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!

Gaea’s Wrap

IMG_5927Hello, and sorry for the long absence! Work got crazy for a couple of months there, but now I have the summer off and I can catch up on posting my backlog of projects! What you see here is a freeform wrap that I knit for my friend Gaea for her wedding in April. Gaea is very much a free spirit, and it came to me in a flash about a month before the wedding that (a) I ought to knit something for her, and (b) it ought to be something out of my brain and heart and intuition rather than something from a pattern. So I went to my stash and pulled out all the greens and blues, since those are the colors that come to mind when I think of her:

IMG_5857Not quite all of these made the cut — sorry, lime-green Fun Fur — but most of them ended up in there somewhere. I cast on an unholy number of stitches — north of 300, I’m pretty sure — and went to town. The wrap is mostly garter stitch, seed stitch, bird’s-eye lace, and shell stitch (or whatever that wavy drop-stitch thing is called — I don’t have my stitch dictionary in front of me). The result was a ginormous wrap that I loved to pieces and managed to remember to model before wrapping it up for gift-giving:

IMG_5941SO HUGE. SO AWESOME.

And here it is in another configuration with me looking a little drunk, which it’s entirely possible that I was:

IMG_5938That dress is the one I wore to the wedding, by the way. It was a fantastically freaky potluck Burning Man wedding at a park in San Francisco. So much fun!

Over the next few days / weeks I’ll fill you in on what else I’ve been knitting since February — stay tuned!

Iron Maiden

IMG_5733Something about this piece really attracted comments from strangers when I was working on it. I brought it on my most recent trip to visit my family in New Jersey, which meant knitting on two planes and also in the park once with my parents, and every time I had it out in public somebody would come over and tell me how gorgeous it was! Some people commented on the pattern — the hypnotic stripes were easy to knit and are very visually pleasing. The pattern is Iron Maiden by Maiden Brooklyn, a designer I recently discovered with a lot of great shawl patterns.

IMG_5702Other people commented on the yarn, which is indeed lovely. It’s from Alisha Goes Around, an independent dyer who I believe is local to Texas — I picked up this yarn when Pat and I were living in Austin last summer. I don’t think she’s selling this particular yarn base anymore, though: this yarn is  called “75/25 Falkland + Nylon Fingering,” and it looks like Alisha is now going for much more poetic yarn names (and that she doesn’t sell this particular blend of fibers anymore). It’s very sturdy, but not at all scratchy — it would have been great for socks, but this lovely dark blue-purple color needed to be somewhere other than my feet.

IMG_5744This was a quick, easy knit — I never even got a chance to blog it when it was in progress. My only problem is with the bindoff — either I executed it incorrectly (very possible) or it’s not actually stretchy enough to allow for the edge to be pulled out into points like the sample is. I don’t have a problem with the smooth, non-pointy edging, but I sort of wish I’d ignored the instructions and just done my standard stretchy lace bindoff. (It’s the one from Laminaria, though I generally don’t double-strand it.) On the whole, though, I’m very happy with this!

Happy Birthday to Me

IMG_5679Yes, yes. Technically my birthday was in April. But in April, I took advantage of my birthday-month discount at my local yarn store, and I bought this lovely skein of Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk + in the “Mystic Ocean” colorway. And then in June I started knitting it into a Laminaria shawl, following Xavi’s mods on Ravelry to leave out the star chart. And now that this project is finished, it’s like it’s my birthday all over again!

IMG_5658My favoritest shade of deep blue-green, such a beautiful lace pattern, and a dramatic and generously-sized shawl. Yes, yes, and yes! Can you even believe how fabulous the above shot is? Pat snapped the picture just as I was twirling around, so we caught the shawl in motion.

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I no longer remember exactly how many repeats of the blossom chart I knit, but in order to get as much shawl as possible out of my skein I religiously followed the yarn-ratio charts that the designer (Elizabeth Freeman) brilliantly supplies on Ravelry (pretending I’d knit one repeat of the star chart, since there’s no entry for zero). I knit a Laminaria once before and I knew that the edging does eat up a lot of yarn, but I was skeptical when the charts told me to start the edging with something like 40% of my yarn left. But Elizabeth is a genius at whose feet I worship, so I did what her charts told me — while secretly making plans to match up the leftover yarn I’d surely have with some of the other remnants in my stash. But she was right, of course: when I got to the last few rows, I even started to sweat, thinking I might not have enough to finish! I ended up having to bind off on the final purl row rather than purling that row and binding off on the knit side. Never again will I doubt you, Elizabeth, and please write us another of your gorgeous shawl patterns soon.

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Rainshine

IMG_5604 Knit from my own handspun yarn! This pattern is Rainshine by Boo Knits. I’ve had a couple of her lovely shawl designs in my queue for a few months now, but this is the first I’ve actually made. I don’t think I ever even showed you an in-progress shot of this, it knit up so fast! But I do like to include fiber-to-yarn shots in my posts about handspun items, so here’s the yarn when I was spinning it up: IMG_5245_2 Two ounces of a 50/50 merino/silk blend from the Sincere Sheep, purchased from the artisan herself at Vogue Knitting LA last fall. I spindle-spun 420 yards of laceweight yarn, and used a little more than 350 yards of it in this shawl.

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I did the extra rows for the “more dramatic” edging that the pattern offers as an option, but I didn’t use beads and I didn’t do the crochet bindoff, because without a bead to weigh down the middle of that 10-chain point, I thought it might lose its shape and become a loop instead of a point over time. Also, the crochet bindoff was going to be a huge pain in the ass.

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Overall, I’m very happy with this piece. I think it’s a good match of pattern to yarn; I wanted something for this lavender color that was going to be sort of wispy and ethereal, and this pattern fits the bill!

Here’s what else I have going:

IMG_5624This is actually much bigger now, but I didn’t feel like shooting it again — I thought I was going to make this post two weeks ago before I went on vacation, but it didn’t happen! This is the beginning of a Laminaria shawl that I’m knitting according to Xavi’s mods in order to leave out the star chart and start straight in with the blossom chart. I made one of these the regular way back in 2009, and I love it but it’s very big, very wooly, and very gray, so I don’t actually wear it all that often. The yarn I’m using this time is Serenity Silk + from Zen Yarn Garden and it’s lovely. The picture here makes it look both more uniform and more blue than it actually is — it’s really a shifting blue-green that I hope Pat & I can capture when we shoot the finished object!

I’ve also been working on a little summer cardigan of a type I’ve been needing for awhile:

IMG_5637And as you can see, I’ve made a lot of progress! (This came on vacation with me, too; also it’s just been a long time since I’ve written a post.) It’s an Emelie cardigan; the pattern is by Elin Berglund. The yarn, which I’m totally in love with, is Anne Hanson’s new Breakfast Blend Fingering in the “Oatmeal” colorway. I’d been needing a little cardigan in a neutral color to wear over pastels etc in the warm weather, and as soon as this yarn came out I knew it would be perfect. As great as it would have been to pair Anne’s yarn with one of her own patterns, I also knew that Emelie, with its cropped length option and its 3/4 sleeves and its lack of seaming, was the sweater I wanted to knit with it. And I can’t say enough good things about this yarn — it’s soft, but with a good firm hand that makes you have real confidence in the shape and longevity of the finished sweater.

I promise it won’t be such a long stretch between posts next time. I’ve actually just gotten started on an exciting “vintage” project with some yarn my mom found in her basement, but I’m going to wait until next time (when I’ve made a little more progress) to tell you about it!

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!

Hold This Thread As I Walk Away

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Once upon a time (last spring), I started knitting an Acer Cardigan in this lovely Tosh Vintage yarn. I knit the whole body and one of the sleeves:

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And it was a little bit too big for me. The sleeve (just pinned on in this pic) was WAY too big, but the body was okay — it’d be a little loose, but I was going to layer under it, right? By this point it was summer and Pat and I were leaving for Austin, so I decided to set it aside and redo the sleeves and other finishing work in the winter. Now it’s February, and I’m 20 pounds lighter than I was a year ago, and this sweater was WAY TOO GODDAMN BIG. And so:

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I’ve started alllll over again, knitting a smaller size. I’ll also probably just pick up stitches from the shoulder and knit the sleeves top-down to fit me, now that I’ve been burned once by the sleeves in this pattern. It’s a little frustrating, but why knit a sweater that won’t fit?

In other long-hibernating-project news, I am finally moving towards finishing my linen-stitch pillows. I tried three different seaming methods before I hit on one I liked:

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This is the stockinette back joined to the linen-stitch front of one of the pillows (unstuffed). I’m pretty pleased with how nice and neat this looks. My original plan was to just crochet the backs and fronts together, since I like crocheting much more than I like seaming, but this created an ugly bump in the stockinette section — I didn’t think to take a picture, but it was gross. Then I tried backstitching, but I eventually got spooked about not being able to see the seam (since the wrong sides were facing me), so now I’m doing a version of mattress stitch and it’s working well, if slowly.

I’ve also started a new mindless project for third-drink-of-the-night knitting:

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The pattern is Groovy by Annie Lee of JumperCablesKnitting. The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, which I bought in Seattle about a year ago. I expect this will take me about six million years to knit, as it’s knit on US 2s and may take as much as 700 yards of yarn, though I definitely might quit before that. But what a lovely, simple concept for a shawl! I had to pin it to get the pleats to separate for you, but presumably blocking will make them lie reasonably flat.

That’s all I’ve got for now — enjoy your holiday if you’ve got one!