Thursday, April 25, 2019

It Begins with One Small Step

I've made a conscious decision to pare down my stash, but it's not going to happen overnight. In reality, it will take a while -- as they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. My first step has now been taken with the completion of these socks:

Pattern: cuff-down stockinette with true afterthought heels
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Ridgetop Fingering (80% Romney, 20% Falkland) in Inspiration, 75 g/300 yds used
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) 40 in. Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: April 13/April 24

This yarn is the perfect example of yarn I didn't really need but bought on a whim. The colorway was one of two special colorways that Lisa created to celebrate her eighth anniversary of being in business, and when I saw it, I just had to have it. It was the perfect excuse to try out this new yarn base.

I really loved working with this yarn. It's very different from most sock yarns in that it's a more rustic blend and not superwash. Some might find it rough or scratchy, but my feet are not that particular, and it reminded me in some ways of some of the yarn I've spun from coarser fibers. I think it will wear well in the long run.

I don't normally do afterthought heels, but the striping sequence in this yarn is so long that it seemed like the right thing to do to preserve it. (That length of the sequence is also why I didn't bother trying to get the two socks to match each other but instead started each sock in the same spot in the general pattern, if that makes sense.) I did true afterthought heels, inserting my needles on either side of the row where the heel would be and then snipping the yarn right in the middle. I caught the yarn tails/wove them in as I knit the first round of the heel, and it feels a little tight around that round at the moment, but I think it will loosen up when I wash and wear the socks. Overall, I am pleased with these and think they'll be in regular rotation once it's sock season again.

With the leftovers, I've started crocheting a little bowl/basket that I'm going to try to felt to see how the yarn does with that. I figure it'll be a little thing I can keep on my nightstand to hold random stitch markers and such.

I'm also reducing the size of my stash a bit more dramatically by clearing out a sweater's quantity. Several years ago, I won these skeins of a Madelinetosh merino/alpaca DK. I still think they're beautiful, but as I haven't used them, I'm fine with letting them go.

These will be a prize for someone in the Mad May event in the Madelinetosh Lovers group on Ravelry. I hope they'll go to a new home where they'll be used!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Stash: A Reckoning

I hope you all had a restful holiday weekend, whatever you were celebrating! We had two very big Passover dinners, and thanks to taking yesterday off, I got pretty well caught up on my sleep. This morning did feel a bit crazy -- the Mister was up early to leave for a quick work trip, so I had to get Rainbow to school and then run off to an orthodontist appointment, which then made me run to get to work as quickly as I could -- but it also feels good to get back to the normal routine. I didn't get as much physical activity as I would like over the weekend, too, so my daily walks to and from work have been missed.

I am still working on two active WIPs, a shawl design sample and my afterthought heel socks; the socks are far enough along now that I might even finish them tonight if I can get enough knitting time in.

What I want to talk about today, though, is the state of my stash. Last weekend, I found myself going through just about every bin and bag of yarn and fiber in my stash in search of a skein of yarn I'd spun last summer and put in such a safe place that I'd been unable to locate it again for many months. I did eventually find that skein, but in the process I realized that I've acquired way more yarn and fiber than I really need or could reasonably use. I say this without judgment of the size of anyone else's stash; mine has just gotten to the point where it's causing me anxiety. So I'm taking some steps to help ease that:
  1. Starting today, I am not buying yarn just for the sake of buying it. I won't say I am not buying yarn at all, because sometimes there is a necessity (such as needing an extra skein for a project that's a gift, for instance), but I am not in need of yarn for any planned projects right now and have enough yarn purchased specifically for planned projects that I am not going to buy yarn and cast on for something entirely new on a whim.*
  2. At some point in the near future, I'm going to take some time to go through the entire stash and sort it. Things that do not spark joy will be destashed, either by giving them to Rainbow or a friend or putting them up for sale.
  3. For the foreseeable future, I'll be working exclusively from stash. That means upping my game with charity knitting (a perfect use for all the partial skeins that are making up a large portion of the stash) and working on gift knits, such as items for my nephew.
My long-term goal here is to see more yarn and fiber moving out of the stash than moving into it, at least for the rest of the year. I'm hesitant to go through and catalog everything I have, if only because of the amount of time it would take, but I'm going to keep track of what comes in and what goes out. I will monitor that on a regular basis, and if things don't improve, I might have to take more drastic action. Wish me luck, and if you have any good tips, please feel free to share them in the comments!

*NB: There will still be some fiber and yarn coming in, as I'm a member of several clubs, and there may be yarn coming in for design work, but that amount is small in comparison to what's already in the stash.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

And Done

I spent the better part of today plying and skeining, and while I won't have my final yardage until sometime tomorrow (because the yarn is still soaking and will need to dry), my combo spin is done!

I ended up with three skeins of traditional three ply and some singles left on one bobbin, which I chain plied (that's the skein on the far right). I suspect that the yarn will end up being closer to Aran or bulky than worsted after it dries, as my handspun generally puffs up a bit in the washing. So perhaps it won't work for the sweater that I had in mind, but I'm sure I'll find a good use for it!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Magic Yarn?

This week has felt simultaneously long and short. It's been busy, so you'd think it would be flying by, but instead I've woken up almost every morning wondering why it isn't yet Friday. I have a long weekend ahead (I'm taking Monday off to stay home with Rainbow), and it's a holiday weekend, with Passover starting tomorrow night, so chances are I've just been looking forward to the chance to rest.

I have not being doing a ton of knitting, mainly just working on my current socks, because I spent Monday and Tuesday night plying some of my combo spin singles (there's still quite a bit to do). I think these socks, or perhaps this new-to-me yarn, must have some kind of magic in them, though, because amazingly I've already finished the first sock save the afterthought heel despite the fact that I cast them on less than a week ago.

Last night the Mister and I went to an event for our local PBS station that featured a preview of Ken Burns's next documentary. It's on country music, which isn't really my taste, but it was something fun to do (and the Mister is on the board of the station, so it was a good excuse to go and show support). Before the preview, we got to enjoy a short set performed live by Kathy Mattea, who is featured in the film and also, coincidentally, happens to be the cousin of the station's president and CEO. I'd heard of her, though I'm not familiar with her music, so it wasn't as exciting for me as for some members of the audience, but it was still a nice evening -- and of course a perfect excuse to get some sock knitting done. By the time we left, I was already halfway through the toe!

In the absence of much other knitting content, I thought I'd do a quick recap of some of my reading lately. These aren't all the books I've read since my last reading update (you can go visit my Goodreads profile if you want to see everything), but these are the ones that I felt were good enough to share.
  • All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung: I'd heard about this memoir some time ago and been patiently (and then not so patiently) waiting for my hold to come through from the library. It's a beautifully written and at times heartbreaking story about a Korean American woman adopted by a white couple as a baby struggling with her racial identity as she grows up and struggling the reasons she was given up as an adult. It's a powerful story that really makes you think a lot about nature vs. nurture, how you form your own identity, and what makes a family. I gave it 5 stars.
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan: This is based on a true story, written after the author conducted in-depth interviews with the main character and extensive research in Italy. It looks at the experience of WWII for Italians, especially those Italians who were opposed to Hitler and Mussolini and actively worked against them. Though I found it a bit longer than I felt it needed to be, it was a very good read. I gave it 4 stars.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama: What can I say about this phenomenal autobiography that hasn't already been said? I knew that Michelle Obama was a smart woman, but I never realized just how accomplished and intelligent she was until I read her book. My admiration for her has grown exponentially. I gave it 5 very enthusiastic stars!
  • The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann: This book was one of several I got for free through Amazon First Reads, and I read it mainly because I had a backlog of titles I'd gotten through the program that I wanted to get through. I've learned not to have high expectations for these books (you get what you pay for, right?), but this one surprised me. It was not an easy book to read, as it deals with an accusation of rape of a teenage girl by the father of the main character, but it's done in a thoughtful, sensitive way. It made me think a lot. I gave it 4 stars.
  • A Lily in the Light by Kristin Fields: This was another Amazon First Reads book, but I had actually heard about it before because a friend of mine from high school is a literary agent and represents this author. This book is another one dealing with a difficult subject -- in this case, the disappearance of a young girl and the subsequent effect on her family, all against the backdrop of the main character's burgeoning career in ballet. Though I've thankfully never gone through such an experience, the conflict between the family members and the ways they dealt with their grief felt very real to me. It was a quick read, and the ending wrapped things up nicely (something I always appreciate). I gave it 4 stars.
If you are celebrating a holiday this weekend, I hope it's a good one! Expect to see at least some finished combo spin yarn here on Sunday!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Rainbow Connection

When the weather is gross and all the news is bad, sometimes the best thing you can do to lift your mood is knit yourself a bright rainbow-striped cowl.

Pattern: Sockhead Cowl by Kelly McClure
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon) in Once Upon a Stained Glass Window, one skein
Needles: 16 in. US 2.5/3.0 mm Hiya Hiya circs
Started/Completed: April 1/April 14
Mods: shortened the ribbing

I cast on this project to be my lunchtime knitting at the beginning of the month, right at my most stressful time of year at work, because I knew that it would be the perfect mindless project to work on when my brain needed a break. It was a brilliant move on my part, if I do say so myself, because I just did not have the mental bandwidth at the beginning of April to do anything that required counting or following a chart or keeping track of increases or decreases.

This pattern is dead easy, so much so that I didn't really need to look at the pattern after reading the number of stitches to cast on. I made a minor modification in shortening the length of the ribbing at either end of the tube, but that was mainly because when I first started, I got tired of knitting ribbing after about three inches and decided it was good enough (and then did the ribbing at the other end to match). I used up all but a tiny amount of my skein of yarn by weighing the skein before casting on and then again after I was done with the initial ribbing to calculate how much I had used at the point (22 g, for the record). I weighed my remaining yarn periodically as I was knitting the stockinette portion, and when I had about 23 g left, I started the ribbing at the end (I allowed a bit extra for a stretchy bind off that I knew would take more yarn than the cast on). The finished project is exactly what I wanted. It's cozy -- big enough to pull it up over my face and even wear it like a hat and cowl in one if I want to -- and crazy colorful, so it will be a bright spot in the middle of winter when everything else is dark and dull. I have a feeling there will be more of these in my future.

I had just started the finally ribbing for this on Saturday, so I decided to cast on something new to take with me to a performance of Come from Away (I always manage to screw up knitting when trying to knit in the dark, so I needed something in stockinette). So I cast on a new pair of socks.

This is the newest Fibernymph Dye Works base, Ridgetop fingering, a nonsuperwash Falkland/Romney blend, in one of Lisa's eighth anniversary colorways, Inspiration. Because it's such a long stripe repeat -- I've got two more stripes to knit to go through the whole repeat here -- I decided to do afterthought heels on this pair, meaning I can basically just keep knitting and knitting until I'm ready for the toe. This tube is already nearly 8 inches long, so assuming my usual 7 inch leg, that puts me into the foot already. I'm going to do a true afterthought heel so that I can place it either right in the middle of a stripe or right between two stripes.

I have to say that after knitting a big tube out of superwash merino/nylon yarn, this base did feel a bit scratchy to me at first, but it's really growing on me, and I already get a sense that it's going to make a durable fabric. I think this base (which also comes in a DK) would be fabulous for stranded colorwork, so perhaps one day I'll have a sweater in it. For the time being, though, I'm focusing on knitting and then wearing the socks to get to know it better.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


I got such a rush from finishing my sweater that I decided to move on to focus on finishing the next project, and that ended up being my combo spin. I spent a couple extra nights at my wheel in place of knitting this week, and that was enough extra time to get me through the rest of the fiber as of this afternoon. That's right -- I have finished spinning all of the singles for my combo spin!

I love that every bobbin looks different; it suggests that I did a fairly good job of randomly selecting my fiber so that the eight different colorways are all mixed up. I know that these singles are thicker than my norm, so naturally they spun up faster, but I'm still rather impressed with myself for spinning 880 g (or about 31 oz.) of singles in roughly a month -- especially considering that I mostly spin only on the weekend.

I am eager to start plying, but I figured I should be good and let the singles rest a bit first so that I don't have to fight with them. In the meantime, I'll move on to the next project.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Pattern Release: Systole Cowl

Depending on where in the world you live, it might be too hot for anything wool right now or it might still feel like winter. Where I live, we've finally had a taste of spring, but we're due to get a brief cold snap this weekend. Even when the weather is more temperate here this time of year, mornings always tend to have a bit of a chill to them, so while the days of wearing many wool accessories are probably past for now, sometimes I find I still need a light extra layer.

The new cowl I'm debuting today is just that sort of thing. It's small and lightweight, making it perfect to throw on when you need a touch of extra warmth but not so much that you soon find yourself overheating. Even if you don't need to wear it right now, it's one of those small, quick knits that are perfect when you still want to knit but don't want a lap full of wool.

This pattern started way back in August of 2017, when we traveled to Cape Cod on a family vacation. I visited a couple of yarn stores while we were there at the recommendation of some locals/frequent visitors and brought home some souvenir yarn, including these two skeins of Swans Island Washable Wool Sport that I knew I would use for a colorwork design.

I swatched when I got home and something was off, but other things were more pressing and it got put on the back burner. Then, a couple of months ago, I pulled out my swatch and set to work figuring out what was off and how to fix it. It took some time fiddling with the chart, but I finally got it looking the way I wanted to and dug out the yarn, which was just as pretty as I remembered (and thankfully hadn't gotten lost in the depths of the stash while it was waiting to be used!). Once I cast on, the cowl pretty much flew off my needles.

Though this design started as an abstract sketch, once it was knit up, I couldn't help but think that it looked like the readout on a heart monitor. Naming my designs is always one of the most difficult parts of the process for me, so I was glad to have an inspiration for a name. Systole is the term for the contraction of the heart that pushes blood out into the body. If you've watched enough medical dramas, then you know that the absence of it (asystole) is a very bad thing. There's nothing medical about the cowl per se, but I like the idea of the colorwork pattern signifying a beating heart in a way.

This cowl knits up in the round in one size that fits most children and adults. Although the finished size, after blocking, is about 20 in./50 cm around, I recommend using a slightly longer circular needle as a way of keeping your tension even and your floats loose. The entire cowl uses about 160 yds./146 m total, so if you have two 50 g skeins of the recommended yarn, you should have plenty to knit two cowls, particularly if you switch the colors for the second one. (Note that this yarn base is available in both 50 g and 100 g skeins; if you have larger skeins, you should be able to get four cowls out of two skeins!) My preview knitters used a variety of yarns for theirs (wool, wool/nylon, acrylic), and they all turned out great.

As with all my patterns, this one has been tech edited to ensure that it's easy to follow and error free. My preview knitters all had nice things to say about their projects, too, so I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who had fun knitting it!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Floozy, Complete

It has taken nearly six months, but finally it is done!

Pattern: Floozy by Libby Jonson
Yarn: Blacker Yarns British Classic 4-ply in Pale Blue (MC), Mustard (CC1), and Mid Blue (CC2
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm), US 2 (2.75 mm), and US 2.5 (3.0 mm)
Started/Completed: October 18, 2018/April 4, 2019

When I cast this sweater on, it was supposed to be an easy knit. Yes, it's fingering weight, and yes, I had to go down to a US 2 needle to get gauge, but the colorwork was up first and is always fast and then it was just single-color stockinette. Easy, right? In reality, it might have been easy, but it certainly wasn't fast.

I managed to get through the first bit of the colorwork at the top of the yoke while I was away for Rhinebeck last year. I worked on it a bit more when I got home, but then I was distracted by other things and put it down for a while. Next, I took it on vacation when we went to Florida over the winter holidays, figuring that I'd get a ton of knitting done. But then I got carried away with knitting gnomes and charity hats and reading good books, and all I managed to do was get to the point where I split the arm and body stitches. It wasn't really until I was in a car for nearly 20 hours over three days last month that I got serious about getting this sweater done. When I returned from that trip, I had a body ready for the band at the bottom and about half a sleeve done, so there really wasn't that much work left to do. At that point, I decided that it was time to buckle down and focus on this project to get it off the needles once and for all.

The colorwork used in the yoke of this sweater is fun, but it's slip-stitch colorwork rather than stranded, and it wasn't nearly as fast for me. Essentially what happens in slip-stitch colorwork is that you use one color at a time and slip stitches in the unused color. It makes it a bit easier to do flat than stranded work, but it also means that you essentially have to work four rows to get two rows of knitting. So for those sections at the bottom and top of the colorwork section, where there are two-stitch blips of the mustard, I worked two rows knitting/purling the mustard stitches and slipping the pale blue and then two rows knitting/purling the pale blue stitches and slipping the mustard. For me, it was harder to get into a rhythm with this style of colorwork, though I certainly agree that it's less of a pain than trying to knit stranded work flat. That zig-zag line in the darker blue in particular involved some knitting gymnastics that are quite clever but slow. I think that had I been knitting this in the round, using stranded rather than slip-stitch colorwork, it would have been much faster for me.

Slowness aside, I enjoyed working with the yarn, which I obtained through the Woolly Thistle. With a mix of British breeds plus some BFL for softness, it's a real workhorse yarn. Many people would probably consider it a bit rough or scratchy, and though it did roughen up my fingers a bit while I worked with it (which, frankly, is a hazard for me in general during the fall and winter), I didn't mind it. I get the sense that it's going to be one of those yarns that wears like iron; it may even look like I haven't blocked the sweater yet though I did give it a good long soak over the weekend. Though it's classified as a 4-ply/fingering weight, it's very fluffy, which is probably why I had to go down to a US 2 to get gauge -- and even though I'm used to knitting fingering weight on an even smaller needle, the fabric is firm enough that knitting got a bit uncomfortable after a while.

I experienced a bit of rowing out on the body, which is unusual for me and I think an outcome of using a smaller-than-specified needle. If you look closely at this photo, you might be able to see it. Although I was hopeful that blocking would help, it's still there; I think that this sweater will require a number of wearings and washing to settle down and even out, and frankly I think most people are going to be looking at the colorwork at the top than the plain stockinette at the bottom. The tension on the sleeves is much better; I used a US 2.5 needle for those, knowing that my gauge was going to be a bit tighter working in the round as opposed to flat, and it turned out to be a good move on my part.

I had panic-ordered two extra skeins of the pale blue yarn when I got back from Chicago, thinking that I was going to run short, but in the end I had plenty of yarn -- I even have about half of the last skein left. I suspect the reason for the panic was that I thought I needed to make the long body version, assuming that the shorter option was going to be more of a cropped fit, but in actuality it's the perfect length, hitting just below my hipbone. I'm thankful now that there were only those two skeins available from the Woolly Thistle or I would have ordered even more! I'm sure the leftovers will be put to good use, though. This yarn strikes me as perfect for mittens, and with leftovers of the contrast colors on hand as well, I anticipate some colorwork mittens in the future.

I'm very, very happy with how this sweater turned out. I sewed on the buttons on Sunday night, after searching through my button collection for options (they needed to be the right size and I needed 10 of them) and coming up with three possibilities. Did I do it perfectly? No; if you look closely at the first photo above, you'll see that the colorwork isn't quite lined up as well as it could be. Do I care? Not really. I did my best, and that's good enough for me. In all likelihood, I'll end up wearing this open most of the time anyway, so it may be a moot point. I'm just so relieved to finally be done and to no longer have this last WIP from 2018 hanging over my head. We're supposed to get a bit of a cold snap next weekend, so I might even get to wear it out a bit before it has to be packed up for the summer!

Sunday, April 07, 2019

More than Halfway

I spent most of my crafting time this past week knitting like a fiend, trying to finish my sweater, and this weekend was quite busy, so I did not get as much time at my wheel as I would have liked. Still, I've officially reached (and then passed) the halfway point on my singles for my combo spin. Bobbin number 3 was finished up this afternoon.

I've also gotten a start on bobbin number 4 (not pictured, because it's gotten rather dark here), so I'm definitely keeping up the pace. I'm hoping that I'll have the whole project, plying and all, done by the end of the month. That might be a bit ambitious, but there's nothing like a deadline to get me to focus.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Edge of Completion

After working on my Floozy cardigan for almost six months, off and on, I am so close to finishing I can taste it. The first button band is done -- I even wove in my ends. That took longer than I expected, so all I got done on the second band was picking up my stitches and knitting one row. But tonight it's all about that band.

This band is the one that will have the buttons on it, so in theory it should be faster to knit because I won't have to stop to figure out buttonhole placement. But it is all 1x1 rib on size 1 needles, so it's not exactly fast knitting. I am determined, however, and I'll get as much done as I possibly can. If I have to wait to finish on Friday, so be it.

We've got a relatively relaxing weekend ahead with fairly good weather predicted, so I'm looking forward to catching up on some sleep and spending time outside. Hope your weekend is full of good things!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019


We've started a new month, and things seem to finally be making a transition to spring. Though the last two days have felt decidedly wintery (on Sunday, we actually had light snow showers and flurries all day), the days are getting lighter and longer, the birds are getting noisier, and I can see things growing and greening up outside. All our spring flowers (tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils) are up and starting to bud; one overachieving hyacinth is already blooming, though the buds are very close to the ground. Our lilac bushes have the beginnings of small leaves, and there is a lot of new growth on our rose bushes. As if these indications weren't enough to announce the arrival of spring, my allergies have started acting up. Now, if we could just get our temperatures where they usually are this time of year, I'd be really happy!

The transition in the season also seems to be mirrored by some transitions in my knitting. Over the weekend, I finished my Zest Wishes socks, just squeaking them in by the end of the month.

I knit these toe up, using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel but then doing my own thing as I knit up the leg. As you can see from this photo, I have rather shapely calves, so I did a number of increases as the socks got taller. I probably could have made these another inch or two taller, but I didn't feel like doing any more calf shaping and the legs were already at least 9 inches tall (I still need to measure them to get the final length), so there's still some yarn leftover. Thanks to the use of the contrasting mini skein for heels and toes, these ended up using a little more than 100 g of yarn, and I was quite tickled that the amount used equaled 412 yards. (Those of you who are local will know the significance of that number!)

Meanwhile, the end is in sight -- for real this time! -- on my Floozy cardigan. Last night I finished the second sleeve.

All that remains between me and a finished sweater is the button bands, which I'll tackle tonight. I'm guessing it will take me two or three evenings to finish; it really all depends on how quickly I can get Rainbow to bed and turn my attention to my knitting. Perhaps I'm overestimating how quickly this knitting will get done, but I'm reasonably certain I'll be done with it by the weekend at some point. I still have to figure out the button situation; I may have some in my stash that will work, but otherwise I'll likely have to order some online. As long as the knitting is done, I won't be stressed about buttons, that's for sure!

I needed a new lunchtime project after finishing up the socks, so yesterday I cast on for a Sockhead Cowl using a skein of extremely bright yarn that's been patiently waiting in my stash for more than a year. I haven't gotten a ton knit yet, but already I am completely in love with it.

I haven't edited this photo at all; the colors really are that bright. This is more Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in a colorway called Once Upon a Stained Glass Window; it was inspired by a stained glass window in the building where Indie Knit & Spin used to be held. There are seven stripes in the sequence, and each stripe is getting me a little more than one round on the cowl. I really love how this is knitting up, and I'm also really glad I decided to use this skein for something that will be visible when I wear it and not hidden in my shoes. The knitting itself is perfect for work right now, too, as it's mostly mindless and is the perfect way to de-stress during my lunch break.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Potato Chippy

I think my current spinning project is the spinning equivalent of potato chip knitting: I just want to spin one more little bundle of fiber. It's so addictive. Despite only spending weekend time spinning in the past week, I've already finished up the second bobbin of singles:

You'll notice this one isn't quite as full as the first one, but that's because it was only after I finished the first bobbin that I thought to calculate how many bundles of fiber I had overall and how many I had used for the first bobbin. I'll have 20 bundles for each remaining bobbin, and I'll just spread out the excess on the first bobbin when I ply.

I'm already nearly halfway through the singles on the third bobbin, and if I can squeeze in some more spinning time this week, I'll have at least one more finished bobbin to share with you next weekend.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Two Good Things

How on earth is it already Thursday? This has been one heck of a busy week. The good news is that (a) it's almost over and (b) Rainbow is back home! So things will soon feel back to normal.

The first good thing I have to share is that I have a new pattern out! Yesterday, Knit Picks released its Radiance knit accessories collection, and I have a shawl pattern in it that I've had to keep secret for a very long time (keeping this kind of secret is the one thing I hate most about designing). This is Frenemy:

This is a top-down crescent-shaped shawl using two colors of fingering weight yarn (in this case, Knit Picks' Hawthorne). The name comes from my love/hate relationship with intarsia, which seemed a necessary technique to get stripes that only go partway across the shawl. I have done intarsia in the past and I really like the outcomes that it gets you, but I hate having to do it. There are always too many balls or bobbins of yarn to deal with, the inevitable tangles, and the ever-present tension issues. So when I got the idea for this shawl, I knew there had to be a way to achieve the intarsia look without the actual intarsia technique, and the answer is some strategically placed short rows.

As in my Mini Maximization shawl, you use two strands of yarn for this shawl, and they're connected at all times, though you're only ever knitting with one at a time. Because it's knit entirely in garter stitch, the short rows are easy to do and easy to make neat. And because there are four different lines of Hawthorne yarn, there are endless possibilities when it comes to color combinations.

For the time being, this pattern is available exclusively through Knit Picks. You can get it as part of the whole collection (which is for sale as both a beautiful print book and an ebook), or you can get the pattern individually as a PDF download.

The second good thing to share is that I have a finished sweater sleeve! What's more, I managed to finish it using only one skein of yarn, which suggests that if the same goes for the second sleeve, I might just have enough of the yarn I originally ordered to finish the sweater.

I've already started the second sleeve, as you can see, and I still have most of the last skein of yarn remaining for the button bands. I'm crossing my fingers that it's enough!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tangible Progress

In my knitting life, I've been focusing mainly on two projects for the past couple of weeks, and all that attention has been paying off. My striped socks are more than halfway done, with two completed feet and one mostly completed leg (I've finished the heel and started the leg of the second sock since this photo was taken).

Even more significant progress has been made on my Floozy cardigan, which is getting quite close to being a finished sweater. The body is done -- with ends even woven in already! -- and I'm hoping to finish up the first sleeve tonight.

Knitting aside, it occurred to me late last week that it's been about a year since I started my weight loss/wellness journey, and I can see the progress there as well. I've lost about 20 pounds (it may be more than that, but I've also put on some muscle) and I've successfully lowered my cholesterol quite a bit. I know that my eating habits have improved. What's most notable is that I feel a lot better. I have more energy (most of the time!) and have noticed fewer aches and pains, particularly in my joints. I can see the changes, too. My clothes, at least the ones that were tight before, fit a lot better; many things have gotten too big for me to wear. And I feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin in situations where I was very self-conscious in the past. I think the reason I've succeeded this time, after failing so many times in the past, is that I set out not to just be thinner but to be healthier. The number on the scale is really not what's important; what's important is how I feel, how well I can get through my day, and how well I can make healthy choices that will benefit me in the future. It feels really good to have taken this on, stuck with it for as long as I have, and seen the outcomes it has gotten me. Now I just have to keep doing it!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Too Much Fun

I am, quite simply, having a blast with my combo spin, and I am kicking myself for not doing this a lot sooner. I'm not sure if it's the colors or the thicker singles, but this spinning has been so addictive that I've already gotten my first bobbin done and started the second.

I'll admit that I probably could have planned out the process a bit better for this: I pretty much just stopped spinning the singles when this bobbin was more or less full. Only then did it occur to me that I probably should have counted the little nests as I was spinning them so that I could use approximately the same number on each bobbin. I figured out after the fact that I used 28 nests on this first bobbin, leaving me with 100, so each bobbin going forward will have 20. That will mean some splicing in of singles when it's time to ply, but frankly I'd assumed that would happen anyway. Given that the colors of the singles change frequently, it's not something that I expect even I will notice once all is said and done.

Other than counting going forward, the only micromanaging I'm doing (if you can even call it that) is ensuring that each new nest of fiber I pull isn't the same colorway as the one that I just finished spinning. I'm really trying to mix up the colorways as much as possible and to have them as evenly distributed through the whole lot of yarn as I can, and doing it semi-randomly like this seemed to be the best way to do it. Time will tell if I'm successful; I'm counting on the finished lot of yarn being pretty crazy and mixed up, I hope in a good way.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

I Thought It Was a Short Week

Usually taking a Monday off makes the week feel noticeably shorter, but that has not been the case this week. It's my busiest time of year at work to begin with, and missing Monday put me back a day, so I've been insanely busy during the day. I'm still taking my lunch break to knit (if only to keep my sanity), and my socks have grown. I did a few sets of increases on the first sock and then put it aside to start the second -- I'm taking notes on when and where I'm doing increases, but it seems to me that the best chance of getting two socks that match is to work on them concurrently.

My Floozy doesn't look too much different, though I did get about half the body ribbing done on Tuesday evening while the Mister and I watched Bohemian Rhapsody. I'm hoping to be able to finish it tonight.

Because there's not much knitting to discuss, I thought I'd catch up on what I've been reading since I last posted about it.
  • Shortly after the last reading update, I did indeed finish The Children Act. I gave it five stars -- it was really a phenomenal (and easy) read.
  • My hold then came up for My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which I'd been waiting for for quite a while. I had high hopes for this book, as it has been on so many best of lists, but I was quite disappointed. I found it weird and unsettling and fairly implausible. I gave it two stars, mainly because the writing was well done and I thought it was an unusual idea, so I have to give the author credit for that at least.
  • Up next was Us Against You, the sequel to Beartown, which I read earlier in the year. I really enjoy Backman's writing, and it was good to get back into the world he created in the first book and find out what happened to the characters. I didn't think it was quite as good as the first book and gave it four stars.
I'm still reading Becoming (I have less than 100 pages to go, I think), but it keeps getting put on hold for library books. I also started reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky while we were away over the weekend (I didn't want to take a hardback book with me, or else I would have taken Becoming to finish). It's not bad, but it's long -- more than 500 pages -- so it's taking me longer than I would have thought. I'm also expecting my next library hold to come up at any time -- I've been number 1 on the list for almost a week!

This weekend I'm looking forward to catching up on sleep, getting outside, and doing a lot of crafting and reading. We do have some dinner plans Friday night and Saturday night, but otherwise our time is ours to do what we like. I can't remember the last time that happened, so I'm going to take full advantage of it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Heeding EZ's Advice

There's an oft-quoted statement by Elizabeth Zimmermann that I thought about quite a lot this weekend:

"Knit on, with confidence and hope, though all crises."

My parents, brother, and I traveled to Chicago this weekend to say good-bye to my uncle, who passed away last week after dealing with health issues for many years. As I told many people, it was not entirely unexpected given his recent struggles, but even knowing this kind of thing is coming doesn't make it any less sad. In spite of the sadness, it was good to be able to be with that side of the family, as we very rarely see them (the last time we saw them was something like three and a half years ago). I was also very honored that my aunt asked me (along with my brother and my uncle's other niece and nephews) to be a pallbearer. I have never done that before, and it meant a lot to me to be able to help lay my uncle to rest.

Part of the Jewish custom when someone dies is the practice of sitting shiva (the word comes from sheva, the Hebrew word for "seven"; the practice lasts for seven days after the burial), in which the family members in mourning stay at home and receive guests. You're not supposed to do anything, including entertaining those guests, during this period; you basically sit around, eat all the food that people bring, and pray. That meant that we had a lot of time to talk and catch up with all the family members. We also spent time with my cousins' children, including my one cousin's younger daughter, who we hadn't met before (she was pregnant the last time we were in Chicago). The two little girls, who are 6 and 3, are absolutely adorable and too young to understand what was happening, so they did a lot to lighten the mood. I know that we are all very glad that we have two happy occasions coming up in the next year or so to look forward to!

All of this time away meant quite a lot of knitting. We had more than eight hours in the car each way, and I'd already decided that I was dedicating that time to working on my Floozy. I was incredibly productive in that respect. When we left on Saturday morning, I had about six inches, perhaps a little more, knit on the body under the arm. By about two hours into the trip home yesterday, I was ready to start the ribbing at the bottom. I likely would have made decent progress on the ribbing, too, had I had the smaller needle I needed for it in my project bag (apparently I pulled it out at some point after doing the collar). So I left the needle in and the yarn attached and started the first sleeve (if you're wondering how this was possible, it's because I'm using a needle that's half a size larger for the sleeves because I know my gauge knitting in the round is going to be a bit tighter than my gauge knitting flat).

I panic-ordered two more skeins of the light blue yarn from the Woolly Thistle before I left, thinking I was going to run out, but now I'm not so sure. I was planning to knit the longer body option, but yesterday I measured the sweater I was wearing and realized that the shorter option would be plenty long. I still have two full skeins of yarn left, and it's starting to look like that will be enough. But the additional skeins are already on their way, and I'm sure they won't go to waste. I'm really enjoying this yarn and will be happy to use any extra for mittens or hats.

I took my socks along as well, for knitting while we were sitting at the house, and my first sock has gotten noticeably bigger.

Sorry for the blurriness; apparently my coffee hadn't yet kicked in when I took this.

I was planning to knit these socks until I ran our of yarn. I'm already at about 7 inches on the leg of the first one, and there's still a fair bit of yarn left. So it looks like I will be doing some calf increases soon and end up with some very tall socks!

Rainbow is headed to Florida for a week with my parents early tomorrow morning, so the Mister and I will have some very rare time to ourselves. I plan to continue to work on my Floozy as much as possible because not only do I really want to get it done, but I also have some serious baby knitting to do. We missed the gender reveal party for my brother- and sister-in-law on Saturday (though we FaceTime'd in for the reveal) and ... it's a boy! That limits the number of hand-me-downs from Rainbow we can pass along and means more knitting for me!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Perfection, Times Two

I took full advantage of my day off on Friday and the fact that I still got up at pretty much the normal time (someone had to get kiddo ready for school and brew the Mister's coffee!). I spent a couple of hours, give or take, in the morning plying up my two bobbins of Falkland singles. Because I'm writing this post ahead of time, I can't yet show you the final, post-bath skeins, but here they were fresh off the wheel.

This photo doesn't even do the colors justice. They are so vibrant and gorgeous, and I just love them. Obviously I won't have my final yardage until they're dry, but I'd say a cautious estimate would be about 200 yards each, perhaps a bit more. I'm hoping it'll be enough for one of the two-color shawls I have in my Ravelry library.

I didn't feel like knitting Friday afternoon (knowing I was going to be doing a lot of knitting over the weekend), so I dove right in and started my big combo spin.

If you look closely, you'll see my big bag of fiber bundles on the floor. I'm spinning them completely at random, only making sure that each one I pull out isn't the same as the one I just finished spinning. So far, it's spinning up very quickly -- what you see on the bobbin here is the result of only about an hour at the wheel. When you're used to spinning singles for a three-ply fingering, spinning singles for a three-ply worsted goes much faster!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Change in Plans

The thing about life is that no matter how much you plan, the unexpected always happens. Yesterday we found out that my uncle, who had long had major health problems, had passed away. It was not unexpected, but even when you know something like this is coming, you really can't plan for it. The funeral is Sunday morning in Chicago, so my parents and brother and I will be driving there on Saturday and coming back on Monday (it ended up being easier and much cheaper to drive than to try to find flights). It means completely rearranging my plans for the weekend, but it will be worth it to be able to be with our family, who we very rarely see.

If there's a positive aspect of this sad time, it's that all those hours in the car will mean a lot of knitting time. I've decided that this is the perfect excuse to buckle down and work on my Floozy cardigan. I'm now officially past the halfway mark on the length I need for the body (excluding the ribbing at the body, of course), so progress is being made. I'm starting to panic about having enough yarn, though, so I may order a few more skeins just in case. I did order enough (or so I thought) based on the specifications in the pattern, but I think my tighter row gauge is using up more yarn. I'm going to finish up my third skein very soon and have four left, but I still have half the body, both sleeves (which I'd like to make full length), and button bands to do.

My lunchtime knitting is progressing well, and I'm now moving up the leg of my first Zest Wishes sock. It's now officially my busiest time of year at work, so stockinette in the round is the perfect thing for a midday break.

Tomorrow is a day for me. My office is closed for "spring holiday," so I'm planning to head to the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival for at least part of the day. I don't really need to go yarn shopping, but I really wanted to go to meet Marian of Marianated Yarns in person. She was so kind to provide me with yarn support for several designs last year without ever having met me, so I'd like to be able to thank her again. And I'm sure a few skeins will likely follow me home.

I plan to put together a post for Sunday, even though I'll be away, but I'm sure it will be a little sparser than usual. I'm sure you'll understand. I hope you have a good weekend, and give your loved ones an extra hug.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Perhaps Procrastiknitting

Reading Mary's post from yesterday made me realize that perhaps in casting on new projects, I have been avoiding (or "procrastiknitting") a long-standing WIP, my Floozy cardigan. I have been working on it again, on and off, so to hold myself accountable, I thought I'd take some photos of its current status so you can see where I am.

Apologies for the poor quality of these photos --  there's only so much you can do when the sun isn't fully up yet and you have a wiggly 9-year-old taking your picture! In any case, you can see that I've gotten some of the body done, I believe about 6 inches below the underarm. If I'm remembering the pattern correctly, I need to get to 14 inches before I start the ribbing at the bottom, so there's still quite a bit of knitting left to do on the body. But the fit looks good, bearing in mind that it's a bit hard to get a truly accurate sense of it with it still on the needles. I'll continue to plug away at this.

Meanwhile, I have cast on another new project. While I was off with Rainbow on Friday, I wound the yarn from the first shipment of the Fibernymph Dye Works Tea for Two club, which had been sitting around for at least a couple of months waiting for me to get to it. I knew that the next shipment was on its way (and, in fact, was delivered later in the day), and I didn't want to get too behind. The skein came with a mini contrast skein, so I'm using that for heels and toes and knitting toe up to maximize how much of the yarn I use (I split the main skein in half by weight prior to casting on). At the moment, I'm just a couple of rounds away from being ready to start the heel.

This colorway is called Zest Wishes, after the name of the tea that came with the yarn (and which I've already enjoyed). The colors represent the flavors of the tea -- citrus and cinnamon among them. They aren't colors I'd normally choose, but I certainly don't have anything like this in my sock drawers, and sometimes it's good to push yourself outside your comfort zone. After all, a girl can only have so many blue socks.

Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning the box of loveliness that was waiting for me when I got home last night. After spending time putting together a FibreShare package for someone else, it was my turn to get spoiled!

It's a bit hard to see everything, but there was a lot of good stuff packed into this box (a box, by the way, that is one of those nice reusable ones you can get at craft stores). The green yarn is Quince and Co. Finch, and I believe the cream-colored skein is handspun (it's labeled Georgian wool, silk, and nylon). I think these yarns together would make some great colorwork mittens! There's also an adorable project bag with llamas on it, some fun jewelry, a little container of stitch markers, a cowl pattern, and a package of Ferrero Rocher chocolates (which I pretty much inhaled last night). This package arrived precisely at the right time; the Monday after we turn the clocks ahead is always rough, and getting treats in the mail really lifted my spirits.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Feeding My Color Cravings

I am so ready for spring, especially after the last week of winter we've just had. This weekend the temperatures have thawed a bit, and there are lots of spring flowers starting to poke up out of the ground, but we still don't have any color in the form of the buds themselves. So I'm curing that yen for color with my spinning.

I started this spin last weekend, but I've made some progress since you saw it last. My day off on Friday provided me with bonus spinning time, so I finished all the blue singles:

And as you might be able to guess from the fiber under the bobbin, I have started the singles from the pink/orange/gold gradient and have just started getting into the orange section:

These bright colors are really cheering me up. I'm really looking forward to finishing up this spin and (I hope) knitting up a super cheerful two-color shawl.

Later today I'm planning to split up my fiber for my Southern Cross Fibre combo spin. I ended up posting the photo I shared last Sunday on one of the spinning boards on Ravelry to get some outside feedback. A number of people expressed the same kind of doubt over the blue/green selection (and an equal number didn't like all the purple, which surprised me), but I think I've decided to go with my gut and stick with the colorways I picked out. I think that if I properly mix up all the colorways, no one color is going to dominate. I think the finished spin will be a combination of blue and purple with a pop of green, gray, and pink here and there. As much as I love all these colorways, spinning them separately is just going to give me a bunch of single skeins that I'll likely never use; I'd much rather combine all these colors that I love and end up with a larger quantity that I can actually use for a garment. If it doesn't work out, I have only myself to blame.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Three FOs on Thursday

I've become something of a finishing machine since my last "real" post, and I've actually finished three projects in the last week (one of which was also cast on since then). First, there was the baby blanket:

Pattern: improvised, using the charts from Evelyn Clark's Shetland Triangle Lace Shawl as a jumping-off point
Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Organic Cotton (100% cotton) in color 83, approximately 3.6 skeins
Needles: US 10 (6.0 mm) Knit Picks interchangeables
Started/Completed: February 16/February 28

This was knit as a baby gift for my former college roommate and maid of honor, who is expecting her first child later this spring. I was invited to attend her baby shower next weekend, but thanks to where I live, I couldn't find any way to get there that wouldn't take the better part of the day and either require a flight and several trains or 7-8 hours in the car. That seemed a bit ridiculous for an event that's only a couple of hours long, so I sent my regrets to the hosts and sent the finished blanket to one of them so my friend could open it at the shower.

Although I could have easily charted this myself, I happened to have copies of the charts from the shawl on hand, so I just referred to those while knitting. For everything else, though, I made it up as I went along. I used Emily Ocker's circular cast on to start and worked outward. When it looked like I was getting close to finishing up the third skein of yarn, I started the border, which is all garter stitch save for the diagonal lines that fall between the increases. I ended up doing five garter ridges total for the border; I could have done more, but I was pretty much out of time and thought it looked good. I blocked it overnight using blocking wires to open up the lace and pulled out the wires and pins when it was just a little damp so it could fluff up a bit. I'm quite happy with how it turned out, though I think wool would probably be better suited to keeping the lace crisp. Still, I'm happy to have purged some deep-stash yarn and I know that my friend will approve of the fiber content.

There was much sock knitting over the weekend, between going to get our taxes done and sitting through a security training and meeting, so I now have another finished pair for my sock drawers!

Pattern: Zigzagular Socks by Susie White
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino, 20% nylon) in Girl Seeks Rain
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: February 11/March 4
Mods: changed the gauge, stitch count, and heel

This pattern has long been one I wanted to knit, and the Lots of Socks knitalong was the perfect excuse to do it. The yarn was purchased at Needles Up Maryland last year, and I'd actually had it sitting out for a couple of months just waiting to be wound into a cake and cast on.

My main modification was to adjust the stitch count because I worked at a tighter gauge than specified in the pattern (9 stitches per inch rather than 8). That gauge change put me between sizes in the pattern, so I decided to go with my usual stitch count and make adjustments as necessary. I really only had to pay attention to the placement of the traveling twisted stitch panel; once I did the set-up round, I was good to go. I did decided to go off book for the heel and do an Eye of Partridge heel rather than the traditional slipped-stitch heel, for no other reason than I haven't done one in a while and felt like doing something a little different.

The pattern is very well written, and I had the stitch pattern memorized after doing one repeat of it. It's very intuitive. That made for a good multitasking project. I have a feeling there will be more of these socks in my future.

The final FO for the week is a project you haven't seen because it was cast on Monday night and finished this morning (and when I say finished, I mean just the bind off was finished -- I just couldn't stay up any later last night to get it done then).

This is obviously fresh off the needles and hasn't had its ends woven in or been blocked yet. This is a new cowl design that's been on the to-do list for a long time -- the yarn I used was purchased back in August 2017 when we were on vacation in Cape Cod, Mass. I still have to measure the leftovers, but it looks like I might have enough to do a second one if I reverse the colors. This project reminded me just how much I love stranded colorwork and how fast it goes because it's so addictive. I've been playing with this motif for a while and I'm happy with how it finally ended up; I think I might have to do a hat with this pattern as well.

I cast on a new design project this morning, and I've been working on my Floozy cardigan as well. I am looking forward to knitting a lot this weekend, as I'm taking tomorrow off (Rainbow has no school due to parent-teacher conferences) and Saturday is my birthday. The weather is finally supposed to warm up in the next couple of days, but until then, I want all wool all the time!

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Pattern Release: Elodia Hat

Last week, I really thought that spring was on its way in our neck of the woods. Early flowers were starting to poke up out of the ground, trees and shrubs were starting to bud, and the birds were getting noisier in the morning. But then a snowstorm came through on Sunday, and this week temperatures feel more like early January than early March.

That means I still need to wear a hat to stay warm. Conveniently, I have a new hat pattern out today!

Designed to coordinate perfectly with my Elodia Mitts, this lightweight, slouchy hat is the perfect topper for those days when you need just a light layer. A twisted stitch brim ensures a snug fit around the head, and a lace panel with the familiar Elodia stitch pattern adds a touch of elegance. The amount of slouch is easy to adjust.

The hat has been graded to three sizes to fit children through large adult heads. I've once again used Murky Depths Deep Sock fingering weight yarn, and less than a skein is needed for every size. The lace panel is fully charted and written. As with all my patterns, this one has been professionally tech edited to ensure that it is correct and error free. You can find all the specifics on the Ravelry pattern page.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Tackling the Fiber Backlog

As long as I'm trying to work from stash this year when it comes to knitting, I really should be doing the same thing when it comes to fiber. I have a somewhat embarrassing amount of fiber waiting to be spun, quite a lot of it from fiber clubs that I don't do a good job of keeping up with. When I went to pick out the next thing on my wheel, I decided to go with some Fibernymph Dye Works Falkland that was from a fiber club from 2017. The theme of the club was barberpoling, so each shipment came with two colorways with the idea of spinning them separately and then plying them together. I knew I wanted to spin the colors in this particular shipment separately and keep them that way so I could use them in a two-color shawl. I started spinning on Friday with the most gorgeous blue ever:

This part of the shipment is entirely that semisolid vibrant blue, but the other fiber is a gorgeously bright gradient. Here you can see the two of them together:

My plan is to chain ply my singles so that I can maintain that stunning pink/orange/gold gradient. I think the two skeins together will really be stunning.

When I finish up these two skeins, I'll have finally caught up on my FDW club fiber, but the club that's causing the most backlog in my stash is from Southern Cross Fibre. I get a shipment from David every month, and let's just say that I rarely spin what I get even though I love pretty much everything I've ever received. I thought that a good way to plow through some of that would be to do a combo spin for a sweater, so I went through my fiber stash and pulled out eight bags of fiber that I thought would go well together.

There are four bags of fiber here that are Bond, two that are Comeback wool, one that's Falkland, and one that's Falkland Merino, so they all feel very similar. There are a couple of shipments that might not fit as well -- the two on either end on the bottom row -- but I think that if I split up all the fiber pretty well so that no one colorway is really apparent in any given skein, it might be okay. I think the silver gray on the bottom left will be fine, but I might swap out the green/blue colorway on the bottom right to something that's more blue and less green, if I can find something that fits fiber-wise.

Regardless of my final choice, there's still the question of how to split up all the fiber. I have about 880 g (or roughly 31 oz.) of fiber here, so my initial thought was to split each shipment into eight strips and then allocate them more or less evenly so that each skein I finished would have bits of every colorway in it. The complication is that I'd ideally want to do a traditional three-ply yarn, and eight doesn't divide into three evenly, so there would have to be more splitting. Another idea is to plan the colors a little more so that the colors group together a little more and fade from more purple shades to more blue shades. I think that if I can manage to spin a decent worsted weight yarn, I'd really like to use this spin for a Tucked Away cardigan (I already impulse-bought the pattern when it was on sale for its release). If you have any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them!