Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear Life: Please Slow Down

I don't know why, but lately life has been flying by at a crazy speed. Last weekend was very busy, despite the fact that we both took Monday off (for Yom Kippur). We had our first baby class Saturday morning, had an engagement party to go to on Saturday night, met the Mister's parents for brunch on Sunday morning, and then spent Sunday evening and most of the day Monday in synagogue. Yesterday we went back to work and had a three-hour baby class in the evening, and now we're preparing to move in with my parents for a few days while we have the wood floors on the first floor of our house refinished (during which time I have a high school reunion, we have a wedding to go to, and the Mister is running a 5K). Are you surprised that I'm exhausted?

Amazingly, in the middle of all this craziness, I did manage to finish my brother's scarf. (The purpose of this crappy picture is only to show you just how long it is after blocking.)

Pattern: my own (see below)
Yarn: Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian highland wool), colors 8393/Navy and 7827/Goldenrod, approximately 2.5 skeins each
Needles: 16" US 7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: August 27/September 25
Dimensions: 8" wide by approximately 93" long, excluding fringe

My brother rarely requests any hand-knit items, so when he does ask for something, I make sure to deliver. This summer, he asked if I could knit him a Harry Potter-esque scarf in his school colors for his final year at college. Bearing in mind that brother grows a beard in the winter just to keep his face warm, I figured a tube scarf was in order, with a double thickness for maximum warmth.

I kept the pattern really simple: I cast on what seemed like a good number of stitches to fill up the 16" needle (which turned out out to be 90) and purled the middle stitch and the last stitch to create a fold line on either side of the scarf. I changed colors every six inches and knit until I was just about out of yarn and it seemed long enough (that turned out to be 12 stripes). Were it not for the fact that a half skein of the navy yarn went missing somewhere in the middle, I would have made it even longer, but it turned out to be long enough in the end. I found some leftover navy Cascade from my dad's birthday sweater that I used for the fringe, and then I blocked the heck out of it.

It's now long enough that, if I drape it around my neck, it nearly reaches my feet. It should be sufficient to keep my 6'2" brother warm this winter, don't you think?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eerie, Pennsylvania

Some of you may be aware of the fact that the G-20 Summit is going on right now here in Pittsburgh. The Mister and I are both lucky enough not to work downtown, where most of the excitement is, but the city does have a weird sense of shut down about it. He drove me in to work this morning, but things seemed okay this afternoon, so I walked home as usual. It was a truly surreal experience. There was very little traffic but there were several news helicopters hovering over my neighborhood, and a small group of protesters (perhaps broken off from the main event) crossed my path when I was about halfway home.

At times like these, it's always helpful to have some knitting with me, especially some fairly mindless knitting that can be really soothing. My current sock certainly fits the bill.

This would be the first of the Mister's family socks. The Malabrigo sock is a lot thinner than I'd remembered, so I've gone down to a size 0 (2 mm) needle for the heel, gusset, and foot. I'm maintaining the 2x2 rib on the instep, but other than that, it's just a plain sock. The decreased needle size combined with the Mister's big feet make for a rather time-consuming sock, but that's pretty much why I started with his. After finishing these, my socks and Rainbow's socks will be a breeze!

Speaking of mindless knitting, I am finally on the last stripe of my brother's scarf. I'm going to knit as fast as I can this evening to get as much done as I can, and I'm pretty confident in saying that it will be done by this weekend. Expect to see it complete in the next post (and please hold me to that promise!).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Feeling of Normalcy

It's been quite a weird summer. Those of you who know me or who have been reading this blog a while remember the days when I always had a pair of socks going. Last year, for instance, I completed 22 pairs of adult socks. Summer, in particular, has always been a productive time for my sock knitting. This year, however, has seen only seven pairs of adult socks, the most recent being knit way back in April. I'm not sure where my mojo went in the months that followed, but when the urge to start my sock knitting again hit a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't about to question it.

Presenting my eighth pair of adult socks for 2009:

Pattern: a variation on my usual 64-stitch stockinette sock
Yarn: ONline Supersocke 100 Circle Color (75% superwash wool, 25% polyamide), color 1053
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: September 8/September 17

I say these are a variation on my regular pattern because I added a little extra reinforcement. For instance, I carried the slip stitch pattern of the heel flap through the heel turn. Because of the way the stitches work out in the turn, it has the look of an Eye of Partridge heel.

I added the same reinforcement for the toe by working the "plain" (i.e., non-decreasing) rows as slip 1, knit 1, and working the decrease rows as usual, getting that same pretty Eye of Partridge effect. I think this reinforcement will be especially effective, because the tops of my toes are usually where my handknit socks start to show a little wear and tear.

I picked this yarn mainly because I wanted something fun and self-striping (I knew that I just wanted to knit a plain sock to get back into the groove), but after a few minutes of knitting I remembered that I didn't much care for it. It's a bit on the rough side, though I know it will soften with a couple of washes and wear well in the long run. At least I managed to get the stripes to more or less match up!

And, of course, because I had some leftovers, I had to use them wisely -- in another pair of socks for Rainbow (the usual pattern, sized down a bit to be newborn size, and size 0/2 mm needles):

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Slow Spinning

It's been a while since I've done a Spinning Sunday, and for good reason -- my spinning has been going very slowly lately. I'm still working on the Lorna's Laces superwash fiber that I picked up at Natural Stitches way back during the Tour de Fleece. I'm doing a three ply that (yardage permitting) should become yarn for a sweater for Rainbow when I'm done. Two bobbins of singles are spun up (ignore the one in the middle there -- that's just my collection of leftover singles).

I'd really like to finish up the third bobbin and ply this week, but we'll see what happens. At the moment, I'm more concerned with knitting projects than spinning.

And speaking of Natural Stitches and knitting, I made a little stop at the store yesterday afternoon to show off my Mommy Snug and knit with the girls a little bit. At some point in the last week, the Mister (at least I think it was him) suggested that it'd be really cute if I knit matching socks for me, the Mister, and Rainbow for this winter. So as long as I was there, I took a look through the sock yarn to see if I could find something good. Here's what I came home with:

This is the oh-so-yummy Malabrigo Sock in a colorway called Botticelli Red (though I think Titian Red would be a better name). I have to consult with the Mister about patterns, but I'm thinking all three pairs will be something fairly simple to show off the beautiful kettle-dyed color of the yarn. Expect to see a family feet portrait later this year!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The List

First, I have to thank you all for your comments on the Mommy Snug. I'm really quite pleased with how it turned out, and not just because it fits. I think I did a better job than normal on the finishing, which is my least favorite part of sweater knitting. I can't say I like sewing up a sweater any better now, but at least I know I can do a decent job of it when I need to.

Now, on to the list. For a while now, I've had a mental checklist of knitting projects I want to get done before Rainbow arrives, but I thought it would be good for me (and my pregnancy brain) to get it in writing. So let's review what's in the queue, shall we?

First on the list is the scarf for my brother, which has been my main evening knitting project this week and seems to be never ending.

It's just a tad longer than four and a half feet long at this point. I'd originally thought that I'd make it about seven feet long (long enough to suit my 6'2" brother), but it's taking so long -- not to mention that I seem to have misplaced a partial skein of the navy -- that I'm now thinking six feet, plus fringe, might be better. I know I can stretch it out a little more when I block it, and it's so thick and wide that I doubt my brother will wrap it more than once at most, so that should suffice.

Also on the needles is a project you haven't seen, and (surprise!) it's another one for Rainbow. This is the Baby Chalice Blanket (available here as a free Ravelry download) in Dream in Color Classy, colorway Happy Forest. It's not very big right now, but the lace knits up quickly and this will stretch a lot when it's blocked.

What else is on the list (but not cast on yet)?

I'd like to knit two Baby Surprise Jackets for Rainbow, one with the rainbow yarn I spun up during the Tour de Fleece, which is likely to knit up on the big side and so probably will be a sweater for next winter, and one with some Socks That Rock that I'm hoping will come out the right size to be part of her going-home-from-the-hospital outfit. I also want to knit her a Helena with the green Crystal Palace Merino 5 I picked up when I bought the yarn for my Mommy Snug.

For myself, I'd really like to make another Lady Eleanor Wrap with that haul of Noro I brought home way back in April, and I have plans to make myself a Koolhaas with the yarn that came in my last Intentions Yarn club shipment.

And, of course, in between all these bigger projects I'm probably going to be knitting some baby socks, some adult socks, and maybe some burp cloths or teddy bears.

So what do you think -- am I being too ambitious?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ribbed, for Our Pleasure

It took three days to dry after it was blocked, but it was worth it!

Pattern: Mommy Snug [Ravelry link] by Kate Gilbert, summer 2006 Interweave Knits
Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece (80% cotton, 20% merino), colorway 710/Prosperous Plum, 6.5 skeins (approximately 1,398 yards)
Needles: 32" US 4 (3.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: August 15/September 8
Mods: I eliminated some plain rows in the front and mirrored the directions for the cuff of the left sleeve when I got to the right sleeve

I thought that I might go crazy from knitting nothing but 2x2 rib, but as you can tell from the span of time it took me to complete the sweater, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Yes, there were days when I had to stop and rest when my hands got tired of knitting rib with a mostly cotton yarn, but the knitting went surprisingly quickly.

I really can't say enough about this pattern; it's so, so clever. The ribbing makes the garment extremely stretchy as it is, but there are little touches that make the sweater so flattering on an expanding belly.

For starters, there's a series of short rows worked just below the bustline to shape the front piece to fit the top of the belly and prevent it from riding up (because while some people think it's fashionable to show off a bare pregnant stomach, I am not one of them).

Then, for the later months and weeks of pregnancy, there is a button placket along each side of the sweater, allowing you to open it up for even more room.

In addition to these very functional features, there are some really nice touches that add a bit of dressiness -- like the button plackets on the cuffs of the sleeves that are more decorative than functional and the columns of twisted stitches/faux cables at the bottoms of the ribs.

The ribs on either side of the neckline are twisted as well, and the collar is finished off with six rows of stockinette and live stitches that are grafted to the base of where they were picked up.

I wouldn't say that I'm in a hurry to knit a lot of 2x2 ribbing in the near future, but I can say that I absolutely loved knitting this sweater. The yarn wasn't the easiest on my hands at times, but I enjoyed working with it and like the finished fabric. The pattern is very well written and results in an extremely wearable garment. I know I'm going to get a lot of use out of this sweater this fall and likely for a little while after Rainbow is born.

Best of all? I still have two and a half skeins of the yarn to make something for Rainbow! Think I should do a ribbed sweater so we can match?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blocking Fail

I had hoped to be able to post some modeled photos of my finished Mommy Snug this evening, but, unfortunately, it's still a bit damp and probably needs another day on the drying rack. Would you settle for a photo of some uber-cute baby booties instead?

These were done a few weeks ago, but I didn't get around to sewing on the buttons until the other night, when I pulled out my button collection and sewing box for the sweater. These, of course, are the famous Saartje's Bootees (pdf link) that I think everyone's made at least once by now. I used some of my rainbow handspun and size 2 (2.75 mm) needles and knit the larger size. They came out a little on the big side and the wool was a little scratchy, so after they were sewn up, I fulled them a bit by hand. They're now little bit smaller, much fuzzier and softer, and have a nice bootee shape to them.

The Mister and I have another road trip this weekend (this time to D.C. for a bridal shower), and my brother's scarf will be making the trip with me. Expect to see a finished -- and dry! -- sweater when we get back!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Almost There

The Mister and I had a rare weekend without a lot of plans, so I decided to take full advantage of the situation to make some headway on my Mommy Snug. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday over at Natural Stitches working on the first sleeve while catching up with Yvonne, Anna, and Melissa. I finished it at home later that evening and cast on for the second, which I finished up this morning. Here's how I spent most of today:

I still have to sew up the side and sleeve seams, sew on buttons, and knit the collar, but I'm getting very close to being done. I tried it on like this, and it looks like it will fit perfectly, especially after a good blocking. I only gave the pieces a light steam blocking before I started seaming, but I'm planning a full wet block when the whole thing is done to really even out the stitches.

Meanwhile, when I was at Natural Stitches, I picked up two extra skeins of Cascade 220 for my brother's scarf and got a sudden urge to knit a pair of socks. Shocking, isn't it? I know there's a lot of sock yarn in my stash, but the urge was specifically for a pair of simple stockinette socks, so I thought something self-striping or self-patterning was in order, and I didn't think I had anything like that already. So I picked up this skein of Online Supersocke:

So it's Labor Day and I feel like knitting socks again -- I guess fall must really be here!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Rib Goes On

I am quite anxious to finish my Mommy Snug if only so I can stop talking about ribbing on the blog. The good news is that, thanks to some car knitting over the weekend, I finished the back:

Clearly I have a lot of ends to weave in still. The left sleeve is started as well and moving along at a good pace. I'm hoping to use some of the holiday weekend to make some good progress.

I've also been working on my brother's "school spirit scarf," though I don't have a picture for you, as it's not very exciting. It's at a little more than two feet long right now; I have to check in with the recipient to see what his preferences are in terms of length and fringe.

Finally, I just realized that I have some handspun that I've neglected to show you. You saw it being plied last week. It was finished on Thursday night and dried over the weekend while we were away. As usual, I started with some superwash merino from my favorite fiber pusher:

I did a traditional three ply, hoping for my usual sock yarn, but something didn't go quite as planned. It looks great, in my opinion, but the finished yardage leaves a little something to be desired. It's a heavy fingering weight, somewhere in the neighborhood of 220 yards.

Seems that all the effort I put into spinning thicker yarns during the Tour de Fleece hasn't left me yet. I'm putting that to good use to spin up some yarn to knit Rainbow another sweater next (using this fiber).