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!

 

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!

 

Adventures in Mathletic Knitting: Calculating the Completion of My Pi Shawl

I’m interrupting my parade of last year’s projects to bring you actual up-to-the-date knitting news!

In November, I began working on a handspun Pi Shawl:

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

I have absolutely adored working on this project. It’s my in-between knitting, the thing I pick up when I have a gap between binding off and casting on for other projects, or for when I need to knit something that requires little attention. It has made for good knitting in the morning when I’m still waking up…

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… and in the afternoons when I’m waiting for my kids to be done with music lessons and rehearsals…

knitting during kids' piano lessons

knitting during kids’ piano lessons

… and in the car on my many-miles holiday journeys…

with coordinated nail polish

with coordinated nail polish

It has become such a good companion, that it’s been with a bid of sad surprise to realize this week that I was nearly out of yarn and so needed to go ahead and finish the shawl.

I did a couple of rounds of faggotting and then tried out a sideways garter border.

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Though this was great fun, I didn’t like how it was looking, so after a few inches, I ripped back and tried a picot crochet cast-off:

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I like this a lot. Love it, actually. It’s so easy and fun and gives the perfect finish to this particular project. However, I am about a third of the way done with the bind-off and it turns out I still have plenty of yarn left. I hoarded one long stripe of purple yarn to save for the end and I would love to use all of it, if possible.

Time for some math! Let’s take this step-by-step.

  1. I weighed the yarn – .2 ounces. I started with 768 yards out of 4 ounces of this yarn. So .2 ounces is roughly 38 yards.
  2. I measured the radius with my measuring tape – 23 inches, stretched but unblocked.
  3. The diameter is the radius doubled – 46 inches (again, unblocked).
  4. I had to look up how to determine the circumference from the diameter, and then I felt a bit sheepish. Circumference is the diameter times pi. Of course it is! This being the Pi Shawl should have been a nice reminder to me of that basic equation. At any rate, Circumference times Pi is 46×3.14=144.44.
  5. A good rule of thumb for figuring out how much yarn you need for the bind-off is 3 times the amount of knitting you have left. Let’s round the circumference up (I always round up in knitting, to safe-side things). 145×3=435. This is how many inches of yarn I need to bind off.
  6. Let’s put it in terms of yards since that’s usually how we think of yarn. So let’s divide the number of inches of yarn required by 36, to give me the number of yards required. 435/36=12.08. Again, let’s round up to be safe. I only need 13 yards of yarn to bind off the shawl.
  7. I have 38 yards of yarn left, but I’ve already bound off about a third of the shawl. Since the circumference of the shawl is roughly 145 inches, let’s divide that by 3 to see how much I’ve bound off: 145/3=48.33. But then we multiply it by 3 to estimate how much yarn I’ve used to bind this much off: 48.33×3=145. But then we divide that by 36 to see how many yards: 145/36=4.02. Add that to the 38 I have left in the ball, and I have roughly 42 yards of yarn left.

In other words: I’m ripping back. I have 29 yards of yarn I can knit with before I need to begin the bind-off.

I’m thinking I could probably do three more rounds of faggotting before doing the bind-off, what do you think? (I’m doing a generous estimate of needing twice as much yarn as the circumference for each round of faggotting, but this could be way off.) Of course, once I’ve added a few more rounds, the circumference will have grown a bit (probably by nearly an inch), but I think I’ve allowed enough cushion in my figures to make this work.

I do so much of my knitting by intuition, but sometimes it just makes sense to sit down and deal with the numbers. In this case, I’m especially glad that I did, even though it means ripping back. I have loved the process of this shawl so much that spending a little more time with it is pure joy.

Have you begun to see the well-known geometric theory behind what you have been doing? If you are a man, you will have spotted it right away. If you are a woman (sorry, lib), you probably expunged such theories from your memory the minute you finish high school, or even college, to make room for more useful stuff. It’s Pi; the geometry of the circle hinging on the mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances, or, in knitters’ terms, the distance between the increase rounds, in which you double the number of stitches, goes 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 round, and so on to 192, 394, 788, 1576 rounds for all I know. Theory is theory, and I have no intention of putting it into practice, as I do not plan to make a lace carpet for a football field.

– Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year