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!

The Cruellest Month?

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I finished spinning this yarn recently, which I’m calling “Breeding Lilacs Out of the Dead Land,” of course from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. It’s 2 oz of a 50/50 merino silk blend from the lovely Sincere Sheep, and I succeeded at my plan of spinning it into a fine laceweight to stretch my yardage — I ended up with 440 yards, plenty for a nice lace shawl or scarf!

Here’s my next spinning venture underway:

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This picture is not really doing this fiber justice — it’s an undyed merino/yak/silk blend from A Verb for Keeping Warm and it’s positively luminous. It’s also one of the softest things I’ve ever felt — it’s such a treat to spin!

April was the month of my birthday, and here’s the spread of fiber-related things that I’m calling birthday gifts to myself — notice a theme?

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Yeah, I guess I’m feeling this color combo right now! The knitting on the bottom is an in-progress Creedence shawl knit out of Verdant Gryphon‘s Mondegreen yarn in a colorway called “Ooh! Ooh! Jade Weiner” — all the Mondegreen yarns are named after famously misheard song lyrics, and this is apparently how some people hear the chorus to “Dream Weaver” by REO Speedwagon. Corrina Ferguson designed this pattern specifically for this yarn back in October, and I knew immediately that this was one of those cases where it was worth it to buy the yarn called for. I’m sure this pattern would be lovely in other yarns, too — Tosh Vintage comes to mind — but I wanted an excuse to try out Mondegreen (a wool/silk/camel blend!). I finally caved and bought my two skeins in April when VG announced they were about to retire it for the season in order to make room for lighter, more summery yarns — and I cast on right away when it arrived! The Zen Yarn Garden skein is a laceweight yarn in a hilariously identical colorway, but I’m sure it’ll become a very different piece. I bought it at the Alamitos Bay Yarn Company during Yarn Crawl LA — ABYC is my local yarn store anyway, and I didn’t have time to hit up any faraway stores, but I went to take advantage of my birthday-month discount, enter the drawings, and see the Yarnover Truck (which is awesome, but was a little picked over by the time I got there — they don’t have much storage space in there!). And the sewing box is something I’ve needed for a long time — for years I’ve had a very small sewing box that I bought to hold knitting notions and the few leftover buttons and spools of thread that knitting projects can generate, but as the years have gone by that small collection of items got quite large and the box was overflowing! My new sewing box is so palatial by comparison that I actually have a separate compartment for my favorite stitch markers, so that I don’t have to dig through the lesser stitch markers to find them:

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Those are my favorites on the left at the back. They’re all from Hey Buttons on Etsy, and what I like so much about them is that the rings are welded shut so they can’t possibly catch on a strand of your yarn. They also all have lovely gemstones or glass beads on them! In fact, I like them so much that when I went to dig out that link for you I accidentally ordered some more for myself – ha!

In other knitting news, I’ve made a big change to my plans for my friend Amanda’s chuppah — but scrolling through this blog I realize I never told you about it in the first place! I was thrilled to be asked to knit the chuppah for Amanda’s wedding this summer, but it turns out that there’s only one pattern for a chuppah on Ravelry and I wasn’t thrilled with it. So I looked around for square lace shawls and blankets, and I initially settled on a lovely cabled blanket pattern called Serenity. I knit on this all through the eight-hours-each-way drive from LA to Tahoe for Amanda’s bachelorette party, as well as during downtime that weekend, but I had some doubts — all the cabling was beautiful, but it was going to result in a very heavy blanket which threatened to make a bulky, sagging chuppah. Then last month Kirsten Kapur released a beautiful, perfect square shawl pattern — Water Music — and my brain instantly went “CHUPPAH CHUPPAH CHUPPAH!” And so:

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It was a little sad to rip out so much work, but this is SO much better on so many levels. It’s moving along much more quickly, it has heart-shaped double-leaf motifs, and it’ll be a lovely canopy that will let light through during the ceremony — and afterwards, it will still serve as a cuddly blanket. I’m trying my best to get the knitting done during these last chilly weeks of spring before summer hits southern California in full force and I no longer want a huge wooly blanket in my lap as I’m knitting — wish me luck!

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?

This is What Denial Looks Like

Yep. I told you last time that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have enough yarn to finish my Semele, and here I am running out with less than 20 (increasingly short) rows to go. I had to see it through to the bitter end, though; I didn’t want to give up if I really did have enough yarn.

And here, friends, is what crazy looks like:

That’s right: I frogged the whole damn thing. I could, of course, have just ripped back a little past the center and put the turning point earlier, but that would have made the finished article significantly smaller, and would have wasted something like a full quarter of the skein. So instead, I’m going to knit this all over again in exactly the same size but with size 5 needles instead of size 6s.

The fabric is definitely a little denser than I’d ideally like, but I have faith that it’ll open up plenty in the blocking stage. Wish me luck!

I also have finally finished spinning that merino fiber I bought in Seattle:

Isn’t it gorgeous?? I have about 450 yards of a light, fluffy sport weight yarn here. It’s certainly enough for a lace shawl or scarf, but because of its sproingy texture I’m considering a long, snuggly cowl instead. We’ll see! It’s been awhile since I had a handspun project on the needles, so I’m eager to make a decision and get started.

I have, however, also started another new project:

This is the beginning of River Crossing, from Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s new book Landing. I’ve been a fan of her clean, classic designs for awhile now, but this is my first time actually knitting one of them. This is a pretty simple top-down raglan cardigan, with a wide textured collar and button band. It seems like a very versatile, wearable piece, and the simplicity of the design allows this gorgeous gray from Hazel Knits to stand out. The yarn is their Piquant Lite in the “Nickel” colorway, and I was worried that it would be a little too lightweight for this design, but I got gauge in my swatch, and the yarn plumped up a bit in the blocking stage, so I think it should work. Wish me luck!

Spring Break Woo

For the first time in several years, Pat and I actually got to enjoy our spring break — not having dissertations to write makes vacations feel a lot more possible. So we drove up to San Francisco for a quick trip — we went on the “murder tour” at Alcatraz (even grimmer than you’re imagining, seriously), ate at a bunch of our favorite restaurants, saw a bunch of friends (but not everyone we wanted, or for as long as we wanted — we’ll need to do another trip this summer!), and went to some yarn stores. What you see above is the new project that I took with me on the trip — it’s much longer than this now, after being worked on during (parts of) two seven-hour drives, but I already had such a good shot of it that I didn’t bother taking a second picture. The yarn is Tosh Merino Light in the colorway “Forestry” — I bought this skein off of my friend Julie who’d ended up with more than she needed. I’d been wanting to try this yarn for awhile because I love Madelinetosh’s dye jobs, and guys: I am in love. Look at that stitch definition! The pattern is Anne Hanson’s Pompa scarf. I didn’t have a particular plan for this yarn right away, but shortly before spring break I had the brainwave that its strikingly bright color should really be paired with a pattern of equal boldness, and the strong lines of this scarf seemed perfect. This pattern had been in my Ravelry queue for awhile, but I didn’t realize until I actually bought it that the triangles are not stockinette: if you squint, you can see patterns of purl bumps in there. I actually love that about this pattern: it makes the knitting more interesting, and the finished product more reversible!

I kept my knitting tourism to a minimum because of our limited time, but I had to go back to Imagiknit, which is a magical, wonderful place. I picked up a sweater’s worth of Madelinetosh Vintage in the “Charcoal” colorway, to finally knit the light gray sweater that my wardrobe has been needing:

I’m going to begin swatching for an Acer Cardigan, maybe as soon as tonight!

I also, having fallen head over heels for the Tosh Merino Light, bought some more of it:

Left to right, these are “Sequoia,” “Amber Trinket,” and “Saffron.” The one on the left I actually picked up at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, but the other two are from Imagiknit, and my plan is to stripe them together in some yet-to-be-determined stripey shawl pattern.

At Imagiknit, I also finally succumbed to something I’d had my eye on for ages and ages:

Apologies for the crappy photo, but yes, that is a set of ADDI CLICK LACE INTERCHANGEABLE NEEDLES OMG. I decided that they would be an early birthday present for myself, and also that I may as well buy them in the store since it was the same price as buying them online but I wouldn’t have to pay shipping. I love regular Addi Lace circular needles more than life itself, and a whole lovely, superbly-designed set of interchangeable ones is practically more amazingness than I can handle. My old Knitpicks interchangeable needles (see photo 1) have been reasonably reliable, but they’re made of wood and seriously starting to wear down with time.

The other yarn-related stop I made on this trip, as I’ve already mentioned, was A Verb For Keeping Warm. I visited them three or so years ago when they were still in their warehouse space, but I hadn’t been to their new store yet, so it seemed pretty mandatory. I picked up this skein of “Shimmering,” their 100% tussah silk lace yarn:

The colorway is called “My Hand and Yours.” This is one of their indigo-dyed yarns, and the photo doesn’t quite do it justice: the color leans into purple more than this picture shows. I also picked up these two impossibly soft hanks of fiber:

This is undyed fiber that is 60% merino, 20% yak, and 20% silk. It’s insanely gorgeous — shiny and snuggly and heathered. Once I picked these up in the store I literally could not put them down.

Between this trip, our Portland & Seattle trip, and the two knitting festivals I went to in the fall, it is definitely time to cut myself off for now: no more new yarn until the end of the summer… probably.

Be My Winding Wheel

Would you believe that I haven’t had time to write up my Pacific Northwest trip yet because I’ve been too busy knitting? Well, I have — I’m going back home to California tomorrow, and I’ve been busting my ass to finish that giant blanket before I leave. I’m going to leave you in suspense about how it’s going for now, though, because I have so much about Seattle and Portland to tell you!

Above, you see one of the knitterly highlights of my trip: my first experience spinning on a wheel at my friend Vanessa‘s house. It was hard to get the hang of it at first, but once she gave me a few tips I was able to spin a few decent yards. This is the Ashton Kiwi, which I’ve heard wonderful things about, and it seemed to work pretty well. It was a little stunning to realize how much faster I could be spinning if I had a wheel, which I guess would be both good and bad: good because more yarn, bad because more money spent on fiber.

It was lovely to see Vanessa, and she pointed us to some important Seattle landmarks, such as the statue of Vladimir Lenin, who was still decorated for the holidays:

And the giant bridge troll:

And, of course, some local yarn shops. Pat was a very good sport about all the knitting-tourism I wanted to do! The first one we hit up was Seattle Yarn in west Seattle, a neighborhood that Pat & I really enjoyed. The shop was well-stocked and the owner was friendly, and I came away with these:

The picture’s a little crappy, but this is two skeins of Berroco Alpaca Fine, in a very interesting colorway: dark blue with a red halo.

We also made it to Weaving Works via some minor hilarity. It was Vanessa’s most highly recommended shop, but we initially didn’t think we’d have time to fit it in. Then one afternoon when we were staying with my friend Miriam, our second Seattle hostess, Pat and I found ourselves sitting around her house one afternoon at 4:30 without much to do. I looked at Weaving Works again online and realized that it was only about a 10-minute drive from Miriam’s place… and that it was closing at 5:00. So we dashed to the car and got there just in time for me to be able to poke around. I got this lovely yarn:

This is Soxie from the Great Adirondack Yarn Company, in the somewhat strangely-named “copper” colorway. But perhaps the most interesting thing about Weaving Works was all the giant baskets full of fiber for sale by the ounce. It was difficult to choose, but I eventually came away with this:

This is a little more than 4 ounces of merino fiber in a stunning blue colorway that seems to have been carded with bits of pink, purple, and green. I’m super excited about it, and really glad we managed to squeeze Weaving Works into our trip.

That’s me and Vanessa. I highly recommend you check out her brand-new knitting blog — it’s already got some thoughtful and interesting posts on knit-bombing, switching from Western to Continental knitting, and sweater alterations, among other things!

After Seattle came Portland, where we stayed with my friend Jim for a couple of days. Jim was a marvelous host, treating us to craftsman whiskey and to mead that he’d brewed himself, and  showing us jazz, karaoke, and lots of wonderful restaurants. He is not, however, much of a knitter — heh. But I met up with my friend Karel one afternoon and we took a trip to Yarnia, a magical land where shop patrons get to make their own yarn by selecting single strands to ply together in a big old-fashioned cone-winding machine that I tragically did not get a picture of. After a few different experiments and swatches, this is what I came up with:

It’s three different purples — one of them a fuzzy mohair — and a strand of glittering gold. The gold was Karel’s stroke of genius; I liked the combination of purples that I’d come up with, but it didn’t feel enough like a one-of-a-kind yarn yet. I’m super excited about it!

Other Portland highlights included Powell’s bookstore, Multnomah Falls, and blacklight-pirate-minigolf, but this post is already getting quite long!

I have just one more yarn acquisition to show you. After Seattle and Portland, Pat and I came back to the east coast where I’ve been visiting my family. On a snowy trip to New York City, I began to develop cowl envy — I was wearing my Infinitude Scarf, but it seemed insufficiently snuggly for the wind and snow. So you shouldn’t be surprised that I fell head-over-heels in love with these skeins when I saw them hanging in a vendor’s stall in Union Square:

This is a bulky-weight one-ply merino from Catskill Merino, and I love it to pieces. I shall knit it into a huge bulky cowl that I will almost never wear on the west coast, but I’ll love it next winter when I come back east again!

Whiskey Girl

Ever since I took that picture of this scarf with the whiskey bottle, I’ve been fixated on calling the color of this yarn “whiskey.” It looks more orange here because of the light, but in some of the pictures below you’ll see what I’m talking about. The colorway does not appear to have an official name, but the yarn is a sport-weight alpaca from Twist: Yarns of Intrigue in Manhattan Beach. It looks like you can’t actually buy their in-house yarns online at the moment, which is too bad, but if you’re in southern California I highly recommend that you check out their shop and their hand-dyed house-brand yarns.

Here I am checking out some orange flowers in the courtyard of our apartment complex. Despite all the tropical greenery, I was pretty chilly in this tank top — but I chose to suffer for fashion, because this outfit seemed like a good way to show off the scarf.

The pattern is Anne Hanson’s Monkey Bread Scarf, a simple and satisfying arrangement of big fat cables. I just knit straight through to the end of the skein, and as you can see I ended up with a rather long scarf — which was the goal. I was stunned at how quickly this knit up, too!

Here it is on the blocking board. Now you can see what I mean when I say that it’s whiskey-colored, right?

I also just recently finished spinning and plying that Jacobs wool I was working on. Here, you can see it overlaid with a tiny sample of yarn spun from that fleece I got from my friends’ farm last year:

Since Shannon uses the wool from her sheep for needle-felting and not for spinning, I wanted to make sure that it would spin decently well before I committed to it. And it looks like it’s working fine! I’m going to spin a bunch more of it and make something striped with it and the blue yarn, since they’re both Jacobs wool. I’d been a little reluctant to spin that fleece, because there’s just so much of it and I thought I should save it for when I have a wheel and can make a whole sweater or something, but I’m happy about finally taking the plunge. I won’t use even close to all of it for what I have planned, but that’s just fine — I’m sure I’ll figure out something else for the rest someday.