Saturday, December 7, 2013

Body Block

The main part of my Shepherd sweater is off the needles and on the blocking board! The cables had it scrooched up pretty tight, and I was worried about it being too small until I got it wet and spread it out:

The water relaxed it into just the right dimensions, and everything is fine. I intentionally made it about an inch shorter than the pattern said, which I think will be a more flattering length for me. My non-seed K1P1 front edges were still a little wavy from cable scrooching, so I used blocking wires to straighten them, and they look great. The next steps, collar and sleeves, may have to wait until a small amount of Christmas Knitting is complete.

And what of the voyage of the Sixareen Cape? Alas, we are stranded high and dry (for the last time!) awaiting the last dose of Shetland Heritage yarn, but the neck is looking much more reasonable, and will be fine when I have the materials to finish. I'll block it first, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to do something with the flippy, frilly seed stitch lower edge. The Cape may have to lie in dry dock for  a wee while also, while the Christmas Knitting gets knitted.

If I am desperate to make progress, I think I found a few tails to weave in..

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Round and Round and Back and Forth

Not a lot of excitement around here. Just gradual progress on the Sixareen Cape (nearly ready to start the decreases):

And building the Seedless Shepherd (still working toward the front/back divide):

 ...But look! This thing is so dense and heavy with the cable structure and all, it can almost stand up by itself!

I bought a new circ needle for the Shepherd, Carbonz 40 ".  Franklin Habit calls them "stealth needles."  I needed the 40" length because the 32" was giving me finger cramps, and my liking for carbon fiber needles aside, I thought that this special project deserved special needles, especially if these same ones get the right gauge for a Shearer made with my other yarn. These are the first cf's I've used with the metal, rather than cf tips, and I find that the join between fiber and metal is no problem at all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Careening the Sixareen

My poor Sixareen Cape. She suffered from multiple errors in the pattern that turned her into an upside down knit funnel for a pinhead. Witness:

Kate Davies admitted Mistakes Were Made, and I recently received my copy of the corrected pattern, and a copy of Snawheid by way of apology. So now it's time to frog the top section down to the start of the decreases and do it all over again, this time with better instructions. So frog I did, 3 skeins' worth, ending with a very kinky pile of yarn.

Not to worry. A soak in tepid water, a squeeze, air dry,  rewind, and we're ready to go again. It makes a relaxing alterknit to the Shepherd. so light, such straightforward stockinette stitch, I can do it while watching subtitled movies. Onward and upward with all the kinks out.

But the experience of this and the Shepherd have tempered my rabid fandom for Ms Davies. I still love her vision, I share a love of Real Wool, of Scotland, the Shetland Isles, and traditional designs and techniques. But she seriously needs a technical editor, a good one, so that her acolytes don't need to knit themselves wigs after tearing their hair out trying to make her designs.

P.S. What's a Sixareen? Look it up. What's careening? Look it up.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Wooly Interlude in Homer, AK

 I've cast on my Seedless Shepherd, and am cranking along, but there's not much to look at yet. So let's talk about something else for a bit.

I had the privilege of a weekend trip to Homer recently, and had a chance to visit their wonderful yarn shop, The CommuKnitty Stash. This is the shop that used to be in a yurt, now housed in a lovely little frame house, easy to find on Main Street.

As you'd expect, they've got wonderful yarn and fiber; they have classes, spin and knit gatherings, and, being in Homer, a sweet dog to welcome you. What you might not expect is this:

Alaska yarn from Alaska sheep, some of which is dyed by the proprietor! So, hey, what are we waiting for?? Let's grab some skeins, grab our knitting pals, rent a cosy cabin, and get on down there for a dye session or a knit or spinning class! Need further persuasion? Well, there's beer, and coffee, and more coffee, and chai, good food, and more good food, still more good food, beaches, scenery out the wazoo.....let's go!!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wishy Washy for a Seedless Shepherd

Wow.  It was a good thing I washed my Shepherd & Shearer yarn. It turned the soaking water brown. Yuck! Sheep are dirty little beasties! There was even a little silt in the bottom of the tub when the water drained out. The whole picture was too gross for prime time, so here's a corner of the bathtub where you can see the ivory tub wall, the scuzzy water, and some dark submerged yarn. Compare and contrast:

Speaking of contrast, here's the one between the washed hanks and one of each that I held back temporarily just so I could see how much difference it made. It may not show as well in the photo as in person, but the washed yarn is definitely a whiter shade of pale. The Colored Flock didn't change color, but got lighter and fluffier.

Now that we're washed and dry, it's time to wind up a ball and start swatching! I have decided to make the Shepherd cardigan, but for sure with some modifications. Purists and/or the designer herself will just have to get over themselves if they don't like it. This is going to be my sweater; it's going to take a good deal of work to make it; and I want it to be a sweater that I like and that I will like to wear.

First of all, the hood's gotta go.  It's enormous--not a fashion detail that looks good on me, and the bulk of it on the back makes it difficult to wear another layer over the sweater. I also have a major problem with the seed stitch borders. Even on the model they flare out, not a look I want. Possibly the flare could be cured by knitting the borders on smaller needles than the body of the pattern, or by using a smaller stitch count for the edge and increasing for the cabled area. However, I thought of a different way to tame the edges; see what you think.

I wound, I cast on, knit, cabled, cast off, washed, blocked, and this is what I got:

Sorry I photographed the swatch upside down. The top is a K4 P2 rib that flows right into the cabling, and it seems to work really well. The cable pattern comes out at the right width gauge, but instead of 32 rows per 4 inches of length, I get 26. It makes the thing pretty much square. I'm not sure what to make of this, but I don't think it will cause trouble, as the important stages of the shape are marked by length ("work until it measures x inches") rather than by a count of pattern repeats. Just to see what I'd get, I finished with the seed stitch and, yup, it sure looks like a ruffle. No thanks.

What about the seed stitch button and buttonhole bands? There's going to be a change there, too. The front edges will be K1 P1 rib sewn to a zipper closure. If I were keeping seed stitch bands, I might use leather toggle closures rather than buttons and holes, but in addition to its ruffling properties, seed stitch is a more open fabric that admits cold breezes, so I'm just going to go seedless with this sweater. Will it still be the Shepherd sweater with all these changes? Does it matter?

And if this is not heresy enough, look out Shearer! I've got a crazy idea about converting that pullover into a cardigan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Shepherd & Shearer Is Here!

Last spring I jumped onto a bandwagon launched by Juniper Moon Farm: The Shepherd and the Shearer. The idea was to front some money to the project and they would produce a special batch of yarn to make a hard-wearing sweater and also provide scholarships to women to attend sheep-shearing school. Basic premises are here and here.

Juniper Moon already had a track record as a Community Sourced Agriculture provider of fiber and yarn (you buy a share, half-share, or double share in the spring or fall and receive your fiber/yarn after the year's wool has been harvested and processed). They have some experience at what they were doing, but this was special because unlike the shares, they also commissioned superstar designers to provide patterns for your yarn allotment.

Well, the wait is over and my yarn is here! Ta daaaa.....

My postman was happy about my being so happy to get the package. The Shepherd and the Shearer yarn is there, yes, but what is that brown stuff sticking out of the basket? Well, Miss Piggy here couldn't resist the deal offered by Juniper Moon to assuage subscribers' misery at having to wait longer than promised for their yarn, so they offered a super discount on their CSA yarn to us as well. What you see there is hanks of their Colored Flock yarn from this year. It's a similar weight and sturdiness to the S&S, and feels denser. My idea was that I could knit the Shepherd pattern out of one, and the Shearer out of the other. But now having met the yarns in person, I am going to give them all a wash and have a think about what to make with what.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finishing Some Objects

Visual quiz--what's this?

A strange blob of strangely shaped knitting?

 Let's turn up a corner and see what we can do with it....

Oooo...a sleeve and some wee buttons appear if you fold up the corners...

 Goodness! It's a Baby Surprise Jacket! Always a test of faith in Elizabeth Zimmermann while knitting it, always a surprise even to its maker when you fold it up and actually have a garment! This is more of that Paton's Stretch Socks in Cherry Sours. I love this colorway so much. This is especially notable  given my usual feelings about pink, but this stuff looks so much like cherry blossoms, not candy. See, you've got the green leaves, the blossoms in several shades of pink, and even traces of the brown branches. It's all so perfect. And there's enough left over for a wee matching hat!

Nor have I forgotten the dark striped Kaffe Fassett sweater. It's all blocked and now in the process of getting seams sewed up:

The neck was kind of small, so I had to frog the original castoff and apply myself to learning Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff. It's very well named and very much worth learning. Changing just the bindoff row led to an opening that will actually fit over my head. Hurrah! And d'you see what I found for "pins" in my seam? Those teeny weeny little hair grippy doodads that were so popular a few years ago!

But we're not done yet! The Churchmouse Inside Outside Cowl is also finished and awaiting the frozen winds of winter:

And all this is just to keep the needles busy while I await the arrival of the Shepherd and Shearer...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Satisfying, Cheap, and Shiny

What to do while waiting for my Sixareen problems to get sorted out and for the dark Fassett stripe sleeves to block? Knit me a cowl for the winter! The Churchmouse Inside Outside cowl to be precise, in a wonderful cheap fuzzy sequined (sequins!) yarn, Patons Lace Sequin.

The picture doesn't quite show how wonderful the sequins are--very tiny and subtle and non-scratchy next to the skin, yet they have a charming twinkle that's a lot easier on the wallet than Kidsilk Haze Glamour. Doesn't get much more satisfying than cheap and shiny!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Front and back of dark Fassett stripe sweater are done and blocking:

I never get tired of looking at how well the colors in this thing blend and shift. And even more so on the purl side, as the piece on the right shows. Hmmm...maybe I need to find a reverse stockinette stitch pattern for this stuff....? And before you ask, both pieces are the same size. The camera lens has distorted the one on the right. Compare the grid sizes.

I'm proceeding on both sleeves at the same time in order to avoid Second Sleeve Syndrome (Like Second Sock, only bigger) and to have the best chance of 2 sleeves that are the same size, shape, and length.

And notice how I slyly managed to show off the bumper tomato harvest? Every year, the unheated Alaska tomato grower has to pick a cutoff date for literally cutting all the tomatoes off the vines, ripe or not. Daylight is shrinking (only a week to equinox), the weather is rainy and cool, and we come to face the fact (reminded by yellowing leaves) that those babies are never going to blush on the vine. But tomatoes have a secret. Everything they need to be red tomatoes is sealed up inside green tomatoes, so all they need is to come inside the house and hang out in a shallow basket for a while until they get around to reaching their carmine potential. They even are kind enough not to ripen all at once, so we may be eating fresh homegrown tomatoes for over a month! Let's have another look and revel in the delights of salads to come:

One more thing--the most prolific plant was not any of those I nurtured from seeds and planted in big deck containers. The winner was an afterthought nursery start called Tumbler plopped in a hanging pot. On a per-yard-of-vine basis it whupped the Sunchocola, Scotia, Beaverlodge, and Fourth of July all to pieces! And their flavor is incomparable!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dry Dock

My Sixareen Cape is in dry dock for the time being. I have overcome a bunch of obvious errors in the pattern, but this last one is a deal-breaker. The pattern says to decrease the top until you have 82 stitches. Seriously? Can a normal human being get their head through such a tiny hole? Adding insult to injury, the pattern illustration shows a loose, flow-y top more like a cowl than a constipated turtleneck. Something is very wrong here. Is it the decreasing? My gauge is OK. WTF???  Sadly, the discussion on the Ravelry group hasn't been much help. Most of it is about misunderestimation of yarn quantities--been there--and there is an entry from Kate saying that a corrected pattern is available for those who downloaded it on Ravelry, not much help to those of us who purchased a hard copy through MagCloud. I have emailed Kate requesting a way to get corrections, but she is in the midst of her house/business move and will not be available for a response for some time. Hence the dry dock. I'm sure a solution is forthcoming, just not for a while. And I think some frogging is in my future.

But does the knitting stop just because one project is on the rocks? Certainly not.

There's the dark Kaffe Fassett stripe sweater, for one thing. And I found some cheesy acrylic yarn with sequins (sequins!) that makes really darling "dress-up" baby booties. And is that more Sour Cherries sock yarn I spy? Mm hmm. Because you don't have to have an actual baby in the pipeline to knit a cute baby sweater. If you build it, they will come. I think I know the right baby for it, but it's pretty hard to tell the exact size until a Baby Surprise sweater is nearly done.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Day in the Life

What a difference a day makes to a mushroom. Remember this little beauty?

 A day later it was this:

Mushrooms--you just can't help lichen 'em!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Plain Sailing

Just plain stockinette on the Sixareen Cape from here on out. All the fair isle is done, and it looks pretty good even in its unblocked state. The moss stitch border looks a bit frilly and flip-uppy, but I'll have to wait for the blocking magic to see if it's really going to be a problem.

And I think I promised you a look at the dark Fassett stripe sweater.

This was the best approximation of the color that I could get with the light available. The pattern is this one, in the prescribed yarns, but with less contrast than you see in the woman's model. I used Regia Hand Dye Effect Night Tones and Random Stripe 2903. The yarns look very much alike at first, but they have slightly different textures and one has long gradual color changes, while the other has shorter color shifts. It makes for fascinating if subtle color play that you really have to appreciate up close and in person. Maybe before I'm done I'll find the right light and setting. And no, that's not the shape. It's not blocked, so the sides are curled up. In places you can see the light through it, so you see what a light layer it will be, and a good friend of many of my turtlenecks this winter.

And just for fun, here's what's happening all over the Alaska woods right now--mushrooms!

There are many others, but the most numerous and photogenic are the amanita/fly agaric/fairy toadstools/call-them-what-you-will cartoon 'shrooms. They're the most colorful, bright red when they're young, and covered in mad white dots. They're also poisonous, so nothing eats them. Once in a while a bird or a squirrel will take one up in a tree and then leave it there when it figures out it's no good.

Almost cool enough to make you believe in gnomes, isn't it?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rowing Along in My Sixareen*

The Alaska summer has turned a corner, folks. the sunshine and relative heat are no more. Birch leaves are starting to turn yellow and the intermittent rain is greening up the forest moss. Time to realize that the cold is coming and that there will be a time when I will want the warmth of my Sixareen Cape. I've now got two of the three fair isle pattern repeats done, which feels like a big accomplishment when there are 414 stitches in each round.

The dark Fassett stripe sweater is coming along, too--the back is almost done--but not very photo-worthy yet. Good thing I also have a new pair of booties on the go:

A really sweet colorway of a cotton/wool/elastic sock yarn called Cherry Sours. It's even more charming in Spanish: Caramelos Cereza Agria. Isn't it funny how they can take two colors I'm not all that crazy about, pink (I really get tired of all the pinky stuff they make nowdays. It's like pink is the flag of the double X chromosome.) and green (because green is so, well, green.) And put together with a strange pinky muddy light brown in little baby footies I can't help sighing awwwwwww every time I look at them. I even find myself thinking this yarn would make a really darling baby surprise jacket, and I don't even know anybody offhand who is expecting a person who could wear it.

You may also have noticed a particular vegetable theme in the photos. That's because I'm capital-T-Thrilled that I am going to have tomatoes this year! For the past 2 summers it has not been warm enough for my tomato plants to set fruit. Two years! Big plants, lots of blossoms, but it has to be at least 70 degrees or so for the flowers to set fruit, and even up next to the south-facing house wall, they weren't able to manage more than a couple of wee green marbles. I'm counting on the fruit being all the sweeter for the long wait.

*A Sixareen is a Shetland boat. Look it up here. And video of an authentic re-creation is here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

F.O. Fashion Show

There hasn't been much blog fodder around here lately.  I've been busy but boring. My apologies. Just knitting back and forth, back and forth in the case of the red stripe sweater, and round and round and round in the case of the aqua Trigere.

And now, at last, lookee here:

The red stripes are an actual sweater, one that fits nicely and that I think I am going to like very much. It's quite soft and light, which makes me even more glad that I changed the neckline from the big cowl to a turtle. The only reason the cowl is standing up in the pattern picture is because it's stuffed full of scarf. On its own, the cowl would just sigh and flop down. An even sloppier look than the soup-stained standup in the picture. (No, there are no soup spots on the model in the picture. She doubtless is a much tidier soup-slurper than I.)

And the aqua Trigere is done. I like the way the beaded lace inserts turned out. The fit's a little closer than I would like, but I think time and more hard work will take care of that.

 Finished Objects mean an opportunity to get a new Object started. And I do believe, posing coyly in the pansy patch, you can discern the beginning of another Fassett stripe sweater, one in more solemn and subtle tones:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Exhausted! (Almost)

The sun shone. The dye dyed. Solar dyeing works! But, as with any of the wild non-standard dye methods (see snow dyeing), Forrest Gump tends to get involved: you never know what you're going to get.  Here's what came out of the jars after a day in the sun:

 On the left, the wool DK dyed with the blues. On the right, the angora/wool fingering sprinkled with red and blue dyes. But take a moment to check out the liquid left in the jars. That's exhaustion, folks. As in all the blue dye was taken up in the yarn, leaving none behind in the water. Curiously, the blue in the red-and-blue jar did exhaust, but the red did not. Hmmmm. Was the difference in the dye? In the fiber? We'll never know. But what we do know is that setting a jar of yarn and color out in the summer sun makes the yarn turn amazing colors! Fantastic!

The skeins above were still wet from their experience. After a few hours drying in the shade, you can see for sure what colors you ended up with.  Let's go hang them up on some moose antlers and see what we've got:

For sure what I got was not quite what I intended. The blue is pretty much all blended in one hue, but has darker and lighter areas according to contact with the dye powder for a kettle dyed look that I quite like. The red-and-blue skein all blended to a fairly even shade of purple. Not my favorite shade, but I can live with it. Let's take a closer look:

See, there are little teeny pinky areas around the ties in the purple skein, and I'm glad they're not a major feature, because I'm not too crazy about that shade of pink. It does provide inspiration for another dye session--causing resist areas by tying the yarn in more places. And here's another curious thing: the red apparently seeped under the ties, while the blue did not. Ahhh, the mysteries of the dyepot!

All in all, this was great fun and I'll maybe try it again before the sun goes away for its winter vacation. It's a great bookend for the Alaska dye experience, dyeing with sun and snow. Now, what to knit with this lovely stuff???

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Good Day to Dye

Alaska's been crazy sunny and warm this June. June's the month of solstice, the longest daylight. To actually have sunshine with the daylight has turned my fancy to an attempt at solar yarn dyeing. Hey ho, let's go!

In the dawn's early light I laid out a black garbage bag on the deck--both to protect the surface and, according to at least one solar dyeing account I read, amplify the heat in the dyejars. Two yarn bases: a superwash wool DK weight and an angora/wool fingering blend. The KnitPicks Bare yarns are really easy to use. They come skeined up with loose ties, so they're almost ready to go. Almost. For acid dyes, you need to soak the yarn in some acid. A cup of white vinegar in a bucket of water, and in they go for a half hour soak:

Now for the dye! I used some of the Jaquard powders I had left from my winter snowdyeing fun.

The angora/wool was lightly sprinkled with vermillion and sapphire blue in the hope that the result would be blue-ish and red-ish and blended shades of purple. Darkest where the powder directly hit the yarn and lighter and purple-ier in between as the powder dissolved in the water.

The DK wool was treated to sprinkles of sapphire blue on one side of the skein and sky blue on the other, hoping for shifting shades of blue in the finished product. So into the jars they go!

As you can see, the yarn/jar/water ratio was about right. All the yarn submerged and fairly loose in the solution. Now Let the Sun Shine In!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waste of a Perfectly Good Education

Eight years of arithmetic. Algebra. Geometry, advanced algebra, precalculus and calculus. Statistics. At least 14 years of my life spent studying mathematics and I apparently still can't friggin' COUNT!

Making two equal sleeves on a striped sweater is so easy. All you have to do is count the stripes on sleeve #1 and start the cap shaping at the same place on sleeve #2. Did I do that right? Nope. Do I have to frog the top of #2 and re-knit it? Yup. Am I pissed off at myself? Most certainly.

After a period of mature reflection, I have decided to postpone the fixing of the sleeve problem until after I have completed the sweater front, have sewed the two halves together and tried them on. Because, once I was able to quit cussing myself out, it occurred to me that this might be a timesaver in disguise. If I try on the body of the sweater and then pin a sleeve in place, I will be able to tell if even one of them is the right length. The sleeve caps in this pattern are very shallow, so if the whole thing needs a couple of inches off, there won't actually be that much frogging involved, and it would be very worthwhile for a sweater that fits well, right?

Meanwhile, Sixareen Cape is taking a rest. Not that I have abandoned it, far from it. But after a long, long winter I'm not feeling the chilly-shouldered need for it. At least for as long as the sun is out.

Fear not, however, that I have monomaniacally wed myself to a single project. No--summer weather has brought on fond thoughts of the cool shirt pattern I got: Trigere. And if I'm going to have a chance to wear it before the snow flies again, I'd better get knitting! And so, dear reader, I cast on. I cast on with the original yarn, Lara. It's a wonderful color, much more to my taste than the orange, but it's not really big fun to knit with. It's like having 10 cotton sewing threads loosely twisted together, and it's really easy to miss one of those stinkers as you knit. And if you miss one, you've got a stupid little loopy thread messing up the texture of your fabric, so the knitting has to go a lot slower and more carefully than you'd think for acres of stockinette.

It struck me that beads mixed in with the lace inserts would look cool (you know how I love me some beads), so I've been fooling around figuring out where to put them, and I think after several tries I got it. (Because the lace is knitted upside down, the bottom two repeats are the preferred option.)

Now I've got to sign off and get busy--I've got so much knitting to do!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stripes and Texture

Nothing world-shaking going on around here in the ol' knitting basket. Just steady progress on the Fassett stripe sweater and sixareen cape. The back of the sweater is done and blocked, so I took it outside to try to capture the beauty of its colors.

Even cloudy daylight doesn't do it justice. The reds are too orangey and the contrast with the dark gem tones aren't captured very well. Not even when you get up close:

But here's an amusing thing, and it's red, too! If you are familiar with Alaska, you know that instead of spring, we have a season called breakup. Snow melts, ice on bodies of water breaks up (could that have anything to do with the name of the season???), nothing's growing yet, and in some places the water, mud, and dead grass form a slurry that sticks to everything. Behold a car that has captured the quintessence of breakup:

There's so much to love, from the bungee cord trunk latch and duct tape-and-cellophane taillight to the crisp and tidy way the essential windows were cleaned, leaving the back windows and body coating completely undisturbed. Missing wing mirror is a nice extra touch. This, my friends, is breakup in automobile form!

Art is where you find it. Take a close look at the even-ness and wonder of the mud-grass melange. It has a special mucky textural beauty that you never see on the flanks of a shiny Los Angeles Cadillac convertible.

Happy breakup, everybody! May it be nasty, brutish, and short. And then bring on the flowers and midnight sun!