Catching Up

Dear Reader:

It’s been a while since I’ve posted; almost a month! Where did the time go? While I have not been as productive as I wish, I can catch up in this post on a few things.

1. I finished my Biergarten Hat back in April. I had put this into time out after starting it in January because I was not liking the laddering that I saw. This is something I will need to research and practice at because I wasn’t really able to solve it here, and in the end, I just really wanted to get it off the needles. I think it turned out okay.

Biergarten-Hat

2. I knit a shawl for myself – my Abalone. I’ve knit two shawls before this and gave both of them away. I’ve been wanting a shawl for myself to wear around my neck. Blue is my favourite colour, and the Fleur de Fiber in my stash was more than enough to knit the pattern it came with (one day I’ll knit that!), so I thought I’d use the extra for the Green River Shawl. It was a really quick and enjoyable knit. Easy to memorize the rounds and a good project for watching all my favourite knitting podcasts.

Abalone-Shawl2

3. A while back Lorna’s Laces had a “My Sock Drawer” post on her blog. Inspired by this, I grabbed a box and put all my lovely socks in it and put it on top of my dresser. I don’t have room inside my dresser, but I’m enjoying this little display of my craft. It’s nice to see my socks whenever I go to the dresser for something, and I can quickly pick up the whole thing if I want to look at my socks. As you can see, this will not hold very many more socks, so clearly I’ll have to find another, perhaps more attractive way to store and display these because I know I WILL knit more and more socks. They’re so much fun to knit, and there are so many patterns I want to try – “knit ALL the socks!” Oh, and I have quite the stash of sock yarn… you know how that goes :-)

Sock-Box

4. While we’re on the topic of socks, I’m trying my hand at an afterthought heel sock. I was able to snag two skeins from Lollipop Yarns a while back, and I’ve been itching to cast on. The skein I really, really, really wanted was in my cart but had been sold by the time I got to the checkout :-(

I searched for a vanilla sock pattern for self-striping yarn on Ravelry and decided to give Laura Linneman’s After Thought Heel Sock a try. It’s more of a recipe than a pattern, and it had a cast on of 56 or 64 stitches. From my experience knitting socks for myself, I thought I’d almost always cast on 72, so I cast on 72 stitches, Estonian, on 2.5 mm DPNs. My first attempt was frogged.

The little bars that you get when you change colours in ribbing appeared, and at first I thought they wouldn’t bother me. I’ve come across tips on how to avoid these, and I thought about tinking back and giving it a try but decided to forge ahead. After the cuff and leg, you knit in the waste yarn for the heel. I was well on my way into the foot, but all along, I kept thinking it was looking rather large. Finally, I reached the point where I just couldn’t continue anymore and frogged back to the start.

I was getting 9 stitches per inch and the yarn tag has a gauge of 7-8 stitches per inch. Last night I cast on 64 stitches on 2.75 mm needles. I also chose to knit the first round of a colour change in the ribbing. It looks better without the bars, but I think it’s causing the ribbing to look distorted. I might have to do some more research before I continue.

Afterthought-Moon-River

I cannot believe what a difference 0.25 mm makes to the sock. The ribbing feels more cushy, the cuff seems to have more stretch, and compared to the first attempt, it just looks more “right”.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this projects turns out. I’m particularly interested to see how I manage the afterthought heel. I might even get there, if I stop frogging it back.

Thank you for reading my little, sporadic blog. Wishing all the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Tulips

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Liebster Blog Award – I’ve Been Nominated?!

Hello Reader:

LiebsterAwardAfter a long day at work, I washed the dishes, cleaned up the cat puke, took out the garbage and recycling, watered the houseplants and was just sitting down to quickly check my email before picking up the needles when I found a message from HKNITS letting me know she’d nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award! To quote her “Aw shucks!” Thanks HKNITS!

Accepting the award requires that I do the following:

  1. Post eleven facts about myself
  2. Answer the questions given to me by the person who nominated me
  3. Create eleven questions to ask people whom I wish to nominate for the award
  4. Choose eleven people (with fewer than 200 followers) to give this award to and link to them in my post.
  5. Go to their blog and tell them.

11 FACTS ABOUT MYSELF

  1. I’m not a terribly good blogger in that I don’t write a lot or try to gain a lot of followers. I look at it as a diary that has the potential to connect me with other knitters.
  2. I’m shy.
  3. I was born on a Friday.
  4. I have a title. I’ve only ridden three brevets, but after the first I can call myself a Randonneuse.
  5. I’m trying really hard not to give up on spinning. I’ve only tried working with a drop spindle but it really hasn’t gone very well.
  6. I taught myself to knit and crochet. My mother knit and my grandmother crocheted but neither of them ever tried to teach me, and I guess I never asked. I did try to teach myself when I was young, and numerous times over the years, but three years ago it finally clicked. I’m so happy that I have yarn in my life!
  7. Music is really important to me.
  8. I wish I had more time to do everything – knit, spin, garden, read, sleep, snap pictures, walk/hike, birding, camp, swim, yoga, bicycle, travel, cook and eat, be social, and work on improving myself. Life just seems like a bit of a treadmill with lots of the same every day – work, recover from work, prepare for work, sleep. (first world problems, I know).
  9. I have two cats. Both rescues. I feel really blessed to have them in my life.
  10. I pick wild mushrooms.
  11. I’m still amazed that I had laser eye surgery, but it was one of the BEST things I ever did for myself.

ANSWERS TO MY NOMINATOR’S QUESTIONS

1.  Do you prefer Live TV or DVR?

DVR, but honestly, since I found knitting I hardly ever watch TV/DVR. I do watch a lot of knitting podcasts.

2. What makes you click the “follow blog” button on someone else’s blog?

I use Bloglovin’ to follow blogs. Too many blogs to ever possibly keep up with. See #8 above. I’ll follow a blog mostly because I find their content interesting. Maybe something in their style makes them feel like a kindred spirit.

3.  Apple or PC?

PC but only because we’ve felt like it would be a hassle to switch. I don’t know if this question is really asking Apple or Windows, but the answer to that would be Android.

4.  What was your favorite hobby when you were a child?

Any crafting. I’d spend hours drawing, cutting, and pasting. I loved picking flowers, pressing them into books and then creating images with them on paper as cards. I’d make my own decorations for holidays and decorate my room. I was always at something.

5.  Coffee or Tea?

Up until recently my answer to this would have been water. I’m not a warm beverage person, but I have started to drink herbal teas and I’m enjoying it. It’s really because I got an awesome mug that keeps my beverage warm so I don’t feel rushed to drink it before it gets cold.

6.  Where in the world is [your] favorite place to visit?

Ocean or mountains nearby me.

7.  How did you learn to do your craft?

Taught myself. See #6 above.

8.  If you could pick another craft to be really great at, what would it be?

I’ve long had a strong desire to weave and to sew – specifically quilts. It would be great to be able to make your own clothes. They’d be the style you like and they’d fit!

9.  Do you prefer paper books or eBooks?

Paper. Ironically, my job is with eBooks.

10.  What is in your topics search on your wordpress reader page?

Crochet. Cycling. Knitting. Yarn.

11.  What is your favorite movie?

Nope. Can’t do it. Can’t pick one. Way too hard. Couldn’t even pick eleven. Well maybe…

  • Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)
  • Field of Dreams 
  • Dances With Wolves
  • The Lord of the Rinds Trilogy
  • Forrest Gump
  • The Matrix
  • The Big Lebowski
  • The Devil’s Advocate
  • Good Will Hunting
  • In the Name of the Father
  • Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • Babe (Bah… Ram… Ewe… Bah… Ram… Ewe… To your breed, your fleece, your stock be true. Sheep be true!)

QUESTIONS FOR MY NOMINATED BLOGGERS 

  1. If you could be any animal, which would you choose?
  2. Day or night?
  3. Do you have any pet peeves?
  4. Favourite song or recording artist?
  5. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
  6. What is your signature dish?
  7. What object do you own that you prize the most?
  8. What’s your favorite thing you ever made?
  9.  If you could have dinner with anybody, who would you dine with?
  10. If you could go back in time, when would you go back to and why?
  11. What is your favourite season and why?

MY ELEVEN NOMINEES

* Not all of these blogs list how many followers they have, so it’s possible some may have more than 200 followers.

  1. Creating Laura - http://www.creatinglaura.com/
  2. TT820 - http://tt820.blogspot.ca/
  3. Miso Crafty Knits - http://www.misocraftyknits.com/
  4. Find Momo - http://gofindmomo.com
  5. Tanis Fiber Arts - http://tanisfiberarts.blogspot.ca/
  6. Lynne’s Mostly Cycling Blog - http://lynnerides.blogspot.ca/
  7. The Soap Dispensary - http://thesoapdispensary.com/news/
  8. So September - http://soseptember.blogspot.ca/
  9. Weekend Knitter Blog - http://weekendknitter.com/
  10. She Knits by the Seashore - http://knitseashore.typepad.com/she_knits_by_the_seashore/
  11. reWOLLuzza - http://rewolluzza.wordpress.com/

ETA: I went to two blogs and posted a message saying I’d nominated them, then I wished I hadn’t (see #2 in my 11 facts about myself). It just feels too spammy. So, I’m not going to notify the rest, and my apologies to those two that I did message. Maybe the rest will get a notice saying I blogged about them, but posting something on their blog saying “I nominated you” just seemed weird.

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The Noro Striped Scarf

Dear Reader:

After sitting in time out for almost two months, while waiting for my yarn order to arrive and then waiting for me to finish my Pacific Breakwater sweater, I finally got back to the Noro Striped Scarf.

It’s a popular project on Ravelry, and I now know why. It’s super simple and totally satisfying. In just one week I had knit up my Noro Striped Scarf. It was hard to put down and almost hypnotic to work on. Completely the opposite to what I thought working on 1×1 ribbing would be. And, it was great car knitting.

My first attempt, back in February, didn’t go quite so well (hence, the timeout), but that was due to my colour selection. Too many colours, I think. So, I decided to order more yarn and try again. The first attempt used three colourways:

252 – black, turquoise, green
337 – aqua, navy, green, silver
349 – black, brown, yellow, orange

The second attempt used two:

349 – black, brown, yellow, orange
358 – grey, black, purple

The fabric is soft and squishy and has a nice drape. I think it will be a really awesome scarf for when the weather turns cold again, and I really hope the person I made it for totally loves it.

NoroScarf01

Of course, I want to knit another one – in fact, while working on it, I started to think how awesome it would be to knit up a whole blanket! I think that’s just the crazy me talking, but I honestly don’t think it would take that long to work up. When the scarf was long enough that it began to cover my lap, I enjoyed the comfort and warmth that it brought me. If a 6″ wide scarf can do that, imagine what a whole blanket would do! I’d NEVER leave bed. (I had visions of myself cocooned in a Noro Striped Blanket with only my face showing)

Anyways, when I ordered more yarn to try and make this work, I decided to order enough to make a second scarf. It will be interesting to see how it works up and if the colours work together. I’m using the same “base” colour, the 358 (grey, black, purple) and the 252 (black, turquoise, green). It’s in the wings just waiting for when I crave something quick, simple and satisfying. It could be for me or maybe a pressie for someone.

There’s this solitary skein of 337 (aqua, navy, green, silver) that I’m not sure what to do with. I’m sure I’ll find something.

I couldn’t get the tubular cast on to work for me and ended up using the Double Start Cast On (aka Estonian). I wanted to bind off using something that would look similar to the cast on and began to hunt around. I have two cast on/bind off books and neither really address this issue. I’ve searched online but never found the El Dorado of matching cast ons and bind offs, so I’m starting my own list. My research suggested that the Latvian Bind Off has a similar appearance to the Double Start Cast On, so I gave it a try. It’s a bit fiddly, but it worked up quite well and I think it did a good job mirroring my cast on. So I was pleased.

NoroScarf02

While researching I came across the suggestion to use a provisional cast on. When finished, bind off the working end, take out the provisional cast on and then use the same method to bind off that end. Brilliant!

Some thoughts on the yarn: Noro Silk Garden.

Knots. I didn’t encounter too many. I think in all I found two or three. I used the spit splice, which I like because it’s quick and simple, but I worry that I might not have done it right and everything will unravel. This yarn is really clingy though, so I really don’t see it being an issue. It must felt like a dream.

I understand that knots are sometimes a reality, and so long as I don’t find an unreasonable amount of them, I’m not that bothered. One thing that did bother me with one of the knots was that the two yarns that were tied together were completely different colours. Pretty unacceptable in my books.  It’s a gradient yarn! How can you just tie on a completely different colour like that?! It definitely affected the way my scarf worked up since the one ball had hardly any of the yellow and orange in it, so the scarf only has one very big patch with these colours when it should have had at least two and there’s an abrupt, abbreviated patch of the colour that ran out. 

* I found in the comments for this yarn in Ravelry a very good tip to buy extra skeins to “make up for the awful knots! (Yes, there are ALWAYS knots in Noro yarns!) You can have a perfectly wonderful blue fading going on, and then comes the knot in a totally different colour, say reddish brown. With those extra skeins, you can cut the brown and join the blue so the colours won’t stop so abruptly.”

Good to know!

Vegetable matter. There’s quite a lot of it. It doesn’t “bother” me, but it can be quite rough, so whenever I could, I tried to remove it. The yarn is quite messy to work with. The area where I worked is littered with bits of fluff and vegetable matter, and the inside of the project bag I used to store everything in is coated with bits of fluff. But lots of yarn I’ve worked with have the same issues. For me, it’s all part of the cycle and a wonderful reminder that I’m working with natural materials that came from living, hay-eating animals. Thank you sheep and goats!

Thick and thin. The yarn has incredibly thin bits and incredibly thick bits. The thick bits are actually more like unspun roving than yarn. In the finished project it really isn’t noticeable except in a couple of spots, but I did find that if I wasn’t careful some of that unspun stuff could completely dissolve. Luckily, this only happened once, just as I was finishing weaving in the final tail!

Dry Clean Only! Lastly, I had no idea that this yarn was dry clean only. I don’t have anything in my closets that goes to the dry cleaners, and will not buy anything that requires this treatment. I’m not sure how the recipient of this scarf feels about dry cleaning, but I’m curious if hand washing is really a complete no-no. If you have any experience, let me know. A quick look through Ravelry forums seems to suggest washing does the yarn wonders (softens it and no colour fade), so I’m thinking it might be fine to hand wash.

Now my hands are feeling idle and I’m wondering what to work on next. Pick up another project that’s been in time out or start something new…?

Thanks for reading.

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I Knit a Sweater!

Dear Reader:

One of my goals for the year was to try knitting a sweater. I had a few patterns in mind but nothing concrete or planned. Then I won the January Tangerine Designs FOs contest on Ravelry. The prize was a giftable pattern, and I chose Breakwater by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. Thank you Tangerine Designs!

The next stage was to find yarn.  The Luxe Merino Fine yarn from Kitchen Sink Dyeworks listed in the pattern is no longer available as they have closed up shop, so I began to search for yarn with the same or similar content – a merino, cashmere, nylon blend. The search took a few days: noting similar bases, checking out colourways, coming back to look through sites again and again. When I saw Pacific in Hazel Knits’ Entice my search was over. It was perfect!

HazelKnits-Entice-Pacific

On February 23rd I knit a swatch. I played around with needle size until I was close to gauge.  I was a little off, but I felt confident it would work itself out nicely when the sweater was blocked. I confess, I didn’t wash and block my swatch, but I felt I knew the yarn and how it would behave once washed – it would relax a little, to give me almost perfect gauge – and knew that I wouldn’t really be blocking the finished item, just laying it flat to dry.

I don’t fully understand ease, and though I’ve taken all my measurements, I also don’t have a good understanding in this area either. Patterns come in a range of sizes, but they don’t cover every possible size so you have to make a choice. The pictures in the pattern showed a sweater that looked quite form-fitting, and since I’m a tight knitter I thought it best to go up from a 35″ to the next size, a 38.5″. I’m a 36″ bust.

I had done some research beforehand and found that when knitting with hand-dyed yarn it is recommended you alternate skeins as you work. There are a few websites with information on this, but nothing as detailed as I found I needed. When I started I had every intention of carrying the yarn down as I worked, but I chickened out and decided to go with just one skein. It would be fine, I told myself, and I’d transition the next skein in before the first skein ran out.

The Woven Stitch neck trim worked up beautifully, and I was on my way with the yoke when I started having doubts. The yoke shaping increases seemed a little sloppy – there were these little holes in the stockinette sides of the increases that I couldn’t seem to work out, and the fabric was looking quite open. When the first skein was starting to get low, I introduced the second skein and began alternating the two. This seemed to work well, but into this second skein I could see a band of colour developing just below the bustline. I transferred the stitches to some waste yarn and tried the sweater on.

Beginnings

The sweater was too big and the colour pooling was definitely an issue, but my gauge was good. So I frogged back to the neck band on March 3rd.

Sweater 2.0 – everything went really well with the frogging. I was able to go back, pick up the stitches (a little challenging as they almost all popped under the stitch below and had to almost literally be dug out), place my markers in the right spots and start the second attempt. Instead of knitting the 38.5″, I was now going to knit the 35″.

I had no idea where to position the carried yarn. It seemed to me, with the difficulties I was having with the yoke increases, that doing it near there would just cause problems, but I knew it was best to have it close to that spot, especially once I was working under the arms as it would be less visible. So, I introduced the new yarn three stitches after the marker. Well, as you probably know, this would change with the increases down to the split for the sleeves. I decided to try to keep the yarn in the same actual stitch rather than adjust for the increases. I honestly don’t know what is best, so if you have any experience/thoughts, I’d love to hear it.

I struggled with the process of introducing a new skein. How to avoid a hole, how to not add more bulk by knitting with the tail, and how to carry the yarn. I read that you want to pick up the second strand from underneath the strand you’re working with and what I ended up doing was to lay the current yarn to the left on the inside of the piece and pick up the other strand from underneath. This seemed to work, but no matter how much I tried to keep it loose, it was very obvious from the other side. I wondered how much would be fixed by the magic of blocking… it was niggling at my brain as I continued to work. I had now knit about halfway down the body when I tried it on. 

The sweater fit much better but was still too big and the carried yarn was something I just couldn’t live with. I asked DH for his opinion, and of course he said I should just leave it and finish it. In my mind, the sweater wasn’t fitting right, so I could frog back, go down another size and hopefully work out the carried yarn issue as well. So…

I frogged again. This time it didn’t go so well, and I had to frog right back to the beginning. There was some yarn ball tangles and lots of rewinding, but finally I was ready to start again on sweater 3.0.

On March 10th I cast on for a size 32″ and pretty much knit straight through. This time, I decided to leave some extra yarn for the neck trim, but I really had no idea how much would be needed – 2 full arms lengths was what I left.

Soon I was dividing for the sleeves, then I was part way down the body. I was still concerned about the carried yarn – it was looking better but was still visible. I knew that blocking would take care of some of it. Although I did think about frogging again, at this point I was nearing the end of my rope. I needed to finish. If I hadn’t had to frog so much, I probably would have finished the sweater in two or three weeks (just when I was starting the third attempt).

I worked two extra decrease repeats for the body, since I wanted it both longer and snugger around my waist.  To get the stitch count back on track, I worked the second set of increases every sixth round four times rather than every eighth two times.

I thought I’d try the Farrow Rib, but it wasn’t working out, so I decided to stick with the pattern and did the 1×1 rib for 3/4″ which I thought looked too short but decided to leave it. The first attempt for the 1×1 was sloppy, so I used the smaller needle size and knit a twisted 1×1 rib. I used the Lace Bind off (aka Russian Bind Off) which I thought looked nice. That was March 22.

Now for the sleeves and a bit of magic. I used the remainder of each ball for each sleeve. There was more than enough and there was no real issue with pooling here (thank goodness!) The underarm sleeve stitches were pretty wonky, especially the Backward Loop Cast On stitches. They were stretched out and loose, which also meant that the stitches between them were quite tight. If there is one thing that I mastered on this project it is redistributing stitches. Before I put the stitches onto my DPNs, I spent some time redistributing these stitches and it worked really well. Before I knew it I had knit one sleeve and was onto the second sleeve.

There is a bit of a noticeable transition on the sleeves where one DPN met another, which is frustrating because I all but worked this out for my DPN sock knitting, but I’ll live with it.

After transferring the project to waste yarn a couple of times, I decided it was probably easier to transfer everything to another set of needles on a really long cable. SO MUCH EASIER!

On March 24th, I bound off the second sleeve and finished the neck trim. The extra length of yarn I had left when I cast on was enough to go around the trim three times unknit, but it was only enough to pick up the 146 stitches. I added more yarn, purled the next row and worked the Lace Bind Off and was finished, and it fit me almost perfectly!

PacificBreakwater-Front01

Okay, I wish it was just a tad bit longer, and I’ve toyed with the idea of finding the end and frogging back to add 1-2″ and extending the ribbing, but it’s not too short by any means and I think it’s time to move on.

The pattern called for three skeins. I used less than two (!?) Only a tiny amount was used from the third skein, and I had two little 13 gram and 4 gram balls left over from the two main skeins. I’m not sure why I had so much leftover, as I checked my gauge and I was almost bang on with stitch and row count. I’m happy to have a full skein left of this gorgeous yarn and hope to make a shawl.

I spent quite a lot of time throughout the project and when it was finished redistributing stitches along the carried yarn section and in the underarm section - tightening up loose stitches and loosening tight stitches. It’s fiddly work, but it made a difference.

Blocking was a little nerve wracking. What was going to happen? Was the sweater going to grow and become some grotesque version of itself? Laying it out on the blocking mats, I was starting to get a horrible feeling that it was going to grow. It was looking so much larger… I pulled out my tape measure and gave it a quick sizing up. It sure was looking like it wasn’t going to be the same sweater. I checked gauge and things were looking spot on in that area, so I had to just leave it and see.

Next morning, I closed my bedroom door before heading off to work to keep curious kitty’s away. The first thing I did when I got home was checked in on the sweater. It was looking smaller than it had when I had first spread it out. I had to try it on… Joy of joys! It fits. It fits!!!

PacificBreakwater-Back01

There is a noticeable line of wonky stitches from the carried yarn, but it’s in the back and I can’t see it when I’m wearing it. I wore it to work on Thursday and received nice compliments from my coworkers. It’s is so soft and so lovely. If they noticed anything, they didn’t say anything. It’s my first sweater. I’m super pleased with how it turned out. I learned so much, and I’m itching to cast on another sweater. Maybe something solid this time though. A cardigan?

If you have any suggestions for my next project, or any information on alternating skeins (particularly on where to position it – and tutorials would be great), I’d be most pleased to hear from you.

I have to say that this yarn was really awesome to work with. Considering what I put it through, frogging three times and winding multiple times, the yarn really didn’t show any wear and tear. I think pilling will be an issue, however, as I noticed some  small, fuzzy balls in the underarm sections after I wore it to work that day. This just gives me an excuse to use my pill remover. I’m not too worried but it was noticeable so I thought I’d mention it.

As always, thanks for reading my little blog. Happy Easter!

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Fibre Festivals and the Slippery Slope

Dear Reader:

There are little leaf buds on the trees and the Cherry Blossoms are starting to bloom! The temperature is capricious, swinging from extreme cold to delightfully warm. It’s finally spring and today the sun is shining!

This past Saturday I attended my first Fibres West festival. The weather was sunny and cool, but we were tucked away inside the Show Barn at the Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds,  a large space that for two days was filled with yarn and fibre, books and tools, and arts and crafts. I was prepared, with snacks, water and tea on hand and some knitting (though I didn’t sit down and knit while I was there). At the back of the Show Barn, there was a demonstration stage with seating, areas for classes and demonstrations, and tables and chairs for people to sit and have a snack or pull out their knitting/crocheting, etc.

This being my second fibre event, I was sort of prepared for what was to come. Once I’d paid my admission, I did a full sweep of the vendor booths, walking slowly through the building making mental notes on anything that caught my eye, and there was plenty in that category. My first purchase was probably the most crazy, and it is I think what propelled me down that slippery slope to complete knitting/fibre fun madness. But, I’m going to save this for another post. Sorry to build suspense, but I want to write about it later… when I have it (you might be able to guess by what purchases came next).

MysteryGift

Now, I went to Fibres West knowing that I already have a stash that will outlive me, and I don’t “need” more yarn, but I wasn’t telling myself that I wouldn’t buy any yarn. I knew that I wouldn’t go crazy though. Sure, I’d love to buy sweater quantities and such, but I’m fairly subdued when it comes to yarn. Lots of it grabs my attention, but I’m still new enough that not knowing how much to get for a particular garment or having particular patterns in mind can be a very helpful thing.

On my second sweep, I returned to Kees Woodcrafts’ booth to pick up a shawl  stick and a shawl pin. His stuff was really lovely and beautifully packaged. I would have liked to get some buttons but nothing at the booths carrying them really grabbed me. I then started looking for roving (I still don’t quite know the terminology here – tops, bats, etc.). I was signed up for the afternoon drop spindle class and I thought it would be nice to bring something home so I could practice what I learned in the class.

shawlpin

Birkeland Bros. moved from Vancouver to Abbotsford last year, and I had never had an opportunity to visit before they moved. Their booth at Fibres West was full of great stuff for a new spinner like me. I purchased some ashford wool dyes (blue, yellow and scarlet), some student hand carders (why, I’m not sure!), and a lovely fibre sampler bag. The sampler bag came with four fibres. Here are the details from the cards inside the bag:

Corriedale Sliver – 30 micron – 100 grams/0.22 lb ($8.95) 
Crossbreed Sliver – 33 micron – 100 grams/0.22 lb ($6.95) 
Natural Perendale Sliver – 31 micron – 100 grams/0.22 lb ($6.95) 
Shetland Moorit Sliver – 34 micron – 100 grams/0.22lb ($6.95)

These, I was told, are all good fibres for a new spinner. The bag cost $17+tx and there was a 10% discount on all my purchases, so I felt like I got a fairly good deal. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this bag.

samplerfibre

My next stop was at the Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts‘ booth. I carefully picked out two skeins of yarn. Both were Superwash BFL Fingering, a fibre I’ve heard lots about but haven’t yet worked with. A portion of the GreyTabby‘s proceeds go to  the MEOW Foundation to benefit stray and abandoned cats, something I wanted to support, having two rescue cats in my own home. The second is the Nigeria colourway, which I thought would make a lovely shawl or pair of socks. When I got home I was sort of kicking myself for not getting two skeins because this yarn is g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s! (the picture does not do it justice)

AncientArts

I also brought home two packages of roving from Penelope Fibre Arts – a lovely tube of Corriedale in the warm wine colourway, and a gorgeous tube of 70/30 Merino/Tencel in the clover colourway. If I’m going to be venturing into the spinning world, I thought that having a Niddy Noddy on hand wouldn’t be a bad idea, so I picked up one of those too. It’s probably not necessary, a bit impulsive, but I do like having the proper tools on hand as I think they can make things a lot easier.

warm-wineclover

With purchases in hand, it was time to head over to another building and find my drop spindling class. The class was small, eight students sitting in a circle. We introduced ourselves and talked a little bit about our experience with fibre. I mentioned that I’m a new-ish knitter with zero spinning experience, and that I’ve tried to not get into spinning as I have an overflowing stash already and couldn’t imagine finding time to take up a new craft. A few of the ladies had some spinning experience. It was mesmerizing to watch the instructor spinning yarn with her spindle – the fluid motions of her hands and the seemingly effortless production of yarn.

spindle

I’ve been leery of getting into spinning for the reasons I gave above and more – it would eat into my already precious knitting time, I have lots of yarn, I don’t have space for a wheel and tools and such – but I have always thought it would be amazing to spin your own yarn and then knit it up into something. I also think it would be great to learn about fibre and yarn and that this would be beneficial to my knitting.

The lighting in the building was both excellent and horrible. It was bright, directly in my face and buzzing, but it did a wonderful job of showing the fibre as the instructor worked. I could see the tiny strands of fibre being pulled onto and into the yarn. It was sort of magical. We explored our fibre – testing out the length of the staple and determining where we needed to draft. Next, we were creating the leader by looping some fibre over the spindle hook, spinning a tiny amount, pinching just above the hook and letting the section around the hook unwind so as to produce a loop. Taking the loop and slipping it onto the shaft, notching and hooking the yarn onto the spindle and beginning to spin.

Everyone produced a leader and began to spin while I was still struggling to create a leader. It was at around this time that I began to feel very unwell. The excitement, the lights, the smells (I’m super sensitive to perfumes/scents/chemicals and there were lots of ladies with lots of perfume around me). The instructor demonstrated the process again for me, and I tried a few more times, but it just wasn’t happening for me. In the end, she made the leader and I started trying to spin.

I was having a real problem drafting the fibre, it just wouldn’t budge. Our instructor, noticing that some of us were struggling, asked us to switch fibres – hoping that the other fibre might be easier to work. This did make a difference, but I was still struggling. I was sort of on my own at that point, and I could feel that the group’s energy level had dropped right out. We took a little break, and I was able to take some medication to hopefully stop the migraine that was threatening to come on. I went outside for some sunshine and fresh air and had a snack.

Returning to the class, we all continued to work with our spindles. At this point, the instructor showed us the park and draft technique. This is when things started to click for me. Once I pinched the fibre, let the twist work its way up and pinched again, it was much easier to draft as the un-worked fibre didn’t have a twist to it. Before, the problem I was having was that there was twist getting into my fibre and I was unable to draft. It was still clumsy, but it was getting better.

In the end, I sort of spun up two colours. I wound the first one onto a felted ball. When the second was finished, I put my wound yarn and my spindle into a shoe box lazy Kate and wound the two strands together. Then, I used the drop spindle to ply my yarn. A couple of ladies in the class produced excellent yarn. Really impressive. Most everyone’s was completely decent. Mine was the most disheveled of the group – but I was pleased that I had produced anything, especially considering how I was getting on at the beginning of the class.

first-spinning

The four hour class ended too soon, and we were packing up and heading home before I knew it. Luckily, my medication had kept the migraine at bay, so I was able to go home and enjoy my purchases. It was a great day! Putting my guilt aside temporarily, where on earth am I going to put all this stuff!

Thanks for reading. Happy knitting… and spinning!

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Soldiering On: A Knitter’s Determination

Dear Reader:

It is a grey and blustery day outside, making me even more thankful that there is nothing I have to do today and can spend all my time knitting on my latest project. I was a busy girl the last few days, trying to clean up my to-do list so that I would have today free to knit. The housework is done: the floors vacuumed and mopped, the laundry washed, folded and put away, and the bathrooms sparkling and clean. So, after I write this, I’m going to get out my needles and slip into the soothing motions of knitting and let the wind blow outside and be warm and cozy inside.

Before I get to the latest project on my needles, I have an update on my husband’s Basic Ribbed Socks. They’re finished AND they fit! Oh happy day. He has a very high instep. I honestly didn’t really follow the pattern once I got to the heel. Knit a slip-stitch heel and continued on from memory from knitting other socks. This is excellent – I feel as though I have somewhat mastered sock knitting – at least top-down, heel flap constructed socks. I know there are plenty of other techniques I could/should try, and I will, maybe… I’m a little worried the socks won’t stay up on his leg as there really isn’t a cuff, so the top of the socks kind of roll over.

This is much more blue toned than in reality - it's more a grey, black with a small tinge of blue

This is much more blue toned than in reality – it’s more a grey, black with a small tinge of blue

I knit a really long heel flap – 28 repeats of the 2 rows for the slip-stitch heel. I think this is about double what I would knit for my own foot. I had my doubts, but it all seemed to work out. They fit right off the needles, though he said they felt a little tight. Once blocked, he said they fit fine and he wore them right away. This is very satisfying. It’s great to knit for yourself, but I really would like to be able to knit for others. With two pairs of socks gifted now, I’m feeling a little more confident about knitting socks for other people – so long as I have a number of measurements for their feet, including the length from their ankle bone to the floor.

Many knitters don’t like finishing work. This is what I’ve heard. They enjoy casting on and knitting, but do not like the fiddly stuff at the end. I’m the opposite. I dislike casting on. I get very anxious about it and will even put off casting on because of it. Partly it’s because casting on is ugly. It usually takes a few rows before it starts to look like something, and all that time I’m thinking how ugly it looks and that I should rip it out and start again. Often I do, multiple times, though I’m getting better.

Well, after knitting a swatch, I cast on for my Pacific Breakwater on February 23. I’m glad I swatched, for a number of reasons, but the main one is that it gave me the chance to get familiar with the yarn. I tried my wood needles but the yarn didn’t glide on them so I switched to my metal needles. The yarn is Hazel Knits Entice MCN - 70% superwash merino, 20% cashmere, 10% nylon. It is so soft and light and airy. I literally spent days online searching for yarn for this project. The moment I saw this colourway, the choice was made. It is called Pacific, hence my project name, Pacific Breakwater. I love, love, love this colour and this yarn. This is the second time I’ve worked with Hazel Knits yarn and I have to say, it is probably my favourite yarn to date.

Beginnings of a Breakwater sweater

Beginnings of a Breakwater sweater

I purchased my yarn at Twisted in Portland. Excellent customer service and fast delivery.

I’ve knit up the neck trim and I’m about a quarter of the way through the yoke shaping. I’m full of doubts. My dreams last night were full of knitting, my mind unable to stop thinking of this even in sleep. The fabric seems too open and my increases look sloppy. I keep asking myself if this is what it is supposed to look like, but I have no experience and will simply have to soldier on and hope for the best. If there is no wearable sweater at the end, I will have been through the process and will have learned a lot. If I do have a wearable sweater at the end, what a lovely bonus that will be. Wish me luck!

 

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From Knitting Monogamy to Mayhem!

Dear Reader:

My typically structured knitting world has been blown asunder. In the short-ish time I’ve been knitting, I have been what you would call a monogamous knitter. I start one project. I knit on this project and only on this project until it’s finished. When I bind off, I typically weave in the ends right away and almost always before I start work on a new project.

I’m perfectly happy with this situation in general, but I have started (and discussed here before) the desire to have more than one project on the go – particularly projects that contrast each other in their skill and concentration level. To have a nice simple project like a vanilla sock or a dishcloth or something that you can pick up and knit when you don’t have time or don’t feel like knitting on your more complicated project. I’m rarely in a vehicle (I ride a bike, and I haven’t yet figured out a way to do both at the same time), but it would be nice to have something to knit on those rare occasions when I find myself stuck in one.

New project bag from Knit Spin Farm - I love it! http://www.etsy.com/shop/KnitSpinFarm

New project bag from Knit Spin Farm – I love it!
http://www.etsy.com/shop/KnitSpinFarm

Anyways… after I completed my Piece Of My Heart Socks in late January, I thought I’d knit up the Biergarten Hat by Anne Hanson. It was from the October 2012 installment of Fall in Full color. Having knit the Biergarten Scarf, I wanted to use up the lovely yarn and make it a set. I’d only knit one hat up to this point so I was looking forward to it.

I worked up the brim and started to work the textured panel and was finding some laddering after my cables. I researched online to see if there were any tips for this and tried the reverse wrap. This did little to resolve the issue; My purl stitches were nice and tight but I still had long ladders on either side of the purl stitch. I’m familiar with the tug methods too and use them quite regularly. I finally had to put the hat into timeout and turn my mind to something else.

I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since though, and I am resolved to figure it out! I might try redistributing the stitches on the needles. The cables in question are all where the work transitions from one DPN to another, and I’m hopeful that this might help. I have knit other projects on DPNs, so I have a fair amount of experience. I had to work on the laddering issue when I first started using DPNs, but I think I’ve got it pretty well figured out, so I’m fairly certain it’s not just a working with DPNs issue. Besides, I knit up the scarf with no issue… ?!

So, with the hat in timeout and still wanting to knit a hat, I pulled out some Bernat Roving from stash and knit up the Robin’s Egg Blue Hat. It was an extremely quick and satisfying knit. The little flap on the brim is not my favourite feature, as it sticks out rather bumpily when on your head. This might have been less an issue if I’d worked in a bulky weight yarn as the pattern called for, but I used super bulky. I think it would have looked quite nice to simply work the seed stitch brim in the round, but I’m happy with the hat. It fits my head perfectly, providing excellent coverage for the ears, and is nice and warm.

Top: Stark Bottom: Robin's Egg Blue Hat

Top: Stark Bottom: Robin’s Egg Blue Hat

I then started knitting my DH a pair of socks on February 2nd.  They are the Basic Ribbed Socks by Kate Atherley and could be considered a vanilla sock. While working on these my Noro Silk Garden yarn arrived, so I took the socks to work with me to work on there, and began to knit my Noro Scarf. Now I have two projects actively on the needles and a project in timeout AND I have plans for my first sweater in the works (yarn ordered and on its way!)

After giving up on beginning with a tubular cast on (I tried at least four different methods over two evenings – it was time to move on), I was finally on my way. You would think that 1×1 ribbing would drive you to the brink, but I was finding it really enjoyable. Knitting two rows with each ball of yarn, you have enough going on to engage your mind remembering to slip the first and last stitches on r2 and changing the yarn. Watching the colours interact and develop is fun, the yarn in general is a pleasure to work with (despite the two knots I found in one ball – I’ve decided spit splicing is gross, but it works), and the fabric that worked up is lovely.

I had some issues with the work pulling in at the edges and frogged back to rework it – careful to NOT tug the yarn as I changed balls. I started by using the simple method of holding the  current working yarn across the front (just under the needle) and simply starting to knit the next row with the other ball of yarn. I also tried the twist the two yarns method that you’ll find everywhere on the Internet and this looked horrible, so I went back to the much simpler and effective method of holding the working yarn aside. It’s beautiful.

I agonized over my colour choices for the Noro Scarf, and literally after days of thinking on it, I finally made my selections and placed my order. With gradient-type yarn like this, it’s difficult to know how it’s going to work up until you work it up (even after viewing swatches online), and working it up with another colourway just makes the experiment that more dicey… The scarf looks like barf. Seriously. Turns out, I didn’t go with my gut and select the colourway I chose first in my mind, but chose another colourway instead. I’m not posting pictures because I don’t think you want to see my barf scarf.

WIP - Left: Biergarten Hat Right: Basic Ribbed Socks

WIP – Left: Biergarten Hat Right: Basic Ribbed Socks

So, this went into timeout too, and I’ve been knitting my husband’s socks (and of course there’s a whole story I could write about this, but this is getting too long as it is!) I broke down today and ordered more Spring Garden yarn in colours I hope won’t look like barf. It’s very dangerous and expensive and frustrating! And such a shame that I should be stalled like this with a project that I was enjoying so much. It will be weeks before the yarn will arrive and I can pick the scarf up again.

So, it’s perhaps a little dramatic to include “mayhem” in my title, and I hardly think this qualifies me as a polyamorous knitter, but it is a dangerous development that if left unchecked could lead to utter madness and chaos – which might be wonderful or might just drive me insane. Probably a bit of both.

Full disclosure: I have a half-finished boot cuff in my stash that has been sitting there for about a year. I also have a partially finished crochet blanket carefully tucked just out of sight (the guilt!) I know that projects you are not working on do not count for polyamorous knitting, but if I’m making my confessions I may as well confess it all!

Results for gifted projects: At a family function yesterday I was able to gift the Piece Of My Heart Socks to my MIL and THEY FIT!!! This is such a confidence building result. I also gifted my Stark hat to my nephew who put it on right away and didn’t seem to notice or care that there might be some small mistakes in it. He also liked that it was a little slouchy and not snug. Happy day!

As always, thank you for reading my little blog.

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