Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mittens and Kittens

This is why I love semester breaks: mittens in one week!

Lotus Mittens

All finished, and I have quite a bit of yarn left over. I started out with something like 200 yards of grey and 180 yards of pink. The pattern calls for two hanks of Schaefer Heather, which are a whopping 400 yards each, but now I figure you could probably get two pair of mittens out of that much yarn! There's only one project for this pattern marked as finished on Ravelry, and that's the pattern sample, so I was unsure whether I was cutting the yardage close or not. These were on 2.25 mm needles (US size 1), and I think they would have gone even faster if I hadn't resorted to DPNs. Addi: You need to make a size 2.25 mm circular needle, in the 24-inch length! I remember feeling a tiny bit betrayed when I found out that your "Size 1" is not the same as the "Size 1" used elsewhere in this country. But this is a minor drawback. I will be moving on to a different project this morning while the mittens finish drying.

Another great thing about the holidays is spending time with my parents and their kitties. My family averages about 2.5 cats at any one time, and right now is the best time of year to be around them because they are warmth-seekers and will snuggle up to you. Or take naps in inconvenient locations. You know, whatever.

Mid-morning naptime

That's Pheobe (grey tabby in front) and Piewacket (back in black black in back). Pie is very old (I think 12 or 13?) and doesn't do much besides eat and sleep these days, but Pheobe is interested in everything, and a chirper. I've had many good conversations with her, especially when I've just come through the front door. She likes to tell you how her day has been. Neither of them are too terribly interested in the yarn, but Pheobe likes to follow you around and be involved with whatever you're doing.

I miss having a cat, and although the significant other and I happen to be in a building that allows them, I feel kinda bad confining a cat to such a small space. Although, I guess if we got a kitten and it grew up in a small apartment, maybe it wouldn't notice? I don't know. Anyway, being home is great, and a large part of that is because I don't have to be a responsible adult for awhile. I get ten days where I don't have to walk three blocks to do laundry, don't have to think too hard about what we're going to have for dinner next week, get to lay around watching TV with my sister (we're suckers for Law & Order and What Not To Wear), and just catch up with the people I used to see every day.

Plus, I have family members who are truly interested in the knitting, from the yarn stage (tasty and a toy!) through photos (hey you're outside and I'm outside isn't this fun?) and blogging (your small metal box is a kitty warming station, right?).

Grey Kitten with Grey Mittens

I hope you all get to spend some time with the souls you love!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Present Recap

My Mom and sister loved their gifts, which can now officially appear on the blog attached to their ultimate purpose. First, the tiger glittens:

Tiger Glittens

Pattern is Broad Street Mittens from Knitty, done on size 2.75 mm (US 2) DPNs. Yarn is all handspun: the orange is superwash BFL fiber from Numma Numma, colorway "Pumpkin Butter" and the brown stripes are Shetland Fine Wool from Pigeonroof Studios in "Bitter Orange." For some reason, I didn't expect this much variation in the Pumpkin Butter yarn, it looked more homogeneous to me in the skein (I think I was in denial). But these are for my saxaphone-playing, marching-band-addicted little sister, so she can keep her hands warm in style on the crisp (ha!) San Jose fall evenings during practices. I checked, and she can still play even if her thumb is covered.

And the other gift which has been on the blog before which I thought about blogging so much I've apparently fooled my brain into thinking I did blog about it but actually never got around to it. Huh. I guess I really was busy in October! Anyway, my mother got the Egyptian Green scarf:

Morning Surf Scarf

My mom also loves green, so this was an obvious choice for her gift. Mom is sensitive (I refuse to accept allergic) to scratchier wools, so her scarf is 80% wool 20% silk, spun from roving dyed by the Sanguine Gryphon (obtained via The Loopy Ewe) in the Egyptian Green colorway. I spun the singles big and loose (pretty sure it was on the largest whorl), then plied the singles with black sewing thread. The pattern is the Morning Surf Scarf, which I think is excellent for a single skein of handspun. You find a needle size that works with your yarn (I used 5.5 mm, US 9) and just go! On Ravelry folks have knit this with every weight of yarn imaginable, and they all look fabulous. The only thing I would have done differently with this scarf is skipping the blocking. I didn't wash the yarn before knitting with it, and I think the blocking killed some of the natural bounce and squishy-ness that the scarf had when it was fresh off the needles. The stitch pattern would have been a little less defined, but the thick-and-thin nature of the yarn made up for it. I have another bump of this fiber in a different colorway, and I think it is destined for a similar spinning style and project.

I was a little surprised that my holiday knitting was mostly done with handspun this year, but when I stopped to think about my full-to-brimming paper shopping bag next to the Ladybug, my surprise wore off. I love my handspun, and it definitely gives me an extra sense of creativity. I don't usually try to envision a project straight from fiber to garment, but that doesn't detract from the satisfaction of telling people that I made the yarn myself, too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Wow, you all are such enablers! And that comes from someone who is frequently called an enabler herself, so I say it with love. :) I tried really really hard to bring enough knitting to keep myself sane but also not pack quadruple the amount of knitting I typically do in one week. For some reason being on vacation gives me the subconscious idea that I am Superwoman and can knit at close to the speed of light or something. So I tried to be restrained and pack only a few projects. I did not start a quick hat on the plane, but instead cast on for this pair of mittens, which I have been promising myself for about a month and knit those on the plane.

Lotus Leaf Mittens

These are the Lotus Leaf Mittens from the latest issue of Twist Collective (yes, from the section with the adorable animal watercolors). The yarn is handspun from the November shipment of the Verb fiber club (Finn wool, colorway Equilibrium, 2 ounces each of pink and grey). I'd had my eye on this pattern since the winter issue went up, and the fiber was just a perfect match. I've had the yarn spun up for a week or two, but promised myself that I wouldn't start them until all my holiday knitting was finished. I cast on last Friday, right after finishing up my spinning project left over from Color. Remember the silk hankies?

Verb Silk Hankies

I finished spinning the singles, then wound the whole mess into a center-pull ball and plied from both ends. I wanted to have the yarn done on Friday, so I didn't allow the singles to rest overnight like I usually do, and boy did that come back to bite me. About halfway through the plying, I tugged a little too hard on the yarn end coming from the center and got an enormous tangle that took about half an hour to get out. :P That was no fun! The color is a little off in that picture, the yarn isn't quite that pink. The skein is about half an ounce, 65 yards. I'm thinking maybe an iPod sleeve or cell phone cover... there isn't enough yardage to do much else! I mainly wanted to free up my Cascade spindle so I could work on this:

Burnt Ember

Yum! More Verb Wooly Wonders, this time Bluefaced Leicester in a colorway called Burnt Ember. It's the softest BFL and I can't stop petting it. In addition to all this I've got one other potential knitting project to keep me busy, and hopefully that will last me until I go home to the stash on the 29th. If you happen to be celebrating something during this time of year, hope it's happy or merry or at least a good time! I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that I've got yarn waiting under the tree this year. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's a trap, get an axe!

On Friday I had a nice, relaxing day that I almost allowed to turn into a holiday knitting disaster. Watch and learn from my near-escape, all ye who knit gifts!

It seems like the mantra on lots of knitblogs these days is "I'm going to knit less this holiday season" and I am no exception. I decided that it's enough to have grade-related stress right around the holidays, and that I don't need to add the stress of finishing up lots of projects to the mix. I narrowed down my must-knit-for list this year from 7 people to 2. These are the two who will love and wear my knitting, or who will at least lie to me convincingly about loving and wearing it. Some people got knocked off the list because I suspect that they do not cherish handknitted items as much as I'd like them to, and others because I found something much better for them than another pair of felted slippers or cotton dishcloths. Either way, I had way less holiday knitting going on than I have in the past four or five years, and I was pretty much on top of everything. One knitted gift was finished, and the other had about two hours of knitting time plus buttons left before completion when Friday rolled around.

After a long week at work (it's the end of the semester, always a little nuts for me), I used my day off to do my get-in-the-spirit activities: hanging a wreath on our door, watching cheesy Christmas movies, eating leftover curry, and wrapping gifts. Since I leave most of my friends behind and stay with my parents over Christmas, I have to leave about 2/3 of my gifts wrapped (with very clear, firmly attached name tags) for the significant other to distribute in my absence. As I was wrapping up cleverly chosen, personally appropriate, non-knitted items and congratulating myself on planning things so I could start a new pair of mittens next week if I want to, I also started going over who I still need to get gifts for. I like to feel I am on top of things, but I'm not like my mother who has 90% of her holiday shopping done by October. My list still has a few holes: there are some people who are getting gift cards (specifically requested), some people for whom I have half a gift right now, and one who is a bit difficult to shop for; so far I've put off shopping for them. And when I finished wrapping all the completed gifts, my brain said "Wait a minute! We can just whip out a pair of fingerless mitts for the hard-to-shop-for and half-of-a-gift people! I bet we can have 'em finished before you have to leave for the party in two hours." Seasoned crafters are probably already shaking their heads at this point, recognizing the siren call. I had already looked up patterns on Ravelry, scoured the stash for yarn and appropriately sized needles, and was battling with the correct number of cast-on stitches (being reworked from the pattern for a substitute yarn) before I remembered that I'd decided not to knit for so many people this year. I got caught up in the illusion that knitting can feel instantaneous sometimes (like with my cowl). I'd forgotten how much work I would have dumped on me after this week, and my simultaneous goal that I would finish all this work before I get on the plane home, instead of taking it with me like I've done every year since I got this job. With the whole weekend stretching in front of me, I felt like time was nothing, putty in my hands, mine to shape with yarn and needles into fashionable knitted accessories with a mere wave of my wrists. It was the quick-knit delusion, people. And it nearly got me. I came thisclose to tripling the number of knitted gifts this year. The worst part is that I didn't stop because I came to my senses about time and reasonable scheduling and all that. I got frustrated trying to figure out the right number of cast-on stitches, trying to strike a balance between two different patterns with yarn and needles that would give me a gauge in the nebulous space somewhere between the two. After the third botched attempt at a cast-on, I pulled the yarn off the needles and realized I better stop because I had to be out the door in ten minutes. I thought vaugely that I would come back to the project when I got home.

Only later, as I rode the bus to have dinner with an old friend who's leaving the state, did I realize how far I'd gone. It was close. Too close. The pull of yarn and the desire to share my love of knitted things is stronger than I anticipated. I don't know precisely when or where the turning point was, but I knew I'd gone over the edge last year when I announced to my sister that I needed her to sneakily measure a sweatshirt from my brother's closet so I could knit a sweater for his 6'5", 220 pound frame. Maybe it was fate that pulled me back from the edge this year, perhaps some kind patron saintess of handcrafts decided that I couldn't be allowed to martyr myself and showed me the clock, reminding me I had other obligations this holiday season than to clothe every single relative, friend, and passing acquaintance in squishy warmth. Or maybe I just needed some distance from the stash. It's a rare occurence for me to spend more than an hour in such close proximity to the wool fumes these days. I'm not sure. All I know is that somehow I got away. Don't let it get to you, too. I'm off to grab an umbrella (the rain just decided it's TIME) so I can find buttons. My second gift knitting (for a recipient who reads the blog, so no pics) is done, all ends woven in.

Think I can whip out a hat on the plane ride home? I could do it on big needles. Maybe I'll just go peek in the stash...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Done and done!

The Cream Tea cowl and I are off to Berkeley! Have a good Saturday morning, everybody.

The yarn, which I finished plying before I posted yesterday:
Cream Tea Camel/Merino

In progress last night:
Cream Tea Cowl

And this morning (it's all unwashed and unblocked):
Cream Tea Cowl

Holy crap, I just realized that this thing went from unspun fiber to finished garment in less than a week. Talk about your instant gratification! It's scrumptiously warm, too, perfect for our weather the last few days.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I've got a fever

and the only cure is more cow(bel)l.

Ok, so I am being a selfish knitter this holiday season. Originally intending to knit items for about half of the people on my gift list, I've now cut it down to three or four. Partly, this is because I went to the Bazaar Bizarre on Sunday and found great gifts for people that I hadn't been expecting to find. These were also mostly folks who'd either gotten fabulous knits last year, wouldn't get too excited about receiving a handknit gift, or in one case, can knit something themselves. So I don't feel too bad about not making them something. They're all still getting fabulous (or hilarious) presents anyway.

So the significant other, the sibling, and I all decided that we didn't really want to deal with so much traffic on Sunday, so we got up at 4 AM to beat the rush. It worked, and that's how I was able to make it to the BazBiz at all. I was excited to be there, but more than a little exhausted. I didn't really need any more spinning fiber. I blame my falling-down at Verb's booth on the tiredness. Yeah. That's it. It wasn't my fault.

So more that one member of our knitting circle has made/is making a fabulous cowl. So when I saw the Merino/Baby Camel blend, I knew just what to do. Some fast, easy, bulky spinning for a project where gauge wouldn't be an issue. This is the real reason I love Ravelry: I had a pattern idea within 2 minutes of searching, the Gloria Cowl. I'm already done with the first seed stitch band. I wonder if I could finish it before leaving tomorrow morning for Verb's Grand Opening? I guess this is what I needed or wanted, to balance out the craziness of the last week of the semester: some simple, soft, non-fiddly, instant gratification knitting.