Archive | February 2017

Vintage Yarn Crafting

Yesterday the husband and I spent the day antiquing, and I saw all kinds of fun yarny things, like this cool swift:

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It was functional enough that I was a little tempted, but it also would take up more space than my current swift, so I resisted.

I’m not a rug-hooker but I can certainly appreciate the colors and textures in this wall of wool:

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I also came across what I think are spinning supplies. (I can’t remember what those wooden things are called, but they’re for spinning, right?)

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And then I just liked this “Wool” sign. It would be pretty cute in my craft room.

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This handknit child’s sweater was priced at only $25, which seems a little sad because I know how many hours when into the making of it. I mean, look at those cables!

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But I successfully resisted making any impulse purchases. At the end of the day, we even stopped by a yarn store, and despite the call of the Anzula, I walked out with just the 9″ circs I wanted for making socks. Hooray for willpower!

Stupid Sock

I’m sorry to say that my first foray into making socks with actual sock yarn did not start well. I mean, I thought it did. I cast on fine, knit the 20 rows of ribbing, thought, “Wow, that’s a really long ribbed section,” and moved on to the leg. It was going quicker than I expected, and while I did think it seemed like a loose fabric, I figured that was just how socks were. I thought for sure I’d found a new addiction: I would be a Sock Knitter, always with a half-knit sock in my purse, always with a drawer full of beautiful handknit socks.

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Monday afternoon, I had to pick up my daughter from the airport. (Lucky kid had been to Princeton for a choir competition. She even got to go into Manhattan. Ugh. So jealous.) I was happily waiting outside the gate, knitting away on my sock, and suddenly my eyes fell on the printing on the needle. I saw a number 3. That wasn’t right; I was knitting with size 1 needles…right? I checked the pattern: yep, it called for size 1. I checked the needles again: they were still size 3. I know I meant to grab the 1s. I thought I was using 1s. I still don’t have a clue how I ended up with 3s. In any case, I had just enough time to frog my half-knit sock before the plane landed.

That night I found the right needles and cast on again. These needles are like toothpicks. It’s ridiculous. Now I’m back to thinking socks will never be an obsession for me, but maybe that will change once these are done and I wear them. It’s just going to take a while, because these tiny needles make for much slower knitting!

Two New Cowls

Today’s a holiday = I have the day off = you get a bonus blog post! I finished a cowl last night and I’m kind of proud of this one. I’m very much a pattern knitter. I pick out a pattern and I make that pattern. I rarely make modifications, but I had to this time. I knew I wanted a long gray cowl, one I could wear doubled. I picked yarn from my stash (Berroco Lustra in a dark silvery gray) but couldn’t find a pattern I liked. Nothing matched what the yarn wanted to be. Finally I found this Lush-ious Swirl Cowl pattern, which kind of looked like scales to me. But it was a short cowl, and I wanted a long cowl. I went through all the cowls I’d made in the past, trying to figure out a good stitch count to cast on, and I cast on and ripped out two attempts before settling on 200. I also didn’t want the wavy edge that looked like it might roll a lot, so I added ribbing on either edge. Then I was off to the races!

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This was a really fun, quick knit for me, and so satisfying to have it turn out just like I wanted! I’m not sure it needs to be blocked, because I don’t want to lose the texture of the swirly scales, but I’m a little worried that the Lustra might be kind of itchy and am wondering if a Eucalan bath might help? I’m pondering that. I’ll probably do a test-run first and see how it feels. I liked the pattern enough that I could definitely see myself making one per the pattern as well.

That’s not my only new cowl, though. I finally got around to blocking my Simply Tonks cowl and I like this one too.

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Aren’t the colors gorgeous?? The yarn is a color called Don’t Call Me Nymphadora in Supernatural Yarns’ Harpy DK. I loved knitting with it: it’s a firm yarn (if that makes sense), not limp or droopy. Great stitch definition. And did I mention the colors? She also makes fantastic project bags (I have two) so you should definitely check out her Etsy shop! Oh, and the pattern is Simple Yet Effective by Tin Can Knits. This was perfect mindless knitting.

Finally, here’s one last photo of my Hitchhiker Beyond so you can see more than just the tails. Between the colors and the shape, I’m guessing I’ll wear this one a lot.

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I seem to have entered a phase of Finish-itis, so it’ll be interesting to see which of my five WIPs will get done next: socks (I’m on the first sock), two shawls, a cardigan, and a blanket. Hm. I might need to add something simpler to the mix!

Day of Knitting

We have had a lot of germs in our house already this year. The kids have been taking turns being sick, back and forth, and the husband took a turn once, and all along I managed to stay (mostly) healthy. But for most of last week, I could feel something creeping up, and I kept the symptoms mostly at bay out of stubbornness. But the germs are fighting hard this time, and yesterday my body told me I needed some time to just chill out and let my mind and body rest. So with the exception of a needed grocery run, I rested. I sat outside in the gorgeous weather to let the dogs run around. Then when they made too much progress on their tunnel to China, we went inside and hung out on the couch, watching Mean Girls and Property Brothers. I finished one book and started another, and I did some knitting. Of course some knitting!

I started by officially casting on for my Harvest cardigan. I pulled out one of my favorite sweaters to measure so I could choose a size. Based on the chest measurement, I could go down an inch or up three. Because I like my sweaters loose and oversize, I chose the bigger size, especially since the upper arm measurement was better on that one. Then I gathered up all the tools I’d need for the project, and cast on. So far, so good!

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Of course, it’s just a straight row of garter stitch so it doesn’t get much easier! The only trick is making sure I keep track of how many rows I’ve done.

Then I set that aside to save the easy knitting for a concert I’m going to today, and revisited Miss Winkle. This one is a slow knit for me for some reason. Maybe it’s that so much of it involves knitting those 4-stitch loops. I do love how it looks but this isn’t my favorite thing to knit.

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After yesterday’s talk about gauge, I decided to check my gauge on Miss Winkle, and sure enough I have more stitches per inch than called for. But my skein has 120+ more yards than hers, and the pattern is designed to be knit until your yarn runs out, so I feel confident that this one will end well. I just don’t feel confident that it will end anytime soon!

I also took a quick trip to my LYS in hopes of getting the yarn I needed to finish my Hitchhiker Beyond, and got kind of lucky. They did have the right yarn in the right colorway, but as with most Malabrigo, there’s a lot of variation between dye lots. I bought my original skein while on vacation, plus I’d thrown away the tag (rookie mistake) so the odds of getting the same dye lot were slim to none. I decided I was okay with that if I could get the project done soon. So yes, my latest Hitchiker is complete, just not perfect.

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Yep, if you’re looking for it, the color difference is noticeable. But I certainly won’t notice it while I’m wearing it. I love the shape of it, long and more narrow than the original Hitchhiker, but after this and now with Miss Winkle, I might take a break from garter stitch shawls for a little while!

Other than that, my day was mostly like this:

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Adventures in Gauge

Gauge is dumb. Okay, no, I know it’s not. I know it’s very important for some things. For things where fit is critical, making sure your gauge matches the pattern is kind of a big deal. Because my brain struggles to understand gauge (do I go up a needle size or down? If I’m off by one stitch, do I need to adjust my stitch count? Will it be bigger or smaller?) I typically avoid projects where matching gauge is critical. Hats? They’ll fit somebody. Cowls, scarves, shawls…those are forgiving projects, and as long as you like the drape of the fabric you’re making, you’re fine.

EXCEPT. If your gauge is off, you will use a different amount of yarn than the designer. Sometimes it’s not enough to matter, and sometimes you have plenty of yarn so maybe you don’t notice. And then sometimes, you don’t. And that sucks. I’ve always been fine not worrying about gauge. The times I did check it, 99% of the time my gauge matched the designer’s with the recommended needles and yarn weight. But lately, I’ve had problems with several projects and I think gauge is to blame. Remember my Black Diamond cowl? How I ran out of the Anzula even though I should have had plenty? I’m guessing that was a gauge issue.

Now, I’ve got my Hitchhiker Beyond on the needles, and the pattern calls for 350-383 yards, and I figured my 420 yards of Malabrigo Mechita would be more than enough. I used the recommended needle size and happily knit away. Then I got about six inches from the end and ran out of yarn.

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What the heck? I checked my gauge and instead of the recommended 22 st/4″, I have 25! This is where I struggle with gauge, because even though I know I should have gone up at least one needle size, I don’t really understand why this used up my yarn faster. But clearly, it did. So now I’m stuck with a few options that all kind of suck: frog and reknit, bind off with a stupid blunt edge, or buy another $20 skein of yarn. Because I am too lazy to frog and reknit like my garter stitch dense and squishy, I’m going to buy more yarn to finish on these needles.

Learning about my gauge is important, because I’m still committed to making my first cardigan. I ordered some black Irish wool and had to go down two needle sizes to get gauge, and I was mildly panicked to think that my gauge had loosened up that much and it would affect every project I would ever do in the future. (I know, it’s really not a big deal, but I got really spoiled getting gauge easily in the past.) Now I know that’s not the case, partly because with the Malabrigo fingering, I was knitting more tightly. But I also know because I did another swatch for my cardigan today.

You see, even though I matched gauge over a week ago, I still haven’t cast on for the cardigan. I kept telling myself it was because I didn’t have the time to focus on it. Finally I realized I was putting it off because I didn’t like knitting with the yarn, especially on the size 6 needles. The yarn is so rough and scratchy, and I can’t imagine knitting with it long enough to make a whole sweater. If I’m going to commit to something like a sweater, it’s only going to happen if the knitting is pleasurable. So, with relief, I gave up on the scratchy Irish wool. At some point I will use bigger needles and make some felted totes or something, so it won’t go to waste.

In the meantime, I picked some purple cotton out of my stash for my Harvest Attempt #2. I have six skeins, the result of a failed cardigan attempt a couple of years ago. It’s not enough yarn; I’ll have to buy more eventually. But it’s enough to get a really good start. Thinking I probably do knit looser than I used to, I started with size 7 (instead of the recommended 8s) and made a small swatch: 20 stitches/4″ instead of 18. Made another one with 8s and this time I got 17 stitches. That’s pretty darn close, and I’m going to stick with it.

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So, FINE. I give in. You swatchers win this round: I concede that doing swatches is important. BUT: I’m still only going to do it for garments and when I have a limited amount of expensive yarn and I’m not sure I have enough. (And honestly, in those instances, I’ll probably just start knitting the project and check my gauge partway in. That’s gonna have to be close enough sometimes.)

What about you? Do you always check gauge? Never?

WIP Assessment

Whew, there are a lot of projects floating around my living room right now! I’ve cast on several new things lately and now the WIPs are in abundance. Here’s a peek:

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And this isn’t all of them: I’ve got another shawl and a blanket that aren’t shown. Miss Winkle, the pink/black one at the top, hasn’t grown at all in the last few weeks. She’s a little fiddly so I haven’t been in the mood for her. The purple/teal/black cowl looks finished, I know, but it’s really not. I bound off and it squished down shorter than I expected, and since I have yarn left over I’m going to try picking up stitches to add another section. The big shawl is the Hitchhiker Beyond and I’ve been working on that one a lot. It’s good TV knitting and I’m getting close enough to the end that I’m motivated to work on it. There’s a ribbed edge for a long gray cowl on the left side there, something I’m modifying from another pattern, so that’s been an adventure trying to figure out the right number to cast on. The purple hat just needs the top closed and furry pompom added. The little cuff is the start of my Hermione’s Everyday Socks, and the hot pink is another cat hat, requested by a friend.

So you can see, even though I have no finished projects to share, I have been doing much knitting, and will continue to do so as life allows! Oh, and after three swatches, I did finally match gauge for my first sweater, but haven’t cast on yet. I know that will be a more involved process, so I’ve been waiting for a time when I have enough mental energy. Happy knitting, friends!

Socks and a Sweater

The socks are done! I have my first pair of handknit socks!

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The second sock was a breeze, came off the needles quickly and without a hitch. I’m eager to do a pair in sock yarn now that I’ve got the gist. I’ve already chosen the pattern (Hermione’s Everyday Socks) and the yarn (Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Multi in a purple/gray color). My only little hiccup was that it’s a little loose where I picked up the stitches on the side of the heel flap. Any tips on preventing that?

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And now that I’ve conquered my fear of socks, I’m moving on to my next knitting hurdle: a sweater! This hurdle has more to do with attention span than knitting. I have crocheted a cardigan, and I’ve begun a sweater in the past, so I feel confident that I CAN knit a sweater; I’m just afraid I’ll get bored with it halfway through and never finish it. But, like the socks, I’m ready to challenge myself. Plus I want more ways to wear my yarn. Plus I just want more sweaters.

First came the yarn. For Christmas, my mom gave me a cabled sweater from the Aran Sweater Market in Killarney, Ireland. It’s beautiful and so warm! With it I got a $20 coupon, so I browsed the sweaters but couldn’t commit. Then it hit me: Yarn! Yes, they sell yarn! I picked Charcoal and ordered 5 skeins.

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Next came the pattern. I had some in my library but they were either DK or bulky. After much searching, I found Harvest by TinCan Knits, one of my favorite designers. It’s top-down, no seaming, appropriate yardage, and has enough interesting bits to keep me from getting terribly bored with it. (I hope.)

Now I’ve got all my tools assembled and I just need to get going. My first gauge swatch (YES. I’m even making a gauge swatch!) showed that my gauge was too loose, even unblocked, so I reknit it in smaller needles. I think it’s still a bit loose but I’ve washed it and will measure again once it’s dry.

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I’m also hoping the Eucalan will soften it a bit. The yarn is…rustic, we’ll say, and not terribly soft. If Eucalan doesn’t help, I might try some hair conditioner. But even if it doesn’t soften as much as I’d like, it’s a cardigan and I’ll always be wearing something underneath it. It just remains to be seen whether that something will always have to be long-sleeved. And now, while I wait for my swatch to dry, I’m off to cast on a new project or two! Happy knitting, friends!