Dustland for Christmas and 2014 Review

I really only knit one gift for Christmas 2014 and it wasn’t that involved at all. That’s really the case for most of my 2014 knitting. I only completed 13 projects for the year,  and 8 of those had been on the needs from 2013 or earlier. It was a slog of a year, but I managed to squeak this last project in just before the year end.

 

Dustland

 

 

 

I’d been wanting to make Stephen West’s Dustland since Book 2 originally came out. When thinking about what I could whip up for Bob for Christmas, this hat popped into my mind. Two days later, I had a hat.

 

I used Malabrigo Worsted in colorway Cypress. I made the large size, which, in hindsight is was probably overkill. It’s quite big. I used the full skein of yarn and actually ran out before the last 5 rows were finished. I had to use a little gray yarn to finish because I didn’t have any matching green. You can see the little gray patch in this photo.

 

Dustland

 

 

These a very well lit photos, but in most indoor light the hat looks almost black, so the gray is not really distinct most of the time. The changing textures make the knitting go by so fast since you don’t have time to get board with pattern before it changes to something else.

 

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And so ends 2014. I must admit, it was not the best year. Life challenges. Career challenges. Health challenges. Nothing devastating, just relentless. Setting goals and resolutions for 2015 feels like a surefire way to feeling disappointed in myself. Instead this year needs to be about focusing on the process. Anxiety has even been spilling over into my knitting when I think about all the yarn I have, all the patterns I want to make, and how slowly projects have been coming off the needles lately. I need to get back in touch with how much I love the process of knitting and love my yarn. Finishing is not my 2015 goal.

FO: Color Craving shawl

 

 

As with most knitting things in 2013/2014 I got behind on my Color Craving by Stephen West. This was his Mystery KAL for 2013 and I cast on immediately when the first clue was released in September. Then it sat unworked for months and months.

 

One of the main reasons it sat was because my center “holes” got off alignment and I was lazy about doing the repair. I think it’s sort of understandable given what the repair took.

 

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Of course I didn’t notice my error until I was about 15 rows beyond it. So my dilemma was rip back 15 rows (100s of stitches per row) or tear out just the point of the shawl and re-knit it. I eventually opted for the latter and “dropped” the stitches down to the misplaced yarn overs and then knit those stitches back up to the row I was on when I discovered the error.

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Ta Da! This became my public transit project for a month or so and I managed to get it finished. Given the size, it may seem like a poor choice for train knitting, but it scrunches up pretty small while it’s on the needles and the rows are garter stitch so there’s nothing that needs too much attention.

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A lot of people expressed disappointment at this pattern as the clues were released because it’s pretty unconventional, but I feel like if you sign up for a mystery knit a long, complaining that you don’t like the pattern is pretty silly. Especially when Stephen West is known for being more “off the wall” than many popular designers.

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I used MadelineTosh Tosh Sock for my shawl. The lightest color is Antique Lace, which is a perfect neutral cream. The dark brown is Whiskey Barrel and it an extremely rich mix of browns, tans, and a tiny tiny hint of blue. The red is Byzantine, and like Whiskey Barrel its so much more than the dominant color when you look close it has flecks of maroon, pink, purple, it’s just so rich! I know I’ve said it a million times, but MadelineTosh is definitely my favorite dyer.

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Even though the pattern is not a conventional shape, it can definitely be worn wrapped around my neck like a plain scarf so it fits really well into my not-super-flamboyant wardrobe.

color craving

As you may have noticed, things are still under construction around here. There are more changes yet to come, but the holidays have me a little scattered. Look for more improvements after the first of the year. Also, all my knitting currently is all gifts for people who know about both my Ravelry account and this blog, so I’m keeping quite about my current projects until after the holidays. I’ve still got a few other things to tell you about between now and then.

Garter garter garter garter garter…

I’ve mentioned in my last few posts (spread over 6 or so months… I know… I know…) that from about May of last year until two-ish months ago I really lost my knitting mojo. Lots of changes in my life certainly contributed–end of a big relationship, a move across town, old job that I hated to wake up to, new job that I do not hate but that is super challenging in other ways, another bar exam… by the time I got any alone time I would end up just holding my knitting but not actually creating any stitches.

I did not like that knitting had taken a major back seat in my life so I decided to try and change that. I decided that what I needed was something simple. Something so simple that I would normally never consider it. So simple that I could do it blindfolded, in the dark, with one needle tied behind my back. In short, I needed lots and lots of garter stitch with no shaping. Hello Garter Squish by Stephen West.


It’s a blanket made with two strands of yarn held together, done on size 15 needles, entirely in garter stitch. Not to toot my own horn, but I could knit this dead. Which was exactly what I needed since that is exactly how I felt at the end of the day some times. I couldn’t handle decreases. I couldn’t handle increases. Or short rows. Or charts. But I could do the knit stitch, over and over, endlessly.
The pattern (yes there is actually a pattern) calls for two strands of worsted weight yarn to be held together to make a super bulky yarn. I held one strand of worsted and one strand of DK together because I am a rebel. The DK was Berocco Vintage DK all in the color Cracked Pepper. The blues are Berocco Vintage Worsted in Neptune, Tidepool, Emerald, and Breezeway.
I used the highly sophisticated stripe technique of knit with one color until the ball is completely gone, begin using next color. I had two balls of each blue color, so once I went through the color repeat once, I just started over and did it again. Tres Modern. If it looks like some stripes are 19 garter ridges and others are 22, they are. I can deal. The double yarn combined with the garter stitch make this a super squishy blanket. It’s also really really stretchy. Unstreched its about as wide as twin bed and maybe 2 feet longer, but it can stretch to gigantic proportions.
I started in October of last year and finished just before Christmas. I gave it to Bob for Christmas 1) because he is my best friend and 2) because he only had one smallish blanket and if you are friends with me you need lots since I am perpetually cold. It gets used near daily and some of the end have worked their way out, so I need to give it a little TLC and weave them back in. Overall, I’ve been super pleased with the finished object and with the care and use I’ve seen it receive.
This project really helped get me knitting again when I had stopped almost completely. My productivity has been agonizingly slow compared to my usual, but I do find a little time most days to squeeze in a stitch or two.

Major Fail

Did you get any awesome yarn-y things for Christmas? I know some of you did because there was a parade of husbands/children/siblings through For Yarn’s Sake in the past few weeks picking up gift cards and fun treats.

I got a very generous gift card to the shop from Ryan (THANK YOU). I will use it to pay for a very large order of Madelinetosh that I had special ordered in a moment of “order it now, figure out how to pay for it later” weakness. The Dana Cowl Pullover will be mine!

My brother is not one for shopping. I discovered long ago that if I want presents from him, I have to buy what I want and invoice him. It works out pretty nice. When he grumbles about the bill I just say “next year you can come with me to the yarn shop and…” and about that time he reaches for his checkbook. This year, from him, I picked myself up a skein of Malabrigo Rasta in Azul Profundo and the new Malabrigo 4 book.

I expressly did so because I wanted to make the Uroboro cowl that Stephen West designed for the collection. Here is what it looks like in the book.


I love the deconstructed look and the giant cables. How glamorous I would look in that cowl I thought to myself. And it only takes one skein of Rasta. How perfect. (Can you hear the “dun dun dun”?)
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Mistake number 1: I cast on using the crochet cast on. While it’s normally a very serviceable cast on, it totally ruins your project if you use it for this. You see, you dorp you stitches when you get to the end of this to make those long floats and you let them drop all the way through the cast on. Well, stitches can’t drop through a crochet cast on because the crochet chain is locked in place. This means you have an unstreatchy crochet chain ringing the bottom of your cowl. The only solution is to start over. Of course, you don’t realize this until you are completely done with all the knitting.
Mistake number 2: Thinking that because the pattern said it could be done with one skein of yarn, it could be done with one skein of yarn. Two thirds of the people who have made this on Ravelry have commented that they ran out of yarn. I was so excited to get my awesome cowl that I didn’t read the Ravelry comments. I ran out of yarn with 4 rows and the bind off left to do. I decided I could live with it being 4 rows shorter at the top and bound off early. Which is of course when I discovered mistake number 1.
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Mistake number 3: Not thinking critically about the pattern picture. Look at it. The model is literally holding the cowl up! That’s because with so many dropped stitches it has no structure to hold itself up. When you wear it it collapses in on itself and you can’t see the lovely cables. All you see are the loose strands. It looks like you just wrapped an unknit skein of yarn around your neck.
I love Stephen West, but this design gets one star from me. My goal for the evening is to find a suitable replacement pattern for my lovely new skein of yarn.

Mystery revealed

OK, so I’m certainly not the first person to reveal this particular mystery, but I managed to finish up my Stephen West Mystery Knit-a-long from this year: Rockefeller.

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For those of you not familiar with mystery knit-a-longs, the concept is that you sign up not knowing what the pattern is, then over several weeks, the designer releases “clues” until you finally have the whole pattern. Yes, you could wait for all the clues to come out and see if you like the full pattern, but that’s not really in the spirit of the mystery.
I jumped right in with yarn and needles the day clue 1 was released. Clue 1 was the band of collar meant to sit at the back of the neck. Clue 2 was the more solid light green section that was picked up and worked down from the collar. Clue 3 was the slipped stitch edging around the circumference of the semicircle. Clue 4 were the garter stitch wings that grow out of the ends of the semicircle. I loved watching the clues come together.
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This is my preferred way to wear this shawl: collar sitting at the back of the neck, wings crossed over the chest and tied in the back. Because this shawl is so large I think that this way shows of the design the best while still letting me move around without getting in the way.
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It also really shows off the pattern on the back which I think of as the highlight of the piece. Generally I prefer to wear shawls more in the kerchief style with the bulk in the front and the wings wrapped behind me. As you can see, this shaw is just way to big to do that with.
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My one serious complaint with this shawl is that the yards requirements specified on the pattern are WAY low. I found that the estimate for color A was about 40 yards too low and the estimate for color B was a whopping 90 yards too low.
This led to me running out of both yarns. For my color A I used Tosh Merino Light in the colorway Brother’s Grimm. It was easy to pop by the yarn shop and pick up a second skein. For my color B however, I used Wollmeise 80/20 Tiwn in the colorway Grunfink. I knew it would be impossible to get another skein so I had to make due. I managed to find a close color match in a skein of Abstract Fiber O’Keefe yarn in the colorway chartreuse. I knew if I just changed colors after running out of the grunfink the change would be obvious, so I ripped my first wing back to the beginning and began striping every other “B” colored stipe between the lighter O’Keefe and the darker 80/20 Twin. This is really obvious in the first photo.
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Now that I’m done with it, I’m in love but there was some serious cursing each time I ran out of yarn. I would also like to point out just for the record that this is the first of Stephen’s patterns that I’ve come across with this problem. Usually I have no trouble completing his patterns with the yardage he recommends. Just be warned if you decide to start this one. Buy extra yarn!

Spectra

Tragedy struck yesterday. My trusty laptop was overheating to the point of shutting itself off. I assumed that the fan was either clogged or malfunctioning or that the innards had finally gotten so full of cat hair that it decided to give up. I took it to the apple store expecting them to tell me the would either clean it out or install a new fan. Imagine my surprise when I was told that my hard drive was in the process of dying a slow but inevitable death.

Now I am a marginally savvy cookie and I backed up everything to my external hard drive before taking it in. Because of this, I didn’t feel too bad when they told me I’d need a new drive. I bought the extended warranty, so even though Lappy is almost 3 years old he would get the new drive for free. Bonus: they no longer make 250GB drives so I’d be getting 500 at no extra charge. This was all sounding pretty good until Appleman tells me that, because of the long and agonizing death Lappy has been suffering, he may not have been backing my data up properly at all. Perfect.

I was supposed to get him back today to and I would be able to see if my external dive actually contains any data (I store as much as I can in the cloud, but all my bar outlines are on that drive… Or I should say, are maybe on that drive.) Appleman called me back today to say that the drive replacement went well, but when they ran Lappy through the stress test, his board failed and must also be replaced and then he must go through the stress test again.

Now for some good news: we took a practice bar exam today and my score was passing! Theoretically this means I can pass the real exam on the 24/25. WOOT.

Also, Spectra is done and blocked.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but Spectra sort of started out as a bet between Ryan and I. We were in Twisted and they had a store sample using the same color of Zauberball for the wedges (I lost my tag so I can’t tell you what that color is) and Ryan thought it looked pretty cool, but difficult to make. I told him it was cool (it’s Stephen West after all) but really not that difficult. “Really?” he said, “you could makes this?” His tone was a little too incredulous for my taste and I immediately boasted that I could easily make it. At this point Ryan bought me the yarn and challenged me to make a Spectra. Challenge accepted.

BAM
BAM
BAM

If there is a winner here, it’s clearly me. I got free yarn. Proved my awesome knitting prowess. AND now I have a Spectra.

The non-zauber yarn is Cascade heritage silk. It’s lovely to work with. I did run out of it a bit early, and so my Spectra only has 84 rather than 86 wedges. (This has no affect on my victory!)

This is the first time since December I haven’t had something by Stephen West on the needles.

This brings my WIP total down to 9.

Go check out Tami’s.

Spectra

I know I’ve mentioned several times that I’m in the process of studying for the bar exam. It’s a pretty soul sucking process. The review class I’m in seems to think I need to spend 10 hours a day studying. The only upside is that many of those hours are lectures and review videos, which, to me, translates into knitting time. There’s plenty of research that suggests that engaging your hands while taking in information (like by doodling, playing with a bean bag, etc.) actually helps you retain and recall the information better. I’m convinced knitting is the same… Which is great because even if it were bad for retention, I’d still probably knit through the boring videos.

Recently, my project of choice has been Spectra by Stephen West. It’s fantastically addicting, and after you’ve made about 2 wedges you’ve got the pattern memorized (which is good because there are 85 wedges total.)


The yarn for the wedges is Zauberball (lost the tag so I don’t know the colorway) and the border is done with Cascade Heritage Silk. Both were purchased this March during the Portland yarn crawl. Ryan was kind enough to surprise me with the Zauberball in Twisted when I gushed over a store sample of Spectra in the same colorway. He’s awesome like that.

I love the colors this yarn transitions through, red to purple to red to orange to red to purple. Basically all my favorite colors. I’m 57 wedges in so I’m hoping to be done in the next week or so. Project free-the-needles continues apace.

Things that are done:

1. ALL the laundry.  This is a very good thing.  If I hadn’t done laundry today my clothing options for tomorrow would have been a bathing suit or a cocktail dress.  I hate using public laundry machines.  You have to carry a heavy basket far, you have to scrounge quarters or make a special trip to the bank, and worst of all, you have to deal with jerky other people who leave their wet clothes in the washer for 3 hours before coming back for them… Gross dude.

2. The bathroom.  It sparkles now.  I scrubbed it.  There was Commet and PineSol and Windex involved. My toilet needs maintenance (the tank won’t stop running unless you jiggle the handle just right) but I felt like the bathroom needed a serious clean before allowing it to been seen by a stranger.  No more tub ring. No more sink ring.  No more little toothpaste specks on the mirror.  It’s almost like a adult lives here and not a 17-year-old girl.

3. Cumulonimbus.  The last installment of the Stephen West Westknits Shawl Club came in April and it came off the blocking board this afternoon.    This means I completed all five shawls, each within one month.

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The pattern is basically vertical intarsia stripes.  The shape comes from simple increases and decreases.  It’s was by far the easiest of the 5 shawls to make.  The most difficult part was stopping ever few rounds to be sure the four strands weren’t tangled.
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The yarn from this installment was Hedgehog Fibers Sock yarn.  It’s a basic merino nylon sock yarn blend.  The colors were April Showers (light blue) and Fool’s Day (dark blue).  I find that it’s wound a little loose to be good for actually making socks.  In fact, I was really disappointed with the way this yarn was milled.  One of my skeins was fine, but the other was plied so badly at the mill that there were many places where the plies had twisted back on themselves making thick rough spots in the yarn.  Now that it’s knit up, you can’t really see the flaw, but you can feel it when you run you hand over the project.  I wouldn’t choose to use it again.
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It was too warm to wear scarves/shawls today, but I managed to hang in there long enough to get this modeled shot.  Luckily May in Portland is pretty fickle and I would bet the temps take another dive before it gets warm for good.  Here’s hoping I get to wear it at least once before next winter.

Vulpix

Over the past few months I’ve been showing you the fruits of my participation in Stephen West’s Westknits Shawl Club.  First there was Sharktooth.  Then there was Arroway.  Then Oeste.  Now Vulpix.

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It’s definitely my favorite so far.  First, the colors are amazing.  The yarn choice for this installment was Skein Top Draw Sock.  The blend is 85% merino, 15% nylon and, while this is a very common fiber blend for sock yarn, it is some of the softest yarn I’ve ever worked with.  It is a little splitty and loosely spun for sock knitting but for a shawl it was perfect.
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I love how long and shallow the shape of this shawl is.  It’s really more like a scarf that gets a little wide in the middle.  It’s over seven feet long.  The middle pannel is done with intarsia and the stripes are done with short rows so it’s a very fun project technique-wise.  The blok of garter stitch in the middle was pretty boring, but once you finish it you are rewarded with more short-row fun.
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The package for the final installment of the shawl club arrived in the mail on Monday and it’s already cast on.  It should be fun, but I can already tell that it won’t be knocking Vulpix out of the special place in my heart.  More on that later.

Glamor Shots

Oeste came off the blocking matts last week but the weather has been absolute crap–like 3 inches of rain in two days crap.  Today it finally got nice and I was able to get out and get some good picture taken.

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It’s extremely long.  It’s easily much taller than me and I’m 5’8″.  If you are a very short person you might want to make it a little smaller… I don’t know how you would go about downsizing it though, it would probably take a lot of math.
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It takes me a minute or two to put this on because it’s so long and I’m weirdly anal about getting the points to lay where I want them.  It’s worth it though because it looks pretty darn cute all wrapped up around my neck.
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The yarn is the luscious Malabrigo Sock.  I’ve had some in my stash for quite a while but never used it.  The shawl club was the perfect opportunity to finally give it a try.  The colors were perfect together–I love Stephen West’s color sense–and the pattern was unique and fun to try.  There are a million ends to weave in though.  You’ve been warned.