Friday, December 31, 2010

Wrapping up

Last year I did a big year-end wrap-up post (technically it was this year) going through everything that I had made in 2009. I'll probably try to pull something like that together this weekend for 2010 but first I've got too much to catch up on from the last two weeks to even think about the last year.

First off, Mr. Tinks and Frogs wanted me to pass along his thanks to everyone who commented on his weaving post - he really enjoyed hearing from all of you.

Speaking of Mr. Tinks and Frogs, I managed to sneak in a surprise xmas gift. And I do really mean a surprise (I could have sworn my cover was blown a few times but he assured me he didn't know I was even working on this).

Technically, he already knew about sock #1 (finished sometime in November), but he's so used to me taking months to finish a pair that sock #2 was a complete surprise. I worked on these before he got home in the evenings (a side benefit of having a significantly shorter commute) and then had to send him off on some last-minute holiday shopping on the 24th so that I could have more secret knitting time, but they're done!

The yarn is Lorna's Laces shepherd sock in the Pullman colorway - something that Mr. Tinks and Frogs had picked out a few months ago. (As a quick aside, you may be interested to know that Lorna's Laces is a Chicago company and a lot of its colorways are named after Chicago neighborhoods. The Pullman neighborhood is on the south side of the city, located a bit south and west of the loop.)

What's that funky looking sock construction? It's the Upstream architecture from Cat Bordhi's book New Pathways for Sock Knitters. It's worked toe up and all of the gusset/arch increases are on the top of the foot, which is great for people like DH who have what I like to think of as "giant sized hobbit feet." You can't really see it in the picture because the socks are quite slimming, but take my word for it that socks for size 11 feet, knit up at a gauge of 8.5 spi and 11 rpi are enormous and use a lot of stitches.

What else have I kept under wraps? I've been debating whether to call this next project "done" because it still needs a button, but I'd love to get it off my WIP list so here it is. My handspun BSJ:

I had quite a close call with this little project. The yarn, as I mentioned, is handspun - a Grafton batt purchased ages ago that I had spun up into a navajo-plied fingering weight yarn. These batts have between 3 and 4 ounces of fiber in them and I knew I had around 300 yards of finished yarn (maybe a bit more but I'm notoriously bad about taking yardage notes when I spin) and no way to get any more. I was planning on making a full BSJ, with a button placket and everything, but this is how much yarn I had. Actually, I was quite nervous that I wouldn't even be able to finish the bind-off. But I made it! With about 10 inches to spare. That wasn't nerve-wracking. No, not at all.

That's ok, the yarn makes up for just about anything, don't you think?

Now I've just got to find a button and sew it on. I can do that in two months, right?

As you can see, I'm getting my act together on the baby knitting front, but I've still got a long way to go (and plenty of things that I want to knit - more on that later). For now, I want to get you up to speed on the project that has kept me enthralled for the past few weeks. But first, a little bit of background:

When I found out I was pregnant, there was one project that I knew I definitely wanted to knit for the tadpole: Anne Hanson's Honey Baby Blanket (rav link). My mother graciously offered to get the original pattern yarn as a birthday present to me and we spent a couple of weeks pouring over the dyer's website to pick the color. While I loved the yellow that Anne had originally used, Mr. Tinks and Frogs and I have far too much pink in our complexions to look good in yellow, so I didn't think the tadpole would either. I'm also not a huge fan of baby pastel colors and that ruled out any of the kits. Finally, after much debate and a healthy dose of stalking different colors on Ravelry, I picked out the Oakmoss colorway. As pictured, it was a medium green with hints of gold and brown - really, really lovely. And safely gender neutral since we didn't know at that point.

The oakmoss page for the particular yarn the pattern called for said something like "the color is a bit more yellow than shown here." So I looked at how the color appeared elsewhere on the website and found a more yellow-green version that was still very pretty. Mom went ahead and placed the order and several weeks later I got the yarn (no shipping confirmation or tracking number, but that's a gripe for another day). The yarn base was lovely - it's a 2-ply superwash fingering weight yarn with a very nice sheen. But it was certainly "a bit more yellow" than what I had expected. I thought I had picked a green and what came was this:

Don't get me wrong, the yarn is lovely. It's just not what I wanted. It has too much green in it to be old gold and not enough green to be, well, green. Just ignore it, I told myself, maybe it'll look different/better/something once it's knit up. So I knit and knit, working my way through chart A of the pattern.

There were times and certain lighting conditions where I rather liked the piece, but ultimately I decided that I just didn't like the yarn for that project. I don't know that I've ever scrapped a project because of the yarn before and it was actually a pretty tough decision to frog this one. After all this was the project that I wanted to knit for the tadpole and there were some times when I actually liked what it looked like. But only liking the thing some of the time wasn't good enough.

So I frogged. (Come to think of it, I'm not sure I even re-wound that first skein I was working through). Let's just say that I stole the needle back.

Then came the three-day period where I'm pretty sure I looked at every single fingering weight yarn on the market, trying to find a replacement that felt right. Sure, there were some really lovely gender-appropriate colors available on the original dyer's website but between what felt a bit like a bait and switch with the color we'd ordered and what seemed like a complete lack of customer service (not bad customer service necessarily, just a lack of communication), I wasn't inclined to go there again. Which is really too bad - the yarn base was beautiful, the skeins came nicely packaged in a pretty bag and tied with a bit of laceweight that made me want to go buy that yarn in every color available, and I'd been reading such glowing reviews of this dyer for a couple of years now. Maybe if I see some at a fiber festival. Maybe. But I'm just not ready to buy anything from her right now.

Finally, when I was getting just a little bit (to say the least!) frustrated at not finding what I was looking for (a difficult thing when you can't describe it any more clearly than "I'll know it when I see it"), I clicked over to the Briar Rose website. I've used Briar Rose fibers and yarns before, most recently in the Coraline that I worked up during the Knitting Olympics, so I knew the yarns would be stunning. What I didn't remember was whether Chris had fingering weight yarns available. She did! And Sea Pearl was exactly what I was looking for - it even came in a colorway that screamed "this is it!" There was just one problem: the website had only one skein available and I needed two.

Keeping my fingers crossed, I sent Chris, the owner and dyer-extraordinare of Briar Rose Fibers, a message through ravelry asking if she would be willing to custom dye two skeins of sea pearl to match what I had seen on her website, and if this could be done sometime in the next month. The next day I got a message back saying yes, she'd be delighted to do it and would two weeks be a quick enough turn-around? Let me just say that I've met Chris all of three times in the past few years - each time at a fiber festival when her booth has been absolutely packed (and rightly so - her yarns and fibers are nothing short of gorgeous) - and we've exchanged a few comments via ravelry in that time. Amazingly, she remembered exactly who I was when I wrote to her and sounded eager and enthusiastic about my yarn request. I don't usually go in for warm fuzzy feelings, but that's the only way I can describe our exchanges as we talked about the yarn (she assured me that the tencel in sea pearl made the yarn relatively tough to felt, i.e. (hopefully) impervious to baby drool, and wanted to make sure she knew exactly what colors I wanted in the yarn so that it came out of the dye pot just right). It was the perfect way to kick start Honey Baby, v2.

Two weeks (and a shipping confirmation, with tracking number!) later, I had this:

Perfect, no?

As soon as I had finished up my mother's Peaks Island, I cast on for the Honey Baby and off I went.

The first week saw me through chart A (what you see above, as I switched from a 24" to a 47" circular needle). Week two got me through chart B. Now week three is drawing to a close and I'm hoping to finish up chart C by the end of the weekend. Only 12 more rows to go but at 700-ish stitches, the rows are taking a bit longer these days.

Mr. Tinks and Frogs and I drove up to Minnesota to visit with family earlier this week, so I had several hours of car knitting to spend with this fantastic project. Every time I pick it up, I can't get over how much I love the yarn - it fits the project perfectly and is exactly what I was looking for.

These pictures are a couple of weeks old but new ones will have to wait until the sun comes back out. Keep your fingers crossed for this weekend. But for now, it's time for me to get back to the blanket. I can't wait to see how the piece looks once it's all done!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Outsourcing revealed - a guest post from Mr. Tinks and Frogs

What's all this "outsourcing" I've been hinting at over the last few weeks? Mr. Tinks and Frogs kindly agreed to make one of our xmas gifts this year - a scarf for my grandfather. Plus, he also agreed to write a blog post about his adventures with weaving this year. So, without further ado, here it is:

Last March we decided our household needed another fiber habit, so Rue presented me with this:

(That's a Kromski rigid heddle loom.  With a scarf on it.  My scarf!  Which has just come off the loom and is soon to be my first handmade Xmas present of the season.* Not that I'm proud or anything.)

This is actually the third project to come off the loom.  The first was an experiment in texture and learning the loom - a project only the creator could love.  But the second turned out a bit better.

Let's take one more look at that, shall we?

That's Noro sock yarn repurposed for weaving a scarf, but it does OK for weaving projects as well.

So, three projects done so far.  The goal is one more for the holiday season.  Which brings us to point one about weaving (point zero being: can't you make amazing things?!) - starting is the worst part.  Or perhaps more nicely put: once you've got a project on the loom, it's all downhill from there.  But, after an evening of warping (often helped by some wine), you get something like this: 

That knot brings us to point two about weaving: yarn does break.  Particularly when you're keeping it under tension.  Maybe sometime I should try weaving with some of the yarn meant for weaving, rather than simply helping Rue work through her stash.  Certainly the Noro, with just a single ply and varying widths which at times got caught in the heddle, was at times somewhat frustrating to weave with.  But with results like this, how can I not keep working with it?

 *Rue reminded me that I did knit a scarf for my father a couple of years ago.  So this is not my first handmade Xmas present. But it is the first woven project.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On a roll (FO: Peaks Island Hood)

Last weekend, my knitting goal was to finish my mom's Peaks Island. Check! (I'm close to meeting my knitting goal for this weekend, too, but that will have to wait for another post.)

Now I just have to wrap it up and stick it in the mail. Mr. Tinks and Frogs and I hopped outside for a quick photo shoot yesterday. Very quick, indeed, since it was a balmy 12 degrees outside.

Still, that was definitely long enough to capture just how gorgeous this yarn is.

Happily, I even have an entire skein left over that I get to turn into a hat for me. I'm thinking Habitat. But before I get carried away with thoughts of new knits, here are the specs on this latest FO:

Pattern: Peaks Island Hood by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: 2 skeins Malabrigo Rios, colorway purpuras
Needle: size 8 addi lace circular
Mods: other than adding a few more rows in the shorter leg of the scarf to account for my smaller row gauge, none at all. (Ok, I didn't put buttons on - see below.)

Other notes: I noticed this the first time I knit this pattern, but it really hit me on this iteration - as written (or at least as I knit it) the pattern produces a short leg that is way too short to look like the pattern picture. In the pattern photo, the legs cross nicely and there is plenty of room to button the legs together comfortably. Not so here. The long leg hangs down twice as far as the short one and it would look really odd to button them together like that. But it does look lovely flung back around your neck/shoulder again.

So no buttons for the moment. I think it looks great as is. Merry Xmas, Mom!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can I at least try them on first?

The following conversation took place as Mr. Tinks and Frogs and I were folding laundry and I just had to share.

Me (pointing to a sad looking blue wad): Do you remember what I said about a certain pair of socks?
Him: huh?
Me: And their machine washability, or lack thereof?
Him: uh ...
Me: You realize this is going to be a blog post, right?
Him: Can I at least try them on first?
[short pause]
Him: Hey look, my foot still fits! That's even kind of where the heel is supposed to be.

Moral of this story: even the best of husbands should not get hand-wash only socks.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On the home stretch

The end of my holiday knitting is in sight! I've got one last project to finish up and then I'm done. So what snuck into my knitting queue at the end of last month? Another Peak's Island, this time in the to-die-for (or rather, tweak-the-rules-on-the-stash-diet) Malabrigo Rios.

I knit the seed stitch portion above the shell pattern while we watched the new Denzel Washington movie over Thanksgiving weekend - this is a good pattern for dark movie theaters.

But what about the stash diet? Yes, yes, I know, the stash diet is a bit of a sore subject around here and this project fell into one of the few exceptions I had left in the rules: gifts for which I had no appropriate stash yarn.

My mom and sister came out to visit for Thanksgiving weekend and we got to show them just how cold and windy it can get here in Chicago. Of course, this also meant that I got to show off what a great winter accessory Peaks Island is (paired with a hat, of course). So it was only natural that my mom and I decided that a Peaks Island Hood would be the perfect gift for her. I knew I didn't have anything appropriate in the stash (shocking, really, given the shear size of the stash at this point), my mom fell in love with Rios when we went to my LYS (who wouldn't?), and the shop had a 20% off sale. What else was I supposed to do? Besides, it's a quick project and I'll be back to stash busting soon enough.

Seriously, how can you resist this yarn?

Alright, time for me to get back to work. I hope to have this project finished in the next day or two. Don't worry, I'm much farther along than the first picture would suggest. It's completely doable . . . I think.

Monday, December 6, 2010

FO: Venezia Pillows

I've actually got progress to show on the gift-knitting front. My Venezia Pillows are done!

For the moment, I'm going to ignore the fact that these were supposed to be a birthday present for N, whose birthday is in mid-November, and just enjoy the fact that I have another FO. N, I hope you like your birthday/xmas present.

Here's the back:

This shot makes it much more clear that I flipped the colors for pillow #2. The venezia pattern is so well-balanced that you have to look closely to see which color is dominant. Not so with the lozenge pattern on the back. And that's a big part of how I avoided "second pillow syndrome." It's much easier to knit #2 when it's not exactly the same as #1.

The yarn, Cascade 220 Heathers, performs very nicely in stranded colorwork. Far better than I had expected, actually.

This was definitely a pattern mod, albeit a heavy modification of Eunny Jang's gorgeous Venezia Pullover (ravelry link). I'm not going to put out a pattern on this one (even a free pattern) since that comes far too close to a copyright violation for my liking (also, any "pattern" should really include a copy of the chart that I put together and that would definitely violate copyright).

All that said, I will happily share my notes/design process for anyone who wants to make some of these. Here goes . . . 

How to Make Venezia Pillows

Yarn: 1 skein each of a Main Color and a Contrast Color in Cascade 220 for one pillow. To be on the safe side, shoot for 2 pillows (2 skeins of each color). The venezia pattern is balanced, i.e., it uses up the same amount of each color. The lozenge pattern on the back is not balanced - it uses up far more of the main color than the contrast color. I was able to finish the first pillow with only one skein of each color but had to steal a bit of those leftovers in the main color to finish pillow #2. If you like living on the wild side, go ahead and try one pillow (just don't say I didn't warn you).

Needles: I used size 6 circular needles for the striped top and bottom (more on that in a minute) and size 8 circular needles for the colorwork sections. That was what I needed to maintain consistent gauge. Of course, use whatever combination works for you.

Gauge: I got 5.5 stitches per inch in the venezia chart pattern on size 8 needles. Stitch gauge is what matters here. Row gauge is pretty much irrelevant since you just knit until the piece covers your pillow form. 

Here's a quick cheat on figuring out gauge (yes, do a swatch, but this will help you figure out which needles to start with so that you only need to swatch once): I like the way Cascade 220 knits up on size 7 needles - I get 5 spi with that combination. Since I know that stranded colorwork compresses stitch gauge, I went up one needle size to get something close to 5spi (I ended up with 5.5 spi). And because I know that I get 5spi with size 7 needles, I needed to go down to size 6 needles to hit 5.5 spi to match my colorwork gauge.

Figuring out how big to make your pillow (aka, how many stitches you need to cast on): 

1. Measure your pillow form. I bought 14" pillow forms, which measured 14.125 inches on a side (28.25" total).

2. Chart out the venezia pattern (yes you will need the actual sweater pattern for this - it's in an old issue of Interweave Knits (check out one of the links above for details)). I made a 73-stitch chart (one right side, one left side, and one center stitch). Happily, the lozenge pattern also worked out to 73 stitches (it's a multiple of 6 plus 1).

3. Multiply the number of stitches in your venezia chart by your stitch gauge. Subtract this number from half the circumference of your pillow. Now add about half an inch worth of stitches to this number (ease). This tells you how many extra stitches you need to add. Finally, figure out a stripe pattern to act as a filler for those extra stitches. 

I used this border/side pattern: 2 MC, 1 CC, 1 MC, 1 CC, 1MC, 1 CC, 2 MC (9 stitches). 

When visualizing the pattern, it goes something like this: 9 border stitches, 73 venezia chart stitches, 9 border stitches, 73 lozenge pattern stitches.

Actually Knitting the Thing:

1. Cast on 164 stitches with the center color from your border pattern using the smaller needle size (that's my number - you should use whatever you need for your gauge and your pillow form). In my 9 stitch border pattern, the center color is CC. Join, being careful not to twist, for working in the round.

If you leave a very long tail here, you can use it to close up the bottom of the pillow cover later.

2. Work half of the border pattern, starting with the center color. In my case the rows looked like this: 1 CC, 1 MC, 1 CC, 2 MC

3. Switch to larger needles and work colorwork pattern (9 border stitches, 73 venezia chart stitches, 9 border stitches, 73 lozenge pattern stitches).

4. Keep knitting until the piece is long enough to cover your pillow form. Actually, when you're an inch or two away from that point, measure the length of your striped section at the bottom of the tube. Now subtract that number from the amount you need to knit to cover the pillow - this will tell you where to stop the colorwork pattern and work border stripes like you did on the bottom (just reverse what you did below). 

5. When you've knit enough to cover the pillow, turn the work inside out and close with a 3-needle bind off.

6. Lightly steam block to even out the stitches.

7. Put the pillow form in the knitted cover and sew the cast on edge shut. I did something that vaguely resembled kitchener stitch and that worked out pretty well. 

8. I hate to say this, but tie a knot (or three) in the end of your yarn and hide the knot under the edge of the pillow cover like you would when sewing or quilting.

9. Flip the colors (if desired) and knit a second one.

Monday, November 29, 2010

All things holey

My sock drawer is having a bit of a crisis: my favorite socks are all developing holes in the heels. It started out with the first pair of Kai-Mei socks that I had knit. Technically, these weren't in the sock drawer; I found them hidden in the closet with a couple of hand-wash only pairs of socks that I decided to wash last night. But they still had very nice almost holes in the heels. (Almost holes = sections that with only the slightest bit of wear will turn into nice big whopping holes, usually a stitch holding on for dear life by only one ply in a 3- or 4-ply yarn.) This morning when I went to grab a pair of socks to wear I noticed that one of my favorites was about to go. They look like these, but in the dusky aurora colorway (these were a gift for my dad a couple of years ago).

It's Gentleman's Shooting Stockings with Fluted Pattern from Nancy Bush's fantastic book Knitting Vintage Socks. I wear these socks all the time and you can definitely tell: the almost hole sits right next to the spot I've already darned on the heel.

Then when I got home this evening and pulled my boots off, I noticed that my shibui Pomatomus socks were looking pretty weak in the heels. I'll bet that they have only a few more wears left in them. Unfortunately, my malabrigo Pomatomus socks have seen better days, too.

This got me thinking, why are all of my favorite socks starting to go now? Then it hit me: I knit these all about two years ago when I was a teaching assistant and had plenty of in-class knitting time (not that I didn't have knitting time in the classes I was taking but that's another story). It seems like all the socks that I knit that semester are on their final stretch. I'd been putting off knitting more socks for me because my sock drawer seemed so full but it seems like it's time to get cracking.

Of course, I have several projects that I want to finish up first and I was able to make some good progress on them this weekend.

The alpaca cardigan is progressing nicely. I've joined the body and arms together and have made it through the first few rounds of raglan decreases.

It still needs a fair amount of work. After I finish the raglan seams, I'm planning a wide (3") ribbed edging up the sides and around the neck. Then it will just need some aggressive blocking on the ribbed sections since I want them to fall in line with the stockinette rather than pulling in like, well, ribbing.

I was most productive on the second of the Venezia pillows. At this point I have about half a chart repeat left before the edging rows. Hopefully I can finish that project up this week. Here's a quick shot of how it looks with the colors reversed:

I may have started a couple of other projects, too, but those will have to wait for another post. I've got a pillow to finish!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My first pattern!

I finished another scarflet a few weeks ago and haven't posted about it until now because I've been working on the pattern, too.

This one was worked with a single skein of Handmaiden Casbah on size 4 needles.

A while back Rachel had asked what I'm planning on knitting for holiday gifts this year. The short answer is "not a lot" - actually, I'm "outsourcing." But more on that later.

Anyway, I thought I'd offer you all a little pre-holiday gift instead: my first pattern.

Larch is a quick and easy little neck scarf that can be worked in a single skein of fingering or sock weight yarn.

I've linked to the ravelry pattern page because that's where I've posted the pdf. If you're reading this in a feed reader, the link is also available in the right sidebar on the main page of this blog.

I'd love to post the pdf here (or on google docs), along with a thumbnail pic. So, for those of you out there with more blogger/techie skills than I have, here are a couple of questions:

  1. How do I post a pdf on blogger?
  2. How do I put a thumbnail picture in the sidebar that links to the pattern? (I'd love something like the right-hand pattern list here)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Random Monday

I've been meaning to post for several days now but somehow things just kept coming up (little things like work and the fact that the apartment needed cleaning - that sort of stuff). So, to make up for lost time and because I don't have any better ideas for organization tonight, we're going to have Random Monday.

Here goes . . .

1. My yarn diet has been a spectacular failure so far. This happened:

(only the two WIPs on that table are not new yarn)

I had such good intentions last month of going on a yarn diet and working through the stash. And then we went out to Portland where I knew I was going to be able to pet Shelter (and want to buy some, to be perfectly honest) so I made an exception. But no new yarn purchases after that. I was pretty good. There was a rough week at work that resulted in a skein of Dream in Color smooshy in a lovely deep purple (it's a new color - I don't see it on their website). And then I heard about the Dream in Color factory sale this past Saturday. I hemmed and hawed. I love that company, but I should be on a yarn diet, but it's on sale, oh fine. Yes, the internal monologue sounded something quite like that. So DH and I drove out to one of the western suburbs Saturday morning and picked up some new additions for the stash. A delightful time was had by all. And believe it or not, my stash bins are actually rather full at the moment so I'm going to make it official:

2. I'm on a stash diet and I really mean it this time. New rule: no one residing in chez tinks and frogs is allowed to buy new yarn until 2011. That should take care of the little snaffoo I had a few months ago with the casbah for my pea vines shawl. I'm married to a yarn enabler, what can I say (other than thank you, of course)?

3. (more like 1(a)) If you're a yarn company with a website, it would be really nice if you'd update your color page. Posting on ravelry (with a link to facebook) that you've put out new colors is all well and good but if I want to see those colors again a couple of months later, I don't want to have to search forum threads. I should be able to just look on your website. Moving on.

4. I feel the stirrings of a strong case of startitis coming on. 

That's 5 skeins of Groovy in a lovely (but hard to photograph) deep blueish green. It's slated to become a snug for tadpole,  a thorpe for me, and something else depending on how much is left.

Here we have 3 skeins of smooshy, one of my absolute favorite sock yarns (if not my favorite). From right to left, these will become a pair of rick socks for me (it's all I can do not to cast on for those this very instant - does pregnancy cause yarn cravings, too?), husband socks, and something for tadpole.

This delightful skein is Dream in Color's new yarn base. Like smooshy, it's a superwash merino. But unlike smooshy, it is composed of 8 plies (compared with smooshy's 3). This should make for less pilling and more durability in the finished piece. I'm thinking that this little lovely wants to be something from Cookie A.'s sock book.

5. Have you seen Cookie A.'s latest offering? There are some old favorites like monkey socks that have been reworked in various sizes (a welcome addition for those of us with larger feet). Plus there are plenty of new and interesting designs, too. Even better, you can purchase this book as a pdf and then print out whatever pattern you're currently working on and mark it up to your heart's content without having to worry about losing it or defacing a beautifully photographed book. Or you could just read it on the new toy that your spouse is eyeing and that you want to "borrow."

How does a sock book fit in with the yarn diet? Well, it's not yarn but it goes against the spirit of the diet (especially when I have one lovely Cookie A. sock book already that I haven't worked all the way through). I guess the jury's still out on that one.

6. Speaking of socks, I finished a pair of husband socks last week.

The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, a nice sock yarn that wears well and has a great price point, not to mention lovely heathered colors. Of course, the 20% nylon fiber content that makes it wear so well also makes this yarn not quite as fun to knit (at least for me - I prefer a softer, smooshier yarn in my hands). But I absolutely despise darning socks so this one might be worth it since it wears so well. DH, who wouldn't take off the socks for the rest of the night after the photo shoot, assures me that they are indeed quite comfy.

What's the pattern? These look a lot like Anne Hanson's Bricker pattern and that's certainly what I was shooting for. But when I looked at the pattern, I realized that DH's feet were way too big for any of her sizing options. I didn't want to rework someone else's pattern so I pulled out my Barbara Walker treasuries and found a similar stitch pattern. Then I just plugged that pattern and my gauge into the basic sock size that fits DH (gigantic, in case you were wondering). It took two skeins of yarn (I do have plenty of leftovers) but now he's got a nice new pair of socks.

7. Which is a really good thing since I frogged everything that I had done on his latest pair of socks because they were too big. DH has absolutely enormous feet and I still haven't internalized their actual size. I started a basic sock in Cat Bordhi's upstream master pattern out of Lorna's Laces shepherd sock for DH a week or two ago and knit happily from the toe until the start of the heel shaping. I kept looking at the sock and thinking "this is really big," so I gave in and had him try it on and it was really big. Note to self: when Cat Bordhi gives you a table, pick a number from the table. Don't do your own math.

8. Second note to self: when you start sock #2, cast on 12 stitches on each needle with Judy's Magic Cast-on.

9. Tadpole hasn't been neglected either. I finally finished something for her instead of just frogging it. I had the day off work on Thursday so after taking care of various other things I started flipping through Barbara Walker volume 3, looking for a fun motif to put on a baby vest that I could knit out of a leftover most-of-a-skein of Dream in Color classy. Seven hours later I had this:

I'm pretty thrilled. Of course, I also have a few changes that I want to make to the design: mostly, I want to switch the bottom edging and seed stitch border out for garter stitch, which should add some more cohesion to the piece. Also, it would be nice to knit the whole thing out of one color. Happily, I have a full skein of classy in the stash so I'll whip up another one of these shortly. I even hope to have a pattern out soon.

10. Last, but certainly not least, two of my good friends have birthdays today. So happy birthday M and N! N, your present is half done. What do you think?

Pillow # 2 is on the needles so they'll be coming to you soon. And M, your present isn't knitted but I hope you like it, too!

Ok, I think that's quite enough for Random Monday. I'd better be going - I've got a stash to work through!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

FO: Terra

I'm in love. Thank goodness I have an understanding husband because I just can't get enough of this new wrap from Jared Flood. Here are the specs and then I'll go back to gushing.

Pattern: Terra by Jared Flood
Yarn: 4.25 (ish) skeins of Shelter in colorway Wool Socks
Needles: size 8 32" Addi Lace circular
Mods: none. absolutely none.

At first I was a bit worried about how (if) I was going to wear this piece since I often find large lace shawls a bit awkward and difficult to wear. But this is just a big cozy wrap. Adding in a pair of mittens, Terra provided all the warmth I needed while modeling outside yesterday (and I don't normally think of a long sleeved shirt as enough in 40-degree weather). I don't think I took Terra off all afternoon.

Shelter is an absolutely gorgeous yarn. It's pricey, so I won't be knitting all of my sweaters out of it (not that I wouldn't happily do that in a heartbeat) but it is well worth the price. The yarn has a bit of lanolin still in it, which you can feel while knitting - the yarn is soft but not super-soft. Boy, does that change after a bit of a bath. I soaked Terra in lukewarm water with a bit of Eucalan for 20 minutes and the transformation was amazing. The yarn bloomed a bit - not enough to really change gauge (but, to be perfectly honest, I didn't think about gauge at all on this project) - and became incredibly soft. It's absolutely stunning.

One thing you should be aware of with this yarn, however, is that there is a fair amount of vegetable matter. If that bothers you, don't buy it. But don't worry, it's pretty easy to deal with. I wound each skein by hand - no ball winder, just a swift and my fingers. After untwisting each skein, I'd pick off all of the pieces of VM that I could see. Then I put the skein on the swift and piked off other pieces of VM as I came to them while winding the ball. I still had to pick an occasional piece out here and there while knitting but it didn't interrupt me much at all. Just be careful when picking out the VM. Because this is a woolen spun yarn, the fibers and VM can get very tangled together and you run the risk of breaking the yarn if you're not careful when removing pieces of VM. 

One other nice thing about this yarn: it spit splices very well. I only had two ends to weave in: the cast on and the bind off tails.

And, before I forget, here are two things you should know about this pattern. First, you need 5 skeins, not 4 as the pattern calls for. I'd seen this mentioned a few times on ravelry before I bought the yarn and I'm really happy I followed this advice. Second, the sewn bind-off takes forever. It's not just you, this technique really does take ages. Far longer than you would think. But it's a great bind-off and I wouldn't use any other one for this project. It's incredibly elastic and blends in well with the garter stitch edge.

I wonder if I should make another one in green . . . 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hitting a wall

You may have noticed a conspicuous lack of baby knits here lately. Trust me, it's not for lack of trying or even a desire to keep things a secret (although the cat's pretty much out of the bag at this point anyway). I've cast on for several things for the tadpole and have plenty more that I would love to knit.

Here's my problem - I need an answer to an important question: how big are babies?

Yes, yes, I know I'll find out soon enough but I'd really like to know little things like how big the neck opening has to be if I'm knitting a cardigan. I started a February Baby Sweater last week with some gorgeous handspun (I'm sure I have a picture somewhere but I can't find it at the moment and my camera is not playing well with the lights in our apartment) but decided that the neck opening was way too small. Naturally, I frogged and then started over again with more stitches and pretty much made things up as I went. I'm at the point where you divide for the sleeves and the proportions just look a bit funny (did I mention that I was making this up along the way? or that I was knitting it during a day-long conference and so couldn't really focus on it and look like I was paying more attention to the sweater than the presenter?). This one is going to join the frog pond soon along with the rest of my failed baby projects. Resurrection will have to wait until I have taken the time to do a bit of research into baby proportions.

Of course, I'm thinking about this right now because I plan to sneak some knitting into what will probably be a fairly tedious event tomorrow and a baby item sounded perfect, except for the fact that I really have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to knitting for very small people. It's all well and good to say that the sweater will fit the recipient at some point when the gift is going to someone else's kid. But when I want to make something for my own to wear, I want to make it seasonally appropriate and that means I need to have an idea of how big the tadpole is going to be and when.

So, it's time to ask for help. Do you know any good resources for basic baby measurements/proportions? Honestly, I just need chest and neck circumference at various ages/weights but any recommendations will be very welcome.

(totally random photo just so I have one)

Thanks in advance! I'm off to figure out what to knit tomorrow. Maybe a sock. Maybe a shawl. Who knows?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

At last

These socks took me way too long to finish.

Pattern: Marlene Socks by Cookie A.
Yarn: 1 skein of Dream in Color smooshy in colorway Gothic Rose
Needles: size 2 addi lace circular for magic loop
Mods: I opted to do the ribbed toe from the pattern picture rather than the written instructions. Other than that, I knit these exactly as written. Unusual, I know.

It's a great pattern, I love the yarn, and the color is fabulous. So what gives? Part of the problem was that I made a rather large mistake when knitting the first sock several months ago. I don't remember exactly what I did except that I ended up with too few stitches along the bottom of the foot but I didn't realize this until I had gotten almost to the end of the toe. Naturally, I ripped back to the heel flap and reworked the foot but by this point it felt like I had knit two socks and I didn't really have the heart to cast on for the second sock.

Fast forward to our apple picking expedition last month when I cast on for sock #2 during the car ride. Everything was progressing smoothly until last week. DH had brought a little bug back with him from Portland - just a sore throat and stuffy nose, nothing major. Except that it hit me like a steam roller and put me out of commission for four days. I barely knit, that's how yucky I felt.

I knew I was truly starting to feel better when I picked up this sock again and it's interesting yet easily memorizable repeats were a great companion as I recuperated. 

Now that they're done and I've worn them once, what do I think? The fit is great - snug but not tight - and they don't fall down. I am hopeful that the twisted stitch heel flap will hold up reasonably well. I just have one little worry: my big toes were stretching the knitted fabric pretty thin by the end of the day. I don't think the socks are too small, I just think the fabric isn't as dense in the twisted stitch ribbing as I'm used to. Dream in color yarns tend to bulk up a bit in the wash for me and I'm hoping it does so here. Otherwise, I may be darning the toes pretty soon.

Once I had finished up the second Marlene sock, I needed a nice feel-good project to help me kick my cold. So I cast on with my new acquisition from the Portland trip and I've been knitting on it exclusively ever since.

Can you blame me?