Thursday, August 30, 2012

Obligation Calls

Rainbow and I are enjoying a couple of days off while her daycare is closed. Last night, I told her she could sleep in this morning, which she took to mean "wake Mommy up at 5:40 a.m." The upside of this is that she took an exceptionally long nap this afternoon, and I took advantage of that time to put a serious dent in my SPAKAL spinning. I know I normally save my spinning talk for the weekend, but I feel it's important to note that this:

is my 12th -- and last -- bobbin of singles. If I wanted to push it, I could probably finish it off tonight, but I think I'm going to give my hands a break and switch to knitting for the evening. Specifically, I need to get started on some obligation knitting in the form of blanket for my best friend, who's due to have a baby boy in a few weeks. I've got a trio of colors of Cascade 220 Superwash ready to go:

I'm going to be using the Chasing Rainbows pattern and alternating colors every eight or ten rows until my yarn supply runs out. It should be a pretty quick knit, especially in comparison to my crazy laceweight sweater!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More of the Same

I feel like my knitting has gotten very boring lately, mostly because it's not moving very quickly. I've been spending a decent amount of my crafting time spinning in an effort to get all the SPAKAL singles done, and the knitting I have done has been slow moving. I'm still working on my Breezy Cardigan and am half an inch away from the last set of increases.

After those increases, I work even until I hit 12.5" from the underarm. Then I get to start the bottom ribbing (which I'm sure will be even more tedious and slow moving than the stockinette body). The good news is that I tried it on last night and it fits, so at least all this knitting isn't for nothing. Ideally I'd like to get this done by early autumn so I can wear it as a layering piece before it gets really cold, but we'll see if that actually happens. There are a number of other things I need to get done in the same time frame, including a baby blanket that's a gift, and this project inevitably will get put on the back burner.

Overall, this has been an enjoyable knit (insofar as it requires minimal attention and, of course, it's handspun, which is always a joy), but I'm getting the urge to knit more sweaters for me. I really want to knit a Vitamin D next, but I'm trying to use it as the proverbial carrot dangling in front of my nose to motivate me to finish the Breezy. Then there's the sweater kit that I won from my LYS, which I think I may use to knit a Rocky Coast Cardigan. That's knit on fairly large needles and is another top-down raglan, so I know it'd go quickly. Rainbow's probably also going to need some new sweaters for the fall because she's clearly gone/going through another growth spurt (she put on what used to be a dress today and it's now just a long shirt on her!).

Times like this, I really wish I could take a couple of weeks off from work just so I could knit all day!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gaining Speed

As of this afternoon, I am two-thirds of the way through spinning my SPAKAL singles. I've moved on to the second colorway (this one is called One) and seem to be getting through it faster than I did the first colorway.

In addition to the seven bobbins' worth you see here, I finished up an eighth bobbin this afternoon in between washing up a couple loads of fleece, and as soon as this entry goes up, I'll be working on bobbin number 9. Ideally, I'll like to get the rest of the singles spun up by the end of this week, which does seem a realistic goal considering that I'll be off Thursday and Friday (Rainbow's daycare is closed in preparation for the start of the school year the following week) and can spin during nap time. It would be really great if I could spend the long weekend plying!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Boring but Fast

I'm afraid I don't have much to blog about tonight; I've spent most of the week working on a swatch for a design submission, which I can't show you, and spinning for my SPAKAL sweater, which I'll save for Sunday. The only thing I can show you is what went on the needles yesterday after finishing my swatch. Rainbow asked me to make her a pair of socks when she saw me working on the Shur'tugals, so how could I refuse? I cast on for the first sock during my lunch break yesterday and have gotten probably less than two hours in on these, so you can see how fast a knit they are.

The yarn is a single skein of Patons Stretch Socks that I found deeply discounted at Michaels some time ago. I'd used the yarn once before for a pair of socks for the Mister, so I thought another skein would be put to good use (plus, it was marked down to $2 or $3). Only after I started knitting did I realize that the care is hand wash only, which is not ideal for a toddler's socks. I should have enough yarn leftover to knit a small swatch to throw in the washer and see how it does, but in the future, should she ask me to knit more, I'll be sure to find something superwash.

I'll be jumping back on my Breezy Cardigan now, which is still moving along at a remarkably fast pace given the thinness of the yarn. I'm just about ready to start the waist increases, which means that I've gotten about 7" done on the body; I think I need to get to 12 or 12.5 inches before I start the bottom ribbing. If I can focus on this thing for a while, perhaps I can get it done in time to wear it before it gets really cold!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Marathon Socks

If you know me in real life and/or have been reading this blog for a while, then you know that socks are usually a quick knit for me. Even heavily patterned socks I've always seemed to finish in a reasonable amount of time, likely because I almost always have my sock project bag with me because they're such a portable project and can be pulled out to put in a round or two in moments of waiting.

That's why it's so shocking that it took me more than three months -- yes, you read that correctly! -- to finish these socks. I know a bunch of factors were at play here (design work, Tour de Fleece, Ravellenic Games, work work), but that's still an inordinately long length of time for a project that in the past I would have completed in a matter of days. Still, they are done.

Pattern: Shur'tugal by Alice Yu
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino, potluck color in blues/greens, one skein
Needles: 40" US 1 (2.25 mm) Chiao Goo Red Lace circulars
Started/Completed: May 4/August 16
Mods: moved gusset decreases one stitch away from instep patterning

I'd had this pattern in my queue for quite some time and decided to take it and the skein of yarn (which had been in my stash for even longer -- probably five years) on the road with me to Maryland Sheep & Wool. I figured that I could start them in the car on the way down and then keep the sock bag in my purse or backpack to pull out while waiting in line, during a break, etc.

I discovered that these weren't the best travel project. For one thing, the pattern is five or six pages long and has several charts to refer to, which meant both that the pattern didn't fit well into my bag and that I wasn't able to memorize the stitch pattern. Having to pull out both the paper pattern and the sock every time I wanted to knit did not work well with knitting on the go. I had a much easier time once I was home and could sit and put the pattern next to me, but it took until the foot of the second sock before I knew the stitch pattern well enough to get by with only referring to the pattern once in a while. I was never able to get to the point where I could do without the chart entirely (as I discovered halfway through my lunch break last Wednesday, when I realized I'd started knitting the wrong section of the chart and had to spend the remainder of my break undoing what I'd just knit).

That said, I do like the socks. I'm not sure I'd knit this pattern again, at least not anytime soon, though part of me wants to try swatching it without any purl stitches to see how it looks (I think all the moving of the yarn from back to front and front to back slowed me down even more). The yarn, though variegated, didn't flash or pool in an ugly way, so these should be a good staple of my winter foot wardrobe.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Third

As of this writing, I am a third of the way through my SPAKAL spinning. I've finished four of the six sections of Whole Lotta Love, and the fifth section is on the wheel.

As you can see, I'm once again using my fancy-schmancy storage bobbins -- inelegant, perhaps, but they do the job well and I feel like I'm being "greener" by reusing the tubes before I recycle them! I'm hoping to finish up the rest of this colorway this week so I can start in on the second half of the fiber.

I'm anxious to get it all done so I can catch up on my fiber club spinning (since the Tour de Fleece ended, I've gotten behind again). My September shipment arrived yesterday, East Friesian top in a gorgeous colorway called Summer of Love. I'm sure a certain toddler will be coveting this.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Step Forward, a Step Back

I've informally set myself a goal of finishing my Shur'tugal socks by the end of this week. They feel like they've been on the needles forever (okay, well actually only since the beginning of May, but that's a long time for me to knit a pair of socks!) and I am just done with them. Since I hit the foot on the second sock, they've been going pretty quickly -- until yesterday.

I was halfway through my lunch break and starting to think that I actually might finish the sock before Friday when I looked down and realized that I'd screwed up the pattern when I started knitting for the day by starting at the wrong row on the chart. So I spent the remainder of my break tinking back to undo the damage -- meaning that I go a total of zero rounds finished for the day. Luckily I was able to figure out where I should have started in the chart at Hurricane Knitting last night and am now about a chart repeat away from starting the toe.

Now that I'm back on track, I am determined to have these finished by tomorrow night. Hold me to it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Is the Crazy Talking

Right before the start of the Tour de Fleece, I did something most of you will probably think is crazy: I cast on for a sweater knit in laceweight yarn.

I'm quite used to working with small-diameter yarns, so it's not necessarily the weight of the yarn that was so crazy -- just the idea that I'd cast on the sweater and actually finish it in time to wear it while it's still seasonally appropriate.

The yarn is question is my own handspun, a Polwarth/silk blend from All Spun Up fiber. It took a good two months to spin and ply all 8 oz. of it, so already I have that amount of time invested in this sweater.

The pattern is Hannah Fettig's Breezy Cardigan, a lightweight version of her Effortless Cardigan, which is one of my favorite hand-knit sweaters. As sweater patterns go, it's pretty darned easy. It's a top-down stockinette raglan with a bit of ribbing at the ends. In the first month or so after casting on, I got through only the raglan increases on the yoke. Since this weekend, however, I've made remarkably fast progress:

The colors are remarkably inaccurate here, for some reason

I'm just about at the point where I need to do my second round (of three) waist decreases, which means I've knit almost four inches of the body under the underarms. It feels like I haven't done that much knitting (I've done a fair bit of spinning, too, the past couple of days), so perhaps this will get finished up sooner than I think! At the very least, this has been a good project to turn to when I have little physical and almost zero mental energy, because I don't really have to think to do stockinette.

In completely unrelated news, I don't think I mentioned that I got a nice surprise when I spent the day at my LYS about a week and a half ago. I'd been entered into a special drawing for completing a bingo in their summer contest in July and won a bonus prize, this sweater kit from Cascade!

The yarn is Alpaca Lana D'oro, a 50% alpaca/50% wool blend. There's a pattern that came with the yarn that's kind of cute, though I'm not sure I want it for this yarn. If I did make my size, though, I'd have enough yarn leftover to make a sort-of-matching sweater for Rainbow. Decisions, decisions!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spinning for the SPAKAL

If you listen to the Knitmore Girls podcast, then you've no doubt heard about their SPAKAL -- or spinalong/knitalong. The idea was that, over the course of the year, the podcasters and any listeners who were interested would spin a sweater's worth of yarn and then knit it into a sweater. The really hard-core way of doing this would be to start with a fleece, wash and process it, and then spin it. I'd hoped to be able to do that with at least one of my fleeces from MDSW, but alas, I've been less productive on that front that I'd hoped to be. I'm still working on washing the first fleece, and I've combed only a tiny amount of it.

I still wanted to participate, though, so I decided to go to the stash and work with what I already have. I discovered that I have a total of a pound of superwash merino from Crown Mountain Farms (two 8 oz. bundles) in two very similar colorways. I'm splitting each bundle in half and then each half into three roughly equal pieces. I'll be spinning up three plies and mixing the two colorways so that each strand of yarn will have two plies of one colorway and one of the other. I'm starting with Whole Lotta Love.

I'm on my third section now, so if I can get in some decent spinning time this week, I should be able to finish all six sections fairly soon and get started in on the other color. I'm aiming for a sportweight yarn, and if I can achieve that (and get enough yardage), my plan is to use it for Goodale.

Of course, the hard-core SPAKAL might still happen if I can get my butt in gear and finish washing the fleeces. Processing might not be as time-consuming as I thought thanks to a new-to-me toy that arrived last week and got assembled yesterday:

This is a Howard Brush Company triple drum carder. I wasn't necessarily planning to buy a drum carder but I got offered this one at a great price, so I figured I should take advantage of the deal. I washed up a batch of my merino X fleece today that had, on average, a shorter staple length that most of the rest of the fleece, so once it's dry I'll be using it to test drive this baby!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Sweater in a Jiffy

I love baby knits, especially the really tiny ones. While they can sometimes be more fiddly than their adult-sized counterparts, they're so fast that you really don't notice.

Case in point: this super-cute sweater that I whipped up in a matter of days:

Pattern: Cascade by Raya Budrevich, winter 2010 Petite Purls, 3 month size
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% superwash merino) in Gulfsteam, approximately 1.75 skeins
Needles: 32" US 7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: August 5/August 8
Mods: none

This sweater is for one of the Mister's coworkers, whose expecting her first child, a girl, early this fall. I'd thrown three skeins of the yarn into a Knit Picks order a while back to get bumped up to free shipping, and I thought this bright blue would be perfect for a newborn (I much prefer babies in bright colors over pastels, especially having experienced a jaundiced baby!).

This cardigan is a top-down cardigan and so entirely seamless, which added greatly to the speed of the project. I also decreased the number of ends to be woven in by keeping the last stitch of the bottom live after binding off, turning the work to pick up stitches for the button band (starting with that last live stitch), and then doing the same for the collar when the band was finished. The buttonhole band on the front is knit concurrently with the sweater and features those adorable leaves.

If you knit this, be aware that there is an error that has not been listed with the errata on the Ravelry pattern page (though you'll see mention of it if you look at the comments). The last leaf is meant to be finished off with alternate directions for what would be Row 12 of the pattern; the instructions, however, say to follow these directions for Row 13. If you do this, though, you will be on a wrong side row and not have enough stitches left in the placket to do what you're supposed to. This isn't a big thing, but I had to tink back a couple of rows to fix it. (At the time I thought it was just me, as I was taking some medication that had made me a little drowsy, but the comments on Ravelry proved it was not.)

This was a really fun little knit and one that I'm likely to do again when I need a quick gift. I might even make one for Rainbow in her size if she likes it!

Monday, August 06, 2012

On the Podium

After several marathon knitting sessions over the weekend, I bound off the last stitch of my Ravellenic Games project while watching the end of the women's marathon yesterday morning.

Pattern: Wilshire Shawl by Dee O'Keefe
Yarn: madelinetosh tosh lace (100% merino) in Fathom, approximately 0.86 skeins/817 yards used
Needles: 32" US 4 (3.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: July 27, ~8:30 p.m./August 5, 8:45 a.m.
Mods: none

This was a really fun knit. The lace itself was pretty simple (nothing more complicated than a slip one, k2tog, psso), and as you can see, a fair portion of the shawl is in plain stockinette, making for some pretty mindless knitting. Unfortunately, there was one part in one of those mindless sections where I did let my mind slip and forgot a pair of yarnovers around the center stitches. I discovered it many rows later and decided to sneak in the two extra stitches rather than rip back, and while you can find the error if you look for it, I don't really think it's very obvious because the eye is drawn to the lace portions.

I haven't measured the final dimensions, but this shawl is pretty sizable. I had to put extra towels on the floor on the top ends because it was wider than the big towel I was blocking on. Despite the size, it's really light and airy; I've gotten so used to knitting shawls in fingering that I'd forgotten just how light a laceweight shawl can be!

Overall, this project was a real win. It was enough of a challenge in that it took some serious dedication of time and effort but not so much of a challenge that my tired brain couldn't handle it at the end of the day. The pattern was very easy to follow (but it has only charts, for the record) and well written, so I'll definitely consider more of this designer's patterns in the future.

After finishing such a big project, I immediately cast on for something quick -- a baby sweater. This is Cascade from Petite Purls, and I'm knitting it for one of the Mister's coworkers who's expecting a baby girl early this fall.

Yes, I know it's blue, but I happen to like little girls in bright blues -- any bright color, really. This is going very quickly -- I expect to finish the body tonight. It helps that I'm making the smallest size, but there's something so satisfying about finishing a sweater in a couple evenings.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Pattern Release: Peckish

I'm really excited to tell you that I released my Peckish shawl today. This is a pattern I enjoyed designing and knitting so much that I made a second sample!

This shawl is a great stashbuster if you're like me and have more sock yarn in your stash than you'll ever actually knit into socks in your lifetime; the sample above is worked in two colors of Malabrigo Sock, a yarn I actually prefer to use for shawls than for socks. It's knit from the top down, starting with a garter tab, and uses short-row shaping in the stripes -- and because it's in garter stitch, there's no picking up of wraps! It's finished with a picot bind off for a little bit of fun after all that garter stitch.

I know a pattern is good if I want to knit it a second time, and this one is no exception. Although I ran into a little problem with my yarn supply in the bind off of my madelinetosh tosh sock version, I love this iteration. It was a good test of my yarn estimates, too; you'll definitely want at least 400 yards of each color to avoid palpitations over whether you'll have enough!

If you want something that's interesting but doesn't require you to think too hard, this is a pattern for you. There are no charts to follow and hardly any counting, and it's easy to enlarge it or make it smaller if you have more yarn to use up or not quite enough. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I have!