Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FO: bluebird streamside

I finished this awhile ago and have been too busy wearing it all over Los Angeles to blog about it, but, in any case, my Streamside cardigan is finished!

The Pattern: This was my first project by Cecily Glowik MacDonald (I had a terrifically hard time choosing which one I wanted to knit, because I seriously love and would wear almost everything she's designed). I did find those four neck stitches at the top of the shoulder a tiny bit awkward, but maybe that's just my sloppy knitting. In any case, this sweater is gorgeous. I wish I was a better knitter so I could have done the pockets - I actually knit them both, sewed one on, realized it looked terrible, and then spent half an hour picking it back out. I also totally misread the pattern to include about 20 stitches of 1x1 rib along the front, which I suspected was a it off early on, but I liked the way it looked so I kept it, even though I am the slowest 1x1 rib knitter on the planet. Anyway, multiple testaments to my own stupidity aside, this is a fantastic pattern. The shaping on this is so pretty and flattering, and I'd like to try this again while trying a different technique for the super cute little pockets. As I said, I really love this sweater, and have been wearing it out quite a bit already. 

And the yarn: Fiberphile Super Squish Worsted in Bluebird. So much love - a soft, squishy worsted yarn that just gets softer after blocking, and comes in my new favorite blue colorway ever. Bluebird is a seriously gorgeous blue, and the yarn is just variegated enough to add some depth without going all splotchy (it's a delicate balance! I swear!) I knit this a bit loosely with size 8 needles, and love the resulting fabric - I would definitely knit with this again.

Also, I love the buttons, which have pretty little chrysanthemums on them. I'm in LA for the summer, and my dad lives down the street from a sewing supplies store, where I spent ages pouring over all the buttons. They had a few in a slightly closer color, but not enough for my cardigan, so I went with the lighter shade, and now I'm happy I did. Yay, buttons. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

renegade craft fair

Another nice thing about being back in California was being able to go to San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair! I've wanted to go for years, but have never been able to go, so it was very exciting. Both my friend and I spent too much money, and wanted to spend more.

There wasn't a huge amount of yarn, but I picked up a gorgeous skein of this yellow-green yarn from the Spincycle Yarns booth. I still don't quite know what I want to do with it, but I love how pretty it is.

Other than Spincycle, there was also a basket of yarn at the awesomely named Rhinofluff booth: 

And there was a ton of other stuff that I just loved looking at ... (please excuse the moody cell phone pictures!) 

... like belt buckles ...

... three eyed stuffed animals ... 

... russian dolls ...

... and this bird. 

Yay, Renegade Craft Fair! I hope I can go again someday. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

ghosts of sweaters past

A weird-and-nice thing about coming home in between yearlong stints abroad is finding all sorts of things you forgot you had wedged in your mother's closet. In my case, this not only involves a lot of stashed yarn (exciting!) but also sweaters of the past. I started knitting five years ago in hopes of making sweaters, and - in typical me style - bit off way more than I could chew in the start, so there are a lot of malformed lumpish things that beg to be unravelled - though after putting in as much work as I had, I never had the heart to oblige. It wasn't until I stumbled across this book that suddenly I realized that a) sweaters didn't have to be this giant Everest of a project and that b) customization is infinitely possible. Fortunately I had lots of time to experiment - in the 1.5 months between returning to Brooklyn from an epic backpacking trip and moving to Vietnam at the start of 2008, my boyfriend of many years and I broke up, and I found myself sitting in a half empty apartment with very little to do except apply for my CELTA program, practice Vietnamese, sew a skirt (badly), cobble together a quilt (even more badly) and of course, knit. Which I did, a lot, accompanied by marathon sessions of Project Runway and giant cups of Dunkin Donut's coffee (I lived next door to a Dunkin' Donuts, it was awesome).

This was well before I'd learned about Ravelry, and I didn't have access to many sweater patterns that weren't boxy and unflattering. The great thing about Ann Budd's books is that you can totally customize based on the bare bones she provides, so both of these sweaters are actually from the same pattern. This white sweater - knit in KnitPicks Shine Worsted in Cream - was, if not perfect, at least more or less what I was going for - a very wide v-neck with waist shaping and lace at the cuffs. The neckline is a little weird, and the underarms are a bit baggier than I'd like, but I was still pretty happy when I finished.

As for the first of the January 2008 sweaters, the less said the better - there are so, so many things wrong with this sweater, it's best you don't see it close up. I ran out of yarn, so the collar is a totally different dye lot than the rest of the body and it shows. There are weird holes in the fabric that still baffle me. Best of all, the shape of the neck was so totally wrong and wonky that - in what I'm sure is a reflection of my mental state at the time - I decided to just fudge the neckline by FOLDING IT OVER and picking up stitches from elsewhere in the fabric. 

Amazingly, I wore this first sweater on many a Dunkin' Donuts run while knitting the second, though in my defense, it was winter and the offending details were well covered up in winter clothes. Oh, sweater. It's so sad and messed up, but I was so proud of actually making a pullover that fit at the time. I still don't have the heart to unravel it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

FO: ishbel

It's done, it's done! It took me way longer to finish this once I'd gotten off the plane and was too busy eating and saying hi to everyone in Oakland, but it's finally done, and I'm so happy with it :) 

I always shied away from lace, in large part because many of my lace projects - include three earlier attempts of this shawl - all ended in disaster. Knitting on an airplane somehow really helped me get over the lace thing - and this pattern is so beautiful that I totally want to knit more lace shawls now. 

Other thoughts on the pattern (Ishbel by Ysolda Teague): I will forever love this pattern for making me love lace. Once I figured out the mistake I'd been making in earlier attempts, the lacework flew by! Just make sure your Sl 1, K2togs, PSSOs all line up, and this pattern is remarkably forgiving of mistakes. I had 400+ yards of sock yarn, so I made a smlarge shawl, knitting the stockinette as if for the small size, and the lace as if for the large. The resulting size is just right, I think - I can wear this over a fancy dress or kind of bunched around my neck in the autumn. 

and the yarn (Juno Fiberarts Alice Sock in Canopy): oh my god, this is the most beautiful yarn I have ever touched. I know knitting bloggers are probably prone to hyperbole when it comes to this sort of thing, but I swear this time I'm serious! I love how soft it is, and the gorgeous variety of colors it comes in - though, tragically, the price (I paid nearly $36 for a skein) and the international shipping (I've only found it in the UK) make this a bit prohibitively expensive.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ishbel in the sky

Before coming home to Oakland, Iain and I stopped for the weekend in London so I could fly out of Heathrow. Since Iain is staying in Scotland for the summer, I've been fairly bad about rationalizing all the yarn I've bought recently as a much needed distraction - I can't miss my boyfriend if I'm too busy knitting obsessively, right?

Anyway, while in London, we stopped at the gorgeous Loop yarn shop in Islington, where I picked up a skein of Juno Fiber Arts Alice Sock. All of the colorways were gorgeous, but I eventually settled on a ($32!) skein of canopy, a sort of bright robin's egg blue with a bit of green in it. I'd been planning to make a pair of socks, but once I got back to hotel and wound this into a ball, I decided it was far too beautiful to put on your feet. The only other pattern I had printed out was Ishbel (from the earlier, failed, and now frogged Ishbel that kept me company throughout Vietnam, India and Scotland), so I figured that was as good a use as any.

Fortunately, it turns out knitting on an airplane with no real distractions is an ideal lace-knitting environment. I blazed through the stockinette body, and then the entire A chart. I also figured out where I'd gone wrong in my first attempt: in trying to stay on top of the pattern, I'd put markers between each 8 stitches, not realizing that the borders eat into those stitches and that if you just trust the pattern as it's written without trying to overthink, you'll do fine  - at the time, I couldn't figure out why I kept coming up wrong on both ends of the row, and it was maddening. This time, I just read the pattern super carefully, paid close attention to where the S1, k2tog, PSSOs lined up, and though I'm sure there's still a bit of weirdness, it definitely looks much better this time around - I can't believe I was in such denial about my first attempt being totally hopeless. The slightly heavier cashmere sock yarn looks much nicer than the initial skein of madtosh praire, too - I am completely won over by this yarn and how soft it is.

So anyway, that was my goodbye to the UK - having Ishbel to focus on during the long flight back did keep me from getting too sad about having to say goodbye to Iain for the next two months. If you are ever in London, I do highly recommend Loop. I've been to a few yarn stores since heading back from Asia, and they have by far the biggest selection of yarn (and the widest color range) that I've seen so far. I love also that they have a nice selection of books from some of my favorite independent designers like Stephen West, Ysolda Teague and Gundrun Johnston; and also, a good range of luxury and more affordable yarns.   
Definitely recommended! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

FO: bulky moebius cowl

This was a fast instant gratification project I knitted two or three days after getting back to Oakland; it was my first attempt at moebius knitting, and even with the time spent puzzling over the helpful Cat Bordhi tutorial on YouTube, it only took a handful of hours. 

The weirdest thing about moebius knitting is that you start from the inside of the loop and work your way to the edges - I didn't realize this at first, and was convinced I was doing something wrong, so it was very cool to see the cowl taking shape. The CO for moebius knitting is fairly easy, but you really do need a looong and flexible circular cable - mine just squeaked by.

The finished cowl is very pretty, though California is too hot for me to think about wearing it any time. Really I just like any excuse to play with Malabrigo Rasta yarn (used here in Archangel) - it's just the most luminously gorgeous bulky weight yarn I've ever seen.