Tuesday, June 13, 2017

No Place is Safe

Do you ever see a post on the Ravelry forums and just know that it's going to get locked down by the end of the day? It's like a train wreck. I can't help but watch it spiral into petty and off topic arguments.

I remember thinking once that a forum on a yarn crafting social website can't possible get crazy. Oh how wrong I was...

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pattern Design, or How I Accidentally Knit a Watermelon

Sometimes you set out to make one thing and end up with something rather unexpected.  I won a skein of Candy Hearts yarn from Brediculous Yarns in February. I searched and searched for a pattern to use it with, but I had a hard time finding something I liked. I finally decided that I would have to come up with something on my own. I spent a few days getting sucked into the deep hole of lace stitches online and finally settled on one that I liked and knit up a swatch.

I was super please with how it looked and started planning out a shawl to make the most of the single skein of yarn. I got myself a graph paper notebook and started charting. The site I found the lace on only had written out instructions so I took some time to chart that out and then started playing with different shawl shapes to see what I wanted to do. I personally am not a huge fan of triangle shawls. I like to wear mine as scarfs so triangles tend to be a bit bulky around the neck.  After sketching out shawl designs I really liked the asymmetrical shawl. Unfortunately that one is going to take a LOT more planning and math to figure out how to fit the design I want into it.

I settled on a crescent shawl because it's a shape that is very wearable to me and fitting the pattern design into it was going to take significantly less time and math. After some swatching and charting, and recharting, and simplifying that chart to make it easier I grabbed a skein of Knit Picks Palette in a color I am frankly not likely to ever use for anything else and cast on for a proof of concept shawl. I don't think I've ever really heard anything in knitting referred to as proof of concept, but I'm rolling with it.

I was absolutely only going to do a little swatch of the design to see if it worked the way I wanted it to. And then I kept knitting... and knitting... and knitting... Eventually I gave in and decided to use up as much of the skein as I could. It was a 50g skein with 231yds. I am absolutely floored by how much I got out of it. Of course I ended up a few rows short. So I grabbed whatever Palette I had laying around left over from other projects. And then I ran out of that yarn so I grabbed one more and accidentally knit a watermelon.

I blocked out the Accidental Watermelon and it's the perfect size for the Bug and works pretty well as a kerchief scarf on me.

As things tend to go I finished the test shawl and then got distracted by something shiny so I haven't done the real version with the Candy Hearts yet. I might have to pick that up soon and give it a whirl. I would love to get this pattern written up for real and post it on Ravelry.

Monday, June 5, 2017

So Many MKALs, So Little Time

I don't think it's a secret that knit-a-longs and mystery knit-a-longs are absolutely my jam. They are what really got me back into knitting on a more consistent basis.  It seemed like such a novel concept when I first heard of it last year. A whole group of people knitting the same item, but only getting a portion of the pattern at a time with no idea what the final product would look like! I had never heard of anything like this before. I was completely sucked in.

The first one I did was the West Knits October MKAL. I had complimented a friends shawl and she told me all about the idea of MKALs (hers was Exploration Station which I totally want to do at some point). I was so intrigued that I went home and searched Ravelry for more information. Discovered that the October West Knits MKAL was starting in a week and jumped on that bandwagon.

Picking colors is hard enough when you know what you're making. When it's a complete mystery it's even more stressful. Sometimes it's successful and sometimes not so much... I was pretty happy with my colors for the West Knits MKAL when I picked them and then quickly grew to hate them a few sections into the shawl. However, it has started to grow on me...

Then I did the Aroha Knits Makariri Shawl KAL and it was like the flood gates opened. There are entire groups on Ravelry that keep track of KALs and MKALs that are happening. Guys, there are SO MANY. I want to do a lot of them, but I simply don't have the time for all of them. I just finished one for the month of May, started another for the month of June, and now I've got two I signed up for starting in July and one in August..

Here's the one I'm working on now. A lace weight shawl on US size 2. The yarn I picked is definitely more like cobweb yarn... It takes great lighting, sharp enough to injure yourself needles, and serious concentration.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Winter's Whisper Shawl MKAL

I am a sucker for KALs. MKALs doubly so. Free MKALs? Sign me up! Don't care that I have a handful of WIPs and I just started a new job and I have another KAL I signed up for already.

Ok so I was really crazy to try to do all of that in February and I was not 100% successful. It took me a while to get adjusted to the new job and that really cut into my knitting time. This MKAL won, however, because I was having a really great time knitting it. It had elements that were completely new to me and a couple I hadn't done in a while.

This is decidedly not my style, but was still a lot of fun to knit. It's in my stash of things to be gifted someday. It's a beautiful combination of lace and cables. The pattern is Winter's Whisper from Designs By Mesha. I used some yarn I had that I had purchased from someone on Etsy as a destash. I got three skeins of the yarn for a steal. I had to dip into the second skein to finish this off, but I have a ton left. It's a wool/silk/viscose blend and feels delightful.

This pattern had beading which is something I have never done before. There was a bit of a learning curve to figure out the best way to do it. I went with the crochet hook method. Finding a crochet hook small enough was a bit hard. I ended up finding a set of small hooks on Amazon.  I naively went to Joann's for beads. Never again... They were very inconsistent as far as hole size, which made stringing the beads on with the crochet hook very difficult. I think I wasted nearly as many beads as I used.

I ended up adding way more beads to the pattern than were called for. I added some in the first clue because I wanted to get the hang of it before we got to the section that would have a lot of beading. I also added some at the end just because I still had a bunch of the beads left. 

I have done cables before, but nothing as intricate as this one was. It was a very fun one to do to get back into those. I ended up adjusting the pattern a little bit to bring the end of the cable section to a point. They ended a bit suddenly and I wanted to make it smoother. I wish I had known enough to do that at the beginning as well.  

You can see in the pictures above that the YOs between the center panel and the wings is a little wonky on the left. That is due to the YO being between a knit and a purl on the WS. I didn't realize that it was making a much larger YO until a ways into it. I found that switching the direction of the YO on the RS helped to pull those tighter. So instead of doing the YO by taking the working yarn from the front of the needle to the back, I brought it from the back to the front. This was only necessary on the one side where the WS had the last knit stitch of the cable panel leading into the purling of the lace sections. The one on the other side worked just fine as normal.

Overall I'm very happy with how this one turned out. I will probably never wear it myself, but I'm sure I'll find someone that will! 

Things I learned from this project:
  • Beading - I'm not a huge fan of sparkly things, but I do like the weight that beads can add. I used a crochet hook to add the beads to this one. I've since acquired a fleegle which i pretty darn handy. I'll have a post about beading tools later.
  • Cables without a cable needle! - This only works over small cables. This pattern is a four stitch cable. You slip the first two stitches with the yarn in front or behind depending on the cable and then knit the next two and then swap it around again. I watched a couple great videos on youtube that helped with it. 
  • YO direction is important - Nice even YOs make things much prettier.
  • Pulling yarn from the outside of the cake - I had a major yarn barf moment with my caked yarn... I had to rewind it and learn how to pull from the outside of the cake. I think I may be a convert on that front. Not having the cake collapse as you get to the end is kind of nice. 
No, that is not three separate balls...

  • Joann's beads are not good for knitting - The beads were insanely inconsistent on size. I've since switched over to using Toho beads in some other projects and they are leaps and bounds better and pretty comparably priced if not actually cheaper.
  • I love lace knitting! - I want to knit all the lace things. I don't want to wear them, but I want to knit them.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tiny Needles and Tinier Yarn

Lace man, lace is my newfound true love.

I want to knit all of the beautifully intricate lace patterns.

I do not want to WEAR the beautifully intricate lace items.

Slightly contradictory, but I'm sure I can find people that do want to wear them.

I'm nearly done with my first project using actual lace yarn. The shawl is a MKAL. It's fun with lace because you see the pattern develop. The yarn is so tiny! I'm finding that my gauge is quite a bit looser with lace yarn. I'm totally sold on it though. I've already collected a good stash of lace yarns. I have another project that I just started that is on US size 2 needles with a nearly cobweb yarn. I had to get new circular needles because the ones I had were not pointy enough and had trouble catching the yarn.

Sooo tiny

The other lace shawl I'm working on is by Anna Victoria. She has STUNNING shawls. It's the first one I cast on because it was a free pattern and it felt like a great way to test out how I felt about the intricate laces. Needless to say, with how much lace yarn I'm collecting and how many patterns I've favorited I'm very happy about it. I'm using a variegated fingering yarn for it and let me tell you the knitting world has THOUGHTS about that... Mostly the response I've gotten is that I should use a solid or tonal yarn for laces so I can "let my work shine". Despite the many passive agressive comments about variegated yarns and lace I'm trucking along anyway and honestly, I'm loving the look so far.

Sure, the intricacies of the yarn are slightly muddled, but I think it looks really cool.

Now I just need to find people besides my enthusiastic eight year old to wear them!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Surprise Gift Pattern!

My partner's parents went on their "honeymoon" cruise (it's been 30 odd years, but who's counting?) recently and brought us back all sorts of goodies. We had dinner with them last night and his mom dithered a bit before asking if I would be interesting in a pattern she had purchased, but was never going to get around to knitting.  Turns out it was Waiting For Rain which I have been eyeing since I saw it. She was so excited that I wanted to have it.

© softsweater

It's a beautiful pattern and I can't wait to figure out the short rows. I've never done anything like it before. I just bought two skeins of a beautiful soft purple alpaca yarn in a clearance section of a LYS and I think it'll be perfect for it. I've been digging through Ravelry to find something for all 860 yards of it. I'm going to turn around and give it back to her when I'm done with it!

I'm going to send a message to the designer to see if she would be willing to send me the PDF. I am pretty strictly a digital person. I have all of my patterns on my iPad and I use Knit Companion for most of my charted designs. It would make life much easier. If not, which I would totally understand, I'll survive.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Crazy Quilt Socks MKAL Failure...

Or maybe more like I voluntarily gave up. I did pretty well keeping up with the first couple clues, but two MKALs at the same time is probably more than I should have taken on at the same time as starting a new job. I decided to wait on the rest of the clues until I had more time and then I started to see the finished ones from other people... It was decidedly not my style. I felt like it was something that I would never use and I wanted to use the lovely yarn for something else. I haven't quite pulled the trigger to frog these yet, but I will sooner or later.

I really loved the texture of the first part of these socks. I am considering just making a pair of socks with that texture the whole way up. It looks so cool and it's super squishy.

However, the further along it got the less happy I was with the design. I only completed the socks through clue three. 

It's a very interesting construction and I learned a lot from it. Wrap and turns were a complete mystery to me before this. The designer, Wendy Gaal from Knitters Brewing Company, had some great videos that she provided along with the pattern. They were very clear and concise. Now I need to work up the nerve to frog them...

This is, of course, the risk you take with mystery knits. I'm finding as I do more of them that studying the style of the designer is an important step. If their other things are not appealing to you chances are good the mystery one won't be either. I've sort of blindly jumped into them up until now and it hasn't always worked out.  The first one I did was the Westknits Building Blocks. I was not happy with that when I finished it, but I'm literally wearing it as I type this so it's grown on me.

The group aspect continues to be what draws me towards mystery knits and KALs. Even if the pattern doesn't end up being something that I would have chosen on my own there are a number of people doing it right along with me. When I hit a stumbling block there is someone else that has the perfect solution or trick to get me past it and I get to help provide that to others as well.

Things I learned from this project:

  •  Toe up socks! A whole new world! - I used Judy's Magic Toe Cast On. It was a bit fiddly, especially on such small needles, but it is literally invisible. 
  • Wrap and Turns - These little tricky things work really well. I may need to try to work them into the slipper pattern for my dad.
  • If your yarn smells like vinegar wash it - The yarn I used for this was lovely, but still smells very strongly of vinegar from the dyeing even after sitting on the open air shelf for four months. When I frog this I'm going to re-skein it and give it a good wash.