Snap!

Standard

Last night, just as I was in the middle of binding off my sock, my needle SNAPPED. It’s a brand new needle! (A Knitter’s Pride Dreamz size 1, for the record.) I wasn’t even putting a lot of pressure on it; I’ve snapped size 1 dpns before trying to execute tight decreases and such, but this wasn’t like that! I’m very frustrated.

Curses! My needle snapped while I was binding off.

I’ll probably be able to finish binding off the sock because I do still have a couple size 1 dpns. But not a full set, because of…breakage, ha! I know a lot of knitters use metal needles for the smaller sizes because of how prone wood is to breaking when it’s that thin, but I’m VERY allergic to nickel, so finding metal needles I can safely knit with is not trivial and involves some risk that I’ll mess up and end up with welts on my hands (an experience I had with Addi Turbos way back in college, and which I don’t desire ever to repeat).

So far, the two types of non-wood needles that have been recommend to me are Chiaogoo’s Red Lace needles, which are medical-grade stainless steel, and Knitter’s Pride Karbonz, which are carbon-fiber with brass tips. Both of those metals are a crapshoot, in terms of nickel quantity and how “available” the nickel is to react with skin. I’ve had both bad and neutral reactions to stainless steel watch backs before, and everything I can find about brass says it is sometimes ok for nickel-allergic people and sometimes not. I’m impatient to replace these needles, because I really want to be able to make this sock’s partner, but I don’t want to waste money on needles that aren’t going to work for me. I’ve emailed Knitter’s Pride to see if they can tell me anything about the content in their brass tips, so hopefully I’ll get a response soon. I’m also open to input from you, dear readers, if there is some non-wood (I’m just deeply skeptical about trying another wooden size 1 needle) option I’m not aware of.

It’s extra frustrating to have broken my needle last night, because today I’m in a weird sort of lull where I can’t actually do any work – there’s nothing left to grade except for things that won’t be turned in until end of day today, or even later in the case of a few students who needed longer extensions. So it would be a perfect day to just knit knit knit. I do have other projects I can work on, at least!

Mother’s Day, 2021

Standard

What a year of mothering it has been. This time last year, I was marveling at how we’d managed to make it through 2 months of remote learning and remote working together. And now we’ve kept it going for 14 straight months. I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy. It hasn’t been. But it has been incredible to watch my daughter learn to navigate remote school, to see her figuring out how to use tools like Zoom and Google Calendar, to see her become an absolutely voracious reader, and to witness her growing and thriving in 3rd grade. And she’s grown literally, too – she now wears the same size shoes that I do, and she comes up to my chin! It won’t be long before she’ll be towering over me in our yearly Mother’s Day photo. She is so creative and so sweet and as hard as this year has been, I am forever grateful that I get to be her mother.

I love this kid.

We lost so much this year; she’s never actually been in her new elementary school except to walk through the gym on picture day, and she didn’t get play in the school orchestra, and she’s only gotten to spend time with one friend, her bestie, as part of our pandemic pod. (But thank goodness we do have that connection with one other family!) She’s only gotten to see her teacher and classmates twice in person – once at the beginning of the year at a park, and then just a couple of days ago on a field trip to an alpaca farm. We haven’t seen my family since Summer 2019. And I’ve lost most of the opportunities for rest and recharge that were part of my life in the Before Times; I’ve been particularly devastated about losing the period of recharge after grades are submitted, those glorious 4 weeks in late May-mid June when I’m done with professoring and have the house to myself while my kid finishes school and my spouse is at work. Didn’t get that last year, and won’t get it this year either. I’ve been trying to be the parent my daughter needs for these past 14 months while also being the professor my students need, often at the exact same time, and it’s pushed me to point of extreme exhaustion. So even if I’m not going to have those glorious weeks with the house all to myself, once I submit my grades (which won’t be for at least another week), I do hope to figure out a way to get some rest soon. I’m not entirely sure how one recovers from 14 months of intensely draining work, especially when one hadn’t even recovered from a pretty nasty case of pneumonia when those 14 months began. I’ve been exhausted since at least November 2019, honestly.

I do find knitting to be restorative, so I’ll probably be doing quite a lot of that. I’m hoping to be able to get back to the embroidered flower sweater once my brain is a little less frazzled, but for now, I’m happy to keep knitting away at M’s new Elle Melle:

Elle Melle progress.

I love the Beaverslide Sport/Sock yarn I’m using for M’s Elle Melle so much; it just feels so good in my hands while I’m knitting, and the fabric it creates is so light and soft. (I’m actually wearing a sweater made from it today, too – my Vita de Vie!). I’m now just about to the point where I need to split to create the raglan shaping for the back and the fronts.

I'm a magic loop convert

But I also have a second project to work on: a sock! I haven’t knit a sock since my daughter was a toddler, but after realizing (with the sleeves of the embroidered flower sweater) that I actually quite enjoy magic loop, I remembered having seen a video about doing Judy’s Magic Cast On to prepare for toe-up socks with magic loop, and figured I’d give it a go! I have a fair amount of sock yarn still in my stash from way back when, and while some of it would probably rather become another Musselburgh hat or something, I thought it might be fun to make myself some more socks. So I cast on for my first ever pair of toe-up socks, using a ball of Zauberball Crazy from deep stash.

My first time using Judy's Magic Cast On

The cast on worked out really well! I cast on 20 stitches on each needle, rather than the more typical 8 per needle that I saw in the video, because my feet are decidedly NOT pointy, so I thought I’d try a flatter/rounder toe.

Padded Sweet Tomato Heel

I also went back to a tutorial I remembered (from the late great Cat Bordhi) for the “Padded Sweet Tomato Heel”; I used this on a pair of socks for my daughter back when she was a toddler, and thought they’d work nicely for toe-up socks. So far, so good!

First time knitting a toe-up sock

The next couple of weeks are going to be pretty full as I work towards grading my students’ portfolios and wrapping up other work for the semester, so I’m glad I have a couple of pretty straightforward projects to keep my hands busy.

Hanging on

Standard

I’ve finished the knitting on my flowery sweater!

Finished with the knitting

I’ve also made a bit more progress on the embroidery; I’m about 1/2 of the way around the yoke in terms of finishing the flowers that I couldn’t knit while the yoke was in progress. I’ve made it across the front and almost all of the way around the left shoulder.

Left shoulder flowers.

But, of course, that means I still have the back and the right shoulder to do, plus the flowers at the hips and the wrists!

Still more flowers to embroider over on the right shoulder.

It turns out, though, that the embroidery requires a fair amount of attention and focus, and that is running in very short supply for me now as we reach the last couple weeks of the semester. Hence the project you see me snuggling in the photo at the top of this post: yet another Elle Melle cardigan, this one for my daughter in red & pink Beaverslide 2ply sport/sock.

future Elle Melle for M, in red & pink

This is the perfect project for me right now; once I got past the cast on, my fingers know exactly what to do (having knit 3 Elle Melles before!) and the straightforward knitting, in yarn that delights my fingers, is exactly what I need to keep my hands busy while my mind is fried. It’s very soothing.

Elle Melle stripes/ridges!

I just adore the bounciness of the ridges in the pattern, and I love knitting this pattern in 2 shades of the same color. These two colors (Winter Rosehip and Hollyhock Heather) play so nicely together; they’re the same two colors I paired for M’s pullover a few years ago.

I’m not sure when I’ll end up finishing the green flowery sweater. I need to rest my brain a bit before I go back to it, I think. I have other projects I need to go back to with a rested brain, too: I need to fix the sleeves on my kangaroo-pocket pullover, I need to fix the brioche in my Water Bearer cardigan, and I need to fix the body of my Bleideag pullover. But I also broke my “no new yarn” rule to get myself a birthday treat a couple weeks ago: some more Beaverslide sport/sock in Beebalm:

My birthday present to myself: Beaverslide yarn!

I’ve been absolutely loving the way my Vita de Vie sweater looks with my green & blue plaid Cleo skirt, and since I’m going to be making another one in the same fabric, but a pink/purple plaid, I thought it would be fantastic to make a second Vita de Vie in purple to go with it. I’ve also got fabric to make a couple other Cleo skirts, plus some to try making pants! One of my goals for the summer is to make clothing that will allow me to shift my wardrobe towards comfortable bottoms that don’t have hard waists, but that still look nice for teaching.

These next 3 weeks are going to be pretty brutal, though, so it’ll just be the soothing plain rows of Elle Melle keeping me busy for now.

Almost to the finish line!

Standard

I only have a little bit of knitting left on sleeve number two, and then I’ll have completed all of the knitting for this embroidered flower sweater (which needs a better name). Then it’s just finishing all of the embroidery and blocking!

Loving magic loop!

One of the things I’ve discovered in the knitting of this sweater is that magic loop is actually pretty awesome! When I went to start the first sleeve, I couldn’t find any size 6 dpns, so I decided out of desperation to try magic loop. I remember deciding I didn’t like it years and years ago, back when I first started knitting small-circumference things in the round – so this was probably something like 18 years ago. I don’t even remember what I didn’t like about it! Well, turns out Past Me was wrong – magic loop is GREAT! It’s so much easier to try the sleeves on as I’m knitting them, too. I may shift away from dpns for good now that I’ve got the practice of two sleeves worth of knitting under my belt.

As I’m nearing the end of this sweater project, I’m also nearing the end of Spring Semester. Three more weeks worth of classes, then another week or two of grading. This has been the hardest semester of teaching I’ve ever done, and it’s not like last Spring (or last Fall) were easy in any way. But at this point, everyone is burnt out, both faculty and students, and not having a Spring Break just exacerbated that in the worst way. I’m trying so hard to help my students figure out how to limp over the finish line, but I’m running on a tank that’s been empty for months myself. It’s just so hard.

Nearing the end

Maybe by this time next week I’ll have a completely finished sweater to share? Just in time for it to have warmed up – though, this is Western NY we’re talking about, so I may still get a few wears out of this sweater before warm weather truly arrives. We’ll see.

Hello, 38.

Standard

Today is my 38th birthday. (It’s also the start of Ramadan, so I send good wishes to all who celebrate!)

38 doesn’t seem like an especially “interesting” birthday, though I suppose it does mean that it’s now been 20 years since I was in high school. Time has been really weird this year because of the pandemic, but also because I’m getting more and more older than my students (I teach first-year writing) each year. This semester, a student who was researching music trends from when I was in high school referred to that time period in their paper as the “late 1900s” which just sounded SO bizarre to me! But I guess that’s me: a late 1900s baby!

Fully vaccinated!

I got my 2nd COVID vaccine shot on Wednesday last week, and it really did a number on me, but I’m so so grateful to be able to slowly let go of the terror I’ve carried for the past 13 months about how vulnerable my damaged lungs and wacky immune system issues made me.

Virtual CCCC means watching Roxane Gay's keynote from the couch, while knitting

Last week was also the virtual Conference on College Composition & Communication, at which I helped to lead a couple of Standing Group meetings (Cognition & Writing, and Language, Linguistics & Writing) and a workshop – thankfully, all of those things took place prior to me getting my shot, which meant that when I was knocked flat afterward, all I needed to be was an audience member, and I could do that from the couch, with my knitting. Which meant that I made a pretty good amount of progress on my embroidered flower sweater, between the knitting I did while waiting after my shot and the knitting I did during the various talks I attended, including an INCREDIBLE keynote talk from Roxane Gay.

sweater progress - back hem finished!

I finished the back bottom hem during a talk yesterday. I’m giving the sweater a split hem, because I just like them!

sweater progress side view
I’m really delighted with how it’s turning out! Since I took these pictures, I finished the front hem and started on one of the sleeves; maybe by next week I’ll have at least one sleeve finished!
Sweater progress; front view

Once the sleeves are finished, I’ll finish the embroidery and do a good blocking. You might not be able to tell from the photos, but I added a few bobbles at sides, around the hem split, to be embroidered into flowers, and I plan on adding a couple of flowers at each cuff on the sleeves. I probably won’t actually get to wear this sweater until next winter, but it’ll be worth the wait, I think!

Yoke Progress, Ravelry Sadness

Standard

I knew when I dreamed up making a sweater based on the “Late Bloomer” mittens from Making magazine that it would be a labor of love. It’s slow-going, but with a bit of embroidery each evening, I’ve now got flowers completely encircling the yoke! I just need to embroider them a bit further down on one side and then I’ll be ready to make decisions about how much deeper to make the yoke before splitting for body and sleeves. I just want to make sure that I account for any change in fit that results from the density of the flowers before I do that!

Embroidered Yoke Progress!

I only wish that the Ravelry team had applied such care and thoughtfulness to the way they approached the redesign of the website last year. Today is the day that they are eliminating the “Classic View”, and it may well be the last day I can use Ravelry. If you are a Ravelry user who has not been negatively impacted by the redesign, can you please stand in solidarity with those of us who are by logging out today through April 2nd?

As I’ve mentioned here on this blog before, I am one of the people who was negatively impacted by the redesign. I’ve always known that I have somewhat atypical visual processing issues (in terms of visual attention, I filter out peripheral information less effectively; in terms of stereo vision, mine is wonky; I get motion sick; I have an incredibly low flicker-detection threshold; I have high myopia as well as astigmatism, and wear progressive lenses because I struggle to shift from near-focus to far; etc) and that I am migraine-prone, but for the most part, these have not caused problems for me on other websites. (I mean, obviously staring at any backlit screen for an extended period isn’t great, but that’s a more general issue.) With the Ravelry redesign, however, I get immediate eye-strain and migraines, and to the extent I’ve been able to test it, this is true with all of the available “modes” for the new site. Making these matters worse, the Ravelry team has been incredibly dismissive about these issues, and has frankly behaved abusively towards those who have tried to raise issues. And look, I get it. I get how hard it is to put a lot of work into something that you think is awesome and then get critical feedback on it (but: if it’s not working, fix it!), and I know they’ve dealt with a lot of harassment and pushback about other decisions they’ve made and I think it’s led, not entirely unreasonably, to paranoia that the folks raising these issues are just “trying to bring them down”. Nothing could be further from the truth for me; I loved Ravelry, at one point considered the folks on the Rav team to be friends, and have frankly kind of forgotten how to be a knitter without Ravelry!

I think the website they created provides incredible infrastructure for the knitting world (and they should remember that it was the knitting community itself that built upon that infrastructure to make the site what it is today). I want the site to keep existing. I just want them to actually listen and to take responsibility, apologize for how they’ve treated the folks who have tried to raise issues, and truly fix the problems.

And if they can’t do that, then I guess I’ll be relearning how to be a knitter without Ravelry.

Happy Spring!

Standard

The Spring Equinox is also our 16th wedding anniversary (and, because we adopted our two of our cats 8 weeks after our wedding, when they were 8 weeks old, their approximate 16th birthday!). So it’s a big day! I hope everyone had a wonderful first day of Spring, even if you live in a place like I do, where actual reliable Spring-like weather is probably still a little ways off.

My current project feels very Spring-like, with the bright spring green and the embroidered flowers. The embroidery itself is fairly slow-going, but I’m getting better at it, and it’s looking exactly like what I imagined when I dreamed of turning those gorgeous mittens from Making magazine into a yoked sweater.

Embroidered yoke sweater in progress

My goal is to try to embroider most of the yoke before I split for the body and sleeves; I obviously can’t embroider the flowers towards the bottom of the yoke, yet, because there’s no knitting on the other side of them to embroider into, but I really want to get a sense for how the yoke sits with all of those flowers before I make decisions about how much deeper to make it. All of those embroidered flowers add a pleasant heft to the sweater, and as someone who finds weighted blankets to be really calming, this makes me really happy – it’s going to be like wearing a hug!

We’ll see how much longer it takes to get the yoke fully embroidered; I’m not sure whether I’ll get any chances to wear this sweater before the weather truly warms up, but it’ll be a delight to wear next year, too.

Happy Spring, everyone!

What I’m working on

Standard

Now that my Farmhouse cardigan is off the needles (and has already been worn several times, including today), I want to share the other two projects that I’m currently working on. One is pictured above, and I’ll get to it in a second, but first: thrums!

Thrums!

My daughter was looking over my shoulder as I was organizing my knitting patterns on Google Drive (which is where I’m storing things in case I can’t use Ravelry for that purpose in the future), and when she saw Ysolda’s Cadeautje slippers, she was smitten with the idea of having red + pink ones. I already had some chunky red wool in my stash (it’s Beaverslide’s 3-ply in “Winter Rosehip”, which I’d gotten in hopes of making a vest for M, but it was TOO chunky for that), and was able to get some roving in a pink that reminds me of cherry blossoms for the thrums.

thrum-stash

When I took photos of my Farmhouse cardigan, I also took some of the slipper-in-progress, and my daughter snuck into the picture to pet the thrums!

She loves the feeling of the thrums!

I’m almost done with the first slipper, and it fits my own foot nicely, which leaves me with some hope that these slippers will still fit my kid next fall. (Her feet are now the same size as my smaller foot; I have one size 6 foot and one size 7 foot.) But I’ve gotten sidetracked from the slippers by the project that’s pictured at the top of this post.

Being silly with my yoke-in-progress

I’m almost finished with the yoke of the sweater I dreamed up based on the mittens featured on the cover of Making’s “Intricate” issue. Each one of those bobbles is going to become the center of an embroidered flower, like this:

An idea...

I’m making up the placement of the bobbles as I go; I want it to look organic, and the goal is to have the flowers really densely packed at the top of the yoke, and then more spaced out and scattered towards the bottom. We’ll see how it looks once I start embroidering them…for now, it kind of looks like a plucked chicken!

Yoke progress.

My plan is to actually embroider the whole yoke (or at least, most of it) before I continue to the sleeves and body, both because I want to see if it looks like what I’m dreaming up in my mind before I knit too much further, and because I want to make sure I have a good sense of how much yarn I’ll have left for sleeves and body, because I imagine the embroidery is going to use quite a bit. I have a LOT of embroidery in my future!

Being silly with my yoke-in-progress

This week, I’ll get my first COVID vaccine shot, which means I’ll get my second shot shortly before my 38th birthday. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but what worries me a lot is that it feels like so many people are already talking as if things are “back to normal”. They’re not. We’re still in the tunnel. People are still getting sick and dying. And even when we have reached herd immunity levels of vaccination, we have to remember that this has been an incredibly traumatic year, and that so many of us (I include myself in this number) have been pushed to a breaking point and are burnt out. As a college professor and parent, I’ve worked harder in this past year than I ever have before, and it’s not like I was ever a slacker on that front. My students, too, have worked incredibly hard under nearly impossible circumstances. We need to give ourselves and each other a chance to recover, and I’m afraid that I’m not hearing any indications that the “powers that be” actually understand that. I hope I’m wrong.

Finished Farmhouse #2!

Standard

I finished my second Farmhouse Cardigan last week, and it had finished drying after blocking in time for me to sew on the buttons last night. I’m really thrilled with how it came out!

Project Details:
Pattern: Farmhouse Cardigan by Amy Christoffers
Yarn: Cascade Eco+ in “Aporto”, just under 2 skeins
Needles: Size 8s
Time to knit: About a month

I made a few changes to the pattern, just like I did for the first Farmhouse cardigan: I created the pockets with double knitting, and I added a bit of back-shaping, which makes it hug my curves perfectly.

Farmhouse cardigan (with back decreases for curve-hugging)
[From the side]
Farmhouse Cardigan: showing the back decreases I added
[From behind]

One happy discovery was that this particular shade of blue, which is a slightly turquoise-leaning navy, seems to look really nice with just about all of my Willow Cowls!

New Farmhouse Cardigan, with all of my Willow Cowls.

My daughter enjoyed helping me take photographs of the sweater with each of them, in rainbow order. I think my favorite pairings are with the gold, the two greens, and the brown, but they all look pretty nice! My daughter’s favorite pairing was with the light greenish blue:

Farmhouse Cardigan, worn open.

The Eco+ yarn, being worsted-spun, is quite different from the Bartlettyarns that I used for my first Farmhouse cardigan. They knit to the same gauge, but the fabric is quite different – this cardigan is more curve-hugging and also a little drapier than the other one. I tend to wear my first Farmhouse cardigan open most of the time, but this one, I think I prefer closed!

Farmhouse Cardigan, all buttoned up.

I remember being really skeptical about the Farmhouse cardigan neckline when I made my first one; it just seemed really weird-looking, while blocking. But it creates SUCH a nice fit around the neck, and I just really love it!

Farmhouse Cardigan

We’ve now reached the point where, as of this coming Monday, it will have been an entire year since I’ve seen my office. I’ve been teaching online for an entire year, and I’m staring ahead at 10 more weeks of this semester before I get anything even remotely approximating a break. I’m exhausted and burnt out, and I think sometimes it’s easy for people to look at the things I post on my Instagram, all of the knitting and the violin practicing, and think, “wow, she’s so productive, she must really have her shit together”, but I promise you, I don’t. What looks like “productivity” is really more like manic self-preservation. For me, knitting and violin playing are how I self-regulate, and it’s getting to the point where these things feel desperately necessary to an almost frightening degree; it’s not that I have my shit together, it’s that I’m completely falling apart, and the knitting and violin playing are all that’s keeping me from sinking into the abyss.

But at least I have plenty of yarn to keep my hands busy, and I will never run out of things to work on in the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. And I have something very good to look forward to: I will get my first vaccine shot on St. Patrick’s Day in a few weeks!

I hope everyone is hanging in there. This has been such a hard year.

What I’ve been up to

Standard

Since my last post, I’ve taken photos a few times with plans to write about them here on the blog, and then not actually done it. I’m teaching 4 classes this semester, so I’ve been quite busy since the beginning of February! But I’m actually (very temporarily) caught up on work today, so I figured I’d pile ALL of the photos & topics into one mega-post.

I almost finished my Bleideag pullover, but once it got to the point where I could try it on for fit, I discovered that I really should’ve trusted my gut on the sweater body. I had considered adding some length, and some waist shaping, because I was very skeptical about a 12″ sweater body without any shaping, but I decided I would trust the pattern. After all, the fit was supposed to be on the boxier side of things, but what I’m realizing is that the slightly more cropped & boxy fit only works on my body in yarns that are very drapey. Not in lettlopi!

Ill-fitting Bleideag; gonna rip out the body and reknit it top-down.

A few things went wrong, honestly. My gauge ended up a little bit tighter than my swatching suggested it would be, so instead of a 40″ sweater, it turned out more like 38″ inches in the bust; that’s still loose on me (I’m more like 34″ in the bust) but that did mean that I lost some of the positive ease that was intended. And despite careful management of the floats, the colorwork at the bottom hem just pulls in slightly compared to the single-color knitting, and especially compared to the ribbing that’s just below it. And I’m broader in the shoulder than I am at the hip. Add these things together and you get a sweater that’s baggy/poochy over the area where I’m narrowest (below the bust through the waist) and then pulls in right where my hips start to go out.

ill-fitting Bleideag; gonna rip the body off and reknit it top-down

I just hate the way it looks on me. But I like the way the yoke looks, so what I’m thinking I’m going to do is cut off the body, and reknit it top-down; the stitches will be going in the wrong direction, but I think that because it’s single-color stockinette, I can get away without it being noticeable (I will test this before I make the snip!). I hope to add some waist-shaping, and also some length. It’s funny that I feel the need to add length, given that I’ve never thought of myself as a long-waisted person (I’m all limbs! And I’m only 5′ 3 1/2″, so it’s not like there’s a lot of length to me, period!). And I’m pretty sure I’m going to just leave off the colorwork band at the the bottom; the yarns are not especially high-contrast, so I don’t think it adds much, and if I’m knitting top-down, colorwork is a spot where it actually WOULD matter. Anyway, the sweater is currently in time-out while I figure out what I want to do with it. Which brings me to…

Farmhouse Cardigan sleeves!

…another Farmhouse Cardigan! I’ve had this Cascade Eco+ in my stash for a seriously long time. I realized that I wear my green Bartlettyarns Farmhouse Cardigan a lot for teaching, and realized that Cascade Eco+ would probably get the same gauge. So I cast on, and knit two sleeves in just a few days; it turns out that mindless knitting in the round is exactly what I needed when I was feeling like a stressed out, overwhelmed mess during Week 2 of the semester.

Double-knit pockets are fun.

I’ve been using my green Farmhouse Cardigan as a “pattern”, because I made quite a few little changes to the actual pattern while knitting it the first time, including some light waist-shaping (really, back-shaping) and changing it so that the patterns were double-knit at the same time as the body, rather than constructed via a flap. I just find double-knitting to be really fascinating, and I’m absolutely amazed by the fact that I can create a pocket with two layers of knit fabric constructed with a single strand of yarn!

Double knit pocket!

I’m also amazed by how much sweater I can get out of a single skein of Eco+! I was able to knit two sleeves AND the bottom 1/3rd or so of the sweater body from the first skein!

All of this from one skein of Eco+

I’m now almost to the point where I’ll be joining the sleeves to the body. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to finish it this weekend? We’ll see.

Once I finish Farmhouse Cardigan the Second, I should go back and work on fixing up the Bleideag that’s in timeout. (And on fixing the in-progress Waterbearer Cardigan whose brioche collar I screwed up back when my brain was first getting scrambled by this “work at home while your kid learns at home” gig. And on fixing the sleeves on my kangaroo-pocket pullover.) But what I want to work on is an idea I had for a yoked pullover inspired by the embroidered flower mittens on the cover of Making’s Intricate issue.

An idea...

I’ve had this green Rowanspun DK for a very long time (in fact, I think this might be from the first batch of “nice” yarn I ever bought for myself, back when we’d just moved here for graduate school; that was 15 years ago now!). When I was daydreaming about this potential yoked sweater, this yarn came immediately to mind as a good candidate, and I was able to find some Knitpicks Aloft (in “Tarragon”) that blends with it perfectly. See, I’m still sticking to my “only buy new yarn if it enables me to turn stash yarn into a completed project” policy! (Though I may make an exception for things to knit for my kid, whose favorite color, red, is almost entirely absent from my stash.)

An idea...

I’ve got lots of planning to do to figure out the optimal spacing of the bobbles that become the centers of each flower; I’m planning to knit this from the top-down, and have the flowers start out very densely packed and then more spread out as I reach the bottom of the yoke; I also hope to create a somewhat “random” rather than overly regular appearance. I can tell from my tiny swatch that actually embroidering the petals around each of those bobbles, on the scale of an entire sweater yoke, is going to be quite the labor of love, but I think it’s going to be worth it!

So anyway, that’s what I’m up to at the moment, knitting-wise. Who knows when I’ll get another chance to update the blog again!

Magenta Wardie is finished!

Standard

Much like the first Wardie I made, the seaming on this sweater nearly broke me, but the end result is worth it!

Project Details:
Pattern: Wardie, from Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Rauma Finullgarn in color 4886, 7 skeins
Needles: Size 3 and Size 5
Time to knit: About 2 months

I knew what to expect this time around, since it was my second time knitting it, and as frustrating as I find seaming, I’m already contemplating a 3rd Wardie, maybe in a dark blue? We’ll see!

Finished Wardie number 2

I just love this design so much. It’s pretty gender neutral, and very much like what I think of as a typical “professor cardigan”, so I love that I now have one in bright magenta! Something about me really likes the combination of a slightly “boyish” cardigan with a bright, “feminine” color. And the pockets!!

Finished Wardie number 2!

The cable decreases in the English-tailoring at the shoulders just make me so happy. They just look really neat.

Wardie shoulder detail.

I was debating between the darker burgundy buttons that I eventually chose and some brighter sparkly pink ones; my daughter lobbied hard for sparkly pink, but then realized that if I didn’t use them in my own cardigan, she could perhaps have her own sweater with the sparkly pink buttons. So that’s now being plotted! (We’re thinking it’s going to be a dark red garter-rib cardigan, like the ones I used to knit her in blue.)

Wardie number 2, unbuttoned.

Speaking of my daughter, I got her to help me take some photos of Wardie out in the snow! The weather has finally turned to typical Winter here, and it turns out that snow is much more delightful when you don’t have to drive anywhere.

Wardie in the snow.

I love bright colors in the wintertime! (As might be obvious from the fact that my snowpants are bright green!)

Wardie in the snow.

We even got a photo with the hat I knit without blogging (a Daniel’s Hat, also from Ysolda Teague, using a random skein of Madtosh Farm Twist that got accidentally included with the yarn for my Gridlines sweater).

Wardie Cardigan (plus Daniel's Hat) in the snow

Pretty pleased with my first sweater of 2021, and a bit tickled to discover that not only are my first two knits of 2021 (the hat and the sweater) both Ysolda Teague patterns, so too is the sweater I’ve picked back up from last Fall to finish next (a Bleideag pullover). I guess Ysolda’s designs just suit me, eh?

On Monday, Spring semester starts, and I have no idea what to expect in terms of how much time I’ll have for knitting. My teaching schedule is different from any I’ve had before, plus it’s still all online, so it’ll be a learning curve. I’m pretty anxious about the fact that we don’t have a Spring Break this year, which means I’m staring ahead at 15 straight weeks of hard work without any breaks, when I’m already feeling pretty incredibly burnt out from all of 2020. (And, to be honest, the end of 2019 – let’s not forget that I was brutally ill with pneumonia then!) Just 15 more weeks. I can make it through 15 more weeks, right?

Wardie in the snow!

Deep breaths! Virtual hugs to everyone!

I sewed things!

Standard

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be able to make my own wardrobe, and the more I learn about unsustainable practices in the fashion industry, the more interested I am in creating more of my clothes by hand. I obviously have the knitwear side of the equation pretty well figured out, but sewing, especially with sewing machines, has always been a bit more intimidating to me. But with the machine I got a couple of years ago, I feel like I have to fight the machine less, and that’s made it easier for me to use as a learner. I made myself that York Pinafore last fall, and today, I want to show off my next clothing project: a Cleo Skirt!

I made a Cleo Skirt!

I used Andover’s Kaleidoscope Plaid in “Lichen” for this skirt, and I followed the View B instructions for a midi-length with on-seam pockets. I learned a LOT from this pattern! The last time I sewed a skirt was when I was pregnant, and I had my dear friend Kris as a tutor to help me; this is the first skirt I’ve sewn all by myself! (Though I did have the Creativebug class videos to guide me!)

I made a Cleo Skirt!

I’m really delighted with how it turned out, and also with how it looks with this sweater (my Honeydew turtleneck). Definitely a good teaching outfit, once we get back to a situation where it matters what my bottom half looks like. I think that the bright yellowy greens and blues in this skirt will actually look great with quite a few of my sweaters, which is part of what drew me to it. (Also, I just love plaid, and bright colors in general, so the combination of the two things was very happy-making).

Matchy Matchy mask + skirt

I bought 2.5 yards, because the pattern called for 2 and 1/3rd yards and 2.5 was as close as I could get, but I did end up with quite a bit left over. Some of the leftovers are in a nice wide rectangle that I could possibly use for another project, but there was a long skinny rectangle left over at the sides that I didn’t want to waste, either. Then I remembered a YouTube video from Marcy Harriell showing how to make a 3D mask from one pattern piece, and after cutting out my template, found that it JUST fit in that long skinny rectangle, which made it possible to cut out 3 masks worth of pieces. Here’s a closeup of the first one (I still need to sew the others):

I made a(nother) mask!

I used the followup video to create a filter pocket in mine, so it’s effectively 3 layers over the main part of the mask, plus I can add a filter for more layers if I want. I really like it! I’ve been fighting with the shaped masks that I made last summer, because the seam running down the middle makes it so that my glasses won’t sit on top of the mask (it’s just too bulky under the nose bridge) and then I get crazy glasses-fogging. But with this, since it’s a flat piece under the nose bridge, I can tuck it under the bridge of my glasses and not get much if any fogging! And that’s without a nose wire; it would probably be even better with one, and I have an idea for how I can add one without adding too much bulk to the part that goes over the nose. Here it is flat:

I made a(nother) mask!

And here it is folded out:

I made a(nother) mask!

I love the design of this – it’s really simple to put together! And it fascinates me that it’s all from one pattern piece! You can (kinda) see the filter pocket in the picture below:

I made a(nother) mask!

And finally, here’s a video of me talking in it, without my glasses fogging up!

I have more of the Andover Kaleidoscope Plaid in “Magenta”, and I’m really excited about the idea of making another Cleo Skirt plus a few more masks from it!

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’ll close with a little reflection:

Today, as on MLK Days past, I’m revisiting King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, and sharing a link to it here so that you can do the same. Something I think about a lot is the fact that King was born the same year as my grandpa (who was a minister deeply engaged in the Civil Rights Movement)…and my grandpa is still alive and kicking today. (In fact, he just emailed me the other day to share the resources from his book club about Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste”, because during the last Harrison Family Zoom, he said they were reading it and I’d mentioned that I was waiting for the ebook from the library, which I still am.)

We like to pretend that this is old history but it isn’t. The people who were civil rights activists then? Some of them, like my grandpa, are still with us. King could be too, if he hadn’t been murdered. It just wasn’t that long ago. And the very same dynamics that King writes about in this letter are also still alive today. People say the very same things about the Black Lives Matter movement as they said about King and the civil rights movement then. Literally.

I want to think that things will be different this time. That what we’re experiencing is a backlash, a last gasp of those who fear they are losing their place at the top of the hierarchy, and who either don’t realize that the beloved community we are trying to make real is not zero-sum, or would simply rather be on top of a broken world than co-exist in a whole one with others who are different from them. I think it’s important to reckon honestly with what came before, because we cannot have any hope of achieving a different ending if we don’t recognize the ways in which we are replaying the same arguments, and I desperately hope that those who find themselves mouthing, in relation to the BLM movement, the lines of the white moderates King describes in his letter recognize themselves and then work to do better.

Well, now it’s 2021.

Standard

And these are indeed Hard Times for Soft Hearts like mine. We’ve been living with this pandemic for 10 months. The numbers of COVID cases and deaths just keep rising, and seem likely to only rise further as we move more deeply into the post-holiday surge. We’re not vaccinating fast enough. And on Wednesday, while I was teaching a mindfulness class over Zoom, armed Trump-supporting insurrectionists launched an attack on the US Capitol. As so many have noted, this was both terrifying, heartbreaking, and shocking, and also entirely predictable and unsurprising. This is precisely where we’ve been headed, because the Republican party has recognized for a long time that it cannot remain in power by appealing to a majority of voters, and thus seeks to remain in power by any means possible, and in particular, by treating everything outside of Republican power as illegitimate, and stoking the fears of angry white people through the cynical use of misinformation. This is precisely what many in the Republican party have been working to incite; it is the precise result one would expect if a group of easily manipulated people had their resentments fed, over and over, and were led, over and over, to believe that the election had been stolen from them. That does not, of course, excuse any of the people involved in storming the Capitol for their actions; it simply more deeply implicates everyone who pushed that inciting misinformation: Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and of course Donald Trump himself, among many, many others.

That the attempted coup failed does not mean that we can simply move forward as if nothing happened, because something DID happen: the US Capitol was breached by armed forces bent on preventing Congress from doing the work of certifying the election. Does anyone imagine that if those forces were anything other than the Trump-supporting white people they are, the response would be so tepid? Can you imagine how we would be responding if our capitol had been breached in this fashion by a group of say, Black folks, or Muslims? The insurrectionists were able to get as far as they did without serious consequences because they weren’t seen as a threat by the police whose job it was to protect the halls of Congress – which tells you an awful lot about who “we” see as “we the people” and who doesn’t get that benefit of the doubt. (Though I’m less inclined than Masha Gessen to assume that there were NOT also some cops who were in cahoots with the insurrectionists.)

I’ve never been someone who believed in the self-congratulating mythology of this country, but even still, the grief I feel witnessing the images of white supremacists desecrating the US Capitol building is pretty intense. And I know enough history to know that if we do not reckon with what happened, and hold accountable *everyone* who was involved in it, that we run the risk of simply emboldening those who would destroy our democracy. (I also know that it is misleading to say that we are the world’s oldest democracy; we’ve only been a TRUE democracy, at least on paper, since 1965’s Voting Rights Act.) We MUST take this seriously, because if we do not, it will come back to haunt us, just like Hitler came back to grab power after his own failed attempt. To my mind, this means at the very least ensuring (via impeachment) that Trump can no longer run for any public office, but that’s not the end of it. Think how many people he has in his orbit who would would be delighted to take the reins to their own ends; some of them are likely to be far more polished and competent than Trump (a pretty low bar, actually). This damage is going to be so very hard to undo, but we must.

I had meant to write up a big post about my own plans for 2021, and while it feels weird to write about “trivial” stuff when there’s so much going on, that’s pretty much just how life is these days, so I may as well write about those plans here. I’ve got a number of projects in various levels of progress, knit-wise: there’s the Wardie cardigan (for which I’m now working on sleeve #2), the Bleideag pullover (still knitting sleeve #1), and the Water Bearer cardigan, which still needs to be ripped back because I messed up the brioche on one side. I also need to fix the sleeves of that kangaroo-pocket pullover!

Wardie Progress
[Wardie looks so strange when you’re working on the sleeves!]

In terms of new projects, here are a few things I’m hoping to work on:
1. Another Farmhouse cardigan, this time in the Cascade Eco+ in “Aporto” that’s been hanging out in my stash for years.
2. A yoked pullover inspired by the mittens on the cover of the latest “Making” magazine; I have some old Rowanspun DK in a yellowy green that I can pair with some Knitpicks Aloft, and I love the idea of a yoke covered in embroidered flowers. (I know there are a few designs out there already that are similar to this idea, including one in that very same issue of “Making”, but I’d be adapting the heck out of them anyway because I either don’t like the look of the flowers or don’t like the silhouette.)
3. A couple of summer tops; I’ve got enough Silky Wool leftover after the Caesura V project that I could knit a light short-sleeved cardigan to wear with dresses, and I’ve had an idea for a long time for a boxy t-shirt that would make good use of some old sock yarn.

One thing I’m currently debating is whether to try to self-publish any designs this year. None of the designs I submitted this fall when Brooklyn Tweed was doing a call got accepted, but I did get an offer of yarn support for one of them if I wanted to self-publish it. I’m just…not sure what I want to do. For one thing, the design is one of the collection of “parent-child” knits that I’ve been putting together since M was born, and if I went the self-publishing route, I’d kind of want to put together an actual collection, and that feels daunting. But also, the process of self-publishing in general feels daunting. It’s a whole different world than when I self-published my first patterns a decade ago, and I don’t feel equipped to navigate it. I’m not great at the self-marketing side of things, and don’t know how to use social media in that way (nor am I especially interested in doing so). That’s part of why I submitted to the BT call, because so much of that side of things would be taken care of by them. I also don’t know how to self-publish on any platform other than Ravelry, and I have very complicated feelings about doing ANYTHING through Ravelry given how abysmally they handled the accessibility issues with their website redesign (and frankly, I’m not even confident that I’ll still be able to USE the site after they get rid of Classic View in a few months; I’ve not yet tried using the new website to see if the improvements they’ve made in the interim make it possible for me to use it without migraines). So…I don’t know whether to accept the offer of yarn support and follow through on self-publishing things, or not. It IS neat to see others knitting things I designed, but perhaps I’d be happier just continuing to make bespoke designs for me and my kid?

So anyway, that’s where I am at the start of 2021: worried about where my country is headed, and uncertain where *I* am headed, in terms of knit design. Just kind of generally unsettled. I hope, dear readers, that you are taking good care of yourselves, and I hope for all of us that we are able to make 2021 a year of healing and progress.

Another Wardie cardigan – but this time, bright magenta!

Standard

I really enjoyed the process of making my first Wardie cardigan (which, holy crap, was actually towards the beginning of this year, which feels like an entire lifetime ago), and the style really suits me, so I knew I wanted to make at least one more of them. And for some reason, my mind would not let go of the idea of making a bright magenta Wardie. I just loved the idea of the relatively gender-neutral/borderline masculine cardigan in a bright magenta. The thing is, I’m really, really picky about my pinks. I’ve learned from experience that a color that I think looks like a nice magenta online is actually a brighter hot pink, and so I wasn’t sure how I’d go about finding the “right” magenta for my imagined Wardie. And then it dawned on me – I knew I liked the magenta in the Joy Mitts bi kit, and since those were knit in the same Rauma yarn that Wardie calls for, I knew I could order that and be confident that it would be the magenta of my dreams. And so, during the brief lull I had between the last day of classes and my students turning in their Final Portfolios, I cast on for a magenta Wardie, while wearing my very neutral oatmeal colored one.

The beginning of the magenta Wardie cardigan.

It turned out that a bright magenta Wardie was exactly the right knit for me during the incredibly stressful end-of-semester. I love knitting with the Rauma yarn; it has a delightful toothiness and bounciness that just feels perfect in my hands.

More Magenta Wardie

Once the Final Portfolios came in, I used Wardie as my “treat” – for every 3 portfolios I graded, I got to knit a few rows on Wardie before diving back into grading.

Magenta Wardie in progress

And now, a few days after finishing grading, I have completed the back of Wardie! I absolutely love knitting those nifty cabled decreases for the English tailoring at the shoulders, though in this bright magenta yarn, I couldn’t get the camera to focus on them enough to capture a detail shot!

Magenta Wardie Back complete!

My daughter saw me knitting this and is now lobbying HARD for her own magenta Wardie cardigan. She’s getting tall enough now (at 4’5.5″, she’s taller as a 3rd grader than I was as a 6th grader!) that I’m pretty sure the smallest size would work for her as a slightly oversized cardigan, so she may just get her wish. We’ll see!

How to make a star

Standard

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been working on some smaller projects. In particular, what I’ve been working on are some little stuffed stars, using leftovers from my Willow Cowls. It started out as just a little “doodle” with yarns to test out an idea, and then I got hooked! I’m currently in the brief lull between the last day of classes (which was yesterday, for me) and the day my students submit their Final Portfolios, so I actually have a little bit of time to write up what I’m doing when I make these! Here goes:

Getting ready: These don’t require a ton of yarn (I’m getting at least two stars from each color of Willow Cowl leftovers, and I’m pretty sure I had less than 100 yards leftover in each color). You’ll need SIX dpns, because the stitches are spread over 5 needles and the 6th is used for knitting. I think the instructions I’m giving below would work for just about any yarn on needles that give you a solid but not overly stiff gauge; for the fingering-weight yarns, I’m using size 2 needles. Oh, and you’ll need a bit of polyfill, too; I’m using leftovers from the bag I bought back when I made my daughter’s “Cat”.

Making a star, step 1: the i-cord

Step 1: Make the i-cord
Make 95 rounds of 3-stitch i-cord. The reason for 95 stitches is that you want a multiple of 5, but you also want the number you’re multiplying by 5 to be an ODD number. 95 = 19 x 5, which works well, but you could also do 105 = 21 x 5 or something even bigger. (I don’t recommend a smaller number than 95, though!)
TIP: it’s really easy to miscount and end up with more or fewer rounds in your i-cord, so my advice is to err on the side of too many. Too many is fudgeable; too few isn’t. You’ll see why in just a second.

Making a star, step 2: picking up stitches along the i-cord

Step 2: Pick up stitches from the i-cord
First, on the last round of the i-cord, bind off the first two stitches, and leave the remaining stitch on the needle. Then, knitting into one leg of each stitch in the i-cord, making sure to stay in the same “column”, pick up and knit 94 more stitches. Put 19 stitches on each of 5 dpns. If there’s extra i-cord after you’ve put 19 stitches on each needle, you have options:
1. If there are at least 10 extra rounds, you can shift things so that you have 21 stitches per needle instead of 19 stitches per needle.
2. You could also use the extra rounds to create a hanging loop (you’ll see an example of this later in the post).
3. Or, no matter how many extra rounds there are, you can simply tuck them into the inside of the star when it’s time to pick up side 2.

Making a star, step 3: 19 stitches on each of 5 needles, picked up from the i-cord

Step 3: arrange your 5 needles for knitting in the round
The next step is to join for knitting in the round. On each needle, you’ll do the following:
Round 1: *knit 8, CDD, knit 8* on each needle
Round 2: *knit 7, CDD, knit 7* on each needle
Round 3: *knit 6, CDD, knit 6* on each needle.
(Hopefully at this point, the logic is clear. Also, if you are using a larger number per needle, adjust the numbers so that the CDD ends up being the central three stitches on each needle; for example, if you cast on 105 stitches, you’d need 21 stitches on each needle and your first round would be *knit 9, CDD, knit 9*, and so on.)

Making a star, step 4: doing CDDs in the center of each needle on every round

Step 4: keep decreasing until you get down to 1 stitch per needle
Keep decreasing in the established pattern (knitting a CDD over the central 3 stitches on the needle) until you get down to 1 stitch per needle. Then, break the yarn, and thread it through the loops on the needle to pull it tight. At that point, you’ll have finished side 1!

Making a star, step 6: Picking up stitches from the i-cord for side 2

Step 5: pick up stitches for side 2
Here, starting at the edge of the i-cord where you picked up the first needle-worth of stitches on side 1, what you want is to pick up stitches from the i-cord from the legs of the column of stitches that will create a single line of knit stitches between the two sides. I find this kind of hard to explain in words, but I think it’s pretty obvious once you’re looking at it. I actually messed it up in the first “doodle” version of the star (shown in the photo above), but I made a little video of what I’m doing on a subsequent star that I hope helps:

The goal, as with side 1, is to pick up 19 stitches on each of the 5 needles for a total of 95 stitches, then join to knit in the round.

Making a star, step 7: making side 2 just like side 1

Step 6: make size 2 just like side 1
(Seriously, just look back at the Step 3 instructions!)

Making a star, step 8: adding filling

Step 7: stuff it!
Once you get to the point where you have 5 stitches on each needle (or even when you get to having just 3), stuff your star. You don’t want to OVER stuff it, but stuff it enough that the points of the star aren’t floppy. You’ll do the final rounds of decreasing on each needle with the stuffing inside the star.

Making a star, step 9: just about ready to thread the end through to close up!

Step 8: finish it!
When you get to the final round (1 stitch per needle), finish as on side 1: break the yarn, thread it through the loops, and pull tight. What I like to do is weave the yarn around the center of the star, almost “duplicate stitching” the non-CDD-column stitches, just to make sure that there’s no gappiness there. Then, I pull the yarn through the star, extra taut, and snip it, letting the end sink back into the star.

I’ve now created quite a collection of these little stars! They’re just a fun little diversion and it makes me happy to squeeze them.

Squishy stars!

I’ve got green ones…

Green stars (light green was the experiment/prototype)

And magenta ones…

Two magenta stars

And even a red one (made from leftovers from the Musselburgh hat that I knit for my daughter, which I’m realizing now has not made a blog appearance yet!):

Red star with loop

As you can see on the red one, I ended up with a LOT of extra i-cord (because a certain someone kept interrupting me while I was counting rounds!) so I turned it into a hanging loop. I think my daughter wants me to thread a cord through it so that she can wear it as necklace!

Handful of stars

These stars have been a fun little way to add a bit of “light” during these dark months at the end of a dark year. I hope these little stars bring you as much joy to knit and squeeze as they’ve brought me!