Thursday, July 16, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

All of a sudden it seems I have completed a lot of projects, and when I say a lot of projects, what I really mean is that I completed one project of long standing, a simple project with four items and a fiddly project with multiple fiddly bits.

The project of long standing was a pair of socks for my father-in-law. I'm not sure why they took me so long - according to my Ravelry page, I started them four months ago! The pattern did require fairly close attention, as it was just knits and purls and I never seemed to be able to memorize it. I also used size 0 needles, which aren't really that much smaller than size 1, but it sure felt like it some days. Anyway, they're finished and I can't wait to give them him when I see him in a couple weeks.

The simple four-item project was another Fair Isle hat & legwarmers with matching mittens. This time I used University of Louisville colors (or pick your school with red, white & black) in Cascade 220 Superwash. The knitting went very quickly as it was worsted-weight and I'd already made this set at least twice. I think the hat took two hours at most, the legwarmers about 90 minutes each, and the mittens maybe 3 hours, just because the i-cord was a little tedious. I still haven't decided whether I'm going to add a pompon to it - I think I'll make one up and see how it looks.

The last project, the fiddly one, was a black-faced sheep and his shirt, kilt, and sporran. Last post, I wrote about how I ran out of yarn for both the shirt and the kilt. Since then, new yarn arrived and I was able to complete those bits. Once those were done, I started thinking about how I was going to make the sporran. The pattern called for knitting up a blank, felting it by hand in really hot water, and then cutting out the pieces. As I'm not a big fan of hand felting, I bought some crafting felt, cut out the pieces, and glued them together with my glue gun. (I was pretty excited about this, as I haven't had an opportunity to use it in a long time!) Once I'd assembled the sporran, I found some perl cotton and crocheted a little chain to tie it around the sheep's waist. I've decided (with the help of some friends) that his name is Angus Shepherdsbain. We suspect that he'd be a pretty charming guy (you can see for yourself how handsome he is), frequently escaping through the fence to meet up with the lassies at the next farm, and forcing the shepherd to go looking for him well after his suppertime. He's clearly a mischief maker.

As for beginnings, I've started thinking about Kentucky State Fair stuff. For this year's Fair, I'll be entering my lopi sweater, the UofL hat set, and our loveable scamp, Angus. Next year's Fair is a completely different story. I'll be eligible for the sweepstakes points prize next year, so I'm hoping to submit an item in each category and see how many points I can rack up. There are 16 categories (4 of them for adult sweaters), so I have a lot of work to do in the next year.

In that vein, I've cast on for next year's first project, a baby sweater. It's the Archie vest from Kristen Rengren's Vintage Baby Knits book. I've had my eye on this pattern for a long while, and now that I have plenty of superwash sock yarn, I can make it without purchasing any. I've just gotten the bottom band to the right length, so I'll post update in future posts. I expect that the colorwork will go pretty smoothly - I just have to check my math and make sure the pattern is centered and pretty.

Well, that's almost all I've got for tonight. Until next time, Friends.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two Reasons Stashbusting Projects Can Suck It.

Exhibit A:

This almost-finished shirt for a stuffed sheep. 360 measly stitches short of completing the parts. Maybe another yard to attach the sleeves. It was supposed to be a little thing I could do in an evening or two. I called 5 yarn shops in the area, 4 of them didn't have the color I needed. The fifth didn't answer their phone, so I ordered it online. Now I'm waiting for a new skein to arrive.

Exhibit B:

This half-finished kilt for a stuffed sheep. I clearly underestimated how much yarn I needed for this wee kilt. The pleats really eat up the yardage. I've ordered more yarn for this too.

At least I had enough yarn leftover from my lopi sweater to make the sheep! The pattern called for bulky-weight lopi, but I had plenty of lett-lopi so I used it doubled, which knit up quickly. The assembly was a little tricky, but since the stitches were so nice and big, it was easy to see what I needed to do. I still need to knit the eyes and attach the ears, and once those tasks are done, I think my wee sheep will be pretty cute. While I'm waiting for the new yarn to arrive, I can work on his little belt and sporran. These two pieces will require felting, so I'll have to do a little digging to make sure I've got just the right bits to do these up right.

I addition to the sheep, I've also knit up a couple hats and mittens from the lett-lopi left over from my sweater. The first hat was the Baa-ble Hat, which is a free pattern from the Shetland Wool Week website (oh, how I wish I could go!). I was able to use leftovers in green, blue and black, but I had to stop at my LYS for a ball of cream to make the little sheep and the snow in the sky. I definitely should have gone down a needle size (or maybe two!), as the hat turned out too big to fit even my big head. Luckily I have a cousin who not only has a bigger head than I do, but is fun enough to wear a such a sheepie hat.

The second hat was Helene Magnusson's Brynja hat, and I adapted Vedis Jonsdottir's Handtak mittens to match. Of course, I ran out of the maroon yarn halfway through the hat, so I order another and wait for it. Both projects were quick knits, and I'm happy to have been able to give the set to another cousin (who happens to be a knitter herself!). So I guess I really have four reasons stashbusting projects suck. I've been developing a hypothesis about how yarn quantities work out perfectly when you're a new knitter, then thwart you as you gain experience, but it's still half-baked, so I'll have to think on this some more and see if I can articulate it in a way that makes sense.

Ah, well, I think that's it for tonight, Friends. Until next time.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Reversing a trend.

It seems that a lot of my recent projects have been about running out of yarn and waiting for more to arrive. Well, today, Friends, I can proudly say that I completed a project with YARN LEFT OVER! It's a miracle, really. Some days, it feels like it will never happen again.

Anyway, back in the early part of the Spring, I was in the mood to knit myself a new sweater, and as my LYS had lots of colors of lett-lopi, I decided that I would make the Afmaeli sweater. The printed pattern showed all kinds of color combinations, but I knew as soon as I saw the rainbow-colored version, I knew that was the one for me.

I bought the shop out of all their charcoal skeins for the body & sleeves, as well as the beige for the ribbing. Nerd that I am, I really wanted the colors specified in the pattern, so I had to order those online. I dutifully knit my gauge swatch, checked it against the instructions, and quickly cast on. The photos in the pattern showed a little more ease than I like, so I did a bit of math and worked out some waist shaping to get a more flattering fit.

The body knitting sped right along, but for whatever reason, the sleeves seemed to take ages to finish. I was eventually able to join the sleeves and begin the fun bit of stranded color work for the yoke. I enjoyed it so much! Once I got the collar done, I tried it on and it fit! With yarn left over! Like, 5 skeins of charcoal and 3 skeins of beige, and more than half of each of the remaining colors. I'm more pleased than I really should be at this, but given all my recent frustration on this account, you can hardly blame me.

Next time, Friends, I'll tell you about some of the things I've been making with the leftover lopi. Until then.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Temple to Water Filtration

Yesterday our local water utility had an open house to show off the restoration of their 1879 limestone gatehouse at the Crescent Hill Reservoir. The slate roof was replaced in its entirety, and the terracotta tiles in ceiling were thoroughly cleaned. The iron stairs appear to have gotten a fresh coat of paint and everything just looks shiny and clean.

Some of my favorite details are on the outside of the building. It's obvious that the stonemasons employed on the job knew what they were about. All the limestone ornaments are beautifully carved, and as far as I could tell, all different. I hope to get there more often and look at things more closely. Until then, though, enjoy these photos I took in the short time I was there last night.

Lovely limestone stair.

Carved limestone lintel over the window.

Wrought iron stair. We weren't allowed to go higher than the first landing.

Pretty sure this capital is marble; it hasn't weathered as well as the limestone.

Terracotta ceiling tiles & simple rose window.

Trefoil dormer window, with terracotta tiles.

Window, second landing, and underside of stairs to third level.

The security camera amidst the ironwork in the widow's walk is an anachronism.


Another marble capital, different than the ones on the opposite entrance.

Stairs, from first landing to the second.

I love that they put a pitcher on top of this gable. I had to look it up, but the squared bit it rests upon is called an acroterium.

Another pitcher, different from the first.

Detail of the limestone balustrade.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It's a vicious cycle, using up leftovers.

So last post I showed you the cute baby blankie I made for my new nephew (who is now a couple weeks old and as cute as can be!). Once I finished the blanket, there was plenty of yarn left over, so I thought I'd try using it up.

The first project was a wee sheep hat for a charity's silent auction - our group had a cute little baby fingerprint kit thing, but we needed to beef up the basket, so I made the hat. I only needed to purchase one skein of green yarn, no biggie. Once I finished the hat I thought it would be nice to make some wee mittens to match it, so I cast right on. Sadly, I ran out of the cream colored yarn after the first mitten, so I had to go right back to the shop for some more. And, just my luck, they didn't have any. Nor did the other two shops in town, so I ordered it online and hoped it would arrive in time for me to complete the mittens in time for the auction. It didn't.

While I was waiting for the new yarn to arrive, I thought I'd try out another pattern from the book with the sheep hat. The Fair Isle hat and leg warmers pattern looked like a good one to help me use up some of the yarn I had, so I cast on and mere hours later, I'd finished a cute little hat. The leg warmers went pretty quickly too. I had enough of the green, brown and tan yarn left to make some mittens to match the others, so I did those too, which worked out just right. I've since sent the set out to my new nephew.

I thought I give the same set another try, with the orange, black, and white yarn leftover from the blankie. I was able to finish the hat and mittens according to the pattern, but I ran out of orange before I could finish the legwarmers, so the last bit of cuff was finished with a bit of white. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this  set. I may decide to enter the hat and mittens in the State Fair this summer, depending on whether or not anyone I know turns up pregnant between now and then. On my Ravelry project page, I named them after Finding Nemo, because they're the same colors as a clown fish, and I imagined that if Nemo & Dory had made their way to the North Sea, they'd be wearing Fair Isle sweaters. Or at least Dory would, but I didn't have yarn in her colors.

So that's all I have for now, Friends. I've been knitting all kinds of things lately, but I haven't been especially meticulous about photographing them. As I catch up on the pics, I'll write up the projects. Until next time then.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Entirely too cute.

Any day now our newest nephew will be born, and in expectation of his arrival, I've been working on a little blanket for him. When we found out my sister- and brother-in-law were expecting, right away I knew that whatever I made would be gender-neutral, not only because it was too early to know the baby's sex, but because I thought the parents would prefer it.

You can almost tell what they're supposed to be.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to make - I've made plenty of hats and stuffed toys for my legion of nieces and nephews, but I was in the mood for something different, so I thought a blanket might be the way to go. And after a good, long Ravelry search, I hit upon just the right one: Villi Pohjola by Terhi Viinikanoja. It was so cute! Knitted abstractions of arctic critters in easy-to-knit squares. The only trick was that the pattern was written in Finnish, so I had one window of my computer open to the pattern text and another window open to Google Translate.

I think this otter is my favorite.

The animals on pattern were a bunny, a reindeer, a brown bear, a badger, a lynx, and a fox. Since this new baby was going to grow up in North Carolina, I decided to modify the pattern to show critters found there. I changed the reindeer to a deer, the brown bear to a black one, the badger to a raccoon, and the lynx to a river otter. All it took was a few sketches on the handy graph the designer supplied and I was in business. The knitting went really quickly as it was stockinette stitch in worsted-weight yarn. Since this was a baby gift, I chose Cascade 220 Superwash for its ease in care. I don't think that new parents are going to want to deal with anything that isn't machine washable.

The fox is pretty cute too.
Once I got the knitting done, the seaming went pretty fast too. I used my favorite seaming tutorial from Twist Collective, and had the blanket put together in short order. Appliqueing the eyes was a different story. I had been putting it off for awhile, because the size of the blanket meant that I was going to have to clean all the mail off my dining room table if I wanted the eyes to look right. Thankfully, a gloomy, rainy day inspired an idea: I'd take the blanket to the coffee shop and work on it there! The tables would be clean, someone else would make hot drinks for me, and I wouldn't have to clean my dining room. Awesome!

And who wouldn't love this sweet bear?

Once all the critters had eyes, it was a lot easier to get going on the noses and mouths. The noses were all done in duplicate stitch (except for the racoon, who doesn't have a nose) and then I used a chain stitch to get nice curves for all the mouths. I improvised the deer's antlers - the pattern called for crocheting them, but my crochet skills are practically non-existent, so I knit them in garter stitch to keep them from curling up. I added some black trim to the fox's ears and called the blanket done. It turned out to be just the right size for a stroller, so I hope he'll get lots of use from it.

I'm not sure the deer is happy to be here.

Well, that's it for now, Friends. I have to get this package in the mail!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Adventures in Stash Knitting, or, Another Lesson in "You Should Know Better By Now"

So, the whole point of knitting from stash is, you know, using up stash yarn. I mean, I have yarn. Not as much as some folks, but enough that I'm not going to run out any time soon. And as I've got all this yarn, I want to knit it up. I haven't gone cold sheep (it's like going "cold turkey," but, well, knitters) or anything, but I am making a point of being mindful about what I'm buying.

Anyway, some time ago, a couple of my friends were doing a little destashing, and  I acquired a whole lot of Cascade Eco Wool. A few skeins in cream from my friend Holly, a few skeins in chocolate from my friend Tonya, and a couple random skeins of each from my friends Colleen and Jan added up to something like 6000 yards of bulky-weight yarn. That's more than 3 miles of yarn taking up a whole lot of space in my stash.

The first project I made from this stash was the Walnut Snood from the awesome Japanese knitting magazine Amirisu. I ended up using a little more than a skein for this cabled infinity scarf. Looking over my project notes, it looks like it took me less than a week to complete it, and I've worn the hell out of it since then. It's my go-to scarf, and I love its versatility: on the occasions when I've neglected to wear a hat, it's come in really handy as a sort of hood and even as a balaclava. I can't say enough good things about it.

The next project was Streymoy from the Winter 2013 Knitty. I think I documented the sweater pretty well here, so you know all the trouble I had with it. But, really, the whole reason I chose that pattern was because I thought I'd be able to use up all this yarn. It used up quite a bit, but sadly, not all of it. I had to think about what I was going to do next.

I didn't have anything specific in mind, just using up this yarn! I did a Ravelry search based on the gauge I was knitting, the yardage I had, and the necessity for colorwork since I had two colors of this yarn. After looking through what felt like a million patterns, I settled on the Northern Lights poncho from a Vogue Knitting book. It had been published 10 years ago, so I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to find it, but it turned out that my local library had a copy. It was a quick, fun knit. That, again, didn't use up all the yarn.

Ugh! Seriously, I was getting pretty sick of knitting so many brown and white projects (including the projects I made with some really cool locally-grown Shetland wool), but I was determined to use up this yarn. Since I didn't want to make another poncho, I got going on another Ravelry search, this time deciding I had just the right amount of yarn to knit Boreal by Kate Davies, and knit it in time to wear it for Christmas. Yeah, I don't know what the hell I was thinking, either.

Based on the amount of yarn I had in each color, I really should have done the sweater with the light color on the bottom, but I decided that for my body type, it would look best with dark on the bottom half. So with a little trepidation, I cast on. The knitting went quickly since there was so much stockinette. Once I made my way through the bottom half, I started getting a little nervous that I was going to run out of dark yarn for the top half. I had a bad feeling about it that only got worse the further along I got. On December 18th I ran out of the chocolate yarn. A week before Christmas! What was I going to do? There are only a couple yarn shops in the area that carry Eco Wool, so I was really sweating it. It wasn't necessary to have a new sweater in time for the holiday, but I really wanted one.

So one night after work, I braved the crazy traffic by the malls to go to the shop that I thought was my best chance of finding the yarn. I had a 20 minute window to get off the bus, cross something like 10 lanes of traffic, walk to the shop way at the far side of the parking lot, find the yarn, pay for it, and catch the bus to get home. The shop had exactly one skein of the yarn I needed. It wasn't the same dye lot, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to matter with the color work, so I snatched it up and hurried to the checkout where there was a woman ahead of me who had a million little individually-priced stems of fake wreath-making stuff and nearly as many coupons. All I had was the one skein, but I was 30 seconds too late getting to the cashier. After roundly cursing her out (in my mind, though, not out loud), I took a breath and hoped I'd be able to make my bus. It was a Christmas miracle! I paid for my precious, ran for the bus stop, and thanks to the ridiculous traffic, I had time to spare before the bus arrived.

Once I got going again on the sweater, I was able to finish it in practically no time at all. From beginning to end, the whole thing took 10 days. And I had yarn left over, which kind of bothers me, but I just can't bear the thought of yet another Eco Wool sweater. I only ended up using about 100 yards out of the new skein of yarn, so I still have a healthy 400 yards left, in addition to nearly a full skein of the cream. I'd really like to use it up, but I think I'm going to give it a year or so. It'll keep.

Well, that's all I've got for tonight. Thanks for sticking with me over my long holiday break, Friends. Until next time.