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


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.