Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I Think I'm a Crocheter

There was that baby Superman cape and there was that really cool Holla Knits scarf, where I did feel like I had a rhythm going by the time it was finished.  Those are my only real experiences with crochet.  It felt like I was fumbling my way through those projects, my stitches just happy accidents.

But now, I am finishing stripe after stripe on this baby blanket in a fluid, effortless way.  I think I am a crocheter.

I knew I wanted to start a granny stripe blanket out of sock yarn scraps, with Nicky's Christmas to Christmas Crochet-along.  But there was someone I really wanted to make a baby gift for and a worsted scrap blanket is a baby gift I know that I'd love to receive.  I like baby knits that aren't in the traditional baby pastels.  I also knew worsted weight yarn would crochet up fairly quickly.  I think I'm over a quarter of the way through today.  That's in four days of crocheting.  That's insane!!!

Um, yeah, I'll be knitting one with sock yarn too.  You know how on podcasts knitters will show you each individual square and say what yarn it is?  My husband squints like he's listening to nails on a chalkboard when they do this, and, if I'm honest, I usually tune it all out.

So you completely have that option.  Squint away or scroll on down past where I make note of the yarns I'm using for my own neurotic pleasure.

From the top where I'm working to the bottom:

WotA Tweed from my Bradway shawl,
Up in Yarns Murkwood from my Laura + Maddy Mitts,
Gynx Yarns Targhee dk in Goth Girl from Goldfinch,
Cascade purple from Everett Henley,
Patterns Classic Tweed in Aran from Blowing Snow,
Quince and Co Lark in Clay,
January Yarns Olivia for the Karite Hat,
Tosh Dk in Earl Grey (sigh) from my Zelda shawl,
Beautiful Red Sock Blue Sock yarn for a Prim hat,
Malabrigo in Paris Night from my Thing to Wear Cardigan,
Junkyarn dk Diana from my Dresden Beret,
Patons in Natural Mix from my Cherry Pie sweater,
Gynx Yarns in Spanish Roof (a favorite of mine) from my Petawawa Toque,
more lark,
more Gynx Targhee in Goth Girl,
Voolenvine Yarns non-superwash in Gashlycrumb from the Quadri hat,
Malabrigo in Plomo again,
and Patons Tweed in Aran again.

Okay, now I'll go back to being cool.  Because saying phrases like "scrappy baby granny stripe blanket" is too cool for school.

I think I feel more sentimental about these scraps than I would sock yarn, just because I've been knitting with worsted since the beginning and some of these are from older projects.  The wild thing is that they can all look good together in this blanket.  When I brought them to a Stripes class with Veera Välmäki, a few years ago, they looked like puke.

The email for the class said to bring scraps, so I really brought scraps- a bag full.  When the class began, I pulled out my somewhat tangled balls of workhorse yarns in chartreuse, light purple, brown, etc.  All the other participants pulled out gleaming cakes of Madelinetosh in coordinating colors.  Bunch of kiss ups.  No, they were really nice.  They all gave me encouraging and compassionate smiles as I spazzed out with my tangled brioche section.  I think I was the remedial knitting student.

For this blanket, I am keeping them in color groups of 3 or 4 stripes- blues, purples, reds, etc.  I am using a couple of new skeins of Quince and Co Lark in Clay for unifying stripes, every several stripes.  It will probably be the edging color too.   I want a hat in Clay.  Clay, Sedum, and Damson are all colors I want to work with.

I want this to be a travel project, and maybe it can since it's a baby knit.  Dana (a crochet blanket master) had the clever idea of making a big ball of scraps, already magic knotted, so it would be more portable.  I think I'll try that, too.  But I will have to unravel one row to see what length I need for a row's worth of one color, since I am changing color with every stripe.  As it is, I would have to bring a big bag of scraps with me.

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

So, what are your scrappy projects?  If you don't have any, consider joining us in Clara Peggoty's Corner.  It's not a Ravelry supergroup, with a bazillion members, but that's refreshing.  I like being part of a group that's not so overwhelming that members can't keep up with each other.  We're also on Instagram as #ChristmastoChristmasCAL

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Grandmommy's Hudson

Feyre isn't the only shawl from Very Shannon that I've been working on recently.  I also ordered a crap-ton of Cascade Eco from Craftsy, when I ordered the marled Patons, so I could knit my grandmother the Hudson shawl for Christmas.

It's always a gamble knitting for people who live around me.  We have no shared heritage of wearing wool.  The closest thing we've got is acrylic afghans our grandmothers made for us.  So many of my relatives and friends don't even wear sweaters, especially the men.  Don't even suggest a shawl.

Even my grandmother, who once spent many hours crocheting everyone in the family an afghan or two, thought the idea of me making her a shawl was funny a couple of years ago.  She asked me if I thought she looked like a little old lady.  But, I think seeing how so many women are wearing scarves and cowls, along with spending more time indoors under freezing A/C has changed her mind.  It can be miserable to shiver in a doctor's office, but not want to get in and out of a coat while in a wheelchair.

Of course, right before Christmas, a friend of hers knit her a small rectangular shawl.  Apparently, someone besides me does knit in Southeast Texas.  I was halfway through her Hudson and wondered if she would really want two shawls.  Her friend's shawl was lightweight and maybe acrylic blend, whereas mine is bulky wool and larger.  I figured there's a time and place for both of them, so I knit on.

On Christmas day, I was prepared to not get disappointed if she didn't seem sure about the weight or feel of natural wool.  Like I said, it's foreign to most of us.  And there was the whole "granny in a shawl" stereo-type.  I knew that even if she didn't love it, she would appreciate the time and love that went into it.  Showing her how much I love her was the point, after all.  But, she actually liked it!  I'm only surprised because of the fact that a year or two ago I offered to make her a hand knit sweater and she asked for a drugstore koozie instead, which shows that you can never know a person completely.

Details:  I used size US 8 needles and Cascade Eco and Eco+ in the Shire, Turtle, Chocolate, and Vanilla colors.  When I saw the color choices, I thought of some of those afghans she crocheted us years ago, and felt like it was worth a try.

Thats four of the biggest skeins of yarn you will ever see.  I was shocked that my right arm wasn't disproportionately ripped after hand winding all of them in one sitting.  Thankfully, my husband didn't mind being my Human Swift.  Human Swift is an upgrade from Human Shield.

The rest of the shawl was just following directions.  The stitch pattern changed regularly enough to make it enjoyable all the way through.  And stripes, guys!

Besides being a lot of yarn for the price, the Eco skeins were large enough that I only needed an extra skein of Vanilla to eventually knit another Hudson for myself, along with some other accessories.  It's Christmas for everybody.

Doesn't she look sweet in it!?  And shawl or no shawl, you would never guess her age.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Find Your Fade

I wasn't always comfortable with trusting my instincts, and I don't just mean when knitting a piece of clothing.  Sometime, within the last several years, I have shrugged off the cloak of doubt that doused my impulses.  I still consider and listen to other people, but I also listen to myself.  And I try to never disregard something, just because I want it.  It shows in the way I make big life decisions and, yes, even in how I knit my Find Your Fade.

Be forewarned, this is an image-heavy post because I am nuts about this shawl and I haven't been out of the house a lot recently, due to a sprain, so taking these was like a vacation.

Andrea Mowry followed her instincts in the creation of this shawl and I have so enjoyed seeing all of the other knitters doing the same on ravelry and instagram (#findyourfadekal).

It is an atypical project for me.  It's very large, requiring 7 precious skeins of yarn that I've hoarded for years.   I spent a whole afternoon digging up 10-11 possible skeins for this project.  I was grateful that I had taken the time to list my stash on Ravelry because it made narrowing the pool of potentials much easier.  I laid them out in every possible configuration, changed a few, then laid them out again.  It was neither tedious nor stressful, because instead of second-guessing myself I just enjoyed the selection process.  It was like choosing which crayon to use next when drawing with your kids.  For me it was relaxing and expressive.

I really wanted my yarn to be a mix of old and new stash.  Then the ones I wanted didn't all "fade" into each other and weren't even the same types of yarn.  But they are special to me, and so made the most special shawl possible.

I was excited to start this mammoth project.  I have never knit something so large that I could wear it while working on it.

Now that it's finished and has been worn, it's almost mythic to my mind, like knitted mithril or a coat of many colors.  It's also a little like a scrapbook.

Color 1 was from my first indie dyer to ever order from, Gynx Yarns, and is pretty old.   It was inspired by the city where my family became a family of four., taking me all the way back to the tender age of 25ish.   I already told you about casting on with DenTown, but I don't think I mentioned that knitting with it hit me with such good nostalgia it almost hurt.  I pulled out photo albums, reminisced with my husband, and cried through an episode of This is Us.

Colors 2 and 3 were picked up at my first sort-of yarn retreat.  That's when I knew I was obsessed with this craft.  It was at the Madtosh storefront in Fort Worth during Veera and Joji Knit America.  The first color was Reindeer in MCN and then a Modern Fair Isle single.  At that time, I had little experience working with fingering weight yarn and didn't know much about the difference between the two.  I was still knitting sweaters with inexpensive, bulk yarn purchases.  Madelinetosh was the first yarn to open my eyes to the indie-dyed world.  I remember seeing whole sweaters knit out of it on Ravelry and being blown away by the colors.  I also thought it was beautiful but too expensive for something I might ruin.  Wasn't that quaint?

Color 4 was Voolenvine Yarn's I am no Bird.  It sells out within seconds of an update.  It's obviously a more recent purchase from the era when I began setting an alarm on my phone for certain yarn shop updates and would type like a mad woman on my phone in the middle of the grocery store, just to score a skein.  I cringe a little that I've done that, but then I look at this wrap and think, "Heck yeah!"

I was also broadening the range of things I knitted to include shawls, so a little expensive yarn here and there wasn't such a big deal.  (Read: I was an almost empty nester and could now do these things occasionally.)  There was no fade between it and the next colorway, Chickory, but they look incredible together.

Color 5, Chickory, is my favorite Madelinetosh colorway.  Period.  It also made a good transition into deeper shades, like...

Color 6Tanis Fiber Arts' Too Tartan.  Tartan is another one of those yarns that sell out before the page fully loads.  I just happened to see it on instagram at the moment of listing.  I have had that skein squirreled away for a couple of years because it's my Precious and too important to use on socks.

Color 7 is Stroll Tonal , in Raven.  It creates a seamless blend with the The Tanis Fiber Arts.  I'm sure you know that Stroll is a Knit Picks yarn.  Knit Picks is like an old friend.  It was one the first places I ever bought non-acrylic blend yarn.  It has almost single-handedly fueled my freakish sweater-knitting passion.  A memory-filled shawl wouldn't be complete without including some.

So in one way or another, this shawl covers several seasons of my life.   I love wrapping up in it.

Details:  I used size US 4 needles to knit my Fade.  I didn't worry about gauge or modifications.  I just cast on and went with it.

A few tips: I will say that after knitting one lace section, I found it helpful to check my lace occasionally by making sure my k2tog were always directly over a knit stitch two rows beneath and that my knit stitches were lining up with a k2tog two rows beneath.  I could catch mistakes that way.

I also stretched each section out, after knitting, to look for dropped stitches.  That happened frequently in the garter when I was working with darker colors.

The biggest tip I can give is this:  If you mess up your stitch count in some way that doesn't show during the garter sections, don't rip back to have perfect stitch count for the lace.  Just change which RS lace repeat row you begin with.  When you get close to the marker, you'll be able to tell which one is appropriate.  Then you'll follow with the subsequent rows in the pattern.  I did this at least once and it saved me much frustration.  In the end I was short 1 stitch- big deal.  But frequent lace knitters probably know this already.

Just some off the cuff thoughts:

You guys!!! I adore it wrapped this way.  The fact that it doesn't perfectly fade doesn't matter when the colors are so well suited for each other.  Even the ends look nice together.

Modern Fair Isle should also be a sweater in my closet.

Trying to wrap up in this with the wind blowing was... interesting.  It made me think of being a kid and getting stuck halfway into pulling on a turtleneck or something.

My husband was a super help.  Not only did he drive me some place not my backyard for these photos, but he was super patient as I walked back up to him to see if the photos looked the way I intended, then walked away... a jillion times.

Every time I picked this project up I felt compelled to sing Mazzy Star's Fade into You out loud, in a breathy warble.  I have a patient family.

It was a beautiful day and I needed an outing.

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Only a Little Sock Monkey-ish

You know how I'm a big fan of Shannon Cook's... everything?  Well, her Feyre shawl is no exception.    I've been keeping this worsted weight, marled yarn just for this project.  All through the Christmas season it gently called to me, like a siren.  By New Year's it was thumping like the tell-tale heart.  I dutifully ignored it and worked selflessly on my son-in-law's sweater.

So it's February and I can't stand it anymore.  I've thrown open the closet doors and begun to knit this up.  And, no, I haven't finished the sweater.  Sigh.  But it's The Year of Whatever I Wanna Do, Gosh so I'm knitting Feyre.  It's an investment in my health because it's worsted, and so very relaxing.  I've been working on it while watching tv.  (The Closer, season 2 if I'm alone, or Baskets if my husband's with me.  Have you seen Baskets?!?  It's really funny, so far.)  I'm recovering from a back sprain (?) and so I'm watching quite a bit of tv, with lots of standing, walking, and icing, too.

It's also an investment in my future... the one where I live in the  mountains of Tenessee, or something, and need warm clothing in the winter.

Shannon's sample is knit in Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter yarn, in the Newsprint colorway.  It's a black and white marl and super graphic.  I love it!  I'm using Paton's Classic Wool in Dark Grey Marl because I'm cheap.  It looks light grey to me, but it's still very pleasing to look at, and only a little sock monkey-ish.  I got it in bulky and worsted for this shawl and a bulky Lila sweater, too.

This thing is knitting up so quickly that I almost didn't post a WIP photo here, but I love watching it grow so much that I think it deserves a post.  Plus, I'm trying to get back in the habit of regular blogging, even if it's just about stuff I'm making for a while.  My husband thinks I should podcast.  I told him my skin has to clear up first.  That's a joke, but honestly, if you can't find time to blog how will you find time to upload podcasts?   So just blogging it is.

I am loving the gray and white so much I may start my Gather shawl next in Madelinetosh's Optic colorway and Hawthorne Kettle Dye in Blackbird.  Maybe, cause I still have that Christmas sweater to finish.

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

I'm knitting this as part of the Grocery Girls BFF Knit-along (Get it, cause Shannon and Jane Richmond are BFFs?) just because I was gonna knit it anyway.  Remember, no pressure is my mantra for 2017.