Thursday, February 27, 2014

Greetings from the House of Germs

It's that time of year, I suppose. We've been pretty lucky this winter and have thus far avoided any illness other than the occasional sniffles, but this week we've been hit hard. Rainbow came down with a cold earlier this week and last night was complaining of a horrible earache. I was worried it was another ear infection, but miraculously she seemed to be fine this morning. I, on the other hand, seem to be doing my semiannual battle with the sinus plague and feel a little like death warmed over. I really would have loved to have spent the day under a blanket with my knitting and some cheesy movies on the TV, but there are too many deadlines to meet at work, so I had to make do with lots of hot tea and my space heater.

With all of this, it's no wonder that I haven't been all that productive this week. I did finish up a secret project earlier in the week (a new design, but it has to stay secret until it's ready to be released), and after that I wound that huge skein of rainbow Polwarth (by hand -- because I was too lazy to get out my winder and swift) into an equally huge ball and cast on for an infinity cowl. I had so much fun knitting the brioche section of Rainbow's Oakseed Cowl that I decided I'd just do that for mine. I think it'll look really nice with the color changes in the yarn, and I know it'll be soft and squishy. The bonus is that it's relatively mindless to knit, so it's a good project when my brain is all foggy, as it was last night.

I've also been knitting some socks for Rainbow, at her request, out of the leftover handspun from my TTL Mystery Socks. It's been quite a while since I last knit her a pair, so I retook her measurements before starting. The first sock was finished last night, and I'll say this: Her socks aren't nearly as cute as they used to be! It looks like she's inherited my big foot gene. Her feet are now 6 inches long, so it actually took me much longer than I was expecting to finish the foot.

I am planning to cast on a new sweater for myself soon, and I actually swatched over the weekend, but I've been unable to proceed due to a gauge conundrum. I swatched using US 8 needles, which is what I believe is called for in the pattern, and ended up with a fabric I really liked. Fresh off the needles, I was getting 17 stitches over 4 inches, but I was hoping that yarn would bloom a bit in the wash to the specified 16 stitches/4 inches. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. My gauge is now off by one stitch and one row, I think, over 4 inches, so I figured I'd knit a smaller size (because I think going up a needle size would result in a fabric that's too loose and holey). Here's where the problem comes in: I can't seem to figure out what the stitch count is for the bust for the different sizes in the pattern to do the requisite calculations and figure out which size to knit. This sweater is knit using the contiguous method, and the fronts are also meant to overlap a bit, so it's not as clear cut as you might think. It looks like I'll have to do some digging around on Ravelry (and probably read through the pattern completely) to see if I can work it out before I'll be able to cast on. And I'm anxious to do that, because I am constantly freezing and would really love a big, cozy new sweater right about now!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pattern Release: Incremental Growth

I can't believe it, but I'm releasing my second pattern this month! Meet Incremental Growth, the companion shawl to Diminishing Returns:

Like the earlier shawl, Incremental Growth uses the simple, elegant textures of garter and stockinette to show off the beauty of a hand-dyed skein of yarn. For this one, I used Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20, a luscious blend of 70% merino, 20% cashmere, and 10% nylon. The skein was almost soft enough to tempt me to just keep it in the hank and wear it as a necklace, but it's just as enjoyable knit up into this shawlette, which does double duty as a colorful accessory and a layer of warmth. The shawl is worked from the top down, starting with a garter tab (and like Diminishing Returns, I include a photo tutorial for how to do this), and uses alternating sections of stockinette and garter. As you can see, the slight variegation in the yarn really shines without a busy pattern to obscure it.

The shawl is finished with a picot bind off, and if you pin out each picot a bit, you get lovely little eyelets along the edge.

This is a great pattern if you're new to top-down shawls, and it's perfect for that special skein of yarn in your stash that's maybe just slightly too busy for a lace pattern.

There are two more shawls in the series, the second of which is done but for writing up the pattern. Eventually, all four will be available as an e-book. In the meantime, you can purchase Diminishing Returns and Incremental Growth together at a discount (and you'll still get the discount if you've already purchased the earlier pattern).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Looks Like Spring

Technically it's still winter, though we had a brief warm-up this past week (I even spotted some crocus shoots this morning!). There's more snow in the forecast, though, so for the foreseeable future, I'm going to have to think of spring by looking at my spinning.

This is Falkland from Cosy that I'm spinning into a three-ply sock yarn. It hasn't seen a whole lot of attention this past week, but I'm hoping to spin a little more this week -- if only for the colors!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Knitter's Crisis

I'm finding myself in a very odd position right now, one that's very unusual for me: I don't have any active projects on the needles.

Last night I finished a cowl for Rainbow from a pattern that I was test knitting for a friend. It was a relatively fast knit (and would have been faster had I not had to tink so much -- a situation, I think, that was likely caused by knitting with dark yarn in low light) and made a very cute accessory. I used maybe half, maybe a little more, of one skein of Berroco Vintage that I rescued from the orphans bin at my LYS.

The cowl uses several different stitch patterns and techniques, which kept it very interesting, but I think my favorite part was the brioche stitch at the top. Brioche is one of those things that I'd long wanted to try but never quite got around to until now, and I enjoyed it so much that I think I'm going to use it to turn that rainbow skein of yarn I spun recently into a big, squishy brioche infinity cowl.

Finished today was a shawl I've been working on for about a week and a half. It will look much better and a little different when it's blocked, of course, but for now it's just a blob of knitting (a sparkly blob, at that).

I call this composition "Gray Shawl on a Gray Day"

So now I'm in that very rare position where I don't have anything I'm actively working on. I do have a couple of projects in hibernation, including the baby doll that I started for Rainbow more than a year ago that she's started bugging me about lately, but I think I will remedy the situation by casting on a new project tonight. I also have a pretty significant amount of yarn leftover from my TTL Mystery Socks that I'm planning on using for some socks for Rainbow, though I have to retake some measurements before I can start those. I am getting an itch to knit another sweater for myself, too, so I think I may wind some yarn this weekend and start swatching. I have that lovely BMFA Targhee Worsted that I got for Chanukah that should knit up pretty quickly -- probably fast enough to still be able to wear the sweater before it gets warm, right?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Little Oak

Hey hey, look what's done!

Pattern: Little Oak by Alana Dakos, size 4
Yarn: Yarn Hollow Tor DK (100% superwash merino) in Moss, approximately 2.25 skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: January 20/February 16
Mods: added an inch of length to the body, fudged the button bands just a bit

This was pure pleasure to knit. It's knit from the bottom up, so it's fairly mindless until you get to the yoke, when all the fun starts. I spent much more time knitting this on Friday and Saturday than I expected because I had gotten to the cabled row and very much want to knit just one more row.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with this yarn as well. It was new to me; my LYS has started carrying it to take the place of tosh dk, which they're no longer carrying because of supply issues. The color quality is very similar -- subtly variegated color that really creates depth -- but I actually found I enjoyed knitting with it a tad bit more. The tosh always had a slightly powdery feel to me, kind of hard to explain, but this just felt soft and smooth. After a wash, the fabric softened even more and got some pretty amazing drape given that this was knit at a fairly dense gauge (22 stitches/4 inches).

That gauge was actually my main deviation from the pattern. The gauge called for is 24 stitches over 4 inches, but I'd probably have to knit on size 2 needles to get that (despite the fact that Alana recommends size 6 needles -- she must be a really tight knitter!). I wanted the sweater to come out a bit larger than the size 4 so that Rainbow would be able to wear it longer than the rest of this winter, but the size 6 would have been humongous on her. My gauge difference, then, worked out pretty well to give me a slightly larger sweater without having to recalculate everything.

As you can see, the smaller version of the pattern looks very much like the larger one -- in fact, Rainbow was so excited that hers was done that she insisted we both wear our sweaters yesterday!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Will It Stripe?

I was hoping to have another finished skein of handspun to show you today, but in the past couple of days I've been focusing almost exclusively on Rainbow's sweater, so I've spent very little time at my wheel. I did, however, manage to finish up the third bobbin of singles just a little bit ago, so now I have all the singles done and ready to ply.

I'm really excited to see how this looks when it's plied. There are distinct sections of some bright colors (purple, pink, acid yellow/green) that I'm hoping will coincide in all three plies from time to time, giving me some striping when when yarn is knit up. Of course, I could also end up with a muddy mess. This is one of the things I love best about spinning dyed fiber -- it's almost impossible to tell what the finished yarn will look like!

I've definitely gotten back into my sock yarn spinning groove, so I think I'm going to spin up another skein with this Falkland from CosySpins (on the bottom right):

I'm starting to think that more hardy wools than merino might be better for socks. This fiber isn't superwash, either, so it might felt a bit. I'm going to do a traditional three ply again, so there should be spots of that bright pink and yellow mixed in with the green. I think they will be very cheerful socks to wear on the gloomiest days of winter (which we clearly still have plenty more of here -- it's snowing again!).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Closed Tubes

My TTL Mystery Socks are done! The last clue was released Tuesday night (though I didn't get to it until yesterday morning), and after knitting at lunch and a bit after dinner last night, I found myself with two finished socks.

I used a single color for mine, but if you look at most of the other projects, you'll see that there was meant to be a contrast color used for the picot cast on at the top of the leg and for stripes in the toe.

I'm mostly happy with these socks. The pattern is beautiful, but I think my yarn was a little on the thin side and the pattern would look a little more robust with a slightly heavier fingering. I also noticed a slight difference in size with mine, and I think that's largely due to the fact that I worked the socks on different needles -- one sock on a pair of Addi Sock Rockets and one on a pair of ChiaoGoo Red Lace. I did this mostly because I wanted to knit both socks at the same time (and I really didn't want to do them both on the same needle or on two circs). My preference would have been to use two needles of the same type, but that really wasn't an option. I don't think the difference is really all that noticeable, and I'm sure that as I wear the socks and stretch them out a bit it'll all even out, but it's something to take note of and avoid in the future.

These socks did make it clear to me that the Sock Rockets are now my favorite needles for socks. I'd been enjoying the CGs up until I got these, but now the cord feels so inflexible in comparison.

Speaking of tubes, I pulled out Rainbow's Little Oak cardigan shortly after posting on Tuesday night and was able to complete the body to the underarms and join the sleeves to it. I've done exactly one row of the cable chart for the yoke, but I'm hoping to get through a bit more of it tonight. I'm in the home stretch at this point, especially as the rows start to get shorter soon. I have a three-day weekend coming up (Rainbow's school has an in-service day on Monday), so I'm hoping that I can finish this sweater up before I go back to work on Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Toes to Come

I spent a good portion of my weekend working on my TTL Mystery Socks, as the fourth clue -- the foot -- was released last Wednesday. This was definitely the largest clue of the whole sock; the instep chart had 62 rounds, and I had to tack an additional 15 rounds onto the end to make the feel long enough. The clue started just after the heel turn, too, so I had the whole gusset to deal with at the beginning. It took me several hours over several days, but they are now done but for the toes.

These look a lot better when they're actually worn and the fabric stretches just a bit, but I really like them. They still feel a little delicate to me -- both because of the thinness of the yarn and the lace of the stitch pattern -- so these aren't socks that are going to be worn every week on a regular basis. I might knit the pattern again (eventually) using a thicker sock yarn if I feel like I want to wear them more often, but there's also something to be said for having special occasion socks, especially considering how the yarn was spun.

It looks like I will have plenty of yarn leftover from these socks to knit a small pair, which should make a certain 4-year-old happy.

In other projects-that-don't-even-merit-an-in-progress-post news, I knit a dishcloth last week. I'd bought a brightly colored skein of dishcloth cotton at Michaels months ago and pulled it out when I suddenly got an urge to knit a square. I grabbed the nearest free needles that weren't in a case (which happened to be a US 6) and cast on -- remind me never to do that again. I think the needles were too small for the yarn, and combined with the stiffness of cotton, it made for a tough time on my hands.

I'm not so much a fan of this yarn, either, because it rubbed off on my hands the whole time I was working with it. Still, the dishcloth is bright and cheerful (for now, anyway; I'm sure it'll fade significantly the first time it's washed), and there's enough leftover to make a small washcloth for Rainbow.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Polwarth Poof

Remember how I was anticipating that my rainbow skein of Polwarth was going to poof up in the wash? It did indeed, though I didn't really expect how much it would poof.

To measure how much yardage I have, I first count the number of wraps around my 2 yd. niddy noddy and make a note of it. For this particular skein, I got exactly 300 wraps. I always assume there's going to be a bit less than twice the number of wraps, because I do wrap under a bit of tension, but I frequently find that my yarns shrink up even more once they're washed, as the moisture allows the memory and the spring to come back into the fibers. This is even more pronounced with fine wools like merino, Targhee, and Polwarth, and usually with those wools the skein not only shrinks up in length, but the yarn itself plumps up considerably. The rainbow yarn was light fingering fresh off the wheel, but after a wash, it plumped up to sport verging on DK in some areas.

To measure my final yardage, I measured the length of the open skein, multiplied that number by two (for the full length around the skein), and multiplied that number by the number of wraps around the niddy noddy. Finally, I divided that big number by 36 to get the total number of yards. If I'd calculated my yardage simply by multiplying the number of wraps on my niddy noddy by two, I'd have gotten 600 yards. However, taking into account the poof and the resulting shrinkage, I ended up with approximately 433 yards -- that's a pretty significant difference.

My one little complaint about this yarn is that the red bled a bit into some of the other colors when I washed it, which you can see if you look closely in this picture:

I'm hoping the bleeding won't bee too apparent when this yarn is actually knit up (into what, I just don't know yet, though I'm thinking some kind of big, poofy cowl). I joked on Ravelry that I'm tempted to just wear this bright skein around my neck and call it a day.

I so enjoyed the boost I got from these bright colors that I picked another colorful bundle of fiber (part of my last order from Crown Mountain Farms) for my next spin. I'm spinning a three-ply fingering weight, my default yarn, on my Lendrum, and I'm nearly halfway done with the singles. This is the second bobbin.

The color repeats on the fiber are very short, as you can see, and there are quite a lot of colors, so it'll be really interesting to see how this yarn looks when plied. I really can't wait to see if I end up with the same variation in color or if it all mixes so much that the colors cancel each other out and I end up with a neutral, so I anticipate a fair amount of spinning this week.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

How Many Days Until Spring?

I want to begin this post by stating that I am officially done with winter. Yesterday another storm moved through and dumped every kind of possible precipitation on us -- snow, sleet, freezing rain, regular rain. Rainbow had a two-hour delay at school and I had to take her in, so that meant I was late for work and got there pretty much soaked after trudging through all the slush. That put me in a bad mood for pretty much the whole day. I also skipped knit night last night after sliding on black ice several times on the trip home, so that bummed me out even more. But the sun was out today, and we have at least a couple of days when we're not supposed to see any more snow, so I'm trying to be more cheerful.

The delay yesterday morning meant that I got to make a special breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes, which I'd promised Rainbow I'd make if there was a school delay or cancellation) and get in a little bit of extra knitting time. That, combined with an hour or so last night, meant that I actually finished Rainbow's handspun scarf!

Pattern: Orwell Bridge Scarf by Alison Hawke
Yarn: my handspun, BFL from Gale's Art in Deep Blue Sea
Needles: US 3 (3.25 mm) Knit Picks circs, magic loop
Started/Completed: January 25/February 5
Mods: several; see below

I picked this pattern because I wanted something small that would fit just around Rainbow's neck and not be a strangulation hazard, and the keyhole feature seemed ideal. There are quite a few patterns like this on Ravelry, but I wanted something plain (and the likelihood that the finished object might be rejected after it was done was high, so I went for a free pattern so that I wasn't out both time and money).

I made a number of modifications. First, I started by casting on one more stitch than specified, because you increase to an even number and I wanted to start with an even number so I'd have the same number of increases on both sides. I also used the same size needles throughout, as my yarn was a bit lighter than what was called for in the pattern. When I got to the far end of the scarf, I also kept the ribbing as a tube, rather than making another keyhole, because I really thought the one keyhole was plenty. I haven't weighed the leftovers, but it looks like I used roughly half of the yarn, and I really love the gentle color changes I got.

I'm hesitant to say anything bad about a pattern because I know how hard it is to write a good one, but I will say that I found this one a little hard to follow. I wouldn't recommend it for a beginner, because there's quite a bit you need to intuit. If you have some experience, it won't be terribly difficult for you, but it's not a pattern where every single step is spelled out for you. I do like the finished product a lot, as does Rainbow, so it's a success. I might even make one for me, though I'd make some additional modifications (like I'd skip the purl stitches in the main tube).

Still on the needles are Rainbow's Little Oak cardigan (I'm a little more than halfway done with the body) and my TTL Mystery Socks, which are slowly progressing through the foot. I'm resisting the urge, for now, to start a sweater for me. I've suddenly found that I'm a little bored with my sweater selection and have sweater quantities of yarn for at least three sweaters, but I'm trying to get through these things first. Maybe I will cast on one next month and make it my birthday gift to myself!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Pattern Release: Diminishing Returns

Early last fall, I had an idea for a shawl that was simple to execute and used basic textures (stockinette and garter) to show off hand-dyed yarn. I love using hand-dyed yarn, but sometimes, even with a semisolid colorway, the color changes in the yarn partially obscure a stitch pattern, especially a complex one. The idea was to create a basic top-down triangular shawl that would allow the yarn to be the star. I acquired two skeins of Malabrigo Sock and cast on in conjunction with the Malabrigo Junkies Ravelry group's annual Stockpile event to see if I could turn an image in my head into an accurate physical representation. I'm happy to say that I could and I did.

The finished shawl, Diminishing Returns, is your basic top-down triangle shawl, but the mixture of stockinette and garter adds visual interest to the basic shape. This is a fairly large shawl, so you can really wrap up in it on a cold day or bunch it up around your neck to keep the wind out. Because I was working with two skeins of hand-dyed yarn, I alternated which skein was I working from every two rows to avoid pooling. The design also lends itself very well to being worked in two colors if you don't happen to have two skeins of the same color -- you should go see Brian's version to see what I mean.

If you've never knit a top-down triangle shawl before, this would be a great one to start with. There are very few stitches used (knit, purl, and make 1 right/left), and I've even included a photo tutorial to help you with the garter tab that starts the shawl.

Eventually, this shawl will be part of an e-book featuring four relatively simple shawls; the other three patterns will, I hope, be coming out in the next several months. The shawl is available on its own for now, though, and I hope you'll like it!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

All the Colors of the Rainbow

As I had hoped, I managed to finish spinning up the third and final bobbin of my rainbow fiber on Friday night, which meant that last night when I sat down to spin, it was time for a marathon plying session. (Luckily I had my miniSpinner at the ready, so at least most of the work was done for me.) I didn't finish up until after 11, which is rather late for me, so I saved skeining and washing for this morning. Alas, it's a dark, damp day here and the skein is still drying, so you'll have to make do with a couple of prewash shots.

First, here's the whole thing on the bobbin -- a sight that makes me very glad that I have these enormous WooLee Winder bobbins:

And here it is skeined up on my niddy noddy:

It really did turn out exactly as I was hoping -- there just a bit of overlap from one color to the next, but I finished with just a little bit of singles on two bobbins when the first ran out, so I split my colors pretty well and spun them fairly consistently.

I won't know exactly how much yardage I ended up with until the skein is fully dry and I can measure it, but I had 300 wraps on my niddy noddy, so even accounting for shrinkage, I'm hopeful I'll have somewhere in the 500 yard range. This is Polwarth, so it should fluff up a bit from the wash, but it looks to be fingering weight.

After all that color, I was craving some more, so I pulled out this Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino (from my very last CMF order) and am spinning up some three-ply sock yarn.

I have caught the spinning bug once again, so I wouldn't be surprised if you see this as yarn in another week or two!