Gaea’s Wrap

IMG_5927Hello, and sorry for the long absence! Work got crazy for a couple of months there, but now I have the summer off and I can catch up on posting my backlog of projects! What you see here is a freeform wrap that I knit for my friend Gaea for her wedding in April. Gaea is very much a free spirit, and it came to me in a flash about a month before the wedding that (a) I ought to knit something for her, and (b) it ought to be something out of my brain and heart and intuition rather than something from a pattern. So I went to my stash and pulled out all the greens and blues, since those are the colors that come to mind when I think of her:

IMG_5857Not quite all of these made the cut — sorry, lime-green Fun Fur — but most of them ended up in there somewhere. I cast on an unholy number of stitches — north of 300, I’m pretty sure — and went to town. The wrap is mostly garter stitch, seed stitch, bird’s-eye lace, and shell stitch (or whatever that wavy drop-stitch thing is called — I don’t have my stitch dictionary in front of me). The result was a ginormous wrap that I loved to pieces and managed to remember to model before wrapping it up for gift-giving:

IMG_5941SO HUGE. SO AWESOME.

And here it is in another configuration with me looking a little drunk, which it’s entirely possible that I was:

IMG_5938That dress is the one I wore to the wedding, by the way. It was a fantastically freaky potluck Burning Man wedding at a park in San Francisco. So much fun!

Over the next few days / weeks I’ll fill you in on what else I’ve been knitting since February — stay tuned!

Vintage/Modern

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My parents are cleaning out their house in vague preparations to downsize and move sometime in the next year or two, and one of the things my mother unearthed was this great 1975 pattern book for Brunswick yarn, along with an unfinished crochet afghan she’d been making from this book in the 70s and a whole bunch of yarn that had been earmarked for the project. There are some great pictures in this thing! The top photo is my favorite; it’s from the back cover.

Here’s the front cover. I guess it’s the same model, but it’s not quite as amusing as her sassy cigarette pose:

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Upon reflection, though, very little about this picture makes sense. “Oh, it’s just little old me, in my glamorous makeup, wrapped up in this giant afghan, crouching on the ground outside.” Maybe she came over for a fancy barbecue (if that’s a thing) and drastically underdressed for the weather?

But the real prize for absurdity has to go to this shot:

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My mom calls this a “James Bond girl shot,” and I think she’s onto something. “Dahlink, vhy don’t you step into the kitchen for a drink and some snuggles?” The pattern for that dress is in this book, too, and interestingly the only sizes for the clothing in this booklet are 12, 14, and 16 (with bust measurements of this dress coming in at 41″, 43″, and 45″). They probably intend for some positive ease, but I think that speaks volumes about how size standards have changed over the years. (And about how knitting patterns have become more user friendly, presented in a wider array of sizes!)

Here’s one more gem for you:

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Oh yes, you can knit her all-yellow outfit if you choose!

I elected not to finish my mom’s crochet afghan, for several reasons. (1) I’m not much of a crocheter. Even though it was a simple shell pattern and would have been within my abilities, it would have been tough to work on in front of the TV, where is where I do 95% of my knitting. (2) She’d given up on it because her gauge had gotten wonky, so there would be some significant fixing I’d have to do. (3) There were eleventy billion ends to weave in already, and the thing wasn’t even half done. And (4) there was enough of her yarn leftover for me to just knit a blanket myself that would be both more fun for me to work on and more functional as an end product — shell stitch produces a fabric full of holes.

I decided to just freestyle a garter stitch blanket, in part because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to determine how much yarn I actually had, since the labels on this yarn list its weight in ounces but bizarrely not its yardage. After I’d embarked on this plan, though, I thought to look the yarn up on Ravelry and lo and behold, there it is despite its being long-discontinued: Brunswick Germantown. I have the older 4-ounce skeins, and I could have calculated my yardage and followed a pattern, but I’ve been having so darn much fun doing this that I see no reason to stop:

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I’m using the Mason-Dixon Moderne Baby Blanket as inspiration, but I’m not really following the pattern at all — just deciding for myself what colors will look best where. The main insight that pattern gave me was the idea of using intarsia to break up rows into multiple color blocks, which you can see that I’m doing on the top right now and already did on the right hand side. I’d never actually done intarsia before, but it turns out to be stupidly easy and basically exactly like fair-isle knitting except you don’t carry the strand along with you; you just knit in blocks and twist the strands at the color changes. I expect that the hardest things about it are following complicated patterns that call for it and keeping your tension even at the transition points, but here the “pattern” is dirt simple and the transitions are easily managed. I’m having so much fun with this thing that I’m finding it really tough to put down, despite the fact that it’s growing into a sizable wool blanket and it’s the middle of August! Of course, it’s also been a shockingly mild summer here in southern California, and the hottest months are probably ahead of us — September and October are usually the worst. So this blanket probably won’t be finished until the fall, but it’ll be a fun thing to pick up now and then until the cooler weather hits!

Linen-Stitch Cushions

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They’ve been a long time coming, but I finally finished these linen-stitch cushions! My friend Heather sent me this yarn last fall, and I’ve been working on these intermittently ever since. There’s no pattern; I just knit each of the two skeins of variegated yarn into a big square in linen stitch, using just about every inch of these two skeins. Then I switched to a smaller needle size (since linen stitch is really dense) and used some stash yarn in blue to knit identically-sized stockinette squares for the backs:

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Then I just sewed them together and stuffed them with polyfill! I initially had crazy plans to try to actually use these as covers for our existing tremendously-ugly pillows (not pictured), but I soon realized that would require more exactitude and pillow-experience than I actually had. Then I thought I might try to at least recycle the insides of those ugly pillows, but it turned out that those ugly pillows were all lumpy because they contained gross, lumpy stuffing. So those old pillows went into the trash (after I’d slashed them open to get at their insides, unfortunately rendering them unfit for donation), and now our couch is much more attractive!

I’m done with the button bands and collar for my Acer Cardigan, too! Now it’s just a matter of weaving in ends, blocking, and sewing on buttons. You’ll see that soon!

All this finishing, of course, means it’s time for some starting. Later today or tomorrow I’m going to cast on for a little two-person KAL I’m doing with my friend Lisa. Here’s the yarn, which is accidentally holiday-appropriate:

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It’s Cascade Heritage Sock in “Christmas Green.” Lisa and I are going to be knitting “Cusp” from Cookie A’s Knit. Sock. Love. book, and we decided to actually use the yarn that the pattern calls for since a 400-yard skein of it sells for only $11, and I like the idea of using a true solid to show off the lace pattern in the sock. Enjoy your St. Patty’s Day!

Pompa

I’ve finished my Pompa scarf and I’m thrilled with it! It’s perfect for spring, and the color is fabulous. Thanks, Julie, for that skein of Tosh Merino Light — it was the perfect match for this pattern!

My only modifications were to knit this much longer than the pattern specified (Anne Hanson’s scarves are always so short!) and to do my standard lace-bindoff so there’d be sufficient stretch for blocking. I just knit this until I felt like it was long enough, and when I weighed it I found to my amusement I’d used 100 grams — exactly what a current skein of Tosh Merino Light weighs, but this must have been one of the older skeins that had 440 yards instead of 420.

The earrings I’m wearing in the above pictures are my own creation — I remembered today that I haven’t blogged them (or the necklace that matches) yet. Here they are up close:

I bought the beads when Pat & I were in Portland in January, and I finally strung them a month or so ago.

I’ve also started knitting my Acer Cardigan, and I have something to show you that is going to blow your mind. Are you ready?

That, my friends, is a full-on, four-inch-square, washed and blocked gauge swatch. Possibly the first I’ve ever knit in my life. I do swatch, especially for sweaters, but I usually either knit a tiny two-inch swatch (which sometimes results in heartache), or, in the case of my Leaving cardigan, I knit a whole sleeve as a gauge swatch and then had to pull the whole thing out. This time I wasn’t taking any chances, and I also miraculously hit gauge on my first try as you can see here. So now I’m off to the races with the sweater itself:

So far, this sweater has been a lesson in hubris and, accordingly, in Advanced Fixing of Mistakes. The charts seemed complicated at first, but after a day or two of meticulously moving my handy pattern magnets through the chart, I realized that all the non-cabled rows are the same and started gliding along more quickly. BUT because there are two very similar charts (what you see here is actually two charts that mirror each other), I started making mistakes after the next cable row, doing things like working “k3” instead of “k2tog yo,” and I didn’t realize it until last night. So I had to do a LOT of multiple-row local fixes, turning whole columns of “k3” into whole columns of “k2tog yo” or  “yo ssk.” But I surprised myself by being able to do this passably on the fly, without consulting youtube! And now I know to pay close attention on the rows after the cable crosses.

My other new project is this simple side-to-side garter-stitch scarf that I’m knitting Pat for our anniversary:

Pat has never wanted me to knit him a scarf before, because we live in Southern California and he almost never feels like he needs one. But we went camping in the desert last weekend and I thought to throw in an extra scarf for him since it gets cold in the desert at night, and he was immensely grateful. So I’m knitting him this scarf out of the leftover yarn from the socks I knit for him and me this past winter. The colors remind me of dawn in the desert, which makes this a triply wonderful anniversary present.

That’s it for now, but tune in next time for Adventures in Steeking!

Blackberry Waffle Socks

My, what handsome socks! I finished these last night, and Pat was sad that I wouldn’t allow him to wear them to bed because I wanted to photograph them in their pristine condition this afternoon. But now he is happily wearing them in the living room while playing the new Spiderman videogame, which he was actually doing while I was taking this picture — I kind of had to climb into his lap.

Here they are sans feet:

The yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh DK in the “Cosmos” colorway, which both of us love — the flecks of turquoise keep it interesting, but it’s still decidedly manly. The pattern is, nominally, the venerable old Blueberry Waffle Socks. But I knit them on much smaller needles (US 2s) to get a denser fabric, and I added some extra stitches to accommodate Pat’s wide feet, and I knit them using the magic loop method instead of with DPNs, and I completely changed the heel because the pattern didn’t make any sense to me as written, and I also altered the toe a bit. The end result is that I felt like a sock ninja by the time I was done with these — basically the only thing I took from the original pattern was the dirt-simple textured stitch, and the rest of their construction was designed on the fly to fit Pat’s feet and my sensibilities.

I have a surprising amount of yarn left over — equivalent to about 3/4 of a full skein. I might turn it into a little cowl, but I’m thinking seriously about just knitting another pair of these — in a smaller size, and a little shorter in the leg — for myself. I like the idea of the two of us snuggling up on the couch in matching handknit socks!

New Pattern: Riverrun

Sorry to let this blog go dark for so long, but I was working on a new pattern and I thought I might submit it to Knittyspin, so I was keeping the progress a secret. Ultimately I decided to just release it on my own, since I ended up changing the pattern a bit after knitting the handspun sample, and the effort that would be involved in spinning up and then knitting up a whole new batch of yarn was more than I cared to undertake. But hey, I have a new free pattern ready for your needles! It takes just 300 yards, which I got out of only two ounces of fiber.

Riverrun is a completely reversible scarf knit end-to-end to showcase the long color repeats of handspun yarns, Noro, and other such treasures. I chose horizontally-oriented design elements so that the changing colors would work with them rather than against them, and I’m thrilled with the results!

This sample is knit in Noro Silk Garden Sock, colorway S302.

And this one is knit in a fingering-weight yarn I spun from a merino-silk blend from Twist: Yarns of Intrigue. This earlier sample has fewer rows of garter stitch between the design elements, and I found it a little bit flimsier than I wanted. This version does have the optional fringe, though! And I think the subtler color transitions are just gorgeous.

So if you have some yarn, handspun or otherwise, with long color repeats that has been waiting for the perfect pattern, I humbly suggest this might be it! See the pattern page to download.

Beginnings

Meet my newest spinning project! I’m pretty excited about it; the flecks of green, yellow, and red peeking out of the brown remind me of spring, of those brave first crocuses peeking out of the ground absurdly early. The fiber is llama mixed with bits of dyed merino, sari silk, and sparkles, purchased from local llama ranchers at the Southern California Weaving and Fiber Festival in the fall. It’s spinning up incredibly fast; I just started this last week and I’m already 2/3 of the way through the 2 ounces. It hasn’t been easy, though; I’ve been discovering that llama is kind of a bitch to work with. I think it’s because its staple length is so damn long that the fibers get all tangled up with each other, which makes drafting a struggle. This is also the most heterogeneous fiber I’ve ever worked with — the merino and sari silk behave very differently from the llama, which contributes further to the annoying drafting. But I’m excited to see the finished product!

I’ve also gotten started on an Ostrich Plumes Scarf, seen here in extreme close-up.

The yarn is Kidsilk Lace in the “Dove” colorway from Hedgehog Fibres, one of my favorite indie dyers. Just look at the delicate modulations of silvery gray in this yarn! I love it to pieces. My justification for buying this skein, apart from the gorgeous dyejob, was that I’m thinking about knitting a whole sweater out of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in the near future, and I’ve never actually worked with a mohair yarn before so I wanted to make sure that doing so didn’t make me crazy. There are definitely some annoying things about it; it sticks to itself like crazy, which is both a blessing and a curse when you’re trying to tink back mistakes in a lace pattern. It’s a blessing when your dropped stitches don’t go anywhere, but a curse when you’re trying to unpick an SK2P and it behaves like it’s never been anything but a single unified stitch. All in all, though, I think I’m okay enough with the experience to tackle that sweater. All in good time.

I also started knitting up my most recent skein of handspun, but I wasn’t too thrilled with the results:

This is the (free!) Haiti Scarf by Ilsa Leja, a designer I’ve recently discovered who seems to have a whole lot of patterns that look like they’ll work great in handspun. I chose this because I was looking for a scarf knit lengthwise so the long color repeats would be stretched out thin, and also for something with a really simple lace pattern that wouldn’t be undercut by the variegated colors, and this basically succeeds at those two objectives. But at the point you see here, I was 4/5 of the way through the pattern and only 1/2 way through my yarn, despite the fact that I’d added several repeats of the lace pattern when I was casting on. So either her yardage estimate is off, or the fact that I’m using fingering instead of worsted weight (on smaller needles, too) is making a huge difference. So yesterday I unraveled this and scoured my stitch dictionaries — I’m designing my own damn scarf! I’m optimistic so far; I’ll show it to you when there’s more to show, and I’ll write up the pattern if it ends up working out. Wish me luck!