Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Look Back

Unbelievably, the time remaining in this year can now be measured in hours rather than days. It's been a long year, but in many ways it's flown by. There's a lot I could say about the year that was, but I like to stick to fiber-related topics on this here blog, and I see no reason to stray from that in this post.

So, what was my 2016 like in terms of knitting and spinning? Well, the widgets in the sidebar will give you an idea of just how much I knit and spun in the past year (though the knitting one isn't quite accurate, as I have to get home to my scale to know how much yarn I will have used in the last two projects of the year). Those knitting projects included:
  • 12 pairs of socks (with a 13th pair due to be done by the end of the day),
  • seven hats,
  • seven cowls or scarves,
  • seven shawls,
  • eight pairs of mittens,
  • two adult sweaters, and
  • one child's sweater.
There were some miscellaneous items in there as well, and of course I will be starting 2017 with another child's sweater still on the needles, but I think all in all that's a pretty good showing.

The past year was also a big one for my designing. I published 15 patterns in the past year, including four with third-party publishers and eight in my first themed collection. I also started an e-mail newsletter for my designs, and my Ravelry group has grown thanks to a lot of test knits happening in the second half of the year.

As I look ahead to 2017, I have lots of plans. I have numerous irons in the fire in terms of designing, including some collaborations with indie dyers. I'm hoping to make a substantial dent in my stash (I'm actually going to put myself on a fairly strict yarn diet for the first part of the year) and to use some of that stash to do some charity knitting. Overall, I hope to find peace and calm in my fibery pursuits.

If you're reading this, I want to thank you for sticking with this blog over many years. I know that many more people read than comment, so I appreciate you taking even a few minutes of your day to see what I've been up to. I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity in the year ahead -- may it be one in which all your fiber dreams are fulfilled! I'll leave you with a picture of my view over the past two weeks, one I'll be leaving physically tomorrow but hoping to carry with me for the dark days of winter. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Inching Forward

I confess to being more interested in my book in the past 24 hours than my knitting, but nevertheless progress continues. My socks (thanks to being taken out and about yesterday and to the movies again last night) are approaching the 75% complete mark:

I predict these will be done by the time the week is out, and I'm glad I decided to bring this extra skein of yarn along with me. I'll be heading home with two pairs of socks!

Rainbow's cardigan is also approaching a critical point. I have officially finished the cabled yoke, which means I've been able to set aside the charts, making the whole project much more portable (even if I'm only toting it around the house). I'm now in the middle of a series of short rows, presumably designed to raise the back of the sweater a bit, after which I'll knit two more rows and then be ready to split for the sleeves!

Thus far I've been alternating skeins every two rows, but once I split the sleeves from the body, I'll be using one skein for the body and one for the sleeves (I'm using two mini skein sets, so I have two balls of each color in the gradient). There may be a slight difference in color between the two sets, but I don't think it will be so noticeable given the space between the body and sleeves. There is some shaping in the body, but not very much, so once I get past the split the knitting should be fairly mindless and faster (or so I hope!). I'd say my hope of getting this sweater done by the end of the Gift-a-long are pretty much impossible; even if I did nothing but knit for the remainder of the vacation, I'm not sure that would be enough. But I do want to get it done sooner rather than later so that Rainbow can wear it while it fits and it's cold enough to wear a wool sweater.

We've got three more days of vacation in Florida, and I'm trying to soak up every minute. I spent today sitting by the pool and got a little more than 100 pages of my book read (with a brief nap somewhere in the middle). This evening, I intend to work on both projects and read a little more before turning in. If only every day could be like this!

Monday, December 26, 2016

All the Little Needles

If I had to pick a theme for my vacation knitting, it would be little needles. I've got two projects in progress, and they're both being worked on size 2.5 mm needles or smaller. Luckily I am totally comfortable with these small needles, but it does mean that I don't get a lot done in a short amount of time.

After numerous knitting missteps (including another one last night that required me to tink back most of a row), I am finally done with the cabled portion of Rainbow's Dancing Leaves Cardigan. On top of that, I've also finally transitioned to the second color of the gradient.

I decided to transition to the new color by doing two rows of each as my yarn supply of the previous color ran out. I was questioning it, but Rainbow says she really likes it, so I'll keep going. I'm glad the pink lasted as long as it did, though, because I think the stripes obscure the cables quite a bit. Here's a closer look:

I am really counting on blocking to help make the cables a little more crisp; right now, they're fairly lumpy bumpy and don't pop much off the background

Meanwhile, my on-the-go project has been a new pair of socks, and I'm trying a new method as well as a new pair of needles.

I'm not going to go into the specifics, because I'm planning on writing up the directions for these, but suffice it to say that I'm making them in such a way that there's as much plain knitting in the round as possible. I started these late in the day on Friday and got about an inch of cuff done. Then, on Saturday, we drove to the opposite coast to visit family and I got the entire leg done. Yesterday, we went to a movie and then to have dinner and watch the Steelers game with some friends, and I finished the rest of the first sock and got started on the second. Aside from the toe shaping, these have required virtually no thought whatsoever, so they've been perfect for when we're in the car, watching TV, or just sitting around.

The needles I'm using are new to me: Knitter's Pride Karbonz. I picked them up to try when my LYS was having its big going-out-of-business sale, but they've been sitting the bag ever since. My opinion of them is somewhat mixed. I really like the tips and the cable, which is less flexible than some of my other sock-sized circular needles but really has no memory. What I like less is the carbon fiber shaft of the needles. Although I don't seem to be getting chills from them as I feared, I am finding that they have quite a bit of drag compared to my usual metal needles. I've adjusted to this by now, but at first I found that my knitting was a lot slower because I had to spend more time moving the stitches along the length of the needle. So I doubt these will replace my beloved Sock Rockets, but I can see them being in a regular rotation. And I'd definitely like to try some other Knitter's Pride needles now.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Everything

It's Sunday again, and I have no spinning to show for it. But it's also the first day of Chanukah and Christmas Day, so I wanted to put up a quick post to send you my best wishes for the holidays. I hope that you can spend this time in the company of those you love, in good health, and surrounded by fiber in whatever form you choose. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Study in Contrasts

I had such great plans for my vacation knitting. I figured I'd get through a ton of Rainbow's Dancing Leaves Cardigan, to the point where I actually wound all the yarn before we left so I wouldn't have to do any of it by hand. I apparently overestimated my ability to pay attention to the pattern. First, I had trouble when I got to the second chart and couldn't get the first row to work out. I knit and tinked back the same row several times and even counted the stitches a couple of times before I realized that the second chart repeated several lines from the end of the first chart. So that was a good half hour of knitting time wasted. Then, after knitting quite a few rows on Tuesday afternoon, I looked down at the knitting and realized that I'd miscrossed about two-thirds of the cables several rows back. So I spent another hour or so dropping down the five stitches in each cable and reknitting them back up. The cables are now a bit sloppy but fixed. Here's what they look like:

And here's how they should look, for comparison:

Finally, here's what the whole yoke looks like now -- I'm definitely getting closer to the end of the cables and the complicated part that requires me to pay attention:

After this minor disaster, I decided that my brain was clearly not up to handling the complexity of the stitches required for this project, so I switched over to something much more brainless: stockinette socks. I'd started my pair in progress after Thanksgiving dinner and then promptly ignored it, but I managed to finish the second sock of the pair in about 24 hours (thanks to a movie and a long wait in a Verizon store when my father's phone stopped working and he had to get a new one).

Pattern: my basic stockinette, worked over 60 stitches with a 3x2 ribbed cuff
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Traveler (sport weight; 80% superwash merino/20% nylon; 328 yds./100 g skein) in Coffee at Luke's
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm) Addi Turbo Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: November 24/December 21

I really enjoyed knitting these. It was my first time using Lisa's sport weight base, which reminded me a lot of Socks That Rock Lightweight (but with the added bonus of nylon), after having used her sock weight bases several times. Given the lower yardage in the skein, I opted for slightly shorter legs than usual (6 inches versus my normal 7), and I figured that 8 stitches per inch was a good gauge, so I went up a size from my usual needles. These have a good thickness to them, and I have just a small ball of yarn leftover, which will be good when I need some scrap yarn.

I have another skein of sock yarn here with me, and I'm planning to wind it up (by hand!) tomorrow so that I can cast on with it on Saturday, when we're driving to the other coast for the day to visit some family. Those will also be plain stockinette socks, but I have plans to do something a little different!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pattern Release: 15 Minutes of Warmth Cowl

Well, we made it. Today I'm releasing the last pattern in the Stitchburgh collection. When I first started thinking up this collection about a year ago, I didn't think it would get done as quickly as it did. I'm very proud of this group of patterns, and while it's hard for any designer to pick a favorite design, this might be my favorite of the collection, so naturally I saved it for last.

Andy Warhol (one of many notable Pittsburghers) is said to have once quipped that, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." He has obviously been famous for a lot longer than that, and his work figures prominent in Pittsburgh. The city is home to the Andy Warhol Museum, believed to be the largest museum in the world devoted to one artist. If you're downtown, you can get to it by crossing the Andy Warhol Bridge, which, a few years ago, was covered in knit and crochet panels as a piece of art. You can find Warhol's art in other museums and galleries around the city, and certainly his influence can be seen in the most unexpected places. I've always enjoyed his Pop Art style, so it seemed completely appropriate to let it influence one of the patterns in the collection.

The 15 Minutes of Warmth Cowl was inspired by Warhol's silk-screened images of flowers -- perhaps not his best-known works but very recognizable (there's even a neighborhood in the city where they're used on boarded-up buildings to cheer them up a bit). I knew exactly which yarn I wanted to use, too: Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works had a colorway that she released for her Minis of the Month club several months back called (appropriately) Pop Art, and the colors were so very reminiscent of Andy Warhol. I used that colorway (in her Bounce base) along with Soft Black.

This cowl is knit in the round, starting with a provisional cast on, and alternates sections of stripes and stranded colorwork. When you've completed all the sections, you undo the provisional cast on (placing those stitches on a spare set of needles) and graft the two ends of the cowl together, creating a closed tube. This construction not only provides added warmth from a double layer of fabric, but it also ensures that you never see the wrong side of the colorwork. You'll need two skeins of fingering weight yarn (I used about 375 yds./343 m of each color) to knit the cowl, and I recommend using needle one size larger than the size you use for the stripes when you get to the stranded section to keep your gauge consistent, as many people find that their stranded knitting is a bit tighter than their single-color knitting.

As you can see, we had a bit of fun taking the photos for this pattern. The couch (and the giant photograph of Andy Warhol above it) are in the lobby of the Warhol museum, and guests are encouraged to ham it up!

While I couldn't be more pleased with this pattern, I am a bit sad that it's now out because it means that the collection is officially complete. It's been a true labor of love that has taken up most of my free time during the last 6-8 months, and I'm very proud of it. Perhaps one day there will be a Stitchburgh volume 2, but for now I am looking forward to other designs that stand on their own.

Buy the pattern:

Buy the collection:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Final Skein

It's Sunday (though it doesn't much feel like it now that we're on vacation), and Sundays around here are for spinning talk. I did not bring a spindle with me, though I did consider it briefly, but I did bring my most recent finished skein. I finished it up on Wednesday night and I just couldn't bear to leave it behind.

Remember this fiber that I picked up off the freebie table at Indie Knit & Spin?

It was merino from one of my favorite indie dyers who sadly hasn't done much dyeing in recent years, and naturally I snatched it up as soon as I saw it on the table (I do still have a decent All Spun Up stash, but that doesn't mean I'm opposed to acquiring more). I decided to do a quick and dirty two ply with this yarn, originally aiming for a DK to worsted weight but (given my propensity toward fine yarns) ending up with more of a sport. Still I'm quite pleased with the finished skein.

It's a bit difficult to capture the color accurately -- the paler parts are a light greenish yellow -- but you can see just how bouncy and elastic the yarn is. I ended up with a bit more than 260 yards, plenty to knit a hat or cowl. I'm definitely using this for something for me, both because it's precious ASU and it's a bit delicate for a gift for someone who might inadvertently felt it.

You may have noticed the little widgets on the right side of the blog where I've been keeping track of my yardage, both knit and spun, this year. It's been a good tool to give me a sense of how much crafty work I've done, and I'm rather astounded that I've spun more than 8,300 yards this year! I have big hopes for getting through a decent amount of my fiber stash next year, perhaps even spinning for some larger projects. I definitely want to knit more with my handspun in the year ahead, though there's such a large amount of it already that I'm contemplating opening an Etsy shop. What do you think -- would you be interested in buying some of my handspun? I'm happy to hear any and all thoughts.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Anticipation Is Killing Me

It's almost time to leave for vacation. Less than 12 hours from now, I'll be on my way. But boy did this last day ever try my patience! After barely sleeping last night because the Mister came down with food poisoning, I was up early this morning to make Miss Rainbow pancakes for breakfast for her birthday (she's 7 today -- can you believe it?) and then the two of us braved the cold to get her to school on time. Then I walked to work in sub-zero wind chills and arrived partially frozen (where I was uncovered) and partially sweating (where I had too many layers). All I can say is that I am very much looking forward to some heat and humidity!

Before all the excitement last night, I did manage to make a respectable pompom out of the remaining yarn for Rainbow's Eiswasser, with just a couple of yards to spare. It's now safely tucked in with my clothes in my suitcase; I'll get her to model it once she's opened it.

Since finishing the hat, I picked up a pair of socks that I cast on after Thanksgiving dinner and promptly forgot about. They're being knit out of Fibernymph Dye Works Traveler (a sport weight sock yarn) in the Gilmore Girls-inspired colorway Coffee at Luke's. This base reminds me a lot of Socks That Rock but it has nylon in it, so I'm hoping it'll be more durable. So far I have about 2/3 of the leg of the first sock done.

Given how fast these are going (and that they're coming in my carry-on bag rather than my checked suitcase), I thought it couldn't hurt to throw in a safety skein of sock yarn -- just in case. This is a skein of White Birch Fiber Arts fingering that I received in a swap. I believe it's self-striping, but I'm not 100% sure, so it'll be a fun surprise.

Right, it's time to go finish packing and get ready to get up very early tomorrow. My next post should be a lot more cheerful because by then I will have gotten a good dose of vitamin D!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Packing It In

This is turning out to be quite the week. We are leaving early (and I mean early!) on Friday morning for our annual trip to Florida, and I am feeling a bit like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get everything in order. The Mister has year-end meetings most of the week, so he's leaving early and coming home late, plus it's Rainbow's birthday on Thursday, plus I've still got my job to show up for, so you can understand why it's hard to get a grip on things. I'm trying to get most of my packing done prior to the last minute, but there are always the things you can't pack until the last minute anyway. I know that it will all be worth it when I step off the plane and it's warm, but for now it's stressing me out.

The knitting is helping with the stress, in a way. I finally finished Rainbow's Eiswasser hat today, so it will be ready for Chanukah. I'll block it this evening after she goes to bed and leave it on a radiator so it will be dry and I can hide it in my suitcase.

I'm not sure if there's enough yarn leftover for a pompom, but I'll try. The hat is a bit top-heavy already, so it can't support a big on and still stay on her head. It would feel good to use up every bit of this skein of yarn, though.

I have not touched her sweater in days, if I'm being completely honest, and frankly I'm not feeling too guilty about it. I will come on the trip with me, and it will end up being my main focus while we're away. I'm trying not to pack too much knitting this year, taking only the sweater, a pair of socks in progress, and a couple of balls of dishcloth cotton. I figure that it's unlikely that I'll finish all of that, and if I do, I'm sure I can find a Michaels somewhere to get some more dishcloth cotton or sock yarn. Or I'll just read (I started another Outlander book about a week ago and it's 1,400+ pages, so it will take a while to get through).

Tonight, my goal is to finish plying up the final skein of handspun for the year and perhaps do a little more organizing. The worst part of vacation is definitely the packing!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A New Favorite

The number of spinning days I have left this year are quickly diminishing, so I'm trying to finish projects up. I'll be ending 2016 with one less FatCatKnits club shipment left to be spun, as I finished up the second skein of the lobster-inspired Rambouillet earlier this week.

As with the first skein, this colorway (Gamma) was spun into a three-ply fingering weight, and the skein dramatically shrunk after finishing (though you can stretch the skein quite a bit). There's a bit more yardage in this skein than the first -- nearly 239 as compared to 191 -- and I'll readily admit that this one is my favorite of the two. Here they are together:

I don't think there's enough contrast between the two skeins to use them together in colorwork as I originally intended, but I think they are destined to be used together somehow. And they've taught me that I absolutely love this breed and must spin some more of it soon!

Meanwhile, I've been trying to finish up the All Spun Up merino that I started spinning last week. I finished up the second bobbin of singles yesterday, and today I started plying.

I think the finished yarn will be somewhere in the neighborhood of sport to DK, and I'd say I'm about halfway done (I snapped this photo early on in the plying while there was still some natural light). I would have a finished skein except for the fact that I spent a good portion of the afternoon moving my stash from the "stash room" to the basement in preparation for a remodeling project we're doing in January. It was probably a good exercise because it forced me to see just how much yarn and fiber I actually have! Suffice it to say that 2017 is going to be a year of knitting and spinning from stash.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Not Enough Hours in the Day

I miss the days when I was still knitting mittens -- they knit up so quickly compared to my current projects!

I've been working on Rainbow's Eiswasser (which is still a secret from her) primarily during my lunch breaks at work, and it's moving along slowly but surely. I was really getting pretty quick at the cable pattern until about the last 24 hours, when I guess I got too confident. First I miscrossed a cable (which I didn't discover until a couple of rounds later and had to drop down to fix), and then today I kept having to tink back and reknit the same 24 or so stitches about three times because I kept dropping a stitch. The good news is that I've finished two repeats of the cable chart, so that leaves just one more repeat plus nine rounds of a fourth repeat until I can start the crown decreases.

I will likely work on this more this weekend in the interest of getting it done sooner rather than later; it's still a couple of weeks until Chanukah starts, but I want to be sure I have time to block it and make and attach a pompom. I don't think I will finish it in time to ship it down to Florida ahead of our trip with the rest of Rainbow's gifts (we leave a week from tomorrow), but it can't hurt to put in a little extra time, particularly as I feel like I haven't had much with this particular project. And I do want to be sure I complete at least one Gift-a-long project this year!

The other project on the needles is much more slow going, despite the fact that I've put in what feels like a lot of time. It's Rainbow's Dancing Leaves Cardigan, which is finally starting to look like something (albeit a small something).

The color is not at all accurate because we had hardly any natural light today.

I had hoped to be finished with the yoke chart before we left for our trip, but I'm only about a third of the way through and have lots of stuff to do other than knitting this weekend, so I'm fairly certain that won't happen. But at least by the time we get there, I'll have much more time to devote to working on this, even if I don't have enough time to get the whole sweater done by the end of the year and the end of the GAL. Really, I'm not too broken up about that -- it was probably a little over ambitious to think I could knit even a kid-sized sweater on size 2.5 mm needles in about a month. I know she'll be happy to have it whenever it's done, and she'll certainly have plenty of time to wear it once we're back from vacation and back to the reality of winter.

This weekend we're having a family birthday party for Rainbow, who (if you can believe it) will be seven a week from today. We're also doing a little holiday gift exchange, as we won't be seeing the Mister's side of the family again until we're back in January, so I have all the mittens wrapped up and ready to be distributed. I was thinking today, as I was walking home in sub-freezing temperatures with snow swirling around me, that I really should've knit myself a pair, so I guess the mitten factory will have to reopen at some point!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Pattern Release: Smithfield Scarf

Though Pittsburgh has had many nicknames over the years, one of them is City of Bridges -- after all, some have said that Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city in the world! When you live here, you find yourself crossing a lot of bridges to get to different areas of the city, so you get to know many of them. My favorite has always been the Smithfield Street Bridge, which crosses the Monongahela River and connects Downtown with the South Side. Why is it my favorite? I think it likely stems from when I was a little girl and felt like I was driving into a castle.

The Smithfield Scarf is inspired by this amazing bridge. The bridge as it exists today is actually the third iteration: The first version was wood, but it burned down in the Great Fire of 1845. That was replaced by a wire rope suspension bridge, but as the city grew, it became too narrow to handle all the traffic crossing it. The current bridge is a four-lane lenticular truss structure. I tried to incorporate elements of all three versions in this scarf.

The construction of this scarf is dead easy. You cast on at one end and work the cable motif flat. Once the center is done, you pick up along the sides and work some ribbing. Easy peasy. The cable pattern is both written and charted.

As written, this scarf is long enough to wrap around the neck several times or wear in the European style, as in the photo above. I once again used the wonderful Ross Farm Fibers 3-ply Shetland Sport (this time in Marigold), and it made a wonderfully warm and squishy fabric. The day we took these photos was clear and sunny but also cold and a bit breezy, and my neck was nice and warm! The scarf could be knit in any weight yarn, of course, provided you adjust your needle size to get a relatively firm fabric, and it's super easy to add or subtract length.

There's just one more pattern in the Stitchburgh collection to go!

Buy the pattern:

Buy the collection:

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Winding Down

It's the first Sunday in December, and it's just occurred to me that I'm working on my final handspun projects for the year. We leave for our vacation in Florida in less than two weeks, and I'm not planning on taking any spinning with me at this point. So I have less than two weeks to wrap up what's in progress.

I have just (literally, just -- the skein is soaking right now) finished my second skein of FatCatKnits Rambouillet in Gamma. Here's what it looked like earlier this afternoon, when there was still enough daylight to take a decent photo:

I loved this colorway, and I really like how it plied up. I know the skein will shrink up significantly after it's washed as the first skein did, but I already know that this skein will have a bit more yardage because I had more than 30 more wraps on my niddy noddy than I did with my skein of Clawd.

I have a feeling that there's not enough contrast between colorways to use them together in colorwork as I originally intended, but I'm sure I can find some great way to use the skeins together. I know I loved spinning this breed, so I'm sure I'll enjoy knitting with it.

Because I can't bear to see a wheel naked for any length of time, as soon as I finished spinning the last of the Gamma singles, I immediately started the next project. I figured I might as well spin up the All Spun Up merino I picked up at Indie Knit & Spin, and I'm spinning thick (for me) singles this time around so that it will be a fast spin.

This looks like it will be a sport to DK weight when it's plied, and I think it will be the perfect yarn for a brioche cowl like I made for Rainbow (though this one will be for me).

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Sanity Check

Those of you who are parents know that the love you have for your children seems endless. That's certainly how I feel about Rainbow. She is my one and only, and even when she's having a tantrum and driving me crazy, I love her more than anything. Sometimes this love drives me to do crazy things. Like knit her a sweater on size 0/2.0 mm needles.

Let me back up a bit. You may remember that I'd declared my intent to knit her a Dancing Leaves Cardigan for the Gift-a-long using a couple of gradient mini skein sets. The pattern calls for starting with a size 0 needle and then moving to a size 2/3.0 mm. I had to go down to a US 1.5/2.5 mm needle to get gauge, but I don't own anything smaller than a 0, so that's what I cast on with. I've now worked on this sweater for two evenings and only finished about a dozen rows.

I don't have an issue with using needles this small per se; I regularly use size 0 needles for my socks, for instance, and I can churn those out pretty quickly. I think what's tripping me up most here is the chart; it uses symbols that I'm not used to and also multiple symbols for the same stitch (for instance, one symbol might be used if a stitch is knit on RS rows and purled on WS rows, and an entirely different stitch is used if the stitch is knit on both RS and WS rows). As I've knit more, I've definitely gotten a bit more familiar with the symbols and haven't had to stop to check the key as much, and the good news is that once I'm past the yoke, the rest of the sweater is just stockinette, so I'll be able to fly (slowly) through that. I am hoping that I can get all the cabling work done before we leave for vacation so that I won't have to try to make sense of tiny charts while I'm knitting poolside.

Rainbow's Eiswasser is moving along slowly as well, and I'm inching closer to the end of the 1x1 ribbing.

I think the forward movement on this project will be a lot faster once I get past the brim. I am a fast knitter, but all the moving of the yarn back and forth really slows me down, and the kicker is that my knitting time on this has been really limited because I can't knit on it when Rainbow is around. I've planned for this hat to be a Chanukah present for her, and fortunately the holiday falls rather late this year (the first night is on Christmas Eve), so worst case scenario, I have until New Year's Eve to finish it.

One thing I neglected to share in my last post is that I did finish one gift for her. She had asked me not too long ago for a cowl like the rainbow brioche one I made for myself several years ago, so I got out some brightly colored handspun and knit up a quick one for her:

This is just simple brioche stitch worked over 80 stitches on size 7/4.5 mm needles. I opted for a closer-fitting version for her rather than an infinity cowl for safety reasons, but this is tall enough that she can scrunch it down, fold it over, or even pull it up over her head and ears if it's really cold. The yarn, BFL from Gale's Art in the colorway Crayon Box (a MDSW purchase), was a delight to knit with, and it's made me want to spin up some thicker yarn. In fact, I might do just that with the All Spun Up merino I picked up at Indie Knit & Spin earlier this month, which hasn't yet made its way into the stash.

Finally, I got some exciting news the other evening. On a whim, I'd entered the SSK lottery a while back, figuring I wouldn't get it but it couldn't hurt to try. And guess what? I got a spot! I talked it over with the Mister, and he told me I should go (I suppose it's only fair, as he goes to fun places on work trips all the time), so I've confirmed my spot and sent in my deposit. I will have to book a flight once the date is a little closer (Southwest does fly direct, but they don't have flights available yet for that far out), but it's actually happening! I am really excited because I've never been to a retreat like this before, and the teachers who are lined up are amazing. It will be a bit of an adventure -- I think the last time I traveled on my own was back when I was in college or grad school, and I've never been to Tennessee. There's still quite a bit of time until the event, but I guess I should start my yarn fund now!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Mitten Factory Is Closed

It took staying up a bit late last night, but I'm happy to report that the last pair of holiday gift mittens is officially off the needles! Here's a look at the pile:

All of these were knit using Susan B. Anderson's Waiting for Winter Mittens and Fingerless Mitts pattern, with some minor modifications. I believe the original pattern has you put the thumb gusset in at the end of the round, but I put it in the middle so that the beginning of the round falls on the outside edge of the wrist/hand when the mitten is worn. I also used lifted increases rather than the m1s called for. I adjusted my needle size on some of the mittens using thicker yarn (those would be the pairs worked in Cascade Eco Wool; I went up to a US 6/4.0 mm for those), but most were knit on US 5/3.75 mm needles. The other yarns I used were Knit Picks Telemark and Merino Style (both discontinued), Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted, and Valley Yarns Amherst.

I can't promise there won't be more of these mittens, especially since I've pretty much got the pattern memorized now and I have lots of worsted leftovers that would make great mittens to donate, but I do need to take a brief break.

Finishing off that last mitten meant that I was now free to finally cast on my Gift-a-long projects! The first one to jump on the needles was a new-ish pattern called Eiswasser. I'm knitting this for Rainbow as a gift, and it's a surprise, so that means I can only work on it at work or after she's gone to bed. It's not going to be a quick knit by any stretch of the imagination (the cast on starts with 156 stitches, and that stitch count doubles once the ribbing is done to accommodate all pull-in of the cables), but I think it'll look pretty amazing.

The yarn I'm using is some Fibernymph Dye Works Bedazzled in Cake Pops that I bought several months ago with the intent to make something for Rainbow. I think the stitch count is going to be large enough that I won't really get stripes once I get to the cabled part, but that might be better because it won't obscure the stitch pattern as much.

The other GAL project I'll be starting this evening is the Dancing Leaves Cardigan I've been swatching for over the past week. I did finally get gauge on US 1.5/2.5 mm needles (yes, you read that correctly!), so it will be a very fine gauge knit and will likely take me all of the GAL period to finish, if it fact I can finish it by then. I figure that if I can limit myself to working pretty much exclusively on these two projects, I can get them done.

But who am I kidding? There's another project on the needles for when I need a break from thinking -- just a pair of plain stockinette socks in FDW Traveler (Lisa's sportweight base) in the colorway Coffee at Luke's. I cast them on after Thanksgiving dinner, thinking they'd be good to work on during the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life marathon I had with my mom the next day.

I suppose it's probably not a bad idea to have a fairly mindless project on the needles for those times when I want to knit when Rainbow is around!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Feeling the Blues (and Greens)

Despite my best intentions, I ended up spending most of the holiday weekend knitting rather than spinning. That meant that I made good progress on my knitting projects, but my spinning hasn't progressed as much as I would have liked. I have two bobbins (of three total) complete of my second skein of FatCatKnits Rambouillet, with the second just finished earlier this afternoon.

I really love this colorway, which should come as no surprise given that blue and green are my two favorite colors. This spin is so pleasurable, and I must admit that I'm going to be sad when it's done. I think I can safely say that Rambo is a new favorite fiber breed (I suppose I just go gaga for the breeds that are crimpy and puff up when washed). Given how much I liked this fiber, I think I will finally get around to spinning up the Rambo fleece that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool several years ago.

I'm hoping to give the wheel a little more attention this week, so with any luck, the next time you see this fiber, it'll be in the form of a finished skein of yarn!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Knitting Friday

Hi, everyone! I'm a day late with my usual post because I decided to take Thanksgiving off. Well, not really, but the reality is that I was busy most of the day and by the time I remembered it was Thursday, it was pretty late and I just didn't have the mental energy to put together a coherent post. So you get a Friday post instead.

On this Black Friday, I'm staying far, far away from the malls. Instead, my mother is coming over and we are spending the day binge-watching the new Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I'm planning on knitting as much as possible while we watch. For one thing, the mitten factory is almost done. I finished up this pair for my father earlier in the week:

(Waiting for Winter Mittens by Susan B. Anderson, size L for width but size XL for length, in Cascade Eco Wool)

And then these were finished last night before I went to bed (but you'll have to make do with an in-progress shot):

(Same pattern, size L, in the discontinued Knit Picks Telemark)

I'll be casting on the last pair this morning and, if I'm speedy enough, finishing it in short order so that I can move on to knitting projects I'd rather do.

One of those projects is a surprise gift for Rainbow, who asked me to make her a brioche cowl like mine, but shorter. I pulled out some handspun that I spun years ago with the intention of making something her and cast on. I think this will be a quick knit, as the yarn only had 180-ish yards and this is the result of one evening of knitting:

Gale's Art BFL in Crayon Box

If those two projects don't keep me busy enough, I've got a new pair of socks that I cast on last night with this skein of Fibernymph Dye Works Traveler (Lisa's sportweight base) in a colorway that's very appropriate for today's activities -- Coffee at Luke's.

Lisa is actually having a progressive sale in her shop this weekend, and she has a lot of holiday colors in the store right now, so I'd encourage you to click over!

Whether you're shopping or shopping from home this Black Friday, I wanted to remind you that 18 of my patterns are still on sale for the Indie Designer Gift-a-long with the code giftalong2016. There are thousands of other patterns on sale as well, so definitely take a look and support independent designers this holiday season. And don't forget to come join the fun in the Gift-a-long group!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pattern Release: River Waters Shawl

It's another Tuesday, and another pattern from my Stitchburgh collection is ready to make its debut. Presenting the River Waters Shawl!

This design was inspired by Pittsburgh's three rivers, the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio. In fact, the spot where I'm standing in the photo above is where the first two come together to form the third. The ribbed cable band along the lower edge of the shawl represents the movement of the water in the rivers, as the cables twist toward the center from the outer edges just like the Allegheny and the Mon converge to form the Ohio.

This shawl is worked in several directions for an engaging knit. You start by knitting that long ribbed cable band. When that is complete, you pick up stitches along one side of it and use short rows to shape the garter stitch body. Finally, you pick up stitches along the other edge of the band to knit the bottom border. This pattern will challenge you a bit -- you need to know how to do a provisional cast on, work ribbing and cables, pick up stitches, do short rows with w&t, and do an I-cord bind off -- but no one element is particularly challenging. It's definitely one of those patterns that looks more complex than it is. The ribbed cable band, for instance, is basically the same row repeated over and over again except for the one row with cable crosses.

The sample was knit in SpaceCadet Celeste, a light fingering superwash merino yarn, in a colorway called Look Up! I deliberately chose a slightly variegated yarn, as the water in the three rivers does vary in color. I used two skeins, but I had plenty leftover, as each skein has a generous 490 yards. You'll need approximately 700 yds./640 m to knit this.

Buy the pattern:

Buy the collection:
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Before I sign off, I wanted to mention that the fourth annual Indie Designer Gift-A-Long officially kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. EST. The pattern sale (in which between 5 and 20 patterns from every participating designer will be 25% off with the coupon code giftalong2016) runs from the start of the GAL through November 30 at 11:59 p.m. EST. All participating designers will have a bundle of their on-sale patterns featured on their Ravelry designer page; you can find mine here. The GAL itself will run through the end of the year, and I highly recommend joining the group and participating in the -alongs. There are tons of prizes to be awarded (both physical prizes and coupon codes for free patterns) as well as lots of fun games and camaraderie!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sproing Goes the Skein

Have you spun Rambouillet before? I haven't (we won't mention the Rambo fleece that's been sitting in my stash unspun for sevveral years), so I was very pleasantly surprised with my latest spin, half of a FatCatKnits club shipment. The two colorways were inspired by lobsters. I decided to spin up each colorway as a traditional three ply with the hope that I could use both skeins together in some sort of colorwork. I picked the reddish colorway, Clawd (hehe), to spin first. It turned out exactly as I hoped.

It is fluffy and plump and soft -- and boy does it have major spring to it! The whole skein has great elasticity. To give you an idea of just how much sproing we're talking about, consider this: I wound the skein off on my two-yard (72 in.) niddy noddy. After it was washed and dried, the skein had shrunk up to 51 in. If that doesn't give you an idea of the amazing crimp of this fiber, I'm not sure what would.

I've already started on the second colorway in the shipment, a medley of blues and greens called Gamma. The first bobbin is almost finished.

The colors are very distinct now, but I'm approaching this colorway in the same way I did the first: Each little bundle of fiber is being split into four strips (I've found the fiber is a little easier to draft this way) and then spun end to end. My hope is that the colors will mix up when the yarn is plied for an overall blue/green shade.

One thing this spin has taught me is that I LOVE spinning Rambouillet! I predict that fleece will not be neglected for much longer.