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Winter is for Knitting

For some reason, this winter seems to be dragging on for me.  Maybe it’s the fact that I was sick for a month or maybe because we have had some record breaking low temperatures or maybe because we actually have not had much snow (for New England), but I have been feeling a little weary of winter.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love winter.  I much prefer winter to the sizzling hot summer.  However, I do get a little stir-crazy sometimes and I miss going on long walks or bike rides.  Exercise videos don’t hold my attention for long and  when the roads and sidewalks are slushy and icy, it’s hard to leave the house for any reason.

So, I look for anything that might be fun to do indoors and mostly, that involves knitting or sewing or baking.  This week, I was taken with the idea of knitting a Carbeth Sweater by Kate Davies.  The MasonDixon Knitting Ladies are spearheading a knitalong for this sweater in February.  When I saw that Kate herself knit a version of the sweater with two different colored yarns together, that gave me an idea.  I gathered some yarn–four to begin with.

These are some odd skeins of undyed yarns that have been hanging around in the stash for awhile.  I thought it would be cool to use up some of those skeins in this chunky sweater.  All four for these was a bit too chunky for the pattern, however.  Then, I had a moment of inspiration.

I gathered all my bits of leftover undyed yarns and sorted them into shades of color.  Maybe, just maybe I could put together some sort of gradient sweater. So, of course, I dived right in with the sleeve.

Here, I am using one strand of sport, one strand of fingering, and one strand of laceweight.  While I was knitting the dark cuff, I hatched a plan to make the sleeves and body sort of matchy.  The plan that I came up with was to divide each little ball of leftover yarn that I had into 3 parts.  One half of each type of yarn I would save for the body, and then one quarter of each would go towards each of the sleeves.  My kitchen scale was not up to the task of dividing those little skeins accurately enough, though.  Then, I remembered that we actually bought a lot of science lab equipment this year for high school physics labs and one of the things we bought was a mass balance scale.  It can weigh tenths of grams.  Hurray!

I’ve got most of the yarns divided now and was able to get almost a whole sleeve done in just one day.  Sadly, I needed to slow down the knitting a little because I was having trouble with one of my thumbs and chunky knitting is hard on my hands.  Hmmm, perhaps I have been knitting a little more than usual lately?  So, I took a day or so off from knitting and did some other things.

Starting today, though, I will embrace winter knitting once again because today the Winter Olympics begin! Actually, tv coverage began last night, but today is the official opening.  I really look forward to watching the olympics whenever it comes around (summer or winter) and I take that opportunity to tackle a nice knitting project to work on while watching the games.  This year, it’s a yoked sweater, surprise!

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Three for the Road

2018 has started off well for me in the sweater finishing department.  I was able to finish three sweaters that I had started last year.  Unfortunately, some of my productivity was due to being sick for a lot of the month of January and many hours sitting by a pool, but regardless of how I got there, I am thrilled to be done with these.

Nor’easter by Thea Colman is a great all purpose cardigan.  I used West Yorkshire Spinners’ Jacob DK and it created a nice fabric.  Aside from the strange patch that I mentioned in my last post, the yarn was lovely to work with. I know I said I was going to fix that patch on the arm, but once I started wearing it, I found that I didn’t even really notice it was there.  So, I’m just going to leave it alone.  The only further modification I might make is to add pockets to the front since it looks a little plain right now.

The back, however is great.  I love that cable on the back.

I also finally got my Boreal sweater blocked.  As I expected, the Berroco Ultra Alpaca that I used grew a little when I blocked it, but the yarn is super soft and warm.  I kind of like it a little long, actually.  The neck feels a little bit better as well and most of the puckering has flattened out.  The colorwork on this pattern is a little more challenging than usual because some of the floats are very long, so I had to pay attention and catch them when they were spanning more than 5 stitches.  This can wreak havoc on the tension, but I think it blocked out mostly ok.  There are still a couple of puckery areas.

Last across the finish line is my Strokkur sweater.  This is my first sweater using Istex Lettlopi, but I don’t think it will be my last.  The yarn is a bit hairy and scratchy, but incredibly light and warm and very affordable.   I can see why Icelandic folk like to use it.  The fit on this sweater is particularly nice since it incorporates some short rows to lower the neck line and lengthen the back.  I always find it annoying when a sweater rides up on my neck in the front and pulls up in the back.

You might think that I would be tired of sweater knitting after all this, but no.  I’ve got plans for more.  Last night I spent some time swatching.

And last weekend, I didn’t bother to swatch before I started a new sweater.  I was sick again last weekend (just a cold, nothing major) and in need of some cheering up, so I grabbed some old stash of Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn and started this happy stripey cardigan.  The pattern is Mon Petit Gilet Raye and it’s free on Ravelry.

I think February is looking good.

Just Yoking

Remember last week when I mentioned that I did not like knitting sleeves?  Well, I take that back now.  Sleeves are awesome.  Sleeves are fun to knit.  They are especially great when you have three swim meets to go to in a week.

In fact, between swim meets and watching Victoria on PBS, all four of my dark grey sleeves are now done.

In some ways, I prefer sleeves to socks for travel knitting.  There’s no heel to turn or tiny stitches to drop accidentally when something exciting happens.  They are usually stockinette and you just have to remember to increase every once in awhile.  They also tend to grow faster than socks

For these colorwork sleeves, I did the plain parts while I was out and about, and then saved the colorwork part for home knitting.  Once I attached the sleeves to the main body, I discovered that I could not stop knitting it.

In just a few days, I had a nearly completed sweater.  Last night, I finished the knitting and have been wearing it all day.

It needs a blocking because the stitches are uneven and some of it is puckered.  However, it is comfy and warm.  My only complaint about the pattern is that the neck line in the front is a bit high for me.  I’d like for the front to scoop down a little more, but maybe that will be better after it is blocked.

As soon as I cast off Boreal, I immediately went to work attaching the sleeves on my next yoke sweater.  I’m excited to be finishing some sweater projects after a long spell of not finishing much.  It has also inspired me to dig around in my stash to plan for upcoming sweater projects.  I feel like I’m on a roll here and I would like to ride it as long as I can.  Unfortunately, swim meet season is now over, so no more poolside knitting for me.  It almost makes me sad that it’s over.  Almost, but not quite.  I’ll be glad to have some freedom back in our daily schedule, but it will probably mean that I will get less knitting done.  But wait.  The Winter Olympics are starting in a couple weeks!  Yay!  I need to get some knitting organized for that two week long tv watching marathon.  Be back soon.

 

At the End

I’ve been a knitter for about 14 years now.  One thing I have noticed over those years is how whatever project I am knitting somehow gets associated with whatever is going on with my life at the time.  In other words, each project has memories attached to it that come to mind whenever I see or wear that knitted item.  For example, there’s a pair of socks that I remember knitting one year at the beach.  Every time I wear those socks, I remember back to those happy moments knitting contentedly while on vacation.  There’s also a sweater that I worked on while the husband was in the hospital following a serious car accident.  When I wear that sweater, I am reminded of those anxious times and feel grateful that things turned out ok.  We knitters spend a lot of time with our projects and sometimes those projects become part of our lives during that time.

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Two years ago, I started a sweater.  Two years ago, we were also deep into house hunting for our move.  Somehow, I was never able to really get into the groove of knitting that sweater.  I think now that it was perhaps a reflection of how I was feeling at the time.  Moving is stressful and as much as I knew it was the right thing to do at that time, it was also something I very much did not want to do.  And, just as I struggled with adjusting to all the changes that the move brought to us, I really struggled with being motivated to knit that sweater.

Occasionally, I would pick it and work on it.  A few times, I even managed to finish a piece of it.

This was the state of things at the beginning of May.  All the pieces were finished except for the sleeves.

Sleeves don’t usually take too long for me, but I was not feeling particularly motivated to finish these.  So, I did something that sometimes helps me to make some progress on a stalled project.  I took it with me on a road trip and did not take any other knitting that I could do in the car.

It worked.  At least, it worked for that first sleeve.  The second sat around waiting for a bit until  I decided that enough was enough and I cast on on that second sleeve.

A few days of dedicated knitting was all it took to get the second sleeve finished.  All that was left was the sewing up.

Instead of diving into that, I found myself distracted by other things again.  But, on the eve of going to the MA Fiber Festival last weekend, I wondered if I might be able to finish the sweater to wear the next day at the festival.  Nothing gets a knitter motivated to finish something than the prospect of being able to wear it around a bunch of other knitters!  I did not end up finishing the sweater in time, but it got me started and I did manage to finish by the end of the weekend.

It just needed a bath and rest after that.  Now, two years later after I started the sweater, it is finally finished.

The sweater is really comfortable and I like it a lot.  The pattern was great.  It must be because every time I came back to it, I had to figure where I was and what I was supposed to be doing.   And that’s sort of how I have felt on and off over the past two years.  Where am I and what am I supposed to be doing?  I would ask myself this often as I adjusted to our new normal here.  I can’t really explain why I was so unmotivated with the sweater except that maybe it was somehow a reflection of how unsettled I have felt this past two years in this new place.

And now that it is finished, I think it is also a reflection of how I am feeling these days here; more comfortable, more settled, more at home.  This is not to say that I am totally at home here because I still don’t feel like I really “belong” here.  To be honest, I’ve never felt like I “belonged” anywhere but that’s a topic for some other time.  I think there is always a part of us that lives in the places we leave behind, but those places also go with us and live in us.

There’s nothing magical or mystical about this sweater, but I do think it will always remind me of these last two years when my world was shifting and changing and I was struggling to figure out how to live in it.  Thankfully, the sweater, just as this life, fits pretty well, looks pretty, and is really quite comfortable.

 

It’s All Getting Away

Well, it seems like every time I blink, two weeks passes by.  How does this happen?  I don’t know, but I hear it happens to everyone, so I am trying not to let it get to me.  There’s a lot happening around here and most of it is good, I think.  Here are some things I have been working on, in no particular order.

First: Knitting. The last time I talked knitting, I was trying to decide what to knit while watching the Olympics.  I ended up deciding on a sport weight pullover called Polwarth by Ysolda Teague.  Out of my stash, I dug out some sport weight yarn called Brigantia by Spirit Trail Fiberworks that is a polwarth and silk blend.

After doing a quick gauge swatch, I cast on during the opening ceremonies and attempted to do brioche stitch for the first time while watching.  For the most part, I did not find the brioche stitch all that challenging, but the little triangle gave me some trouble.  The shaping directions for the triangle were a bit confusing, but I muddled through.  I think it looks pretty good, but not perfect.

The rest of the sweater is mostly stockinette stitch, which is great for watching sports.  Unfortunately, by the time the second week came around, I was growing bored with it and for some reason, the track and field events were not holding my attention as well as the swimming in the first week.  Despite my ennui, I plodded ahead and by the end of the closing ceremonies last night, I had finished all but half of a sleeve.

Even though I did not finish, I am pretty happy with how much I got done, considering I really only knit while watching the olympics.  The last half sleeve should only take another night or two of knitting and then I’ll have a new sweater!

Second: Baking.  Blueberry season is pretty much over (sad face) and peach season never arrived up here in New England.  A couple of frosty days in February and March killed almost all of the peach crop in the New England states.  We’ve had to rely on the grocery stores for our peaches (another sad face).  Last week, I was able to score a bunch of organic peaches that were pretty good and was really happy to make these peach buns.

I have waited two years for this peach bun.  It brings back so many happy MD memories that make me homesick, but it doesn't feel like summer unless I make them.  #breadbakingday #crumbtopping #peaches #missingmd #nopeachpickingthisyear

These are my version of the traditional Baltimore Peach Cake and to say that we love them would be an understatement.  Since I posted this picture on Instagram, I’ve had a few requests for a recipe.  It’s really something that I have cobbled together over the years by combining a brioche recipe and a crumb topping recipe.  All you need is a good brioche recipe (here’s one if you don’t have one) and your favorite crumb topping recipe.  Combine those with peaches and you have a wonderful fruity breakfast or afternoon snack bun.  I froze a bunch of blueberry ones, which I think will be good.  The peach ones do not freeze well and are best eaten within 24 hours, just so you know.

Third: Sewing/Quilting.  Gift quilts are so tricky to sew because I can’t show any photos anywhere until the recipient receives it and then sometimes I just forget.  So here are two small ones I have finished in the past year.  The first is a baby quilt for a dear friend.

If the fabrics looks odd, it’s because 13 different people went out and picked a fabric to represent themselves and sent them to me to put together a quilt.  It was really fun to see what everyone picked and a fun challenge to figure out how to put them together in a quilt.  I just realized I don’t have a photo of the whole quilt, but that’s ok.  I love that it is being used by that cutie pie!

The second quilt is for my dad that will go well with in his log cabin in the woods.

He picked out the fabric a couple of years ago and I finally got it finished (almost-I was a week or so late) in time for his birthday last month.

I made the front and back different so that it could be displayed in two different ways.  It was more work that way, but I like the way it turned out.  Hopefully, he does, too!

I’ve also finished another couple of blocks from my craftsy block of the month class.  Sewing progress was minimal the last couple of weeks because of the heat and all the knitting I was doing.  I’d like to get back to that and finish off the blocks for the class and then get back to sewing the Splendid Sampler blocks.

Fourth:  I have a bad case of wanting to start lots of new projects.

Today, I plan to cast on a mystery knit along shawl by SusannaIC using the yarn above, and I want to join in on the Fringe Association’s Top-down sweater knitalong.  That last one might just take more brain energy than I have right now.  There are about five other sweaters I would like to start as well as a couple of other little things. Oh, if only there was more time in the day!

What do you want to work on today?