Sunday, May 22, 2016

Still Alive and Knitting!

      Hm, yes, despite my thesis' best efforts, I am still alive.  My apologies for the disappearance, but the past year has been hard.  For anyone who has done a doctorate, I hit the rough patch where nothing works and there is no plan and I wake up at 4am and wonder what am I doing AAAAAHHH!!!  I kept swimming and got past it.  Knitting was there for me and it was either that or take up some rather unhealthy habits.  Things are slowly getting better.  I am hoping for Transfer Panel in the next month.  For anyone unfamiliar with academia, this is when you meet a panel of three people and present the revised version of your thesis project and a sample chapter for feedback.  It's the halfway point of the Irish Ph.D.  While things will still be stressful, and I'm sure I'm going to have more 4am freakouts, I will get a vote of confidence in my project.  I can't wait to get it over with.

     Back to the knitting . . . the last several months has been using knitting as a coping mechanism.  I have no mental bandwidth at the moment, so I have been focusing on garter stitch shawls and vanilla socks.  Coming up is The Knitgirllls Stash Dash.  This is a craftalong run by two podcasters that runs from late May to late August.  The goal is to craft a certain amount of stash yarn; the set levels are 3km, 5km, 7km, 10km, and 15km.  Goodness knows I have enough WIPs and balled yarns lying around from the autumn, so here we go!  Normally I compete in the 5km category, but I will challenge myself this year and aim for 7km.  I already have an almost-completed pair of vanilla socks, but I've already made a list of current and hibernating WIPs to complete:

Current WIPs:
  Mithral in Fyberspates Cumulus: 30% completed
  Meriboo Cabled Cowls in Louisa Harding Orielle: 0% completed

Hibernating WIPs:
   A Second Chance for Mr. Rushworth Socks in Knitpicks Stroll: 45% completed
   Winterchild in Zitron Fil Royal: 75% completed
   Innsmouth Bodice in Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone DK: 0%
   Hurricane Ridge cowl in Malabrigo Finito: 0%

Also on the list because the yarn is already balled up:
    Bonny in Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace
    Cobweb in Malabrigo Silkpaca
    Almost Autumn in Malabrigo Merino Lace Superwash
    Narcissis pseudo-narcissis cuffs in Arucania Botany Lace 
    Riyito in Malabrigo Sock
    Pomme de Pin Cardigan in Wollemeise Pure 100% Merino Superwash
    City of Roses in Drops Baby Merino
    Maia Fingerless Mitts in Arucania Botany Lace
    Raitahullannus in Malabrigo Finito
    Heaven Scent in Manos del Uruguay Lace
    Cheddar the CraftLit Critter in Hedgehog Fibres Sock
    Florac Pumpkin in Lousia Harding Trenzar
    Geek Socks in Knitpicks Felici
    Leonore Socks in Knitpicks Stroll 

It's a long list and I know I won't get to it all, but it's nice to have some options and to clear out the WIPs.  I doubt I'll even get through this list before classes start again in the autumn, but it would be nice if 80% of it was completed by the first day of autumn (September 22).  Onward Knitty Soldiers!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Moving Again and Yarn Storage

While I was away, we moved again.  The past few weeks have been spent on opening boxes and reorganising things in the new house.  The house where we currently live is unfurnished, so we're having to make do with what furniture we have to hand. Currently my room looks like this:

I still need to put together a canvas wardrobe so I have somewhere to hang clothes, but I've been able to assemble a bookcase to store a few things and decorate the place a little.  My substantial stash has proven very useful as room decor.  I am using a ceramic bowl that I got in Seville back in March and a glass one from Tiger in order to display some pretty skeins of Hedgehog Fibres and my Boo-Knits Shawl-a-long yarn.  With this rainy "summer" we're having, I need all the shine and sparkle I can get.

The lack of storage space has caused me to rethink my knitting plans for next year.  I don't really have much room to store more yarn other than a bit of space under the bed.  I technically shouldn't be buying yarn anyway since I vowed to stashdown 10km of yarn by the end of this year, which is going rather disasterously I have to say.  It's clear I need to knit up what I've got here before I can bring anything over from the Mother Stash, which rules out all the plans I had made.  I looked at my queue and saw that most of the yarn I had here already were either for shawls or sweaters.  Since it's physical space that is the issue, I decided to "air" the stash and pile up the yarn according to project type to see which was bigger.  The sweater pile looked like this:

The shawl piled up like this:

I think you can tell just by looking that the sweater pile takes up more, but just to be sure, let us compare them side-byside, bearing in mind that I took away a few skeins from the shawl pile before taking this photo:

Yep, sweater pile is bigger.  There are about eight sweaters/tops' worth of yarn in there, so I think I will join IntSweMoDo or International Sweater-a-Month Dodecathlon for 2016.  12 sweaters in a year is a bit nuts to say the least, but I will need sweaters more than shawls next year.  I've also learned that to have a project-oriented approach to stashdown is much more effective than trying to reach a number.  I'll just be having to pick up four more sweater quantities to make this work, which should be easy enough as I tend to go home twice a year.  Most of my Irish Stash is 4ply/fingering weight, so I'm leaning towards my sweater quantities in heavier weights to fill in the gaps.  Perhaps in 2017 when I'm in my fourth year of Ph.D. I'll declare it Year of Accessories as that might be all that I'll be able to pull off while I finish my thesis.  It's the plan for now, anyway.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

WWKIP Day and Summer Planning

     It seems the Irish weather decided to celebrate Worldwide Knit in Public Day, too, by giving us a proper summer's day.  For us, that means it was nearly 20*C (almost 70*F) with the sunshine and the humidity, so it was a little difficult to wear the handknits.  Nevertheless, we had fun, though we were mostly in the shade.  This is Knit! had the celebratory spirit with cakes, a few offers, and a fun photobooth.  You can check out the fun on their Twitter feed @ThisisKnit.  I may have completely blown my stashdown goals and bought a skein of laceweight.  Behold a skein of teal Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace.

 It's a 45/55 silk/merino blend.  It's also a kilometer of yarn.  Yep, there went my hopes for a 10k net stash loss for this year.  I had made a little money proofreading this week and decided to splash out.  Originally I thought I would pick up spinning fiber for my first ever Tour de Fleece this summer since I joined Team Ireland, but was enabled into this beautiful skein.  I think it will become a Snow Angel by Boo Knits, though I haven't decided on what size.  I may go big and make the extra large.  Either way, it looks great with silver-lined gold beads, no?

      Otherwise, it's been a crazy month.  Between restructuring my thesis and writing my first conference paper plus preparing to move house (again!), it's been stressful.  I've been working away on three largish projects to maintain my sanity.  Two are gift knits and can't be shown here, but one is for me because I just couldn't take all the gift knitting anymore.  It's a Leftie by Martina Behm using the leftovers from my NaKniSweMo cardigan in Drops Delight and Drops 4-ply Alpaca:

The Drops Delight that I'm using is the Mauve-Vert colorway, but I cut out the green bits because they disappear into the charcoal grey alpaca.  This means that I get a purple tonal scarf, which I am quite happy with if it weren't for the wintry colours.  This is my travel project because it is so small and easy to carry.  I'll be taking with me to the conference next weekend since I'll be packing light. If I bend time to my will, I will get a large chunk of it done there, but I have my doubts about my abilities.

      Lately there has been a lot of planning going on behind the scenes.  I'm going home exactly one week from today and then onto Peru after a few days at home.  We'll be in Peru a little over a week before I come home.  Then I will be home for a few days before the long trek back to Ireland.  There will be a lot of travel time between planes and buses, so I'm planning how much I can get done and what projects to take so I don't run out.  I can't show any of them here because they are all gift knits. (I wasn't joking when I said a lot of gift knitting was going on this summer.)  Rest assured that I have planned well for all this travelling. On the home front, I'm not sure if we are moving at the end of this month or the next, but I'd rather not break into boxes unless I have to, so I have had yarn wound to make sure I am covered until the end of August.  I generally take August off and knit just for me, and this year I have planned to do a Boo Knits Shawl-a-long.  Here are the planned yarns and beads in the order I intend to knit them:

This skein of Malabrigo Sock in the colorway Indiecita will become a Love in a Mist.

This skein of Hedgehog Fibres Sock in Hunter will become a Mustardseed.

This skein of Artesano Alpaca Silk Lace in Russian Purple will be a Rainshine.

This Pearl Malabrigo Silkpaca will become a Cobweb with two different colours of beads.

Finally, this Malabrigo Superwash lace in Arequita will become an Almost Autumn.

I know this is way too ambitious, but I get that way after too much gift knitting.  I may have to take off a week in July to get all this done.  Oh well!

Oh, and there are also plans for next year.  At the moment, they look like this:

There are evil plans afoot, I tell you, evil plans.  Stay tuned!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Of Cuddle Yarn and Yarn Crawls

I am supposed to be stashing down, so where did all this beautiful yarn come from?  Well, that's a story . . .

May 2 was Yarn Shop Day in the UK, but one of the local yarn shops (This is Knit! to be exact) decided to celebrate, too, with goodie bags and special sales.  The Dublin Knit Collective decided to organise a yarn crawl of the city centre, starting at This is Knit! before heading over to Accents Café for the City Centre S 'n  B from 12-2pm.  Then we would pick up lunch at Duck before crashing at The Constant Knitter for some knitting, shopping, and a workshop on making your own stitch markers.  It was all set to be a great day, especially if the notoriously fickle Dublin weather decided to cooperate.

Well, we had a few hiccups.  Dublin Bus went on strike from May 1-2, so unless you lived within walking distance of the city centre or some other form of transport (LUAS, DART, or bicycle), getting into the city wasn't easy.  Then the Dublin weather conspired against us by pouring down rain all day on the 2nd.  The allure of yarn is enough to bring me out even if it means riding my bike in pouring rain, but we were worried that no one would show up.

We were wrong.  Not only did several brave souls drive, ride, or walk in, we even had a group of knitters from Maynooth come in on the train!  We were enough to form a queue outside of This is Knit! before they opened, which tickled the TIK ladies pink.  We even tromped merrily through the rain, high on yarn fumes and tea.  It was a great day and we are already planning next year's crawl.  Hopefully there will not be a bus strike next year and we can hit Winnie's Craft Café, which is south of the city centre.

I ended up high on yarn fumes, so I blew my stashdown and got three skeins of Hedgehog Fibres Sock and a skein of Artesano Alpaca Silk Lace, plus yarn from This is Knit!'s goodie bag.  So what am I going to do with all this yarn?  Well, I already have started a project with a skein from the goodie bag.

This Studio Donegal Tweed will grow up to be a Tea House Theatre Tea Cosy for Titania the Teapot.  The yarn is a little light for the pattern, so I am holding it double to get the right thickness.  It's coming out very dense, so I can't work on it long without my hands hurting, but the tea will stay warm!

These two of the skeins of Hedgehog Fibres Sock want to play together.

                                                (Tremble on bottom and Crystal on top.)

These were an impulse buy.  I do love me some Hedgehog Fibres and I just wanted to plaster myself to This is Knit's Wall O' Hedgehog on Yarn Shop Day.  These two looked beautiful together and reminded me of the Dublin sky.  I think they will become a Salacious shawl.  I originally thought it would be cool to throw in some clear beads in the sections with Tremble to imitate raindrops, but I'm not sure I'll go through with it.

                                (Hedgehog Sock in Vengeance left, Malabrigo Sock Solis right)

I got the this skein of Malabrigo back in February because it was beautiful and Solis doesn't often come in as a semi-solid.  I thought it wanted to become a shawl on its own, but it kept coming up to me singing, "I wanna dance with somebody!" in a poofy '80s hairdo and rollerskates, so I decided to find it a dance partner.  I thought it wanted to be bold and play with an orange yarn, but comparing it to the skeins at This is Knit! did not yield any suitable partners.  I requested assistance in being enabled from the very helpful Lisa, and we decided that darker was the way to go, especially with this dark version of Vengeance.  They are still not entirely sure what dance they want to do together.  Perhaps another Salacious or perhaps try Dissent by the same designer?  How about a Byatt?  We shall see, but I want to make a shawl that has bold blocks of colour so the variegation in the Vengeance is well-displayed.

The vivid purple is Artesano Alpaca Silk Lace and I think it wants to be a Rainshine so it will go with a purple skirt I have.  Clear beads, I think.  If you haven't guessed already, I have a thing for alpaca, so I couldn't leave it behind.

But why buy this yarn anyway?  Aren't I supposed to be stashing down?  Well, yes. I'm keeping tabs on how much yarn I'm buying and I know how much yarn I can knit in a year, so I know how what my limit is before I can't make my 10K net stash loss for this year.  (Let's just not mention how close I am to that limit, shall we?)  That doesn't answer the question, though: why buy this yarn anyway?  Two of the projects I can somewhat justify, but the other one seems pure decadence.  Why bring it into the stash?

Two words: cuddle yarn.

I may be inventing this phrase, or maybe it's out there already, but the way I define cuddle yarn is that it is yarn that is meant to be cuddled and help reduce stress.  Things are rather crazy here at the moment and I am feeling really stressed, but when I look at these skeins of yarn and think about what they are going to be or could be, I calm down a little.  They are so soft to the touch that it's hard to stay angry.  I'm sure other knitters take care of these feelings through casting on projects for themselves, but I'm up to my eyeballs in gift knitting at the moment and can't cast on much else or I won't make my deadlines.  This is probably contributing to the problem, but I want to continue with the gift knits since I already have the yarn and plan differently for next year.  Next year, oh next year shall be glorious.  I'm still debating what plan of attack to take for next year, but both plans are very, very exciting. 

Until then, viva the cuddle yarn!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Well, what else was I supposed to do?

I deleted this blog about two months ago.  I thought that it was useless trying to keep it up when I never wrote in here and I didn't think I would because I had nothing interesting to say.  I don't know what's changed, whether I'm just looking for new ways to procrastinate writing my thesis or I just need to write about something other than poetry for awhile, but the memory of this blog came back to haunt me.  I don't expect people to be reading this religiously, or become famous, or whatever other reasons people blog for.  I guess what I need is a visual knitting diary similar to the Ravelry project pages, but with more space so I can expound on a bit.  Maybe this will be a space for the stuff that doesn't make it onto the project page or really doesn't belong there in the first place.  You know, some of the life stuff that affects knitting.  I don't plan on this being a spill-the-beans confessional, but sometimes life intersects with knitting.  So here goes.

Lately, I've been tired.  I've got a lot of gift knitting on at the moment and it's sapping my knitting mojo.  Don't get me wrong, nobody on the gift list is demanding handknit presents, but because I'm in grad school and can't afford to buy really nice presents, I knit something instead.  This all came to a head a few weeks ago when I had two fine-gauge projects on the go at the same time with a long line of knits for other people coming after them.  I felt . . . resentful?  Not quite because I didn't want to give the recipients their gifts, but because so much of my time was being taken up by things for other people.  It got to the point that I didn't want to knit anymore.  I have learned in the past that my mojo goes haywire after four or six projects for other people, but generally I would just attempt something crazy, like knit a 1,600 detailed lace cardigan in a month.  I've never had my mojo completely disappear, though.  I knew drastic measures had to be taken.  So I did three things:

1) I rewrote my gift list.  I went through my list and cut out some things.  Did that person really need that handknit item right now or if I could go buy something nice instead?  How many hats did a baby need if I also gave x?  Could this project be scaled down, say from a large blanket to a stroller-sized one?  Not everything got cut because the gifts will help me get rid of stash yarn, but it made my list more manageable.

2) I took the space I had and filled it with knits for me.  This is my hobby, so I need to start putting myself first.  I started this off by knitting a laceweight Color Affection shawl, which shows you how much crazy had built up.  After it, though, I planned out four or five projects and then scheduled a knit for myself.  It will help with the crazy buildup.  I also scheduled my birth month (August) off so I could work on knits for myself.

3) I scheduled 2016 as a year-off.  Yes, that's right, I'm taking the whole year off from gift-knitting.  Okay, I might do a few, but it will be small, small things, like a cowl or a small hat or toy for my little nephews, but, again, this is my hobby and I need to start putting myself first.  I'll still be stashing down because I built up quite a bit of stash before going back to the convent and I'm certain knitting for me will make me buy less yarn.  I'm already planning what I will knit.  It will be glorious my friends, absolutely glorious.

Until then, it's on with the gift knits!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Meanwhile, in between thesis chapters . . .

Life happens and it is often insane.  That's never been so true for me than during the last few months.  I've been on a rollercoaster health-wise with my student clinic doc not really knowing what's wrong with me since my symptoms are all over the place.  Then finals hit.  Essays had to be written; essays required Olympic level mental gymnastics since I can't make things easy for myself; essays had structural issues; essays resolved themselves.  Then my bike got a flat.  Then my computer crashed.  I had a thesis to write.  Insert whatever expletive you prefer here.

Yet my knitting community was there for me.  If they thought I sounded like a whiny brat, they never showed it.  They helped keep me sane, even when it felt like literally everything kept breaking.  Thank you guys.

Now I am knee-deep in thesis.  Most of the writing has to be done in the month of June as a lot of profs are off on vacation or conferences in July.  Mine leaves two weeks before the thesis is due and arrives just before I have to turn it in.  I am now writing like mad so I can get as much feedback as possible.  Well, except for today, where my brain feels like old rubber - remarkably unflexible.  I have a rough draft of chapter one done and am a third of the way through chapter two.  I feel I am making good progress considering.  I am happy with my work and can't wait to continue onto Ph. D. work. 

Nevertheless, I do need knitting for my sanity.  I finished the sweater before it got too warm to wear.

Mom's socks got out in time for Mother's Day. They are knit in Knitpicks Felici, colorway Cochineal.

And then something happened.  It seemed I somehow bent the space/time continuum and got a lot done in a short amount of time.  I got my sister-in-law's present done really fast, for a laceweight.

Okay, I didn't give my SIL a stuffed dog and a big ball of yarn for her birthday.  Apparently the finished photos wandered off and got eaten during the file transfer to the new computer.  Just imagine an Almost Ovals in many shades of purple and oh so soft from the silk.  This is a Hedgehog Fibres creation; Silk Lace in colorway Poison.  It was very pretty.

I also got my Mom's birthday present done and it awaits shipment; I know my mother well enough to know that if it arrived early she wouldn't wait until her birthday to open it.  It's the Debussy Shawlette in Alpaca Silk from Blue Sky Alpacas.

I love the color of this yarn.  It's an incredibly intense fuschia, and now I want a sweater's worth of this color.  The yarn is like butter in your hands (without the grease), a 50/50 blend of alpaca and silk.  I may or may not have bought a skein of it in chocolate brown. *Cough, cough*

Continuing the gift train, I also finished a hat for one of my brothers.

This is the Semi-Swedish Hat knit in Knitpicks Stroll Sport.  I planned on using up the leftovers from the boys' gloves to finish this hat.  I had a skein and a half of each color and thought I would be done with them, but however I still have a skein of each.  It looks like someone will be getting a grey and black scarf for Christmas.

Yes, I said the Evil Word: Christmas.  I have already started my gift-knitting, partly because I always knit gifts in the summertime, and partly because I will be leaving Ireland for a 6-month hiatus between my MA and (hopefully) Ph. D.  Looking at my local stash (as opposed to my Mother Stash back in the States), most of the projects with lots of balls are marked for gifts.  My current plan is to knit all the presents I can and then ship them back to the States so I don't have to carry them around with me in Scotland.  (Oh yes, I am going to Scotland after my Master's thesis is completed.  Carrots, my friends, carrots.)  I also plan on pulling out a few hibernating WIPs to finish off because, in addition to writing a thesis, I've decided to enter The Knitgirllls 4K Stash Dash this summer.  Nope, I don't like to make things easy for myself, not at all.

So what have I got on my needles at the moment?  I've barely started the Gramps Cardigan for my nephew.  I plan on making the 2 year old size since it will be a Christmas cardigan.  That's what I plan on working on the rest of the day since my brain apparently can't process poetry.  Even with a lot of caffeine, I feel a lot like this guy:
Our neighbor, Mr. F. Fox, sleeping off a night on the town
Although the weather has been nice, tomorrow will see me tied to the computer.  I hope the Muse comes back to me.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ascending from Hades . . . I hope

Apologies for neglecting the blog as of late.  February was a very busy month as I had to submit my thesis proposal, which took longer than expected, and I've also had ongoing health issues.  The health issues haven't fully resolved themselves yet and we are about to plunge forward into finals at school, so I am sure I am in for some more drama down the road.  Nevertheless, I will have knitting with me.

Here's what I've been up to in the interim:

      My Falling Stars pullover continues.  I have finished the body and one of the sleeves, and started sleeve #2 when on one of my medical adventures.

The immense swathes of stockinette are killing me on this sweater and I am definitely discovering the Stockinette Black Hole.  The body was the worst as it took fifteen to twenty minutes to complete a row.  The 1x1 ribbing wasn't much better.  I didn't follow conventional knitting wisdom here and go down a needle size for the ribbing.  There were two reasons for this.  One, I had lengthened the sweater by a half an inch and wanted to make sure it went over my hips without being too tight.  Second, I don't have a 2.5mm needle long enough to do Magic Loop on this sweater and I didn't want to buy another one.  The ribbing looks a little stretched, but it will do.  I've put the body on an extra cable and the sleeve on waste yarn as I'm not sure about the length.  Unless it grows during blocking, I might have to rip out the ribbing on the body and add an extra half an inch to make sure my backside isn't exposed.  Since steam blocking is preferred here due to the humidity, I doubt I'm going to get much growth.  I'll try it on once I finish the second sleeve and see what I think.

 The only other project on the needles are the Jaywalkers for my Mom for American Mother's Day.  I'm knitting them out of KnitPicks self-striping sock yarn Felici, colorway Cochineal on 2.5mm needles.  I'm knitting the smallest size and I'm actually knitting these at a tighter gauge than called for, 8.25 stitches per inch, as this yarn is quite stretchy and, if it's like the Stroll base at all, it will grow slightly after it's been washed.  I did go down to a 2mm needle for the ribbing as the number of stitches cast-on for the zigzag pattern would be way too much for a normal cuff.  I'm almost to the toe on the first sock.

Why socks for Mother's Day?  I'll admit it's not the most romantic notion.  It was actually my Mother who got me knitting socks.  She suggested one day that it would be really cool to knit socks like one of her knitting co-workers, a prolific sock knitter.  She was very kind and got me Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks to get me going.  I'd recommend it for a beginning sock knitter as it discusses yarn selection, techniques, the need for negative ease, and walks you through a basic sock.  It also gives basic sock patterns for various weights of yarn as well, and a few more complicated sock patterns.  I did have to use a few YouTube videos for a few techniques (the Knitpicks Sock tutorial rings a bell) as I have to see something new performed in order for me to get it, but Ann Budd's book is sound.

I'm getting a little stircrazy at the moment with my projects.  It feels like everything has been on the needles too long and I long to cast on something else.  I've got Wendy D. Johnson's Manly Aran socks and the Semi Swedish hat in my queue for my brother, but they are both to be done in grey.  Anne Hanson's Almost Ovals scarf is also in the queue, but for my sister-in-law in a purple silk laceweight.  None of these are appealing to me.  I want something bright to counteract the grey days we are having, and something for me.  Maybe something with this yarn:

Especially when it looks like this inside.

This is yarn my friend Siona gifted me when I visited Spain recently.  It's from Lithuania and it's a bit rough, but I was thinking of making Gail (aka nightsongs) with it.  We shall see.  Time for tea.