Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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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!

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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.

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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.)

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


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Aramingo

Well, I’m behind in every one of my challenges this year, but I keep working away at them. And here’s a measure of success: I finished another project for my Diversity of Yarn challenge. Aramingo is the project for sport weight yarn.

A hank of Manos del Uruguay's Clara yarn in the Velvet colorway.

The yarn was a surprise. Clara is what the pattern calls for, and I liked the cowl pictured on the pattern, which was worked in a lovely tonal golden yellow. I prefer to wear pinks and purples, though, so I ordered a hank in Velvet. It was a lot more variegated than I was expecting. But I didn’t want to spend the money to mail it back, and I told myself that not everything I own needs to be super-subtle, so I went ahead and made the cowl. I think the variegation does obscure the lace pattern, but the colors are interesting enough in their own right. It is wonderfully soft. I hadn’t been expecting the pattern to be chart-only, but that was fine once I got used to it. I gave up on doing a gauge swatch because the combination of ribbing and lace seemed impossible to measure accurately. Now that I’m done, the cowl is a little limper than I could’ve wished, and I probably could’ve gone down a needle size or two. Maybe I’ll make another one in a tighter gauge. And yeah, a more subtle colorway. I mean, this was enough wild adventure for one pattern.

Aramingo cowl, laid flat.

A bandana cowl laid flat may look a bit odd.

The knitting itself was fun. I obviously need to knit heavier yarn than fingering weight more often because it sped along and I loved seeing it grow so quickly. (I’m currently working on a laceweight project. Words like “sped” and “quickly” do not currently apply.) I like the bandana cowls: they stay around your neck without a fight, and they hug the neck closer than tubular cowls do. As long as the cast on (or chain, if you’re crocheting) can fit over your head, it’ll work. At least with a chain, you can check for fit just as you join it. Since I was knitting this on a 24″ (60 cm) needle, I couldn’t tell until I’d gotten well past the join, and it was a bit tense until I knew it would fit. It’s now waiting for temperatures cold enough to wear it, and since our unseasonably warm fall heat wave (94° F/34 ° C) has finally ended, that may happen relatively soon.

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Aramingo
Pattern: Aramingo
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Clara
Colorway: Velvet
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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Bandwagon

Over the years, I’ve heard from people who smoke that one way to get a bus to show up is to light a cigarette. Along those lines, let me tell you that one way to finish a knitting project is to wail in a blog post that the project shows no signs of ending and that you will probably have to reknit parts of it. This is a roundabout way of announcing that I’ve finished the Bandwagon shawlette. I wish I were more excited about it, but the most I’ve managed so far is to be really glad that I’m done with it.

Bandwagon shawlette lying flat on the ground.

Friend: “You knitted an electric guitar!”

The pattern called for 420 yards of fingering weight yarn and I had a ball of gradient yarn just that length. I also got the gauge called for. So I was totally surprised to discover myself with only a few rows to go and 20% of the yarn unused. The thing is, with this particular yarn, I liked the yarn as a whole—it was one of the first two gradient yarns I bought—but I really liked the paler end of the yarn since it’s pretty much my favorite shade of pink. So I ripped back to the end of the last increase section and worked three more pattern repeats. This used more yarn, of course, but the overall shape began to change. I had enough yarn to work a fourth extra pattern repeat, maybe even a fifth, but then the shawlette would’ve strayed way too far from the original design. To successfully use all the yarn while maintaining the original shape, I would probably have needed to frog it and essentially redesign it from the beginning. But by this point, I was more interested in finishing the scarf than in using all the pink yarn.. So I ended up with 13% unused. It went off to a friend to be used in one of her projects, so it’s not like it ended up in the trash, but I would’ve been happier if it had worked in my project. [Insert heavy, dramatic sigh here.]

The color was the best part of this yarn. Knitting with it wasn’t all that much fun, though, as it split constantly. If KnitCircus discontinued Sock du Soleil for that reason, I am totally on board with that. I have more of their yarn in my stash with imminent plans to use some of it (by “imminent” I mean “after I finish at least one of the other projects I’ve currently got going) and I’m hoping that this newer yarn is improved.

But enough about the yarn. How was the pattern/project? Well, it was a fairly easy knit. I was first attracted to this pattern because of its unusual shape. It was an interesting project (until the reknitting began, anyway) because it wasn’t intuitive how the shape was going to develop. I was knitting it in a state of blind trust that eventually what was on my needle would turn into what was in the photo. I didn’t realize that part of it was garter stitch, so that was a (pleasant) surprise when it started. And I like how the color worked in the entire project. Now that I have one in hand, though, I’m not sure it’s going to be easy to wear. I can drape it around me well enough, but I wear shawlettes for both style and warmth, and I’m not sure how much warmth this can provide. Still, even if it doesn’t work as an accessory, I’m still glad I did it because of how different it was to knit.

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Bandwagon
Pattern: Bandwagon
Yarn: KnitCircus Sock du Soleil 75/25
Colorway: Hollyhock Gradient
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


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Breaking blog silence

This has not been the most productive year of knitting/crochet ever for me. I just realized that we’re in late July and I’ve only finished two projects. Two. And I haven’t finished a project since early May. Curious, I looked back over the stats for the past five years. I’ve been averaging twelve completed projects a year. Okay, it isn’t my imagination that my output is dropping!

sweater neckband

This neckband is beginning to seem like a mountain that I can never quite get to the top of.

I’ve been knitting fairly constantly (thank you, weekly knitting group), but my focus changed a bit this year. For several years now, I’ve been concentrating on knitting shawlettes, scarves, and cowls—one- or two-skein projects. Naturally, I was able to get those done fairly quickly. By contrast, I came into this year with a sweater on the needles (the Smart Plaid Pullover). It’s mostly done at this point: I’m knitting the Never-Ending Neckband—k2 p2 ribbing with DK yarn on a 16” size 2 needle (40 cm, 2.75 mm) is a bit painful to do for any length of time—and then all I have to do is tweak the length of the sleeves, sew them on, and finish the side seams. It’s just that it’s not done.

Meanwhile, the Bandwagon shawlette is being annoying. I’m knitting it in a gradient yarn, and I planned it so that my favorite color in the range, the light rose pink, would be at the end of the project. The challenge with any gradient yarn is using up as much of the yarn as possible without running out. The first attempt left me with nearly 20% of the yarn untouched. Nope. I ripped back (sob!) to the end of the last increase section and added three pattern repeats. Now I’m not going to have enough yarn. Aargh. Back to the end of the section, and I’ll try just two extra pattern repeats this time. I’m intensely hoping that the third time will be the charm: I’m really ready to be done with this project.

I’m not having technical difficulties with the Sparkly Purple Shawl. It has simply grown too large and heavy to be hauled around casually. However, as we’ve just recorded a temperature of 66.9° F (19.4° C) at the café where the above-mentioned knitting group meets, I may be working on it there to stay warm. Super-bulky yarn: your friend in summer, oddly enough. For those of you not in the area, it’s high summer in Minnesota right now and outside temperatures are in the 80°s and 90°s (25°-35° C). So I’m dressing for those temperatures and this café is an unpleasant shock to the system. All the income from our drinks is probably going towards the electric bill.

Back when I thought I’d finish Bandwagon on my first attempt, I assumed I’d need a second project to get me through CONvergence. I started the Aramingo Cowl, which was not only an attractive design, but would fulfill the requirement for sportweight yarn for my Diversity of Yarn challenge. (Despite my drop in productivity, I’m not ready to abandon the challenge.) I haven’t been having specific problems with this project either; it has simply been pushed to one side while I wrestle the sweater and Bandwagon. Plus, I’ve needed to refer to its charts constantly, so it’s not a project I work on easily around others.

So that’s been My Summer in Knitting: much effort and things to show for it, but not a lot of statistics. The mere fact that I haven’t been finishing projects quickly hasn’t stopped me from buying yarn, so I’m eager to start several projects but I don’t dare because then I’ll never finish anything. I must finish something soon for the sake of my stress levels!


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Antarktis

In March, I went to the Great Guild Getaway. I’d brought along the gray sweater, but having only one project for an entire weekend was too monotonous. (Sleeves. Worked two at a time. Necessary, but done more out of duty and the determination to finish this sweater rather than pleasure.) So I started another shawlette. It nearly didn’t get going because I hadn’t brought along a needle large enough to get gauge, but I was able to borrow one (thanks, K.!) and dive in. Note to self: always bring a full set of needles. Always.

By now, you probably know just by looking that this is another pattern from Janina Kallio. This one is Antarktis, which Google Translate tells me is how you say “Antarctica” in Finnish, German, Norwegian, and Swedish. I didn’t know that when I started, so my choice of a yarn in icy turquoise and blue shades was coincidental. I’m sure whoever named this color Pegaso was imagining Pegasus flying through blue skies on a sunny day, but I think of water whenever I see this colorway. I hoped I’d have enough yarn, because the pattern calls for 400 yards (366 m) and I had 415 yards (380 m), but I still ended up leaving out one pattern repeat in the final mesh section and half a repeat of the lace border.

There was nothing particularly memorable in the knitting process, which is good for my enjoyment of the knitting—”memorable” too often means I had to rip something out—but leaves me with little to write about. I cannot offer you Grand Drama this time, merely a photo of the shawlette.

Antarktis shawlette

So far, no major upheavals with the gray sweater either. Again, not a bad thing from my perspective. I’m really ready to be done with it, though. Only 52 rows until the end of the sleeves!

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Antarktis
Pattern: Antarktis
Yarn: Malabrigo Mechita
Colorway: 892 Pegaso
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


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More near-instant gratification and a not-so-instant goal

I knitted another Rasta Triangle Cowl. It’s a versatile pattern, and it seemed like it’d be great for another Malabrigo yarn I wanted to try: Caracol. As it turned out, though, Caracol didn’t behave much like Rasta, even though the yarns are essentially the same weight. But, hey, it’s beautiful to look at! And yes, I’m giving most of the credit for that to the yarn.

Caracol triangular cowlOne of the reasons I like this pattern is that it doesn’t have a gauge. It simply instructs you to use size 15 (10.0 mm) needles. Generally, I’m fine with that—not having to knit gauge swatches contributes to the near-instant gratification element of this project. The Rasta worked out fine, but Caracol is a thick-and-thin yarn, and the 15s were too big for it. The cowl is lovely to look at, but annoyingly limp. (Lesson learned: whatever I do with my other skein of Caracol—yes, I have another one—I don’t plan to go above size 13 (9.0 mm) needles.) Oh, and the cowl was a pain and a half to block. Not only did it go limp, but touching it to gently pat it out to a rectangle was enough to get damp blue-green lint all over my fingers. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I had to pat it back into a rectangle. The pattern instructs the knitter to stretch the heck out of this piece, but I decided with the first one that I would be happier if it was shorter and hugged my neck more. But the Caracol stretched out merely by becoming wet. I ended up pushing it together and hoping it would shrink as it dried. Which it did. Sort of. Not enough, alas.

Close-up of Caracol Cowl and its buttonsLint and limpness aside, though, it’s a glorious color. I love the stained glass effect created by the black binder thread wrapped around the wool. And unlike the Rasta cowl, where it was a struggle to find good buttons, I found good buttons for this cowl practically the moment I walked into the fabric store.

So, cowl, yes. But I want more this year, knitting- and crochet-wise. Looking over last year’s stats, I was disappointed that my pie chart of yarn weights had only two “slices” in it. So I made up my own Diversity of Yarn Challenge. It’s pretty simple; make something this year in each of the eight standard yarn weights. Caracol is super-bulky (#6 Super Bulky), so I’m off to a good start. I’m currently knitting a DK-weight sweater (#3 Light). I can easily come up with a fingering weight shawlette (#1 Super Fine). I have plans for a chunky weight sweater (#5 Bulky). That leaves jumbo (#7 Jumbo), worsted (#4 Medium), sport (#2 Fine), and lace (#0 Lace). Plus the actual knitting/crocheting of these projects, of course. I have most of these yarns in my stash—okay, I learned there was a Jumbo category as I was writing this post, and I’ll need to get some yarn for it—it’s just a matter of finding patterns for them and making them.

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Caracol Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Caracol
Color: Teal Feather
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)


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Well-loved patterns

With summer over, I found myself with more time to manipulate yarn. I had fun using patterns I already loved, mainly to see how they looked in new yarns.

First up, another Fortune’s Shawlette. By now, three times in, I’m quite familiar with the pattern. But when I saw this colorway, I knew instantly that I wanted it and that this is what I wanted to do with it. I mean, seriously, it’s in shades of blue, pink, and purple. That’s basically the heart of my wardrobe—how could I not use this yarn? And the joy of the Fortune’s Shawlette pattern is that variegated yarn shows up as spots of color rather than streaks.

triangular lace shawlette

Fortune’s Shawlette

And after that, as promised, another Be Simple Variations shawlette. I’d planned to make another one of these, and maybe more than one, since they wear well in the sense of not falling easily off my shoulders. The last thing I made in this colorway just never was much fun to wear, and I wanted something that I actually liked. The colorway is out of production, so I figured this was my last shot at it. There’s the tiniest hint of orange in it, a color I so rarely get to wear, but with this much pink and purple around it, I can carry it off.

besimplepink1

Be Simple Variations shawlette (pink)…

Close-up photo of the Be Simple Variations shawlette.

…and a close-up of the stitch pattern and the picot bind-off.

And there they are: two more shawlettes in favorite styles and my shawlette drawer that much closer to bursting at the seams. Oh yeah, wrecked furniture—now that’ll give me a sense of accomplishment!

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Fortune’s Shawlette (blue/pink/purple)
Pattern: Fortune’s Shawlette
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock
Color: 26 Wisteria
Hook: 7.0 mm

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Be Simple Variations (pink)
Pattern: Be Simple Variations
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy
Color: Cool Fire
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


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The stylish near-instant gratification cowl

About three years ago, I made a cowl in Malabrigo Rasta. I liked the yarn—soft! pretty! thick!—the knitting was simple and fast, and the cowl is attractive. But it’s basically a cylinder around my neck and it doesn’t quite work for me. I wanted something somewhat more shaped. So there I was, still with Rasta-lust, and not sure how to satisfy it. A two-skein Rasta project seemed like it might be a bit excessive: I’m too short to really carry off one of those ginormous Outlander-style cowls, and besides, wouldn’t I be a bit top-heavy and in danger of tipping over? 😉 But I didn’t know if one skein would let me do anything more than cylinders in various stitch patterns.

rasta_triangular_cowl

Last spring, Suncat and I were doing our annual Not-Yarnover day, which involved visiting yarn shops that are technically local, but not our usual favorites. At one, I saw Malabrigo yarns all dyed in this lovely colorway, and the Rasta called. But what to do with it? Conveniently enough, the store had a skein knitted up in this pattern. It looked promising. Note that it’s narrower at the top than at the bottom, just as the neck is narrower than the shoulders. So it covers the area where the neck joins the shoulders, while minimizing the gap between the cowl and the body—a gap that lets chilly air in. This is good. So I was able to justify buying the yarn. (Okay, I can usually find some reason to justify buying yarn, but I thought this one was particularly good.)

The knitting was easy: there isn’t even a gauge to shoot for (whee!). Finding good buttons was more of a challenge than I expected, but the fabric store down the street has a reputation for great buttons, and they were able to come up with these. And it was really nice getting to knit something besides fingering weight yarn. (Note to self for 2017: knit something in some other weight of yarn!) I love the look of seed stitch, but I usually don’t have the patience for it. However, in super bulky yarn, it was only a couple of hours of knitting, and even I can make it through that.

I like this cowl enough to try it again. By now, I’ve picked up a couple of skeins of Malabrigo’s Caracol, which looks to be interchangeable with Rasta, plus I’ve acquired another skein of Rasta. (So much potential!) Maybe I’ll use seed stitch again, or maybe I’ll try some other simple stitch. The main point is, I can have fun playing with these yarns, finish the project super-quick, and not feel like I’ve wasted my time or money because I’ll enjoy wearing the finished project. Win-win!

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Rasta Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta
Color: Añil
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)