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!

Sorry for the radio silence, but there hasn’t been much going on around here, knitting-wise. Going back to grad school in a new field while working part time has pretty much eaten up all of my energy this month, and Branden and I have been focusing hard on spending what little time is left doing things together. He’s having a really busy fall, too, as his startup pushes closer and closer to the do-or-die moment, and when we’re both this busy it’s extra important to find time to actually see one another in between.

With one thing and another, I have pretty much only knit at knit night (and have only made it to knit night about one week in 3), and on the occasional bus ride to school. I think if I tallied up the hours of knitting this month it would come out to less than 10, and possibly less than 5.

The second welted garter shawl is inching along (sorry for the terrible photos, but perfectionism right now leads very quickly to no blog, so here’s what I got in my dark office this afternoon). At about 30-40 minutes a row, this project is feeling longer and longer all the time. With no knitting time, the yarn balls are feeling infinite, but I’m pretty sure it’s getting close. Another stripe or two, and I should be into the garter stitch border and then done.

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Which, of course, means that it’s time to start thinking about another project, because the end of projects always sneak up on me unawares when life is busy like this. To that end, I started a swatch.

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Does it look more impressive if I tell you that this is the second time I knit it? Thought not. You know you’re scraping bottom when an inch and a half of swatch is worth a blog mention, but it did take me about 3 weeks to get this much done…

While not knitting, I have been very much enjoying the colors of fall. This year has been a pretty spectacular display; it came late and has just stretched on and on. I think we’ve had color for over a month now, starting with the maples, which lit the world on fire.

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They are mostly faded out now, and we’re into the rusty reds and oranges of the oaks and the bright yellow of the birch trees. The green pines are really beginning to stand out from the crowd, and I just love the grays and beige that show up as the grasses die back and the bare branches start to show.

 

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What a difference two weeks makes, huh? We’ve gone from fiery October into the depths of a New England fall. Suddenly it seems real that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Sometimes the change to deep fall happens almost overnight; this year, it’s been more protracted. It’s my favorite time of year, so I’ve been enjoying the long, sweet fade into gray.

The weather is getting colder and The Tired has come out of nowhere to hit me full-force this week and last, so I think our days of wandering in parks and going out and doing might be fading out with the season. Quieter weekends at home should be good for more knitting time, at least. Hopefully I’ll be back soon, with lots of knitting to show!

I’m puttering my way along on the latest welted garter shawl, and the rows just keep getting longer and longer. That’s entirely my own fault, of course, because not only did I design the thing, but I also couldn’t resist tinkering with the shaping just a tiny bit more in this version.

While I really like the purple version of the shawl, the wings are just a tiny bit too short to stay wrapped around my shoulders. That’s an important feature for me, so I thought I’d add a few more increases in this version to see if I could make them wrap more. This has two direct consequences: first, it is quite likely that I won’t love the new shaping and will end up ripping back and reknitting again (such is the life of a pattern-improviser). Second, it means that the rows get a lot longer a lot faster, and I’m getting a bit bogged down in the knitting of the middle portion.

To keep myself occupied, I’ve been dreaming up what to do with this yarn:

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That’s the Shepherd’s Wool that I bought at the SPA knitting weekend in Maine last February. I really love my basketweave shawl, and am thinking that this yarn might just want to become another shawl along the same lines. I took out my stitch dictionaries the other day (for the first time in months and months), and had a look around. Nothing has solidified just yet, but I have some ideas floating around that need to be tested out.

Now, I just need to successfully finish the shawl so that I can start swatching!

About 10 days ago, I proposed a very ambitious project to Branden (not knitting-related). The deadline was tight, and the goal was set almost impossibly high, and for the past week and a half we pretty much threw everything over in order to make it happen (I’ve put in about 100 hours, I think, and 45 of them in the past 3 days).

I was half way through the bind off for my crescent shawl when we started, and I haven’t even touched it since. But it’s almost there.

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I’m far enough along to say that the shaping seems to be working this time, minus some bunching at the edge that I think will work out with blocking.

We carried the other project over the finish line at about 2 o’clock this morning, and I’m hoping to finish the shawl bind off in the car on our way out of town today.

That leaves me with nothing on the needles, and no project planned. I’m thinking it might be time for another color?

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You can’t get much more mindless knitting than knitting the same stockinette and garter shawl three times in a row…

I’ve been fairly quiet about it here on the blog, but this year has been a time of big changes for me. I left my tenure-track position at the end of June. After much soul-searching, I came to realize that the realities of faculty life are not for me. Much as I like teaching and research, the overall environment just didn’t work well for me.

I told my department chair back in January that I would be leaving at the end of the spring semester, and since then I’ve been doing some pretty intense thinking about what comes next. I applied for a bunch of things, did an interview or two, talked to a ton of people, and spent a lot of time writing and cogitating. I’ve seen a big drop in my crafting productivity, mostly because that energy and creativity was needed elsewhere.

After many months (years, depending on how you count) of consideration, I’ve decided that I’m going back to school. The irony of that decision is not lost on me – I certainly haven’t made it very far out of academia yet – but I think that this is the next step I need to take to get where I want to go.

I’ll be studying Information Design and Visualization at Northeastern University. That’s a big name, often shortened to “infovis,” and basically it’s about telling a story visually using data. It’s an interesting blend of the hard-nosed, data driven science world and the art world, and the storytelling part ties in the teaching as well.  It feels like a much better fit than where I’ve been, and I am really excited about this new venture.

I’ve found that lots of people have a hard time figuring out what exactly infovis is (and it is many things), so it might help to have an example or two. I’m particularly smitten with the work done by Fathom Information Design, a design studio here in Boston. Their recent projects on global animal trade and gender equality are particularly good examples of the kind of complicated visual storytelling that they do.

I have a ways to go before I’m playing at that level, but I’m excited to take the first step. Classes start in just a couple of weeks, and it strikes me that I’ll need to come up with some train knitting soon!

In a move that surprises no one, I ripped back the shawl-in-progress and started again.

I haven’t had much knitting time this week, so the re-started shawl is still in its nascent stages, but it’s growing fast. So fast, in fact, that I can’t quite spread the whole thing out on the needles anymore.

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From what I can see, though, this version is looking significantly more crescent-shaped, and I am happy. Basically, I just took the increases that I had worked at fixed intervals and made the placement random. Having one less thing to count and keep track of is definitely not a problem in my book!

So, presuming that some knitting time magically appears, we should be on our way to done again soon. I guess that means I should start planning my next project, before it sneaks up and catches me off guard…

I have thought for the past few days that I would have a finished object to show you if I just held off on posting for one more day.

Well.

Instead, I have a not-finished object to show you. In fact, I have an object that is very likely on its way back to yarn.

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I have been motoring along on my latest shawl, which has miles and miles of stockinette and garter stitch. It’s been the perfect mindless knitting, and I made great progress on it at TwinSet Summer Camp. (Which reminds me…my goody bag was delivered to me yesterday, which means that I now have something to show you, and therefore another post that I can write.)

This week, I finished the main body section of the shawl and switched back to the dark purple yarn to finish the edge. I knit away until I thought it was time to begin the cast off, and worked a 3-stitch i-cord bind off all along the bottom edge.

Or rather, I cast off about two-thirds of the bottom edge, at which point I ran out of yarn. I muttered a bit, let it sit overnight, and then pulled back the cast off and tinked back an extra row of the border. I was pretty sure that would be more than enough to give me the extra little bit of yarn needed to finish the bind off.

Last night, I worked the cast off again. This time, I ran out about 1/5 of the way from the end. Sigh.

Fortunately, I got far enough in the cast off that I could lay the shawl out in full to see what I think of it. And, well, let’s say there are pluses and minuses.

The good:

– It’s almost done! Knitting has occurred!

– I like the raised welts in the contrasting color; I wasn’t sure about those at first, but I think they add nice texture to the main body section.

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– I like the distribution of color in the shawl, and especially how the hem echoes the neckline. I was hoping for a longer purple section at the end, but I think that what I have is deep enough to balance the visual weight of the different sections.

– I like the tiny rows of yo’s that separate the shawl sections. I added these as a decorative effect, and also as a practical answer to small differences in gauge between the different sections.

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….which brings us to the not so good:

– The gauge difference at the hem is big enough that the edging looks sloppy. I expected this to be a problem, since the main body section is stockinette-based and the neck edge and edging are garter stitch, but the transition was so smooth at the neck edge that I thought I could get away with it at the hem, too. Unfortunately, it appears that that’s not the case. I expect that this will get worse with blocking, not better. At the very least, I need to pull back to the yo line and decrease some stitches out of the purple garter stitch section so that it lays flat.

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– The overall shape of the shawl ended up much more like my Spiral Shawl than I had intended. I was going for crescent, not pentagon. The interesting thing here is that I increased even more per row that I did in the Passegiata shawl, but I changed some of the increase locations (in the Passegiata, all of the increases occur at the outside edge of the shawl; in this one, two occur at the outside edges and 4 occur in the body of the shawl). This seems to have moved me away from crescent and more toward pentagon, but it did smooth out the bump at the neckline that bothered me in the Passegiata. One step forward, two steps back, I guess.

– I was hoping that the increase lines would be more subtle, especially in the welted portion of the shawl. I noticed that the angles were more obvious than I wanted while I was knitting, but wanted to see how it looked when the final garment was laid out. For a more crescent-like look, I think I’d need to space those increases out more, and to distribute them more randomly throughout the rows.

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Now, the question is whether to just pull back and reknit the border, or whether to reknit the whole thing and fix the bigger shaping issues. At this point, I think I need to stop and do some careful analysis of the reasons for the changes that I did (and didn’t) like in the shawl shaping, and then I’ll decide whether to head back to the drawing board or whether to just patch up the border.

My guess is that I will end up pulling out the whole thing. The pentagon shawl shape has a tendency to sit nicely on your shoulders but doesn’t wrap around nicely, and it’s the latter quality that I usually appreciate most in a garment of this type. Since wearability is my primary indicator of whether or not a design “works,” it’s likely that this difference will be a deal-breaker.

Still, I think I’ll give it a day or two to settle, and then I’ll do some thinking about the structural changes that need to happen in order to get the shape that I want. Reknitting does give me the advantage of not needing to come up with a new project right away, though I was looking forward to working with a different color of yarn!

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