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An Icy Day

2 Jan

After a few unusual days of warmth we’ve had quite a thaw in Madison.  Most of the snow is gone from our streets and yards, so it was quite an experience to feel the chill come back in full force and to visit a frozen lake.

It was amazing to see such a big body of water frozen, and to see ATVs and people out in the middle of it!  But I am glad to be safe at home and back in the warm.  Which is always a pleasant experience when you have plenty of wool around.

This is Cascade Eco + in Lichen for the first of my IntSweMoDo2011 challenge, a seamless saddle shoulder sweater (a la Elizabeth Zimmerman) for my Dad.  It is a popular one on Ravelry and I totally understand why, this is probably one of the best work horse yarns around.  With nearly 500 yards per skein it is super economical and knitting with bulky yarn means this will be a speedy project.  Knitting up a sleeve in a day means I don’t feel bad casting on another very small project before starting the body.

Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool is a yarn I stumbled across when looking for something for my sister-in-law.  It is made by a small mill in Michigan and is a wonderfully soft worsted wool.  Perfect for the Thermis cowl I’ve had my eye on for some time.  The colour should go nicely with my Ringwood gloves, finished just in time for the return of the cold.

 

A Knitter’s Confession

18 Nov

I’ve been avoiding the blog lately, because I have a confession that makes me feel very guilty.  Remember my November Goal, “No more yarn!”?  Well, I have fallen off the wagon.  Not just fallen, but have taken the wagon down with me with the amount of yarn purchased this month.

I have such a weakness for yarn sales, and Fabric.com comes along and has a massive one that breaks my resolve in a flash.  Discontinued yarn?  I may never get my hands on this stuff again!

Felted Tweed in a deep pine green for a Manu.

Berrocco Vintage Chunky for a Meep Meep hoodie for Dougie.

Rowan Purelife Shetland Moorit for Aidez.

And Harrisville Highland in bluegrass for David’s long-time-coming Cobblestone.

Thus in a few quick clicks I have spent a couple of months yarn allowance.  The only way I manage to do this without serious retribution from my husband is the fact that I did get all of this on incredible sale and that they will (eventually) become something wearable.  When buying yarn for an entire sweater I try to pay only as much as I would be willing to pay for a high quality store-bought.  Any of these yarns at full price would have been out of my league.

I have now taken serious steps to curb my addiction.

  • Credit card numbers are no longer available freely.
  • I have left the yarn-enabling groups on Ravelry (sorry Yarn Sales members!)
  • I have joined stash busting groups
  • Knit constantly (because the Devil really does make work for idle hands)

On the positive side, with knitting always in my hands I spend less time online trawling for sales, and there’s also been a huge boost in my productivity.

And if a snowstorm comes in the next few weeks, I will have plenty to keep me warm and busy.

A Loose Knitter Laments

11 Nov

I knit very loosely, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  My hands stay very relaxed and I can knit for hours without any fatigue.  But getting gauge can be a terrible pain.

I bought this Madelinetosh Worsted (which is really a much lighter DK weight) from a fellow blogger and Raveler to make Ringwood gloves for my mother.  The colourway, “Kale”, is a beautiful blend of purple-grey tones dyed in a salt and pepper effect.  It is great to knit with, but I am having no end of problems with my gauge.

The pattern suggests 24 st/4 inches in the ringwood pattern and the designer used 4mm needles.  I am reliably loose so I always go down one needle size.  I started off with 3.75mm, then 3mm, and am now down to a 2.75mm which makes the name “Madelinetosh worsted” sound like a cruel joke.  Luckily my mother’s hands are larger than mine (which are like a small child’s) so I’m hoping I will have success this time around.

If I was a tight knitter I’d have more options, you can always size up more easily than size down, in my opinion.  Which is why sock knitting is more a chore than it really should be.  When I go down to size 00 or smaller my hands give up.

Which is why I will make sure the next project I knit will be made on reasonable sized needles.

A Bit of Quince

28 Oct

Because I refuse to turn on the heating before November it is officially very cold in our apartment.  Even our normally naked ice-baby has (voluntarily) put some clothes on.  I guess the latest parcel came just in time.

Out of all the American yarns that I wanted to try Quince and Co were number one (Shelter being a very close number two).  I bought two skeins of the aran weight Osprey, just wanting to see if they lived up to the hype.  I instantly fell in love.  They use 100% American wool but manage a softness that I’d associate with luxury cashmere/wool blends.  The colours are as rich and enchanting as people have claimed, and I cannot take my eyes off this.

Even the photo can’t do justice to this deep jeweled purple.  David was noticeably impressed by them, and has requested some mitts in Split Pea so he doesn’t have to suffer while playing piano in our freezer-house.  It’s a toss up between Toasty and Dashing, but I think simplicity will win.  The purple is going to become a Ripley for me as all of my handknit hats have mysteriously disappeared.

If this knits up half as nicely as it feels and looks, then I’ll have to make a whole new wardrobe in it.

Lovisa Armwarmers

25 Oct

I love that after two days of very leisurely movie knitting I end up with something as lovely as these.

These Lovisa armwarmers should be just the thing for my gardening sister-in-law.  While I think they turn out to be drapey and rather elegant knit in a sportweight yarn as intended I really like the snug warmth when knit in Cascade 220.  The brown and cream colouring reminds me of traditional nordic ski sweaters and hot chocolate with marshmallows.  All that’s left is to find the perfect pair of buttons to finish them off.

Mitts are so nice in that they gives you total freedom of movement in the fingers (great for knitting or planting fiddly seeds) but keep your hands warm at the same time.  I am very tempted to knit everyone in the family a pair of these.

And just what is it that I’m knitting?  The next in my line of holiday gifts, something for my brother-in-law.

Jared Flood’s Habitat hat using Blackberry Ridge medium weight silk blend in forest green.  Blackberry Ridge is a fairly local mill that prides itself on sourcing wool from the midwest.  I bought this at the Woodland Studio in Stoughton and couldn’t pass up such a  local yarn, with plenty of yardage.  With any luck I should be able to knit this hat and a cowl from one skein.

The pattern is one that I’ve been coveting since it’s come out.  I am a sucker for cables, despite the extra work involved.  Unlike the mitts this is not a project for mindless movie watching, as I found out after having to start over twice.  Now that I’ve got the cables started properly it’s going very smoothly and am feeling like a gift knitting machine.

Autumn Heat Wave

10 Oct

There must be some sort of inverse square law where the hotter it gets the less knitting I do.  While this probably means I’ll finish an entire sweater when it gets to 30 below, it’s bad news now that the weather has inexplicably reached the 80s here in Wisconsin.  Am I in Wisconsin still?  This is October right?  Some days it feels more like the twilight zone.

And I thought our beach days were over for the year.  We found ourselves back in the sand when I refused to resort to turning the air conditioning on again.  Some of us didn’t mind so much.

I have started on this little guy’s Drive Thru, which would be a nice easy and quick knit normally, but my hands are protesting at the feeling of hot sticky wool in the warmth.  I have managed to finish the body and am well on my way on one of the sleeves.

Strange to think that he might just need this in another week or so.  I hope the mercury drops because I am keen to finish this up and get going on my Socktoberfest project.

This is Knit One Crochet Too’s Ty-Dy sock yarn, a little gem I found at the Knitting Tree.  It has a wonderfully soft hand, much softer than most sock yarns I’ve come across and I was enchanted by the bold green colours.  My plan is to knit a pair of gift socks using the Jaywalker pattern.  I’m a bit unsure as to how the colours are going to stripe, but the pattern should help bring out its best side.  If I can finish a complete pair (that’s TWO socks) this month I will consider Socktoberfest a success.

For now, I am going to have to sit here, sweat, and enjoy a cold beer.  Happy Indian Summer to all.

The Knitting Tree

4 Oct

After an almost wintery-cold weekend we’ve had to strip off our woolies today.  It was even warm enough to justify a trip to my favourite frozen custard place for an addictive pumpkin shake.

After satisfying my sweet (and pumpkin) tooth I conveniently go across the road for a bit of stash enhancement.

This is the Knitting Tree on Monroe St in Madison, owned by the same woman as Lakeside Fibers.  You can tell this lady knows her yarn, both shops are charming but incredibly different.  The Knitting Tree is a convient location near downtown but is a much smaller space than Lakeside, but every inch is packed with loveliness.

These are not chain stores, each has their own unique selection of yarns, making them both equally worth going to if you’re in the city.  Knitting tree stocks a lot of Berrocco, Noro, and Rowan yarns, and plenty more to satisfy your needles.  Both shops make great use of light, too often in the UK yarn shops are tiny hole-in-the-walls with no natural lighting, making it impossible to choose colours accurately.  Also I just love how they both arrange yarns by colours as well as brand, so if you have a palette already in mind it’s  a great help.  If you’re like me and a bit colour challenged prepare to be overwhelmed by choice.

I have to give a big thanks to the shopkeepers at both stores who put up with my indecisive wanderings and a toddler who just has to touch everything (they gave him a much appreciated box of toys at Knitting Tree).  Everyone in the shop is extremely helpful and there are books and patterns everywhere to oogle.  I had a flip through “Brave New Knits” and “Knits Men Want” and my queue has suddenly doubled.

Of course, I brought home just a little something, but mostly I brought home a great appreciation for a city that has not one, not two, but three yarn shops within city limits.  I don’t think I’ll ever get so lucky again.

Hello, October!

1 Oct

Hello October!  You are my favourite month of all and I am super excited this year because:

  • My dear husband is taking the entire month off so we get to do all those things we planned for summer (but the bugs and humidity prevented us from actually doing)
  • We will be going to Chicago where I can oogle places like this
  • Brooklyn Tweed’s Jared Flood has outdone himself by producing a gorgeous yarn.  Husband has already called dibbs on a hat in it, and another one in the queue for my brother-in-law
  • I will be getting my very first Namaste Bag – in Purple!
  • Pumpkin Spice Lattes – ’nuff said

By the way, I am super jealous of all you members of the Madison Knitters Guild who will be able to attend Jared’s talk this month.  I’m sure it’ll be packed to the rafters, and he may just have some samples of Shelter to show, too.

In other news, my mother has returned from a long overdue trip to Korea to visit her family.  We would have loved to have gone this year, but a 14 hour flight is a bit much for a toddler and we really only need the stress of one huge international journey a year.  A lot has changed in the last twenty years but she had an awesome time and convinced us that we need to go when we can.

She very thoughtfully brought us back a few souvenirs.  This tea set is my personal favourite, I love the colours and shapes, just the thing for a nice pot of green tea.

And these whimsical embroidered nail clippers, which do double duty as a bottle opener.  You know, for those times when you’re giving yourself a pedicure and fancy a brew.

While a trip to Korea might not be on our “to-do” list this month, I just can’t wait to see what this month of chilly days, changing leaves, pumpkins and bonfires will bring us.

Gift Knitting Stash

25 Sep

I am making an amendment to Commandment 5: “Thou shalt not build stash”, no buying yarn without a project in mind.  This gives me a little leeway because I have a rare disorder that leaves me incapable of leaving a delicious yarn store empty handed.  I was literally paralysed by colour choice yesterday, so I roped in my husband to help me choose a palette for a Drive Thru pullover for Dougie.

I wanted it to have a throw back 70’s feel and just love the colours he chose: dark chocolate brown for the main body, with cream, pumpkin orange (we just had to get pumpkin in there somewhere) and a sunny yellow for yoke stripes.  What’s nice about knitting for a toddler, v.s. a baby, is that he might be able to wear something more than once or twice before growing out of it.  Both the Pebble vest and the Baby Surprise sweater had only brief appearances.  Finally, a chance for his knits to see the light of day.

The brown and cream are legendary Cascade 220, but the yellow and orange are Louet Riverstone.  There was a staggering array of colours to choose from of each and I can’t wait to start knitting with them.  I just can’t stop squeezing that beautiful Louet yarn.

I also bought some yarn to make a special present for my mother-in-law.  This will be the first Christmas season that we’ve not been with D’s parents, and their first without seeing Dougie so I hope a little handmade luxury will bring a bit of joy.  She is a woman of impeccable taste and an eye for colour (must be where my husband gets his).

Classic Elite Fresco in steely water blues, reminiscent of the sea she dearly loves, to make Andrea’s Shawl.  I like the mix of lace and colourwork, it makes a pattern that’s elegant but unfussy.  Just a little something to throw over the shoulders on a chilly evening or wrap around your neck on mild winter day by the seaside.  And the yarn?  Wool, alpaca and angora.  If only I could knit a duvet in this and hibernate.

Both these future projects are apart of my new aim to knit more for others.  While I love knitting for myself there is a lot of satisfaction in choosing and making something for a loved one.  It gives me a chance to use a yarn I wouldn’t buy for myself because it’s “too nice”, and a pattern that I wouldn’t normally knit.  I would love to knit all my holiday gifts this year, but I’m not going to push myself too hard, remember Commandment #4 (Thou shalt not have unrealistic expectations).

The All New Lakeside Fibers

24 Sep

I felt cursed today.  My good intentions to make pumpkin pie from scratch failed miserably.  Both pastry and filling turned out wrong (though the filling still tastes nice, I tell myself).  What better way to make a girl feel better than a trip to the local yarn shop.

This is the newly reopened Lakeside Fibers, located on the south side of Monona Bay.  When we first moved here in July it was closed but has opened up under new management last week.  I don’t have any frame of reference of what it was like before, but, wow, this is a nice shop.  The space is huge, light and airy, with seats near the back.  Everywhere you look there are gorgeous yarns, nestled in bins, shelves, and boats.

Yes, it is a boat, filled with Dream in Color Smooshy!  Pretty much every yarn, besides Rowan, was new to me: Madelinetosh, Shibuiknits, Spud & Chloe, Blue Sky Alpacas, and many more I can’t even remember.  The shop assistants were sweet and helpful and there were modern knitting books and patterns conveniently placed on tables and counters.  I am just blown away by the quality of the stores in this country, you really feel that it’s a place that takes knitting seriously.

As if all the yarn loveliness isn’t enough there is a cafe connected through the back that does nice coffee and has views over the bay.  And if you have little ones, you can have Daddy take them over to the playground just behind the shop near the beach (thanks D!)

I didn’t come home empty handed, but I’ll just give you a taste of the dilemma I had when choosing yarn for a future colourwork project.

I fear for my wallet because this place is only a short walk away.