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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's time for a fort

I really should not invoke the unholy power of evil bacteria and foul Irish weather.  It's been pretty cold here this week, with showers on and off, and I am still sick.  The doctor at Student Health Services has told me that if I am not better by Tuesday, she will refer me to the Ear, Eye, and Throat Hospital for examination.  Since that sounds expensive, I've been trying to stay home, keep warm, and take my meds, or at least as much as it is possible in the first week of classes.  And I wonder why I am still sick. 

This has been good for my knitting, though.  The socks are finished.
These are the Chrysanthemum Frutescens socks by Hunter Hammersen, from her book Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet.  Considering I accidentally knit these at a tighter gauge than called for, they came out really well.  I love the bright color (Foilage, Knitpicks Stroll Tonal), although now it is discontinued.  I found the picot edge a little fiddly, as it's the kind where you have to knit the current live stitches to the stitches held in the provisional cast-on.  Nevertheless, it's a very nice picot edge that lies flat against the leg, so the effort is worth it. 

As the weather is being particularly unhelpful, I've cast on a sweater.  Currently it looks like this:
     It's the Falling stars sweater that Knitpicks originally put out two years ago as a kit.  At the time, they only offered blue and grey versions, and since I love color, I choose the blue.  Now they have a purple and a green/natural version, which you can get as kits here.  The sweater uses elements from the Bohus style of colorwork, which uses fine gauge and purl bumps.  I love it.  The colors change every couple of rows, which keeps things interesting, but the motifs aren't that complicated so you can do it at 5AM while trying to get back to sleep because you are tired and sick.  Not that I would know anything about that. *cough, cough* 
     This sweater will be for the Knitabulls Sweater KAL for January and February.  I love the Knitabulls podcast and try to watch it every week.  I want to adopt the host Diane for my aunt; she is always so happy in her shows and enthusiastic about her various crafts.  She's always a beam of sunshine in my week.
     As I'm housebound for the rest of the weekend,  I'm starting to assemble a fort of yarn and books.  The sweater should be enough to hold me out on the yarn end, and I have plenty of books to read.  In addition to my reading for my normal classes, I've started doing the background reading for my thesis.  My book fort looks something like this:
I'm excited.  This is going to be fun.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Comedy of Errors

        I have finally returned to Ireland and have somewhat adjusted to the time difference.  Apparently my brain took its vacation early, though, as I said in the last post that I would have WIPS and neglected to include them.  The brain vacation didn't stop there, either.  Take this shawl, for example.

It's Winterchild by Carmen Oliveras which I'm making in Zitron Fil Royal, a 100% alpaca laceweight.  I finished the body months ago and am now working on the knitted on border.  It's my first time doing this technique and I find it somewhat fiddly.  I seem to be making the join too tight and I'm worried this is going to block out wonky.  Maybe I'm also irritated at myself that this thing has been on the needles for over a year and it's not finished yet.  You want to know what's really getting my goat, though?  That tiny ball in the bowl is all the yarn I have for this shawl; I forgot the other skein back in the States.  Grr!  And I love alpaca!

Round Two came with this skein of Cascade 220 Superwash.
I had planned to make it into The Proverbial Cap by Meg Swansen for ages.  I planned on it being my sister-in-law's present for Christmas.  The pattern is pretty and it's got lots of twisted stitches that make my heart sing.  The problem?  I forgot the pattern.  It's back in the US, too.

Round Three came with my Chrysanthemum frutescens socks.
I had noticed since the beginning that everything was coming out tight.  I thought that it was the pattern since I've been getting 8 stitches to the inch on US0/2mm since I started knitting socks with this yarn (Knitpicks Stroll Tonal, Foliage colorway, by the way).  I plowed ahead, still slightly concerned that everything looked tight.  I started the gusset decreases during my long layover in Washington, DC airport and tried the sock on for fit.  It became very obvious the sock was very tight, although I was knitting the large size of this pattern, which is for a 9.5 inch foot.  I pulled out my tape measure and checked the gauge.  It turns out that my gauge has tightened up and I now knit nine stitches to the inch.  I had to add two extra stitches to the foot to make sure it would fit.  They are very lovely socks, but from now on, I'm doing a gauge swatch!  I hope to finish the socks this weekend partly because the weather is currently like this:
Overcast with sides of cold and damp.
And partly because I am sick.  I was fighting a throat bug over the holidays and it came back as a vicious throat and ear infection earlier this week.  Since I've done all of my homework reading for classes, I can knit and start some reading for my thesis.  Should I finish the socks, I have all this to play with:
Knitting, first crochet project, and spindle spinning.  Bring it on, foul Irish weather and evil bacteria! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Plans, plans, WIPs

As I mentioned in the last post, I have big plans for the new year.  Since my stash and I have a long distance relationship, I've been piling up a small mountain of yarn to take back with me based on what I've got in my queue.  Some will be for me and some - okay, a lot - will become various birthday and Christmas gifts.  Yes, I start early.

So my plan is to turn this. . .

. . . into knits in the next eight months.

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2013 is to make more wool socks for me.  I'm mostly motivated by my cycling in Ireland.  That moist cold really sinks into your bones and sticks around.  While I'm pretty well covered for sweaters and okay for hats, I really need some warm footwear.  For the last year, I've been an inactive member of Sock Knitters Anonymous.  This is a group on Ravelry with monthly challenges in the in three categories of theme, dedicated designers, and the mystery sock.  I plan on getting on the sock bandwagon and trying to complete a challenge a month.  I've got several socks lined up.  First is Hunter Hammerson's Chrysanthemum frutescens in Knitpicks Stroll, colorway Foilage.

I'm doing the theme challenge for January, "Flora and Fauna."  It's orange because, eh, why not?  It's winter and I need bright colors like nobody's business.  I'm also taking all this back with me for socks as well.

Also on the Sock To-do List For Me: Wendy Johnson's Norwegian Rose, Rose Hiver's Fireweeds, Cookie A's Twisted Flower . . . And probably a few more.

I'm also taking back a few sweater quantities for me.   I'm loving stranded colorwork at the moment, so I dug out my Falling Stars kit from Knitpicks in blues.  I might do the hat, but we'll see how it goes.

I need more bright colors, so I'm taking my Valley Yarns Longmeadow (colorway Coral) for Lizette.  This pattern came out in the Spring 2011 Twist Collective and received a lot of press when the Yarn Harlot blogged about knitting it.  Longmeadow is the recommended yarn and it feels soft and a bit slick.  I'm definitely using the wooden needles on that one.

In the new year, I also plan on learning how to crochet with some Debbie Bliss Ecobaby for a Calm Cowl.  I'm also taking my spindle and fiber along to revive my spinning.

This is the gift pile.  It is rather large, but it's not every present I'll make in the next twelve months.  Generally I try to get my Christmas presents done by the end of September.  Since my family can see this blog, I will not mention what these are going to become, but let's say hats, socks, and scarves are on the table.
The break has been productive, knitting-wise.  I finished scarf for my mom with her Quivit Luxury Blend from Windy Valley Muskox and a Fernfrost scarf in Hedgehog fibres Pure Cashmere Lace in Sour Cherry.  I also completed a Cable Baby Hat in Knitpicks Stroll for the baby.

It was great to play with luxury fibers.  My mom says that her scarf is very lightweight, but very warm, so I can't wait to play with her 100% quivit yarn sometime in the future.  The Hedgehog Fibres cashmere was fun to work with.  It's so soft and beautiful to look at, and when it was still a WIP, it was the Universal Stress Ball the week before Christmas.  (It was highly successful.)  As a finished object, just looking at it makes me feel better.  When I soaked it, it didn't run at all and it blocked out beautifully.  I have a few more skeins of her yarns, and I will be very sad when I run out.  This is when I wish I still had a job.  
    Well, tomorrow I fly back home, so it's time to cram the last of the yarn and fiber into the suitcase.  Thanks, US, it's been great, but I have a date with Ulysses. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Life gets in the way

Oh my goodness, it's past Christmas!  It's past New Year's!  My apologies for neglecting the blog.  My Master's program really heated up in November.  I had to work harder and then we had exams starting at the beginning of December.  We also had our first long essay due and I had to try and remember how I used to do analysis.  Working on that essay caused me to question if I wanted to write my thesis on what I was planning or if I want to change it.  It was a mental tornado.  Now I am home and it's past the holidays.  I am grateful for the opportunity to see my family, especially after the death in the family and the birth of another family member.  We also have another animal member in the family.

His name is Jojo.  At the end of August he showed up on our back doorstep skinny as a rail.  We live near a highway, so we think someone dumped him and he found his way to our neighborhood.  He was mostly an outdoor cat until a coyote attacked him; now, he spends most of the day sleeping in the house and goes out at night.  He's a very sweet cat and enjoys being petted.  He even allows the dog to jump all over him when she's playing.  I'm surprised how much I like him since I'm allergic to cats.  So far, I haven't had too major a reaction - just some sneezing and slightly itchy eyes.  He seems to have charmed everyone, though.

Despite all the work, I had time to finish off the Christmas knits. 
Simple gloves for older bro.

Irish Hiking Hat for younger bro

For the new baby: Sunnyside cardigan

For Grandma: Eleanor cowl

The last was a last minute gift.  I was in the middle of writing my essay when I realized I hadn't made a present for my Grandma.  I decided that it was necessary for my her to have a knit gift.  I couldn't get the yarn the pattern called for, so I subbed a fingering weight yarn and added an extra lace repeat while using the needle sizes called for in the pattern.  I probably didn't need that extra repeat and wouldn't use it again.  Also, another knitter suggested that you could put beads on the smaller diamonds in the pattern.  Just an idea.

I also got some knitting for me.  I finished off my mittens just before we got a cold snap in my part of Ireland.  Since I cycle everywhere, these mittens were a welcome addition to my winter wardrobe.

Hedda Knits' La Joie du Printemps

I also finished a cashmere scarf for me using Anne Hanson's Fernfrost pattern.

The yarn I used was Hedgehog Fibres Cashmere Lace in the colorway Sour Cherry.  I was impressed because the red dye did not run at all.  I love Hedgehog's colors and can't wait to spin some of her roving that I have.  The scarf blocked out wide (12 inches or 30cm) but only 50 inches, or 125 cm.  If I made this pattern again, I would make it longer, perhaps using 200-300 yards more than what the pattern called for.

I got to play with more luxury fibers when I reminded Mom that she had some yarn hiding in the closet.  Three years ago, my Mom came with me to my first Stitches, a major fiber retail show that occurs in four regions of the US.  Every year, a company called Windy Valley Muskox vends and they sell qiviut and qiviut blend yarns.  Qiviut is the down fiber of the muskox that is shed naturally every summer.  It is light and very warm . . . and rather expensive.  My Mom likes the good stuff, so she purchased a skein of Qiviut Luxury Blend, a 45/45/10 qiviut/merino/silk blend, and a skein of Pure Qiviut.  I knitted up the Qiviut Luxury Blend in the Little Shells Scarf pattern my Mom got at the same time.  The result was this:
And some detail:

My Mom likes it as it is lightweight but very warm.  Perhaps I'll get around to knitting the other skein before I leave again because I've big plans for the new year.  To be continued. . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Settling in and Knitting ADD

Summer has been insane.  We had a death in the family, a baby shower for the newest family member, travel, preparation for the next international move, and settling in here in Dublin.  I've been here a month and settled in.  I've met the neighbors.
Yep, that's a fox.  The house next door is not occupied.
I've found several knitting groups, too, one close to my house and one farther away.  The knitting groups here are a lot smaller than Madrid Knits!, but very friendly and welcoming.  I've gotten into attending Knit Nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and now I've found one on my campus.  I'll meet them tomorrow, so we shall see how it goes.  The Dublin Knit Collective is very useful for finding out special fiber events in the city every month and the Irish Knitters group is a good source for yarn shops and groups.

I've also settled into school.  We started in the middle of September and the first week was a bit of a shock.  I've been out of school for five years, so I am in the process of relearning how to study and balance my life.  The re-entry has been a little rough, but I think I've found my sea legs and am getting on just fine.

Related to this, I bought me a bike.
Her name is Mi Cielo, which is Spanish for "My Sky" or "My Heaven."  She's a secondhand bike I bought from a man who runs a bike business out of a shed in an alley.  Nope, not dodgy at all!  She helps me get to school a lot faster as none of the buses to campus run by my house.  She also makes it easier to get into town for groceries and Knit Night.  She's also influenced my choice of knitwear.  Biking everyday makes you very aware of the wind (and rude drivers, but that's another story).  I don't have a fall scarf, but I did bring my Eleanor cowl that I made this summer.
Mmmm, 100% alpaca.  My favourite.

Since the Department also doesn't heat the rooms well, it's also been useful for not freezing in class.  This has caused me to go crazy and favorite lots of cowl patterns on Ravelry as I have a few errant skeins hanging around the stash.  This is not good as I seem to have developed Knitting ADD.  It started with some cashmere laceweight.
That's Fernfrost by Anne Hanson and I'm making it in Hedgehog Fibres Cashmere Laceweight in colorway Sour Cherry.  It's a lovely, scrumptious yarn and it makes me wish I still had a job.  The pattern is lovely and well-written, but it seems I've lost my lace mojo.  Normally I am a lace queen and laugh in the face of knitting danger, but I can't seem to summon the bandwidth necessary to do this scarf properly.  Off to The Shelf it went!

Then came my Mucha Mittens.
It's Hedda Knits La Joie du Printemps mittens.  They became imperative when I realized that riding a bike everyday in winter will lead to frozen hands if I don't upgrade from fingerless mitts soon.  I cast on and knit the first mitten without the thumb when I thought that if I don't begin my brothers' presents soon, they may not be finished in time for Christmas so. . . .
I cast on the first glove.  This one will be for my older brother, who just welcomed his first child on September 21st.  This is knit in Knitpicks Stroll Sport in Cobblestone Heather because I would never gift a new parent something that is not superwash.  At first I thought the pattern choice was brilliant. It's stockinette!  It's fast!  It will be social knitting!  The honeymoon glow faded after I did a few fingers.  Fingers go fast in sportweight yarn and then you have to put held stitches back on the needles and pick up a few more to knit another finger.  This was tedious, so . . . . .
I wanted to cast on a hat.  The Irish Hiking Hat, to be exact, in Artesano Aran for my younger brother, who has only one knit hat and little hair.  The yarn has been balled and I knit a gauge swatch and I may cast on soon, if I can find some space among the WIPs.  Oh, and then there's that new cowl I want to cast on. . . oh dear.