Sunday, February 28, 2016

Will This Be the Week?

After two months of working on this project, I think this week might just be the week I finish spinning the singles of my 8 oz. of Polwarth. When I sat down to spin this afternoon, this is what the bobbin looked like:

What you can see just behind the arm of the flyer is the last bit of the purple fiber, which I actually finished spinning today! That's right, I am officially into the light blue of the braid, the very last color I will have to spin to get these singles done. I am hoping to fit in a few spinning sessions this weekend (likely tomorrow evening, and for sure Friday night and perhaps Saturday night as well). With any luck, the next time you see this bobbin, it will be ready to be plied!

Meanwhile, as I am ignoring every other bit of fiber in my stash, it has grown a bit this past week with the arrival of my January Southern Cross Fibre shipment:

This is Shetland in a colorway called Trail Mix. I am hoping that this experience with Shetland will be a good one. I know lots of people rave about this breed, but I've never been all that excited with it. I wouldn't say I dislike it, but if I'm going to spin a toothier fiber, there are other breeds I'll go for first. Still, I keep trying it in the hope that one day I'll find the magical batch of Shetland that I'll love. And frankly, if anyone can do that, I think David of SCF is very high on the list of people who could.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

On to the Next

Now that my cowl is done, I'm focusing most of my evening/weekend knitting time on getting my First Point of Libra done. I'm very close to finishing the main triangle and should be able to wrap it up tonight. Here's a pretty bad picture of my progress:

Up next will be the rest of the gradient stripes, which will be easy but also long. The one redeeming part about the main triangle is that the rows have gotten shorter, but now they will be getting longer. At least this knitting is fairly mindless, so it's a good project to work on while watching TV or a movie or chatting with friends. There's no counting to do or stitch pattern to follow, and that's something my frequently exhausted brain very much appreciates at the end of the day.

I'm still working on my father's socks and rapidly approaching the toe of the first sock. Although they feel like they are working up faster than my father-in-law's socks, they might end up taking longer at the rate I've been going (though bear in mind that I've really only been working on them during my lunch break at work and occasionally a bit in the evening while I wait for dinner to cook). I cannot express how happy I will be when this pair of socks is done and I can knit something in a color that I can actually see!

There have been many signs pointing to an early spring lately (all our spring flowers have shoots poking up through the ground, and I keep hearing birds tweeting in the morning), so despite the fact that it snowed again today, I'm starting to get a sense that I won't have much time to enjoy my Evenlight if I don't finish it up soon. So while I'm trying to focus on getting my shawl done, I think it might take a back seat to the sweater every now and then. The shawl just has to be finished by the end of March, but I fear that it will be too warm to wear the sweater if I let it sit until then. The good news is that I have a day off from work coming up (a day, I should add, when I'll be off without Rainbow), so I'm planning to use it to the fullest extent and get as much knitting done as I can.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Hold on to your hats, folks -- my Zeccola Cowl is done! (It still needs to be blocked, of course.)

When I pulled it out last night, I only had six or seven rounds left to knit, which didn't take me very long. But then I had to do the long graft to connect the two ends of the tube. The first step in that process was getting the provisionally cast-on stitches onto another needle, and that took a bit longer than I was anticipating because the project yarn and the waste yarn kept sticking to each other. Once I finally got everything set up, it took me nearly an hour to do the graft. But now it's done and I'm very happy with it!

It feels like I was working on this project for a long time, but in actuality it was only about three weeks. Right off the needles, it's long enough to comfortably wrap around my neck twice, but I'm planning on stretching it a bit when I block it to get some extra length and a bit more drape. I ended up doing 16 repeats. I suppose I could have gone for 18, but I was ready to be done. There is still a bit of yarn leftover that will be going in the scrap bin (perhaps to become part of the log cabin blanket I started for Rainbow when I was pregnant with her?).

So now I have a total of three projects on the needles -- my First Point of Libra, which will now become my main focus until it's done; my Evenlight, which I'll focus on finishing once the shawl is done; and my dad's socks, which are my lunchtime knitting. Those socks are moving along fairly quickly, actually, or at least they feel like they're moving faster than the block socks did. I'm already through the gusset decreases on the first sock.

Three is still maybe one more project than I'm used to having on the needles at any given time, but I feel strangely liberated after having finished the fourth project. Now I just have to watch myself to make sure I don't cast on for something else!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Slow and Steady

The Gradient-along project continues for another week, though now I can say with confidence that the end is truly in sight. I spent a good four or five hours spinning over the course of the last three days, and I can see the progress on my bobbin.

I have finished the darkest purple of this braid (you can still see a little of it peeking through if you look closely) and have moved onto the lighter purple. After this shade is done, all that's left is the light blue. I'm going to do my best to fit in some spinning time during the week, and my fingers are crossed that I'll have all the singles spun by the beginning of March. I'm not even thinking about how long this large bobbin of singles will take to ply -- at least I know it can't possibly be as long as it's taking to spin the singles!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I've Reached That Stage

You know the stage I'm talking about -- that point in any project where you've lost the luster of the initial cast on and are wallowing in the interminable middle. That point when you can't wait to be done but it seems like all the time you're putting in isn't really resulting in any progress. I'm kind of at that stage with my Zeccola Cowl. Don't get me wrong, I'm still enjoying the pattern. It's just that I've been working on it almost every night and it seems to be moving so slowly despite the fact that I've gotten faster at knitting the pattern now that I nearly have it memorized.

I will say that in the last couple of evenings, I have noticed that it's become more of a pain to flip it around as I finish knitting half a round, so that's a sure sign that it's grown. I finished up the 12th repeat last night and started on the 13th. When I measured it last night before packing it away, it was approximately 44 inches long. I think that means that 16 or 18 repeats is going to be the magic number, but we shall see. Though I haven't weighed my yarn, the cakes are noticeably smaller. If I can keep up the pace, I might just finish it by next week.

Because I finished up the black socks last week, I needed a new lunchtime project for my work bag, so I thought I might as well get started on the socks for my father so he has some chance of actually wearing them before winter is over. The yarn for these is only marginally better -- dark brown, a colorway called Fedora (as with the black socks, the yarn is Knit Picks Stroll). I decided to make the stitch pattern a little less boring this time around (but not too wild -- let's not forget these are for a man who likes very plain things), so I'm doing two rounds of 2x2 rib followed by two rounds of stockinette. The result is a waffle-like fabric that I quite like the look of:

I'm pretty sure that when I'm done with this second pair of dark socks, I'm going to have to dig through my stash to find the brightest, most colorful sock yarn I have in my stash to knit the next pair. I'm also making a mental note to not ask for color preferences anymore (or maybe I'll just knit something other than socks for the dads next year).

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Gift of Unexpected Time

My plan for this past weekend was to take advantage of the fact that I would be home on Friday and Monday and get a lot of knitting and spinning done. What I did not expect, however, was another day off today! We woke up to freezing rain and a big mess outside. First Rainbow's school was on a two-hour delay, and the Mister volunteered to stay home with her because I'd taken the last two days off. But as I was slowly making my way up our street on my way to work (and I do mean slowly, because it was rather like walking across an ice rink in street shoes), my phone rang -- it was the automated notification from the school to say that they were closing due to the poor road conditions. So I turned around and headed home, and half an hour later I was in my sweatpants and sitting at my wheel.

But let's back up a bit. On Friday, Rainbow and I had a few errands to run, including a stop at Target to buy some big plastic bins. We spent part of the afternoon tossing and reorganizing my stash. I do not have a photo to show you, in part because I'm a little ashamed of just how much there is. In my defense, I will say that quite a lot of it is leftovers from other projects, and I'm planning to undertake a major charity knitting effort to use up a lot of them. I did throw out some smaller scraps (and scraps of yarn that I never liked knitting with in the first place) and earmarked some plain wool scraps for felted dryer balls. Rainbow also claimed some leftovers for her knitting.

On Saturday I pulled out my First Point of Libra to work on at my LYS, and I continued to work on it that evening and Sunday evening as well while I watched TV (it really is the best project to work on while watching something I need to pay attention to, because there's no chart and no counting). It's grown a bit since you saw it last, and now that the rows are less than 100 stitches long, it's moving along at a faster clip.

I am finding that I am enjoying knitting with the Shetland, though it is really rustic. It's just slightly thicker than the gradient yarn (it's a three ply as opposed to the two-ply gradient yarn), so the garter stitch fabric is a bit more robust. That means this shawl is going to be really cozy when it's done.

The most exciting moment of the weekend came shortly after dinner on Saturday, when I finally managed to finish my father-in-law's socks! Here is photographic evidence that they are, indeed, done:

One benefit of the cold weather is that our radiators are on full blast, and that meant that I was able to block these Saturday night, leave them on radiator overnight, and wake up to dry socks. They were then hand delivered on Sunday evening, when my in-laws came for dinner. The recipient was certainly appreciative, though I haven't yet gotten any feedback on whether or not they fit. (I'm assuming they do, as I made them the same size as a pair I made him years ago.) These represent half of my obligation sock knitting; I have dark brown yarn in my travel bag to start my father's socks during tomorrow's lunch break. I'm planning to change up the stitch pattern a bit, but they'll be essentially the same formula as these socks. If you'd like to see details, they're all over on my Ravelry project page.

Finally, there's my Zeccola Cowl, which is really starting to look big.

I've added two more repeats since taking this photo, and it's now measuring 36 inches long. I'm guessing that once I get to about 16 or 18 repeats, it'll be a good length (I'm counting on blocking to give me a bit more length; I want it to be long enough to double comfortably). The more I knit this, the more familiar I am with the stitch pattern, and I may just have it memorized by the time I'm done. Not that it will help me much at that point, of course. ;-)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The End of the Affair

I'll admit it -- I was cheating on my spinning project. Yes, I was having an affair with other fiber, even though I was meant to be spinning for the Gradient-along, which I'm hosting. But it's all over now, and the last skein has been plied.

You will recall that I had a braid of Falkland from FatCatKnits that was a Day's End braid -- meaning, presumably, that Ginny used whatever dye she had left at the end of the day to create a one-of-a-kind colorway. My braid was a mix of purples, blues, and neon greens. I divided up the fiber into most light and mostly dark bits, then divided each pile into thirds by weight. You've seen the resulting skein from the light bits, but here is the finished dark skein:

This skein is smaller, at 47 g and roughly 165 yards, but it did come out fairly consistent with the first skein. As with the first one, when the singles ran out on the first bobbin, I wound off from one of the remaining bobbins so I could ply from both ends of the resulting center-pull ball, and when that ran out, I did a bit of chain plying with was was left on the final bobbin. So for this whole spinning project, I think I only had a few inches of singles left when all was said and done. I really like it when I'm able to use up as much as possible, so that made me very happy.

With the two skeins combined, I've got just a smidge less than 425 yards, so this definitely falls into the light fingering category. I'm hoping to find a colorwork project that will use both skeins. If you've got a recommendation, I'm all ears!

Now that my cheating is done, I've returned to my Bee Mice Elf Polwarth, and after giving it a few hours of attention this afternoon, I'm getting very close to finishing up the first braid (the first half) of the fiber. Here's what it looked like when I sat down to start spinning this afternoon; I was just starting the transition from the pink over to the purple.

I'm now solidly into the dark purple, and if I can get in a bit more time tomorrow (when I luckily have another day off with Rainbow), I should be able to at least start the transition to the second braid. I'll be going from dark purple to dark purple, but the purple in this braid is more of a red purple whereas the purple in the second braid is more of a blue purple, so I'm planning to fluff out the ends and blend them together with the hope of being able to draft a bit of each color for a while to smooth the transition.

While I'm not giving myself a hard deadline for finishing the yarn, it would be really wonderful if I could finish the singles, at least, by the end of the month and then ply before the middle of March. We just made plans to go away for a week in late March when Rainbow is on spring break, and it would be lovely if I could take the finished yarn with me to start the knitting portion of the project. In any case, I am self-imposing a spinning restriction: I am not allowed to spin anything else until this project is done. I'm hoping the prospect of spinning something else will be good enough motivation to hold me to that.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Again and Again

Things have gotten a little repetitive around here. I am still working on the socks and they are moving along at a good clip -- I'm nearly finished with the leg of the second one. The only other project I've been working on the last couple of days has been my Zeccola Cowl (v. 2). I'm now in my seventh repeat of the stranded pattern and the whole thing is measuring about 23 inches long.

It did seem to not be getting any longer for a bit there, but I have realized that my yarn cakes are noticeably smaller, so clearly the yarn is getting used up. I will say that the benefit of knitting this pattern again is that, while I don't have the whole pattern memorized just yet, it's become much more automatic. Every time I get into the middle of the chart, I really only need a quick glance at it to remind me what to do. I am getting through about one repeat per evening, maybe a little more, and I think I'm aiming for roughly 20 repeats total, so I'm feeling good about meeting my goal of finishing by the first week of March.

This weekend I'm hoping to put in some time on my other projects. Rainbow has no school tomorrow or Monday, which means that the two of us get a long weekend. We have big plans to toss and organize the stash, but it's also supposed to be brutally cold this weekend, so covering myself with wool seems like a totally logical plan. I'd really like to spend some time on my sweater, especially, as it's been pretty much ignored the last two weeks. It's a shame, because this is a weekend it would be great to have it to wear!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Hello, Mojo

I'm not sure what did it, but something lit a fire under me this past weekend and I did a lot of knitting (spinning, too, but we're talking about knitting today). After having make little progress on my First Point of Libra, I whipped through the rest of the gradient strip on Saturday. On Sunday, I wove in all my ends (yes, really! I was being good!) and picked up along the side for the main triangle. I've now done a handful of rows and already really like what I'm seeing.

I know that left edge looks wonky, but that's just the cable of the needle misbehaving. I'm hoping that as there's more weight on it, it'll straighten out a bit, because frankly it was driving me a bit batty when I was knitting back and forth over 35 stitches and it was curling up. I am really into this knit now and frankly would be knitting it nonstop, but I decided that because I have more time to get it done (it doesn't need to be finished until the end of March), I should really concentrate on another project with an earlier deadline.

That project is my second Zeccola Cowl, which I am knitting as part of the knitalong in my Ravelry group. That is supposed to wrap up on March 8, so I really need to get my butt in gear and get it moving. I have added a few repeats since you saw it last, and I'm really happy with the way these two colorways are playing together.

At this point I'm not 100% sure how many repeats I'm going to do. In theory, I could keep working until I ran out of yarn, but as these are rather big skeins (462 yards each), I think I would wind up with a cowl that would be a bit unwieldy. I'd like this version to be about the same length as the original if not a bit shorter (this version is narrower, so I don't quite need the same length). I know I can block a bit extra out of it, so I will keep knitting until it looks like it's a good length and go from there. It would be really great if I could finish this up by the first week in March, as it would be great to wear it and show it off at the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival, where I'll be taking a class and perhaps wandering through the marketplace a bit.

The really exciting news is that am I officially halfway done with the black socks of doom! I Kitchenered the toe of the first sock last night after dinner. I know black yarn makes for a horrible picture, especially when there's no natural light to be had, but here is your photographic proof that it happened:

I have cast on for the second sock and am hoping that knowing that the end is in sight will make it less of a slog. I certainly hope to make progress on all my projects this weekend, when I'll have a rare four days in a row at home (Rainbow's school is closed Friday and Monday). We have some errands to run and I'm supposed to get my hair cut on Saturday, but it looks like it's going to be a bitterly cold several days -- a perfect excuse to stay inside and knit!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Nearly There

I did not spin at all during the last week. It was a rough week, and knitting felt more therapeutic, so I went with it. However, that meant that the last little bit of spinning that was needed to finish up the 4 oz. braid of FatCatKnits Falkland has been sitting. This morning I decided enough was enough. The rest of my family was out skiing all day, so once I got the last load of laundry squared away, I sat down at my Lendrum, put on some video podcasts, and finished up the second and third bobbin of singles.

You can tell from how little is on these bobbins that it did not take me very long to do -- maybe two hours altogether, maybe a little bit more, but not very much in the grand scheme of things. I'm going to let these rest for about a day and will likely ply tomorrow evening. Then I will be a good spinner and go back to my large gradient project.

I will say that finishing up this braid has been a bit of an exercise in patience. Aside from the time it's taken me, I've been spending much of it fighting with my wheel. Normally my Lendrum is very easy-going and quiet, but for some reason it's started rattling rather loudly during this spin. At first I thought it was just the bobbin and it was rattling because my back maiden was a little loose, but the rattle continued even after I tightened it. Then I tried adjusting the height of the whole head, but that seemed to make it worse -- I not only had the bobbin rattle, but now the whole wheel would shudder every 30 seconds or so. I have oiled the necessary parts and fiddled with all sorts of adjustments, but nothing seems to help much. I suppose the wheel could use a thorough wipe down, so perhaps once I'm finished with this project I'll do that and see if a bit of a spa treatment helps any. I know I would certainly benefit from it!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

WIP Overload

While I am not in any way a monogamous knitter, there is a good reason why I usually have no more than two or three projects in progress. I'm experiencing a bit of WIP overload at the moment, and it's making me feel a little scattered because I never know what to work on at any given time. I currently have four projects on the needles -- my Evenlight, my second Zeccola Cowl, my First Point of Libra, and the black socks for my father-in-law -- as well as two spinning projects. Thus far I've been working on one project each evening, which seems fair to the projects but also means that I don't make much progress on any one.

Actually, that's not entirely true. The black socks are moving along, due strictly to sheer determination to get them over and done with. I am through the gusset on the first sock, and now that only half the sock is in ribbing, I think they will move a little faster. I have no real deadline for these socks, but obviously I want to finish them as quickly as I can. It would be nice to get them to my father-in-law while we're still in the middle of winter, though; he works as a school crossing guard and needs everything he can possibly use to keep warm while he's outside for several hours every day.

My cowl now has two full colorwork repeats done and I've started on the third. This time around, I'm only working four plain rounds between the stranded sections (the original has about 20 rounds between), so there's a lot of colorwork happening. That keeps things interesting but it also means I have to pay attention, so it's not as fast as some other projects.

I have only spent one evening this week thus far on my First Point of Libra, and that was the evening I cast it on. I am working on the vertical strip that has stripes of each of the colors in the gradient and have done exactly one and a half stripes. It doesn't look like much, to be honest.

This is probably the easiest knitting I have going at the moment. It's garter stitch, and the only things I have to remember to do on each row are to slip the last stitch and click my row counter. It will be a great project for my Saturday afternoon knitting at my LYS, as it's something I can knit while chatting without much fear of messing up.

My sweater, I must admit, has not been touched since the weekend. However, I had made decent progress at that point -- I think the last time I measured the body, I was a touch more than halfway to the required measurement of 14 inches from the underarm. I am a bit concerned that it will no longer be cold enough to wear this sweater by the time I finish it, though I suppose in that case I will put it away to wear on the first chilly day in the fall.

So now you understand my dilemma. I am enjoying all of these knits (well, maybe not the socks, but I'd like to get them done), so it's hard to pick just one to work on. I suppose this is why sometimes I don't knit at all but spin instead!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

All the Knitalongs, All the Time

It's starting to look like February is going to be my month of knitalongs.

For one thing, there's the Zeccola Cowl Knitalong happening in my Ravelry group. I usually like to keep my samples nice, meaning I don't often wear them, so I wanted to knit a second cowl to have to wear out and about. I cast on for mine on Sunday afternoon and worked on it while making a big vat of soup for dinner.

I'm making a few modifications to the pattern this time around. For starters, I am using thinner yarn (fingering rather than sport weight), so I went down a couple of needle sizes. That means the cowl is going to be a bit narrower. I'm also working only three rounds between colorwork sections, so the stranded work is going to be pretty much continuous for the whole cowl. And I'm using only two colors this time, which will mean fewer ends to weave in, but as both yarns are slightly variegated, there's a bit of color play even in the rounds that are worked with only one strand.

Last night I cast on a new project for another knitalong, this time as part of my LYS's yearlong "Shawl Adventure." The first pattern is Laura Aylor's First Point of Libra, a squishy garter stitch shawl designed to show off a gradient. I'm using the gradient mini skein set I bought at Miss Babs at MDSW last year as well as a skein of handspun moorit-colored Shetland for the main color. Here's the yarn all together before I cast on:

I don't have a photo of my progress, but it's just a small strip of garter stitch, so not much to see at this point. The shawl has an interesting modular construction -- you start with the vertical strip worked in the gradient, then pick up stitches along one side in the main color. Following Laura's recommendation, I started with the darkest color in my gradient so that the neon green in the set will be at the top of the strip and the bottom of the horizontal stripe near the bottom. The knitting is fairly easy and mindless at this point; all I have to remember to do is to slip the last stitch of each row and click my row counter (there are about 50 rows of each color, so I need a reliable way to keep count).

There is no photographic evidence of my lunchtime knitting just yet (really, do you need a photo of black socks?), but it is moving along. I'd avoid it if I could, but I am working on it whenever I can if only so I can be finished with the horrid things. Next year, I'll remember to pick out the color on my own or, better yet, buy something from a store.