Friday, October 31, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

The jewels of my stash

When I acquire a really precious yarn, I'm torn between hoarding it until one perfect pattern comes along, or knitting it up right away so I can enjoy it. But I do get anxious about my stash when things linger in there too long, so after about a year of marinating I'm ready to use even my most special yarn.

This summer, I made a Luna Viridis cowl from a skein of tosh sock in the Spectrum colorway that I had hidden away when my LYS stopped carrying yarn from madelinetosh:

I actually wasn't sure how I felt about this pattern before I started it, but I think it works perfectly with the Spectrum and I'm really happy with it - it does the yarn justice. And now I can take my Spectrum out and about instead of keeping it in a plastic bin.

Another special skein was some Habu Wrapped Merino that my boyfriend bought from Purl Soho on a business trip to New York. It was a thoughtful choice and beautiful yarn, so I wanted to make something to use it all up and show it off. I made a Clapo-Ktus:

This pattern uses the stitch pattern of the Clapotis scarf but the construction of the Baktus shawl, which has you increase until you've used about half your yarn, and then decrease, so in theory you have no leftovers. My shawl turned out really airy and pretty, and I basically have none of the yarn left, so my goals were accomplished.

I also had a one-of-a-kind skein of Serenity Silk Single from Zen Yarn Garden, in purples and oranges and blues - kind of a reddish-hued rainbow. It's a little outside my usual palette but it was such a pretty skein that I got it anyway. I wanted to find a pattern that would show off the colors but tone down any potential craziness, so I picked something simple but with an interesting construction: Pogona.

I like that it's not just a plain old triangle shawl, but it's still basic enough that the focus is on the yarn. And I think the panels of stockinette and reverse stockinette break up the colors just enough to keep the variegation from being too much.

Lunar Spectrum
Red Habu shawl

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Your own personal sweater

Earlier this year, the store where I work joined Amy Herzog's CustomFit LYS program, which means that we can set our customers up with a sweater pattern tailored exactly to their personal measurements, knitting gauge, yarn choice, and preferred style. When we announced the program, I still suffered from sweater anxiety, but I got to work right away on my own sweater. Here it is:

CustomFit offers several different choices for each of the elements of the sweater: neckline shape, sleeve length, hem length, edging style, and overall fit. The sweater I made is a close-fit, mid-hip length, scoop neck with elbow-length sleeves and 1x1 ribbing on all the edges. The yarn is Tor DK from Yarn Hollow, which I still squeeze longingly every time I pass it in the aisle.

As a novice sweater knitter, using CustomFit meant I didn't have to worry about whether my gauge was slightly off, or if there was any special tweaking I would know to do if I were more experienced, because it basically guaranteed me a sweater that would fit me. You need to be able to follow knitting instructions, not fear seaming, and know what kinds of garments you like, but those are not such huge hurdles.

CustomFit sweater #2 is still in the mental planning stages. I have a lot of conventional sweater patterns queued, and while it is possible to generate a CustomFit pattern and then add elements from another pattern, that is more adventurous than I want to be right now.

Oh, and did I mention that Amy Herzog herself stopped by our store to kick off our CustomFit program?

CustomFit sweater

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Soft Like Kittens socks

In my ongoing effort to make sure everyone in my family has at least one pair of hand-knit socks, I made these for my sister:

The pattern is By the Seine River by Dona Knits, and the yarn is Soft Like Kittens Noodle Sock in a prototype colorway. The creator of this yarn, Annette of Gentle Ribbing, has decided to take an indefinite break from hand dyeing, which makes me very sad. She has understandable reasons for her hiatus, but selfishly I was hoping Soft Like Kittens would be around forever because her colors are my favorite.

Here's another pair of socks I made with the same yarn base, in the Sashiko colorway, this time for my mom:

The pattern is Bowties are Cool by Mandie Harrington, and the stitch pattern makes tiny bowtie or butterfly shapes - nice texture for a variegated yarn, or a good way to add patterning to a solid color yarn.

And of course, I had a skein of Soft Like Kittens set aside for myself, too, in the Double Helix Sock base:

I used Becca Compton's Vinnland pattern for these. The original pattern is toe-up, which I try to avoid, so I knit them top-down instead. To keep things simple, I just followed the chart as written, so the leaves on my sock point in a different direction than on the original pattern. I'm really happy with how these socks turned out, and they feel great... I'll miss you, Soft Like Kittens...

Seine socks
Sashiko socks

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dragon wings

This is the Dragon's Rest Shawl (pattern by Abigail Phelps), obligingly modeled by my coworker. The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere, which feels just as good as it sounds.

I knit this shawl for a good friend who had some pretty serious surgery a few months before her birthday, so I thought she could use a special present this year. This was one of those projects where the pattern, the yarn (especially this colorway - Lucky Stone) and the recipient were clearly meant for each other, and I just had to bring them all together.

I like how this shawl is designed to be awesome dragon wings when you need them, but a pretty normal-looking, drapey shawl when you don't:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Twin blankets

Hello, blog! Long time no see! Since early April, I've acquired a pair of nephews, bought a house, and traveled a bit, and I've been knitting and crocheting the whole time, so there's a lot to catch up on.

But to resume with where I left off at my last post: baby boys! The twin nephews arrived in early April, ahead of schedule but mostly healthy (they're both doing fine now). I knitted them each a blanket:

I used the Walt Painted Chevron Baby Blanket pattern, by Danielle of fibre space, and Universal Yarn Cotton Supreme. The yarn is nice to work with, and it machine-washes wonderfully and feels amazingly soft afterwards. I used the same colors for each blanket, but varied the stripe order: one is blue and brown, with green at the opposite end, and the other is green and brown, with blue at the opposite end.

I was slightly worried that using so much white might make them seem to precious to actually use, but the blankets have made a few appearances in the twins' monthly photo sessions, so I'm happy their parents have found at least one use for them!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Teeny tiny baby socks!

Exciting news: my boyfriend's sister had twin boys earlier this month! To welcome the boys to life with a knitting aunt, the first thing I made for them were some socks.

Cozy Little Toes is a nice, free pattern by Judy Kaethler for making socks sized for newborns. I knit them using my leftover Soft Like Kittens sock yarn in Alpine Flora, which I used to make socks for myself last year. While I wouldn't have described this colorway as "babyish," I think it works really well for baby socks, and I love how it managed to make little stripes!

The nephews were born a bit early, so as tiny as these socks seem, it will be a while before they grow into them. Meanwhile, switching back to adult-sized socks after making these was a bit of a shock...

Baby socks

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meet Horatio

Once upon a time, during a discussion of mystery shawl knitting projects, someone's iPad auto-corrected the word "shawl" to "shark," and henceforth all mystery shawls were referred to as mystery sharks at my LYS. I have not joined in any mystery knit-alongs yet, but sharks do interest me, so I made Horatio.

The pattern I used to crochet him is Hector the Hammerhead Shark by Adriana Aguirre. It's a detailed pattern with plenty of photos - helpful in telling all of his fins apart. I did make one modification: the switch between the white and the gray parts happens at the beginning of each round, which makes the color change start to spiral around his body. To counter that, I just varied where I switched colors by a stitch or two every other round or so, so that I got a more-or-less straight line between his gray part and his white part.

Oh, and I also added a mouth, because a hammerhead shark has to have the little frowny mouth.

Horatio is my first crochet project using all new-to-me, fancier tools: an addi Swing hook, Uptown Worsted acrylic yarn, and Fiberloft polyester stuffing. It's been 6+ years since I started crocheting and I know I'm invested in this craft, so it felt like time for an upgrade. SO worth it - the new hook feels great and fits my crochet style perfectly, the Uptown Worsted acrylic is super-soft and feels almost like wool, and the Fiberloft stuffing is much fluffier and less clumpy than the kind I was using before.

Horatio spent several weeks hanging out at the yarn store and making friends, and he even got to model one of the mystery sharks shawls that a coworker made:

Monday, April 14, 2014

A long-delayed post about a long-delayed project

Hello! It seems fitting to end this unplanned blogging hiatus by writing about a project that I finished in November, but had to keep secret until a few weeks ago.

The LYS where I work has a holiday gift exchange tradition: we each put some stash yarn in a bag, then we randomly draw someone else's bag and make them a secret, awesome present with their yarn. So that we don't have to rush to get one more project done before Christmas, the gift exchange is usually scheduled for January. Except for this year, when a combination of travel and health issues pushed it back to March.

So, in October I drew Amy's bag, which contained sock yarn from Creatively Dyed Yarn. After poking through Amy's Ravelry favorites and her blog, I chose to make her a Cassis shawlette, which I finished in November. And then I finally got to give it to her a few weeks ago!

By that point, I felt like I needed to add something extra, since it had been months since I'd even thought about the gift exchange. So I crocheted a couple of Tiny Mousies that Amy can give to her kids - or keep for herself.

I made a number of minor modifications to the shawlette pattern that don't change its overall appearance, but made the knitting look and feel a little cleaner to me. The modifications are detailed on my Ravelry project page, if you're interested. And the mousies are made pretty much following the pattern, except I made their heads longer by one round.

Oh, and if you're interested in what I received in the exchange - I put in two skeins of The Fibre Company's Canopy Fingering, and got back two beautiful cowls made by Anna. Take a look!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Another Henslowe

I promised my sister a pair of socks (she will get them, at some point), but for her birthday this year I wanted to surprise her. Last year I made her the Grey Loop infinity cowl, which she seemed to like well enough, but which was for me a lesson in the downfalls of free patterns and super-growy alpaca. She admired my Henslowe shawl when she saw me wearing it over the holidays, so I made her one of her own, in a similar yarn.

I knit it in Zen Yarn Garden's Serenity Silk Single, a merino/cashmere/silk blend. It has nice drape and a bit of sheen, and I think it will be warm as well.

I almost never make the same pattern twice, so this is a statement on how much I love Henslowe. It's my go-to shawl to wear because it's both functional and beautiful. The garter stitch is warm and hugs the shoulders, the shape makes it easy to wear either traditionally or bandanna-style, and the lace is delicate and pretty without being fussy. And knitting this shawl is enjoyable too. The construction is a little unusual, but it's explained clearly, and the lace sections are really simple to knit but look deceptively detailed. I have the feeling that I'm not going to stop at two Henslowes.

(You might notice that this Henslowe has a bit less lace at the edge than the original pattern - I played yarn chicken, and things didn't look good, so I did two rather than four repeats of the Roman Stripe pattern. I like it a lot this way, and might actually use this modification again if I make another shawl for myself).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

January socks

I'm trying to use my sock yarn in the order it entered my stash, so first up for this year was my Strong Sock from Another Crafty Girl. I chose this colorway specifically for the Herbology Socks from the Unofficial Harry Potter Knits collection.

Everything was progressing at a good pace, so I decided to call these my January socks since I'd probably be done within the month. And then I had a huge project that left me no knitting time at all, and I didn't touch the socks for a few weeks. And then there were other knitting projects with deadlines. And then, finally, the Olympics started and I sat down and finished a sock and a half in a few evenings of tv-watching. All told, these socks took me six weeks - the longest ever!

This is no fault of the pattern, which I love. These are the first socks I've made more for the pattern than the yarn - usually I pick the yarn first, and find something interesting and generally simple to complement it. My January socks will definitely be for special occasions (occasions like wanting to put something pretty on my feet and sit around and gaze at them). Juniper found them so appealing that a sniff and a rub were not enough:

Don't worry, the sock (and my foot) was unharmed.

Friday, February 21, 2014

More winter gear

Despite how cold it's been this winter, since early February I've actually been pretty comfortable. Here is why:

I was craving something thick and smooshy to bundle up in, and Cristina Ghirlanda's Polonaise hat and cowl looked like they would do perfectly. I knit them in Cascade 220 Superwash Aran, a very affordable, wonderfully soft, and surprisingly non-pilly yarn. I've worn the hat and cowl nearly every day since I cast them off (and shoved them into bags and pockets in the mean time) and they have very little noticeable fuzz.

This project was speedy and enjoyable, and perfect for comforting myself in the middle of winter. I had fun with the cables but was glad to get both the hat and cowl finished within a week, because they have been even more satisfying to wear. Now I do not fear the cold!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

First FO of 2014

And here is the first project I finished in the new year. I had them all finished early in January, but then I was so busy that I didn't get a chance to photograph them until the end of the month. Sometimes it's hard to get my free time to match up with sunlight hours, especially in winter.

The pattern for these is called Rye, by Hanna Katajamäki. I followed the pattern pretty closely, except that I narrowed the width of each "ribbon" by two stitches, and made the button loops from a crochet chain instead of casting off stitches.

The yarn is Performa Kiwi Fingering from Zealana, and it's a blend of merino, cotton, and possum, which is why I call these my "possum mitts." It was a little tricky to work with as it was very splitty, but I do like the way it feels. It's very soft and warm, and knit up in stockinette, it almost feels like sweatpants material - in a good way.

It's the buttons that really make this project for me, though. When I saw these at my LYS, I was inspired to find a pattern to use them.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

For chilly fingers

You might have noticed that it's really, really cold. I'm pretty sure these are the coldest temperatures I can remember, and so I am inspired to wrap myself and everyone I know in yarn. In particular, I wanted to share my new-found appreciation of mittens with my boyfriend, who was complaining about cold fingers but was not sure mittens would be practical for him.

Solution: Chilly Podsters, by Glenna C. (or one of any number of convertible mitten/glove patterns on Ravelry, but I specifically wanted one with separate fingers). I knit them in Cascade 220, and stubbornly squeezed them out of a single skein, even though it meant shortening each mitten top by one row and spit-splicing my discarded ends together.

They turned out just like I wanted, though, and my boyfriend has been wearing them and said they are "awesome." Success!

Now I am knitting the thickest, wooliest things I can find for myself, because despite all my pretty shawls, I don't have any scarves or hats for me that are really, seriously, not-messing-around warm.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Socks That Rock

The LYS where I work is one of a few brick-and-mortar stores that carry yarns by Blue Moon Fiber Arts, including Socks that Rock. I had never tried StR before we brought it in, but many of my coworkers had, and I knew from Ravelry and the podcasts I follow that it has a big fan base.

I tend to be in the "sock yarn should have nylon" camp, so I was a little wary of StR's 100% superwash merino content, but my coworkers assured everyone with similar doubts that this yarn wears very well thanks to how tightly it's plied. So I bought a skein to try, and got around to knitting it this winter in between Christmas knitting.

I made Burning Rings of Fire by Kirsten Kapur, and it shows off the yarn beautifully (the colorway is Beach Glass). StR feels different than other sock yarns I've used - more dense and springy and almost rope-y - but I liked working with it and the finished socks feel very nice. They wear well, and they wash really well.


Currier & Ives

So I bought some more. As you do. I'm intending this to be my winter sock knitting for next year, since I have a lot of other sock yarn to try in the meantime... but my LYS keeps bringing in more and more colorways from Blue Moon and I'm pretty sure that this will not be the extent of my StR stash.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Last FO of 2013

Once my Christmas knitting was done, I chose Crooked Cathedral by Marisa Hernandez as the special project that I would make just for me. I knit it in madelinetosh tosh merino light, in the Jasper colorway, which I'd had sitting in my stash and intended for this shawl since the summer.

This was an enjoyable knit, easy but not brainless. I went with the larger option for the shawl body, since I was hoping to use as much of my two skeins of TML as possible, but just made the normal lace border because I'm not a huge fan of lots and lots of lace. I still have almost one whole skein of the TML left, so in hindsight I might have stuck with the normal shawl body size, too, but I have no complaints.

While I was knitting this pattern, I wondered whether it would be my last FO of 2013, or my first of 2014 - but I finished it on the afternoon of New Year's Eve. As evidence of how busy 2014 has already been for me, I can't blog yet about my first FO of this year, because I haven't found time to get good photos of it yte.