Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A delicious bit of lace and some thoughts on sock yarn

For the last couple weeks, I've been knitting this in spare moments:
It's the Winged Shawl by Sarah Fama, from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2010. It's been in my queue since that issue came out... I finally feel able to knit it! I am absolutely loving it so far. It's simple enough that I can knit it while my kids are awake, yet complex enough to hold my attention. I think the end result will be gorgeous. And the yarn... oh, the yarn. It's the skinniest yarn I've ever worked with. This is my first time knitting lace with laceweight yarn, and it seemed a bit fiddly at first, but I quickly got comfortable. It's Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight in the Desert Bloom colorway, and it's knitting up so beautifully! I have had it in my stash for over 5 years, and I think it's been waiting for this pattern. It's extremely reasonably priced... $16.50 for 900 yards of hand-dyed laceweight yarn. It's also a singles yarn, so it's not at all splitty, which is really great when knitting lace! I think I'll always have a lace project on the needles no matter what else I'm knitting, just like I always have a sock on the needles. I'm hopelessly addicted! Speaking of socks... I've noticed that socks knit with sock yarn that has a bit of nylon in it last a lot longer than 100% superwash merino socks. So I've decided to keep 100% merino for shawls and to stick with wool/nylon or alpaca/nylon, whatever/nylon blends for socks. There are so many amazing lace shawl patterns for sock yarn out there, like Kitman Figueroa's stunning, inspiring patterns! I don't feel ready to tackle one of her patterns quite yet, but there are like 7 waiting in my Ravelry queue. Maybe I'll have the guts to start a Damask by the end of the year! In the spinning world, I've spun 3 ounces of that lovely brown alpaca roving I picked up a couple weeks ago, and this weekend I plan to acquire some Romney wool and hopefully some mohair (!!) too at a fiber festival that's... once again... 5 minutes from my house! I'm really excited to see the sheep, being an aspiring shepherdess, to get my hands on the fiber, and to see my kids' faces as they experience the sheep, goats and the beautiful natural surroundings. And oh, good, Blogger's new interface still has the problem where it's ignoring my carriage returns, making my post look like one big paragraph, when it's not. GRRRR! Apologies for this post's goofy look. I'll see if I can find a workaround to this extremely annoying bug when I'm in more of a troubleshooting mood!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Typing While Spinning...

... is impossible. That's why it's been 6 weeks since I've blogged! I've been spinning and knitting like crazy. My addiction to lace knitting is still going strong. A few weeks ago, I made this:
It's Evelyn Clark's "Shetland Triangle." That has to be the easiest lace pattern ever! I will definitely be making another in the future. I also made these socks, from 100 grams of random Koigu scraps. Koigu KPPPM is a work of art in and of itself, before it's knitted into anything, so none can go to waste! I love how they turned out.
I also spun 8 ounces of Black Diamond carbonized bamboo fiber and 4 ounces of silk, both of which had been in my stash forever. Like, since before my 5-year-old was born. I never felt capable of spinning those fibers until now, and I'm glad I finally felt like I could handle them, because I love the finished yarn. Here are the singles:
And here's the finished yarn:
It's my first 3-ply, and I'm so happy with how it turned out. The silk pops through so subtlely, and it's so soft! I knitted it into a lace shawl, but I can't show that until it reaches its recipient! Bwah-hah-hah! I just acquired more local alpaca to spin, and got started on that Saturday night (yes, that's what I do Saturday nights, stop laughing). It's glorious, and it was raised 5 minutes from my house. I met the animal that grew it! That's pretty special, I think, and at only $3 an ounce, that's way cheaper than most alpaca roving you'll find online.
Did you know that October 12th is "I Love Yarn Day?" I just found that out, and I'm delighted with it! Way less annoying than "Talk Like a Pirate Day," way less contrived than "Sweetest Day." I love yarn every day, but I'm glad it now has its own special day. I Love Yarn Day is having a photo context over on Facebook, and the prizes are pretty great. Now, off to select a photo to enter!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Handspun Shawl

Despite the hot summer weather, I knitted that handspun Suri alpaca that I talked about last post into a shawl!

I absolutely love it! It turned out to be quite the stashbuster, too, because I quickly realized that I didn't have enough of the alpaca to make the pattern, Jaala Spiro's Bridge Over Troubled Water. So I went stash-diving and came up with some 80/20 merino/silk. The dark purple I spun last year; the lighter purple and the blue I spun before my oldest daughter was born, about five and a half years ago! It has just been sitting in my stash this whole time, waiting for this project.

It's huge - I didn't do a gauge swatch, since it's a shawl and I was using handspun, so why bother? I'm very happy with the size it ended up being, though. I will definitely not be cold this winter!

I'm so into the idea of spinning and knitting shawls, I've joined the Spin A Shawl group on Ravelry. The current S-KAL (spin and knitalong) is Jaala Spiro's Red Sumac shawl pattern. Most of the spinning fiber I have is too variegated and colorful for this shawl, but I do have a pound of black alpaca that's been in my stash forever, as well as about 9 ounces of "black diamond" carbonized bamboo fiber, that I haven't known what to do with. I think, though, that this pattern would look so pretty in that gunmetal grey color, so that might be the fiber that I end up using.

I'm going to need more fiber if this keeps up! Good thing I've got a couple excellent fiber-acquiring opportunities coming up, both about 5 minutes from my house.

I prefer to buy fiber locally. I just don't want to buy fiber that was grown across the world and shipped across the country. When possible, I like to meet the lovely animals that grew the fiber! Thankfully, Washington is a great place to be a fiber artist, and the Seattle area is loaded with wonderful places to buy yarn and fiber! Cascade Yarns is based here, so is Skacel... it's pretty much knitter's heaven.

I'm going to remind myself that I said that in a few months when I haven't seen the sun in weeks and I start bitching about how I hate the weather here.

I have a plan, though, for when those dreadful sunless months arrive. I'm going to knit my own sun.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tour de Fleece Spinning!

I hadn't spun in a while, so when I heard about the Tour de Fleece, it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get my wheel out. It's so embarrassing, I have spinning fiber that I bought 5 years ago and haven't touched. I have a goal for next year of spinning enough for a sweater, but I need to work through some of the stash that I have first. There are a couple very tempting fiber festivals coming up this fall, and I need to make some room!

During the Tour de Fleece, despite being sidelined by a back injury for about 2 weeks, I managed to spin 8 ounces of lovely, champagne-colored Suri alpaca roving. I don't remember where I got it, but it was loaded with VM (vegetable matter, for the uninitiated). I don't mind VM... I like being reminded that the fiber I'm spinning or knitting came from a real, living, breathing animal, but holy shit... every time I spun this stuff, I had to sweep the floor. More came out when I washed it and still more when I wound it into balls. The rest will come out when I knit it, wash it and wear it, so I'm not overly worried about it.

Here it is:

I love it. It's crazy-soft. It was almost weird to spin, it reminded me of extremely fine human hair. I liked it, but I prefer huacaya alpaca, and I think I'll stick with huacaya in the future. I hope to score some more of that, along with some wool, at the fall fiber festivals!

I spun it with Jaala Spiro's Bridge Over Troubled Water shawl in mind, and I think I have enough. If I don't, I have more handspun in a color that will coordinate well, so soon I'll cast on!

I think it'll be gorgeous in that natural champagne color, and I think the pattern will look great made from handspun. My handspun looks like handspun. It won't win any county fair prizes, but I love it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sheepual Healing

This last week sucked. A catastrophic, expensive, gross plumbing problem and an excruciatingly painful back injury ate all of last week for me. My back injury sidelined me from the Tour de Fleece and made dealing with the aforementioned plumbing problem, which was expensive enough that we had to wait till last Friday (payday) to fix it, that much more difficult.

So when I saw Jaala Spiro's beautiful Balm to the Soul shawlette in Knitcircus, I immediately bought it, because my soul really needed some balm. Using worsted weight yarn, it was the perfect stashbuster. I had a ball and a half of wonderful Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted sitting in my stash, waiting for something special, so I cast on with it. The project went quickly, and its soothing, simple stitch patterns occupied my mind.

I thought I had enough Lamb's Pride Worsted to finish, but I didn't. I finished the lace section and ran out. But no problem, I just dove into my stash and pulled out half a ball of Noro Kureyon in a pink/red/orange/purple colorway. I love it! I think it's even better with the extra pop of color from the Kureyon than it would have been if it were all one color.

This pattern is so easy and fun, and since the lace section is so simple and the project uses either worsted or DK weight yarn, it would be a perfect first lace project.

Now that my back is better thanks to nice Mr. Chiropractor, I am back to the Tour de Fleece, spinning some lovely champagne-colored Suri alpaca on my Ashford Joy. What do I plan to do with it? I had so much fun with Balm to the Soul, I am planning to use it for Jaala Spiro's Bridge Over Troubled Water shawl.

I can't stop with shawls, and I can't stop with lace. I have a problem! I'm casting on another lace shawl this week, the Winged Shawl by Sarah Fama, from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2010. It's just the thing for a hank of Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight that I've had in my stash for 5 years. It's been sitting that long because I wasn't ready for lace or laceweight yarn until just this year! Now I'm on a lace shawl knitting tear, with no signs of stopping anytime soon, especially since I took advantage of Knit Picks awesome clearance sale and got enough lovely laceweight yarn for two more shawls for $15. Whooo-hoooo!

Later this year, I want to take a little break from shawls (if I can get this lace shawl monkey off my back) and make a sweater for me, sweaters for my kids and a blanket for my bed. And holiday gifts. Oh God... holiday gifts. It's time to start planning those, isn't it? *shudder*

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The world's oldest UFO... completed!

Finally, the afghan squares that sat unjoined in my mom's closet for 36 years have become an afghan!

After taking my sweet time weaving in the ends, about 2 weeks ago, I crocheted the squares together and then made a simple single crochet edging. The joining method I chose was from Edie Eckman's fantastic Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs. It's a mix of single crochet and chain stitches and it's quick and very pretty!

I was going to keep this afghan (about big enough to be a baby blanket or a lap afghan) in the living room, but my 2-year-old decided it's hers. She named it "the beautiful blanket" and dragged it to her bed. Who can argue with that?

Completing this afghan put me in a granny square kind of mood and I decided to make a half-granny square shawl out of leftover Koigu KPPPM that I had from baby blankets, mittens and my recent Charlotte's Web shawl.

I've named it "Charlotte's Granny." Like Charlotte's Web, it has exceeded my expectations!

I started with the colorways I had the least of and worked to the ones I had the most of. Conveniently, this went pretty much from light to dark. It only took a week to make, and it was loads of fun! My 2-year-old has declared this also to be hers, and keeps it in her bed.

Hmmm... this is a disturbing trend. I didn't expect my kids to start commandeering my FO's quite yet! Since it's pretty sturdy, being just half a granny square, and superwash wool, I gave it to her. She grinned her little head off and threw it over her little shoulders just like she sees me do. Pretty awesome. :-)

Now her big sister, 4 and a half, wants one, too. Thankfully I still have more leftover Koigu AND other glorious handpainted sock yarn, so I'll be beginning another soon.

For now, I've got a sock and the 2nd Frida Kahlo-inspired pattern on the needles. After I finish a big load of work later this week, I am going yarn shopping, so there a lot more projects coming!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sun hats, in hope of someday seeing some sun!

Here in the Seattle area, this June has been dubbed "June-uary." It's cold, wet, gray, dark and dreary. June is young, so I'm hoping this will change soon, because as usual, it is driving me a bit nuts.

Back in May, we had one really nice week of sun and 70+ degree weather. I got hopeful and made the kids and myself some sun hats. I hope I didn't jinx the weather by making them, but it is looking an awful lot like a conspiracy to me. I make sun hats, the sun goes away... hmmm.

Anyway, I'm sure we will need them at some point, and I could not be happier with them! They are Alla Koval's Garden Party Crocheted Hat pattern (which is free!).

I made two of the orange hats, one for each of my girls, in Tahki Cotton Classic and one for me, in some Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton. The flower on each is my favorite crocheted flower, the Flower Power Posey by Heather Lodinsky (free pattern!). They're feminine, they're super sunny and cheery and I love them! The pattern is fantastic, super-easy and loads of fun. Even after making three of them in a row, I wasn't bored. Whenever the sun does appear, our heads and faces will be stylishly well-protected!

Alla's Ravelry profile says she lives in Seattle. I've noticed she uses a lot of bright colors in her designs. I wonder if she, like me, finds color a wonderful antidote to this intolerable weather!

Speaking of color, I am dying to make a Colour Affection. I have three delightfully bright colorways of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock picked out. I want mine to glow in the dark! The question is, do I start it soon, when our all too brief season of sunny weather is due to start in a few weeks, or do I save it for oh, September, when the wretched gloom comes back? Decisions, decisions. We'll see what kind of willpower I have.

On a whim, I started a pair of socks made with some leftover Lion Brand LB Collection Superwash Merino, a yarn I am in LOVE with. I didn't want any of it to go to waste, and holy crap, is this a great yarn for socks. It's super-elastic and boingy, it's cushy and squishy, it's not at all splitty, and being DK weight, it works up fast. I'm going to get more of this soon just for socks! I'm envisioning more stripes, Fair Isle, lace, cables, whatever strikes my fancy!

I'm also making progress on joining my mom's 36-year-old granny squares. I have them crocheted into strips, now I just need to crochet the strips together and make a pretty edging! It took me a while to weave all the ends in on all the squares. No wonder mom let them sit for 36 years, weaving in ends is so tedious! The result was worth it, though, it will be great to turn these squares into a lovely afghan at long last.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Expectations exceeded

Here she is, Charlotte's Web. My first "serious" lace project.

I could not be happier with it! I might be complaining about this week's miserable, cold weather were it not for the fact that it is perfect shawl-weather and I've had a lot of opportunities to wear my Charlotte's Web.

I keep looking at it, thinking, "Did I knit that? Did I really do that?" If you went back in time to Seven Years Ago Me when I'd just started knitting and showed this to me, I never would have believed that I could do this. I have had Knits from a Painter's Palette, the book that contains this pattern, for over 5 years and the yarn for over a year, because it took me that long to believe I could do it enough to attempt it. Well, I did, and...

Gaaaahhhhh! I just love it, and I can't wait to knit more lace. I can't wait to knit this pattern again, and I will have the opportunity to do so soon, because my Mom commissioned one after seeing pictures of mine. I'm so excited to see which colors she chooses!

In case anyone wants to know, here are the colors of Koigu KPPPM that I used:

darkest: P469
second darkest: P810
third darkest: P403
bright, neon: P872
lightest: P524

I started with the darkest color and worked through the above order to the lightest. The pattern calls for fringe, but I hate fringe, so I edged it in one row of single crochet with P403. I am so happy with my minimalist edging!

Now what? I have a bunch of leftover Koigu from this project and from a few baby blankets and other projects that I've made over the years. I have a project planned for the leftovers that I'll start and blog about soon!

For now, I've finished the sun hats I crocheted for my daughters and have crocheted a flower for each hat as an embellishment. The hat pattern is so awesome it deserves its own post, so pics and details about that next post!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Handmade Mother's Day

For Mother's Day, I made something for my Mom from a book I recently reviewed, Seamless Crochet by Kristin Omdahl.

In that review, I mentioned that the Radiance Scarf would make an awesome Mother's Day gift, and from that point forward, I decided that that's what I would make this year.

I couldn't afford a ball of the Tilli Thomas Symphony Lace yarn that's called for in the pattern, which is a beaded yarn, so I used some glorious Misti Alpaca Lace that I had in my stash and beaded it myself!

I am SO happy with the result, and Mom absolutely loves it. She says it makes her feel like royalty. That was the idea, so mission accomplished!

I pre-strung 240 beads (one bead per flower petal of 40 flowers) before I started crocheting and added the beads willy-nilly, however and wherever I felt like it. Now that Mom's is done, I am making a second for myself! The pattern used less than half a ball of Misti Alpaca Lace. It was very easy and a lot of fun to make, so I'm excited to make another!

Before that, though, my kids and I need sun hats, so I'm hard at work on those. I had some nuclear-orange Tahki Cotton Classic in my stash that I got on clearance for $3.50 a hank about two years ago. It's been sitting there waiting for the right project, and while I was looking at it one day, I thought "Sun hats!" So I got on Ravelry, went to the pattern search and restricted the search to be only for patterns that use Tahki Cotton Classic and searched for the words "sun hat." My search produced exactly what I was looking for, Alla Koval's gorgeous, adorable Garden Party Crocheted Hat.

It's one of those impossible-to-put-down patterns. It's very easy, a lot of fun and very addictive! I've finished one, which is blocking, and have started another. Having two girls, ages two and four, I have to give them the exact same of everything to prevent fighting! Hat #2 looks like the sun that it will be keeping off of my kids' heads right now:

So pretty!

As for my Charlotte's Web, I have 8 rows to go! I absolutely love it and hope to finish it sometime this week, though these rows toward the end take about half an hour each to do, so I have to wait till the kids are asleep to work on it. I got them outside in the sun for a playdate today in hopes of tiring them out so I can work on it tonight!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lace knitting builds character!

One of the reasons I never thought I'd knit lace when I started knitting 7 years ago is that I didn't think I had the patience. I also didn't think I had the attention span.

It turns out I do.

I don't think I would have before I had kids. They are only two and four, but they have built my character a LOT already. Two-year-olds in particular are character-building, hoooooweeee.

Lace knitting in and of itself is character-building. A couple times, I have screwed up and have had to tink back half a row, a row, or two rows and tinking back a row full of SK2P's is a bitch. The other day I saw that I had screwed up two rows back and had gotten half the row off by one stitch. Part of me wanted to say "F*** it," but the more mature part of me, the one that thankfully wins most of the time these days, prevailed and said, "This is Koigu. This is turning out so beautifully, and that mistake will be glaring and hideous and will torture you for all your days." So I sat for an hour and tinked back two rows. I didn't even have time to re-knit it that day, that was the real bitch. I had to leave that for the next day. Re-knitting those two rows and moving several rows past my screw-up, now looking beautiful, perfect and screw-up free, felt really good. Yarn Harlot mentioned this week how good that feels, and boy is she right.

I have about 36ish rows to go, and I am enjoying this project so much! I can't wait to wear it. I'm excited to block it and see the lace all opened up.

I highly recommend this shawl as a first "serious" lace project. It's my first "serious" lace, and I've found a couple things about this pattern that are really helping me get it right and enjoy every stitch:

1) The stockinette sections at the beginning and end of each row and on either side of the center "rib" are great checkpoints. There, I can say, "OK, I should have X number of stitches in this section." If that number is off, I know I effed up somewhere and need to tink back and figure it out.

2) There are lots of yo,k1,yo's. Make sure these are lining up and you pretty much know you're on track.

3) It's easy to fudge if you've found that you're missing a stitch or have an extra stitch and can't see the mistake or figure out where it happened. Do an SKP instead of an SK2P if you're missing a stitch or if you have the opposite problem, slip 2 and pass them both over. I know this might sound blasphemous to some people, but there really are no knitting police and if no one can see the mistake, it isn't there. Bwah-hah-hah!

The color in this pattern... oh, the color. It is such a fun way to play with color. One hank of any colorway of Koigu is a good time... 5 hanks is glorious. Watching the colors blend and mix and waiting to see what they'll do next is endlessly entertaining. I love color and really need lots of color right now, because it's spring in the Seattle area, and that means hardly any sunlight. I hate it every year, it drives me batshit every year, and color is what saves me every year. This section in particular is really making me happy:

Total clown barf, but I LOVE clown barf. (Google "clown barf yarn" if you don't know what I'm talking about, you'll be happy you did!) I gravitate towards clown barf. I love rainbows and pink and sparkles and glitter and Hello Kitty, and this colorway conjures up all those things for me. This colorway is wooly sunshine, and that is exactly what I need.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fiber art therapy

This month, thanks to a very welcome abundance of work at my part-time job and my need for a new computer, I have been busting my ass. Working really hard. On top of that, my two-year-old has really been being a two-year-old lately and has been doing everything she's not supposed to. She's been making spectacular messes, accidentally and on purpose, she's been obsessed with climbing to dangerous heights anywhere and everywhere she can and she's also been enjoying taking her diaper off every time I turn around (hence some of the aforementioned messes). All this has meant that I've had less time to knit, crochet and sew, but I've been scratching out a few minutes here and there to provide myself with some much needed fiber art therapy.

I am having SO much fun with my Charlotte's Web shawl. It's about halfway done and already I'm thinking of making another. What a wonderful pattern and a wonderful way to play with color and experience Koigu's dye and color genius. The Landras are my heroines.

I've also been working on my Mother's Day gift for my mom. It's crochet, Misti Alpaca Lace and some lovely pink seed beads. It's the first time I've mixed beading and yarn, and I am hooked. Passionately, addictedly hooked.

This project is a secret since it's a gift, so all you can really see here is a diaphanous, soft, sparkly pink wad. I'll post a pic once it's in Mom's hands.

I have chosen what will be my second serious lace project. It will be Evelyn Clark's (a Seattle-area designer, I believe) Shetland Triangle Shawl. I'm going to use yarn that's been in my stash for years, Louet Gems Sportweight.

It's been in my stash for years because I don't love the color. I love pink, unapologetically, unabashedly LOVE pink... but not this pink. It's too peachy/orangey. So I fixed that yesterday and overdyed it with some pink Jacquard acid dye. I heated the yarn in a pot, then mixed a tablespoon of dye with some water and vinegar and poured it onto the yarn, followed by a big "glug" of vinegar.

NOW I'm into this yarn. That's what I'm talking about. I wanted something akin to Tina Newton's wonderful "shaded solids," and I got it.

I haven't done any sewing, unfortunately, though I might get to remedy that tonight. I have the batting for my Trashed Onesie Quilt and I also have to replace a zipper in my 4-year-old's favorite hoodie, so that provides me with a good excuse to get out the sewing machine.

I also just saw that the preview for Vogue Knitting's Crochet Special Collector's Issue is up and holy, holy, holy crap. I have a feeling that soon my Ravelry queue will exceed my life expectancy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The UFO so old it needs anti-aging serum

Oh my God. They're here.

Last week, my mom sent me the granny squares she made 36 years ago while pregnant with me. She made them and didn't know how to join them, so she stuck them in her closet and there they remained until now. She's been talking about sending them to me since I started crocheting a couple years ago, and now they're finally here.

Along with the squares, Mom also kindly included some anti-aging serum for me that she knows I like but that I can't really afford. I laughed SO hard when I saw it in there with the squares. That illustrates just how long this UFO has been lying around... the baby mom was pregnant with while making the squares is now old enough to need anti-aging serum!

I think I have just the right yarn to use for joining them and I've chosen a joining technique. I think this UFO has spent quite enough time unfinished, and after traveling across the country from Ohio to Seattle, I don't want to make it wait any longer to become a useful, finished object. Sometime this week, these lovely squares will realize their purpose and become a finished afghan!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Beware, she's possessed to knit lace!

The needles and hooks have been a-flying! We had a mostly sunny, mostly dry week last week, and I got a lot of knitting and crocheting done while sitting on the deck, watching the kids play in the backyard. I knit a whole sweater and many socks that way last summer, and look forward to doing the same this summer.

Let's see, what have I been doing... Ah, yes, I finished my 4-year-old's new afghan, and she loves it. For some reason, she calls it her "blonde blankie." Not sure where the "blonde" comes in, but how adorable.

Before I cast on a sock for me in the yarn that I rescued from the Epic Fail Baby Surprise Jacket, I realized I had one sock nearly finished for my 4-year-old that just needed to have the toe grafted. I did that and cast on another, and finished it in about a day and a half.

The best thing about knitting socks for little kids is that they are crazy-fast projects because they're so tiny. I made these with what was left of a hank of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Mediumweight after making a pair of socks for me. That's the gorgeous Watermelon Tourmaline colorway.

So now I have a pair of socks going for outdoor and in-front-of-the-TV knitting, but I also wanted a meatier project, a bit of a challenge, a bit of an indulgence. Something just for me. The knitting equivalent of a bubble bath.

Koigu, take me away!!!


Those are the five colors I'm using for my Charlotte's Web shawl, from left to right. Yum, yummitty yum. I'm about 1/3 of the way done now and I LOVE the way it's turning out.

The lace pattern is a simple 4-row repeat. Rows 3 and 4 are actually exactly the same, making it even simpler. It's addictive, it's fun, it's engaging... I adore it. I foresee making this pattern over and over again. It's so simple, I can knock out 2 rows while catching a Mommy Break and watching Long Island Medium or one of my other favorite shows.

This is my most ambitious lace project yet. I bought Knits from a Painter's Palette over 5 years ago and fell in love with this shawl immediately, but was too intimidated to knit it. I had been knitting for 2 years at that point and thought I'd never knit lace. Then about 2 years ago I decided to give lace a try, and I made the Wavy Lace Capelet:

It's made in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Icelandic, a wonderful, squooshy, chunky yarn. Using such a chunky yarn was a great way to get used to lace. Then I read Donna Druchunas's fantastic, fascinating Arctic Lace, which really demystified lace for me. The book actually suggests to try lace first in a chunky yarn, then gradually step down to laceweight. It's full of tips and tricks that are very helpful for understanding lace. I don't know if I'd be knitting lace if I hadn't read that book!

Koigu KPPPM is a fingering weight yarn, so I am getting there! I'll be ready for lace weight yarn after I finish Charlotte's Web. I have been adding lace shawls to my Ravelry queue like a madwoman. I'm so excited that I can do it and I love shawls so much, I'm really looking forward to this new lace-capable chapter in my knitting life!

Also, Mother's Day is coming up. As usual, I don't have money, but I do have yarn. So Mom is going to get something made from these two things:

I had better get going on that, Mother's Day is less than a month away! Gaaahh!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Custom Crocheted Sweaters

I've been a fan of Dora Ohrenstein's crochet designs and articles for a while now, so I was delighted to see that she has a new book out called Custom Crocheted Sweaters. There are a lot of great knitting books about sweater design, such as my favorites, Maggie Righetti's Sweater Design in Plain English and Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top, but I hadn't ever seen an equivalent book about crochet. With Custom Crocheted Sweaters, crochet finally has a comprehensive book about how to make beautiful sweaters that fit well.

In this new book, Dora details everything you need to know about sweater construction, yarn choice, measuring your body, fiber choice, blocking and finishing. She takes you through the process from start to finish, beginning the book with simpler sweater designs and moving toward more complex designs at the end. Each pattern has instructions for alterations that you can do to make the sweater exactly the way you want it and to make it fit just right.

I have knitted many sweaters, but have never crocheted one. For the longest time, I have thought "knitting is good for tubes, crochet is good for flat stuff." Armed with what I've learned from this book, I am now ready to crochet a sweater. Several designs from the book are now in my Ravelry queue!

Added to my queue first is the first design in the book, the Floating Tee, which has a dropped-shoulder construction.

I have mostly avoided lace sweaters in the past, because keeping track of a lace pattern AND shaping is a bit much for me with a two-year-old and a four-year-old who never let me get a full night's sleep. This sweater consists of two T-shapes that are seamed together at the end, so there's no shaping. You only have to keep track of the lace pattern! That I can handle! It's so beautiful, too, and would go with just about anything.

Next added to my Ravelry queue is the lovely Double Trouble Shell:

I really love the motif... but I never wear shells. What I actually plan to do is make a Floating Tee with this motif, based on the versatile instructions that Dora gives in the Floating Tee pattern and in the earlier chapters about gauge and alteration. I think that would be so pretty!

Also to my queue goes the Eleganza Raglan, which I was immediately drawn to, because the raglan is my favorite sweater design.

The stitch pattern looks complicated, but it's actually not... it's a simple alternation of single crochet and double crochet stitches. It makes such a subtle, lovely texture.

Finally, into my queue and moved right to the top is my hands-down favorite design in the book, Uptown:

How beautiful is that? It would go with anything. And the design is something I hadn't realized exists in crochet... it's a top-down, in the round sweater! This is one that I'll definitely make using the yarn that's called for by the pattern, Lorna's Laces Honor. YUM. This will end up being my favorite sweater, I think!

The beautiful yet practical designs and the comprehensive information about sweater design and fit combine to teach how to crochet classic wardrobe pieces, favorite sweaters that will actually be worn over and over, instead of forever consigned to the bottom of your armoir (I know I have a few of those tragedies in mine... they laugh at me when I open the drawer).

I haven't started any of the designs from the book yet, but guess what I finished? The Spring Ripple Baby Throw! The best thing about working on something big, like a blanket, is that it will keep you warm while you work on it. Pics of the finished product next post!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Salvaged onesies

Last night while watching the season premiere of Mad Men (finally!), I sewed the front of the Trashed Onesie Quilt together.

Eeeeeee! I love it. In this pic, it has not been pressed, nor have the seam allowances been trimmed, so it looks a little wonky, but I love it. I think the finished product will be awesome. For the back, I have some pink, knit T-shirt type fabric that will be perfect. I hope to get the batting for it this week.

It's going to make a fun, cheerful, soft quilt for my daughters, with lots of bright colors and fun stuff to look at. The fact that it's made from sections of fabric that I rescued from onesies, T-shirts and pajamas that they had stained beyond all repair makes it special. The fabric and appliqu├ęs get used again instead of ending up in a landfill, and the memories of my girls wearing (and destroying) these clothes as babies are preserved in the form of a quilt. I'm so happy with it, I cut up some more old, stained baby clothes last night to rescue some more cute fabric:

Speaking of salvaging great stuff that deserves a second life, I've watched four more episodes of my new favorite show, The Bronson Pinchot Project. The way he takes materials salvaged from old structures and puts them together to create something beautiful and new is so inspiring! It's not just wood and bricks that he salvages, either, he also finds old fabric to repurpose, too. On one episode, he found a piece of 200 year old mattress ticking from France that had been hand darned by someone. He actually valued the fact that it had been darned, and had the fabric made into a beautiful, charming window treatment, prominently displaying the darning:

How gorgeous is that? And how awesome is it to see someone VALUE darning? Here I thought that sort of thing was only important to us sock knitters. :-)

Aside from being inspiring and interesting, it's also a really funny show, largely thanks to Bronson's propensity for spontaneous song and dance. My favorite song thus far has been the "paint-grade pre-primed pine" song. One day I'm going to see that in a home improvement store and start laughing uncontrollably, and it's going to take me 10 minutes to explain to anyone else why it's so funny.

I've gotten a lot of crocheting done while watching all this TV. Here's the afghan I'm making my 4-year-old, almost done:

There are two more episodes of the first season of The Bronson Pinchot Project left, and I hope to catch them this week during my much-needed "Mommy's Sanity Breaks." I can't wait to see what he does next. What he's doing with salvaged architectural materials reminds me a lot of what my favorite visual artist Nick Cave does with beautiful afghans and sweaters that he finds in thrift stores. They both take beautiful, cast-off objects and assemble them, turning them into something new and beautiful. What a refreshing way to escape all the stamped-out, mass-produced, disposable, personality-lacking crap that we're inundated with today.

Next post: A book review!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Organized chaos and some good TV

I haven't gotten much done the last couple weeks, craft-wise. I've been spending most of my time on the continuing effort to organize our three bedrooms after we moved both girls into a bedroom together and made my 4-year-old's former room the office/craft room. It is 3/4 of the way done, but there's still a lot of work to do, and I have lost count of how many bags of old clothes I've sent to Goodwill and how much crap I've thrown away. I'm finally almost done with The Great Purge of 2012, though, thankfully, and now just have to organize what's left.

Last week I organized our master bedroom closet, which previously was truly a candidate for Hoarders. When we moved in, I was 7 months pregnant and I just threw stuff in there randomly. It was more of a pile than a closet. Now it's all neat and organized and we can use it as actual storage! I moved what I affectionately call my Yarn Dumpster in there from the office/craft room. I just like to be near my yarn! The master bedroom closet is also a hell of a lot bigger than the one in there.

I put my fleece and flannel fabric stash on top of it. Up on the shelf at the top of the closet, I've got a box filled with more fabric, fabric scraps, thread and sewing notions.

Still to deal with is this mess, the random pile of yarn on top of the armoir in our bedroom. It all needs to go in the Yarn Dumpster... then the armoir really needs to be dusted. Hoo-wee.

Also to attack is my little bedroom nook, where I plug in my laptop and keep my most frequently used knitting needles and crochet hooks, some of my favorite books, and some WIPs. It's kind of a mess (understatement of the year) and the space could be utilized more effectively for sure.

I did manage to get my craft and art book collection (thus far... heh) organized, though that old shelving looks a bit strained:

With all that organizing going on, I still haven't even cast on the socks I talked about last post, but I hope to tonight while I watch Mad Men. I couldn't watch it Sunday night because I was too tired for two hours of anything! I have, however, made a lot of progress on my ripple afghan. After cleaning all morning today, I took a much needed Mommy Time break and crocheted while I watched The Bronson Pinchot Project. I have been dying to watch this show ever since I saw it mentioned in the Seattle Times a few weeks ago! I tried to DVR it immediately, only to find that our current cable package doesn't have the DIY network. Lame. To my delight today, I discovered that I can watch it on OnDemand and I took in two fantastic episodes while crocheting away. It was the perfect Mommy Break. One of my biggest dreams is to have a big, Victorian home on a nice chunk of land somewhere and lovingly restore it, while populating the land with my own small herds of sheep and alpacas. Vicariously enjoying watching someone else meticulously reconstruct multiple Victorian houses and make them gorgeous was a good time.

I got into Victorian architecture in my early 20's when I had a gorgeous, huge, mostly-restored apartment in Toledo, Ohio's Old West End (dammit, I miss Toledo... *sniff*). It's a neighborhood of magnificent, mostly-restored Victorian and Edwardian houses near downtown Toledo. There are plenty of houses there that still need some love, but overall it's a beautiful, colorful crayon box of restored homes. For that reason, I nearly fell over when Mr. Pinchot mentioned getting a couple cool, oval attic vents from Toledo Architectural Artifacts! Those vents might have come from my very favorite neighborhood!

I think my spinning wheels and all my yarn and handmade blankets would look lovely in a Victorian home. For now, they happily beautify and add character to my 1987 rambler, which needs a shocking amount of restoration itself. It amazes me that all that old, Victorian stuff makes it all these years, when a home built in 1987 already shows so much wear and tear. Maybe that's why I love and appreciate handmade stuff so much: it's made with love and care, so it lasts!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Celebrating National Craft Month!

It's National Craft Month, my favorite month! I've been celebrating it by working away on my ripple afghan, crocheting fifteen minutes here, a half hour there, and as you can see, it's really growing.

I am so happy with the way it's turning out! I stuck with the colors the pattern called for except for one. I switched "Denim," a darker blue, out for "Sky," a lighter blue, and I'm so happy I did. I think the lighter blue makes it more cheerful and playful, and therefore more appropriate for a kid. As I've mentioned before, I really, really like this yarn. It is wonderfully squeezable, bouncy and soft.

In the knitting world, I shockingly have nothing on the needles right now. I am about to remedy that, though, and cast on some socks. Some of my favorite hand-knit socks are... *sniff*... wearing out, and I need some new ones. I could use something from my ample sock yarn stash, but instead I performed a long-overdue frogging of an epic fail of a Baby Surprise Jacket. I'd post a picture of this epic fail, but I thankfully did not ever take a picture of it. See, I was about 8 months pregnant when I knitted it, and this was a time when I still worked full-time AND we had just moved into our house. I already had a two-year-old, to boot. In all that chaos, I totally screwed up the pattern and it was unwearable. I kept thinking, "OK, trust the pattern, it will look right when it's all folded together," but, uh... it did not. Let's just say nowhere does the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern call for ruffles...

In frogging that disaster, I've rescued the beautiful Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Medium seen above. It's the Gertrude Skein colorway. It will look much better on my feet than in a heap of humiliation that no one will ever wear. Don't feel bad for the baby, she got a Big, Bad Baby Blanket made of Koigu. She's two now, but here she is all swaddled in her blankie when she was a newborn:

Speaking of blankies, I pieced the Trashed Onesie Quilt that I mentioned last post, and I've begun sewing the pieces together (after neatening them a bit). Here's how they are going to go together:

We're only nine days into National Craft Month, and I have a lot going on! I also just entered Interweave's "Pass on Your Passion" sweepstakes for National Craft Month. To enter, all you have to do is go to Knitting Daily's Facebook page, enter your e-mail address and optionally, say how you are passing on your passion for knitting during National Craft Month. The winner will win a Knitter’s Library of 20 DVDs, magazines and books. Whoa!! That could keep me busy for a while!

I pass on my passion year round by wearing my handknits proudly! I also give my 2-year-old and 4-year-old plastic crochet hooks and big plastic knitting needles to play with, so they can learn how much fun it is to be creative with needles, hooks and yarn! How do you pass on your passion? To get you off to a good start, here's Interweave's library of free beginner ebooks!