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.