In the middle of many things

Well I did finish my brother’s lovely Fair Isle stockings at the beginning of the week. They have had all ends worked in and blocked. I heart Fair Isle cause it only leaves 4 ends to work in and lots of lovely colours. I’m waiting to give them to my brother before taking and posting final pictures (mostly as they don’t fit me). They have already been commented on and favourited in Ravelry which makes me a most happy and puffed up knitting person.

Another ego booster is the lovely attention my knitting has had on Flickr. Random comments from international strangers make me most happy. I’ve even been added to someone’s contact list. Terribly good for my ego I must say. I may become tempted to knit in a public gathering type setting.

I also finished one of the Neopolitan mittens and began on the second one. I’m using quite a tight gauge on them to keep them from letting too much wind through once winter shows up again (and so they fit my small hands) but it’s causing some wrist angst so I’ve switched back to the Adult Surprise Jacket for a bit of a break and some (relatively) mindless knitting.

Reading the recipe again I’m not exactly clear on how this thing is going to be put together. I work better when I’m manipulating a real object to go along with written instructions, so I’m hoping that it will become clearer once I’m closer to finishing. One thing that confuses me in the instructions is knowing where to measure from when deciding how long the sleeves and sweater should be. Again this may become clearer once I’m at that part of the game. It’s interesting to work on something that doesn’t become clearer as you work on it. I think it will all make sense once it’s put together. At least I’m hoping.

In the midst of all this I found another knitting blog to read. Cause I really need something else to read in the morning right? Well I’m glad I found Ysolda’s Blog. It was such a good read that I was compelled to read it from the beginning up to yesterday’s post. I even commented (!!!). I’m usually such a lurker. I’ll read diligently, but don’t comment on stranger’s blogs. I barely comment on my friend’s, though I’m getting better at that. I’d say it’s not being shy so much as not having anything really to say? Maybe it’s just my own crazy. I’ll get into the commenting one of these days.

What shall I watch while knitting today? I’m thinking Ruthless People is in order.

The Attention Span of a Flea

3 scoops of yarn, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

Right. So Ravelry has completely destroyed my discipline of working on one project at a time. I admit that I did already have two on the go before Ravelry became part of my life, but the excitement of browsing all the projects people are working on, searching through patterns, finding fun Flickr sites via the Forums has put TONS of things into my cue and it getting me thinking all creative like about planning more and more and more and more projects rather than enjoying working on my brother’s second sock which has been so so so much fun.

Coming across Hello Yarn’s version of these mittens got me started thinking about how much I want a pair.

I heart Fair Isle. And I’m quite a fan of using humour and kitschy imagery into my crafts, especially when they involve ‘serious’ and traditional techniques and styles. My career at Design school was my personal adoption of the Garden Gnome Liberation Front as defacto organization for projects over several years. I take comedy quite seriously.

I love the idea of knitting with neopolitan ice cream colours. In fact, I’m totallies in love with this trio of colours at the moment. I’m so excited about these colours and this project that I just couldn’t help myself from casting on this afternoon while listening to a podcast of This American Life.

K. I’m going to get back to savouring my weekend treat.

Addictive Fair Isle

Chart to Stripes, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

One stocking down, another one hot on it’s tail.

The Surprise Jacket fever has died down a tad now that I have gotten into the groove of the pattern and how the Silk Garden stripes up. I still love the colour transistions, juxtapositions and the supreme fun of split spit joinging.

But I was suddenly drawn back into the world of Fair Isle. I have feverishly been watching old epsiodes of Friends (from the beginning) and knitting row after row after row of the chart. Loving every second of it. I was tearing through the pattern so fast that I kept messing up one of the mirrored side panels and having to rip out an inch, two inches or even three or four of sock to fix it up again. I didn’t get mad, strangely happy to be able to rework the pattern once more.

These stockings are for my brother who likes to follow the ‘right’ way of doing things so I refused to let myself do my usual crazy-paranoid-wrapping-of-the-yarn-around-itself-a-bazillion-times and quite enjoy the results.

I had all sorts of measurements of my brother’s calves, legs, foot, etc. and kept measuring as I was knitting, but quickly realised that his measurements managed to fit perfectly my gauge and the standard sock pattern charts provided and gladly fell into the monotony of blindly following the pattern.

The first stocking was barely off the needles before I immediately cast on for the other stocking. Terribly exciting stuff.

Ravelry leads to the destruction of my living room

Woodward’s Sports Yarn, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

It finally arrived! My invitation to Ravelry! I can’t believe it! Yay!

So I just finished spending much of the afternoon adding projects, tracking my needles, adding to my library, taking pictures and posting the contents of my stash on Ravelry. And now my stash is a mess. My desk is a mess. My living room is a mess. I blame it all on Ravelry.

But the lack of motivation to tidy any of it up is all mine.

When Inspiration Strikes

I’m usually a good girl. I knit one project at a time (unless some outside force causes a project to be paused). But I’ve barely started my brother’s socks and have immediately been inspired and started something else. Completely out of the knitting queue. I don’t know what’s wrong with me!

I blame the foreign invasion. I have a friend visiting from Sacramento and rainy days (plus lack of motivation) have kept us indoors. She expressed an interest in learning to knit. So I gave her some needles, some yarn and got her started. Reading Brooklyntweed’s recent adventures in Garter Stitch, and his two person knit-a-long with Hello Yarn (and her fabulous BSJ) along with seeing my friend’s resulting garter stitch scarf has given me inspiration for the Noro Silk Garden that has lived in my stash for several years. I want to make a my-sized version of the Surprise Jacket.

I am using Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions for the Baby Surprise Jacket in Knitting Workshop to create a prototype so that I can figure out the proportions needed to make one for me. I got so excited about using this pattern that I dropped the Fair Isle socks that I just started two days ago to get going with the Surprise Jacket. So out of character for me. But I’m really really excited about it now that I’ve started.

In between projects project

Star Decrease, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

After finishing up the Icarus Shawl, I needed a bit of a mental break. Especially before starting the Fair Isle knee socks from Meg Swansen’s Knitting for my brother. I had come across Knit and Tonic’s Le’ Slouch pattern after seeing it on another knitting blog and was compelled to make one. Just so happened I had a few skeins of cotton on hand that I thought would lend themselves nicely to the moss stitch and got knitting. I inherited the yarn from my brother who buys pretty things from the sales bin from time to time and can’t figure out what to make with it. But the green isn’t so much my colour.

As I was knitting it, I thought it would be a great way to get rid of some of my odds and ends from my stash. Leftovers from sweaters, my own sale bin finds with no inspiration. So Le’ Slouch is going to be my in-between-projects project. One for each of my girls. This will make me feel less guilty about coveting those two luscious balls of whatever catches my eye in the sale bin in the future. Another Le’ Slouch. I enjoyed knitting it so much, that I made two.

The Ribbing, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

I also started on my brother’s socks, despite the draw of knitting another Le’ Slouch. I began with my favourite K1 P1 rib cast on, Italian Tubular, but after a couple of rows, the Fair Isle changed the nature of the ribbing to be not quite as elastic. So I started over with a more standard cast on (which I also enjoy). Now that I’ve started them, I’m super excited to work on them. The Tongue River Sock Yarn that I’m using seemed king of scratchy when I wound the skeins into cakes (is that the proper term?) but now that I’ve started working with it, the yarn is much softer to work with. And it already feels super strong. I’m already having fun and I’ve barely started them.

Jane’s Icarus Shawl

On the couch, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

It’s done. It’s blocked. And it’s fabulous!

What better thing to do on a cool rainy day in Montreal but to block the newly finished Icarus shawl?

The pattern is from Interweave Knits – Summer 2006. The yarn is Riversong Cashmere hand dyed by Virginia van Santen as Painted Yarns French Lilacs. Virginia passed away earlier this year, so this shawl has become a tribute to her wonderful work as a knitter, yarn painter and knitting mentor. She was very kind to my brother and I, letting us take over her yarn dyeing studio one week so we could learn her craft.

I started with this beautiful yarn to make a Print ‘o’ the Wave stole but reknitting it several times, I realised that I just didn’t have enough yarn for it. I am happy that Eunny’s pattern taught me a new cast on method, grafting and the knit on border concept, but this yarn was meant to be another shawl. I scrounged through the internet and my stash of Interweave Knits until I found this most lovely shawl pattern. I hoped and crossed my fingers that I’d have enough yarn to complete it. Sure enough I lucked out.

Yes this isn’t the most complex of lace knit shawls, but I really like the way that the body of the shawl has a simple pattern that leads the eye to the much more detailed border. And as it happened with how the ball was wound, the most colourful part would be in the border where the colours could dance the most. And the monotony of the knitting was a nice break from Eunny’s pattern.

I kind of got tired of knitting one row and then having to go unknit three. Counting the stitches at the end of each row is a necessity for lace knitting (I learn by doing, not so much from reading and/or following directions). Not to say that I didn’t make any mistakes. I do that from time to time. But I was able to memorise the chart much much quicker, and managed to correct portions a row or two above if necessary. There were a few close calls regarding lack of yarn, but in the end, very little adjustments were required to make it to the end. And it doesn’t really seemed to have affected the overall size of the shawl.

This is the first time I did the ‘proper’ lace blocking with all the pins. This part I did actually read about beforehand. My brother (who worked at a yarn shop, owns lots of knitting books and generally likes to know everything) said that this is usually done on the carpet. I have none. Not even an area rug. I had no idea how I could actually block this shawl. Ironing board? My couch?

Then reading in the back of my newly arrived A Gathering of Lace I got the brilliant idea to use my mattress. Genius! When talking to my non-knitting friend about it, she was appauled. She told me that I should rig up something on my wall, or wrap strings around everthing in my apartment, even to pin it to the curtains rather than use the mattress. All her suggestions made me laugh so much. She kept coming up with these outrageous suggestions that were WAY more complicated than just using the mattress.

I took pictures of my highly sophisticated blocking procedure. Click on the above picture to link to the Flickr set.

I wasn’t sure how long the shawl would take to dry, so I got up early in the morning, and put it in the sink to soak. In my pajamas, I prepped the bed with a couple of towels and put the duvet and pillows on the floor. I drained the sink and oh so gently squeezed out as much of the water as I could without disturbing the yarn. Carefully laid out the shawl on the towel and began to put the pins in, using my canvas stretching techniques. There had to be some pinning strategy adjustments as I went. I ended up getting all obsessive when pinning the top of the shawl and placed about a bazillion to make sure it would be straight when it dried. I could see where the pin and string strategy would be a good idea. Next time.

It’s amazing how no matter how pretty the yarn is, when it gets wet, it always smells like wet dog. But thankfully it really didn’t take long to dry. I was kind of amazed by that actually. I tried it one and it’s SO AMAZING! It’s so pretty. And it makes me feel really pretty to wear it. So pretty that I did start to think that it looked good with the jeans and gray t-shirt I was wearing. Yeah.

So when/where/with what am I going to wear this shawl? No idea. I need to find a nice dress. I’m thinking a nice classic dress in a dove gray to set off the colours. I intend it for fancy events. Weddings being the only forseeable such event in my future and it’s likely a few years until my cousin gets married. So I have some time to procrastinate the shopping for a dress.

Time for a Design Change

sigh. Time to frog the shawl once more. I don’t think I have enough yarn to make Eunny’s Print ‘O’ the Waves Shawl. If I take out one of the pattern repeats from the body of the shawl, it will be more like a scarf with edging. Not really what I have in mind.

I think it’s time for a design change. I shall have to find some kind of nice knitted lace caplet pattern instead. Sigh. Time to search through my Interweave Knits from season’s past. My foggy memory makes me think that there was one in one of them. Somewhere…

Jane’s Endpaper Mitts

Again inspired by a Eunny project, I used her Endpaper Mitts pattern to create my own version. It’s spring and fingerless gloves are in order. But mostly I really liked the pattern and could instantly see it arise from some lovely grey brown and barely blue yarn that my brother donated to my recent addiction to Fair Isle. This is my third Fair Isle project.

I ended up reknitting these gloves 3 times. I restarted the first time after completed one whole glove realising I didn’t want them to be so long and that I wouldn’t have enough of the brown to complete both gloves. The second time was because I realised I was being quite paranoid about wrapping the yarns around each other and it created quite a stiff fabric and made the pattern harder to see. I couldn’t quite bring myself to not wrap at all, despite reading that I didn’t need to and my brother assuring me that it wasn’t necessary. It really boils down to me just not liking the strands of yarn stretching across the inside of my gloves. That’s the sort of thing that causes a fingernail to grab and pull when putting on the gloves. I can’t have that.

I did modify the pattern a bit. Not so much ribbing. I’m more a fan of shorter ribbing to frame things these days. So to start with I did 10 rows of ribbing. Then along the top of the hand I did 5 rows of ribbing and 3 rows along the top of the thumb. I made the gloves shorter by only repeating Chart A once (instead of three times) and then starting the ribbing right at the end of the shaping Chart B.

I REALLY loved learning another cast on method. Italian tubular cast-on is now my favourite way of casting on for ribbing (as it should) and Kitchener rib bind-off my favourite way of binding off ribbing (as it should). And I was quite impressed with Eunny’s clever inclusion of a solid brown knit row before beginning the ribbing at the top of the mitts. I’m sure this is fairly standard in the land of Fair Isle, but it never would have occurred to me.

If I were to make these mitts again, I would reduced the number of stiches before the ribbing at the top of the hand. I like how flexible and expandable the ribbing is, but don’t like how there is a big opening at the top now. And they have relaxed a bit to be a little larger, so I would probably make them on smaller needles as well.