Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Work-In-Progress Wednesday #15

Since I've been hard at work busting out a couple of secret designs for an upcoming e-book for Afghans for Afghans, I don't have much I can show you this week. However, I have been doing a bit of knitting on my  Star Athena Mystery KAL project (look away if you don't want to be spoiled!):






BMFA De-Vine, colorway Smokey Mountain Morn
I've missed knitting with the lovely yarn that I gushed about last week, so I'm very happy the final clue came out yesterday. I also think I found the perfect buttons for the cowl. They are somewhat misshapen silvery ones that are funky enough for the style of the cowl but plain enough to complement the crazy stitch patterns well. I bought them at Love 2 Knit (formerly known as Unwind), one of the local yarn stores that are within minutes of the new apartment I'll be moving to in a few days (which I am embarrassingly excited about, btw). While I was there, I couldn't resist picking up a little yarn, too:

These are The Fiber Company Acadia, colorways Driftwood and Blue Heron (60% Merino wool, 20% alpaca, 20% silk). I love how soft and light they are, and the silk slubs give them a fun, tweedy texture. I think they might become a colorwork cowl someday, like Gyre by Elizabeth Elliott (when I get brave enough to try real colorwork, that is).

Any fun new yarn finds for you? How about good colorwork cowl pattern recommendations? Don't forget to check out more WIPs by clicking the image below!

Monday, November 26, 2012


Our new apartment complex allows us to paint one wall in each room as an 'accent wall'. It seems a little silly that we can't do the whole room, but I'm just glad to have the option to paint at all! So of course I went a little crazy trying to pick colors. The Fiasco and I finally settled on these (the coins indicate the ones we chose):
The yellow will go in the kitchen, which has grey countertops and tiles, so I think it will compliment nicely (and the Fiasco was surprisingly dead-set on having a yellow kitchen). The green will go in the living room and the teal will go in both of the bedrooms. If we have leftover paint, we might do some yellow and green stripes along the top of the wall in the bathroom, too. I'm not entirely sure how all these colors will look with the mauve/beige-ish carpeting everywhere but I am just so excited to have happy colors in my home that I don't really care!

We're going to do some stenciling, too! In the kitchen, we're going to paint some dandelions:
From Cutting Edge Stencils webpage.
Probably in white. And then the master bedroom will have an all-over pattern on the wall which will look a lot like this:
Photo from Cutting Edge Stencils webpage.
It might take a little while before we get around to doing the stenciling because we'll have to wait for weekends when I don't have other things to do, but I think it's going to be awesome. I'd also like to do a vine design of some kind along the top of the living room walls, but haven't found a good stencil for that yet. There might be some large paisley or damask stencils done in the second bedroom, too, still thinking about it. Have you done any stenciling or seen some that you like? I'd appreciate any painting tips!

We also went to Joann's Fabrics and ordered some fabric for curtains. Our new place has a ton of windows and to purchase curtains to cover all of them would've come close to $200. For less than half that price we bought enough fabric for the Fiasco to make curtains himself. His mom taught him to sew when he was a hyperactive little kid needing something to do and it's sure come in handy! He used to make costumes for theater groups in high school and he'll occasionally go on a sewing bender and make a giant quilt or two, which I think is pretty cool. Since I never learned to use a sewing machine, I love having a fiance who knows his way around one and I'm excited to see what he makes. And of course, any curtain-making tips would be appreciated!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Inspiration Saturday #1

I've decided to start posting patterns, designs, ideas, yarns, and/or projects that inspire me every Saturday. Most of the posts on this blog are about things that inspire me but this way such posts will 1) be a bit more structured (and guarantee that I post at least once a week!) and 2) allow anybody else who'd like to join in to do so. At the bottom of these posts will be a place for you to link to your own 'Inspiration Saturday'-themed post, which I know I'd love to read!

As a general rule, I find every single design published through Twist Collective inspiring. But for today I will try to limit my effusions of admiration to three designs from the most recent Winter 2012 edition.

Design #1:

Photo from Ravelry pattern page.
This is Berwick, a wonderfully stylish aran-weight pullover designed by Kristen Rengren.This sweater is a great example of how a few carefully placed details turn something fairly simple and into something fantastic. That giant brioche rib cowl collar with contrasting buttons really makes this piece, and the front pocket doesn't hurt, either. When I look at this picture, I instantly want to be wearing that sweater. Plus, it seems like it would be flattering on many figures, which means there's a pretty good chance I'll get around to trying to make it someday!

Design #2:
Photo from Ravelry pattern page.
This fingering-weight hat and mitten set is called Chamomile, designed by Rachel Coopey. I am often inspired by colorwork projects knit in fine yarn, perhaps because I'm still working up the determination to try to attempt such a project. Whatever the reason, it's undeniable that fine-gauge colorwork has a great wintery feel to it, and these designs fit right in with that. I also like the delicate look of this colorwork pattern in particular, it reminds me of lace doily edgings which I think is pretty unique.

Design #3:
Photo from Ravelry pattern page.

This DK-weight cardigan is Picard, designed by Marnie MacLean. This is another garment with a basically simple shape but with a few really great details that make it stand out. I love the inverted V with the lines of twisted stitches traveling down the front of the cardigan. I'm not sure I'd be able to pull this look off, the angles of the V might not hit my bust correctly and the vertical lines might draw a little more attention than I'd like to the belly region, but I love it on the model nonetheless. Marnie posted about her rather dorky inspiration for this design on her blog, if you're interested. I know I love reading about how designs are born.

I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at Inspiration Saturday. Please join in and spread the word! What's inspired you lately?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Work-In-Progress Wednesday #14

Is it just me, or did today feel more like Friday than Wednesday? Hello, 4-day-weekend, am I glad to see you! I'm totally not complaining. Wanna see some WIPs?

Ever More Ribbons:
Malabrigo Yarn Rios, colorway Azules
That is a terrible photo of the knitting but an adorable photo of Darwin, so I kept it. Thanks to an extra-long conference call today, I finished one of the pair of my Beribboned Wrists and started the second. These are my leave-at-work knit because they are simple and I can just knit a row here and there when I have a second without messing anything up. I anticipate having a pair of these on the needles continuously for a while, people have been chatting them up on facebook and I'm being convinced to open an Etsy shop and sell them... but probably not until after the new year. Too many deadlines!

Dragonfly Fibers Traveller, colorway Riptide
In addition to the secret knitting I 'showed' you last time, I have another secret design on the needles using yarn from Dragonfly Fibers. Kate uses similar yarn bases as The Verdant Gryphon and Cephalopod Yarns and is another Maryland-based indie dyer. I don't know what they put in the water down in Maryland but it sure makes for some talented and creative fiber artists with great color sense, and I'm grateful for it!

Mystery Cowl:
SPOILER ALERT: If you are taking part in Star Athena's Mystery Cowl KAL and don't want to be spoiled, you should probably stop reading now. (Bye!)

BMFA De-Vine, colorway Smokey Mountain Morn
This was a total impulse project. I saw the post about the mystery KAL, knew that I liked Star's sock design I'd recently knit, had been thinking about making myself a new cowl, and once I heard the word "discount" (10% off the yarn with purchase of the pattern) I jumped at the chance to justify trying this new-to-me bulky yarn: De-Vine from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The yarn is crazy cool and different from anything I've knit with before.

Here's the website description:
    "Thirty six singles spun fine then 2 plied, then 4 plied, then take 8 of those sets of 4 ply and twist. DeVine!  Soft with a bounce and spring. DeVine takes color like our sock yarn, all bright and glorious."

How crazy is that, right? It has a dense, almost velvety texture. It's really nice. And the pattern is simple and fun so far. It involvs linen stitch and herringbone stitch, both of which are pretty rough on the hands (especially on size 15 needles!) but work so well with the variegated colorways of Blue Moon that it's worth it. You can read more about the KAL in Star's Ravelry group.

One more beauty shot...
That's most of the knitting I'm actively working on right now. I'm looking forward to some seriously focused knitting-and-blog-reading time this weekend, I feel so behind! I normally travel to Long Island for the holiday but the Fiasco and I are staying in CT this year. We'll spend Thanksgiving with his family and then spend the rest of the weekend packing our apartment up because we'll be moving to RI the following weekend! It's not a very far move but it is an exciting one because it means we 1) gain about 400 square feet of space (yaaaaaay) and 2) lose 45 minutes off my current commute (double yaaaaay). While I'll miss seeing my family very much, it will be good to get ahead on things around here. I hope you all have a good holiday!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lickity Split

Hello, folks! I'm going to be blogging quickly today because I'm on a deadline but I've missed thinking/talking/writing about knitting so here's what I've been up to!

A bit of holiday gift knitting:
Cascade 220 Superwash
This is a simple 2x2 rib hat for my little cousin. It warms my heart how much he loves the hats I make him, but I have to use superwash because his first hat got accidentally washed. I hate the lack of bounce that superwash yarns have sometimes, they can feel so lifeless, so I held the yarn double and it made a nice squishy fabric. That makes 6 holiday gifts down, 10 more to go! (They're small... but it will be a close finish.) And that makes my 17th out of 50 Year of Projects goals completed! My list of goals has been evolving and has grown to much longer than 50 projects, so my revised goal is not necessarily to finish the entire list, but rather to just finish 50 things off that list.

A bit of secret design knitting:
Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga, colorways Ghost Moth and Blue Ringed Octopus
I can't tell you much about this except ahhhhh I love this color combo!

A bit of swatching for a good friend's impending tiny human (Bridgi, don't look!):

Malabrigo Yarn Rios, colorway Archangel
This is going to be a Sylvan Afghan, designed by my Ravelry friend, Erica. It's a great pattern with lots of options and detailed instructions to help you make exactly the blanket you want! I'm going to alternate strips of leaves in the colorway pictured with a lime green and undyed color. It should match the crib set pretty nicely.

Finally, Darwin wanted to say hello:
Blurry but cute!
That'll have to hold me over for a bit. I'm hoping I have more time next week to blog. But for now, back to writing about science!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Mitten Story

This particular FO is a first for me, so I am very excited about it. I've been living with a heavy burden of shame: I have been knitting for six years and have never ever finished a pair of mittens... until now. Before I show you these miraculous mittens, though, let's have a little backstory!

Attempt #1:
Malabrigo Worsted, colorway Natural
This magnificent thrummed mitten was my first attempt at keeping my fingers warm during winter. I began this pair three years ago in October 2009. I  modified a cable mitten pattern to include thrums, which are basically just bits of fiber that you stick in your knitting so that the inside is puffy and warm and amazing. Since I knew nothing about fiber at the time, I bought the first pretty fiber I found at a farmer's market, which turned out to be Pygora goat fiber--incredibly luxurious stuff. When I told the woman at the stall that I wanted it for mitten lining she sounded surprised and was like "That would make really nice mittens." Anyway, this pair is one mitten complete and I'm pretty sure I've misplace my notes, though I do hope to figure out how to knit its mate at some point.

Attempt #2:
Malabrigo Yarn Chunky, colorway Mariposa
This mitten was an early attempt at designing my own pattern. I began this one in November 2010. I still really like the pattern but couldn't quite get the numbers and fit right, seeing as I had not completed any bulky weight mittens at the time. This looks ok but it was way too snug. I still hope to come back to this pattern now that I have a better idea of mitten size/fit.

Attempt #3:
BMFA Silk Mawatas, colorway Aurora Borealis
This project was my first attempt at knitting with silk hankies/mawatas. I began these in January 2012. If you click on the 'mawata' tag to the left of this post on the blog you will see all the posts I've made regarding these mittens. I still really want to finish these, too, but they are kind of annoying to knit. You have to pause every couple of rows to prepare the next silk hankie for knitting and it gets a bit messy and rough on the hands. Someday!

Attempt #4:
The Sanguine Gryphon QED, colorways Radius and iSkein
I am still entirely in love with the pattern for this project, but it is another one that is just somewhat unpleasant to knit. It involves thick yarn on small needles and pages and pages of cable charts. The knitting hurts my hands a bit and the charts make this a terrible "pick-up-and-go" project, which are the kinds of projects that tend to be doomed to the UFO pile in my knitterly life. Since I do love the pattern so much I have not yet given up, but starting two pairs of fiddly mittens in January 2012 was obviously much too ambitious.

The Finished Pair:
But finally, three years after my first attempt at mittens, I bring you these:
Malabrigo Yarn Chunky, colorway Lettuce
These are the Zephyr Fingerless Mitts pattern (with mitten option) by Tracey/a.k.a. Riverpoet. I modified them quite a bit for fit and personal preference, but it's a free pattern with a fun stitch that creates a great woven effect that works well with solid yarns and even better with variegated colorways.

I like my mitten cuffs snug but the hand part roomy so I mashed together the S/M and M/L sizes. I moved the thumb one stitch palmward to mimic more closely how the thumb is actually positioned on the hand. Finally, I extended the stitch pattern to the top of the mitten and changed the decreases so that they worked like a sock toe. In short, these mittens were a great learning experience in teaching me how I like my mittens. And the best part? I knit them in five days. FIVE DAYS.

Why yes, I do look pleased with myself.
All that waiting, all those chilly-fingered-mornings shoveling snow and scraping ice... and I finished this pair of mittens in five days. Seems crazy, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Work-In-Progress Wednesday #13

I hope you folks are having a wonderful week! My shiny new job as a marine biologist at a consulting firm has seriously cut into my knitting time, but since I like the company and the work very much, that's ok. :) Still, I do have a couple things to show you, so here we go!

Beautiful Briny Sea:
SG Bugga in Box Jellyfish and Cephalopod Yarns Bugga in Blue-Ringed Octopus
I'm still working on this freakin' Flamboyan shawl, although I'm done with it emotionally. I tend to get really tired of plain stockinette shawl knitting and even though this is actually mostly garter stitch, purling back those middle stitches was getting to me. I was also annoyed that the pattern only gave a length to knit to instead of a number of repeats. Another Raveler with a gorgeous version of the shawl was kind enough to indulge my OCD and count the number of YO holes she made on hers so that I could try for a similar size. (For those wondering, it's an even 50.) Then I was really excited to move onto the next section, until I tried starting the ribbing off by candlelight while the power was out and my stitch count got way off. Go figure, deep blue yarn is really hard to see in the dark! So this shawl might be stuck in that so-close-yet-so-far stage for a while yet.

Ever More Ribbons:
Malabrigo Yarn Rios, colorway Azules
Yes, folks, yet another version of my free Berriboned Wrists pattern. :What can I say? They're fun and simple to work and they make great gifts. This pair is a part of the Beribboned KAL I'm hosting in the Designer's Co-Op KAL and CAL group on Ravelry as well as the Project Stash Show of Hands KAL. They are destined to be a gift for a teenager but they'd be great for anyone on your list. When my mom visited a couple of weeks ago she 'adopted' (a.k.a. flat-out stole) a pair of mine, and I must say they look fabulous on her and it thrills me that she's gotten lots of compliments on them!

Hi, Mom!
There's still plenty of time to join in the KAL if you'd like. It runs through 12/31/12, at which point I will randomly draw a winner from the finished projects to receive a $20 gift certificate to either The Verdant Gryphon or Cephalopod Yarns. You can knit either the wristwarmers/mitts or the hat (which is on sale for one more week!) to qualify. One participant, Anita, knit a great version of the wristwarmers using cords and beads to lace them up instead of ribbon:

From Blacky67's project page, used with permission.
I hope you decide to join us! I'd love to see what you come up with. Click the images below to either come visit the KAL or check out more WIP Wednesday posts!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cheerful Mitts and Afterthought Thumbs

After all the stress and natural-disaster-related worries of late, how about a little cheerful knitting and a brief afterthought thumb tutorial on a Monday morning?

These are my Beribboned Wrists pattern knit with Malabrigo Worsted in Natural for the body and i-cord knit with Socks That Rock Mediumweight in On Blueberry Hill to lace them up instead of ribbon. I love the rainbow effect of the color changes in the STR paired with the simplicity of the super-soft Malabrigo, don't you?

I knit the Worsted size but 'accidentally' knit the DK chart for it. The only real difference is that the DK chart is a bit longer. I decided to add the optional afterthought thumbs that turn these into fingerless mitts instead of wristwarmers. They are a tad small for me, but since they are intended to be gifted to a young girl, that's ok! If you've never knit an afterthought thumb before, you should give it a try because they are pretty simple and since they don't involve shaping they are a flexible method for modifying patterns. You knit until the point where you'd like the thumb to be, then you knit a few stitches with waste yarn, turn your work and purl back over those waste yarn stitches, then resume knitting in the round with your regular yarn, and forget all bout the thumb until the end!

When you are ready to add the thumb, you unravel your waste yarn. With the extra-fuzzy Malabrigo I lost patience unraveling so I opted to cut the waste yarn out. Just be careful where you snip!

This will give you a bunch of live thumb stitches to deal with. You will have one more stitch on the bottom than on the top. I start by picking up a side stitch and all the bottom stitches on one needle. Then I flip the mitt and pick up a side stitch, all the top stitches, and another side stitch. These 'side stitches' are just any old random stitches on the edge of the thumb hole that you grab to try to prevent gaps from forming when you begin knitting in the round. It really doesn't seem to matter which ones you pick up, as long as you aren't forming holes when you grab them.

After I have both sets picked up, I split the bottom stitches onto two needles. Then I join my working yarn on the bottom right of the thumb hole and begin knitting clockwise in the round. After that it's just following the pattern for a few rows and binding off!

It's tough to see in this pic, but sometimes you still get gaps near the start of the round no matter how many extra stitches you pick up. When this happens, I take the tail of my yarn and work it into the fabric to close up the gap. Works like a charm! And the really neat thing about afterthought thumbs is that if you decide you don't want a thumb later on after all, you can just remove the waste yarn, put the stitches on two needles, and use kitchener stitch to graft them together with matching yarn. If you do it neatly and weave in your ends securely, nobody will ever know there should've been a hole there! The only downside to these thumbs is that they can sometimes distort the pattern due to the lack of shaping to accommodate the base of the thumb (like in a gusset), but I think despite that they are useful, quick, and look just fine with many patterns. (I'll have you know I had to try really hard to resist saying something about giving them a thumbs up. You're welcome.)

Come join the KAL on Ravelry through 12/31/12!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Unisex Syrinx Shells

With all the craziness of the past week, I never got to properly post about my newly-released pattern, Syrinx Shells!

Malabrigo Yarn Rasta, colorway Arco Iris
Knit with a super bulky Merino wool yarn, the Syrinx Shells cowl works up quickly and is crazy soft and warm. It features an interesting-to-work elongated Estonian shell stitch pattern that really enhances variegated yarns while the simple lace and slipped stitch cables provide a nice edging.

The sample cowl used the entire 90 yards of Rasta and measured 9" wide and 30" long after blocking. One of my favorite aspects of this pattern is its flexibility in finishing. You can choose a colorful ribbon to tie it off with a feminine touch:

Malabrigo Yarn Rasta, colorway Indiecita
Or you can choose to close the cowl with a couple of large buttons. My friend Jeremie knit a masculine version using a darker colorway of Rasta and some really great wooden toggles:

Malabrigo Yarn Rasta, colorway Soriano
I just love the way the buttons coordinate! For his cowl, he put the buttons along the cabled edge and closed them through the yarnover holes in the lace. There is plenty of flexibility regarding button placement, so experiment!

Malabrigo Yarn Chunky, colorway Stone Blue
One of my other testers, Katie of the Katherine the Great blog, knit her version using Malabrigo Chunky, proving that if you don't have any super bulky yarn on hand, you can still get a great-looking cowl out of 80-90 yards of slightly thinner bulky yarn and that it looks just as nice in a solid colorway. The thinner the yarn you use, the skinnier your cowl will be, but you can adjust it as needed for length.

So who's ready to grab their Size 15 (10.0mm) straight needles and some big-ass yarn and cast on? The pattern is available for $4.00 on both Ravelry and Craftsy, or you can purchase it by clicking the button below.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Getting Back On Track

After the hurricane we lost power for a few days, but thankfully nothing much worse occurred here in our little corner of Connecticut. During that time I began my new job as a marine biologist at an environmental consulting firm in Rhode Island. Between both of those things (and our usual lack of TV/radio), I've just now had the chance to look at stories regarding the effects of Hurricane Sandy and it's all just so, so sad. New York City and the south shore of Long Island, where I grew up, were particularly hard hit. In one sense, it's natural: storms happen and with such high density populations living near the coast, a lot of people are going to be affected. However, the fact that storms like this are just going to continue to become worse and more frequent due to climate change, which a good portion of our country doesn't understand and refuses to even acknowledge, is what is really scary. We can't handle or prepare for a problem that we refuse to take steps to address (drastically reducing fossil fuel consumption). Scary! But I'm not here to lecture. I'm here to send warm wishes to those who lost their homes or businesses to the winds and flooding and to suggest sending a small donation to the Red Cross for hurricane relief if you can spare it. Every little bit counts when there are so many people whose lives have been completely changed.

I also have some pictures to share of a small, local beach in the area. All but the first of these were taken on Tuesday 10/30, after the worst of the storm occurred:
Monday night after things calmed down. That full moon is pretty but also responsible for the extra  high lunar tides.
Debris under the railroad bridge leading to the beach.
Huge driftwood and pieces of uplifted pavement.
Bench buried in sand.
The wave action completely changed this beach. Those were all dunes and the path used to be a very steep climb.

I don't even know where this piece of boardwalk used to be.
Fallen limbs.
Seawalls in action and another destroyed beach in the background.
The wrack line, which indicates the uppermost limit of the tide, way back into the park.
Trying to give a sense of how far from the water the wrack line was.
More ripped up dunes/hill.
This used to be a parking lot!
Broken seawall.
Broken street.
This is all just minor damage and it still really reminds you of the strength of the sea, how little control we have, and how long it's going to take to fix everything. I'm hoping that you and your loved ones are safe, wherever you may be, and that everyone can get back to their regular lives sooner than later.