Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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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)


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Blushing Cowlette

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, conference calls and training sessions do wonders for my knitting productivity. Indeed, I finished the Summer Sky shawlette before I finished the training I was attending that week, which meant I needed a new project the next day. The Blushing Cowlette came together quickly that evening. I’m feeling virtuous as all get-out about it, because I spent no money on it. I already had the pattern, from when I made the Three Shades of Gray cowlette a few years ago, and the yarn was left over from the Chromantic Cowl. (And I still have yarn left—now what?) Since this yarn is the same yarn I did Three Shades of Gray in, I didn’t bother with gauge—bad me!—but used the same size needles I had last time. Just as well, because you start this pattern out on a 20″ (50 cm) circular needle, and my local yarn store has stopped carrying them.

Wearing the Blushing CowletteIt was fun to make the Chromantic Cowl, but I never enjoyed wearing it that much, and I eventually gave it away. I’ve realized that I prefer cowls that hug the neck. The Chromantic Cowl hung loosely if I just put it over my head, but it wasn’t long enough for me to loop twice around my neck, so it mainly just got in my way. Bandana cowls, like this pattern, are narrower at the top than at the bottom, and fit the human body much better. Even in summer (especially in summer in my office!), I’m trying to keep my neck warm.

Blushing Cowlette laid flatBy the way, let me just point out that I didn’t use either a variegated yarn or a gradient yarn for this project. That’s three shades of solid pink. I really haven’t been feeling much attraction to the solid colors lately. Maybe if I knit something really lacy or with a lot of cables in it or something, but on the small projects I’ve been doing, they mostly look boring. So when I finally do use solid yarn, I do something that looks like a gradient!

Blushing Cowlette pinned out during blockingWhen I made Three Shades of Gray, I was surprised that you stop increasing on the bottom section of the cowl. I left notes for myself that if I ever did this pattern again, to think about going up a needle size on the bottom section to compensate. Luckily, I ignored me. 🙂 I realized as I was knitting it that the more complicated lace pattern opens up more. In other words, it doesn’t need increases knitted into it the way the top two sections do. You can see that in the blocking photo, where the bottom section is obviously flaring wider.

I want to make more cowls and cowlettes. I like being able to pull something on over my head and then pretty much ignore it for the rest of the day. Depending on how active I am, the shawlettes need a lot of tweaking throughout the day. Yes, I know: shawl pins. You say that like I’d be organized enough to remember to bring one with me to work.

—–

Blushing Cowlette
Pattern: Brush Creek Cowlette
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette
Colorways: Blush, Blossom Heather, Cotton Candy
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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Plaid victory

If you’ve been reading this blog remotely recently—like in the past two years or so—it’s totally understandable if you think I only make shawlettes and shawls, interrupted by the occasional bit of jewelry. But in my knitting and crochet career overall, my major focus has been sweaters, and I’m delighted to announce that I’ve finished another one.

Gray sweater with a textural plaid design knitted into it.It would sound inspiring as all get-out to say the Smart Plaid Pullover is a testament to the power of persistence, but it was more like a inertial stubbornness on my part. My first attempt was in 2010. The yarn (Rowan Scottish Tweed DK) was attractive, it showed the pattern stitch off well, and things were going along wonderfully. I was partway through the sleeves when I discovered that the pattern had lied about how much yarn I’d need and I was way short. By then, of course, Rowan had discontinued the yarn and I’ve never managed to find more of the same dye lot.

Armed with (much more) City Tweed DK, I began my second attempt in late 2016. It zipped along quite nicely until the following spring when I had to start the sleeves and my enthusiasm faltered. Maybe I was traumatized by that earlier failed effort. At this point, the inertia kicked in: I kept working on the sweater, but more out of habit than love or enjoyment. At least that got me through the summer. Then…pfft. All I can say is that there was an inch left on one sleeve and maybe twice that much to go on the other, and it just wasn’t happening. I got back to working on it this spring, mainly because I was fed up with always pushing the project bag out of the way to get at something else.

It’s now summer, so I won’t be able to wear the sweater for real for months yet. But here’s evidence of the insulating properties of wool: it was 94° F (34° C) when this photo was taken, and yes, that’s a wool sweater over a cotton turtleneck. I thought I’d be miserably hot and that it’d be a race to get a photo before I was drenched in sweat. As it turned out, I was warm, but that was it. Really, the parts of me that weren’t under the sweater were more uncomfortable. Here’s hoping it performs this well in winter.

—–

Smart Plaid Pullover
Pattern: Smart Plaid Textured Pullover
Yarn: Knit Picks City Tweed DK
Colorway: Tahitian Pearl
Needles: 2 (2.75 mm) and 5 (3.75 mm)


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The positive effects of conference calls on shawlette production

Hot weather squelches the writing urge. It’s supposed to get up to 99° F (37° C) today—the average for today is 73° F (23° C)—and my focus has baked away in the summer spring sunlight. I am actually contemplating a trip to the Mall of America mainly to hide in their air conditioning. But before I go (there or somewhere else), I have locked myself in with my own air conditioner and my computer, determined to get a blog post out.

I’m impressed at how much knitting I’m getting done despite the weather. A major factor is that as we prepare to switch to a new library management system at work, I’ve had to sit through a series of live trainings, conference calls, and webinars. I hardly need to take notes nowadays (“I’ll have the  PowerPoint uploaded to the conference website by tomorrow” is a standard refrain at the modern presentation), which leaves me free to knit the hours away. (And it is hours. Lots of them. Ack!) I continue to network via knitting. At the last training, I connected with another librarian who’d brought a couple of fingerless glove projects with her to get her through the days. Also, I’d been wearing shawlettes to the training and sitting close to the front of the room. One morning, the trainer saw me in the restroom and asked if I was wearing a Hitchhiker.* Yep, another knitter. The next day, she started the presentation in her usual way by asking if there were any questions on yesterday’s material, and then interrupted herself to call out, “Hey there, Knitter! I see you!” much to the amusement of the other people at my table.

Woman modeling Summer Sky shawlette.My new Summer Sky shawlette exists because of these trainings. When our library consortium launched the transition to the new system back in January, I needed a project for the two-day event. I chose my yarn, figured out which needle I’d use, and headed off to St. Cloud. The shawlette began quite normally, with a section of garter stitch. I knitted away, looking forward to the first mesh section for a little variety. The thing is, I hadn’t looked all that closely at the pattern beyond what I’d need to work it. I thought the mesh would be Janina Kallio’s traditional (yo, k2tog) mesh. Nope. It was a pattern stitch called Open Star Lace: pretty, but harder to work. It’s built around a (yo, k3pso) repeat, where k3pso means knit 3 stitches, then pass the first of these stitches over the other two. I hadn’t brought a lace needle with me, and I was having the hardest time getting the point of the needle into that first stitch. My hands ached after a row of this. And yes, I was trapped away from home with this as my only project (sob!). When I got home, I promptly ignored it in favor of projects that were more fun and easier on my hands.

SummerSky2But the trainings continued, and we started a series of twice-weekly conference calls. I finally got tired of feeling like a slacker every time I saw Summer Sky’s project bag, and began taking it to work. Luckily for my hands and my patience, Open Star Lace gets easier with practice. Several conference calls and most of a four-day training later, I have a new shawlette! Weather permitting, I’m thinking about wearing it on January 31, when we’re supposed to go live with the new LMS.

—–

Summer Sky
Pattern: Summer Sky
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk Paints
Colorway: Misty Blue (9942)
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


*It was actually a Be Simple Variations shawlette, but they’re similar.

 


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Downton Herald

I am not on a yarn diet. I pore over all yarn catalogs and when I go to Shepherds’ Harvest next month, I don’t expect to leave empty-handed. But having done major weeding of my stash last year, I want to make a noticeable dent in what’s left. Now that all my yarns have been photographed and entered in Ravelry, it’s easy for me to browse through them, which means I do it a lot more often.

I adore gradient yarns. Also, I have opinions about them. As far as I’m concerned, the colors should evolve smoothly. If I can tell that the color changed from one row to the next, why even bother buying a gradient yarn? I might as well have bought different colors of a yarn and made a striped project. I love many of Twisted Fiber Art’s yarns because they dye the transitions so subtly. Although the yarns from Twisted Fiber Art are towards the “bottom” of my virtual stash (arranged alphabetically), I’ve been coming back to them, determined to knit or crochet with one as soon as possible.

Downton Herald shawlette laid flat to show the color changes.Last month, I needed a new knitting project. I was doing two conferences back to back and needed something to work on during all those panels and presentations. I put this yarn and this pattern together for several reasons. I wanted a pattern that would highlight the color changes without being horribly boring to knit or unpleasant to wear. I’ve enjoyed wearing my white Herald shawlette, and I figured it would look just as good with a gradient yarn as with a perfectly plain one. Herald had another point in its favor: it’s one of those patterns that you work until it’s as big as you like or until you run out of yarn, whichever comes first. When using a gradient yarn, this is good because it will use up almost all the yarn. This particular yarn finishes in such a lovely shade of blue, and I wanted as much of it in the final shawlette as possible. And of course there was the knitting itself: complicated enough to hold my interest, but easy enough for me to pay attention to what the presenters were saying.

So yay: I finally got to use one of the Twisted Fiber Art yarns! The dent in the stash may not be noticeable to anyone besides me, but there are a few cubic inches of open space in one of the storage tubs that wasn’t there before. The project went pretty quickly. Those two conferences made for five days of more knitting time than I usually get, and I was 55% done by the end of the second one. And then had to slow down to more mortal speeds when I went back to normal life. The yarn itself is motivating: keep knitting in the hope of witnessing a color change. The major frustration was spraining my wrist on the day I planned to bind off, which set me back a week and made blocking even more unpleasant than it usually is. But it’s done!

—–

Downton Herald
Pattern: Herald
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Muse Evolution
Colorway: Downton
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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Wild Violets

Meet Wild Violets. I realize that at first glance, it looks like a lot of the shawlettes and shawls I’ve done. (And that’s just fine.) What’s significant about it is that this is the first project I’ve done in lace weight yarn. It’s not like I deliberately decided over the years to avoid lace weight, but I just never got around to making anything in it. For one thing, I don’t have a lot of it. Nor do I have much attraction to full-blown lace shawls. You know, the ones that are fiendishly intricate and can only be worked on in total solitude with your phone turned off, your partner away for the evening, and your pets locked up in another room, including your fish. I like a texture challenge, yes, but for me, lace projects are more of an act of endurance than a craft.

Me wearing the Wild Violets shawl And yet, here we are. What made this different? Well, for one thing, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I bought the pattern, because I wasn’t paying attention. One reason Wild Violets looks similar to my other projects is because, like several of my other projects, it’s a Janina Kallio design. She’d had a sale on her patterns last year. I bought a few, including Wild Cherries, without noticing that unlike many (most?) of her designs, this one was written for lace weight yarn. Last August, ready to start another project, I looked through my patterns, saw this, and had the Yes, this is the one! feeling. It was only when I was reading through the pattern to check the details of yarn, needles, and gauge that I realized it was for lace weight.

I do have lace weight yarn in the stash—I have a little bit of almost everything in the stash (except jumbo yarn, and you can safely assume I’ll acquire some of that at some point). I try to avoid buying it, knowing that I’m unlikely to use it, but occasionally a skein is irresistible because of its glorious colors. This Blue Violet colorway, for instance? Knit Picks has used it for lace, fingering, and worsted weight yarn—and I have a project’s quantity of each of them. It was a relief to realize that I had a lace pattern for something I wanted to wear, and that I’d finally be able to use some of this yarn up.

Triangular purple lacy shawl.

I have observed in the past that I need more yarn than called for when working a Kallio pattern. This time, I did: 898 yards in hand and only 740 yards required. I went and added another pattern repeat—I mean, what else was I going to do with the yarn? I couldn’t then quite finish it off as designed, but I think what I did is just fine (I’ve ended with four garter stitch ridges instead of eight).

Detail of lace pattern of shawl.

Pattern stitch detail (click to enlarge).

The truly tricky part hit me as I was working on it: there wasn’t a chart. I rarely use charts, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. But it was a 36-line pattern with many similar lines, and I was struggling to stay in the right place in the instructions. Once I was past the beginning of a row and not yet at the end, life was fine and I could do the pattern stitch by memory, but because of the constant increasing, every right-side row started and ended at a different point in the pattern. I finally charted it, and both my knitting speed and accuracy went up noticeably.

Oh, the title change? If you look up the original pattern, you’ll see that Kallio made it in a delightful shade of pink. Given the color of my yarn, naturally, I renamed it.

Incidentally, this whole finishing projects bit feels wonderful. I really must do it more often.

—–

Wild Violets
Pattern: Wild Cherries
Yarn: Knit Picks Shadow Tonal
Colorway: Blue Violet
Needles: 2 (2.75 mm)


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Asterism (another project starting with A)

I realized recently that I’ve done several projects beginning with the letter A. From Janina Kallio alone, I’ve done Asterism, Antarktis, and Ardent. Last year, I did Aramingo, from a different designer, and a few years ago, the Alkira Cowl. And that’s not counting my several Aran projects, although since Aran is a distinctive look and not just a random name assigned to a pattern, it doesn’t seem to be the same thing. And yes, all the A names are starting to run together in my mind, although each project is memorable individually.

Asterism shawlette

Asterism gave me the chance to use a yarn I’d unburied from my stash. I did a major destashing last year, and while I was at it, reorganized every single skein I kept. This brought this lovely skein of Zitron Trekking XXL to the surface, and when I was in the mood to do another shawlette, I thought of it. I figured Asterism’s wide bands of garter stitch would show off the blue and green nicely and the single rows of eyelets would add a little visual interest. Too lacy a design would probably just muddle the colors, since there isn’t much contrast between them. The Trekking XXL has been in my stash since before I started recording purchase dates, so that probably means it dates back to before I joined Ravelry…ooh, at least 11 years. Okay, I’m impressed.

Closeup of Asterism shawlette

Again, I ran out of yarn before the end of the pattern; again, this was unexpected. Asterism calls for 437 yards (400 m), and while my skein of Trekking XXL was a bit skimpy—97 g instead of 100 g—I still had 445 yards (407 m) on hand. I didn’t even make it through the first row of the mesh border. I had to rip back through an entire garter stitch band, and then I just knitted mesh until I ran out of yarn. This is the third time this has happened to me with one of Kallio’s patterns, and it’s frustrating. Yes, I’m knitting to the stated gauge. I even checked the gauge again shortly before starting the final border, and I was precisely on target, for all the good that did. What I’ve knitted is lovely, but it would be nice to have a project come out as intended.

Okay, so note to self: allow lots of extra yarn for my next Kallio project. And meanwhile, I will be rejoicing in having finished a project—whee!—and looking forward to wearing it. (In February, I’m still wearing my warmest sweaters, which are interesting enough visually that adding a shawlette would look weird. So this is waiting for warmer weather.)

—–

Asterism
Pattern: Asterism
Yarn: Zitron Trekking XXL
Colorway: 184
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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2017 by the numbers

This was not the year of goal fulfillment in any aspect of my life, and certainly not in my knitting and crochet. Fifteen projects in 2015, nine projects in 2016…and four projects in 2017. Technically five, I suppose, but one turned out so unsatisfactorily that I’m inclined to frog it. Well, this makes the pie charts simple, anyway.

So here are the colors of the projects I did this year:

Pie chart of projects by color.

Pink and purple: no surprise there. I’m a bit startled to see that blue-green not only got into the chart in the first place, but half the projects I did were in that color. Well, one was pretty much that blue-green, and the other was more like turquoise (bluer), but close enough for a pie chart.

Pie chart of projects by craft.

[sigh] That one project that I’m considering frogging was the year’s crochet project. Without it, the chart is a mite monotonous.

Pie chart of project yarn by weight.

In this, at least, I had some success. Last year, of those nine projects I completed, eight of them were in fingering weight yarn and one was in super bulky. This inspired me to try to work more projects in different weights of yarn. Ideally, I was going to finish one in every weight, and while that didn’t work out, I did at least get beyond The Very Heavy and The Pretty Light.

Of course I’d like to do more in 2018. More than four projects, anyway, even if they all end up in fingering weight. I’m trying my Diversity of Yarn challenge again because I enjoyed it, and it did put more variety into my knitting. As always, I have high hopes of doing more crochet.  And, well, we’ll see what happens.