Monday, February 11, 2019

Lucky Mittens

Much plötulopi remains in my stash even after using quite a bit in my Aito Shawl. I noticed that my current winter mittens have been wearing a bit thin in the thumbs, so I decided to make a new pair out of plötulopi. Mary Jane Mucklestone has a pattern called Heppinn Mittens, and "heppinn" means "lucky" in Icelandic - so these are my lucky mittens.

You may recall that I wrestled with stranded colorwork on a small circumference when working on Dave's Sheep Socks. For these mittens, I decided to give dpns the old college try. And it worked! It took me a bit to get the hang of working with this unique, unspun yarn on dpns, though. My instinct is to pull the yarn tightly on the second stitch of each needle, in order to prevent ladders. If you pull on this yarn, though, it breaks. BUT if you pull it very close to the needle (like with your fingers about a centimeter away from the needle), it does not break - because the staple length of the fiber is longer than that centimeter. I know this from spinning and was thrilled to see this Law of Staple Length in action on my knitting needles.

This pattern uses four colors. Only two are used on any given row, but sometimes you change from two colors on one row to two different colors on the next row. This left a TON of ends to weave in on the first mitten.

For the second mitten, I tried a technique for weaving in ends as you work them (thanks for the tutorial, Andrea of Fruity Knitting). This helped a lot, though I was unable to figure out how to weave out two colors at once and then weave in two colors at once... so I only did one at a time. This meant that I had only half as many ends to weave in with a needle. You can see the ones I knit in here - I cut them off a couple of inches away from the fabric:

The longer ends need to be woven in with a tapestry needle.

Here is a tidy mitten needing only a thumb where that festive orange yarn is:

See how it looks on the inside? So satisfying!

It was snowing today, so I took these out for a spin. Even though I blocked these in water with hair conditioner added, they are still a little rough. I wear them over a pair of thin, fleece gloves, so that is not a concern for me. The unspun wool traps a lot of heat, and these were quite warm. I'm not sure yet how well they will wear, but we will see. This is an experiment!
My only complaint is that the ribbed cuff is not tight at all. The designer calls for it to be worked on the smaller needle, the same as all the single-color knitting (for stranded rows, go up one size). I think the cuff requires an even smaller needle, though.

This was a fun little project. I am feeling more confident about my colorwork, and I think I'm ready to try a fancy tam. Maybe something like this?

Cheers to wool and snow!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Tenure Hat

My friend Kim earned tenure last December, and so naturally, my response was "Congratulations - you get a hat!"

We got together for a hat consultation in January. She tried on all the handknit hats we could round up at our house, and one of them made her squeal. Interestingly, it was the very same one that Emily liked. So I retrieved my bin that contains my decreasing stash of Julia, and we looked at colors.

Side note - I often feel a bit guilty about stashing yarn that has no specific purpose, but this stash has been nice to have. Years ago, when Nashua Handknits discontinued Julia (Kristin Nicholas's signature yarn, a 50/25/25 blend of wool/mohair/alpaca in her color palette), I bought 2-3 balls each of a whole bunch of colors. WEBS offered a great price and I loaded up. Those balls of yarn live in their own small bin and don't mix with the rest of the worsted weight yarns.

Anyway, Kim selected a sophisticated blue and gray combination, and I knit her hat just a little longer than Sharon's so it would completely cover her ears. It is cute and sassy and she loves it, so I love it, too!
It has a flap on one side (that is stitched down), and a stripe that peeks out worked in a woven stitch.

It is nice to have a stash of excellent hat yarn that I don't have to work a gauge swatch for anymore. Just find my size US7, 16" circular, and I'm ready to cast on.

Bonny, I thought you might be interested to know that Kim is a mathematician.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Wrapping up

This is the time of year when we want to wrap up (here in the northern hemisphere), and the Aito shawl is perfect for that. I’ve been using it in my reading chair in the living room, which is located next to a window. The window brings in welcome natural light, but also a lower temperature than the rest of the room. I love having this right there so I can continue reading in my favorite spot!
If I wrap it all around my neck like a scarf,  it looks like this:

But when it’s near freezing, this is a better way to wear it:

I really enjoyed knitting with plötulopi and am so glad that I rescued it from the giveaway table at Knitters’ Day Out a few years ago. I still have plenty left, and I’m considering a pair of mittens. Perhaps these? I noticed that the wool mittens I wear over a pair of “fleece” (the polyester kind) gloves is wearing thin, and perhaps that’s why my fingers are colder.

In other shawl-knitting news, I planned to begin the Parallelogram Scarf next. Are you familiar with this pattern? It utilizes sequence knitting (which I love) and the pattern is in Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide #5. This particular pattern caught my eye because it uses the very long gradient yarn dyed by Freia Fibers. I’ve had my eye on this pattern since it appeared in November 2017. I didn’t buy it because I kind of wanted the little book (in print), and I felt that it would appear in my path at some point. And finally, it did. When I was visiting my parents last month, Mom and I stopped into The Knitting Cup, where my copy of Field Guide No. 5 was waiting for me. (A beautiful mug was also waiting for me.)

Then, a couple days later in Austin, Steven and I visited Hill Country Weavers, where they stock Freia yarns. I had picked out two ombre shawl balls and was nearly ready to check out when I noticed an older put up of this yarn. Both are fingering and they come in the same colorways, but the older put up is 75 grams of a plied yarn while the newer one is 100 g of a singles yarn. Well… I had one ball of the older put up in my stash already, so I picked another older ball to go with it to make this shawl (figuring I’d adjust the cast on number, too). I was so pleased with myself – I was using something from stash AND spending less (don’t worry, I bought other stuff there, too!). Here is the new ball I bought, in colorway “lichen” (which I adore):

And here it is with the ball I already owned (which I also bought at Hill Country Weavers, many years ago):

These colors are both very “me” so I didn’t hesitate to combine them. I mean, PERSONAL PALETTE, right?

But. When I cast on and started alternating colors, I wasn’t happy at all. I think the values are too different in these balls, and I stopped knitting after just this short amount. It looks garish to me instead of beautiful:

I needed a new project (and fast), so I decided to stick with the pattern and find another yarn. Just one yarn, not two colors to alternate. I dove into my basket of handspun and came out with this semi-solid blue. I only have about 80 grams, so I reduced the pattern size quite a bit (the CO number is 49). I’m  not sure yet if this will become a clever, understated scarf, or another item for the frog pile, but time will tell. Here is how it’s coming so far:

The weird color at the bottom is a provisional cast-on. I left a long tail to be used for binding off.

Stay warm, everyone!

PS - It seems that Blogger, Google, and Open Live Writer no longer play well together. I'm not sure what that means for the future of this platform. I've had to fight to post the last two entries. Is it time to switch to WordPress or just give up?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Birthday knitting and a trip down memory lane

Knitting for birthdays and other special occasions is my new favorite thing. But like many knitters, I hate making things that recipients don’t like or appreciate. As a younger knitter, I was much stingier with my knitting time – you pretty much had to live in my house to get handknits. Now my home is overflowing with handknits, and I find myself in a more generous state of mind… yet I still want people to love what I make them. The solution, it seems, is to let them pick it themselves.

I started using this approach last summer, sort of. By “sort of” I mean that when my friend Dave celebrated his big 50th birthday in 2017, I sent him a certificate for a pair of handknit socks. I wasn’t able to celebrate with him in person. But I WAS able to celebrate #51 last summer in Cleveland, and that is when our consultation began. The result is this special pair of sheep socks. Dave is totally worthy of these socks because he and Pam introduced me and S1 to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival back in 2001, which predated my ability to knit. I KNOW IT IS HARD TO REMEMBER A TIME WHEN I DID NOT KNIT. But trust me, knitting lessons came in early 2002, and the rest is history. Here are Dave’s finished socks:20190112_132023

Just for fun… I was able to find some photos of MDSW 2003. Dave and Pam visited us and we all went together (although they had already moved to Cleveland by then), and Boy 1 was nearly 12 months old. Here are S1, Boy 1, and Dave hanging out on the porch:IMG_0572

At the festival, Boy 1 checks out the baby sheep:


He isn’t so sure about the bunny, though:IMG_0580

He’s definitely a fan of the sheepdogs:


And while I’m pretty sure Boy 1 didn’t eat these, I distinctly remember that S1 and Dave did:IMG_0595Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen fried Twinkies at the fair in years.

So a year and a half after he actually turned 50, Dave will be getting these socks in the mail. I really, really hope they fit… but they’ll probably spark joy even if they don’t. Happy Birthday, Dave!

On to simpler projects. Last August, I gave two people hats for their birthdays. Our friend Ed was visiting from Oregon, so we had our pattern consultation and stash shopping experience while he was here. Ed gets double bonus points for choosing handspun yarn from my stash. Boy 1 modelled it before it went out in the mail:20180915_111008 crop

And Ed was kind enough to send a photo of him wearing it later (S1 painted the robot)!adjust

And Emily also got a hat, but we deferred the consultation until cooler weather arrived. We postponed our meeting several times for one reason or another, but finally got together earlier this month. She tried on many of our “house hats” (as the pile of handknits is called) and declared “I want one exactly like this. Is that possible?” This is the hat she tried (made for S1 in 2015):lucy crop

And this is the hat she got:IMG_20190115_133634_653

I only just now realized that the brim folds to the opposite side on these two. Hmmm. That is probably because I experimented with using German short rows instead of using the wrap-and-turn technique called for in the pattern, and I didn’t end up in exactly the same spot.

I have one more celebratory hat to make and we haven’t yet had the consultation about it, so we’ll wait to see how that turns out.

This is the document I share with hat recipients. Some people dig it, and others just want to come over and look at actual hats.

Do you knit gifts that are planned with the recipient?

Sunday, January 13, 2019


Humulus crop

My Humulus sweater is done – before I even had time to share any progress photos. Now that’s a satisfying sweater knit!

I swatched and cast this on back in early December, wanting to get it on the needles and settled in before our long road trip to Texas. This sweater is knit top down, and I wanted to get past the short row shaping around the neck opening before I was stick in the car. I got to the first few rounds of stranded work before we left.

Then, many hours of car knitting. I taped my pattern to the dash (washi tape is perfect) and went round and round. This photo was taken in the approximately one hour that it didn’t pour down rain in our first two days of driving.20181221_091109

I managed to get through the color work yoke and the sleeve divide just before we rolled into our first destination. This was perfect timing, as the main body of the sweater is not shaped at all. It is just a tube knit in the round, which is IDEAL for social knitting.20181223_125931

There was a little bit more short row shaping on the back of this sweater, just after the colorwork was completed. I’m not really sure why. I don’t think I’ve seen this before, and I don’t think it was needed on my body. Any insight on that? Here is the sweater from the back:20190112_140742

I’m not going to rip that back now (though I did extend the hemline after binding it off – it just didn’t feel quite roomy enough).

I had to reknit the first sleeve, too. I had a feeling that the decreases wouldn’t happen fast enough, so I decreased every 13 rounds instead of 14 – but I actually needed to decrease every 11 rounds before the cuff ribbing. That didn’t take too long to rework.

Part of the reason this sweater worked up quickly is that I made the smallest size. My body is not the smallest size (!), but my handspun was a little thicker than the specified yarn and I could not get the same gauge. So I fudged.20190112_140730

I was really pleased with the yoke and I also like how it fits. Now I am even more excited to take a workshop with Emily from Tin Can Knits on the ‘Strange Brew’ pattern when I am in Scotland in March. It is all about colorwork yokes and how to design your own!

The sweater did not turn out as light and lofty as I had envisioned – the final sweater weighs about 1 pound 4.5 ounces (that’s 580 grams for the metrical). I was very happy to wear it yesterday, though, when the high temperature was 35F. My yarn didn’t spin up as evenly as it usually does, and I blame my own fiber preparation for that. I think it really all starts with the washing of the fleece, and I’m not yet confident about my method. I had my first misgivings when I washed my swatches and noticed how cloudy the water was… still more lanolin was being released. When I washed the finished sweater before its final blocking, I used a bit of Unicorn Power Scout in the wash and Fibre Rinse in the rinse.

While I can see room for improvement, I am very pleased with this project and will proudly wear it to Scotland. I also need to think about what to do with the rest of my Muesli and Tamarind! I have a fair bit of brown yarn left (Tamarind’s 3-ply), but I used ALL the light gray Muesli. I still have more fiber from each fleece, though, that can be spun differently. That is thinking for another day.

Just for fun, here are some photos from the day Dave and I bought these fleeces in May 2018. Both are from Shepherd’s Hey Farm in Maryland.20180505_103614


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Thinking about socks

It seems I never tire of socks. I’ve made just about all the knitted things, but more socks than anything else. And yet, socks and sock yarn continue to entertain and inspire me.

First up, I figured out a way to move ahead with Dave’s 50th Birthday Sheep Socks (remember they were in time out for a while). I used one of those tiny 9” circular needles for the 14 rounds of colorwork - in size 2.5mm, up from 2.0mm used for the rest of the sock. Those 14 rounds were pretty agonizing, most especially the 4 rounds that use 3 colors. Also, I had to catch floats on a lot of rounds so they wouldn’t be too long. But I persisted, and thanks to Steven’s manly sock blockers, I finished the first sock in Austin:20190102_130053

My sock blockers are far too small for these socks, so I brought one of Steven’s home with me for the second sock. I can mail it back easily when I’m done. I cast on the second sock in Austin and cursed through the colorwork on I-35 and I-30. Then it was smooth sailing. I finished the heel flap and turn on the drive, and now the sock is sitting in my portable project bag waiting for meetings during which I can knit. This pair has been a long time in the making! I think I may have advanced my colorwork skills a bit. I definitely advanced my knowledge.

Next up: the latest issue of PLY Magazine, which shipped just in time for me to take it on our loooonnnnngggg drive to Texas, is all about spinning sock yarn. Be still my heart! This is one of the most exciting issues they’ve published so far. You can see by my post-it flags that I had A Lot of Thoughts while reading through the issue. So many, in fact, that I devoted a few pages of my spinning journal to ideas and takeaways from the issue:20190105_184201

I have a braid of two of fiber in my stash that will be good to test some of these techniques on… and I might have just ordered a few more. I haven’t been working on my wheel since finishing the Muesli for my Humulus sweater, and I miss it.

Finally, I managed to visit way more yarn shops in Texas than I usually do – two in Georgetown and two in Austin. Texas knitters do not lack quality yarn choices, let me tell you! I was quite restrained, however. In a Georgetown shop, I spotted the West Yorkshire Spinners self-striping yarn from the Country Birds series. This handsome gray and red colorway is Bullfinch, and I think it would make perfectly cheerful socks for Boy 1 or S1:bullfinch crop

WYS is a British yarn made in – duh – Yorkshire, probably in the shadow of Downton Abbey (just kidding). It’s a 75/25 wool/nylon blend, but is 35% Bluefaced Leicester. I suppose the rest of the wool content is mixed wool from the pool.

At one of the Austin shops, they carried entirely different WYS yarns, including the 2018 Christmas Special colorways. I got the Fairy Lights self-striping along with Cayenne Pepper, for color-coordinated cuffs, heels, and toes. I hereby pledge to have these knit up for Christmas 2019!20190102_130234

That’s my sock update for now. I’ll have some other things to share soon. I finished my Aito shawl before the holiday, but haven’t yet gotten a very good photograph. And I am very close to finishing my Humulus sweater!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Handspun all the time

Montadale sockhead crop

I finished another one of these Sockhead Slouch hats. This one is made from my handspun Montadale, and I think the hat shows it off well. I did not plan to have the colors look any specific way – I just spun the fiber as it came. Some of it is barberpole and some more solid, but I like it. This type of hat is REALLY easy for portable/work knitting – just around and around on a 16” circular needle. You do rib for a while and then stockinette for a while and then decrease briefly and you’re done. I do not yet know who this hat is for. Is it sparking joy for you?

In other spinning  news, I have finished the light grey Muesli. I had 21 one-ounce batts, and I spun one per day until I was done. It never seemed overwhelming and I always enjoyed it. By not doing more than that, I eliminated the possibility of straining my hands. Here are the singles:20181127_081746

I finished the last batt a few days after Thanksgiving break, and then it took me 4-5 more days to ply it. I ended up with 1032 yards of yarn. It only weighed about 20 ounces after washing, though – I noticed that I had to wash more times and the water was cloudy, so my guess is that there was more grease that was ready to come out. 20181202_142352

I haven’t really tried to figure out the weight of the yarn (weight like DK, worsted, etc.). Here’s a shot with a penny:20181215_143510

And finally, I knit a swatch. With luck, I’ll get my Humulus sweater on the needles before our Christmas road trip so I can work on it then. But starting a sweater involves a lot of thinking and calculating. Wish me luck!20181212_080506