Friday, February 26, 2016

The Wool Project Introduced Me to Lopi

Chelsea Berkompas recently released an ebook, The Wool Project, which has so intrigued me.   Besides having several of her beautiful patterns in it, one of which I'm almost finished knitting, it's just a charming read.  She goes beyond clear pattern writing and beautiful photography to recommending complimentary yarns from various breeds of sheep.  The sketches  that accompany her info on each breed are such a nice, personal touch.  So, knowing I'm doing several knitalongs right now, I opted to join in on her Instagram Wool Project KAL by knitting a pair of Inniskór slippers... and then I knit another pair.

They're quick and always useful during winter, when you have a home on piers. They also recommended a bulky Lopi that I have been wanting to use for a sweater (some of the colors I've collected for the Icelandic sweater, below).

So, I cast on with some Ístex Álafoss Lopi in brown and had mine knit in about two days.  While waiting for toggles to finish them, I even cast on another, cuff-less pair for my husband.  Maybe you can't tell here, but these are like yeti slippers.  I had to order another ball to finish them.

So with all the pieces knit and blocked, I could see the beauty of using this yarn for a durable slipper.  It is incredibly resilient.  After blocking, it bloomed slightly and made a more durable fabric than before, even.  One knitter, maybe it was on instagram, said that she had a coat knit in Lopi many years ago and it had yet to develop pills.  This stuff is seriously hearty.

I want to say thank you, Chelsea, for encouraging me to try a new type of wool.  I've spent most of my "knitting life" using whatever decent yarn I could get cheaply.  This tended to be 100% wool or cottons from bargain websites.  And there's nothing wrong with that, but there wasn't a lot of experimentation or insight into the materials I was using.  Now that things in my life have settled down a bit, I'd like to consider my yarn a bit more carefully when buying.

Chelsea also recommended Puffin by Quince and Co for these slippers.  I've admired everything I've ever seen knit in their yarn, yet I've never seriously shopped their website.  Last week, when perusing their yarns and beautiful color options, I realized this is really an affordable yarn for the quality.  They have got soft, subtle color down.  Their wool is 100% American, which makes me feel good, too.  I kept imagining color combinations in their Lark base that would looks so nice for Andrea Mowry's Range Shawl.

I have followed this project up by trying another yarn that's new, or newish, to me- 100% alpaca (for the Maximus hat) and I enjoyed savoring the new experience and what the fiber lends to the finished project.

So, why do I have no FO photos of these slippers yet?  Because I ordered some special horn toggles for them, but didn't pay attention to where they were shipping from.  I probably won't receive them for a couple of months.  So, I guess I'll be making a pilgrimage to Joann next week.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Interesting Shaping

Oversized sweaters have been the thing for so long that knitting much waist shaping feel awkward to me, now.  And there is a lot of really interesting shaping going on in my Cherry Pie Cardigan.

While I'm a little concerned about whether or not I'll be able to get my shaping to fit my shape well, I'm really loving the process.  All the ways Teresa Gregorio has shaped the waist is intriguing.  Plus, it's Twin Peaks-inspired, Guys!

I've wrapped it around me and everything seems a-okay, except the ribbing is actually kind of snug.  What?!? That's never happened before.  I do subconsciously tighten up my gauge on ribbing because of years worth of loose, sloppy hems.  But I think it'll block out.  Usually, blocking is when floppy ribbing reveals itself.

I'm a bit further than this photo.  I've already begun my sleeves, two-at-a-time.  I considered going up a needle size, after the sleeve ribbing, because my sleeves often come out in a tighter gauge than my sweater bodies.  I changed my mind when I couldn't find a size 4 needle that was long enough for two-at-a-time sleeves.  Instead, I'm trying a Zen knitting practice where I think "Loosen up.", "Chill, man.", and "Relax." and other such phrases said in a Beat Generation voice in my head so I won't subconsciously tighten my stitches.

There are lots of works-in-progress in the Great Northern Knit-along group on Ravelry.  This KAL includes a Cherry Pie thread, in which Kat's awesome skirt version of Cherry Pie has me thinking about matching skirts and sweaters (I'm laughing as I type that because it was so very hot this week that might look more like I'm undergoing some medieval penance to my neighbors.  But, when has that ever stopped me?) and a thread for From Another Place.  It's also a colorwork sweater but has a long or cropped length option.  I want to knit one, a cropped version, maybe in a cotton blend yarn.

Okay, I've got to quit distracting myself.  On to sleeeeeeeeeves.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Favorite Gluten-Free Four Layer Cake Recipe

It's about time I shared this recipe from my birthday, which was only over a month ago.  It's a really easy no-bowl recipe that only takes 5 minutes of prep time and zero cooking time.  If you choose in-season ingredients like I did (50- 60% off clearance Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday deals) it becomes a more affordable indulgence.

Gluten- Free Four Layer Birthday Cake Recipe

Prep time: 10 min.                                                                                                               Serves 1


-3-4 Yards of ribbon

-1 candle, either that "1" candle from first child's 16th birthday or an ancient Scooby Doo candle, from second child's 4th birthday, that is so overused I've grown attached to it's molten, unrecognizable face.  Don't waste time wondering why you still have these things.

-In season, or on-sale, finds for a couple of sweaters, a couple of shawls, and several pairs of socks.


For base layer:
Firmly squish a sweater's worth of Malabrigo Arroyo, in Azules (for Reindeer) together with a sweater's worth of Valley Yarn's Superwash Worsted, dyed by Mrs. Crosby in Greystone (for Flaum) from Webs.  Create a center well and pour in a giant skein of Yarn Hollow Brocade, in Sweetest Green, (for a Fossil and Bone shawl)  Try to contain yourself because you've never used these yarns or dyers before.

Second layer: 
Next, group your two skeins of Gynx Yarns' Single Merino, in Lavender Tea and Charcoal (maybe for a Lori Shawl or Because I Love You Wrap) with a couple of Lydia Sock Twists , for striped Vanilla Socks, and a couple of skeins of Yarn Hollow's Summer Love yarn in Cotton/Nylon/Bamboo for the perfect summer socks (including some Rose City Rollers).

Fold in a couple of Madelinetosh Dandelion Onesies, in Optic, from Jimmy Beans' sale outlet for another TBD shawl or scarf, and a skein of Red Sock Blue Sock in Stellar (for Celtic Rainbow Socks).  Tie these together with the other half of the ribbon and hold your breath so they don't fall over.

Third layer: Gently set a couple of balls of Regia Design Line Arne and Carlos yarn on top of last layer.  Very gently, because they are the Holy Grail of sock knitting and you could only find them in two mini balls.

Fourth layer:  Lastly, shove a rolled up Lydia Sock Blank, in the I Pledge Allegiance colorway, and aforementioned deformed Scooby Doo candle on the very top.

Optional: Stellina, speckles, neps, and/or stitch marker sprinkles.

Now, run along because you've made yourself late for a soccer game, or some other mom thing, just so you could take photos of yarn.

Nutrition Info:  Wheat-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, peanut-free, sugar-free, fat-free. No rBGH.
Does contain lots of natural fiber:  100% wool, merino, nylon, linen, cotton, and bamboo.

(in cake form- on instagram and flickr, eventually knit up- on my ravelry and kollabora)

Please, feel free to print out this recipe, substitute ingredients, and indulge in your own layered birthday cake.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Maximus for Adamus

We usually just go out to eat for Valentine's Day, buy some chocolates for ourselves and our kids, and eat too much of everything.  I hadn't thought of doing anything differently until I saw Maximus, a hat pattern by Libby Jonson, of Truly Myrtle.  It is such a nice design for a man and my husband did need a hat for the occasional freezing soccer game.  So, I picked out an incredibly soft skein of pure alpaca worsted and cast on.

This is a lovely, easy to knit design.  I did it in two days, without even being all knitter-obsessive, and it was perfect for my him.  The cables are interesting so it wasn't a drag to knit, but they weren't so cabledy as to make him stand out too much.  This is the first pattern my husband has even said he thought was good for a guy that wasn't a plain ribbed, watchman's cap.  (I asked him before he knew I was going to knit it.)

You see, he thinks he looks silly in hats.  I think that's something people who rarely have to wear winter hats think.  Global warming is real, at least in southeast Texas.  It's ridiculous.  I'm still running in shorts and tanks.  I haven't had to cover my patio plants with old sheets once- in two years!  I'm not too sad about that part, but I am pretty bummed about never having sweater weather.

But, if it is going to be cold a few days of the year, they will, without a doubt, be during one of my son's soccer games... in the rain.  So, now my husband will only need to own 20 more warm hats to be as prepared as I am for winter.

He doesn't look silly, does he?  He does look embarrassed that I'm taking his photo, though.  Our neighbors were outside, probably tanning in swimsuits and running through sprinklers, while we took woolly hat photos.  It does make for an awkward FO photo shoot.

Details:  I used size US 4 needles and knit this hat in two days.  The alpaca yarn came with a tag that says Jealani and Kele Grown.  That's all.  So I'm thinking it may have come straight from the alpaca ranch.   It was a prize from designer Hope Vickman in the Midwestern Knits KAL for her pattern, Furrowed Pullover.  Remember that beautiful, gorgeous, alpaca blend sweater with the big foldover collar?  I've worn it exactly once this "winter."  Ugh.

Anyway, the skein she sent me is absolutely the softest, natural alpaca I've ever felt.  It seemed to slip through my fingers like butter.  So much so that it was tricky to get used to working with it.  I wasn't sure the cable design of this pattern would look best in such a fuzzy yarn, but I knew it was a plain enough color that my husband wouldn't mind it and it was soft enough to tempt him when the weather is cool.

So there is a halo on this yarn, but when the hat is worn, and the stitch pattern spreads out to reveal itself, I don't think it detracts from the overall look.  And, oh! it is so soft, I just kept petting it.  Before he knew it was going to be a hat for him, my husband commented that it felt like our kitten's fur.  I thought that was a good sign.

I want to knit another one, this time in merino worsted.  I have a bit of Malabrigo in the Plomo colorway, but I'm not sure it's enough.  I really think the tonal merino makes the cable detail shine.   I keep staring at that little ball of leftovers and wanting to cast a Maximus on right now.  But I have to control the WIPs!

I also knit him some house shoes, but ran out of yarn and couldn't finish them by V-day.  More on those, later.

How about you, guys?  Did you do anything special for Valentine's Day, whether you have a significant other or not?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Holla Knits Knit-Along 2016

Wow, that's a serious sounding KAL title, huh?  It seems to need an intense Y2K reference thrown in there, like:  Holla Knits Titanium Knit-along 2016-2.0.  That has the right wave-of-the -future vibe to it.  

No, it's not a doomsday cult, just a knit-along.  It's one of my favorite group KALs to take part in.  Holla Knits puts out so many design I want to make that I'm always having to narrow down from  twenty things I want to knit, to one or two.  This year it's the Thing to Wear Cardigan, by Allyson Dykhuizen.  (Did I just type that correctly on the first try?! Nope.)  It's a long, kimono-type cardigan that has so many elements I love.

Theres a very graphic striped, chevron detail on the back, which I've already completed.  It was a fun portion to start with.  Then there's the kimono sleeves and long, flared body.

Starting with the striping was a fun way to begin a pattern.  I loved watching these two colors of Malabrigo Rios (Paris Night and Plomo) work up together!  Color is so much a part of my enjoyment of knitting.  I've never used Rios, or any Malabrigo yarn, before.  I feel like the last knitter on Earth to try them.  So, I'm finally able to experience what I've been hearing about all these years and it is living up to the hype.

I'm anxious to get on to the rest of the body because this looks like it will be interesting construction.  I was on the fence about whether or not to knit the flared kimono sleeves, like in the sample, or the modified tapered sleeves that Allyson has on the blog.  I think I've almost decided to go all the way with the visual interest of this cardigan and knit them wide.  I mean, I'm already using a color combo, with high visual impact (at least to me) and the whole knit has a unique shape.  I may as well round it out with dramatic sleeves for a dramatic sounding Knit-along 2000 cardigan, right?

What do you guys think- wide sleeves or tapered?  I've got to decide soon.

Now I'm hearing the tv trailer, voice-over guy saying, "In a world where most sleeves are fitted... one knitter must make a choice..."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I Am an Animal Person

We have a new addition to our family.  No, it's not a new baby, despite the way things appear in my latest knitting photos.  She's a tiny kitten that found us one evening, on our walk.  Get ready for kitten overload.

We'd decided not to get any more pets after Mo died.  It would make things easier when we needed to travel.  It would make it easier to sleep without disruption.  It would be easier on the animals since  I wasn't able to be home as much as I once was... blah, blah, blah. None of these thoughtful, mature decisions can stand next to a tiny, hungry, mewing thing at your feet.

That's how she got us.  We were walking and talking with our daughter, when she peeped over a parking block and raced across the lot toward us.  She would not stop getting underfoot, despite my resolve.  She knew better.

At first I thought we'd just hold her until the Humane Society had an opening.  Look, I know the idea that black cats are adopted less from shelters has been debunked, but when I talked to a girl at our Humane Society, she said they are put down the most.

At this point we'd already rearranged my daughter's old room, which is now a sort of yarn vacuum.  And we'd rearranged our lives around introducing her to our other pets.  She was practically ours.

Anytime I was home I would sit on the floor in that room, that is now the room of yarn.   Many a test knit were made that way.

That room has become the yarn vacuum, so it was only natural she should be interesting in knitting. Slowly, we introduced the dog, whose elbows were rubbed raw at this point from crouching down to stare at her underneath the door.  Then we had to convince the big cat to even enter the room, forget about them interacting.  But, eventually, there was also some playing with the same string under the door and Hazel was set free in the house.

She sort of idolizes the Big One now.

We named her Hazel but Cato might have been more appropriate, with the way she hides from the dog then jumps on his poor back when he least expects it.  He's lost weight- another problem solved by a kitten.

She liked the Christmas tree so much, we bought a cat tree.  It's okay, I guess.

Here's the amazing part- Since getting the kitten, the Old One has quit waking me up all night.  She hasn't swiped at any of us too hard when we pass by her sleeping perch.  She comes to me, in the evenings, to sit on my lap for a few minutes so I can try to figure out the perfect method for petting her so that she will stay.  She even sleeps beside me for a few minutes every night.  And she hasn't attacked the dog when she sees a neighborhood cat through the window in months.  Could it be that our "wild" cat was really just an overgrown kitten, who needed exposure to a real kitten so she could mature fully?

A video posted by Michelle Carter (@michellecarte) on

I don't know, we seem to have gained two lap cats by adopting one.  That'll work.  She's also a pretty good knitting buddy, at night.

So, we'll still have to deal with traveling, and days when I'm not able to be at home much.  The kitten still sleeps closed up in her own room because she likes attacking legs under sheets.

It also looks like we'll be covering our newish sofa slipcovers with various throws for a long time, to prevent clawing.  The pet hair and clutter and other imperfect scenarios are better than the alternative.     I mean, we are what we are, right?  I am an animal person.

 (more on instagram and flickr)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Great Northern Knit-along

At the moment I'm involved in 4 knit-alongs.  It's a bit much, I know.  But it's hard to watch knitting friends "get together" to make something you have yarn for and not be a part of it.  So I've started all 4 and I'll just see how quickly things get done.  You've seen my progress on True Friend for the Kill to Craft Sweater-along already.  I haven't knitted  any more on that to focus on today's knit, which is also for the KTCSweateralong.

It's Cherry Pie for the Great Northern Knit-along, in anticipation of the book release.  This is that Twin Peaks- themed knitting book that I've mentioned before.  I love the idea of a fitted, zip-front, Fair Isle cardigan.  I'm only nervous about two things- getting my size right and installing a zipper, but I won't think about that now because I'm having enough trouble with the ribbing.

Yeah,  I'd just finished 4 inches of twist rib when I realized, like a doofus,  that I wasn't knitting the ribbing correctly for working flat.  I don't know if you can tell in this photo.

Who am I kidding, everyone can tell from this photo.  Even the non-knitters who see it throw their heads back in laughter.  Everyone can tell... except me.  This should be a no-brainer, but there you have the truth about me: I never sweat the small stuff; therefore, I usually screw up the small stuff.

There was some ripping and re-knitting of 4 more inches of twisted rib, and I'm happy to say I am past the ribbing and on to the stockinette body.  Ah, that moment when twist rib turns to stockinette!

Whew, the rest of the body up to the yoke should be a snap.  Or so one might think.
I'm not sure if I've posted my colors for this sweater on the blog yet.  It's good old Patons Classic Wool in Natural Mix and Jade Heather.  Jade Heather is my favorite Patons color.  I once had a little stockpile of it, to make myself a simple pullover, but I decided to knit my husband a big, comfy sweater instead.  So this is my chance to finally wear it.  And then we'll be that syrupy twinsie couple.

I know I've started buying some yarns from indie dyers, and such, but that doesn't mean I don't like Patons Classic anymore.  It's one of the first yarns I ever used because I could buy it at a local hobby store and it was affordable.  Everything I've ever knit in it is still kicking, or else I've outgrown it.   It's been knit up into some of my most favorite knits, like Beatnik.  So, I feel nostalgic every time I knit with it, even though I still use it regularly.   I also feel like I get more predictable results with it than with superwash wool.  So, this little cardigan seems to have a bright future before it.

My cats think it's a swell color combo, too.  The big one will ignore me when I wear it, to show her approval,

and this little one will pick at it with her claws to show hers.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Clarke Pullover to My Emotional Rescue

Oh, Jane.  How do you do it?  Jane Richmond cannot knit a meh item, can she?  I love everything that falls off of her needles, and I instantly want it onto mine.

The Clarke Pullover was no exception because Guys! it's loose-fitted and striped and raglan, etc.  As soon as I saw her post her first half finished version on instagram, I thought, " Mmm, yes, you could be mine... You will be mine, you will be mine, all mine."  That's right, I actually heard The Stones' Emotional Rescue in my head each time I checked out her progress updates.

I'd like to knit all of Jane's patterns, but the ones I've gotten to are Renfrew, Autumn hats here and here, Linden Mitts here and here, Rathtrevor Mitts, the Inland cardigan, the Arbutus cowl, Oatmeal pullovers in regular bulky and in thick and thin ,  a Georgia cardigan in Gynx Yarn, and a Jane hat.  Looking at these is like looking at my knitting scrapbook.  They span the entire time I've been making things.  All of these balance practicality with interesting details like unexpected reverse stockinette, striping, or faux cables.  They're the kind of knit I could easily wear every day.

But I feel like the Clarke Pullover is more "me" than anything I've knit in a long while.  It's my new favorite striped t-shirt, only it's not a tee.  You can tell I like it because it's already covered in pet hair.

Details: I used US needles sizes 3 and 4 for this, along with Wool of the Andes Sport in the Thirst Heather and Midnight Heather colors.

Because it's sport weight, instead of the recommended dk, I knit up one size.  So my size 38" came out somewhere between a 36" and 38".  I sweated the sizing out a little, especially because I messed up my stitch count and was knitting a size that might fit a small child.  But after fixing and re-knitting, I felt a little more confident.

I also used the smaller needles for the hem, as well as the neckline and wrist ribbing.  I'm not sure if the pattern directs to, but I have floppy ribbing syndrome, so...

I was so excited when I cast off and saw that this sweater would have just the amount of positive ease that I was looking for in a comfy knit. I've had so much trouble lately with fit.  For the first time in my knitting life, I'm actually knitting a bit tighter and things are turning out too fitted, instead of ginormous.  I'm glad that I might be normalizing my gauge, but it's such a huge bummer to finish something and have it pull tight at the underarms or something.  So, yes, my Clarke came to my emotional rescue by fitting exactly perfect.

I don't think you can go wrong with this, even if you end up with a little more positive ease than expected.  I would like to knit another one, making it wider and longer for wearing with leggings.   Or knitting one up in a cotton or linen blend so that I can wear it more in a warm climate.

Since I've already included a bajillion links in this post, why not add a few more? These are some other knits from Jane that I plan to knit, and even have yarn for:  the Spate mitts, with a matching Kathleen hat in Patons Classic, Climb socks (for my box o sox knit-along) in Stroll sock yarn, Strathcona in a colorway that is very nostalgic for me, and a 3/4 length sleeved Grace cardigan , in a succulent-inspired colorway.

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