Tour De Fleece 2017––The Finish Line

Yesterday was Sunday is the final day of the TdF, and I spent the day Friday winding my final skein, taking pictures, and washing the skeins. I am very pleased with all my TdF yarns and look forward to knitting with them.

ITW Elevenses in the Shire before it was washed. I love how the browns and greens ended up blending when I plied this yarn.

All seven of the skeins I completed during the TdF. All the fiber is Into The Whirled. This picture was taken before the skeins were washed.

My TdF skeins are getting a nice soak in Eucalan in my kitchen sink.

The skeins are drying. After soaking them in Eucalan, which is a no-rinse wool wash, I squeezed out as much water as I could by hand, then put the skeins in my washing machine and ran the spin cycle. This removed a lot more water than I can remove by pressing the skeins in a towel, and as a result, the skeins are just about completely dry 24 hours later.

The skein at the upper front on the right, the one with the bright blue, was singled out for special treatment. It’s the fiber that I spun long draw to make a woolen-spun yarn. I finished it separately from the other skeins. I first soaked and agitated it in very hot water, then shocked it with very cold water, then put it back in the very hot water, then in the very cold water, repeat a couple more times. After abusing my yarn in this manner, I pressed the excess water out of it, then I took it out to the front steps and thwacked the bejeebers out of it on the concrete steps. The purpose of this abuse is to slightly full the fibers and even out some of the inconsistency in the yarn. The finished yarn has a lovely halo and is light and airy. Light and airy is the whole reason for woolen spun, or the main reason anyway.

The Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a roaring success, and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Ravelry and the Ravelry groups Schacht Spinners, Tour de Fleece, and Into The Whirled who organized the teams I was on. The teams provide encouragement, support, help, and praise, and give us a forum for showing off our achievements. The Ravelry community is the best community on the Internet.


A Sweater!

For the past six months or so I’ve been jonesing to knit a sweater. But I already have two drawers full of handknit sweaters, so I need another sweater like a need a hole in my head. But my son does have a lovely GF who adores hand knitted everything, so why not knit a sweater for her?

I started pouring through pattern books and searching on Ravelry to find sweaters that would be contemporary but classic. I went through my stash to find yarn suitable for sweaters. And I thought and thought and thought some more. I have been inspired by Ravelry friends and by knitting podcasters, especially the Knitmore Girls, whose back catalog has been my spinning companion. Through these folks, I found some lovely sweater patterns that are now in my queue, but they are not on my needles. Yet.

But more importantly, due to the recommendations of just about every knitting podcaster in existence, I decided to purchase a knitting book that everyone has been raving about, Coastal Knits.

A must-have book for any sweater knitter

A must-have book for any sweater knitter

Let me state first that I rarely buy knitting books any more. Too many of them contain either poorly-thought-out projects that I would never even consider knitting or trendy stuff. I don’t do trendy. But this book is different. It is filled with patterns, mostly for sweaters, but also some for accessories, that are classic and very knitable. The sweaters come in a large range of sizes and have shaping that makes them feminine. And if you don’t want the entire book (and I cannot imagine why you wouldn’t), you can purchase the patterns individually as PDFs.

When I got the book in my grubby little hands, I was so thrilled with it that I could barely contain my enthusiasm. The next time I saw the GF, I handed the book to her first thing and told her to take her time and go through it and choose any items that she would like me to make her. I allowed for the possibility that there might not be anything in the book she would want, but I knew the odds of that were somewhere between slim and none. And I was right. When I saw her a couple of months later, she said that she loved pretty much everything in the book, but the thing she wanted first was the Bayside Pullover.

Classic, not trendy

Classic, not trendy

Oh, my! She does have good taste. 😀

Next question–what size? That was answered quickly because she had been measured not all that long ago for a bridesmaid dress.

Now comes the most important question. The sweater in the book is knitted in linen–Quince & Company Sparrow–but it can just as easily be knitted in wool or a wool blend. What fiber would she prefer? Her choice was linen. Now, let me state for the record that I knew that linen would present a challenge, but that would just make the project more interesting. And a sweater in linen would definitely be scrumptious.

The next step was choosing and ordering yarn. I certainly don’t have sweater-quantities of linen yarn in my stash, just some leftover bits of Eurosport Linen that I knitted up into facecloths many years ago. I went to the Quince & Company web site and discovered to my delight that their linen yarn, Sparrow, is very well priced and comes in some lovely colors. I sent a link to the GF and asked her to choose the color she would like. She sent me three and asked me to choose, so I picked Nannyberry, a lovely dusky rose color.

Bayside Pullover and Sparrow–a lovely combination

Bayside Pullover and Sparrow–a lovely combination

I placed my order, which was quickly filled, and when the yarn arrived, I was totally blown away by how beautiful it is. I couldn’t wait to knit it up. So I hand-wound a skein into a ball and started swatching. And here’s where the challenge of knitting a sweater in linen lies.

For a lot of knitters, swatching is a dirty word, but when knitting a garment where size matters, it is essential. The swatch must be knitted, then laundered in the same way as the finished item will be laundered. Then the stitches and rows can be measured to determine the gauge. This is a step that should not be left out if you want the garment to be the size you intend. And this is especially true for a fiber like linen. No matter what size needles I used for knitting the swatch, the unwashed gauge was 5 stitches per inch. The pattern calls for 6 stitches per inch. I couldn’t possibly know the gauge until after the swatch was washed and dried. After knitting and washing several swatches, I finally found the needle size that gave me 6 stitches per inch. We are a go!

I was ever so eager to cast on, but something happened that made me put the sweater on hold for a little while longer. The NHLPA and the NHL reached an agreement and the hockey season was about to begin. I needed to have lots of mindless hockey knitting OTN, so I got busy casting on socks. The sweater would have to wait its turn.

Finally, last Saturday, after the Penguins had demolished the Devils at the CEC, I finally cast on the Bayside Pullover. This pattern is a very simple one, a top-down raglan embellished with a simple 6-stitch cable, but the casting on takes some concentration and stitch counting. Once I got the pattern established, this sweater became mindless knitting that I can work on while watching hockey, so the knitting should go quickly. I hope to have the sweater finished in a few weeks so the it can be worn this spring.

Side and back view. I obscured some of the text to protect the copyright.

Side and back view. I obscured some of the text to protect the copyright.

I've got three inches knitted so far.

I’ve got three inches knitted so far.

I’m very happy with both the pattern and the yarn. I just hope that when the dust settles, the sweater fits the wearer and lives up to her expectations.


A Quick Knit

After knitting a gorgeous pair of knee socks for the boy’s sock-worthy GF in a gorgeous Knit Picks Stroll tonal colorway called Blue Yonder, I found myself with to little left-over yarn to knit a pair of regular socks for myself, but plenty of yarn to knit a pair of fingerless mitts for the boy’s GF. So off I went on a Ravelry search to find just the right pattern for this yarn.

I found several attractive patterns, but I settled on Mitt Envy, a free download on Ravelry, because I thought the cable would show up well on the tonal yarn.

The pattern may be free, but the designer went out of her way to write the pattern out in great detail. The instructions are all in written form–there is no chart for the cable–but they are clear and detailed, and there are three pictures that show the mitts to great advantage.

I have completed the left mitt and will be casting on the right mitt later today.

Back of the left Blue Yonder fingerless mitt

Back of the left Blue Yonder fingerless mitt


Palm of the left Blue Yonder fingerless mitt

These mitts are a quick and easy knit, but I did have to make several modifications to the pattern to get a mitt that fits well. The pattern calls for a gauge of 7 stitches per inch and 11 rows per inch in stocking stitch. I cast on using 2.75 mm double-pointed needles and knit to about half-way through the thumb gusset increases, then put the mitt on a circular needle and tried it on. It was too small because my gauge was 8 stitches per inch. So I ripped it out and started over, this time using 3 mm double-pointed needles. I completed all the thumb gusset increases and knitted a few rounds beyond that before putting the stitches on a circular needle and trying the mitt on. On the second try the circumference of the mitt was perfect. My gauge was 7 stitches per inch, and the fit was snug without being tight, just the way it should be. But the ribbed cuff of the mitt barely reached my wrist even though my row gauge was 10 rows per inch. I decided to knit another cable pattern repeat before starting the thumb gusset, so I ripped back to round 7 of the first pattern repeat, knitted round 8 without doing the M1 increase, knitted rounds 1-7 again, then made the increase on round 8.

The pattern calls for using a M1 increase for all the gusset increases, but I’m just a little anal about things like increases and decreases and wanted the paired decreases to mirror each other, so I worked a M1R at the beginning of the gusset and a M1L at the end of the gusset. (M1R–lift the thread between the stitches from back to front and knit through the front of the stitch to twist it. This stitch will lean toward the right. M1L–life the thread between the stitches from front to back and knit through the back of the stitch to twist it. This stitch will lean toward the left.)

I continued with the pattern until I had completed all the cable repeats, then tried the mitt on. It didn’t quite cover the palm of my hand, so I knew that even after knitting the 7 rounds of ribbing for the top cuff the mitt would be too short. So I knitted one more repeat of the cable pattern before knitting the ribbing, and as you can see from the picture, I hit the Goldilocks zone. The mitt is just right. Whereas the pattern has 5 total repeats of the cable stitch, I ended up with 7 total repeats.

Because everything I had knitted according to the instructions up to this point had been too short, when I knitted the thumb, I first knitted two plain rounds, then did the 7 rounds of 2 x 2 ribbing. I think the results are awesome. I wanted the top part of the mitt to be a little longer than she made hers. Hers appear to extend to the bottom of the second knuckle of the index finger, and I prefer mitts to extend to the bottom of the second knuckle of the middle finger. With the adjustments I made to add length before the thumb gussets and before the top cuff, I ended up with a mitt that is 7 inches long cuff to cuff instead of the 5.5 inches of the original model.

All things considered, I think this is a brilliant pattern for fingerless mitts and I would definitely recommend it to other knitters, but with the caveat that you might need to make a few adjustments to get a good fit for your hand.

The Kindness Of Strangers

Ravelry is an on-line community of knitters and crocheters (and tatters, spinners, weavers, and quilters), a network of cyber-friends who share a common interest—making stuff with yarn. It is arguably the most valuable resource in the knitting world. Through Ravelry, knitters and crocheters can record and share their progress on projects; inventory their stashes and knitting/crocheting libraries; find the perfect pattern; and locate enough of that now-discontinued yarn they just ran out of to finish the project they have worked on for months. In other words, Raverly is a dream of a data base for knitters and crocheters.

But there is more to Ravelry than that. It is also a social network of women and men of all ages with diverse interests who are tied together with a single common thread–or should I say yarn? Yes, the community of knitters and crocheters is nothing if not diverse; we have many and broads interests in addition to a love of playing with sticks and string. The depth and breadth of these interests are represented on Ravelry as “Groups.” There are Groups that are devoted to just about anything you can imagine.

Are you a lace knitter? A knitter of sweaters from the top down, socks from the toe up, hats for babies, scarves for charity? Do you like to knit skull-and-crossbones patterns, or knit with beads? Do you love Fair Isle peeress, cables, entralac, intarsia, gainsays, or Arans? There’s a group for you.

Do you love filet crochet, granny squares, Tunisian stitch, Irish lace? There’s a group for you.

Do you love the designs of Elizabeth Zimmermann, Norah Gaughan, Jared Flood, Lily Chin, Cheryl Oberle, Nancy Bush, or Sharon Miller? There’s a group for you.

Do you love Jane Austen, Douglas Adams, James Patterson, or Charles Dickens? Are you into Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Hunger Games? Yep, there’s a group for you.

Is “The Mentalist” your favorite television show? Are you gaga over Lady Gaga? Do you want to “fire up the fiddle and have one last drink” with Enter The Haggis? Are you a Trekky? A home-schooler? A lover of Latin? A lover of coffee? A vegan? A Buddhist? A tax accountant? Yep, there’s a group for you.

By now you have probably gotten the idea. We yarnies have varied interests. And if you cannot find a group for your particular interests, you can start one. One of my Ravelry friends started a group for those of us who are pet parents of kitties that are fat pleasingly plump. The groups have discussion forums for discussions, and those discussions lead to cyber-friendships.

I have developed some cyber-friendships I truly value through two of the groups I belong to, Knit Black and Gold, which is primarily fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL, and Let’s Go Pens, which is a group of hockey lovers who are fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. The forums on both of these groups are pretty active, and as you might expect, there is some overlap. Through these forums we share with each other not only our love of knitting/crochet and our love of the Steelers and of the Pens, of football and hockey, of the city of Pittsburgh, but also of our families and of our pets. We share our hopes and our dreams, our accomplishments and our disappointments, our joys and our sorrows. We agree and we disagree. We laugh together and we cry together.

Oh, how we cry together. A few months ago, one member of Let’s Go Pens had to have her beloved cat euthanized. She agonized over the decision. Most of us have been in her shoes, so we were very sympathetic and supportive. I know that my heart was breaking for her because I had gone through something similar just a couple of years ago with my sweet baby Loretta. I know all too well how painful it is to say good-bye to our furry family members. There was little we could do to ease her pain, but we held her hand, virtually of course, through her ordeal, and she is now in the process of adjusting to life without her beloved fur ball. Imagine my surprise today when, out of the blue, this kind and generous woman sent me, via Ravelry, the pattern for a project I had in my Ravelry wish list and queue. It’s one she has knitted and likes very much, and she thought I would like it, too. She just wanted to thank me for my support through her difficult time and to brighten my day. OMG! Brighten my day? She brightened my life! The world is a better place for having people like her in it.

And to Jess and Casey, the people behind Ravelry, I just want to say thank you for making possible the best on-line community in the world.