Sunday, March 30, 2014

Official Report

I am playing catch-up today after taking a quick trip down to the DC area for a bridal shower, and none of that catching up activity has involved spinning, so I don't have any progress beyond the start of the bobbin of Jacob you saw last week. I can, however, show you some final pictures of my four-ply sock yarn, all 380 yards of it.

I'm really quite pleased with this. It did not poof up much at all in the washing (though some of the plying twist did calm down a bit), so it's a true fingering. I had singles left on two of the bobbins -- and I wasn't about to try to do two center-pull balls to ply from both ends at once -- so they were wound off onto my "leftovers" bobbin. Still, it's kind of amazing to think that I spun more than 1,500 yards of singles in a relatively short amount of time.

It was a delight to watch the colors come together in this yarn, and I'm excited to see what happens when I knit it up. I've already wound it into a cake so that it will be ready to go as soon as I finish the socks on the needles.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Half Covered

Yesterday seemed to be all about keeping half of my body warm. First, I finished the first STR sock (and is there anything more satisfying than Kitchenering a toe?).

Then, I finished the first sleeve of my Zephyr. I even wove in the end after I bound off. Aren't you impressed?

I immediately started in on the second sleeve before I lost any steam and will work on it the next two nights. If that isn't enough time to finish, then I'll wrap it up on Sunday night, after I'm back from the quick trip. I will have roughly eight hours in the car, but the sweater's a little too bulky to bring along right now. Instead, I have a pattern sample to knit and the second STR sock to finish, and I'm hoping that will be enough (though I might throw in another skein of sock yarn just in case).

We appear to finally be ending the season for wearing handknits, which means the season of washing sweaters and packing them away will begin soon. We've had unseasonably cold weather this week, including snow yesterday, so I've been making good use of my rainbow brioche cowl. It is so soft and cozy and squooshy that now I want to knit more just like it with more handspun. I have some merino/tencel laceweight in my stash that I think would make a great one for slightly warmer weather, and I'm itching to do a two-color version. I think I may have found my next obsession. Is there a cure for brioche-itis?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Round and Round We Go

It still appears to be winter, despite what the calendar might say, so my current projects still seem quite relevant. I started the first sleeve on my Zephyr last night and got about 8 inches done before I put it down for the night, which is a pretty good start.

The total sleeve length is something like 19.5 inches (which does seem like a lot, but that includes a fold-up cuff). I have four more decrease rounds to do, so the knitting is going to speed up a bit as I have fewer stitches on the needles. I think another evening or two of knitting should see the first sleeve done, and my hope is still to finish the sweater by Monday -- not that there's any real reason it has to be done by then; it'd just be nice to finish it by the end of the month. The great thing about this sweater is that the only finishing I have to do is weave in some ends, make a couple of loops, and sew on some toggles or buttons (which I have yet to find). The front bands are worked along with the sweater, so when I'm done with the sleeves, I'm done with the knitting.

I already know what the next sweater on the needles will be thanks to a bit of an impulse purchase at my LYS this weekend. I so enjoyed knitting with the Yarn Hollow Tor DK in Rainbow's Little Oak that I bought a sweater's lot for me. I'd had my eye on this particular color for a while, but there was never enough to make a sweater. When I saw that they'd just gotten a shipment in, I jumped at the chance and snatched up every skein they had.

This color is called Winter Lake, and I bought it specifically for Sople. This sweater will be another fun adventure in construction -- top-down set-in sleeves using short rows! I've done them once before, but somewhat unsuccessfully.

I'm also approaching the toe on my first STR Kalish sock, which has been my lunchtime knitting for the past week and a half or so:

As patterns go, this one isn't that exciting, but I do like how the knit/purl pattern breaks up the colors a bit, and they have a little more visual interest than a plain stockinette sock. I'm going on a quick road trip this weekend for a bridal shower, so these might make for good car knitting -- as always, the hardest part of figuring out what to pack is deciding what knitting to bring!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fit to Be Plied

I stayed up late (well, late for me) on Friday night finishing up the last bobbin of singles of my Fat Cat Knits March shipment.

I started plying yesterday and finished up earlier this afternoon. I ended up with some singles left on the two bobbins at the right, but not a significant amount. The skein is soaking as I type, but here's what it looked like on the niddy noddy:

Although I'm not expecting as big a poof as I'd get with a crimpier wool, I'm hoping this fills out just a bit, because it's pretty thin right now. That's saying something, because this is a four ply, so the fact that I got a fingering weight (or so it seems at this point) means I was spinning some pretty darn thin singles.

After all that thin stuff, I wanted to do something a big thicker, so I pulled out the Jacob wool that I bought at MDSW last year. I have 8 oz. total, in two shades, so I pulled them apart and then split each color into thirds. The chocolatey brown is on the wheel first, and it's amazing how quickly the bobbin is filling up compared to the last project.

It's a bit lumpy and bumpy (due to the prep), but I don't even care. I figure it will even out well enough when I ply, and I really wanted this to be more of a rustic yarn. My plan is to spin the two skeins more or less the same way and perhaps use them for something with colorwork. At this rate, I can probably finish up a bobbin in a good spinning session, which works well with my plan to try to get through my purchases from MDSW last year before I go back this year. Might you call that fleece neutrality?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging, Already in Progress

Now that we've gotten the backlog of design stuff out of the way, I think it's time to get back to what's actually on my needles, don't you?

First of all, I finished my rainbow brioche cowl. I managed to finish the bind off with only a small ball of yarn left, so I felt particularly satisfied. It's soft and squishy and warm, and as it looks like the weather is going to be in the 30s early next week, I might even get to wear it a few times before it gets packed away until next winter.

I didn't really use a pattern for this -- I just cast on 200 stitches (because that's what seemed to fill up my 40" circular well) and worked brioche in the round until I was nearly out of yarn, then bound off. Easy peasy.

Because the yarn bled when I washed it as part of the finishing process, I blocked it by soaking it in cold water with a little white vinegar (just in case) and then laying it flat to dry. I'm happy to report that I didn't see any more bleeding, though that cold soak was just enough to encourage the famous Polwarth poof. The yarn bloomed just enough to fill in some of the thinner, airier spots in the fabric.

Meanwhile, I've been giving my Zephyr quite a big of attention over the past couple of weeks, and I'm now nearly done with the body. I have another 2" to knit before I start the ribbing at the bottom, and I'm hoping to get at least to that point tonight. I think the sleeves will go pretty quickly (they're in the round and don't use that edging that's on the body, so there's less to think about). I'm hoping to finish this up by the end of the month.

After finishing up the cowl, I needed a new lunchtime project, so I cast on a new pair of socks for me in some STR that I bought myself for my birthday. The colorway is called Kalish, and it's pretty variegated, so I decided to stick to a simple pattern of knits and purls to break up any pooling. I really love the colors in this sock.

I'll be interested to see what happens at the gusset, which is where the pooling is usually the worst.

Finally, remember how I was suddenly blowing holes in all my socks? I never really had it in me to actually throw the socks away, though they were removed from my sock drawer. I've been knitting some replacements, but the other night I decided to try darning one to see how it went. That sock was such a success that last night at knit night, I decided to tackle my favorite pair of Monkey socks, one of which was just a couple of fibers from a true hole. I used some scraps of another sock yarn to essentially duplicate stitch over the entire area on the inside (which was a real challenge on the bad sock, considering the worst of it only had a couple of fibers still intact).

They won't win any beauty contests, but the holes have been covered, so I might get a bit more wear out of them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pattern Release: Intermingling

(Okay, I promise this is the last new pattern for a while and that the blog will go back to its normal content after this release!)

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I have a thing for garter stitch. I keep coming back to it, whether it's for shawls or blankets. There's something very comforting to me about knitting every row and the squishy fabric you get. So for this shawl, I started with a basic garter triangle. The twist, and the part that makes this shawl a lot of fun, is in the edging. I introduced a contrast color for some textured stripes and a frilly picot bind off.

This is the third in my series of relatively simple top-down triangle shawls that emphasize texture (there's one more to go), and if I'm being completely honest, this might be my favorite. In terms of difficulty, this is a lot easier than it looks. The texture in the striped section is achieved through slipping stitches, so you're only working with one color at a time even though it might not look like it.

To knit Intermingling, you'll need a 100 g skein of sock yarn (somewhere in the neighborhood of 420-440 yards, though if your skein has a little less than that, you can adjust the shawl easily by working a smaller garter section) plus about 50-60 yards of sock yarn in a contrasting color. The shawl uses pretty basic stitches -- knit, purl, directional increases (m1L and m1R), and slip stitches -- and the only notions you'll need are four stitch markers and a yarn needle to weave in ends. As written, you'll get a shawl that's approximately 46 in. wide across the top edge and about 21 in. deep, but I could see this easily being worked in a heavier yarn for a much more substantial shawl. Picking the colors is both the fun and the hard part, but I think this pattern looks great in bright, cheerful colors (take a look at this test knitter's photos for evidence!).

I had a lot of fun knitting up this sample, and I think I might need to do another -- perhaps in some handspun. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Spins

I know that it's technically not yet spring (and it certainly doesn't feel like it), but in my head, winter is over. I have been craving color for so long, and I'm thrilled to see the daffodils and hyacinths starting to poke through the ground. That's probably why I decided to spin this skein of yarn when I did -- it was bright green! It took several sessions of plying during the week, but now it's been washed and just needs to be wound to be ready to knit.

This started as 4 oz. of Falkland fiber from Cosy, and I decided that it might be a good candidate for longer-wearing socks. Falkland seems a little like Corriedale to me -- relatively soft, but hardier than merino. I split the top into three roughly equal pieces and then spun up three bobbins of singles. I didn't worry about lining up the spots of red or anything -- I just let the fiber and the yarn do their thing. I ended up with 366 yards, so a perfect amount for a pair of socks for me. The yarn looks a little on the thin side, so I may knit them on 0's to make them even more durable.

Meanwhile, spinning continues on the next sock yarn. I finished the two bobbins of one colorway from my Mixed Blessings club shipment:

and started spinning the first bobbin of the other colorway:

I am really adoring the process of spinning this fiber. It's a superwash BFL/nylon blend, but it feels almost like it has some silk in it. The luster of the wool is really incredible. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what this yarn looks like with the two colors blended together.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pattern Release: Cashmears

I know it seems like I've been publishing tons of patterns lately, but that's been due mainly to a backlog of stuff I started late last fall. A bunch of samples were done at the same time, so I've been going through them, and it just happened that they've all been ready to publish at more or less the same time. This is one of the last in the bunch, though, so there will be a bit of a break soon while I get back to my sketches.

We had some decidedly spring-like weather over the weekend and earlier this week, but this morning it was 10 degrees (-9 with wind chill) outside, so clearly winter isn't done with us yet. That means that, unfortunately, I still need this pattern to keep my ears warm.

The slightly punny name of Cashmears came about because I used approximately half a skein of Knit Picks Capra (a merino/cashmere blend) to knit this headband/earwarmer. (You may recognize the yarn -- it was leftover from the sample for Ellyce). There's no way I'd let a cashmere blend yarn go to waste, so I knew I had to figure out a way to use it for something that would touch delicate skin and keep it warm. My ears always get cold right away in the winter, so an earwarmer seemed like the perfect canvas for this cable idea that I'd been kicking around in my head for some time.

This particular cable isn't hard, though it is a bit fiddly, as it requires two cable needles to execute (if you usually cable without a cable needle, you'll only need one). The edging is faux I-cord and very easy. Once you get the hang of both elements, this headband will knit up very quickly -- I managed to finish the sample/prototype in just a few evenings in between other projects.

Cashmears comes in two sizes -- to fit a head circumference of 20-22 (22-24) in./51-56 (56-61) cm -- though it's easy to adjust if you need to make it smaller or larger. Rainbow has already asked me to make her one, so I'll be making another in a slightly smaller size soon. Although Knit Picks classifies Capra as a DK, I find it knits up more like a worsted, so you should be able to use either weight of yarn successfully (and doesn't everyone have a bit of worsted or DK leftover from a sweater that's not quite enough for a hat or a pair of mittens?).

I really had a lot of fun knitting this, and frankly I'm not sure I'm done with this cable. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Inch by Inch

I spent a lot of time spinning over the weekend, but I still gave my knitting projects some attention as well, so they are making slow but steady progress.

On Saturday morning, we went to get our taxes done. Fortunately, this isn't too painful an event for us, but it does mean a bit of a drive to the tax preparer's office and then about an hour sitting with her as she goes over all our documents. I took along my rainbow cowl to work on, as it doesn't require a pattern or much thinking. As a result of that time, plus a bit of attention on Sunday night and lunchtime knitting yesterday and today, I'm now into the blue section. There's only purple to go after that, so I'm just about at the end. If I keep up the pace, I should finish it right about the time when it officially becomes spring.

This flash-free evening photo brought to you by Daylight Savings Time 

My Zephyr, meanwhile, got some face time on Saturday afternoon during my weekly trip to my LYS. I managed to get just about back to where I was before I had to rip, and then last night I got through the two sections beyond that point. I'm now ready to split off for the sleeves, so things should get a little less complicated (and less prone to stupid errors) from this point on. I have now memorized the pattern on the front bands, so it's really just a matter of paying attention to some shaping on the body and keeping track of my rows.

I seriously doubt that I'll need to wear this sweater when it's done, but it will be nice to start the cold season next year with at least one new sweater. My plan is to cast on for my Cabletta cardigan with the Miss Babs Yowza I bought at MDSW last year when I'm done with this sweater; it very well may come with me to MDSW this year. Again, this is an instance where I certainly won't need to finish it up quickly to wear it, but it will be nice to put away and to clear that yarn out of my stash (particularly as it's been sitting in a bag in my bedroom mocking me ever since I bought it!).

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Lots of Thin Singles

Over the course of the past few days, I've been doing a lot of spinning of a lot of fine singles. For starters, last night I finished up the singles for my Falkland sock yarn.

I started plying them on the miniSpinner this morning and will do more as soon as this posts. I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish the skein tonight, though I think skeining and washing will have to wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my first order from the FatCatKnits Mixed Blessings club arrived earlier in the week. In this club, each shipment contains 5 oz. total of two colorways that are meant to coordinate. There's also a choice of fiber. For this shipment, I picked superwash BFL/nylon, which I thought would be perfect for socks.

The two colorways are called Long Shadows (the blue/purple) and Meadow Song (the green/orange-y gold). I thought quite a bit about how to spin them and finally decided on a traditional four ply, with two plies of each color. It seemed the easiest way to split them evenly and ensure a good blend of both colorways.

I managed to finish spinning up the first half of Meadow Song today. This will be my first time spinning a traditional four ply (the only other yarn I've spun with four plies was a cabled yarn, or two two plies plied together), so this should be a fun spin. I can't wait to see how these colors look when they're all mixed together!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Ravel and Unravel

If there's one thing I've learned from my knitting this week it's that I should not start slightly complicated sweaters when my head is foggy from a bad cold. I cast on for Zephyr on Saturday, after doing all sorts of calculations to figure out what size to make, and had nothing but trouble from the beginning. First, I misread the directions for the stitch pattern and had to frog and start over. Then I missed the line telling me to work one more row on one side of the band than the other and had to rip out because I'd picked up stitches on the wrong side of it. Here's what it looked like before knit night last night:

I show you this picture because when I pulled it out to work on it at knit night, I discovered that about 20 rows back, I'd missed an important direction about where to do certain increases and had been doing them in the wrong place all that time. So I had to rip back about half of my work and to fix that particular error.

It's actually quite a clever pattern -- perhaps too clever for my cold-addled brain at times. It's constructed using the contiguous method, which is a way of creating a set-in sleeve look with a construction that's similar to a raglan. In any case, you start with the band (not really a button band, because there are no buttons or buttonholes in it) by doing Judy's Magic Cast On for the middle of the back of the neck. You work the band for a certain number of rows in each direction, then pick up the stitches along the side. Then you begin working several kinds of increases (for the back, the V-neck, the shoulders, and the sleeves) while continuing to work the bands. That means that there's a lot to keep track of at all times, so I'm not surprised that I missed a couple of things. The pattern is also written a bit unusually to account for different directions for different sizes, so I'm making liberal use of a highlighter and a pen to make sure that I'm paying attention to the things that I need to and ignoring the things that I don't. I'm hoping my frogging and redoing is over for the time being.

When the sweater proves to be too much, I've been working on my handspun brioche cowl, which requires little to no thinking and is now starting to resemble a Jayne hat.

It's become my lunchtime project (at least until I wind some more sock yarn), because I finished Rainbow's handspun socks last night:

I know these still might look small to some of you, but I can't get over how big they are. Sometimes I miss my baby and her tiny feet -- the socks certainly used to take a lot less time to knit up! I predict that she'll be able to wear these for maybe a few weeks before they get too small, but hey, it was a good excuse to use up some leftover handspun (though there's still more of it, so I have to figure out something to use it for).

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Pattern Release: Vaunder Mitts

I'm sure this happens to a lot of you, but I find I get into certain ruts (for lack of a better word) in my knitting and that there are certain features or styles that I want to do over and over again over the course of several projects. Late last fall, I was in a twisted ribbing rut. First, there was a pair of socks with twisted ribbing and lace. Apparently that was not enough for me, because as we were on our way down to Florida, I cast on for a pair of fingerless mitts. They knit up in just a few days (and trust me when I tell you that I was most definitely not knitting all day long!) and came out exactly as I wanted. And now I get to share them with you.

Meet the Vaunder Mitts.

These were designed to be transitional pieces, when you need a little more warmth on your pulse points, or for layering, like when you might need to have some fingers free to dial your phone when you pull your hand out of a mitten but don't want to expose the entire hand to the frigid air. They're worked entirely in the round from the cuff up, and you can see they feature a lot of that twisted ribbing that was so obsessing me. A pair will take you between 150 and 215 yards of fingering weight yarn, so these are great if you have, say, half a skein of sock yarn leftover from something else or a 50 g skein that's not quite enough for socks. I used Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (a superwash merino/nylon blend) that I picked up locally in the fall; incidentally, it looks like she's having a shop update this Friday, just in case you need to be enabled.

The Vaunder Mitts come in three sizes, to fit a hand circumference of 7 (8, 9) inches/18 (20.5, 23) cm. If you like longer mitts, it's really easy to lengthen them. The thumb gusset directions are both written and charted, and while I used a semisolid yarn for my sample, I think they'd look very cool in a variegated or self-striping. One of my testers actually used a yarn with long color repeats, and her mitts look smashing.

I really enjoyed knitting these up and have needed them the past couple of weeks when it's been freezing in my office. Of course, I'm hoping I won't need these much longer, but I think I might knit up some extra pairs to give as gifts later this year!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Things to Do on a Snowy Day

Work on filling the second bobbin of singles:

Knit a squishy cowl out of handspun: