Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Pattern - Mermaid Mittens

yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Lite, main color Rose, contrast color Twig
needles: US#1 for cuff, US #2 for rest of mittens                                                           

Well, not brand new pattern but it was published coupla weeks ago. It is now available through Ravelry.  I couldn't show it when I finished the mittens because the mittens were knitted for Christmas present.  Now that the present had been presented, here they are.

yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Sport. color Wellwater, and Tart
needles: US #2 for cuff and #3 for rest of the mittens

Not many people know I actually have a weird phobia of fish.  I freaked out at the sight of fish, even a photo of it.  But my sister Judy loves mermaid, among other little girly stuff such as hello kitty, and believe it or not, she is already 38 years old.  So it's crazy that I actually made this design. I decided to make her a pair of mittens for Christmas.  No way am I going to make hello kitty, so I designed a mermaid mitten.

I first knitted a mitten with sport weight yarn.  I knew it really wasn't her color combo, then I tweaked the chart and made another design in fingering weight with colors I knew she'd like.  Then I came back to finish the second mitten of sport weight yarn.  I deicded to reverse the color on the second mitten of the sport weight just so I wouldn't be bored.

On the palm side i decided to do simple all over geometric motif that is easy to memorize.

The pattern now includes both versions, fingering weight and sport weight.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Handspun Shawl #1

Slowly, I'm adding entries into my spinning journey.

I was away for the holidays for 4 days. The entire time I did not miss knitting, but I sorely missed spinning.  
Something about letting the fiber glide through my fingers while my feet treadle away just feel so satisfying. 
It alos seems be my cure for stashing up yarns.  I have not made a purchase of yarn since I started spinning. 

My spun yarn may be uneven but I love making them.  I also love dyeing up my own colors and see what they turn into. It's like magic. In some ways, it reminds me of printmaking.  Being a painter, I'm so used to see result as I paint, but with printmaking, you can see the color of ink, the image on your plate, but there is always that slight mystery with the final product. That is what dyeing my own fiber and spinning and knitting with it was like.

I wanted a shawl using merino, so I had some ideas in mind of how I will approach it. But being a complete beginner, there were so many surprises along the way, both good ones and bad ones, which all made the process that much more exciting. When I dyed the fiber, I had an image in my head of deeper purple and more light brown areas. I was envisioning a purple/brown combo. But as you can see, it didn't turn out that way. While spinning, I was feeling a bit disappointed how the color combination came out.  Then I liked the colors much better when I was at the knitting stage.  It was like a roller coaster ride with my feeling towards the colors. Spinning merino took a lot of my patience. I truly thought I was spinning it at a pretty fine and even thickness until plying.  I was surprised at how uneven and thick the yarn turned out to be. And, I was even more surprised at the yardage being less than I thought.

The knitting design was pure improvisation. I knew with the stripey look an all over lace would be too much. I just knitted in plain sts and inserting 2 rows of eyelets. I used US #7 needles for a more open look with St sts. Half way through knitting, I realized instead of using the same chaging color yarns for the lace border, it would be better with a solid contrast color.  I spun up some BFL without dyeing it for the border. Oh, how I love spinning BFL. It is just as luxurious as merino but easier to spin.  BFL is my favorite fiber to spin so far. The color section was knitted until I ran out of all 4oz spun merino yarn (~375 yards,) then I made a simple lace design for the border, and it used about 100 yards of the 135 yards spun from 2oz of BFL.  

I like the shawl as the final product..  Even though it is not my wardrobe style at all, but I like it because it truly was a wonderful journey to dye, spin, design, and knit. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays

Warm wishes to you all for this holiday season.

A note about my spinning journey. Now I'm visiting my family in SF area, so I made a trip to Carolina Handspun yesterday and bought some fiber. It was like walking into a treasure trove,  fiber, wheels, and everything fiber-licious were everywhere and on top of each other. I could barely move around. It was quite an experience. The shop owner was very helpful and knowledgeable.  I'd fell in love with spinning BFL recently, it is so far  my favorite fiber to spin, so I got some natural color of BFL and some BFL/Silk blend in  gray color (this one is sooo pretty.) I can't wait 'till I get back home to play with my wheel and hopefully I'll have something nice to share with you when New Year comes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


“Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” they chanted. “Where is the field marshal?” they demanded of the top military officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. “The girls of Egypt are here.”
Historians called the event the biggest women’s demonstration in modern Egyptian history, the most significant since a 1919 march against British colonialism inaugurated women’s activism here.  
New York Times report here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finally a Sweater

I had an idea of intricate cables for a sweater using some orange yarn I dyed.

I decided to swatch my cable design into a pair of mitten first using the Plucky Knitters SW Merino fingering weight I had in Iced Lavender, but it came out a bit loose for mittens.  So they turned into sleeves, and I made rest of the sweater in heavier yarn for the layering look. The Plucky Knitters SW Merino Worsted in Essie was a perfect combo to it.  It's a very purplish brown.  Paul commented twice on how beautiful the color is.  After 4 skeins for the sweater, I still have 3 left.  I have to figure out how to use it for future project.

Sleeves: yarn - Plucky Knitter SW Merino Fingering Weight, color - Iced Lavender.  
 needles - #2
Body: yarn - Plucky Knitter SW Merino Worsted Weight, color - Essie.  
needles - #5

The sleeves were knitted from cuff up then knitted 2 rounds in main color and put on waste yarn.  I knitted the rest of the sweater from top down in round with simultaneous set-in sleeves.  Contrast color band was picked up sts knitted sideway.Sleeves of the main body and the contrast colory were joined together by k2tog on the join round. together.  So the only sewing part was the buttons.

It certainly was fun to get back into knitting.  Now that semester is over.  I hope I'll have a lot of time for my long neglected studio and some knitting.

I'm so addicted to British TV series on Netflix. The last one I watch while knitting this sweater was Forsyte Saga. I can't wait to watch more TV series with some fun knitting to go with it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

spin spin and more spin

For the past two weeks, I'd been dyeing up fiber and spinning like a total addict.  I did manage to knit up a quick pair of fingerless mitts after the first batch of dyed fiber just because I was soooo curios how the dye job would look when knitted up.  I also ventured into spinning merino, it did take some getting used to, but I loved the luxurious fiber.  I'm definitely putting in a lot of practice time.

and this is what's on my spinning wheel now:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yellow Sub Patterns are Up

Finally all the testings and pattern editing are done.  I've been super busy lately with a lot of things on my to do list, so I'm really happy to announce that both the patterns for cowl and hat are now available for download via Ravelry.

I'm really looking forward to the few weeks of winter break coming up so I can get back to some knitting.  My to do list is taking up most of my time which means very little knitting. Also, I'm hooked with spinning, and knitting has been put on the back burner.

Although I'm thrilled with the ending of the semester, I will be sad when one of my classes ends.  This semester I'm having one of the best drawing groups I'd ever had in the 11 years of teaching.  They're all so open and positive to learning, and curios with drawing.  The work they do are making me very glad that I am teaching.  We're all just having such a blast in that class.  They're a lot of fun to be around, yet they work really hard. Classes like this doesn't come along often, so I know I am very lucky this semester despite the bumps going on with the other 2 classes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Early Holiday Gift to Myself

Meet my new wheel!

After destashing some yarn this month, I was ready to fix up the old wheel.  I did some price check online and realized it would cost me $200 to get a new Flyer Unit, a Lazy Kate plus other parts that it needed to start running.  That would be a good chunk of money for something I wasn't even sure if it would be worth it at all.  I almost went for it, but just wasn't so sure, so I kept putting off ordering the parts.

Last week I found out a yarn store in a nearby town is closing :(  I read that everything in the store was 25% off.  Noticing that they sold Ashford wheels on their website,  I called them up to see if they had any spinning wheel parts.  They didn't, but as it turned out the owner was selling its new Ashford Traveller SD floor model for $400.  It came with manufactured lacquer finish.  It was more than what I was hoping to spend when I first thought about fixing up the wheel.  But after I looked around online and found that a new Traveller without finish goes for higher than that, and the ones with finish goes even higher.  I felt this was my chance at a decent brand new wheel.  And one reason the Traveller also attracted me was its flyer unit also works on my old wheel that I was intended on fixing - an Ashford Traditional.   So getting this one would give me both a new wheel and help me figure out if it's worth it at all to fix the other one.  I was very glad by selling the most pricey yarns in my collection it gave me enough to afford this wheel. 

Bright early this morning, I drove out  to the store to check out the wheel.  I liked the feel of it when I treadled.  I didn't get to spin on it, but I felt like it was a good buy for me at this point.  I also liked the fact that I'm keeping the economy local considering how bad it is around here, and that I had been a guilty party of buying most of my yarns online.  After I got home, I played with it for a while. I could see the big learning curve is ahead of me. I  spun the Welsh Top I still had.  I  might have to get different fibers so I'm not as frustrated with drafting.  I noticed that Welsh was harder to draft for me as compared to Corridale when I was using my spindle.

This is the biggest gift I'd given myself in a long, long, long time.  I feel so special.  It's a whole new adventure waiting for me and I'm totally stoked. Hopefully I'll have some finished yarn to show soon.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Very First Handspun Mittens

After a week and half of spinning on my new spindle, I finally got enough yarn to make something.  I even plied the yarn.  But I wasn't sure how correct was my plying.  All I did was holding 2 strands and spun them in reverse, and voila, I had 2 ply yarns that weren't too balanced.

Main Color: Dark Brown Welsh
Contrast Color: Corridale 
(both purchased from Dharma Trading CO)
Needles: US #4
 I made a quick motif design that turned out to be a bit too diffused due to single stitches of contrast color in many places as opposed to concentrated consecutive stitches of contrast color. Also, the contrast color yarn was spun thinner than the brown so the stitches aren't as fulled as compare to the brown yarn.  But I'm still pleased with the result.  One mitten also came out wider than the other due to the yarn was thicker.  I guess some batch of yarn was spun thicker than the others.  Live and learn.

After 10 days of spinning, the designing took 40 minutes and the knitting took 2 days.  So the last part was definitely an instant gratification.

I raised a little money to fix up the old wheel by destashing  the few indie yarns in my stash.  They barely made a dent to my yarn collection in terms of quantitiy, but they sure were the most expensive ones in my collection, so that really helped.  Now I just need to learn more about spinning wheels to make better decisions regarding the missing parts for the old wheel.

I am really excited about this new addiction.   But I did miss knitting.  Not knitting for 10 days while spinning was starting to get to me.  I'm ready for new projects.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

3 Days with Spindle = New Love

 second day on spindle

I took Chris's (aka Doodle on Ravlery) advise and got a drop spindle to learn how to spin. After some bumps of the shipping, it finally arrived.  The store I bought from shipped me a set of hand carders instead of the spindle.  After looking up the price and saw that the carders cost 3 times of spindle, the greedy side of me was tempted to keep it or sell it on ebay or something.  But my tiny little nicer side of me somehow managed to convince myself to call the store and send the carders back.  One day when I want a  pair of carders, I'll probably kick myself.

The spindle arrived on Thursday. It's Hi-Lo Spindle (I've only been using it as high whorl.) With the roving I received and few minutes of watching YouTube I started spinning that evening.  It was the most frustrating thing in a long, long time.   I could not do anything at all.  I even said to Paul, "this is crazy, not fun at all."  I just couldn't draft, and when I did the roving would break. I went to bed feeling completely defeated and ready to give up.  The next morning I woke up and determined to give it another whorl before waving the white flag.  I went on Ravelry and Youtube and found another 2 videos that helped me more.  The one that really made it click was Maggie Spindling.  Watching a kid doing it slowly and non-expert like really showed me how to approach it as a beginner and made me feel OK to have very uneven looking strings. The other one was Drafting on a Spindle.  It was super basic and exactly what I needed - seeing where I should pinch. Being visual learner, I am completely at lost when someone gives too much verbal instruction and explanation.  At that point  I just zone out and unable to follow any directions.  I noticed the same learning habit in my Pilate class.  Our instructor gave cues and simple reminders and it worked great.  Every now and then when we had substitute instructors that came in and constantly giving us information and constantly reminding us on all the details as we're doing the work out, I simply could not concentrate at all.  These basic videos were great to watch in addition to other ones that had more information.

So I got on the spindle again.  I was stating to get it.  I ended up dividing the roving into 4 length- wise to help me with spinning thinner yarns.  I'm not sure if that is a good thing to do or not, probably not. Oh well.  It went so much better the second day.  I was spinning yarns with less tight twists and was able to finish the full length of roving, and most of all, I was actually able to draft.

Yesterday I woke up and coludn't wait to spin.  So I spent the third day on spindle. I'm getting better at consistent thickness, nowhere near perfection, but definitely some improvements.  The first roving I used was Corriedale, and half of it had spunned into nothing but barf of roving.  Then the second roving I tried was dark brown Welsh, super coarse and rough, but I love the look of it even if it cannot be worn next to skin.

on the right - first day on spindle with Corriedale
on the left - third day on spindle with brown Welsh

Crazy me, I'm already dreaming of dyeing up some rovings for some fun spinning.

I'm in love with spinning.  I can't wait 'till I save up enough to replace the missing flyer unit of the spinning wheel I have.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pattern is now up - First Snow

We got our second shot of snow of the season this weekend,  perfect time to release the pattern.  First Snow Mittens is now available through Ravelry.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Playing with Colors

I was at the fabric store in town this week and picked up some Jacquard Acid dye they have on  the shelf.

On Friday, I fired up the stove and dyed some yarn as an experiment.  I'd never dyed with anything other than kool-aid and natural dye.

The result - I've found a new addiction.  It's so much quicker than natural dye when the mordant step is omitted.  The colors are very bright compare to the subtlety of natural dye.  They each have their own place.  I love the look of natural dye and the transformation it can happen when adding mordant like iron to alter colors. But I have to say, the easier and quicker acid dye  is making dyeing yarn an instant gratification.

It was so much fun.  How I love playing with colors.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stranded Knitting

This week, I had two knitters asked me about how I made my stranded colorwork looking flat.  I chuckled because my knitting is always puckery until the magic of blocking does its job.

Something I'm working on. 
The mitten on the right is done and blocked 
and the one on the left is in progress, unblocked.

I'm a true believer of blocking.  It  absolutely transforms almost all knitting from ugly ducklings into finished looking pieces in the most amazing ways.

I figured I'd talk just a little about how I knit colorwork or just how I knit in general.  I'm no expert on this by any means.  In fact, I'm no expert on anything pertains to knitting.  I know few techniques but I don't know all the ins and outs of them.  I don't even ponder on them too much.  Techniques to me are just mechanics.  I'm a very visual and intuitive learner when it comes to knitting so I am not in the habit of analyzing everything I do.

So, in knitting 2 color stranded work, I've read  several recommendations of holding 2 strands of yarn in two fingers or even in two hands.  Well, I hold one strand at a time.  I only know how to knit the English way.  My hands somehow refuse to learn the continental knitting.  I cannot even wrap yarn around my finger to keep tension because my fingers tend to cramp up easily.  I hold yarn rather gingerly between my thumb and my index finger, then drop it and pick up the other color when I change color.  This definitely puts me on the lowest of totem pole of knitters according to many, many experienced knitters out there.  But hey, it works for me and that's all that matters.  I've come across many posts online where knitters insist on their preference of yarns or techniques being the only golden rule and defending it as if her entire self-worth is based on it.  To put it politely, it just makes me want to puke when I read self-righteous methodical opinions like that. I love it when people are sharing knowledge, but loath it when their knowledge becomes a dogma to be imposed on others.

Recently I saw a quick YouTube video of Interweave Knitting Daily about Managing Yarn in colorwork.  At the beginning of the video, Eunny Jang, an amazing designer and the editor for Interweave Knits, said, "It's really about what's most comfortable for you."  Thank you thank you thank you for saying that. 

Some people can make their knitting so flat and even that they look like machine knitted.  I am definitely not one of them.  Maybe I'd wish I am, but I really don't know 'cause I learned to appreciate the aesthetic of my "handmade" look. 

Even tension is the key to good looking knit.  I don't have that either due to the way I knit.  But I've learned a few habits that improved the look of my stranded knitting.
  1. I always rather err on the side of looser float on the back than tight.  
  2. I also spread out my just knitted stitch before I knit the next st when I change color.  It has become a muscle memory that I do it automatically without even thinking.  
  3. I use my needle to pick floats or stitches to make a wonky stitch look right, kind of a cosmetic fix afterwards. 
  4. Then I always, always, always block - wet block if possible (mohair is the only one I  had done wet block and was unimpressed with the result.)  I even sometimes cheat by ironing my knitting.  Some people may find this utterly horrifying, but hey it works for me.  I don't necessary recommend it as I'm not as precious with my work as many knitters are.  Once something is done, I kinda loose interest of it.  It's not necessarily a good trait but...   Always use an ironing cloth over the project  and always test it on the swatch if it was a major project, or if it has any synthetic fiber in it.  I do make sure the setting is low and only press it gently. Ironing probably damages the structure of yarn a little but as long as it looks fine to my eyes, I'm all good.

 See how uneven my stitches are, and this is actually a pretty good one for me.
You should see the ones when I made the yellow submarine cowls and hats.

As you can see, I'm definitely not a great example to follow in how I knit.  I'm more of a compensator.  I compensate by having few habits that helps my imperfect technique.  But I hope by sharing this it may make other imperfect knitters out there feel like they have company.  

So that's how I knit.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hats! With Submarines

I simply could not stop knitting the submarines.
This time, I had to make some hats.  Originally I wanted to use a longer cowl for a hat with a tie on the top.  I diid just that, but it came out slightly looser than I'd like.  So I made some real hats.

I did a little editing with the chart that was originally made for cowls. First, the stitch count of each repeat was modified to accommodate 2 different hat sizes. Then more bubbles were added at the top for an entire hat length.

Knowing skull caps always looked horrible on me, I made the hat a little bit longer for a very slight slouch. Very, very pleased here how the height and the fit turned out to be.

Yarns were naturally dyed by yours truly.  The Rabbit Rubberbrush that just passed its peak of growing around here was used for the yellow, and Logwood Gray ordered from Botanic Colors was used for the main gray color. At first the lower contrast of the Gray and Yellow did not impresse me, but little by little the subtlety grew on me.  I thought the lower contrast would make it a more wearable hat for daily wear.

When I was close to finishing the first hat, I wanted to make another one carrying the stripey waves I designed for the cowls. This time going for higher contrast in colors just to see how different the two hats would look. I ended up ordering a skein of Madeline Tosh sock from Jimmy Beans Wool. With a free shipping coupon it saved me a trip to Reno.  I'd love to go into the store, but I was afraid I'd end up with way more than 1 skein of yarn.  I'd promised myself to save money to learn how to spin. (Well, that's another story - when I saw this pair of mittens that Chris, aka Doodle on Ravelry, made, I became completely enamored with it.  I loved both the yarn she spinned and the mittens.  Something about the natural rustic wool Chris had spunned really spoke to me. It made me want to learn spinning,  And I have an old Ashford wheel with parts missing that Paul salvaged when his old landlord from 18 years ago abandoned it.)

Anyhow, back to the hats, (haha, totally typical of me and how I lectured in class, completely going off tangents from time to time just because I thought of something really exciting that I needed to share..) The yarn arrived the next day, just in time to start the second hat. The color was Baltic, it's rather too much saturation and varigation on the verge of garrish by itself for a large project.  I honestly would not have picked it had I seen it in person, But for a colorwork hat, it's rather distinct and kinda fun to be out of my ordinary pick of colors.  The yellow was Sanguine Grypon Little Traveller, color Mandalay, leftover from the small submarine cowl earlier.  I loved the color of Mandalay so I thought I'd use it again instead of a high key yellow to bring down the super saturation of the Baltic.

Can I just say I love the hats!?  I have a feeling Paul is going to steal one from me.  He had taken quite a few hats I knitted.  Of all things I'd made, the ones that were worn the most were hats either I made for Paul or that he had claimed. He's a hat person, brimmed sun hat for summer hiking and woolly cap for winter.

I'm finishing up the patterns for both the cowls and the hats.  I shall get them test knitted very soon, and hopefully publish them in time for winter. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yellow Submarine

I made two cowls just because I wanted to knit some yellow submarines.

The larger one has drawstring on top and measures 8" tall x 31" round.
Main color yarn is The Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in "Blue Lobster", and contrast color is Colinette Jitterbug in "Wasabi "

The smaller one measures 7 1/4" tall x  22 1/2" round.
Main Color yarn is The Plucky Knitter MCN Fingering in "It Happened One Night," and contrast color is The Sanguine Gryphon Little Traveller in "Mandalay."

Both were knitted with US #2 needles.

we all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine....

Friday, October 7, 2011

First Mittens of the Season

It snowed.  The  first snow of the season. Not a whole lot of accumulations but it definitely signified season changing. Where was autumn?  We went straight from 70 degrees in one day  to snow the next day.  That's Tahoe for ya.

I also finished the mittens, just in time for the snow.

Yarn: Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere 
(Main Color: Cashmere Blue, a little less than 2 balls ~ 210 yards. 
Contrast Color: Parchment, 1.5 balls ~160 yards.)  
Needles: US #2
Gauge 36 sts x 36 rows = 4"x4"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pattern is Up and Alive

Finally, the Intrepid pattern is up and alive at my Ravelry shop.  Here is the pattern page.

I even made the third one to showcase the pattern as a non-dress, using winter yarn. 

 Yarn: Filtes King Australian Merino
Needles: US #4

This was done in Filtes King Australian Merino that I purchased from Elann ages ago. 
As you can see, the yarn had two tones, which added depth to the color, but minus the stripy, mottled look. 

I went with a pullover that ended 16.5" from the underarm with 3/4 style sleeves.  With this yarn, I did use needles one size larger, US #4, hence the slightly different gauge from the pattern (22 sts per 4" rather than 23 sts, also 28 rows rather than 32 rows.)  The sweater is just tiny bit looser, but not too much.  Difference in row gauge didn't affect the overall design, it only added about 3/4" to the armhole depth.  I did changed the decrease and increase of wasit shaping by one row less per repeat.

I love this new version.  It is very wearable.  I'd worn the first version dress few time this summer and loved the feel and the look of it,  but I see myself wearing this one even more often because it's a non-dress.  phew, what a relief and satisfaction after the not so ideal choice of yarn of the second version. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

First Snow

Snow is in the forecast this week.  First of the season.  I started the mittens two weeks ago, and it's going slow and steady.

 yarn: Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere
needles: US #2

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One More Shawl

I was in the mood for another shawl.

The first time I saw Diana's Fly Me To The Moon I wanted to knit one too.  I've been waiting for the release of the pattern ever since.  I was finally able to get to it after finishing the sweater last week.  The pattern of this shawl is called Fly me To the Moon, designed by Diana Rozenshteyn (aka deenulya on Ravelry.)

The name of the shawl was just so perfect for the time.  It was Chinese Moon Festival last Monday.  The day to celebrate Autumn.  The most famous myth that associated  with this day was long ago everything was peaceful and abundant in the kingdom of middle earth. There lived a famous archer Hou Yi and his wife Chang Er. One day, instead of a single sun, 10 suns rose up to the sky. The rivers soon dried up, all the vegetation died from the sweltering heat, and  people lost their harvest.  Hou Yi brought out his bows and arrow and began to shoot down each of the suns.  After he shot down 9 suns and was aiming at the 10th one, Chang Er stopped him and said, "We still need one sun for things to grow, and for lives to go on."  Therefore, one sun remained in the sky. Because of his act that saved the people, he soon became the ruler of the kingdom.  However, over time he turned into a tyrant ruling with supreme power.  Chang Er was so disappointed at what her husband had become that she was terrified at the thought of her Hou Yi taking the elixir of immortality he had in his possession and continue on as a tyrant for eternity.  One day she decided to steal the elixir. She then took the elixir herself to prevent her husband from ever able to snatch it back.  Suddenly she found her body lighter and lighter and she began to float away.  She ended up flying up to the moon and had resided there ever since.  Every full moon you can see the shadow of her in the moon.  "Flying to The Moon" was just the perfect shawl to knit to celebrate the holiday.

I looked through my stash and found nothing that was suitable.  Well, I do have some Malabrigo Silky Merino, the yarn that Diana used, in stash , but I did not have enough skeins to make the shawl.  Knowing that even with ordering more I for sure would end up with yarn of complete different dye lot, I decided to dye up some yarn myself. I could tell that silk/merino blend was truly the right yarn choice for this pattern as it was called for in the pattern, so I ordered Silk and Ivory from Dharma Trading CO (I believe you can also find the same yarn at Catnip Yarns under Carrera) and dyed it with logwood purple that I had gotten from Botanical Colors last year.  I wanted a very pale lavender color for the shawl, and the yarn turned out just that. 

I thoroughly enjoyed knitting the shawl.  I love the design.  It was very addicting for me to knit the cable stitches.  I knitted without using a cable needle, so it went very fast.  I didn't even slip stitches off the needle to hold in hand like some instructions for cable needle-less method.  I just slipped the stitches back and forth from one needle to another.   The instruction of the pattern was very clear and easy to follow.  The built up of the pattern was very intuitive.    The cable stitches turned outere just gorgeous with the silky yarn.   I loved knitting the shawl with this yarn.  I couldn't stop knitting at all.   This morning I showed it to Paul, he immediately said, "wow, that is very ethereal  and those stitches look like little wings."  Considering it was not a lace pattern but rather, a cable pattern, it was amazing that the word ethereal would be associated with cables.  What a great design.

Because my gauge was different, the yarn was listed as fingering, but it actually was closer to sport weight, I knitted two extra repeat of the main stitches, and 2 extra rows of the border stitches.  Still, the shawl came out smaller than the pattern, it's only 60" wide, but I was running out of yarn so...   It was knitted with US #4 needles and BO using US #6 needles. I love, love, love it.  It truly was an enjoyable knit with a wonderful result.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Midnight in the Garden of Roses and Butterflies

I love doing stranded work.  But, I've noticed how it takes a toll on my body.  My posture has never been good, but when I knit, it's extra bad.  Hunching over and paying close attention to changing colors is something I'm beginning to avoid doing a lot.  I'm currently taking a Pilate class, and totally love it. At our local community college it's about $36 for 12 weeks class (twice a week,) it will be a crime not to take it.  I'm just bummed that this semester my schedule only allows me to go in once a week.  It helps me not only get some exercises but it also helps my posture a little.

 Yarn: Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere
single strand for motif panel and the sleeve mittens, 
and double strands for the body. 
(20 balls total in color pewter, and 1.5 in parchment for the tunic, 
and another 3.5 balls for the fingerless mitts)
Needles: US #2, US #5

I love the elegance of simple stockinette stitches.  I love the fact that I can watch movies when I knit. But every year when fall approaches, I get antsy about doing stranded work.  So I've decided to do a sweater that includes stranded work but more as adding flavor than to using it all over as fabric, just enough to satisfy my craving, but not too exhausting on my neck and shoulder.

The stitch design was actually made months ago for another sweater that I ended up letting go of the idea. With the vertical panel of this tunic I wasn't sure about the motifs lining up one on top of another (instead of diagonally), but I went with it anyway just to see if it does work.

The stranded work panel was knitted first in smaller needles (US #2) from top down.  I actually knitted back and forth in flat.  It wasn't really more difficult than in round.  I made myself a cheat-cheat of stitch numbers of alternating color of each row, so I just read out the numbers rather than reading the chart and it went fairly quickly. Then the body was knitted with yarn doubled (to match the thickness of the motif panel) and used larger needles (US #5). It was knitted flat in one piece with set-in sleeves knitted at the same time just to further test my formula.  Then the sleeves were finished from the stitches left on waste yarn at underarm area.  The motif panel was then sewn onto the body with pleats added in by the buttons and loops.  I wanted this sweater to be just black and white, but because the light color was actually more of a warm natural  than white, I paired it with a deep charcoal gray as the contrast color instead.

I  could not get enough of knitting tunic/dress, so another one here.  Going for short sleeves because I liked that proportion but I thought with the thickness of the yarn and its alpaca content it would be too warm to wear a long-sleeve tee underneath it. However, to keep the bare arms warm, I decided that long fingerless mittens could function as long sleeves and paired off with the tunic.  The fingerless mittens were knitted single strand using smaller needles (US #2.)  The Yarn was was also  Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere, same as the tunic. I'd used this yarn for two other sweaters.  I loved it.  It was soft, and lovely, and great for colorwork too.   I actually had this yarn in mind when I made the design and I was pleased how it worked out.

Now I have few extra balls left of this yarn.  I may consider making more mittens with them, just shorter versions.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rachel, the Shih Tzu

A while ago a friend sent me an email that reads:

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you  can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and  boring people with your troubles,
If you can understand when your loved  ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and  blame without resentment,
If you can conquer tension  without  medical help,
If you can relax without alcohol, 
If  you can sleep without the aid of  drugs,  
......  Then You Are Probably ......
a family dog.

It has been 2 1/2 years since Cody was gone, but I still think about him every single day.

The time of watching him get sick was too painful for me to want to get a dog too soon. The memory was still too raw, and the medical bill was so huge that we're hesitant to take in another life and be completely responsible for it.  The one thing I can do is to make little donations every now and then to rescue groups. Shih Tzus always had such a special place in my heart that I declared if I ever win lottery (if I actually would buy lottery tickets) I'd donate a nice chunk to Shih Tzu rescue and to no kill shelters for pets.  Alas, I was not destined  to be a lottery winner.

I came across Animal Savers rescue group recently.  And there is Rachel on its website, the adorable Shih Tzu, that needs medical help.

The site says:

Rachel, the Shih Tzu, Needs Bloodwork ($420.00) to Make Her Diabetes Manageable
Rachel, around 6 years of age, was rescued as a stray from the Modesto Shelter. She is diabetic and had apparently developed blindess secondary to this condition. We need approximately $220.00 for blood work to make her diabetes manageable plus insulin and syringes (another $200.00.)

I so wish I can win lottery to really help Rachel more than just a tiny amount from the few pattern sales that sat in my PayPal balance, or that I don't have to wait 'till October for my first paycheck of the semester.

The Animal Savers so far raised 1/3 of the money needed for her insulin.  I was hesitant to solicit anything trhough my blog.  But I figured since I had actually from time to time solicited my own patterns here, or recommended yarns or companies that sell yarns, why not for a far better cause? If you care to spare a few dollars (any small amount will add up to help her,) you can go to Animal Savers' Website: and scroll down to the bottom for PayPal donation link, and make note in your donation that it goes to Rachel.

Under Who We Are of the Animal Savers' website it reads:

AnimalSavers rescues animals from the streets of Sacramento and high kill shelters throughout California. We target the Bay Area for homes because Sacramento, where most of the animals are fostered, has an unspeakable 90% kill rate at their shelters, killing an estimated 50 animals daily. Secondly, by local ordinance the county shelters sells up to 7% for medical research and experimentation to U.C. Davis and Sutter Medical Center.......
......Additionally, the Sacramento County shelter was sued by In Defense of Animals, the Animal Protection Institute and AVAR for illegally killing healthy animals before placing them up for adoption to the public or recovery by their families, in clear violation of California law. As if this wasn't dismal enough, the average lifespan for a dog or cat in Sacramento county is reportedly a mere 1 1/2 years, due to improper fencing, failure to immunize, low spay/neuter rates, lack of microchipping and i.d. tagging pets, and general indifference to their health care. In contrast, two cities in the Bay Area, Oakland and San Francisco, were ranked in the top 5 throughout the nation for pet care and life expectancy. 

The statistics it listed is beyond appalling. It makes my heart ache that people don't take care of their pets that give them love so unconditionally.  It also makes my heart ache in today's economy so many pets are being surrendered at the shelters.  When you take in animals, it's for life, because they give you their whole heart  They're part of you yet you're everything to them.

Please, be kind to animals. If you can, please help out Rachel, the Shih Tzu that is suffering from blindness and diabetes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two Shawls in Two Weeks

I was in no mood to tackle bigger project or coming up with a design when fall semester was about to start.  I thought I'd make shawls.  I wanted simple shawls with enough details to hold interest but not too complicated to execute.

I realized long ago that of all the projects I knitted, I wore shawls the most.  

I wore my shawls like scarves, even with the prettiest ones with intricate lace pattern I just wrapped them around my neck.. I didn't even own a shawl pin.  Being a total cheapskate I never could bring myself to buy a shawl pin,  Although I'd spend $20 on necklaces or a dinner, somehow, $20 for a shawl pin just seemed too extravagant to me.  Crazy, I know. Maybe it really just had to do with how I wear shawls.  Anyhow.... I rarely got to wear my sweaters even though I love making them the most. My job did not really allow me to wear anything nice.  Well, I could if I so desperately want to get charcoal and paint all over it.  And socks, no knitted socks most of the time for this gal with the widest feet and the highest instep - seriously the most unattractive feet in the 100 mile radius. 

So it was definitely time to make more shawls.  

The first one was Sugared Violet, a lovely design by Rose Beck.  I was attracted to the simple yet elegant design.  I wanted to try a semi circle / crescent shape shawl, something I'd never done, and without any of the reverse scallop points.  This fitted the bill nicely.  Even though I did not like the yarn color as a sweater I still had one skein left of the Tosh Merino Light  in Trodden, so I went ahead and used that up for this shawl.  Just as I believed, the handdye yarn sure suited well with accessories, especially shawls.  I love how it turned out.  

One annoying thing happened was when I was binding off I dropped a stitch and did not realize it until I was blocking it with pins. Grrrrrr. And the stitch dropped was at the beginning of the row. Next day I spent an hour fixing it and. .

Pattern: Sugared Violet by Rose Beck
Yarn: Tosh Merino Light
Needles: US 6

Since I was still in the mood for knitting shawls I decided on Simply Hilary, designed by Tracey Withanee.  The design called for aran weight yarn but I knitted in worsted weight.  I loved the texture stitches of this design.  The stitches were so simple to make yet very effective.   I loved the idea of making a heavier weight shawl with texture stitches.  I could wear it more like a wrap with a closure on the front. No, not pins, I used a button I have and single crochedt a loop and attached to it to make it a self- button loop.  You know, the one nice thing about being poor, we're forced to come up with creative solutions.  You should see how Paul fixed our dryer was pretty hilarious and no, not with duck tape.  I'll post a picture some day.  

The yarn was Plymouth Royal Silk Merino.  I hated it when I was making a skirt with it last year.  It looked so raggedy in St st.  But with the texture stitches of this shawl, the yarn ended much newer looking when knitted up.  
I'd found another way of wearing shawls, due to its thickness, I felt as if I was wearing a semi-poncho and I loved that.  This totally made want to make more non-lacy heavier shawls for the coming seasons.

Pattern: Simply Hilary by Tracey Withanee
Yarn: Plymouth Royal Silk Merion
Needles: US 7 for the main section and US 9 for the border

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bad Yarn Choice

This one really came out disappointing.  Nothing wrong with the pattern or construction, it's the choice of yarn.  First off, being fingering weight, the gauge was off, so it turned out very snug. That was OK though.  My experience with merino was that blocking can amend it quite nicely.  And it did.  Blocking is the magic touch in knitting. I ended up liking the fit quite nicely. But the color was so wrong for me.  It's basically skin tone.  While I was knitting, Paul even asked "what is that color?"  I said, "It's called Trodden."  His reply was, "hmmm..... it looks liked marbled meat."  Thanks for putting that image in my head of wearing a slab of meat.  Pretty gross image for a vegetarian like me.

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light
Needles: US #3

I'll use the yarn again for something else because it is nice to knit with and it does make lovely fabric, but I shall think twice for a sweater, at least think harder about color choice, something with less varigation and more contrast to skin color.

The pattern is being test knitted.  I still have to draw schematic for it.  I'm just not in the most motivated mood knowing the semester begins in 2 weeks.  I'm a bit depressed that I have to return to teaching so soon. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Pattern: Butterfly Dress by Jennie Atkinson, published in Rowan 37
Yarn: S. Charles Luna, color: silver gray. 3 balls (696 yards)
Needles: US #8, #7
Beads: 1 tube of 8/0 in Ceylon Smoke

The Butterfly Dress is done.  I guess the rest of the dress didn't take as long as I'd forecasted.  I didn't realize the section above underarm is very short which also means shorter time.

The aggressive decreasing did turn out slightly wonky, BUT, good thing blocking can save so many such problems.  I blocked the dress by laying it out flat and pin to A-line shaped skirt and stretched the length a little, then spritzed with water  and let it dry overnight.  The fluffy mohair yarn is so light, it probably dried in no time.

I also made the slip this morning.  I really need to learn more about sewing The slip is a bit tight and the cotton fabric has very little stretch, so I added invisible zipper to the side.  I wish I'd used more stretchy material for the slip, or at least make it roomier around the waist.  Too bad the only fabric store in town is catered more to quilters, and this is the only suitable lining fabric I'd found.. It's wearable so I'm not gonna sweat over it.  I added lace edging to the bottom of the slip since I didn't do the second lace hem.

I'm really liking the result.  I love how subtle the beads are, how light at fluffy the yarn is, it's like cotton candy, and there's the silver metallic thread in the yarn.  Now where am I going to wear it??? I'll probably just prance around my living room in it.

If I to do the dress again,
1. I'll use smaller needles (#7) from the beginning.
2. Do one size smaller (36")
3. Let the bottom edge be at least 1" longer before join.
4. Buy one extra ball of yarn so I don't have to worry all the time about running out.  
5. When cast off picot edge, p3, *CO 3 sts using knit on method, p those 3 and the st CO from together, then BO 3 sts p-wise. rep from *

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Things On My Needles

Finally, I got around to do the second Intrepid.
I wasn't sure if I was going to write a pattern, but thanks to the encouragements of fellow Ravelers, and coupla intrepid knitters volunteered for test knit, I decided to go for it.

I knew my notes were OK, but I made some changes that triggered quite a bit of re-calculations and instruction editing, so I decided that knitting second one is necessary to ensure the pattern not crawling with mistakes..

It ended up a bigger task than I'd imagined.  I think if I had a clean slate and not relying on the original notes, I might've  been better off.  But having to constantly edit, it ended up messing my mind.  I am slowly training myself to be more organized of my thoughts and my notes.  Sometime I'd be knitting something and all of sudden thinking, "did I change that in the pattern?" Then I jumped on computer and tried to back trace my steps.  By the time I finished the edits, I'd forgotten where was I on the knitting part.

If I want to continue to write patterns, I need to find a more efficient and organized system.  Maybe I should try to write the pattern first before I knit?  But I so enjoy the spontaneity and the improvisation process that is a lot more conducive to my creative ideas. The  improvisation often means having to knit the second one to write the pattern.  Fortunately with Intrepid, I like it enough that I actually wanted to make the second one  with more fall/winter yarn. I started with 3 different DK/Sports weight yarn in my stash and none of them seemed to work for my taste.  So, guiltily, I ended up purchasing new yarn for it. 

I'm using Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Lite (fingering weight.)  It's the first time I've used the yarn, and I quite like the feel of it.  I'm just not sure if I'd ever turn into a true fan of using hand-dyed yarns  with a lot of tonal varigation for a sweaters.  Maybe I'll grow to liking the effect more???  The yarns sure look so wonderful and luring on all the Ravelry FO pages.  But each time I knitted with some I always ended up feeling weird about the mottled look. The effect certainly brings depth to the colors, at the same time, it also seems a bit distracting to the lines.   I do dig using the yarn for accessories like shawls, hats.  But on an entire sweater....I'll see if this one will change my mind.  Instead of getting the yarn online at Jimmy Bean, I actually drove down to Reno to check out the color in person.  I like the color, it's called Trodden.  Maybe when it's all done, it will look more unified?  Am I the only person on this planet that is not as crazy about indie-dyed yarn on a sweater as everyone else?  I mean I love the yarns, I love the colors, I'd love to collect them if I have the means, but  since I'm nuts about knitting sweaters, I have not embraced them as fully as I'd like. Maybe it's the cheapskate part of me sending subliminal messages, telling me not to like the pricier yarn in larger quantities.  I have 3 sweater lots of Indie-dye yarns. so I am determined to use them for the upcoming projects, wanting to prove myself wrong. 

I also have another project on needles.

This is very rare for me to have more than one project going on at the same time.  I don't have the discipline to manage multiple projects and finish them all, but I do have the discipline of not attempt that task too many times, so I always just have one going.  Prior to starting the Intrepid 2, I was working on another project. In my mind I thought I'd just follow a pattern and be easy on myself, and finish it shortly, then work on Intrepid 2 and send out the patterns to testers as I'd promised.  Hmmmm.... I definitely picked the wrong project for a mindless, easy knitting here.  It's Butterfly Dress from Rowan magazine 37.  I had the magazine for a long time and I always lusted after this dress.  The yarn was from my stash that I bought from Jimmy Bean's Wool Watch a while back. It's S Charles Luna, color light gray.  I love the look of mohair and the silver thread in it, but knitting with mohair is not the easiest.  Ripping back is even worse.  Threading on beads took a long time. The bottom edge border took just 3 days.  The rest of the dress was knitted bottom up and I changed to knitting in round instead of flat pieces per pattern.  The pattern  and stitches are really simple and should be very easy, but knitting with such lightweight mohair takes more focus than I'd expected, thus slower.

photo from magazine

I was too lazy to do a swatch.  Now it's too big.  I tried it on when I was in the middle of shaping waist.  I tried my best not to panic when I saw how big it was. To compound the situation, I was also afraid of running out of yarn. I'm on the last of the 3 balls, and not yet at the waist fully, so instead of just keep on decreasing more repeats, I decided to decrease more aggressively (every 2 rows) hoping that is not gonna look too horrible.  I also switched from #8 needles to #7.  I'll be so bummed if this doesn't work out. Plan B is to machine sew the sides.  And I pray it won't come to that, as I have no idea how to sew mohair lace.

I was planning on having the dress done and the pattern sent  to testers before I leave for a week-long trip this weekend, but I don't think that's realistic at all.  I'll see which one to tackle.  I just hate the idea of having to leave 2 projects hanging, knowing I'll be so lost and confused when I return to them. . 

We'll gonna go for a stroll along the lake this afternoon to unwind my brain from the pattern writing for Intrepid, and the disappointment of Butterfly Dress turning out too big..