Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finally Oranje

Oranje is finally finished.  Completely finished. Pictures and everything.

Oranje was certainly a long process beginning with several nights agonizing over whether I should buy yarn to start the project.  Then there were the color decisions.  When the yarn was finally settled on, the knitting itself brought many new challenges--fair-isle with three colors, nine Latvian braids, steeks, and sewing in my first zipper.  Phew!

After finishing the main knitting back in August, there was the pesky problem of reinforcing the steeks so they could be cut.  The sweater sat and sat until it finally made the trip to Atlanta with me in early November where I would have access to a sewing machine.  Not having worked a sewing machine in probably 15 years, I was hopelessly confused.  I'm all grown up, but sometimes I just need my Mom.

I love you Mom! Thank you!
I took the scissors to Oranje immediately after the steeks were sewn.  Leading up to this step, I had not been nervous about cutting my knitting.  I didn't approach the task with fearful anticipation, felt no need to down hard liquor before starting the actual cutting, and didn't hesitate to make that first cut.  However, after I started cutting, my heart started racing.  I think I felt a little dizzy when I hit the colorwork section.

Holding breath...heart pounding...

The steeks were finally behind me, and my pullover was officially a cardigan.

Uh, now what?
Of course since I wanted to be able to close said cardigan, I was left trying to figure out the whole zipper thing.  I had decided early on that I wanted to follow others' examples and insert a zipper instead of buttons.  Had I ever sewn a zipper into a sweater?  Nope.  Had I ever sewn a zipper into anything?  Nah.  I knit facings for the zipper following notes from other finished Oranje sweaters on Ravelry, and then finally sucked it up and sewed in the zipper.  After reading through many, many tutorials, I decided to follow this one.  And you know what?  It totally worked!  Perfectly.  I felt like a rock star when the zipper worked.  Seriously, a ROCK STAR.  I may have sat zipping and unzipping the sweater over and over in amazement and proclaiming to Mike my new rock star status.  Training for a marathon?  Eh, no big deal.  I had sewn a zipper into a sweater.  And the zipper WORKS!

Check out that awesome zipper action!
I have since come back down to Earth, but I have an awesome sweater to remind me whenever I put it on and zip it up that I am a rock star.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Zirkel Socks

My last sock-in-progress is finished--Zirkel Socks, pattern by Stephanie van der Linden.  I just looked up the meaning of "zirkel".  It really should have occurred to me that "zirkel" translates to "circle" without needing to look it up.

I mean look at the pattern and say "zirkel" out loud.  It's not rocket science.  Anyway, moving on.  These socks were mystery socks I started in July. After having so much fun with mystery fair-isle socks last year, I couldn't resist participating in another fair-isle mystery.  And since I adore Stephanie van der Linden's designs, I was even more excited to start getting the clues.  While I didn't love this mystery experience quite as much as before, there were several good lessons learned.

  • Lesson #1:  don't mix yarns in fair-isle that have different fiber content. The green is Three Irish Girls McClellan, a merino/bamboo blend.  I threw it together with a random undyed skein I dug out. Having one shiny yarn and one fuzzy yarn just looks a little weird.  
  • Lesson #2:  remember contrast is key!  There's enough contrast between the green and white but just barely, and a darker color against the white would have looked much better.  
  • Lesson #3:  try not to have expectations for a mystery sock.  I admit I was rather disappointed with the pattern at first, but that was because I had certain expectations based on my earlier experience.  I figured that the design in a mystery sock would evolve so I got bored early on with the same repeating pattern.  
  • Lesson #4:  damn I love knitting fair-isle! (okay, not a "lesson" but an important reminder).  Even with a pattern I wasn't jazzed about and yarn choices that could have been much better, I could barely put these socks down the past week.  Again, fair-isle is calming to me in a way no other knitting can equal.  I've been a little sad since finishing the sock, and it is taking a great deal of restraint for me not to forget the other WIPs so I can cast on more fair-isle!
  • Lesson #5:  I love knitting fair-isle, but really need to get away from fair-isle socks.  I hate the lack of stretch in the leg.  I see mittens in my future.  
  • Lesson #6:  I love stripey feet!  No question, the soles are my favorite part of the pattern. 

Is that a "lesson"?  Probably not, but it needed to be pointed out nonetheless. Finishing Zirkel brings me to 11 projects finished with stash yarn in 2011 (totally going to hit the goal of 12!) and brings the WIP count down to 4.  Only 4!  And 2 of the last 4 are in the finishing stages--I'm totally going to prevail in Operation Conquer the WIPs.  Yup, feeling a little overconfident today.  This will disappear as soon as I finally resurrect the Vivian sweater.

But, let's forget Vivian for now.  Here's a sneak peak of what's coming next!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

November on the Wheel

A few weeks ago I was brainstorming ways to get myself going on this blog again.  The WIP challenge was a big part of it, but I wanted to include some spinning as well.  My first idea was to do a weekly post on my current spins. Though when I thought more about that idea, it seemed rather boring.  Unfortunately I don't have unlimited spinning time so the posts would inevitably be something like "hey, here's the ounce I did this week on the same fiber I posted last week so it looks pretty much the same.  tune in next week for another identical picture".  Uh, yeah, lame.  So the weekly idea was pushed to monthly.  I'm not exactly off to a timely start since I'm posting my November spinning in December. Oh well.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon the  Completely Twisted and Arbitrary Spinning group on Ravelry.  The group is filled with some awesome spinners and fierce fiber enablers (let's just say, Etsy has jumped to the top of the list of websites I visit), but the main feature of the group is a bi-monthly spin-along (SAL).  Members nominate and vote on pictures inspired by a certain theme, and winning pictures are presented to a featured dyer who dyes fiber for the SAL.  I jumped into the group for the August/September SAL with Fiber Optic.  The fiber was awesome and I couldn't resist this brightly colored gradient.

It took several weeks, but I ended up producing a skein I was thrilled with.

What does this September spinning have to do with November?  Well not much except that I never posted that pretty skein, and spinning that fiber got me really enthused about participating in future SALs.  When the group's October/November round started up, I barely hesitated before buying two of the colorways, this time by Two if By Hand.

The two on the right occupied most of my November spinning time.  It took me some time to get started since I was being my typical indecisive self. How thick should I aim for?  Dunno.  How was I going to ply so I could divide evenly?  Couldn't decide.  I gave up on planning and just spun up 8 ounces of singles.

It took several more days of hemming and hawing over what to do next. I finally decided that the colors might come together really well as 3 ply.  I wound a third of the singles off each bobbin and set to plying.

I so love the end result.  So much so that one picture really isn't enough.  Here's a close up.

The only bummer is that I still spin really densely, so both skeins together are only about 325 yards of worsted weight yarn. I have yet to learn the magic by which spinners will get almost twice that yardage. Still, the 300+ yards should be enough for a scarf which is what I was planning on when I bought the fiber, and I'm officially hooked on SALs.  The December/January dyer is Julie Spins.  I've drooled over her shop for a long time but never purchased anything.  Doubt I'll be able to say that much longer.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Wrap-Up

Along with most of 2011, November has flown.  It was definitely one of my more productive knitting months (yay for setting goals!).  While I feel as though I should be able to boast more than 2 finished projects, considering both of those projects were started well over a year ago, I've decided to just be thankful that they have permanently vacated the WIP drawer and move onto December and my ambitious goal of finishing all remaining 5 WIPs.  Part of me wants to laugh out loud at that goal.  The other part is downright determined.

Speaking of determination, this is also my first big test on the marathon training schedule (last week was an easy week to recover from the Annapolis Half): 7 miles Tuesday, 4 on Thursday, and 15 (?!) on Saturday.   Seriously, 15.  Gah!  The 7 miler went well yesterday and 4 should be fine tomorrow, but Wednesday is cross-training day on the schedule.  I just dragged myself in the door from work and errands and would like nothing more than to settle down on the couch with my sock-in-progress, perhaps with a puppy cuddled next to me, and do nothing but knit for the rest of the evening.  But I'm not going to do that.  I'm going to go climb on my bike trainer and stick to the training schedule.

So sadly for now, the bike trainer trumps blogging about my November spinning project.  It started with 8 ounces of polwarth fiber beautifully dyed by Two if By Hand.

The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cabled Mitts and the Magic of Charts

And another WIP goes down.

Pattern:  Glorious Cabled Mitts (Ravelry pattern)
Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 in Cherry Mist

I may have inched along initially on the second mitt, but once I hit the chart it was all over.  Something about being able to cross row after row off makes me a more productive knitter.  And well, once I finished the chart, I was just SO close that it didn't take too much effort to push through the last few inches of ribbing.

Pattern mods:  cast on 64 stitches instead of 72 and took out cables that are supposed to run alongside the lattice pattern.  As written, these would have been rather roomy and I like my mittens snug.  I lengthened the top ribbing so that it would cover my entire palm and knuckles.  This has never been a project I've had much enthusiasm for, but the end result is a nice pair of soft squishy mitts that I will wear as soon as mother nature realizes it's autumn and shouldn't be 60 degrees.

Yarn:  With 20 percent cashmere this yarn is soft and smooth and feels wonderful.  It doesn't have a super tight twist but isn't too splity and I liked the light feel compared to some of my denser sock yarns.  The one thing I really don't care for is the color.  The yarn can't decide whether it wants to be red or pink.  The end result is a sort of washed out red with lots of white splotches.  I've been told yarn is sometimes dyed like this on purpose to create a certain effect knitted up, but honestly it just looks like the skein wasn't fully dyed to me. I think one of these days, the mitts are going to take a swim in the crock pot with some red food coloring.

This brings me to ten projects finished with stash yarn this year and down to five WIPs.  Of the five projects left there are two that I've thought it might be a longshot to finish by the end of the year.  The first of those is an elaborately cabled sweater; the second is a pair of fair-isle socks.  The socks were started last summer as a mystery KAL.  I put them aside after finishing the leg and heel flap for both socks.  At the time, I wasn't in love with the pattern or my yarn choice.  For whatever reason, on Friday evening I settled onto the couch and pulled out these socks.  It only took about two rows before I was completely enthralled.  I knit for hours and finished more than half the foot.  By Sunday evening I was grafting the toe.

I credit the chart.  Every time I pick up a fair-isle project, I'm reminded how much I love stranded knitting.  Cable and lace charts will keep me motivated, but there is something magical about color charts that make me unable to put down the project.  After finishing the first sock, I figured I would try to finish off a couple of other projects before moving onto the second sock, but last night when I couldn't fall asleep, I reached for the sock and knit ten rows before putting it back down and going to sleep.

When I got home this evening, tired and with a headache, I went straight to the sock.  The gusset decreases are now finished and I'm itching to get back to it.  I don't think I'm going to have any problem finishing this project by the end of December.  The same cannot be said for the cabled sweater.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Next Big Thing

I was so geared up Friday night for the Annapolis half marathon because I had a very specific goal:  finish under two hours.

I came home with stiff tired legs, a big smile, and a nice feeling of accomplishment.  I stopped my watch a little late, and my official time was 1:52:26.  While I would love to think I finished a half marathon in that time, my watch also reads 12.71 for distance.  Uh, that's supposed to be 13.1.  Everyone I talked to had roughly the same distance so it seems that the course was a little short.  Even if I add an extra four minutes to my time to account for the difference, I still would have come in around 1:56, well under the two hour goal.  Accordingly, race photos show me with a big smile as I crossed the finish line.

A day and a half later, and I might still have that same smile.

A performance I feel good about at the Annapolis race also brings with it some nervous excitement for my next big athletic endeavor. A few months ago, I started considering the idea of training for a full marathon.  I had never aspired to run such a distance (of course until last year, I had never really considered running a half either), but with Mike gearing up to start training for his Ironman triathlon next summer, I'm motivated to do something big.  Something that requires a lot of work and dedication.  And for whatever reason, the half-Ironman triathlon I'll be doing in June didn't seem to be enough (yeah, that just sounds crazy--I have no explanation).  I focused my attention on the Annapolis half to see how I felt at 13 miles before making any decisions about aiming for 26.2.  Feeling good and having a strong performance at Annapolis sealed the deal.  Training for the Shamrock marathon on March 18, 2012, officially begins next week. 

I haven't quite figured out details, but I'm fairly certain a yarn/fiber incentive or reward should be worked into my training program.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I feel like I've knit a good bit this week.  The evidence, however, does not support that statement.

I was so completely bored with with this project, I considered giving up and relegating these mitts to the frog pond.  As soon as I bound off the first mitt, I cast on the second, and my enthusiasm has finally started to pick back up.  I'm still clearly inching along, but at least I'm enjoying the knitting now instead of cursing every stitch.

I've taken a bit of a break from knitting this evening, as I'm too preoccupied with pre-race excitement to think about much else. I'm bouncing around the house eagerly anticipating a bright and early morning when I'll be running 13.1 miles at the Annapolis Half Marathon.  I've been gearing up for this race ever since my somewhat disappointing end to triathlon season about six weeks ago (two flats and cramping calves did not quite translate to the finish I was hoping for).  Unlike my first half marathon last year, I know I can run the distance.  Last year I was nervous; tonight I'm just feeling psyched and ready to go.  This evening I brought home some new running gear and have spent the evening trying on possible race outfits and gathering my supplies. 

Bring it on Annapolis!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Back on Track

I spent very little time with my knitting needles this past weekend.  Instead, I have a much cleaner house and sore legs from an almost 12 mile run.  As I contemplate starting marathon training, I shudder that soon 12 miles will be a recovery run, but that’s a subject for another day.  Despite very little knitting time, 20 hours in the car the weekend prior equated to most of a second sock.  I finished the foot by Friday evening, and despite spending hours scrubbing cabinets and floors or pounding the pavement this weekend, I was able to squeeze in finishing the toe Sunday night to cross off one more WIP from list. 

Have I mentioned I hate taking pictures of socks?

Pattern:  Cauchy from Sock Innovation by Cookie A.
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy in Tea Party

These socks have a long history.  A very long time ago, Mike asked for dark brown socks.  I was excited at the idea at first, especially as I began yarn shopping.  I settled on the raved-about Dream in Color Smooshy, which I had never used, and cast on for Simple Skyp socks.  This was October 2009 (I had to look back to an old Ravelry post to find that info).  I didn’t like the yarn/pattern combo, and a few inches into the first leg, I ripped it completely.  According to my Ravelry project page, I started Cauchy in April 2010.  Progress was slow.   In July, with less than one leg finished, Cauchy made a brief blog appearance with the goal of finishing the pair in December.  It's obvious that I meant December 2011, not 2010, right?

I honestly can’t remember much about that first sock until I picked it back up a couple of months ago with the heel flap halfway done. Sock one was finished by the time I finalized my Operation Conquer the WIPs mission.  I was less than an inch into the second sock when I left for Atlanta.  By the time we reached my parents’ house, the leg was finished.  On the return trip, I turned the heel and knit until my fingers ached.  I bitched and whined these last few days as I slogged through the rest of the sock, but now, over two years after Mike made that simple request, I can finally deliver him some damn brown socks. I wonder how long it will take me to finally hand over the brown sweater I've started for him three times? 

Details:  I skipped the picot cuff and instead cast on 64 stitches and knit eight rows of 2x2 ribbing.  I then increased to 66 before beginning the chart.  The pattern is written for 60 stitches with a 10-stitch repeat.  I threw in one extra stitch in between the purl zig-zags to make it an 11 stitch repeat to size it up.

Verdict:  Easy pattern, nice texture, good guy sock without being mind-numbingly boring, although certainly not the most exciting knit either.  Even though this was the first skein of Smooshy I purchased, this is my second finished pair of Smooshy socks.  I know there are loads of knitters that adore this yarn, but I am not one of them.  To me it feels rough and is hard on my hands.  The sock feels like it will be extremely durable and the fabric has a nice feel now that the socks have gone for a swim, but it's not worth an unhappy knitting experience.  I breathed a heavy sigh of relief last night when I moved onto the next WIP and felt the soft merino cashmere yarn sliding through my fingers.  Next up: cabled fingerless mittens.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Handspun Exception, Part II

Since I learned to knit about five years ago, I’ve finished sweaters, socks, scarves, hats, mittens, shawls, slippers, toys, and a baby blanket.  I have not, however, managed to finish an afghan despite starting several.  Afghan attempt one was to knit a square a month in 2009 to make a patchwork afghan.  To date, I’ve only finished four squares.  This first afghan project was derailed when in April of 2009, I fell victim to the craze over Shelly Kang’s mitered sock yarn afghan.  I expected the sock yarn blanket would be a three to five year project.  Over two and half years later, and I’m less than a quarter finished.  I will have to pick up the pace significantly to make the five year goal.  I seriously doubt that will happen though as my attention is now only on afghan attempt three—the epic handspun afghan. 

I wrote about my handspun afghan dream several months ago when I was struggling with color challenges.  I heeded my advice, and my next two fiber purchases were much more subdued colors.

Both braids are blue-faced leicester (BFL) dyed by Miss Babs.  The first braid I spun on my spindle before I had my wheel, and after plying, I had a nice light worsted weight yarn in soft colors.  Definite potential for afghan yarn.  My only hesitation was that the BFL fiber was not superwash, and really, did I want to contemplate handwashing an afghan?  While I may come to regret this decision later, I ignored my reservations and started knitting.  A few days later, I had square one of my handspun afghan.

Add to square one, a spinning wheel, another fiber purchase from Miss Babs, and a few months of spinning and knitting time:

I think the blanket will eventually have 15 or 16 squares (each is over 12 inches long/wide), so I’m at least a quarter finished with the squares.  Knitting blanket squares is the other handspun knitting exception that is taking away from Operation Conquer the WIPs, and thus, square five is well underway. 

So lately I’ve been knitting handspun cowls, a hat, and a blanket square, and not one stitch on the Angostura vest.  Operation Conquer clearly has success written all over it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Handspun Exception, Part I

If I have any hope of actually finishing my seven current WIPs before the end of the year, a challenge I’ve come to think of as Operation Conquer the WIPs, it sort of goes without saying that I shouldn’t cast on new projects.  However, to preserve my sanity and to avoid knitting feeling completely like work, I have allowed myself a couple of exceptions—mainly that I’m allowed to work on small projects with handspun yarn.  The handspun skeins are starting to pile up and several are floating around that are only about 100-200 yards.   I’ve been perusing patterns for these skeins for months and recently have been dying to get going on a few.  

In the last week, despite proclaiming my dedication to Operation Conquer, I started two new projects.

Yarn spun from Fiber Optic superwash merino in "Peacock"

The hat is going along well enough, but I when stumbled onto designer Carina Spencer’s Ravelry pattern page last week, I saw Betula Ring and realized I had a handspun skein that might work.  The yarn I had in mind is little lighter than the bulky weight called for, but I bought the pattern anyway and cast on in minutes.  Less than 24 hours later I was binding off.  About 48 hours after that the cowl was blocked, dried, and had buttons.

Yarn spun from Bee Mice Elf superwash merino fiber in "Old Flame"

I’ve never been a huge fan of cowls, but I liked that this one could be worn in different ways so I gave it a shot.  The pattern absolutely flies, and with the unusually cold few days we had last weekend, I even got a chance to wear it.

Yup, totally bribed Rugby and Juno to participate in photo shoot

I may or may not have purchased that grey shirt while making the cowl so I would have something to wear with it.  This cowl is actually my first completely finished project made with my own handspun yarn. I enjoyed making this so much, I had to talk myself out of casting on another one right away with more handspun.  That only lasted a few days.  I cast on a second one today.

Off to pack now since I'm leaving for Atlanta tomorrow.  Ten hours in the car should make for some productive knitting time.   I really should leave the handspun projects at home and only bring Angostura and a sock, but....nah.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Once upon a time, I started knitting a shawl.  It was so long ago that I can't remember exactly when, but there's no doubt it was well over a year ago.  The shawl pattern was Ishbel.  It's hard to go anywhere around the virtual knitting world without running into this shawl.  If you've knit at least a couple of shawls, good chance that one of them was Ishbel.  I'm a couple years late to the Ishbel party, but it's finally finished.

Like most new projects, I started out like gangbusters and quickly finished the stockinette middle section. I have no idea what happened next, but it did not involve knitting on this shawl for a long long time.  Ishbel was buried in a drawer.  I occasionally even forgot about it.  When I finally made it back to Ishbel to start the lace section, I could only manage two rows before stuffing it right back in the drawer where it was neglected again for weeks, sometimes months, at a time.  Obviously at that pace, progress was slow.  I usually like knitting lace, but my mind has been so foggy this year that even simple lace patterns have seemed extremely tedious.  Thus, Ishbel sat.  And sat. 

When my determination to clear out WIPs kicked in earlier this month, I finally gritted my teeth and dealt with Ishbel forcing myself to knit at least a few rows every night.  I really enjoy knitting the first half to two-thirds of shawls, but once the rows become so long that it takes fifteen minutes to get through each one, I start to drag.  One night I managed six rows with the help of two hours of Battle: Los Angeles (gotta love a good brainless action movie, especially when there are aliens).  A few episodes of Vampire Diaries and the Walking Dead (yup, vampires and zombies also totally fun to watch) got me through the last chart and epically-long bind off. 

So Ishbel is finished.  Finally.  Ishbel puts me at eight projects finished with stash yarn this year (the goal of twelve might still be within reach!) and a little more progress on the sock yarn stashdown.

October update: 
Current score: -3
Skeins acquired: 0
Skeins used/destashed: 2 (1 for Ishbel; 1 skein sold)

New sock yarn stashdown score: -5.  Best score yet!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cleaning House

Somewhat unsurprisingly, a couple of weeks of relatively focused knitting did indeed result in a finished shawl.  Go figure, right?  I mean who could have predicted that outcome?  I’m sure that logically I have always understood this concept, but it took some new-found determination for me to start putting it into practice.

Around mid-November last year I embarked on my great WIP knit-down of 2010.  I started with 14 knitting projects.  After six weeks, seven were finished, three were ripped, and I was left with a significantly smaller WIP pile and some serious knitting burnout.  Nevertheless, slaving away on the Scarecrow socks was the first step toward my even more ambitious goal for this year—clear out ALL the WIPs.  I shudder a little bit even just writing that.   It’s a lofty goal to be sure, but hey, aim high?  And I started a month earlier than last year. That's totally going to make the difference, right?

I have seven active WIPs (conveniently all pictured to the right) that I hope to finish up by the end of the year:  two sweaters, two pairs of socks, fingerless mitts, a vest, and a skirt.  I’m trying to forget that three of these projects were on the original 2010 list—the Vivian sweater, Cauchy socks, and the cabled mitts.  I’m apparently still not quite ready to go back to these three yet since  next on my chopping block is the Angostura vest from Ysolda Teague’s Little Red in the City.  I was dying to start this vest all summer and finally cast on in early September.  I flew through the back until I hit the armhole shaping.  I tried to follow the pattern, but it didn’t look right and after ripping and reknitting a couple of times without success, I put the back aside and started the front.  I didn’t make it too far before it was cast aside.

Angostura in its current state of neglect

Even though I moved onto the front, the issue with the back still frustrated me, and there were a few other issues that probably contributed to my abandonment.  The yarn is Malabrigo Rios, which is heavenly, but since I didn’t buy the skeins together, I’m alternating skeins every two rows.  I’m not a fan of juggling two skeins (that whole tangling problem I have), and one of the skeins has some light spots which is driving me crazy.  It’s funny how small details like these will make me chuck a project right to the bottom of the closet.  I’m still not looking forward to going back to the vest, but maybe a few nights of steady knitting and tangible progress will bring back that initial enthusiasm.  Hopefully I'll have something to show soon!

Oh, and to clarify “all the WIPs” does not include my epic afghan projects (I’m not that crazy) or the few projects currently classified as “hibernating” on Ravelry,  like the sweater that I’ve only knit a few inches of one sleeve or the socks that I still need to spin yarn to finish.   There’s aiming high and then there’s just plain delusional.  

Friday, October 7, 2011


I recently came to understand something ridiculously obvious: if you knit on the same project every night, you will make progress.  Not exactly a news flash, but I'm still amazed it actually worked and that I finished a sock.  A pair of socks over two weeks used to be fairly normal for me, but since the last pair stretched out over five months, I haven't exactly had any speedy expectations on finishing the next pair.  Yet after a few nights of steady knitting, I have new finished socks.

Before I get too excited about finishing the second sock in a couple of weeks, I should remember that I started these in January.  For the last couple years, ran a Wizard of Oz themed sock club.  I only signed up to receive a couple of the kits, and the Scarecrow kit was not one of them.  When I saw the pictures though, I really loved it.  I managed to buy the yarn and pattern.  At some point halfway down the foot of the first sock, I had the "what was I thinking?" moment.

The colors?  Way too bright and crazy.  Not me at all.

Realizing the socks were not quite to my taste meant I buried them away until a few weeks ago when I made up my mind to clear out my WIPs.  I forced myself to knit at least five or ten rows each night.  Some nights I knit more.  Before I knew it, I turned the heel.  A couple more nights of knitting and a day of long conference calls got me to the toe.  And I admit, I do love the stripey toes.

I still can't say I love the socks, but finishing them means one more WIP crossed off the list, one more 2011 stash project finished (up to 7 now), and another skein of sock yarn I can count as used.  Success!!

Sock yarn stashdown progress:
Most recent score: -4.
New skeins acquired: 2 (Aug and Sep club skeins).
Skeins used: 1

New total: -3

I have a shawl that has been sitting about as long as these socks. Probably longer. I honestly can't even remember when I cast it on.  I think I'll put my new found discovery to work and try to focus on just a few rows every night and see what happens.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Last Tuesday there was an earthquake and four days later, Hurricane Irene arrived.  Earthquake, hurricane...I'm on the lookout for locusts.  Thankfully, Irene did little damage in the D.C. area, and the only effects I felt were a whole lot of rain and some wind and the ten-mile race in Annapolis was understandably cancelled.  I would never wish for a hurricane, but I can't say I was disappointed to hunker down inside all day Saturday as it rained and rained and rained some more.  No feeling of needing to run errands, or bike thirty miles, or even take the dogs for a long walk (it took some work to convince them to go outside at all).  I suppose there are a number of tasks I could have done around the house--clean out closets, organize the mountain of paper on the dining room table, or maybe just vacuum, but I didn't do any of those.  I sat at my spinning wheel.  All day.  Except when I took a break for a nap.  I had it rough, I know.

By the time Hurricane Irene worked her way up to New England, I had finished my first skein of sock weight handspun.

3 ply, 385 yards, light fingering

This is my thinnest spinning attempt to date.  Spinning the fiber went well, although I ran into some problems with underspun singles when I was plying. Fibers drifted apart, and on more than one occasion, I would realize the last ten yards I had just plied only had two plies instead of three.  Definitely not perfect but very usable I think, and I love it.  Thank you Irene!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I finished something. It's been so long, I almost can't believe it.

I started these socks April 1st.  I finished the first sock at the end of May.  I thought sock number two would go a little more quickly than two months.  Nope.  Just shy of three actually.  Most days I only knit a round or two while I waited for my computer to boot up at work.  Occasionally I got in four or five rounds waiting at a doctor's office or in between runs at agility class.  Clearly I was not enamored enough of the socks to keep knitting when I got home.  No wonder they took forever.

The pattern is Knotty or Knice by Chrissy Gardiner from the Fall 2008 issue of Interweave Knits, and although I like the way they came out, they were not fun to knit.  Those little cabled knots were seriously tedious.  The pattern was easy to memorize, but there were anywhere from three to twenty-four cabled stitches in a round.  Seriously, twenty-four.  I counted.  Twice.

At least they look good after all that work.  I'm still really happy the experience is over. 

This is my first finished pair of socks for 2011.  Sheesh, my knitting productivity this year has been pitiful.  I blame the spinning wheel.  I wonder what my excuse should be for the four months prior to owning a wheel? 

Probably due to the lack of finished objects, I haven't been keeping up with posting my sock yarn stashdown progress.  However, finishing a pair of socks has motivated me to see where I stand.

Score at the end of May: +3
New skeins acquired: 2 (club skeins)
Skeins de-stashed: 4 sold
Skeins used up: 5 (Knotty socks=1; Oranje sweater=4)

New Score: -4.  Back in the negative!

I have three more socks in progress.  I've challenged myself to finish all three pairs before casting on any new socks.  I think I can do it.  It just might mean no new socks until 2012.

And on a completely unrelated note, yes I experienced the earthquake yesterday.  I was at home, and I realized it was an earthquake right away since I was awake for the mini-quake that hit last summer.  It totally freaked me out, and I could happily live the rest of my life without experiencing another.  Now I'm eagerly watching the Hurricane Irene forecasts.  It's looking like it will stay a little east of the Maryland coast but currently it's predicted to reach this area Sunday morning--right around the time I'm supposed be running 10 miles in Annapolis.  Could make for an interesting race.

Monday, August 22, 2011


August is flying by, and while I'm behind on several tasks (like the three blog posts that never made it out of my head), Oranje has recovered from timeout. 

I said I wasn't going to rip those rows with the loose and gaping stitches, but they looked like crap and had to go.



No explanation for the difference.  I'm sure I should care so I could avoid the problem on future projects, but in all honesty, I don't.  It looks good now and that's all that matters.  I finished the main portion of the collar the same night but was bored to death once I started the stripey rows for the collar facing.  I was so close to the end but completely unmotivated.  So Oranje sat on my dresser.  And sat.  One day I picked it up, knit half a round, put it back down, and it sat some more. A few days ago I sucked it up, sat down with the sweater, knit the last ten stripes, and bound off. Tonight, Oranje finally went for a swim in the bathtub and is currently pinned to my guest room floor drying.

I would be really excited about the fact that it's almost finished except that I'm completely lost when it comes to finishing the last few steps.  I have to cut it the steeks.  Cutting my knitting doesn't really freak me out.  I'm sure I'll need to take a deep breath when I finally take the scissors to the sweater, but I'm actually looking forward to that part.  Where I'm totally and completely lost is sewing the steek reinforcement.  I honestly don't know where to begin.  I've looked at half a dozen steeking tutorials, and I'm still clueless.  I know I need to machine sew two lines on either side of the steek, but here are the problems:

I don't own a sewing machine.
I haven't used a sewing machine in about fifteen years, maybe longer.
I don't understand the concept of how the sweater, currently a tube, can be fed through the machine.
I don't know what color thread to use.
I don't even really understand where I need to sew.  Along the steek stitches or right outside?

I am so confused.  And sadly, even if I manage to figure out the steek situation, I want to put in a zipper instead of buttons, and I'm equally clueless on adding a zipper to knitting.  Oranje is clearly going to be a struggle until the end.

Monday, August 8, 2011


When I'm really into a knitting project, sometimes I actually kind of enjoy my insomnia, but more often than not, my early morning knitting often comes back to bite me.  Last Friday morning around 4am, I found myself unable to sleep and happily knitting away on my Oranje sweater.  I finished a section of colorwork that had been taking an extra long time (there were three colors in each row and I'm not so good with juggling a third color).  Excited to have finished that section, I immediately moved onto the short rows for the back of the neck before heading back to bed.  I was happy with my progress but wasn't thrilled with how it looked at this point.  It seemed like a lot of white on the neck and my colorwork in that last section looked terribly sloppy.

With a clearer head the next day, I took a closer look at the pattern.  I quickly realized that I missed the instruction to switch colors when starting the neck short rows.  Ops.  Okay, so there was going to be some ripping.  I continued to study the pattern and noticed that the triangles that I had just finished in a sort of checkerboard pattern according to the pattern chart did not match the triangles on the sample sweater.  The one pictured has striped triangles.  If I had liked how my triangles looked, I wouldn't have cared, but when I looked at them again, I was even more displeased.

They were a complete mess.  The colors were muddled and my tension was all uneven.  Friday night was thus spent ripping back and re-knitting the triangles and neck shaping. 

It was a rockin' Friday night.  Don't you all wish your lives were as exciting as mine? 

I was really happy with the results.  The striped triangles looked much better, and the blue neckband was a big improvement.  On Saturday, I moved onto the next section--a simple checkerboard in the blue and brown.  Easy peasy, I thought to myself, and I knocked out those few rows in no time.  Then I inspected my work.

Gulp. Some of my stitches were HUGE.  A couple of those blue ones are twice the size as the brown stitches.  And some of the brown ones on the bottom row are so big, it looks like I put in a row of eyelets.

Seriously, WTF?  I'm relatively experienced at colorwork, and my tension is usually pretty even, so I'm completely thrown. I'd have no problem ripping back those rows if I had a clue what was going on and knew I could fix it.  When I knit with two colors I hold one color in each hand, so I must be knitting a zillion times more loosely with one hand, or stretching out the stitch I'm knitting into, or something, but which?  And why all of a sudden?  And if I knit it again, will it look the same? 

Having no answers, Oranje is buried back in a bag in timeout.  I don't think I'm going to rip those rows back.  I'm sort of afraid I'll screw up the braid, the uneven stitches really aren't that noticeable, and well, I just don't want to.  But I'm annoyed enough that I'm not ready to continue knitting either.   Maybe in a few days when we've both had a little time away from each other, Oranje and I will get it straightened out.   Just not at 4 am.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Wool

I really thought I would post several times during the Tour de Fleece. Clearly, that did not pan out.  I had a pretty successful first Tour--started out like gangbusters, had a minor flame out in the middle, but recovered and finished strong.

The final tally was five skeins and over 1200 yards. 

Successes:  Spinning over one pound of fiber.  Learning to navajo ply.

Where I came up short:  I did not spin every day of the Tour (those flame out days).  I did not even come close to finishing the skein I was spinning with my spindle.  I did not finish a laceweight skein.  

That just means I already have goals for next year.

I really did enjoy the Tour, and I'm still loving my wheel.  After three weeks of spinning almost daily, I do need a little bit of a break.  Luckily several knitting projects are scattered about the house to keep me busy.  Only one of them, however, is getting attention--the Oranje sweater. 

I flew through the sleeves on a road trip a couple of weeks ago, and I've continued to work steadily along since then.  I'm surprised that despite several 100-degree days, I'm still knitting along on a wool sweater instead of turning to a cotton tank top or something, but I'm not going to question productive knitting.

What I am going to do is go play with the puppy who keeps pawing the keyboard.  Either Juno really wants to contribute to the blog or she needs a little attention.  I'm guessing the latter.