Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Too Darn Hot

No, that isn't a sock darning pun. There was a serious heat wave here in the last week, and once I finished the alpaca shrug, I could hardly bring myself to pick up any knitting. Not only were my hands too sweaty and lethargic to carry on, but remember my current WIP, albeit cotton, is an aran-weight long-sleeved pullover. Ugh.

So I decided to revisit the Ingalls quilt (scroll down), which has been on the back back burner (sort of like Off Off Broadway) for ages now. Making tiny little fabric-on-paper hexagons is pretty effortless, even in unbearable heat, and little bits of progress on this will eventually add up to something pretty amazing. I've made 150 hexagons in the last few days, and this photo shows my next 450 little two and a half inch squares -- when they are finished, that will bring me to the halfway point on hexagons. It's pretty overwhelming when you think of it in those terms, though. Just keep making one at a time and tossing it on the pile.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Starry Summer Affair

I did make it to the yarn store, and they did have another skein, and I did finish the last eight rows (yes, only eight rows from the second skein) of the shrug yesterday morning. Of course it's oppressively hot here today, so I hope you appreciate me putting some alpaca on my overheated self to show it off.

This design was originally called a Summer Affair, but since I changed the lace pattern to the aforementioned Estonian star stitch, I changed the name, too. It makes me think of a starry summer night, just starting to get a bit of chill in the air, and me putting this little shrug on as I take a romantic stroll along the banks of the Seine with, like, Idris Elba (or maybe a stroll along the banks of the North Saskatchewan with hometown boy Nathan Fillion?)

Anyway, it turned out quite pretty, although I won't point out to you the things I did wrong, which are glaringly obvious to me. I will mention that I shortened the peplum a bit by decreasing the short rows a bit faster than the pattern called for. I also sort of wonder if I shouldn't figure out a way to block the lace edging. It looks sort of cool all ruffly like that, but I could block it to make more of a scalloped edge, although blocking it would be a bit of a pain, if I really want to do it right. As yet undecided.

All in all, it is a cute and quick little project (would have also been inexpensive had I not had to buy that second ball of yarn, but now I guess I have lots left over for some other little bit of alpaca froth, when the weather cools down again. I'm thinking a reversible cable scarf on teeny needles...)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot Summer Knits

While I am frustratingly close to finishing the lacy alpaca shrug, I have run out of yarn. I knew it would be a stretch to knit the whole thing from one skein, but I thought I might squeak by. Yesterday, while knitting the peplum, I realized that it's just not possible. Hopefully I can get to my LYS today, and hopefully they will have another skein of the same yarn. Cross your fingers.

Meantime, I started the sleeves (two at a time, of course) on the pullover, at the pub last night, and they are very cute. If you can't interpret the photo, they have a little picot hem (which I will have to fold inside and sew in place, after seaming) and then they bell out at the wrist before snugging back in to a normal size above that. I keep holding them against my arm to try them on and assess how adorable they are. They are going surprisingly quickly, considering I am doing them at the same time. Thank goodness for aran-weight yarn.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Starry night

What's that you say? You didn't believe that my alpaca lace was going to look all that much better, when blocked? Feast your eyes on this:

Oh, estonian star stitch... almost too lovely to be real.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Unstoppable Knitting

Last night, I was happily knitting away on my pullover when a crazy thunderstorm suddenly knocked out the power. Not one to be put off easily, I knit about 14 rows on my pullover in the dark. Well, only one of them was in absolute dark. After the first row, I lit some candles and did the rest by flickering candlelight (not much better, incidentally, than the intermittent lightning flashes.) Even looking at it today, in good lighting, the knitting looks pretty even.

It brings me to the point of beginning bust increases on the front -- good progress.

Good progress is also been made on my lacy shrug, by the way. I am ready to graft the sleeves together, I think. Hopefully the weather will give me occasion to wear it when it's done.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New Projects

I've been puttering away on a couple of cute summer projects. One of them is a pullover from Verena Knitting magazine (ravelry) in aran-weight cotton which I got with a birthday gift certificate in May (thanks to my sisters.) The yarn is fat and soft and squishy -- it really fulfills the promise of its name: Cloud Cotton. Of course knitting with it is much faster than knitting with the DK, sock, or laceweight that I've been using in my other projects. I'm already finished the back of this pullover. Don't get your hopes up for a really quick finish, though -- I still have the front and two long sleeves to go.

In the meantime, I've been using that gorgeous alpaca laceweight yarn I got at the Fiber Festival to make a little shrug (ravelry) that I fell in love with. Mind you, I didn't fall in love with the lace pattern used in the design, so I spent a day or two swatching different patterns with different needles until I found something I liked. This is an Estonian star pattern (which I borrowed from Knitty's Laminaria shawl pattern) done on a huge needle (US9, or 5.5mm.) It has an interesting three-dimensional texture right now, and doesn't look like much, but as is the case with lace, it should open up and flatten out and show its beauty with a stern blocking once this piece is knit. Then comes the real fun -- the seaming, the peplum, the lace edging, the showing-off.

Monday, July 13, 2009

the Drop Stitch Tank

You know when you find a really great bargain on ebay and you're so stoked and then when it arrives, you realize why it was such a great bargain? This yarn was like that. Years ago, I got a ton of it for some ridiculously good price on ebay, and when it arrived and I started to swatch it, I could see why. The first few plies are a simple and lovely undyed blend of wool and cotton. The fourth ply is a very thin brown linen -- nice enough, except that every twelve inches or so, there is a funky little brown linen slub along that ply. A slub that looks like a funky little brown linen maggot. It wouldn't even bother me that much except that it makes my stitches uneven and makes the knitting a bit herky jerky.

I used it years ago to make a very large lace wrap, which turned out to be quite beautiful, but it didn't even make a dent in the stash. I was going to use it for the Whole Wheat cardigan (ravelry) but the gauge was wrong, and the slubs obscured the pattern. I decided to use it for Stefanie Japel's Drop Stitch Tank top (ravelry), and found that the stitch pattern was enough to disguise the little slubs.

While knitting this project wasn't the most pleasant thing (I would much rather have used some sort of drapey and slinky cotton tencel, for example) it still turned out to be a pretty nice top. It fits just the way I wanted it to, and the positioning of the ribbing is where I wanted it to be. I made the three buttonholes, but haven't sewn on buttons yet. I'm not sure if I will, actually, although I admit I like the idea of being able to close one at the top and make a keyhole look with the top. In any case, it was just meant to be a quick little summer knit that would use up a bit more of my yarn stash (and make room for more!) Mission accomplished.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Random Geekery

If you are a fellow geek, you're gonna love this...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Garter Stitch Cardigan

So I finally managed to snag my photographer for a few minutes, tonight, and get a few shots of the completed garter stitch cardigan.

This cardigan was a really simple knit -- not much for shaping or anything -- but is pretty satisfying once it's finished. The whole thing is garter stitch, so I didn't have to purl once the whole time: great tv and pub knitting. And it's a nice light weight, since it is made of sock yarn.

When I decided to make this cardigan, I went to my LYS and poked through their sock yarns for a while, trying to find the perfect one. They had the yarn called for in the pattern (Garnstudio Fabel) but not in a colour scheme that appealed to me. I found another one that I liked, but alas, not enough in stock. Then I fell in love with the colours in this Supersocke. The combo of greens with pinks has always been a favourite of mine, and these ones really pop. The repeat is nice and long, so I knew I would get beautiful stripes.

Turns out that the length of the repeat was a blessing and a curse. While it looks great on one half of the cardigan, and on the opposite sleeve, the body of the right side got a little funky. The repeat wasn't long enough to stripe there (since every row goes all the way from the front hem up over the shoulder and down to the back hem) so it started to pool. As I mentioned in a previous post, I started to alternate two balls at that point, to try to minimize the pooling. It worked well, but the stripes along that side still were very thin and random, rather than nicely defined like the rest of the sweater. I could obsess about this, but I'm choosing to look at it as a design element, instead.

The one alteration I made with this cardigan was to narrow the sleeves a bit. I mentioned somewhere along the way that they were way too wide and baggy, so I narrowed them by a bit on the first side I knit (right side.) Then I just revamped everything a bit to account for that, and measured twice (or three times) as I replicated my changes on the left side. Frankly, I made it a bit harder than it needed to be, but I like the sleeve as it is now: a bit loose but not hanging in my soup.

The sweater is finished off with a cute little crochet edging out of a double strand of bright pink alpaca. I am not much of a crocheter, but it still went fast, and I am really proud of how it turned out. I think it makes a nice finish (and of course is silky soft.)

Lastly, I thought of some sweet buttons I had in my sewing box, for a sewing project that I gave up on long ago. They were the perfect shade of green and really look fantastic on this. Blissful.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

the Aftermath

I managed to leave the fiber festival with only a few things: a knitting pattern book, a weaving pattern book, a couple of sets of buttons, and a lovely cake of laceweight alpaca. I have a plan for this little bit of yarn, and it will be lovely.

Last night, after a Herculean session of sweater finishing, I managed to complete the garter stitch cardigan. I have to admit that I usually choose projects that don't require much finishing, so sitting for hours sewing pieces together isn't something I'm used to. I don't have photos of it yet, but it turned out pretty awesome.

All I can leave you with today is a photo of the gauge swatches for my next two cottony summer tops.