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!

Audrey in Black

Oh, hello. Fancy meeting you here! My sweater? Why, it is brand new. And I knit it myself!

Why yes, I would be delighted if you admired it from the back as well.

The lace detailing? Well, it’s — hey. Eyes up here, buddy!

Okay, okay. Enough shenanigans. My Audrey in Unst cardigan is finished and I’m pretty happy with it. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts‘ BFL sport in the “shadow” colorway, which I love for its softness and sturdiness, but it’s temporarily unavailable. 😦 You might try writing to the Blue Moon folks to ask when it’s coming back!

So, knitting this was pretty great — no seaming, genius construction, well-written pattern, etc. My only problem with the finished product is that the armholes are weirdly deep. Observe:

I haven’t seen anybody else complaining about this on Ravelry, so it’s probably my fault somehow. At first I thought it might have to do with my row gauge, but no — that was spot on. My stitch gauge was a little tight, so I purposefully knit a size bigger than my bust measurement (whereas the pattern tells you to knit it with zero or negative ease), so it’s possible that this is how the problem arose. I am, however, very happy with the fit across my bust — it does seem to have ended up spot-on zero ease, which is exactly how I wanted it.

It’s been awhile since I knit a fully-featured cardigan; I got on a lace kick right around the time I started this blog, and when you’re a lace knitter, it’s easy to feel like you’re a knitting ninja. But knitting this cardigan made me realize that I have a lot to learn about garment construction & strategy. I wish I’d somehow been able to figure out that the armholes were going to be too deep — it would have been easy to correct by just knitting the fronts and back a little shorter (since the thing is knit bottom-up). The only modification I made to the pattern was knitting the sleeves much shorter than the pattern called for, for my stumpy little arms. I’m continually shocked at how short my arms must be, based on the way most patterns are written. I did all the arm decreases at the every-seven-rows rate, instead of switching to every-nine-rows as the pattern suggests, and I knit 10 fewer rounds of ribbing at the cuffs, and the sleeves still came out a bit longer than I would have liked!

All in all, though, this was a success, and I’ll definitely get a lot of wear out of it. I’m also inspired to try to knit more sweaters and get better at this whole customizing-to-fit-my-weird-body thing.

So, what else have I been working on? Well, some lace, obviously:

This is Anne Hanson’s brand-spanking-new Campanula Scarf, which I fell madly in love with when she showed the swatch on her blog a few months ago, and which I started nearly as soon as humanly possible after she released the pattern. I’m knitting it in the insanely gorgeous Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere 2-ply in the “Burnished Gold” colorway that I bought at the delightful Hill Country Weavers shop during the trip to Austin that Pat & I made in the spring. It’s officially my second-favorite LYS behind ImagiKnit in San Francisco, which is just staggeringly incredible. HCW is basically a small house stuffed top to bottom with gorgeous fiber; they have a great selection of luxury & art yarns as well as a bunch of the basics. So anyway, this project basically has me swooning every time I pick it up. I haven’t succeeded yet at capturing the lustre of this yarn, but believe me — it glows.

I also just started this project yesterday, which is kind of a secret for now, so you won’t see much more of it until it’s done and in the hands of the recipient. But the yarn, FYI, is the famous Sanguine Gryphon Bugga! , in the “Fairy Wren” colorway. I bought myself two skeins of Bugga! for my birthday (along with, uh, all that other stuff I showed you in that birthday post), and this one, though the colors are gorgeous, I decided wasn’t really for me. Fortunately, I was able to figure out who it would be good for in pretty short order, so it’s being put to use. The yarn really does live up to the hype; I recommend it highly — very soft and very sturdy.

And — what’s this?

Is it — something I managed to start and finish so quickly that I haven’t even blogged it yet, but it’s done? Yes, I think it is. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see it in its full glory!

Mission Accomplished

I have officially finished my Christmas knitting, and well before Thanksgiving, too! I feel like I deserve a medal. That medal might be for “Most Realistic Expectations,” though — I could never have done it this fast if I hadn’t been aiming low, making hats for my male family members (which take less than a week each) and a scarf for my mom (which took 2 or 3 weeks). This here is a Koolhaas Hat for my dad, modeled by my very patient boyfriend. It is knit from Caron Simply Soft, because my dad is allergic to wool, and I’ve found Caron to be one of the softest, least objectionable acrylic yarns around. The pattern is wildly popular on Ravelry, with over 3800 projects — in fact, it’s the most popular hat on Ravelry if you don’t count Calorimetry, which is really more of a headband. This baffled me a little at first, since it’s not an easy hat by any means — there are an awful lot of pain-in-the-butt rounds where you have to use a cable needle every four stitches — but I figure its popularity must be due to the fact that it’s one of the few truly gender-neutral patterns that is still complicated enough to be giftworthy. The problem with male hats, as I discovered this holiday season, is that they’re either too plain to make very good gifts &/or to be worth knitting at all (depending on how well you can tolerate boring knitting), or they’re trying to pass off cables as “manly,” which only really works if you’re knitting for a J Crew model. But the Koolhaas hat really can be worn by a man or a woman equally well, and its intricacy shows the kind of care we’d like our knitted gifts to show. So I figure what’s going on across the knitting world is exactly what went on in my head: “okay, so this hat will be a pain in the butt, but it will look good and since it’s a hat it will be over soon.”

How cute is this picture? My one gripe with this otherwise exceptionally well-written pattern is that it doesn’t provide a stockinette gauge measurement. The gauge is only given in the lattice pattern, which is only charted in the round, so the only real way to check your gauge is just to start knitting the hat and pray, and check your gauge once you’ve knitted the whole bottom band and once through the lattice chart — aka, once you’re like 1/4 of the way through the hat. It helps that the stitch pattern makes the hat pretty stretchy, though, so when your gauge is off and you decide “fuck it, I’m gonna keep knitting,” your hat comes out pretty okay anyway. Ask me how I know. 😉

So yeah, in the absence of a gauge swatch, knitting this hat was a giant leap of faith. My dad has a pretty enormous head, and the pattern was only written in one size for men and one size for women (both of which have the same diameter; the only difference is depth), so I decided to go ahead and cast on an extra 8 stitches to do one extra repeat of the lattice pattern, figuring that my dad’s freakishly large head would need the accomodation. My first clue that my gauge was significantly off was when I got to the recommended measurement for the ribbing only about 80% through the recommended number of rounds for the ribbing, and when I had knit enough of the lattice pattern to check I got pretty worried. But I soldiered on, and ended up knitting the hat the number of rounds recommended for women rather than for men, because my row gauge was so much bigger than the pattern’s. And it’s come out just fine; the lattice is stretchy enough that even I can wear it with my normal-lady-sized head and it doesn’t feel too big, but it’s clearly got enough room for my dad’s head. (Pat’s head is slightly smaller than my dad’s, fyi.)

In other news, I have made two new knitting friends in the past two weeks! The first was “Fishnet,” of My Cup of Tea. She posted to a Cornell alumni board on Ravelry looking for a Cornell alum in Orange County who knits, and I raised my virtual hand. I’m probably the only other one of those in these parts, so I was happy to meet her. We went out for lunch, which was lovely, and it sounds like she’ll be coming to my knitting circle on Thursday to meet other academically-minded knitters. The other knitting friend is one who I “made” in the active sense of the word — I took my friend Katherine on a trip to Yarn Lady in Laguna Hills on Saturday to buy her very first yarn & needles. She was impressed by the friendliness of the people there and their willingness to provide help, so I’m hopeful that she’ll be joining the fold. We’ll be teaching her on Thursday, but I think I’m going to step back and have one of the knitters I taught last fall do the teaching. For one thing, I think someone closer to the beginner experience might actually be a better teacher — and for another thing, I’d like to give these new knitters the opportunity to experience the joy of teaching the craft!

Another crafty thing I’ve been up to that I keep forgetting to share with you is a beading project I did a few weeks ago. When I went to Michael’s to get supplies for my Halloween costume, I noticed that they were having a big sale on beads, and I got seduced by some pretty jasper. So I made these:

Beading is basically a tertiary hobby of mine — I’m inspired to make something maybe once or twice a year — but I’m beyond pleased with how this set came out. All of those stones are jasper; it just naturally comes in that range of greens, purples, and browns that I love so much and that matches so much of my wardrobe. And I’m also pretty pleased with my choice of spacers; I couldn’t decide between the smaller smoother ones or the larger knobbly ones, so I bought some of both and think that the combination is much better than either would have been on its own. Swoon!

Next time on Doublepointed: Some socks get resurrected, and I begin a quixotic quest to knit an enormous blanket before what passes for winter here in southern California comes to an end!