Monday, August 31, 2009

Under-the-Radar Knitting

You may have caught a reference I made last week to untangling some purple yarn and noticed that I never mentioned what it was for. That's because I was doing some secret gift knitting; now that the gift has been received, I can finally reveal just what that purple yarn became.

Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark
Yarn: Hazel Knits Artisan Sock (90% superwash merino, 10% nylon), colorway 208/Plum Glace, one skein
Needles: 32" US 5 (3.75 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Dimensions: 60" x 30"
Started/Completed: August 20/August 26
Mods: substituted beads for the nupps and omitted four rows from the border chart

You may remember that Jess sent me a very generous package of purple yarn scraps to help me finish my sock yarn blanket. Included in that package was an entire skein of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in a beautiful plummy purple. When I didn't need to break into it to finish a square for my blanket, I knew that I had to use it to knit something for Jess. You see, she's had a very difficult year, and I was so touched by her generosity that I wanted to send her a little something pretty in return in the hopes that it would brighten her day a bit. I was itching to knit some more lace, and the yardage in this skein of yarn seemed to be right on.

The last time I knit this shawl, I included the nupps and used approximately 400 yards, so I thought the one skein of this yarn would be enough. Unfortunately, as I began the border chart, I began to panic that I was going to run out of yarn. Rather than completing the shawl as written and having to do several rows in a different yarn, I did the first two rows of the border chart and then skipped to the last two rows. That turned out to be a wise decision, because once I was through with the bind off, this is all that was left.

The shawl looked positively tiny immediately off the needles, but I blocked it severely, as per usual. I love the results.

I decided to substitute beads for the nupps in part because I thought it would save yarn, but I also was excited to see how the substitution would look with this particular pattern. I used the crochet hook method and size 6/0 hematite seed beads. They're not nearly as textural as the nupps would be, but they do add a nice bit of shine and just a little bit of weight.

I don't think that the mods to the edging detract too much from the look of the overall shawl. Although I certainly wish I'd had enough yarn to knit the full border, the effect of the scalloped edging is the same, and I think the smaller size of the edging really emphasized the Lily of the Valley section -- my personal favorite.

The pattern was just as fun to knit the second time around as the first, and this time it went even faster. With the exception of a little bit of time at home one evening, doing the cast on and set-up rows, all the knitting on this shawl was done during my prework and lunch hour knitting times -- approximately two hours a day.

Overall, it's a winner. The knitting was fun, the resulting shawl exceeded my expectations, and I got a very surprised note from the recipient that really made my day.

Call me crazy, but I think I need to make another one of these for myself, and soon!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Time to Pack

Tomorrow morning, the Mister and I headed to Ohio for my family's annual reunion. I took today off from work, as well, to run errands and do some cleaning around the house so that I won't have to do it all when we get back.

I also spent a little quality time with my wheel and plied up some yarn:

I also did some packing of my knitting projects for the drive. The Mommy Snug is coming with me, of course, and when I need a break from 2x2 rib, I have an alternate project. My brother, who rarely wants any sort of handknit, specifically requested a tube scarf in his school colors. I thought it was high time I got started, considering he goes back to school in a week.

I hope that the next time you see this yarn, it's in the form of a completed scarf.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rib It

Contrary to what the title of this post might suggest if you read it out loud, there has been no frogging chez Knit/Wit. There has, however, been a lot of 2x2 rib. I finished the front of my Mommy Snug on Friday night and cast on for the back on Saturday. I'm a little more than six inches in.

I was hoping to get further than this yesterday, but I was a bit distracted by a good book. Seriously, I read something like 300 pages yesterday. I can't remember the last time that happened. Tonight, though, it's back to the ribbing, with the aid of a new movie from Netflix.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Purple Is the New Green

If the theme color for last year's projects was green, this year it's all about the purple.

For starters, there's my Mommy Snug, which I started at Natural Stitches last Saturday and on which I've been working diligently ever since.

While the 2x2 ribbing does get a little tedious, I'm really enjoying this sweater. The design is very clever, and I think it'll be a very flattering sweater when it's done. For starters, that ribbing is incredibly stretchy, so it'll hug my baby curves nicely. Also, you may not be able to see them very well, but there are four buttonholes on each side near the bottom, which will allow me to "let out" the sweater as the baby bump gets larger. The front piece is definitely the most complicated, so if I'm able to knock this out in a week, I'm hoping I'll have a finished sweater in a month to a month and a half -- which should be just in time for it to be cool enough to wear it.

What else is purple? Well, Rainbow's newest pair of socks:

I'm not sure what yarn this is; it came in the care package from Jess and didn't wind up making it into either of the purple blanket squares. Judging from the yarn base, I'm guessing it's either Koigu, Cherry Tree Hill, or Shibui Sock. Or I could be completely off. These are the usual pattern but modified to be a newborn size (size 0 needles and fewer rows on the heel flap and gusset).

Finally, while these aren't purple, they do have purple in them:

A pair of Saartje's Bootees (pdf) for Rainbow, knit with the yarn leftover from her hat, done but for sewing on the buttons. Amazingly, there's still some yarn leftover, so I'm doing a long strip of I-cord until it runs out and I'll use that for some embellishment on something or other one of these days.

On tap for tonight? Untangling some purple yarn and then getting back to the purple sweater.

Monday, August 17, 2009

If She's a Conehead, She'll Be All Set

In the absence of any baby to model my latest finished project, I had to make do with what I could find around the house, so I hope you'll forgive my choice of Elmer the Elephant. His head was too small to fill it out properly, but he was a good sport about it.

Pattern: Norwegian Sweet Baby Cap by Gro
Yarn: my handspun, Navajo-plied wool top from Lorna's Laces
Needles: 32" US 1 (2.5 mm) Knit Picks circular, magic looped
Started/Completed: August 12/August 14
Mods: omitted the straps and knit the whole thing on the same size needles

The pattern calls for using two colors of yarn to stripe, but I thought it was the perfect opportunity to use some of my self-striping yarn. It's amazing how watching one color progress to another never seems to get old.

This knit was a bit tough on the hands, as the yarn is really heavier than fingering and I was knitting it at a pretty bulletproof gauge. The fiber (and the resulting yarn) also weren't particularly soft, so I'm thinking about fulling the hat a bit to make it a bit softer and fit for a baby's head. Still, it was worth it, and I can't wait to see little Rainbow in this aptly named sweet baby cap.

The best part of all? There was plenty of yarn leftover to make a matching pair of booties (still in progress, but every bit as adorable).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Big Shawl

The shawl is done, and it is large. How big is it? It's so big that I had to block it on our spare queen-sized bed, and I had to pin one end point down the side of it. It's so big that I can't fit the whole thing in the picture!

Pattern: Fountain Pen Shawl [Ravelry link] by Susan Pierce Lawrence, spring 2009 Interweave Knits
Yarn: my handspun two-ply laceweight (80% merino, 20% silk from All Spun Up)
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) Knit Picks Options
Started/Completed: July 5/August 12
Dimensions: approximately 83.5" across by 41.5" tall
Mods: none

Don't let the time from cast on to cast off fool you; this was a very fun knit. The only reason it took me as long as it did was because I was a bit busy spinning and knitting little things. The pattern for the body of the shawl is very intuitive, with only two rows that have any particular challenge -- the ones with the nupps.

Ah, the nupps. So much fun and yet so much trouble. They aren't too difficult provided you do the increasing row loosely, but more than once I accidentally purled the five stitches in one together with an adjacent stitch, resulting in some difficulty on the next row. Luckily, my handy tool came in quite handy, and I was able to fix the errors without too much difficulty. I think that if I knit this shawl again, I might use beads in place of the nupps for a different effect.

As always, it was a joy to knit with my own handspun. I love the subtle striping effect I got over the whole shawl. It's not so much that it obscures the lace pattern, but it does add a little interest.

At one point, I'd considered adding an extra repeat or two to the body of the shawl. In the end, I decided that it would be big enough if I followed the pattern as written. Turns out that was a very smart move on my part. Why? Here's what's left of the original almost-900-yard skein:

A whopping three grams of yarn. That was a close one!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Faster, Stronger ... Better?

I'm typing this on my not-so-new-but-improved laptop -- The Mister installed my new harddrive this weekend. Unfortunately things are not completely back to normal (the resolution isn't so great and I'm having some issues with iTunes), but it's a lot faster and I'm not getting scary error messages anymore.

The weekend was fairly uneventful and somewhat unproductive. Despite my best-laid plans, I did not finish my Fountain Pen Shawl. I am, however, into the edging chart, so several more hours of knitting time will see me to the end.

I did work on it for a couple hours on Saturday over at Natural Stitches, where I also went to visit with Yvonne and maybe do some shopping. I was successful on both counts.

First of all, I picked up some more Crystal Palace Merino 5, in a pretty green color called Lichen, to make Rainbow a Helena, inspired by Jess's version.

And for myself, I picked out this lovely shade of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece called Prosperous Plum to make myself a Mommy Snug (Ravelry link). As soon as the shawl is off the needles, I'll be pulling this out to swatch.

With any luck, the next time you see a post, there will be a finished shawl featured in it!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Garter, Garter Everywhere

Needless to say, I am not at the Sock Summit this weekend. (Frankly, it's been so long since I knit a pair of adult socks that I'm not sure I'd be qualified to attend!) I am, however, knitting with a lot of sock yarn these days.

Thanks to the donations of Jess, I was able to finish the purple sock yarn blanket square ...

and I'm getting close to finishing a second:

I'm still chugging along on my Fountain Pen Shawl. I got about halfway through the ninth body repeat at Hurricane Knitting last night, but as it looks very much like it did the last time you saw it, I'll spare you another blue blob picture. Finishing it up will be my goal for the weekend -- a realistic one, too, because The Mister has promised to install my new harddrive (and then reinstall all the software I'll need) on my laptop this weekend, so my computer time will be severely limited.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mother of Pearl

After the whirlwind that was the Tour de Fleece, I lost a bit of my spinning mojo. After all, I'd done so much of it that I was ready to get back to my knitting. However, this weekend, I forced myself to get back to the wheel to finish what was in progress at the end of the Tour -- this superwash merino from the Dyeing Arts, purchased from the Loopy Ewe. The colorway is called Mother of Pearl.

Once we found out Rainbow was a girl, I knew I wanted to spin this fiber up into a yarn that could be used to knit something for her. I ended up with a sportweight/DK-weight two ply, totaling approximately 205 yards.

I love how in some areas the colors matched up and in some areas they barberpoled. It'll be interesting to see how this knits up.

I had a significant amount left on one bobbin after plying, but I was too lazy to try to ply from both ends for more two ply, so I simply chain plied the remainder. The resulting three ply is approximately worsted weight, and the skein managed to get horribly tangled in the finishing process, which is why I don't have it in a pretty skein in this photo. However, as it's only about 28 yards, it should be easy enough to untangle when I decide what to do with it.

I haven't decided yet what to knit with the main skein. I don't think it's enough for a sweater, so perhaps a hat and mitten set will be in order. I'm open to suggestions!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

In Praise of Gull Lace

As much as I enjoyed the last iteration of this sweater, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to knit the original. I've knit this sweater so many times, but in my handspun, and for my own daughter, it was that much more special.

Pattern: Baby Sweater on Two Needles (aka February Sweater) from Knitter's Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: my handspun (superwash merino from the Dyeing Arts, colorway Tabula Rosa)
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: July 27/July 31
Mods: widened the neck (see below), worked ony three button holes, and worked sweater entirely in the round, as usual

I am always a tad concerned about the size of a neck opening in baby clothes, so I regularly make this modification to this sweater -- after all, I'd rather err on the side of caution. Here are the directions I found somewhere online:
  • Cast on 62 stitches.
  • Work 8 rows in garter stitch.
  • Work the first increase round as follows: K7, (M1, K6) 8 times, M1, K7 (71 sts)

As usual, I opted to work the sleeves in the round rather than back and forth with a seam. I picked up a couple of extra stitches under the arms on the first round and decreased them away on the second to avoid holes, although holes are much easier to hide when there's lace involved!

I'm still rather surprised that I managed to get to striping to more or less line up on the sleeves. There was some splicing involved, but I think it's a pretty good match.

Speaking of the lace, it was nice to get back to this stitch pattern, kind of like seeing an old friend again. I always need to check the instructions just the first time and then I'm off. This sweater still needs a good blocking, but I love the nubby texture of it this way, too. Now that I know I've still got the stitch pattern memorized, I think perhaps another February Lady Sweater might be in store for me.