Swivelicious

Front view of handspun swivel
Front view of handspun swivel
Most of the unevenness of my handpsun singles balanced out in the knitting.

My Swivel is complete!

It took me about six months from purchase to blocking to spin and knit this beauty, and I must say, I am quite pleased with the result.

The favorite new skill I put to work with this pattern is cabling without a cable needle. It was tricky, given the bulky singles, but significantly faster, especially when you consider all the time I didn’t lose hunting around for needles.

The pattern was definitely not written for n00bs to sweater making, but I muddled through. Only had to frog, what, six or seven hours of work? And the finished product was well worth it. I love the way the cables curve around to make the waste look even more flatteringly shaped than it is. Thanks for bringing this one to the world, Kerri Blumer!

Back view of Swivel pullover
No chance to get pics of me in it just yet, but the curve of the cables is fairly flattering, as bulky pullovers go. 🙂

Now I just have to pack it away very carefully until it’s cold enough to wear…

Follow Your Arrow

Follow Your Arrow Shawl

I’m a day late and a dollar short coming to the knit-along game. Or, in the case of Follow Your Arrow, by Ysolda Teague, a few months late. I’m trying to knit through my stash and this looked like a fun experiment to use up the gray Louisa Harding Willow Tweed (40% Alpaca, 40% Merino Wool, 20% Silk: 128 yds/50 g) I had picked up at a clearance sale a while back.

A note on the yarn: the drape and sheen of the Willow Tweed are lovely. If you like tweeds that are highly variable in some places, I’d recommend it. In retrospect, I’m not sure I would use even a shiny, lightweight tweed for what is, essentially, a sock yarn shawl, but I think it ultimately ended up being a decent match for the very geometric lace of the pattern.

Follow Your Arrow Shawl
My blocking might be making the asymmetry worse…

Spoiler: The shawl picture here is what you get from following clues 1A, 2A, 3B, 4A, 5A.

My approach to this pattern was more or less  to take the path of least resistance. Sometimes the resistance I faced was boredom, so I took the chart that looked more interesting for the middle three clues, but for the first clue, I picked based on number of stitches I had to cast on and for the last, I chickened out and went for the option that required 24 rows instead of 663.

Those 663 rows were short rows, and in retrospect were probably designed to minimize long stretches of time spent binding off (a task I loathe), but still. 663 rows feels much more time consuming than 24 when you’re making choices after a long day of work. 🙂

I don’t know if I’d recommend clue 1A. It creates an asymmetric shawl, and when I finished it, I definitely had a panicked moment of “What the heck did I screw up?” The asymmetry is growing on me, a little, but it took a lot of browsing through other people’s project photos to decide if I could live with my decision. In the end, I really only kept it because I couldn’t bear to frog work that was done correctly.

Follow Your Arrow Shawl with Pin
Isn’t the turquoise lovely with this gray tweed?

Overall, I have mixed feelings on this project. I may be too much of a control freak to be comfortable trusting to another designer’s whims, even as talented as designer as Ms. Teague. I would absolutely not waste time and yarn on a mystery project from anyone I had less faith in. But if you’re a free spirit who doesn’t have trust issues, mystery knitalongs are probably fun, not stressful. It did knit up quickly and the instructions were (mostly) easy to follow…and I think the end result is attractive enough to make a nice gift for someone, especially paired with a vintage faux turquoise brooch, wouldn’t you say?

Ode to the Slouchy Hat

Slouchy Hat in Pink and Orange

I love slouchy hats. Mostly because my hair makes my head too big for non-slouchy hat to fit on, but that’s beside the point. The point is that I’ve been a little burnt out lately and have had very little interest in knitting things that are not slouchy hats. So here are my thoughts on slouchy hats and my review of a couple good patterns I’ve used.

The Anatomy of a Slouchy Hat

Every hat pattern I have ever worked with has started from the brim up, although there’s no reason you couldn’t hypothetically work it the other way. But let’s be classic and take the pieces in the order they are generally arranged in.

Brim: Ornamental or warm?

As a Maine-ah, I am off the opinion that winter hat brims need to be wide (tall?) and a bit snug in order to keep my ears properly warm. I prefer to start with a brim that’s 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide and fits like a beanie. If you’re making a hat for spring or fall (and maybe in a lighter yarn), you might want to just work the brim ribbing for 1/2 to 1 inch.

Increases: How wide do you want it?

The more you increase after the brim, the wider slouch you’ll get. I like a lot of flop, so a 50% increase tends to make me happy. If you have to adjust your pattern for gauge, here’s how the math goes:

[Number of stitches you want to end up with] ÷ [Number of stitches you have] = Number of stitches to work between increases.

If the answer is 2, as it would be for a 50% increase, you would (k2, m1) or (k1, kfb) around.

Height: How much flop do you want?

Whatever kind of hat you are making, the taller you knit it, the more capable of flopping off the back or side of your head it will be. For an adult with a massive head like mine, working a full eight inches from the cast-on edge before I begin decreases is a pretty good height.

Decreases: Do you like pointy hats?

The faster you decrease, the pointier the tip of your hat will be. For floppy hats, It works pretty well to take your largest multiple under 10 and decrease that multiple by one stitch every other round. For example, if you’ve got 88 stitches, your multiple for our purposes would be 8. So you want to (k2tog, k6) around, knit a round, (k2tog, k5) around, and so on down. Once you hit k2tog around, you can just work straight decreases until you’ve got few enough stitches to pull through and cinch  up the top.

Good ‘n’ Slouchy Hats

Striped & Slouchy Hat

Good, simple slouchy hats just don’t get any better than Christi Wasson’s My Striped & Slouchy Hat. This is a good pattern to use to play with gauge or to substitute yarn for. I have no idea what my fiber content was–something out of a grab bag I picked up at Halycon’s open house last year–but it was a heavy worsted that had enough spring to probably contain wool and enough softness to feel like cotton. Love the funky slouch, right? Perfect pattern for beginners or knitters who need a break from mind-numbing lace.

Slouchy Hat in Pink and Orange
Striped and slouchy and easy as pie.

Falling Water Slouchy Hat

If you want something with a little more pizzazz but not much more by way of challenge, Rose Beck’s Falling Water Slouchy Hat is delightful. I knit this from another unidentified (but probably a merino/alpaca blend?) yarn in my stash as either a gift or a charity hat, but I will be hard-pressed to give it away because I LOVE IT. My yarn was a bit lighter, so I added 8 more stitches to both what I cast on and to the increases for the large size. The pattern stitch is a multiple of 16, so if you need to adjust the sizing, just make sure you end up with a number of stitches divisible by 16 at the end of your increase row.

Falling Water Beret in Purple
The photo doesn’t do justice to the rich purple of this hat or the niceness of the lace.

Not Merely Windy

I hate scarves. They are possibly the most boring project I could be asked to tackle. I have made two, and both filled me with such loathing that I swore, “Nevermore!”

And then, of course, I found a beautiful sunrise skein of “Silk Cloud” from Darn Good Yarn that just screamed my middle sister’s name. I had imagined making a sock yarn shawl from it, but Joy is not a fan of triangular shawls. She was, however, excited about the possibility of a scarf…

*Bangs head on table.*

Thank heaven above for Windermere. It is long and repetitive, but the lace is just complex enough that I got through it without painful boredom every time I picked it up. I’ve decided that it’s more appropriately classified as stole than a scarf, so I haven’t really broken my vow, right?

Windermere, a little past half done

Two things to note…

(1) It’s handy to have either a yarn scale if you’re working this pattern since the stole is worked from both ends and then grafted in the middle. I got in twelve repeats of the 16 row repeat before I got too close to the 50 grams for comfort, but I’m sure that varies wildly from yarn to yarn.

(2) Use lace-weight stitch markers. Cheap jump rings from a craft store’s jewelry section work really well. This is what it looks like if you use stitch markers that are too wide for the gauge of your project:

Gaps in Windermere

See those laddery bits on either side of the stockinette section? I’m hoping they’ll block out for such a small section, but I wouldn’t trust to that for the entire scarf.

Fun note: The designer describes this pattern as a variation on Tiger’s Eye lace. Perfect for the color, don’t you think?

Happy Birthday, Indeed!

So…there is almost nothing good about having a birthday on the 16th of December. No matter how many people love you, snow and flu and holiday bustle have a way of sweeping December birthdays off to the side. This year, however, my family and friends defied all odds and managed to throw me a surprise birthday party that was completely delightful. I won’t bore you with all the details since I didn’t save any cake to share, but there is one gift that I must tell you about.

PortFiber

I was given a gift certificate to this lovely little fiber shop that I was previously unaware of. They have a few things on Etsy, but if you are a spinner or a felter and live within a few hours of Portland, it is well worth the visit. Casey Ryder, who teaches some of their spinning workshops, was supremely helpful in choosing a beautiful undyed BFL for a Swivel Pullover.

BFL Roving for sweater

It’s as soft as it is lovely. This will be my first exercise in intentionally spinning for a project…wish me luck!

I still had money to spend because of the generosity of the gift-giver, so I got to pick up even more for my spinning delight.

23 Gram Spindle

This 23-gram spindle is not only pretty, it’s got a lovely balance and weight distribution. I think it will be excellent for spinning my final, delightful purchase…

Undyed Yak/Silk Roving

That’s a 50/50 yak/silk roving. Spinning yak is on my bucket list, and I can’t even described the lustrous deliciousness of this roving. It’s deadly soft and super shiny. Now if only I can make myself plow through the second half of my sister’s Christmas scarf so I can pick up the spinning again…

Unimpeachable Annabella

I’ve been on unintentional hiatus because (a) National Novel Writing Month…in which I added about 42,000 words to a current writing project, (b) Thanksgiving…I hosted this year, (c) flu season…you try being productive while dealing with intense fatigue, a swollen uvula, and chest pain, (d) peak gift-making season is upon us, and (e) I’ve been trying to switch this blog over to my fancy-pants new website…more on that in a few weeks, I hope.

I am trying my best to get you a new pattern during the holiday season.

Christmas Stocking_6

I made John a stocking last year. I should have written the pattern up then, but I got busy…you know how it is. I am deep in the midst of deciphering shorthand that I no longer remember how to interpret. A free copy will be available to anyone on my email list when I publish it–notes from test knitters welcome!

In the meantime, go raid your stash for whatever skin-soft worsted weight you’ve got lying around and make a pair of these Annabella fingerless gloves.

IMG_1501

I think I whipped these up in two evenings flat. They are delightful. I love everything about the pattern. It’s dead simple in a perfectly thoughtful way, from the curve the ribbing forms at the bottom to the excellent sizing of the thumb gusset. Look at the way the pattern opens up when you wear them:

Annabella Fingerless Gloves

Heck, you might as well make two pairs while you’re at it. One for a gift, one for yourself.

I used Caron Simply Soft because the recipient has a wool sensitivity. It’s an inexpensive yarn that tends to fuzz and loose stitch definition quite a bit with wash and wear, but it is certainly soft and the colors always make me happy.

SlipPIPpers

That’s a hiccup slipper, a slipPIPper. Say it out loud, go ahead. Are you giggling yet? Hrm. Maybe I need to lay off the mimosas when I’m knitting. Might lead to a few less hiccups in my slippers anyway. Don’t look at the pattern stitch too closely.

SlipPIPpers

Anywho…

I’ve been playing around with the Must-Try Stitch Sampler Slippers from the Summer 2013 Creative Knitting and I LOVE them as a Christmas present. Why?

  • Super easy and fast!
  • The principle works with just about any stitch you want to mess with.
  • Hello, sexy use of i-cord!

This is also one pattern I like acrylic for (my favorite is Caron’s Simply Soft) because it wears pretty well and doesn’t tend to pill as badly with multiple washings and abusive use, which is what I need in a slipper. Two strands held together in a light worsted makes a pretty sturdy fabric and, of course, acrylic is cheap enough that I can afford to make these for ALL THE PEOPLE.

Regarding the i-cord, I can’t stress enough how I love this. I hate doing i-cord that I then have to go back and attach. It’s boring and stupid. I LOVE magical i-cord that gets worked into the edge of something as you go, making it look all purty.

I’m going to make the next pair up using the Bee Stitch, which I think will make them thick and fluffy. I haven’t done the gauge or the decreases for the toe, but here’s the stitch with the i-cord.

Cast on a multiple of 2 + 7 stitches.

  • Row 1 & 3: k to last 3 stitches, slip 3 purlwise with yarn in front
  • Row 2: k4, *k1b, k1, repeat from * to last 3, slip 3 purlwise with yarn in front
  • Row 4: k5, k1b, *k1, k1b, repeat from * to last 3, slip 3 purlwise with yarn in front

k1b means knit 1 below. The link for the Bee Stitch above has a video demonstrating the technique if you’re not familiar with it.

Awesome N00b Hat

While I was trotting about West Virginia with my sister this summer, my mother and I dragged her into The Needlecraft Barn, a little yarn shop in Morgantown. They’re very small as far as yarn selection goes, but I was pleased with what I found there overall, and what’s more, the owner was super helpful and incredibly nice.

While my sister was waiting with infinite patience for Mom and I to stop pawing up the goods and drooling over the local hand-dyed, handspun skeins, she noticed a sample project sitting on the table: a bright pink variation on Plymouth Yarn’s Spiral Rainbow Hat. She fell promptly in love, so for her patience with us, I promised to make her one.

N00b Spiral Hat
This is the hat, obviously not modeled on my sister. 🙂

It was the absolute perfect hat for me to knit last week because I was attacked by a vicious head cold immediately following our return from Niagara Falls. (I swear, I don’t usually jaunt all over the place–this is five years worth of vacation traveling. Life is about to get sane and boring again.) There is almost nothing but stockinette and reverse stockinette going on with this thing, but that little else make this a PERFECT project for new knitters.

Teachers, take note…this is a great opportunity to introduce:

  • Provisional cast-on
  • Kitchener stitch
  • Fun geometry! (You take a parallelogram and turn it into a partially spherical tube, how cool is that?)
  • Gauge and size (not necessary to learn for the project, but it would be super easy to size this down for a baby hat, making it a great option for the Click for Babies project)

Regarding yarn: Joy picked out the electric blue Plymouth Encore. I don’t have anything awesome to say about it, but it could be worse. It’s mostly acrylic and it’s cheap, making it a great choice for people who lose and abuse their hats. It doesn’t have a super nice hand, but it’s got enough spring to be tolerable, and maybe the 25% wool is enough to make it reasonably warm?

Given my druthers, I’d probably have picked a superwash 100% wool and done it in two colors, varying the stockinette reverse stockinette. Next time around!

Happenstance Sparkles

Once again, my mother drafted me to work a project she didn’t feel ready to tackle. And so, once again, I found myself knitting a perfectly delightful little shawl with a yarn from the deepest reaches of Hell.

Happenstance in Tiara, being blocked.
Happenstance in Tiara, being blocked.

Okay, let’s be fair. Tiara by Hikoo has some very pretty colorways. Their purple (Color 074) is lovely, in fact, and from a distance, the sparkle is enticing. I will probably never be a big advocate of sparkly yarns, though, because beads and tinsel loose their glittery magic after about the third blister. Beyond the sparkle, I found the yarn (an odd combination of acrylic and nylon with just a hit on mohair and wool) to be greasy and prone to splitting…not a yarn I would pay $31/100g for, but then again…I’m not a fan of novelty yarns, so take my ranting with a grain of salt. But just to make this a compliment sandwich–the stitch definition is surprisingly good for a fuzzy novelty yarn, which makes for a prettier end product.

The finished shawl! Minus blocking, of course.
The finished shawl! Minus blocking, of course.

The shawl pattern, Happenstance from Sock-Yarn Shawls by Jen Lucas, was delightful. You start in on the lace chart right from the beginning, which I find makes it not only easier to keep track of how far I’ve come (without have to count half a shawl’s worth of stitches) and means no endless rows of stockinette, even if the constant lace does make the project a touch slower.

I squeaked in just under the wire on this one--this is all the yarn I had left.
I squeaked in just under the wire on this one–this is all the yarn I had left.

With three skeins of Tiara, I was able to add in an extra repeat of Chart A for a larger shawl–one consistent complaint I have about sock-yarn shawls is that they must all be modeled on teeny, tiny models, because they look a lot bigger in the pictures than they do in real life. The extra repeat gives the shawl a little oomph, size-wise, making it more useful in its intended purpose of keeping someone warm.

I’ve had some fun with both of the Jen Lucas shawls I’ve made–kudos to the designer for accurate charts and clear directions. Next up: designing my own little lace project. (DUH duh DUH…)

Resources for Dyeing Wool

Just a quick follow-up to my dyeing post–these are some of the resources I found helpful while deciding how to dye my last batch of yarn.

Using a Slow Cooker

Leethal’s post on using Kool-Aid and a slow cooker to dye yarn was very helpful the first time I dyed yarn. She uses multiple colors to produce variegated yarn–a technique I haven’t been brave enough to try yet.

Getting a Hand-Painted Look

Julie Theaker’s article at Knitty covers three different techniques. I used her slow cooker dip dye method on my most recent dyeing project and it came out beautifully.

Using a Microwave

Nell’s Instructable has some great photos and covers the technique of using a microwave. It’s a little more hands on than using a slow cooker, but definitely faster.

Getting the Right Color

It’s hard to see how the color in your dye pot will translate to yarn, but the DyeYourYarn.com has formulas for Kool-Aid, Wilton, and McCormick along with pictures of yarn samples. They also have a wide array of videos and tutorials for branching out.