Saturday, January 31, 2015

The search for the perfect mitten continues…

These mittens were intended to be a quick, gratifying project following on the heels of finishing the epic chevron blanket. I spied this pattern on Ravelry before Christmas and was completely enamored with how darn cute this particular version is.

Mine came out like this: mittens_crop

I’ve been looking to upgrade my warm handwear this winter, since I tend to lose circulation in the tips of my fingers when it’s cold. This past fall, I’ve been wearing commercial fleece gloves with a pair of handknit mittens on top. The mittens are made from a warm blend of merino and angora from Jamie Harmon. I haven’t had any trouble with cold fingers, but the angora creates a lot of fuzz that gets in the way and makes a mess. I wanted some mittens that would be as warm as that combo, but more durable. This pattern seemed perfect!snowball cropWhile I’m fairly happy with the result, the process of creating them was frustrating. I had to modify the pattern a lot, starting before I even cast on. The designer calls for a gauge of 8 st/in on the outer mitten, which is made of sock yarn. I chose a ball of Trekking XXL for my outer mitten. I just made a pair of socks from Trekking XXL last fall, and I got 8 st/in on a 2.0 mm needle. The larger mitten is only 1 stitch bigger in circumference than my socks, so I put the socks on my hands. They were WAY too tight and small. So, I upsized. IMG_4992The pattern calls for an i-cord cast-on. I thought it looked nice and I hadn’t tried the technique before, so I worked it. But the wrist opening for the mitten was WAY too big and would have let a lot of cold air in. So I ripped that back and replaced it with ribbing.

IMG_0136

The pattern calls for a worsted weight yarn in the liner mitten. I reached for this Julia out of my stash, since it is a warm blend of 50% wool, 25% alpaca, and 25% mohair. But since the yarn weight was different, I essentially had to rewrite the pattern AGAIN. I did a fair bit of ripping and reknitting to get these done!IMG_5428 The lining is just whip-stitched into place. I put the mittens over my phone to hold everything in the right position. I used segments of the sock yarn that matched the stripe I was sewing into, just to make sure it wouldn’t show on the right side of the mitten. Here’s a finished one from the inside:

IMG_5430

The ribbing fits under my coat sleeve but doesn’t add nearly as much bulk as it would if it were lined, too.IMG_5432 I’ve worn these quite a bit during the past two weeks. They aren’t quite as warm as my fleece glove/wool & angora mitten combo, but they are pretty good. What I really appreciate is how TOUGH the outer mitten is. That XXL is rustic stuff. I have wiped ice off my windshield wipers with the mitten, and it doesn’t seem to be worse for wear. Plus, no moisture got down to my skin. That is really nice.

I’m not giving up on lined mittens, but I’ll make some changes next time. I think I’d like to use fingering weight yarn on both layers. I’ll use a tough yarn on the outside and a much softer one on the inside. And I think I’ll use Susan B. Anderson’s Waiting for Winter mitten pattern as my guide (though she specifies worsted weight yarn so maybe not). I’ve made her pattern and it was perfect the first time.

snowball throw

So far, I’ve had TWO unsatisfactory pattern experiences in 2015. That’s annoying!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Leftovers

I’m always surprised to hear that some people won’t eat leftovers. I generally like them, although sometimes I transform them into something new rather than eating the same exact thing again at another meal.

I found myself knitting leftovers of both types this winter.

First, Remember the cowl I made from Great White Bale Lot #1? It was a really simple pattern composed of just ribbing and seed stitch. 38-2crop This winter, S1 asked for a new cowl. The one I made her a couple years ago has a tendency to snag on the corner of her glasses. Plus, she keeps wearing it inside out which bugs me (and no one else). She pointed to my GWB cowl and said “…something like this, sturdy but soft.” I said “how about something JUST like that, because I have another skein of that yarn and could whip it up so fast?” So, we now have the cowl’s twin, made from leftovers:cowl crop I made it exactly like the first one except that I forgot to do the clever bind-off (*K2tog tbl, transfer stitch back to left needle*) and just did the regular one instead. She’ll never know.

IMG_4301

My second leftovers were from the Epic Chevron Blanket project. We got some new living room furniture last year. It’s got a groovy, mid-century modern style… you know, with the chair legs that taper down? The furniture pads that stick to the bottom of the legs don’t stay on very well. That’s important because (a) we have a hard floor and (b) we move the chair/ottoman almost daily if we want to watch TV. So, I knit some chair socks. They are little tiny cylinders with cushy garter stitch on the bottom and a bit of ribbing at the top:IMG_5441 And they fit on our chair/ottoman legs just perfectly!

IMG_5449

I stuffed a little fiber in to fill in the gap between the bottom of that button thing on the leg and the edge of the leg before putting on the socks (does that make sense?):IMG_5447My initial plan was to knit most of the socks in dark brown, to blend in with the legs, but make one in yellow to be fun and to coordinate with the throw pillows. But then I ran out of brown and switched over to a deep blue that is one of the blanket colors.

IMG_5450

Here’s the pattern:

CO 8. Join to knit in the round. (I use two circulars)
Round 1: P
Round 2: *Kfb* (16)
Round 3: P
Round 4 *K1 Kfb* (24)
Round 5: P
Knit the next 16 rounds.
*K2 P2* ribbing for 5 rounds.
BO in pattern.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

L’enveloppe… the first

Sally Melville claims you can’t make just one L’enveloppe, and I have to agree – I’ll be making another one of these in another color! What do you think?crop1 It’s not really a sweater, because it only has one sleeve and doesn’t come all the way to the waist. But it’s not really a shawl, because it has a neck opening and one sleeve. It’s just this warm yarn-y thing.

I know these photos aren’t great, but it turns out that this deep eggplant purple is really hard to photograph, especially in winter with all the light bouncing off the snow. I’m on the shady side of the house in the afternoon, but still have only a few photos where you can see the stitch definition.crop4 I did an unusual amount of swatching for this project (5 swatches!), especially since it is written for a generous FOUR different gauges (13, 14, 15, and 16 st/4”). Because the sweater I made with the first half of this handspun yarn was knit on a US 5 and I knew I wanted something with more drape, I started with a US 6. Then I did a 7. Then I tried holding this yarn and some Silky Wool left over from S1’s sweater together with a 9. Then an 8. Finally I settled on the handspun alone on a US 9. The only problem was that my gauge was 14.5 st/4”, not 14 or 15.crop3

Once again, I turned to my old friend, Math, to solve this conundrum. I wanted a size M but ended up following the directions for size S worked in the 16 st/4” gauge. The numbers seemed to be what I was looking for, and it worked out pretty well. The L’enveloppe could be a wee bit more snug, but it’s not crazy big.

In some ways, this project reminds me of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Surprise Jacket. You knit this odd shape:  IMG_5410 Then you sew a seam that creates the neck opening. Next, you pick up stitches to make the cape-like cup that covers the left shoulder and knit those downward. And finally, you sew one more little seam that makes the single armhole. Then you have to figure out how to put it on! It’s like wearable origami.crop2The pattern comes with instructions to make this in garter or seed stitch. I chose the garter to start with but my next one will be seed. I also think making a more neutral-colored version would be useful. IMG_5413This is the yarn I originally spun for SPAKAL 2012. I made the Leaflet sweater and had lots left over. I used all my leftovers here, but I also unraveled the button band from Leaflet. I realized I wasn’t really wearing it because it doesn’t fit right in the waist. I was happy to cannibalize from something I don’t wear for something I hopefully will. I still need to finish unraveling the rest of the sweater.

My finished L’enveloppe weighs 356 grams. I estimate that at 562 yards. Most of it was easy, mindless garter stitch worked over the winter break while traveling.

Caitlin and I knit our L’enveloppes together (after being inspired by hearing Sally speak back in September). Caitlin, we want to see photos on the blog please!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Not a cat person

It is well documented that I am not a cat person. Occasionally I meet a cat I like, but it’s rare. But what about a cat hat? crop2My niece turned 5 just before Christmas and as a birthday present, we sat down and had a consultation about a hat I would knit for her. The hat we decided on wasn’t this one, because a few days after our chat I ran across this pattern and thought it seemed perfect for her. I asked her mom to show her photos of both hats, and indeed, Kate loved the kitty cat. I dove into my knitting group’s share bag of Cascade 200 Superwash (where we keep the leftovers from the blankets we’ve knit as gifts) and came up with enough “silver grey” for the hat (I used 48 g) and “strawberry cream” for the ears (just a few yards).

I almost didn’t buy the pattern because really, this is just a plain hat without a crown decrease and some duplicate stitch for the ears. But I like to support designers and I didn’t think of this idea on my own, so I paid the $4.

That’s when I got picky. The designer calls for the “Alternate Rib Cast On” (instead of the standard long tail CO), but doesn’t explain it in her pattern. Instead, she links out to another person’s (free) blog post about how to work the technique. This wouldn’t bother me in a free pattern, but if you’re going to charge I feel you should explain anything that isn’t standard. (She also links to other websites to explain kitchener stitch, 3-needle BO, and duplicate stitch – but these are more standard to me.) To add insult to injury, the technique link was dead and a google search didn’t come up with the Alternate Rib Cast On.IMG_5418I am a more experienced knitter and determined that what she wanted was the same thing that Woolly Wormhead calls the Alternate Cable Cast On for 2x2 Ribbing, and I used Woolly’s blog posts to work this new-to-me CO. It was fussy and fiddly, but I like the result and will work it again. See how the ribbing seems to appear out of nowhere? Here I’ll show it next to an older hat that used a regular long tail CO so you can really see the difference:IMG_5419The pattern is written for 6 different sizes, which is nice, and they are color-coded in the pdf – but the S and M sizes are colored in hot pink and red, which makes them virtually indistinguishable especially since they are right next to each other. Also, the yarn requirements aren’t given for different sizes – she just says “75-250 yards” which is a pretty big range.

I’ve listened to and read a lot of interviews with knit designers and am very sympathetic to the economics of being an independent designer. In fact, just last fall Woolly Wormhead herself published a long post called “The True Cost of a Pattern” which is well worth reading. But I do feel that if you’re going to sell patterns in today’s knitting world, you should have them tech edited or study up on that yourself (there have been at least a couple books published on this topic recently).

In the designer’s defense, I emailed her about the dead link and she responded right away with an alternative link (not Woolly’s). She also updated the pattern in Ravelry so that all purchasers would receive the corrected version. This was both responsive and responsible – kudos for that.cropI am pleased with the hat and hope my niece will be, too. I might even make it again – it would be a great choice for my annual kid hat donation that is part of the Knitters’ Day Out registration fee.

But, just as I’m not a cat person, maybe I’m also not a cat pattern person. Bottom line: this hat design is perfect for a beginning knitter, but the pattern isn’t.

P.S. – Woolly Wormhead is having her annual sale through January 23. All patterns are 40% off. Treat yourself to a new hat pattern or two!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Epic Chevron Blanket

I finally finished my ginormous blanket!

couch cropIt fits the couch perfectly. It’s about 6x4 feet when spread out flat…maybe just a little bigger, like 73x49”. It took me six months to knit, mostly because it became very unportable as it grew. That said, I knit through the last 4.5 or so balls of yarn sitting in my minivan on a long ride to Texas and back. I don’t recommend giant blankets for car knitting projects, but I knew I had a lot of hours and I really wanted to finish this (even if I had to crank up the AC the further south we drove).blanket crop

I used 18 balls of Cascade 220 Superwash and a US 6 needle (4.0 mm). The result is firm but still drapey due to the endless miles of garter stitch. IMG_5392I made a rookie mistake in the very beginning that turned out not to be a problem due to dumb luck. I didn’t weigh all my yarn. Now, we know that 100 gram balls of yarn don’t all weigh 100 grams, but I think these varied quite a lot. I knit the first color until it looked like I didn’t have quite enough left for another couple garter ridges and then stopped. I have 7 grams left of that color. I have more of the orangey-red left than anything else (35 grams). If I had started with the orange, I would have turned up short on the others.

IMG_5377

The patterns Fancy Tiger Crafts’ Heirloom Chevron Throw. They use their own heirloom Romney yarn in it, which is bulkier than Cascade 220. Their pattern calls for rows that are 217 stitches long (mine are 329) and stripes that are 50 rows (mine are 78). I figure I have 153,972 stitches in this baby, more or less.IMG_4302The colors are Turtle, Pacific, Doeskin Heather, Provence, Aporto, and Chocolate.IMG_5396The blanket is already fully incorporated into family life. Boy 1 said “it’s like a wool sock for your whole body!” I’m actually considering beginning another blanket project, but my next one will be knit modularly so it can go with me more places.IMG_5386I might even start knitting little squares of my leftover sock yarn. Now THAT would be an epic project to span a number of years. For now, though, I’m glad to have this done so we can all enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

North Pole Color

owensockscrop

This is a very quick post to show that Boy 1’s socks are done! They knit up super fast at only 48 stitches around on 2.75mm needles. I’m so glad I reknit the first sock. The difference between working on 2.5s and 2.75s was huge – I hadn’t realized how much the 2.5 needles were hurting my hands until I moved up.IMG_5159Boy 1 is such a patient and obedient sock model. I say “strike a pose!” and he gives me all kinds of variations. Not all my sock models do that. Just saying. IMG_5162 The yarn is Regia North Pole Color #06094. It comes in a giant 150g ball (Ravelry says it is DK!). I used 88 grams on these socks and have 62 grams remaining. I made these a little big for him since he is growing so quickly. I used the graduated toe again like I did on my purple socks and Dan’s socks. I guess that’s my signature toe for fall 2014.

IMG_5161

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Group Work

I have two projects to report on today, both related to my beloved knitting group. IMG_5016First: we did it again! We made a blanket as a surprise wedding gift! This one was sooooo secret that it was delivered a full 6 months after the vows were made; hopefully it was no less sweet for being late. We followed the same pattern we used for our first secret group project: Staci’s free Log Cabin Scrap Blanket pattern. Instead of making each square different, we went for a more orderly effect. I think Caitlin likes it!

FullSizeRender_4

She certainly was surprised. One amusing detail: we picked these colors because they coordinated well with some Roman shades she sewed earlier this year. We had the distinct impression they were meant for her living room window. But… they are actually for her bathroom. So we joke that this is her bathroom blanket.IMG_5014 The yarn is (once again) Cascade 220 Superwash. The colors, from inside square outward, are: strawberry cream, lichen, raspberry, and doeskin heather.

IMG_5020

The second project I have to share with you are some wooly critters from our annual C3 party. This is the fourth year S1 and I have hosted the anti-stress holiday party titled Crafts, Cookies, and Cocktails. We have one yarn craft each year (as the knitters attend in full force), but also several non-yarn activities for our other lovely guests. This year, the official yarn project was the Mini Pookie. With more or less the same body shape, you can make a polar bear, arctic fox, or sheep. I made a test sheep (our of Cascade 220 Superwash left over from Jess’s blanket): IMG_5051

This project definitely takes longer to knit than the mini aliens from the initial year of C3, but it could still be completed during the party. I present evidence from Caitlin and Heidi, who both knit the polar bear version:IMG_5167 Note the differences in gauge. Our little pookies could be source material for Goldilocks:

IMG_5170

Several other critters were nearly done by night’s end, including this one. Marta managed to break both her needles so we think she needs to loosen up on her stitches!IMG_5173As usual, an excellent time was had by all.  This gathering has become a cherished tradition in our annual calendar. Thank you friends for sharing yourselves and your love of craft with us again this year!