Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yarn Play, Part 3

Although the last round went to the KG and her supreme sense of irony, I still count the dyeing experience as a success: I was able to obtain the color I wanted and to duplicate it on subsequent batches. Since I have lots of yarn--a surprising amount of which is in colors I don't really like--and not a lot of money to spend on yarn, I returned to the stash for another lot to send to the dyepot.

It didn't take long to settle on this:

This is a lovely merino/silk blend in a dk weight. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the colors are in the skein, I have learned through hard experience that I don't at all like the way variegated yarns look knit up. In fact, the sweaters I've knitted from variegated yarns have mostly found their way to the dyepot after the fact.

To add to the problem with this yarn, the skeins don't match. Two are pretty similar, but the other two are totally different. I don't alternate skeins. It makes me crazy, and I don't need any more crazy in my life.

The vastly different colors limited my choice of possible colors for overdyeing this yarn. Almost any color I picked would result in some areas of brown because of the color combinations. So I knew I needed to choose a color that would work with some brownish variegation. And because I wanted to mostly cover the existing colors, I wanted something dark and saturated. I settled on dark plum. I love the color, it looks good on me, and I had the dyes to accomplish it. I knew going in that I would not end up with a solid color, but more of a tonal yarn, because of the underlying variegation. That's okay with me; I like tonal yarns, heathery yarns, tweed yarns...just not strongly variegated yarns. I was hoping for a variety of shades of plummy colors.

Since I knew I was going to dye all this yarn as a single batch, I didn't need to be quite as careful about measuring the dyes. I don't need to duplicate the color later. I decided to start with Vermillion (I use Jacquard acid dyes), which is already a dark red, and add some Sapphire Blue to give it a purple tone. For no reason other than that it seemed about right, I mixed four parts Vermillion with one part Blue. This made a really pretty berry color, but I wanted something darker. I added one part Jet Black, and the result looked pretty good, so I went with that.

Here is the yarn drying (because I like to look at yarn drying):

And here it is all dry:

It came out mostly as I had hoped. There are some small areas that didn't really overdye, so there are spots of yellow and green and orange among the purples, but I think I can work with those. I'll either cut the yarn when I get to them, or leave them in. They're small enough sections that they may create an almost tweed effect against the more solid purple. I won't know until I knit it up.

In any case, I like it much better than the original colorway, so I'm counting this one as a win.

But shhh...the KG is listening!

The KG Bites Back

So I took my beautiful, freshly-dyed, blue-green wool up to my knitting room to put it away. I organize my yarn by color. Guess what I found?

An entire afghan's worth of gorgeous blue-green Beaverslide wool. Does the color look familiar?

How about now? The one in the front is one of the skeins I dyed. The one in back is Beaverslide.

How about a closeup? Beaverslide on the left, mine on the right.

Yep. I now have enough beautiful, blue-green, aran weight wool to knit a house cozy.

And the KG wins again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yarn Play, Part II

It's been a while since my last dyepot adventure, so yesterday, as I was squishing all that lovely, natural wool between my fingers, I decided it was time for another one. I want to keep that beautiful Marr Haven yarn undyed, but I have other undyed yarns in the stash in shades that don't excite me.

Like this yarn. I picked this up in a Rav destash a couple of years ago (I stalk the destash board): fifteen 1oo gram balls for little more than postage. It's an undyed, lanolin-rich basic wool. Not the softest yarn I've ever felt--not like merino, anyway--but certainly several orders of magnitude softer than Bartlett Yarns or Briggs & Little, both of which I've tried really hard to like. I'm not a fan of scratchy wools. Anything rougher than, say Cascade Eco Wool is just too rough for my tender hide. This wool feels like a lanolin-y version of Eco Wool. About the same gauge, too, so quite a useful yarn. Just...bland.

I've pulled it out several times to swatch and always put it back. I'm not a beige kind of person, and this is a really, really flat beige. No heathering, no variegation, no depth. Just...beige. Which made it perfect for the dye pot. I've been wanting to try dyeing some darker toned wool, because it provides such a rich base for the color. And lately I've been a somewhat interested--okay, obsessed--with acquiring some heathery, blue-green wool. Something like this, or this, or this.

Since I had a color in mind, I didn't follow my usual leap-before-you-look approach to dyeing, and instead decided to dye up a practice skein or two first. I skeined up the first ball with my trusty niddy-noddy and got to work.

I put the yarn in some warm water to soak while I prepared the dye bath.

Since I wanted a blue-green, I knew I'd need to mix yellow and blue. For my first attempt, I decided to shoot for the "1 teaspoon of dye powder to 100 grams of yarn" recommendation I found on the Knit Picks website.

Mindful of the need to duplicate the results for subsequent skeins, I even measured the amount of each color. I did not, however, consider in advance exactly how to achieve the color balance I wanted. I figured, the yellow is lighter, so naturally I need more of it than of the blue. I mixed three parts yellow to one part blue, mixed like crazy, poured in a glug of vinegar, and dumped in the wet yarn.

Almost immediately, my beige yarn turned dark green. Really dark, dark green. Not blue green. Not heathered. Really dark, solid green. The kind of green Robin Hood would envy. But it wasn't like I could stop mid-dye, so I let it play out. And I got a hank of forest green yarn.

Since I realized early on that my first attempt was going to be too dark and too green, I skeined up another ball, put it in to soak, and thought about the problem a little. I decided, since blue-green is a mix of blue and green, and green is a mix of yellow and blue, I should really have three parts blue to one part yellow. Not very scientific, but hey. It's supposed to be fun, right? Math is not fun for me, so I don't do it.

I mixed up a new dye bath, using the new formula and half as much dye total. The color of the dye bath was much closer to blue-green this time. But again, within moments of putting the yarn in the dye bath, I realized it was much too concentrated for what I had in mind. The yarn immediately became a dark, solid teal. Beautiful, but not what I wanted.

So I went for attempt number three. But since I am not the most patient person in the world, I didn't do another test skein. I concluded that the shade would be perfect if I just used the same amount of dye but three times as much yarn. I'm good at talking myself into things like that. I mixed up another dye bath using the same amounts of yellow and blue, but more water and vinegar, and tossed in four more skeins. I know, I said three, but I wanted to dye twelve total, and that would have been four more lots, and by now it was getting kind of close to when I needed to start dinner, so I cheated and put in four.

This was a mistake. The yarn came out a little too light--kind of washed out looking. Now, I'm sure a professional dyer would, at this point (assuming they were careless or lazy or clueless enough to have gotten into this situation in the first place), have done something totally professional to fix this situation. I, however, added "a little" more of each dye powder in the same ratio as before, poured in a bit more vinegar, and tossed the yarn back in.

Worked perfectly.

The yarn turned out exactly the soft, watery, blue-green color I had in mind. "Ah, hah!" you're thinking, "but how in the world will you duplicate those results with the rest of the yarn?" Well, I'll tell you how: for the subsequent dye baths, I measured the same amounts as I originally put in for each color, then put in "a little more" again, and tossed in the yarn. I figured, "a little more" is probably going to mean almost the same thing to me each time, and the yarn is going to absorb all the color whether I dye it once or twice, so.... And you know what?

Worked perfectly.

Sometimes my own recklessness in the face of the Knitting Goddess's wrath makes me a little breathless.

Here is some of that lovely yarn drying on hangers in the backyard:

And here is how it looks today:

Which is exactly what I wanted.

I love it when I'm successful in spite of myself.

Yarn Play

My second Ariann is coming along swimmingly. The body and sleeves are done and attached and I'm working my way up the yoke. Alas, I am not in love with the yarn. I used some Berocco Vintage Wool I had in the stash, which is a wool/acrylic blend. I bought it from a Rav destash, even though I'm not an acrylic fan, because the color was lovely, it was super cheap, and the reviews were quite good. Unfortunately, I do not agree with the majority of the reviewers. It feels like acrylic to me, and not in a good way. It's got that plastic-y feel and it's unpleasantly splitty. I think it will still make a nice finished sweater, but I'm not loving the knitting of it.

As a result, I've been craving a nice, wooly yarn. Yes, I have many in the stash, but that didn't stop me from fantasizing about this yarn. I've wanted to try Marr Haven for a couple of years, but I've never bought any. Knitting with the Vintage Wool pushed me over the edge. I decided I the Marr Haven would be perfect for Snowbird, which has been in my queue for a while--and I already own the pattern. It calls for a yarn with a gauge of 20 stitches and 28 rows to four inches. Marr Haven comes in worsted and sport weights, but after spending some time perusing Rav, it appeared to me that the worsted weight was probably more like a bulky, and that the sport weight was likely more like a light worsted. I decided I'd go out on a limb and ordered a cone of the sport weight, which supposedly has 1750 yards.

The cone showed up this morning, and it is as lovely as I had hoped. It is a soft, woolly yarn, with that sweet, sheepy smell and noticeable lanolin. It reminds me very much of Beaverslide 100% merino, which I have used in a bulky weight. This is a zero-itch-factor wool, which makes it perfect for me. I got the light grey shade, which is really a light, heathered beige. The photo is pretty accurate.

Of course, I had to swatch it right away. I used a size six needle, and got an unwashed gauge of 20 stitches by 28 rows, exactly as the pattern calls for. I washed my swatch with warm water and a bit of dishsoap and patted it out. The gauge is unchanged, but the swatch fluffed up and the stitches filled in nicely. The end result is soft, blurry, and perfect. I can't imagine trying to knit this yarn to a sport gauge--to me, it's a perfect worsted weight.

Just goes to show: playing with yarn is a good thing!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What's a Knitter to Do...

...after two solid days of trolling Ravelry and looking through old knitting magazines and polling the blog and still not finding a cardigan pattern that jumps out and grabs her interest?

If you're this knitter, you become utterly disgusted with knitting, knitters, yarn, patterns, the internet, and life in general. Then you open your closet and look at previous sweaters for inspiration.

And if you're this knitter, you remember that sweater you knitted four years ago and loved knitting so much you promised yourself you'd do it again. And you realize it is one of the most frequently-worn sweaters in your wardrobe, and you would really, really like another one. And then you toss the stash, find some yarn, and cast that sucker on without a backward glance.

This is Ariann (from Chic Knits), which I knitted back in 2007. I had some issues with the knitting of it, exacerbated by the yarn (100% raw silk, which is a b*tch to knit), and the fact that I knitted most of it in the car on the way to and from Lake Tahoe, with two young boys and two large dogs mixing it up in the back seat the whole way. It initially did not turn out well, but after a rework a few months later, it became a favorite in my spring/summer rotation. Super easy to toss on when I'm trying to disguise the fact that I am wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt for the third straight day. I blogged it here (much better pictures).

I always wanted a second version in wool to wear in the cooler seasons. There is no way the Berroco Peruvia I've been dying to cast on was going to work, so I bit the bullet and set it aside. But I did find just the right amount of a nice, dark brown worsted weight wool in the stash, and quickly cast on the first sleeve.

I dearly love the stitch pattern for this sweater. It's quite simple and easily memorized and I can knit it almost as fast as stockinette, even while watching tv, but it's much more interesting to work.

I can hear several of you exclaiming, "But it's lace! Yarnhog hates knitting lace! Lace is the bane of her knitting existence! How is this possible?" My friends, I have no idea. Ariann seems to be the one exception to the Lace Curse. I don't know why it doesn't cause me to break out in boils and spew pea soup while my head spins 360 degrees, but it doesn't. Let's just keep this quiet, shall we? I'd rather the Knitting Goddess not get wind of it.

The second sleeve is on the needles now, and then I'll get to work on the body. One of the great things about this pattern is that, while it is bottom up rather than my preferred top-down, the body is knitted in one piece, the sleeves are then attached to the body, and the yoke is worked all in one piece from there, meaning there are only two tiny seams to sew under the arms when it's done. Love that!

I'm still on the lookout for my Perfect Cardigan for this year, and the opportunity to use my Peruvia, but for the time being Ariann is taking the edge off.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Frogfest 2011

When the first nip of fall hits the air, I know it's time to reassess my WIPs and UFOs and come to some decisions. Anything that was started, but not finished, during the year goes before the court and gets a verdict--finish or frog. Only one project escaped the frog pond this year, and I'm still on the fence about it. It has been a pain since day one, and if I decide to finish it, there will be a hideous amount of seaming in my future. Ordinarily, I would just frog, but since I held the yarn double stranded, ripping will be a bit more complicated, as I need to separate the two strands as I go. This is more effort than I wanted to expend this morning, and led to my decision to give it a temporary reprieve while I further consider its future.

Eve's Ribs was not so fortunate. I still love the design, and the yarn, but I was not enjoying the knitting of it. The pattern was not intuitive for me, and was too much work to be fun.

Vera didn't pass muster, either. It was a test knit for a Rav designer, and I'm pleased to report I was able to provide useful feedback on the pattern even though I did not finish it. The yarn was to blame in this case: I used hand dyed yarn, and when I changed skeins halfway through the body, discovered the colors did not match at all. This is not something I can live with, so Vera went on the shelf. She is now no more.

Carter was another test knit. Again, not finished, but I gave good feedback. This is also the pattern that made me realize I don't like test knitting. Too much pressure to finish when you realize you just don't like the design.

But the project that kicked off the whole shebang was this one. Ill-conceived from the start, I'm not at all surprised it ended up here. The best part is, I now have enough yarn for a sweater I've been considering for a while, but didn't have yarn to knit.

In addition to several sweaters' worth of yarn, I also reclaimed three sets of circular needle tips, five interchangeable cables, three row counters, and innumerable stitch markers. It's like getting a huge package from your favorite yarn shop for free!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That Time of Year

It's that time of year again. Every year at about this time, I start to feel the itch. I try to resist. I know it will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak. I know the goal is unattainable. Nonetheless, every year I give in and spend weeks thumbing through knitting magazines, trolling Ravelry, scanning blogs, searching for it.

Most knitters have sought it. A few have thought they found it. None has ever captured it. Still, we pursue it.

I'm referring, of course, to The Perfect Cardigan.

This year I am further along than most years. I have found The Perfect Yarn. For the moment, I mean. The REAL Perfect Yarn is even less attainable than The Perfect Cardigan. But I am nothing if not fickle, and my idea of The Perfect Yarn changes with the wind. At the moment, it is some Berroco Peruvia in Chipotle that I just hadtohaverightnow. I found some on cones on eBay for practically nothing. Less than $20 for a sweater. (And another $11 for shipping, unfortunately. Still, less than $30 for the equivalent of seven skeins. Not too shabby.)

But having The Perfect Yarn has not made coming up with The Perfect Cardigan any easier this year than any other year. If you were to look at my Rav queue, you might notice that it has grown considerably in the past few days. I've found a few contenders, such as this, and this, and this (which, yes, I have already knitted once)...but none of them is IT.

The process is complicated by the fact that I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for. Maybe a shawl collar, maybe a hoodie. Maybe with buttons, maybe open. Maybe with cables, maybe not. See what I mean? What I need is the knitting equivalent of a Sorting Hat to tell me what I really want to knit. Lacking that, I thought I would ask the blog--because that worked out so well for the collar of Francis Again.

What is your current favorite cardigan? (Extra points if it uses aran or worsted weight yarn.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And the Winner Is...

...little rolled collar! Wait. That's a cowl. Well, yeah. See, even though the vote was clearly on the side of the little rolled hem, I decided, I'm the knitter, I'm the wearer, so I'm going to make what I want!

And I love it. :)

Not that it wouldn't have looked great with the little rolled collar--it would have been adorable. But I planned it as a cowl and I really wanted a cowl, so...

Right now it is blocking on Bertha (my typical blocking method, because it gives the fabric a realistic stretch). It seems to have grown about 3 inches in length, which is what I had planned, so it should fit perfectly, but I'll have to wait until it is dry to be sure. (That's why there are still yarn ends hanging loose. Experience has taught me it is much easier to pick out the bind off if you haven't already woven in the ends prior to blocking. Once I'm sure the length is right, I'll weave in the ends.)

Modeled shots to follow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Escape From Sleeve Island

In all the years I've been knitting sweaters--and I've knitted a lot of sweaters--I've only found one way off Sleeve Island, and that's full speed ahead.

The first sleeve of Francis Again took me three weeks to finish. Now, I'll admit I was distracted by other things, like Mosaic Madness, but still, three weeks is an unreasonable length of time for a single sleeve. So yesterday, when I finally bound off the first sleeve, I immediately cast on the second and decided to knit until it was done.

As you can see, it's done! (I know the sleeves look really short--it's deliberate. This yarn is going to grow like a teenager in the summertime when it hits water, so I knitted everything short in anticipation of wet blocking.)

I've been looking forward to casting on the lovely, large cowl neck, but when I tried this on, my husband took one look and insisted I not put on a collar at all, or if I had to have one, just a minimal little rolling edge collar. Now, I really want the cowl, but he made me agree to ask the blog for its opinion first.

So what say you, Blog?

Large, floppy cowl?

Or little, rolled edge?

We await your decision.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Proof of Knitting

I told you I had indeed been knitting, and here is the proof:

This is my latest version of Francis Revisited. It's a simple, top down, raglan, cowl neck. Mine does not actually follow the pattern; just the idea. My Flame D'Amore was also based on this pattern, and it's one of my favorite and most-worn sweaters.

I've had this great Cascade Eco Alpaca Duo in my stash for quite a while. I got it in a Rav destash for a great price and I've been wanting to use it for a long time. It's 100% alpaca and extremely soft and warm--probably the softest yarn I've ever felt. Since alpaca stretches and drapes like crazy, and since I knew this yarn would likely stripe, I wanted a very simple pattern in plain stockinette that would look good even if it stretched out. Francis seemed to fit the bill.

This version is truer to the original than my first, including the moss stitch hem. It's a bit floppy, but I suspect it will be fine after washing, when the rest of the sweater grows to match.

And I'm going to give this one a larger cowl than my first as well, since I've found my favorite sweaters these days have cowl necks. I have always avoided them, because my mother hates them, but I bought a few last year to wear with suits and quickly realized they suit my lanky shape really well.

This sweater has progressed rather slowly, as I've been distracted by other things, including Mosaic Madness:

As you can see, I'm up to 12 of 20 octagons. I have yet to start the connecting squares, both because they look boring and because I don't understand the pattern for them. How is it possible not to understand the directions for a four-inch square? I don't know, either, but I still don't understand them.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Well, that was fun...

I don't know whether those of you outside of southern California heard, but we had a huge power outage here yesterday--pretty much all of southern California, western Arizona, and northern Mexico abruptly went dark yesterday afternoon. Nothing like a complete loss of power to make you realize how dependent you are on electricity. No internet, no tv, no radio, no phone. No gas, either, since the pumps rely on electricity. No air conditioning, no refrigerator, no microwave...I could go on all day. The traffic signals all went out--right before rush hour--which was a nightmare. And my washer and dryer stopped mid-cycle. I suppose it would be paranoid of me to think the whole thing was just a cosmic smackdown directed at me because I was gloating about getting my dryer fixed an hour earlier and was celebrating by doing laundry.

Wouldn't it?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mosaic Update

I'm having trouble getting the colors to come out right, but you get the idea. Nothing like some bulky crochet for instant gratification!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Multiplying Mosaics

So. Much. Fun!

I love watching the different patterns emerge. I'm mostly following the pattern, except when I don't feel like it. As you can see, I'm up to six octagons. I think I've almost figured out how to do them now. Crochet is not really my forte, so some of these are a I'm sure it won't matter once they're all sewn together--or at least, that's my theory. If prior experience is any indicator, I won't have long to worry about it until it is confiscated by one of my family members and spirited away.

I am knitting, too. I have the body and most of one sleeve done on my current top-down raglan. But since it is plain stockinette, and beige to boot, it's not all that exciting to look at. And since it's heavy alpaca, I'm not willing to risk heat stroke to model an in-progress shot for you. I shouldn't complain; while the rest of the country has been melting all summer, it's been mid-70s and perfect here all season. This is only day 2 of our heat wave, and it's supposed to taper off later today. What can I say? I'm a weather wimp. I am counting on the heat to dry my laundry, though, since the dryer is still dead and the repair guy isn't coming until tomorrow. I'm hoping he can fix it on the spot. Send good appliance juju!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Murphy's Law?

I don't think law school covered the particular section of Murphy's Law that reads: "If you put all the sofa slipcovers in the wash, and it's pouring ass down rain outside, the dryer will die."


Saturday, September 3, 2011



Arctic Wolf

What do you think?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mosaic Madness

Victory at last! I have recovered the missing camera cable, but not without a lot of drama. I thought I had a solution that would allow me to circumvent the whole cable thing. Sophanne very gently pointed out to me what should have been obvious, which is that there is an SD card in the camera, and I should be able to transfer the images from the card to my computer with the use of a card reader. "Ah ha!" thought I. "I can do better than that! I have a built in card reader in my laptop!" And I eagerly popped the card out of the camera and attempted to fit it in the card reader on the laptop.

Alas, I was foiled. It seems the card in the camera is an XD card, and the slot in the computer is an SD card, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

"Not to worry," I thought. "I have a separate card reader. I know I do because I remember lending it to Older Son a few months back." Um. Yeah. Is anyone other than me surprised that it was not where it was supposed to be?

Not one to give up that easily, I thought, "Well, if the card doesn't fit the slot, perhaps I can find a cable that fits the camera." And I hied myself off to seek out every single flippin' mini- micro- midget- usb cable in the house. You know what I found out? They're all different, but not one of them fits my camera.

In the meantime, however, I found the missing card reader!

So I happily sat down and attempted to plug in the camera card. Guess what? It didn't fit.

At this point, I'm pretty sure I would have done something truly awful to the male members of the household (I had a whole slew of wonderful ideas), but just then, in waltzed the KH and tossed me the missing camera cable!

When asked, he eventually allowed it was "on the floor"--and that's all I could get out of him.

But I have my camera cable back, and so I have photo capability once more! Which means I can share with you my latest obsession, The Moorish Mosaic Afghan. This is not a pattern that would have caught my eye, except that I happened to see this version, and it was love at first sight.

I immediately downloaded the pattern and tossed the stash for yarn in the same colors. I have enough suitable yarn in four of the six colors I need, and of course, immediately ordered the other two colors from WEBS. They have not yet arrived, so you will notice a certain repetitiveness in the colors of my first mosaics:

And yes, if it had escaped your notice before, I am sure you now realize that I have crossed over to the dark side once again. This is crochet, not knitting. Or, as I like to think of it, a whole new craft to screw up. That one on the left? That is the third one I made. Somehow it took twice as long as the other two put together. It took three whole episodes of The Tudors to get through, because I think I ripped out a total of about 70 rounds to get this 14 round octagon. (By the way, The Tudors? Awesome. Definitely rated R, so no kids around while you're watching. If you're an Amazon Prime member, it's free to stream in HD!) Come to think of it, The Tudors may have had something to do with the ripping, now that I think about it.

The pattern calls for sport weight yarn (I think), and I am using worsted-ish weights, so my octagons are quite a bit bigger than the originals--about 12 inches across, pre-blocking. The pattern calls for 30 octagons, plus a bunch of squares and triangles that connect them. I suspect that will make a much bigger, heavier throw than I really want, so I may stop at 20 octagons. This will make for a somewhat different look in the end, but I think it will still work.

Now, if I could just get those yellow and orange yarns. I wonder if the mailman has come yet?