Tuesday, July 30, 2013

UFOs on Parade!

One of the best motivators for me to finish a UFO is to have that crappy picture of a partly-finished project staring back at me from my Ravelry page.

I love taking FO photos. ("Fo-fotos." Heh heh.) In fact, those photo shoots made for some fun dates when I was still living in another state from my guy. It gave us a reason to hang out in some lovely parks and create some memories with things that we both enjoy (yarn), and I love looking for little secret corners of beauty.

As I look over my project page, I see a bunch of items that have been languishing too long. Especially those socks; I hate those ugly sock pics. So I had a thought. What if I could finish all those current projects by the end of the year? I realize there are some in hibernation that I am not willing to take into account, but I did actually resurrect a couple projects for the occasion.

So here's what I did, thanks to the Guy's suggestion: on each project I added a tag, "countdown2013". Next, I went to the organizing tab on my project page and created a folder sensitive to that tag. Now I have a tab on my projects entitled "Countdown Challenge 2013." My goal is to complete each item tagged by December 31, 2013.  There are five months left. In theory, it's feasible, but I know how life gets in the way, as well as the fact that I like to approach my knitting with a bit of whimsy.

So here's the lineup.

Offender #1:
Meadow Socks
Sock 2
Status: past the heel of sock #2. Totally doable.

Offender #2:
Status: Only a couple inches down the second cuff. Gonna be a bit of a haul.

Offender #3:
Leaves of Grass (KAL)
Status: I know there was no deadline, but everyone else finished back in January or something. I'm not even gonna pretend I know about my Girasole. Probably crazy.

Offender #4:
Happy flapless flip flop socks
Hedgehog sock
Status:  what you see is about how far I am on sock #2. Doable, but I'm not cheering about the toes when I get to them.

Offender #5:
Noro Pie
Easy As Pie
Status: Need to square off most of the circles, maybe add a few more, and do all that joining together. An ordeal, I'd say.

Offender #6:
Baby Fishie
Baby Fishie
Status: He just needs friggin' eyes. But if I use buttons, it won't be good for a baby, right? But if I knit eyes, they might look stupid. Get a life; it should already be done.

Offender #7:
Pterotactyl 2
Status: Still got most of the thing to knit, as the stripes get longer and longer. This one's got a bit of a deadline, so it's happening.

Offender #8:
Fish VII
Status: I'm totally finishing tomorrow. Cheap thrills.

Offender #9:
Madli's Shawl
Status: Um, this is probably the craziest of them all. But it's gonna happen. I hope.

Offender #10:
Handspun Slade
Sweater back
Status: This is happening; also on a deadline fairly soon.

Offender #11:
Status: I really didn't have to add this to the list, but it's small enough that it'll rack up extra finishing points without costing me much time. Not that anyone's awarding points for my self-challenge.

Offender #12:
Grannies Blanket
Status: Needs some kind of edging thing. Get it done, already!

Offender #13:
House Color Socks
Status: I need to rip it out and start over, but I still really want to make these. Make it work.

On a different note:
I had a little "15 minutes of fame" moment yesterday - my new pattern was on Ravelry's top 5 "Hot Right Now" list for over 24 hours - as #2! That was fun. Moving on...

Oh, but before I do, let me introduce the pattern a bit more.
Not only did I have Mel's beautiful test-knitting and moral support; she shared her handsome hubby with us! No wonder people have been enjoying the pattern!
It's called BRRH! (Basic Reversible Ribbed Hat, that is) and it's free through August. I wrote it up with the expectation that it would function as a work horse hat - the kind that a guy might live in, and the kind that a knitter might use as a default. It's nothing fancy, but it has received a very warm welcome, and for that I offer up my thanks to all of you!  

I was particularly humbled and encouraged by Snickers' charming comment, and I think it's worth sharing for those who might have missed it:

Thanks so much...the hat is incredible. I have downloaded the pattern from the ravelry page, and could not resist reading through it. You did a really terrific job writing the pattern. The swatching-in-the-round instructions are very well done and easy to understand. By including the decrease round checklist you put a cherry on the top of the hot fudge/peppermint stick ice cream sundae. As a way of saying "Thank You for this free pattern" I am going to make several and donate them to the Homeless in Connecticut. Great job....my hat is off to you.

Thanks, Snickers, for the thoughtful feedback, and thank you for making this about so much more than a hat. 

And for all the people who have sent messages to me thanking me for the free pattern, you also humble me. I don't know that I've ever taken out the time to thank a designer for posting a free pattern, and it means a lot to me that people would be thoughtful about where things are coming from. In a way, it makes sense; I always cite the desire to connect with "where things come from" as a motivator to knit and spin. I keep learning from you, bloggiefriends and ravelers. Thank you.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

10 reasons why you could stand to knit a hat this August

Have you ever spent mounds of time sifting through tons of patterns on Ravelry, only to come up empty-handed? That was my experience recently as I was looking for a good hat to give a new knitter. I wanted ribbing to ensure success in making the hat fit comfortably. Soon I found myself in "designing mode." After fiddling and futzing with different ideas, I found the most satisfying approach was also the simplest, if I flipped the hat inside out when knitting it. The result looks like nothing novel, but as I scoured Ravelry to see if I was reinventing the wheel, I didn't see anything quite like what I had put together. So the short of things is that I'm publishing the pattern.


I enjoyed the chance to pop out a bunch of hats - I've long been wanting to do such a thing - and after a week I have 4 complete hats - and that's with a number of false starts early on, before I really got things ironed out. My favorite to wear will surely be the first, knit in Myra's own worsted merino handdye from Woolbearers in NJ. I may make another in the same yarn, since it only used less than half of the nice-sized skein.


I also love how the ribbing looks in Shelter; even though I'm usually picky about gapping in single ribs, I think it looks quite nice in the rustic texture lent by Shelter's woolen construction.


And now I submit 10 reasons why you could stand to knit a hat this August:
  1. Hats are small, so they don't cover your lap during hot August weather.
  2. Hats are quick, so it's easy to squeeze one in between other projects and no one will be the wiser.
  3. Hats only use a small amount of yarn, so you can dig into your stash.
  4. Hats are ultra-portable knitting projects.
  5. Hats make excellent vacation knitting, for all of the above reasons. 
  6. If you happen to visit a yarn shop while on vacation, you could quite conceivably buy a beautiful skein of worsted yarn and knit a hat before you get back home to your stash.
  7. Knitting a hat in August will be just in time for the first chill of September.
  8. Hat knitting is happy knitting. Of all the types of projects, I think hats are the easiest way to get into a knitting jag. 
  9. Hats are very giftable, so the previously mentioned knitting jag won't be a problem if it does occur.
  10. There's a new hat pattern just out, and it's free in August!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A couple finish lines and gratuitousness

First, a pair of socks that were on the needles for pretty much an entire year!


Pattern: Longitudinal by Nicola Susen
Yarn: Schoppel-Wolle Crazy Zauberball

They are comfy like house socks, not like workhorse socks.
They're stretchy.  They're very easy, even boring knitting. Reasons they languished: I was knitting during slow points at work (multitasking, really) but the climate changed as residents became more high maintenance and I had to put first things first. Also, I got on that sweater kick, which was great for knitting around the folks at the home; they really enjoyed the process of the different pieces more than "Oh, did you finish that sock yet?"  I also think the needle I used was a bit short and stiff for the technique employed. Would I knit these again? I think I'd like to, on different needles and with a yarn I like the feel of better; I love the look of them, though.

Spinning update:

I met my first TdF goal - to spin up a sweater's worth, and to do it using a long draw technique. Whoop!

A Sweater's Worth

The colors in the above picture are fairly true. As you can see, the colors are not constant, and I am a bit nervous about how I'm gonna knit this up so it looks alright. I'm still debating my next sweater - I had a false start, and now I'm glad I didn't get too far. Jared Flood's crew at BrooklynTweed has come out with a delicious collection of men's knitting patterns! I want to knit a bunch of them. I'm wondering about using this handspun to knit Slade or perhaps to recreate (and tweak) my green sweater.

A Sweater's Worth

I still have my sock yarn on the spindle, and it's slower going than the woolen spinning I was doing on the wheel. 

Spinning in the rain

During one of our frequent rainstorms, I got a bit of time out on the porch with my Golding.

Spinning on the porch

You may no be able to see it, but when it rains, the front steps become little waterfalls; holding the fiber was all that prevented me from standing right in the middle of the rushing water. I do love a good rain in the summer!  Now for a gratuitous flower picture from the same evening:

Rose of Sharon in the rain

When I finished the brown yarn, I decided it was time for a little pick-me-up spinning. And pick me up it did!!

Color Fun!
No clowns were harmed in the making of this yarn. 

I took a braid given me by a friend a year or two back and laid it out to determine the color repeat. The gradient was divided into four and a smidge more sections, so I decided to keep with the woolen spinning idea and card it up. The rolags proved to be a delightful spin, and within the space of two movies, I had a full 4 ounces of yarn spun and plied! Okay, so the first movie was actually a miniseries. It's one of my nostalgic favorites from my youth. Can you identify the delightful scene above? Let's just say she drank the juice.

More yarn pics, because it's just so pretty:

Color Fun!

Color Fun!

Color Fun!

And a picture of our cat reveling in Jeff's spinning:

The other morning I got out of bed and found Jake sprawled out like this with no good explanation other than sheer comfort. He sure makes it hard to hate cats.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tour de Fleece report

A week and a day into the 2013 Tour de Fleece, here's how I'm making out:

I'm juggling two different spinning projects -- one for when I'm out and about, and one for when I'm hanging around the house.

My house project has two goals built in: 1) really drill myself on spinning long draw, and 2) spin a sweater's worth of yarn.

TDF day 1

I made a last minute switch and settled on the brown Rambouillet with green highlights because, after sampling, I kinda fell in love with it.

2013-07-06 11.27.21

Well -- that, and it kinda goes with the second fiber I'll show you in a minute.
I've plied 3 skeins so far, and going by weight, I am nearing the halfway mark on this fiber. Here's a picture I took during daylight hours today; it's missing my latest skein, but it's mostly more of the same.

Day 8 recap

It's lovely stuff, by the way - so soft, and it works fairly well with my long draw, despite the staple length being perhaps a tad too long (according to someone whose opinion I respect).  Anyway, I'm trying to treat it like a long draw, but I realize the fiber is not prepared for a true woolen spun yarn. I am guessing it has been carded, but I'm wondering if anyone knows better; I'm not really sure what to call the preparation, and I've just been too caught up in my spinning to take the time to ask.

My portable project is three-fold, like its plies: 1) spin something up on my Golding spindle for team Golding nuggets, 2) spin a new breed, and 3) spin for socks.

knit group during Tour de Fleece

This spindle is pretty fantastic. It spins and spins effortlessly, and the grips on the shaft make it easy to set in motion using a thigh roll or even my feet (for the plying part, since I like to ply at my full height).

Day 2

The Dorset wool with a touch of silk is very easy to handle, and I love the way the crimp feels as I spin it. This is a breed I'd be happy to spin some more.  I wound a mini-skein after the spindle was feeling a bit wobbly.

TDF sock challenge

I'm pretty happy with how it is turning out - and I can't believe I'm finally getting around to spinning a sock yarn! You can imagine that I'll have to be thinking about a sock pattern soon.

Time to get back to it! Happy spinning (and knitting), all!