Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finishing the year with a lot of starts

My beginning is my end
Now I can show you two of the gifts I finished:

Shawl side


I love the velcro quality of brick walls that enable quick photographs of wooly yarns.  This is "A Seriously Simple Shawl" knit up in Kiparoo Farms Skye, though the yarn seemed to have more halo than I remember from a previous project.  I knit the pattern because I love the overall effect of the border, but the body pattern was not as much fun as many of the all-over lace patterns I've worked.

Shawl bench


Although I was weaving in the ends on one gift Christmas morning right before breakfast, I had all but one gift finished and wrapped in time for the big family gift exchange.  The last present to be finished was for my sweetie, and I feel pretty good about how much I accomplished in terms of holiday knitting this year.  I think I took to heart the goal I made at the beginning of the year to knit for others more.  Here's my honey's socks, knit in the lovely Briar Rose Fibers Fourth of July:

Socks 4


I took some cues from Clara Parkes' pattern in her Knitter's Book of Socks, and I love how the colors pop in the heel.

Heel closeup


My end is my beginning
Have you heard of the term "start-itis"?  Since finishing all my Christmas knitting I've felt like a freed man and have reveled in the opportunity to cast on a number of projects.

During the Tour de Fleece, I used my Trindle to spin up a delightful merino yarn that shifts colors right through the spectrum of colors.  My intention was to pair it with a light grey for a Spectra scarf. I didn't get around to finishing the grey, but on my last trip to Loop, I found some Madelinetosh dk that will be perfect for what I envisioned.  For this project I added another trick to my bag of knitting skills: backwards knitting.  It's really not as bad as I thought.  I had the sound off on my computer and still managed to understand a tutorial I found on YouTube.

Spectra 2

You may remember my last post, in which I talked about my hankering to knit up some of my Black Bunny Fibers yarn... well, here is the green-grey colorway.  Green and grey seems to be a theme for me.

198 yards 2

Another yarn I've had a real hankering to knit ever since I laid eyes (and hands) on it is the purple rambouillet batt my friend Aaron spun up using a supported long draw... that's what he called it.  I think it would fall more into the woolen category based on the way the fibers sit in the yarn, as compared to a worsted-spun yarn.  That's for you spinner folk. This really is a delicious yarn.  As I pondered how to perfectly use it, I went through lots of possibilities before deciding to try Jared Flood's Alberta vest, using  Shelter as the other yarn.  Well, the trim will be using Loft double-stranded, so it should really be an interesting combination.

Purple Trio 6


Because of some variables I am unsure of after a bit of swatching, I decided to cast on using a crocheted provisional cast-on. The advantage of this is that I can make sure the sweater is working out alright before spending my time on the ribbing, which will not be using the handspun yarn that adds a bit of mystery to the gauge question. It also gives me the option of fixing possible issues in body length much later in the game.  And I don't have to wait to work with that yummy purple stuff (on the left). Oh, but the best part is that I don't have to work a tubular cast-on; instead I can utilize my love for Kitchener stitch in the tubular cast-off!

sweater vest caston

See that crochet hook I'm using to pick up the stitches with?  It's actually a cro-needle the boyfriend spied on a recent visit to a yarn shop.  I've been looking for one of these for some time, and it's already proving to be a wonderful tool.  I know a lot of the interchangeable sets are making (or talking about making) pieces for this kind of needle, but I hope they'll speed up the process.  I think more knitters should have these.

crohook 2

After picking up the initial row of stitches, I knit a row plain to set myself up for the increases, then paused to do a bit of math.  Well, I felt too lazy to be really fussy with math, so here's the solution I used.  I needed to evenly space out sixteen increases over 150 stitches, so we punched in the numbers.  150 divided by 16 equals 9.3 something, so I knew I needed to work an increase after every nine or ten stitches.  But how many nines or tens?  9 times 16 equals 144, so I had a remainder of six; so ten of the increases would be after the ninth stitch, and six would be after the tenth stitch knitted in the increase round.  I raided my notions box and found to my delight that I had sixteen stitch markers, six of them being green and the rest being orange.

Counting increases

Now I need to pause to explain that I hate planning ahead, as in a chess game, but I am still a bit obsessive when I eat my Skittles -- arrange them all by color, eating the extras first, then one of each color in succession until one of each color remains.  If you know this about me, it may not seem a far stretch that I was able to group the stitch markers in clumps of two or three, so that I could make sure the green ones were most evenly distributed, without having to think too hard.  Then as I knit the row, spacing my increases was a simple as replacing the corresponding marker in the tin when I reached nine or ten stitches and work the increase.  And it came out perfectly!  Some times knitting makes a person feel so smart.

Now I must send this out with only a half hour left to call "this year."
Happy New Year to you! Cheers, and happy knitting!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Knitter's Wish List

I've been knitting furiously (minus the angst) since you last heard from me, as well as running to a few choir concerts.  Due to the holiday knitting pact of secrecy, I have little to show for my work, except this shoddy photo to prove that I finished the stockings:


I feel better now that I can see them finished, with the names stitched on there.  Oh, did I ever tell you how delightful duplicate stitch can be?  I think the fact that it's merely tracing the path of the yarn through the symmetry of the ever-so-familiar knit stitch is both comforting and soothing.  I thought it would seem more profound than that.  Oh well.  Master of the obvious.

I've never been in such good standing as I am this year for holiday gifts, but I'm still plugging away at a few gifts this week, including a shawl that is merely rows from completion and a sock that is only a few inches into its existence.  As I work I find my thoughts wandering forward to the time when I get to knit with worsted weight yarn, or knit small projects like mittens or hats, and play with some ideas and colors I've gotten my hands on.  So I figured it might be worthwhile to share a "wish list" - that is, things I wish to knit, when I get a chance.  Not really a new year's resolution so much as a bit of indulgence in the delight of planning new projects.

I want to knit with some mystery Black Bunny Fibers yarns I picked up earlier in the year:
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I want to knit mittens of the stranded and plain varieties, including a convertible set.  I also want to make a slouchy hat for myself (Dustland, I think), since regular hats just don't seem to give me the coverage I want.  Of course, I want to get back to making another pair or more of worsted-weight socks to keep my toes warm at night.

A cardigan (in Shelter?) would be great, since it has the practical aspect of being easier to put on and take off during a day that can get hot, then return to chilly whenever the heater goes off.  But the other day I found some great colors in a basic Norwegian wool that I'm itching to knit into a stranded sweater. I got just enough to experiment with the colors before deciding on how many balls I need of each one; hopefully it will come to fruition.  I'm not the most avid sweater knitter, so it'll probably be a toss-up to whether I get to do either one.  Sweaters take a bit more commitment, not only in time but in the same yarn, and I just can't afford that at the moment.

Oh, and I can't wait to spin again.  The boyfriend just got a new Lendrum wheel, which means I have all the more encouragement to get behind the wheel, too.

Speaking of the boyfriend, he was kind enough to help me once again get some pictures of some the knitting I have been doing.  I don't think this will spoil any gifting going on:
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Meh.  For now, my planning is all dreaming.  I still have to finish that shawl!

Have a merry Christmas, happy knitting, and happy old year while we still have it!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stockings and Warm Fuzzies

Here's what I've got so far.  I'm still working on one more, and I plan to redo the i-cord on a couple of them, but they're mostly done.  Each person in the family picked out the colors and a couple people specified something to include in the designs.

Four Stockings 3


You can probably see some tension issues-- especially in the green-body one, which I did first.  I'm so glad most of the tension works itself out in the soak.  I can't imagine how this would have come out if I had used the acrylic yarn I originally planned on.  I love wool; it's like magic.  Perhaps steaming would help. (edit: Perhaps steaming would help with the acrylic route.)

Yesterday's photo session took place by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  It was so friggin cold.  But the ginko trees were gorgeous.

Tree 2


I was also amused by the way my first purchase of Loft by Brooklyn Tweed matched the cuffs of my favorite pair of mittens.

Cuffs


After deciding the air was too chilly even for our wool-clad bodies, the boyfriend and I opted to head downtown, and we found a cute little coffee shop that had only one table unoccupied.  I don't always like being in such close proximity to strangers, but as we sat down I realized I was not really among strangers after all.  The two tables nearest us sported lovely wool yarns; the girl next to me was working on her first knitting project ever, having learned from YouTube over the weekend, and the guy at the next table was crocheting some Noro into a striped scarf.  He also had just come back to yarn after a few years away from it.  Suddenly I felt at home.  I love yarn.  I love the people that love it.  Please pardon me for being sentimental.  But then, we need something to connect us in this world-- so why not a bit of string?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Popping in for an update

I'm currently working on number five of five Christmas stockings; I expect to finish before December even hits!  Bam!  For once, I'm on point for my holiday knitting.  (Oh, and three presents are DONE!)  The stockings are not secrets, so I can share them with you, so stay tuned.

For now, though, enjoy a few more pictures from the trip to New York (Rhinebeck and beyond).

Back when people were making New Years resolutions, I mentioned that I'd like to finish at least one book this year.  I've done that a few times over so far, and I tip my hat to my friendly e-reader.  One of the books was Steve Kluger's Almost Like Being In Love, which takes place up at Loughberry Lake in Saratoga Springs.  The boyfriend and I paid a little visit to the spot.

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Loughberry lake


Downtown, we were delighted to see that stores such as the Gap had realized the fashionability of yarn in its raw form, as well as knitted up.
cabled sweater skein


Cable sweater

Yarn was draped across windows and over mannequins, and closeup photos of knit cables were on prominent display in shop windows.

But there were other lovely sights in town besides yarn.
Ivy red and green


While strolling, we had an encounter with the wildlife and barely escaped with our lives.
Saratoga wildlife


The leisurely drive back took us through Rhinebeck once again, and just below that we found the Vanderbilt mansion overlooking the Hudson River.
DSC09739


Our goal was to reach the Culinary Institute of America before the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe closed.  We made it with about twenty minutes to spare, although the apple pie was all gone.  *Sad face*  I did end up with a great big sandwich cookie thing that featured a spiced vanilla cream cheese filling and butternut squash butter, and maple somewhere in the mix.  The cookie had a bit of a carrot cake thing going on, but they really had me at "maple."

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Do you remember me working on the Evenstar Shawl last year?  I'm still where I was last year, but I did spy a couple completed specimens at the festival.  Here's one to help you (and me) feel better that I don't have knitting photos for you.

Evenstar Shawl

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The closest thing to a Rhinebeck update you're gonna get

Um, Rhinebeck?  Wasn't that, like, a month ago?

Yes.  And do you know how many times I've started a post,
only to get pulled away to do other things?
So here's my compromise: I can at least grace you with a couple pictures now and then.

My "famous people" pictures from the Sunday Ravelry meetup:
Ysolda
The amazing and ever-gracious Ysolda!  This one's for a fellow knitter who couldn't make it but is a total fangirl. (My hat is Ysolda's Cairn design.)

Savvy sisters

The delightful Savvy Sisters of the Savvy Girls Podcast!  If you want to hear about some of our meeting, go to their podcast and have a listen.  They're quite engaging and delightful, though I was afraid I'd have scored their "Most Ridiculous Knitted Garment" award.  Oh, and Melanie is a classical singer, and that's by the by!

You may notice a slight costume change.  Igor was my constant companion, except when he was off signing autographs.  Seriously, I think my fish hat got more attention than me, even when I'd do a striptease.

Savvy sisters fishface
I can become a little awkward when the "fanboy" nerves kick in.
And just as I was about to get some air time with the Savvy Sisters, who should walk up looking like a rock star but Stephen West himself!  He got a bit mobbed.  Hear more about it in the podcast.
Stephen sighting

I had heard through the day on Saturday that Stephen had been seen all over the grounds, but I kept missing him.  So it was a nice treat to see him walk up at the meetup and get a few seconds of face time with him.

Stephen 2
Cheesing for the camera with Aaron and Stephen
In the interest of getting this out into the blogosphere, I'm gonna stop there.  I just don't have pictures of some of the other people I saw, but it was really the highlight of my weekend to catch up with my long-distance fiber friends, as well as making new and lovely acquaintances.

And it was lovely having lots of time with my sweetie.
walkin with my dearie

Monday, October 31, 2011

Baaah Humbug!

Happy Halloween!

(I know I still owe a Rhinebeck report.  This is not it.)

Bad Day SheepWhen I was a wee laddie, my family generally shunned Halloween.  I still have a residual dislike for gory and scary costumes, but one of the few costumes I had growing up was that of a little sheep.  Who knew?



Mama tried to raise me to be a good little sheep.





Baa Baa Black SheepThis year my team at work picked a Nursery Rhymes theme, but we ended up adding a twist to each of them.  It took me a long time to decide on which one I'd be, but I found my inspiration in Baa Baa Black Sheep:

Baa Baa black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for my master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

I certainly have bags of wool.  But here's the twisted version:

Baa Baa black sheep
How do you look so cool?
By covering myself from head to toe
With lots and lots of wool!



I feel pretty good about the fact that I can reuse all the yarn and fiber in the skeins and mohawk and tail.  Spending a lot of money on a cheap costume that will not get used again seems a waste to me, but I can't bear to wear the same costume each year, either.

Oh, and for the nerdy folks: the mohawk is made of some lovely shetland I got at Rhinebeck a couple years back.

Baa Baa Black Sheep


What did you dress up as for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HizVest!

HizVest

I finished HizVest just in time to wear at Rhinebeck (report to follow soon).  Since I like to do the pictures, I'll just focus on the vest here.

HizVest

Vest Bench 2

Having knit a favorite pair of socks in Blue Moon's colorway Mossly Manly, I fell in love with the shifting greys and yellowish greens, and knew I had to make this pattern in it as well.

Vest detail shoulder

The colors are a bit lighter in the Woobu, due to the way the bamboo takes the dyes.  I still like it.  

HizVest 

It's Reversible!

One of the draws of this pattern is that it even looks sharp when turned inside out.  

HizVest

If I hadn't tried to be smart and slip the first stitch in the back-and-forth sections, the ridge at the picked-up edges wouldn't be quite so pronounced.  Live and learn.

Vest reverse detail shoulder

A couple techniques new to me in this pattern: 

Channel-Island Cast-On: I still don't know if I got it right, but it was pretty cool

Tubular Cast-Off: This was so ingenious.  I am seriously tempted to do ribbing last on future projects because of the way it finishes.  Get this: 1x1 ribbing finishes with a sort of double-knitting simulation, then kitchener stitch so that the ribs flow right over the edge into the reverse side.  For a person who loves kitchener stitch, this is great news.

In my usual form, when not reading ahead very thoroughly didn't serve me well, I fudged it. This proved to be a nice take-along project, and I managed to work the cables without a cable needle using variations of pinch-and-slip techniques.  

Just for fun:
My boyfriend and I scoped out Saratoga Springs because of a book we had read, and managed to work in the photo shoot during the process.  Nice town.  Despite appearances, I did not, and would not, pee in the street.  I'm just sayin'.

HizVest

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trip report: Celtic Classic 2011

Celtic Fest Crowd

The boyfriend and I (yes, I said it) took a trip to the charming town of  Bethlehem, PA for a day at this year's Celtic festival.  Here's a little photo tour of some of the things we saw.

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Mohawk crowd

Horse Cops

As if kilts, mohawks, and horse cops weren't enough, the caber toss was quite impressive:

Caber setup

Caber Toss 1

Caber Toss airborne

I prefer to find a quiet spot and get some knitting in during crowded events like this, and the festival location had some nice spots for such respite. 

Sights at Celtic Classic

Canal by the Ice House

Flower Purple

Flowers yellow gravel

Sights at Celtic Classic

Not pictured are the tasties: bangers and mash with blood pudding (I focused on the mash and left the pudding to the boyfriend), lots of great music, apricot-almond strudel, orange-ade, sugar-roasted almonds, beer from the brewery.

Up in town, the sights and sounds and flavors continued, including a band that did not really fit the Celtic bill, but made me think of the old folks at work.

Band at the mic

Bride and Groom back

And a photo of one of the projects I brought with me - a sock, of course.  I'm using some of the amazing yarn I received as part of a hugely generous gift from the guys at the Men's Knitting Retreat back in May.  (I couldn't bear to wait until Rhinebeck to use the gift certificate to Briar Rose Fibers.)

Sock full

Besides the socks, I've been working busily on HizVest so that I can wear it to Rhinebeck in a couple weeks.   (WOOT!)   I'm delighted that the temperatures are beginning to drop; now all those hats and mittens and shawls and scarves and socks don't seem like such a waste.  Oh, speaking of Rhinebeck, I'm planning to bring the harp up to Trumpet Hill yarn shop the afternoon before the festival.  Robena's planning a little Daybreak party for the lovely folks that participated in the Westknits class last time I was up.  I think it'll be a highlight of a lovely weekend.  Can't wait.  And if you're going to Rhinebeck this year, come say hello!  I might be hiding in some corner away from the people, reveling in the spinning and knitting fiber I already have.  (Read: I really can't afford another skein.  But maybe I'll get just one.)

I'm also planning two themed Halloween costumes for work.  Both are gonna, of course, involve some wooly magic.  Wanting some bad ideas to help you feel like you can come up with a better one for this year's costume?  Check out last year's blog entry.

Happy October, and Happy Knitting!