Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Love/Hate Hat

First off, what do you think of the new look?  I'm still deciding.  It's a much happier look than the old brown.  It makes me smile, but doesn't that sort of counteract the grump-theme that is my blog/life?  Weigh in.

Second, Spring Breeze, which I introduced to you last time, is live on Ravelry!  I debated whether or not to charge for it.  Part of me thinks that no one will want such a simple project designed by me, a totally unknown loser-hack.  The other part of me got all indignant at those thoughts and told myself that I worked hard to put it together, spent time considering each element, carefully wrote out the instructions, tried to lay them out in a way that would be accessible to any knitter (as opposed to the indecipherable scribbles I knit my test version from), organized a test-knit, charted, graphed, and did math... that's got to be worth something.  I settled on $2.



Even if you don't have a Ravelry account, you can buy it by clicking this link and using paypal.

Third, the love/hate hat.


This is my second Jacques Cousteau Hat, the first is here.  I hate knitting this hat.  The pattern is totally fine, there's nothing wrong with it, it's easy to follow, it's exactly what you'd expect to find from a ribbed hat pattern.  The hatred is entirely personal.  Also, possibly my fault.  Both times I've knit this pattern, which calls for DK weight yarn, I've used worsted weight but continued to use the recommended size 4 needles because I wanted a "dense" fabric... Read "dense" and finger-numbing, wrist-pain inducing, impossibly tight stitches of death.  I know, I did it to myself, but it still created an intense feeling of hate.

I knit this one holding two strands of Pattons Kroy Sock held together.  The colorway is called "Gentry Grey."  I would call it "Nothing-Speical Grey" but maybe that's just the hate from the project carrying over. 

The reason this hat holds such sway over more than 2,000 knitters is probably the way the decreases spiral at the top.  (That, and it qualifies as "manly.")


The decreases are worked by knitting two stitches then passing one stitch over the other.  The stitch that has been passed over then strangles the other stitch making it nearly impossible to knit on the next row.  Normally I love doing increases/decreases because they break up the monotony of straight knitting, but I dreaded each of these.

Where is the love? you ask.  The hat is for Ryan.  He's even modeling it, which is why you get so much hat and so little model in the picture... camera-shy that one.  Ryan loves this pattern.  I knit it for him once before.  He wore it non-stop during the end of winter/beginning of spring last year, then sadly lost it just as fall was turning to winter this year.  (Yes, I totally still measure my time in school years.  I can't comprehend the beginning of the year being in January, my new years start in September thank you very much.  Such is the life of a perpetual student.)  He was very sad about the loss.  To cheer him up I went to the stash, dug out some more gray yarn and cast on.  There's the love.  I hate this pattern, but Ryan's a pretty wonderful dude and I knit it for him again and again. (With a bit of under-breath muttering.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My first pattern!

Hi all.  I'm really excited to show you this today!  It's the first pattern I've designed!  I call it Spring Breeze Shawl.


I designed it because Yarnia is going to start offering a class on knitting triangle shawls and I'm going to teach it.  I can't tell you how excited I am about this! (Though the exclamation points might be giving you a clue.)  I kept the pattern mostly stockinette because the class will be focusing on basic construction elements.  This would be a great first shawl/lace pattern because it's geared toward beginners.


This sample will be living at Yarnia, hopefully generating interest in the class.  It was knit from less than one cone of one of the Yarnia house blends called Noni.  The yarn is two strands gray merino, two strands soft almost-white-but-really-seafoam-green merino, one strand lavender rayon, and one strand lurex to give it a little sparkle.


I'm currently looking for people to test knit the pattern, so if you're interested leave me a comment and I'll shoot you a free copy of the pattern for you to check my work.  It takes ~ 350 yards of fingering weight yarn (any cone of Yarnia sock yarn should work) and size 8 needles.  The finished shawl is about 48" wide by 22" deep.  I think the big swath of plain knitting would be good for variegated yarn because the stitch counts across the row change so fast it should combat pooling and the lace at the bottom is simple enough that it wouldn't be overpowered by a strong yarn.


Once this has been tested and I'm fairly sure there are no glaring mistakes I'll put it up on ravelry and come back and add a real life pattern link.  SQUEE!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Backpack project

I like to keep a very simple project in my backpack all the time.  That way if I have a weird half hour block of time that's not really good for working, I can pull it out and get some knitting done.  (Or if I'm really stressed, I can blow off steam knitting in lieu of studying, which strangely enough does reduce the stress.)  These backpack projects take a long time to complete because they only get a little work done on them at a time, they usually only get worked on on school days, and I don't have spare time every school day.  My last backpack project was Ryan's blue beanie and it took about a month and a half to finish.  Here is my new backpack project:


Please ignore the chipped toenail polish, it has not been sandal weather and so I have not been vigilant.  It's a plain sock in a Yarnia house blend called Boylston.  This is an extremely popular house blend.  It's one strand of navy bamboo (50%), one strand of navy merino and one strand of bright blue merino (27%), and one strand of gray alpaca (23%).  As you can see it makes a great dark heathered blue and is a color that could totally be used to make man things.  (I usually tag plain socks with the Yarn Harlot's Sock Recipe pattern, even though I don't really "follow" it, I just make a sock.  Cast on a number of stitches that seems reasonable, knit some ribbing, knit until I think the leg is long enough, flap heel, gusset, knit until 2" before toes, shape toes.  Since this is basically what the Yarn Harlot pattern is, I tag it for convenience.)   

I have several requirements for backpack projects.
1) It must be small enough to fit in the front pouch of my backpack.
2) It must not require me to look at a pattern, read a chart, or count rows/stitches.
3) It must be a pattern I can knit without looking; this includes garter stitch, stockinette stitch, ribbing,   and things like seed/moss stitch which are basically just ribbing so long as you know where to start.
4) There can't be any shaping, and I should not have to pay attention to what row I'm on.

Given these criteria some projects can go from being backpack projects to not at various stages.  A project may start out small enough to be a backpack project then grow too big.  Ryan's blanket was once a backpack project, now it takes up my whole living room floor.  A project may have a pattern or shaping only a certain times.  This project was in my backpack for the whole leg, but had to come out until the heel and gusset were finished because that involved counting rows and paying attention to decrease placement.  Now they'll stay in the backpack until it's time to shape the toe.  Do you have a take-everywhere project?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quickie (HA!) scarf

This scarf is supposed to be really quick to crochet.  I think for a normal crocheter it would be pretty quick... I'm on the slow side.  I also think that for a slowish crocheter who practices some degree of project monogamy it would be quick.  Monogamy (toward fiber projects) is impossible not my strong suit.  So here is my quickie scarf, completed in just under three months. 


The patter, which is super easy, is here on the Yarnia blog.  I used on cone of a Yarnia house blend called Union.  It is comprised of one strand of honey brown plushy rayon chenille, one strand of shimmery gold rayon, and two strands of honey brown wool.  I just worked until I didn't have enough yarn to do another full repeat.  (I know it's the kind of pattern that you can stop in the middle of a repeat, but that just feels weird.)


This give a pretty accurate picture of the depth of color the three different materials/colorways give the finished project.  This scarf is super plushy due to the combination of the chenille and the natural plumpness of crochet.  Sadly, while just a few weeks ago we had freezing temps, the weather has warmed here (of course it got warm, I just finished a scarf) and I don't know if I will get to wear this before next winter...  I'm always finishing projects such that I get to wear them the season after I finish them, never right away.  Sigh.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This project was very nearly frogged back into a pile of kinky and forlorn yarn. Not because it's not pretty. Look at it!


This is Damson by Ysolda Teague. Her patterns are so adorable. I've also made her Ishbel shawl (who hasn't.) The yarn is String Theory Caper Sock in colorway Didgeridoo. This yarn is a luscious 80% merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon blend. And the colors, as you can see, are amazingly deep and complex.


Why then, you ask, would I come so close to frogging this? Because I ran out of yarn on the second to last row. You see, the patterns calls for one skein of Malabrigo sock yarn. I took this to mean that any 100g of fingering weight sock yarn should be sufficient. WRONG. Malabrigo Sock has 440 yards per skein. Caper Sock has 400 yards per skein. Those 40 yards matter. Don't be arrogant! If you are making this pattern, make sure you have all yardage required.


How is it that I managed to finish, you ask. Did I lay down $25 for another skein? No. That would, in effect, make this a $50 scarf, and I'm not OK with that. I went on ravelry and looked at all the projects that had been made with this yarn. Then I narrowed the search to just this colorway. Then I contacted people who had recently completely projects with this colorway and begged for their yarn scraps. CraftyPancakes totally came through for me. She made these super cute socks and had some leftovers, which she kindly sent me. It was just enough to get me to the end. I love her this week.


Here it is all pinned out. I mostly wear it like in the second picture--wide part in front, tails pulled around the back and hanging down the front. It's so soft and squooshy that I love having it up against my neck/face. It even smells good (that may be the SOAK.)


I just think this picture's pretty.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Yarn Crawl part 2

Yesterday I covered the first 6 stops on my adventure participating in the Portland Yarn Crawl, today you get to hear about the last 6. This should be a shorter post since as the day went on I had to move faster through the shops... believe it or not there is such a thing as wool-overload and by the end of the day I definitely had it.

Stop 7: Make One in Milwaukie, OR (yes Wisconsinite friends out here they spell it with ie instead of ee, it drove me nuts the whole first year I was here.) The yarn selection here was extremely picked over by the time I got here (around 3:00) I don't know how the managed to get through the whole weekend unless they were rationing their stock.

Make One does happen to be one of the stores that was chosen by Knit Picks to carry the Knit Picks needles--apparently KP is testing out having their needles carried by LYSs. This is awesome! I often feel like I want more cables or a certain needle tip size but don't want to pay for shipping on such a small order. I got nickle-plated tips in size 7 and 8 and more 24" cords. I also picked up the KP needle sizer. No pictures of those, go to the KP site if you really need to see what their needles look like. (I am not responsible for any money you spend if you click that link.)

Stop 8: Pico Accuardi Dye Works. This isn't actually a shop in the strictest sense. It's the studio where two local dyers create amazing hand-dyed yarn and roving which they sell on consignment through other local shops. For the crawl they opened up the studio (and offered 20% off everything purchased there) for knitters to come see their workspace. I bought this roving.


It had no label (that freshly dyed!) so I can't tell you what it's officially called. I've been calling in Blueberry because that's what it reminds me of. It's 4 oz. of 100% Blue Faced Leicester roving. It's so fluffy! Sometimes roving comes all squished down and dense from the dying process that you have to fluff it up and pre-draft a bit before it's easy to spin. This feels like I can pop it on the wheel and begin.

Stop 9: Knit/Purl. I don't love Knit Purl. They carry some good lines (they have the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter!) but it's in the Pearl District (which is sort of a fancy boutique-y neighborhood near downtown Portland) and I usually feel like my smaller purchases are frowned on--like I should always be buying $100s in yarn. Really, I would if I could, but you don't need to ask me "Is this all for today?" while looking down your nose at my single skein of sock yarn, then rolling your eyes when I say yes. It's a yarn crawl for goodness sake! I went to twelve shops! How much do you want me to spend in your shop before you are nice to me?! Here's the offending single skein.


It's Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in colorway Grove. It's that scummy yellow-green-brown that I seem to have been obsessed with on Friday. Lest you think I'm nuts, this one is more green, the Smooshy from yesterday is more yellow and the Eco + from yesterday doesn't have the "scum" quality... that makes them all completely different.

(You might be thinking: Why if you know you don't like Knit/Purl and they have *&^$%# customer service, did you go there and spend money? The raffle baskets that's why. I wanted my shot at a giant basket stuffed full of yarn-y goodness. As for why I spent the money, it IS a yarn store. When you walk in it's full of yarn. The desire to have the yarn competes mightily with the desire to shun the business. It's hard for me to feel bitter around that much wool. It's only after leaving the shop that the rudeness hits me and I realize that, while it is full of yarn, I don't like those people and can get equally good yarn elsewhere. I figure I won't be back till next year's yarn crawl so it's not like I'm the one keeping them open.)

Stop 10: Urban Fiber Arts. This is the only shop (that I've found) with a truly GOOD selection of spinning materials. They also carry yarn--really nice yarn--but I love them for the spinning selection. I got some fiber. This is the last of my fiber purchases from the day. I spin even more slowly than I knit so this should hold me for quite a while.


This is Black Trillium Fibre Studio Blue Faced Leicester Roving. The colorway is called Emerald City. If you know of my obsession with the Wizard of Oz, you know that once I saw the name of the color I could not resist it. I've never actually spun with BFL (though my collection is growing) I basically went from Targhee to a Merino/Silk blend and a Merino/Yak blend. It will be interesting trying to go back to a long-staple fiber.

Stop 11: Dublin Bay Knitting Company. This store has a lot of luscious fibers and lots of good crisp rustic wool that makes you feel like you should be knitting ski sweaters or a gansey. It's not the most budget friendly shop though, you're pretty much looking at laying down over $100 for a bigger project (there is NOTHING wrong with this, I would do it all the time if I could, I just can't... pout.) I did manage to find these though:



That's Frog Tree Merino Worsted. The first one is colorway Charcoal, the second is Teddy. This is a single-ply merino. I'm thinking it will make good hats (I have a man who loves beanies) or fingerless mitts for me. Most of my yarn tends to be very colorful so adding some neutrals to the mix is a good thing.

Stop 12: For Yarn's Sake. I love this shop. I go here all the time. It's dangerous that it is literally right down the road from me. The customer services was a bit dodgy at first (I think I get more bad service than most people because I am young and sometimes where a big hoop nose ring... maybe some people think that makes me look unknitterly... I think this is Portland and I look way more conservative that many local crafters. The shop is in Beaverton though, so maybe they don't get the full brunt of the eclectic Portland crowd.) Now that I've been going there for quite a while they know me and are great. They always check in on what I'm working on, ask me what I'm planning, and remember what I said I was working on the last time I was there.


This is Nashua's Best Foot Forward sock yarn. The color is called summer sunset. It's from the color line designed by Kristin Nicholas. It looks nice and fallish, totally appropriate for knit socks. I showed Ryan and he said "ew" and threw the ball. I think you have to have a certain personality type to like pea green.


This bit of magic is Fleece Artists Peter Rabbit in colorway Ivory. It's exactly as fluffy and amazing and squishably soft as it looks. I made the fatal mistake of brushing past this on my way to the sock yarn and as soon as it touched my bare arm it was over. I picked it up and didn't put it down. I had a hard time handing it over so that it could be rung up... what if the sales lady felt it and decided not to give it back? She did. Now it's mine and I have to puzzle over just the right project for it. It has to be perfect.


The best for last. (It was really hard to decide if this beat the Peter Rabbit, but I think it does by the tiniest photo-finish-type margin.) This is String Theory Caper Sock in color Tavikki. I just finished my Damson (I will blog it soon) out of this yarn in a different colorway. This yarn is amazing to work with. It has amazing stitch definition. It's sproingy and wonderful in that way that only wool is. It's super soft from the merino/cashmere. The colors are so rich and deep. It smells good. It blocks amazingly. In shawl-form it drapes amazingly.

I would compose a love letter to this yarn if I wasn't afraid someone would have me locked up. (Also, it might start some insane conservative vitriol about how if we go around allowing gay marriage, the next thing you know, crazies in Portland will be demanding to marry their yarn and we don't want to start down such a slippery slope... I am related to many of these whacked people, I know how they reason. Better not to give them any ammunition.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Portland Yarn Crawl

This past weekend was the Portland Yarn Crawl. It's exactly what it sounds like--a bunch of crazed knitters hopping from yarn shop to yarn shop and getting drunk on yarny-goodness. There were 20 (yes TWENTY!) yarn shops in the greater Portland that participated this year. The point was to try to get to all the shops in one weekend. Each shop had a basket full of awesome goodness that they raffled off (no, I didn't win) and most of the shops had special sales and door prizes going on as well.

I had to work at Yarnia (it was packed!) on Saturday and Sunday so I had to get all my crawling done on Friday. I hit TWELVE shops in one day. It was amazing! There was so much yarn (and I bought bunches of it) and so many knitters. If you don't want to see what I got, stop reading. This post is all about the new stash I acquired.

Stop 1: The Naked Sheep. I got this bag. I can't believe how cute it is. I love the color, I love the sheep, it's wonderful. The shop was small, and the selection was small, and this bag is blatant advertising for the shop (which was only a mediocre shop) it's so cute that I just don't care if I lead people there unintentionally, at least they can get a super cute bag.


And this Elsebeth Lavold Baby Llama (it's so soft!) I'm thinking a slouchy beret type hat. Or a cowl. I don't know. I think Alpaca is super soft on the skein but next to my skin sometimes it drives me nuts. Since llamas seem pretty close to alpaca a cowl might be risky. We shall see, I may throw caution to the wind.


Stop 2: Close Knit. I got this yarn. It is called BFF B Sock. The color is called Anzu (which means apricot.) It is hand-dyed by a woman in Vancouver, WA (just across the river from Portland) and it's so springy and happy and it was a gray drizzly day and I could not let go of this yarn once I picked it up. The dyer was there and I chatted with her and she was wonderful and you should check out her etsy shop.


I also got this Malabrigo, colorway Cypress. It's malabrigo, do I need to justify this purchase any further? Ryan has already claimed it as "beanie yarn" (the man loves beanies). It's greener than it looks in the picture--basically a black-green (such colors can't normally exist but in Malabrigo they can.)


Close Knit is one of those yarn shops that's stuffed with yarn. There's so much yarn that there's not much room for people (especially on a day where all knitters in the greater Portland area are out hunting yarn) It's all the way across town from me, but if I lived closer I would probably stop by to pet the yarn frequently, it's basically jumping out begging to be petted.

Stop 3: Gossamer. This isn't what I would call a "yarn shop" in the strictest sense. It's more of a "craft shop." It's got a little bit of everything. I do mean a little bit. Very small selection. They do have fiber though and there are not that many shops that carry spinning fiber (which is weird since it feels like there are a ton of spinners in Portland.) I was one of the first 20 customers so I got this skein of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece as a door prize. It's a good thing I like pink. I think I'm going to make one of the Rebecca Danger Monsters with it.


I bought this fiber. It's 3 little 1.5 oz batts of corriedale wool in a natural-undyed brown. I'm going to try to spin it for socks. We shall see if I can make a nice Navajo-plied 3-ply.


Stop 4: Twisted. The sock yarn wall is pretty impressive (it is an entire wall covered in luscious hand-dyed sock yarn.) Maybe this store has just been so built up by all the ravelry hype about it, but I was sort of disappointed. I was expecting some sort of knitting Mecca based on the way I've heard this store described by adoring patrons, but really I didn't think it was any more special than some of the other perfectly wonderful shops I hit. That didn't stop me from picking something off the sock yarn wall though. This is Dream in Color Smooshy in colorway Strange Harvest. I'm always so drawn to this scummy yellow-green-brown color. I think it's pretty and ugly at the same time.


Stop 5: Happy Knits. Easily my favorite stop on the crawl. This really is a happy place. It's a very good thing I don't live closer--they only carry the pricey stuff. Here I got Stephen West's new pattern book. West Knits Book Two. I also spent about 15 minutes gushing with the man behind the counter about how awesome Stephen West is and how amazing his patterns are. Oh, and I bought this.


A cardigan's worth of Cascade Eco + in colorway Butternut Squash. Can you see what kind of a color mood I was in on Friday?

Stop 6: Yarn Garden. I've decided I don't really like Yarn Garden. This is the second time that I've been there, and each time the shop has felt very unwelcoming. That didn't stop me from buying something though. This is... I'm not quite sure, the label is in German. It seems to say Järbo Garn Gästrike 1-ply. I can tell that it is 100% wool and that it is 600 meters of laceweight.

That is half of my adventure. I will post about the second half later in the week. If you found this post incredibly dull, don't bother reading that one either.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Test Knit Mitts

In February I was given the great privilege of being able to test-knit Anna Sudo's new pattern Spiral Staircase Mitts. The pattern is exceptionally well written. Even though the pattern is intuitive after the first few rounds, Anna has each round carefully written out so that if you think you might be lost (or if you are constantly picking up and setting down projects like I am) you can easily find exactly where you are. Here are the palms of the mitts.


As you can see, these are long mitts, that go about halfway up the forearm. The 1x1 twisted ribbing is slowly replaced with stockinette in a spiral created with simple YOs and decreases. (As usual, the Portland spring has supplied no sunshine for picture taking so you get nasty inside fluorescent light photos.) The spiral continues around to the back of the hand and stops under your pinkie finger.


One of the things I really like about these mitts is how far up your fingers they go (especially for me since I have small fingers.) It provides maximum warmth while still allowing your fingers to be free. I did find that it was hard to type while wearing them because they don't allow your fingers to spread out far enough, but my solution to this was to simply fold the top down while typing.


One of the things I don't really like about these mitts is that the YOs on the left mitt make very large holes, whereas the YOs on the right mitt make very small almost invisible holes. I think this is because on one mitt they are placed before the decrease and on one mitt they are placed after the decrease. I don't really like holes in my mitts (seems impractical to me) so If I made these again, I would probably correct this by doing all the increases with a backward-loop M1 which would produce no holes at all.

My mitts are made from Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in colorway Bittersweet Heather which looks black in some lights and brown in others. It's leftover from the Into the Woods kit. I decided that I'm not making the mitts that came with the kit, so the extra yarn will be cannibalized as attractive projects present themselves. I used 1.5 skeins for these mitts.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Beanie

Not too long ago I ordered a skein of hand-painted sock yarn that I thought looked pretty awesome online. When I got it, it was much less impressive in person than it had looked online. Ravelry to the rescue, I just went to the Knit Picks board (it was one of the Knit Picks handpainted colorways) and offered up my skein for a comparable amount of sock yarn in a different color. I was offered one of the discontinued kettle-dyed colors and made the swap.

Ryan was around when the new skein arrived and fell instantly in love with the color. Basically as soon as it was out of the envelope he was asking me if I could make a beanie for him using it. This is the result.


Ryan is blog-shy so only his forehead is appearing today. The pattern is Ski Beanie by Terra Jamieson and is in the Son of Stitch 'n Bitch book. The yarn is Knit Picks Essential Kettle-Dyed (discontinued) in color Jay.

Ryan flips the bottom of the hat up to have a folded brim. I would wear this type of hat like this to get maximum ear coverage:

Photo on 2011-02-21 at 00.59 #2

Please excuse the crappy webcam photo, the angle makes my head look huge, and the lighting is terrible, but the point is, the hat also works as a no-brim beanie as well.

I altered the patter quite a bit since it's written to be knit flat and in DK weight and I wanted it to be knit in the round in fingering weight. I cast on enough stitches for 5 extra pattern repeats (as the hat is decreased in 5 sections) and dropped my needle down to a size 1 for the 1x1 ribbing and 1.5 for the body of the hat. (Side note: it takes FOREVER to knit a hat out of fingering weight yarn on size 1 needles. At least it feels like forever when you're used to the speed of a worsted weight beanie that can be worked up in an evening.)

Since this is a super simple two-row pattern is was easy to change the rows that originally would have been wrong-side rows into right-side rows for knitting in the round. I followed the decrease directions as written except that I had one extra pattern repeat between each marker so I had to do more decrease rounds.


This in-progress picture really shows off the kettle-dyed nature of the yarn. I was worried at first because it looked like I hadn't made it wide enough, but I blocked it over a balloon (the BEST way to block hats!) and it loosened up nicely and fits wonderfully now. Ryan has confessed that on the 1-10 scale of warmness it's only about a 3 (um yeah, it's fingering weight) but on the 1-10 scale of looking-good it's an 8. I know most of the credit goes to the awesome color of the yarn, but as the knitter I'm claiming that 8 for myself.