Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Roundup

I seem to have hit my knitting stride this year and finished 27 projects. I attribute this to an effort to replenish my dish cloth stash and to the desire to keep current in the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup, which requires turning in at least 9 finished items per year.

I knit 12 dishcloths, 3 pairs of socks, 1 hat, 2 kids sweaters, 2 stuffed animals, 2 shawls,  2 pair fingerless mitts, 1 produce bag, 1 door hanger, and one adult cardigan. I had initially set 10 items as my goal and then had to increase that several times as I exceeded the goal. I may end up finishing an additional adult pullover by midnight on New Year's Eve.

Overall, I knit approximately 6948 yards (not counting the 2nd adult sweater) while purchasing 8465 yards of new yarn, for a net gain of 1517 yards of commercially produced yarn.

2018 was a big spinning year for me. I put my e-spinner to good use. I made a total of 2582 yards of finished yarn. All but 194 yards of this was 2 ply yarn. (not counting the green lace weight finished on 12/30). (Update: the new lace weight added up to 592 yards, bringing the total to 3,174 yards spun in 2018.) I primarily spun wool, but there was also some silk hankie and some hemp roving in the mix. It was my first concerted effort at spinning silk hankies. I separated out the layers, then poked a hole in each and drafted into pencil roving. I knew that little drafting would happen while spinning, so tried to get the roving to a thickness that would yield the yarn thickness I wanted. Drafting the silk was hard on the hands, but the end result was beautifully soft and shiny. I was surprised that the overall color ended up being orange. The hankie was more acid yellow/green/pink.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Slow Smooth Silk

I've been working on the Percy Shawl as an OWL (Ordinary Wizarding Level) exam since September. By the end of October, I was supposed to knit at least two ounces of the four ounce ball of yarn. By mid-October, I had knit just over one ounce. Almost six hours knitting on planes consumed only 1/4 ounce of yarn. Although each row was not particularly long yet, it required some concentration even if I only had to count to five or six. I missed the 2 ounce mid-term goal by 3/4 of an ounce.

Now it is the 29th of November and I had hoped to have at least 3 1/2 ounces knit. I haven't quite even managed to get 2 1/2 ounces knit up. It just takes too long and, between travel and work, the past few weeks haven't been conducive to complicated lace knitting.

I do still like the pattern and the yarn. It just won't be completed as my OWL this term.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

More Finishing!

This whole Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup thing is absolutely what I need. There are monthly deadlines for finishing things and I get to pick the things to finish. I just need to describe them in such a way that they fit the requirements for a particular class. When I finish, I earn points for my House and, occasionally, badges for my Ravelry profile.

For the first time, I also participated in the Ravellenic Games. This is a recurring event where projects are cast-on during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and must be completed no later than the end of the closing ceremonies.  I was part of Team FibreSpace (my local yarn store). I finished a WIP (a hat) and also started and finished a toy sheep.

I have used my participation in HPKCHC and the Ravellenics to complete 11 projects in the first three months of this year. In all of 2017, I finished 11 projects. In 2016, I finished six projects.  I have also spun about 24 ounces of wool roving into yarn.

Today, I put the buttons on a cardigan that I started in November of 2016. I'm not sure I like it.
 The sleeves are a bit more snug than I would like. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have knit the sleeves on a smaller size needle than the rest of the sweater. However, this may end up being a blessing in disguise. The body of the sweater (knit on the correct size needle) fits well, but is stretchy. Sufficiently stretchy that I am fairly confident that it will grow dramatically in length as I wear it. I'll wear it around the house a couple of times and see what happens before I wear it out in public or to work. I would be okay with ripping it out and either knitting a larger size on smaller needles or turning it into a saddle shoulder stockinette sweater using EZ's percentage system. The stockinette will definitely stretch less than garter stitch.

The next projects to power through: Galen's Magic Socks, a purple beaded lace shawl, and a gray pullover that I've been knitting and frogging repeatedly for 20 years. This time I'm going to just finish it and be done with it!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2017 Roundup and 2018 Plans

Here's the annual look back at the previous year.

According to Ravelry, I finished 11 projects in 2017, including a pair of socks that I started at least 17 years ago. This is up from a total of 6 finished projects in 2016. Altogether, I finished four pairs of socks, two scarves/shawls, two hats, a pair of baby booties, an adult-sized sweater, and a pair of felted slippers that didn't fit at all well. That's approximately 5451 yards of knitting that was completed.

I also got in a good bit of spinning this year, working my way through some natural merino roving that's been aging in my stash for about 20 years and also some lovely forest green superwash. These spinning projects were partly motivated by Tour de Fleece and also the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet Cup class assignments. With my e-spinner, it's fairly easy to rack up significant spun yardage while binge watching shows on Netflix or on the DVR. The green roving ended up a light fingering weight yarn. I have another 8 ounces of the roving left to spin.

Overall,  Ravelry indicates that I have completed more project yardage than I purchased. However, there are some project-specific purchases missing and it appears that Ravelry removes the yarn currently in WsIP from the stash queue when a project starts. My total yarn purchases were approximately 9825 yards. One of these purchases was souvenir yarn in Paris. which will be turned into either a shawl or a sweater (with an additional purchase of a contrasting color of the same yarn). Another purchase was some Eco+ that was on such deep discount that I felt obligated to pick up a sweater quantity to make Aidez. The other purchases were made specifically for projects--baby sweaters and shawls. One of the shawls isn't going to end up happening. The pattern was too full of errors and I'll use the lovely yarn in a different shawl project.

As I mentioned, last year I was interested in trying brioche knitting. I didn't end up starting any brioche projects and never even worked up a brioche swatch. I remain interested in brioche and still have a couple of potential projects ready to go. I did, however, do some beaded knitting this year, starting (and finishing) a beaded sock pattern and starting a beaded lace shawl as part of a KAL.  I still am working on the shawl and definitely enjoy working on it.

It was useful to re-order my project queue to reflect  the parts of my stash that are currently living with me. I continued to use socks as travel knitting to keep my hands occupied while on flights. This was moderately successful as most of the flights are overnight and the overhead lights are often not aligned to shine in the right spot. Nonetheless, I'll keep trying in 2018 to knit on planes. Working consistently on more complicated or larger projects at home contributed significantly to getting 11 projects finished this year. 

For 2018 goals, I want to finish some of the adult-sized sweaters and other projects that I have started over the past decade. This will require finally getting my gauge sorted out. Perhaps if I focus on a single project at a time, I won't have so much trouble with gauge consistency and also with making good progress. Splitting my time between a multitude of projects generally results in little progress on any of them and plenty of drive to start something else new. Oddly enough, this very same issue comes up in other areas of life. I've got ten active WsIP carrying over from 2017, so hopefully the focus on a single project at a time can help get these knocked out this year! I am aiming to minimize yarn purchases again this year, with the possible exception of spending gift certificates, obtaining spectacular souvenir yarn, or making project-specific purchases to be completed in 2018.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

New Shiny!

My Christmas present from my mom this year is a shiny new sewing machine. I've been using a very inexpensive mechanical machine that I purchased about 30 years ago. The new machine is a BabyLock Soprano. It's an electronic machine and has plenty of features I've never used before, like automatic threading and push buttons for raising the needle and presser foot. There are dozens of stitch patterns already built in as well as buttonholes.

I also got a nice selection of quilting books and notions, which will help me work through how to use the machine while making something useful. On weekends when I'm home, I use short sewing breaks as a reward for getting tasks checked off my to-do list. I'm currently working my way through the Quilter's Academy, Vol. 1 book to get my skills back up to speed and to learn about quilting. Eventually I'd like to make some bed- and throw-sized quilts. I'm also planning to do some apparel sewing so I can have pants and tops that fit properly!

Soon I'll need to organize my fabric and sewing pattern stash so I can keep track of what I've got and keep it from taking over my closet!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I'm On A Roll

I am participating in the Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup this term. I participated once years ago but don't recall ever actually finishing an assignment. This term I got sorted into Gryffindor and have managed to submit at least a partial project every single month. This has done wonders for my finished projects list for this year.

I have started and finished Baby Duck Booties for a friend's upcoming baby.

For the October Charms class, I started and finished a cabled hat using yarn I purchased in Scotland on a business trip. The yarn is from the New Lanark Wool Mill in South Lanarkshire, Scotland and is Aran Donegal Silk Tweed (90% wool and 10% silk). I purchased it in Edinburgh and selected this green color to match the trench coat I purchased the day before in Glasgow. The pattern is Slouchy Bubbles by Tshep.  It is a lovely warm hat with just the right amount of slouch. I think I will wear it a lot this winter.

I started these pink and green ones socks for the September Potions class. The pattern is my own design using the Scattered Oats stitch pattern. There are slipped stitches which bridge the two colors. I discovered halfway through the first sock that it was far too small for me to wear. With only a week left in the month, I ripped it out and started over on 72 stitches. I submitted most of a first sock as a partial project and might finish the pair for November's Detention. I will have to write up the pattern and post it in my (yet-to-be-created) Ravelry shop.

I have started two spinning assignments.

The green yarn is superwash merino that I purchased over a decade ago. I'm spinning a 2-ply heavy lace weight/light fingering weight yarn. It is slightly over spun. I think it'll make a great shawl. I don't trust it to wear well in socks.
The color is a beautiful deep heathered green. This is my first attempt at spinning multicolor roving and I like how it has turned out. I initially thought I would have to re-card the roving to get a thoroughly blended color. I did a test card of a small amount and discovered that there was exactly no difference between the original and re-carded roving when spun. After that I set about splitting and pre-drafting the roving in workable sections. This greatly improved the speed and consistency of the spinning. I am definitely a big fan of pre-drafting now.  There are 8 more ounces of this blend waiting to be spun. I was awarded the Invisibility Cloak badge for this yarn as I produced more than 400 yards of yarn.

The second spinning project is the last of some merino sliver that I purchased at the Amana Woolen Mill about twenty years ago. It was a two- or three-pound bump. Slowly over the years I've been turning it into a two-ply fingering weight yarn. I've been working at this so long that I'm not sure I even know where all of the previously spun yarn is located. I used some of it to knit a scarf a few years back. Pawing through my spinning stash in WA showed I've got another 4-6 pounds of this roving. I brought back a two pound bump with me for 2018 spinning.

Magic Socks in Progress
My grad student buddy Galen has had troubles with his feet for years. He's lost toes due to poor circulation and this past year has had some bad episodes of gout. He knows that I knit and asked if I knit magic socks. I may not be able to knit magic socks, but I can knit warm comfy socks infused with good thoughts. The pattern is Porthos by Caoua Coffee. The yarn is 4-ply tweedy black Regia. It's all knit/purl but the offsets give it the appearance of curves and mock cables. I would be farther along with it, but black yarn is difficult to knit in iffy lighting conditions and airplanes are most definitely iffy lighting conditions. These will likely remain my home knitting project for the remainder of winter. I'm currently at the halfway point of the first sock.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Queen Susan Shawl Begins

For several years, I have admired the Queen Susan Shawl as an epic knitting project of stunning beauty and intricacy.

I did not, until recently, really consider it something that I might try knitting myself. In looking at the pattern, it does not appear to be all that complicated at any given stage, though it is quite large in size. All told, there are over 500,000 stitches in the finished product, knit upon size 0 needles. The shawl is knit in three parts: a center knit back and forth, a border picked up and knit around the center, and an edging which is knit on perpendicularly to the border.

At the 2016 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, I found a yarn that I thought would be suitable for the project and purchased 7000 meters of it. It's Leicester Longwool cobweb weight yarn from Wool Out Of Wales.
In May, I started a swatch. I didn't knit the whole swatch pattern, but stopped after the first repeat to wash and block it. I was initially concerned that the halo/bloom of the yarn would obscure the pattern too much. After blocking, I think the pattern shows up quite nicely. I did, however, learn that sharp needles are definitely needed to keep from splitting the stitches.

After casting on the shawl center in early June, I knit a couple rows and then put it down. Knowing that I’ll be knitting 510 rows and over 138,000 stitches in the center of this thing is a bit intimidating. However, in knitting several rows yesterday, I reminded myself that the pattern itself is not particularly difficult. It just requires some attention to detail.

I then decided that this project will help me break my binge knitting habit and thought about what would be a good minimum daily progress goal. It seems reasonable that I would be able to knit 2-4 rows a day. (The catch is that I won’t take this on business trips due to concerns that it might get lost or damaged and I’ve also learned that knitting with lace weight yarn in the sketchy lighting of airplanes is not productive.) It’s discouraging that it’ll take over a year to just knit the center. Based on the number of stitches, I anticipate it’ll take over a year to knit the border. The edging might go a bit faster.

Throughout the project, I'll have to keep reminding myself that slow steady progress will still get me done faster than working periodically on it with weeks to months of neglect in between. Slow, steady, consistent work (rather than starting big and quitting over and over again) is the key to success in a lot of things. As Dory says, “Just keep swimming!”