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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Moth Damage, Replacement Yarn, and Qiviut

I was thinking about writing a WIP Wednesday post, but seriously, who wants to look at another fucking honey cowl? So I'll carry on about moths.

I had moths in one of my bins. They destroyed about $400 or more of yarn, including a vest I'd made for a friend for his 50th birthday (I was redoing the neck line for him, since he has a large head, and I'd not left a big enough neck hole). So after not dealing with the moths for a month, I took the bin outside and went through each bag of yarn in it. It was worse than I'd thought, and nothing was salvageable. And I know exactly where the little bastards came from, too. I'd bought some yarn at Webs a few years ago, and put the yarn in a basket in my old apartment. When I moved, I saw all the yarn dust at the bottom of the basket, but couldn't see any larvae, nor were there any moths in the house. So I dumped it all in a bin (stupid, stupid, stupid), along with some other yarn. I have rued the day.

So I have to make a new vest for my buddy, so I got some yarn on sale (half price!) the other day. Six skeins of Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds. This yarn is Dark Grey Welsh. It's lovely!

It's undyed, and doesn't smell of mordant. It does have a lovely sheepy smell to it, and I can't wait to knit it up!

My friend Kim bought some qiviut from Springtide Farm, and she didn't use it all. She sent it to me, along with some cashmere. There isn't enough qiviut to really do anything with it, but maybe put an edge on a collar or some such.

Qiviut, Springtide Farm

Cashmere, Springtide Farm

I'm looking forward to knitting with these. The qiviut really is a princely gift.

Finally, even though the blocking left me less than satisfied with the ashes-of-roses shawl, after it dried fully, it looked really good. I gave it to Adrienne this past weekend, and she loved it. This is the picture she sent to me of her modeling it for me.

She is really quite lovely, and the shawl looks wonderful on her! I'm pleased with it, even though it did not match my original vision. Sometimes we have to let go of the original vision, and work with what is in front of us.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Finished Object Friday

I want to focus for a bit on something that is going well. I am becoming more accustomed to how the ashes-of-roses shawl blocked, and how it looks. I take a great deal of pride in the things I knit, and want them to look perfect. I dont like the way this looks, and even though several people have told me its fine, I'm still not so sure, though it is growing on me. Having never wet blocked alpaca before, I didnt realise what would happen when I did, and it has made me cautious about doing it again.

But like I said, I want to focus on something going well. I finished one of the honey cowls that Im making for Christmas. That means one holiday present down, 15 left to go! Woo hoo! I only need to block the cowl, and its done. And yes, I will wet block it, but its wool, superwash wool, so I dont expect it to blossom quite the same way the alpaca did.

I am also hard at work on the next honey cowl, and am nearing the end of the first skein of yarn. And I changed me mind about one of them: I had planned to use fathom, but decided that while it is beautiful, its too dark and doesnt show the colour variations that make Tosh so intriguing. So Im making that one in Betty Drapers Blues, which is one of my favourite colourways in the Tosh catalogue. I started casting it on, but have decided to wait until Im done with the one Im making in burnished, since I like those needles a bit better because they have a longer cable (yeah, yeah, I could buy a Knitter’sPride in the longer cable, but Im saving money (yeah, right!)). Ive even made a chart of all the things I want to knit by the end of the year. In my head I think of it as my Holiday Presents Chart, but there are things on it that need to be done long before the winter holidays, like Jaysons scarf, which needs to be done by July, which is when Ill see Jayson next.

So, whats a blog post without a few pictures? First, the finished honey cowl itself. Done in Madeline Tosh DK, Cove.
It still needs to be blocked, but it looks good!

In this detail, you can see where the skeins changed. I am going to be very careful from now on when I knit with Tosh.

The ashes-of-roses shawl, done in Cascade Bulky Baby Alpaca.
This is a shot done before the blocking.

These are after blocking. It is growing on me, I have to admit.

Finally, a different shot of the gradient cowl, Shibui Silk Cloud.
Taken before blocking.

And a picture of Marilyn, the happy recipient, and me.

There are other things on the needles, but I will wait to do a WIP Wednesday (or some such) post later next week. Right now, I'm pleased with my output and how the holiday knitting is getting done.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ashes of Roses: Blocking Terrors

So I blocked the ashes-of-roses shawl last night. My normal way of blocking has been to spritz things with water, then pin them to my blocking board. I consulted several experienced knitters about blocking this shawl, knit in bulky alpaca, and every single one of them said that I should wash it with a mild detergent, and squeeze the water out, roll it in a towel, and pin it to the board.

And so I did.

I'm a bit panicked now. It was knit pretty tightly, and now it's almost lace like, and the cables are huge. I'm not sure if it's going to work out, and I might have to knit the whole damn thing over again. Lace done in bulky alpaca? I'm not sure I can wrap my mind around this.

Here is what it looked like before blocking. Pretty tight.

Here it is a-soaking in cold water, with a bit of detergent. I knew when I took it out of the water that it was much looser than when it went in.

Here it is, a-pinned to the blocking board.
You can see how the knits and purls between the cables really opened up, and how the cables have become very broad.

I am not sanguine about how it looks right now, and I'm not certain how it is going to be once it's unpinned. I will check it this afternoon, when I return to my blocking board and what may well be a travesty of knitting.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Gradient Cowl

One of the problems about where I live (and there are many) is that there is no room for my blocking board to be spread out. So I keep it at the house of some close friends and go over whenever I need to block an item. This has, so far, worked out for me. I don't think it inconveniences them (I blocked one item during the second seder this Passover), and it gets the work done.

I had made a gradient cowl with Shibui Silk Cloud, using the colours Suit (navy blue), Ivory (white), Ink (black) and Graphite (grey). It was a somewhat monochromatic endeavour, but I rather liked it. And with all that silk and mohair, is one of the softest things I've ever knitted. My good friend Nomi helped to graft together the two ends (it's knit flat, and is started with a provisional cast on), and without her, it would still be a scarf, rather than a cowl. While not difficult to knit, seed stitch can be a bit maddening at times, but it came out well.

These two pictures show it before blocking, but after I had sewn in all the loose ends. If I ever make this cowl again, I will knit the loose ends in as I go along, because there were so damn many of them.

I blocked it, by running a wire at each end of the cowl, and pinning it three times on each end. I had spritzed it well with water, and it was dry by the time the seder was done. I had made it for Marilyn, the mother of my Passover host. She loved it!

Later this week I am going back to the house where I block things, and will attempt to block the big ashes-of-roses shawl with cables I made for Adrienne. I will see her next weekend, and want to give it to her. I also have a feather boa that someone gave me, in hot pink (so not my colour) that I, will give to her. I think she can make more use of it than I can, because she's so bad ass and can really rock a boa, no matter what the colour.

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!