Late for Tea

Is it just me, or is time really speeding along lately? Either way, I completely failed to post my finished hat last Friday as promised, so I’ll chat about it now, instead.

Late for Tea

Behold the glorious cashmere halo!

This hat was a delightful knit after a slightly rough beginning. The pattern is Black Tea, designed by Thea Coleman, and when I handled her sample at a class she taught at Slater Mill, I knew I wanted the exact same hat in the exact same yarn. The yarn is Bello by The Plucky Knitter, a 55% cashmere / 45% Merino wool yarn that I got from a destash on Ravelry because my goodness, I have no idea how to actually catch a Plucky update on the site and I’m not motivated enough to try. If you are, though, the yarn is totally yummy. I didn’t record what colorway I bought but it’s an interesting shade of grey that reads with blue/green/purple undertones.

Knitting the hat with the yarn held double was a little bit frustrating, but I really love the final product. I finally got tired of detangling every five seconds and just unwound the whole cake of yarn and re-wound it into a new ball with the yarn held double, rather than knitting from the center and outside of the cake simultaneously. The sizing of this hat was a little tricky, too. The pattern called for 120 stitches cast on with a 5 sts/inch gauge, which would’ve resulted in a 24″ circumference hat. Since I know that cashmere is an inelastic fiber and I don’t like my hats to be super loose in the brim, I decided to knit the hat at a tighter gauge (7 sts/inch) and adjusted the cast on / brim to 100 sts instead (on size 4 needles) by removing some of the knit stitches, which I then increased to 120 sts when I reached the body (on size 6 needles).

Late for Tea | Woolen Diversions

Hat, relaxed.

I was only able to knit 2.5 repeats of the pattern before beginning the crown decreases and had just 8 grams of yarn left at the end. After blocking, this size worked out perfectly for me. The hat has about a 20″ circumference unstretched and is 9″ deep. I wouldn’t have minded being able to finish another repeat before decreasing, but I think the hat has a nice enough level of slouch as it is. Other than my sizing indecision, the cabling was simple and the whole project felt like it went pretty quickly (despite having to tink back multiple times for miscrossed cables).

I think what really makes the hat, though, is the yarn. In a different yarn with less cashmere content, my sizing changes wouldn’t have worked out so well. The fabric would’ve had too much bounce and not enough drape. But cashmere is so lovely, and held double, it is doubly lovely and extra drapey and dense. So good. I will be living in this hat come fall.

Photo copyright Expression Fiber Arts, click for webpage.

In other news, Sweet Sheep lotion bars (in Lavender) are now available as part of a Self Love crochet cowl pattern kit sold by Expression Fiber Arts. The yarn in the kit (2 skeins of yak/silk laceweight) sounds absolutely divine and I love the idea of giving yourself a luxurious treat.

And finally, I’ve done a little bit of blog housekeeping. I’ve changed the home page to go directly to the blog, updated the About Me page, and added an Around the Web page where I am keeping a list of all of the product reviews I’ve done here, guest posts I’ve written elsewhere, and Sweet Sheep product reviews that other bloggers have done. I figured it would be a good way to keep some really great content in one easy-to-find place!

That’s all from me this week! Even though this is more of an FO post than a WIP post, I’m still linking up with Yarnalong (I’m reading Cider House Rules by John Irving) and Stitch Along Wednesday. I hope you’re all having a good week!

WIPWed #103: It Has Begun

This August might go down in my personal history as the Busiest of All Time. Between trips, conferences, work deadlines, Sweet Sheep orders, and now my old car breaking down (again), schedule coordination has become a delicate and barely-balanced art form around here. I might manage to get through it all intact, but things will be a little touch-and-go, especially since I feel like summer is speeding by before I’ve even had a chance to enjoy it! But enough whining, onto some knitting.

Berrylicious Socks:

WIPWed #103: It Has Begun | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Berrylicious. Click for project page.

Since these socks are so darn simple, they’ve been progressing at a rapid clip. That strange stripe of pooling in the middle of the leg is because my dear kitty Darwin took it upon himself to chomp through my yarn, so the color progression got out of whack when I spliced it back together. It gives the sock some extra personality, I guess?

Black Tea Hat:

This hat is finished (yay!) but you won’t see it until Friday as it is currently blocking and awaiting photos. :)

Grimm Green Stout:

WIPWed #103: It Has Begun | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, colorway Grimm’s Green. Click for project page.

Ooooooooh yes, folks, IT HAS BEGUN! You’re looking at two pocket liners and and 249 stitches of 1×1 ribbing for the bottom hem of my Rhinebeck sweater. The ribbing is progressing at a glacial pace, but I’m hoping the whole thing picks up a bit when the main stitch pattern starts or else I’m never going to make it. (Courage!)

Spinning:

A few weeks ago, I stress-impulse-purchased a gorgeous Galaxy batt from Yarnshine, on Etsy. The batt contains “celestial Bombyx Silk and Silk Noil blended into malachite and agean Bamboo, teal Soffsilk (mulberry silk), Black BFL, and Black Merino all accented by gorgeous, silvery Yak/Silk top” which was just plain irresistible to me, and it’s so lovely in person. Denise uses the same eco-conscious packaging that I do (yay!) and she included a little rolag that I happily spun up into a chain-plied sample. I haven’t washed the sample yet so it will probably plump up a bit more, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll do a 2-ply or 3-ply for the final yarn. I’d love to use the yarn for something like a Hitchhiker or Libby’s new Industry shawl. How would you spin it?

Sweet Sheep:

soaps

Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe handmade soap

If you’ve been looking for some handmade soap, I’ve recently added a bunch to the shop! There are sheep-shaped goat milk soaps available in Chipotle Caramel, Lavender, and Lemon Cake, as well as layered whipped goat milk and honey soap in Coconut Lime and Orange Cream, and a fun Tropical Surprise soap scented with French Mango that contains embedded pieces of the Coconut Lime soap.

As for reading, I’ve been steadily working my way through the Tiffany Aching YA Discworld sub-series written by Terry Pratchett. I’m now on the last one, I Shall Wear Midnight, and I have to say, his YA books are just as genius as his ‘adult’ ones, perhaps even moreso because he translates really complex ‘grownup’ world concerns with a certain simple elegance that I really appreciate. I’m so sorry he’s gone, but I’m so happy his words will always be around. They’re a wonderful legacy to his incredible brain.

Hope your weeks are going well! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Rhinebeck Sweater: It Ain’t Ease-y

Since the stars have aligned to allow me to attend Rhinebeck this year (for the Indie Untangled trunk show, check it out!), and since this was also the year within which I completed my first ever handknit garment, I’ve decided that the coveted Rhinebeck Sweater needs to happen. I thought it might be educational to detail my thought process and first-real-sweater experience as I go, and since timing will be especially tight, it should make for entertaining blogging! (Will she or won’t she?!?!!? You can read about my pattern decision-making process here.Today, we’re going to talk about ease and choosing a size.

Rhinebeck Sweater: It Ain't Ease-y

Swatch, swatch, swatch.

I’m going to just get right to the point: swatching (in pattern!) with the needles and yarn you plan to use and blocking that swatch to measure gauge is the only way to reliably choose an appropriate pattern size to knit. Sure, you can wing it, but I can’t handle that kind of cavalier attitude around large amounts of potentially wasted time. If I’m making a garment from scratch, by hand I want the damn thing to fit, and fit well, when it’s (finally) done. This ‘knit a swatch, measure gauge’ song has been sung by many others before, see some excellent tutorial posts by TinCanKnits here and Amy Herzog here.

Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

What I want to focus on today, is how do you know what to do with the gauge information derived from your swatch? What size do you actually cast on? The tricky bit is, all patterns approach sizing a little differently. Some tell you a letter size (like S, M, L, etc) and then give measurements in a schematic. Some tell you a finished size that the piece will measure right at the beginning. Other tell you a bust size in inches, that incorporates a certain amount of ease already, either positive (finished size is larger than the body size, for a roomy fit) or negative (finished size is smaller than the body size, for a snug/stretched fit). Read your pattern carefully to determine what information is available. In the pattern I’m knitting, Chocolate Stout, the sizes are given as a ‘typical’ bust size that already incorporates five whole inches of positive ease. That means if you choose to knit the 32″ size, it will actually measure about 37″ at the bust when finished.

It’s all about the measurements.

Only when armed with knowledge of gauge (pattern gauge was 5 sts/inch and 6 rows/inch, my gauge was 5.25 sts/inch and 6 rows/inch) and detailed size information copied down from the pattern schematic, can I determine what size I want to knit. It also helps to have a sense of what is flattering on your own body. For instance, I’m a larger and curvier person, and very oversized / baggy sweaters tend to look sloppy on me while they might look chic and comfortable on a thinner, straighter body. Therefore, if I just went ahead and knit the 46″ size based on my bust measurement, I might be unhappy with the oversized fit when I was finished. And here lies the dilemma, which size to knit?

stitchmath

Crunching the numbers.

The math above should illustrate why it’s important to know your actual gauge when knitting a sweater. As written at the pattern gauge, the ribbing portion of the 44″ size would measure 47.8″ around the hips. In my gauge, the same piece of fabric would be two inches smaller, measuring only 45.5″. With my 47 – 50″ hips, I might not want quite that much negative ease there. But the 46″ size has 249 stitches in the ribbing section, which would measure 47.4″ at my gauge, so I’ll start there after all. I’m thinking of decreasing the 2″ for the waist shaping and then just proceeding with a smaller size around the bust area, rather than increasing back out again, to keep it a little more fitted around the shoulders. These are the kinds of decisions that I’ll have to make as I see the sweater develop.

How do you decide what size to knit? Are you methodical about it or do you just give something a try? How much ease do you like in your garments?

WIPWed #102: Still Settling Back In

The rest of the conference I was attending last week was great, I even got to briefly visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore (highly recommend!). However, I did arrive home slightly worse for the wear. I’ve had some low-level cold symptoms since deplaning (love that word) and I also injured my foot pretty badly with all the walking around I did at the conference. The top of the arch of my foot has been painful and swollen for well over a week, but the swelling has been going down thanks to lots of icing and resting. I’ve had a  slower settling-back-into-things than I would have liked, but sometimes, you just have to take a break! Taking it easy has lead to a bit more knitting, so that’s good.

Black Tea:

WIPWed #102: Settling In | Woolen Diversions

Plucky Knitter Bello fingering held double. Click for project page.

My Black Tea hat looks nearly the same as last week because I had missed a cable crossing several rows back and spent too much time attempting to fix it by laddering down until I just gave in and frogged back a repeat. One does not always have the patience for tricky fixes!

Berrylicious Socks:

WIPWed #102: Settling Back In | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Berrylicious. Click for project page.

These socks also tried my patience this week. I attempted Smokestack Socks and Hermione’s Everyday Socks to no avail – the yarn was just too variegated to look good in either pattern. I finally settled on a simple repeat of alternating knit rounds with rounds of *k3, p1*. Slightly more fun than plain ribbing, but not distracted at all by the colorway pooling and striping. They make for good meeting socks, at any rate.

Grimm Green Stout:

WIPWed #102: Still Settling In | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, colorway Grimm Green. No project page just yet.

Now that I’m back home, I’ve finally had a chance to swatch for what I’m hoping will be my Rhinebeck sweater (but I wouldn’t put money on it or anything, time is flying by). This is a swatch for Chocolate Stout by Thea Coleman. It’s going to be a really fabulous, texture grandpa cardi if I can get the sizing just right. The pattern is simple but fun and I’m completely in love with the colorway!

Sweet Sheep Soaps:

I managed to make a couple of new soaps to add to the shop: Coconut Lime whipped goat milk & aloe layered soap, as well as Chipotle Caramel sheep-shaped goat milk soap. Options in the shop are running kind of low as I’m waiting on some supplies to arrive, but once they do I’ll be busy re-stocking lots of different lotion bar scents and soaps, so hang tight!

And as for reading…

I finished the John Irving book I was reading last week and have since downloaded two more to my kindle: Son of an Elephant and Cider House Rules. First, though, I took a quick detour into the young adult version of Discworld with A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett. I love this little sub-series about Tiffany Aching, a pint-sized witch with lots of little blue friends in the form of the Nac Mac Feegle. I’m currently reading Wintersmith, the third book in the series, and will probably finish off the series with I Shall Wear Midnight before returning to the John Irving books.

How have you all been? I’m looking forward to catching up on all the blogging I missed! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

WIPWed #101: Home and Away Again

We’ve reached that portion of this particular summer where life is crazy busy and time is of the essence! Not surprisingly, my blogging has been intermittent, my knitting erratic, and my spinning nonexistent. I returned from a brief-but-fun vacation in Cape Cod to over 100 work emails needing attention like right now and not one, not two, but three wholesale Sweet Sheep orders to sort out and set up! These are all good things (well, maybe not the work emails) but they do certainly add to the craziness of my brief two days at home before heading off for a week-long conference in Baltimore. (Ecological Society of America meeting, this eco-nerd’s paradise!) I managed to snap a few photos of my knitting before I left for the conference, so I’ll share those with you now. (Note: spoiler alert for July’s BMFA Rockin’ Sock Club colorway near the end of the post!)

Black Tea:

WIPWed 101: Home and Away Again | Woolen Diversions

Plucky Knitter Bello fingering, forgotten colorway. Click for project page.

I have finally begun the Black Tea hat I’ve been coveting since taking Thea Coleman’s class back in January, and it’s as delightful as I’d imagined. I did do some gauge-and-cast-on macgyvering, though, so we’ll have to wait until after blocking to see how I like the final hat. The cast on was for 120 sts at a gauge of 5 sts/inch, which would make for a 24″ hat, which is too big for me. I changed the ribbing a bit to remove some stitches and knit at a tighter gauge than called for, expecting the high cashmere content of the yarn to still give a nice drape to the fabric. Keep your fingers crossed!

Rotted Days:

WIPWed #101: Home and Away Again | Woolen Diversions

Handspun and festival yarn. Click for project page.

All the road trippin’ lately has lead to some pretty solid progress on my Dotted Rays shawl, designed by Stephen West. Now that I’ve gotten into the rhythm of the short rows (and they’ve gotten quite long) it’s a nice,meditative knit. It’s a little unwieldy, though, so it’s mostly car and couch knitting.

Socks, TBD:

WIPWed 101: Home and Away Again | Woolen Diversions

July shipment of BMFA Rockin’ Sock Club. Lightweight in colorway Berrylicious.

This photo is a lie, as the skein has been wound and socks have been started. I have not been in love with the patterns included in this year’s club offerings, they just haven’t played very well with the variegation in the colorways they’ve been paired with (in my opinion). So I tried this skein as a pair of Smokestack Socks by Tanis Lavallee, but that wasn’t working for me either as the contrast in the yarn was a little too high and the pattern, while generally quite simple and lovely, was more than I wanted to keep track of for appropriate meeting knitting. So now I’ve begun a pair of Hermione’s Everyday Socks by Erica Leuder and I’m hoping that’ll work out a bit better.

As for reading, I’m near the end of a really excellent book called A Widow for One Year by John Irving. Please note that by excellent, I do not mean ‘pleasant’ or ‘light-hearted’ or ‘uplifting’. The story is intense, gripping, and written in a really fascinating narrative style. The narration continuously hints at what is coming in the future so it very subtly takes you back and forth in time and weaves together a few different lives in really compelling ways. The characters are not necessarily loveable, but you care about them anyway, and some truly graphic things happen (sex, violence, death), but you don’t want to put it down. This one was a completely random impulse buy at a used book store and I’m so glad I grabbed it, and look forward to reading more by the author (starting perhaps with The World According to Garp).

And that’s about all I’ve had time for! I have a few more days in Baltimore (hoping to hit up the aquarium tomorrow!) and while I miss my Fiasco and my kittens, I’m so enjoying being surrounded by an incredible number of intelligent scientists doing really important, creative work. BRING ON THE ECO-DORKS! (Which honestly pale in comparison to the other kinds of dorks who were at the same convention center last weekend. Ever hear of BronyCon? I witnessed it firsthand, and I have to say, the costumes and level of sheer fandom was amazing.)

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch-Along Wednesday!

FOFri #41 : Socks & Swatches

After a couple of busy weeks, I’ve finally had time to sit down and wrap up the toes of not one but TWO pairs of socks!

FOFri #41: Socks & Swatches | Woolen Diversions

We sort of match, and it’s adorable.

I think it’s safe to say that my sock mojo is officially back. I’ve finished 6 pairs of socks thus far this year! That’s almost a pair a month, which is way faster than my sock finishing rate of the last few years. Plus, I knit the exact same pattern, twice, simultaneously. If that’s not fortitude, I don’t know what is. It probably helps that I adore both of the colorways and the slipped stitch patterning feels like it flies by.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

These are, indeed, my favorite socks ever. The pattern is Dalekanium by Dena Stelly. In truth, I didn’t actually follow the pattern (which is toe-up). I just borrowed the stitch pattern and stuck it on my typical 64-stitch cuff-down sock and tapered away the slipped stitch patterning just before I began the toe decreases. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight (my faaaaaaaavorite) in the club colorway Gran’s Kitchen.

Stealth Socks:

And while I got brand new socks, the Fiasco did, too (so he can’t complain of neglect). His birthday socks were just about a week late, which isn’t too bad by my standards. The nice thing about his is that they went just as quickly as mine, despite his larger feet. That’s because I used BMFA Socks That Rock Heavyweight on size 2.75 mm needles to size up the socks instead of casting on more stitches. (Good thing he likes his socks cushy!) This is the Grimm colorway, and it’s fabulous.

Now that those socks are off the needles and I have a few trips in the near future, I’m itching to cast on some small, quick-but-interesting, portable projects. Which to me, means HATS.

FOFri #41: Socks & Swatches | Woolen Diversions

Swatches, all wet and wonky.

I’ve had two skeins of yarn begging to become hats that I want in my wardrobe like right now since mid-winter, but I just didn’t get a chance to knit them last season. Knitting them in August should give me a solid jump-start on accessories for fall, though!

Black Tea:

Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

I’ve been completely in love with this slouchy Black Tea hat pattern since I handled the sample during a class with the designer, Thea Colman, at a knitting event in January. I loved the sample so much that I even hunted down the exact yarn used in the pattern through a destash because I want to replicate the look and feel of the luxurious fabric. The yarn is Bello fingering by the Plucky Knitter (55% Merino wool, 45% cashmere), held double while knitting. Once dry, the swatch will help me determine if I want to use 6’s or 7’s for the main body of the hat. While I could’ve just followed the pattern, my head is a little smaller than most and I’ve never worked with this yarn before so I wanted to get a feel for it and my gauge before I jumped right in.

Paravel Hat:

Photo copyright Megan Goodacre. Click for pattern page.

The other hat will be made with a skein of BMFA BFL Superwash in their fun Sadie Sue Tipsy colorway. The blue in that colorway is the exact same shade of blue as my jacket (and my glasses, and my lampshade, and my wristwarmers…) which makes the color-coordination-lover in me very happy. I knew it wanted to become a hat, but I was debating between the Norby and Sockhead patterns until last night, when I found Paravel (designed by Megan Goodacre) and thought that the simple texture with the interesting lace panel would work well with the specks of color and keep my interest while knitting. Plus, I love the tidy decreases at the top of the hat and appreciate that kind of attention to detail in the patterns I buy.

Photo copyright Megan Goodacre.

So that’s my trip knitting all sorted out! Two hats (and let’s be honest, probably a new pair of socks) should hold me over for a 3-day Cape Cod trip and a week-long conference, right?

(And in case you missed it, check out my Indie Business Interview on the Knitted Bliss blog! There you’ll find a coupon code for free shipping on all domestic AND international Sweet Sheep orders over $10 through August 7th.)

Tour de Fleece Recap & Sweet Sheep News

Have you guys been over to the Knitted Bliss blog yet today? Julie’s been kind enough to post an Indie Business Interview with me for Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe. There’s a special coupon code available to her readers, too, so definitely go check it out!

I’m happy to announce that I have a new handmade soap available for sale: Ocean Mist! It consists of a lovely pale blue aloe vera gel base scented with Sea Moss (gentle, clean, slightly floral) and contains swirls of goat milk soap scented with Down by the Bay (bright, tangy, herbaceous). If you saw my post on Instagram, you’ll know that I was unsure about my first swirl attempt but I really like how the finished soaps look and will definitely be making more.

In spinning news, I’m happy to report that despite my busy weekend, I was able to power through and finish spinning one last Tour de Fleece skein. I spun some undyed Wensleydale top from Three Waters Farm in a 2-ply to coordinate with a gradient skein of Wensleydale I had previously spun. Unfortunately, I was rushing so much that I spun the undyed singles with the opposite twist than I had the gradient skein singles, so the finished skeins do not have the same direction of ply twist. This will likely not matter too much in the finished fabric, but since I do intend to use the skeins together it bugs the attention-to-detail part of me. Now the question is, do I spin the second 4 oz of undyed fiber to match the undyed skein I just finished in case I need more yardage or to match the gradient skein and use the first undyed skein elsewhere?

Tour de Fleece Recap & Sweet Sheep News | Woolen Diversions

Tour de Fleece 2015 finishes

All told, I certainly did not spin every day I was supposed to, but I did spin far more than I would have and managed to spin three skeins from start to finish over the last three weeks. If you ask me, that output isn’t too bad, especially since it’s three more skeins than I likely would have finished without the tour! (See this post for finish details about the other skeins.)

And now another question: what to spin next?! Oh, the possibilities…