Sunday, February 12, 2017

K'done: Volga cowl

Another long overdue post!

Pattern: Volga, by Jenny Faifel
Yarn: Handmaiden Bess, in Ruby Red
Needles: 4.5 mm / US 7

I don't remember how I discovered Jenny Faifel's designs, but they're all pretty fabulous, and she keeps releasing new ones that send me digging in my not-so-mini-anymore stash, so I joined her Rav group so I could be somewhat in the loop on her designer activity. I had my eye on Volga and had the good fortune of picking it up in a freebie giveaway, and then last summer, noticed she was running a KAL that it qualified for, and figured, why not? I was sockracing at the time, but the start date found me waiting for the next stage to begin, so I wound up the yarn and went for it, figuring I could knock bits out between sockracing stages, and then finish it up afterwards with plenty of time before the KAL deadline of mid August.

And I did get a goodly chunk knit up, so that by the time we were entering August, I had about a third of it done. But then we went on our annual trip out to Vancouver Island, and I was planning my vacation knitting, and looked at the cowl chunk, and then turned around and dug out yarn for sister socks and a different cowl. I even grabbed yarn for father socks to cover me in case of underyarning - which I ended up needing. Our time at the Mister's parents' place is typically fantastic for knitting time for me - we just sort of bum around relaxing a lot, politely declining his parents' suggestions that we get out of the house to go for short walks to look at things that we've seen before. (They worry that we are bored, and consequently won't come back in the future. We have told them repeatedly that we would be making suggestions if we were growing tired of loafing around their house. They respond to this by saying, 'Yes, it's nice to have some relaxation time on vacation, if that's what you want. But, if you'd like, we can always drive over to (insert activity locale here), if you'd like a change of scenery...')

So why didn't I take this cowl? I honestly couldn't tell you. We got back, I got busy, missed the KAL deadline, finished up the cowl save for binding off the final stitch, and then it sat in the basket beside my bed for months - since I'd missed the deadline, I no longer felt like there was any big hurry to do the finishing. Eventually, I picked it up, pulling out the last few stitches in the process, re-did them, bound off, wove the ends in and blocked the sucker.

And I love it. It was a very meditative, satisfying knit, and the finished item is fabulous. If I'm actually wearing it out and about, I'll wind it around my neck twice - the bigger end of the cowl gives shawl-like coverage, with the smaller end cozied up close, but not tight. I haven't worn it lots yet, so I haven't yet figured out the optimal way of wearing it to really display the eyelet panels that run asymmetrically along the piece. In that first picture I've just got it flung over me as if it were a poncho, to show them off, and if I were just sitting I could do that for warmth, but it wouldn't likely stay like that.

The yarn is a bit fuzzy because it's Handmaiden Bess, which has some cashmere content - 12% - that is going to fuzz up even more with repeated wearings. It's wonderfully soft, but we'll see how it resists pilling over time. If it even resists at all. Cashmere can be that way.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

K'done: Winter Sea Shawl

Um. Happy New Year?

Pattern: winter sea shawl, by Liz Abinante
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Tonal, in Thunderhead
Needles: 5 mm / US 8

So, around October of last year, I sort of found myself buried in work stuff - I was teaching a new-to-me class that was particularly demanding since assessing the students required reading a number of reports that they would write. As if that weren't enough, I was also splitting my teaching load between two campuses, so there was some extra travel time that ate away at the available hours of the day.

Which brings us to here - out the other side. At least I've got something to show for my period of silence!

I can't remember when I first became aware of this pattern - the Rav page for it was created 10 January 2015, so I feel like it was probably around that time - but I distinctly remember being immediately intrigued. It's not super easy to see from these shots, but this is an asymmetrical triangular shawl, which I had not yet played with, and Abinante notes that it is surprisingly easy to wear. I thought it looked like a nice meditative knit that would produce a cozy accessory, but wasn't sure about what to pull from the stash for it - I don't stash much worsted weight yarn, and when I do, it's in roughly sweater-sized batches, and I didn't want to annihilate a potential sweater for the sake of a shawl. I thought about pursuing it with a DK weight, but the gauge gave me pause - is 20 sts to 4" too loose for DK yarn? I've done sweaters at 22 sts to 4" and been fairly happy, and sure, a shawl can be knit at a looser gauge than a sweater no problem, but this particular shawl isn't lacy, so maybe the fabric shouldn't be super loose? Instead of, you know, winding some yarn and trying it, I just put the pattern on the back burner for someday. (In hindsight, DK would probably have been just fine - I've knitted a few cowls with DK on 5 mm needles and been totally happy with the resulting fabric. Then again, a cowl is not a shawl, either. Hmmm.)

Fast forward to last September, when I started walking to one of my work places - the campus isn't very far from my house - and I was enjoying the walks, but started to think ahead to colder temperatures, and what I might want to help me keep walking because parking is expensive and it seemed particularly stupid to drive five minutes and then pay $6 to park the car for 90 minutes when I could just walk for 25 minutes and pay nothing. (In the end, the weather we had last fall cooperated beautifully, and I only had to drive during the last week of classes, because it was -20 C out (-30 C if you factored in windchill), and it's just not safe for a human to venture out for 25 minutes in those conditions unless she is really, really bundled up, in a way that I'm not equipped to do. Sure, I'm Canadian, but I'm also a Canadian who lives in a major city who works indoors and is accustomed to driving to wherever she needs to be. I don't have the sorts of outerwear that those who work outside invest in.) Still, at the time, a great big worsted weight scarf seemed a good idea, so I turned my attention to the yarn problem. As it happened, I had an odd batch of the Swish Tonal - I had ordered a bag of 10 skeins, but what I got was two partial bags cobbled together, so the yarn came from two different dye lots. I used a little over half of it to make a sweater, but what remained was about 2.5 skeins from one dye lot, and 2 skeins from another. It occurred to me that I could just use what was left to make a couple of biggish accessories, and so I put the 2.5ish skeins towards this shawl.

The stitch motif is a simple knit-purl texture, and though the pattern repeat is sort of long - 12 rows, if I remember correctly - there's a logic to it that lets you cruise along without needing to consult the pattern frequently, and also makes it super easy to figure out where you are in the repeat when you pick it up after having had to set it aside for a bit in favour of mundane tasks like eating and sleeping. I didn't follow the pattern very carefully in terms of how many overall repeats I did - I just kept going until it looked like the amount of yarn I had left wasn't going to see me through another half repeat of the pattern, at which point I bound off.

The super scrunchy off-the-needles piece blocked out beautifully, and I've worn it twice to work since officially calling it done on 10 January 2017, and I gotta say, I like this asymmetrical triangle shape. It allows you to get a lot of length for the amount of depth the shawl ends up with, which helps the ends stay put once you artfully furl them about your neck.

Tech specs: I bound off using a double chain bind off, and I cast on just using a long-tail CO - you only cast on, like, 3 stitches, so no worries about stretch or other edge finish properties, really.

And this semester, I'm totally the weirdo with all the knitwear. I think I've managed to wear something handknit (not including socks) every single day. (With repeat items, absolutely - I haven't got that much! I'm working on it though, heh.)