This is mostly a knitting blog. Sometimes pictures of things I've made, sometimes not. I'm a guy who knits, I usually attend a men's stitch 'n' bitch on Monday nights, and I prefer natural fibres to artificial ones. I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo yarns: I love what they can do and how they look, I hate how they are made. I've been knitting since about 2003, though I really didn't get into it until 2005, while convelescing with a broken leg. I must have discovered something good, 'cause I'm still knitting years later.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ithaca or Bust!

I just found out my niece is going to Ithaca College next year, Class of 2018. I'm very excited about this. Ithaca, however, is in the snowbelt, and my niece is going to need some nice wooly things to keep her warm. So I've added her to the cowl list. And maybe a scarf as well. And I'm thinking at some point a lacy shawlette to keep her neck warm in the wind. Planning what one is going to knit is almost as much fun as the actual knitting!

Amidst all the various projects I have on the needles, the two I'm focusing on these days are the honey cowl in cove, and the Irish Hiking Scarf in fathom. I am done with the first skein of the fathom, and really looking forward to blocking this scarf, since it will make the cables pop, and widen it out a bit. Right now it's more of a alb than scarf. Since realising the colour differences between the two skeins of cove for the cowl, I've been less inclined to work on it, since I'm not getting any of the pretty teal highlights that I got from the first skein. But I'll finish it and start the next. I need to check my stash to see if I have any of the colourway Cousteau, for my niece's cowl. Her favourite colour is green, and I think she'd like the Cousteau. Plus it is named after one of my boyhood heroes, so I'll enjoy working with it.

Today I have to finish weaving in the ends of the gradient cowl I started and finished so long ago. So many ends! Why didn't I knit them into the body of the cowl? O spite! O hell! But I'm going to see the recipent tomorrow so I'd better get my arse in gear and get it done.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dye Lots & Disappointment

One of the first lessons a new knitter learns about buying yarn is to buy as much as you need for a given project, in the same dye lot. I am not a new knitter, and I have this rule engraved on my brain somewhere next to Do not steal, and Don't kill people, and Never mix plaids and stripes. As a yarn whore, I will often pick up a couple of skeins of some yarn, with absolutely no idea what I'll do with it, but that it might make a nice hat or scarf, and truth be told, I do make a lot of these items.

It is not a secret that I am a big fan of Madeline Tosh yarns. And that I like making cowls. And that I have a lot of Tosh in my stash, almost exclusively in small collections of two or three skeins of each colour. Now, to be fair, Tosh doesn't label the yarn with dye lots. And I have noticed a very wide variation in colour shades from one bag of yarn to another. In short, with Tosh yarns, while quite lovely and knitting up beautifully, the colours are almost never true. One of my favourites is the colour terra, and the first time I bought it, it looked like the terra cotta I grew up with in Italy, from the flower pots my mother used, to the terrazzo floors we walked on. The next time I saw terra, it was a bright orange. Pretty, but as far from terra cotta as a shade of pink.

I am currently working on a honey cowl in cove. About an inch and a half of knitting ago, I added the second skein. I bought both skeins from the same store. I know they came from the same bag, because the shop had only gotten one bag with the colourway cove in it. And unless Tosh yarns are perpetuating some horrible hoax on knitters everywhere, I assumed that these two hanks came from the same dye lot.

And the Universe said, “Hah!”*

It is obvious that these two hanks are not only not the same dye lot, it is observable to me that the colours, while very similar, and definitely in the same colourway, are not the same colour. And this is disappointing, because they came from the same bag.

This is the wrong side, and where I added the second skein of yarn. The obvious colour difference can be seen. Also, the pretty teal blue which shows up every now and then in the first skein is largely absent in the second.

This is the right side, and the arrow is pointing where the skeins changed. I can see a definite colour difference. I'm so disappointed.

This is a bird's eye view of the whole thing (so far), and I can see the colour difference. I am the type of knitter who wants to rip this whole thing back, but I don't feel like I have time to do so. I have so much other knitting to get through for the year. (Plus, I'd really like to make something for myself this year, too. Maybe a sweater.)

I have determined that in the future, when I make the other honey cowls, that I will use both skeins simultaneously. I'll do the knitted rows with one skein, and the purl/skip rows with the second. That way there will be some colour consistence through the entire garment, especially since the knitted rows are not all that visible.

*Actually, the Universe said something quite else, which I shan't write here, because it's Not Nice.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blocking Jitters

I blocked a lace scarf today. I did it in a way that I've never done before, by soaking. My normal way to block stuff is to put the blocking wires in, spritz it lightly with water, and pin it. Let it dry, and Lo! I've got a blocked garment that looks good. I've blocked this particular scarf twice, and each time it came out not looking as good as I wanted it to. So I asked Claudia, the maven, how best to block, and she said place it in tepid water til it is thoroughly soaked, gently squeeze out the water, and roll in a towel, run the wires, pin, and let dry.

The soaking silk thing kinda freaked me out.

Even so, I did it. The water in the bowl was dyed blue, there was a blue streak in the towel, but it seems to have worked. Since it's pure silk, I was afraid soaking it would turn the scarf into a tent, or maybe a very long chuppah.

Here it is, all pinned to the blocking board. I also ran the blocking wires through it.

A close up taken while it was drying.

I have to admit, this technique actually worked, and when I removed it from the board, it was perfectly blocked. Now I need to send it to Libby, and she's been waiting for it for over a year!

Cue up Etta James, singing, At last!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Living Dangerously

While Christmas knitting is very important (almost half way through two Honey Cowls; wonder if it would go faster if I only knit one of them at a time?), I also promised my friend Jayson a scarf, and I will be seeing him in July. So because I was bored with honey last night, I cast on an Irish Hiking Scarf for him, in Tosh Vintage, using Fathom as the colourway. That shit's intense! Even though I've only got about an inch of fabric so far, the colour is so rich, so intense, so burn-your-eyes-out-blue! I love it! Now I have to make something for myself in the same colour.

I had originally thought to make him a scarf using this yarn,

which is Mountain Colors, colourway "Twizzle". Both Jayson and I thought it would knit up mostly red, but I did a test swatch and it was mostly rainbow. It was trés gai, but not what Jayson wanted. I asked if he liked blue, and he was excited, because it would match his eyes. Well, he is southern.

It's knitting up pretty tight (I tried it on US 7, but I didn't like it, this is on US 6), but it will block up a bit wider and that will even the stitches out. I know that blocking is not the panacea that many people do, but I know that it will stretch a bit when wet and pinned.

One of the reasons I like the Irish Hiking Scarf pattern (search for it on Ravelry) is because it's an 8 row repeat, and if you pay attention to the knits and purls, you can memorise it easily. And this time I'm trying to live dangerously.

I am not using stitch markers!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Accessorising My Knitting

Many years ago I knew someone who had a t-shirt that read, "Every morning I wake up and give thanks for my God-given ability to accessorise." I am not that person. I cannot accessorise to save my life. I can't dress myself, either. I can, however, help someone else accessorise, and I can even tell someone what to wear to make themselves look good. This talent does not extend to myself.

Yesterday a friend gave me a new t-shirt. And even though it is a t-shirt, it is a knitting accessory.

It's a Knittin' Kitten. Or a Cowl Cat. I'm not sure which. But I look forward to wearing it, nonetheless.

Knitting is good for more than just yarn and achieving SABLE. It's good for accessories, too.

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's the Little Things That Get You

I have been trying to get a fair amount of knitting done. I have finished the ashes-of-roses shawl though it still needs to be blocked. It's five feet long and took five skeins, so I still have one left to make something else for the Divine Adrienne. I'll post a picture of it when that has happened.

Right now I've got two, count 'em, two honey cowls on the needles, even as we speak. Or write. Or type. Whatever. I really like the way these knit up quickly, and the pattern is enough to keep me interested and relaxed. With a knitted row, and a patterned row alternating, I can keep knitting at these til my legs get tired (not that I knit with my legs, or even my feet, but I tend to sit in a tailor position on the bed whilst knitting, and the arthritis in my right knee means every now and then I have to straighten my leg out; if I'm knitting whilst sitting on a chair, this isn't usually an issue). It's a good thing that these knit up so fast, because my plan is to make six of them. Knit in Tosh DK, below are the cowls in the Cove colourway and the Burnished colourway, respectively.

Cove Honey Cowl

Detail, Cove Honey Cowl. I love the bits of aqua blue in this colourway.

The Burnished Honey Cowl. It really does look like burnished bronze.

I also cast on a sweater last night, because I don't have enough to do. But since the back will be all stockinette, all the time, I don't have to worry about thinking about it until I bind of for the arm holes (three stitches, each side). The front will have a cable, but even that is not onerous. Since this is a sweater for a very tall man, it's going to be miles and miles of stockinette. Oh, and even though my friend Bee would pitch a fit and probably deck me, I'm going to live dangerously and not knit a gauge swatch! Why? Because I've made this sweater four times already, and have always gotten gauge.*

At some point I need to get back on track with the two Milanese Loop cowls I've got going. I'm at the point on the blue one (Betty Draper's Blues, Tosh Vintage) that the pattern is beginning to show up and one can see how pretty the lace is. One cannot tell from the picture on the printed pattern because it's just a drape of knitted yarn around some model's neck, and the delightful detail is completely impossible to see. Really, what are these photographers thinking when they take pictures of a finished object?

Honestly, the more I knit, the behinder I get.

*OK, maybe I will knit a swatch for the sweater. Because I'm using different needles than is my wont, and it might, just might, a teensy bit, affect my gauge. I just want you to know that I am not going to enjoy knitting that swatch, no, not for a single instant, and that I'm going to resent the hell out of it. Because it's the little things that get you when you're not paying attention.§

§This was a song by Jim Infantino, a local Boston folk singer, and performed by his band, Jim's Big Ego

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Well Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Oft gang awry.

I thought about all my knitting for the year this morning. Here it is nearing the end of March, and I haven't done any Christmas knitting yet. This is what I hope to accomplish this year:

New Projects
Five Honey Cowls (stash yarn, all of 'em)
Two Cabled Scarves (stash yarn)
Two Seed Stitch Cowls (need yarn, for two different cousins, probably Malabrigo Mecha)
One Sweater (already bought yarn)

Abandoned Projects on the Needles
Siobhan's Cowl
Kristen's Cowl
My Sweater (blue)
My Sweater (brown)
The Scarf That Never Ends (not really abandoned)

If I can pull all these projects off, it will be a major coup! I have all the Tosh I need for the Honey Cowls, I just need to find it (it's somewhere in one or two of the 21 bins!). The scarves will use yarn I got in New Orleans last month. And the big sweater for the giant takes yarn that I got when I returned from New Orleans. It's sitting in the bag, begging to be knit up. I think I will cast it on when I finish Adrienne's shawl. I like to have one project at home and one in my backpack, and sweaters get too big to carry around. I might take it to knit night, but mostly it will be done at home. Which means I'll be dragging the cowls around in my pack.

I am so close to being finished with Adrienne's big pink shawl that I can almost taste it. I'll probably get another 20 rows with the current skein, and then I need to cast on the final skein. I want it to be about five feet long, and I'm at about 50 inches of fabric. Then I need to block it. Eeep.

And because no post is ever complete without some pictures, here's some Tosh in my stash for the Honey Cowls.
Huechera, for Carlene.

Lolita, for Dolci.

Moreland, for Sue.

Fathom, for Libby.

 Not pictured, alas, is Burnished, for Alexandra.