The Accidental Year of Large Projects

Somehow I’ve started 2019 off with some good progress working my way through sweater quantities in my stash. Honestly, that’s not what I necessarily set out to do, but after the good start with my Weekender sweater I started labeling my handspun and realized I needed to free up some room on my shelves  for this new handspun yarn.

What’s the quickest way to make space on shelves? Knit a lot of yarn. More specifically, knit a lot of heavier weight yarn! And there’s not quicker way to free up space on the shelves that to knit heavier weight sweaters. Enter my Milliken knit!

It was probably a year ago at about this time that I saw the pattern and thought about how nice it would be to have a cozy knitted vest for hiking. There are so many days in the shoulder seasons when just keeping my core warm is enough and in spring especially, it is so freeing after a winter trapped in a parka. I have a knit sweater made from Quince & Co Ibis, their newly discontinued Bulky weight wool/mohair blend, and it’s super warm. I don’t mean to tempt fate as we’ve seen some pretty COLD temps this year, but that sweater is almost too warm for more than the chilliest days. Yes, a vest made out of Ibis would do nicely, I thought. Somewhere during the year I acquired the yarn and then once my Weekender was done, I cast on.img_5702

This is the only in-progress photo that I have I think. That’s probably because it barely took me two weeks to complete it. The pattern is simple and fun and the yarn is as scrummy as I remember it (I’m more than a little bummed it’s disco’ed!). I followed the directions for the body, going a bit generous in the main body for a slightly longer vest, but not a ton. I knew this yarn would block out on the generous side so I didn’t want to overdo it, but I also needed to go beyond the “hits at wearer’s waist” element because that length definitely cuts my body type in an unflattering way. That’s not even considering the cold drafts I’d encounter with a shorter length — I definitely did not want any drafts interrupting my coziness! Minor length adjustment made, I’m very pleased with the results!

img_6333I would definitely recommend this knit for anyone in need of a bulky vest. It’s a quick, easy knit and I think the finished garment has really lovely designs elements. From that garter + slip stitch patterning on the front…

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To the garter side detail and little split hem.

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And the cozy cowl neck.

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There was some disagreement in my house as to whether or not I should add the cowl on to the neck. It’s an add-on after the rest of the vest is completed, so it’s one of those elements you can add or leave off very easily. Mr. Knitting Sarah was solidly anti-cowl neck, but in the end I opted to put it on and see what it looked like knowing it would be easy to rip back out if I didn’t like it.

I picked up my stitches and got to knitting on the cowl. As I knit on it, I realized I really did not want the shaping in the pattern and wondered, what would this look like if I just left the shaping out? I was a little nervous it would be unwieldy or ginormous, but again, what’s the harm in trying? This led to questions about how long to knit on it, if I was not shaping it. Oh, so many questions. I knit on. I ended up using up most of one skein of yarn and a stretchy bind-off. The stretchy bind-off was another roll of the dice because I didn’t want the collar to be crazy, but I didn’t want to be choked by my cowl neck. It worked great! Hooray for improvising as you go and always buying an extra skein of yarn for garments!

I’ve got another sweater on the drying rack already, but I’ve taken a few days off of sweater knitting while I finish up a pair of socks for my hubby and darn a few pairs, too. It seems all his socks are failing at the same time, so I need to get him sorted out before my next large project gets underway. I’m very excited to get going on it though — I’ve got three sweaters picked out already — French Braid Cardigan, Seaboard Sweater, and Cassis — and I’m happy to report they will all be knit from stash yarn! I’m hoping to make headway on them before the weather gets too warm, but I also want to get into my linen sweater quantities this summer so I’ll play it all out by ear depending on how far I get.

Suffice to say though, I’m focused and really enjoying these big projects! It’s really kind of thrilling to take these yarns I’ve been sort of hoarding for the *perfect* moment and just knitting the heck out of them and creating the garments of my dreams. The accidental year of large projects? I’m all in!

 

 

Wolf Ridge Weekender

January 2016 feels like a lifetime ago for so many reasons. My kiddos were four years younger. Moose was practically still a pup at just 3 years old. We drove a car we no longer own. Lived in a house we sold almost 2 years ago. Bear was not even a twinkle in his mama’s eye yet. So many of those familiar aspects of daily life have changed. When I stop to really think about it, it is truly astonishing.

But it was in January 2016 that my family and I took a little drive… to Montana.

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And this little farm.

Wolf Ridge Icelandics is just outside of Yellowstone National Park and my husband arranged for a stop on the way toward the park where we planned to (and did!) frolic among the wolves and bison and elk and ermine and dippers of Yellowstone. Some of the pictures are missing from the blog post — I’m not quite sure what’s going on with that — but if you’d like to read the original post, it’s right here.

We didn’t go to find the wildlife, however, until I found some special yarn.

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I had to really dig back to figure out what I’d planned to make with this yarn originally. Turns out I’d intended to knit Andrea Mowry’s White Pine. I started it at one point, but something about it didn’t *click*. The yarn actually sat wound into cakes for a year or more after I abandoned the project as I turned over and over in my mind the options I had and went about the business of other things.

At the beginning of this year, however, I decided it was time to start knitting sweater quantities from my stash. Something about spinning and then knitting my Tecumseh sweater ingrained in me the idea that if I could spin and knit this huge cozy sweater, then I could knit any sweater — from millspun or handspun yarn. It was time to stop putting off all those projects for the perfect set of circumstances, the perfectly fit body, the perfect everything, and just knit them up, wear them, and have fun with it.

And thus when our January trip to Missouri to visit Mr. KS’ family was coming up, I grabbed those caked skeins, knit up a swatch, and cast-on before we left so I could knit on the 10+ hour drive.

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And when it became clear that spinning was not going to work during our visit with the needs of the puppy, the time not spent running about with the dogs was spent like this…

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With needles in hand and Weekender inches adding up.

And by the time I got home, I was on to the sleeves.img_5613-1

There’s something to be said for that much driving and down time while visiting when it comes to progress on a big stockinette project like this. And for those wondering, you do knit the body of this design inside out so even though you get the reverse stockinette style in the finished sweater, it’s more accessible for those who are less smitten with purling. I bound off on February 4th, just one month and one day after starting it. Especially considering the mega amounts of positive ease involved, I’m pretty ecstatic with that timeline!

With all the sickness in the house this month (today we do all feel like we’ve turned a corner toward feeling normal, though — hooray!), I don’t have any modeled images of it on me, but so that I could share it without further delay, I snapped some pictures on my dressform this morning.

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It does look like what it is… a giant boxy sweater!

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The drop shoulder design really makes the body & upper arm areas extra roomy.

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 And I cannot get the color picked up properly with the camera so you’ll have to take my word for it that the light heathery-ness of the color with varying hues of white to a mid-brown have a depth that is just scrumptious. About halfway through I panicked that the yarn was too light for this sweater, but I actually think it worked out wonderfully. And it is plenty warm which is perfect for I intend to throw it on for shoulder season hiking out on the trail.

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And when I see it and when I wear it, I’m so glad to be able to reach back in my memory to that other lifetime. To the ermine hopping across the road and the wolves we had such amazing looks at in the Lamar Valley to the coyote trotting along the road to the kids in the super deep snow up in the mountains, and the little farm nestled up against the mountains where a flock of Icelandic sheep live.

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Memories in a sweater — is there a better way to capture them?

Simple Yet Effective

An amazing thing happened yesterday — I snuck just enough time to photograph a finished project! Whew-hoo! I am beyond excited to share — it feels like it’s been too long, so let me get right to it!

It all started here…

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

 

Three Waters Farm Bright & Distant on the 40/40/20  Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk base (you can find it in the shop right here!).

On a whim a couple weeks back I grabbed this fiber out of my stash and just started spinning. I was in the mood for a singles yarn, something I could start and finish rapidly just to shake the cobwebs a little from multiple long draw rolag projects I’d been working on and this gorgeous fiber happened to be on the top of the bin of fiber next to my chair. I broke it up into four roughly equal strips and just started spinning.

I was aiming for a low twist single to really play into the hands of this fiber blend. Plus, with my recent singles yarn successes, I wanted to see — I’m going there, brace yourselves! — how low I could go and still create a good yarn.

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The answer? Pretty low! This yarn mostly hit the sweet spot where it just holds together. There was one place where I had to splice it back together when I got a little too overzealous with the low twist, but beyond that I’m extremely pleased with the results. As per my usual with singles, I did a light felting finish. With this particular skein, I was a bit more aggressive with the finish to ensure a good, stable yarn because of the very low twist aspect of it.

For those unfamiliar, how I finish most of my singles yarns goes like this:

  1. Gather 2 basins and wool wash.
  2. Fill one basin with a bit of wool wash and HOT water (like as hot as the tap will go/you might need tongs to get the yarn out hot) and one basin with a bit of wool wash and COLD water (as cold as you can get it from the tap).
  3. Place the skein of yarn in the hot water and make sure the yarn is saturated. Let sit a minute or so (for a more aggressive finish you can gently aggitate at this step, but be very careul — you don’t want to felt too much!). Carefully (because it’s hot!) pull the yarn out and squeeze excess.
  4. With excess water removed, submerge yarn in the cold water. Let it sit for a minute (for a more aggressive finish, you can gently aggitate at this step, but be very careful — you don’t want to felt too much!).
  5. Repeat steps 4 and 5  2-3 more times. If either basin gets tepid, I switch out the water or I add more of the designated temp to  maintain the temperature differential.
  6. Ending with cold water, pull the yarn out, squeeze out the excess, and give the yarn a few good snaps, rotating the skein around your wrists to a different spot for each snap.
  7. Hang to dry.

I want to add that as far as I know, it does not matter whether you end on hot or cold water. I always stop with cold simply because it’s easier on my hands to handle squeezing more water out when the skein is cooler.

For this skein I did aggitate very, very gently while the yarn was in both baths. Basically this amounts to just swishing the yarn around and past itself a bit. Done well, this will felt the yarn very, very lightly making it more stable to knit with. For those familiar with commercial yarns, think Malabrigo Silky Merino. Personally, I like how that light felting works with such a low twist silk blend.

Shortly after finishing the skein, I was inspired by a fellow spinner & knitter in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group to knit a Simple Yet Effective cowl for our Tin Can Knits SAL+KAL. And as I already stated in an earlier post, the knitting was super addictive…

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In the interest of full disclosure I started no fewer than 3 times. Once with the long version, then the short version, and then back to the long version. My dilemma was that the short version would have matched the yarn & yardage a bit better, but I prefer longer cowls I can double-up. I finally settled into knitting the long version, knowing I’d use it more and just hoping there would be enough yardage to at least make the cowl a width I could live with.

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Turns out I did! This is one of those projects I’m really proud of because it all came together flawlessly and turned out so well.

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While not perfect, you can see from the repeats here that my yarn was pretty consistent based on stitching, but also on the regularity of the repeats. Usually I don’t get that part to turn out quite this nice, so I’m definitely chuffed!

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From the fabulous colors, to the elegant drape to the simple, large-scale texture, this project is exactly what I hoped it would be! Simple yet effective, indeed!