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.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Proud Owner of a Campside

It is exactly a year since I cast on, but I did finish my Campside shawl, by Alicia Plummer.  You know what I'll say next, things like "love", lots of "really"s, and maybe an "interest" or two.  I can't help it, I'm almost always excited about my finished knits.  If I hated them, I would frog them and not re-knit.  So here I go:

I do love this shawl.  It's big, as in, can double as a tv throw or fireside blanket.  The succession of  graphic, lace stitch sections look clean and simple, though they've stumped plenty of us.  At least, the apparent ease of it led to lots of little mistakes on my part.  But, I was pretty chill about my stitch count and when I couldn't find where I'd left out an increase, I just continued knitting with a smaller stitch count.  Could you pick out the mistake on this monster?  Didn't think so.

I really, really liked the ribbed edging.  I don't think any ribbing has ever been so satisfying to knit.  It looks sharp and contrasts the allover lace.

It was fun to knit.  I believe I called it addictive like a drug September before last, but I must've gone through knitting rehab, or gotten involved in a different knit-along to have abandoned it.  When Katrina of the Yarn Thirty Podcast began hosting the Graveyard KAL, where you either resurrect old works-in-progress (It's Alive!) or lay them to rest by frogging (Dearly Departed), I decided to finish this one.   This was my progress at the time:

Details:  I used size US 4 circulars and 3 skeins of Knit Picks Hawthorne in the Sellwood colorway.  It's one of the least multicolored of the Hawthornes, and it makes me think of a cloudy sky.  When I say I used 3 skeins, I mean I used almost every inch of them.  There was no skein alternating for this. I began working and saw that I liked the flashes of white as they were, so I just started a skein when I finished the last one.

A couple of my Ravelry friends have said they found this yarn was too scratchy for wearing next to the neck, but I seem to be immune to those issues.  It was too hot to wear for these sad little photos, but not scratchy.

There is errata for this, as you've probably heard because you've probably knit multiples of it while mine sat in a knitting basket for 11 months.  I'm going to put the notes from other Ravelers that I used here, for my own future reference:

errors in chart 4: 
-Row 7, last 4 sts should read "k, ssk, yo, m1l"
-Row 23, first 6 stitches should read "m1r, ssk, yo, k3"

Total repeats for each lace chart:
1 and 2- 2 repeats, plus 4 rows
3 and 4- 1 repeat, plus 12 rows
5 and 6- 2 repeats, plus 10 rows
7 and 8- 4 repeats

Don't forget to ktbl for the center stitch like I did, when I resurrected this project.

Don't worry if the transition from one chart to the next looks off kilter as you knit, it'll look fine once you get further along in the chart.

A stretchy bind-off might help you in blocking, I just purposely knit my bind-off loosely.

This was an easy shawl to block,  I had no trouble stretching it to the proper dimensions, then leaving different knick-knacks sitting on it to ensure it did't snap back.  Blocking wires are on my Christmas list.

Now, about these photos.  I still have three FOs to post about, besides this.  I just worked with what I had, which was a very bright afternoon, my son to help me, and neighbors watching from their yard.  If you want a good shot of Campside being worn, there's an abundance of beautiful FO photos on Ravelry.  It was miserably hot and I was late to watch Saturday Night Fever.

If only I'd known how bad that movie would stink.  What was I thinking?  I could've stayed home until it cooled off and set up my tripod...  I think I was confusing that movie with Staying Alive.  Still not a cinematic masterpiece, but I don't think it's quite so sick and depressing.

What I really need is a shawl model, so I can take the photos quickly.  A girl who doesn't have to hurriedly remember to brush her hair before taking photos.

Someone extremely photogenic and unafraid of the camera.

A model who will go about her normal behavior as if unaware that she's being photographed.  Where could I find that?

Katrina's Graveyard KAL has also inspired me to frog my Pomme de Pin, the one that fit perfectly but had a major, unfixable stitch pattern mistake through the entire sweater.  That will be a Dearly Departed entry. I may decided to re-knit it one day.  I must've had one long, deadly brain fart when knitting it.  Actually, I was recovering from a loss in the family, family illness, and my daughter's wedding,  so I'm surprised the thing didn't have four arms.

Then, I may add fringe to my Hualpa Kimono that I started this summer for It's Alive!

It may be getting a bit late for you to join the KAL to resurrect a project, but it's not too late to frog an old, unfinished one.

(some on ravelry, some on kollabora, some on instagram, and a little on flickr)

Oh, wait.  I haven't typed the word interest yet.  There, now it's complete.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Laura + Maddy

If you are like me and need a palette cleanser between your sweaters or monster shawl projects, then you've got to knit these.  The Laura + Maddy Mittens, by Teresa Gregorio, are one of the designs from the upcoming Great Northern book that she and Leah Coccari-Swift are writing, influenced heavily by Twin Peaks.  Like their namesake, these mittens are the same, but different.

I loved working the peaks and valleys at the fingertips of the mittens, especially since I was using a worsted yarn.  Worsted is the new bulky, so this project just flew off of my needles.

Then, there's the extra long cuffs that I opted to make.  I have no gloves or mittens like that, so I think  I'll appreciate it on evening walks this winter.  Also, there's that soccer tournament that always seems to be scheduled for a freezing, rainy weekend.

Besides all of that, I just have to admit that I'm a sucker for themed knitting stuff.  There's movie and tv themed knits, like the Great Northern book, which I'm sure I'll want to knit from cover to cover.   Then there's yarn collections named for shows, people, and things I like.  The very yarn I'm using for these was inspired by Stranger Things.  I've always snorted at that sort of fandom, but that doesn't keep me from clicking the Paypal button as I do it.

So the left mitt is to the right mitt as Maddy is to Laura- basically identical, but with glasses.

(image via Pinterest

Details:  I used size US 5 circulars to knit these in magic loop.  I did, however use double points for the thumb.  I've only knit two pairs of full mittens, but this construction was really different.  I liked that I could do everything topdown, even the thumb, and be sure it all fit just right.  And these are the best fitting mittens/ gloves that I own.  I would love to include a photo of me wearing them but all of those were total crap and I looked drugged in them.  So, you'll have to trust me.  The thumb gave me a chance to use a double point holder for the first time. This one looks like book endpaper and has due date-stamped fabric inside, from Amanda Makes Yarn.  It absolutely saved my sanity because the needles kept wanting to shoot out of the thumbs every time I set it down.

Oh, and the yarn!  I adore this speckled Murkwood colorway from Up in Yarns.  As I mentioned, it was inspired by Stranger Things.  It's also the perfect compliment for these mittens.  Colorful, without being a distraction.  I think the texture at the fingertips looks really nice worked up in this.
At this point, I think there are seven patterns from Great Northern available as individual downloads.  I had to have the book for all the reasons I rambled about here, so I contributed to the kickstarter and have so will have the digital patterns, as well.  The whole project will be available to buy soon, though.

Twin Peaks calls up so many memories and crazy images to my mind, the most recent of which is that of my grandmother's retirement home bringing a group of very senior ladies to the Twin Peaks restaurant, of which they knew nothing, for lunch.  They were not amused, but we have gotten a lot of mileage out of the story.

This is where I go on and on about Teresa's designs and drop a bunch of links, just warning you:

Teresa is one of my favorite designers.  Obviously, I like her design style.  I scrolled through my projects on Ravelry and counted seven knits from her (Cherry Pie and Beach House are the most recent.)  But, I also think she is a really interesting person.  Like Libby's podcast that I mentioned yesterday, Teresa's Canary Knits Podcast, is one of my very favorites.  They're short, but sweet, episodes that always get me to think about my crafting.  I always want to do something, mindfully, when I'm finished listening.  Plus, I'll never get over how creative her Ghosts ebook is.

So, which of her designs will I knit next?  I have the yarn waiting for Harris, eventually.  Leeto looks cool and like it would be fun to knit over a weekend.  Draperie is another one I love, worn both ways.  Solstice Stag, an older design, is a classic Fall cowlneck.  Not to mention the Drift's Ridge I still have on the needles, waiting to see if I will ever fit in it again.  You can behold it's beauty here.  It truly is a classic sweater shape that will never go out of style, and I love the Charlemont.  It's not that I'm completely unrealistic about the likelihood of it fitting again, it's just that, guys!  That was the most perfect colorwork I've ever knitted, and on tiny little needles, with tiny little yarn.  I'm sentimental to a fault.

I think Kat and Estivate would be very sensible for me to knit because I could wear the heck out of them.  But, From Another Place, which you can see a test knit of here, is the one I long to knit next.  Oh, and Jelly Donuts!!  Cableses and toggleses!!!  Ah, I can't wait for Great Northern to be released.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I Love Lisette

I truly do.  Libby, of Truly Myrtle, is always cooking up some great design and Lisette is one of her newest.  I love it.

It's taken me too long to post about it.  First, it was a secret test knit, so I couldn't.  Then, when it was released, I had reached a point, in the heat of this summer, where the idea of having wool next to my skin out of doors made me feel faint.  We've had warmer summers, ones where I ran in 99 degree heat, but it was so dry this year that I often felt like my brain was baking in the dutch oven of my skull when outside.  And no, I wasn't hormonal.  So, it took a knit-along deadline to get me motivated to photograph some knits outside, last week.

Lisette is completely knitted, but seems to mimic crochet, which I find so interesting.  There's a retro feel to it.

I've said before that I'm not too into ultra feminine, lace shawl designs because I'm just more a of a practical dresser.  I'll be wearing jeans or leggings and boots.  (workboot looking boots) possibly lots of sweatshirts and plaid this winter.  I can't imagine some of those intricate lacey shawls I see online looking right on me.  Yet, here I am knitting another lace shawl from Libby and I love it.  It's not froufrou, but airy and vintage- looking.  Strange as it sounds, the whole time I was working on it, I kept think if vintage prints, gingham fabrics like the kind I use as a picnic blanket.  Maybe this is why I want one in linen/ cotton.

The pattern is super clear and charts are my best friend.  I can screenshot a close-up of one and keep it handy on my phone for working a section while I wait in the car or in the doctor's office, etc.

Details, details:  I used Size US 4 circulars and a skein of Voolenvine Yarn's Gatsby base in the Nevermore colorway.  It was one of her first attempts at dyeing non-superwash, which I can appreciate, so it isn't the saturated color you'll find her Nevermore to normally have.  I knew that when I bought it, but I was interested in a less variegated, light colored, non-superwash skein from her.  And that's what I got. It worked well for a lace pattern and I really liked the feel of it in my hands as I knitted.  I want more Gatsby in the future.

Blocking was an issue for me, as it often is for shawls.  I pinned it out and tried to pin out the little points on the edge, but I didn't have enough pins and it didn't have the defined look I knew it could have.  What worked for me was to pin the body of the shawl to the correct dimensions, then steam block the edging on my ironing board with a damp towel over the shawl.  Works like a charm.  But, yeah, I still need blocking wires.

So this is maybe my seventh knit from Libby.  It is completely safe to say I love her style.  Not just her design style, but her personality via her blog, mini-mags, and podcast.  There is nothing I like to do more in the evening than walk the dog (dogs) and water my garden while listening.  I think I actually focus better on my audio-only podcasts than the video kind because of the meditative nature of what I'm doing when I listen to them.  Plus there's always content that gives me something to think about.  It's not just a list of her WIPs and new skeins in her stash.  Hers is always my first choice, if there's a new one in my feed.

Next up from Libby, in my queue:  I need to make a Joss.  I need to.  I Still have some Stroll waiting for it in colors not too different from her sample.  It's so graphic and interesting.  Good grief friends, I will need to wear a different shawl a day when cold weather gets here, if I want to wear them all this winter.  I might even have to make mid-day wardrobe changes.  

I'd also like to use a Copper Corgi skein I have for a Reminisce.  It's possible I could squeeze it into the Hey Sister Hat KAL and the Harvest Hat-along.

Then, you know that sweater design in an upcoming collection she's been discussing on her podcast?  The one she affectionately calls the Chicken Lady Wrap?  Look at the WIP photos.  Don't you want one?

(more on Ravelry, Kollabora, Instagram, and Flickr)