Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who Said Anything About Cashmere?

Somewhere between avoiding the black, stockinette, sportweight, cashmere crew neck and working out how I want to design my Transitions sweater when my Silky Merino arrives, I discovered that this had spontaneously generated on my needles:

The yarn reminds me so much of the colors of fall leaves--I mean, as far as I remember; it's been more than a decade since I've seen any in person--that I just have to call this one Autumn Leaves. The yarn is bulky merino from www.handpaintedyarn.com, which, as I understand it, is the actual source of Malabrigo yarn.

You can order their yarns directly, but not the famous worsted weight singles that everyone calls Mmmalabrigo. That is only available through retailers at twice the price. This bulky weight is a ten-ply and appears to be machine-spun, but it is still hand dyed and just as soft as Malabrigo, only much, much cheaper. (Being a multi-ply, I expect it will also wear much better.) I have also bought their dk weight and their laceweight--wonderful, all. This particular colorway does not exist. It was listed under "odds and ends" about two years ago, and I've never seen it before or since. I bought all they had at the time, so it may in fact be one of a kind. To keep things interesting, I chose a pattern for which I might almost have enough yarn.

This is the pattern. I have modified it (of course). Mine is longer, has a bit of waist shaping, uses a different stitch pattern for the body, and will probably have a somewhat higher neckline. That depends in large part on whether I have enough yarn to do what I want. It's definitely going to be close, but I have an ace in the hole. Anyone remember this?

This is the cap I knitted for my son last year when he was instructed to "dress like a 19th century immigrant" for school. Same yarn. If necessary, it will become the ribbing for this sweater.

I have the back, both fronts, and part of a sleeve done. Ahhh, bulky weight! It'll be a few days before I get it done, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. And then I'll be, um, casting on the cashmere.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Earth and Sky

I have an idea for my next sweater project. Well, actually, it will be the sweater after next, since I owe my husband a cashmere sweater. Plain stockinette. Crew neck. Black. Sportweight. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to that.

But after that, I have an idea for a new project. Have you seen these? They are the Shibui Transitions gloves. I'd love to paste a picture here, but I don't want to steal anyone else's picture, so this is a Ravelry link.

Oh, okay. Here is a little picture from shibuiknits.com:

I fell in love with this design instantly. I love the way the color shifts from top to bottom (this is done with two solid colors, using fair isle colorwork). But I have no real use for fingerless gloves, and as we all know, I have a small sweater addiction I just can't shake. Still, this concept has been kicking around in my subconscious for a while.

A few weeks ago, I scored some Malabrigo Silky Merino in a Ravelry destash. I had been wanting to get my hands on some, and none of the yarn shops within driving distance carry it. So when I saw someone destashing four skeins for about half the retail price, I jumped on it, even thought the color was Cloudy Sky, a greyish-blue that I would never choose for myself:

With the exception of blue jeans, or the occasional navy power suit, I don't wear blue. I have red hair and olive green eyes, and blue isn't really my color. But the yarn...oh, the yarn! It is amazingly soft. Buttery soft. The sort of soft that makes you want to roll around naked with it. Or, um, maybe that's just me. But you get the idea.

Sadly, four skeins is not enough to make a sweater, even if I wanted a blue sweater. It is enough for a lace shawl, but I think we've beat that dead horse enough. So I've been waiting patiently for inspiration to strike.

Today it did.

I was checking the Ravelry destash pages today and found another knitter destashing eight skeins of Silky Merino for a very good price, this time in Redwood Bark, which appears to be a dark, reddish brown. Here's the picture from malabrigoyarns.com:

The pictures I've seen on Ravelry are much redder than this, so I suspect this is not a terribly accurate shot. But the basic idea works: four skeins of grey-blue + eight skeins of red-brown = one transitions sweater.

I'm thinking I'll base the shape on the Opulent Raglan. I wear mine all the time, probably more than any of my other sweaters. I love the deep, square neckline, and the elbow-length sleeves are not only surprisingly comfortable, but also much cooler than full-length sleeves--which is important when summer extends into December. So I think this will be a longish, fitted sweater with a deep, square neckline and elbow-length sleeves. The color will transition from blue to brown (or brown to blue; I haven't decided) somewhere around the midriff. I've never tried fair isle before, but I don't imagine it will be too difficult, especially with only two colors.

Did anyone else hear the KG laughing? No? Must have been my imagination.

Friday, November 21, 2008

FO: Not So Sahara


Pattern: Sahara from stitchdiva, sort of. I modified it to work with a heavier weight yarn and to create a shallower, shawl collar, and to have narrower sleeves and a different trim. But the basic shape is pretty much the same.

Size: Um. Maybe about 35".

Yarn: Cascade Ecological Wool in Chocolate, just over two skeins. This is a satisfying yarn. It's "minimally processed" and undyed, so it's still pretty woolly, but there was no vegetable matter and not much lanolin, as far as I could tell. It didn't smell particularly sheepy, either. But when I put the finished sweater in to soak, the water turned very brown. I thought, "Oh, look, the dye is running." And then I realized it's not dyed yarn. Ugh. I washed it four times before the water was finally clear. The finished sweater is also lighter in color. Amazing what washing out the dirt will do. The yarn is fairly soft even in the skein, and softens and drapes more after washing, but it's not what I would consider next-to-the-skin soft, although I am an acknowledged wool wimp and there are probably plenty of people who wouldn't be bothered by it.

Needles: Size 8 Knit Picks Options 32" circular.


Thoughts: I intended this to be a very basic, throw-on winter sweater, and I think it fits the bill admirably. I did add a tiny bit of fussiness by crocheting a little edging around the collar. I don't think it's my favorite sweater ever, but I do think it will get more wear than most of my sweaters, just because of its simplicity. I am a lazy dresser. My more impressive and dramatic knits always seem to demand more of an effort than I am willing to expend; it's the simple ones I reach for over and over again. Sounds like there might be a lesson in there, somewhere...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Endless Summer

I've finally figured it out. I know why it is still 90 degrees here. It's happened at last: the Earth is falling into the sun. Collect your loved ones and let loose with the terrified screams of your choice, because we're all going down!

Okay. Maybe I'm overreacting. But it is November-freakin'-14th and it was 90 bloody degrees here today. Again. I just can't take it anymore! What is a wool-loving sweater knitter to do? A whole closet of wonderful woollies just waiting for their moment of glory and I'm frantically looking for a clean tank top to go with my capri pants and sandals and double-layering the SPF 45. I can't even imagine roasting a turkey all day; do you think anyone would mind cold soup and popsicles for Thanksgiving dinner?

On an ironic note, I'm almost done with my Not-So-Sahara, which is shaping up to be the warmest sweater I've ever made. It's thick and cushy and woolly and delightful, and unless I move to Toronto (which hubby and I agreed, as we were sweltering our way out to the car, is a simply smashing idea), I may never get to wear it.

Hey, Santa? Forget the sleigh. Bring the surfboard. We'll meet you at the beach.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Accidental Vest

So I worked out the shawl collar. As you can see, I went with garter stitch, despite all the good suggestions you all made. I just couldn't quite picture how to work out any of the pattern stitches with short rows, especially when I wasn't sure how the short rows themselves were going to turn out. Now that it's done, I think I could have make a pattern stitch work, but this is okay, too.

My husband loves this as a vest. I pointed out to him that I don't wear vests, and he said, "You would if you had one like that." Which is probably a good point. I then explained that I need a winter sweater, to which he just laughed. We share a closet, so I don't really have a leg to stand on there, either. I am forced to admit that it would make a really nice vest with just a little edging around the armholes. But I still want a sweater, so I'll be starting the sleeves shortly.

As for the collar, I'm going to try crocheting an edging all the way around. It's a little plain as is, and I've got a craving for something a tiny bit fussy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Edging Toward the Finish

My Not-So-Sahara is knitting up quickly, and I think it's working out fine. I ended up having to play with the numbers a bit. With the larger gauge (16 sts. to four inches instead of 20 sts.), even the smallest size would have ended up too big. So I just used the measurements of the original, combined with my own modifications for fit, to come up with the right stitch counts.

This is my original Sahara, worked at the gauge called for in the pattern:

This is my Not-So-Sahara, worked at the larger gauge:

The fabric isn't washed or blocked yet, obviously, and will grow a bit when it is. Based on my gauge swatch (stop that laughing; I know gauge is just a myth, but it's all I have to work with), the finished sweater should be about two inches bigger around than it is right now, which should be about perfect, since I want this one to be a little looser than the original. As you can see, I've only got a few more inches before I reach the edging, which means I need to make a decision.

I'm having some trouble choosing a ribbing for this sweater. I'd like to do the cuffs and bottom in garter stitch, but I like all my ribbing to match, which means I'd have to do the shawl collar in garter, too. (It's a symmetry thing.) I don't really have anything against a garter stitch collar, and garter stitch is pretty good for hiding short rows, but it does seem a little bland. I could do a basic 2 x 2 ribbing, which I'd like for the collar, but I'm not sure I want that for the cuffs and bottom, since I don't want them to pull in. Whatever ribbing I use, it needs to be reversible, since both sides will be visible on the collar. And it needs to work with short rows, which most patterns don't. I've been through my stitch dictionaries and I haven't come up with anything I like all that much. I'm debating the possibility of doing everything in garter and then adding an interesting edging just on the collar, maybe along the lines of this, only less bobbley. (I actually made this sweater, but I left off the collar edging.)

If I can't come up with a better solution before I hit the bottom, I'll go with garter, but if anyone has any more interesting suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Not So Sahara


I bought this yarn some time ago. Well, okay, not that long ago, actually, but saying "some time ago" allows me to pretend that it has been in the stash for a while, and that I don't quite remember how or why it came to be there, and therefore bear no responsibility for its presence and/or purchase. Work with me, here.

It wasn't so long ago that I don't remember exactly what I bought it for; I bought it to knit Rogue. In a frenzy of lust a few weeks back, when it occurred to me that temperatures might, eventually, drop below scorching and require, maybe, a wool sweater--and in a fit of selective amnesia that allowed me to ignore the closet full of wool sweaters already awaiting such an opportunity--I came across Rogue (again) on Ravelry. I was seized with a sudden and powerful urge to castitonrightnownomatterwhat, and, as knitters yourselves, you know how pointless it is to even try to resist that particular urge, so I didn't. I had some yarn in the stash that I thought would be perfect, so I popped right over and downloaded the pattern. I printed it out (all 14 pages of it), but maternal duty called and I couldn't cast on immediately.

A few hours later, I sat down to read the pattern and thought, "Hmmm. That's a really long pattern. Maybe I'll just swatch for now." So I did. And the yarn that I thought would be perfect was decidedly...not. Too light, too fuzzy, too scratchy. I wanted a dense, soft yarn, but one that would hold up to a lot of wear. Something a little rustic, but still a little drapey, and not variegated, but not entirely solid, either. You know. The perfect yarn. And then, in one of those moments of serendipity sparked by a rather large glass of red wine and entirely too much time on Ravelry, I was struck with a brilliant idea: I would buy the perfect yarn and it would be Eco Wool! Eco Wool gets rave reviews from, oh, just about everybody, and I have in fact touched and fondled and considered using it a time or two myself; I have even kept it in the back of my mind as the sort of yarn I would remember if I ever came across the right pattern. If you are familiar with Eco Wool, or even if you are not, but are the sort of knitter who considers matters such as yarn weight and gauge, you may be thinking, "Hmm. That's an interesting idea. I wonder if Eco Wool knits to the gauge called for by Rogue." And it would have been quite useful to me had you been there when I placed the order, because I didn't think about it at all.

A few days later, the yarn arrived, and it was perfect. Rustic and soft, dense and drapey, solid, but not too solid. Perfect. But not for Rogue. Rogue calls for a worsted weight yarn. Eco Wool is an aran weight. And while I could probably force it to knit to 18 stitches to four inches, this is a yarn that is clearly more comfortable at 16 stitches to four inches. And, yes, I could just modify the pattern, but I am lazy, and was already planning to make the smallest size, and besides, it occurred to me that I don't really like hoodies anyway. (What's that? Fickle? Why, no, not at all!) But it's true; I don't like hoodies. I like the way they look, I just don't like wearing them. The hood always pulls the neckline back and makes me feel like I'm choking, and then it wads up behind my head when I sit in the car, and gets in the way of my purse strap, and I always wish I had just made a collar.

But I still love the yarn, so I have been on a mission to find a great use for it. I have searched Ravelry, and the entire Drops pattern line, and every knitting magazine I've ever bought. Nothing has quite done it for me. There were a couple of close calls, but I've always pulled back at the last minute. That great Drops cardigan? Awesome. Really. But I don't like A-line anything (emphasizes the butt, no thanks). And I could modify it to be more shaped--that would be cool--but I'm not sure about the buttons just at the top. How about a basic turtleneck? Oh, yeah. Wool around the bare neck=sweater that never gets worn. Maybe a cardigan? Well, maybe. But I really need a pullover I can just toss on.

Finally, I accepted that I was going to have to come up with my own design. I enjoy designing sweaters. But, as we've already established, I am lazy. I don't always want to go to the trouble of coming up with my own design. Sometimes, though, there's just no alternative. So I started thinking about what I wanted. Some time ago, I made shawl collar sweaters for my boys. I didn't have a pattern, but it wasn't that hard, and I was pretty happy with the results. I always thought I'd like to try making one for myself. I like a nice, cozy shawl collar, and I don't own any. I don't want a boxy sort of sweater, though. Recent projects have taught me (slowly and painfully) that: a) I am smaller than I believe I am; and b) fitted sweaters are more flattering on my not-so-endowed body than oversized ones. Which means I want a sweater that, though not clingy (I'm going for cozy, remember), is still shapely. Enter waist shaping. And a shirttail hem would probably look really nice with that, wouldn't it? Maybe with a garter stitch hem and cuffs. And perhaps some slightly drapey sleeves to offset the fitted shape?

And then it occurred to me: I was picturing Sahara, only with a shawl collar and garter stitch edging and a different gauge.

Well. That simplifes matters considerably, doesn't it? Sahara is a fabulous pattern (and it's top-down, to continue my on-going love affair with all things seamless). Both the mechanics and the finished product are elegant and pleasing. I've wanted to make another since even before I finished my first one. I've never made the same pattern twice, but with the changes I have in mind, this won't actually be the same pattern. I need to spend a little time with the calculator, but I think I can adjust for gauge by simply knitting a smaller size. And I think I can just pop a shawl collar into the existing neckline, too. One way or another, it will be an interesting experiment. I'm off to cast on!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rule Breaker

I don't really follow many knitting rules. I mean, there are the obvious do's and don'ts (do swatch, don't steam block acrylic, do measure, don't put hand-knits in the washing machine), but other than those sorts of useful guidelines, it's pretty much anything goes around here. I knitted myself a bikini when I was 17. And wore it.

But I do have one firm, albeit unwritten, knitting rule: No Knits Below the Waist. I just can't see hand-knitted fabric doing anything positive for anything I have below the waist. So I am at a loss to explain this:

It just sort of appeared on my needles while I wasn't paying attention. And as much as I've told myself it is a bad idea and ill-advised and clearly a mistake, I can't stop working on it, around and around and around.

The style is based on this tulip skirt (Ravelry link), but the shape and sizing are entirely different, since I haven't completely taken leave of my senses (or my eyesight), and recognize that a skirt that wraps tightly around my butt and thighs would not only drive me crazy but would very likely result in indecency charges.

So I shaped mine to fit at the waist and then skim (I am hoping) over the various curves that I prefer not to emphasize, before dropping straight to the knee, where it will flare out again to about mid-calf length. This is the plan, anyway.

To be sure I could get this up over my hips (I know knitted fabric is inherently stretchy, but I'm not taking any chances), I created space for a zipper at the back waist.

I also plan to turn the waistband under and insert either elastic or a drawstring to help with the shaping. To that end, I worked an eyelet row, which, when turned, should give a little picot edge at the waist.

Although the color is not terribly accurate in these pictures, the yarn is a warm, golden tan BFL. It is a long-since discontinued Berroco yarn, and I got about 2100 yards of it at the local knitting guild's destash sale. It's been in my stash for quite a while because I couldn't come up with a project that would use so much worsted weight yarn in such a neutral color. It's great for this project, though. The yarn isn't as soft as I would choose for a sweater, but it seems very sturdy and has a subtle sheen. I can picture this skirt with boots and a jeans jacket. I can't really picture it on me, but I can picture it. So I guess that's a start.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Envelope, Please...

Maureen over at 5 and a Beagle gave me this award!

I am always so touched when someone tells me they like my blog. I think most of us blog as much for ourselves as for our readers (maybe more), but really, if no one reads it, what's the point? It's like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it.

My favorite part of getting an award is getting to pass it on to other people whose blogs I love. There are a lot of you. My blog roll has reached a size that makes it impossible for me to check every blog every day. I'd love to give this award to dozens of blogs that make my day on a regular basis. But in thinking about it a little, I realize most of you have lots of readers who also love you. So this time around, I'm going to pass the award on to some lesser-known bloggers who also have great blogs, in the hopes that you might enjoy them as much as I do, and maybe make some new imaginary friends.

The rules for award acceptance are as follows: 1. The winner can put the logo on their website/blog. 2. Add a link to the person who gave you this award. 3. Nominate at least 5 other websites/blogs. 4. Provide links of the nominated websites/blogs. 5. Leave a message at each website owner that you've nominated.

I am nominating:

Lynn of Fibra Artysta, who is a fiber artist in Michigan. She makes gorgeous art quilts, plays with fiber, and knits.

Patty of Fibreholic, who is a new-ish mom and, as she puts it, a "homesick Newfoundland and Labradorian with a passion for historical 'women's work' - now called 'crafts' - which generally use fibre."

Janet of On The House, who is a new knitter and knit blogger (and my friend and neighbor).

Sarah of Nibbling Along, who used to blog at Bella Knitting, but now has her own blog about knitting and cooking. She is an awesome cook and often posts absolutely terrific recipes that tempt even me into the kitchen.

Andrea of At Home Mommy Knits, who knits, sews, cooks, and does some really cool craft projects.

And crochetgurl, whose real name, I am chagrined to admit, I don't know. Despite the blog name, she is a knitter (a relatively new knitter, I believe) and a fellow San Diegan, although I met her on Ravelry. She has some great projects, including some really cute little critters.

Thank you to all of you for keeping me entertained and inspired. Now go spread the love!