Please ignore darkness and mess in the background

My Icelandic Sweater is finally finished! I made it with wool bought in Vik, Iceland, and combined various patterns from the book “Knitting with Icelandic Wool.’ I cast on the Regla pattern, made the bottom and cuffs with the design from Bára and finished off with the yoke from æði.

Lopi

I just want to say, knitting with Lopi s a dream. Sure, it sheds a bit, but the stuff sticks together really nicely and the weight I had knit in a flash. So fast, in fact, that when I decided to rip out a whole bunch of my knitting to nearly start over (I went back to the bottom ribbing and re-did the pattern with a more even hand) I didn’t even really mind the re-knitting time. I added some shaping to the pattern- waist shaping on the sides and a few rows of a short-row bust increase just below the yoke. In hind sight I probably didn’t need to add those, since the sweater blocked out kind of bulky, but I’m still glad I experimented with it. I don’t understand some people’s resistance to short row shaping. Its really not that tough! And adds shape in specific spots instead of in the sweater overall, which is nice.

The sleeves probably took me the longest, because I knew as soon as I finished them it was time to decide what yoke pattern to use. Eventually I settled on the æði, copied the page and stuck it in to my bag of knitting. Which of course I didn’t check when I went to my Mom’s over Christmas, and ended up stalled with no more white Lopi, and a fresh new skein of it mocking me at hope. Alas. Probably would have blasted through the whole thing over the holiday!

Almost finished….

Got home, dug out the rest of my yarn and knit away. I thought I’d have tons of time what with the holidays, but turns out freelance work picks up when the end of the year is near! Curled up and finished over the weekend with one important step left- the dreaded STEEK! For those unaware, steeking is when you knit something in the round (often patterns that would be frustrating to purl) and then cut it apart to add button bands or sleeves or a neck hole. So yeah. You cut into your knitting- a very definite point-of-no-return. I don’t like those. I’ve had projects that were ‘finished’ that I frogged and re-made…. and this wool was from Iceland! I can’t exactly pop over to my LYS and get some more to fix it. So I fretted. I googled steeking for reassurance. I slightly freaked out because everthing I found mentioned a 5-stitch pattern to contain the steek. I had one purl stitch. I tried a line of sewing to reinforce, as most of the sites I found suggested. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really tell where my purl stitch was on the wrong side because of the floats from my pattern, and ended up sewing a terribly wonky line. Some care with a seam ripper and I was back to square one- freaking out. Honestly I would have even left it as a pull over, but that one line of purl stitches would have driven me crazy. Eventually I found the delightful Ragga’s video over on Craftsy. Icelandic wool! And one purl stitch!

The Dreaded Steek

No mention of what to do about my floats though. So I did the crochet reinforcement she showed. Perhaps I should have used a smaller hook, it was a bit bulky, but I was impatient and couldn’t find a better size. Not content to have the reinforcement, I followed Kate Davies’ instructions for the “Steek Sandwich” as far as I could before cutting. Then freaked out some more. Finally took a pair of shears to my dear knitting. They say once you steek you realize how easy it is. I don’t know that I had quite that reaction. I diligently finished the button bands and did a nice I-cord bind off/button hole. And then… tired it on and felt like I was going to be ill. The whole thing fit so nicely before I cut it and added the extra width the button band! Wanted to cry, babbled a lot to Chris and then dumped it in a bowl of water to block. Those damn button bands took AGES to dry but once they did I tried it on again. The sweater had settled into itself nicely! Still kinda bulky, but not in a bad way. Wearing it is like wearing a nice warm blanket. The buttons are a bit oddly spaced, but oh well. Finally finished!!!

warmest sweater in the world

I was rummaging through the bottom of Chris’ closet trying to help him find his cowboy boots. The boots were later discovered in the bottom of a bag. But in the closet- Hello wooliness! Its huge, at least on me. Frankly, I think it would be too big on him, too. When I found it, he said “You’re totally going to steal that, aren’t you?” Which of course I took as permission. I’ve been wearing it all weekend, and feeling like quite the ski bunny. Its a lovely bulky knit. Grey base with a white and dark green snowflake pattern across the chest and upper arms. The tag says its from “C.C.H. Imports” 100% virgen wool (yes it is spelled that way) and despite the Nordic theme, it was “handknit with love in Ecuador.” Chris has no idea where he got it. Its definitely warm, but a little itchy and I keep finding little bits of straw to pull out. I love the snowflake, and took it on as another stranded-knit challenge. To the scrap bag!

stolen sweater snowflake

Using up the last of a green/brown variegated yarn I had, combined with the metallic Noro that Mom and I unraveled (from this VNA find, also used in this) seemed like a good plan. I ran out of the green just at the end of the pattern, without enough for the three row border. The Noro, despite its sparkle, blends in a little too well to the green for my liking. The snowflake is pretty hard to see. I think it will be okay in the craziness that is the blanket, though, so I’ll leave it. More scraps used up, more color work practicing. Not totally pleased with the results, but okay enough to move on.

Also, see how red my hair is in the top photo? Finally got around to mixing up some henna again. (Of course, the original plan for the weekend was originally to go see Jen’s new house and get dinner with Tom for his birthday, but snow and ice altered that, unfortunately.) Three packets of Rajasthani Twilight, two lemons and some tap-hot water. 5 hours later, the dye had released, the red was good to go. I put it in the fridge for later, and gooped up my hair after dinner. I’d made a double batch, so half went into the freezer. Its kind of an annoying process, but doesn’t stain the tub, lasts longer than regular dye and actually conditions my hair instead of completely damaging it like regular dye.

Playing with colors

Being out from under the weight of Alexis’ sweater is wonderful. Yeah, yeah, so I’ve still got another sweater on the needles. But its for me, so I can take as much time finishing it as possible. After some cleaning of the living room, I uncovered my “Knitting with Icelandic Wool” book…. attention span, gone. I’m still trying to figure out which pattern to make with the Lopi I got in Vik, but I realized I don’t really have much experience with stranded color work. (Of course, other than Chris’ scarf, which I pretty much made up, so I don’t know if that counts as “pattern following”.) So to swatching! And using up remnants! And making squares for my quilt! YAY!

Pink and Grey Totoro

The funny thing… I still haven’t really looked up the proper way to do stranded work. I keep the floats going along the back, wrapping them every 5 stitches or so for the longer passes. Until just now when I double checked how to spell “intarsia” I thought that was the technique I was using. (It isn’t. Apparently intarsia involves bobbins and no carried yarn…. sounds like a good old mess to me.) Of course, what with my reduced pattern attention span, it wasn’t long before I was hopping around on Ravelry looking for more things to make. A lovely little Totoro?? Why not! This guy is a little lumpy. Some longer patches for him, so longer to float the yarn, and more chances for the tension to get totally whacked. Of course it is cotton, so won’t really stretch out and even itself. Which got me thinking about how the floats have potential to get annoying in a blanket. I saw something recently about double knitting, so…… back to the internet! And a little over a movie later… a double knit snowflake in green and purple, another pattern from my Icelandic book.

Double Knit Snowflake

The colors are oddly more similar than I thought they’d be, and the pattern doesn’t stand out as much as I’d like. Turns out the purple has some green tones in it. Oops. I also made a few mistakes when following the chart, or when choosing which yarn should be front. Originally this was supposed to also be for the blanket, but I think it’ll end up as a trivet. As it’s two layers of knit, the end product turned out quite bulky.

So yeah, I’m sure I’ll get back to my sweater. For now though? The blanket is smaller than I thought, and I have a lot of small bits of yarn to use up………. small satisfying knits for the next week or so? Yes please.

Chilling by Sunfish Pond

But it was still nice to get outside. Of course it rained. Its become the big joke- is it pouring? Jen and Nicole must have gone backpacking. This year we were planning for an easy trip- up to Sunfish Pond, camp at Backpacker II for the night, tool around the pond, camp at Backpacker II again and head back in the morning. Somehow hiking through the rain to a new campsite is more appealing than hanging out getting soaked or sitting in a tent waiting for it to stop. So we bailed. We also had our first camping catastrophe.  When the rain first started we were just cleaning up dinner. We were rushing to get our food stuff together to throw into the bear box, Jen threw Dee Dee in the tent so we wouldn’t have to smell wet dog all night. I thought that was pretty smart. Until Dee Dee ripped her way out of the tent.

Bad Dee Dee!

Luckily some of the guys camping near us had duck tape (we were the most ill-prepared for this trip that we’ve ever been). The tape didn’t work 100%, but the thunderstorms all night kept the rest of the bugs to a minimum. I’m going to bring the tent to REI this week after work, I’m a member, so I’m pretty sure they will patch it or replace it or something. They have the best customer service. Also going to pick up a patch kit, should’ve incorporated that into my gear list way earlier for sure.

The group of guys near our camp site really had it figured out. Four friends- enough to carry all the fun things. Like a large tarp. So they could hang out outside while it was raining. Yeah, we need to get a bigger group together- you can bring way more stuff up with you that way! Those guys made pancakes for breakfast. We sat their drinking our tea and eating granola and I plotted ways to rope other people along for the trip. Perhaps next year we’ll actually break away from Sunfish Pond. It is lovely, but the hike is fairly familiar now, and I’d like a change of scenery. Hiking in the Shenandoahs next year has been tossed around… who’s coming with us???

Photo of doing something "Icelandic" for a contest to win a trip

Alabama Chanin inspired stitching

So that singer zigzag attachment I was so excited about? Yeah. Not so much. See all those holes in that hem? Not so pretty. And don’t you just love how even the seams are? I don’t. Ug. I was feeling bad about my real messy hem, so like the genius I am, I decided to hand stitch over it. Should have done that in the first place. Its based of the Alabama Chanin rosebud chain stitch. Its pretty much my favorite hand-stitch edging. It takes up a fair amount of thread, and doesn’t really work as well with this thin kind. (Alabama Chanin uses heavy “craft” thread, which holds the rosebud pattern much better.)

I wasn’t really planning on doing the whole waistband tonight, but forgot about the laundry- waiting for the buzz of the dryer before I can go to sleep, so stitching away it is… at least I’m being sleepily productive.

I’ve gotten some good work done on Alexis’s sweater, too… I’m a bit nervous about the bottom of it, doesn’t seem to have as much stretch as it should. (The pattern works the edging, binds off, then picks up stitches along the bound edge.) So the main body is finished, and I’ve started on the sleeves. Two at a time! Yay! No good photos though…. just a big blue mess. Trying to finish it by the end of the month, but without my daily train ride, work is much slower going.

Ah, there’s the buzz of the dryer… off to fold laundry and fall asleep. :-)

Yummy yummy madelines

I made some cookies for a planned dinner tonight, but the dinner got canceled, so now I have a batch of Madelines sitting tempting me on the counter. They sure do make the house smell great….

finished but not blocked

I finally got around to taking a few pictures of some things I’ve finished in the past few weeks. Two sweaters, one scarf…. though only one out of the two has been blocked, all three have been getting a good amount of wear. A few issues, though.

The blue sweater needs a blocking and a color-locking bath. The yarn is really beautiful and brilliant, but the dye came off on my needles as I worked, and I’m scared to wear it with anything other than a black shirt for longer than snapping a photo. I think if I was to make this again, I’d make it a little longer, the pockets are at a slightly awkward height, but overall I like it. It’ll be good for layering in the spring.

Finished OWLS sweater

The owls sweater is great, I love the pattern, its super warm- but the yarn was cheap and you can tell. It pills like crazy. I don’t know if blocking it will help with that… I sort of doubt it. Other than that, though, this sweater has gotten quite a bit of wear with the snowy cold weather, and I’m rather pleased with it. (Also, I just love Kate Davies, her patterns are great, and I think she’s a really inspiring lady. She had a stroke last February and following her site through her recovery is just awe-inspiring. She was knitting again in no time! She’s got a great pattern called “paperdolls” that has inspired fantastic variations, including a Totoro one! I like the hedgehog one, too.) The pattern calls for buttons for the eyes of the owls, but I left them off. I think they work really well for some of the finished sweaters posted over on ravelry, but not so great on others. I like keeping the owls a bit subtle on mine, particularly so I can wear it at work without feeling like I’m screaming “Look at me, I’m crafty!” (Not that it looks like that on other people, but that’s how I’d feel, so better to leave out, I think.)

CU of the owl cables

Finished, and blocked!

I finished the scarf most recently, so it hasn’t gotten as much wear as the other two yet. I used yarn that I acquired from the Ultimo knitting group, it was dusty and had to untangled and washed, but I like how it came out. Its raw silk, and I thought (even though it’s a relatively loose knit) it would be a bit warmer than it turned out to be. Which means it will be great in the spring, but it’s not quite right for this weather. Oh, and it keeps catching on my earrings which is a little annoying. It’s definitely not the only scarf that does that, though, so I’m okay with it. This one I had to block though, those pesky leaves wouldn’t keep their shape without it. I still sort of half did it, though, I pinned a few, but didn’t have enough space to lay the whole thing out, so folded it in half on my ironing board. I think it worked, though. The scar is surprisingly long for being a “shawlette” as the pattern says, but its light so it doesn’t feel unwieldy while wearing it. I think mine ended up a bit smaller than the pattern intended, but I planned for it to be that way (the yarn was off gauge, and I didn’t correct for it) so I’m pleased with the result.

wrapped up cedar leaves

Next up on the needles: a nice squishy cable-y hooded sweater, with the yarn my Aunt gave me ages ago. It was supposed to be for the Mrs. Darcy sweater, but after looking at a few finished versions, I don’t think I made a good color choice for that sweater- hers looks fun, mine would look like a librarian’s sweater, and not a fun funky librarian. It is the perfect yarn for the Alaska sweater, though, so cast on, project begun. I’ve also got some booties to make, but I keep tearing them out… I’m a little tired of the Saartje booties, so wanted to make a different pair, but I think the yarn/needles combos I’ve been trying just aren’t working. I wanted to make something using up part of my stash, but I don’t think I’ve got the right baby-friendly yarns for it. Perhaps another pattern search will lead to something. I’ve got one more sweater queued up, a cardigan for Alexis. The yarn arrived (sale at Webs, yay!) but I didn’t have the right needles, so they’re on their way to my doorstep. Sticking to my only-two-projects-at-a-time means I need to get the booties figured out before the second sweater is started, which is a good thing, I suppose. Onward with new projects!

I’ve been dying to share these projects, but I’ve had to wait until they were gifted.

Sneaky Snakes Hat

First up: a super soft, rather luxurious hat made for Alexis. And then me, then Lou, Tina, and soon Michelle (that one’s in progress right now). I fell in love with this yarn (Ella Rae bamboo silk), and when Alexis asked me to make her a hat, I knew I had found the perfect project for it. And now I can’t stop making them. After wearing mine, I think the yarn is a bit too slippery for this pattern… it gets stretched slouchy pretty quickly. But on the hats after that I used smaller needles for the first half of the band, so they should stay a little tighter around the ears. I didn’t photograph any of the other ones I made, but Tina’s was fun and stripes (my first striped anything!) and Lou’s was a lovely icy blue color.

embroidery for the glasses case

Next: a glasses case for Tom. I got some fusible fleece that I accidentally melted the first time around (that was no fun to get of the iron, let me tell you!) Once I got the fleece part figured out, it was a relatively simple stitch-job. Though I complicated the whole thing by embroidering his initials… I think my embroidery has much improved from the Christmas stockings I made for me and Chris a few years ago! Perhaps I’m just more patient with it. The embroidery hoop I now use probably helps a lot, too! I was worried it would be a little too small, since I did a bit of a miscalculation with my seam allowance, but his glasses fit perfectly.

Woven scarf

Third project: Mom’s woven scarf. I saw a girl with a nice loose woven scarf when Chris and I were out at breakfast about a month before Christmas, and thought “I could do that. Mom would love it!” Once that seed was planted, I just had to follow through. I found some instructions online, and got mom to bring me a huge piece of cardboard when we went fabric shopping for the yet-to-be-finished window blanket. I didn’t tell her what it was for, because I wasn’t sure how the whole thing would end up. I used some of the sparkly Noro that we rescued from that strange three-holed-shawl purchased at the VNA, red yarn that I bought for Chris’ scarf but ended up not using and a cool sparkly fabric ribbon from Nangellini. I’m overjoyed with how it came out. I lent her a broach that Tina gave me way back at Pennsic… she looks like she’s straight out of a fairy tale. (Send me a photo of you wearing it that way, mom!)

LED bracelet

Last up, another present for Mom… this one is another LED bracelet, made using the instructions from the last one, but all my own materials. Mom likes the way it sort of shimmers, and I agree that it looks pretty cool, but it wasn’t supposed to, so I have some troubleshooting to do. Alexis gave me a great book (Switch Craft) which should help me actually understand what I’m doing with soft circuitry.

So this year I made: (1) hand woven scarf, (1) embroidered glasses case, (3) sneaky snakes hats, (1) LED bracelet with snap switch, (1) holiday mix, and I have 2 hats left to finish… a second for Alexis (warmer than the sneaky snakes, but not as silky soft) and one for Michelle. Also Chris’ scarf, but that I have some time for, it wasn’t really a Christmas present anyway. Not a bad holiday craftacular list!