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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Done with Love

First things first: Rainbow's Roo is done, has been washed and blocked, and has had buttons selected (by the girl herself, when we stopped by my LYS yesterday on our day off). All that's left to do is some I-cord closures and a proper photo shoot, which I'm hoping will happen this weekend when the weather's supposed to be nice but a little on the chilly side.

Since finishing that up, I've been focusing on the next baby item -- the blanket. For as much as I love stranded colorwork, I don't really care much for intarsia, which makes it rather surprising that I'm knitting this particular blanket. I have three skeins of yarn attached at any given time and I have ends to weave in every 10 or so rows. This blanket is proof positive that I have a lot of love for the recipient (well, for the recipient's mom anyway).

The mom-to-be is the older sister of my childhood best friend and I've known her my whole life; she's been almost a big sister to me, too. I'm willing to deal with tangled yarn skeins and lots of ends for her. I'm being very good about weaving in my ends as I go so there's less finishing to do when I get to the end, and I'm discovering that intarsia isn't actually as bad as I thought. The first time I did it, I think I was making it more difficult than it had to be. I still prefer to carry two colors at the same time if I can, but I'm  no longer disregarding a cute pattern if it involves intarsia.

I did take a wee break from the tangling over the weekend to do a test knit of some very sweet toddler-sized felted slippers.

Trust me when I tell you that these are much cuter in person (and in natural light, for that matter). These knit up in about four hours total and used less than a skein each of two colors -- Hollyberry and Rhubarb -- of some very old Knit Picks Merino Style that I found in my stash. I ran them through my front loader for two cycles and got them to mostly felt, though I'll have to hand felt a couple of spots here and there. Rainbow has tried them on and they fit perfectly, so I'll also have to go in search of some puffy paint to make some grippers on the bottom. Fun!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

That Darn Cardigan

You've all heard me talk about this cardigan for so long that I'm sure it'll come as a surprise to some of you that I haven't yet shown you the fully finished item. I've been procrastinating about it, but today that comes to an end.

Pattern: Essential Cardigan by Laura Grutzeck, summer 2010 Interweave Knits
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed (40% silk, 30% cotton, 20% merino, 10% rayon) in the very descriptive colorway 14
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 5 (3.75 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: April 25, 2011/September 4, 2011
Mods: neckline (see below)

I decided to knit this cardigan primarily because it seemed like the simple, classic sweater that I always reach for -- it goes with almost everything, always looks good, and is an easy knit. Unfortunately, that simplicity does not always make for a good project. The pattern itself was very clear and easy to follow, and I found no errors, but I discovered that I had a really hard time sticking with this project. Stockinette the round I can do forever, but stockinette worked flat can bore me to tears sometimes. The big issue, though, seemed to be the 1x1 garter ribbing. It was so tedious, especially when I got to the collar/buttonbands and had to work a couple hundred stitches in 1x1 rib every other row. I think that last piece took me as long to knit as the five component pieces did.

That said, the finished sweater is as I had hoped. It fits well, it's comfortable, and it fits with my wardrobe. I've already worn it a couple of times when the weather was such that I needed just a little extra layer. This is by no means a winter sweater, but it's great for these early days of fall and will be great in those early days of spring when we're all sick of thick wool sweaters and heavy winter coats.

The only modification I made (and really a slight one at that) involves the stitches at the back of the neck that are left when the shoulder stitches are bound off. The pattern calls for keeping those stitches live and placing them on waste yarn. However, I knew that I would be picking up stitches for the button bands (which are worked in conjunction with the collar) and I wanted all the stitches in that first row to look the same, so I bound the back neck stitches off at the end of the back piece.

If there's one disappointment I have about this sweater, it's the yarn. I picked it mainly because it was the right weight and I had a ton of it in my stash from a good WEBS sale years ago (and thus I felt guilty that I hadn't used it yet), but I don't think it's the best fit for this pattern. The high silk and rayon content means that the knit fabric is very drapey, and in the case of my sweater, that means that it's stretching out of shape a bit as I wear it, particularly around the buttonholes (I might have to go in and reinforce them at some point because of this). The drape factor is not entirely an issue, as it makes for a really comfy sweater, but I was getting a little annoyed when I wore it to work last week and kept noticing every time I went to the bathroom that my set-in sleeve cap was sitting in the middle of my bicep. I doubt anyone notices this kind of thing but me, and as no one asked me if I'd made the sweater at work (where they know I knit my own sweaters), I'd say it's probably not an obvious flaw. The other issue with the yarn is the color; I think the tweedy flecks, though I love them in the yarn, obscure the ribbing a bit, and for all the aggravation that ribbing caused me, I want it to be seen.

I guess this sweater is a good exercise in the process. I ended up with a garment that fits well, but in retrospect, I would change a number of things. I should also add that I was a good girl and did several swatches, and while the swatches themselves were drapey, they in no way could have prepared me for how drapey the full finished garment is. Live and learn, I suppose. At least I've come a long way since my first sweater.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

In the Hood

I've been working on Rainbow's Roo, and I am quite literally in the hood now. It's amazing how quickly it's knit up -- sometimes I forget just how fast baby and children's garments are! I knit the sleeves over the weekend (I did them both at the same time to make absolutely sure they were identical), and last night I grafted the shoulder seams and started the hood. I would estimate that I have two to three nights' worth of work left to do on this before it's done, or at least in one piece. I still need to do a little digging around to find a tutorial for frog closures made from I-cord, because I am not going to do the leather triangle toggle thing called for in the pattern. I really want this to be completely washable!

Yes, I'm fully aware of how bad this photo is. Camera wasn't cooperating.
While the slew of obligation baby knits has not let up at all, I've decided that I really don't want to neglect myself in the meantime. On Saturday, I stopped by my LYS as usual and brought with me a couple of gift cards I'd been saving up. Those, combined with a frequent shopper reward, got me a great deal on a sweater's worth of Madelinetosh Tosh DK that will become an Effortless Cardigan for moi. I figure that a simple, straightforward top-down raglan would be easy enough for me to pick up and put down as needed but still finish in a reasonable amount of time (read: soon enough to actually wear it this sweater season). I sat for a while with three colors in front of me but ultimately decided on Baltic -- when it comes down to it, I can't say no to a vibrant blue.

I'm really excited to get this out and cast on, but I am making myself finish at least Rainbow's Roo (and maybe another baby item) before I do.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Thick and Quick

After spending all summer spinning thin yarns, I'd forgotten how fast and satisfying spinning a thicker yarn can be. The yarn I have to show you today is the result of exactly three days of spinning (and you know that I don't mean spinning all day for three days but rather for two or three hours on a given day). I knew I wanted to spin up some worsted weight-ish yarn to knit a baby sweater, so I went stash diving and came up with this bump of superwash merino from Crown Mountain Farms that I'd bought at least a year ago when they were having one of their big sales. This colorway is Come Together.

CMF SW Merino - Come Together

I spun up the singles on my miniSpinner on Saturday and Sunday and plied on Monday night. I ended up with about 332.5 yards of heavy worsted/aran weight (~11 wpi).

This is destined to become a Baby Sophisticate for a baby boy due in late December (the same intended recipient of the striped blanket I've been working on). I've been so inspired by how easy this was to spin that I pulled out some more CMF sw merino that has been in my stash since my first year of spinning and have started a similar yarn. If this keeps up, I'm going to go through a significant portion of my stash in a relatively short amount of time!