“Late Bloomer” sweater is FINISHED!

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Here’s the project that produced the ends I showed in my last post (and there were many, many more where those came from!). My “Late Bloomer” sweater, so named because it was inspired by the “Late Bloomer” mittens pattern from the “Intricate” issue of Making Magazine.

Pattern: I made it up! I basically used the “SM” size numbers from the “Strange Brew” book as a guide/sanity check, and I distributed bobbles semi-randomly. I followed the instructions for embroidery from the “Late Bloomer” mittens pattern.
Yarn: Some old Rowan tweed yarn from my stash (I can’t find a yarn label so I don’t know what it was called!) paired with Knitpicks Aloft in “Tarragon”
Needles: Size 6

"Late Bloomer" sweater is complete!

I couldn’t be any more thrilled with how it turned out! I started out with my beloved folded 1×1 rib neckline, and then I began the bobbling. I was a bit anxious, because I created the bobbles that are at the center of each flower without knowing exactly how the spacing would end up looking once I embroidered around them, but I think it looks fantastic. I especially love that I added flower clusters at the wrists and around the split bottom hem, at the hips.

"Late Bloomer" sweater is finished!
Flowery wrists!
"Late Bloomer" sweater - hip detail
Flowery hips!

The sweater is exactly what I dreamed of when I first saw those mittens on the cover of Making Magazine! I was hoping to have the flowers feel more closely packed together at the top of the yoke, and then more spread out, almost like they were falling, as you move down the sweater, and I think I managed to pull that off!

"Late Bloomer" sweater is finished!

I knew it would be a labor of love, and it was…every single one of those flowers took somewhere between 2-5 minutes to embroider and weave in ends, and there are a LOT of flowers. I actually haven’t counted! I love the way the mohair catches the sunlight…

"Late Bloomer" sweater is finished!

It’s obviously WAY too warm to wear a mohair-based sweater right now, but it is going to be an absolutely glorious addition to my cold-weather wardrobe! For now, enjoy the look of “sweater plus shorts” :)

"Late Bloomer" sweater is finished!

Hooray for a beautiful new sweater!

One sleepy kitten: complete! (plus other stuff)

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I finished the first of the Sleepy Kittens! Embroidering on a 3-dimensional handknit object whose backside is not accessible is something I find to be very tricky, so it took a few tries to get the face looking decent. Here’s a closeup:

Finished Sleepy Kitten

I think Sleepy Kitten is quite cute in his striped pajamas, and I love his little tail!

Sleepy Kitten tail

My daughter is quite happy with him, and very eager for me to finish his sibling. We’re also working on plans to turn a sheet of foam that she has into a bed for them. I’ll make sure to share once it’s all finished!

I’ve also reached a “try-on-able” point in the Bressay sweater, and much to my relief, the fit seems to be PERFECT so far!

Bressay Progress!

Especially since the abysmal fit of my Bleideag sweater (which I still need to rip back and fix), I’m nervous when I can’t easily try on a sweater as I go; I’m definitely on team “Top Down” when possible these days. And with the number of stitches involved in this fine-gauge sweater, I would be heartbroken if I had to rip it out and reknit it. But it seems like I won’t!

Bressay Progress

I’m looking forward to finishing this center motif; the orangey red just isn’t my favorite color (though it looks good mixed with the rest in this sweater) and the motif in between the bands of orangey red was quite tricky due to how similar the colors were. I have a feeling that I will be modifying the sweater slightly to create a higher neckline in the back with extra short rows (I pretty much always have to do this with yoke patterns), but hopefully it will be fairly smooth sailing through to the finish.

Speaking of finishing…I did actually work on one of those older projects that needed attention, and something is now blocking out on our deck. I’ll give you a hint…

The final ends of a certain sweater project...

I’ll show off the project these ends came from in my next post!

I still knit, of course!

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I promised in my last post about sewing that I’d give the things currently on my knitting needles a post of their own, and here it is! The biggest project that I’m currently working on is Bressay, which is hands-down the most complicated colorwork I’ve ever done. There are SO many stitches now that the sleeves have been joined at the yoke, and as I’ve now learned from painful experience, it’s terribly easy to get off by one stitch and then you either have to unpick most of a round or you have to drop down and fix as you go around the next round, and either way, that’s tedious and frustrating. So after the second of those mistakes, I decided I should stop trying to use my brain and let stitch markers help me out!

Bressay progress

The current pattern repeat I’m working on is a 22 stitch repeat, so my markers are 22 stitches apart, and I check that I’ve done each repeat correctly before slipping the marker and starting the next one. So far, so good!

Bressay Progress

As for other projects: I mentioned a few posts ago that I was thinking of turning the Hyrrokkin yarn into an Ishbel shawl, and that’s what I’m doing!

Ishbel progress

It’s been so long since I’ve knit a shawl that I’d kind of forgotten how tedious the rows can get once the shawl gets bigger – and since Ishbel is a shawl that’s extra wide (relative to its depth), the rows are already pretty darned long! But I will persevere, and eventually I’ll have a lovely neutral grey shawl to wear!

Ishbel progress

And I already shared a little bit of this last project in my post about the dress – I’m working on a Sleepy Kitten set, and yesterday, I finished the body!

Sleepy Kitten Progress

I put in a layer of poly pellets (leftover from when I made my daughter her weighted kitty) along with some stuffing, and it feels really delightful perched in my hands or on my shoulder. The headlessness cracks me up!

Sleepy kitten progress

In addition to these projects, I’m hoping to get to work finishing up/fixing older projects that need it. So far, my list includes:

  1. Finishing the embroidered flowers on my green yoked sweater
  2. Ripping out and reknitting the sleeves on my kangaroo-pocketed pullover
  3. Ripping out and reknitting the body on my Bleideag pullover
  4. Ripping back to fix the messed-up brioche on my Water Bearer cardigan, then finishing the cardigan

I’m not sure what order I’ll tackle those in, but that’s going to be MORE than enough to keep me busy, especially as I ramp up my efforts towards preparing for fall semester. We’ll see what I can manage!

Sleepy Kitten Progress

Headless Sleepy Kitten says “bye!”

I made…another dress!

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I’ve made it to the part of the summer where my kid has camp every day at the science center (where they have very good masking and safety policies, which I keep reminding myself) and my spouse is working on campus while she’s at camp, which means that every day, for about 7 straight hours, I have the house TO MYSELF! It is gloriously quiet, and such a relief to let go of the stress I was feeling about keeping my kid from interrupting my spouse once Zoom school wasn’t keeping her busy. And it’s just really great to be able to exist in my house without a constant audience – if I want to take a break from working (on class prep, and on the final edits for a paper that’s going to be published soon) and go sew, I can just go sew, you know?

Demeter Dress!

So now I have a new dress! It’s another Demeter Dress, this time in a very “me” color of Alison Glass’s “Mariner Cloth”, which has a delightful nubbly texture – the stripes are actually a thick bundle of lighter colored threads that are woven into the cloth at regular intervals, and I *love* running my fingers over them!

Demeter Dress - darts.

Because of the nubbly texture of the fabric, I wasn’t sure it would make a very good bias facing, so I used a regular cotton fabric for that in a color that almost matches the light stripes. I think it looks pretty cool, even though nobody’s going to see it unless I show it to them!

Demeter Dress - bias binding

I’ve also been trying to spend part of the day listening to podcasts and knitting, because that’s a really important way for me to “recharge” and given the level of burnout I’m experiencing from the past 16+ months, I definitely need to recharge. Here’s (part of) what I accomplished while listening to Ezra Klein’s interview with Eve Ewing (it was a great interview – highly recommend!):

Future Sleepy Kitten

What you’re seeing are the legs and arms of a future Sleepy Kitten, which is a pattern my daughter fell in love with when she saw it in Making magazine. I’m using the called-for yarn, Barrett Wool Company’s Wisconsin Woolen Spun Worsted, because I wanted to try it (I’m all about finding new great woolen-spun yarns!) and I liked the idea of supporting a business that is local to my family, if not to me specifically. I got it in kit form last year and am finally getting around to knitting it. The yarn (much like the pattern) is *delightful*!

I’ve got a couple other projects on the needles, but I’ll give those their own post sometime. I’m trying to find a balance between the prep work that I know I need to do and the resting and recharging that I also desperately need to do, and it’s hard. Especially since the prep work all has to take place in what is effectively an information vacuum – I know I’m going to be required to teach in person, but I don’t actually know if the international students who typically make up the majority of my classes will be able to be here in person, so I might be teaching in person to like, 3 students while the others are all Zooming in or participating asynchronously and basically I have to prep for every possibility, which is…not great. And I’m doing it without ANY knowledge of what my kid’s school/bus schedule is going to look like. This is the second summer in a row of trying to plan for fall in the absence of information and that kind of planning is really, brutally difficult and stressful for me. I’m someone who really likes when I know what to expect, where, if I’m really honest, by “really likes” I actually mean “only functions well” and that’s just…not in the cards. (It never was, truly, but at least it FELT like it was.)

But hey, I sewed another dress! And that means that since the start of COVID, I have sewn myself one jumper (the York Pinafore), 4 Cleo Skirts, and 2 Demeter Dresses – I have enough handsewn garments to make through an entire week without repeats! Wearing things that I’ve made makes me feel good, and that used to be something I could only do during the colder months with my handknits, but now that I’m learning to sew, I can get that good feeling year-round!

I made a dress!

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In my efforts to “level up” my sewing skills, I decided that I wanted to try to make a simple dress. I picked Anna Allen’s “Demeter Dress” pattern because it seemed like a nice, simple dress; it’s intended to fit loose and the skirt part was basically identical in construction to the Cleo skirts I’ve been making. The top does have darts, though, which are something I’ve never sewn before. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos and I think I did an ok job?

I made a dress!

I intended this dress to be a kind of “wearable muslin”; I didn’t have any other ideas about what to do with this giant piece of undyed linen-cotton blend (I *think* it’s Essex?) that’s been hanging out in my closets for a really long time, so I figured I’d use it to see whether I like this sort of loose-fitting dress before I try to make any more of them in different fabrics.

I made a dress!

And the answer to whether I like this style of dress is…maybe? It’s definitely oversized (and that’s even AFTER going down at least one pattern size from what my measurements would suggest) but that makes it easy to get on and off even without any zippers or buttons. And it’s cozy, even if it’s somewhat like wearing a big linen tent. I like that it doesn’t pinch or rub anywhere and I can move really freely in it.

I made a dress!

What I’m definitely less sure about is whether I can pull off this undyed linen color. I’m so pale, and I feel like this color kind of washes me out?

I made a dress!

I do like it paired with the teal cardigan, though, so maybe it’s a good neutral color to keep for pairing with colorful cardis? Or should I think about dyeing it? I’d have to decide on a color, if I did that, and given the colors I wear most often, I think a light turquoise blue or a purple would slot nicely into my wardrobe. But I know pretty much nothing about dyeing fabric, so that’s something I would want to learn more about first anyway.

I made a dress!

Pretty stoked that I was able to make a dress, even if it is a dead simple one. I’ve got a couple other big fabric pieces that I’m considering dressifying, one in a stripey turquoise color and the other in a kind of wild geometric print in bright blues, pinks, purples, and reds. So we’ll see if I end up making a couple more Demeter Dresses! And from the leftovers of this undyed linen-cotton (it was a huge, wide piece), I also cut out the pieces to make a pair of Papercut Patterns’ Palisade Shorts. I’m super intimidated by how many pieces there are with those snazzy-looking pockets, but I want to improve my sewing skills and I want to make stretchy-waisted bottoms for myself, so I’ll be brave and give them a try!

Almost done with sleeve number one!

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In my last post I mentioned that I was having gauge issues with the sleeve for my Bressay sweater. I decided to try going up to a size 2.5 (instead of a 2) and that seemed to do the trick – my gauge now matches what I was getting on the body!

Bressay progress.

I also added an extra round to the increase repeats; instead of doing the increases every, say, 6 rounds, I did them every 7, and so on, and this seems to have done the trick for adding length! I’m almost to the end of the colorwork for the sleeve, and then it’ll be time for sleeve number two! Which will hopefully be a breeze, now that I’ve figure out how to make my gauge, etc work and have made these notes here on my blog to remind myself what I did.

I’m glad I never stopped writing in my knitting blog; having these sorts of notes to myself about my projects is so helpful! I never fully shifted away from blogging when it came to tracking my projects on Ravelry, and that has turned out to be a real blessing now that I can no longer use Ravelry. It’s not that I haven’t lost important information, etc…I have, but I feel terrible for the affected folks who used Ravelry as their ONLY place for documenting their projects! What I miss the most is the ability to see how different yarns knit up, or to see what particular patterns look like on bodies that are most like mine, or to see the kinds of modifications that other people had made to various patterns. What have other people knit with this Hyrrokkin yarn that came in my Ysolda care package? I don’t have a great way to find out anymore.

Hyrrokkin, wound into a ball.

I also need to figure out what to do about my OWN patterns that are still listed for sale via Ravelry. It’s not like I sell very many copies of them…I make zero efforts to market them these days, so I don’t even really expect to. But I do occasionally sell a pattern or two, which means I end up having an invoice through Ravelry that I have to pay, and the only way to pay it is to log in via the new site, which hurts me. I did it once already, and I don’t want to have to do it again. Does anyone have advice about how I could remove my patterns with the least amount of time spent on the site itself? And if I did want to keep them available for purchase, what would be a good alternative site? I see a lot of people using Payhip, but I know nothing about it. I do have most of them listed on Lovecrafts, so maybe that’s enough; perhaps I could get some help removing my patterns from Ravelry but linking to them on Lovecrafts (and/or Payhip, if I ever set that up) for those who still want to purchase them? (That feels slightly subversive, using Ravelry’s database to link out to external sites for purchasing, but why exactly should I care about that when they don’t care to make their website usable by people like me?)

Hyrrokkin, wound into a ball

Back to the Hyrrokkin yarn – at 600 meters, the ball took quite a while to wind by hand, but it has a very pleasing heft to it. And while I can’t easily see what others have knit from this yarn, my plan is to knit an Ishbel shawl. I think a nice light grey shawl will be a very good addition to my wardrobe!

Speaking of my wardrobe, I’m hoping to do some more sewing this summer, too. I’m already getting a LOT of wear from my Cleo skirts; a skirt + tank top is a great combo when the weather is hot like it’s been recently! My next sewing project is going to be a Demeter Dress (the sleeveless view). I’m basically trying to gradually “level up” my sewing skills; now that I can make skirts, I’m going to try this fairly basic dress (which will involve the new skill of sewing darts, plus most of the skills from the Cleo pattern and the bias-binding skills from the York Pinafore). Then I’m going to try shorts, on my way to pants and overalls. We’ll see how I do!

Bressay progress, and other thoughts

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I’ve made it through the pre-yoke colorwork on the body of Bressay, and it’s GORGEOUS! This is probably the most challenging colorwork I’ve ever done, because of how similar so many of the colors are, but the end result is just so beautiful. I’m excited to get to the colorwork at the top of the first sleeve!

Bressay Progress

I took these photos this weekend, so am actually quite a bit further along on the sleeve, except…I’m noticing that my gauge on the sleeve is quite a bit tighter, both in terms of stitch gauge and row gauge, than it is on the body. And this is a problem, because I’ve now reached the point where I’m supposed to start the colorwork, but the sleeve is significantly shorter than it needs to be. I’ve measured the colorwork band and added it to the length of my sleeve, and it’s coming up at least an inch shorter than the pattern calls for, which is itself a bit shorter than I need because I have disproportionately long arms. Should’ve been paying more attention, and definitely need to think about increasing the number of rounds between increases when I try again on the sleeve so that I can get the length right!

One part of the problem though, I think, is that I’m using a size 2 Chiaogoo stainless steel circular (I got myself a couple more sub-size 3 needles from them; my Tulip bamboo interchangeables only go down to size 3). It seems I knit tighter on the steel needles than on bamboo ones. So I’m debating whether it makes sense to try the size 2.5 stainless steel circular, or go back to the wooden size 2 circular I used for the body (which might be a little too short for comfortable magic looping; I’m also nervous about breaking that needle like I broke the size 1 needle). Or should I just jump all the way up to the Tulip size 3, on the basis of small-circumference knitting generally being tighter than large-circumference knitting? The beginning of a sleeve is small enough to serve as a “swatch”, so I’m going to pick one of these options and start the second sleeve and see if it works; if not, I’ll rip back early and try again, and I just won’t touch the first sleeve for reknitting until I’ve figured out what works on the second one.

The "care package" bag from Ysolda's shop

On a completely different note, I mentioned in an earlier post that I had ordered one of the small, personalized “care packages” that Ysolda made available in her shop as a way to say goodbye before the shop closed. It arrived at the end of last week, and I thought I’d share what came in it. The bag is really pretty, and a nice size, too! Inside it were 4 skeins of yarn, a sweet personalized postcard, and a needle size gauge.

Lichen yarn from the Ysolda care package

Three of the skeins were Lichen, an Ysolda exclusive yarn spun by Hillesvåg; I’ve written before about how much I love the yarns from this Norwegian company! The colors are very “me”, too: bright acid green and a nice neutral light grey. Ysolda sent along a code for a free copy of Stac Shoaigh as a suggestion for what to knit with the bright green Lichen; another pattern I’m considering making with it is Estimar. I’m just not sure which I’d get more wear out of, honestly; I already have a Willow cowl in a bright green (though it’s much more of a yellow-leaning green) and an Icarus shawl in a slightly darker and slightly yellower-leaning green, so I’m not sure which would get more wear. I typically wear cowls more, mostly due to ease and not needing to fuss with them throughout the day, but I do think that Stac Shoaigh is really lovely, so that’s probably what I’m going to do. And then with whatever leftovers there are (because with Stac Shoaigh at least, there would be some), I could do some sort of colorwork with the grey + green, perhaps!

One skein from the Ysolda care package

The fourth skein was another Ysolda exclusive yarn (it made me very happy that my care package was all yarns that I would have no other way of getting than through Ysolda!): Hyrrokkin, a fingering weight yarn from Polwarth, BFL, and Zwartbles fiber. It’s an undyed natural grey (I *love* these greys!) and 150g, a little over 600yards. I’m debating what the best use for this would be. I’m tempted to stick with the Ysolda-theme and knit another Ishbel (I’ve knit one for my grandma, years ago, but never one for me); I have enough to knit the second-largest size, I think? Another possibility that my mind jumps to is Frida, which is a pattern I already own; I bought it back when it came out because I was just fascinated with the loop stitch and wanted to know how it was done. But I do wonder if Frida’s better-suited for a woolen-spun yarn (like the BT Loft yarn it was designed for); the Hyrrokkin is clearly worsted-spun. This is the sort of question I would have tried to answer for myself by looking through finished projects on Ravelry, but I still haven’t gone back to the site since the end of March. But no matter what, I’m pretty sure this yarn is going to become a nice neutral grey shawl. It’d be really interesting if I ended up with two new shawls from this package after not knitting shawls for such a long time!

Fox needle gauge

The final item in the bag was a needle gauge in the shape of a fox. I love foxes, so I was delighted! I do already have a couple needle gauges (one plastic one that came with the Tulip interchangeable set, and a wooden one from Katrinkles that dates back to my earliest days of using Etsy), so I may end up giving this one to my daughter. We’ll see.

So anyway, that’s what I’m up to at the moment: plotting future shawls and trying to figure out next steps on Bressay.

Things *WE* knit together: an alpaca!

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The alpaca is finished! It turned out so adorable! It’s going to be a gift for my daughter’s amazing 3rd grade teacher (who loves alpacas).

Project Details:
Pattern: Alpaca, from Susan B. Anderson
Yarn: Blue Sky Organic Cotton in “Bone” (for Alpaca) and Cascade Tangier in “Geometric” (for blanket), both left over from this babyStripes!
Needles: size 6 dpns for Alpaca, and size 7 dpns for blanket

Alpaca face!
Alpaca-face! This was my first time using safety eyes, and also my first time attempting to embroider facial features on a handknit toy; I think it looks sufficiently alpaca-like, right?

This was an incredibly fun project to make with my daughter. I won’t say that knitting cotton at a tight gauge was especially fun, but the pattern itself was very well-written and the details are just so perfect. I *love* the “curls” at the top of the head!

Proud little knitter!

My daughter knit the blanket for the alpaca, and to do so, she learned how to do i-cord, kfb, ssk, and k2tog – so much learned from one little blanket! And she also started to learn how to read knitting patterns, putting herself on a path to being a more independent knitter.

Alpaca!

I think I might have enough of these leftovers remaining to knit a second one for my daughter. And this definitely won’t be my last Susan B. Anderson toy – I’ve got a kit to knit some sleepy kittens, too!

Scatterbrained summer (so far)

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My mind is all over the place now that the semester is done. I’m still doing some work (trying to coordinate workshop and panel submissions for the two standing groups I’m part of at 4Cs, the big conference in writing professor world, and prepping a couple of workshops that I’m going to be running over the summer, including one on Monday) but it’s not all-consuming the way I was before the semester ended. The end result of a bit of “time off” after more than a year of teaching online during a pandemic without any childcare is that my creative brain feels like a squirrel on speed – just bouncing around from project idea to project idea, feeling very scatterbrained.

Some of this, too, is a kind of disorientation borne of the loss of a major piece of my knitting world. I have not used Ravelry since the end of March. That is, except to log in once, a few days ago, to pay the miniscule fee I owed on patterns I’d sold in the last month; perhaps one of these days I should pull my patterns from Ravelry, and figure out another way to host them – Payhip, maybe? I’m not sure whether I will ever dip my toes back into the “being a designer” waters again, and I’m hesitant to set anything up if all it’s going to do is host patterns I wrote nearly a decade ago. I dunno.

So far, I’m finding that what I miss most about Ravelry is the way I used it to self-soothe; that is, I would often open up my Ravelry friends activity list or my list of favorites and click around when I was feeling overwhelmed and just wanted to look at pretty things. The other thing I miss is the ability to easily see what other people’s versions of projects looked like. Some of that, I can do on Instagram instead; I’m learning how to follow hashtags and things like that. It’s just…weird, to still be knitting, still be connected to all of these knitters on the internet, but to be cut off from the site that was, for a very long time, and still is for many people, the heart of that online community.

One other thing I’ve noticed is that not having Ravelry has made me a bit more thoughtful about how to make best use of my yarn stash. I had a tendency to queue any pattern I saw there if it seemed remotely interesting to me, whether or not I owned the pattern or any appropriate yarn, and this sometimes pushed me to want to buy yarn for new projects even though I have a pretty significant stash already. But now that I don’t have access to that, I’m looking through my actual stash, as well as my knitting books and the PDFs of patterns that I have, and making lists for what I can do with what I have. It’s not that I couldn’t have done this when I was using Ravelry; I absolutely could’ve been more diligent. And Instagram can certainly push in the same direction, in terms of shiny new projects. But I am feeling less tied into that “shiny new project” thing, and I do think that’s from being cut off from Ravelry (and also from the designers who only publish things via Ravelry).

Anyway, those are my scattered thoughts on what a couple months without Ravelry have been like for me. How about some knitting? In the photo at the top of this post, you can see that I finished my newest Musselburgh hat. And also, that my hair has gotten quite long, though thank goodness, I finally have a haircut scheduled a week from today – no more COVID hair!

Musselburgh hat!

The Musselburgh hat reminds me of something else I’m feeling a bit wistful about: Ysolda’s closing her online shop. I’ve been a customer for quite a long time, as it was my favorite place to get yarns that were not easily available to me as an American knitter, and I have knit quite a few of her designs. I even had my post about my Joy mitts shared on her blog. I’m excited for whatever is next for Ysolda and her family, but I am going to miss that shop. (And I did, in fact, order one of the “care packages” that were offered to newsletter subscribers when the shop-closure was announced, so will have a mystery package arriving at some point in the nearish future. I know I just said I’m trying to use what I have, but I also wanted to “say goodbye” to the shop that opened my world to smaller European brands like Hillesvåg, Rauma, Einrúm, and De Rerum Natura.)

Alpaca-in-progress

Another project I’ve cast on for recently is an alpaca! My daughter wanted to make her 3rd grade teacher a “thank you” present for the incredible job she’s done as a remote teacher this year, and her teacher LOVES alpacas. I remembered having seen an alpaca pattern from Susan B. Anderson, so I bought that pattern, and am knitting the alpaca from leftover cotton yarn, and am teaching my daughter how to do i-cord and increases and decreases so that she can follow the pattern and make the blanket that goes with the alpaca out of leftover silk yarn (both yarns are leftovers from the non-wool babyStripes! that I knit for my dear wool-allergic friend’s baby):

She’s learning how to knit i-cord!

So far, I’m really enjoying knitting this alpaca! My daughter is incredibly fond of Susan B. Anderson’s patterns, having seen them in the Making magazine issues we’ve read together, and I actually have a couple of kits from her Barrett Wool Company yarn – a Sven and Solveig kit and a “Sleepy Kittens” kit, the latter of which I got with the intention of making them for my cat-obsessed daughter and then just…haven’t yet. But perhaps toys will become a new type of project for me; I’ve recently fallen in love with the Frog & Cast “Frog & Toad” pattern (and actually have sock yarn from way back when in colors that are reasonably appropriate!) and with FROM CINTHIA’s suite of animals (pretty sure I could also cobble together colors for some of these with existing sock yarn leftovers), and I’m less put-off than I expected to be by the fiddliness.

The last project I’ll share here is the Bressay sweater, which has reached a very exciting milestone: I’m now to the colorwork portion of the body!

Bressay colorwork

Bressay has colorwork that starts on the body (and on the sleeves) before the yoke is joined, which is different from any other yoked sweater I’ve made. It’s really fun to see the pattern starting to emerge! And I’m marveling at how Marie Wallin can create such gorgeous patterns using colors that are so similar to each other – you’d almost expect it to look like mud but instead it’s just subtle and beautiful.

Bressay colorwork

That actually reminds me of another thing that has me feeling sad and wistful; I first learned of Marie Wallin and her gorgeous Fair Isle designs from the Fruity Knitting podcast, and am now grieving the loss of Fruity Knitting’s Andrew, who reminded me so much of my own spouse Andrew, especially in the geeky delight he took in the details of history and technology. It’s just heartbreaking to see such a lovely human being taken out by cancer, but I’m really grateful for all of the joy that he and Andrea brought me through their show, and I hope that Andrea and her daughter Madeleine (whose own Bressay-in-progress is what originally prompted me to get a kit) are able to find joy for themselves as they move forward without him.

Well, I said this would be a scatterbrained post and so it is, but that’s just how things are right now. How are you all doing, dear readers?

Another skirt, and more knitting

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I did end up sewing a fourth Cleo skirt in the dot chambray, without any lining, at the end of last week, and it turned out great! I’m glad to now have a fairly “neutral” Cleo that I can wear with just about any top; my others demand a bit more color-coordination, but not this one!

Finished Cleo Skirt, the fourth!

I’ve also got a few knitting projects to share. First off, I ended up replacing my broken Knitters Pride Dreamz circular needle with a Chiaogoo Red Lace circular. So far, I’m really loving it – I don’t seem to be reacting to the surgical grade stainless steel (hopefully that stays true!) and the cable is amazing; when they say it doesn’t have “memory” they really mean it! Anyway, this means I finished my Zauberball Crazy socks:

Finished socks in Zauberball Crazy

I’d forgotten how hard it is to take photos of your own feet! This is the only in-focus one I got when I tried to take photos of them last week, but at least you can see the “Padded Sweet Tomato” heel. These are just plain vanilla toe-up stockinette socks with a 1×1 rib cuff, but it was fun to get back to sock knitting with magic loop.

I cast on for another pair of socks pretty much as soon as I finished the first pair. I’m now past the heel on the first sock:

Sock in progress.

For these, I cast on 32 stitches (16 per needle) at the toe rather than 40, and I’m doing a 2×2 garter rib over the central 22 stitches just to add a little bit of interest. I’m excited to wear these with my new Duckfeet Odense boots; part of what nudged me away from sock knitting before (other than constantly breaking and/or losing my wooden dpns) was that my old boots were taller, which meant they worked better with the knee-high Smartwool socks that I had than with the mid-calf handknit socks I had been knitting (not that I couldn’t’ve knit knee-highs, I suppose!). But my old Merrell boots bit the dust this past winter after a 12 year run, so now I’m back to lower boots that are more compatible with showing off the tops of handknit socks. These duck-egg blue ones will look nice with a LOT of my outfits.

This past weekend, my in-laws visited – we hadn’t seen them since early summer of 2019! I’ve been using our guest room as my office this entire year, so I had to do a fair amount of cleaning to turn it back into a guest room temporarily, and in the process, I found the leftover yarn from my Honeydew sweater, which I had apparently shoved in the drawer where we keep spare bedding for guests, I’m guessing as a way to keep it away from the cats. Anyhow, with my newfound magic loop skills and ~350 yards of icy blue BFL and mohair-silk, I thought I’d cast on for a project that could be TRULY mindless for knitting while my in-laws were here: a Musselburgh hat!

Musselburgh hat in progress!

I ended up with a migraine for most of their visit, which meant that having a really dead-simple knitting project, one that I could even knit in the dark, was especially useful. I’m still feeling a bit “off” today; hopefully tomorrow I’ll be back to feeling ok.

Musselburgh in progress

This hat is going to be deliciously soft and WARM! It’ll be perfect for walking in from the parking lot to my office next year, something I’ve not done since pneumonia struck me in the Fall of 2019; the pandemic hit before I’d regained enough strength to actually DO that walk. But it’s a long walk (it’s about a kilometer) and when it’s cold, I’m going to LOVE having a nice soft warm hat to keep my ears from freezing.

Now that my in-laws have left, and once I get through this “postdrome” period, I’ll probably return to the “bigger” projects that I have on the needles; Bressay is just about at the point where the colorwork starts, which is very exciting, and I can also keep working on the raglan decreases on the fronts and back of M’s Elle Melle. But for now, I’m probably going to finish the Musselburgh hat next, because plain stockinette in the round is exactly what my brain can handle at the moment.

Musselburgh hat in progress

Happy June, everyone! And Happy Pride!

New skirts!

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I finished grading earlier this week, and desperately needed something to do that wasn’t like being a professor. Also, it got HOT and I want more summer-friendly clothes without hard waistbands. So I cut out three more Cleo Skirts, and sewed two of them!

New Cleo Skirt!

The pink one is the first one I sewed; it’s the same fabric as the first Cleo skirt I sewed, Andover’s Kaleidoscope Plaid, but this time in “Magenta” rather than “Lichen”.

New Cleo Skirt!

I love how both of the skirts from the Kaleidoscope fabric just GLOW!

New Cleo Skirt!

I made a totally dumb mistake sewing this one, and ended up sewing the back with the wrong-side out, and didn’t realize it until after I’d finished the side seams, so that was a LOT of unpicking, but lesson learned – I quadruple checked before I sewed together the next skirt!

New Cleo Skirt!
(Yes, my hair is getting quite long – it hasn’t been cut since the beginning of October when our local COVID rates started climbing! The braids don’t stay in well, but it was SO hot yesterday that I needed my hair off my neck no matter how messy/weird it looked!)

The other skirt is from Nani Iro Double Gauze, which feels AMAZING but was a bit trickier to sew with (it just kind of…wiggled around more). I saw this print when I was browsing through Etsy and fell in love with it – when I tried it on yesterday, my daughter told me it looked like I was wearing stars!

New Cleo Skirt!

I was really happy with the way I was able to achieve the “fadeout” look towards the bottom. That was the image I had in my mind when I got this fabric, and I’m just tickled that I was able to make it real!

New Cleo Skirt!

The remaining skirt that I cut hasn’t been sewn yet, because I’m figuring out what to do. The fabric is Kaufman’s Dot Chambray, and it’s pretty thin – it kind of seems like it might be a little TOO thin to wear without some kind of lining, but I don’t actually know how to line a skirt. And maybe it would be fine without – I mean, I wouldn’t want to make it heavy, you know? So we’ll see when I end up sewing that one. I have a bunch of other sewing plans brewing: I want to make dresses, overalls, pants…so I’m going to be working on building up my sewing skills.

I haven’t forgotten about knitting, but I’ll let that be its own post sometime soon.

Comfort knitting

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I’m almost to the end of the grading for this semester, and what I’ve needed more than anything is comfort knitting. For me, that’s typically plain stockinette in the round. Which is what led me to cast on for a project I got a kit for something like 2 years ago: Marie Wallin’s “Bressay” design in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift.

What I'm making: Bressay yoke sweater from Marie Wallin's "Shetland" book

This is my first time ever knitting with Shetland wool, and I’m finding it absolutely delightful to knit with! I’m pretty sure that this is the finest gauge sweater I’ve ever attempted (Ravelston’s gauge is just a tiny bit bigger), but that’s fine with me; it’s so lovely to just keep knitting round and round in this yarn. It feels good in my hands, and it creates such a beautiful, cohesive fabric. I’m really into this heathered plummy purple!

Shetland Spindrift is delightful!

We traveled down to Naples, NY yesterday to visit Fruition Seeds and pick up some seedlings, and the drive gave me lots of time to knit. So far I’ve knit 2 full balls of Spindrift, and I’m excited about the prospect of reaching the colorwork section; hopefully by that point, I’ll be in a place where I can actually pay attention to colorwork patterning, which is definitely NOT where I am right now.

I haven’t completely forgotten about Elle Melle, though – it’s a pretty good “comfort knit”, too, because even though it’s not just plain stockinette in the round, the ridge pattern is really easy and enjoyable to knit, and I don’t have to pay TOO much attention because it’s really obvious just from looking at the knitting what I need to be doing. I do have to pay a BIT more attention now, though, because I’ve reached the point where I split for the fronts and backs.

To the armhole divide on Elle Melle

It feels a little weird to have multiple projects in the works: my embroidered flower sweater just needs a bit more embroidery, I’ve got an almost-completed sock on a set of broken needles, I’ve got Elle Melle and now Bressay. And of course I still have several projects in various states of disarray from last summer and earlier this year: my messed-up Water Bearer Cardigan, the sleeves that need to be reknit on my kangaroo-pocket pullover, and Bleideag, which either needs to have the body ripped out and reknit from the top down, or to just be ripped out and reknit entirely. That’s plenty to keep me busy this summer, I think, though I make no promises that my squirrel brain won’t be drawn towards something else. Whatever it is, though, it needs to be from stash!

Snap!

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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

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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

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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.