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.