Simplicity and Complexity

I am calling my newest handspun yarn “Water Never Formed,” because its light, beachy blues and greens remind me of Wallace Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West.” The fiber is a merino/silk blend from A Verb for Keeping Warm, in the “Azure” colorway, which I got discounted from them a few months ago. This is 2 oz of it spun into 200 yards of fingering-weight yarn, and I’ve got another 2 oz that I’m going to try to spin to match. It was a little bit of a pain in the butt to spin, frankly — the Twist Yarns of Intrigue merino/silk that I spun up recently was much easier to handle. The Verb fiber really stuck to itself and was difficult to draft. I’m not sure what would cause this, but I suppose it might be the indigo dye or something about the fiber preparation. As a result, the yarn is significantly less even than some of my more recent creations. I had thought about knitting it into some kind of complicated lace, since there is not a lot of variation in the color, but the variation in the texture made me decide against that. Instead, I am knitting it into a dirt-simple Montego Bay Scarf, from the Summer 2007 issue of Interweave Knits:

This seems like a great pattern for handspun, since it’s forgiving of variation in texture and thickness, and it makes color-pooling look pretty good. I’m excited about having such a summery, beachy scarf!

I’ve also undertaken a significantly more complex project: Anne Hanson’s “Leaving” cardigan, from the Twist Collective’s Winter 2010 issue.

This is a sleeve, which I’m doing first to check my gauge. I got burned by my swatches last time, so I’m just knitting with the specified needles (after checking to make sure my gauge was at least ballpark) and am going to block this sleeve when I’m done and treat it as a very large swatch. Hopefully it will work, but if it doesn’t, it won’t be too heartbreaking to unravel a sleeve. Truth be told, my gauge is a little tight, but the yarn is superwash so I’m betting it will grow with a wet blocking.

The yarn, by the way, is insanely gorgeous. It’s Madelinetosh Pashmina, in the “Composition Book Grey” colorway. My last sweater was knit in Madelinetosh Vintage and I continue to love it to pieces, so I think it’s safe to say I am a convert. These people can do no wrong. I was expecting this colorway to be more, you know, grey — but when it arrived I was immediately smitten even though it hadn’t been quite what I was looking for. You don’t exactly have to twist my arm to get me to knit with a dusty purple, plus this way I guess I have an excuse to knit another cardigan soon, since I continue to need a light-grey one. Wish me luck!

Unmysterious Socks

This past October, I flirted with the idea of knitting Kirsten Kapur‘s yearly mystery sock, but I had several other projects going. I liked the idea of a mystery knit-a-long, but I got as far as knitting the cuffs before I realized that what I really wanted to do was just go back to my other projects and knit last year’s mystery sock later, when I felt like I had time. Her 2009 mystery sock had been calling my name for a long time — I love the rippling lace! — and I figured there was no reason I couldn’t knit it, you know, a year and a half late. Hey, the pattern is still free!

I was very happy with this decision — these were a quick but engaging knit, allowing me to meet my goal of knitting at least two pairs of socks this winter… sort of. If you count April as winter. Here in southern California, it is still wintering pretty hard — where “wintering” = low 60s and raining. But seriously, what’s great about Kirsten’s mystery sock patterns (apart from the fact that they’re free), is that since she releases them in four separate parts — cuff, leg, foot, toe — each part of the sock has something interesting and different going on. These were a lot of fun to knit, and her other mystery socks (check on Ravelry!) look equally entertaining.

The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy, in the Dusky Aurora colorway. I’ve had it in my stash for over a year; I picked it up at Knitty City in NYC on a trip I made there last summer. It’s a great sock yarn, stretchy but strong. I was particularly impressed by the dye job, which you can see best in the first photograph — the colors move around but don’t pool, and the range of blues, greens, and purples coexist in harmony rather than fighting with each other.

I’m thrilled that these socks will be warming my toes until the warm weather shows up. And coming up soon, I’ll have some more handspun yarn to show you. Happy spring, everyone!

Handspun Susie’s Mitts

Yay! I made these a few weeks ago, from yarn I spun from that llama-fiber batt I got at the local fiber festival, but I was too busy with work to post them then. The pattern is Susie’s Reading Mitts, and it’s free! My friend Shayda brought a Susie’s-Mitt-in-progress along to the fiber festival, which is how I learned about the pattern, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it came to mind when I was spinning this yarn.

Here’s the finished yarn before I knit it up:

I named it “Under the Apple Boughs” after Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas, which is one of my all-time favorite poems. I love how rustic the yarn looks, and the splashes of color among the brown just sing spring to me. I was worried that it would come out scratchy, based on how ornery the fiber was to spin, but it’s very, very soft!

I had these mitts in mind the whole time I was spinning the yarn, but when I finished it, my “good sense” told me that I didn’t need another pair of brown mitts, since I already have one. So I started knitting it into a scarf, but after a few days of scarfage I just could’t take it anymore and ripped it out to make these like I’d wanted to all along. Good sense be damned!

The pattern is really easy, once you get your head around the hemming at the top and bottom. I whipped these up in about three days! The pattern calls for DK-weight yarn and size 5 needles, and my yarn was definitely fingering weight, so I planned some adjustments. I wished I had size 3 needles — I only had 2 and 4 — so I decided to knit the size medium on 4s even though my hands are definitely size small. But even with the smaller yarn and needles, it rapidly became clear that size medium was too big! This is partially because my hands are very diminutive, but I think it’s also because the pattern, as written, has more ease than I really wanted. (I wanted, like, no ease.) In retrospect, maybe I should have switched to 2s and continued knitting the medium — since these are a little loosely knit — but what I ended up doing was staying on 4s and knitting the small. Which came out just right!

Yay, spring flowers! In just a day or two I’ll be back with some pictures of a new pair of socks — this is what happens when you get behind in posting!