Monday, December 31, 2012

FO: Blueish Orange

As the last post of the year, I can think of nothing better than to share my favorite (and last) finished object of the year. I actually started this sweater back in July. I was able to knit most of the body before I put it away to knit my Ravellenics sweater. I pulled it out at the beginning of December and completed it on Christmas Eve. 

pattern: Oranje, by Ann Weaver
yarn: Cascade 220 Sport, in Blue Hawaii, Natural, and Vandyke Brown
needles: 5s and 6s
raveled: Blueish Oranje

This sweater had a couple of firsts for me: it was my first time steeking, first time using more than two colors in a row, and first time knitting braids. Out of all those techniques, the three colors at once was probably the hardest. Catching the floats of the colors not in use really slowed me down. The braids were the biggest pain in the butt because the two colors of yarn get twisted around each other and then untwisted on the second row. Steeking was actually the easiest technique!

I only made a couple of modifications to the pattern. I spaced out the waist shaping so it wasn't as dramatic and added an inch to the body because I like longer sweaters, although that probably wasn't necessary because the yarn grew a bit after blocking. I took out an inch from the armwell to account for a different row gauge than the pattern. Lastly, I knit chart C to match the pattern pictures, not the pattern charts.

Below is a view of the sweater inside out. I think I did a darn good job of making nice sized floats with the unused color. I may add a strip of ribbon on each side to cover the folded over steeked edges, but for now I'm quite sick of sewing.

I'm totally in love with the sweater and I'm already planning on knitting another one in 2013. I'm thinking a red, white, and black sweater with full length sleeves that I can wear for Badger sporting events. This sweater was a lot of work but it was worth it. It feels nice to end the year with such a great project. 

Happy New Year to everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Note on Steeking

Earlier this week I finished the majority of the knitting on my final sweater for the year. All that needed to be done was to steek the front of the sweater, pick up the buttonbands, and do some final sewing. Sounds easy, right? Well, it pretty much was. Tedious, but easy.

That was quite the surprise for me as I have never steeked anything before in my entire life. Frankly, it's a pretty terrifying idea. If I've spent over 60 hours knitting something, why would I create an opportunity for the entire thing to unravel? Thankfully, steeking turned out to be nothing like the old time cartoons where a sweater gets unravelled in a matter of seconds.

Before I started steeking, I took a couple of pictures for posterity in case disaster struck:

Awesome hidden hem action!
In preparation for the big moment, I watched a lot of Youtube videos and read a lot of tutorials about steeking. There are two ways a knitter can reinforce their knitting before cutting into the fabric: by crocheting lines by the steek or by using a sewing machine. The pattern I was using specifically called for machine-stitched reinforcements.

Unfortunately, that isn't a very common method because it's less stretchy than the crocheted reinforcements. I was able to find videos of people using a sewing machine, but every single one of them was just doing it on a swatch. I can understand why someone would use a swatch, but it didn't give me a good idea of what the process would really be like. My biggest worry was how I was going to fit the narrow neck of my sweater on the machine.

I hand stitched a line down the middle of my steek in a contrasting color so I could sew a straight line.

Through trial and error, I found that it does fit on a sewing machine, but I really had to squish everything in to place and adjust it every couple of inches as I was sewing. I took a couple of pictures of the mess in hopes that another knitter with the same question will stumble over them.

I stitched a line on either side of the yellow string using the shortest length stitch my machine could do. I then took out the yellow string and made the cut. It was scary at first but then I saw just how sticky 100% wool is. The yarn on the cut edge barely moved at all. Once I finished cutting, I sewed another line on each edge just to be safe.

I had a really good experience and I'm really pleased with how this project has turned out. I've already started looking at other stranded knitting projects to add to my queue. Now this is how I feel about steeking:

My next post will have pictures of the finished sweater. I'm so excited to share!

Merry belated Christmas to everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

FOs: Renfrew and Arbutus

A month or two ago I was browsing Ravelry and saw some new designs from Jane Richmond in the "hot now" pattern section. She was releasing a book of five patterns called "Island". I really liked most of the patterns, but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend $20 on an e-book. Thankfully during my process of mulling it over for a couple of days, my local yarn store sent out an email saying they were taking pre-orders for a physical copy of the book, signed by the author. It was just a couple of dollars more, so I was all over that. I think Jane does a really beautiful job with the layout of her patterns, so getting them in print is really nice. The great thing about it was that Firefly Fibers is part of Ravelry's In-Store Pattern Service, so as soon as I bought the book, Alisa emailed me a redemption code to download the patterns immediately from Ravelry. 

I decided to make the cowl and hat patterns from the book using some yarn I had leftover from my Acer Cardigan. I finished the two projects in about a week over the Thanksgiving holiday. Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted is seriously becoming my favorite worsted weight yarn. It's just so soft and pretty! However, photographing the orange color once again proved to be a huge challenge.

pattern: Arbutus (cowl) and Renfrew (hat)
yarn: Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted, colorway Copper Penny
needles: 8s for the cowl, 7s for the hat
raveled: Arbutus and Renfrew

Arbutus is a cowl made from a relatively small amount of yarn (I used less than 200). The genius thing about it is that it uses short row shaping to make the front thicker or taller than the back. It also has three "sections" to it that makes it looks like you wrapped a scarf around your neck three times when you're wearing it. This pattern was absolutely brilliant and would make a great gift pattern.

Renfrew is also a great design. It's actually knitted inside out and flipped after finishing so that you can knit for most of the time but still end up with a reverse stockinette stitch hat. I made the slouchy version of the hat, but if I make it again I'd do the beanie version because slouchy hats don't stay on my head very well.

Overall, I'm really impressed by these two patterns. And they weren't even my favorite patterns when I saw the book! I'll probably knit a Strathcona as we get closer to summer. And maybe I'll knit Grace someday, when I have enough patience for a fingering-weight cardigan. 

'Til next time, folks!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

FO: Charcoal Shrug

I've got to play a little catch-up with my finished objects posts. I have three projects that I recently finished. Today I'll show you a shrug that I finished at the end of October.

pattern: Lacy Shrug by the Knit Cafe Toronto
yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage, colorway Charcoal
needles: 8s
raveled: Charcoal Shrug

This shrug has a very simple construction: it's basically a lacy rectangle that gets blocked and then sewn together to create arms. You then pick up stitches around the arms and body section and knit in ribbing for a couple of inches. It was a pretty simple project that went really fast. Sadly it languished in its finished state until I got myself motivated enough to block out the ribbing sections so the bottom doesn't ride up (a process that took all of five minutes).

Since then, I've really enjoyed wearing it as it's great to keep around the house to throw on when I get chilly. This shrug brings my sweater total for the year to seven. I have another sweater mostly done that should be finished by the end of the year, but it's definitely clear I won't make it to twelve sweaters like I had hoped. Oh well, there's always next year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

FO: Sweater for Nyota

It's been awhile since I've blogged! My knitting slowed down for a bit but I've been picking up steam recently. Most of the reason I was in a knitting slump was because my fiance and I got a dog! She's a one year old Plott hound that we adopted from the local animal shelter. We named her Nyota, which is the first name of Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. It's super geeky, but it matches how pretty of a dog she is. She's kept us busy the last couple of months.

It's been getting colder in the last couple of months, which presents a challenge with her short fur. We got her a jacket off Amazon which is great if it's raining. The problem is, it's not really designed for a hound. She has such a deep chest and tiny little hips that it doesn't fit quite right. So I decided that I needed to knit her a sweater. I found a couple of free patterns on Ravelry for greyhound sweaters and decided that the one with the side closure would be best. I had some Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage in my stash that I had originally planned on knitting in to a long sleeve sweater, but I decided it would be better to use half for the dog sweater and half for a shrug-type sweater. Am I spoiling my dog by using such nice yarn? Possibly. But I justify it by telling myself I did it because the yarn is machine washable :)

yarn: madelinetosh tosh vintage, in charcoal
needles: 7s

Photoshoot? I want to smell things!
The pattern was rather ambiguous at times, but I think it turned out really well. I definitely see more dog sweaters in my future. I think jewel tone colors would look fantastic with her brindle coat.

Hopefully it's nice and sunny this weekend so I can take pictures of a couple of other finished objects I have.

Monday, September 17, 2012

FO: Acer Cardigan

Well, it's official. I'm the worst at getting pictures taken in any sort of a timely fashion. I managed to knit a cardigan in 17 days but couldn't organize myself to take a picture of it for an entire month. Better late than never, right?

I knit this cardigan for Ravellenics during August. It was my first time participating in the event and it sure didn't disappoint. Knitting a sweater that fast was certainly a challenge. The Saturday before the closing ceremonies I stayed up until 2am finishing the sleeves on the cardigan so that I could block it and have it ready to go to knit the button bands the next day. The deadline was a wee bit stressful towards the end.

pattern: Acer, by Amy Christoffers
yarn: Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted, colorway Copper Penny
needles: 4s and 5s
raveled: Acer Cardigan

I had originally planned on using different buttons for this cardigan, but the ones I ordered on Etsy didn't arrive in time. It's a bummer when you find out the seller is from Hong Kong if they didn't have it listed on their profile :(

The buttons I used I actually got at a gun show last year. What I was doing at a gun show, I'll never know. They are made from shed deer antlers, which is pretty cool and very unique.

The yarn I used is 50% wool and 50% alpaca, so it is soft, soft, soft! It also has a really nice tonal variation to it. I alternated skeins every two rows so it wouldn't pool at all.

My only modification to the pattern was to knit the shoulders by picking up stitches along the opening and knitting them top down, instead of sewing them in. I did this mainly because I'm not that good at finishing, so I knew I would be unhappy with the results if I was under a deadline. It worked out fine, and I really enjoy the process.

As a little bonus, I'd like to link to an article about my local yarn store. It's an interesting read and it even says Orange is in!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ravellenics: Day 6

Although I'm posting this a day late, I thought I'd make a quick post to share my progress that I've made so far. This picture was taken yesterday on my lunch break, so I've made a teensy bit more progress since then. I had about 6" of the body done at that point.

It's going a bit faster now that I'm past the ribbing section. I'm in need of good chunks of time to sit down and work on my sweater, which I'll get this weekend on a mini family vacation in northern Wisconsin. Hopefully I will have finished the body by Tuesday when we get back and can start the sleeves.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ravellenics: Ready, Set, Knit!

It's begun. Ravellenics 2012. This is my first time participating and I'm super excited!

I think I should explain what Ravellenics is so people like my sister who reads my blog but isn't a knitter will understand. It's a good-spirited event hosted on Ravelry that involves knitting or crocheting items in the time period coinciding with the Olympic Games. You must start the project after the opening ceremony begins and finish the project before the closing ceremony ends. From their website:
The One Rule To Rule Them All: Challenge yourself by starting and finishing one or more projects during the 2012 Summer Olympics. What will be a stretch for you? It could be a new technique, that first sweater or pair of socks, something massive, something delicate, or maybe finishing that monster in the closet. The goal of the Ravellenics is to support you in expanding your knitting/crocheting horizons.
There are different categories that a participant can compete in, depending on what they're making. Examples of these can be the afghan marathon, the hat dash, the single skein sprint, the sock put, and the hand-dye high dive, among others.

I've decided that my challenge will be to knit a sweater in only 17 days. I will be knitting the Acer Cardigan by Amy Christoffers. She is the same designer of the last sweater I finished, White Pine. The project makes me eligible to cross compete in the sweater triathlon, lace longjump, and cable steeplechase events. I will also be competing on behalf of Team Final Frontier.

I swatched for my sweater using one size smaller needle than the pattern calls for. The pattern calls for 20 sts per 4" and I get 21 sts per 4" using size five needles and Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted, which is perfect because I'm somewhat between sizes and I'm planning on knitting the bigger of the two. Going down a needle size will also be nice because the yarn I'm using is 50% alpaca and I don't want it to stretch too much. I'm really want to have zero ease on this sweater so it shows off the lace and cable parts, and also because I see myself wearing it over a cami instead of a button down shirt due to the supersoft yarn. It is a little bit more vibrant than the swatch photo shows. I'm planning on alternating skeins every two rows to avoid pooling.

It will certainly be a challenge for me to finish this sweater in the time allowed. This weekend Brian and I will be painting two more rooms so I won't have much time for knitting. I will, however, have a mini-vacation the first week of August that should provide me good amounts of time to knit.

Let the challenge begin!

P.S. I update my Knit Meter today and I've already knit over 5 miles of yarn this year. Woohoo!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Life Changes!

I haven't posted in a week or two because I've been busy buying my first house and moving in! My fiance and I signed the papers for a 3 bedroom ranch and we're very excited! It's closer to work and a lot more space than our old apartment. This is what she looks like:

That photo is from the real estate listing. If I was to actually take a picture, the lawn would be a lot browner. It was kind of funny- Brian was so excited to start mowing that we bought a top-of-the-line mower ahead of move-in but we have yet to use it because it didn't rain for so long here in Wisconsin. It finally rained twice in the last week, so it's getting better.

One of the first projects we (rather, I) tackled was to paint the main room in our basement. We chose to do this because it didn't need a lot of work done to it besides paint and it'll be nice to get everything set up. Our basement is going to be a craft/exercise room and possibly a movie watching space too, depending on how much room everything takes up.

You really don't realize how big a room is until you go to paint it. You become especially aware of it when half the room is wood paneling and you have to paint down each individual groove with a paintbrush. The entire process from start to finish literally took me over eight hours. This is what it looked like before the paint job (another listing photo):
 And after! We "chose" the color by combining a gallon of turquoise paint with a gallon of Oops paint that you can buy at the Home Depot for $7. I'm really happy with the shade of robin's egg blue that it turned out. Very Martha Stewarty and cheery!
Exercise side. Plenty of room for the Chuck Norris machine.

Craft side! Yarn goes here!
Everything is kind of a jumbled mess right now. The long term plan is to have an L shaped work space made from two tables. Since we have a lot of painting upstairs to do, it might take awhile to get that far. I just had to make sure I unpacked far enough to get to the yarn. Ravellenics starts Friday and I haven't even swatched yet! More on that later this week!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

FO: Hermosa

Today I have a cute little finished object to share. I knit it in six days and finished it this weekend!

pattern: Hermosa, by Melissa J. Goodale
yarn: Malabrigo Yarn Arroyo, in colorway Aguas
needles: 8s
raveled: Hermosa 

My local yarn store had a sample of this pattern knit up to feature Malabrigo's new sport weight yarn, Arroyo. I really liked the colorways of Arroyo, so I decided to join in. The yarn is super soft and is really gorgeous. I hemmed and hawed forever trying to decide what colorway to get, but I'm happy with my choice. The yarn was a tad splitty for my taste, but nothing that drove me up the wall.

As for the pattern, it was super easy. My only issue with it was that it didn't have an incease row after the third lace section, so the fourth stockinette section is a little stretched. I'd add one in if I was to make it again. The shawl really grew when I blocked it, but it's still a bit too small to wear without worrying it will fall off. I'll probably wear a shawl pin with it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

FO: White Pine Cardigan

Yay, I finally finished another sweater! I started this one back in March, and it's taken me awhile to complete it. It sat in hibernation for a bit while I avoided the twisted rib that needed to be done on the cuffs. Once I pushed past that, it wasn't actually that bad.

pattern: White Pine by Amy Christoffers
yarn: Kimmet Croft Fibers Softie (25% Angora/75% Merino)
needles: 7s
raveled: White Pine

I made very few modifications to the pattern. The first was to only cast on 62 stitches for the arms instead of the 74 called for in the pattern. I knit about two inches the way it was written and they would have been really baggy. I really liked how slim fitting the sweater was in the pattern's photos. The second modification was to knit two extra rows on the button band and to use two yarn overs instead of one when making the holes to account for the size of the buttons I used.

I found these really cool, somewhat shimmery buttons at Hobby Lobby. The ones I had originally planned on using (which were slightly larger, off-white buttons with darker "peanut butter cookie marks" on them) just seemed to overshadow the texture of the sweater. I need to find a good pattern that can handle awesome buttons like that.

I got this yarn at Madison Knitter's Guild Knit-In back it March. It's always great when you can use local yarn for a project.
I think my favorite thing about this cardigan is the subtle texture. The yarn is slightly hazy, so it does make the cables "pop" less. However, I think it really makes everything blend together nicely. The broken rib sections on either side of the cabled sections look especially good because of the yarn. This sweater really has the "boyfriend cardigan" feeling to it that just makes you want to put it on and curl up in front of the fire with some hot chocolate.

This was my first Amy Christoffers pattern. The pattern was confusing in some places (the broken rib pattern really wasn't defined well, for one), and it could definitely use some paragraph breaks in it so you're not constantly loosing your spot, but I really love the way it turned out. And since I'm 100% a product knitter (ooh! I want that!), it was totally worth it! I'm planning on knitting another one of her patterns, Acer, for my Ravellenics project later this month.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

WIP Update: White Pine

I can finally post another update on this sweater with some meaningful progress! I've finished knitting the arms and have joined them to the body. I have about six inches of the yoke completed. This is what it looks like now:

The rows are getting shorter so it shouldn't take me too long to finish up the yoke. After that I just have to graft the armpits and do the button band. The cable pattern looks really nice and I really like the overall look of this sweater. I can't wait to wear it once it's finished!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

FO: Straightforward Mitts

Time for a little catch up. As you may know, I started a new job a couple of weeks ago. Turns out the facility manager for my building likes to set the air conditioning at 40 degrees. Ok, I'm exaggerating. Maybe it's closer to 68 degrees. Anyways, it makes me cold. Even when it's 90 degrees outside, I still have to dress warmly in the morning so I don't turn into an ice cube by 5 o'clock. My fingers have it the worst since I spend most of the day typing.

Last weekend I decided this situation needed to be remedied immediately so I found myself a free pattern on Ravelry for a pair of mitts and cast on Saturday morning. I finished the mitts Monday morning carpooling in to work. Here's how they turned out:

Pattern: Straightforward Mitts by Simone Draeger
Yarn: Shibui Knits Staccato in colorway Chrome
Needles: 3s

These mitts turned out great, and they don't interfere with my typing at all. They're great for delicately holding lilies, as shown above, in case you ever find yourself in that situation. The fit is good, they don't take much yarn, they're pretty much perfect. I also loved the color of the yarn. The silk in Staccato really gives the grey color a beautiful luster. Plus it's machine washable, which is perfects for mitts.

The pattern was designed to match Herbivore, a shawl by Stephen West. My fiance is knitting one of Stephen's hat patterns, Windschief, at the moment, so we had a house full of slanted twisted rib projects going on. It was adorable, if I do say so myself.

Right now, I'm working on knitting the sleeves to my White Pine cardigan. I have them about up to the elbow. Hopefully I can join them to the body by this weekend and update you all with some pictures. I need to get that cardigan finished so I have a free schedule for Ravelympics in July. Ahem, the knitting community event coinciding with the Olympics. Wouldn't want to upset anybody. I have this crazy idea to knit a sweater in just 17 days. We'll see how that turns out!

Happy knitting to everybody!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

FO: Winnowing Shawl

Well, I finally did it. I finally finished the fingering-weight twisted-rib shawl I started way back in January. It feels so good to finally have it off the needles. Here she is:

Pattern: Winnowing by Bristol Ivy
Yarn: Loft in Faded Quilt
Needles: 4s
Raveled: Winnowing

I totally fell in love with this pattern when it came out Wool People Vol. 2, so I ordered the yarn and bought the pattern that same day. I love the look of the pattern- lacy but not frilly. It's grounded but lets a bit of sun peek though. A couple of days after I ordered my yarn, I read Bristol's blog and she mentioned the patterned was inspired by Iowa corn fields. I wish I had ordered the yarn in a beautiful green, but it was too late. Maybe I'll have to make another one some day...

I really loved this pattern, even though knitting it was incredible tedious. When you finish the main charted section, it feels like you should be over 50% done, but the knitted border is what really takes the most time. I posted some information on my Ravelry page about what I'd do differently if I made the shawl again, so if you're interested in knitting be sure to check that out. The last 10% of the shawl was pretty nerveracking because I was afraid I was going to run out of yarn. Luckily I had enough to fudge the ending. When the designer says it takes all of the 3 skeins, she isn't kidding.

Shawl in the blocking process. Thank heaven for blocking wires!
I'm not crazy about the faded quilt colorway. I was hoping it would have more blue flecks, but it's mostly a grey. I'm considering the possibility of overdying the shawl in black. I'm hesitant to do so because the entire point of buying a Brooklyn Tweed yarn is for the color variations within the yarn, but it's rather "blah" to me. I'd certainly never knit a shawl like this using black yarn for fear of going blind. I think it might worn more in outfits if I dyed it black, but in it's current state it makes for a good shawl to keep at work. Decisions, decisions. Does anyone have any advice?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

FO: Margrathea

I haven't blogged in awhile, but I swear I have a good excuse. This month I've dealt with my sister's graduation, being on vacation with my family, and a job change. Oh, and I got engaged this past weekend. Whew! (Small aside: a knitting blog I love reading is Carpal Tunnel Bride, check it out if you want to see some very ambitious knitting)

Needless to say all those events didn't leave a lot of room for knitting, but I did manage to finish a birthday present for my Grandma. Please excuse the not-so-great picture quality; they were taken at 11pm the night before it needed to get in the mail to make it to her on time.

pattern: Margrathea by Martina Behm
yarn: Skinny Bugga! in Smaller Yellow Ant
needles: 3s
raveled: Margrathea

I bought the .pdf of this pattern over a year ago and attempted to make one for myself. I don't think I managed to get past the setup lace chart; it just never "clicked" in my mind. I decided to try it again to make a shawlette for my grandma because she had liked the Cedar Leaf Shawlette I made her last year so much. Perhaps the knitting gods smile kindly on my Grandma, because this time I got it. And once I got into the pattern, it flew by pretty quickly.

The yarn was such fun to work with. I've made a couple of things out of Skinny Bugga and it's such a great yarn. In fact, my favorite pair of socks are made out of it. My Grandma loves fall colors, so I bought this yarn many months with her in mind. It cracks me up that she's wearing a color named after a type of ant.

I really like the way it turned out. The color variations look great in this pattern and it's not too lacy.

As for the rest of my knitting, my fourth sweater is languishing but I've picked up my Winnowing Shawl again and I'm making decent progress on the knitted on border. It will still take me a week or so to finish it at the rate I'm going. After that I may swatch for another sweater for a good change of pace.