Friday, December 31, 2010

Laminaria Shawlette

Last post of 2010!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and that your 2011 is a happy and productive one.  I'll be wrapping up this with one of my favorite projects of this year, the Laminaria Shawlette by Elizabeth Freeman.  It took me forever (comparatively), but so, so worth it:

Here's a close-up of the lace:

Another reason this one's a favorite is because I used malabrigo lace yarn.  This was my first encounter with malabrigo and it really is everything I thought it would be.  It is amazingly soft and the colors are SO beautiful, like candy for knitters.  Seriously.  I'm wearing it out every chance I get, just so I can have it close to my skin.  Love. This particular color is called "Tuareg" and I couldn't be happier with the blue and the undulating Estonian forms.  Elizabeth Freeman is a genius.  I will have to try another of her lace masterpieces.

I am so pleased with this pattern, too!  It's definitely, definitely an advanced pattern.  It's got some techniques I've never used before that are unique to Estonian lace, things like knitting 9 stitches out of 3 or 3 stitches out of 2--beautiful, but far from easy. 

If you do decide to be adventurous and want to try this pattern or another lace pattern you've been eyeing, my best advice is lifelines:

You can't see it very well in this picture, since the yarn I used was nearly the same color, but you can see the end coming out there.  Every pattern repeat or two, you take a spare piece of smooth yarn and thread it through all the stitches on the needle, but do not knit it.  In the event that you make a mistake, you can frog just the one incorrect pattern repeat and the lifeline will catch all the stitches. 

Even if you don't make a mistake, it feels wonderful to have it there, giving you confidence to continue with the rest of your project without having to start over from the beginning.  I will be using them for all future lace projects.

Next time I promise I will show you some Christmas creations and following that, knitting year in review.

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Starsky Cardigan

Since I was a good girl and finished my Christmas projects early, I decided to whip up a comfy Christmas sweater for myself.  The pattern I used was Starsky by Jordana Paige, which is available through Knitty. This one's been in my queue for a long time and I bought the yarn for my birthday.  And now that I've got my stash down to about 2.5 miles (it was nearly 3 times that this time last year!!), I've been able to get to projects that were a lower priority in my list.   So here it is in all its glory, Starsky:

I had to put it on hold to finish Walker's socks in a timely fashion, but actual knitting time for this beauty was only about 2 weeks.  I do love bulky yarn and its instant gratification.  I used Knit Picks Swish Bulky Bare, which gets an A+ from me.  Soft, comfortable, easy to work with, and should I accidentally spill something on it at Christmas, I can just throw it in the wash without a care. 

So although the stitch pattern was fairly complicated:

It was only twisted stitches the whole time and I didn't have to touch a cable needle.  So long as you're comfortable with reading your knitting, you have nothing to fear in this pattern.  Beware, though, that it has a lot of finishing.  It's knit flat (lots of seams), has a huge collar, and the belt/loops are kinda long and tedious.  My next sweater project is definitely going to be in the round and seamless!  So it's definitely a pattern for the experienced and/or ambitious, but the results are beautiful!

I did make one big mistake, though.

I've been noticing recently that sleeves in my size are a little too small to accomodate my "guns," as it were, so I overcompensated by knitting these sleeves in the next size up.  Unfortunately I forgot that the whole sweater calls for 6-8 inches of positive ease, so now I have huge rather poofy sleeves. 


I can't decide if I want to take the sleeves off and reknit them or if I just want to go with the "extra-comfy" aspect of huge sleeves and call it a design feature.  That may be something to reconsider later, when/if I use the remainder of my stash. For now, I am very pleased with the outcome and have yet another reason why I can't wait for Christmas!

For next time, I've got a gorgeous lacy thing to block out.  Another pretty little selfish project for me!  Of course, if it doesn't take to blocking very well, I'll have some Christmas projects to finally show you!

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Argyle Socks of Doom

I did it.  I finished those monster socks before Walker's office Christmas party on Saturday and not without a few tears of frustration.  Never again will I make the mistake of felting these beautiful socks.  Never, never.
Here are the finished socks:

Nice, huh?  At least all that work yielded some lovely socks.  I was starting to doubt it when I produced this tangled mess.  #&^%@$!! is the appropriate term, I think:

At any one time during the leg portion of the sock, I had 9 different strands going.  Each diamond had its own strand of yarn and each line of gray had it's own strand and allll of them had to be wrapped around each other to avoid gaps in the fabric.  Boo, intarsia.

This also meant that all of the argyle portions of the sock had to be knit flat and sewn together later, so you get the double fun of purling colorwork and finishing seams.  So to get the awesome ventilation flaps above, I knit the foot diamond on one needle and then did the heel/heel flap on another.  A good design feature for people whose feet get too sweaty?  Maybe.  Didn't apply to Walker, so I sewed those seams up.  Along with all of the little strands hanging out of the ventilation flap.  And the back seam (not pictured). 

And all the ends of the aforementioned strands.  This is the pile of ends when I finished all my sewing:
I'm telling you, argyle is not for the faint of heart, especially argyle socks.  Beautiful?  Yes.  Labor intensive and somewhat maddening?  Absolutely.  These socks will be cherished (or else).

Here is a shot of Walker modeling them for me:
Ooh, ahh, what pretty feet he has...worth every hour spent and every curse uttered.
Almost perfect, almost.

Walker has complained in the past that my cast-on was too tight so I overcompensated with these and now the ribbing at the top is much too loose.  These beautiful socks fall down his ankles :(  I have been trying to think of a way to fix this--sewing in some elastic, cutting off the ribbing (a little scary--what if the rest unravels??), and picking up some stitches from the bottom of the ribbing and knitting another layer on tighter needles.  So far the last option is the front-runner and I may attempt that this weekend.  Unless anyone else has any other/better solutions.  I wouldn't want these fabulous socks to sit at the bottom of the drawer because they are uncomfortable to wear.  Please help :(

At least now I'm all finished with my Christmas knitting.  Just a little bit of baking left to do and I am ready for Christmas to arrive.  Bring it on!  I think our cats are a little excited about it, too.  Arty did some climbing in the Christmas tree this weekend:
And one blending in with the lights:

He is definitely the prettiest ornament on our tree.  I just hope he doesn't ruin too many of the others.  I didn't put up any that were very breakable and I anchored the tree to the back door, so here's hoping for a safe and in-tact Christmas tree!

Next week I'll hopefully have a little more selfish knitting to show you.  I'm working on a couple of projects for myself that I am very excited about. 



Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Time!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our apartment now!  I did my best this weekend to make our little space as festive as I could:

Since we just didn't want to deal with a real tree for our first go-round, we opted for an artificial one from Home Depot.  I have to say, though, after a little fluffing, I think it looks pretty good:

Certainly doesn't look real, but at least it's not pink or something.  7.5' is pretty close to our ceiling, so there was no way I was going to get a star or an angel on top of this tree.   Instead, I got some pretty wired ribbon and made a big bow for it using this tutorial.  Isn't it pretty?

I then attached an end of the ribbon to the top of the tree and wrapped it around like a garland.  I also added some red velvet bows I found at Rite Aid.  Together they makes a big statement without costing a lot or putting dangling temptations in front of the kitty cats, who have been very good so far!  I half expected to wake up and find the tree on the floor, but everything is still in tact.  My expectations are not high for the rest of the season, but I plan to add ornaments to the tree slowly until Christmas, in the hopes that busy critters won't notice.

Since I loved that bow so much, I decided I had to put another one on the banister:
And wrap the ribbon all the way upstairs (you can't really see it in the picture, but the ribbon does go all the way to the top):
And do you remember those stockings I made last year?  I was worried about where to put them since Walker and I don't have a fireplace, but why not make them wall art?
I just found a blank space on our living room wall and hung them using those semi-permanent command hook things from Rite Aid.  Here's where they fit into the rest of the living room:
And this little scrappy wreath Walker's cousin made us last year graces a blank spot in our kitchen:
And here's an ornament I made for an ornament exchange that didn't make it onto the last ornament post.

I got the little moose pattern at this Etsy shop.  They have a lot of other cute patterns in there and they all come with a lot of options, so if you really want a griaffe egg cosy, that is the place to go.  It's definitely an "intermediate" pattern, so you probably shouldn't dive into it just after making your first ever hat, but I really enjoyed the pattern and could definitely see myself making another one.  (So if you're really really nice to me...)

So now the house is decorated, our festive dish towels are out, (almost) all the gifts are neatly wrapped and ready.  I am (almost) ready for Christmas!  I just have Walker's socks to finish (omg, I forgot how maddening argyle is!!) and a few more baked goods to make and that's it.  Really.  What (if anything) are you crafting this Christmas?  How much more do you have to do?

Next time I'll hopefully have some pretty socks (and probably an argyle rant) for you.  'Til then, have a very Merry Christmas Season!!!