Friday, September 28, 2012

Falling for Tosh (and Failing a Bit)

As I think I mentioned at least once or twice before, I'm participating in the Fall for Tosh knitalong over in the Madelinetosh Lovers group on Ravelry. It started last Saturday, on the first day of fall, and runs through the end of October. That's a decent amount of time, so I thought I'd challenge myself and knit myself a sweater. I chose the Calligraphy Cardigan by Hannah Fettig, a fairly simple top-down raglan. It's a lot of knitting, but the pattern is straightforward enough that it doesn't require a whole lot of thinking and will knit up fairly quickly.

Last weekend was a mixed bag for knitting. I was awakened 4:30 a.m. on Saturday by Rainbow, who had a high fever and was complaining of a tummy ache. We actually ended up in the emergency room with her that morning (having had an appendix that wanted to explode, I was worried hers was acting up!). Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing serious (they initially diagnosed an ear infection, but then a rash appeared on Monday, and at the follow-up with the pediatrician on Wednesday, the diagnosis was changed to some sort of virus -- she's fine now), but it was a long day for all of us. While she (and the Mister) took a long nap on Saturday afternoon, I headed over to my LYS and cast on. By Sunday night, I'd finished the 7" ribbed collar and was ready to start my raglan increases.

Collar ribbing, before it all went wrong

Unfortunately, that's where I went wrong, though I didn't realize it at the time. I worked on the thing all week and finally got to the point where I was ready to separate for the sleeves last night. I counted my stitches after the last set of increases and had the right number. It was only when I was counting the sleeve stitches as I was putting them on waste yarn that I realized that I'd royally screwed up when I placed my markers. Although I had the correct number of stitches for the fronts and back, I had two additional stitches for one sleeve and was two stitches short on the other. I'm not sure if I was reading the wrong number in the pattern (entirely possible, as I made the mistake of highlighting my numbers in a yellow highlighter that's not showing up too well), if I was distracted by a whiny toddler, or if it was just my exhaustion setting in; most likely it was a combination of the three.

I briefly considered ripping back to the end of the collar, but considering that it'd taken me all week to get to this point and it was only a matter of two stitches on each sleeve, I decided I was going to make it work. For the sleeve with two extra stitches, I kept one on each end for my underarm allowance and cast on four (rather than six) stitches to bridge the gap between the front stitches and the back stitches. For the sleeve that's two stitches short, I made myself a note to pick up two additional stitches when I come back to finish the sleeves. The sleeves should still fit just fine, and I think it's pretty hard to tell a difference of two stitches when you look at the shoulders now -- I know I didn't see an issue all this time!

Consider this a public service announcement: When you're placing markers and dealing with a reasonably large number of stitches, count twice! Better yet, have someone else double check your pattern and count for you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I had intended to get this post up yesterday, but with the holiday falling smack in the middle of the week, all my plans went out the window. So you'll just have to deal with getting it a day later than intended and bear with me if I get a little incoherent at times (I'm fasting and the headache is setting in quickly).

After many weeks, the baby blanket is finally done! (About time, too, because the baby's already arrived!)

Pattern: Chasing Rainbows by Trisha Mitberg
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash in colors 854 (Navy), 1914 (Alaska Sky), and 1985 (Duck Egg Blue), one skein each
Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) Knit Picks Options
Started/Completed: August 30/September 22
Mods: thicker stripes; ended with an I-cord bind off rather than garter stitch

This pattern was dead easy -- just four increases every round and knit all the way around -- so it made from some pretty mindless (albeit boring) knitting. Obviously as it got bigger, the rounds got longer, so those last few stripes really took quite a while to do. I started with three colors of Cascade 220 Superwash, one of my favorite yarns for baby knitting, that I'd rescued from the orphan bin at my LYS. The pattern advised changing colors every eight rounds, I believe, but also using more colors. Because I was only using three, I decided to make the stripes a little wider and changed colors every 10 rounds.

My other modification was to end with an I-cord bind off, and this was really due more to the fact that I was running short on my yarn supply. I knew that my last stripe was going to end up significantly smaller than the others, and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to eke out enough garter stitch to make the blanket lie flat. The I-cord edging doesn't completely stop the rolling, but it gives the edge a nice finished look, so I'm calling it a success.

I blocked the blanket out fairly aggressively, both to make it a little larger and to get the "nipple" in the center to flatten out. I let the curves do their thing rather than try to block it into a square, so the shape is a little unusual, but I kind of like it that way. The finished dimensions are roughly 31" by 31", which is a great size for a baby and, judging from the blankets Rainbow likes to use, still a decent size for a toddler, so I'm hoping this'll get a lot of use. It'll be packed up and shipped out to its recipient this weekend!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Much Ado about Manx

I didn't touch my wheel at all last week because I was so busy working on the baby blanket, but yesterday afternoon, while the Mister took Rainbow out for a walk and little playground playing, I sat down to ply up what'd been sitting on my bobbins since the previous week. It started as 4 oz. of Manx Loaghtan fiber from Crown Mountain Farms (this was the August fiber club shipment) in a colorway called Cyclon or 3 of 4.

I decided to do a traditional three ply for this one, thinking it'd be good for mittens, perhaps with some cables, and I'd like a nice round yarn. The fiber itself was pretty enjoyable to spin; it's a very wooly wool, if that makes any sense, and spun very easily. It was on the rustic side without being too rough or kemp-y.

I'd expected the finished yarn to be in the sport/DK range (or so it looked when I pulled it off the wheel), but it poofed up nicely in the bath and bloomed to a worsted weight.

I love how the acid-y yellow got toned down a bit in the finished yarn, and my twist was tight enough for my taste while still being fairly well balanced after its bath. I ended up with about 163 yards.

This yarn is not next-to-skin soft, so a hat might not be a great idea, but I think this'll work very well as mittens. I have the feeling that the knit fabric will felt up with wear, so I won't have to worry too much about them being too delicate.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Deadline Looming

I deal with tight deadlines all the time at work, but now I'm bumping up against one at home, too. As you know, I've been working on the baby blanket for a while now, and for a bit there it seemed like it wasn't getting any bigger. I'm happy to say that we've passed that stage and have moved on to pretty darn unwieldy:

I am on the penultimate stripe now and hoping to finish in the next day or two so I can send this off. Aside from the fact that I'm ready to be done with it (and ready to cast on for my Fall for Tosh sweater on Saturday), it occurred to me that the mom-to-be -- who's now officially overdue -- has not given birth yet because I haven't finished! If the Yarn Harlot is to be believed, a baby will not come until his or her knitting is finished, so I'm going to do my best to finish this as quickly as possible (though I'm secretly hoping the baby comes on Saturday, which also happens to be mom-to-be's birthday!).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pattern Release: Prym

Once upon a time I knit an awesome sweater in tosh dk and found myself with most of a skein leftover. Then I knit a baby sweater and had more leftovers -- and of course I couldn't bear to throw them away. At some point, it occurred to me that I could combine all the leftovers in a quick little accessory knit. And thus Prym was born.

This is a really easy, fast knit. It starts with the brim, which is knit flat and has a little short-row detail (in garter stitch, os no picking up wraps!) and a one-row buttonhole. After the brim is finished, you bind off a small number of stitches and start working in the round. It's mindless knitting until you get to the crown, which is composed of your run-of-the-mill spiral decreases.

The hat is just a little slouchy, and it's easy to make it a little slouchier by adding additional length before the crown decreases. I knit up this sample in a couple evenings and recently made another one for myself (with more tosh dk leftovers!) in a few days.

The details: You'll need approximately 135 yds./125 m of the main color and 20 yds./18 m of the contrast color for the stripe in the brim, two stitch markers, a yarn needle to weave in ends, and a 3/4 in./2 cm button. The pattern is written for DK weight yarn, but a light worsted would work well (gauge is 21 stitches and 31 rows over 4 in./10 cm). The finished hat is made to fit an average woman's head with a circumference of approximately 20 inches.

Fall is definitely in the air around here -- I wore wool socks for the first time in the season today, along with a shawl -- so I have a feeling it's just a matter of time before I need a hat, too!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tackling the Backlog

While I was spinning up my SPAKAL yarn, I let my Crown Mountain Farms fiber club shipments pile up. Fortunately, I had caught up during the Tour de Fleece, so that only meant three months' worth, the most recent of which arrived in only the past few weeks. I decided to tackle that one first rather than go in chronological order, mostly because I was most excited about the colorway.

Here's what it looked like when it arrived on my doorstep in mid-to-late August:

This is East Frisian top, a breed I'd not spun before, in a colorway called Summer of Love. The fiber had a bit of grip to it and was more on the rustic side of wool (it's not supersoft); it seemed like it would be fairly hard wearing. I decided to spin my default three-ply fingering weight. Because of the color, I thought it would be good for a certain toddler I know who loves purple. I was right, because when she saw the finished yarn hanging in "her" bathroom, she wanted it right away.

The finished yarn is indeed fingering but only about 279 yards. Pretty pathetic yardage for me, but it'll work well for its intended use as a Slouchy Butterfly Beanie for Rainbow. I'll have minimal leftover yarn once I knit this up, which is good because -- as I reaffirmed last night while doing a bit of a clean-up of the stash room -- I have a really hard time getting rid of all but the tiniest bit of leftover yarn. (You will be proud of me, though, when I tell you that I did toss four balls of eyelash yarn that were part of a giveaway, I think, years back and that I'd been holding on to for no apparent reason.)

Now that September's shipment is taken care of, I've moved onto August's -- Manx Lockton (or Loaghtan) in a colorway called Cyclon or 3 of 4. I spun up the first bobbin's worth on Friday evening and am hoping to finish up bobbin #2 (of 3) this afternoon while Rainbow is napping.

This stuff is really fun to spin. It reminds me a bit of the Jacob fiber I spun up during the TdF -- very woolly, with a bit of VM here and there to pick out. This should spin up in the sport/DK weight, and I'm thinking that it'll make some lovely mittens that will get felty and warmer with wear rather quickly.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Diagnosis

As soon as I read the comments on my last post, I realized exactly what's wrong with me: I have a classic case of Startitis. It's not a condition I've suffered from much in the past, because I always tend to have multiple projects going and thus don't often feel a need to cast on something new and exciting (because usually one of my projects always fits the bill). I guess my current projects just aren't fulfilling enough, hence the desire to KNIT ALL THE THINGS.

The good news is that I'll be able to cast on for yet another sweater next Saturday, when the Fall for Tosh knitalong kicks off, but until then, I'm afraid it has to be all blanket, all the time (well, except for my lunch breaks, when I can work a bit on the Goodale).

We're getting into that time of year when the only good light to photograph things is during the day when I'm at work, so apologies for the flash photo, but at least you can get a good idea of how this is growing. I'm on the seventh stripe and the stitches are finally getting pretty comfortable on the 40" needle. The skeins of yarn are also starting to look slightly smaller, so I'm clearly making progress. The original intent was to knit until my yarn runs out, ideally completing a three-stripe sequence, so we'll see how far that gets me. The mom-to-be is at 39 weeks and counting, so I don't want this baby to have to wait for his blanket!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I May Be Digging Myself a Hole

I think it must be the weather. It's been noticeably cooler the past several days, and ever since the change I've been flitting from one project to another. This is great for keeping me entertained, but it means I don't make much progress on any one project.

I did get in a little time on the baby blanket on Sunday night while I watched the first half (the good half, apparently) of the Steelers game. It's now on a 40" needle, somewhat stretched.

I really need to work on this because the baby is due any day now, but what can I say? Stockinette in the round is really easy but also really boring. I will say that I am being a good little knitter and weaving in my ends as I go, so there will be minimal finishing at the end, but these skeins of yarn don't seem to be getting smaller and the rounds are getting noticeably longer.

You'd would think that with this gift to finish and a laceweight sweater that's still a long way from being done, I'd focus on those projects for a while, but you'd be wrong. Last night I spent the evening plying some handspun (still not done), and today during my lunch break, I cast on for my handspun Goodale:

It doesn't look like much (because it isn't -- three measly rows!), but I did swatch twice for this sweater. I'm a little off because I think my yarn is a little thinner than a true sport weight, but I will make it work. I had one more stitch than I should (21 over 4") with size 6s and one less stitch than I should (19 over 4") with size 7s, but I decided to go with the smaller needles because I liked the fabric of the swatch a lot better and my row gauge was closer. I figure that even if the sweater comes out a tad on the small side, it won't be patently obvious because it has an open front.

Does anyone know what's wrong with me, why I want to cast on for everything and not work on any one thing? And is there a cure?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Whole Lotta One Love

My SPAKAL spinning is finished! I started with a total of a pound of superwash merino combed top from Crown Mountain Farms, 8 oz. each in two colorways -- Whole Lotta Love and One (hence the mash-up in the title of this post). I split each bundle in half and then split each half into thirds, leaving me with six sections of each. To ply the yarn, I combined two plies of one colorway with one of the other, and of course I mixed up the order in which I spun the individual sections to get my finished yarn as consistent as possible. I saved all my leftovers (I ended each skein when one bobbin's worth ran out) and plied them all in a fifth skein at the end.

The finished yarn is more or less sport weight, which is exactly what I was going for, and approximately 950 yards. I swatched this afternoon and am just waiting for it to dry to measure gauge, but this is going to grow up to be a Goodale. If all goes well with the swatch, I'll be casting on tomorrow!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Odds and Ends

It's been a seriously crazy week. This is our busy season at work normally, but it seems like this year there's twice as much work and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. I'll admit my crafting has been suffering, because by the time I get home, I'm so mentally exhausted that I can't think well enough to count or examine my knitting critically.

Today, though, I'm getting a little bit of a break. I'm having an upper endoscopy later today (we're trying to figure out what's been going on in my stomach for the past nine months so we can, I hope, solve the issue), and I'm not allowed to eat or drink anything leading up to it, so I'm hanging out at home until it's time to go to the hospital. As soon as this post goes up, I'm popping The Help in the DVD player and breaking out the projects. (I managed to get in a cup of tea this morning before the ban on liquids went into effect, so I should at least be focused enough to do some stockinette.)

I've been working on a little bit of this and a little bit of that this past week, pretty much changing projects every evening. Last Thursday, I finally cast on for that baby blanket I need to knit, though in all honesty I haven't touched it since.

This is the Chasing Rainbows pattern, though I'm using only the three colors of Cascade 220 Superwash you see here. I'm working 10-round stripes for each color, and I'm making it even easier on myself because I'm not even bothering to count rounds -- I just know that when I reach another multiple of 10 in the stitch count of each section, it's time to change colors. This is a super simple knit, so it's good for those days when my brain doesn't want to work. I'm just going to knit until I run out of yarn, which should result in a decently sized baby blanket. The baby in question is due in about another week, I think, so I've got to get on this now.

I've also been giving my Breezy Cardigan a bit of attention, and the body is actually moving along at a good clip. I think I have only about 2 1/2" to go before I start the bottom ribbing.

I tried this on at one point last week, and it looks like it's going to fit perfectly -- if only I can finish the darn thing! I do love knitting with my handspun, but I'm really starting to doubt my sanity in choosing to knit a large-ish sweater in laceweight.

In all honesty, I may abandon this project for a while in favor of other sweater knitting. I'm going to be participating in the Fall for Tosh knitalong with the Madelinetosh Lovers group on Ravelry starting on the first day of fall. I've decided on another Hannah Fettig pattern, the Calligraphy Cardigan, for my project. It's a pretty simple, classic-looking sweater that will be great as a layering piece at the office, and it calls for tosh dk -- and, as it happens, my LYS just happened to get a tosh shipment in last week, so I may have treated myself to some last weekend.

This is six skeins of tosh dk in Silver Fox. I debated several colors but ultimately decided this was the most neutral and thus most likely to go with most of my wardrobe.

I also picked up two skeins in Cousteau to make a baby sweater (likely another Gramps Cardigan) for my cousin's baby, whose gender is going to remain a mystery until s/he is born early next year.

It's supposed to be considerably cooler this weekend -- around 70 and rainy -- so is it any surprise that I want to knit All The Sweaters?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Where It All Began: Three Wishes

While I released my first pattern for sale a little more than a year ago, it wasn't actually my first design. The very first pattern began as an idea that occurred to me as I was falling asleep a little more than a year and a half ago. I made a quick sketch on a scrap of paper before going to bed that night and then spent about a week or so afterward playing around with Excel to try to create a chart.

Once I got a first draft of a chart worked out, I pulled out some leftover yarn from a colorwork project and knit up a swatch (actually, a full mitten -- I needed to work out all the details in yarn!). Here's what that first iteration looked like:

I wasn't entirely satisfied with the "smoke" coming out of the lamp; it seemed too flimsy and didn't translate well from a pencil drawing to knit stitches. Although I wanted to give an idea of transparency, I realized that using a small number of stitches to illustrate this idea just wasn't going to work and went back to the drawing board.

I pulled out my chart again to revise it, first drawing directly on the printout and then refining it in Excel.

Here's take two, which is essentially what the final chart looks like. You can see a definite cloud of smoke now, and it even begins to suggest the form of a genie (which is what I realized I wanted to do).

Once I had worked out the kinks in the colorwork pattern, it was time to write up the pattern and knit up a sample. I decided to submit the pattern to Knitty for the Deep Fall 2011 issue, and I picked two gorgeous shades of madelinetosh tosh sock to knit up the sample.

Unfortunately, the submission got eaten by Knitty's spam filter, which wasn't discovered until the issue went live -- though I must say that after this was discovered, Amy Singer and I exchanged several e-mails and she was most gracious in apologizing for the error and the fact that she didn't have a space for the pattern.

The pattern was still my "baby," so to speak, so eventually I decided that I would self-publish. It's since been thoroughly tech edited and test knit, and it's taken everything I have not to release these months ago when the pattern was ready. I decided it was best to wait until fall, when we're starting to think about winter, cold weather, and even holiday knitting.

These are knit in the round from the bottom up, starting with corrugated ribbing at the cuff (one of my favorite colorwork features). The thumb is added with a gusset and finished after the rest of the mitten, and the only finishing required is grafting of a small number of stitches at the top of the mitten. You'll need approximately 150 yards/137 meters of the main color and 135 yards/123 meters of the contrast color to make a pair, so if you use tosh sock, you can get two pairs out of the two skeins of yarn (or split two skeins with a friend!). The mittens are worked at a pretty dense gauge and meant to fit an average woman's hand (approximately 7.5 in./19 cm cuff circumference), but they can easily be sized up by using a needle one size up from that used to obtain gauge.

I am really so thrilled to be able to share these with you after so long -- it's been tough to keep them a secret! I'm looking forward to knitting another pair of these soon (I'm planning a pair in handspun), and I really hope you'll enjoy the Three Wishes pattern!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Wheel on Fire

I have been a spinning machine the past few days. I finished up the last bobbin of singles and plied up the first skein Friday night:

It was a bit skimpy on yardage (only 193 yards; I was hoping for a little more than 200), but that's because the bobbin that ran out first had singles that were probably a thicker in grist than the others. The second skein was plied up last night and skeined and washed this afternoon (with yardage likely to be more than 200). The third skein is nearly finished being plied, and the fourth should get done tomorrow. There will be a fifth skein, too, of all the leftovers; I've been stopping when one of my three bobbins' worth runs out and tossing the leftovers aside for the time being, so when I'm done with the rest, I'll combine them all into one last skein.

Tomorrow is, sadly, the last day of my five-day weekend, and while I'm sorry to have to go back to work, I'm very happy with how productive I've been despite being on sole parent duty for two days and spending much of today dealing with a family funeral (the Mister's 89-year-old grandmother -- not entirely unexpected, but it meant a house full of family). As much as I like having a job, sometimes I really wish I could spend all my days at home with my yarn!