Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Return

My knitting group usually meets twice a month, on the first and third Wednesdays. Occasionally, if there are five Wednesdays in a month, we'll meet a third time. In spite of this frequency, I had not managed to make it to one meeting since sometime in August -- either the Mister was traveling or had a work event or I had some event to go to. So last night, when I finally had a Wednesday night free, I gladly made the drive, even though I'd had a very long day and probably could have curled up in my bed and passed out early. I'm very glad I went, though, because it was a good opportunity to catch up with some friends I don't usually see otherwise -- and to get in some uninterrupted knitting time.

I left Rainbow's doll at home, because taking it would have also meant taking the giant bag of polyfill I'm using to stuff it, so instead I worked on my sweater and made a lot of progress on the first sleeve.

I think I mentioned the last couple of times I've talked about the sweater that I had more stitches for the sleeve than called for in the pattern (I had to pick up more around the armscye than specified), so I'd been pondering how to deal with those extra stitches. I finally settled on decreasing them all away, so in order to do that and not have a sleeve that was too long, I moved the increases closer together, from every 10th row to every sixth row. I finished all the decreases while I was out last night and tried on the sleeve; the length I had at that point was about at my elbow. I've decided to make these sleeves full length, so I'm adding in some straight rounds before I start the patterned cuff.

There's still a good chunk of knitting to be done on this sweater before it's done, but it's moving a lot more quickly now. It also looks like I may have an entire skein of yarn leftover when I'm done, in spite of the added length to the sleeves, as I only just joined the fourth skein last night (the fifth was used to knit the swatch, which is still attached to it). I can guarantee that this sweater will be worn right away as soon as it's off the needles -- they're calling for snow on Saturday!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Out of Hibernation

Nearly two years ago, in December of 2012, I started knitting a doll for Rainbow out of Susan B. Anderson's book Itty-Bitty Toys. At the time, I think I thought it would be a quick knit that I could get through in a week or two. Clearly, that was a delusion. I was knitting it in worsted weight cotton on size 4 needles -- in other words, it was murder on my hands. I managed to finish the body and half of the head before I stuffed it into a bag and pretty much forgot about it.

In the years since, I've thought about it from time to time, but it's only been in the past couple months that Rainbow started asking about it. Her birthday is coming up in about a month and a half, and when she asked if I could finish it by then, I thought it was high time I pulled it out again and got to work on it seriously. On Sunday afternoon, I finished up the head. By Sunday evening, I'd done the hair and one arm and started the second arm. Last night, I finished the second arm, stuffed and sewed both arms on, knit and attached the thumbs, and knit most of the first leg. It's now really starting to look like a doll.

While the knitting is not difficult (aside from the stiffness of the cotton), this is a really fiddly piece. Almost everything is knit separately and sewn together -- that includes the thumbs, the belly button, and the nose, which are all tiny little bits of knitting. The feet and the legs are worked separately and sewn together, even. So my progress is a bit slower than I'd like, but I am definitely in the home stretch for the doll pieces. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get through both legs and perhaps start the feet this evening. After that there's only the belly button and nose to knit on the dolls itself before I move on to the accessories (the diaper, the dress, and the hat). If I can keep up the pace I've set the past two days, I'm hopeful that it will all be done by early to mid-November. I doubt that Rainbow will want to wait until her birthday to play with it, though, and I can't say I blame her. Even without legs or facial features, this doll is so stinking cute.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Autumn and Winter Together

Spinning thick yarn can be such a treat -- I really should do it more often. You've seen the two plies of this yarn when they were in progress, but here's the finished yarn:

This was my October Fat Cat Knits shipment, which I got in superwash merino. One colorway, Ruby Truffle, looked very autumnal to me -- reds, greens, browns, and oranges, just like the changing fall leaves. The other colorway, Periwinkle Sky, looked just like the colors of Frozen to me -- blues, purples, white, and dark green. I may have taken the easy way out by simply spinning each colorway up separately and plying them together, but I do like the results.

The finished yarn looks to be about DK weight (though there are some spots that are a little thinner and some that are a little thicker), and it's approximately 256 yards. Rainbow had asked me to spin it for her, so this skein is destined to become a hat and perhaps mittens.

Meanwhile, I started a new project last night with some fiber that a friend brought me back from one of her trips home to Michigan maybe a year or so ago. It was a big bag (8 oz.) of fiber, and I split it roughly into thirds for a traditional three ply. I'm spinning it to match some moorit Shetland fiber I spun up a couple of summers ago with the intention of using them together in a two-color shawl.

It's not spinning up perfectly smooth because it's roving, rather than top, but I think it'll be fine in the long run. I'm still getting a kick out of the label that came attached to the bag:

Apparently I'm spinning 112% fiber!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Long-suffering Sweater

I generally consider myself a fast knitter. I've been known to crank out a pair of socks in a couple of days, and I once knit a sweater in about 16 days, even while working full time. So I'm starting to wonder if my Sople is cursed, because I started it at the beginning of April and it's still lingering on the needles. Yes, I know that when you leave a project sitting around untouched for long periods of time it has a tendency to not get done -- that's the obvious answer. But I'm in the home stretch now, with just the sleeves left to do, so in theory I should be able to finish it up without too much more effort.

The last time you saw it, it finally had a successful short-row sleeve cap after three attempts. I'm now working my way down the sleeve.

I do have some extra stitches to work with (because I picked up more stitches than specified for the sleeve cap in order to avoid some pretty ugly puckering), and I'm still undecided as to whether I'll decrease them all away or have a slightly wider sleeve. As written, the sleeves are somewhere between three-quarters length and bracelet length, so I may add several more inches of length anyway and that would certainly give me more space to decrease. At least I know that the twisted ribbing at the cuff will not be my undoing this time -- I find it interminable when worked flat but no big deal when worked in the round.

While I'm not going to give myself any unreasonable deadlines on this project, I think it would be really great if I could finish this by the end of the month, freeing me up to perhaps cast on a new sweater for November (which is, of course, National Knit a Sweater Month, with an accompanying knitalong on Ravelry). I have several skeins of Miss Babs Yowza! that I bought at MDSW last year (as in 2013) that are destined to be a Cabletta Cardigan, and I would really like to finally knit it. Fingers crossed, but no promises made!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Well Heeled

The mystery project continues, though I am hopeful that it will be finished up this week and I can return to knitting that I can talk about.

The knitting that isn't a mystery right now is my second Boogaloo sock, which now has a completed heel and a partial foot. I'm hoping that the rest of the foot and the toe won't take any longer than the rest of the week and I can add a new pair of handspun socks to my sock drawer by the weekend.

Unfortunately, we've reached that part of the year when there really isn't good light any time I'm home during the workweek, so take my word for the fact that this are much prettier in real life than it appears to be in this cell phone photo.

I think it's appropriate that I'm close to finishing these up because there's another 4 oz. of Boogaloo ready to go on my wheel very shortly. This time around, I'm going to split up the fiber lengthwise, spin it all as one single, and chain ply to get more distinct stripes. Of course, before I can get to that, I need to ply the singles that are already one my wheel, and that's happening tonight.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I Can't Un-see It

I am nearly done finished spinning up the second half of this month's Fat Cat Knits fiber club shipment, which I started spinning on Friday night. The colorway of this fiber is called Periwinkle Sky, but (and this may just be because I have a 4-year-old girl in the house) I haven't been able to look at it without seeing the colors of Frozen:

This should be finished up and ready to be plied in the next couple of days!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Being Secretive

I've been knitting a bunch the past few days, but I can't show you what I've been knitting or even give much of a clue. I'm sorry to have to tease you with that information, but I at least wanted to give some explanation for why there's not much knitting on the blog this week. I'm about halfway done with that project, though, and hope to maybe have it wrapped up in another week or so, so soon I'll return to my regular projects.

I have continued to work on my handspun socks during my lunch break, and they've made a couple of outings as well. I'm more than halfway through the leg of the second sock now:

These will be coming with me this evening, when the Mister and I are attending a taping of one of my favorite radio shows, Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! I've been wanting to see a live taping for years now, so I'm thrilled that they've finally come back to Pittsburgh. I bought tickets as soon as I heard about it, but we'll be way back in the top of the balcony area (I keep reminding myself that this is a radio show, so it's okay if I can't see that well).

The weekend coming up is going to be a bit of a whirlwind -- a concert, three kids' birthday parties, and a high school reunion to attend -- so I'm not sure when I'll get back to my wheel and you shouldn't be too surprised if I don't post on Sunday. I think when it's over I'm going to need a vacation! All of you who are going to Rhinebeck, please have a wonderful time and post lots of pictures so that I can be properly envious!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Off Kilter

It's Tuesday today, which is something I've had to keep reminding myself of all day long. This is what happens when you take a Monday off from work and it feels like a Sunday. Today was back to the normal schedule, though I've felt a little off all day.

Part of that might be due to the fact that I keep bouncing from project to project. I started the sleeve decreases on my Sople on Saturday, but I put it down as soon as I find out that our neighbors finally had their baby because that meant I had to knit a hat in a hurry -- it's my opinion that any baby born in October is required to have a pumpkin hat. I dug out some leftovers of Cascade 220 superwash and whipped up a Berry Baby Hat in a matter of hours. The Mister didn't believe that I could knit a hat that fast, but this is 64 stitches in worsted weight -- easy peasy. I cast on Saturday evening and had it finished by Sunday morning.

I made no mods to the pattern, and you can see why this is one of my go-to patterns when I need a quick baby knit. It's easy to do, requires very little yarn (I had only a partial skein of the orange when I started and probably have enough to make another one), and is always cute. It was a big hit with the new mom and dad, too.

I spent a good portion of my down time yesterday spinning and was able to finish up the first bobbin of singles from my most recent Fat Cat Knits club shipment (it's amazing how fast spinning will go when you're not spinning frog hair!).

And I also finished a sock:

I don't think these have made their blog debut before, but these are being knit from some yarn I spun during this year's Tour de Fleece. It looks like I should have enough leftover to make Rainbow a pair of socks as well, and I have another braid of fiber in the colorway to spin into a self-striping yarn -- as much as I like the blended look here, I also want a pair of socks where the colors stay as bright as they were in the original fiber.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nearly Instant Gratification

After the last spinning project, I needed to spin up something thick and quick, so I took this braid of fiber from Fat Cat Knits (superwash merino in Wayfarer):

I split it into thirds and very quickly spun up three bobbins' worth of singles. Today and yesterday, in maybe two hours total, I plied it all. Here it is in progress:

and on the niddy noddy:

It's currently soaking in the tub, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see what the final yardage is.

Meanwhile, my October club shipment from FCK arrived earlier in the week -- 5 oz. of superwash merino in two colors, Ruby Truffle and Periwinkle Sky. Rainbow promptly claimed it for herself, so I'm spinning up each color separately and will ply them together, with the plan to make her a hat and/or mittens (or "middens," as she calls them).

I started spinning up the Ruby Truffle already. This fiber practically spins itself!

I'm off from work tomorrow to stay home with Rainbow (her preschool is closed) so I'm hoping to spend at least a little of it behind the wheel.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Well That Was Most Unfortunate

In the past year, I've gotten used to hand-knit socks wearing out on me. After all, I've been knitting socks for quite a few years, and I wear hand-knit socks pretty much every day of the fall, winter, and spring, so they get a lot of use. Yesterday, though, I got a surprise that I was not expecting -- and it was not a pleasant surprise. I was getting changed after work to go for a run, and I took off the socks I'd been wearing all day (my Rubus suberectus socks, which were finished just last spring) only to discover that I had a soon-to-be hole on the heel flap on one of them, and close inspection of the other sock revealed some thinning in the same area.

This was such a surprise to me because usually I wear out socks under the ball of my foot or even under the heel, but the heel flap is usually a safe area. Granted, these socks have a ribbed heel flap without any reinforcement, and the yarn I used also might not have been ideal for socks, but I didn't expect these to wear out as quickly as they did given that I haven't worn them that many times (maybe a dozen times or fewer). I'm going to have to go stash diving to see if I have any of the yarn leftover that could be used to reinforce the heel flaps, but I'll be honest -- I'm more than a bit bummed. These socks were not an especially fast knit because of the stitch pattern, and other than the heel, they still look brand new. But I suppose I have to accept that if I'm going to wear hand-knit socks, they are eventually going to wear out.

Meanwhile, last night I sat down to rectify the sleeve situation on my Sople. I ripped out everything I had done, picked up stitches again, and started working the short-row sleeve cap -- only to discover when I was nearly done that I'd completely misread the directions and had to rip back again. (You know how they always say to read through the pattern before you start knitting? It's really not a bad idea.) Fortunately, what I'd missed made the process a lot faster, so by the time I put it down for the night, I'd finished all the short rows and was ready to start decreasing. I have about 12 extra stitches, due to having to pick up more than specified, but I actually like the extra space in the arm, especially considering I almost always wear a shirt under my sweaters. I need to sit down and ponder the rest of the arm instructions to figure out if I want to decrease all the extra stitches away or if I want to adapt the cuff to be slightly wider. One can only hope that when it comes time to do the second sleeve, I'll be able to get it right on the first try.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Done but for the Baby

Our neighbors' baby is due to arrive any second now, but I no longer feel guilty for delaying its arrival because its sweater isn't done.

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy (100% superwash merino) in Miami Red, less than one skein
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: September 15/October 1
Mods: omitted buttonholes in favor of applied I-cord loops and edging

I have lost count of how many times I have knit this pattern now; it's become my go-to pattern when I need a baby gift and the gender of the baby is unknown. I like knitting it in sock yarn for a newborn, especially one born in the fall or winter, because it ends up fitting almost right away and it's not too bulky. I knit one for Rainbow way back when, and she actually wore it home from the hospital.

The main mod I made was to use an applied I-cord edging all the way around the fronts, neckline, and bottom of the body. This makes it really easy to apply some loops that function as buttonholes. With my own kid, I found it a lot easier to fasten her up using this big loops as opposed to trying to squeeze tiny buttons into buttonholes, so I've continued doing it with the BSJs I've knit since then.

I still have to weigh my leftovers, but there's plenty of yarn left (perhaps enough to make a tiny hat, should I feel so inspired).

Once I finished the baby knitting, I did turn my attention back to my own sweater, which I'm happy to report now has a finished body, finished button bands, and a finished neckline. The last thing that remains to be done is the sleeves, which are worked seamlessly from the top down, starting with a short-row sleeve cap. I've only done this type of sleeve construction once before, and it was years ago and a bit of a disaster. What you see here is actually going to be ripped out and started over because I didn't really start it in the right place and I need to make some adjustments.

I'm starting to get anxious about finishing this -- we actually had to turn our heat on over the weekend because it went down into the 30s overnight! I wouldn't mind another sweater to add to my fall/winter wardrobe right now.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Well Worth the Wait

When I spin, I have a tendency to spin fine yarns, so it should not come as a surprise that it sometimes takes me a while to finish a project. I was a bit shocked, however, at how long it took me to finish this skein, because it felt like I was spinning a lot (and I was using my miniSpinner, which usually makes things a bit faster). My Ravelry spinning project page tells me that I started spinning this fiber (my Fat Cat Knits club shipment from July, I believe, an 85% polwarth/15% silk blend in the colorways Betty Boop and Olive Oyl) way back on August 15 -- so more than a month and a half from start to finish. As a reminder, here's what the fiber looked like before I started spinning:

I decided I wanted to do sort of a faux gradient, so I split each braid in half lengthwise and alternated the pieces so that they would flow into each other (blue going into purple, orange going into yellow):

I wound all the fiber up into a big ball and spun from one end to the other, then chain plied. It took several plying sessions to get it all done, but I finally have a finished skein. After washing, it looks to be a light fingering weight and roughly 689 yards. It's gorgeous, and I love it, but I have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

The colors are just amazing:

As soon as I finished plying and winding off and got the skein in the wash, I knew I wanted to start something new (but much thicker), so I pulled out another braid of FCK fiber, this time superwash merino in a colorway called Wayfarer.

I split the top into thirds and am spinning up a three-ply worsted weight (or perhaps heavier). I am thinking that the yarn from this fiber would be good for a hat or mittens when it's done. The first bobbin of singles was finished up in short order yesterday and the second one is about halfway done.

Judging from how quickly this is spinning up, I think I'll have a finished skein by next Sunday!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Tying Up Loose Ends

I've reached that point where all my projects seem to be getting done at the same time. Last night I finished the applied I-cord edging on the Baby Surprise Jacket and wove in the last of the ends, so it's done but for sewing on the buttons and blocking it, both of which will happen tonight.

I also finished the shawl, so there is just weaving in of ends and blocking left to do. The pattern writing should be finished up shortly as well -- I just have to do the written directions for the lace and the final measurements after it's dry.

Finally, I'm nearly finished plying my spinning project (I probably need one more hour or so at the wheel). That will happen at some point this weekend.

So now I'm in that weird place where I'm wondering what to cast on next. I wound a skein of handspun sock yarn last night, thinking it would be my next lunch knitting project, but I'm tempted to do something else (like knitting the shawl sample again in a single skein of handspun). There's also my Sople that still needs to be finished and is probably more than halfway done, but I have to try to rediscover my love for it. I think I only have about four rows left on the body, so perhaps I'll try to get through those tonight.

The weather forecast is calling for a very cool weekend, so of course I'm getting the itch to start a new sweater. I feel like I should finish the one that's on the needles before I start something new, though, don't you think?