Sunday, October 30, 2016

More in the Queue

It's another Sunday, and I am still plying my Blue Footed Booby. The end is in sight, however.

I think one more good session at the wheel should do it, and I'm eager to see what kind of yardage I get from the second skein.

In the meantime, I have more impetus to finish in the form of more fiber to spin. I was notified that I won a prize from my Spinzilla team, so yesterday I stopped by the Steel City Fiber Collective to pick it up. I received my choice of Corriedale fiber from the Ross Farm, for starters, and I selected this batch:

I suspect you will not be surprised that a certain small person saw it and immediately claimed it for herself, so it seems I will be spinning this up and using it for something for her.

I also received a credit to the SCFC store, which I used to buy this skein of sock yarn:

I think this wants to be some sort of shawl, but I'm going to let it marinate in the stash for a bit until I figure out just what.

Tomorrow is Halloween, which means it'll be my 11th blog anniversary. It's quite amazing how quickly that time has gone by!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

All the Knits, All the Time

It seems that my knitting mojo, which had been waning a bit, has come back in full force, and I'm fully taking advantage of it.

Over the weekend, I finished the hat for my father-in-law to go along with the mittens.

Trust me, it looks better when worn.

Pattern: Two by Two by Anne Gagnon
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted (100% Targhee wool) in Deep Unrelenting Gray, approximately 212 yards
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) circs, magic loop
Started/Completed: October 18/October 22
Mods: none

This was a quick knit and really very straightforward. There was a point in the middle where all that 2x2 ribbing started to get a bit boring, but I was spurred on by the excitement of the crown decreases to come to get through it. I really thought I was going to run out of yarn, and I had my swatches and small bit of leftover yarn from my Evenlight right there and ready to be used when the time came, but I actually finished with about a yard to spare. Although I would have felt very virtuous for having kept and used those swatches, it was still quite thrilling to win at yarn chicken.

Almost as soon as the hat was done, I went and had a dig in my stash for a skein of Malabrigo Worsted that I was pretty certain I still had. It's been in the stash for probably a decade (I'd bought two skeins in that purchase, and I eventually used one of them for a hat last year). It was where I'd thought it would be, and I promptly cast on another pair of Waiting for Winter Mittens with it. I haven't decided yet if these will go to my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law, but I'm making them in a ladies' size, so one of them will get them.

These have been my lunchtime knitting this week, and I've gotten through them very quickly as a result, but I did have a bit of a mishap with them on Tuesday. I was able to get the yarn and needles in my project bag, but I completely forgot that I'd need stitch markers, a tapestry needle, and some scrap yarn to do the thumb gusset, and as luck would have it, I got to the point where I needed to put those thumb stitches on waste yarn right at the beginning of my lunch break. At one point I think I had a piece of string in my desk, but I suppose I threw it away in a cleaning purge some time ago. So I did what any resourceful knitter will do when faced with a problem like this and time to knit: I used what I had on hand. In this case, that meant paperclips in place of stitch markers (which worked fine) and a cut rubber band in place of the scrap yarn. The rubber band was not a great choice, I know, but it was my only option (save cutting a bit of yarn off the other end of the skein, which wouldn't have worked so well either given the stickiness of the yarn). It worked well in terms of not losing or dropping the live stitches until I could get home to actual scrap yarn, but it was a major pain in the butt to get out of those stitches -- I ended up cutting it into a few smaller pieces. A couple of years ago I'd made myself a tiny notions pouch with essentials (darning needles, stitch markers, measuring tape, little scissors), and clearly I'm going to have to find it and keep it in my desk in case of any future emergencies like this.

Amid all the gift knitting, I've still been working on Rainbow's school sweater (her second Gramps Cardigan), and I'm quickly approaching the end. I'm in the middle of the yoke and am decreasing 10 stitches on every right-side row, so the rows are quickly getting shorter and faster. The button bands and shawl collar are worked simultaneously, so they will be a fast last step.

This project has not been without its hiccups, however. I realized right after finishing the joining row of the yoke (when you join the body and the sleeves together) that I'm pretty sure I knit the entirety of the second sleeve using the smaller needle I was supposed to use only for the ribbing at the cuff. Perhaps at another time I would have tinked back that joining row and ripped the sleeve back to the cuff, but I just didn't care. The sleeves looked more or less the same size, and it's only a matter of one size of needle (a 0.25 mm difference in diameter). The yarn I'm using is also half acrylic, so if the one sleeve is a tad snug, I figure I can hit it with some steam and hope it relaxes. Frankly, this sweater is going to get shoved in Rainbow's backpack, dropped on the floor, and dragged through leaves and dirt on the playground, and given that it's been actually cold this week, I'd rather get it done with a few imperfections so she can wear it than worry about it being right. She certainly won't know the difference.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pattern Release: Incline's Ascent Cowl

I have a confession to make: I am a bit obsessed with double-knitting. While I have been doing stranded colorwork happily for many years, I've only relatively recently discovered the infinitely cool knitting trick that is double-knitting. If it's not something you're familiar with, let me explain: Double-knitting is a method of two-color knitting that allows you to create a double-sided fabric that is fully reversible, where the image on one side is the reverse on the other. For instance, if I knit a white star on a blue background on one side, I'd have a blue star on a white background on the other. The really fantastic part about this technique is that, unlike stranded knitting, you don't have to worry about an "unused" color going long stretches between being used. There are no strands to catch, and it's much easier (in my estimation) to keep your tension even.

So, just how does the magic of double-knitting happen? It's much simpler than you might think. Double-knitting is worked in pairs of stitches, the first always knit and the second always purled. You always work the stitches in opposite colors. In my star example from above, if I'm knitting a white stitch for the star, I'll purl the accompanying stitch with blue. Really, if you can knit 1x1 ribbing, you can do double-knitting.

Given this little obsession of mine, you can understand why I wanted to include a double-knit piece in the Stitchburgh collection. It didn't take very much contemplation to figure out what image I wanted to feature. The Duquesne Incline is iconic in Pittsburgh. Chances are you've seen it in the foreground of a shot of downtown Pittsburgh. If you live here or have visited, you may even have ridden it up to the observation deck to get its stunning view of the city. Now, you can have it on a cowl of your own.

The Incline's Ascent Cowl is worked in the round (which I find easier in double-knitting, as you don't have to reverse the meaning of the colors in the chart as you would when working wrong-side rows in flat knitting). It starts with a two-color cast on for which there is a photo tutorial included in the pattern. While the front of the cowl features an image of an incline car, the back is all solid (though you could repeat the image if you wanted). I think of the above incarnation as the most traditional look of the incline, though you can always flip it inside out if you want a different look:

I highly encourage you to give double-knitting a try if you haven't yet. I think you'll find it just as addictive as I have!

Buy the pattern:

Buy the collection:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Last 4 oz. Are the Hardest

Another week, another bobbin of blended merino singles. I didn't spin much this past week, and I didn't spin as much as I'm planned to this weekend (I had to make an unexpected trip to the airport last night, so I missed all of my craft time), so I'm still working on the fourth and final bobbin of my Blue Footed Booby singles. Here's a gratuitous bobbin shot, though it'll look just like all the previous ones:

I would estimate that I'm one good evening of spinning away from finishing this one up, and that might just happen tomorrow evening.

In the meantime, I just might know what's going on the bobbin next. My August Southern Cross Fibre shipment showed up on Thursday, and it's a real beauty -- 65% merino/35% mulberry silk in a colorway called Big Sky.

I already know how I want to spin this: traditional three ply, aiming for DK-ish weight. Then I want to use it to knit myself a hat or cowl. Of course, I'll have to stop nuzzling the fiber to accomplish this, so there might be a slight flaw in my plan.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

One Down, Many More to Go

Given how quickly this year is flying by, I figured it would be a good idea to get an early start on holiday knitting. I still haven't made a final decision on what I'm making for everyone in the family (that's seven people, not including those I live with), but my father-in-law was fairly easy. He's a pretty plain and very practical guy, so a cozy pair of mittens and a matching hat seemed perfect. The mittens came off the needles on Tuesday.

Pattern: Waiting for Winter Mittens & Fingerless Mitts by Susan B. Anderson, size XL
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted (100% Targhee) in Deep Unrelenting Gray, approximately 197 yards
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) Addi Turbos, magic loop
Started/Completed: October 11/October 18
Mods: shortened the length of the hand and thumb by about half an inch

I've knit this pattern before, and I'll knit it again (likely for another gift or two, in fact). It's well written and easy to follow, and I like the length of the cuff of these mittens especially. I really like this yarn for mittens, too. Targhee is a very bouncy wool, and the fabric is delightfully squishy worked at a dense gauge. The only modification I made was to shorten the overall length of the hand and thumb because they seemed incredibly long. I had the Mister try them on to be sure, as his hands are a little larger than mine, and I'm hoping they will work out okay for the recipient. I know that when I block them they will likely gain a little bit of room as well.

Almost as soon as the last end was woven in on the mittens, I cast on for the hat. The pattern I'm using is a free one, Two by Two, that is basically just a ribbed watchcap with a folded brim. That means pretty much just miles of 2x2 ribbing, which is easy to enough to do without having to pay close attention. I'm using what's left of the skein (which my scale tells me is about 214 yards); the pattern calls for about 200, but I figure if I'm short on yardage, I have a couple of swatches from the sweater I originally knit with this yarn that can be unraveled and used to finish off the crown. This isn't going going to be a very interesting knit to look at, as it's just ribbing for about nine and half inches before I start the crown decreases.

I'm using a size 5 (3.75 mm) needle for this, though I will fully admit I did not swatch. The pattern calls for a gauge of 22 stitches over four inches in ribbing, but I always have a hard time measuring gauge in ribbing because I'm never sure how much to stretch it, if at all. I was getting about five stitches per inch in stockinette on this mittens with a US 6, so I figure going down one needle size should be good enough. Plus the whole hat is ribbed, so it'll be nice and stretchy. And if it doesn't fit him, it will fit somebody -- I'll even happily keep it for myself!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When an Oops Becomes a Design Feature

Even though I am a perfectionist in most aspects of my life, when it comes to my knitting, most of the time I will leave a mistake if it's not blatantly obvious. I think I've become okay with this MO because my knitting and spinning time is limited so I'm reluctant to use that time to undo something unless it's going to be a real issue. I call such a small error a design feature and move on -- especially if I'm knitting a gift for a nonknitter who isn't going to know the difference.

That's certainly the case with the mittens I've been knitting for my father-in-law. I'm using Susan B. Anderson's wonderful Waiting for Winter Mittens & Fingerless Mitts pattern, which I've used several times before with great success. This is a fairly basic mitten pattern, and there's really nothing in it that's difficult to understand. Because I had made it before and because I knew that there wasn't anything complicated involved, I decided not to print out the full pattern again this time but rather to jot down the important steps and numbers for the size I'm knitting on a small scrap of paper that I could keep in the project bag. I knew that I should be finishing the thumb gusset with 17 stitches, and I'm fairly certain I was counting stitches when I was finishing up the thumb gusset and putting those stitches on scrap yarn. And yet, when I went to finish the rest of the thumb and put those stitches back on the needles, how many did I have? Not 17 but 15. Yep, I was two stitches short, and of course my this point I had already finished the hand of the mitten, so going back to fix the error would have meant unpicking the end I'd already woven in at the top and ripping back half the mitten. Sorry, that just wasn't happening.

Fortunately, with only two stitches missing, the solution was pretty easy: Instead of picking up one stitch in the gap, I picked up three. This actually turned out to work very well, as it prevented the large holes you sometimes get when you pick up stitches like this. And honestly, though the thumb gusset is two rounds short, I don't think anyone will notice. The mitten still looks perfectly fine to me, and the Mister tried it on for size just to make sure. (I also tried it on, though it's much too big/long for me, but I discovered that if I flap my hand quickly, it makes a fun sound effect that sounds like a helicopter!)

I've been spending most of my evening knitting time in the past week or so focusing on Rainbow's school sweater. We got a bit of a reprieve from the cooler temperatures this week (I think we were actually expected to break a record high here today), but I know she'll be needing it soon. I finished up the body to the yoke late last week and started the first sleeve over the weekend. That was finished last night, and the cuff of the second is done.

Rainbow slipped on the first sleeve this morning, and it seems to fit well. (She did say that the lower arm/cuff are a bit snug, but they don't look to be uncomfortably so, and I'm sure I can block out a bit more room.) Given how quickly the first sleeve knit up, I'd say it's highly likely I'll be ready to start the yoke by this weekend!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bobbin the Third

It's Rhinebeck weekend, and yet again I haven't made it (it's on my bucket list -- I will get there eventually!), so I've been trying to enjoy my fibery pursuits as much as possible this weekend. We've had a relatively quiet weekend, and an usually warm one at that, and it's been good to relax.

My spinning will look familiar, and that's because it's another bobbin of my Blue Footed Booby blended merino. This is the third of four total, and I'm nearly finished with it.

I am trying to keep up the spinning on this project with some of the intensity I had during Spinzilla so that I can get the full pound spun and be ready to start the project.

I am going to be making a more concerted effort to spin up my stash during the rest of the year, at the very least, and I've found out recently that I'm going to have some help in that respect. You may know that I'm in two fiber clubs at the moment -- Southern Cross Fibre and FatCatKnits -- and the shipments that have come in from both clubs have at times kept me from spinning my stash. But both David of SCF and Ginny of FCK have recently announced that they're going to be taking a bit of a break from their business and thus both clubs will be going on hiatus. I'm a bit sad, to be completely honest, but I think both of them deserve some time to themselves -- and, frankly, the fiber stash is getting a bit out of control. I have a whole shelf of unspun SCF club fiber and quite a few braids of FCK, so I won't be lacking stuff to spin. I think this might be a good opportunity as well to get out the drum carder and make some fun batts. And let us not forget the fleeces that still need to be spun! Realistically, I could probably go a year or more just spinning from my stash without running out of fiber.

And with that said, I guess I should really get back to my wheel to try to finish that bobbin!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Knitting as My Constant

It's been an odd week. Rainbow was off from school on Monday, then we were all off yesterday for Yom Kippur, nad then today my office was involved in the president's visit to town. The schedule has been unusual enough that I've been struggling to remember what day it is and who is supposed to be where on what day.

Fortunately, I've had my knitting to keep me sane. It's nice to know that any time I'm feeling out of whack, a few stitches can soothe me.

I finished up the colorful shawl on Monday evening (it took pretty much all night to finish up the picot bind off) and blocked it after services yesterday.

Because the shawl was my lunchtime knitting, that meant I needed a new project, so I grabbed what was left of my third skein of yarn from my Evenlight sweater (most of a skein of BMFA Targhee Worsted) for some holiday mittens. I'm going to use it for a pair of Waiting for Winter Mittens and (if there's enough yardage left) a coordinating hat for my father-in-law for the holidays. After only two lunchtime sessions, I've already made good progress -- one of the reasons mittens make such good projects for gift knitting.

I've also returned to work on Rainbow's Gramps, and I'm only about a quarter of an inch away from starting the neckline shaping on the body.

I'm debating about starting a sweater for me soon or focusing on gift knitting for a while (the holidays are coming up, plus I have a baby gift to knit). Now that it's really starting to be sweater weather, I am feeling the urge to cast on something new, but at the same time I feel like I should get obligation knitting out of the way early so I can focus on knitting for me toward the end of the year. In any case, it feels good to hold my needles again after all the time spent spinning last week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pattern Release: Bridge Walker Mittens

Here in Western Pennsylvania, it's really started to feel like fall. It usually warms up by the afternoon, but the mornings have had a definite chill to them. At this time of year, I feel the cold most acutely in my hands. That means it's mitten weather!

Designed to coordinate with the Bridge Walker Hat, the Bridge Walker Mittens were inspired by the same metal work and feature the same colorwork motif (just scaled down a bit to fit on the mittens). They're knit in the same squishy Fibernymph Dye Works Cozy worsted weight. They're graded to three sizes -- child (teen/adult small, adult large) -- and depending on the size you make, you may be able to get a hat and a pair of mittens out of just two skeins of yarn (that's all I needed for my samples).

What you can't see in the photo above is the surprise inside the cuffs -- a cozy ribbed lining!

This lining is optional, but I highly recommend it. The ribbing not only helps the mittens to stay on by hugging your wrist, but it also helps to keep you warmer by warming up your pulse points.

I've decided that this year's gift knitting for the family is going to be lots of mittens, so you may be seeing more of these off my needles before the year is out!

Buy the individual pattern:

Buy the whole collection:

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Winding Down and Winding Off

Spinzilla officially ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. I will not be staying up late to get in extra spinning tonight (I have to be up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to get ready for work, after all), but I've done my best to do as much spinning this weekend as possible. Rainbow went off for an afternoon at a local farm and a sleepover with my in-laws yesterday, so I had no compunction about spending pretty much all afternoon at my wheel. I'd managed to finish up the last of the singles on my second bobbin yesterday morning, so I started plying. I spent a good solid three hours at the wheel in the afternoon, plus about another hour in the evening, and still had to finish up today. But the monster 8 oz. skein is all done:

The Spinzilla rules seem to imply that washing/finishing isn't necessary for counting yardage, so I'm going strictly by the number of wraps on my niddy noddy for this one. I ended up with 847 yards of plied yarn, so with plying credit, my total Spinzilla yardage for this skein is 2,541 yards.

I didn't think I'd get through another 4 oz. of this fiber just today, but I didn't want to waste the spinning time I had this afternoon, so I pulled out the batt I made at the fiber collective a couple of weeks ago and did a quick and dirty spin:

Flash required because it was just finished at 9 p.m.!

This little skein is 139 yards, for 417 yards of Spinzilla credit.

Finally, I never showed you the skein I finished plying up last weekend when I was clearing off my bobbins. This is the second half of the 8 oz. of Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale in Silk Road. I spun it exactly the same as the first half and ended up with almost exactly the same amount of yarn -- 519 yards of chain-plied fingering weight (as compared to 525 in the first skein):

Just to prove that there are in fact two, here are both together:

I think I did Spinzilla right this year. I didn't overdo it, and I got yarn spun in a short period of time that probably would have taken me a long time to finish had I hadn't been focusing on spinning so much. I think I'll try to finish the rest of the blended merino in the next couple of weeks, but I will admit that I'm eager to get back to my knitting. It's gotten noticeably more fall-like in the past week or so, and Rainbow's going to need her school sweater. And I think it's probably time to start thinking about holiday knitting!

Thursday, October 06, 2016

It's Not Much, but It's Something

There's nothing like looking at Instagram pictures of other people's Spinzilla progress to make you feel rather inadequate about your own spinning. There's a certain someone I know (coughcough) who had already spun up something like a pound and a half of fiber after only two days. Me? I've finished a whopping 4 oz.

This fiber does not want me to take a focused photo of it, for some reason

The first bobbin of singles was finished up last night and I immediately started the second. My hope is to be able to finish that second bobbin of singles and ply the two together by the end of the weekend. If I get that done before my Spinzilla time runs out, I may start the third bobbin, but I'm not going to kill myself. If anything, I just want to use the momentum of all the spinning I've been doing to finish up the whole project. But I have a feeling my hands might need a bit of a break after all the spinning this week!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

And We're Off

It's Tuesday, the second day of Spinzilla, and I fear I am not going to accomplish nearly as much as I'd hoped. Yesterday we were all off for Rosh Hashanah, and I thought I would get in a bunch of spinning time and make good progress for the first day. Unfortunately, I did not get in as much time as I'd hoped, and I only got maybe a third to half of the first bundle of fiber spun into singles. I suppose this is still a respectable amount, but I had grand illusions of spinning up 4 oz. the first day.

I am spinning for a two-ply fingering weight, so these singles are fairly fine, and I am spinning worsted rather than woolen this time around, meaning my bobbins will not fill up as quickly (but overall it's better for my shoulder). I'll be getting in some more time at the wheel this evening, and perhaps if I'm super speedy I'll even finish up the first bobbin.

While the majority of my crafty time this week will be spent spinning, I have not let all knitting fall by the wayside. I did spend quite a bit of time on Rainbow's sweater this weekend, and it's now about 7.25 inches long:

And I'll still be working on the shawl this week during my lunch breaks. It's grown a little bit since you saw it last:

I weighed my yarn this morning and have more than half left, so I'll be trying to make this as large as I can without running out of yarn.

I apologize in advance if you're not so big on the spinning -- there's going to be a fair bit of it this week! Fortunately Spinzilla is only a week long, so I'll be back to my regular knitting content before you know it!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Calm Before the Storm

All week I have been working to finish up my current spinning project and clear off my wheel before the start of Spinzilla. Although theoretically I could have put it aside and finished it up afterward, I really wanted a clean slate for the start of the week. For a while there it seemed like my fiber supply would never run out (I seemed to have the fiber equivalent of the Everlasting Gobstopper on my hands), but I did finally manage it and got the singles plied up this weekend.

This is the second half of the Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale in Silk Road; you may remember that I spun the first half earlier this month. I spun this second batch exactly the same way -- all the fiber went into one bobbin of singles, which were then chain plied. I stayed up a little late last night to finish plying, and the skein is still wet, but here it is freshly skeined on my niddy noddy:

I ended up with almost exactly the same number of wraps as I did with the first skein, so I anticipate that the finished yardage will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 525 yards. More than 1,000 yards from 8 oz. of fiber is pretty good!

I still have one more bump of CMF Corriedale in my stash, in a colorway called Shala:

I have no immediate plans to spin this, but I think when I do spin it, it might be interesting to split it in half (or even fourths) and do half as a chain ply and half as a traditional three ply in order to stripe the two treatments in socks.

I had one fiber-related acquisition this week, and that was this nifty doffer stick to use with my drum carder:

I realized when I was making my batt at the SCFC Spinzilla registration party that batt making is not as complicated as I made it out to be in my head and that I wanted to do more of it. In the few times that I've used my drum carder in the past, I've used an old aluminum straight knitting needle to help pull the batt off the drum, but that has resulted in the needle getting slightly bent. This tool is made for the job, so it should do a much better and more efficient job. Rainbow and I have already discussed dyeing some naturally colored fiber I have, so there will be some batts being made in the future.

While I am always happy to be spinning, I'm finding myself to be unusually excited for Spinzilla. You may remember that I've only participated once before, the first year, and managed to irritate my shoulder from doing too much long draw. That injury, combined with some issues I had with how the competition was set up, kept me from participating in subsequent years. This year, however, I am just in it to have fun, and I'm hoping it will be a good way to accomplish a fair amount of spinning in a short period of time. After much debating, I've decided to spin this FatCatKnits blended merino top in Blue-Faced Booby (named for the bird, of course):

The goal is to spin it into a two-ply fingering weight, with the hope that I'll have enough yardage to make myself an Andromeda. I have a full pound of the fiber, so if I can get about 450 yards for every 4 oz., I should have enough. I don't expect I'll spin all the fiber this coming week, but I can at least make a good dent in it. If I'm exceptionally fast, maybe I'll even get all the singles spun up.