Off the Naughty List

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Once upon a time, I knit most of a sweater. I had some trouble with the sleeves, and I put it down. It languished for years on what I assumed was the naughty list, but a few months ago when I picked it up and looked at my notes, I could find…… nothing wrong. Just the body (complete), one complete and seemingly fine sleeve, and most of another sleeve. All it needed was literally one more row on the last sleeve, and the yoke. (For you non-knitters here from Facebook, a sweater’s “yoke” is the shoulder part that connects the sleeves to the body.)

Stunned, I cast my mind back, and finally recalled that though I had had to re-do one of the sleeves for some reason, I had not, in fact, ragequit the sweater. I’d just stopped because my brother’s wedding was coming up, and I needed to spend 100% of my knitting time on his wedding blanket, a task that ended up taking nearly a year but was totally worth it. (Click through if you haven’t seen that lately; it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve made!)

When I was done with the blanket a year later, this sweater was a thing of the distant past. The sleeve problem loomed in my mind, even though (apparently) it had actually been solved. So I moved on to other projects, and this sweater continued to languish. But this past December, I picked it up again and realized that it really only needed ~10 hours more knitting, and I would have an entire brand new beautiful sweater! Ta da!

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The pattern is Lavandula by Triona Murphy for Twist Collective, and I did make some modifications. I noticed from looking around on Ravelry that one surefire way this thing could turn into a disaster was for the lace pattern to not fully cover one’s boobs & the body ribbing to start halfway up them. Since I have a long torso as well as some, ah, blessings in the boob department, I added two repeats of the lace pattern to what the pattern called for before I began the neck & shoulder shaping. (That’s 4 total repeats of the lace pattern before the shaping, despite the fact that I was in the size range that called for only 2.) In retrospect, I could have cut a couple inches from the ribbing part to avoid ending up with such a very long cardigan, but I don’t think it’s so long as to be weird, and my boobs are fully covered in lace, so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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This boob-zoom is brought to you not merely by my desire for you to behold my ability to alter a pattern to fit my body, but also these rose buttons, which I think are SO PERFECT for this cardigan. (From Jo-Anne’s!) I did add more buttons more frequently than the pattern called for, to avoid bust-gapping. (There are 8 total buttons, with I think 10 rows between them, and no button at the very bottom.)

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By now you may be noticing the cuffed sleeves. This is because I wet-blocked this sweater, and I forgot that wet-blocking causes superwash yarn to grow. The sleeves were knit bottom-up, though, so I wasn’t able to just unravel them shorter. I tried, believe me, and it was a nightmare and I eventually cut my losses and decided to cuff them.

The yarn is Tosh DK from Madelinetosh in the “Tart” colorway, a gorgeous deep red yarn with a bit of black in it. I bought it from Imagiknit in San Francisco, which is basically Disneyland as far as I’m concerned. The salespeople there insisted on getting down all their skeins of Tart and unfolding them and helping me choose skeins that really matched, that had a similar amount of black in them. Bless them. I did not alternate skeins in this project, and the color is very even. Behold the yoke:

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Here’s one last shot for you, which I insisted on taking because let’s face it; this is not not a sexy librarian sweater:

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Leyburn: Hers & His

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It gets difficult to blog my knits during the school year, but now it’s officially summer, so expect a firehose of catchup posts. Up today is this winter’s socks: Leyburn by MintyFresh of PepperKnits. I’ve had this pattern in my queue for a long time, since it looked like such a great way to make the most of variegated sock yarn, and I can’t say I was disappointed. This lovely yarn is Merino Mia from Prism Yarn in the “Thunderclap” colorway:

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These were also my first toe-up socks ever! The short-row toe takes a little getting used to, but the short-row heel is done exactly the same way as the short-row toe, so in theory these are easier to execute than top-town socks, with their fiddly heel-flap & gusset pick-up. My problem with them is mostly one born of inexperience, which is that both my pair & the one I made for my husband came out a little too long in the foot. The pattern says to knit the foot until you have X number of inches until the heel, and I didn’t know if that measurement was meant to be taken all the way around to the back of the heel, or how stretched the sock should be, or what. And I chose to err on the side of caution, because a sock that’s a little too big is much more wearable than one that’s a little too small. So I ended up (twice) with some biggish socks.

Yes, you read that right: I knit two pairs of these in a row. That was more from emergency circumstances than love of the pattern, but I did like the pattern a fair amount. Over Christmas, we were in Northern California visiting my parents, and I was in danger of running out of knitting before our trip was over, so we made an emergency trip to the yarn store so my husband could pick out some yarn that I could use to knit him a second pair. That store was Uncommon Threads in Los Altos, to which I want to give a shout-out because they told me that they were pretty sure that I could get a whole pair of socks out of one ball of Schachenmayr Regia, even though my husband has rather large feet, but that it would be close, and I ended up with about 6 inches of yarn left!

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You can see in the fact that his toes aren’t going all the way to the tip of the sock that these are a little too long, also. Live and learn! The colorway, which is deeply weird but which I do think the slip-stich pattern works pretty well for, seems like it might just be called “Pop Art Color.” If I’m wrong and that’s just the name of the color series, the color’s number is 05822. I bought a whole second ball of this to be safe, and I didn’t need it because the ladies at Uncommon Threads were right on the money, so if you’re dying to have it, let me know.

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!

Holiday

Sorry to leave you hanging for so long — I’m sure you’ve all been teetering on the edge of your seats waiting to find out whether I managed to finish the scarf for my brother in time for Christmas. As you can see in this crappy late-night self-portrait, I did. This is actually a pre-blocking shot, but I didn’t really stretch it in the blocking process — I just washed it and laid it flat to soften and relax the fibers. It spent about 24 hours blocking (on December 21st) in the basement before my brother came home for the holiday, then I had to transfer it to a hidden spot in my bedroom so he wouldn’t see it while it continued to dry. I got it wrapped and under the tree by the 23rd, just under the wire — my family opens our gifts to each other on the 24th!

The pattern for the scarf is Palindrome, and it’s basically a reversible version of the ubiquitous Irish Hiking Scarf. (Both are free patterns — hooray!) I’ve never knit the IHS, but I imagine that the Palindrome scarf is denser and uses up more yarn because of the reversibility, which is mostly accomplished via ribbing. That’s right, reversible cables! It was my first time working them, but they turn out to be pretty easy and I’m glad that I now know the trick. The only modification I made to the pattern was adding another row of cables — at just three cables wide, it seemed too narrow, so I did four.

My other holiday project, which I never bothered to photograph, was a beadless version of Abrazo for my mom, by special request. It looks more or less exactly like my earlier one linked there, because I even used the same yarn! So, no photo.

Besides The Great Scarf Scramble, you may recall that my other crazypants winter-break plan was to knit Jared Flood’s new Leaves of Grass shawl in bulky yarn as a blanket and to block it here at my parents’ spacious house and then mail it back to my tiny California apartment. This ran into a snag when (1) the blanket-in-progress, which I’d mailed to my parents’ house, arrived several days later than it was supposed to, and (2) I realized I’d forgotten to pack my longest Knitpicks interchangeable-circular cord. So I had to order another one of those, which took another few days, and as a result I missed out on the valuable days on and around Christmas when our house was inundated with relatives and all there was to do was to sit around and chat with them and knit. During that time, I instead made swift progress on my Port Ludlow socks, which are now almost complete:

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I’m only a few repeats away from the toe on the second sock.

I finally was able to start on the blanket again, though, and I’m making progress. I’m a little worried that I won’t finish in time, but I have a girls-only craft night scheduled on Monday where I should be able to put in a solid three hours or so on it. From this picture, it may not be easy to tell how much progress I’ve made, but it’s been going pretty well:

Fingers crossed! And while I was busy taking this picture, Max came to the very reasonable conclusion than a furry object of this size and shape was obviously a dog bed and plopped down right in the middle of my shot:

What? This is for me, right?

I have also started yet another project, mostly because I was worried about running out of sock to knit on the plane back home, but also because I’d promised Pat some new handknit socks for Christmas New Year’s Valentine’s Day and I happened to come across the perfect yarn:

Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s Madelinetosh Tosh DK in a colorway called “Cosmos,” which I thought was interesting-looking but still quite manly. And look! I’m knitting them magic-loop style! This is the first time I’ve ever done that, and it turns out to be very easy and quite possibly less annoying than using doublepointed needles. When Wooly Monmouth, the new(ish) LYS near my parents’ house, was out of size 2 DPNs, the lovely owner Dori gave me a three-minute magic loop lesson and assured me it was a technique I’d be glad I learned. And I am! I can’t say enough good things about Wooly Monmouth — helpful staff, gorgeous yarn, Madelinetosh for miles — so if you live in or ever visit the Jersey shore, I strongly encourage you to go! The pattern I’m using for these socks is the dirt-simple Blueberry Waffle Socks, since they’re written for DK-weight yarn, easily customizable, and stretchy (so sizing will be easy).

And speaking of holidays, I’ve just come back from a week-long trip to Portland and Seattle — but I’m going to make you wait until next time to hear about it!

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.

Austin Campanula

Of course I would finish this on the day that summer heat finally hit southern California. Until today (well, and yesterday a bit), we’d been having relentlessly gorgeous weather — low 70s and upper 60s, some clouds but no rain — that is much more characteristic of spring than summer in LA. But now that it’s in the 80s, of course it was time to model my new cashmere scarf.

I like that you can see my new bright-turquoise toenail polish in this shot! The pattern is Anne Hanson’s Campanula, which was delightful to knit. I never quite memorized the lace, but I got familiar enough with it that I could knit it in front of subtitled films such as the amazingly ridiculous Chinese Ghost Story II with no trouble and only brief glances at the chart. The pattern is written for Great Northern Yarns cashmere laceweight, which is quite fine, so I used a larger needle (US 2 1/2) with my Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashemere 2-ply. Here’s a headless shot where you can really appreciate the yarn:

Isn’t it lovely? I’d been having trouble photographing it on our shady porch before, but here you can see that it glows. And it’s super soft. As I believe I mentioned here earlier, I got it at Hill Country Weavers in Austin, TX, which was conveniently within walking distance of the Austin Motel, where Pat & I stayed for half of our trip. It’s a lovely, well-stocked shop and I highly recommend it! I also got some wonderful forest green sock yarn there that I’ve earmarked for my next pair of socks, but I’m not sure I’m going to be in the mood for sock knitting until the fall when it gets chilly again. I’ve named this project “Austin Campanula” for the origin of the yarn, and also because its brown/goldness reminds me of the Texas countryside.

Here’s a blocking shot:

Technically it’s a post-blocking shot; I forgot to photograph it until I took the wires out. Which is almost a shame, because I put those wires in meticulously, threading them through every damn purl bump in the garter edging because this design has no regular eyelet row in the edging that would have made using wires easier. I used every bit of the 400 yards of yarn that I had, ending up with a scarf that is 10″ wide by 57″ long after blocking. It’s pretty much the perfect size!

I should be finished with my Les Abeilles shawlette very soon, and I have an exciting garment project coming up — stay tuned!