Monday, January 18, 2016

One Down!

Yarn: Briar Rose Fibers Homestead (worsted weight)

These socks are holding me in good stead during the wintry weather that has finally begun to hit the region. I love how the colors knit up in these socks!

Briar Rose Fibers is sponsoring a KAL for Dr. G's Memory Vest, and even though I knit one (look on the website for a picture of it!), I am planning to knit another with a custom-dyed color. One of the things I love about Chris's yarn is that she puts the skeins up in such large amounts that it lends itself to big projects (or not having to worry about using it all up on the wrong small project!).  One vest can be gotten from one massive 16oz skein! The socks above came in an 8oz skein, and I used half for the socks; that means that I have enough left for something else that I will love. Being so unique (no two skeins are quite the same), that's a comforting thought.

Last night I finally finished my handspun Vortex blanket! It's drying, so I don't have great photos of it yet, but here's a couple really lousy shots of it taken at night. Thankfully, we have photo editing to spruce it up a bit...

Pattern: Vortex Shawl
Yarn: my own handspun, spun as my first attempt at long-draw during Tour de Fleece back in 2013. The wool is Rambouillet dyed and carded by the folks at A Touch Of Twist. I love their color combinations! This brown and green remind me of sunlight shining through leaves, and the Entish draughts consumed by the younger hobbits in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Rest assured that I will get better photos in daylight when I can.

Oh! I just realized I never mentioned here that I finished spinning a skein of Suffolk wool dyed by Miranda of Fuzzyfrog Fibers!

It was so pretty that I decided to spin up a neutral gradient ply to pair with it, in order to retain Miranda's color progression.

As you can see, the result resembles a barber pole, and when I started knitting it up, I didn't like how it looked in stockinette fabric, so when I revisit it, I will take my partner's advice and try something textured, like garter stitch.

The Oscars are approaching, and I need a new movie project that I can work during tense films (because I am going to watch all the best film nominees).  The Vortex blanket worked quite well for this purpose, as it is basically stockinette. I'm thinking this may be the time I cast on for another EZ sweater; it's been on my mind lately, and I recently dug the yarn out of hibernation. The body should hold me in good stead.  My other option is to cast on that twelfth pair of socks, and take your idea, Ron.  I did recently acquire a couple balls of self-patterning sock yarn (the Arne & Carlos Design Line by Regia), which needs to be kept to stockinette. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The R-Word

Happy new year!
Every once in a while (like at the start of a new year) I like to step back, take stock, and set goals. I don't think of it as the R-word, which seems to add more stress than productivity. Instead, I imagine it as a fun challenge,  and if I don't meet it I can go on with a good conscience. Well, at least that's what I tell myself.

So I looked at my list of projects on the needles  (ignoring the ones that are hibernating ) and I noticed something funny. A lot of socks. Something in the ballpark of eight or nine pair, some of them with both socks started. Then I figured,  why not shoot for the one-per-month challenge?  So I took that as license to cast on a few more, bringing the total up to eleven, because I am brilliant. (I'm leaving #12 as a wild card.)

I like to think I made new knitting strides in the last year, despite feeling a lack of as much time and energy as I would like to devote to projects. I managed to knit some sweaters I am really pleased with, and some blankets. I even improvised a few items, which is a goal met in itself. The socks should have been cake by comparison. So why have they languished?  I see friends banging out great-looking socks in no time flat, and feel my lack.  Upon further inspection I noticed that I have never knit a plain, stockinette sock. Basic ribbing, yes, but the no-purl, no fancy stitching, fly-along stockinette socks? Not once. I guess I'm picky.  I love buying handpainted sock yarns, but I don't always like how they knit up without some kind of texture to break them up.  Yes, my blender socks are actually stockinette, but the frequent changes of skeins make them fiddly in their own right, so they don't count. When I cast on a new pair of socks on New Years Day, I thought this was going to be the time to cast on something easy. Something I could knit without looking at it, so I could continue multitasking with movies or socializing or--ahem--studying. When push came to shove, I opted for a pattern that is almost mindless and pleasant to work but I also find very satisfying in the finished product: Simple SKYP Socks. 

I had also opted for something quick to make up for all the socks I don't want to mend. Unfortunately, the tough yarn is not the easiest to knit at this gauge, so they are not as quick as I had hoped. Still, I like them and look forward to trying them out.

Years ago, I remember dreaming of being so comfortable with my knitting that I could improvise something I wanted to make, rather than relying on a pattern. To a degree, this has always been a factor in my knitting; rarely have I followed a pattern strictly. Even yarn substitutions have demanded creativity and flexibility in knitting projects. But this year has been a year of continuing to forge new paths, starting with yarn, dreaming up what it can be, and with nothing but years of experience and an arsenal of reference materials (and poring over other people's projects) I have been able to produce functional and, to me, beautiful pieces such as bottle cozies, hats, scarves, socks, and most recently, a colorwork cowl.

I wanted to use the full gradient that my friend had spun up in BFL fiber (colorway is "Mars," I believe). The double-sided cowl fit the bill beautifully, and I love that it gives me options to match my mood or my outfit.

By the way, the hat is improvised, too, and again, it was driven by a beautiful yarn--a skein of Quince & Co. Osprey that I picked up on a visit to Hidden River Yarns in Manayunk. This yarn is just beautiful without even trying.

More cowl pics...

I used Imperial Stock Ranch Tracie Too for the white background and grey border, and the resulting cowl is really nice to wear: soft, cushy, and surprisingly functional, if not a bit weird. 

In the very recent plummeting temperatures, both these cozy knits have held me in excellent stead. I love it when that happens!

So I don't promise to be monogamous with the socks, but I do plan to finish a pair each month... which ones do you think I'll finish for January?