Just a Spot of Knitting

In these parts, it’s a beautiful time of year. The leaves are at their peak of changing color and the temperatures are cool, but very comfortable. While I  really should be tidying up our yard in preparation for the winter and knitting those mittens I keep swearing I’m going to knit, instead I’ve been hitting the trail a lot with the kids.IMG_0908-0Knowing the bare white winter is headed this way, we just have to take time to soak up the color — and vitamin D — while it lasts. It never stops amazing me that when the leaves start changing color and dropping, everything is more vivid — the greens are greener, the blue sky is bluer — everything is more, quite possibly because we know full well  in our bones that in the blink of an eye the trees will be bare and the arctic wind will be howling.

In the mean time though, we’ll take these glorious days…

IMG_0955and everything they have to give us, even if it’s lots of wind & random rain showers.

Moose, of course, agrees.

IMG_0937I’ve been remembering to let him carry our water on our hikes, too. He clearly feels important when he has a job and it slows him down a little bit on the trails where I need to keep him on a leash. It’s a win-win, really.

We even attended an event put on by the Rock River Archaeological Society in which the kiddos got a chance to try their hands at throwing an atlatl.

IMG_0969I was impressed to see both my kiddos hit the cardboard mammoth at which they were aiming — my daughter with a ferocity far bigger than her frame and my son with thoughtful, measured repetition, both so true to their natures.

My daughter also had a monumental first this weekend…

IMG_0953She learned to purl. She’s easily frustrated, so I’ve been slow to introduce her to purling. She took to it like a fish to water, though.

On my own needles, I was pretty hell-bent on finishing up my son’s Guston sweater…

IMG_0957I started up the second sleeve and really used all my free time to wrap it up and I did just that and I was seaming by Saturday night…

IMG_0960Finishing up the last sewing Sunday morning while my girl read FoxTrot comics to me…

IMG_0967Luckily, yesterday was sunny & warm so I laid it outside to dry and it’s almost totally dry. Only the buttons remain on this — all the ends are woven in and everything. I did have my son try it on and I’ll admit, it was a smidge tight in the shoulders. He’s pretty lanky, but has big shoulders and I made the mistake of using the chest measurement and didn’t account for the shoulders. Long story short, I probably should have gone up a size. I blocked it aggressively and I know wear will stretch it out a little, so here’s hoping those things combined will make it comfy for him. If not, the downside is I’ll be knitting him a new one in the near future, but the upside is that I’m way ahead of the game with a sweater for my daughter to grow into. There’s always a silver lining, right?

I’ll be casting-on the Miya Shawl for the Bijou Basin Ranch Miya Shawl KAL shortly, but I have a little hiccough getting my pattern so I’m taking advantage of this little window in time to play with another fabulous new-to-me yarn, Ancient Arts DK.

 IMG_0888I took this photo the day I received the yarn in the mail — it just so happened that my daughter had drawn in a very cave painting style drawing in coordinating colors just before it arrived, so I snapped a photo with it. It seemed appropriate considering the company’s name. In any case, I showed it off on Periscope and asked viewers if I should make neckwear or a hat with it and it was unanimous that I should go with a cowl — even Mr Knitting Sarah agreed — so after a quick Ravelry search, I pulled out a favorite classic collection, Island by Jane Richmond, and printed off the pretty, unique, drapey cowl, Arbutus.

IMG_0974It’s proving to be a really fast, fun knit for me and I think the necklace-y-ish appearance will make it a really nice addition to my wardrobe. Did I mention the yarn is 70/20/10 Superwash Merino/Cashmere /Nylon?  Yes, I said 20% Cashmere. Yeah, it is pretty much to die for and the beautiful new Great Scott! colorway is a simply scrumptious shade of light blue with just a hint of tealy undertones. If you can’t tell, I can’t wait to add it to my daily rotation of woollies.

I think I’m on track to finish Arbutus today or tomorrow, just in time to cast-on my Miya Shawl. One of these days I’ll get the yard work done, but for now I’m going to enjoy the sun and changing colors and, of course, just a spot of knitting, too.

Coming Soon, to Needles Near Me

As I wait for my trio of hats from my Craftsy class to dry so I can tell you all about them and the wonderful class, I’ve found myself winding ALL THE YARN. OK, not all the yarn, but quite a bit. Of the next 9 days, the weather service tells me that 6 of those may include snow. Nothing says knit like the wind to a knitter like 6 days of snow. So how about I share what I’m thinking?

First, my Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber Quick’s Point has started shaping up to be a gorgeous incarnation of Clare Devine‘s Tarsi-Grande.

https://i2.wp.com/photos-c.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xfa1/10802747_718006004935434_434872614_n.jpg

I had originally started these as vanilla stockinette socks, but decided a couple inches in that I really wanted more texture — this pattern is proving to be exactly what I was looking for. You’ll remember that Clare of Yarn & Pointy Sticks is a sponsor of Socks with Sarah and authored a fabulous eBook Sock Anatomy which teaches sock techniques on baby socks. Tarsi-Grand is an adult sized version of one of the baby socks and I’m so happy to be knitting it. Oh, and don’t forget that we can take advantage of the 15% off discount with Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber through the end of the year by using the coupon code  SOCKSWITHSARAH  when you checkout. This beautiful yarn & fiber makes excellent gifts for you and your fiber artist friends!

Then, I got my hands on this lovely skein of Merino Twist DK from Sweet Fiber.

https://i2.wp.com/photos-a.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/10724788_1507048582914904_1690033695_n.jpg

I think the olive colorway will go great with my favorite muskox neckerchief & I’m looking to knit it into Shannon Cook’s Schwimmen

schwimmenA pretty lace hat from Shannon Cook & Jane Richmond’s new mini collection, Seasonless, I can barely wait to cast-on. I have to give a shout-out to Shannon for a little assist yesterday. I am not the most computer savvy lady on Earth, unfortunately, and I was having some issues with printing my patterns from the eBook version that came with my print copy (which I’m told is on its way!). I emailed Shannon and she got back to me right away and got those patterns delivered in a manner that I could print — I printed them immediately, of course. Thanks so much, Shannon, for your time and extra effort!

Then, I was also looking at Laylow — the lovely shawl pattern in the same booklet. So I did some stash diving and came up with a couple skeins that might work…

laylowI can’t tell yet if this color combination will work. The blue doesn’t have quite the coppery tones I had remembered, but I think I’m going to knit the main body in blue and then see how I feel about the other skein once I get to the color change. I could go a couple different routes based on my stash, but I think this might be stunning if that copper tone in the blue comes through coppery enough. We’ll see when we get there.

And… since I’ve been wearing shawls and scarves non-stop these days, I wound my super special Bijou Basin Ranch  limited edition Autumn colorway from Miss Babs.

bbrThis is a yak down/nylon blend is gorgeous and I am pretty sure I am going to knit up a shawl with this — the yak is so darn soft I simply must have it around my neck. I’m thinking something simple like Lisa Mutch’s Zilver might fit the bill perfectly — knit up on a US size 8 needle, this will go quickly and the less dense fabric will work great with the yak once it blooms.

And last, but certainly not least, I’m going to be joining in Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky Hats KAL which runs from November 15 – December 15. It’s such a quick & easy KAL that I just couldn’t refuse. All you have to do is knit up one (or as many as you like — these would be quick and easy gifts!) of the hats from the Bulky Hats for Kids & Adults collection in the lovely 50% alpaca/50% wool blend of Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky, a super bulky yarn. Seriously, there aren’t many quicker knits that super bulky hats!

I’m going to be making my little girl a Bear Hat in the Azalea colorway.

bsa kalI’m pretty sure she’s going to see it as a hot pink kitty cat hat, but I’m ok with that. A super warm hat was on my to-do list for my girl, so this fits the bill perfectly and I’ll have a chance to win a fantastic prize, too…

Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Alpacas.

I’ve been ogling the Cane Bay Wrap since I knit up the Fractal Cowl in Blue Sky Alpacas Extra in June and the prize is in blue, so seriously this could not be stronger incentive for me.

This is probably enough to keep me busy for a couple days. Just joking! That’s at least a week or two of knitting for me, but of course I’m also hoping that if we’re going to have some snowy weather that maybe I’ll squeeze in some time with my spinning wheel. I have my Quick’s Point fiber from Cloudlover that I’m working toward finishing and this recent addition to the stash from Spun Right Round

https://knittingsarah.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/50874-10784834_708840969194533_467318306_n.jpg

It’s 4oz of Rambouillet in the Wacky colorway. I’m pretty sure it was made for me. And just to veer off-course here, don’t even get me started on this beauty from the same shop…

IMG_6997But that skein will have to wait its turn. Two shawls, two hats, and a pair of socks are in front of this beauty in line. Have no fear though, they’ll all be coming to needles near me soon enough. Well, maybe not soon enough, but as soon as possible.

Linden Mittens

While not exactly the same, test knitting has a lot in common with prepping to teach a knitting class. You comb through the pattern, looking for anything that might be out of place or might hang someone up. You knit through it making sure everything works the way it is supposed to and you make notes on the things you think could use clarification. In fact, I may just be a better test knitter for my years of teaching because I am so attuned to looking for what could possibly go wrong. I don’t have a ton of time for test knitting, but whenever possible I volunteer for Jane Richmond‘s test groups. I love her designs, her pattern writing, and she is just a darn nice person to work with.

I was lucky enough to get the nod for her new mittens, the Linden Mittens. Written for both fingering & sport weight, I knew straight away that I would prefer the sport weight — after all, I do live in a region that has routinely had temps top out below zero this winter. Fingering weight mittens just don’t cut it in that kind of weather. Since Knit Picks no longer stocks the recommended sport weight in its Felici self-striping yarn, I knew I was on a hunt for a new-to-me good sport weight self-striping yarn.

After a little trolling on the interwebs, I stumbled String Theory Colorworks. Based out of New Mexico, I have to say the geek in me who loved physics as a youngster was instantly a total sucker for the “science-y” names. Even though I ordered over the holiday, service was prompt and extremely friendly. When I got my order, I was beyond happy with the yarns (I may have snagged a couple fingering weight skeins for the Socks with Sarah KAL, too, so keep your eyes peeled as the KAL progresses for more from this fab dyer!) — the bases are of excellent quality & the colors are brilliant. I knew my skein of Momentum in Alsciaukat would be a winner for the Linden Mittens.

Linden MittensI was not disappointed!

As with all things Jane Richmond, the pattern was impeccable. Perhaps my favorite thing about her designs is how she uses very basic techniques to solve problems. For example, her simple approach to closing the gap on the thumb in these mittens is simply brilliant. The shaping in the hand also looks quite shockingly abrupt, but it fits… well, like a glove. It is no non-sense, no frills design at its most stylish. The hallmark of Jane Richmond design is simple elements used to create pieces that have one foot in classic style & one foot in modern. Truly timeless & yet with just a hint modern edge.

While I do strongly recommend knitting up a set of your Linden Mittens in a fun self-striping yarn, such as the lovely options from String Theory Colorworks, I would remind you to not be limited by the self-striping option. These mittens would be equally great in a solid or variegated yarn. For those just in search of a good basic fingering or sport weight mitten pattern, this would be a great option. Simple techniques and excellent instructions make this a top choice.

Freshly posted up for sale on Ravelry, you can get your copy of the Linden Mittens here.

For my Linden Mittens Ravelry project page, go here.

To check out the lovely yarn at String Theory Colorworks, visit their website & ‘Like’ their Facebook page to stay up-to-date on the latest goings-on!

Get Christmas Knitting Done: Check.

I have not really taken part in the whole knitting for Christmas tradition in the past — at least not beyond little things like mug cozies or a stray hat here or there. My husband gets his skein of sock yarn with the promise that someday it will become socks, but that’s been about it.

This year I did all right though. Six hats, one little girl’s scarf, three skeins of handspun, two pairs of socks, and a partridge in a pear tree. That last one I’m kidding about — I did not knit a partridge in a pear tree (I love that I have to clarify that because it could happen). It’s true that today I wrapped up the final Christmas gift. And by ‘wrapped up’ I literally wrapped it, the knitting was done a couple days ago. I did snap a couple photos for you though before I lovingly tucked it into its box with fancy paper.

irland finishedSocks for my husband.

For those who like socks to match, you will notice these do not. I will be honest, patterned socks that don’t line up don’t bother me a bit. For these, however I actually had them matching at the cuff (by complete accident), but a knotted join of the yarn about 2 or 3 inches down threw them off. True, I could have hunted down the right spot in the yarn to continue the pattern, but that’s really not how I roll because I don’t mind that they don’t line up and my husband probably wouldn’t notice either way. That’s not a slam, by the way, that’s just knowing my audience and with my husband warm feet is the objective, not socks that are all perfectly matchers. The finished socks are lovely & my husband will probably not believe his eyes when he opens finished socks on Christmas morning. He will read this, see the photo, and then still be shocked. My track record is that bad. Thankfully, he loves me anyway.

irland2These socks are made using the Churchmouse Yarns & Teas Basic Sock pattern. As usual, I knit using sport weight yarn and followed the fingering weight instructions. This is what works for my husband, so we go with it. For a change I knit these in stockinette instead of ribbing on the cuff & top of the foot. I thought it’d be fun to see the pattern in the yarn. Oh yes, the yarn. It is Regia 6-ply Irland Color in the Grau colorway. I bought this yarn in 50gram balls, so I had some ends to weave in along the way. While I’d definitely prefer a 150gr ball, these skeins were a good deal and really as long as you consider ahead of time where to join the yarn so it isn’t irritating on the foot, the extra couple ends to weave in aren’t bad. I love the durability of Regia for sock yarn and the sport weight is great for quick socks that aren’t too bulky.

So there you go: Get Christmas Knitting Done: Check.

Having finished all my holiday knitting, I finally got around to a little something for me. I have a good number of scarves, cowls, and shawls in a variety of colors and I like to rotate which I wear. A basic black hat is a must for me to be able to easily coordinate my other knitwear with my black coat. My current black hat has seen better days, so when I ordered in the Quince & Co Osprey for my daughter’s hat, mitten, scarf trio for Christmas, I added a skein of Osprey in Crow for myself. I knew just what I wanted…

betsy3Betsy by Jane Richmond.

betsy1A sweet lace beanie in a chunky weight yarn.

betsy2I have wanted to knit this hat since the pattern came out in February — in fact, I bought the pattern right away, but you know how it goes… the to-do list is fluid & Betsy just kept getting bumped from the top of my queue. Holiday knitting down, Osprey in hand, I cast-on a couple nights ago and wrapped up knitting last night. I wove in the ends and wore it out on my errands today.

betsy on 2Oh, there I am with the selfie du jour — hi everyone! I usually refrain from selfies, but I  wanted you to see the fit of this hat. Definitely a beanie, but the lovely squishy Osprey is super warm so for a little hat, this beauty keeps my head plenty warm. It hasn’t been washed yet, so it’ll loosen up a little over time, too. I love the little lace pattern in this chunky yarn. You just don’t usually get this kind of feminine touch in chunky hats that often. Early Merry Christmas to me!

And — although I’ve been putting it off for a while so as to avoid the fact that it’s ending — I have officially started my last month’s installment of the Merry Knitalong.

20131219-143053.jpgIt is so bittersweet. Even Moose is kind of bummed.

But we persevere. True to form, as I finish up my final installment of the Merry KAL I am starting to finalize my plans for next year. I’m starting to get pretty excited for 2014 — great things are on the way!

In Review: Journey

I’ve never said it in so many words, but when I write reviews here they are always on my terms. For the most part I am buying the books or yarn or fiber with my own cash, so you can have confidence that if I am telling you that I like something you can trust that I really do — enough to use my money to add it to my collection. I promote people and projects and resources that I believe in –  there’s no sugar coating happening here. That being said, I can sum up my review of Jane Richmond & Shannon Cook‘s Journey in one sentence:

It was love at first sight.

We first got a peek at Journey a few weeks ago when it launched at Knit City, a fab event for knitters in Vancouver. From the very first photo, I just knew…Cover journeyWhile I was miles & weeks away from holding my own copy, it was pretty clear that — like everything these ladies work on — this book was something special. Teaming up once again with the magical lens of Nicholas Kupiak, Journey is a beauty to behold. As much a coffee table worthy collection of photography as it is inspired knitwear patterns, this book belongs right along side her sister, Island — front & center as a showcase of the most artful work in the industry.

The knitwear collection is comprised of six pieces — three each by Ms Richmond and Ms Cook.

jane designsCLIMB * ONWARD * SPATE * SWIFT * ANTRORSE * INLAND

Richmond presents us with the retro socks, Climb, the textured raindrop patterned mitts, Spate, and the big cozy cardi, Inland. Cook gives knitters, the slouchy hat, Swift, the gorgeous shawl, Onward, and the comfy & modern pullover, Antrorse. I am hard-pressed to choose a favorite — I don’t think I could if I tried. I can say with great certainty, however, that if anyone was looking for an excuse to try out some special yarns, four of the six patterns are knit in Quince & Co yarns and one is in Sincere Sheep Bannock (and yes, that’s where my interest in this yarn originated). You really deserve to be spoiled with these yarns on your needles, creating these gorgeous designs — I just know you do!

Beautiful yarns, gorgeous designs, well-written & accessible patterns, and exceptional photography — that’s the technical review of Journey and something we almost take for granted in the work of Jane Richmond & Shannon Cook and the photography of Nicholas Kupiak On a human level though, it has even more depth. The summary on the back cover states:

20131212-095219.jpgFor me, this sentence echos through each and every page in the book. While I can’t speak for the authors, personally the overall feel strikes me as just this: a homecoming. Bring Journey home with you today and make it part of your own path. I promise you will be glad you did.

Journey has been so wildly popular that  it is actually sold out on Ravelry, BUT lucky us it literally just came online on Amazon.com!  You know… if you haven’t yet picked up Richmond, Cook, & Kupiak’s first book, Island, it is available on Amazon, too. Pick up both Island and Journey & you qualify for free shipping. If you are thinking of them as a gift (for yourself or a friend), Amazon even says you can still receive them by Dec 24th… 
Are you still reading this?! What are you waiting for?!  Get on over to Amazon tout de suite!
 

Many thanks to the authors for permission to use the beautiful photos of Nicholas Kupiak in this post.

Welcome to the World, McMilne Shawl

As I’ve shifted the focus of my work over the past few months from teacher to writer and from part of a team to an independent, there have been loads of moments when I am reminded that I made the right choice for me & my family. There have also been some very quiet moments. I’m a person that does not mind being on my own, but even so there are times when I crave the creative exchange of working as part of a team. I’ve been blessed to find a regular knitting buddy and to get involved in a some projects & events — like the Tour de Fleece & writing for iMake Magazine — that have helped me maintain & develop some crafty relationships.  I’ve been lucky in that the opportunities seem to always arise when I need them most.

Much in this way, a few weeks ago I got wind of a test knitting opportunity for a new Jane Richmond design. I have been on the test knitting ear burn list on Ravelry for a while, but this was the first opportunity that the timing really worked out for me so I jumped at it. I assume tons of people volunteer for these test knits, but I threw my hat in the ring & hoped for the best. Within a day or so I got an email from Jane inviting me to join the test knit group.  I could not have been more excited and I instantly set about the all-important job of choosing yarn.

I really thought this through, probably more than I needed to to be honest. Jane was kind enough to invite me into this test knit & I really wanted to throw in my all.  The pattern used a worsted Superwash Merino from Indigodragonfly. While the yarn was gorgeous, I was pretty sure since it would have to pass through customs from Canada that I would not be able to get it & knit it up in time for the deadline — or at least I wasn’t willing to risk it. I started researching weight to yardage of the sample yarn, seeking a good match. When I search patterns on Ravelry one of the first things I do when I find one I like is look at the ‘yarn ideas’ tab. I wanted to represent a readily available, good quality yarn in a color completely different from the other samples. The more options & ideas on the pattern’s Ravelry page, the more opportunity for appealing to a wider audience of knitters, right?

After some browsing, I finally landed on Sweet Georgia Superwash Worsted. Identical in weight to yardage, fiber content, and based out of Vancouver — home of Knit City where this shawl was scheduled to release — this was the perfect fit. The fact that I knew Jane has used & raved about Sweet Georgia yarns in the past sealed the deal. Not available locally, I hopped on Eat. Sleep. Knit. and — with the help of a friend — selected the China Doll colorway. Bright, eye-popping red. A world away from the beautiful, cool blue Jane used in her sample, this red was going to be an great example from the other side of the color spectrum.

The next few days were agony as my fantastic test knit group — really they could not have been more awesome and fun — knit away while I waited for my yarn.

Then finally…20131030-083833.jpgIt came.

20131030-083855.jpgTa-Da!

I wound those skeins and cast-on in the blink of an eye.

20131030-083955.jpgI fell in love quickly. Everything about this project was perfect. The yarn. The color. The drape. The pattern.

20131030-084241.jpgI whipped through it. It is so fun & such a quick knit. It’s a big scalene triangle, so once you get in the groove the pattern is almost impossible to not memorize.

20131030-084831.jpgIn both the knitting & the wearing, this piece has such fabulous rhythm.

20131030-084641.jpgThe end result is this gorgeous, drapey, not-too-warm-but-not-too-cold, perfect for everyday shawl. I literally have worn it almost everyday since it’s completion.

20131030-084622.jpgIt even looks great under a coat!

20131030-084741.jpgI told you yesterday that Jane has a knack for designer knitwear that I wear all the time. This shawl is no exception to that rule!

After a couple weeks of keeping this project quiet, I’m so happy to share it with you today. Welcome to the world, McMilne Shawl! You are definitely a keeper!

Many thanks to Jane Richmond for allowing me to take part in this test knit & to my fellow test knitters for making it so much fun!

You can see my notes & projects details on my Ravelry project page.

The McMilne Shawl pattern can be purchase on Jane’s website or through Ravelry.