Thursday, May 29, 2014

Where I Left Off

A number of things got put on hold this month while I worked on finishing my Mad May projects. Chief among those was spinning, and I've been making up for lost time with my wheel during much of this week. I've also been ignoring the project that was my main focus before May 1: my Sople. It actually had gotten quite a bit bigger since last you saw it; I have to double check the pattern, but if my memory serves me well, I'm somewhere in the middle of the waist decreases.

I really love the stitch pattern on the back -- a fairly simple combination of stockinette, reverse stockinette, and cables.

I will be picking this up again this week, even though there's no deadline to finish (and obviously I won't be wearing it for quite some time). I am one of those crazy knitters who works on sweaters in the summer, though, and believe it or not, I have another one all ready to go when this one is done.

Also temporarily put on hold these days are my handspun Falkland socks. I finished the first one up before the start of the holiday weekend and I'm quite pleased with it, simple though it might be.

My new sock "thing" seems to be working gusset increases at the same time as the heel flap (so that I end up working back and forth under the heel and getting a greater reinforced area in that part of the foot). This time, I played around a bit with the placement of those increases, adding them to a section on the top of the foot rather than at the sides. I quite like the effect.

And why have these been put on hold? Well, last week some yarn support arrived from Knit Picks -- specifically, a skein of their newest sock yarn, Hawthorne. This is a yummy two-ply wool/nylon blend that's hand painted and thus likely to pool, so I'm knitting it into a new sock using a simple knit/purl pattern designed to break up the pooling visually.

I cast on for this sock at the baseball game on Sunday and am already into the foot. Once this one and its mate are done, I'll get back to the handspun pair.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Months in the Making

It's done it's done it's done! (Ahem. I may be just a little excited to be finished with this one.)

Pattern: Window to My Soul by Joji Locatelli
Yarn: madelinetosh tosh merino light (100% superwash merino) in Baroque Violet, less than three skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 3 (3.25 mm)
Started/Completed: September 2, 2013/May 24, 2014
Mods: fudged the numbers for the button bands/neckband a bit

This is one of those projects that I started and was all excited about. I actually got a good portion of the yoke done before the weather started to turn colder and I realized that it would be months before I could actually wear the sweater even if I did finish it then. At that point, it went into hibernation for many months. It took the Mad May WIP stitchalong to get me to get it out and finish it.

The smocked stitch pattern in the yoke is my favorite part of this sweater. It was very slow going, especially the smocked rows, and I nearly went blind reading the charts, but look how pretty it is! I did alternate my skeins every two rows on this sweater (every two rounds on the sleeves) to avoid pooling, though my skeins did seem pretty well matched. That slowed me down a bit as well, as I was stopping frequently to untangle skeins. It's a necessary evil -- I like the results, but I don't have to like the process.

If you look closely at the top photo in this post, you can see my one little oops. I had some difficulty picking up stitches for the button bands. I picked up for the first one and completed it, then tried to match the number I picked up for the second band (the one with the buttonholes). It took me three tries to get it right. The bit of fudging I had to do on the second band meant that while the total number of stitches was the same, the relative density of them in any particular area was not quite identical, so the ribbing doesn't completely match up. That's not immediately obvious until you look at where the yoke patterning ends between the bottom two buttons. If you look closely at the top photo, you'll see that the pattern doesn't line up on both fronts. Whoops. At some point I may take off the buttons and redo them, but I'm not sure this yarn would stand up to that very well, so I'm going to try to live with it at this point (and perhaps try some creative blocking to make one side of the yoke a bit longer to compensate).

Overall, in spite of that little error, I'm very pleased with this sweater. It's light and very wearable -- perfect to throw over a t-shirt or tank in my office, where the air conditioning always seems to be on full blast.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

About Those Punis

Remember the punis that I bought from Gourmet Stash at Maryland Sheep and Wool? They generated a lot of curiosity among my knitting and spinning friends, so I decided to start spinning some up to show them how it's done, and I thought I'd share that here as well. I started with this batch (a merino/yak/silk blend):

A puni is a woolen preparation, sort of a mini rolag. Fibers are blended on a hand card or blending board and then rolled off using a dowel. The result is a little bundle of fiber arranged in a cylinder, almost, and to spin it, the fiber is pulled off the end. This gives you a woolen yarn, because the fibers are arranged in a circular formation (as opposed to a worsted prep, in which all the fibers are straight and aligned).

I'm using somewhat of a worsted draw to draft out the fibers because the punis are fairly tight, making more of a woolen draw very difficult. The resulting yarn isn't as smooth and even as one spun from combed top would be, but then again that's the point.

This will be a fun (and likely blinding) yarn when it's done! Each puni is only taking me maybe 10 minutes to spin up, so I can probably do one or two a day and have the whole ounce spun up in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Neglected No More

My Window to My Soul didn't see much action last week in my urgency to finish up the shawl. Now, however, it's my sole focus until it's done. The goal was to finish it by the end of the month (when the Mad May knitalong officially ends), and things are looking good. In fact, I just might have it done by the end of the holiday weekend.

I finished binding off the body on Tuesday and promptly started the first sleeve. By the time I put it down last night, I had about half an inch of sleeve left to knit before I could start the sleeve ribbing. I really didn't have much time to work on it the past two evenings because I was out at a couple of events, so clearly the sleeve goes very quickly. I expect that I'll at least start on the second one tonight, meaning that all that will be left to do this weekend is to finish up that sleeve, do the button bands, and do the neckband. Oh, and there will be some ends to weave in and buttons to sew on, too, but those are the last-minute things that I don't really think about.

I will be very happy to have this off the needles in time to actually wear it. Our weather has been really weird lately, to the point that I'm in a t-shirt and shorts one day and wool socks the next. Overall, it's been cooler than average, though, so wearing a wool sweater (albeit one with short sleeves) is not an entirely ridiculous proposition.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Magic Every Time

If you've been reading this blog long enough, you know that I love to knit lace. While I find the act of actually knitting the lace rather meditative, my absolute favorite part of knitting lace is the blocking. What can look okay right off the needles can be completely transformed into something light and airy through blocking. It's like magic to me every time I do it.

Last week, I spend nearly all my free time madly working on finishing up my Mad May shawl. I finally finished it on Friday evening (in the car on the way to dinner, of all places) and then blocked it Friday night. I'll admit that I pretty much jumped out of bed on Saturday morning so that I could unpin it and marvel at the transformation. I was not disappointed.

The lace opened up and evened out, and the 40 minutes or so I spent pinning out the picots along the bottom edge were clearly worth it.

There's been so much interest in the pattern on Ravelry that I've fast-tracked it. I spent several hours writing and charting over the weekend, and the pattern is now with my tech editor. I'm hoping to have it up for testing in a week or two and then published by the end of June. Personally, I'm just very excited to have finished it in plenty of time and to have worked out what I saw in my head so well!

I'm still working on my other Mad May project, but that is moving along well. I should have the body bound off tonight and then it's just sleeves, buttonbands, and neckband to do. I'm planning on taking advantage of the holiday weekend coming up to plough through and "git 'er done."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wheel Deprived

The month of May has been one of traveling and trying to finish projects on a deadline, so there hasn't been as much spinning as usual. On Friday, though, I finished the first project (which you'll see soon enough), so I decided to observe my usual Friday night tradition of spinning. I was up on the late side, but I finished the first bobbin of singles.

This is Gale's Art BFL that I bought two weeks ago that I'm spinning into a three-ply fingering weight. As a reminder, here's what the fiber looked like before I started:

It will be a big surprise to see what the finished yarn looks like because I did absolutely no planning when I split up the fiber. I pretty much just untwisted it, folded it into thirds, and then broke it into three roughly equal pieces. I'm expecting that there will be some spots where the colors align but mostly just a mix of colors. This could come back to bite me -- I could end up with a brownish mess -- but these colors were just too bright for me to do straightforward stripes.

Now that one of my Mad May projects is done and the other is rapidly approaching being finished, I'm hopeful that my wheel will see a bit more attention and I can finish up this yarn. At the very least, I'm hoping I have a second bobbin to show you next Sunday!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Surprise and a Secret Revealed

It's really tough for me to keep secrets, especially when I have to keep them for a long time. In the case of what I have to share with you today, it's a secret I've been keeping for almost a year, so it's a relief to finally be able to spill the beans. I'm very happy to share with you that I have a pattern in the 2014 edition of Knitscene Accessories. These are the Corbusier Socks.

Photo (c) Knitscene/Harper Point

One of the themes on the call for submissions for this issue was Art Deco. These socks are named for Le Corbusier, the architect credited with coining the term for the style, and were inspired by architectural elements of the era. The stitch pattern combines relatively simple lace with a 1x1 rib, with a resulting fabric that's very stretchy.

The yarn used in the sample is Holiday Yarns FlockSock, a sock yarn that was new to me and that I really enjoyed. It's a superwash merino/nylon blend with multiple plies, so it should be fairly durable in a sock. While I was waiting for the yarn support to arrive, I started another pair (in order to have a pair for myself and to do a dry run of the pattern) in the skein of Verdant Gryphon Eidos that I bought at MDSW last year or the year before. I'm not usually a yellow/orange person, but I love this golden hue.

I'm extremely honored to have a pattern in this issue, which is chock full of gorgeous designs. I highly encourage you to take a look at the full preview on Ravelry or on the Knitscene blog. There are quite a few patterns from this issue that I want to knit! Last I heard, the magazine was at the printer, so keep an eye out for it on the newsstand or at your local yarn shop very soon!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pattern Release: Arsalis Cowl and Hat

It's supposed to be in the mid-80s here today, so I'm sure the last thing you want to think about is putting wool around your neck and on your head, but I have two new designs making their debut today (and hey, the holidays are coming and now would be a great time to get a head start on gifts!).

The first is the Arsalis Cowl, which is part of the Malabrigo Quickies program. Patterns in this program are meant to be small items that knit up quickly using only a skein or two of Malabrigo yarn. The stranded colorwork pattern in this cowl is based on a doodle I used to do in the margins of my class notes when I was in high school. It was enough of a repeating theme for me that I had to see how it would translate to yarn -- and I'm happy to say that it translated very well!

The cowl uses two colors of super soft and squishy Malabrigo Rios. In the sample, I used Azul Profundo for the main color and Sunset for the contrast. This knits up very quickly (it took me maybe two or three evenings total), and the stranding makes it extra cozy. This is one of those cowls that you can fold over and tuck into your coat or pull up over your face on those blustery winter days.

When I finished the cowl, I had enough yarn leftover that I knew I had to make a matching hat. I switched the colors up for the Arsalis Hat, which is a pretty basic beanie with the added band of colorwork.

Both of these patterns are fairly easy, using only knit and purl stitches (and, in the case of the hat, simple decreases). If your stranded colorwork experience is limited, these would be a great way to practice, as I find that stranding is a lot easier to get the hang of when you're working with a fairly thick yarn. The patterns are available separately as well as grouped together as an eBook (and you'll get a little bit of a discount if you buy them that way, too). I really had fun knitting these up, and I hope you'll enjoy them as well.




Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Quickie

We are just back from a quick trip to Virginia for a wedding (10 hours in the car = lots of knitting), so this will be a short post. I promise it will be pretty, though!

I have not done much spinning in the past week due to my crazy Mad May projects (there's a reason it's called "mad"!), but last Sunday I did start spinning up the Gale's Art BFL I brought home from MDSW into a three-ply fingering. That means fine singles.

I pretty much just split the top into thirds, so the colors will be totally random in how they come together.

I also experimented a bit with one of the Gourmet Stash punis. The pink batch had 27 in the pack, so I figured one could be sacrificed to play with on my support spindle.

Unfortunately my support spindling skills still leave much to be desired and I made a bit of a mess out of it. I think the punis are a bit too compacted to do a decent long draw, so I might to have hand-card some fiber and get some more practice with the technique. The remainder of the punis, however, will be spun on my Bosworth mini.

Once the BFL is off the wheel, I have the next thing lined up and ready to go -- my May Fat Cat Knits Mixed Blessings shipment, which arrived on Friday. I'm absolutely in love with this month's duo.

The two colorways are called Vintage and Retro Chic, and they're both very similar. The Vintage is more autumnal, going from brown to red to gold. The Retro Chic, on the other hand, is more springlike, going from a plummy purple to a pinky red to apricot to pale yellow.

I already know how I am going to spin this -- from end to end and then chain plied (each braid separately, of course). When I'm done, I'll knit them together, starting at the light end of one skein and the dark end of the other. I'm thinking these would be perfect for colorwork or perhaps two-color brioche. The fiber is polwarth (my favorite!), so it's going to be soft, poofy yarn. I can't wait to spin it!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Plethora of Stitches

I'm not sure why I thought it would be quick to knit two projects in fingering weight yarn this month. Sure, one was already a good way started, but there's still quite a bit of knitting to do. And top-down triangle shawls? The rows only get longer as you get further along.

The good news is that I have made visible progress. My Window to My Soul has about half a body done. I've finished the finicky yoke section (which means no more chart to refer to and no more cable needle needed), but now I'm in the midst of the long stockinette section of the body. If I remember correctly, I have to work in stockinette until the body measures something like 16" under the arm, and I think that meant about 11" of stockinette. I have 288 stitches on the needle right now (there's some increasing after you finish the yoke), and I'm still alternating skeins, so it's moving slowly. I haven't formally timed myself, but I think it takes me somewhere between five and 10 minutes to knit a row.

My camera refused to capture the color accurately

The shawl seems to have grown a bit faster, although now that I have more than 200 stitches on the needle the rows are obviously taking a bit longer to complete. I have already charted out the lace section and am anxious to get to it, but I have 40-ish more rows to do before I get there.

I have not even touched my handspun socks since last weekend, and I have a feeling that they're going to be in hibernation for a while.

The Mister and I are headed to a wedding in Virginia this weekend, and both Mad May projects will be coming with me -- what else would I be doing for 10 hours in the car when I don't have to drive?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

MDSW 2014: The Loot

Every year that I go to MDSW, I try to be restrained in my purchases. After all, I have what some might call a very well-curated stash and certainly don't need anything else. But there are always such lovely things, many of which I can't get locally, so I usually take the opportunity to buy in person and save on shipping from ordering online. Plus, most of the vendors are small businesses -- and it's good to keep small fiber-based businesses in business, right?

Here's a look at the sum total of this year's haul:

As you can see, I stuck mostly to spinning stuff this year. Let's take a look in more detail.

First, there was 2 oz. total of punis from Gourmet Stash. The hot pink colorway is called Kick Your Teeth In Pink and is a blend of 40% merino, 30% yak, and 30% silk.

The light pink colorway is a limited edition called Sakura Luxe Redux and is a blend of superfine merino, merino, seacell, cashmere, silk, milk fiber, and angelina.

Then, I picked up another 85% polwarth/15% silk batt (in a colorway called "The Bird Girl") from Into the Whirled. (The funny thing is that I picked out two other batts before this one -- in the same two colorways I purchased the past two years!)

At Hobbledehoy, I picked up a bag of eight "battlings" -- mini batts in a lovely blend of merino, yak, silk, soysilk, and sparkle. As you can see, I've already started spinning them up (I'm going to do one ply each of the blues and greens and then ply them together).

And then I picked up two 4 oz. braids of fiber specifically for sock yarn. This is 4 oz. of BFL from Gale's Art in a bright, but unnamed, colorway:

And this is 4 oz. of Falkland in Flowering Courtyard from Three Waters Farm:

The lone skein of yarn was one skein of Jill Draper Makes Stuff Esopus, a springy four-ply light fingering that comes in a very generous put-up of 500 yards. This color is called Greyhound.

I'd say I did pretty well overall, wouldn't you? Now the challenge will be to spin and knit all of this up before MDSW 2015 so I can buy more!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Pattern Release: Embossed Lines

Surprise! I wasn't expecting to release a pattern this morning, but everything fell into place and I decided to go with it. Today's pattern is the final one in the series of four simple top-down triangular shawls. This one uses one skein of hand-dyed sock yarn (the sample was worked in SpaceCadet Creations Lucina, a fun, sparkly yarn) and incorporates the easy textures of stockinette and reverse stockinette to create the look of embossing. Eyelets at the center and along the edging give a sense of lightness.

This shawl uses just one skein of yarn (approximately 400 yards/366 meters), so it's perfect for that skein of yarn that's maybe a little too precious to put on your feet. The pattern is suitable for knitters who have never done a top-down shawl before, and it includes a photo tutorial for the garter tab that's used to start the shawl.

This shawl also completes the collection I am calling Texture on Triangles, a collection that also contains Diminishing Returns, Incremental Growth, and Intermingling.

You can get the full details on Embossed Lines on Ravelry here.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Back to Normal

And I'm back from Maryland Sheep and Wool. It was a great trip (that went all too quickly), and I got some great stuff, but the post on that will come in a bit. I'm rushing to get everything I need to do done before it's time to go to bed, so for tonight, I have just a quick post about the skein of handspun I finished up just before leaving.

This skein was spun from the lighter portion of the Jacob fiber I bought in the big bundle of it at MDSW last year. I spun this stuff to match the first skein for another three-ply worsted weight. This skein, however, turned out much shorter -- only about 125 yards compared to 191. I suspect that either the bundle of fiber might have weighed less than the 8 oz. it was marketed as (though I never weighed it to be sure); certainly there was more of the darker fiber in the bundle.

Regardless, I'm very pleased with how this skein turned out. It's round and rustic and squishy. I will have to find the perfect pattern to use both skeins (with, perhaps, the addition of some other natural colors).

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Let the Madness Begin

It's May 1, which means two things: my trip to MDSW is only one day away and today is the official start of the annual Mad May stitch-along in the Ravelry Madelinetosh Lovers group. I've participated in this event for the past couple of years and it's always a good motivator to finish up a project. This year, I'm entering in two categories. The first is general shawl (meaning you can pick any shawl pattern you want), and I'm going to be designing one using these two colors of tosh merino light, Nassau Blue and Rain Water.

I've had this shawl idea kicking around in my head for quite a while, so it will be good to work it out in yarn.

My second entry is in the WIP category, a new one for Mad May. To qualify, the project had to have been started before March 31 of this year. My project had no problems qualifying -- I started it last September! I'll be trying to finish my Window to My Soul, also in tosh merino light.

As I recall, I was making good progress with this when I put it away when the weather started to get cooler, and I was getting pretty close to the point where I could divide the sleeve stitches from the body. I will probably need to take some time tonight to refamiliarize myself with the pattern and figure out exactly where I left off.

Both of these projects (plus some handspun socks) will be coming with me to MDSW this weekend, and I hope to have a lot of progress to show you when I get back!