Stitch by Stitch

The first clue of the Westknits Mystery KAL was released this past Friday, and with it a flurry of intense excitement.  I started waiting anxiously on Thursday night to see if the clue would be released at midnight EST (9pm my time). Even though it wasn’t, I was happy to see the update in my Ravelry library Friday morning.  So excited, in fact, that I cast on at work.  Shhh…don’t tell my boss!

Spoiler pic coming up, so stop here if you don’t want to know.

This little fan of knitting is just filled with interesting techniques: attached i-cord edging, short-row shaping, carrying a color up one side, and more. It immediately grabbed my attention and the attention of knitters worldwide; there are over 2,300 projects already!  There has been a lot of photo sharing a discussion in the group about preferred methods of creating short rows, the pros and cons of various color combos, and plenty of general good cheer amongst participants. While I cannot keep up with all the chatter, it is comforting to know that should i have a question there is a pool of knowledge there to help almost instantly.  The joys of a knit-along!

I’m happily knitting along, one stitch and one wedge at a time, hoping to finish my homework in time for Friday’s clue.  And yes, that means all other projects have been sidelined for the time being.

Are you playing along?  Leave a comment and tell us what color combo you’ve chosen!

Mystery Shawl 2012

2011 Westknits KAL

Last year I knit along with other Stephen West fans as we discovered the weekly clues of his first-ever mystery shawl knit-along.  I loved my colors, and was happy with the bold, graphic design.  Something about the pattern and moving at a deliberate pace turned me off after a few weeks, and I was anxious to bind off as soon as the last clue was released.  It’s a lovely little shawl, just a bit too little for my taste.  Not being the sort of knitter to undo and reknit to make it larger, I simply don’t wear it, opting instead to let it hang on a hook with the rest of my hand-knit shawls.  Funny thing, though: as I was looking through the photos, it seems perfectly wearable as a small scarf.  Maybe I’ll dust it off after all!

This year I’m hoping for a different outcome.  Judging from the yardage requirements, this is going to be a generous shawl.  I’ve been daydreaming about this color combination since the Hazel Knits arrived at the shop, and I think it will be a good choice for the knit along.

Swans Island Organic in Seasmoke + Hazel Knits in Electrolyte.

There’s still time to purchase the pattern before the knit along begins on July 13th.  After that, the pattern will not be available for download until after the KAL is finished up.

Will you be playing along?

Yarn Along:: Chickens + Stripes

From Yarn Along with Ginny: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? 

This week I’m enjoying a beautiful new book that I received for my birthday. Written by a former restaurant chef cum suburban chicken herder,Chicken and Egg strikes the perfect balance between coopy rusticity and elegant food porn. This book instantly had me salivating over its delicious looking recipes and chicken-raising tales alike.

It even made me go out and buy a whole chicken to roast, something I haven’t done in a very long time.

You may remember when I participated in Heather Bruggeman’s 30-day vegan challenge and my subsequent step into a meat-free lifestyle. It’s been just over a year since then, and I’ve maintained that goal with the rare exception of a bite of bacon here and there, and a Valentine’s Day steak dinner I cooked for Sweetie.

All along, I’ve been comfortable with my choice not to eat meat the majority of the time, and being gentle with myself when I do. I’ve recently been taking another e-course with Heather, the Whole Food Kitchen workshop. In it she shares essays, book recommendations, weekly recipes, a live forum for participants to discuss weekly topics, and so much more.  I haven’t been able to give this 12-week course the full amount of time I had hoped, but I’m still getting a lot out of it. And it has made me think a lot about the food I eat, where it comes from, and how I want to feed my family.

When the recipe for Fast and Crispy Roast Chicken came calling the very same day I ready Heather’s essay on the benefits of small amounts of meat and dairy in one’s diet, I figured I’d give it a try.

The (local, happily free-range) chicken was fun to cook; sometimes veggie meals feel a bit like a collection of side dishes, and it is the rare find that satisfies everyone at the table these days. And while the chicken was indeed crispy and tasty, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would after all this time. I’m not sure where I’m going to go from here, or whether meat and poultry will be making a regular appearance at our family’s table. And that’s okay.  Rethinking one’s way of eating takes time, and, as I’m learning, a lot of patience and compassion for yourself along the way.

Anyway, on to the knitting!

I’m happily knitting away on the Dancette shawl for our shop KAL. Stockinette and a simple stripe pattern have been perfect project for knitting at work, at home in the evenings, and in the car. I’m almost ready to start the border, which promises to make for some delightful knitting.

ps-If you’re interested, I just noticed that Heather is offering a spring session of the 30-Day Vegan Challenge.

Mystery Solved

The mystery of Stephen West’s first mystery knit-along has been solved.  I’m pleased to say that I kept up with this knit-along and finished on time, both of which may be first for me!

After a lot of excitement at the start, I ended up feeling sort of tepid about this project.  There’s so much build up for this sort of thing: popular designer, mysterious pattern, lots of chatter on the web and in Ravelry groups.  I couldn’t help but get swept up in it all.  Partway through I was a little unsure, however, as I wrote about here.  When the final clue was released, I was not excited about the edging.  I ended up modifying one option and adding a row of contrast color, which I think perks things up just a bit.

Now that the finished shawl has been sitting around for a week, it has grown on me.  Those rows of garter in the acidic yellow.  The stunning colors and zesty parallelograms.  It all works in a way I couldn’t really appreciate after binding off.   I haven’t measured my leftovers, but there’s plenty, and I’m still in love with the yarn.  Maybe I’ll make PB a funky striped hat for fall.

All in all, this was a quick, fairly easy project. The only tricky bit for me was juggling up to 3 balls of yarn at once and weaving in ends for about 2 hours. I’m not joking. Stagger your end-weaving throughout the project or you’ll go mad! I did some after each section and it really helped, but it was still a lot of time spent not knitting. You can see all the details about this project on my Ravelry page here.

That’s the third shawl I’ve finished this summer!  Two of them have been by Stephen West, even.  I suppose I’ve been a little singular in my knitting fantasies lately.  That said, I am starting to lust after some fall sweater knitting…

Yarn Along:: Mysteries & Plagues

Yarn Along-ing with Ginny this week…

Sweetie recently picked this book up for me at the Borders going out of business sale. I had heard good things about it (and their tv show) from some of you. While I was curious, I just didn’t think I had another city-dweller-turned-farmer memoir in me at the moment.  I binged pretty hard on the genre earlier this spring/summer!

In between library books I decided to pick it up, and have been enjoying it ever since.  Part of the allure for me is the author’s unflinching look at the struggles of building a farm on weekends while trying to maintain a relationship and two full-time jobs. It’s also his writing style: wry, honest, witty, and full of personal anecdotes about Martha Stewart.  I have my own Martha story, did I ever tell you? It involves making pistachio brittle for her show, feeling the chill as she walked into the room behind me, and later sneaking a hold of one of her Emmys.  But I digress… This is a fun, interesting read, a perfect compliment to my days of working on starting a business and playing in the garden with PB.

The first two clues of the Westknits Mystery knit along were very small, leaving me wanting more.  When the third clue came out a little early, I was delighted, and have been working away on this larger chunk of knitting every chance I get.  I love this yarn and my color combination, but remain a but uncertain.  Bold color combinations don’t bother me, but not knowing how it’s all going to turn up leaves me a little nervous! I am reserving judgment for now, choosing to trust in the design and hoping for a spunky yet wearable shawl when all is said and done.

What is on your nightstand and needles this week?

Secrets and Mysteries

The past week has brought some wonderful mysteries and surprises into my life.  All of them are yarn, sock, and shawl related goodness, which is supposed to be kept somewhat under wraps so as not to ruin the surprise for unsuspecting participants.  So if you don’t want to see this month’s Cookie A. Sock Club yarn, and don’t want to see what Clue #1 of the Westknits Mystery KAL looks like, read no further.

Here is a lovely buffer picture of a mysterious gourd blossom in my garden, a sprout from the compost that I am letting run wild.  Seriously, don’t go past the blossom if you want to remain surprised…

Welcome, curious onlookers!

While at Sock Summit (yes, that again…I’m almost done talking about it, I promise!), I fell hard for the A Verb for Keeping Warm booth.  I had seen their yarn over the winter, and loved  its beautiful color palette, a result of all natural dyes.  This time they had small skeins perfect for multi-color knitting, and I had a real hey day matching up colors for my Westknits shawl.  While there, Cookie A. just happened to be drooling over an acidic yellow yarn dyed with marigold blooms.  I was instantly drawn to the yarn, both because I love yellow and because I think Cookie A.’s taste in yarn is superb.  Suddenly, something inexplicable came over me, and I just had a feeling that she would be putting some Verb yarn in her sock club soon.  Right, Striped Socks?

Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga (left) & A Verb for Keeping Warm Creating (right)

I chose 3 colors of Verb’s Creating yarn for the shawl: Marigold, Barnacle! Matey! and Indigo.  The first clue was a brief but tasty nugget, and Striped Socks and I wound our yarn and cast on the same day (she in the car while I drove us to the beach, I later that evening).  I am loving my color combo and am excitedly working my way through the second clue now.

And then, a few days ago, I got my sock club yarn.  It’s beautiful.  See how this is all coming together?

Am I psychic, or what?

FO: Socktoberfest Prolonged

You’ve heard of Christmas in July, right? How about Socktoberfest in April?

  • Pattern: TTL Mystery Sock 2010 by Kirsten Kapur, Ravelled here
  • Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Semisolids in Mango, 1 skein
  • Needles: US size 1 / 2.5mm
  • Mods: I knit the size Large, using a size Medium heel flap

This was my first time participating in a mystery knit along, and it had its pros and cons to be sure.  The main asset of this type of knitting is the anticipation and excitement, particularly when knitting along in a group.  As each clue was released, a flurry of knitting and chatter would erupt on Ravelry, and it really kept me motivated to push on through knitting that week’s clue on both socks.  The clues were released roughly as the pictures flow below:

Then, once all the clues were released and I was left with two half-knit socks, I felt discouraged.  I was tired from all the excitement, and the now-garish orange yarn was irritating to look at.  Naturally, they got set aside for new projects and would get worked on in fits and starts for the next several months.

It’s funny how finishing up a long-lingering project can feel so great!  My creative workload has been lightened a bit, and any ill feelings I had toward these socks have vanished.  Instead, I feel excited that I have these new, vibrant orange socks to wear as the weather warms and colors outside brighten.  Taking six months to knit a pair of socks also has me feeling (in a misplaced way) that they were very little work.  Strange, that.

In any case, I get to cast on a new pair of socks now!  Hopefully they will get knit up at a slightly quicker pace. Or maybe I should pull out that shawl I started in a knit along last July…

On Schedule

I was pleased as punch to be all caught up with both socks before the most recent Mystery Sock clue came out last night.  At some points this mysterious knitting adventure has felt a bit like homework or working against a deadline; the teacher’s pet in me wants to be on time with my knitting (and not on one sock, but both of course).  This motivation has been exciting at times, and downright hand-cramping at others.  In any case, I am having fun knitting along and am really enjoying how these socks are turning out.

Now it’s on to the gussett and foot!  I think I’m going to relax a bit now and go at my natural sock-knitting pace.

We’ll see how long that lasts…

Orange you glad I didn’t say “Knock-knock”?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?


Orange who?

Orange you glad to know there are spoiler pictures of the TTL Mystery Sock in this post?

It’s all about Orange at Peaceful House this week.  Orange is a color I generally enjoy in all its shades, from punchy and cheerful to somber and warm.  This is the time of year where orange typically gets the most play via Halloween decorations, fresh pumpkins and gourds, candy corn, football team uniforms, and the changing leaves.  Is it any wonder I have been planning on knitting orange socks in October since I purchased this yarn last spring?

My mystery sock knitting is moving along according to schedule.  I started out uncharacteristically by knitting a gauge swatch.  I know, I know. I rarely knit a gauge swatch, and have never done one for socks.  But I figured since I knew nothing about the pattern or its resulting fabric, I would have to trust the designer and go with the recommended gauge.  After knitting up said swatch I noticed that my usual sock needles (US 1/2.5mm Addi Lace circs) were on the small side, so I went up a size.

When the first clue came out last week (on Thursday night at 9pm for me thanks to Pacific Time), I cast on with glee (not the show, but the feeling); (have I used to many parenthesis in this sentence?).  After fiddling with a cable needle and my dpns I decided things would be much easier if I knit these socks Magic Loop style, but I did not have the right size needles.  It turned out huge!  And the cable definition wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

After thinking it over all weekend, I finally decided to pour over the spoiler pics in the TTL Ravelry group to see what other people’s cuffs looked like.  It was just as I suspected: they looked perky and squishy at the same time, just like a good sock cuff should.

I decided to take the end from the outside of my center-pull ball and knit a second cuff on my beloved size 1 Addi Lace needles.  You know, just to compare and see if one needle size really made that much of a difference.  And I ditched the cable needle in favor of crossing the stitches like this*.  So much better!  I ripped out the first cuff and re-knit it on size 1 dpns.  Now all I need to do is decide if I should be knitting both socks on the same type of needle. This would mean either going out and buying a second set of dpns or circular needles, or switching the cuffs on and off my circulars to knit.  Looks like I forgot to take a photo of the two sizes side by side, but here are the two smaller cuffs, one on dpns and one on a circular.

The second clue came out last night.  I took a peek before bed, but decided not to start in on it.  There’s a textured stitch and then some great cables, something I tend to avoid on socks.  I suppose that’s a bit of why I’m attempting this mysterious pattern: to push myself beyond the limits of my knitting complacency.

Looks like I’ll be busy knitting up the first leg this weekend!  What are your weekend knitting plans?


*Right Twist: Knit 2 sts together, leave both sts on left needle; knit 1st st, slipping both sts off left needle
Left Twist: Knit 2nd st tbl, leave on left needle; knit 1st st as normal, slipping both sts off left needle

It’s That Time of Year Again

Socktoberfest is here!

I’ll be playing along with the Through The Loops Mystery Sock KAL. This is my first time doing a mystery pattern, and it honestly makes me feel a little bit nervous.  But for the past two years I’ve seen these sock patterns come out and loved them, so I feel confident this will be an ace pattern.  If you’d like to play, check out Kirsten Kapur’s blog where she will be releasing a new pattern clue each Friday this month.

I’m going to do my best to keep up, and will try to post the week’s progress each Friday.  I can’t make any promises that I will finish these during the month of October, or that I won’t get distracted by other projects.  But from where I’m standing now, this is a pretty exciting challenge and I feel up to the task!

Will you be knitting socks this month? What patterns and yarn have your fancy?