Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Whip Lash

So here it is. My completed Licorice Whip, a free pattern from Blue Alvarez Designs, modeled for you by the lovely Sally Stitches. I cast this on while I was in labor and finally picked it up and finished when the baby was about 2 months old. Picture if you will me timing contractions & trying to count out stitches and markers while jotting down the starting and ending times for said contractions in a little notebook I keep in my knitting bag. My husband would check in on me, in between cooking dinner (Spaghettios) for the kids. "I'm contracting every other lace round." I'd say. Laughing hysterically at my own knitting humor. He didn't get it and would duck out of the room looking concerned for my mental stability. But my mental health survived intact, the baby was born and the sweater is done.

I've worn it quite a bit and it's a flattering design post-baby. Long enough to cover the recovering belly, but not so baggy that it adds extra weight and that long open work panel down the front draws the eye vertically. My only warning is this, when the pattern says bind off loosely, they mean "bind off LOOSELY". This should have occurred to me at the time. It is knit in unforgiving 100% cotton and the bind off edge has to fit around the hips, but I just barely made it with what I considered a pretty loose cast off. I would suggest binding off with a much larger needle.

My last complaint was the yarn itself. I used the yarn originally called for in the pattern, Blue Sky Dyed Cotton in the color Thistle. All the while I was knitting I loved this yarn. Really soft and really nice stitch definition with lovely muted colors. I've heard Wendy over at Knit & Tonic wax poetic about this yarn and her newest pattern is knit up in this stuff so I had high hopes. However, once the sweater was finished and actually on my body it began to pill like crazy! I looked like a mangy muppet by the end of the first day. The picture above doesn't really show that and in fact it seems to show more of a sheen to the fabric than is really there in person. I tried and tried to get a more accurate picture, but no luck. I purchased Wendy's pattern, Flair, but I think I'll be substituting some KnitPicks Salishan, a worsted weight wool/cotton blend they offered for a limited time a few months back.

My main project on the needles right now is Patti from Rowan Studio issue 1. I'm using Rowan's Felted Tweed in the color Camel and it's wonderful. This yarn is my last major yarn purchase for the year as I try to knit my stash. We'll see how that goes. I also completed the first rebound sock and got 1/3 of the way through the second while watching Band of Brothers for a few nights. Nothing like having a colorful sock to focus on during bloody battle scenes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Knits Gone Wild (Jan. 2, 2007)

It's official, I survived the Christmas knitting of 2006! Now that I can knit whatever I like I'm a little overwhelmed by my options. I decided to kick things off with what I call my "rebound socks". Quick, easy, out of character and thoroughly inappropriate. It's a Lana Grossa self patterning sock yarn. The color is #4833 and they're all for me. These are my first ever toe up socks, so I'm actually learning a little something in the process, but their mostly just a fun fling.
Near the end of the pregnancy and before I had to really dig into my Christmas knits I had cast on some Blue Sky Cotton in Thistle for the Licorice Whip sweater by Alvarez Designs. I finally picked it up again yesterday and it's such a joy to knit. The cotton is really soft and the color is growing on me fast. I had originally gone into my LYS looking for black or dark brown yarn, but all they had in the Blue Sky Cotton was pastel shades for some reason. I settled for the thistle with some trepidation, but now that I see it knitted up I really love it. I highly recommend this yarn especially for anyone with a wool allergy. I also love that I'll be able to try this on as I knit and will have minimal finishing at the end.
I did have one non-Christmas knit last month which was the Odessa Pattern from Grumperina which can be found at magKnits. It was for my 3 year old daughter and she absolutely loves it and shows it to anyone who'll listen, shouting, "That's my hat! That's my hat!" I had a partially used skein of Debbie Bliss Merino DK and afraid that I would run out of yarn I decided to knit the brim out of some leftover Rowan wool cotton in grey. In retrospect I would have had enough of the pink merino to complete the whole thing, but perhaps the cotton blend feels better against her forehead and it looks nice with the silvery beads. She certainly approves.
Last, but not least, I could not resist the pull of the Twisted Fiber Arts sock yarn for sale on Etsy again. It was a total impulse buy as a reward to myself on the day I finished all the gift knits. The colorway is Neapolitan and it's beautiful. The sock I'm wearing in that picture however is not from Twisted, it's Koigu. See the hubby and I went on vacation this summer to the Berkshires. I didn't bring ANY knitting, because I convinced myself that I would be too busy sharing romantic moments with my husband to knit. That lasted right up to the point that I saw a phonebook in our Inn room, and if you're a knitter on vacation and you see a phonebook you just naturally have to look up yarn stores and if you realize that Colorful Stitches with 2 floors of every yarn you've ever loved is just one town over, well, what's more romantic than watching your man buy you yarn?! That's 2 skeins of Koigu and 3 skeins of Rowan Denim he's got in the bag there. Colorful Stitches is so lovely and it was the first time I had actually seen koigu in person. I grabbed these skeins of bright hot pink and chocolate brown. I don't know what came over me. There were so many beautiful more subtle shades to choose from, but it was like going out for the first time on your 21st birthday and ordering the drink with the paper umbrellas and sparklers that comes in a plastic coconut when all you really wanted was a glass of wine. I picked up dpns and cast on right away. I knit till I was carsick all the way home and you know what? They were never quite what I hoped they would be. I still smile when I see them because of the happy memories I associate with them, but ever since I've had a hankering for a sock yarn with wider stripes and a slightly cooler, more muted shades of pink. Enter Meg over at Twisted to save the day! As soon as the rebound socks are done I think this skein will be next.

Chanel-ish (Dec. 11, 2006)

There's a lot of knitting going on here at Chez Aimee, but most of it is Christmas knitting and not available for photo ops yet. I've gotten quite a bit done, considering that I'm exhausted and having to hold a newborn for a good portion of the day, but I am one wooly mitten away from sheer panic. If I don't wrap up 2 projects by Friday I will be in trouble. As it is now, each day ends with the baby resting on a boppy pillow in my lap while I knit until my eyes start to close and I literally fall asleep sitting & knitting.
In an uncharacteristic fit of self-discipline I've refused to cast on anything for myself until the gift knits are done. I did however take time to finish up the Chanel-ish Cardigan Jacket from Greetings from Knit Cafe. In part because Winter has finally arrived and I wanted something warm and flattering to the post-baby figure, but my primary motivation was not wanting to start the new year with this @#%&*% project still on my needles! This was not a fun knit. I still love the Knit Cafe book and have had great experiences with other designs in the book, but this one was a pain. I wanted to make it on the cheap, so I used Knitpicks Wool of The Andes. The price was right and I was able to get gauge, but it was pretty rough on the hands. Maybe I've gotten spoiled rotten by all the soft fibers I'm able to find at my LYS, but I was not eager to pick this up and work on it whenever I had a free moment. The stitch pattern looks nice, but trying to maintain it while working armhole decreases under the influence of Third Trimester brain shrinkage was frustrating. I think I ripped the top half of the back out and reknit it about 4 times. By the time I finished I had 5 inches left of the main yarn, so do yourself a favor and order an extra skein just in case. In retrospect I wish I had spent a little bit more and used Andean Silk instead. The good news is I really like the finished product and will get lots of wear out of it for my trouble.
While I was wrapping that up and knitting things for everybody else, I decided to reward my self with some new hand dyed sock yarn. After months of trying to get my hands on some Vesper or Yarntini self striping sock yarn I decided to check out Etsy and see what I could find and I'm SO glad I did. Look at this big honkin' skein of yarny goodness. This was my first purchase from an Etsy shop and I couldn't be more pleased. When I unwrapped the package I literally gasped outloud it was so beautiful and that was before I even touched it and realized how soft it was. You can check out more of Meg's work on her site which includes a link to her Etsy shop. The yarn in this pic is resting on some new fabric purchased to make baby a new sling for Christmas. Speaking of baby...
Isn't there an old wives tale that placing knitting needles in the hand of a new baby assures them a life of happy knitting? If there isn't, there should be. While I don't normally give the baby pointy objects to play with, here's a picture of that landmark moment. The needle is an old wooden one that belonged to my Nana.
Happy Knitting Baby.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (Nov. 22, 2006)

I grew a little human! One of my best "FO's" so far. She was also the best dressed baby in the nursery with her little Schaefer Anne hat. I picked up the yarn at a NEW local yarn shop. One of 2 NEW local yarn shops. I now suffer from an abundance of yarn choices as I happily select which of my 5 local shops to visit. This last one to open was particularly exciting because they carry Rowan. I haven't been too excited about the Rowan magazines lately, but their Kidsilk Haze and wool cotton are two of my favorite yarns. The first time I walked into the store and saw all those fluffy little piles of Rowan goodness I literally gasped outloud. The shop owner came over to greet me and it took every ounce of self control not to grab her in a bear hug and offer to name the baby after her. This shop is also where I purchased the Schaefer Anne for baby's hat. This is the Eternal Gobstopper of yarn. If you check out my recently updated "Finished Objects" gallery, you'll see that I used one skein to knit a hat, sweater, and baby socks, and still have yarn left over!
You might notice that I haven't posted in a good long time. I always seem to go into this very introverted phase when I'm pregnant and have no desire to write anything for public consumption. I realize that pregnancy shouldn't require such intense concentration on my part, but I can't help it. At least I'm back now so here's my summer in a nutshell (minus the morning sickness and mood swings) I finally tackled the lace knitting and got the hang of it, thanks in large part to a wonderfully straight forward pattern by Evelyn Clark and some wonderfully pointy needles from KnitPicks. And yes, that's a loom you see happily coexisting with my knitting. Over the summer my husband and I took a little vacation to the Berkshires and while visiting Hancock Shaker Village I had the opportunity to try one of their floor looms. I was instantly hooked. Once I got home I started doing some research into the different types of looms available and discovered Syne Mitchell's Weavecast on itunes. I mentioned to a friend how eager I was to try weaving and he said he had a loom that he'd picked up at a yardsale and never used and I was welcome to give it a try. Turns out it was a 25" Rigid Heddle Loom, never used, and sold through the JC Penney catalog back in the early 70s. It had all it's parts and I was able to put it together, warp it up and start weaving in fairly short order. I have no warping board, so that was a pain, but now I've just been playing around with different fibers and weights to see how they behave in plain weave. This particular loom model is designed to sit right on the table's edge and propped up against your abdomen, so it became rather uncomfortable in the last few months. Now I'm stuck with one big question. If I get a little extra money in my Christmas stocking, do I pick up some lovely yarn, like the Louisa Harding Kimono Angora Pure I've been lusting after, or do I put it towards a 32" Kromski Harp rigid heddle loom with built in warping board?!!!!? This is what I'm thinking about when the baby wakes me up in the middle of the night and I can't get back to sleep. Decisions, descisions....