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. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sippy Cup

This is the second baby blanket I finished this summer, for another coworker who is expecting in January. It's made from yarn I had left in my stash, another great use of some leftovers. I lucked out with the blue and gray colors; turns out she's having a boy! I think this pretty robin egg blue would be just fine for a little girl, too though. It's certainly one of my favorite colors. 

This pattern is called the Baby Chalice. The lace repeat makes a cup shape that kind of reminds me of the Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. "You chose…. poorly." Thankfully I'm pretty sure I chose wisely, this piece turned out pretty well. 

Since I was using two colors, I went with stripes again. This time though instead of doing random color blocks like the last blanket, I took a more methodical approach. Pairs of stripes are 16 rows wide and the width of the stripe of each color increases or decreases by 4 rows. That is, 12 rows of blue, 4 rows of gray in one section then 8 rows of blue, 8 rows of gray in the next, and so on. It took some concentrating, but in the end I like the way it turned out looking.

This blanket was in the batch of pieces I blocked on Wednesday, and the design definitely benefits from a good blocking. Here is the blanket before I stretched and steamed it:

And here is what it looks like after. Instead of a bunch of squishy cables, the chalice pattern really comes out to play. 

I used approximately 430 yards of yarn on this, about 175 blue and the rest gray (Ravelry link). Believe it or not, I knit the whole thing on size 10 straight bamboo needles. Generally for something this wide I'd switch to circulars, but the grippy bamboo really helped me on this pattern with all the yo's and stitch slipping. I knit 7 repeats of the chalice pattern with 10 rows of garter stitch before and after (counting cast on/off rows). The piece before blocking was 22 x 29" and I blocked it to 30 x 34" using my trusty steamer.

I really like how this turned out, and I would definitely make one of these again. Maybe a larger adult size using a soft and squishy bulky yarn? Could be fun! For now, this one is all ready to be packed up and gifted, and I've got plenty more on on the 'to make' list before coming back to this pattern…. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


When I heard that one of my coworkers was having a baby, I took it as the perfect opportunity to knit up one of the projects I've been eying in my Ravelry favorites list. The Leafy Baby Blanket caught my eye with it's simple and classic design. I won't lie, the feature project being gray also helped. I've got a gray thing going on lately.

Endeavoring to keep to my stash, I threw a few skeins of Nature's Choice Organic Cotton from Lion Brand (not gray...) in my craft bag as I was headed off to Florida for vacation in July. I love the feel and weight of this yarn, and I made a great cowl with some of it (pre-this blog!), but I had never found a suitable project I wanted to use the rest on. The organic cotton is the perfect choice for this particular recipient, and I thought the natural colors would also suit the leaf design both in spirit and simplicity.

Taupe, Espresso, Dusty Sage, Macadamia

This was great airplane knitting and also a nice relaxing activity for the evenings after action-packed days of Disney and Universal Studios. Taking just 2 weeks from cast on to cast off, with only intermittent knitting time, it was satisfying to work with thicker yarn and see the inches fly off the needles.

Since I was working with what I had on hand, stripes seemed like a good solution. Each stripe used up all of the yarn of each color with the exception of the green. I had one full skein and one partial skein, so I went with two stripes instead of one big green section. 

The pattern was simple but turns out looking quite complex. It looks fine as-is, but will definitely benefit from blocking to even out the fabric and straighten up the lacy bits. True to form, this sat around in the closet for a while while I worked on other things. Today I sat down to weave in ends and get it blocked. 

The piece started out at about 22 x 26" and I stretched it out to 27 x 31.5" with blocking wires. Oh how I love my new wires! They make straight lines so much easier. I steam blocked with my handheld steamer and let it dry. After I took it off the wires the blanket relaxed to 25.5" x 31", close to what the pattern states and a nice carrying or carriage size. 

The baby isn't due until December, but there is a baby shower this weekend so I suppose I finished with good timing! This will get wrapped up with some ribbon and a little tag with washing instructions for the mom-to-be. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

sotto voce

I really haven't had much of a voice lately. Between the hectic end of session antics at the end of August and waiting all September for bills to be signed (thanks for signing 'em all, Governor Brown!) I have come home from work most nights with no words left. That, however does not mean I haven't been making. I have a nice little pile of knits I've been working on this last month and a half that need ends woven in and blocking to be done.

More on these lovelies and others when the blocking is complete. (At least I admit I have a problem.)

Also, we got a new kitten. His name is Kepler. He has been providing us (and Newton) with endless amusement. He and Newton had an iffy start involving lots of hissing and chasing, but they were fast friends. They are both joys. I can't wait until the end of the month when I get to move back down to Palo Alto and actually live with them all the time not just weekends. 

What I am most excited about today is that I finally got to start my Litchfield shawl! This is a design by Laura Aylor, whose pieces I always seem to pick out of a sea of Ravelry search results, and I've been wanting to make one for quite a long time. It has been in my queue patiently waiting for me to finish project after project that has jumped the line. I was so excited yesterday when I realized I had all my non-sweater projects (well except that crochet unicorn…) finished and could start a new piece with a clear knitterly conscience. 

I sat down immediately that morning before work to get started. I decided to go up a needle size because I couldn't find my size 7, so I swatched just to be sure I'd get gauge and have enough yarn. Then I cast on 401 stitches. On a small circular. Talk about stubborn. I really wanted to get this on the needles!

Fast forward to tonight, and I have since switched to a longer circular needle and made an inch or so of progress. This is my first bottom-up shawl and I'm teaching myself German short rows, so there's all sorts of new stuff going on here. 

This is what my "work area" looks like tonight. It's a beautiful mess. I should really be packing some things up to take down to Palo Alto with me this weekend, but I think I'll just quietly knit instead.