Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fine and Dandy

These photos don't look very "winter" do they?  It's Second Spring here in Southeast Texas, but I'm knitting away on the wool socks anyhow.  You probably recognize the Fine and Dandy sock pattern.  If you knit and are on Instagram, you've seen them.  If you knit socks at all, you've seen them.   If you don't knit and don't think you've seen them, you have and they're rattling around in your subconscious.

They are a big hit with the sock knitting crowd.  I'd be interested to know how many pairs of these have been entered in the Box o Sox Knit-along, but that thread is so monstrous that by the time I finish looking my son will be standing in front of a darkened school building with a long, white beard.  So, let's assume there are tons of them.

I started my pair months ago with the Indie Designers KAL hosted by the designer, Jessica Gore (The Sweater Collective.)  I failed to finish them with the group, but it wasn't for lack of interest.  These have a tricky little stitch to them that is sort of addictive to work on.  The OCD part of my brain that quotes my grandfather saying, "Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today." compelled me to knit row after row, swearing each would be my last.  That's the crazy-eyed, driven part of my brain that gets things done.  We're all secretly grateful for that part.

I am so pleased with how they turned out.  The stitch pattern and delicate yarn, along with the eye of partridge heel, look so vintage and sweet.

I opted to do cuffs, heels, and toes in a cream color from Valley Yarns Huntington.  That's a great, inexpensive yarn for contrast colors.

Details:  I used size US 0 Karbonz needles and Miss Mothballs' Soft Sock base in the Bird's Egg colorway.  Tell me this doesn't look like it's namesake!

It's an 80% merino wool /20% nylon yarn.   That little extra 5% of  merino makes such a difference in softness and halo.  I don't really have to worry about durability as much as most knitters because I don't have many weeks in which to wear wool socks.  I'm not sure if I have a preference between 20% or 25% nylon, but my heels and toes were knit with a 75/25 yarn, so I should be good.

Before this year, I didn't have enough hand knit socks to experiment with fiber types.  Two pair were knee socks that required the right outfit and so were rarely worn.  The other pair was knit in Lion Brand Magic Stripes with Knit Picks Stroll for the heels and toes.  That's a 75/25 sock yarn and it's still going strong, even after being thrown in the dryer a few times.

My big Box o Sox will give me plenty of opportunities to decide my favorite sock yarn composition. But, guys!! I am so far behind on this challenge.  The Fine and Dandy socks are pair number 8.  I will   Kitchener the toe closed on pair 9 tonight but that still leaves three pairs to be knit in December.  Ugh!  My many cabled sweater plans are fading out of view.  RSI here I come!!

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

My previous post on these socks is here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Waiting for Rain and a Confession

Let's just focus on all the good stuff first and save the tragic bits for the end, okay?  So, here's my Waiting for Rain shawl, knit in the most beautiful single merino yarn from Swift Yarns- the most beautiful yarn.  I knitted this with the Soft Sweater KAL in Katrina's Yarn Thirty Podcast group.

I bought the digital pattern for the KAL, but when I saw the images from the book, I had to purchase it from Sylvia Mcfadden too.  Shawl Joy is just that, a joy.  Sylvia has captured her work in the most  dynamic way.  That's no small feat when shawl sample photos are so ubiquitous that we sometimes get desensitized to their detail and beauty.  Or maybe I'm just talking about myself.  Anyway, there's no chance of that happening with these patterns.  Every inch of these stitch patterns, wether in full sun or shadow, in stasis or tossed in the air, is emotive.  I want all of them on my needles.

The innovation doesn't stop with the photography, though.  She has come up with the most clever way of charting her lace short rows.  I am in love with this book, guys.

I enjoyed every second of knitting on this shawl.  I love how the lace bits look almost like rips in the fabric of the shawl.  Tears that produced beautiful, threadbare lace patterns.

Maybe I blissed out a bit too much... because I made a pretty big oopsie.  (I used to get so annoyed when my daughter was little and would break something and say, "Oopsie!"  She didn't mean to sound blithe about it but it came out that way.  Well, this is a completely sarcastic oopsie.  It really means I wanna kill... kill... with veins in my teeth.)

It's possible you've seen said oopsie.  If so, just cross you eyes slightly and smile like nothing's amiss. Thanks for that.

Details:  I used size US 5 needles and Swift Yarns' Simple base in the Wednesday colorway.  It was the perfect yarn/ pattern combo.  I prefer singles for shawl and the depth of color in this one made it my pet project for a few weeks.

There was just enough lace to keep things interesting, but I could still read while knitting the garter stitch.

I had no trouble following the charts or the basic instructions.  I appreciate the simple layout in the book, too.

But, and this is the woeful part of the story, as I was taking my photos I found an error.  I  wondered why I'd put it on correctly for a photo, then look down and find it was on backward.  Slowly it dawned on me that no matter which side I wore facing out, it would seem backward.  That was because I knit the bottom lace portion facing the wrong direction.  So the top three lace sections faced the RS, but the longest one at the border faced the WS.  My husband says I'm too busy to focus.  Sometimes I wanna cry like Lucille Ball.

It was too surprising to even upset me at the time.  I've done some doofy things, but this would be among the doofiest.  Oh well.  I'm entering it into the Soft Sweater KAL because I did finish it and will wear it, but I'm going to have to rip back and do it right one of these days.   It stinks because I was all ready to start another one from that collection.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Another Great Northern Knit-along

There's another Great Northern Knit-along happening on Ravelry and Instagram.  This time we're either knitting Lonely Souls, Filled with Secrets, Starts with a J, or Lynch Pin.

I chose Lonely Souls because... a horse head, guys.  That sounds vaguely Godfather-esque.  But, I was thinking more of the horse and rainbow t-shirts of my youth, of horses running across the front of a Trapper Keeper, and of striped Silver Unicorn jeans.

I've had my Wool of the Andes sport and two skeins of Knits in Class dk ready for this for months.  Remember I posted one of Teresa's sneak previews of it last year.  All this while I've been debating what size I should knit.  My weight has gone up and down in the last couple of years, so I've tried to avoid knitting anything very fitted.  This sweater is meant to be worn with no positive ease, so I've waffled back one forth over which size to knit.  I'm between the 34" and 37.5" so I've decided to knit a size 34 and hope that my famously loose gauge gets things just right.  And there's always the magic of blocking.

I did wash and block my swatch, above, and found that the two yarns, though slightly different weights, gel nicely.

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

I've already knit half of cross-over bottom band.  (This top has lots of unique details.)  Join us in the KAL.  It'll be running into January, I think, so come join us!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Within Inspires Envy

Let me just get right into Within by Shannon Cook and Jane Richmond.  As you'd expect, it's full of things I want on my body when it's cold, beautiful photography, and charts to make choosing a size foolproof.

What I didn't expect was to find myself turning the pages of this non-existent couple's story of escaping the chill of Fall in their secluded cabin and finding myself filled with envy.  I wanted to be them.  Okay I wasn't "filled" with smoldering envy, but there was some envy at the idea, and I'm not normally an envious person.  I'm more of a melancholy, "Oh well, my lot is my lot."-kind-of-gal.  So the emotions these beautiful photos produced in me surprised myself.  (I really need a camping trip, friends.  It's been a couple of years! I think it's my turn.)  Can you blame me?  Just take a look at some of the pattern photos.  Don't you want to be there?

Anyway, Jane and Shannon created the perfect atmosphere for knitters craving Fall.  I want to make all the designs.  I just may, since I think I've got yarn that would work for all of them.

This brings me to another thing I realized, while scanning through the book.  They use classic, affordable yarn for these projects.  I mean, who doesn't have a giant, giant, giant, hand-wound ball of Cascade Eco in their stash, or leftovers in several colors?  I had two in colors appropriate for both the Fireside Pullover and Hudson.  So, I ordered a bit more in a Craftsy sale and am set to make a Fireside for myself, which you see here, and a Hudson shawl for my grandmother for Christmas.  The nature of those Eco skeins means I'll  have enough leftover from her Hudson to knit one for myself.  This is so doable!  My giant Eco purchases will be enough for a sweater, two bulky weight shawls, and numerous other accessories and/ or colorwork projects.

My Fireside is going along well.  The construction of the collar was interesting to watch as it took shape.  I didn't even resent the 1x1 ribbing when I had to start over to get gauge.

I'm past the armholes and now it's easy stockinette the rest of the way. As far as size, I chose size 34" based on the fit of the sample, which is given with sizing options in the book.  I'm thinking that will work best for my in-between state, as I've been losing some of the dreaded hormone therapy weight.  It only took a year.

Now that I'm past the ribbing, this will be my podcast/ tv knitting project.

(more on ravelrykollabora, instagram, and flickr)

If you want to knit on any of these with a group, there's a new group on Ravelry for the book, Marion Rae Publications, and a knit-along in progress there and on instagram. (#withinknits)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tiny Hits of Visual Joy

You can only knit so many blue, green, and grey sweaters before you know it's time to move on and try something new.  Of course, in my case, I outgrew them over the last couple of years and so I can start all over knitting blue, green, and grey sweaters, with abandon, if I want.  Except I'm feeling the need to spread my knitting wings a bit.  Let's see, I've "conquered" shawls, even knitting lace ones from charts.  I'm a little behind, but I am doing the Box o Sox Knit-along and so I feel like I'm pretty grounded in sock knitting now, including a few different heel techniques.  Other than steeking, I can't think of a lot that I haven't tried except yarn from different sheep breeds and/or new color combos.

Laura, of Gynx Yarns, had a sale not long ago and I saw her discontinued Targhee DK base had exactly three colors available: Goth Girl (a dark purple), Fog (grey), and and experimental dye lot (a groovy 70s yellow/orange).  I decided to get two skeins of Goth Girl and one of each of the others for Andrea Mowry's Goldfinch shawl.

When they were delivered, I first noticed how different the Targhee felt from her usual superwash yarns.  I haven't done a lot of research on sheep breeds, but a quick google tells me this breed was developed here in the US to better thrive in areas like Montana and Wyoming.  Since they were bred from breeds like Rambouillet and Corriedale (which I hear a lot about in podcasts, but have no practical knowledge of),  I'm wondering how similar they would feel to work up.  Like most 100% wools I've used, it's sturdy.  But, at the risk of sounding like a food critic, it is also robust.  It's got a lot of spring to it and gave my shawl a lot of body.  I'm not sure if it will be as drapey as I'd normally want a shawl to be, after blocking, because of this.  I do think it will hold up to use well, though.

As far as the color choices went, I began to waffle.  I'm not a wild color combo kind of person, not that these are remotely wild.  They are super tame to the average knitter.  I just tend to stick with basic neutrals and wear one vibrant color at a time.   I was also a little afraid this would look too, "Go LSU!"  with the experimental color being in the yellow color family.  But  yellows and purples are complimentary, right? So I cast on.

I'm really glad I did.  I looked forward to every point in the pattern where I could use the orange next to a different color.  There's this little moment of joy I get when I see the two "new" colors against each other.  The same applies to seeing garter butt up against lace in a new way.  This must be why knitters become bolder and bolder with use of color and texture over time- with the most timid of amateurs being me, and the most accomplished being Stephen West. We're all looking for tiny, little hits of visual joy.

This shawl is getting it's ends woven in sloooooowly, but surely, and will be blocking by the weekend.  I've now moved back into making some solid colored thingies, but just for a while.
Eventually, I think I'll be exploring color with a Dotted Rays or and Exploration Station.

How about you guys?  What's your biggest experiment with color or fiber to date?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Old Folks at the Summer Music Fest

In keeping with my habit of being late, I thought I'd just now post about a concert we went to this summer.  When I saw that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros would be coming to Houston for the Free Press Fest, I bought a couple of tickets instantly.  I didn't really think anything of the whole all day music fest.

A video posted by Michelle Carter (@mysocalledhandmadelife) on

Life had been so crazy right up to that moment that I forgot to pack our wristbands with a bags for the weekend.  This left us feeling like we should get there early to see if we'd have trouble getting in.  Plus the location changed due to thunderstorms, so we weren't sure what to expect.  Once we walked the trek from sketchy street parking to the parking lot the fest had been moved to, we really didn't want to leave and have to park even further away later that night.  So we stayed.

The vibe wasn't the same as the other music festival I've been to.  This had a distinctly Club Mtv Spring Break Daytona 1990 feel to it.  As the day wore on, it became the Club Mtv with a thick layer of trash over the hot cement.  Since we hadn't planned on being there all day we didn't have chairs, so we just sat on the asphalt and waited for something interesting to happen.

I guess the liberal amounts of beer and Bud Lemon Rita were draw enough for most of the crowd, a fair amount of whom were underage, but I couldn't help but be bored out of my mind much of the day.  Thank goodness I had my knitting.  Do I sound like someone's mother yet?

There were just a handful of booths selling concert shirts that we looked through right away and even less selling local handmade items.  It was just beer stands and food trucks, selling the same stuff over and over.

We did enjoy seeing artists we would never have seen otherwise.  Like Lola Wolf.  That was never gonna happen were it not for being stuck there all day.  You have to love a lyric like, "Got the whole hood but I only hang on my block.  Got the whole closet but I only wear one sock."

I had never heard of Trampled by Turtles, so they were a nice surprise, too.

I liked Moving Units too.  It made me think of bands I used to listen to in the late 80s and early 90s, like New Order or Echo and the Bunnymen.   They put on a good show, considering the crowd wasn't too thick and it was raining off and on.  I had no idea anyone else but me meowed to music instead of singing lyrics.  The more you know...

A video posted by Michelle Carter (@mysocalledhandmadelife) on

As soon as they finished it began pouring and everyone ran for... for nothing because we were all in a giant parking lot.  My husband and I did find one, lone tree and sat on a curb under it for a bit.  We watched all the kids mulling back and forth in their summer fest uniforms of hawaiian shirts and blue jean shorties.  And I have to say, I felt compelled to say, "Here, Honey, I have an extra shirt you can cover up in."  But it was early in the day and I was all maternal benevolence.  I was there to see the love fest that is the Magnetic Zeros, after all, so being a cranky oldster would've been incongruous.  I looked around after an hour and realized the only other people sitting on this one curb were a graying couple who were laughing at Trae that Truth's rap rant about Trump.

By late afternoon, the park had evacuated us because of lightening, then inexplicably, starting letting  people back in unofficially.  (The mixed up show schedule made us miss Violent Femmes, which was a bummer.)  They played a loud, loudspeaker message about vacating the park on a loop.  It was slightly apocalyptic.  Since it had cleared out, somewhat, we stood right at the front of the stage where Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros would be playing if they returned.

A video posted by Michelle Carter (@mysocalledhandmadelife) on

At this point that maternal benevolence for mankind I told you about was wearing thin and I remembered why high school got on my nerves so much.  Here's where my talent for accessing incredible amounts of meditative focus to accomplish strange feats came in handy.  A crowd of teenagers started forming around us, pushing to get to the front and we had to stand to hold our ground.  Elbows out, I stood for a couple of hours.  I heard so many squealed, inarticulate OMGs.  I watched exaggerated joint rolling, for attention, and endured many ugly looks when I wouldn't move and give my space to a pre-pubescent boy with a girl he referred to as "the old ball and chain."  I stood with zen-like calm and no expression through all of the loud, inane talk that irked me when I was fifteen.  I held my ground amidst gossip sessions, third wheels, love triangles, and a boy next to me trying to work up the nerve to raise his arms above his head and dance like the white guy he was, with abandon.  Meanwhile, my old ball and chain was my rock.  Literally, he stood behind me so I could lean against him after the first couple of hours.  He didn't budge with all of the pushing.  He held our bags and ignored the spacey girl who pushed to squeeze in by us, then said, "Could you quit touching me with your arm?"  

Again and again I'd ask myself am I just getting to be an oldie?  But every time I had to admit my twenty-one year old daughter would've cringed at the same doofiness.  Some people are just born Wilford Brimley.  The fact that I can vacillate between crotchety senior and joyous eight-year-old hiding behind the door to freak you out is an unpredictable mystery.  It wasn't about listening to new music, or being in big crowds (well, maybe a little).  I think I have few opportunities to get away right now and really need to spend them feeding my soul.  The cool music aside, a day of drinking in a crowded parking lot just doesn't do it for me.  Maybe I just needed something to hide behind so I could scare somebody.

A video posted by Michelle Carter (@mysocalledhandmadelife) on

So, was it all worth it?  Yeah.  I could've touched Alexander when he came out into the crowd, arms outstretched like some messianic figure.  I could've but, nah.  Also, seeing my husband at a Dead Mau5 concert was reason enough to stay.

A video posted by Michelle Carter (@mysocalledhandmadelife) on

(more on instagram and flickr)

Talk about incongruous.

Friday, October 14, 2016


My hometown could easily be Dillon, Texas of Friday Night Lights.  (Click here and here for a bit of my hometown insanity.)  Instead of Alamo Freeze, we've got the Dairy Queen that everyone rushes to after school on Fridays, wearing their purple and white "Indians" tee shirts.  We have the biggest jumbotron in the area, even though some of our elementary school buildings need updating.  There is also a Midcounty Madness week where kids dress weird to get pumped for the game.  This is why I tend to make purple hats.   Of course, there will be no need for me to wear my Rah-Rah-Rah Hat during football season.  It hasn't been cold here at that time of year for about three years.  But there's always my son's soccer season.

This is Justyna Lorkowska's Calzetta pattern.  It's a freebie on Ravelry and a very simple, quick knit.    I think it looks best with a monster pompom on top, too.

Details:  I used US size 8 circulars for magic loop on this one.  The pattern calls for a superbulky yarn, which I appoximated by holding a strand of Knit Picks' bare Andes Del Campo with a strand of January Yarns' Merino Bulky in Royal Purple.

 It gives a marled effect, which I love.  I did feel conflicted about using this beautiful purple yarn in a way that doesn't really showcase the tonal dyeing.  I'd originally thought I could knit a Cozy Head, Happy Head hat with it, but there just wasn't enough yardage for that, nor for my second choice of cabled hat.  So, if I couldn't do cables, I could at least do something I love equally: marled stockinette.  And I think it's really cute!

I suppose the giant pompom gives you an idea of depth of the purple too.  In the end, I'd rather have a hat I wear often in our very short winter than one I wouldn't wear so much.  Given that I hear someone say, "Cut me and I bleed purple." in Buddy Garrity's voice at least once a year, I think Rah-Rah-Rah will see the light of day more than most of my hats.

I feel like Justyna is one of the most prolific designers on Ravelry that I have never knit a pattern from.  I first learned of her in knit-alongs on the Very Shannon Ravelry board.  Seems like it was mostly European Ravelry friends knitting from her back then.  But she has released a ton of designs since then.  I think she's well known for her graphic shawls, kind of like Veera Välimäki.  (I really like  Nemeton from the newest issue of Amirisu, and Road Trip has been in my favorites ever since I started knitting shawls, seriously.  Whatever that means.)  But, she's got just as many big deal sweater designs out.  Flaum has been on my to-knit list for some time.   However, when I was looking at her designs a few minutes ago, I spotted Carly and Mira.  I love them because... stripes and texture that looks great in a variegated colorway!  Need I say more?

I knit this as part of Vanessa's, of the Kill to Craft Podcast, Harvest Hat-along.  Check out some of the other finished hats.  If I have time, I'm planning on knitting Fidra next.

(ravelrykollabora, instagram, and flickr)

I feel like a traitor.  I am skipping the game tonight to write this post.  Buddy would take issue with my priorities.