Polar Prep

For a lot of Wisconsin/Illinois/Minnesota residents last winter was a test of patience, stamina, and good old fashioned Midwestern stubbornness. The term ‘polar vortex’ was born and those who experienced it firsthand grew a new layer of already frostbitten skin. Throughout the summer I’ve run into people already complaining about the potential cold of the coming winter and they’ve run away from me in shock and horror when I respond with “I actually really enjoyed the cold last winter.”

Strangers don’t know the context of my liking of the cold weather and generally if you aren’t complaining about the weather in the Midwest you are seen as inhuman. Of course negative thirty degree temperatures are awful and undesirable but those days also gave me a few weeks of excuses for why I would rather stay home knitting and drinking coffee from the comfort of my bed.

IMG_20140906_191720Through these last couple of months of summer I have been prepping for the coming winter by both making garments to be worn in the event of a polar vortex sequel and building a stockpile of supplies to keep me entertained.

This extra wooly vest is made from my souvenir yarn from my trip abroad to Ireland. It is from Kerry Woolen Mills and is delightfully rustic and insulating. The flecks of blue and red tweed against the base purple color add warmth in a visual sense while those colors are complimented by rich leather buttons. The pattern ofIMG_20140822_165835 the garment itself is one I made up as I went along, my first wearable personal design of something other than an accessory. I love its simplicity because it lets the yarn take center stage and as a souvenir piece it personifies my trip to Ireland. I cannot wait to don it over a flannel button up this winter and have already picked out the outfit I will wear with it on the first really cold day of the year.

Apparently I am in a purple groove these days as my three most current projects deal with the entire purple spectrum. I am nearly halfway through with Hillary Smith Callis‘ design Hawkes. It is a youthful pullover with tons of IMG_20140906_155033texture. I’m using Berrocco Ultra Alpaca so the resulting piece will be beyond just warm. This is a really simple pattern and the broken rib texture is a test of my patience at this point but with four inches of the body left to go I think I can make it to the end of the piece. Plus, I know the work and slight tedium of one by one rib stitch rows over about 180 stitches will be worth it once it is blocked, dried, and tried on.

I have a few more sweaters for myself in the works, a sweater for my boyfriend and socks and hats for us both yet to make this winter. I don’t know if I could squeeze all that making into the coming season unless there is to be another month of paralyzing chilliness so bring on Polar Vortex Two, because I have work to do.

A Serious Series

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2014’s pile of pieces thus far

I’ve been working on a few short essays about certain aspects of craft and textile based skills as part of one of the final courses in my major, “Writing Towards Publication.” I think these essays will work best as blog entries because they touch on a lot of things that a lot of my readers and fellow bloggers (you guys) talk about as well and I think it is good to have a hearty mix of opinions out in the open for other people to judge and examine.

I have three or so in the wings ready for posting and hope to get them all out this week. Hopefully, they won’t be too droll. I really want to post these items here because I want to gain some feedback from other crafters, artists and skilled workers so feel free to comment or e-mail me about your thoughts on the subjects. I really want to get to know the people who read this blog and that includes your opinions.

So a little warning of what is to come:
For the Love of Texture: An Origin Story
Gendered Crafts
Art vs. Craft and Cultural Perceptions

I have a few more ideas brewing but these are the main three that will definitely be making an appearance here. I’ve got a few project updates and book reviews as well that will peep through the essays throughout as usual.

Masterpiece

This journey began way back in November 2013, in Dublin, Ireland. I picked up this glowing bit of BFL wool and started daydreaming about what it could be.

While with my family in Wyoming I began spinning the fluff into a simple fingering weight two-ply yarn. Each full wrap of the cop showcased a new hue of purple encouraging me to spin faster.

DSCN0058After a couple of weeks of intensive spinning I ended up with nearly five hundred yards of amazingly soft yarn. I let it adorn my desk area so I could pet it whenever I wanted.

I spent weeks searching for the perfect pattern that would stretch the labored yarn as much as possible. I landed on Henslowe, a popular pattern with a lot of detail. I cast on in March and the shawl kept me company through the homework, work, and interview speckled weeks.

DSCN9919On April 6 this piece was complete. This is my first real spin to finished product project and every second of it was completely satisfying. The final project is luminous with a fuzzy halo of comfort in person. There are a few mistakes in the lace and a few places where the yarn thickness changes drastically but I think those mistakes make it that much more exciting. This shawl feels like a masterpiece.

Details
Yarn: handspun fingering 2 ply 490 yards
Pattern: Henslowe
Measurements: 53″ in wingspan 18″ deep
Mods: added two repeats of the lace pattern

DSCN9916I ended up with about 4 yards left of the yarn and made it into a tiny skein and hung it on my bulletin board as a souvenir of the process.

 

 

 

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Speed Knitting and Slow Spinning

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My Beurre

So my last post detailed the beginnings of my Beurre shawl. I started this shawl on February 2 and completed it February 10 and sewed in the couple of ends last night. This shawl is not a small piece of fabric with its final measurements being 68″ long and 17″ wide. It incorporated miles of garter stitch and should have taken me much longer to complete. What’s my secret weapon? Massive amounts of stress and uncontrollable business. It seems that on my busiest days I find the most time to knit because I need that time to take a step back from whatever I’ve got going on and just breathe. So stress+minimal time to spare=a giant shawl in eight days.

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Organic Polwarth

Since my life has been a little more hectic than usual due to class, homework, and preparing for the real world (resumes and applications) I crave simplicity when I need a craft to work on. Spinning fills this need perfectly. The repetitive motion and need for precision allows me to focus my energy and worry into something that I can control one hundred percent. Last week I purchased two new to me types of fiber to spin on as the semester winds up towards midterms. I bought a 4 oz braid of merino wool in the colorway lemon and a 4 oz braid of organic polwarth in its natural color.

 

Lemon Merino

Lemon Merino

I’ve begun working on the merino braid and am taking it slowly and am just enjoying the calm that washes over me as a work and think and sort out my life. I’ve not spun merino before and I am really loving the look of the singles. The staple is a bit shorter than I am used to but its still lovely to work with. I can’t wait to see what the finished yarn looks like when I complete this project but I’m definitely not rushing to finish.

Beurre In Progress

beurreLast Sunday I cast on for the shawl, Beurre by Hillary Smith Callis and have been hooked ever since. It combines super simple lace, garter stitch, and short rows so it is easy enough to work on while relaxing after class but retains my interest.

When I bought the pattern I was dismayed by the minimal instruction but I found that the simplicity worked as I went on. The most challenging part of the piece is the first step, casting on over 600 stitches. This really tested my patience and continually counting and recounting the stitches was such a hassle. After that step it was all smooth sailing.

IMG_20140208_151243I’m making my version out of some leftover beige aran weight wool/acrylic blend yarn so it is a bit denser than the original version (original is knit in dk). It keeps my lap warm as I work on it and the yarn is really shiny so it looks much more luxurious than it cost to make.

I’ve completed the lace bits and am about half way through the garter stitch and I’m sort of sad to see it so close to completion. I may have to line up a new yarn to make another version of this toasty shawl.

Adventures in Handspun

DSCN0058I just recently finished spinning the purple/blue fiber I acquired at the Knitting and Stitching show in Ireland and it is so soft and rich that I’ve been keeping it near my desk so I can occasionally pet it when the mood strikes. I ended up with one 50 gram bundle being 210 yards of fingering weight yarn and the other 50 gram bundle being 235 yards of fingering weight. The smaller bundle turned out much more blue than the larger one but they still coordinate really well and should make a lovely garment.

I’ve decided to make a shawl but I can’t decide which shawl pattern to choose. I feel like this is a really momentous decision because I have not made a usable garment from my own hand spun yarn before. I have made a small pair of rainbow hand spun mittens (child size) but they adorn my yarn board as decoration rather than a functional item. I’ve picked out a few patterns I might use and will spend the week deliberating. Let me know which one is your favorite because I need all the help I can get with this decision!

IMG_1366Henslowe by Beth Kling

I adore this delicate shawl and apparently so do 1562 other knitters. With so many projects it is easy to tell that this pattern is one worth making. The crescent shape of the shawl is really sweet and really compliments the soft lace edging.

 

 

 

 

The Birthday ShawlThe Birthday Shawl by Kate Twirl

I really dig that the lace edging is knitted onto the main triangle piece of the shawl because I am a newbie to lace work so the thought of ripping back, in case of a likely accident, a few stitches as opposed to hundreds is really appealing. It is also a really traditionally shaped and designed piece so it would be a nice addition to my collection of knitted items.

 

IMG_1610Momijigari by Beth Kling

The size of this shawl is great because it can be worn draped over the shoulders or as a scarf with minimal awkwardness. Shawls can be hard to pull off in an everyday setting because of their shape but this shawl would not be a challenge to wear at all. The lace pattern is also really intriguing.

In A Funk

I haven’t picked up a needle, a spindle, or a hook for over two weeks. It has been a really long time since I went this long without some sort of project in my hands. Since New Year’s my life has been a little out of sorts and is finally reaching some normalcy now that I am back in my own space at school. Though I’ve been able to achieve some normalcy I am once again completely bummed out because I am at school. I can’t stop thinking about all the work that is ahead of me this semester and how far away graduation seems at this point. Being bummed out and anxious about work really puts a damper on my creative outlets. This apathy towards crafting has in turn forced me into a quiet blog spell, something I hate to have happen. To chase away the blues I’m going to pick out a few pieces that I hope to make once this funk goes away.

Grover’s Mill-Kristen Kapur Designs
Grover's Mill

I love the cabling on this sweater. It is the perfect combination of simple cables making it a great mindless but still impressive knit.

 

 

 

 

 

Uniform Cardigan-Madder Made
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This cardigan is a gem. A wonderful, cozy, customizable gem. I fell for this pattern when Karen Templer of Fringe Association posted about it a bit ago. I’ve been coming back to the calm neutral photos ever since.

 

 

Iberian Discovery-Stephen West
Iberian Discovery

West’s designs are great because they are full of texture and unconventional design elements. This one looks entertaining and like it would be a really cozy finished product if it was made in the right yarn.

 

Now it is time to force myself to knit a few rows to see if it will cure me of the funk. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Silky Smooth

DSCN9888 (2)I mentioned in my last post that I purchased some pieces of pure silk to spin at the Knitting and Stitching show. I have spun up the silk caps and spinning silk is by far the weirdest facet of fiber arts that I have experienced. From peeling apart the silk layers to drafting the sticky fibers, silk has got to be the most fascinating fiber at a spinner’s disposal. I love how organic and natural it feels while I spin and the glistening yarn it produces is really satisfying to see as a product of the effort put into it. I did a lot of pre-drafting with the cap layers so the thickness of the single is somewhat uniform but there are quite a few places where the silk wanted to spin thicker or thinner and I just let it happen. I’m not really aiming for any specific type of yarn with this fiber I’m just enjoying the experience and letting the silk tell me what kind of yarn it wants to be. I’m going to start on the silk brick in the same colorway soon and I’m really excited to see how this type of preparation effects my spinning.

DSCN9847 (2)On the knitting front, I started and completed some more Christmas knitting. It is a simple raglan pullover for my little sister. She is incredibly thin and tall so hopefully this women’s small won’t look too ridiculous on her! (sorry about the photo, I’ve yet to block this piece) I used the pattern Brick by Clare Lee as a base and added a few mods.

 

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I’ve also begun another sweater for my mom. Hopefully this one will be more suited to her tastes. I’m using Shapely Boyfriend by Stephanie Japel as a base and modifying the length of the body, length of the sleeves, and adding a shawl collar. I’m about a third through the body if you can’t tell in this mess of a photo.

The Ultimate Sweater

Boden_10_medium2Today I stumbled upon my dream sweater whilst partaking in my usual morning Pinterest exploration (its like reading the newspaper for me). I rarely make anything for myself but I absolutely MUST indulge my selfish side after I finish my Christmas knitting and make this. It is called Boden by Amy Miller and looks to have been recently released. I love her other designs as well but this sweater is her finest work. It is simply constructed and thoughtfully crafted to maximize its timelessness.

I’m a sucker for a hi-lo hem and the shlumpy but chic shape of the piece really makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book. I also really love that this cozy sweater could be transformed from a slouchy cuddling at home piece into a great casual date piece with the addition of some sleek skinny jeans and heeled booties.

In other knit news I’ve finally completed my boyfriend’s socks! I’ll have him send me a picture of him wearing them once they are delivered to him. I’m also onto the fifth and final piece of my Slade sweater. This weekend will consist of finishing that piece, blocking, and picking up the collar stitches. Hopefully I’ll have a finished sweater to show you sometime next week!

What are you working on this weekend?

Dedicated Knitting

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This weekend marked a milestone. I finished my first Christmas jumper! It is the Zephyr that is intended for my mom. I began this piece on September 6 and finished it on September 28. Unfortunately I don’t think this sweater is going to fit just how my mom would like it to fit as she prefers baggy and shapeless so this close fitting cardigan might not be the best fit for her. I am planning on making another very simple, very comfortable cardigan for her. Apologies for the shoddy photos, my apartment is sorely lacking in the natural light department.

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Even though I have finished a sweater I still have three more to go. I love the process of sweaters so I’m not too sad about the lost effort. If she doesn’t like this piece then I get to keep it so it works out either way. The yarn I used is  silky smooth and is like wearing a big hug.

I also started and completed a pair of little fingerless mittens for my brother for his birthday. Before I left for Ireland he gave me back the yarn I had bought for him to learn to crochet with (I taught him how to chain and that is all he wanted or cared to know how to bub mittsdo) and asked for me to knit him some mitts because the first pair I made him were wornout. I can hardly deny a request for a knitted item especially if its to replace a well loved piece! These will be hitting the post as soon as I can find a box and some chocolate bars to go along with them.

Today I am yarn shopping for my Dad’s Christmas sweater, Slade. I hope to get started on it tonight and aim to finish it in three weeks.