Friday, April 18, 2014

Some knitting and some baking

I've started my 2nd sweater of 2014: Dragonflies, by Joji Locatelli. My goal is to knit two sweaters this year, and I'm optimistic I'll manage it given my progress so far.

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It's going well so far. The lace is more complicated than anything I've done recently, but I'm getting into a rhythm with it, so all is good. I still have to focus entirely on the charts, but I think it will get easier as I go.

Other than knitting, I've been baking. The other day I made pita / pitta for the first time, and it was so awesome.

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Delicious, and surprisingly easy. Will make again. I used a recipe from How to Bake by Paul Hollywood. The pockets are magical. Or maybe it's just yeast that is magical. In any case. Eating fresh, warm pitta with store-bought hummus just made the hummus seem sad, so next time maybe I'll make the hummus as well. (I used to make hummus frequently, but laziness has taken over these days.)

Monday, April 07, 2014

First FO of 2014: Wethersfield Cardigan

My Wethersfield cardigan is my first FO of 2014!

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Pattern: Wethersfield by Cecily Glowik MacDonald

Yarn: Cascade Eco+ in the Pacific colourway.

Mods: Knitted the body way longer than called for, used twisted rib instead of regular 1x1 rib for the hem and collar since I prefer how it looks.

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Notes: Love it.

The pattern was a Ravelry-gift in a holiday pattern swap, and I wanted to start knitting straight away. Even though it is in reasonably thick yarn, the knitting still took a long time, though. My project page claims I started it January 13th and I didn't finish it until April 1st. I just need to accept that sweaters always take me a long time, even when I work on them almost exclusively. (In this case, I did have a few other projects going to distract me, so I certainly was not working on it exclusively. Never mind.)

I'm not used to open-fronted cardigans, and it's actually more open in the front than I was expecting - i.e. I can't really pull it closed at all. But I like it. I've been wearing it almost constantly since it dried. This sweater is very cozy and has been perfect for the particularly grim weather we have been having. Chilly and damp with thick fog - though it seems to be lifting now.

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The cable on the back was lots of fun to knit. The only complaint I have about the pattern is that the cable chart is blurry. I haven't seen anyone else mentioning this on Ravelry, so maybe it's just me and my ancient computer? Some sort of resolution mismatch? In any case, it's blurry on screen and it printed out blurry, so it is difficult to read. I'm familiar enough with standard cable charts at this point that I could figure it out - plus the cables were easy to memorize, so it all worked out fine. I also think it's a bit odd that the pattern abbreviations use one style of abbreviation for the various kinds of cable twist, but the chart uses different abbreviations. I imagine this comes from whatever software was used to make the charts... but it's still a bit strange to see. Anyway, that is stupidly nitpicky and didn't affect my ability to follow the pattern, since I didn't really look at the written instructions for the cables and stuck to the charts. Still, I imagine it might be confusing to a beginner who is just learning how to follow charts. I know when I was learning charts I often referred to the written directions to make sure I understood what I was doing.

This was my first time knitting seamless set-in sleeves from the top down. The body of the sweater is done bottom-up, but then the sleeves are done top-down with short-rows. It is magical! I will do this kind of sleeve again, for sure. I'm really interested in trying some different seamless sleeve cap techniques in the future, since I'm not a huge fan of seaming (big surprise), but sleeve-cap type sleeves seem to fit me quite well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WIP: Wethersfield Cardigan

Here is what I have on the needles at the moment, just in time for spring.

Please note: in reality, the yarn is a deep/bright teal. Not blue. Not turquoise.

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Big, hulking, cozy cardigan. Since Scottish spring often requires coziness, I hope I'll get some use out of it before next year.

This is Wethersfield by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. Twice now, I've seen one of her patterns pop up on my ravelry feed and felt an immediate need to knit it as soon as possible. (First time was with Idlewood). I received the pattern as a Ravelry-gift from one of my internet friends in a holiday-time pattern swap, and cast on in January with Cascade Eco + yarn.

I've been reaching for my Vivian hoodie a lot this autumn/winter/spring, which is made out of Cascade Eco +, so I thought it would be handy to have another sweater in the same yarn. Shortly after I finished knitting Vivian, there was some speedy pilling, and I was a bit disappointed. After years of wear and occasional de-pillings with a razor, it has pretty much stopped pilling - and it has otherwise held up quite well! So I forgive it, and with Wethersfield I know to give it a chance to pill a bit without giving up on it.

I'll say more about the pattern once I've finished, but I just have to say seamless set-in sleeves are magical. Magical! Also, knitting these sleeves two at a time was probably a bad idea - unlike doing socks TAAT, there is no open end, so the yarn gets trapped and wound around and around the sleeve. Ugh. I did not think that one through at all. Unwrapping it is a bit cumbersome, so these sleeves are working up very slowly. Never mind. I'll be glad of it when I finish them both at once.

Check out some more WIPs at Tami's blog for WIP Wednesday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stashing UP: this month in yarn acquisition

I've never been on an official stash-down - mostly I am fairly restrained in my yarn purchasing, so I haven't felt the need to stop buying yarn entirely just to bring stash down to manageable size. Yet. The last few weeks have really been an exercise in stashing UP, though.

First, I went to the St Abbs Wool Festival at the beginning of March, in the picturesque seaside village of St Abbs in the Scottish Borders. I had never been to this festival before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much awesomeness they managed to pack into the two small venues. It was fabulous. Not only was there yarn aplenty, but there were also loads of amazing buttons, weaving, spinning, and felting. It was also a very sunny, gorgeous day - I managed to forget my camera, but I wish I hadn't!

I came away with a skein of Natural Born Dyers BFL/Nylon High Twist Sock. (And some buttons, but button-stashing is for another post).

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As the company name suggests, the yarn is dyed with natural dyes. I am always astounded to see the range of great colours people can get using this kind of dye. My photo doesn't do it justice at all, of course. It is a semi-solid with many different shades of green.

Then, I received some yarn as a fabulous birthday present. When I heard that SweetGeorgia was going to be at Unravel, a wool festival in Farnham, I made a special request to my mother-in-law, since I knew she would be attending the festival as an exhibitor. I've drooled over SweetGeorgia yarns on the internet for a long time without committing to purchasing any, and I'd never seen it in person - MIL got me a skein of Cashluxe Fine, which is Merino/Cashmere/Nylon sock yarn. It is quite possibly the softest thing I have ever touched. Amazing! For once, the colour (Wisteria) is pretty accurate in the photo:

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As if that weren't enough yarn for a year, never mind a month, I went on a Yarn Crawl this past weekend with my knitting group. Edinburgh has had an explosion of independent yarn shops in the last couple of years, so why not try to visit them all in a day? Sounds like a plan! (I even brought my camera along to document the proceedings, and then got so distracted by the pretties that I didn't take any pictures. Oops.) We ended up visiting four shops, missing out the two department stores that have yarn, and one of the larger shops - otherwise we wouldn't have had enough time. We also feasted on delicious Malaysian food, ate gelato outside in the cold wind, and ended up in a pub. (As you do.) But! As may be expected, yarn came home with me.

Our first yarn stop was Be Inspired Fibres, a beautiful shop that opened last summer. Shamefully, I hadn't been to visit yet - however, I'm sure I will be back frequently. Despite vocally vowing to stick to my plan for the day, which was to buy yarn for a sweater and not random skeins of pretty sock yarn, I failed at the first shop. Some Malabrigo Sock called to me and I could not leave without it.

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The colourway is Aguas - watery blue-gray-greens that are more complex than pictured. (Truly, it is very different than the Natural Born Dyers' skein pictured above, even if the photos deny it.) This may seem like blasphemy, but I've never worked with Malabrigo Sock before. It's obviously incredibly soft, but it seems more substantial than I was expecting, given Malabrigo's reputation for buttered-kitten-softness. (This substantialness is a very good thing, in my books.) Anyway. There is no way I am making socks out of something this soft and pretty, but more on that another time.

I didn't buy anything at the next two stops (K1 Yarns, and Kathy's Knits), although Kathy's Knits in particular is a favourite destination of mine for sweater yarn.

Then at our final stop, I finally got my sweater quantity that I had planned on:

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Five skeins of Brigantia Luxury Double Knit, from Ginger Twist Studio, a shop that despite its small physical size manages to stock a huge range of fascinating yarns. (All of us on the yarn crawl fit in at once, but just barely!) I have never used this yarn before, but the colours are fantastic, and it feels sturdy enough for my sweater-knitting needs, so I have high hopes for it.

Phew. It has been a while since I acquired so much yarn in such a short period of time, and it's a bit overwhelming! I'm excited about all these things, and some of them I have immediate plans for, so they won't linger in the stash for too long. Still, these acquisitions have made me realise that a good portion of my stash is just stash without any plans attached. I might need to remedy that soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FO: Gnarled Oak Cardigan

I finished this back in December--my one sweater for 2013--and I've been wearing it a lot.

Pattern: Gnarled Oak Cardigan by Alana Dakos
Yarn: New Lanark Pure Wool DK in Woodland

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Mods: Added length and waist-shaping using Little Red in the City as a guide. I still haven't knitted any of the patterns from that book, but the measuring guides and customization instructions are very useful. It worked! The fit through the waist is nearly perfect, and I am so pleased. (Sketchy notes on what I did are on my ravelry project page, but keep in mind they are based on my own idiosyncratic gauge and measurements.) If I did it again, I would add just a little bit more length in both the body and the sleeves, but I can live with it as is. The sleeves are also a bit weirdly room-y towards the shoulders for some reason, but oh well.

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New Lanark is the ultimate sweater yarn for me. I have now used the Aran and DK weights, and I will certainly use both again. It's very hard-wearing, and the heathered/tweediness of it makes my knitting needles sing! The stitch definition isn't extremely crisp, since the yarn has a bit of fuzz to it. Thus, the oak leaves don't stand out as much as they might, but I still think it was a good choice for this project.

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One thing I realized as I worked on this is that bottom-up sweaters with yoke details are really really boring for 85% of the project. Once I got to the leaf details I was happy, but I really got bogged down on the sleeves. I'm sure I will knit things with similar construction in the future, but hopefully this project will be a reminder to me that all the boringness can lead to brilliant results in the end.

Next up (eventually): what I am working on so far in 2014!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

2013 FOs: stuff for me!

I received some gorgeous Fyberspates Scrumptious Aran weight for Christmas in 2012, alongside Saturday Treat by Ysolda Teague. As soon as I opened it up, I knew wanted to make Almond Comfit first, a cute beret with an interesting construction and a fun lace detail. I wasn't entirely sure I would use the Scrumptious yarn for the project, though it was the yarn specified in the pattern. I had reservations about it being too dark, since I had the Midnight shade - a deep, dark blue.

It sat in my stash for nearly a year when I remembered it and decided to match pattern with yarn as the pattern intended and just go for. So, in December I knocked out a dark blue Almond Comfit in just over a week.

I rather like it.

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Pattern: Almond Comfit by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Fyberspates Scrumptious Aran in Midnight

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Notes: I followed the pattern to the letter. This is one of those patterns that requires trust. The construction is very clever and at first I found it hard to visualize. All worked out in the end, though. I really like the reverse stockinette i-cord.

I find berets a bit difficult to wear - I always think the way they lump in the back looks a bit funny on me. I also don't wear hats too often these days, since the winter here hasn't been particularly cold. Still, right now my hair works very well with berets, since I can have the necessary bits sticking out the front so that I don't look bald. I am thinking about growing my hair long again, so I'd better wear the heck out of this hat while my hair cooperates.

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One more catch-up FO post from 2013 to go - and then I'll get on with my 2014 WIPs.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

FO catch-up: Gifts and Christmassy things

I didn't post much over the last few months of 2013, but if you saw my 2013 FO mosaic you'll have noticed that I did finish a few more projects. It doesn't feel like the new knitting year has started properly until I post about all my FOs, so I'm going to do a few posts to catch up with what I've made.

Today I'll summarize the holiday-related knitting I did.

First of all, I finished a scarf for my mom from a pattern she picked out when I visited over the summer.

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(dirty mirror selfie snapped before I posted it off)

Pattern: Drachenswanz by Klangsonne

Yarn: Lioness Arts King of the Jungle Sock, in "Seeing other people"

Notes: Fabulous soft yarn in the most delicious, deep, semi-solid red. It was lovely to work with. The scarf took me months to complete because I got bored of garter stitch after a while. The pattern is originally written in German - I tried to follow the English translation, but it didn't really make sense to me, so I ended up working entirely off Amilouna's notes.

Next, we decided to buy a real Christmas tree this year, since we were staying home for the holidays. This necessitated buying ornaments. (Last time we stayed home for Christmas, we used hexipuffs for ornaments, but this year they were all sewn up!) I took the opportunity to make a tree-topper from a pattern I'd had on my radar for years.

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Pattern: Celestine by Norah Gaughan

Yarn: Patons Diploma Gold DK

Our tree was small, so the full-sized start would have looked silly. As such, I followed many helpful ravelry notes and made my celestine smaller. Each point began with 35 stitches, rather than 55. I didn't measure the final product, but it was a good size for the wee tree. So it would stay on top, I left the final point open at the bottom and inserted and stitched on a plastic tube that my husband cunningly fashioned and drilled holes into. It worked very well!

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