Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beetles Love Yarn

Back from a quick trip to upstate New York, for a sort of Christmas trip. DH and I got lots of lovely gifts, and one from my darling niece especially fit for sharing here.

Yarn! It is from the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, NY. I visited there a few months ago and met the sheep who made the wool that became this yarn.

I had missed the spinning exhibit by a day the last time, but it seems they now have the final product for sale! I can't find more info on the yarn on the museum website, but based on the name of the colorway (Cochineal) and what my niece (lucky recipient of the Weasley sweater) tells me, the yarn is colored with a dye from Dactylopius coccus, a type of beetle. The color/dye is called carmine, and is apparently quite frequently used, including in pills, cheddar cheese, cosmetics, and so on. In yarn anyway, it makes a very rosy, vibrant color. I got four skeins of regular Carmine, one skein of the dusty pink (Carmine Exhaust), and one skein of Natural. The tags list the mordants used in the dying process (tin for the red, alum for the pink), and the dye lot. The pink is dye lot 4, but, the dye lot for the red/Carmine is...

ONE!!!!

How exciting to get the first dyelot! It's like owning a first edition of a classic book. There's no brand or anything, just a nice gold sticker of approval from the New York State Historial Association.

Now I just have to figure out the perfect project to use up all this red, pink, and white yarn. There are 280 yards in each skein, about worsted weight. It's not superwash, so it's for an outer garment, not a close-fitting one. Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Foiled

Air travel, as much as I detest it, at least offers ample knitting time. Especially if one is knitting, say, a stockinette vest in the round that can be knitted with eyes closed. I was doing pretty well, interrupted only by giggle fits about this view on the plane:

The vest is really starting to look like a vest now!

Then tragedy struck: the plastic circular part (purple) of my needles simply eroded and broke off where it joins the needle.

Right now I have saved the dropped stitches on a double point needle, and I'm trying to figure out how to repair the circ. Ordinarily I'd just go out and buy a replacement, but I don't know of any knitting stores nearby in upstate New York that would be open on a Sunday. I am considering melting the plastic part a little bit and trying to jam it back on. Maybe this is fate telling me to work on the ribbing around the neck and armholes with the dpns. Aargh!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry holiday!

Holiday madness with its knitting obligations has really made my posting sparse. Now that I'm back to "normal" knitting (ie like a madwoman), hopefully I can get back into the swing of things.

Today, my knit group had an extra holiday get-together. What a lovely day! My knit group usually meets on Sundays, sort of like church for us, so it wasn't that much of a stretch to meet up on Christmas. Tina wrote us up on her blog for her Contrisstmas series--aren't we a wonderful bunch? We had yummy food, including fresh POP-overs by Silvana, and got a whole bunch of knitting done. RMS knitted a whole hat, and the frogged the whole thing!

I knitted, oh, an inch or so on a very plain vest for DH. I'm just past where the front and back are joined. (It's top-down.)

The gauge, on US 3 needles, is 6.25 stitches per inch, 9.5 rows per inch. Sigh...and...oh my aching wrists! The stockinette is boring, but perfect for making conversation during knit group.

I hope you all had a merry and knitterly holiday!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

FO: Chlorophyll gloves

Yay! I'm done with my holiday knitting! The recipient of these has been instructed to stay away from this blog, so you can all enjoy these earlier.

The pattern is Chlorofyll Mittens designed by Tarja. They are fingerless gloves (technically mittens, since there is one big hole for all the fingers), with a fun and easy combination of a simple leaf pattern and bobbles. Shockingly, I made NO modifications to the pattern. (Well except leaving out a bobble by mistake. And ok, ok, I admit I left out a couple rows of the endless ribbing at the cuff.) I have short fingers and found that these were too long, but the specified length should be fine for most women's hands.

I had not knitted a glove/mitten with a thumb like this, where a scrap of yarn is used to hold a few live stitches in the otherwise all-stockinette palm, and the live stitches are picked up later. The join ended up very smooth and hole-less, and I'll be using this thumb on all my gloves from now on.

The yarn is Queensland Collection Rustic Wool DK. This colorway is perfect for a project named Chlorophyll! I ended up using 45 grams of yarn for both gloves, so I could have knitted these from just one ball of yarn. I used US 3 needles, because I don't have 2.5, and the gauge turned out just fine since the fabric gets stretched a bit anyway. I may have to knit a pair for myself, since I have more than enough yarn for another pair, hee!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

FO: neckwarmer


I am so glad neckwarmers are the new scarves. Mainly because after finishing one of three balls of yarn for a scarf, I realized I didn't have enough yarn. Also, neckwarmers are a heck of a lot faster! I used straight needles, for the first time in a LONG time. (Usually I use straight needles to occupy my needleholder.)

The yarn is Plymouth Yarn Suri Merino, which is super soft and non-itchy. This red is manly too, because it has bits of gray-green mixed in, so it's suitable for a man's gift. The wet block did the fabric a world of good, and now it doesn't curl, and it's even drapier and softer!

The stitch pattern is Woven Diamond Pattern from A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It's a slipped stitch pattern, and I must say, slipped stitches are so much faster in continental. It is very hard to photograph the pattern, especially the back, which shows the same diamond pattern in a subtly raised purl pattern.

I kept on measuring and trying on as I went, and the sizing turned out great! Final measurements are 7" wide, 28.5" long. Buttonholes were placed about an inch before finishing, then I finished with an inch of garter edge, and attached buttons on the opposite long edge. What a satisfying quick little knit! I'm going to have to make a bunch more of these...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday doldrums

Perhaps it's the economy, the freezing weather, or years of working nonstop that have caught up with me...I'm just not into the holiday thing this year. All I wanted for xmas was a wooden soap dish that drained well, and I got that--yay! Otherwise, I already despise shopping, and holiday shopping is even more tedious/inhumane. Thankfully I have a small family on both sides! And I decided to knit most of my gifts this year, which is infinitely superior to having to go out and shop for something forgettable. My second-to-last knitted gift is done, but still blocking. It's supposed to be a slipped-stitch diamond pattern, but doesn't show very well.

One more to go! Otherwise, I have not even sent out cards, baked any goodies, or wrapped any gifts. At least my tree is up:

I wish I could say it's a real tree, but after a couple years of sweeping up needles and forgetting to water (ie a huge fire hazard), I switched to a pre-lit fake tree. The only gift under the tree (the big tiffany box) is actually the box where I store my ornaments. Har! This was going to be the year I sewed up all my scrap fabrics into gift bags...only 10 more days! Not to mention knitting stockings for all of us to hang on the mantel...And making that buche de Noel (or buche the yoel) that I've been planning for years.

At least Cammy is happy, since she gets to sit on the heating vent, look out the window, and hide behind the curtain all at the same time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

FO: Harry Potter sweater




How cute is this?! It's a little Weasley sweater for my niece. The pattern is from Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter by Alison Hansel. It's not an "official" HP product, and she has taken quite a bit of liberty with the patterns. For ex, there are patterns for knitted snitches and owls and such, which obviously are not in the books or movies. Still, it's a fun book for HP lovers.

I think that in the Harry Potter books, Ron and Harry don't get initials on their sweaters, but for the movie they do. Here's a link to the the only picture I can find of them right now. I don't remember seeing these sweaters in the movies either, so they may have been left out. In any case, here it is. The pattern is a very simple drop-shoulder sweater, and is intentionally designed to be a bit lumpy and rustic, how Mrs Weasley would knit. My modifications include: changing the H to an R, knitting the torso in the round (up to where the R starts), making the torso 1" shorter, and picking up 4 fewer stitches for each sleeve (I just couldn't fit them in).

The hard part was finding Gryffindor colors in a washable wool. In the end, I used two different brands of wool/acrylic blends--Plymouth Encore Worsted and Ella Rae Amity. Although they were billed to me as "interchangeable," the Amity is quite a bit thicker than the Encore. Perhaps because of this, the R looks sort of cobblestoned, and the rows are not straight.

I carried along the color not being used while weaving it, and I suspect I didn't do it correctly, because on the pattern on the back is not completely even. Still, it seems preferable to having long loops of yarn in the back that can get snagged when putting the sweater on.
The sweater turned out super cute! It seems so small--it's only about twice as tall as a 100g ball of yarn--but it should fit based on my niece's measurements, and possibly it just looks so squat because of the 4" of ease built into the pattern. The arms seem excessively long compared to the torso, but we'll have to see when my niece tries it on.

One christmas present done! (Well, except for weaving in and blocking, ahem). Two more to go!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

FO: another St James top


I love this pattern so much I knitted it again! The pattern is St James, by Tonya Wagner, in Metapostmodernknitting.

Cascade Venezia worsted was on sale at the 1st anniversary sale at Knitty Couture, and ended up being perfect gauge for this top. The first St James I made was in Cascade 220, and although I love the color, I can't wear it for long because of the itchiness. Not Venezia! It soft and silky and non-itchy...I wore it through a very long workday today, and no itchies at all. The fabric has a really lovely drape, and, er, skims over any unpleasantries.

My modifications include starting with the neckband and knitting down from that, adding vertical bust darts (again, I keep wanting to say dust barts), and altering the waist/hip shaping a bit. This is such a quick and easy knit, I am tempted to knit a third one.The only other thing I'd change is to add is a hook to close the neck a bit closer. I walked around with a safety pin all day.

I got lots of compliments today, including a couple people commenting that this top wasn't "granny" at all. Yay! Hopefully a few more people realize that knit garments can be modern...and in this case, metapostmodern :) Over time, I've learned that non-knitters are really impressed by the size of project, rather than any complicated lace/cables/colorwork/shaping/etc. The hard stuff is lost on the non-knitting audience. So this top's for them. Everything else is for all the lovely folks on Ravelry!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday knitting frenzy

The knitting frenzy has officially begun for this holiday season. I was hoping to finish my Funnel Cake jacket before having to knit presents, but this is all I've done so far (just the funnel part).

I went to Knitorious, a yarn store in St Louis, for the first time today. For some reason, various people told me to be very very afraid of it, but when I went, everyone was really pleasant and friendly! In fact, Deborah (of Ephemeral Chaos), who is in my knitting group, was working there. And the other person there knew me from this blog! My first "sighting!" There were a couple exited doggies trotting about, and all in all it was a happy scene.

I got some yarn for a Harry Potter sweater for my niece. Who knew it would be so hard to find Gryffindor colors in a washable yarn? In the end I still had to buy two different (although similar) brands, and one of the yarns is slightly thinner than the other.

Here it is so far. Things in the round always look so sad initially.

Then Deborah helped me pick out the least girly red/crimson color for a man's scarf. It's Suri Merino, from Plymouth yarn, and has small wisps of grey fibers mixed in.

And I need to repay Kateri for the scarf she knitted me last year. I got some Rustic Wool DK, by Queensland Collection, because the color was so fantastic. It is kettle dyed, vibrant green. Unfortunately the colors are not showing up terribly well.

I managed to restrain myself and not get anything for myself, since I still have the whole Funnel Cake to knit. Deborah teased me that I'm reaccumulating my stash again. Well, we'll have to see at the end of this month. I started my stash-busting on New Year's, finished mid-way through 2008, so hopefully I can finish out the year without having gone full circle into stash-land again!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

FO: Taos shawl


It's freezing cold, but clear and bright blue, and the bare tree branches are perfect for shawl-modeling.

The pattern is North Roe Shawl (the e should have two dots over it), by Dodile. The pattern is in French and English, and while the English instructions are rather sparse, everything is charted out. I did the first chart three times, the second chart twice, and the third chart once. I even learned a new word--grille--which apparently means chart. There are several other lovely shawl patterns by Dodile, and I'm tempted to immediately start on another one!

The shawl is knitted from the center and knit out in an ever-expanding triangle. The first few repeats went by really fast, but by the end the rows were endless.

The yarn is Quail, by Yarns Handpainted in Sedona by Mary Gavan (whew, breath). I got this yarn in Taos, hence the name of the shawl. The yarn is 100% noil silk, and feels cottony rather than silky. I just looked up what "noil silk" meant, and was horrified to find out. It's the crushed remains of the pupae and short silk fibers attached to them, and so the yarns/fabrics tend to be nubbly. I suppose that's not grodier than regular silk made with the longer fibers, and the whole thing is making me reconsider silk in general. Still, the knitted lace fabric turned out really nice and drapey after blocking, and I'm happy with the final product.

I used about 3/4 of the skein of yarn, and didn't encounter and knots or other problems! The variegation looked very splotchy during knitting, but after blocking it looks much better--dappled describes it best. Here's an inside shot that shows the colors better.

I'm so pleased with how these outside pictures turned out--no retouching or adjusting needed! I especially like how the the only leaves in the picture are on the lace, not the tree.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

FO: Lush & lacy cardigan


I'm back! It was a super busy month of work, so I don't have too much knitting to show for my dreadful absence, but at least I did sew in the zipper for the Lush & Lacy cardigan.

The pattern calls for sewing on three pairs of buttons at the top, but I decided to go with a zipper, because I don't like the gaping-cold-belly look. I was really pleased with the color matching of the zipper. I was much less pleased with my zipper sewing-in skills. The lady at the store said that I should pull off the extra teeth at the top with needle-nosed pliers, and the put on these brass stopper things at the top with the same pliers, as though these tasks are so easy-breezy. After struggling to pull off the teeth for about an hour, I decided to just cut them off. Hee! Then I squeezed and squeezed one of the stoppers for another hour, and at the end, it hadn't changed one bit! I'm hoping someone can help me, because I gave up on it for the time being--right now if I'm not careful zipping up, the zipper tab just flies right off the top.

The pattern is by Sweaterbabe. I've made one other pattern by her, the Cable Baby Beanie. She writes really cute patterns that knit up fast. My only mods for the cardi were knitting the torso in one piece, and knitting the sleeves top-down. Otherwise, this is a well-written pattern with lots of fun little parts, like the very clever shaping, the peplum in the back and sleeves, and the lace panels on the torso and sleeves.

Ooh, and the pockets! They were sort of a pain to knit, but turned out so cute! They are the perfect size for an iPod:

The yarn is Dream in Color Classy, in Chinatown Apple. I love this color! It's so autumnal and festive. One of the skeins is slightly lighter than the others, unfortunately (one of the sleeves), but it doesn't show too much in the FO. I used about 3.5 skeins, and there's enough left for a fun hat or some mittens. I see a leaf-patterned lace project in this yarn's future...