Monday, March 30, 2009

More for the Hands

These knit up so quickly, I didn't even have time to do a progress picture!

Pattern: Bella's Mittens by Marielle Henault
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino, colorway Dark Grey Mix, less than one skein
Needles: US 8 (5.0 mm) Knit Picks Options with a 40" cable, worked magic loop
Started/Completed: March 25/March 28
Mods: substituted a lighter weight yarn than called for in the pattern

This pattern specified a bulky weight yarn but, wanting to start them right away and make them a stash-busting project, I decided to go with a worsted weight wool instead. Despite the horseshoe cables, the 1x1 ribbing up the arm makes these quite stretchy -- and, believe it or not, those narrow-looking tops actually do fit my hands (yes, I have crazy bony hands). I'd take a picture with a mitten on to prove it to you, but alas, I am not good at taking pictures of my own hands, and frankly these mittens are too pretty to mess up with an attempt at a modeled shot.

While they do fit nicely, I can see how a heavier yarn would make these a lot cushier and, therefore, warmer. I'm pretty darn sure that there's at least one more pair of these in my future, but it may not be until later this year when the weather starts to get colder (although we had some snow here last night, so you never know!).

The verdict? A winner! Easy to knit, easy pattern to follow, and they knit up super fast! I do recommend a good row counter if you're going to knit them, though.

And yes, they're Twilight inspired. I am hopelessly obsessed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blue on Blue

These were a quick, fun knit. (And please don't mind the crappy lighting and chipped manicure in these photos. I was in a hurry to do a shoot and get this posted.)

Pattern: Endpaper Mitts by Eunny Jang
Yarn: Louet Gems Sport Weight, colorways Bluebird (approx. 110 yds) and Caribbean Blue (approx. 70 yards)
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm) and 2 (2.75 mm) dpns
Started/Completed: March 17/March 25
Mods: used a regular long-tail cast on and bound off in rib rather than doing that tubular stuff

Knit in sportweight yarn, these are delightfully thick and squishy. The yarn had been sitting in my stash for quite some time, and the exciting part is that there is enough leftover from both skeins to make another pair of these!

As colorwork projects go, I'd rate these pretty easy. The pattern is always the same; the only tricky part is adding stitches for the thumb gusset, and Eunny's charts and directions are very clear. These were my lunchtime knitting for about a week and a half, so it certainly says something that I was able to tote the chart around and concentrate on them to finish them so fast. This is a fun pattern!

I must've caught some handwear bug, because no sooner did I finish these then I cast on for a pair of mittens (which are now more than halfway done). Is it because I've lost my sweater mojo? Hmm. I guess that doesn't matter as long as I have my monkey mojo.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mission Not Quite Accomplished

So, it was quite a weekend. I was up early on Saturday morning to buy my DVD at Target. I watched it for the first time as soon as I was done with my grocery shopping and breakfast. I was productive while watching, too, as I finished plying up my March All Spun Up Spinalong fiber.

It turned out just as I wanted it to. This is BFL, and my 4-ish ounces yielded approximately 340 yards of Navajo-plied fingering weight. I went for a chain ply instead of a traditional three ply because I wanted to maintain these gorgeous colors.

I think this was my favorite spinalong colorway yet, which is good, because I think it might be the last one for a while. I have quite a fiber stash built up, so I think it's about time I got around to spinning it (and saved some money for when I'm done with what I've got in the meantime).

During my second viewing of the movie on Sunday, this time with The Mister also watching (he liked it!), I decided to ply up the leftovers I'd been building up on one of my bobbins. Again, I N-plied these singles, and this time I wound up with approximately 108 yards of mostly fingering weight. I'd been planning on adding to the bobbin until it was completely full, but I only have four regular-size bobbins and I'd like to start spinning traditional three plies again, so that necessitated emptying the fourth bobbin.

This is quite a mix of fiber. There's a fair amount of ASU in here -- superfine merino leftover from this yarn and some merino/bamboo -- as well as some leftover singles of Sleepy Doormouse and Cape Cod. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this yarn. Any ideas?

Meanwhile, I did do a little bit of knitting over the weekend. Look, Mr. Foster's legs are connected!

I have a feeling he'll be taking shape much faster after tonight. You see, despite my goal of finishing all the Twilight books over the weekend, I didn't quite do it (I suspect watching the movie twice had something to do with it). I finished Eclipse late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and promptly started Breaking Dawn before turning in for the night. I have about 200 pages left, so, soon, this obsession will be over. I hope.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I have a confession to make: I've been cheating on my knitting.

But let's back up a bit. First you have to know that I've always had a bit of an obsessive personality. If there's something I like, I tend to fixate on it. Knitting is only the most recent obsession.

For years and years, my entire childhood and all the way through college, I was a voracious reader. I went through books quickly, sometimes getting through as many as one a day when I was on vacation. I frequently read more than one book at a time; even during high school, when I had a heavy English reading list, I was still reading for pleasure.

Then I started my current job. After reading all day, the last thing I wanted to do in the evening was look at more words, especially in the early days, when my eyes were still adjusting to work and often wouldn't focus at night. It was about this time that knitting started to consume me. I discovered knitting blogs, started one of my own, and amassed a rather impressive stash.

A year ago, I was bitten by the spinning bug. Fortunately, spinning didn't supplant my passion for knitting, so the two pursuits filled my free time nicely.

About two years ago, I started reading for pleasure again, from time to time. It would take me much longer to finish a book, however, because for one thing, I didn't want to put down my knitting, and for another, it was hard to read without subconsciously editing (so much for leaving work at work). I really needed a story that would grip me and make me forget about other things, even typos. The last book I'd read that did this was probably the last Harry Potter book.

So, last week, when I had my "spring break," I decided that it would be good to give my hands a break from the knitting and spinning I planned to do and add in a little reading for pleasure -- something light and entertaining. My friend had mentioned that she'd read some of the Twilight series and was willing to lend me the first book. So, last Thursday, I sat down to eat lunch and opened the book.

And then it was all over for me: I'd been sucked in (pun intended). By Saturday, I'd finished -- having not picked up my knitting all day. (And that should tell you something. The last time I'd put down my knitting for any significant period of time was when I had my appendix out.) Sunday morning, I went to buy the second book in the series. I finished it Tuesday night. Last night, before Hurricane Knitting, I bought the third and fourth books. I have no doubt both will be finished by the end of this weekend. I'd also say there's a very big chance I will have bought and watched the DVD.

Obsess much? Me?

Lest you think I've completely abandoned my knitting, here is some proof that I have not. I've insisted on keeping my reading at home and maintaining my practice of knitting during my lunch break, if only to give my eyes a rest. And look, a nearly complete Endpaper Mitt!

I also have some deadline knitting to do, in the form of a Mr. Foster that will be a birthday gift for my favorite little cousin. After last night's knitting group, he now has two arms and part of a leg.

I'll be chugging along on these, but if you don't see me on the blog or answering e-mail for the next several days, you'll know why.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Block It Out, B*tch!

You didn't see this one coming, did you?

Pattern: Branching Out by Susan Lawrence, spring 2005 Knitty
Yarn: Lime & Violet Intentions superwash merino/bamboo blend in "Fertility"
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: March 5/March 16
Dimensions: approximately 87" long and 4.5" wide
Mods: substituted a sssk for the sl1-k2tog-psso to mirror the k3tog better

Unfortunately, my photos didn't quite capture the true color of this yarn -- in real life, it's much more green and the brown is more of a milk chocolate. Actually, this colorway makes me think very much of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

The yarn was very nice to work with. The bamboo in it gives it an amazing shine, and the knitted fabric has incredible drape. I didn't use the full skein because I wanted this scarf to be more of a fashion accessory than one for warmth, so I made it just long enough to loop around my neck, like so:

The lace pattern is perhaps a bit obscured by the variegated colorway, but I love how the finished scarf feels on my neck, and the colorway is neutral enough that it should go with many outfits.

For those of you wondering about the title of this post, well, I guess I've been doing my Ari Gold impression a bit too much, because when I finished binding off and told The Mister that it was time to block, these were the first words out of his mouth.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

At Long Last

Those of you who know me know that I'm usually a fast knitter; even the most complex of projects have never taken me more than a few months. So it may come as a surprise to some of you that this project was on the needles as long as it was. Nevertheless, it's now complete.

Pattern: Icarus Shawl [Ravelry link] by Miriam Felton, summer 2006 Interweave Knits
Yarn: Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro, approximately 0.73/skein
Dimensions: approximately 70" across and 41.5" tall at center
Needles: 32" US 3 (3.25 mm) Knit Picks circs
Started/Completed: August 20, 2007/March 13, 2009
Mods: none

Yes, you read that right: This shawl was started in the summer of 2007. In fact, this shawl was on the needles longer than The Mister and I have been married! I'm sure the fact that I started it shortly before the wedding had something to do with my abandoning it for a long period of time; I suspect the monotony of the main body of the shawl played a role, too. Lately, though, I started feeling guilty that so many other lace items had been started and completed while this project languished in a bag in my stash, so I resolved to finish my Icarus before casting on for another lace shawl.

As a further reference of how old this project is, the yarn was purchased from Pittsburgh Knit & Bead, a local store that went out of business several years ago. I used about 1,000 yards of the rather generous skein (1,375 yds./100 g) for the completed shawl and the first attempt, which was scrapped when I came across a spot in the yarn where one of the two plies was completely severed.

The pattern itself, once I got past the seemingly endless repetition of the first chart, was quite fun. The later charts were a bit more challenging than lace charts I'd encountered in the past, as some WS rows involved both knits and purls, so I had to pay a bit more attention. And, with the final rows containing 500+ stitches, each row certainly took a bit of time.

Overall, I'm in love with the results. The very thin yarn (I'm not sure if it qualifies as a cobweb weight, but it's close) resulted in a delightfully airy shawl. It was surprisingly resilient when it was blocked -- despite my concerns about its strength, I was able to block the finished shawl with my usual level of severity.

And, perhaps most importantly, it's done. I think I can confidently say that never again will I take more than a year and a half to finish a shawl.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back to Normal

I didn't intend to be away from the blog for as long as I was, but we had a busier weekend than I was expecting. Then, yesterday was my birthday, so after a thrilling day of work, The Mister and I went out for a nice dinner. All in all, it was a pretty good birthday, and I received some nice gifts in the form of yarn money.

As long as I'm playing catch up, here is what I meant to post for Spinning Sunday:

This is a two-ply fingering weight superwash merino. The fiber was from Enchanted Knoll Farm, purchased from the Loopy Ewe. The colorway is "Big Sky." I had high hopes for some big yardage, particularly as I crammed as much as I possibly could onto my bobbing and had to empty it to ply the rest, but in the end I have only about 370 yards. That's respectable, but not what I was expecting.

Still, I quite like the results. After all, this yarn is shades of my current favorite color combination -- chocqua. And I really enjoyed working with this fiber. It had a very nice crimp to it and was quite fun to spin. I also really love that this is a relatively "green" fiber and it's a good price. I will definitely be buying more in the future.

Meanwhile, on the knitting front, I'm devoting much of my knitting time this week focused on finishing a UFO of long standing: Icarus.

I'm on the final chart and am hoping to finish this baby up by the end of the weekend. My office is actually closed on Friday, so I'm taking Thursday off for a really long weekend. I'm planning on spending much of the time doing fibery pursuits.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Socks, Blocked (Sort of)

Thank you all for your extremely nice comments on my sweater! It's always nice when things work out the way you wanted them to, and I couldn't be happier with the results in this case. I've already worn the sweater twice since it came off the needles!

Check out what I finished last night at knit night:

Pattern: based on Undulating Rib Socks by Ann Budd in Favorite Socks
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock lightweight (100% superwash merino), colorway Tide Pooling, one skein
Needles: two 16" US 0 (2.0 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: February 19/March 4
Mods: did a plain rib after completing the cuff and added an Eye of Partridge heel flap

All I can say is that Ann Budd must be a very tight knitter, because the pattern specified a gauge of 9 stitches to the inch on size 3 (3.25 mm) needles; I need a size 0 to get that gauge. So the result is an Amy-style sock -- very dense, with no holes.

I decided to discontinue the undulating rib portion of the cuff after a few repeats, in part because it was pretty lost in this busy yarn, but mostly because the tight gauge was hurting my hands as it was. So I just carried on with the plain ribbing for the rest of the leg and instep, and that resulted in a nicely squishy sock.

I feel I should mention that there is an error in the pattern that doesn't seem to have been noted anywhere online. If you establish the ribbing as *k3, p1, k1,p1* around, you will need to start on row 9 of the Undulating Rib chart.

You may have noticed that my socks are being modeled by my brand-new Knit Picks sock blockers. They -- along with a larger set for man socks, some stitch markers, some laceweight yarn, and a Mr. Foster kit -- arrived today, much to my surprise. (Three-day shipping -- who knew?)

And that's not the only good mail I've gotten this week. My All Spun Up March spinalong fiber arrived yesterday.

It's BFL, and in my current favorite color combination. I'm determined to finish plying what's currently on my wheel tomorrow night so I can start spinning this!

Monday, March 02, 2009

My Climbing Vines

I have a finished sweater, and it fits!

Pattern: Climbing Vines Pullover (Ravelry link) by Joelle Meier Rioux, Interweave Knits winter 2008
Yarn: Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran Tweed (85% merino, 10% silk, 5% cashmere), colorway 130/Lavender, approximately 8.75 skeins
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) and US 5 (3.75 mm) Knit Picks Options
Started/Completed: February 7/February 27
Mods: added two extra inches in length to the sleeves to make them full length; added an extra inch of ribbing to the neck

This sweater was a true experiment. I went down a needle size and still didn't get gauge but determined that going down two needle sizes would have resulted in a stiff fabric. So I measured my swatch, did a few calculations, and figured out that knitting the 34 1/2" size should end up in a sweater to fit the measurements of the 38" size, which is what I wanted. As you can see, it did work out in the end, and the sweater fits just as I wanted it to, but I had to make a couple of adjustments.

Because I had fewer stitches per inch and fewer rows per inch, I ran into some difficulties when working the top part of the front. I had to work more rows to reach the desired length for the front, meaning I was further along in the lace panel than I would have been had I gotten gauge, so I had to fudge the neckline shaping. Then, the sections of the front on either side of the neck were narrower than they should have been -- the sweater was actually falling off my shoulders when I tried it on before picking up for the neckband -- so I added some more length to that ribbing to compensate.

I only realized midway through the sleeves that, as written, they would only be about 3/4 length. I didn't want shorter sleeves for this particular sweater, so I added an additional two inches or so of length to make them full length.

Finishing this sweater was much easier than I was expecting, and, in fact, I finished seaming everything in one evening. The sleeves in particular were the easiest I've ever set in. I picked up less stitches for the neckband than called for because of my gauge issues; I just made sure I had a multiple of four that filled the space adequately and went with it.

As to the yarn, I quite liked working with it, although I did encounter a fair amount of VM. I do love the rustic, nubby look it has, and after wearing this sweater all day on Saturday, I can attest to its warmth. My 10 skeins were enough to knit the entire sweater, including two gauge swatches, with enough left over for a hat or maybe a pair of fingerless mitts.

The Mister has declared this my Best Sweater Yet, and I'm inclined to agree with him. I got many compliments on it throughout the day from knitters and nonknitters alike, including one you might recognize:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Handspun and a Knitting Celebrity Encounter

First things first: It's Sunday, and I have new handspun to show you.

This is superwash merino (colorway Tabula Rosa) from Sakina Needles, purchased from the Loopy Ewe way back in my first big fiber order last year. I didn't spin it right away because the color was not what I expected; what looked pink and purple online was actually orange and purple in person. I finally decided to spin it up, figuring that if I didn't like the resulting yarn, I could knit it into a gift or find someone else who would love it.

I spun the entire 4 oz. onto one bobbin and then Navajo/chain plied it. I wound up with approximately 375 yards of sportweight-ish yarn. I had a lot of problems with the dye coming off on my hands while I spun, so I gave it a vinegar bath in the finishing process and had very little dye coming off when it was washed. I still don't know what I'll do with it, but the color is definitely growing on me.

Now, on to the celebrity. This weekend, Franklin Habit was in town doing a reading/booksigning and teaching a lace class at Natural Stitches.

An enthusiastic crowd was there Saturday afternoon for the reading and signing, which was quite entertaining, particularly when Franklin donned his nightcap while signing books.

The lace class was this morning, and it was also quite a bit of fun. In addition to teaching the basics of lace knitting (and yes, I know I already knew them), Franklin also had a lot to tell us about the lace knitting traditions of Orenburg, the Shetland Islands, and Estonia -- which is really why I took the class. He is a wonderful and very entertaining teacher, and I highly recommend taking a class with him if you have the chance.

I think I should add that Franklin also complimented me on my new sweater -- but you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see that!