Sunday, July 27, 2008

Vactioning at home

There are few things I love better than having uninterrupted time in my own home, so the 2nd week of my vacation was every bit as wonderful as the trip to the Northwest. Since having a big chunk of time to spend at home is such a luxury I didn't want to be writing this post on the final Sunday wondering why I hadn't gotten much done, so I came up with a project to focus on over the whole week. More on that later.

The biggest news from the home front is that the Must Have Cardigan is finally done! It's a substantial sweater, so like the Hex Coat, it probably won't see any wearing action until colder weather arrives, but it's done and it's beautiful. It fits like a glove (Jezebel, my mannequin, is too small for the sweater) and the small effort in adding the waist shaping really paid off. Cables are often bulky, and the braided cables along the sides of the sweater are somewhat stiff. If I had made the body straight up and down it would have given me a much bulkier look than I wanted or needed. Otherwise I made only a few modifications to the pattern as written. I added about 4 inches in length to the body of the sweater to balance out my proportions better, but reduced the sleeve length by a couple of inches. I had read somewhere (sorry; I can't recall if it was on another blog or on someones' Ravelry description) that adding four of stitches to the armhole edges made for a better finish. In the pattern, the braided cable extends close to the armholes with just a couple of reverse stockinette stitches along the edges. To make that edge more stable and visually pleasing, I worked slightly fewer armhole decreases to enable 2 additional stitches in remain in moss stitch to form the armhole edges after the shaping was complete.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I had two button choices - 5 made of deer antler, and 7 from mother of pearl. I was leaning towards the antler choice to start with but ultimately went with the mother of pearl. The antler buttons ended up looking more yellow than I expected, and I preferred to have 7 buttons instead of 5. I did still prefer the heft of the antler buttons, so to give the mother of pearl a little more mass I stacked another very similar but smaller mother of pearl button on top of the larger one, which made them much more interesting. I sewed them on with the sweater yarn, first sewing down the larger one, than stacking on the smaller one with a couple extra stitches. The look is just what I wanted - interesting, but not distracting from the sweater itself.

I also finished a little project that got done so fast I didn't have time to blog about starting it! It's a baby sweater for a co-worker who's expecting her first child, and even thought the baby isn't due until December I was too excited to wait to make something for her. As of the last time I spoke to her before my vacation she didn't yet know the baby'sgender, so I chose bright colours that didn't scream girl or boy either way. The pattern is the One-Piece Baby Kimono (on Ravelry here)in Mason-Dixon Knitting, and is so easy-peasy it's hard to believe. I added the stripes and a neckband, but otherwise it's by the pattern. I used Mission Falls 1824 cotton.

So what was my major project for the week? I decided to drum card a big batch of fibres for spinning. After pulling out all of my available fibres (an embarrassment of riches, I must say) I found that I had a lot of corals, pinks, and red/orange colours, none of which was enough to do much with by itself but all massed together was enough for a sweater or shawl, or something much bigger than a scarf. I almost always do 2 ply yarns, so in order to try something different I deliberately set out to design a 3-ply yarn, mixing together as many of these analogous but different colours as I could without making a muddy mess out of them. I made a little swatch card of all the fibres I chose to work with, and got started.

I had a considerable amount more of 2 of the fibres than of the others - a bright coral Cormo and a pink wool/silk blend with lots of blue silk noil fibres. I first carded those 2 together to form a base from which to create 3 separate but related blends; 1 for each ply. The base colour ended up as an intense, cool salmon pink. For blend #1 (bottom) I used a touch of watermelon red along with more substantial amounts of marigold yellow and tomato red to make a warmer, lighter colour. Blend #2 (center) includes a lot more of the watermelon colour along with some red/blue/rust Firestar ( a metallicy nylon fibre) to add some sparkle; this blend is closest to the original base colour. Blend # 3 includes more watermelon red along with an intense blue violet and more Firestar; this blend is the coolest and darkest of the 3. In the photo a sample of the individual blend is shown on top of its corresponding blend, and the larger skein is a sample of the resulting 3-ply. While from a distance it is still very similar to the original base fibre in colour, up close it has loads of life and interest. The bits of silk noil in blue from the original blend really speak to the blue violet in blend #3 as well as adding a spark of a complimentary colour.

The goal for this week was to get the blend carded and ready to spin, which has been accomplished. I'll work on spinning it all up over the next few weeks so there will (hopefully!) be more and better pictures in the near future. What will I make with tis fibre? I have no idea. It will depend a lot on what yardage I end up with, and as doing 3-ply yarns is not as familiar to me I don't have a good sense of how far my fibre will go. All together I have about a pound if fibre so I'm hoping to have enough for a sweater of some sort.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vacations and other delights

After seven wonderful days visiting the Northwest including the Columbia River Gorge, Mt St Helens, Seattle, and Crater Lake, TW and I are home again. As always, I love to head off into the unknown for a vacation, and then am equally thrilled to return home again. Our annual road trip was filled with amazing sights, good food, new adventures, and best of all, time to be together, just the two of us. This year was the first time we included a city as a major destination point in the trip, and while we had a terrific time in Seattle and enjoyed the city very much, we both concluded that our biggest pleasures came from the natural environment - towering mountains, lush forests, beautiful rivers and lakes, and the like. Cities have wonderful things to offer, but they make for a very different type of trip, and we will keep that in mind for future planning.

The decision to include the stops at the Columbia River Gorge, Mt St Helens, and Crater Lake was a last minute one, which also precipitated our departure a day earlier than originally planned, but those were the parts of the trip that really moved us deeply. Mt St Helens was the highlight, I think - there's an observation center astonishingly close to the crater, with a panoramic view of the devastation area from the 1980 eruption. The mountain is huge, even with a significant portion of it having blown up during the blast, and it inspired nothing short of awe. The volcano itself is still completely barren, but the forests a little farther away have grown back (many of them re-planted by the lumber industries). The volcano is still technically active, but not in any kind of eruption cycle at the moment.

Part of the visit to Seattle included a ferry trip over to Bainbridge Island on a beautiful, sunny day. There's quite a nice yarn shop on the Island called Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, with lots of good yarns, sample garments, patterns, etc. A small section of the shop had a variety of tea for sale along with teapots, cups and saucers, etc. I always love to pick up some souvenir yarn while on vacation, and this time it's a double pleasure, as TW bought me a gorgeous skein as both my souvenir and a birthday gift. Along with several other brands of hand-dyed yarns the shop carried some yarns by Shoalwater Bay (I haven't been able to locate a website for them). The yarn is dyed with natural dyes and is a local company, so it's something I probably wouldn't be able to get anywhere else. It's a cotton/rayon slub yarn dyed a luscious aqua blue-green that will be beautiful with the turquoise earrings TW gave me last year. He also gave me a copy of A Fine Fleece, a beautiful book focusing on knitting with handspun yarns. There are a number of patterns based on traditional Aran and Guernsey designs, but each one is written for both handspun and commercially available yarns. While I would have liked to see some close up photos of the handspun yarns and/or fabrics, the sections discussing the author's thoughts on spinning, fibres, and design are well worth the price of the book. There are several scarf patterns in it, and the Shoalwater Bay skein is destined to become one of them.

And did I knit at all on the trip this year? Yes, I did! I got a good start on the Monkey socks, completing most of the leg. As I mentioned in last week's post I am using the variations from Cara of January One (see links in previous post), but did 5 repeats of the stitch pattern before starting the heel rather than the 4 she used. I also did a slip stitch heel flap instead of the plain stockinette in the pattern. I find hotel rooms to have poor sitting conditions and lighting so I didn't make a huge amount of progress but am enjoying the socks so far. This is my first experience with Socks That Rock yarn. The yarn itself is soft and spongy, which I like a lot, but I must admit that I am not really in love with such highly variegated yarns. The colour changes are quite frequent and are a little distracting from the stitch pattern. But I have decided to go ahead and use it for these socks as that was my original intention in purchasing it, so for once I will attempt to actually do what I set out to do, knitting-wise.

I am still on vacation this week, but will be spending it at home and am cooking up a major project to occupy myself for the week. What will it be? I'm not sure yet, but stay tuned........

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On vacation!

TW and I decided to head off on our vacation to Seattle and the Northwest a day early, so I'll catch up on my posts after my return in about a week. I'm sure there is mass anticipation out there in blog land to learn what my trip knitting projects will be. I think I am being the soul of restraint by merely taking 2 pairs-worth of sock yarn - Socks that Rock Lightweight in Purple Rain (this colour might be discontinued) that will be come a pair of Cookie A's Monkey socks, but using January One's version with a picot hem top and shorter leg; and Knit Picks Gloss is Concord Grape for a pair of Fool's Rush socks by Too Much Wool.

Last year I took along enough sock yarn to properly shod an entire village and ended up not knitting a single stitch, much to my amazement. I know some out there have doubts that I will actually knit what I am bringing this time, but the thought of traveling without knitting within reach is such an appalling thought that I simple cannot do it.

So, I'm off to the wilds of Seattle, Crater Lake, Mt St Helens, and other environs - a full report when I return!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Madison and Must Haves

I spent the 4th of July at my mom's and had a great time playing with my niece, Madi. She's 2 1/2 now, and while still tiny for her age is now really a little girl instead of a baby. She's so cute, and isn't shy of me after the first few minutes. She's in preschool now a couple mornings a week and loves to read and do crafts of various kinds. I'm just bidding my time for a little longer before I teach her how to knit! (If my posture looks a little awkward it's because I am attempting to sit on a child-size rocking chair that my grandmother gave me many years ago, and now my mother keeps at her house for Madi. Needless to say, I can't quite fit into it any more.)

The Must Have Cardigan is progressing very well. I now have the back done and most of the left front. As the sleeves are already done (hurray!) there's just the right front and finishing left to do. My fears of running out of yarn appear quite unfounded. I still have 2 full balls of yarn left, and the fronts are only taking 1 ball so I'll have plenty left for the button bands, etc.

I'm still deciding between two button choices - a plain silvery white mother of pearl (simple, classy, a bit shiny, I have 7 of them) or creamy beige and white antler buttons (simple, more rustic, a great colour match, I only have 5 buttons + 2 smaller ones). As I also have 2 smaller ones, I could possibly use them in some interesting way in combination with the other 5. The pattern specifies 7 buttons, and since I am making the cardigan longer by 3-4 inches, I might need more than 7. By the same token, the antler buttons (which I overall prefer just on looks) are more weighty in appearance and it might be fine to use fewer of them, just spaced farther apart. I think I'll have to wait until the body is all sewn together to look at my choices and make a decision.

Now I have a major decision to make. What project shall I take on my road trip to Seattle next week???????