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It seems that I have reverted to blogging in my head…I was sure I’d posted this past week, and the photos are on my camera, but apparently I got distracted somewhere between taking pictures and sitting down to write. (Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence lately…)

Last weekend (was it just last weekend?) I went to SPA – a fiber event in Freeport Maine. A bunch of knitters swoop in, take over the 3 biggest hotels in town, and knit for about 5 days straight. Many people knit for 5 days, anyway. I had to work until Friday, so I took the train up on Saturday and did an overnight…1.5 days is better than none!

There’s a vendor market at one of the hotels, and we also poked our noses into 3 or 4 yarn shops in the area. Then there was dinner at the hotel, more knitting, and then a long breakfast in the morning. It was a lot of fun, and a nice crafty break from all this winter we’ve been having lately.

The temptations were many, but I was fairly good in my shopping, all things considered. I bought several skeins of Shepherd’s Wool Yarn, which I had never seen before. It’s mill spun in Michigan, with a nice hand and a lot of twist. This should be enough to knit another mega scarf.

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I also picked up 4 oz of yak-silk blend from Port Fiber, which should spin up into something wonderfully soft. This was the first thing I saw when I walked into the market. When the sun hits it just right, it shines like gold.

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I also picked up a mini-loom from the same vendor: for small, portable projects. I’m not sure yet what I’ll make with this, but it seemed like a clever design and I love nice wooden tools.

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As I mentioned, we stopped at several shops in the area, which poses something of a problem for someone who doesn’t need to buy any more wool. Rather than fall down again on fiber, I bought this fancy notebook to fill with ideas.

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And finally, I bought another shawl pin from Leslie Wind (warning: her website has background music that plays when you click on the link). I love her designs, and how well her pins stay in my knitting – an important feature for someone who wears them on a long daily commute.

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(I’ve just remembered that I also bought some discounted novelty yarn for accents in weaving, but that is put away already and probably not worth getting back out for a photo.)

It was a fun weekend of shopping and spending time with fiber friends, and I’m looking forward to going again next year.

At the end of the last post, I was still pretty sure that this little thought experiment with the one-piece sweater was going to be just that: a thought experiment. It was a fun idea to consider, but I didn’t feel any driving desire to cast on and knit.

And yet, it was crowding all other design ideas out of my head. And I needed something to cast on, so I kept playing with it. I don’t really have sweater quantities of yarn in my stash, and the few yarns I had weren’t the right yarn for this project, somehow.

But then it occurred to me that I had a bin full of Cascade 220 in a variety of coordinating colors.

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What would this look like in a multi-color version? I made a rough sketch of the sweater, and scanned it into my computer. Then, I got out the colored pencils, and got to work.

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The fun thing about the multi-color version is that it really highlights the geometry. To my surprise, I liked the blocky, modern look, especially in the asymmetric designs (A, B, and E are my favorites).

I’ve decided to try knitting this up, if only to have something on the needles. After some more hemming and hawing, I settled on B as the color arrangement of choice. I have no idea if this is something that I will actually wear – it falls into the category of project that I will either adore or completely forget about once it’s off the needles. I’m not usually big on blocks of color in clothing, but something in it appeals to me, and that seems like enough of a reason to move ahead.

I’m off to SPA in Maine this weekend, so I should have lots of knitting time to make some progress (I just finished the dark brown section and am starting the gray). More soon!

I think I mentioned before that this picture got me thinking about one-piece kimono designs.

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Except for a little bit of bunching at the underarm and a tiny bit of binding over the shoulder, a few pins turned a wide scarf into a very comfortable, flattering sweater.

The idea nestled quietly in the back of my brain for a few days, and then began to toss and turn. What if the front panel had a split in it so that the wide part went under the arm and the narrow part went over the shoulder? How would that geometry work?

That turned out to be a harder question than I at first suspected. I started out with some drawings of what I thought the shape would look like, but quickly realized that this was a slightly bigger leap than my brain could make alone.

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So I got out some scissors and started playing with paper.

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I cut out a shape something like the rectangle I’d imagined, and then began playing with the dimensions to see what it would take to make it fit a real body. I added some measurements that I thought would reflect the right dimensions.

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…and quickly realized that I had not yet accounted for a neck.

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Whoops! Changing the folding angle helped a little, but I wasn’t convinced that it would be enough.

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Changing the fold location made the neckline a little more realistic. (This was a lesson I learned when making the Striped Shawl Sweater…increase/decrease placement makes all the difference in fit!) We’re also getting close to the kimono look here, which I like.

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But notice those shoulders? That’s still a pretty steep angle, unlike the body of anyone I know. Clearly, that was going to take a little more work. After a few more adjustments to the shaping, I ended up with something a little closer to what I was looking for (early models to the left, newer models to the right. Note that the shape looks less and less like a rectangle, and more like an “M” as you go).

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But still, those shoulders are pretty steep. How much are they off by? I got out the dressform and a roll of wide paper, and started pinning things in place to see how it would all work out. (The beauty of paper here is twofold: it’s cheaper than fabric, and it has absolutely no give…it won’t hide any problems with the shaping! Also, you can write notes all over it explaining what you think you should be doing instead.)

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Not too bad, actually, but there was still a lot of extra fabric at the neckline, and the hem clearly needed some more room. I lopped off a good 5 inches of fabric at the neck, and added some deep darts at the shoulder to increase the ease. Armed with these measurements, I adjusted my original sketch.

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This was getting closer to right. The question of how to actually achieve this shape with knitting still remained, though. If you follow the shape through considering the knitting direction, there are several places where things don’t quite seem to work. So I cast on for a mini-sweater to figure out what it would take to knit this thing – kind of an oversized swatch. I ended up reworking the shoulder section several times (I’m still not sure I’m satisfied, but it’s getting there), and today, I steam-blocked this (one half of my “M”):

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That’s one half of the sweater, with the hem at the bottom and the center back section still on the needles. All folded up, you can see that it’s starting to look like half a sweater, too.

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The shoulder is looking just about right here, though I still need to fuss a bit to get the decrease line to lay flat. There are also some choices to be made about how much underarm panel should be allotted, and exactly how wide the back panels should be. I haven’t decided if I like the deep v-neck or whether I’d go back to the wide-band kimono look, but now that I have a working knitted model all of those changes will be easier to make.

I’m not sure that this will ever be anything more than an interesting swatch, but it has been fun to figure out how to fold an almost-rectangle into a sweater body all in one piece (the sleeves would have to be picked up and knitted on, like in a traditional raglan design). If I do scale up the design, there will be lots more swatching to make sure that those angles stay consistent and that the measurements will work for an adult body. Still, in between projects, it’s been a fun idea to toy with, and that’s what process knitting is all about!

It has been just over 2 weeks, and I still don’t have anything on my needles. I made an attempt at writing up a hat I designed last year, but the charts are complicated and we all know by now that writing down patterns is not usually the thing to get me in a creative mood. (Finishing patterns, on the other hand, has a very satisfying feel to it…I’m looking forward to a couple of those in the near future.)

I cast on a mini practice version of a sweater geometry that I’m currently noodling through, but that was really to give me something to knit at knit night and to keep my hands busy in case I get stranded on a train. More on the sweater later…that’s another full-on process post.

I am in one of those moments in life where one thing is ending and another is about to begin, but I’m not sure what that beginning is or should be. Sometimes, it pays to lean into that pause. As so often happens, my knitting is a reflection of the state of the rest of life.

The practice sweater did help to take the edge off, but between projects (no knitting?!) is not a comfortable place to be. Sometimes, though, it’s important to lie fallow. It’s easy to forget that fallow is not idle, and that downtime is often quite productive. I could rush to cast on just to have something, or I can wait for something compelling to come along. Usually, I would choose the former, in the interests of maintaining rhythm. (My creativity works best in a steady rhythm most of the time.) But sometimes it pays to linger in that downbeat, to just let things settle until they come back of their own accord. Breathe all the way out, and then wait until you must to breathe back in. I am very, very good at committing, but right now is not the time.

Fortunately, I have some spinning to do for a sweater that I may or may not knit (no commitment there!), and that has been keeping my hands occupied while my knitting takes a rest.

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I’m sure I’ll be back at the projects soon enough. Until then, it will be little things that get knit around here.

I finished the scarf version of Branden’s basketweave sweater last week, and we took advantage of another snowed-in Monday to take some pictures of it in action.

Lots of people seem to think that an 18″ wide scarf is crazy, but I have a couple already and I love their versatility. I am not very good at being “stylish” and draping things just so, and most of my scarves spend their lives thrown haphazardly around my neck in a futile attempt to keep me warm. Still, I like having the option of dressing them up if I want to, and my practical side loves a scarf that can double as a blanket in a chilly office or on a plane. Douglas Adams says that you should never travel without your towel. Well, for me, that towel is usually a scarf.

If you fold it in half, it works beautifully as a standard-issue scarf…thick and warm to keep out the cold. This is the #1 style around here, though the shawl pin does add a little bit of class (should remember to use it more often).

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Then there’s the casual toss over a shoulder (which apparently also leads to slightly dopey, vacant expressions…or maybe that was just the end of the photo session drawing near?).

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If you wanted something a bit more stylish, I really like it fastened low across my stomach with a shawl closure. (That’s my favorite squiggle from Leslie Wind holding it closed.)  This style also has maximal upper-back coverage for drafty offices and air conditioner vents, though it is a bit lacking in the neck snuggle.

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Adding a second closure in the back practically turns it into a sweater. (There are now all kinds of thoughts floating around in my brain about kimono sweaters knit like a shawl…)

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The back closure gives it a nicely fitted look in the front, too. (Here I’ve also closed up the neck a bit more.)

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A slightly higher closure position makes it a little more cape-like.

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And a shawl pin helps hold up the end for more of a poncho style.

 

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I love the texture of this stitch pattern, and I love the warmth. The scarf has been finished for just over a week, and I have been wearing it every chance I get. (And with the weather we’ve been having, there have been a lot of chances.)

Of course, this design came out of a request for a pattern (thanks, Teresa), so there is also a pattern coming soon. If you have a desire to test knit, give a holler and let me know. We could all use something to warm to wrap ourselves in at this time of year!

One of the most interesting things about the design process (for me, at least) is watching the ebb and flow of ideas. I have no ideas, then I have a hundred ideas. I narrow it down to a few ideas, then they branch out into a hundred more. Back and forth, big and small, growing and contracting, until eventually they settle into just one.

The last post showed the results of the first expansion of designs. I really thought I had no ideas for this project, and then I sat down and put pen to paper. Suddenly there were more designs than I knew what to do with – enough for a lifetime of knitting if I were to try and follow them all. I sifted and sorted, narrowed and selected, and then let them lie fallow for a few days to see what else would emerge.

Then, on a different topic entirely, Elaine (from the comments) sent me a link to Kate Davie’s blog. Do you read it? You should…her work is beautiful. I hadn’t seen it before, but am happily following now.

And, well. The photo on Kate’s header shows a very nice circular yoke cardigan. In fact, she has a whole book full of them.

Know how I said that I’d pretty much ruled out circular yoke designs? Now I’m wondering if I should reconsider that thought.

 

It had occurred to me before that I might want to knit a “practice” sweater to get the fit and shaping right before committing to a design on such tiny needles. That idea was also floating around in the back of my mind.

The other night, I was sitting in my (home) office, knitting, and looking at the braid of yarn on my spinning wheel. It’s been sitting out for about a month now, waiting for me to find time to spin. I’ve been hesitating because I wasn’t sure what it wanted to become.

Then I thought of the Crocus sweater sitting unhappily in the closet.

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You may remember that I was nearly finished with the first sleeve when I realized that I would be short of yarn (a hand dyed, drum carded blend of three colorways that would be very hard to reproduce). And, honestly, the light yellow in the yoke design wasn’t working for me. I liked it at first, but as I got further into the knitting, I began to have my doubts. I put the sweater aside to think over its fate. That was in July.

The initial recovery plan for this sweater was that I would spin up a couple of gradient braids left over from the shop.

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The color is a pretty good match, and the gradient would make for a nice yoke section, giving me back about a skein of the base purple yarn. With two braids of the gradient to work with, I should easily have enough yarn to finish the sweater. I was pretty sure that this was the answer, but something kept me from starting to spin. Something, somewhere, still wasn’t quite right.

Enter the braid sitting on my spinning wheel without a project. It’s a colorway that I really love, born of the marriage of pink and dark purple at the deep end of sunset. Maybe it could be my yoke color?

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I think it probably could.

So now, instead of designing the O-wool sweater as I had planned, I find myself thinking again about how to fix the Crocus, and whether it might make a good practice run to test the style of its finer-gauge cousin.

Or maybe not. I’m not sure yet; a clear path has yet to emerge from this new profusion of ideas. But it is funny how you can start out to design one thing and end up spinning yarn for something entirely different. I suppose it’s all part of the fun: you just never know where a design adventure will lead.

It’s been a while since my last purely process post. Shall we go for a wander?

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In between other things, I’ve been knitting up a swatch of the O-Wool yarn that I bought at Rhinebeck last year.

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(That swatch is the base color, and both photos are pretty accurate renditions of its color in different lights. It’s a moody yarn.) It’s knitting up at about 10 stitches and 13 rows per inch on size 0 needles (before washing), which makes this sweater a crazy project even for me. But I love the fabric that it makes, and I’m not in any particular hurry, so I may as well settle in and knit.

I know that I am going to include colorwork, but the rest of the sweater has been very slow to take shape in my mind. I’ve been petting the yarn and working on the swatch all month, and I’m still not really sure what I want. I was thinking of a wide shawl collar or a wide colorwork accent band, but other than that I don’t really have any ideas in place yet. (You’ll note that I haven’t swatched any colorwork…that’s because I haven’t quite figured out where I’m heading.)

Today, I took advantage of an unexpected snow day to start thinking through some sketches.

 

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To my surprise, I didn’t really like any of the shawl collar sketches, but I was drawn to a related, more kimono-like design.

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This version kept the wide garter bands in the front, but the neck placement makes this a flat collar rather than a stand-up shawl collar. Though I love the loose fit and drape of kimonos on other people, I tend to prefer something a little less blocky on myself. So I thought about how I might add some shape.

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That was still looking a little bit squat and baggy, especially in the shoulders. So, I tightened up the shoulders and made the body a little longer, using the colorwork pattern at the waist almost like a belt.

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That was definitely getting better, but there’s no reason not to play a bit with sketches, so I thought I’d see what else I could do with this design.

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This one definitely leans back toward boxy, and puts the accent on the hemline and center panel, which would presumably be some kind of colorwork.

Adding in a wide colorwork border and adding just a tiny bit of shaping helped with the design.

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I thought about doing a tied-on-the-side version.

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And I tried mixing that with the original shawl collar. I still don’t like it, but it was the best of the shawl collar designs.

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I have a friend who has been trying to convince me that I should knit more asymmetric things. (I love how they look on others, but never wear them myself, so I don’t tend to go there in my designing…) So, I tried a slightly asymmetric hemline.

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And then I tried bell sleeves and rounded edges.

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I did like the asymmetric design quite a lot (at least on paper), and the shaping would make for a cross between an A-line and an hourglass, which could be flattering.

I tried a cropped, non-asymmetric version with straight sleeves, which I didn’t really like at all (at least for this garment).

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So I inverted the hemline curvature to see if I liked that.

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That felt a little too hip-heavy, so I added back the interesting front cross to see if that would help.

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I do like that much better, but I still don’t think it’s a style that would flatter my shape. Just for the heck of it, I also tried some mixtures of the two hemline curves:

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I do really like those, especially the last two. Somewhere along the way, I also tried mixing a flat and a pointed hem, but this was quickly eliminated as a very hip-highlighting design. (Would be a nice A-line shape for someone who wanted a little more emphasis on the hips, though.)

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Looking at the sketch again, it might actually be the location of the point that’s problematic here; the triangle point lines up with the widest point of the hip, and then the straight hem emphasizes its width. Reworking that placement might help the design a lot.

I really liked this next one, but not for someone with hips (do we sense a theme here?). I’d really want the waistline to stretch down with no flare, and that only works if you have wide shoulders and narrow hips (which I do not).

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I also stumbled across this interesting cardigan somewhere along this train of thought. It won’t work for this project, since I’m not looking for large blocks of color, but it might be worth exploring in a future design.

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And look how much it changes when you adjust the order of the color panels! That could be fun to play with someday.

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I also drew out quite a lot of the more basic designs. (I’m presenting these sketches as if my train of thought were linear, but it’s really anything but. Circular is more like it!)

A simple, classic pullover with a wide colorwork accent band.

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A tunic version with a square neckline and a slit on the sides.

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A slightly boxier cardigan with a front-only colorwork panel and a colorwork “belt” across the back.

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(That back design could actually stand on its own as the front of a garment, too. The simple hourglass shaping in this drawing is one that usually works well for me.)

This is a poorly-drawn version of the same design, with an allover colorwork pattern instead of a single band. 

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Or you could put the colorwork down at the hem.

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(The astute and long-reading among you might recognize a flavor of the Fall Colors sweater in this particular set of sketches. I do really like that design…)

Almost all of the sketches I’ve shown so far really assume set-in sleeves. I’ve focused on those because I liked the set-in sleeves better, but I did try out a traditional yoke design, too (think Bohus).

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And I thought about a raglan, since it worked so well in my Seafoam sweater.

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I didn’t like the raglan here, though. It works well for a heavy weight weekend sweater, but somehow it doesn’t feel quite right for a delicate laceweight design. 

So, what have I learned from all these sketches? Well, for one thing, I have a lot of options! Second, it is clear that I like the set-in sleeves better, which is too bad, since it would be nice to knit this as a one-piece, top-down sweater. (Colorwork in the round and infinite rows of knitting are my preference, instead of knitting flat.) Still, I think the fit of the set in sleeves will work better here, and the extra seams will probably add some stability to the piece. I suppose there’s also the advantage that each piece will be smaller, so at least there will be fewer stitches per row!

I  notice that I also prefer designs with a longer body, and several of the asymmetric designs have a very loose fit. Bell sleeves and swooping curves mean extra fabric, which I’ll have to reconcile with my yarn supply. I bought way more yarn than I think I’ll need, but I haven’t knit anything this big at such a small gauge before.

I’m not quite sure how to calculate yardage for a sweater knit at this gauge, but here’s my best attempt. (If you’re not interested in sweater guesstimation, you might want to just gloss over this paragraph and the next…) I’d have to do an awful lot of knitting to get an accurate weight measurement to calculate the yards per inch from a swatch, so I’d rather compare to other projects and extrapolate from there: I knit a 3.5 st/in bulky sweater out of about 900 yards of yarn, and a 7.5 sts/in sweater with 1500 yards of yarn. By this estimate, I’d put a 10 sts/in sweater in the 2000-2200 yards range.

I might get a more accurate guesstimate from a finished project at a similar gauge. My spiral shawl took about 770 yards of yarn, and it was about 8 sts/in for a similar weight yarn. A very conservative estimate places the final shawl at about 600 square inches, or 0.78 square inches per yard (ignoring the lace border, which has a different gauge). I have 2568 yards of the base color for this sweater: at the same yards per square inch as the spiral shawl, I’d get about 2000 square inches of knitted fabric. If I overestimate a sweater as a plain rectangle, it’s about 44 inches at the hem and 23 inches tall, which is 1012 square inches for the body. The sleeves take roughly the same amount of yarn as the body, so 2000 square inches should be about right for a blocky sweater of average length. I’ll get some yardage back from the shaping and the colorwork, and I’ve padded all of my numbers by about 10% to make my guesstimate more conservative, so I’m pretty sure I’ll have enough yarn.

Even so, I probably won’t have tons and tons of extra yardage to work with, so I’m not sure I want to go adding in a lot of extra fabric, just in case.

So, still more to ponder before I’m ready to settle on a design. I do want to start playing around with the colorwork, too; choosing a pattern might help narrow down the possibilities a bit. For now, I think this project will continue to simmer away on the back burner. Fortunately, I have a couple more skeins of scarf knitting before I’m out of projects again!

 

A few months ago, Ellen published a pattern using Tunisian crochet. Though I used to crochet a lot – and, in fact, for many years preferred crochet to knitting (that was before I discovered that knitting involved more than garter and stockinette rectangles), I have never tried Tunisian crochet. I’m always intrigued by a new technique, so I put it on the list of back-burner things to try someday. I figured I’d add some Tunisian crochet hooks to my Christmas list.

Christmas came and went, and I got some itty bitty needles, but no double-ended hooks. So, I made a trip to Amazon, and found a multi-pack.

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They only came in bamboo, which is not usually my first choice for fiber work, but the price was right and I figured it would be enough to tell me whether or not I like the technique…I can always purchase fancier hooks later on when I know more about what sizes I’ll want and what features I’m looking for. In the meantime, I have a full set of crochet hooks for the first time in years, and they can be used either as single or double pointed.

Also just before Christmas, my friend Teresa showed me some of her bead crochet jewelry. This was another use for crochet that I’d never seen before…I was intrigued. A few weeks ago, she gave me a bracelet that she’d made.

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Then she agreed to show me how to do it. Off to Amazon I went, in search of a tiny crochet hook for bead work. I found a multi-pack of itty bitty crochet hooks (to go with my itty bitty knitting needles). I will certainly never be limited for sizes.

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Teresa came over on Saturday, and we made a glorious mess on the dining room table for a few hours while the snow fell outside.

 

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This morning, I finished this:

 

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(Here’s a link to a video showing the basic technique, for the curious among you:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXpXqde-PKY)

Branden, ever the enabler, convinced me to go to a bead store today to get supplies for more projects. I knew that this was a dangerous idea from the start: that the first days of any new hobby are when I am most vulnerable to stash enhancement. (Observant enabler that he is, Branden knows this, too. He played his cards well.) I thought that a couple more projects wouldn’t hurt, so off we went.

I knew I was in deep trouble the moment we walked into the store. They had their winter clearance sale this weekend, and the whole seed bead wall was more than 60% off. And it was arranged in rainbows. (I am a sucker for rainbows.) I still can’t quite believe how much of that bead wall came home.

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I don’t think I’ll be running out of colors any time soon.

Branden’s basketweave sweater is complete.

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I finished weaving in ends this morning, and it has had its first day of use and been pronounced warm. This sweater was a long time coming, but I think it turned out pretty well in the end.

The scarf version is also coming along; it looks about the same as it did last time, except it’s a little longer now (I’m up to the halfway point). With another week of commute ahead of me, it should also be done soon!

Branden’s sweater is done! But it’s not blocked, so I don’t have any pictures to show you yet. I’m hoping to get to that today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, a finished sweater means that I am out of knitting. I started some swatching with the yarn that I bought at Rhinebeck, but there are lots of stitches and many design sketches to go before I am ready to really cast on with that. I needed something to get me through a couple of all-day faculty meetings, and the return-to-school commute.

Teresa from my local knitting group kept telling me that the basketweave stitch pattern would make a great scarf, and I had to agree. It’s a nearly-reversible pattern and has a lot of depth and texture. It would be a simple enough pattern to write. And so the idea simmered.

I started looking for yarns, put up the last post with the full list of criteria I was looking for, and spent more than one afternoon poking around on Ravelry hunting for just the right thing.

On Tuesday, Teresa introduced me to Hub Mills, a local yarn shop hidden away in the middle of an industrial park. They had a very nice selection of yarns, and we spent quite a while browsing over their selection and weighing the pros and cons. In the end, I went with the first skein I picked up when we walked through the door; a very soft merino from Swans Island Yarn.

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This is from their Natural Colors collection, in the colorway Tarragon. The ball band says that it’s supposed to knit up at 4.5 stitches to the inch on size 8 needles, but I needed 6.5 stitches to the inch on size 2’s to get the right firmness of fabric to go with this stitch pattern. Which just goes to show that you really never can tell from the ball band.

Fortunately, Teresa talked me into buying one more skein than I thought I’d need for the project, just in case. I was hoping to get by with 1000 yards, but bought 1250 instead. I was surprised at how quickly the yarn was running out, so I paused the knitting for a couple of days and blocked the first skein’s worth of scarf on the needles. The photo above shows one skein of knitting; the scarf is just over 11″ long, and then of course I lost a bit of yarn (maybe another inch and a half?) to the swatch. I could probably have made it in 1000 yards if I’d used one fewer pattern repeat, but I wanted something nice and wide so I’m glad for the extra skein. As it stands, the width is about 19 inches. At this rate, it will take all 5 skeins to end up with a scarf that’s just around 5 feet long, which should be about perfect.

 

 

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