Monday, February 28, 2011

Decisions, decisions - Your opinion counts!

Normally Sunday evenings are for family time at our house.  But last night, the boy was invited to a movie while R. was at work.  That gave me a few hours free to knit the edging of my Mara wrap.

One of the reasons I'm attracted to this pattern is that the ruffle reminds me of some swatches I knit in a "Swatch Lab" class a few years ago:
Swatches are (k2, p1) ribbing that changes to (k4, p2) ribbing.

Ever since I made these swatches I've wanted to work graduated ribbing into a project.  So when I saw some finished Mara wraps on Ravelry I instantly wanted to knit it.  But if you look closely at the photos on the original pattern you may notice that the ribbing on the sample does not match up with the instructions.  As noted in the Cabled Sheep blog, the ribbing in the photo is a 6 stitch repeat of (p1, k2, p2, k1), while the pattern instructs you to end with a (k2, p2) repeat.

I found it especially interesting to notice this in the first pattern I opted to knit following Stitches.  In my pattern writing class, Edie Eckman took us through a series of steps a designer should pay attention to when readying a pattern for publication.  The final step was to "Make sure that the finished item was made according to the instructions and that the discrepancies, if any, are noted."  When I first read this I thought it so obvious as to be unnecessary to be included.  But here in my very next knit is an example of such a discrepancy.

I am not bringing this up as a criticism of the Madelinetosh pattern.  Mara is a free download, which makes it understandable that the designer might not spend time and money fixing the discrepancy.   Besides, I love the pattern, and the availability of the free download convinced me to buy some of her wonderful Pashmina yarn and knit it up!  But it does leave me wondering how I would like my Mara ruffled edging to look.

I already decided that I like the Mara FOs from knitters who kept the (k1, p1) ribbed section short, and made the rest of the ruffle proportionally large.  Some examples are here and here.   I've followed their example so far, but last night I remembered how much I like the edging on Angie's November Ruffle Wrap as well, and started toying with the idea of increasing the ribbing to a (k3, p2) repeat.  I went ahead and started on the (k3, p2) section late at night. and then this morning I started worrying that the subsequent increase in the stitch count would make me run out of yarn before the edging is long enough.

Dithering about this little decision is helping to distract me from worrying about larger issues I have no control over this morning.  So I thought I would write a post about it and go fishing for other opinions.   I think I could eek (edited to add: Eek!  I misspelled eke!) out another inch of ribbing with my remaining yarn if I stick with the increased number of stitches, maybe more if I go back to (k2, p2) ribbing.
Here is what I have so far.
I enjoy getting other opinions, and a little added incentive never hurts, so if you've bothered to read this far and you take time to comment, you will automatically be entered in my next yarn giveaway.  (Giveaway to be announced soon!)   What do you think?  End the wrap by completing the edge in 2x2 ribbing, or 3x2 ribbing?

[edited to add:  Thanks to everyone who voted! The 3x2 ribbing won and I'm currently binding off now. The 10 of you earned an extra entry in my yarn giveaway.  Anyone else visiting must enter the giveaway by commenting on the next post!  Thanks!]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stash, Knit, Write an FO Friday Post, Repeat!

Citron version 2 is going into the mail today:
Happy birthday Tera!  I hope you don't mind that I tried on your gift for a post photo!

I almost didn't write an FO post for this one because it's exactly the same as my first Citron

But then this arrived in the mail:

These eight skeins of Malabrigo Twist must have been mailed quite promptly after I placed an order with Happy Knits a few days ago.  

Over the holidays, Tera admired my Citron, so I offered to make her one exactly like it with the 2nd half of my Claudia Silk Lace.  
Also over the holidays, my mother-in-law fell in love with my Emily sweaterand it even fit her perfectly, so I offered to knit another one up for her.  I just thought it was funny that the first repeat knit was placed in the mail at the exact moment in which I received the yarn for the next repeat knit.  It's a good thing that I like to knit!

So I thought I would pop on over to join the FO Friday list after all and share my Citron love.  Despite the huge numbers of FOs on Ravelry, I haven't really seen photos that do it justice.  So, if you are not one of the 6160 people who have knit a Citron already, and you were sitting on the fence about this one, I encourage you to try it.  It's a pretty easy knit with beautiful results.  
Happy knitting!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Now I Know What It Feels Like To Be A Game Show Contestant

After the excitement of Stitches West, I felt an irresistible urge to cast on for at least one new pattern out of the new stash, despite having a few projects on the needles.  I'd already decided to let myself go a little cast-on-crazy after Stitches, but like a kid in a candy store, I was having difficulty choosing which new yarn to use first.  But after writing Monday's post and reading the comments from my knitting friends, I knew these skeins would be on the ball winder that night:

I mentioned that at the Stitches market, the vendors give out a yellow ticket with every purchase, as an entry to a drawing for cash prizes.  I was lucky enough to win this year but I neglected to tell you the full story. . . .

 You have to be present to win, and the drawing is cleverly timed for midday on Sunday.  The drawing tempts knitters like us to stay through Sunday, but is held early enough so there is time to spend the winnings before the market closes.  Each year, we faithfully write our names down on each yellow ticket as we receive it, feeling hopeful if not expectant.  This year, as we packed our bags in our cars before returning to the market, I told my friends that I laid in bed that morning visualizing that one of us would win and share the prize with the others.

When it was time for the drawing, the remaining convention attendees gathered at the cafeteria style tables until a standing-room-only crowd had formed around the little stage.  We found seats at a table early on, as we were done shopping and we wanted to knit and chat until it was time to go.  As the first 2 winning names were called, a woman from California who happened to be sitting at our table went up to claim a prize.  We clapped and cheered for her, but we thought to ourselves "Oh well, that's it for this table."
But we perked up when Rick Mondragon announced that the 3rd winner was also from California.  Drawing out the suspense, he took his time announcing that the 3rd winner was from our town in Northern California.  That's when we really perked up.  We live in a fairly small town.  How many knitters from our town could there be at Stitches?  Then he said the name of the winner was Shannon.  We all shouted in excitement and I started walking toward the stage without waiting to listen for the surname.  Halfway there, I heard him say, "The winner is Shannon . . . . . . . Jones!"  I paused, pretty sure he was just teasing, but not completely certain.  He didn't leave me standing there too long before he let me know that he was in fact teasing, and that I really did win.  Staying true to the wishes I'd made that morning, I divvied up the winnings so that we could all go home with our yarn stashes a little richer.

When I saw in the comments on my last post that Mrs. Jones is my new nickname with my knitting group, I decided that I would knit the Mara shawl with the Pashmina that was purchased with my winnings first!

Mara is a simple garter stitch and ribbed shawl pattern which is free from Madelinetosh.  I think the simplicity of the knitting will provide a good balance to some more challenging projects I will work on simultaneously.  I'm not usually a big fan of garter stitch, but in this case I like how the purl bump ridges diplay the depth of color in the Pashmina yarn.

I tried to capture the subtle color changes by photographing the start of my Mara shawl out in the early morning light, and immediately had some curious onlookers join me on the deck:
Meet our hen "Merry".  She is one of the chicks who hatched when I wrote this post.
Do you think Rosie approves of my yarn and pattern choice?
Can you tell that I hadn't fed the chickens before I went out to take photos?  Ah well, back to life on the mini-farm.  The chickens are still waiting, along with the dishes, laundry, and other chores.  Only 357 days to go until the next Stitches West.  Until then, just call me Mrs. Jones!

To read about how knitting brings fun and excitement to other knitter's lives, check out the WIP Wednesday list at Tami's Amis.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friends, Fiber, and Fun

I'm still reveling in the fun I had at Stitches West, and I'm already looking forward to next February.  I spent Thursday through Sunday with 4 good friends, as well as thousands of other knitters who were all gathered for the same reasons:  to learn new skills, to meet other knitters, to show off finished objects, to shop for yarn and to just soak in all of the fibery goodness! 
I could have spent all of my time just wandering the aisles and drooling over the inventory of the 180+ vendors that set up shop for the weekend.  But having attended the convention a few times before, I went prepared with a list of projects for which to buy yarn, as well as plans to attend a class.  Otherwise it would have been all too easy to become dazed and confused by the fiber fumes, and befuddled by the sheer amount of all that yarn under one roof.  Not only did I manage to drag myself away from my friends and the yarn shopping to make it to my Saturday class, I also did a pretty good job of sticking to my shopping list.  Until Sunday that is . . . .

For every purchase you make during the Stitches weekend, you receive a ticket for a drawing that is held on the last day of the convention.  Early Sunday afternoon, the names of three lucky people are drawn from a large cylinder packed full of thousands of the little yellow tickets.  In past years we made sure to stay for the drawing on the off chance we might win, but we always drove home soon after, content with our weekend even without having won a prize.  This year was different.  When Rick Mondragon, editor of Knitter's Magazine, called out the names of the winners, mine was one of them!  It was exciting and surreal to join the other winners up on the little stage and be handed a cash prize.  I won enough to make it possible for everyone in the group to go home with some extra yarn.  So I want to say another big "Thank you!" to the planners of Stitches West over at the Knitting Universe.

It wouldn't be a Stitches recap without a rundown of the stash enhancement.  My shopping list included mainly sock yarn from specific hand-dyers.   The plan to buy single skeins from a variety of hand-dyers allowed me the enjoyment of feeling like I was making an impulse purchase whenever I fell for a particular colorway, all while actually keeping to a list.  Here are links to those dyers with a photo of their skein(s) that jumped into my shopping bags:

Pigeonroof Studios  - Siren Two sock yarn in "Gilded Oak"

The Sanguine Gryphon - Bugga! sock yarn in "Dragon Millipede"

Blue Moon Fiber Arts - Socks that Rock in 2 colors, "Bittersweet" and "Muddy Bottom Breakdown"

Abstract Fiber - Super Sock in "Burnside Bridge"

Becoming Art - Cielo fingering in "Sunlit Amber"

Miss Babs - Windsor monochrome sock yarn in "Clematis"

A Verb for Keeping Warm - fingering weight merino in "Persimmon"

Madelinetosh - Tosh lace in "Amber Trinket"

As you can see, it was fun just to read the names of the colorways from all of the talented hand-dyers.  I'll be rearranging my Ravelry queue with patterns for socks and shawlette-style scarves to take full advantage of all of this beautiful color.  Once I realized I had some prize money to spend a few more skeins of Madelinetosh may have come home with me, along with some yarn for some small colorwork projects that have been in my favorites list for awhile.

Be prepared to see a lot of casting on in my little corner of the knitting blogoshere.   I can't wait to see the new projects from my knitting group friends as well.  Being able to share the excitement of the prize, as well as the fun of the rest of the weekend with my knitting group, was truly the icing on the cake of a fabulous experience.  It just may have been the best Stitches yet!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Tiny Swatch Packed with Possibilities

It may not look like much so far, but it looms large to me.  This is the beginning stage of a pair of socks I couldn't be more excited about.  

A little history:
Despite having learned to knit over 6 years ago, and having knit countless gifts for friends in that time, I have a couple of close friends who I have never made anything for.  One friend in particular lives in a warm climate and spends most of her time tending to large aquarium fish.  Up until recently, I hadn't been able to answer the question "What do you knit for someone who spends her working hours in a shark tank?"  But then, when I saw her over the Thanksgiving holiday, she was practically living in her Smartwool socks she bought for her snowboarding vacations.  (This is making my knitting hobby sound more and more tame!)   Of course, I vowed then and there to knit up a pair of socks for her.
Two and half months later, her pair has made it's way to the top of my queue.  Even though I want her socks to be relatively simple, I've come up empty-handed after searching for a basic pattern that fits the bill.  

Meanwhile, I am packing for my Stitches weekend where I will be taking a pattern writing class.  Not only do I need a portable project to take with me over the weekend, I also want to put my new pattern writing skills into action right away when I return.  Besides, I am still in search of a fingering weight yarn that I would like to use for my own hand-dyeing.  This MCN fingering is quickly rising to the top of my list, but I won't feel certain until I've knit a pair of socks myself with it.  

In a few weeks, I hope to be done with a project that will be:  a gift for a friend, a sample of my newest pattern, and a test of a potential base yarn for my natural dyeing.  You can see how my plans are all coming together in a single pair of socks!

I have a list of things to do to get ready for my trip, but I'll try to find time to see what some other crafty planners are up to on this WIP Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Aaah, February

Well, I had a "Happy Valentine's Day" post ready to go yesterday.  As I finished it up I heard from a friend who had a death in her family.  I just didn't feel like clicking on "publish post" after that, and my thoughts will continue to be with her and her family this week.

I wanted to still tell you about a contest I wrote about in yesterday's post.  There is a  "Winter's Waning Giveaway" from my favorite sheep farm blogger, Sheep Gal.  She is giving away white yarn along with a copy of the book Teach Yourself Visually Hand-Dyeing.  Nice giveaway, don't you think?  For a chance to win you can leave her a comment about something you like about this time of year.  I thought I would share that here too.  This message is coming to you a little late now, so be sure to share your thoughts about February with Sheep Gal soon.

The arrival of mid-February means . . .

 . . .  a new orchid to brighten the kitchen:
My traditional Valentine's gift from the boys.

. . . the asparagus has started to come up:
My favorite harbinger of spring.

 . . . the hens are revved up by the warmer weather:
The girls are earning their keep.

 . . . it's high time to cast on for my second pair of socks for 2011 using this lovely skein:
What would February be without knitting?

. . .  the garden seeds have started to arrive in the mail:
This year, mixed in with the vegetables, I am
planting flowers that will be used for yarn dyeing:

hollyhocks, dahlias, coreopsis, lady's bedstraw, and madder. 
Best of all is Stitches West where I will be heading in a couple of days.  Family obligations will keep my friend from attending so I will be keeping an eye out for some nice yarn in her favorite color.

Friday, February 11, 2011

FO Friday: Fairly Easy Fair Isle

Finishing to do list:
1.  Knit button bands.  Done!
2.  Buy buttons and sew them on.  Check!
3.  Sew sleeve seams.  Yes!
4.  Kitchener stitch underarm seams.  Finished!
5.  Weave in a multitude of yarn ends.  Completed!
6.  Wash and block cardigan. . . . . oh, what the hell, it's FO Friday.  I'll take a picture and post it anyways!

Pattern:  Fairly Easy Fair Isle by Kate Watson
Source:   Stitch 'N Bitch Nation by Debbie Stoller
Materials:  Less than 7 skeins of Malabrigo Chunky in "Pagoda", partial skeins of 3 contrasting colors, and US 10 1/2 needles.   (contrasting colors listed on Ravelry)
Modifications:  I added an inch to the body of the sweater, and kept the colorwork in stockinette stitch instead of knitting a purl ridge in the black stripe.

 This turned out just how I wanted it.  It's not perfect or anything, but it's cosy and comfortable.  One of the first scarves I ever knit for myself was in this shade of Malabrigo, and I think it's still one of my favorite colors.  I'm so happy with the results that I think I'm just going to wear it around for awhile before I wash it.   

For more thoughtful FO Friday posts, be sure to check out the list at Tami's Amis.
Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fair Isle Fun (instead of football)

In 10 days I'll be heading to Stitches West!  I am so excited.  I know I will return home with new yarns and new pattern ideas so I am trying to finish up most of my current WIPs.  It so happens that 2 out of the last 3 projects I've had on the needles for awhile are stranded patterns:  Selbu Modern and the Fairly Easy Fair Isle cardigan.  This weekend I finished and blocked the hat and came close to finishing the sweater.

We are not big football fans, so on Sunday we took advantage of the beautiful weather and lack of crowds to take a long walk on the river trail.  At the last minute I threw the camera and still damp Selbu in my backpack for a photo opportunity at the Sundial Bridge:

Pattern:  Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon Osborn
Source:   pdf download from Kelbourne Woolens  (This is a free download, but Kate has this note on Ravelry:  In lieu of purchasing my patterns, please consider making a much needed donation to the PSPCA as a way of saying thank you.)    
Materials:  2 skeins of Rowan Pure Wool 4ply, US 0 and US 2 needles 

Once again, I am in awe of the magic of blocking.  About halfway through this project, I almost ripped it out because the contrast between the two colors was so subtle as to make the stranded pattern almost invisible.  You can see from other FOs on Ravelry that the pattern is lovely done in colors with more contrast.  I especially like it in blue and brown.

Here is pic of my leftovers so you can see why I thought the pattern would show up more:

This yarn and I have a history though, and I couldn't bear to rip it out.  After receiving a free gift (with a subscription) from Rowan of green yarn, I happily swapped with someone on Ravelry for a lighter grey so that I could overdye it.   I dyed a few skeins pink with lobster mushrooms, and a few of them brown with a black walnuts dyebath.  Sitting next to each other they look quite different, but they blend together once they are knitted up.  The blocking process smoothed out the lumpiness of my knit stitches and brought the pattern out.  It is still subtle but I like it.  

Here is a tip I learned in a Fair Isle knitting class
When choosing colors to use in a stranded pattern the contrasts in the colorwork will be effected not only by the hues of the yarn, but also by the saturation level of each color.  It is difficult though to determine the saturation just by looking directly at the skeins of yarn.  In order to see the relative values of each color, make a black and white photocopy of the yarn shade card.

Here is an example.  I printed a picture of Cascade 220 color choices from Jimmy Beans Wool and then recopied it in black and white to see the values of each color.

What a difference, huh?  For my Selbu Modern I really wanted to use up some of my hand-dyed yarn, but I will make use of this tip to choose colors for my next stranded project!  

Friday, February 4, 2011

FO Friday: Antonia Shawlette

Pattern:  Antonia Shawlette by Emily Johnson
Source:  pdf download from The Family Trunk Project
Materials:  1 skein Plucky Knitter Silk Merino 50/50 Fingering 435, in the color "Funny Affair with Tiffany's; and US 3 circular needles
Modifications:   This pattern has 2 options:  a triangular shawlette, or a larger capelet.  I opted for the shawlette version so that I could wear it as a scarf:

I will start by saying that I love my finished shawlette/scarf.  I am happy that I knit it, and I would definitely knit other patterns from Emily Johnson.  That being said, I have to share with you that lots of the cussing and ranting that my husband fondly refers to as "the sounds of knittting" took place during the making of this project.  I noted on Ravelry what my issues with the pattern were.  For blogging purposes, let's just say that I knit the 14 rows of the 250+ st. border of the shawl twice!  Otherwise, it is a beautiful and clever pattern from a talented designer.

I want to add that I loved working with the Plucky Knitter yarn.  Thanks again to Zonda who gifted me with this yarn as part of her 5th blogiversary contest!

I haven't had much time to be on the computer this week so I am looking forward to catching up with everyone on this FO Friday!