Sunday, January 31, 2010

I want to...

...knit. Just knit. As necessary as housework, school work, working out and other work might be, I really, really, really just want to knit. Is that so wrong?

...plant. My garden. My little salad garden that produced lettuce and spinach and onions and radishes and all other forms off veggie goodness last year. Even those yummy little Sun Golds, until that darned blight hit them. And fresh herbs. I want my dill and chives and cilantro. I want my fresh veggies, and I want them now. Now! Do you hear me winter?? I wish I could read at the same time I did other things, but I'm not that talented. I can't read and knit. Some can, I can't. And don't talk to me about audiobooks. That isn't reading. I enjoy reading, with my eyes, holding a book...a real, paper book or magazine. Having been to Barnes & Noble yesterday, first time in a while, I was reminded of just how many interesting books there are that I would love to read. So many books, so little time. It's not fair. No. It really isn't.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A day to wallow

Today I decided to give up on attempting to do anything responsible and productive. After what started as a pretty fantastic week, it ended with a pretty big slide into the abyss. On top of the sadness that continues to be Haiti, the economy, and other general whacked news, I'm missing my boys who went home to NC on Thursday, a friend's house burned down, another friend lost his job, and stupid, unwanted drama is rearing its ugly head in my world again far more than I'd like. Needless to say, my mood was not at an all-time high today.

Thus, I deemed today stay-in-my-jammies day, and that's what I did. (Actually, I showered around 3:30 this afternoon and then put my jammies right back on. It was THAT kind of day.) I spent the day largely on my arse, drinking coffee, knitting and watching stuff on the DVR. And of course there was plenty of laptop time. And I ordered pizza for dinner because it was not going to be a cooking day.

A day of slugdom and wallowing like this does wonders, it really does, because I'm feeling much better than I did earlier today. By tomorrow, barring anything unforeseen, I should be right as rain and back to my usual chipper self. At least, one can hope.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Handspun Multnomah: The Process

It looks like 2010 might be the year of the shawl for me, seeing as two of my first three FOs for the year have been shawls! What's up with that? LOL

No matter! I love them, and my most recent, Multnomah (pattern from Hello Knitty), may well be my most favorite shawl I've ever made. Not only do I love the shawl's so comfy and a perfect size and shape...but I spun the yarn to make it, which makes it extra special to me!

Since this was a handspun project, I thought I'd share a little pictorial review of its process. I started with two Sanguine Gryphon Sir Batt batts (50% merino, 33% superwash merino and 17% silk), 3 oz. each, in the Gwenhwyfar colorway. Opened up, they looked like this (they kind of blend into the colors of my comforter!):

This was my New Year's afternoon project this year...I sat for hoouurrrs and got very fuzzy as I separated these two batts into piles of the five main colors found in the fiber...a light teal, light golden brown, a yellow-green, a deeper teal (which comprised the bulk of the fiber) and finally a small amount of a darker brown (which is mostly hidden behind the dark teal mountain). Sorry, these two are pretty crappy photos, as I took them with my phone camera.

Then I commenced spinning. I thought I took some mid-spinning pictures, but I can't find them. Will add them later if I locate them. However, I spun the singles in the order listed above, and then I Navajo-plied them in order to have five very long runs of the colors that would blend one into the next. Here they are skeined...

And here they are all wound into one continuous cake, 430 yards total. You can see the color gradations pretty well here, though the colors are kind of wonky...bad lighting.

I knew from the outset that I was spinning this yarn to make a shawl. I just didn't know which one. I searched for quite a few nights on Ravelry trying to find one that I thought would show off the color changes without being too fussy. I finally landed on Multnomah -- simple yet pretty -- and knitting commenced! It definitely became a product-driven project at this point, as I knit monogomously on it for a week straight. At the end of those seven days, I had my shawl:

I'm so happy with her, I could just squee! SQUEE!!! See? ;)

She fits around me perfectly, like a soft, warm hug. My finished size was 50" across the top edge and 16" down the center back. I love the shape of it...the sizes are nicely elongated and can either hang over my shoulders in the front or overlap to be pinned with a shawl pin. The yarn is so soft and squishy, it's cozy as all get-out.

Shawl pin, Celtic Budding Spiral, by Nicholas and Felice.

Despite the somewhat odd expression on my face here (I think I was giving my daughter photography direction at the time she snapped it), I am very, very happy with it. It is definitely one of the most satisfying projects I've ever spun and knit. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Help for Haiti

Like so many, I'm heartsick over all of the death and devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Today's huge aftershock, which caused even more damage, just seems unfathomable. In the face of such huge, life-shattering catastrophes, with a desire to do something to help those affected, I'm faced with understanding just how small I am in the grand scheme of things. It feels like anything I do is just spitting into the ocean. Still, when we all come together and spit together, we can make a difference, can't we? (Ok, this metaphor is getting kind of gross. Sorry. :})

I encourage you all to help in whatever ways seem best to you...give to relief efforts however you can. I know it's rough here domestically too, with the economy totally sucking, but if you can, help. Just a little.

Along with many designers who sell their patterns on Ravelry, I am joining in the Help for Haiti fundraising effort. Now through the end of February, I will donate 100% of my profits from my Call Before Digging hat pattern to Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders. Again, it isn't much, but it's something we can do together.

Here is the link to my original post about the Call Before Digging hat pattern here on the blog (yarn requirements, etc. included there). And here is the link to the pattern page on Ravelry.

Or you can purchase it by clicking on this button. It will take you directly to your payment page on PayPal. (You do not need to be a member of Ravelry to purchase using this button option.)

And if my hat isn't your cup of tea, no problem, because there are -- at this moment -- 72 pages of patterns on Ravelry for which their designers are donating some portion of their sales to the Help for Haiti cause. Check out the list, I'm sure there's something there!

Fast & Easy Fingerless Mitts, v.2 - Circular

I've been getting a lot of questions recently about my Fast & Easy Fingerless Mitts pattern from people who want to do them in the round. I made them that way myself recently, so I was able to write up a circular version of the pattern. Now you can do them either way -- flat or in the round! If you have any questions about the pattern, feel free to e-mail me at fibernymph AT comcast DOT net, or leave your question in the comments.

And a big thank you to test knitter Cindy Neff on this version of the pattern! :)

Fast & Easy Fingerless Mitts v2 - Circular

This pattern is written to use either the Magic Loop method or two circular needles, as the pattern will refer to Needle #1 and Needle #2. If your preferred circular method involves DPNs, I'd recommend dividing the stitches designated for Needle #1 between two DPN's and using a third for the stitches designated for Needle #2.

Unlike the original pattern, which was worked differently for the left and right mitts, this circular version allows you to work both mitts using the same instructions.

Yarn: 50g of your favorite worsted weight (I use 50g instead of yardage as every pair of these I've made, I have gotten a pair from a 50g ball with a little yarn left over). Mitts shown here were made from Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted Multi.

Needles: US7, either one 32" circular for Magic Loop or two 24" circulars.

Gauge: 4 - 4.5 stitches per inch

Size: This pattern will make a mitt that will fit an average woman's hand. Feel free to adjust the length of the cuff, thumb and finger portions to meet your needs. (Adding to the size may require more than one ball of yarn.)


Cast on 34 stitches. Divide stitches so that there are 21 stitches on Needle #1 (the front needle) and 13 stitches on Needle #2 (the back needle).

Taking care not to twist stitches, join to knit in the round, working K1, P1 ribbing for 18 rounds.

Work 4 rounds of stockinette.

To form thumb gusset:

On Needle #1: K17, M1, K3, M1, K1 (total 23 stitches)

K all stitches on Needle #2.

K all stitches on both needles for next three rounds.

Repeat these three thumb gusset steps twice more for a total of 27 stitches on Needle #1.

Do one more increase round -- for a total of 29 stitches on Needle #1 -- followed by one round of stockinette. You will now have a total of 42 stitches on both needles.

Setting aside thumb stitches:

On Needle #1, K17, slip the next 11 stitches onto a small stitch holder or waste yarn, K1.

K all stitches on Needle #2.

Continue to work remaining 31 hand stitches in stockinette until you reach the desired length minus 1". (When joining stitches on Needle 1 where thumb gusset stitches have been taken off, be sure to tightly snug up the yarn to avoid a large gap.)

Finish hand section by working 1" of K1, P1 ribbing. On first round of ribbing, you will need to P2tog the last two stitches of the round, so you have a total of 30 stitches. Bind off loosely.

Work the thumb:

Divide the 11 saved thumb gusset stitches between two needles and work in K1, P1 rib. When you get to the gap where the thumb meets the hand stitches, pick up 3 additional stitches to close the gap. Work them into the K1, P1 pattern on the following round. Work the thumb for 1" or desired length. Cast off loosely.

Weave in all ends.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fibery Updates

We have lace, people! :)

My finished Wing-o-the-Moth shawlette. (I've decided it is much more of a shawl than a scarf, but since it is tiny, it is a shawlette.) To recap, this is one of Anne Hanson's beautiful patterns, and I made it out of ShibuiKnits Silk Cloud in the Ivory colorway.

It's amazing how quickly I can knit things when I decide to dedicate myself to one project at a time! I started this shawlette on January 8th and bound off the morning of January 17th. Nine days! I'm even impressed by that, considering I have never completed a lace-weight lace project before and I have a dismal track record in working with fine, silk-mohair yarns.

Here she is just off the needles...

I think she really does look like a moth here!

And here she is while pinned out blocking...

I have to say, blocking this was a pain. I futzed with it for at least an hour (can't imagine how long it would take me to do a full-sized shawl!). I never did get it blocked to the size I thought it should be. Indeed, despite doing more repeats of two of the charts than the scarf-sized pattern called for, it blocked out smaller than the scarf dimensions in the pattern. Nor was I able to block out the Corona edging in a discernably scalloped way as I've seen it done on others' projects.

My problems were two-fold, I determined. One, though I made a distinct effort to bind off loosely, I should have bound off even more loosely. My blocking efforts were largely inhibited by the limited give in my bindoff edge. Live and learn. (Sigh.) Secondly, I think the yarn itself was an issue. It clearly did not have the same give that a wool-based yarn would have had. But it's so soft and fuzzy and pretty, and by golly, it is warm for a little nothing! Just having it laying over my shoulders like that while we took pictures outside had me feeling quite snug! Amazing. :)

These things aside, I'm happy with how it turned out. It is not error-free, to be sure -- my center line looks very loose and wonky to me, not tight, well-aligned YOs like I see on other lace shawls. But for my first lace-weight lace project? I'm pretty darned proud of it.

Part of my motivation for getting WotM finished up quickly (besides that it was for a January KAL in the Loopy Spring Fling Rav group) was that I was dying to cast on another shawl using my newly spun up Sanguine Gryphon batt that I'd divided up into five of it's main colors and then spun them one after another and Navajo plied them so I could have five distinct long stretches of color. I've seen this done before, and it really is a neat effect.

I decided I'd knit Kate Flagg's Multnomah with it, as I really wasn't too up for another fussy lace pattern right now. (Though I do think it is ironic that I'm now doing a second project inside a month that is largely constructed with feather-and-fan...I've avoided f&f for so long because it drove me crazy to see it all over the place, and now this. :}) I just hit the fourth color stretch, which will also be the largest color stretch. And honestly, I'm not sure if I'm liking how it is turning out or not! LOL I'll post a picture once I buy a longer set of circs for it way I'm going to get all those stitches on a 24" needle.

I also spent some time last weekend catching up on my soaking. I had a bag full of handspun from the past several months that I never soaked to set the twist, so this is what my sink looked like one afternoon...

And then this is what is what my window looked like later that day...

Such pretty colors in the winter sunlight! :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Some favorite fiber projects of '09...

Click here to get to the Flickr page for it where you will find notes about each project. (Clicking on the photo here will only get you a huge-arse version of it...I need to fix that somehow. Sorry!)

This isn't a complete collection of all I did in 2009, but it is a good representation not only of my knitting but my spinning and designing as well. What strikes me this year is how few large projects I did. Sweaters, mainly. Last year was a big sweater year. This year, not so much. Disheartened over the fact that none of my handknit sweaters fit me anymore (a downside, if you will, of losing weight...though I'll take the weight loss and sacrifice the sweaters any day!), I didn't feel much of an urge to devote large quantities of yarn and time to something I might not be able to wear next year, as I'm still hoping for some more poundage to disappear.

Overall, though, I'm really pleased with my 2009 projects and the skills and progress they represent, the biggest addition to my skill set last year being spinning. I'm not an expert, by any stretch, and I'm also not a perfectionist spinner. My yarns will likely never be terribly consistent in weight or twist, but I'm ok with that. I like the rustic look my yarns have. They are what make them mine. And they've worked just fine for the projects I've knit them into, and that's what counts.

If there was one thing I wish I would have done in 2009 that I didn't, it would be to have designed more. I did create a lot of projects on the fly -- hats, mostly -- but I only finished one to the point of writing it up and publishing it, and that was just last month! Here's hoping I may be somewhat more prolific in 2010.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Or two-thousand ten? How are you saying it? As long as you aren't saying "twenty-oh-ten," you're good. ;)

2010 has clearly started out with a blogging deficit on my part. Ten days into the new year before there's a blog post. That's just sad. By looking at my WIP list in the sidebar, you might be led to think I've been so busy knitting that I have no time to blog. That would be wrong, but I'll explain the much-pared-down WIP list a little later in the post. In the mean time, let's catch up, shall we?

First, there is snow. Lots of it.

Mind you, I am not complaining. I love winter weather. I love being snowed in. I don't even mind driving in it, as long as it isn't icy. And it looks so very, very pretty!

And the birds don't seem to mind it either, especially if I keep the feeders full. This female cardinal was pleased to pose for me, while her bright red boyfriend continues to elude me. As God is my witness, some day I will get the photo I've wanted forever: a red cardinal in a snowy background. I will.

And Muffin LOVES the snow! Oh my gosh, she jumps around and frolics and buries her whole head in it. It's so amusing to watch. She does these very balletic leaps and jumps over the large piles of snow to get to her favorite potty spot. The fact that it is now above the level of her tummy doesn't seem to deter her, nor has the fact that we got her groomed as week and she is no longer furry like this. She just loves being out in it.

And of course the kids are loving it! My grandson is up visiting from North Carolina for a while too, and he's thrilled to have lots of snow to play in, as you just don't get that in coastal NC.

Onto warmer topics, such as knitting! I thought I'd share a few Christmas knits with you now that the recipients have them. For Angela (but modeled here by Emma) there were mitts:

and a matching scarf:

Both were made from Lorna's Laces Worsted...sorry, I don't remember the colorway, but I got both the mitt pair and the scarf (narrow though it be...about 3" wide) out of one skein. The mitts are my Fast & Easy Fingerless Mitts pattern, though I did them in the round. (I've rewritten the pattern for circular knitting...hopefully I'll get it edited and added to the blog soon.) The scarf was from the Dec. 18th page of Yarn Harlot's 2009 Never Not Knitting Page-a-Day calendar...just a simple garter stitch scarf, worked lengthwise.

The scarf pattern was so fast and fun that I opted to do it again for my niece, this time out of some purple Malabrigo worsted, which picked up the accents in her hair perfectly! :)

Being on top of my game this year, I started a birthday gift for my mother-in-law before the day of her birthday (early January birthdays always creep up on me and smack me in the back of the head). We haven't celebrated with her yet, but at least her gift is done!

This is the Chevron Scarf pattern from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (Rav link) done in Three Irish Girls Kells Sport Merino (colors are Lagoon and Arboretum, from the Pick of the Knitter yarn club).

A couple things about this scarf. First, to me, chevron is not the same as feather and fan, and this clearly is a feather and fan design. Chevron patterns have more definite points to them, such as the V-shaped insignia from which its name is derived, I assume. (Here's a baby blanket I did a couple of years ago in a chevron pattern.) The fact that I feel this pattern is misnamed bugs me far more than it should. I need to get over it. That aside, my second comment about this scarf in its feather and fan pattern is that, while I love how it looks (though I'd have liked a true chevron better!), I can only knit it for so long before I want to die of boredom. Thankfully, the awesome colors of this yarn carried me through the first two-thirds of this scarf. After that, it was simply willpower and the knowledge that the scarf had to be longer than three feet to be useful that got me to the end.

Finally, on Friday night, I deemed the scarf long enough because I just could not bear to knit on it one more inch. Thankfully, it was quite long enough at that point, and blocking gave it a few extra inches as well. Whew! With that out of the way, I decided to challenge myself with a new project. (I know, I know...what about all those WIPs??? Hang on, I'll explain in a minute!)

Part of The Loopy Ewe Spring Fling fun is all of the activities we do on the SF Rav list in the months leading up to Fling. Among them, monthly KALs. This month, it is an Anne Hanson KAL. My initial thought was to try and finish my languishing Caricia shawl (which never got much bigger than it is in that picture) and just not have it count toward a prize for the actual KAL. At least it would be done. But no. Why do something that makes sense when you can do something crazy instead? To that end, I pulled out my Wing-o-the-Moth pattern -- which, to this point, has intimidated me to no end! -- and I wound up the ShibuiKnits Silk Cloud yarn (ivory) that I'd just purchased from TLE last week (like I need more yarn, yeah, I know) and cast on:

Silk Cloud is a 60% mohair, 40% silk yarn, similar to Rowan Kidsilk Haze. It is fabulously soft and has a lovely halo and subtle shine to it. Because of the mohair, though, it is a bitch to rip. So we must ask ourselves: was this a good yarn choice for Lisa's first ever lace-weight lace project? Heh. Remains to be seen.

Wing-o-the-Moth is written for both a full-sized shawl and a mini-shawl or scarf. My original plan was to do the scarf, as I didn't have enough yarn for the whole shawl and didn't want to buy more, and also because I have a dismal record of actually completing full-sized shawls (I reference the long-languishing Caricia again). However, I did have more yarn (by about half) than what the scarf called for, so I'm doing something in between the two. A large scarf. So, instead of doing two repeats of Chart A as the scarf pattern calls for, I did five. And then I realized that I was going to have to do some crazy calculating and modifying of the pattern to get Chart B to work out, since it was set up to work off of two or fifteen repeats of the first chart, not any random number some nutty knitter chose.

Yeah. Following patterns as written is for sissies. ;)

I think I have it figured out now, though, so I am hopeful it will work. I intend to spend my afternoon today finding out. Cross your fingers for me, 'kay?

Oh! About the WIP list...yeah, I decided to move most of my WIPs to hibernating status for two reasons. One, having that many WIPs was starting to make me nervous, like they were creeping up behind me and breathing down my neck. Changing their Rav status doesn't change the fact that they are still WIPs, but it does make me feel less stressed, and that is good. Two, I'm going to participate in the Ravelympics next month, and my plan is to do the UFO event. To do that, WIPs need to be in hibernation for at least a month prior to be considered UFOs, or so I understand it. Thus, I hibernated everything I wasn't planning to actively work on between now and then and I can make them active again as needed or use them for Ravelympics, whichever comes first.