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!


Jonah said...

The new yarn for honey baby is, well, perfect. I love many of the things that you knit, but there are a few that feel extra-special, and this project feels like one of those. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product!

Also - thank you to the various commenters on my guest post. I appreciate the words of encouragement even if I don't respond. One member of this household has started four blogs and not really stuck with them. The other has carved out a special little place on the 'net because she follows through on things much better than I.

Gale said...

Your honey baby is really pretty and I cannot wait to see the finished object. Hard to believe your little one will be here shortly - it feels like you just announced your happy news!
The new yarn is gorgeous andI'll never order from that 'other' place again either. Personally, I don't see where the raves come in for that particular dyer, and I've been so sadly disappointed with the colour that I've overdyed everything that was ordered.

Rachel said...

Glad J got a pair of finished socks! I like the pattern design and it looks pretty cool with that yarn!

Perfect BSJ! Beautiful color.

Wow--sorry to hear about the yarn woes. I know that color isn't always accurately depicted on a monitor but that yarn certainly is more yellow than anything else. I'm glad that you found something that is just perfect though...this is going to be one beautiful blanket!

Happy New Year to you, J, and the little tadpole!

Kathy said...

Congrats on the FOs. I managed to pull off a surprise knit for Partner as well, which is a pretty awesome feeling. :) I cheated and used a nearly DK weight yarn, but I only had my 2 weeks in Australia to get them done, start to finish!

Sorry for the bad yarn experience, but I'm so happy it worked out in the end. I perfect color for a tadpole.

Jacey said...

Although I really love the yellow yarn you originally purchased, I see what you mean about version two's yarn. It's such a lovely shade of green, and it's knitting up beautifully.

Oh, and that BSJ is so cute! I still haven't tried the pattern, but I think my next baby gift will include one.