Has it really been 2 weeks since I posted? I’ve been knitting away on Branden’s Basketweave sweater, lost in that endless middle section where there is no apparent progress to explain where the hours go. It has been slowly growing, though – helped along by a rather extended bout of inexplicable insomnia – and all of a sudden it’s starting to look like a sweater.


I’m not 100% happy with how the color is pooling. I ordered all 4 skeins at the same time because the yarn is batch dyed to order and I wanted to make sure that I ended up with only one colorway, but one of the skeins is significantly lighter than the other 3. I hoped it wouldn’t show, but with the sweater laid out it’s clear that there’s a difference. I’ve been working 2 balls together to try and even out the lighter skein, but the color is still not looking even across the whole garment. We’ll see how much it bothers me in the finished product. If it’s jarring enough, I may go back and overdye to reduce the contrast. I’d rather not have to, since that will probably also eliminate the subtle shade variegation in the yarn, but we’ll see how it looks. Good to have overdyeing in my back pocket, at least.

Deep in the middle of the sweater slog band, there was a day where I just couldn’t knit on a never-changing object anymore. And so, I cast on for a sweater that I knew I could finish in a day.


(Sorry for the terrible lighting, on both photos…it was a beautiful day and I was home for all of it, and yet it didn’t occur to me to take photos until well after dark, so poor lighting is what we get.)

It always surprises me how long small knitting projects do take, but this was fun nonetheless, and it used up a tiny little ball of leftover sock yarn that I had kicking around in the stash. I cast on 5 stitches for the front and back, and 2 for each arm section, and whipped up a simple little raglan in a matter of a few hours (I think I put 8 stitches on holder needles for the arms, and then picked up another 2 or 3).

I’m not usually into fiddly little projects, but this one was just right. It took the edge off of my need for progress, inserted a little color into a lot of black knitting, and the finished sweater is very cute indeed. I think I may have been subconsciously influenced to try some miniature knitting by the Yarn Harlot’s recent adventures with an advent calendar. There is no way I’m going down that crazy path, but it did seem like it would be fun to have a tiny little sweater to hang on the Christmas tree (which we put up today…is it really December already??).

It was fun to have a tiny project, just for a day. Here’s a photo to give you a sense of scale:



Off to knit a few more repeats on the body. Only about 6 more inches to go!


Branden’s sweater looks about the same this week as it did last. I’ve knit another 6 inches, but it’s in the bunched-up stage of a raglan sweater where you can’t really tell that anything is happening and the rows just keep getting longer. The increase section is up to 11 inches now (of the 14 that I need in the end), so I should be to the sleeve split soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been planning for spring.


We’ve had our first snow flurries of the season (about a quarter inch, last weekend), and overnight temperatures are getting into the low 30’s. Most of the garden is dying back, which means that it’s the perfect time to plant bulbs for spring. That’s one of the things I love most about gardening – at the end of one season, you can always start preparing for the next.

They say this winter is supposed to be a long and cold one, so it felt like an act of quiet rebellion to go out and tuck 150 little bulbs snugly into the cold soil. Most bulbs need to spend some time in the cold or they won’t come up at all, so it’s good to plant them when the soil temperature has dropped but before frosts make it hard to work the soil. Some of the bulbs even have a tiny white bump beginning; a sprout set already, patiently awaiting spring. I didn’t realize that they set their spring growth so early; no wonder they’re ready to go the moment that the snow gives way!

There’s something encouraging in the determined optimism of a plant setting its spring growth before winter even begins. It’s kind of a vote of confidence that it will make it through the cold and darkness to come. My hydrangea has all its spring buds already, and when I transplanted the Solomon’s seal and bleeding hearts a few weeks ago they also had tiny white leaves already starting to form.

Of course, less than an hour after I’d finished planting the bulbs, there were already several holes in the garden bed courtesy of the local squirrel. (I’m sure he was watching from his tree the whole time, just waiting for me to go inside.) He got a couple of bulbs before we put the chicken wire out, but hopefully that will keep him at bay long enough for the ground to settle and for him to forget that they’re there. I have to say that I have a lot less sympathy for the summer-fattened squirrel than I did for the bunny who nibbled the first of my greens this year!

Of course, knowing squirrels, there’s a good chance that he’ll plant the bulbs he steals somewhere else and forget about them, so maybe we’ll have some fun surprises come spring.

There are a few tulips to plant and a couple more plants to move, but other than that, things are mostly tucked up and ready for the winter. It’s nice to know that everything is set for an early spring celebration…provided that the squirrel keeps his little paws out of my flower beds!

I haven’t been feeling much like thinking at the end of the day lately, so it’s been nice to have a mindless spinning project to work on when I get home from work.

It’s also nice to have a pile of finished yarn.

I forgot to measure the total weight before washing to set the twist, but the final length is just over 3200 yds. The yarn is a fingering weight 2-ply, and will make a beautiful colorwork sweater one of these days.

This is something of an unusual spinning project for me. Normally, I only spin up the fiber when I’m actually ready to start knitting. This time, I knew what yarn weight I wanted, so I just went ahead and spun it up without a project in mind. I’m expecting that it will go back into the stash to marinate for a while longer before I knit the actual garment, but it’s nice to have it ready to go as soon as I get around to the design. (It’s also helpful to know how much length I have in each color when planning a colorwork design).

When not spinning away at the Shetland, I’ve been knitting on Branden’s new Basketweave sweater:

It’s currently too big to stretch out on the needles, but since it’s a raglan you can get a pretty good idea of the overall design just by looking at the increase sections. I put a tiny cable along the increases, and am working the basketweave as an allover pattern in between. The fabric did flatten out a little bit with blocking, but it has a nice drape at this gauge. I decided not to go down a needle size because I’m not sure I have that much extra yardage, and because we didn’t want the final fabric to be too stiff. This sweater is about 6 sts/in on size 3’s, so it’s moving along pretty quickly, and I’m really enjoying the texture and the squishiness of the yarn.

One of the things that I like most about knitting is the long timeline. Sometimes a project goes quickly from idea to item, and sometimes it sits on a back burner and simmers for a while. In most things, I don’t delay much between idea and implementation. But in knitting, there are no deadlines, and sometimes things just need time to ripen. If a yarn makes it into the stash, it seems that my average turnaround time is 2-4 years before it comes back out and gets made into something. Designs are the same way; some are knit immediately, and others simply take their own sweet time.

In October of 2009, I had a scarf project that failed.

We were living in Germany at the time, and Branden had brought me back a couple of skeins of Claudia handpaint (in the Ink colorway) from a trip to the US. I only had two skeins, but I hoped to use them to make a scarf. I came up with a highly textured knit-purl pattern, and began to knit. Sadly, it turned out that two skeins wasn’t enough, and I frogged the project. (The yarn later became one of Branden’s favorite pairs of handwarmers.)

I loved the way the ribbing and welt texture worked in the fabric, though, and I decided that this would someday become an allover pattern for a sweater.

I decided on the yarn that I wanted: a BFL worsted from the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Raven clan. But I had other things on the needles, and it just wasn’t time yet to start the project.

In April of 2010, I went to the BMFA website to order the yarn. They were temporarily out of the BFL worsted, and I decided to wait again.

This August, I ordered the yarn. It just happened that they had a new Targhee yarn base, and I decided to go with that instead, in the Shadow colorway. I put in an order for 4 skeins, which they estimated would take 10-12 days to arrive (they hand dye to order, so it takes a little longer than the usual yarn order).

It turned out that there was a delay in their shipments, though, and they ran out of the yarn base just after I ordered. It is sourced from a single farm supplier, and there had been a snag in the processing somewhere along the way. They knew that there would be a delay, but there was no way to know how long it would be. Well, I figured I’d waited 5 years already, so a month or two probably wouldn’t make much difference.

The yarn came last week, and it was well worth the wait. When I showed it to Branden, his first comment was the it reminded him of the colors in my Irtfa’a shawl. The man has a good eye for yarn; Irtfa’a was knit from a BMFA laceweight in the same color clan, but a slightly different colorway (and it was knit in 2008, though I’ve worn it quite a lot since then!). I was impressed that he was able to call it so quickly.

Over the past few days, I’ve been swatching it up in a couple of different designs to get a feel for the yarn.

It will be interesting to see if the pattern keeps this depth of texture through the blocking process. It’s probably terrible for my yardage, but I love the 3D feel of the pattern in the swatch. Knowing that I wanted a highly textured pattern, I bought 2464 yards of yarn, so yardage shouldn’t be too much of a limiting factor (I hope).

The pattern on the right is actually a pattern of spirals, but they don’t show up quite as strongly as I’d like.

The left hand side is a simple basketweave pattern.

That one keeps all the wonderful curves where the ribbing and welting wrap around one another, and it’s currently winning the design competition. Looking back at the pictures of the original swatch, I’m thinking I might try one or two more patterns before I’m done, though Branden tells me that he likes the basketweave and I can stop now.

So, 5 years after I first conceived this design, it is finally inching its way toward completion. This isn’t the oldest design in my backlog, but it seems that it is the one whose time has come.

Branden and I drove out to Rhinebeck yesterday with a couple of friends for the NY Sheep and Wool festival. The market seemed quieter this year, but that might be because we got there after the first morning rush. There was still plenty to do and see, and it was nice having (a little) less jostling and jockeying for position inside the barns.

As usual, I didn’t take very many pictures. It’s always fun to scope out the knitwear, but I don’t like to take photos of other people without their permission, and it seemed that there wasn’t quite as much on display as usual. (I have this sneaking suspicion that I might be becoming a Rhinebeck old timer, constantly going on about how it was different in the old days…)

I did notice that a lot of rust and green color combinations were calling to me, and yellow was surprisingly attractive, too. My one yarn purchase stayed pretty true to form, though….blues and grays, even if I did spring for a little bit of an acid green.

I went into the festival without any plans for what to buy. I usually have a theme of one kind or another, but this year there wasn’t really anything that I needed, and so I left it open to serendipity. A few barns into the festival, we stopped at the O-Wool booth, where I was sold by a swatch. It was just a simple stockinette square knit from the O-Wool fingering weight yarn on size 00 needles. The fabric was just beautiful. Good drape, very soft, and beautifully springy. (I think it was the springy that got me, in the end.)

I know better than to buy one-off skeins. I’ve done this often enough at festivals to know that a single skein or pair of skeins will sit in my stash forever, no matter how much I love the yarn. It’s sweaters that get knit. But did I want to knit a sweater with 8-9 sts to the inch? Well, kinda, actually…yeah.

I’ve been needing a lot of mindless knitting lately, and the more I knit with tiny needles the more I love them. (I may have spent a couple of hours investigating sources for sub-0000 needles recently…) Miles and miles of tiny stockinette might be just the thing. Throw in a little colorwork, and it was hard to say no.

And so, 2568 yards (21 ounces) of the base color came home with me, along with a few skeins of accent yarns for the colorwork. I have no idea how many yards it will actually take to knit a sweater at that gauge, but I’m hoping that that’s enough. It seems like it should be, right?

Just look at these colors:

The color names are Appalachian Stone (dark gray for the body), Night Heron (dark blue), Brook Trout (light blue), Black Bear (black/dark brown, depending on the light), and that beautiful green is called Arrowgrass.

I was also tempted by some Astral (just look at that shine, and those colors!), but decided to hold off on that one until I have a project for it. I’m pretty sure I saw some of this at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool back in 2011, and have often thought about using it since. At least now I know what it’s called!

The Fiber Optic booth is always hard to resist, and Just Our Yarn is one of my favorite stops. And I love everything in the Briar Rose booth. In each case, though, I decided to wait until I have a project in mind…the O-wool should be more than enough to keep me busy until the next Rhinebeck, don’t you think?

I did notice this shop sample of a Stephen West pattern in the Fiber Optic booth. I’m thinking that this might be a good alternative project for the neon slip stitch project if I decide that my own design just won’t work.

I also noted the gauge of his fabric (you can see how open it is in the photo…light shines right through it). My preference is always to knit at a pretty firm gauge, but a more open fabric might get me a bit more fabric for my yardage, which would be helpful with that particular set of yarns. Something to think about, anyway.

My favorite thing about fiber festivals is finding ideas that are new or unexpected. This year, it was a really interesting knit/woven shrug by Koochi Ku (looks like her site is undergoing some maintenance at the moment).

The weaver in me was very intrigued by this fabric. It’s made from a simple stockinette ground fabric, with a heavy weight accent yarn woven in during the knitting. The knit base fabric keeps all of the stretch and flexibility of knitting, but the primary design element looks like a weave. The artist said that she knits the ground fabric on a loom, and then lays in the accent yarn as she goes. The end result is a fabric with a beautiful, open feel and nice drape, but the very low-spin accent yarn thickens it up enough to be nice and warm. I just love the colorplay in the accent yarn, too; I very often prefer a weave pattern for showing off a handpainted yarn.

I think it would be possible to do something like this with a slipped stitch technique, though it would take a little engineering to figure it out. I thought it was a really beautiful piece, and an interesting way of mixing two different textile forms to make something new.

Instead of knitting at home this week, I’ve been spinning. I think I mentioned in the last post that I had started spinning up some Shetland lambswool that’s been hanging around for a few years now, and I’ve been focusing on that instead of new knitting projects.

I am always surprised at how fast fiber spins up, especially when it’s a nice, fluffy top like this one is. I’ve just finished up the light oatmeal color (this is the same color I used to knit the Embroidered sweater). It’s a fingering-weight 2-ply, and I got 1348 yards out of 556 g (just over 1 lb) of wool. Forgive my mixed units there, but my niddy noddy is in yards and measuring the weight of fiber is much more precise in grams than in pounds and ounces.

Even after knitting a sweater in it, the oatmeal is still the color that I have the most of, by far. I have 113 g of the dark brown, 360 g of a medium brown, and 225 g of a pale fawn color that’s just a tiny bit different than the oatmeal. All of those together add up to 698 g, so I’m just under halfway there.

Considering that the last sweater used up just a tiny bit more than the 1500 yds I originally spun for it, I should have more than enough for a second sweater by the time I’m done. Until then, I’m just enjoying feeling the flow of fiber through my fingers. This week, it will be fun to watch the colors changing as well.

This has been a quiet week, knit-wise. Not a whole lot that’s new and exciting going on.

I snipped a couple of stitches and knit an extra inch or so onto the arms of my Seafoam sweater.

They sat just a little higher than I’d like all last season, so I figured I might as well fix that before the wool-wearing begins again.

I started working on a new scarf in another mindless lace (two row pattern, and they only differ by a stitch).

I’m not sure that I love how the color change is playing with the lace pattern; it actually shows up a lot more in the photo than it does in real life. I’m hoping that blocking will help with that, though. I do love the color, which is slightly more red and less purple than is shown in the photo.

And I’m doing some spinning.

This spinning is a bit unusual in that I have a lot of wool to get through and no specific project in mind. It’s the same shetland lambswool that I used for the Embroidered sweater. I bought several pounds of it at Green Castle in 2012, with the intention of knitting one plain oatmeal-colored sweater (check) and one colorwork sweater. I think I have 4 or 5 different colors in the closet, and it’s some of the only wool in the house not in a plastic bin (the way the balls of roving are wound makes it hard to fit). Since I liked the yarn weight that I used for the embroidered sweater, I decided to just spin the rest of it up at the same weight; a slightly heavy fingering weight 2-ply. It will be easier to store, and then when I’m ready to knit it will be all ready to go. In the meantime, it’s a nice mindless evening project, and there’s plenty of wool left to go!

Anything exciting on your needles?

After its long, long wait for attention, the Flower hat is now available on Ravelry. It needed a new name, so I looked up the botanical name for a flower with 6 petals: hexamerous. That seemed unlikely to be taken and appropriately geeky, but I couldn’t resist adding in a little word play. The final name is Hexamorous…who doesn’t love a hexagon?

My favorite part of pattern writing is seeing what other knitters do with a design. I chose a very strongly variegated (and slightly stripey) yarn for the crown of the hat, but that’s certainly not the only choice. Walden knit hers with stripes of different colors, which really accentuated the geometry of the increases and decreases.

I don’t think I ever would have thought to put that peach stripe in there, but it’s amazing how much it helps the colors pop!

Laura’s version is a bit more similar to my own, in that it uses a variegated yarn.

That’s about where the similarity ends, though! Her yarn was much more subtly variegated, and it gives the hat a completely different feel. The decrease ribs really seem to stand out in this version, and I love how the dark blue frames the light green crown.

YarnyDragonfly chose a yarn with a long color repeat and slightly softer tones for her hat. Her yarn was also slightly fuzzy, which underplays the structure of the pattern and really lets the color keep the spotlight. She kept right on going in the crown colorway rather than switching to a contrasting yarn for the body of the hat.

I love all three of the test knit versions…if there’s one you particularly love, head on over to their blog or project page and let them know!

And, if you’re eager to try a version of your own, the pattern is available on the Desigknit Pattern page on Ravelry. Thanks so much to all of the test knitters for helping me to get this one out the door!

This has turned out to be a productive couple of weeks, knitting-wise. Back in the spring, my very knit-worthy aunt had asked me for a scarf knit from my handspun. We sat down with the color cards and she picked out a color that she thought would work well, and I spun up some yarn and dyed it.

Unfortunately, the color came out a bit lighter than I’d intended, and I wasn’t sure that it was right. So, I put it aside to ponder for a while, and moved on to other things.

When I was getting ready for TwinSet Summer Camp, I grabbed a braid of roving to spin. I only had 4 ounces, and it wasn’t quite the color I’d been looking for, but as I spun it I started to think that perhaps that really was the one.

I finished spinning it a few weeks ago (there was a long hiatus in between), and cast on for a scarf.

I soon realized, though, that I didn’t have enough yardage for a scarf in the 4 ounce skein that I had on hand. I did some calculations, and switched to a cowl. I wasn’t sure how a cowl would work for my aunt, but figured I’d give it a try; I could always knit up something else for her if it didn’t work out.

By the time I finished the cowl, I was kind of in love with it, but I was also less sure that it was right for her. (I like to think that those two thoughts are unrelated.)

So, I cast on for a scarf in the original yarn, figuring I’d offer her the option and could always overdye the scarf later if that’s what she wanted.

It turns out that she was planning to be in town in September (she lives out of state), and so I went down for a visit last weekend. My second thoughts were right; she loved the color of the scarf, but the cowl had a bit too much gray in it.

I got right down to work, and by Tuesday, I had finished the knitting. This is the second week of the semester, which means that I have my commute back (with enforced knitting time), and it is not yet crazy enough that I spend the whole commute grading or sleeping. So, this was the perfect time to get a couple of quick projects off the needles.

The cowl was knit on size 5 needles, and took 300 yards (4 oz) of Rambouillet 3-ply yarn. The scarf was knit on size 6’s, and took 400 yards (8 oz) of Finn 2-ply yarn in a slightly heavier weight. (Grist is an amazing thing.) After blocking, the cowl is 36 x 12 inches, and the scarf is 60 x 14.5″. Both use the “Tracery pattern” lace from Barbara Walker’s second stitch dictionary (p 308). The cowl is 12 repeats of the lace, and the scarf is 4 (plus a second stockinette stitch at the edges). The pattern was simple enough that I’d memorized it within a couple of repeats, and it made good conversation knitting as well as train knitting. (I love projects like that. And really, I love anything that involves leaf lace.)

My needles have been empty now for a couple of days, and they’re aching for something new. I thought I had a project all planned, but it turned out that I had more yarn than I need for the project I was planning on, and decided I’d rather wait until I find something that will use all of it instead. So it’s back to waiting and thinking, looking for a new project to take into next week.

We all have them: projects that seem inspired at the time, and less-than-inspiring later. There are the ones that don’t turn out the way you expect, and the ones where you pushed the envelope a little too far. And then there are those where the execution just didn’t live up to the dream, for whatever reason (materials, skill, maybe a little of both…).

I can usually see a dud coming, and rip back in time. But not always.

I knit this sweater back in 2008. I knew as soon as I finished it that it was bigger than I’d intended, but I thought there was a chance I’d wear it anyway. (That was my first mistake: excessive hope.) This was also my first lesson in shaping oversized garments. In a word, don’t: it makes them look too big rather than comfortably baggy. If you must shape, do it subtly.

I wore the sweater for a few months, maybe a season after I knit it, and never since. In the meantime, I’ve lost about 50 pounds, and what was once big is now hopelessly huge.

The second sweater is of roughly the same vintage.

This was my first sweater on tiny needles. (Or at least they felt tiny at the time…looking back, they were size 3’s, which now feel pretty big.) It is also my only sweater in 100% alpaca yarn. I thought when I knit it that it might be too warm. That is not a problem. As someone who is always cold, an extra-warm sweater is something to be prized, not ignored. And yet, I never wear this.

The problem is with the yarn itself. Being 100% alpaca, it is quite slippery, which makes it hard to hold a bag on my shoulder or push up a sleeve with my hip when my hands are full (yes, apparently that’s an important feature of a sweater for me. I had no idea, until suddenly I couldn’t). Wearing it is like being coated in oil; everything is slippery, slippery, slippery. The alpaca also has a lot of drape. You can’t see it here, but the sweater grew significantly during the first few wearings. When it first came off the needles, it fit fine. But the (lack of) structure in a yoked sweater knit in the round combined with the slipperiness of the yarn and a sligtly-less-firm-than-usual gauge to give me a 10-20% increase in size. This garment was shaped well for a loose fit, and I still think it’s flattering, even after the additional weight loss. But if you look at the picture above, you can see that there are almost two different shoulder lines; one that was intended, and the other that emerged as the sweater practically melted off of me.

I pulled out the neckline once and reknit it, but it didn’t help. I’ve thought of lots of different fixes, but at the end of the day this sweater just never gets worn.

The third sweater is slightly more recent (sorry for the dark photo).

I knit this one back in 2010-11, with yarn from an indie dyer whose work I love. I bought the yarn online, which I never do unless I’ve seen it in person first. I ordered BFL worsted, but what came was a high-twist fingering weight. Think socks that rock heavyweight. I have no idea if that is her usual worsted or if something happened with the labels by mistake. But I loved the yarn, and I loved the color, so I set out to knit a sweater even if it wasn’t quite what I expected. I knit at a dense gauge, because that’s what I always do on a sweater. And it came out heavy.

At first, I didn’t think that was a problem, but as I wore it the weight started to bother me. Also, there were some construction details I didn’t like. I reknit the sleevecaps. I reinforced the shoulder seams to do a better job of holding up the sweater’s weight. I added a bit of an edging to the neck opening to fix the way it hung. None of it really worked. Like the others, I wore it for a season, and haven’t really touched it since.

Especially on this last sweater, I still love these yarns. I liked the sweaters at one point or another, but my enthusiasm waned after the initial excitement of completion wore off. For years now, I’ve been considering ripping them out and releasing the yarn for another project. I never wear them, and they take up storage space. The construction/structural integrity issues make them garments that I’m not likely to give away. I’m not inclined to keep things around simply because they took time and effort to knit. If they don’t serve a purpose, they’re going to be culled.

This year, the time felt ripe. And so, this week my projects have been ones of deconstruction rather than knitting. I unpicked ends, pulled out seams, and frogged with abandon. I got through the first two sweaters, but have hesitated on the alpaca because I”m worried about felting. The other two were fairly smooth wool yarns, but I’m not sure how well frogging will go for a fuzzy, loosely spun alpaca. I’m still thinking about that one.

I really liked playing with the crimped wool skeins, but sadly they needed to be relaxed if I want to knit with them again. So, after the frogging came a bath.

And I now have two sweaters’ worth of yarn to restash. I’m not sure that I’ll knit with it again right away, but I am glad that it’s been converted back from useless, abandoned garment to yarn with great potential.

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