Still Here, Still Knitting!

I’m not sure where this week has gone, but it has just whizzed right by. I’d meant to post nearly every day, but between work and appointments and trying to get to bed earlier and not wanting to sit down at the computer more after a full work day of sitting at the computer… I just didn’t. And while I missed blogging, this busy week did afford me an opportunity to put my January word intention to use: enough. When I’d done enough for the day, I stopped, and resisted the urge to do more. I think that was a good thing.

Woolen Diversions

Overdyed Cypress, click for project page.

I’ve remained faithful to my first quarter knitting plans, as well. A number of people remarked that my plans were rather ambitious. Have no fear, I approach such lists with a sense of flexibility and full knowledge that I won’t complete everything. They’re really just a way for me to focus my attention, rather than strict goals I  must accomplish or else wallow in despair. They’re also there to help prevent me from casting on all the things which is what I’m tempted to do on a daily basis. This week, I’ve been more-or-less focused on my Cypress vest and am now 3/4 of the way through the knit. The back is done and the front has reached the neckline shaping. Once that is finished there will be blocking, seaming, and then ribbing (which I’m telling myself will be super quick). I’m still harboring hope that I will finish this by my 30th birthday (in <10 days). We shall see, I suppose.

Woolen Diversions

Swatch for Ecclefechan Mitts. Click for pattern page.

 

I also swatched for the Scottish-themed colorwork mitts that I raved about in my yak-yarn-inspired post last Saturday. While the swatch is quite pretty and the pattern is clear, I don’t adore the fabric and know that knitting these mitts would take me forever. I’m inexperienced with colorwork and I’m a thrower, so that means I put down each strand and pick up the next for each different colored stitch. It’s annoying and while the fabric is soft and cushy, it has very little stretch. I don’t like my mitts to be too constricting, so I decided to try my hand at designing a cowl after all.

Woolen Diversions

Indecisive swatch within a swatch.

This yarn really wants to be something lacy and drapey, and I’m picturing lace panels interspersed with some two-color texture. Except I’ve changed my mind about the nature of that texture about a dozen times! The above photo shows some two-color moss stitch with a bit of slipped garter stitch patterning above… I just can’t seem to decide. While I liked the look of the moss stitch just fine, it (again) wasn’t enjoyable for me to knit. I’m doing enough knit/purl alternating on my vest thankyouverymuch and I feel like a bit of a change. This is exactly why I cannot fathom designing something without knitting it myself. My designs have to not only be something beautiful and functional, but they absolutely have to be fun to knit. Making sure both the pattern and actual knitting flow in logical, pleasurable ways is part of the challenge for me. “Fun to knit” means different things to different people, so it’s perhaps not the best design goal, but it’s the closest thing I have to an ‘aesthetic’ at this point so I’m rolling with it.

Woolen Diversions

A small handspun diversion…

Finally, I became a wee bit distracted from my knitting goals when I finished spinning some yarn and decided to conduct a little ply experiment. I will post full details tomorrow, but the short story is I took a bunch of Falkland wool singles and plied them in three slightly different ways, knit three similar swatches from the samples, and analyzed their differences. Stay tuned for results!

 

 

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IS #84: Yak Attack

Some time ago, the generous people at Bijou Basin Ranch sent me two gorgeous skeins of their Bijou Spun Himalayan Trail  light sport weight yarn to review as part of a promotion of their new colorways inspired by the Outlander series.

Woolen Diversions

Bijou Spun Himalayan Trail. Click for website.

The lovely 50 g skeins (colorways Skye and Murtagh) each contain 200 yards of organic 75% yak, 25% superfine Merino 2-ply yarn. They have sat wound and ready to knit for literally months, patiently waiting for me to have the time to devote to designing something with them. I played around with some two color stitch patterns, but just could not make up my mind about what exactly I wanted to create. Mitts or hat? Cowl or scarf? A combined 400 yards is enough to make something lovely, but since I was working with an unfamiliar yarn (and more importantly, an unfamiliar fiber) I was wracked with indecision.
Woolen Diversions

Swatching evidence.

I’ve since begun re-reading the Outlander series. (I started it once a long time ago and was put off by all the rape threats and the weirdly anti-feminist and homophobic undercurrents in it. However, I guess I’ve been desensitized by the first 50 Shades of Gray book (no, I have not read the rest) because it didn’t bother me as much this time around and now I’m hooked, despite the rape-iness. But I digress.) As I’ve been reading the books, I’ve been thinking about the lovely yarn and exploring some knitwear ideas with greater urgency. Here are some patterns that I think would be smashing in this yarn.

Doodle Mittens:

Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Suann Wentworth. Click for pattern page.

These Doodle Mittens, design by Suann Wentworth, have been in my queue for some time. While traditional colorwork is gorgeous, I really love the modern, fanciful design on these mittens. (Seriously, I’m a total sucker for swirls.) The mittens are designed for about 300 yards of sport weight yarn, which would be perfect for 2 skeins of Himalayan Trail in contrasting colorways. I really love these, but since I already have a pair of perfectly serviceable mittens, I decided against knitting these despite my love of the design.

Prickly Thistle Mittens:

Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright IgnorantBliss. Click for pattern page.

I know I just said that I decided against mittens, and I did, but I couldn’t resist sharing this gorgeous colorwork pair designed by SpillyJane anyway. Mostly because they’re pretty, but also because they are thematically appropriate (what with the Outlander series being based in Scotland and all). Yay, thistles!
Calinda:
Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Faye Schiano. Click for pattern page.

I think that this cowl, designed by Barbara Gregory, is just absolutely gorgeous. It’s knit with fingering weight yarn in the round and alternates plain stockinette sections of each color with some elegant colorwork patterning where the sections meet. It’s actually part of a set with matching mittens, so I’m not sure how much of the 400 yards needed for the pattern is used for the cowl alone. However, the plain sections could be shortened a bit if yardage runs low with just two skeins of Himalayan Trail. A sleek cowl like this would be an excellent use of the soft, fuzzy lightness of the yarn.

Mrs. Jekyll & Little Hyde:

Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright LaMaisonRililie. Click for pattern page.

There is no shortage of two-color, fingering weight slouch hats on Ravelry, but this design by La Maison Rililie is unique and quite striking. It is a reversible hat, with both sides sharing the same brim and then separating so that one side shows a sporty, two-color stripe while the other shows a pretty lace with the contrast color peeking through. I love it and in fact, had been kicking around an idea for something very similar in cowl form. The only hiccup is that the hat is written for a light fingering/laceweight yarn so I’m not sure how well the thicker sportweight yak/merino will work in the pattern size-wise without some adjustments.

Dual Cable Hat:

Photo copyright MarlyBird. Click for pattern page.

This hat was designed by Marly Bird specifically for the Bijou Basin Ranch Himalayan Trail yarn. Isn’t that brim so cool? I’m tempted to knit this one just to figure out how it was done! I suspect it’s one of those stitch patterns that looks incredibly complex but is deceptively simple. Either way, it’s gorgeous, and I’m sure it’s lovely and warm in the yak/merino yarn. There are, of course, a whole slew of patterns designed specifically with the Himalayan Trail yarn in mind, including a few Outlander-themed pattern kits. My favorite kit patterns is the Forever Linked hat and cuffs set designed by Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter, for which you’d need two skeins of the same colorway in order to knit both pieces. After all this searching, the perfect pattern utilizing two different colorways seemed destined to elude me, until I had a lightbulb moment.

Ecclefechan Mitts:

Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Kate Davies Designs. Click for pattern page.

Is there any designer whose work fits the bill better than Kate Davies when one needs a colorwork pattern for yarn inspired by a historical fiction novel based in Scotland? (The appropriate answer is ‘not bloody likely’.) Kate’s blog makes me homesick for the Highlands (which I’ve never visited) nearly every day and her designs are steeped in historical research and Scottish inspiration. Colorwork is her forte, and according to her notes, the pattern for these mitts was inspired by the dense colorwork gloves traditionally knitted in Dentdale and the Scottish Borders. In other words, these beauties are perfect. They’re designed for fingering weight yarn but I intend to swatch with the thicker sportweight and see how things work out! And of course, a full review will follow.

Have you read the Outlander series, tried a Bijou Basin Ranch yarn, or felt homesick for foreign lands you’ve never visited? Do you have a favorite project for 400 yards of two different colors, or a favorite Scottish knit? What are you feeling inspired by lately? Leave a link in the comments and let us know!

IS

WIPWed #76: Neutral

A terrible thing happens when your December is full of work/life deadlines: you kind of miss the whole thing. You get a little bit like “Huh? Christmas is coming? When is that happening again? Let me check my calender…” despite the many images of holiday cheer flooding all forms of media. You feel a bit like it’s not really happening. My favorite part of the holidays is the anticipation and the build-up beforehand, and because I basically plowed through November preparing for the GRE and am now barreling through December with grad school applications and work deadlines, I’m left blinking in confusion at how it could possibly be December 10th already.

Woolen Diversions

We did get the tree decorated, though, Limulus style.

I’ve been living so far in the future that I’m missing the present, and I’m trying to remedy that. I’m trying to remember that there’s always January for the resolutions and the plans and the goals, that December can be for going easy on things and taking care of deadlines one step at a time. I’m trying to remember that spending an evening shopping for gifts and baking treats is not a waste of time that I should be spending more productively. That relaxing, itself, can be a worthwhile use of time. (The Fiasco will likely laugh his ass off when he reads that line…)

Woolen Diversions

Falkland on my new Lendrum. Click for handspun page.

So I’ve been taking a few minutes a day to spin on my new wheel. Nothing ambitious, no grand plan, just working my way through the 17 oz of Falkland wool I got from Webs and loving the thin, even single I’m spinning with hardly any effort. That’s my second bobbin, I’ve spun up about 5 oz already. Sherrill from The 1764 Shepherdess (Baabonnybelle on Instagram) is proposing a #spin15in15 hashtag to spin for 15 minutes a day starting in January. I intend to use it.

Woolen Diversions

New design in the works. Click for project page.

Even my knitting has been uncharacteristically neutral. This cowl is a delightfully soothing knit in a squishy, fluffy farm yarn from Foxfire Fiber. It’s intended as a Christmas gift (I know, I couldn’t resist) and it’s also the first new design that I’ve worked on in a long time. It’s been nice to play with stitches again. (If you’re interested in testing this cowl, please email me at alicia at woolendiversions dot com. You’ll need less than 200 yards of a fluffy DK or worsted weight yarn. Something like Malabrigo worsted, Brooklyn Tweed Loft, or a woolen-spun handspun skein would work nicely.)

So here’s to slowing down, tackling the to-do list one thing at a time, and letting my dreams of exciting and colorful future projects and endeavors wait until January, because I’m determined to pay attention to December before it’s gone. What are you working on this week?

(P.S. There’s just one more day to vote for your favorite name for my new holiday lotion bar scent! Check it out here. It’s a close race between Home for the Holidays and Jingleberry!)

WIPWed #75: New Wheel In The House

After a mildly soul-crushing shipping mishap last Wednesday which resulted in a delivery of whatever this thing is, instead of my wheel:

Nobody wants you, squirrel cage swift thing!

I finally received my brand new Lendrum DT! (Previous posts in my search for a new wheel are here and here.) As evidenced in the photos below, I didn’t even remove my knitwear after walking in the door before sitting down to spin on it. Guys, it’s so lovely to work with.

The treadles are extremely comfortable, it was simple to put together and seems easy to maintain (I’ve only oiled the flyer shaft, everything else is contained), the wood is gorgeous in person and it is spinning up my free pound of Falkland wool nice and smoothly. I’m unreasonably excited to try out all the different drive ratios the complete package came with (the regular flyer, fast flyer, and jumbo flyer each have 3) and I’m kind of enthralled with the little sliding hook mechanism (rather than individual hooks on the flyer). The Majacraft Pioneer I tried had a slidey bit and was lovely to treadle as well, but I couldn’t get over the delta orifice on that wheel, and much prefer the wood used in the Lendrum anyway.

After a weekend that involved an obnoxious amount of verbal and quantitative reasoning questions (yay GREs!), staying-up-until-3am-statement-of-purpose-essay-writing, copious grad school application activities, and general brain fatigue, I’m really looking forward to spending some free time chillaxin’ with my new spinning buddy. (I’m barely resisting giving a name to this new spinning buddy. I’ve always thought that naming wheels and spindles was sort of odd, but for some reason I’m feeling the urge. Please stop me.) Due to all of the craziness around here lately and a yoga-induced strained back muscle (really!), I haven’t been doing much knitting, but I’ll document the little WIP progress I did manage to make this week anyway.

Overdyed Cypress:

Woolen Diversions

Blurry pic, sorry! Click for project page.

Just a couple more rows added to my (former) #NaKniSweMo sweater. I’ll get there, eventually! Slow and steady with this one.

Chai Tea Latte:

Woolen Diversions

Foxfire Fibre Upland Wool & Alpaca. Click for project page.

The texture of this cowl reminds me of a nice, frothy chai tea latte drink. I started this on Thanksgiving so I’d have something smaller than a sweater to carry with me on our holiday travels. The yarn is a natural tan wool, spun woolen for optimal loft and fuzziness. It reminds me of an even airier Malabrigo worsted, it is a thick yet lightweight singles yarn. My skein is untagged, but I purchased it at my knitting guild when Barbara from Foxfire Fiber & Designs (who wrote an excellent book, Adventures in Yarn Farming) came to give a talk. I believe this yarn is her Upland Wool & Alpaca blend, technically a DK weight but I’m knitting it on size 9’s for a loftier fabric. I’m designing as I go, using a variation of the stitch I explored in the baby hat I finished last week. We’ll see how it turns out!

Petrol BFL:

Woolen Dirersions

Countess Ablaze Pertrol BFL. Click for handspun page.

Just because I have a new wheel, doesn’t mean I’m going to completely ignore my old one! The Babe is still great for spinning longwools, plying, and any art yarns that require strong pull or special techniques. Besides, I intend to use a bunch of random skeins of BFL handspun in one project, so I should probably continue to use the same tool when spinning them up.

Tropical Merino:

Woolen Diversions

Wooldancer 19.5 Micron Merino. Click for handspun page.

I finished the little sample skein I was spinning on my Jenkins Finch (pics later, I forgot!) and started this shockingly pink braid of ultra fine Merino wool. I’m surprised by how much I love this wee spindle and this unabashedly pink fiber. It’s so far outside my normal color palette, but it’s really gorgeous in person. Since the singles are very thin, I split the braid into four equal bits and am planning to spin a 4-ply. Since the colors are not distinct and will undoubtedly jumble up with plying, I’m picturing the finished yarn to have a nicely heathered effect.

What have you been working on lately? Am I the only one in the middle of crazy deadlines? I’m hoping they let up soon so I can actually relax a little and get in the holiday spirit before Christmas comes!

Housekeeping Friday

So many things to tell you about today, I’ve had to put them in a numbered list!

  1. Remember my Blue Sky Alpacas giveaway? Well, we have a winner! Congrats, Naomi, and thanks for liking my blog page on Facebook! (I’ve emailed you for your address and will ship your prize out straightaway.) Thanks to everyone who participated, I loved reading your comments about your favorite travel destinations. Now you have me itching to visit places like the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and The Grand Canyon (I could hit those up in one weekend, right?). Also Norway, France, Italy, Australia… sigh. Too many places to see!
  2. Hunter Hammersen has very graciously agreed to review my Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe lotion bars and is hosting a giveaway, as well! Head on over to Violently Domestic to check out what she thinks and enter to win a lotion bar and lip balm of your choice.
  3. Sweet Sheep is proud to be one of this month’s sponsors over at the Knitted Bliss blog! I’ve been a long-time reader of Julie’s blog, and especially enjoy her Pin Up (Pinterest roundups) and Modification Monday series.
  4. October means it’s time for the annual October Stockpile event in the Malabrigo Junkies group on Ravelry, which means my Malabrigo-specific patterns (Dissipative & Syrinx Shells) are both on sale for 20% off with the code ‘MalQuick’ through the end of October! Get your quick and colorful cowls on the needles, the holidays approacheth!
  5. Have I told you that I’ve added some autumn scents to the shop? I don’t think I have! If you’ve been itching to get your fix of seasonal sensory delights like Pumpkin Spice, Autumn Harvest, and Apple Butter, I can hook you up. And if we ever get a sunny day in New England again, I’ll post photos for new Kumquat, Honey Oatmeal, and Frosted Cranberry scents, too (like my shop on Facebook to be the first to know as soon as new fragrances go up!).

Happy Friday, all!

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy

While the blog’s been a little quiet lately, I’ve been quite busy with Sweet Sheep shows, work, and grownup things like buying a new car (since ours was totaled) and official name changes (since the Fiasco and I got married and are combining our last names into one). In the midst of all the Important Things To Do, I’ve been riding a wave of creativity that has had my head going in a million directions at once: swatching! designing! new lotion scents! new product lines! dyeing! sweater-cast-on-ing! and last but not least, photography!

WIPWed #64: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Meet my new toy! Canon Rebel T3i

You might have noticed that the quality of photos on the blog has dropped since August, due to my Canon point-and-shoot dying a slow and agonizing death all summer that ended unfortunately while we were away in Costa Rica. Since good photos are such an integral part of blogging, designing, and selling products online, I figured it was finally time to spend the extra money and invest in a for-serious SLR camera.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Darwin, looking sulky.

I’ve spent spare moments over the last couple of weeks doing some research and trying to figure out what I wanted in a camera, whether used or new was a better deal, and just what all those abbreviations and numbers really meant (still working on that bit).

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

The tip of Calypso’s nose.

I found Audry’s knitwear photography blog series to be extremely helpful in providing some context and examples for what all the numbers mean and what a good camera is. I also read lots (and lots) of CNET reviews and spent far too much time on tech sites like bhphotovideo.com and Adorama.com, where I ultimately placed my order. Adorama had a great deal on what is essentially the entry level version of the higher quality camera that Audry uses, that also included a bag, an extra battery, a remote trigger, a basic 18 – 55 mm lens, a lens filter, screen protector, SD card, and a couple other things I can’t remember at the moment.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

My crazy-eyed-super-psyched face.

Basically, it was a new-hobby-in-a-box for cheaper than I could put together buying a used camera and the lens and accessories separately. To top it off, it arrived in 2 days, yay instant gratification! I’m really looking forward to getting to know all the ins and outs of this whole thing. I’ve loved photography forever (my first job was working in the photo lab at CVS) and have always wanted to improve my skills. Photography is one of my favorite art forms and I can’t wait to see what I can create with a decent piece of equipment!

Anyway, I’ve also been knitting (cue crappy photos again).

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

BMFA De-Vine in Pond Scum. Click for project page.

I randomly decided to revive my hibernating Cedar Grove Shawl. It’s dropped down into the 50s and 60s here so it’s about that time where I’m too cold in short sleeves but not yet ready to commit to wearing jackets again. That’s when a big bulky shawl comes in handy as outerwear. I’m about 60% done with this and just broke into the second skein.

WIPWed #64: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

CY Traveller in Hobart, IN. Click for project page.

I’ve also finally started my Honey Cowl. I’m a few more inches in than this now and it’s going quite swimmingly. The slipped stitch pattern is a real comfort to work, especially in a fun rainbow-y yarn. I’ve used the same stitch on a design in the works (sneak peak below) and plan to incorporate it into some socks, as well.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Oh, the gorgeous up-close rainbow.

What have you been working on lately? Any new hobbies vying for your attention? Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis!

Blog Hop: Creative Process

I’ve been tagged by Lisa of Indie Untangled to take part in a Creative Blog Hop! Blog hops are a really fun way to get to know your regular reads a bit better, as well as discover some new bloggers. You can read Lisa’s post here, and I’ve also been enjoying reading a couple of the blogs before hers, like le pulle juste and Knitigating Circumstances (man, I love that name). So let’s get hopping!

What am I working on?

I feel like such a slacker since most of the other bloggers before me seem to be working on fabulous sweaters and other such ambitious projects. Me? I’ve got a hat.

It’s a little bit longer now.

And an-eventually-matching cowl. Well, we all know that’s not all I’m working on, since I’m an atrociously non-monogamous knitter and there are always more WIPs. Generally speaking, there are usually a couple of a shawls and a pair of socks in the works. That said, I do really want to knit a sweater. For the past year (just about… yikes!) I’ve been working on losing weight. I was losing at a pretty quick rate on a very restrictive diet, but the pace has slowed down and I seem to have stabilized a bit (30 – 40 lbs away from where I was aiming! sigh) and while I was waiting until I reached my goal before I invested so much time and energy into knitting a sweater, I really don’t want to wait any longer. You can find collections of DK weight patterns I’m considering for tops here and cardigans here. I will likely end up going with an Amy Herzog pattern because I admire her work and really want to give her CustomFit program a try. Her Shore Ledges pullover has been on my mind lately, too:

Photo copyright Amy Herzog.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think, when you get right down to it, many knitting blogs are similar. Look at the yarn! Look at this pattern! Look at what I made! Yay, knitting! And that’s great, really, because there is nothing better than creating a sense of community through shared joys. I try to dabble in a few things that I think make this space a little different: compiling resources into tutorials, conducting spinning breed studies, and doing occasional product reviews. The blog feature I am most proud of is my Inspiration Saturdays series. Every week (*ahem* mostly) I mine Ravelry for projects or patterns along a theme that I find particularly inspiring. I equate this kind of research with a literature review in the sciences (biologist to the core) and I find that the exercise really helps me articulate my thoughts about certain patterns, yarns, or project ideas and it serves as an excellent record of things I’ve loved. Plus, it’s a fabulous excuse for all the time I spend trolling around Ravelry.  I especially love when other people join in! Joanna over at The Knitlit Twit joins up nearly every week.

Besides the blog, my knitting is fairly mainstream. I see something I like, I make it. Most things I like to make involve interesting texture or lace stitches that are not too mentally taxing since the knitting needs to be suitable for car/TV/distracted/social knitting. That’s why I aim to keep all of my designs on the simpler side, pieces that are stylish and fun to work but also easy enough to not pose logistical problems (like huge charts or tricky counting) for knitters-on-the-go. Most of my designs, and my projects in general, are inspired by the yarn I have to work with. I derive a truly ridiculous amount of pleasure out of matching up a skein of yarn with its perfect pattern.

Why do I write/create what I do?

Hrmmm… I think I just answered this above, but here’s a little more truth-telling: I write what I do because I can’t not write it. Because if I don’t tell somebody about what I’m doing/making/thinking about knitting on a fairly regular basis, I get a little twitchy. And because even though I’ve already converted a handful of my friends into more hardcore knitters, there are never enough people to chat about knitting with. You’d be amazed (or maybe not) at how much there is to discuss about yarn.

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Gratuitous yarn photo! OoOoOoOooOooooo pretty.

And as for the knitting, I knit because I’ve always needed to do something with my hands. Growing up, it was plastic lanyards, embroidery floss friendship bracelets, beaded bracelets, and hemp necklaces. I’ve always been terrible at being well-and-truly-idle. My brain starts buzzing if I sit still for too long and knitting and spinning calms that shit down. So on the one hand, it’s a pure physiological/psychological need. On the other, it’s damn pretty. Add to that the fact that you get a wearable product at the end, and really, I can’t understand why anyone doesn’t knit!

How does my writing/creative process work?

As mentioned above, my designs and most of my projects are usually inspired by the yarn or colorway available to me. While I’m a non-monogamous knitter-of-projects, I am a fairly loyal yarn consumer. I find a yarn I like, and I will buy a lot of it, to use in everything. Then sometimes I get curious, and want to try a completely new-to-me yarn to see what makes it tick. I then spend the rest of my time finding the perfect project for that yarn and rejoicing in its wonderfulness. I’m always drawn to natural fibers, intriguing constructions, and vibrant colors.

IMG_5844

All hail the glory of this yarn pairing. Click for project page.

As for writing, I attempt to do a WIP Wednesday post most weeks, I find it helps me prioritize and keep all my projects straight. These are the easiest posts to write. My Inspiration Saturday posts take considerably more time and effort, especially if my theme is a little shaky to begin with. These posts take at least 2 hours each, often more if all the research time throughout the week gets counted. Other than that, I tend to write about whatever has me most excited at the time.

Phew! There you have it, a bit more about my process. I’d love to hear from Audry at Bear Ears, Kaiya at Winterlime Knits, and Rebecca at needle & spindle about their creative processes! (And anybody else who would like to share, too, I find this stuff fascinating.)

WIPWed #63: Lessons Learned

I’ll start with the bad news… If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen this disaster:

Sock knitter's nightmare.

Oh, woe is me. Click for project page.

Yup, that’s right folks: the special, gorgeous sock that I knit on before my wedding and during my honeymoon does not fit. It fit as a cuff, it fit as a partial leg, but with the longer-than-usual leg length, the less-elastic-than-usual fiber content (BFL instead of Merino), and the smaller-than-usual needle size (US 0 instead of US 1), it just does not have enough stretch to make it over my gigantic arches and heel.  The combination of tightly-knit stockinette and less elastic wool spelled disaster for this sock, even though I added more stitches (68 vs usual 60). I’m considering this a (hard) lesson in the difference in sock yarns. While I was (and still am) excited to try sock yarn made from a longwool breed (I’m hoping the socks will hold up better over time), I now know I need to take the elasticity of the stitch pattern into account. Here are three things I could have done (coulda, woulda, shoulda) to avoid this problem:

  1. Knit a swatch. I might have knit one, but it was probably tiny, and I really don’t remember if I did or not. So knit a big swatch, in the round, and get a good feel for the fabric and its stretchiness (in addition to figuring out how many stitches to cast on).
  2. Knit the cuff and leg on larger needles than the heel/foot/toe. In general, I want the foot/sole of the sock to be super snug but the cuff/leg could use some extra elasticity.
  3. Continue the cuff ribbing all the way down the leg. The difference in stretchiness between the ribbed cuff and the plain stockinette leg is pretty amazing. Basically, if I had knit the leg of this thing with almost any ribbed stitch pattern, I bet it would have fit.

So there you have it, folks. Learn from my mistakes, please! The sock is now in time out until I have the fortitude to face frogging it.

Fiasco De-constructed:

Fiasco - Deconstructed

BMFA STR LW, colorway Sigur Ros. Click for project page.

Since sock weather is swiftly approaching, I grabbed an already-in-progress sock to continue working on while I figure out what to do with the BFL pair. (Don’t worry, this one fits.)

Sweet Codex Shawl:

Sweet Codex Shawl

SG Codex, colorway The Lioness of Brittany. Click for project page.

Because I needed a win, and because I have a wedding to attend in October, I cast on a simple shawl in one of my favorite yarns, using a tried-and-true pattern. The yarn is the incomparable Codex (52% silk, 48% BFL) and the pattern is the Sweet November Knit Shawl designed by Caryl Pierre. It’s mindless and soothing and just the thing right now.

Sweet Companion:

Sweet Companion | Woolen Diversions

CY Traveller, colorway Hobart, IN. Click for project page.

I tried and did not like the hat pattern I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. So instead, I’m designing my own hat to accompany the Honey Cowl I plan to knit with the rest of this yarn. I think it’s going to make a pretty snazzy set, if I do say so myself.

Tarnished Yak:

Tarnished Yak | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Yak/Silk fiber on my Jenkins Aegean.

I’m making slow-but-steady progress on my Jenkins Fall SAL spin. My goal is to spin 2 oz by the end of September. I have quite a ways to go yet…

Seaglass:

Seaglass | Woolen Diversions

Miss Babs Merino/Silk in Seaglass on my Enid Ashcroft Mini.

I’ve decided that bringing an itty bitty Turkish spindle to work is totally acceptable behavior. It sits on my desk and I give it a flick every now and again while I’m waiting for something on the computer to load or while my office mate is chatting. Even if I don’t spin anything, seeing it there makes me happy. As you can see by all the yarn in the temporary cop (wrapped around the shaft), spinning during those little idle moments can add up!

Phew! That WIP roundup has been a long time coming. I hope you’ve been making progress on things, as well! Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis.

WIPWed #49: Ground to a Halt

I have become afflicted with one of a knitter’s worst fears: wrist pain (second in awfulness only to wool moths, probably). I woke up yesterday with little twinges in my wrist that grew to full-on, need-a-brace-because-I-can’t-even-type-at-work pain. It feels better so far today but I’m not going to chance any knitting or spinning for another day or so at least. (Siiiiiigh.) I think this was the cause:

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Flick carding Southdown fleece, before and after.

I spent about an hour flick carding my Southdown fleece to see if I could get more of the VM out before attempting to drum card it again. I didn’t notice any pain at the time but those locks are quite short (~2″) and a bit sticky (gummed-on lanolin, likely) so they weren’t the easiest things to flick open, and it was my first time trying so I’m sure my ergonomics were off. Anyway, the flicking process was super effective at getting the VM out, so I do hope I can attempt it again one day without hurting myself. I didn’t get around to drum carding the flicked locks yet but I did spin a little sample directly from the locks and it was much nicer than my drum carded sample with all the VM stuck in it.

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Wee sample, fairly consistent and virtually VM-free!

As far as WIPs go, before my knitting ground to a halt I finished some socks and worked on a few things.

Stitch Block Blues:

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Quince & Co. Osprey, colorway Glacier. Click for project page.

I made a good start on my Purl Soho Stitch Block Cowl. I’m really loving the Osprey yarn. It’s substantial, bouncy, and lofty with really great stitch definition. I could see myself making a big cozy sweater out of it someday.

November Melody:

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The Verdant Gryphon Mithril, colorway November Moonlight. Click for project page.

I recently resurrected this pre-holiday WIP. It’s going to be terribly boring to photograph until it’s done because it is essentially just a wide stockinette tube all crumpled in on itself, but it’s much nicer in person. When it’s done, the tube will be cut down one side and partially unravelled to make the fringe for a lightweight, flowy scarf. The fabric feels good and there’s even some subtle variegation in the yarn that is creating a neat effect. I’m thinking of adding some beads to add some sparkly vertical lines in the finished scarf, just for a little extra pizazz.

In other news, I’m halfway through the rebranding and reformatting of my pattern line! I’ve realized that if I don’t start prioritizing my design work more, it’ll never get done. Between my day job, publishing a paper, planning a wedding, and keeping up with things around the house, it often gets pushed to the side (when in reality, it’s what I really want to be doing). Now Tuesday and Thursday evenings are going to be dedicated to design work. No housework, no couch-potato time, no wedding planning, just knitting-related work. I’m excited about this plan and it’s proven productive so far. Last night, I finished reformatting both my Huacaya and Beribboned Hat patterns. Both have been streamlined and updated to my new layout. They’ve had metric measurements added and some language cleaned up. I also added crown decrease charts to the Beribboned Hat pattern. If you’ve purchased either of these patterns on Ravelry you should have received an update.

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Huacaya and Beribboned Hat

That’s all that’s new with me! Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis.

IS #60: Socks for Everyone!

If I had to choose a sock philosophy, I think mine would be this: socks should be simple, enjoyable, portable knitting. I don’t deny that socks are a great canvas to explore fancy stitches and intriguing architecture, but more often than not, I just want to knit a simple sock that I can pick up and put down with little fuss.

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway X-Mas Rocks. Click for pattern page.

My recently-reformatted free sock pattern, Ribby Holiday Socks, fits this bill exactly. Plain vanilla (all stockinette) socks don’t usually thrill me because I need a little something for my brain to do, and having all that stockinette broken up by some ribbing every few rounds gives me an easy way to keep track of repeats and make sure my legs and feet match exactly in length. (The keen-eyed might notice that the stitch pattern is the same one used in my Giving Comfort hat. Matching set!)

SizeChart

To make this sock pattern widely accessible, I’ve provided a size chart that describes the finished foot circumference for four different sizes at four different gauges. This means this pattern can be used to knit socks for practically everyone, fitting small feet (6″ circumference) to large feet (12″ circumference) depending on yarn/needle/gauge/size choice. All you’ll need is a gauge swatch and a measuring tape and a perfect fit should be easy to find. Finally, for those who are new to sock knitting, this pattern also contains a photo tutorial explaining in detail how to pick up stitches from the heel flap for the gusset. I really love that a few knitters on Ravelry have used my pattern for their first pair of socks, as that is exactly what I had intended when I wrote it.

Photo copyright unionjgirl. Click for project page.

Joanna over at The Knitlit Twit cast on some Ribby Holiday Socks as her first pair of socks for a Ravellenics project. I love the pretty pastel yarn she’s using, as it reminds me of spring and works nicely with the stitch pattern. (She’s also running her first marathon tomorrow, wish her luck!)

Photo copyright rgd18. Click for project page.

A friend from college, Rivkah, also used my RHS pattern for her first sock ever! Her version is a great example of what the stitch pattern looks like in a more semisolid yarn.

Photo copyright aknittermom. Click for project page.

Theresa is another knitter who produced a really great pair of socks on her first try! I like how the yarn choice makes this pair feel autumnal and moody.

Photo copyright hessp. Click for project page.

Finally, I had to feature hessp’s socks because I love the name of the project: ‘Too Brain-Dead to Think Socks’. Perfect!  I love it.

So if you’re not a sock knitter yet, I hope I’ve convinced you that my Ribby Holiday Socks pattern is totally within your grasp. I think it would be a perfect choice for the #SocksWithSarah KAL that’s been going on lately, as well, because truly — sometimes simple is best.