Sometimes Its the Simple Things

I consider myself a pretty experience knitter. I have tackled most techniques and, while some are not my favorite, I would say that I can execute all of them fairly successfully. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love to grab a completely simple mindless project from time to time. For example, dishcloths.

Each spring in Portland, a lot of the local yarn shops (we’ve got a lot of yarn shops in Portland) get together and throw a “Yarn Crawl”–it’s like a pub crawl, but instead of stopping at a bunch of pubs for a drink, you stop at 13 yarn shops to ooogle yarn. There are delightful trunk shows and demonstrations and lots of knitterly camaraderie. I’ve yet to get through a crawl on budget (my personal budget) but I always end up with some fabulous stash additions.

During the 2015 crawl, Yarnia had these delightful Dishcloth Kits made from 100% cotton yarn strands. The kit had enough yarn for 3 small dishcloths or one small dishcloth and one larger hand cloth. I was very drawn to this pink-black combo and snapped it up. The pattern for the dishcloths is a very simple knit purl pattern that I memorized quickly after only one or two repeats.

Yarnia is quite unique for a yarn store. They sell yarn by weight. They have many very fine strands of yarn/thread. You can choose up to six in various fibers and colors and then Yarnia uses a special machine to cone all of the strands together so that you can knit with them as one single “yarn” strand. There’s a video of the process here. It’s fun! I may be slightly biased since its the first yarn store I ever worked in, but it gives you a lot of creativity in creating a special yarn for a project. This particular kit had 5 strands of cotton in different thicknesses–equaling a worsted weight when held together. There is two black strands and three different shades of pink.

I made the three small cloths a gave one dishcloth and some homemade sugar scrub to each of my admin staff for Christmas. (Yes, Christmas 2015. I’m a wee bit behind on posts.) I really love sugar scrub for taking dry skin off my hands, legs, and face. After buying quite a few scrubs for $15-20 a pop I realized that I could easily make my own. The recipe I use is very simple:

  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil (can substitute coconut oil or almond oil if preferred)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Honey

Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. That’s all! Use it like you would any other exfoliator. You’ll be baby smooth and smell like vanilla to boot. I have always used olive oil and never tried the suggested substitutes (only because of cost) so I can’t speak to how they might change the formula, but I’m sure it’s still amazing. I’ve been told it can keep for up to three months, but I’ve never had a batch last that long. Its the perfect last-minute gift.

 

A long time coming

I recently cast off a project that has been on the needles since June of 2010. I think anyone who has been knitting for a while (almost 10 years for me) has these linger projects. Ones that get picked up, a few rows added, then put back down over and over. Mine is Scarf with the No. 20 Edging from “The knitted Lace Pattern Book,” 1850 from the book Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. It’s a book with extremely beautiful lace based on traditional Victorian patterns.


I started this project right after I started working at Yarnia and made my first custom yarn blend.  I used one strand of silk, one strand of cashmere, and two strands of bamboo. Each strand was very fine, so the overall weight is probably a light fingering.
The construction of this stole is quite unusual. The first scalloped edge is knit from bottom up like a skinny scarf. Then, stitches are picked up along the long non-scalloped edge and the middle panel is knit at a 90 degree angle from the edge. Next, the second scalloped edge is knit down the length of the scarf like a kitted on border working it together with the live stitches from the center panel.
If you’ve ever used Yarnia yarn, you know it’s not actually plied, each of the strands sit next to each other on the cone and the knitting experiences is like holding several strands of yarn together. This makes the risk of splitting higher than usual and and in a lace project where you’re using larger-than-recommended needles it makes for slow going. I’m guessing that’s part of why this kept getting set down–it took a lot of focus, and I just don’t have as much time to dedicate to projects that need constant attention.
In the end, it turned out beautiful. My mom claimed it the last time she was up, and it’s a little fancy for my wardrobe so I didn’t object. Every project in this book is gorgeous, so I will probably cast on another soon… and hopefully get it finished with less delay.

New Socks

May was a month of finishing projects.  I finished my last Westknits Shawl Club shaw Cumulonimbus.  I finished my brother’s birthday present gloves.  I finished my ugly Dahlia.  And just at the end of the month I managed to get my Pomotomous socks off the needles.

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As you can see this pattern has over 4,000 projects on Ravelery.  The swirly shell pattern is beautiful and the twisted stitches really make the pattern pop.  I’ve been tinkering on these on and off for a very long time.  They rode the bus with me to the legal clinic all year long, but it’s hard to make significant progress knitting 4-5 rounds at a time.
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The yarn is one of the first cones I ever bout from Yarnia, it’s one of their custom house blends called Arch Cape.  If they don’t have it in their store right now, I bet they can make you up something very similar.  They’re super accommodating like that–super nice.
This pattern creates a very long sock leg.  I think if I make it again I will only repeat the pattern twice on the leg rather than three times.  Cookie A‘s pattern is written very clearly and is easy to follow, but the pattern is only charted so you have to be able to read charts.
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Unfortunately, June is not the best time to be finishing wool socks.  I’ll have to pack them away until it starts to get cold again.  If you want to check out other projects that people have been casting off this week, you can check out Tami’s Amis blog where’s she’s collects FO links.

Hey look! A sock!

I mostly knit socks one at a time.  I’m perfectly aware of all of the two-at-a-time methods and occasionally will use one of them, but for the most part, I just prefer double pointed needles.  Second sock syndrom hits me every so often, but in general it’s not something I suffer from too badly.  Well folks, I’m suffering.

Meet Pomatomous.  My single pomatomous.

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This sock is a beast on many levels.  As you can see, the sock has a very long leg.  The pattern is a 24-row repeat and it’s repeated 3 times before you start the heel.  Thats 72 pattern rows plus the twisted rib cuff before you ever even start the heel.  Added to that, because the pattern is predominately twisted rib, it is less stretchy than most.  This means that you have to cast on 72 stitches to make the sock fit.  Each round is 8 stitches bigger than a standard sock-weight sock.  Finally, the chart has to be followed line by line.  Even after following it five times though, I couldn’t come close to memorizing it.  Look, it’s pretty complex!
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I will make the second sock my on the go project for the upcoming semester.  The one that I keep in my backpack and work on when I’m on the bus to Clinic, on my lunch break at work, and in spare moments between class.  Hopefully I will have a finished pair by the end of the semester without having to use any of my primo couch/netflix knitting time on these suckers.  That time is for lovely projects that fill me with joy.  See yesterday’s post.

More socks

I feel like recently all I’ve been showing you are finished socks.  I know there have been other projects, but I’m usually so slow to finish a pair of socks that three pairs done so close together has me feeling like I’m cranking them out.  (Disregard the fact that all three pairs were on the needles between six months and two years.)  Here is the latest pair.

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These are my first pair of socks from Yarnia yarn.  This is one of the house blends that is very popular named Boylston.  (If the online shop is out of stock you can always call or email them and ask them to make you up another cone of Boylston.  If they have the ingredients they’ll be happy to whip you up a cone.)  This yarn is 50% Bamboo, 27% Merino, and 23% alpaca.  This picture really shows the depth of color.

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The yarn is composed of four strands: one navy bamboo, one navy merino, one bright blue merino, and one heathered gray alpaca.  I think the color is perfect for manly things, which is nice because sometimes it can be hard to find “manly” yarn.  Of course, this didn’t stop me from making these socks for me.

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I have found that Yarnia yarn sometimes has a weird quirk to it.  As you knit, sometimes one or more of the strands will get “loose” like you have more of those strands than the other, so you have to slide the excess down as you knit so that you’re working with a length of yarn where all the strands are the same tension.  If you’ve worked with Yarnia yarn before you might know what I’m talking about.  It’s a minor annoyance and slows knitting a bit.  In the few instances where it’s become completely unmanageable I just cut the yarn, trim the strands with excess down, join, and continue on.

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The pattern is just a simply 64-stitch sock.  I followed the Yarn Harlot sock recipe the first time I made these, but now I just knit from memory.  The only thing I have to look up each time is how many stitches to knit/purl across for the first two rows of the heel turn.  I just grab any of my many sock books off the shelf and flip through till I find a sock with a heel flap worked over 32 stitches and use the numbers there.  Some day I’ll memorize that too and then I’ll be able to make socks completely from memory.  I think that’s cool.

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This yarn is a bit heavier than a traditional fingering weight, not quite a sport, but close.  At 64 stitches on size 1.5 needles it made a very dense fabric.  These would be perfect hiking socks and a great for walking around the house when it’s not quite cold enough for slippers but you still want something on your feet.  I won’t be wearing these for a while it seems though.  It’s finally spiked up into the 80s here in Portland and I’ve been able to bust out the sandals.  The warm weather is totally worth having to put off wearing my new socks for a few months.

MMmmmmm

This is the evening I have planned:

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The food is homemade crockpot stew and a glass of a yummy Moscato (I like girly wine, I know, not as classy as a Pino Grigio but sweet and yummy and mellow.)

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My recipe for crockpot stew:

Ingredients

  • potatoes–as many as looks good, I usually get about 4 big ones
  • celery–one bunch
  • carrots–I buy a bag of baby carrots then add until it looks right and save the rest to munch on
  • pre-chopped stew meat–about a pound.  (I stock the grocery store for it to go on sale then freeze it so I can use it as I like.)
  • flour–about two handfuls
  • broth–48 oz (I use broth for all the liquid, if you’re worried about sodium you can do half broth, half water) chicken or beef, whatever is on sale

Directions

  • chop potatoes, throw them in crockpot
  • sprinkle handful of flour over potatoes
  • toss stew meat in
  • sprinkle with handful of flour
  • chop carrots and celery, throw them in the crock pot
  • add broth
  • set crockpot to low and leave it alone for a day (I usually do overnight to the next day’s dinner time)
  • eat stew
  • hide leftover stew from 6’10” brother who loves stew and will eat it all if given half a chance

It’s actually even better if you have the patience to take the stew out of the crockpot and throw it in the fridge for another overnight so it can thicken and the flavors can get all combined.  I can never wait.

As for the knitting, its a plain 64-stitch sock from the top down with a heel flap.  This is my favorite method of making socks.  I know all the benefits of toe-up socks and the short-row heel, but top-down are so darned charming.  I love everything about them.  I don’t much like ribbing, so it’s good to get it out of the way when the project is fresh.  I have enough stamina to make the leg as long as I want it.  With toe-up socks, I find I make shorter legs because I want the project to be over (and I skimp on the ribbing.)  Heel flaps are fun.  You get to go back and forth for a while rather than round and round.  Plus, if you do a slip stitch heel it’s more durable than the short-row heel because it’s double thick.  Heel flaps fit high arches better than short-row heels.  I have high arches.  Kitchner really isn’t that bad.  There, I said it.

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The yarn is Boylston, one of the Yarnia house blends I picked up when I was working there.  It’s 50% Bamboo, 27% Merino, 23% Alpaca.  It’s comprised of one strand navy bamboo, one strand navy merino, one strand bright blue merino, and one strand gray heathered alpaca.  It’s definitely on the thick side for a fingering weight, my socks will be very thick–good for hiking or as “outside” socks to go over smaller socks in the winter.

New Top

Finals stress is in really starting to get to me.  I’ve been spending the majority of every day in the library with my corporate tax books… who would have thought it’s a complicated subject… (most foolish class choice ever… screw being a well rounded candidate for jobs.)  I have been taking my knitting with me every day, and it makes such a difference.  My system is to set myself up in a walled off study cubical (the ones by the windows are prime study real estate) spread out all my books on the desk and put my knitting within reach.  I work for 45 minutes then I take a 15 minute knitting break.  I find the 15 minutes I “lose” knitting gives me time to process the information I’ve just crammed into my brain and gives me a chance to evaluate whether or not I understand what I’ve just put in my outline.  Go ahead, ask me about §351 nonrecognition exchanges, I dare you.

As a result of all this study knitting (plus my “unwinding” knitting at night) I’ve completed three projects.  This was the first.  It took a while to get it onto the blog because I had to wait for a nice enough day to go out and get some picture.

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It’s my Gamine tank that I showed you half finished a little while ago.  Cathy Carron’s super easy pattern is in the Summer 2010 Interweave Knits.  I knit the pattern almost exactly as written.  The only change I made was to hold off on the lace until the top was long enough to go over my pants.  I want the option of wearing this in the summer without something underneath it so eyelets all over the belly were less than desirable.  I like the lace as just a detail at the bottom.

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The yarn is from Yarnia.  It’s one of the house blends called “Spring” which is a totally appropriate name.  It’s one strand brown-green cotton-rayon blend, one strand sage green cotton, one strand pale green cotton, two strands lime green merino, and one strand shimmery green lurex.  The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, but this yarn is classified as DK.  I think Yarnia yarns tend to run a bit on the thick side, and I find it very easy to knit a Yarnia DK to a gauge more typical of worsted yarns.  This picture shows the color particularly accurately.

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I was not expecting to have my picture taken…  I’m so proud of myself for actually finishing a project in time for it to be seasonable (I’ve been told spring is coming… I have faith.)  Usually I’m just finishing sweaters, mittens, scarves as the 80 degree weather is setting in.  This time, my stretchy cotton tank will be ready to go as the temps start to rise.

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Other than finishing up knitting projects and spending hours and hours in the library my life is extremely boring right now.  I would kill for a few extra hours just to clean my apartment… but it seems that the next two weeks will be too busy.

Hurry!

Sadly, I will not be working at Yarnia much longer.  For almost a year I’ve been there on the weekends winding yarn, chatting with customers, and being inspired by the endless possibilities that a shop like Yarnia presents.  On the up-side, the reason I’m leaving is because I managed to score a full-time legal clerk job for the summer.  Considering that I’m putting myself in an entirely foolish amount of debt to attend this law school thing, it seems like a good idea to start setting myself up for the possibility of a legal career.  I’ll be in the shop this weekend, then a weekend off while the new person is shown around, then one last weekend as sort of a buffer while the new person transitions to running the show.  That means three weeks until I say my final goodbye.  It also means three weeks until my employee discount runs out.  Not good.  I have a project on the go that I’m fairly certain I’m going to run out of yarn on.  That project is my Gamine Tank.

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The pattern is by Cathy Carron and can be found in the Summer 2010 Interweave Knits (miracle that I’m knitting a pattern from a magazine that’s less than a year old… usually patterns have to stew in my queue for quite a while before I make them.  I tell myself that this is to ensure that they are not just fashion fads and are actually something I will still want to wear after the current season.  This is a lie.  I’m just a slow knitter.)

Note to self: learn more words!  “Gamine,” as it turns out, basically means “girl with a boyish body.”  That is so not me.  Not at all.  I have the boob/hip thing in abundance and would call myself a slightly bottom-heavy hourglass.  This might end disastrously.  As of the picture, the top reached my thinnest part and I have since continued to knit down.  I’m hoping to avoid drawing attention to my belly by continuing in plain rib rather than the lace pattern called for in the instructions.  I’ll add the lace the the last inch or two rather than across the whole belly.  I’m hoping this will allow the flattering vertical nature of the ribbing to continue to shine.

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I’m not a fan of the whole “take a picture in the mirror” thing but it was well past midnight when I decided my progress needed documentation and I figured neither Ryan nor my brother Adam would like to be pestered into coming over to my place for a photo shoot.  I would drive across town at midnight for a knitting photo shoot, but I know not everyone would. 

I only have about one ounce of yarn left.  I’m certain this is not enough.  I’m hoping to finish off what I have before I have to stop working that way I can buy just enough to finish.  We shall see.  I have a terrible time predicting how much yarn is left on a Yarnia cone.  Some times I feel certain that I’m going to run out, that the cone will start to peek through the yarn at any minute, and yet I keep knitting and knitting, and finish my project with yarn to spare.  Other times I think I have tons and start wondering what I’ll do with all the leftover only to see the cone and get that sudden sinking “ran out of yarn feeling.”  I’m hoping I will just need 2-3 ounces more to get through the last couple of inches.  Who knows.

Law school finals are bearing down on me.  My “study” approach so far has been to pretend nothing is wrong and go about my daily routine.  Sadly, this means the next four weeks will be “hell weeks” where I kick my own ass and study till my brain leaks onto the floor to make up for all the nothing’s-wrong-at-all time I was having earlier in the month when everyone was starting their outlines.  This has been my system since the 8th grade.  It works for me.  I always hate myself the last 4 weeks for letting things get so far behind, push myself to the brink of insanity, tell myself I will be more pro-active in coming semesters, then (once the new semester arrives) I tell myself “well I did fine last semester studying at the last minute, everything will be fine this semester as well.”  It’s one of those cycles where early-in-the-semester-Melanie constantly screws-over end-of-semester-Melanie, and this me never gets to take out any revenge on that me, and so she never learns her lesson.  Coincidentally, if you have an outline of Corporate Taxation Law lying around your living room… call me.

A gift

When My mom came to visit Portland in December, she spent Christmas Eve with me at Yarnia since I had to work.  While we were there she decided that she wanted to make some special yarn to be knit into a cowl/hood for her friend Nancy who will turn 60 this year.  My mom used to be a knitter, but had forsaken the craft for cross stitching years ago (heresy, I know!)  When I asked her if she was going to get back into knitting to complete the gift, she said “oh no, I’d have you knit it.”  Oh. I see.  I’ll knit it.  Great.

This is the yarn my mom created:

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It’s one strand plum-colored alpaca, one strand pink-purple wool/nylon blend, and one strand lavender rayon.  The yarn is very pretty, but I don’t think it went with the pattern my mom picked out very well.

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The pattern is Wavy Feathers Wimple by Caryll McConnell.  It’s written for either a fingering or lace weight yarn, I did the fingering weight version.  The pattern is not charted, which for me is a bummer, but it could be charted pretty easily if you really need to work from a chart.

I don’t think the yarn and pattern go well together because I think the lighter strand of rayon makes the yarn too tweedy to show off the lace pattern.

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It also doesn’t help that there’s really no good way that I can think of to photograph a lacy cowl.  It’s either laying flat so the double thickness obscures the lace or scrunched up around your neck.  If you have suggestions let me know.

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This puppy is now taking it’s chances with the USPS to get to New Mexico where it can meet it’s new owner.  The pattern is easy enough to memorize as the majority of it are plain knit rows.  I would consider making it again, but I do wish it were charted.

My first pattern!

Hi all.  I’m really excited to show you this today!  It’s the first pattern I’ve designed!  I call it Spring Breeze Shawl.

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I designed it because Yarnia is going to start offering a class on knitting triangle shawls and I’m going to teach it.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about this! (Though the exclamation points might be giving you a clue.)  I kept the pattern mostly stockinette because the class will be focusing on basic construction elements.  This would be a great first shawl/lace pattern because it’s geared toward beginners.

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This sample will be living at Yarnia, hopefully generating interest in the class.  It was knit from less than one cone of one of the Yarnia house blends called Noni.  The yarn is two strands gray merino, two strands soft almost-white-but-really-seafoam-green merino, one strand lavender rayon, and one strand lurex to give it a little sparkle.

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I’m currently looking for people to test knit the pattern, so if you’re interested leave me a comment and I’ll shoot you a free copy of the pattern for you to check my work.  It takes ~ 350 yards of fingering weight yarn (any cone of Yarnia sock yarn should work) and size 8 needles.  The finished shawl is about 48″ wide by 22″ deep.  I think the big swath of plain knitting would be good for variegated yarn because the stitch counts across the row change so fast it should combat pooling and the lace at the bottom is simple enough that it wouldn’t be overpowered by a strong yarn.

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Once this has been tested and I’m fairly sure there are no glaring mistakes I’ll put it up on ravelry and come back and add a real life pattern link.  SQUEE!