Thursday, August 29, 2013

Worth the Annoyance

Thanks to a vacation day today (not really a day off, because I was with Rainbow all day), I was able to finish up the first baby gift on my list.

Pattern: Maile Sweater by Nikki Van De Car
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy (100% superwash merino) in Forget Me, less than one skein
Needles: 40" US 4 (3.5 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circs
Started/Completed: August 10/August 29
Mods: added additional rows to the collar to match the bottom hem, including a fifth buttonhole, and made a hat to match

I'd had this pattern in my favorites for a while and decided this was the time to do it. There are nearly 1,700 projects from this pattern in Ravelry, so I figured it was a safe pattern to do -- but I didn't realize just how fiddly it would be. This is a bottom-up raglan, and when the body and the sleeves are joined, every single stitch is on the needle (usually, several stitches are held for the underarm from both the body and the arms). I dealt with this by treating the sweater as if I was magic looping, pulling the excess out at each side at roughly the halfway point of each arm, until there was enough fabric above the joining point to work it comfortably work it as normal. This method was a bit of a pain, but fortunately I'm willing to put up with it in the form of a baby sweater -- I'd never do it for a me-sized sweater, though.

For all the annoyance, I will say that this sweater is pretty darn cute. The lace panels between the raglans on the front are quite sweet, even in an unblocked state. The buttons came from my collection; Rainbow helped me to pick them out. To complete the outfit, I knit a small hat to match.

I cast on 90 stitches (for a finished hat roughly 15 inches around) and worked 10 rounds of garter stitch and the first lace chart to match the bottom of the sweater. Even after doing the hat, I still have a pretty significant amount of yarn leftover, which makes me happy.

Am I happy with this sweater? Most definitely, and I think the recipient will love it. Will I knit this pattern again? That's questionable. It would have to be someone really worthy, I think.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Water Music

It's done!

Pattern: Water Music by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: my handspun, from Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale pencil roving
Needles: 40" US 5 (3.75 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circs
Started/Completed: July 27/August 20
Mods: used smaller needles and used a stretchier bind off

I really enjoyed knitting this. It's been quite a while since I knit a lace shawl in the round, and I'd forgotten how enjoyable it can be to knit the "rest" rows (or rounds, in this case). I particularly enjoyed Kirsten's directions for the circular cast on; you essentially pick of stitches through a loop and then work one the first round as if it were an I-cord -- much less fiddly than trying to work in the round right away.

I did make a couple of modifications to the pattern, the most obvious being that I used a smaller needle than specified in the pattern and thus ended up with a significantly smaller shawl (it was supposed to be 40" by 40" but mine is closer to 32" by 32"). The reason I did this is because I was concerned that my yarn supply wasn't going to hold out and I didn't want to have to do the edging in a different yarn. I could have blocked the shawl a little bigger, but frankly I was being a little lazy when it came time to block and only wanted to use one blocking wire on each side. As it was, the corners were already falling off the wires; I suppose to get it bigger, I would have had to use two wires (with ends overlapping) for each side, but I also probably would have needed a different space to block. Getting the blocking wires in was a bit tedious because there aren't any eyelets in the edging -- I just had to weave the wires in the garter stitch, which is why my edges look a little ruffly (I should point out that they are straight, though, despite what they look like in the top photo in this post -- that was just because I was trying to snap a photo in a hurry and didn't smooth out the sides as much as I could). Perhaps when it's time to block this again, I'll take the extra time and really stretch it out. That will be possible because of my second modification -- I used a "lace bind off" rather than the bind off specified in the pattern. I actually started binding off as Kirsten recommends, but after binding off about half of one side, I realized that it was not going to be stretchy enough.

This is a pattern I could definitely see myself knitting again. It would be really fun to knit it in a heavier yarn to make a blanket out of it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Batt Crazy

The vast majority of my spinning over the years has been from combed top, but I've recently discovered that I really like spinning from batts. I picked up this Falkland batt from Into the Whirled at MDSW this year but only just pulled it out to spin.

I'm spinning this as a gradient, tearing off a strip at a time from one end to the other, starting at the blue, and will chain ply it when I'm done. I'm about a third of the way through at the moment, somewhere in the yellow.

I also have a project ready to go on the Lendrum. My LYS is considering bringing in a new fiber blend, so the owner bought one 4 oz. braid of it to distribute among several spinners who frequent the shop and get their opinions. It's a BFL/sparkle or shimmer blend, and I've divided it up into three parts in order to sample three different ways to spin it (a singles yarn, a two ply, and a three ply).

My goal is to get both of these things spun up this week because, starting next Sunday (September 1), I'm hosting a spinalong in the Ravelry All Spun Up group. You may recall that Kristin of All Spun Up used to be my fiber pusher of choice, but she's stepped away from the business (those of us who love her fiber are hoping it's not for good). However, many of us have a bunch of her stuff still stashed, so we thought it would be fun to have a spinalong in which we spin rather than hoard this precious fiber. If you happen to have any ASU fiber in your stash, please come and join us! You can sign up until September 1, and the spinalong runs through November 30. We have a number of prizes for participants, and all you have to do to qualify is spin and post a picture of at least one ASU yarn.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

All Baby Things

I have officially progressed to the stage where I'm going to be knitting pretty much all baby things all the time. That's mainly because my big nonbaby project is now off the needles. It took about an hour, but I bound off my Water Music on Tuesday night.

Of course, it doesn't look like much now because it still has to be blocked pretty aggressively, and I have yet to find the time to do it (it might have to wait until the weekend). For all my worrying about having enough yarn, I wound up with a pretty significant amount leftover.

I'm hoping to at least swatch for a sweater for me soon, but at the moment my focus is on knitting all the baby gifts I have to knit in the next several months. There are four babies to knit for, one of whom is a close family friend and will need more than one item. The first one on the list is my coworker's baby, who is due on Halloween. She's getting the Maile Sweater, which was in a bit of a time out over the past week while I contemplated how to proceed but is now moving full steam ahead. I cast on and finished the first sleeve at knit night last night and got the cuff of the second sleeve done before I went to bed. I predict I'll finish that sleeve this evening and then, hopefully, get all the pieces on the needles ready to start the yoke.

I'm still not happy with the way the yoke is constructed, without any underarm stitches bound off or put on waste yarn, but I figure that this piece is small enough that I can deal with a little annoyance. I'm going to set the sweater up on the needles as if I were magic looping, pulling the excess cords out at the midpoint of the sleeve, so there should be less stress on the underarm.

Meanwhile, I decided to start the first project for the family friend's baby and have been working on it during my lunch break. The first baby got a sweater, a hat, and a blanket, so I figure I at least have to match that. I had a couple of skeins of Dream in Color Classy in my stash that I bought probably a year and a half to two years ago with the intention of making Rainbow a sweater but never got around to it (and I don't know if the yardage would be enough now), so I have repurposed them into a baby blanket. I'm throwing together some garter stitch and some waffle-like stitch that should knit up pretty quickly. I still have to figure out a sweater pattern, but as this baby isn't due until December, I have some time.

I do want to say thank you to everyone who commented on my mitts pattern. It's such a thrill to see my name in print (well, technically I haven't seen the actual magazine yet, but I did see a proof), and it makes it all the more exciting to have you share the excitement with me!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August Surprise

I have a really hard time keeping a secret, especially if it's good news. If it makes me really happy, I want to tell everyone I know and shout it from the rooftops. So the past six months or so have been tough, because I've been keeping a really big secret. As of last Friday, the secret is out and I can finally spill the beans: My first magazine pattern has been published in Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2013!

Though I originally submitted the pattern as 4Cs Mitts (because the design is in diamonds), the magazine renamed them the Mint Chocolate Mitts, no doubt because of the colors of the yarn. The sample was knit in Louet Gems Fingering, which I'd never worked with before and really enjoyed. It's a two-ply and somewhat silky, and as you can see, it works really well for colorwork.

These were designed to be a good introduction to stranded colorwork. They are worked from the cuff up, starting with a garter stitch edging that's worked flat before you join in the round for the faux corrugated ribbing (it's all knit stitches). The stranded motif is relatively simple and regular, but the special thing about these mitts is that you reverse which color is dominant when you make the second mitt.

These are in one size, meant to be fairly fitted, but as the yarn used is pretty thin, you can easily upsize these a bit by using a slightly thicker yarn and/or a needle one size larger. I had a lot of fun knitting the sample, and I think I may need to make another pair or two for myself and perhaps a holiday gift. More than anything, I'm really excited that I can finally talk about them!

Meanwhile, I am thisclose to finishing my Water Music. I have one round and a bind off left to do. I could have finished last night, but I was too tired, so it'll get done tonight (though probably not blocked until the weekend, when I have time and floor space). The good news is that I'm totally going to have enough yarn!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cupcakes for My Feet

At long last, I'm finally finished with my Tour de Fleece spindle project. If you recall, I started with these scrumptious superwash merino/nylon sock batts from the Cupcake Fiber Company (1 oz. each).

I spun each one up separately on my Bosworth Mini, which I'd bought at MDSW this year. I averaged about one batt a week, mostly spinning during my lunch break at work. When all six ounces were done, I mixed them up to ply them on my Lendrum. Now I have two gorgeous skeins of sock yarn.

They ended up being pretty darn close in yardage -- 298 yards and 305 yards -- so it seems I was pretty consistent. I used up all but a tiny amount of my singles (which will go on my leftovers bobbin).

The finished yarn looks to be a good light fingering weight, and with this yardage, I have plenty for a pair of pretty tall socks for me.

Meanwhile, after getting that out of the fiber stash and into the yarn stash, I almost replaced it with an Etsy purchase last week. I won an Etsy gift card from one of my Tour de Fleece teams, and I'd been saving it until I spied something truly fabulous. About a week ago, I clicked over from a Ravelry ad and spied some truly stunning batts. Before I knew what I was doing, I'd added them to my cart and was checking out. I don't think I'll regret this particularly purchase though.

These Corgi Hill Farm batts are each 2 oz. and have a luxurious blend of 50% merino, 20% yak, 20% bombyx silk, and 10% Firestar. The colorway is called Candied Violets (quite apt, I must say). I took a photo with the flash on so you can see the sparkle.

The package arrived three days after I placed the order and included a small sample of other fiber and some candy -- excellent service in my book! I think these will be a lot of fun to spin up. I'm planning on spinning each one on its own and plying them together, and then the yarn is definitely going to become a cowl or scarf or shawlette -- anything I can drape around my neck so I can fully appreciate the softness!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wee Knitting

I think I mentioned last week that we were going on a day trip this past weekend and I was going to have about five hours of car knitting time. I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to start some baby knitting, so I cast on for a sweater for one of my coworkers, who's due on Halloween. She's having a girl, so I thought it was the perfect time to knit the Maile Sweater, a pattern I'd long had in my favorites. I cast on shortly after we left using that skein of Dream in Color Smooshy I'd picked up at my LYS a couple of weeks ago. I worked on it during the whole trip to our destination and a bit during the day. By the time I put it down on the trip home, I'd finished the body.

I have not touched it since because I need to do some thinking about how to proceed. The way the yoke is constructed in the pattern is not ideal, in my opinion. There are no stitches set aside on scrap yarn or bound off at the underarms; instead, the designer has you put all the body stitches and all the sleeve stitches on the needle at the same time. She even acknowledges in the pattern that this is really awkward and hard on the hands. However, I found a really useful project page on Ravelry with a number of mods to deal with this, so I will probably follow those (as well as knitting the sleeves in the round -- why do any seaming if I don't have to?). It looks like I will have plenty of yarn leftover when I finish, so I will probably make a hat to match and perhaps some booties, too.

Meanwhile, I'm slogging through the garter stitch section of my Water Music; I discovered that I was able to work on it in the car in the dark, so I got in a round or two Saturday evening. I worked on it exclusively last night and got in four or five rounds. There's still a ways to go, but at least this is knitting I can do relatively quickly without having to follow a pattern. My goal is to get it done by the end of the month so I can start a sweater for me and start to make a dent in all the baby knitting I have to do.

Finally, I thought I'd mention something cool that happened yesterday. A while back, I got to be friends with a reader of this blog, and we'd been e-mailing back and forth for quite a while. Yesterday, I finally got a chance to meet her in person when she was in town to visit some friends. It's so nice when people you connect with online are just as awesome in person. So hi, Megan! Thanks for letting me crash your lunch date!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Completely Twisted

I can't remember the last time I was so relieved to have a project off the needles.

Pattern: Sybaritic by Hunter Hammersen
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino in Old Rose, 1 skein
Needles: 40" US 1 (2.25 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circs, magic loop
Started/Completed: June 6/August 12
Mods: inadvertently changed the heel flap (see below)

You all know that I'm a fast sock knitter, so the time gap between when these socks were cast on and bound off should tell you something. Granted, the Tour de Fleece fell in the middle there, and I did spin during my lunch break for a couple of weeks after it ended, but these socks still took much longer than a pair typically does for me.

Lest you think there's an issue with the pattern, let me assure you that there's not. As is the case with all Hunter Hammersen patterns (in my somewhat limited experience), the pattern is very detailed and thorough. The length of time it took me to finish these is entirely due to the number of twisted stitches in the pattern. On the cuff, the twisted stitches are mixed with purls and yarnover, so they create a very nice effect. On the foot however, every single stitch of the instep -- with the exception of the leaf motif that extends from the cuff pattern -- is twisted. That means that the fabric is both somewhat biased and very rigid. These socks are a bit of a challenge to get on and off, and I'm fully expecting them to leave an imprint on my skin when I wear them.

My one modification (if you can call it that) to the pattern was in the heel flap, and it was actually a mistake I made on the first sock due to not reading the pattern carefully. It seems that I was supposed to have some purl bumps showing on the right side, but instead I ended up doing the usual slip one, knit one pattern. I'm not sure it really makes a difference, but when I discovered it, I made a note of it so I could make the same "mistake" on the second sock.

I did have one mishap with the second sock, which I finished up last night. As I was grafting the last three or four stitches of the toe, I noticed a loop sticking out of the top of the toe, near the line of decreases. It seems I had dropped a stitch several rounds back, probably one that was part of a decrease, and not noticed. My stitch count was fine at the end to kitchener, so I decided to cut my losses rather than tink back. I ran a piece of yarn through the loop, pulled it to the inside, and secured it with the end I was weaving it. I can't tell it was there now, and the likelihood that it will come undone is extremely small, so I'm not worried about it. It's not something that's ever happened to me before, though, so I'm blaming all those twisted stitches.

It was good to use up some deep stash yarn on these. I don't remember exactly when I bought this skein, but I do know that it was when I was just getting into sock knitting, and that was before we bought our current house -- so more than five years ago.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Silky Fine

For the first time since the conclusion of the Tour de Fleece, I have a new skein of handspun to share!

If you'll recall, my last Bee Mice Elf fiber club shipment looked like this:

Called Herbs on Ice, this braid was a 60% superwash merino/30% bamboo/10% nylon blend. Although I thought the bamboo content was a bit too high for socks (meaning the resulting fabric would have too much drape), I was in the mood to spin a three-ply fingering. So I did.

The finished yarn is smooth and shiny and cool to the touch. I have approximately 345 yards, so probably enough for socks if I wanted to give it a go, but I think I want this to be something I can wrap around my neck.

Clearly I am having no difficulty spinning what used to be my default yarn! I did have some leftovers, but rather than try to fight with a center-pull ball, I decided to just load them onto my leftovers bobbin.

Meanwhile, I finally started plying my sock batt yarn, and I love how it's plying up!

For some reason, my camera refuses to capture the color of this yarn or fiber accurately -- it's a slightly more purple blue in real life. The singles seem to be fairly consistent in their inconsistency, but the yarn is pretty consistent overall. It's slightly fuzzier than my usual, probably because I started with batts. As soon as I hit post on this, I'm going to try to finish plying up the first skein!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Bumps in the Road

Last night was a very much needed knit night. It's been another crazy week at work, so I was really looking forward to sitting with my knitting and gabbing for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, my Water Music decided that it shouldn't be a particularly relaxing evening. Not once but twice I had issues with the stitch count not working out and the pattern not lining up. This required tinking and reknitting several times before I discovered that there really wasn't anything wrong most of the time (though I did discover an extra yarnover that snuck in somehow). I'm glad there weren't any huge errors, but it did cost me a lot of time. The ironic thing is that the knitting had been completely smooth sailing until then, even when I'd been working on it with a certain 3-year-old around. I was hoping to get through the rest of the second chart last night, but with the "issues," it was not to be. I'm hoping to complete it tonight, as I have about six rounds left (three of which are just plain knit rounds).

I know this pinkish reddish blob isn't that exciting, so here's a pretty yarn picture for you.

Nassau Blue and Rain Water
I may have impulse bought this Tosh Merino Light at my LYS last weekend. I've had an idea kicking around in my head for a stripey two-color shawl, and these colors just grabbed me. I have been trying to knit the yarn I already have rather than buying more, but the good news is that these two skeins saved me from buying a sweater's lot (I talked myself out of it because I have a sweater's worth of TML already wound and ready to become my next sweater).

While the pink/red blob will continue to be on the needles, I'm planning on casting on a new project while we're in the car for a day trip to visit some family this weekend. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Excitement and Ennui

In addition to all the spinning I did over weekend, I also put in a decent amount of time on my Water Music. I worked on it for a couple of hours at my LYS on Saturday afternoon and a couple more on Sunday afternoon while the Mister took Rainbow to the pool and I made a dinner for later in the week (and caught up on Endeavour). Another hour or so last night leaves me with about 10 or 11 rounds left in the second chart.

After this chart, there's some garter stitch, a final (small) lace chart, some more garter, and a bind off. So far, my yarn supply is holding out fairly well, so I think my plan of using a smaller needle was a good one. I think the shawl will end up being smaller than the pattern specifies, but that's totally okay by me. I hardly ever use or wear the really big shawls I've made over the years, so a smaller shawl is much more likely to get worn.

Meanwhile, I pulled my Sybaritic socks back out for my lunch break knitting. I'm nearly through the gusset decreases on sock number two, so there isn't much knitting left to do before I have a finished pair, but I have to say that I'm over these socks. They look cool, but knitting through the back loop of every stitch on the instep is really tedious. Usually I'm a fast sock knitter, so it frustrates me a bit that I can't zoom through these. I know they'll be really nice looking when I'm done, but I'm ready to move on to the next thing. I have another sock design I've been playing with that I'd like to swatch as well as a lace shawl design I've been working with. Then there's all the baby knitting that I'd like to knock out now if I can.

Too much knitting -- not enough time!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Future in Plying

Even though I've spent much more time knitting this week, I managed to finish up a whole bunch of singles in the past two days, which means I'll be doing a lot of plying in the week ahead.

First, I finally finished the sixth and final sock batt on my spindle. I had just a bit of fiber left to spin after lunch on Friday, so I finished it up in the car on the way to dinner on Friday night. Spinning in the backseat of a moving vehicle is an interesting experience, to say the least. I ended up resorting to park and draft for the last bit.

Isn't this a beautiful sight? This is the largest project I've ever spun on a spindle; overall, I averaged about a week per ounce. I'm planning to ply these up on a wheel, and I don't anticipate that plying will take me more than three or four spinning sessions. I'm going to mix up the "bobbins" for plying to even out my consistency, as I would for a sweater, so I should end up with two pretty similar skeins of sock yarn.

Meanwhile, I've spent a little bit of time here and there on the Lendrum. Last night, Rainbow fell asleep pretty early, leaving me with a solid two hours to watch Orange Is the New Black on my computer and spin. I finished the third bobbin of my latest Bee Mice Elf club fiber, so now I'm ready to ply that as well.

Judging just from how the bobbins look, I'd say my spinning was pretty consistent, because they're more or less even. This should ply up to be a fingering weight, but I doubt I'll use the resulting yarn for socks -- the bamboo content will make the knit fabric too drapey, I think. However, I think it will be fabulous for a shawl or scarf or cowl. I know from using some handspun with a similar blend in the past that bamboo feels cool and silky, and it feels wonderful around the neck.

With any luck, by this time next week, I'll have three finished skeins to show you!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Moments of Calm

Life has been very hectic lately. It's our usual busy season at work, and there have been some changes around the office that have added to the stress, so I frequently get home from work feeling completely burnt out. It's times like these that I'm very glad I have my knitting to help me find my center again. Even when I can only squeeze in a bit of time in the evening, the repetitive motions of knitting are so calming.

My knitting time has not been as plentiful as I'd like (a certain someone likes me to sit with her until she falls asleep, and the past couple of nights that's been on the later side), but I'm still making very good progress on my Water Music. Last night I had the happy occasion of a bonus knit night for the month (we usually meet the first and third Wednesdays of the month, but if there's a fifth Wednesday in any given month, we'll sometimes meet up if enough people are free). For a change, the Mister was actually around and able to kid wrangle for the night so I could have a little bit of time for myself, so the shawl went with me. By the end of the evening, I'd finished the first chart of the lace.

I may have enough stitches at this point to use the needle as a regular circular instead of magic looping, though I may do a few more increase rounds before I try it out just to be safe. So far, the yarn supply is holding up quite well, though there's still quite a bit to go (after the next chart, there's some garter stitch, a third lace chart, some more garter, and then a stretchy bind off). Still, it's delightful as always to knit with my own handspun. It's been a really long time since I spun a fingering-weight yarn that wasn't a three ply, and I'm really enjoying the bounciness of the two ply. I'm thinking that I might spin up some of the finer wools in my stash as a two ply to be used for lace; I have a really gorgeous bit of Crown Mountain Farms Targhee that would not stand up to being socks but would be lovely as a shawl or cowl.

When I start to get a little tired of the shawl and need a change, I have my yarn, pattern, and needles all ready for Maile. I imagine that it won't take me more than a week or two to get it knit. I might even cast on next Saturday, when we're taking a day trip to visit some of the Mister's relatives and I'll have about five hours of car knitting time.