Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Knitting an Aviator Hat

Because everyone needs a handmade aviator's hat.  This is knit in Knit Picks Swish dk and Biggo that I won in a Holla Knits giveaway.  You can see the earflaps and beginning of the brim, below.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, and flickr)

This hat's construction is really interesting.  I love making something unlike anything I've knit before.  It keeps me interested and I'm not quite sure how it will turn out until it is finished.  I'm thinking an Amelia Earhart, Karen Blixen, Margaret Bourke-White kind of vibe.

(image of Amelia Earhart via Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

 (image of Maragaret Bourke-White via Pinterest)

(scene from Out of Africa via Pinterest)

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Here it is: Aidez by Cirilia Rose.  This is a really big moment in my knitting this year.  I've done complicated cables before, but never this complicated while so much of my brain was on hiatus.  In working on this, I made some choices, some of which may prove to be unwise.

The first decision was to knit the body in one piece.  That was a no-brainer, straight-up, brilliant idea.  I borrowed all of Allyson's (of The sweatshop of Love) advice and her charts.  I will never regret this.

The next decision was to use Brava bulky yarn because I felt wool couldn't be justified in my budget at that time, but sale Brava could.  This may prove unwise.  It was certainly affordable, but it has a thick springiness to it that doesn't allow for the drape I'd like.  Also, this was a monumental knit.  Doesn't that deserve real wool?  I've since read online that the location of Brava's production has changed and many knitters don't like the feel of the new version.  I must have some from the older batch, because I feel no oiliness or scratchiness as I knit.  It's not wool, but it is the nicest 100% acrylic I've ever felt.  There were also no knots in my skeins.

My last big decision involved letting go.  When I got to the last bit of seaming, I realized the backs of my sleeves were sewn together at slightly different heights along the back of the body.  The seams end up at the same place along the collar and there's no strange puckers anywhere, so I think it's just a quirk of picking up a little more here instead of a little more there.  It didn't affect the fit at all and no one I know will ever notice.  (Do you see it, below?)  Anyway, I decided to let it go.  It was knit in Brava, right?

The details:  Otherwise, it was all about following directions.  I used size 7 bamboo needles and 7 skeins of Brava to knit the size small.  It came out a bit larger due to gauge discrepancies, plus I knit it longer on purpose.

I taped all of my charts, including Allyson's monster chart, into one giant sheet of paper.  I found it much easier to have all the directions and my little row count hash marks in the same place.  I find myself wanting to keep it for posterity, a little jewel for my children to stumble upon when I'm long gone.  After finding it, they'll realize I was secretly a genius all those years.

If I knit it again I'll probably keep the stitches to both sides of the back collar live for a kitchener stitch.  Also I'll make sure everything along the back raglan line was even on both sides of the sweater.  I think I'd like this in Wool of the Andes bulky too.  There might be a bit more drape, which is nice in a bulky knit.

At the time of this posting there are 3689 finished Aidez sweaters at some stage of construction on Ravelry.  That's some kind of famous for a pattern.  Cirilia has designed a lot of other things I love.  My favorites include Australorp, Phinney, Shibuya, Espenson, and Hekla.  Especially Hekla.  But Aidez was my all time fave.

How do I feel about finally knitting this classic design?  Accomplished.  I have learned all of these techniques, and kept working on it through some chaotic times.  I also had the ability to notice the thing that no one else will notice about my seaming in back and say "Who cares?" about it.

But will I ever do this one again?  At first I thought, "No."  But once it was done blocking, I thought, "Well, maybe."  Then I saw Jennifer's (the one whose bright turquoise Aidez first inspired me to knit this) photo on her blog.  You have to click over and see it!  It shows how Aidez sweaters can be addictive.

The truth is, yes, I'll probably make another one in wool.  Maybe by next Christmas. :)

Other posts about this knit are here:  planning, casting on to knit the body in one piece, some progress, all of the knitting peer pressure, and that crazy home stretch.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Oh Yeah, I Was Gonna Do a Christmas Post.

Oops.  I hope you all had a great Christmas.  I'm going to get right to the point: I have conflicted feelings about Christmas.  As far as celebrating Christ's birth, I love it; but I used to feel torn between visiting multiple families on both sides of mine and my husband's families.  It was hard to travel so much with young children, and it seemed that no matter how I ordered visits or alternated Christmas and Thanksgiving, someone was always disappointed.  I'd pick up on people's emotions, absorb them, and trying to fix their discomforts.  I spent every Christmas of my adult life carrying a level of anxiety about someone being disappointed in what I cook, when I arrive, when I leave, whether or not we visited that year, etc.  It never felt quite right.

 (This year I used cheap grapevine wreaths to form a garland for my tree, filling in where the cat has bent branches apart.   I just cut the vines that wrap around each wreath, then began opening them up and winding them around the tree.  Then I separated the individual vines of each wreath, spreading them apart a bit.  It took 4 1/2 wreaths.  Theres a tutorial here)

When one side of the family quit wanting us to visit at Christmas, we knew it was time to start having Christmas at our home where we'd welcome anyone who wanted to come.   My kids are now 19 and 15, it is past time.  This doesn't mean I don't value the traditions of my parents and grandparents.  I do and we still, pretty much, do the same stuff, only we only leave home to visit my father later in the day.

So, I had my grandmother's favorite Christmas meal: shrimp gumbo, rice, potato salad, and pecan pie at my house and that part of our family came over for a quiet little get together.  Could that menu sound more southern?  I was so pleased to see her enjoying herself.  She's has had a rough year and going anywhere with a spouse that has dementia can be nerve wracking.  But they were able to stay for such a long time, compared to Thanksgiving.

Something that always amazes me is how the fog of dementia can clear in an instant and my grandfather's personality emerges from it for a few minutes.  It is a Christmas gift.  At Thanksgiving, my grandmother was making conversation by showing him an enlarged photo of his that I keep over my couch. It is of him on his horse during World War 2.   You can see it here.

She asked him, "Where were you when this was taken?"
Now, there's no way he could tell her that at this point.  But sometimes she tries anyway.
He looked at it for a minute, knowing he didn't know, and said, "Well, I was on a horse."

We all cracked up. She rolled her eyes and said, "Well then, where was your horse when this was taken?"
His answer, "He was under me."

That is my Papaw coming out of the shell in the best way he can for a little bit, before it covered him over and he felt so lost and uncomfortable that they had to go home.

So, during Christmas,  I didn't expect him to stay long.  He was having trouble placing all of our names, though I can feel he still has an emotional memory of us.  He was quiet and didn't feel like eating all through lunch, but he did let my grandmother enjoy the conversation.  We heard about their dog, Ringo, a dog so spoiled that in his old age she would leave her walking shoes on the front porch and wear high heels out the door, so he wouldn't be suspicious. Once outside, she would sit on the porch and switch shoes so he wouldn't know she was going on a walk without him.

Anyway, afterward as we finished opening presents, my grandfather pointed to that same photo over my couch and said, "Isn't that my picture?"

I said, "Yes, it is." and took it down so he could hold it.
As he took it, he immediately remembered, "That was when I was in the First Cavalry at Fort Bliss.  Was it 1943? You know that horse's name? R992."

You just never know when it will happen.  I felt good about my part in Christmas this year.  I felt like I was where I should be, doing what I was supposed to.  Everything is obviously not perfect.  There are sorrows and changes, but I felt like I was doing what I was made to do.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and will celebrate the new year with people you love.

By the way, I was poking around online and found a field training video of my grandfathers cavalry division just before they went mechanized.  Scroll down a ways and it's the sixth video from the top. (I am posting this mainly for myself.)  He's in there somewhere.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Foliage Cowl

Here's a quick peek at the Foliage Cowl I knit my mother in law before it gets wrapped.  This is one of those knits that is just so fun to work, it doesn't matter if it is never worn.  I think that is my new criteria for gift knitting.  That and it being affordable yarn unless I know, know, know the recipient would want something finer.

I used 2 skeins of Wool of the Andes Bulky in wine and needles sized 6 and 8 for this.  I really like the way it looks under a jacket.  I think the designer said it could be knit in a day or two and she wasn't lying.  I finished it over the weekend while watching seasons two and three of China Beach.   Yes, I knitted and cried about Vietnam... and then I knitted and cried about Rikki Lake's performance in season 3.  What were they thinking putting her in that show?!

(more on ravelry, kollabora, and flickr)

This is my first knit from the Holla Knits 2014 Accessories collection, but will not be my last.  I won the yarn for Woolly Mammoth and purchased Gloss Dk for Cedar Glen Mitts.  Both feel like an after Christmas, burrow-into-the-couch-and-knit kind of treat.   Excuse me while I burrow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Crazy Time

There are only two projects on my needles: a tv knit (Drift's Ridge) and a cabled knit (Offshore V-Neck).  All is as it should be.

A few weeks ago I was in the middle of this craziness:

(more on Ravelry and Kollabora)

It's the body of Aidez, knit in one piece.   I literally printed these cable charts out on separate pages, taped them together, then added individual cable stitch pattern instructions in the available spaces on the edges.  That way all of my stuff would be on one giant piece of paper that I carted around with me until the sweater became too massive to travel.  I'm not tech savvy, so it was a literal cut and paste session for me.  Look at it.  Does this not make you want to pull your hair and run off of a cliff?

Can you tell I've been going through a crazy time?  No, it has nothing to do with my cycle.  Well, actually it does.  I've been experimenting with my doctor and compound pharmacist on a hormonal/ thyroid treatment plan that will help me with all of the crummy symptoms I've been dealing with for a while. A while means the last decade.

But I hadn't been on my current medications long enough to feel an energy boost when my grandmother went into the hospital and I was needed, by she and my grandfather, in a more intense way than normal.  To the usual exhaustion and migraines was added sleep deprivation, worrying for my grandmother, and losing my voice trying to explain things to my grandfather all day, every day.  It was an awful week after a rough month.  That's why I have yet to answer comments or emails.  For the first time since I married, I didn't even send Christmas cards, and I don't feel bad about it.

I am cutting myself some major slack because this is a really difficult time (one my mother would have been better suited to handle) and, with my health issues, I'm just doing good to take care of the things that really matter.  If I can be there for the people who need me, I'm fine with  letting everything else pile up.

Oh and it has piled up: email, laundry, Christmas shopping, FOs that need blocking, and housework.   I've even skipped some church services to sleep and am ordering gumbo for Christmas dinner.  

So if I seem non-responsive on Ravelry or other forms of social media, just know that I'll get to it as soon as I can.  I enjoy the rapport of blog comments, but I like to consider and think before I respond.  I realize that my responses are usually brilliant remarks like, "Thanks so much!" but still... I mean it when I write it.  So I will get to it.

If I don't get back on here before Christmas, I hope every one of you have a beautiful Christmas with your family.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gift Knitting is Finished

This time it was different.  I didn't have to knit these gifts, they were just little extras that I could do while watching movies with my family.  I didn't wait until Christmas Eve to start one.  They weren't stressful at all.  As with the last Autumn hats I made for Christmas, these used up some of those odd skeins of Wool- Ease I had around the house and were a chill knit.

(more on Ravelry, Kollabora, and Flickr)

In case you don't recognize the pattern, it's Autumn, by Jane Richmond and Wool-Ease Thick and Quick was used for the sample.

Personally, I like Wool- Ease for a basic hat.  I don't feel a bit bad about abusing it.  I can sweat in it by the end of a run, get grass and crumbled leaves all in it when rolling around on the ground (as can happen), and it will wash up fine.

So these were made from skeins of Evergreen Heather and Heather Green in Wool-Ease Chunky.  I mentioned that I was using Chunky for my hats, rather than super bulky, because that's what I had.  I just knit them a bit looser and I don't really see a difference.

I used size 4 needles for the ribbing and size 6s for the body.  I knit the body of each just a few rows longer than the pattern directed, for extra slouchiness.  This gave me only got one hat from each.

The gift knitting is over!  The hat knitting is not.  I have one more I want to knit, for myself, but I may wait for the next Holla Knits knit-along.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Kingsley, Twice

Kingsley, by Andrea Mowry, was a welcomed break from cabling.  I keep saying that, don't I?  I've interrupted Aidez a million times with my incessant string of hats.  I guess it's because I am having to squeeze knitting into quick breaks spent waiting for my son to get out of soccer practice or in waiting rooms.  Besides, Aidez is massive, once you get toward the end.  It is just a mess in a lobby... believe me, I've tried. 

(more on ravelry:here and here, kollabora: here and hereinstagram, and flickr)

Whereas Kingsley fulfilled a few of my knitting requirements of the moment.  It was portable, entertaining, used stash, didn't take too too much focus, and could be finished in a day or two.  Perfect for ADD knitting.

I knit the first one in some tonal, chartreuse Dirty Water Dyeworks Clara, leftover from my Eastwood Cardigan.  The second was in Peace Fleece's Georgia Rose color way.  These two yarns were similar in weight, but incredibly different.  

The Clara was a smooth worsted, almost like working with sport, compared to the Aran Peace Fleece that was so rough and rustic.  Peace Fleece almost feels waxy when knitting.  However, it blooms and softens immensely with washing.   I loved the little orange flecks in it. 

I'm not sure which I prefer.  The Clara was easy to slide along the needles and has these great patches of greenish-brown mixed in, where the other was more uniform in color, but took effort.  However, the Peace Fleece really shows the textural pattern. 

Actually there were three Kingsleys, but I don't really want to linger on the subject of the first one I knit in Peace Fleece that grew like the dickens with washing.  Suffice it to say that I learned my lesson and not only followed the directions for the smaller cast on size, but even subtracted 12 stitches from that.  

Here you are seeing it pre-blocking.  I've had a stressful week, spending much time with my grandparents in the hospital as my grandmother recovers from an infection.  (She is recovering, by the way, and should be released tomorrow.)  So, these rushed photos are all I have for these fun projects.  But, hey!  I'm posting again!  

The details:  On the finer Clara worsted version, I used size 4 needles for the ribbing and 6s for the body.  I followed the directions for the slouchy version with a larger number of cast on stitches.  It fits me, but could easily have been made smaller.

For the Peace Fleece Aran version, I used only size 4s and cast on 12 stitches less than the smallest cast on size.  (See above about the yarn blooming with washing.)  I still knit the slouchier version.  I know it will soften and "slouch" more with washing, too.

Have you ever heard the story behind Peace Fleece?  It's pretty interesting.  I picked these skeins up on a trip to Belfast, Maine.  A farmer from Maine returned from a trade mission to the Soviet Union in 1985 with the desire to foster peace between nations in the best way he felt he could.  So, he blended American and Soviet fiber to form Peace Fleece.  It has a hearty, rustic feel.  I truly love that.  I've read that in recent years he began including fiber from Israeli and Palestinian farmers as well.

Andrea has also designed The Great Up North mittens, which I realllllly want to make.  They immediately caught my eye when she released the pattern on Raverly.   Only I don't have any stash that I think will do it justice, so I may wait 'til after Christmas and make a tiny yarn order for some.

...aaaand I'm a freak.  Happy knitting, friends.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fancy Knitting

I am back in the cabling groove, but I still need a project for all the times I multi-task knit.  Drift's Ridge , by Teresa Gregorio, is that project.  Since it's knit top-down, I only had to think about increases and color work for the yoke, then it's long stretches of stockinette.  Usually a fingering project feels like it drags on forever to me, but this is moving along quickly.

I know the beautiful Charlemont kettle dye yarn is spurring me forward.  I love working with it.  It's merino and silk, with subtle color changes, that is so nice to work with.  I usually just go cheap and safe with Wool of the Andes or another less expensive yarn for my sweaters, because I'm budget minded.  Not that Charlemont is super expensive.  It's a Valley Yarns line and can often be had on sale.  I think I payed $11 per hank for these.  To me, however, it feels like luxurious knitting.  I scan through madelinetosh and indie dyer yarns online, all the time, like the other knitters I know.  I imagine the things I could make with the beautiful tonal colors, but I rarely buy them.  Budget minded can = grouchy.

Actually, I don't mind going cheap that much.  Everyday, inexpensive yarn makes sense for sweater quantities, but there's also a freedom to knitting with whatever you can get.  I mean I have knit some things I get tons of compliments on in the cheapest of yarns.  Observe the Wool Ease Beatnik. That one was under $15.  Then there was the Wool of the Andes Road to Golden.  It was my first time to knit Fair Isle as well as my first time to use WotA.  After knitting that, I first noticed the "hearts" a project could collect on Ravelry from other knitters.  It's still one of my most loved projects, second only to Ravello, knit in... you guessed it... Knit Picks sale yarn.  Good grief, the Aidez I'm working on will look good even when I'm schlepping around in my pajamas and it's knit in 100% acrylic, people!

Aside from the practicality, I feel a connection to other crafters in my family when I use budget yarn.  My grandmother crocheted afghans and booties from whatever acrylic they carried at the TG&Y.  She said my grandfather's mother (her future mother-in-law) hand-sewed her sons' clothing so expertly, with inexpensive fabrics, that she'd assumed they were wealthy enough to have a tailor. Only after they began dating did she discover their secret.  My father remembers his mother making his and his brother's shirts out of old flour sacks.  I don't think yarn snobbery is a genetic possibility for me.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, and flickr)

Even so, I will enjoy knitting with my silk blend, sipping an iced beverage and lounging about this Friday afternoon.  That means I've poured this morning's leftover coffee over ice and am knitting on the couch in yoga pants, with frizzy hair, to the sound of whatever's on netflix.

But the yarn... the yarn is very, very fancy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

More #peerpressureknitting

It's been a while since I talked about Aidez.  I've seen a few Ravelry friends start and finish theirs while mine languished in the knitting basket.  Seeing Kelley's, finally made me pull it out, dust it off (seriously), and reacquaint myself with all of the cable patterns.  I believe she calls this #peerpressureknitting. I engage in this activity constantly.

I'm using Allyson's directions for knitting the body in one piece up to the armholes, which I have reached.  Though it seems to take a bit on each row, I know I won't be seaming sides and that is a powerful motivator for me, as are all of the finished cables.  Aren't they beautiful?  I think I'm regretting using Brava for this.  It has taken so much work and maybe deserves real wool.  I only chose Brava because it was on sale (which is almost like having Knit Picks pay you to take it.) and other ravelers have knit this as a weekend project.  I didn't think my inability to concentrate would drag it out and make finishing it such a Herculean effort.  I guess I can always knit another in wool or a wool blend later, right?

My goal is to have it finished by Monday.  Yeah, right.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bright and Shiny

Is that not the best description for this rainbow hat, knit in this yarn?  The pom pom was the finishing touch.  I will never almost get hit by a car while running again.  Not with this rainbow pompom bouncing around down the road.

I made one of these Dee's Slouch hats last year for my daughter's friend, so I knew I liked the shape.  Since I couldn't use the Gynx yarn for my EZ sweater, I thought I'd at least use it quickly.  So, tada.....

I used a size 3 circular for magic loop and knit as directed, except I added some length before decreasing for the top.  The off-white yarn I used to fill in the pom pom is just Wool of the Andes in Cloud.  The Gynx Yarn is the Totoro 2 color way.

I made the pom pom using two pieces of a gift wrap roller, as in this tutorial.  It was a mess.

My head will never get cold this winter.  Watch the first real cold front blow in while I'm away and hatless.  I won't say that I'm done knitting hats, though, because I won the yarn for Woolly Mammoth in a Holla Knits giveaway.  So that will be happening very soon.

But first, I have to finish my Aidez, and would you believe I started another fingering weight sweater?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Petawawa Toque

What's the deal with all of the hats?  I have all of these winter sweater-y plans, with yarn ready in "yarn corner", but I keep side-tracking into hats.  Several were as gifts, and a few were to use up stash.  But I think I must've needed a break from knits I have to stare down at and these hats were the perfect thing.

I knit my first Petawawa for a friend, then immediately cast on one for myself.  It's been finished for some time, but I just didn't get around to photos until I'd finished a third one as a gift for my son's band secret pal.

This is the Petawawa Toque from Good Night Day and, like the others, I used needles sized 4 and 6, working in magic loop.  Magic Loop is definitely the easiest way to keep a project in your purse.  I'd pull it out and work in quick snatches of time.

Obviously, I like the pattern.  I especially like it in tonal yarn.  This Gynx merino worsted in the Spanish Roof colorway is so lovely.  I admired the color shifts all the way through the project.  My other post on this hat is here.

(more on my ravelry, kollabora, flickr)