Reporting for Duty Today :: Pitchers, Catchers, and Yarn

Today in Ann Arbor, we are under a severe weather alert because of the wind chill. When I woke up this morning, it was 6 degrees below zero, with a windchill of -15. Baby, that’s COLD. Of course you know I am not complaining, because:

  1. I am a knitter. Therefore, I am covered in wool.
  2. I am a knitter. Therefore, I am happy to be “forced” to stay inside and knit.
  3. Spring is officially in sight as of today, because today the Detroit Tigers pitchers and catchers report for spring training. HECK YEAH!

That means this yarn is also reporting for training:

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Hazel Knits Artisan Sock

 

And by training, I mean swatching. I will soon be swatching for my next Crackerjack conceptual knitting project.

My yarn this time is Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, in “Nekkid,” “Nickel,” “Collegiate,” and “Carnelian.” To create this set, I actually bought a Seattle Seahawks-themed kit (this was right after the Super Bowl) – it had all the colors I needed minus the orange, in the smaller quantities I think I’ll need for a pair of socks. Then I bought a full skein of the orange to complete my set. Now I have a sweet small skein of “Hawkeye” (lime green) leftover for some other fun use. It’s been awhile since I’ve knit with Hazel Knits, and I’m really looking forward to it. The yarn has a great feel, and the hand-painted semi-solids are just perfect.

This time around, I’m going to be making… SOCKS. For anyone who has been following my Instagram feed, this should come as no surprise, as I am apparently all about knitting socks lately. It’s funny, I’ve never really considered myself a sock-knitter (though, in truth, I’ve knit my share of socks), but some kind of switch has been flipped in my brain, and all of a sudden, all I want to make it socks. Also, every time I go to Comerica Park to watch the Tigers play, I wish for some Tigers socks, and the souvenir shops have every imaginable thing for sale – except socks. So I’ll just make my own, with stripes keyed to the Tigers wins and losses. I am really excited about this project!

I’ll be putting together a worksheet in advance of Opening Day, for anyone who would like to play along, with your team colors. Spring is coming, y’all!

 

To Welcome Baby Girl #2

Last summer, after eight boys born in the span of nine years, our family welcomed the ninth baby – the first girl in 32 years, born to our niece and her husband. She is a complete delight! I made her a wee cardigan, as well as a handspun dress. I love knitting for little boys, but I have to confess that getting to make tiny feminine items takes things up a notch.

And right before the new year, I got one more reason to do so: our nephew and his wife welcomed their own baby girl into the world. For her sweater, I tried a pattern I hadn’t made before, Scrap Sweater for the Small Ones. Y’all, this pattern is so sweet! (and fast) It comes in sizes from newborn to 8 years old, and can be made with either a heart motif or an hourglass motif (or substitute your own). I went with the hearts, and I only used two colors (the pattern calls for four), to keep the color scheme soft and simple:

baby pullover

I made this in one of my favorite yarns for baby knits – Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport (a superwash wool) in “whisper” and “natural.” It hardly seemed to use any yarn at all, but came out a nice newborn size. The colorwork is extremely simple and would be a great introduction to stranded knitting for anyone who might be a bit hesitant to give it a go.

The sweater itself was soooo quick to make. But then I pulled my usual trick of waiting a few weeks to get a button sewn on. But I finally found the right button, got it sewn on, made the little crochet tab, and shipped it off just in time for Valentine’s Day (like, literally, it was scheduled to arrive on Valentine’s Day).

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Pretty cute, right?

Welcome to the world, baby girl! We love you already.

 

A Look Back :: 2014, in Knits and Spins

Yes, I realize it’s a bit ridiculous to do a retrospective in mid-February, but apparently that’s what happens when you are still logging your Christmas knits well into the new year. I always like to take stock of what I’ve accomplished each year with knitting and spinning, so here we go.

2014 Knitting

Less than I’ve knit in some years, but more than I might’ve, given how much was going on for me in 2014. Here’s the tally:

cowls: 2
baby: 4
adult sweaters: 1
kid sweaters: 2
mittens: 1
mitts: 2
socks: 5
hats: 1
toys: 3 sets
boot toppers: 1
blankets: 1
handspun: 7
my own design: 5
for others: 18

I think that last total is a record for me (a self-proclaimed selfish knitter). Out of 23 items knit, 18 of them were for other people. I also clearly majored in accessories in 2014, with almost a record number of socks. Another record for me: nearly a quarter of my knits were ones I designed myself. Nearly a third of my knits were handspun. Notably missing from the round-up: shawls. I almost finished one in the spring but then ran out of yarn during the bind-off and still haven’t gotten that sorted out. I also cast on for two shawls in 2014 that I didn’t finish in the same year (one, cast on in June, is hibernating; another, cast-on in November, was finished in early 2015). In 2014, I also accomplished a long-standing goal of mine, of knitting sweaters for each of my kids in the same season. I didn’t manage to finish until sweater season was almost over last spring, but it has been a true joy to see both boys wearing their sweaters this season.

My most-worn knit of 2014 is my Spy vs. Spy, a handspun infinity cowl that I lovelovelove. My most fun-to-knit knit was my Detroit Tigers Crackerjack, which kept me company all through baseball season. And my favorite knit of 2014 was the one adult sweater I made, my Autumn Reis.

Goals for knitting in 2015 include: more knitting with handspun, a new version of Crackerjack, and at least one more sweater for me (ideally, more than one, as I have several partially-completed ones hibernating that I would love to finish up).

Here’s the spinning round-up for 2014:

2014 spinning

That’s a sad number of spins, isn’t it? I have struggled with my new wheel, and it took some of the joy out of spinning. When I gave myself permission to pull out my old wheel, I got a lot more spinning done (70% of these yarns were made on my Ladybug, in the last 4-5 months of 2014). Even though I would’ve loved more production, I am very happy with the yarns I did make (70% of which are Hello Yarn). I’ve already knit up half of these yarns, and as I noted above, one of my hopes in 2015 is to do even more with my handspun.

A new thing that will include this year: weaving. I got a new loom for Christmas (a Schacht 20″ Flip) and I have had so much fun with it so far. I’m envisioning lots of handspun handwoven goodies.

Also, apparently I’m going to be knitting lots more handspun socks this year, because I’ve discovered I can’t quite get enough of them.

So! That’s a look back at 2014 and a look ahead at (what’s left of) 2015. Thanks for indulging me! For my next trick, I’m actually going to show you something I made this year!

 

 

Something for My One-Sock Wonder

Yes, it’s more handspun socks. I had a goal in December – to make a pair of handspun socks for each of my three guys. I finished a pair for Tiny Dancer. I finished a pair for My Old Man. And I finished one sock for Little Buddha.

That’s right, just one sock. With the other two sock projects, I was using handspun that I already had in my stash. For Little Buddha, I had to acquire fiber in the colors I knew he would like and then hurry up and convert it into yarn. So, with four days left till Christmas, I spun this up:
"City Park" on Polwarth, by a thing for string fiberworks. 2oz, 104yds worsted chain-ply, for kid socks. Still spinning the other half of the fiber while igo ahead and cast on this half. #handspun #spinningyarn #yarn

This is “City Park” on Polwarth from a thing for string fiberworks. Polwarth wouldn’t be my first choice for socks, but these are so his colors and I couldn’t resist.

So I spun up the first two ounces and made a single sock.

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And I washed it and blocked it and let it dry and then the next day was Christmas. So I gave him the sock.

The funny thing is, we have been calling him “One-Sock Wonder” since he was little, because ever since he was a toddler, he has had a tendency to go around the house in just one sock. At some point we realized it was because his twin brother was always yanking one of his socks off. Eventually, it just became his preference. And now at the age of 10 now, it’s just his thing. So I didn’t feel too bad about giving him just the one.

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another blurry shot!

Actually, I gave him a sock and a half. The first two ounces made more than just the one sock, but I couldn’t quite eke out two whole socks from it.

At any rate, the day after Christmas, I packed up my wheel and hauled it the 800 miles to Georgia, so I could spin up the rest of the fiber on vacation. I accidentally spun it slightly bulkier than the first two ounces, so the cuff of the second sock fits a bit more loosely than the first. But whatever, I finally finished my Christmas knitting.

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You can probably guess – but I’ll tell you anyway – I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook to make these. Once again, a great fit. (Though from the looks of it, he will be outgrowing these very soon!) (Which is fine, because they also fit me!)

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It felt really good to have a thick cozy stack of socks to give my menfolk for Christmas.

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And it feels even better to see the three of them actually wearing them. There is really no feeling in the world quite like seeing something you’ve made used and loved by someone else.

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Squoosh!

 

Handspun Hurry-up Holiday Socks for Hubby

My husband is one of the most low-maintenance people I’ve ever known. He almost never wants anything more than what he already has, and he rarely feels he needs anything either; he certainly never wants anyone to go to any trouble for him. As someone whose temperament is rather the opposite of this, I find this quality in him admirable. However, it makes gift-giving a huge challenge.

This includes gifts of the handknit variety. In a decade of knitting, I have made him the following: 2 hats, 1 sweater, and 1 vest. The end. That’s it. The only reason he let me make him two hats is that he lost the first one (sometime after I made the second one, he found the first one; he tried to give the second one away, since he didn’t feel he really needed it, but I wouldn’t let him). The sweater, early in my knitting career, was an unmitigated disaster, though he did try to make me feel better by wearing it once or twice.

I wanted to knit him something for Christmas, but the question was what. I didn’t have the time for a sweater, he doesn’t like mittens at all (they are not utilitarian enough for him – he wants basic, functional gloves), and he has less than zero interest in a pair of slippers. When he’s not wearing nice dress socks for work, he prefers to walk around the house barefoot (this is a thing with all three of the guys I live with, and I will never understand it). Regardless, I decided to knit him a pair of socks.

I selected a yarn I spun in 2013, one of the first on my then-new Cherry Matchless.
Tour de Fleece :: Day 1

176 yards chain-plied Pigeonroof Fiber Studios Superwash Merino in “Calico.” I had intended to spin something finer than aran weight, but I was still getting used to spinning in double drive (something I still don’t feel super-comfortable with – I spin almost exclusively in scotch tension).

I dug this yummy yarn out of my stash, made a gauge swatch, and then used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, as I usually do, to determine all my sock numbers. I’ll tell you what, aran weight socks on size 5 needles with 36 stitches are fast. I decided to make them even faster by employing the same technique I used with my son’s socks – I made the cuff 3×1 garter rib. Five days later, BOOM, a pair of socks.

handspun hubby socks
Here they are Christmas morning (hence the Christmas mess in the background). He opened them and immediately began wearing them.

I did that thing again, where every modeled shot I took was either blurry, or had poor lighting, or both.

photo 1-10

photo 3-6

photo 2-10

But you get the idea.
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I love, love, love the earthy tones of this yarn.
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I was very, very happy with how these socks turned out. I have never gone wrong using David’s sock calculations. The fit of these is absolutely spot-on. And I’m thrilled with how they look.

in situ

And the best part is, he wears them all the time. They have been totally perfect as housesocks during this cold, cold winter. He totally loves them.

We were both a bit surprised by how much he loves these socks. All this time of knitting, and I could’ve been making him socks, but neither of us had any idea he would like them or wear them. So not long ago, I was enthusing over how, now that we know, I can make him handspun, handknit socks all the time. Perhaps I should have expected his low-maintenance response: “Why? I already have a pair.”

A Bit of Sip and Zizzle :: Handspun Kid Socks

Last year, the first yarn off my wheel was this Hello Yarn Southdown, “A Bit of Zip and Sizzle”:

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I chain-plied it with the goal of making socks.  which is what I made with it in December:
handspun kid socks

The fiber was named “A Bit of Zip and Sizzle,” but I always inadvertently thought of it as “A Bit of Sip and Zizzle,” so that’s what I’m calling these socks.

I made these using David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, which is my go-to for all handspun socks. You make a swatch, check your gauge, plug in all your numbers, and you’re ready to go. I made these with garter rib for the cuffs.
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I’m so pleased with how these turned out. I love how they striped up and how well the stripes matched:

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The Southdown (a fiber I hadn’t spun or knit before) is a yummy, sturdy, wooly wool. And worsted weight yarn for smallish feet makes for a very fast knit.

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These socks actually only took half the yarn I made (2 ounces), so I’m thinking I might make a second pair.

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In the meantime, I’m enjoying seeing them on these sweet feet.

Free Pattern :: Charlevoix Mitts

I don’t know how it is where you are, but where I am, it is very cold and there is more than a foot of fresh snow on the ground and I am NOT COMPLAINING. Because I am a knitter. Which means I am happy for any excuse to: a) sit inside and knit, and b) haul out all my woolens and wear them all at once. I’ve been told that the reason I think a cold, snowy winter is so lovely is because I’m not the one that digs our cars out of the snow after it’s all over. And this is true. Because not only am I a knitter, but apparently I am also a princess. A princess who is happy to sit inside in her handknit socks with a cup of hot tea by her side and needles in her hands.

Sometimes those hands need warming up, even when I stay inside. Some people find fingerless mitts to be utterly useless; I find them to be indispensable. Especially if they are the kind that I can also pull up over my fingers while I read. Because wearing mittens inside while reading is ridiculous, but wearing fingerless mitts pulled up over your fists is not ridiculous, it is brilliant.

For Christmas, I wanted to make a special pair of fingerless mitts for my stepson’s girlfriend. She’s a massage therapist with a magical touch (she is SO GOOD, y’all), and her hands deserved something extra-special. So I spun up some prized fiber – a gorgeous silky cashmerino from FLUFF, an amazing but not currently in-business independent dyer. The fiber started like this:

FLUFF Silky Cashmerino in "Artifact"

And then I spun it into this:

light worsted 2-ply

The blues evoked for me the gorgeous Great Lakes, and the silvery browns called to mind the Petoskey stones (fossilized coral from more than 350 million years ago – and our state rock!) that can be found along the lakeshore. Lindsay is a true Michigan girl who loves the lakes and their landscape. I’m calling this simple design “Charlevoix,” after the town where she has spent a lot of happy time beach-going and rock-hunting.

Charlevoix Mitts

I never got a single picture that truly captured the yummy colors and texture of this yarn or these mitts. But as you can probably imagine, the silky cashmerino has a delicious look and feel to it. The mitts are smooth, lightweight, and slightly nubbly.

They are also the most basic possible knit – you just make a tube, as long or as short as you wish – and embellish it with a baby cable as you go.

A baby cable is the simplest cable in the world to make, and you certainly don’t need a cable needle to do it. It’s made over two stitches – every third round, you knit the two stitches together but leave them on the lefthand needle, then knit into the first stitch on the lefthand needle, then slip both stitches off. Offset by a purl stitch on either side, it’s just a sweet, simple little detail. I love baby cables!

These took about half the yarn I spun – so roughly 150 yards of light worsted – which means I have enough yarn leftover for another pair (or a matching accessory). They were extremely fast to make, too, making them perfect gift-knitting (or perfect in-between-big-project-knitting).

I’m sure you could figure out how to make these just from the pictures and my description – knit a tube, make a baby cable along one edge of it – but in case not, I’ve put together a one-page pdf explanation, which includes three sizes. You can find it for free in my Ravelry store: download now

January is for Mittens

Scrolling through my Instagram feed in early November, a pair of handknit mittens caught my eye. They were colorwork mittens, with a contrast hem, and a tree motif – swoon – designed and knit by the inimitable Kirsten Kapur. I was totally captivated and immediately obsessed. Turned out, it was a soon-to-be-released design, and Kirsten was looking for test knitters. I was thrilled to get to test this pattern.

I had some green handspun in my stash (I believe I spun it up three, maybe four, years ago) that was just begging to become trees in this mitten pattern. And who am I to stand in the way of yarn fulfilling its destiny?

Handspun Metasequoia Mittens. LOVE these mittens. Another @throughtheloops winner! #handspun #handknit #mittens

This was a truly delightful knit, from beginning to end. Watching the trees grow out of the cuff, especially in the subtle shades of this handspun, was nothing but joy.

Metasequoia Mittens

Metasequoia Mittens

I also learned how to be more mindful with my colorwork. I had tension issues early on, which resulted in my having to knit back an entire half mitten and try again.

These beauties were worth it.

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The pattern is well-written, clear, and easy to follow, as is always the case with Kirsten’s patterns. If you are new to colorwork, this would be a perfect first colorwork design for you to try.

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The end result is totally cozy and completely charming. The contrast hem inside the cuff is a sweet little detail (I didn’t manage to get good pictures of mine, but it’s done in a rich brown). (The non-handspun yarns I used for the white background and the brown hem were both Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Worsted – have I mentioned it’s made in Michigan?).

But I do have one problem.
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I love these mittens so much that I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually wear them. They are just too precious and I’m afraid of ruining them!

But mittens are made to be worn, so I will wear them, I promise, once I get done admiring them.

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Thanks, Kirsten, for another perfect pattern!

The rest of you need to knit these. You won’t be sorry! You can get your own copy of the pattern here.

A Bit of Cheer in the Off-Season :: Crackerjack, Completed

It’s been a little more than three months since my beloved Detroit Tigers flamed out in the postseason. I was pretty sad, of course, (and all the more so when the Tigers chose not to sign Torii Hunter for one more season), but there’s no crying in baseball. Now a new season is on the horizon and hope springs eternal. Precisely one month from today, the pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

In the meantime, I have something cheerful and warm to wear:

Crackerjack!

Crackerjack!

It’s about time I finally showed you my completed Crackerjack!

As you may recall, this was a conceptual knitting project. Using a worksheet I created, I determined how many stitches to cast on, and then I knit two rounds per game. Blue for home wins, white for home losses, grey for road wins, and orange for road losses.

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single loop

 

The finished product was a long infinity loop, the perfect size for wearing loose or wrapping double.

doubled up

doubled up

I knit mine in Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Wool Worsted (a Michigan yarn) (yes, I know I point that out every time I mention this yarn – it makes me happy!), on size 6 needles. Due to diligent swatching and calculating, it came out exactly the size I’d wanted (will wonders never cease?). It is 6 inches wide (12″ circumference, since it’s actually a tube) and 49 inches long.

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It is soft, cozy, warm, and cheerful. I’m so happy with it!

winning!

winning!

Even though the Tigers didn’t make it to the World Series, they and a fantastic, winning season, and I am so thrilled to have my own wearable document of it. And now I have something to wear not only in the off-season, but to one of their early season games, when it’s bound to still be chilly.

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future’s so bright, gotta wear my shades

While the rest of the sports world is getting hype for the Super Bowl, I’m busy making plans for a different sort of Crackerjack for the 2015 MLB season. THIS IS GOING TO BE THE YEAR OF THE TIGER. Or at least the year I get another new Tigers-themed knit done.

 

Or, Perhaps the Opposite Will Happen

 

So yesterday I did a bunch of math to figure out whether to rip back and add a few rounds to my shawl, and, if so, how many rounds to add, and I determined that yes, I did have enough yarn for that, and the answer was three rounds, and that was what I would do.

And then I proceeded to do the opposite, which was to move forward by intuition instead of math and keep doing the border I was already doing.

What happened was this. First, John pointed out that adding a second picot crochet cast-off border might be a nice idea. I experimented with how that would look and decided that it looked very nice indeed and that this was exactly what I wanted to do.

And then secondly, Annika and Kelly-Ann both commented on my post yesterday, pointing out that of course the picot crochet bind-off was eating a lot more yarn than a regular bind-off. Which is, in fact, extremely true. And my calculations didn’t take that into consideration at all. I mean, I knew it was taking more and yet I had no idea how much, so I didn’t know how to calculate for that. But I decided it would be unwise to add additional knit rounds without knowing the true amount of yarn this cast-off is consuming.

So I decided to just keep doing the border as I’ve been doing, and to weigh the ball of yarn when I’m done to calculate how many yards I have left.

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Then I began to get concerned – what if this bind-off is taking up so much yarn that I will run out before I even finish? Ack. So late last night, without a little less than three-quarters of the bind-off done, I weighed the ball of yarn. It was 3 grams. Three grams! That’s not very much! I calculated that at maybe 20 yards.

But then this morning, I did some more binding off. I worked and worked and worked. And then I weighed the ball of yarn – 3 grams! Hmm. I guess with this light yarn (laceweight-ish), it’s not going to register at less than that for awhile. So I’m just going to keep moving and hope I can out-crochet the yarn. And then, when I’m done with this bind-off, if I do have yarn left (and currently my intuition tells me I will), I will go back and add a double set of picots here and there at various places around the shawl. That sounds pretty, right? Don’t tell me if you don’t think it sounds pretty because I’m very excited about it!

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Right now the shawl looks like an indistinct blog with a curling border. I can’t wait to see it transformed by blocking. SOON!