Monday, September 27, 2010

A day late, but certainly not short

I had such good intentions of posting last night. I had taken progress pics of my three active projects when I got home on Friday evening and I was all excited to show you how far I had gotten on Hallett's Ledge.

Pretty impressive, no? But then I sat down on Sunday, we put a football game on, and I knit. And knit. And knit. And ended up with this:

(the color is far more accurate in the first shot above)

That's a finished left front, a partially finished back, and an unfinished right front. Not bad. This is a very quick pattern knit up in Cascade 220 on size 8 needles. I had forgotten how quickly knitting flies at that gauge.

Rachel had asked me how well I think this pattern works in Cascade 220 since she - like many of us - has a sweater's worth of that yarn sitting in the stash. The short answer is: pretty well (and for way less expense - not to mention fewer ends to weave in - than the pattern yarn). I was a bit hesitant when working the ribbing since the fabric is a bit more open and less dense than I usually like my ribbing. However, washing this in warmer water (i.e., fulling the yarn ever so slightly) may help. In any event, I think the Cascade holds up beautifully in the cable pattern.

Speaking of the yarn, you may recognize this as the green yarn that I rescued from my failed attempt at Forecast. As you would expect, I have long ago lost the yarn labels that had important information about things like dye lots. Naturally, I am paranoid about running out of yarn on this one. I scrounged around the apartment and found three small extra balls of the Cascade and now am keeping my fingers crossed that I have enough yarn to finish the project (or that my LYS happens to only carry this particular color in the dye lot that DH picked up for me as a Christmas present last year). Wish me luck!

Since I had mentioned other projects, it seems only fair to give you a sneak peek at what else has been growing around here.

First up, I really am going to finish that pair of Marlene socks.

That's sock #2, cast on during the drive to the apple orchard a week or so ago. I started this one just in time, too. One of my favorite socks wore a hole in the heel today and two other pairs have heels that are dangerously close to wearing out. 

Finally, I've made some real progress on N's birthday pillows.

These are really fun and I'm almost at the end of the first pillow. Very exciting! Can you stand to see another shot?

I thought so. Now I've got a date with Hallett's Ledge and some apple pie (although probably not in that order).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

FO: Pea Vines

We went apple picking this afternoon and the orchard seemed like a perfect place to snap a few FO pics. (We also came home with enough apples to make 3 pies, but that's another story.)

Pattern: Pea Vines by Anne Hanson
Yarn: Handmaiden casbah (a superwash merino/cashmere/nylon blend - really lovely, by the way)
Needles: size 5 addi lace circulars
Size: mini (I know I blocked this one a bit bigger than the pattern called for but I forgot to actually measure the piece when I took it off the blocking wires this morning - 44-45" for the wingspan sounds accurate)
Mods: just a little one

This was just a fun knit and a great marriage of yarn and pattern. The greens in the yarn worked particularly well with the pea pod and leaf motifs in the bottom portion of the shawl. Plus, there were plenty of nupps (and I'm pretty sure I've talked before about just how much I enjoy making nupps).

To be fair, these nupps aren't quite as fun as those you'll find in a Nancy Bush pattern - my particular favorite. In Nancy Bush's estonian patterns, nupps are worked over two rows. On the first, right-side, row you work some number of [k1, yo], k1 into a single stitch and then proceed down the row. Then, when you reach those extra nupp stitches on your way back across the wrong-side row, you purl all of the nupp stitches together (next to impossible without a very pointy needle, but very fun when you have the proper equipment). Here, Anne has you work the nupps over one row: working [p1, yo] x times and then a final p1 into a single stitch. Then, once you have finished that, you pull all of the extra stitches over that final p1 as if to bind off, decreasing back down to your original stitch. This produces a bubble-shaped nupp, which I will admit looks more like a pea in a pod than the estonian version, but I found it a bit trickier to maintain tension using this technique (read: not quite as much fun to work).

Of course, that isn't to say that I didn't enjoy knitting this little shawl. Quite the contrary - I had a blast working on it. The pattern was intricate, but not so tricky that I couldn't notice mistakes as I made them (or at least the next row up). Once the pattern motifs began to emerge, I just couldn't put this one down.

It's a relatively quick knit. This one took me two weeks, knitting on it only in the evenings after work and on weekends. I have a feeling that I'll be knitting this pattern again, too. It would make a great gift piece.

But not this one. This one's mine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back on track

Or, adventures in trying to accurately photograph a gorgeous sock yarn at night in my apartment.

While it certainly seems like I've been knitting only on my Pea Vines scarf for the last week and a half, I did manage to finish another of the items on my knitting to-do list: Kai-mei. I put down Pea Vines to finish these lovelies partly because I wanted to get a start on Hallett's Ledge since I want to finish the sweater in time to wear it this fall. But the bigger motivation came from the fact that I recently challenged Rachel to a bit of a race to see if we could both finish our Kai-mei socks (and blog about them - that takes a bit longer) before next Wednesday. Hence me pestering DH into taking pictures after dinner last night since we won't have time this weekend for a sock photo-shoot.

Pattern: Kai-mei from Cookie A's fantastic book sock innovation
Yarn: Fiberphile Super Squish Sock in colorway Copper Rose
This is a new-to-me yarn that I picked up as a souvenir on our trip to Maine this past June (if you're in the Brunswick area, be sure to swing by Purl Diva - the shop owner, Ellen, is wonderful and stocks a very choice selection of yarns). It's a superwash merino with instructions to hand wash (presumably because of the dye) that I'll probably ignore since machine-washed socks get worn far more often in this household than hand-washed ones. More importantly, the hand of this yarn is beautiful - slightly drapey but with great stitch definition - and the dye job is absolutely stunning. As you'll hopefully see in the pictures in this post, the yarn just shimmers with washes of reds, coppers, and deep pinky-red shades of rose. It's just gorgeous. Moving along . . .
Needles: size 1 addi lace circulars for magic loop
Mods: None. I just march the little bugs across the top of the foot until they've eaten up all of the ribbing stitches. Then I work one row plain and start the toe decreases. The only important piece to note is that you want to have 17 slipped stitches along the heel flap for picking up gusset stitches. The details on why this matters can be found on my last blog post discussing this pattern.

DH was great last night, trying to get decent shots in artificial lighting last night, and he managed to get some nice ones.

Usually, we were two for three in terms of getting focus, color, and the right amount of light.

 But as you can see, everyone in the household enjoyed the attempt.

Nayyir just loves the camera. He followed us over to the couch, where we had moved to try the light on that side of the apartment, in order to investigate and model a bit more.

There, now you can see a bit more of the yarn's shimmer (even if the color is still off).

The color is closest on this next series (even though the glow doesn't come across quite as much):

Great yarn, great pattern, 'nuff said. Go cheer on Rachel as she finishes hers, too.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Where did this come from?

I seem to have accidentally cast on for a new project this weekend. As you know, I had my current knitting scheme all planned out. Cast on for the secret project once Juneberry came off the needles (or blocking wires, as the case may be), and finish up the last Kai-Mei sock so that I can start Hallett's Ledge. Instead, I have this lovely little piece that is all I have touched since Saturday afternoon.

It's really not my fault. I swear, J was being a lovely husband and how was I supposed to resist? We went for a walk along the lake and then finished up by swinging by my LYS on the way home (it's a 10 minute walk from the apartment - very dangerous!). Naturally, we looked in the sock yarn room and there on the wall was a new shipment of Handmaiden casbah. This skein of beautiful semi-solid mossy green just leapt into my hand and wouldn't let go. When the DH insisted that we take it home with us, who was I to say no?

So I happily cast on for Pea Vines, Anne Hanson's latest shawl. I love this yarn so much that I happily cast on for the shawl three times. I frogged the first one because I decided I wanted a stretchier cast on than the long-tail cast on that I had used. I frogged the second one because I didn't like the look of the pattern coming straight off of the knitted cast on that I switched to. The third time, I combined the knitted cast on with a purl row immediately afterwards but before starting the chart. It looks like the third time's the charm and I'm much happier.

I also tried a new decrease technique that I learned over the weekend. It's an alternate method of working ssk that actually mirrors a k2tog - no ladder steps at all! The trick: slip the first stitch as if to knit (just like normal), but slip the second stitch as if to purl. It makes all the difference.

Take a look at this interview with Jared Flood on Knitting Daily TV to learn more:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

FO: Juneberry

As promised, here is the long-awaited Juneberry:

Pattern: Juneberry Triangle, by Jared Flood (published in St. Denis Magazine No. 2)
Yarn: 1 skein Jaggerspun Zephyr wool/silk 2/18, colorway basil (I used about 7/8 of the skein)
Needles: Size 7 addi lace circular
Finished size: 52" wide and 28.5" tall after blocking
Mods: two little ones. First, I didn't break the yarn for casting on the edging. Instead, I just cast on using the knitted cast on method and continued from there. It's a stretchier cast on than what the pattern called for (something I appreciated when it came time to block the shawl) and gave me two less ends to weave in at the end. Second, I used the sewn bind off instead of the regular bind off called for by the pattern. Again, this produces a stretchier edge and also blends in with the garter stitch a bit more.

Mods I wish I had made . . . well, if I were to knit this pattern again (and I probably will) I would use nupps a la Nancy Bush instead of the 3-stitch bobbles used here.

I think the texture given by the bobbles is really quite nifty - it's just that I am not a huge fan of actually knitting the things. They are much easier to work if you can knit backwards across the few stitches instead of turning the whole piece around to purl back across. That does save a lot of time. But honestly, I think my real problem is that I have a terrible time knitting consistent looking bobbles (and it is even harder to do so when knitting with laceweight yarn on larger needles). So next time I'll probably cheat and use nupps, which I adore.

I also think I will probably knit version 2 of this shawl in a heavier yarn. The laceweight is truly lovely, and has an almost ethereal quality to it when you hold it up. All that said, I do love the look of the heavier pieces I've seen on ravelry so I'll probably be tempted to try something similar, too.

If you've looked at Junberry on ravelry, you've probably come across some complaints about how this pattern was written. Most of the complaints seem to center on chart 2, which forms the upper section of the lace. You are given a little rectangular chart with the pattern repeat and told to add stitches as necessary as you increase at the sides and center of the shawl. Simple enough, right? The knitting is patterned on both sides and has an irregular repeat. It certainly is possible to memorize the pattern and add stitches on the fly but it is by no means easy. Honestly, this shawl would have been a much more enjoyable knit had the magazine decided to devote another page or two to this pattern and charted out the  edge sections in chart 2, not just the repeat. My advice: grab some graph paper and chart out the increases. It's a great crutch until you finally get the lace pattern memorized.

Other than that, the pattern was very readable. Of course, you also have to pay quite a bit of attention - there are no purl-only wrong-side rows to take a break. This shawl has patterning on every row and learning to read the knitting takes some getting used to. So this is probably not good tv knitting (if you want to watch what's going on, that is) but an audiobook is a great companion instead.

All in all, this was a satisfying knit. It was certainly more challenging than anything I've knit in a while and I really enjoyed the experience.

As always, thanks to J for taking some lovely pictures. I promise I'll finish those socks I started for you soon . . . 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Four Days

Apparently "forever" is four days long. At least that's how long it took me to finish knitting the edging on Juneberry. I bound off the last few stitches on Sunday, blocked the shawl on Tuesday evening, unpinned when I got home from work on Wednesday (no it doesn't take nearly that long to dry - I just wanted to go to bed instead of waiting to unpin that evening), and now am waiting for a time to get some decent FO shots. I got off work early today (thanks, boss!) and was able to snap a few preview pics for you.

That's all I've got for now. Trust me when I say that the finished piece is really, really lovely. More shots to come this weekend when our favorite photographer gets home.

Let me instead distract you with a little project that slipped in under the radar over the last few weeks: a BSJ and matching booties for a friend's baby shower last weekend.

The pattern for the booties is from The Opinionated Knitter, just a few pages past the Baby Surprise Jacket. Knitting these made remember just how much working an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern can be an exercise in trust - especially the first time through a pattern! Until the last stage, these looked absolutely nothing like booties. Putting your trust in a talented designer and hoping that everything turns out alright in the end is a little bit like the knitting version of bungee jumping: enjoy the feeling of free fall and know that the cord will be there to catch you. (Personally, I'll stick with the knitting version since I know the worst that will happen is that I'll have to rip and restart - way less dangerous).

The yarn is Knit Picks stroll tweed (I think - Nayyir seems to have stolen all of the ball bands that I had lying around). I used about a skein and a half for both the sweater and the booties. Size 3 needles for both.

You'd think that I'd done something productive with my extra couple of hours this afternoon, but instead I'm completely distracted by the thought of knitting October Frost (rav link) from Lisa Lloyd's fabulous book A Fine Fleece right now. It finally feels like fall (until we get 90 degree temps again next week) and I just love the idea of knitting a big cabled sweater again. Sadly, I don't have any appropriate yarn in the stash for this one and I'm really trying to be good about not buying new yarn at the moment.

So for now, I'll be good and go work on Kai-Mei so that I can get started on Hallett's Ledge. Hopefully that will help tame my current desire for cables.

Have a fabulous long weekend!