Day 4: Where are they now? – 2kcbwday4

Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

To me, this prompt make me think about the Cousin Hats for Waub, Musky, Gig and Meegis.

The Cousin Hats

I started knitting with a vengence in the summer I was keen to show off my skills. During a trip to Ottawa for a friends wedding I brought along some of my knitting to show off to my relatives with whom I was staying for the weekend. While I was there I brought along a hat I had knit out of KnitPicks Elegance (baby alpaca and silk), which sadly had been discontinued. My aunt commented how much she would love to give her boys (three grown sons and a 5-year-old grandson) handknit hats like that one for Christmas.  Looking to impress my aunt, I agreed to make her the hats for the cost of the materials.

Thus began the saga of the Cousin Hats.  I had told her that I would only be making a single pattern in different colors and she would sort out who got which one (although one was to be smaller for her grandson).  I finally settled on the Top-Down Timothy Cap by Splindarella, which because it was top down and ribbed I could take advantage of the maximum amount of material, KnitPicks Andean Treasure (100% baby alpaca), and fit some very differently sized heads.

The project was painful for me, not only making four identical hats, but HAVING to make them and by a specific date. It took all the fun out of knitting. The only saving grace was the materials, the alpaca was nice, and didn’t make me want to harm anyone with it.

So, I toiled through the hat making process, finishing them up well before their deadline.  As it turns out my aunt wanted me to give them to my cousins myself so they could thank me appropriately (which was very nice of her) and the two I did see (who are older than me) immediately picked their favorite and left the last one for their little brother.  The oldest of the three, Waub, is an on-camera reporter for the CBC (and has a book coming out in May, Midnight Sweatlodge) and he promised he would wear it on camera and send me a picture.

So, that is where one of them is now, forever immortalized on film.

Waub Hat

My Famous Hat

So I learned a few things from making these hats:

1. I don’t do commission knitting
2. I am a Selfish Knitter
3. Getting your knitting on TV is really cool (particularly when your cousin gets all sorts of compliments on it when he posts the picture on Facebook for you)

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Day 3: Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches – 2kcbwday3

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

My Stash Before Home Office Relocation

So, my stash … The photo above appeared on the blog a few weeks ago as I was talking about stash busting, and it is best overall view of the stash at this time.

I think just looking at the picture you have the sense that I am a stasher, not a project buyer. However, as I am not a sweater knitter, I generally never have more than 200g (8oz) of any single yarn or fiber. So I have all sorts of fibers, however, I seem to be drawn to fingering weight yarns, despite my lack of interest in making socks.

Since the photo was taken we have rearranged the house slightly and I store my fiber in my clothes closet.  I get a kick out of having my sock yarns next to my socks, small amusements keep me smiling. The projects next on the to-do list usually sit in a basket next to my desk.  While this basket is not very organized, it does keep me motivated and remind me not to order more yarn!

The stash next to my desk

The main source of true organization for me is Ravelry.  My “Stash” (if you are a Ravelry member feel free to peruse) has been a way for me to keep track of what I have and when admiring a pattern on Rav, I can quickly figure out what I can use from my stash for that project.  Having the Ravelry Stash has also ensured that I have pictures of my yarns and my projects, something I would likely not be doing on my own.  This blog has helped me keep a record of the projects I have done, it doesn’t really play a role in my stash collation.

While I make extensive use of Ravelry and Rubbermade totes for stash storage, I am a bit more freeform on tool storage.  As an Knit Picks Options interchangeable needle user (both the Nickel Plated and the Harmony Wood) I have okay physical storage for my tips and cables in a DellaQ fabric case and no use for digital storage.  I do find the DellaQ case a bit to big and floppy to be overly useful, but it works for now.  I have plans for a more permanent solution which I am not quite ready to reveal yet (and I haven’t worked out all the details).

Scrap, Spindle and Needle Storage

So I guess I am pretty organized, however this may have more to do with the fact that I am living in my parents house and I have to keep myself and my stash wrangled into the same area where I work and and sleep, or up in the attic which is just too far away.

Day 2: Skill + 1UP – 2kcbwday2

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

Last year for KnitCroBlog Week we were asked a question about what sort of skills we wanted to improve … Let’s see how we did (full post here)

The two main skills I wanted to learn/improve were spinning and continental knitting.

Check and Check.

My Spinning Wheel

My Handspun Yarns

While I don’t have a picture, I do pretty much knit continental by default. Only when things get really tough or I have a whole WS purl row to complete do I use throwing rather than picking. I do surprise myself at times that I move into picking hand shape by default when I pick up my knitting.

Generally, my skill level has improved, mostly from practice, but I also discovered blocking and swatching (well I knew they existed before that, but I only started practicing them regularly this past summer).  This has been an easy way to make my projects look and fit better without knitting more stitches.

This time last year I had done mittens, bottom-up hats, and entrelac.

My Knitting Before KniCroBlo Week Last Year

Since finishing up school in May I have made lace shawls, baby sweaters, top-down hats, Mobeus cowls, fair-isle hats.

Knitting from the Past Year

I don’t know where, but my father always quotes the fact that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become truly proficient at an activity (that works out to about 1 year, but taking into consideration the realities of life can be about 3 years of hard work).  I have put in quite a few number of hours knitting since last year, but I am still many, many years away from my 10,000 hours.  I also have expanded my color palette.

This year, some of the things I want to accomplish are re-learning how to crochet and planning a project from fiber to yarn to finished object.  As far as techniques, I want to work on my colorwork and double knitting and since getting Cookie A.’s Knit.Sock.Love. I have been tempted to try socks, or maybe see if I can turn one of her sock designs into a pair of mittens.  Oooh and dyeing yarn and fiber … and tatting and making art yarn and … you get the picture.

Day 1: A Tale of Two Yarns — 2kcbwday1

Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

 

 

 

 

 

My Two Yarns

 

 

 

 

 

For me the tale of two yarns is in fact the tale of one pair of mittens.  Like many out there I am an avid Knitty reader and when the Winter 2011 edition came out with the Shelburne Mittens in it, I knew I had to make a pair. Due to living in Northern Ontario, and mitten weather lasting from October to April, I have a bit of a mitten obsession. I want to have a pair for just about every day of the winter (and for every possible weather condition).

Source: Knitty.com

So when I found this pattern I was well into my yarn diet and went diving into my stash (which you will see on Day 3) to find something that would work. I came out with this fantastic Dream in Color Groovy yarn I had ordered to make Bella’s Mittens.

Wonderful, sunny, groovy yarn

After swatching and finding that I had to use a needle about 3 sizes larger than recommended (for a yarn that was seemingly the same weight, and had the same ypp), I should have been reconsidering the yarn substitution but I blazed onward.  After a day of knitting I had this …

Long, skinny, scary mitten

My sister said it looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book

Needless to say, something was terribly wrong.

After doing some research and a trip to my local LYS (which is 130km away) I found the yarn called for in the pattern, Rowan Felted Tweed Bulky and the difference between the yarns explained everything.

Rowan Felted Tweed Bulky

The DIC yarn was everything that the Rowan was not.  The DIC was a worsted spun superwash merino while the Rowan was a woolen spun merino/alpaca.  Now when I say worsted, I don’t mean the weight of the wool, but rather how it was spun.  If you aren’t familiar with the characteristics of sheep breeds and how yarns are spun I would suggest checking out Clara Parkes “The Knitters Book of Wool”.  The book, which includes some beautiful patterns by amazing designers, includes a large section on the characteristics of different types of fibers and how preperation changes how the yarns feel and knit up.

The short form is that worsted spun doesn’t allow twist in the pre-drafted fibers and is harder, firmer and not as warm (because there is less air trapped between the fibers), while woolen spun allows twist into the source fiber and it is fluffier, ligher and much warmer.  However, woolen fibers are much less abrasion resistant, think about a Malabrigo (woolen spun) sweater versus Wool of the Andes (worsted spun) sweater, which one is soft as all get out but gets holes and pills sooner (hint: Malabrigo) and which one is a bit picky and hard but wears like iron and after years of hard work it hardly shows any wear (hint: Wool of the Andes).

Woolen Mal and Worsted WotA (Both at a Worsted Weight)

So to add to the issues of woolen vs. worsted spun I was having with my mittens, the amount of twist in the yarn was totally different. The DIC was plyed tightly, giving it an almost spring-like appearance. The Rowan by contrast was much more loosely plyed.  (If you read The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin, you will see this is in contrast to how most yarns are plyed).  This made the DIC more like a piece of spaghetti (perfectly round) while the Rowan is a bit more like linguine (with a bit more spread in the middle).

Springy DIC and Relaxed Rowan

So for me the moral of this story is, there is more too choosing the right yarn than having a similar YPP and getting gauge, and that sometimes frogging and reknitting is the right thing.

For the Dream in Color Groovy I found the perfect pattern, the Fried Chicken Mittens.

Right Pattern, Right Yarn

This pattern was quite the adventure for me, and you can read more about these mitts here. I haven’t started the Shelburne Mittens yet, the snow has been melting and my thoughts are on spring shawls and felted bags, but I know that the Rowan will look great and that the DIC found itself an amazing pattern.

P.S. It’s not to late to participate in Knit and Crochet Blog Week, check out Eskmimimiknits for more info.

FO: Belle Starr Hat

 

Clear Skies and a Warm Heart

Back in the summer when KnitPicks released their first yarn that contains cashmere, Capra, I picked up a ball. At DK weight and 123yds/50g, there wasn’t an excessive amount of yarn to make something wonderful and squishy out of.  So it sat in my stash improving with age, and I finally found this pattern, which worked great.  I used almost exactly 100 yds, leaving me a bit of scrap, but not much.

Warm & Soft - Merino & Cashmere

Project Name:  Belle Starr Hat

Pattern: Belle Starr Hat by Anne Podlesak of How the West was Spun (and of the Ennea Collective)

Recipient: Me

Yarn: Capra by KnitPicks in Harbor

Modifications: Just one

  • Didn’t gauge swatch so I just went up a needle size (which is my default), and when I finished casting on 90 stitches, I though it was too small so I added 10 more, so I had one more “panel” than the design.

New Skills: Nothing really, it was a fun quick knit, with an easy pattern, clear pattern.

Feedback: Nice, easy, clear pattern.  Great use of a small amount of yarn (I only had one ball of Capra (123yds).

Re-Knit?: Maybe, I have a bunch of handspun kicking around in strange weights and short lengths that would be perfect for this pattern.  I may find different lace patterns for the bottom panels.

Nice Stitch Definition and Halo

On Models and Teddy Bears

So as you may have noticed, I don’t appear in my finished objects pictures. This is a result of a couple of factors, 1. I don’t have any human models and 2. I don’t have a self timer for my camera and 3. I don’t use the webcam in my computer (so maybe I keep it covered with a pink post-it note, it’s about the only truly Luddite-ish paranoia I have).  This means that I needed a hand, or rather a paw, to show off my knits.  That is where my good friend Brown Bear stepped in.

Brown Bear, 26 and looking good

Brown Bear, who has been with me since my first Christmas (a gift from my Oma and Opa), was first called to modeling duty for the Our First Sweater and Our First Booties projects back in the summer.  As I have not spent any time around babies I have no idea how big they are when the first arrive, so I decided to try the sweater I had just knit on Brown Bear.  Needless to say, I had to take a picture.

With the Buttons Attached

So, the sweater did fit the baby when it arrived and all was well, but I couldn’t help continuing to use my bears to model my knits.

Because of his status as an elder statesman, and the fact that he is not as fuzzy as he started, Brown Bear hasn’t been called for any more modeling jobs, and the new bear has been pressed into service.

First Job, Modeling Meret

This bear does not have quite the same pedigree as Brown Bear (who incidentally was named as such because my parents didn’t want to name him for me and called him the brown bear, I was not an excessively creative child).

This second bear is nameless, well he had a name but I am too embarrassed to use it.  When I was too old for this story to be cute, but young enough for it not to be creepy (I hope) I bought this bear (and its twin) at a Build-a-Bear workshop as a gift for a boy I loved (spoiler, it was unrequited).  He got a bear named after me and I kept a bear named after him.  We never had a real relationship (virtual relationships can seem so real when you are a teenager), and all I have left from that time is an awkward note about how he didn’t feel “that way” about me and this bear. Since then this bear has been without a name but a wonderful model and occasional car pillow.

Trying to Stay Incognito

So, this nameless bear who reminds me of the joy and pain of youthful love, has become quite the supermodel.

As a note, I will be participating in Knit and Crochet Blog Week, created and hosted by the fantastic Eskimimi Knits.

This week, which I particpated in last year (and can be found on the old blog here) encourages us fiber bloggers to get talking about the same things at the same time.  Using a tagging system we will be able to find each other and meet new cybery/fibery friends. I know my friend the Knitting Ninja will be participating, and I look forward to meeting others during the week.

So keep your eyes peeled for some different types of posts, starting on Monday.

On Stashing and Busting

So, I have never been one for collecting. There was a bit of a brush with Beanie Baby collecting in the late 90s, but after a quick explanation from my mom about what “value” means (something is only worth what someone will pay for it), I haven’t been into collecting items for the sake of collecting them.  However since, rediscovering knitting, and then spinning, in the past year, I have a new collection, my yarn and fiber collection.

My Stash! And yes, it is still winter here.

Having a full-time, well-paid, job over the summer (for the first time) I found myself stashing yarn like crazy.  I wanted to try out all the yarns I had admired from afar, or rather Ravelry, and I had nothing stopping me.  So I stashed and stashed and stashed.  I haven’t totaled up the amount I spent on yarn in 2010, mostly because it will make me cry.  I am still totally financially solvent, but I have a somewhat absurd yarn collection, in my eyes.  Sure there are plenty of people out there with way more yarn than me, but due to many, many moves as child and young adult, I don’t like having too much stuff, because it is way too difficult to move.

My goal for 2011, was to end the year with less yarn than I started the year with.  So far, I have been successful, I have stashed a bit more yarn, but I have knit up a whole bunch more.

Some Fleece Artist Big Merino that snuck into the stash, ooops.

Accounting for a fair chunk of my stash (which if you have Ravelry you can view here) Knit Picks Palette and Wool of the Andes for felted (or rather fulled) bags. Initially I had planned on making the Grazing Sheep Bag from I Heart Felt, the Billington Bag from the Knit Picks Independent Designers Program  and the Reflecting Pools Bag from the Knitter’s Book of Wool (which as a side note is amazing and a must-read for all knitters).  This added up to quite a few balls of feltable wool, however I started the Grazing Sheep Bag and the intarsia was making me crazy, so I went back to the KP IDP program and found the Alluvia Tote, designed by the fantastic Allison Haas aka. Alaskan Purl.  I after digging through my stash I found I had a bunch of green Wool of the Andes, and decided to use the greens, along with a ball of taupe and white, to do the Alluvia tote.  The remainder of my WotA will go towards the Billington Bag and possibly an electric heating pad cover (which I am hoping to design at sometime before I stop needing the pad.

The Sequence of Colors for my Alluvia Tote

I must say, as I work on the Alluvia Tote which is a blast, I am really enjoying the fact that I am using up my stash.  For so long I was so afraid to use things up, like a nice lotion or fancy jam.  But really, yarn, like all wonderful luxuries, are best used.  Although that hank of Handmaiden Sea Silk I ordered over the summer hasn’t been used yet, because I am not quite ready to commit it to a pattern, but I will I swear.

The Sacred Sea Silk

Are you a stasher or a buster?  Do you  have a hank of something that you haven’t knit yet, because it is too special?  Or do you only buy yarn with a pattern in mind?

FO: Winter Sunshine Mittens

These mittens were incidentally called the Redemption Mittens because it was an attempt for the yarn, Dream in Color Groovy to redeem itself after being wholly inappropriate to make the awesome Shelburne Mittens.  The DIC yarn was too worsted (spinning type not yarn weight) and too highly twisted to work for those mittens, but they are perfect for a tight gauge, non cabled mitten.  The pattern, the Fried Chicken Mitten, is a great execution of a great idea, basically that our thumbs aren’t the shape of most thumb gussets, but rather pieces of fried chicken.

The pattern has some rather amusing drawings to this effect, I suggest checking it out!

In addition, the texture pattern, found in one of my stitch guides, provides an amazing texture both to the look and feel of the mittens.  With the hand-dyed yarn, I find the mittens to seem almost woven.

Project Name:  Winter Sunshine Mittens

Pattern: Fried Chicken Mittens by Ellen Mason (Ravelry Only Link)

Recipient: Me

Yarn: Groovy by Dream in Color in Gold Experience

Modifications:  Lots!

  • I did the cuff out of only 2×2 rib, which meant that I didn’t do the beginning stockinette rounds or the purl ridge before the thumb gusset
  • I shortened the mitten and used the top shaping from Ann Budd’s Knitters Handy Book of Patterns.
  • However I modified this top by pairing the decreases (making the top flatter) and grafting across the top when there were 16 stitches remaining.
  • I followed the thumb gusset pattern for the right mitten and then modified the left so that it was a mirror image and in both cases the “seam” (or the invisible line formed by the start of the rounds) runs up the pinkies.
  • I used a texture pattern, Twisted Stockinette, to the whole mitten.  I got the pattern from The Harmony Guides: Knit & Purl page 132.  This pattern called for Ktbl in every stitch every second round.  To make this work with the pattern I knit an additional plain row before starting the thumb gusset so that I was increasing on a standard knit row, not a twisted row.  This helped make the increases simpler.

New Skills:

  • Grafting – I think … I don’t know another project that I have used grafting on, although I have practiced it before.  I don’t know why people are so afraid of it, watching the videos over at Knitting Help are invaluable for all things and particularly for reminding me that I start the first stitch as a purl and then from there I am good to go.
  • Post Incident Life Lines – That is putting in a life line long after the row had been knitted.  In this case, I didn’t like the top shaping in the original pattern so I had to go back and pick up the right side of the stitches in the round and insert a life line so I could from back and reshape the top.  That process is a hassle, and I while I am unlikely to use pre-emptive lifelines, it is good to know how to save oneself from a disastrous frogging session, that ends with the decision to re-knit the whole item.
  • Major Reworking – I haven’t changed a pattern so much before. In this case I switched out the mitten top, the texture and fully reversed the thumb gusset on the second mitten. The success of these mittens have given me confidence to play around with some other patterns a bit more.

Feedback:

  • What an amazing thumb gusset. Not only is the name great, who can really resist comparing their thumb to fried chicken, but it fits wonderfully.  I think that this my go-to thumb gusset until further notice.  I love mittens and this makes me love them more.
  • It is great to know that I can modify patterns to fit me perfectly, I need to do it more.
  • Dream in Color Groovy is amazing. The whole time I was knitting, the amazing color made me smile.  The fact that it is superwash means that these are going to be perfect for the hard abuse that mittens get during an Ontario winter. There is a bit of a halo, but that just makes them look as fuzzy as they feel.

Re-Knit?: Yes, yes a thousand times yes.  I will probably make modifications each time, but my mother has already asked for a pair for next winter, and as I am living in her house I will probably make her a pair, because she is totally knitworthy (uses but doesn’t abuse items, doesn’t see me as a free knitwear dispensing machine, and is trying to get back into fibercrafts herself).