So much for posting more regularly, huh? June and July were a bit of a whirlwind, and now suddenly we’re half way through August. There has been some knitting time in the weekend, which is mostly represented by additional inches on the O-Wool sweater.

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I’ve just started the bust increases, and am going to have to make some decisions about the colorwork yoke soon. I’m a little concerned about gauge; either my swatch lied, or something about knitting in the round has tightened it up a bit. It’s within the range where it could stretch to the desired size with blocking, but I tried it on the other night and was a little worried about the fit. That hasn’t stopped me from knitting blindly along, but I’m hoping not to have to rip back on a project of this gauge (11 sts/in).

Last night, I picked up my current big-gauge project and finished up all but the cast off.

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The rainbow shawl has been all-but finished for about a month now; it’s blocked and has been worn around the house a fair amount, but it’s still waiting for those ends to be woven in. I’m not sure that I’ll wear this out of the house often, but I do really love how the colors worked out.

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My internship is wrapping up in the next couple of weeks, and then the new semester starts in September. Seems like summer is all but finished, too.

This week has been all about blues and grays – one skein of Mushishi, and a navy blue Cascade. Same shaping as the Drachenfels shawl, but a very different feel with an allover stripe.

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At first, I didn’t think I’d like the stripes – the two yarns seemed too similar to work well. But, as I knit on I found the lighter parts of the skein, and I found that I really liked the pairing of subtle variations with a single, constant color. It’s hard to go wrong with blues and grays.

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The purple and rainbow shawl has been slow in starting, in part because I am dithering about what to do. It’s hard enough for me to knit a simple pattern once, never mind three times in a row without changing something significant. And, one of the reasons that this skein ended up in deep stash was that I wanted it to be something “special.” (Too nice to be used up, and so it never gets used…).

I spent some time this week sketching around with some swatches. Trying to switch up the shaping turned into a lot of short rows.

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Which made a few interesting shapes as I knitted my way through a few iterations.

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This one might have been going somewhere, maybe.

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But I finished the blue shawl this afternoon, and tomorrow is Monday, so new knitting is more important than fancy knitting. I do have a tickle at the back of my brain that says short row rainbow wedges would be fun, but for now, I’m going with stripes.

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I’m not sure how I feel about it yet – this is the most blindingly bright end of the skein, but I’m hoping it will balance out a bit when the calmer colors come in. We’ll see how it goes. If I don’t love it, I’m not afraid to rip, and this way I still have knitting to start the week.

We’ve had terrible photo weather around here lately, but I did convince the dressform to do some modeling for me. Lots of color around here these days!

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I’m still puttering away on the green scarf, but I wanted a smaller project to take on the plane when we went to Florida a couple of weeks ago. I bought a pattern and threw a couple of balls of yarn in the suitcase the night before our trip, and now I have a new shawl:

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The pattern is Drachenfels by Melanie Berg, just a simple garter stitch shawl with some interesting color patterning. It’s knit out of 3 skeins of Sebago from Knit One Crochet Too that I bought for the project, one skein of yarn from Straightfork Farm in the Gold Rush colorway (bought at Twinset Summer Camp in 2013), and a skein of my own handspun carbonized bamboo, plied up sometime this spring. On size 6 needles, it whipped up really fast, and then it grew by another 60% when I blocked it (that’s alpaca for you…). It was interesting that the alpaca slipped and grew immediately once wet, but the carbonized bamboo took some coaxing to stretch to the same gauge. Different textures, different behaviors. It’s about 5″ along a side, so it’s a pretty generous shawl.

I was a bit put out with the triangle’s hypotenuse: I made a point to leave some extra give in the edge stitches, but the increases called for in the pattern make for a very tight, inflexible edge that didn’t stretch well at all. You can see that it’s still slightly puckered in the photo above, and that was after serious stretching while wet  – it looks worse in person. It does bother me that the edge gauge is so different than the rest of the shawl, but I don’t think it will show up when worn. Still, if I were to knit this pattern again I would absolutely choose a different increase technique.

The drape of the fabric is really nice, and I absolutely love the color. I am not usually a yellow person at all, but I fell in love with this skein when I saw it, and I like it even better offset by the black and charcoal gray. I hope to take a modeled shot that does it justice one of these days, but in the interests of posting, best to go with what’s on the camera now.

I only have another 6″ or so to go on the green shawl, so I am perilously close to being out of knitting again. Lest I break this run of actual project progress, we made a run up to Coveted Yarn this morning in search of new supplies. I started my summer internship two weeks ago, and promptly realized that my dressy office wardrobe is mostly blue, and almost none of my current knitted wardrobe seems to match. I’ve kind of wandered off into the purples and oranges in the past few years, and haven’t refreshed the blue department very often lately.

I picked up a skein of Mushishi in blues and grays and some Cascade 220 in navy blue to make another mindless garter stitch shawl. (Quick knitting and mindless is about where I am right now, and garter stitch fits the bill.)

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I also got some purple Cascade 220 to go with these bright gradient skeins that I hand spindled in Germany in 2009. I haven’t decided 100% on the final project for this one yet, but at the moment I’m thinking it will also be another garter stitch shawl. Easy to get off the needles quickly, and maybe by the time I finish this one I’ll have come up with a more adventurous project for the summer.

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So, there you have it. One shawl done, two almost begun. It seems I have not forgotten how to knit, after all.

My last class of the semester was on Monday…I’m officially half way through the MFA program! (Time flies, and all that…). I’ll have to do a quick “what I’ve been doing while I haven’t been knitting” post one of these days, but for now, let’s stick with the yarn.

I’m a little more than halfway through the shawl that I cast on in February. I did about 6 inches in February, 4 in March, and the rest of it one weekend in April when I just couldn’t make myself work on programming any longer.

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I love the texture of the stitch pattern; it’s a diagonal version of a basketweave knit-purl pattern that I found in a Japanese stitch dictionary. Sometimes it looks almost like hexagons, sometimes like squares or diamonds, and sometimes like cables.

I just realized that I actually have two balls of yarn left for this project, but I think I’ll probably only use one. I debated going an inch or two wider, but held back to make sure I had enough yarn. Now I’m kind of wishing I hadn’t. I don’t think it will need the extra length, but we’ll see how it goes. I really love the yarn, so it won’t hurt to have an orphaned skein around.

We’re leaving for a trip to Florida to visit family on Friday, and I really only have today to get ready for the trip. With the shawl in it’s current mammoth state, it’s not exactly convenient to carry around (6  250 g skeins of yarn can start to get heavy, and it now takes up my whole bag…). So, I started looking around for a new project that could go along.

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I’ve been wanting to pair this sunshiny yellow from Straight Fork Alpacas with a charcoal gray ever since I got it. I think that the carbonized bamboo that I plied up the other night might work, and I pulled a couple of other candidates from the stash as well.

I’m currently thinking Drachenfels by Melanie Berg – enough that I bought and printed out the pattern. I don’t really have time to think or plan on this one, so it’s probably best to just grab something off the shelf, and I love the modern look of her design.

I’m not sure about either the black or the beige yarn in the photo. If I’m working strictly from the stash, it’s the best that I have on hand; I’d like a little more gray in the beige, and a little less weight in the black. The black is a beautifully lustrous alpaca that I bought at Alpacapalooza while we were in Seattle, so it’s been in the stash for something like 8 years. I love it, but it’s made from the alpaca breed that has no bounce to it (I can never remember which is which), and it makes for a very dense and heavy skein. A shawl could be a good use for it, because I don’t have to worry too much about it holding its shape in the garment, and garter would be a good stitch base for a flaccid yarn. Still, but I’m a little worried that so much weight and slippery alpaca combined might make for a shawl that won’t stay on, and that would mean a shawl that I don’t wear.

So, we’ll have to see about those. Fortunately, I think I can probably just start at the other end of the shawl, and make the final call later. A fingering weight medium gray and black can’t be all that hard to find.

With that, I’m off, but I hope to be back again before too long!

Yesterday, my friend Teresa came by to pull me out of my studying cave for a few hours. We went to her friend Carolyn’s house, where we made these fine works of art.

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Then, we chopped them up and applied some of her beautiful stamps to the painted backgrounds, and we made these:

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Aren’t they fun? I love how the watercolor works in the background, and how “professional” those sloppy paintings ended up looking.

This was a fun exercise in roughness for me. I was introduced to that term last semester in one of my classes; a man named Christopher Alexander created a list of 15 principles of beauty, and roughness was one of them. I summarized it in my final project this way:

“Roughness is a characteristic of natural environments. It is created with a sense of freedom and abandon, and is an elegant solution to the question of how to fit regular items into irregular space. By breaking mathematical regularity, roughness allows misalignments and imperfections to coexist with pattern, and creates a more dynamic piece.”

I do really love symmetry, but most of the time am more drawn to organic, natural feeling work. Still, it’s sometimes hard for me to break the regularity of a pattern and introduce roughness that is unplanned. This project was fun because we worked the other way around; we created a lot of randomness, shuffled it up, and then created order and symmetry working from that. It’s always fun to switch up your work order and see what it teaches you about the creative process. I know I’m excited to have a fun new tool for playing with random elements!

After several weeks of bare needles, I finally have a project going again. (Sort of. That’s about two weeks of knitting, right there…)
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It’s a good long project, too; another super wide worsted-weight scarf on size 3 needles. Fast enough to see progress, but also long enough to keep me in stitches for quite a long time, at the rate I’m going. The yarn is Shepherd’s Wool, and has been in stash almost exactly a year – I bought it in Maine last February at the SPA knitting retreat.

This semester has been busier than usual, right from day one. Lots of good things happening, but not much time to breathe. Fortunately, this week my whole schedule suddenly lightened up (combination of a snow day and a Monday holiday), and both days this weekend I’ve actually been able to take a few hours completely off. It came at the best time, too…I have two job interviews for summer internships this week, and really needed the time to prepare and regroup.

I haven’t gotten to the knitting yet, but I’m hoping to squeeze some in there before heading back to the grind.

Also, I randomly got a password reset email for an instagram account that someone set up with my email about 3 years ago (somehow…don’t know how they managed to do that without having access to my email to authenticate). I’ve tried to get onto Instagram several times since then and wasn’t able to, because my email was already in their system. I tried the tech help email route a few times, to no avail. And then, all of a sudden, last night there was a password reset message in my inbox, and I was able to access the empty account. Go figure.

So the upshot is that my little technology snafu seems to have resolved itself, and I am now ericagunn on Instagram. Get in touch if that’s somewhere you hang out!

My game of yarn chicken took a bit of a detour after I wrote the last post. I was pretty sure that I was going to end up with a 30 inch scarf, and also pretty sure that a 30 inch scarf is not very useful. So, I started thinking about things that I could do to modify the design. I pulled out the dressform, and started pinning the scarf on it.

 

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I liked how the brioche rib naturally folded over to make a shawl collar, so I started thinking about making a smaller shawl rather than a full length scarf. I added a little bit of short row shaping at the shoulders, and knit until the scarf was just long enough to join, which gave me this.

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(And plenty of yarn left over…there was no danger at all of running out with this version.)

I haven’t worn it yet, because it’s not enough to wear in deep winter, but I’m thinking it could be a handy fashion accessory to keep in the office for the warmer months. And my favorite thing about it is that I think the simple asymmetric fit would be right at home at Steven Be’s, where I got the yarn.

Unfortunately, I seem to have run out of luck with finding projects in the stash to cast on. I’ve tried to start at least three other projects since finishing the shawl a couple of weeks ago, and none of them have made it past the swatching stage. I am sure that there is something worth knitting in there, but it’s not jumping out at me, and I don’t have very many spare brain cells to devote to finding it right now. I really need to find an infinite, mindless project that I can cast on and knit until the end of the semester, but I keep coming up with small projects, because they require less planning. Maybe I’ll try another stash dive tonight, and see what comes up. It’s simply not possible that there is nothing to knit with all this yarn!

And just like that, winter break is over. I haven’t quite gotten over the fact that the new semester starts tomorrow, but here it comes!

I did actually manage to be home and spend some time crafting over the past couple of weeks. The handwarmers are done, and I am trying to decide whether it makes me too crazy to have things on my hands all the time. Having my hands covered up by something I don’t want to get dirty has been more of an adjustment than I’d expected. I’ve never noticed how often I wash my hands, or how much I use my palms and pinky/ring fingers to work, but I am constantly having to stop and take my handwarmers off before I can do things. I’m wearing them anyway for now, and may manage get used to it with time. That would be nice, since they do help to keep my hands warm. For the moment, though, the jury is definitely still out.

I’ve been spending a little time getting reacquainted with my spinning wheel, and I have this lovely pair of silver and gold skeins to show for it.

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They really do shine like metal; I have no idea what they are going to be, but it will be beautiful. The gold is a yak/silk blend from Port Fiber that I bought at the SPA knitting retreat last February, and the silver is a yak/bombyx top from Rhinebeck 2013. The fiber was beautiful to spin, and the resulting yarn is very soft. I ended up with 370 yards of the gold and 308 of the silver, in a fingering-weight 2 ply (before washing…we’ll see what happens when it blooms). I’m sure this will turn into something special, when the moment is right.

While I was in the specialty fiber bin, I pulled out the carbonized bamboo that I bought at Rhinebeck that same year. I absolutely love the matte black color of it – a fiber version of graphite – but I’m not quite sure how I feel about the hand. It’s quite a sticky fiber, both to spin and to touch. It’s definitely an unusual feel; sort of a maximally-scaly kind of yarn. It’s not at all itchy or rough (in fact, it feels very soft), and I would be happy to wear it against bare skin (provided that my skin wasn’t too dry).

The spinning fiber has a ton of the tooth that you feel when you run your finger against the scales on your hair, or when you spin a braid from the wrong end, against the direction that it was pulled. As long as you keep the twist securely behind your drafting area, it spins just fine and is very smooth, but even a tiny bit in the drafting zone locks things up fast. I am spinning a modified long-draw, as always, but I’m doing a lot more controlling of twist location with my front hand than I usually do. Still, it seems to be coming out very even, and as I get used to the grip I’m finding that I don’t mind having that little bit of stickiness to work against. It’s been a very interesting contrast to the silk spinning, anyway, and it will be fun to see how it feels in the yarn, and when knitted up. I imagine that this fiber would be excellent if you needed a grippy yarn for something (maybe the palms of my next handwarmers?), but only time (and experience) will tell.

On the knitting front, I have continued my cast-on-randomly approach in an attempt to keep the needles full and get things moving out of the stash. This time, I settled on a skein of Mushi-Ishi that I bought at Steven Be’s when I visited Ellen in Minneapolis way back in 2010. The picture below doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a dark green and brown semisolid single with tweedy bits of white sprinkled in.

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I have cast on for at least 3 projects with this yarn, and nothing ever seems quite right. Those tweedy flecks are enough to overwhelm just about any pattern (who’d have thought that such a tiny thing would make such a big difference?), and the dark color means that most details just don’t stand out.

This time, I cast on for a scarf using the same brioche rib that I used in the cowl that I knit earlier in the month. I wasn’t very excited about it for the first couple of inches, but it’s growing on me, and I quite like the feel and look of the fabric in a larger piece.

Unfortunately, the yarn ball is shrinking faster than I’d expected, and I realized last night that I’m a third of the way through the yarn and only a foot into the scarf. So, a change of direction was necessary. I could have ripped back and done a narrower version, but I decided to try for something a little more interesting instead. I added some short row shoulder shaping, and am now working toward a very short capelet/wrap with a folded-over collar.

 

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So far, it’s fitting my dress model very well, and I’m hopeful that there will be enough yarn to finish it off. No idea if I’ll ever wear such a thing, but a finished garment is a finished garment, and there’s nothing like a little yarn chicken to start off the new year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure I’d call it a speedy knit, but I did cast off for the cowl on Tuesday night. Less than a month per project is an improvement, I suppose?

Considering that I cast on and knit without swatching, checking gauge, or really counting stitches, it came out at just about the perfect size. It’s big enough to slip down over my shoulders, and long enough to fold over at the neck.

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That does make for a rather dramatic neck opening that I will probably close up with a shawl pin for warmth.

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I haven’t worn it yet, so it remains to be seen whether this style works well for me, but I’m hopeful.

I have been having a hard time finding a new project to cast on (with all this wool around, I’m not sure why that statement is even possible, but there it is.). Knit night snuck up on me yesterday, and caught me with nothing on the needles. With limited time to plan, I grabbed a ball from the stash and cast on for a pair of handwarmers.

 

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This time, the educated-guess cast on method isn’t working quite as well; the ribbing is ok, but the mitts are a little snug. If I’d switched to stockinette for the hand as I’d originally planned, it might have worked out, but I think these will probably be frogged and reknit with an extra 2-4 stitches.

I did an asymmetric increase pattern at the thumb to avoid interrupting the 1×1 rib. I do like the increase line, but I’m not sure I’m a fan of the slanted look it gives the rest of the ribbing, so I may rethink that next time around, too. Fortunately, handwarmers are small, so it isn’t a big deal to pull back and start over. Who knows…I might even come up with a more interesting project in between. For now, it’s just nice to have something on the needles again, and to be making progress. Here’s hoping that it continues!

From a knit-free October, we sailed right over a knit-free November, and halfway into December as well! The semester ended last Friday, and I’m still kind of reeling from the intensity of it. This was the semester for getting up to speed; in addition to learning the basic “grammar” of design, there were also several new tools and a whole lot of disciplinary culture to pick up on. It’s exciting to be in a world where everything is completely new, but it also takes a lot of time and attention to perform at a high level when you’re starting from scratch. But, with just a few minor ends left to weave in, it went very well. I learned a lot, and had fun doing it, though there were a couple of weeks where I could have done with a bit more sleep.

In addition to finishing the semester, I actually managed to finish a project last week.

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After many months of what seemed like infinite knitting, the second welted garter shawl is done. There was a bit of yarn chicken with the dark blue on the i-cord bind off, and I know for a fact that I could not have made another repeat with either of the other yarns (because I tried and had to rip back – one of the skeins was about 12″ too short to finish the repeat), so I am satisfied that I got all that I could out of those three skeins.

Looking at the shape laid out, the dark blue center seems a little out of place with the rest of the shape. I added an extra set of increases at the transition from dark blue to the shawl body, since that’s where the shoulders should be. In another version, I might start those extra increases earlier to make the join more continuous.

I also spaced the increases differently, and added the extra pair at the row edges of the blue version, to help it wrap all the way around a bit better. The blue version isn’t blocked yet, but here’s how it compares with the shape of the purple one.

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We’ll have to see how it performs in the wearing, but so far I’m thinking that I’ll like this one better.

After a couple of days of empty needles, a couple of failed swatches and several trips to the stash, I started a new project on Saturday night. In a bulky yarn on size 6 needles, this cowl is coming together really fast. It’s just a simple brioche rib, and I love how the texture is working with the colors.

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I briefly considered some holiday gift knitting, and then promptly decided to look at the calendar and talk myself off that ledge before I even got on it. Two weeks before Christmas in a knitting-deprived state is not necessarily the best time to show judgment about what can be accomplished in time for gifting. I wanted to enjoy the holiday season, and big needles, fat yarn and no deadlines seemed like a much better way to do it.

I’m hoping that a “quick win” will help to jump start my knitting mojo again, and that I might manage to make up for lost time over the break.  I have a seemingly infinite list of things to work on in the next few weeks, but it is really nice that grading final exams and prepping for spring classes is not on that list this year. It’s been a long time since the end of the semester actually meant an end to work, and I plan to fully enjoy it. Even if I do keep right on working, at least it will be at my own pace and on projects that I choose. And I’m hoping to find some time for knitting in there, too. Fingers crossed that I’ll be back soon!

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