Friday, December 14, 2018

Phoenix Sweater- Blogmas Day 9

So this is that sweater I posted about for Day 8. It's Phoenix, by Libby Jonson and it's my new Christmas sweater. I had to really rush to knit it by the deadline, but can you blame me for trying?

It's so cute! And it's worsted. Worsted is the new bulky. After knitting several fingering weight projects in a row, my wrists are begging for worsted. If that hadn't sold me, there was the fact that the yoke is worked using slipped stitches, not two-handed stranded knitting. I was powerless against the testing call.

I had to temporarily abandon Floozy and knit like the wind, but I don't regret a thing. Well, I regret one thing. I knit the colorwork section a bit tighter than the rest of the sweater. So the yoke isn't as deep as it should be for a size medium. I mean, I blocked it out quite a bit, but it's not totally there. In case you didn't know, I'm not the best technical test knitter. I try to make up for it in enthusiasm.

I can't really tell that my yoke depth is off, can you? Thankfully, I was between sizes and knit a size up. It looks like a win to me. Yay for impulse decisions!!!

Details:  I used US size 2.5 needles and 8 skeins of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Worsted in Currant for the main color and I skein of Wool of the Andes Bare as the contrast color. It was a test knit so I didn't modify anything, but I don't think I would've anyway. However, if I knit another one, I want it oversized with full length sleeves.

So do you like my new farm? I wish. I took these at an Airbnb we stayed at last week with the kids. More on that later this Blogmas.

I really do want to knit another Phoenix. Maybe with the dark and light colors inverted, like this one. Or what if I used SpinCycle yarns for the CC, like this one?

(more on ravelry, instagram, flickr)

Phoenix is out on Ravelry and there's a discount code on the Ravelry page until the 16th.

Test Knitting Rationale- Blogmas Day 8

It always works like this: I say, "I am so swamped right now. I cannot catch up. I'm exhausted. I cannot take on one more thing," each phrase said in a progressively whinier voice. Then, literally seconds later, I see a call for testers on instagram and have secured a spot as one before my brain can even process what I just did. So predictable.

(more on ravelry, instagram, flickr)

I've done this at least four times this year. It was a hard year. One might call it a crappy year, but for the things I learned through the hard stuff.

Maybe that's why I signed up to test. It's very focused work and it's like work "work." There's no guilt in telling someone, "I have to finish this test knit, sorry I can't make it." It's responsible. I'm not just the crazy cat lady who knits on a Friday night. I'm a productive member of a test knitting team.

It's also measurable proof that I can finish things I start. That means a lot right now, because this has been the year of physical set backs and tech issues. And almost everything I start leads to finding a tech problem, the fix for which creates another tech problem. Seriously, I have spent much more time on my blog than you'd ever know by reading it in 2018. All the time went into researching code and site changes and servers and photo editing that is now supported on my mac and on and on... then I tend to forget it all if I set it aside for a few days. Maddening. So, yeah, test knitting equals tangible product.

It's also nice to work with designers I like on their stuff. The sweater above is Phoenix by Libby Jonson and I really love her style and her commitment to writing inclusive patterns. She also has the most welcoming Ravelry group. Who wouldn't want to help with that?

Lastly, it appeals to the impatient side of me. I saw the testing call and a glimpse of the pattern and wanted to cast on right then. I didn't have to wait a month or so like the rest of the plebes. I instantly  made me special.

See how I filled a whole blog post on this? Blogmas ideas may be running dry, folks. Honestly, I'm doubtful there's a deeper motivation for my volunteering to knit when I can't even find time to walk on a daily basis. Probably, the motivation is something as basic as, "Ooooh, pretty!" Works for me.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Moonlit Poppies- Blogmas Day 7

Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to win an instagram giveaway for this watercolor of moonlit poppies from anisantrees. Dreamy, right?

I love Anisa's style. Take a look at her instagram feed for an idea of what that is. Watercolor trees...sigh.

If you've listened to almost any of my podcast episodes this last year you know I've been trying desperately to organize my home after a few years of intense neglect. During that time I have claimed a small room just for my craft stuff. That's where this sweet watercolor has landed. I love the way it looks in this repurposed vintage frame. Also, check out the Brownie camera turned lamp I found in Fredericksburg. It's fitting for a room crammed with yarn and camera paraphernalia.

Lest things look too polished, here's a tablescape that's a bit more characteristic of my organizational skills. It just all gets lumped together, nostalgia and sentimentality are my guiding principles. They are also the biggest hurdles to keeping things neat. I truly think if I had a larger home, like I once did, with more closet shelving/ storage it would be very neat. I know, I know, everyone thinks that and then they just collect more stuff.  But when I get an influx of things I do tend to get rid of a corresponding amount. But I started with more than a tiny home with very little storage space can hold. I don't want more house or more stuff. I really do want to continue culling my belongings down to a comfortable amount.

Wether I accomplish this or not we may always have issues with setting things out on surfaces. Everything has to be higher than our biggest dog's reach and then we must worry about a cat destroying it or coughing up fur balls on it... like this morning. My eyes are rolling hard into the back of my head as I type that.

Basically if all of our things could just hover in mid-air, yet out of the way, it would be a perfect scenario.

The cactus is a quick watercolor sketch my daughter gave me a couple of years ago. It's just a little something that makes me think of her and smile when I see it. All of this watercolor has me inspired to try adding watercolor to sketches, something I've put off delving into until things are "settled." The list of these things is ever-growing.

Seriously, when will settled happen? For now, I'm content to enjoy the work of friends online who paint. Other than Anisa, you guys know who you are!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sunset Highway - Blogmas Day 6

I finished Sunset Highway, by Caitlin Hunter, like a month or two ago. I know you've seen a thousand million of them so why read further? Because I said so. You must read further.

This was originally one of a slew of sweaters I cast on this year with the hopes of getting the perfect oversized fit. I did get it, just not with this one. As I began the yoke, I kept tightening up to a finer gauge than recommended for my size. I think I just liked this fabric better. So I went with it and after 7 months of working sporadically, I wasn't about to rip it back.

Have you ever had a project in which you used some special skeins you'd been saving from the "too good for socks" bin? Three of these colorways were some of those. The Knit Picks Cully wasn't a cherished skein but, honestly, I love that color and imagine I'll be revisiting it eventually.

The main colorway is Digital Bath by A Homespun House. I don't see it in her shop anymore, but it was one of my favorites of her speckles. I love Molly's yarn, but I hadn't actually used the few skeins I owned until this sweater. Again, the whole preciousness thing. (Is it weird that I'm really excited that her family has moved to my country. It's not like we'll be neighbors.)

Here's what I love about Sunset: 1) It was my gateway pattern into the world of Caitlin Hunter. Now I'm her biggest stalking knitter. You know you're one too. #Instaknit is crowded with us, so I'm not sure why my Urban Dictionary entry Stitter hasn't taken off.

2) It lets you really enjoy 3 colors you may only have one skein of.

3) It was the first use of variegated and highly speckled yarns in colorwork that I remember, something we now take for granted when we knit.

4) The colorwork has a soft, laid-back feel to it. No harsh lines. This makes it look extra good with an oversized fit. I'll just deal.

Here's what I did wrong, besides knitting too small a size: When I finished the colorwork,  I kept knitting with the same size needles for the body, at the same gauge. It is much wider than I need and meant to be almost cropped. For some reason it wants to cling to me and stretch down my torso. It pulls at the arms weirdly because of that. I'm going to block it again, pinning it out wider and shorter, but I'm not sure that will help. Possibly going up a needles size would've made the transition from the heft of the yoke to the lightweight body smoother and there'd be more flow, less cling.

Here's the details, for those of you who succumbed to the subliminal messages in the above images and are still reading:

These are my colorways and where to find them, though I feel certain you know all about these yarn brands, unless you're new to knitting.
MC: A Homespun House Soft Sock in Digital Bath,
CC1: Tosh Merino Light in Chicory
CC2: Knit Picks Hawthorne Fingering Multi in Cully
CC3: Voolenvine Yarns' Footsie in I Am No Bird

Below, is an awkward pose. I look like I'm trying to do one of those pro body builder stances. And failing miserably. Scroll on for my Lucille Bluth edit. See, this is why you stuck around.

Another post on this knit is here. And on my podcast episodes, like all of them up until now (1-20).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Episode 22- So Many Mods, Also Blogmas Day 5

This is where I record the eleventy billionth knitting podcast.

I'm on my blog:
on instagram as @mysocalledhandmadelife:
on Ravelry as mamatronic:
on flickr:

The #WingItKAL will begin in January. Details in this episode.

My question for you: What knit do you reach for most often from your closet? Would you consider modifying or

Stuff I mention:
Phoenix Test Knit for Libby Jonson, Libby's teaser:

A Beautiful Mess blog post on clothing design sketches:
Figure Drawing for Fashion Design by E. Drudi:
The Fashion Sketchpad:
Freebieisland fashion templates:
Shutterstock free sketch templates:
KnitFoundry charting software:
Design a Knit for making charts and stitch help:

My Current Knits:
Floozy by Libby Jonson:
in a kit from YarnFloozy:
Michelle Socks:
in self-striping yarn by Lovebird Lane Yarns:
using Smooth Operator by Susan B. Anderson:
Guthrie by Caitlin Hunter:
knit in SpinCycle Dyed in the Wool, Mississippi Marsala:
and Cascade 220 sport, natural:

My Modified sweater:
Lund or Linden sweater:
which is a modified Eased by Alicia Plummer:
and based on one worn in The Killing:
The Killing:

Some knits we've modified:
Shalom Cardigan by Meghan Mcfarlane:
Flax by Tin Can Knits:
Ingenue by Wendy Bernard:
Slinky Ribs by Wendy Bernard:
Mina's Tuxedo Vest by Wendy Bernard:

Books you recommended:
Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible:,+Low&sourceId=PLAGoNA&dpid=tdtve346c&2sid=Google_c&gclid=Cj0KCQiAurjgBRCqARIsAD09sg_Jl75xayJyWArt4gt07mzdGQwfF72fzGrobJ7WjhIs62A11O4biAcaApPqEALw_wcB
Strangebrew by Tin Can Knits:
Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard:
Coco Knits Sweater Workshop:
Knitter's Handy Guide to Top Down Sweaters by Ann Budd:
Sweater Workshop by Jaqueline Fee:

Keep a look out, the My So-Called Handmade Life Ravelry Group is coming!!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Little Ways-Blogmas Day 4

I have tiny celebrations in December.  Not the biggies, like a big turkey dinner with the family on Christmas Day. I mean little things that only I know about that commemorate the change of season. They help me indulge in the coming cold and the new life that follows. It's a meditative time, always.

Though putting up the Christmas tree means enlisting help to get it out of the attic (Yes, its fake, industrial strength, and cat-proof.) it's part of a solitary winter ritual. As soon as I wake up I crack a window for the cat to enjoy the cold air. Then I brew a mug of tea and sit near her in just the twinkling light given off by the tree. I usually burn some sort of balsam candle so that it at least smells like a real tree. I think I'm practicing for the day I live in that cabin in the mountains, embraced by trees.
Something about a little draft of cold air coming into a warm house- it's just enough to keep you awake, to remind you of what you have to be thankful for. I can easily lose myself to my thoughts, finding an hour has slipped by. I need this now.

Another personal ritual is pulling out my Christmas project bags and stitch markers. This is a new thing for me, as I didn't have but a couple of bags and markers that were themed like this. Then, a sweet friend I've met online sent me some more progress keepers from Chapel View Crafts and Sucre Sucre Miniatures, so now I have one for every project. It was an early Christmas and felt like such a luxury. Each one makes me feel cared for and a little excited about the coming days.

I'll be using one for my Christmas Eve Cast On that Dani, of Little Bobbins, has encouraged me to do on Christmas Eve. I cast on her 'Twas the Night Before Christmas sock pattern as my project last year.

That feeling of warmth in the midst of cold repeats itself in the evenings when I try to walk my dogs past rows of homes lit with color. Sometimes it is actually really cold here. I don't mind. The cold does clear my head so I can review my day. And it's not like I haven't trained, with 15 years of knitting, for this. I have my StripeEd cowl wrapped twice around my neck and face and can be dragged down the street like it's the Iditarod just as easily as in the summer.

My last little ritual, that I am conscious of, is playing a certain few Christmas albums each year. At some point I have the Charlie Brown Christmas special soundtrack, Elvis' Blue Christmas, and Christmas Island in heavy rotation. And don't forget the techno wannabe Christmas Dance Party CD that I've played as I decorate the house since my kids were tiny. One year we had a tree that spun around when you flipped a switch. I know!? This cheesy music seemed the natural companion. The thing is, my family knows I play it, sort of jokingly, when we decorate the tree each year but I don't think they know I listen to it a lot by myself. It transports me to the time when my babies were babies and always just a few steps away. A time when their excitement could be mine too, and vice versa.

So, I haven't been able to get the tree down by myself yet this year, but I have the candle burning and the cat crack going. My mind is revisiting the past even if my body is quite still on the end of the couch. With what little rituals are you welcoming winter?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Not Too Pricey Guthrie- Blogmas Day 3

Since we are starting the #WingITKAL in January, I'm feeling like I should cast on all of the patterns I want to knit, as is now, though it's doubtful I will finish one by January 1. I'm still knitting my Floozy but I've discovered I need breaks from the silky, fingering weight yarn. Its slips along the needles so easily, I can't seem to keep an even tension without gripping rather tightly. I doubt anyone else in the world has this issue other than me. To avoid wrist strain, I decided to alternate Floozy sessions with something 100% wool. This very mature decision also happens to coincide with the #BlameDunderKnitalong. I've been torn between the Nightshift Shawl, Juniper, Jelly Donuts, and Meg. So of course, I'm casting on Guthrie, by Caitlin Hunter.

I wanted the look of the Spincycle Dyed in the Wool skeins for the contrast color. They have that handspun look and the perfect variance of color, but they're kind of pricey. Here's the thing, if I'd just save a bit I could go all the way and get enough for an oversized, long sleeve, full length sweater. But I haven't... so I can't. 

Instead, I'm combining only three skeins of Mississippi Marsala colorway with a less expensive solid sport weight yarn. I'm hoping it will be enough for a cropped version.

When digging through stash for a solid main color, my first thought was this Wool of the Andes Sport in Fedora. 

But then I saw Patty's Guthrie on Instagram, with a lighter solid background, and I fell in love with an inanimate object. I don't have that much sport weight yarn and nothing that would contrast the Mississippi Marsala enough, so I checked out sale stuff on Craftsy (Or is it Bluprint, now?) and found a sweater's worth of Cascade 220 Sport for about $15. It was totally worth it to me. I think they must be phasing out their Cascade stuff, because the prices are really low. 

I'm still doing a more cropped version of this top, but I've seen lots of variations where knitters knit long sleeves and just carry the colorwork motif partway down the sleeve so there'll be enough CC for the regular length body. Other's skipped a section of the chart on the body to shorten the colorwork section so there's a block of the main color toward the bottom. I guess this is to conserve their precious Spincycle yarn. Since the colorwork chart is worked in sections, there are lots of possible  combinations and placement.  

So here you see my swatch: It isn't as dense a fabric as I thought it would be. Honestly, my Dyed in the Wool seems more like fingering to me, compared to the 220 Sport. But if it wears like my Sunset Highway, also a light fabric, that's fine with me. 

(more on Ravelry, Instagram, and Flickr)

Have you tried a Caitlin Hunter colorwork knit yet? Which Ones.