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!