Monday, May 30, 2011

New Pattern! Bias Cable Mittens

I have been busy finishing up a demo pair of mittens. This is my first design to be made available as a downloadable pattern. At the moment, it's only available through Ravelry: Bias Cable Mittens on Ravelry.

I have been interested in bias shaping for some time, and have used it on socks, mittens, and scarves. The basic idea is that every row, or every other row, you increase a stitch at the beginning of the bias section and decrease a stitch at the end. This creates a panel where the columns of stitches are slanted relative to the direction of knitting. Each column appears to emerge at one side, move along diagonally for a while, and then disappear again when it hits the other edge. By mirroring these panels, we can create chevrons and zig-zags. A corner made in this fashion is sometimes called "mitered," after the woodworking joint.

My mittens use this principle to create diagonal ribs, embellished with cable twists. One of the most gratifying things about designing these mittens was seeing how a few basic design ideas (a mitered chevron, ribs, alternating 2x4 cables) combined to create a dense and interesting texture. The bias ribs also lend a structural element, creating a snug and elastic fit across the back of the hand.

If you do decide to make these mittens, there are a few links you may find helpful:

Monday, May 16, 2011

MDSW Report!

I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool a couple weekends ago! First and perhaps foremost, it was not 95 degrees Fahrenheit this year, a fact that makes for a ringing endorsement of the festival all on its own. Sunshine and low 70s: I prefer it. It was also, as expected, awesome.

I'd say in the comparison between MDSW and Rhinebeck, Rhinebeck mostly wins except MDSW has a few advantages:
* I love Ribbon Chips!
* It's free to get in.
* There's really cool live music. Lots of dulcimers and folk tap dancing. Rhinebeck has those panflute guys. I think this here flowchart summarizes my feelings on that:

Anyway, there were, of course, a lot of sheep. I'm most fond of the various Leicester breeds because their bare faces and legs, Roman noses, and bunny-like ears add up to near perfect ovine cuteness. Bluefaced Leicester is also probably my very favorite wool. Bonus!


This sheep was looking a little punk, or maybe emo?, with its stripey getup.


It would have been perfect with these emo bangs.


There was a relative paucity of non-sheep fiber animals, though I did get to say hello to some goats (WANT)


as well as this here alpaca.


Because I'm a total cheeseball and a 4-Her 4-lyfe, I really enjoy watching the various events at the fair. The sheepdog trials are a hoot, and I went to a new event this year, the Shepherds Lead Contest. The detailed description is here, but the short version is that it's like a fashion show with livestock. It was definitely my favorite part of the whole festival this year. I had a tough time getting photos of it, but here are a couple. These young ladies sewed their own woolen garments!

Both this girl and her sheep know how to WERQ it. FIERCE.


This Shetland lamb was pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen. And that purple halter on the lamb is made out of the girl's handspun!


Now what about my haul, you might be wondering? It was rather modest this year. I bought a center-pull bump of roving from Loop, that I adore, mostly because it reminds me of Falcor.



I bought a new drop spindle that same day so I could immediately start spinning it. It's a fascinating spindle--a bottom whorl with this interesting corkscrew top that replaces the usual hook or knob. It can also be used as a support spindle. I think I'll ply the single here with silk thread, and then do who knows what with it. I'm frankly baffled because I'm just not a pastel person, but I could never bear to give this yarn away, so maybe a pastel sparkly shawl/stole is in order nonetheless? My other option could be to chain ply it into a more substantial yarn. Decisions, decisions!

I also bought two skeins of sock yarn (yeah, because my sock yarn stash was really running on fumes...). One is naturally dyed from Dragon's Stash, and it blows my mind the saturation and variety of colors achieved in this skein. I think I'll make a slouchy hat with it. The other is a skein of mediumweight Socks that Rock, which is a yarn I simply adore. I sort of can't help myself when there's a whole booth full of it. This colorway is called mystic kelp, which is really just the best, and I've got eyes on the Rogue Roses pattern for it.


Now, no more yarn buying for me until Rhinebeck! (Vacation yarn doesn't count, right?)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The fluff nightmares are made of.

I had my first nightmare about knitting last week.  You know how some dreams have video-game like missions?  You need to do something, and it's super important, even though you can't quite remember why you need to do it.  Well, in this dream, I needed to knit a sweater.  I don't remember the purpose of this mission, but I knew the consequences:  Pizza.

Or, more specifically, no pizza until I finished the sweater.  Which I had not yet cast on.  Or chosen yarn for.  But needed to be made with at least three colors.  So I spent most of the dream rooting through my stash, which mysteriously consisted of horrible colors (camo green, hunter orange … even the navy blue managed to be ugly) in fingering weight yarns, trying desperately to find a color combo that wouldn't make me hurl.

This dream has many of the ingredients which I would consider a nightmare in a real project:  fine yarn, color conflicts, and lots of loose ends to sew in.

So, with that in mind:  look at what I bought this weekend at the NH Sheep and Wool festival!

Yes, that's lace yarn.  8 kilometers of it.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

So … what was I thinking?  Well, in my defense: it was on sale! 50% off!  (and it was a kit, so I had to buy the strange oranges to get my hands on those lovely blues.)  I know one doesn't usually go to sheep and wool festivals looking for a deal, but when something like this throws itself in your lap, how can you say no?

And those blues … oh those blues.  I fell asleep last night imagining the amazing gradients you could make by holding three strands together, and changing colors one strand at a time.

So, lovely readers -- what would the ingredients of your knitting nightmare be?  Have you ever knit a project that turned from a dream into a nightmare?  Or maybe the other way around?  And do you think I'm just a little bit crazy for buying this yarn, or would you have done the same thing in my place?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dyeing yarn with stuff that I the store!

I recently spun up 2 oz of my first acid-dyed fiber! Inspired by a photo of a lava lake in Ethiopia, I splashed a generous amount of dye onto 4 oz of superwash BFL top. In addition to my first time working with acid dyes, this was also my first time creating a "painted" roving. I was worried I wouldn't have space in my tiny apartment kitchen, but it worked out fine.

The drying fiber made a welcome spot of color in my wintry apartment.

The finished fiber came out better than I'd even hoped! Not a perfect match for the picture, but close enough to please me.

The finished yarn: a laceweight/light fingering 3-ply, destined to become socks, provided I can work up the courage to start on the tiny needles required. I also dyed 4 oz of this fiber to match the dark, bluish parts of this photo, and I plan to combine the two in either stripes or a mosaic pattern. I still have quite a bit of spinning to do before I start knitting, though.

(More photos exist in my Ravelry stash.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Crochet Coral Reef in DC

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Natural History Museum in Washington, DC, to see the Crochet Coral Reef. I knew it would be cool, but it exceeded my expectations. There was just so much to look at! There was a crocheter and a zoologist at the exhibition that you could talk to, and there were different sections that drew attention to the different aspects and issues surrounding ocean ecology. One section was completely crocheted from plarn, yarn reclaimed from plastic bags, to remind us of how much of our garbage ends up in the ocean. Check out some photos!