Monday, January 19, 2015

Ramblings


I wasn't planning to knit anything for the holidays this year but I ended up knitting three xmas gifts (technically four, since I made a matching hat and cowl for my mother). In reverse order of finishes, mum got the Scrollwork hat and cowl set worked in Malabrigo Rios.


The cables are fantastic, the instructions clear, and the fit of the cowl is great for cold, windy days. And Rios is a delightful yarn to knit with. Although I have to confess that after binge-listening to the knit.fm podcast over the last couple of weeks and hearing Pam Allen discuss all of the nasty chemicals that go into making a wool yarn super wash, I'm a bit put off the idea of buying more at this point. Probably a good thing for my stash.

Anyway, Rios seemed to be my go-to yarn for knitted gifts this season since I also used it to whip up a Lacunae hat for my grandfather. I had worked a similar hat for Mr. Tinks and Frogs several years ago and decided to support the designer and actually purchase the pattern this time around since I didn't want to think too hard about the crown shaping. I should have just unvented the pattern again since I ended up working the crown shaping three times before finding something that would fit an average man-sized head.

To distract you from the fact that I don't have a good picture of that one, let me show you my sister's present, fetchingly modeled by Tadpole:


It actually looks half-way decent on me, too.


This is Shibui's Pebble/Peak Hat worked in Shubui Pebble held double. I cannot say enough good things about this yarn (except for maybe the price point, which is actually quite reasonable when you consider the fiber content). And the hat pattern is delightful - an interesting twisted rib pattern at the hem, several inches of stockinette you can zoom through, finished off with some clever grafting at the top.

Having been so productive with my holiday knitting, I really wanted to treat myself to something special. I'd been eyeing Gable from the latest Wool People and thought I'd try it in the Knitspot Stone Soup Fingering, which had recently come into my LYS. I eagerly picked out a color and brought some skeins home. Unusual for me, I sat right down to wind the first skein so that I could start swatching and ended up with this:


That's right, 19 separate segments of yarn were wound together into the skein. Let's just say I won't be trying that yarn again for a while. I'm very grateful for how gracefully my LYS handled the situation and let me return all four skeins. But doesn't change the sour taste I have from the whole experience and fact that I desperately want to be knitting a sweater right now (a sweater for me, that is). Anyway, I can take a hint - no sweaters for me for the time being.

So I went back to my trusty Rios and started up some more gift knitting. I love the cushy cables!


Now I just need to find the time to finish the piece and pop it in the mail. 

Time is always short around here but I've been making some for my newest crafty pursuit. Thanks to a blissful four-hour quilting extravaganza (courtesy of Mr. Tinks and Frogs for wrangling the girls and sending me out the door last weekend), I finished squaring up what must have been hundreds of half-square triangles and started laying out blocks.


I think I'm in love. Now I just need to lay out the last row of squares and start piecing everything together. Bets on how long that will take?

And I've been practicing my free motion quilting. Tadpole and I went to my favorite fabric store together a couple of weeks ago and she asked if I would make a quilt for one of her toys. How could I resist? So she's getting a mini quilt with all-over pebble free motion quilting using fabrics and thread that she picked out.


It's by no means perfect but I'm definitely seeing progress. Now if only I could figure out how to keep the thread from breaking while I'm working. Maybe I'll come up with an answer by the time I finish this piece. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy

Did I finish the mittens I mentioned last time? Yes, yes I did. I can't remember the last time a knitting FO has made me this happy.



Pattern: Snowfling Mitts by Tanis Lavalle
Yarns: Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK Weight and Tanis Fiber Arts Purple Label Cashmere Sock (I bought them as a kit here)
Needle: size 3 circular for magic loop


Cashmere lined mittens, where have you been all my life?

The mitts were fun to knit and (when I actually sat down to work on them) pretty quick, all things considered. The linings - essentially a second pair of mittens attached to the first - worked up much more quickly than I expected. It's no wonder I have my eye on the new mitten kit available from Tanis Fiber Arts.

I'm pretty pleased with my new sweater, too.



Pattern: Rocky Coast Cardigan by Hannah Fettig
Yarn: Sundara Yarn Aran Merino
Needles: size 7 for the body, size 6 for the ribbing

I ended up working the sleeves flat after discovering that even with alternating skeins, the stitch counts on the sleeves caused some truly horrendous flashing. Once I'd acknowledged the fact that I needed to frog several inches worth of sleeve to see if I could get the colors to play nicely together, the sleeves flew right by.

This was my first time working with the Sundara yarn and I'm not sure I would use it again. I'd be tempted by a less variegated color but each skein had at least one knot and the yarn is already pilling. (To be fair on that last point, I've worn the sweater every weekend since I finished it so it's seeing a fair amount of wear.)


The shape - an open front raglan cardigan - was perfect for a post-baby body. 

I find myself drawn to more fitted pullovers and I'm itching to try Custom Fit (Amy Herzog's program that fits sweater patterns to your measurements). But I don't particularly want to make a sweater to fit my current measurements. My next commitment to a sweater will come after I've made a commitment to the treadmill. Sadly, knitting is not an aerobic exercise.

Especially when one has recently discovered Nantucket Cranberry Pie (i.e., cranberry sauce with a sugar cookie baked on top). If, like me, you had an extra bag of cranberries sitting in the fridge after Thanksgiving, then you may need this recipe to help polish it off. It's quite good with fresh whipped cream on top. Don't ask me how I know.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fall Sweaters

Has it really been almost two months since I last touched the blog? It's been snowing this week and I realized that I had better share some fall sweater pics before winter fully arrives and the leaves in the background look completely out of place.

Sprout has been sporting a bevy of hand knits this season, only one of which is not a hand-me-down:


The pattern is the delightful Wee Wildflower, worked in MadelineTosh pashmina (a truly fantastic yarn). I don't recall what size I worked - probably 12 months, rather than 6 - but I remembered to pull the sweater out just in the nick of time before Sprout outgrew it. Instead of working the sleeves flat and then sewing them onto the body, I picked up stitches around the edge of the armscye and worked short rows to shape the sleeve cap before knitting the sleeves top-down. This let me eek out every last inch of yarn for roughly bracelet-length sleeves.


Where would we be without an FO shot involving Sprout eating grass?

Just because I haven't been cranking out new baby knits doesn't mean the little one is deprived of a lovely set of sweaters to wear. Remember this one?


Tadpole's Purple Sweater has been a big hit with Sprout, too.


I pulled out another old favorite last weekend. It never ceases to amaze me how much Sprout looks like her sister did at this age.


Sprout isn't the only one with a new sweater this fall - I finished one for myself, too! And by the time I get back to posting about the sweater, I may have even finished my new mittens.


Did I mention that they're lined with cashmere? I can't wait either.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Double Trouble (or, adventures in getting two small children to smile for the camera)

Something about finishing that shawl a little while ago has set of a finishing frenzy (full disclosure: no, I haven't mailed it yet). I wrapped up a sweater for each of the girls and managed to get pictures of both of them wearing their new sweaters at the same time. I should have bought a lottery ticket because that never happens around here.

First up: my baby version of Amy Miller's Princess Fiona pattern for Sprout.


Next, a basic raglan for Tadpole with the raglan decreases hidden in a braid cable.


I really tried to get good pictures of the girls together in their new sweaters. And I usually managed to get a good shot of one but the other was either acting up or melting down. Like this one -


Tadpole looks fantastic and is actually smiling for the camera but Sprout is just done with the situation and is about to wail.

We went outside and had a rollicking time trying to get the girls to look in the same direction at once. Art direction went something like, "Tadpole, look at the camera!" and "Sprout, don't eat the grass!" Someone is constitutionally incapable of staying on her back these days. Anyway, it gave me a push to add "learn to adjust the shutter speed on my camera" to my to do list. (Yes, that list is about three miles long at this point.)

Back to the sweaters. I managed to eek a full-sleeved sweater for Tadpole out of my single 400 yard skein of worsted weight yarn. How? Dumb luck. The sleeves were narrow and that is what saved me - I had about 12 inches left after I finished the i-cord bind-of on the second cuff.


The raglan cables really are my favorite part of this sweater. A close second is the contrast between the seed stitch body and the stockinette sleeves. Such a great mix of textures -- perfect for the subtle shading in the skein.

I had thought to do a baby version for Sprout using the orange yarn you can see above but the seed stitch that didn't seem so bad worked in worsted weight was mind numbing when worked in a fingering weight yarn. So instead I did this:


A top-down stockinette pullover with bracelet sleeves, a placket at the back, and an interesting lace detail at the side (not that you can see it here).


Better now? I may have swatched on this one to figure out my stitch gauge. I don't think there was too much thought behind the initial cast-on (I went with the number of stitches that looked "about right," however you want to define that very technical term). The placket was thrown in so that I didn't have to worry about whether I had made the neck opening too small. Raglan sleeves were a similar choice: they generally fit without any fussing with the proportions. I threw in a slight a-line shape to the body to make sure there was plenty of room and ripped back the bottom hem when I needed some extra yardage to finish the sleeves.


If I were to do it again, I'd change the proportions of the back/front and sleeves at the top of the sweater to make the sleeves narrower and the back/front wider. That said, I'm pretty pleased with this one.


And Sprout is, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Alaska and back

Do you remember the shawl I've been working on for over a year now? Yeah, I'd forgotten about it, too, for a while there. Sometime last year my grandmother mentioned that she'd like another shawl so I kept my eye out for a nice wool/silk blend yarn in a color I thought she'd enjoy and settled on a Romi Hill design. I brought the yarn along on our vacation last year and cast on while sailing somewhere in the north Pacific. After assorted fits and spurts of knitting (including one mad dash when I thought I might have a chance of finishing the shawl before my grandparents came to visit earlier in the summer), I finally had this to show:


It strikes a dramatic pose well, don't you think?

The pattern is Romi Hill's Fiori di Sole, worked in Miss Babs Yasmin (I used approximately 3/4 of the skein) on size 4 needles.


I absolutely love the edging pattern - so much fun to knit! After the clever beginning, you can zoom through the leaf lace body of the shawl while you look forward to the edging chart. The crochet bind-off took forever but was well worth the effort.


I really like how the designer took a basic stitch pattern that many of us have seen and knit several times before and layered on clever details to make the project worthwhile. The petals at the top of the shawl are gorgeous. And I especially appreciate details like having you knit the center stitch through the back of the loop for a nice clean line down the middle of the shawl.


Hopefully my grandmother likes it! (It would probably help if I actually packed up the shawl and mailed it to her, don't you think? That's on my to-do list for this week.)

I had a lot of fun blocking this one - more than I had expected. You see, my helper decided she'd rather play in my office than take a decent nap the morning I decided to block. Of course she woke up after I'd started soaking the shawl so there was no turning back at that point.

At first, she thought we should be spinning instead of playing with finished yarn.


But then she discovered the T-pins -


Discovering this little person was suddenly mobile on a floor with sharp pointy objects was not how I intended to finish this project. Like a good parent, I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture before moving her out of harm's way. Let's just say it was an exciting morning and, thankfully, the only thing that got stabbed was the carpet.

And just in case you thought I was going to be a tease and not share a picture of Alaska, since that is where this all started, here is the Dawes glacier just after dawn:


What a way to kick off the day.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Instant Gratification

That's really what sewing projects feel like to me, especially when most of my knitting projects seem to be stalled (that's a topic for another post when I have pictures to share with it).

A few weeks ago I shared the quilt top that I pieced in an hour. I'm still blown away by how quickly that went. I'm a reasonably speedy knitter but you just can't make something that big that quickly with knitting needles and yarn.

The rest of the quilt took a bit longer but I think I finished it the next weekend (these last few weeks have gone by in a blur - I know I finished the quilt on a weekend but I can't remember which one at this point). And now I have a lovely baby-sized free-motion-quilted quilt.


See? Baby-sized. Six-month-old baby sized, to be exact.


Although technically it fits a three year old, too, if you don't mind doubling up.


The top is made with assorted purple batiks I received as a gift ages ago (although I still don't think I'm old enough to have received something "ages ago"). I used an Alison Glass print for the back and a coordinating Kona solid for the binding, which is machine stitched. I just didn't have the patience to do this binding by hand, not when I was so close to having a finished product to play with.


And by "play with," I mean run outside, put the baby on it, and start snapping pictures. Let's just pretend that this shot was another attempt to show the backing fabric.


Just like we'll pretend that I was trying to capture my quilting stitches in this one rather than someone's baby blues. 

I think I'm hooked on free motion quilting - there's this heady feeling like you could do anything with the stitching. At this point I need to start practicing better control over the stitches. That's for the next project. I'll definitely need to buy more fabric!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Besides the knitting

I've actually been pretty productive on the knitting front lately. I finished my big lace shawl, and the lace scarf that has been my train knitting for much of the last year. Are they blocked? Well, no. But I did weave in the ends, so that's something, right?

And I've almost finished a sweater for sprout (my replacement train knitting once I finished the scarf) and started a new sweater for her once the first one got too finicky for commuting.

Do I have pictures of any of this? Nope.

But I do have pictures of the other crafty things I've been up to besides the knitting.

After all, I have my Tour de Fleece spinning to share:


That's 612 yards of BFL 2-ply (roughly a heavy fingering weight - I haven't checked the wpi count) spun from 6 ounces of Briar Rose top. The Tour was a fantastic way to focus on spending time at the wheel. I actually managed to spin every day that the riders raced. But I've managed to sit down at the wheel only twice since. Not for lack of motivation (I'm really looking forward to spinning up the second half of my fiber and turning it into a Tilt wrap), but there are only so many hours in the day/week and I have plenty of other demands on my time.

Like this little person helping me take an FO shot of my new yarn:


 Just for comparison's sake, here is (part of) what I spun when I first did the Tour three years ago


and this is the not-yet-washed BFL from this year


What can I say? My girls like yarn. At least they come by it honestly.

Yarn isn't the only thing to keep me occupied these days. The quilting bug bit again. I'd pieced these giant flying geese blocks while I was still on maternity leave and then sewed them together into a mini quilt top a few weeks ago. The fabric had been sitting on my desk for a while and, with some great encouragement from Jacey, I decided that decluttering my workspace needed to include taking my first stab at free motion quilting.


It's not perfect (there's a reason I'm not showing the back) and quilting only in the dark sections hides imperfections nicely, but it's done! And I had so much fun that I'm planning to use FMQ on my next quilt, which I spontaneously/accidentally got started on this weekend with leftover squares from Tadpole's birthday quilt.


Yes, I probably should have watered the back garden instead of dragging Mr. Tinks and Frogs outside to snap a quick picture. But I was so darned proud, I couldn't contain myself. You see, I somehow managed to lay out the blocks and chain piece the rows together in an hour on Friday night. An hour!

And, just in case looking at this picture makes me think that I really should go put my quilt sandwich together (a very bad idea) instead of knitting a few stitches and heading to bed (the responsible approach), I'm going to leave you with a shot of our pumpkin collection. 


Who knew pumpkins ripened in August? Not me. We're going to be eating a lot of pumpkin pie this year.