Saturday, September 27, 2014

If you knit a gray sweater, your life will be better – Or, Sally Melville is awesome

IMG_4508 Last night, Caitlin and I scooted down to our nation’s capital to attend this event at Looped, a great LYS near Dupont Circle:

why we do what we do: an evening with sally melville

Please join us Friday, September 26th from 7-8pm, for an evening with Sally Melville. She will be talking with us about why we do what we do and the importance of working with our hands. This presentation speaks to what knitting (or other hand work) offers—-from alleviating boredom, to making us happy, promoting good brain health and contributing to our economic recovery. Participants will see examples of knitting, although this talk applies to all hand work. It is a wonderful feeling to understand why we love to do what we do and why everyone should be engaged!

We had a fantastic time. First, we took the Metro into the city, which allowed extra time for knitting (and chatting with random strangers about our knitting). Then we popped into Teaism for a quick bite before the talk. We were really motivated to go to Teaism by the Salty Oats cookies, but we also had fabulous bento boxes for dinner. Here is mine, the vegetarian one:

bentoThe bottom left corner has spaghetti squash and tempeh with pumpkin seeds and broccolini in a delicious sauce. Those are Asian pears in the bottom right. Baked squash (acorn?) in the top left. Brown rice with delicious seeds in top right. IMG_4528The Salty Oats cookies are a thing with some of us knitters. Kris and I have a pact that if one of us goes near a Teaism location (there are several in D.C.), we get a bag and bring them back to share. I usually get the mixed bag, which has regular oatmeal with raisins and a chocolatey-oat cookie. Caitlin had never had these before but confirms that THEY ARE THE BEST. And we’re not the only ones who obsess about them – see this story for more.IMG_4484Here is Caitlin waiting for the talk to begin. Sally is in the gray sweater (with the red wedge) in the background. The table is covered with knits in neutral colors, including an Einstein Coat that is under the computer. One of Sally’s main points is that we should all be knitting garments, and we should knit the garments we actually wear most of the time – these tend to be simple shapes in neutral colors.

Sally is an absolutely delightful person and very articulate about her knitting. I toted along my old copy of The Knit Stitch for her to sign, as it (and The Purl Stitch) are important technique references for me. Sally’s talk reviewed some of the research literature in psychology and cognitive neuroscience that sheds light on the impact knitting has on us. I won’t try to outline all her remarks here (you should try to hear them straight from her!) but I will give you a spoiler that won’t surprise you: knitting is great for our minds and our spirits. Caitlin has a PhD in psychology so she knows some of this literature firsthand. She quibbled a bit with some of Sally’s claims, but I don’t think those differences affect the final outcome as it relates to us as knitters. (Now if you’re designing an empirical study that might be different…) Caitlin, please weigh in if I got that wrong!IMG_4486 Sally’s final point was that we should challenge ourselves to fit garments that fit as well as the commercial sweaters we wear frequently, and that those garments should be as wearable as the commercial sweaters we wear so often. In other words, if you knit a gray sweater, your life will be better!

We were able try on lots of things, and this unusual garment was a big hit with everyone. It’s called L’Enveloppe and it only has one armhole. In this photo, you can see Sally wearing one in red and the LYS owner wearing one in orange.IMG_4491

I tried it on, too, and think it would be great out of handspun. Caitlin and I will definitely have a KAL with this pattern:20140926_203735 What a wonderful evening. Caitlin and I left with a ton of enthusiasm for knitting in general and sweaters in particular. Thanks, Looped, for a fantastic event. I only wish the shop was closer so we could pop in all the time. IMG_4504

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Knitters’ Day Out 2014

My morning class was with Margaret Radcliffe, who has published quite a few books:IMG_4400 Honestly, I didn’t have a moment to peruse them, but my friend Caitlin says they are very good. Margaret described The Knitting Answer Book as a “how to” book, while her latest (The Knowledgeable Knitter) is a “why” book.

The Ouroboros Moebius pattern was originally published in a magazine (Knit N Style Magazine? or KnitStyle?). Margaret said that she improved the pattern a little bit for class, mostly by specifying how to use markers to make sure you perform the initial join correctly. Here are my markers placed and ready to join:IMG_4395The moebius is knit in one piece. You start with a thin strip that begins with a point and then tapers to the full strip width (in our cast, 5 stitches). Then you join to knit in the round, and keep adding onto the edge using a technique that is similar to applied i-cord. You always have either 5 or 6 stitches on the needles, which means you can knit an entire cowl on dpns if you want.IMG_4398 You can see the beginning of the structure in the dark orange wedge above. The point is the beginning of the whole thing. Here it is hanging off Julie’s arm:


The rainbow version above is knit from handspun made from a gradient roving. Margaret showed us some other examples of the pattern, too – this one is worked with two strands of laceweight, and she added in new colors gradually:IMG_4397These two examples are both worked in garter stitch, but you can play with others, too. For class, we worked a tiny version with a 12” circumference. Here’s mine coming together:


I think this pattern has great potential for showing off yarns with stripes or longer color repeats, or handspun yarns. I’ll be trying it at some point!

I took NO photos at my afternoon class with Lily Chin, but we learned a ton of little tips and tricks. One of the more memorable tricks was how to attach shank buttons to knitwear without sewing. You can knit them in, if you use a bit of dental floss in a clever way. This has potential, but I still fret about button placement in relation to buttonholes. We used our crochet hooks a lot, too, and I think I will never again do a provisional cast-on again by knitting into the purl bumps of a crochet chain. There is an easier way! I also think I’ll try binding off with a crochet hook next time I have the chance. This class is based on her book, which is out of print but available used. I may have to keep my eye out for it.IMG_4405 What’s next? The marketplace, of course! I succumbed to another one of these awesome baskets made in Ghana. I have a couple and I really like them. And this one has such bright, happy colors. I couldn’t leave it. These baskets are all so different and you have to grab the one that speaks to you!


I also got a bag of fiber labeled “Three Feet of Sheep.” The packaging was irresistible, as you can see.IMG_4409 The bag contains ten or so little bundles of fiber arranged in a gradient. The fiber is a mix of wool and silk. Since these take dye differently, the result is dimensional. I’ll get more pictures of the fiber out of the bag soon. I might spin this up during Spinzilla in a couple of weeks.

That’s all I bought this year. There were many hats in the donation bin, as usual:IMG_4423 Once again, it was a great day full of fun and learning. I’m happy to have this affordable, high quality event so close to home. We are so fortunate. KDO and MDSW have become major markers in the knitters’ year, one ushering in fall and the other spring. And the big wheel keeps on turning!

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Socks Socks Socks

This post is titled precisely – I really do have three pairs of socks to tell you about.IMG_4449First, I finished Dan’s socks. I still haven’t had the official photo shoot with him wearing them, but they are done. It is so difficult to capture this gorgeous brown yarn color accurately. You can tell that the season is starting to turn here by all these leaves in my yard. They are there partly because it’s been so dry but also partly because it’s time for them to turn golden. I do think yellows help show the brown best:IMG_4445 Next is my office knitting. I needed a small project to work on at the office (after finishing Dan’s socks) and I gravitated to the My Cup of Tea pattern, which is mostly stockinette with a crocus motif down one 1 (2) The yarn is a beautiful hand-dyed skein I picked up at Sock Summit 2011 from The Periwinkle Sheep. The colorway is Juniper and it’s a dreamy semi-solid of bluish-green.

IMG_9699I think the color displays more accurately in the skein photo above than in the sock photo. I’ll have to work on that.IMG_4438Finally, it turns out that my new office sock isn’t as dead simple as I anticipated, so I had to cast on a truly vanilla sock to work during soccer and baseball games last weekend. Out game that vibrant ball of Trekking XXL that I got at MDSW last spring. I got pretty far in one day, especially given that I had to put down my knitting in order to hold an umbrella for quite a while on Saturday morning.

So there you have it – one pair of socks done and two more cast on within the same week.

My next post will be about Knitters’ Day Out 2014.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Loose ends

As I tend to do every year, I’ve felt very scattered at the beginning of this school year. There are so many activities and commitments. I’ve been knitting and spinning, but in fits and starts. Here are a few things to catch you up on.IMG_4393First, I finished spinning the leftover bobbin of the yarn I showed you last time. I got about 40 yards more (this weighs 19g), which means I have a total of 235 yards of this yarn. That’ll be good for something nice!


Next, here is a quick kid hat I made to donate as part of my Knitters’ Day Out 2014 registration fee. I followed the same general pattern as last year, but added a pom pom this time. I used bits of yarn leftover from the big Blanket of Love project.

So yes, it’s time for Knitters’ Day Out once again! This event has become a cherished tradition among my local knitting peeps. I have finished my homework and packed it away so it’s ready for an early morning departure next Saturday. Here is “Still Life with Hat and Homework”:IMG_4391The long skinny piece worked from multicolored yarn is for a class with Margaret Radcliffe called Introducing the Ouroboros Moebius:

This class is an easy new approach to the seamless knitted moebius. No particular cast on, advanced techniques, or special needles are required to make this versatile moebius scarf--you don't even need to know how to purl! You will make a small sample moebius in class to learn this simplified approach. We will discuss and experiment with options for color, texture, and joining that allow for infinite variations, and  learn how to apply the same approach to constructing other garments.

The other small bits worked in yellow, red, and green for for a class with Lily Chin called Tips, Trick and, Hints:

Learn all the little secrets to make knitting life easier and better. Find out how to cast on in 2-tail method without running out of the second tail. Join a new skein of yarn or a new color without losing that first stitch. See ways of attaching buttons as you work. Create invisible circular bind offs on a neck where the beginning and end are absolutely imperceptible. Weave in those little ends that are too short to put through a darning needle. Take away lots of small "fix-its" and improve those details.

I’ll report back about what I learn!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Batty for woolen

I’m still on my “learn to spin woolen yarn” kick and this is my latest project:IMG_4370

This yarn was spun from a batt I bought at MDSW in 2012 from A Paca Fun Fiberworks. It is an art batt made of alpaca, bamboo, silk, and firestar (that’s the sparkle – hard to see in photos but not in person). Here is what the batt looked like before spinning: IMG_4307



I eyeballed it and tried to split it evenly into two sections. That didn’t work so well, as I have a bit left on one bobbin… but here is how the singles looked on the bobbins:IMG_4354 I plied this a little more aggressively than I usually do, thanks to a recent post by Jacey Boggs on her blog called PLY like an eagle. Specifically, she says:

Woolen and worsted yarns don’t get the same amount of ply twist.  It’s true.  A woolen yarn’s structure is in the PLY, that’s what really holds that light and fluffy thing together.  It’s what gives it strength and the ability to ward off the dreaded pill.  It needs more ply-twist than singles-twist.  For reals.  Worsted yarn, on the other hand, has it’s structure in the single and it wants less ply-twist, relatively speaking.  Truth.

Since I spun the singles woolen on a 14:1 whorl, I plied them on the 16:1 end of the whorl (which is faster). I drafted the exact same amount, which meant I inserted MORE twist in plying than I did in the original spinning. And I like the result! Take a close look at the final twist angle:


This skein of 2-ply is about 195 yards and weighs 90 grams. I still have some singles on one bobbin that I need to split so I can continue to ply, but I don’t think I’ll get a whole lot more yarn. This skein is lovely. Suggestions for what to make? I’m all ears.IMG_4379 This spinning spurt is going so well that I’m going to join Spinzilla next month. Whee!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back-to-school socks

Our friend Dan drives Boy 1 to school every morning, as there is no bus from our house and we’re on his way to school. This is a huge gift of time, since Boy 1 doesn’t have to be ready quite as early as he would if he were walking to school. (There is no bus from our house because technically it’s walkable – but walking 1.2 miles and arriving at school by 7:25 am is less than ideal.)IMG_4293As a special thank you to Dan, he is getting a pair of custom handknit socks. He shopped my stash and settled on this skein of Anzula Squishy which I bought at Sock Summit 2011. Dan has excellent taste – the fiber content is 80/10/10 superwash merino/cashmere/nylon. It contains at least a dozen gorgeous shades of brown.IMG_9701 Dan picked a bamboo pattern from my Vogue Stitchionary Volume 1 (thanks again, Steven & Jeff). I had to modify it a bit since it’s a 12-stitch repeat, which meant the sock would required a circumference of 60 or 72. I thought 60 was too small and 72 too large, so I rewrote it as an 8-stitch repeat and went for 64. We’ve had a couple of fittings and this will work for him.


I can’t tell you how wonderfully familiar and comfortable it felt to cast on this pair of socks. Socks just feel right to me. I’ve been branching out more lately and not knitting quite so many socks (because a family can, in fact, reach handknit sock saturation), so I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share the love. Dan envisions wearing these during gamelan rehearsal in the colder months. We don’t wear shoes when we play – but socks are fine.gamelan library steps 5-13 Here’s a photo of Dan (far right) and I (second from right) performing in May 2013 on the steps of my library. We were definitely barefoot that day, but our rehearsal room can be chilly in the winter!

P.S. – the kids walk home in the afternoon – no Dan-bus needed then!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aquarius Gradient Cowl


I finished this cowl weeks ago and somehow didn’t quite get around to sharing it. Here it is, all finished.cowla

I worked a picot edge which is folded and sewn down during finishing. If I were to write this up, I would try to attach the hem as I was knitting it. I think the turned stockinette section is a bit deep before it moves into the scale pattern, but I did that so it would be easier to sew the hem (reverse stockinette is easy to follow; the reverse of the scale stitch is not).IMG_4253Overall, I’m pleased with this. It’s not too deep for me to wear throughout the day in my chilly office, but it will still be nice to wear with a coat. The scale pattern shows off the shifting colors of this yarn well. IMG_4252Kris bought a Miss Babs gradient set in green and she might test knit a cowl just like this. If it works for her, I’ll post the pattern in Ravelry.


I have just noticed that Miss Babs is now making a gradient set in that green color I am such a sucker for (this is her photo): Cetus - Gradient Set

Be still my heart. Please let me be satisfied with just the Aquarius!!!IMG_4254