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!”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Finishing Streak

I'm taking a week off from work and have been catching up on some knitting while clearing things off my DVR queue. I finished two pair of socks in two days, including a pair of socks that I started around 2000. When I started knitting them, the Lacy Arrow-patterned Socks were farther outside my skill zone than I expected and I had a lot of trouble with the lace pattern. I spent more time ripping things out than actually making forward progress. I decided in 2008 to mark them as frogged in Ravelry, but never got around to actually ripping out the 1/2 to 2/3 of the first sock that I had completed. I finally finished the first sock in 2015, still having some trouble with the pattern if I was at all distracted. Between 2015 and 2017, I managed to get 3/4 of the second sock done. After finishing the beaded rib socks the day before, it seemed like a good time to sit down with the Lacy Arrow socks and see how far I could get. It was much faster than I expected.

The yarn is vintage Brunswick Nylamb that I traded a spinning book for back in the 1990s. It's a bright blue-red that reminds me of fresh blood.

The other socks that I finished were the most recent mindless knitting socks. Beaded rib pattern with Mountain Colors Weavers Wool Quarters in Gold Rush. I knit one sock with a 60 stitch foot and got stripes. The second sock I knit with a 64 stitch foot and got some pooling. Not enough of a difference to rip and re-knit the foot, but certainly a reminder to check my notes when picking up a project that I haven't worked on in a while. It even is a case for not putting projects down for extended periods of time.

I also finished the swatch I was knitting for the Queen Susan Shawl. I did not knit the full swatch pattern of one repeat of the shawl center. I knit about half the vertical repeat, cast off, and then washed and blocked it to see if the yarn halo would obscure the pattern too much. The good news is that the pattern does stand out quite nicely, even with the halo. The bad news is that I applied steam after unpinning the swatch and it immediately collapsed on itself again. I'll use this tidbit of information when caring for the finished project. Last night I took the leap and cast on the 271 stitches for the center of the shawl, then knit two rows. I'm now ready to start the patterning. I'd like to complete four to eight rows per week when I'm not traveling.
I've also cast on the second of the Leonore socks in Colinette Jitterbug. These will become my distracted knitting project. There's no way I'll be able to knit the Queen Susan Shawl while talking on the phone or paying much attention to the TV or an audiobook.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Force is With My Socks

I finally finished my Jedi Mind Trick Socks. These are in a very dark green color that remind me of the swamps of Dagobah. The yarn is Grinning Gargoyle Skinny Super Twist, which was a Cookie A sock club yarn in 2014. These socks were started in January 2015 as my travel knitting project for the Inaugural Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon. I finally finished them after the 2nd Dark Side Half Marathon in April.

The pattern has options to have the twisted stitch pattern arc across the instep or to go straight down the foot. While finishing the second foot, I completely forgot about shifting the pattern over until I was knitting the toe. I was not in the mood to rip out the foot and redo it, so now I have a pair of fraternal socks and I'm absolutely ok with that. I love the color and they fit well too.

Current projects include Owlie socks for travel knitting, a garter stitch cardigan for me, and the Queen Susan Shawl (or at least the swatch for it). I'd purchased the yarn for a Mother's Day Shawl KAL since I found myself unable to resist the lovely colors, but the pattern immediately had multiple errata corrections that caused me to lose interest in trying to get it sorted out. I'll pick a different shawl pattern instead. I have a nice tan color that might make a good three color combo for Color Affection.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Ohio Sweater

I have now successfully finished my first adult sweater in recent years. The sweater is Mayan Puzzle by Anne Hanson at KnitSpot. The yarn is from the KnitSpot yarn company, Bare Naked Wools. It is Kent DK in the color Tide Pool.
It is called The Ohio Sweater as I picked up the yarn and pattern while driving through Ohio en route to DC. I realized that I could stop by Canton on a day when the KnitSpot boutique was open, so altered my route and decided to celebrate my new job with a sweater quantity of yarn.

I really like the finished sweater and even managed to get it sewed up and buttons on it fairly quickly after I finished the knitting. I'm unhappy that within three or four wearings the sleeves have started pilling along the underside of the arms, where they rub against the body. It's a brand new sweater that already is starting to look raggedy. I will definitely think twice about using this yarn on another project.
I would definitely consider knitting the pattern again, though I would likely make the cable pattern symmetrical on each side of the body.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

2016 Roundup and 2017 Plans

As of mid-day on 31 December, I have finished six projects this year: 3 pairs of socks for me, 1 baby sweater and 1 scarf. Currently, in my active project queue I have three pairs of socks, two adult sweaters and a shawl. I am halfway through knitting the buttonband on an adult cardigan. Also lurking in the WIP/UFO pile are two half finished baby sweaters (one of which is a patterned nordic sweater for learning/practicing two-handed knitting), three or four pairs of socks, three adult sweaters, and probably a shawl.  All told, I knit up just over 4000 yards of yarn into finished projects and another 500 yards on WsIP.

For the coming year, I've got a hankering to try brioche stitch and have purchased yarn for two-color brioche projects. I also want to finish some of the adult-sized sweaters I have started. This will require finally getting my gauge sorted out and 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. Paradoxical but true.

Over the past day or so, I have re-ordered my Ravelry queue to more accurately reflect my knitting priorities and the parts of my stash that are currently living with me. I'll keep with my practice of traveling with moderately difficult socks to keep my hands occupied but will target my knitting efforts at colors for work socks. At home I'll work on more complex knitting or larger projects like adult sweaters. With less goofing around on the internet and more audiobooks, I think I can make a bigger dent in my local stash and get more projects finished. I think I can largely avoid all yarn purchases, with the possible exception of spending gift certificates.

I haven't figured out yet if I'll set spinning goals. There is certainly some fiber I want to finish spinning this year, even if it means adding to my yarn stash. Once I finish the current batch of plain merino roving and the brown Shetland, I may dive into the luscious Coopworth that I've been saving for a while. A nice light worsted or DK weight would make a lovely sweater and I'm sure I can find a good pattern in my overly large Ravelry queue and library.

At the end of the year, my stash contains 142,048 yards of yarn. It appears that I added approximately 20,000 yards of yarn, though I know some of that was due to missing items in my Rav inventory and I did purchase 7000  yards of cobweb weight yarn with which to knit a Queen Susan Shawl. I also picked up a small stash of crochet cotton for a dollar a ball. My plan is to knit more yardage than I purchase in 2017, resulting in a net reduction in stash size, no matter how small. Adding to my yarn stash via spinning up more fiber won't count. I haven't decided if this means I'll skip MD Sheep and Wool or not. It was a fun day out.