Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WIP Wednesday #20: Motoring Along

I hope you have been having a lovely week! I have been finishing a few non-selfish knits lately, and starting to wind down on the number I still need to make. This is making me very excited as I haven't knit anything purely for myself in quite a while, so I'm racing along quick-as-I-can to get to the selfish knitting... which if my Ravelry queue has anything to say about it, will likely manifest as a whole truckload of shawls and scarves. Apparently, I'm wishing for some new accessories! Anywho, onto the things I've actually been working on...

Festooned Joy:
BMFA Socks That Rock LW, colorway Cofort and Joy
These socks are  my backup office knitting for when my active WIPs are too complicated to work on while reading or in meetings, so they are progressing but very, very slowly. I'm about halfway through the foot of the first sock.

Fierce Fracas Cuffs:
The Sanguine Gryphon Bugga, colorway Fierce Snake
I modified these cuffs since the original pattern involved a lot of k4tog and ssssk's, which killed my fingers. They are close enough to the original design by Hunter Hammersen that I still think they look pretty good while also having a bit more stretch and better fit than the original version did for me. These were supposed to be part of my Mom's x-mas gift but a few designs and commissioned knits delayed them... so they will likely become part of her birthday gift now, since that is next week!

Little One:
Malabrigo Yarns Rios, colorways Archangel and Lettuce
A couple of my dear friends from college just had a little baby girl (!!!) a few days ago, so I've been busily knitting on some adorable things for the tiny human that I can no longer keep secret because I'm just too excited! This is a great little cardi called *One Baby Sweater* by Erika Flory. It's a very simple pattern: one size, one gauge, one button, top down, nothing fancy, for $1.00. I didn't like the button right at the neck so I changed it up a bit: added a band of contrast color at the waist with a couple of holes through which an i-cord tie will go to close the sweater. I'm making it longer as the baby was already over 9 pounds when she was born and I'd like her to be able to wear it for a while. I was nearly done, too, but then Darwin chewed off the tip of one of my needles so I'm waiting on the replacement because using a needle with a wonky tip feels like nails going across a chalkboard... Oh well! Little baby Lyra isn't going anywhere.

What have you been working on lately?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

IS #12: Malabrigo March

Malabrigo Yarn was the first 'nice' yarn I ever bought and my first favorite yarn company. Likewise, the Malabrigo Junkies group was my first 'home' on Ravelry, the first discussion board in which I spent a lot of time and actively participated. They are also wonderful supporters of indie designers and often feature budding designers' work. As such firsts, I will always love Malabrigo (I have 67 finished projects using it!) and Malabrigo March will always be an exciting, knit-filled month.

Malabrigo Rios, colorway Aguas, purchased in anticipation of Malabrigo March!
So what is Malabrigo March? From the Junkies Info & Map thread:

"There will be around 20 KALs and CALs, 10 or so contests, and a whole lot of cast on craziness all month long. Big fun! Malabrigo Yarn company generously sends us prize yarn, which goes to contest winners and to some random winners (swatching, posting your WIPs and FOs, participating in -alongs… these are all good ways to up your chances of winning a prize!)."

If you like KALs, you'll love Malabrigo March. You can join as many as you'd like and cast on March 1st. Posting swatch photos, progress photos, and finished object photos in the appropriate thread and tagging your projects with the correct tag will up your chances of winning a prize. There are pattern-specific KALs (I like this, and this, and this) as well as general KALs, which I'll probably be participating in because most patterns I had queued for Malabrigo are not the specific KALs.

I love the entire atmosphere of Malabrigo March: the stash enhancing/stash busting, the racing to the finish line, the challenging oneself with new techniques, and mostly the uncontrollable adding of patterns to your queue/favorites. In a nutshell, it's a really great way to discover gorgeous patterns and knit them along with a bunch of fun people. Many designers provide discounts off their patterns for the month of March so it's also a good excuse to support indie designers if you've had your eye on something for a while.

All of my patterns are 20% off from now until the end of March with coupon code 'YayMal13'. Nearly all of my patterns would work well with many Mal yarns, but here are some samples I have made of my designs using Malabrigo yarns:

1. Syrinx Shells cowl in Rasta
2. Dissipative Cowl in Twist
3. Beribboned Wrists in Worsted
4. Giving Comfort in Chunky

And here are some projects I've been inspired to knit in the past solely due to Malabrigo March:

1. Susie's Reading Mitts in Silky
2. Speedy Cabled Beret in Rasta
3. Scrappy Mitts in Twist
4. Star Crossed Slouchy Beret in Twist
5. Saroyan shawl in Twist
6. Crooked Paths in Rios

I hope I've inspired you to join along in Mal March, it's a lot of fun! You'll be hearing much more about it as I get my projects together... What's been inspiring you lately?


Friday, February 22, 2013

FO Friday #10: Hootenany

I present to you the adorably woolly face of evil.

These little owl faces represent five hours of work... for just the eyeballs and the beaks! Each mitten had about 20 or so ends to weave in, too. However, they did come out darn cute and they are pretty much exactly what my coworker commissioned for her little daughter so hopefully the little owl-obsessed girl loves them!

The one on the right looks extra surprised.
I used Cascade 220 superwash in an appropriately owl-y color for the body of the mitts held double. I knit most of one mitten before deciding I needed to cast on a few more stitches because although 2-year-old hands are tiny, they do grow and the fabric was extra thick so I wanted to give a little more room in there. But the rest of the mitten knitting went fairly smoothly and I followed this blog's tips for making the white 'brow' part at the top. I felt like a mitten-knitting-genious... until I hit the eyeballs.

Attempt #1: single crochet circle. Attempt #2: knit in the round with lots of increases.
I even have crochet the old college try for this project (a.k.a. an hour of internet searching when I should've been doing other things). This only confirmed for me that I still hate crochet. It feels entirely unnatural to me. Even the basic chain stitch comes out all wonky and as I'm using my fingers to pull the loops over the hook, I can't help wishing for an implement to help in the process... like another needle. Knitter to the core, I suppose. So then I tried knitting a tiny circle in the round with lots of increases but that was too ruffly. Finally, I cast on 4 sts to a DPN and did short rows within those 4 sts until I had a curved strip of knitting long enough to kitchener the two ends together into an approximate circle. Phew! I don't keep a lot of superwash yarn lying around but I had some Bugga mini-skeins that I used for the brow and the irises, Cascade 220 sw for the pupils, and Socks that Rock Heavyweight scraps for the beaks. In sum, these mittens are quite cute and came out just as I'd hoped but I will likely never make them again... the finishing was far too fiddly.

Click below to see more FO's!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

IS# 11: Deep Space

What with the asteroid flying by yesterday and the fireball exploding over Russia, it's easy to see how one can be terrified, awed, and yes even inspired by the wonders of space. There are quite a few space-related patterns that deserve similar (if less terrified) expressions of awe because they are pretty amazing works of art.

Copyright Jane Heller
First and foremost is the wonderful shawl pattern, Celestarium, designed by Audry Nicklin of the Bear-Ears blog. This piece is not only a lovely-in-its-own-right beaded circular shawl, it is also an accurate depiction of the locations of the constellations in the night sky as viewed from the northern hemisphere. Take a second to think about that. Audry mapped the night sky using beads and yarn. I don't think knitting gets more awe-inspiring than that. Except for maybe when she creates another masterpiece depicting the sky in the southern hemisphere, as well... Be sure to check out Audry's behind-the-scenes look at her design process, if you haven't already.

Copyright froggydear on Ravelry
This is a free scarf pattern, Milky Way, by Lynn Bethke. I have had this scarf queued for about a million years and now that I think about it again, I might start it right away! I love the simple lines and elegant lace and I think those wavy bits in the middle really live up to the pattern's name.

Copyright kniandknag on Ravelry
I am almost always a sucker for 1,000+ yard laceweight circular shawl projects and this one is no exception. This design is Mystic Star by Anna Dalvi. I can barely fathom the patience and dedication required to not only knit a shawl so massive and complex but to design it and publish it as well. Kudos, gigantic shawl designers, kudos.

What's been inspiring you lately?


Friday, February 15, 2013

Finished-Object-Friday #9

I have three FO's to share with you this week: two knitted and one spun!

Malabrigo Yarn Worsted, colorway Natural
My childhood next-door-neighbor commissioned me to knit her this flowered headband/earwarmer. She sent me a photo of what she was thinking and I set about recreating it. It was a lot of fun to design something on-the-fly, without worrying too much about making sure it was repeatable or that the steps were explain/understand like I do when I am designing for my patterns. For this headband I held the yarn double so it would be extra thick and warm. I increased until it was wide enough, knit straight for a bit, and decreased back down with a few buttonholes thrown in. I knit it in a rib so it would have good stretch and loft and wouldn't curl in on itself much. I followed this cute flower tutorial with a few changes (mostly just increasing more than it describes for a larger, rufflier flower).

Darwin looks so happy to be included in this photoshoot, doesn't he?
I think it came out super cute! I hope the recipient likes it.

Manly Cowl:
BMFA De-Vine, colorway Mossley Manly
 Here is the finished secret cowl that I made for my dear Fiasco for Valentine's Day. He had become a little bit obsessed (for a non-knitter) with this fantastic yarn when I made myself a cowl (to the point where he made visitors feel the fabric of said cowl) so it was clear he needed one of his own!


I borrowed elements from my Dissipative cowl design and manly-ed it up a bit: knitted at a larger gauge, made it wider and taller, removed the lace and added a few cable details. I really love how it came out and the color is just perfect. It's a slightly purple-ish grey with streaks of acid green. A little more adventurous than the plain dark greens I usually use for the Fiasco's knitwear but still plenty manly.

The Shire:

This yarn was spun from 70% superwash Merino / 30% SeaCell fiber dyed by The Wacky Windmill in the colorway "The Shire". I ABSOLUTELY ADORE IT. I am not really a 'brown' person, but this skein is so much more than brown. It's so earthy and golden and shining and wonderful and the colors couldn't be prettier.

I split the braid in half so the finished skein would have long color repeats, spun the singles worsted-style counterclockwise from the top, then chain-plied (navajo-plied) each single into a 3-ply yarn. Most of the second bobbin was spun by candlelight when the power went out during the blizzard last weekend, so it had a few more thick spots than the first. All told I ended up with about 182 yards of approximately worsted-weight-ish yarn (I always forget to measure wraps per inch before I skein the yarn). I'm having fun wracking my brain for what this skein should become, what do you think?

Be sure to check out the other FO's by clicking the image below! And have a great Friday. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy V-Day!

So folks, I'm going to do that incredibly awkward thing and talk about vaginas on the internet. I'm doing so not to be lewd but to acknowledge that they (and their owners) are important and that talking about them is important, too. While Valentine's Day makes most people think of roses and chocolates and kisses and tiny winged archers, it makes me think about what it means to be a woman and about women's rights.  I don't often jump on non-fiber-related soapboxes on this blog but today, I am, and I'm going to try to use as many amusing euphamisms for our Ladybits as possible not because I  think 'vulva' or 'vagina' are dirty words but because the euphemisms themselves are fantastic. Consider yourself alerted!

Are you a woman? You should own these books. Are you a man? You should at least watch the Monologues.
My physical therapist recommended I read The V Book, written by a Harvard professor and practicing gynocologist, and boy am I glad I did. It is essentially an owner's manual for your Honey Pot. The first few chapters are a fascinating read about the history of care and anatomy and function of everything Downstairs and I have to say that even as a difficult-to-embarrass and rather 'enlightened' woman, and a biologist no less, I didn't know some fairly basic things. For one, there's an entire part called the vestibule that I had no idea had a name. If we don't know what the Fancy Bits are even called, how can we know if/when there is a problem? And how would we describe it? There's an entire delicately-balanced ecosystem contained within your Hey-nonny-no and the second half of the book details how things should be, how they shouldn't, and what could possibly go wrong. Admittedly, that part of the book is mildly terrifying (anything involving the word 'green' in relation to my Thingamy is highly disconcerting) but I'd rather be informed than not, especially when most problems are easily prevented and/or dealt with when you know what to look for.

The second book, The Vagina Monologues, is a series of dramatic monologues written by Eve Ensler, who interviewed women all over the world about their Peach Pits. There are stories in there about every aspect of womanhood and the entire point was to get the world comfortable with talking about Joy Boxes because in a perfect world where women's sexuality is respected, women themselves will also be respected. It is a humorous, charming, and touching play and a really wonderful thing to see performed if you can manage it. I had the chance to act in a performance of it in college and it really opened up my eyes to how lucky I was to be a girl with solid self-confidence born into a family and community that respected me... and how easily my life as a woman could have been very, very different.

Even better, it's made an impact on the entire world through the global V-Day movement. The funds raised from the performances goes towards stopping sexual and domestic violence against women and girls. So far, the organization has raised over $85 million and has launched educational programs and opened shelters for battered women in multiple countries. If you can't get to a performance, you can donate directly through the website. I'm not one to tell people what the should and shouldn't think, but when it comes to women's rights, there is really only one position I understand: equality. I can't relate to women who claim that they are not feminists. If you are a woman who says that you don't support feminism, you are essentially saying that your own gender makes you less of a person and therefore less deserving of respect and equal treatment in society. If you, yourself, are saying this, how can you expect other people (namely, men) to respect you, and if they don't respect you, what's to stop them from hurting you?

We cannot love what we don't understand, and if we don't love and respect that which biologically defines us as female, who will? Respect yourselves, ladies. In a nutshell: don't doubt your abilities, aim higher, get out of bad relationships, do good and demand good in return, remember your strength, define your independence, develop something more meaningful than your looks, and make sure the men in your life know that your Sweet Bottom Grass is an important part of you but not the only important part of you. Understand your Yoni, love your Yoni. Now, go forth and learn about your Crinkum-crankums*!

* All of these euphamisms were listed with their eras of origin in The V Book. Crinkum-crankum, from the late 18th centuray, is my favorite because it is clearly awesome. Hey-nonny-no is a close second.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SS: Romney

It has been ages and ages since I wrote a Spinner's Study post. The last time I did, I gave a quick rundown on some of the fascinating history of the Merino breed. Here's the plump little skein I finished:

As you might image, the Merino wool made a lovely, soft, and squishy single. If I had plied this, the resulting yarn would've displayed a lot of elasticity and bounce, which is characteristic of the fine crimp pattern in Merino staples. Its elasticity is one reason why Merino wool is so loved for fabrics and for socks in particular. However, the fiber's fineness works against it for socks, making it prone to pilling and wear, as seen in the pile of socks waiting to be mended. However, for me, the bounce and softness of Merino is worth a few minutes of darning every now and then.

Onto the next breed! We took a brief look at Romney wool when I described the For the Love of Longwools class I took at Rhinebeck. Now, we'll dig a little deeper.

This handsome devil's photo came from Wikipedia.
The Romney sheep is a dual-purpose meat and fiber breed that is grouped with the English Longwool Family in the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. It was developed from crossing a breed native to the Ronney Marsh coastal plain in southeast England with longwool Leicester bloodlines. This imparted a long staple length and luster to Romney fiber, while still maintaining the breed's unique adaptations allowing the growth of quality wool in boggy, marshy environments.

According to the FFSB, "Romney fleece is most likely to be voted president of the Wool High School senior class. It can't do everything, but it's an all-around good citizen and extremely versatile, with personality and charisma. It's a classic." Romney fiber can range in quality and fineness depending on the particular sheep and location (North American and British are somewhat finer than New Zealand Romneys), but in general it ranges from coarse to fairly fine (micron count 29-37) and is usually finer than other longwool breeds (but you still might not want to wear it near sensitive skin).

I am enjoying this bit of Romney I am spinning much better than the first Romney I tried during the longwools class.  This is perhaps due to the preparation (carded roving vs. commercial combed top) but it could just be nicer fiber. This bunch is drafting very smoothly and creating a strong-feeling, even single. The roving I am spinning here is from Alder Brook Romneys in Connecticut. A friend of the Fiasco's also raises Romneys, shears them herself, and sells handspun yarn from her flock in her Falling Star Fibers Etsy shop. I purchased some fiber from her at a festival that I still have stashed but I'm tempted to skip ahead and just buy some of the lovely finished yarns she has in her shop!

Have you used Romney fiber/yarn? What did you think of it?

Monday, February 11, 2013

White As Snow

Here in Rhode Island, we got quite a bit of snow over the weekend and lost power (and thus heat) for a couple of days. What does one do during such dire conditions, you ask?

Gaze out the window at the sugar-dusted greenery.
Watch your Fiasco leap over the snow pile the plow made behind your apartment.
Watch your Fiasco shiver.
Spin a bit (and spin some more later by candlelight!)
Observe Calypso's 'come no closer, buddy' sidelong glare aimed at the ever-growing Darwin.
Try out your "it's 50 degrees INSIDE look" and thank wool you're a knitter.
Go for a brief, brisk walk and admire the wintry woods...
And the little frozen creek you never noticed before...
And some of your fine-looking designs in the wild! (Dissipative Cowl on me, Giving Comfort hat on him.)
Finally, finish a lovely commissioned knit! (More on this later.)
How did you fare this weekend?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

IS #10: Brooklyn Tweed

Recently, Jared Flood's studio for his knitwear design and yarn company, Brooklyn Tweed, was featured on the Design Sponge website. Besides being an interesting look into the space and process of one of knitting's very prominent designers, it got me thinking about how much I'm inspired by Jared Flood's designs and how often I've admired them... which got me wondering which designs of his I've actually knit and which I've queued and which I simply love. Let's look at some pretty designs, shall we?

The Sanguine Gryphon Mithril, colorway Brightness of Day
Rock Island is the only Jared Flood pattern I've actually finished. (This is not a comment on the worth of his patterns, just a testament to my WIP weakness.) It is, without a doubt, beyond gorgeous and produced one of my favorite accessories. Knit in laceweight wool, this shawl is surprisingly warm but light enough to be worn comfortably indoors kerchief-style, which is my favorite way to accessorize an outfit. I think it's gorgeous enough to be worn over a summer dress and casual enough (something about all that garter stitch, maybe) to be worn during errands on the weekend. The lace edging is knit first and is a bit of a slog but then you pick up stitches along it and the rest goes pretty quickly. I really enjoyed the lace stitch in the middle and would like to use it again in a stole or scarf.

The Sanguine Gryphon QED (sadly discontinued)
I started these Flint mittens last year (how time does fly...) but I swear I will finish them someday because I am still in love with the pattern. It is a tad fussy and it is rough on my hands knit in thick yarn at a tight gauge but I love love love the details: the cables, the colorwork braid, the turned hem. Love love love. They are going to be glorious... someday.

Cascade 220
I started this Hemlock Ring Blanket (a free one!) almost... *gulp*... three years ago. (Shame on me.) It is one of my oldest hibernating projects but I SWEAR I WILL FINISH someday. Partway through the lace that makes up the main part of the blanket, the cord for my needle broke and I lost a bunch of stitches. At the time, I didn't have the confidence to frog and pick up stitches and fix the mistakes... and since then I just haven't found the time/motivation. Perhaps this post will help inspire me to get it done because it is a really lovely little blanket and the middle part was fun to work. Part of my goals for this year is to finish or frog all of my old WIPs and this one is high on the list to address.

Now that I've finished my walk of shame of unfinished goodness, let's talk about some of Jared's designs I'm itching to start. I have no less than 10 of his designs in my Ravelry queue, but I'll only mention my top 3 favorites here:

Copyright Brooklyn Tweed
This is the Juneberry Triangle shawl pattern. I love the edging, the bobbles, the thicker worsted weight. There have been so many gorgeous ones made with Codex (a 50/50 silk and BFL wool blend) on Ravelry and I just love the shine and drape it gives the pattern so that's what I plan to use.

Copyright Brooklyn Tweed
Bridgewater is one of those epic knitterly endeavors that I will probably never undertake but that I admire nonetheless. It is a gigantic, lace-edged square shawl knit out of 1,600 yards of laceweight yarn and damn, is it pretty. Huge, but pretty.

Copyright Alexandra Grablewski
This is Strago, from The Knitter's Book of Socks. I'm particularly in love with this pattern, not just because it would be a funky and modern first step into colorwork for me, but because it is designed specifically to feature Brooklyn Tweed's own American-made yarn: Shelter.

Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, colorways Button Jar and Fossil
Shelter is a woollen-spun worsted-weight wool, sourced from Targhee-Columbia cross sheep in Wyoming and spun in a historic mill in New Hampshire. Many commercial yarns, particularly sock yarns, are worsted-spun so I'm excited to see how this woollen yarn feels knit in the sock pattern. Also, I'm down with using sort-of-locally-made products. Plus, the yarn has a subtle tweedy texture to it that I love and am excited to work with.

Finally, the Winter 2013 lookbook was just released, have you flipped through it yet? If you are a fan of colorwork or cables you'll probably enjoy it. I really like the crown details on the Altair cap:
Copyright Brooklyn Tweed
Phew! Who knew I had so much to say about one designer/man/photographer/company? His designs and photos are truly inspiring so I encourage you to check them out. I'd love to hear about your favorites or anything else that's been inspiring you lately, please leave a comment or link along a blog post below!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Finished-Object-Friday #8

Man, this week flew by. I hope everyone in the northeastern US is all hunkered down in time for the big ol' snowstorm we're supposed to be getting today... Thankfully I finished a cozy new winter hat!

Handspun Hat:

This project went from fiber to 2-ply to 4-strand cabled yarn to hat in just over a month, which blows my mind! I'm really happy with the finished hat, too. It's very warm and dense, matches my purple coat perfectly, and the the bulky-ish yarn knit up nicely on size 10 needles.

I especially love how the colors worked out. Just as I was getting tired of ribbing, the mostly green-and-purple part started to run out so I broke the yarn and skipped a few inches to begin the green-purple-white bit on the main stockinette body of the hat. Then when it was tall enough to begin decreases the mostly green-and-blue part of the yarn began, so it made a fun little bullseye on the crown.

Itty Bitty Booties:
Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga, colorways Blue Ringed Octopus and Ghost Moth
These were made with the Yarn Harlot's very simple and sweet Cutest Booties pattern. For the ties, I tried essentially cabling some of the Skinny Bugga to a better thickness like I did for the coordinating hat, but it didn't work as well this time, perhaps because I used a spindle instead of my wheel and maybe didn't get enough twist in there. I'll probably make some L-cord to finish these off properly. I forget which book I read it in but L-cord is like i-cord except faster: you cast on a butt-ton of stitches, as long as you want your cord to be, then you cast them off = instant lazy cord. Despite that, I'm calling them done. The little lady who will claim these booties still hasn't arrived yet so I still have some time to redo and mail them off.

I hope you have a wonderful Friday and stay warm, wherever you are!