29 Oct 2017

Hello out there. I’m so glad you’re still there. By which I mean, I’m so happy that I can remember that the world outside my little bubble exists today. There have been lots of days when that wasn’t the case of late.

So I’m a little bit delighted and a little bit chagrined to realize that I popped in here with a little something to share and it’s exactly the same topic as the last time I was here. My worn clothing. (Because that’s fascinating enough to warrant multiple posts?)

When I turned my closet over a few weeks ago, I pulled out a bag of socks that needed mending and was surprised to discover it had somehow grown to eight pairs of hand-knit socks that were out of circulation. A week later, a deep dive into my knitting basket (for unrelated reasons) turned up a further three pair that I had completely forgotten existed. Eleven pair! That is either a testament to my powers of procrastination for letting so many pile up, or to the excess of my sock supply that I was still getting by with that many out of commission. Maybe both.

I finally sat down with the monster pile this weekend to see what I could do. Two pair were deemed beyond repair and retired. One pair that was little-worn but riddled with tiny holes from a wool moth attack several years ago was unravelled to salvage the yarn. Most needed a darned patch or a few areas of duplicate stitch reinforcement. And then there was this pair (in sorry enough shape my camera didn’t even want to focus on them):

One of the first pair of socks I ever knit, and the blue merino really wasn’t durable enough for socks. As I was debating whether I could justify another layer of patches or not, I realized that this sock construction, one I never repeated, lent itself to heal replacement. A couple careful snips and a bit of unraveling later, they were back on needles…

And some leftover sock yarn filled in the gap nicely.

So satisfying.

I actually have a few new knitting projects to share if I ever get pictures taken. Soon, I hope. And in homestead news, the pigs will be off to freezer camp in less than two weeks but in the meantime, they are making adorable afternoon nap pig-piles.

Done over perfect

I finished a sweater! It’s a pretty fabulous shade of green!

This sweater had a completed body with one and a quarter sleeves when I set it aside during the Olympics (yes, the summer 2016 games). I let it sit for months, before I was finally prepared to face it again. And after a nice smooth start, it fought me every step of the way from that point. I ripped out both sleeves and started over on those. The button bands and collar required similar trial and error. It felt like a lot of one-step-forward-two-steps-back. It ended with a cliffhanger where I wondered if I was going to run out of yarn.

Through most of that, I was still pretty excited about the kelly green sweater I would have in the end. But in the middle of summer, even that wasn’t motivation enough to weave in ends and sew on buttons for the last month. I’m relieved to finally call it done.

The fit isn’t what I was aiming for, somehow my gauge swatch was pretty impressively off so it is a size or two wider than I planned. I think it’s still totally wearable, especially on the homemade sweater scale, but short of the ideal I imagined when I set out. But I’ll take done over perfect.

Details on Ravelry.

April and the tortoises

It’s the last day of April and I’ve sunk into the couch after a full day outside prepping soil and planting and weeding and tending and even harvesting. The dryer is full of lemon balm for future tea, and my attention span for writing is likely about as long as the bake time on my rhubarb muffins. It’s a relief to have finally filled a day with all the things I’ve been hoping to do for the last month, and at the same time it’s taking all my strength to resist the pull into complete overwhelm from all the things that need doing.

One thing our very rainy April was good for was sitting inside and knitting. I finally finished this little baby blanket

The simple pattern was the best kind of mindless knitting, so I really expected it to be a quick knit, but I failed to account for the cotton factor. After swearing off superwash wool, I opted to make this one out of 100% cotton yarn, and it was tough on my hands. I have had that experience with non-elastic fibers in the past, and I think the weight of this as it grew exacerbated the hand fatigue. So needless to say, it was more of a tortoise than a hare. That said, I washed and dried the finished blanket and it does have that lovely soft hand and comforting weight of cotton, so I’m satisfied with the end result.

Predictably, a couple of bigger (or longer, really) recent knitting projects had me hankering for something small and gratifying. To my complete surprise, it came in the form of a scrap blanket project. I’ve seen several versions of these around for years and have never been tempted, but a few weeks ago I fell down the rabbit hole and have been happily churning out mitered squares during any moments of social or desk or otherwise mindless knitting time.

I bought some new yarn that is a long color shift in the natural to gold spectrum and am holding it double with fingering weight (mostly sock yarn) scraps. This means both that I am using up my most abundant scraps pile, leftover sock yarn, and that I’m knitting with something approximately worsted weight, which is very good for the sanity when approaching something blanket-sized. I can already tell that the seaming is going to be hell, but in the meantime I’m mesmerized by seeing all my leftover scraps coming back to life. I haven’t calculated how many squares I need yet, I just know that it feels endless at this point.

And finally, the ultimate in tortoise projects, our braided wool rug continues on. I can see an end in sight on the braiding, I’m not sure if Dean feels the same about the lacing yet.

An incoherent jumble

Well, that’s a hell of a photo collection for one post. I’ve been meaning to write here for the last week or two, but every time I started to collect my thoughts, they would turn out to be an incoherent jumble of things I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. Since that seems to be the state of things, it’s a jumbled list sort of post…

  • Today was the most joyful mail day of the year, the day the chirping box of chicks arrives. It feels like the official start of another season of homesteading. I’ve been slow to find my rhythm this spring, but after dashing out between rain showers every couple hours today to make sure the new crew weren’t too cold or out of water or starving for attention, I feel like they are already pulling me into the season.
  • I finished the toddler hoodie nearly a month ago, but never showed you the final photos. It was my first time adding a zipper and ribbon to knitting, and both took time but were easier than I expected. The hand-sewing complemented the knitting well, and I would definitely like to add more ribbon to reinforce sweaters. I was a little concerned the green and white ribbon would look completely out of place, but I think it works, and I love the charm of the vintage French design.
  • We marched for Black Lives Matter in Seattle last weekend and almost felt guilty for how enjoyable it was – walking through the streets of downtown with several thousand friends soaking in the sunshine and standing in solidarity on one of our first truly springlike days. Get out there for Science this weekend if you can!
  • Dean spent a week in Maine so I spent a week here on my own and figuring out what I was going to eat next. I had all sorts of grand plans for how I would fill the expansive hours and space of being having the house all to myself, but then spent about 90% of that energy on feeding myself. So when he left again after less than a week at home (to visit some friends in Oregon for several days), I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for. He did leave me stocked with 3 1/2 bunches of kale raab, though, so I quickly settled in to a routine of kale and eggs three meals a day. Which seems like a decent option, if you’re going to be so repetitive. And just when the kale supply was waning, I went rummaging through the freezer and found a quart of leftover chicken curry from a few months ago. Victory!  So just in case you were worried, I think I’m going to make it through this week without resorting to popcorn or saltines (both of which I stand by as totally legitimate meal options, if employed sparingly).
  • “Make soap” has been on my to-do list approximately every weekend since mid-October, when I thought it would be nice to have a supply for holiday gifts. I am down to the final near-transparent shard of my last bar, so went to buy a bar when I was at the corner store yesterday. After picking up every single (local, handcrafted, beautiful) bar, I couldn’t bring myself to spend money on any of them so I came home and made my own. It took something like 30 minutes, dirtied a handful of dishes, and nothing about it was difficult or smelled bad or was in any way unpleasant, just like I knew all along. Of course there’s still the small fact that it should cure for a month before use, but I made a couple extra small bars that I think will get me through the gap. So there you go, I’ve managed to take care of feeding and bathing myself this week. I don’t know what more you could expect of me.

The making report, February 2017 edition

In rounding up the content for this post, I was rather surprised to find that I’ve made more in recent weeks than I would have guessed. Which makes sense, with this winter hanging on as tenaciously as it has, but it has all been a bit stealth, lots of bits here and there without a feeling of focus and progress on a singular project.

The closest thing I’ve had to that singular project is this hoodie for a certain friend aged 2 1/2 I started way back in November. It got set aside for December while I knit yulekuler, and then approximately every other week when my frustration with superwash wool overwhelmed my interest in getting it done. I still have to install a zipper and wrap up some other finishing details, but the knitting is complete and I’m feeling pretty relieved.

This is my very first garment for a small being, and I was pretty excited about the prospect of combining all the satisfactions of garment knitting with the speed of knitting them in mini. Of course I didn’t really get the “speed” part because I couldn’t help but choose this pattern that was full of details that I loved (and that would double the work). There are toddler-size pockets knit into the sides, that hood, and an i-cord edging around the entire front. But I had all sorts of time so I decided to go for it.

I’m not sure if I would do it again. Definitely not in superwash – somehow the process of making wool washable removes every property I like about wool and leaves you with this slippery, splitty substance that lacks any integrity. And there’s just no joy in knitting with it. I fully understand that parents don’t want to deal with a hand-washable garment for a toddler, but I might have to admit that my potential knitting audience is limited to those that love real wool enough to deal with its care requirements.

All that said, I think this is a pretty sweet little red hoodie. The color was surprising hard to capture, but it’s a classic bright red. (Honestly, this one got left out of previous reports just because the photos of it were always so crap.) Here’s one more attempt, included mostly because it was my first use of the blocking mats I received for Christmas and they made me very happy.

While I was taking breaks from the hoodie, I knit a few hats for my local knitting group’s charity hat drive. I used the opportunity to play with a hat pattern that had a lot of potential but had been a miss on my first attempt. After four goes, I think I’ve got the pattern modifications sorted to my liking. The colorwork still needs some help, but really I just need more contrast. I was knitting entirely from stash, and it turns out that I only ever choose mid-tone shades. So predictable, I am.

And here’s the start of my current project: a cotton baby blanket in a super-simple pattern. I had decided months ago that this baby would be welcomed with hand-knitting but not a blanket and then a few weeks ago I decided that it would maybe need just a little stroller blanket and then I cast on and knit a few inches and it is very much a full-on baby blanket size. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but given this little one is expected in just a few weeks, I should probably think about that while I keep on knitting.

And finally, a little evidence that the wool rug project continues on, ever so slowly, but onward nonetheless.

Wool news

In the thick of December making, I was full of daydreams about the projects that would emerge from the vast expanses of time in January. So far, though, January has produced very little evidence of making, let alone those mythical expanses of time. And the limits of January light means there is even less photographic evidence.

Predictably, as I was reaching the end of the holiday knitting, I desperately wanted to knit something simple and mindless. I rummaged through my stash and picked out a pattern and held on just long enough to crank out the last couple christmas balls, and cast on this simple ribbed hat as soon as the last one was off the needles. The color is impossible to capture, but it’s my favorite part. I used a skein of hand-dyed that was a little too bright and with the very short color changes you get with hand-dyed. So I held it doubled up with a plain light grey, which muted it beautifully. The effect is hard to describe, but somehow all the color changes just blend together in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.

I’ve also been making progress on a toddler hoodie for a pretty great two-and-a-half year-old friend. It’s very red, which is great for mid-winter knitting. It is also knit out of superwash wool and every time I knit something out of superwash I hate it and I swear that won’t do it again and then a little time goes by and I manage to convince myself that THIS version of superwash will be better. But I think, unfortunately, they are just all horrible. So the hoodie is progressing in fits and starts.

There has also been some mindless sock knitting and a charity hat knitting project, perhaps to be documented next time.

In other wool news,  Dean and I picked up the rug project after a long holiday hiatus, and it feels like we’ve made it over a hump of sorts. This is the whole pile of wheels remaining to braid:

And this, my friends, is the start of something possibly recognizable as a rug!

Sweater, reincarnated

img_1699 img_1682 img_1690(Excuse the wonky photos. The self-timer and I are still working out some differences of opinion.)

I finished the house sweater, which feels like a supremely boring knitting project to share. It is warm and comfy and slipped seamlessly into my work-from-home wardrobe. I’ve even been wearing it out for special occasions like “running an errand” or “attending a meeting”. I know, the excitement here is pretty intense.

The fit in the shoulders isn’t great, and my thoughts on that are detailed for any knitters on my Ravelry project page. I also had some reservations about a cardigan with no fasteners that I expected to be winter wear, but it’s totally fine with just a shawl pin. (I wasn’t kidding about the supremely boring thing.)

I think my favorite thing about this sweater is that it’s actually a reincarnation of the very first sweater I ever knit. I found Elizabeth Zimmermann right when I started knitting, and was fully sold on her assertion that you don’t need to blindly follow patterns, so I set out based on some of her “pithy instructions”. But I was too inexperienced for that to be a successful strategy, so I ended up with a sweater that was too slim a fit for a worsted-weight fabric. I wore it a handful of times and then it sat in my closet for a few years until it occurred to me that it wasn’t just an ill-fitting sweater, it was also a stash of nearly-new yarn I still liked. So I unravelled the entire sweater, washed the wool to remove the kink, and re-wound it. Together with the leftovers from that original project that were still hanging around, I had a new sweater for nothing. Which feels a bit like magic, even for a knitter accustomed to the magic of magic of making fabric out of nothing but sticks and string.

 

I could learn to love vests

It’s been awhile since we had a little show and tell of knitting projects, so I thought I might catch you up.

We’ll start with a very green cardigan that has one and a quarter sleeves so far:

dsc_4311This sweater-in-progress has appeared here before, and I probably even said nice things about it because it seemed to be going along quite well through most of the summer. Probably right after I jinxed myself by saying so, it started to go sideways. I finished the first sleeve and tried it on and couldn’t help but notice that that it was a little lumpy and misshapen at the top where it meets the shoulder, like there was just too much fabric. I examined it in the mirror from every angle I could and reread the pattern to make sure I didn’t miss anything (nope) and thought about how I should really block it out before I went any farther.

And then I decided to just pretend it was totally fine and press on. Partly because the idea of ripping out that entire sleeve that I had picked up at the shoulder and knit down to the wrist was more than I could bear in that moment but mostly because I wanted something to knit that evening, and there was nothing else in the basket. This was August, back when the Rio Olympics were happening, and my daily leisure was spent knitting and watching sport. So I pressed on and soon enough I had the second sleeve cap nearly complete, and a stitch count that didn’t correspond to the pattern in any way. Figuring out where I went wrong would require my full attention, and I didn’t have full attention to offer it, so I conceded and set it aside. I’ve been studiously ignoring it ever since.

When I abruptly lost the sweater project, I panicked a bit and rummaged through a drawer of yarn and cast on for a hat. It occupied me happily for a whole two or three days of Olympic watching and in the end I got a hat that I rather like the look of and unfortunately, makes my head look like a misshapen mushroom.
dsc_4309It had a similar effect on Dean, so it sits in the hat drawer waiting for an unsuspecting visitor who it might flatter enough to take it home.

So you can probably see where I was going when I cast on another sweater, this one filled with nice boring knitting.
dsc_4310The body occupied me for the remainder of my Olympic watching and my September travels. I picked up that giant collar and happily knit mindlessly through the beginning of October. And then I started on the sleeves, again picking up stitches at the shoulder and knitting down. This weekend I was just finishing off the sleeve cap and joining it into the round, and noticed that something seemed off. I was looking at the shape of the sleeve, and re-reading the pattern… and I realized exactly what was happening again. But this time, I just bailed. It’s not worth the trouble. Ripped out what I had, and cast on from the cuff. I’ll knit the sleeve and then set them in with a seam.

I really think I could learn to love vests.

Knitting: green and boring

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When I finished my recent blanket knitting, I immediately picked up another project which had been sitting around perfectly ready to go for a few years. I bought this yarn on my first trip to KnitWit in Portland, Maine with this exact pattern in mind (Deco by Kate Davies) and then, once again, it sat untouched for ages. But I never stopped liking the pattern or the yarn and I’m pretty excited about finally having that very green cardigan. (I didn’t quite capture the color, it’s really a true kelly green, the colorway is Parsley from Quince and Co.) I’ve been cruising along, feeling like the progress has been remarkably steady for a summer sweater project… until this week.

I was mentally going over my packing list for our upcoming backpacking trip and recalled my annoying lack of a good backpacking hat. And then remembered that I solved that problem a year ago when I picked up a closeout merino Buff (it’s a hat! it’s a neck gaitor! it’s a ninja costume!). Except that the merino was such poor quality that it actually gave me contact sores on my forehead. I wear a lot of wool next-to-skin and this was the worst experience I had ever had with it. So naturally I decided to just knit a replacement. Or more accurately, I was struck with the irrational compulsion that I must knit one NOW.

Generally speaking, deciding to knit something that you want NOW is a very bad idea. Knitting is a terrible plan for producing finished goods on demand. Producing something in the background while you think you’re doing other things? Yes, brilliant. But deciding that you want something, especially something from fingering weight yarn and then casting on? You’re begging to throw hours away creating the first three inches before conceding defeat in disgust and living with the reminder of those three inches sitting in the unfinished project pile for all time.

I know this. So what did I do? I dug around for a pair of needles, grabbed a ball of merino sock yarn from the drawer, and started casting on while I decided how many stitches I might need. And then proceeded to knit the most crushingly boring object of all time. Straight stockinette in the round, no pattern, no markers, no landmarks to indicate any progress except the occasional comparison to the measuring tape. And that friendly compulsion to have it NOW. In just over two days I had this:
DSC_4139I also had two sore forearms and a worthless claw of a left hand. But who needs hands? Did I mention that it could be a hat?
DSC_4141Or a neck gaitor?
DSC_4142The possibilities are endless, really. It is exactly what I hoped for when I started, an extremely soft and comfy and washable and adaptable bit of head gear for backpacking. And possibly the most boring knitting project of all time.

Speaking of boring, I finished a pair of (green) socks a few weeks back. These sat on my for the last several months slowly growing and finally graduated to my dresser drawer. Just another basic staple, but it’s awfully nice to have another pair created out of nothing more than boring meetings and long phone calls.
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(Also, can we acknowledge how awkward it is to try to model and photograph your own socks?)

It just kept whispering “blanket”

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One chunky brown blanket complete and another big chunk of real estate freed up in the yarn stash drawers. I absolutely love the deep brown tweed with flecks of all sorts of color (except when trying to photograph it, then I hate it)… but it’s been sitting in a drawer for a few years and I just didn’t know what to do with a thousand meters of super bulky weight wool. It kept whispering “blanket” and I kept trying to argue. I had some very good points – about how nobody needs a blanket that heavy and there wasn’t quite enough of it to make a proper throw and all of the very good reasons why blanket patterns are designed for lighter yarn. But it just kept whispering “blanket” until it wore down my resistance.

I conceded just in time for summer. Because who doesn’t want a pile of extra-heavy blanket in their lap for summer? Well actually that worked out alright because June turned out to be mostly cool and damp.

The result is a squishy, cozy lap blanket with, admittedly, a little heft. It may not be much use for a few months but come fall it will keep some legs warm.

Details here on Ravelry.

A shawl, finally

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Nothing like a deadline to motivate. I’m heading out this morning for a weeklong meditation retreat, and I had hoped to pack a new shawl. That had seemed like a pretty sure thing when I finished the knitting on this one more than a month ago. But since then, progress ground to a halt as I mostly thought about how not-fun the finishing was.

The finishing was just as tedious as I thought it would be. But I’m not sure I could have made it slower – I put in an hour or two about once a week, and then spent some multiple of that thinking about how I didn’t want to do it, how I didn’t like doing it, and generally how I wish it would just do itself. But in the end, I got it done on deadline and I’m really happy with the result.

The original pattern was inspired by a seascape and used shades of blue and green. I liked it, but I couldn’t quite see myself wearing it. One of my favorite parts of knitting with Shetland wool (besides its fabulous woolliness) is how many shades there are to choose from, so I felt confident that I could modify it. When I started rummaging through the piles of yarn, I really didn’t know what I was looking for but it pretty quickly emerged as earthy greens and browns. Which is no surprise to anyone who has seen me dress, but it gave me extra joy when, as I was knitting it up, I realized that it was the palette of the mossy forests that surround me. It’s completely appropriate that I adopted this pattern into my own local landscape’s palette. And I’m looking forward to wrapping myself up in it as I wander through those mossy woods this week.

Details here on Ravelry.

Finishing elves wanted

Oh, this shawl has been a satisfying knit the last couple weeks. The sort where I find myself thinking “just one more row” each time I try to set it down. Because, this next row is a plain one. Or this next row is a fun one. Or this next one is a green one.

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So even as the rows grew longer and longer and longer, they kept getting ticked off. And then, nearly a week ago, I was to the end. Already! I started to think about how fun it would be to get it blocked and take some pictures. And then I realized the pattern called for a sewn bind-off of 423 stitches. Which means guessing how much yarn that will take (three double-arm spans, maybe 17 feet?) and cutting the yarn and threading it on a needle and then pulling that through each stitch as you sew the final bind-off.

So it sat in my basket for a few days while I contemplated that task. I finally got started on Wednesday and managed to get all of about six inches done. Last night I decided I was ready to tackle the rest so I set myself up with a couple podcasts and sewed and sewed and sewed… and managed to make it to the halfway point (and made several mental notes about what to do the next time a pattern called for a sewn bind-off). Finally this morning the second half got bound off. I had about 8 inches of yarn left, or about 2 inches to spare.

The next task is to tackle the ends, all 140 or so of them:DSC_3886

Sigh. Maybe next weekend? I really appreciate good finishing of knits but I can’t pretend that I love any part of that finishing work. It’s so tedious! All that work just to tidy things up and make them right when it feels like it should be “done” already. This may also explain a certain state of my housekeeping. I need elves that want to do the dishes and dust and weave in all the ends and whistle while they do.

While I wait for the elves to arrive, I’m distracting myself by learning the very basics of crochet. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I am utterly worthless at crochet. I’ve learned a couple stitches a few times but never managed to retain anything more than rudimentary chain-making. Which is annoying, because crochet comes in handy in all sorts of knitting projects. And I desperately want to make crocheted covers for stones like these:

credit: Margaret Oomen

Here is the progress I’ve made, which I’m optimistic is only like twelve short steps from being one of those intricate designs in fine cotton:

DSC_3888I’m inordinately proud, and not just because I’m managing to avoid dealing with those ends.

A man sweater

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I finally finished the sweater for Dean! And I’m not sure which one of us is more relieved that it fits and is a generally normal-looking garment. Which shouldn’t be shocking, it’s not like I’ve never knit a sweater before. But this was my first sweater for someone else, and while Dean is a very gracious knitted gift recipient… he’s also particular about his clothing and especially how it fits.

I told myself all along the way that it didn’t matter how much I had to rip out and re-do, I wanted to make something that would actually be functional and not just keep the closet monsters company. And I know Dean was bracing himself for the fact that we was going to feel obligated to wear whatever I produced in all those hours. After the false start, it actually went pretty well. I added a few inches to the length of everything and modified the collar to fit his preference, but otherwise just followed the pattern and all went smoothly.

Knitting details are here on Ravelry.

And after three months of knitting on (mostly) one thing, I’m free to knit anything I want! Which means it is full steam ahead on this shawl that I just barely got a start on last fall before the sweater yarn arrived and it has been (mostly) sitting in the basket waiting ever since.

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So far it feels like the perfect project – a bit more interesting than endless plain knitting but not so interesting that I can’t listen to a podcast or watch something while I work on it, big enough that the end result feels substantial but small enough that I can imagine finishing it. And a new shawl at the end. My go-to shawl started feeling a little… worn of late, which is probably reasonable given that I knit it about four and half years ago.

So it’s happiness all around in the knitting update (and yes I am choosing to be blissfully ignorant of the absolutely absurd number of ends to weave in on that shawl).

Wool cycle

IMG_1263It’s been a long while since I wrote a knitting report. And for good reason, because I haven’t had much to say about my knitting in a long while. I could have sent the same report for pretty much every week since the last time, when I showed you the first six inches of a sleeve two months ago: “Don’t seem to have much knitting time these days and what knitting I do seems to disappear directly into the black hole of the vast sweater for Dean. The monotony is somehow comforting, but the vastness seems able to swallow hours weeks of time and skeins of yarn.”

And then, quite surprisingly, I sewed up the shoulder seams last night and was looking at a something resembling a sweater vest. Add in that sleeve I knit as a swatch when I was feeling wary at the start, and I’m nearly there. One more sleeve, a neckband, and the finishing. Even better, I got Dean to try on what I have of the body and it seems to fit. We’re still a couple of weeks away from anything that could be called “done”, but I have new hope that I may someday knit something that is not dark gray.

In related tales of knitterly satisfaction, I tackled a couple items in my darning pile this afternoon. A pair of well-worn and much-loved long johns got a quick repair and were immediately put back in use. Here’s a quick before-and-after (the knitting needle is threaded behind the repair).

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And then a pair of socks that my toes had started poking through. Which I deemed too far gone for any more darning, and surrendered to the compost pile.IMG_1254

I find it easier to accept that things are no longer useful to me when their fate is compost rather that having to put worn-out items in the trash, or even a donation pile for things that still have life left in them. It seems like a dignified end for them, and just one more reason why I love 100% wool. (Although I don’t love darning socks enough to knit them in 100% wool anymore. I have come to my senses on that score.)

So there you go, the cycle of life for knitted woolens.

 

To be or not to be: sweater edition

I mentioned recently that I had started knitting a sweater for Dean. To get to that point, we spent hours deciding exactly what kind of sweater it was going to be. If you’ve ever searched for a women’s sweater pattern, this probably doesn’t surprise you, as wading through all the options to find the perfect match can be quite a task. In the not-so-wide world of men’s sweater patterns, the intersection of patterns I was willing to knit and garments Dean thought he would like to wear turned out to include approximately three sweaters.

And then, because Dean is advanced in the art of The Proper Way to Receive a Knitted Gift, he let me make the final choice. I selected Sawyer, a thermal-textured henley style, and elected the classic opening move of the not-entirely-confident knitter, which is to cast on a sleeve first. I knit merrily along for a week and a half, pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it seemed to be going and how much I liked the fabric.

But as I neared the top of the sleeve, I was pulling out my tape measure more and more frequently. When I reached the beginning of the shoulder shaping, I couldn’t take it anymore so I put all the stitches on a long cable and threw it in the sink for a wet block. The length was good but as I suspected, it was too wide. Which was disappointing but not shocking. I figured I would give it a day to settle into its final size and then do some math and figure out what I could salvage and how I needed to adjust for the rest of the sweater.

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But maddeningly, when I returned I couldn’t get a consistent stitch gauge read, like this fabric just couldn’t figure out how wide it wanted to be. This was not confidence-inspiring. In the list of ways this is most likely to become a permanent closet-dweller, too short and too wide are right at the top. I gave it a little more time and then sat down to do the math. And instead decided that I couldn’t spend the next couple months knitting a sweater not knowing what shape it was going to be at the end.

Which explains how it is that after nearly two weeks of knitting on this sweater, I have about six inches of a sleeve to show for it:

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So far so good on pattern number two.

On a possibly related note, one of my favorite sweaters recently wore through a thread on the cuff. I’ve been meaning to mend it for a couple weeks but couldn’t quite wrap my head around how to do so. And then this afternoon, it clicked.

DSC_3701So I picked out the whole cast-on, picking up the live stitches and then bound them off with some leftover yarn. There’s something really thrilling to me about seeing a finished garment back on the needles years later, evidence of how endlessly malleable hand knits are. It’s not a perfectly invisible fix because I was working in the opposite direction but I have to admit I like it a little better for the imperfection, like it’s earned a scar or two.

Gold season

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Have you noticed how daylight savings time ended and all felt right in the world again? No? Maybe that was just me. But after the bedlam that was the last month, I think anything would feel like an improvement.

I am a creature of habit. I happily dwell in routine and October disrupted all sorts of them. While I was away visiting New York and North Dakota the end of September, the morning light retreated far enough that when I returned, I could no longer sneak in even a short run before the workday. I also came back to the start of an herbalism class that takes up my Wednesday morning each week, and demands that I find time for homework in the rest of my week. There was all the stress of first-time pig butchery and the end to five-plus months of morning feeding chores (not that I miss morning chores, per se, but I don’t get out many mornings this time of year without a good reason, and I notice that effect). I could go on, but suffice it to say that, in retrospect, I spent the last month desperately seeking routine. But I think I’m on the road to recovery in November.

Amidst all the disorder, I did manage to finish up a couple projects. After pressing my new cardigan into service a bit prematurely, I couldn’t seem to take it off long enough to address the pocket situation. Finally, a few weeks ago, I made it to a knit night to poll the regulars and the consensus was that while it was pretty great as is, it deserved two pockets that were appropriately positioned. I knew it to be so, so I picked out the seam on the first pocket and re-attached it about an inch and a half nearer the center, and sewed the second one on to match. The initial seam had left quite a channel in the fabric but after re-blocking, there’s not a trace of it. I love that about wool knits. And I love wearing this very all-purpose sweater with two pockets.

And in the knitting support category, I finished my second IKEA-and-milk-paint dresser project. It fit perfectly into a bit of unused space in my office and is generally a big upgrade from the collection of old thrifted suitcases I had been using to contain all of my knitting paraphernalia. Of course, I had visions of the dresser swallowing my yarn collection with room for file folders of patterns and drawers of neatly organized needles while in reality it’s stuffed to the gills with yarn even after a serious purge. But it is a huge improvement and the fabulous mustard color is very happy-making.

I also started a new sweater project the first of November, after waiting for yarn the entire month of October. (See what I mean about being adrift? I didn’t even have a steady knitting project!) It’s my first attempt at knitting a sweater for Dean… but it doesn’t fit the color scheme of this post at all, so we’ll talk about that another day soon.

Almost counts in knitting

Hello from somewhere over Wyoming. I’m attempting to blog from an iPad in transit, so if you’re reading this, I am a champ. I’m on my way to the east coast, where I am very excited to spend a couple days with a dear friend, and to see how this half marathon goes. But more importantly, I am flying across the country in a gold cardigan. In THE gold cardigan, to be precise.

It wasn’t exactly the triumphant completion I anticipated for this week. If you recall, the last time you saw it, it looked quite vest-like. Since then, I have knit three sleeves. Yes, the final includes only two, but getting two required knitting three. The first bonus knitting I attribute to the pattern, which included some vague instructions for knitting the sleeves top-down to avoid seaming, which sounded pretty good to me. Until I had the first half of a sleeve done and it gave the appearance that I had a large tumor growing on my shoulder. So it got ripped out, and then to avoid more trial-and-error I opted to knit the sleeves flat. Which worked out alright until I got about 2/3 done with the second one and realized that the cuff was 4 rows longer than the first. So back it went, and the fourth go turned out to be the charm.

I had allowed a week for finishing, and thought I was right on schedule… But gads is seaming slow going. At least it is for me. Which is the only explanation I have for how I found myself weaving in ends and sewing buttons on at 9p last night.

Also crucial was deciding that one ill-placed pocket looks totally fine. For now. Because the second pocket is sitting in my knitting basket and I’m not looking forward to unpicking the seam on the other, but I’m determined to get the finishing right on this sweater. So it also needs buttonhole reinforcement and a ribbon to stabilize the placket, all in good time. My goal was to fly cross country in a gold cardigan and I’m wearing it, dammit.

Photographic evidence coming soon.

A wurm hat, socks, and an epic sweater

DSC_3396 DSC_3401 DSC_3403 DSC_3404Since I finished the sunburst baby blanket last month, my knitting has been all over the place. Once the end was in sight on the baby blanket, I started thinking about what would be next and settled pretty quickly on a sweater project. I’ve had visions of the perfect gold, v-neck, grandpa-style cardigan for ages.

Actually, it really has been years. I vaguely remember adding one to my Ravelry queue when I picked up knitting in 2009. Then I came across the perfect gold lamb’s wool cardigan in a store in Portland, Maine back in 2011. It’s price was commensurate with it’s perfection, and I didn’t seriously consider shelling out. But I still remember. And I’ve returned to that store, years later, not in any absurdly vain hope that I would see it again, but just to brush up against the memory of it’s glory, and to remind myself that I was still on the path to my own. (I’m sure this is completely normal.)

So, I was ready to take on the gold grandpa-sweater of my imagination. One week at knit night I dug through every shelf and corner of my favorite local yarn store and found some wool, colorway “calendula”, that fit the bill. They didn’t have a sweater’s worth, but it could be procured, and I had a plan.

And then I finished the blanket, and I didn’t have the gold yarn yet, so I knit a hat to occupy my hands for a week. A wurm hat, to be exact, in shetland wool with a soft merino/silk lining on the band.

I keep a sock-in-progress in my desk at all times, to get me through the most gruelingly dry meetings, and sometimes it sits for weeks or months without any visible progress. And then there are stretches like the last month, when a whole pair of socks appeared as I tried desperately to stay sane.

Still, there was no gold yarn in. I cast on a baby hat a few days before chickenfest, and finally got word that my sweater yarn had arrived. So the baby hat was finished and sent out into the world on the head of its recipient before I could snap a photo. And that afternoon, I picked up a whole armful of gold wool.

It’s not much of a start to a sweater yet, but I’m pretty much in love with it. Did I mention there will be pockets?

Sunburst baby blanket

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DSC_3350Behold, a completed baby blanket!

If you recall, I started this project armed with Elizabeth Zimmermann’s brilliant and elegantly simple pi shawl “pattern” and a vague inspiration of a sunburst. For the non-knitters among you, this basically means that I had a rough idea of the construction but no specific plan, of my own or someone else’s devising. I also had a very finite amount of yarn.

As you might expect, this led to some interesting trial-and-error knitting and re-knitting. But it was also wonderfully freeing, and meant that at each stage of the project I was busy dreaming up what would come next, which turns out it is a really good way to keep up your interest. (Well, almost. I may have used the word “drudgery” to describe finishing the edging. There was no more blanket planning to be done so my mind moved on to scheming a new sweater. But it’s done so all is forgiven.)

In the end, the central starburst and concentric rings are exactly what I imagined they would be. My original plan was to transition directly from the plain rings to a wide edging with much deeper points and more pattern. I swatched several options but couldn’t find a compromise between the amount of yarn I had and a design that I liked, so I ended up ditching that idea and revising the plan. By the time I conceded defeat on the wide edging, I was out of patience for dreaming up ideas and ready to make some quick progress, so I opted for borrowing a couple charts from a similar shawl pattern.

It wasn’t my favorite option at the time, but I am happy with the look of them, so I think it was a good decision. And I was still able to do a simple edging to satisfy my firm conviction that it should be finished with points rather than any kind of smooth edge. Also, in a most gratifying way, my math worked out so I successfully finished with enough yarn that I never seriously worried about running short but not so much that I felt like I could have squeezed anything more in.

One of the three skeins was noticeably darker than the other two – not shocking for a hand-dyed yarn, but I didn’t notice until I had knit the entire outlier into the center of the shawl. So we’re calling that sharp line of contrast just beyond the outermost ring a design element. I wouldn’t have chosen it, but I didn’t hate it enough to do the major ripping required to change it. Side note: yes, that means that the outer part of the blanket that is lighter is twice as much yarn as the entire center. Circular geometry sort of blows my mind. Still.

Perhaps the only thing more mind-blowing is the fact that this babe isn’t expected for nearly three months yet. I’m feeling seriously smug about that kind of time management. (Note to universe: not that smug, please be kind.)

My first pattern release!

IMG_3436 IMG_3430 DSC_3124I’m super excited to tell you (finally!) that my very first published knitting pattern is out! Today! I’m hugely honored to be part of the new issue of Knitty. You can also see it here on Ravelry.

Over the last year or so, my propensity to freely modify every pattern tipped over that line into just knitting whatever it was I imagined. With the aid of a similar-ish pattern if it was handy; or not, if it wasn’t. Which is pretty much exactly how this scarf pattern happened.

By which I mean that’s pretty much exactly how I decided this scarf pattern was going to happen. And then came the steep learning curve regarding all the steps involved in getting from a completed scarf and “pattern” to an actual publishable pattern for said scarf. I don’t want to talk about the number of considered and discarded names. Or how awkward a wrapped cowl looks as soon as you try to style it to look natural.

Mostly it was fun and of course, I learned a ton. First and foremost, that I need to rope someone else into modeling because yowzers is that painful for me. And anyone else involved. (This is not new information, but somehow I still decided to overlook it.)

Secondly, if I have a calling in the world of knitting, it is most certainly technical editing. There’s someone whose JOB it is to check all of the knitting math (not that there was much number-crunching involved in this one, but I very much enjoy knitting math so it’s still the top of the list), ensure precision of language, and generally put everything in order. I also like precision and order rather a lot. I could happily spend hours immersed in these parts.

As much as the process has been fun and educational, it seems like this project has been in the background forever, so I’m thrilled to call it “complete” and see it out in the world.

(Yes, this is a scarf pattern in June. Knitters are generally accustomed to advance planning, and it’s not like a scarf is going to sit in your lap and make your legs sweat.)