Monday, December 8, 2014

evening knitting

My dad actually asked for something specific for Christmas this year, which is basically unheard of. I'm really tickled that what he wanted was a hand knit scarf. "Long, with stripes, in Dad colors" was the request, so I got to indulge in a little bit of yarn shopping when I returned from my trip.

I knew I wanted to work with at least worsted weight yarn both to make the fabric a little hefty and to make the inches go by at a good clip. I also wanted the yarn to be soft and have great stitch definition but be reasonably priced so I could get 5 different colors. I remembered that I've been wanting to try out Heartland yarn from Lion Brand and there were some great "Dad colors" so I went that route. 

Aside: I spent a lot of vacation in stores perusing wearables and touching lovely knitted things. So many of the knits you can get in stores are made with acrylic yarns that manage to be soft and really appealing (a la the Anhild cowl at Anthropologie). With the exception of a few of the bulkier Lion Brand yarns, I haven't really seen anything similar in either the small local yarn stores or the larger craft stores. Where do we home knitters get to find these mythical creatures? And in all the great colors?

After browsing on Ravelry for a while looking at patterns, I discovered two things. First, it's really difficult to find unique but classic patterns for men. There are a lot of patterns with elaborate lace (too girly), lots of cables (probably not great with stripes), or just plain garter or stockinette stitch (kind of boring). I wanted something a little different to both hold my attention while knitting and strike that elusive balance between simple and eye catching. This leads me to my second discovery, the mini herringbone scarf from Purl Bee.  

I started but stopped an effort at the big herringbone cowl from the same site a while back. I'm not sure why, but the stitches seemed very foreign and complicated to me at the time so I decided no more. This version is not exactly the same, but very close and I've had no trouble getting started and memorizing the pattern. I'm a few stripes in and enjoying this as a way to feel like watching Arrow on Netflix isn't an idle evening activity. :)

I can already tell I'm going to like how this turns out. The fabric is sturdy but still springy, and the yarn shows off the herringbone stitch beautifully. I wasn't totally sure about the stripes not competing with the stitch pattern since I only saw one other project use multiple colors, but based on what I have right now I am pretty sure it won't be a problem! One foot down, several more to go….

Thursday, November 13, 2014

between things

It was a busy end of October wrapping up everything at work, cheering on the Giants in the World Series, and moving back to Palo Alto. That's right… I'm back home for good! This last year in Sacramento was amazing and enlightening and all sorts of other positive adjectives and superlatives, but I'm happy to be back to our little nest in Palo Alto. I'm not sure what's next for me other than something interesting and exciting, but for now I'm enjoying the in between. 

The boxes are half unpacked, and husband and cats are happy at the prospect of seeing me during the week. So of course the first thing I did was book a two week trip to Chicago to visit my parents for my birthday. As I write this I am mid-trip enjoying the fall colors outside and the cosy couch inside. 

Of course, no trip for me is complete without some yarn in hand. I brought along my current favorite project and have made a lot of progress! Airports and plane rides are some of my favorite opportunities to get hours of knitting in, with breaks of course! I managed to get my yarn into quite a tangle on the plane, though, since I was sitting in the middle seat trying to negotiate a persnickety section of the ball of Malvin while not elbowing my neighbors. Argh. I spent a big chunk of that flight just trying to unknot things rather than knitting. I wonder if my seat mates were amused? In the end I wound up breaking the yarn in a couple places and re-joining when I untangled the mess after getting home. I hope my spit-felting will hold!

One of the primary hesitations I had when deciding on this project for this yarn was that the variegated yarn would look funky with the short row design. Above is a picture of one short row section, and it actually looks just fine. Of course they are all different in how the colors pool, but it's not a weird super obvious spiral effect like I feared. I can tell because of the stitch angles, but I don't think that is an issue specific to the variegated yarn, I see it in the other sections too. I'm sure it will read just fine when all is said and done and I'm not scrutinizing it but wearing it.

I'm in the fourth section of seven and the inches are starting to go by faster as the rows get shorter. This far in I'm finally convinced about the color combo and I think it's going to turn into something I am really going to love. Didn't really notice how big it has gotten until I laid it out to snap this picture, it's gonna be a doozie! I'm sure I'll get lots more done while I'm here; the stockinette goes by fast and I've gotten the hang of the pattern so I don't have to think about it too much. That of course gives me the opportunity to let my mind wander, reflect, and ruminate on the future which is what this trip is all about! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

world series fidget

There were ups, there were downs but boy was it an exciting Series! 
Gotta love October baseball when your team is in it. 

Through it all I worked on my Cambria shawl. When I was in Sacramento "taking a break from packing" this was the perfect accompaniment to the World Series on the radio. I could sit myself down in my chair, put my feet up on the little ottoman, and knit away on stockinette while trying to visualize the field. I think I only missed a decrease once or twice. Since the shawl starts from the bottom up, the rows were loooooong and slow going, but it grew quite a bit.

When I was in Palo Alto for the weekend curled up on the couch in front of the TV with cats and husband this project was still the perfect game time activity. I've learned that I'm a much more nervous TV baseball watcher than a radio baseball listener. Somehow seeing the players makes me think I have more control over the game if I just hope hard enough. Logical, no? Turns out knitting during commercials and especially tense at-bats is a great way to deal. 

In the end, the boys in orange and black emerged triumphant and Madison Bumgarner proved that he can pitch whatever wherever whenever. That guy. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cruel September

This has got to be my favorite thing I've made so far this year. It was fun to pick out colors, fun to work up, and I absolutely love the way it turned out. 

Ysolda Teague, a designer whose work I quite enjoy, came out with a new collection of patterns called Knitworthy (link to Ravelry page). Every two weeks a new pattern comes out, and they are small but packed with creative punch and style, meant to be manageable pieces to make as gifts for "knit worthy" folks in your universe of people. Bronntanas is the first and only one I've managed to make so far but there have been 4 lovely designs released to date that all have some element that is new to me. So not only are these great designs, quick to do, and addictive like popcorn (if this one is reflective of them all), but I will learn along the way! Very excited me. 

There are all sorts of awesome things about this hat. First off, yarn leftovers got used up. Second, I really like the honeycomb pattern and resulting texture. It kind of reminds me of the protein assemblies from my graduate work, in a good way. And the fact that I can look back fondly on that is a coup indeed! Third, I love slouchy hats. Fourth, I learned how to do single stitch cables without a cable needle. Skills!

After examining my stash for yarns that were appropriate, I decided to use multiple colors and keep them all in the icy/wintery color genre. I was originally hoping to arrange them in a pseudo-gradient starting with the gray then dark blue, light blue, and finally the white. Turns out the dark blue yarn is lighter weight than the light blue and it the piece would have been weighted funny if I had used the heavier yarn higher up. Mixing yarn weights worked out ok, but I did have to rip out and use the light blue first. Coupled with the fact that my first cast on of the brim resulted in a HUGE circumference I had to start this hat three times! Luckily it's an addictive knit and I really liked the design, or else I probably would have given up. I especially like the way the crown of the hat cinches together and how the piece of CascadeEco I had leftover makes a nice color progression from variegated gray to pure white in the center. I could not have planned that better. Totally worth the up front perseverance.

Because I started on this September 1st, I named it for a song my husband wrote way back when we first met. The refrain goes "Cruel September threw her last leaf at me" which I think it just a really neat mental image. I hum the tune every time I look at the hat.

I ended up knitting the size medium and it perfectly fits my head, in a non-grippy hang-on-to-your-hat-in-strong-wind kind of way. Based on the pictures in the pattern, it looks like the design is meant to provide a loose fit at the band and it does that very nicely.

This hat will forever remind me of Scotland, a place I want to see so much. I have the impression I would love it there, though I can't really explain why. It's just a feeling. Why does this hat recall the land of lochs? Well, the designer hails from there, for one. But more because I knit this during a time when I was rabidly reading everything I could about the Scottish referendum for independence. Also, Outlander. Total coincidence. Still, quite a bit of Scottish-ness happening all at once. Regardless of how you feel about the results of the vote, you can't argue that the whole thing was truly momentous. This is definitely one of those cases where thoughts and ponderings get woven into the fabric with every stitch.

I really did start this out intending to make it as a gift, but I'm not sure this version is going to manage to leave. I will definitely use this pattern again and given that it's quite a fast knit, I don't see why I can't keep this one and work up another! Then again, it matches so well with a scarf I gifted earlier this year that I know exactly who might get it. Decisions decisions….

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

red rover, red rover

The last of the baby gifts! Since I made leg warmers and a blanket for one coworker, I needed another little something to go with the blanket for the second. I give you Red Rover.

This little guy is a super cute sweater with an off-center cable motif on the front and buttons running down the back. Presumably the buttons are on the back so little fingers don't pluck them off and transmit them to little mouths. I suppose you could use the sweater either way, though.

The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy, wool with a touch of cashmere in it, and the stitch definition is lovely for both the stockinette and cable sections of this sweater. I also really enjoy the variations in color of this yarn, as in many of the yarns I gravitate to. True to this year's goal, this was out of the stash. I bought a skein at Interweave Knitting Lab in 2012 and used it for a couple projects (a buttoned collar, a baby cardigan) leaving about half of it left over. Turns out that was the perfect yardage to make this.

It worked up quite quickly, taking just about two weeks of not very focused knitting time. The construction is a pretty simple top-down raglan style where you set the sleeve stitches aside to be picked up and worked in the round later. I'm getting so good at baby sweaters I hope this eventually translates to sweaters for big people! I keep telling myself this is good practice. (And then think guiltily of the Aidez and Rotation sweaters I've had on the needles for quite some time….)

I did make a couple small modifications: shortening the sleeves to 3/4 length and knitting an i-cord for the cuffs instead of ribbing. I wasn't super happy with the way the garter stitch hemline at the bottom turned out so loose, so that prompted the change in edging on the sleeves. I'm actually quite pleased with the i-cord look and would do it on the bottom if I had it to do over. As for the sleeve length, I thought they were turning out kind of long, and I also didn't' want to run out of yarn in the midst of the second sleeve. That would have been sad sauce.

I sifted through the bags of miscellaneous buttons I have from Britex and found these cute brown squares. They fit perfectly through the buttonholes called for in the pattern and the corners provide enough interference to not slip back through too easily. No sneaky unbuttoning buttons here! I chose to sew them on with light aqua perle cotton for contrast and sturdiness. Perle cotton is tough, and it's little person clothing. Toughness is needed.

The basics (more on Ravelry): Jeudi (free pattern by Elisa Di Fiore), just over half a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy in Fierce Scarlet, size 4 circular wooden needles, steam blocked with wires and pins. Quite pleased with this one, especially the time from start to finish. I definitely have noticed an improvement in my knitting skills this past year or so. More improvement to come! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

little legs

The thought of leg warmers for babies never really occurred to me before, but one day my office found ourselves abuzz discussing the cuteness of the concept. Ok. I can do that. 

This project really started out as a bit of a joke, but they went so quick that I am pretty glad I made them. I used size 4 dpns and another ball of yarn out of my dwindling (but still sizable) stash in keeping with my knitterly goal this year. I actually obsessively weighed the yarn as I got close to what I thought was halfway through since I wanted to use the whole ball up. I literally weighed every 4 rows or so. Yeesh. It worked, though. 

Once the first was done and off the needles, need for the scale gone, I may or may not have knit the second one on the beach. 

That, people. That is why I love living in California so much. I just plopped my beach chair down, took out my needles and got to work while my companions went for a run or just generally wandered down the shore. I was totally a-ok with guarding the stuff until they got back. 

I used the long-tail cast on for the beginning which I think is somewhat stretchy. But, worried that I'd have a tight cast off that had the potential to cut off circulation on chubby little baby legs I went with a stretchier bind off. I feel that backfired because now that end is overly stretched out at the top of the ribbing. I am hoping simply flipping down that part and essentially making it "the top" kind of solves the issue. Still, I'd be interested in hearing about a stretchable bind off that doesn't do that annoying flare out thing. 

The self-striping yarn was fun. I have one more ball in another colorway that may be destined for ankle socks. I liked working with it so I'm hoping it's a good candidate for my first foray into turning heels. Plus, not allergic to microfiber. I digress. These leg warmers are made using Alana Dakos' "Legwarmies" pattern (more detail on my Ravelry page) and used just about 185 yards of sport weight yarn on size 4 needles to make a nice dense fabric. They don't really thematically go with the blanket I finished for this mom-to-be, but I think she'll get a chuckle out of them nonetheless.

Friday, October 10, 2014

a partial unicorn

Okay, I must admit. I've been avoiding this project, letting it languish in its tote in the corner, but it is pretty darn cute. 

I thought I'd interrupt the finished object parade this week with a little work in progress. I literally haven't touched this since the end of June, but as I was packing some things up last night I took a look at this and decided it was silly for it to have sat up here this whole time with little progress. So I sat down, made a fourth leg and set to the task of assembly. 

I'm a little bit too detail-oriented to really say I enjoy assembling pieces like this, but I suffered through. Also, my yarn needle is currently awol, so I improvised using the crochet hook, manual dexterity, and sheer stubbornness. I think I got everything on somewhat evenly and in the right places. I do kind of enjoy the jaunty ears. 

He's all set to have a mane and tail now. I'm not sure I'm wild about the way the pattern suggests doing those, so I haven't finished him completely yet. He should be happy to be partially assembled now, but I think he's holding the hairless thing against me.