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?

FO:: Dancette

Behind the scenes at Peaceful House, things have been a bit rough.  Toddlerhood has brought its joys and challenges, the most long-running issue being that of sleep and extremely early morning wakeups.  As in 4-5 am early.  For months.  I’m certain we’ve tried every remedy short of locking PB in her room and going to a hotel for the night (joking, sort of). We just made a You Stayed in Bed Until The Toddler Clock Turned Green Chart*.  Stickers hold great power in this house!

All of this is to say that I can only really handle the most basic of knitting tricks right now.  I’m getting my kicks from fiber content and color combinations rather than complicated charts and fancy stitch patterns.  To that end, I recently finished such a fun shawl!

This was something I cast on as part of our Stash Spring knit-along.  It’s made up of some of the most decadent yarn I’ve knit with: merino and cashmere.  Need I say more?  This was a relatively quick knit, considering I was working on other projects at the same time. Something about that cashmere and stripe sequence just made me want to keep knitting on it all the time. It turned out to be a generous size, which is good for wrapping up chilly shoulders or for bunching up around the next on cold spring mornings.  Either way, it’s nice to have around. I had plenty of yarn leftover, so you will likely be seeing these colors again sometimes.  My stash of leftover sock yarn is beginning to rival my new sock yarn stash!

*We’re starting with a 5:30 am green light and hope to gradually move it to 6am.  Sadly, that would feel like sleeping in at this point!

**No, I didn’t knit my sweater. It’s from The Loft. : )

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.

Two Thumbs Up

 

Tosh Sock in Black Velvet

Recently I played copycat to someone else’s idea of knitting a Hitchhiker Shawl.  I had seen the pattern around, and admittedly I dismissed it as being “just” another garter stitch scarf.  But when Bells said she was knitting one, it sounded like just the sort of soothing, absent-minded knitting I needed at the time.  I chose a pretty skein of Madelinetosh sock from my stash and got to work.

What fun!  It starts out small with just a few stitches, and quickly grows into something resembling a dinosaur smile.  All those teeth!  This pattern works great for that skein of sock yarn that is either too special or two wild; you simply knit until you have 41 teeth or are nearly out of yarn.  For the longest time I was knitting along and the ball of yarn seemed to stay the exact same size.  Then one day I looked and it was just a little pile.  Time to cast off!  I finished it in the car on our way to the aquarium and wore it the rest of the day, dangling ends and all.

This is also one of those projects that seems so tempting to cast on another one immediately after finishing, just to have as a go-to simple knit.  And during last week’s knitting mojo drought, I was seriously tempted.  I’ve also been thinking about giving one of Martina Behm’s other patterns, Lintilla, a go.  More clever garter stitch!

Yarn Along:: Hitchhiking onto The Marriage Plot

Book: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenedies Knit: Hitchhiker Scarf in Madelinetosh Sock’s Black Velvet

This week I’m celebrating the discoveries of others: a book that one of my friends and her husband read in record time, and a knit another friend recommended via Facebook. Whether it’s lack of imagination, or feeling inspired at just the right moment, both the book and the knit are perfect for right now.

This scarf is just the antidote to the single skein of sock yarn dilemma (when you don’t want to knit socks!); you just knit until you’re almost out of yarn, maximizing yardage and garter stitch bliss.  I can often be heard muttering “just one more tooth…”.  The book is a coming of age novel about recent college graduates in the 1980s.  Alternately heady and intimate, it is reminiscent of my Freshman year stint as an English major.  I can tell this will be something I can really sink my teeth into.

Like many of you, I’m feeling inspired to knit down my stash right now. I’ve been casting on new projects with home stash and shop stash like crazy.  To help the matter along, I have some new destash yarn for sale over on Ravelry.  There may even be a giveaway or two in the near future.

What’s in your project bag and on your nightstand this week?

*Yarn Along, from Ginny @ small things: ~ 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?

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?

Good Company

Going to a yarn event is so much more than the sum of its parts.  Sure there’s yarn, classes, events, and a whole lot of knitters.  And those are all wonderful elements, but what I’m talking about is that intangible feeling, the collective excitement of its attendees, the electric frisson that happens when you’re in a room full of people who just get it.  We all love yarn and making thing with it, and there’s no need to explain why we do what we do. There is both a thrill and a peacefulness brought about by being with your people.

Marketplace line, day 1

Blog/swap friend Carmen!

PDXKnitterati, soon to be featured designer at Stash!

Sock Summit was just this sort of place, made even more exciting for me when I kept running into people I know, either in real life or through blogging.  These connections are very real to me, and I always enjoy filling up my knitterly cup, so to speak.  In addition to getting to spend gobs of time with Stripedsocks who flew out from Connecticut for the event, I got to connect with Michelle, Carmen, a few blog readers (hi again!), and of course Cookie A. and Stephanie.  Yeah, we’re like this.  Especially after Stephanie accidentally stepped on my foot and said “Sorry, sweetie.” I mean, we’re practically best friends now.

And then there was the yarn.  Goodness, there was so much lovely yarn it was difficult to know where to go first.  Fortunately, I had a list of dyers for the shop that I wanted to talk to face to face, so that’s how I stayed focused.  Mostly.  After conducting the yarn business, I was a little stunted as to what yarn to buy for personal use.   I needed to pick out three colors for the Westknits mystery knit along. Then I saw the Catkin shawl on a knitter and knew I had to make one, which led to a handful of skeins from Hazel Knits.  Everyone was wearing beautiful hand knit shawls, by the way.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was Shawl Summit. There were the odd moments when a certain someone dared me into buying a wee turkish spindle.  Guess I’ll just have to keep practicing my drop spindling, eh?  Fairly restrained purchasing for me, but I also know there is about to be a whole lot of yarn coming in to the shop, so I didn’t want to go too crazy.

A Verb for Keeping Warm booth

Hazel Knits swatch towers

All in all, Sock Summit 2011 was a wonderful experience.  Soaking up all that knitterly energy, taking classes and hearing industry legends like Tina Newton and Clara Parkes speak, eating good food and knitting as much as I wanted; all were wonderful ways to spend a weekend.  Now it’s back to life, back to reality, which I am all the more ready to embrace after a delicious retreat like this.