Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WIP Wednesday #6: Progress!

Hello! It's been almost two weeks since my last post (what?!), but I'm finally back to tell you just a little of what's been going on around here. This post is all about progress, so first let me show you how the little raised bed garden is doing.
Remember this? This is how the little garden looked when we first put the wee tomato, chard, carrot, pumpkin, watermelon, and marigold seedlings in.

And this is just a couple of weeks ago. It's even more filled in now and we have since harvested the chard twice to make this...
I had never eaten chard before, let alone grown any, so I had to look around for a good recipe. Pinterest came to the rescue and led me to Smitten Kitchen's Chard and White Bean Stew recipe. We left off the poached egg and cheese, but in the first batch we did place a slice of toasted rustic bread in the bottom of the bowl, as suggested, and it was mighty good. This time we wanted to keep it lean, so no bread and I added some kale, which made this batch extra green. It was perfect. Made this way, it is a completely veg meal. I also cooked the white beans from dried in the crock pot all day. That means I have some beans left for Cilantro Lime White Bean Hummus. Yum.

And of course I've been knitting.

This is my Fundamental Women's Top-Down Cardi now in test and yet to be edited by Tracey, and you see I have started the first sleeve. This is working up pretty fast in this Schaefer Sandra in Florence Nightingale, but the cotton fiber makes my hands a little sore, so there are no marathon knitting sessions going on with this, folks.
I am also working slowly on a learning piece from Kristina McGowan's Modern Top-Down Knitting. It incorporates short-row shaping on the shoulders and the sleeve caps, so I am learning how to do this by making this sweet little dress (which I intend to make into just a hip-length top). The sample you see here is done with Louet Gems Sport in Navy. I am going to need to rip both the sleeve and the neckline edging. I picked up too many stitches on both...stubborn I am.
This brings me to the real reason for all the blog silence: this bunch of lace taking a bath.  A little over a week ago I decided to buckle down, put away all my other projects, and work solely on a shawlette I designed for Ravenwood Cashmere. Delia has been sweetly and politely asking me to design a shawlette for her yarn for about a year now and even sent me 800 yards of her lace weight to do it...kind of a while ago. It was high time to get busy on this. Because I know that Delia has done quite a lot of genealogy research into her Graham family line, I asked her about some family history so I could make the shawlette a meaningful one for her. Boy, did she come forth with an interesting story! I can't wait to tell you all about it when we release this shawlette pattern in about a month.
I am happy to say that the pattern is all written, my shawlette sample is finished and blocked, and Sue the magnificent is now testing the pattern with her own batch of Ravenwood lace weight yarn. Life is good.

And speaking of that, I am in the process of writing up a series of posts about some healthy changes we've been making over the past year. I'll bet some of you have made some changes, too. I hope you will chime in along with me and tell us about it.

Until then, happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Follow-up: Pairing Hand-Dyed Yarns

I'm back to show some of the results of the yarn pairings from last week. I had trouble with a couple of them, but another couple are going to be Wanda Nells

Just a note: I won't be linking all these yarns again. Please refer to the previous two posts if you want more information on them. Thanks. Now I can get this post done in less than two hours. Whew.
First up is a little sock I started with the Shibui Sock and the Yarntini. I really thought this would go better, but these two had trouble getting along. You see, when trying to do a little Fair Isle section at the top of the cuff, the colors were so close that you couldn't even see the design. Too little effect for so much work. Just above the mottley, supposedly Fair Isle is some striping, which also was not very satisfying. Sure, it's mildly interesting, but we're going for KAPOW here. (Rip, rip, rip.)

And then thanks to Crochetblogger (on Rav), who recently did a little assessment of Figknits and in the process (indirectly) reminded me to add some crochet to this project...
...I tried these same two in a crochet flower motif. Better, but the jury's still out. Also, I was made aware by doing this that the texture of each of these yarns is not so similar after all. We all know that a yarn can look different in the skein than it does worked up. Kinda like that "it looked good on the rack" phenomenon we've all encountered in dressing rooms...under harsh front of rude mirrors...

...but I've wandered. Back to the yarn!
This is the result of knitting Hazel Knits Artisan Sock Pacific with Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering Walk in the Woods in a two-round stripe pattern. I like it! I like it, even though I now know that this Claudia is skinnier than the Hazel. It works anyway. Look how even the fabric is. It's just a mystery. After all the knitting I have ever done I still do not understand all I know about yarn. I am humbled daily. Oh and I emphasized "this" because we all also know that the same yarn in a different color can be lighter or heavier, whatever the case. I have often encountered this with Cascade 220 Wool. Some colors are lighter weight, although its all supposed to be the same. If anyone knows why, please enlighten me. Thanks.

Oh happy day, we have come to my two standout favorites. I wish you were here with me now so you could see this in person. This is the happiest fabric on the planet. These roses, oranges, melons, wines, marigolds, caramels, piglet's ears! Every stitch is a party as I watch what two colors will be paired next. This is the Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Sailor's Delight and Wool in the Woods Cherub in (possibly) Sugar Maple. Needless to say, this works. This is destined to be a Wanda Nell in its original incarnation with sleeves to the elbow. I can't wait to show you when it's done.

And now, my personal choice as winner of the Great Sock Yarn Pairing Project is...
The Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Chocolatier and Schaefer Nichole in Julia Child. Oh, how I wish I could have gotten a better picture. This one just does not cut it. This fabric is perfect--soft as can be, smooth as if it were one yarn, and colors that meld together like chocolate and peanut butter. This "Julia and the Chocolatier" Wanda Nell is going to have long sleeves and it is destined to be my favorite cardigan of all time. Maybe when it's done I can get Natalie to photograph it well enough to convey its beauty.

Wish I could work on it more right now. The only thing that can pull me away from it is a cashmere lace shawlette design I'm working on. Too much delight!

I hope your current project is making you happy, too. Let me know which of these results you like best, given that you can't see them in person and must rely on my rudimentary photog skills, of course.

See ya soon!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Choosing Yarns for Wanda Nell, Part Two

Alternate title: Why I have no business buying any more sock yarn, part two.

I'm back with more pretties. I hope your eyes are ready.

This is a continuation of yesterday's post about how to go about choosing two different yarns to use together in two-color knitting. It's especially fun to work two hand dyed yarns together for a whole new effect. Some of the yarns here and from yesterday's post are solids, some have subtle shadings and some are self-patterning, which just makes for even more interesting effects when working them together in the same project, like the Wanda Nell.
First up is this yummy couple: Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Chocolatier with Schaefer Nichole in Julia Child. Yes, it's all about food here. I'm hungry--how about you? I think these two yarns would make a delicious match. The Artisan Sock is 90/10 Merino/Nylon and the Nichole is 80/20 Merino/Nylon and they both have a sweet twist. One has four plies and the other three, but the 4-ply is spun a little tighter, resulting in a very similar gauge. I think Wendee and Cheryl, the dyers, must have had a mind meld, because these colors are perfect together.
For bit of a departure, let's look at two yarns more closely. This is Spirit Trail Fiberworks Alexandra in Honeyed Plums and Fleece Artist Nova Socks in Ivory. Both are 100% washable Merino and both have two plies. The ivory above is spun a little looser, but when they are knit together they result in beauty. I am working on a fingerless mitt with a bit of Fair Isle using these two, so I'll show you how they look together soon.
These two have a great color combo going for them, but you can tell that this Cascade Heritage in #5615 and this Sundara Sock in South Seas do not even have the same gauge. Sometimes you don't have to spend time doing a swatch to tell--it's that obvious.
And sadly this Lollipop Cabin Merino in #1336 only looks good propped atop this Crazy4Dying Go Crazy in Michelle. The second one's 100% BFL content is a far smaller gauge than the Lollipop Cabin's 100% Superwash Merino show you that not all sock yarns are created equal, for sure.
I think this is the happiest couple yet. look at those lively hues, those happy plies! On the left we have Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Sailor's Delight and on our right is Wool in the Woods Cherub in what I think is Sugar Maple (the label had no color name). The sailor's shorter color changes of pinks and oranges will work against the cherub's longer ones for a very happy marriage. It's a merino marriage of a three-ply and slightly fatter two-ply that works, in my opinion.
Here you see a more muted companionship between some Yarntini Merino Sock in Chocolate Cream and some Shibui Sock in #3001. It works well because they have exactly the same fiber content and the same ply count. Yarntini must have been the girl next door to Shibui growing up.
Lastly I hooked up a skein of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Pacific with two different other yarns to see who was the best partner for this lovely skein of sock yarn. In this picture I was amazed at how well the Hazel went with this Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Baltic Sea, but was not so satisfied with the gauge match. The skinnier four plies in the Lorna's would be overtaken by Hazel's fat three plies in a fight to the finish--and finish well it would not.
However, I think I would like to see Hazel go a round with this Claudia Hand Painted Fingering in Walk in the Woods. Even though the twist of the Claudia is looser and sproingier, I think it would work. The fiber content is almost the same, so I think we will see Hazel and Claudia walking hand-in-hand through the park.

Well, darn, this has all made me want to knit up all the successful pairings! I think at the very least I could satisfy us all for the time being by working up a few swatches of some of these successful matches. I would really like to try some mosaic stitches with these lovelies. I'll be back after the weekend with some to show you.

Have a knitterly and relaxing weekend, if you can!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Choosing Yarns for Wanda Nell, Part One

One reason I came up with the Wanda Nell Cardigan was to use some sock yarns I had in my stash. It occurred to me that there may be others like myself who have collected skeins and skeins of sock yarn and wanted to knit other things with them besides just socks. Yes, we could always make fine gauge hats and shawls and scarves and gloves, etc., but how about a sweater? I was already becoming obsessed with top-down sweaters and had begun to study Barbara G. Walker's fantastic book, Knitting From the Top Down. Looking at these big single skeins I had originally bought for socks, I realized that I could pair some of them up and have enough for a little sweater.
The first one I tried was with two different colors of Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering in Shells on the Beach and Maple Leaf. I love how the two colors compliment one another in this 2-row striping technique. I chose to use the more subtle color for all the edges. Imagine if I had worked it the other way. That would have brought about a completely different look! So many options....
With my second sample of Wanda Nell, I was able to make it easy on myself and use all one kind of yarn. I had three skeins of Pagewood Farm Yukon in Sea Breeze. Even though they were the same color and from the same dye lot, I knew to alternate skeins. Earlier in my knitting life I made the mistake of ignoring those warnings to "always alternate skeins of hand dyed yarn--even from the same dye lot" with very disappointing results. Don't make that mistake yourself.

I thought it would be fun to discuss how best to choose sock yarns to use together, whether they are the same kind of yarn or not.
Note: You are about to see a glimpse of why I held myself to buying only two skeins of yarn at Sock Summit.

I generally use four points of criteria when choosing two yarns to use together, whether to stripe or for Fair Isle or mosaic stitching:

1. Fiber content
2. Twist/Ply
3. Gauge
4. Color

That last one is all about personal taste, of course, but the first three should be given careful consideration. Let's look at some examples.

These are two different colors of Cascade Heritage (75/25 Superwash Merino/Nylon), and even though they are the very same fiber content and the very same gauge and twist and ply, I probably would not use them together because one is a heathered colorway (#5631) and the other is a hand painted colorway (#9872) and more of a mix of clear colors. It would be fun, however, to use a flat grey (like #5660) with the hand painted one.
Here's a fun pairing, and I wish the colors had come through a little better--they are richer in person. On the left is Liberty's Yarn Bluetopia in Cider paired with Knit Witch Bridge to the Summit in Oregon Merlot. (Yes, two beverages.) One is a four-ply and the other a three-ply, but they appear to have similar gauges and they are both 100% Superwash BFL. Pretty close in my book.
But here is the Cider paired with some Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. No match. One is a three-ply and the other is a single; one is 100% BFL and the other 100% Merino. I wouldn't even want to see the mating of these two, even though I love the colors together. I think I'll just let them snuggle for a while in my yarn closet and see what happens.
Love these two together, but again, just because of the color play. On the left is Lollipop Cabin Superwash Merino in #1334 and on the right is Pagewood Farm St. Elias in Bird of Paradise. You can tell by looking at them that they are different fibers, and even though they are plied similarly, these two would not create a smooth, harmonious fabric together because the Pagewood is a BFL/nylon blend and the Lollipop Cabin is all Merino. Sorry, guys. Back to your separate corners.
Now I'm totally in love with this combo--have always loved pink and gray together. However, these two won't be going on any dates because the Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Sassafras underneath is 90/10 Merino /Nylon while the Quince & Co Tern in Columbine is 75/25 Wool/Silk. They are plied the same (3 plies each) but as with the just previous pairing above, the fabric would not have a good, continuous surface to it, I fear. Break it up, you two!

Alrighty, I fear that may be enough yarn beauty for anyone's eyes for one session. Go rinse with Visine and join me tomorrow for more pairings. This is fun!

Thanks to Natalie for taking the pictures of me in the Wanda Nells.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sock Summit Lite

Just as promised, I am back to give you my tiny take on Sock Summit 2011 in Portland, OR, this past weekend. I can only give you a very condensed report, because Kelli and I popped down on Friday and were only on the marketplace floor for about 3.5 hours. We took no classes, we saw no "celebrities," and we did not do Flash Mob. We just walked the mighty Marketplace. Here is my show book and button to prove I was there.

I went with a plan and some cash and promised myself only to buy two skeins of yarn. Mission accomplished. If you're going to narrow down all that yarny splendor to only two skeins, you'd better do it right.

Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Sassafras, because I need some dark socks.

Sanguine Gryphon Mithril in Blue-Green Music. I had to. This is lace weight merino with 8 plies. I know! I couldn't believe it either, but it's true. I cannot wait to knit this yarn into a shawlette.

The rest of my plan was to see eight of my people: Liz of MacKintosh Yarns (and her sweet mama), Joan of White Lies Designs (and her sweet hubby), Sarah of Sanguine Gryphon, Kathy at WEBS, the folks in the Gardiner Yarn Works booth (including Yvonne of  Lavender Sheep), Toni of The Fold (good talk!), Jen at Hanks in the Hood (who we met first at OFFF last year), and Wendee of Hazel Knits. Little did I know I would see Stormy in the Hazel Knits booth, too! She was there from Texas, selling her beautiful eggs in Wendee's booth and probably taking classes at the Summit.

Another surprise was from Liz. I can't tell you about that yet, but it includes some beautiful green yarn!

Kelli and I even had time to take a lunch break and yawmp on the delicious lunch she made for us. I drove and she made us lunch. I love that arrangement. Thanks Kelli!!

Some other vendor booths that impressed me were Indigodragonfly, Rain City Fiber Arts, Huckleberry Knits, Tactile Fiber Arts Studio, Hay by Rachel, Sincere Sheep, and all the folks (and yarns) at The Plucky Knitter booth. These are all some very nice people, too!
Oh! And I almost forgot to show you my "tattoo" from the girls in the Knitters Brewing Company booth. Rocking, huh?

Try to get your self out to Portland in a couple of years when they (hopefully) have another one of these. Lots of fun, even if you only have time for a short visit.