Ravellenic Games 2014

Yes, it’s the Winter Olympics, and that means the Ravellenic Games are in full swing. For those of you who are not knitters, and I sure do feel sorry for you, the Ravellenic Games coincide with every Olympic Games and are held on Ravelry, an on-line knitting/crocheting/spinning community. There are teams to join, events to enter, medals to be won, and sometimes there are prizes.

I am participating this year on Team Let’s Go Pens, and I have entered Event Lace, Event Scarf, and Event Single Skein. My project, The Age of Steam And Brass scarf, was knitted from this fiber–

Spinneretta's Studio Polwarth dyed in a gradient colorway called Monochrome

Spinneretta’s Studio Polwarth dyed in a gradient colorway called Monochrome

which I spun up last year into this yarn–

A handspun chain-plied yarn

which I knitted into this scarf.

My Ravellenic Games 2014 project, Age of Steam and Brass

My competition knitting may be done, but I still have lots more knitting to do and lots of Olympic competition to watch. So far the Games have been amazing. I really enjoyed the Slopestyle Snowboarding event, and I’m looking forward to watching the same even done on skis. The USA women’s hockey team has been dominant in their bracket so far, but they face a big test when they meet Team Canada tomorrow. And soon the men’s competition will begin. Olympic hockey is awesome. If you haven’t watched the women play, you should. The women play at the highest skill level. They skate fast, pass well, and shoot hard.

NBCs coverage of the Olympic Games leaves a lot to be desired, as usual, but there are some bright spots. CNBC shows curling, lots and lots of curling, and not just the Americans. I love watching curling. It’s a sport that requires a lot of strategy and finesse as well as athleticism and teamwork.

I hope you are enjoying the Winter Games as much as I am.

Winter’s Vengeance

Here in the beautiful Cumberland Valley of south-central Pennsylvania, winters tend to be relatively mild. But every few years, Mother Nature decides to remind us that she is still very much in charge. And this has been one of those winters.

Oh, it started off mild enough. We did have a little snow for Christmas, which is unusual for us, but that was just a hint of what was in store for us in the new year. January was a mixed bag. We didn’t get a Farm Show storm; in fact, the weather during Farm Show week was pretty nice for a change. But then the Arctic Blast came and our weather has gone to hell in a hand basket.

First there were temperatures so cold, it couldn’t snow if it wanted to. And now the precipitation has begun. We are currently at the tail end of the second of three winter storms that are hitting in quick succession. First we had 8 inches of snow on Monday, then last night and this morning, we had more snow, then sleet, then freezing rain. There was enough sleet to cover the driveway, and the branches of the lilac bush outside my dining room window are coated in ice.

You can see the coating of ice on the branches through the screen.

The freezing rain was supposed to be followed by just plain rain, but, although the temperature has risen to well above freezing, the precipitation seems to have stopped. The ice is melting, but I don’t think it will melt fast enough to clear the driveway

A slushy mess in our driveway

before the temperatures fall back below freezing and create an icy mess just in time for the third storm that is expected to hit over the weekend. At the moment, the third storm is looking to be a minor threat to us, bringing only a 50% chance of snow showers, but that could change if the storm becomes more organized.

The leaves on the azalea by the front porch are encased in ice.

Fortunately for me, I don’t mind being snowbound. I have my spinning, knitting, and reading, not to mention hockey games to watch, all of which are indoor activities. I currently have only two active projects on the needles, a 22.5 Degrees scarf by Martina Behm, and a Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West.

22.5 Degrees in handspun BFL from Sunset Fibers in Blue Lagoon

22.5 Degrees in handspun Polwarth from Sunset Fibers in Blue Lagoon

DSC03991_2

Silky Boneyard Shawl in “So Sari” Loop Bullseye handspun

As you can see, both are being knitted it my handspun yarn. I decided that this year I would start using my handspun in earnest. I love knitting with handspun.

To see what other talented fiber artists are up to, check out Tami’s WIP Wednesdays.

What’s On My Needles

The Winter Olympic Games are fast approaching, which means the Ravellenic Games will soon begin, which means that I need to finish up all the projects I currently have on my needles, excluding those projects that are in long-term hibernation. Sorry, Stonington Shawl and St. Moritz sweater. You must remain in deep sleep for a while longer because I fell out of love with you. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but we knitters can be a fickle lot.

Anyway, once the Ravellenic Games begin, I need to be able to concentrate on my Ravellenic project. I mean, there may be prizes involved. PRIZES!!

So, just what IS on my needles? Well, I’ve been working on a Downtown Cowl (free Ravelry download) using my very own handspun yarn

Vintage Roses Downtown Cowl in the midst of casting off

The knitting is done, but the casting off is still in progress. I’m using EZ’s sewn cast off, which is super easy to do, but because there are about a million stitches to cast off, it is taking forever. I cannot stand to cast off more than a couple dozen stitches at a time, then I have to set the cowl aside for a while. It’s like eating an elephant–you do it one bite at a time. 🙂

This pattern is very easy and makes great hockey knitting. I enjoyed every part of knitting it except casting off. If I had it to do over again, I would use the traditional cast off where you knit a stitch and pass the previous stitch over it, but I thought the stretchier edge of the sewn cast off would be better. Well, it’s only better if it actually gets done, and even then, it’s only marginally better. Live and learn. I’m so used to using the sewn cast off on socks where there are only 72 stitches to cast off that I just didn’t think about how tedious it would be to cast off 350 stitches that way. One. Bite. At. A. Time.

Speaking of cowls and handspun, I cast on another infinity scarf using the Graham-finity pattern by Carol Quilici, another free Ravelry download.

My Fancy Pants Infinity scarf is under way.

The yarn is spun from fiber I “won” during the Tour de Fleece last July. It’s a 50/50 Merino/Silk from Woolgatherings’ Fancy Pants fiber club, and I had a blast spinning it. I think this pattern is perfect for the color changes, texture, and barber-poling of this handspun. The yarn is so soft and silky, it will feel heavenly around the wearer’s neck.

I started Fancy Pants on my Denise Interchangeable needles, and after knitting six or seven rounds, I managed to break the cable by snapping the plastic part that locks into the needle off the part that is inside the cable. I am hard on interchangeable needles, I guess. Anyway, I don’t have any fixed circulars in the size I need (5 mm), so I got out the Boye interchangeables. They are working quite nicely. The yarn moves over the join smoothly and easily, but I really don’t enjoy the stiff cable. I guess it’s time to buy some more circular needles in some larger sizes. I’ve given up on interchangeables. They just don’t like me. 😦

But as much as interchangeable needles and I don’t get along, DPNs are my bestest friends. I have started a lovely pair of fingerless mitts, yet another free Ravelry download, using stash yarn that is left over from a sweater I knitted many years ago.

My Lush Fingerless Mitts are not very far along.

I don’t think this yarn is even available any more. It’s Emerald Aran wool from the Blarney Woollen Mills in Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland. I bought it on-line as a kit that contained the wool, a pattern for 3 different Aran sweaters, and knitting needles. I knitted one of the sweaters, this beautiful Aran lumber (which folks in the US would call a cardigan) with raglan sleeves,

I knitted the lovely Aran sweater on the right years ago.

I knitted the lovely Aran sweater on the right years ago.

for my older sister in the smallest size, so I had quite a bit of the wool left, 5 or 6 50g-balls at least. I can knit lots of fingerless mitts with the yarn left over from this sweater. 🙂

The cable and lace pattern used for the Lush mitts is very simple and easy to memorize. It took me about three seconds to know the pattern by heart. I haven’t assigned these mitts a recipient yet. They might be keepers. They will tell me where they belong when they are finished. Yes, my knitting speaks to me. 🙂

Yarn Cakes

Lately I’ve been knitting nothing but fingerless mitts. I love knitting fingerless mitts and plan to continue knitting them for the foreseeable future. But my handspun is calling to me. So I got my wooden swift out of the closet,

Wooden swift, ready for action!

Wooden swift, ready for action!

 

and pulled the “mashed potato” stool into place.

My ball winder is at home atop the "mashed potato" stool.

My ball winder is at home atop the “mashed potato” stool.

This wooden step stool belonged to my MIL. She kept it in the kitchen behind the door that led to a small hallway to the back door. Her house was old and so was her kitchen. There wasn’t a lot of counter space, so when she made mashed potatoes, she pulled this stool out and sat the hot pan of potatoes on the top of the stool while she mashed them. I never saw her use the stool for anything except mashing potatoes, so I have always called it the mashed potato stool. The stool now sits in my dining room/office next to my computer desk and is the permanent home of my ball winder. My MIL would be pleased to know her mashed potato stool is now an integral part of my yarn-winding “station.” 🙂

After getting the swift set up and the ball winder in place, I wound some of my handspun yarn into yarn cakes.

A basket of yarn cakes. Yum!

A basket of yarn cakes. Yum!

Each yarn now has a designated knitting project assigned to it.

Roses in Her Eyes, a 2-ply spun from a batt from Bohoknitterchic,

Yarn cake on a plate

is designated to become a pair of fingerless mitts. I haven’t decided for certain, but I’ll probably use a simple 2 x 1 or 3 x 1 ribbing and keep it very plain so that the beauty of the yarn will shine through.  The yarn has a lot of shine, sparkle, color, and texture. It’s a bit thick and thin, and a little slubby, so I plan to keep it simple. I hope it’s as much fun to knit as it was to spin.

Vintage Roses from Corgi Hill Farm will become a Downtown Cowl.

A Polwarth and silk blend

And finally, the pièce de résistance is this beautiful monochrome gradient from Spinneretta’s Studio

A lovely monochrome gradient of Polwarth top

that I spun and chain-plied to get a beautiful skein

Just look at the beautiful color transitions

that is now this beautiful yarn cake.

So lovely all wound up

This yarn needs a pattern that is suitable for a gradient yarn, and I think The Age of Steam and Brass is perfect.

I haven’t decided which handspun project to cast on first, but in the meanwhile, I will finish Anne’s Little Twist Mitts

Mitt #2 is well underway.

and probably cast on yet another pair of fingerless mitts. They are so quick and easy, and very satisfying to knit. And even better, they are wonderful to wear. If you’ve never worn a pair, give them a try. I think you will love them as much as I do. And if you have never knitted a pair… Do. It. NOW.

And be sure to visit Tami’s WIP Wednesday to see lots of other hand-crafted goodies.

 

FO Friday–A Clapotis Is Born!

I don’t normally do viral knitting. For those of you who aren’t knitters, or those who are but aren’t on Ravelry, when a particular pattern becomes super popular on Ravelry and it seems that everyone and his mother is knitting it, it is said to have gone viral, hence “viral knitting.” Knitting what everyone else is knitting really isn’t my thing, but when a pattern becomes very popular, there is usually good reason for it. A few years ago, when the Clapotis became THE thing to knit, I passed on it because after looking at the pattern in Knitty, I thought it was about the ugliest piece of knitting I had ever seen. I couldn’t even begin to understand why it was so popular. I explained all this in an earlier post.

But sometimes things change. After finishing spinning and plying the BFL in Cool Madras that I bought from Corgi Hill Farm, I just knew the yarn wanted to be a scarf of some sort. Clapotis came to mind, and I looked through project pictures on Ravelry and realized that it is actually a lovely design and that it would be perfect for my Cool Madras yarn. And, voilà! A Clapotis is born.

A Clapotis bun

Clapotis partially blocked

Clapotis on the blocking boards

The pattern is super easy and fun to knit, and when it is blocked, it looks really good. I don’t know whether I’ll ever knit another Clapotis. Knitting scarves is not my favorite thing. But I’m really happy I gave Clapotis a try. It’s just what the doctor ordered for my beautiful Cool Madras handspun.

WIP Wednesday

Yes. WIP Wednesday is here again, and I have a lot to share with you.

As you know from reading my previous blog entry, I finally started a knitting project using some of my handspun yarn. The lovely 2-ply fingering weight yarn I spun from a 5-oz braid of BFL in the Cool Madras color way from Corgi Hill Farm is on its way to becoming a Clapotis scarf. It is knitting up very nicely, but it is quite misshapen and the sides want to curl up.

Cool Madras Clapotis Scarf in progress

As is, it looks pretty yucky. I wanted to see what the scarf would look like after blocking. Why do all that knitting only to end up with something that resembles yarn vomit? After all, the reason I didn’t jump on the Clapotis bandwagon back when every other knitter did is that the Clapotis pictured with the pattern in Knitty looks like hell. It’s just about the ugliest piece of knitting I’ve ever seen. It rivals the socks I knitted from Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Rainbow colorway, although I don’t think there is anything uglier than Lorna’s Laces Rainbow colorway knitted up into socks.

Ugly socks from Lorna’s Laces Rainbow, perhaps the ugliest sock colorway in existence.

Just in case you think it’s a fluke and only my socks in the Rainbow colorway are super ugly, take a look at this picture of socks knitted in this colorway for Arlo Guthrie. Or this picture (and these are the best looking Rainbow socks I can find). The yarn is gorgeous in the skein, but like so many Lorna’s Laces colorways, it knits up ugly.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the topic at hand, Clapotis. I really didn’t understand why any knitter would be all hot to trot to knit a Clapotis since the one pictured in the pattern is fugly beyond words. But thanks to the magic that is Ravelry, I was able to view Clapotis after Clapotis knitted in lovely yarns and properly dressed. It’s really a very lovely pattern, and once you get started, it’s pretty mindless knitting without being totally boring.

I wanted to be absolutely certain that my Clapotis scarf would look good when it’s finished, so I did the only thing I could possibly do to put an end to my doubts. I  put the live stitches on a holder, gave the scarf a good soaking, then pinned it out to dry.

Clapotis wet-blocked

The scarf looked really good pinned out. So far so good, but  will the scarf curl up once I remove the pins?

Clapotis unpinned after blocking

NO! It stayed flat. Yay!

Next step: What will happen if I pick it up?

Just look at how nicely it drapes.

Well, it has a lovely shape and beautiful drape, and the yarn is deliciously soft.

I love the effect of the diagonal stripes of the dropped stitches going in the opposite direction of the diagonal stripes of the colors.

I cannot help but get tickled pink when I am knitting along on this scarf and realize that I made the yarn myself. Knitting with your own handspun yarn is a kick! 🙂

I could stop right here. A Clapotis scarf in gorgeous handspun BFL is hard to top. But I have another project OTN to share, and it’s very striking, too. It is just a plain vanilla sock toe that is destined to become my very first knee sock, but just look at the color!

Plain vanilla toe-up knee sock in progress

The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll fingering weight in Blue Yonder Tonal. I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful blue yarn. It’s perfect for a plain vanilla sock because the color speaks for itself. And plain vanilla is perfect for this project because I can work the calf increases without having to figure out how to work the stitch pattern into the increases. When trying something new in knitting, it is usually better to start out simple, at least for me it is.

Both of these projects are intended for the boy’s sock-worthy GF. The knee socks are actually a special request from her, and there is little that knitters love more than knitting something for someone who specifically asks for it and really appreciates the time and effort that goes into creating a custom, hand-knit garment.

So far we have a scarf in progress and a knee sock in progress. How could our day get any better? Well, let’s add a spinning WIP. I’ve been working away on one of the braids of BFL/Sparkle that I bought from Woolgatherings.

Can you see the sparkle in this yarn?

I’m spinning this top very thin and plan to try my hand at making a 3-ply fingering weight yarn. I might end up chain-plying it instead. The way I’m spinning the fiber creates very long color repeats, so chain-plying would definitely give me a self-striping yarn. But even if I ply three singles together, the colors should stay separate for the most part because I simply divided the braid into thirds lengthwise, so the colors should match up pretty well with only small sections of barber pole. I’m thinking that a true 3-ply would be better for sock yarn than chain ply, but I’m such a newbie when it comes to spinning and knitting with handspun that I really don’t know whether it makes any difference.

So there you have it–three WIP. Three? Only three? Must. Cast. On. 🙂

No More Tears?

After bitching to high heaven last week about how boring scarves are to knit, and how bored I was with the Blue Teardrops Scarf, the knitting deities restored my beaded lace scarf mojo, and I have been knitting away most happily on Blue Teardrops while watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. I have made so much progress on the scarf that I have only one repeat left to do before doing the happy dance.

Blue Teardrops Scarf

Blue Teardrops Scarf nearing completion

 

I have to add that  I did the happy dance when the New Jersey Devils, having opened a big can of whoop-ass following their loss to the F%^ers in the first game of round 2, won 4 straight games to knock the detestable and detested F%^ers out of the hunt for The Cup. Oh, and they did it in Philly, which was the icing on the cake. Bye-bye, F%^ers! Don’t let the door knob…

A WIP

More alphabet soup, this time a WIP, a Work In Progress, the Blue Teardrops Beaded Scarf. I included a 12-inch ruler in the picture so that you can see how far I’ve progressed, and how far I have to go.

Blue Teardrops Beaded Scarf in progress

Blue Teardrops Beaded Scarf in progress

The yarn is Jaggerspun Zephyr laceweight, a wool/silk blend; the beads are Miyuki 8/0 round seed beads in silver lined sapphire; the pattern is Jackie E-S’s Beaded Lace Scarf.

Scarves Are Boring!

I don’t knit a lot of scarves. I know that scarves are popular; I know a lot of knitters enjoy making them; I know most women, and a lot of men, enjoy wearing them. But I don’t knit many scarves because they bore me to tears. You have to knit the same thing over and over and over and over and… well you get the idea.

I realize that one can say the same thing about most knitted items, but knitting even a plain stocking stitch sweater includes shaping, necklines, cuffs, and such. The knitter can set goals, knit to landmarks. Even the never-ending sleeves include shaping that keeps you on your toes. Hats are such quick projects that they simply don’t last long enough to become boring. They are finished in the blink of an eye. Ditto for mittens. Even plain stocking stitch socks hold one’s interest because there are heels to turn, toes to make, cuffs to rib.

But scarves? There’s no shaping; just a lot of knitting and turning. Even when a scarf includes an interesting lace pattern, even when beads are added, or color work is used, or a ribbed section is made to go around the neck, scarves nearly always bore me. I reach a point on a scarf where I am just sick to death of it because it’s so freaking tedious. Scarves often take a lot of time to knit, and in the end, all you have to show for your work is, well, a scarf.

But regardless of the tedium, I chose of my own volition, without any coercion whatsoever, to knit a couple of scarves for Comfort Scarves-Southwestern Pennsylvania. When knitting for charity, it is usually best to use yarn that is machine washable, and that means using acrylic or cotton, both of which I hate knitting with because they are so ungiving, or using superwash wool, which is slick and slimy when wet (and sometimes the item grows a lot when it is wet) and which I avoid  like the plague, with the exception of sock yarn. (The addition of nylon seems to counteract the tendency of superwash wool to stretch and to minimize the slime factor.)

For the Comfort Scarves scarves, I decided to use some old Lion Brand Jiffy, a fuzzy acrylic yarn, that I have had in my stash for at least 15 years, and some cotton sock yarn from my stash that would never, ever under any circumstances become socks.

I knew the Jiffy, being a bulky-weight yarn, would knit up quickly, especially since I was limiting the length of the scarf to 65 inches.

Pink Lacy Rib Scarf

And I knew the sock yarn would knit up quickly because I was using a dropped-stitch pattern.

Dropped Stitch Beaded Scarf

It was imperative that the scarves be quick knits. Otherwise, I would have totally lost interest and never completed them. LOL

I’m pleased with the results, but I cannot say that I really enjoyed knitting either one of these scarves. However, they were both mindless knitting, which is just what I needed while watching my beloved Penguins lose in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Grrrrr.

A little digression here. Acrylic is, as I said, an ungiving yarn. One of the advantages of acrylic is that it keeps its shape. It doesn’t stretch out in the wearing or in the washing. But that can also be a disadvantage. With wool, you can change the size and shape of a garment when it is wet, and the wool will dry to that size and shape and retain that size and shape until the next time it is washed. With acrylic, even if you stretch it out when it is wet and keep it stretched until it dries, once you release it, the item will go back to its original shape. If you want to change the shape of a garment knitted in acrylic, you have to set the shape with heat, a process commonly know among knitters as “killing” the acrylic. “Killing” is permanent, and it changes the drape and feel of the yarn. It is also risky because too much heat will melt the acrylic, which is a plastic, and make it feel like Easter basket grass. But when you knit lace with acrylic yarn and you want the lace to open up, “killing” may be necessary, and it has the added advantage of making the item very limp–at least this is an advantage if the item is a lace scarf that you want to drape softly.

You can see the difference in the lace pattern before and after “killing.”

Pink Lacy Rib Scarf before "killling"

Pink Lacy Rib Scarf after "killing"

(The first picture is pretty true to the actual color of the scarf.)

End of digression.

If you use the right yarn (bulky) or the right pattern (dropped stitch), and make the scarf short (but not versatile), knitting a scarf can be quick and tolerable. But knitting a scarf in a beaded lace pattern in lace-weight yarn to a length that will make the scarf a versatile garment is never quick. And the scarf usually becomes a total drag for me before it is even half-way done.

Once time I did knit a lace scarf that I enjoyed knitting start to finish–Fuzzy Pink Elegance Scarf. But that scarf is the exception that proves the rule. Even when knitting a really interesting and well-designed pattern like Jackie E-S’s Beaded Lace Scarf, I got bored before I was half-way through and now I have to employ Premack’s Principle, which can be summed up as “business before pleasure.” I force myself to complete one pattern repeat before I can work on knitting that is more interesting, fun, and pleasurable. And I have to finish the scarf before I can start any new project except socks or a hat. I keep working on the scarf because the pattern is gorgeous, and I know I will love the finished object. But I’m no longer lovin’ the knitting. Sigh.

For reasons I cannot explain, I rarely get bored with lace shawls, even when the edging, whether knitted first or last, seems to take forever. Maybe the reason is that lace shawls almost always change shape. You see them grow or shrink, you change from knitting a center to knitting a border, you work an edging. Even rectangular shawls can be interesting. The lace pattern is always changing, and it’s fun to watch each pattern develop, take shape, become recognizable. I have a pattern for a lace scarf that uses a variety of lace patterns, and I keep telling myself that it would be really interesting to knit. But I know I’m deluding myself. It is a scarf, and it will start out great, but by the half-way point, it will be b-o-r-i-n-g. But it is a lovely scarf, so I know that one day, against my better judgment, I will cast on with great enthusiasm, only to find myself falling back on Mr. Premack and his Principle. But I won’t be knitting any more scarves for a good long while because as soon as I finish Blue Teardrops, I’m going to treat myself to knitting a lace shawl, The Spider Queen.