Thursday, 29 September 2011

FO: Broadripple Socks

I have not given up hope that one day, I will have knit everything I have in my stash. I'm still forcing myself to pick projects based on the yarn, and in somewhat alphabetical order. Just because.

I dug out a couple skeins of Knit Picks Felici that has been hiding out in my stash for eons now. 5 years maybe? It's been a while. The colorway is "Schooner", but it's been discontinued. Anyway, they were the next sock yarn on my list and I had the urge to make socks. The yarn has a good amount of nylon in it, so they make good, hard-wearing socks. I still wear a pair of socks I made from them back in 2008, and they have held up just fine. Also, it's good sock yarn for gift socks as they are superwash, and your aunt who just does't give a shit about her deliciates will still have a pair of socks at the end of the day.

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I really like self-striping yarn. I think I was fooled into thinking some handpainted yarns were self-striping, but the stripes would pool and do weird things and it was impossible to find a pattern that didn't get lost in all that clown barf. No more loud multi-colored handpaints for me, thank you.

I choose the Broadripple Sock pattern from the Knitty Summer 2003 issue.

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I made these toe-up, two at a time. That's my preferred method since it allows me to use up every last yard of yarn. The socks I made toe-up tend to be much taller than the anxiety-inducing cuff-down pairs.

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The pattern was really simple- just one row of lace to memorize, and a modified feather-and-fan pattern at that. I added 4 extra stitches to the pattern just to give them a little more ease. The pattern is written for a thicker DK weight yarn, and I was using fingering weight, so a few extra stitches didn't hurt.

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I love the stripes. LOVE. I got them to more or less line up. They were really quick to knit as well- the pattern had good flow to it, and the stripes allowed me to gauge my progress in a way that made me want to knit more on them. I could get 3 stripes worth done per commute.

These will be gifted to a fairly irresponsible laundress with cold feet.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Early Autumn Epic Walk

The weather hasn't quite cooled off like early autumn usually does, but it's still pleasant enough for me to start up my epic walks again. I only seem to get inspired to do this in spring or autumn- after a long, cold slushy winter or a brutally hot spell. I'll pick a direction I haven't been in a while and walk until I can't walk any more. It's wonderful, and nothing works up an appetite for a sinfully rich dinner than being on your feet until your shoes wear out.

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On this particular day, I headed north through Brooklyn, up to Atlantic Ave, South on Flatbush and then wandered around the Botanic Garden and Prospect Park before needing to put my Metrocard to good use. Subway train, take me away!

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I was actually surprised at how many blooms looked fresh and brilliant still. Usually things look a little brown and dried out by now.

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The buckets of rain that have been falling probably have something to do with it. We've had a wet past couple months.

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There were bees everywhere, frantically getting their nectar on as they know they don't have much longer to build up their winter stores.

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I love the rose garden.

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I give equal love to the Japanese Garden.

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Walking back through Prospect Park, there was an intense football match going on. They were from Ghana and Senegal, and they were serious about their game.

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They made me feel like I was super lazy plodding around on my walk.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Winning at Pop Culture

I'm a bit swamped to write a real post today, but check out this video from the Maker Faire in New York. While most handknitters consider knitting machines to be the devil's handiwork, this guy is doing brilliant things.

PS- I've never seen the Cosby Show before. I am terribly inept at pop culture. I know about the sweaters though.

PPS- I tried a knitting machine and it was the least relaxing thing ever. I honestly wanted to smash it. After I unclenched my jaw, I walked away.

Monday, 26 September 2011

New Spinning Batts!

I have been going a little crazy with the drum carder lately. The unexpected super high humidity we've been having means that I don't have to deal with the static and flyaways that always seem to end up in my eyeballs or in my dinner, so I will toast to that. A la votre!

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I do love blending fiber and colors to make beautiful and unique handspun creations. It's pretty labor intensive...not only does the carding process take quite a bit of monotonous cranking, but I usually make a pretty big mess in the process. I can't just take a few fibers from the pile and blend them; I have to take out my entire scrap and carding stash and lay it all out and pick handfuls of what I feel would match up well together. Once I have all this out and set up, it's impracticable to put it away at the end of the day, so I tend to do my carding in week-long sessions where the dining room table is occupied by piles of fiber, and we have to sit on the floor in the next room to eat. I need to use good judgement as far as my timing goes.

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Plus, all the fur flying in the process means that my vacuum cleaner makes a death rattle in protest. Worrisome. I plead with it daily.

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After much experimentation, I find that the batts I like best are under 2oz. They just hang together a bit better into compact bundles, and because I'm not jamming so much on the carded, I end up with less waste as well.

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Everything can be found in my Etsy Shop, and I will be listing more in the coming days. Each batt is made up of merino or a super luxe blend that might contain merino, alpaca, silk, bamboo, faux cashmere, BFL, cashgora, angora and kid mohair. Most of it I have hand dyed; some of it is natural sheepy colored; still other bits are leftover from spinning projects that have accumulated over the years. All of it is super soft and ready to be made into a special yarn.

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Best of all, anything 2oz and under is only $12-$13 as I only have so much space to store big, fluffy batts and I need to move these things so I can make more.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

The geese are flying south.

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Sweet potatoes are becoming my favorite comfort food once again and I'm making a voluptuous red sauce out what might be one of the last weeks I'll get tomatoes. The crisper is full of the apples that I've been waiting for since last November, and I'm trying to limit myself to a reasonable number a day. 3 maybe? 4 if they are small. Oh, they are so good.

Best of all, the colder water fall ushers in has caused Oysters to build up their glycogen stores once again. Instead of the limp, pallid, deflated creatures I've been politely slurping all summer, there is now an influx of fat, flavorful ostreidae. It's truly a New York tradition to feast on these glorious little bivalves as there are oyster middens that the Lenapes created after their own oyster feasts.

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Jonathan Swift once said, "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster", and I was quite worked up on liquid courage the first time I dared myself to try one. They are probably the most amazingly simple thing to eat- all it requires is a squeeze of lemon and maybe some hot sauce, but this is all about getting the freshest oysters you can find and savoring their oceanic briney goodness.

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It's also a good time to check out wine, beer and food tastings in the event. They frequently start out quiet and serious, but then turn raucous and joyful about halfway through, and then you generally meet about 20 of your new best friends.

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Also, when I get 5 minutes to myself at home, I've been carding really lovely luxury batts like the batty lady that I am. Expect an Etsy shop update next week.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

FO: Snail Hat and a Hill Country Hat

Surprise! I made another bunch of freaky little handspun hats. These ones started out as fleece; this was actually the very first raw fleece that I processed myself.

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It's a CVM from a farm in California, and just like every time I'm in sunny California, it had a bit of sunburn on the tips. I washed and carded into rolags, and then spun it up into a lofty bulky-weight 2-ply yarn.

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It was fuzzy and soft and a bit rustic looking. I promptly threw it in a bin and forgot about it for a few years, until this weird hat craze got me pawing through my stash for good odd skeins of handspun to hattify.

First up is a smaller hat- I made this for a gift for a child. It's not toddler-small, but it's big enough for a bruiser of a 3 year old.

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It's the Snail Hat from Elizabeth Zimmerman. I already made one of these with some core-spun yarn, and I like it in a good fuzzy 2-ply much better. It's a very easy, rhythmic quick hat.

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The second hat is the Hill Country Hat from the Knitter's Book of Wool. Love that book.

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I'm a little meh on this hat. It has some interesting corrugated rib patterns that you really can't see because the yarn is too fuzzy. I will try this hat again, but with a worsted-spun yarn that will show stitch definition better.

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The pattern is just completely lost in the yarn. Ah well. It's warm though.

I haven't been spinning too much, but I did sample my next big spinning project:

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It's Muriel, the Merino fleece that got sent away to a Zellinger's. It's going to be something beautiful if I ever get around to spinning it.

I'm also finishing up Another Sweater. This one is the Coraline pattern.

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It's very fine gauge and it's taking me a while, but it's an easy pattern. I feel like I could do the smocking in my sleep at this point. It's pretty much done, but I completely lost my head when it came to measuring and the sleeves ended up about two inches shorter than where they needed to be. I'm fixing that quick like a bunny and it will be done. I guess I won't have to go naked at Rhinebeck this year.

Monday, 19 September 2011

FO: Starsky

After a rather soul-destroying past couple of weeks at work, I was really looking forward to a cozy weekend filled with all the comforts: warm (and warming) beverages, strolls in the fresh autumnal air, slow-cooked dinners with mashed potatoes, and digging through bins of gorgeous apples at the farmer's market. When I wake up in the morning now the street lights are still on (which is shocking and a bit disheartening) and I really have to make an effort to get outdoor time in daylight during the week.

The thing I was looking forward to the most was finishing the most bad-ass sweater I've had the pleasure of making.


I started this way back in February using Cascade Eco in my favorite drab grey-brown sheep color. I didn't get very far before the weather warmed up and I made the switch to linen and cotton and this got tucked away unseen until touching it became bearable again. The pattern, while well written, was a bit complicated. The asymmetrical banana tree cable pattern was not difficult but required a lot of pay-attention time. The cables were crossed on both sides of the work, and it changed every row. Therefore, I couldn't seem to memorize the pattern despite repeating it dozens of times over the course of the sweater. Also...if I had to tink back due to an error, I found it hard to figure out what row I would be on. It took some time, but I'm so happy with the sweater I can say it was completely worth it.


I wasn't getting gauge no matter how many swatches I made, so I ended up crunching the numbers and making the small size to fit me. I made quite a few mods from the original pattern. I knit the body and the front panels in one piece up to the armpits in stead of in pieces. I usually do cardigans like this if I can- less seeming and you can knock out rows of patterns a bit quicker. I also left out the belt as I think that is kind of frumpy. It's oversize to begin with, and the belt is just too bathrobey looking to me, and I already get plenty of that in my neighborhood [shudder].


I added a couple more short rows to the collar (I love big, dramatic collars) and added buttonholes. I was thinking of getting some wood or antler buttons and go for rustic, but I found these shiny slabs of mother or pearl at Beverley Trimming and pounced. That store is legendary for having an amazing selection, but you have to dig for everything and squeeze yourself into a claustrophobic corner and crane your neck at a weird angle to see the buttons. It's well worth hunting for the perfect piece though- you can find gorgeous vintage buttons for whatever the store owner priced them at 20 years ago. I originally sewed the buttons on so the fronts lined up symmetrically, but then decided to bump them over a little bit and have the fronts meet a little off center. It's such a traditional-looking cable sweater, I felt like I need to do something slightly unexpected to give it a mod-ish twist.


I also made it a bit shorter than the original pattern. I like sweaters to hit just below my hip. Any longer and I feel like it's creating an undesirable tent effect over my derriere with all that thick fabric. The lace tunic I'm wearing is very long indeed and gives the sweater the illusion of being shorter than it is, but it hits right below my hip and that's exactly where I like it.

By the way, the necklace can be found on my Etsy shop. It's a perfect black pearl in a silver wire cage. Very delicate and unique.

I used a few yards shy of two full skeins of Cascade Eco- about 956.0 yards of bulky-weight yarn. This is the second sweater I've made from this stuff and it's great. It's woolen-spun so it's a much lighter weight finished garment than expected. It's not the softest yarn, but it's a great workhorse of non-pilling, uncomplicated warm wool. I used size 8 needles for the majority of the sweater and size 9 for the ribbing. I reinforced the buttonholes with a bit of crochet- the buttons were slipping out too easily with just a regular buttonhole, so I tightened them up until the problem went away.

I love it and I will wear this until it's a tattered rag. It's perfect.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

FO: Icing Swirl Hat

The bumper crop of hats I have made are threatening to burst out of my winter woollies drawer. Some people in colder climates better have some birthdays coming up soon or this could get dire.

This one started out as a couple of wee braids of Capistrano Fiber Arts superfine merino.

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I'm not sure what the color was called. Sometimes they aren't labeled. I pulled the braids apart and meticulously separated the different colors into piles- brown, tan and red. I carded each color into a separate batt, and then alternated when I was spinning so the yarn would stripe up when plied.

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I spun it woolen and ended up with a worsted-weight 2 ply. I had about 280 yards total. After my last slightly bummer of a beret (now beanie) I decided to be brave and go for a slouchy big hat once again.

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The pattern is the Icing Swirl Hat from Whimsical Little Knits. It's fairly simple to make. You start with an I-cord and it grows from there. There are some short rows in the back to give it a slouch shape. I like having a hat where you can pile all your hair underneath and hide it there rather than try to neatly arrange it while trying to fight static. Just hide it. It's easier that way.

On hindsight, I probably could have been a bit more aggressive blocking this out to a baggier shape. I'm always a little careful when I block anything handspun- I consider it just a little more fragile than a commercial yarn and I usually slowly block it out in stages rather than have a cartoonish struggle involving pins and upturned mixing bowls and wet wool.

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A good blocking will also open up the lace a bit more, making the swirl more visible. I'm quite thrilled with the striping. It's also so soft, and really warm without being incredibly heavy. I love merino- I forget I love it as much as I do, and then I spend some touch time with it and it wiggles its way to the top of my love list again. The whole hat only used about 100 yards, so I have enough yardage leftover to, uh, make another hat I guess. Maybe I'll shake things up and make a cowl.