Monday, March 3, 2014

One Foxy Baby

Even for those of us who don't consider ourselves baby people, the "baby as woodland creature" look holds a certain ridiculous, adorable appeal.  So my Ravelry library has been filling up with hats that mimic deer, bears & other interesting creatures.  I just happened to have all the yarn I needed for this fox hat in my stash so it was the perfect hat to start with.

The orange yarn is called Polly Wana Cracker & for the life of me, I can not find a single piece of info about it anywhere online.  My mom found it at a craft fair in upstate NY & gave it to me for Xmas a few years ago.  It's a very loosely-spun, two-ply, thick-&-thin wool that's barely a step away from the roving it came from (including the bits of vegetable matter that appear in most roving!).  It was very quick & easy to knit with as well as super-squishy, but like all low-twist yarns, it pulled apart with very little effort.  Luckily, I never had any trouble with it breaking on me but I never had to reach for my scissors when I wanted to cut it.

The ear tips & inner ears were made with some black Bernat Satin & un-dyed camel wool by Snow Leopard Trust.  The camel wool was surprisingly soft & lustrous, though it does contain some guard hairs.  It knit up into an extremely dense, warm fabric that would make a glorious neck accessory or pair of gloves.

Aside from knitting animal-inspired accessories, I've been feeling the urge to spin lately & knitting with the Polly Wana Cracker yarn gave me the idea to try spinning a fat, lofty yarn. Little did I know how much easier said than done that is! I'd purchased some Gotland wool roving at last year's VKL Seattle (happening again in just a few weeks!) so I pulled that out & started experimenting with it. It had been months since I'd spun anything on my wheel so I looked at this as playtime, with little investment in the finished product. I didn't pre-draft the fiber & in some sections, I didn't draft it at all, choosing instead to spin the roving exactly as it had been carded. And while I was initially turned off by how fat those sections looked on the wheel, that's where I came closest to achieving the bulky, lofty single I'd had in mind. What I wound up with is a very rustic, fuzzy, thick & thin, two-ply worsted or bulky-weight yarn. Since spinning this was a refresher for me, I can't really compare elements like staple length to other wool breeds but I did come across some sections of the roving that were so matted that it was impossible to draft them. Many of those sections simply got ripped out and discarded. This yarn is not my favorite that I've ever spun but it was a worthwhile experience. I have some KnitPicks Wool of the Andes roving that I hope to spin into cleaner lofty singles so I ordered (& received today) Maggie Casey's Spinning Big & Lofty Yarns DVD to help me prepare.

While the product may not have been what I'd had in mind, the process of spinning on my wheel again was so much fun that I pulled out some alpaca pencil roving I got a few years back from Dan's dad & started spinning that again.  When I first received this roving, I used it to practice on my spindle & when I got my wheel, I used it to practice on that too.  When comparing the yarn from both sources, I realized that I had spun the singles on my spindle with a Z twist & the singles on my wheel with an S twist.  Since I plan to finish this on my wheel, the majority of the yarn will have an S twist. I have two balls of Z twist singles that I'll just ply together & see what effect they have when knitted with the rest of the yarn. After working with the Gotland roving, I'm finding it easy to draft a consistent single with this beautifully smooth alpaca.  In the past, I've had issues with alpaca singles breaking but I'm not having that problem this time so maybe I've gotten used to working with the fiber.  When I have some of it plied up, I'll share the photos, probably along with some other small, animal-shaped, knitted accessory.  :) 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Breaking the Silence

After four months of silence, you might imagine that I have piles & piles of knitting to blog about.  As it turns out, I have two FO's, one project in hibernation & a pretty damn good excuse for all this inactivity.  First, the FO's.

Over the last few years, the holidays have been getting progressively crazier & more last-minute, partially because of our extensive travel schedule (our families are in 3 different parts of NY & I try to hit them all each year) & partially because there is always a flurry of work in December & I hate to miss out on a single day of it.  Due to this, last year I didn't knit any gifts at all & this year I only knitted one.  While I started it pretty late in the game & it required learning a new skill, luckily it was still straightforward enough to be done with a few days to spare.

As soon as I saw the Incognito Cowl, I knew it was perfect for one of Dan's sisters.  I already had the dark purple yarn (Cascade Eco+) & the black yarn (Bernat Satin Solids) in my stash so I just had to buy a skein of Cascade 220 Superwash in Wisteria for the body.  The mustache is done using duplicate stitch, which I'd never done before, but I found it very easy & I'm happy with the results.  The background color shows through in a few places but for the most part, I think it looks good.  I even lost the chart for the mustache during the trip but since I had already done one half of it, it was easy enough to refer to the completed half, rather than the chart, when doing the second half.   

After returning to Seattle, I cast on the Aviatrix hat, using the skein of Simplicity HiKoo that I won at the Skacel 25th Anniversary party last year.  I've loved this hat since I first saw it, long before I had any need or desire to knit it.  I don't particularly care for most baby items but this one always seemed unique & sophisticated.  As it turns out, it was also a really fun knit with an interesting & unexpected construction.  It knit up really quickly, even in a DK weight yarn, which was so nice after the endless saga of the Buttony Sweater (more on that shortly).  My only complaint is that the yarn has a lot of plies, which made it split quite often during knitting.  I often found myself having to go back & reunite errant plies with their rightful stitches, which got a little annoying.  Overall though, it was worth it since I love the hat.  Despite the minor frustration, I would knit with this yarn again if I had the chance. 

I still need to attach the button to this hat but I have a little time before anyone will need to wear it so I think I'm going to let that be one of my Madrona purchases.  Just 3 more weeks till Madrona! But who's counting?

You'll probably find me knitting a lot more baby items over the next few months, since Dan & I are expecting a kid in April.  Like I said, I don't like a ton of baby knits but there are a few that I'm looking forward to casting on (Gramps cardigan!!!)  And the instant gratification of baby knitting plus the ability to use yarn that I only have 2-3 skeins of is an added bonus.

The only downside is that I finished the damn Buttony Sweater just in time to not even remotely fit into it anymore.  I have high hopes that it'll eventually fit me, as it seemed to be fitting well when it was in progress, but it'll definitely be a few months.  For now, it's going into hibernation since quite frankly, I'm sick of it!  Assuming that it fits, I love the way it looks & hope to get a lot of wear out of it, but right now I'm looking forward to not looking at it for a little while.  Hopefully I'll be newly motivated to weave in the ends, sew on some buttons (which I also need to buy) & block it by the time it comes out of hibernation.  Till then, I'll be indulging in a few more quick knits for myself & my new little buddy!   

Friday, September 6, 2013


When my brother told me last year that he was planning to move to Austin, I couldn't buy a plane ticket fast enough.  For years I'd been hearing about what a great city Austin is & I couldn't wait to check it out for myself.  And while I think I've been spoiled by Seattle's unique neighborhoods, high walkability & gorgeous surroundings, I will definitely go back to Austin to check out all the stuff I just couldn't fit into my 5-day trip.  

What I did manage to fit in were a few trips to some yarn shops.  I'd heard good things about Hill Country Weavers so I visited them first.  The shop is a converted house within a short drive (or a very long walk) of downtown.  They had a good selection of yarn, including harder-to-find stuff like Brooklyn Tweed & The Fiber Co.  

The preserved house layout made for a fun labyrinth of rooms to explore. 


They even had a full room devoted to books & magazines, including lots of back issues.

They've recently published their own first book, Kismet, which includes weaving patterns embellished by knit & crochet.  I don't weave so I didn't pick up a copy but it's an interesting concept.

What I did pick up was a skein of Hedgehog Fibers sock yarn in the Copper Penny colorway.  This is an indie dyer out of Ireland that Hill Country Weavers has just started carrying.  I don't really have any other colors like this in my stash & I'm hoping it will be a good match for Cookie A's Monkey socks. 

A few days later, I visited Gauge Knits.  Unfortunately I was already packed for my flight home (in fact I was on my way to the airport when I stopped by) so I had to take these photos with my phone.  Hopefully they convey the warm, comfortable environment of this shop, which was enhanced by the awesome, friendly employees. 

This shop also had a wide selection, including a lot more locally-spun or dyed yarn by brands like Little Green Finch (sold exclusively by Gauge) & The Fiber Co-op.  

This shop includes a lending library where you can take out books for about three weeks at a time to decide if you'd like to buy them.

The allure of local yarn (the perfect souvenir!) was too strong to resist so I grabbed one beautiful skein of heavy lace/light fingering weight superwash merino by Little Green Finch & two heavily discounted skeins of sport or DK weight wool by The Fiber Co-op.  The plan is to combine them into a two-tone shrug.

Now that I've wrapped up two long-term projects, I'm getting antsy to cast on or start spinning another, but don't want to get distracted from my Buttony Sweater, which I'm making rapid, if still enigmatic, progress on.  I have a couple of quick projects in mind & really should start the Xmas knitting so I'll let you know next time what I decide.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Finished Objects

Despite all the work & travel that I've packed into the past few months, I've actually managed to get quite a bit of knitting & spinning done!  And I have a few things to show for it, but first things first.

A belated congrats to Connie K. who won the drawing for Melissa Wehrle's debut book, Metropolitan Knits.  Even though I'm behind on blogging about it, I selected her comment via the random number generator & contacted her as promised on August 16th.  She tells me she has the book in hand & hopefully has cast on for her preferred project The Magnolia Cafe Cardigan.  Happy knitting, Connie!  Now onward to the FO's!

These are my Mermaid's Lagoon socks.  These socks have been on the needles for a very long time.  Like well over a year. 

Here I am working on them this past April in Jamaica.  Before that, they accompanied me to Mexico in April of 2012.  Finally, their journey is over.  

I'm still not sure that this was the best pairing of yarn & pattern.  The pattern is awfully hard to see.  Here's a side-by-side comparison of my sock (left) & one of the photos from the pattern (right), knit in a solid-colored yarn.
These are definitely not my favorite socks but I don't dislike them.  Mostly I'm glad they're done.  Of course, I haven't stopped buying sock yarn so there will be more epic sock projects in my knitting future.

My other finished item, which I'm extremely excited about, is the Impossible Dreams spinning.  Behold!

I have 3 skeins & 186 yards of this yarn.  I'm thinking I'd like to stripe it with some grey or brown in mitts or a cowl but I have no definite plans for it yet. The way the colors distributed themselves during plying, with the blue acting as a common thread throughout the red, purple & orange, makes me want to see it knitted up by itself.  However I'm also afraid it'll pool or be underwhelming on its own.  This one probably needs to sit in my stash for a while until inspiration strikes. 

In other project news, I'm continuing to reknit the Buttony Sweater & keeping my fingers crossed that this time, it will fit.

As fall arrives in Seattle, there are lots of great fiber events coming up, such as Seattle Yarn's 15th anniversary & the Whidbey Island Fabulous Fall Fiber Sale, now with free classes!  Not to mention, I still haven't recounted my yarn adventures in Austin, so stay tuned for that next time!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sweater Fail

Eventually it happens to all of us: a thoroughly botched project.  Today, I will share my recent failure: The Buttony Sweater.  

It started out great, as you may recall from this hopeful photo:

And it seemed like it was going great all the way until I reached the ribbing at the bottom of the body.  

The first issue I encountered was that I ran out of the contrast color yarn that I was using for the top & bottom ribbing a few stitches before the end of the bind-off.  But never fear!  I had a very similar color of yarn that I substituted for those last few stitches & no one will be able to tell the difference.  Once I'd finished binding off, I tried it on & the real problem revealed itself.  This thing fits terribly!  It's too bulky under the arms & way too tight in the waist & hips.  My waist shaping is too low & too dramatic.  On top of that, I don't have as much yarn as I thought I did, so I definitely don't have enough to do full sleeves. 

Here it is lying flat.  Even here, the shaping mistakes are obvious.

Luckily I have a plan!  I'm going to rip it back to the armpits & start the waist shaping almost immediately below them.  I will make fewer decreases & increase more at the hips.  To ensure that I have enough yarn, I'll knit one less buttonhole.  Lastly, I'll have to make short sleeves instead of long sleeves.  I only have one ball of the main color yarn left so I'll have to use half of it for each sleeve.  Fingers crossed that this turns out better & if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!   

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Metropolitan Knits Review & Giveaway!

A few weeks ago, I was approached to review Metropolitan Knits: Chic Designs for Urban Style, the debut book by one of my favorite designers, Melissa Wehrle.  I first took notice of Melissa's work back in 2005 when Sesame appeared in MagKnits.  I was a brand-new knitter at the time & this was one of the very first sweaters I aspired to knit!  Then, when she was the featured designer in KnitScene Fall 2009, I really fell in love with her patterns.  They are functional, sturdy & flattering.  She utilizes design features such as tabs & uniquely-placed lace motifs, which add a ton of personality to classic designs.  Her body of work also includes a good mix of fitted feminine pieces & more relaxed, comfortable knits to appeal to a variety of styles.  The patterns included in this book are no exception. 

This book is inspired by & dedicated to life in NYC & is divided into three chapters based on different facets of city life.  I'll tell you a little bit about my favorite patterns from each chapter.

Chapter 1 (Heart of the City) starts with two quick-to-knit accessories then dives right into a sweater that a more experienced knitter could really sink their teeth into.  The Museum Sweater consists of an all-over lace pattern, with shaping worked into the selvedge stitches on the sides.  There is additional shaping around the neck & shoulders, then the cowl gets picked up & knit inside out in twisted rib.  For me, this would be a years-long project but I still find myself drawn to the drape of the yarn, the relaxed yet flattering silhouette & the huge comfy cowl neck.  Plus I definitely welcome the occasional knitting challenge.

The Meier Cardigan, which appears on the cover, is one of my favorite patterns in the book.  The construction is really smart: it's knit from the bottom up in one piece to the armholes, then gets divided for the sleeves.  One reason for this is that the cardigan includes side lace panels, which I didn't even notice until I'd looked at it quite a few times!  I feel like this would also get the cardigan off to a really quick start, as you would see a lot of progress right away & be encouraged to keep knitting.  

Chapter 2 (Urban Bohemia) is my favorite chapter.  It's full of big, comfy sweaters & I want to knit almost all of them.  These are perfect Seattle garments: rustic, warm, layering pieces that could take me through about 8 months of the year.  

The Magnolia Cafe Cardigan has a shawl collar & button band that are actually knitted separately, joined at the back then attached to the cardigan for a cleaner look.  I love that level of attention to detail.  That theme is continued by knitting the lining of the pockets in a contrasting color yarn.  These touches, plus the combination of cables & double moss stitch, make this a great piece for process knitters & product knitters alike.

For a more laid-back knitting experience, the Washington Square Cardigan, is high on my knit-list.  This sweater makes me want to hug it.  Due to the vast swathes of stockinette & the simple lace pattern, I think it would look awesome knit in a bulky thick-&-thin yarn.  I appreciate the continuation of the buttons onto the inside of the collar, as they move from functional to decorative & complete the line.

Chapter 3 (City Gardens) mixes the elegance & casualness of the two previous chapters with a lighter touch.  Looser gauges & lighter yarns are used here to evoke a more natural aesthetic in contrast to the lively, urban experience celebrated in the previous two chapters.  Balancing a busy, full, extroverted city life with quiet, introspective time in nature is an important aspect of life in Seattle (& actually part of what drew me here rather than NYC).  This chapter highlights some of those areas that offer a respite within the city.

Normally I am not a shawl knitter, but the Grand Army Plaza Shawl might be the exception to that rule.  I love the open, un-finicky quality of the lace & the yarn chosen for this pattern is just gorgeous.  

Of all the patterns in this book, the Courtyard Pullover is my favorite & the one I hope to cast on first.  I love the variety of all the different stitch patterns & I find the length & shape of this piece really flattering.  I could see myself wearing this a lot, with both skirts & jeans & I think it might look great in a semi-solid yarn as well as a solid color.  The best part is that this sweater is knit raglan-style from the top down.

I hope I've piqued your interest in this book & in Melissa Wehrle as a designer.  You can pick up a copy of Metropolitan Knits: Chic Designs for Urban Style through InterweaveAmazon, or Barnes & Noble. Or, if you're really lucky, you can win the copy that Interweave has kindly provided for me to give away!  Just leave a comment on this blog (not on FB) with either your favorite pattern from this book or your favorite pattern by Melissa & I will choose a winner on August 16th (which will also be my 11-yr anniversary with Dan, an auspicious day no doubt!).  Good luck & I can't wait to hear from you!!! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Knitting in Verse

Kate Davies recently posted this glorious poem to her blog & I enjoyed it so much that I felt it should be more widely shared.  May all knitted gifts be received with this level of appreciation & enjoyment.  (Hint: to better the chances, take up knitting for poets!)

Ode to my Socks
Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.
Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.
The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.
Pablo Neruda. Trans. by Robert Bly.