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Friday, August 1, 2014

Calystegia

I spend a lot of time on Ravelry.  Less than I use to, but I still keep it up in the background on my laptop at home and usually check in on the new "hot" patterns several times a week. I frequently find myself wondering about why some patterns become runaway hits and other seemingly equally-wonderful patterns don't really get off the ground. Calystegia Cowl by Lankakomero is a pattern that doesn't have a lot of love on Ravelry, despite being pretty wonderful.


This pattern is well written and an extremely fun knit. At $4.50 it's reasonably priced. I don't know why thousands haven't been made. It's a pattern I would seriously consider knitting again and I almost never re-knit patterns unless I'm making a gift that has been specifically requested. 

My mom asked me to knit her a cowl for Christmas 2012. I ran out of time, so she got a box with a lovely skein of Handmaiden Casbah Sock in colorway Saltspray and a promise that a cowl would soon follow. Soon was not exactly accurate, as I boxed up the finished cowl just in time for Christmas 2013.


It's tall enough to fully cover your neck and just loose enough not to make your feel like you're being choked. The Casbah is 80% merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon so it's amazingly soft and perfect for having right up next to your face. 

On of my favorite aspects of this cowl are the wrapped stitches that form the bottom of each shell. I'd never done anything like these wraps before and I really like the effect it gave this pattern.


I used about 60% of my skein of yarn, so unfortunately I won't be able to get a second cowl from one skein, but I may have enough left over for some coordinating fingerless mitts. Maybe I can get a jump on Mom's Christmas 2014 present...

Don't let the fact that this hasn't been made many times (according to Ravelry) fool you. This pattern is really wonderful! I don't know this designer or anything about her and I didn't get anything for this post, I just really like the pattern.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fraternal

Hand knit socks are one of the little luxuries that non-knitters don't get to experience (unless they have a knitter who loves them very much.) They are so comfy and warm and can be customized to fit perfectly. Then there's the endless variety of amazing sock yarns--pretty much any fiber blend and color you can hope for. Here is my latest pair (and by latest, I mean they were finished in October.)


Side note: taking pictures of your own feet takes an inordinate amount of body contortion. These are plain stockinette socks following the Yarn Harlot's Sock Recipe. As much as I like the look of fancy socks with cables and lace, and as interesting as they can be to make, my favorite socks to wear are the plain knit ones. 


These are knit with Patons Kroy Socks FX in the color way Clover Colors. By sock yarn standards this yarn is incredibly cheap (in price) and can be found in most of the big box stores like Michaels and Jo-Anns. It's a blend of 75% wool 25% nylon so its nice and sturdy. It's definitely not as buttery soft as the luxury yarns with cashmere, merino, etc. but its definitely fine for wearing on your feet. These feel like they will wear really well and after a full winter of wear I don't see any signs of weakening in the heels or balls where I tend to wear holes through my socks. 


I made no effort to try to make the colors match from one sock to the other. I just started each sock from the beginning of a 50g ball and let the colors line up as they may. With such a long color repeat and slow transition it would have been a real pain and really, I just don't care that much about having matched up socks. I think the fraternal pair is actually really cute. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Quicky

Sometimes, you just want to feel like you've accomplished something and finishing a knitting project can be just the thing. At times like that, it's nice to whip up a quick little project that you can take from start to finish in just a few hours. Marian is just the ticket.


Knit with super bulky yarn and size 19 needles this seed stitch cowl only takes about three hours. I love that it hangs a bit lower for a single-loop cowl. I don't like having things right up against my neck. 


Mine is knit with Malabrigo Rasta in colorway Azul Prfundo. I've always wanted to use Rasta for something, but it's hard to find a use for such a bulky yarn. I don't know that I would want a hat or traditional scarf out of such fat yarn. Mittens and slippers would be way too unwieldily. Something about this one-loop drapey cowl is just perfect for this nice fat yarn. I think it will be a popular go-to in the winter. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Garter garter garter garter garter...

I've mentioned in my last few posts (spread over 6 or so months... I know... I know...) that from about May of last year until two-ish months ago I really lost my knitting mojo. Lots of changes in my life certainly contributed--end of a big relationship, a move across town, old job that I hated to wake up to, new job that I do not hate but that is super challenging in other ways, another bar exam... by the time I got any alone time I would end up just holding my knitting but not actually creating any stitches.

I did not like that knitting had taken a major back seat in my life so I decided to try and change that. I decided that what I needed was something simple. Something so simple that I would normally never consider it. So simple that I could do it blindfolded, in the dark, with one needle tied behind my back. In short, I needed lots and lots of garter stitch with no shaping. Hello Garter Squish by Stephen West.


It's a blanket made with two strands of yarn held together, done on size 15 needles, entirely in garter stitch. Not to toot my own horn, but I could knit this dead. Which was exactly what I needed since that is exactly how I felt at the end of the day some times. I couldn't handle decreases. I couldn't handle increases. Or short rows. Or charts. But I could do the knit stitch, over and over, endlessly.


The pattern (yes there is actually a pattern) calls for two strands of worsted weight yarn to be held together to make a super bulky yarn. I held one strand of worsted and one strand of DK together because I am a rebel. The DK was Berocco Vintage DK all in the color Cracked Pepper. The blues are Berocco Vintage Worsted in Neptune, Tidepool, Emerald, and Breezeway. 


I used the highly sophisticated stripe technique of knit with one color until the ball is completely gone, begin using next color. I had two balls of each blue color, so once I went through the color repeat once, I just started over and did it again. Tres Modern. If it looks like some stripes are 19 garter ridges and others are 22, they are. I can deal. The double yarn combined with the garter stitch make this a super squishy blanket. It's also really really stretchy. Unstreched its about as wide as twin bed and maybe 2 feet longer, but it can stretch to gigantic proportions.  


I started in October of last year and finished just before Christmas. I gave it to Bob for Christmas 1) because he is my best friend and 2) because he only had one smallish blanket and if you are friends with me you need lots since I am perpetually cold. It gets used near daily and some of the end have worked their way out, so I need to give it a little TLC and weave them back in. Overall, I've been super pleased with the finished object and with the care and use I've seen it receive.

This project really helped get me knitting again when I had stopped almost completely. My productivity has been agonizingly slow compared to my usual, but I do find a little time most days to squeeze in a stitch or two. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bad pictures of a simple hat

Last fall, Bob asked me if I could knit a hat. I tried really hard not to get all ego-y, and I wanted to say "yes" but I may have scoffed a little and said that "hats are super easy." I'm like that. So Bob asked for a hat "with a band that folds."

I found some yarn in a suitable guy color (Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Graphite) and cast on for Jared Flood's Turn a Square. Except I sort of made my own version of the pattern. I did not do the tubular cast on, because that's a lot of work for what I feel like is a very minimal effect.  Also, I didn't do the stripes, because Bob wanted solid. Finally, I made the ribbing longer (4 inches) so that the brim could be flipped up.

I don't have any good pictures of this hat, but I have some bad ones. Here is a picture that does not show either the hat or the color to its best advantage.


Here is another bad picture where you can barely see the hat. It does prove that the hat has been worn out in the wild. 



Overall, there wasn't a lot that went into this hat in terms of skill or complexity, but Bob seems to like it, so we'll call it a win. Sorry for the crummy pictures. 



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Not exactly a mystery

I really love mystery knit-a-longs. For the uninitiated, a mystery knit-a-long is when a designer releases a pattern is stages (called "clues") and you don't get any pictures of the pattern in advance so you don't know what it looks like until you finish knitting all the clues. Usually you know the general type of item you are making--socks, shawl, hat, etc.--but nothing more.

I totally understand how many people HATE mystery patterns. Knitting takes time. Lots and lots (and lots) of time. Why would you devote a large portion of your free crafty time making something that might be completely not to your liking. I get that. I have nothing against people who refuse to participate in mystery patterns. I love them. I think it's because I am not necessarily after a finished item. I like to knit for the process of knitting. Getting a finished project at the end is almost like a bonus--I get the magic of knitting and happen to also end up with a hat. I don't have a strong emotional attachment to the object when I'm done with the knitting. I've given lots of things away that I wanted to knit, but knew I'd never wear. When I can't find a good home for something that I know I'm not going to wear, it goes to the Good Will. All of this is really just to say that I love mystery knits and don't mind if when I'm done it's not something I love.

Of course, if I do end up with something I love, all the better. The 2012 mystery hat pattern by Wolly Wormhead was amazingly fun to knit and also turned out to be a hat I love to wear.


Usually mystery patterns don't have a name until after the full pattern is released. This pattern got the name Encircle after they mystery ended. Sadly, I didn't knit this as a mystery. I bought the pattern, but I had just gotten my law license and was frantic with job searching, working as a contract drafter of legal documents, and had a full teaching schedule at the yarn shop I was working at. I watched the clues come and go without casting on. It was fun to watch the ladies in my knitting group progress through the mystery. I wish I had gotten the fun of wondering "what next." So it goes.


The first clue was the brim, which is actually a tube that you knit in the round and sew together when it is long enough to go around your head. Because you knit it as a tube, when then ends of the tube are sewn together it makes a double thick layer of fabric--perfect for keeping ears extra warm. I've also found that I love the smoothness of the stockinette brim as opposed to a traditional ribbed brim. 


The rest of the hat is a background of purls dotted with fun little cabled circles. The band fits nice and snug, but the body of the hat has a nice slouch to it. The decreases at the top happen really rapidly giving the hat the nice little puff ball look. The cables are small and I had no problem working them without a cable needle so I found that the project went very quick. 


The yarn I used is Knitted Wit Sport Superwash Falkland in the colorway Bobbin's Blue. I love how bright the color is. Perfect for the grey drizzly days we get so often during the Portland winter. It's also nice and soft. I was worried that it might feel a bit scratchy as falkland is a longer fiber and longer fibers tend to be "itchier." It's not. It's perfectly comfortable on my ears and forehead. The dyer for Knitted Wit actually lives in Portland and sells at many of the local shops. Her colors over the last two season have been amazingly rich and I would say that her color saturation rivals some of the big shots like Madelinetosh and Sweet Georgia (don't worry, my devotion to MT is still strong as ever, but it's nice to have options.) 

I'm hoping that as we head into summer (summer is just starting here in Portland) I'll be able to find a mystery knit-a-long or two that I can actually commit to knitting as the clues are published. Commuting for 1.75 hours each day on the train will help considerably if I can find one that doesn't involve lots of colors or a complicated chart. Know of any that are coming up?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Shapely

I know that when I focus I can knit up a sweater in 3 to 4 weeks depending on how complicated it is. I don't know why then I always end up spending at least 6 months to make one. I'm just not good with project monogamy. I know I would have more things to wear if I could focus on one project at a time, but I am fickle. (So maybe I do know why it takes me so long to finish things...) Here is my latests 6-month sweater.


That is Shapely Boyfriend by Stefanie Japel from the 2011 Deep Fall issue of knitty.  I taught a seamless sweater class on it at For Yarns Sake last spring and worked through it in advance of the class. The class focused on the shaping of the body, so I didn't bother to finish the sleeves before the class. Once the class was over it went into hibernation--hence the 6 months to finish.


The only alteration I made to the pattern was to shorten it. As designed, it's a below-the-bum sweater but I tend not to like that look unless it's a looser coat-style. For something I'm going to wear all day as part of an outfit it prefer waist-length styles. Because I shortened the cardigan I made fewer button holes than called for. Other than that, I knit this exactly to pattern.


The yarn I used is Malabrigo Rios in the colorway Teal Feathers. I did not behave like a good knitter and alternate skeins. If I were teaching I would tell all my students that the must alternate skeins, but in my own personal knitting, I take risks. Luckily my skeins were very well matched and I didn't end up with any striping. I used just under 5 skeins, but if I had made it as long as recommended I would have needed to break into a 6th.

The yarn is super soft and I love that I can just throw it in the washing machine and dryer. The magic of superwash. I love it. The buttons were cheap ones I got a Jo-Anns, but they work really well with the sweater I think. I finished back in August, so it didn't get a lot of wear right off the needles. This past winter it saw a lot of wear though. It's experienced some mild pilling, but nothing surprising for a 100% merino yarn, and nothing my sweater stone can't easily take care of.

My current knitting continues at a snails pace, but I still have a backlog of projects from last year that I can show you.