Second Annual

This past weekend was the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and while I was unable to attend this year, it brought back a lot of truly wonderful memories from my last time there. Last year, if you remember, a large group from the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group traveled from near & far to get together and meet up for this event. It was just totally incredible! This year, the same amazing group of women set-up a similar get-together, but this time in Maine. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards for me either this year, but they’ve been sharing stories and images with us and my heart is full knowing they are having a fantastic time.

True to form, these enthusiastic band of ladies haven’t stopped at just the travel and adventure, die-hard knitters that they are, they had the idea to put together a knitalong to coincide with the whole event. It’s such a grand idea as it allows those who can’t travel to still participate and be a part of, even if the travel is not in the cards. Last year, the group decided on Rainbow Warrior and believe it or not, a year has passed and I’ve yet to share my finished project. Well, friends, today is [finally!] the day!

My Rainbow Warrior project has existed in not one, but three incarnations. It started as this…

IMG_8137_medium

But it just didn’t suit me. So I switched it up and tried it with this combination…

img_8186

But it was still not quite right. It was a little too Green Bay Packer-y for me (not that there’s anything wrong with that, just wasn’t tickling my fancy). After ripping attempt #2 I had this inkling that this skein might be the ticket…

img_8160

It’s a skein of KnitCircus Greatest of Ease Lothlorien Panoramic. And I thought… this gradient + that grey I’d been using — SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock in Silver — I think that could be it! With the holidays coming and other things on my mind, I tucked both skeins away in my cedar chest only to unearth them again months later in mid-June.

img_1388

And I just knew it was going to work almost instantly. And in a few short weeks, I was finished.

Since that time I’ve been wearing it. And loving it. And not photographing it. It actually made it on my little shawl and sweater rack near by bed so I could throw it on on chilly morning. Finally, this morning — inspired by my latest knit — I brought it down to the mannequin and took some photos to share. Would you like to see?!

img_3604

After being through two combinations I did not care for, it’s even more satisfying seeing how this version turned out.

img_3605

The pattern was really fun and easy to knit and I adore how the gradient worked with it. And while I can take or leave a picot edge, on this shawl, I really love it. I think it suits the texture perfectly.

img_3603

Beautiful. And already in my regular rotation of shawls!

The reason I opted to share this with you today is that just like last year, the Friends of Knitting Sarah Group (really, it’s a shame my name is on it because they are well beyond me at this point!) have selected a new KAL to coincide with the get-together and while a group are knitting away in Maine, those of us unable to attend are enjoying their photos and stories and knitting away on this year’s selected pattern, Down The Road And Back Again.

This year, I pulled a few options out of my stash and put them in a bit where I could walk past them, get used to them together, and ruminate on my options. Then, as I was contemplating photographing my options and posting them to the group for opinions and thoughts, I thought what about…

img_3560

It’s my handspun Merry Poppies spun with Three Waters Farm fiber and a skein of String Theory Caper Sock in Dark & Stormy I received as a gift a couple years back. I’d started a project or two with the Caper Sock, but never found anything that was good enough. Before losing incentive, I wound the Merry Poppies, weighed both skeins (the project goes by weight, so awesome for all you handspun knitters out there!) and started. And unlike the many false starts of the Rainbow Warrior, this one I knew was going to be perfect from the get-go.

img_3607

I am just smitten with everything about this project. It’s fun to knit and the colors just work.

img_3608

I am struggling to put it down — just one more color change, I tell myself all the time! It’s one of those knits!

So I don’t think the second annual Friends of KS Fall KAL will take as long as last year’s (at least I hope not!), but there’s no denying that both are/will be lovely and that I’ll get a whole lot of wear out of both of them. Even though the first took a good long time, this event has quickly become a KAL I really look forward to and enjoy knitting. Here’s to many more years knitting with this wonderful group and to many more adventures and opportunities to get together in the future!

Be Sweet Skinny Wool + Broken Wings

Every now and then I get the chance to try a yarn that is just a decadent luxury.img_3295Be Sweet Skinny Wool definitely falls into this category. This delicate merino single is oh-so-soft and buttery. Think of the most rich, melt-in-your-mouth sweet treat — this is the yarn equivalent and it is delicious.

When I initially agreed to take this yarn for a test drive I had a certain pattern in mind, but as the story so often goes when I got it started on my needles it just wasn’t doing this lovely yarn justice. I ripped my progress and headed back to the drawing board. It just so happened that right around that time Joji Locatelli released a new pattern named Broken Wings. Requiring just 360-380yards of light fingering weight yarn, it felt like I’d hit the jackpot on timing.

When I got going, I was slightly concerned that this light fingering would be too light.

img_3351But I had a good feeling about it and I kept going…

img_3539And going…

img_3550And going!

For as complex as it looks, it was actually a relatively easy lace knitting project and I really had fun with it. I’ll admit that the not-knowing-how-it-would-turn-out that is a lace knitting project was a little disconcerting, but I hung in there. I really, really, really wanted to do this beautiful yarn justice.

And then I blocked it out…

super det laceAnd my concerns melted away.

detail pointFrom the lace to the delicate picot edge this just turned blossomed into a gorgeous shawl.

hangingIt’s not especially deep, but it is wonderfully long. And the twisted rib & bobble end are an unexpected and sublime detail.

onLight & airy and perfect for a light summer wrap to throw over your shoulders. I’m sure I’ll wear it year-round though, just because it is so darn pretty.

Considering this is a merino singles yarn, it held up remarkably well to my ripping back the first project and in the end it washed up beautifully. I’ve worked with similar yarns before, but I was very impressed with this Be Sweet Skinny Wool. Both the marvelous color and the high quality of the yarn were notable in my book. I will certainly keep this lovely yarn (and pattern, too!) on my short list of favorites because every now and then, you know, we just need a decadent luxury.

Miss Grace Shawl Revisited

At the beginning of October I introduced a new project I was working on, the Miss Grace Shawl from Skeino. Using a newly developed technique dubbed ‘tapestry knitting’ I got started straight away on this knit.

IMG_0921‘Tapestry knitting’ uses different combinations of ‘half forms’ and ‘whole forms’ to create this really flowy, wholly unique fabric.

IMG_0922As I mentioned in my first post, Staci from  v e r y p i n k . c o m has put together an absolutely incredible tutorial for this project that I highly recommend for those wanting to knit up one of these fabulous shawls. In the beginning, the pattern kind of blew my mind — the chart, like the knitting, is very fluid and getting a hang of the half and whole forms does take a little time and practice to get settled. Thankfully the tutorial is exceptionally well done and can help expedite that settling in process a lot. The awesome thing is that once you pass the initial learning curve and you’re rolling on this project, it’s really hard to put it down.

IMG_1329Before long, this shawl was with me everywhere and the 1500yards of superwash extra fine merino that make up this kit were flying through my fingers.

IMG_1423Along the way I picked up one of these row counters from Dyeabolical. This sweet little tool made keeping track of where I was in the ‘forms’ super easy and saved me a ton of second guessing and extra counting. For under $5, I would call that well worth the investment!

IMG_1457I have tons of in-progress photos, partly because it takes a while to knit 1500yards and partly because this yarn is just so incredibly pretty. I chose the Susie colorway kit…

                                       Photo from Skeino website — Click image for link!

Because… those blues!

In any case, I finished up the main body and got to work on the border. The border is a whole lot of stitches, but I found it went really fast. Or maybe I was just knitting like a fiend to see this beauty finished. Either way, the process was quick and the results, lovely.

Miss Grace FullAs you can see, this shawl is sizable. Finished dimensions are roughly 74 inches (188 cm) x 41 inches (104 cm) x 41 inches (104 cm) — more than enough to wrap yourself up in nice and snug!

And those forms do in fact look just like ocean waves.

superdetailBut they’re even lovelier than I expected.

detail1As you can see the border is in the 2inch range — starting with a contrast color and then shifting to the main color I really love how it frames the main body. I did use a needle size up in my right hand during the bind-off just to insure I’d keep it loose, but neat.

All in all, this kit doesn’t just create a beautiful & incredibly unique shawl, it is really, really fun to knit. I have to admit that it’s actually super tempting to do another in a new colorway. With Skeino’s 19 different color combinations, it’s really hard to not dream a little.  A little short on time for now, though, I’ll have to settle for happily wrap myself up in my beautiful shawl. If wearing my Miss Grace is settling, well, I’m going to consider myself a pretty lucky lady!

This Week in My Dreams

I think because I’ve committed to knitting sweaters for both kids before the snow flies — or, let’s be realistic, before the snow stops flying this winter — I’ve been obsessing nonstop about knitting shawls and wraps. Of course I am. I may have even cast one on, but I’m still kind of in denial about that fact.

But I digress.

One shawlette that has been on my mind for a good long while has been Mel Ski’s Menehune.

                                               Copyright MSkiKnits — Please click photo for link!

Like so many, I’ve been touring Periscope this week. For those who don’t know, it’s kind of like YouTube, but you broadcast live and your recordings don’t stay available as long. I’m @KnittingSarah if you want to make a friend there & possibly see me babble on a bit. In any case, I’ve really loved & been inspired by Mel’s scopes as she’s such a driving force of kindness or positive thinking. You can find her on Periscope at  @MSkiKnits and I really recommend checking her out. Obviously, I also love her designs and have been dreaming of creating my own Menehune in this handspun…

IMG_0819It’s a 2ply I spun out of Cloudlover BFL/Silk in the ‘Blue Hawaii’ colorway.

IMG_0823And I think it would make an exceptionally pretty little shawlette.

What are you dreaming of knitting this week?

How’s your muskox, dear?

My husband takes great joy in giving gifts. He is also nothing if not a huge planner.  Put these two things together and you have a man who pays attention to the likes & dislikes of his loved ones throughout the year and meticulously keeps lists of gift ideas. For example, last year in October I pointed out a hoodie I really liked in a store window to him and then promptly forgot about it. Christmas day it was under the tree. It is still my favorite hoodie. He loves the surprise on your face when you open something you really didn’t think you’d ever see in your hands. Of course, I don’t need gifts to make Christmas special, but he always manages to choose gifts for me that don’t just say ‘Here, you said you wanted this’. When I get a gift from my husband I feel like a treasure. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, of course, but it is always beyond thoughtful. He researches and goes on forums for things he has no personal interest in just to make sure that off-hand comment I made about a certain yarn or book or piece of clothing is really something I’d want. He takes the time to really know he’ll knock it out of the park, that he’ll get the w o w  factor. I’ve already alluded to a certain Scottish gift… that I will share in a couple days. Today though, another special something. A  w o w.

Remember this?

wpid-IMG_20121201_112430.jpgOn a  little trip to the Milwaukee Public Museum, I joked how I was drooling at the muskox diorama. Little did I know at the time, but my husband was researching qiviut. He even joined Ravelry in order to read reviews from other knitters of blends & companies that produce it. And to my complete surprise, on Chrimstas morning I opened a little red box. It contained this:

yarn

  28.5 grams (1oz) of 100% Qiviut

What is qiviut? Let me allow the Windy Valley Muskox website explain.

The fine undercoat of the muskox is called qiviut (kiv-ee-ute) in the Eskimo language, which is translated as “down” or “underwool”. Qiviut is naturally a soft grayish-brown color, and is one of the warmest and most luxurious fibers in the world.

Eight times warmer than wool and finer than cashmere, qiviut is hypoallergenic and will not shrink. Extremely rare, it is one of the most luxurious fibers you can choose for a garment. In contrast to wool, qiviut is soft, non-irritating to the skin, and is very durable. Qiviut garments are worn for years and can be hand washed in mild detergent. It does not shed, is odorless and retains warmth even when wet. It is an extremely warm, yet lightweight fiber that preserves heat in the winter, while also providing cool, breathable comfort in warmer weather.

It is a luxury to be sure. I never in my wildest dreams expected to be able to knit with this yarn. It has always been delegated to those things that are out of my reach — like owning my own island or going to the moon.  As soon as I opened it, the shock set in. As soon as I gathered myself, every fiber of my being screamed to get on Ravelry and find a pattern. “Cast-on immediately,” screamed my hands. I managed to enjoy the remainder of my family’s gift-opening and then, when everyone was happily enjoying their gifts, I startling trolling for the perfect pattern.

After a fair bit of searching I found a pattern I really loved, but it was only available in a 2-year-old copy of Spin-OffSeriously?!  It seemed like a sick joke that I couldn’t just download the pattern I wanted. 100% muskox was staring at me & I would have to wait to cast-on?! Careful to not get my hopes up, I started sifting through my back issues of magazines. Lo and behold, I had the very magazine I needed already in my possession. If ever there was a sign, well, this was it!

DSC_0025-1I have been in knitter’s heaven ever since.

From what I have read, the 100% qiviut may prove to fluff & bury the lacework on this pattern, but I kind of don’t care about getting the best stitch definition. The pattern is for me to enjoy — both in knitting and wearing it, so I don’t mind if it isn’t perfectly clear upon blocking. I would try to show you what it looks like now, but as with any lace project it doesn’t look like a whole lot in progress. It will once it’s blocked — I have a good feeling about this one. Of course, I will share its glory then!

As for working with the yarn, I am loving every single stitch. It is the most effortless knitting I have every experienced. This is a 2-ply yarn, but I would never know it — it is not plied with perfect uniformity (which I actually prefer), but unlike other comparable lace weight yarns despite using my Hiya-Hiya Sharps I have not split a single stitch. I have knit with a lot of yarns and I love a lot of yarns. I can see that it might be easy to take this yarn for granted — every now and then I have to stop and admire how easy it is to work with and how natural it feels in my hands & on my needles. This knitter is awestruck by how lovely this fiber is. Awestruck.

As I luxuriate in each click of my needles, from time to time my husband looks over at me & asks, “How’s your muskox, dear?” I usually don’t respond with more than a giant smile, a little crazy giggle, or a wordless wiggle of excitement. There’s just one problem… now I can’t stop thinking about how lovely it would be to have a hat made from qiviut. Dear husband, I think we just opened Pandora’s Box.