Two more sleeps!

Rhinebeck is so soon, and I am so excited to go! I don’t think I’ve ever needed a vacation more, and even though it’s just a long weekend it’s going to be a great way to escape everyday life. And the Fiasco is coming this time! He’ll finally understand what I mean when I talk about it like the holy-friggin’-grail of the knitting world (maybe). And of course, my Hatchling will be there, too.

I’ve abandoned all plans to finish spinning that pink yarn and knitting a pussyhat with it. For one, I’m out of time. But also, the weather is supposed to be gorgeous! At 70 degrees and sunny, I’m not going to need to wear a bulky weight hat. So instead, I’m hoping to finish the projects I’m currently knitting for my little boy.

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Flax Sweater in Malabrigo Rios, colorway Hojas

I’m nearly done with this great little Flax sweater designed by tincanknits. The pattern is easy peasy and a pleasure to knit. My progress was slightly delayed when I couldn’t find my size 6 DPNs for the cuffs. I realized that I probably hadn’t used those needles in over 2 years and had no earthly idea where they might be. Rather than face the pile of WIPs to try to figure out where they were hiding, I just bought another set. These bamboo needles are ridiculously cheap ($14 for 12 sets of needles!) on amazon and have decently sharp points and last forever (as long as you don’t lose them). I don’t knit with DPNs often enough to care if they’re fancy, I just need them to be there when I want them.

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Dino-Roar! hat with Malabrigo Rios, colorways Hojas and Apple Green

The knitting for this dinosaur hat (designed by Kate Oates) has been done for a while but as with my last project, I’ve been procrastinating the finishing. I finally got around to blocking it and now need to work up the nerve to sew the wee spikes onto the top of the hat *shudder*. I really have no idea how to approach this. The top of the hat swirls around as you decrease, so I can’t even follow a column of stitches to make sure they’re attached in a straight line and that’s as far as I’ve gotten in trying to sort this out. I don’t want them to be wonky! How do I attach these to best guarantee non-wonkiness?

With a little luck, in a few days you’ll see me wandering the fairgrounds with an overheating toddler in his brand new hat and sweater, made by Mama.

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Rhinebeck Sweater: The Great Divide

That is admittedly a really dramatic title for a post that is a straightforward progress update: I’ve reached the part of my Rhinebeck sweater where I divide the back of the cardigan from the fronts for the armholes!

Rhinebeck Sweater: The Great Divide | Woolen Diversions

Divided!

I was super excited about reaching this point since it meant the waist decreases were over and it felt like something exciting would happen… but after decreasing at each edge for a few rows, this part is basically just going to involve 10 more inches of the same fabric I was already knitting.

Rhinebeck Sweater: The Great Divide | Woolen Diversions

Armhole decreases.

I modified the pattern slightly so that there are 98 sts in the back and 56 sts in each front (instead of 100 and 55) because I liked the way the decreases lined up with the patterning better. What I’m finding really interesting about sweater knitting is that yes, it can be complicated to choose a size and make alterations, but once you do that it’s no more complicated (or less repetitive) than a basic scarf for much of the knitting time. There are certainly fiddly bits but they are few and far between and for the most part, sweater fabric is pretty mindless to produce. Who knew? Andi of Untangling Knots has a couple of great posts about knitting sweaters here and here that I think are helpful for newbies.

In other news, I made some more soap! This is a slightly different variation on the aloe vera and goat milk Ocean Mist soap that I had my shop previously, as I tried a new pouring/swirling technique (read: the temperatures didn’t work out as I had expected so I improvised) and I rather like how the soap came out. The fragrance is a great blend of Sea Moss (floral, clean, gentle) and Down by the Bay (bright, astringent, salty) that I think is really refreshing in the shower and is apparently unisex, as the Fiasco has already claimed one as his own. I also restocked several bars of Lavender-scented sheep-shaped goat milk soap, if you were waiting on those.

I’m working on my prep plan for the Indie Untangled trunk show in less than 3 weeks (THREE WEEKS OMG) and I’m trying to decide which lotion bar or sheep-shaped soaps scents I need to have in stock. Are any of my lovely readers planning to go to the show? Any special requests of scents you’d like me to be sure to bring? I hope I get to meet some of you in person! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook, if you want to share with your friends.

And man, less than three weeks? I better keep knitting!

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About that Waist

If you remember from my Five Things Friday post, I was doing just a wee bit of agonizing over how to handle the waist decreases on my Grimm Green Stout sweater. The main issue was that I was knitting at a larger stitch count for the hips, wanted to decrease a few inches for the waist, and then increase back out a smaller amount than I had decreased for the bust. In simple stockinette this would be fine, but the stitch pattern is an alternating rib/cable pattern  with strong vertical lines, so if I didn’t return to the same stitch count for the bust, the pattern would be thrown off for the rest of the sweater.

THE HORROR!

But I’m happy to report that I finagled a solution that will look just fine. Observe!

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About That Waist | Woolen Diversions

Mmmmmmm, cable-y ribbing!

Each pattern repeat consists of 12 rows, 6 rows that read “cable column, rib column” and then 6 more that read “rib column, cable column” that alternate across the garment. (Make sense? Explaining this in words feels weird.) The pattern is written so that you decrease 4 stitches on Row 1 and Row 6 of the repeat, for a reduction of 1.6 inches in the finished fabric width-wise occurring over 2 inches of length. My stitch gauge is a little tighter than the pattern calls for and I wanted less fabric at the waist so I decreased 4 stitches on Rows 1, 5, and 9, and 2 stitches on row 11 for a total reduction of 2.6 inches over 2 inches of length. I had planned to decrease a full 16 stitches instead of 14, but I realized that I liked how the ribbing worked out at this stitch count.

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About That Waist | Woolen Diversions

Breaking the pattern, but making it work.

Now I need to knit for 2 inches straight before increasing back out for the bust. My plan is to keep the stitches in a *p1, k1, p1* pattern around the waist decrease markers as they are now, and then only increase 4 more stitches (2 more purl stitches around each marker) for the bust, adding back 0.75 inch of fabric. So in this version of the sweater, my stitch count will fluctuate from 244 stitches (for the 46″ pattern size) in the hips, down to 230 stitches in the waist, up to 234 stitches (which corresponds to the 44″ pattern size) in the bust.

Rhinebeck Sweater: All About That Waist | Woolen Diversions

Comparing to a store-bought sweater.

These measurements, once added to the 2.5″ that will result from the collar/buttonband, should give me a garment that allows for about 2″ of positive ease in the hips, 2.5″ in the waist, and 1″ in the bust. Should is the operative word there. The patterns is written for 5″ of ease, but I think my adjustments will be more flattering for my body shape. When I compare my knitting to a store-bought sweater of a similar style, the size looks good and the waist seems to land where I think it should, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will all work out in the end. And if anybody looks closely enough under my arms to notice the changes I’ve made in the pattern… well, I’ll just have to smack them for inappropriate personal space invasion anyway.

Squam art fair vendors

Come to Squam this Saturday!

I’m super excited that THIS SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th from 7:30pm – 10pm Sweet Sheep will be vending at the Squam Art Fair in Holderness, NH. Please come and say hello! I’ve heard so much about Squam from other knitter’s blogs that it has obtained ‘magical crafty fairyland’ status in my mind, I can’t wait to see it for myself.

WIPWed #104: It’s Wednesday Again, Isn’t It

These weeks, man, I just can’t keep up! I’m doing my best to just embrace the lack of time I feel I have for creative things and just do the best I can. For a while there I was dreading the end of the summer but I’m now starting to look at my stash more closely and imagine all the warm, woolly things I’d like to knit and wear in the near future. Plus, the Season of Fall Festivals is nearly upon us, and who can be bummed about that? Speaking of festivals…

Rhinebeck Sweater – Grimm Green Stout:

WIPWed #104: It's Wednesday Again, Isn't It | Woolen Diversions

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

My Rhinebeck sweater is progressing at a steady clip. The fabric is lovely and squishy and I’m almost at the point where I need to think about waist decreases. I took the sweater camping with me over the long weekend (no photographic evidence as I was boycotting electronics) and it was the only thing I worked on while I was away! Of course I brought a sock project just in case, but I talked myself out of bringing a spindle as well, finally accepting that I would not need quite so much craft variety over such a short trip. I’m learning, slowly but surely.

Berrylicious Socks:

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

My “back up knitting” socks are progressing at a solid pace, as well. I’m not sure yet whether I will keep these for myself or reserve them as a possible Christmas gift for someone else (that time will be upon us before we know it). They’re simple socks, and I like them, but I don’t love them and somebody else might. Frankly, I’m just kind of impressed that I’ve become a nearly-monogamous knitter working on only two projects at once. We’ll see how long that lasts.

WIPWed #104

Rockin’ Sock Club 10th Anniversary Kit

As an added treat in the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Sock Club, we received special 10th anniversary kits that consisted of great goodies, including a notions case, a tape measure, and a really beautiful project bag. The bag is made of high quality fabric with a nice thick liner and I adore the colors. It’s custom made by Queen Bee Creations and oh boy do they have some pretty, handmade things on their site. They don’t appear to do knitting bags in particular, but they have purses and messenger bags and travel bags in gorgeous patterns that I would love to own. Like this little polka-dot number or this leafy teal case. This large loop pouch looks to be the same size and shape as the bag we received in the club and it is plenty big for any knitting accessory project. I’m a little in love and am happy to have a whole new-to-me creative company to admire!

As for reading, I just finished up The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Man, can that guy write. That is probably not news to anybody, but this was only the second of his books I’ve ever read, and I’m now officially hooked. The book followed the lifeof a doctor who performs illegal abortions and runs an orphanage in 1940s Maine, and the life of one of the orphans (basically). It’s so much more than that, but it’s hard to sum up. Irving has skyrocketed his way straight up into my top 10 favorite authors list. I love the way he tells his stories over long time periods and builds an entire life for his characters. I love how creative his storytelling is, and how each book is entirely different in feel, locale, and topic from the rest. Normally I’m all about long series or authors who write in a particular style or setting so I know what I’m getting into with their books. It’s kind of exiting not to have any idea what the next book will be like, but to know that I’ll probably love it, whatever it is about or however he chooses to write it. Do you have a favorite Irving book?

That about covers what I’ve been up to this week! Linking up with Yarnalong.

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.