 mm needles, and came up with a fabric that's not quite as dense (meaning that colorwork portion won't be bulletproof!) and a gauge that will make the calculations a lot simpler.

As you can see, the fabric is still a good density, and going up just one needle size has taken me from 5.5 to 5 stitches per inch. In addition to making my job easier, I think this gauge will also make the pattern more accessible to multiple weights of yarn -- not to mention that it will knit up a bit faster! Now that I've settled on my gauge, I can start calculating all the stitch counts and get started on my sample. I'd originally hoped to have my sample done and a draft of the pattern to my tech editor by the end of July, but I think if I aim for mid-August and she can turn the pattern around in about two weeks, that will still give me about six weeks for test knitting. It'll bit a bit tighter than I would have liked, but such is life.

Reading is still very much happening, and with the completion of a book yesterday, I have my first bingo!

The book I finished yesterday is the one in the top left corner, Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. It was a freebie from Amazon First Reads, and I was pleasantly surprised (so many of those freebies end up being duds). It's a memoir about an Australian woman who sustained a traumatic brain injury and her challenges and life struggles as she recovered from it. I found it fascinating to get an insider's view of what it's like to have a brain injury and be aware of one's own failings. I gave it four stars. If it sounds interesting to you, I'll note that there's also currently a giveaway for it on Goodreads.

My next book will fill in the "Originally published in the 19th century" box. I started Twelve Years a Slave yesterday and am already really enjoying it. I am once again doing things in the wrong order -- I saw the movie when it was out a few years ago and am now going back to the primary source. The writing is very much of its time, so if you don't care much for "old-timey" language, you might not like this one. After that, based on Kat's glowing recommendation, I have Middlemarch queued up for the "Classic you should have read" box. I pondered getting the audiobook from the library, but it's a long book (I think something like 32 hours) and I knew I likely wouldn't get through it all before it was due back, so I went ahead and bought the $0.99 Kindle copy so I could read it at my leisure. I'm still thinking about how to fill a couple of these squares (anyone got any recommendations for "Written in the second person" or "Non-human protagonist"?), but I'm sure I can fill up most of this board by the end of the summer.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Of Fiber and Fleece

I feel like a bit of a Tour de Fleece failure this year, as I haven't spun nearly the quantity I have in past years, but the days are busy and the evenings are short, so I'm trying to be happy with what I can get done. For one thing, I am very pleased with the skein I finished yesterday. Remember the purple singles I finished up last weekend? Yesterday, after I went for a good run and did my household chores, I sat down and chain plied the full bobbin. Then I skeined and washed the yarn last night. This morning it was dry and bouncy and floofy and so pretty.

Because the wool in the blend is Targhee, I expected (and got) a nice poof in the finishing. Fresh off the wheel, the yarn was a light fingering. After washing, the yarn is fingering to sport.

I ended up with about 343 yards, which is respectable, I think. It certainly would have been more without the poofing up. But I think it'll make a lovely shawl or scarf-type thing.

Meanwhile, yesterday I dumped the contents of my fermented suint fleece experiment and rinsed the fleece. I won't know until it's fully dry if it worked, but it certainly looks a little better. And I did pull out some more bits that looked dodgy and dumped them, but I've still got plenty of wool. Right now, the fleece that remains is sitting on some drying racks on our covered porch, with some additional drying racks on top so that no animals decide to grab some fleece for themselves.

I was prepared for a really bad smell, and there definitely is a smell, but it's not nearly as bad as I was expecting. I think I may still need to wash the wool once more, perhaps in some floral mint 7th Generation dish liquid I have, but it's looking pretty good! I'll still be keeping it in quarantine from the rest of the stash until I'm sure it's safe, but I'm pretty confident I've saved a good amount.

My main TdF project is progressing, slowly but surely. I think this bobbin shot does a good job of showing all the colors in the fiber.

I am just loving this spin -- and it's a good thing, too, because I still have an awful lot left to be spun!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Three Things on Thursday

Is it really already Thursday? And is it only Thursday? It's been a long, busy, hot week. I feel like I've spent most of it walking around in the heat and not nearly enough crafting. So I'm keeping this post simple and breaking things down into three categories:

1. Knitting

I've added a few rounds to my Soldotna Crop (not enough that you'd be able to tell) and started the toe on the first of Rainbow's shortie socks.

2. Designing

I'm knitting one more swatch for my sweater design using a needle one size larger, just in case. I like the fabric I got in the first swatch, but it was fairly dense, which means the stranded colorwork would be practically bulletproof, so I want to see if I can get away with a slightly larger gauge. Plus, if I can get to a gauge of 5 stitches per inch, calculations should be a little easier.

Today I also published an update to my Non-Euclidian pattern that's a cheat sheet to help you insert the heel into any sock worked at any gauge. I know this is something that Mary, at least, will be happy about! If you've already got the pattern in your library, you'll see an update. If you don't already own it, there's no additional charge.

3. Reading

I've finished four books since my last reading update, though one of them was finished that same day and was a YA book, so really I've read three. Here's a brief summary:
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (audiobook): This was a quick, easy read, and a YA book to boot. It was good but didn't blow me away. I did think it would be a good read and a good basis for a discussion of difficult issues among younger readers. I gave it three stars.
  • A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean: This was an Amazon First Reads freebie, and I'm glad I didn't pay for it. It's gotten good reviews on Goodreads, but I was really disappointed with it. I didn't find the writing to be particularly strong, and several story lines seemed to be repeats of stories from other books. There's also a bit of a twist at the end that I found to be completely unbelievable. I gave it two stars.
  • The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (audiobook): I can now say without reservation that I'm completely hooked on the Inspector Gamache series. I loved this one, no surprise. I've found that the Gamache books make my runs a lot better because I'm so focused on the story that I don't spend the whole time thinking about how miserable I am to be running. This one got five stars from me.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth: This is one of those books that everyone probably read years ago; I've seen the movies in the series but hadn't read the books, so I decided to give this a try when I saw it was available through Prime Reading. It was okay, a fun diversion, but not fine literature. I don't know if I'll read the other two. I gave it three stars.
I was able to fit all of these books into my Summer Book Bingo card under the following categories, in order: Protagonist with a different ethnicity from your own, Set in more than one time period, With an unreliable narrator, and One-word title. I've got 12 more squares to cover on my bingo card, and I'm in the middle of one book that I can put in the center squares. Think I can manage to get the rest covered? We shall see.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Swatching and Swatching Some More

When the Tour de Fleece rolls around, I expect I'll do less knitting in favor of more spinning, but I really didn't do much knitting this weekend in spite of wanting to. True, I did keep busy with the usual chores and errands plus an unexpected trip to to the Apple Store (I had to get my phone replaced because my battery was swelling), but I was hoping to try to finish up the body of my Soldotna. In reality, I haven't touched it in days.

My lunchtime knitting is now a pair of shortie socks for Rainbow, using yarn leftover from her sweater and a stitch pattern I'm playing with for a new pattern. I'm still not entirely convinced if I like it or not.

She says she likes it, and I do like what I've done with the rest of the sock (though it still needs some tweaks). I'll need to give it another try in yarn where the big yarnovers can be seen a little better, perhaps even some self-striping. I also think it'll look better when it's stretched on a foot. Still pondering.

Most of the knitting that happened over the weekend was swatching. You may remember when I came back from MDSW that I announced that I would be designing another sweater this year -- it was one of my design goals for 2019. I'm hoping to be able to release it to coincide with Rhinebeck weekend, so I really need to get moving. I first swatched the colorwork motif (which you can get a little peek of in the photo below) to see how it translated from paper to yarn, but to write and grade the pattern, I needed a good-sized stockinette swatch.

I had a number of leftover partial balls of the Ross Farm Shetland Sport in my stash, so I used up some of those rather than break into the skeins I'll need for the sweater (though I did compare the yarn I used for this swatch to the sweater yarn to make sure it was comparable). I know some of you will tell me that I can always reuse the yarn from my swatch in my sweater, but I had a good reason for using separate yarn:

I steeked this swatch! I wanted to get a really accurate representation of my gauge in the round, and I didn't feel that the usual way of faux swatching in the round was going to do that. So I cast on something like 50 stitches and knit a tube. Then I secured two columns with slip-stitch crochet using a contrasting color and cut between the columns. Ta-da -- instant flat swatch to measure knitting in the round! I've got a nice sturdy fabric that still has decent drape, and it's measuring up at 22 stitches and 32 rounds over 4 inches/10 cm. Now I'm ready to sit down with measurements and a calculator to figure out my sizing and adjust the colorwork chart. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The TdF and a PSA

It's the most wonderful time of the year for spinners: The Tour de Fleece is here!

For the uninitiated, the Tour de Fleece is a handspinning event that was created to coincide with the Tour de France. It's a three-week-long celebration of handspinning and handspun yarn, and the gist of it is that on all the days that the cyclists are riding, we spinners are spinning our own wheels (as well as our spindles). In past years I've gotten very competitive about it and challenged myself to spin large quantities of fiber, but this year I'm being much more realistic and just taking the event in the spirit in which I think it was originally intended -- to enjoy spinning.

While I had hoped to be able to finish spinning up the singles for the purple gradient I started last week before I started my Tour spinning, I didn't quite manage to do it. So I spent my spinning time yesterday working on finishing those up.

I had been spinning short forward draw but discovered that I could spin from the combed top using a supported long draw, which is a much faster way to get the spinning done. So the whole skein might not be consistent (using long draw, for instance, results in fuzzier singles), but I wasn't really aiming for perfection here, and good enough is good enough. I'm planning to chain-ply these singles, so I'm letting them rest on the bobbin for a day or two.

Today I got started on what I was planning for my TdF project, and that's the pile of little fiber bundles you saw here last week. I've got a total of 550 g/19.4 oz. of Polwarth to spin into what I hope will be a sweater's quantity of yarn. Here are a couple of bobbin shots so you can get a sense of the colors.

I really love these colors and am excited to see how they play out as a three-ply yarn.

Now for the PSA, which will really only apply to you who spin and buy fleece: When you've bought a fleece, please wash it as soon as possible after bringing it home, even if you don't get around to prepping it for a while.

A bit of back story on this one: Some months ago, a friend of mine posted that her mother was looking to sell some fleeces from her sheep, so I bought one. She sent it to me, and I promptly put it in our laundry room so that I could wash it "soon." I think you can all guess what happened -- I never got around to. Fast forward to about a month ago, when I kept seeing moths every now and then. Like any knitter and spinner, that concerned me a bit. Though most of my stash is safely stored in various bags and bins, I do have some yarn and fiber out, particularly if it's yarn or fiber I'm working with at the time. I saw quite a few moths in the laundry room, and I very quickly discovered the source: an infestation in the fleece. Yuck. So this past week (on the 4th of July, actually), I took it outside, pulled out a big portion that seemed to be where the moths and eggs were concentrated, and tossed all that into the composter. The rest of the fleece I decided to clean outside using the easiest method possible: the fermented suint method. I pulled a spare plastic bin out of the stash room and a contractor's trash bag (because the bin wasn't opaque), popped the rest of the fleece in it, and used the garden hose to fill it up. It's now sitting on our deck and, I hope, getting clean over the next week.

The trap on top is just to keep critters from sneaking under the lid.
Next weekend I'll dump out the water and rinse the (fingers crossed!) clean fleece. If it needs further cleaning, I can always wash it in our utility sink as I normally wash fleece, though my hope was that this method would save water and allow me to dump the wastewater out in the back of the yard rather than down the drain. I'm also hoping that this method will kill any moths or eggs that were still in the fleece, but I won't be precious about what's left and will happily toss any compromised wool. Assuming it comes out okay, it'll also be quarantined from the rest of the stash until I'm sure there are no more critters coming out of it. Let my laziness be a lesson to you: wash your fleece!