Sunday, October 30, 2011

Maybe a lot

Last night, I cast off on my Commuter mitts, and decided to weave the ends in right away, since they were there in my hands. If that were taken care of, then all I'd need to do is attach the buttons and give them a light blocking, and then I can use them. Score.

I try to keep my tools somewhat organized, and I reached for the needle case that I keep my tapestry needles and small scissors in. To get to it, I had to move some in progress stuff.

I moved a hat in progress.

I moved a sweater in progress.

I moved a shawlette in progress.

These three projects joined the nearly-complete mitts on the surface of the bed, and I took a moment then to take stock of the woolly bounty before me, all things in various stages of completion.

And I thought, Hmm, perhaps I've gone too far with this multiple project thing. After all, this collection isn't even the entirety of it. There's September's SSP socks - still not done. (What's that? September's long gone? I'm sorry, I don't hear you, tralalalala...) I've got another portion of a sweater hanging out waiting for me to pick it up again.

And then I thought, Ha, good thing these mitts are pretty well done!

And now I'm thinking about what I should cast on next.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

K'done: Mawata Mittens

Getting ready for Canadian Winter.

Pattern: None - I actually improvised these!
Yarn: Unspun mawata from Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Needles: 3.5 mm / US 4

Earlier this year, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee blogged about some mittens she'd made using handpainted unspun mawata. Since I stalk read her blog, I saw the post pretty promptly upon its publication, and I looked at her pictures of the mittens, and I felt a yearning. Though I do not live in her part of Canada, and this is a very big country, I do live in a part that experiences at least part of winter as a truly frigid time, when the cold just permeates everything and everyone is doing crazy things just to keep warm. So cold that you step outside and for a few horrifying seconds you just can't breathe at all, your body is so shocked by the drop in temperature that it wants to keep that coldness out at all costs. So cold that the snow gets that weird styrofoam-like texture and crunch to it, and won't stick to itself if you try to ball it up. So cold that the moisture in your breath freezes and settles on your scarf, in your hair. Cold.

So I'm reading this post, looking at these very cozy looking mittens, and she's describing them as hand ovens, and I am rather quickly sold on the concept. Yes. I want some. I showed the post to my sister as well, and she also put in a request. So I became one of the massive horde who flocked to BMFA looking for mawata, plunging their entire operations into all mawata, all the time. When my order was delivered, some time later - I think maybe three or four weeks? I admired it, then set it aside, knowing it would be turned into mittens. Later.

A few weeks ago, my sister starts dropping comments about how winter's coming, and boy it would be nice to have some lovely silk mittens in time for the cold. Gotcha. Pulled her mawata from the stash, figured out how to attenuate mawata, and I was off and running.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I found mawata to work with. I was worried. Yes, it is determinedly snaggy - it stuck to everything while I was working with it. The snag factor does get significantly diminished once they're knit up, though. Having to stop and attenuate more mawata once you're done with a layer's length also slows the whole process down considerably, but I didn't mind - I found it to be a fun break in the knitting to stop and have to make more yarn to knit with. I'm looking forward to doing it again, and I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to have some mawata on hand in the stash, for replacement mittens or mittens for other people.

You may find me awful because I made my sister's pair first - I really put my learning curve into a finished object that was destined for another person, and yes, there was some learning. The first few layers of mawata I did not attenuate enough - I'm sure that there were sections in which I was working with something more closely resembling a bulky yarn, as opposed to the light worsted I was aiming for. To be perfectly fair, it's not reasonable to expect me to first knit up a test version of every item I want to make for another person, and to my credit, I did work out what the mitten template ought to be before starting with the mawata - knit up another pair of mittens earlier this year using some 100% merino I had kicking around, which in actuality is way too big, so I ended up rescaling my template when I started these. The first mitten used up all 20 g of mawata. The second didn't - I had 5 g leftover, which is in line with the weight estimates given by the Harlot herself. I learned how thin I should be pulling the stuff - about a third of the way into that first mitten, I realized that I could thin the mawata out quite a bit more than I had been, and stayed pretty consistent from that point forward. It's possible that there are a couple of places where I over-attenuated, but there are no lacy or holey bits to either of the mittens, so all in all I'm calling them a success.

As you can see from these photos, the two bundles of mawata were not dyed exactly identically - one has more of the darker blue than the other does. One of the hazards of working with handpainted fibre. It's not a terrible discrepancy, and my sister is okay with it. Then again, she doesn't exactly have much of a choice, does she?

So my sister has her hand ovens well in time for Canadian Winter. What about mine?

Well. They're in my mental queue, but there are a couple of other things I want to wrap up before I start in on them. I'll get there.

Hopefully in time to keep my hands toasty warm when true Canadian Winter hits.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Problems and solutions

Problem: it is getting cold outside. Fall has definitely arrived, and mornings - especially those early mornings when I get to work before the sun is even up now - have a definite nip in the air. Walking from building to building is also becoming an increasingly chilly endeavour.

Solution: Knitwear!

I've been thinking a lot about triangular shawlettes lately. I now have several individual skeins of Madeleinetosh Tosh Sock yarn in my wee stash, and while I had initially bought it for socks, I find myself reaching more and more for other yarns for socks. Really, I've been using a lot of Knit Picks Stroll, because it goes in both the washer and the dryer, and I like that for socks. A lot.

The Tosh Sock is gorgeous, though, and I want to knit with it. Which brings me to the idea of turning those skeins into shawlettes. I have a couple of knit scarves in my front entryway closet that I almost never use - I usually forget to grab them before I head out the door, because I'm always in a hurry to leave, because I'm always a bit behind schedule. It has occurred to me, though, that I could use a shawlette not as an outerwear item, but as an accessory. I've seen other people do this, so I know it's a real thing, and not just some delusion I have that will get me wearable items out of single skeins of sock yarn. In my mind's eye, it's also a neat trick to use to make an otherwise too-casual-for-professional-wear top be work-appropriate. Having my neck covered also seems like an excellent way to help ward of chills at work.

After all, scarves are on trend right now, aren't they?

Problem: I should really wrap up some stuff before starting in on something new. I've got one of my September SSP socks done save the grafting of the toe, and I've cast on for the second, but that's about it. I've also got only a sleeve and a bit plus the finishing to go on a sweater, which would also be work-appropriate. And I have that other sweater that I started a while back but have significantly more to do - all I've got is two-thirds or so of the first sleeve.

Solution: Hey! My sister has been making noises about it being mitten weather really soon, and she wants her mawata mittens. Better start those.

Problem: This is my first time working with mawata. I've got 20 g per mitten. That should be enough, right? I'm not sure. It's entirely possible that I'm not attenuating the mawata sufficiently, so I'm not getting the yardage I should be. I've been weighing the remaining mawata obsessively since casting on. I still have 13 g left in that shot - I've used 7 g. Am I going to make it?

Solution: Knit faster.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wants and obligations

Every once in a while, I wonder what it would be like if knitting became my job.

It's not a question I really consider very seriously - I'm pretty confident that I earn more doing what I currently do than I would as a professional knitter, in large part because, well, I'm sort of slow. I cannot crank out a sock in a single afternoon - in fact, on a four hour flight between Calgary and Montreal, I can typically get the leg of a sock done, or I can do the toe and the foot nearly up to the gusset. So I know earning a living off knitting is just not going to happen.

I wonder if I would like it, though. I mean, I definitely have my days where I want to do nothing but knit. Of course, I can't. But what if I could? What if I had to? Would I be happy? Or would I come to resent knitting, view it as a chore that needed to get done, like washing pots and pans?

I wonder about this as I wage the eternal internal struggle on what to knit next. No, I'm not done with my current sweater - I've got the body and two thirds of the first sleeve done, so the end is in sight. September's SSP socks still aren't even a single complete sock, though I'm close - working the toe. I've got about two thirds of the first sleeve of another sweater for me that's been hanging out for a while now, stalled out when I got fed up with Magic Loop and decided that DPNs are the way to go for these hands. I've got the DPNs now, so I could jump back on that once I'm ready for The Next Sweater. Or, I could dive in to a new pattern - there are four that are all screaming at me from my queue, and I've got yarn for them to boot. I'd like that, though I would feel vaguely guilty about continuing to ignore that bit of sleeve that's waiting patiently for me. I do want that sweater, too.

There is some obligation knitting on my plate, though. My sister bought some yarn over the summer, and has settled on a pattern for one of the skeins. She also wants a pair of unspun silk mittens - I showed her the mawata mittens that sparked a flood of orders over at Blue Moon Fiber Arts, and she put in a request. Yup, we were part of the overload over there. I should really get hers done before Real Canadian Winter arrives. Plus, I bought a skein over the summer with the intention that it will become a hat for Someone Else. He is teasing me that he will not see the hat before winter arrives, so I'd better get on that.

I know that is a lot of knitting that is destined for other people, and should probably be prioritized a bit.

I still want to cast on a new sweater for me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

K'done: Safire Cardigan

Done for over a month. What can I say - I am not very prompt with the picture-taking.

Pattern: Safire, by Hilary Smith Callis
Yarn: Naturally Pride, in Cashew
Needles: 4.5 mm / US 7 for stockinette, 4 mm / US 6 for ribbing

I ordered this yarn about a year ago - thanks, Elann! - and was a bit ambivalent about it once it arrived. I wasn't sure about the colour anymore, and it sat in my small stash, never really speaking to me about what it should become. Then one day I was looking more closely at the Safire details on Ravelry, and I saw the recommended gauge (21 sts to 10 cm / 4") and a small part of my brain wondered if I might find that a bit dense with worsted weight. I started worrying that I might never ever actually do up the sweater, and then a very pragmatic part of my brain pointed out that I should try it with DK weight. I like DK weight knit up at 20 to 22 sts to 10 cm / 4". It should work. This logical part of my brain then reminded me that I had this particular yarn in the stash, and that it would make for a very neutral layering piece that should be polished enough for work.

Sold. I dug out the yarn and cast on. Just shy of a month later, I was done.

I didn't do much in the way of modifications. I may have lengthened the ribbed portion of the body - my Rav notes don't say I did, but I feel like I did. I went until I had eight buttonholes. I did lengthen the sleeves, knitting the ribbed portion until I had 12" of total sleeve length from the armscye. Picking up stitches for the neckband took a few tries - the first time, I had far, far too few stitches, then the second time I had the wrong multiple of stitches. Third time was the charm. I also started obsessing about rowing out with this sweater. I've never ever noticed any rowing out with my stockinette before, but I thought that I was seeing it with this one. I can't even count how many times I stopped and just spread the fabric over my lap and peered at it from various angles, trying to see if I was getting those stripes of uneven stitches. I suspect it may have been just a trick of the yarn, though - this yarn has a crepe texture to it, which makes it look sort of nubblier in the unblocked fabric. To my eyes, everything smoothed out nicely with a light blocking.

Considering my not-terribly-excited start with this yarn, and how long the pattern sat in my queue without really calling my name, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I like the finished object. I've worn it to work four times already, in a little more than a month - that's roughly once a week. It's just so freaking cute. I can hardly stand it.