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!