Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hitchhiking can be dangerous…


25,272 Ravelry knitters have made Hitchhiker, and now I am # 25,273! Somehow I never showed you this project while I was working it, and now it’s done. It is easily memorized, addictive, and I can’t imagine this will be my last version.20160907_074624

I used this beautiful skein of sock yarn that I bought in Alaska this summer. The colors could not be more “Alaska,” with the moody blues and greens, and even an occasional speckle of fuchsia, which reminds me of the fireweed that was in bloom during our visit. Sometimes knitters get a LOT of pooling when they knit this, as the length of the rows changes… but I saw none of that here. The color changes were very short and this yarn produced a fabric with evenly distributed colors. I LOVE IT.hitch5

I started working this on a 3.0mm needle but soon realized my fabric was a little tight. I switched to 3.25mm after the 9th “tooth” and was happier. Even so, my finished shawl was a little short. I only had enough yarn for 37 teeth (the pattern suggests 41) and the fabric was delightfully squishy but a bit tight. I measured it – 49.5” tip to tip on the long edge. Then I decided to block it. I gave it a bath and laid it out to dry – no stretching or pinning, just spread out. And it grew – to 61”! Now it’s plenty long to drape around my neck. I think the depth isn’t quite as much now, but I’ll happily trade that for length.hitch4

The only thing I would do differently next time is to store the project in a bigger bag. I kept it in the type of bag I usually use for socks. After all, it uses the same amount of yarn. but somehow my needle tips kept snagging the fabric while they were in the bag. I had to weave in a couple of snags that showed in the final scarf. I guess tip protectors would also be helpful.


I had only 2.3 grams of yarn remaining after my last repeat – DEFINITELY not enough for another repeat (or maybe even another row). That will go into my I Love Leftovers sock yarn blanket… though I know it won’t even yield me a full square. Overall, I’m very happy with this project!hitch1

Monday, October 10, 2016

Over the Greynbow

greynbow1My greynbow sweater project, like almost every sweater project, ended with a fizzle. There is usually a gap between knitting the pieces and seaming them, because seaming requires extended time at the table, during a time of day when I am awake and alert, and not otherwise scheduled. This is a rare commodity in my current life phase. But – it is done and ready to wear! I strongly endorse the use of these grippy clips to hold pieces together when seaming. They are so much better than just using locking stitch markers (which is how I did it before) and are totally worse the tool price.IMG_4070

The pattern is a CustomFit version of the Drumlin Cardigan. I chose the medium hip length rather than the longer length that is pictured on the pattern page, because I knew that would be more flattering on me.

There were a couple mistakes in the generated pattern, but nothing I couldn’t figure out with a little detective work. This is not the first time I’ve had to rearrange directions – or recalculate numbers – to make everything match up right on a CustomFit pattern. I think these patterns are not as easy to work with as the whole CustomFit idea implies. You really need to be a pretty decent sweater knitter to make it all work right.

While this sweater fits me way better than my last CF (which is now S1’s sweater rather than mine), it still isn’t perfect. There is some extra fabric around the bust/underarm area that doesn’t belong there. Do you see what I mean?


I usually block my pieces as I finish them, because my blocking board isn’t big enough to do them all at once. So by the time I worked the sleeves, I had already blocked the back and knew it was longer than the schematic said it should be. So I made the sleeves 8 rows shorter to try to address that. I think the sleeve length is much better with that adjustment. (Remember, my measurements were taken by a professional who worked at a CF shop… so if they’re wrong then that’s really bad!) I know the sleeve length is better because of this adjustment.

I also decided to work the button band separately rather than picking up stitches and working ribbing. I tried this with S1’s Christmas Cardigan last year and was very pleased with the results. Working the button band this way allows the buttonholes to be oriented horizontally on the finished sweater, which is the right way to do it. Plus, I think the mattress stitch seam all around the button band adds strength and stability to the sweater. Here is how I worked it:

CO 11.

RS: slip 1, (K1 P1)x4 K2

WS: knit the knits and purl the purls

This results in a nice slipped stitch on the exposed edge.

The pattern calls for 5 buttons but I had 6 of these special buttons I got at MDSW… so I used all 6 of them.


I think the back fits nicely: greynbow_back2

When you see the finished sweater, you can tell that these handspun skeins weren’t all the same color. That is why I didn’t work the patch pockets that the pattern calls for – they would look especially patchy. I don’t have ANY pockets on this one yet… but I am poised to add them later if I want (using some tips I learned at KDO this year). I think the shoulders fit pretty well, too. Maybe a teensy bit wide, but pretty good:shoulder

But the fronts seem a little frumpy:


One thing I struggle with is how to style my handknit sweaters. What sort of shirt should one wear under it? For purposes of these photos, I just threw on a short-sleeved t-shirt. But that will not be warm enough in the winter, and besides, the neck is just a little scratchy and I don’t think I want it touching my skin all day. So even a long-sleeved tee won’t work. I don’t love fitted turtlenecks. So, something with a collar I guess… but what? I welcome any suggestions – regarding style OR color.greynbow2

At any rate, this handspun, handknit sweater is DONE. I think this may be my last CF sweater. I’ve just had too many frustrations and the results aren’t worth the headache. I’m not sure what my next sweater for me will be. I have sweaters for other people in the queue first, so it hardly matters.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I’ve got the blues

After months of green and purple and gray, both of my new projects are very blue. Here are the swatches:IMG_4182

The brighter blue is yarn that was recently overdyed with the help of Annette. This is the mysterious yarn I bought at the Longo Mai mill in France in summer 2015 – I bought 8 skeins of a natural color (breed and yardage unknown). IMG_8311

Boy 1 wants a new sweater this year, and this is the only yarn I have in quantities for a sweater right now. With Annette’s help, I overdyed it blue (Boy 1’s choice). 20160923_184935

Neither of us realized that the skeins were so tightly tied in places. That meant that the dye did not completely penetrate the yarn that was constricted by the tie. In some places the difference in subtle, in others it is more pronounced:



I think the result has a tweed-like effect, as you can see in both yarn cake and swatch. IMG_4059


Boy 1 ended up selecting a vest instead of a sweater – he likes the Dr. G’s Memory Vest. I made a stockinette swatch before realizing that the pattern gauge is to be measured in the large cable stitch pattern. I don’t quite have gauge (I get 22 stitches over 4” and pattern calls for 21), but I’m forging ahead anyway. The smallest size is for a 36” chest and Boy 1 measures only 31”. S1 advised making the smallest size and waiting for him to grow into it if it’s too big. So that’s what I’m doing.IMG_4194 adjust

All these cables and twists make for slow knitting. But I think that a vest is a good project for this yarn, which is kind of scratchy. Wearing it over a collared shirt will be very cozy but not scratchy.

The other swatch is for a baby sweater I’m making for the expected child of a diehard Penn State fan. The colors MUST be blue and white! I don’t think I have gauge here, either, but I haven’t done any serious math yet (too busy knitting cables).IMG_4171

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

…and that makes three

Dan’s third pair of bus driver socks is done!IMG_4175

I upsized the Diamond Seed Brocade stitch pattern to repeat over 16 stitches instead of 12, and whacked that on my top-down vanilla sock with a heel flap and round toe. IMG_3902

The finished socks weigh 83 grams and fit quite nicely. I’m modelling them here and my foot is 1 3/8” shorter than Dan’s, but you get the general idea. IMG_4179 crop

I fussed with the stitch pattern a little bit so that it sort of tapered to a point on the top of the foot. It’s a small detail, but one that pleases me. IMG_4181

The only sad part of these socks is that Dan won’t be able to wear them until January. He’s on sabbatical this fall and is doing research in France. But these will make an excellent “welcome home” gift. IMG_4174 crop

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fall showers bring May flowers?

After a long period of very dry conditions here in Pennsylvania, we have had some much-needed rain during the past week. Some of it has been slow and drizzly, some heavy. It has kept me inside finishing up some projects – including the May 2016 Sheepspot Breed School shipment of Targhee in colorway “May Flowers.” You may remember that I started spinning this lovely top on a spindle:IMG_3845

Well, that didn’t really stick. First off, I had abdominal surgery, which meant I could not hold my arm up to spin on a spindle. But it also just didn’t feel right. I wonder if the weight of the spindle was wrong. Maybe too light? It didn’t seem to keep spinning for long. So I looked at the pile of lovely fiber that was left…IMG_4002

…and ripped it into pieces. Boy 2 and I sorted it by color and arranged it in sort of a gradient:IMG_4004

I started spinning with the blues and here are some shots of the singles bobbin along the way. You can see that I tried to spin quite fine, knowing I was going to make a 3-ply yarn.20160916_141621singles crop

Then I chain-plied it to preserve the color progression. I had a little trouble in the beginning with the single breaking (AGAIN) so I stopped to regroup. I looked at some photos and videos online, and made a slight adjustment in my technique. Then things went better.plied crop


And finally, I have this skein. It weighs only 90 grams (some of it is still on the spindle) and is 352 yards – OF THREE-PLY YARN. This is perhaps the finest yarn I have ever spun and it pleases me.skein crop

Now I am all caught up on my Sheepspot Fiber Club fiber. I know we’re getting another shipment very soon. Sasha sent some sneak peeks of the colorways and they are GORGEOUS…but I have no idea what the breed is. Some things must remain a mystery before the mail arrives.

Dyeing a very rare breed for the fiber club! #ilovemyjob

A photo posted by Breed-specific yarns + fibers (@sheepspot) on

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Knitters’ Day Out 2016

As usual, here is my report from Knitters’ Day Out ---

For my morning class, I learned how to pick up stitches and work a top-down set-in sleeve using short rows to shape the sleeve cap. This technique is pretty fiddly. The instructor had us work a strand of waste yarn along with the main yarn on the pick-up round. The reason for this was so we could identify the pick-up round later and tighten up that row of stitches so it looked better. I have to say that I did NOT enjoy this. It took me longer to tighten up the round than it would have to just seam in a sleeve using mattress stitch. This is the only photo I have. The bits of orange peeking through are from that strand of waste yarn:IMG_4038

I’m interested in top-down sleeves because I think it will be easier to get the length right, but I wasn’t enamored of this technique. I wonder if patterns are ever written to work sleeves flat (separately) from the top down? I am completely willing to try that. I’m also willing to take a look at this book, which just came out. Has anyone seen it yet?

My afternoon class was about afterthought pockets. I took a class with Lily Chin in 2014, so I knew she was a great teacher. She did not disappoint this year! For the first pocket, we worked some waste yarn into the swatch and then removed it later to open a hole in the fabric.



We worked a very simple pocket and discussed its pros and cons. Lily likes to round the bottom corners of the pocket to reduce the amount of lint, etc, that collects there. I worked Pocket #1 in red yarn:IMG_4014



This is a little tiny pocket worked over 7 stitches. It isn’t very deep, but you get the idea.

The next pocket required the use of a crochet hook, but no waste yarn. It is worked as you work the sweater fabric (making it technically NOT an afterthought pocket, I guess). The opening reminds me of a buttonhole. I worked this pocket in white yarn:IMG_4020


The final pocket was the most flexible because it is truly an afterthought – I marked a spot in the fabric where I wanted to insert a pocket, and just cut a strand of yarn in the middle: IMG_4021

I unraveled the yarn and placed live loops on needles. Then I worked a pocket in blue yarn:IMG_4032

You can see that the three pockets all look different at the opening. I won’t give you the full scoop on that because I don’t want to give away Lily’s Secret Sauce. There are lots more little details and tips that we got along the way. Let’s just say that some pocket openings are more stretchy (and therefore more prone to sagging, especially given the yarn and pocket size) and some are more stable. Our class even brainstormed a couple ideas about how to stabilize the pocket opening even more.

I really appreciate Lily’s attention to lesson planning. Her homework was completely appropriate (not too much, not too little, just the right amount to allow us to practice the techniques). Her handouts were correct and complete. Her learning goals were right-sized for a three-hour class. And she used technology to teach better – here’s a shot of her setup at the front of the room:


She is using the camera on a Microsoft Surface tablet to capture her hands and project them on the big screen. We students could see EXACTLY what Lily saw in her own hands, but much bigger. (The black and white things on the table are just lamps.) GENIUS! This is a big step forward from standing in front of the room with giant knitting needles held over one’s head (teacher’s back to students), which is a pretty good low-tech way to do a demo for a group (and also superior to just having students stand behind you while you sit in a chair and work a technique).

Lily also has lots of digital photos organized in folders on her tablet so that she can quickly show us projects that use the techniques being taught. But lest you think that she is all high tech… she still brings plenty of samples for us to study and touch. IMG_4026

I learned a lot in this class and am anxious to put a pocket in one of my Greynbow Sweater swatches as a test. Here is my completed pocket sampler:IMG_4031

As for the marketplace… I tried not to acquire too much this year since I am focusing on stash reduction. I did not buy any yarn or fiber, which shows some real restraint because there were some gorgeous things on offer! But I did pick up a few things:IMG_4033

First, I got another pair of folding scissors to replace the one I lost at airport security in Bali. I like to have a pair in each of my notions bags. I also got another Lolo Bar. I have one that is almost gone and I really like it. For my big purchase, I finally chose a pair of wool carders – these are the Clemes & Clemes ones and I got them at the Gurdy Run Woolen Mill booth (I’ve bought fiber from them before and been very happy with it – all roving which can be hard to find!). They are quite lightweight and comfortable in my hands. I’m looking forward to blending some fibers for future spinning projects.

The other thing that came home with me wasn’t purchased. Julie and Alison left these plates of Plötulopi on the swap table, and I scooped them right into my bag. IMG_4035

I don’t have any immediate plans for this yarn, but after visiting Iceland last summer, I felt that I just could not leave the yarn on the table with all the Red Heart Supersaver. I’ll do some reading and consider a pattern (here are some tips for working with Plötulopi). The absolutely worst case scenario is that I return them to the KDO swap table another year. Julie said she had a lot of trouble knitting with this because the strand kept drifting apart. It didn’t feel good, either, so she KonMaried it. Julie, were you working a particular pattern? Maybe I’ll try one of those Lopi style sweaters…