A long time ago, I had a gift certificate for Blue Moon, and among the lovelyitems I got yarn for, I also picked up a skein of sock yarn on a whim. The colours looked lovely and I was pretty excited about it. Once I had it in my hands and wound it into a ball, I just couldn't imagine what pattern I would make with it. It's been sitting within my eyeline for months, and I have toyed with the thought of one pattern or another, but nothing seemed right.
In an unrelated whim, this week, I had an inspiration to make a certain sock pattern, but the yarn for it would need to be a semisolid bright red. Since I'm not buying new yarn right now, I remembered a skein of undyed yarn I had in my stash, and thought I should try another experiment in Kool Aid dyeing. Then I thought of this skein and an experiment in overdyeing, instead.
The base of it was mostly a very soft yellow, with some light minty green, a pinky red, and a soft brown. I figured that the red overdye would leave it many shades of red, some orangier (from the yellow) and some brownier (from the green and brown). It turned out pretty much like I anticipated, but with some spots less-dyed than others. I was initially a bit dismayed by this (probably from a combination of unsaturated yarn before going into the dye and also my own lack of stirring to ensure the dye was evenly distributed after the yarn went in) but it is really growing on me. I am going to see how it looks knit up, and then decide if I want to throw the completed socks back into some cherry Kool Aid to even things out a bit.
I have been having some Yarn-Harlot-level difficulties in getting my completed pullover photographed, but today I managed to find a few minutes of (indoor) sun with my HLM, and we got some passable shots.
I kept the yoke pattern pretty top-secret until I got that far, partly since I knew that knitting the body (stockingette black sock-weight around and around and around, in case you forgot) would take forever, and I didn't want everyone to be anticipating the yoke for months on end. I cast this one on in the beginning of October, and I knew it would be a bit of a sleeper project, while I worked on much flashier items. The yoke design, in case you don't recognize it, is from the old video game Space Invaders. You can find the charts here, if you are so inclined. It has been used for a sock pattern in Knitty, as well as a lot of other stuff, which you can find on Ravelry. When I first thought of using this for a yoke sweater, I thought I was ingenious. I wasn't the first one to do it, though. Turns out there are a lot of us knitting geniuses out there.
Nothing terribly exciting about the construction of it -- I used Elizabeth Zimmermann's yoke pullover design (from Knitting Workshop) but rethought the numbers a lot to make it fit everywhere just the way I wanted. I made a good-sized gauge swatch and did a lot of math. The circumference has a bit of negative ease at the hip and bust, so it looks like it has some shaping, even though it doesn't. There is a nice broad garter stitch hem at the bottom, and matching cuffs for the sleeves. The sleeves are a little bit long, as is my preference. I did some short rows in the back of the sweater, to lengthen the back a bit, and lots and lots of short rows for the bust, to allow the sweater to hug my assets. It also ensures that the sweater won't ride up in the front because of the extra distance it has to travel over that area. After I knitted the stranded yoke, I did a few more short rows along the neckline, sides and back, to raise it up a bit. I hate it when the back of my neck gets cold, don't you?
The only real challenge, as I mentioned somewhere along the way, was the math for the stranded yoke. I had envisioned little columns of marching alien invaders, as you see in the game, but of course there is room for so few invaders around the neckline, and if I followed that scheme, it would have left long stretches of black between each invader at the bottom of the yoke, which isn't at all right. So I had to re-envision the whole thing, and let go of the perfect video game image. The original game image would also have had a different colour scheme, since it would be two rows of Granny Smith aliens at the bottom, then two rows of Mermaid blue aliens, then two rows of Grass green. Since I decided I could only fit five rows in total, and I was rethinking the spacing of them, I also decided to mirror the colours from top to bottom. I think it ended up looking pretty good.
I love this sweater, because it is everything that I wanted: lightweight but warm, a cute nerdy design that makes me laugh, a comfortable and fitted sweater that is flattering. Isn't it great making something exactly the way you want it to be?
Oh how did I know that it would be a slippery slope, if I started knitting for other people? Now another of my coworkers wants a hat. At this rate, I will be in the hat-knitting business in no time flat. Maybe it's my own fault for making such a fine-looking hat, the first time. Eventually I will have to harden my heart again and get back to the selfish knitting, or you and I both will get bored with an endless succession of grey hats.
Speaking of monsters, I have a couple more blocks for Lizard Ridge blocked and in the pile. (Actually, I have two more done than you see here, but I am apparently knitting them up faster than I can photograph them.) Finishing the yoke sweater (yeah yeah I'll get some photos) leaves me a lot more time to work on the blanket, and it is moving along so quickly that I wonder how it's taken me so long to get this far.
Lastly, just in case you missed this bunch of monsters on Cake Boss... the reaction shot at the 1:18 mark cracks me up every time.
You know how hard it is to get a good photo of yourself wearing a hat? I have a lot of photos of parts of the hat, but couldn't manage anything that showed the whole hat successfully.
You get the idea, anyway. It is a very basic hat, invented out of my own brain, on request from a coworker. I don't usually make things for other people; it must have been a moment of weakness on my part, when I agreed to do it.
Nonetheless, it has been a simple and mindless project, which I mostly knitted while on breaks at work, so it didn't really cut into my own projects very much. Also, despite it being quite large and roomy, it only took two balls of Elann's Peruvian Highland wool. Simple, fast, and inexpensive: just what gifts to non-knitters should always be.
I have finished the yoke sweater, and it looks great, but my photographer and I are on different schedules, so the big reveal will have to wait. In lieu of that, here is a picture of some nuts.
There are a lot of cool blogs on green living out there, and the Simple Green Frugal Co-op is a great place to find a lot of information, in a very organized format. Just scroll down and check out the list of topics on the sidebar on the right hand side of the website. There are even a few posts about cheese making (which I am so excited to try.)
Somehow I stumbled upon this post on making Candied Nuts, and I had to try it. I couldn't locate my cardamom (could I possibly have used it all up? Yes.) so I used cinnamon and a bit of cloves, this time around, and coated a nice sized bowl of fresh raw walnuts. So good. (I know a lot of you out there don't like walnuts, but if you've only had the cruddy rancid ones you buy at conventional grocery stores, you really haven't experienced the beauty of a lovely raw walnut bought out of a refrigerated bulk bin. Glorious.)
They turned out pretty nice, although I have to admit that roasting the walnuts took away some of that nice raw flavour that I love. I should also note that they are just barely sweet, and that if you are used to a more sugary-coated nut, you would probably want to take their suggestion to increase the sugar in the recipe.
The ongoing yoke pullover is at long last all in one piece, since I knitted the sleeves and body together -- this means that I finally get to work the stranded yoke. I started it last night, and it took a while for my hands to remember the rhythm of stranded knitting. It was slow-going for a bit, but then it all began to feel natural again, and I made decent progress. It will start to go even faster, as I begin the decreases through the yoke and it gets progressively smaller. I can't tell you how nice it is to pick up that Granny Smith green, after knitting miles and meditative miles of plain black.
In other colourful news, my final yarn purchase of 2009 finally arrived in the mail the other day -- I have been eyeing the Corrie Vest kit on Knit Picks for ages, and since it is on sale, I decided to treat myself with one. Well, actually, with two, since the kit has enough yarn to make up to a 42" bust, and since mine is (ahem) bigger than that, I bought two kits (since I didn't know which colours I would run out of.) Not only will I have plenty to make my vest, but I will happily use the leftovers for some fair isle fingerless mitts or possibly a fantastic tam. Sweet.
Things are humming along, here: I have gotten several more repeats done on the Honeybee Cardigan, this week, and finally feel like it's getting somewhere. As you can see in the photos, there are a few more finished blocks for Lizard Ridge in the pile. I have also gotten nearly to the bust short rows on the yoke pullover, which means I'm very near the underarm, which means I'm very near the exciting stranded colourwork and the big finish for this one.
I actually sat down to do some math for the stranded yoke, the other night, and was dismayed to find that my initial plan won't work, at all. I was trying to work out a way that the repeat would be lined up in an orderly way from the bottom to the top of the yoke, but it seems that isn't possible, since the repeat itself is an even 13 stitches wide, from bottom to top. Of course yoke patterns tend to have a wider repeat at the bottom and narrower at the top. So I have had to revise the plan and I will simply do the number of repeats that I have room for, in each section, and they won't line up at all, probably, but hopefully will still look good. (This will make more sense once I get some knitted and you understand what I'm talking about.)
As you can see, some of the Lizard Ridge blocks are more... interesting... than others. If I hadn't intervened by taking out a big chunk of yarn in the ball, this particular block, for example, would have been alternating orange and green for the whole thing. Yikes.
There are a lot of hobbies I plan to take up in the future, as I find the room (and the funds) for them, like making artisan cheeses, for example. One hobby that I don't have to wait to work on is developing my bread making skills.
I decided to pull out my Le Creuset and revisit the Cooks Illustrated recipe for Almost No-Knead Bread which I tried ages ago. The loaf I made on Tuesday turned out much like the one I made, last time: round and small and slightly overdone. I found that the dough was a bit dry when I initially mixed it and when I formed the loaf, and it didn't rise as much as I'd hoped. Of course, this is not to say that we didn't eat the whole loaf, anyway.
For my second try, I added more yeast and more liquid (more beer, to be specific) and I found that it rose better and gave a lighter loaf. The dough was also less dry to begin with, and I adjusted the heat slightly and the cooking times to give it less time uncovered in the oven. You probably can't tell the difference, but this one is taller and broader than the first one. It seems to have improved the loaf significantly, but it is still a work in progress.
Come on over -- there's bread and jam for everyone!
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I decided to get down to business and finish my Lizard Ridge blanket, which I've been working on for a couple of years, now. I'd been in a yarn club to periodically send me random balls of Kureyon, but the club was a bit sporadic and it's been a while since I remember getting any, so I cancelled and just went a bit Kureyon Crazy online. ("Okay, this one... and this one... and one of these and this one...") As you can see, I have plenty of it, now. I have already made one (almost two) squares since it arrived, and I can forsee it getting finished relatively quickly. Particularly since it gives me a colourful and satisfying break from the two (count 'em, two) sweaters I'm currently making out of teeny tiny sock yarn.
In fact, it was Lizard Ridge that got me thinking about my plans for 2010. I decided not to go for Ravelry's 10 Shawls in 2010 group, but instead to concentrate on using up some of the stash of yarn and fabric that I've accumulated over the past couple of years. When I added up the number of projects that I actually have the yarn and fabric for, I was a bit shocked, actually. Well over a dozen pair of socks, a few sweaters, several complete quilts and a few more quilt tops. So my plan is that I won't buy more, this year. Or more specifically, I won't buy anything to start something new. I will totally buy stuff I need to finish a project (like quilt batting or buttons, for example.) My only exception was the Rockin' Sock Club, which I couldn't quite resist signing up for, again. I figure it will give me some of that "Oooh something new and pretty" that I will be missing, otherwise.
Also, feel free to give me yarn gift certificates for my birthday, this year. I'll really be jonesing by then.
On Boxing Day, my HLM decided to do a little bargain shopping. Since I dislike fighting crowds, I stayed home with my knitting. He surprised me by bringing me home a book on sock knitting, called the Joy of Sox. As the punny title implies, it is a book of great sock patterns by various designers, all orbiting around the concept of s-e-x.
Since I was just finishing up my Raven Swirl socks, I decided to take on something a bit faster and simpler, hence the Quickie Socks.
I had planned to post a picture of the first one when I finished it, but they really did go so fast that I was done the second one before I even got around to posting the first.
For these ones, I used some Peace Fleece that I had left over from a pullover I made years ago (in the pre-blogging era.) One ball of yarn was more than enough for the pair, which is pretty amazing, really. I knit them at a bigger gauge (20 stitches to 4 inches) since I wanted a bigger sock circumference. It was a pretty perfect gauge for this yarn, and after a nice soak and blocking them, they are so soft and fuzzy and ridiculously warm. I doubt I'll fit them comfortably into my boots, so they're pretty much around-the-house socks, but I think they'll be used pretty steadily for the next few months.
I decided to grow my hair long again. It's a cycle I go through every few years: get bored with it being short, grow it out, get bored with it being long, cut it short. Well, right now I'm in that awkward phase that makes it really hard for you to remember that you want it long, since you want so badly to get it cut so it doesn't look like a disaster all the time. The only thing to do is try not to think about it, and make yourself a cute Norwegian hat with braids, that will remind you how awesome it is to have long hair.
I've been craving one of these hats for months, since I first saw it on the Drops site. The other day I was searching for something in one of my storage boxes when I found some Woobu left over from my Jengu Woobu Aran. I immediately thought of how great it would be for this hat.
Turns out that the hat called for a heavier weight of yarn, so I held it double for the pattern, and ended up using a different gauge, which meant I had to recalculate all the numbers, and I didn't make it quite as long... but really, it's still essentially that hat. (Plus I used a lot more yarn than the pattern suggests, to make the braids, so they would be as thick as they are in the photo -- and as thick as they will be when I have finally grown my hair long.)
Living life somewhere in the grey area between Liz Lemon and Nancy Botwin. I live with my beloved Heterosexual Life Mate (HLM), no kids, two beautiful feline ladies, and what I can only assume are self-replenishing stacks of fabric and yarn.
rstovin on ravelry