Thursday, April 10, 2014

Almost done, barely begun

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I have done a terrible job of keeping you up to date on my grey sweater. As you can see above, the pieces have all been knit and blocked. Next step is seaming. Seaming always takes me a while to get to, since I feel I need a stretch of time when I won’t be interrupted, I can take over the dining table, and I’m not tired. These times seem to be in short supply. But soon, I shall do it. This sweater has 3/4 sleeves and would be very appropriate for these spring days here, so I need to finish soon!lark crop

This green yarn is my next sweater. It is Lark, by Quince & Co, a 100% wool worsted yarn that is round and springy and soft. I wish you could reach out and touch it. The color is a vibrant emerald green called “cypress.” I bought this at A Verb For Keeping Warm in Oakland, California, which is a destination LYS if there ever was one. There are lots of fantastic LYSs out there, but some are truly unique and this is one of them. I first encountered Verb when I visited their booth at Sock Summit 2009 (I eagerly returned at Sock Summit 2011). Would you like to see the store? I took some photos!IMG_2961

(By the way, I was in the East Bay area for nearly a week because I went to a class at bepress headquarters in Berkeley. What a great week. Oakland is right next door to Berkeley so I planned this visit before I even bought my plane ticket.)IMG_2951

Verb is known for natural dying and American yarns (including some truly local California yarns). Above is a wall of mostly fingering weight yarns dyed in house. You can see that the palette is a bit more muted because of the natural dyes (their booth was such an oasis in the midst of a lot of clown barf yarn at Sock Summit 2009). I resisted this wall mostly because I have a lot of shawls and a lot of fingering yarn already. But oh, so tempting!IMG_2952

They also carry large quantities of both the Brooklyn Tweed yarns, Shelter and Loft. I got very interested in a color of Loft (the color “Almanac,” a beautiful blue), but they didn’t have a sweater’s worth…so I resisted. And I just knit a sweater from Shelter, so again…I resisted. I pet a lot of these skeins, though:IMG_2953

They also had a small amount of Pioneer, Verb’s own signature yarn (organic merino raised in California) – but I didn’t love the colors they had in stock and it just didn’t feel like the right purchase that day. But I pet a lot of these skeins, too:IMG_2954

One thing I love about this store is that every detail is treated with care and artistry, often with a natural, botanical theme. This is a rack on which sample garments hang – it’s a lovely branch and part of it is encased in knitted fabric:IMG_2949

See this opening between the shop and the office? A branch and yarn create a screen effect (and little gnomes and snowmen hang from it, too):IMG_2959

Sewists, they also have beautiful fabric:IMG_2945

They have lovely notions whose purpose I don’t know, but I appreciated the display:IMG_2946

If you peek out the back door, you see a delightful garden with a dye garden and dying area. I so wanted to hang out back there (look at the door-colored chairs!):

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Back to the yarn I bought. I have had Sprig in my queue since the moment the pattern was released, and I decided to use this to make it. The pattern calls for Owl, another Quince yarn… and I selected some Owl at the shop – but they didn’t have enough skeins. Lark is the same weight/gauge so I hope it will be a good substitute. I knit a swatch, settled on a size, and cast on earlier this week. There isn’t much to show yet, but it’s still proof!IMG_3026

The other place I saw yarn in California was the Japanese dollar store, Daiso. I didn’t buy any (because really, what can you expect for $1.50? everything was $1.50), but I snapped a few photos. I do appreciate the knitting needles with contrasting tip colors. IMG_2969

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Spicy linen? Felt sweets, anyone?

We are well into April now, which means this knitter’s thoughts turn to thoughts of the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Who’s with me?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monkey 3

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Thanks to some classroom knitting (#bepressu), these socks are now done. This is the third time I’ve knit Cookie A’s addictive Monkey sock pattern. There is a free version on knitty.com and an update with many sizing options in her book, Knit. Sock. Love. IMG_2982

I chose to knit these with a plain foot rather than continuing the pattern down the top of the sock. S1 doesn’t wear open shoes or Mary Janes, so the top doesn’t show. Plain stockinette is more comfortable (and also speedier to work).

For strength, I chose the eye-of-partridge heel. It’s bulletproof. Just look at that heel… I defy it to develop a hole. IMG_2987

I am fonder than I expected of this color. Perhaps I am influenced by my outrageously positive feelings about Yellowstone National Park (who wouldn’t be?). This is a yellowish-brown, which isn’t exactly showy, but next to blue jeans (or my blue house) it looks quite yellow in a subtly fun way. IMG_2984

Another pair of socks done.

On my way home from Berkeley, I finished the second sleeve of my grey sweater. Yesterday I blocked the sleeves and the front. So now it’s time to seam.

For an entire day, I had nothing on the needles. (GASP) Then I cast on a sock in this yarn, which will most definitely pool in a strange way. But S1 is into that, so into the pool we go. I do find it intriguing to see how different it is in the skein and in the ball. IMG_0998

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Half a sock, half a sweater

I’m leaving town again tomorrow and wanted to leave proof that knitting progress has happened. First, here’s the entire, finished, blocked back of my grey boatneck sweater (a CustomFit pattern):IMG_2857

I finished the front last night, but I still need to weave in the ends and block it. That purl ridge you see that the bottom is for a turned hem.

I started knitting the first sleeve on our Austin trip last week, and I’m taking them on the plane tomorrow. I fully expect to finish the sleeves this week. So soon, I will need to do some finishing!

I’ve also been knitting another pair of socks for S1. She really likes the Monkey pattern (she got green Monkeys last spring), so I’m using that again. This is the “Yellowstone” colorway American B.R.A.N.D. yarn I told you about back in January:IMG_2734

These are a sort of yellowish-brown and I think they will read as a friendly neutral. I’m on the heel flap of sock #2, so I hope to finish that during my week away, as well.

Which means: I need another knitting project, pronto! Guess I’d better wind some more sock yarn…

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Va-va-vroom

My post title is meant to connote both the stylishness of this shawl (va-va-voom) and the speediness with which it was completed (vroom!). At least, I think it’s stylish. There’s no arguing that it was speedy – I knit it in 15 days.

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You may recall that I “needed” a colorful, spring shawl to go with a wedding guest dress. The pattern is Stephen West’s Gyllis and the yarn is Shibui Staccato (70% merino, 30% silk) in color Apple. I just love this!IMG_2774

It was just big enough to keep my shoulders warm when a cool breeze blew in during the ceremony, and easy to toss off when it was time to dance.IMG_2775

Here’s a picture from the front. I look kind of short here, but I think it’s because my tall friend Steven took the photo! (or, maybe it’s because I’m kinda short?) That’s our knitter librarian friend Steven in the blow tie and his fabulous husband Jeff. If you don’t follow Steven’s blog, Knitting Sweaters & Sitting Still, you should! IMG_2789

The wedding was lovely… the best one I’ve ever attended! It was both rustic and formal, just as advertised. One of the cakes looked like a cowboy boot (this is rice krispie treat on the inside):IMG_2804

We had a fantastic time in Austin. We managed to squeeze in a round of mini golf, an authentic Tex Mex meal, a visit to the Texas History Museum, a visit to the State Capitol building, a visit to Steven’s knitting group, a meal at our old stomping ground Schlotzsky’s, a tiny bit of couch shopping, a visit to the LBJ Wildflower Center, and a bunch of dog walks. Oh, and the wedding. Did I miss anything? It was a whirlwind trip that managed also to be relaxing.

Now I’m back to knitting that gray Custom Fit sweater. I PROMISE!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Twigs & Willows is DONE!

front crop 2I am so excited to report that my green Twigs & Willows sweater is finally finished. I cast on excitedly at the end of October and then got a bit sidetracked by Christmas knitting. I finished knitting the second sleeve (and last piece) just before Christmas, but it took me a long time to block the pieces, find buttons, and complete the finishing. But now it’s done done DONE!

front cropThis sweater was a bit frustrating to begin. You may recall that I found it impossible to get the gauge of 20 stitches over 4”. The pattern calls for a 4.5mm needle (US 7). I got 18.25 stitches/4” on a US 5 and that’s still too big. So I turned to my old friend, math. Using a 3.75mm (US 5) needle and knitting the size 35 (the smallest size offered in the pattern), I would have ended up with a sweater actually sized 38.3. I was aiming for something around a 36. In a fit of pique, I decided to whip out a 3.5mm needle (US 4) and just knit the size 35, hoping it would be about right. That’s right, I didn’t even knit a gauge swatch with the 3.5mm needle. Nothing like running with scissors! I have consistently knit sweaters that are a little too big for me, and I wanted to get this one to really fit in the shoulders.front crop 4

I think this worked. The sweater really looked too small while I was knitting it (especially before the button bands went on), but it seems to fit fairly well – especially in the shoulders, which was the goal.

Did you notice that the sleeves are a good length? This was a major mod. The schematic says the sleeve length (from cuff to underarm) is 17”. I made mine 14.75” based on my Amy Herzog Custom Fit measurement. Yay! I did not alter the length of the sweater. The pattern photos show that it is kind of a cropped look, but since I’m short I knew it would fall a little longer on me. I am pleased with the overall length.

Here’s a view of the back. P1020941Again, note that it fits well in the shoulders. There seems to be a bit of extra fabric in the middle of the back (under the armpits) but that is a design flaw IMHO. You can see it here, right?schematic

For the first time, I sewed grosgrain ribbon on the back of the button band. Since this sweater is blocked I figured it would be fine. It definitely made sewing on the buttons easier. I also used backing buttons so that the “public” buttons won’t sag. I think the button band lays quite nicely.bittpms

For buttonholes, I used the superior one-row horizontal buttonhole as described in Margaret Fisher’s Seven Things that can “Make or Break” a Sweater: Techniques and Tips for Hand Knitters. I don’t know how the buttonholes specified in the pattern could possibly achieve satisfactory results.

I used my new blocking board (thanks again, Mom!) for the first time on this project, and I love how much easier it made things.P1020915

Seaming is becoming more pleasant to do. Since this yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Shelter) is woolen-spun, I did not use it to sew seams. Instead, I found some leftover sock yarn (this is Dream in Color Smooshy in color Happy Forest). You can see the mattress seam going in here. Once those stitches are pulled tight, you cannot see the yarn. The seam at the bottom of the photo has already been sewn. Beautiful! I was also reminded what a gorgeous colorway Happy Forest is, full of greens from kelly to teal. I need to get more of that (since my Happy Forest socks sprung undarnable heels years ago).mattress stitch

What else can I tell you about this sweater? It’s super cozy warm. We braved 20 degree temperatures to take these photos and while my hands were freezing (I just noticed how I was clutching them here) and my hair is blowing around a bit, my torso was fine. In fact, I was a little too warm in some parts of the library later in the day.front crop 5 And I still love the leaves. leavesThis pattern is from the Botanical Knits collection, and just as I finished this the designer (Alana Dakos) released Botanical Knits 2 (at least for preorder). The second collection contains a pair of fingerless knits with this same motif on them. So if you love the leaves, too, but don’t want to knit a whole sweater, you can go for the mitts instead.

Next time I’ll give you an update on the apple green shawl I’m knitting for the wedding that takes place in 9 days. I’m totally on track… even a bit ahead of schedule.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wedding Knitting

Many of you know we’re attending a couple of weddings this spring. One involves traveling to Texas and figuring out what “rustic formal” means. I’m still not sure what it means, but I’ve decided to just wear a cute fun dress and call it good. The fact that I’m even wearing a dress makes it a formal occasion.

Spring wedding in Texas… think wildflowers! Wedding vows will be made at sunset. There will be s’mores. It’s not super formal. I pictured a dress in a spring color. But this year, there are no colors in the stores. Everything is black and white. So I bought a kicky little black and white dress that kind of reads “Mad Men” on me and plan to knit a colorful shawl to go with it. Here’s the dress:

Taylor Dresses Illusion Cap Sleeve Fit & Flare DressTaylor Dresses Illusion Cap Sleeve Fit & Flare Dress

[Note: that is not ME pictured in the dress! hahahaha!]

This dress really does need a shawl in a nice color. I was inspired by the neckline of this dress (which I did not buy) – don’t you just love that little greenish-yellow bit of piping? dress necklineSo I bought 3 skeins of Shibui Staccato (70% superwash merino, 30% silk) in the color “Apple” and I intend to make Gyllis by Stephen West. I felt that this particular dress didn’t call for a shawl with a botanical motif and I liked the angles on this pattern. The yarn arrived today and it’s JUST the right color:

IMG_2700I also wanted to knit something for the brides. But they live in a sub-tropical climate (Houston), so wool isn’t usually their thing. I finally settled on sparkly accessories knit in the colors of those Texas wildflowers… picture the rolling green hills of central Texas dotted with bluebonnets, black-eyed Susans (brown and gold), and Indian paintbrush (red). You really have to see the flowers to believe them. Go ahead, google “Texas wildflower” and limit to “images.” I will wait.

Here are a couple of images that are free to copy, in case you just can’t search right now:

I put those colors into Laura Nelkin’s Stereo Cuff and here’s what I got:IMG_2696IMG_2694Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea, these cuffs aren’t meant to be worn by the brides AT the wedding… they are just meant to evoke the colors of the wedding. I’m sure they can find some funky way to wear them. They are more stylish than me!IMG_2578

And they don’t read this blog, so I don’t think I’m spoiling a surprise.

As always Laura Nelkin’s pattern was exceptionally well-written and super fun to knit. I added a little to my bead stash and got to use some leftover sock yarns.

Win-win-win-win-win.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

First socks of 2014

I finally finished the small project that I started back on New Year’s Even. These socks began as 2013 ended and ended last week. It’s a hard time of year to photograph knitwear. I apologize.IMG_2679

I used the stitch pattern from Simple Skyp socks, which is seed stitch rib, and applied to my basic top-down sock. These are for Boy 1, who is growing but isn’t quite wearing socks that are the same size as mine. The CO is 60. There is an eye-of-partridge heel, which I neglected to photograph. We took these pictures on Friday morning (which was, of course, another snow day here) and he hasn’t taken them off since (it’s now Sunday afternoon). So I’m not touching them now!IMG_2682 Here’s a close-up of the seeded rib. It’s a simple rib variation that is quite handsome.I worked twisted rib on the cuff for extra stretchiness. He asked me to make these bigger, so I did. You’ve got to love it when your kid is anxious about growing out of his handknit socks too quickly.IMG_9690Isn’t this a beautiful shade of brown? It’s called “Browncoat” but I think of it as “Redwood.” Of course, Boy 1 actually thinks these are red (remember he’s red-green color blind).

The finished socks weigh 81 g. I have a generous 36 g remaining. The yarn is a lovely BFL (blue-faced leicester)/nylon blend dyed by Huckleberry Knits and purchased at Sock Summit 2011. I think BFL is warmer than merino, but maybe that’s all in my head?

In other knitting news, I’m slowly working on my grey Custom Fit sweater. The green Twigs and Willows sweater needs to be seamed and the the buttons have to be sewn on – then it’s DONE. But my house has been plagued by sickness and snow days, and I haven’t had enough of my wits about me to seam a sweater. Hopefully soon.

I also started some thrummed mittens! More on that later this week. I pledge to blog more frequently!