Tuesday, May 30, 2017

With Time to Spare

I genuinely thought I might be getting myself in over my head when I set myself some pretty lofty knitting goals for this month, but it's looking more and more like I'll actually finish them. For starters, the gift for Rainbow's teacher is done and blocked!

Pattern: Sitka Spruce by Tin Can Knits
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios (100% superwash merino) in Water Green, approximately 1.23 skeins
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 7 (4.5 mm)
Started/Completed: May 4/May 28
Mods: did my left twists a bit differently than the directions

These were a fun, quick knit. My only complaint is that they seemed to come out a bit small, despite the fact that I did the beret version of the hat and the largest size of the mittens. I'll grant you that I did not swatch, because I know that I usually get the called-for gauge on size 7 needles with worsted weight yarn, so it's possible that there was a gauge issue, but going up in needle size definitely would have given me inadequate mitten fabric, so I relied on the characteristic of superwash wool to stretch when wet and gave the set a moderately aggressive blocking. I think if I were to knit the hat again, I would add an additional repeat of the pattern to add length. I think it'll be a jaunty hat as is, but it's not quite long enough to pull down over one's ears.

My only modification (if you can actually qualify it as that) is to change the execution of my left twists. The pattern calls for doing them by knitting into the back of the second stitch on the needle and then knitting the first stitch through the back loop; I knit through the first stitch normally, as I thought it would look odd to have some stitches twisted and some not, but I can see that twisting those stitches might result in a tidier twist. There is most definitely a difference in appearance between my right and left twists, so it's something I might try if I knit the set again. Actually, there's a good chance of that happening, as I think the yarn I have remaining is probably enough to knit a pair of mittens for Rainbow.

While I didn't have any issues with the pattern per se, I'm fairly certain I found a small typo in the pattern, and I'll be getting in touch with the Tin Can Knits folks about it. I also was not too fond of the way the thumb gusset was dealt with when it came time to put the thumb stitches on waste yarn; no stitches are cast on above the gusset for the hand, and instead the pattern instructs you to pick up three stitches in the small gap when you start the thumb and then decrease two of them right away. In the future, I might use an existing hand stitch for the base of the thumb gusset and then cast one on when I put the thumb stitches on waste yarn.

If you've been keeping track, the completion of this set marks the official end of the to-do list for the month, though I'm still hoping to finish up a pair of socks by the end of tomorrow. I don't think that's going to be a problem, as I've got most of the second sock already finished and will be working on it this evening. Apparently setting lofty goals can occasionally be a good thing!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I Made Time for Space

My normal weekly routine is that I spend Friday nights spinning and watching some video podcasts, usually Wool 'n Spinning, Snappy Stitches, and whatever else I have to catch up on. I was really looking forward to it this week, but my body decided to fail me and I felt too ill to do anything but lie in bed under several layers and watch TV until late into the night (I suspect it was just the stress of the past week catching up with me). I did feel a bit cheated out of my regular spinning time, so I've spent extra hours at my wheel this weekend to make up for it, and I'm happy to report that my Southern Cross Corriedale in Space is done!

At present, it's hanging in the upstairs shower, drying from its spa treatment, but here it is freshly skeined up. I love the subtlety in the colors -- I think it'll make some really excellent socks. And I'm pretty sure I'll get some good yardage out of this skein; even if it shrinks 6 inches after washing, I should still have a bit more than 400 yards. I think it'll be an excellent way to start off my Stash Dash spinning! I'll report back once the skein is fully dry.

I have continued to spin the Fibernymph Dye Works BFL that you saw a glimpse of last week (though I neglected to get a photo of it while it was still light out), and I'm hoping I can find some time to work on it tomorrow and finish up the first bobbin. After all the knitting I've been doing this month -- some of which still needs to be finished up, I might add -- it has felt so wonderful to spend time at the wheel again, and I'm eager to continue it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ready, Set, Dash

It's been quite a busy week, and I am very much looking forward to the long holiday weekend ahead. The weather forecast is not promising (lots of rain), giving me the perfect excuse to spend the days knitting, spinning, reading, and perhaps napping. Tomorrow also marks the start of the KnitGirllls' annual Stash Dash event, and I'll be doing my best to work my way through my yarn and fiber stash.

As far as my WIPs go, I am moving right along on my goals for the month. Last night I finished up the first Sitka Spruce mitten and started the second. The first mitten knit up very quickly, so I have no doubt the pair will be finished this weekend.

I've also managed to finish a sock, so there's a chance I'll still have a finished pair by the end of the month. I know I'll get some good knitting time in on Saturday afternoon, when we're going to see a Cirque du Soleil show.

Also on tap this weekend will be some plying and spinning. I've got a big list of things that I'm hoping to get done this summer, but I'll save that for when my brain isn't quite so fried. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'm on Fire

When I started out this month with some pretty lofty goals, I had every intention of meeting them, but secretly I had my doubts. After all, I have a full-time job and a kid and a husband who travels for work, so my crafting time is the first thing to go when there are other priorities for my time. Because of that I'm pretty darn impressed with myself for how well things are going.

In addition to finishing up my sweater last week, I also completed the secret pattern sample (and blocked it, so it will be ready to be mailed off to the publication this weekend). I also finished up the Sitka Spruce hat for Rainbow's teacher on Sunday evening, and last night I cast on for the first of the mittens.

As if all that wasn't enough, I've decided to try to knit a pair of socks by the end of the month, too, in order to qualify for a knitalong (and keep me on track for the Box 'o Socks knitalong). So far, it's going very well:

This is Fibernymph Dye Works Squoosh 2.0, a superwash Corriedale/nylon blend, in Bring Me Orchids. It's a bit heftier than Lisa's other fingering weight yarns, so it's actually knitting up a bit faster -- the sock you see here was started on Friday, and I really only worked on it on Friday, a bit on Sunday night, and the past two days during my lunch break. Considering we have a long weekend coming up, I'm feeling pretty good about my chances of finishing these.

I've already got the next pair of socks lined up thanks to the purchase and arrival of this sparkly skein of Fibernymph Dye Works Bedazzled in a colorway I've been lusting over called Impressionist Spring.

Also inside the package containing this skein was a skein of bulky weight for Rainbow that Lisa included. It made the kid's day!

The only bad knitting related thing that's happened in the past several days is that my beloved DSLR seems to be dead. There was an issue with the shutter mechanism, and my dear husband took it apart and tried to fix it, but now it only works intermittently. It would likely cost as much to have it fixed as to buy a new camera, and given that the camera is older than Rainbow, a new one is probably the route I'll go. Thank goodness for camera phones -- they do the job in a pinch!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Playing Catch-up

I can tell just how much spinning I haven't been doing by how many episodes of the video podcasts I watch are waiting for me to watch them. This weekend, with the major knitting projects off the needles and time to focus on my spinning, I think I had easily half a dozen episodes to watch. Fortunately, I had the time to finally catch up. My main goal for the weekend was to finish the Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale singles that I started at the beginning of the month. That goal was achieved just a short time ago.

The fiber at the very end was all dark gray/black, but if you look closely, you can see little pops of blue and golden brown underneath. I'll be chain plying these later in the week (I figured I might as well wait a few days so that I can count the finished yarn for Stash Dash, which kicks off on Friday).

In the meantime, because I still had half of my last episode to watch when I finished the singles, I started spinning the Fibernymph Dye Works BFL I won as a prize in a knitalong in the 90% Knitting Ravelry group. This will be a two-ply yarn, perhaps fingering, but I'll wait and see once I ply.

Here's a look at the fiber:

It's drafting beautifully, and I think it will spin up very quickly.

It felt so good to spend time at my wheel after largely ignoring it for the past few weeks. I hope to continue giving it regular attention this week!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

We Have Feathers

My Quill is done, officially, but I blocked it last night and it's still rather damp (in fact, I just tossed it into the dryer for a bit to try to speed things along), so you'll have to settle for preblocked pictures.

Pattern: Quill by Evie Scott
Yarn: Miss Babs Yowza (100% superwash merino) in Indigo Bunting, a little less than three skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 6 (4.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circulars
Started/Completed: February 25/May 16
Mods: none

This is an excellent pattern -- extremely well written, easy to follow, and resulting in a very well-fitting sweater. The sweater is worked in one piece from the bottom up to the underarms, then split for the back and fronts. The shoulders are joined with a three-needle bind off and then stitches are picked up around the armscye and short-row shaping is used to shape the sleeve cap. Finally, stitches are picked up along the fronts and the neck for the super squishy collar, which also has short-row shaping around the neck.

The other special feature of this sweater that you can't really see in this photo is pockets on the front, which are created in a very clever way. Waste yarn is knit in when you knit the body and then later removed for an afterthought pocket. I've never done pockets in a sweater before, but these were so easy that it's likely I'll do them again!

While this wasn't exactly a fast knit (it would have been faster if I'd been monogamous), I wouldn't hesitate to knit it again. Based on the FOs posted in the knitalong thread in Evie's group, it looks good on everyone. I know it would look great on both my mother and my sister-in-law, so perhaps someone will get a very special present one of these days.

I'm planning another sweater knit -- this one appropriate for the summer -- but first I've got to finish off the design sample. My goal is to finish that up tonight so I can focus on the last of the knitting obligation, the teacher knits. And there will most definitely be some spinning this weekend -- I've really got to make up for lost time!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I Have a Sweater-shaped Object

Some folks on the Ravelry spinning boards have been known to refer to some antique store and estate sale spinning wheel find as "SWSOs," or spinning wheel-shaped objects -- in other words, something that looks like a spinning wheel but doesn't actually function. Well, today I have a sweater-shaped object on my hands. It looks like a sweater, but it's not quite done and thus not quite functional.

I finally finished the collar of my Quill sweater on Sunday afternoon. I won't lie: It took an inordinate amount of time to knit. It's five inches wide along the sides, which translated to 60 rows of knitting -- and that's after the short row shaping around the neck. Each row took me about 10 minutes to knit, so you can get the idea of just how long it took. That said, it was entirely worth it. As the designer put it, it feels like a big hug. I have a feeling this sweater will become my favorite once cold weather arrives again in the fall.

All that's left between me and a finished sweater is the final pocket, which I only had time to start yesterday (the first pocket was completed on Sunday evening). The pocket construction is really quite clever. You place waste yarn for the pocket placement as you're knitting the body, then remove it to uncover live stitches. The stitches on the top are worked to create a long flap, which is then joined to the bottom stitches with a three-needle bind off. Finally, you seam the sides of the pocket flap together to close it up. So easy but so brilliant, am I right?

This is the first time I've added pockets to a hand-knit sweater, and I must say that I rather like them. In hindsight, I might have made the pockets a bit wider so they'd better accommodate the width of my hand, but then again a smaller pocket will also prevent me from trying to put too much in it and keep me from stretching it out.

In addition to having the benefit of a new sweater, it'll be done before the end of the knitalong and it looks like it will use up most of the yarn, so a win for the stash as well. I'll have just three small balls of leftovers plus my swatches remaining, so really only enough to use as a stripe or two in a charity hat or as waste yarn for another project.

My pattern sample is at about the 75% mark, so that should be finished up in the next couple of days, leaving only the hat and mittens for Rainbow's teacher left to be completed. I have no concerns about getting those done, and I might even try to squeeze in a pair of socks by the end of the month (just some plain stockinette self-striping, nothing fancy, which I can do in the dark while putting Rainbow to bed, among other places). It looks like putting the pressure on has paid off this time around!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I Swear There's More

It's been another week of mostly knitting and ignoring my spinning (and thankfully that has actually paid off, as I predict you'll see in my next post), but I did squeeze in about an hour at the wheel on Friday night and yesterday afternoon, so there's just a bit more on the bobbin than there was a week ago.

Please forgive the blurry photo. Some disaster has befallen my DSLR, rendering it unusable at the moment, so I'm relying on my phone camera at the moment, and that requires my hands to be still, which almost never happens. Still, I think you can see that the color changes are really subtle, and I think this yarn should knit up in a really interesting way. I'm in the middle of my third (of four) little bundle of fiber, and I expect that I'll be able to devote some additional crafting time to this spinning project this week.

We got a special treat today on our way home from a Mother's Day brunch today. We stopped over at the Steel City Fiber Collective, where we got to pet a week-old lamb from the Ross Farm:

He was so little and so soft! Amy and Scooter Pie were there to talk about their farm, where they raise heritage and rare breed sheep. This little guy was one of the most recent additions, and it was such a nice addition to the day to get to meet him.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

And Miles to Knit Before I Sleep

My apologies to Robert Frost, whose poetry I've corrupted for the title of this post, but I do feel like I have miles and miles of garter stitch to knit. I have been diligently working on my Quill collar every evening, and progress seems to be minuscule. When I put it away last night (following the successful completion of the Penguins game), I had 14 completed garter ridges. According to my calculations, I need a total of 30 garter ridges to get to the requisite 5 inches of collar. That means I have 32 rows left to knit, and at this point each row is taking me at least 10 minutes. Eight rows a night has been a good night for me thus far, so I figure I have at least four more nights of solid knitting before the collar is finished. Assuming I can squeeze in some extra time this weekend, I can probably shorten that.

When I have not been slogging through all the garter stitch, I have been working on my commission sample, and while I can't tell you much about it, I can tell you that it's more than 50% done now. I am hopeful that it will be completely finished in another week.

The weekend ahead is looking moderately busy, but the only really solid plans we have are to head to my brother- and sister-in-law's house for Mother's Day brunch on Sunday. I am planning on using the rest of the day for me time, which I think it only appropriate. I have quite a few things to catch up on waiting for me on the DVR and obviously a lot of knitting to do.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I'm Knitting as Much (and as Fast) as I Can!

The second week of May has arrived, and I am moving right along on my projects. I almost feel like I need a giant progress chart to track all of them and to keep me from getting too stressed out, because it seems like there is too much knitting and not enough time.

That said, some progress has been made. For starters, I finished up the baby gift for Rainbow's teacher, save adding the ribbons to the ears, which will be done as soon as the hat is fully dry from its blocking.

Note: Photo taken prior to blocking

Pattern: Bunny Tail from Itty-Bitty Hats by Susan B. Anderson
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% superwash merino) in Carnation, less than one skein
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: May 1/May 3
Mods: none

What you can't see in the photo is the tiny pompom on the back. I elected to attach it just below the base of the ears so that it won't form an uncomfortable lump on the back of the head for the baby. I'll be finishing this off by sewing on some bows made of pink grosgrain ribbon.

Meanwhile, the gifts for Rainbow's other teacher (her main classroom teacher, who is retiring at the end of the year) are well under way and seem like they will be a fast enough knit that I've kind of put them aside for the time being -- they just need to be done prior to her last day of school, June 2, so I figure I don't need to panic about them until closer to the end of the month. Here's the start of the hat from the Sitka Spruce set by Tin Can Knits.

The pattern involves lots of twisted stitches, which are very easy to do once you get the hang of them. I have had a few instances where I've had to tink back, but that's mainly due to my own inattention. Every other round of the hat is knit, so I only really have to focus for half of my knitting time on this project. The mittens will likely be even faster, as they're smaller and have patterning on only the back of the hand.

You'll notice that I'm working from a hand-wound ball rather than a cake, and that's because this particular skein appeared to have been wound by drunken monkeys and just would not work on my swift. I estimate I spent between 30 and 45 minutes winding it by hand; at the time, I felt like it was wasting valuable knitting time, but on the other hand, it did save me a lot of frustration from trying to get it to work on my swift. I haven't touched the second skein yet, but I certainly hope it's more well behaved.

At some point yesterday I realized that the ending date for the Quill knitalong was quickly approaching, so I really needed to work on mine if I wanted to finish in time. I am on the collar, the very long rows of garter stitch, and I managed to get eight total rows done last night, I think. I've got to knit a total of five inches of garter at the collar (measured toward the bottom edge, as there's short-row shaping around the neck) -- that's the same amount I worked at the bottom of the body, and that took about 30 garter ridges (or 60 rows total) to achieve, so there's still quite a bit of work left to do.

This will be my evening knitting project for the foreseeable future, and it's the primary reason why I've put the teacher gifts on hold for the time being. The knitting at this point is so mindless that I can do it while doing other things, and frankly I feel it's been on the needles for long enough.

The other good news is that my sample is nearing the halfway point, so I should be able to cross it off my to-do list by the end of the month as I'd hoped. The not-so-good news is that it looks like my spinning time will be very limited this month -- but I'm sure I can make up for that this summer when Tour de Fleece time rolls around again!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Fiber Neglect

Sadly, I have hardly touched my wheel in the past week. My knitting deadlines mean that I'm spending just about every spare moment with my needles, though I did dedicate my Friday night crafting time to spinning, as I do most Friday nights.

I am continuing to work on my Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale singles, which are overall very dark. I did, however, manage to capture this little bit of lighter blue on the dark background yesterday:

I am little more than halfway done with the singles at this point, so if circumstances were different, they'd be finished soon. At this rate, though, I expect that if I manage to finish them by the end of the month I'll be happy. I'm sure once the knitting deadlines have passed, I'll make up for the lost time on my spinning!

The sun came out again today after days of gloom and rain, so I took advantage of it to snap some new handspun pictures for the Etsy shop. Here's a preview of some of the skeins:

I'm going to be adding new listings to the shop tonight, so please do take a look to see these and some other skeins!

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Pattern Rerelease: Bendixen Cowl

I'm sure this is true for many people, but I find I tend to go through phases in my knitter where I fixate on a particular technique or a particular item and make that sort of thing over and over again. In the past year or so, that has happened to me with tube cowls -- you know, those cowls that you knit as a big tube and then finish by grafting the ends together? They're lots of fun to knit, and it seems they've become a new thing for me in my designing, as I published three such cowl patterns last year alone.

My Bendixen Cowl was originally published late last year in Knit Now magazine. While I've had some good experiences working with this particular publisher, the downside is that the magazine is primarily available in the UK, so that meant that a lot of knitters (me included!) didn't have access to it. But the magazine is also wonderful in that its exclusivity period is relatively short, and I've now made it available in my Ravelry store.

Like the two tube cowl patterns I published previously, Bendixen starts with a provisional cast on -- any provisional cast on you like! You knit a bunch of stripes, then a super-easy stranded colorwork section, then some more stripes, and then finally you undo your provisional cast on and place the live stitches on a spare needle to graft the stitches on both ends of the tube together. You can carry the unused color up the inside for the stripes and make your floats as messy as you want in the colorwork section because no one will ever see the inside of this cowl! If you do your grafting neatly (and trust me, this pattern will give you a great excuse to practice your grafting and adjust your tension), it's nearly impossible to tell where the graft even is.

I worked this sample up in Debbie Bliss Rialto DK, a super squishy superwash merino with a cabled construction that provides excellent stitch definition. I used two skeins each in Ecru and Teal; you'll need about 230 yards of each color. Should you want to use a different weight of yarn or adjust the length or width of the cowl, it's very easy to adapt the pattern -- simply change the number of stripes or adjust the stitch count by a multiple of four. It's a quick knit (it only took me about a week), so if you need a last-minute Mother's Day present, it's a good option.

I may have gotten this tube cowl fixation out of my system for now -- but never say never!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Maybe a Bit Overwhelmed

Every year during the Tour de Fleece, there's a team called Hopelessly Overcommitted. I'm starting to feel like that name is appropriate for my knitting life this month. I had projects on the needles already that I was hoping to finish soon (my sweater and the shawl design), but those are ending up having to take a back seat at the moment.

First, yarn showed up late last week for a sample for a pattern with a third-party publisher, so I'm scrambling to get that done by the end of the month at the latest so I can send it off (the sample has to be back with the publisher by mid-June and has to cross an ocean to get there, so I want to allow plenty of time). Then, Rainbow reminded me that I said I would knit a hat for one of her teachers who just had a baby girl last week (well, technically the hat is for the baby, not the teacher, but you know what I mean). I cast on last night using some Knit Picks Swish Worsted that had long been in my stash and Susan B. Anderson's Bunny Tail pattern. This should be a quick knit -- what you see here is probably less than an hour's worth of knitting:

I've also got some other projects to finish this month, for Rainbow's other teacher, who is retiring at the end of the year. I picked up these two skeins of Malabrigo Rios in Water Green at Knitsburgh last week, intending to knit one myself and have Rainbow knit the other one. But she's decided that she'd rather I knit up both of them, so I am going to use them for the Sitka Spruce set by Tin Can Knits.

I think I can get all of this done this month, but it's going to be close -- I'm really going to need to knit in every spare minute. The baby hat will be easy enough to do on the nights when I'm on bedtime duty with Rainbow (I can knit while she's reading and then while I'm sitting with her after lights out), and the design sample is coming with me to work every day. A worsted weight hat and mittens also should be fairly quick, but I think getting them done and ready to be presented to the teacher by the last day of school (which happens to be a month from today) will likely mean ignoring my Quill sweater until they're done. At least this weekend I know I will have some dedicated knitting time, as I have some girlfriends coming over on Sunday for lunch and knitting. It's something a group of us used to do many years ago, before there were kids for several of us, so it'll be nice to catch up with everyone and make some decent knitting progress in the process.