Thursday, July 31, 2014

Adventures in Steeking

After months of stranded knitting, one minor pattern misalignment mishap, and tackling stranding on the wrong side, I finally reached the point where I could go no further with this sweater without tackling the steek!

Since the sewing machine I got for Christmas last year is still in the box, unopened, a crochet steek was clearly the choice.

I am no great crochet wizard, but a crocheted steek really requires no previous crochet experience, just a hook and some yarn. Push the hook under 1 leg of each stitch you want to join, wrap the yarn and pull it through--it's not much harder than that.


The lines of crochet stitches ensure that your yarn won't unravel when you cut through the middle stitch. I did a swatch in the round for this sweater, and intended to practice steeking on it, but  . . . I couldn't find it. So, I just went right ahead with the sweater--if I ever do find the swatch, I can use it for a tutorial!


Snip snip! You can see the lines of crochet holding the knit stitches tightly--no unraveling here. The only places I had some trouble with unraveling were the top and bottom of the steek--not being an expert, I don't know the best way to handle this issue, I just used the ends of the crochet yarn to catch a few floats and stitches and tie them all together. The two loose edges from the steek fold back behind the collar, so you'll never see the mess.


And voila! A big gaping hole in my sweater. It just needs a collar.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mom's Day Out


Looking very pregnant celebrating CP's birthday last weekend!

Everything checked out at last week's doctor's appointment, so for now, baby #2 can continue to bake until his due date, and on Saturday, I got to keep my plans for a last day out before he arrives.

I got my hair colored (I had nearly 3 inches of regrowth, because I was trying to wait until as close to my due date as I could--who knows when I'll next get a chance!), had lunch at a tapas restaurant with my sister, and visited a new-to-me local yarn store in Frederick, MD--The Knot House.

Like just about everything in downtown Frederick, it's tucked into a an old townhouse and is completely charming. The selection is relatively small, but a nice mix of staples and local and/or indie yarns. And a bit of fiber too. I was excited to see Neighborhood Fiber Co., Dragonfly Fibers, The Fibre Co., and Shalimar Yarns, among others.

So, what did I buy? I opted for a few special items from small dyers, and I'm really excited about them!


Fiber! Yes, I have to start building up my stash. This soft, fuzzy delight is from Gourmet Stash, and it's a blend of alpaca, merino and silk. I have a feeling that with alpaca and silk, this will be slippery to spin--I'll have to work my way up to it.


Rainbow yarn does not usually call to me, but something about this one did. I tried to walk away, but I just couldn't. This is Western Sky Knits Twinkle Sock in the colorway Choco Rainbow. I'd never heard of this dyer before, but looking at the website, I have a feeling I'm going to be a repeat customer.


And this is one I've been interested in for a while, and finally found in-person. Spincycle Yarns Dyed in the Wool, colorway Fallen Leaves. It's a mill spun yarn with a handspun look, and I've loved it since I first saw it on Alana Dakos' blog. At $29 for 200 yards of sportweight it is not cheap, but I'm eager to find a special project for it.

So, in all, a nice pre-baby treat for myself.

And speaking of treats, don't forget that all of my self-published patterns are BOGO until the end of the month--just use the code JULY14 in my Ravelry shop!

Aaaaaand, speaking of self-publishing (I am the master of the segue way), did you know that I run pattern tests through the MediaPeruana Designs Ravelry group? It's true--yarn companies, magazines, etc., do their own testing, but for self-published patterns, I run my own tests. If you're interested in testing patterns before they're published, check out the Testing thread. You can sign up to be contacted directly regarding testing opportunities, or just check in occasionally to see if anything's available!

I actually have a lot to say this week, so stay tuned--I steeked my first thing, I've nearly got 2 more pullovers done, and I want to show off a few baby knits!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Spinning: First Yarn

 

You might remember that about a million years ago, or roughly October 15, 2012, I got a spinning wheel. A lovely Schacht Ladybug that CP picked out for me after doing some stealthy research on Ravelry.

Of course, I had no clue how to use it, so it basically just took up space in my studio. Occasionally I would wander by and pat it lovingly: "Someday. Someday I'll have time to learn to use you."

Then I had a baby. Which meant I didn't even have time to pat the wheel lovingly.

When I found out we were having another baby, though, I decided it was now or never. With two little ones running around, I'd never make time--or have the energy--to learn.

So I bought a book and got started.


Slowly slowly slowly I spun up some singles from a braid of merino wool I bought from Forbidden Woolery probably around the time I got the wheel.

When I wanted more advice and guidance than the book could provide, I took a class, and watched some YouTube videos.

And finally, I had 2 bobbins with singles.


(Guess which one was my first bobbin??)

I left the bobbins sitting for a few weeks (months?) while I got ready for a second baby. 

Then, I decided it was time to take the plunge and ply. 

I checked the book, I watched more videos, I learned how to put my lazy kate together, and I got started.


A 2-ply seemed the easiest way to start (not to mention I only have 3 bobbins). And it didn't look too shabby.

Then one of the bobbins ran out while the other still had plenty of singles left (because, while it's not a guarantee, weighing your fiber first and dividing it into equal portions is a good idea), so I willy nily wound some of the singles from one bobbin to the other to finish up. 

The part where I joined the singles is probably not very pretty.

But then it was done!

I determinedly wrapped it around the niddy noddy, tied it off, washed it and hung it to dry.


And here it is.

Some spots are clearly more even than others. If it were a commercial yarn, the weight would vary between sport and worsted.

I'm told consistency will come with time.

But I think it's pretty.


It's about 150 yards, give or take, and needs a really great project.



And while I look for ideas, I've already started spinning more singles, this time from a lovely braid of blue-faced leicester--that I weighed and divided first.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pattern Preview: Pumpkin Butter


I have to tell you all, July is not going well for me.

It has just been one thing after another: first CP got sick. Then he gave his cold to JJ. Then my dad was in the hospital. And JJ's cold got worse and worse and he slept less and less, and I got more and more exhausted. I had a big translation contract that I almost didn't meet the deadline for, and everything else got pushed aside. I'm also still growing that baby, who is now due in less than 4 weeks, and I've fallen way, way behind on the pre-baby to do list. As well as every other to do list.

And now I'm writing this blog post instead of making dinner because the pasta pot is dirty and I don't feel like washing it, and why isn't cereal an acceptable dinner?

(Just kidding. We're out of cereal.)

One thing I did manage to finish--only 10 days late--was the exclusive pattern for crafters who donated to my CCFA Fundraiser!



These stranded socks--which I've dubbed Pumpkin Butter--are just perfect for fall. When the weather starts to get chilly, the extra warmth created by the floats is a wonderful addition.

The pattern calls for two skeins of Cascade Heritage, a sturdy fingering weight yarn that's reasonably priced and comes in a squillion colors. (With many thanks to Cascade Yarns for supporting this design!)

I bet you'd just never guess the two shades I used--Pumpkin and Butter.


The pattern is written for knitting the socks toe-up on 2 circular needles, and includes just one size--women's medium / 8" foot circumference--due to the large pattern repeat. However, as suggested in the pattern, you can fairly easily produce a larger size by working at a different gauge.


This pattern is currently exclusive to CCFA donors, in recognition of their generous contributions. But you can queue it up on Ravelry here, and it will be available for purchase starting September 15.

In the meantime, throughout the month of July, I'll be offering a special discount on all of my other self-published patterns in honor of the U.S. and Peruvian Independence Days. Use the code JULY14 in my Ravelry shop to get a FREE pattern of your choice when you purchase any pattern. BOGO ends July 31.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bound Off: Sprig


Have you checked your calendar recently?

No?

Then I have the sad duty to inform you that, somehow, tomorrow is the last day of June.

2014 is half over!

And what do I have to show for Year of the Pullover so far?

Well, I'm proud to say that I've finally finished a pullover!


Pattern: Sprig, by Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting, from Botanical Knits 2
Size: 36.75
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Isadora, 4 skeins
Mods: none
Ravelry link


What a beautiful, beautiful sweater. The construction of this pullover is so inventive, you just have to go with it. Starting the asymmetrical neckline seems utterly bizarre when you cast on, but it all works out in the end.

Most of the sweater is stockinette, with some waist shaping, so it's great for car knitting or when you need something mindless and soothing to focus on.

Knitting on the collar and sleeve cuffs is the fun part, and it goes quickly too!


As usual, I loved working with Madelinetosh yarn; it's soft but sturdy, and colors are just gorgeous. This dusty rose is going to look so good with a pair of well-loved jeans and brown riding boots.

Assuming I ever fit into any of those things again.

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that I'm not modeling this sweater because I'm currently nearly 8 months pregnant; the dress form is optimistically set to my pre-baby measurements.


I followed the instructions for the 36.75" bust; the actual measurement is closer to 35". I can't remember if I did a gauge swatch, so we'll assume I didn't.

Just a little more motivation to lose that baby weight.


I opted for the button loop closure for the sleeves, and now I need to find, either in my stash or on Etsy, two perfect buttons.

(I guess technically the sweater isn't done without buttons, but far too much is at stake in the button decision-making process to rush it!)

I'm thrilled with the sweater, and can't wait to cast on my next project from Botanical Knits 2--my hard copy of the book arrived just last week (there's just something about having a paper copy, isn't there?) and I've been leafing through it excitedly.

But first, I've got a lot more pullovers to finish. Only 6 months of Year of the Pullover to go!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Countdown: 6 Weeks to D-Day



Sleep deprivation and limited brain power = mis-crossed cables.

Where oh where does the time go? Day to day, things seem pretty normal around here, but in actuality, it's getting a little hectic.

Baby #2 is expected to arrive in about 6 weeks. SIX WEEKS, PEOPLE. I still can't believe people do this on purpose. (Have kids 18 months apart, I mean; not have kids in general. Although, some days . . . )

Baby #1, AKA, JJ, has decided to mark this auspicious occasion by hating sleep--he's either waking up at 5am, fighting his naps, fighting his bedtime, waking numerous times a night or, worst, all of the above. (See, he was up at 5:15 this morning, and just woke up from his nap after only an hour--not cool.)

 This is my apologetic face, mommy.

I'm working on a big translation contract, which will help in padding our finances for baby #2's arrival, but is also using what little brain power I have left (see mis-crossed cable photo above).

And I'm finalizing some designs that will be published later this year, and getting some proposals in before I start "maternity leave," so to speak, in August.

And of course, the knitting continues.

My swift (finally) broke, and I've been so pleased with my new umbrella swift that I've actually been enjoying winding yarn (almost). Including this:


This is a club color from Forbidden Woolery that is the epitome of autumn. It's pretty busy, though, so I decided some plain, vanilla socks were in order:


Such simple knitting after a long day.

I spent the last week on a particularly difficult translation, so I took yesterday off and stored up a little brain power to fix that mis-crossed cable too:


I've never actually dropped down to fix a cable before, so it was a new experience. And I've got one more to fix, since I managed to mis-cross on both sides of the sweater--go me!

Here's hoping I can continue to be productive over the next 6 weeks--come August, things are going to be very different (and by that I mean CRAZY) around here!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Photo Tutorial: Magic Loop



I mentioned in a recent post that I had finally decided to learn magic loop for small circumference circular knitting, and once I'd gotten the hang of it, couldn't believe I hadn't tried it earlier. I think the word "magic" threw me off--I thought it would be impossibly fiddly or require the kind of knitting gymnastics I just didn't have the patience for.

Actually, though, there's nothing magical or even particularly difficult about it. It's something you might even stumble across yourself, given the right circumstances. I think we've all bent and twisted our circular needles into odd configurations in order to slip stitches, undo mistakes or beat novel constructions into submission. And that's basically all it is.


Ready? Let's go!

WHY MAGIC LOOP?

Magic Loop is used for small circumference circular knitting (socks, sweater sleeves, hat tops), where the smallest circular needle (usually around 16", though you can find 9" if you look hard enough) is too large. The less obstinate among us might use DPNs or two circular needles, but if you don't have multiple circulars in the same size, or you fear poking an eye out with DPNs, read on.

GETTING STARTED: MATERIALS

Circular needle (fixed or interchangeable) with a long cable (at least 32"; 40" is better)
Yarn
Confidence (come on, it's not steeking; nothing will happen if you screw it up, other than having to start over)

STEP 1:

Cast on your required number of stitches (this is, by the way, the 1st sleeve for my Aunt Fred sweater):



STEP 2:

Slide all of your stitches down to the middle of the cable.


STEP 3:

Divide your stitches in half, and pull the cable right through the middle, like so:


STEP 4:

Move your stitches up onto the needle tips, with your working yarn on the bottom/right needle tip. Make sure all your little stitch butts are pointing inward, so you don't get a twist.


STEP 5:

Now, pull the bottom/right needle tip out, so that the stitches on that tip slide onto the cable; the other half of your stitches should remain on the top/left needle tip.

The result will be some slack cable looped on the far side:


And your bottom/right needle tip dangling in the wind on the other side, with lots of loose cable.


I'm sure you can see where this is going.

STEP 6:

In arranging the stitches this way, you've given the right needle tip enough slack to use it to knit! Just pick it up and start knitting the stitches on the top/left needle tip. When you reach the end, repeat Steps 4 and 5 to get your needle tips into position to work the second half of your stitches. Voila!


That's it. No rocket science. You're just finagling your needle tips to create a bit of circular knitting divided between 1 needle tip and the middle of your cable.

Give it a try!

PROS:

Can be used with any circumference
No DPNs to drop (or maim yourself with)
Uses only 1 needle
Fewer joins (2 vs 3 or 4 with DPNs), fewer potential ladders
Harder for stitches to slide off and unravel

CONS:

Over time, puts extra pressure on needles/cables (may ultimately lead to a break)
Cables must be flexible (I would not recommend trying this with ChiaoGoos; too rigid)
Requires longer cable, may not be in your standard needle collection
Takes extra time to rearrange stitches, especially as you're first getting the hang of it.

Personally, I am quite happy knitting my socks on 2 circular needles, particularly because I've already bought pairs of all my sock sizes. For something like sweater sleeves, though, I don't have pairs of my large needle sizes, and I detest knitting on large diameter DPNs, so this is a great option. I'm already using it on a second set of sweater sleeves, and expect it will be my go-to method from this point forward.