Friday, September 13, 2013

Chance Favors the Prepared

Thirty degrees is a lot.

It's strange, but no matter how many times I hear it, no matter how much I look forward to it (at least when the drop starts from the mid-90's), no matter that except for that brief stint in California, I have spent my whole life in the Midwest, I am never prepared for just how big a temperature change thirty degrees is until it happens. Tuesday we were sweltering. Today I've thrown open my windows and am sitting here in a sweatshirt. It's Fall in Chicago.

You know what this means, don't you? This means I can confess. This means I can go public. This means I don't have to hide any more. No more pretending all I'm working on is easy warm weather knitting like cowls and fingering-weight shawls. This means I can announce that I am (wait for it) knitting another blanket!

I've written a couple times that the Princess and I are valiantly working our way through reducing the stash. When you work on cowls, mittens, socks, hats and children's sweaters, though (well, socks and mittens not me, but she does) the stash fades away gradually. I want some major disappearing here. I want my stash to fit in its baskets. I want Their Father to not walk from room to room and wonder if we're single-handedly supporting a sheep farm somewhere in Montana. Dang it, I want to buy more yarn with a clear conscience.

Which is why I am saying thank-you to Stephen West for the Garter Squish Blanket (it's free on Ravelry).

Worsted Weight. Double-stranded. Big needles. Full-size blanket. We're talking about ridding the Stash of 16 skeins in one fell swoop. And easy. It's garter stitch. Knit until the skeins run out and then start the next two. This thing eats yarn. Even better, I'm using up some of those lost, lone and left-over skeins. Those eight skeins of Rainier Heather Cascade 220 that I bought online when I thought they were blue and they turned out to be purple? They have found their project.

Okay, so this is me and I had to change it. That would be because two of those lost lone skeins are a really awful orange-and-green-heather-makes-for-one-muddy-brown.

I worried about knitting a large block with it. Even double-stranded with the Rainier Heather (purple) it looks brown. Keeping in mind that if you only choose pretty colors for a project you'll end up with a pretty boring project, I took the advice of Lady Macbeth and "screwed [my] courage to the sticking place" (that and I may have knit with one eye closed at the start). Somehow, though, juxtaposed in narrower bands between navy/purple and charcoal heather/purple, I like it. I'm curious to see what it looks like between the charcoal heather/purple and the more bluish/greenish-grey of the Smoke Heather/purple combination.

I find the knit-as-you-go I-cord edging particularly fetching. I may do this for all my garter stitch blankets from now on.

Not to mention that now that it's getting chilly here, instead of shivering in this robust northeasterly breeze, I get to sit with a lapful of wool.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Stitches 2013

This is partly about Inspira Cowls, but mostly about what they drove me to learn at Stitches.

If you page through the over 1700 Inspira Cowls on Ravelry, you may notice that every now and then one pops out with a flared top edge.  This does not appear to bother the knitters.  When Mesa Rock I turned out that way, it bothered me.  Graphica says to "BO just loose enough in rib." "Just loose enough." Right. I bound off with a larger needle. Flared. I bound off using the lace bind-off. Flared.  I bound off using Judy's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. Flared. 

I was not happy. I ripped out the bind off, put the whole thing back on the needles and proceeded to ignore it. 

Then I got my email reminder about homework for my Stitches classes.  Yes, I signed up for more than one. No, I don't know what I was thinking. Yes there was homework for one of them. No I don't know how I missed that one of them was for 8 AM Saturday morning. Yes, it was the one I had to knit seven swatches for.  It was worth it.  The class was a bind-off class with Sarah Peasley

Any class with Sarah Peasley is worth it.  This one was exactly what I needed. In the course of the morning, I mastered seven different bind-offs. 

Okay, six out of seven. That one on the bottom was supposed to be the bind-off based on Kitchener stitch (I think), but the field marshal and I had a disagreement and I ripped it out and put the swatch back on the needles. I will prevail over that one, just - later. Anyway. I also acquired the piece of wisdom that saved Mesa Rock and all future Inspira Cowls.  When you do stretchy bind-offs that involve yarn overs?  You don't need to yarn-over for every stitch.  Let me repeat that.

When you do stretchy bind-offs that involve yarn overs?  You don't need to yarn-over for every stitch.

Honestly, you would have thought I had discovered the wheel. 

Binding off with yarn-overs, as for the lace bind-off or Judy's Surprisingly Stretchy one, means you increase a stitch at the point before you close the stitch. That extra yarn is what makes the bind-off stretchy.  It's also what made my bind-off flare out. By spacing out the yarn-overs, you can control the amount of stretch in the bind-off.  I reduced my yarn-overs by half, doing one for every pair of stitches. And it worked.

Stretch without the flare.  If I didn't tell you that the edge on the top is the bottom and the edge below is the top of the cowl, would you know?

Good thing, given that I have all that new self-striping yarn, no?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Late to the Party, Again

Believe it or not, I am knitting something other than corrugated ribbing. But you have to get the story before you get the pictures.

It's not that I go looking for excuses to cheat on my resolution to knit from stash.  It's that there are always extenuating circumstances. The Market at Stitches Midwest has always qualified as the ultimate extenuating circumstance. As if all the yarn I bought there for Inspira Cowls had never happened (which technically, I can argue didn't, because yarn bought to make gifts doesn't count, right?), I went searching for my Stitches yarn.

True confessions time.  I have, in the past, bought some truly delicious yarn at Stitches.  There are the two hanks of Brooks Farm Mas Acero in a cornflower/porcelain kind of blue.  A couple years ago I succumbed to the lure of Silk/Merino Worsted from Ellen's Half-pint Farm and bought yarn that makes me think of poppies thinly scattered in wheat fields. Then there was the year I bought vast quantities of Jojoland Melody Superwash. I have never found the right pattern for any of these yarns, and so they languish. 

This time, I determined, would be different. This time I would restrain myself.  This time I went with a pattern in mind.  This time, when I returned from Stitches, it would be with something I wanted to make immediately.  I chose my pattern and downloaded my knitting folder onto my Nook, to make sure I had all the information I needed to make Carina Spencer's Catkin Shawl, and made a beeline for the Miss Babs booth.

I did not come away with yarn for the Catkin Shawl. Instead I was seduced by Color Affection.

I should mention that I had never been excited by CA.  I admit I looked at it pretty closely when the Yarn Harlot extolled it. Despite one of my favorite knit blogger's praise, despite the inspiration of nearly 10,000 knitters on Ravelry alone, I was unmoved. Just couldn't see the appeal.  

Back to the present. Miss Bab's has put together color sets called Trios designed specifically for Color Affection (or other three color objects).  She had a sample knit up in colors that, for me, recalled nothing so much as the Wicked Witch of the West - black, green, and purple. So not my colors, and yet I was completely won over. I liked the way the colors moved through the pattern.  I was intrigued by the cleverness of the construction.  And then there's that part of me that is something of a sucker for a curving shawl. 

As it turned out, none of the color sets called my name, but that didn't stop me. By the time Stitches was over, I had a Trio of my  own - Denim, Deep Sea Jellyfish, and Wheaten.

I am loving this shawl.

I've already started sneaking onto the Miss Babs website looking for new combinations. Although, now that I think about it, I do have some pretty amazing fingering yarn that hasn't been set aside for anything yet.