Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Creative Recap

It's that time of year again. Time for the annual creative recap. I knit quite a bit again this year. My design list isn't as impressive in quantity, but I certainly knit more stitches this year. Not all my projects made it onto my ravelry page, but here are the ones that did.

I knit 5 shawls, 9 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of mitts/mittens, 5 hats, 2 sweaters (one human, one dog), 1 vest, 1 cowl, and 1 brain slug. There were more scarves and hats than that, but not everything got photographed before it was gifted.

I also knit 5 more designs for The Book. Pictured here is the entire collection that has been knit so far.

And here is the last design for The Book. I've got quite a bit of knitting to go, but it is a good start.

I'd say that the biggest accomplishment this year was finishing Celestarium. Having it included in the 2012 Winter issue of Twist Collective is a huge honor. And it seems to have taken off on ravelry. There are several knit alongs scheduled for 2013. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's project.

Well, that was my year in knits. I'm quite pleased with what got accomplished. And I'm looking forward to seeing what next year holds. 

And thanks to everyone who reads this blog. It wouldn't be the same without you guys!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Success

This year's Christmas was a success. We had the full Christmas experience complete with arguments, grumpiness, and a healthy dose of being uncomfortable out in the cold for a bit. I was the only one who made gifts this year, so I pronounced it Christmas on the 24th. I couldn't wait any longer to see everyone open their gifts. (I may have made Mum open her's a few days before.) 
Mum has taken up needle felting, so I made her a "Make Your Own Scooter" kit. It is mostly wool, but I once had washed the dog and saved some of his clean fur from his hair cut. I thought it should be part of the kit in order to make it more authentic. I even drew step by step instructions.

I made my brother a brain slug. Futurama is one of the few things we have bonded over. That and Venture Bros. Our conversations often will include a reference from either show. Usually he doesn't like gifts, but he was really into this one. Or maybe that was the brain slug talking.
Hurray for Zoidberg! 

I've made things for Dad in the past, but when I saw this Star Trek robe, I knew that I would be buying this year's gift.  It was too good not to. Here is Dad doing his best Spock impression. Mum thought this impression was a little too realistic.
It's only logical

Scooter got his gift early and has decided that he isn't really into sweaters. He has managed to stretch it out and wiggle his way out of it already. Scooter got turkey later, so his Christmas went well. 

I hope everyone's holiday has gone well. Has anyone had any gift successes or disasters this year? (Does anyone else have a dog who doesn't like sweaters?)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Parade Of Knits

Holy Moley guys. I have so many FO (finished objects) to show you it's crazy. I have no idea why I've managed to get this productive. But it doesn't even feel like work. Either that, or I've quickly forgotten how much work it all was.
Let's get started. I finished my Aestlight in a week. It's pretty. I'm having a hard time wanting to give it away like I'm suppose to. (I'll be good this time and gift it like I intended to.) I think I will be knitting myself one at some point. I did choose to do a picot border rather than the knit on border. I think it works well with this design. It was also the first time I'd done a picot border.

I also finished my Skyp socks. I had been knitting them during my lunch breaks at work. The plan was to save it for knitting at work, but with just half a foot left, I couldn't stop myself. Plus, it has been cold and I need socks.

I found myself without knitting, so I broke out the "To Knit" list and busted out a pair of Rathtrevor mitts from Jane Richmond's ISLAND book for my friend Alina. (I also had a hard time giving these away... but they were gifted today.) They are made of Stansborough Mythral. I love this yarn. It is made by the same people who wove the cloaks and other things for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. You can find some on their site. Be warned that it might feel rough to knitters who are use to knitting with Merino. The yarn is made from the Stansborough Grey sheep. But it is gorgeous. Gorgeous! Once the book is done I may have to celebrate with a sweater's worth of this yarn.

I've worked away so much stash that I am now digging into deep stash. I started a scarf using a skein I bought in New Zealand back in 2010. There is a technique were you fiddle a bunch with vareigated yarn in order to figure out how to line up the colors. I am giving it a try with this scarf. It took me 2 hours to get something that might work. We will see. The yarn is Margaret Stove Artisan NZ Merino Lace in the Ocean colorway. I'm using size 4 needles and will be knitting a feather and fan pattern from Barbara Walker's first treasury of patterns. The border will be a little weird because after the pattern repeats, I have 5 stitches left over. So one side will have 3 border stitches and the other side will have 2. Normally I would care, but it was such a pain to get this far that I no longer do.

So what am I up to now? Well, I spent all day working on the first draft of the companion piece to Celestarium. This shawl will be of the southern constellations. My chief complaint with doing Celestarium was that there is no standardization in constellations. It is my chief complaint with the upcoming shawl as well. I did my best to composite all the different interpretations of the constellations. 
And I'm still waiting on the yarn for the last book pattern. I'm mildly concerned, but I won't bug anyone until after Christmas. Plus, it gives me an excuse to knit whatever I want because, "I'm waiting for the yarn."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Scooter's Sweater

Every year I say I'm not going to do holiday knitting. And every year, a week or so before Christmas, I start feeling bad that I haven't made Scooter anything. I know what you all think; dogs don't care about knits. Well, Scooter is a dog after my own heart. He loves knits. He seeks them out. Nothing makes him happier than cuddling in something knitted. (Of course this is a problem when I'm actively knitting the thing he'd like to be sitting on.)
This is Scooter's new trick, "Wave." I'm teaching him to wave with his left and right paws on command.

Scooter has been without a sweater that fits for several years now. He has outgrown the one he has and gets upset when we put it on him. He looked a bit like a stuffed sausage when it was on. But he's 10 years old now, and I think he gets a bit colder than he used to.
There were various family theories over whether he hated sweaters or if he didn't like the one that was too small. I was on the side that felt that he would like a sweater if it fitted him. So I sunk some money and bought three skeins of Cascade 128. I knew he liked that yarn because last year's present was made of it. 

Since Scooter could care less if it is Christmas or not, I went ahead and put it on him as soon as I was done with it. He appears to like it! As he should. I measured him and custom knit it to his sizing. And I added extra leg room so he could run all he wanted without sleeves feeling funny. Here is the project's ravelry page if you want yarn and needle details.
He's catching a treat in this photo. It does a good job of showing the shaping I put into the chest.

There's one last thing to note. I made the sweater to match mine. Yes, that's a bit dorky, but I don't care. He's my little buddy.
"Give me the treat, human."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chilly Nights And Wild Roads

I made the trek out to Turtle Rock again this year. There might be a storm sweeping by on the solstice, so Mum and I thought we'd go a few days before. It's always magical to see the beams of light touch the base of Turtle Rock before disappearing over the ocean. 

This evening we were treated to the moon, winking overhead. It was a cold evening. Colder than many we have had in the past. My mittens hugged my hands in the chilly air.

 Our bodies stayed warm in the car as we drove the wild roads back home.

Friday, December 14, 2012

See That Girl, She's A Knit Machine

This last month's worth of posts have all been about finished knitting. I really wish I had some adventures to talk about, but all my time has been eaten up by work (tis the season of the retail worker), The Book stuff, and gift knitting. My room is officially a designated factory zone. I finished the silk hankie sample for work. Rav page is here. It's made of two Abstract Fiber silk hankies. Colors are Smith Rock and Hopworks. If I were to keep it, I'd use it as a wide headband.

I finished my Rock Island shawl. I was ready to give it away as a present. But the more I looked at it, the harder it got to imagine it not being with me. So I'm keeping it.

It has more to do with who gave me the yarn than being a greedy knitter. Also, I had plenty of yarn left over. Even though the shawl is knit from the bottom-up and each row gets shorter, I was sure I was going to be short until I was 10 rows from the end. I did take AC's advice and knit it faster. Because, as all knitters know, if you knit faster, you won't run out of yarn.

I bought a skein of Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace in Purple to make a replacement gift. It will be a different pattern, which I'll stay silent on for now. I'm waiting on some beads to show up on my doorstep before I cast on.

So in the meantime I've cast on a different gift knit. The yarn is Curious Creek Fibers Wasonga in the Emerald City colorway. It's a shawl. But again, I'll keep quiet about the specifics on the blog for now.

In other news, I've ordered yarn for the last pattern for The Book. I spent quite a bit of time on Wednesday making different charts for different sizes. I'll be measuring my brother, who will be modeling, when he comes home in a few days. All going well, knitting will commence in the next week or so. Just call me the knit machine. (For some reason, I have the ABBA tune Dancing Queen in my head when I see the words Knit Machine.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Please Mr. Postman

Mr. Postman came today with some goodies I'd ordered. After seeing this Doctor Who project bag by Bag End Bags on etsy, I couldn't resist. I'm usually good about not impulse buying, but the inside had star fabric. When I knit up the southern constellation shawl, it will be living in the bag. The shawl is going to pretty big. And I'm sure as some of you might guess, the bag is bigger on the inside. My copy of Island by Jane Richmond also came. It is well laid out and plain old gorgeous. I've already made Renfrew. (Not today. I got the digital download a few weeks ago.)

I thought I had blogged about this already, but apparently not. I made it out of Knitwhits Freia Handpaints Freia Ombré Worsted in the Denim colorway. It is the nicest single ply yarn I have ever worked with. It was tightly spun without being kinky. And it felt really good in my hands. I will be getting more as soon as I have a project to go along with it. One ball was enough for the slouchy version of Renfrew. (Which, by the way, is an excellent hat pattern.) 

Last night I attended a baby shower. The gifts were a big hit. I made adult and baby Elven Hero hats out of Rimu. The rav project page can be found here. It includes the modifications made for the baby hat. That baby is going to have some great adventures.

I actually have two more finished objects, but I'm starting to feel like a show off. That and they are items that have yet to be gifted. They'll show up on the blog in the coming month or so, but if you are super curious, everything is on my ravelry project page.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Knitting Like The World Is About To End

Well, my Rock Island is growing at an alarming rate. Last night I knit 2/3 of the middle lace section. Once I got a rhythm, it was hard to stop. We've all been there. Every time I finished a row I would say to myself, "Well, maybe I'll go to bed after this LAST row." Followed by, "I can't leave it on a wrong side row. I might not know where I left off."

I've turned the heel on my second Skyp sock. I see a warm pair of socks in my near future. And a reason to buy more skeins of Blue Moon's Socks That Rock Lightweight. The Tlingit and Carbon colorways are currently catching my eye. But I'm really looking forward to seeing the Blue Moon booth at Stitches West and picking out skeins in person. I really must make a list this year. Last year I didn't and ended up with all sorts of yarn. And roving. And books.

I've got a successful swatch for my last knit for The Book. Hurray! Of course I can only show you the back of the swatch for now. But I'm excited about this last project. It is coming out as good as I had hoped it would... so far. Hopefully the garment comes out as well as the swatches.
There isn't a good sense of scale in this photo. That swatch is 10.5 x 7.5 inches. It's practically a sweater all on its own.

Just look at all that knitting accomplished in the last few days. It's like I just sit around all day and knit. Oh wait....

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Maelstrom Of Rock Island

I now have a maelstrom of lace. The Rock Island edging is finally finished and I spent the afternoon picking up the edging and knitting the beginning of the body of the shawl. I'm embarrassed to admit, despite my knitting experience, I might run out of yarn. It seems to be disappearing a bit faster than I'd like. I do have a backup plan. I'll just bind off the shawl when I run out of yarn and it will just have a triangular divot.... you know, to fit the neck better.

I finished the first Skyp sock as well. It's lovely. Only after I finished this sock did I notice that Claire has released a sock pattern related to Puck called "Lord, What Fools." This yarn, colorway Puck's Mischief, would have be so appropriate. But I suppose Puck is so mischievous he decided he wanted to be a Skyp sock instead.

I've started a new project as well. I'm making a shop sample of the silk hankie cowl after participating in a workshop lead by Susan Stambaugh of Abstract Fiber. Knitting with mawata (silk hankies) is an interesting technique and I'm glad to have learned it. The red hankie colorway is Smith Rock. The more brown one is Hopworks.

As for the Rimu I bought last week. It's already been knit up into a secret baby shower gift. I'll be gifting it on Sunday, so I'll hold off on pictures just in case the recipient is spying on this blog.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

You Bought Yarn, Didn't You

Yesterday was a normal work day. When I got home, I walked by the sink to drop off my sandwich container, like usual. And as I reached my room, I heard my Mum call out, "You bought yarn, didn't you." How the heck did she know. My bag didn't look suspicious. I'd only been home for two minutes.
Turns out the receipt had stuck to the sandwich container. But it's ok. This yarn is for a baby shower gift. As I'm sure most knitters know, it doesn't matter how big your stash is. You never have the right yarn for gift knitting. Especially when that gift has a tight deadline.

The other knit gift is now a longer pile of noodles. I'm still in shawl edging purgatory. Only 30 more repeats until I get to the next bit. The yarn is 100% mulberry silk. I've never blocked out mulberry silk. I hope it opens up well.

My Skyp sock is coming along well... now. I had to rip out large portions of the sock twice. Both times were my fault. I messed up the pattern once and it was noticeable. The second time I missed a repeat of the pattern before the heel. I decided it would be easier to rip the heel than to edit the pattern to accommodate my mistake. But I have tried on the sock and it fit great. I think Socks That Rock lightweight might be a new favorite sock yarn. It just feels like it is going to wear well.

I have to confess that even though it looks like I'm being productive, I am so stressed right now. I have more shifts at work, knitting commitments, and I've been working really hard to learn how to grade sweaters. Sweater sizing is really tough. (Or maybe I'm a little ambitious with what I'm trying to design.) I know that everything will pay off in the end and I'm thankful for the opportunities that are coming my way. But it still feels like my body is being squeezed.
On a positive note, I've noticed that there are a fair number of Celestarium KALs planned in the new year on various ravelry boards. I'm really excited to see people's projects in the coming months.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Edward Gorey And The Raccoon Hat

Back when I was at university, my housemate made me a really awesome birthday present. He drew up a knitting themed poem, of his own composing, in the style of Edward Gorey. The sheet of paper was tucked into a copy of an Edward Gorey book, which I had mentioned I was interested months before my birthday. I had made my other housemate a hat and had asked Brennan what he'd like for his birthday, to which he replied, "A raccoon hat." I puzzled and puzzled over how to go about making the mask. As you will notice, Brennan very cleverly put the hat into the poem. 
Well, an embarrassing number of years have passed since I promised that hat. And the picture is hung up on my bedroom wall, reminding me constantly of the hat that wasn't completed....

Until now. Ta-da! Raccoon hat. I mailed it a few weeks ago, so hopefully it is on Brennan's head now. He's going for his PhD and said he planned on wearing it while teaching classes. I'm hoping for some photographic evidence of this happening.

Part of the design dilemma I had was figuring out how to get the mask to flip up and stay up. I thought about buttons and hooks. But after attaching the mask, it turns out that the stickiness of the wool keeps the mask in place all by itself.

I'm not sure if I should make this pattern available at some point. I've got so much on my plate. But if people are interested, I'll put it on the to-do list.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Smaug Socks

I finished my Smaug socks! I was hoping to have them completed before The Hobbit movie was released. You know... so I can wear them while seeing The Hobbit.

The yarn is Handmaiden Casbah in what I'm guessing is the Ruby colorway. The pattern is Smaug Socks by my former co-worker, Claire Ellen. (Yes, I'm totally name dropping.) I'm most impressed by Claire's clever integration of the gusset shaping into the tail cabling. If you knit it, you'll see what I'm talking about.

This pattern was really fun to knit. I ended up having to rip back a bit to add an extra inch. No fault of the pattern. It's just a personal preference and I didn't really pay attention to the length the pattern said it would be. The pattern was accurate. I was not. But it didn't matter because these socks were so much fun to knit, it didn't feel like a chore. I did need a bit of quiet when I got to the heel. It might be easier for people who are use to heel flaps, but my default is a short row heel. Regardless, I'm extremely happy with how these turned out.

Unfortunately, when I cast off the Smaug Socks, I found myself without any knitting. That's right. I had nothing on the needles. Not even secret designs. Current secret designs are in the math/swatch/graphing stages.
My November list of knitting is done, so I have started in on my December list. As an aside, anyone who might be curious as to how I stay on track with knitting: I make a monthly list of knitting and assign myself a daily knitting quota. If there isn't a hard deadline, I don't push myself. But I also don't cast on more than 3 projects total.
This looks like a pile of noodles, but it is the beginning of the Rock Island shawl by Jared Flood. All going well, it will be gifted in January.

Rock Island will get easier after I get past the edging. But the edging takes a bit more concentration, so I've also cast on a pair of Skyp socks. The yarn is Socks That Rock lightweight in the colorway Puck's Mischief. 

I think I might be turning into Andi. It seems wrong not to have a sock on the needles. She's also the reason I chose the pattern. Her pair of Sir Isaac Lime Skyps made me want my own. Well, that and if I finished this skein, I won't have any more Socks That Rock. That means I can buy more in February when I go to Stitches West... right? It's totally reasonable.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Celestarium Future

I am thrilled that Celestarium has been embraced so enthusiastically. I just wanted to say thank-you. And thank-you to everyone who has left me such uplifting comments. I have had a smile on my face for nearly a week now. 

So what does the future hold? Well, I have had requests for a matching Celestarium that features the southern skies. So I plan on working on that soon. I already have the yarn.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Making Of Celestarium

Celestarium started it's life in early 2011 with the question, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a shawl that was also a star chart." Of course knitting a star chart seemed utterly crazy. How do you even chart something circular that has no pattern repeats. Although the idea was neat enough to earn a sticky note on what my brother lovingly refers to as the "Beautiful Mind" wall, it seemed impossible, so I tried my best to think about other things.

Except that the idea kept bugging me. It seems obvious now, but it took me 6 months to determine that the only way to chart the sky accurately was to make a circular chart. After an unsuccessful search for a circular pi shawl chart, I ended up building one in Illustrator using a polar grid as a starting point. Eventually the chart was printed out, taped together, and hung on my window so I could refine the design.

Being from the northern hemisphere, Polaris seems like the logical center of the shawl. That ended up being the only easy star to chart. As it turns out, there is no standardization to constellations, so several sources had to be checked for each constellation before adding them to the chart.

The next big job was to make the piece knit-able. A big circular chart is wonderful for graphing, but an absolute nightmare to knit from. I toyed with different ways to keep track of star placement, but settled on placing a stitch marker every 72 stitches. Star positions were refined to make sure there were exactly 72 stitches in between each marker. No marker has to be moved in order to get the star placement correct. Additionally, all increase rounds do not have any stars, which makes the knitting go much smoother. As a bonus, the pattern includes a chart of the constellations so you know exactly what you have knit.

After 18 months of development, I finally was able to knit up the first version. Call it a coincidence or Providence, but right as I was looking into publishing the pattern Twist Collective's mood board landed in my inbox. One of the themes was macrocosmos with an image of stars. The rest is history.
Image by Jane Heller
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