Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oaky Goodness

Since there hasn't been a whole lot of new knitting going on and nothing interesting to show you (turns out shawls look pretty much the same as they progress until you reach the edging, just a slightly larger triangle...) I thought I'd feature an older project that I dug out and wore recently that deserves some love.
SG Bugga, colorway Oak Timberworm
I'm not usually a 'brown' person, although I've been told it's a good color on me, but this particular colorway was gorgeous and perfect for this leafy pattern. It used to be a standard colorway available at The Sanguine Gryphon but alas, no more. It was highly variable, though, so you really had to catch just the right skein otherwise it was too orange-y or muddy or just not to my liking. I liked it with lots of the deep reds and greens and I lucked out with my skein.
The pattern is the Woodland Shawl by Nikol Lohr, available for free on Ravelry. It is a lovely, simple knit. The repeat is easy to memorize after a few times and it becomes nice and meditative. I cast on 53 stitches and added a bit of 1x1 ribbing to both ends. I used the entire skein to get a good size scarf (8" wide, 63" long) and I used a few grams of coordinating colorways (Cowkiller and Autumn Tiger Beetle, the red and green) in the fringe. This was finished last March. I don't wear it nearly as much as I should, but whenever I do have something brown to wear I pull out this scarf.

Hmm, I think I just talked myself into knitting another simple lace scarf out of Bugga. Any ideas?

Monday, February 27, 2012


Sometimes I see/hear/find things that make my breath catch and my heart beat a little bit faster. Like this:

A cellist named Steven Sharp Nelson took Bach's Prelude No. 1 (a classic cello solo piece) and rewrote it in 8 parts, giving it a bit of modern twist with some percussion, and basically just made it even more awesome. I love that piece, I've played the cello since 3rd grade (though I haven't busted it out much these last few years) and it always makes me giddy happy when I play it. Hearing it like this is wonderful. There are a number of other wonderful videos on ThePianoGuys youtube channel, as well, such as a piano and cello cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and an orchestral cover of OneRepublic's "Secrets". They are fantastic and wonderful and I'm in love.

Sometimes I wonder where my life would have gone if I had focused on the cello instead of school. I remember at some point in my past making a choice between them, though my teacher had insisted that I could've played the cello professionally if I practiced it more, if I had wanted it more. I'm a bit of a dabbler, I feel like I could have gone on to be a musician, a poet, an english teacher... I have and had so many interests, so many loves. I chose science because I was good at it and it seemed to make more sense, it seemed more secure, but sometimes I wonder if I would've been happier doing something more artistic. Like maybe designing knitwear full-time or dying yarn? Sigh.

It's hard to know what's better: being a master of a particular craft, or being a dabbler in many but master of none. Some days I think being a master is preferable because then you could do amazing things like Steven Sharp Nelson and bring people so much joy. And other days I think being a dabbler is better because as such I know just enough about many different things to be able to really appreciate them. Who knows, right?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Man, this week knocked my socks off. Turns out that driving 102 miles a day takes quite a toll. Exhausted doesn't begin to cover it, but I'm getting accustomed to it. The good news is I do really like my job, the people are great, I'm able to confirm to myself that yes I did learn a thing or two in grad school, and I think I will pick up a few more things while I'm working as well. Things could be worse. The lack of knitting/socializing time really blows, though. I have so many good design ideas kicking around and zero time to make them come to fruition. I'll have to figure something out...

In the meantime, I mended some socks! These are the same ones I had to darn once before. They are the first pair I finished that I loved, so I wore the heck out of them and it is showing. I've learned new things about the way I walk: back of the heel and ball of the foot is where I wear through my socks! 

  1. Center the hole over an annoyingly-too-small-darning-egg, begin weaving new yarn through one leg of each stitch in a row far beyond the edge of the hole.
  2. Keep weaving back and forth along the rows, and when you get to the hole just pull the yarn across it.
  3. When you cover the entire hole and beyond, turn the needle and begin weaving the yarn over and under the strands you just created. Snug each new strand up tight against the previous ones.
  4. Admire your new crazy-patchwork-looking sock sole! It's not super pretty, but the hole is definitely gone.
 I love these socks. I hope they live for a while longer...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Working Girl

I had delusions. Delusions that I would have time for things after grad school ended and my job began. Delusions! I'm working as a temporary seasonal for the state's environmental agency which is great for my resume and for gaining experience but not so great for my wallet (low pay) or my schedule. It's a 75 minute commute each way which turns 8-9 hour days into 11-12 hour days, which sucks more than I thought it would. I figured hey, I'll be home by 6 or 7pm, I'll have plenty of time to do things! False. I've been so utterly exhausted when I walk in the door that I'm pretty sure if I didn't have my Fiasco here I would just fall into bed until the next morning. But since he is here taking care of me I do normal things like eat dinner and have some social interaction--until about 9pm when I fall into bed. And apparently after staring at a computer screen and at the road for so many hours, my eyes do not want to keep staring at the computer screen or the TV screen or even my knitting. They just want to veg out. Hopefully they get adjusted soon because I miss this blog, I miss Ravelry, I miss chatting with friends online, etc. No personal computer use at work is an adjustment for me. And most of all I miss knitting. I haven't knit a single stitch since sometime on Monday. THAT'S OVER 50 HOURS AGO. That's not right.

But, it's not all bad:

The location of the office is lovely, right on the Connecticut river, and it's nice working somewhere that sees sunlight during the day (unlike my old dungeon office). That pained expression on my face is due to the fact that it was super windy yesterday, but it also appropriately summarizes how I feel about my new pre-dawn schedule. I used to stay up until 4 or 5am working, now I'm waking up at 5am. Another adjustment! But the people are nice and the work is easy and the experiences should be good, so hopefully I can figure out both how to have a life and do this job sooner rather than later. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spinning Like A Boss

I don't think I've ever used the "...like a boss" phrase before in my life, but it felt right here.

Check it:
That's 3.6 ounces of a crazy mixed up batt (wool, silk, merino wool, firestar, silk noil, bamboo, other unidentifiable stuff) that I finished spinning yesterday. It will be plied with this amazingly lovely merino/silk that I've started spinning up:
Do you SEE how EVEN those singles are? Do you???!!! And guess what? No more park-and-draft or me. I'm up on my feet, spindle whirling in mid-air, drafting the fiber out longdraw (see around 2:50 min), spinning my little heart out... LIKE A BOSS.

I might be a tad bit excited. Who could blame me, really?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fiber-Filled Friday

I had a whole list of important things that needed doing yesterday (boxing things to put in storage, changing the oil in my car, doing my taxes, working on my publication) and instead I sat around in my pajamas all day and played with yarn, read Game of Thrones, watched some amazing spoken word poetry on YouTube, wrote a poem myself, and started writing up a design. It's like all of the fun stuff I love doing decided it was tired of waiting around being held back by Work and School and Science and so it just burst through and flooded my Friday with creative pursuits. I feel a bit like a lazy bum but it was also really really nice.

My Beautiful Briny Sea shawl got a little bit bigger:
Flamboyan in Bugga, colorways Box Jellyfish and Blue Ringed Octopus
I love how in the beginnings of shawls always remind me of manta rays.
Photo credit: Animal Wildlife blog
See? And I made a lot of progress on my not-so-secret-Valentine's-socks. They are no longer a secret to the Fiasco, but I am still going to keep them a secret from the world because I am writing up the pattern and want to wait until they're done to make the Big Reveal but here's a little teaser shot:
STR Heavyweight, colorway Drop Dead Sexy
Zig-a-zig-ahhhh. :) Now my goal is to get off my lazy butt and out the door because it is a beautiful Saturday and I am due for a nice walk. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


New beginnings are always exciting. In the non-knitting world, they can also be nerve-wracking and worry-inducing. I start a new, temporary intern position next week with my state's environmental agency. It should be a great experience, but it involves a super long commute and will be entirely different from anything I've done yet. Nearly all of my adult work experience has been in universities. And I haven't been out of the house before 7am in a really long time, haha. Siiiiigh. Time to be a grownup.

But before all that happens, I'm taking advantage of my free time this week organizing, cleaning up the wreckage of thesis-writing time (papers everywhere), and just generally getting things in order. This includes my knitting. I have way too many projects scattered all over this tiny 1-bedroom apartment. I must corral them and start finishing some things. Here's one finished thing:
My first handspun!
I introduce you to the Lumpiest Potholder in All the Land, knit from my first handspun yarn. It's fugly and uneven but I have to love it, right? I'm still just impressed that it holds together in the first place!

And then, counterproductive to any corralling and finishing attempts, I started a new shawl:
This is the wee beginnings of a Flamboyan shawl using Bugga in Box Jellyfish and the-colorway-love-of-my-life Blue Ringed Octopus (the middle bit). I am so smitten with this combination, I love it so much it hurts. Ahem. If you need me, I'll be off somewhere spending way too much time with this shawl. Don't judge!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feelin' The Love (or Not)

Today was my last day at UCONN. I packed up my office, returned library books and parking passes, and turned in my keys. It was weirdly anticlimactic. I also picked up the hardcover bound copy of my thesis:
Who's cool? That's right.
I have to say, seeing that feels really good. You know what else feels good? Taking the long and windy scenic route home just because I could. Just because it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I had nowhere else I needed to be. I haven't had that feeling in about 3 years. Ahhhhhhhhh... must savor this while I can. It won't last long.

What doesn't feel good is my Big Blue Hat. I reworked the decreases and while there is now considerably less hat, the decreases make the top of the hat stick out all funny and look really bad. The Fiasco likened it to something out of Dr. Seuss. I will have to frog and redo it again, this time trying more decrease points done a little later, to keep the slouch but reduce the pointiness. Here's hoping the third time is the charm or else this hat will magically morph into a cowl and I will move on to less troublesome headwear patterns.

I have a single Cotty sock to show you:
STR Mediumweight, colorway Scottish Highlands
 I have begun the second sock. So for the halfway-through-the-month (WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN) checkpoint my sock goals are as follows:
  • finish Making Mischief socks DONE!
  • finish Cotty socks (55% done)
  • finish not-so-secret-and-not-for-Valentine's-day-because-I-ran-out-of-time socks (10% done)
  • finish a very very old SIP, my Froot Loops socks (65% done)
I've made a little progress but not enough. I better step it up! I think I know why I've been slacking on the socks, though:
Inglenook Fibers Stickelbatt in Imperial Orchid
I blame the fiber. I'm in love with spinning, and I think it loves me back.

Happy Valentine's Day, folks. :) I hope that if you can't spend it with someone you love, that you can at least spend it creating something you love.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I've moved on from my hat-related hissy-fit of the wee hours of the morning. The designer kindly answered my "what is going on, ahhhhh?!" question and I will be ripping back later today and decreasing at four points (instead of 5) that are somewhat evenly spaced out, except for the part of the hat that includes the cable. We'll see how it goes.

One thing that cheers me up considerably is free yarn!
Just pretend this photo isn't upside down, mmmkay?
This is Squoosh Fiberarts Rapture, a 75% wool, 15% silk, and 10% cashmere sportweight yarn, in the colorway Raven. I have not used before but it feels lovely soft and has a nice shine to it. I received this skein for free from Eat.Sleep.Knit., one of my favorite online yarn dealers. They include Yarn Lotto tickets with each order and this is not the first time I've won. I've probably received about $20 in $5 store credit prizes over the past year, plus a skein of Handmaiden Yarn Casbah Sock. I'm a sucker for incentives like lotto tickets or store credit, they really do keep me coming back. And why not, right? Now to figure out what to make with it... I'm thinking a lacy scarf would be nice. Any suggestions?

Oh, and look who discovered fiber:
Calypso, eying up my spindle...
I was trying out some wonderful-amazing-holy-wowsa-so-soft Polwarth wool on an old cheap spindle I had (it wobbles like mad!) and when I turned around I saw that my kitty had started making friends with the rest of the fiber. She was purring and kneading it, totally smitten. No fiber for you, kitty!

Big Hat Blues

You see a Here and There hat below. You think the hat looks kind of ok, right?


This hat came out to be ginormous. Waaaaaay way way way way too big. It's supposed to be slouchy, but not hugantic. It even eclipses my biggest, floppiest, slouchiest hat ever:

Uncool. Now, this is not the design's fault, really. Except the design didn't help much, either. It didn't specify at which point in the pattern repeat you are supposed to begin decreasing for the top of the hat. It gives a length, but that's needlessly wishy washy and inexact. This matters because there are only so many stitches on the other side of that cable and eventually those will be "decreased away" before the hat ends if you don't finagle things correctly. Since I had modified the hat (went from 94 sts to 90 to make it slightly smaller) I was going to modify the decreases. I had assumed that the pattern decreased evenly all the way around the hat. So I decreased at 5 evenly spaced points when it made sense to for the cable to complete correctly, and that is where I went wrong.

This little diagram represents the placement of the markers for decreasing as far as I could tell from the rather murky directions. (Yes, I really did have to draw a roadmap to illustrate the directions because I could not visualize them otherwise.) The bottom line is the first marker. Then there are 21 stitches before the second marker, 20 before the third, 24 before the fourth including the cable, and 29 between the fourth and first markers. WHAT THE HECK?! Why are the decrease points distributed so unevenly? I do not get it. It makes no sense.

I'm getting really tired of having to rework hat patterns. Hats aren't hard and the only tricky bit is the decreasing-while-maintaining-the-sitch-pattern and when that isn't done or described well in a pattern I paid for, it bugs me. Grrrrrr. Pretty hat, though. Ripping back and decreasing sooner on my own terms will commence when I get over being mad at it. Oh, and grrrrrr again for good measure.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Call of The Octopus

I broke my resolution. "No New Yarn in 2012" went out the window after a mere month. For this:
Bugga, colorway Blue Ringed Octopus
I purchased one precious skein of Bugga from Cephalopod Yarns, one of the new companies that rose from the demise of The Sanguine Gryphon. I couldn't help myself. Look at it! Pale teal-ish baby blues and bright yellow-ish spring greens... it was made for me. Truly. I rationalized it by selling over $200 worth of other SG yarn from my stash, plus it was my birthday and all that. That makes it better, right? Also, I needed it to pair with my skein of Bugga in Box Jellyfish in a Flamboyan shawl.
'Twas destined to be.
It will be the most glorious shawl in all the land. Thus, I simply don't regret my lack of resolve. I'm too excited to wind these babies up and cast on! That's what I've got to look forward to this weekend, in addition to a visit to Medieval Manor near Boston. What's going on in your neck of the woods? Whatever it is, hope it's happy!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Tale of Two BFL Yarns

For those who don't know, BFL stands for Bluefaced Leicester, a breed of sheep that looks like this:
Image from the Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America website
Their fleece is known to be especially shiny and lustrous with nice drape, staple length, and strength. Personally, BFL was the first wool that I knit with that wasn't Merino or a commercial blend of breeds. It was exciting for me to realize how different yarn could be when made up of wool from different breeds.
two BFL yarns
The yarn on top is QED from The (now defunct) Sanguine Gryphon in the colorway Death in Absentia, and the yarn on bottom is BFL Aran from Fleece Artist in the colorway Salt Spray. I decided to use them together in a Here and There hat thinking, how different could they be? They're both BFL!
Here and There
I was amazed to find that they really feel quite different when working with them. The QED (dark blue) feels much denser, spun as a 5-ply with 1.5 yards per gram in the skein, it is very drapey and has almost a rope-like feel. The Fleece Artist BFL (light blue) seems much lighter and loftier, spun as a 3-ply with 1.6 yards per gram in the skein, it feels much softer in the hand. They are of similar thickness and apparently have similar densities, but they feel markedly different. I almost considered ripping back and having the softer BFL Aran as the main color of the hat instead of the less soft QED.
No, fool!
But Calypso convinced me that was my idea folly and that I should just keep knitting because really, it's mid-February and hat-wearing time will be drawing to a close soon enough so I should quit waffling and just finish the darn thing already. I just hope I don't rue my decision with an itchy forehead at some undisclosed time in the future.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sheep Ate Marigolds

I finished handspun yarn #2!
This is 2 ounces and about 30 yards of 2-ply aran weight 100% Coopworth wool. The roving came in my "Learn to Spin" kit from Golding and was produced by Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill . I really enjoyed spinning the Coopworth. It is not super soft like Merino but the fibers are lustrous and really curly. The resulting yarn has a lot of life and bounce to it and it came out much fluffier and more even than I had expected. I really like it. The colorway I received was named "Sheep Ate Marigolds" which I thought was kind of a strange name but then I thought about it harder: the yarn is mostly brown with streaks of red, yellow, and green in it.

I think my beautiful yarn was inspired by sheep poop! Gives a whole new meaning to "handspun #2"...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Plying Is Magic

I think the only thing more magical than spinning fiber is plying the singles together. I love it. You take a couple of skinny, wiry, overtwisted strands of fiber and spin them together and POOF!

100% Coopworth wool

Those singles transform into a fluffy, bouncy, lively, nicely twisted cop of yarn. I can't wait to see how this turns out once it's set.

In knitting news, I fell head over heels for this wanna-be-a-shawl-cowl: Zuzu's Petals by Carina Spencer. Here's my progress so far:
BMFA Marine Silk Worsted, colorway Irishgirlie Green
You basically start knitting a tiny shawl and then you join it in the round so it becomes a cowl that appears to be a lacy shawl casually worn around the neck. I think it's a clever idea that I'm not-so-secretly jealous that I didn't come up with first, given my love of shawls. I've tried a few times to find the right pattern for this ball of Marine Silk Worsted from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. I had purchased it on a whim and started a few scarves but the silk is so drapey nothing was working quite right. I think this pattern will work, though. I'm knitting the small size intended for sport weight yarn even though mine is worsted so that I get a nice thick fabric that it holds its shape despite the silk.

What's your favorite kind of knitting or spinning magic?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thoroughly Enabled

When my mom asks what I would like for my birthday, I should really know better than to send her a few fiber-selling etsy shop links and say "Anything from one of those would be great", expecting maybe one or two braids or roving to hold me over for a little bit.

Snuggling with my new fiber acquisitions!
I've been buried in a mountain of fiber! Pretty pretty pretty fiber! My mom went hog-wild in the Woolgatherings etsy shop. These should hold me over for quite a long time!
12 oz. of 85% Polwarth wool and 15% silk

8 oz. of 100% Polwarth wool
And the one I'm probably most excited about, a sampler pack containing 1 oz. of wool from 16 different sheep breeds!
I've been reading through the fascinating and fabulous Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook and I can't wait to try out all of these different kinds of wool. Particularly the Cormo, oh my goodness Cormo feels amazing. So thanks for thoroughly enabling my new hobby, Mom!

Finally, to prove that I will someday turn all that loveliness into usable yarn, here's a little sample of a batt from Inglenook Fibers plyed with Merino/Silk top from Schafenfreude fibers:
Double yippee!!
This came out looking very much like I'd hoped it would. It's not quite as soft as I would like it to be, so when I spin up the whole batch I will try to put less twist into the singles and make them less dense, but I would like to try to keep them fairly thick like this, so we'll see how all that works out. Exciting!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Aaaand Done.

My Making Mischief socks are finished!

STR MW, colorway Puck's Mischief

Thankfully, I remembered the correct number of stitches to decrease to on the foot and now they both fit the same.
Pattern: South Fork Socks
The South Fork Socks pattern was excellent and wonderful and a lot of fun to work, even when I had to re-knit half the foot of the second sock again. I rarely say this, but I would definitely knit this pattern again. Just not this year, haha. Too many other sock patterns in line first.

On my fiber-filled Friday night I also spun up some of the Merino/Silk fiber and plied a little sample of the pink-and-silk yarn I want to make:
My first plying!
I think it looks awesome. Fiasco was like "Hmmm, there are thick and thin spots" (ever the critic) but it is really much much better than the yarn I produced before. It has been thoroughly soaked, thwacked, and is hanging to dry. I'm curious to see how it turns out after it's been set. It doesn't feel all that soft to me, which I think might be a consequence of too much twist and dense drafting. I'll have to see if I can remedy that somehow. Any suggestions?

Oh, and speaking of the yarn I produced before, here's a teensy bit of it knit up into an edge of a potholder:
Still kinky...
The yarn still has a lot of kinks and is rough-to-the-touch where there is a lot of twist built up, but it's still neat to knit with yarn that I made myself. I'm pretty excited that it stays together and looks like yarn! Now I have to figure out how to make it look like yarn that I want, not just yarn.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fibery Goodness

Whenever I think the words "fibery goodness" I still imagine them in reference to some sort of breakfast cereal. However, that's not the kind of fibery goodness I am referring to, this is:
Yum, yum, yum.
On the left and in the middle are fiber from Schafenfreude Fibers and they are absolutely scrumptious. The blue on on the left is a braid of 100% Polwarth wool, which I haven't tried yet. In the middle is an 80/20 Merino wool and Tussah silk top, which is basically heaven in my hands. Seriously. It's amazing. I think I'm in love with silk. Even the Fiasco touched it and went "ooOoOoOOOoOoOOoooh" so you know it's good. On the right is a full batt of the sample from Inglenook Fibers that came with my learn-to-spin kit that I already started playing with. My plan is to spin up the Imperial Orchid batt into a single and the Merino/Silk into a single and then ply them together. It is going to be amazing!!! Simmer down, Alicia, simmer down.

While I was waiting for that fiber to arrive, I got to work on the 100% Coopworth wool from Hidden Valley Farm &Woolen Mill that came with my learn-to-spin kit:
Much less thick-and-thin, yay!
My singles are much more consistent than they had been before, which is encouraging. I'm still just parking and drafting, not spinning freely, but the Coopworth is drafting much more smoothly and is all around more pleasant to use than the Knitpicks stuff I started with. I'm going to split this batch in half and practice plying with it before I attempt it on the pretty pink-and-silk skein I want to make. Yay spinning!

In knitting news, my Making Mischief socks (aptly named, right?) are taking a break because they were naughty, and I've been making some progress on my mawata mittnes. The goal is to finish those things before winter is over! Yes, it's come down to that. As for sock goals, I think I'll be using February as a catch-up-on-SIPs month entirely, no new socks for me at the moment.

February Sock Goals:
  • finish Making Mischief socks (85% done)
  • finish Cotty socks (30% done)
  • finish not-so-secret-and-not-for-Valentine's-day-because-I-ran-out-of-time socks (10% done)
  • finish a very very old SIP, my Froot Loops socks (65% done)
I'd say that's probably enough for now...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Socks Can Be Real Jerks

Yup. Sometimes you're knitting merrily along thinking to yourself "Woohoo! I'm going to finish this sock by midnight, it's going so well! I'll actually make my January goal!" and all the while the sock is snickering to itself, waiting for the crushing weight of reality to set in.

This sock had me fooled. I thought it was all going to work out great. Alas.
What you see above looks like a finished pair of socks, but it is most definitely NOT a finished pair of socks. For Sock #2 (on the left), I decreased down to 56 stitches after the gusset, like I always do for STR MW socks, right? WRONG. Since this pattern involved so many slipped stitches and cables, its fabric was extra snug, so I had only decreased down to 60 stitches for Sock #1 (on right) but because I had done that so long ago, I forgot/didn't check my notes/embarked on a futile course of self-destruction. When I tried them on, I was able to wrestle Sock #2 onto my foot, but it was unpleasant, and if you look really closely the pattern does look more stretched on Sock #2 (a.k.a. The Lying Jerk). While part of me wants to just suck it up and deal with it, the rest of me knows that Sock #1 fit much more comfortably and I can't live with socks of different sizes. So, let the frogging commence! At least it's only half a foot I have to reknit... I just hate reknitting. But I also love great-fitting socks. So there you go.

But I still think that sock was a jerk.