Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Merripog Socks

Last spring I was watching a foreign film of some kind (while knitting, of course) and saw a sweater. How many times has this happened to you? The movie has a sweater that makes you forget the movie entirely but not that sweater. Happens too often for me to count. This particular sweater had a two-color design  that transitioned from one color to the other along the yoke with the use of a charted design. Well, the whole idea  fell deeply asleep in my brain until I laid my hands on these two colors from Cephalopod Yarns, 
Montauk Monster and Oleander Nymph 
in their Skinny Bugga! yarn.

I knew they would be perfect for the colorwork and I knew it had to be in a sock. The Merripog Socks!
Please excuse dark pictures--rainy season has descended on us here and that makes for emo pics!
Next I found this flowery-hearty design in Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting and knew it was the one to bring the project to life. I jumped onto my trusty charting program and mirrored the pattern and played tag with the two colors. The whole idea made it a simple feat to work the heel and toe in the contrast color, too. I felt like the sock needed another little two-color fun just before changing colors for the toe, so I pulled out one little element from the larger pattern to do that job for me.

Along about the time when I was nearly done working the color pattern on the cuff, I saw one of my Instagram buddies working on an afterthought heel and bam! I knew that would be perfect for these socks, and that it would make the whole project a lot more fun (as if it weren't already a party). I had never done an afterthought anything, so I would get to learn something new!

Folks, I love afterthought heels! When you reach the heel, you just place your line of scrap yarn in place and keep going. Nice! Now I want to try an afterthought thumb. One of my upcoming designs is a mitten with a fun cable and it is now going to have afterthought thumbs. Too much fun. 

I chose a high-contrast color combo for my first Merripogs, but just to illustrate how you can also choose to go the more subtle route, here's my second attempt.
I knit this sock with Madeline Tosh Sock in Corsage and Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Orchid. These two yarns are so close in pinky shades that sometimes the two are the very same color, so the pattern is almost lost in places. Unfortunately, I also tried to practice my Continental knitting (thrower, I am) and came out with a very large, loose sock. This would fit my husband, but even he (being a person not in need of defending his manhood) would not wear socks like these...well, not on a regular day, that is.
All that is to say that this is a onesy. I'll hang it up and look at it. 

For some even better examples of choosing two yarns with more subtle color differences for the Merripog Socks, feast your eyes on the beautiful ones knit by the pattern's tester, Amanda, and another one being knit by Judetha in some very lively colors.

I can't wait to see what color combos people come up with next.
Maybe even yours!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ingefred and Ingelill

Yep, them's Viking names! Once I got these hats done they started looking like Viking helmets to me. 
What do you think?
We hope that when you need some cozy warm Viking helmets you'll choose Ingefred and Ingelill.
Here are some details....
Ingefred is the adult sized cabled ear flap hat that can easily be a headband, a beanie or a hat with flaps. It's modular, in that it begins with the sideways-knit cabled band. Join the band and add a crown if you wish. 

After that, add ear flaps and cord, maybe.

And after that, you can add pompoms, perhaps. 

The pattern has sizes for small or large heads. Actually the smaller size can be for babies, especially if you line it inside with some fleece. If you need a really large hat, you can use heavier yarn. I used farm yarns for all of my Ingefreds because I love the rustic feel of them. This hat needs to be burly!

I lined mine with this angora felt handcrafted by my friend Shelly Whitman. 
You wouldn't even believe how soft this is.  Baby cheeks soft!

Here is the baby/toddler ear flap hat called the Ingelill. You would be right not to be fooled that I am holding a real baby in this photo. This is my willing model, Emmett, the Cabbage Patch Doll. At least he is always available and never grows one solid inch. 

The Ingelill is also knit modularly so that it could be headband, beanie, or ear flap hat. It sports some optional bobbles and pompoms. Sizes included are baby and toddler, because actually the larger size comes out bigger than the smaller size of the Ingefred. Ah, the mysteries of pattern writing! The cable patterns dictated that little glitch.

For your enjoyment, here is Ingelill modeled by a baby pumpkin (in the spirit of the season) and looking a lot like Marvin the Martian. "Where's the Kaboom?"

Do you need a warm hat this year? Try Ingefred or Ingelill!
Thanks to my daughter Natalie for the photography!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fair Isle, Part 2

My Oslo Star Hat took a turn.
I decided that the Citrus Tosh Merino Light would not do justice to the Golden Hickory of the same yarn, so I secured a skein of Glazed Pecan to work with the Golden Hickory instead. I got all the way into the colorwork portion (yes, past all that ribbing, and that's with cutting short the recommended 4-6" in order to fold the brim back, which I did not plan to do) and decided that there were too many places along the yarn that these two were the exact same color, which at times obscured the pattern entirely. I'm enjoying practicing two-handed color knitting, but not enough to have all my work hidden by poor color choice. High contrast was obviously the way to go, so I started all over again with this Manor and Grasshopper in Tosh Merino Light. Nice! My hat came out biggish because my gauge got all relaxey. I still like it.

But, I need to correct myself in calling the Oslo Star Hat a Fair Isle project. You'd think the name itself would have given me at least a hint, huh? I am learning so much with all of this, and one thing I've learned is that the Oslo Star Hat is Norwegian knitting, not Fair Isle. We who do not know enough about these things mistakenly call anything with more than one color going on Fair Isle (except stripes--we know that's not Fair Isle, right?) Let's get this straight. Fair Isle knitting is so much more than just throwing a couple of colors together, and Norwegian knitting has a rightful place all its own. 

Here's one basic difference between the two. Norwegian knitting usually employs two colors at a time, and most of the time only those two colors. Sure, there may be hints of a third color here and there, but for most of the project, it's just two colors. Fair Isle usually employs two colors at a time, but those colors change and they change often

I am learning that important fact first-hand with this Bauhaus Fair Isle Sweater designed by Mary Jane Mucklestone. As I told you in the post before last, I wanted to dig into my stash and try to use what I had for this sweater. Well, I got schooled! 

Luckily, I had about half of the yarn for the sweater--two of the colors in the recommended Dale of Norway Heilo, the dark grey and some of the medium grey, and enough Dale Falk, another 100% wool yarn of the same weight, in the medium blue. Even though the pattern calls for navy blue, it works. I ordered more medium grey and light blue called for in the pattern and then stubbornly tried to sub in some Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Bamboo for the olive and some Rowan Felted Tweed in a light grey. The pattern only calls for one skein of each--how bad could it be? It's not bad, but it's not good, either. For one thing, the Rowan is a wool/alpaca/viscose and I needed all wool. Now that I've read more about authentic Fair Isle, I know it needs to be not just any wool, but Shetland wool--good, scratchy, grabby wool. The stitches and floats need to sort of stick to one another to make a clean, firm fabric. There is also the promise of the bloom once it's blocked and dried. I want that!

So yesterday I ordered the two skeins of Heilo to make this sweater turn out right. I'll keep you posted.

While I'm waiting for the Heilo to come all the way from Minnesota (thanks to Laura at 3 Kittens because none of my local yarn shops have it), I thought I would finally allow myself to attend to this little package of Jamieson's 2-ply Shetland Spindrift in eight lovely colors. I bought these at a (since closed) local yarn shop years ago with the express purpose of designing a Fair Isle hat. Well, I'm itching to do just that, and to help me out, look what I found at a local book store--200 Fair Isle Motifs by the very same Mary Jane Mucklestone who designed the sweater I'm knitting. Perfect!

As I showed you last week, I have plenty of other books to help me plan this hat, but this one is even better. All of the motifs are shown actually knitted up, as well as in charts--black and white, color, and alternate color combinations. Mucklestone even shows you how to manipulate some of the patterns in different ways, like turning some of the border and motif patterns into allover patterns. The Fair Isle history section is fabulous, as are the technique, color choice, and designing sections. I (obviously) highly recommend this book if you want to learn Fair Isle knitting yourself.

As you see, I have my colors separated, with light on the left, dark on the right, and a couple of extra colors out to the sides to provide some pop. The pop colors should be brighter, but this time I'm going to allow myself to use what I have. At least they are all the very same yarn. 

Sometimes it's okay to make do and sometimes it's not. You just have to know when! 
That can be hard for a stubborn maker-doer like me. My granny taught me too well.

Now I'm off to play with some colors and Fair Isle patterns. 
You have a nice day, too, and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Recent Travels

I realized that I haven't filled you in on some mountain travels we have had over the past couple of months. While I'm gathering up photos to show you how the Fair Isle is progressing, have a look at some gorgeous views! 
In August we enjoyed a perfectly sunny Saturday hiking the Skyline Loop trail at Paradise with up close views of Mt Rainier. I just love all the wildflowers there.
In late September we spent a couple of days doing most of the Cascade Loop Highway and stayed over in Winthrop with views of the North Cascades. They have lots and lots of rocks over there!
Some of you know that Winthrop is a little Western town--so cute! 
This was our hotel beside the Methow River, Hotel Rio Vista. 

Then just this past weekend we headed down to a little town called Lyle, WA, where we took a left and wound our way up into the High Prairie region to stay in a yurt--a first for me! The yurt had a great view of Mt Hood across the Columbia River. 
We saw her at sunset...

...and shrouded by clouds the next day. 

This little wood stove kept us comfy warm in the yurt, despite some wind and rain and a considerable drop in temps. In fact, we experienced all kinds of weather while we were there.

And on the way home we wondered at the majesty of the Columbia.

While we try to make it over to Mt Rainier every year, these last two trips are a part of our ongoing exploration of Washington State. This state has everything from rocky seastack coasts to dry dusty deserts and I want to see it all. I lived the first eight years here never crossing the Cascade Range, in which time we travelled all over the peninsula, including most of the San Juan Islands. I've been up to Bellingham and down to Vancouver, from White Pass all the way over to Kalaloch, but until summer 2010 I had never been east of the Cascades. We remedied that by visiting Delia and Reed Rasmussen in Spokane, which is a great area. Then last summer we sent to Washington wine country down near Yakima. Once you pass over the mountains, the landscape changes to desert and things get a lot more cowboy. Cows and horses and farmland all over the place! 

Now I want to see Neah Bay up in the northwestern corner and Kettle Falls and the Grand Coulee Dam over in the northeastern corner. Each region is beautiful in its own way, but these travels always remind me how much I love our wet, woodsy Puget Sound. 

As I saw on a sign when we were on our way home...
Domus dulcis domus.
Home sweet home!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

My Fair Isle Education

Spoils from Madrona 2008
I can't believe it was way back in February 2008 that I took the Bourgeois' Two-Handed Fair Isle class at Madrona. I bought their book, Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified before class to be really prepared and during the class we made this little bag. It was a good first Fair Isle project, being a tube that you simply close up on one end and add a knitted cord strap.
After that we moved on to bigger and harder things and made a tam. 
I see some little wiggly parts in there, but it generally looks okay...for a firstie.
Ann and Eugene brought plenty of their Philosophers Wool yarn for us to make the projects and even gave us enough to make two tams. Well, then life happened and that second tam got pushed to the back of the closet...until last weekend!
With this second tam, Ann challenged us to use brighter colors. Color choice is one of the most essential components of Fair Isle knitting. I think this one looks kind of Native American--like there's little feathers branching out from the center. These are definitely not my usual color choices, and that's a good thing. 
Talk about branching out!
In the meantime, I had been dabbling with two-color knitting, as in the Drosten Hat on the right, and fake Fair Isle, as in the little cap on the left that I made with striping of leftover hand-dyed and self-patterning sock yarns. I have also since designed a pair of socks, a pair of fingerless mitts, and a hat, all with dabs of Fair Isle involved. Those patterns will be coming soon in the Figheadh and Mirth pattern lines. All of those also work the two colors only on "safe" areas of the pieces, or ones without shaping. This means I had still not done steeks. 
This means I had still not done real Fair Isle. 
Time to remedy that and I am armed with plenty of very reliable sources to keep me in line. I decided to begin with a Fair Isle hat that carried the colorwork onto the crown and all the way up to the last bit. I like knitting the tams, but they don't flatter me, so I prefer close-fitting caps. I searched the Ravelry pattern database and settled on Adriana Hernandez's Oslo Star Hat. It was providence that I had some of the very same yarn she used for her beautiful hat, but in different colors.
I'm doing mine with Madelinetosh Merino Light in Citrus and Golden Hickory. Wish me luck!
Then after the hat gives me more practice (because especially for a right-handed thrower like me, practice is key), I want to make a Fair Isle pullover with steeks. Searching the Rav database again gave me the perfect sweater, and lo and behold, I had it all the time in my Spring 2007 issue of Interweave Knits, the Bauhaus Fair Isle by Mary Jane Mucklestone. I also found Eunny Jang's great article about steeking in the Winter 2006 issue of IK. I have almost all the issues stretching back through 2003, and it's a wonderful resource--by far my most favorite knitting magazine. I've got the pattern and the article printed out so I can mark them up, and all I have to do now is go into the stash and find the yarn for the sweater. That will be fun, but I won't even allow myself that little party until I am at least mostly finished with the Oslo Star Hat.

And the bonus to all of this is that I can show you my progress, because it's not a secret like all the socks, hats, scarves, mittens, mitts and gloves I'm working on for patterns.

On with the Fair Isle!