Thursday, March 20, 2014

Then again maybe not

The GCKAL 2014 has been cancelled.

I sort of had an inkling this was coming - the designer mentioned in a discussion thread that she was having trouble finding a tech editor, and that her professional life was keeping her too busy to let her pursue her design work in a way that she actually enjoyed.

It's too bad, but I certainly don't hold any ill will against her - after all, designing is her hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be for our enjoyment. If she's found she would rather put her time to other pursuits, then that's what she should do.

Graciously, she has stated that the patterns created for the GCKAL 2014 will be made available in their current, un-tech edited versions for free, so that those who had intended to participate can still do so.

Honestly? A small part of me is a bit relieved. I took a peek at a calendar today, and whoa moly, there are only three weeks left in the semester before the final exam period. This is crunch time - for both me and my students! It's probably just as well that I'm not going to be feeling pressured to crank away on that when I should be doing other things related to my actual paying job.

Last night I finished the bindoff on a project that I'll show off once it's blocked. In the meantime, I feel the urge to start something new. I can clearly hear the siren call of a new sweater.

Maybe I should finish off one of these other projects first. Especially since four of the ongoing things here are sweaters.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rebel girl

The past couple of years, designer Liz Abinante has run what she calls The Great Cowl KAL. It's a sort of knitalong challenge - the first pattern is free, and if a knitter completes it within the allotted timeframe, the next pattern in the sequence is free too. If the knitter then completes that pattern within the allotted timeframe, then the next pattern is free. And so on and so forth.

Sounds like my idea of a good time, doesn't it? Yeah it does.

Except, I found out about TGCKAL 2012 too late, and I forgot to keep an eye out for TGCKAL 2013 and only remembered after it had started. Whoops. I solved my memory issues by joining Liz's group on Ravelry, and sure enough, information for TGCKAL 2014 started appearing in January. Yay!

She's already shared information about how many cowls (three, plus a bonus shawl pattern for those who complete the whole shebang) and what the yarn and yardage requirements are, which means I've been poking around in my not-so-mini-anymore stash, and I've pretty well settled on what I'm going to use for two of the three cowls. The event is slated to begin on 22 March, and I am excited. I haven't wound my yarn up yet - seems a bit early for that - but I think I've got it figured. For one cowl - the one requiring aran weight yarn - I'm going to use some of the Knit Picks Swish Tonal left over from my Bluejeans cardigan. For the other two, I plan to dip into my Tosh DK holdings - I'm trying to pick a couple of greyish skeins that look good together for the two-colour cowl, and I figure I can grab whichever one strikes my fancy for the other single-skein cowl.

Now, I know that some folks subscribe to a no grey in March rule. The reasoning is that March is sort of the dreariest part of winter in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Canada, and everyone is so done with not having any colour around, which makes grey particularly unappealing. I understand, but at the same time I don't understand. Maybe it's the difference between winter in the East and winter in the West? I grew up in Alberta, and live in Alberta now, and I spent some time in Montreal, where I experienced Eastern Winter three times - though, lucky me, we didn't have any real ice storms while I was in Montreal. Yes, the world is not particularly colourful in March on either side of the country, and the drudgery of waiting for spring is starting to wear on a person by that time.

But here's my experience: I don't associate March with upcoming Spring. I don't even really think of spring happening in April - in my mind, May is when things start to get warmer. This could just be me, or it might be an Alberta thing - we don't seem to have much of a spring season here, at least not that I've noticed - especially not in Calgary. Winter sort of bums around through April, and maybe even into May, and then one day we wake up and it's summer. Perhaps rainy summer, but summer nonetheless. My first April in Montreal was shocking to me, because there was an actual seasonal transition. It was too warm to be winter, but too cold to be summer.

It's entirely possible that I just habitually fail to notice whatever spring we get.

Either way, I'm breaking that No grey in March rule that others swear by. Grey in March doesn't bug me.

Because in March? Spring's a looooong ways away still.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

K'done: Caramel Cardigan

You might not believe it from these pics, but this sweater is one of my go-tos.

Pattern: Caramel, by Isabell Kraemer
Yarn: Monika Design Cashmerino Soft, in Laurel Leaf and Cypress Shade
Needles: 4.5 mm / US 7

Well, maybe you would believe me, given that the sweater is showing some pilling action. According to my project page, I started this in February 2013, and after a few fevered weeks of work, I got distracted by something and set it aside. (Magpie? Moi?) I picked it up again in August 2013, I think, and worked on it with the intent of being able to have a wearable garment for the fall season - and I succeeded, with all the finishing done on 9 September 2013. I've been happily wearing it to work, layered over other tops, ever since - I think I wear it once every week and a half or so. I'm actually actively trying to avoid wearing it weekly, just to avoid being recognized as that weirdo in the green striped sweater, because honestly I've got enough eccentricities about me that I don't need overwearing of garments to be added to the pile.

The pattern is great - a simple knit, with very little in the way of shaping, only the raglan increases for the sleeves. To be honest, the resulting sweater seems a bit wide across the back for me - when I pull it on, the shoulders are usually slipped a bit forward, with the back raglan line falling over the top of my shoulder, and I have to adjust them back into place. The back collar doesn't gap out significantly once the shoulders are properly aligned, but there is some ease back there. I suspect this is an issue with my particular shoulders, and not a fault in the design. There are a few rows that the pattern instructs you to work straight in stockinette after the ribbing before beginning the raglan increases that I thought seemed odd, but I rolled with it, and the result isn't odd. I made no modifications, but in the stripes I did carry my non-working yarn along the end of the row/round, twisting it with the working yarn as I went so that no large loops formed. I did this to avoid having to weave in eleventy bazillion ends in the finishing. It was unproblematic, but note that some care must be taken to make sure the yarn is nice and relaxed as you carry it along, or else there will be puckering.

Now that I think about it a bit more, I may have worked some additional stripes on the body, in the interest of using up more of the darker green yarn - I was working through the remnants from my Parcel, and wanted to avoid having just one lonely 50 g ball leftover. I succeeded.

In terms of tech specs, I used a cable caston at the neckline, largely because at that point in time I had not yet discovered the Chinese Waitress caston, which is now my preferred caston (unless I want a particularly sturdy edge). I used the double chain bindoff at all the hems.

The yarn was great to work with, and I enjoy wearing it, even if it is pilling some - I blame the cashmere content, cashmere seems to want to fuzz up. Indeed, there's a halo on the sweater in some of the more subject-to-friction areas, but I don't think it detracts from the sweater in any way. The superwash aspect is great - I toss the sweater into a mesh bag, put it through the machine with the rest of my clothes on a delicate cold cycle, then spread it out on the not-a-table to dry.

Also, those so-called blanket-style fronts? Super fun, and super cozy. No wonder I keep reaching for this sweater in these colder months.

Would I knit another? Well. Right now I'm not averse to it, except for the fact that there are so many other sweaters in the pipeline of things I'd like to knit. I may do it again someday. Just not today.

Nor tomorrow.

Like I said. So. Many. Sweaters.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

K'done: Star Slouch Hat

May I present the first completed knitted thing of 2014.

Pattern: Star Slouch Hat, by Rena Varsakis
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh DK, in Wilted Rose
Needles: 5 mm / US 8

The Mister got The Last of Us as one of his Christmas gifts, and some quick Googling revealed that we could expect gameplay to run about 18 hours or so. Armed with that information, I pondered my options for a video game knit. A sweater in 18 hours did not seem doable, and I'm still fairly well stocked with socks, so those were out too. I suppose I could have made a pair of sister socks, but oh well. The time frame seemed well suited to a cowl, or maybe a hat.

Hmm, hats. I currently have three hats I actually like - though I haven't worn one of them in ages. But the gameplay follows a story, and I went into it expecting that I might need to offer some assistance in spotting things or figuring out how to navigate a path that isn't terribly obvious - meaning I shouldn't pick something with lots of lace or cable work that would keep my eyes glued on my hands. I started thinking stockinette in the round might be just about perfect, and a hat would be just about the perfect video game project.

And then I remembered this pattern, which I snagged in a promo the designer ran last year. And I remembered my Tosh DK mini stash. I rooted around, found the yarn, and cast on.

It was a pretty quick game, and a pretty quick knit too. There were some tense moments where I just couldn't knit, I had to watch the screen, but otherwise the two went together fairly well. I finished the hat about when the gameplay wrapped up - maybe I was a bit early? Or maybe I had to do the final couple of rounds after the game was done? I don't remember anymore - it was actually nearly a month ago. I just never got pictures till now.

It was a very straightforward knit. I think I knit the body of the hat a bit longer than the pattern calls for - I was just cranking away with the game and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I ought to measure, and I was an inch or maybe an inch and a half farther along than I was supposed to be, but I figured, hey, more slouch, and just rolled with it. Perhaps because I was somewhat distracted with the game, I didn't manage my DPNs very well, and had laddering off the needles. A wash and block neatened up most of it, though in that second picture up there you can see a teeny bit of laddering. (The odd thing is I didn't change the placement of the hat between the two shots - just the angle of the camera - and you don't see the ladder in the first shot.) Also, for a pattern titled Star Slouch Hat, I was expecting a more clearly defined star shape out of the decreases. It's not really a star - more of a point. That's okay, though - I must say I'm quite pleased with the result. The Mister referred to it as a Smurf hat, and I guess it sort of is a lot like Lazy Smurf's floppy Smurf hat. Only, you know, vividly pink.

The yarn was fabulous - but that's what I've come to expect from Madelinetosh yarns. When I first saw the colouring on this skein - it came in a mixed bag, so I didn't pick it out individually - I wasn't sure about it. I knew it would have to be knit up into something simple, with the variegation. Truthfully, as I was knitting it up, I went back and forth on whether I liked the result. Once it was done, though, my doubts all went away. I've been wearing it more than any of my others - in part because it's the most recent, but also because the bright pink makes me happy, and the greeny-brown bits also tone it down so I don't feel self-conscious about the eye-searingly pink head topper.

It's a good thing I have a decent collection of hats now, too - winter weather has returned with a bitter vengeance here. Merino wool is my friend.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oh boy oh boy oh boy

If you've been paying attention around these parts, you've probably figured out by this point that I enjoy knitting socks. You've probably also noticed that all my current sock needles are wooden needles. I like the feel of the wooden ones, I like the look of the wooden ones, and I like that my KnitPicks sets were so reasonably priced.

I am, however, aware that there are other options available out there - namely, metal needles. My mother has several sets of those Aero inox needles that she used to favour, and these were the needles that she taught me to knit on. They made a neat sort of noise when they rubbed together, but that was about all I found appealing about those needles. I didn't like the way they always felt so cold, I didn't like the weight of them, and I didn't like the look of them. So when I returned to the craft many years later, I again found that I wasn't super keen on the looks of the metal needles that I saw, and stocked up on wooden ones.

And I knit happily.

At some point - years ago, now - I noticed a new metal needle appear. It was probably an ad on Knitty, and it was for Signature Needle Arts. The ad caught my eye because it featured a fantastic picture of the prettiest straight needles I had ever seen. I looked, and admired, and remembered that I don't have straights because I like the flexibility that circulars give me - I can knit flat, or I can knit in the round. So I dismissed the pretty straight needles.

Then, and I'm rather fuzzy on how this happened, I became aware of the fact that Signature manufactures double pointed needles. I briefly entertained the idea of getting a set in my favourite sock size. Then I saw the price of the set and rather quickly dismissed the notion. It ain't for the faint of heart. Besides, I reminded myself, I don't like metal needles.

After last summer's sock race, though, and reading all the testimonials from praising Signature needles for a speed boost, I started to wonder if maybe I was missing out on something pretty incredible.

That possibility rattled around in my head for, well, a few months, and then finally, a week before Christmas, I broke. I came to the conclusion that I wanted a set of sock-sized Signature DPNs.

Once the decision was made, I waited a bit longer to place my order - I was all ready to pull the trigger, as it were, a couple of days after Christmas, but ran into a weird credit card authorization problem, and that slowed me down long enough for me to sign up for the newsletter and learn about the 12 Days of Christmas promo they were running. Then I hung around, waiting for a promo that was actually useful to me, and on 5 January, I placed my order.

They were shipped on 6 January.

They crossed the border into Canada on 15 January.

And today, 22 January, my crazy obsessive monitoring of the tracking information rewarded me with an update saying, Out for Delivery.

After work, I walked up to the superbox, expecting to find a delivery notice that I would need to take to the post office to claim my prize.

Instead, I found a cardboard tube inside my mailbox.

Inside that cardboard tube was a little plastic tube:

(Please forgive the crummy pictures. It is dark, and also, I'm too impatient to wait for good light. And proper focus.)

And inside that plastic tube?

Woot! They're here! And so pretty!

So, even though I've got a few other projects on the go - I'm nearly done with a shawlette, I've started a cardigan for me, I've got a new video game knit - a pullover for me - on the go, there's another cardigan for me that just needs its sleeves, a pullover for my sister that is nearly through the body, and a pair of socks for my sister that need the heel and foot of the second sock?

I'm gonna wind up some sister sock yarn tonight with the intent of turning it into a pair of plain stockinette socks for her. Basically, I want to test these puppies out - do they really make me knit faster?

I'm not at all sure of how I can introduce some measure of control here to get an objective quantification of my speed. After all, it's not like it's summer and I'm off work and can just crank away.

Ultimately, though, that doesn't really matter. I've got a serious itch to play with my new toys. Nuff said.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

K'done: Wingspan scarf

Uhm. Happy New Year?

Pattern: Wingspan, by Maylin Tan
Yarn: Noelle's Noodles 100% Merino Superwash Fingering Weight, in Man with a Guitar
Needles: 5 mm / US 8

I snagged a copy of this pattern while it was still available for free - before the whole kerfuffle with Trendsetter Yarns that prompted the designer to change the way the pattern was offered. Apparently there's an upgraded version that can now be purchased, but I don't know what's in it since I worked off the old freebie. I didn't do any modifications - spent most of the time worrying about whether I'd have enough yardage to complete the seven triangles! Clearly, I did have enough - there's a small ball of leftovers here. Not enough for another triangle, but I made it with some room to spare. I didn't wrap my short row turn stitches, so there are little decorative eyelets along one edge of each triangle. I maintained the 16 stitch stagger between triangles, and I used the Chinese Waitress CO for all CO stitches.

That picture up there is the best that I could do at the time. Actually, I lie. I could have done better if I'd used the DSLR, but I am lazy and used my iPhone's camera instead. So there's not much detail to it, and the blue is likely a bit more blue than in real life. I did try to take another, and it's up on my Rav project page, but I don't like the result enough to share it here.

I enjoyed this knit - garter stitch with some interesting shaping going on - and my gauge was 20 stitches to 4"/10 cm, which is pretty loose for fingering weight yarn, so the scarf is pretty floppy and drapey - in my mind, that's what you'd want for a scarf. I never measured the length of the thing before handing it off to my sister. I must admit, I'm a bit ambivalent about the finished product - it's nice-looking laid out on the floor there, but I'm unsure as to how one might wear the thing. I'll let my sister puzzle over that one.

But anyway. This scarf was the one lone project that actually got wrapped up in the 2013 Winter Wrap-Up. All the other candidates are still on the needles. So much for that urge!

Fear not, though - there's another thing started and finished since the calendar rolled over blocking upstairs!

Saturday, December 28, 2013


This was my stash:

Um, except that bottle of Glenlivet there. That's not mine. Really. It just got put there, and I neglected to move it before snapping this pic.

Oh, and this too:

Not the prettiest storage solution, but it worked reasonably well enough. Until one day the mister suggested that I might want to consider purchasing a little cabinet for storing the yarn, rather than the cardboard boxes they were shipped in. I said, yes, that would be a fine idea, and then arranged with my parents for a trip to Ikea, where they bought my Christmas present, helped me bring it home (they have a sufficiently large vehicle to do the hauling), and my father did the majority of the building work too. (I had fully intended to do it, but he sort of took over. Dads.) Parents being parents, they even bought me lunch, too.

So now I have this:

Much better. Even though the door has a window, I took a shot with the door open, just to confirm that yes, the whole thing is indeed yarn:

It's not completely stuffed yet, which is good, since I've got a few more batches to fit in there. Also, this is not the entirety of the yarn in the house - there's a couple of boxes full of sister yarn that I deliberately left out of the cabinet.

The cabinet is all mine. And it fills me with enormous glee.

It also makes me think that maybe I don't need to buy anymore yarn for a little while.