Wednesday, 29 December 2010

FO: Eastlake Pullover

I trust that everyone had a wonderful Winter Solstice (the days...they are stretching out into lazy sunshiny afternoons already) and a great Xmas if you celebrate. I love giving gifts and I always make sure that everyone I know knows that as well. Lucky for me, once the giftwrap finally settled into piles on the floor, a huge blizzard hit the city and dampered the hustle for a couple days. It was glorious. After so much hectic running around in the past month, the idea of being snowed in was downright comforting. I made a huge batch of chicken stock with all those bones in the freezer and made a vat of soup that warmed up the house and everyone in it. As long as I didn't run out of booze, all was right in the world.

This was also the perfect opportunity to sit down with the manual for my new camera. I'm pretty excited about this. There's a pretty big learning curve on a complicated electronic camera but I think I've got the basics down. I'm also glad my old SLR got some use as a model.

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RIP, my sweet Dinosaur.

Which brings us to my newly finished sweater: the Eastlake Pullover by Norah Gaughan.

It's from her Berroco collection Vol 3. I modified this quiet a bit from the original pattern.

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For starters, I knit the body in the round instead of flat. The less seams to clean up at the end means a happier me. Secondly, I didn't like how the fern leaf pattern ended and a decorative band bisected the sweater mid-boob. I would be constantly tugging on that to get it going above or below boob level. No one needs a line going across their boobs. So I ended the pattern early and did about an inch and a half of short rows across the front to give it more shape. Short rows are always a good idea if you have curves- it makes everything fit much better. The other modification I did was only one band of pattern over the arms instead of two, just because I didn't like the way it looked. That was more of a preference thing than a fit issue.

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I love the way this came out and I've worn it quiet a bit already.

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The yarn is Berrocco Inca Gold. It's a lovely blend of 80% Merino, 20% silk. It's a tightly twisted cabled yarn- 4 separate 2-ply yarns are plied together to make a 4-ply that has a nice amount of spring and shine, and it's very soft. So far, I've had no problems with pilling and it seems like it will wear well, as most well-made cabled yarns do. It also has great stitch definition. I really loved working with it and I'll be hoarding more in the future.

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The specs: I used about 9.5 skeins, or 1159 yards of this dk weight yarn for the 38" size. The maid body was knit on size US 5 needles, and the ribbing was on size US 3. I had to go down a couple of needle sizes to get gauge, and a sweater on 5's does take quite a bit of time, but it's well worth it in the end. I have an extra ball and a half of yarn left, and I immediately cast on for a hat to use up the remaining bit.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Spinning: Now with More Bovinae Ungulates!

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I have conquered the buffalo.

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It was probably the most patience-trying down fibers I've tried spinning. It was fluffy and soft and once the radiator got turned on for the winter it was a stat-icky mess. The staple length was only about a half inch, so i just grabbed handfuls of it, fluffed it up, and spun it short-draw. I mean, really short-draw.

It took me almost a month to spin up all 5oz into singles (granted, I don't spin ever day, or even a very long time when I do get a chance to spin). Laceweight, naturally. It was a very cranky fiber to work with- too much twist made it go snap, too little twist made it fall apart into infuriating little heaps of under-spun fluff.

I think because of the time I spent on this, I expected to be surprised with an overwhelming amount of yardage. Thousands and thousands of beautiful buffalo yarn! Fantasies of making multiple huge complicated lace shawls danced through my head. I'd make one for everyone I know!

Alas, no multiples for me. In the end, when I plied, I got 428 yards. A lace cowl, perhaps? (Ahem, or in this case, a cow-l.)

Handspun Bison

But I love the yarn just the same. It's drapey and soft (almost but not quite cashmere soft) and despite all the breaks I had, it's much more even than I expected. Once I washed it to set the twist, it got a nice fuzzy bloom to it.

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When I did give it a wash, I was surprised at how dirty it was. Bison really like to roll in the dirt, much like alpacas. I had to change the water three times to get all the fine grit out. Dirty buffalo.

Next up in my spinning queue: baby camel and silk blend, which I'm going to card together with some Polworth. I'll keep you posted on how this little experiment goes.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

FO- Cotty Socks, part deux

I very rarely make the same pattern twice, but some things just deserve a second go.

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I bought this yarn at Rhinebeck 3 years ago at The Fold booth. The colorway is "Pebbles". It was so delicate and pretty, I couldn't resist. From the moment I laid my eyes on that skein, I had it in my head that this would be socks for my grandma.

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Grandma is a real classy lady. She's one of those unflappable sensible people who you just want around. She also is a year-round resident of the far reaches of northern Maine. The horror! A winter there would probably do me in. Therefore, she gets as much knitwear as I can possibly churn out.

Cotty socks

Here are my second pair of Cotty socks. I loved the first pair so much that I couldn't think of anything else that would be more perfect. They are girly but not too fussy. Best of all the pattern is written for two weights of yarn: fingering and thicker sport weight. These are a bit cushy and thick (ahem. warm.) but they aren't so thick that there would be a problem to squeeze your feet into your winter boots. I don't think I could get paid to leave the house in winter that far north, so hopefully they will get a lot of use as house slippers.

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The colors striped up nicely without a lot of pooling, and worked nicely with the lace pattern. No clown barf!

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They could have been a tad longer in the cuff (which also means I have a good amount of leftovers). They are somewhere between anklet and real sock at this point. I churned these out in less than two weeks to make that dreaded holiday shipping deadline, so it couldn't really be helped. I made 6 pairs of gift socks this year. Six! (sometimes having a long-ass commute totally pays off).

The specs: BMFA Socks that Rock Mediumweight in "Pebbles". I used a size 3mm needle and did these two at a time. The only modification I made was the cast-on. I like to do a provisional cast on when I'm doing the picot edge to make sure I'm picking up stitches in the right places so I don't get a wonky cuff.

Monday, 20 December 2010

FO- Lenore Socks

Can a pair of handknit socks be sexy? Before I started the Lenore socks, I would have said no. Handkint socks are incredibly warm, comfy and comforting. They can be silly, funky and downright gaudy, because you are either going to be entombing them in shoes or just you will have the luxury of bumming around in the privacy of your own home with them.

These are a bit special. I put them on and BAM, I was thinking I should start burlesque dancing and use the leftovers for tassled pasties and how awesome would that be. Foxy Soxy is here to rock your world, people.

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Here's a terrible pictures with a flash, but you can see the lace better:
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It looks like one of my cathedral arches collapsed when it got tucked under, but they really are symmetrical and perfect.

The specs: I used almost all of a skein of Socks that Rock lightweight in "The Raven" colorway. The pattern is Lenore by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I love the color- there are greens and reds and purples, but toned down with blueish-black. Also, this is the VERY LAST SKEIN of Socks that Rock lightweight yarn in my stash. I'm doing a little happy dance in my chair. (Not that I don't love it, I'm just trying to burn through it).

As with everyone right now, I've been crazy busy. I've been daydreaming about having free time and having everything checked off my to-do list. Also, not getting home until 2 am every morning: it's fun, but it's one unpleasant early morning. The end is in sight and I'm way overdue for a lazy day.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


It is always tourist season in New York. This time of year it's especially crowded. Every time I leave my office, I feel like I've been swept into a torrential river that stops every few feet to take a picture. If I play my cards right, the river will sweep me along to my destination, or perhaps leave me clambering up the side of a cement block to escape.

It's nice to get away to a place that might be a bit quiet.

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We went up to Maine for a few days. It was silent. I love being there this time of year. Yes, it's effing cold, but that's when all your hand knit winter woolies step up and take the hit for you. It even snowed a bit which made things all the more cozy.

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Except for the occasional dog walker, you can be the only person on the beach for miles.

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It's quite refreshing and you can really easily play that game where you pretend you are the last people on earth.

I started another pair of Cotty socks while on the aeroplane.
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I almost never make the same pattern twice, but I loved the way my original pair came out and the pattern has a sportweight version. I also need just one more gift on standby- ideally one that can be cranked out quickly but still looks good. The yarn is BMFA Socks that Rock in mediumweight. The color is "Pebbles". I picked this skein up at Rhinebeck three (3!) years ago with a certain person in mind, and I'm finally forcing myself to get around to making a certain something for the certain person.

Oh, and I did go to a yarn store while I was in Portland (because you can't throw a rock without hitting one in that town. It's almost scary.) Tess' Designer Yarn is one of the most gorgeous and unique shops I know. Everything is hand-dyed by the shop owner and she has a wonderful eye for color. It took all of my will power to drag myself out of there empty handed.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

December is the Craziest Month

...but any excuse for latkes is okay with me. Seriously though- every December I get totally overwhelmed by all the stuff there is to do this month. Work, social, all makes for a perfect storm and lots of hangovers that you swore you wouldn't have again.

I know a lot of knitter friends are out straight trying to finish gifts on time. I tend to make gifts year-round and stash the finished product until it's time to put together gift bags (I can only wear so many pairs of socks). I don't like to buy much at all- I prefer to make all my gifts and dealing with the frantic crowds makes me rather cranky. Well, I make the exception of purchasing alcohol. Lots of people appreciate a good bottle of Scotch when they are dealing with family, and my bathtub gin has been known to cause blindness, so I'll let the pros make that for me. Regardless, I have one more pair of socks to make and gift before the looming holiday deadline.

I made an Etsy Shop Update:

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I listed some silk bells that I dyed. They are so fun to spin, and I love how much vibrant color they take on. They are a perfect pick-me-up for when a nasty wind blows all the remaining gold leaves off the trees and you are faced with looking at the back of the neighbor's house for the next few months.

Here's what else I have on the needles/bobbins:

I made the Quincy hat by Jared Flood.
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I made it with Brown Sheep Bulky (the very last of what was in my stash) and all that thick garter stitch and mobeous fold makes this incredibly warm. It has a cute face-framing effect as well.

This is the Eastlake pullover, which is progressing along nicely:
It's by Norah Gaughan from her "Woodland Gothic" collection. I'm doing a ton of modifications to this to get a better fit. As much as I love Gaughan's patterns, they do not always make sense or have consistent instruction. I've made enough sweaters so that I feel like it's enough for me (and I usually don't take instructions as anything but a suggestion anyway) but I'm really enjoying creating this. I've finished the body and I'm on to the sleeves.

I'm almost done the Lenore socks. I can probably finish them up on my commute tonight.

I've also been doing a bit of spinning...
(These photos are all pre-washing, so all the yarns look a bit more calm now)

Capistrano Superfine Merino:
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I'm a big fan of Capistrano Fiber Arts- she has great use of color. That's about 3 oz. I got about 168 yards as a soft, lofty, chunky-weight 2 ply. I'm trying to liberate my spinning and make thicker, chunkier, thick-and-thin and lumpy yarn. These next two are the results:

Capistrano Merino/Silk singles:
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The color is "Etoile".

Capistrno BFL singles:
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I love the jewel tones in this. This was the toughest of the three to get the loft going. BFL is a long wool, the the fibers really want to pack together. I did get it fairly even. Alas, spinning thick has its charms. This took me all of 20 minutes to get through 2 oz. Instant gratification!

I'm trying to get my stash down using the A-Z method as well. I'm kind of stuck on the "B is for bison" and skipped ahead for a bit. I'm back on the bison now (that sounds like drugs, doesn't it?).

Also, as I was cleaning up around the house, I found a a wax mustache.

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It's fabulous, dahhhling, fabulous. I amuse myself too easily.