Saturday, March 31, 2018

K'done: hot oatmeal shawl

Knit, blocked, and tucked into a gift bag ready for presentation. It can't get any more finished than that.

Pattern: hot oatmeal, by Jenny Faifel
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Party of Five Tough Love Sock Mini Skeins, in Swell
Needles: 5 mm / US 8

I am so, so happy with how this turned out. I sure hope Mister's mother likes it!

In the end I used up all but three inches of the available yarn. I kid you not - three inches. (Okay, fine, I just measured. 3.25".) I didn't get the full fourth repeat of the pattern in, so it's definitely smaller than written, but tip to tip the scarf is at least as long as I am tall, and I'm 5'3" (and a half!), so there's very decent length there for wrapping around the neck - my measuring tape maxes out at 60", and the scarf exceeds that. At its deepest point, it's 16.5" deep.

I initially thought I could maximize my yardage by omitting the picot bind off and using a straight-edge style bind off instead. This strategy did get me an extra row, but that extra row placed my endpoint at the peak of the triangle - you know, the part that is typically displayed front and centre, or fashionably off to one side, but either way it's really the focal point of the shawl when worn. Did I really want to weave an end in there? I decided that the answer was no, so I pulled back a row, and did the picot bind off instead.

Well. I did it until I realized my yarn wouldn't go the whole way, and then switched to a double chain bind off for the very last two inches or so.

I figure that's one of the ends of the scarf, so it's not super likely that anyone will ever notice the discrepancy. At first I worried it would make me nuts, but honestly, I had forgotten about it until I started writing this up, and then I remembered and had to pull the scarf back out to take a picture of it.

This was a great knit - lovely easy-to-get-into-your-head pattern (so: straightforward and logical), and it seemed to work up pretty quickly, which was great since I was in a bit of a time crunch, but I got it knit in 10 days, without getting obsessive and weird about knitting on it as much as humanly possible. The gradient kit worked out fabulously, so if you've got one of these kits (or one like them) and are looking for a pattern match, this one's a great option!

Tech specs: I think I just did a long-tail cast on for the first few stitches at one end (you cast on so few it hardly matters), and used each colour in my gradient kit up completely (save the inch-ish long bits at the very beginning and end) by joining on the next colour in the sequence using a Russian join, so the colour changes aren't all at the ends of rows. I wouldn't recommend this for colour-block versions, with big changes from one colour to the next, but with gradient kits it works well.

Friday, March 23, 2018


My sister was able to arrive at a decision before I could, so I got some yarn winding done.

I've even cast on, too, but haven't gotten far enough with it to make a picture really worthwhile. The other night, I worked a couple of rows of the sweater, then didn't want to look at the pattern to get the next line of instruction, so instead transitioned to a sock I've started, and my sister sure noticed - she asked me what I had transitioned to, despite the fact that the thing is fairly obviously a sock. It's sock yarn on 2.25 mm needles with a smallish circumference - what else would it be? She's been watching me knit for over 10 years now - she should know a sock when she sees one. I just laughed. She may have been trying to point out my freewheeling yarny ways to sort of shame me into being a little more dedicated to her sweater, but too bad - I'm not her personal knitting machine. Besides, 2018's been really good to her so far - she's already gotten two pairs of socks and a shawl. That's one thing for each month, and as much as I enjoy knitting for her, I enjoy knitting for me too.

Besides, she's going to be getting yet another pair of socks pretty soon. Before the magical self-striping yarn came at Christmas, I started socks with some Knit Picks Stroll Multi. The first sock got done before the holidays.

It striped, as I hoped it would - with these variegated skeins, if the circumference is right the colour runs line up to produce somewhat wobbly stripes. It'll do. I started the second one more recently:

It's striping too, but do you see that?

They're not striping the same way - the second one is getting thicker stripes than the first one did. I'd suspect different dye lots, but I can't verify that - don't know where the ball bands go to - and even if I could, there's nothing I can do about it now, as the yarn is now discontinued, and trying to hunt down a matching ball is tricky business if I can't figure the dye lot to begin with. After the super matchy striping socks, this is a bit of a bummer. I suppose I could try playing with the colour runs - cutting and rejoining to make it work, but the runs are so short that trying to force them to my will would be a colossal pain. I'm declaring that officially not worth it.

That snarly skein of yarn is still waiting for its destiny - I'm using it in an upcoming MKAL, paired with another colourway:

That won't start until 2 April, which is also a bit of a bummer, because I initially thought it would start on 18 March and was all excited - hence the impatient winding. Now it's gotta wait for another week.

I wonder if I can get those non-matching stripy socks done before the MKAL kicks off?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I can't decide

I'm torn.

I want to start something new. The shawl for Mister's mother's birthday is done save the blocking (and possibly also the weaving in of ends - I can't remember and it's all the way upstairs), my sister's sweater cuffs have been lengthened as per her wishes. Sure, I started the second sock of another pair for her that I started before the self-striping extravaganza, and yeah there's another sweater for her around here that needs both of its sleeves, and a cardi for me that needs sleeves (I'm not super thrilled to see a pattern in that), but none of those seem right.

I want to start something new.

I've got a couple of skeins of sock yarn all wound up and ready to go. One is another batch of self-striping happiness, the other is a cushy-feeling MCN that I want to experiment with a bit - an idea for a sock design has been taking shape in my head. Trouble is - I can't pick one of these to start. I want to do both, but knitting is a two-handed activity, and I've only got two hands.

I thought maybe a new sweater might take the edge off the indecision. I snagged a copy of the ridge cardigan in a giveaway yesterday, and thought it would make a nice layering piece for me, sans buttons. I started sifting through my stash entries on Rav to pick a yarn for the project, and got nowhere fast - I have a few options available to me, but I just can't decide.

Maybe my sister will have more luck with making a decision? This happens a fair bit - whenever I get particularly flail-y about what I want to knit next, I just put the deciding power in her hands and make something for her. Makes her happy - she gets a new knitted thing. Makes me happy - I get to knit something good, and also it doesn't deplete my own stash. (Is it terrible that that matters to me?) I've wound up a couple of skeins of sweater yarn for her to look at.

Or maybe I'll dig out a different skein of sock yarn and have at it?

I just can't decide.

Monday, March 19, 2018

You again?

A couple of weeks ago, my sister brought back a sweater I'd made her last summer, with a request to lengthen the sleeves a bit.

I decided to finally get it done on Saturday. As I unpicked the bound off edge of the first sleeve, I marveled at how much previously knitted yarn looks like ramen, briefly wondered if a knitting technique could be used to get the right effect for homemade ramen, then quickly set that notion aside as way more effort than I am willing to put into culinary endeavours. New yarn was joined on using a Russian join, extra rounds of 1x1 rib were added on, and then the stitches were bound off again.

Repeat for sleeve #2.

After I took that picture, I smooshed and stretched the ribbing around to even it out some - not too sure why I didn't take a picture after I'd done that. Most likely an issue relating to the disappearance of light. Either way, can't do anything about it now, since the sweater has once again gone home with my sister.

Returning to a previously finished knit takes some mental fortitude. Much like a second sleeve or second sock, but to a greater degree - here sits a completed knit in your hands, and you work to return it to an unfinished state. I'm glad it's done. It feels a bit like I have put in my time as penance for this:

Um. Yeah. That's a skein of Fleece Artist Nyoni that I was winding to prepare for an upcoming MKAL. It's a giant skein - 250 g - and probably more than my ballwinder can handle, but I made it work, since the only alternate option available to me was to wind it by hand, which I was unwilling to do. I got most of the way through the skein before that thing happened, where the remaining yarn's gravity is overcome, and yarn no longer pulls off nicely but drags a loop or two along with it, and eventually leads to snarling. (The yarn becoming snarled, not me snarling - that comes a bit later.) I slow down, and try to pause to deal with the snarls as they develop, but somewhere along the way I lose patience, typically in the very last stretch of the skein, but this skein is rather bigger than a typical 100 g skein, so my patience ran out too early, and the snarls were pretty bad a fair bit before the yarn was all wound. What you see in that image is the result of me having decided to try for a 'gravity assist' and toss the remaining yarn on the floor - as if I could knock the snarls out or something. It totally didn't work. (I didn't really think it would, but I was hoping for a miracle.) It took me a full hour to figure that mess out, working from the other end of the yarn so I could pass the yarn through various loops in the untangling effort.

I'd say I've learned my lesson, but I know me. It's totally going to happen again. I actually think I'm probably okay with that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Maybe a little unreasonable

This morning, I was late for work.

Not hugely late - about five minutes late. Still, when your job is to teach, the general expectation is that you will be there when class starts. So, as I was walking from my car to my office - I wasn't about to try to run for it, since that would make me all sweaty and I'm not fast enough to really gain enough time by running to make it worthwhile - I thought a bit about what I was going to say to my students when I finally made it into the classroom.

I realize that makes it sound as though I was trying to put together a plausible fib to encourage them to forgive my lateness, but that's not it. I'm a terrible liar, I have no poker face whatsoever, so my default is to just be honest and tell the truth all the time. Today's truth was this: I was five minutes late because it took me five minutes longer than it should have to get ready. The delay was due to the presence of a spider in my bathroom this morning - I spent too much time staring down the spider in order to move efficiently through my regular routine.

I've never considered myself to be someone with arachnophobia, and I still don't - I don't freak right out when I see a spider, I won't refuse to be in a room with one, I don't run screaming when I see one. They do, however, make me deeply uncomfortable, and while this would be perfectly warranted if I lived somewhere where spiders posed a real threat because they could potentially END you, I live in a place where there aren't any seriously risky spiders. This morning, when I saw the spider crawling along where the wall met the ceiling, I knew that it was a harmless-to-me spider. And yet, I watched it, unwilling to move much lest it detect my presence. (I'm not sure why a spider being aware of me would be problematic.) If it had been within reach, I would have killed it - smashed it with some toilet paper and flushed it away. But, it was too far up, and it stayed up there - as if it knew of my murderous intent - and I tried to proceed as usual, but my eyes kept straying back to the spider's path. I was only able to really get back to business once it found the space between the shower stall and the trim around the bathroom door and slipped in there, out of my line of sight. From there it probably continued on into the wall space, which admittedly does not make me happy, but there's nothing I can do to chase after it without getting wildly and expensively destructive, so I was able to get back to business as usual once it had moved on.

I've been thinking about this a bit all day - I guess I haven't really let it go - and wondering if this is actually a reasonable response to a spider. I tell myself it is normal to fear things that have the potential to pose a risk, but there really was no risk in this situation at all - and I knew it. I knew that it was a harmless little spider that found its way into the house because it is warm in here, and outside is cold, particularly at night. In fact, that spider might have been living happily in our basement for months, which might have something to do with my general avoidance of the basement too. My feelings about spiders clearly aren't completely debilitating, but I must admit, they don't seem entirely rational either.

Then again, my students seem to consider this to be within the bounds of acceptable behaviour - there were some sympathetic chuckles and smiles, and no one got a look on their face like they thought I was out of my mind with insane paranoia, so maybe I'm just overthinking things a bit.

Hey look! The shawl's bigger!

Nearly through colour #4, nowhere near through a complete repeat #4, so definitely not getting that fifth repeat in there. I'm even getting a bit nervous about getting the complete fourth repeat in there. The urge to drop everything and just knit away on this is strong - I wanna see how it works out!

I also may have some waiting room time tomorrow - not sure yet - and this piece is now big enough that I don't think I should be dragging around all over hither and yon. I may be forced into the sock decision.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Looking a little nervous

The shawl continues:

After the second or third batch of the lace, something in my head about it all clicked into place, and now I don't need to consult the pattern anymore, which is great, since that means it is now pick-up-whenever-I-want knitting, which, for me at least, is always far more productive. I can fit it in whenever, and it just gets done. It's not very often that I'm able to set aside a chunk of time as dedicated knitting time, more often I'll find myself doing something, realize I don't really need my hands for whatever it is, and reach for the needles.

My confidence from last week about the ultimate dimensions of this piece has waned somewhat. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it'll be a usefully-sized piece, but last week I was hoping that it might maybe be possible to get all five repeats of the motif in, with some sacrifices made to the picot bindoff and final garter section. I can see clearly now that five full motifs is just not gonna happen - what's in the picture there is approaching the end of repeat #3, and that's colour #4 that's now providing the working yarn. (Well. Almost. It's joined on, but I'm not actively knitting with colour #4 just yet - there's another row or two of colour #3 still to go.)

Time-wise, though? I'm laughing. This pattern goes fast - I don't feel like I've been pounding away obsessively on this, and yet looky there! Very nearly 60% of the way done! I'll totally have this done before April comes.

Will I have it blocked, though? Can't give away an unblocked shawl. And it'll need a day or so to dry, so it's not like I can just block it on the day. A thought has just occurred to me - what day of the week is 2 April? Is it on a weekend? I might need to have this sucker done early if that's how the celebration scheduling pans out.

Okay, now I'm not laughing so much anymore. 'Scuse me, I have an appointment with some yarn.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Looking good

So I've been putting in a few rows on the gift scarf here and there over the past couple of days.

As you can see, I've already blown through the first of the five mini skeins. That being said, I've also passed the point that marks out the first full repeat of the pattern - at this point, I've nearly reached the end of the second repeat, and I'm still on colour #2. The pattern tells me I need to do five of the pattern repeats in total, then do a bit of garter stitch before binding off. Part of my brain is whooping, Yeah, only five repeats? And the first one got done with the first colour with yardage to spare? This'll be totally fine! That part of my brain is not very smart, because she's forgetting that the rows get longer as the scarf goes on. The repeat-to-skein correspondence will change accordingly, and at some point I won't be able to even do a single repeat with one mini skein.

Right now, though? I'm staying cautiously optimistic that the scarf will wind up a wonderfully respectable size. I'm also starting to relax a bit and feel pretty certain about getting it done in time. After all - I'm more than 20% of the way there, right?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A little sprint

I finished up the knitting on my Mum's socks last night, and have just grafted the toe closed and woven in the ends. (No picture because the sun is now too low in the sky to nicely illuminate my front room.) I still haven't made a decision about which cake of sock yarn to dig into next, but that's okay, because last night I looked at a calendar and realized that it is less than one month until the Mister's mother's birthday, and I had offered to make something that could be presented as a gift. I even bought a gradient mini-skein kit - a Sweet Georgia Yarns Party of Five set, in Swell, which is a set of green-blue shades that Mister felt would suit her, both in terms of her tastes and in terms of looking good on her.

Less than a month is pretty tight turnaround time for not-summer knitting. It doesn't strike me as impossible, though. (She says now. We'll see if my tune has changed come the end of the month!) Last night I showed Mister a couple of pattern options that are in my mental I would like to make this list, and he picked one. hot oatmeal (by Jenny Faifel).

Now, there's a small problem here. The pattern calls for 709 - 735 m of yarn. My gradient pack has 480 m. Those numbers are not the same - not even close. I'm not planning on finding more yarn kicking around here to make up the difference. Instead, I'm going to pretend that the yarn is one long gradient, instead of five mini-skeins arranged in a gradient, and join new yarn at the last possible moment to try to stretch out the yardage. I'm also accepting that the scarf will be smaller than the dimensions given in the pattern, but I really think a slight ensmallening is okay, because the pattern specs say that as written, the finished dimensions place the length at 72" and the depth at 52". That's pretty big.

So this is the plan. I've just got to wind the yarn, and then I can get this party started.

Monday, March 5, 2018

And then?

My sister's magical rainbow stripey socks are done.

I know - that picture isn't exactly awesome. My sister wasn't here when I took it, and I didn't want to ram them onto my own feet for pictures - not that there's anything wrong with that, and goodness knows I've done that before - but I wasn't feeling it on Saturday (Sunday? or maybe even Friday?) when I did the half-hearted photoshoot. I'll hopefully be able to get some nice shots next time she wears them. After all, taking pictures of someone else's feet is way easier. The trick is her getting here before it gets too dark, but that should gradually be getting better too, as the planet tilts its way back to longer daylight hours. We'll get it done. Eventually.

In the meantime, I'm also approaching the finish line on Mum's birthday socks:

These are mostly plain stockinette, with a cable whacked into them. The cable is placed to be asymmetrical on the socks - shifted more to the left of centre on one, and the right of centre on the other. The cable is similar to the cable detail from Parcel, but isn't an exact replica, I don't think - I didn't dig out the pattern to do it, I just sort of winged it in a way that I thought would get me what I wanted, which was a cable that looked like a length of two gently curled ribbons, twining around each other. I finished the first sock and was pleased with what I'd done, but didn't want the second sock to be an exact copy of the first. I didn't want to actually mirror the cables either - I wanted the curl to go the same way, but still not be like what happened on the first sock, so I jogged the pattern a bit. Where the first sock had the ribbons travel to the right out of the ribbing, the second sock had them go to the left.

This had the result of making me think I'd somehow messed up the pattern, or had done something strange in setting up the first sock's cables that I hadn't recreated on the second sock. (Naturally, I never jotted down what I was doing, so I couldn't consult my notes.) I knit along for a good long while quite certain that I was somehow working a different cable than what I had done before, never mind that it felt exactly the same. Only once I had a goodly amount of the leg knit up was I able to do a side-by-side comparison, but with the cable pattern synced back up:

See that? The tops of the socks are no longer aligned, but now the cables look the same. Freaky, no?

I'm a bit anxious to get these done. I can tell, because I'm already thinking about what comes next.

Socks for me? If yes, more magical self-striping yarn? Or do I reach for that red cake on the right, which is a delightful MCN? I haven't played with a yarn with cashmere content in a while, and it makes for some pretty luxe socks.

Or have I hit sock saturation for a bit, and should instead work on a sweater for me? I'm finishing up a sleeve cap on one in the background of my life - it still needs the pieces blocked, and seamed, and then the neckband and button band knitting, but more sweaters are always good. (Oh, and there's the sleeve lengthening I need to do for my sister...)

Then there's shawls. I haven't knit a shawl in ages. Actually, that's a lie - I finished one for my sister a few weeks ago. I haven't knit one for me in ages. Maybe that should be next? Or one for Mister's mother, who will be having a birthday in April? (Hmm, early April. I should maybe talk to him about that. Might need to bust a move on it.)

So many choices. What would you do?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Consider the haul

Yesterday evening, it started snowing again.

As of this moment, it still hasn't stopped. I haven't tromped outside to attempt to measure it, but there's pretty impressive accumulation on top of the waste carts - I'd say at least six inches there. And more snow just keeps on coming.

Now, the sort of cloud cover that brings non-stop snow doesn't allow for sunbeam photography, but it's still decently bright out, so the light in my front room isn't bad today, so I grabbed some pictures of my recent stash additions.

Again, these were purchased as mystery grab bags from Sweet Georgia Yarns - two came in a 'Dyepot Surprise' packet (the orange skein and the green-blue mix), while the other three came in a 'Misadventures' packet.

If you went back to me back in 2007 or 2008, when I was really starting to get into the swing of buying yarn online, and suggested that I buy some yarn without even having seen a picture of it, then-me would likely have written you off as insane, or really foolish, at least. I would read about yarn clubs, in which subscribers pay a sum up front and then receive regular shipments of mystery yarn over some period of time, and then-me would shake her head at the folly of others. It made no sense to me. Why would you pay good money for something you haven't seen yet?

Clearly, something in my attitude has changed, since I've now made a mystery purchase leap twice.

I wouldn't say I've completely changed my tune - I don't think buying yarn sight unseen is a good strategy for sweaters, for example. (Though, to be fair, I'm pretty sure no one has ever made that suggestion.) But for smaller accessories, like socks, mittens, cowls, there's an advantage in mystery bags - they can help you bust out of a colour rut. When I'm yarn shopping, I tend to gravitate to one region of the colour wheel - I go for reds and browns a lot, and also grey (not really in the same area of the colour wheel, but whatevs). While there's nothing wrong with buying what you like, the result is that you end up with a lot of knitted things that have a certain sameness to them, thanks to the unifying palette. Again, nothing really wrong with that.

But. A few years ago, during a Tour, I noticed that I was getting a lot of reddish socks in my sock drawer. I was using an iPhone 4 as my camera at the time, and that camera tended to play up blue tones, which made many of the reds take on a pinkish tinge, and I vaguely remember using the phrase Tour de Pink or something like it when blogging that round. I thought I should try to get out of the all-red sock drawer I was headed for, and I deliberately bought some yarns in other colours to shake things up. Still, I notice whenever I'm browsing yarn, I gravitate to the same palette - reds, browns, greys.

Mystery bags force you to shake things up. All your colour selection power is removed. This has potential to be disappointing, to put it mildly, as it's certainly possible to get a batch of yarn that you hate. My two forays, however, have been extremely positive - even though my failure to actually use any of the accumulated yarn might suggest otherwise. Both times, I have been extremely happy with what I received - and I will freely admit that I would not have purchased any of them in my own browsing. If I had been choosing, I would have bypassed all of these, and been the worse for it, because I'm completely smitten with them. My sister's latest stripy socks should be done tonight or tomorrow, and I am sorely tempted to start winding up some of the mystery stash for socks for me. (I'm trying to postpone that party in favour of finishing off my mum's birthday socks. Her birthday was 11 February, and I'm hoping to get these done before her Chinese (Lunar Year) birthday, which is roundabout 11 March, I think. Details on Chinese birthdays have always been sort of vague in my family.) I relinquished colour control, and am giddily pleased with the results.

I guess Elsa is right - sometimes, it's better to just let it go.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Consider the evidence

In my house - in a box in the basement, I'm quite sure, and I think I even know which box - is a fancy piece of parchment that proclaims me to be pretty smart. It marks the culmination of my post-secondary studies. (I have a digital image of this parchment saved on my computer. On those low days when I'm feeling particularly worthless, I actually open it up to look at it and reassure myself that really do have value.) Now, to be perfectly fair, the document is written in Latin, because I went to a school that does snooty things like generate all the degrees in Latin, and I don't know Latin, so I can't literally read what's written there, but I get by okay in French, and French came from Latin, so I'm fairly confident that this parchment doesn't have any words like idiot or sucker on it. It is my piece of firm, undeniable evidence that, at times, my brain works pretty well.

I'm glad I have it, because, well, no matter how well my brain might work sometimes, it definitely doesn't fire on all cylinders all the time.

Remember how last week I went to the bank to try and have some feature added to one of my accounts, and ended up having to make an appointment for this week? Well, I went back, and got it done, and then completely failed to make use of that new feature when I did my RRSP contributions yesterday evening. I didn't see it right away, and figured it must not have had time to be fully processed in the mysterious system of the bank. Turns out I needed to click through the different fund options a little more. Oh, well, at least it's set up for next year?

Today, I knew I was planning on marking some tests for a good chunk of time (like 3 hours), and marking can be pretty dreary and soul-sucking, so I thought I would buy myself some treats to help bolster my will to live. I got myself a large hot chocolate and three mini apple strudels from the Tim Horton's on campus. I thought about also getting a toasted bagel to serve as a sort of lunch, but then figured the calorie count on my treat and abandoned the idea. (I'm trying to lose ten pounds. My strategy so far is just wishful thinking, worrying about calorie intake, and getting grumpy over how many calories are in the things I want to eat. It's not going particularly well.) On the way home from work, I heard my stomach growl and briefly wondered why I was hungry. Duh - satiety and calorie intake are not related. My intake for the day was mostly liquid and sugar.

I've been doing this teaching gig for over ten years now, and marking has always been a part of the job - and it's always been my least favourite part of the job. It's taken me this long to figure out why it's so terrible - it is BORING. Mind-numbingly boring. If I am tired, I start nodding off while I am trying to mark. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to figure this out.

Remember how I bought some Sweet Georgia Yarns sock yarn in their grab bag sale two years ago? (Oh man, I thought it was just last year, but I just double checked and it was totally 2016.)

This pile of awesome? How much do you think I've knit up since it came to live with me?

That's right, none of it. Not a single skein has even been wound up. So when I got an email notifying me of their grab bag sale for this year, what did I do? Did I remember I still have that whole pile waiting for me?

Well. Yes, I remembered, but apparently that means nothing, because five more skeins are now in my collection. It's already too dark for pictures here today, so I'll try tomorrow or over the weekend.

Good thing I'm not keeping a running tally of these things.