Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Non-Buyer's Remorse Assuaged

Last May, I saw some yarn I liked towards the end of my day at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. I left without buying it, because I thought it was a heavier weight yarn than it actually was, and I couldn't figure out what I would use it for. It promptly started to haunt me, particularly when I looked it up and realized that it was fingering weight, perfect for a shawl. Fortunately, my friend was visiting the Festival the next day. I did a little research to figure out the vendor's name, then emailed my friend a plea to pick me up a skein of it. I was able to tell her exactly where it was in the vendor's booth. I'm not kidding about being haunted.

By the end of the week I had it in hand, and it was everything I remembered. Brown and red and rustic and with a crunchy feel that I found enticing after months of knitting with 100% silk. A few weeks later, I had picked out and purchased the perfect pattern on Ravelry. It was one of those magical combinations of yarn, pattern, and vision. I made it bigger than the pattern called for - I have enough shawlettes, I wanted something to wrap all around me. That meant the knitted on edging was interminable, but I slogged on, sure it would end someday. And then, suddenly, it did!

I could barely wait for it to dry before taking it off the blocking board to wrap around me. It was everything I had planned, and finished in time for a trip to the frozen north.*

Pattern: Henslowe, by Beth Kling
Yarn: Davidson Old Mill Yarn (Domy) Heather in Burgundy, fingering, 342 yards
Needles: Size 4 (3.5 mm) circular
Mods: I made it bigger. Somewhere I have notes on how much bigger, but who knows where

In a delightful postscript, I had just exactly enough yarn left over to make this:

Pattern: Forest Pixie Hat, by Kristen Cooper
Yarn: Domy Heather in Burgundy, fingering, 133 yards, held double throughout
Needles: size 9 (5.5 mm) straights to get gauge
Mods: I skipped the chin strap

I don't even have a recipient in mind. I'll just tuck it away for now.

*The kind of coincidence that only happens to knitters: on my trip I learned that one of my nieces is quite the knitter, and on Ravelry. We met up at a party, and she was wearing her Henslowe!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to Make a Sweater

Step 1.  Inspiration

Always a fascinating part of the process, this time it was as simple as a friend saying (with great sincerity and in perfect truth) "you owe me one," and adding (not anywhere near as seriously) "that cute sweater on the Yarn Harlot's blog will do."

Step 2.  Acquire yarn

This took a little longer than usual. I stopped by my LYS, where they had already supplied a number of people with the ingredients for that particular sweater - my friend and I were behind the curve, since we'd been far, far away when it was first brought to the knitting public's notice. They had some possibilities left, and I bought them, because I am easily influenced in store settings, where I don't want to upset the nice person who's been helping me. Rational thought asserted itself when I got home and looked at the shade of green I had blindly purchased. I returned the yarn to my LYS (and bought something else, because, you know, I didn't want them to think I didn't like them any more...).

Mr. Internet was then involved, and a short time later, I had yarn: Cascade 220 Sport in green, black, and white. I then coerced a visiting NKD to act as a swift until it was all wound up.

 Step 3. Cast on and knit the body.

This was fun, mindless knitting. I did Jeny's stretchy slipknot cast-on because it looks so nice when followed by ribbing.

Step 4.  Knit sleeves

One at a time, because they're knit in the round. I like doing both sleeves at once, and I know it's possible in the round, but I've never tried it. Along about now I realized I'd been knitting on a size smaller needles for the ribbing than called for, because my needles were acquired in the Dark Ages when knitters believed what they were told and paid no attention to metric measurements (translation: my size 2 straights are 2.75 mm, not 3mm).

Step 5.  Attach sleeves to body, putting everything on a circular needle.

I am about to make the absolutely stunning discovery that my gauge is different on circulars than it is on straight needles. My straight-needle knitting has a machine-like precision that delights me. And which I apparently cannot duplicate on circulars.

Step 6.  Make sheep yoke.

Despair of ever making smooth color work.  Re-work first set of sheep a few times in pursuit of perfection, give up and soldier on. Toy briefly with the idea of only having three buttons (just through the yoke), buy the perfect buttons, notice there are 5 of them on the card, make button bands to accommodate all 5.

Step 7.  Block.

Procrastinate first, sure that even wet blocking will fail to overcome the deficiencies of my color work skills. Wonder if this is going to involve pinning each little sheep out separately. Plunge knitting into water and have it float back up, sheep now completely and perfectly relaxed. All I had to do was get it wet? Why did no one tell me?!

Step 8.  Make hat to match.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How can anything that small make a noise that big?

   I was awoken a good hour before my alarm this morning by an Eastern Screech Owl - according to that page, a whinny followed by trills. Whinny? Horse never occurred to me. I described it to a co-worker later as "the scream of a woman being stabbed, and then purring about it."

I knew as soon as the trills started that it was a bird, and given the hour, an owl, but I had to look it up over breakfast to see which one.

I'm fond of owls, but unlikely to see them in the wild, so I settle for identifying their calls. Now I can add this one to my previous catalog of Barred Owl (who cooks for you?) and Horned Owl. I don't think I've ever heard a Saw-whet, the other owl listed on that page.

Needless to say, I did not get back to sleep. If we could train them, what alarm clocks they would make!

Grey and Rufous Eastern Screech Owl photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What is the Plural of TARDIS?

I made two pairs of these socks. Color work is never going to be my favorite thing, but when one is surrounded by such ardent fans, something must be done. The pattern itself was a fun knit; I actually didn't mind churning out four of them.

Pattern: Tardis Socks Tribute by Ellen Botilda
Yarn: Jawoll Superwash Solids in Royal Blue, plus oddments of white and black

I've come a long way since having to have Daleks explained to me. I've even become a fan myself. In fact, there was a maple chocolate Dalek not long ago. But of course, he was destroyed. Rapidly. By forks, if I recall...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Sometimes inspiration for knitting strikes unexpectedly, and from unexpected sources. My daughter and I came across an adorable baby outfit for our friends' expected daughter. Knowing that they had designed their nursery around a jungle theme, how could we resist the giraffe print in pale pink, the adorable elephant, the inexplicable owl balanced on his trunk?

Frankly, we couldn't, and by the time we got it home I knew I was going to knit a little owl toy, suitable for a newborn (washable, easily grasped). The stash came up with acrylic remnants in a pink and grey that matched the outfit (pink soles on the feet!). A Ravelry pattern search did not fail me. A quick store run for white felt and safety eyes, and a frantic search for some beak-colored acrylic, and I was ready. Both needles and stuffing were in arm's reach (they shouldn't have been, they should have been put away, but there they were). Moments later I had an owl.
Pattern: Owl Puffs (I will be making lots more, they are adorable. Besides, I have a whole bag of eyes, and the rest of the felt. Who wants an owl?)
Yarn: Red Heart, probably. The bands were long gone.
Mods: reminded my self to under-stuff to make it easier for little fingers to grab

Then I stared at the leftover pink and grey acrylic yarn for a few minutes. Back to Ravelry, which again did not fail me.

Pattern: Little Shells Carseat Blanket
Yarn: same as above
Mods: I started with one color, switched colors every pattern repeat, carrying the unused yarn up the side, and ended when I had enough of the other color to finish. It didn't work out to start and end with the same color, and I'm determined not to mind (no one else does).
And there you have it. A gift set I had no thought of making when I woke up that morning.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Things you do for the fun of it

I used to have a co-worker whose favorite expression was about doing things for "the sheer, glorious hell of it." Knitting is often like that. I gave up on embroidery decades ago because there was only so much you could do with the finished product besides stare at in admiration. Knitting is so practical. Knitting is so useful.

But, on occasion, knitting is for the sheer, glorious hell of it.

When JLM (my co-worker for whom no one had ever knit anything, the one I taught to knit, who brings me yarn from faraway places) offered me the leftovers from her experiment knitting with Japanese metal yarn, I took her up on it. I was just going to knit the equivalent of a gauge swatch, as I did with some silk hankies she let me try, but there was just enough yardage to tickle my creative fancy.

So I made a chain mail vest for the newest baby in the family.

And you really know all you'll ever need to about my family when I tell you that no one thought this was other than a fantastic idea.

 Yarn:  Habu Textiles A-177 Super Fine Merino
 Habu Textiles A-20 silk-wrapped stainless steel

Pattern: no idea after all this time; some top-down raglan cardigan, just bound off the sleeves right where they split off, continued on with just the metal after the wool ran out, and sewed it up the front making sure there was enough room for the typical baby mega-head. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Gift from Ireland

Don't you love it when a fellow fiber enthusiast brings you yarn from faraway places? A skein of lovely chunky handspun made its way to me from Ireland this summer. When my traveling friend gave it to me, she remarked that the colors had just seemed to suggest it was for me - and then we had a good laugh, because the outfit I happened to be wearing that day encompassed every one of the fall palette of colors spun into this yarn.
Sometimes I take such gifts into my stash and meditate on them so long I forget their provenance. This one I wound into a ball and cast on immediately, and at the end of the week had mitts and a matching headband that I knew I wouldn't be able to wear for months, but which please me no end.


Yarn: handspun wool from Ireland
Pattern: Sherwood Mitts, cuff pattern used to make headband