Monday, May 18, 2015

Tops Tanks And Tees Time

It's that time of Spring where knitters in, and around, the Very Shannon boards on Ravelry get together to knit some warm weather knits in the Tops, Tanks, and Tees Knitalong.

Some of us need encouragement to leave off the heavy sweater knitting and try cotton for the first time.  Others want to spice things up with silk or linen. Even more daring, to me, are the knitters contemplating summer dresses.  Then, some of just want to stick with our trusty wool, but end the sleeve at a three quarter length.

With my first project, above, I didn't have to alter a thing.  The Julep Jacket, by Katie Canavan, is both cropped and shorter-sleeved.  I have wanted to make this for quite a while, so I'm very excited to show you this sneak peek of the finished bottom band and button tab.  Now, I just need to get on that collar and block it all out.

This is my third TTTKAL to participate in.  I really love this group of knitters.  They always teach me something and encourage me when my projects come out too big or too small.  Now that I spend about half of my knitting time on summer weight knits, my favorites list explodes with all of their suggestions and finished objects.

This knit along has been one of my big motivators to try new fibers for summer.  Last year it was 100% linen for Hawt Sands.  Before that it was cotton blends with Lady Bat.  (I just realized both of those knits are from the same designer.)  But, the inspiration continues on through the summer, even after the KAL has ended.

My second project for this year's KAL will be Shannon, a tank top designed by Valentina Strokina during last year's TTTKAL.  I bought it, but just sort of sat on it for a while, until the warm weather came back around.

I'll be using Cotlin for this, a yarn I'm getting very used to working with.  As you can see I'm not finished with the bright blue-greens yet.  But after these two tops, it's all going to be neutrals for a while.

My new yarn to try this summer will be Lindy Chain, which I'm planning on using after these two tops, for Annie Claire's Morning Mist.  

It's really nice to knit up a design by a friend I've made on Ravelry.  Katie, Valentina, and Annie are all lovely knitters I've had the privilege of getting to know via the Very Shannon and Holla Knits forums and various KALs.  Want to be friends, too?  It's not too late to join in on the TTTKAL.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Good Memories

You know all those sock scrap memory blankets you see all over knitting sites?  You know how they take forever, but still considerably less time than a Beekeeper's Quilt?  Well, I finally had enough sock scraps to start one.  I realized mine would take even longer than the average knitter's because I haven't used fingering weight yarn as much as most.  

That's why I'm much further on my swatch blanket squares.  They are mostly knit in dk, worsted, and bulky.  It is a memory blanket too, incorporating details from the patterns they were taken from.  However, I am wanting to knit more accessories, shawls, and socks, and would like to put those little leftovers to a purpose.  It beats having them form a giant tangle in a bag under the bed.  It also beats having a week long seaming session since, unlike my swatch blanket, these squares are formed by picking up stitches from the previous square.  There are no seams, just two ends to weave in.

And that is the draw of the mitered square blanket: no seaming, just knit whatever, whenever you feel like it.  This can be a no- rules project that changes, in color families and fiber type, as your tastes change over the months.  

So, I used Sue Ann Kendall's free pattern to get started and size 3 needles.  You can see that my entire sock scrap collection, along with the beginnings of the blanket, fit into one small sized project bag. (Isn't the "Thank you for Being a Friend" bag from Nomadic Yarns the best?)

I was about four squares in when I received a surprise from the very sweet Andi of My Sister's Knitter.   Yes, those beautiful mini skeins up top were all gifted to me.   Beyond being full of beautiful colors, and yarns I'd never seen, it was a touching bit of encouragement on a bad day.

It arrived on a particularly difficult day for my grandparents and myself.  I was putting on a smiling face for my son, as I picked him up for school, but not really feeling it.  Then, he said something funny and I watched his lanky form lope out to the mailbox for me and couldn't help smiling.  He came back with a little manilla envelope full of these skeins and two comforting cups of tea.   My smile became a genuine, toothy grin.

It is so nice to be thought of.  Some people have the gift of encouragement.  Andi is one of those people.   If you've read her blog, you know that she is a good internet hostess, always interesting and interested in others.  She likes to get people together for the sake of togetherness, and I think that is an art that can easily be lost today.   Her place is a warm, inviting home where everyone is welcomed.

Now I have real decisions to make about what color to place where on my blanket.  The squares will no longer just be memories of a project I used the scraps for, but will now be memories of a friend's kindness to me.  It will remind me to be kind in unexpected ways, too.

(slow progress being made on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

I cannot wait for the day where I have some little mini skeins of my project leftovers to gift to someone else.  This has spurred me on to buying more fingering weight yarn recently than I normally would.  I want leftovers for my blanket and for others'.   First, I need to learn the trick to skeining up yarn so nicely.  

Check out Andi's Sock scrap blanket and her interview on Junkyarn about the memory blanket process.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Southern Lady's Sweater

When I talk about this cardigan I always want to put on an affectation of a southern lady's voice.  I am a southern lady, so this is very affected.  It just makes me think of Scarlet O 'Hara sipping a mint julep at a county picnic.

Anyway, this is the Julep Jacket by Katie Canavan, and it features a little bow tie stitch that is very conducive to knitting quickly.  I find myself hurrying to the row where you pick up your "bow ties."

I'm making the smallest size, and though my gauge seems perfect so far, I wouldn't mind if it grew a bit, since I'm not a size 32".

I love this Lake Chelan color from Cascade.  It is the most obvious combination of my two favorite colors- green and blue.

I am hoping to finish the body this weekend and only be left with sleeves and such next week when another Knitalong begins.  This one is the Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL with Very Shannon.  Technically, this jacket could qualify since it is a three quarter sleeve, but I tend to think of summer weight knits when I join the TTTKAL because I need a little encouragement to knit with yarn other than wool.  It is so very practical, but it just doesn't feel as natural to work with.  I hope you'll join us on the Very Shannon forum, where there is already a huge list of inspiring projects.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Twenty Ten

Twenty Ten kind of slipped under the blogging radar.  You may remember I began it on the way to Madtosh Fort Worth to see Veera Välimäki and Joji Locatelli.  That last sentence really threw off of all my non-knitting Texan relatives.  ("Ya'll are goin' to a what? To see a what and what?")  But I set it aside for two Knitalongs and only picked it back up last week.  

Tada!  This should be a must for every knitter.  First off, the construction is so different!  Diagonal fronts, bulky but short sleeved,  moss stitch and reverse stockinette?  Then, there's the fact that it only takes about a skein and a half of Cascade Eco yarn.  I happened to get mine on sale for less than $14 a skein.  That makes this a $21 sweater.  But, more than those reasons, it is just so cool looking.  

I am glad I chose this as my introduction to Veera's designs.   I am a sweater knitter at heart, so it was the perfect gateway pattern to her shawls.  Stripe Study is the shawl I'd like to do first, in Madelinetosh's 80/10/10 Fingering in Reindeer and Chicory color ways.  But I'm not finished with her sweaters.  At Madtosh Crafts, I was able to see and feel of her True Friend sample.  (I did a lot of staring and feeling.) Of course, I got some Tosh Merino Light in Esoteric and Antique Lace for it.

Details on Twenty Ten: I knit the size small with size 6 needles in Cascade Eco, as I mentioned.  There were no modifications at all for this.  I may have made it a tad longer than directed but I have a longer torso, so I don't think it even registers.  Mine took 11 cheap buttons from the craft store, too.  Would you believe I wove in ends and sewed on buttons all in the same day as my finishing the knitting?  I know, that is a first! 

My favorite things about this one, besides the interesting construction, are the two textured stitches sitting next to each other at the shoulder and the diagonal front.  And, oh my gosh, the little pocket!

One other post that includes this knit is here: One Thing at a Time

On a completely different subject, I am just now weeding my garden for summer.  I decided to just nurture the herbs, grapes, and Texas-hardy flowers I planted last year, instead of worrying about a dye garden.  Maybe next summer I'll get to that project.  

As you can see, it has loads of green, and some flowers starting to bloom, so I'm satisfied.  I even got an old school beach lounger to plant right in the center so I can hide and read all summer long. 

(It really isn't sweater weather, here.)

(My garden looks better than it should with surviving herbs and hardy plants from last summer.  )

(My husband, who once proclaimed, "I hate working in the garden!"  raised this bed of roses, Mexican Tulips, and Bridal Wreath for me while I weeded this weekend. )

I have a real sense of accomplishment this week with my garden weeded and almost all of my winter sweaters on or off of the needles.

So, on my crafting horizon is my easy stockinette project, Drift's Ridge, and I just began Julep Jacket.  I had hoped to include it in the Holla Knits KAL 2015, but having to do New Girl twice slowed me down.  After that, I will be officially caught up on all of the Holla Knits patterns I had queued... just in time for the summer issue.

I have lots of summer knits queued up and a stockpile of summer-weight yarn ready to go.  Have you guys already started knitting for summer, or are you trying to finish up all of the winter WIPs, like me?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wilco is 20, We're 21

Our marriage is 21, that is.  We celebrated it quietly by almost forgetting and remodeling our tiny kitchen.  It will now be a nicer looking, tiny kitchen.   But a couple of weeks later, we did sneak away for a day to see Wilco begin their 20th anniversary tour in Houston.

I never get my hopes up about stuff, just in case it falls through.  I make preliminary plans, then forget about it until the day comes.  However, I did prepare for this by listening to most of their albums every chance I got the last couple of months.  I let each one settle on me slowly, and on whoever rode in the car with me.  My son is officially sick of Wilco.

I needed to blow off all responsibility for a day and be like a carefree twenty-something again.  I went to lots of concerts when I was young, my first being The Jets.  Remember them?  I didn't think so. Look, in the sixth grade, a concert is a concert.  If you can watch more than 10 seconds of that link, bless your heart.   Maybe I will redeem my coolness by saying I also saw The Cure, 10,000 Maniacs (twice), and The Wallflowers in the 90's.   Or maybe I just dated myself.

Speaking of dating myself, In the nineties, I was also at the Duran Duran Dilate Your Mind tour.  Pre-teen me, with a Tiger Beat crush on Simon LeBon would have died.   My husband and I went to several concerts when we were dating: more Natalie Merchant, with a little Sarah Mclachlan and Tina Turner thrown in.  And just to make sure he didn't feel completely emasculated, Chris Isaac and Peter Gabriel (the best).   We saw Pink Floyd at Rice Stadium until it was rained out and we waded a mile to our car.  Cool, right?  I'm not even mentioning the cheesy Depeche Mode / Pink Floyd laser light show that was one of our first real dates.

Then we got married, started our family, and just didn't do that kind of thing.  We stayed home, played with babies, and camped on a shoestring budget.  It was a big deal for us to go out on my husband's birthday to see the first Lord of the Rings movie in the theatre, by ourselves.  Too bad a couple of kids cut in front of us in line and took the last two tickets in the house.

We have been to a few youth group concert events.  Those concerts were really great and very meaningful, David Crowder and Phil Whickam being my favorites, but those were planned by someone else.   We just fell into going by taking part in church events.

(more on flickr and instagram)

Last Thursday was our plan.  The Bayou Music Center is small.  It makes me think of a historic theatre in our county seat.  It was like being a kid again, wedged into a tiny theatre seat, between two big guys.

So, Wilco opened with Via Chicago.  My husband isn't as big a fan as me, and he was thinking, "They're opening with this?"  Where the album version has that slowed down, warped sound  throughout the song, they threw in crazy, high speed, metal drums for the concert.  It was pretty funny to watch the rest of the band continue singing and playing at the usual tempo with that going on in the background.  I think that engaged my husband.   "Warped sound"?  Obviously, I'm not a music critic; but if you've heard them, you know about all the discordant stuff they throw into their songs.

Here's the Setlist, if you're interested.  Highlights, for me were the opening and every song from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot because it is special to me, especially Kamera.  I loved hearing them play Secret of the Sea because it's a little obscure and the Mermaid Avenue projects were where I first heard about the band.  They carry a feeling of innocence that makes me think of my young family, whereas most of Wilco's stuff is... let's face it, Jeff Tweedy has got joyful melancholy down, folks.

A video posted by Michelle Carter (@michellecarte) on

(my blurry phone clip of Kamera.  This was a moment for me.)

Born Alone is another favorite they performed and the whole second encore was awesome.  For that, they moved to the front of the stage for acoustic versions of The Thanks I Get, Hoodoo Voodoo, and Shot in the Arm.

They sound every bit as good live as on the album, but there are things that I heard Thursday night that I hadn't noticed before- little things like a bass line that's not as prominent to my ears via cd, or a lilt in Jeff Tweedy's voice that I never noticed until I watched him sing it.  They weren't big things, just little things to make each song feel like a new experience.  Why have I waited so long to do this?

Want a taste of this concert?  This youtube channel has a few clips where you can hear the audience singing along and clapping, off-beat, along with a few of their tunes.  That's always nice.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Girl

I finished New Girl by Allyson Dykhuizen and I love it.   Sadly, it's too warm here for a wool skirt, but I am seriously considering knitting another in a cotton blend that is sweat lodge- friendly.

It is a fast knit for sport weight.  So fast that I knit it in a week, found it was too big, then re-knit it in another week.  I am sliding it in just before the Holla Knits KAL 2015 ends tomorrow.  Whew.

 A few weeks ago, I realized I don't really have many skirts, and none appropriate for winter.  This one is warm to begin with, but paired with leggings or tights, it would be perfect on chilly days.

Having said that, I'm really liking the way it looks with just a tank and Keds.  I really do need a summer version, huh?

Details:  I used sizes 3 and 4 needles and Patons Classic sport yarn in grey and sea green heathers.

After much trial and error, I decided to cast on only 132 stitches and then followed the pattern from there.

I knit the entire waistband and on the last row, folded it over the elastic and knit it closed, as I posted before. I really don't like seaming, if you didn't know.

I did add an inch in length and got a bit more length after blocking.

So, part of the reason it knit quickly may be the Patons sport wool seems a whoooole lot like their worsted.  Though I knit a swatch, I found my first skirt just relaxed so much, when off the needles, that I needed to recalculate my cast on stitches.  I think my mods would totally work for a worsted version.

Several of the knitters who have made this, have reduced the increases so it would not be quite so full.  I like that look, but I wanted the full-on vintage feel of a true circle skirt, so I followed the pattern's lead.  Others eliminated the pockets, but I'm not that different from a little kid.  I like having  "pocketies" for rocks and shiny things I might find.

Now, if I knit a summer weight version, I will probably try adding fewer increases, just for the fun of it.  But, first, I need to get some things out of my queue.

If you're wanting summer inspiration, besides this skirt, Allyson just had a feature in KnitScene's Summer issue, with several great knits to choose from.  I really, really like the Lake Superior Cardigan.

But the next design I try from Allyson should probably be one I already have yarn for.  Yeah, I have the stuff for the Bristlecone Pullover (in the best colors), a second Fire Opal Tee that is halfway finished, and a Work + Shelter Lace Striped Sweater.

Where would my knitting be without Allyson?  She's produced such a huge volume of work, I think I have knit a bazillion of her patterns.  Okay, maybe it's just 8 or so, but I've knit another 25 from Holla Knits.  This may be a fangirl moment.  Just picture me pushing my glasses up my nose as I say, "I'm your biggeth fan, Allython." with a lisp.

So, I'm not the only one finishing their project under the wire.  Check out the other great knits in this group, including a few more New Girls that are fantastic.

other New Girl posts:  planninglazy waistband, and color change

(more on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Thoughts on Little Red

You're looking at some of my swatches that I've been gathering for a swatch blanket inspired by Ysolda's crazy swatch jumble in the pages of Little Red in the City.

I'd read the beginning of Little Red in the City a couple of years ago when I first bought it.  But, my reading stalled out at the alteration math.  I hadn't modified my knits so much then, so I figured it was above my level and moved on to just look at the pretty pictures, I guess.

Reading it over the winter with the Canary Knits ravelry group's Knitting Read-a-Long, I realized I not only "get" it, I've done my own modifications that require at least as much junior high math.  So, I read through the entire book, then through the patterns and possible modifications.

Can I just say that Ysolda seems so approachable- her book, her sometimes silly pictures, her teaching style.  I can't get over her hand- drawn illustrations and text. It's like a friend sharing her Chem notes covered in doodles.

Only, this isn't really like Chemistry class.  The math is simple and supported by illustrations that  keep your brain focused so it doesn't all read like an adult speaking in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

Then there's the fact that both Ysolda and Amanda were a more realistic representation of how these sweaters would look on different bodies.  Before this book, I hadn't seen any publications include different sized models for the same designs.

A few tips stood out to me.  One was to make sure the fit through the shoulders was correct, then alter other elements around that.  I'd always gone by bust size, and it's mostly worked out for me, but I can see how this would provide a superior fit.  Though needing to add bust shaping has never been an issue for me, and I can't see that it ever will, I do appreciate understanding how to approach short row bust shaping.  Though it may not be a necessity, I may find that it compliments a design better than waist shaping.

It never occurred to me that it should be handled differently depending on whether you're knitting top-down or bottom-up.   There is no way I would've been able to guess that instinctively without trial and error.  She has saved us hours of needless ripping out.

There were two short row techniques I have yet to try, along with pointers on better hiding of turns.  Though I've done a one row buttonhole, I liked the illustrations here.  I will be using it as a quick reference next time I work those.

So, my overall impressions from reading this are that I could stand to take a little more time considering my upcoming sweater projects.  For instance, how is the fit in the shoulders?  Would bust shaping allow for more room in other areas, while getting the best fit in the shoulders?  How would shaping best be accomplished in the current stitch pattern?  Is there any other design element I might want to change?  I suppose it's about ownership.  It's my time, my project; I may as well own it.  I also realized how much I have grown as a knitter.  It all made sense this time.

Having actually read the book, I'm looking at the patterns differently.  There is much more to appreciate when you get a glimpse into the mind of the designer.  Ysolda does a good job of that by including possible modifications and a little write-up on each design's inspiration.

(Lauriel detail via Ravelry)

I hadn't seriously considered knitting Lauriel before because I didn't think it was my style; now, however, the gathered shaping looks really cute and like fun to work.  As with all of these patterns, it has a seriously feminine vibe.

The altered yoke sweater shape of Chickadee proves this by slimming down a classic sweater shape to better fit a woman's body.

(Chickadee image via Ravelry)

After having knit my own EZ percentage yoke sweater, I can attest to the troublesome, deep yoke and pouchy underarms of the typical yoke sweater.  I'd really like to try the partial raglan shaping used here and see how it compares in fit.

(Cria image via Ravelry)

I'd love a short-sleeved Cria because it incorporates two of my favorite things- garter stitch and picking up stitches for a seamless knit.  The inspiration on this top is really sweet, too.
Then there's Laika.

(Laika image via Ravelry)

It was the pattern I wanted most when I bought this book.  It's still my fave, with it's semi-raglan sleeves, faux seams, and double button placket, only now I get how innovative it is.

(my ravelry, kollabora, flickr, and instagram)