Every Time

Stuff is hard right now, as I’ve mentioned. However, it seems like whenever I’m getting too down on myself, something happens to help me change my focus. Sometimes it’s a blog post that really strikes a chord for me, or a knitting group meetup, or getting a really cool free pattern or something. It often comes from my fiber community, local or virtual. 

Today, it was this:

 

Envelope is facedown to protect the innocent


I was just sitting down to have a cup of half cocoa, half coffee, thinking about whatever random negative noise was in my head, and thought I would check the mail. I found an envelope and recognized the name on the return address right away. Here, you can open it with me:

  In case you can’t tell, that’s yarn in there! To be specific, handspun yarn made of merino, silk and cashmere. It’s 168 yards of soft, squooshy, subtly sparkly yarn that I “won” from the Passport Mitts KAL. I’m putting won in quotes because it’s a random number situation, not one where I actually did anything above and beyond. Just got lucky! The colors are tonal and muted and remind me very much of the beach near my family at the Gulf of Mexico–soft pinks and purples like the coquinas and beautiful blue of the sky, all tied together with the color of pale sand. It makes me warm just looking at it. 
  
To boot, Carol included a lovely thank you card. Honestly, I didn’t do anything–I just showed up and knit! She organized the KAL and came up with the lovely prizes (and wrote the pattern). I’ve done nothing but benefit. 

This is why knitting is my saving grace right now. I’m not just sitting alone in a vacuum making pointless motions. I’m creating things in the context of many, many others, and we’re all intertwined if only just a little bit. The fiber world just keeps giving me things–yarn and patterns, but also love and support. I’m trying to revel in it as much as I can so that I can turn around and do the same for others. Thank you!

Stop by Carol’s ravelry group and/or her blog, knit = joy to learn of upcoming patterns and events. There might be a really cool hat in the pipelines 🙂

Very, very happy knitting!

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Knitting Pattern PSA

I am behind on most everything blog related–reading, posting, taking pics for, all of it. I am pausing my behindedness for a moment for a self-serving public service announcement!

I am not sure how knitters managed before ravelry. I have found it to be such an amazingly useful tool and, by dint of keeping better track of my projects and stash, it’s prompted me to be a better knitter. I didn’t know a thing about yardage before, for instance. Selecting patterns meant going to a LYS or craft chain and sorting through binders and pamphlets. Not to mention all the talented and experienced makers on the forums who are happy to answer all manner of questions.

Another plus for ravelry is that it’s made it much more possible for independent designers, spinners and dyers to make a go of it. There’s a ton of ways to get the word out about your products on rav. The current indy designer Gift-A-Long (GAL) is one example. Another is by offering patterns free or at a discount when they are initially released to garner interest. Another way, that I stumbled across for the first time today, is to offer free patterns in exchange for comments, favorites, forum comments and blog posts. What better way to spread the word?

So without further ado, I will admit here and now that this blog post is entirely driven by the promise of two free patterns. That said, I wouldn’t blog about (or want) the patterns if I didn’t really like them. I chose these two patterns to blog about because they both contain techniques or design elements that are new to me or a little different than typical. There’s lots of basic patterns out there and, even though I’m not a “free” knitter, I’m to the point where I can wing some things and have it turn out great. When I choose to spend money on a pattern, I look for ones that go a little beyond what I could do on my own. I look for patterns with a lot of detail and sophisticated design elements. These both look like they fit that description.

First, I’ve been thinking it’s time for me to try Fair Isle/stranded colorwork. By all accounts, it’s not that hard, and it would open up a ton of possibilities for future projects. I’ve been drawn to owls lately and so this Ms. Billey’s Owl Beret caught my eye.

I like it because the owls are super cute and look nicely proportioned. Also, the diagonal design bands above and below are a little different than I’ve seen before, but simple enough that they’re not overpowering. Also, I like the slouchy/beret look but the ribbing still looks like it is snug enough to make the hat wearable. It’s made in worsted weight yarn, so won’t take forever and a day to finish (*cough* color dipped hat *cough*). In all, it looks like a great pattern!

My second choice is also a hat–Brenda.

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Copyright Jessica L’Heureux. Used by permission.

I chose this one because I’ve never done medallions or smocking, and I think it would be fun to try. Also, a few of the design elements just make me happy. First, the crown decreases are nice and pretty, which is something I look for in a good hat pattern. Second, check out the rolled brim/cable detail! I haven’t seen anything like that before, and I think it looks very sleek and professional. I also like the way the same cable is mirrored at the crown. There are just so many nice details, and I think that’s the secret to making handknits really stand out.

This designer, jesseknits, has a ton of other designs to pick from. In particular, there are several really lovely shawl patterns. She’s running her promotion all day today only, so scoot over and see her stuff! She’s offering one free pattern for leaving a comment, one for posting about her designs in the forums, and two for blogging.

Happy knitting!
ETA: This promo actually ended at noon MST, not midnight as I thought. So, even though it’s over, it’s still worth checking her patterns out!

FO Spotlight: Christmas Stocking

My intarsia woes are over, at least for now! Today I finished the last of my commission* piece. I can’t seem to get any decent pics of it, but I’m going to go ahead and share it here anyway while I have a moment.

Let me say first off that I had some serious limitations with this project. As I mentioned previously, the stocking needed to match one already made in pattern, size and detail as much as possible. So, I pretty much had to use Red Heart Super Saver and knit at a very loose gauge since the other stocking is enormous. The pattern isn’t one I would have chosen for either aesthetics or construction and, given the chance, I would certainly have added some post-knitting embellishments. Given all that, I’m very happy with my work!

The rundown

Pattern: Candide Old Fashioned Christmas Stocking

Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver. I used 109 yards of Cherry Red, 98 yards of Aran and 116 yards of Hunter Green. Those totals include yarn used to make two small pompoms.

Size made: Extra giant via large needles

Needles: US10.5

Techniques used: Intarsia! And duplicate stitch, pompom making, and somehow turning a heel on a sock knitted flat.

Modifications: None

Ravelled: Here.

The pretty

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This project has inspired me to want to make stockings for my family for next year!

 

*I use the word “commission” pretty loosely here. It was at least half favor.

Oh, Intarsia!

Doesn’t that sound like a great swear word? Intarsia! Like “tarnation”! It seems to me like it has a satisfying cadence to it. Well, I put it to good use over the past couple of days! I got going on my commission stocking. The pattern is an older one and calls for knitting the stocking flat from cuff to heel, joining the back of the heel to turn it, then knitting the top and bottom of the foot separately and flat. You then sew a seam up each side of the foot and from the heel up to the cuff. Strange construction. I figured I would just knit the damn thing in the round and it would be a lot easier. Right?

Well, I haven’t done much color work, and what I have done was several years ago. The last thing, I think, was my zig zag blanket. So I wasn’t really thinking about what would happen when I got to the Christmas tree and Santa motifs. I never realized you can’t (really) do intarsia in the round! I got to the top of the tree and, on the second row, realized my green yarn wasn’t where I needed it. It was on the other side of the tree because I was knitting in the round! I hemmed and hawed, looked up intarsia in the round on ye olde interwebs (it can be done but it’s basically a series of short rows and I don’t think the “seam” edge looks good. Plus, you still have to purl) and, when I couldn’t find a way out of ripping it out and working it flat instead, called my mom. She confirmed my fears and amidst much grumbling I pulled out what I had so far. I went from this:


To this:


Ack! More yarn barf! But I started it over and was able to get back to the same point pretty quickly.

Let me pause here and add some background information. The person who asked me to do this project has three stockings already from the same pattern. Her MIL used to make them but has since passed away. Well, they need a fourth for the “baby” (who is almost three) and she wants it to match the older child’s stocking. Over the years, the MIL’s gauge got looser and looser so while the first couple of stockings are a normal size, the older child’s is ginormous. It’s been a challenge to match it as I am a pretty snug knitter.

I initially bought bulky weight yarn, thinking that would make it easier for me to match the gauge (about 3.5 sts/” in Aran weight) but I couldn’t get it to work. So, I switched to Aran weight (Red Heart Super Saver, as that’s what the others are made from) and on US10.5s, was able to get gauge. It’s loose, though. But, since the prototype is really loose, I guess it’s okay.

So, since I’m cruising away on pretty big needles, it’s been knitting up quickly. I got most of the way through the tree but pulled that section out again as I was knitting tighter and tighter. Once I redid it, it looked really good. Then, the Santa. That one was a little fiddly because it used four colors total and they were often spread out a good bit. But, I got it done and I think it will look great once all the ends are woven in. This morning I was able to finish up the last of the knitting.

Now I need to weave in ends, add the name and birth year in duplicate stitch, sew up the seams and add a braided cord with pompoms and it will be done!


  

This has been a fun project and a nice little walk down memory lane. My mom used to make similar stockings for the family and for friends. It’s made me think I’d like to make stockings for my family! But not until next year…!

The Most Photographed Hat

On my blog, at least. I find I keep taking pictures of this hat and there are at least two reasons. One is that the colors and texture are so interesting to me but very hard to capture. I love how the ribbing looks corrugated and three dimensional. I love how the two different sides each have such distinct character. The other reason I keep taking pictures is because I keep making mistakes and reworking it, so it’s taking forever!

The other day as I was cruising along on it, I noticed a run of weird stitches. It extended down several rows. I started dropping stitch columns and working them back up, one at a time, but things were just too off to fix that way. I couldn’t get all the horizontal strands untwisted enough because they were bound up incorrectly in neighboring columns. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ve gotten better at fixing knitting mistakes. Even in fisherman’s rib, aka brioche. I can totally drop multiple stitch columns down and rework them as a group.” Can you see where this is going? Brace yourselves because I’m going to show you a picture:


Aaaack!! And that’s just one side. There were also four stitch holders on the other side. Nine columns plus countless hours of work already equal one big sea of yarn barf. I started trying to work it back up but, shocking to no one but me, it was just too loose and I couldn’t tell where everything was supposed to go. I gave up temporarily, set it aside and worked on something else.

Yesterday I had some time to hang out at my LYS. I showed a couple of people the state of things and slowly concocted a plan. I would insert a lifeline below the damaged area and pull it back. Well, that was also tricky. Because of the nature of the pattern (every row you knit/purl into the stitch below the one on the needle for half the stitches) there’s not a lot of distinction between where one row ends and the next one starts, vertically speaking. Each row sort of nestles on top of the one before like crenelated yarn Legos. Weird image, I know, but that’s the best way I can describe it. So my initial attempts at putting in a lifeline looked like a road painter had gone to work drunk. Eventually I stumbled on the idea of putting in two lifelines. Each went through all the knit stitches on one side. It took a long time, but I did it and then ripped back. I then had to get all the stitches back on the needles and get them oriented right, etc. I probably tinked back about another row on top of that to get it all right.

But, get it all right I did!



It set me back some in terms of length, but it will be done right. I might put in a lifeline as I go this time, but we’ll see!

Despite the three FOs I posted about yesterday it doesn’t seem like much is coming off the needles. Maybe it’s because I can’t really get into a groove with anything. I’ve cast on three times for my commission stocking but it hasn’t quite worked out yet. I’ve made some decent progress on the car blanket (30%!) but I’ve misplaced one of the skeins of yarn so need to find that. I have a test knit to do that uses the same needles so I keep putting off starting that as I don’t want to delay work on the car blanket. I have another test knit to do but can’t remember where I put the yarn for it, etc. etc.

I think I just need to buckle down and get going on something and it will all work out. I’ve got about an hour and a latte so I’ll try to crank some decent knitting out!

In other, very exciting news, I won a prize from the Passport Mitts KAL! I found out last night that I’ve won a lovely skein of handspun yarn. I can’t wait to find out what it wants to be!

One Last FO Spotlight: Vik Beach Hat Test Knit

I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of test knitting recently, right? Well, here’s another recently finished hat to share. It’s from the same designer as the Tunbridge Hat I tested a few weeks ago.

The rundown

Pattern: Vik Beach Hat

Yarn: 126 yards of Rowan Magpie Tweed.

Size made: Adult, slightly slouchy.

Needles: US7

Techniques used: Tillybuddy’s very stretchy cast on

Modifications: None

Ravelled: Here.

The pretty

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Again, many thanks to my SIL Caroline for modeling! I think this project turned out well! I love the effect of the yellow, orange and kelly green tufts in the tweedy yarn. The cables are interesting and look complicated but are very easy. The crown decreases are nicely designed. I did have a little scare when I first finished it as it was very snug through the cables. However, when I blocked it I stretched the cables out a bit and it worked like a charm. I am a fairly tight knitter, especially when cables are involved. I think that, as lovely as the Magpie Tweed is, I should have chosen a yarn with more loft and give to it. I could definitely see myself making this hat again!

FO Spotlight: Lacy Loo

Yes, I did eventually finish a Lacy Loo! After starting over several times and ultimately switching yarns, I have an FO that I’m very happy with.

The rundown

Pattern: Lacy Loo, $6 US. I purchased it as part of the ebook Dressing Up–The Dress Collection for $10.

Yarn: 6 skeins (462 yards) Classic Elite Jil Eaton MinnowMerino. It’s an aran weight merino single that’s almost unspun. There’s virtually no twist to it. I love the rich color.

Size made: 4T with 3/4 sleeves and somewhere between tunic length and dress length

Needles: US7 and US9

Techniques used: Russian join, short rows, simple lace.

Modifications: None

Ravelled: Here.

The pretty

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I will try again to get my daughter to model it for pictures. The last time I tried, she no sooner had it on than she was rolling on the floor in a pile of cat hair. Toddlers! In any case, I’m really happy with how this turned out. It’s on the larger size but that was the intention. She should be able to wear it as a dress for now and as a tunic later. The yarn I used is on the heavy side for aran, even, so it’s pretty thick and warm. The color is really lovely.

The design is a simple top-down raglan with a basic lace panel down the front. It has seed stitch around the neck band, cuffs and the bottom hem. The short rows are just below the neckline on the back and are just enough so that it should hang evenly when it’s worn. It’s a little fiddly to keep track of where you are in the pattern but that’s really the most difficult aspect of it. There are directions provided for a shirt, tunic or dress with short sleeves or 3/4 sleeves.

The designer, VANGY knits, has a really cool standing offer of a free pattern for anyone who completes a project from one of her designs within thirty days of it being released. Well, I qualified with this and was able to get a free pattern! She has lots of really nice patterns available. I especially like her use of color for the sample projects. You can check out her designs here if you’d like.

FO Spotlight: Snow Days Slouch Hat Test Knit

I am attempting to get my blog caught up with my knitting! Here goes!

The rundown

Pattern: Snow Days Slouch Hat by MaryAnnDesigns (she blogs here). The pattern is not available yet but I believe she’ll be publishing it soon. $5 US.

Yarn: 150 yards of a DK weight 100% wool, handspun.

Size made: One (adult)

Needles: US6 and US8

Techniques used: Tillybuddy’s very stretchy cast on, Russian join.

Modifications: None

Ravelled: Here

The pretty

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Many thanks to Caroline, my SIL, for her excellent modeling skills! I really like the finished hat. It looks great on everyone I’ve seen wear it so far, and I think the color is really pretty. I would definitely make this again. A couple of things I would do differently are to cast on fewer stitches and do an increase row after the ribbing. I would probably make the ribbing a little longer, as well, just due to my own personal preference. This pattern can be easily altered to suit a number of different fits or styles. Also, it’s a very quick knit so could be handy for gifts.

Another thing I would like to note is that testing for this designer was fun and very rewarding. I’m no TECHknitter (who’s blogging again, by the way!!) but I’m pretty detail oriented. The designer specified in her original post that she likes picky testers, so I figured this was a good project for me. She really welcomed all the feedback she got, constructive or otherwise, and was very responsive. I put a good bit of time and thought into the feedback I give designers, so it’s nice when someone takes it seriously and appreciates it.

Testing, Testing 123

I’ve  been doing tons of test knitting lately. I have at least two finished test items to show in the near future, just as soon as I can get my act together! I have three more active tests going or starting shortly and one or two more for December/January.

For anyone interested, the Tunbridge Hat pattern has been released (one of my recent tests). It’s a great pattern, easy but has a lot of visual interest. It would be a great way to do cables for the first time if anyone is looking for that!


Other things I have going on are a lot of gift knitting projects. I’m almost 25% done the car blanket for my FIL and I’m nearly done the crab hat (so cute). I hit a snag last night with the Color Dipped hat and I am currently uncertain how to proceed. I guess I did the wrong row for a bit on one section and it was just turning out wonky. I dropped a couple stitches down individually and worked them back up but it was still a problem. So, I thought it would be a good ide to drop down a whole section and work it back up. Well, I did and as soon as I started the repair, it became clear to me that there’s no way I can do it that way. It’s just too fiddly and I can’t tell which strand is which and everything’s twisted and ohmygarsh I can’t even bring myself to take a photo to show it here it’s that painful. So I think I will need to insert a lifeline and rip out several rows and redo. I’m not upset about redoing it, but I can’t quite figure out how to get the lifeline in yet…I don’t want to talk about it!!

Anyway, I also have my stocking commission job to do. I got the pattern and the prototype this weekend and bought yarn for it yesterday. I will need to give that situation a separate post. By the way, I use the word “commission” lightly here. I’m charging a token amount compared to the amount of time it will take. I’m mostly doing it as a favor and for fun. I don’t think I could ever be a fast enough knitter to actually profit from it! Also, at this point, that’s not where I see myself heading. Knitting is my sanity right now and I don’t want to put any pressure on that.

Speaking of sanity, it’s been a really rough few days. I had an almost comically awful appointment with a specialist on Friday that pretty much tore me down, then had major physical setbacks that same day from lifting my daughter a bunch of times (couldn’t really by avoided). So I’ve spent the weekend trying to recover from those as well as get through my daughter’s third birthday. That part was fun, for sure, but involved a lot of activity, being social, and doing stuff physically that wasn’t helpful. All of that for me is very draining. So, any love and healing thoughts you want to throw my way are much appreciated!!

I will put together some new posts highlighting my FOs and with other updates when I’m not on my phone and when I have a better wifi connection later. Please let me know if there are any faulty links or anything. I just really wanted to get a post up as I find that doing so helps me get my knitting in focus, which in turn helps me get better at life in general. Plus, the connection I’ve found with others through blogging is very valuable to me and I wanted to put some energy into that.

Happy knitting!

Reframing

I started writing a different post just now. It was about how things aren’t going great at the moment, and how I’ve been feeling under the weather, etc. Those things are true but I realized the way I was writing about them was just bringing me down. I found myself tempted to apologize for said blog post. That’s when I realized I needed to turn it around. So, welcome to my reframed post! I’m not going to ignore or downplay any of the negative stuff. I’m just going to strive to see things in a realistic context and not tune out the positives.

Some of the challenges I’m facing right now are the fact that I’m STILL not back to work, I’m dealing with fairly constant pain, car insurance claim issues and about a million other life stressors. I’m coping with these things reasonably well, but it’s getting to be very trying. On a positive note, knitting is still keeping me sane! I’ve got a lot of projects on my plate at the moment but I’m optimistic that I can get everything done. Or at least, I can get close!

One current project, my Pretty Crabby hat, is nearing completion. In my last post, I mentioned I was planning on reworking the claw pattern as I wasn’t happy with the design. Well, done and done! Here’s a picture of the claw from the pattern:

IMG_4312Each claw is made in two pieces that are seamed together. I think it looks too rough around the edges (literally) so I decided to work them in the round instead. I drew heavily from the Ear Bud Pouch pattern and came up with this:

IMG_4313Pretty cool, right? I posted the “recipe” on my ravelry project page. I’m very happy with how it came out. The next step is to make the eyes, which are also made in two separate pieces and seamed. I’m thinking that instead of knitting them top to bottom like the pattern says, I will knit each piece in the round as a flat or nearly flat circle, then use a three needle bind off around the edges. Then it will just be a matter of knitting some I cord to attach the claws and sewing it all together. I think it’s going to look awesome!

I started the car blanket for my FIL. I’m trying something kind of new and am curious to see how it will turn out. I really wanted to make it in log cabin style but I wanted the sections to be squares. For log cabin knitting, you start with a garter stitch square or rectangle, then rotate it 90 degrees and pick up stitches along the selvedge edge. You knit a new panel from those stitches, then rotate it 90 degrees and pick up more stitches along that edge. Check out Mason Dixon Knitting for the full idea. In any case, you never attach live knitting to another edge, just pick up stitches and knit out. What I wanted to do meant that I would have to attach the end of each garter ridge to a cast on or bound off edge of another square. Well, I couldn’t find information on how to do that anywhere despite tons of searching. The best I could come up with is to use the same technique of knitting edging perpendicularly onto live stitches. So, I decided that instead of binding off each square after finishing it, I’d put the live stitches on waste yarn and knit them together with future panels. I’ve finished about two and a half squares so far but haven’t had to do that yet. We’ll see how it goes!

IMG_4346Nothing new to report on Lacy Loo or the Color Dipped Hat, but I can talk about the most recent test knit I did. I tested Mega Berry, a hat, for cashmerejunkie of Taiga Hilliard Designs. I made the baby size. It called for super bulky yarn and the best thing I had on hand was some Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick. Here’s the finished project:

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IMG_4319The model is five months old. It fits her fine now, but probably won’t for long as it’s a little snug. It’s a fun, quick knit for anyone looking for an easy gift.

I’ve got three more test knits in the works. One is a hat that I just finished, but I don’t have good pictures yet. It’s blocking now so I should be able to post about it in a couple of days. One is a hat that I’ll be starting tonight. The other isn’t due till January so I am waiting to get some gift knitting out of the way, but it will be my first non-hat test! It’s a kids top. More on that later.

Interestingly, I stumbled into doing a commission piece. Some background first: when I was little, my mom made Christmas stockings for the family. Well, my brothers had ones my grandmother made with felt, but my parents and I had knitted ones. Every once in a while someone would ask her to knit one for their family, so I remember watching her make a number of them through the years. The other day someone on Facebook posted in a group I’m in. She was looking for a knitter to make a stocking very similar to the ones my mom used to make. So, I responded and we talked a bit and I’m going to knit her a stocking! I’m pretty excited because I think it will be fun. I’m getting the pattern and a prototype tomorrow.

So, if nothing else, knitting is distracting me from stressing about things I have no control over. I’m doing everything I can to get things back to normal, but it’s so slow going. This is definitely the most prolific stretch of knitting that I’ve ever had!