Monday, October 20, 2014

Putting (the knitting) life on pause.

So I've decided to finally face down the fact that I'm defending my thesis in almost exactly a month, and address it with the proper reaction: panic!

While my normal instinctual response to panic is to grab needles and yarn, I'm working towards channeling my frantic energies away from the knitting, and towards more productive things like writing, revising, and emailing people. I've barely looked at Ravelry for weeks, and I have a backlog of thirty posts on my blogroll to read. I don't expect this situation will change much before the end of November.

So here's where I am now:

Remember these socks? I started trying to knit socks for Amy out of this yarn... back in 2012! After a few sizing mishaps and much frogging, I began again with the Slide pattern by Cookie A on May 1, 2013. I finished the first sock on May 18th, then knit halfway through the second one... and just stopped. They sat in their bag for over a year, nearly a year and a half. It was the RemRants monthly WIPdown that finally motivated me to dust them off again and finish the second foot.

I finished them on October 9th. Amy came over on October 17th and tried them on... and they were too small. Again.

Fortunately, all that was required to fix them this time was to unpick the grafting on the toes, add four rounds, and then regraft them.

The Slide pattern is really great, by the way. I plan to knit myself a pair with plain gray wool after I finish a few more WIPs.

Whispers might be the next WIP to come off the line. I've finished all the knitting; all that's left is the sewing up... but I tried it on and I'm not sure the armholes will be big enough once I graft the front and back together. I'm waffling between frogging the top and adding a few more rows somewhere, and just grafting it and trusting that blocking (and not having to hold it up while still on the needles) will take care of the difference.

Bandit's fourth pair of socks is coming along nicely. I've knit to the cuff of one sock, and I've started the second sock with the other end of the skein in order to make sure I can divide the yarn up evenly. (I've complained before about how big his feet are, but to put it in perspective: each foot is 96 stitches around, and there are a hundred rows of the darker yarn between the contrast toe and heel!)

Finally, my most recent guilty obsession: Dreambird. I've coveted one so long, and it's starting to get chilly enough to need a nice big snuggly shawl, and I'd be using up two of the oldest yarns in my stash, and I'd just finished two WIPs in a row... Yeah, I broke my WIPdown rule just a teeny bit in order to cast it on. Knitting it is utterly fascinating. I'm using Cascade Yarns Eco Alpaca for the charcoal-gray background yarn, and it's so beautifully smooth, it knits like butter. The feather yarn is Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, the first yarn I'd ever bought for myself at a LYS. It's a very loosely-spun single, so I'd had trouble finding projects where it would hold up under use and where its medium-length color changes wouldn't pool in an ugly way. Dreambird seems to be written just for such yarns. The pattern is rather wordy and confusing, but careful reading and then a bit of practice clears it up quite nicely.

So with that, I'm officially hitting pause on the knitblogging. Hopefully I'll keep myself industrious enough that my knitting won't change too much in the next month or so. See you all in December!


(P.S. Not only did I break my WIPdown rules, I also broke my cold sheeping. Craftyyarn is closing in a few days, and after the 50% clearance coupon, most of the yarn is less than $4 a skein. I bought four thousand yards of laceweight for $24. Check it out!)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FO: Celestarium!

I've finished knitting the Northern skies.

Started: May 5, 2014

Finished: September 30, 2014

Yarn/yardage used: Silk/merino lace in the Aegean colorway, from Black Sheep Dyeworks. I held two strands doubled, so my best guess is that I used a total of about 2000 yards.

Beads: About 450 size 6/0 beads. The color? Well, FusionBeads calls it "Silver Lined Transparent Light Aqua Rainbow". So there you have it.

Needles: Size 4 Addi Turbo Lace circs, with the longest cables I could find (47"). They still felt rather short, though, since the finished circumference of the shawl was well over 100 inches.

The recipient wanted a pointy edging, so I followed the lead of many other Celestarium knitters and adapted the edging from the Lunar Tide shawl. When I went to start the edging, I found that I somehow had over 200 leftover beads. Now, the pattern calls for 370 beads, and I'd bought three packets of 150 each, so... who knows how that happened? I just went ahead and added beads to each of the 82 pattern repeats in the edging.

This was an odd knit for me in a couple of ways. For one thing, it was only the second project that I've knit to someone else's specifications. You see, when I knit something as a simple present for someone, I might elicit some suggestions on color and fiber, but I always make the final decisions on pattern and yarn. Often the recipient doesn't even know they're getting something until I've finished knitting it. But the custom knitting that I auction off at the Vericon charity auction seems to carry this weight of responsibility with it. I need to make sure that that what I produce comes as close as possible to the commissioners' dream shawls in all respects. So I flood them with options for fiber, color, weight, pattern, and beads. I've been fortunate in that both commissioners so far have been knitters themselves, and so they know what they (and I) are getting into. I've been doubly fortunate in that they've both picked shawls that I had already wanted to knit anyway, making the commission knitting feel just like personal knitting.

Which brings me to the second way in which this is odd: I want to keep this. I want to use it. This is extremely strange behavior for me. I'm a process knitter who never actually uses any of my finished knits. Sure, I wear my socks sometimes, but I don't knit socks so that I can have the pleasure of wearing my own pretty handknitted socks. I knit socks because I enjoy knitting socks, and then I wear the socks because I need to put on socks and these were the ones that were lying around. I knit shawls because I enjoy knitting beautiful intricate lace, and then they get put away somewhere. I'll wear them maybe once a year. (This realization is what prompted me to start offering my custom shawl-knitting services for auction in the first place. Someone may as well enjoy the fruits of my labor.)

So why do I want to keep and use Celestarium? Is it because I've spent so much time with it? Is it because it falls on the right side of the "everyday stuff" and "fancy special-occasion stuff" divide in my mind? Is it just because the weather's grown chilly recently?

Who knows. The urge to keep it, though tangible, is not very strong, and it's getting mailed out to its proper owner today or tomorrow. If I continue to miss it, well, I have some lovely dark blue-purple Malabrigo lace that has been waiting in my stash for two and a half years to learn what it'll become.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FO: Cold Springs.

Whew, it's been a while. Two days after I got home from my trip, there was a big get-together at our place, and after that I just wanted to go to bed and sleep for a week. I couldn't even bring myself to get excited about my knitting. Yesterday, though, I finally finished and blocked the fingerless mitts I'd been knitting as a quick birthday present. (If anyone knows a better way to block fingerless mitts, please let me know!)

Started: September 9, 2014

Finished: September 23, 2014

Yarn/yardage used: Skaska Designs 50/50 Merino & Silk, about 240 yards (19 grams). I was using the partial cake left over from Hanami, and now have 39 grams left in the cake.

Needles: Size 2 DPNs. This was a mistake. The pattern calls for size 1s if working with laceweight, and despite my being a tight knitter, size 2s were simply too big.

The pattern is Hand Springs Fingerless Mitts by Micol Day, and I highly recommend it for a quick and easy knit. (I'm fairly certain that if it hadn't been for all the travel and subsequent burnout, I could have finished the pair in ten days or so.) The lace chart is intuitive and easy to memorize, and the pattern even includes a printable page with little circles next to each row that you can poke out with your needle tip to mark your progress. I'm rather surprised to see that this pattern has so few projects on Ravelry - it and Ice Queen are quickly becoming my go-to quick gift patterns.

Also, I came home to a lovely surprise - I won the birthday giveaway hosted by Marsha of One Geek to Craft Them All!

I'm especially in love with this journal; the leaves are handmade paper, and the folios are handsewn. The cover even has tiny mirror shards on it.

I have a habit of collecting lovely journals that I always feel a bit too intimidated to actually write in. I'd like to change that before the end of the year; I've been thinking a lot about creativity recently and realized that I never stopped being inspired to draw or write or express myself in creative ways, I just stopped doing them. I think it's probably about time to stop being afraid and just have fun doing the things again.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A week on the East Coast.

Hello from sunny (and humid!) New Jersey! I'm spending a week on the East Coast - two days here with my parents, then the weekend in New York City with friends, and two more days with my parents before I head back.

I have to admit, it's refreshing to get away from the towering heap of WIPs for a while. I'd been working almost exclusively on Celestarium, and it can get hard to provide entertaining updates about what amounts to "progressed a little further on the charts" every week. Granted, I did manage to finish all the charts and start on the edging before I left:

But even so, I've only managed to knit 16 repeats out of 82. The next Celestarium milestone will be quite a while in coming.

Meanwhile, I've already broken my self-imposed ban on new projects. But it's for a good cause, I promise! Part of the festivities on Saturday (uh oh... is that tomorrow already?) include a birthday party at an upscale teahouse. I decided on Tuesday that it would be nice to knit a pair of fingerless gloves as a present. Fingerless gloves are quick and easy, right?

Well, apparently not quite so much when you knit them in laceweight on size 2 needles. I cast on the first glove on Tuesday night, knit all day Wednesday in the airports and airplanes, then bound off late Thursday night. There's no way I'll be able to finish the second one today. Another WIP for the growing mental burden, I suppose. At least this isn't breaking my cold sheeping, as I'm using the leftover yarn from the Hanami stole.

(As a side note, the pattern calls for size 1s, but all of my size 1s were in use on various sock projects. No problem, I thought as I pulled out my 2s. I'm a tight knitter! ...I think this is the only time I've knit anything only to have it come out much too big.)

I deliberately packed light in order to have room for the mountain of things my mother will inevitably press on me, so the only other WIP I brought with me is Bandit's latest pair of socks. But I've also brought a Very Important Knitting Mission. Tomorrow, I will make Pickle stand on a piece of cardboard, and I will trace his foot, and I will cut it out. He will have his damned socks before the year is out, and they will fit.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Knitting Confessions #4.

Like most things in the world, knitting has a set of rules and conventions. Sometimes, we knitters break them. This is my knitting confession.

Confession #4: I have a weakness for pretty stitch markers.

I mean... everyone does, right? How can anyone resist decorating their needles with these little gems? They're undoubtedly functional (and as a lace knitter who constantly seeks out new challenges, I should know) and I believe that their beauty is an intrinsic part of their function. The more striking and distinct they are, the easier it is to recognize exactly which stitch marker and therefore which portion of the pattern you've reached.

And yet whenever the topic of stitch markers comes up on the Ravelry forums, you always get those people who say "oh, I just tie scrap yarn in a loop" or "I just cut rings off of a plastic drinking straw". I've started getting the urge to say, "Oh honey, just take some of my extra stitch markers." Because loops of waste yarn and slices of drinking straws are fine as makeshift stitch markers - as are leverback earrings and rings, both of which I've used in a tight spot - but they're not a permanent solution. They're easy to lose or disregard or accidentally knit into the project. A dropped loop of scrap yarn looks just like trash. But I can't tell you how many times I've discovered a dropped stitch marker and immediately knew I needed to double-check my project. Or times that I've paused at the end of a row to admire all my beautiful little markers, and immediately noticed one was missing. It's probably saved me hours of miscounting and frustration. Using tools you care about - it really works!

Nice stitch markers don't have to be expensive, either. I started out with simple brass-colored jump rings from a fly-fishing supply store. Fifty of these cost me about $3 - less than half of the shipping cost! A few years later, when I was first introducing Amy to the wider world of knitting, she made a set of about twenty red-and-black stitch markers for me out of her old beading supplies. However, after I ordered my first set of grab-bag markers from Exchanging Fire, I became well and truly hooked. I've made her Scorpion Honey (brown and gold) and Destiny (green and white) sets my go-to markers for projects that require more than just one or two stitch markers.

I keep a constant eye out for new stitch markers to put on my Etsy wishlist. They make convenient, relatively inexpensive little treats to reward myself with or to serve as a pick-me-up when I'm down.

What kind of stitch markers do you own? Do you have favorites, or do you use them all equally?

Knitting Confessions

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