Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fall is for socks

I finally got Dan, the socks, and the camera all together at the same time – here are the socks on the man!IMG_4618

They fit perfectly. Also, I tried a new toe shape. It decreases 8x per round, but the increase rounds start gradually and then speed up. So the first decrease is *K2tog K6* and then you knit 6 rounds straight. Then *K2tog K5* followed by 5 rounds straight. The closer you get to the toe, the more quickly the increases come. You end with 8 stitches, which are closed like the top of a hat (no grafting). What do you think?IMG_4610I think the shape is quite nice. No trapezoidal corners!

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Dan is very pleased with how the bamboo stitch came out, and so am I.

I have another pair of socks on the needles, too – plain vanilla socks that mostly show up at soccer games and work meetings. This is Trekking XXL that I got at MDSW just last May.IMG_4626These shades of purple make me happy, so I guess they are my socks. They look nice and bright here (and they are), but some stripes are quite dark and they can be difficult to work in less-than-perfect lighting. I worked the same toe on these that I tried for Dan, since I felt I needed to test drive it personally. Here’s the bird’s eye view:

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Seems to fit fine.

Have you noticed the surge of interest in knitting plain vanilla socks in self-striping yarn? It’s really true that everything comes and goes and comes back again. Most of the early sock yarns I bought were self-striping or self-patterning. Then I got away from those because I wanted to knit more complicated designs which were obscured by that type of yarn. Now I am happy to knit them again (maybe because my other projects are more complicated?). I think Susan B. Anderson has singlehandedly fuelled the current self-striping/self-patterning sock yarn craze with her #operationsockdrawer posts (she flashed a photo of her drawer once and everyone went nuts). She knits with everything from good old trusty Regia to indie dyers on Etsy.

And speaker of indie dyers on Etsy, have you gotten wind of the Knitmore Girls / Biscotte & Cie scandal? Oh my. It’s a drama in several acts. Suffice it to say that I have NO INTEREST in having to treat my yarn or my socks with citric acid to set the dye. That’s the dyer’s job. Frankly, the whole story has spooked me from indie dyers. Not that I buy willy nilly on Etsy – the indies I get are usually well-established (Miss Babs, for instance). But still.

That’s enough knit-talk for now. I leave you with a photo I took on a walk with Boy 1 last weekend. We are enjoying the last gasp of fall color here. Many leaves have fallen, but a few of the brightest orange blazes remain. I hope we don’t get a windy day soon because that really will be the end of them. They are so lovely while they last. Enjoy some autumn!IMG_4619

Sunday, October 12, 2014

More than a mile! Or, Spinzilla 2014

IMG_4451 My Knitters’ Day Out shopping this year resulted in me bringing home “3 Feet of Sheep” in the BFL/silk blend dyed in the colorway “Colors of the Capital.”

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You can see that there are some color variations in each separate ball of top. Some of this is due to the difference in how silk and wool accept dye, but some of it is the blending of dyed fibers in each.IMG_4460 The balls were presented in this color sequence in the bag, and I honored the sequence. I separated each ball into two equal segments (as best I could) and spun singles onto 2 separate bobbins. As I made a 2-ply yarn, sometimes the two plies were from the same color and sometimes they were from adjacent ones (which kind of extended the gradient effect).

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Astute readers will notice that this fiber is top, not roving, but that the wool and silk aren’t homogenously mixed. Because spinning in a woolen style (longdraw) from roving is the fastest way to spin, I wanted to approximate it this week. I tore the top into short segments and spun from the fold, which was far faster than my old inchworm style. Want to see the finished yarn?IMG_4578Here it is! Between the two skeins, I got 594 yards of 2-ply yard (which gets me 1,782 yards of Spinzilla credit – you count the yardage of the singles PLUS the yardage of the plied yarn). This is more than a mile! I’m pretty pleased with how it came out.

I finished those singles early Friday evening and looked around for something else to spin. I wanted a small project that I would have time to completely finish before Spinzilla ended on Sunday night. I dug around through my fiber stash and came up with 2 ounces of Shetland roving (dyed teal) and 2 ounces of Romney roving (dyed yellow). I spun both of these longdraw and got some more yarn. I need to get a better photo of the Romney especially… it’s still a bit wet in this photo because I wanted to wrap up this post tonight: IMG_4572IMG_4585 IMG_4590 Specifically, I got 100 yards of Shetland (for 300 yards of Spinzilla credit) and 93 yards of Romney (for 279 yards of Spinzilla credit). That brings my overall Spinzilla yardage to an astounding (for me) 2,361 yards! This is far and away the most I have ever spun in a week and it was so fun to learn that I could do it.

Now I need to think about knitting. I had planned to use the gradient yarn to knit Stephen West’s Spectra, a pattern that has long been in my queue but hasn’t gotten made yet. (Side note: I originally intended to make it with this yarn that I bought with Steven in 2012, but then I decided that the color changes were too long. His turned out beautifully, though!) Now I’m not so sure. I have about 600 yards of that yarn, and it should probably all stay together. I need something that will use most of it, so that probably means I WON’T be combining it with another yarn. Maybe something like this?

Spinzilla 2014 was a total win for me. Yay, #teamstorey!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Baby got back

I’ve decided that the one and only Christmas gift I’ll be knitting this year is a CustomFit sweater for S1. I bought yarn - Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool:IMG_3251 We took measurements. I knit a swatch. She picked a pattern (Cushing Isle, already integrated in the makewearlove site).

I got started with the knitting earlier this month, feeling that I needed to get a jump on the project so I would finish in time (my finishing time for sweaters isn’t impressive). And you know what? This one is flying! I finished the back this week and it’s blocking today:IMG_4541 I cast on for a sleeve Friday night so I could take it to the soccer games on Saturday, and it’s coming along nicely. I will work on those at work this week. I knew it would be easy to work on sleeves at work (they’re not so big) – but I was surprised that I was able to work on the back quite a bit at work. This fabric is so light and airy that it’s not like holding a giant baby in your lap.

Speaking of holding a giant hot baby in your lap… the cool temperatures this weekend inspired me to get back to my blanket. I just finished color 3 (of 6) this morning and have just begun color 4. IMG_4547 I normally knit it on a 60” cable, but I connected two 60” cables just to get these pictures of the blanket in a flat state. I think this is going to be a great addition to our living room, but I doubt I will ever knit a one-piece blanket again. It’s just too cumbersome. I’m modular from this point forward.

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You can see the Mondo Bag my mom made me for Christmas in the background there. She used all batik fabrics, which I’m very fond of. The Mondo Bag is a thing in the quilting world – just google it. I like mine best and it’s the perfect size for this blanket project.

IMG_4559 Color #4 is called Provence, and it’s an orangey-red. Very nice.

Tomorrow Spinzilla begins, so I’ll be reallocating some of my knitting time to spinning. I’m on Team Storey. I decided to join a team when it was clear that teams still needed members before the registration deadline. I picked Team Storey because I’ve benefited so much from their books over the years.

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I also squeezed in another spinning project before needing to clear my bobbins for Spinzilla. This is Jacob roving that I spun longdraw and plied into a bouncy 2-ply yarn. It was grown on Spot Hollow Farm. You see Skein A above – it is 213 yards and 92 grams. The second skein is much smaller (it just wouldn’t fit on my plying bobbin) – only 56 yards and 22 grams. So altogether I have 269 yards and 114 grams. It is such a beautiful, deep brown. The yarn I made is a lot like Shelter, just a little more plump. IMG_4570 Now, I need to go make sure I’m ready to begin spinning tomorrow.

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:

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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:

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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!

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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 side.photo 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!

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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!