Friday, February 21, 2020

The Short Weeks Are the Longest

Why does it seem that the weeks that are a day shorter than usual seem to stretch out to last longer than the usual five days? That's certainly been the case this week. It hasn't been particularly crazy; the week has just seemed to crawl by. But today the sun is shining (even if is only about 16F outside at the moment), and we're supposed to have two sunny, milder days this weekend, so I guess I really shouldn't complain.

I have gotten a lot of sweater knitting done this week -- take a look at this:

It's a bit hard to see -- while it's getting light earlier in the day, it's still not that bright -- but I've started the ribbing at the bottom of my Darkwater. The pattern calls for an inch of 1x1 ribbing, but I like a bit more than that on the bottom of my sweaters, so I started an inch higher and will be binding off after two inches. These rounds are moving a little slower, but I know once they're done and I move on to the sleeves, the knitting will fly by.

I also finished up the first of my socks yesterday, thanks to some bonus knitting time during a webinar, though it looks pretty terrible right now -- this is one sock that badly needs to be blocked!

The second sock has already been started and went with me to a board meeting last night, so I'm hoping it won't be too long until this sock has a mate.

I finished reading An American Marriage yesterday, and wow, what a powerful book. I can't really say I enjoyed it, because it's very painful to read at times, but I really appreciated it and admired the writing. I still have a few more chapters of Olive to get through tonight/tomorrow, and I'm keeping my eye on my library holds. There are just two people ahead of me for Bury Your Dead, but in the meantime I got a special "skip the line" notification on The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which I heard about from Paula of the Knitting Pipeline podcast, so I guess I know what I'll be doing if it's another slow day at work today!

Whatever you have planned for your weekend, I hope it includes some sunshine, some knitting, and some reading!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Time to Say Good-bye

Don't panic -- I'm not going anywhere. Instead, I'm joining in with Kat and friends to talk about knitting and reading today, and specifically I'm going to talk about unraveling.

If you've been knitting long enough, chances are you've looked back at some of the projects you've made and wondered about some of your questionable decisions. Maybe you used a highly variegated yarn with a busy stitch pattern. Perhaps you knit something that's entirely unflattering on you. Or maybe you were in total denial about your gauge until you finished and discovered your FO was laughably large or small. I had my share of those when I was a baby knitter, but in recent years I made a boo-boo that I should have been wise enough to avoid. It was this sweater:

This is the State Fair Cardigan, which I knit back in 2015. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the pattern, and in fact despite all that heavy cabling I managed to knit it in less than a month. It even fit me quite well. The problem, though, was the yarn. I made the big mistake of using yarn that I had (in this case, yarn I'd won in some sort of contest or giveaway from my now-former LYS) rather than yarn that was appropriate for the project. This yarn is lovely to work with and really soft, but it's a 50% wool/50% alpaca base. And while it made for a really cozy sweater, it has not held up well over time. I'm a little smaller now than I was when I made this, so it's already a little big on me, and it's also drooping quite a bit. The worst part is that the cabled ribbing at the bottom really flares out; I like the waist shaping, but I don't want or need width added to my hips. You can probably also see that the buttonholes are starting to gape a bit, and the fabric is getting fuzzy at the usual friction points as well as anywhere I've managed to brush up against something rough. So I've decided to pull this sweater apart and unravel it in order to reuse the yarn -- mainly because I've discovered that it felts beautifully and makes some really cozy mittens! I'd much rather use the yarn to keep some hands warm that have it be in a sweater that just sits in a drawer. Someday I hope to knit the pattern again, because I really love the sweater, but next time I'll be sure to use a bouncy 100% wool yarn!

Thankfully my current projects are all behaving themselves and no unraveling has been required. I will be starting on the ribbing on my sweater this evening, as it's seen a lot of action the past couple of evenings, and I'm getting close to the ribbing of my first Louisette sock:

I've been reading quite a lot, too, though I haven't quite managed the pace of January. Over the weekend, I started and finished White Nights, the second book in the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves, and quite enjoyed it. I was tempted to borrow book three from the library, as there's no wait on it right now, but my next hold should be coming up soon enough that I decided to wait for now. I've got about 50 pages left to read in Olive Kitteridge (my before-bed reading these days, so that'll probably take me the rest of the week), and yesterday I started reading An American Marriage through Hoopla. Hoopla can be nice when there's something that has a really long wait at the library, but I don't love the interface. Still, I'm enjoying the book so far.

How about you -- what are you knitting and reading this week?

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sometimes Mondays ...

are for staying home!

I think I mentioned last week that Rainbow had an extra-long weekend, with both Friday and Monday off, and I was going to be working from home on Friday. I decided to take today as a vacation day so the two of us could spend some extra quality time together, and it's been a great decision. There really is nothing quite like sleeping in on a Monday morning, especially when you're awakened by your favorite kiddo crawling into bed to snuggle with you. We did some cleaning and organizing in her room to start the day, after having a leisurely breakfast, but this afternoon we're planning on reading library books and crafting. I also figured I'd shift my regular blogging schedule this week because I had the extra time!

My current library book -- Ann Cleeves's White Nights -- is one I'd been waiting for from the library for quite a while and I was getting really impatient, so I was delighted when my hold came up on Valentine's Day. I think that my wholehearted embrace of the ebook over the last year or so is in no small part due to the fact that provided my knitting is something easy that doesn't require me to look at it, I can read while I knit. Thanks to this book and a couple of hours reading it yesterday afternoon, I'm now more than halfway done with the body of my Darkwater, which Rainbow was kind enough to take photos of me modeling (please excuse my disheveled look -- I figured there was no need for me to put on makeup or spend too much time with my hair if I'm not planning on leaving the house).

You can see that I've got a nice amount of positive ease, though if I'm honest, I'm a little worried about there being a little too much fabric in the yoke. I'm hoping that blocking (and adding sleeves) will help with the bunching, but I know it's because of my being so worried about those long floats and overcompensating by relaxing my tension. I'm sure using a thicker yarn than called for had something to do with it, too (the pattern calls for fingering worked at a DK gauge; my yarn is labeled DK but really knits up more like a sport, in my opinion). As long as it doesn't look like a potato sack on me,  I'll be happy, and honestly I wanted a slightly oversized fit anyway. It just boggles my mind a bit because I'm making the smallest size in this pattern, and while I'm smaller than I used to be, I'm not that small.

Meanwhile, when I've been in the mood for a project requiring a little more attention, I've been working on a new cast on, my Brackthaw mittens. I started these on Friday night and have worked on them for a couple of evenings. This collage shows you both the back of hand side (left) and the palm side (right) of the same mitten.

I'm using yarns that were sent to me in my FibreShare package when I participated last year. The green is Quince & Co. Finch in Sage, and the cream is handspun that came with only a small hand-written label indicating it's a blend of "Georgia rustic wool," silk, and nylon. The handspun is a bit thick and thin, which I don't mind at all, but you can see that it does mess with my tension a bit (you can see it most prominently in the corrugated ribbing at the cuff). It's always a treat to knit with handspun, and I rarely knit with handspun that's not my own, so I'm enjoying this. The dense gauge for the colorwork (9 stitches per inch) is a little hard on my hands, so I can't work on these too much, which is not a bad thing considering that the chart is also small and probably not great for my eyes, but I'm moving right along on them. I'm entering these in the Woolly Thistle Mitten KAL this year, my first time participating, and as long as I get them done by late March, I'll be fine -- of course, I'd much prefer to get them done sooner so I can wear them!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Well Worth the Earworm

Spinning fiber that has been in the stash for a while is always such a delight, especially when it's not from a fiber club and is instead something that I've picked out myself. My most recent spin is just such a project. I bought the fiber back in November 2018 and even surprised myself at the time because it was just gray, not dyed at all. But I was drawn in by the depth of gray and the sparkle of it. It was a 40% Merino/40% Shetland/20% nylon blend from HipStrings, from Jill's Favorite Things series -- a bunch of custom fiber blends inspired by things mentioned in the song from The Sound of Music. This one was Silver-White Winters, and it was perfectly designed to fit that name. I've spent the last little while finally spinning it up after discovering that it had been unfortunately munched on a bit by some critters, but most of it was just fine. I decided that I wanted a lofty, imperfect yarn, so though the prep was combed top, I spun it semi-woolen. When all the singles were done, I wound them off the bobbin onto my ball winder and then plied both ends together.

Here's what it look like freshly skeined, just before it got a nice soak in some hot, sudsy water:

You can see the fresh plying twist still in it -- that's because the twist in the plying direction is the most recent and thus the most active, but washing it "wakes up" the spinning twist and allows all the twist, in both directions, to even out. It also looks a bit wiry, but it did fluff up nicely when it was washed.

You might be able to see some of the sparkle here if you look closely, but certainly you can see that it's more of a rustic spin than what I typically do, and I actually really like it. There was a time when spinning long draw stressed me out, type A personality that I am, because it was never as consistent or controlled as I usually like my handspun to be. But as I get older, I find that I appreciate yarn that has character a lot more and find the stuff that's too perfect to look a bit sterile and overprocessed. Perhaps that doesn't make much sense, but I'm not questioning it too much. I really enjoyed the easy spinning -- woolen spinning is so much faster than my usual short forward draw -- and am delighted with the finished yarn. It's still hanging to dry and it's late in the afternoon on a gloomy day, so I'll share it at a later date. And if you now have "My Favorite Things" stuck in your head, the least I can say is that there are worse things and you have good company!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Pattern Release: I've Got Sunshine

Yes, I am posting on a Saturday, which is not at all typical for me, but it's for a good reason! Today I'm sharing my first pattern of 2020, a new sock pattern designed especially for the Lots of Socks KAL hosted by Lisa Ross to benefit Down Syndrome International.

Last year's KAL came together rather quickly, so my featured sock pattern was one I'd already published. For this year's KAL, however, I knew I wanted to design something new. I also reached out to an indie yarn dyer to see if she was interested in collaborating, and I was delighted when she took me up on the offer! Elizabeth of Holly Press Fibers even custom-dyed a colorway using the Down syndrome colors (blue and yellow) and named it I've Got Sunshine. I loved the colorway and the sentiment it suggested so much that I shamelessly stole it for my design.

I've Got Sunshine (the sock version) is knit cuff-down and features a meandering twisted stitch pattern that goes all the way down the leg and on top of the foot toward the outside of each sock. The sock uses a traditional heel flap and gusset construction, but with the twist: The placement of the gusset decreases are shifted toward the bottom of the sole and angle up toward the instep, resulting in a snug fit around the heel. You can see that line of decreases in the left sock here:

The tech-edited pattern has been graded to five sizes, to fit foot circumference of 6, 7 (8, 9, 10) in./ 15, 18 (20.5, 23, 25.5) cm, and has been professionally tech edited. The stitch pattern is both written and charted. And, what's more, for today only, it's on sale!

All proceeds from the sale of this pattern today, February 15, 2020, will be donated to Down Syndrome International. Additionally, if you enter the code LOTSOFSOCKS, you'll save 50% on the purchase price!

All of my sock patterns are eligible for the KAL as well, and each sock you knit is an entry for some great prizes, so I hope you'll join us!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Plans for a Three-Day Weekend

It's another wet, cold day here in Western Pennsylvania. We had a snow/rain mix yesterday and are due for more of the same today. The gloom is really depressing, but today I'm not letting it put a damper on my mood because I have a three-day weekend coming up! Rainbow's school is closed tomorrow (for a teacher in-service day) and Monday (for Presidents Day), so I've arranged to work from home tomorrow and take a vacation day on Monday. All of that translates to much more knitting time! When I work from home, I can often get away with knitting because if I don't have any actual work to do, I'm good to do whatever as long as I keep an eye on my email. That works out perfectly because I set up my laptop next to my spinning chair to keep an eye on things and can knit or spin in the meantime.

One project I really hope to make a lot of progress on is my Darkwater; as of last night, I have about five inches of body done. For as much fun as the colorwork was to knit, stockinette in the round is really the perfect thing this week, as work as been busy and my brain has been absolutely fried by the time I sit down to knit in the evening.

That project bag is my current favorite sweater bag -- it's from Amy Beth of Fat Squirrel Fibers. I have several of her bags and they are all extremely well made.

I'm still working on my Louisette Socks as well. I turned the heel and have started knitting up the leg, but they don't look much different from the last time you saw them, so I will spare you from having to see another dark photo.

Right now I'm pondering mittens, mainly because my hands have been cold lately and the warmest mittens I have are actually a bit big on me. I happen to have two mitten patterns in my 20 in 2020 pattern list: the Snow Day Mittens, which I plan to make for myself to match (sort of) the pair I made for Rainbow, and Brackthaw, for which I'm planning to use yarn I received from my FibreShare partner last year. Today marks the start of the Woolly Thistle Mitten KAL, so I might actually wind  the yarn and cast on for the latter tonight. I know they won't be super fast to knit, but given that the high tomorrow is only supposed to be in the low 20s F, I'm certainly going to be motivated to get them done quickly so that I can wear them.

Whether or not you have a three-day weekend ahead to look forward to, I hope it's a good one!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Not So Fast, Phil

Despite Punxsutawny Phil's prediction of an early spring, we are very much still in winter here. We had a small snowstorm move through Thursday night into Friday, resulting in a snow day for Rainbow (we didn't get that much snow, but we've had so little this year that I think the schools felt obligated to use one of the built-in snow days). For once -- maybe the first time ever! -- the Mister volunteered to stay home with her so I could go in to work, and I was very thankful for my cozy new hat for that blustery walk in on Friday morning.

Pattern: Neon by Sarah Cooke
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Beguiled (75% superwash merino/20% nylon/5% Stellina) in a OOAK colorway and Floof (72% mohair/28% silk) in American Rust
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: February 1/February 6

I had such a good time knitting this hat for Rainbow back in December that I knew I had to knit one for myself. My only modification, if you can even call it that, was to carry the mohair/silk laceweight alongside the DK, and the effect is amazing. This hat has both sparkle and fuzz, and it's quite cozy. I had a small moment of panic on Sunday when I couldn't find it and thought I had lost it when we went out to dinner the night before. Silly me forgot that the reason it wasn't in my coat pocket was because I had washed and blocked it on Saturday afternoon and it was still sitting on the drying rack upstairs. D'oh! Anyway, this was fun to knit again and I have a feeling this pattern will be a go-to hat when I need a gift in the future.

We had a rather quiet weekend, and we got an early start on Saturday because we went to get our taxes done. I took my new handspun sock along with me, and you can see how much I've gotten done since then -- the progress keeper marks where I was Saturday morning.

I'm maybe half an inch or so from being able to start the heel, and I should get there during my lunchtime knitting today.

My Darkwater saw the most attention over the weekend because I really wanted to finish the colorwork in the yoke. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this picture of my yoke "guts" after I finished up.

Here is where things stand as of this morning:

I've split off the sleeve stitches and gotten about three inches of body knit under the arms. I tried it on last night to make sure the fit was okay, and it is, though it looks like I was so worried about the floats not being tight on the yoke that I may have overcompensated a bit. I'm sure it'll look better after blocking, but this sweater will definitely have a good amount of positive ease. That is something I'd planned for, but it's breaking my brain a bit because I'm making the smallest size in the pattern and, though I have lost weight, I'm still not the smallest person. In any case, assuming things don't change too much with blocking, this should fit like a comfy sweatshirt, which is just what I wanted.

Though I likely would have had enough, I did end up introducing a new skein of main color yarn before I finished the yoke so I could transition it in, and I've since completely used up that first skein. It looks like the two that are attached now should get me through the body, or at least most of the way, and that will leave me the last skein for the arms. I have a bit of a cushion from what the pattern specifies, but you never know, especially when you substitute a DK for a fingering. I've gotten to the mindless part of this sweater now, so I hope it will knit up quickly going forward. Looking ahead in the forecast, I'm definitely going to need it!