Are you panicking yet?

Wisp scarf, knit using Debbie Bliss’ Angel yarn

Now that the turkey has been consumed – along with the green beans and sweet potatoes and stuffing, not to mention the pumpkin pies – we have started the stress filled countdown to Christmas. 27 days…less than four weeks…are you feeling dizzy yet?

I’ve been working on my Christmas knitting since the middle of summer, and I’d be done if I weren’t so easily distracted. But since I appear to have the attention span of a gnat on crack (thanks to my lovely husband for that phrase), I have completed quite an impressive number of projects, but only two Christmas gifts.

It was with this serious deficiency in mind, then, that I found a couple of really great projects that I’d like to call to your attention if, like me, you find yourself with an ever dwindling amount of time and a list of finished objects that refuses to grow regardless of your efforts.

First up is “Wisp”, a very pretty scarf knit with silk/mohair yarn whose beauty belies the complexity of the pattern. A shortish scarf can be made with a single skein of yarn; two skeins will result in a luxuriously long, fluffy strip of mmmmm! I’ve used Debbie Bliss’ “Angel” yarn, and the 15 row pattern is so easy to remember (you really only need to keep track of your rows) that I was able to knit up the first skein in less than a week whilst working on a bunch of other stuff at the same time (in other words, I knit for about an hour at a whack once or twice a day over the course of a week). In addition to being really quite pretty, people will think it took immense amounts of skill and focus to create when, in truth, 99% of the greatness of this scarf is due to the yarn.

Alberta Clipper Boot Socks (Ravelry link), knit on size 4 needles using Cascade 220 yarn

Next are the “Alberta Clipper Boot Socks”. Knit in worsted weight yarn on size 4 needles, I was able to finish the first sock in less than a day, and the second one is nearly finished as well.

I used Cascade 220, and the results are incredible. They’re thick and squishy, and look soooo very warm. As soon as I’m done with the Christmas knitting, I’m going to make myself a pair. And maybe a pair for each of my kids. And Alex (yes, they’re quick enough that I’d be willing to knit a man-sized pair). Spike (our chihuahua) might even get some.

I have some more quick ideas, but I’ll have to tell you about them tomorrow.

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Oh My

I’m still here, and to anyone who has visited hoping to find a new post over the past few weeks, I am truly sorry. I keep meaning to sit down and write something – anything, really – but then life (or a game on Facebook) intervenes, and I forget all about posting.

After the trauma of the first Lotus Blossom mitten, I decided to take a break from my barely started Christmas knitting to work on a project that I’d been thinking about for a while. I even started it once, but made a mistake early on and set it aside in frustration. I picked it up again a few weeks ago, and it’s been happy knitting ever since! I’m making a sweater for Penny, from the “A Cardigan for Merry” pattern from annypurls.

The front of the “Cardigan for Merry” (everything else is just flat blue pieces), knit on size 3 needles with Wool of the Andes Sport Sapphire Heather

All of the initial parts are done (fronts, back and sleeves), and the only thing left to do is knit the hood and sew the seams. This is a great pattern, but there’s one little weird thing that is bothering me, almost to the point where I’m considering frogging the 10 rows of hood I’ve finished so far so I can fix it.

The weird thing is this: the stitches left after decreasing for the armholes on the fronts and back are left live so they can be used for the hood. But the three stitches left at the top of each sleeve are bound off, only to be picked up when the hood is knit. This results in a weird little seam thing at the top of the sleeves. I’m sure it’s no big deal, but it does look strange, and it would have been easier to leave the sleeve stitches live as well.

The cables for this sweater are from Kate Gilbert’s “A Cardigan for Arwen“, and are reversible…very cool

But then again, Anny has designed many great sweaters, and maybe that little seam is there for a reason. Ok, I’m over it – it’s not bothering me any more. Back to my needles I go!

The Great (and Evil) Brooklyn Tweed

I am a knitter (still not a Knitter, though). Not a sock knitter, nor a sweater knitter, nor even a scarf knitter. I enjoy knitting in all its forms, and love trying new techniques as much as I enjoy knitting a familiar item. Which is funny, because Jared Flood, aka Brooklyn Tweed, is the designer that has haunted me the most in each of these categories (although Cookie A is running a close second – I love her sock designs).

Right after I started knitting, with only a few swatches and a pair of mittens under my belt, I knit the Habitat Hat. That was the first pattern I purchased on-line, and the first project I knit using “fancy” yarn. I’ve knit it numerous times since, in Cascade 220 and Noro Silk Garden and Wool of the Andes (this one is still in progress); in sizes little to ginormous and in between; in blue and red and white and gray and multi-colored. This pattern helped forge my love for cables, and when I’ve attempted to chart out a cable myself, I still refer to the charts from this pattern because they are precise and exact and familiar.

I also knit the Noro Striped scarf, twice, because of Mr. Flood. The first one became a Christmas gift for my good friend Sharon; the second one became mine. The entertainment factor that is inherent in multi-colored yarns is increased exponentially when you combine two colorways and knit them into stripes. If you’re an OCD-type person, you can manipulated the color combinations by snipping one of the strings and advancing to a color that creates a more pleasing balance or striking contrast; I preferred to knit the yarn as it came and found myself occasionally knitting at the edge of my seat as I waited to see if the orange from ball A would come up at the same time as the purple from ball B (o, how sad that I was so enthralled by this!).

Some of his designs, like Girasol and Willoughby, have only resulted in a single finished project, but not because I didn’t love them. I’ve only knit them each once because they require and deserve to be knit monogamously, without distraction, and in either very wonderful (read pricey) or very copious amounts of yarn, and so I am saving my pennies and waiting to find just the perfect someone to splurge on with these woolly gifts.

Which brings us to the subject of my post today. Jared Flood is most truly and surely evil. His designs are so captivating – not to mention error free – that I am helpless to resist most of them. On Wednesday I was entranced by a pattern he’d just released (I shouldn’t follow him on Facebook – I can’t help but see when he publishes something new) – Here’s what happened:

I was sitting at the bookstore, enjoying a cup of coffee and knitting diligently on my Hedera sock (keep in mind that the only reason this sock even got started in the first place was because I am waiting for the yarn I ordered to complete the second of Jojo’s kilt hose to arrive). I set my sock down for a brief moment to check in on Facebook and there it was…photos of “Rock Island” from Brooklyn Tweed, in a lovely purple lace yarn.

Photo © Brooklyn Tweed – Rock Island Shawl

“Oh, that’s pretty,” I thought to myself. “But I have Hedera to work on, and next week I’ll have the yarn for Jojo’s other sock. Plus, I don’t know what I’d do with such a lovely lacy shawl, not to mention I really don’t like using lace weight yarn.”

I went back to Hedera, and knit a few rounds. “Well, he just released it. Let me look on Ravelry and see if anyone has purchased it yet.”

I logged into Ravelry, and sure enough there were several people who had not only bought the pattern, but they were knitting at it furiously – although some of them may have been his test knitters. “Well,” thought I, “I do have a bunch of lace yarn already at the house. And I’ve never been disappointed by one of his designs. I’ll just add it to my queue so I don’t forget what it was called. But I’m not going to buy it now.”

I again returned to my knitting, and managed to ignore my computer for quite a while. Then I started glancing at it in between rounds. “This is crazy. I do not need to start knitting a shawl right now. Heck, if I really want to work on a shawl, I have the “Crow’s Waltz” right here in my bag. I can just knit a few rows on that and get it out of my system.” I did, in fact, lay Hedera aside and pulled Crow’s Waltz out and added a few rows/subtracted a few stitches from it. I then decided I’d go home, where Alex, Max and Penny would keep me busy enough to help me forget about Rock Island and all its lacy goodness.

While I arranged myself and all my stuff in the car, I pulled out the computer again. I went from the Rock Island page on Ravelry to several other lace pages, then back to Rock Island – this went on for at least 15 minutes. Finally I decided I’d just buy the pattern – it was only a couple of dollars – and look it over. I was sure I would see the stitch count or the charts and decide that I would be insane to knit something this difficult, at which point I could return to my socks and Crow without a lacy shawl nagging at me.

So I bought it. And looked it over. Ok, I read the directions…carefully…twice. Then I went home, resolved to finish my other projects before starting this shawl, if I ever started it at all.

Yeah, that worked.

The edging for Rock Island, in Alpaca with a Twist Fino

I can’t believe it fit!

I finished the first of Jojo’s Kilt Hose on Friday morning, and was amazed that, when she tried them on


they fit!

Lace Me Up Kilt Hose from “Think Outside the Sox”

That’s 28 inches of sock there, people! Sometimes I wish my children could have stayed short, like this one:

Max says, “HI!!”

I’ll start the second sock for Jojo as soon as I place my order for 2 more balls of yarn. Until then, I’m working on these

Hedera socks from knit. sock. love. by Cookie A. Knit using Stroll Hand Painted sock yarn in Make Believe and size 2 needles

After I post this, I swear I’ll go onto Knit Picks and order the rest of the yarn for Jojo’s socks. The first one was fun and pretty quick – as far as socks go – to knit, and I’m excited to have her wear them, although we may have to wait until next year, as summer arrived spontaneously last week (no spring for us; just a quick shift from cold to hot). I’ve had the yarn selected for days now, but never seem to have my wallet and my computer coexisting in the same spot. But I can see my wallet now from where I’m sitting…

The end is in sight…

You know, blogging would be much easier if I could just sit down and write. My problem is I don’t think about doing it until I’m the only adult in a house full of little kids. Ok, so two little kids doesn’t quite fill my house, but they certainly fill my day!

I was going to tell you about how the mittens I mentioned in my last couple of posts didn’t quite make me happy, due to the non-stretchy cast on I’d used. And how, after Helena recommended using a tubular cast on, I re-knit them. And how the resulting cast on edge, while being nice and stretchy, didn’t look quite right, but I didn’t realize this until I was half done with the second mitten and running out of time to finish my Christmas knitting, so I just let it go. And how, when I started the second pair, I actually looked up “tubular cast on” online, rather than using the directions I had for a cardigan that had the same cast on, and found out that I’d used directions for knitting flat (no purls) instead of directions for knitting in the round (I used a combination of directions, found here and here). The second pair of mittens has a more correct edge, although I sort of like how the first pair looks.

Screwed up tubular cast on

Proper tubular cast on

I was also going to tell you about staying up until almost 2:00am working on the blue scarf, because I was so close to being finished and all of the children were in bed so I could actually concentrate. And how, once finished, the scarf was only five feet long, which is fine for a California scarf (where warmth is secondary to looking cool), but falls short for a Wisconsin scarf (where it will be wrapped multiple times around the wearers neck to trap as much warm air as possible, and make the wearer look like they might have whiplash).

And I was going to beg someone – anyone – to explain to me how to pick up stitches for a mitten thumb properly, because I started the second thumb for the Ruba’iyat Mittens five or six times, each time either making or imagining a different mistake.

But it has taken me so long to sit down at my computer and do more than just jot down random, poorly strung together thoughts that I don’t remember exactly what I was trying to say. So instead, I leave you with this. Only one sock left to go, and my Christmas knitting will be complete.

Finished projects, drying after a wash.

Well, that didn’t take long

I think I sat and contemplated what project to work on next for all of about 10 minutes. There was really ever only one that was calling my name, and that was the Frost Tapestry mittens pattern that I purchased from Twist Collective. I’d already started them once, but had to stop due to yarn compatibility issues. A quick trip to The Black Sheep in Encinitas corrected the problem, and I cast on for them twice this morning.

The first part of the stranded pattern has the floats crossing over half of the stitches, from the front of the mitten to the back. I really enjoy doing stranded color work, and I’ve gotten a lot better since my first few attempts, but I’m still not very proficient at securing the floats. But there was an article in the Winter 2010 Knitting Traditions magazine about intarsia in the round on a small area of a project (in their case, socks) that described a method I thought would solve my problems. And it did!! Once the pattern moved to a more all over sort of stitch dispersal, I switched back to the way I usually knit stranded patterns.

It’s funny how quickly the projects that I do that involve multiple colors progress. I think that, like many knitters, I’m sufficiently charmed by the changing yarn that I don’t notice time passing. And so, due to this weird effect, I managed to finish nearly a whole mitten today! See?

Frost Tapestry Mitten in Alpaca with a Twist (Black) and Classic Elite Inca Alpaca (White)

I still have to add the thumb and sew the hem, but there  wasn’t enough light left to do either this evening, especially with the black yarn. Besides, I think that finishing a “mitten body” in a single day is pretty dang good.

Happy Anniversary Clever Knits!

On Monday, the fifth of July, my favorite Local Yarn Store – Clever Knits – will celebrate its first year of business. And today, at 11:55, when I showed up to partake in the BOGO sale they are having, I was only slightly surprised to find a large gaggle of knitters waiting to get in. It was very exciting, and I got to hear some accounts of how, just last year, they were waiting on this very same sidewalk for CK to open their doors for the first time. I missed the grand opening, but I’m really glad I had an opportunity to be there for this event.

I made a few purchases – mostly really great yarn that’s too darn expensive to buy just , but also a skein of alpaca DK weight that I need to finish my Eastlake sweater – and left happy. One of the yarns I purchased was Hand Maiden Sea Silk in a lovely pewter-y color. I bought it with a specific project in mind… the July KAL at CK, which is the Annis shawl.

When I got home from the sale Alex and the girls left for the bookstore and to do some errands. While I was out, Max had decided that it was a good do-nothing sort of day and changed into some PJs, so the two of us stayed home to play. I set up my swift and ball winder in the kitchen, and began the process of preparing the Sea Silk to be knit. Max joined me and watched with eyes wide as the yarn moved from swift to winder, both tools spinning wildly, the ball growing fatter and fatter. Then he said: “Ooooh, yarn. Very very cool.” Oh yeah. That’s my boy.

Well, that’s where the good times ended. The Annis pattern starts out with the horrible, horrible direction “Cast on 363 stitches…” Zoinks! Every shawl I’ve done have been started from the point so I, as a weak hearted kind of knitter, can be eased in to the fact that a row will eventually span that many stitches. Not this time. I suppose an optimist would say that it’s all downhill from here.

I’m not very good at optimism. I’m working on it, but I’ve a long way to go.

I bravely began casting on, only to find at stitch 210 or so that there was no way I’d allowed a long enough “tail” to finish the last 153 stitches.

Rip!

I started again, and actually got all of the stitches onto my needles. But I had to count once more to verify I wasn’t going to be 3 short. This was done 5 times, because I kept losing count. In the end, I found that my initial count was correct, and I was able to move to Row 1 with confidence.

And move on I did. I knit well and fearlessly. I was surprised when I looked at my left hand needle and found only about 20 stitches left. That’s when it happened.

“It” has a name. And “its” name is “Max”. He came over to sit on my lap, as he often does while I knit. But this time, the yarn was silk, not wool (very slick). And the needles were metal, not bamboo (very slippery). And before I could move the string and sticks out of his way, his little leg got tangled and woosh!

Only about 10 stitches fell off. But they were the first row, and I have no idea how to reclaim cast on stitches that have escaped the needle. So I put it all away.

I’ve cast on again. Here’s my proof.

Now that el Boyo is in bed, I’ll try Row 1 again. Wish me luck!!