Monday, January 15, 2018

Marley and How I Conquered Brioche

I finished it, a giant shawl of just brioche stitch!  I feel like I could run a marathon, or try a back flip.  I will probably just waller a hole in the couch, watching a podcast and eating dark chocolate, but the point is I can do anything!

I've been needing to learn this for so long, but I always had something else that needed to be knit or I didn't have the brain space for new techniques.  This summer, I made the room for it and cast on my Marley, by Andrea Mowry.  Then I promptly forgot while working on the Summer Sweater Knit-along and had to re-learn it a few weeks ago.  Hopefully, I will keep it fresh on my mind for a while by knitting some other designs that incorporate the stitch pattern:  What the Fade, Exploration Station, etc.

I'd link you to the photo tutorial I used to get this straight, but it's long forgotten.  That's okay, I'm sure you have already mastered brioche by now.  I held out for a long time.

This is the squishiest.  I now totally see why every knitter is crazy over brioche.  I think I prefer the darker side of mine.  I love the simplicity of this shawl design, once you learn the stitch.  It's meditative and can look vibrant in high contrast colors or subtle in neutrals.  I am also crazy about the marled, garter border too.  It was the most satisfying way to finish an all-over brioche project.

I saved money by combining variegated, indie-dyed skeins with a more affordable tonal colorway.  The pinkish orange and black looked so good together, without being too Halloweeny.

Details:  I used sizes US 2.5 and 4 needles with 2 skeins of Gynx Yarns Strong Sock in Sunset and 2 skeins of Knit Picks Hawthorne in Blackbird.  I remember hearing that brioche can look sloppy if it stretches out too much with blocking, so I tried for a nice, tight tension to begin with.

I made note of a few things to keep in mind that helped me:

1) It helped me to remember which side of the shawl the increases were on- whether dark or light.

2) I kept track of my increase rows by counting the number of rows between the hole made by the last center increase to the point where I was about to make another center increase.  I kept in mind that there should only be four rows between the "holes".

3) All Sl1yo's begin to the front of the work, whether the stitch worked after it will be a p2tog or k2tog.  If it is a p2tog, then I must wrap my yarn from front to back, around the stitch to make the "shawl" around it.  Then, I p2tog.  So the trickiest part is to not forget to bring the stitch forward, no matter what, before a sl1yo.

Did you get that or did it just read like the sound made by a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System?   Don't worry, I've already forgotten what all of this means, too.

So, I saw Stacy of StressKnits' color combo for her What the Fade and fell in love with it.  But, there's no way I needed to buy 5 skeins of indie-dyed yarn to make one brioche shawl.  I did, however, already have one of the colorways she included, Sweet Disposition, and she was having a Black Friday sale, so I picked up I Smell Snow and My Jam.  I think I can fill in the color palette with some skeins already in my stash.  I am hopeful it will have the same calming vibe.

(more on ravelry, instagram, and flickr)

So that's one skill off of my To Do list.  I still have to steek, but that just doesn't sound as exciting as brioche, so.. meh, it will happen when it happens.

My other post on this knit is here.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Cobblestone Pullover- My Christmas Eve Cast Off

Literally.  I knew I would end up doing this.  I just knew, deep down, that no matter how much I budgeted my time and planned my holiday knitting, this would be a last-minute finish.  And it was.

But, friends, my son-in-law's Cobblestone Pullover is completed.  I enjoyed knitting it, or at least knowing who it was for.  I'd be lying if I said all of that stockinette and garter in-the-round was thrilling, because it wasn't, and striped Christmas socks were calling to me from a bag next to the couch the whole time.  I can say that it was satisfying to finish it and to make it for someone so knit-worthy!  Also, did I mention it was supposed to be one of his Christmas gifts last year?

Details:  I used Wool of The Andes Tweed in Reindeer Heather and US size 5 needles.  I think I used 12 balls of this yarn, including the bit of sleeves I had to cut off to re-knit in the correct length.
 I don't mean to complain about the WotA yarn.  I love this stuff, it was just a lot of brown stockinette- a color and stitch type I like to wear, but just get tired of knitting.

This pattern is from a decade-old 2007 Interweave magazine I have from my early knitting days when I bought every knitting magazine I was lucky enough to find at the bookstore. (I flipped through it on Vlogmas Day 20 to show that early 2000's style.)  Anyway, it is a Jared Flood pattern; my first, actually.  I have admired his designs, and those he curates, in his Brooklyn Tweed collections, but never made one.  So, that was a pleasant first.

This sweater was very simple construction, with sleeves joining the body, knit bottom-up, to finish the yoke.  I was just insecure about the sizing.  I've seen some on Ravelry that I thought were too fitted and I didn't think he would like that.  But as I knit it seemed like it would be too large.  I'm hoping I struck a good balance.  I had him try it on Christmas Day and it was clear that the sleeves were too long and maybe the body too.  I knew I could shorten the sleeves, but there was no way I'd get the bottom of the body re-knitted before they went home.  Also, I was kind of done with the sweater at that point.

Since the sleeves were a cast-on edge, I just cut the garter cuff off of each one and ripped back to the point the garter should begin.  I joined my abundant leftover yarn there and re-knit the sleeve cuffs.  I am so thankful I ordered extra yarn for this project!

I took an inch off of the sleeves and left the hem as is.  What do you guys think?  This is where I or my husband would want a sweater to hit us, so I'm hoping he enjoys the fit.  And I think he looks really cute in it :)

(all photos, except the ones with a doofy dog and yarn balls, by Julia Gros)

See more on Ravelry, Instagram, and Flickr

Another post on this knit is here.

I still have one more knit to re-do for someone.  The Ribbed Watchman's Hat turned out floppy and huge, so that will take a couple of evenings of watching Dark with my husband to finish.

More on my New Year Plans to come, but for now Happy New Year, friends!!!!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

So, I want to do a podcast...

... and who doesn't, at this point.  I wanted to do this a few years ago and even bought a bit of equipment that could double for photography and video use.  But, I didn't have the time or energy for anything new then.  It also seemed like everyone and their auntie was doing a knitting podcast and my sensibilities got a little saturated.  However, something has changed with my interest and the idea sounds appealing to me again.  Like when a joke is said so often that it gets old and is no longer funny but you keep hearing it and, maddening though it is, it eventually becomes funny again- maybe because it is so maddening.  That's not a very good illustration, but you get the point.  I mean, you do have your own podcast too, right?

So that spur-of-the-moment decision had me hovering over my computer for like four days straight.  Totally required a chiropractic visit.  The Mac was simply too old for my iMovie to work with Youtube and too old to support newer programs that would.  The good news is we were getting a new computer for Christmas.  The bad- that Vlogmas would be over when that got sorted out.  This left me with the choice to try vlogging via my phone, in short 15 bursts, or just give up on Vlogmas.  (Yes, the term Vlogmas alternately compels me and cheeses me out.)  The result is what you see here, a slightly blurry, but enjoyable experiment for my Christmas 2017.  Days 1-4:

I can see why so many people are making knitting podcasts.  My one hesitation is what does this offer me (or anyone) that the mediums I already use aren't covering.  I get that video allows for better show and tell, but I have a camera and the idea of not having to straighten up the living room for a short video sounds really easy.

I have struggled to find time for blogging over the last few years too, so why would I think I could do this any easier.  I mean, I realize this isn't a business venture.  It's not like it matters if I don't continue with it.  Knitters across the globe won't be spreading ashes across their faces and wailing.  But I don't want to set myself up for frustration.  I really missed taking photographs and blogging over the last couple of years.  It couldn't be helped, but this is the time when I can start back at it.  (I literally mean this week.  I am not a caregiver anymore.  My rush of obligations to my son's soccer fundraising and the initial training for a new volunteer position are over.)  I am thinking that a podcast might enhance the blog.

Then there's the "Everyone has a Podcast" Factor.  So?  I don't mind being lost in the sea of knitters on Youtube.  If only a few people see it and interact, then that's a few more people than I know in my everyday life that craft.  If no one watches, I still might like doing it once in awhile for the same reasons I have blogged all these years.  I like a visual record of things I have learned, created, or experienced.

It actually feels a little safer to be one of a billion knitting podcasters.  There also a tiny fear of being on camera for all the world to see.  I'm just being honest, here.  But, in the end, that's not a deal breaker because I don't have facade that could be shattered.  Sure, I still don't want the cluttered corners of my home on camera, but I am not pretending they aren't there.

Communication is my goal.  People are reading blogs less, I know I am, because we are so pressed for time; listening, while doing something else, is a simple solution.  I so want that routine to include keeping in touch with blogs, chatting about things that open my mind, and spurring more creative experiments.  If I completely change my mind after one more frustrating day sitting in front of my computer, then so be it.  It's mine to do whatever I want with and a month long record is better than no record of my life at the age of 43.

Monday, November 27, 2017

We Were Seeds

This one was an engaging knit, guys.  We Were Seeds follows seeds, that is seed stitch, through germination- there's lots of sprouting and climbing involved.   I've never knit a pattern that told a story.  Each stitch pattern is long enough to easily get the hang of, but changes before you can get tired of it.  That's so to an essential these days.  I couldn't put it down, except when I had to.

Some of the things I love about this shawl: It only takes one skein- perfect for all of those single skeins floating around!  It was also interesting the whole way through, as I mentioned above.  I also love the versatility.  It can be knit in multiple colors or in a solid and look great.  You can see examples on the pattern page.   I also really like how one end is squared and perfect for two tassels.  Just really cool.

This was knit for a friend who has been sick a lot this year with different nagging complaints that, though not all serious, have left her worn down.  She is also one of a very few people who notices handmade knitwear.  One Sunday, at church, she complimented my Waiting for Rain and I knew I wanted to make her something.  I thought it was safest to stick with a similarly colored scarf/ shawl, since it elicited feedback.  You see, there's no real knitting culture here.  I know many people who own nothing knitted, except tee shirt material.  Most people wouldn't even consider a sweater being handmade.  This is kind of off the subject but I did make a friend at BSF who not only knits but works at a our only local yarn store.  I thought the store had closed, so it was wonderful to meet her and know the shop is still going strong.  Could it be that I may actually find myself typing the much coveted term LYS?

Details: So, I used some Stroll Tonal yarn in Cordial and size US 4s to knit this up.  I used every single inch of this yarn, too.

Things went smoothly and I enjoyed this project thoroughly!  After binding off, I soaked the shawl in a bit of Soak with a teaspoon of vinegar because oh my gosh this yarn bleeds!  I was prepared for it because I know lots of reds do that.  It will still bleed, but I gave the new owner washing instructions and warned her so she won't throw another  hand washable knit into the sink with it.  It is highly unlikely that I know anyone in my personal life that hand washes knits, anyway.

With my remaining yarn ball, I wound a strand around the width of a dvd case about 25 times then cut this loop at each side of the case.  This became one of three tassels.  Here's a quick visual tutorial to show how to make one, if you don't already know.

I love Techknitter's tutorials because I hate waiting through four million "Ums and uhs" before a
Youtube video gets to the point.  I need economy of words, People!!  I am also a hypocrite.  Insert smiley face.

(more on ravelry, flickr, and instagram)

I have yarn for another Cassondra Rizzardi pattern- Equinox.  I love the idea of it and how hers is very obviously a forest silhouette.  This makes me think of driving through the Black Hills or of entering Yellowstone, before the traffic makes you feel like downtown Houston.

What are your favorite one skein projects?  And before you consider clicking away without commenting because I never seem to answer, let me say that I have had some unusual circumstances lately, but am making my way through comments, emails, letter writing, house cleaning, etc.  My one personal goal right now is to have time to communicate with my friends via the blog and ravelry and to do it much more.  I will respond because I love you guys!!

Friday, November 17, 2017

This Guy

I'm just going to get right to the point.  I am about to be an empty nester.  Remember that awful sit-com in the eighties- Empty Nest?  Well, my son is going to graduate this year and seems set on moving away from home to go to college.  And I'm fine with that.  Really, I am.

(images courtesy of Kreative Kamera)

I grieved for my babies when my daughter was about to graduate from high school.  I looked through photo albums and felt constant deja vu of times I had with them as little ones.  I had vivid dreams in which they were still carry-able.  I even breathed in the smell of their little wispy baby hairs, as I held them, in those dreams.  But I dealt with my longing and was able to feel excited and happy for her, and now him.  I have also designated his bedroom as the ultimate knitting/ sewing room when he leaves.

We are about to visit a campus he is interested in.  So a lot of thoughts have been swirling around in my head about my son.  I don't have them all organized and "Chicken Soup" sounding here, I'm just writing them as they come to me.

His birthday totally got hijacked by Hurricane Harvey.  Normally we would take him out to eat, just our little family, then have relatives over for cake on the weekend.  But this year, we had spent several days just sitting around our house staring at the weather channel, staring at each other, and staring at the floorboards, wondering when/if the flood waters would start gushing through.  (We live in an older home on piers.)  Having our cats stare at the floor, under which water was rushing, was extra unnerving.  I have a permanent image of my son sitting on the edge of his bed for a day or two just waiting with a look of dread on his face.  He knew we were not in danger of drowning, just the amount of work that would go into repairs and how it would upset our lives if we did flood.  He also knew it was happening, at that moment, to many of his friend's families.

Then, as the water receded, he started working crazy overtime hours at one of three grocery stores still open in our area.  We were stocked up on food, but we stood in line for 20 minutes just to get in and see him.  We also wanted to find some kind of meal worthy of celebrating his birthday at our home.  The only meat left was filet mignon, seriously.  We got that, potatoes, and the last box of strawberry cake mix.  We made it and celebrated all he added to our lives these 18 years.  His birthday was way low key- no relatives, no present even, since the mail had been stalled in Houston due to flooding.  But he was grateful, too.

Something has shifted over the years.  He was always really helpful as a kid.  He often sat with his grandfather when my grandmother had to be away or he would help me with projects around the house without complaining too much.  But in the last couple of years he has started approaching things more as a man and less as my boy.  He sees me about to lift a heavy plant and rushes to intercede, "You'll throw your back out again."  He eats fried eggs, with asparagus and braised brussel sprouts and declares it great!  He says something impatient to his sister, in a very brotherly tone, then apologizes not too long after.  He notices when a person is treated unjustly and it doesn't sit well with him.  He prays for guidance more and more, not just health for family members.  That's a big one to me.  Another big one, he is immersed in Southeast Texas culture all day at school, but he hasn't let the baser elements, like racism, polarizing politics shape his worldview.  I'm proud of this because I don't think he can truly indulge in the relationship with God that I just mentioned and have that darkness growing in his heart.  Guys, I cannot wait to see how my children's perspective will effect the world around them.

I'm going to post about our backpacking trip later, because it was super meaningful to me, but let me say he rescued me from an anxiety attack on a high, slippery slope.  He was calm, he carried too much weight on his back, and after we reached our destination, he said he was glad he did it with us.   That's high prose from someone who already made the Philmont Trek and deemed this trip even harder.

So, these are all photos from his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  He joined scouts late, after going to some friends' court of honor a few years ago.  He was almost 15.  When it was over he said he wished he'd done scouts.  He had wanted to but was involved in too many extra curricular activities to add another without deleting something.  I said, "Why not do it now?  You don't have to make Eagle to learn and have fun camping."  I did warn him that I may not be much help to him.  This was in the middle of The Great Imbalance of 1013-17 (so named because I refer to it quite a bit).  My brain and body were being stretched to their limit with illness and care of elderly relatives.  In other words, I had very poor memory.  I said I would try to help him in any way I could, but he would probably have to keep track of his badges and stay on a tight schedule if he wanted to make Eagle Scout before he turned 18.   And he did it.  He ran with it.  He kept track of his merit badges and service projects all on his own, while participating in band (some) and soccer and making very good grades.  So this rank was truly earned.

I thought I would take a moment to say how much I love him and cherish every single second I get to spend in his presence.  He thinks he is humoring us by watching an episode of This is Us with us, but really, I'm absorbing as much of him as I can before he moves.  And I am never happier than when we are all together with both him and his sister and brother-in-law.

(more on instagram)

Monday, October 30, 2017


...And just before the deadline for the Brooklyn Knitfolk Hipster KAL, I finished my Cumberland.  I love it.  The end.

You wish I was that brief.  No, I have to post too many photos and lots of "loves" and "reallys".  At least I know myself well.  So, lets get on with it.

This pattern was a surprise to me.  I found it in my Rav library one morning, a gift from Jennifer, the designer.  It's hard not to indulge immediately in surprises like this, but I held out until my sweater project was finished, like a responsible adult.  In the meantime, I considered color combinations as I dug through all of the yarn I have purchased and hoarded.  I mention this to flesh out your perspective of me as responsible.

It took about 9 days to knit this.  I didn't have as much time to myself to knit as I would've thought I would have.  Guys! My son's senior year is kicking my butt ("We don't say dis.")  Between soccer mom stuff, new responsibilities in BSF, an upcoming Eagle Ceremony, settling my grandmother's estate, and working on scholarship fundraising I am spreeeeead thin.   I keep chanting November 13th to myself, as that's the arbitrary day that I've decided things will slow down... until Christmas.

Anyway, 9 days is still a pretty quick knit.  Quick is something I love.  Easy to memorize is also something I love, and this pattern proved to be that.  Add to that stripes and garter, and Baby, you got a stew goin'.

Details:  I used Gynx Yarns singles in the Lavender Tea and Charcoal colorways.  I am drinking Lavender Earl Grey at this moment, which isn't important but shows how appropriate this color is for me.  It feels good to finally find the perfect project for these skeins.

I'm thinking I used a US size 5 needle on this.  I cast on and mowed through it so quickly, I never logged the info onto it's Ravelry page.

Mods:  My only mods were to add about 4 lace rows to the last lace section and 4-6 extra rows to the last garter section.  I was hoping to compensate for any length lost because I was using a lighter weight yarn.  It wasn't necessary, as you can see.

This type of shawl is probably the best for my climate.  It rarely gets cold where I live, but it would be heavy enough on our few cold days.  If you sit by the water at that one restaurant we have by the water, it is chilly in the Spring.  So this would be really nice around my shoulders.

I didn't find using fingering weight yarn made the fabric less substantial.  The colorways weren't high contrast, but after blocking, the stripes are lovely and the lace is open without being too airy.

More Appalachian Knits shawls I want to knit are Old Rag and Allegany, which you've heard me say before.  I bought 4 skeins of Kaycee from Mountain Meadow Wool specifically for Silvermine , but I had the yardage wrong, so I might can use some Valley Yarns or something that will work instead.  I look forward to those little bobbles!

Appalachian Knits has also released some new sweater patterns that are so wearable.  However, I'm still thinking about the Roan cardigan.  It will be in my closet one day.  Now, this really is the end.

The other post on this shawl is here.