Sunday, January 22, 2012

Knit through all things

It's been a rough couple of weeks, for various reasons - somehow even reading has seemed to require too much of the wrong kind of brainpower - so I have been knitting.  (I have also been spinning, but haven't taken any pictures of that yet.  Soon.)

In keeping with the plan of moving ahead with projects long-planned but not-yet-executed, I cast on for a pair of socks for Rick.  These are the Blunnie Socks, from last year's Rockin' Sock Club.  And they are knitted* on size zero needles (take that, size 15s!).  I don't have any pictures yet, but the first one is moving along fairly rapidly, and I am about halfway through the gusset. 

I also dithered for some time about the best way to use my precious three skeins of HazelKnits Entice (colorway Violeta), purchased at Sock Summit.  You know how easy it is to get crazy about finding the absolute perfect way to use up yarn that you really love?  It was threatening to get that way, until I finally talked myself down by reminding myself that there is more beautiful yarn out there in the world, and that getting attached is unhealthy (I swear, knitting up luxury yarn is excellent practice in non-attachment).  I decided on Poplar and Elm (silencing the monkey brain that wondered whether a wrap style is a mistake, since Rick isn't fond of them, blah blah blah), and cast on.

I am one sleeve in, and loving every minute of this knit.
This yarn is absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious.  So soft and squishy and happy.  It also took well to the ripping and reknitting I did (twice) at the start of the sleeve.  I decided that I was too impatient to knit an actual gauge swatch, but that I would knit the sleeves first, as a reasonable approximation thereof.  I cast on with the suggested size 5s, but after an inch or so, thought that things seemed too big.  So I ripped and went down to size 4s.  But after four inches or so, it was clear that 4s were going to be too small (and I'm knitting a size which is on the small side in any case, so a bit big is much better than a lot small), so I ripped that and went back to the size 5s.  And did all of this ripping make me cranky?  No, indeed it did not.  Because did I mention that the yarn is amazing?  And that I'm working with my lovely Signature needles, gifts of my beloved SIL?  And that I am NOT working on size 15 needles?  I'm in my happy space.

Yesterday, I also taught a silk hankie class at my LYS - always great fun.  I went in with some mawata that I'd stashed away for my next class, but when I got there, found that a new shipment of hankies had come in from Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks.  And there, right in the middle of the pile, was the perfect colorway to go with my newly-finished purple scarf.  So I snagged that one and used it to demonstrate technique during class (casting on my own pair of mitts in the process).  I finished the first one last night, and the second one today, and I am pleased as punch.  I have long been wanting a pair of mitts for myself, so this is a real treat.
Nice, no?  The colorway is Cabernet, and I am just delighted with them.  The pattern is one I put together for the class, and it seems to do the trick, while leaving plenty of scope for play for students who want to add a little somethin' somethin'.  I also picked up another mawata in a colorway (I think it's Lagoon?) that will go with the second one of these scarves that I'm knitting (although this Cabernet one should go with both of them when worn together).  But I'll probably hold off on knitting those until the scarf is done - a sort of bribe, as it were.

Classes start this week, so it's off to the races for me.  

*I saw a letter in the recent issue of The Knitter from someone who expressed her vast annoyance that the magazine had recently taken on the habit ("appalling" was implied) of using "knitted" as the past tense of "knit", when everyone ("cretin" was implied) knows that the correct past tense of "knit" is "knit".  In keeping with this prescriptivism, I would like to point out that the above usage is not the past tense (in fact, I do often use "knit" as the past tense of "knit", although I now have an overpowering urge to do otherwise, in as Uhmurrikan a way as I can manage), but is in fact the past participial form of the verb "knit", since that is a passive up there.  I contend that the past participle of "knit" is "knitted" and will defend my stance against all comers.**  Hmph.

**Don't you love grammatical curmudgeonliness and chest-beating?  Can't you sense the dripping sarcasm?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A knitting blog should have knitting...


And so I do.  Along with gathering up projects long-planned but delayed in execution (off with their heads!), I have also been gathering up WIPs.  By which I mean, if I am going to be entirely honest, I have been sidling up to my WIPs, trying not to make direct eye contact, lest they charge.

However, I have finished two of them.  They are two of the most recently cast-on, admittedly, but they are, nevertheless, off the needles.

The first is the Leif Slipover, which I knitted for Older Daughter.
I have my doubts about the wearability of this vest, to be absolutely frank.  It's bulky.  I admit that I have serious prejudices about bulky yarn - most of those have to do with the fact that it's...well...bulky.  It doesn't drape in any sense of the word.  I guess it's cozy (right?).  And cozy is nice.  I think what it boils down to for me, though, is that I never feel like it's moving with me when I wear bulky stuff.  I feel like my clothes are wearing me instead of the other way around.  I'm really hoping that Older Daughter doesn't share my prejudices.  (It may help that she has easily four inches on me, too; I think height helps when wearing big clothes.)(OK, I guess it's almost five inches by now.  I'm still in denial.)

Here's what made me knit it, though.
That, right there, is a very cool design feature.  Very cool.  And I do love how sculptural the cables are at this gauge.  I knitted it on size 15 needles, instead of 17s, but other than that, I knitted the pattern as written.
I also knitted it because it seemed like a cool, teenager-y sort of knit.  I so hope I'm right.  It hasn't been blocked - in no small part because I think it'd take forever to dry, and we're finally having some coolth around here, so I thought she might want to wear it.  I'll ascertain whether I'm right and then find a time to block it - maybe that'll improve the drape?

The cables are cool, though.
I should be more enthusiastic about this one, I know.  It's the color she wanted, and I'm pretty sure she likes it.  I think that this particular knit just combined too many elements of which I am not fond, and, frankly, I was totally underwhelmed by the pattern-writing.  I kept wondering where IK's tech editor was on the day they finalized it for print (and I know enough to know that this may have nothing to do with the designer's original pattern-writing skills).  There were a lot of bits in there that just made no sense whatsoever, and I admit to being pretty glad that I was able to "read" the cables to see where things were supposed to be going.  That said, I think that the design itself is very nice; I particularly like the waist join (as I mentioned), and the designer does a nifty thing under the arms, in which one picks up the purl bumps just below the stitches used for the two fronts as part of the back - it's a nice way to create an overlap under the arms that tightens things up and looks clean. 
I think you can see it there.  But you can also see how bulky this is!!

OK, I'm over it.  I also finished a project which is the exact opposite of this one in every way.
(In spite of how happy Older Daughter looks wearing this, it's mine.)  Actually, to be fair, I'm only halfway done.  This is the Churchmouse Bias Before and After scarf, and it's intended to be a pair, which can be worn together or separately, in two different colors (my second color is a gorgeous teal green).  The ends are beaded, which adds a lovely weight to what is otherwise a weightless (but warm and soft) scarf.  And, as promised with this pattern, it is ugly (really ugly) during the knitting, but the blocking changes everything.
It's knitted out of Cascade Alpaca Lace, on size 6 needles, and it's one of those knits that's boring boring boring in execution, but which I know I will wear endlessly.
If I can get it away from my daughter.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Plan

I'm not a big one for resolutions in the new year, at not least resolutions per se.  And I'm also not a huge fan of resolutions with regard to my knitting or spinning.  I think part of this has to do with the fact that my work life is so planned out (for example, at this point I have a fairly detailed plan for my work and research stretching through to June 2013; if I make it that long and get everything done, when it's supposed to get done, I will have shuffled many of my overcommitments off of my plate, and should have some breathing space to figure out the next plan - we'll see) that it's really nice not to have my knitting/spinning life too planned out.  (Note that I am not counting here the spinning classes that are coming up at my LYS, for which I am already - you guessed it - planning.)

Nevertheless, I have lately been sitting in the fiber room (aka the den), noticing wistfully and with sidelong glances the skeins and balls of yarn (we won't speak yet of the bumps and braids of fiber) which I bought with a specific project in mind (heck, I even bought the pattern) which somehow fell by the wayside as other, momentarily shinier, projects caught my eye.  The thing is, though, I bought that yarn and those patterns because I really, really liked them - and I still do.  Therefore, and after talking to Sallee about her plans for the next year (it would appear that I'm not the only one with this issue), it seems that the thing to do is to put all of that yarn together with the proper patterns and to bust a move on these projects.  It's a KAL of sorts, although I don't know that we're sure what to call it - you are most welcome to play along.

Here are the ones that were the most obvious:
(and by obvious, I mean: sitting right there in plain sight, or immediately available in my stash); and one more that I forgot when I was putting those together:
A little tour, then, is in order.   First, the ones whose yarn/pattern match I am most absolutely sure about (as in, I'm not rethinking my original plans).  That pile of blue right up there (and I should say that the colors on none of these is quite right, but I'm busting a move here, and I'm not stopping for anything), is some Rowan denim that I bought on sale in Sacramento over Thanksgiving (taking that sale as a sign that it is finally time) to knit the Indigo Ripples Skirt, which I have been wanting to knit ever since I saw it in IK in (sigh) 2007.  I'm hoping this is enough yarn... (if anyone has some Rowan denim in the dark blue (80), dyelot 225 that they're dying to get rid of, you know where to find me)

Next up: that single blue skein there is a skein of Sanguine Gryphon Bugga that I managed to score ages ago (colorway Blue Metalmark) that I've been hoarding, saving it for "good".  That's silly.  So I'm knitting a pair of the Kimono socks (my very favorite) out of it - I know I'll wear those a ton, as this denimy color goes with just about everything I wear.  The skein at 12:00 there (which is really a lovely fuscia, not at all the orangey it appears in this picture) is a skein of Baah! Luscious Lace (merino/silk) that has been destined since I saw it to become a Citron shawl (you can see the pattern right there), and so it shall.  And the two skeins of Hazel Knits artisan sock below (colorways, Rick's Cognac and Splish Splash; the blue one is closer to robin's egg blue, but the other one is pretty close) were purchased at Sock Summit this past summer with the express goal of becoming Catkin.  I'm thinking the amber as the main color and blue as the contrast - any opinions?

Next up:
The hank and ball up there on the top are the remains of the Briar Rose Seapearl (my very favorite yarn) that I used to knit my first Wine Dark Sea sweater.  That sweater, for various reasons having to do with the great mismatch between my image of myself and my actual self, is too big.  I have long been meaning to knit it again, and maybe to even write up the pattern as I do so.  I am hoping that the approximately 900 yards that I have there will be enough (it should be).  Below that is a cake of BMFA Socks that Rock lightweight in Schwarzwald, from this last year's sock club.  It's destined to be socks for Rick (using the club pattern that came with).  And the two skeins to the right of that are Alpaca with a Twist Fino (alpaca/silk) meant to become a pair of Oh Deer! for me. (Seriously, best mittens ever; they totally make me happy - so serious and elegant on top, so goofy on the bottom.) 

These are the ones I'm a little less sure about.  The skein of sock yarn at the top is definitely destined to become a pair of socks for my dad before his birthday next fall; I just don't know what pattern yet.  (The yarn is Holiday Yarn Flock Sock in the Cafe au lait colorway.)  The little skein next to the Pretty Thing pattern is a skein of Plymouth Earth ecco cashmere; I bought it with Pretty Thing in mind, but there's more yardage there than I really need for the pattern (and I don't want to waste cashmere!), and I'm worrying/dithering about the utility of a neckwarmer in my world, so we'll see.  The cake of yarn next to the Drifted Pearls pattern is a ball of Briar Rose cashmere; my dither there arises from my fear that I might not have enough yardage for the pattern and my feeling that perhaps this yarn should be for Rick - the colors would look great on him.  So the pattern may have a rethink.  And finally, there are three skeins of Hazel Knits Entice (merino/cashmere/nylon) that I also bought at Sock Summit this year, specifically to make a sweater for myself.  I'm pretty sure that it will be a pullover Leaving (such a lovely pattern), but I'm still dithering over the pullover/cardigan question, and reserve the right to fall in love with another sweater prior to the cast on.

So there it is.  I also have some projects OTN that I want to finish, and a few that I will probably make the decision to abandon and rip this year, but that's another story.  I will also probably do the same kind of thing I've done here for my spinning fiber - I have purchased quite a bit of it with specific projects/plans/spinning experiments in mind, and it's time to organize that and queue it up.  And I can think of two or three more projects' worth of yarn (that is, yarn I purchased with something very specific in mind) that I'll probably dig out of stash fairly soon to organize like this.  How about it?  Am I the only one out there with planned but unexecuted projects lurking about, rattling their chains in my stash?  Projects which still appeal, only eclipsed by some shiny distraction, projects which deserve their day in the sun?  How about you?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy new year!

A bit late, I know, but I mean it all the same.  It's 2012, and I hope for each and every one of us a good year, full of the things we love most, including fiber of course, but also in my world, family and friends and long walks with my dog, and time spent on the beach, and good books, and delicious meals shared in good company. 

I got a lot of that over the holiday break, in fact - I feel very lucky to have ended what in other ways has been a tough year in such a wonderful way.  Rick's brother and sister-in-law and our niece came to spend nine days with us, and I loved every one of them.  It was hard to see them go.  I've got pictures to share another day, in fact - we did a lot (including running my first 5k, thanks to my SIL's inspiration - I still think that she slowed down for me, but I stuck to her heels, and made it over the finish line in the end; can you tell I'm feeling proud?).

Meanwhile, until I have all of that organized, I thought I'd share the last few knitting projects from the old year, just to wipe the slate clean, as it were.  I didn't aim to do any holiday knitting, but I did finish one last baby surprise jacket plus booties for a friend's baby-to-be, and managed to give it to her at my LYS' holiday party - thank goodness, because her baby came a few weeks early!  I don't have any pictures of the sweater and booties, alas, but I'm hoping that perhaps I can get a picture of them in situ, on the baby herself.

I also started and finished a sweater for Younger Daughter in the weeks just before Christmas.  I saw two projects in IK Winter 2011 that I knew immediately were meant for my girls.  The first was the Fabled Cardigan, which I wanted to knit for Younger Daughter.  I promptly cast on after picking the yarn up at my LYS (I used Cascade EcoWool), and this knit up fast.  I will never be a fan of chunky yarns and big needles (but wait 'til you hear what I'm working on now!), but I admit that this one is right for what it is.
Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I didn't put the garter stitch edging on the bottom hem, letting the cables do the finishing for me (the picture below is truest to color).
And I added cables at the bottoms of the sleeves, as well.
I figured that this was in keeping with the front sweater skirt, which has cables right along the edge.
And I found the perfect buttons in Grandmom's button box.
All in all, I'm very happy with the way this turned out, and if it would just get cold around here, maybe I'd see more of it on her!

I have also cast on for Older Daughter's project, of which I have no pictures as yet.  I am knitting for her the Leif Slipover from IK Winter 2011, in Cascade Lana Grande (which I have an overwhelming urge to call Lana Grossa; perhaps this says something about how I feel about knitting on yarn this big), on size 15 needles, which are, frankly, not so much needles as boar spears.

I also knitted a little sweater for myself.  I saw it (and the yarn) at my LYS during the holiday party there, and knew that I really had to have it for Christmas eve this year.  I finished it at 3:30 on Christmas eve, an hour before people started to arrive for the annual herring fest aquavite binge Christmas eve party.  Whew.
It's just meant to be a little light cardi to add some color and warmth, and that's exactly what it did.  I'm ashamed to admit that I can't remember the pattern right offhand, but the yarn is Baah! La Jolla, hand-dyed (beautifully, I might add) by my friend Mira
I think this one is going to get a lot of use, actually, even though I hadn't been actively desirous of a sweater like this. It'll be perfect in the classroom, for example - the sleeves are short enough to stay out of my way, and it adds just enough warmth to be nice, without making me all crazy and overheated when I get excited about, say, morphophonological variation.  Heh.

I also finished up the socks I started for Cat Bordhi's class.
I'm much happier with the way I finished up the cable in the second sock (on the left); I need to decide whether it's worth ripping the first one back to fix, or whether I'll just let it go.  They fit very nicely - I love this heel quite a lot, and this kind of short-rowing worked beautifully for the toe, as well; my first short-row toe.
I'm particularly happy with the spiraling cable.  It's hard to get a picture of the back of one's leg, but:
There are more pictures on my Rav page.  The yarn I used for this was Dye Dreams Luster Sox, and it was a very interesting experience.  It's a lovely 3-ply yarn, made of Blue-Faced Leicester (BFL), which is perfect for socks in so many ways.  However, I found that it handled very differently from the way I expect yarn to handle - it seemed to be picking up twist as I knitted.  I finally checked and found, interestingly, that the yarn had been spun counter-clockwise and plied clockwise, which is opposite to the usual spinning and plying pattern for knitting yarns.  I had heard and read many times that it is better for knitting yarn to be spun clockwise and plied counterclockwise, but this is the first time that I've worked with a yarn that hasn't been.  It definitely makes a difference in the manageability of the yarn.  I have some left over, so I want to take some time to play with it a little bit to see if I can really see what's going on when I throw the yarn to knit, and why that seems to be adding clockwise twist (which in turn causes the yarn to behave as if it were overplied).  Very interesting.

Last, but not least, I finished the Not Stockinette socks that I cast on over Thanksgiving to alleviate my stockinette slump.  These are the Isabella D'Este socks from the amazing Clara Parkes' The Knitter's Book of Socks (I love every single one of her books, and would like to be her when I grow up).
I love everything about these socks.  They fit like a glove, and the pattern makes me very happy.  It's hard to go wrong with a picot edge, little lace motifs, and a gusset decrease that manages the movement of the lace pattern on the foot.  So elegant and finished.
I couldn't get pictures that really do these justice - I'll work on it.  But that one is pretty close to the true color.  These are knitted out of Jitterbug, which is perfect for socks - a springy, round 3-ply in a barely variegated solid that doesn't hide all the pretty patterning going on here.
I am very pleased with the way these turned out, and I'm betting I'll wear them a lot.

I do have some knitting plans for the new year, but I will wait on those until I've taken some more pictures to go with them.  I did, however, do some playing around on Ravelry this evening, and it seems fitting to end this with a recap of this year's projects:

30 projects started and finished in 2011, including:
7 pairs of socks
6 shawls
9 hats
3 baby sweaters and booties
4 sweaters (two for me, one for my mom, one for Younger Daughter)
1 pair of mitts

Not too bad, all things considered.

Happy New Year!