Sunday, August 21, 2011

Busy bees

We took Tadpole to her first fiber festival on Friday! I've been keeping an eye out for a local festival ever since she was born and everything was just a bit too far away. But the Michigan Fiber Festival took place this weekend and that was perfect - only a 3-hour drive away. Of course, we met friends there and had so much fun that I didn't take any pictures at all.

Don't worry, we brought a bit home to play with.

So what did we get?

Starting at the bottom left and moving clockwise we have a) Knitting Notions Classic Merino Sport (sweater for Tadpole); b) Knitting Notions Classic Merino Lace (scarf for me); c) Briar Rose Legend (sweater for Tadpole); d) Briar Rose Abundance (maybe a Hemlock Ring?); e) Briar Rose BFL top (spin 3-ply and knit something for Tadpole . . . or me); f) Miss Babs Northumbria DK 4-ply BFL (something for me).

This was a good weekend for fiber pursuits. I've been getting more spinning in lately since I no longer have to wait until naptime to sit down at the wheel. Tadpole likes doing her tummy time on the play mat where she can watch me spin and that lets me get 5-7 minute sessions in while she's awake. And if she's in the right mood, sometimes we even do this:

It never lasts more than a minute or two before she starts grabbing the fiber and I declare spinning time over.

I've even been getting a fair amount of knitting done and I'm always amazed at how quickly the baby items knit up (especially now that I'm not working with thin sock yarn on size 1 needles anymore).

This is a baby version of the Leaflet cardigan that I made for myself (and haven't blogged about yet). I'm using Quince & Co. chickadee - their sport weight yarn - and I think I like the baby version even better than the grown up one. We'll see after I get around to washing and blocking the one for me. Right now it's a bit bulky feeling and adds more pounds than I would care to wear at the moment.

I also caved and cast on for Simmer Dim the other day using some malabrigo lace from the stash. I could knit even garter stitch all day long with this yarn - it's just that lovely. But I have one small problem: I brought this project for car knitting when we went to the fiber festival on Friday and I haven't seen it since we unpacked after getting home that evening. I'm sure I put it somewhere clever but for the life of me I have no idea where that is.

Back to the fiber festival for a minute (that was rather circuitous, wasn't it?). What did I think? And, more importantly, will I go back? I certainly enjoyed my time there but I think that was more because of the people I was with than the festival itself. In all honestly, I was going to get my Briar Rose fix and that was great. There were a number of vendors whom I'd seen in previous years at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Festival outside of Chicago and there were quite a few new-to-me small producers. But I must confess I was a bit underwhelmed by the offerings in general. Some of the dyers had beautiful work but either had fiber blends that I wasn't interested in or charged too much for too little yardage per skein. There was a nice variety of handpainted spinning fibers for sale but not much selection of undyed fibers or raw fleeces (not that I know anything about starting from a raw fleece at this point in my spinning career).

I think my biggest gripe lies with how the festival was physically organized at the fairgrounds. Everything was spread out over a wide area and it was difficult to see what other vendors were out there or where they were.

And there weren't many animals to look at and pet. But there was a gorgeous camel who let my 4-year-old companion feed him some straw. Oh I wish I had taken a picture of that!

So will I go back? Maybe. It's a long drive to take with a small person but I'd love to see her pet that camel!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another FO! (Citron)

Wow, it feels like all I have these days are FO posts. I suppose that's what I get for taking so long to sit down at the computer - I keep finishing things! In fact, that was what spurred me to sit down right now. I'm almost done with Leaflet. But that'll have to wait for another post. Today is all about Citron.

It's surprisingly wearable.

So much so that I'll probably knit this pattern again. Several times. I hardly ever say that so what's the trick? The yarn. It's all in the yarn. (Ok, the pattern is delightful and easy, mindless knitting. But it's a real pleasure with the right yarn.)

I used one skein of Swans Island fingering weight in the Early Thyme colorway (nearly the entire skein - there certainly wasn't enough left to work another repeat of the pattern). This yarn surprised me. I've looked at it for over a year now whenever I've stumbled on it in yarn shops and it never seemed to be quite what I was looking for. The colors change quite a bit between dye lots and it could be that the current lot was never really "my" color. It's on the pricey side, but not outrageously so, and I wanted something just right at that price point.

Then Mr. Tinks and Frogs brought me this skein as a surprise gift a couple of months ago and I fell in love. It's soft in the skein but it's really soft when you're knitting with it. I must admit I've become a bit blase about merino - it seems to be in everything these days. But this yarn reminded me just why merino is so special. And it doesn't hurt that it's organic and colored with natural dyes.

And while I'm mooning over Swans Island, have you seen their woven blankets?

Before I forget myself and accidentally order one of those blankets (boy, would that blow the budget!), back to Citron.

The ruched sections seemed to take forever once I was on the last couple sections but they were my favorite parts to knit. I just loved seeing the yarn worked up at that denser gauge.

The pattern calls for 440 yards of laceweight yarn and I'm pretty sure I used at least 500 even though I used the recommended needle size (6). Maybe I was just extra relaxed working with this delicious yarn.

I'll definitely keep my eye out for dye lots that I like, now that I know what fun Swans Island is to knit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

FO: A sweater for Tadpole

 I did it! Tadpole's sweater is done, washed, blocked, and photographed.

This took just about the entire skein of Dream in Color Smooshy. And let me tell you, that was a nerve-wracking last few rows. Actually, once I finished the neck it really wasn't so bad since I didn't mind the thought of working the button bands in a contrasting color. But I didn't have to! I had a couple of yards to spare. Nothing like living on the wild side.

Ok, ok, I've made you wait long enough. Here's a modeled shot:

She looks surprisingly happy to be modeling a wool sweater in late July, doesn't she? (Yes, I turned the air conditioning up before putting the sweater on her. And no, pants would not have been appropriate.)

Back to the sweater for a moment.

It's a seamless raglan cardigan with an asymmetrical opening and a wide boat neck. The piece is pretty straightforward to knit - your basic bottom-up raglan construction. There are just a lot of stitches. Tiny stitches. Did I forget to mention the whole thing is knit on a size 1 needle?

But the really great part is how it fits. The textured pattern is very elastic so it stretches easily without losing its shape - great for growing babies. You can fold up the sleeve cuffs for younger wearers and unroll them as little arms grow longer. And the neck is wide enough that you can just pull the whole thing off over the head instead of fiddling with nine small buttons once the baby says "Enough! It's 90 degrees outside. Why am I wearing wool?"

5-month old Tadpole (not quite 5 months in these pictures) can wear it easily.

And so can her nine-and-a-half-month-old friend C.

That's what I'm most proud of. I wanted to design a baby sweater that could actually be used for several months. And it worked!

There will be a pattern for this one coming out relatively soon (in the next couple of months, I hope). I took pretty good (for me) notes while I was knitting this sweater and that's what I used to write up the first draft of the pattern. There was just one problem: I wrote up the draft at a time when Tadpole wasn't sleeping particularly well. So I'm honestly not that sure how clear the directions are. The friend who is doing the first round of test knitting already caught one stupid mistake. Hopefully there aren't too many more! It's always surprising to me how tough it can be to set out written directions. I just want to point and say "See? It just works like that." But "that" always takes several sentences to describe.

Hopefully this will be one of your go-to baby gift knits. Now it just needs a name. Sounds like time for another yarn giveaway to me but it's past my bedtime and that'll have to wait for the next post.