Yes, I am still knitting.

The world doesn’t suffer from a lack of knitblogs, but I was suddenly overcome with a powerful urge to update, so here are a few things I’ve done since we last saw each other:

1. Packed up my family and moved to take a new job in January. Pros: a kickass LYS 5 minutes from work. Cons: packing and moving all your stuff is the pits.

2. We actually moved twice because we bought a house much sooner than planned (where I have strategically stashed yarn on every floor). All I have to say about moving twice is that if you don’t love something, get rid of it – you will hate having to repack it.

3. There were great losses, of knitting friends, and dogs I loved. You guys, the summer of 2011 was so terrible I kind of stopped talking about what was happening because it sounded unbelievable, like a bad country song. Sometimes it has to be enough to carry some of the things you love most in your heart.

4. I love my job. Pro: Isn’t that great? Con: it cuts into my knitting time, so production has dropped significantly. I knit 1500 yards in 2012, more or less. Let that sink in for a minute, and you realize that even my small stash gives me enough yarn to knit for 15 years at that rate. Yipes.

This hat is a big fat stashbuster. 5. On the bright side, all this hullabaloo makes it easy to go more than a year without buying yarn. I last bought yarn on November 30, 2011. Because I have a rule about knitting posts with no pictures of knitting, this hat was probably my favorite thing I made in 2012. I’ve had the remnants of this yarn since 2003, when I made this hat (still in use, by the way).

 

6. I have a plan: knit simpler things that are just as beautiful, use less sock-weight yarn, and continue to bust that stash.  I’m spectating at the Deep Stash KAL in the Doubleknit group on Ravelry, as well as the Use it or Lose it KAL in the Stash and Burn group. Usually, committing to do a knitting thing is the kiss of death for me, so by not publicly committing…I’m using reverse psychology on myself. Not bad, huh?

Off to a good start.

Because I felt like leaving behind the feeling of disappointment brought on by knitting a sweater with armholes that are too small, I knit the Knit One, Purl Too birthday boy (aka my husband) a hat, at his request.

Pod of Cetaceans Hat “Please make me a Moby Dick hat” was all he needed to say, but he also pointed out that he was a fan of Patons Classic Wool. And like a shot, I was off to Joann’s for supplies. One week later, thanks to the cleverness of Elinor Brown’s Pod of Cetaceans pattern, I had a hat, with one white whale. [Before you think I am too clever for hacking together a hat, I just want to say for the record that it took me a few extra minutes while knitting this to realize that I was not going to need to duplicate-stitch the white whale - I could just alter the pattern. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you know what I mean. -ed.]

Pod of Cetaceans HatThere are a few construction details here on Ravelry; the most significant thing I noticed was that my colorwork tension was even enough that I was able to knit the entire body of the hat on the same size needle – no need to go up a size for the pod of cetaceans. I officially love colorwork, so be ready to see more of that coming your way this year.

I also finished my first lace shawl ever, Multnomah. Note that about this time last year, I said that my first lace shawl was going to be the Flower Basket Shawl, and that has languished at the end of chart A. As a member of the 12 in 2011 group on Ravelry, I committed to making 12 projects this year, and the Flower Basket is one of them. I looked at Multnomah as a way to a. prove to myself I could complete a simple lace shawl and b. get some of the most misbegotten sock yarn I have out of my stash. That Koigu was meant to be part of the Latifa scarf from Knitty [alert: Garnstudio Silke-Tweed is discontinued! - ed.], but I made entrelac socks that didn’t quite fit instead, and then I made half of a Baby Surprise Jacket with it. Multnomah Unfolded

We were both a little worse for wear after several years, but Koigu P106 and I had one last adventure together – these mighty skeins totally redeemed themselves, and I seriously enjoyed Feather and Fan more than I ever thought I could. I seem to start each year secretly worried that I’ll never finish another knitted object. Some garter stitch and nine lace repeats later, I’m happy to be wrong and I feel ready for 2011. P.S. I was so excited to pin it out that it wasn’t until later I realized that I had blocked points right into the scalloped edge of Multnomah – still loving it though.

We offer that in “too small” and “slightly less too small.”

Whenever I say I am going to stop knitting to deadlines, let’s just all assume that I am L-Y-I-N-G. Apparently, I love the added frisson of uncertainty (Can I get it done?) more than I loathe the agony of defeat.

I brought this on myself.

Fionn Body Complete (sort of)Way back in January, I started Fionn for my lovely husband. I had some vague idea that it would be done sometime soon, surely in 2010 because that’s a whole year and even though I’m a slow knitter, how long could it take? It’s a drop-shoulder sweater, after all – three pieces and Bob’s your uncle. No sleeve cap, nothing. So I started the sweater, got up to the armholes, then went off and knit like eight other things, and Thanksgiving arrived. Of course, I was all “I am finishing this sweater for Christmas, or barring that, your birthday five days later.” So I finished the body…and the armholes are too small. So I ripped out the three-needle bindoff, added some length, and the armholes were slightly less too small.

Now, there appears to be something interesting going on here which is not the designer’s fault. I think I thought Fionn was more close-fitting than Jennifer Hagan intended; I liked it precisely because it was a drop-shoulder sweater that seemed more tailored than the average drop-shoulder sweater. However, careful comparison with other husband sweaters and consultation of the stellar book Knit to Fit by Ida Riley Duncan revealed that the ideal armhole depth for the sweater’s recipient needed to be something like 11 inches rather than 8 (Have you read Knit to Fit? I cannot recommend it enough; Ida is the no-nonsense knitting aunt who asserts that “of course you can design your own sweaters – all it takes is math and a measuring tape!”). Coincidentally, 11 inches was the armhole depth for the 47″ size for Fionn…three inches bigger than the size I’m actually making.

The troublesome Fionn armhole But we like the size and ease and length of the body now, so rather than add length above (which would make it into a tunic), I am (once again) undoing the three needle bindoff, so I can rip back to where you see the orange marker in this picture and start the armholes earlier. I’m at peace with it, save for the fact that there’s no way on God’s green earth it’s getting done in 2010. Now, 2011 (early 2011!), that’s a different story.

I think the moral of the story is not “You should know what size to make” (because based on actual measurements, I thought I did – the armhole was an unanticipated hiccup). Maybe instead, it’s “don’t worry, you can totally fix it without having to reknit the whole thing. Just check with Ida.”

You would be wrong.

Punctuated Ribs Sock Top You might think, after working a month and a half on preparing a sock knitting presentation for my spinning guild, I’d be sick of sock knitting – almost, but you would be wrong. I promised mom a pair of birthday socks, and before I headed off into the wild blue knitting yonder to cast on hats and sweater and non-socks, I needed to finish a labor of love. These are the Punctuated Rib Socks from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn, a book I’ve now knit two patterns from (a record!). The yarn is Aslan Trends Santa Fe, a soft, economical sock yarn that I would call the “poor man’s Koigu” if I were feeling snarky, but I’m not. Nice to knit with, my only complaint is that I needed to swipe my one and only Addi size 1 out of the Fionn sweater I’m working on. Added incentive to finish the socks, since I found out after just a few rows of the sweater on straights that I am no longer a lover of straight needles unless they are DPNs. See the pair here. I feel like I’m definitely going through a dark yarn phase, which is inconvenient when your knit night is in a bar.

For the opposite of dark yarn, I present these Maine Morning Mitts Maine Morning Mitts, knit out of long-stashed Kureyon intended for a Lizard Ridge afghan. I think I held off making these because I was concerned I couldn’t get two mitts out of one skein – I am here to tell the Internet you can make two Maine Morning Mitts with just 100 yards of worsted weight yarn (I did shorten the cuffs a bit, but I’m confident even the originals are one-skeiners). These were quick and fun and they knit up in a week, satisfying my raging case of startitis. They also served as a convenient distraction from the hooligans who shot my new car with a BB gun while the Knit One Purl Too crew was out to dinner in a perfectly nice Cleveland suburb. At least the insurance adjuster thought the mitts were nice, and everything’s back to normal now. Frankly I cannot believe that I drove my new car to Chicago and all over the Windy City without a scratch (the Dan Ryan! the Ike!), then I come home and some loser tries to make my Honda Fit into a hoopty.

Quincy Quade Quentin In my righteous indignation over HooptyGate I have not one, not two, but three finished objects for you – this weekend, I stuffed and sewed a Quincy Quade Quentin monster, and I have to say that while it was a lot of work because I am not a sewer, I am charmed. I’m also pretty proud that he looks suitably monster-y (with the help of Knit One Purl Too’s monster engineering staff, aka my husband, who suggested teasing the stuffing to make it less lumpy, installed the safety eyes and cut the teeth for me). I loved making him, and even though the finishing was more involved than I expected, it reinforced my love of getting details right on knitted objects. Finishing work is actually fun for me.

But if I love finishing, why do I have so many things started? I have 9 things on the needles right now, which seems ridiculous. I’ve started things I haven’t even logged as projects on Ravelry, like a Cassidy cardigan (I met Bonne Marie Burns in Chicago last month at YarnCon and yes, I was a total fangirl: “I love your patterns!”) and the Desdemona shawl in Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace (I may have gushed a little at the Lorna’s studio sale: “I love your yarn!” – that’s what happens when you buy yarn once a year; you get excited), and a pair of Roger socks for a dear friend. You would think all of these works in progress would have me a little overwhelmed and maybe a little guilty – but so far it just feels like really good knitting. In other words, you would be wrong.

Another thing for the “life list.”

I once swore I wouldn’t post without photos, so I present the best photo I’ve taken all year:

Handspun Superwash Merino sock yarn, 550 yards

See? That was worth waiting for. 550 yards of a heavy fingering weight yarn, lofty and soft superwash merino from this fiber by AllSpunUp (still damp when I took this). I proved to myself that I can spin 100 yards of 2-ply from an ounce of fiber, so no need to worry from here on out about getting 400 yards of yarn from 4 ounces of fiber – what a relief. And it’s so pretty, too.

I have more pictures to take, including an FO photo for a finally-finished pair of Paraphernalia socks, and more to tell you about how preparing a presentation on sock knitting for my spinning guild this month may have put me off knitting socks for a good, long while. Am I sick of socks? Unless they’re handspun, right now, the answer may be “yes” – shhh!

Notes from the Tour de Fleece

California variegated mutant (CVM) 2-ply Though the last week of the Tour was filled with travel and a visit from my parents, I was still a productive spinner – this is 8 ounces of California Variegated Mutant spun up into about 175 yards of sportweight 2-ply. Of course, I thought this yarn was worsted weight, and I ended up using a size 8 needle, three sizes larger than my typical worsted yarn choice. So it’s probably more accurate to say some parts of it were worsted weight. The skein on the bottom was spun and plied during an incredibly fruitful spinning workshop I took with my guild in March, then I finished the skein on top (notably less overspun) during the Tour. I loved working with the CVM, and it softened right up after a bath, so it’s perfection in a skein as far as I’m concerned. I’m hoping to make the Sweet Fern Mitts with this yarn from the Knitters Book of Wool. Mitts of some kind, at least.

Handspun Hat Even though the Tour was for spinning, I also finished my first handspun, handknit item: a hat. This is the clever Top Down Ribbed Beanie from Charisa Martin-Cairn with the addition of a stripe of luxury yarn I carded, spun and Navajo-plied myself during the aforementioned workshop in March. There’s a little bit of sable, a little denim waste – surely the most experimental thing I’ve knitted with in quite awhile, wooly girl that I am. The luxury yarn has too much twist, since I am still a Navajo-plying novice – but I did it, and that’s what counts.

Laila Socks, Cast OnAnother thing I did recently (not related to the Tour de Fleece) was cast on for my first pair of colorwork socks, from stash, from a pattern I’ve had waiting for at least four years. These are of course, the estimable Laila’s Socks from the frankly awesome Nancy Bush – as you can see, this is a popular pattern, and it’s hard to make it look bad; I myself went with the “if girly is good, girly with bling is better” combination of Lorna’s Laces in Tickled Pink and white sock yarn with sparkles in it. Let me tell you a secret, which when I say it will be just as annoying as hearing “I lost the weight and I ate whatever I wanted.” Colorwork is easy.

I hold the contrast color in my dominant hand to make it pop, I hold the main color in my secondary hand, and I never vary that pattern. That one piece of information (plus a sock needle two sizes larger than usual to help ensure looser even tension) is all I needed to feel like I cracked the mysteries of colorwork and make myself into a two-handed knitter. I’m at the heel of sock one, trying to finish these for the Sock Knitters Anonymous colorwork challenge which ends August 31, so the odds are in my favor. I’m just putting this sock-related promise here in writing, because I may have cast on not one but two knitted toys this weekend – wait until you see the cuteness to come.

Never give up! Never surrender!

Corriedale/Mohair spun for Heifer International raffle For me, learning to spin has been an exercise in patience. I balanced the idea that every time I tried to spin it was hard and I sucked against the notion I kept reading about: it takes a pound of fiber to get any good at spinning. So if I gave up before I had spun a lot, I might miss out on the fun of really developing some skill and seeing that pay off.

As much as I try to be a “process” person, I am a “product” person. I see the fiber, I want the yarn. I see the yarn, I want the socks (or the sweater, or the scarf or the hat). So it was especially gratifying to cross the finish line with this, my first completely-stuffed-full bobbin of fiber, a Corriedale/Mohair mix spun as a fine single for my local spinning guild’s Heifer International fundraiser later this year – it will become part of a woven shawl that will be raffled off. I sold two winning tickets last year, but was too bashful to spin something for public consumption. Six months later, I sat down and did it like it was nothing, and as I said to someone while the bobbin was filling: “I never thought I’d get to the point where some parts of spinning are easier than some parts of knitting.” I’m now deep into the spinning of this fiber, about two ounces down, and a little over 3 ounces to go. Things seem less hard if you practice, is all I’m saying. And if you watch Galaxy Quest, where “Never give up! Never surrender!” comes from.

Leyburn, finished: full Meet the socks that are harder than some parts of spinning: these are MintyFresh’s Leyburn socks, in the Claudia Handpainted Fingering colorway Circus Dancer (more pictures here). I sailed along with these two-at-a-time on one needle, and then, during a particularly tense moment in Crazy Heart, I looked away, my hands kept going..and I goofed up the slipstitch pattern. And I had a devil of a time fixing it – I had to separate the socks, and knit, and reknit, and rip…and at some point while I was knitting with friends (in public! on Knit in Public Day!) I looked down and realized my hands knew what to do; they understood the pattern better than my thinking brain did. That was both good and weird, a knitting breakthrough of an entirely new kind for me, and one for which I’m very grateful. Sadly, they’ve gone to live with a knitting friend in Montana, but I did get a bodaciously good pair of beaded rib socks in Knit One Crochet Too TyDy in return – I would show a modeled picture of them, but it’s 90 here, so that will have to wait for later.

Fionn, up to the armholesAnd then there’s Fionn, up to the armholes and forsaken not due to the heat, but sock-related deadlines, so I’m due to pick it back up shortly. It’s turning out just as expected, and thus far has been a pleasure to knit, particularly when there’s air conditioning available. I have this fantasy that I’ll clear off my knitting needles, but even as I finish one project, others are calling to me – I have a small but mighty UFO pile, which includes a handspun hat (from my first plied yarn) and a pair of Paraphernailia socks that are so! close! to! being! done! But I might have started a new pair of socks this weekend instead…

All-points bulletin

At the B.B. King Mural in Indianola, MS I’m getting a lot of stuff done today, so what better time to pop in with an update? It’s been longer than I hoped it might be since we saw each other, but I have a good excuse – I was on vacation. For our anniversary in April, the Knit One, Purl Too Knitting Appreciation Society (aka, my husband) and I took off for Mississippi to (are you ready?) eat our way across the Mississippi Delta. I ate the best fried chicken I have ever had at the Old Country Store in Lorman, amazing brisket in Yazoo City at Ubon’s, and a fried green tomato BLT in Jackson that restored my faith in humanity. So. Much. Fun. The sock and I had a great time at the B.B. King museum in Indianola (which I cannot recommend highly enough – the displays and music were terrific). I totally enjoyed the exhibit on the writers of Greenville and knitted on my sock at their library (that’s the cuff of #2 there) before helping polish off a monumental steak at Doe’s Eat Place. The sock even paid homage to great bluesman Robert Johnson – it was a landmark trip. At Robert Johnson's Marker in Greenwood, MS

Except for one thing.

Now I can’t find the sock. Sock #2 to be specific. I know the sock made it home with us after the trip, but it seems to have been tucked away somewhere in a bout of pre-Mother’s Day cleaning and might not surface for months. I hope that’s not the case, but I’ve looked everywhere and my optimism is fading. I was just a few inches away from a finished pair, too. Where could they be?

Not for lack of trying.

Yes, there has been Olympic knitting chez knitonepurltoo, but my Olympic sweater was completed in the wee hours of March 1, long after the closing ceremonies were over. I am not as broken up about this as I thought I might be; I made a valiant effort, I tried some new things (first yoked sweater!), but I ended up with a garment that didn’t work out (which made staying up until 1:30 a.m. a bitter pill to swallow, let me tell you).

Modern Olympic Garden I knitted the Modern Garden Cardigan in DROPS Eskimo, colorway 29 (a spring green, which longtime readers could use to safely win bets on “What is Donna’s favorite color?“). That cardigan is super-cute and very knitworthy, but it ended up being a high-stakes project for a few reasons, chief among them the fact that I did not get row gauge, and even though I was just one row off, I ended up with a cardigan 3″ longer than I expected as a result.

I didn’t have a lot of maneuvering room in terms of needle size; the pattern calls for size 15 needles to give you a stitch gauge of 2 stitches to the inch, and I needed to go to size 17 needles to get that. I tried the knitter’s math trick of using the numbers from a different size to get the fit I wanted, but the Modern Garden sizing is fairly spread out because there are only so many number combinations that will allow for those beautiful, large leaf motifs. So the knitonepurltoo support crew (aka my husband) made a trip to Joann’s with me to get a big pink set of Susan Bates circulars, size 17.

And I knit the thing. Like any knitting story, there were setbacks (the large was too large, so I reknit in medium), and triumphs (the leaf motifs were easy to work and very pretty). But the spider sense that was tingling pre-Olympics, leading me to question my project choice and even write to Nordic Mart and ask if I could return the yarn, was accurate. Other knitters had gauge issues and several found the sleeve sizing small – me too. But I enjoyed knitting it, and was glad that I followed through to the end, even if I did feel like the guy who crosses the finish line last. My one regret? I turned off the Olympics after the (awesome) hockey game because I didn’t want to see the torch go out without having finished, and I missed William Shatner and the dancing maple leaves.

I also have no idea what to make with the yarn, once I’ve ripped it back – a baby sweater? A felted bag? Something crocheted? I’m mulling my options, because not being able to get the DROPS Eskimo out of my stash seemed roundly unfair after so much hard work.

Corwyn's Sock My Modern Garden mishap taught me nothing about knitting to a deadline, though – I picked my needles right back up and polished off a pair of birthday socks for my husband’s godson, finished the day of the birthday party during a spinning workshop offered by my local guild. These are the Yarrow Ribbed socks from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush; I subbed in a garter stitch short-row heel for the flap and gusset style. He tried on my mom’s cashmere socks when they were close to the finish line, and asked for a pair with stripes – who am I to say no to that? So I didn’t medal in the Knitting Olympics, but to one seven-year old who may still be wearing his socks, I’m pretty cool. I can live with that.

Next up: I get serious about spinning, and progress is made on Fionn.