Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Intense Spring Queue Clearing

That's what I'll be doing for the latest Holla Knits KAL.  I have big plans for this one because I've been hoarding yarn for several of these patterns and it's time I went from being Weird Yarn Lady to being Weird Sweater Lady.  I'd like to knit everything from HK in my queue that I already have yarn for.  But that's not very practical since I will need to sleep and occasionally interact with my family, so I'm focusing on 3 garments and 1 accessory.

First up, I'll finally be using that precious skein from Dirty Water Dyeworks that I won last year to knit the Eastwood Cardigan.  I'm using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tweed in Flagstone Heather as my main color, so this is a very affordable hand knit.  I tend to think "all or nothing" when I am ordering yarn.  I rarely mix and match less expensive yarns with hand dyed skeins.  Using hand dyed yarn for a complimentary color is a good way to make my finished sweater special, even if I'm on a budget.

After this, I'd like to work on the Everett Henley.  It looks like a challenging design, so I'm thinking I'll benefit from the experience of the other knitters who will have already started theirs at this point in the KAL. I'm using Wool of the Andes Superwash in Delft Heather.  I wanted a more dramatic color than my usual green and grey (see above and further below) and I think this deeper blue will be perfect.

I have a feeling Sexxxy Librarian will knit up very quickly.  It's been in my queue the longest so I definitely want it completed.  (It's also on sale this week!)  I'm using Knit Picks City Tweed in Orca for this one.  I love City Tweed.  It was my favorite Knit Picks yarn until I saw the WotA Tweed I'm using for the Eastwood Cardigan.  Now, I'm not sure.  I won't have many days left in which to wear alpaca, so I need this off the needles asap.

Now, if I'm really trucking and these three sweaters fly off of the needles, I want to cast on one warm weather garment.  I may not finish it, but once a knit is on the needles, I usually don't wait too long to get it off.   I'm using Cascade 220 Sport for the Julep Jacket in the Lake Chelan color way.  There's that greenish-blue again.   This may get the most year round wear of all because it's good for spring-like weather and cold interiors during the summer.  I'm pretty excited about working that little stitch pattern.

I added the County Fair Scarf to my list because several knitters have said it's a one day knit, so how can I not?  I loved the colors of the sample.  They made me think of spring picnics and checked table cloths, so I chose a similar Comfy Worsted combo in Whisker, Planetarium, and Rosehip.

Now, I realize I'm getting a little fantastical with my KAL plans here, but I do have the yarn for Unbroken in Wool of the Andes Baltic Heather.  I can't imagine getting to this in a three month period, but I think once my queue starts moving, I'll have momentum to keep it flowing.

So are you mentally checking your stash to see if you have 3 small coordinating skeins of worsted yarn for your own scarf?  Or one for a hat?  Or enough for a sleeveless turtleneck? Or drapey-front cardigan?  It's not too late to rush order some, but with all of the accessories and summer- weight designs included, you're sure to have something lurking under the bed or in the back of the closet that you can use.  Why not join us in the Ravelry group and see all the patterns you have to choose from?  Oh, and take a look at the prizes. Everyone wins something!  It begins February 3 and lasts until May 2.

Now, I need to finish some sleeves so I can start swatching for next week.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ikea Sofa Slipcover Giveaway

Chances are, you have arrived at this page today because you're looking up Ikea sofa hacks and followed a link.  See, I pay attention to blog stats.  I have a previous tufting experiment on here, but have recently tufted my Karlstad in a velvet slipcover from Comfort Works.

Though it will be a few more days before my full review of the covers and a tufting tutorial will be up on the blog, I thought I'd let you know about a photo competition hosted by ComfortWorks for a slipcover set valued at $300.  My experience with this company has been good, so I thought I'd tell you about this opportunity.

All you have to do is "Like" their Facebook page and enter the contest on their Facebook page.  The contest runs until February 10th.

(image via ComfortWorks Facebook page)

 (image via ComfortWorks Facebook page)

ComfortWorks is a small company specializing in handmade slipcovers for Ikea furniture.  I had no idea anyone made velvet covers for my sofa when I bought it.  a velvet tufted sofa was what I wanted, but pets and kids sort of dictated that I needed to do something less expensive with a slipcover.  So we bought an Ikea sofa and I settled for tufting the covers that came with it.

Below is a sneak peek of my current ComfortWorks sofa project.  I'll have a full review up in a few days, along with a tufting tutorial.  Oh, these velvet covers are so nice.

(image via ComfortWorks Facebook page)

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Crafty Bunch

I looked around Sunday and, besides seeing the usual clutter, I realized we were each absorbed in a craft of some sort.  This used to not be unusual for a weekend, but I haven't noticed it in a while.  Maybe my son does that sort of thing less now that he can "hang out" with friends via online games.  Yet, when we all get crafty, with good music playing in the background, (yesterday it was The Clash) we are all refreshed afterward.

 (Antrorse…. finally!)

Join me for the tour.  In the kitchen we have my son, hurriedly making a paracord bracelet before a friend picks him up.  He should be packing, but keeps saying, "I'm almoooost done."  That sounds familiar.

That racket in the garage is my husband cutting wood and installing legs on the murphy bed he is finally finding the time to make for the aforementioned long and lanky boy.  I look at how this bed is coming together and think what people who look at a finished sweater often say: "I wouldn't even know where to start."  This will not only give my son a larger bed, but give me competition on who the little dog will sleep with, since my son won't be in a loft bed anymore.  He'll have more floorspace now in his tiny bedroom.  It really shouldn't be a bedroom.  It would make a good extended living space, and, with a murphy bed, can be one day.

Speaking of living rooms, my daughter has taken ours over with pieces of Tom's catalog pages she's using to make paper flowers for a friend's dorm.  They really do make nice, softly colored leaves.

I'm next to her, knitting away on Antrorse, where my yarn strands compete with her paper scraps as clutter.  I've changed my mind twice about my size on this one.  Moving from one strand of worsted and a size 34" to two held together and a size 32".  I did try it on today and I think I've finally got it right.  Because my doubled strands are a bit larger than the Aran the pattern calls for, my 32 is more of a 34".

The Pampas Heather Wool of the Andes is growing on me.  Initially, I thought it was a safe color for me, but a bit boring.  But I wanted this sweater to be light colored to show off the texture and super wearable, and green is my color.  I find I love it more and more as I work on it.  It's like that faded, fatigue colored t-shirt I loved from way back when.  Instant favorite.

I loved making the one row button holes.  I've never done that before.  There are three button holes and I think I made each of my family members watch me do one.  Surprisingly, they were actually impressed by the magic, too.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Knitting Lessons from 2013 aka Link Fest

Since we finally got our Christmas tree put away and my fortieth birthday has come and gone, I thought I'd take a minute (Who am I kidding? It took for-freaking-ever to gather all of these photos and links) to consider the lessons I've learned in this last year of crafting and where I would like the next year to take me.

Lesson #1  ...Block your swatch… I hear this phrase to the tune of Volga Boatmen as I work the swatch or else later when I'm full of regret that I did not work the swatch.  Every…single... time.  Go ahead and click that link, if no other.  If you're a knitter you will totally get it.  I think I have finally gotten the message. I think.  Knickerbocker Tee was a prime of example of re-knitting just because I got lazy with gauge.

(Knickerbocker Tee, Ravello, Scallop of the Sea)

That sweater, along with Ravello and Scallop of the Sea were also my first proper introduction to super wash wool.  Lesson learned?

#2 Knit superwash to fit as-is if machine drying, or else knit it micro-mini to hand wash and block.

So, yeah, lots of re-knitting happening this year.  Sometimes it can't be helped because getting things right is important.  But I also acknowledged the flip side of that:

#3 Sometimes enjoying your craft is more important than getting it right.  So if I have to slightly change an element of a design to keep from re-knitting it a million times, I'll do it to preserve the initial inspiration and creative joy the project holds.

That was the case with both Ravello and Sothern.  With Sothern I gave up on a more gathered shoulder and did what I was able to do to enjoy it right away.  With Ravello, I ran out of MC yarn and had to do a couple of contrast stripes at the bottom.  It doesn't look bad, but I wouldn't have done it were it not a necessity.  By the way, I haven't posted FO photos yet because I have since decided to lengthen the sleeves from three quarter and am waiting on yarn.

(Sothern, Ravello)

Tweaking like that is easy and makes me feel extra clever on a day where my only accomplishment might be making polka dots on a hat, which is what I did to the Elora toque and by adding contrast pockets to Inland.  It's just an added shot of color, nothing ingenious; but look how much fun it is.

#4 So I say, if it makes you feel good, tweak away!  These little embellishments are the perfect way to use up old scraps and stash.

(Inland, Elora Toque)

#5 I've been trying to use up my scraps while they're fresh off the needles.  Otherwise, I'll squirrel them away in some little nook where they get lost and multiply, and I'll buy more yarn in the same color, unnecessarily.  So, when I finished my daughter's Arbutus, I immediately cast on for the Mine All Mine boot cuffs.  I ended up using two different scrap colors for them.  In the coming year, I'd like to use project leftovers immediately for an ongoing pompom garland  and keep swatches for a swatch blanket.

(Becca's Cabled Boot Cuffs)

I also realized that I go through cycles of being very practical and stockinette-ish, then leaning toward projects that pile on the skills.  I think it's because…

 #6 Every once in a while you just need to show off.  And that's exactly what I do every time I wear Henri, Sothern, or Nachtfalter.  Yep, I wear two and three hand knits at a time.  Picture a sweater with a cardigan and three cowls.  I saunter through a room more slowly, turning this way and that.   I adjust my sleeves, lifting my arms right in people's faces, "Whew! These hand knits sweaters suuuure get hot…"  And that's in July.

(Henri, Nachtfalter, Sothern)

#7 Showing off with fancy knitting skills must then be followed by something bulky or stockinette.  Okay, maybe not immediately, but I find I need to unwind after a particularly taxing challenge.  Liwen and Agnes provided just the mental break I needed after cables and lace.

(Agnes, Liwen/ Oatmeal)

Nachtfalter wasn't just a fancier knit to me, it was also part of my embracing my climate.  I know I said I wear three knits at a time, but truthfully, I barely wore any winter knits last year because we had a nonexistent winter.  All the wearing was happening in my mind.

 #8 I did find I really like knitting for summer.  I had only done a couple of warm weather projects before this year.  After the Lady Bats, Harnett tank, Just Campy, Downton Cardigan, Belleville Shawl in cotton, and On the Beach headband, I am a complete convert.  This is a step in the right direction for a southerner in denial.  Next up:  Reef Knot, Riverine, a shrunken Meeting Point, and a certain beach cover up I saw a preview of.

(Lady Bats, On the Beach/ Twin Cities Headband, Belleville Shawl)

(Just Campy/ Just Beachy, Downton Cardi/ Whispy Cardi, Harnett Tank)

#9 Making multiple knits from a collection is pretty gratifying.  You can see that this summer I knit several from the Holla Knits Summer collection.  If I complete El Matador, Julep Jacket, and Meeting Point , as I plan, for their upcoming knitalong, I will have knit all of them.  For some reason this pleases the OCD in me.  I knit up two Markham Collars along with Belleville and Elora from Good Night, Day's knitting books.  This year I would like to knit up the Kingston sweater from the same collection.  I actually have enough yarn to knit the other Island patterns that go along with Arbutus.  In the same obsessive fashion, I am two knits into Journey and have yarn for two more.

(Markham Collar, Arbutus Cowl)

#10 Make unexpected stuff.  Like a Leia head, or knit shorts, or a Jayne hat.  Next up:  leggings and, if I go to the Austin comic con,  an Ood Snood.  Oh, and I finally received Doomsday Knits!  Can you imagine Fallout with the gas mask?

(Princess Leia Wig, Jayne Hats, Bombshell Shorts)

#11 Block it like Stretch Armstrong.  This has saved me from re-knitting and endless yarn rush orders.  It's simple- I soak the knit then yank on the hem for all it's worth.  It gave me a couple of inches on Inland, an inch on Il Grande Favorito, and an inch and half on Ravello.  Magic.

(Inland, Il Grande Favorito)

#12 Save the swank for accessories.  I cannot knit an entire sweater in Madelinetosh, but I can wear one in Wool of the Andes with Madtosh arm warmers.  This year I invested in a little Blue Sky Alpacas for one of my Markham Collars, Madtosh for the Downton Cardi and Downton Cowl, and a skein of Indy Hayden from Red Comb Vintage for a Dreiecke.  I also scooped up some of Laura's discontinued Gynx Organic Merino in several yet-to-be-used color ways.  I did, however, have enough of one to actually knit a whole sweater.

Half of my classiest yarns were won in giveaways.  People it pays to be obsessive.  They are so beautiful, but I've waited entirely too long to use them.  So, this year: I'm using all of my indie dyer yarn.  I want to knit an Elder Tree Shawl with my Duck Duck Wool,  an Eastwood Cardigan with a massive skein from Dirty Water Dyeworks, and a yet-to-be decided shawl pattern with Jill Draper's Esopus.  It will be year of the shawl!  I'm also anxious to use the rest of my Gynx haul on Strathcona,  Grey Gardens, and Possessed Printer Mitts

(Downton Cowl, another Markham Collar, Bernadette/ Hetty, Dreiecke)

Accessories also make good gifts.  This reminds me,  

#13 I always say I won't knit gifts, but I always do.  I may as well plan a few in advance this year.

 (Dreiecke, Dee's Slouch for Laura, Arbutus Cowl and matching Becca's Boot Cuffs)

#14 Socks are not the end of the world.  I knit Hermione's Everyday Socks and lived to tell the tale, so I figure I'll get at least one pair of Climb socks off of the needles this year.

(Hermione's Everyday Sock)

The only thing that convinced me to even try the Hermione socks was the Kollabora Sockalong.  In participating in all of these "Alongs" I've come to realize something:

 #15 I like theme knitting.  That is, I like watching Downton Abbey when I knit a Downton sweater or back-to-back episodes of Firefly when I knit matching Jayne hats.  I re-watched all the David Tennant episodes of Dr. Who when I was knitting Blink.  The BBT KAL was the perfect excuse to watch marathons of The Big Bang while knitting up my Bernadette Cardigan and Penny Vest.  Some women throw themed parties and wear Christmas sweaters, I do this.

 (Blink, Penny Vest/ Sexy Vesty, Bernadette/ Hetty)

I have a few themed knits I'd like to try this year, like the Heliopath Vest or a gigantic Wash's Sweater.  There's also a Holla Knits Knit Everything KAL that I'm definitely doing.

So, you see, unlike my long-winded post, my craft goals for the upcoming year are very modest:

use stash (duh),
keep ongoing projects to use up leftovers,
Year of the Shawl!,
Year of Indie Dyers!
more theme knitting, even if it's all by myself,
try to finish some entire collections I've been loving,
and I'd like to design a few things I've had in the back of my mind for a while and no one has released such a pattern so…

My only other crafty goal was to change my blog header, which I sort of did accidentally the other day.  And this time it only took me an hour instead of the usual day long search for the snippet of code I used the last time only to find out blogger made it much easier a few years ago, and then I remember that I'd searched all day the year before only to realize it was now very simple.  I do that same thing year after year. Sigh.

If you reaaaallly want more linkage, here's my Ravelry, Flickr, and Kollabora.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Little Downton, A Little Island...

I have had the Downton Cowl, by Shannon Cook, on the needles for a ridiculously long time.  I blame all the knitalongs for distracting me.  Anyway, while traveling over the holidays, I saw the perfect opportunity to get some accessories off the needles.  Behold, many photos of greenish, blue yarn and one of my favorite people:

I used US size 5 needles with Madelinetosh dk and followed the pattern completely for the cowl and it turned out so, so pretty.  It's an easy to memorize lace stitch that really works for car trips and conversations.  I found I could do this while playing Skip-bo or Settlers of Catan.  This is only my second time to use Madelinetosh and it really lives up to the mystique.  I feel incredibly fancy knitting with it while wearing pajamas.

 I love the Lowlands color way so much I used another skein for the Rathtrevor Mitts by Jane Richmond.  Is anything more beautiful than these colors?  It looks like the recessed areas of a blue juniper, hence the name Juniper Mitts.

These did require some modifications to fit my arms and style of knitting.  I reduced my cast on stitches by 6 and evenly decreased 4 more on the first stockinette row.  This was a little awkward since that row calls for a few increases, but the increases are part of the shaping and my decreases were made evenly to keep the stockinette from being super floppy.  Maybe I didn't handle it the best way, but it looks great and they fit so I am satisfied.

In keeping with the downsizing, I only increased for the thumb until there were 11 stitches between markers.  On the second round of the thumb, I knit the two stitches I had picked up together.

I lengthened the hand portion a bit by knitting 5 extra rows.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, and flickr)

Don't these two make a great set?

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Journey Begins Inland

Just before Christmas I received my print copy of Journey in the mail.  It was so hard to ignore it as I had gifts and various sleeves at different stages of completion.  As soon as I had all but one completed, I decided to begin my knitting tour through Shannon Cook and Jane Richmond's book with Inland.

When I see a new pattern collection, I'm usually drawn to the garments, so it was natural for me to queue up both Inland and Antrorse.  I started with Inland, though, because I thought I might could finish it before the end of 2013.  I don't know why this mattered to me, it just did.

I was also sick with some kind of cough and stranded on my couch anyway, so why not knit a quick, bulky cardigan.  And it was very quick- ten days from start to finish, and that includes ripping back and re-knitting a portion.

A beginner could definitely knit this, especially with a little support and ideas from the Jane's or Shannon's ravelry groups.  So let 's get down to business because you need to make one of your own.

I used size 3 needles but my gauge was still off.  I checked the revelry comments for the yarn and found that many people find Wool of the Andes Bulky a bit thin for a bulky yarn.  I think that must be true because I just could not get gauge without the fabric seeming insubstantial.  So I decided to knit at a tighter gauge and follow directions for a 36" in the hopes that, once it was blocked, it would actually be 36", which would give me 2 inches of positive ease.  I appreciated the clarity the book gives to choosing your garment size based on your actual measurements.  I have noticed lots of knitters using these measurements to modify or combine size instructions for their best possible fit.

I only ran into one problem in the actual knitting because I didn't order the right amount of yarn.  I had ordered 2 skeins in the wallaby color way, thinking I would do more of the sweater in a contrast color.  Now that I had changed my mind, I really needed one of those skeins to be in porcini.  Halfway through the second sleeve I knew I had to have more, which meant placing an order and waiting.

What saved me were the comments left on Ravelry by other knitters who had used the same yarn.  Several said it grows with blocking, even to a point of making a sweater too big.  At that moment I heard an angelic choir singing, my face aglow in the light of my computer screen.  My last project of 2013 would be saved!

I undid the cuff of the completed sleeve and shortened it a bit.  I also unknit the bottom of the cardigan past the last two button holes and reknit it, changing the placement of those holes.  (They were a little too far apart anyway, so it made no noticeable difference to the finished sweater.)  My ribbing was now starting almost two inches higher than before.  I also only had 9 buttonholes instead of 10.  Shaving these inches off gave me enough main color yarn to finish that second sleeve.  I then added my contrasting pockets and soaked the whole thing, fingers crossed.

When blocking, I didn't have to work hard to stretch the length of the body and sleeves.  I did use various household objects to hold the sides of the sweater down for plenty of width.  One of these days I will get blocking mats, but for now I have my table… a towel… a bag of cat treats… a stray book… a grapefruit...

I am so relieved it became the perfect fitting sweater.  Even the length is right where it should be for a long cardigan.

It is exactly, exactly how I envisioned it would be.  That doesn't usually happen when I make something.  I find myself settling for the best my abilities can produce.  But this worked out perfectly.  The yarn colors looked as good together in person as online, the idea of contrasting pockets that I   borrowed from RoHart of Ravelry was the perfect little detail to add, the rustic wooden buttons, the length… all perfect.  The pockets are even useful, not just cosmetic.   And I love that collar!

This leaves me to wonder what would have happened if one of those wallaby skeins had been porcini and I had knit to the prescribed length.  Would I be wearing an elephantine cardigan that looked like it belonged to my daddy?  It's something to keep in mind for next time.

I love these buttons!  The whole thing looks like a country walk to me.

(more on Ravelry, Kollabora, and Flickr)
other post on Inland is here.