Grrrrrrrrrr

So this happened: IMG_20150317_091535I was a mere 1.5 inches from finishing Marin and I ran out of yarn. A knitter’s worst nightmare. I measured the remaining skein at the halfway point and I had over half of the ball left. I’m not sure how this happened, but apparently I must have gotten slightly looser on the second half. The gauge measures the same, but it feels a bit looser.

First I contemplated buying another ball of yarn. I love this color and would happily make something else out of it (Hazel Knits Euphorbia), but I didn’t want to pay $24 plus shipping and have to wait at least 5 days to be able to finish the project for less than two inches of knitting. So, before I take that step I’m ripping back a repeat and a half of the big chart and I’m going down a needle size. I think this will snug up my gauge enough, and hopefully I’ll scrape by with enough yarn. I really don’t think it’s going to be noticeable later at all, especially after blocking.

If I knit this thing again (because it’s lovely and I probably will), I might just use a 2. The recommended needle is a US 5, but I would have defaulted to a 4 since I’m a loose knitter. After reading so many Ravelry project page comments about people going down a needle size, I decided a US 3 was the best bet for me, but I guess I just got too relaxed in the second half. Sigh. Here I go again: marin-2

If 1500 other knitters can do it, so can I

I started a Marin a couple of days ago. I’ve had the pattern for awhile, and even the yarn in mind that I thought would be perfect for it. I just hadn’t been in a shawl mood for a really long time. Since spring seems finally just around the corner, it is a good time for a transition piece.marin

Well, turns out my brain doesn’t work sometimes. I’m chalking it up to pregnancy brain. There are over 1500 other successful projects on Ravelry, so I knew it was definitely me, not the pattern. I was ending up with stockinette stitch and there clearly is none on the pattern. Guess who forgot how to read a chart? I finally ripped back a bit and looked at the written out directions compared to the chart. I forgot that often a symbol stands for knit on the RS (right side) and the same symbol becomes a purl on the WS (wrong side). I was just looking at the little blank spaces for knit and dashes for purls as if they were absolute, and I was happily creating stockinette for awhile until I realized, “Hey, there’s no stockinette on this thing.”

I’m still crossing my fingers that everything turns out well because several knitters have commented that they didn’t have enough yarn. As I have only one skein of this amazing Hazel Knits Euphorbia and it’s a mere 15 yards more than the pattern calls for, I’m really hoping it works out. Some have knit it at a tighter gauge to make it come out closer to the specified yardage. After reading a few of those project comments I decided to go ahead and rip back and knit the thing on US 3 needles. Gauge isn’t usually crucial for shawls, but I’d rather make sure I can make it through the pattern since I only have one skein. I’m really beginning to be an expert at the beginning of this shawl, y’all.

How I block lace

Recently I knit an Echo Flower Shawl with Classic Elite Mountain Top Vail. It was a present to my friend Jenni for her upcoming nuptials next weekend. It’s very hard for me to wait to surprise people, so I had to give it to her a weekend early. I don’t expect that it will be cool enough for her to wear on her wedding day with her dress, but I wanted her to have it anyway.

I don’t have a picture of her modeling it yet, but I will show you how I blocked it.  I think lace needs a nice wet blocking.

lace blockingThe shawl is bound off, without ends woven in, and is a lovely, but lumpy mess.

lace blocking-2I use lukewarm water and some no-rinse wool wash (Eucalan lavender scented in my case). For the wool wash, a teeny dribble goes a long way.

lace blocking-3I let this baby soak for at least a 1/2 an hour or more. You want the fibers to get wet and relax.

lace blocking-4Then I delicately lift the wet wool from the bowl.

lace blocking-5Gently squeeze out the water. Never twist or wring the item or you may cause some unwanted felting. You can also felt items if you switch from hot to cold or vice versa, so if you do need to rinse your item, make sure you use water the same temperature.

lace blocking-6Then I lay out a large bath towel, lay down the gently squeezed shawl, fold it in half lengthwise,and roll it up.

lace blocking-7I stand on it and move my feet across it a couple of times to squeeze out as much of the water as I can. If you are wet blocking a sweater, you might need more than one towel.

lace blocking-9In this case, I used some blocking wires from Knit Picks. I only used the wires on the long straight edge of the shawl, and I picked up the edge loop along the garter stitch. A little over halfway through I transitioned to a second wire to have enough length to stretch the shawl across it as long as I wanted it to be. lace blocking-10In this final picture, you can see my pins. I use straight T-pins. I took this picture, then looked again and straightened the spine of the shawl after I put my camera away. In this shot the center line is leaning a little to the right.

At the top, I first pinned right under the blocking wire, then I started at the bottom center and pulled the pieces out as far as it seemed like the shawl should go (I could have re-read the pattern for schematics, but I was too in the moment). Then I worked outward, trying to make the left and right symmetrical as I went. It probably took about an hour total, but that’s counting the soaking time for the shawl. Positioning and pinning took me about 20-30 minutes.

I really loved making this shawl. It became predictable, but of course it was something I had to have some evening focus time to put on this. I didn’t cart it to work, and I thought about pulling it out last Thursday at knit night, but lace and wine don’t always mix, so I left it alone. I’m very happy with the result, and Jenni was joyful when she received it, so I consider it a great success.

Today is the first day back to school on campus. There is a flurry of movement and energy that wasn’t present mere days ago. It’s overwhelming, but also makes for some great people watching. Since school is in session, it’s also the last day for my sale! Use BACK2SCHOOL to get a 50% discount on  TuxedoPrufrockBetwixtWendingRuffaluffagusThe Unexpected Hat, and my newest, Firefly Seeker for till midnight (Central Time) today.

Hope everyone is having a lovely Monday!

Edited to add: Blocking board is from WEBS, the larger size.

Summer, stay.

Time flies too, too quickly. I can’t believe it’s already July. This month is full of fun and challenges. I have a big bite of my dissertation proposal to finish and polish before it goes to my dissertation chair, Zooey is turning ONE (how is that possible already?), I turn 32, and we traveled this week to see some family members that we don’t see often enough. One of these family members is my brother’s girlfriend, Brenna. She was kind enough to meander around the yard taking pictures of me in this giant shawl, Nuvem.

nuvem-3It’s a miracle that I kept going through those insanely long ruffle rows, but I told myself that the ball knits up just as quickly even if the row is really really long. I was finishing a ball (236 yards) in about 2-4 days depending on how much time I had available to knit.

nuvem-4Each row took slightly over 7 grams. I left a little over 12 grams to bind off. Judging from other Ravelry users with helpful notes (thank you!), that was enough. I had one gram left over!  I went up 3 needle sizes for a bind off and bound off somewhat loosely.

nuvem-2This shawl is a lovely 58″ by 68″ size. I was a little worried that it would seem too thick to wrap around my neck since Classic Elite Mountaintop Vail is more like a fingering weight than a lace weight, but it feels fine wrapped any way.

nuvemI ended up using one skein each of slate, steel, parchment, sand, and adobe (from center out), and I used two skeins of camel since I knew the ruffle would gobble up a ton of yarn.

Here is a second representation of its size:

nuvem-5Seems like it could work well as a personal blanket too. I put together the 32″ and 24″ cables in my set of Addi Clicks to knit most of this project when it quickly overwhelmed at 40″ needle. The stitches had little room to move at the end, but the way they were packed on the needle and ready to go made them knit quickly.

nuvem-6I blocked it lightly by hanging it over my shower curtain rod and steaming it gently. Alpaca does not have as much elasticity as many wool fibers. I thought it best to avoid a wet block for this project. I’m pleased with the result, though I could still work on a couple of tiny spots with ladders from working on one 40″ circular at the beginning.

Summer, take your time. Let’s keep it slow.

If you feel like pattern shopping, my birthday sale only goes till the 14th of this month. Use the code Happy32 for 32% off all of my paid patterns.

Breathing life

I often personify my knits and talk about them as if they have personalities. I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes they soothe us, sometimes they anger us, delight us, keep us up at night. We love them and cuddle them. We sometimes blame them for things. Sometimes it feels as though each piece of knitting is a living creature to treasure. I don’t have any projects in recent memory that I haven’t fallen in love with along the way. We breathe love into them with every stitch and later they breathe that back with their comfort and utility.

Here is another peek at the creature I’m creating, that will soon provide love back in the form of warmth and coziness. Other knitted children are distracting, but I’m doing my best to keep focus and press on with this gargantuan shawl.

nuvem-3

I’m on my last color!!!! Yes, that sentence deserves several exclamations when it means I’m almost on the last 1/4 mile of this mile long shawl. I have two balls of this dark brown and will have to begin the ruffle when I’m a little over halfway through the first ball.

Matt likes to remind me that he has two pairs of socks on the needles that I’m not working on. I remind him that he has as many projects on the needles that are for him as I have for myself, so he is a lucky man.

All of my doubts about this transition of neutral colors are fading. I think this shawl is growing up to be a lovely creature.

Guess who else is growing into a lovely creature? Zooey is 11 months old at the end of this month. She’s a blur as soon as I whip out the camera, but I got a couple of mostly still shots. I can’t believe it’s been almost 11 months. I think she’s cooler every single day.

11 months-2

11 months

Maintaining neutrality

ImageThis is my Nuvem thus far. I’m on the fourth color in about a week and a half of sole focus. That’s 708 yards down. This next color contrast is not as stark, but I think it will balance well in blending to brown tones.

One of my trusted advisors likes to say, “The world is ruthlessly neutral.”  I like to sit and think about that phrase sometimes. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s interesting to think about.

Neutrality can also be soft and very beautiful, especially when you knit it with and alpaca and bamboo blend.

Stockinette meditations

Working on Nuvem is soothing. The alpaca/bamboo blend slides over my fingers and I only have to think about 8 increases every other row. I can do it while reading and mindlessness of it relaxes me. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding stockinette to work like a meditation from time to time.

nuvem-2

I miss bright colors, but I believe this is going to be beautiful in the end. I decided to go with the color strategy shown in the second picture from the last post, and I’m now on the third color in Classic Elite Mountain Top Vail. From the center out the colors so far are slate, steel, and parchment.

I augmented my collection of neutrals with a cream color to transition from the white to the lighter brown color. I want to use just one ball of each color to show how the bands of color get larger and thinner as they change. I did buy a spare ball of the dark brown though, because the ruffle will eat up double the amount of yarn per row. I will have 7 balls, 50 grams apiece. I have 50 more grams of yarn than used in the pattern, but almost 100 less yards. I’m getting gauge. I might just leave it be, or I might have to revise at some point.

nuvem

I’ve been reading a few books while I do these knitting meditations. Some of them aren’t noteworthy and are cheap (under $4) Amazon acquisitions that I finish in a day and a half. One that I will fess up to reading and loving so far is Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. It wasn’t on the under $4 list, but it’s awesome and addresses many barriers women face in the workplace.

What are you reading this summer? Suggestions? I listen to audiobooks too, so feel free to suggest one specifically if it is particularly good as an audiobook.