Thursday, July 31, 2008

But Will He Like the Flecks?*

These really got to be a slog in the end, but it's good to know that some of my holiday knitting is finished before the end of July.

Pattern: a variation on my regular stockinette
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential Tweed (65% superwash merino, 25% nylon, 10% donegal), colorway Flint, two skeins
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: July 23/July 31
Recipient: my father-in-law

Mixed feelings about these, really. They were easy to knit and therefore fast (heck, almost the entire foot of the first sock was completed during a screening of Mamma Mia!), and as I said, it's nice to be able to get some obligation knitting done early.

That said, I wasn't wild about the yarn. The yarn base itself is nice enough, but the donegal "flecks" drove me a little batty. This yarn is basically the normal Essential, but it looks like little bits of loose fiber were thrown in as it was being spun, and very few of them were well spun in. Many are loose enough that they can be pulled out, and I did just that frequently as I was knitting. Had these flecks been a little longer and been really spun into the yarn, I might not have minded as much.

I really think that calling this yarn a tweed is a misnomer; it's not a true tweed, and it doesn't have that wonderful sense of dimensions that you get with a yarn that is a real tweed. I'm really not sure why I bought this yarn in the first place -- worse, I have two more skeins of it in the stash! I'm hoping that it's not too far out there for my father in law, who's a little more adventurous in his choice of color in clothing than some men I know. (The Mister has already nixed the idea of using the two remaining skeins for socks for him; he doesn't do flecks.)

The good sock-knitting news is that, having done the two pairs for the dads, I've cast on another pair for me, in some yummy cranberry-colored Araucania Rancho.

Delicious, no? This is the beginning of some Merino Lace Socks from IK/Favorite Socks. In spite of the fact that I'm knitting on size 0 (2.0 mm) needles, it's a lot of fun -- I suspect it has to do with the fact that I'm knitting something other than stockinette for a change.

*At last night's bonus fifth-Wednesday Hurricane Knitters knit night, some of us had a discussion about men's preferences when it comes to yarn and how very few men seem to care for tweeds. All the men we know prefer solids (or even heathers, in some instances) to anything with "flecks." If only we had a man like Jared to knit for!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Good Things Come in Small Packages

This evening, I arrived home to find a rather small box waiting for me at my front door. Now, I guess you couldn't objectively call it small, but it looked small to me considering I knew there was a full pound of fiber inside -- my order from Crown Mountain Farms. I fully blame the ladies over at Lime and Violet for alerting me to their big summer sale (psst! it's on until the end of July!), although to be fair, I had been wanting to try the famous CMF sw merino for quite some time. The sale proved to be just the impetus I needed to break out the credit card. So, after patiently waiting about a week and a half, here are the latest additions to my stash:

"San Francisco" (above) and "In the Skies" (below)

Each of these bumps is 8.5 ounces of extremely soft superwash merino. I haven't pulled them apart yet, but they look like they will require very little predrafting before spinning. I'm going to try a traditional three-ply sock yarn with at least one of these, and I'm anxious to get going on that, so I'm going to be working to finish up the BFL you saw yesterday by the end of the week (so far, spinning about half an hour every day seems to be working well).

Meanwhile, the knitting continues on my mystery shawl; I think I have about 12 rows of the fourth chart left to knit before I can start the edging. We had a rather crazy, but fun, weekend, so I didn't get in as much time on it as I would have liked. I'm going to focus on the shawl this week and this weekend, however, so that I can finish up if at all possible by next Friday, when the Olympics start and I cast on for my Shetland Triangle.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Old Yarn, Green Socks

As much as I love the color green, these were starting to get just the tiniest bit on my nerves. But they're done (albeit unblocked):

Pattern: Gentleman's Plain Winter Sock from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential (75% superwash wool, 25% nylon), colorway Grass, two skeins
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: July 16/July 23
Recipient: my father (but not until the holidays!)
Mods: changed the last few rows of the toe so I could kitchener (you know how I love to graft)

I'm pretty much completely certain that, excluding scraps and leftovers, this yarn was the oldest sock yarn in my stash. Now, I know what many of you are thinking: I've been knitting approximately 20 years, so how is it that my oldest sock yarn was only about two years old? Remember that for the vast majority of my knitting life, I was knitting garter stitch or ribbed scarves out of acrylic. It was only a little more than two years ago that I knit my first pair of socks. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Knit Picks and stashed my first KP sock yarns.

Because this yarn was so old, it was a bit more rustic, shall we say, than Essential has been in the last year to year and a half. This is still the generic wool instead of superwash merino, so it's not as soft, but I hardly think my father will know the difference. Socks knit from the same order of yarn were successfully tested by The Mister, the pickiest knitwear critic I know. The fabric will soften up with a wash, and I'm hoping a dip will cut down on the hairiness as well.

As long as I'm doing Christmas/Hannukah knitting in July, I cast on for some socks for my father-in-law in a much newer (and softer) batch of Essential Tweed in Flint. I'm sticking with a variation of my regular stockinette sock recipe for these so that I have to think even less while knitting.

There will be some more thoughtful sock knitting in my future, though -- my latest STR arrived today, with not one but two patterns!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Best-Laid Plans

I've been meaning to write this (or any, really) blog post for quite a few days. First I meant to write it over the weekend, but partying with my now-legally-able-to-drink brother and entertaining my aunt got in the way. Then I meant to blog last night, but some sort of stomach bug sent me home early from work and directly into bed. So this post is, by necessity, a bit of a catch up. I hope you'll forgive the bullet-point style; I promise to get back to my verbose self in the next post.

Just what have I been up to since last we talked? Well, I finished a quick-and-easy pair of baby socks:

(The usual pattern, using the leftovers from these socks, on size 1/2.25 mm dpns.)

Then, I started some very plain socks for my father (long-term planning) in what may very well be the oldest sock yarn in my stash.

Here's sock #1 done; sock #2 is part way through the foot and should be completed in the next day or so.

I'm still plodding slowly through the mystery shawl, which has grown to the point where it's taking me 20-30 minutes to knit a round; needless to say, it will not be finished any time soon.

I'm almost halfway through clue 4, and then clue 5, the edging, will be very long and tedious. (It's knitted on perpendicularly, so the number of rows will be twice the number of stitches I have in each round right now. I don't even want to think about how many rows that is.)

I've also been trying to spin at least a little every day, and I'm halfway through the Dragonfibers BFL. Here's the second half, ready to be fluffed and then spun:

Finally, I signed up for the 2008 Ravelympics. I'm going to attempt to knit the Shetland Triangle (Rav link) with this handspun. I think that's doable, considering last summer's lace knitting, but I'd really like to be done with the mystery shawl before I cast on another, so maybe this will be the kick in the pants I need to get moving on that particular WIP.

What about you? Are you signed up for the Ravelympics? What is your challenge?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Warmth Continues

First I have to thank you for all your compliments on my February Lady Sweater. I am really so, so pleased with how it came out, and it's really almost torture to have to wait a couple months until it's cool enough to wear it comfortably.

Lest you think I've finished one cooler weather item in favor of more seasonable knitting, I present to you my most recent finished project (with apologies for the poor photography):

Pattern: Uptown Boot Socks by Jennifer L. Appleby (winter 2003 Interweave Knits, republished in Favorite Socks)
Yarn: Zitron Trekking Pro Natura (75% superwash wool, 25% bamboo), color 1604, one skein
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: July 3/July 14
Mods: I substituted my own heel and toe, and I reversed the direction of the cables on the second sock for mirrored spirals

I had mixed feelings about this yarn. On the one hand, I really like the sheen the bamboo gives it, and I loved the subtle almost-striping color effect. The yardage in a skein is also very generous; I had plenty left over to make some baby socks.

However, actually knitting with the yarn wasn't entirely an enjoyable experience. It felt rather twine-like and lacked the elasticity of an all-wool yarn. This was especially apparent when working the cables on these socks. I was able to complete the first sock without a cable needle, but for some reason I couldn't manage to work the maneuver on the second sock, when the cables were going the opposite direction. The bamboo content that creates such a shiny finish also was rather frustrating, as it wasn't evenly spun in with the wool; I pulled more than a few slubs of bamboo fiber out as I was knitting, and if you look closely, you can see a few more that made their way into the knitted fabric. Finally, this stuff shed like you wouldn't believe -- I expect to get up covered in fiber when spinning, but not when knitting!

So, all in all, not the best experience, but a nice finished project. And these used stash yarn as well!

Now I've moved on to some long-term planning projects, specifically holiday gift socks. I started a pair of socks for my dad this morning with some deep stash yarn -- and we're talking deep. It came in my first sock yarn order from Knit Picks more than two years ago! It was so buried in my stash that I never even photographed it and put in my Ravelry stash!

Monday, July 14, 2008

One Classy Lady

It's really a darn shame that it's the middle of summer and therefore too warm to wear my new favorite sweater.

Pattern: February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne (flintknits; Ravelry link), size XS/37.5" chest
Yarn: Dream in Color Classy (100% superwash merino), colorway GoGo Grassy, approximately 3.4 skeins (850 yards)
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) 32" Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: June 8/July 9
Mods: none

Working with this yarn was a complete pleasure, and I'm thoroughly glad I decided to splurge on it. The squoosh factor is just amazing -- great hand, great stitch definition, and amazing yardage. I wet blocked the sweater when it was done, and I was not at all surprised that the sweater grew -- a lot! -- in length. But, I had faith in my swatch; I laid the sweater flat on a drying rack to dry, and it mostly shrank back to its original shape. The resulting fabric has great drape but still enough memory to hold its shape.

I did 22 repeats of the lace pattern on both the body and the sleeves. I knew I wanted to my sleeves to be longer than 3/4 length, but not so long that I'd inadvertently drag them through my dinner or the water in the sink while washing my hands. After blocking, they're now about 2-3 inches above my wrist. Just perfect.

The one thing I did that wasn't explicitly written in the pattern was to slip the first stitch of every row purlwise, with the yarn in front, and then took the yarn to the back to work the next stitch. This results in a pretty column of twisted V's along the edge, which, at least in my opinion, is a lot more attractive that the normal edge of garter stitch. I thought it was rather appropriate for use in an Elizabeth Zimmerman-inspired pattern -- after all, she's the one who gave me the idea in the first place.

Although there are those knitters who find incredible buttons and knit the sweaters to show them off, I'm of the sort who knit their sweaters and then find buttons worthy of their handiwork. I was hoping to find simple wood or woodlike buttons that wouldn't detract from the lace of this sweater, and these certainly fit the bill (especially as I only had to find three of them!). I found them at Natural Stitches; I think it was only fitting that I returned to the LYS where I was pulled onto the bandwagon to find the finishing touches.

I am completely and utterly in love with this sweater, and it's making me wish it were already cold outside so I could wear it and be comfortable (trust me when I tell you that I was not as relaxed as I look in these photos -- it was in the high 80s and humid!). I think I very well might make another, perhaps in the fall. I do have some Cascade in the stash that I think might work very well. (What do you think?) The bottom line is that this pattern was a pleasure to knit and was truly a great tribute to the talent of EZ. It may be what everyone is knitting, but with good reason!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My AllSpunUp All Spun Up

From fiber ...

... to singles ...

... to yarn:

4.4 ounces of superwash merino, handpainted by Kristin at AllSpunUp, spun into approximately 383 yards of heavy fingering weight/sportweight two-ply. I'm in love.

And of course, let's not forget my mini-skein of Navajo ply from the leftover singles.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sneak Peaks

Can you guess what's in the bathtub?

Here's a hint: I finished the knitting and the weaving in of all the ends last night, but I'll need to go button shopping this weekend. (Suggestions for where to buy buttons are welcome!)

Meanwhile, tonight it's all about the plying:

Expect to see a finished project and a finished yarn in the next few days!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Days of Lace and Fiber

Is there any Monday as depressing as the Monday following a long holiday weekend? I doubt it. Today was doubly depressing after the weekend I had, in which I indulged in many fibery pursuits. It was a busy weekend, between entertaining on the 4th, going furniture shopping (the new coffee table arrives Saturday!), doing some serious yard work, doing "work work," and even going to the office for a while yesterday, but I made sure I observed the holiday weekend and my vacation day by doing what I love best.

First there was working on the mystery shawl. I'd been working on it a bit last week, but I really focused my energy on it on Saturday afternoon and evening, when The Mister and I decided to stay in for a low-key evening. We made some pasta and watched a Law and Order: Criminal Intent marathon on USA, and I kept at the shawl. I feel particularly proud of myself, because in addition to cooking and cleaning up dinner and doing two loads of laundry, I finished Clue 3. My shawl has now grown to 576 stitches around:

For scale, I will tell you that the needle is a 32" Addi. That little mess of yarn up near the top is what's left from the first skein of yarn. I'll be interested to see how much more I'll use in the last two clues.

Speaking of which, I printed out Clue 4 yesterday, and the charts have gotten much larger -- each chart is a full page. Two of the four options are about 46 rows and the other two are about 96. Take a wild guess which option I'll be choosing.

I'm holding off on the shawl for a day or two, though, because I've been flying on my February Lady Sweater. Sleeve number one is ready for its cuff.

I'd really like to finish this by the weekend (perhaps short of getting buttons if I find I need to go shopping for them), and I seem to be on a roll, so I'm going with it. Plus, I have a movie to watch tonight that will require a bit more attention (and thus is not very compatible with knitting lace).
Yesterday, although I didn't blog about it, I observed a Spinning Sunday and worked on my second bobbin of my All Spun Up merino while watching the marathon men's Wimbledon final.

See that contraption in the back? That's my very high-tech fiber holder (I've graduated from the cardboard box some of my most recent purchases arrived in).

Eventually I think I'd like to get a Lantern Moon basket to hold my spinning fiber, but for now I'll settle for an old pillowcase inside a handled basket. I think it's only appropriate that, on the 4th of July weekend, I used a little old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity!

Thursday, July 03, 2008


These are the squishiest (is that a word?) socks I've knit in a long time!

Pattern: Whitby from Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush
Yarn: Reynolds Soft Sea Wool (100% wool), color 915, two skeins
Needles: one 32" US 2 (2.75 mm) Knit Picks circular
Started/Completed: June 25/July 2
Mods: adjusted the toe a bit so I could kitchener

If you want your socks to knit up quickly, knit them in a DK-weight yarn! I'd used this yarn before for Aidan's sweater and found it to be delightfully soft and bouncy, so I knew I had to knit a pair of socks out of it. These fit the bill, with just enough patterning to be interesting but little enough that I was able to memorize it easily.

There's a 3x3 cable running down both sides of the instep, which I thought would pull in the sock a lot, but it's surprisingly stretchy. It will be interesting to see how these feel in shoes come fall.

I will say that although the yardage on this yarn appears to be small for socks, I had a fair amount left. The legs are about 7", and you'll remember, of course, that I have rather long feet. (An example? Nancy Bush says to begin the toe after completing 17 cable crosses; I completed 19 and still had to knit several plain rounds before starting the toe.) I suppose it helped that I knit on larger needles and at a larger gauge than usual, too.

The one mod I made was to the toe. The pattern called for the finish to the toe that some have so eloquently described as the cat butt toe -- in other words, decreasing down to a small number of stitches, pulling the remaining yarn through them, and pulling tight. I'm just not a fan of that toe, in look or in fit, so I did a regular toe and grafted. I do love to graft!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Little Bits

My knitting time has taken a back seat to household chores in the past couple of days, so there hasn't been very much progress. After my spinning adventures over the weekend, I did pull out my February Lady Sweater on Sunday evening and did manage to finish the body.

It does fit, but I didn't think you wanted to see a shot of me wearing it over my pajamas. Let's save the modeling shots for when it's all done, shall we?

Although Clue 3 of the mystery shawl was released on Saturday, I didn't get around to printing the clue and pulling out my shawl until last night. Good thing, too, because it turns out that there were a couple of errors discovered by the designer in the interim.

As you can see, I've made it on to my one "big" needle. This clue is noticeably larger than the two previous ones; I think I'm about on row 4 of 50, and when I'm done with this clue, there will be 500+ stitches on my needle.

I'm a bit worried that the variegated colorway of the yarn I'm using (Knit Picks Gossamer -- now discontinued, I think --in Caribbean) might be obscuring the lace, but I will withhold final judgment until it's done and blocked. The thing that I really like about this particular KAL is that the pattern is a sort of "choose your own adventure" shawl. Each clue has four charts to choose from, so you could theoretically knit more than a thousand shawls from the one pattern and have no two alike.

This shawl requires a fair amount of concentration, so if you come to the meeting of the Hurricane Knitters tomorrow night (7 p.m., Waterworks Barnes & Noble), you'll see me getting my sleeve on instead!