Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fifty Below

I'm really excited to be presenting a new original design to you today! I gave you a sneak peak in my last post, but I'll give you all the details now that I've launched my pattern into the world via Ravelry!

It's been such a long cold winter this year. Here on the prairies we've had relentless bitterly cold temperatures and windchills.  Hats, mitts, cowls or scarves have been a constant necessity just for survival outdoors.

I've found, this year, that I really like wearing (and knitting) cowls! They're so easy to pop over your head and go without the worry of ends dangling in the way or slip sliding off your neck like a scarf can. They're also really quick to knit, which in my books is always a bonus!

So without further ado, here is Fifty Below, a simple design born in the days when the windchill had the temperatures diving down to the fifty below range!

Fifty Below is a warm cowl that is knit flat, then seamed. It can showcase a special yarn or add a pop of colour in an easy to memorize cable panel up centre front. Perfect for those days when the temperature drops and the windchill is biting!

The cowl will knit up nicely in any worsted weight yarn so it is a great mix and match stash buster project as well! 

Gauge is not terribly important to this project as long as you are satisfied with the fabric you are creating, but please keep in mind that a different gauge from that listed could affect size and/or yardage needed.

You can download the Fifty Below pattern(for free), then grab your needles and yarn. You'll be ready in no time to bundle up and head outside to enjoy the rest of winter knowing you'll be cozy in your cowl when the mercury plummets!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Getting Things Done

I had a few things on the go in my project bag (I say bag, but really I mean bags). My Butterflies are Free colour work socks I was talking about in my last post as well as the cowl I was working on, plus a vest - the Montague Vest from New England Knits - that I started early last spring.

I have been getting things done. Happily checking those projects off my list.

First up, my socks. Oh how I love these socks. Is it wrong to be so proud of them? I feel like quite a grown up knitter with them. Of course mostly because of the fact they are colourwork (and they fit!!!!!), but also because they do fit because I was a "big girl knitter" and instead of huffily ignoring the fact my first sock didn't fit quite right, I decided to do something about it. (Plus of course I'd already been a "big girl knitter" and ripped back to fix the mistake earlier on in my first sock!)

I ended up modifying my socks that were too wide and too long in the toe by ripping back several rows into the colourwork (a whole butterfly worth) and ending the colourwork there. I then switched to smaller needles, decreased by eight stitches evenly around and continued the toe from my usual 64 stitches decreasing down to 20 stitches and binding them off with a kitchener stitch. Perfect fit. I can't believe that I knit an entire pair of socks in under two weeks. Amazing!!! I need to start wearing them more before sock season ends! I also need (yes, it's a NEED not a want) to knit another pair of colourwork socks. I need to knit Water for the Elephants. So strong is my obsession with them, I was tempted to cast on in pure wool rather than wait until I had a wool nylon blend. Thankfully a friend talked me down off that crazy ledge by reminding me how often I would need to darn socks that didn't have nylon reinforcement. Phew. Glad I dodged that one!

Next up I have to tell you about my cowl! It's my own design and I'm pretty proud of it too! (I'll be publishing the pattern on Ravelry very soon!) I used Patons Classic for the main colour and then added a pop of colour to the neutral brown by using some gorgeous handspun that a friend had given me a few years ago. Just the thing to get a gal through the doldrums of what feels like a never ending winter. I'll tell you more about it in it's own post tomorrow likely!

My final project I want to tell you about has been a veritable thorn in my side for far too long. This pattern is starting to rate right up there with the blasted Lopi Sweater of Doom. Nothing went right on this thing. I started out with great gusto last March. Swatched and all. Except my gauge swatch lied, as they will sometimes do. A small four inch gauge seemed perfect. A whole vest worth and that yarn grew like a bad weed. As soon as it got wet it went from hip length to almost knee length. Heck! The armholes alone stretched just about to my waist. I immediately ripped back and reknit to a better length. But that wasn't the end of the problems. I knit the front edging and suddenly my vest pulled up so high in the front it was as though it was cropped. Agggh. Ripped that out and picked up more stitches along the edges, used bigger needles and hoped for the best. As you can see in the picture it's still pulling up, but no where near as badly as before. The vest has sat in my project bag for months waiting for me to darn in the ends and do something with the armholes. The pattern doesn't do anything with them, but left as is, I think it looked like I'd simply forgotten to knit something. Bare bones edges on armholes are not attractive in the least. They look sloppy and unfinished. At least the way I knit them anyways!

It was driving me nuts. Every single time I opened up my projects page on Ravelry I was taunted by it's unfinished self sitting right at the top of the page. I finally couldn't stand it any longer. Something had to be done. I dragged it out of the depths of the closet the other night and knit an edging on the armhole while I watched a movie. Disaster struck again. At least this time it was only three rows and 37 stitches of garter stitches worth of disaster. It was too tiny. I almost couldn't squeeze my arm in. So frustrating. I was determined though and last night I conquered it. Larger needle, more stitches (hmmmm… anyone else sense a theme here?) and it was much better. I darned in the ends this afternoon, put it on and had Little Man snap some photos on my phone - he's 4 1/2 so I made him stand on a chair for a slightly more flattering angle but that unfortunately doesn't help the blurriness that occurred as a result of him impatiently humouring me when he'd rather be playing lego, but you can get the idea anyways! I got immense satisfaction when I marked it as complete it scooted way down on my Ravelry project page. So far down that I don't even have to see it unless I scroll way down.

As I mentioned I'll try to be back tomorrow with some more details about the cowl and a link to the pattern for you.

Friday, February 07, 2014

All About Socks

First let me tell you I only wear socks when absolutely necessary. I will wear sandals and flip flops for as long as I possibly can. Pretty much from snow melt to snow fall. Well ok, maybe I'm not quite that opposed to socks. That would be nuts! In all reality I would say +5C is about my cut off temp where I give in and wear socks and am quite happy to do so. But not store bought socks. Woe is me if I have to resort to that particular torture for my tootsies!

So knitting socks is always pretty high on my queue of must knit projects. As much as I don't like wearing socks I LOVE knitting them. There is nothing so cozy or cheering as a newly cast off pair of socks.

I just finished a pair of simple socks last week.  They're just ribs and cables. Nothing fancy or fussy about them. I really like them though. The ribbing makes them fit perfectly, they don't even come off when I take my boots off. (Bonus points for that! I loathe taking my boot off and having to hop around on a bare foot trying to avoid the ice cold snow that's invariably been tracked in).

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Pretty in Pink!
I knit these socks two at a time using the magic loop method, which is a thing of beauty in itself. No dreaded second sock syndrome possible with that. Once you're done, you're done. I had some trials at the beginning though and almost resorted to doing them one at a time. No matter what I did I kept ending up with a massive tangle of yarn and needle cable. Frustrated beyond belief, I finally gave up, cast on one sock and started in. Ten rows later I decided I was not going to be beaten by a bit of string and sticks, so set sock one aside, cast on sock two, worked ten rows and put them both on my circular. I was off to the races. Thankfully. Or I'd still likely be working on my Rib and Cable socks instead of already working on my second Butterflies are Free sock! I did do a few minor modifications to the pattern - my usual short row heel and my usual toe, but other than that I knit them as written.

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Just starting...
ACK!!!! Mistake!
Ooooh Pretty!
Can I wear just one?
I've been itching to try colour work socks. I find the stranded knitting to be so much fun and oh so addictive. I always want to knit "just one more round" to see the picture appear before my eyes. I felt that I had lots of practice after knitting my Lilac Mittens, G's Moulin Rouge Mittens and Mom's Lotus Mittens, so felt it was time to take the leap into socks (see what I did there? LeapSocks? ha ha!).  A friend of mine recently completed a pair of Fireweeds for our colour work KAL in our Ravelry group and they were so beautiful it made me want to cast on even more! A quick stop in at the yarn store in the city on Friday and I was ready to go. I had decided on the yarn I wanted, Sisu, which is a Norwegian wool/nylon blend that should be fairly hard wearing and is really reasonably priced (less than $5 a ball!) so had done a gauge swatch the night before on some leftover Sisu I had in my stash. I'm glad I did. I never swatch for socks, but with the stranded knitting I was an entire stitch off. Eeek!

I cast on my first sock Friday evening and grafted the toe yesterday. Six days! For an entire sock! Did I mention it's addictive? I spent far too many late nights knitting "just one more round" and then Baby Boy was up at 5am yesterday so I took advantage while he quietly watched Kipper on Netflix to finish the toe.  I even had a disaster that I had to  rip back - late one evening as I tried on my sock to admire it, I realized at the start of my knitting that evening I had made a mistake. A very noticeable on the front of the sock can't ignore kind of mistake and had to rip back 15 rows. OUCH! But I put in a lifeline and had at it and I'm glad I made the effort!  Last night I cast on the second sock and so far, it too, has been flying off the needles! I hope by next weekend to have my second pair of socks for 2014 ready to wear! And then I really want to cast on another pair of colourwork socks.  Remember last post I was saying I couldn't decide between butterflies or Water for the Elephants? Well. I just can't seem to get those elephants out of my head...

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Working away on my second sock!
When I'm not working on my sock, which is only when knitting time doesn't lend itself well to chart reading (car knitting, when I'm keeping watch over the boys in the tub, or watching a tv show that's too intense for knitting concentration) I've been knitting a cowl that I'm in the process of writing a pattern for.

One of these days I need to set down the needles and get back to the sewing machine, but for now with all this cold weather we've had this winter it's all knitting all the time it would seem!

How about you? Is there something you gravitate towards when the mercury plummets?