Friday, January 22, 2016

Gloom

The sky is super grey today, which means it's sort of dark and dreary here in the house, which is only compounded by the startling amount of clutter that seems to have accumulated somehow (hint: two people with strong packrat tendencies live here, and neither has a strong cleaning/decluttering urge). Two thirds of the Christmas tree are still up - we have an artificial pre-lit tree, and last week I spent some time taking down all the ornaments and tucking them back into their box in the basement, and then I unplugged most of the cords on the tree - there's two that I think will be easier to access once there's less tree in the way - and then waited for the Mister to do the heavy lifting part. In the past, I have successfully managed to haul the tree in and out of basement storage, but the Mister gets upset with me when I do that because he's afraid I'll hurt myself - two of the pieces are pretty big and hard to manage, and one of them is pretty heavy too. The very top part of the tree was removed and taken down to the box in the basement, but for some reason that I can't remember anymore, he wanted to postpone moving the rest of the tree.

So now we just have a naked, decapitated-looking artificial pine tree in our living room.

Something will need to be done about that soon, but in the meantime, that cowl is done, ends woven in, just waiting for blocking:



Complete with the tiny amount of remaining yarn. For a little bit during the bind off, I started to worry that I wouldn't have enough to make it! Clearly, it was fine, but wow, this cowl sure did its job of maximizing my available yarn. I love it when this happens - even if I get a bit of an adrenaline rush during the bind off.

I haven't cast on my new sweater yet, but I think that will happen today - I'll go put on a load of laundry (that I just remembered I need to do today), and then I'll settle in to do the cast on while I think over some work-related stuff. (Yes, there's a deadline coming for me. Really soon. I need to bust a move. Yes, that just makes me want to knit more.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

K'done: Mawata Mittens

Another done-a-long-time-ago-but-not-blogged-till-now-because-no-pictures-till-now kind of deal.



Pattern: I used the numbers from Valais Blacknose Sheep Mittens to set up the cuffs, and followed the pattern's directions for the thumbs and thumb gussets, but otherwise it was pretty freestyle.
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Mawata, in True Blood Red
Needles: 4 mm / US 6

I freestyled a pair of mawata mittens for my sister back in 2011, and at the time I picked up some mawata to make some for myself too, but somehow never got around to it until this year. Maybe it's because generally I don't like having my fingers covered, even if that's the sensible thing to do in winter in Canada - I fumble with my keys and other hand-held things enough when I can feel them, when there's a layer of fabric intervening things get downright comical. In any event, as Halloween 2015 approached it occurred to me that new full cover mittens might be a useful thing to have in my collection, since the only other pair I currently have are sort of too big.

Working with mawata is a fun but sometimes frustrating sort of endeavour. You start with these squares of silk fibre, and you have to turn them into lengths of a sort of silk roving, I guess? I followed the instructions up on Knitty for drafting: separate one layer of fibre from the pile, poke a hole in the middle, then widen that hole so that the layer of fibre becomes a loop of fibre, then continue pulling as needed to draft the fibre into the desired thickness. Once that's been achieved, pick a spot in the loop and pull the fibres apart to turn your loop into a length, then go to town knitting. This is all great fun, but there's definitely a learning curve, with a whole lot of taking leaps of faith that what you're doing is appropriate. I'm pretty sure the first layer of fibre I worked with was actually two layers, judging by how much thicker the roving was for my cast on on that first mitten, despite the fact that my loops were pretty consistent in size. You do eventually develop a sense of how big you can make your loops for the roving thickness you want, but this takes some practice too - I find it terribly difficult to judge the weight of drafted mawata. Maybe this is because I don't spin, meaning I pretty much never work with fibre that hasn't been professionally prepared for me. The other frustrating thing I found has to do with the fibre itself - it's pretty sticky. I could feel it catching a bit on my hands if they were on the dry side, the fibre would stick to my clothes as I worked with it, and there were a couple of times when a wayward individual strand of silk would escape from its peers and float around in the air for a bit, only to end up in my eye or in my mouth. (I completely grossed out my sister one evening when I complained that my eye felt funny, and then proceeded to extract a strand of silk several inches long from my eye socket.)

When I made my sister's mittens, I worked them on smaller needles, thinking that would add density and hence warmth to the fabric, but I think I actually overshot the mark, because she felt that the mitts were not as warm as they should have been. She ended up slipping them inside another pair of mitts to use as liners, and she seemed happy enough with that solution, but for my mittens this time around, I wondered if working a slightly bigger gauge and drafting the mawata a bit thinner still would give the fibres room to fluff up and trap as much insulating air as possible.

So that's what I tried to do. The resulting mitts feel rather lightweight - almost flimsy, really. I haven't weighed them, but I started with 40 g of mawata, and I definitely used more than 20, but I've got a fair bit of the second bundle left over. When I tried them on in the house, I could feel my hands warming in their little bundles really quickly, and I was really happy, but worried a bit that I might have swung too far in the other direction, and that the fabric was now not dense enough to shield my hands and fingers from the wind.

How's that working out, you ask? Well, I honestly don't know, because I haven't really worn them that much. Right now, they seem so precious and fragile, since they're made out of pure unspun silk, that I don't want to wreck them, and I wouldn't be overly concerned about that if I hadn't gotten one caught in the handle of the car door the first morning I wore them outside. The mitten was fine, but the incident made me think twice about wearing them when needing to handle things with that sort of snagging catching potential, and that puts a pretty severe limit on me being able to wear them. At some point, I'll get over it enough to wear them more regularly, I'm sure - I've got them tucked into my handbag now, so they're handy any time I feel hand coverings are necessary. Which isn't as often as you might think, because, again, I prefer fingerless mitts, so that I can still feel any objects I need to handle.

Anyway.



Tech specs: Chinese Waitress CO, I followed the pattern (minus the colourwork) up until the decrease portion, at which point I reasoned that trying to do Kitchener Stitch with mawata was like asking for a flogging, so I changed the decreases, spreading them out evenly around the circumference of the mittens, and working the decreases every other round until I had few enough stitches to draw the working yarn tail through them to cinch the mitten shut. I must have done something a little bit differently for the second one compared to the first one, since it seems a bit pointier, but I didn't care enough to try and fix it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

True confessions

Thanks to a course cancellation that opened up my work schedule but simultaneously has left me a little lean in the money department, I am home during daylight hours today. Which means I was able to snap a shot of that cowl I started on Friday:



What's that? It looks nearly done? Um, yeah. It's coming together fast - I haven't been working on it non-stop or anything. It's just sort of happening. I've got nearly seven repeats of the fishscale lace pattern done, and judging by the (not pictured) remaining cakelet of yarn, I'll be able to do eight before doing a few rounds of edging to match what I started with, and then it'll get bound off and wait for blocking. (No, the sink still isn't clean.)

I also finished winding up this:



Yarn for a new sweater for me. Thursday Special is the plan.

I also took apart that in-need-of-a-reknit sleeve for my Oblique over the weekend. I didn't take a picture of it, though. Undid the end of my bind off, then pop pop pop, out all the stitches came, one by one, right down to the ribbing of the cuff. I didn't take it apart in its entirety - after all, there's no problem with the ribbing.

Now. The astute out there may notice something. I am planning on knitting a new sweater for myself, and I am planning on starting from scratch, despite the fact that I have a complete back piece and two bits of sleeve pieces for another one already on the go. My previously mentioned hangups with Oblique should now be completely null and void, because the new sweater plan involves a sweater that has great big lace panels as its fronts. Clearly, the lace isn't the obstacle preventing me from continuing on with Oblique. So what gives?

Well, I asked myself the same question, and gave the whole thing some actual conscious thought - I did this while standing around outside during a fire drill at work. I really like the shape and texture of the finished sweater, looking over the sample images and pics others have shared of their sweaters. So I was surprised when I started considering that maybe I should scrap the whole thing.

The problem is the yarn. Despite the fact that nothing about the progress I've made so far suggests that I should be really worried at this point, my near miss in yarn chicken with my sister's sweater has made me twitchy. In the end, I ended up needing more than a single skein for each of the fronts, using up just a bit more than six skeins total - far more than the five I had intended to use when I started. So it was a really, really good thing that the yarn plan ended up changing for that sweater.

For Oblique, I'm using some Dream in Color Classy that I had stashed - I've got four skeins. I've successfully gotten a big cozy sweater out of this amount before, because I made my Nanook cardi out of another batch of four skeins of this yarn (though in a different colour). So it should work out. According to the yardage requirements in the pattern, it should work out. But there are lots of comments indicating that the yardage requirements in the pattern are actually wrong, and that the sweater eats more yarn than indicated. To counter this, I did some shortening - I shortened the sleeves by several inches, and I also shortened the back piece, which means the fronts will be shorter too. It should still work out. Probably?

The other problem, also yarn-related - this batch of Classy is the "old" Classy, so it's scritchier than I would like for next-to-skin wearing. No problem, this sweater's a cardi that I'm omitting buttons on, which essentially forces me to wear another shirt underneath - but is this a summertime sort of piece? If it is, then I'll want to wear short-sleeved tees or tank tops underneath, and would that actually be comfortable with the scritchier yarn? If it's more of a fall or winter piece, then I'll wear tops with longer sleeves underneath it, but they'd have to be not-full-sleeves, because the sweater's sleeves are shortened to something like bracelet length - it would be weird to have the cuffs of my other shirt poking out. Unless I block the cuff ribbing so that it's a straighter fit. Then maybe it would be okay?

So there it is. I'm worried I won't have enough yarn to finish after all, and I'm also worried about the utility of the finished piece. I need to sort those out before I continue putting my time into it.

Maybe I'll just cast on my Thursday Special while I think about it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Phew, next please

I bound off the last piece of my sister's big blue sweater yesterday evening.



There they are, all the pieces, in all their freshly knit, crumply glory, as I desperately try to make use of what little natural light we have here today - it's a rather dull grey winter day, and rather cold to boot, -15 C. Once the bathroom sink has been cleaned, I'll be able to block them, and then they can be seamed - I find the seaming process feels a lot smoother with blocked pieces.

So, am I planning to clean the bathroom sink right after posting this so that I can keep moving towards having a complete sweater? Heck no. Though I am very likely going to go into the kitchen and wash some accumulated cooking detritus so that I don't end up hating myself tomorrow when there is, um, more to do.

Instead, I've been winding some yarn for a sweater for me! I'm halfway through the batch.

Is it yarn for Runcorn, which I was practically slobbering over in December?

Heck no! I had the good fortune of picking up Elena Nodel's Thursday Special as a Christmas freebie, and it promises 'interesting construction' and the sample images provided by one of her testers made me think this piece would be fantabulous for my work-appropriate wardrobe, which means I am now mentally drooling over this one. I dithered around a bit on yarn choice - do I go solid or tonal? I've decided to use my batch of Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Merlot Heather, which is a dark burgundy colour, uniform enough to look solid until you look really closely, and then your eyes can pick out the subtle heathered variations. Should be a good pairing, and I have lots - take that, yarn chicken.

I also started a new cowl yesterday - I had booked the car in for an oil change, and wanted to have something to work on while I waited around the dealership. It's a Boomerang Cowl, and I'm doing it up from a skein of madelinetosh tosh dk, and it is very very satisfying. As I was getting going with it yesterday, the receptionist from the dealership took notice and wandered over to take a somewhat closer look - I had cast on at home and worked a few rounds of edging just so I wouldn't have to juggle a bunch of stitch markers in public casting on, so I didn't have much to look at when she came over, but she was attracted by the yarn. Can't say I blame her - madtosh yarn is sort of crazy beautiful. But she came by, and exclaimed over how lovely the yarn was, and said that she'd never really gotten into 'that' (meaning, knitting) before - she was an older woman, not elderly, but certainly well into middle age, I'd say - and I replied, Well, it's never too late to start. Because, really, it isn't! She hesitated a moment before replying, No, I suppose it isn't, and then commented that it appeared to be so relaxing. I agreed, saying that yes, I do find it to be relaxing, and we joked about how it was certainly something nicer to focus on than the news story that was playing on the lounge TV about the current free fall in the price of oil. Then she headed back to her desk to get back to work, and I continued on my merry way with the cowl.

And discovered I'd miscounted somewhere in setting up the first round of the pattern stitch.

I slowly tinked back to where the error happened (one too many knits), wondering vaguely about how relaxed knitting really made me feel at that specific point in time.

Either way, it's gone well since then, and I'd show you a picture, but I hadn't initially planned on talking about that cowl in today's post, and now that I've done it, the light has entirely faded for the day - welcome to Canadian winter, where decent light after 4 PM is a no-go. Not that the light was great today to begin with. Oh well. Next time. Maybe even a finished cowl - it is moving quickly.

Now. I guess I should probably wash those pans.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Whoosh

Um, hi?

I didn't mean to disappear for all of December. It just sort of happened.

And now here I am, blinking on the other side, and getting ready to go back to work for reals next week.

Just poking my head in here to confirm that I'm still here. More real content coming soon.

Promise.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Keep moving forward

The sun is shining today, so I snapped a picture of Big Blue:



I've done the armhole decreases, and am just chugging up towards the shoulders. I'm hoping to have a finished back piece in pretty short order, and then move on to the sleeves.

I've also finished my mittens, but they're still damp from yesterday's soaking. I took a picture of them, but I want to give them their own post.

Looking at how much yarn that sweater back has eaten up so far, I'm ever so glad that we did the yarn switch. I have a feeling the back piece is going to take nearly two whole skeins, and yes, it's true that I reverted back to my original plan of knitting the garment for positive ease, and in the end the length went back to where the pattern said it should be - I held it up against my sister's back and asked her how she liked the length, and she fiddled with it a bit, and asked for a little more. I guess she was on board with my previous shortening plan just for the sake of getting a sweater. So all 16" of length from bottom hem to underarm are there.

It's getting to be a pretty big piece, hence the name Big Blue. It is so very blue. Sister is thrilled.

My brain, meanwhile, still wants me to make myself a sweater, and I've pretty well settled on Runcorn. I've even figured out my yarn! The thing is, the gauge listed is 20 sts to 4", which I know I get with 5 mm needles, and while I have a couple of sets of Knit Picks interchangeables kicking about here that I like perfectly well, I would rather use my spiffy Sigs. (I have it in my head that for sweaters, I prefer the Sigs. I have no evidence to support this conclusion.)

You know, the ones currently in Big Blue.

So I guess I'd better hurry it up and finish Big Blue so I can make Runcorn for me.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Let me try this out

I may have found a solution to my picture problem.















There's got to be a more elegant way to get the next chunk of text to appear beneath my image, rather than beside it. As of this moment, I've got 14 line breaks in there as a sort of brute force workaround. (This note is mostly for my own reference.)