Nuts To Knots

So, I started a pair of socks in Regia Design Line by Kaffe Fassett, which is a self-striping yarn. The yarn comes in 50g balls, and I wanted the socks to be identical twins, so I was very careful to begin sock #1 at the very start of a color change so that it would be simple to start sock #2 at the exact same place in the color sequence.

I decided on plain 2 x 2 rib socks because–self-striping yarn! Duh! I cast on and had knitted about two inches of the leg, and there it was. A big, old, ugly knot in the yarn. Knots are a fact of life in knitting. Normally they aren’t that big a deal. But this is self-striping yarn, and I’m planning to make the socks match, so this knot definitely throws a spanner in the works.

For the uninitiated, self-striping sock yarn is dyed in such a way that the different colors form stripes as you knit without the knitter having to change to a different yarn of a different color each time and having all those god-awful ends to weave in. When a knot appears, that means the color sequence will be thrown off, and maybe even reversed. If you aren’t going for totally symmetrical socks–and fraternal twins have many charms, I must say–a knot in the yarn isn’t a big deal. But when you want the socks to look the same, it’s a cosmic shake-up.

Fortunately, the knot appeared pretty early in the ball, so I just ripped out what I had knitted to the knot, found the beginning of the next complete color, and started over. I found the joy, for sure. It was smooth sailing all the way to the tip of the toe. No more knots in ball number one. YAY!

Regia Striped Rib Socks sock #1

Regia Striped Rib Socks sock #1

I pulled out the second ball of yarn, found the beginning of the appropriate color repeat, and cast on the second sock. As I knitted on the second sock, I was feeling pretty good because my socks were matching up perfectly. I was knitting along happily, and maybe a little smugly, and had completed about two inches of the leg when–What’s this! Oh, NO! I can’t believe it. Another freaking knot. The knitting gods were definitely not smiling on me.

I had no choice but to take what I had knitted so far off the needles and start all over again. After finding just the right spot in the yarn, I cast on again and started knitting. Thankfully, ball number two had no more knots, either.

Sock #2 is nearly completed.

Sock #2 is nearly completed.

Look at how well the stripes match. :-)

Look at how well the stripes match. 🙂

I would be in my happy place right now if only my knotty story ended here. But, sadly, it continues. This past weekend was my son’s wedding.

My DS and my DIL saying I do!

My DS and my DIL saying I do!

As you know, my son’s GF is most knit-worthy, having received from me numerous hand-knitted socks, a scarf, fingerless mitts, three sweaters, and a lace shawl. I’m very happy to say that she is now officially, legally my DIL. The nuptials were in Pittsburgh, and that meant over 6 hours total on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and that meant I needed a take-along knitting project. The Regia Striped Rib socks were not the optimal choice because they are on double-pointed needles.

I don’t know about you, but when I knit on DPNs in the car, I always, without fail, drop a needle. Not. Good. For car knitting, I much prefer circular knitting because when I drop a needle, it doesn’t go anywhere because it’s, um, attached. Nearly klutz-proof. So shortly before we left for the ‘Burgh, I grabbed a ball of sock yarn and a couple of Ciao Goo lace circulars. I thought I would do two circulars, but I ended up doing magic loop. I have a history of hating magic loop for socks, but I think I’m now in love. Magic Loop works really well with Ciao Goo needles.

At this point, your eyes have probably rolled back into your head, and you are saying to yourself–I thought she was going to tell us more about knots in her yarn. Instead she’s rambling on and on about highways and Magic Loop. Get to the point, already! You do have a point, don’t you?

Fair enough. Here’s my point. DH is driving west on the PA Tpk, and I’m in the passenger seat knitting away on a pair of 2 x 2 rib socks in a really funky Opal color way. I’ve completed nearly two inches of the leg when, there it is. A knot. What’s up with all these knots in my sock yarn?!?!?!?!? At least I didn’t have to worry about this knot disrupting the color pattern on my sock because this yarn knits up to look like bird shit on a blue rug clouds in a blue sky.

The leg unstretched

The leg unstretched

The leg stretched on the sock blocker

The leg stretched on the sock blocker

Hey! I managed to post a couple of WIP for WIP Wednesday! Check out Tami’s blog for more WIP.

 

Abria

Happy WIP Wednesday, everyone! I have progress to report today.

I’ve been working for a few hours every night on the Abria Cardigan. During the hockey game on Monday night–game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, which the Kings won to take a 3-0 lead over the Rangers in the series–I finished the first sleeve and got started on the second sleeve. And last night (Tuesday) I worked on the second sleeve while streaming a movie on my computer. I have exactly 26 rows left to knit before the final binding off.

The second sleeve is well on its way via Magic Loop.

The second sleeve is well on its way via Magic Loop.

Unless the knitting gods decided to take vengeance on me, I will get the rest of the sleeve done tonight during the hockey game, and thats a good thing because tonight could very well be the last hockey game of the season. Who knows whether the Rangers will be able to muster enough gumption to take a game from the Kings. They have been playing hard, but have little to show for it.

Anyway, after the second sleeve is young off, all that will be left to do is weave in ends and block the sweater. I love sweaters that are knitted in one piece. 🙂 Bonne Marie Burns of Chic Knits, who designed Abria, is currently working on a long version of the cardigan, and as soon as the pattern is available, I will be knitting one for me. Yep, I love this pattern that much.

 

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Here’s some knitting for this wonderful WIP Wednesday. A little while back, I received a message in my e-mail from Chic Knits announcing a new pattern by Bonne Marie Burns called Abria. Bonne Marie is one of my very favorite designers. She designed the incredibly gorgeous Cassidy sweater that I knitted last year.

Anyway, when I opened the e-mail from Chic Knits, I took one look at Abria…

A picture of the first page of my working copy of the pattern

A picture of the first page of my working copy of the pattern

and thought, Oh! That is a beautiful little sweater. Wouldn’t it look lovely on my soon-to-be-DIL? So, I sent her a link to the pattern, and I sent her a link to the yarn. I asked her if she would like a sweater in this pattern and if so, which color? Her answer was a resounding YES!, and she chose a gorgeous color that will look fabulous on her.

Here’s what I have to show you so far.

This picture is pretty close to the actually color of the yarn.

This picture is pretty close to the actually color of the yarn.

The yarn is Classic Elite Firefly in the color Thistle. It’s a lovely slightly reddish light purple. The sheen is mostly an artifact of the flash when I took the picture; in real live, the yarn doesn’t have quite that much sheen. It is 75% vicose (think Rayon) and 25% linen.

This yarn is surprisingly lovely to knit with. It is softer off the ball than pure linen yarn, and it knits a little closer to it’s blocked gauge than pure linen. When it’s washed, it gets even softer, and the viscose has a beautiful sheen, and the drape is soft. This will be a great three-seasons sweater, a light-weight, little cardigan that can be thrown on over a sundress, tank top, or T-shirt to dress up an outfit or to take the chill off a cool summer evening or crisp spring or autumn morning.

I love the design of this sweater. It is knit in one piece–Let’s hear it for no seaming!– and has lots of shaping to keep it looking tailored and some lace to add a feminine touch. The shaping is done mostly with the standard k2tog and ssk, and some of the shaping becomes a visible design feature. There are also some well-placed short rows that add a little length to the fronts. It is a clever design that is very easy to knit, although I would definitely not recommend it for a novice knitter.

Front view of my Abria. The color isn't even close in this picture.

Front view of my Abria. The color isn’t even close in this picture.

A view of the back of my Abria. The color is a little closer to reality, but not quite there.

A view of the back of my Abria. The color is a little closer to reality, but not quite there.

I have 19 more rows to knit on the body, then four rows of hem ribbing and the body will be done. The sleeves should go pretty quickly because they are not-quite three-quarter sleeves.But, of course, sleeves always take longer than you think, am I right?

I should have this sweater done before the next Stanley Cup champion is crowned. Who will it be? The Kings or the Rangers? Your guess is as good as mine, but if I were a betting person, my money would be on the Kings. Henrik Lundqvist is an extraordinary goal tender, and the Rangers are sizzling hot right now, so I definitely wouldn’t rule them out. But the Kings had to win a game seven in every round, so I think they just have the determination and grit it takes to win.

 

Please Come Back!

I am pleading with you, Knitting Mojo, please, please, please come back. I don’t know where you are, or why you left. I’m sorry if I did something to offend or hurt you. Please forgive me. I just want you to come back. Soon. Please?

Yes, I’ve lost my knitting mojo. It happens to most knitters from time to time. It isn’t that I haven’t been knitting at all. I’ve been working on three projects.

Tofutsies Brickless, Field of Dreams Swiffer Cover, and Syncopated Alpaca Socks

Tofutsies Brickless, Field of Dreams Swiffer Cover, and Syncopated Alpaca Socks

But none of these projects makes my heart sing.

Brickless is a lovely Martina Behm pattern that would be great fun to knit if only I were knitting it in a yarn that isn’t ugly and splitty and just horrible.

Brickless in Tofutsies yarn is nearly finished, but I hate the yarn.

Why didn’t I destash this yarn and send it to a good home where it will be loved? I guess I thought it would make a nice scarf, seeing as how it’s floppy and drapey. But I forgot about the ugly part. It looks like technicolor puke. I don’t know why I thought that knitting this yarn up might make it look prettier tolerable. Nothing can make this color way tolerable.

There’s a part of me that says, Just throw the whole thing in the trash and be done with it.

Then there’s the part of me that says, You’ve gone this far, see it through to the end. Maybe after it’s blocked, you will love it. (To which I say, Fat chance!)

My version of Mary Henninger’s Syncopation Socks is pleasant enough to knit.

The leg of the first sock is nearly finished.

The yarn, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, is yummy, the color way is fine, but it’s just, I don’t know, uninteresting? I know the finished socks will be wonderful, but I’m more of a process knitter than a project knitter. It’s the knitting I enjoy, far more than the wearing. And this project just isn’t very exciting to work on.

The most enjoyable project I’m currently working on is–hold on to your hats!–a cotton Swiffer cover.

I actually finished knitting this Swiffer cover last night, but I’m too lazy to take another picture. 🙂

You, dear reader, know that knitting with cotton isn’t my favorite thing to do. Yet I am finding this pattern for Swiffer covers to be pretty enjoyable to knit. The pattern has enough variation to keep it from getting boring, yet is simple enough that the directions are quickly memorized. I don’t have to pay much attention to my knitting, so this is a great project for playoff hockey knitting. And I bought enough Sugar’n Cream to knit a bazillion of these things, and maybe some dishcloths, too.

I know I’m just marking time, waiting for my knitting mojo to return. Once she’s back, I’ll be inspired to choose a sweater or lace shawl to knit. I’ve already been stalking patterns on Ravelry, so I’m pretty sure K. M. is in the neighborhood. I expect her to ring the doorbell any moment.

Happy WIP Wednesday!

 

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.

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.

 

Cassidy Continues

There have been moments when I just wanted to chuck Cassidy into the wheelie bin. She started out smoothly enough, but then there was that whole sleeve debacle in which I knitted three sleeves and ripped back and reknit one of them a couple of times. Then, after finishing the sleeves and having two of the three be the same size, I sewed them into the sweater and sewed up the side seams.

At that point I realized that, although I had measured carefully (or so I thought) while knitting the sleeves, the sleeves must have had a mind of their own because they were in fact about 2.5 inches too long.

My original plan was to simply snip of the bottom of the cuff, pick out the stitches, and finish with a sewn cast-off. But after a little thought, I nixed this idea because the ribbing on the cuff matches the ribbing on the bottom of the sweater, and I didn’t want to screw up the look because the design of Cassidy is pretty much perfect from a design standpoint.

So I bit the bullet and removed the sleeves from the armhole. Then I undid about 3/4s of the sleeve seaming, ripped back the sleeve cap and a couple of inches of the sleeve, then redid the sleeve decreases. Then I sewed the sleeves back in. Of course, I also had to undo about 3/4s of the side seems, too, so that I could easily sew the sleeve cap into the armhole. It was a lot of work, but it kept the design intact, and the end result is that the sleeves are now the perfect length. I know this because I was able to try the sweater on Emily last Thursday.

Since then, I have finished the hood, which was an adventure unto itself, completed the left button band, determined the button placement, and started the right button band.

Electric Blue Cassidy nearing completion

Electric Blue Cassidy nearing completion

The hood gave me fits. It’s mostly a straightforward  knit, but one part is tricky. Hoods are formed by knitting a rectangle, then folding it along one long edge and sewing it together. The other long edge is attached to the body of the hoodie.

On this sweater, the center cable panel is continued from the back of the sweater up the middle of the hood, so when you have knitted the hood to a certain length, you bind off all the plain knit stitches on each side of the hood and continue knitting just the center panel. When the center panel is long enough, you bind it off and then sew the plain-knitted edges to either side of the center panel. The trick is getting the center panel the proper length so that when you sew the sides to the center panel, the hood doesn’t pucker.

I ended up doing a lot of knitting, sewing, picking out seams, knitting some more, sewing some more, picking some more, cussing a lot, threatening Cassidy with the wheelie bin, cussing some more, threatening Cassidy with replacing the hood with a crew neck, and finally finding a good ratio between the bound of stitches of the sides of the hood and the rows of center panel. The seam is neat on both the public side and private side, and there is no puckering whatsoever. Once again, there was a lot of aggravation and frustration, but it was worth it to get the final results.

Fortunately, the left button band went a lot more smoothly than the hood. The “polka pickup” (pick up 3 stitches, skip one, just like dancing a polka) worked really well. I ended up with too many stitches, but I just evenly decreased down to the correct number of stitches on the first row of the button band. There’s no puckering and no holes along the picked-up edge.

I repeated the process for the right button band and will knit it the same as the left only with the addition of the button holes.  I love the fact that Bonne Marie Burns knows how to place buttonholes on a knitted sweater. Hint: they do not go in the middle of the button band, but rather toward the sweater body. On an inch-and-a-half wide button band, the buttonholes go half-an-inch from the body edge of the button band. When the sweater is buttoned, the buttons will be in the middle of the button band and the two button bands will line up outside edge (on top) to inside edge (on the bottom). If the buttonholes are placed in the middle of the button band, the outside edge of the band on top will fall short of the inside edge of the band on the bottom and the button bands gap, pull out of shape, and look terrible.

Emily’s Electric Blue Cassidy will be finished in a few days, and I will be very happy to mark this project as finished on Ravelry. It’s not because I haven’t enjoyed knitting this sweater. I have. The design is brilliant, the directions are clear, there are no errors in the pattern, and the cables and shaping are fun and keep the project interesting. My only complaint with the design is that it is knitted in pieces, then seamed. I don’t like seaming and avoid it as much as possible. When I knit this sweater again (and I will probably knit one for myself someday, but as a cardigan, not a hoodie), I will knit it in one piece up to the armholes and knit the sleeves in the round. Then the only sewing I will have to do is setting in the sleeves and maybe the shoulder seams (unless I do a 3-needle bind-off, which is what I did for Emily’s Cassidy). Oh, yeah, and sewing on the buttons. 🙂

The other thing I would do differently is use a different yarn. I am knitting Cassidy with stash yarn, Québécoise from Schoolhouse Press. I’ve really grown to hate this yarn as I have knitted with it. It is very rough, although it does soften a bit when washed, and is suitable only for outer wear, for sure. I would not want this stuff against my skin. And it doesn’t hold up very well to being ripped out and reknitted, and when I was seaming the sweater, the yarn wore out from the abrasion and broke. I learned quickly to keep an eye on the length of yarn in my tapestry needle and to replace it when it started looking tatty. I’m really afraid this sweater is going to fuzz, pill, and otherwise look awful after only a few wearings. If Emily finds this sweater eminently wearable, I might have to knit her another one in a better quality yarn.

That’s it for today. I do have some other projects OTN and OTW, and I even have a FO, but I think this entry is borderline too long already, so I’ll shut my yap.

Please visit Tami’s WIP Wednesday to see what creative activities other folks are up to.