Thursday, November 29, 2012

What to Do While Knitting

Many people do something else while they knit, and I'm no exception. For me, however, I like to think of it as doing other things while I knit (or spin, for that matter). Most of the time, it's watching something on TV or DVD. I'm working on a project I can't show you right now (sorry -- all will be revealed in time), so I thought I'd take this lull in knitting content to share with you some of what I've been watching while I knit.

If there's one thing you should know about my viewing preferences, it's that I'm a sucker for period pieces, especially British period pieces. Obviously at this time last year I was watching Cranford and its sequel, Return to Cranford, which inspired Gaskell. I found the DVD set on sale at Costco and couldn't resist it. Unfortunately, I lent it to my mother several months ago and she hasn't returned it yet, so I haven't watched it recently.

There are number of similar series available either on DVD or streaming on Netflix. First is Wives and Daughters, another Elizabeth Gaskell novel turned into a miniseries. If you watch Masterpiece Classic regularly, you'll recognize some of the actors in this one. The main character is a young woman named Molly, who finds herself in challenging situations when her widowed father remarries a woman with a daughter her age.

Another series I quite enjoyed was Lark Rise to Candleford, which is set in 19th-century England and focuses on the story of a young woman named Laura, who leaves her small hamlet of Lark Rise to serve as an apprentice in her cousin's post office in the larger town of Candleford. There are four seasons of this show, which deals with topics as diverse as young love, marital discord, debt, pride, and the coming of the Industrial Revolution. The story is told by an adult Laura looking back on her youthful experiences. There are some familiar faces in this series as well, and there's also a fair amount of good knitting content!

A show I discovered fairly recently, thanks to Abby of the Knit Knit Cafe podcast, is a sweet little series called Call the Midwife on PBS. Only six episodes have aired (and they're available to watch online for free until December 3, so watch them fast!). The show follows a group of midwives living and working in London's East End during the late 1950s, and the story lines are both lighthearted and serious. I do hope more episodes are aired.

Finally, my favorite thing to watch is probably no surprise: Downton Abbey. I own both of the first two seasons on DVD, but season one is available streaming on Netflix and season two begins re-airing on PBS starting this Sunday (12/3). I'm very much looking forward to the beginning of the third season on January 6!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


It is done!

Pattern: Goodale by Cecily Glowik MacDonald
Yarn: my handspun, 100% superwash merino spun from Crown Mountain Farms fiber
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) Addi Turbos
Started/Completed: September 11/November 21
Mods: added length to the body and the sleeves and worked several more rows of garter stitch on the neckline

I did manage to finish this in time to wear it to Thanksgiving dinner; I wore it with a very thin t-shirt underneath because it was in the 60s that day! I should add that I wouldn't normally wear it with a green shirt underneath -- this is just what I happened to be wearing when the Mister was able to snap a few photos and we had some good light!

I followed the pattern pretty much as written, but I added a significant amount of length (about four inches) to the body because, as written, the sweater would have hit just about at the bottom of my ribcage. After I finished the body, I realized I had a lot of yarn leftover, so I lengthened the sleeves as well so that they'd hit just above the elbow. My final modification was to add three or four additional rows to the neckline, because I didn't want it to be too floppy.

The closure is something different: a figure eight-shaped loop of I-cord that wraps around two buttons. It works well when the sweater's on, but I have to double check that it didn't fall off when I take the sweater off and put it away.

Overall, I think this was a success. I'm not completely wild about the fit of the sweater (though that may improve with another blocking), but I love that I spun all the yarn for it and love how the fabric looks. It was a great stash-busting project, too, as I'd had that fiber in my stash for at least a couple years with no other real plans for what to do with it. This sweater is going to be a great transition piece for those days when there's just a little chill in the air and I need an extra layer.

I certainly hope the Knitmore Girls do the SPAKAL again next year -- it was a lot of fun!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Not a Sprint

The yarn that I finally got off my wheel was truly a marathon of a spin. True, I haven't been spinning that much lately, but this particular yarn seemed like it took an inordinate amount of time to spin. It started out its life as 4 oz. of Crown Mountain Farms Portuguese wool top (July's fiber club shipment):

I wasn't wild about the colors, but I've frequently been surprised in the past by a colorway I didn't like in fiber form that ended up being more likable in yarn form.

I decided to spin it into my default yarn: three-ply fingering weight. I ended up with 395 yards (a pretty high yardage for me for this weight, so that explains at least part of the length of time needed to spin it.

Unfortunately, I still don't love the color. It's just a little too blah for me. The spinning experience was enjoyable, but I'm at a loss with regard to what to do with this yarn.

After finishing this yarn, though, I did definitely get my spinning mojo back. This afternoon, I finished up the second bobbin of my only other unspun club shipment (long draw, so it only took me about an hour) and then got reacquainted with my miniSpinner. I have a long lingering project that I really want to finish up now!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One More Night

Yep, that's all I need to get finish up my handspun Goodale. I finished up the second sleeve and wove in all the ends on Saturday, then popped it in to soak and block on Sunday. It took a good two days to dry, and now all that's left to do is sew up the pockets, knit a very small neckline, and sew on a couple of buttons. (Oh, and do an I-cord closure for the buttons, but that will take hardly any time at all.) I expect to have this sweater done in time to wear it to Thanksgiving dinner!

While I was waiting for this to dry, I picked up my Breezy Cardigan again. This sweater moves along very slowly, as you'd expect for something that's worked in laceweight yarn. Fortunately, there's no thinking involved. It's just plain old stockinette, which I can do without looking. I've put on at least a couple of inches on the body; when I put it down for the night last night, I had about another inch to do before I start the bottom ribbing. I have no illusions of finishing up this sweater anytime soon, but at least it feels like I'm making forward progress.

The good news is that Rainbow's butterfly hat is done and blocked, though I'll wait to show that to you until I can do a proper photo shoot, which I'm hoping will happen later this week.

As soon as that came off the needles, I got another handspun project on. I had a skein of sock yarn that was all wound and ready to go -- I took it on our anniversary trip last month and never touched it. I'm doing just a plain vanilla sock -- cast on 65 stitches, did about 3.5" of 3x2 ribbing, then switched over to stockinette. I'll do about a 7" leg and a regular-old heel flap and gusset. Nothing special, nothing fancy; I'm letting the yarn do all the talking on these.

The colors are completely off, but you get the idea.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Three Bobbins Full

I finally finished up my last bobbin of CMF Portuguese wool. The most recent one is the one on the right. Quite a difference between the three, isn't there?

I'm letting these rest for a day or two, then it's on to plying!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This Never Happens

One of what I consider to be my failings about being a spinner is that I spin a lot of yarn but rarely knit with it. If you looked in my stash right now, you'd see that about half of my unknit yarn is handspun. To some degree, this phenomenon is due to the fact that some of my handspun feels too precious to knit, as in I feel that I'll never find the perfect pattern to do it justice. There's also the fact that much of my handspun is sock yarn, and I already have a very full sock drawer (two, actually), so there's no rush for more socks right now.

However, right now I find myself in an odd and unprecedented position: All of my current WIPs are being knit out of handspun.

My main project in progress is my SPAKAL sweater, Goodale, which is just nearly complete. I added a good amount of length to the body so that it will actually hit at the hip (cropped sweaters just don't look good on me), and I had enough yarn leftover that I decided to lengthen the sleeves as well. I finished the first one last night; it hits just at the elbow, which I think is a perfect length for this type of garment. I'm hoping to make decent progress on the second sleeve tonight, and I might even have a finished sweater by the weekend!

Poor lighting brought to you by Eastern Standard Time

My lunchtime knitting has been a Slouchy Butterfly Beanie for Rainbow that's being worked in some CMF East Friesian that was a club offering earlier this year. I finished the butterfly chart yesterday, so now it's just a lot of plain purled rounds until it's time to do the crown decreases.

I think this may be a bit on the small side, so I'm going to do some liberal stretching when I block it. I'll also have to futz with it a bit when it's wet to try to fuzz it up a little so it will be softer. I find it a bit rough, though Rainbow didn't seem to mind when I gave her the yarn to feel. I just have a feeling, though, that she'll complain it's scratchy once it's done.

Finally, the last thing on my needles is my long-neglected handspun Breezy Cardigan. It's probably been several months since I last touched it, and I think I was nearly to the ribbing on the body at that point, though I'm not completely sure. This sweater's worked in laceweight, so obviously it moves along at a slow pace. It would be nice to get it done to be able to wear it as a layering piece in the spring, though.

This all-handspun phase is not likely to last long; I've got a baby sweater to knit in MadTosh!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ma Petite

We had a beautiful weekend here, perfect weather for a photo shoot, but unfortunately I had an unwilling model. I still hope to get some decent shots of this sweater, but for now I hope you'll bear with me and these substandard indoor shots of Rainbow and her new cardigan.

Pattern: Hiro Petite by Julia Farwell-Clay, size 4
Yarn: Berroco Vintage worsted (50% acrylic, 40% wool, 10% nylon) in Pansy (~1.75 skeins), Pool Party (~0.5 skeins), and Banana (~0.25 skeins)
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbo 32" circs
Started/Completed: October 23/November 4
Mods: added a steek to the yoke; worked collar and button bands in seed stitch

This sweater was entirely planned by Rainbow. She picked the pattern and the yarn (from a couple of choices). I knew going in, of course, that the main color would be purple, as most of her sweaters must be these days, be I think she did an excellent job of selecting the contrast colors.

For the most part, this was a fun knit. I'm so used to working with small needles and skinny yarn that working worsted on size 7s was incredibly fast (even considering I had to frog back several inches on the body when I discovered a mistake made while knitting while overtired). This pattern is knit from the bottom up, starting with the body, which is knit flat. The sleeves are knit in the round up to the underarm, and then the sleeves and body are joined on one needle to work the yoke. The yoke is where I made my one major modification, and that was to add a 10-stitch steek at the front. I have never tried doing stranded colorwork flat, and I didn't want this to be my first attempt at it, so I added the steek in order to knit the whole stranded portion in the round. This worked fairly well, in my opinion, though if you look closely at the last few colorwork rows (where there were lots of decreases), you can see that my tension isn't as even as it could be.

As I detailed in a previous post, I used my sewing machine to secure the steeks and then whipstitched the facings to the inside. Here again, if you look really closely, you can see that one side of the cardigan is a bit lumpy because I didn't do this as neatly as I could, but I'm not sweating it -- and Rainbow certainly isn't, so if she's happy, I'm happy.

She had to try it on before I wove in the ends!
My other major modification was to do the neckband and button bands in seed stitch, rather than garter stitch as called for in the pattern. I found this instruction to be a little odd given that the sleeve cuffs and bottom hem are in seed stitch and the pictures in the pattern show these areas in seed stitch, too; I was in touch with the designer, and she said her tech editor had recommended garter due to something about rate of picking up stitches. I find that my seed stitch lies pretty flat and even, pretty much like garter, and I wanted everything to match. I did not do intarsia for my button bands, though, so they're all in the solid main color. It would have been nice for the bands to match the dominant color in each section, but I didn't want to deal with any more ends to weave in.

Rainbow picked out the buttons from my grab bag collection; they're a plain pale blue that's pretty translucent, so they pick up the purple nicely.

I think if I had knit this for me, I would not be 100% pleased with how it came out, but I didn't knit it for me. Rainbow was so excited to wear it once it was all sewn up and dry from its blocking that her preschool teachers told us she didn't want to take it off all day. I predict it will get a lot of wear this winter, and it's roomy enough that she may be able to get another season's wear out of it as well.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the pattern. It was pretty easy to follow and the charts were easy to read, which is always a plus in my book. If you're going to knit this, you should be aware that there's a typo in the instructions for working seed stitch flat over an even number of stitches; it should read (p1, k1) across for even/wrong side rows. I've been in touch with the designer and I expect she'll fix it and update the pattern at some point.

I think this last photo sums up this project quite well:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Surprise

The problem with designing is that sometimes I can't share things with you that I'm really excited about. Unless I'm absolutely sure I'm going to be self-publishing a pattern, I have to keep the whole process secret. That's the case with today's surprise, which started much earlier this year. I swatched, submitted a proposal, had it accepted, wrote up the pattern, knit up the sample, and mailed it all back almost six months ago. This week, the pattern finally went live. This is my first non-self-published pattern to be made available, too, so needless to say, I'm pretty excited.

Photo by Brittany Tyler

This is my Ruche and Welt Cowl, an infinity cowl worked entirely in the round and featuring (no surprises here!) ruching and welts. It's worked in a DK-weight yarn, a scrunchable 80% wool/20% silk blend from Sweet Grass Wool called Mountain Silk DK, which has great body and great drape, though you could easily substitute a light worsted. You'll need about 600 yards for the whole thing. The finished cowl is approximately 8" wide and 54" around after blocking, so you can wear it a number of ways -- in a long loop, doubled around your neck, or folded with one end pulled through the other.

Photo by Brittany Tyler

There are really only a few rounds in this pattern where you have to pay attention; the rest of the time it's just knit, knit, knit around and around, which makes for a quick and relatively mindless knit. Best of all, it's a free download! I hope you'll go take a look and make one for yourself or a gift! Queue it here; download it here. Happy knitting!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Eek! A Steek!

As you know, I've been working on a sweater for Rainbow that has a colorwork yoke. Although the pattern is seamless (except for underarm stitches that are grafted), the yoke is written to be worked flat. I've never really tried to do colorwork purled, and I knew if I tried my gauge would be way off, so I decided to add a steek to the sweater so that I could knit the yoke in the round and thus not have to worry about purling.

A steek is essentially a strip of knit fabric that bridges the patterned parts. Once the knitting is done, you cut down the middle of the steek and fold the cut edges under. It can be a little disconcerting to take scissors to your knitting, but if you do everything correctly, your sweater won't unravel.

In my case, when I got to the end of the first row of the colorwork yoke, I used the two strands then attached to my knitting to cast on 10 stitches at the center front (where my button bands would later be). I placed a marker on either end of these stitches to help me keep track of where the patterned stitches ended and the steek stitches started. For every round involving two colors, I simply alternated the two over the 10 steek stitches. Once the colorwork section was complete, I bound off the steek stitches and finished the rest of the neckline working back and forth.

Then the fun began. Because my yarn (Berroco Vintage) is mostly synthetic, the strands of yarn were not going to hold together on their own and wouldn't be able to felt over time (which is what happens in many steeked garments). This meant I needed a strong way to secure the steek stitches -- my sewing machine.

First, I got my steek ready by weaving in a piece of contrast yarn to show me where the center of the steek was (this would be where I would cut after I'd done by sewing):

Then I got the knitting set up in my sewing machine:

The lighting is bad here, so the colors are off, but if you look closely you can see that I have two lines of stitching on either side of the pink yarn marking the center. You really only need one line of stitching on either side, but as it was easy enough to do two more, I thought I'd be extra careful. You'll also notice that the stitching isn't pretty, and it doesn't have to be. The key is to get the thread to pierce the yarn strands, thereby locking them together.

Once the steek was secured, I removed the contrast yarn and started cutting down the middle.

After just a few cuts, I had a cardigan!

The last step was to fold the cut edges under and secure them to the inside. This isn't as necessary with an all-wool yarn, as eventually (with wear) the facings will felt to the inside of the sweater, but I needed to do it on this sweater to keep the front looking neat (and to keep it from toddler fingers!).

Ta da! The scary part is done! All that's left after this is to pick up the stitches for the button bands. Now, that wasn't so scary, was it?

Sunday, November 04, 2012


My poor wheel has been sadly neglected of late. While all the activity has been great for my sweater knitting, I've gotten very little spinning done. I'm still working on the CMF Portuguese wool that I started several weeks ago, but now at least I'm on the second of three bobbins:

This fiber seems to want to take a long time to spin, for some reason, but at least it's an enjoyable spin. The fiber drafts easily and there isn't much VM to pick out. I'm hoping to make some decent progress on this bobbin today and maybe finish up the third over the course of the next week.

Thursday, November 01, 2012


Don't forget about the pattern sale!

Since finishing up my Calligraphy Cardigan, I've been working on two other sweaters in tandem. The first is my SPAKAL sweater, Cecily Glowik MacDonald's Goodale, which I'm knitting in my Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino handspun. I neglected this for quite a while in an effort to get the other sweater done, but I'm moving again. I'm primarily putting in time on it during my lunch break at work, so I'm really only getting in a handful of rows at a time. Even so, I'm working my way down the body pretty quickly. The sleeves have nothing left to do but some ribbing, so I should be able to make fast work of them once the body is done. At this point, I'm only into my second skein of yarn, so it looks like the sweater will take far less than I thought once all is said and done.

My evening knitting has been focused on Rainbow's Hiro Petite. Last night I reached the critical point where the sleeves are joined to the body and the yoke colorwork begins. I did decide to add a steek to the front to make the colorwork portion easier, because I knew my gauge would go all wonky if I tried to purl in stranded colorwork. This yarn (Berroco Vintage) isn't ideal for steeking, so I'll likely have to break out the sewing machine when it's time to cut.

As it is November 1, I'm really tempted to cast on something new for NaKniSweMo (like perhaps Vitamin D in the Imperial Yarn Tracie Too I bought several weeks ago), but I really think I should be good and finish the two other sweaters I'm knitting for myself that are already on the needles. What do you think?