Friday, November 30, 2012


Remember the surprise yarn purchase that I couldn't show you before?

Well, I can show you now.

It's my very first colorwork project! I'm knitting the Alliance Lion Mitts, which are basically the perfect culmination of my knitting and Warcraft obsessions. And, quite possibly, the only project that could have impelled me to push my knitting boundaries so far and so quickly.

See, I think there are really two types of learning, when you learn how to knit. One is learning techniques - how to cast on and bind off, how to make various stitches and increases and decreases, how to cable and do colorwork and bead your knitting and so on. The other is learning structure - the general pattern that a hat or sock or sweater should take, the way that certain techniques will alter your fabric, the way that the construction of something fits together and makes sense. Learning techniques allows you to follow patterns. Learning structure allows you to understand why they're written the way they are, and how to alter them to fit the needs of your own knitting.

I was originally going to write that colorwork is the first new thing that I've learned in a long time. But this isn't really true, you see. The last major technique I learned was probably cabling, a couple of years ago. But there has been a steady stream of smaller things I've been learning too. The shape (and shaping) of a sock. The structure of a stitch, and how to diagnose and fix unruly ones.

So while learning this new technique is very exciting, and is something that I can easily show off to other people and myself as a milestone, a big step of progress, it's really my knowledge of structure that gives me the quiet confidence that really, I'm becoming quite a decent knitter. No matter how many false starts and curse words I have to expend over other projects.

In conclusion, look at my pretty floats!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

FO: Carina

I finished my mother's hat last week, on the plane ride home for Thanksgiving. (Have I mentioned how much more enjoyable travel has become since I've taken up knitting? It's really quite wonderful.) According to my Rav projects page, it took seven days to knit this project, but many of those days were spent doing other things. I'd estimate a real total of around six hours, false starts and all.

I presented the hat to my mother almost as soon as I arrived. She seemed to love it, though she was a little dubious about how a hat with "so many holes in it" could keep her head warm! She plans to sew a cloth lining for the inside.

Shown unblocked, because I am exceptionally bad at remembering to block things. I assume that after blocking it would stop looking so much like a beanie and more like a proper slouch hat.

Thoughts on the yarn and pattern: the pattern is clear and well-written (and well-charted), but I do wonder whether it was worth paying a whole $5 for - both Radiance and the Traveling Man sweater, which don't cost very much more, give you pages upon pages of instructions and progress charts, while Carina basically hands you a page and a half, most of which consists of the two charts. Maybe the price is why such an otherwise lovely and straightforward pattern has so few projects listed? I did deviate from the pattern, following the lead of one of the other knitters who had made this, by substituting ssks for k2togs directly following a YO. I think this change helps open up the lace pattern a little better.

The yarn I used, Road to China Light by The Fibre Company, is an absolute dream to work with. It's amazingly soft ("buttery soft", even) and held up to repeated froggings quite well, though it started getting pretty limp after around the fifth reknitting. However, it did have a tendency to shed long hairs while being handled - whether from the alpaca, the camel or the cashmere I can't tell.

(Photos by my father with his fancy DSLR camera. I may have to get him to photograph more of my knitting, since he actually has practice with this sort of thing.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sad Sock Saturday

This is what ten hours of progress on a sock looks like:

I'm knitting a (somewhat modified) pair of Spring Forward socks for Amy, to match the Hand Springs I gave her earlier this summer. Saying that it's been difficult is putting it a bit lightly.

My first attempt was with the recommended CO of 66 stitches, though I was somewhat skeptical. I quickly verified that this was way too small. For my second attempt, I decided to knit a patterned front and a plain stockinette back to accommodate a CO of 72 stitches. I knit several rows into the heel flap before I realized I was knitting the flap pattern wrong. My heel turn was off center. My gusset decreases were mysteriously uneven. And finally, when I presented the half-finished sock to Amy, to let her try it on... it was still too small. It wouldn't fit over her heel.

I horrified her by frogging the whole thing right then and there.

This time I have a full 88 stitches cast on, and I intend the third time to be the charm. It's past time to reclaim my knitting mojo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The state of things.

I think that I might be having one of those periods where nothing is coming out right. Whether it's mistakes in counting, or yarn that's refusing to cooperate, or mismatches between the yarn and pattern, or missing supplies... nothing is really working.

Today I frogged what little I had worked so far of my mother's hat, and started in on a new pattern, Carina. It's beautiful and elegant, and written specifically for this yarn.

I love the pattern of the lace inset, though it doesn't look like much just yet.

The knitting is the most even and neat that I've managed for weeks, and the yarn is a dream to work with. Which means, of course, that I would knit nearly twenty-five rows before I noticed that the hat is too small to actually wear.

Sigh. Time to frog it all back again...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Winter is coming

The temperature here dropped within a week from the mid-60s to around 30 degrees F. We got our first sticking-snow yesterday. I've been wearing Radiance wrapped twice around my neck as a kind of shawl-scarf, and it's kept me surprisingly warm, considering its laciness. (I am entirely happy to attribute this to the magical powers of Malabrigo lace. Mmm... Malabrigo.) Once again, I highly recommend this pattern to anyone who enjoys or wants to learn to knit lace.

I have surprisingly little in the way of other winter accessories knit up for myself, though. My bamboo fingerless gloves are hardly warm enough for real winter wear, and my only hat is a store-bought one. I've been meaning to knit myself a nice winter hat for around two years, now, and just haven't gotten around to it yet.

First, though, I should do something about my mother's hat. I think it's been made pretty clear that I am not cut out to be a hat designer. Soon I'll be frogging what little I have so far, and looking for a suitable (existing!) pattern for this yarn. Then I'll try to see if I can finish the hat before I go home for Thanksgiving.

Oh! I forgot to mention before, I seem to have acquired a new knitting group! A few girls from my department meet every other weekend to knit, chat, have delicious tea and home-baked scones and cookies, and listen to awesome nerdy things. (The first time it was the first episode of Firefly; yesterday it was a few episodes of a BBC radio comedy called Cabin Pressure.) It's such a nice feeling to be among people I know I have more than one thing in common with, and I'm very much looking forward to our next session after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


It's been an exciting month and a half.

Maybe "hectic" is a better word here. There have been three main things keeping me from posting:

1. Real-life stuff. In the past month and a half I've had my laptop crap out on me twice, my bank account hijacked, various online accounts hacked into, my showerhead blow up, and more - not to mention regular academic busy-ness.

2. Mists of Pandaria. The latest World of Warcraft expansion came out on September 25th, and I've been playing... quite a lot. (Let's not go into exactly how much.)

3. I haven't finished anything. The previous two items have combined to ensure that my WIPs crawled along at a snail's pace.

Until now.

You see that ruffle all along the edge? From my scheme to use up all of the yarn? Yeah, that ruffle is a big reason why this has taken as long as it did. Don't do what I did and add a ruffle by inserting an extra row of kfbs. The picot bind-off took literally two weeks to complete.

Updates should come more frequently now, as I've moved on to slightly saner projects.