New Favorite

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I’m not kidding — this piece has shot to the top of my favorite handknit scarves list! I couldn’t have asked Verdant Gryphon for a variegated blue more suited to my taste, and Corrina Ferguson’s Creedence couldn’t be more perfect for showing off its shifting colors. I also like that the yarn is sturdy but soft, and the pattern isn’t too fussy — this is a real “everyday” piece in a wonderful way.

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This is definitely a versatile piece. I see myself wearing it more as a scarf than a shawl, but it could work either way. Since it’s knit in a heavy worsted weight yarn, it’s significantly larger than your typical 440-yarn fingering-weight piece of this general shape — which I didn’t really process before I started knitting this, but I’m happy about it. I should also mention that I knit this using size 7 needles rather than size 8s as the pattern calls for — I didn’t actually swatch (I rarely do for shawls), but after a few rows I decided that my gauge just looked too big and kind of sloppy. I’m super glad I did, because at the halfway point I only had a few yards left over in the first skein — so do check your gauge with this one if you don’t have much extra yarn!

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This knits up super fast, and because of its heavy weight is probably more of a cool-weather piece than a spring/summer knit, but I highly recommend putting it in your queue! Corrina Ferguson is a designer who’s really hit her stride in the last year or so — just check out all these gorgeous, unusual shawls! You’ll definitely see some more of them on this blog in the future.

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Yay!

Check Out These Curves

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I’ve finished my sparkly Summit wrap in time for Valentine’s Day, which I wasn’t even really aiming for — but won’t it make a dramatic date night piece?

I had only 400 yards of this Sparkle yarn from Twist, Yarns of Intrigue on hand, so I knit a smaller size (8 columns of waves) that can work as a scarf as well, and I think I like it better at this size anyway:

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I found the pattern ridiculously difficult at first: just to get my mind around it was tough, and then the first few nights it seemed to require all my concentration to count correctly, so I felt like I could only work on it when we were watching documentaries or other things that didn’t require me to look much at the television. I also taught myself to knit backwards for the purl rows, which the pattern recommends — and while it wasn’t hard to learn, it wasn’t nearly as natural and practiced as knitting the regular way and I soon lost patience with it and just started purling. I didn’t actually find it all that onerous to flip the piece back and forth every six stitches, though writing it out like that makes it sound crazy. After I was forced to spend hours and hours with this piece on a plane ride, though, the pattern became second nature and actually quite fun, in part because it grows so quickly and I got a sense of satisfaction from finishing each individual curve as I went along.

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I look super washed out in this picture, but it’s great of the wrap — I love the shadows that it casts on my left side there! A word about the yarn: Twist Sparkle has bits of silver throughout it, much like Dream In Color Starry, but unlike Starry it’s 20% silk, which helps contribute to the drape in a piece like this. Blocking this was a pain in the butt, by the way — each edge curve needs to be pinned out individually.

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I’m including this picture just because it’s cute, and also because it sort of shows how this piece can work in a less-posed, more everyday sort of way. I really do recommend the pattern despite my initial difficulties — it’s not actually that hard; it just requires a little concentration to learn. Don’t be afraid! All you need to know how to do is knit, purl, and yarnover.

And finally here we have my whole ensemble, complete with my lovely red Fluevog shoes:

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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?

Thelonius

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My usual photographer managed to get stuck in rush hour traffic on his way home from running some errands today, so I decided to awkwardly photograph these socks on my own feet. Hooray! They are Thelonius Socks from Cookie A’s beautiful book Knit. Sock. Love., which I was lucky enough to buy from her and get signed at VogueKnitting LA last year. (Judging from the ridiculous prices on Amazon, I guess it’s out of print now! But you can still buy the e-book or individual patterns on Ravelry.) I’m a big fan of the traveling lace-panel in this sock, and will probably knit another pair of socks with this design feature sometime in the near future — Cookie has lots of great patterns that use them!

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The yarn is Sundara Sock in the Antilles colorway, which I received in a deep-discount grab-bag sale that they ran a few months ago, where the color of the yarn you were buying was a surprise. While I’m happy with this color and generally love turquoise, I have to admit that I was hoping for a skein of something that would push me out of my color-comfort-zone a little more. But the yarn was a good match for this pattern, which called for Koigu, and Sundara Sock is very Koigu-like in its weight and texture. As you can see in this photo, there’s quite a bit of color-pooling, but I don’t mind very much since I basically just wear my hand-knit socks as super-fly slippers around the house.

I started a new project recently, seen here:

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It’s not very photogenic right now, but this is the beginning of a chuppah which I am honored to have been asked to knit for my friend Amanda’s wedding this summer. There is all of one chuppah pattern readily available on the internet and I wasn’t a big fan of it, but I found a square blanket pattern which I liked much better: Serenity. The motif looks hilariously vaginal in this picture, but trust me: once it’s stretched and blocked, these will be beautiful, intertwining, only-slightly-vaginal cables.

I have also continued to work on my sparkly Summit scarf/wrap:

ImageIt grows very quickly because of all that negative space, but it’s also been neglected for awhile. I’d say it’s about halfway done at this point. The pattern was a little mind-bending at first, but I’ve made friends with it now and it’s actually quite easy to execute.

Soon — later this week, I hope! — I’ll have not one but two new finished objects to show you. Stay tuned!

Post-Holiday Roundup

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Hello and happy 2013! Now I can finally reveal to you all of my holiday knitting. What you see here is the reversible cabled scarf I knit for Pat. Unfortunately I didn’t finish this in time for him to wear it when he was visiting my family on the east coast — it still needs washing and blocking — but it’s so gorgeous that I felt compelled to lead off with it anyway. The pattern is Deliah by Bobbi Padgett, and the yarn is Alpenglow Sporty Rambo (rambouillet wool) in the colorway “Deep Space Blue.” I hope to do another photoshoot once it’s washed and blocked!

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These here are Mysterious Mittens made for my dad, who is allergic to wool — so they’re knit in Wendy Peter Pan DK New Soft Blend, a pretty decent acrylic. He requested “lightweight mittens,” so this DK-weight pattern seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I also figured this pattern in this color would match the Koolhaas Hat I knit my dad a few Christmases ago!

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This is a 3AM Cable Hat knit for my brother to match the Palindrome Scarf I knit him last year. Both are knit in Classic Elite Portland Tweed, in colorway “Folkestone”– this is literally made of the leftovers from last year’s scarf. I finished that scarf on the 23rd, so I didn’t have time to knit the hat last year! Both these patterns are riffs on the classic “Irish Hiking Scarf” pattern, but the Palindrome Scarf is reversible (it was my first experience with reversible cables), and the 3AM Cable Hat is, well, a hat. There are several “Irish Hiking Hats” out there, but after careful scrutiny I decided this pattern was the best of the lot.

And last but not least — as in, it took me much longer than my dad’s and brother’s gifts combined — an Issey Scarf for my mom:

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Pat and I had hoped to get modeled shots of it on me before he left, but we didn’t have time — it really looks fabulous on a person; it’s so wide and squishy and luscious. It’s my first Olga Buraya-Kefelian pattern, though I’ve been a fan of her innovative designs for awhile. This is knit from the leftover Madelinetosh Pashmina in “Composition Book Grey” (which is quite purple!) from my Leaving Cardigan. I knit this on size 4s rather than 5s as the pattern specifies because it looked like the pleats were holding their shape better on 4s. I was a little worried, though, that the resulting scarf was too dense and stiff — until I blocked it, and it relaxed beautifully. I love this so much that I really might knit another one for myself despite how tedious the knitting is — I’ll have to keep my eyes open for more Pashmina!

You may have noticed that this site’s appearance has slightly changed — I “upgraded” it to a newer version of the WordPress theme I had been using. I basically like the new look better, but one thing that’s weird about it is that all parts of it, including the pictures, look washed out until you mouse over them. It’s apparently supposed to look like things are “rising out of the mist,” but it’s not great for a photo-oriented blog. Bleh. Anyway, please do mouse over the pictures to see them at their full saturation!

I have more to share with you, but I’m going to wait until next time to show you what I’ve been working on since the holidays. Cheers!

Semele

What a difference a quarter millimeter makes! As you may recall, I ran out of yarn just inches from finishing this piece the first time around, and rather than rip it back beyond the halfway point and work fewer repeats, I decided to rip the whole thing out and knit it in the same size on US 5s (3.75 mm needles) instead of US 6s (4 mm needles). It seemed minorly crazy at the time, but the end result is a piece that is much larger than it would have been otherwise, and that uses up most of the skein of yarn rather than leaving like a quarter of it leftover. It’s amazing how that quarter-millimeter difference in the size of the needles allowed me to have more than enough yarn to knit this to the end!

I actually finished this weeks ago, but life has been hectic around here and I didn’t get time to block this until earlier this week. But I love it! I’m so glad that I decided to go with the green Hazel Knits MCN; my original plan was to knit it in red, but I came to my senses and realized that this grass-green yarn and this leafy pattern were really meant for each other.

Ummm pardon my boobs — but this was our best close-up shot. This yarn is seriously divine; it’s so soft and lustrous I can hardly stand it.

I seriously love this thing; I’m glad I took the time to re-do it!

I’ve also made a lot of progress on my River Crossing Cardigan, though it’s currently shelved in favor of holiday knitting:

As you can see, I’ve started one of the sleeves. But as you also might be able to see, it’s kind of a mess right below the shoulder — the pattern told me to switch to double-pointed needles, and I blithely did that, but my gauge definitely changed and got looser. I remembered after awhile that I could just knit the sleeve using the magic loop method, and the bottom part of what I’ve got there looks fine. But I think I’m going to rip the whole sleeve out and do it over with the magic loop method so the tension is even. After the holidays, that is!

Some of my holiday knitting can’t appear on this blog, but Pat is fully aware of the scarf I’m knitting in anticipation of his visit to the east coast this winter:

I am insanely happy about how this is knitting up. Pat picked the pattern from a couple of different reversible-cable scarves that I scouted up on Ravelry — yes, that’s right, it’s reversible! It looks identical on the other side, which I’ll make sure to show off to you once it’s a little longer. It’s the Deliah Scarf by Bobbi Padgett, a designer who has several lovely reversible-cable scarf patterns that you might want to check out for your own holiday knitting! The yarn is just gorgeous, too — it’s “Sporty Rambo” from Alpenglow Yarn, so named because it’s 100% Rambouillet wool. I’d never heard of that wool variety before, but it’s awesome: merino softness with targhee springiness. The colorway is “Deep Space Blue.” I picked it up at the Southern California Handweavers’ Guild Weaving and Fiber Festival a few weeks ago. I was relatively restrained there this year; this is the rest of my haul:

That thing on the left is a mystery skein, a cone remnant that I picked up for $5. You can see it’s got little rainbow flecks throughout it, which is what sold me. The lady it came from said she didn’t know its yardage or even its fiber content, but I suspect it may be a wool-linen or wool-acrylic blend; it seems denser than wool on its own. That lovely blue yarn in the middle is from Alexandra’s Crafts in Silverton, Oregon; it’s called “Baby Silver Falls,” and it’s a superwash/bamboo/nylon blend. It’s very shiny and drapey, and it should be hard-wearing from the 10% nylon. The colorway is called “Gunsmoke.” And on the left is a little packet of sari silk fibers that I plan to try to incorporate into my spinning one of these days!

And speaking of spinning, I finally have another handspun project on the needles:

This is the Lilac Wine cowl by Amy Christoffers. It’s a free pattern and dirt-simple; just a long cowl in a 1 x 1 rib. I bothered to learn the tubular cast-on for it, though, and that was sure a pain in the ass. Definitely do the two foundation rows back and forth before you join in the round; I think it would be literally impossible not to end  up twisted otherwise! I spun this yarn from merino fiber I purchased in Seattle last winter, and I considered more elaborate patterns for it, especially since it’s a solid color and might work for lace — but its airy, springy texture really seemed to want to be a big snuggly cowl. Now that I have proof of concept, this project is being largely ignored in favor of my holiday knitting, but I hope that I’ll finish it in time to enjoy it on the east coast in January! Wish me luck!

Knitting Backwards

It’s funny how looking at a photo of a project can crystallize your feelings about it — I’d been having some doubts about this Twist Sparkle yarn in the Semele I’d been working on, and as soon as I took a look at the picture in my last post, I realized it wasn’t going to work. The flecks of silver seemed like a weird clash with such an organic-looking piece. Almost immediately, I decided that the yarn would be much happier in the project you see above: Summit by Mandie Harrington, from Knitty’s Summer 2010 issue. It’s a striking, unusual pattern that seems like a good fit for this striking, unusual yarn. My inspiration was Ravelry user Knittimo’s gorgeous Starry Summit, knit in Dream in Color Starry, a yarn similar in weight and sparkliness to the Twist Sparkle. There’s less yardage in the Twist, though, so I’ve cast on one column fewer than she did for a total of eight. I’m hoping to end up with a piece that, like Knittimo’s, can serve as either a wrap or a scarf.

As you can see, the construction is quite unusual — but once you get your head around the concept, it’s not difficult at all; you just have to be a little careful with counting. The designer suggests that you learn the technique of knitting backwards in order to avoid flipping the project back and forth between knitting and purling on the short columns — so I did. I just heard of knitting backwards very recently, from my friend Lisa (whose blog I am sad to discover no longer exists!), and I thought it sounded batty. But with the help of this video I figured it out for this project, and made a valiant attempt for a day or two. It’s definitely mind-bending, and worth looking into! However, I ultimately decided that I was so slow and awkward with it (partially from lack of practice, and partially because it involves manipulating the yarn in a rather Continental way and I am decidedly an English knitter) that it was actually faster just to flip the project and purl.

As for Semele, I’ve started it again in the yarn that I really wanted to work it with all along:

I’m so glad I got to take a picture at this early stage, where it looks more like a creeping organic thing than like a shawl. This is the Hazel Knits Entice yarn in the “Shady Verdant” colorway that I picked up in Austin recently. It’s unbelievably gorgeous, you guys. This picture isn’t quite doing the color justice: it’s more intensely green than this. And it’s so, so soft. It’s a blend that I’ve recently been seeing referred to as “MCN”: 70/20/10  merino/cashmere/nylon, a fairly common “luxury sock” blend. This color is, of course, a perfect match for such a leafy design, but I resisted it at first because it seemed a little too “on the nose.” But hey, I guess this is just going to be my super-leafy leaf shawl, and I guess that’s going to be awesome.