Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Which There Is Mild Panic

Last week I got an e-mail from a friend asking if I had any old swatches that I could donate toward a yarn bombing project at her kids' school. As it happened, I had a drawer full of them, most of them many years old and thus entirely unneeded, so I told her I'd pull them out when I had a moment. That moment came last Thursday, when I was home for the holiday.

It had probably been years since I'd looked in that drawer (part of a plastic storage system that was the original home of my stash, though the stash has long outgrown it), and some of those swatches were knit before we moved into our house six years ago; I can't even remember the last time I opened that particular drawer to look inside it. What I found both astonished and scared me. Quite a few of the swatches had what looked like pills on them as well as what looked like grains of sand. I had a feeling that this was evidence of some four-letter pest that likes to eat wool, and an e-mail to the friend who had requested the swatches confirmed it (I wanted to see if she still wanted the swatches even though they might be contaminated).

This incident freaked me out enough that I actually stayed away from the stash for a day or two until I was ready to fully investigate. Fortunately, it looks like any pest activity was contained to that one drawer -- there was no evidence of anything like what I saw in that drawer on any of the yarn in the storage unit. I pulled everything out, bagged it, vacuumed the entire space and every drawer, and put everything back with lavender sachets. Everything that was possibly contaminated was thrown out, so my fingers are crossed that that's the end of it.

Meanwhile, lest you think I've been spending every free hour thinking about moths, there has been knitting. The Baby Surprise Jacket for our neighbors is just about done -- there's just a few inches of applied I-cord left to do on the body. If they know the gender of the baby, they haven't shared, so I went with a color that could go either way. I did I-cord loops for the buttons rather than the traditional button holes; it's what I did for the BSJ Rainbow came home from the hospital in, and I found them a lot easier to deal with when trying to get a squirmy newborn into a sweater.

I'm also nearly done with the sample for my next shawl pattern; I finished the lace section today.

I predict I'll be done with this by the end of the week, so with any luck I can get the pattern finalized and off to the tech editor in the next week or so.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Long Slog

I know this yarn will be gorgeous when it's done, but it is taking quite a long time to finish. I stayed up a little late on Friday to finish the singles:

I let them rest for about a day and then, this afternoon, I sat down to start plying. Fortunately, that's going a bit faster -- this is the result of maybe an hour and a half to two hours of plying and I'm approaching the halfway point (or so I think).

The darker purple that's just starting to appear was the first color of the third strip of fiber, so I figure another session or two at the wheel should do it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"I Wish I Could Wear It Every Day!"

After more than a month, I finally finished up Rainbow's Magnolia in Bloom last weekend. I got her to sit down and pick out buttons with me and then gave it a good blocking. It was ready for her to wear to Rosh Hashanah dinner last night.

My friends at my LYS can tell you that I was not at all pleased with her reaction when I had her try it on just before I finished the body (I believe it was something like "I hate it!"), but fortunately I had a feeling that she would like it when it was actually finished and carried on. I'm glad I did, because her reaction to trying it on when it was actually finished was about the best I could expect (hint: it's the title of this post).

These are pretty rubbish pictures, but you can get a sense of how well it fits her and how pleased she is with it.

Pattern: Magnolia in Bloom by Anna Rauf, tunic version, size 6
Yarn: Cascade Heritage Sock (75% superwash merino/25% nylon) in color 5615/Royal, approximately 1.25 skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 3 (3.25 mm) circs
Started/Completed: August 14/September 20
Mods: I picked up a few more stitches at the underarms than specified and did only three buttonholes on the placket

This was a fun knit, though the pattern was a bit interesting to follow at times. I think that's probably because the designer is not a native English speaker, so things were worded a bit unusually (or at least differently than I'm used to). I ended up making the size 6 because my gauge was just a tad off and the size 4 probably would have fit but not for long. As you can see, there is some room to grow. What you can't see is the little oops that I made in the lace on the bottom. At some point I must have done an extra half round, because one of the repeats of the lace on the back is taller than the rest. I discovered it several lace repeats later; at that point, though, I was getting so sick of knitting the body that I just wanted to be done, and I figured that it was unlikely to be seen and noticed as it's on the back side of the top. I worked 1x1 rib on the bottom of the body and at the sleeves so all the edges would match.

Although I'm not likely to do it for Rainbow, I might knit this pattern again, perhaps as a baby gift. The pattern gives you the option to do it as a tunic or a dress, and I think it would be a fairly quick knit for a smaller kid. I will say that there were times when I was knitting the "skirt" that I thought it would never end, but considering that I was working on this in between other projects, I think it really did go rather quickly. And clearly I haven't gotten sweaters in fingering out of my system just yet, because I just bought the next pattern to make for Rainbow, at her request. I already have two skeins of Malabrigo Sock in my stash that will be perfect for it -- but I'm finishing a sweater for me first!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pattern Release: Foglie e Cardi

The shawl pattern I released today has been nearly a year and a half in the making -- a long time even by my slow standards. It started with the lace design class I took with Kirsten Kapur last April. After that class, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but it was months before I started putting together all the pieces. It was one of those projects that I'd pull out and work on excitedly for a while only to have to put it on the back burner when something else came up. This cycle continued for maybe a year. Finally, earlier this spring, just before MDSW, I finished the charts and knitting the sample from them, and I wore the shawl to the festival. It took several more months to get my hand-written charts into my charting program, generate and clean up the written directions, and put the pattern through several rounds of tech editing. But, after all that work, at long last, it's ready to share with you.

Foglie e Cardi is a top-down triangle shawl, and it starts with a garter tab. The meaning of the name is "leaves and thistles" in Italian, and those two motifs are featured prominently in the lace patterns. The first pattern (and the majority of the shawl) is made up of a small leaf stitch pattern. It transitions into a thistle stitch pattern and finally to a border. The lower edge of the shawl can be pinned out into points, as you see in my sample, or blocked straight, depending on your preference.

The lace stitches themselves are not difficult -- there are no knitting gymnastics here! However, I will note that the stitch repeat moves around a bit in the thistle section, so if you're the kind of knitter who likes to use stitch markers between pattern repeats, you'll need to be aware that there may be a lot of shifting of markers in this section.

The shawl uses fingering weight yarn; I used Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet for my sample. This yarn is a two-ply superwash wool that comes in very vibrant colors (the color I chose is Cloverleaf). Any fingering weight -- or even laceweight -- yarn will work for this pattern. You'll need somewhere in the range of 450 yds. to complete the shawl.

This pattern was a lot of work, but I couldn't be happier with the result, and I'm so excited to finally be able to share it with you!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Spin That Never Ends

I'm starting to think that Ginny of Fat Cat Knits put some sort of magic into this fiber that's causing it to take longer than normal to spin. I mean, I know I'm spinning very fine singles, but I spin fine singles all the time and it doesn't seem to take this long!

What you see here is all the spinning I've done up until now. I spent Friday evening at the wheel (once I got Rainbow to sleep) and managed to join the fourth and final section -- though, as you can see, I didn't get too far (the fourth section started with the yellow). I'll grant you I haven't spent all that much time at the wheel in the past couple of weeks, but I thought I would have been further by now. I really do need to step up my game a bit this week, though, because the next shipment of the fiber club ships out October 1, and I'd really like to have this done by then. With any luck, by next Sunday, I'll have a complete bobbin to show you (or even the start of plying)!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I'm Sensing a Trend

Do you ever notice that every now and then your knitting seems to all kind of look the same? At the moment, I seem to be going through a stripe phase.

First of all, after much knitting last week, I did manage to finish up my brioche cowl last Friday night, just before we left for our weekend trip. I finished binding off just before bed -- I didn't even weave in all my ends before we left! -- and tossed it into one of my project bags to be dealt with when we got back. On Tuesday evening, I wove in the last of the ends and blocked it. By yesterday, it was dry. And it is now big and squishy and cozy; it will be a great winter accessory.

You may recall that I knit another brioche cowl earlier this year, but this was my first time doing the stitch in two colors. I really like the effect, but there are definitely some tension issues (mostly at the beginning of the round, where I switched from one color to the other). I suspect these issues might be improved with a tighter gauge, but I'll also wait and see if the stitches even out a bit on their own as I wear it and it gets tugged this way and that.

I didn't really use a pattern for this cowl; I just cast on until the 40 in. needle was full (making sure I had an even number) and worked basically until I round out of yarn. I started at the light end of the Retro Chic skein and the dark end of the Vintage skein to make sure I had contrast throughout.

The reason that I was so anxious to finish up this project (aside from the fact that I'd been working on it for more than a month and was a bit sick of it) was that I wanted to free up the needles to cast on for a new shawl design sample. This one will be a companion shawl to Leventry and have a similar construction, but with a few twists. As you can see, the beginning is striped:

I'm using Quince & Co. Finch for this shawl, the first time I've used this particular yarn, and I am loving it. It is wonderfully springy and bouncy, and it's soft to boot. I know it won't be the last time I use it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pattern Release: Onder

I'm sorry for the radio silence the past few days. We were away over the weekend for a family wedding, and I took my computer with me, intending to post, but then discovered that I didn't have Internet access. Whoops. In any case, I'm back with a bang today. Meet my newest pattern design, Onder.

Onder is a crescent-shaped shawl worked from one end to the other. For the first half of the shawl, you work gradual increases to make the shawl wider. For the second half, you work gradual decreases to get back to the original stitch count. All the while you work a relatively simple lace edging that features the subtle sparkle of seed beads (though the beads are entirely optional).

For the sample, I used one skein of Baah! La Jolla, a delightfully springy fingering weight yarn. This yarn is 400 yds. per skein, but it's easy to adapt the pattern if you have a skein with more or less yardage. This pattern would be great for a skein of handspun -- with a scale to measure how much yarn you have, you can modify the pattern to use it all.

I'm really excited about this pattern. It was a lot of fun to knit and I'm looking forward to wearing it now that the weather has taken a turn for the cooler. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I'd Let You Squish It If I Could

Yesterday was a good mail day. I was expecting it, but it's still a lovely surprise to get home and find yarn waiting for you -- particularly after a long day at work.

This is Quince & Co. Finch, a lovely, super squishy fingering weight. It is 100% American wool, breed type unknown, but it is soft and fluffy and lovely. I can't wait to cast on with it.

We are headed out of town this weekend for a family wedding, so I've already wound my skeins and gotten everything ready for the long ride in the car (about five hours each way). I'll be taking the Finch and starting a new design as well as this skein of Dream in Color Smooshy (the colorway is Miami Red), which is destined to be a Baby Surprise Jacket for our neighbors, who are expecting a baby next month.

They haven't shared whether it's a boy or a girl (and I don't even know if they know), so I went with something bright and cheerful that will look good on either gender. I figure that if it's a girl, I can do some quick embellishments or embroidery to make it more girly.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Inching Closer

I spent more time over the weekend working on Rainbow's sweater and had grand plans of finishing up the body, but I was thwarted a bit by my own inattention. I sat down to work on it on Saturday afternoon during my usual time at my LYS only to discover that it was just about time to join the second skein of yarn -- the one that was in another bag at home. Oops. Luckily, I had my sweater in the bag that was with me, so I was able to put in a handful of rows on it and am now about four rows away from being able to bind off the body. I'd say the end of twisted ribbing was in sight, but once I'm done with the body I move on to the button bands, which are (you guessed it!) in twisted ribbing as well.

Saturday evening I was able to locate the second skein of yarn for Rainbow's sweater and got to work incorporating it. Even though this yarn isn't hand dyed, I wanted to alternate skeins for a few rounds just in case. Once that was done, I was just about at the point where I was to start the lace portion, so it worked out very well. I've only done a bit of the lace thus far, but I will work on it more tonight.

Meanwhile, my handspun brioche cowl is growing just a bit each day. I've been working on it during my lunch break at work and haven't been too concerned about getting it done by any particular time, but then I realized that I'd really like to free up the needles to take with me this weekend, when we're headed out of town for a wedding and I'll have about 10 hours of car knitting time. So I spent some more time with it last night and have now officially moved into new colors. I don't know that I'll actually finish it by Friday night, but I can at least put in a good effort.

And why, I'm sure you're wondering, do I want the needles freed up? Well, I'm expecting an order from Quince & Co. to arrive a little later this week, and I'm planning to turn that yarn into a new shawl design. It will be a companion piece to Leventry and have a similar construction, but I'm changing things up a bit. I've already written out my pattern draft and started charting the lace so I'll be all ready to go.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing?

If you've followed my spinning at all, then you know I like a lot of twist in my yarns. In most cases, that can be a good thing, because I spin a lot of sock yarn and extra twist can mean added durability. However, putting in a lot of twist can be a hard habit to break, and there are times when it's not as desirable. That might be the case for the yarn that came off my wheel this past Monday.

This was 4 oz. of Bee Mice Elf mixed BFL/silk, the last shipment I got when I was still in the fiber club, a colorway called Well Preserved. I split it in half (by folding the length of top in two and ripping at the fold line) so that any colors that lined up would be purely accidental. It took me a really long time to spin up all the singles and a good day and a half to ply, but I ended up with roughly 663 yards of two-ply lace weight. Sounds good so far, right? Here's the rub: As much as I snapped the skein after washing to distribute the twist, there's still a good about of plying twist left in it.

If you look closely just below the penny in this shot, you can see a little pigtail where the yarn has twisted back on itself. There are a quite a few spots like that in the skein. Now, if I knit this into a lace item and block the heck out of it (as I normally do), it likely won't be an issue, but sometimes I want my lace yarn to have a little more softness to it, so I'm considering running this back through the wheel very quickly to take out just a little of the excess twist.

The twist issue aside, I'm very pleased with this yarn. The colors are beautiful, and the skein has a really attractive luster to it. It was also a very pleasant spin. I left the BME club because I was a little unhappy with part of the experience, but the fiber quality didn't have anything to do with it. This braid was prepped well and drafted beautifully. Other than an occasional small slub of silk (which seems to be pretty common in a silk blend), there were no issues.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to make slow but steady progress on my Fat Cat Knits Polwarth/silk. Here it was earlier this afternoon:

This was near the end of the second strip of fiber, and shortly after I took this photo, I joined in the third strip, so I'm now back into purple. This means that I'm just slightly more than halfway done. It's going to take some serious time to get it all done (and I don't even want to think about how long it will take to chain ply), but I know I'm going to love this yarn when it's done. I can see that I'm making a dent when I sit down for any length of time, so I'm going to make an effort to fit in some more spinning during the week.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Being Good

After neglecting Rainbow's sweater for the past week, I decided that this week was the time to be good and work on it. And of course, when you work on something, you actually see progress! Although it's slow going, the stockinette portion is getting longer.

I'm not exactly sure how much I have left to knit because I'm knitting a larger size to accommodate my different gauge, but I don't think I'll need to do quite the length of the larger size. I need to either hold it up to Rainbow or have her try it on to see where it's hitting and where she'd like it to hit when it's done.

I'd also like to point out that I was extra good last night and wove in all my ends, including using one to do a little fancy duplicate stitch at the base of the button bands to make that area look neater. I know future me will appreciate the extra effort.

As long as I was resurrecting WIPs, I thought I'd pull out my handspun brioche cowl for my lunchtime knitting this week. I am just starting to see the first color change in one of the skeins, so clearly some progress has been made, but there's still quite a lot of yarn left. The cowl currently measures about 4 inches, so this is going to be pretty monstrous when it's done. Considering everyone is predicting another really cold winter, it's likely going to be a very handy accessory for several months.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Although I was supposed to be working on Rainbow's sweater this past week, I've barely touched it. Why? I've been distracted. First, there was the dishcloth problem. I released a pattern over the weekend (it's relatively simple, but all proceeds are going to charity) and I found myself knitting up a couple more samples in the past week or so.

The main distraction, however, has been the hats. I've alluded to the first one I knit a handful of times. It was started way back in March but only just finished last month. I haven't shown you what it looks like blocked yet, so here you are:

This version was worked in sport weight yarn and makes a nice slouchy adult beret or tam. Rainbow, however, wanted one for herself, so I decided to give it a go with fingering yarn and smaller needles. Here's how that version came out:

It fits her, circumference-wise, but it's a bit too shallow, so that meant working up another sample -- one that was just finished last night.

I'm very happy with this second attempt, and the nice thing is that both versions use the exact same pattern -- same directions, same cast on numbers, etc. The only difference is the weight of yarn and the needles used. That will make things a lot easier when it comes to writing up the pattern, which is my project for the week. The challenge will be finding time to do a photo shoot -- I'll be enlisting Rainbow to help me model!