Long Time, No Blog!

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Sorry it’s been so long since I posted here — my new job has kept me too busy to document my projects, but rest assured that I’ve been knitting! This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of catch-up posts, but once the new semester gets underway it may be difficult for me to post again. But that’s what summer break is for, right? That and margaritas.

Above I’ve showing off a shawl called The Way from Brighton designed by Joji Locatelli. It’s the sort of simple, geometric, textured design that appeals to me a lot these days, but this was in fact a yarn-driven project from the start.

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I was down in San Diego getting trained to teach AP Language & Composition over the summer, and in my free time I did what I tend to do when traveling by myself: hit up local breweries, vegetarian restaurants, and yarn stores. I visited both the Stone and Ballast Point breweries on that trip, which were both pretty epic! I forget the name of the place I got this yarn from — it was pretty tiny and out-of-the-way. The yarn is Swans Island Organic Washable DK in “Aubergine,” a dark, warm purple shade that I’ve been into lately and that turns out to be pretty close to Marsala, the newly-unveiled Pantone Color of the Year for 2015 — that’s right, I’ve apparently got my finger on the pulse of color-trends! (See matching skirt, purchased entirely independently, in the photo below.)

I was so captivated by the color and squish of this yarn that on the spot in the store I whipped out my smartphone and looked through my Ravelry queue for patterns calling for DK-weight yarn, and The Way From Brighton jumped out as a match made in heaven. And so it was!

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This is a pretty easy project once you get the hang of the bobbles, and it goes really quick after the first row (which is nothing but bobbles!). I highly recommend it!

While we’re here, let’s talk a minute about another accomplishment — this autumn, I finally taught myself to Navajo-ply! Like most knitting- & spinning-related things, it turns out to not be nearly as difficult as it looks. I was very puzzled by the youtube videos I watched at first, but once I started actually doing it I realized that it’s in fact very easy: you’re just making giant, arm-length chain stitches and twisting them up. Here’s the result:

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The fiber is from Capistrano Fiber Arts, a handpainted merino/silk blend that I picked up years ago at the Torrance Fiber Festival. It had such high variegation that I thought normal plying would muddy up the colors too much; I didn’t want the barber-pole effect, but long repeats of single-colored strands, and that’s just what Navajo plying does for you, as you can hopefully see here!

I’ll try my best to catch up with posting some of my other autumn projects here soon! I’ve actually gotten behind on blocking as well as blogging, so I’m excited to see my projects finally get all the way finished and come to life!

Sweaters of Yore

My blue Leitmotif Cardigan is almost finished — it should be off the needles today and blocked by the end of the week. My aim was to make the best sweater I’ve ever made, and I think (knock wood) that I may have succeeded. But so we can all make an informed judgment, and because I thought it would be amusing, I am treating you to a post about all of the sweaters I made in my pre-blog days, in all their wonky glory.

What you see above is the second sweater I ever knit — we’ll get to the first in a moment. This super-crappy picture is courtesy of my old old camera’s self-timer, in my first grad school apartment. Yaaay. This is the “Go-Everywhere, Go-With-Everything Cardigan” from the first Stitch N’ Bitch book, which was the first knitting book I ever bought. I’d had a beloved store-bought blue cardigan knit from heavy cotton yarn, and I lost it at the exposition of MFA art theses in spring of my first year of grad school, because my friend Matthew worked for the art department and had access to their hidden behind-the-scenes wine. Wine is much sweeter when it is free and you are drinking it in a supply closet and then you can go look at art a minute later, let me tell you. But drunk-me lost the cardigan somehow, and I resolved to knit myself a replacement. I had to do a ton of annoying algebra to make the worsted-weight cotton yarn work for the pattern, which is written for DK weight I believe, but this actually came out pretty well. I still wear this sometimes!

Here is my first sweater ever, with head cut off to protect the innocent:

Look, this post is going to be full of crappy pictures. I apologize. Beware the sweater curse, ladies! Pat grumbles about the fact that I refuse to knit him a sweater until he has put the proverbial ring on the proverbial “it,” but I am now 1 for 1 in terms of knitting sweaters for dudes I was dating and then eventually breaking up with them and I am not eager to test the wrath of the curse again. What you see here is Knitty’s Accordion sweater, knit in blue and orange because this guy’s favorite teams were the Mets and the Broncos. When I knit this, I did not understand the concept of drop shoulders and couldn’t figure out why the sleeves were supposed to be knitted so short, so I just knit them as long as his arms were. Then when I sewed the piece together, well, we ended up with a sweater with cuffs. Big cuffs. I attached a zipper to this and everything, which is something I can barely imagine being willing to do now. But yeah, first sweater: it fit a human being and didn’t look too ridiculous!

Welcome to my third sweater, Veronik Avery’s Dollar and a Half Cardigan from the Spring 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. This one legitimately rules. As you can see, it has stripes on one side, and a big fat cable braid on the other. I wear this thing all the time, despite the fact that the sleeves are too long — and this time, it wasn’t (quite) my fault. I know that I have freakishly short arms, so I knit the sleeves an inch or two shorter than the pattern specified, and they still came out about three inches too long. Sigh! Again, cuffed sleeves to the rescue. I’m pretty entertained that I’m in basically the same pose here that I was in that shot I took of myself in the green sweater two years earlier.

Like many knitters in the summer of 2008, I became obsessed with Ysolda’s Liesl. So much so that I knit two of them. It used so little yarn! It knit up so quickly! It was like crack cocaine for basically the entire online knitting world. I knit this one out of Rowan All Seasons Cotton, which is very soft and surprisingly lightweight, but I had (and continue to have) real trouble with the pesky ends like the one you see poking out on my arm there, because they won’t felt away. I do get a considerable amount of wear out of this, though, on breezy spring afternoons. And I’m kind of in love with those wooden buttons I chose.

Liesl II: Electric Boogaloo. This time I knit the sleeves long, and modified the pattern slightly to end up with bell sleeves because I am a big old hippie. This is knit in Malabrigo worsted, which was lovely to work with but has unfortunately developed a serious pilling problem in its old age, so I don’t wear this a whole lot. But the color sure is gorgeous; my Ravelry notes tell me it was just called “Burgundy.” And I love the bizarre angle at which Pat took this shot.

And… that’s it! The only proper non-shrug sweater I’ve knit since starting my blog is the Audrey in Black I did this past spring. And while I love that to pieces and wear it all the time, I think — no whammies no whammies no whammies — that this one I’m finishing up just might be my best sweater yet. Stay tuned!

Ribs and Lace Reboot

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, before I had a blog, I tried to knit the Ribs and Lace Tank from the Spring 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. This was before I had any substantial experience knitting lace, and was near the beginning of my shift to knitting in front of the TV, so the bottom lace part was quite difficult for me and took quite a long time. But when I finally got to the bust shaping in the ribbed bodice, the numbers started failing to add up in a pretty drastic way, and after checking and rechecking I discovered to my horror that I had cast on the wrong number of stitches by a fair sight (like, 20-30 stitches fewer than I needed to knit my size), but by some terrible terrible accident, whatever number of stitches I’d cast on was still a multiple of eleven, so the bottom lace part worked out just fine and I never noticed my mistake. In thorough denial, I took the piece off the needles and attempted to try it on to see if it could be salvaged, but no. Not at all. Way, way, WAY too small.

So I screamed and raged and threw the thing into the corner and didn’t look at it for two years. Last summer, I had finally gotten over this tragedy enough to frog the piece to salvage the yarn and try again. What you see above is the yarn, all kinked up from being knit into a garment for, you know, two years, and tied off into skeins. I figured I’d document it for posterity, since by this time I had a blog and I knew that eventually I’d post about it. I gave these skeins a good soaking to get the kinks out, hung them into the shower to dry, and twisted them onto themselves into sad little approximations of the sort of skeining you’d buy in the store:

Apologies for the incredibly dark picture — I didn’t think to photograph these guys until when I was about to wind them up into balls to knit from, and it was late at night and the flash looked even crappier. The two balls on top are the ONLY TWO BALLS for the project that I hadn’t knit into the unwearable tank top by the time I noticed my mistake. Sigh. But I got all this wound up, and I’ve been back at it after triple checking the size, and I’m all the way through the lace skirt now and about to start the bodice:

Yaaaay. Before I cast on again, I wondered idly if the lace would be charted — and when I actually looked at the pattern, I laughed at myself, because of course both of these lace stitches have only ONE row of actual lace patterning to them — the other rows are straight knits or purls. I breezed through the whole skirt in just a couple of days, the skirt that I struggled over and swore about three years ago. Progress! Growth! Hooray!

Now, I’m a little skeptical about this pattern for a number of reasons. With the greater knitting experience that I now have, I’m not sure that I would have chosen to knit this pattern — but since I had the yarn for it and everything, I figured I may as well. For one thing, many Ravelers have complained that the “skirt” part of this pattern is too wide in the larger sizes, and I feel like mine is looking too wide, too. But I really didn’t want to do the math involved with knitting a skinnier skirt and a larger bust, so I’m just knitting it as is. For another thing, I really don’t like the “dartboard” effect that the bust shaping results in, but fortunately Svetlana has posted alternative directions for the bodice on Ravelry that eliminate this effect.

Basically, if I end up with any kind of wearable tank at the end of this process, I’ll count it as a victory over my past demons. This pattern has literally been at the top of my Ravelry queue since I first joined the site, because at that time the only thing I knew I was going to knit at some point in the future was this damn tank top again. I’m excited to finally conquer it!

Freeform Week 1

Here is my NatCroMo Freeform Crochet-along piece after 7 days of instructions have been followed. Everybody’s looks quite different since we are all using different yarns, interpreting the directions differently, placing the stitches differently, and using different numbers. I’m actually pretty pleased with how mine’s coming out; I’m trying to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible given the restrictions. But this is not always possible — for example, for the spiral in the middle, we were specifically instructed to use our least favorite yarn from our stash. 😦 I knit a whole skirt out of that yarn waaaay back when I first started knitting, and it really did look a lot better on my monitor when I was clicking “purchase” than it did in real life when it showed up at my door. I may as well show you that skirt, while we’re at it:

Here it is, in my barren, monk-like first-year-graduate-student apartment, back before I had any material possessions to speak of. Note how my phone is just lying on the floor while charging. The skirt looks sort of plausible in this picture, but in reality it’s difficult to wear without feeling like a grade-A weirdo. Now, I have been known to attend functions where grade-A-weirdo attire is encouraged (::cough:: Burning Man ::cough::), but somehow even in those contexts this doesn’t come off the shelf very often. Variegated yarns always sound so good in theory, but rarely work out in practice — this skirt represents the first time I learned that lesson, and that’s part of why I hate this yarn so much to this very day. I hate it because it tricked me.

(Last Year’s) Christmas Knitting

I have made the objectively poor decision to knit for my family again for Christmas this year. I’m about 95% sure that they don’t read this blog — they know of its existence, but they think the whole concept of a knitting blog is a little nuts — but before I go blithely posting shots of their presents in progress, I thought I would regale you with tales of what I knit for them last year. Family, if you’re out there, please leave a comment or forever hold your peace. If I don’t hear from you in a week or so, I’m going to start spoiling surprises here.

Last year was the first year I attempted to knit gifts for my family members, despite having been knitting for about five years. Gift knitting, as many of you know, is risky business — you put zillions of hours into a project, and if it’s just a little bit outside of the recipient’s tastes, it never gets worn and you both feel kinda awkward about it. So last year I sent my family members a survey asking them what sort of knitted articles they would wear, what fibers they prefer, and what colors they like. Here’s what I made:

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My brother asked for a scarf, since he’d never really had one before. We were both raised more or less scarf-free, despite the freezing east-coast winters — our family just never really owned or wore them. When I went away to college in upstate New York, though, I made friends with scarves real fast. My brother had started to hear rumors that there was a way to keep the wind from freezing your neck in the winter, though, and was interested to try one. He left the color choice up to my “artistic decision,” so I figured Noro was about as artistic as you can get. This is a Noro Striped Scarf, where 2 different Noro Silk Garden colorways are striped together. One of the colorways I chose was basically shades of gray, to avoid competition with the more colorful yarn and to stay sufficiently muted so that a heterosexual man could wear the scarf and still feel reasonably heterosexual. I think I succeeded pretty well, and he seemed to like it.

My dad asked for a hat and informed me that he was allergic to wool, so I made him this:

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It’s a Catawampus Cap, but I kind of messed up the mosaic pattern — it was supposed to be more pointy. But I still think it looks fine. I knit it out of Caron Simply Soft, which is basically the only acrylic yarn I recommend — it really is soft, and not at all scratchy or plasticy like most acrylics. The hat is here modeled by Pat, who is very patient with my various knitting needs. In the background you can see my erstwhile bed, which I painted myself and referred to as my “Leafy Bower,” which is a halfassed Keats reference. When Pat moved in we needed a larger bed, so we dismantled the Leafy Bower and bought an identical unfinished bed in a larger size from Ikea and painted it together in dark blue with an array of gold stars. It’s pretty awesome, guys. In fact, I may as well show you a picture of it while we’re on the subject.

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The flash makes the blue look a little brighter than it in fact is; it’s not quite so 5-year-old-boy blue, I swear. After a lot of trial and error, we decided that the technique that was going to give us the coolest stars was spraypaint & stencils, so there you go.

Anyhow — my mom never responded to my damn gift survey, so rather than make her a garment that she might not like or ever wear, I decided to make her a thing to decorate the house.

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This is a Jameson doily. I decided to make it because I’d just taught myself to crochet a few months earlier and I wanted the practice, and I was excited about the wide word of crocheted doilies. (Shut up.) This is a pretty basic pattern as far as doilies go; it’s written for self-striping sock yarn, which makes the color changes random and wacky, but I decided I wanted control over the color changes so I used three different colors of Hemp for Knitting Allhemp 3. It worked pretty well; the hemp yarn softened up a fair bit upon washing and blocking, and it’s very sturdy. My mom was pleased with the doily, but she got scarf-envy when she saw the Noro scarf I knit for my brother, and she demanded one for herself. But when I questioned her about what she specifically wanted, she said “well, what if the yarn were all silk? And could it have a more interesting texture? And what if the colors were a bit more intermixed?” Sigh. So she footed the bill for some Artyarns Regal Silk (which is delightful, by the way), and I spent most of January making her this:

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This is a Prismatic Scarf; I liked the way the bars break up the color pooling, but I also really liked the way the colors pooled in a zig-zag. I added a crocheted scalloped edging because it looked like it needed something.

This year, however, I have decided to throw caution to the winds and just use my family members’ previously-stated preferences to come up with some surprise gifts for them. What could possibly go wrong? Find out next time!

My Heart on Cassette

Warning: this will not be a knitting post. I wanted to put it somewhere public, but not as connected to my professional self as my academic blog, so here it is. Originally I’d planned that this blog would have non-knitting personal content, but this is the first time I’ve really gotten around to doing that. So if you can deal with the lack of pictures of yarn, then please stick around. I promise to be charming! But I’m going to hide the post under a cut-tag, because it’s incredibly long and incredibly self-indulgent. Continue reading

The Worst Hat Ever

The Worst Hat Ever has never before been seen by human eyes — unless you count mine, that is. Too embarrassing to ever be posted to my Ravelry profile, it lives in a dark corner of my stash drawer whispering warnings about the dangers of Fun Fur. Like so many of the worst projects ever, it was originally intended as a gift. Why is it, fellow knitters, that our generous impulses sometimes blind us to the realities of texture and palette that make some yarn choices objectively terrible? He loves the LA Lakers, so I will make him a purple and yellow scarf. It will be so fun and different! Ahem.

If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll remember that when we last left our heroine (five years ago), she had just learned to knit and had successfully made a cabled hat and a drop-stitch scarf in addition to her first lovable-mutant garter scarf. Well, I got so high on those successful projects that I immediately decided I was capable of designing my own damn hat, and returned from the local craft shop with a skein of Lion Brand Homespun, two skeins of Lion Brand Wool-Ease, and one hideous skein of Fun Fur. I made a gauge swatch like a good little monkey, cast on an appropriate number of stitches, and improvised away. I even attached a little flower to the thing, following the instructions from the Head Huggers pattern in Stitch and Bitch Nation. Et voila:

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It doesn’t look that bad, lying there demurely next to my toaster oven. It was envisioned as a gift for A., my best female friend from college. The qualifier “female” is important, because I was (and still am) one of those girls who has a million male friends and only a handful of female ones. (My knitting circle injects the largest single dose of estrogen into my social life most weeks, which is one reason that I love it so.)

The whole idea of the hat was to be ridiculous, and I certainly accomplished that aim. A. has a, shall we say, unique sense of fashion that juxtaposes thrift-store finds in unlikely combinations, and I thought that a wacky, one-of-a-kind hat with a flower on it might be exactly up her alley. But the Fun Fur was my downfall. Observe:

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Though endearingly wacky in principle, a hat made with Fun Fur when worn on an actual human head causes one to look like a deranged Muppet. Even through my generosity-clouded eyes, I was able to perceive this more or less immediately. I had completed the hat just in time for a camping trip that A. and I had planned that summer, which would be our first significant time together since I had graduated the previous spring. The camping trip was great — in addition to successfully climbing a mountain, successfully lighting a fire, and successfully not getting eaten by bears, we also successfully crashed a motorcycle convention by jumping the fence and successfully got served free whiskey at said convention by the bartender we’d met at a local saloon earlier that weekend. Throughout this entire trip, The Worst Hat Ever lurked in my backpack, waiting for the right moment to be unleashed on the unsuspecting recipient. Ultimately, I decided not to ruin A’s weekend by forcing her to accept such a questionable gift. After all, it’s tough to fit in at a motorcycle convention when you look like an escapee from the Sesame Street Psychiatric Hospital.