Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Knitting Update (Spinning Update to follow)

It feels like it's been a month since I last posted, instead of just a week! Work got crazy busy, then just when it let off, I had all this free time to visit with friends and family, so I stayed busy enough to not blog.

A few months ago, I started listening to Faery Knitting, a fabulous podcast where the lovely Erin reads a fairy tale, gives us a few thoughts on it, and relates her knitting/spinning/goatherding/cheesemaking adventures. She had a contest a couple episodes back with the prizes being either some seed packets or one of two fairy tale books. I ended up winning one of the books, and it arrived early last week!

Package from Erin!
The book was wrapped up in that lovely bit of fabric in the back, and I got a very nice card. I saved the seed-packet sticker, it was just too cute. I'm looking forward to reading some of this on the plane, in between new episodes of the podcast. Thanks, Erin! I also got hooked on CraftLit via Erin's recommendation, and am currently working my way through back episodes. I love Pride and Prejudice, and although I haven't read as much Austen as I should, I am a total fanatic. I can't wait to get caught up.

Last Tuesday I went to a meeting of Purl Jam, a knit/crochet group that has started meeting at a cafe within walking distance of where I live. It was great fun, I'm sad that I'll only get to attend one more meeting (tonight) before I leave for the summer. Okay, so last Tuesday I get home from work, and I'm trying to decide what project to bring. I really wanted to start my Leaf Kimono, but I didn't want to be actually casting on at the group - I wanted something a little more mindless, so I could give some of my attention to meeting new people and the conversation. I also thought seriously about casting on for an adorable pair of mittens, but ended up taking another few mitered squares. I finished block #18 on Wednesday:

Gray-Green Square
I still have to catalog all the new colors I got from the last Webs grab bag extravaganza. I think this is officially the halfway mark. I really doubt that I will be able or want to knit a blanket with more than 36 blocks, I'm actually drawn to 35 as the stopping point, for a 5-by-6-block blanket. I guess this project is going to hibernate for awhile now, though, because it's rather bulky and not high on the list of what gets to come with me to Germany.

The mittens got so stuck in my head that I started them the next day:

Snail Mittens
These are the Norwegian Snail Mittens by Adrian Bizilla from the Knitter's Book of Yarn, and the yarn is Dale Baby Ull in the colors called for in the pattern. It's been awhile since I knit anything this blue. They're going very quickly, that picture is from Sunday morning and I'm actually finished with that mitten, save for the duplicate stitched green accents. I'm betting they will be done in time for Germany.

I also (FINALLY!) blocked my orchid lace scarf. I knit this is an astonishing twelve days or so over my winter break. The project was supposed to last me for three weeks. Then it sat on the shelf until I finally decided that I wanted to wear it to my friend's graduation this weekend, and thus would need to block it. This is my favorite photo, with the light coming through the lace holes:

Orchid Scarf
I soaked it in some Soak wash, squeezed all the excess water out with a towel, and stretched it out on the carpet to dry overnight. I didn't want to block this too severely, so my carpet was sticky enough to keep the damp scarf in place overnight, so I just stretched it out so it looked evenly rectangular. The yarn is Marisilk, dyed by Das Schneeschaf. The color is beautiful, and I was originally worried that the lace pattern and variegated color would look too busy together, but the color changes are subtle enough to work with this pattern:

Orchid Scarf

Last night I made the mistake of checking my work email right before going to bed (bad idea, I should have known better). Let's just say things are hectic and crazy right now, and I got a little worried and anxious after reading my email, which I hadn't checked over the holiday. There was nothing I could do until today, and even then I knew everything was going to work out fine, but it's hard to be rational when you're tired and feel threatened, however emptily. To try and calm myself down a bit, I ended up casting on for the back of the Leaf Kimono. It was pretty helpful in taking my mind off work for a little while, it's been awhile since I knit lace patterns and my brain had to focus more than usual (but that was the idea). When I started yawning every three stitches I decided I was tired enough to fall asleep as soon as I got into bed, and wouldn't stay up obsessing over work anymore. I did the first four rows of the pattern, and I can't wait to get back to it. No pictures yet, I will get some when I have a little more progess to show!

I have also done some spinning since my last post, but that will have to wait for another post as this one is already dangerously long. Hopefully a spinning update will happen before the weekend, and you can look forward to lots of fruit-related colors!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Altering the Leaf Kimono: Part I (In which I do battle with garment construction)

I have been so incredibly behind on podcasts that I did little else on Sunday afternoon except listen to back episodes of all my favorites and S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E with the math for the Leaf Kimono! I neglected many of my chores and nearly skipped dinner, I was that engrossed. I wanted to cast on for this project SO BADLY. So bad it hurts! (Ok not literally, but I had a serious jones to get my knit on yesterday).

Here's the breakdown: I look better in more form-fitting knits. A little oversized is ok, but way oversized? Not so much. I am one of those lucky well-endowed cursed let's just say I've got a little extra on top compared to how big around my ribcage is. I only really discovered this about three years ago, when I entered graduate school and needed to professionalize my wardrobe. Turns out button-up tops are all basically made for one cup size (not mine- ha!). It also explained why a few of my early sweaters looked great while blocking and horrible on my body. So I've been trying to look at knitting patterns with a critical eye for shapes that are flattering. What really drew me to the Leaf Kimono was the deep V-neck, the floaty lower hem, and the ribbon ties at the back neck. The first two are design elements in items already in my wardrobe, and the ribbon ties are just adorable and romantic and I love the back of my neck and I will wear this top around Europe this summer with my hair up, sitting in a cafe knitting and reading a book...

Ok, back to reality. Here's some shots of the top on a real person from the Interweave Knits website. The top is shown on the model in the magazine so that there are about 5 inches of positive ease in the garment. That means that the top is 5 inches wider in circumference around the bustline than the model. So if the top is the 37-1/2 inch size, she's about 32 inches around the girls. Now I have tried on tops meant to be worn this way, and they typically don't work if I try to fit them using my bust measurement as a guide. I've found that I really need to emphasize the smallest part of my middle: this is between my natural waist (for me, right where my belly button is) and my ribcage right below my bust. As long as that area is highlighted, I won't look 4 months pregnant when wearing the top. But I'm also fairly hourglass-shaped, so I could use a little extra room in the hips (oh yeah, I'm gonna lengthen that puppy so it won't hit me right at my tummy roll).

Here's where the problems start. Where do I want 5 inches of positive ease? In the bustline? If that's the case, I should be making the extra-large size. If it's in my waistline, however, I should be making the medium. Usually with sweaters (such as the Tangled Yoke), I trust that a little negative ease in the chest is good as long as it doesn't look like I'm swimming in the arms, torso, and shoulders. I pick a happy medium between my ribcage size and bust size and hope for the best. Here's another question: do I even want 5 inches of positive ease? I'm not so sure. The designer has some lovely photos of her original garment on her website, Rope Knits. I really like the waist ties on her pink version (yay, pink like mine!), I'm thinking that adding those would really help emphasize my waist the way I want it to be. Even then, do I really want an extra 5 inches of fabric being held back by some flimsy ribbons?

The best piece of advice I found about getting knit garments to fit the way you want them to is to find a sweater (or whatever) that fits the way you like, and measure it. With this in mind, I got out the two tops I have that have a similar deep V-neck and empire waistline, and they both have some shaping between the hem and underbust seam.

In conclusion, I'm going to lengthen the top so that there are 9 inches from the underbust seam to the hem, start at a 40 inch circumference, and decrease to about 37 inches. So essentially, I'll be starting the lower waist at the middle size, and decreasing down to the circumference of the next smallest size at the underbust. That way I'm at least working with some of the same numbers for the bust seams when I get there.

Whew! Still with me? Great! Thanks for listening, writing this out has finally convinced me that I'm ready to cast on for this project. Oh yeah, I did swatch for this, too. I'm not too worried about gauge because this is a lace project, and I can block the pieces out with varying degrees of severity, but I wanted to double-check that my size 6 (US) needles will be okay. I love the swatch. :)

As a reward for hanging in there, here's some lovely photos. I've been fiber stashing after getting all jealous and drooling over Bockstark's new fiber. I got some 65% merino, 35% silk combed top dyed by The Sanguine Gryphon via The Loopy Ewe.

Egyptian Green Merino/Silk
This one is the Egyptian Green colorway. I love it, makes me think of the Nile in flood season.

Arabian Nights Merino/Silk
This is the same blend, in the Arabian Nights colorway. This photo is a little flat in the color, the teal is very rich, edging towards a bright cobalt in those dark-blue-looking areas. Neither of these pictures really capture the shininess that the silk adds to the fiber. I can't wait to get these spun up, but I'm still working on the Lorna's Laces Blackberry superwash merino. I got roughly 1.5 ounces on the drop spindle and kinda gave up. I didn't want four knots in my skein of laceweight, so the rest of it is being done on the wheel. Hopefully by the next time I blog I'll have more spinning to show off, and have actually figured out how I'm going to alter the bust & sleeves on the Leaf Kimono!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time for a new project!

Wow, these socks went really fast! This is why I love Ravelry- I know they went fast, but I can go to my project page and see how fast they actually went: 11 days from start to finish. I wish I had been able to finish them for the significant other before he had to leave, but it will be nice to wrap them up in a little care package.

Bitter Orange Socks

These socks are very much fraternal twins rather than identical twins, but that is probably to be expected from handspun yarn. The sock knit from the first skein (this is the fiber that I purchased at Stitches) is more colorful: the stripes are more prominent, and there are more areas of orange. The other sock (first one I knit, fiber purchased online) has more areas of consistent dark brown. I love them both, but my favorite bit is the very bright orange stripe on the leg of the first sock.

Now it's time to start a new project. I wanted to have something quick, that I would either be able to finish before leaving for Germany, or at least easy, so it would make good airplane knitting. I also knew I wanted to do a top, either a sweater or something like that. It's also been CRAZY hot around here: San Francisco hit temperatures in the high 80's this week, and the nights have been clear, which is very unusual for this time of year. Typically the fog still rolls in from the ocean to cool things off at night, and its absence certainly helped the heat stick around for several days. So I wanted something light and airy to knit. After seeing the Knitting Daily Gallery for the Leaf Kimono Top, in the new issue of Interweave Knits, I knew I'd found the new project. A fast, light, airy top knit in linen. I popped over to Imagiknit to pick up the yarn, and then off to Britex near Union Square to search for the perfect ribbon and sewing thread:

Euroflax Sportweight

I'm in love with the ribbon, which is a light dove-gray color, with one pink edge:

Ribbon for Leaf Kimono

I'd never been to Britex before, and it is HUGE! They have four floors in their shop, and the third floor is all notions: thread, needles, buttons, ribbon, basically anything you can think of. They even carry some yarn, knitting needles and crochet hooks, but the yarn selection is probably one tenth the size of their button selection. It's Sunday, which is chores day, so I'm off to do laundry and grade papers. Fun times. Hopefully tonight I will have some time to sit down at the wheel again!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wherein I get my sock mojo back

The Yarn Harlot put me on her blog with the beer I made her! Squee! I could not be more excited, very awesome. The link there is to the entry with my picture in it, you have to scroll down a bit.

I've been spinning spinning spinning recently, and getting a little worried at how it piles up so fast! It's quite addicting because I can have a whole new skein of delicious handspun in a few hours, and my brain views this as way more exciting than another mitered square. But seeing the Yarn Harlot got my brain back on socks, and it's been a while since I finished the Salish Sea socks. So on Monday night I finally pulled out my Bitter Orange yarn and cast on for a pair of socks. These will be large guy-patterned socks for the significant other (these are so his colors):

Bitter Orange Sock Side

In this picture you can see one of the frighteningly abrupt changes in the thickness of the yarn, and the nifty orange stripe on the leg. It happened all by itself, no planning! These are pretty generic toe-up socks on my trusty size 2 (2.75 mm) Addi Turbos. These Addis were the first pair of sock needles I bought (man that was back in the day). I'm getting a gauge of somewhere between 5.5 and 6 stitches to the inch, and the foot is 52 stitches around. I also have a little 4-stitch cable running up the side of the foot and leg. Hey Ruth is it okay if I shamelessly steal borrow your design idea? I think it's fabulous for a guy's sock. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. :)

Between the charming little cable and the rather big gauge, the first sock just flew off my needles. In contrast, when I was doing the Salish Sea socks, it was fairly slow plodding along. I'm guessing there needs to be something (ANYthing!) in the pattern to keep me going. I whipped through the heel turn and cuff on those, but the legs took freakin' forever. After only four days, the Bitter Orange sock is awaiting another four rounds of ribbing or so and a bind-off. This sock is actually a lot of firsts for me: first handspun socks, first self-designed socks I took copious notes on, first time I've used South African fine wool, first guy's socks I didn't use a pattern for. I'm hoping I'll be able to start the second one today, but the outlook is not so good. The significant other leaves for Germany this Wednesday, so this afternoon and evening is the big going-away bash at our (rather small) apartment. Originally I wanted to have the socks done for him before he leaves, but I don't think that will happen, because I still have to do things like eat and shower and go to work. Oh yeah, I guess that means no buttons for the Tangled Yoke yet, either.

I guess I might be farther along if I hadn't done any spinning this week. I finished up the Pigeonroof Studios Hydrangeas superwash merino roving that I bought at Color. It's about 145 yards, a fairly consistent DK weight. It would probably be more consistent in thickness if I hadn't taken a four-day break in between spinning the two halves of the bump:

Hydrangeas 2-ply

I'm in love with it anyway. Those are two really awesome colors: the pale ice teal blue mixing with the vibrant warm purple. Yum! Here, have a gratuitous close up:

Hydrangeas 2-ply closeup

Oh, and just a quick reminder (to myself as much as any of you reading): Go give your mom a kiss tomorrow, or at least call her!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Harlot Herself

Maker Faire was awesomely cool. This is my second year attending, and I really cannot recommend this event enough to anyone who has an interest in electronics, art, crafting, and anything associated with DIY culture. We saw oodles of cool stuff. One of my favorites is the life-size mousetrap:

Maker Faire Mousetrap

This is a recreation of the children's board game. It is a serious thing. That bathtub up there? It's a real full-size bathtub. Very cool! More interesting stuff:

Reaching down

A huge sculpture. There's a head attached to that body. Click on the picture for more on my Flickr page. I also stopped by the Verb/Tactile booth to say hello to Kristine, but I couldn't justify any purchases, especially since I saw them just last weekend. But the best part of the day by far was seeing Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot Herself, speak first thing when we got there. We were actually a teensy bit late because I forgot to account for atrocious parking conditions. Now, the Harlot has been on this book tour almost continuously since the first of April, which can wear hard on a person. Occasionally, folks have brought the Harlot a brew to give to her at the book signing portion of her visit. Now, I wanted to bring Stephanie a beer, but Maker Faire is held at the San Mateo county fairgrounds. This means no beer. In fact, no alcoholic beverages or glass bottles of any kind. So when I woke up on Saturday morning, my brain decided it would be a fabulous idea to make her a beer that she would enjoy, even if it were not refreshing in the traditional sense for beer. That's right, I knitted her a beer.

The (knitted) beer of my people

The brown yarn is Cascade 220 wool left over from the sweater I knit for my brother last Christmas. The label is Tahki Cotton Classic, and the whole bottle was knit on US size 5 DPNs. The black lettering in Jamieson & Smith Jumper-weight Shetland wool. There are two index cards rolled up inside the bottle to provide a cylindrical shape, and some scrap yarn stuffed inside. Sticking out of the top is a single lock of plain wool for the froth. In case it isn't obvious, this is meant to be a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Now I want to say that although this is not my favorite beer, I believe it is the beer of my people, the northern California twenty- or thiry-something. I think she liked the beer, because she took my picture. Here she is with the beer, proof that I was actually able to part with it:

The Yarn Harlot with my knitted beer!

I told the story of this beer to at least 8 other people this weekend, and I think a few of the significant other's friends were hinting for knitted beer of their own. I am almost certain I will knit another one at some point in the future. This only took a very small amount of yarn, and I have the right colors in my stash to do at least a six-pack. :)

I was able to finish knitting and blocking the Tangled Yoke by the time we left, so I did wear it to Maker Faire sans buttons, but ditched it in the heat of the outdoors. I am now in the happy position of deciding what to cast on next! I'm also thinking about what projects & yarn will come with me to Germany in four weeks. Definitely need some deep thinking there.

Friday, May 2, 2008

So close...

Center Back Cable

The Tangled Yoke cardigan is nearly finished:


I'm so close I can almost taste it!

Almost done!

This sweater still needs:

1. Buttonbands
2. Buttons
3. Blocking

I finished binding off the collar this morning, and figured I could have everything done and drying by this afternoon. This would have been awesome, because then I could wear the sweater tomorrow to Maker Faire to see the Yarn Harlot. The knitting goddesses are apparently displeased with me, however, because I have been working on the first stinking buttonband all afternoon. I got through all 140 picked up stitches three times, each time finding a major error requiring a complete rip-out of the buttonband. Arggghhh!

At this point, although I might be able to finish the knitting, I do not yet have the buttons in my possession. I might just wear it without buttons. That is unless I have to make three attempts at the right-hand buttonband as well. :P