Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Go Away, I'm Knitting a Sweater

Trying to measure seeming intangible long term effects is one of the challenges of information work. We certainly try to quantify and qualify in a variety of ways, but at the end of the day, my desk usually looks worse than it did when I started, there are ever more emails waiting for me, and a new class of students who don't know or don't remember how PubMed works.

I've cited this before as part of the reason I feel particularly bonded to having a craft that is more concrete and where progress, though often slow, is visible and tangible.  In a fit of nothing-I'm-doing-works-and-I-see-no-progress-ever, I stormed the stash.

Nothing like intangible outcomes and weather that seems like it will never get warmer to make a girl want to start knitting a sweater.

I pulled out the second bag of binge yarn from last spring with AudioGirl. She also just started making a sweater from this base, though hers will be teal.  Mine will be brown. It's Filatura Lanarota Wool Sprinkles.

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The pattern is from Tin Can Knits and is part of the Simple Collection. This is an excellent set of basic patterns done in a wide range of sizes and available for free.Think of it as oatmeal knitting. Fittingly, most of the patterns have grain names: Maize, Malt, Rye, etc.

I'm knitting up Flax, which is a super simple top down, raglan sleeve, worsted weight sweater. It has a little bit of detail on the sleeve to keep me from entirely zoning out.

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And because it's new, it's all I want to do.  Supposed to be reading some articles on the train ride in? But I'm knitting a sweater. Really should go through some of those never-ending emails with lunch? I'd rather squeeze in a couple of rows.

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Which might be why I am ready to split for the sleeves already and debating how long I can take this with me on the train each day before it will get really clunky to work on.  I also should have brought another skein with me today because I'm probably going to run out on the train ride home.  I'm always surprised how fast worsted weight knits up after a few months of fingering weight yarn only.

I also started a new scarf for the Philosopher, but I haven't had a chance to photograph it yet. Soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sock Show Thursday: The More BMFA, the Better

The only skein I had wound and designated for socks when I cast off the Strawberry Banana socks was a skein of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Mediumweight in the My Blue Heaven Colorway.  This is my second pair with this colorway, I also knit my Hawaii Socks out of MBH.  I bought the skeins separately, but hey, I'm consistent in my purchasing of blue sock wool so that comes as no big surprise.

I hadn't really been paying attention when I cast on and lo and behold, it's the stitch count I use for the Philosopher.  So, despite my more recent plans to only work on scarves for him, he's getting one more pair of socks.

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I'm not very far along, especially considering how fast sport weight knits up. I'd expected, on Monday, to have a lot of time to work on them during an all day exam I was proctoring, but juggling grading sheets and working with the students precluded that.

I spent an hour over last weekend winding up more yarn for socks and Philoso-scarves. After winding up about 8 skeins, my comment to the Philosopher was "yeah but this won't last me very long" and then I had to laugh. Here was a lot of yarn, that will probably take me 3-4 months to knit up, but I don't see it as very much, and I fully expect to use that plus finish the other projects I'm currently working on during that time as well.

At this rate, I might have to start buying a lot of yarn again. Well, in a couple more years anyway.  Won't that be horrible...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meet Finnbar

We have a new robot at Chez Hedgehog. For our anniversary earlier this year, the Philosopher got me a Roomba. We've named him Finnbar. I was required to give him a male name, I was told, to help even out the gender balance.

Finn is going to have the monumental task of collecting not only dust and Chex crumbs, but also following Gypsy and Pyewacket around and trying to keep up with my shedding. The Philosopher shaves his head so he contributes less to shedding than the three females in residence.

We've run Finn a couple of times now--first in the dining room and kitchen, then in the living room.  My first and strongest conviction is that the point of a Roomba isn't actually to clean the floors, that's just a side benefit. The first job is to point out all the things you should have picked up before you started the Roomba. We've both spent time going "oh, quick grab that before Finn tries to go over it." [Please note the red cat toy from the Incredibly-Patient-Mother that is the current favorite at Chez Hedgehog, Finn just shoves it out of the way.] As a result, and because you've already picked the thing up so you might as well put it away, those rooms are much tidier than usual.

Finn's been doing an excellent job. He's picked up a lot of cat hair (surprise surprise) and he fits under both of the couches, which are an area where our upright vacuum does not go. He's also managed to get a lot of my hair wrapped around his brushes but that's pretty standard for vacuuming in a house with a woman who has long hair [mine is almost waist length at the moment, I need a 5" trim, no I'm not going to donate it again]. Once he's finished he announces it with this cheerful little "Tada I'm done" music. Anything that is that happy about sweeping up cat fur for me is a solid win in my book.

And then there was this morning, as I was saying goodbye on my way to work, the Philosopher and I suddenly heard Finn play his happy little start up music. Had I started Finn? No, I'd been making tea and shoving things in my purse. And since the Philosopher was still in bed, that ruled him out. So that meant one of our intrepid felines must have stepped on the green "Clean" button. Gypsy was closest to Finn when I got out to the dining room; Pyewacket looked the most alarmed. I picked Finn up and sent him back to his charger as I didn't have time to set up fake walls so he didn't kill his entire battery trying to tackle the office, which is totally not ready to be vaccumed.

(these photos from Finn's first day, I didn't have time this morning)

I am curious though as to how long it will be before the felines do start running him when we're not home and, further, how soon I will start having "Gypsy riding the Roomba" videos to post on YouTube. I give the former (which is when coming home will then include the process of finding the robot and sending it back to it's charger) about another 2 weeks, the latter, maybe the end of summer.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Candy Colors

Russell Stover's makes an "Assorted Creams" box, with a teal colored printed ribbon, that has my favorite of their chocolates: the fruit creams. For reasons unbeknownst to me, it has either 4 or 6 chocolates whose title also includes Maple and only one that has Orange, Apricot, and Lemon, but I suffer through.

This project is actually one reborn. About 3.5 years ago, I had fallen down the path of the Yarn Harlot's suggestion (me and everyone else...) and purchased some Wolle's Yarn Creation in the Strawberry to Hershey Colorway. I'd even started it, as evidenced in this old blog post.

While the yarn continues to be pretty


I found I didn't like the pattern I was using--a garter stitch triangular scarf. It just didn't work with gradient and I couldn't get enthused about it.

So I ripped out what had been knit up, decided I wanted something rectangular, and traipsed over to Ravelry for a click around. The pattern I settled on is called Upstairs and it's by WollSchnegge.  Several other people have used the yarn for this pattern and it seemed like a good choice. Here's the pattern page, if you'd like to follow along there.  I'm calling this pattern Upstairs in the Candy Shop.

I knew I wanted a scarf rather than stole and so, poking around other people's notes, decided that 5 repeats looked like a plan.  About 12 rows in, I could tell that this was far too wide and ripped out again. The yarn still looks pretty good for having been ripped twice and reknit.

Now I've just finished the fully pink section.

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As you can see, there's that single strand of color change, starting the red section, which will eventually take over the full four plies and then progress through to chocolate brown.


The pattern is easily memorized, though I have tossed the repeats into Evernote so I can pull it up quickly on my phone as I'm taking this about with me. Or at least when I've moved from couch to chair.

A complaint I've heard about this yarn specifically and which I will acknowledge is that because the plies aren't twisted, it's so easy to miss one. This isn't a project that I can knit while doing anything particularly visual, so that puts it right out for meetings and most television watching. I'm hoping that this time around I can complete it in less than three years, though.

Mindless home knitting has become a cone of bulky weight cotton, in a pale baby yellow, on size 9 needles. I'm making washcloths. Moss stitch, small log cabin squares, whatever comes off the needles next. It's been a few years since my last major bout of washcloth making (that was 2007) and I have no doubt that several/many of those washcloths have been used up.  And as there are still a large number of skeins of bulky weight cotton weighing down the stash...

Friday, April 11, 2014

YarnCon 2014: the Haul

The Incredibly-Patient-Mother popped up for a weekend with the Philosopher and I and was my dutiful companion to YarnCon 2014, sparing said P a trip. Someone had gone out to several birthday parties the night before and was home sleeping while I was doing this yarn shopping. This means that said someone didn't get to pick out any wool for himself this year.  Considering I have at least 4 skeins set aside for him off the top of my head, I think he'll be okay though.

Anywho, it continues to be a nice local conference and it was nice to see Shannon Okey. IPM and I went on Sunday and Shannon's booth for Cooperative Press was seriously picked over. I watched a store owner nearly fully wipe out the rest of the books that Shannon had and was a little sad that some of the books I'd wanted to see in person were gone. Thrilled for her of course, I'm sure she was very pleased not to have to take the books home and I've no doubt that lack of weight equaled better gas mileage but *sigh*...

The IPM noticed that, in the years she's been going with Sibling-the-Elder and I to yarn conferences, the average age of attendees has gone down. I still feel a little out of place at them, as though I don't display enough knitwear (only my giant alpaca cowl), or have felted earrings (not my thing), or strangely dyed hair (hot pink was in this year).  But generally everyone is happy there and we're all people of the skein, one way or another.

After a circle through the booths and showing off my finished kerchief to Emily P of Sophie's Toes (the dyer), I ended up buying yarn at the same two dyers as last year: Sophie's Toes and Fleur de Fiber.

Emily had some magic cakes this year that were really beautiful and I'm still debating if I want to get one in the Mardi Gras colorway. I picked it up and set it down about three different times.  She'll have them in her Etsy store soon.  I haven't really seen a whole lot of appeal in making a magic cake myself, though I certainly have enough sock yarn leftovers and heaven knows most of those colors go together (oh look, blue, green, blue, purple, blue, green, purple, green....)

The IPM picked out a skein for another scarf for her, pattern to be determined by me:


This is the Miss Molly colorway, which is the name of one of the dyer's daughters.


I love the vibrancy of all of the different colors and I'm looking forward to finding something in the scarf persuasion that will do it justice.

I also picked up this very minty skein

The colorway is Whale Watch and I'd figured it for the the Philosopher but he suggested it might be too spearmint for him. So it'll probably go into becoming a pair of socks and end up sprucing up feet rather than a neck.

Over at Fleur de Fiber, she had the silk hankies again this year but as I've not touched last years I decided to stick to yarn.  This skein, if I were still in Wisconsin, would probably have been highly fought over. As it is, I don't know any Green Bay Packers fans in Chicago and so while I imagine it will be socks, I'm curious as to who it will be socks for...

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The three skeins together definitely screamed my need for green and spring colors.

I'm hoping to get to WI Sheep and Wool this fall to see Ewetopia Fiber Arts and Fiber Optic. I am a dedicated little yarn groupie. :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sock Show Thursday: Send Some April Flowers Already...

Yeah, yeah I know the saying April Showers bring May Flowers but usually I don't have to wait until May to see crocus and snow drops and daffodils. In years past *something* has come up a little earlier and hinted at the color returning to the world after our monochromes of grey, white, slush, and ice.

I used the nearly neon intense colors of yarn for my earlier socks this year, but looking towards spring I started wanting spring colors and those are inevitably a little more pastel. With that in mind, I pulled out a skein in the colorway of Strawberry Banana.

This yarn was purchased after attending a friend's wedding in North Carolina. It's Three Waters Farm yarn and they have a lot of roving if you're a spinner. Pretty colors. I would have liked a neater hand on the labels, they're handwritten and somewhat illegible, but fortunately labels tend to go the way of cat toys around Chez Hedgehog. I shudder to think how many of them are probably under one of the couches.

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These are 60 stitches on size 1 (2.25mm) needles and have knitted up fairly quickly. The colorway is charming; the Philosopher described it as "antique looking" and I can see what he means. It looks like colors you'd see on a ladies dress from the Renaissance period, something a little faded but still lovely. Pinks with a subtle orangish color.


Though you're only seeing one sock here (took the pictures earlier this week), I have finished the second sock and these are off to the gift bin.

I knit most of this pair at the Research Data Access Preservation Conference I went to recently. It was fun because the knitters definitely came out of the woodwork of their seats to see what I was knitting, ask about my Color Affection, and a couple of them got to go yarn shopping the morning I flew out (I'm still sad about that).

Unfortunately, knitting in a conference means you start toes at funny times sometimes because you can't try the sock on in the middle of a presentation. So these aren't quite the size I'd planned but they'll still do. I'm thankful for 1x1 ribbing that gives me plenty of options.

And I'm about to start the toe on the first sock at work. I forgot my home knitting one day and ended up taking the Emergency Work socks home to an evening event where there was much knitting time and then back on the train the next morning, where they've returned to my desk.  Now I really have to remember to take skein 2 to work...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Flannel, Brass, and Steam

In between the most recent pair of socks, I've been working on the first of the neck scarves requested by the Philosopher.  I was also trying to use up at least a bit of the yarn that I bought at YarnCon last year so I didn't feel quite so guilty about going and buying more this year. I wouldn't have felt much guilt, but it seemed appropriate to at least try.

I pulled out a pattern I've considered and set aside a few times: The Age of Brass and Steam kerchief.  While it's simplicity has been appealing, I've known that for myself I'd need to make it far larger and I just haven't wanted to work on it. Now, here was a perfect opportunity to do a one skein piece.

The yarn is from Sophie's Toes, and is dyed by Emily Parson, who has really lovely color sense and is an absolutely nice person as well. This colorway, handpicked last year by the Philosopher, is Flannel.

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I mostly followed the pattern.  After the second eyelet repeat I rather gave up on how often one is supposed to wait in between eyelet row counting and just stuffed in another row when I felt it was time. I also didn't go back to the pattern when I hit the bindoff, though I think I did something along the lines of what it calls for.  The last eyelet row and a couple of rows of garter stitch does help it lay flat at the bottom.

There's some nice pooling in the reds and blacks but not intrusively so. It got blocked and Gypsy immediately sat on the wet yarn for a while.  Why that cat feels it's nice to sit on wet piece of wool fabric with a fan blowing at you when it's still cold enough that the radiators are going I will never understand.

I'm not sure how much wear it will get this spring as we're finally starting to reach nicer weather and the Philosopher is very ready to shed any and all extra layers possible. I'll see if a picture is possible in the fall though--from a distance--while  he's not paying attention. He's not much of one for photos, preferring to be on the other side of the lens.

A Brief Distraction From Squares

If I wave new yarn under my nose, it might take off the feeling of "yet another square?" right? I complain but actually the square...