Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One is the Grumpiest Number

If you'll recall from my SAFF post, I acquired some fabulous cashmere from the Sanguine Gryphon, Taiping DK in teal. I was drawn to the yarn because I handled one of her knitted samples of Global Wrist Warmers. It really does feel wonderful!

I finished the first wrist-warmer around Thanksgiving. I love working with the yarn. I was worried that it would be pilly or have a really bad halo after being knit because the yarn feels really delicate. But, it's held up like a champ. It's instantly warm when you put it on, so I'm really excited about finishing the pair.
My gauge is a smidge too big despite going down a needle size - I just don't know how to knit tighter. I really tried to knit tightly with this project. I guess if I haven't figured it out in 4+ years I should just resign myself to being a loose knitter!
Unfortunately, I have yet to cast on for its mate. How does my lonely wristwarmer feel about that? Actually it's been quite clear about its feelings.

Somehow, it reminds me of Oscar the Grouch . . . I think it's the disapproving eyebrows.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Christmas To Me!

My mum is a professional shopper. Well, she doesn't get paid for it, so I guess I can't really use the term "professional." But she practices bargain finding with a finesse which is rarely seen. Her latest find was this beauty which I found waiting under the Christmas tree.

Hi, I weigh 30 lbs. (Yes, I weighted it. I'm a scientist; it's what I do.)

It's a Nelco SZ-217. It did not come with a manual. And, according to the internet, the manual is no longer in existence. At this point I should admit that I am a complete sewing newbie. I can measure, cut, pin, and iron with the best of them. But I've only sat at a machine twice in my life. I've only threaded one machine needle. I've never changed a bobbin - all I know is you put your GIANT HAND into the wee tiny opening of mystery. Then some magic happens and you have a little bobbin holder in your grasp.

I embarked upon this adventure with my typical disregard of logic and just jumped in. If you don't let things intimidate you, you'll accomplish things you never thought possible. Allow me to give an example:

1. I threaded the needle. Hooray!

2. Apparently I buggered it up because it keeps coming unthreaded.

3. Oh, I missed one of those little curvy thread path thingies - problem solved.

4. About 5 stitches into my test project the needle fell out (in my defense, I didn't put this needle in)

5. Ok, needle back in. Note to self - machines with side-mounted bobbins have the flat side of the needle facing right instead of to the back!

6. Made some practice stitches. Feeling like an engineering superhero!

OK, now for the hard stuff. The pre-loaded bobbin is white, but I want to use black thread.

7. I used the machine to wind a bobbin (admittedly it took me a couple of tries to find which random knob was the bobbin tensioner). Hooray for not having to wind thread by hand! I knew my swift and ballwinder weren't going to help me with this project!

8. I open the little door and stick my hand in the hole of mystery. When my hand emerges it does not just contain the little bobbin holder but the Entire Race Assembly! OK, now I panic. I've got 1 bobbin and 3 pieces of metal in my hand and I have NO IDEA what they're supposed to look like when assembled!

9. Get tired of scraping knuckles on edges of tiny trapdoor only to have everything fall out as soon as I put it in (remember - it's a side-mounted assembly). There must be a better way.

10. My sewing machine has a trap door that leads to a secret compartment! Urr, basically I can unhinge one side of the machine and expose the underbelly. This is probably a standard feature, but I was absolutely overjoyed to discover this. Hooray for having 2 hands and a clear line of vision to work on bobbin assemblies!

11. Cleaned out the underbelly - found lots of safety pins! Buried treasure FTW! Note to self - buy more compressed air and a dust mask (cough).

12. . . . .6+ possible assembly combinations later - I have a working conformation!!! Decide I am definitely an engineering superhero. This is reinforced by the fact that my hands are covered in oil and smell of old pennies.

13. Sit down and sew my first ever independent sewing project in about 30 minutes. After 4+ years of knitting my first thought was "That was so fast - it must be cheating!"

Decide I am definitely not a take-your-own-photo superhero. Hooray for mirrors and cropping tools!

*Unfortunately, the pattern I used is no longer online.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

SAFF 2008

I left for SAFF bright and early this morning with Karen and Gena. OK, it wasn't bright, but it was early. Actually it was rainy and cold and dark. And, in our sleepy haze we actually started off going east instead of west (seriously, we'd gone almost 15 miles before we realized it). Fortunately, (once we turned around) the weather got better and better as we headed west. By the time we arrived in Asheville it was a lovely day!

We had attended the fiber festival last year and all of us were completely overwhelmed. This year we knew what to expect and I can honestly say I enjoyed the experience more knowing what I was getting into. My biggest regret from last year was that I was so afraid of spending too much money that I only bought 1 skein of yarn. There was another skein which I had coveted, but I resisted. For this last year it has been "the one that got away." So, first thing on my agenda was to return to Miss Babs' booth and get a skein of sock yarn in the Saturn colorway! Isn't it gorgeous? I think it looks particularly exciting against my gym towel!

"Yummy" Hand-Painted Sock and Baby Yarn (400 yds, Superwash)
by Miss Babs

Colorway: Saturn

My other goal for the day was to get some fiber. I didn't get any last year because I really didn't know enough to shop smart for fibers. But, I also hesitated to order anything online because I really need to handle a fiber before I can guess whether I'll be able to spin it. I was able to find 2 nice fibers to work with. The first is a solid Bluefaced Leicester Top. Everyone says BFL is a perfect fiber for beginners and it is deliciously soft. Throughout the day I kept reaching into my tote to give it a little squeeze. I was surrounded by petable yarn, but I really wanted to sink my fingers into that BFL.

100% Bluefaced Leicester (3 oz) from River's Edge Weaving Studio

Colorway: Moss (I think)

While green is lovely, I think it'll be nice to spin up some nice variegated yarn, too. So I finally chose one of the many available multi-colored braids.

Merino Top Multicolor (4 oz) from Cloverleaf Farms
Colorway: Cassis

My final purchase of the day was inspired by a shop sample. These mitts were laying out and looking all cozy, so I slipped one on. They were so soft, and instantly warm. It's no wonder - they were made from 100% cashmere. BUT, it's the most affordable cashmere yarn I've come across. I will definitely be making a pair similar to the shop sample I saw.

Taiping DK (100% Cashmere - 220 yds)
by The Sanguine Gryphon
Colorway: Teal

It was really wonderful to spend a whole day with friends basking in tactile delights. I certainly hope I'll be able to return to SAFF after graduation. Finally, I'll leave you with the real star of the fiber festival:

A bebeh goat!
He drew a bigger crowd than even the most crowded vendor stall.
It just goes to show that the only thing more loved than fiber is the animal it came from. Thanks for all your extra fluff, guys!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Long Overdue

Every time I talk to my youngest sister she scolds me for not blogging. It's true - I've been horribly lax in my blogging, though I have continued to knit in the meantime.

Since I last blogged:
1. I had LASIK surgery. My vision went from ~20/400 to 20/20. Of course, I am thrilled.
2. I donated my hair to Locks of Love. I'm proud to say that my ponytail put all the others to shame. Alone it was longer and thicker than the other 5 together. I'm still trying to decide if I'll let it grow out to donate again.
3. I've done a lot of "science," though I still have nothing in the way of publications to show for it.
4. I've made a new friend. I make friends pretty easily, but this stands out as being one of those special friendships that you know is going to last over the years.
5. One of my special friends moved to Ohio. I shall miss our burrito excursions.
6. I converted a yarn doubter into a true knitting addict. She's been knitting for all of ~4 months and she's already designing her own patterns and tackling beaded lace. I couldn't be prouder of her.
7. I've also knit stuff.

My latest project was part of a mini knit-a-long with Gena, Karen, and Melinda. We bought yarn and started knitting the Central Park Hoodie in April, but when the warm weather came around we all lost our love for wool temporarily. But, as the end of summer drew near we all jumped back in full force. All of us finished our sweaters within a couple of weeks of each other.

We debuted all 4 this weekend at a breast cancer seminar. One of the morning sessions was "healing arts" and we held knitting classes for the survivors attending the conference. It was my first time teaching more than 1 person how to knit. It's definitely a lot harder than teaching one-on-one! While the survivors ate lunch we had a short knitted fashion show to demonstrate what they could do with their newly acquired skill. At one point, the four of us all came out wearing our finished Central Park Hoodies.

Gena's hubby isn't comfortable with her face being on her blog, so I figured it'd be rude to have it on mine. Pretend we're basking in her knitterly awesomeness, kay?

It was really great knitting the same pattern. We could all discuss yarn choices, sizing, and pattern modifications on Saturday afternoons over lunch. Plus, working with others kept me inspired to actually finish the project. It's always interesting how four people can use the same pattern and end up with four very different sweaters.

I'm soooo happy with the length!

Pattern: Central Park Hoodie by Heather Lodinsky
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Ginger (5 balls)
Needles: US 5 and 7
Modifications: I reduced the length of the sleeves by 1.5 inches, but after a good soak they ended up too long. If I roll the sleeves up the length is perfect, though. I knit a combination of sizes. The back is a 34'' while the fronts and sleeves follow the 36'' instructions. I'm quite happy with the size.

I love Cascade 220. Really, I do. But Cascade really dropped the ball this time. The dye in this yarn wasn't set properly and I washed each piece at least 8 times (the water still didn't run clear at this point - I just gave up). If I'd added vinegar and heat to the results of the first soak I would've had a very potent dye bath. There was actually a difference in the colour of the washed and unwashed pieces, but it's still close enough that I'm happy with the colour. I won't be wearing light shirts under this cardigan for a long time.

I definitely see this becoming a staple in my fall/winter wardrobe. I've been a fan of the CPH for a long time and I'm thrilled that all of us were so successful with our sweaters. We all ended up with exactly what we wanted. And really, isn't that one of the best things about knitting?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

WiP Weekend

It has been a while since I posted any knitting progress , but that doesn't mean I haven't been knitting. Progress has just seemed slow lately, so I never feel like I have anything "blog-able." However, I suppose I really have done a lot since my last post. So here is a bit of an update.

As far as WiPs go, I've been working on Wicked by Zephyr Style. I cast on for this again in early January and have slowly worked away on it. I actually have one sleeve finished, but don't have any updated pictures. I'll post more about modifications and yarn notes when the piece is completed. I'm not happy with the length - while I added a couple of inches to the recommended length my torso is quite long so I'll probably rip back and add another inch or two to the entire length of the sweater. I'm just debating how I want to go about doing that.

I have finished a pair of socks this year. These are just plain stockinette socks made from Miss Babs' Sport weight sock yarn in the colorway Raspberry Cane. The yarn was purchased at SAFF 2007. I really enjoyed working with it, and would love to use her sportweight again in the future. I'm especially fond of Saturn. I carried it around for a long time at SAFF, but decided to get Raspberry Cane instead at the last minute. These were really great for those instances where I didn't have a lot of time to commit to knitting (Seems like there has been a lot of that lately).

These socks are especially cute with my new shoes that I got ultracheap this weekend.

Karen and I met up today so I could get my part of an order we'd placed as a group. Hooray for a sweater's worth of Cascade 220 (more on that later)! We had a delicious Indian lunch and stopped by the tea store next door. Inside I saw the most amazing tea wares. Mom always used to complain that I was hard to shop for because I didn't collect anything. I must say that if I find myself with extra money I will start collecting Franz Porcelain. I am especially fond of the Bamboo Song Bird, Luminescence Peacock, and the new Phonician Flight series. The shapes, colors, and details in these pieces are truly inspirational.