Thursday, January 25, 2007

lay lazy grey

Jules' socks - done

Gems Pearl, size 1 needles, 72 stitches around, 2x2 ribbing (with some fun texture at the cuffs), 10" legs, 11" feet

I'm so happy they're done. A very unexciting project, though a nice and relaxing one when I wasn't tired of working on them. And I think that the recipient will really like them. I think it will be his first pair of hand-knit socks, so it was worth the effort. If anybody is wondering, this huge pair took just over 2 skeins of Gems Pearl. I had to start in on the third skein right before the toe of the second sock. This is good information for me to know, because it means that I can make some interesting socks for myself, with generous leg height, without worrying about running out of yarn.

The photo lies a bit. The socks are still a bit damp, so I don't think they deserve to be languidly lounging across that swift, as they are doing. They're not finished, in my book, until they're dry. But today was when I had time to take photos, so damp socks it is. I should mention that this yarn is very stinky when wet. Most wools have a distinctive wool odor when wet, but some more than others. These had an almost mildewy smell. It was pretty strong and gross, and when I was in the basement fetching things from the machine (soak and spin only, even for my superwash socks), I was worried about what was going on down there, with that smell. But it was only wet sock. I wonder if different breeds of sheep have wool that smells differently when wet, or if the varying scents have more to do with processing or dyes. I have other socks that smell almost pleasant when wet, which is quite the accomplishment for anything made of wool. Or maybe it just means that I like wool a bit too much.

I cast on (three times, actually) for some mittens for Alex. They're in leftover Cascade Eco Wool, and will be quite plain. Ribbed cuff, stockinette elsewhere. But that's what he wants, and as I'm nervous enough about having enough yarn for the pair in such a thrifty stitch, there's no way I'm adding other textures to them. I couldn't find the exact plain mitten pattern I wanted elsewhere, so I used the schematics from the other mittens I've made (from Schurch's book), and did the math to write a pattern for this weight of yarn. Even with three starts (due to cuff size and gauge issues), this will be a very fast project. Hopefully there will be a photo and a pattern within a week. It won't be an exciting, must-knit-it-now pattern, but just a little something for anybody else out there looking for a free, basic, in-the-round mitten pattern.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

this and that

This is very exciting:

IK postcard

Well, exciting to me, anyway. It doesn't mean they like my pattern, or have even reviewed it yet. But they received it, and sent me a fancy-schmancy postcard to tell me so, and this makes me all bubbly and hopeful. I just hope they don't take too long to decide whether they want to use my sock pattern in the magazine. If they're going to reject it, I'd prefer it be sooner rather than later, so I can move on and decide where the pattern gets sent next. I'll try to be patient, but it's so difficult to not obsess over what's happening with my beautiful swatch at this very moment, out there in Colorado. (Okay, at this very moment I'm fairly certain it's sitting around somewhere being completely ignored, as the good people in the mountain time zone are certainly still asleep.)

That was not meant to be:

Sherwood is dead

It was the beginnings of Sherwood, in the yarn (Merino et Soie) I used for Bristow. Three days of knitting (I'm not a very fast knitter, just a determined one), and I realized that the yarn just wasn't right for the pattern. The twists look sloppy and ill-defined, and there's no point in knitting a whole (toddler) sweater that I'm not going to be satisfied with. Alex's mom recently gave me her copy of Scarf Style, and I might use the yarn to knit the Backyard Leaves scarf. I've been enamored by that pattern for a while, could use a new scarf, and it looks like it will be a very interesting knit. Plus, I don't think I've ever knit an Annie Modesitt pattern, and it's high time I did. I don't like everything she designs, but I really respect and appreciate her creativity and willingness to try out unique ideas and constructions.

Today, the really exciting knitting definitely doesn't live at this blog. How about an Sweaters From Camp knitalong update. Look at the great stuff other people have been up to, while I frog baby sweaters and knit unexciting socks:
  • Becki is on her third attempt at Snow Sky, this time incorporating waist shaping. I'm really excited to see how this turns out. I'm impressed with her perseverance, as well as her knitting speed.

  • In the time since my last update, Shirley has finished two sweaters. (Way to make me feel like a slacker!) Check out her gorgeous Nebraska Sunset and Prince of Wales.

Me? I'm still on the ribbed grey sock. And next will be knitting some plain, brown mittens for Alex. My knitting is definitely mimicking my dreary, pseudo-winter surroundings. (But we have a dusting of snow outside today. That's a slight improvement! Only another foot to go before it really feels like a proper winter.) But baking delicious bread kept me happy (and knitting) last weekend, so I may try it again this weekend. My knitting may not be growing, but at least I can count on the yeast to do their job, and help fulfill my need to create.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

not monochrome

my Komi mittens

pattern 25 (the one on the cover) from Charlene Schurch's Knitting Marvelous Mittens
Harrisville Shetland Style (fingering weight)
extra pointy size 00 needles

Should I go into the saga of getting a decent photograph of these mittens? I'm not sure what it was. Maybe I'm rusty with the camera, maybe the light was never quite right, or maybe I just need a better camera. But I took hundreds of photos over 2 days (not an exaggeration), and really wasn't fully satisfied with anything. I finally got the above shot this morning, which isn't my ideal finished project shot, but I figure there are enough in-progress photos to give a better idea of the size and shape of these particular mittens. My best modeled shot:

my Komi mittens

There's no particular reason for the Buddha, except that it was sitting on the windowsill, and was just the right size to cuddle in my new mittens. I like this shot because you get a decent view of the thumb gusset.

my Komi mittens - tippy top

And the tippy-top.

For all my whining about photos, I'm really happy with these mittens. They're particularly special to me because Alex bought me the yarn on my birthday trip to Harrisville last year, and I finished the mittens on my birthday this year. (It was Sunday, and a big one. So I guess the nice, round Buddha in that shot above is appropriate, to go with my nice, round, shiny new 0.)

Again, I'm very happy with what a washing does to Harrisville yarn. I talked about it when I knit the orange Fibertrends hat last year, and I'll talk about it again. The yarn is so much softer after a washing, and the bloom really finishes the colorwork nicely. On a recent Weavecast, Syne and one of her guests were talking about finishing weaving, and how it's not really cloth until you wash it and do other necessary finishing techniques. I feel that these weren't really mittens until the wash. They were a big, pretty knot of 2 colors of wool. After the Eucalan bath (and an inside-out blocking), they relaxed into beautiful colorwork mittens. I don't think it's something I could have captured in photos, even if I had a better camera and more photography talent. But the change was quite salient in person.

And that blocking really was just washing and drying the mittens inside out. Very easy. For the most part, the mittens are true to the instructions in the book. I skipped the corrugated ribbing on the cuffs, and as I mentioned in my previous post, closed up the tops of the thumbs by pulling the yarn through the remaining stitches (like at the top of many hats), instead of grafting.

(All photos of this project.)

I may end up making a liar out of myself, but this may be the last colorwork for a little while. While I adore colorwork, I've done so much of it recently that I'm a little burned out on it. In the past 12 months, I've knit the Mamluke socks, Ingeborg, the Vertical Stripes pullover, the mitten and hat set, and a couple of bags. Considering the scope of a couple of those projects, I feel like I've barely done anything other than colorwork, though looking through my photo gallery, that's obviously not the case.

There are colorwork projects I really want to work on, when the bug hits me again. (And it will. I have no doubts at all about that. In fact, sitting here thinking about it, I almost feel like I'm ready to start a fair isle sweater. It's been, like, 3 whole days since I knit with more than one color!) I keep mentioning it, and still near the top of my list is the gorgeous cover sweater (Autumn Color Cardigan) from Sweaters From Camp. And there are some things in Latvian Dreams that I can't stop thinking about. But I am looking forward to delving more deeply into textures again, and to having projects that are slightly more portable than all of this colorwork I've been working on. Even when it's just a small 2-color project, like these mittens, it can feel like an ordeal to even move the project from one room to another, what with all of the yarn to get tangled and the chart to keep track of. Time to relax with those plain, grey socks for a few more days. Then on to the next monochrome adventure.

(A., if you're reading this, I couldn't help but borrow your fabulous pseudonym for this post title.)

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

super secret project

Sage's hat and mitten set - modeled by me

I finished the hat (and mittens!) for Sage (in return for the gorgeous crocheted beret), and have assurances that she won't peek here until she gets them. So I am free to share them with you, which I'm very excited about. The project has been finished since Monday, and was photographed on Tuesday, and it would have been difficult to wait another week or so to write about any of it.

The project started out as just a hat. I decided I wanted to use one of the charts from Charlene Schurch's Knitting Marvelous Mittens as the basis for the hat, and as I was flipping through the book for my inspiration, thought that I might as well knit the mittens, too. In a sport weight yarn, they'd take no time, in comparison to the fingering weight mittens I was working on. I suppose "no time" is all relative, but in the end it was actually a fairly fast project, for something with so many pieces.

Sage's hat and mitten set - mittens

I used pattern #29 for the mittens. Mittens #29 in the book are in two shades of pink, so I thought this would be a funny one to base my project on, since the one hat request was no pink. More importantly, I liked the pattern, it worked with the weight of yarn I had available, and I thought it would expand well into something larger, for the hat. If you have the book, you'll see that the one obvious change I made to the pattern was on the cuff. Instead of corrugated ribbing, I used plain 2x2 ribbing, with that bit of red at the bottom for some visual interest. As you'll soon see, the red also coordinates with part of the hat.

Another less visible modification is that instead of grafting together the stitches at the top of the thumb, I simply pulled the yarn through, like at the top of a hat. I was concerned that grafting would make the top of the thumb too wide, and this method produced a thumb that looks and fits very nicely. I usually enjoy kitchener stitch, but liked this method so much for these mittens that I'm using it on my own Komi mittens. I did graft the tops of the hands, which I think was necessary in terms of both form and function.

On my list of things to come in 2007 was the story of 4 thumbs. I ended up knitting almost 4 full thumbs for these mittens, though obviously only 2 survived. The first thumb had stitch evenness issues, as I found it quite difficult to do stranded knitting well on such a small number of stitches. The second attempt was better in that department, but humongous. I don't know if it was my knitting or again the challenges of doing colorwork on such a fiddly, small number of stitches, but my gauge had drastically changed. I figured this out after the second thumb was almost completely knit, so then picked up the other mitten, and started its first thumb on size 1 needles. (I knit the mittens on size 2.) That did the trick nicely, and I went back and knit that first mitten thumb for the third time. It was a pain, but each thumb only took a couple of hours to knit, and it was completely worth the effort in the end. (Unless Sage has mutant, lightbulb-like thumbs, in which case she better be reading this, and warn me before I mail them out in a few hours.)

I knit the set with Brown Sheep Naturespun Sport, leftover from Ingeborg and Elizabeth I. I still have a lot of leftovers, but this was a great way to use up a chunk of them. It's the same yarn (in different colors) used for most or all of the sportweight patterns in the book.

Sage's hat and mitten set - hat

I simply expanded on the mitten chart (fun with Excel) to create the hat chart. I pretty much knew that I would get gauge on the mittens, as my Nordic Mittens were also knit with Naturespun Sport (my first experience with the lovely stuff), on size 2 needles. But it's been a while since I knit those, so in some sense the mittens were an extended gauge swatch for the hat. It turns out that my gauge with that yarn/needle combo hadn't changed, but it was nice to be able to use such a fun project for a swatch. Using my gauge info, I calculated the stitch and row count I'd need for the hat, and adjusted my chart accordingly, to get things nicely centered in the horizontal and vertical. Here is what the jog looks like, on the back of the hat:

Sage's hat and mitten set - back of hat (jog)

I toyed with the idea of putting in a faux-seamline there, like on the sides of the mittens. I eventually decided against it because I think it looks better this way. Obviously, the jog and partial pattern repeats can be seen if you are looking for them. But that spot is a lot less obvious without a big solid line running through it, don't you think? Plus, I like that XX marks the spot. (The spot being the part of the hat that should be at the back of the head, though that preference is obviously up to the wearer.)

The next question was what to do about the brim. Ribbing? Icord? I eventually settled on a folded under hem:

Sage's hat and mitten set - hat hem

I knit it on size 0 needles ( 2 sizes smaller than the rest of the hat), and sewing it down was the last thing I did. It was a bit fiddly, because of all of the floats between me and the stitches I wanted to attach the hem to. In the end, I actually ended up sewing through a few floats where it was more convenient, as I noticed that it didn't produce any ill effects on the public side of the hat. I really love this secret splash of color, and also like how the turning row reveals just a hint of the surprise inside:

Sage's hat and mitten set - hat brim

At the top of the hat, I did something a little different than my usual 8-section swirling decrease. I wanted to add some bit of texture or visual interest to that plain black section, so after a few repeats of every-other row decreases, I switched to decreasing on every row. I think it still looks neat and controlled up top, but adds a bit of movement and character.

Sage's hat and mitten set - top of hat

So that's what I was working on while I wasn't posting. I'm about halfway through the second thumb on my own Komi mittens (and, thankfully, there will only be two of those to knit), and am almost halfway through the first grey sock.

I want to apologize to anybody who got a zillion (or 25 or so) of my old posts appearing as new in their blog aggregator, after my last post. I just upgraded to the "new" Blogger, and I think that's what did it. I really cringed, because I know that the livejournal feed flooded some people with a lot of old posts, which is a lot more annoying there than it is using an aggregator like Bloglines. I promise I didn't do it on purpose, and here's hoping that it doesn't happen again.

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