A Fiber Story: From Bump to Shawl

I have a fair amount of fiber in the stash, and one of my intentions for 2014 is to spin and knit more of it. I pulled out one of my favorites – a gradient wool-silk from Fiber Optics (Olive to plum colorway).
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I split it into two bumps lengthwise,
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And then spun each one, onto a total of four spindle shafts:
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It was plied together (2-ply) into a lovely skein, sport-ish weight yarn, about 360 yards:

Gradient yarn

Then I had to find a pattern for a shawl – something simple enough to let the yarn shine through. And I found this lovely free (!) pattern called The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief¬† which is quite adaptable size-wise.¬† The knitting went very quickly, and voila! Yesterday I had a blocked shawl (I didn’t stretch it much – this is wool and silk knit on a Size 7 needle, and I knit loosely, so it’s going to drape beautifully without much help). See?
Gradient Shawl

Gradient Shawl

See that little end there – the 6 inches or so? That’s the yarn I had leftover from casting off – whew! I was really anxious that last row…

Gradient Shawl

Now it needs to be cold enough to wear it!

Gradient Shawl

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Birthday Chocolate

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My mother’s name was quite in contention when she was born. The second child, born late to her mother (who was an ancient 34 at the time), both parents knew this was their last child. Her mother wanted to call her Vivian Jeannette (because of her own french background), while her father wanted to name her after his two sisters, Dorothy and Helen. Her father had his way, but although Dorothy was what was signed on legal things, my mother was always known as Helen.

Last year on this day, when mom turned 91, we had chocolate cake in her room in Assisted Living, because she hadn’t been well. Chocolate was one of the basic food groups to mom. Her beloved niece Marie and her husband Dennis came. We looked at family photos. It was a good time.

After that, we ended up in the ER because she took a turn for the worse. But we kept commenting to the staff, “At least she got her chocolate cake!”

This year it’s up to us to eat the chocolate. Mom would approve!

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Customfit Redux: Part 2

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In Part 1 I discussed the planning of the knitting for the 2nd Customfit sweater; in this part, I’ll review my knitting and adjustments.

I began knitting the back as the pattern for CustomFit says – I do find it easier to complete the biggest part of the knitting first. I put the two mirrored cables in the center of the sweater between the decrease/seam lines, and it turned out that I only had to add in one stitch between the seam markers to work everything out. I added 1/2 inch to the body of the sweater, and 1/2 inch to the armhole as well – remember in Part 1 where I said I second-guessed the measurements a bit? This is where I changed things, figured a little extra is better than not enough.

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On the front, I decided to try to put the cables right where CustomFit pattern indicated seam-lines, so I moved over the decrease/seam lines by about 4 stitches on each side to the outside, and I think the effect worked well (when I put it on her will be the actual test!). I also added in four stitches, two into each part where the cable appeared. (These were decreased out in the final bind-off at the shoulders). As I knit to the armhole, I realized that the front neck depth was really short – it would be almost a crew neck sweater, which was not the look I was going for. Instead, I began the indicated decreases for the neck at the same time as the armhole, working as indicated in the pattern for the neck. At the same time, I realized that if I didn’t make any adjustment, the cable pattern would get cut-off as I knit the neckline, so I made some of the decreases for the neckline on the outside of the cable, so that a slight diagonal slant for the cable would ensure that the full cable was still knit. I did the decreases about one stitch for every four rows, which was a pretty good decision. This is what the front looked like after blocking.

 

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On the sleeves, I knit the seed stitch in one size smaller needle with the same stitch count as in the pattern, and switched to the larger size for the body of the arms. I worried that they might end up being too short and added a 1/2 inch (anyone else see the pattern here?) before the armhole, and added in the same 1/2 inch to the armscythe that I had already added to the front and back, so they would match.
(no photos, sleeves are boring)

After wet blocking all the pieces, I sewed the sweater together, knit the neckline (using one size smaller needles), stitched the hem. This is the sweater before the final blocking:

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It looked ok, but I did a final steam block on the seams and spray blocked the neckline for a truly finished look!

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I really like how this sweater came out – and crossing fingers that it will be a good fit! After this second sweater, I think I really understand the basic construction of the CustomFit sweaters – I think it’ll be time to make another one for me soon.

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Customfit Redux: Part 1

Allison's pullover

Having successfully knit a sweater for myself with Customfit, I decided to knit one for someone else – a true challenge since I don’t have the recipient in front of me to confirm the knitting.

I’ve split my discussion of the project into two parts. Part 1 will cover the consultation, measuring and planning with Allison; Part 2 will cover the knitting and my adjustments and issues along the way.

In this case it was my cousin Allison, a curvy 20-something, and she was open to almost anything, but requested a pullover. She wanted a sweater in a taupe-brownish color, which turned out to be a rather daunting yarn challenge. We knitters like to knit with color. I finally chose a lovely brown from KnitPicks in their City Tweed DK called Chipmunk. After blocking the sweater is quite soft, next to the skin soft.

The swatch was a bit of a challenge, I kept having to go down in needle sizes to get a fabric that I liked. I finally chose size 3 needles for the body, and knit the inside of the hem and the edgings in size 2 needles.

I chose a close-fitting silhouette, because Allison works out a lot and should show off all that hard work; I also worried that the alpaca content of the yarn might drag down the sweater otherwise. Because this is the Bay Area, I chose a 3/4 sleeve, and initially, more of a shallow round neck (see what I did in the knitting in Part 2), a mid-lower hip length.

Getting measurements proved the real delay – I sent Allison the sheet of directions, but it didn’t happen until we rendezvoused at Thanksgiving where I took her into a bedroom and did the measuring. When the sleeve length seemed short to me, I asked here when she bought clothes, whether the sleeves were too long, about right, or too short. She said, “Too long.” Bingo! Even so, afterwards, I found myself 2nd guessing a couple of the measurements, which will show up in Part 2.

I knew that I wanted a little fun for me as the knitter in this project, so I decided to do a cable treatment. One sweater I knit a long time ago was the Radiance Cabled Jacket (rav link) which I love and still wear, and the cable in the pattern (which I mirrored in my own version) is lovely. On the front, I calculated to put the cables directly where the princess seaming would be, so that they would travel on top of her boobs, while on the back I put the cables (along with the slip stitch pattern) into the center of the back between the decrease/seam lines. This seemed like a more modern twist on the sweater, and still kept things simple. The sleeve cuffs and neckline treatment are a simple seed stitch, and the bottom of the sweater is a knitted hem to detract attention there.

So, with my needles, yarn, swatch and pattern, I was ready to go into the land of knitting

 

 

 

 

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The Perfect Knitting Thank You Note.

In my knitting life, I have mostly appreciative knitting recipients. Now admittedly I do not continue to knit for the unappreciative knitting recipients, so this is pretty much a self-selecting process over time.

I recently received a very lovely thank you note from family friend Curtiss, for whom I knit a pair of socks (for his rather large size 10 1/2 pair of feet). In return I got this thank you note in the mail (!).Let’s dissect it, shall we?

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Points already for sending through the mail (meaning finding pen, note, envelope and stamp), and hand-written. Onto the content.

“Thank you so much for the Xmas socks! I love them!” Note that he mentions the what immediately, and his open response to receiving them. Bonus points for exclamation points!

“I’m amazed by the care & time you put into your knitting – that’s a lot more effort than just going to the store!” Here we know that he knows what knitting takes (he’s married to knitter who does not yet knit socks, so he knows), and that it is a gift of my time and expertise, not a quick trip to the store.

“Please be assured that it’s much appreciated.” This is code to me (because I know Curtiss) – you knit me a pair anytime you want.

And Curtiss – you’re welcome! The knitter.

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2013 Craft in Review

De young Museum

The turning of the year brings perspective. It’s a chance to reflect on the past, and embrace the future.

I checked my Ravelry projects page (which was mostly, but not completely in review. Here are the totals from that and my memory of things knitted but not in there:

  • Socks: 14 pairs (mostly for Afghans for Afghans)
  • Necklaces: 9
  • Sweaters: 8 (most not for me)
  • Shawls: 6
  • Cowls: 3
  • Fingerless Mittens: 3
  • Shell: 1 (my own design, not in Ravelry until I figure out whether to publish)
  • Hats: 8
  • Pet Toys: 5
  • Other: 2 (ornaments of my own design)

In addition to all the knitting, there was a fair amount of spinning and fiber fun, thanks to my two fiber festival adventures at the opposite ends of the poles as these events go: the Big Sky Fiber Festival in Hamilton, MT, and the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, Rhinebeck, NY. I met designers, teachers, sister spinners and knitters, and even a yarn company owner. I had terrific students in my knitting classes, and learned a few new skills to help me spin more efficiently and design knitting patterns.

I’m also gearing up more for my own design work, a couple of things that I can’t share yet, but will do when the time comes, and hopefully some more independent design and teaching as well.

Truly, without my craft, I don’t think I would have made it through the year. When all else seemed overwhelming and crazy, I could count on my knitting and spinning to get me through the next chapter.

And now, with 2014 here, I’m off to start on my new practice of working through The Artist’s Way with some other tweeps. I often suck at these things, but I have company, which I hope will help me keep my commitments!

Is there anything you are planning for your 2014 craftiness? Share in the comments!

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