Handspun Starshower

IMG_5958Sometimes a pattern comes along at exactly the right time. Hilary Smith Callis published Starshower in February, right around the time I was finishing spinning up a batch of yarn that I quickly realized was perfect for it!

IMG_5526The yarn was spindle-spun from a gorgeous undyed 60% merino / 20% yak / 20% silk blend from A Verb for Keeping Warm – I picked up a bundle of it the last time I was in their store, and found myself completely unable to put it down. I ended up buying 4 oz, and spinning it into roughly 500 yards of a light fingering weight. Here’s one 2-oz hank:

IMG_5856Starshower and this yarn seemed like a match made in heaven — the nubbly texture of the cowl works with rather than against the texture of handspun yarn, and it has some drape and shine because of the yak and silk. I’m thrilled with the final product!

IMG_5954I’m a fan of this cowl-concept that Callis has been exploring lately, where they drape in the front like a shawl, but are joined in back like a cowl, so they stay put much better than shawls worn scarfwise like this. Here’s the back:

IMG_5966This also adds some different wear options, as you can see here:

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Lovely!

Doubling Down

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So much sass! Shield your eyes!

I have finally finished my handspun Lilac Wine cowl. The fiber (100% merino from Weaving Works in Seattle) started its life like this:

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… was spindle-spun into this yarn:

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… and is now this lovely cowl:

ImageI deliberately chose a very simple pattern because I loooove the color of this fiber and I wanted it to become something easy to wear that I would reach for over and over. This pattern fit the bill, though it’s secretly not quite as easy as advertised. It’s just 1×1 rib, but it also involves the sewn tubular cast-on and bind-off, neither of which I’d ever done before and both of which took me a million hours and are really fiddly and annoying. Ultimately I don’t think either one of them is really worth the effort, particularly over so damn many stitches. To make matters worse, opinions seem to differ in different tutorials about how exactly to execute them, and TechKnitter, who I usually trust with my life, leaves a crucial step out of her bind-off instructions (namely that you need to be moving the yarn to the front when you’re slipping the purls, and to the back when you’re slipping the knits). In all seriousness, the bind-off took me three hours and it’s not even as stretchy as I’d like. I’m seriously considering undoing it and just doing my standard lace bindoff, so that I have a little more breathing room when wrapping it double:

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I also finally roped Pat into allowing me to take some shots of him in the Deliah Scarf I knit him for Christmas:

Image“… Ladies?” We’re both pretty psyched about how this came out. The blue (“Deep Space Blue” in Alpenglow Sporty Rambo yarn) is a great color for Pat, since his eyes are blue and he wears a lot of dark, saturated colors.

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So jaunty! The Rambouillet wool is completely perfect for cables; super springy and very soft. Did I mention the scarf is completely reversible?

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He looks pretty pleased with it, huh?

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What a difference a quarter millimeter makes! As you may recall, I ran out of yarn just inches from finishing this piece the first time around, and rather than rip it back beyond the halfway point and work fewer repeats, I decided to rip the whole thing out and knit it in the same size on US 5s (3.75 mm needles) instead of US 6s (4 mm needles). It seemed minorly crazy at the time, but the end result is a piece that is much larger than it would have been otherwise, and that uses up most of the skein of yarn rather than leaving like a quarter of it leftover. It’s amazing how that quarter-millimeter difference in the size of the needles allowed me to have more than enough yarn to knit this to the end!

I actually finished this weeks ago, but life has been hectic around here and I didn’t get time to block this until earlier this week. But I love it! I’m so glad that I decided to go with the green Hazel Knits MCN; my original plan was to knit it in red, but I came to my senses and realized that this grass-green yarn and this leafy pattern were really meant for each other.

Ummm pardon my boobs — but this was our best close-up shot. This yarn is seriously divine; it’s so soft and lustrous I can hardly stand it.

I seriously love this thing; I’m glad I took the time to re-do it!

I’ve also made a lot of progress on my River Crossing Cardigan, though it’s currently shelved in favor of holiday knitting:

As you can see, I’ve started one of the sleeves. But as you also might be able to see, it’s kind of a mess right below the shoulder — the pattern told me to switch to double-pointed needles, and I blithely did that, but my gauge definitely changed and got looser. I remembered after awhile that I could just knit the sleeve using the magic loop method, and the bottom part of what I’ve got there looks fine. But I think I’m going to rip the whole sleeve out and do it over with the magic loop method so the tension is even. After the holidays, that is!

Some of my holiday knitting can’t appear on this blog, but Pat is fully aware of the scarf I’m knitting in anticipation of his visit to the east coast this winter:

I am insanely happy about how this is knitting up. Pat picked the pattern from a couple of different reversible-cable scarves that I scouted up on Ravelry — yes, that’s right, it’s reversible! It looks identical on the other side, which I’ll make sure to show off to you once it’s a little longer. It’s the Deliah Scarf by Bobbi Padgett, a designer who has several lovely reversible-cable scarf patterns that you might want to check out for your own holiday knitting! The yarn is just gorgeous, too — it’s “Sporty Rambo” from Alpenglow Yarn, so named because it’s 100% Rambouillet wool. I’d never heard of that wool variety before, but it’s awesome: merino softness with targhee springiness. The colorway is “Deep Space Blue.” I picked it up at the Southern California Handweavers’ Guild Weaving and Fiber Festival a few weeks ago. I was relatively restrained there this year; this is the rest of my haul:

That thing on the left is a mystery skein, a cone remnant that I picked up for $5. You can see it’s got little rainbow flecks throughout it, which is what sold me. The lady it came from said she didn’t know its yardage or even its fiber content, but I suspect it may be a wool-linen or wool-acrylic blend; it seems denser than wool on its own. That lovely blue yarn in the middle is from Alexandra’s Crafts in Silverton, Oregon; it’s called “Baby Silver Falls,” and it’s a superwash/bamboo/nylon blend. It’s very shiny and drapey, and it should be hard-wearing from the 10% nylon. The colorway is called “Gunsmoke.” And on the left is a little packet of sari silk fibers that I plan to try to incorporate into my spinning one of these days!

And speaking of spinning, I finally have another handspun project on the needles:

This is the Lilac Wine cowl by Amy Christoffers. It’s a free pattern and dirt-simple; just a long cowl in a 1 x 1 rib. I bothered to learn the tubular cast-on for it, though, and that was sure a pain in the ass. Definitely do the two foundation rows back and forth before you join in the round; I think it would be literally impossible not to end  up twisted otherwise! I spun this yarn from merino fiber I purchased in Seattle last winter, and I considered more elaborate patterns for it, especially since it’s a solid color and might work for lace — but its airy, springy texture really seemed to want to be a big snuggly cowl. Now that I have proof of concept, this project is being largely ignored in favor of my holiday knitting, but I hope that I’ll finish it in time to enjoy it on the east coast in January! Wish me luck!

Baa Baa Purple Sheep

Friends, I searched high and low for a pattern that would allow me to maintain my self-respect more than did the Gap-tastic Cowl. It’s a Gap knockoff, it has a stupid name, and it’s just mindless seed stitch — surely there was something out there that was a little more interesting and less corporate. But for this amount and type of yarn, it was hard to deny that this was basically the perfect pattern. And evidently 4,961 Ravelers agree — this pattern is super-popular.

It turns out that there are a lot of cowl patterns out there for about 120 yards of super-bulky yarn, and a lot of cowl patterns out there for 300+ yards of super-bulky yarn, but I had 220 yards and I wanted to use every last scrap. The Gap-tastic Cowl’s simplicity allowed me to just cast on and knit in seed stitch until I was done, and though I was a little short of their recommended yardage I still ended up with plenty of cowl. And it’s fabulous — squishy, textured, snuggly, and everything I was looking for.

Speaking of using every last scrap, this project and I achieved serious mind-melding when it came time to bind off. I guesstimated when the time was right, and when I was done binding off I had four inches left over. Four inches! Just enough to (painstakingly) weave in — it was magic.

The yarn, to remind you, is Catskill Merino’s Super-Bulky yarn, which is evidently called “The Big Easy.” I bought it at the Union Square market in the snow, when I was experiencing serious cowl envy. I don’t anticipate wearing a cowl this bulky very much in southern California, but it’s what I wished I had this winter when I was visiting my family back east, and I expect it and I will be inseparable on next year’s holiday trip. We’ll all still be wearing cowls then, right? Right? Guys?

You Can Spin the Light to Gold

Finally, the last of my summer projects. This is an Infinitude Scarf, made from the yarn left over from my Leitmotif Cardigan. I finished this in approximately July, and envisioned a blog post called “Right Trend, Wrong Season,” but as we know, the crush of dissertation-finishing, job-finding, and apartment-hunting meant that no knit-blogging happened at all this summer. Instead, I’ve cleverly titled this post with a line from a Dar Williams song called “The End of the Summer.”

If you paid attention to fashion and/or knitting magazines last winter, you know that big chunky cowls were the “It” accessory. I was skeptical of this trend at first — doesn’t connecting the ends of your scarf together limit the number of ways you can wear it? — but I slowly came around. When it’s wrapped up like in the above photo, a cowl is very snuggly and more stable and secure than a scarf. And I’ve even started liking how cowls look when worn in this less-actually-warm manner:

This (free!) pattern is pretty great — it’s easy-breezy knitting, and the result is a cowl with some interesting texture and structure. It also used up the 300 yards of Madelinetosh Vintage that I had left over from my sweater with stunning accuracy — after knitting the large size cowl, I had maybe three yards left over. And the colorway – “ink” – goes perfectly with jeans. Yaaaay.

Now that the parade of summer FOs is over, you may be wondering what happened to the Leaving Cardigan that I was working on last spring. Well, it’s still a work in progress:

I guess you can’t tell very well from this picture, but I still have about a million ends to weave in. I finished all the actual knitting on this sweater in June or July, but I never found the time to do all the seaming during the Summer of Stress. I’ve only just picked it up to do the seaming in the last few weeks, so I’m crawling toward the finish line. To tell the truth, having no time to seam was only half the problem — I was also terrified that after all that work knitting it, this sweater might not actually fit after I sewed the pieces together. The last few sweaters I’ve made have been the try-on-as-you-go variety, so by the time I got to the finishing stage I was pretty sure they were going to work out. I haven’t knit something in pieces in years, and none of the ones I knit that way in the past quite came out right. Hence, the stalling. But now that I’ve finished the seaming, I’ve confirmed that it does actually fit, so I’m excited to finish up!

Next time on Doublepointed: I (finally) reveal what’s actually on my needles right now!