Deflect

IMG_5827I’m sorry — unlike knitting magazines, I can’t take my sock pictures on scenic outdoor rocks, so you’ll have to settle for my scenic indoor couch. I’d never let Pat go for a walk on the beach in his handknit socks, anyway! These are his Christmas socks, a little belatedly blogged. The pattern is Deflect by Hunter Hammersen, from Knitty’s Deep Fall 2013 issue. The yarn is Oink Pigments Sock in “Misplaced Marbles.” I got it at the Torrance Fiber Festival this year — I guess I never did a post about my haul, but it was quite small: just this, bought expressly for these socks, and a skein of gorgeous laceweight purple that you’ll see pretty soon when I make it into a spring lace project of some kind. I was on a mission to buy yarn for this pattern when I was there, and I bought this one because the color was good for ManSocks(TM), and because it felt and looked very similar to Dream in Color Everlasting Sock, which is what the pattern actually calls for. When I got it home and compared it to the skein of Everlasting Sock that I had at home, it was so identical that I think they might even actually be the same yarn base! Even the colorway was pretty similar, though I’d judged the skein I had as “too girly” — more on that later.

IMG_5826This yarn looks a little darker and bluer here than it actually is — in person it’s closer to photo #1, though that one’s a tiny bit washed out. I enjoyed knitting these socks, though I think I ran into a minor problem with the numbers on the heel in the large size. It’s been awhile, so I don’t remember the specifics, but it was just very clearly a mistake in the number of stitches that I should have ended up with or something. Easy to spot and ignore. I just love the way the cables are arranged in this sock! And the toe is gorgeous — I was a little skeptical as I was knitting it, since it seemed like the decreases were happening in unorthodox places, but it looked great when it was done and on the foot.

This is truly a unisex sock pattern, and since I had that skein of Everlasting Sock sitting around waiting for me to do something with it, I decided to make myself a pair also! I’m right about to start the toe on the first one here:

IMG_5842I suppose it’s a little hard to tell from this picture, but I judged this yarn to be “too girly” for Pat’s socks because of the green and purple. When I got his skein home, though, I felt pretty silly — the difference is quite minimal. Here they are side-by-side:

IMG_5846His looks a little more huge than it actually is/was because he’s been wearing his socks pretty frequently for the past month and a half so they’ve stretched out a bit, and you can see there’s some wear on the sole there. But the colors, they’re not so different. I’m pretending that I meant us to have matching socks all along…

To New Adventures

IMG_5815Some news: I taught myself to embroider over winter break! Also, Pat and I got engaged! We spent the holidays apart, with our respective families, and during that time I secretly taught myself to embroider and made this pillow here as a Christmas present for Pat. He proposed shortly before we exchanged gifts, but he says that if he hadn’t been planning to propose anyway, this pillow would probably have done the trick.

Even if you’re not particularly familiar with Daniel Johnston, you’ve probably seen this frog-guy before, perhaps on Kurt Cobain’s t-shirt, or in Austin, TX. All the images here are from his artwork, and the words are lyrics from his song “Sweetheart.” I bought the pattern for the images from Sublime Stitching, though the arrangement of elements & colors are my own choices. Here’s a close-up of the frog:

IMG_5816I used split stitch on him, and satin stitch on the mouth. He was the first element I embroidered; later on I discovered vine stitch, which I used on the clouds, and I like it better than split stitch because it’s neater.

I got the idea for this whole project from knitting Totoro in December. I’d done incidental embroidery before in my knitting, but never considered myself very good at it until that project, where it was crucial that I make Totoro’s face look awesome or the whole thing would end up looking creepy. I was pleased with how well I did, and realized that embroidery is not actually very difficult — it’s basically just tracing plus patience. I’d already discovered Sublime Stitching through their french knot tutorial I used for my Zeldaphant, and in poking around again when I was working on Totoro I found the Daniel Johnston patterns, and that made the light bulb go off in my head since Pat is a big fan. Furthermore, I had a substantial collection of embroidery floss leftover from my summer-camp friendship-bracelet-making days. That’s right: with the exception of the dark green for the frog, 100% of this embroidery floss dates from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

IMG_5818The clouds here were made using vine stitch, which I ended up liking the look of better than split stitch. The sun’s rays are backstitch, and the sun itself is of course satin stitch.

One of the choices it turns out you have to make when you’re embroidering from a pattern is how to transfer that pattern to your work. I decided to buy an embroidery transfer pen (which washes out with cold water), and use my parents’ windows as a crude lightbox to trace my printed-out images onto the pillow cover (which is also from Sublime Stitching, by the way). Another choice I considered was iron-transfer pencils, but I don’t think that they wash out, which was a dealbreaker for me — I didn’t want to count on myself to make zero mistakes while tracing, not to mention zero mistakes while embroidering to cover over the lines I drew.

IMG_5822The eyeball monster here was also made using split stitch. I didn’t start experimenting with vine stitch until I made the clouds.

I now realize that I didn’t even necessarily need to buy a pattern, because a person could theoretically trace anything onto fabric and embroider it. That’s how I made the lettering at the bottom — I just found a font on my computer that I liked the look of, and printed out and traced the words I wanted to embroider. Here’s a shot of the whole design laid out flat, where it’s a little easier to see everything than when it’s on the pillow:

IMG_5810Yay! I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long — I’ve been knitting, but I also recently started a new job that’s eating up tons of my time. I hope to catch you up on some of my knitting soon!

This little bit in the corner I drew freehand, which is cool because it’s recognizably in my handwriting:

IMG_5821 So here’s to new adventures!

A Magical Adventure For You

IMG_5805

I knit a Totoro for my friend Amanda’s birthday! He came out so perfect and wonderful that I had serious trouble letting him out of my house. The pattern is a little complicated to obtain: the Ravelry listing is for a Norwegian pattern. One is directed to contact Ravelry user “edingburg11″ for the English translation, but this is a typo; in fact the user who has translated it is edinburg11. She’s very gracious and relatively speedy about emailing you the pattern once you get in touch with her, but it might take her a day or two to get back to you, so make sure to get in touch with her in advance if you’re knitting Totoro on a deadline!

The pattern is pretty well-done and easy to use, though I used the disappearing loop cast-on for the belly since I thought that looked a lot neater than what the pattern suggested. I’m particularly pleased with the way the face came out — I crocheted tiny flat circles for the eyes, and then used french knots for the pupils, and the rest of the face embroidery worked out pretty well.

still haven’t taken pictures of my Morticia shawl, but I swear those are coming soon, as well as pictures of my current in-progress sweater! Till next time!

Cusp

IMG_5785

Lisa and I started knitting these socks together back in March, when I was in the mood for bright emerald green because of St. Patrick’s Day — but the colorway is actually called “Christmas Green,” so I guess it’s fitting that I finally got around to finishing them in the holiday season. The yarn is Cascade Heritage, which retails at about $11 for a 400+ yard skein and is an excellent sock yarn for the price, soft and stretchy, with a wide color palette of true solids good for showing off lacework. It was also the yarn called for by the pattern, and since the price was so right I figured I’d go for it.

IMG_5780

The pattern is Cusp by Cookie A. Lisa and I selected it since we both have copies of Knit.Sock.Love. that we wanted to get our money’s worth from. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have some pattern books that I’ve knit literally nothing from — I buy them when they have stuff I’m interested in, and/or when I want to support a particular designer’s work, but when you have an 800-item Ravelry queue like I do, it can take awhile to get around to everything!

This pattern isn’t especially difficult, but like a lot of Cookie’s more architectural designs there are a lot of things to keep track of at once, and there are a few transitional moments where things can potentially get a little confusing. Lisa had to start over once, and I had to do significant ripping on the second sock when I forgot to stop decreasing for the gusset and the foot got stupidly narrow. But Knit.Sock.Love. is full of genius diagrams to help you understand the construction of the sock and the way your various stitch patterns fit together, and the finished socks are quite lovely! I also think they’re faster to knit than an allover-patterned sock would be.

IMG_5781

I’ve fallen behind in my blogging again —  I did finish that mystery KAL I was working on, though not quite by the Halloween deadline, but my pile of essays to grade has kept me away from the blog. I have a bit of a grading respite between now and the end of the semester, so I’ll try to get in an FO post for that mystery shawl, as well as a process-post about what I’m working on these days! See you again soon.

Iron Maiden

IMG_5733Something about this piece really attracted comments from strangers when I was working on it. I brought it on my most recent trip to visit my family in New Jersey, which meant knitting on two planes and also in the park once with my parents, and every time I had it out in public somebody would come over and tell me how gorgeous it was! Some people commented on the pattern — the hypnotic stripes were easy to knit and are very visually pleasing. The pattern is Iron Maiden by Maiden Brooklyn, a designer I recently discovered with a lot of great shawl patterns.

IMG_5702Other people commented on the yarn, which is indeed lovely. It’s from Alisha Goes Around, an independent dyer who I believe is local to Texas — I picked up this yarn when Pat and I were living in Austin last summer. I don’t think she’s selling this particular yarn base anymore, though: this yarn is  called “75/25 Falkland + Nylon Fingering,” and it looks like Alisha is now going for much more poetic yarn names (and that she doesn’t sell this particular blend of fibers anymore). It’s very sturdy, but not at all scratchy — it would have been great for socks, but this lovely dark blue-purple color needed to be somewhere other than my feet.

IMG_5744This was a quick, easy knit — I never even got a chance to blog it when it was in progress. My only problem is with the bindoff — either I executed it incorrectly (very possible) or it’s not actually stretchy enough to allow for the edge to be pulled out into points like the sample is. I don’t have a problem with the smooth, non-pointy edging, but I sort of wish I’d ignored the instructions and just done my standard stretchy lace bindoff. (It’s the one from Laminaria, though I generally don’t double-strand it.) On the whole, though, I’m very happy with this!

Zeldaphant

IMG_5688We photographed a new shawl today, but looking at the pictures in my camera I remembered that I never blogged about this little guy, who I finished knitting a few weeks ago. So the shawl post will come later in the week; for now: Zeldaphant!

I call him that because I knit him for my friends’ little girl’s first birthday, and said little girl is named Zelda. The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda, and it’s as good as everybody says it is. It’s one of the most popular toy patterns on Ravelry, and while I don’t have a huge amount of experience with knitting toys, I’d definitely say this was the clearest, most sensible, least annoying pattern for a toy I’ve knit so far. The key to getting the trunk to curl for me was to stuff the whole head pretty densely, because you need the trunk to be very densely stuffed so you can pose it, and if the head isn’t packed very tightly then the trunk stuffing will migrate into the head.

The yarn I used was Caron Simply Soft from my stash — it’s the softest, cuddliest acrylic I’ve found so far, and since this is a gift for a one-year-old I wanted it to be as thoroughly machine-washable as possible. I figure if Zelda likes it, this toy is likely to be both dragged through dirt AND chewed on, and ain’t no mama of a one-year-old got time to lovingly handwash her toys. Like many Ravelers, I decided to make the feet in a contrasting color. And I am INSANELY PROUD of how pretty my embroidered french-knot eyes came out. Check it:

IMG_5687I actually suck at embroidery; my secret weapon was this tutorial. It’s steps 5 and 6 that really set this apart from other french-knot instructions on the internet; pushing the knot down to the fabric before pushing the needle through is the key to making it not come out crappy.

I’ve been meaning to do more WIP-blogging — I feel like a lot of finished objects (like this one) crop up on this blog without you having even seen them on the needles. I also think that more WIP blogging will allow me to talk a little more about knitting as a process, and to share some of my techniques and approaches in more detail. I’m eventually going to try to do more WIP-only posts, but I actually have a backlog of FOs to show you at the moment, because the start of the school year has crowded out most other things in my life for the past few weeks. In addition to this guy and the shawl I’m going to show you later this week, I have another finished shawl that I’m going to put on the blocking board today!

About two weeks ago, I took this picture of my WIPs and recently-finished-but-unblocked pieces. They’re arranged in chronological order of start date, oldest at the left. I call it “Red Shift”:

IMG_5700

It’s kind of amazing: all summer all I wanted to knit was blues, and then sometime in September red seems to have taken over my brain. The yarn on the right is a sweater quantity of Madelinetosh Sport in the Tart colorway that I picked up at Imagiknit in San Francisco on a weekend I was up there recently. I felt like it was a stroke of brilliance on my part to buy a sweater’s worth of Madelinetosh in person, because the skeins are so variable and there are no dye lots. Imagiknit is maybe my favorite LYS in the universe, and it manifested its wonderfulness in the salesperson who went in the back and got all 20ish skeins of Tart that they had in stock, and went through them carefully with me helping me to pick a matched set.

At this point everything on the blue side of this photo is finished, except for the color-block garter-stitch blanket in the middle there (which is going to take about a thousand years), and you’ll see the other projects soon. All the red is still underway, but it’s all been temporarily shelved in favor of two more urgent projects that are neither blue nor red:

IMG_5751They photograph poorly when they’re unblocked like this, because the ribbed gussets make them curl up all weirdly, but these are the Cusp socks that I started as a mini-KAL with my friend Lisa back in April. We knit on them for a few weeks and then stopped, because she’d made some mistakes and had to start over and wasn’t feeling up to actually doing that, which I understood. Then we decided to pick them up again in September and try to finish them in time for the October mystery KAL we both wanted to do, and we both failed at that goal — but as you can see, I’ve come pretty darn close. I figure I can probably finish these at some point in October if I finish any of the mystery KAL clues early.

That KAL is the Boo Knits “Morticia” Halloween Mystery KAL. Boo Knits is the author of Rainshine, which I knit recently, as well as many other dramatic, interesting shawl patterns, so I decided I trusted her to come up with something worthy of Morticia Addams. I also decided to go whole-hog with the “goth” theme:

IMG_5755(I don’t want to show you an in-progress pic in case any of you are doing the KAL and might have the “mystery” spoiled.) It looks kinda blue or purple here, but that yarn is in fact black — Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Lace in the “Shadow” colorway. I really like the “Raven Clan” colorways, and thought long and hard about getting a blue-black or a green-black, but ultimately decided to go for a true black so I could wear it with red and blue equally well. The beads are 6mm Miyuki cube beads from Fusion Beads, which I had a lovely experience with & which doesn’t have minimum order sizes, unlike some other online bead vendors. This KAL is still in its first week — it’s not too late to join me!

Happy Birthday to Me

IMG_5679Yes, yes. Technically my birthday was in April. But in April, I took advantage of my birthday-month discount at my local yarn store, and I bought this lovely skein of Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk + in the “Mystic Ocean” colorway. And then in June I started knitting it into a Laminaria shawl, following Xavi’s mods on Ravelry to leave out the star chart. And now that this project is finished, it’s like it’s my birthday all over again!

IMG_5658My favoritest shade of deep blue-green, such a beautiful lace pattern, and a dramatic and generously-sized shawl. Yes, yes, and yes! Can you even believe how fabulous the above shot is? Pat snapped the picture just as I was twirling around, so we caught the shawl in motion.

IMG_5656

I no longer remember exactly how many repeats of the blossom chart I knit, but in order to get as much shawl as possible out of my skein I religiously followed the yarn-ratio charts that the designer (Elizabeth Freeman) brilliantly supplies on Ravelry (pretending I’d knit one repeat of the star chart, since there’s no entry for zero). I knit a Laminaria once before and I knew that the edging does eat up a lot of yarn, but I was skeptical when the charts told me to start the edging with something like 40% of my yarn left. But Elizabeth is a genius at whose feet I worship, so I did what her charts told me — while secretly making plans to match up the leftover yarn I’d surely have with some of the other remnants in my stash. But she was right, of course: when I got to the last few rows, I even started to sweat, thinking I might not have enough to finish! I ended up having to bind off on the final purl row rather than purling that row and binding off on the knit side. Never again will I doubt you, Elizabeth, and please write us another of your gorgeous shawl patterns soon.

IMG_5666