April 28, 2011

Yak Yarn

Don't know if y'all know much about Yak as a yarn fiber; but I lucked into a bunch of it at Stitches South, and now it's gradually making its way into my Etsy shop.  I am in LOVE with this fiber!  The weight is a light fingering weight, about the weight of the Australian merino that I used for the Traveling Woman Shawl.  It's as beautiful undyed, with its buttery tones, as it is dyed.  This particular yak is 50/50 yak/New Zealand merino, which may make it the warmest combination of fiber in the world! 

You already know how merino is so fabulous for helping to maintain body temperature even when wet, which makes it ideal for sweaters and outerwear and cozy socks.  Well yak, is one of the rarest fibers in the world because only the high quality fiber can only be "harvested" from herds that are grazed in the Himalayas, due to their very climate-specific habitat requirements.  Yak is, as I understand it, the warmest fiber in the world.  After all, it keeps people in the Himalayas warm in nightmarishly cold sub-zero temperatures, right?  So, these two combined, even though it is a light fingering weight, are going to knit up to be some some awesomely warm outerwear garments!  I'm thinking of a pair of gloves to match the Autumn Leaves Beret that I've just started in my Zibeline Knits "Spinster" colorway.  I'm also thinking that this light-weight fiber is going to be, despite its wooly content, a fantastic fiber to knit with in the summer months--not heavy enough to make me uncomfortable while knitting on a shady summer porch.  It's a little scratchy to work with raw--kind of like sari silk can be; but once dyed, it begins to soften.  I dyed a skein in the "Spinster" colorway, and it's already significantly softer and more pliable, and it just got a cold water bath with not detergent.  I think it will be super soft and snuggly once it's been knit up and hand washed. 

There are only a handful of sellers on Etsy who have yak--rather pricey they are, too!  I think I am the only one with the soft and snuggly mix of yak and merino.  Right now, there are some undyed skeins available, and hopefully next week (AP exams start next week, papers need to be graded, and we're doin' the Girl Scout thing all day Saturday, so not going to be too much time for dying this weekend) there will be a few color options to choose from.  You should stop by and check it out. 

In the meantime ... Rocket's second skein of Ella Rae arrived today--shipping only took 2 days?!--so that's going to get finished up next week.  And I made it past the initial ribbing on the beret last night and into the hat pattern.  I guess I make it sound like more progress than it is--really I peered at that chart for two hours and knit maybe 10 rows--52 more to go before the next pattern change for the decreases.  This little number is NOT being knit in the Russian method; though I find myself reverting back to it now that I have been practicing it.  I'm pretty sure that I don't like that new habit much at all--I like my old habits of knitting and don't want to lose them.  I'll post pics as soon as it gets a little bigger and actually looks like something more than a sock for the Jolly Green Giant.  I did, however, get the most gorgeous set of Harmony DPNs in the mail today from Knit Picks, too, for this project.  So, I'm going to knit quickly because I can't wait to try them out!  (The beret begins on one circular and transfers to DPNs when the pattern decreases begin to get hairy.)  Well, off to knit.

Happy knitting to you!

April 26, 2011

A New Sweater and A New CO Technique

Cast On #1:  Finishing the Traveling Woman Shawl was quite the accomplishment; but it took so long that I started to itch for something new.  So, on Saturday, I cast on for not one, but TWO new patterns.  The first is Rocket's short-sleeved sweater. This pattern is coming together so nicely that I am sure it will be available by the beginning of summer (well, summer that is if you have a spring--here in Georgia we have about two weeks of spring and then it's summer until about Halloween!)  Although it's coming along very nicely, Rocket insists that she absolutely has to have three colors of striping.  I'm knitting the button band intarsia style rather than separately; so now I've reached the point where I am going to have to work from two separate skeins of blue, and that means I had to order another one.  With gas prices so high lately, it turns out that it is about 1/2 of a tank of gas cheaper to just order the one skein online and pay shipping than to drive to the only LYS that I actually like and buy one skein.  So, waiting on the postman to go any further.  You're probably wondering which yarn I am using.  Rocket picked out a rather scratchy, but hopefully very soft after a few washings Ella Rae "Marls" combo.

I'll even give you the site where I got a fantastic deal by comparison to places like Yarnmarket.com:  Webs.com has Ella Rae "Marls" on sale for $3.99 a skein.  With shipping, it cost me about $1 more to order it than if I had bought it at the LYS--40 miles of gas excluded.  Let me tell you, the colors are three variations of the same basic color (light, dark, darkest), and the "strawberry" and "tangerine" are just gorgeous!

Besides, I can use the break because I have vowed to use what I learned at Stitches South and knit the entire sweater using the Russian knitting techniques (great for purling, not so comfortable for knitting) from the class that I took.  I have discovered that my fingers are suffering because my woolen stitches are so much tighter and more difficult to move along the needles.  Flip side:  the back of the sweater is not a series of groups of pearled rows, but one solid pearled fabric.  It's rather lovely.

Cast On #2:  I started the Autumn Vines Beret for the YOTH KAL.  I'd show you my progress except that three rows of ribbing isn't very impressive.  I discovered that the silk/wool/nylon Knoro that I had in my stash for this project was not the right weight once I purchased the pattern.  I ended up dying my own yarn for this pattern with some sport weight superwash merino.  I am calling it "Spinster", and it is a rather lovely--even if the pictures don't show it--variation of gradations of greys and lavenders.  See?

Now the pattern for this endeavor is where the "learn-a-new-CO-technique" comes in.  The directions begin with instructions to use a long-tail CO, purl-wise.  Purl-wise?  I didn't even know there was a purl-wise option!  This is kind of a pain to master, but quick to pick up if you are already pretty adept with the regular long-tail CO method.  Turns out, I no longer have to have a row of knitted stitches before I can begin a top-down sock or the neck ribbing of a sweater. HMMM!  I can just cast on in the ribbing pattern and go!  So, thank goodness for Youtube.com, right?  Here's a little video that I used and have pilfered (lawyers should think of this as "free Youtube contributor promotion") that taught me how to do this nifty little CO technique.  Watch it, try it, learn something new!

And as always, happy knitting!

April 22, 2011

FO: Traveling Woman Shawl

Drum roll please ...  Ta Dah!  The Traveling Woman Shawl in my Zibeline Knits Mermaid colorway is finally finished. 

You know, I guess I lucked out--or maybe not--because when I started this pattern, it was free.  When I finished this pattern, it was not free.  I say that maybe I didn't luck out because I spent so much time trying to get the first row of the first chart right that I could have knit two of these babies.  The math didn't make sense--no matter how carefully I followed the directions, I ended up with two many stitches.  Finally, after the 6th or 7th time of tearing it down and starting over, I altered the directions of the pattern for the first row of chart A and then was able to move on through.  Maybe the pattern that has to be paid for his this problem worked out.

At first, the chart was a quick knit--once I got to the 5th chart A repeat, it started to become very time consuming with so many stitches to count through.  I could have done 6 chart A repeats before doing chart B, it turns out. The pattern, as written, called for more yardage than I actually used with my Australian merino in my Mermaid colorway--it called for 389 yards with four repeats of chart A.  I really like the weight of the shawl in the merino--anything heavier and I think I would have been a bit disappointed at the invisibility of the pattern.  This merino blocked very nicely, I think.  Although, I have determined that I am going to have to get some new blocking wires if I am going to any more lace--either longer wires or more of them.  Certainly, I need more blocking pins.

So, on to the two next projects, an improvised top-down short-sleeved cardi for Rocket and the Autumn Vines Beret for the YOTH KAL that I joined. I need to get that in gear--so many people just jumped right in that I am afraid I will be the last one finished!  Off to cast on!

April 18, 2011

Stitches South!

I went to Stitches South over the weekend.  Wowee!  So glad I was able to take the day off on Friday to go to the Market--so many people on Saturday that I literally stood in line for 20 minutes to buy one item!

I had such a great time, me and my mom!  On Friday, we had a leisurely market day and spent a truly insane amount of money on not a lot of yarn; but it was totally worth it!  We had a great lunch at the convention center, spent the afternoon in the market, and went to the Knitter's Magazine fashion show in the evening.  That was a total riot--especially when the lights went out because there was a tornado that touched down near the convention center and a wild thunderstorm raging outside! It was like driving in a gale-force hurricane down the interstate to get home! 

Most of the items that I was absolutely in love with at the fashion show and will probably never have the time to knit will be featured in the Spring/Summer edition of Knitter's Magazine.  You would think that, spring being nearly over, the magazine would have come out by now; but we were told that they are behind schedule because of the last anniversary issue--don't expect to see the spring issue until maybe July!  But, from one obsessive knitter to another, hurry up and finish your current projects because you are going to love, love, love the sweaters in this issue!

Not wanting to continue sounding like a commercial ... here's a gander at what I picked up in the Market. I got 10 skeins of Classic Elite's Mooreland (mohair, baby alpaca, merino) in a rusty heather, about 1500 yards of a cotton/rayon hand dyed boucle from Newton's Yarn Country, 660 yards of gradiated Scandinavian (Denmark) wool from Kanni in a series of rusts, browns, and golds, "Socks that Rock" yarn from Blue Moon Fiber Arts (also mostly in a rusty color), 2 skeins of Classic Shades from Universal Yarn (so, so, so soft!!) in a variegated burgandy, rust, green, and turquoise colorway, and the score of the Market:  Possum Yarn!!  I got one skein (420 meters) of Touch Possum Yarn in a natural, undyed fawny-grey color.  The ultimate definition of soft is possum yarn.  The end.

NOTE:  If you live in the U.S. and are reading this, possum yarn is NOT made from those nasty, sharp-fanged, pointy-noised creatures that hang upside down from trees, get into the garbage, and eat all of your cat's food at night.  I don't think anything good can come from the U.S. breed of possum. They are just ugly.  This is New Zealand possum--also a pest; but a totally different animal.

On Saturday, there was more Market time and a few more purchases and a class in Russian Knitting from Galina Khmeleva (literally, the queen of lace!  OMG!! her lace is gorgeous!!!)  She owns Skaska designs, and her two-tone lace shawl is featured on the front cover of Patterns Magazine right now.  You should check it out!  I was a little disappointed by the method of knitting.  Turns out, this left-handed method is nearly identical to the way that I already knit.  We did learn some very nifty tricks of the trade, which I am absolutely going to be sharing at knitting club, and all three of the techniques for purling--did you know that the the method of purling determines the overall look of the fabric in stockinett stitch?  I did not realize this; so it was great to learn how to manipulate the fabric appearance.  In the end, it was a good experience; but I still think my method is just as fast as Galena's!

Oh, and I also learned how to do Tunisian crochet!  Now there's a nifty thing to learn.  Going to do a whole post about that on another day.  It creates such an interesting fabric that it deserves a post of its own.  If you get the chance to go to one of the Stitches conventions, I highly recommend that you clear your calendar and go!  Now I have the Knitter's Retreat in June and SAFF in October to look forward to.  In the meantime, I have to totally re-work my project plan for the year and get a few more things on the FO list.  That New Year's Resolution list just keeps growing and growing!

I didn't get the Traveling Woman shawl done in time for the convention; but I am down to 5, count them, 5 rows on that mathematically frustrating project.  Pictures of the finished product will appear soon.

Happy knitting everyone!

April 09, 2011

Lovely Lace for Spring

Spring Break has really just flown by, as it always does.  Although I've gotten a good deal of yard work done, there is still much left to do in the garden and a chicken coop to finish. Those chickens are getting too big for their cardboard castle in the garage.   If only Mother Nature could be more cooperative this weekend, I think we could get it wrapped up.  I still have research paper rough drafts to grade--going to have to pop into school on a Sunday morning to make copies of the rubric I think--that didn't make it home with the papers.  Today there's a forecast of thunderstorms all day, and that means that my mind is going to be on knitting.  I know that I swore off knitting lace when I did the blue Leaf Lace scarf; but with all the lace weight merino that I dyed this week, I can't help being inspired to create a new design.  I'm thinking about doing a stole with my own hand painted yarns, thinking about it hard enough that I actually did some research on antique lace patterns.  I found the one last night, as well as this great website resource for lace patterns--mind you, they just give you the pattern for the lace and you have to figure out what you are going to do with it:  Knitting Patterns from "Home Work" 1891 is the site.

So, speaking of dying lace this week, here are a few new lace additions to the Etsy shop:

Blue Hawaii Tonal

Dragon Scales

Lilacs Tonal

Tiger Lily Tonal
Also, I hope to finish up the Traveling Woman shawl today.  Rocket has big plans for me to knit up a short-sleeved cardi along the same lines as the Little Kina sweater I knit for the 12 inch doll (who still has no name).  She's picked out three colors; so I guess it will be something striped.  Still mulling it over in my brain.  But, I've promised that this will be the next project to go on the needles.  Almost finished with the butter yellow Swing cardi that I have been working on since last summer.  That baby's down to one and 1/3 sleeves left to knit.  Oh, and I started a new pair of socks this week--toe up--and that's knit almost to the beginning of the gusset.  This heel thing is stressing me out and I haven't even knit up to that part yet.  Now that we are into the 80s every few days, I am wanting to get these wool socks off the needles (they've only been on there for a week) and get down to knitting up some of my silky Spud & Cloe in the stash.  Ah, so many projects, so little time.  Oh, and did I mention that I joined a KAL to knit my first beret?  The Yarn on the House Rav group is doing one--since we are waiting to see who wins the free patterns and who has to buy it, that one can go on the back burner for at least another week. ;)

Happy knitting to all!

April 05, 2011

The Doll Rescuer

Rocket, who is 7 years old, can't go to a yard sale, garage sale, antique mall, or thrift store without having to rescue a doll.  She doesn't even really intend to play with them, and she isn't trying to collect them.  She just can't stand to leave a doll behind--kind of like how soldiers never leave a man behind in battle.  So, we went to Good Will last Friday night, just because we donate the kids' clothes there, and we had discovered this one was much closer to the place where we usually donate.  We went in, at about 20 minutes to closing time, just to get the hours, etc. and for me to browse the sweaters--you never know what yarn is waiting to be recycled.  It didn't take her 10 minutes to find  doll that required rescuing, RIGHT NOW!  For $2.25, and despite the bad haircut at the back of the head--maybe it came that way or maybe a child got into grandma's doll collection with a pair of scissors and off to Good Will it went--I don't know.  It doesn't even have a name that I am aware of.  However, it now has a pretty dang cute cardigan sweater!!

If you are into making doll sweaters for little baby dolls (12-12.5 inches), you ought to try out this free and super easy pattern that I found via Ravelry.  The pattern, Little Kina,  is originally in French, but Ravelry has a translated version that works like a charm!  I wonder how this would translate to sweaters for preemies ...


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