Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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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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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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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.

—–

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


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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!

—–

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

—–

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

—–

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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Blue, blue, and more blue

I could tell you tales of this yarn. How I bought it and its cousin—a similar yarn in shades of pink—in 2013: my first gradient yarns. That I’ve tried it in multiple projects, but have had to pull it repeatedly for failure to get gauge. (Supposedly a fingering weight yarn, it has behaved more like a light fingering.) That even though the label stated it was 75% merino wool and 25% nylon, it felt about as soft as kitchen twine. (The page for this yarn on Ravelry makes no claims that the wool is merino.) That eventually I started referring to it as “the problem child.”

Or I could just show you what it finally became:

besimpleblue1

Be Simple Variations is one of those patterns that doesn’t hold you to a specific weight of yarn, so I could stop worrying about getting gauge. Since I no longer had to force this yarn into unsuitable gauges, I went down a needle size, which gave me garter stitch with some cushiness to it, not a limp mess. I started at the narrower (dark blue) end, and while that first shade seemed to go on forever, once the color started to change, knitting the shawlette became downright addictive. Like with long-repeat yarns, I got into a mindset of Just one more pattern repeat and maybe the color will change again…!

besimpleblue2Well, now I’ve learned that the yarn at the beginning of the project, the narrower end of an asymmetrical triangle, is the part that’s going to be closest to my face. Also, a picot bindoff is a much more interesting way of ending a shawlette, given that the wide end is so visible. It consumes yarn a lot faster than you think it’s going to. I had enough yarn left for four rows—half a pattern repeat—when I started the bindoff, but I only had a few yards left at the end. And much to my delight, the yarn softened the second it touched water. It’s still not merino, but it’s not going to be mistaken for burlap either. Another bonus, from the pattern rather than the yarn, is that Be Simple Variations is a good shape for wearing. Once I get it wrapped, it pretty much stays put, instead of my having to constantly tug at it. That inspired me to make a second one, in a randomly-dyed tonal-ish yarn that I’d been saving for a good pattern. (Watch this space for the future Be Simple Variations (pink) shawlette!)

Since I bought this yarn, Knitcircus has discontinued Greatest of Ease I, but when I saw their booth at the Vogue Knitting Live Marketplace a couple of weeks ago, I walked away with two cakes of their Trampoline yarn. (Plus a few other things from the Marketplace, but overall, I was amazed at my restraint.) Both in gradients, of course. Of course, the pink Sock du Soleil yarn from 2013 is still waiting for its perfect pattern—a bit of a challenge, as I don’t have many patterns in mind for only 420 yards (384 m). And I’m going to find the time to knit this yarn and all the rest in the stash when?

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Be Simple Variations (blue)
Pattern: Be Simple Variations
Yarn: Knitcircus Greatest of Ease I
Colorway: Ocean Depths
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


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Pretty, plain vanilla

I like multicolored yarn. I also like subtlety. Together, this means I have a lot of tonal yarn in my stash. I admire brightly multicolored yarn from a safe distance—say, in someone else’s project. Me, I go for yarn in multiple shades of one color (I have two projects on the needles that are in shades of denim blue). Or, if I’m feeling radical, I’ll use a group of closely related colors (I have one project on the hook that is in shades of pink, blue, and purple).

For some reason, despite having almost all my clothes and yarn in the same colors (green, blue, purple, pink, gray), I have trouble finding combinations of clothes and knitted/crocheted things that go together. At least those denim blue projects of mine should go with all the blue jeans in my wardrobe. Frustrated, I decided to try a different approach. Neutrals go with almost everything, but I’d done enough stuff in gray for a while, and black is a stronger color than I want next to my face. Time to investigate the possibilities of white.

herald5

In 2013, I’d made a shawlette in Starry. I haven’t been wearing it nearly as much as I thought I would, but I liked the yarn and wanted to use it again. Alas, Dream in Color has discontinued Starry, and the only skein left in my stash is dark gray, which I wasn’t in the mood for. But when I noticed I was pining for Starry, I realized I wanted this new shawlette to sparkle, and there are other sparkly yarns out there. I ended up with a hank of Knit Picks Bare Stroll Glimmer. I’d gone onto Knit Picks’ website meaning to see what colors they had, but I decided I liked the undyed version better than the rest. Plus, Bare Stroll Glimmer is a 100 g hank; I wouldn’t have to join two 50 g balls mid-project.

herald4As for the pattern, I continue to work my way through Janina Kallio’s ouevre. Herald had several points in its favor. It’s one of those patterns where you basically knit until you run out of yarn. I had more yarn than called for, and I wanted to use as much of it as possible. It has a pattern stitch that was interesting to look at, which was good because there wasn’t any variegation in the yarn to add interest. At the same time, it isn’t so complicated that the shimmer in the yarn was totally wasted on the project.

And the result? Hey, I like it! It does exactly what I wanted, which is go with almost everything I own (except my white and off-white shirts, but I can wear all the other shawlettes with them). The yarn was surprisingly soft; I like to snuggle in it. I did think it would sparkle more than it did. I’ll probably have to choose a darker color for higher contrast with the glimmery bits. And guess what: it comes in a shade of denim blue!

—–

Herald
Pattern: Herald
Yarn: Knit Picks Bare Stroll Glimmer
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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Cobblestone Shawlette

For a designer whom I’d never heard of before a few months ago, I’m becoming quite fond of Janina Kallio’s patterns. She does a lot with combining solid knitting and mesh, and this appeals to me. So after finishing the Ardent Shawlette, I went straight into another pattern of hers: Cobblestone.

Cobblestone Shawlette

I’d been saving this skein of Rustic Fingering until I found the right pattern, and I decided this was it. (I mean, when a yarn is this lovely shade of pink, you can’t knit just anything with it.) I had more yarn than the pattern called for, but this is a design that lets you add as many pattern repeats as you like as long as the numbers come out right. I added three more. I was weighing the yarn after each repeat, trying to figure out how much the four-row repeat was consuming—plus the repeats were gradually growing, and thus using slightly more yarn…yeah, it was a bit tense at times, and I did a lot more ripping out than I’d counted on. And at the end, I had barely enough yarn to bind off, and I didn’t bind off as stretchily as would’ve been best. But by that point, I was determined to just see it done.

Cobblestone Shawlette being worn.Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this design. Purely a matter of preference on my part; it’s not like the pattern was badly written or anything like that. I simply hadn’t realized until blocking that the garter stitch sections have a much shorter row gauge than the mesh section. Somehow that didn’t occur to me while I was planning the project and I never noticed while I was knitting it (I blame the fact that it was all scrunched up on the needles). But once it was off, flat, and wet, it became obvious that I was going to have to stretch the heck out of the garter stitch sections to keep them from pulling the mesh out of shape, and I don’t like the look of stretched garter stitch. Hmph. (Yes, I’d seen the photos on Ravelry and some of them were close enough to see the garter stitch. I didn’t make the connection. Grr.)

But enough complaining. 🙂 It’s done, it’s a lovely shade of pink, and it looks nice when worn. Which is really all that matters.

—–

Cobblestone Shawlette
Pattern: Cobblestone
Yarn: Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering
Color: Victorian Village
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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The passionate purple of Ardent

I’m not sure why I bother to maintain a queue on Ravelry. I carefully arrange projects on it, match yarn to patterns—and then go off and do projects on whims. The Ardent Shawlette was a whim project. Fifty-something potential projects in my queue when I saw this pattern, and, well, here’s a shawlette. And my queue has grown to sixty-something potential projects, because I decided I liked several of Janina Kallio’s other patterns. So really, the problem is getting worse.

ArdentI was attracted by, uh, the pattern in this pattern (oh English, you’re so wonderfully ambiguous sometimes). I liked how the solid bands of garter stitch alternate with openwork. This looked like it would be a great project for a yarn a little more exciting color-wise than the tonals I tend to use; the solid bands would show the yarn off well, while the openwork would add texture interest. I was right. The yarn hasn’t photographed well, but it’s mainly purple with splashes of dark fuchsia and teal. I bought the yarn in St. Cloud while on my way to the annual knitting retreat a couple of years ago and I’m delighted to have finally found a pattern for it.

Kallio says this is an asymmetrical shawlette. It was when I was knitting it. I tried to block it asymmetrically as well, but I ended up with a more or less symmetrical triangle anyway. I ran out of yarn a few rows from the end—I suspect my gauge loosened up over time. But I was in no mood to rip it out and reknit it, and it’ll work just fine as is.Ardent2

I didn’t expect this project to take as long as it did (three months). I developed a hand problem that noticeably limited how long I could spend knitting at one time. Plus, I found other activities to distract me. (I know, I know: how could anything be more fascinating than knitting? Although crocheting equals it.) But here it is, and I’ve already cast on for the next project. This is Cobblestone, another pattern by Kallio, with more garter stitch and openwork. A pattern that I’d queued when I realized that I liked several of her designs. And that’s why I bother to maintain a queue on Ravelry, it seems.

—–

Ardent Shawlette
Pattern: Ardent
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk Paints
Color: Violets (9995)
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)