Big shocker: I made another Ysolda Teague pattern!  Here is Damson from Whimsical Little Knits 2 knit in Malabrigo Sock, colorway Dewberry.

Damson full

I bought this yarn when I thought that I had lost my Orchid Thief. I was so depressed about losing it that I was going to immediately re-knit myself a new one.  Luckily, it turned up at a friend’s house and a had an extra skein of beautiful Malabrigo sock.  This stuff I so amazing, I had to stop a lot and admire the pretty variations of purple and blue.

Damson color

This pattern but was amazingly simple to knit.  In fact, I barely felt like I knit it at all because it was my car trip and Bart knit that I cast on around New Year’s.  I cast on three patterns to take on our New Year’s road trip and this is the first one to finish since most of them are fairly simple “lazy knits.”  I was able to cast this off feeling like it was a totally fresh project.  In fact, my boyfriend didn’t even recognize it, having not remember seeing me work on it.  I can’t wait to wear this and might make another in another color.

Something else I like about this project was an opportunity to do knitting surgery.  I noticed that my YOs had wandered while I was knitting, so I ripped out about 10 rows worth of stitches and unraveled just that section.

The problem

The problem

Unravelled- puzzle to put back together!

...and fixed!  blocking helped the squirrelly stitches

…and fixed! blocking helped the squirrelly stitches

I have always meant to be a lace knitter who adds lifelines, but just don’t get around to it.  Instead, I find mistakes and excitedly scheme the best way fix them.  This reminds me of one of my favorite “games” to play as a kid: I would perfectly organize my dollhouse only to have an “earthquake” knock everything over.  I would then happily rearrange everything just so.  And repeat.

Damson worn

The Madelinetosh Lovers group on Ravelry had a KAL lastmonth, with the idea that you could knit anything as long as it was a “selfish” knit.  Especially after the holidays, it is always nice to knit something for me (though I was remarkably selfish over the holidays and didn’t do many gift knits).    I bought some Tosh dk in Composition Book Gray in November in the hope that I could knit a hat and glove set.  This was really a great opportunity for me to force myself to start and finish a knit from somewhat impulse-purchased yarn.

Snapdragon TamSnapdragon gloves

I knitted the Snapdragon flip-tops and tam by Ysolda Teague from Whimsical Little Knits 2.  Even though I modified the flip-tops, I think that these are both fantastic patterns.  The cabling was a ton of fun, especially after finishing my Skelf.  I modified the flip-tops into fingerless gloves because I am generally too hot for full gloves but a little underwhelmed with mitts.  I am glad with how the hat turned out: just a bit slouchy.  One thing I didn’t expect was just how much work the hat took.  I forget how slow an all-over cabled pattern can be because this took me about a full week of work, knitting every evening.  And, again, the Tosh dk is a dream.  I absolutely love working with it.

I seem to have gotten a little bit behind in blogging, though I have been quite productive with my knitting!

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Here is my Skelf, by Ysolda Teague from Little Red in the City.  I knit it with Madelinetosh Vintage in the colorway Kelp.  I finished this back in January, so I have gotten quite a bit of wear out of it already (it is almost ready for its first shave!).  Having stepped  back a bit from the actual knitting, I am glad to say that I am thoroughly pleased.  While I wish it was a touch longer and that the bust darts hadn’t ended up so high, neither of those are fatal flaws and I know I’ll get a ton of wear out of it.

My favorite part about Ysolda patterns is that I always learn new, fun techniques.  And since this was my tenth (!!!) Ysolda Teague pattern to knit, I am comfortable just going with the flow and following whatever she says (sidenote: I have now finished 13 of her designs!).  Skelf was such a great knit because the construction is amazing.  It is knit almost entirely inside out so that the reverse stockinette in-the-round is mostly knit stitches.  The cabling was a ton of fun, as I think I have Ysolda charts down enough that I just read and cable.  Knitting the neck edging was new to me, as it was knitted onto the already knit body.  The neck has a reverse stockinette icord edge, which was also a new, fun technique to try.

Skelf neckline

The sweater was knit from the bottom-up with the sleeves joined at the yoke.  This caused the only issues I have with the sweater, the too short body and too high bust darts.  I do notice that I have made both of my botton-up sweaters (this and Twenty-ten) too short because I overestimate the length when I try on the sweater at the armpit level.  Lesson for the future!  This problem has been discouraging me from knitting more bottom-up sweaters, but bottom-up vs. top-down preference is quite controversial for some knitters!  I have seen some write that anyone who would avoid a good sweater pattern simply because it is written bottom-up is not a “true” knitter, lol.

This would have been an easier pattern, but I made a lot of mods for fit purposes. The bottom, waist, bust, and sleeves are all from different sizes.  I added bust darts, lengthened the body, and cropped the sleeves.  I cropped the sleeves to keep this sweater from being too hot to wear in the Bay Area.  I’ve been wearing this a lot and think this decision was a success.  I usually wear a long-sleeve shirt beneath it for warmth and the sweater has only once felt too cold. All that work gave me a great fit: not too tight around the stomach, properly fitted shoulders, a neckline that isn’t too low or open, and sleeves that aren’t baggy.

Skelf tree detail

Lastly, the Tosh Vintage is absolutely amazing.  It is a dream, I love it.  What more can I say?  I will definitely use it again.  It gets very soft with washing (I know this because I really abused my swatch), so I am looking forward to wearing this a lot!

A look at my Ravelry notebook shows me that my knitting took off exponentially this year.  Well, not just Ravelry tells me this, but every friend of mine or anyone who has been to my house.  While I have been knitting, crocheting, and sewing from a fairly young age (sewing started the earliest because my mom is a sewer- I remember making a pillow and doll clothes in elementary school, knitting started when I was around 10, and I picked up crochet in high school), something really clicked for me this year.  I think it may have come out of reading Lifehacker and other productivity blogs and books to deal with some school-related stresses.  One thing that stuck out for me was the idea that long term goals could be achievable, bit by bit, by just using an hour an evening on a non-work/school passion.  Also, the idea that maybe I could encourage myself to be productive by using my free time selfishly to pursue fun projects.

While I probably have a ways to go at using knitting to make me more productive with my work (I swear I am working on the knitting while reading scientific articles thing!), I do think that only a slight mindset change helped.  I rid myself of the idea that projects take forever and are useless to start.  Including all of my Christmas ornaments, I finished 40 (!!!) knitting and crochet projects this year.  And more interestingly, I can see the way that I have compounded my output throughout the year.  I have started to understand how to fit in knitting here and there, like when waiting for BART, on roadtrips, and reading.

As I have gotten more into knitting, I have to been surprised to realize that I didn’t quite know what I thought I did.  While I had made many hats and small projects and even attempted some (poorly thought out) sweaters, I wasn’t making smart yarn choices and was defaulting to the same cast ons, cast offs, and increases/decreases.  Part of the fun of this year has been feeling like a new knitter by allowing myself to try new things.  I often didn’t get the results I had hoped for, but after years of just making gift knits, it has been fun to just see something different come off my needles.  And just for me, here are a number of my knitting “firsts” this year:

  • Intartsia project
  • Felted project
  • Mitered squares project
  • 2-at-a-time socks
  • Lace shawl
  • Sweater with fit adjustments
  • And many small techniques and tools: icords; icord bind off; tubular cast on; Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off; Judy’s magic cast on; cabeling without a cable needle; proper seaming techniques; proper stranding techniques; using Malabrigo, madelinetosh, and many other nice yarns; understanding wool and yarn a bit better; and using my various circulars, straights, interchangeables, metal, and wood needles to their full potential

I am also very happy to have relearned sewing this year!  I managed several small sewing projects before realizing that what I really wanted was clothes.  I am very happy to have not just made a skirt and dress, but I attempted to fit them properly and have gotten a lot of wear out of them.  When I was cleaning out my closet the other day, I got rid of quite a few things that didn’t fit just because I feel like I can do better!

Here are some of my knitting goals for 2013:

  • Slight yarn diet- I have plenty of stash yarn for many lovely projects (I say slight because I know myself enough to know I can’t go cold-turkey)
  • More stranded knitting
  • Steeks!!!
  • Socks for myself (I have only made socks for other people)
  • Traditional knitting styles (I really want to make an Icelandic Lopapeysa)
  • Design my own sweaters based on some favorites I have (fixing the fit and the quality of material)

And my sewing goals:

  • Be less intimidated by sewing: while working a little bit at a time on knitting is no problem for me, I am still very afraid of starting a sewing project (I think better organization for when I have to put everything away might help)
  • Learn to sew knit fabrics and make my own t-shirts
  • Sew a pair of pants
  • Sew a button-down shirt

And to finish on a happy note, here is one of my New Year’s cast ons: a Lintilla in Socks that Rock lightweight, Amelie colorway.  I am VERY excited about this so that I can wear it while watching Amelie ;-)

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I was very busy this year with many Christmas projects and gifts.  Here is a photo dump of all of my projects- just hover to get the project info!

  Snowflake #20

The white snowflakes are from a pamphlet called “Crochet 101 Snowflakes,” while the colored thread ornaments are from “Thread Tree Trim.”  The stars, mini mittens, and mini sweater are all free patterns on Ravelry (my boyfriend made the amazing mini hanger!!!).  The mistletoe comes from 75 Birds, Butterflies & Little Beasts to Knit and Crochet.

But by far my favorite Christmas items are my Christmas stockings!!!!!!

Christmas StockingsThese are the “Last Minute Stockings” from Ysolda Teague knit with madelinetosh chunky in sequoia, moorland, and antler.  I love the construction on these as they were the first time I have done either Japanese short rows or an icord bind off. The designs were drafted by myself and my boyfriend with much help from “Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting.”  Another “first” for me was doing the colorwork with both strands held on the left.  I did my green stocking using a “Norwegian Knitting Thimble” and switched to no thimble for the red stocking.  I am very excited about my colorwork possibilities and can’t wait for my next stranded project!

And for my gifts, which were very few this year because I went so crazy with decorations:

Wanderer Cap   First, for my dad, is a Wanderer Cap by Jared Flood from Weekend Knits done in some stash Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted.  This was fun and simple and kept me busy during a holiday roadtrip.  My only modification was a tubular cast on, which is a recent obsession for me.

Peaks Island HoodNext, for my mom, is a Peaks Island Hood by Ysolda Teague in madelinetosh chunky in saffron.  Again, I just love all of her patterns because they have so many details that keep the knitting interesting.  One thing I haven’t done before was the slip stitch edge, which looks very clever on the scarf.  Ishbel in GreenGreen IshbelLastly, I cheated and made myself a Christmas present.  This is my second Ishbel, but for me this time.  It is also by Ysolda Teague in madelinetosh lace in jade.  There does seem to be a coincidence of Ysolda patterns and madelinetosh….

I am looking forward to a New Year of new knits!  And no more ornaments for maybe ten months!

I want to call this my “White Whale Cardigan” because it has plagued me for eight years, but has been vanquished, though not without a fight.

Finished White CardiganI have mixed feelings about this cardigan.  I finished over a month ago and haven’t felt like writing a post about the FO.  A big issue is that it doesn’t fit because I didn’t know about fit and knitting modifications when I started the project.  And when I decided to restart the project in August for the Ravellenic Games, I had no idea just how much work I was getting myself into because there wasn’t enough original yarn.  Yet, I stuck with it and saw it to completion.  The big bummer is that, for all the work I put into it, I probably won’t wear it because of the fit and the color mismatch between the sleeves and body.

To keep this post from giving me a frowny face, here are the things I learned by making this sweater:

  1. Fit is important!  Just like store-bought clothes, most knitwear designs won’t fit me without alterations.  Somehow, back when I started this, I would think that the sheer good-will and love I put into my knitting makes things look good.  I still fall into this trap, thinking that brute force can make craft projects turn out well.  Sometimes, I need to stop myself and do some serious thinking when I feel a problem arise.
  2. Also, blocking can only do so much for fit.  I was hoping to “block out” the fronts to make them larger, but I learned there is no use trying to defy the laws of physics.
  3. It is important to buy all the yarn I need, and then buy extra (!), when I start a project.  This has been an issue for me on the last two sweaters I’ve made because extra yarn seems like wasted money.  One of the ways I have convinced myself that it is okay to buy an extra skein or two is that it may be possible to sell the extras later on.
  4. New technique: crocheted seams for the shoulders and set-in sleeves.  I was especially dreading sewing the set-in sleeves and had to work myself up to the challenge.  I was thus surprised that the crocheted seam was quick and actually fun!  It makes sense because it wasn’t actually sewing.  While I probably didn’t get the “best” seam with crochet, I think the fact that I wasn’t audibly groaning while seaming makes up for that.
  5. New technique: sewn-on button band.  I was also dreading this part, because ones has to knit the button bands THEN sew, which seems like so much extra work!  (I am used to a knit-on button band.)  However, what takes even more work is knitting on several button bands, tearing each of them out, then following the pattern’s instructions.  In the end, the sewn-on button band looks nicer.  Also, it is not a terrible seaming job because it is a straight-edge to straight-edge seam.
  6. I prefer to knit with wool because the yarn “gives” as I knit and I end up with much less hand pain.

One of the strange things about this project is the mystery yarn that I used to knit the body.  I swear it was a crochet cotton, but about two weeks ago I had an epiphany that maybe it was just regular cotton yarn.  I even looked up some yarns and found in about a minute a very possible looking substitution (Tahki Cotton Classic Lite) for the original yarn.  This realization happened with “woah woah” music in my head because I spent about a month buying crochet cottons that didn’t work!  If I had thought of this sooner, I wouldn’t have knit FIVE sleeves.  Even then, a big problem for me is that the body is more off-white than the sleeves (once you see it you can’t un-see it).  I may still dye the sweater, but I feel like I keep putting work into this thing without it giving me much pleasure back.

Though, I will end on a happy note: I LOVE these buttons :-) White cardigan buttons

 

I have so many Christmas WIPs that I thought I would do a little summary post.

Christmas tree

First, here is our amazing little Christmas tree, with only lights on it for now (btw so hard to take a picture of a tree in front of a window!).  We got it this weekend from the Forestry Club’s tree sale, which sells trees from a forest in Northern California where they practice forestry techniques.  I love that this is a forest tree and can’t wait to put all of our handmade decorations on it.

Christmas Stars blockingI have basically overwhelmed my blocking space.  This weekend, I had to quit blocking and wait for stuff to dry because I ran out of pins.  Above are stars I started to crochet last year and let hibernate until the holidays returned.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I got a bit star-obsessed and finished these pretty quickly because they were easy to temporarily memorize.  The yarn is spaced-dyed, so I had lots of fun cutting lengths of yarn and mixing the colors to get the two-toned look.  Once these are done blocking, I will crochet most of them together into a garland, but I may leave some of my favorites as solitary ornaments.

Snowflakes blocking 1Every year I make thread snowflakes, but this is the first year I have made them to keep for myself.  Here is a pic of some stars, snowflakes, and a heart that are blocking after a glue soak.  It is hard to tell from the angle of the picture, but these just devour my pins.  For that lacy snowflake, I used at least 40 pins to get all of the little points just so.

Snowflake blocking 2I am a year-round knitter but a “seasonal” crocheter.  It is funny because I have more fun crocheting than knitting.  I don’t get nervous about the crochet process and enjoy improvising.  For example with the snowflakes, I like to try to get down to tiny thread and hooks.  I started with size 10 thread (like in these three snowflakes), but have moved on to size 20 thread (like in the lacy snowflake and heart above).  Sometimes I wish I crocheted more, but am never attracted to crocheted garments.  I think it comes down to preferring crochet to make “things” but liking knitting for clothes.  (To be more fair to knitting, I also prefer it because it feels more ergonomic and because I can read while I knit)

Pompom makingAlso for decorations, we have started a little pompom factory.  I have a ton of Jamieson’s dk wool from an intarsia project.  This is a bit of a stashbuster and our idea is to make garlands and ornaments out of the pompoms.  We’ve had fun combining the colors, because it’s a surprise how the colors emerge once cut up.

These actually aren’t all of my current projects, though!  I have some secret ones for presents as well as two sweaters and a shawl for myself.  But, best of all, are Christmas stockings!!!!  I have made Christmas stocking for other people as gifts, but never thought that I should make one for myself.  Last night I casted on for Tim’s stocking first can’t wait to see how it will turn out!

Here are a couple FOs I finished over the last couple weeks: Tiny Shoes…

…and Knucks

The Tiny Shoes by Ysolda Teague were very fun to make!  Much more fun than some other booties I’ve made that required a ton of seaming.  I love to knit anything seamless, especially small things.  The booties were also a stash-buster with some unknown cashmere/merino hand-dyed sock yarn, and I am super jealous of the baby that gets to wear these!

The Knucks are from Knitty and are knit in madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in a one-of-a-kind skein of Woodsman.  The yarn was a bit of an impulse purchase because the color is so amazing.  The skein sat around our house for a while just being admired before I finally got up the nerve to start the pattern.

The construction of the Knucks was much, much more fun to knit than I was expecting.  I have been anti-gloves for a number of years because I thought the fingers were too much work.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince Tim that fingerless mitts are just as good at fingerless gloves, so I took these on.  The construction is “top-down” and starts by knitting all of the fingers individually.  I was surprised at how quickly I knit all of the fingers- they took a Saturday afternoon.

Once the fingers were done, there was almost no work to finish the gloves.  The only real bummer of making these gloves were all of the ends to weave in.  Nevertheless, I am definitely over my “no glove” knitting policy and will probably make some for myself soon.

 

 

 

It must be that time of year, because the other night I had an uncontrollable urge to make a crocheted snowflake.

Most years I end up making lots of snowflakes and other ornaments to give to friends and family, but this year I may be completely selfish and only make decorations for myself.  Last year was the first time I got a Christmas tree for myself and was very disappointed not to have any  hand-made decorations.  So, I hope to make ornaments (snowflakes, mini mittens & stockings) as well as Christmas stockings and maybe some garlands and mistletoe.  I’ll see how much energy I have!  But, so far, I have three snowflakes down and am greedily looking through patterns on Ravelry for more ideas!

 

I finally finished my Twenty Ten Cardigan!!!!

This sweater was a serious “ugh!” to knit, though mostly due to my choices. However, now that it’s done, I really love it and have worn it almost constantly since blocking, even though we are in the midst of a mini fall heat wave.  I absolutely love the shawl collar, the moss stitch, and the incredible teal Blue Moon buttons.

The pattern is Twenty Ten Cardigan by Veera Välimäki and is knit with Cascade Soft Spun in Lichen Heather.  Both the yarn and the pattern were semi-impulse purchases, so my problems were due to not thinking this through properly.  After I bought the yarn for the sweater, I read that other people were less than pleased to use it.   Frustratingly, the Soft Spun seems to constantly change gauge.  In my first attempt at this sweater, I dramatically changed the stitch and row counts to match my swatch and ended up with a sweater almost 10 inches too wide.  I ripped out about five inches of work and restarted.  Then, when I was nearing the end of knitting the bodice, I had a mini freak-out when I calculated my (now greater) row gauge and thought I wouldn’t be able to finish with the yarn I had.  Unfortunately when I tried to buy more skeins online, I learned that this yarn was already discontinued when I originally bought it!  After a couple days of desperate searching, I was able to track down two skeins at a yarn store in Oregon.  (Irony: I didn’t actually need that yarn because my row gauge somehow shrunk!)

The other big problem was the shaping of this sweater. While I love the asymmetry, this is NOT a pattern for shapely women because it is written to be somewhat boxy. I ended up adding a lot of shaping to make it close fitting enough. I added A-line shaping at the bottom, decreased and increased at the bust, then decreased to a smaller size at the chest and shoulders. I also lengthened the sleeves but added decreases so that they would be form-fitting. All of my extra shaping plus the pattern’s front shaping and button holes required me to draft this thing in an Excel spreadsheet. Guess being an engineer is useful for something!  Also, I thought that my row gauge was greater than it turned out to be when I calculated the front shaping (curses Soft Spun!!!!!), so the asymmetry is not as pronounced as I would have wished :-/

Even though I made many alterations, I must say that the styling on this sweater is fantastic!  It can be difficult to find sweater patterns that look like something I could buy in a store but are still classic enough to be worth the time to knit.  There are already a couple more patterns of  Veera’s that I’ve bookmarked for future sweaters.

By far, my favorite part of this sweater is the buttons.  The buttons ended up costing about the same as the yarn (oh, knitting economics!), but they make me so, so happy.  There are bits of blue in this yarn that inspired me and I think they match quite well!