Monday, September 30, 2013

Summer Waves

Yarn: Cascade Ultra Pima  [6 skeins ice; 1320 yards]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Summer Waves

I didn't technically follow this pattern. I needed a summer cardigan and had about four days to make it. So I just cast on for a top down raglan and thought "Oh, I'll just add in a lace panel to make it a bit fancier" after finishing the body and sleeves I hunted for a while for some lace that I could easily insert. Because I was having a hard time imagining what it was going to look like and also because I was seriously running out of time (it still needed to be blocked before I could wear it!) I just hunted around Ravelry for a lace panel cardigan and this popped up. I immediately noticed that it was made in the same yarn and was the exact same style except I had opted for long sleeves. So I just used the chart and went for it. 

I don't know why but I always think "Oh, I want a cropped cardi" and then when I finish the body I think "Yeah, this will look great with dresses!" and even try it on with various outfits. Yes, I try half finished items on with things I intend to wear them with. When I get towards the end of something almost nothing will make me take a break. So by trying it on with various outfits I give my hands a little break without even knowing I'm doing it. After trying on I think I'm really confident in my decision and bind off. 

Somehow once one sleeve is done I begin to second guess myself. Now all I do is obsess about the length of the body and try it on again and again which make the sleeves go even slower. By the time I'm finished the second sleeve I don't even bother trying it on again and instead immediately start ripping back to lengthen it. And then I shorten it again. And then lengthen. 

Eventually i hit the sweet spot where I'm satisfied and I bind off. As I'm blocking I vow to myself that I will just compare it to a sweater that I love the length of. No matter what I do during the knitting process I know it will never look right because it still needs to block which often adds some length anyway and yet I still have the mental block of it needing to look right pre-blocking. I can never win. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Seeing Double

There are just some patterns that beg to be made over and over again.

The Holden Shawlette is magical in the it is one of the few patterns I've come across that look impressive in any yarn. Seriously, I've never seen a project that didn't look amazing. Normally I'm not a fan of highly variegated yarns and yet somehow the Holden manages to make it work. While I haven't personally made one with a very highly variegated one I have made two in a variegated yarn and both came out looking great (or so I think). I believe this shawl's magic lies in its simplicity which also makes it a mindless knit for me and a perfect last minute gift item. \

Pattern: Holden Shawlette
Yarn: Louet Euroflax Sport  [2 skeins skeins; 540 yards]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Linen Holden

I had never really worked with linen too much before. I've dabbled with it but haven't made anything of this size. A lot of people complain about its roughness but I actually really enjoyed working with it and it made my hands feel great. But as I was working with it I felt that the stitch definition just wasn't there and I was beginning to get a little worried. Fear not! Once washed the linen blooms and a gorgeous fabric is created. This linen Holden is probably my favourite one I've made because it just looks so elegant. 

I wanted to use up every last bit of yarn so this has one extra repeat of the lace. 

Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk Single  [1 skein; 430 yards]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Holden Shawlette II

See? This pattern can do no wrong. Did I mention it's fast? I made my first Holden and this one in just two days. 

Pattern: Sweet Dreams 
Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk + [.95 skein dragonfruit; 470 yards]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Sweet Dreams

Another really simple yet impressive shawl is Sweet Dreams by Boo Knits. It's only available from the In Love Collection (e-book) but all the patterns are worth it. While it doesn't have the same magical characteristics that make it look amazing regardless of yarn used it really shines in semi solid colours. Being a crescent shape allows for a large finished shawl that's easy to wear but that doesn't require a lot of yardage.

One of the most important things about a pattern for me is to be able to easily resize it. I'm the kind of person who hates leftovers because they get tossed into a bin and then I feel like I need to make a scrap project of some kind and usually scrap projects involve lots of seaming and I hate seaming. So I try to avoid having leftovers, if possible. One way to do that, of course, is by adding on pattern repeats. Sometimes this can enhance a pattern while other times it can really take away from the beauty of a finished piece by giving it strange proportions. But with Sweet Dreams there's really only one pattern so it's very easy to resize while still looking great. 

Pattern: Sweet Dreams
Yarn: Malabrigo Silkpaca   [2.5 skeins Periwinkle; 1050 yards held double]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Sweet Dreams II

One thing I have to say about all these shawls is that while they are simple and beautiful they also have the dreaded picot bind off. I'm willing to do it because it is one of the best ways to finish off a simple piece to give it a little extra whimsy. But, wow, does it take FOREVER! This particular Sweet Dreams had to be done in two days. I had almost finished the shawl when I noticed "Hmm, I think I did the beginning wrong" which is just sad because I've made this shawl before. It's one of those shawls with increases on the right and wrong side and all my other projects at the time (another reason for project monogamy) were right side row increases only. 

So I frogged it. And had to start again. One day left. I managed to get it all done and even took a little break thinking I just have the bind off and that won't take long. I always overestimate my speed when it comes to picot bind offs. Yes, I'm a fast knitter but I am a slow binder-offer (I'm also a slow caster-oner) and the picot bind off combines my two weakness requiring me to both cast on and then bind off the stitches I just cast on. 

When the shawl was complete it had taken me two hours just to bind off.

Now let's talk about the yarn. I'm a Malabrigo junkie. When I first started knitting Malabrigo was the cool yarn company and my first skein of Malabrigo was Malabrigo Lace. I sill love Malabrigo Lace. I know some people don't like it because they find it pills but I haven't had any pilling problems (although I've also never made a sweater out of it which is where most issues come from) and it's just so wonderfully soft that I'd be able to overlook it if it did pill a little. But in answer to these issues Malabrigo has enhanced their already popular baby alpaca lace by adding silk in. I'm not sure which yarn I prefer but the silkpaca is certainly wonderful and I'm sure much more popular amongst those who didn't like the baby alpaca lace. 

I have two more skeins wound up already (Ravelry Red) so i guess that says something. I think I'm going to try again at Ethereal Triangular Shawl by using two skeins (maybe even three) to make it bigger. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

So this is awkward

Last year I had such high hopes of blogging on the regular and I was actually starting to develop a rhythm! And then everything fell apart for reasons I'm not sure of and every time I went to blog I thought "But it's already been so long..." and now here we are over a year after my last blog post.

The idea of blogging (specifically about things I've made) appeals to me so much because while I do keep a log it doesn't go as in depth as I'd like it to be. In my attempt to not just photograph and write about the finished product I've decided to dedicate more time to keeping up with a blog.

Whenever I go on a blog hiatus (and it happens often) I come back and want to post about every single thing I've made since my last post but some things I finished so long ago and were so uneventful there's really nothing to say about them. Instead there will be a mini-celebration with short FO parades over the next few days.

Today is dedicated to my favourite thing ever: The Lace Shawl (it's gonna be a long one)

Pattern: Dew Drops Shawl
Yarn: Cascade Heritage Sock  [1.95 skeins 5631 charcoal; 852 yards]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Dew Drops Shawl

Just over a year ago I fell in love with this pattern and immediately wanted to make it. Searching through my stash gave me lots of options but none were just right. I really wanted a grey shawl and what grey I had just wasn't enough for the massive shawl I had in mind. I ended up making it bigger than the pattern because one of my goals is to have as few leftovers as possible (I believe I have just 20 yards left of this) And, well, it's huge. 

Anyway, because I didn't have this perfect grey I was thinking of and my brief flirtation with purple fizzled out I picked up some grey and the yarn and the pattern sat untouched for almost a year. During all this time I kept thinking about it and wanted to cast on but other pretties always got in the way. 

When I finally cast on and finished it in June (in record time even, just two days!) I ended up tossing it into my FO basket and forgetting about it because I hate blocking and it was way too warm to wear anyway. I finally blocked it last week and even wore it! I seriously love this pattern and am planning to make it again in a silk blend. I'm sure it will take another year to get around to it. 

Pattern: Onerva
Yarn: Malabrigo Lace  [1 skein sealing wax; 470 yards]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Onerva

I've made Onerva before and it is one of my favourite shawl patterns. It only takes one standard sized skein of lace weight at the minimum and can easily be resized by just continuing on in the pattern or even using any weight of yarn. It is also incredibly simple but looks very very impressive. 

Pattern: Azulejos
Yarn: Malabrigo Lace  [1.25 skeins Azul Bolita; 587.5 yards]
Needle Size: 4mm
Ravelry Project Page: Azulejos

I love making shawls. I love making shawls that start with a small amount of stitches because I really don't mind building up the stitches to impossibly long stitch counts for bind offs that take hours (I'm looking at you, picot) I know that lots of people enjoy casting on hundreds of stitches and then decreasing because they feel it's faster towards the end. Yes, most people tend to have more excitement when first starting a project so the long rows at the beginning aren't bothersome and ending with smaller stitch counts makes sense because everyone just wants things to hurry up and be finished already! 

But not me. I absolutely hate casting on more than a hundred stitches which is why I tend to avoid anything that requires me to do so. But as this shawl was a gift for someone and they fell in love with the pattern I cast on over 300 stitches in lace. 

I began thinking "This probably won't be so bad" but then several movies in (and no break, I'm bad with taking breaks if I get to just sit and knit) I felt like I had made no progress. It began to get really tedious and I was so excited when I began on the last chart. I think that's another reason why I like starting the other way. Usually borders are more intricate than the body and you can kind of warm up into it and because the body is usually simple it's easy to memorize and easy to say "Oh just one more repeat!". In my mind working on a shawl body is something I would do in a day because I tell myself I'll stop when I get to the next chart and it's completely doable. 

Granted, it was worth it because this pattern is gorgeous and I'm shocked that a lot of people haven't made it. And, yes, the shawl goes by incredibly fast once the edging is done but I will not be making another shawl with a large cast on any time soon even though I have fallen in love with several. 

Yarn: Louet Paco Vicunas  [1.8 skeins natural; 630 yards]
Needle Size: 3.75mm
Ravelry Project Page: Cable & Lace Shawl

Finally the most intricate (and luxurious) of my lace shawls. While this technically took me three months to do I did a lot of other things in between and actually recall frogging this once because it had slipped off the needles and an entire section had unravelled. This is why I like to be monogamous in my knitting because otherwise things take forever. This was a long haul project but worth it in the end because it's possibly one of the most rewarding things I've made. At the end there are 17 cables on either side of the spine. 34 cables right next to lace in laceweight yarn on tiny needles. The thing that saved me the most was cabling without a needle here if I had to do it with a needle this would probably still be on the needles. This was fairly tricky however as the yarn was both teeny tiny and slippery. 

We need more edgings like this as well. Edgings typically take forever because there are so many stitches but this is worked separately and joined when the shawl is complete. Even though I'm sure it takes the same amount of time it sure feels faster with such short rows. 

Tomorrow's parade will be similar to today's. Even more lace shawls.