October 29, 2015

Finally finished.

You know how someone you know sees something they like that is really rather unique and stunning and then you think "I'll knit that for them as a gift"?  Then, you order the pattern and you order the yarn for the pattern, or maybe, like me, you think "it will be colder when this is finished so I'll go one weight heavier" and you order different yarn to work the pattern? It probably also takes you twice as long to work said pattern that someone else picked out than you thought, too. This pattern is called "Floria" (yours may or may not also be the Floria pattern, I don't know). You'll have to forgive the quality of the lighting of the pictures. It was raining, of course, when it had finally dried and I had about 10 minutes to get it in a box and over to the UPS place.

Let's have a quick run-down of the Floria pattern, shall we?  It's a shawl that fits somewhere between the typical cape pattern and the crescent shawl pattern.  It's decorative only along the outer edge, where it has a very unusual floral pattern that, in the original pattern's picture lays flat (because they had to iron it since that is the only way that it could possibly and reasonably lay flat) and looks very Victorian in nature.  In concept, it's rather stunning.

In practice, it is the shawl pattern from Hell.  There, I've said it. Well, someone had to. No point in making you think that this pattern is a walk in the park that anyone with a few skills can master.  It's so terribly not that kind of pattern.  It's two months on stocking stitch island. Knitters have gone into asylums for less. Then it's a month--mostly wasted with knitting, ripping back, swearing, re-knitting, ripping back ... you get the picture.  It's also an unreasonably large amount of lace stitches.  At the apex of the pattern, we are talking 813 stitches (and it will seem more like 8,000 because you will be pretty sure with each RS row that you will never, ever reach the end). There's a chart that, although I usually prefer to knit lace with a chart, made my eyes cross and that really, at first glance, I knew I wasn't going to be able to make heads or tails of.  Really the only thing the pattern was good for was trying to double check the written instructions which struck me regularly as being confusing.

So you make it to row 6 of the lace pattern and then you go over the cliff into an abyss of what the *#%@. Row 6 is written in such a way as to make you think that either the instructions or the stitch count is wrong.  SIX hours it took me to get row 6 correct.  If you know me, then you know that I'm a pretty darned proficient knitter, knitting instructor, and all-around speedy knitter.  Six hours, folks.  Here's the gist: the instructions suggest a 4-stitch increase in every double yarn over. The reality is that you were supposed to psychically know that the writer of the pattern meant for you to do an 8-stitch increase in every double yarn over.  I know that it is not just me, as this is a pretty prevalent question on Revelry.  Most people are more polite than I would have been because if you work row 6, which is supposed to end with 545 stitches, and you follow the instructions thinking that you've done them correctly so the stitch count must be wrong, you can actually work almost all of row 7 before you realize that you are screwed.

So let's say that you put in your 6 hours and you make it past rows 6 and 7.  You are not headed to home plate like you think you are.  No, you are headed for another 20 hours or so of double yarn overs, Sl2K1P2SSOs followed by SL1K2PSSOs (because no one hardly every gets those confused in a sequence of repeats, am I right?), and K3togs.

This is not a pattern that can be worked outside of solitary confinement, even for a knitter who can read and knit, knit with her eyes closed, or walk, talk, chew gum, and knit at the same time.

It is also not a pattern whose yardage should be given any credence whatsoever. Order extra.  Order a lot of extra.  I came in at just over 920 yards of sport weight. The pattern calls for 874 yards of fingering weight. I am a pretty tight knitter, and I don't usually require as much as a pattern calls for; in this case, however, I had what the pattern calls for and I was exactly one row and a bind off row short of yarn.  This necessitated an emergency yarn order from anywhere that I could find it because it was out of stock where I originally purchased it, and you know how you can never get the same dye lot when you have an emergency order? You also know how when it's an emergency order because the project has a hard deadline you have to pay extra?  By the time I got the yarn (the company sat on it for 4 days before shipping it out, even though I paid the inflated expedited 2-day UPS rate), it was the last day that it could ship by normal mail and it didn't arrive until 7 pm. And it was a different, lighter shade.  Yes, it was.  Even the 12 year-old, who is of the opinion that matching is for losers at the moment, looked at it and said "That's a different color, mom."

With gritted teeth and held breath I finished the last two rows and yes, they did look different.  But, I was cheered when, though there was a very loud gasp from the knitter at the time, I washed the finished product and it bled like mad.  In the end, it's not so very different along the edge.  But, by the way, now I am going to be returning all of the Cascade Superwash Sport 220 to its place of origin because, well, no one wants to work a 95% white fair isle yoke sweater and have the colors of the yoke bleed all over in the wash. Or maybe you do, but I don't.

It blocked a bit larger than the original pattern, which is what I anticipated since I used a heavier yarn.  Otis was very interested in the thing on the floor that he was not allowed to lay on, walk on, or worm his way under, though attempts were made. My version came out to about 70 inches, and the original was 66 inches.  I probably would have had something wider if I had tried to flatten the lace pattern, which isn't actually designed to lay flat, though, like I said, the pattern's picture has it ironed flat.  It's really designed to make the petals stand up because of the ridge that the paired decreases create down the center of each petal.

In the end, after paying for UPS overnight shipping (which, incidentally, is $15 more expensive if you drive 3 miles to the UPS store to have them print the label than if you print the label at home and drive the package 3 miles to the UPS store), plus the emergency yarn and its shipping, I think it's safe to say that I could have made this shawl four times over.  I will not, however, be making a second one. Nope. Don't ask me.

October 16, 2015

To Dye For

Now that all orders have shipped and parcels have been received throughout Europe and elsewhere, I can finally tell you about what I did with my summer vacation. You will not be at all surprised that it had everything to do with yarn.

I was approached by Jo Milmine of Shineybees.com (her podcasts are fabulous!), who also happens to be one of the three owners of The Golden Skein.  If you've never visited the website for this company, you really should. As one of the U.K.'s most prestigious yarn clubs, they offer a quarterly subscription (of course you can sign up for a whole year if you are feeling spunky) for one-of-a-kind, hand painted and hand dyed yarns from the international community of indie dyers.  And by "international community", let me be clear and say that I mean "the best dyers in the world".  No doubt.  You can check out their previous subscription offers and see that the yarn that they have custom dyed is GORGEOUS!  We dyers, you know, sign a contract that prohibits us from really ever re-creating that colorway again, so if you miss out on the shipment, well, you'll just never ever get another chance to get that colorway. That's enough to make a serious yarn addict like myself cry, isn't it?

But enough of that, let's talk about my yarn contribution to the Autumn 2015 collection for The Golden Skein: Poisoned Apple.

I think that I may have caught Jo a little off guard when I explained to her the reason that I named this colorway as I did. You know, a person never thinks about the cultural differences between crafters until something comes up like this. The other dyers wrote inspirational or memorial travel explanations about their color ways; not me. I was inspired by Disney.  No, I mean it.

Jo sent me this  picture of molten lava (which I at first thought was paint under a black light because my artist brain was clearly turned on at the time) and the first thing in my brain was a color association with the wicked queen in Snow White.

And then I couldn't get that out of my head.  The other dyers appeared to have seen orange and red and black when they looked at the picture.  I saw violet first, then the black and then scarlet.  I wasn't even cognizant of the orange until Jo pointed it out in her Shineybees podcast this month. I looked at the picture of lava and, in my mind's eye, I saw this:

And I also saw how just about every female Disney villain could be associated with those same colors; so that tells you how much old school Disney corrupted my youth. I may have a particular appreciation for this wicked queen, however, as more than a few times students may have referred to me, with the above picture or one similar and my name beneath, as their own wicked queen of the English classroom. (This may or may not have been a valid caricature.)

I am only the 3rd American dyer to have been invited to dye for this club, and I couldn't have been more thrilled to participate. (Insert tooting of own horn!) Previous American dyers include Susan Hayes of Desert Vista Dyeworks and Michelle Berry of Berry Colorful Yarnings.  Because the general expectation for this quarter's offering was a 4-ply yarn, Journey was the base and I used the same dyeing technique that I use for all of my Journey colorways.  As you know, the subscribers will be getting one pretty fabulous yarn just because that's Journey all over, fabulous.

The other two dyers were DyeForYarn (Spouting Lava colorway, far left) and TravelKnitter (Stromboli color way, center).  Spouting Lava has a bit of the orange in it that I didn't see in the picture and Stromboli is a multi-dimensional blend of reds.

Poisoned Apple is the far right skein.

And that's what I did during my summer vacation, dying more yarn on the farm (30,000 yards to be exact!) in a single colorway in a single day (7 straight hours) than I have ever been asked to do before. (Sherri of Rainy Day Yarns in Washington state is a close second with all of the Rainy Day color way that she's had me dye up over the past few months--she carries my yarn, Left Coasters so check her shop out because she obviously has impeccable taste in yarn! Obviously.)

If you want a skein or two of Poisoned Apple, hurry up and order it because you can order it separately and they are almost sold out!  If you're just not an international shopper, at least you can get Journey in several other unique color ways in the shop.  Oh yeah, and I'm having a wee sale through Sunday (10/18) so you'd better get on over there and shop before I'm cleaned out (details in the shop slideshow and on the FB page)!


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