Thursday, February 12, 2015

Entirely too cute.


Any day now our newest nephew will be born, and in expectation of his arrival, I've been working on a little blanket for him. When we found out my sister- and brother-in-law were expecting, right away I knew that whatever I made would be gender-neutral, not only because it was too early to know the baby's sex, but because I thought the parents would prefer it.

You can almost tell what they're supposed to be.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to make - I've made plenty of hats and stuffed toys for my legion of nieces and nephews, but I was in the mood for something different, so I thought a blanket might be the way to go. And after a good, long Ravelry search, I hit upon just the right one: Villi Pohjola by Terhi Viinikanoja. It was so cute! Knitted abstractions of arctic critters in easy-to-knit squares. The only trick was that the pattern was written in Finnish, so I had one window of my computer open to the pattern text and another window open to Google Translate.

I think this otter is my favorite.

The animals on pattern were a bunny, a reindeer, a brown bear, a badger, a lynx, and a fox. Since this new baby was going to grow up in North Carolina, I decided to modify the pattern to show critters found there. I changed the reindeer to a deer, the brown bear to a black one, the badger to a raccoon, and the lynx to a river otter. All it took was a few sketches on the handy graph the designer supplied and I was in business. The knitting went really quickly as it was stockinette stitch in worsted-weight yarn. Since this was a baby gift, I chose Cascade 220 Superwash for its ease in care. I don't think that new parents are going to want to deal with anything that isn't machine washable.


The fox is pretty cute too.
Once I got the knitting done, the seaming went pretty fast too. I used my favorite seaming tutorial from Twist Collective, and had the blanket put together in short order. Appliqueing the eyes was a different story. I had been putting it off for awhile, because the size of the blanket meant that I was going to have to clean all the mail off my dining room table if I wanted the eyes to look right. Thankfully, a gloomy, rainy day inspired an idea: I'd take the blanket to the coffee shop and work on it there! The tables would be clean, someone else would make hot drinks for me, and I wouldn't have to clean my dining room. Awesome!

And who wouldn't love this sweet bear?

Once all the critters had eyes, it was a lot easier to get going on the noses and mouths. The noses were all done in duplicate stitch (except for the racoon, who doesn't have a nose) and then I used a chain stitch to get nice curves for all the mouths. I improvised the deer's antlers - the pattern called for crocheting them, but my crochet skills are practically non-existent, so I knit them in garter stitch to keep them from curling up. I added some black trim to the fox's ears and called the blanket done. It turned out to be just the right size for a stroller, so I hope he'll get lots of use from it.

I'm not sure the deer is happy to be here.

Well, that's it for now, Friends. I have to get this package in the mail!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Adventures in Stash Knitting, or, Another Lesson in "You Should Know Better By Now"

So, the whole point of knitting from stash is, you know, using up stash yarn. I mean, I have yarn. Not as much as some folks, but enough that I'm not going to run out any time soon. And as I've got all this yarn, I want to knit it up. I haven't gone cold sheep (it's like going "cold turkey," but, well, knitters) or anything, but I am making a point of being mindful about what I'm buying.

Anyway, some time ago, a couple of my friends were doing a little destashing, and  I acquired a whole lot of Cascade Eco Wool. A few skeins in cream from my friend Holly, a few skeins in chocolate from my friend Tonya, and a couple random skeins of each from my friends Colleen and Jan added up to something like 6000 yards of bulky-weight yarn. That's more than 3 miles of yarn taking up a whole lot of space in my stash.


The first project I made from this stash was the Walnut Snood from the awesome Japanese knitting magazine Amirisu. I ended up using a little more than a skein for this cabled infinity scarf. Looking over my project notes, it looks like it took me less than a week to complete it, and I've worn the hell out of it since then. It's my go-to scarf, and I love its versatility: on the occasions when I've neglected to wear a hat, it's come in really handy as a sort of hood and even as a balaclava. I can't say enough good things about it.


The next project was Streymoy from the Winter 2013 Knitty. I think I documented the sweater pretty well here, so you know all the trouble I had with it. But, really, the whole reason I chose that pattern was because I thought I'd be able to use up all this yarn. It used up quite a bit, but sadly, not all of it. I had to think about what I was going to do next.


I didn't have anything specific in mind, just using up this yarn! I did a Ravelry search based on the gauge I was knitting, the yardage I had, and the necessity for colorwork since I had two colors of this yarn. After looking through what felt like a million patterns, I settled on the Northern Lights poncho from a Vogue Knitting book. It had been published 10 years ago, so I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to find it, but it turned out that my local library had a copy. It was a quick, fun knit. That, again, didn't use up all the yarn.



Ugh! Seriously, I was getting pretty sick of knitting so many brown and white projects (including the projects I made with some really cool locally-grown Shetland wool), but I was determined to use up this yarn. Since I didn't want to make another poncho, I got going on another Ravelry search, this time deciding I had just the right amount of yarn to knit Boreal by Kate Davies, and knit it in time to wear it for Christmas. Yeah, I don't know what the hell I was thinking, either.


Based on the amount of yarn I had in each color, I really should have done the sweater with the light color on the bottom, but I decided that for my body type, it would look best with dark on the bottom half. So with a little trepidation, I cast on. The knitting went quickly since there was so much stockinette. Once I made my way through the bottom half, I started getting a little nervous that I was going to run out of dark yarn for the top half. I had a bad feeling about it that only got worse the further along I got. On December 18th I ran out of the chocolate yarn. A week before Christmas! What was I going to do? There are only a couple yarn shops in the area that carry Eco Wool, so I was really sweating it. It wasn't necessary to have a new sweater in time for the holiday, but I really wanted one.


So one night after work, I braved the crazy traffic by the malls to go to the shop that I thought was my best chance of finding the yarn. I had a 20 minute window to get off the bus, cross something like 10 lanes of traffic, walk to the shop way at the far side of the parking lot, find the yarn, pay for it, and catch the bus to get home. The shop had exactly one skein of the yarn I needed. It wasn't the same dye lot, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to matter with the color work, so I snatched it up and hurried to the checkout where there was a woman ahead of me who had a million little individually-priced stems of fake wreath-making stuff and nearly as many coupons. All I had was the one skein, but I was 30 seconds too late getting to the cashier. After roundly cursing her out (in my mind, though, not out loud), I took a breath and hoped I'd be able to make my bus. It was a Christmas miracle! I paid for my precious, ran for the bus stop, and thanks to the ridiculous traffic, I had time to spare before the bus arrived.

Once I got going again on the sweater, I was able to finish it in practically no time at all. From beginning to end, the whole thing took 10 days. And I had yarn left over, which kind of bothers me, but I just can't bear the thought of yet another Eco Wool sweater. I only ended up using about 100 yards out of the new skein of yarn, so I still have a healthy 400 yards left, in addition to nearly a full skein of the cream. I'd really like to use it up, but I think I'm going to give it a year or so. It'll keep.

Well, that's all I've got for tonight. Thanks for sticking with me over my long holiday break, Friends. Until next time.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Stranded!


I seem to be knitting a lot of stranded things lately. Mostly, I think it's because the yarn in my stash lends itself to the technique: I have a couple different yarns in more than one color, but not enough of each color to make a whole project.

Having finished my husband's sweater recently, I've been trying to find an appropriate project to use up all the yarn I have left, something like 3 skeins of the brown and 2 skeins of the cream, in addition to the 1 skein I have of another cream colorway. After searching Ravelry for bulky-yarn patterns, I eventually came upon the Northern Lights Icelandic Poncho by Vedis Jonsdottir, who is actually from Iceland. The pattern called for a lopi yarn, but since I'm trying to use up the rest of my Eco Wool, the yoke design is knitting up with more distinct stitch definition and less fuzziness than I would expect to get from lopi. The knitting has gone quickly, especially with size 10 needles! I only cast on Thursday night and I've gotten through the yoke already. All that's left is the mile or so of stockinette and the seed stitch hem. I'm pretty sure I'll have enough yarn left at the end of this project to make another, probably with the colors reversed. I just really want to use up the rest of this yarn.


The other yarn in my stash that I've been trying to knit up is the Littledove Farm Shetland wool blend that I won at the State Fair a couple years ago. Last February, I'd knit up a hat with one of my friend's kids in mind, but it turned out that the kid wanted different colors, and his parents preferred it to be machine washable, so I've held onto the hat, trying to decide if I want to wear it myself this winter, or maybe give it away as part of a set. As this is a sport-weight yarn, I did another Ravelry search, this time for stranded mittens. The winner turned out to be a pattern I already had in my queue, the Squirrel & Oak mittens by Adrian Bizilia. For whatever reason, I was able to knit the pair of mittens over the course of a weekend. One of my coworkers expressed a liking for them, so I'm going to give them to her, and since I'm giving those away, I immediately cast on for a new pair, this one using a chart inspired by the wallpaper from Sherlock. I haven't decided yet whether I'll make the smiley face, but I figure that if I have some yellow yarn lying around, I'll go ahead and do it. Sadly, one hat and two pairs of mittens isn't going to use up my whole stash of it, so I'll likely be knitting a few more stranded things before it's gone.



Well, that's all I've got for tonight, Friends. Until next time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lessons in Humility: Gauge Edition


Just about a year ago, I started a stranded sweater for my husband (Streymoy from Knitty Winter 2013). I even posted photos of the swatches and the buttons on this here blog and promptly never wrote about it again. I was pretty excited about the project, as I already had the yarn in my stash and my husband liked the look of it. We decided between us that we'd prefer it as a pullover, rather than a cardigan, and I got started swatching.


My first swatch with the recommended needle size got me 15 stitches per 4 inches. Since the pattern gauge was meant to be 20 sts/4", I needed to go down at least a needle size. The next swatch got me 18 sts/4", which was closer to gauge, but not quite there. And here's where I got myself into trouble: I was really anxious to get started knitting, so I did some math and calculated that I could use the directions for the men's large size and have it fit with 2" or so of ease. My math was wrong. Terribly, comically wrong. Like 4" too big around the chest wrong. It was so frustrating! Even worse, it had taken me a solid two months to knit it wrong, and I was disgusted with it. I unraveled my work and set the yarn aside to taunt me at different times throughout the year.


I picked it up again this fall, determined to make a sweater that fit. I took a hard look at the swatches and the sleeves that I hadn't unraveled. I also took another look at the math and determined that my calculations had been off by .25 stitches per inch, which was just the difference between a sweater that would fit my husband and a sweater that would fit Rubeus Hagrid. Anyway, with this reevaluation of my mathing, I decided that following the directions for the men's medium size would end in a sweater that my husband could wear in public, not just in our frigid basement.

The two months of futile knitting last fall seems to have made this fall's knitting go really fast. The stranded charts were easy to memorize, and it felt like it took me no time at all to knit the body portion of the sweater. Once it was long enough, I had my husband try it on. It fit! I was so happy! I was less happy, though, at the prospect of having to re-knit the sleeves. As they were knit to stitch counts of the large size, I didn't want to try to calculate the adjustments necessary to make them work with the new body. It only took about a week to re-do the sleeves and join them to the body.


Now that I had one big garment on the needles, I marked off the steek stitches for the collar and began the raglan shoulder decreases. The designer did a fantastic job here by planning the decreases in such a way that it ended up a little more like a saddle shoulder than a true raglan, which I think made for a better-fitting neckline than most. Once I completed the shoulders and neck, it was time to prepare the steek stitches for cutting.


I'm not gonna lie: just the thought of cutting my knitting makes me want to pee my pants. What if I cut too far? What if I cut in the wrong place? What if the reinforcements don't hold? What if??? I was really sweating it. In the end, I followed Kate Davies' steeking instructions: I did the crochet reinforcements and cut that sweater right down the middle. I even stopped in the right place. The only thing I think I'll do differently if I ever do another short steek is that I'll bind off the stitches meant to be at the base of the collar, which I think will add a little strength. It's a small thing, I think, but one that could help the sweater's durability.


With the steek cut, I picked up stitches for the shawl collar. I made it a 1x1 rib to match the cuffs and bottom ribbing. I had originally followed Jared Flood's collar instructions from the Brownstone pullover, but it ended up with too much fabric at the back of the neck, so I undid it and reduced the number of short rows by half. This made the collar fit my husband much better. I finished it with an i-cord bind off, incorporating the buttonholes as I bound off. As soon as I added the buttons, I made my husband try it on. It fit! We were both pretty happy about it. As I hadn't washed and blocked it when I took the photos, you're seeing it fit more snugly than it does since it was washed. As it was a lot of sweater (bulky-weight yarn, stranded), I filled the tub of my washing machine with water & wool wash and let it soak. I briefly considered blotting it dry by hand, but changed my mind when I lifted it out of the washer and found it was really, really heavy wet. I decided the better plan would be to use the spin cycle (skipping the agitation) to remove most of the water from the sweater. Then I laid it out on the guest bed, getting it to its proper shape and size and let it dry for a few days.


Since I finished it, my husband has gotten to wear it a couple times and has told me how much he loves it, which makes me pretty happy. He's so knitworthy! There's yarn leftover from this project and I'm trying to decide if I want to make something for myself from it. I've found a couple patterns I like, but I haven't made up my mind yet. That decision may need a little time to percolate.

So, Friends, that's it for tonight. Until next time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It felt like a minute


Oh, Friends, where has the time gone? I'm having difficulty believing that I've been gone as long as I have, but so it is. Last time I wrote, I talked about my disappointing State Fair results, and showed you the beginning of a sock I was making for my mother-in-law. I've since completed the sock and three other projects.

First, the sock: it's the Rhombus pattern from CookieA's Knit Sock Love book. It ended up taking about six weeks to finish, and I ended up running out of yarn about 2.5" before I could close up the toes. A kind Raveler sold me a second skein of the gorgeous Sundara Sock, which allowed me to finish with enough left over to make some socks for myself.


Next I decided that I would make a point of knitting up the oldest yarn in my stash, partly as a way to clear out some space in my bins and partly as a challenge to myself. While I have a whole lot of some mohair boucle that I bought at a fiber festival some years ago, I knew I could find a pattern for the silk/bamboo hand-dyed sport weight that's been in my stash nearly as long. Anyway, believing that I had a mere 450 yards of this yarn, I cast on for the Glitz at the Ritz shawl, which I thought would use up both skeins. I got through nearly the whole shawl before I realized that I'd underestimated the yardage of the skeins, leaving me with nearly the whole second skein upon completion of the shawl.


Knowing that I likely didn't have enough yardage remaining to make another triangular shawl, I decided that a rectangular scarf would be the way to go. I could cast on and knit until I ran out of yarn, hoping that the yarn's slinkiness would help once it was washed and blocked. I used the Shimmer Wave scarf pattern, which had an easy-to-memorize repeat and traveled well. I mostly worked on it during my commute to work every day and occasionally in meetings and waiting rooms. It took a mere three weeks to complete, and I've already given it to a coworker.

Lastly, I restarted the Streymoy sweater I'd had so little success with last winter, but I think I'll save that for next time. There's a lot to tell! Until then.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

State Fair Results


The Kentucky State Fair concluded today, so I thought I should head back out there and get a some photos of my entries in situ before I bring them home tomorrow. I had gone to the Fair on the day it opened, but I forgot my camera, so all I had were crappy cell phone pics.


While everything I entered earned a ribbon, none of them were blue (or red, for that matter), so I have to admit that I am disappointed with how I did. Overall, I think that each of the blue ribbon winners deserved their award, but I have a few quibbles with some of the other rankings. It's not major stuff, mostly technical issues with a few things. Oh, well. There's always next year.


My Cypri shawl earned a third place ribbon, which was a pleasant surprise, as I didn't really have any expectations on how it might do. My Rafters cardigan and Hanami stole both earned fourth place ribbons, which I'm alright with. The cardigan has been worn and washed often, and was a little felted as a result. The stole was entered in the always-competitive lace category and was up against a lot of really good stuff. All the ribbon winners in this category were beaded and knit from laceweight yarns. What ended up being the biggest surprise and disappointment was that my socks only earned an honorable mention (there were two honorable mentions in socks!). There was a lot of variety in the category this year, and the level of competition was definitely higher than past years. My favorite socks (aside from my own, I mean) were the second place ones (traditional stranded knitting). The first and third place socks were nice, and I thought that the fourth place socks had some technical errors, but did have a pleasing color combination. I'll just have to do better next year.


Aside from the knitting, there were plenty of other things to see in the exhibition hall. I always look at the needlepoint and quilts, and this year I discovered some fantastic baskets and leather work. The wood turning folks entered a lot of beautiful objects. Here are photos of some of my favorites:










That's it for tonight, Friends. Until next time.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A little of this, a little of that.

I just got back from a week at the lake, and while I mostly just spent a lot of time on the water, I did manage to do a few crafty things, including the following:
  • I finished my worsted-weight anklets. I used the pattern for the Peace Fleece socks, but since I didn't have a lot of yarn, I just did a one inch cuff before I turned the heel. I think it might have been the second day we were there. My seven-year-old nephew said, "Oh, you finished your socks. Good job!"

  • I bought a skein of yarn. Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the Begonia Leaf color. It's a pretty reddish purple color. That's all the yarn I bought. I'll likely never again exercise such restraint.

  • I worked a little on one of the sleeves of my "chain mail" Halloween costume. It was a boring slog of a sleeve that still isn't finished, and I still have the second one to finish before I can start sewing the tabard part of the costume. I'm going to go as Sir Galahad the Chaste from Monty Python & the Holy Grail if I can finish the damned costume.
  • I finally finished the columbines needlepoint I started ages and ages ago. There wasn't much left to do - just the border - and I was making good progress, when I managed to break the only needle I had with me. Once I got home, I was able to complete it. Now all I have to do is take it to the needlepoint shop to get it blocked. Once that's done, I'll get it framed.

  • I started a pair of Rhombus socks for my mother-in-law. I'm using a skein of Sundara sock yarn in their Chocolate Covered Caramel colorway. This should be good commute knitting.

Well, that's it for tonight.  Next time, I hope to have a State Fair update. Until then, Friends!