Thursday, December 31, 2015

The End Is Near

I cannot believe that it's the last day of 2015. What a year it has been! It's been a busy one but also a productive one. As is my habit, this last post of 2015 will be a bit introspective -- but first, an update on the WIPs, neither of which is likely to be done by midnight.

First, there's the colorwork cowl. I'm nearly to the eighth (of ten total) color block.

I am planning to spend most of my knitting time today on this project, and I'm hoping to have it finished either before we leave to return home or shortly after we get back.

Then there's a new project, which I cast on for on Tuesday -- a new pair of striping socks in Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (and, incidentally, she currently has an end-of-year 20% off sale going on now). This colorway is After the Harvest (Brights).

I got the cuff done on these on Tuesday, but all of the leg you see here was done at the movies last night -- I only have half an inch left to knit before it's time to start the heel. These will be coming with me on the plane.

So now that the WIPs have been wrangled, it's time for introspection.

As I said before, it's been a very busy year. I set myself some rather lofty design goals for the year, and in spite of all that life has thrown my way, I managed to meet most of them. I had an extremely productive year of designing, for one, publishing 17 new patterns (including three in third-party publications) and bringing my total design portfolio to 50 patterns. I don't know that it's a feat I'll manage to duplicate in 2016, but I'm really proud of myself for putting in all the extra work to get it done.

Another goal I set for myself was to keep blogging regularly, and I think I've managed three posts most weeks. I know that the age of knit blogging has waned in some respects, and there have been times when I've considered shutting down the blog for good, but I am glad I've kept up with it. I know people are reading (and thank you so much for doing so!), even if comments are much more rare than they used to be -- and frankly I'm guilty of not commenting myself on the blogs I read, given how much time is at a premium and I often find myself skimming to stay up to date. I know I still get excited when a post gets a comment, so I'm going to try to be better about leaving them in the new year.

I have plenty of goals and plans and ideas for the new year, but I'll save those for my first post of 2016. For now, I want to say thank you -- thank you to those of you who have been reading my posts, thank you to those of you who have bought my patterns, and thank you to those of you who have knit my patterns in the past year. Thank you for coming along on the fiber-filled journey the past year has been. I hope it has been a good year for you, and I wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy 2016.

Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In Finishing Mode

The days of 2015 that remain are dwindling, so I am doing my best to use them to finish things (and to make a dent in the yarn that I brought with me on vacation). On Saturday, I sat down determined to wrap up the handspun socks that had been on the needles since early October. I'd gotten most of the foot of the second sock done at the movies on Christmas day, so all that remained was one inch of foot and the toe. I took the project out by the pool and got it done.

Pattern: plain stockinette, with a 3x2 ribbed cuff and a heel flap and gusset
Yarn: my handspun superwash Targhee from FatCatKnits in Sapphire Cove
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: October 11/December 26

These are just my basic sock recipe, so there isn't a whole lot to say about them other than they're done and I'm pleased with them. I'm very interested to see how they hold up in the long run, as I've never used Targhee (superwash or otherwise) for socks before. The yarn itself was plied firmly, and these were knit at a gauge of 9 stitches per inch, so that should help.

While I didn't do it purposefully, I kind of like that these look similar enough that they're clearly a pair (albeit a fraternal pair).

In an effort to eliminate some more yarn (and weight) from my suitcase before it's time to pack up and go home, I knit another dishcloth yesterday.

This is my Clean Up, Eat Up pattern yet again, and I succeeding in getting both of them out of a single ball of kitchen cotton -- with leftovers, even! I reduced the stitch count by six stitches and did 1.5 fewer repeats of the stitch pattern to make a slightly smaller cloth. These will stay at the vacation house, though the leftover cotton will be coming home to be useful.

The main project that I'd like to finish before we leave is my colorwork gradient cowl. It's grown a bit since you last saw it.

The need for blocking is quite obvious!
I haven't gotten as much done on this project as I'd hoped, but I've at least passed the halfway point. I am on the second to last section of color (as opposed to the neutrals), and now that I've done the stranded pattern so many times, it moves a lot faster.

If I can speed up the next couple of days, I might just finish this before we leave, though obviously it will need to be blocked at home. The two ends of this tube will be grafted when it's done, so blocking is going to take some extra props that I just don't have available here.

In spite of my worry that I would run out of yarn, I still have yarn for three projects that has not yet been touched. Two skeins are sock yarn, and I'll cast on another pair soon because I'll need a project for the plane. The other one may or may not get started; I might wait to see if I can finish the cowl first. I suppose it's a good thing that I haven't knit as much as I thought because I've been out enjoying the good weather, but I suppose a child's sweater, a pair of socks, a couple of dishcloths, and (maybe) a colorwork cowl are nothing to sneeze at.

Before I log off to go take a walk, I wanted to remind you that you have a little less than three days left to save 25% on all my self-published patterns! Just use the coupon code goodbye2015 to get the discount, and remember that you can use it as many times as you like!

Friday, December 25, 2015

It Didn't Feel Like Christmas

Hard to believe it, but we've been on vacation for a week. That means we're halfway done. It's definitely been relaxing. I have slept in every day, gone for a couple of runs (and gotten a swift reminder that I am very out of shape), been reading for pleasure, and (of course) been doing a lot of knitting. Yesterday I sat down with Rainbow while she watched some TV and knit a washcloth:

I brought a skein of dishcloth cotton with me, so I decided to use it to change things up a bit. This is my Clean Up, Eat Up pattern, slightly modified to make it smaller (I'm going to attempt to get two cloths out of the one ball of yarn).

Today didn't feel like Christmas -- it was 80+ degrees and very humid at breakfast time. But we kept up the tradition of Jewish Christmas: We went to the movies and then had Chinese food for dinner. I did take my socks with me to the movie and got about three and a half inches of foot done.

I have just an inch more to knit and then it will be time to start the toe. And soon I'll have another pair of handspun socks to add to my sock drawers.

If you were celebrating Christmas today, I hope you had a wonderful day -- and I hope Santa brought you the fibery things you were wishing for!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Ending and a Return

I had to rush to knit an entire sleeve in an evening, but I finished Rainbow's sweater last night!

Pattern: Romane and Roman by Aurelie Colas
Yarn: Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian highland wool) in color 8892/Azure, less than three skeins
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) Addi Rockets
Started/Completed: December 18/December 22
Mods: minor adjustments (see below)

While these aren't final final pictures -- the sweater is clearly in need of a good blocking, which may not happen until we're home because there aren't really any old towels or blocking spaces available here, not to mention that there are still buttons needed -- you can see that the fit is good and there's plenty of room for Rainbow to grow. And as this sweater will always be hand washed, there's no risk of it shrinking.

I made a few minor modifications to the pattern, namely changing the number of stitches I picked up on either side of the cabled band. For the neck band, this was no big deal, but because I picked up more stitches than called for on the bottom of the band for the rest of the yoke, I had to modify the first increase round. (Incidentally, if you're looking for a good online calculator to help you increase a certain number of stitches evenly across a row, I found the one here to be very helpful.) I also worked the body to be somewhere between straight and A line; I worked one additional set of increases beyond those indicated for the straight fit. Finally, I changed the direction of some of the decreases on the sleeves (I just prefer decreases that lean toward the beginning of the round when it falls on the underside of the sleeve).

I finished just before my bedtime last night, long after Rainbow had gone to bed, so I left it hanging in her room so she would see it when she woke up. I happened to wake up a little before she did, so I got to watch her reaction when she saw it, and it pleased me to no end that she was very excited to have a new sweater! It was certainly a fun knit for me, even if it did give me Smurf hands for a few days.

Now that the sweater is off the needles, I've turned my attention back to my latest design sample, which I'd started before we left. I was worried it would take me a while, but now that I've had it out for a day, I can see that it will move right along as long as I can give it some decent attention.

This is what it looked like a little earlier this afternoon. The untouched balls of yarn show the order of the colors to come; I'll end with the dark brownish gray at the bottom (you can see that I used it for the provisional cast on at the bottom of the tube). All told, there will be 10 blocks of color, and I should have four done by the end of the day. It's a fun knit and it's nice to alternate the colorwork sections with the plain stockinette.

P.S. I'm hoping to post again on Friday, but just in case I don't (and in case you readers are not online, for very good reasons), I wanted to mention that in celebration of the big year it's been for me design-wise, I'm having a sale for the last week of the year. From December 25 through 31, all my self-published patterns and e-books will be 25% off with the coupon code goodbye2015. You can use the code as many times as you like, too!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sweater in a Hurry

Ah, vacation. How I've missed and needed you. We arrived midday on Friday, and since then, I've been thoroughly enjoying sleeping in, getting extra time to read, and (of course) plenty of knitting time.

The main project I brought knitting for is Rainbow's Romane and Roman, and I cast on for it on Friday afternoon once we'd unpacked and gotten settled in. This sweater starts with the cabled band around the yoke, which very cleverly has short rows in it to make it curve around the body. By about the tenth repeat, I had the pattern memorized, and by Saturday morning, I had the band finished.

I picked up stitches for the rest of the yoke and promptly started knitting. By yesterday, I'd put the sleeve stitches on waste yarn and was well on my way on the body. Rainbow tried it on (and was happier than she appears in this photo).

As of this afternoon, the sweater body is finished, the buttonhole band is done, and shortly after I post this, I'll pick up for the second button band.

This will clearly need a good blocking when it's done, but it's already looking quite good to me. I've made a few modifications (mainly having to do with picking up stitches and altering the rate at which I did so), and I think this will be a roomy but comfortable sweater on her. The other button band and the collar shouldn't take very long, and I have a feeling I will breeze through the sleeves. And then I will get back to knitting for me!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Packing Dilemma

When this posts, I will officially be on vacation and won't have to be back at work until January 4. I will relax once we get to our final destination (and that won't be until after we get up extremely early tomorrow to leave for the airport), but for now there's the usual worry that I will forget to pack something. Now in the case of most things, like clothes or toiletry items, that's not a big deal -- there are lots of stores in Florida, after all. What there are not a lot of are yarn stores, however. I did find one about 10 miles away from where we're staying, but it does not look promising (I have a feeling I'd be likely to find a lot of cotton and novelty yarn), so that means any yarn I want to have available to me has to be packed in my suitcase.

Packing knitting and yarn for a vacation is always a challenge. There's a delicate balance that you want to achieve: You want to have enough so that you have options and you don't run out before the end of the trip, but you don't want to pack too much so that you end up just taking the yarn on a long trip. I know a skein of yarn doesn't take that much space, but we're going to be away for two weeks, so I'm taking more than a skein. Here's what I've allocated:

What you see here is three skeins of Cascade 220 for Rainbow's Romane and Roman, a skein of Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce for socks to be named later, two skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash for a double-knit cowl for Rainbow, a skein of handspun for socks, and ball of kitchen cotton should I feel the need to knit some dishcloths (which could be left at the house and thus free up a bit of space in the suitcase for the return trip). What you do not see here are the two WIPs, my handspun socks and the colorwork cowl. So that's enough yarn for at least seven projects. Realistically, I'd say it's unlikely I'll finish all of them -- so why do I still feel nervous about running out of yarn?

I didn't finish my last skein of handspun, but I at least got the singles done, so I'll be all ready to ply when we get back.

I'm off to finish up the packing and then to get to bed early (so that 4-something wake-up call doesn't seem quite so horrible). Have a good rest of the week and I'll "see" you again from Florida!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Knitting of the Selfish Variety

After all the gift knitting I've been doing in the past few weeks, it has been nice to get back to knitting for myself again. My handspun superwash Targhee socks have returned to work to be my lunchtime knitting this week, and as a result I've finished one sock and gotten a good start on the second.

I've also gotten a start on a new pattern sample, and my second attempt at it is going well. I'd originally cast on for it in a gradient I bought from Miss Babs at MDSW last year, but there really wasn't enough contrast between the colors for what I wanted to do. So then a very helpful enabler employee at my LYS convinced me to buy two Wonderland Yarns gradient sets in sport weight, and they are working out much better. Here's a peek:

Trust me when I tell you that this looks much better in natural light, a resource that is still elusive in my current schedule. Fortunately, in another couple of days, I'll be on vacation and able to take daylight photos again!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Future Splendour

Although I was really hoping to get one more skein of handspun done this year, I'm coming to accept that it likely isn't going to happen. I still haven't finished the singles.

Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale in Splendour

I managed to get two or three hours of spinning time in this afternoon and put another couple of layers on the bobbin, but I still have at least a quarter of the fiber left to spin and that would take probably another two hours. I may get the singles done, but I'd say it's highly unlikely that I'll find the time to ply before we leave for vacation Friday morning. At least this will be something to look forward to when we come home!

There is still plenty of fiber waiting to be spun, as well. My November shipment from the Southern Cross Fibre club arrived last week (or maybe the week before? I can't remember). This shipment was my first proper "pillow" from David, as I'd bought a few extras along with the regular shipment. I finally found time (and daylight) to take some photos today. So here are the pretties:

First, this is the other colorway from October's shipment, Autumn, on Corriedale.

The first of November's colorways, November Flowers, on Comeback wool (a new-to-me breed/type).

The other November colorway, October showers.

A November coordinate, Westringia.

And another November coordinate, Hibiscus.

It will be a little less depressing to come back from warm and sunny Florida to a probably gray and cold Pittsburgh with these gorgeous colors waiting for me. I predict a weekend day in a warm sweater, with a cup of tea at hand, behind my wheel and at least one of these colorways!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Three for One

Thanks to a flurry of knitting activity the past few days, I have not one, not two, but THREE finished objects to share with you! Let's go through the rundown:

Pattern: Two-color simple brioche (no real pattern used) -- 250 stitches
Yarn: My handspun, 63% Polwarth/25% nylon sparkle/12% Tussah silk from FatCatKnits, colorways Roulade and Rubato
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circulars, 40 in.
Started/Completed: October 3/December 6

There isn't much to say about this one, as it's fairly straightforward. I knit until I ran out of one color and then bound off with the other. It ended up being a fairly good width, and after blocking it's plenty long enough to double it when worn. I think the colors are very well suited to my mother, who will be getting this as a gift.

Pattern: Biscuit by Bonnie Sennott
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock (100% superwash merino) in Impressionist Sky, less than one skein
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) Addi Rockets, 32 in.
Started/Completed: November 30/December 7
Mods: none

This was a relatively quick knit; the slowest part for me was the ribbing (I'm not sure why it is that I keep picking projects that have 1x1 ribbing!), but that wasn't too much of a slog. I really love the lace, and even the bobbles are a nice touch. I used well less than a full skein of the yarn (I still have to weigh the leftovers to see how much I have), and it blocked beautifully. I may want to knit one of these for myself eventually, and I think I'd use a slightly thicker yarn the next time around. Mal Sock is soft and silky and drapes beautifully, but it is on the thin side. I think it's very well suited to shawls and cowls and other soft things you want to wrap around your neck, but it doesn't have a lot of substance to it. That's not entirely a bad thing, but sometimes you want a yarn that will hold its shape a bit more. In any case, this cowl is for my mother-in-law, and if she doesn't like it, I'm completely prepared to keep it for myself.

Last, but not least:

Pattern: Earthen by Alicia Plummer, size XL
Yarn: Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian highland wool) in a mystery shade of gray, less than one skein
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 6 (4.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circs
Started/Completed: December 5/December 9
Mods: none

This pattern had been in my library for quite a while, as it seemed like a perfect man hat. I finally decided to knit it after coming across the yarn buried deep in my stash. The yarn label is long since lost, so I can't tell you for sure what color it is, but trust me that it's a nice charcoal gray and not the brown it looks like here (this is one of the difficulties of trying to blog in the winter -- there's so little natural light that nothing looks quite right in pictures!). The pattern itself is easy and straightforward but has a very clever way of working the crown decreases so that the stitch pattern isn't disrupted. The fabric the stitch pattern creates is very squishy and dense, so this should be a perfect hat for those subzero winter days we frequently have. This hat is for my brother-in-law (which means it may end up being stolen by my sister-in-law), and considering that I can put it on and still stretch it quite a bit, I'm hopeful it should fit.

I actually have a fourth gift just about done, but it's not knitting. Have I ever mentioned that I used to be really into counted cross stitch? In any case, my brother has a thing for gnomes, and he bought a house this past year that is in need of some decoration, so I made him this:

All that's left to do is to pop this into a frame -- and with that, my holiday crafting will officially be done!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A Very Special Pattern Release

Today I published what is likely to be my last new pattern for 2015, and it marks a very important milestone: This is my 50th published pattern. It's hard to believe that what started as a lark a few years ago has now become a solid little portfolio.

It seems quite fitting, then, that the pattern that I published today is one that has been waiting for its moment in the sun for quite a while -- if you can believe it, I started the original sample last March and didn't get around to finishing it until last August! It's been waiting for my attention ever since, and when I finally decided to deal with it last month, I discovered that I'd already done most of the work. I'm not sure why I let it sit so long, but now it's finally time for it to make its debut.

Klaar is a simple, elegant lace beret. It starts with a hemmed brim, which I really like the look and fit of, and has a very easy lace pattern for the body of the hat. The crown decreases result in a pattern on the top of the hat that rather looks like an asterisk.

The fun part about this pattern is that it has two sizes -- but both sizes use the exact same numbers and directions. How is this possible? Easy: It's all a matter of playing with gauge. The sport weight version, which I am wearing, comes out a size suitable for an adult; the fingering weight version, which Rainbow so nicely modeled for me, results in a child or young teen size. (While I haven't tried it, I suppose you could use laceweight for a baby's size and DK for a really large adult size -- hmm, something to consider!)

The whole thing knits up relatively quickly -- there's no seaming (even the hemmed brim is worked as you go), the lace stitch is very easy to memorize, and you end with just a small number of stitches to cinch up. While you may want to put a small plate inside the hat to block it, I've found it works just as well to lay it flat and gently smooth it out in the shape you want.

If you've got a spare skein of sport or fingering weight yarn, or even a partial skein, lying around and need a quick gift, I hope you'll give Klaar a go! There will be more patterns in the new year, including two with third-party publishers that are already in progress, but for now I'm going to enjoy the satisfaction at having achieved the designing goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Magic Bobbin

It took quite a while, but I finally finished plying the Gotland this past week. For a while there it felt like I had a magic bobbin that never ran out of singles!

I'm pretty pleased with this yarn. After washing and finishing, it ended up sport weight, for the most part, and approximately 533 yards. It took quite a while to wind this yarn off onto my niddy noddy, let me tell you! But it came off nicely balanced and plumped up a little in the wash. I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet, but I have a decent amount for something.

Now I am craving color after all that gray. Unfortunately, knitting is the priority now, what with all the gifts I have to get done in the next week, so I'm using this lovely-looking bobbin as a bit of motivation.

This is what I have spun thus far of my Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale in Splendour (though in truth I haven't touched it in more than a week). It would be nice to get this yarn finished before we go on our winter vacation, so I'll be giving this a lot of attention once I do finish the knitting!

Thursday, December 03, 2015


If you need me for the next week or so, you'll be able to find me knitting cowls -- and likely only knitting cowls. I am determined to finish the two cowls I'm knitting (for my mother and mother-in-law) by next Saturday, when we're having a big family dinner to celebrate Chanukah and Rainbow's birthday. Although really, if I want to present them on Saturday, then I probably need to be done by Friday at the latest so I have time to block them.

My mother-in-law's Biscuit is coming along nicely. I finished up the lace border during my lunch break today, so now I'm into the rib pattern, which is a bit slower but also a bit more mindless because I'm no longer tied to the chart.

The pattern calls for five repeats of the rib pattern, which has a six-round repeat, so that's a total of 30 rounds. I've got one done and the second started, so I think as long as I can keep this at hand and do a round or two here and there over the weekend (plus take it to work again next week if I need to), I should be okay.

The project that worries me more is the two-color handspun brioche cowl I've got on the needles for my mother. While the yarn appears to be getting used up, the knit fabric just doesn't seem to be getting any longer. That's not a real problem per se, but at its present state I think it's a bit on the narrow side for the squishy cowl I'd envisioned.

I did make it to knit night for the first time in several months last night, and I made myself be monogamous with this project, so I was able to get quite a few rounds done. I think if I can continue working on it every evening, I should be okay, but this one might be a bit of a nail-biter.

As if finishing these two projects wasn't ambitious enough, I think I've decided to try to make one more knit present. Last night, while looking for something in the stash room related to my brother's holiday gift (remind me to tell you about that later), I came across about a skein and a half of some dark gray Cascade 220 that I'm pretty sure was leftover from a sweater I knit for the Mister several years back. I'm planning to use it for an Earthen for my brother-in-law, even though I'm not sure if he'll ever be cold enough to ever wear it -- he does run very hot! If not, my sister-in-law can always steal it.

If I get all these projects done, plus the one for my brother, I should be all set for holiday gifts. I'm going to give my father and father-in-law IOU's for socks -- they'll pick what color they want, along with a general idea of style or stitch pattern, and I'll knit them up, probably early in the new year. By the time I get to my winter vacation, I'm really hoping to have plenty of time to do some selfish knitting.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Another One Down

I can cross another holiday knit off my list!

Pattern: Nara hat by Wondrlanding, size medium
Yarn: Louet Gems Sport Weight (100% superwash merino) in Burgundy, less than one skein
Needles: US 2 (2.75 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: November 27/November 29
Mods: none

This hat was just as much fun to knit the second time around -- and to be honest, it might be knit a third time, because I really want one for me! The color of the finished hat is a little off; the picture of the skein is much more accurate.

I didn't make any modifications to the pattern and found it was a little faster the second time around as I was already familiar with the stitch pattern. I will say that I didn't like this yarn in the pattern as much as I liked the Quince & Co. Chickadee that I used for Rainbow's. This yarn feels a little more cottony and a little harder, though it did soften up a bit when it was washed.

With this project done, I have just two more projects left on my holiday knit list: my mother's handspun brioche cowl and a Biscuit for my mother-in-law, which I cast on for yesterday. I'm making good headway through the lace portion.

The yarn I'm using is Malabrigo Sock in Impressionist Sky, a really beautiful blue that was new to me. It's ever so slightly tonal, so there are some lovely shadows and highlights appearing in the knit fabric. If my mother-in-law doesn't like this cowl for any reason, I'll be happy to take it back and knit her something else!