Experienced Level, Beads and Knitting with Novelty

Apparently September was just one of those months where you are doing just so many things that finding time to photograph your knitting and update your blog just wasn’t going to happen.  If you really must know.. there was spaghetti sauce being made, and rooms being painted, and the buying and selling of cars happening… and yes, through it all there was knitting.

So first up… let’s chat about novelty yarn.  Its one of those things that seems to change over time and finds itself marketed to a new knitter or learning to knit knitter, and then as you learn and grow your skill you don’t need fur and ruffles to hide your stitches and suddenly its the bane of your yarn stash.  So in my latest round of stash assessment, I was a bit taken aback by the quantity of fur and other bits that “seemed like a good idea at the time” and went on a quest to find something to make with it.  And I’m happy to report that the Suzy the Cuddlebunny pattern, is a pretty quick  and simple knit that turns out rather well.

Looking for somebunny to snuggle.

Looking for somebunny to snuggle.

I made mine with a flecked fur and an acrylic held double for all the body parts, and just a plain acrylic for the inner ear. The body was deemed “so soft and snuggly” but the test snuggler, so I think, FuzzyWuzzy here will find a good home this holiday season.

Which brings me to the experienced portion of this post.  At some point in the learning of a skill you may find yourself confronted with determining your skill level.  Are you still a beginner?  Comfortable calling yourself Intermediate? What do you feel about “experienced”?  Its kind of intimidating, but here’s the deal with knitting… if you can’t figure it out, or you screw it up beyond all hope… you can just frog it back to your source material.

For me, this bit of bravery involved a pair of socks labeled as experienced level.  Someone else had posted their finished pair and they were marvelous…. so even though it was only my third pair of feet wearable socks… let’s go for it!

Socks of Grand Experience

Socks of Grand Experience

This pattern relies on twisted stitches, where you knit into the back loops of the stitches instead of the front of the loop at points. The bottom of the feet is flat stockinette, but the pattern then picks up from the base of the foot and wraps around the heel and up the leg.

Second Sock Syndrome.... it was hard but I managed to overcome it!

Second Sock Syndrome…. it was hard but I managed to overcome it!

So… what’s an “experienced” knitter to do, but finally tackle using beads.  So here’s a vary patriotic themed Fabergé shawl for one of my aunts.

Thankfully the autumn rains gave me a photo op break.

Thankfully the autumn rains gave me a photo op break.

I really like how the eyelet section is worked to make the stitches look mirrored from the center spine.

I especially like how the top eyelet section is worked to make the stitches look mirrored from the center spine.  Beading is surprisingly less complicated then you would think.

 

So there you have it… the month of September.    Now onto all the holiday knitting… which should include a new pattern revolving around gifting canned goods, some mittens both as gifts and as my first mystery knit-a-long. (yep, I’m finally giving up the “but what if I don’t like it?!” worry on this one.) And more quilting… because I’m falling way behind on my Super Mario QAL project.

 PS – I am totally wearing those socks right now!

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And the Trees are striped Bare, of all they wear…

You may recall a few posts back I mentioned getting some amazing 100% bamboo yarn in my last exchange.  Well my yarn Santa sent me not only the two skeins of bamboo, but a great hank of Hazle Knits sock yarn in Song Sparrow, AND a stunning pattern for a maple leaf shawl from my patterns wishlist.  Which btw… I should mention that my Santa this swap was actually my rematch giftee from an earlier yarn swap!  (If you are reading this then…. Thank you a billion times!)

So naturally I got out my birthday gift from Ben… which was a fabulous set of interchangeable needles. and got right to work on making my Maple Leaf.

This leaf fell a bit earlier in the year.

This leaf fell a bit earlier in the year.

I absolutely loved the pattern and color combination, but I will say I was a bit worried because of how drapey the project was knitting up that it wouldn’t hold its shape so well during blocking.  But I am very happy to report that a simple wet block and laid out flat was just right.  It has quite a bit of drape to it, but it holds the leaf shape very well.

Now the one thing I can say about this pattern to be aware of, is that it has a large number of ends to weave in. Now that being a somewhat subjective determination, I did count and can give you a comparison.  For your average knit item its 2 ends per skein per separate piece.  So for a single skein shawl, such as this one… 2 ends would be typical.  I counted my ends as I weaved them in this morning… and came up with a total of 50!  You have roughly 2 ends per point on your leaf.  So this would not be a great travel project where you may find yourself without aide of yarn cutting implements.  *cough*TSA*cough*

But overall I loved the project… AND! I still have a whole skein left of this great Bamboo and another skein of sock yarn in Song Sparrow by Hazle Knits from this exchange!  Woohoo!

Since it was a great day… I couldn’t resist taking a beauty shot of my maple leaf out on the maple tree…. so I’ll leave you all with that.

PS - The title is from October by U2

PS – The title is from October by U2

Birdwatching Shawl: The Lady Cardinal

It seems that knitting is so often inspired by Mother Nature, be it leaves, or flowers, and even birds.  Which being someone that likes to feed the birds and plant flowers.. this appeals to me. And so when I saw the Dreambird pattern, I knew just the person I wanted to make it for, and just the colors I wanted to make it in.  The pattern design is a bit bold, just like the impossible to miss Northern Cardinal.

Female Cardinals are one of the few singing Lady Songbirds.

Female Cardinals are one of the few singing Lady Songbirds.

However, I felt this would be a good chance to continue in my “Lady Birds” shawls I started with my Gamayun Evening Grosbeak Shawl.  I did need to bit of looking to find the right yarn colorations as I wanted some tonal changes, like the change in feathers.  Truthfully, we don’t get Northern Cardinals in Washington State, but they are very memorable as one of the birds I first learned about when I started birdwatching.

My "bird" perched on the heather and rockwork in my front yard.

My “bird” perched on the heather and rockwork in my front yard.

This pattern is rather different, its shaped entirely with the use of short rows and was a great lesson in the German Short Row technique.  It does use binding off and casting on at various places, so that the overall point of view is the wing of a bird, pinyons outstretched as it takes to flight. Since its mostly garter stitch, this is actually a pattern that difficulty-wise would be fine for a beginner; however, there is one caveat to that opinion.  The author of the pattern probably gives too much information in the full directions.  The intent is that you get the idea behind the design concept as you knit along.  The full directions are certainly worth reading, to get the technique if its new to you, and to pick up the pro-tips like how many stitches to carry your yarn along the backside when you change, but after the first feather or two, there is a simpler single page row by row count directions you will probably use most of the time.

Climbing Hydrangeas - the bird perch-able shawl model.

Climbing Hydrangeas – the bird perch-able shawl model.

How to Invoke the Fairies, and my Beautiful Brioche Shawl

First of all…. I need to tell you I finished my  Brioche 2 color shawl that I posted the yarn for earlier…. and its so nice I’m going to give it a proper size photo.

Just like my climbing Hydrangea... its wearing the colors of both Spring and Fall leaves.

Just like my climbing Hydrangea… its wearing the colors of both Spring and Fall.

This is a pattern I fell completely in love with when I first saw it called Under Dutch Skies.  I decided that I would need to learn to brioche, just so I could make one of my own.   I started it towards the end of the Ravellnic Games with the hopes I might complete it.  But as the deadline got closer and closer I started to push myself and made more mistakes… primarily with my leaf spine counts.

As you can see here, in rows prior I did my increase in the wrong spine  instead of the center.

As you can see here, in rows prior I did my increase in the wrong right side stitch instead of the center stitch.

Once you’ve made that mistake well… its not one I was able to tick back and then work up correctly so thank goodness for lifelines, but it still meant frogging several rows.  I wasn’t going to make it to seven leaf repeats in time to finish… so it was finally time to take a real break and get the shawl out of my head for awhile.  This also freed me to make an additional leaf repeat.  I was so excited when I got to the binding off.

I realized as I was laying it out to block, that I’d made a mistake earlier on, and I’d just never found it.  Now here’s the thing about knitting mistakes.  They are kind of like looking at yourself.  When you look at yourself and your own knitting you find all the things you wish were better.  Maybe we wish we were thinner, or maybe we wish our hair looked better or that there is less of it in some places and more of it in others, and we can get focused in on all the things that aren’t just right. (My stitches are uneven, I twisted that one stitch wrong, etc) But when you take a step back and you look at the whole picture like someone else does…. both you and your knitting are so much better than you think.

So I’ve given you hints now go right ahead… find my mistake.

Not so obvious until you find it....

Not so obvious until you find it….  Feel free to click on the photo until you get it in a larger size too!

Now the reason for that whole exercise is that sometimes when we gift or sell our handcrafted items we feel this compulsion to point out those mistakes.  There is no need.  Its a gorgeous thing worth of praise WITH its minor imperfections.

Now perhaps you have some eagle eye friends and family or over time they find its special unique “feature” and feel compelled to point them out to you.   You can respond to this in a few ways, but here’s my favorite two.

  1. This is an identification feature.  It proves that this item is unique and should it be lost or stolen you could correctly identify yours, even if someone else made the same item with the same yarn.
  2. Invoke the fairies.

 

That’s right… invoke the fairies by looking that person straight in the eye and letting them know that you had to leave a mistake in the item.  Fairies like to steal and take things that are perfect, and after all this friend/family member was already so incredible you felt that if you gave them an absolutely perfect knit item, the fairies might feel compelled to take them away.  (Thus making your imperfection into a very high compliment!) 

Let the Games Begin!… and then End!

If you are a knitter with Olympic fever you may have heard of the Ravellenic Games.  If not, well then here’s the scoop.  During the Olympics, there is a group over on Ravelry, that encourages you to challenge yourself and knit during the time of the Olympics.  Apparently there may be pixel medals involved.  (You can see all the projects here.)

So in an effort to be a bit more involved in the social nature of crafting, I thought I’d take up the challenge.

I started out with another 2 color brioche project, because I wanted something in between my “epic Brioche project” and the simpleness of the Seattle Brioche Scarf.  I didn’t want a super big project though… so I picked one that took less than 200 yards and finally frogged the cut off tails of my Luscious Sweater.

The pattern is called Rodekool, which is Dutch for Red Cabbage

The pattern is Rodekool, which is Dutch for Red Cabbage

Challenges in this project included, increases and decreases in two color brioche, learning the Italian Cast On method, and maybe, though I can’t quite be certain I got it right.. the Italian bind off.

Based on the yarns original project, I call mine Luscious Cabbages

Based on the yarns origins, I call mine Luscious Cabbages

I actually still have yarn bits left, so I might try to work out a hat to go with this one at some point in the future.  Mostly though its the lighter Tidepool heather color.

The second challenge is right out of my list of ideas for 2014:  Gloves

Right hand thumb and Index  include Conductive thread additions for use with a smart phone or tablet.

Right hand thumb and Index include conductive thread additions for use with a smart phone or tablet.

I went for fairly simple pattern, because I already had some superwash wool in worsted left from my Debora Counterpane.  I didn’t find them too hard, but I know some knitters find the fingers to be rather fiddly bits they don’t enjoy.  Its such a widespread opinion, that out of the 718 entries in the Mittens and Gloves category, there are only 14 that are gloves with fingers!  Everything else is fingerless or mittens.

Part of the reason I took a break from the 2 color brioche was the keyhole scarf  was more challenging than I expected, it was a “2 swears” project.  Which overall is a bit unusual for me.  The whole reason I wanted to learn how to brioche in the first place was for the project I cast on next…..  a two color brioche leafy shawl.

This too, had a different style start, and different increases and decreases.  So I thought I should start with an oversized swatch to see how it went.

Size 10 needles and worsted aught to do it...

Size 10 needles and worsted ought to do it…

Now I wasn’t paying enough attention to how long I had to finish, so I didn’t technically get finished with my shawl in time to “qualify” for the games.  In actual fact, its still on my needles.  So I’m going to save the shawl for another post once its completed.  But I will leave you with a photo of the yarns I picked out.

Colorways are Paradise Valley and La Cantante in Mithril (laceweight) from The Verdant Gryphon.

Colorways are Paradise Valley and La Cantante in Mithril (laceweight) from The Verdant Gryphon.

PS – if you click that link in the last caption and find yourself falling in love with the yarn and want/need a referral code be sure to let me know either in the comments or via the email on my About me page!

Block and Load!

So I really liked the yarn I used for my Spring Thaw Shawls, (which was Paton’s Lace btw) although with the mohair it does have a bit of a halo that may not be ideal for all designs, and its a bit more crabby about any frogging.

Since it had worked out so nicely, I bought some more in other colors.  A simpler repeat pattern lace shawl is actually an ok trip project since you only have to pack a skein or two to work the whole project.  Whilst I was on holiday I started up a Vernal Equinox Surprise Shawl, and based on its name I decided to go with the “Sachet” color way, which is white and sage and plum.

I cast off on the 5th.  The thing with lace is it benefits incredibly by blocking, but non-knitters or newer knitters don’t always see how you got to pile of yarn fluff to the more nice looking lace.  So I’m going to start out this post with an unblocked photo.

Taken at night with poor lighting.

Taken at night with poor lighting.

Issues of lighting aside, it does look like a lace shawl, not super lacy but its not something repulsive either.  And then you block it.

For the record, it is an overcast rainy day, but the lighting is better.

For the record, it is an overcast rainy day.

And it goes from this textured ripply shawl, to a true lace shawl.  And like the Grinch’s heart, it can grow a few sizes too.  You does not need to be super fancy pants to achieve a good block, though to be honest it may help; I don’t know.  I just use towels and Sewing Pins and sometimes a few bits of old school acrylic yarn in the case where the edge is super loopy like this one.  The yarn is my blocking wire that stretches the loops out evenly so I don’t have to pin every single loop out.

There are several different types of lace repeats in this shawl

There are several different lace repeats in this shawl

This shawl was a bit difficult for me to finish… not because of the pattern, but because I wasn’t really making it with a giftee in mind and started to have good ideas about what I wanted to do with some of that Alpaca yarn I just got.

I didn't even finish trimming my cast on tail before this photo.... ¬.¬

I did not even finish trimming my cast on tail before taking this photo…. ¬.¬

But I don’t like to leave too many projects undone, so I finished it up, and it shall be folded up nicely to await the perfect person for it to go to.

That's right... I can fold half circle lace shawls AND fitted sheets.

I can fold half circle lace shawls AND fitted sheets.

Knitting with recipient in mind is a huge motivator for me, but sometimes you find you need to use your yarn and just knit something, and in the long run it seems to work out alright.

There are no Resolutions in this post, only ideas.

I don’t really make New Years Resolutions… more because people seem to think its a great thing to think of and then don’t take them all that seriously.  So I always have ideas and things I want to do and I do list them out as goals.  In 2012 it was a new Christmas Stocking each month from January to October with a goal on selling them.  I exceeded that plan in the crafting department, but I wish I’d done a bit better in the selling.  In 2013 it was sweaters, gloves, and working on my Star Quilt.

Well I did get the Sweaters part done… I made 3 this year.

I didn’t get any gloves made and the only mittens were for a 6 month old which didn’t really have separate thumb holes so I am not counting them towards the original goal, and not much work on my star quilt so those will just have to move into 2014.

Instead I tackled some lace shawls.

And doubled the amount of quilts I’ve made with four more. (BONUS: A Christmas gift of a quilted table set that I designed and hand appliquéd)

I also made up some great plushies, custom curtains and finished my first ever double knit scarf… so there was certainly quite a bit going on in 2013.

So now its time to think about all I want to achieve in 2014….

I have six quilts on my list this year!

  • A movie inspired gift quilt (lap size)
  • An Art Quilt (3-4ft square) Inspired by one of Ben’s favorite Artists
  • A Commissioned Baby Quilt
  • My Star Quilt (Back again! – King size)
  • A Christmas Cathedral Window Quilt
  • An as yet to be determined 2nd quilt for the family room.  Ben loves our VideoGame quilt, but thinks there should be a second quilt, because after all there are two of us.

In the knitting front I’ve got some other unique projects planned.

  • A Scarf and Shawl from my wonderful new Alpaca yarn!  I’m debating making my own patterns for these, but we shall see!
  • Gloves are still on the list!  I’ve already got the conductive thread to make them Smart Phone capable!
  • I’m going to tackle a second pair of socks.  I think with my skills I’ve worked on I might be able to do some patterns that won’t make me so bored by sock #2 (aka Second Sock Syndrome)
  • I’ve got a few more shawls planned.  Including one bird inspired based on the Stellars Jay
These Jays from the PNW are vibrant Blue and Black!

These Jays from the PNW are vibrant Blue and Black!

  •  I’d also like to tackle Brioche stitch as a new stitch this year.  Perhaps I’ll use up my “Action Green” from the Seahawks Stocking on that.

So its a bit of a list looking at it all at once… but if I can tackle 3 sweaters, 4 quilts and learning so much about lace in a year… I out to have a good start on some of these… RIGHT?

Know your fiber and the animal it came in on – Alpaca

Ben’s mother, Dale (the Sunflower quilt lady), always finds really creative and new things for us to do when we visit Kansas.  We’ve been to the Omaha Zoo,  the Cosmosphere Space Museum, and even to a tiger rescue ranch (since closed).

Tiger Tongues feel just like really big cat tongues when they lick your hands btw.

A most interesting experience!

And this holiday visit we went to an Alpaca Farm called Alpacas of Wildcat Hollow.  Dale also knits, so naturally we made some yarn purchases.  (Fellow knitters, and friends of knitters know this was inevitable! Non-knitter Ben got socks instead.) 

So this Christmas I received two beautiful hanks of 100% Alpaca in fingering weight with which I plan to make an amazing shawl.  I am presently debating if this will be a good excuse to build my own pattern or not.

A variegated Rose color

A variegated Rose color

AND… she picked up a sport weight skein for me to knit her a wonderful scarf.  Going for a more textured than lacy design as Kansas is cold, as in hide yo’ ears! hide yo’ toes! We gettin’ frostbite up in here!

Violet and Teal

Violet and Teal

So let’s talk Alpaca fiber.

Alpaca does not have lanolin like Sheep wool, which is apparently where most people with wool allergies run into issues!  It also is less prickly, naturally water repellant, and a better heat insulator.    Alpacas are closely related to llamas, but have finer fur for making yarn (It seems the llama, being larger with less fine fleece, is more of a pack animal, whereas the Alpaca is more of a fleece production animal).  The fur is shorn from the animal much like sheep wool, but has a greater yield per fleece than sheep.  There are 22 naturally occurring colors of Alpaca, and it maintains a nice luster even after dying!

So there’s a few bits about Alpaca, and something to look forward to working with in the coming new year!

Double your Pleasure with Double Knitting Fun!

So several ages ago (also known as last December) I decided to learn how to double knit.  This is where both sides look like the stockinette or “v” side of the knitting.  You may recall a post in January or April on this project.

Well I’m pleased to report that I’m finally done!

Green and White is always Right!

Green and White is always Right!

A full nine snowflakes make up this baby!  There are 5 differently patterned flakes.  Two larger and 3 smaller patterns.

Like the force there is a dark side...

Like the force there is a dark side…

And a light side

And a light side

To me double knitting is very beautiful, but it seems like it takes so much more time, basically its like you are doing a 1×1 rib, but you also have to pay attention to the detail of which stitch in the pattern facing you and the edges so that the two sides are hooked together and not open at the edges.

From WIP to FO in 1 batch of extra determination!

From WIP to FO in 1 batch of extra determination!

And that’s one project that can go on the Christmas gifts completed pile!

Speaking of things completed… I also knit up a second Spring Thaw for a friend of mine who was admiring the first. I believe it is now presently touring part of Canada.

A shawl knitted for Sporks, but not on sporks.  (which might be possible but probably insane)

A shawl knitted for Sporks, but not on sporks. (which might be possible but probably insane)

 

An August Spring Thaw

Did you ever have those moments when you look back and say to yourself, now if only I had done this in a different order…..

Such as… if only I had started with the Spring Thaw Shawl instead of the Gamayun Bird, I’d at least have finished one of them on vacation.  And I totally could have managed it on the plane.

So without further delays… allow me to present a completed Spring Thaw Shawl!

Spring Thaw... just in time for fall chills

Spring Thaw… just in time for fall chills

This pattern is actually pretty easy to follow along, and available in both written and charted if you want to get your toe in the waters of lace so to speak.  I went with 12 leaf repeats down the center spine, primarily because of how my yarn colorway was working I decided I wanted to end as I began.. in the dark smoke.

Perfect for a gentle breeze like the one today!

Perfect for a gentle breeze like the one today!

The yarn I used was Patton’s Lace in Woodrose, and it took me just under a skein from start to finish….. which means I have another skein of it.  To me, the browns and greys make it more interesting than just a simple pale pink.

The mohair in the mix gives it a nice soft fuzz to the pattern.

The mohair in the mix gives it a nice soft fuzz look.

I was rather surprised at how quickly this came together… from cast on to fully blocked and photographed in just 6 days!

Full view

Full view