Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: A Retrospective

It's not the last day of the year, but it's my last post for 2018, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to look back on my crafting over the past 12 months.

It has been a very busy year, so I don't think it's been my most prolific, but I'm still pleased with what I accomplished. According to my Ravelry notebook, I've completed 33 projects this year and knit up nearly 14,000 yards of yarn in those projects. Those projects included:
  • four adult sweaters (three for me, one for the Mister),
  • four small person sweaters (one for Rainbow, one for her doll, and two baby knits),
  • fifteen pairs of socks,
  • seven hats (plus one more I'm hoping to finish by tomorrow),
  • two shawls,
  • three cowls,
  • and two gnomes (plus various other small projects).
I also spun about 6,500 yards of yarn and published 13 new designs. There's certainly more I wish I could have accomplished and have on my list for next year, but I'm feeling pretty good about my output.

My final two projects completed this year will be two hats for charity, which I think is apt considering that one of my intentions (I don't dare call them resolutions) for the new year ahead is to make more things for charity. I don't remember if I've mentioned it before, but we have a family member through marriage (don't ask me to explain the relationship, please!) has been teaching Head Start in a tiny village on an Alaskan island for the past couple of years. When we saw him this past summer, he was able to tell us a lot about what life was like there, and it was very clear to me that the natives who live there are in great need. What with it being Alaska, I of course thought about what I could knit to send, so I am trying to use up bits and bobs of leftovers to send warm accessories for the kids. I knit one hat earlier in the year and just finished a second yesterday:

This is the Megaliths Hat by Kino Knits, which was just released earlier this month, and it's the perfect pattern for partial skeins and leftovers. I used some of the Cascade 220 Superwash and Berroco Vintage leftover from the gnomes, roughly 170 yards. I cast this one on two days ago and finished yesterday, so it was a very fast knit. I started a second this morning and hope to have it wrapped up before tomorrow is over.

As we prepare to turn the page on 2018 and see what 2019 has in store for us, I want to thank you for reading my posts over the past year, and I especially want to thank those of you who have left comments so that I can continue the discussion in a dialogue. For a while there it seemed like the knitting blog was dying, but it seems like it is coming back, and that makes me glad because I feel like knitting blogs are what got me into this wonderful fibery world. I wish you and your loved ones a healthy, happy, prosperous new year!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Quickest of Knits

Something I really love about our annual winter vacation is that I get in a lot of extra knitting time and it's time I can count on. I generally bring more yarn than I end up using, but that's part of the fun. This year, I threw in a couple of balls of Patons Kroy at the last minute to make Rainbow some socks, as she'd picked it out on our most recent Michaels trip. I don't know if I've actually knit with Kroy before, but it was a pleasant surprise. While it's labeled fingering, at 332 yards per 100 g, I'd call it a sport weight. That means it knits up incredibly quickly. Remember that almost-complete first sock you saw in my last post? It's now an almost-complete pair:

The second sock was cast on yesterday and I knit while finishing up a book during the afternoon and until bedtime. When I put it down for the night, I'd done half of the heel. This afternoon, we went to see a performance of The Sound of Music, so I managed to get nearly all of the leg done. I have just a handful of rounds left before it's time to bind off, so these will be a finished pair in short order.

I've also put in a handful of rows on my Floozy cardigan, which has been on hold for the past couple months while I worked on the Mister's sweater. It's slow going, with several hundred stitches on the needles, but I'm hoping I can at least get to the split of the arms from the body.

The other nice benefit of this vacation is that there is lots of time to read and also usually a good selection of books available to choose from (when my parents come down here, they like to sit by the pool and read all day, so they usually leave the books for anyone else who wants them). I've read two so far and plan to read a few more if I can. In considering what to read next, I've been thinking about all the books I've read the past year, and this post seemed as good a place as any to highlight some of my favorites.

I really surprised myself by reading 69 books (so far) this year -- blowing my reading challenge goal of 25 out of the water. In large part, that was due to my full embrace of the digital book, which is so much easier to read when out and about than a physical book. I also finally figured out how to borrow e-books from the library, so I've been able to start things on a whim without having to go to a bookstore or shop online. You can view all the books I've read this year if you follow me on Goodreads, but for now, here are my top nine (in no particular order -- just the order in which I read them this year):
The last one on the list is the book I finished last night, and I was so engrossed that I knit past where I needed to start the heel on the second sock and had to rip back several rounds! All in all, I've read some great books this year and hope to read just as many next year. I'm also hoping to finish one more before the end of 2018 so I can have an even 70 books for the year. What's really notable is that 58 of these books were digital -- I suppose I've finally entered the 21st century!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

All Obligations Complete

As of last night, I am officially done with my gift knitting. Even better? I didn't have to be done until the end of the week, so I find myself with bonus knitting time! The final items to be crossed off my list were these cuties:

Pattern: Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira
Yarn: scraps of Cascade 220 Superwash (yellow and royal blue) and Berroco Vintage Worsted (navy and white)
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: December 11/December 24

These might get a little more blinged up before they're gifted (perhaps a pompom on the tip of the hats and a school pennant in the form of a piece of paper on a toothpick), but I'm counting them as done. I am enchanted by them and am a bit sorry that I'm giving them away, so it's very possible that I'll be making more to keep. We had to take a trip to Michaels on Sunday to buy stuffing and poly pellets, so now I'm quite well stocked to make some additional gnomes. My plan is to have these sitting on the bed waiting for my brother and his fiancee when they come down on Saturday, and then they'll be able to take them home when they leave. I'm still undecided about whether or not to sew the hand of the two gnomes together (a snap might have been a good compromise, but I didn't think of it when we were at the craft store).

Now that all the gift knitting is done, I'm turning back to fun knitting. Mainly, that is knitting for me, but Rainbow will benefit from it as well. I cast on a new pair of socks for me on our way to the airport on Saturday morning, and I started a pair for her on Sunday night while we were waiting for dinner at a restaurant. The latter pair has seen much more attention over the past two days.

Rainbow's socks (on the left) are plain toe-up stockinette using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel template, and I made a new foot outline for her before I started. Her feet are now 8 inches long! I finished up the toe and knit most of the foot yesterday and did the rest today (about 3.5 inches of leg while we were at the movies, too).

My socks -- the more colorful ones -- are a special treat. My dear friend Lisa (the dyer behind Fibernymph Dye Works) had texted me on Thursday that she was sending me "a little something" that she hoped would arrive on Friday so that I could open it before we left. Thankfully, we live close enough that it did only take a day to arrive, and I was so excited when I opened the package and saw a skein of her special Dyer's Favorites 2018 colorway that she is offering as her final Yay of Christmas. She had previewed the colorway on her most recent podcast episode, and I'd told her how much I loved it and how I was going to have to set myself a reminder so I could get online and order a skein when they went up. So she surprised me by sending me one! The stripes in this colorway are the colors she's dyed most frequently the past year, and the contrast mini skein has speckles of the same colors. It's been a while since I last knit myself a pair of socks, and coincidentally I've had a couple of older pairs bite the dust recently, so these will be a lovely treat.

If you are celebrating Christmas today, I hope you have a wonderful day surrounded by those you love. If, like me, you aren't, I hope you enjoy your evening and that you are surrounded by yarny things. Cheers!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Final Skein

Greetings from southwest Florida, where it is a bit cooler than we'd like but sunny and relaxing! We flew down here yesterday, and before we left, I made sure to finish up one final skein of handspun. In between doing laundry, packing, and various other last-minute things on Friday, I plied up all the singles from my Fibernymph Dye Works Merry Month of Minis. Though I left out three of the 31 minis (two because I felt they were too coarse in relation to the other ones and one because it was pure silk and I wanted to save it for something else), my finished skein was a whopping 260 grams and just barely fit on one of my miniSpinner bobbins.

Here's what it looked like freshly skeined and waiting for the bath to fill up with hot water (I twisted it up like this in order to weigh it):

And here's what it looked like yesterday morning, still a little damp (and not quite as vibrant as it is in real life thanks to the gloomy light):

The skein is positively enormous and more than a little messy, and I'm estimating I got a bit more than 560 yards. This year, I wasn't as careful as I have been in the past about keeping my singles consistent, so it does run a bit thick and thin, exacerbated by the fact that some of the silk blends obviously wanted to end up thinner and some fiber poofed a lot in the finishing.

I'm pleased with this skein but am really undecided about what to do with it, given that I already have three handspun brioche infinity cowls and probably don't need another. I might make one and give it as a gift. I might put it up for sale in my Fiber Crafty shop. Or I might see if I can commission a weaving friend to weave it into a scarf for me. If you have another good suggestion (and no, it can't be "send it to me!"), feel free to make it!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Pattern Release: Mini Maximization

Although it's been a busy month for pattern releases already, I have one more to squeeze in before the year is over! This new shawl actually started back in June, when I traveled to Cleveland for the TNNA summer show with my friend Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works. We were talking about future pattern collaborations, and I can't remember which of us brought it up, but somehow we got to talking about ideas to use up mini skein sets. As I contemplated it more, naturally my head went right to my favorite item to design: a shawl. It occurred to me that the biggest challenge in using mini skeins is that your yardage is limited, so why not design a shawl where you use each mini skein until it basically runs out? After all, a shawl doesn't need to be any particular size, and it's easy to bind off when you're done or out of yarn. So Lisa dyed up two sets of minis for me in beautiful autumnal colors, one semisolid and one speckled, and I started knitting. It worked out just as I'd hoped.

Mini Maximization (so named because I believe in truth in advertising!) is an amazingly flexible design in that you can use any amount of yarn, in any weight, and work at any gauge you'd like. My sample used fingering weight (Lisa's Bounce base), but if you have scraps or leftovers of heavier yarn, they will make a very cozy shawl. You may need to do a little swatching to determine your needle size, but the goal is only to get a fabric that you like. The shawl is constructed from the top down using a typical crescent shawl construction, but because of the way I've worked the stripes, it actually ends up being more of a half-circle shape.

What makes these stripes different from a typically striped item is that they use a technique that I guess is technically intarsia but without the fiddliness that intarsia usually entails. There are no yarn bobbins to juggle or strands to twist or tangles to undo. Instead, I've "unvented" a way to insert intarsia stripes by employing short rows. That means that you've got two strands of yarn attached to the knitting at all times, and when you use one, the other one just hangs out until you're ready for it. You simply switch colors when one essentially runs out (i.e., you don't have enough yarn left to complete another stripe) and you bind off on the last row when you're almost out of yarn or are ready to be done.

Lisa has dyed up a bunch of kits for this shawl, and for the next two days only (December 20 and 21), they're on sale as part of her 12 Yays of Christmas promotion. You'll also find the pattern in my Ravelry shop if you've already got a bunch of mini skeins on hand and want to get started right away.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Last 5%

My apologies for the awful photo (there's only so much I can do when the sun is just barely up), but look at this!

Yes, that's my shadow. Thanks, overhead lights.

This is the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan, all complete except for sewing in the collar (that's the weird shape at the top still attached to the ball of yarn). I've sewn in the zipper, sewn up all the other seams, and woven in all the remaining ends. I'm thinking that I have about half an hour of work remaining before this UFO is officially an FO.

The event that precipitated the knitting of this sweater is tomorrow evening, so I don't have time to do a full wet block of the finished garment (though I did wet-block all the pieces, save the collar, prior to seaming). That leaves me with two choices: I can use an iron to do some careful steam blocking of the seams, or I can spray it a bit and then toss it in the dryer briefly. On the one hand, steam blocking is a safer bet because I can keep an eye on it, but on the other hand, it's knit from superwash wool and did get a little stretched out, so it could do with a little tumble through the dryer to get the superwash to bounce back. I can certainly put it in the dryer on its own and check on it every few minutes, but my only hesitation is that I don't want it to start pilling before it's even been worn once. What would you do?

Now that this is (nearly) finished, my focus is turning to the gnomes for my brother and his fiancee. I would love to have them done by the end of the week so I could drop them off for them to open on Christmas, but I figure that if it's too much of a stretch, I'll finish them in Florida and have them waiting when the two of them come down about a week after we arrive. It would be wonderful to get them done before we leave, though, because I'm counting on the extra knitting time to work on some of my projects!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Down to Five

I have only managed to spin this past week for a measly 45 minutes, and that was all done this morning. I've been devoting nearly all my crafting time to the Mister's sweater (and as a result, it is thankfully almost done), but I plan to work in more spinning this week. As of this morning, I had five fiber minis left to spin for the Merry Month of Minis from Fibernymph Dye Works.

In my brief time at the wheel this morning, I put on a new bobbin and got through one mini (the one at the bottom right in the photo) and started in on a second (the one just above it). I think it takes me about 20-30 minutes to get through each one of these, so I probably have about two hours of spinning at most to finish up the singles. I am taking Friday off from work because Rainbow has a half day, so I figure that if I haven't gotten around to it then, I will ply all the singles that day. We leave for our trip south on Saturday, and assuming I do get the skein finished before then, I will have met my goal. And I hope that if that does happen, I can take the rest of the year -- at a minimum! -- off from ridiculous goals!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Needed: More Time

We're getting down to the wire on the Mister's sweater, and I am starting to panic. The party to which he will wear it is next Wednesday. I'm still working on the sleeves, and while I've finished the increases, I need to get to 18 inches before I start the shaping for the sleeve cap. Last night I was at 16 inches. I knit a few more rows, measured again, and was still at 16 inches. So clearly I have entered that black hole of knitting in which you keep working but never make any progress. I'm going to keep working on them every chance I get, but my knitting time will be limited over the next several days. Tonight I have a board meeting, and they usually run late, and Saturday we've got Rainbow's birthday party at home and then a holiday party that evening. Sunday morning is basically shot because I have Hebrew class with Rainbow first thing and then a meeting. So it's going to be down to the wire on this one. I've blocked the back and fronts already and will block the sleeves as soon as they're done. The last piece to knit is the collar, which is all in 1x1 rib, so it likely won't be too fast even though it is the smallest piece. The zipper should be here by Monday at the latest. I'm hoping that I can finish the sleeves and block them by sometime this weekend and have the sweater seamed up by the time the zipper comes so that all I'll have to do is sew in the zipper. (I say "all" like it's a little job, but the reality is that it will probably take me several hours to do that.)

In the meantime, I've been working on a new project that was intended to be a Christmas gift but might get put on hold until after the sweater is finally done. I am finally knitting a gnome -- well, more accurately, I am knitting two, but only one is currently on the needles. They are going to be for my brother and his fiancee (they just got engaged last weekend). Their alma maters have very similar colors, so the gnomes will be coordinating. I am nearly finished with the hat of the first one:

I really can't get over the cute. I think I could whip these out in no time if I could focus on them, but that time isn't there right now. Worst case scenario, I'll take them to Florida with me and give the completed gnomes to them when they join us a week later (and just call them New Year's Gnomes instead).

The one bit of good news is that I did finish the doll-sized sweater to give Rainbow for her birthday (I haven't had time to wrap it yet, but that's another story):

It fits the doll -- huge relief! -- and I found some reasonably matching buttons. I can't wait to see Rainbow in her sweater holding the doll in this wee one!

Finally, I did want to mention that after I posted my latest sock pattern earlier this week, I found out that two more had been published. These are both included in the December Sock Crush shipment, but they're also available through my Ravelry store. You can click on the links to see the pattern pages and read more about them.

Eternal Flame Socks

                                                                         Bookbinders Socks

Hope you have a great weekend! See you back here on Sunday, when we find out if I've managed to squeeze in some spinning time.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pattern Release: Trap a Zoid

I know you may be surprised hearing from me on a Monday, but sometimes surprises merit a surprise post!

If you're familiar with my designs, then you know that one of my favorite indie dyers to work with is Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works. I've used her yarn a lot over the past several years, both for my designs and for my personal knitting, so I have a lot of leftovers and partial skeins sitting around. A while back, I saw a call for submissions that got my gears turning, and I pulled out some remnants of Lisa's sportweight Traveler base and started swatching. The resulting submission didn't get picked up for that particular call, but I liked the swatch so much that I decided to keep going with the design and self-publish.

Lisa was so excited about the design when she saw it that she not only offered to (unofficially) test knit it, but she asked if I'd like to collaborate with her again and make this pattern part of a kit for her 12 Yays of Christmas. Of course I wasn't about to refuse her! So I'm announcing this new pattern launch today because in addition to being able to get a kit for this pattern through Lisa's shop, for the next two days, you can also get it at a special lower price (an even better deal that she normally gives over the usual reduced price of buying the kit versus all the components separately).

I'm guessing some of you are wondering about the name of this particular design, so let me explain. Way back when I was in the seventh grade (we'll avoid, for now, the subject of just how many years ago that was), I had a fairly wacky math teacher. She was known for being quirky and a bit offbeat, but it worked well in terms of getting us interested in the subject matter. When we were starting our geometry unit, we began by getting familiar with the names of various shapes. She surprised us all by drawing a little alien figure on the board:

This, she explained, was the dreaded Zoid. Zoids are, apparently, very destructive and dangerous, so if you see one, the only thing was to use a polygon to capture it. What kind of polygon? Well, I think this speaks for itself:

This is Zoid that's been captured with a Trap-a-Zoid. Get it? Yes, I realize it's a bit silly, but as a 13-year-old, I found it mildly amusing and certainly a useful trick for remembering the name of the shape.

Math and socks have been on my mind a lot this past year, and it occurred to me that there are trapezoid shapes already in a standard heel-flap-and-gusset sock with a wedge toe. So I decided to throw in a bit of colorwork to enhance this.

If these socks look familiar, it's because they're very similar in style and execution to my Palestra pattern. They've got the same little short-row tab above the heel and the same general shape, but there are fewer ends to weave in. The stranded colorwork is restricted to the rows of trapezoids around the middle of the foot, but there are pops of the contrast color around the cuff and under the heel.

While I highly recommend Lisa's yarn (and that you get your hands on one of her kits, if you can), if you're trying to knit down your stash, the colorwork uses little enough yarn that it's great for small amounts of leftovers or mini skeins. I'm also finding that I really love a little stranded work in the middle of my sock -- it makes it hug the foot so nicely and adds some extra cushion. And this stranded pattern is super easy, so if you're just dipping your toes in, it won't be too difficult for you.

The special price on Lisa's kits is available only today and tomorrow (December 10 and 11), but she will continue to have the kits in stock at their regular price after that. You can also buy the pattern on its own through my Ravelry shop.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Off Kilter but Full

I'm definitely in the home stretch on my Merry Month of Minis spinning. As of this writing, I have five minis left that are lined up to be spun and one full bobbin.

For once, the uneven-looking bobbin in this shot isn't due to perspective. Rather, it seems that my WooLee Winder needs a bit of an adjustment to wind on evenly. You can see that there's still a fair amount of room at the far end of the bobbin, but there's no more room at the near end, so I figured this would be a good place to stop. I'll start a new bobbin for the remaining minis, but all the singles will eventually get plied into one big skein.

Here's what's been spun since last week:

Clockwise from top left: Color Comin' Outta Your Ying-Yang on 85% Polwarth/15% silk, Fading Peacock on Gotland, Don't Tell Him It's a Rainbow on mixed BFL, and Seventh Year Stitch Color Pops on Targhee

Two minis were added today:

Top: Secret Garden on Falkland; Bottom: Beach Wedding on 75% BFL/25% silk
If you're looking closely at the numbers on the little slips of paper that go with each fiber mini, you'll notice that there are two days missing. I decided to leave out two of the minis that I opened this week:

First, there was a beautiful mini of 100% Mulberry silk, and I decided that I wanted to save that to either to spin on its own or to blend in with something else. The other mini was Welsh, which is fairly rough/coarse and hairy, and it didn't really feel like the rest of the fiber, so I just left it out; perhaps I'll combine it with the Karakul at a later time.

Part of me really wants to keep spinning until I finish the last five minis, but I also know that I have some sleeves to be knit!

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Mild Panic Knitting

When I finished the fronts to the Mister's sweater last weekend, I felt like I was going to have no trouble whatsoever getting in done in time. Then I started the sleeves, and my progress seems to have slowed to a standstill. I know, intellectually, that of course the knitting is going to be slower doing both sleeves at once -- I have twice the stitches to work for each row, plus each time I turn to start a new row I have to flip my yarn around so the two strands don't get tangled. I also know that it will likely take me just as long to knit them simultaneously as it would have to knit them separately. But that hasn't stopped me from feeling like my knitting speed is now as slow as molasses.

As of last night, I had about 60 rows left to knit before I get to the sleeve cap shaping. So I'll keep plugging away at them and hope for the best. The sweater needs to be ready to be worn on the 19th, so really it needs to be done before then if I'm going to block it. I think I may block the back and the fronts this weekend, while the sleeves are still on the needles; I've ordered a zipper, and the fronts will need to be blocked to their final measurements to install it, so I can at least get that out of the way. Once the zipper is in, I can seam the shoulders and get ready to set in the sleeves as soon as they're complete.

In the meantime, I should soon be done entirely with the doll sweater I've been knitting for Rainbow. I finished up the body and knit most of the first sleeve today, and the knitting that remains to be done should take no time at all.

The big challenge for this project will be blocking it and then hiding it so she doesn't see it while it's drying -- she does seem to know how to find things I'm trying to keep secret!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Status Update

Much knitting happened over the weekend, so I have actual visible progress to share on the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan!

Apologies for the early morning photo

Both fronts have now been completed, and I've cast on for the sleeves. I'm knitting them at the same time, on the same needle, to ensure that they come out identical. On the one hand, this means they will take twice as long, but I'll also be done with both at the same time (isn't the worst thing about knitting a sleeve having to knit a second one?). The sleeve progress is entirely from Sunday evening; I didn't touch them last night at all because I was busy working on something else. But I'll be picking them up again tonight and seeing if I can get through the rest of the 1x2 ribbing at the cuffs and move on to the much faster stockinette.

The other project that jumped on my needles yesterday is my first official Giftalong project, and it's a little something for Rainbow. You may remember that when we picked out yarn for her Hyphen sweater earlier in the year, we also selected a coordinating skein of yarn in fingering weight to knit a matching sweater for her American Girl Doll. Rainbow's birthday is a week from Saturday, so I thought that if I cast on now, I could have it done to give to her as a gift (she does know that I had the yarn for the sweater, but she doesn't know that I've started it, so it will still be a surprise). Here's where it was as of the end of my lunch break yesterday:

I have since added another increase row and another band of the stitch pattern and put the sleeve stitches on waste yarn. I'm using some notes from another Raveler but also winging it a bit -- I had to steal the doll from Rainbow's room last night while she was sleeping to hold the WIP up to it and check the fit. Fortunately I think it'll be close enough, and blocking will help. The one benefit of knitting for a doll is that it's unlikely to complain if the fit isn't perfect -- not to mention that this sweater will never be outgrown! Considering that I only cast on yesterday and have already divided the sleeve stitches from the body, I think this will be done fairly soon.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Slow Bobbin Filling

This post once again contains spoilers, but I'm not going to hide them because it's going to be the case for every spinning post going forward until I finish all the minis.

I've added four more bits of fiber from my Fibernymph Dye Works Merry Month of Minis bobbin, and it is slowly filling up (I expect that I will have some overflow onto a second bobbin when all is said and done). These were for days 15, 16, 17, and 18.

Clockwise from top left: Down at the Pub on Falkland, Expanded Rainbow on 80% Targhee/10% bamboo/10% silk, Cotton Sheets on BFL, and Winter Shore on Norwegian

Obviously one of these things was not like the other, and it looked so beautiful on the bobbin thanks to the even winding on of my WooLee Winder:

I've got the next four minis unwrapped (I wanted to do that while the sun was out so I could snap pictures) and lined up ready to spin. I'm going to try to fit in a few minutes every evening to get them spun so I can try to spin up the remaining minis next weekend. That may be a bit of a pipe dream on my part, but it would be lovely to finish up in the first week of December and have the yarn finished should I choose to start knitting it later this month. Plus, I wouldn't mind getting back to my combo spin before we leave for our annual trip to Florida. If only there were more hours in the day!