Tales of a Neutral Rainbow


  
  
Are you as obsessed with Instagram as I am?

As a maker and all around visual person, I find endless inspiration on Instagram.  From knitting and sewing to cooking and home decor, it’s easy to find lots to love.  Sometimes all that inspiration can become overwhelming and noisy.  But when it’s good, it’s really good.

A couple of months ago, many of the knitters I follow started making the same shawl.  I watched these shawls take shape and grow, lumpy masses of wooly lace on the needles.  And as more and more friends finished their shawls, my desire to knit one of my own grew stronger.

The pattern was in the back of my mind as I set off to Black Sheep Gathering in June.  If I find just the right yarn for this shawl, I will make it!  I thought to myself.

You can imagine what happened when I visited Brooke in her booth, Sincere Sheep.  This bouncy, earthy Rambouillet jumped into my hands, and before I knew it there was a neutral rainbow of wool laid out on the table.  In that instant the idea for a shawl knit up in a natural gradient was born.

I stumbled a bit through the first clue of this shawl (it was originally a mystery knit-along).  Its rhythm didn’t come naturally to me, and I had to pay close attention to the pattern.  Soon enough it all clicked, and I was off!

And just as I was once obsessed with looking at other people’s shawls on Instagram, I became obsessed with knitting my own.  Other projects sat untouched over the last couple of weeks as I embarked on a mission to finish this.

I’m so glad I let the inspiration I found online follow me into real life.  I’m happy I took action and made something my own.  It was a joy to knit, and I can just imagine it will be very cozy to wear as soon as the weather starts to cool.


Pattern: Tales from the Isle of Purbeck – MKAL by Annie Rowden (@byannieclaire on Instagram)  Yarn: Equity Sport from Sincere Sheep.  Ravelry notes here.

Of Silk and Wool

Here we have a birthday gift knit with some yarn I once received as birthday gift.  I call this good knitting karma!

For my sister V, a simple yet lush and lacy neckwarmer:

  • Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino in Archangel, less than one skein
  • Pattern: Fern Neckwarmer by Sue Granfield (free pattern download, Ravelled here)
  • Needles: US 8 & 9
  • Mods: None.

This is a nice little knit, simple yet satisfying.  I did have a knitter-error with a coupe of rogue yarn overs, but they fit right in and were not noticeable in the finished project.  This would be an equally good choice for someone wanting to try out a little lace or for a knitter with a bit more experience.  There’s an interesting bind off that I had never tried before call the suspended cast off.  It was fun and stretchy, as promised.  I really like how this starts out as a close-fitting cowl, then bells out a bit at the base; it’s perfect for wearing under a coat to keep the chill out.

The real excitement in this story is the yarn, Malabrigo silky merino.  I have been lusting after it ever since it came to live with me in my stash.  This was “special” yarn, something that was a gift from a good friend that I kept saving for just the right project.  I always envisioned something pretty and lacy, just never committed to anything.  So when my sister V admired it, I began thinking about knitting her something for her birthday.  It knits up light and lofty, and has this beautiful sheen; the colors range from a frosty pink to deep amethyst.  This pattern used maybe half a skein, so I have 1.5 skeins left to knit something lovely for myself.  Have you knit with silky merino?  Have any pattern suggestions?

 

S and V, ages 9 and 3

Happy Birthday.  I love you, sister!

 

Ishbel the Grape

Ishbel is finished!  I had enough yarn!

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I bound off the last of the stitches on Monday night, just before the season premiere of House, and put her in the sink to soak.  After a while, I pinned the shawl out on my yoga mat (a little narrow for this project) on commercial breaks.  It was dry by the next morning!

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  • Pattern: Ishbel by Ysolda Teague, size Large (see my Ravelry project page here)

  • Yarn: Malabrigo Sock Yarn in color 853; 1 skein or about 440 yards

  • Needles: US size 6/4 mm Addi Turbo Lace needles

  • Mods: None.

This project was everything I had hoped it would be the second time around.  I wanted a darker, more moody colorway.  Check.  I wanted it to be larger than the first version so it would stay put when worn as a scarf.  Check.  And I wanted to get it all done with one skein of great yarn.  Check.

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The Malabrigo sock yarn was a dream to knit with.  The color variation is subtle yet saturated, moving from deep indigo to grapey purples and everything in between.  All without stripes or pooling colors showing up in the final product.  It is soft and sturdy too, which means it should work great for socks as many knitters have already reported.  I have another skein in chocolate brown that hasn’t decided what it wants to be when it grows up yet.

Turns out taking self-timed photos of yourself wearing a shawl is pretty tough.  First all I got was a picture of my butt.  Next it was more shawl and less butt, but it was out of focus.  Finally I got something that wasn’t too blurry or butty (helped along with a little cropping, of course).  Here it is:

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Oh, I’m just in love with this!  Not only do I want to knit more lace shawls immediately, I want to go out and buy a new, more neutral coat to show off my hand-knits this winter.  Is that so wrong?

For the Love of Ishbel

Ishbel turned out to be one of those projects that was impossible to put down.  Once I cast on last Sunday, I was a knitting fiend, putting in some time on a row or pattern repeat whenever possible.  It must have been the perfect storm of yarn and pattern, because both were equally pleasing to work with.  Ysolda writes a wicked clear pattern that was a joy to follow, and the Madelinetosh sock yarn kept me smiling throughout.

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  • Pattern:  Ishbel by Ysolda Teague

  • Yarn: Madelinetosh sock yarn in Lettuce Leaf, approximately 300 yards

  • Needles: US size 6/4mm Addi Turbo Lace

  • Mods: None.  I knit the size small as written.  See my notes on Ravelry.

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When I finished binding off it seemed small.  I knew that it would grow during blocking, but I wasn’t sure it would be big enough to wind around and wear like a scarf.  The pre-blocking measurements were 13 x 35 inches (depth x wingspan).  I soaked it for a few minutes, then pressed it in a towel and pinned it out on my yoga mat.  The dimensions grew to 18.5 x 38.5 inches.  It’s still a bit skimpy as a scarf, but I am really enjoying it as my new spring accessory!

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If I were to knit this again (as I am feeling wont to do) I would probably knit the large stockinette pattern with the small lace section, or vice versa.  First, I only used about 3/4 of the skein, and I loathe having that much yarn left over.  Secondly, it is just a little bit shy of wrapping around so that the ends dangle without sliding off over my shoulder.

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I love this scarf and would totally marry it if I weren’t already spoken for!

This was my first lace shawl, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience.  In the past when I saw lace charts I would instantly feel intimidated.  But there was just something about this pattern that spoke to me and said: “Don’t be afraid.  You can do this!”.  Maybe it was that the pattern called for sock yarn and started out in stockinette.  Or that I knew what all the symbols meant and simply needed to pay a little bit of attention every other row.  Most likely I’m just a more experienced and less fearful knitter than I once was, especially when it comes to lace.  Now I’m looking at some of my sock yarn with a certain lace lust that wasn’t there before…

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Now that it’s off the needles I can admit this out loud without ramifications: when it came to the lace section, I didn’t count stitches or use life lines!!!  ‘Cause I like to live on the edge like that.

Must Keep Knitting…

Warning: Once you start knitting Ishbel, you may find it impossible to stop.

Other activities such as sleeping, eating, or self grooming may tempt you into putting down the needles, but you will not be able to be gone long.  Ishbel will lure you back with her sexy yarn overs and fast paced lace charts.

I cast on Sunday afternoon, and by Tuesday had finished the first lace repeat.  I took Wednesday off from compulsively knitting, and am now working on the last chart.  It could be done this weekend…

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May you be blessed with the same excitement over one of your projects this weekend!

Detours, Roadblocks, and Expressways

I’m enjoying a quiet morning at home.  I’m sitting here at the computer with a cup of tea, thinking about the days ahead and all I have to get done in order to be prepared and/or productive.  What is that about?  Do you feel like you have a never ending To-Do List, and no matter what you’ve accomplished the day before, there is always more to do?

I’m really feeling lately like I should be doing More, like I want to be contributing to the world in a bigger, better way.  I’m just stumped as to how to accomplish this.  Life has taken my plans and made me go on a big detour, and at this point I’m not sure if I’ll be arriving at my intended destination any time soon. So what to do in the meantime…?

Knitting, for starters!  Now that the craft fair is over, I have regained an open schedule with regards to my knitting.  I have been working monogamously on the Show-Off Stranded socks, and they are coming along quite nicely.  The pattern has a new-to-me way to make a heel: you knit the sock from the cuff down, and when it’s time to make a heel, you increase every other row to create a gusset.  You are simultaneously knitting the heel, the top of the foot, and the gussets. Then you turn the heel and keep knitting along.  No heel flap!

I have some holes along my gussets, but they match on both sides so I have elected to call them “design features” or “learning experiences”!

Bells has me feeling inspired to knit a little something lacy; she’s in a country where it’s almost summer now, and what a better thing to knit than lace in the summer?  I just want to knit something delicate, and some time ago the Hanami Stole caught my eye.  I have some luscious apple green cashmere lace-weight in the stash, and it seemed like a perfect pairing.

Then last night at Stitch ‘n Bitch I decided I would make a swatch.  This is uncharacteristic of me, but something was telling me that this yarn and pattern combination were to be taken seriously.  Maybe it is the 12-page pattern.  Maybe it was the fact that the yarn kept breaking as I handled it.  Both, I guess.  So I got started knitting a swatch, and after several rows…snap!  The yarn broke.  I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, continue knitting with this yarn.  Could I double it up?  Should I set it aside?  Will being worried or paranoid at the beginning of a project doom it to failure?  Can some of you experienced lace knitters advise me on what to do?!  Help!

Sweetie and I are heading out of town on a much-needed long weekend together, a trip born out of a culmination of things.  So I will be out of touch for several days.  I hope that you have a wonderful weekend, with more than enough time to create and be peaceful.

P.S. Squirrels love corn!  This one munched on a cob tabletop before trying to carry it in its mouth through the spindles on the deck.  Horizontal corn and vertical slots do not mix!  S/he eventually switched tactics and pushed it through.  Lucky squirrel.

Free At Last!

That’s my knitting bag. Empty.

I tell you, making a list of all the things that are weighing you down, then systematically forcing yourself to deal with each item can be very productive. In about a week I have gone from 8 works in progress down to 4!

  • Pattern: Spiderweb Capelet by Erin Weckerle from Stitch ‘n Bitch Nation
  • Yarn: Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Brushed Alpaca, about 1/2 skein
  • Needles: Size 15 US & a crochet hook
  • Mods: I did one extra repeat of the lace pattern before decreasing at the top.

My 2nd set of successful pom poms!

This was one of those patterns that took a fair amount of focus to work on. I’m used to knitting on much smaller needles; knitting with 15s felt like holding two broomsticks! I had to be careful not to drop them, or the stitches. I would highly recommend this pattern if you have some wispy laceweight or a fuzzy alpaca like this; it highlights the stitches beautifully and is feather light.

Before blocking:

I did a quick wet block on this by simply rinsing in out in my bathroom sink. Then I laid it out over a dry towel, folded the towel up and walked across it to absorb the excess water. My favorite blocking surface happens to be my yoga mat. It doesn’t absorb water, so it takes much less time for the items to dry.

I placed a pin about every 2 inches or so, being careful not to distort the stitches or the shape of the capelet.

This could be one of those whimsical knits that was fun to make but that I’ll never actually wear. But right now, as I fantasize about warmer weather, I imagine myself throwing it over a tank top to run out for the day…

Next time, more finished objects!