Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Still on the Wagon

That's right; it's been 18 days, and I haven't bought any yarn, except some Cascade 220 for my shrug, which, if you check the guidelines, doesn't count.

My solution to the ache to buy yarn that I don't really need? I asked for three sweaters-worth of yarn, needles, and notions for my 21st birthday. I couldn't think of anything I desperately wanted (except a computer, which my parents are unwilling to pay for), so after thinking wistfully of Bianca's Jacket from IK Fall '06, which I promised to make my mother, a simple cabled cardigan for my dad, and the Brae Cardigan from The Art of Fair Isle Knitting by Ann Feitelson, which will be my first truely Fair Isle project, I decided I would ask for specific yarn. I did all the calculations for size changes, and searched online for buttons and needles, and I compiled all of it together in a list I have just sent my mother, so she can purchase all the stuff at her leisure.

I should say here, before you choke on the price (cuz this isn't a cheap present), that my parents wanted to buy me jewelry. I'm a Target girl, so, beyond heirlooms, and the occasional silver from eBay, I have no problem wearing pot metal and glass gems. I wanted something I wouldn't feel awkward about wearing or making, and my parents didn't want to just give me money.

I was going to ask for a drum carder for my birthday, but I was preempted. I received one from St. Nick. Blogger's being unreasonable, so here's the official Strauch Standard page.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Knitting software & pattern writing

I'm cheap.

I will pretty much always go for the cheap item (yarn or fiber) over the delicious, but expensive merino/silk handpaint (of which I know I've bought, but it's my one weakness, I swear). Within reason- I won't buy Ingeo or polyester no matter how cheap- I aim less for quantity over quality (unless- miracle of miracles- there's both at a good price). I'm a bargain whore.

What am I getting at? No, no; it's not just that I like talking about myself (though I do).

I've found Fleegle's Blog, where she is currently summing up all the knitting software and pattern-writing programs, and discussing the pros and cons of each, and a basic rundown of how they work and are used. Someone in the market for good software would be able to determine which to choose, depending on their needs.

Back to me being cheap: Fleegle is on entry #3, and I have to say, I was totally won over by the free knitting symbol fonts that you can use in Excel. See? Cheap and good quality.

Oh yeah, baby!

This Monday will see a full two weeks' work on my shrug. I feel like I'm really chugging along and getting a lot done (after all, I am working on this to the exclusion of all my other projects), and then I try it on.

Seriously? An inch, while representing about an hour's worth of work (distracted, I'd like to clarify), doesn't seem like much when the project is more than 60" long (which, according to my calculations, is, um, 60 hours, about). At this point, I'm about 4" into the body, so I guess I'm 5/12ths done (25" out of 60).

Sorry about the pic. I decided against flash (hence the blurriness and the yellow tones), and I was taking the picture with my other hand (hence the wierd angle).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tower of Yarn

I have made progress on my shrug, of course, and I'm getting close to knitting the back. I've heard such bad things about trying to purl and strand at the same time, that it's really putting a crimp in my confidence. Should I go ahead anyway? Or should I make a note of where the hole starts and ends, and then steek the body (using this technique)? This will require some thought.

In other knitting news, my mother has now become an enabler. Temporarily. Because it involves making her a sweater. The sweater? Bianca's jacket from Interweave Knits Fall '06. The yarn? Sir Galli, the 100% silk tweed that is on deep discount at Little Knits. Yeah, we'll have to see if I can even size up the darn thing, and if I can get the same dyelot when I buy a bag and individual balls.

Lately (as in since Monday), I've been listening to Cast On, the knitting podcast. I just finished the first season, and will be starting #2 today. I know everyone else has already been listening, no doubt since the very first episode, and that I'm so far behind, the dust has settled, and I'm following fossilized footprints. It's very fun to listen to Brenda, and I occasionally find myself zoning out because her voice is so calm and relaxing. In truth, I'm not really interested in sweaters, but those entries are more storytelling than description. I also particularly enjoy the essays- Brenda's are so eloquent, and the guest essayists are often engaging in a humorous way that I find refreshing.

No progress to be reported on Cable Net. (I'm being a bad girl.) I hope I don't allow this to become a UFO, because I like the pattern, and I like the challenge, but my heart has been captured by my tapestry shrug.

I leave you with a tower of yarn cakes that I rigged up when I was making all my skeins and balls into cakes. I checked, and none of this has been dyed or spun by me (I did make a tower of my own handspun, but I guess I failed to capture the rickety glory).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Two-Handed Fair Isle

I was browsing Philosopher's Wool, and decided to watch the Two-Handed Fair Idle Technique clip (it is streaming, so if your modem is slow, it may take a while to download). I didn't realize how close I was to knitting efficiently. Of course, I strand with one hand, and use two fingers, because I always have trouble holding the left hand properly. The way she explains the technique is very clear and easy to follow along with. I am no longer afraid of knitting stranded with two hands, even if I will be crappy at it at first.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bread and Progress

This has to be a short post, because I'm sleepy. First, I made bread today. It was the first time I've ever made bread, and it was a fun experience. I've made pie crust before (very involved kneading), and I've always wanted to make bread. The recipe I used was Honey Wheat, and it made two 9x5 loaves, which was nice, as my parents got one, and I took the other to a friend's house, where she almost didn't get any because her daughters liked it so much. Now for the critique: I thought it was a little dense and heavy, but no one else seemed to think so, and it's probably because it's so cold that the yeast didn't rise properly until I baked it. Meh. I'm so making this again as it's delicious with butter, and apparently good toasted and/or with jam. I conclude that it was a success, and that I will learn from my mistakes. Booyah!

The other thing I wanted to mention was my progress on my tapestry-like colorwork shrug. I'm not that fast a knitter, and I've been trying to work out the official pattern as I go, so I've gotten a few inches past the elbow. I'm enjoying this so much that I've pretty much abandoned my other knitting. Hopefully I won't get distracted before I finish this project. As it stands, I'm going to need more yarn to finish this. Good thing there's an exception for that in the Stash-a-thon, because I'd use up my one splurge on that, otherwise!

The last of the bread:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wow. I couldn't have thought of something better myself!

I have just joined (or whatever) Knit From Your Stash 2007!

What a great idea. Plus, the rules are adjustable. However, as I read over the rules, I realized I don't need to modify them at all.
Knit From Your Stash 2007: Guidelines for L-B and Wendy
1. The Knit-From-Your-Stash-a-Thon will start January 1, 2007 and run through September 30, 2007 -- a period of nine months.
2. We will not buy any yarn during that period, with the following exceptions:
2.a. Sock yarn does not count. What? You think we are made of stone?
2.b. If someone asks for a specific knitted gift that we really and truly do not have
the yarn for, we may buy yarn to knit that gift.
2.c. If we are knitting something and run out of yarn, we may purchase enough to
complete the project.
2.d. We each get one "Get Out of Jail Free" card -- we are each allowed to fall off the wagon one time.
3. We are allowed to receive gifts of yarn.
4. Trading stash is allowed.
5. Spinning fiber of any sort is exempt.

In response to each rule, I have found the following: first, nine months isn't quite as freaky as a whole year, for some reason, second (a), I don't need to buy sock yarn, because I have more than I know what to do with, but if I somehow make about a score of socks before the Stashathon is over, I'm covered, second (b), I probably won't need to make anyone gifts, but if I do, it's probably all in my stash anyway, so I'm good there too, second (c), I'm the most thankful for this, because I already know I'm going to need more yarn for the shrug, and I am absolutely determined to finish that ASAP, because it's so freaking cool, second (d), I may use this, but hopefully not until the summer (oh, Stitches West, I will resist you!), third, I am sure I will get some yarn as a gift at some point, fourth, I know almost no one well enough to have a stash-trading party or even a basic exchange, so this is moot (I wouldn't know what my fellow Chickies had in their stashes anyway), fifth and lastly, I'm glad to hear fiber of all kinds is exempt, but I will endeavor to be strong, and spin from my extensive stash.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pigeon Roof Studio

Around the holidays, I ordered some yarn & fiber on Etsy (my first purchase there), and have only now gotten around to taking pictures of it. There is one thing missing, because I couldn't not spin some, but I haven't taken any pics because it's going to be a gift for my Spin to Knit SP pal.

So, I ordered all these goodies from one seller: Pigeon Roof Studio. She hand paints roving in one-shot batches of a few ounces, and she also handpaints yarn (and occasionally sells handspun). The prices are quite reasonable, and she has free shipping. She's located in Oakland, actually, so she's pretty close to me. Check her out; there's always something gorgeous.
Here are the things I bought (total cost: about $85):

Thing one (on the left): Purple with olive, brown, and white sock yarn (Schaefer Anne weight or a little heavier). You know, one thing I love about handmade socks is that they don't have to be subtle, or match your pants- pick electric pink and yellow; it's OK, thry're handmade. (In fact, I am wearing my own handmade socks which are red, purple and orange.) Handmade socks don't even have to be in colors you'd normally wear. I certainly wouldn't wear an entirely bright green outfit, but I have no qualms about green socks. I'm looking forward to knitting these up.

Thing two (on the right): 220 yards of "Celadon" (celery greens- both warm and cool shades) handspun in about the same weight as above, or a little lighter. So, not enough to make a pair of socks, but perhaps anklets or a lace shoulderette or something. There is something decadent about buying someone else's handspun because it's that perfect amount of unevenness that screams handspun, but you didn't spin it yourself, so it's almost like a gift.

Thing three: 4 oz. of pale blue-green with white, medium warm green, and touches of gold superwash. I have no idea what I'll make of this, as usual with fiber. But it's really, really pretty, and I wonder how I'll get the gold to stay it little splotches, and not blend too much (although that would look good, too). And on the other side, I do want the greens to blend into subtlety. It makes me think about that whole "boyfriend's sweater curse" and how you shouldn't give a knit item to someone who has no appreciation for the effort put into it. There should be a rule about spinning, too. Don't give handspun to someone who won't understand what you went through to make it just so.

Thing five: 3 oz. of roving in reds with some pink and brown. It's surprisingly mellow, probably because there aren't very many colors, so this yarn will end up having subtle color shifts in a way that would probably please Eunny.

Thing four: 3 oz. of roving in Autumnal colors (mainly red, with yellow, orange, brown and olive). The fiber content is that of Lamb's Pride: 85% wool, 15% mohair. This is the only roving that might have color-blend issues. I don't want it to become too muddy, and the olive and brown could really drag down the vibrancy of the colors if I do it wrong. (Sorry for the flash shot, but the daylight one was ultra blurry, and the colors are darn close here anyway. I've got to learn more about my camera.)
I leave you with a slightly blurry, but still gorgeous closeup of the superwash.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New project in progress

On Monday, as I was travelling to my knitting group, I decided to take a break from knitting some crazy socks (1x1 cables on size 0s are not condusive to relaxed hands) (pics to come when I've got a little more done), and stepped into Noe Knit to pick up some yarn and needles for a hand-friendly project. I bought some Cascade 220 (a yarn I was reticent to try, but it's turned out to be one of my favorite yarns) in dark plum, beige, gold, and mauve. Naturally, I was intending to make some sort of Fair Isle hat.

As it turns out, the size 7 circulars were too long, so I cast on way more than was necessary for a hat (I'll just felt it, right?), and was winging a design. In which I offset an entire row by one stitch. No problem, I'll just design past it, right? So I get home, do a little Internet browsing, see the whole "multiyarn shrug" thing, which made me browse the free shrug patterns, where I found a simple pattern that I decided to modify to suit my current purposes: Fair Isle.

So, I ripped the work I'd done at knitting (no problem for me- I've had to rip Fair Isle before, and Cascade 220 is very forgiving), and started a new project. Behold: a tapestry-like Fair Isle shrug. (OK, it's the sleeve, which I've worked on since I took the picture earlier today.)

In the first pic (sorry for the headache-inducing angle), you can see how the design is turning out- the cream is more prominent than the purple, but the purple is going to be all the edging. Also, this pattern is great because it's not directional, so I don't have to make two sleeves and graft them together to keep the visual flow. In the second picture, you can see how it sits on my arm. The wrist is pretty tight, but not so tight I needed to rip it. One interesting thing about having a totally basic pattern and running with it is figuring out what kind of increases and where. So far, it looks OK, but I'm not looking forward to the decreases- I'll have to learn, finally, which ones do what, and in what direction.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I am so freaking behind!

...and to prove it to you: A mohair shawl I finished in the summer that you didn't even know I was working on until I put it in the FO sidebar (which is, of course, not up to date). Pattern and yarn from Royale Hare. I ordered this yarn specially (for color continuity, you know) before I even knew what a yarn over was, let alone how to read a pattern. And it's a simple pattern. I really like this shawl, even though a) my mother questions my color choice every time she sees it, b) I don't really do orange, c) it's sort of longer than it needs to be.
BONUS: the crown I'm wearing was a GS Women's Weekend craft. I based it on this designer's work.

Mmm... more SOAR haul:

Ah! Another drop spindle added to my small group. It's an ultralight, and I find that I've only been spinning on this lately, and I've been making 2-ply sock yarn (possibly Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock weight). Seriously in love. This spindle gets banged up pretty easily, though. (Note to self: try not to drop things so often.) I don't know what it's made of (and I've of course forgotten who I bought it from), but it's lovely and dark and the shaft has these little rings that add a nice touch and that I use to regulate my singles placement. The fiber on there was a 0.5 oz. sample of superwash merino from Royale Hare (man, the goodie bag at that thing was big); it's a true violet- I think it looks purple, but there was no way I was getting my camera to show anything but blue. I don't know why people get so freaked out about spinning superwash; I haven't had any bad experiences.

Those two 2 oz. Merino/silk rovings are from Carolina Homespun. I know CH is in my city, and Morgaine has always got this kind of thing to buy, but how could I possibly resist those colors? Seriously? Reds and yellows that a poetic person might call Sunset, or possibly Magma, and greens with yellow and blue touches that could be called anything from Jungle to Margarita or some such. I haven't started spinning this yet, and I'm eager to do so when my wheel stops being fussy and slow. In fact, not only did I just recently buy more merino/silk handpainted from Morgaine, but I still haven't finished the first 2 oz. hank I'd bought from her months ago; I spun about half of it on the wheel, then Andean plyed it on a plying spindle (because I was way too impatient to fill another bobbin).

Lastly, the last of the yarn I bought at SOAR, destined for greatness as a Fair Isle hat (and probably mittens and/or scarf, seeing as there's a ton of yardage). The big skein is 100% Polwarth in a not-quite-chocolate brown, which I would love to work with even without the smaller skeins, which are a very tightly spun Polwarth-silk, and handdyed (pink, purples and peach, all very mellow- not overwhelming at all). Speaking of handdyed, as I wound the yarn into cakes, I discovered that while they're from the same dyelot (as far as I know), the colors are pretty different. As I expected color changes in any Fair Isle I did, this isn't an issue, but it was pretty wierd to see.

I did buy other things as SOAR: silk caps in purples and also in greens from the same people I got my buttons from, a kumihimo kit (and a ton of cotton thread for that purpose) that I worked on while listening to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, some small bits of fiber (baby camel/silk, peacock sparkle), alpaca/silk roving, 4 oz. of BFL roving from our Socks that Rock buddies in Rooster Rock, and tiny stick shuttles for cardweaving (which I forgot to take to the class, and the thin air at Granlibakken was a major factor in whether or not I was willing to walk down to our townhouse to get something that small).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cool new idea!

I was just browsing the "Recent Keyword Activity" on my blog tracker and noticed someone had searched for "unique multiyarn shrug." What a freaking cool idea! I already have tons of novelty yarn in single-ball increments, and I make multiyarn scarves. The next step in my evolution as a knitter: multiyarn shrugs. We'll see how it works out.

Maybe I'll use this pattern, or this or this with short sleeves or this. Man, I love shrugs.

Here's a couple of pics from my SOAR haul.

This here is some natural chocolate alpaca destined to be a 1/2 sleeve, fitted, possibly cropped, shawl-collared cardigan. This stuff is seriously soft. I went on a total rampage. I told myself, "This is a spinning event. No yarn." In the end, I probably bought as much yarn as fiber.

...and here are the buttons that will grace my chocolate alpaca cardi. The Perfect Buttons booth didn't have very many brown buttons, but I did find some. Brown dichroic glass with green iridescence- yummy! They sort of look like animal eyes, but not in a creepy way. I hope the buttons are an OK size, because they seem a little small for the project.

*Drool drool drool* This unremarkable natural grey yarn is polwarth wool and silk. It is destined not only for greatness, as it is one of the most luscious yarns I've ever handled, but also some sort of cabled scarf, which I may or may not be able to give to my dad (it's so delicious, I don't know if he'll be able to appreciate it fully). Polwarth, by the way, is a very soft wool (yes, like Merino), and not a very common breed, so it was a treat to buy some.


My first reason for posting is to assure my upstream Handspun SP that I do exist. Hey there person I don't know!

Second is to present some pictures, because I so owe you.

The first is the group of women I hung out with at SOAR (Tahoe City, CA). I'm in the back, second from the left (yeah. Not very clear, I know); the woman on the left in front is Nancy Alegria, who is not only the president of my spinning guild, and in my weaving class, she's also a Girl Scout troop leader in SF, and her daughter goes to the Summer camp I work at. It's seriously bizarre how often we run into each other. She's like me, but way better, and with more experience.
The second picture is my nervous fandom making itself known. That, my friends is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the SOAR guest speaker (squee!). I know, I know- it's not like she's Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton, who have paparazzi following them everywhere, and rabid fans asking for their signatures, but I was close enough to touch her hair. No, I restrained myself (I was too reticent to say hello or anything, cuz I didn't want to be scary and she seemed so calm and normal). That white blur on the right is my SOAR roomie Heidi spinning. I was afraid it'd be wierd between us, as I've had bad roommate experiences, but she's really nice (and she has a Majacraft Rose- *drool*). Too bad she lives in Reno.

SOAR was great otherwise. Took some fun classes: Felt Soap, Synthetic Dyeing with Deb Menz (oh man, that was awesome), New Wave Fibers (I officially hate Ingeo), and Card Weaving.

More pictures and recountings to come soon. I'm off to knitting!