Wednesday, November 25, 2009

First Fair-Isle!

So lately I've been missing me some Julia time. I know, I know, I will probably see her at Christmas, but her blog's been pretty quiet lately (I am also guilty of this...) and then I remembered "Duh!" she's been doing some stuff over on the Patons blog, so off I went...

And what did I discover, but a KAL in progress!

Now, first let me say that I'm not really much of a "joiner". I'm more of an organizer I'd say, so while for a split second I thought "maybe I should join this kal?", a dose of reality got the better of me and I remembered "oh yeah, it's all I can do to update my OWN blog let alone add to another". Plus I'm kind of bad at progress pictures lately...and by the time I get around to posting about the process, said item is usually DONE and I'm anxious to skip that step and just post my completed F.O. (naturally sweaters are a different story!)

Secondly I need to point out that this was their chosen project:

The Patons Fair Isle Tam.

(this image borrowed from FiberFervor from the KAL's flickr group...)

Yes, it's beautiful, and yes it's Fair Isle, so it looks appropriately intricate.

That said...Fair Isle? I'm really not a fan. Maybe I'm supposed to be because I'm a knitter? I think I don't like it because it sort of goes against my general fashion sense, which for the most part is a wardrobe full of basics and neutrals with pops of colour. I'm a Plain-Jane for the most part. Garish patterns and bright colours all over the place send me screaming for the hills.

Yet still, I was intrigued. I've always wanted to take a stab at knitting some fair isle, and what better than a fast, non-committal hat to get me started?

Done. It was decided. But I refused to agonize over colours and whatnot, so I ran up to my stash to see what Patons wool was there. I had about 6 colours in the stash (all neutrals, naturally!). I needed five. Even the process of deciding which colour to omit was pain-staking, so I cannot image the anguish I would endure if I had given myself all and any options. If you go over to the blog you'll notice people have charted out all their colours - -clearly the way to go-- but not something I would ever have the patience for. As it was I didn't even draw mine out on graph paper --I just sat there cursing the chart I was looking at that had nothing to do with the colours I was actually knitting. Every stitch was "ok, the chart says green, that's my dark grey" I didn't even write it down, I just went from memory (it's a miracle that I didn't screw that up).

And now here it is in all it's glory:

AND, I absolutely love it. I think the fact that I chose so many neutral colours has actually made this a very wearable hat for me. I've worn it a few times already and gotten many compliments. Several folks have asked me if it's "store bought", which I presume is a non-knitter's compliment haha.

My one issue though is my grey on grey combination. It does kind of make for a nearly invisible "star" pattern on the top and kind of belies the intricacy of the pattern. You'd sort of never really know to look at it at first glance that I used as many colours as I did. The gold winds up drawing the eye more than anything else and looking like a sunflower on top. If I did it again, I'd swap out one of those greys for something a tad brighter so that the outer star shape would pop a bit more. And I'm actually thinking that I may still knit this hat another time. I'm not sure what I was so afraid of, but it really only took me a couple evenings of TV-watching-knitting to get it done.

It's definitely given me the confidence to move on to a bigger fair-isle project if I so choose (though I don't really see that in my future), and I'd seriously recommend it as a first stab at fair isle if you were looking for one.

I also haven't blocked the hat. I'm really not into making it all "tam" style but prefer a slouchier beret, which I think is evident in these pictures. Blocking it may have made the pattern pop a little more.

For those interested I used 4mm needles, and just some Patons Classic Merino wool from my stash, but my colours were: Black, Olive, Mercury, Old Gold and Grey (sorry the actually name of this grey escapes me...)

I had a picture of the inside of the hat that I must have deleted, but I was pretty proud of my "floats" as well, particularly for a first try. All that "extra" carried-over yarn in there will make for a warm winter hat!

Don't mind my vaccuous robot face...really not sure what I'm smirking at here--pleased that I'd conquered fair isle perhaps??

And desperate for some new "winter" hair I have gone back to my roots (pun intended) and am officially a brunette again. Bye-bye red (for now...)!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

let the giftin' begin!

I saw this shawl recipe a while back all over Ravelry and immediately queued it. Of course at the time I also queued several others that were kinda similar too. I think I was itching to make a non-lacy, non granny-ish, basic, neutral shawl.

Shawls to me are in some ways just scarves with more options. Plus it seemed like everyone on ravelry who had knit this managed to crank out a winner, so in the end this one came out on top.

free pattern: textured shawl recipe from Orlane
needles: 5mm
yarn: 5 balls Mirasol Contanani (60% cotton, 40% merino)in colour # 401 (gray)

Shawls. Not just for Grandma anymore.

Ummm, except this one--it actually is for Nathaniel's 90 year old gran. I know she likely won't be able to make it to our wedding so I wanted to send her a little something (she's in a retirement home in Toronto) to let her know we're thinking of her. We've also just learned that she recently suffered a bout of pneumonia so hopefully this will warm her up a little bit as well. (ok, I know it doesn't really work that way...) and I'm still on the hunt for a shiny brooch to include with it.

This really is a shawl "recipe" as stated. If you're on Ravelry you'll notice everyone listing their own version of the recipe, so I would be remiss if I didn't also include mine here I think.

I was super-excited when I found this yarn half price because it really is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I was thinking I'd do an all wool shawl for her, but the blend of cotton and merino was just too smooth and perfect to pass up. Anyone I've shown it to has asked me if it's machine knit, every stitch just seems to lay so flat and perfect. I used up my whole 5 balls, but I think I'd probably go for 6 the next time. My final rounds of garter stitch weren't as much as I'd hoped:

So, my recipe: 16 rows of stockinette; 16 rows textured knitting; 16 st; 16 text; 16 st; 16 text; 10 st; 4 text; then about 20 rows of garter stitch.

I absolutely, positively, definitely will be making another one of these shawls for myself.

Also in the realm of gift giving (and grey...SO much grey I'm knitting lately!)

My second pair of Bella's mittens. Though in truth, they're not a gift from me. I knit them for a co-worker , and he gifted them to his wife to wear to the premiere of New Moon. If you don't know what that is, you've likely just beamed in from Mars, but she's a serious Twi-hard, and the mitts were very well received.

Knit in Patons Classic (2 balls of "mercury" double-stranded) on 5.5mm needles

You can see the first pair I knit here. This second pair were much bigger. I also discovered another free pattern for Bella's mitts on Ravelry, that are slightly more accurate to the ones worn in the movie (if you care about that sort of thing...)--the main difference being a textured palm. I'm still keen on this pattern though, and they no doubt go up a lot faster (these really only took me two or three evenings of tv-watching knitting) another reason they are such a great knit!

I am way behind on blogging and picture-taking these days...I'm not even a redhead anymore! This past week I knit two hats for another co-worker that I couldn't even be bothered to take pictures of (black Seaman's hats that are a major go-to pattern for my mother--she's probably knit a hundred of them by now). But it's a pattern that I would seriously recommend. It's flattering on everyone, a fast knit, and a great basic hat pattern for gift giving. I've knit a lot of them myself, and I think virtually all of my friends have one by now. Sooo, if you're in the market for another hat pattern, give that one a whirl.

And still more new things on the sticks:

At this point I'm not even sure if any Xmas knitting will make it onto the pile this year.

And one more thing (if I haven't lost you already...)-- The latest issue of Vogue Knitting had a little blurb on this crazy big yarn from BagSmith, and I find myself very intrigued by it. It knits up to 3 stitches per FOUR INCHES!!!!!!!! Size 25 needles. I'm tempted to buy enough for a rug (though broom stick sized needles may be murder to my child-sized hands)--anyone out there tried it? uh oh, hold the says 110$ a ball. Strike that (unless that gets me a whole rug, which I doubt). Yeesh. I mean I get it, but I still feel like you have to be a millionaire to be a knitter these days...

Maybe I'll just buy the book and stare at all the pretty pictures instead.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

this wedding may be the death of me

I think this might be my third(?) attempt at a shrug for my wedding...

yarn: 1.5 balls of Butterfly Super 10 in charcoal
needles: 4 & 4.5mm
pattern: to come...but see here to get you started

So, you may recognize it as I've attempted it once before in green (see the "pattern" link above). This time I've added the ribbed collar all the way around in an effort to sort of "fancy-it-up" a bit more. For some reason I had it in my head that a big 'ol collar would make it seem somehow more "wedding-y" or "regal". Uh yeah --maybe that's cause Prince Charles and Camilla are in town today and I got all confused about my place in the monarchy. Yeah, that's it.

I've had some interest from a few folks on Ravelry, so I plan to write this pattern up for y'all at some point if anyone was interested in making it. Right about now I'm wishing I had WRITTEN SOME NOTES as I was doing it. But no matter, as I've already cast on for a third in some slightly more wedding-appropriate yarn and colourway so it would have happened anyway.

Contrary to what I'd originally hoped, a collar does not in fact make a shrug "fancier". In fact it seems to have toned this little lace number down somewhat (no doubt the grey aids in that too) and given it a much more casual vibe.

I'm really not a shrug person to begin with, but I think it would be great with jeans this way. However, for my more formal needs, I'm scrapping the collar altogether. You've likely noticed that I haven't woven in the ends, and that's why. Also if you have boobs, and I most assuredly do, you will need to make the collar several inches longer than I've done, otherwise it just curls away. A couple more inches would no doubt rectify that (or a stiffer yarn).

Lots of smaller projects on the go lately,

berets, berets, berets!

my kind of cowl

another pair of bella's mittens


and so on...

There's a couple of fabulous F.O's I plan to post about soon as well--

Fall knitting fever has officially taken me over!