Friday, February 29, 2008

Lies Beneath the Ocean Waves

This is at least the third Friday this month that I've started a new project:


I'm 3/4 done with the legs, which is a pretty good start. The yarn is Cascade 220 from Renaissance Yarns (leap day sale + gift card = no guilt). The pattern is Octopus (Ravelry Link) by Hansi Singh and you can find it (and other very cute patterns) on Hansi's Etsy site. I saw this pattern for the first time yesterday, and as I am incapable of independent thought, and I have maybe five friends expecting babies, I now have six tentacles. The pattern is very detailed and has great instructional photos--I'm very impressed with it and I've enjoyed the knitting so far, too. More legs to follow!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why Do You Taunt Me, Cascade 220?


The downside of being inspired by all of the beautiful knitwear that people bring to Madrona is the feeling that I, too, should have made something gorgeous to wear. It's not like I didn't know that it was coming, or that I didn't think about it ahead of time, but I was still sorry that I didn't have a Bohus sweater or a Bee Fields Shawl to wear. The other downside of Madrona is that you immediately start thinking about the whole year you have to knit something, and how great it is to start a new project, and if you bought the pattern AT Madrona, well, that's even better.

So that brings us to the swatches--I spent much of last week swatching for Vickie's Cardigan (Ravelry link), the pattern I bought from Black Water Abbey. I really love the Black Water Abbey Yarns (the colors are AMAZING), but given that I haven't finished a sweater in about 10 years, I decided to go with a less expensive option. Cascade 220 fits the bill--it's inexpensive, comes in a lot of colors, and I have a Renaissance gift card. If this cardigan works out, there's another Black Water Abbey pattern that I have my eye on, and another opportunity to use their yarn.

Swatching is, as always, trying, but on a sweater a small gauge problem can get big in a hurry, and I want this to be a spectacular, wear to Madrona sweater. I pulled out a ball of Cascade 200 Heathers from my stash, started swatching with the recommended needle size (US7), and within a few rows decided that it was going to be much too big. Ripped it out. Dropped two sizes (I had no 6's on me), knit a giant swatch. Washed it--much too tight. Went up to size 6, knit the diamond cable and then a few inches of the gauge pattern. Washed it--still too tight. Went up to a size 7, knit a swatch. Washed it. Gauge is perfect. Arrrrrrgh--hours of swatch time wasted, when I could have just followed through with the size 7.

Now that I'm happy with the gauge, I have only to wait for my yarn to arrive. Renaissance carries maybe a hundred or a hundred and fifty colors of Cascade, and is very well-stocked. Of course, the only color that I can possibly settle for (a dark heather blue), is a few skeins short of what I need, so I have to sit on my hands for a little while longer. Good thing that I have a few other projects available to work on . . .

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Madrona, Part 3: Haapsalu Rätik Estonian Lace

I know that it's been almost a week since the end of Madrona, and that this weekend evernyone's at Stitches West, but I wanted to finish up my class project from Nancy Bush's Haapsalu Rätik class before posting. The project was a little sample shawl, using traditional techniques. The shawl consists of a center panel with a lily-of-the-valley motive, and a border that is knit in two halves and then sewn to the center. Here's the my tiny shawl before blocking:


Here it is during blocking:


And here it is, complete (except for weaving in the ends):


I really enjoyed this class, although it was a LOT of pretty intensive knitting in six hours. I made it through the center and most of the first border during class, and knit the second half of the border after I got home. Sewing the border on was the toughest part, because I was already cross-eyed from knitting when Nancy demonstrated it. The handout instructions are very good, though, and once I got past the first corner turn it wasn't so bad. I mean, I'll probably never sew a lace border on ever again, but for a small rectangle it is manageable.

Looking at the photos above, I could have done a better job of blocking the points out evenly. I didn't use blocking wires, because my wires are so much bigger than the sides of the rectangle. The angle of the camera exaggerates the difference between the top and bottom a little, but there is a difference. If I decide to DO something with this (maybe put it in a frame?), I'll reblock it and sew in the ends.

Lily up close

close-up of the center

Before this class, I was a little afraid of nupps (the mini-bobbles that make up the flowers, see), but with Nancy's instruction they weren't tough at all, even though I was using blunt clover bamboo needles. At the risk of sounding overly fawning, Nancy's class was really great--she has so much knowledge about what she's teaching, and is clearly not afraid to challenge her students. I learned a lot, and I'm looking forward to knitting something full-sized using the lily of the valley motive. Bring on the nupps!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

To Gather Flowers Constantly

The first class I took at Madrona was Ruth Sørensen's Kauni Hat class. Ruth designed a batch of 10 or 12 gorgeous hat patterns using Kauni yarn, and brought a giant bag of yarn for each of us to choose from. I chose the low-crown flowered hat, and these two colors:


The colors in my stash are grey and blue, so I thought that these would be a good change--and I wanted a lot of contrast, so these fit the bill. Strangely enough, my next-seat-over neighbor used a black/gray skein with red, and reversed where she used them. She finished her hat VERY quickly, and it looks great--I just love those goofy flowers. Evidently, there was blue in her "black" skein--I totally missed that.

While we knit, Ruth talked about the properties of Kauni, and showed us a ton things she designed using Kauni and similar yarns. Stephanie posted some photos yesterday of the extremely cute skirt that Ruth designed using one color of Kauni, I was too overstimulated by choices to take any photos during class. This was a three hour class, and although I spent the bulk of it knitting up to the picot edge of my hat, I really enjoyed it. It was enough time to get a good start on the hat, and it was really inspiring listening to Ruth talking about her designs. I've got two different colors of Kauni, and while I like those rainbow cardigans a lot, I'd like to do something that is a little less square-y. I've also been a little concerned about the scratchy texture, since I'm a little bit sensitive to wool, and it was good to feel the sample hats, which were quite a bit softer after washing.

I worked more on the hat after I got home on Saturday, but I'm not quite to the flower section yet:


I started with the darkest end of the neutral skein, and the brightest end of the red skein. Conveniently, both were in the center. My hope is that there will be a lot of contrast this way, but who knows? It's funny to me that the neutral color looks so much darker on the hat that it does in the skein, and that the red looks so bright, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they change. But I'm almost done with the class project from Sunday, so I might have to wrap that up first . . .

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saturday and Sunday, Everybody Rocks

Glass Viking Ship

The Madrona Fiber Arts Festival was this past weekend, and I'm really, really grateful that today is a holiday so that I can rest up! In addition to attending Lucy Neatby's talk on Friday, I took a half-day class on Saturday and a full-day class on Sunday. The whole weekend was so inspiring that I'm going to break it up into a few posts rather than end up rushing through just for the satisfaction of pushing the "publish post" button. Fingers crossed that I don't totally space out on anything!!

I'm still working on my class projects (one will take a long time, but I'm hoping to wrap up the other one today), so I'll put off writing about those for now, and just give you my general impressions, especially vs. last year.

One thing that was very different for me was the number of knitters I knew this year, either from classes I've taken or from the knitting groups I attend. Last year, I went to a few events and took two classes, and I literally knew nobody at all (except my mom, who went to one event with me and shopped during one of my classes). I didn't walk away feeling like I'd really met anyone, either, which is fine--I didn't feel that anyone was unfriendly, and it doesn't really bother me to do things by myself. I do think that I enjoyed it more this year, though--it was really nice to run into so many friendly faces, and have people to exchange vital shopping information with!

Also, a couple of people on Ravelry made Ravelry avatar id tags, and although I neglected to request one (it was a super busy week, I was barely online at all), the tags were a great idea and I saw a lot of them around. In one of my classes, I sat next to C_____a and across from A___C both of whom I recognized right away from their Ravatars. C_____a uses a photo of herself as an avatar, so it's not surprising that I'd make the connection, but A__C has recently been using Sigmund the sea monster, and I'd never have made that connection without the tag!

So, what didn't I like about Madrona. . . . hmmm. Nothing really bothered me this year. The hotel is under construction and is a total mess, but it really didn't inconvenience me, and I think that it will be beautiful and interesting when it's finished. The makeover is long overdue. The hotel is using Tacoma's city-of-art-glass reputation as a starting point and going hog-wild with it, though I don't think anyone will really believe that they are in Murano when they are really in Tacoma. I love the glass viking ships in the lobby (example above), and my understanding is that the renovated rooms have a clean, modern feel. I decided that in my bid to be frugal now for my trip in May, I should cancel the night I'd planned to stay at the hotel, and earmark that money for the Marketplace, and given the renovations I think I made the right decision.

Oh, the Marketplace? You want to hear about the Marketplace? It was bigger this year than last year, with some great vendors that were totally new to me. It's really a nice mix of people who travel from show to show and have a fairly specialized set of products, and a few local yarn stores that have a more comprehensive selection. I saw a LOT of stuff I liked, but decided to concentrate on a smaller quantity of unusual items. I exceeded my budget a little, but not by too much, and the things that I bought are not readily available locally so I feel fine about it.

Here's what I bought:


1 skein of sock yarn from Tactile Fiber Arts, a company that is new to my stash. Their booth was small, but the wall of sock yarn was just gorgeous--the colors blended together so well that it was very tough to make a decision, and also very tough to walk away with just one skein. I have no idea what this color looks like on your monitor, and I'm not totally sure what it is in real life, either. I thought it was a corally dark pink when I bought it, and when I took it outside it looked more red, and the photo above looks kind of orangey. The base yarn is very nice (reminds me of Louet), and the yardage is generous.

Now, the super special yarn that will have to wait for a super special pattern to do it justice:


1,000 yards of handpainted, laceweight cashmere, in the prettiest blues evah. EVAH. It's from Just Our Yarn, and I walked into their booth to take a look at this particular yarn (I researched the vendors in advance, so I wasn't walking in blind), and I immediately walked out with two skeins.

That's it for yarn--when I think of it as three skeins, it doesn't sound bad, right? I also picked up 4 oz. of Bamboo roving from Tactile, I was looking for some to make thrummed mitts ala Grumperina. I also bought a couple of patterns from Black Water Abbey Yarns, they had some beautiful samples out. Someday, I will have a Texture Tote and a Vickie's Cardigan on the needles, but I had the foresight to realize that today is not that day, even though I am all of a sudden very interested in starting a big, cabled project.

Whew! I think that that's more than enough for one post. It's time for my weekday holiday nap, assuming that I can get some dachshunds onboard for that plan!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lucy Neatby is the Coolest

Mom and I went to Madrona last night to check out the Marketplace and attend the evening talk & teacher's gallery. I have no photos to prove that I was there, but I have to say how much I enjoyed Lucy Neatby's talk about design. Her background and designs are pretty unique--for instance, the vest she was wearing had maybe 20 or 30 bright colors in a South American style pattern with a few bicycles thrown in. It's a beautiful piece of knitting, and it appeals to me even though I tend not to wear bright colors, but it's the kind of design that is so unexpected that it makes you think "where did THAT come from?" Lucy's talk really demonstrated the link between her design inspirations and her actual life--the landscape she lives in, her interests and those of her family, textiles she collected as a merchant Navy officer. It was a really inspiring talk, and it reminded me that I've got these mittens in my Ravelry queue and I should get cracking on some of my WIPs so that I can start them. I really wanted to take a class with Lucy this year, but couldn't quite cram everything into my schedule (and budget), and they filled up very quickly.

The marketplace is great, but I'm trying to shop smartly so I just checked things out yesterday instead of going nuts with $48/skein artyarns cashmere. It was tough, but I've got a dollar limit in mind and I want to make sure that I spend it on yarn that is difficult to get at local shops and that strikes a balance between awesome and thriftyness. But seriously, that artyarns cashmere is delicious, and if only I didn't have two or three lace projects going and some Blue Moon lace yarn in the stash, I'd probably talk myself into a $96 scarf.

Today I'm taking Ruth Sørensen's Kauni Hat class, I'll remember to pack my camera! I heard that her sweater design class (which was one of the classes on my short-list, but it fell off in favor of vacation-day hoarding) went really well. I saw the hat samples yesterday at the Teacher's Gallery, and they're amazing--and they confirm that Kauni does in fact soften up with washing. In the interest of including a photo in my post, here's some Kauni that it's my stash:


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why Do You Taunt Me, Westminster Dog Show?

I do like beagles (even Frieda's archenemy Chester the beagle), but how can Westminster continue to overlook the breed responsible for this type of comedy gold:

At least it was a hound that won!

p.s. Hopefully this will be my last post-of-outrage of the week (I'll skip right over Valentine's Day).

Monday, February 11, 2008

You Got Me Thinkin' That I'm Wastin' My Time

What on earth happened with these stripes? How did I screw up the stripe pattern on mass-produced striped sock yarn ?

I was very careful to match the toes:

Matching Toes

I paid attention to my gauge, to make sure that things matched up. That is, as well as can be expected on socks that are knit a row or two at a time while waiting for trains, or meetings, or jump-starts (thanks, S___!). I even marked the afterthought heel at the same row, and they looked pretty good:

What the?

But wait. Look a the last couple of stripes on the top of the 2nd sock. There's pink where there should be brown, and now the pattern repeat that I'm on is several inches off of the pattern on the right:

out of sync

Arrrrrgh. How could this happen, you ask? I asked myself the same question. Then I turned the finished sock inside out, and I found my answer:

Boo, Yarn Knot

Although I have no recollection of this AT ALL from sock #1, there must have been a knot in the first skein that was tied out of sync. I am not sure if this is at all typical of this yarn (Regia Kaffe Fassett), or if it was just a fluke, but I'm not pleased at all about it. I'm glad that I found this out now, when I only have to rip back a few inches--it was really pure coincidence that I even looked at it, usually this project stays in the car.

After ripping out, a couple of inches, and then pulling maybe another inch worth of yarn, it was pretty simple to get the stripes back on track:

All better

I'm a little concerned that the stripe matching here and at the beginning of the 2nd sock is going to result in a shortage of yarn when I come to the heels, especially if the heels are to match. I think that a contrasting heel would look great, but I've yet to see any yarn that's a great color fit. I supposed I could just slap on another blue . . . but hopefully it won't come to that.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why Do You Taunt Me, Grammys?

It's music week at the trivia night I go to, and so I am watching the Grammys. It's not broadcast live here on the West Coast, which is stupid, and the show is long, but if anyone asks me who sang "That Old Black Magic" with Keely Smith, I want to get the answer right. Although there was a Kid Rock question last week, so that's probably not what I'll need to know.

I've never placed much faith in the Grammys, even during my long years as a Music Industry Executive Receptionist. But somehow I still find it shocking that Wilco only got one nomination, and didn't win Album of the Year. All I can do is link to one of the many great songs on Sky Blue Sky, below, and continue to wonder about Yoko's hat.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Can I Get a Drumroll, Please?





Obviously, the Rot wie Feuer Bayerische socks are no longer "active". The stripiness of the yarn was really obscuring the twisted stitch pattern, and there didn't seem to be much point in spending all of that time cabling when the stripes are all I can see. The bright light makes the photo of the sock in progress looks better than it did in real life. This yarn is destined for greater things, and I'll probably give the Ravelry Sockdown a pass for February since I'm still working on the two pair I started in January.

Given that I'm going to be spending the weekend trying to repair / rebuild my failing, blue-screen-of-death laptop, ripping out an entire weekend of knitting work seemed like a fine idea--I'm so annoyed at my computer that I barely felt a thing. I have use of an alternate computer (obviously), but it's not convenient so if I haven't responded to comments I apologize!! I hope to be up and running again in the next couple of days, although it is a painfully slow process.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Couldn't Build A Fire To Save My Life


The tiny, twisted stitches of Friday have started to turn and wrap around each other, this is (of course) Eunny Jang's Bayerische Socks. I know you've seen it before, because it's in 1,200 queues on Ravelry (plus the 250 already underway). Although I love this yarn (Sundara Sock in Heirloom Tomato), there's a little more stripey-ness to the color that I expected, and I'm not sure I really love it. I'd like to go a little further, though, before I give up. These Rot wie Feuer (red like fire) socks may become wristwarmers, or may end up in a different sock form. One thing is certain--all these tiny stitches take a lot of time.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

Sometimes I think that this poem perfectly describes my life, and other times I know that it absolutely doesn't:

Lucy Ashton's Song

Look not thou on beauty's charming;
Sit thou still when kings are arming;
Taste not when the wine-cup glistens;
Speak not when the people listens;
Stop thine ear against the singer;
From the red gold keep thy finger;
Vacant heart and hand and eye,
Easy live and quiet die.
--Sir Walter Scott

I've been thinking about this poem lately. My Boston-era books are either out in the garage or destroyed by my poor storage techniques, so I was glad to have a reason to look it up.

This is my first time participating in the Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading--more about the event here (by way of Cara). Copyright restrictions prevent me from reposting my first choice, but that doesn't mean I can't link to it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

It's Friday, I'm In Love


These tiny twisted rib stitches on size 0 needles are making me very happy. I'm not sure if the happiness will hold, or if this is the beginning of socks that will never end, or if this is a crazy control-freak reaction to an out-of-control week at work. Either way, at 10:49pm on Friday, February 1, I love them.