New Patterns Released: Twins and Entwined, Cabled Mug Cozies

Announcing my two latest patterns: Twins and Entwined, two cabled mug cozies!  Both are available FREE on Ravelry, so go download a copy today.

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I designed this pair of patterns for my upcoming “Intro to Cabling” class at the Hub Mills Store. The class is two hours long and costs $20.  I’m offering it twice in the near future, on Saturday, April 21st, and Saturday, May 19th, from 10AM – noon.  “Twins” is the simpler of the two patterns, intended for the knitter who is totally new to cables.  “Entwined” is a bit more complex (though not as much as you might think!), meant for a knitter who has done a bit of cabling before, or an adventurous novice.

If you’d like to take my class, call (978) 408-2176 or email yarn@hubmillsstore.com to reserve a seat.

Both cozies take less than 50 yards of worsted-weight yarn, plus two buttons, and can be finished in a single day.  Both are also appropriate for learning how to cable without a cable needle — something I will also teach in class, because I think it makes cabling SO much quicker and easier.

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Zombies Heart Brains: Mini-Skein Swap

I have succumbed to hexipuffs!

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My goal for 2012 is to make one hexipuff each day … but of course I started in February, and sometimes I miss a day, so my tally so far is a mere 20 of 366. I was also hampered by a distinct lack of the right kind of sock yarn.  I have a scrap blankie also in the works, and for that one I am restricting myself to yarn from socks/shawls/etc. that I have actually knit — it is more of a memory blanket, and I love looking at the squares and remembering the projects I made with that yarn.  But, for my beekeeper’s quilt, I’m being a bit snobby — I want to use “fancy” sock yarn only, and have no repeating colors.  It says something about my knitting habits that I was able to make 20 little puffs that meet this requirement, using only what I had lying around. But aren’t they pretty?

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In order to get enough different yarns, I have jumped down the mini-skein swap rabbit hole. The basic concept is that 19 or 20 mad knitters totally sane people agree to each take a perfectly good 100-gram skein of sock yarn and chop it up into 5-gram miniature skeins, good only for hexipuffs, blankie squares, and the like.  I’ve signed up for six different swaps so far, and the first batch arrived yesterday, hooray! This swap had a “rainbow” theme — each swapper signed up for a color and went from there. Joy! I actually knit four hexipuffs last night (the last four from my own stash), so that I could give myself permission to start in on this batch.

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Which all brings me to … Zombies Heart Brains! I’m hosting a swap!  The theme, naturally, is zombies — all kinds.  As of this writing, I have filled 14 of the 19 slots — which means 5 slots are still open to you, dear reader.  Allow me to tantalize you will some of the yarns already in the swap.  Surely you want 5 grams of each?? 🙂

 

Sock Yarn Review: Socks That Rock

I have knit a lot of socks.  As in, there are 50 pairs of socks on my project page on Ravelry.  That’s not even counting socks that were ornaments.  A lot of these socks were gifts, but I have kept a couple dozen pairs for myself.  I wear pretty much exclusively hand-knit socks, summer and winter.  I put my socks through a LOT — they are worn in hot, sweaty sneakers at outdoor dog agility trials,  in boots on snow-tubing trips, and nearly every day in my favorite pair of black leather shoes.  About the only abuse they don’t get is being worn alone — even indoors, I usually have slippers on my feet. In the beginning, I took sock yarn at it’s word, and I used to machine wash AND dry all my socks with all the rest of the laundry.  Eventually I decided that my socks had a hard enough life already, so now my socks get medium hand-knit treatment: I machine wash them in a separate load on the “hand wash” setting (cold water, intermittent agitation), and I hang them on the banister to dry.

I’ve noticed that some brands hold up better than others, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you, dear reader. This post will be the first in a series of sock-yarn reviews. I will address the aspects of sock yarn that are meaningful to me: beyond the initial pleasure of creating the socks, how do the socks wear?  Propensity to felt, pill, fade, or shrink can ruin a beautiful pair of socks, and I’ve had a few brands become card-board stiff over time. Please allow that this is only my personal, unscientific opinion!  All usual disclaimers apply.

The target this week is one of my favorite brands of sock yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight and Socks That Rock Mediumweight.  For the last few years, I’ve been a member of the BMFA sock club, which ships yarn and two gorgeous full-color patterns every other month.  I adore their base yarn — a tightly spun, springy fiber — and their dyer creates vibrant, gorgeous colorways.  It is a joy to knit with, whether in plain stockinette, lace, or cables. Here are the seven pairs of socks that I’ve knit over the last few years with STR, along with the date I finished the project:

Cascadia (Feb 2010)

Still soft, mild pilling and felting (toe and heel), mild shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:

9655 Cascadia socks9630 Happy Go Lucky Cascadia

Now:

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Secret Garden (April 2010):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), mild shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

9900 BMFA STR March 2010 socks

Now:

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Firecracker Corners (Jan 2011):

Mostly soft, moderate pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

1339 firecracker socks

Now:

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Jan 2011 RSC Socks (Jan 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:
1939 Jan 2011 STR Social Network

Now:
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Mar 2011 STR (May 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading. ALSO — I had to darn a hole in the leg already, and another hole has appeared near the cuff. I think this is a fluke for this particular colorway (possibly even just this skein), as I have never had any trouble with holes/breakage with this yarn before or since.

Then:
2357 Electric Kool-Aid Acid Socks

Now:
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Problem:
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July 2011 STR Socks (Oct 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading.

Then:
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Now:
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Shoreward Socks (Jan 2012):

Still soft, no pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, no fading. (These socks have only been worn a handful of times, and likely will fade and pill at least a little bit.)

Then:
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Now:
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Conclusions:

Softness: 5/5

Pilling: 4/5

Felting: 4/5

Shrinking: 4.5/5 (do not wash/dry with regular laundry)

Fading: 3/5 (some colorways fade more than others — red/pink seem particularly vulnerable)

 

 

Average: 4.1/5

I will continue to buy STR yarn. I don’t think it holds up well to regular laundry treatment, despite being “superwash.”  After I switched to gentler laundering, I no longer had a problem with shrinkage.  I expect all my socks to felt a bit at the toes and heel (tennis shoes! summer!), and pilling a bit is also expected.  I have been disappointed with how faded some of the socks became — after all, the gorgeous colorways are a big part of the draw for STR yarn.  I would be hesitant to buy a lot of red/pink yarn from them (although I still love getting it in the sock club!).  I may try a vinegar bath with any future red/pink colorways.

FO Friday: Tappan Zee Pulled Taffy

I finished a sweater for me!  This is not something that happens every day.

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Project: Tappan Zee Pulled Taffy

Pattern: Tappan Zee Cardigan

Designer: Amy King

Available: FREE! on Knitty.com

Yarn: Decadent Fibers Pulled Taffy in Red Hot Pepper

I bought this yarn on spec back in June, at the 20th (and final) Granite State Knit-In.  I’m sorry to say that a LYS had brought all their merchandise and were selling it off at 2-for-1 because they were closing their doors.  I’m glad to say I found two skeins of this astonishing fiber, each normally $35.  I decided to take a leap of faith and buy both — almost-a-sweater for $35 was too good a deal to pass up.

2384 Decadent Fibers Pulled Taffy in Red Hot Pepper

Once I had it home, it proved to be a bit of a challenge.  First of all, though it claims to be DK, it really feels and knits up closer to worsted.  Also, it turns out that 980 yards is not quite enough to make most things, at least not in size large-enough-to-fit-me.  I finally settled on Tappan Zee — a pattern I queued in large part because I love the eponymous bridge!  I used to drive back and forth from DC to Boston fairly frequently, and every time I saw signs for Tappan Zee it made me happy.  Try saying it aloud — you’ll be happy too!

Swatching told me three things: first, I should expect worsted-ish gauge.  I decided to follow the pattern for a proportionately smaller size, which ended up working great.  Second, blocking the swatch told me that this yarn would bleed dye something awful.  This turned out to be a good thing, because the fully saturated color was a bit much — I prefer the toned-down color after blocking.  Third, the fabric is also appreciably softer after a good wash-and-block, which reassured me while I was knitting — the WIP sometimes felt a bit crunchy and oh-my-god bright red and orange.  Thank goodness for swatching to tell me the truth.

One thing I changed in the pattern was the armholes.  I really hate tight, binding armholes, so instead of casting off for the arms, then bridging the gap directly, I chose to cast on a handful of stitches under each arm.  I must have goofed the math a bit, because my sleeves ended up a little ruffled — too much fabric up there.  It bothered me at first, but my knit group claims they like it, so I’m slowly coming around.

I was about two dozen rows shy of the official “start the edging” point, when I noticed that the yarn ball hand dwindled to an ominously small size.  I got out my new and wonderful super-accurate digital scale and weighed the ball before and after the next two rows … and discovered I had barely enough to finish the edging, but only if I started it RIGHT THEN.  As it was, I had to rip out the swatch in order to bind off the last few inches.  I think the finished cardi is long enough — any longer would have been odd, actually, which implies I shouldn’t have been doing quite so many rows in the first place.

The luckiest part of this project was that I found the perfect buttons. They seem as if they were dyed-to-match — and they were cheap, and they were the first ones I saw at the shop, and they came in a set of three!

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FO Friday: Minotaur Obsession

This week, I offer you another “finished it a while ago” project.  I am wearing it right now, so I thought — hey, I haven’t show this to anyone yet! Better take care of it.  In contrast to last week’s epic blanket, this cowl only took 5 days from CO to BO.  Whee! Quick projects are awesome.

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Project: Minotaur Obsession

Pattern: Minotaur Cowl

Designer: Rachel Henry

Available: FREE! on Ravelry

Yarn: CEY Obsession

I had exactly one ball of this interesting (but discontinued) yarn.  It’s a bulky-weight cashmere, made up of 8 different skinny strands, each a different color.  I was a pleasure to work with — I mean, cashmere, right?  I made a tight-fitting mobius cowl using my own design.  Minotaur starts with a foundation strip (knit flat in garter stitch) that is twisted and seamed to form the base of the mobius.  From there stitches are picked up along the single mobius edge, and the remainder of the cowl is knit mobiusly.

This construction allowed me to get exactly the right fit, because the foundation strip is easy to measure as it is knit.  It also allowed me to use up every last scrap of this extra-luxurious fiber, because I just kept knitting in pattern until it was all gone.

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FO Friday: Yggdrasil in Blue

I finished this about a month ago, but I think it slid directly off my needles onto my lap. My Yggrasil lap blanket is so warm and cozy!

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Project: Yggrasil in Blue

Pattern: Yggdrasil Afghan

Designer: Lisa Jacobs

Available: FREE! at Interweave Knits

Yarn: Knit Picks  City Tweed HW in Dungarees

You might remember this blanket from my “Finish it or Frog it!” post back in January. I’d already made some progress then, because it was my “neglected project KAL” target for January.  I won’t say it was “easy” to finish, not exactly, but I did eventually get into the rhythm of the border cables.  I do not think I will ever do this pattern again, and although I admire the finished full-size Yggdrasil Afghans out there, I have reason to doubt the sanity of those who accomplish such a gargantuan knitting feat.

The pattern itself is well-written and clear. Plenty of good charts.  I think this might have been my first knitted-on border, back in the day.  I also have a niggling feeling I may have grabbed the wrong size needle when I re-booted this project … the “old” border (right edge, upper right corner) looks a wee bit tighter than the rest.  However, this is invisible when I’m using it, so I am doing my best to let the slight difference go. I am definitely not going back and fixing it, ooooh no.

I continue to love, love, love City Tweed.  What a wonderful soft yarn with gorgeous colors, and it shows cabling so nicely! And it’s so warm and cozy!

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Cast-On Monday: C-ATCH William

On Friday night, I realized I really, really wanted to make my friend Julie an itty bitty knitted Scottie dog from “Knit Your Own Dog.”  Her (real) Scottie, William, was up for a big agility title this weekend.  I cast on late Friday, and after a busy day at agility on Saturday I knit for about 8 hours to finish.  William earned his C-ATCH on Sunday — hooray! — and I was able to give Julie a mini-Scottie to celebrate the accomplishment.  I’ll give more details in another post, but here’s a little preview:

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