Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Day 365

Amazingly, it's the last day of the year again. I swear that the older I get, the faster time passes. It's been quite a year, both in my fiber-y life and my personal life. I have a bit of a tradition of doing a reflective blog post at the end of the year, so even though I am sitting next to the pool in almost 80 degree heat many miles away from my stash, I don't think it's time to break with tradition.

I completed several large projects this year, namely three sweaters for me.

The first of these was a major accomplishment because I spun the yarn for the sweater myself (a feat I hope to be repeating in the new year when I spin up the fleece I bought at MDSW).

It was also a year of knitting for others, though, as I finished a gorgeous sweater for Rainbow, a number of baby gifts (with more to be knit in the coming months), and several items for charitable causes.

In many ways this year, knitting took a back seat to spinning. With the acquisition of my Hansen miniSpinner earlier this year, my spinning time increased and my productivity dramatically increased. I burned through a good portion of my stash (though I'll readily admit I added to it as well) and won my LYS's first summer spinning contest.

My longest skein of the summer -- 1,000+ yards of laceweight!

The really big leap this year, though, was taking the next step toward designing knitwear. I released three patterns this year (they're over there in the sidebar; click away!) and have several more in the pipeline. I don't think I'll ever get to the point where designing is my full-time job (nor do I necessarily want it to be), but I've found it to be a great way to express my creativity and artistic urges, much as I used to do with pencil and paintbrush in the art studio back in high school. I have yet to have anything accepted by a major publication (fingers still crossed!), but I am enjoying the freedom of self-publishing and hope to continue with it in the new year. Several new projects are nearly ready and should be up in the first quarter of next year.

Dear readers, thanks for sticking with me for another year and sharing with me the highs (and some lows) of my love affair with all things fiber related. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and fiber-filled new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Monkeying Around

It's my vacation this week, and the Mister, Rainbow, and I are on a short vacation to Florida (we're staying with my parents at their vacation home), so I though I should do a little fun knitting while we're here. I'm still working on the Snowy Owl sweater, of course, though that's been relegated to evening knitting, when I'm sure Rainbow is down for the count and I know I'll have at least an hour or two to focus on the charts. Something easy, small, and able to be put down and picked up at a whim (toddlers are demanding, you know) was needed, so naturally I packed my favorite 12" 2.5 mm Addi Turbo circs and a skein of sock yarn -- specifically, a skein of Socks That Rock that had been in my stash for two, maybe three, years. I wound it into a ball Tuesday night after we arrived and cast on yesterday morning.

The pattern, if you don't recognize it, is the ubiquitous Monkey (though without purls). I have quite a few pairs of these in my sock drawer, many of them in STR, but I've noticed that some of them are starting to show their age. I certainly don't have a pair in purple yet, and this skein (the colorway is the Incredible Shrinking Violet) has been patiently waiting for me to knit it up since it arrived. I love this pattern because I have knit it so many times that I practically have it memorized (though I'll admit it's been a while since I last knit it, so I did have to go look at the pattern to refresh my memory a bit). I've been working on it off and on the past two days and am already through the gusset on the first sock. At this rate, it's highly likely that I'll have a brand-new pair of socks ready to start the new year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tangles Ahead

Sorry for the unintentional radio silence. Last week was when things really came to a head -- I'd been sick, work got unexpectedly crazy, and we were preparing to go away for Christmas -- so I had little time to knit or blog. Fortunately, things seem to be getting back to normal now, and I am officially on vacation through January 2, so I am planning on catching up on things in the next week.

I've been working mainly on finishing up my Cranford shawl, which still has several hours of work ahead, but it's quickly getting much smaller. I'll spare you another picture for now. Instead, I'll show you the newest project on the needles, which was cast on in the car on the way to Christmas.

This is the beginnings of a Snowy Owl Cardigan in madelinetosh tosh dk (the main color is Logwood, which in real life -- and good lighting -- its actually a light purple). I finished the two sleeves, which you can see up in the top right-hand corner, very quickly and got as far as the beginning of the intarsia portion on the body in the car yesterday before putting it away. I'm about to get to the point where I'll have five different sources of yarn attached at once, so I did not think it was ideal car knitting. Fortunately the intarsia section is fairly small (only about 25 rows or so), so I should be able to get through it fairly quickly, but it needs to be done when I have time to untangle and space to lay out all the yarn. This sweater is for a baby due in mid-January, and I don't think I'll have any problem at all meeting that deadline. This is why I just love knitting baby sweaters -- if only sweaters in my size would go as quickly!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pattern Release: Scullers Socks

Several years ago, back when the Mister and I lived in our old house, I started playing around with some sock yarn and swatched a stitch pattern. I jotted down a few notes in a notebook, but both it and the swatch got packed away when we moved and I promptly forgot about them.

Then, a couple months ago, I happened to pull out the notebook to make some notes about another design idea and came across my sock notes. I made a few changes, knit up a sample, wrote up the full pattern, and came up with what you see here.

These socks have a fairly simple lace pattern that is easy to memorize. The name comes from the lace pattern, as a section of it looked like a crew team rowing down the water to me. They're knit from the top down with an Eye of Partridge heel and wedge toe, but the gusset is a bit unusual.

The decrease are worked on the bottom of the heel, rather than on the sides, which results in a bit of shaping that hugs the heel. I quite like the look and the feel of this heel, and it makes me happy because I was just trying something out when I did it this way.

The socks are now available to download on Ravelry. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011


I've gotten into a bit of a rut in my knitting since finishing my Effortless Cardigan. I've been working on a project that I can't show you, working on spinning the never-ending second bobbin of polwarth/silk laceweight, and slowly making progress on my Cranford shawl. That is the next project that's going to get my serious attention. In this incredibly horrible picture (this time of year really bums me out with the lack of light!), you can see that I've finally gotten to the midpoint and beyond.

I've finally reached the part where I decrease on every row, meaning the rows are getting shorter and therefore faster. The rows are still pretty long (I still have 100+ stitches in each row), and it's getting to the point where the shawl is a bit unwieldy to turn back and forth, but I know that if I can sustain some attention on this project -- which I intend to do -- it won't take me too long to finish up. Good thing, too, because it's been getting cold and I'd love to have this finished to wrap up in!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I've been waiting impatiently to show you my most recently completed project -- this time of year just does not work for blogging knit objects when you work full time! I had to wait a couple of days for the sweater to dry post-blocking, and then I had to wait until this weekend, when there was enough good natural light for the Mister to snap some decent shots of me in it. I think it was worth the wait, frankly, because this is my new favorite sweater.

Pattern: Effortless Cardigan by Hannah Fettig
Yarn: Madelinetosh tosh dk in Baltic, approximately 5.5 skeins
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) 32" Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: November 12/November 27
Mods: added an inch of length to the sleeves

I love, love, love this sweater. It was an easy knit (though I still managed to mess up somehow -- I missed a couple of raglan increases and had to sneak them in afterward because I didn't want to rip back, but I don't think you can see the error) and it went really quickly. Of course, that last assessment might have something to do with the fact that I knit most of the sweater over the course of my five-day Thanksgiving weekend. For the record, I don't recommend flinging yourself down a flight of stairs in order to wind up off your feet for several days just so you can knit a sweater, but it was certainly one positive in the whole mess that was the fall and the resulting sprain.

I had knit with a Madelinetosh yarn once before (with tosh sock for this shawl), but this is the first time I'd used enough for a large garment, and I must say that I am in love. The colors of this yarn just enchanted me the whole time I was knitting, and I'm really happy with the finished look of the sweater. You know how you're "supposed to" alternate skeins when you're using a hand-dyed yarn? I didn't, I'll admit it. And you'd can't tell that I didn't. This yarn is amazing. I think I am officially addicted.

Now let's talk about the sweater itself. It's a top-down raglan, knit entirely seamlessly. While I like the structure of a seamed sweater, there is a lot of appeal in a sweater that's done when you bind off the last stitch. I used the same size needle for all of the sweater, including the ribbing, which makes said ribbing nice and flow-y. I was a bit puzzled by the needle size specified in the pattern (US 9) because I'm usually a pretty on-gauge knitter and usually don't have to go up or down more than one needle size. The only explanation I have is that Hannah Fettig must be a tight knitter! I got perfect stitch gauge (and I was only one row off over four inches for row gauge) with 6's, which is what I often use for a worsted, so that was fine with me. The sweater turned out the right size, got nice and drapey after blocking, and is incredibly comfortable. What's not to love?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Like Spinning Gold

My spinning has been pretty monogamous (or should that be monotonous?) lately, as I'm still working my way through the second four ounces of All Spun Up Polwarth/silk. I'm making good progress and am going to be devoting a good portion of my crafting time this week to finishing it up, but I won't bore you with another on-the-bobbin progress shot. Instead, I have a little spinning treat to share with you.

Before my friend Steven left the state, he generously bestowed upon me a bag filled with small samples of some super luxurious spinning fibers, among them a two ounce bundle of Blue Moon-dyed 50% cashmere/50% tussah silk. Now, I've spun silk before (in blends) but never cashmere, so I'll admit that I was a little intimidated by this gorgeous fiber and left it to marinate in the stash for a while because I didn't want to risk ruining (or, at the very least, wasting) it. Yesterday, though, I decided to take the bull by the horns and give it a try. Now I'm wondering why I waited so long.

It's definitely a little trickier to spin than the fiber I'm used to, but not as bad as I thought it would be. The biggest challenge, I think, has been the fact that my fiber hand is getting very warm from holding the cashmere, so I keep having to stop and let it cool off so that I don't wind up with a felted handful of fiber. I'm using my favorite Bosworth midi and doing a two ply of what I expect will be laceweight. I'm imaging that the resulting yarn will make a lovely (and very warm) lacy cowl or smoke ring when it's done, which I hope will be soon. I've decided to join the monthly spinalong in the Ravelry spindlers group, so that should be good motivation to get it done by the end of the month!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Do Some Good, Win Prizes!

Today is World AIDS Day. Some of you may have heard that my friend Steven is running a little thing on his blog today to raise money for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. I encourage you to click over to take a look -- there are a lot of great prizes to be won in exchange for making a donation! I've already donated, but I also donated this skein of handspun to be one of the prizes:

CMF Wensleydale

This is Wensleydale that came from last year's Crown Mountain Farms fiber club. There are approximately 770 yards of laceweight singles in the this skein, so plenty to do a good-sized shawl. It's one of at least three skeins of handspun available as a prize, in addition to some gorgeous yarns and patterns. I encourage you to click over to see a slide show of all the prizes and get the details on how to win.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Did That Really Happen?

I've done plenty of speed knitting in the past, but I don't think I've ever finished as adult sweater as quickly as I did my Effortless Cardigan. I finished up the ribbing on the front bands and collar and wove in the last of the ends on Sunday night, meaning my official start-to-finish time was a mere 16 days. I also didn't intend to participate in NaKniSweMo, but it appears I did indeed knit a sweater in the month of November. Pretty impressive, no? I'm not sure I would have gotten it done quite so fast if it hadn't been for the ankle sprain, as probably two-thirds of the sweater got knit while I was recuperating, but I don't think it would have taken me all that much longer had I only had my normal knitting time to work on it.

Last night the sweater went in for a nice, long lukewarm bath with some Soak, and it's now drying (slowly, no doubt) on a mesh drying rack up in the stash room. It should -- fingers crossed! -- be dry by this weekend, when it's supposed to be nice but cold, meaning it'll be perfect weather for a proper photo shoot. In the meantime, here's a sneaky peek:

I was counting on the yarn to grow and stretch when it got wet (it is superwash, after all), and it appears to have done the trick. I really want this sweater to be nice and drapey.

I have some more baby knitting to do soon, but the next baby isn't due until the end of January, so I have a bit of time. (I need to find a few yards of a compatible yarn for the owl of the planned sweater anyway.) So I am returning to my Cranford shawl for some relatively mindless knitting that I can do while elevating my ankle. It's grown a bit since you last saw it, though it's still not quite halfway done.

This thing is going to be a monster when it's complete, but it'll be so nice and warm and cozy!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black (and Blue) Friday

My ankle is slowly getting better (as evidenced by the really interesting colors that are appearing on it), but I am still mostly out of commission, which means that I am getting a lot of knitting done. I have to say that this is not the way I hoped to get in this much knitting time over the holiday weekend, but at least I don't feel as guilty for spending as much time with my yarn and needles as I have. The Mister has had to take over most of the child care and cooking responsibilities (and has been doing a great job, I might add), so for me to feel somewhat useful, I've had my needles in hand most of the day. Remember what my Effortless Cardigan looked like shortly after the injury occurred? Here it is now:

The first sleeve is complete and the second is roughly halfway done -- it should take just a couple more hours to finish. Then all that's left to do is the ribbing on the front bands and around the collar, which might be mind-numbingly boring, but at least I know it will be less so than the ribbing of a certain recently finished sweater. If I keep knitting at the rate I have been, this might even be done by the end of the weekend. At the very least, I should be able to finish it up this week.

I did manage to get out of the house for a bit today; my parents were nice enough to drop me off at my LYS so I could visit and knit for a bit while they went to a funeral. I took advantage of the store's Black Friday pajama day sale (10% off if you wore your PJs, which I have been doing anyway for the sake of comfort) to pick up two more skeins of tosh DK for a baby sweater for a gift. The colorway is Logwood, which I think is a subtle but sufficiently girly purple shade.

iPhone photo -- it's much prettier in real life

I need some scraps for the intarsia parts of the sweater, and a Raveler was kind enough to send me some leftovers of a skein of Fig for the branches that arrived in today's mail. I still need about 10 yards of a light color for the owl, but I have some time to search for that. I am going to finish my own sweater before I start on this one!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unintended Knitting Time

I had grand plans for today. I'd taken a day off from work and was planning to take the toddler to daycare so that I could run a couple of quick errands and then spend several hours at my LYS, knitting on their couch.

Unfortunately, that was not the way the day went. First, Rainbow had one heck of a meltdown over no apparent reason (it started with toilet paper and continued when it was time to get dressed). I finally managed to get her dressed, get her coat on, and get her shoes on and was attempting to take her out to the car while balancing her on one side and an umbrella on the other when I slipped on the wet back door steps and went splat on our brick back walkway. Thankfully Rainbow was fine, though I think she was a little scared at what had just happened, but my right leg had twisted under me at a strange angle and I couldn't get up on my own. If this had happened any other day, I would have been in real trouble, but the Mister had decided to take the day off, too, so I was able to yell for him to come help us.

He got us both back inside, got me set up on the couch with a package of frozen vegetables on my ankle, and then took Rainbow to daycare as planned. Then he came to get me and take me to the urgent care center. The prognosis is mostly good -- nothing is broken -- but I have what the doctor described as a "severe strain," so I'm supposed to stay off the ankle and keep it elevated for at least a couple of days.  So now here I am:

I've settled nicely on our bed with an extra pillow under my foot, an ice pack on my ankle, crutches nearby should I need them, and my Effortless Cardigan. I'm making lots of progress, too -- I have about three inches left to knit on the body before I start the bottom ribbing. Looks like I'll be getting to a finished sweater a lot sooner than I was expecting, given that there's not much else I'm going to be able to do for the next couple of days.

For those of you in the States, I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving tomorrow -- one with a little less excitement than mine!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

One Bobbin Full

It's been a while since I had a spinning post on a Sunday because I've been working on the same project for almost a month. It's not quite done, but at least I've reached a milestone in the process. Here's a full bobbin, holding 4 oz. of extremely thin (40+ wpi) singles of All Spun Up polwarth/silk

This bobbin is resting at the moment until I figure out what to do next. I have another 4 oz. of this same fiber/colorway, and originally I thought I'd spin that up the same way and ply the two together for one really enormous laceweight skein. But now I'm having second thoughts, not only because it'll take me another month (maybe) to spin the second bobbin of singles but also because I'm not sure what I'd do with 1,600-2,00 yards of laceweight. So I may end up chain plying this one and splitting the other 4 oz. in two to spin a laceweight with that. Or not. Any suggestions are appreciated.

In the meantime, to take a break from spinning so thin, I got out this month's Crown Mountain Farms shipment (4 oz. of Icelandic top) while Rainbow took her nap this afternoon and spun up two bobbins' worth in a ridiculously short amount of time. Here's what it looked like before:

This was my first time spinning this particular breed, and it was interesting -- definitely on the hairy side, though not as unpleasant as the Lincoln I spun several months ago. My singles are about fingering weight, and it looks like it'll ply up to about DK weight.

I'm excited that this fiber went so quickly, because I'm really trying to make a dent in my stash; my fiber stash, like my yarn stash, has gotten a bit out of control. That didn't seem to stop me, though, from picking up some more yesterday at Indie Knit and Spin.

Falkland from CosySpins
Falkland from Gwen Erin
Falkland is one of my favorite fibers, and I haven't spun any in a while, so I'm looking forward to getting at these soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Progress has continued on my Effortless Cardigan. I put the sleeves on scrap yarn earlier in the week and last night, at knit night, I made enough progress on the body to be ready to start the waist shaping. There are three sets of decreases and, a bit later, three sets of increases, and then I basically work straight for many inches until I'm ready to do the ribbing at the bottom. Effortless certainly is a good way to describe this sweater! It's a bit slow going because the rows are so long, but as it's just stockinette, I don't have to think much about what I'm doing. I'm hoping to get in a decent amount of knitting time in over Thanksgiving weekend so that I can get closer to my goal of having the sweater done in time for Christmas.

For my lunchtime knitting, I've been working on adapting the colorwork pattern in my Tiled In Cowl (which, incidentally, was recently accepted for the Knit Picks IDP program!) for a hat after getting several requests for one on Ravelry. I'm working on the sample/prototype for the women's version right now with the rest of the skein of Chroma I used for the cowl.

Please excuse the weird blue tint from my iPhone camera
The hat version starts with a similar hem but has a shorter repeat of the colorwork pattern. The top will be a simple rounded beanie-style top. There will be a men's version as well, worked slightly larger and in more "manly" colors for the sample, and I'm planning a coordinating set of fingerless mitts and/or mittens.

I am also planning my next baby project for a little girl due in late January. I've already bought and printed out the pattern for this adorable sweater that I'd spotted about a month or two ago when it was in testing. It has some intarsia, but now that I've conquered that particular technique, the only thing standing in my way is finding the yarn. My LYS has a Black Friday sale, so I'm planning on picking up a couple of skeins of Tosh DK, which just happens to be the yarn specified in the pattern. I'm starting this baby off right with good yarn!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Turn

After several months of knitting primarily for others, I decided that it was high time to do something for me. On Friday night, once I'd gotten Rainbow to bed, I settled down to catch up on Grey's Anatomy on the DVR and cast on for my Effortless Cardigan. I'd been itching to cast on for weeks but had kept the bag of tosh DK next to my bed in order to entice me to finish everything I needed to on the obligation list.

I didn't get very far that night, but on Saturday the Mister and I had to go to a wedding about 30 miles away and had a two-hour break between the ceremony and reception, so I took my knitting in the car with me and made good progress.

I'm about eight rows away from splitting for the sleeves, so I'm definitely moving right along. I don't think the sweater will be done in time for Thanksgiving, but Christmas seems like a reasonable goal. I am really glad I picked this colorway now that I've knit a good portion of the sweater; originally, I was debating between this one (Baltic) and Tart. Opinion was split among the ladies at my LYS, but ultimately I decided to go with the blue because I thought it would work better with my wardrobe. I still think I may need to get some Tart for something else, but I don't regret choosing Baltic for this sweater. I know I am going to love this sweater when it's done.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

So Nice, I Did It Twice

There are many patterns I've knit more than once, although usually there's a break between duplication. Not so with the most recent projects off my needles.

As I've mentioned before, Rainbow has recently become interested in wearing hats, so to take advantage of that situation and to deal with her volatile (at times) pickiness, I've been working on a bunch of options for her so that she always has a choice. I found several cute patterns on Ravelry and have been doing about one a week. The latest is this one, which I finished while I was home sick yesterday.

The pattern is All Ears, a free download on Ravelry. It's a very easy, very fast knit -- essentially, it's just a tube that is kitchenered at the top and then the corners are gathered to make the ears. I had most of a skein of Cascade 220 Superwash leftover from the "Electric Eggplant" hat and used it for this one, knowing how popular purple is in this house. I can report that it was a big success and was worn to school this morning, where it was shown off to her teacher, who is also a knitter.

The hat turned out so cute that I decided to use up what was left of the handspun I used for the Baby Sophisticate and make a matching hat. It took maybe two hours from start to finish -- and I say maybe because I was pretty out of it for most of the day, so it was done in fits and starts between naps. Regardless, it was a fast and easy knit and I think it'll be a hit. I even have some of the yarn leftover!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

For a Sophisticated Baby

The striped blanket I recently finished was just the first of the handknit gifts for a particular baby. Soon after binding off for that project, I cast on for a sweater. In just a handful of knitting sessions, it was done. (I just love it when a project goes that quickly!)

Pattern: Baby Sophisticate by Linden Down
Yarn: my handspun superwash merino from Crown Mountain Farms in Come Together
Needles: US 8 (5.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circulars
Started/Completed: October 30/November 3
Mods: shortened the sleeves by one inch

I will readily admit that I did not swatch for this sweater; frankly, I usually don't for baby sweaters. (The way I see it, babies come in all shapes and sizes, but their sweaters usually aren't very big, and in the time it would take me to swatch, wash the swatch, and wait for it to dry so I could measure it, I could already be halfway done with the sweater.) Generally I err on the side of being too large, because a sweater that is too big can always be worn later when the kid grows into it, but a sweater that is too small won't get worn at all. I selected my needle size using a trick I think I read on Ravelry years ago: I doubled a length of my yarn and pulled it through the holes in my needle gauge until I found a hole that was filled comfortably by the yarn without having to yank it through. As it happened, that method gave me the same needle size specified in the pattern.

I decided to make the larger size after calculating the rough chest circumference using the given gauge to allow just a little more room; if the baby ends up being on the slender side, there will still be a little positive ease to allow for layering. I made the length of the sleeves an inch shorter than specified, though, because babies generally don't need extra long sleeves. The body does look a little long in comparison, but I don't think an extra bit of fabric can hurt for a winter baby.

I'm still kind of amazed at how fast this project went (though it's probably something to do with the fact that I'm used to knitting things at a much smaller gauge). I cast on for it on a Sunday night after putting Rainbow to bed and had completed the raglan increases and put the sleeve stitches on waste yarn by the time I went to bed. I think somewhere in the span I also took a night off from it to do some spinning, so it probably only took about four evenings to do the whole thing. That's a winning project in my book -- now I know I can whip this one up if I need a baby gift in a hurry! The pattern is a free one and is pretty well written; if you've done a top-down raglan before, you'll know exactly what you're doing. The one thing that I really liked about it was the directions for picking up for the button bands and collar; because the first stitch of every row is slipped, there's no counting to do -- you just pick up one stitch in every slipped edge stitch and one for every stitch along the cast on edge at the neck. Easy peasy!

So now this baby has a blanket and a sweater. There's handspun leftover, too, so it looks like he's going to be getting a hat as well!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Needles On Fire

Remember how my knitting mojo went AWOL for a while there several months ago, back when all I wanted to do was spin? Well, it's most definitely back. After finishing the blanket last Friday night, I was positively itching to cast on for some new projects.

The first thing that had to get done was a baby hat that I'm taking to a shower this weekend. The mom-to-be specifically asked for a "fruit hat," and while there's more knitting to be done for this particular baby (who is not due until the end of January), this was an easy project to start and finish.

This is the ever-popular Berry Baby Hat, which worked up in literally three hours or so using a small amount of Cascade 220 Superwash and some scraps of Dream in Color Classy (in Go Go Grassy) leftover from my FLS. The color is a little off in this photo (this time of year and the decided lack of sunlight when I'm able to take pictures makes capturing color accurately a bit difficult), but I think it could pass for some sort of berry. I like to think of it as "electric eggplant." I used size 7 (4.5 mm) needles and followed the pattern exactly, then blocked it out just a bit when I washed it so it won't be too snug. (Incidentally, Rainbow found and tried on her hat this morning and was still able to fit in on her 19" head, so I probably don't have to worry too much about the size.)

As soon as I was finished weaving in the ends on the gift hat, I picked up some yarn leftover from Rainbow's Roo and cast on for another hat for her. This one has a really interesting construction -- it starts with a lining that goes around the head at ear level, uses short rows to form the ear flaps, and then attaches the lining with a joining round for an extra-warm double thickness. I used the recommended needle sizes but started the crown decreases an inch earlier than called for in the pattern after trying it on Rainbow and seeing that another inch would make it fall over her eyes. I omitted the dinosaur spikes, but I may still add the straps on the ear flaps to have the option of tying it on, and I'm thinking of getting out some yarn scraps to do some embroidery on it so it's not so boring. Rainbow clearly doesn't care what else I do to it, because she has been excitedly wearing it to school this week

This blurry iPhone photo is the only one she would let me take.

Finally, on Sunday night, I cast on for a Baby Sophisticate for the recipient of the striped blanket. I am using some of my handspun for this sweater, and it is knitting up so lovely. It's going very quickly, too! I've finished the body and roughly half of the first sleeve, and at the rate it's been going, it should only take me another night or two to finish up the whole shebang.

Lest you think I've been spending all my time knitting for children, I must also tell you that I found some additional time over the weekend to swatch for my Effortless Cardigan (and then reswatch on Monday night when I measured and found that my gauge was way off). I had to go down to 6's, but my gauge is nearly perfect -- 19 stitches and 27 rows over 4 inches. All I can say is that Hannah Fettig must be a tight knitter if that's the gauge she gets on 9's, because I know I am not a loose knitter!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

21 Is the Magic Number

I know I've been complaining about this blanket for a while, but now I can say with certainty that my kvetching is over -- the blanket is complete!

Pattern: Rainbow Chain Carriage Blanket (Raverlry link) by Erika Flory, Knotions spring 2009
Yarn: Berroco Vintage (50% nylon, 40% wool, 10% nylon), in Mochi (1.5 skeins) and Dark Denim, Bilberry, and Misty (0.5 skeins each)
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm)
Started/Completed: August 13/October 27
Dimensions: 25" wide x 28.5" long
Mods: followed Courtney's changes (see below)

I didn't realize how involved this blanket was when I bought the yarn and cast on. I wasn't a good knitter and didn't read through the pattern before I started, and so I didn't realize right away that it involved intarsia. Now, I hadn't done any intarsia in years because the first (and last!) time I tried it, it seemed way too fiddly. I realize now that the instructions I was using then were way more involved than they needed to be and that all that was needed was a simple twisting of the yarns. The difficulty lies in keeping an even tension, and really, with all the stranded colorwork I've done since then, tension issues aren't really an issue anymore. So I'm no longer afraid of intarsia. Go me!

If you click over to the pattern, you'll notice that my blanket doesn't look that much like the original, and that's because I pretty much copied Courtney's blanket -- to the point of asking her for her mods -- with the exception of the colors I used. Instead of the double chain in each stripe, there is one chain that is centered in the stripe. I actually like this version better. I think it's a little cleaner and the stripes of the background color are a little easier to see. I also opted for only three colors for the stripes, rather than a rainbow. The recipient specifically requested a blanket in blue(s), and I thought a few shades would add a little more interest than just one. Changing colors so frequently did mean a lot of ends to weave in, but I did that as I went, which was a huge relief when I bound off and had only a couple of yarn tails left to weave in.

I picked this project up and put it down over the course of many weeks, so the start-to-finish time isn't really an accurate representation of the time it took to complete. I'd say that each stripe took an hour, more or less, to complete, including the time I spent detangling my skeins. When I started, I knew that I wanted it to be rectangular but didn't have an exact number of stripes in my head; I figured I'd just keep knitting until it looked long enough. In the end, 21 turned out to be the magic number. A little bit of blocking magic helped to make it just a bit bigger, and now it's a size that should still be good through the toddler years.

Yarn selection for this blanket was also heavily influenced by Courtney's version. I wanted something washable with at least some wool in it, and the Vintage certainly fit the bill. I am usually not a fan of acrylic, but this yarn feels more like a superwash wool -- soft and bouncy without the telltale acrylic "squeak." I enjoyed knitting with it, and it was certainly economical and produced a baby-friendly blanket. I have enough leftover that I can probably make a small sweater or some accessories with it, too.

Because I've been complaining about this project so much, I feel I should tell you a little bit about the recipient. The mom-to-be is the older sister of my childhood best friend, so in a way she's been like a big sister to me my whole life. To be perfectly honest, she's also someone I never quite expected to settle down; she's always someone I thought of as living the glamorous life. But she is now married and expecting a baby boy right around Christmas, and I couldn't be happier for her. We have spent Christmas with her family every year for at least the last decade, and we have been told by the mom-to-be that everything will be as per usual this year, whether or not the baby has arrived!

Finishing this blanket seems to have kick-started my knitting mojo, so expect to see a slew of other finished projects in the near future!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not Seasonal

This week's spin provides a bit of spring for this very dreary and depressing autumn weekend (would you believe it actually snowed here yesterday?!). This was the October shipment for the Crown Mountain Farms fiber club, 4 oz. of wool that is called Heinz 57 -- a name, like Falkland, that represents sheep from a particular geographical region rather than a specific breed. In this case, the sheep came from the Northeast region of the U.S., if I'm remembering correctly. Despite the fact that it was very clearly a fall shipment, the colorway, Sumer, was a cheerful, springlike surprise.

I decided to go with my usual for spinning this -- a three-ply fingering weight. I spun the singles very fine, with the aid of my miniSpinner, and plied them up shortly thereafter. The fiber reminded me of corriedale while spinning it; it wasn't as soft as a merino or a targhee, but it had a fair amount of crimp and almost a stickiness to it and wasn't unpleasant to spin. It also poofed up a bit in the wash, resulting in a somewhat disappointing yardage but a very satisfactory yarn.

My 4 oz. yielded approximately 313 yards; I had hoped for close to 400. I'm unsure what to make with this, as the yardage isn't enough for socks or probably anything but a very small shawl, but I wouldn't call it next-to-the-skin soft, so a cowl is probably out. Perhaps it'll become a hat or mittens when combined with another yarn.

Regardless of what it might or might not become, I am quite happy to just look at the finished yarn. These greens are so inspiring, especially now that it gets dark so early and it's usually so gloomy even when the sun is out. I may just keep the skein by my bedside for those dark winter months when I crave a little green!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just About

Come hell or high water, the striped baby blanket will be done tonight! I sat down with it and an episode of Masterpiece Mystery last night and managed to get through a couple more stripes, so at this point I have about a stripe and a half and the end border to go. Now that the end is in sight, I am very glad that I've been weaving in ends as I go, because I think it would be very disheartening to bind off and discover I had another evening's worth of work to do before it was really and truly finished. I'll have just a handful of ends to weave in when I bind off, and then all this blanket will need is a nice bath in some Soak before it's laid out on some drying racks to dry. I'm rather excited by the fact that I will have finished it almost two months before it's needed, but there is still at least one other thing to knit for this baby before I'm done, so I'm not crossing the recipient off my list just yet.

Once the blanket is done, I will finally sit down and swatch for my Effortless Cardigan, though I'll have to be patient with that as well while I wait for the swatch to dry. Assuming I can get gauge and don't have to reswatch too much (or at all), I should be able to cast on this weekend.

More immediately, I need to get going on some cold weather accessories for Rainbow, as the temperature has been dropping here and the kids are still going outside to play during the day when the weather is cooperative. She finally consented to wearing the handspun Aviatrix hat I made her last year on Tuesday (and was apparently quite excited to put it on again when the group went outside in the afternoon), but the novelty seems to have worn off because she would not let me fasten the strap this morning.

So I need to some up with some other alternatives. I have a couple of skeins of yarn leftover from her purple sweater that I think would be perfect for a hat and/or mittens; considering purple is her color of the moment, there's actually a chance she might choose to wear a purple hat if I made one. Last year, she absolutely loved a fleece-lined earflap hat from the Gap, so I'm thinking of doing something with a similar look. This one that I found on Ravelry seems like it will work, though I'll be leaving the spikes off and perhaps using pompoms rather than the ties. This is, of course, subject to the toddler's approval, so we shall see if I will actually be knitting it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Still Striping

With much cooler weather in the forecast (I even heard the S word mentioned for the weekend), I am just itching to start my Effortless Cardigan. I'm being a good knitter, though, and focusing on my obligation knitting before I start another big project for myself -- specifically, the striped blanket for the December baby.

Were it not for the fact that this blanket has three balls of yarn attached to it at any given time and ends to weave in every 10 rows or so, I have no doubt that I'd have been done with it long ago. But, because of all those details, I can only work on it when I can spread the yarn around me, which means the knitting is not getting done in fits and starts but rather in occasional bursts of sustained knitting time. I can do a stripe in about an hour, so I'm managing to get in about two stripes in a good evening's worth of knitting time.

So what's taking so long? It seems that I'm going to need a lot more stripes than I thought I would at the outset; I'm in the middle of my 18th stripe now and probably need 21 (maybe even 24) before I feel it's long enough to do the end border. The blanket is about 24 inches wide, so I'd like it to be a little longer than that. I am hopeful that I can have it done by the weekend, provided I can focus enough to work on it and only it in the evenings. (I'll readily admit that some pretty fiber and my spinning wheel might seduce me for an evening or two, though.)

All Spun Up Polwarth/Silk

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In the Skies

More than three years ago, shortly after learning to spin and getting my wheel, I placed what would be the first of many orders from Crown Mountain Farms. I can clearly remember looking through all the colorways and taking a pretty good length of time to decide which two to order. I finally decided and placed the order, and when my two bundles of fiber arrived, one got spun up right away. The other, however, sat in my stash until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided it was high time I spin it up. So here is In the Skies, 8 oz. of superwash merino, spun into a three-ply worsted weight.

When I started spinning this, I was intending to use the resulting yarn for a baby gift, but I found myself growing so enamored of it while spinning that I changed my plans and decided to keep it for myself. At only about 366 yards, it wouldn't have gone too far anyway, but now I have to figure out what it will be for me. Maybe a hat and mitten set? Small shawl? Infinity cowl? For now, as with most of my handspun, I'm just going to enjoy squeezing and petting the skein.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The "Puhple" Sweater

I know I've been promising to show you this sweater for some time now, so please forgive the wait. I hope you'll think it's worth it, because I think this may just be the best sweater I've ever knit.

Pattern: Roo by Kate Gilbert, Twist Collective summer 2009
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% superwash merino) in Eggplant, a little less than 7 skeins
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbos
Mods: different gauge (see below); closures
Recipient: Rainbow
Started/Completed: September 13/October 8

This sweater was such fun to knit. The time span is a bit misleading, because I was working on this in between several other projects. The actual knitting time was pretty reasonable. I did the back first and it took the longest mainly because it took the course of knitting the back to get used to reading the charts (I'm usually a very pro-chart person, but when there's garter stitch and stockinette in the same chart, it takes my brain some time to get used to it). The fronts took maybe three evenings total to knit, and I knit the sleeves at the same time over the course of a weekend. The hood was the last piece, and it probably took me just a few hours, with about an hour or two to graft the top and seam the rest of the sweater. Had I been working on this project exclusively, I probably could have finished it in a couple of weeks.

My only really big mod to this pattern was in gauge. When I swatched, I discovered that I probably would have had to go up to a US 9 to get gauge, and, in my opinion, the resulting fabric would have been way to loose for this yarn. Moreover, I really liked the fabric I was getting on size 7 needles, which was about 18 stitches over 4 inches, or about half a stitch more per inch than specified. With Rainbow's chest measurement of 20.5 inches, I would have normally chosen to knit the 22" size; with my difference in gauge, however, I elected to knit the 26" size knowing it would come out smaller than that. I knew I could also count on the tendency of a superwash yarn to stretch if I needed to get some additional room in the sweater when it was done. As it happens, after blocking, the sweater fits perfectly. There's a little bit of room so she can layer a shirt underneath as well as grow a bit, but it's not so big that it overpowers her.

The other mod was in the closures. I really wanted to be able to throw the whole sweater in the wash, so I was worried about using the leather closures specified in the pattern (not to mention that I wasn't sure I would be able to source the materials necessary). I'd seen several projects on Ravelry that used a twisty I-cord loop with a decorative ending instead, so I decided this was the way to go. I made two 12" lengths of I-cord and sewed the ends into place, leaving a loop for buttons. I'd originally intended to use toggles, but on a trip to my LYS, Rainbow herself found these purple buttons that were amazingly a match for the sweater. (I really have to remember to take her from now on when I go button shopping, because I'd missed seeing those same buttons when I'd looked on my own a couple of days earlier!)

The color is most accurate in this photo

As to my overall assessment of the pattern? It's a winner. I had made sure to find the errata for the pattern before I started but, to my surprise and delight, they'd already been corrected in the download. The pattern was easy to follow and very clearly worded, and the sweater itself was relatively easy to execute (simple shaping, not lots of "at the same time"s, etc.). The cables are clever but very intuitive, so once you've done a couple of pieces, you know what to expect. If I have one complaint, it's about the number of charts that are used. I realize this probably couldn't be helped, as different charts are needed for each piece, but it made things a little annoying at times when I had to find a place to spread the charts around me so I could see it all. I did get a little confused from time to time when working on the hood, as it seemed to me that the two charts should have been on opposite sides of the page, but I think that was just another brain adjustment thing, because I had it straight by the time I was about halfway through the hood. I was very thankful that the charts were fairly large, because by the end of the day my eyes aren't always so good.

As you can tell from the pictures, Rainbow was completely thrilled with her sweater. "Puhple" is her favorite color at the moment, so she was very excited to put it on. She wore it out and about all day last Saturday, when there was just a little chill in the air and a little extra something was needed. I have a feeling she's going to want to wear it a lot in the weeks to come, and that is certainly the biggest compliments I could get as a knitter.

Can you tell we had some fun with this photo shoot?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tiled In

When the Mister and I were redoing our bathroom last year, we spent a lot of time looking at tiles -- tiles for the floor, tiles for the shower walls, tiles to cap the other tiles, etc. The tiles we ultimately picked for the floor came in a set pattern that reminded me very much of the floors in the old bathrooms of my childhood home and the home of my best friend growing up, who lived across the street. It was nothing fancy, just a simple geometric composition of rectangles and squares, but it was so appealing to me. Naturally, when I sketching out some ideas for some stranded colorwork patterns, it made its way into my sketches.

About the same time, I'd received an order from Knit Picks with several skeins of their new Chroma yarn, which has long color repeats with gradual transitions. It was only a matter of time before the tile pattern and the yarn came together to form the Tiled In Cowl.

This cowl is worked in two colors, but because of the color transitions in the Chroma, it looks like there are many more. (It looks just as nice in two solid colors, too.) The top and bottom are sewn hems that are achieved through a provisional cast on at the beginning (which is later undone and worked together with the stitches on the needle) and grafting the live stitches at the end.

Worked in a light fingering weight yarn, this makes a cozy yet lightweight accessory -- one that I've discovered also makes a cozy headband in a pinch! It's worked in the round with minimal finishing, and the pattern includes a photo tutorial for sewing down the live stitches at the end.

I've been working on this pattern for quite some time, so I'm very excited to share it with you today. It's now available for download on Ravelry.

I can also finally share these pictures with you -- when I was trying to take a few more shots for the pattern, a certain someone wanted to get in on the action.