Monday, May 24, 2010

I am happy to see that we are all surviving the May clue. With the skeleton of the June clue already in place, we are about to hit the midpoint in our shawl. Wow! has it really been six months already? June promises to be interesting, fresh and sparkling, and yes, we will introduce a relatively new skill. I told you. By the time we finish the year, we will all be expert lace knitters.

A lot of things happening at the pond. First, the Crannog Throw went up live in the Knit Picks website. I also put it up in Ravelry since some international shoppers had trouble with the settings at that site. (And what the heck are Crannogs? ). It is getting more love than I expected for a heavy worsted blanket in the summer.

And guess who is all done?
That is right, the famous, not-yet-named triangle shawl. Here it is, hot off the needles, waiting for the beauty bath
Here it is, on the pins and blocking wires. Whenever I set a lace shawl to block, it always amazes me - it is like magic! All that gorgeousness happening as you stretch a little bit of twisted string...
Here is a detail of the tip:
I love how this pattern developed! In one direction, it looks like a field of flower buds, on the other, like flowers on a long stem. The pattern has about 5-6 charts, all really simple knitting with only a bit of trick on the edge. Because it is so varied, it is really entertaining to knit. More like knitting crack. I am SO ready to cast on another one on lace weight.

In fact I could not help myself and had to go take the whole family out for a suitable picture location. The weather this last week has been unbelievable, mild, breezy and plain gorgeous. And with summer looming ahead, you take every opportunity to go out!
And here we are on a trek to South Mountain - I am told this is one of  US largest city parks. Not much greenness, mind you, but beautiful rugged rocky terrain and cactus.
Lovely contrast between the rugged rock, and softness, organic nature of the shawl. I love this picture. DH is getting pretty artsy with the pictures, he even suggested this lovely shadow picture:
And here is yours truly modelling it - you get a feel of the size. This was knitted actually kind of tight on size 3 needles using sock yarn, but the pattern is so open you get great size even though I only used about 350 yards. I am wondering about adding a little bit of size for the final version.
Unfortunately, the hike had to be cut a bit short. Toddlers don't like walking on the desert, and baby is getting a little heavy to carry him around for miles. So we went to the park instead for some more pictures:
So now, the boring part of the work: condense the charts, do the writing part, test knitting, editing, yadda yadda. Meanwhile, I just can't get over how much I like the flower border. So I have an idea for a small shawl using mostly stockinette and a larger version of the border. Still chewing on it.

I just can't decide on a name for the shawl... I can smell a naming contest coming!!!

Now for a little yarn.
But first, if you are not following the Ravelry group, generous shop owner Christine has offered us some free samples of Zitron Filigran, an eco-friendly lace yarn. Knitting is such a tactile experience, that being able to feel and touch the yarn makes all the difference.
And, she has promised me a few samples to touch, swatch and review, and I am so excited!!! look forward to reviews on future posts.

Meanwhile, I got in all kinds of trouble at the Sanguine Gryphon update again.
Here is a sweaterful of Lubber Grasshopper Bugga. (And look, it brought a friend! a miniskein in Eidos)
Somehow, a skein of Mystery Skinny Bugga jumped in the cart. And irony of ironies, as I was just casting off a shawl made with the only frankly yellow skein in my stash, along comes this Yellow Dung Fly (a colorway that is no longer available I think)
I love the Lubber so much, I even got its Sappho II counterpart. Look how different it looks on this base, much more brown and orange.For those of you who have not met Sappho yet, it is a single-ply wool, reminiscent of Malabrigo, also quite soft. Sappho I is laceweight, about 800-ish yard, Sappho II is fingering weight, 400-ish yards.
And finally, I did something I have not done for a long time: I stalked a Friday update of the Wollmeise store. I emerged psychologically scarred. Buying yarn should not be this stressful and cutthroat. I did emerge with a skein of Petit Poison #5 dark, and one of Magnolia light, both in Twin. I love the colors, but if I had not been in a "hit and run" mentality, I probably would not have chosen those.
On a side note, what is with me getting all that pink yarn??? I have to confess the Magnolia would look great knitted up as a shawl. The color is gorgeous, but the yarn... well, it is far from soft.

Gotta go dive on my lace yarn stash... Do you want to bet I won't find exactly what I am looking for?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May is for Flowers

The May clue is here! And it is the beautiful Estonian flower stitch that Susan Pandorf designed as part of her LOTR themed series. We contacted Susan before putting together the clue and she was quite gracious to let us use it.
And to help you with the tricky M7 in K3tog stitch, I put together a little pictorial. I apologize for the quality of the photos, but I figured out something was better than nothing. I use the [k1p1] method, which to me gives the tidiest appearance, although the moving back and forth of the yarn can be a bit tricky. It is not by any means the only way to make this stitch.

Step 1: insert right needle through the next three stitches as if to knit them together.

Step 2: Knit through the three stitches together, but don't drop them off the needle.
Step 3:  bring your yarn forward, in front of your work
Step 4: Insert right needle through the three stitches on the right needle as if to purl.
Step 5: Purl one stitch, but do not drop the stitches off the left needle. Now you have two stitches on the right needle (one knit, one purl) and three stitches together on the left.

Step 6: Bring the yarn to the back of the work

Step 7: Insert right needle as if to knit, and knit one stitch without dropping the three stitches on the left needle.
Now there are three stitches on the right needle - A knit, a purl, and a knit
Repeat steps 3-7 twice more, until you have 7 stitches on the right needle:
Now you can drop the three stitches on the left needle. The seven made stitches should all form a tidy little ring.
On the purl side, you will knit each of those new stitches individually. Be careful that they are knit in the right order, as they sometimes can be quite crowded. Knitting loosely is very helpful.

Here is the stitch after one purl row.

And here is the completed flower motif - unblocked yet. The seven made stitches will go on to be later knitted together in three separate groups, forming the flower petals. Quite clever! In fact, this stitch is a variation on a nupp or a bobble, and if you chose nupps in March, you will be well prepared for this.

Many thanks to Susan Pandorf, of course, and also to my husband (photographer extraordinaire) and our bodacious Russian translator Olga who got it all done in a short time. Many, many special thanks to my great knitting friend Sherry, English teacher and queen of the perfectly finished knitted garments, who was a pinch-hitter editor while other mods were on vacation. Her command of English writing is superb, and she is no doubt cringing while reading this blog...

And many thanks to YOU, the wonderful knitters who waited with patience and understanding while life in general put our clue release schedule on hold. I can't wait to see all your WIPS.

Well, I can't leave without a little yarn show: three beauties from Sanguine Gryphon: Bugga in Sharpshooter Leafhopper, Skinny Bugga in a one-off colorway (with a lot of sage green and soft lilac) and SB in Emerald Swallowtail.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Setbacks and Opportunities

As most of you know by now, the May clue for the 2010 Sampler got a little gnarly on me and I had to do a major rewrite. It was all charted, written, spell-checked, and it looked good until I started knitting my own shawl and stumbled upon insurmountable stitch marker placement problems. Meaning that, if I left them where I had place them, I would have to move them in a random manner more often that would afford for comfortable knitting. I had to think a little outside the box until a somewhat elegant solution came to me (I swear I could hear Mariachi music, I was so happy). The clue remains a bit confusing and gnarly but more manageable and allows some room for personal choice. I know you guys like a bit of choice. However, I am not offering a second alternate clue, y'all have to knuckle down and brave this one. I promise the rewards of the sheer beauty of the lace are worth the trouble.

Speaking of another setback turned to opportunity, here is the update of the Triangle Shawl. After I lost all the charts, it came back from its ashes fast and furious. Many thanks to the KnittingKninja tutorial I figured out something I was doing really wrong and kept causing my edge lace to look wonky. The shawl  is computer-charted all the way except for the edge, which I have had-drawn in three separate pieces in my trusty Moleskine. In fact I think I could simplify the charts enough to allow written instructions, since it is for the most part really easy knitting.

Here is the initial section, in the Wabi Sabi sock yarn. I am not sure if I will keep this pattern or an alternate one, depending on how it looks after the transition section. It has a bit of texture to it as it uses knit and purls.

A little closeup here - not as nice as when it is blocked for good.

It is Barbara Walker's Harebell Lace. The charting did require a little tweaking to make it fit, but it is done.

I did mention that one feature I am very happy about is that you will be able to customize the size by adding more repeats of some of the sections. I think I have it down to a shawlette (about Ishbel's size) needing an estimate 450 yds of fingering, a bit less of lace, a medium (about 600-700 yd laceweight) and a full sized, at about 800-1000 yds laceweight. Once I am more far ahead and I have at least a crack at the edging chart, I will probably poll around for some testers willing to do the larger sizes. At this stage, it has to be people that can knit from charts because I design exclusively from charts, and I won't write instructions until it is all finished. And before you stick your hand up and volunteer, consider that it could be a total waste of your time, or go over size, or have chart problems, as many beta testing patterns have.

Now that the blankie is packed and mailed off to Knit Picks (still wondering if they will take it... since it is getting a bit hot for blankets), it is time to tackle the rest of the mess in my WIP drawer. I have been attacking the Manly Sweater made out of Mirasol Qina. The yarn is a dream, supersoft Alpaca/Bamboo blend, light and warm. It does not have much memory though, and it is a bit twisty so stitch patterns don't pop as nicely as with your standard wool yarn. The gauge is also a bit odd, falling in the light worsted to heavy DK range. The sweater has been a year in the making, in part due to the cables (recognize the pattern? It is the same as the blanket!), in part due to the chest girth of the DH. I am down to the last bit of the sleeve

Here is the saddle detail at the shoulder. Front and back in two pieces, then the shoulder saddle part, everything stitched up and then the sleeves picked on the round. The advantage to that design is that you are done with the annoying sewing somewhere in the middle of the sweater, and the saddles give some extra structure to the alpaca blend, which tends to be saggy. And no gorilla arms! I may have to design a simpler mansweater with similar structure in the future.
And the huge V-neck? Well, that is still a work in progress. The last bit of math to be done. Stay tuned.

Yarn porn of the week: Fearless Fibers Merino lace in Rubicund color way. Found it in a Rav destash, and it is the very same yarn that Anne Henson from Knitspot is using for her Twining Lace stole. I had been drooling after that yarn for a while. It is a lovely, springy yarn in the heavier side of the laceweight. The color is between salmon and pink, complex and delicious. It does not seem too pricey, but watch it, the yardage per skein is only about 400 yards (about the same than Malabrigo lace).

Perchance to Knit Silk-blend laceweight jumped on the mail package to make sure the FF did not feel too lonely on the ride. It is a colorway dyed for the Loopy Ewe, named Garnet, but really unabashed Raspberry without any brown undertones. Feels about the same than Zephyr. Lovely bright color!

Will be seeing you all next week, when the May clue is released. I will try to post spoiler pictures, as well as a pictorial of the most difficult bits. No promises though - I actually have to work this week.

You can tell I have an expensive yarn habit...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Divine Silks and Divine Signs

First the Divine Silk
This week I won't make you wait and will begin with the yarn porn! Remember my quest for the perfect blue? I decided to focus on 100% silk, mostly because I don't own any and I wanted to work with it. Here are some of the runner-ups to great 100% silk yarn (note - it is not for the faint of pocket!)
Indigo Moon Blue Danube Muga Silk. IM also has exquisite offerings in somewhat thicker Mulberry Silk
Argosy Kimono Silk in Hang Ten. A bit more turquoise-y than I wanted it, but lovely.
The Gossamer Web AK47 . No blues in stock. Make sure to read the description, it is hysterical.
Impulse of Delight Pure Silk Lace. None of their lovely Blueberry Fields colorway, which is a bright turquoise.
And finally, the winner was No Two Snowflakes Pure Silk. I lucked on a 500 yd single skein of fingering, almost sportweight pure silk in Mountain Climber colorway. And once again my pictures do not make any justice to it. A turquoise blue with brown highlights. So lovely I don't know if it will every leave my yarn vault.

So what are the chances that a couple of days after this, I stumble upon an almost identical colorway up for grabs at the Ravelry ChitteryChatters SwapperySwapers?
It is Sknitches sock yarn in Muddy Waters, a limited edition colorway. And now it is mineminemine. The photos are *really* bad
Another lovely surprise showed up this week. Wabi Sabi Yarns Trendsetter Club (where you can get a new yarn base on a surprise colorway when they are available) sent a lovely, soft MCN with 20% cashmere, and a thickness and feel very, very similar to that of the beloved Bugga!. The colorway is quite lovely, Rhubarb Tango, mostly red but with fuchsia highlights.

Really, a LOT more red and less fuchsia than my photo suggests. Everybody knows I am a sucker for reds.

And now for some Divine Signs...

I did finish the corner chart for my cable border. Looks almost miraculous. a cable turning the corner
 And  I did start knitting it on the blanket edge. Looked great!

Then I made some quick calculations. DAMN! it would take me another month of concentrated knitting and about 6 balls of yarn to finish it. So... scrapped and filed for later use

On the plus side, I did find a great name for the blanked idly looking at a book on Ireland at Barnes and Noble while I pretended not to be related to the shrieking kids on the aisle. I am not a good name giver so I snapped it up. And the pattern practically wrote itself. It is a SIGN that it was meant to be left as is.
The hard part was to find a place in Phoenix that could pass for even vaguely Irish for the feature pictures. So I packed up the family and we headed for an afternoon at the Botanical Garden.
Here is Babyzilla vandalizing the property. Did i mention how cranberry juice enhances the look of cables? The blanket is back on its Eucalan beauty bath.

And Big Brother trying to be a helpful little model for mom.
I did find an almost irishly serene spot at the Shade Garden and at the Herb Garden for my pics though. And they had a beautiful exhibit of sculpture by Allan Hauser. So if you are in Phoenix make sure to drop by and see the blooming desert!

And more Signs...
It has been a new start for the triangle shawl as well. I managed to lose the whole folder of charts. Probably left it at lunch while my car was being detailed. I am pretty sure the waiter was looking at me funny because I sat there for an hour and all I had was coffee (the car was very dirty).
Be as it may, I had to start from scratch and from memory, and it was a good thing, because it all clicked together so fast! even the math worked.
This is the medium-edge portion. The funky lozenge-shaped motif from the other shawl is now refined into this bud-like shape, and I incorporate an edging from an old fashioned doily that just goes so well with the flower motif. I am still figuring out the Chevron portion and the right proportions for it, and the initial chart is being swatched as we speak!
And there will be an option for a larger and smaller size (you hear, Shannen?)

And what about May???
The May Clue for our 2010 KALendar is chosen, swatched, and charted, and only needs to be written and composed. And yes! I chose one of the suggestions from the May thread. I am shooting to keep the date of the second weekend of May (that is, next weekend!) but there is much to do yet. And it is a lovely, lovely clue. I can't stop staring at my swatch.

And June theme goes Seaside. Bring on the surf, the rolling waves and the sparkling water, the seashells and the sunshine!I will probably open the thread tomorrow, so put your thinking caps on