Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So I finished round one of the gift knitting.

Koolhaas Closeup

Stitches have been cast off, ends woven in, finished pieces blocked (mostly).

Snail Cowl Closeup

Round one includes everything being given on or before the 25th, while round two includes gifts that are not being given until after the 30th. So I still have a week to finish a few more small items.

Laurel Hat Closeup

I don't have teaser photos of everything, since a few items got wrapped before I remembered to take a picture. This year I took the Handmade Challenge, and although I do not expect all my friends and family to make or buy handmade gifts for me, I did manage to make all the gifts I gave this year with one exception. The exception is still getting something handmade, just not by me. In all honesty, going completely handmade this year is the only way I have been able to afford to get a gift for everyone on my list unless I decided to shop at the dollar store.

I wanted to say thank you to everyone for the kind comments on my mitten pattern and for all the favoriting going on at Ravelry. It's nice to have a gentle entry into the world of designing, and just reminds me what a fabulous community I have found in knitters and crafters.

Another money-saving measure I put into use this year was driving home for the holidays instead of flying, which has disadvantages and advantages. In exchange for a longer time commitment you don't have to worry about bringing knitting needles through security or overpacking the yarn. After dinner tonight with my family, as a little reward to myself for finishing all the gifts, I'm going to astound them all with the spinning wheel.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Um... okay, that was fast!

I wasn't expecting to be able to put this out here today, hence the cryptic ending to this morning's post. All the information I read told me that the process would take about a week. But instead, it took a few hours.

Drum roll please....
Snow Chains Mittens

I've officially added the Snow Chains Mittens to Ravelry. This represents a bit of a turning point for me as a knitter. It's the first design I truly feel able to call my own, and the first time I wrote knitting directions and explicitly asked others to critique them. I never used to think of myself as a particularly creative person, so this is a change for me. The whole process has been a huge learning experience. Apparently, I have pretty darn loose tension compared to the average knitter out there. Knitting while developing a design is worlds apart from knitting from someone else's pattern. Trying to decide whether and what to charge for my design was another struggle for me. On the one hand, I want everyone to be able to knit these mittens. On the other hand, I feel the design involved a significant effort on my part, and I believe I deserve compensation for that effort. So here's the compromise:

As my Christmas gift to all of you who read my humble little blog, I'm making the pattern available for free for the next three weeks, until January 6th. After that, I'll be offering the PDF file for sale on Ravelry. This post will still keep the link to the pattern, but if you're clicking that link after 01/06/10, it will take you to the pattern page in Ravelry instead of the pattern download. I'm also going to start a section in the sidebar for my designs. The pattern name link will take you to the pattern source, and the little project counter will take you to the pattern's Ravelry pattern page.

I hope you enjoy these mittens, and share your project with us here or on Ravelry.

9 days?!?

How in the world did it get to be that close so quickly? Thankfully, I am very nearly finished with the pre-Christmas gifts (just one more to go). That one needs to be finished before the 22nd, when I will be in close proximity to its recipient, but I also have an 8-hour car drive that I'm hoping will be enough time to power through the end of the project. I admit, I am not knitting as fast as I could be. My new toy is a bit distracting.

Combs in Safety Mode

These are NOT helping me finish my gift knitting on time. But they do produce my favorite form of fiber: hand-combed top. Unlike hand cards, which give you light, fluffy packages of wool with the individual fibers going in random directions, combs give you light, fluffy packages of wool with the individual fibers all aligned in one direction. They also get out all the little short fibers and neps that would give you lumpily-spun yarn and pill in your knitted object. Cards give you fiber that's awesomely prepared for woolen spinning, while combs give you fiber that's awesomely prepared for worsted spinning


I won't be giving up my handcards any time soon, but the combs are easily my favorite. My default spinning method is worsted or semi-worsted, so a combed prep is ideal.


Here you can see one comb loaded with washed polwarth locks, while I pull combed locks off the other comb. That process looks kinda like this:


The tool between me and the comb is a diz, which is basically a curved piece of wood with holes in it. There are three different size holes, so you can have different thicknesses of top. You pull the fiber through the hole to get the fiber in top form, which is wound into little nests. I spent two lovely afternoons combing this week, one doing the polwarth locks from Verb and the other using the dark grey locks left over from my first fleece. I now have a brown paper grocery bag filled with happy little clouds of white, silver, dark grey, and chocolate brown. They're calling to me, waiting for me to finish the gift knitting.

On top of all this I'm also getting ready for another big announcement, hopefully before the holiday but definitely not until after final exams are over. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Joy to the world, all the boys and girls!

It feels like everything is coming together, now that we're in the thick of the holiday season. For starters, it got crazzzzy cold here over the past few days, so I've been actually wearing hats. Hats, people! But I'm kinda glad that it's cold, because I love getting use out of my knits and this feels like it really belongs:

Christmas Tree!

I am so ridiculously excited to have a Christmas tree, words cannot do my feelings justice. The significant other and I sometimes still feel stuck in college-student mode, and having a real honest-to-goodness tree makes me feel like we're really celebrating the holidays together, instead of just waiting until we go home to our parents' places. We bought some ornaments to get a little variety (it started out with a very large proportion of owls and squirrels), and went to the hardware store to get a little string of battery-powered lights. When we got home, we realized we'd neglected to buy batteries, so the tree is dark for now. I didn't want to buy tinsel or a garland, so I made a long crochet chain out of some red chenille yarn from deep within the stash. That's the only non-gift knitting I've done since Thanksgiving, and although I've since finished two items, I've added a few more small ones to my list as well. It'll be okay, though, as those don't need to be delivered until about a week after the 25th.

Verb Holiday Party

In other holiday news, this weekend I managed to spend a few hours in Berkeley at the Verb Workshop's holiday bash and 1-year-brick-and-mortar anniversary event. People were shopping, sitting, talking, knitting, spinning, drinking spiced cider, and eating cupcakes. My kind of day.

Verb Holiday Party

They've just opened a new classroom space across the way from their shop, which was filled with some other fantastic bay area fiber vendors. Krista of Pigeonroof Studios had a table full of lovely, saturated colors:

Verb Holiday Party

Faerie Mountain Fibers had a huge collection of spinning batts, and even made a few to order!

Verb Holiday Party

Verb Holiday Party

I could not resist these wooden cross-stitch ornament kits from Girl on the Rocks, so I got one along with an awesome owl-shaped needle gauge and some gift tags.

Girl on the Rocks

Along with these goodies, I brought my Snow Chains mittens for Kristine to see in the flesh. I got to see a few of the other entries, which were all pretty amazing. Kristine gave me my prize package for winning the design-your-own mitten category. I confess I've been biting my nails wondering what our prizes would be, but this went beyond my wildest expectations. It starts off with this awesome canvas project bag, printed with peacocks derived from the Verb logo, and inside it had 3 (THREE!) sets of Darn Pretty Needles from DyakCraft (formerly Grafton Fibers) in US sizes 1, 2, and 4, and a bunch of coupons. I used two of them immediately; one for a free skein of Creating sock yarn (in Magic Bean), and one for 20% off anything in the store.

Verb Smitten with Mittens Prize Bag

So, I was pretty stunned when I saw all this. But once my brain had time to catch up with me, I knew there was really only one way I was going to use that 20% off coupon. I'll give you all two hints, in picture format:

Comb Clamps

and in case that was too obscure...

Combs Label

And now, I'm off to enjoy the holidays a bit more and play with my new toy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

24 days left...

Thanksgiving was very nice, and quite relaxed. I made green bean casserole:

Green Bean Casserole

there was an abundance of gravy (so much that we used a french press as a pitcher):

French Press Gravy

and the ground was covered in crunchy leaves.

Fall Leaves 2

After a few days to digest, I emerged from the turkey coma ready to plan for the gift-giving season. As I said in the last post, I simply can't afford to purchase presents for everyone this year (thank you state education budget), so it's stash diving for me. Instead of freaking out about the prospect of so much knitting I am trying to embrace my craftiness (isn't this the hobby I love?), choose projects wisely (the fair isle ear flap hat in fingering-weight yarn might be too involved), and stay on task (except when baking). My list is 16 people long, and thanks to a rash of small-item knitting in August and September, I have half that list taken care of already. Nevertheless, I still have at least 6 items to knit between now and Christmas (yes there are a few people who are not getting knits this year), so I am putting the beaded project on hold and I cleared the socks off my needles.

Zer0 Jaywalkers

This is my fourth pair of jaywalkers, and I still say this is one of the best patterns for making socks out of variegated yarn. I went out of my way to make the legs on this pair a little loose by going up a needle size, so they won't be too constricting during a long day. They're soaking now, while I get the gift list yarn together. It was difficult being away from the stash while planning my holiday knitting over the weekend, so I did a pretty thorough sweep this morning. Here's the stuff that will shortly be made into gifts:

Yarn for Gifts

I was pleasantly surprised at the color harmony in all these skeins! Incidentally, all the yarn there is either sporting its natural color, or is naturally dyed (thanks, Kristine!). I will try to keep up with pictures of knitted items, but they will only be teasers until after the recipients open their gifts, since quite a few of them read the blog regularly. (Who am I kidding? I will be lucky to finish knitting everything in time, forget about pictures...) Note to family members: bonus points if you can guess which skein of yarn is intended for your gift!

It was so easy to get caught up in the plan-a-thon while digging through the stash, but I did find a few skeins of yarn that would make nice small gifts, fabulous ornaments, or decoration for presents. But I'm not allowed to knit any of this until the official gift list is done.

Holiday Yarn?

A couple of these skeins have just enough yarn to make a pair of Fetchings. According to Ravelry, I am apparently the last 13,110th knitter on Earth to think about knitting this pattern. The required yardage seems too good to be true! My strategy to keep myself from knitting this stuff is to hide it all in a bag in the closet, while the official gift list yarn sits out in plain view, in a lovely pile in the living room.

What about all of you: are you knitting gifts this year? How much? Care to share any strategies for maintaining your sanity?

P.S. While composing this post, 3 more people on Ravelry have cast on Fetchings. Wow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Easing into the holidays

First of all, thanks to everyone who voted for my mittens! I didn't think my design was so awesome, but you all seem to. Makes me happy. :) I don't know what exactly I've won yet, but there were hints of fiber, fiber tools, and pattern distribution. We'll just have to wait and see together. In the meantime, a few friends are test-knitting the pattern in delicious Malabrigo Chunky, and one of them is finished (Rav link). The color on these is amazing! Apparently, the shop attendant was very helpful in this regard. He said something along these lines: If you pick the red, whoever gets these mittens will say "Wow, you made me mittens!" But if you pick the yellow, whoever gets these mittens will say "Wow, you made me YELLOW mittens!"

I love them either way... one task for this week is to add the pattern into Ravelry. I have the entire week off work for the Thanksgiving holidays, so it's also the perfect time to plan more gift knitting. I think this year is going to be 180 degrees from last year: nearly everyone is going to get a fiber-related gift, if only because finances are tighter this year. I don't think most folks will mind, though. I have some pretty awesome projects lined up. And it's not going to be the stress-fest it could be, because I already have a bunch of items saved up.

Also, the new Twist Collective is up, and they have a few mitten and hat patterns I am very excited about. My plan is to sit down this afternoon, make some potato soup with leeks and carrots, and read through the whole issue.

Those socks I started two weekends ago have been going through some revisions in size. Turns out if you ignore gauge on a sock for four days and just knit straight through, you run a very big risk of getting a sock that's way too big. Oh well. This yarn is lovely, and goes very well with the pattern. Then again, I've knit the jaywalker pattern three times before and I think it's perfect for any variegated yarn.

Handspun Jaywalkers

The one in back is the nearly-finished-but-too-large sock, and the one in front is the correct size. I just haven't had the heart to frog the old one yet. Check out the color of the yarn, though!

Handspun Jaywalkers

Isn't that just awesome? Like a chocolate cherry cheesecake.

I've been fairly good about being project monogamous for the past few weeks, but something arrived in the mail yesterday that may break my streak. It's okay though, because this is a project in the works for at least a year. A teaser:

Wedding Shawl Materials

I think this will keep me busy at least until the New Year.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I am so scatterbrained right now, I am going to do something I normally do not do: blog in list format.

1. We attended the wedding of some very near and dear friends this weekend. We stayed here. The food was amazing, the weather gorgeous, the lung capacity severely diminished due to tight-fitting bridesmaids dress and altitude. It was gorgeous, woodsy, and a heckuva lot of fun.

2. I might be going through a career transition. If I seem reluctant and/or absent-minded when speaking about my job, know that I am trying to work through some things about what I really want to be when I grow up and how to best accomplish that while still providing for my personal needs.

3. My mittens are up for voting, and the pattern has been proofread and proofknit. I am going to decide how to distribute the pattern after the contest is over. If you think the design from four posts down was nice and have access to the Ravelries, feel free to go here and cast your vote by tomorrow. For the record, here's another shot of the mittens to which I am referring.

Snow Chains Mittens

4. I started a pair of jaywalker socks on the airplane. There will be photos forthcoming, but they are being knit out of this handspun:

Zero Handspun SW Merino

5. I am excited about holiday knitting this year. I may have already begun a box full of items for gifting. I may have purchased this for the plane ride home. This is very strange to me, given my feelings on gift knitting last year. More on that later.

6. I totally thought I had more than 5 things to tell you all. Huh.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend fun times!

I had some pretty good knitting time over the last week. On Friday I finished the knitting for a pair of insanely cute slippers:

Green Slippers

I know they don't look like slippers right now, but once they're sewn up and felted they'll hopefully look a little bit like this. The knitting goes super-fast on huge needles, and it's perfect if you have lots of worsted-weight yarn leftovers. These are so cute, I'm making more than one pair. But I can't justify having three pairs of felted slippers... helloooo, more gift knitting!

Blue Slippers

My knitting group and I all cast on for these together last week, and this week we're going to sew them up. But last weekend I finished Damson earlier than I thought I would. I was able to wear my cute new shawl on Sunday morning, but I'd expected that the project would last me until at least the day before our knit night. So in the meantime, I pulled out an old, sleepy, cobwebby (not really) project:

Bright Green Square #23

Lilypad II Green Square #24

I think I've given up on the spreadsheet, the one I made about 1/3 of the way through the project as a way to keep track of how to maximize the number of miters I could eke out of each skein of yarn. It's getting down to the wire... at one point I optimistically thought I would make a 6x6 blanket (36 squares with 4 miters to each square), but now I'm thinking I may only get 5x6. If so, then I've done 75% of the knitting.

Oh, and we carved pumpkins on Saturday:

Starry Pumpkin

We carved two pumpkins, and saved one for eating. I've never cooked a pumpkin before (except for baking the seeds), so this will be an adventure!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Market Day

Sometimes you just need a nice accessory to wear to the farmer's market.

Green Damson

A little something to keep the chill off your shoulders while picking out produce,

Green Damson

and in a lovely green color that reminds you of winter squash and carrot tops and flower stems

Green Damson

I was amazed when I looked back at my notes on Ravelry and realized that this shawl only took me about 8 days to knit. The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy, in the Happy Forest colorway. Also, I came really close to not having enough yarn, I was sweating a little while doing the bind-off row. The sock yarn blocks very nicely, and I love the contrast in texture between the garter and stockinette portions of the shawl. Anyway, Damson and I had a great time this morning. I got up early, trying to get to the market within an hour of opening time, knowing I'd be rewarded by $5 bouquets of dahlias. I snagged one several weeks ago but haven't seen them since, probably because they are A) gorgeous B) a steal and C) the significant other and I are rarely out and about before 11AM on a Sunday morning. My plan worked:



I also succumbed to the color on this guy:

Squirrel and Pumpkin

It now feels like fall in our apartment.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another FO to share

It's starting to feel like fall, and we got our first real rainfall of the year two days ago. Now everything is kind of gently steaming and humid, so it doesn't really feel autumnal, but I can pretend:

Endpaper Mitts

Another handspun hand-warming device, these are Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts, done in two colors of handspun Verb for Keeping Warm fiber. One is the green half of the Hollyhocks falklands, and the other is left over grey finn from these mittens I knit almost a year ago. I was very pleased to ultimately have used up all but a few yards of the grey, so much so that I might combine the pinks from both club shipments and do a second pair for spring. Here's a better shot of the color:

Endpaper Mitts

I really enjoy how the green fades in and out of being intensely vibrant, and the handspun is surprisingly dense. I've heard other knitters comment on how this is a good introduction to fair isle knitting, and I have to agree. I'd recommend this project to anyone who wants to try two-color knitting but has felt intimidated. It's a lovely return on a relatively small effort.

In the back of my head, I keep wondering how it is that I'm knitting all these little projects so quickly. I'm daydreaming about another sweater (especially with the frogged remains I recently acquired), but I will most likely wait until the temperatures drop a little more.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Journey

That's what this has been.

Verb Cable Mittens

So, right before Sock Summit my favorite enabler and fiber guru Kristine announced a contest on Ravelry. The challenge was to enter a mitten (or, later, a fingerless mitten) knit out of Verb yarn (at least 50%). This could either be a published pattern, or you could make up your own pattern.

I needed a challenge during the second part of summer before the semester began, so I jumped into the deep end of the pool without so much as a backwards glance. I was SO sure I knew EXACTLY what I would do! Two-color mittens, handspun fingering-weight yarn, reminiscent of an arts and crafts tile. It would be a small, practical piece of art.

First came several 8-hour days wasted on internet image research. Picture after picture after picture, flower after leaf after tree all flashed before me. Finally, I found something I loved, and that (seemingly) matched the color palette I had in mind: either Hollyhocks (scroll down a bit) or Lilies. Images bookmarked, it seemed a simple next step in my mind to transcribe the colors onto a multicolor mitten chart. When I sat down to actually do this, I realized that I wouldn't really be able to pull off the kind of design I had set my heart on with only two colors. Dark brown or black outlines and multiple shades of pink and green meant that, at best, I would be knitting five-color mittens, not two-color. Frustrating me further was the insistence of the pattern to use more than two colors on any one round.

The design languished, August ran away, and the end of September crept closer. The deadline for knitting the mittens is November 1, so I needed to get the design down on paper if I wanted to leave myself enough time to knit the darn things. After three weeks of not even looking at my mitten charts, I decided to chuck the whole idea and start fresh. In the meantime, I spun up my Hollyhocks fiber (Falklands wool):

Verb Fiber Club Hollyhocks

And some corriedale in the colorway The Candle's Nimble Flame:

The Candle's Nimble Flame Corriedale

I didn't really have any intention of using the corriedale for the mittens. In my head, I was starting to doubt that it had been a good idea to sign myself up for yet another commitment at this time of the year. So I brought the handspun to my knitting circle, and we all talked about it.

Hollyhocks Falklands

The Candle's Nimble Flame Corriedale

I asked about what people liked in a mitten. Did they prefer a thumb that protrudes from inside the palm, or on the side? With or without a thumb gusset? And there, surrounded by like-minded fibery friends, the idea hit me. I needed a mitten I could knit pretty fast if I wanted (because at this rate, I'd probably have about 48 hours to do the actual knitting after figuring out the pattern). I had some chunky yarn spun so it would make subtle stripes, in a colorway with little variation in contrast and saturation. Cables would pop, but they also couldn't be too complex or they'd get lost in the color. On top of all this, I was keen to make my design something that I perceived as unique. I'd seen lots of cabled mittens where there's an awesome intricate pattern going up the back of the hand, leaving the palm smooth. I said: what about cables on the side?

That sounded interesting to enough people, and after a few really really bad ideas about mitten construction (hint: there is such a thing as too unique), I settled on a basic game plan. I'd knit one mitten and make it up as I went along, keeping notes. The first test of the pattern would occur while I knit the second mitten, using the notes as a guide and trying very sincerely to not just make the second one up as I went along too. Here's what that looked like:

Smitten Mitten Progress

It was EXCRUCIATING to knit so slowly! So tough to stop myself every few rounds and update the notes. You can't hold a pen and keep your yarn tensioned at the same time, did you know that? Well, at least I can't. And when knitting the second mitten, I went into a mini panic every time something didn't come out the way it should. This time, I couldn't just knit 2 together and forget about the extra stitch that popped up out of nowhere. I knew in the back of my head that I wanted to write up the pattern, and other people who knit these mittens would obsess over that extra stitch. Incidentally, I also learned how to correctly count rows/rounds. I still had plans for the Hollyhocks yarn, but it went on the back burner.

And now they're done. After getting washed, it took me another two weeks to get out on a sunny day for a photo shoot. This morning I had some fun in the park with my mittens and the timer on my camera. Here they are, my Snow Chains mittens.

Snow Chains Mittens

Snow Chains Mittens

Snow Chains Mittens

Snow Chains Mittens

It's a good thing I waited a while to take the photos, because I was pretty sick of the design when I first finished knitting the mittens. We needed a break from each other. I am now working on writing up the pattern, but I'm gonna be honest here, because it's my blog and I can. If you hate them, don't tell me. I won't force anyone else to knit them, I promise.