Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lots New December

Here's the reason why I haven't posted in almost two months:

I bought an apartment. It's been a lot of work, but it's mine!

I acknowledge that it looks very similar to my old apartment. It's a little smaller but otherwise almost the same.

The best feature may be the views:

Pretty good for NYC, huh?

Hardly any knitting to speak of recently, but here's my new yarn storage solution:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nothing New November

I'm in the process of moving apartments, and when I started to pack the knitting area I was appalled at the size of my stash, and at the pile of unfinished pieces in my work basket. Whence my new motto: Nothing New in November! No new yarn, no starting new projects!

Here are just a few of the pieces yet to be finished:

Selbu Modern
. I have some doubts about this: it's looking very small, and I know that I can stretch it to block, but perhaps not as much as I originally thought. I have to say that I am a fan of colorwork but this has not been super fun to knit, so the thought of ripping it out and adding a pattern repeat to make it the right size is not particularly appealing. So this might be a back-burner project.

Ripping and re-knitting the sleeves of my Shalom cardigan. These just never fit right, and I had been thinking that the whole cardigan was too big to wear when in fact I think it was just the sleeves that were too big. This should be about a two-night project in front of TV, I think; I've already pretty much finished one of the sleeves. I'm also going to thread some elastic into the collar to make it stay tight -- Karabella Aurora 8 is a stretchy, heavy yarn, and the neckline gets pulled way big by the end of a day of wearing it. Re-knitting with it reminds me of what a nice yarn it is, though -- super soft, super bouncy, and not particularly pilly, yet.

Remember this guy? This sweater has been on my needles for more than two years! It's been languishing almost finished because I now hate wrapping my purls the wrong way, as I was doing when I started this. It seems to take twice as long to knit a row this way! One sleeve is about 3 inches from completion, and the other one is still unworked from the armpit join. This project could take me more than just this month to complete. In trying it on to gauge sleeve length, though, I am reminded of how adorable it will be when I finish it!

One new spiral mitt, waiting for thumb ribbing, and then for its partner to be knit. I tried a different design for these and have decided I like the original spiral mitt much better. This pair might be gifted for Christmas.

Then a couple of cheats:

I cast on a few days ago for a featherweight cardigan. I'm counting this as a "nothing new" sweater, though, because I ordered the yarn (Colourmart cashmere 4-ply) more than a year ago. Knitting my mitts and cowl with the gray cashmere made me absolutely burn to work with more cashmere, so I pulled this out of the stash.

This one is really a cheat: This is the ribbing for the left front of a new cardigan design I started only a few days ago. It doesn't really count as "nothing new," if I were being a stickler, but I've got to have something besides sleeves to knit, don't I?

This is only the tip of the iceberg, peeps. Among the other unfinished items I dug out of the knitting cupboard are not one but two baby sweaters awaiting a second arm, the left front and two inches of the back of my birthday BFL sweater, about half of a chevron scarf to match my chevron beret, another patterned-yoke sweater left off about an inch from the armpit division, an adult surprise jacket for my mom, and a cable sweater I've had on the to-finish list since I first learned how to knit five years ago. Oy!

Will it all be finished in November? Definitely not. But will anything new be cast on between now and December 1? Absolutely not!!

You hear that, Jennifer Little? Absolutely not!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall freebie: spiral mitts

I was so enamored of Knitty Gritty Thoughts' spiral cowl that I knit myself some matching mitts. I had exactly the same experience with the mitts that I had with the cowl: I thought I'd never wear fingerless gloves, that they would be impractical or not warm enough, and it turns out that I adore them and wear them and the cowl all the time!

I'm passing on the pattern to you. It's super easy and quick to knit. I had been knitting my cowl with two plies of Colourmart 4-ply weight cashmere (so a little lighter than fingering) held together, so I used them singly to knit these mitts. If you want to do something similar, you could use any luxurious fingering weight yarn to make the mitts, then hold it double to make a matching spiral cowl! I imagine that these would be lovely knit out of Malabrigo sock yarn, for example.

Spiral Mitts

Size: Ladies' small/medium ( 7" hand circumference) with 8 stitch/inch gauge; Ladies' large (8" hand circumference) with 7 stitch/inch gauge

Gauge: 8 stitches and 10 rows = 1 inch (small/medium); 7 stitches and 9 rows = 1 inch (large)

Yarn: 150-200 yards fingering-weight yarn (the more luxurious the better!)

Requirements: US 1 (2.25 mm) double-pointed needles or long circular for magic loop, two or three stitch markers, tapestry needle, waste yarn to use as stitch holder

Note: these mitts are knit top-down (from the fingers to the cuff). This means that you start by knitting the thumb and hand parts separately. It also means that you can tailor it to the amount of yarn you have by knitting the cuff longer or shorter as needed.


First, make your thumb tube: CO 28 stitches and join to work in round, being careful not to twist. You can place a marker at the beginning of the round if you’d like. Work 4 rounds k1, p1, rib. Work in stockinette (all knit) until piece measures 1". Break yarn, leaving about a 2” tail, and place stitches on a piece of scrap yarn.

CO 56 stitches. Join to work in round, being careful not to twist. Work 5 rounds stockinette (knit). In next round, *k2tog, YO, rep. from * to end of round. Work 5 more rows stockinette. In next row, knit each stitch together with one loop from your cast-on to make a folded picot hem.

In next row, make one stitch (or increase by one stitch), then begin spiral eyelet pattern as follows: *k6, k2tog, YO, rep. from * to end of round. You should be able now just to spiral your way around the mitt ad infinitum. Work three full repeats of the spiral pattern (24 rounds), or until work measures 2” from folded-down hem.

In the next round, join your “thumb tube” to the mitts as follows: work 28 stitches in spiral eyelet pattern. Place a marker. Knit across all your live “thumb tube” stitches, working the first few stitches with working yarn and tail end of thumb stitches held together, and place another marker. Work remaining 29 stitches in spiral eyelet pattern.

In the next round, work to first marker in spiral eyelet pattern and slip marker. Slip-slip-knit (ssk) or work your favorite left-leaning decrease, knit to last 2 stitches before marker, k2tog, slip marker, and continue round in spiral eyelet pattern.

In the next round, work to first marker in spiral eyelet pattern, slip marker, knit to second marker, then finish round in spiral eyelet pattern.

Repeat the previous two rounds until there are two stitches between the markers. In the next round, work spiral eyelet pattern until one stitch before the first marker. Drop marker and k3tog, drop second marker and continue in spiral eyelet pattern.

Continue working in spiral eyelet pattern for 4 more full pattern repeats or until work measures 3” from bottom of thumb gore or 7” from folded-down hem. Work 6 rounds stockinette, decreasing by one stitch in the first row of stockinette. In the next round, *k2tog, YO, rep. from * to end of round. Work 5 more rounds stockinette. Break yarn, leaving a long tail. Fold hem and tack down live stitches with a tapestry needle to make picot cuff.

Weave in ends, block as you prefer and repeat with second mitt!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What I'm doing this weekend instead of going to Rhinebeck

Eating brussels sprouts.

(Isn't this thing cool? I got it at the farmer's market today. Who knew that they grew like this? It's heavy, too -- like a big caveman-club of healthiness.)

Knitting cashmere spiral mitts and listening to NPR.

Grading papers.

Reading for orals.

I'm sure that Rhinebeck will be more fun, but I just can't stomach it with both the work pileup and the upcoming move -- don't need more stash to pack!

Want another shot of those mitts? I thought so.

They're ribbed for her pleasure! I laboriously un-plied the double strand of 1/14 I had used for the spiral cowl (which I had originally twisted like that by colourmart), so these are exactly half the scale of the cowl. I love them! It was my first crack at top-down mittens -- I like it, and it does let you modify to fit the amount of yarn you have, but I'm not a huge fan of the thumb join part. These guys are so warm! Just trying them on for size or to snap a photo made my hands feel so warm and cuddly. I think they're going to get a lot of use.

NB: I cast on 56 stitches to make these, following the 8-stitch repeat of the spiral cowl's eyelet pattern after a picot edge. I added a 30-stitch-around thumb tube after 4 repeats, then decreased the thumb gore every other round until it was gone, then worked 5 more repeats of the spiral and cast off with a picot edge. I also tried picking up stitches and working a 3-needle BO instead of sewing down the final hem -- kind of a cool idea, and definitely a lot neater, but less stretchy, despite the fact that I used a needle 4 sizes larger for the bindoff.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How do I love thee? Let me cowl-nt the ways.

Finally put the button on the cowl, and, as the Harlot would say,

Dudes, I love it.

It's soft and fluffy and not heavy, and it tucks just perfectly into my coat. It looks good buttoned and unbuttoned -- I'm currently sitting at my desk at work wearing it unbuttoned around my neck, and it may stay that way all day.

I love it so much that I immediately cast on for another one and a matching pair of mitts!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The cashmere spiral cowl is finished and blocked, and man, is it beautiful! The yarn bloomed and softened even more with the final soaking I gave the finished piece, and it's just a pleasure to hold up to my neck.

Now the dilemma is the perfect vintage button to use. I've narrowed down my selection to this (admittedly still large) array of options:

Clockwise from the top they are:

1) creamy mother-of-pearl with sort of feather detail around the edge, a family heirloom
2) dark gray faux mother-of-pearl shank
3) black plastic faux braided leather
4) heavy cream mother-of-pearl or bone (this one seems really old to me)
5) dark gray abalone or mother-of-pearl shank
6) dark gray mother-of-pearl with fancy etchings
7) dark gray mother-of-pearl with four holes
8) dark gray bone or something
9) black plastic with sort of art-deco detailing
10) brown plastic with flower-shaped indents
11) dark gray mother-of-pearl shank
12) dark gray mother-of-pearl shank
13) black plastic with sort of art-deco detailing

Thoughts? Personally I am leaning toward #11, I think. It will blend in nicely and I like its style and size. Were I to go for personal meaning, I would pick #1. If I wanted something that would pop, I think I'd go for #9 or #10. On the off chance that you care as obsessively about this choice as I do, you can click on the picture for a close-up that shows the detail better.

I thought I was going to give this away as a present, but it's just sooo lovely...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was

Whoa. The first few days of the school year hit me like a steamroller this year! Between not being prepared either for the classes I was teaching or for my own reading, dealing with multiple technological issues in the office, assisting with a big medieval conference (at which I discovered that one of my personal medievalist heroes is also a knitter on Ravelry!), putting together loan documentation and board package materials for an apartment I'm buying, and triangulating multiple times a day between the lawyer and the broker, not to mention dealing with a mouse infestation in my current apartment, I am exhausted! And that's after only a two-day week of school!

It's a good thing that this also arrived this week: lovely, unbelievably soft cashmere yarn from Colourmart.

Now I know what everyone's gushing about! This yarn arrived quite quickly considering that it was sent from England. It came on a cone, oiled for spinning, and I skeined it and gave it a hot bath with dish detergent (twice with the detergent, followed each time by about five rinses). It still hasn't bloomed as much as it could, and it also smells really strongly now of Mrs. Meyers' Lemon Verbena dish soap. Even so it is heavenly to knit with -- sooooo soooooft, with a gorgeous fluffiness that is also somehow satiny, just like the most luxurious cashmere sweater you could imagine.

I'm using it to knit a spiral cowl. I am not usually a cowl kind of girl, preferring not even hand-knit scarves but big thin pashmina-type wraps, but when I saw all the cute pictures on Ravelry of this, I was convinced to try it. I certainly now appreciate the pleasures of knitting a cowl -- just round and round and round, no shaping, a nice size for subway lap knitting. I tried out a prototype with some leftover Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it knit up. It's been a while since I knit anything in a gauge larger than 7 stitches per inch, I guess. Off the neck, it's pretty, but rather unimpressive:

But on and buttoned, I think it's really quite nice, sort of floppily structural. Pardon both the double chin and the visible bra straps:

There are many nice things about this pattern. The picot hems give it a polished, feminine look and maximum stretchiness; the eyelet spiral keeps it interesting and looks much more complicated than it actually is; it uses only about 200 yards of yarn, so you can buy something luxurious; and it's a great way to showcase one awesome button. For this red one, I used a metal "pelican in her piety" button that was a present from the ex-boyfriend -- it's a long and nerdy medieval/choir inside joke.

Baby Cashmerino was not really the best yarn for this pattern, and I'd warn people against using any bouncy, multi-ply superwash yarn like it for their cowls: it's just too stretchy and heavy and floppy really to hold the great structure that makes this pattern so cool. You definitely want something luxuriously soft and with some drape, but not perhaps stretchy -- lots of these cowls on Ravelry are knit with Malabrigo merino silk dk or Manos Silk Blend, and those both seem like a perfect choice. I have high hopes for this cashmere. I've also picked out the perfect button from my collection of antique buttons -- I have so many singleton beauties I've been dying to use!

Now for a nice, slow afternoon of luxurious knitting therapy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Beatrice Day!

With only a few minutes left in 9/9/09, here's wishing you all a happy Beatrice Day. Bea is all about the number nine in the Vita Nuova. She's nine when he first meets her, 18 when he sees her again, and the day of her death is the ninth day of the ninth month -- today -- with a bunch of other nines thrown in for good measure.

Ah, Bea. Light of Dante's life, fire of his... fervor for God.

Monday, August 31, 2009

At long last... Steps to Stranded!

Special note: from now until 2/14/10, I will donate 50% of the proceeds from all my pattern sales to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief efforts.

Cardigan A ($1.99): buy now

Cardigan B ($2.99): buy now

Cardigan C ($2.99): buy now

Or the packet of all three ($5.99): buy now

I'm pleased finally to present a pattern I'm really excited about: Steps to Stranded Baby Cardigans!

This package of three top-down baby cardigan patterns is intended for all ranges of knitters, from beginners who only know knit and purl to intermediate or advanced knitters who have been wanting to try stranded knitting but are a little afraid to try.

Cardigan A has a circular yoke worked in contrasting self-striping yarn for a big effect with very little effort. Cardigan B uses Barbara Walker's "mosaic knitting" to achieve a two-color yoke while only working with one yarn at a time. And Cardigan C... is the one I'm really stoked about: it uses a modified mosaic technique worked over one row at a time to achieve what looks like fair isle... but without ever having to use more than one yarn at a time, and without steeking!

Cardigan A

Cardigan B

Cardigan C

The 16-page pattern includes detailed, illustrated instructions for every technique included in the pattern except knitting and purling, as well as lots of other photos, hints, and charts to make everything totally clear. It's written for thee sizes, from 3 months to 12 months.

Best of all, these three sweaters use up extra sock yarn and are also the same gauge and measurements as my Sock Yarn Stranded Sweater, so you can graduate from these to that! And in fact, the Sock Yarn Stranded fair isle yoke never has more than 3 stitches at a time of one color, so you could use the same modified mosaic technique from Cardigan C to knit it!

There are two ways to buy: you can buy the individual sweater patterns, or you can buy the packet of three patterns at a discount ($1.98 less than buying all three individually).

Cardigan A ($1.99): buy now

Cardigan B ($2.99): buy now

Cardigan C ($2.99): buy now

Or the packet of all three ($5.99): buy now


Phew, that was a lot of knitting for no particular recipient!

The second and third of my trio of circular-yoke baby sweaters are finally finished, and I'll be posting the pattern pronto! But first, a moment for boasting.

I am so excited about the technique I hit upon for working the yoke of this seemingly "fair isle" sweater. It achieves quite complicated, one-row color changes (whereas mosaic knitting requires pairs of two rows each), but without ever having to knit with two colors at once!

I am sure I am not the first person to have thought of this, but I did some poking around the internet and couldn't find any other examples. It's so simple, and yet so cool! If you're wondering how it works, check out the Purl Bee's Treeline Cardigan, which exploits the fact that circular needles have two working ends all the time to achieve one-row stripes in flat knitting. That's what got me thinking about how one could work one-row fair isle patterns, slipping stitches as if to work mosaic knitting, but instead of turning the work and purling back and slipping the same stitches, pushing the work to the right and knitting over the same row with the second color! It only works for patterns that have no more than three stitches in a row of one color, but it's an awesome trick! Now I want to use it as often as I can.

Anyway, be on the lookout for the pattern later this afternoon. Yay!

Actually, first a question, though: I am bundling them and selling them as one unit, with a price significantly cheaper than if I sold each individually. But would you want them also sold individually?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mental knitting = dealbreaker

Once again, knitting proves to be my litmus test, I think.

So I broke up with the boyfriend -- the one for whom I knit the OXO cable scarf for Christmas. That was actually good, as good as it could possibly be: the first real, mature adult breakup I've ever had, and we're on really good terms.

But that means I'm back to the internet dating. And it happened AGAIN: I was out on a (second) date with this guy who is in fact really quite sweet. And I started daydreaming about knitting. I mean, I was calculating sizing and gauge for patterns in my head. I was mentally assessing the virtues of a few different yarns for my next project.

Clearly a sign, n'est-ce pas?

Some possible ways of reading it: a) I'm clearly not into this guy. b) I am obsessed with knitting. c) Both of the above.

Or, I suppose: d) I'm not as ready to be dating again as I thought I was. e) I'm sublimating with fiber arts. f) Both of the above.

The poor guy. Thank god he didn't know the real reason I was dreamily smiling while he was talking.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A lot of circles

Finally got a chance to photograph a few of the projects in the works. Everything on the needles at the moment is circular! I've got now two baby yoke sweaters in the works and one finished:

I'm quite pleased with how this one came out, though there's some noticeable difference in the dye lots of the two skeins of "Grasshopper" -- most noticeably where the button band meets the collar.

Then there's a really simple garter yoke cardigan, using some leftover Knitpicks Felici self-striping yarn and Knitpicks "Bare":

And then there's the one that caused me the most consternation: a "fair-isle" yoke sweater using a super-secret trick to make it look much more complicated than it is to knit (which is why it's "fair isle" instead of fair isle). I had to rip and redo this yoke a number of times until I was satisfied with the way it looked.

And even when I was satisfied, I went back in and duplicate-stitched one row with the MC yarn (Knitpicks Stroll in "Tidepool Heather") because I was afraid there wasn't enough similarity between the yoke section and the body section (which is the old standby Knitpicks Essential/Stroll Kettle in "Grasshopper" and Lorna's Laces in "Gold Hill" -- the same two colors, in other words, that I used in the mosaic yoke cardigan pictured above). That combo looks quite different in single-row stranding rather than mosaic knitting, huh?

But it looks quite nice now! I'm busily knitting these as I write up the patterns, hoping to publish all three in one packet (they all have the same gauge and measurements). It's my hope that knitters could work from the garter-yoke one through to the "fair isle" one, gradually becoming more comfortable with stranded knitting. Then they could graduate to my Sock Yarn Stranded (which also has the same gauge and measurements) or to any other fair isle pattern! I'm a little frantic to get the pattern finished by the time Sock Summit is over, because even though I'm not going to Sock Summit, I figured that people would come home loaded up with beautiful sock yarn and be looking for projects to knit with it!

Then lastly, to continue the stranded knitting fiesta, there's one of these:

Which I am sure you all recognize as a Selbu Modern in the works, using a popular color combination. It took me a while to hit on the right color of blue, and I'm still not satisfied with it -- I was looking for "Tiffany Blue" or robin's-egg blue, but this is a little greener than either of those colors. I was inspired by haveyouanywool's version on Ravelry. She used Louet Gems fingering, but that was a little out of my price range and I don't like working with it -- too heavy and not springy enough for my taste. This is Knitpicks Essential/Stroll in "Glacial," a discontinued color, and the red is Valley Yarns Huntington (color 4150). I think in combination the two yarns look better than separately, and the Glacial looks sufficiently Tiffany-esque to cut it. Last year I had so much fun knitting and then wearing my Chevron Beret that I figured another pretty beret was just the ticket for getting ready for hat season!