Crafting explosion

After a month of virtually no crafting, it seems to be Big Projects month. I finished a Little Waffles shawl/scarf with some handspun Organic Polwarth from Corgi Hill Farm. I’d spun a 3-ply sportweight and got 328yds that just kept on going. It got big when I blocked it.

Handspun shawl

Next project on the spinning wheel is 10oz of blue-purple Rambouillet, dyed by Corgi Hill Farm. My plan is to spin six bobbins, then ply up two 3-ply skeins that are hopefully even. Most of the way through the first bobbin and aiming for sportweight.

You’d think that a project described as "epic" and "a bit brutal" would put me off, but no. Hello Amortentia and your 603st beaded cast-on, got got past the ruffles and into the short rows so far and it wasn’t that painful. Who starts a ruffled shawl at the ruffle end and adds beads?

To take the edge off the mammoth cast-on, I have a sock project in progress, my Squishville Socks pattern for a friend.

Niobium Byzantine chain

There’s also a Byzantine bracelet in blue niobium I’ve been working on, it’ll be a double-wrap when it’s done and I’m two inches past the first full wrap. Niobium is heavier and a little stiffer than aluminium, the dark blue looks good.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

I’m working my way through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, and one of the early exercises is to copy an upside-down line drawing. Right-side up, this is what I got:

Upside down drawing.

There’s a few lines out of place or missing, and the hands went badly for me, possibly because I was thinking of them as hands and not just lines. But I’m pleasantly shocked at how well this came out and I’m ploughing through the rest of the book. It’s rather word-heavy, especially for a book saying that the problem is the left side word-centric brain is the part that can’t draw, but there’s useful information there.

I’m also looking at The Natural Way To Draw by Kimon Nicolaides as a possible follow-on book.

A Flock of Hats

I’m not sure what the correct collective noun is for hats, but I seem to knit them in batches. Three of these four were destashing hats, made from yarn that I had before the start of the year.

Seaworthy Gansey hat.

Pattern: Seaworthy Gansey hat from Churchmouse Yarns and Tea

Yarn: String Theory Merino DK (I love this yarn)

Needles: US2 (2.75mm)

Duration: 6th March to 16th March

Second time using this yarn, and I still love it. The hat has an unusual pillbox construction and it’s knit on needles several sizes smaller than you would normally use for this weight of yarn, so the resulting hat is dense and windproof. And cute, did I mention cute? You can get the pattern free with a yarn purchase from Churchmouse, or just get the pattern like I did. I love the purl welts at the bottom and top of this, and the clever spiralling pattern on the sides.

Lapwing hat.

Pattern: Lapwing by Melissa Schaschwary

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Lightweight in Jade

Needles: US5 (3.75mm)

Duration: 25th February to 17th March

I don’t know how long I’ve had this yarn, but it must be several years. Lapwing is an interesting pattern, but this felt like it was moving so slowly I had to break off and do the Seaworthy Gansey hat to take the edge off. The hat has three layers at the brim, one of them ribbed, and it is purl-side out. I like the result, but I doubt I’d knit this one again.

Zumthor hat.

Pattern: Zumthor by Kirsten Johnstone

Yarn: Imperial Yarn Columbia in Black Cherry

Needles: US7 (4.5mm) and US8 (5mm)

Duration:19th March to 20th March

Zumthor is a reversible hat if you’re careful when you weave the ends in. This was my second project with Imperial Columbia yarn, and I still deeply dislike the yarn while loving how it turns out. There were 2 knots in the yarn early on where one ply had broken and was knotted back together, and a lot of vegetable matter in the yarn. Colour is gorgeous, the end result is great, but I just do not like working with the yarn. The top of the hat is nicely box-shaped.

Scalliwag hat.

Pattern: Scalliwag by Fiddle Knits

Yarn: madelinetosh tosh dk in Amber Trinket

Needles: US5 (3.75mm) and US7 (4.5mm)

Duration: 22nd March to 24th March

This hat is supposed to have a cabled brim, but several projects made that way mentioned it stretched out, so I did 1×1 ribbing instead. It’s an ingenious pattern, you make a hat slouch by cutting out the excess fabric at the back using short rows, and it fits really well. The decreases make a bold X on the back of the hat and I’m making another (with a hemmed rib brim) using some of my handspun.

One of the collective nouns for ducks or geese in flight is "a skein of ducks", but it’s a mess of iguanas, a whoop of gorillas, and a mischief of mice. And a scourge of mosquitoes, of course.

Drawing class

I’ve been taking a weekly class at the St Louis Artist’s Guild (acronym SLAG, which makes me giggle) and the teacher, David Zamudio, has been gently working us towards drawing an actual human. Prior lessons focussed on spheres and cubes, working on shading and accuracy, this one was drawn freehand over about 20 minutes:

Drawing class - Lesson 4.

This week’s lesson had us drawing a model of a skull, homework is five self-portraits. We do a lot of timed rough sketches, these ones took three minutes each:

Skull roughs.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised how not-impossible it is to draw a halfway decent thing given the right tools and some tricks on how to get the layout right. After that page of rough sketches, I really want to take the one at the top left and turn it into a proper robot head…

A parade of finished objects

It’s been a busy January so far. I’ve released a pattern for small drawstring bags, burned my hand with boiling water (making proper tea is a hazardous business) and I’m training for my third degree brown belt in Chinese Kenpo. And I’ve been knitting, there are some finished objects to show off.

Treacle Hedgerow socks.

Pattern: Hedgerow socks

Yarn: Dragonfly Fibers Djinni Sock in Sunshine Daydream

Needles: US1 (2.25mm)

Duration: 31st October 2012 to 18th November 2012

These were a surprise gift for Bella, who has never had handknit socks before. Hemmed top, Hedgerow pattern, and a fabulous colour on the yarn. It’s a merino cashmere nylon blend, and I can’t say it’s softer than a straight merino yarn, but I do appreciate the nylon in there. I love the look of hemmed-top socks and Hedgerow is a good pattern for non-solid yarn.

Tiled In Topper hat.

Pattern: Tiled In Topper

Yarn: Knit Picks Feleici and Palette

Needles: US2 (2.75mm) and US3 (3.25mm)

Duration: 28th October 2012 to 1st December 2012

I’m attempting to add stranded colourwork to my skillset and this was the first attempt in several years. And it worked! I was pleasantly surprised. Picked up a polystyrene head in a beauty supply store for $4 to block this and I’ve been wearing it on cold days. I made the hem longer and added a purl row at the turn point

Modified Boudica socks.

Pattern: Boudica socks

Yarn: Wool Candy Lollipop BFL Sock in Tikka Masala

Needles: US0 (2.25mm) and US1 (2.25mm)

Duration: 17th December 2012 to 9th January 2013

I’ve knit this pattern before and loved it, but this time I had to skip the cables up the side because they made my hand hurt. I replaced it with some 2×2 ribbing and went up a needle size for the horizontal braid because that part was too tight on the original sock, and it worked well. This was the pattern that introduced me to the rolled-top for socks, and I use that for all my BFL socks.

Projects in progress and stalled

If ever there was a year where I don’t complete NaNoWriMo it’s this one. Too much going on to have brain real-estate tied up with a novel. I may stage a dramatic comeback mid-month but it’s not looking very likely today. I’m sad because I have an eight year streak of NaNoWriMo wins. I’m still keeping my regional stats page though.

I have three knitting projects on my needles, which is more than I usually like:

Deco cardigan

Working my way up the single piece that makes up fronts and back, adding Deco pattern repeats as I go. The increase in needle size and pattern size seems to be working and I’m confident this will fit over a shirt comfortably. I also made it a bit longer and omitted the decrease/increase shaping. I’m not up to where I was before the Great Ripping Out of 2012, but I’m over halfway there and I still have five 200yd skeins of yarn to knit. The fabric feels good, the stitch definition is nice, I like this a lot. Planning to do the button band before the arms so I can get a better idea of fit. Might be done by year end but I’m not betting on it.

Tiled-In Topper hat

This is a simple stranded colourwork hat. Stranded knitting is something I’m not good at and it makes me very nervous. I’ve tried to make colourwork mittens before and they came out horribly loose, a different attempt came out so dense it had its own gravitational field. For the hat I’m using a self-striping red/purple sock yarn with cream for the accent colour. Stalled after the hem because I need a nice uninterrupted stretch to work on it and I’m not going to get that for a while.

Treacle Hedgerows socks

I’ve only finished one pair of socks this year and that was back in April, which is odd for me. The yarn has been sitting in my stash box since 2010 and it’s past time it earned its keep. Dragonfly Fibers Djinni sock is a thin merino cashmere nylon blend and the colour of this makes me think of looking into a tin of golden syrup. I’ve made the Hedgerow pattern before and liked it, but those socks were gifted. I deviated from the pattern early by putting a hemmed top on because it gets around my difficulties in making the cast-on edge loose enough to get over my heel. This is mostly mindless knitting to keep me occupied.

FO: Midnight Slouching hat

It’s not often I make two of the same thing so close together. This hat has squishy earflaps because of the 1×1 cabling, which is quite tedious to do. I really should learn to do those without a cable needle. Perhaps on hat #3.

Midnight Slouching hat

Pattern: Ekaterin Slouch Hat by Running Jack Knits

Yarn: String Theory Merino DK in Viola

Needles: US6 (ChiaGoo circular)

Duration: 17th September to 25th September

Love this yarn, the feel and especially the colour. It looks like it was dyed blue then overdyed in dark purple. I made this hat a little more slouchy than the last, went up a needle size, and eliminated the ring of cables above the earflaps.

Any future circular needle purchases will be the ChiaGoo range, the red cabled cord was great to work with, and the steel needles felt nicer than my usual Addi circulars.

FO: Flutter Scarf mkII

It still needs blocking, but the Flutter scarf is done:

Flutter Scarf.

Pattern: Flutter by Mimknits

Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Silky Alpaca Lace

Needles: US3 (my Blackthorn needles)

Duration: 21 July to 1st September

This is my second Flutter scarf, and this time I did it right. I put in four rows of stocking stitch after the provisional cast-on and before starting the pattern. When I came back for those stitches to start the second half, I was surprised how little those four rows showed. If you know what you’re looking for you can see it, there’s a hitch sideways in the spine stitches and one pattern diamond is a little thick in the middle, but it’s subtle and I think blocking will hide it even more.

Flutter Scarf.

Got the yarn when Leah came up to visit from San Antonio because I love the acid apple green colour. I took her to the Weaving Department in Hazelwood, my favourite yarn store. It occupies the upper floor of an 1880s house, the stairs creak when you go up them and it’s a little stuffy in the summer heat, but I love the place. I learned to spin there and I’ve been in and out for years.

The only bad part of this scarf is the grinding tedium of doing 50 repeats of a four-row lace pattern before you get to the fun part. Once those repeats are done, the final two charts go quickly, even if you do more than triple the number of working stitches to make it ruffle. The drug dealer’s scale said I had enough yarn to make the second side with over 3g to spare, but I put in a lifeline at 47 repeats just in case.

I suffered several lace-wrecks in this project, the worst being where the stitches slipped off the needles and all sorts of badness happened. I lost half of chart #3, all of chart #2 and a half-repeat of chart #1 before everything got sorted out. Thank goodness for all-purl rest rows!

Sheep sampling

I’ve started making a Deco cardigan, from Scottish pattern designer Kate Davies, and I’ll be working on it for a while. A long while. The rows for my size are 241 stitches long, and that takes some time to knit. There’s no side seam so I’m working on the back and both fronts all together. I’m knitting sportweight yarn on a US4 needle. Had to go up one needle size but I got both stitch and row gauge. I got gauge on the Toasty Cardigan on the specified needles and it’s an English pattern, then I almost got gauge on Deco on the specified needle. Britons are definitely more uptight in their knitting!

The yarn is one I’ve been planning to use for a while, it’s a CVM/mohair blend sportweight yarn from Winterwind Farm. CVM stands for California Variegated Mutant, a subtype of the Romeldale sheep (which is a cross of Romney and Rambouillet, developed in the US in the early 1900s). It’s undyed and a nice grey colour, a little unevenly spun but I think this will be a hard-wearing fabric.

Deco Cardigan - Swatch.

The next project after Deco is another large endeavour, the Topiary wrap. Got the yarn for this in Portland OR earlier this year, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, a Targhee/Columbia wool blend. I’ve used Columbia wool before, in Imperial Stock Ranch yarn, and I wasn’t impressed with finding 3 knots in the first half-skein of yarn. Hopefully Shelter will be better yarn, though I’m expecting some vegetable matter. I liked the spongy feel of the wool, but not that yarn.

I’ve also knit with handspun Gotland, Polwarth, Wensleydale, Finn, and Jacob wools, and commercial BFL sock yarn. The BFL tends to be thinner than regular sock yarn and wears well, though the dye may not last as well as the yarn. It amazes me how different the sheep breeds are.

FO: Trenton’s Beanie

Some people have never owned a handknitted object. Trenton was one of them and he asked for a hat, brown or off-white. The Halfdome is my go-to beanie pattern, though I do mine in the round because hats done flat is just unnecessary seaming.

Trenton's hat.

Pattern: Halfdome with modifications

Yarn: Zealana Rimu Special Edition Fingering

Needles: US3 circular

Duration:20th August to 2nd September

Halfdome is for worsted weight yarn, I’m using heavy fingering weight. I got gauge, but the large hat grew while I was working on it so I restarted and the medium size fit well. The fabric has a halo of possum hairs that make it look like it’s been home to a shedding cat. It feels silky and very warm on my hands as I work. Trenton works outside and this will keep him toasty in the autumn.