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Knitting

Salute to Fractal Danger

Ladies and gentlemen, please pour one out for my lovely sweet Fractal Danger, taken from me (by public transportation) too soon! She was a darling of a little scarf. She was made from yarn that I hand dyed in March of 2009 at Bjorklunden with my college knitting club. You know, like all the cool kids were doing in 2009.

The yarn, Knit Picks Bare Gloss Fingering, dyed with KoolAid, waited patiently in my stash for the right project. At 70% merino wool and 30% silk the yarn has a real shine to it. The KoolAid dye created nice summery pastels that reminded me of a flowerbed. When I saw Martina Behm‘s Fractal Danger pattern, I knew this skein would make the perfect spring time scarf.

Sadly, I can’t really show her to you because somehow in the juggling of purse, backpack, knitting project, hat, mittens, and sanity on the train, this beauty managed to get left behind. All I have are a few selfies from right after it came off the needles–not even blocked–and a few pictures of it on the carpet just after the blocking pins were removed.

The pattern was so fun to knit. It’s actually a rare pattern I could see myself making again (something I normally dislike!) The scarf is shaped with short rows, so you are never working on that many active stitches at once. That makes it feel like the rows move really fast. (Anything that makes you feel like your knitting is progressing quickly is a special kind of satisfying.)

I was so happy with the finished object. The yarn didn’t pool or flash. It also didn’t look to pastel-cutesie. Before I started, I was a bit worried that colors might lean more toward sorbet than subtle. It all worked out, though. The scarf was beautiful. It was soft. And now it’s gone. I hope someone out there is enjoying it. Have you ever lost something you’ve knit?

Konglelua creamsicle

One day, I walked into a yarn store, was wearing a stunning ivy green Konglelula hat. I also picked up a skein of Fierce Fibers Abyss (50% Merino, 50% Silk) thinking that the silk would give my Konglelula a bit more relaxed drape in the pleats. Since orange is my favorite color, I could not let go of this skein of creamsicle the moment I saw it.

Unfortunately, while it had perfect drape to begin with, it then continued to drape. And continued. And continued. After about 12 weeks, it was so loose that it was barely possible to wear it as a hat any more. It was getting to be more the size of a grocery bag than a hat. I know silk likes to stretch, but I had figured the 50% merino wool (a nice bouncy fiber) would keep that in check. I didn’t think to get any pictures of it in its stretched out state.

I decided I had nothing to lose, and I threw it in the laundry with my next full load of regular clothes. I figured if the wool could combat the silks’ initial growth, maybe it could correct the problem by felting back down to size. The hat definitely felted. It came off smaller than when it was first off the needles. The pleats also lost some of their definition.

I’ll tell you what though, the silk in the yarn was still radiant as ever. It was very difficult to photograph this hat because the yarn is so shiny! It just looks like a ball of light on my head. Overall, not a perfect rescue, but it went from being unwearable to recognizable-as-a-hat, so I guess that’s an improvement.

The pattern is only one of the beautiful designs by Ingvill Freland. Of course, I’m partial to hats, but she’s got sweaters, she’s got shawls, she’s got kids. I’d wager a guess that if you check out her patterns there will be something that catches your eye.

Have you ever immediately bought a pattern and yarn because of what someone in a yarn store was wearing? Tell me in the comments.

Testing the Waters With Brioche

I’ve always really loved the look of brioche knitting, but I shied away from trying it for a long time. A woman working on a brioche hat once explained the process to me, but she did it so rapid-fire and moved her fingers so fast that I just nodded dumbly and accepted that that bit of magic was outside my grasp. But recently, I feel like pattern writers have re-discovered brioche and now beautiful patterns are everywhere calling to me. Just look at this Ravelry search for beautiful brioche patterns. I decided to test the waters.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures of the cowl I made using Gina’s Brioche Hat and Cowl pattern by the Purl Soho team. (They always have really great basic patterns for trying out new techniques.) I don’t have good pictures because my grandma stole it from me before I could do a full photo shoot. Grandma is 92 and was feeling cold while the family was out one night. I was wearing my new cowl that I’d finished the week before. I put it around Grandma to keep her warm. She made several comments throughout the night about how she liked it and how warm it was keeping her. As we were getting ready to leave, she patted me on the arm and said “Thanks for the scarf” and turned and left. Thief! Don’t give her the benefit of the doubt, Grandma knows what she did.

I used two skeins of Malabrigo Worsted that I’ve had in the stash for something like 8 years. I love how soft this yarn is. Perfect for anything that’s going to be close to the skin. Of course Grandma would want to steal it. The green color is Vaa and the rose color is Pink Frost. I had about 1/3 less yardage than called for, so my cowl is only about 6.5″ wide rather than the 10″ called for in the pattern. Since I need to make myself a new one anyway, I think I will cast on fewer stitches to give a slightly smaller circumference, that way I can still get by with only one skein for each color.

I should not have let brioche intimidate me for so long. The new technique just took a little focus and time to get used to. I like that you achieve a two-color effect, but only have to work with one strand of yarn at a time. Is there a technique you’ve been hesitant to try?

Purple Gray Rose

Hats are my favorite type of project to make. They’re quick. They’re useful. You can try new techniques. You can use bold colors. They’re just the perfect fast-satisfaction project.

I finished Thea Colman‘s lovely stranded hat Gray Rose in two days. It’s the magic of hats. The big flower petals are fun to make, there are some very long floats though. To avoid a sloppy inside and avoid snags I trapped the float every 5 stitches. I duplicate stitches the yellow centers on after I was done making the hat.

I used Bumblebirch yarn Quill DK for the two main colors. The purple is “Blackberry” and the off-white is “Fog.” I really love the depth of color that Bumblebirch achieves with her kettle dyes. All of her yarns have a nice tight twist while still being uber soft.

I use one of these pom-pom makers to make all my pom-poms. The hat decreases very quickly and I think the pom-pom brings the top together nicely. These faux fur pom-poms have been all over lately and I’ve been considering changing to one of them. What do you think?

Scrappy Baa-ble

One of the benefits of being a Compulsive End Hoarder is that sometimes (very occasionally) you have exactly what you need to make a hot new pattern from stash.

You know when you come across a pattern that you MUST drop everything and make? For me, they are usually small things; hats, mittens, etc. The heavier the yarn weight, the more likely I am to cast on, no matter what’s already on the needles. When I saw Donna Smith‘s playful sheepy hat Baa-Ble, I wanted to cast on that moment.

I don’t know what you do with your partial half-balls (or quarter-balls, or eighth-balls) when you finish a project, but I save mine. I have all kinds of rationalizations.

  • The finished item may need to be repaired at some future date, and I will have the ends on hand. Never mind that I have mountains of leftovers from projects that are long gone.
  • I tell myself I may want to make a “matching” something in the future and I will have exactly the right color.
  • I dream some other project will come along and it will only call for a small amount of yarn, and this will be exactly the right color for the job. I will be saving money in the future because I won’t need to buy new yarn. I tell myself.

The result is, we have enough yarn in the house that we should be getting a tax rebate for having Green insulation. But, in this case, the result was also that I had exactly what I needed. I was able to case on the moment I stumbled across the pattern. A sweater from 2008, slippers from 2010, and two different hats from 2010 and 2011 left behind enough yarn for me to knit one Baa-ble in 2015. It took three years to take photos–aside from a few awkward selfies that were a “placeholder” on Ravelry for far too long.

This super cute hat whipped up in no time. The sheep were so fun that I just couldn’t stop until they were done. Once I finished the sheep, I was basically at the crown, then poof, done. This was an extremely satisfying snap of a pattern. It’s drawn a fair handful of “cute hat” comments from random strangers–ok, yes, usually older women, but sometimes creepy men. Public Transportation ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. My version is quite slouchy. I guess I could’ve gone down a needle size to tighten the gauge up slightly, but it drapes nicely.

What was the last pattern you just had to cast on?

Text Me Mittens Pattern

If you don’t start off by commenting on how long it’s been since your last post, are you even blogging? According to the blog, 2018 didn’t happen. But, of course, 2018 did happen. I even managed to publish a pattern! I couldn’t believe when I checked Ravelry and it informed me that I actually published it in JANUARY 2018–a year ago!

These are my Text Me Mittens, pattern “now” available on Ravelry. After the pattern was test knit, I just went ahead and activated the pattern on Ravelry, fully meaning to announce it on the blog. But, life being what it is, and excuses being what they are, I never got around to posting that the pattern was available. Never gave it a proper spotlight.

The entire body of the mitten is knit in eye-of-partridge stitch, which is a very easy to memorize slip stitch pattern. The slip stitches make the pattern extra dense because each row has both knit stitches AND the floats from the slip stitches making a double layer of yarn. That means you can get super warm mittens with DK or worsted weight. The slip stitch pattern also looks amazing with hand-dyed yarn. I made these in a semi-solid kettle-dye colorway (the always amazing Bumblebirch Forage in “truffle”) and the effect is subtle. One of my testers made hers with a more variegated colorway and you can see how well the pattern breaks up pooling.

These mitts have a long history. Originally designed in late 2015, these grew from Bob’s request for mittens that would still allow him to use his phone. As I was asking him which combination of fingers he would need free for maximum utility, he considered for a moment and decided he would really just need his thumbs. From there, I designed these squishy mittens with little thumb-hoods that can be flipped on and off for a quick message. They also do wonders for gripping a doorknob. Have you ever tried turning a doorknob with mittens on? These give just the traction you need to get that sucker to turn.

At the end of 2017 (yes, that’s two years later) I finally sat down with the chicken-scratch notes I kept as I was knitting. Partially looking at my notes, and partially looking at the knitting itself I was able to get the pattern out on paper. Then, because I can’t leave well-enough alone, I created two more sizes–They come in Women’s Small, Women’s Large, and Men’s Medium which corresponds to 7.25″; 8″; and 8.75″ around the palm. I had the pattern test knit and it’s been up for sale since just after the New Year (2018).

There’s no real great reason why 2018 completely fell off the map. Honestly, the change from the blogger platform to wordpress really intimidated me and prevented me from “just going for it” like I did when I first launched the blog… I’ve enlisted some help and I’m going to try and put my fear (and frustration!) aside in 2019 and make the blog a thing again. Highlights of 2018 that likely would have made the blog if I’d been on my game: Memorial Day Weekend concerts in the Columbia River Gorge, whitewater rafting on the Dechutes River, buying a house, painting in the new house, installing light fixtures in the new house, closet upgrade in the new house, first Christmas in the new house, etc.

Have you made the switch from blogger to wordpress? Tell me how it went for you.

Sometimes It’s the Simple Things

I consider myself a pretty experience knitter. I have tackled most techniques and, while some are not my favorite, I would say that I can execute all of them fairly successfully. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love to grab a completely simple mindless project from time to time. For example, dishcloths.

Each spring in Portland, a lot of the local yarn shops (we’ve got a lot of yarn shops in Portland) get together and throw a “Yarn Crawl”–it’s like a pub crawl, but instead of stopping at a bunch of pubs for a drink, you stop at 13 yarn shops to ooogle yarn. There are delightful trunk shows and demonstrations and lots of knitterly camaraderie. I’ve yet to get through a crawl on budget (my personal budget) but I always end up with some fabulous stash additions.

During the 2015 crawl, Yarnia had these delightful Dishcloth Kits made from 100% cotton yarn strands. The kit had enough yarn for 3 small dishcloths or one small dishcloth and one larger hand cloth. I was very drawn to this pink-black combo and snapped it up. The pattern for the dishcloths is a very simple knit purl pattern that I memorized quickly after only one or two repeats.

Yarnia is quite unique for a yarn store. They sell yarn by weight. They have many very fine strands of yarn/thread. You can choose up to six in various fibers and colors and then Yarnia uses a special machine to cone all of the strands together so that you can knit with them as one single “yarn” strand. There’s a video of the process here. It’s fun! I may be slightly biased since its the first yarn store I ever worked in, but it gives you a lot of creativity in creating a special yarn for a project. This particular kit had 5 strands of cotton in different thicknesses–equaling a worsted weight when held together. There is two black strands and three different shades of pink.

I made the three small cloths a gave one dishcloth and some homemade sugar scrub to each of my admin staff for Christmas. (Yes, Christmas 2015. I’m a wee bit behind on posts.) I really love sugar scrub for taking dry skin off my hands, legs, and face. After buying quite a few scrubs for $15-20 a pop I realized that I could easily make my own. The recipe I use is very simple:

  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil (can substitute coconut oil or almond oil if preferred)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Honey

Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. That’s all! Use it like you would any other exfoliator. You’ll be baby smooth and smell like vanilla to boot. I have always used olive oil and never tried the suggested substitutes (only because of cost) so I can’t speak to how they might change the formula, but I’m sure it’s still amazing. I’ve been told it can keep for up to three months, but I’ve never had a batch last that long. Its the perfect last-minute gift.

 

1 Hour Herringbone Cowl

Be forewarned, the 1 Hour Herringbone Cowl takes significantly longer than an hour to knit up. I used this pattern in a 2 hour knitting class and most students had about two inches of fabric after two hours. That being said, that’s still some pretty quick knitting!

 

I used slightly more than one skein of Malabrigo Chunky that I’ve had in my stash since college. Stefanie Japel‘s pattern is very easy to follow. There are just two rows that you alternate to make the herringbone pattern. The chunky yarn paired with the stiff stitch makes a fabric that is very warm and plush.

 

The colorway of this yarn is Violetas, but my skein was much more purple than the ones I have seen on the shelves lately–they seem to have made the color much more blue over the years. The slight variations in this skein look really great in the herringbone pattern.

I stuck this away and used it as a Christmas gift this year. I frequently make projects because I want to knit them, not because I actually need them. Those go in the closet for when I need a last minute gift. These days, so many people are having babies that I should probably throw some baby things into the emergency box. I’ve knit 3 projects on pretty quick deadlines recently. And I’ve got 2 more to plan.

I wanted to knit this to try out the herringbone stitch, but I knew it would be going in the box. I like long cowls that can be doubled up. Maybe someday I’ll double the number of stitches and make myself an extra cozy version.

Resistance is… Essential

I was not able to attend the Woman’s March on Washington (Portland edition) because I was lending support to someone going through some family health issues. All day my facebook feed was packed with photos from friends around the country at various marches. Plus there were photos all over the news of huge crowds around the country. It was very powerful and reassuring to see so many women gather and raise their voices. And of course, as a knitter, the prominence of the Pussy Hat as a symbol for the March made my heart happy.

 

The idea of thousands of knitters clicking away counting down the days until the revolution is so very Madame Defarge, I can’t help but want to overthrow the patriarchy. I’ve had this skein of Madelinetosh A.S.A.P. in my stash for about 2 years… basically since it first came out. When I placed my order, this skein of the color “Coquette” was one of the few left in stock. I never really had a plan for it, but as soon as I saw a post about the Pussy Hat, I knew I had the perfect skein.

There are a number of different patterns for Pussy Hats on Ravelry. The particular one I chose was Brooklyn Purl Alley Cat Hat by Claudette Brady. The pattern is free on Ravelry. My one slight critique is that the pattern uses “left twisted stitch” and “right twisted stitch” without explaining them. For the left twisted stitch, you just knit into the back of the second stitch on the left needle, then knit into the front of the first stitch on the left needle and take both the first and second stitches off the left needle together. The right twisted stitch is even easier. You knit into the second stitch on the left need, then into the first stitch on the left needle, then take both stitches off the left needle together.

I really like the way the twisted stitches paired with the purls were used to set off the “ears” of the hat. The super bulky yarn really lets the ears stand up a little bit too. And the coquette is the perfect shade of aggressive pink. Viva la revolución!

Miracle

So, I’m pretty sure that I performed a miracle the other day. I didn’t turn water into wine or anything that awesome, more like a light miracle. I found buttons for a sweater in under 10 minutes at the craft store.


I know. I’ll give you a few minutes to pick yourself up off the floor. It’s true. Here I am sheepishly entering the craft store sweater in-hand only 30 minutes before closing. Oh, and it was raining like crazy, contributing to the stress of the moment.

I was fully prepared to beg and plead with the staff for just-five-more-minutes to find the perfect buttons for this darling little Gramps Cardigan I knit for Bob’s new baby nephew. As it turns out the perfect buttons found me almost the minute I walked into the button aisle. If you have ever tried to buy buttons for a sweater, you know the painstaking process it can be… Too blue. Not blue enough. Too small for the button hole. Too big for the button hole. Perhaps worst of all, exactly perfect, but the store only has 3 buttons and I need 7. We’ve all been there.


Not this time. These weren’t even in the actual button aisle. They were on the end cap. I looked at them and though “wow, that looks like it might be close” but almost immediately dismissed them as too good to be true. Surely, they must be flawed in some way. I’ll find out when I hold them to the sweater that they’re actually chartreuse and it was a trick of the light making them look blue. They were perfect.


This darling pattern by Kate Oats knit up in no time at all. I made the smallest size (6 mo.) and felt like the second I cast on, I was casting off again.

The patten calls for dk weight yarn which makes adorably plump cables. I used some yarn that’s been in the stash for ages. I originally bought this Cottonwood by FibraNatura to make a summer shrug but never got around to making it and just lost passion for the pattern. When I was stash diving to look for something to make this baby sweater with, this jumped out. It’s 100% organic cotton and incredibly soft. It’s still cotton though so working the cables did make my hands sore because the cotton just doesn’t have the same stretch and give as animal fibers. For a small project, totally worth it.


I was rewarded for my hard work with this picture. Looks like it will be keeping him warm for the rest of the winter. (Possibly he is the real miracle part of this story… but my trip to the button store is an easy second.)

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