Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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Catching up

It’s like I’ve been knitting faster than I’ve been writing. It would probably be more accurate to say that I’ve been knitting more often than I’ve been writing. Whichever way you phrase it, what it means is that we’re well into 2019, and there are projects I finished in 2018 that have yet to see the light of blog. So this is a summary post to get them documented before I forget about them writing-wise altogether.

Reyna

I never know what to do with hanks of fingering weight yarn that are less than 400 yards (366 m), and I only had 395 yards (361 m) of this lovely yarn. Ravelry’s pattern browser came to the rescue. I found Reyna, one of those patterns that looks fancier than just plain garter or stockinette stitch, but lets you stop when you run out of yarn instead of frantically trying to wrap things up at the end of a pattern repeat. Cleverly, the garter stitch bands remain the same from one repeat to the next, but the mesh sections double in width. I’m thinking to try Reyna again with a yarn that I have lots and lots of, just to watch the pattern develop.

(Click to enlarge.)

Gradient Spiral Shawl

Another cake of gradient-dyed yarn and me wondering what to do with it. The pattern for the Gradient Spiral Shawl looks like mindless knitting. I figured it was just garter stitch with regular increases and decreases to produce the spiral shape, and so this would be the perfect project to take along to social events.

Nope.

See those little loops on the outside of the curve? That’s I-cord. And sure, I-cord itself isn’t complicated, but this is I-cord that has to be the same number of rows for each loop, or it becomes obvious when you stand back and look at the shawlette as a whole. And it’s I-cord that gets worked by itself on some rows and worked with the rest of the row on other rows, for joining. And meanwhile, on the inner edge, that’s also I-cord. It made for a lovely shawlette, and I might make another one someday, but it most certainly isn’t mindless knitting!

(Did I mention the I-cord bindoff?)

Dawn Cowl

With the two projects above, I already had the yarn, and went off looking for patterns to use them in. This project was planned from the very beginning. I love the Zuzu’s Petals cowl I did a few years ago. I had vague thoughts of making another one, but for that, I needed another ball of Catnip or its equivalent, and I don’t stockpile worsted weight yarn the way I do fingering. But then Twisted Fiber Art came up with this new colorway. Instant love on my part, and then I remembered I was in the market for Catnip anyway…

—–

Reyna
Pattern: Reyna
Yarn: Blackberry Ridge Mer-made Fingering Weight
Colorway: Wild Rose
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)

Gradient Spiral Shawl
Pattern: Gradient Spiral Shawl
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Muse Evolution
Colorway: Zen
Needles: 4 (3.5 mm)

Dawn Cowl
Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Catnip Evolution
Colorway: Dawn
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


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Protective armor

It’s a mite frigid here this winter.

Why yes, we’re three days into March. Fewer than three weeks until the spring equinox. The days are getting visibly longer. I no longer leave for work in pitch darkness, and I get home before sunset. I totally get that spring is coming.

It’s still blasted cold, and that’s an impressive amount of snow out there.

Pink knitted cowl in seed stitch.

I have been buying super bulky yarn in much larger quantities than I usually do. I’m certain this is an instinctive reaction to the cold and snow. But even if I hadn’t been primed to insulate myself with as much wool as possible, I’d have acquired this yarn. Malabrigo makes lovely yarn, but many of their colorways are brighter or warmer than I like to wear. So finding a lovely pastel pink was a happy surprise. Between this particular color and the texture of Rasta, it was like knitting with a strand of cotton candy.

As for the pattern, well, this gave me a chance to experiment. For one thing, the pattern calls for buttons. They’re nice, and I’ve liked what they looked like on the other cowls I made, but they’re not necessary. I think this one looks fine without them. Also, the other cowls I’ve made were beautiful and warm, but they fit rather loosely. So this time, I went down a needle size, and this one has a much closer fit: yay! After all, I’ve got to protect myself against the never-ending chill.

—–

Pink Rasta Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta
Colorway: 703 Almond Blossom
Needles: 13 (9.0 mm)


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Rose Ardent

On the pattern side, this is pretty straightfoward. Once upon a time (two years ago), I knitted a shawlette from a pattern called Ardent. That was my first Janina Kallio project, I think. And since I’ve enjoyed wearing the shawlette as well as knitting it, I eventually decided to make another one.

Rose Ardent shawlette draped on a hanger.
(Click to enlarge.)

On the yarn end, well, last November, Suncat and I went to Vogue Knitting Live. One vendor there was Melting Pot Fibers. I admit, I might’ve not looked all that closely at their wares on my own, but Suncat was interested in their roving. While she investigated it, I looked through the yarn on display and found a skein of fingering weight yarn in a glorious shade of rose.

Rose Ardent shawlette laid flat.
(Click to enlarge.)

So…lovely pattern + lovely yarn = another Ardent shawlette. My only frustration is that even though I had 20 yards more of this yarn than the pattern called for, again, I ran out before the end. (And again, not noticeable when wearing it.)

—–

Rose Ardent
Pattern: Ardent
Yarn: Melting Pot Fibers BBY004 – Sock Yarn Blend
Colorway: 711
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


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A shawl Penelope would love

Ahem. I have finished the Passeggiata shawl.

That doesn’t look right written out. Far too quiet and restrained. You need to imagine me dancing around, waving the shawl in the air, and yelling, “Finally! It’s done! I can have my knitting life back!”

It’s bigger than it looks. That’s a corner of my sofa in the photo.

(Okay, that was exaggerated. I was with friends, and there wasn’t enough space in E’s living room for a lot of dancing around, and yelling would mostly just have alarmed E’s neighbors, who don’t know that I knit, much less care how it’s going. Although my friends were impressed. Also, I’ve been working on another Ardent shawlette, so it wasn’t even like the Passeggiata was the entirety of my knitting life.)

I began the Passeggiata back in September. I was at the knitting retreat, and it was an easy enough project to work on while I was away from home. It’s a garter stitch shawl with stripes, which seemed easy. As detailed in Adventures in striping, however, getting the stripes to work out has proven to be quite the challenge. When I posted that in November, I was on my third attempt. I finished the shawl on my fifth (!) attempt.

Attempt #4: This was when I modified the striping pattern. Unfortunately, now I didn’t have enough of the Aniversario to finish.

Attempt #5: Kept the modified striping pattern. Ripped back into the initial purple section and took out a few rows, hoping that would give me enough yarn at the end for that final stripe. It did.

A closer look at the stripes.

I had the same problem with Passeggiata that I did with Melodia last summer. These are supposed to be semicircular shawls. However, as knitted, they’re inverted triangles. If you’ve knitted them loosely enough, you can force them into a semicircular shape during blocking, which I did with Passeggiata. I also used three different bind offs to help shape the shawl. For the first and last 40 stitches, I used the standard bind off, because a tighter bind off would help straighten the tips. The next 60 stitches in on both sides were done with a suspended bind off: a little stretchier, but not that much. For the center, I used the yarnover bind off, because I needed as much stretch as possible to open up that arch. I then blocked fiercely, and I was successful. But basically, the knitting will not naturally turn into a semicircle if the only increases are at the edges. You need to increase within the body of the shawl as well. At this point, I probably wouldn’t do another one of these shawls unless I was prepared to add those increases in myself. I started a true semicircular shawl a few days ago, and just a couple of inches in, the difference is noticeable.

But enough of that. It’s done! It worked! It’s a shawl! Yay!

—–

Passeggiata
Pattern: Passeggiata
Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn Sock
Colorways: Aniversario and Cote d’Azure
Needles: 8 (5.0 mm)


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Sparkly Purple Shawl

I honestly cannot explain why it took so long to make this shawl. I’ve made two shawls from the Grande Wrap pattern already, as detailed in Mega-shawl! and And again!. I knew what I was doing, and even if I hadn’t, this is a garter stitch shawl done on size 13 (9.0 mm) needles: not particularly difficult. And yet I started it in May 2017, zoomed along up until I only had two rows left (two!), and then let it sit for 15 months.

[wince]

Well, it’s finished now, anyway.

A knitted purple shawl with a purple button.

I tried to make this one look dressier than its predecessors. It started as an excuse to use the metallic Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, which had been tempting me for some time. As designed, the shawl is tied with two cords. That’s worked fine with my earlier shawls, but I was afraid the friction would eventually break the metallic thread in this yarn. Plus, the bow wasn’t at all elegant, whether it fell at the front or the back. So I replaced the cords with a crocheted button loop and a large button. (I am so happily amazed that I managed to find a button that both coordinated with the yarn and was large enough to work on a heavy shawl.)

—–

Sparkly Purple Shawl
Pattern: Grande Wrap
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Metallics
Colorway: 305 Galaxy
Needles: 13 (9.0 mm)
Hook: L (8.0 mm)


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2018 by the numbers

After 2017’s disappointing total of four projects, I’m delighted to have found my knitting/crochet spark again. Thirteen projects completed in 2018! Knitting and crochet were a great stress reliever this year. I deal with words and language a lot: I’m a librarian, I love to read, I write blog posts and journal a lot. It’s good for me to do nonverbal things like tangle yarn into pretty patterns.

So here are the colors of the yarns I worked with this year:

Pie chart of colors in my knitting and crochet projects.

This chart tends to look pretty much the same year after year. I know my favorite colors, and that’s where I put my efforts. And every now and then, a surprise color pops up, like peach this year.

Pie chart. Knitting: 84.6%, crochet: 15.4%.

Obviously I knit more than I crochet. But I finished two crochet projects this year. Yay me!

Pie chart of yarn weight percentages in my 2018 projects.I’m pretty pleased about this. I didn’t get a project done in every yarn weight out there—no sport weight, no chunky, no jumbo—but I managed six of them. I like working in different yarns, but there are so many tantalizing patterns for fingering weight yarn and I know they’ll (usually) be good for near-instant gratification, so it takes an act of will to work projects in other weights. By the way, that’s my first lace weight project ever.

I’m doing my best not to put pressure on myself with weighty goals this year. I hope to do more than just fingering weight projects this year, but I’m not formally making that a goal with numbers and criteria. If I have a good reason to use some other color besides purple, pink, blue, or gray, that’ll be wonderful, but again, no pressure. Just me, the yarn, the needles and hooks, and enjoyment.


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Adventures in striping

I am knitting a Passeggiata shawl. More accurately, I am knitting it, frogging it, knitting it again, frogging it again, knitting…you get the idea. For those of you who care, no, I did not start it during a void-of-course Moon, nor was Mercury retrograde!

Passeggiata is a shawl that involves two colors of fingering weight yarn. I’m using Malabrigo Sock in the colors Aniversario (red-violet, mostly) and Cote d’Azure (navy blue). You start with a large section in your first color (Aniversario, which I’m now going to call “purple”), eventually add a thin stripe of your second color (“blue”), and proceed to alternate between your two colors, with the stripes of the first color getting thinner and the ones of the second color getting thicker, eventually ending with a bottom section solidly in your second color. In theory, I should use up almost all the yarn. I’m not worried about the blue because I plan to knit until it runs out, but getting the purple to work out right has been quite a challenge.

Attempt #1: I began knitting on size 7 (4.5 mm) needles. Passeggiata is a semicircular shawl, but the only increases are on the sides, so I added a yarnover at the beginning of each row to be dropped on the return, to loosen up the selvages. This turned out to not help in the slightest, so I frogged it and started over.

Close-up of purple shawl with blue stripe, on a knitting needle.

And again…

Attempt #2: The shawl was coming along nicely, up until I’d added three blue stripes. At this point, there were only three purple stripes left to work. I noted uneasily that I had more than half the ball of purple left. I ripped back to the first section, figuring I’d add a few more rows to it, then start the striping, and maybe start the sequence with a thicker purple stripe, while I was at it. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go, so I checked the gauge. I was supposed to be getting 20 stitches/4 inches (10 cm). I was getting 23 stitches. Oops.

Attempt #3: I re-restarted the shawl on size 8 (5 mm) needles, and again made it to the point at which there were three blue stripes knitted and three purple stripes to go. My ball of purple yarn was definitely smaller than last time, but it still looked too big. But my gauge was correct, so maybe this was how it was supposed to go?

Well, I’d knitted three blue stripes. They were the same thickness as the purple stripes I had yet to knit, although they were a little shorter, but that was close enough. I weighed the blue ball of yarn and subtracted the weight from the starting weight. The three stripes had taken 15 g of yarn. Then I weighed the purple ball: 32 g. The purple stripes will take more yarn because they’ll be longer, but I doubt they’ll need 17 g more yarn.

Current solution: I’ve ripped back to the end of the first purple stripe. As designed, it’s 5 garter ridges thick. I’m going to increase that to 6 ridges, and then add an additional ridge to each of the following stripes. Since the last stripe should only be 1 ridge thick, this will mean adding an extra purple and an extra blue stripe to make it come out right. That’s fine: it’ll just add to the visual interest I figure.

I really hope I love this shawl after it’s done, after this much effort…


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Iolite Iolite

It would be fun to name this post “Iolite2,” but I don’t think I can add a superscript to the title.

Back in June, Suncat and I went to a few of the local yarn stores. At one of them, I discovered the joy that is Yowza by Miss Babs. It was a hank of 100% superwash merino: worsted weight and large enough to hug. (The standard weight of a Yowza hank is 8 ounces (227 g); mine was a generous 8.7 ounces (246 g).) The store carried several dramatic colorways, but I’m not that exciting in my tastes, and what I fell in love with was Iolite: gray with splashes of purple. Now thanks to my totally reworking my stash storage last November, worsted weight yarns are towards the bottom of my tub system. It was going to be a pain and a half to move enough tubs to slip the new hank into the worsted weight one. But that wouldn’t be an issue if I used the yarn in a project right away.

Off to find a pattern that would use 560 yards (512 m) of worsted weight yarn. It wasn’t enough for an adult sweater—what I normally do with worsted weight—but the hank was expensive enough that I didn’t want to buy more. Obviously, this was a job for the Ravelry pattern browser. Several shawl patterns met my requirements and I’ve bookmarked them for the future hanks of Yowza I intend to acquire. And of those patterns, one caught my eye because it was called Iolite.

It really did take me a moment to realize that the designer had named the pattern for the yarn she’d used, and that what she’d used was a hank of Yowza in the Iolite colorway. Because, like, what were the chances? And once I’d realized that, how could I not use my Iolite in this pattern?

It was a fun knit. It’s been way too long since I’ve used knitting worsted for a project—I’ve missed it. The V-shape of the shawl helps it stay on.

I give you the Iolite Iolite:

Iolite shawl lying flat.

Iolite shawl, seen from the back.

—–

Iolite Iolite
Pattern: Iolite
Yarn: Miss Babs Yowza
Colorway: Iolite
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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Favorite colors, high intensity—and fringe

Nowadays, there are gradient yarns, but they are a comparatively recent development. My love of monochromatic shading is not comparatively recent, however, and before gradient yarns were a thing, I’d discovered sets of shaded yarns. Back in 2012, I picked up a couple of kits from a company called HPKY or Hand Painted Knitting Yarns (I’ve never been quite sure what their official name was). As far as I can tell, HPKY is no longer with us, but the kits remain. Of the two I bought, I have yet to tackle one because I liked the yarns better than the pattern that accompanied them and still haven’t figured out what to do with them. But I have finally finished the other one.

Purple and pink wrap folded and lying on the back of a couch.

Folded neatly, it looks practically innocuous. Just a small glimpse of fringe hinting at the excitement within.

I rarely buy kits. I certainly don’t knit a lot of bright colors. And in 2012, I wasn’t making shawls and shawlettes as much as I do now. So the only reasons I have for why a “Six Yarn Ribbon Scarf or Wrap” kit came into my life are the colors and my sense of adventure. The Fidelio colorway is purple and pink. Not lavender and pale pink, as one might expect based on seeing my other projects or my stash. Bright purple, hot pink. Did I mention some of the yarn sparkles? And that the project has fringe? (I am strongly anti-fringe.) I had no idea when I was going to wear this wrap—I’d decided I was more likely to use a super-fancy wrap than a super-fancy scarf—but the lure of the pretty colors and the six kinds of yarn were too much, and I threw money at the yarn store, took the kit home, let it mature for a while in my stash, and then started it in 2013.

And…it’s 2018. Okay, fine, my patience for long rows of garter stitch has grown over the years. I made it about a third of the way through the wrap in the first few months of knitting, and then UFOed it. Looking back, this mystifies me. I mean, nowadays I routinely knit garter stitch shawlettes with fingering weight yarn on size 5 and 6 needles, and here I dropped this project into cold storage even though it had DK weight yarn and I was using size 10 needles. When I resumed it this spring, it just zipped along. I also renamed it. “Six Yarn Ribbon Wrap” was functional enough, but this wrap was too exciting for that name. (Also, ribbon is only a small part of the entire project.) I think “Purple & Pink Explosion” is far more descriptive!

Woman wearing a purple and pink wrap.

The Purple & Pink Explosion in its full glory.

Ta-da: one super-fancy wrap. With ribbon. And fringe. Now I just need a glamorous life to go with it.

—–

Purple & Pink Explosion
Pattern: Six Yarn Ribbon Scarf or Wrap
Yarns: HPKY (Hand Painted Knitting Yarns) Bologna, Lamé, Merino Singles, Parma, Pisa, Pisa Glitter
Colorway: Fidelio
Needles: 10 (6.0 mm)


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Know when to fold ’em

TL;DR: I knitted this shawlette all the way to the end, with just the bind off left to do, and then frogged it.

I began knitting Melodia back in June. It had a lot going for it. It’s a pattern by Janina Kallio and I like her patterns. I’d been looking for a pattern that would work well with a skein of Malabrigo Sock that I had on hand, and after I worked the gauge swatch, I knew garter stitch would bring out the colors in the yarn wonderfully. Also, Melodia is a semicircle, which would be a nice change from all the asymmetrical triangle shawlettes that I’ve made. Obviously this was a fine project choice.

Everything started out well. The increases were easy to remember, and the project was pretty much mindless knitting, suitable for passing time during a trip to Wisconsin and for all those conference calls I’m still attending. Just as the garter stitch would threaten to get too boring, I’d get to one of the eyelet rows. And I was right: Azules looks wonderful in garter stitch.

But.

Judging from the pattern, the edges of the shawlette—the ends of the rows—form the straight edge of the semicircle. You start knitting at the center of that straight edge, and work out and down towards the curve. If anything, mine was curving in the opposite direction, and I was headed towards the straight edge. It was becoming clear that blocking this puppy into the proper shape was going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight. But with all the shawlette bunched up on the needle, I couldn’t be absolutely sure I was seeing it right. Maybe I was just worrying unnecessarily, and when I got to the end, it would all work out. Besides, look at how much time and effort I’d already put into it. This is what I told myself through July and August, as I kept knitting away at it and the mass of yarn stubbornly refused to look like the schematic in the pattern.

And, well, I finally reached the last row before the bind off. Now there was a second concern. The pattern calls for 437 yards (400 m) of yarn. My skein of Sock was a bit on the generous side, so I had 453 yards (414 m) to work with. A little extra was to be expected, but I had way too much of the skein left. Ack! Apparently my gauge was off as well, Not the end of the world with a shawlette, but I was loving this yarn and wanted to use as much as possible.

Decision time. I pulled the shawlette off the needle to see it clearly.

Unblocked blue shawlette.

Nope.

Okay, the bottom edge was more curved than I’d feared, but that was about all it had going for it. I knew that if I finished it, I’d wear it once or twice, mostly out of duty and guilt and then shove it to the back of a drawer or get rid of it entirely. You know that bit about “does it spark joy?” This, most assuredly, did not.

Reader, I frogged it. I’ve steamed most of the kinks out of the yarn and recaked it. It awaits a new project—hopefully, the right one, as this is the second time I’ve frogged it—and I’m happily knitting on two new projects. Score one against the sunk cost fallacy!

—–

Melodia
Pattern: Melodia
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock
Colorway: 856 Azules
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)